Saturday, February 27, 2010


What is smarlful? It’s an adjective crossed with a verb. It’s a feeling. Smarlful is a toothy smile and a sort of snarl (with absolutely no malice intent) and a whole lot of wonderful.

This "smarling" Dalmatian image is on loan from Dalmatian Rescue of Colorado.

Ask anyone who has ever loved a Dalmatian and they will tell you, this grin-style smile pretty much sums up their charmingly audacious personality. Dalmatians are intelligent, athletic, loving, mischievous, sensitive and silly.

The first time my Dalmatian – that’s Henry at the very top of the page – pulled a smarl on me was about the third day after we rescued him. To be honest, it scared me. I had already witnessed his intelligence and I thought he was planning something usually reserved for a Dean Koontz thriller. I’m so grateful that the momentary fear passed and I learned that this trait was unique to Dalmatians. Now I look forward to each and every smarlful moment, elusive as they may be, and giddiness overcomes me. I always try to give one back, but I just don’t have the spotted good looks to bring about the desired result. The best I can say is the silliness quotient is quite high in our household.

If living with smarlfulness sounds appealing to you, there are many wonderful Dalmatian rescue groups around (see below, or look for one closest to you). Be sure and learn about this active breed and decide if it is right for you and your family, and please be on the lookout (and report) puppy mills. A word of caution: If you allow a Dalmatian into your heart, he/she will own you. Life with Henry is nothing short of an exhilarating experience, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything – not even for a nose like Samantha in Bewitched.

And that’s what smarlful is.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Pet Cemetery - Part 1

I was on my way to town last week and took a shortcut that brought me by our county’s old pet cemetery. It’s been there as long as I can remember; just around the corner from the elementary school I was riding the bus to when I first spotted it. I’ve often wondered whose pets are buried there. As I slowed down to survey the property, something pulled at me. I turned the car around and went back for a closer look, parking in the only place I could, someone’s driveway.

A very weathered sign at the entrance practically whispered Pine Knoll Pet Cemetery. The trees that intertwine one another around the gravestones seem to be broken down or dying. Even the fresh grass following the recent rains looks to have grown in half dead. Every fiber of my being wanted to start clearing away the dead branches, dusting off the gravestones – reading each one along the way – and setting the crooked stones back in place. But alas, I was on my way someplace and couldn’t just alter my day on a whim.

Well, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the cemetery. These questions haunt me: How did it come to be? Why was its specific location chosen? Who buried their first pet there? When did it begin sinking into its current state of dilapidation? What are the names of the pets buried there and the dates on the gravestones? The cemetery is so old I presume the owners of the buried animals and even their children have since gone to join their beloved pets at the Rainbow Bridge. Who remains now to keep the cemetery up?

The sign indicates that the cemetery is affiliated with the SPCA. I know that our SPCA is busy working with live animals, adopting them out to good homes, and saving others from high-kill shelters around the state. They don’t have time to care for pets that passed on years ago. That’s it! I have to do it. I’m going to organize a day, grab a friend or two, and perhaps I’ll even talk to the neighbor whose driveway I parked in. The lovely bones buried there seem to be asking me to honor their once-cherished lives and I’ll be darned if I can ignore them.

Please return for the conclusion of The Pet Cemetery – it’s sure not to disappoint.

To be continued…

Monday, February 15, 2010

Honoring Chief Spotted Tail

The inspiration for this blog post is specifically to pay tribute to the namesake for which I have chosen to title my blog. Spotted Tail.

First though, I must clarify. I am not a Native American and can hardly do justice to this heroic Indian chief. This piece is merely intended to honor the beautiful name behind my new blog, Spotted Tails.

The proud "warrior" name Spotted Tail was bestowed upon a Brulé Lakota tribal chief named Siŋté Glešká who lived during the 1800's. Most historians agree that Spotted Tail, while once a great warrior who wore a raccoon-tail accented headdress, chose to speak of peace and human rights in later years. Chief Spotted Tail, having seen his share of bloodshed, came to regard war as pointless - an idea that humans still debate 200 years later - and became a well-respected peace chief.

It is said that Spotted Tail was born in the White River country of South Dakota and grew up amidst horses and buffalo in the Northern Plains. He was uncle to the famous Lakota warrior Crazy Horse and cousin to Conquering Bear, also a Brulé Lakota chief.

When thinking of names for this blog, I came up with the name Spotted Tail because I have a spotted dog, but I became enamoured with the story of Chief Spotted Tail. I love that he turned to peace, using words instead of weapons, and refused to participate in further wars. Imagine the guts it must have taken for this tribal chief to go against the grain in the 19th Century. As legend has it, this may have cost him his life. Chief Spotted Tail was shot and killed by a fellow Indian named Crow Dog.

For a more thorough account of Chief Spotted Tail's life, you may consult any of the following resources or choose your own.

As I enter into the wonderful world of blogging, I find it fitting that this brave ex-warrior be likened with an animal-themed blog. Being an over-the-top animal lover can be met with skepticism. This is certainly true in some places more than others. I'm confident that the totems of the great ones have got my back.

Standing Bear said "The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard."

I hope you'll come back for another dose of Spotted Tails.