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Whirlwind Nebraska weekend

Sometimes getting out of town without the dogs is exactly what I need.

Especially when I know there will be plenty of cute animals and cool people where I’m headed.

Stop 1: Lincoln

Megan and Crystal

Grinning cousins.

That’s Megan, one of my second cousins on the Wiebe side. When I said I was coming to Nebraska for a  recent weekend, she and her partner Claire kindly allowed me to crash at their Lincoln apartment.

I first stopped for a dinner of homemade noodles and sauce with my best friend Kenton at his mom’s house.

The kitten Megan and Claire recently rescued from a tree welcomed Kenton and me when we arrived at their door.

Megan's kitten

“Mew are you?”

Sadly, I captured no photos of my other cousin Kyle – Megan’s brother – slaying the karaoke crowd later that night at the Ding A Ling Bar in Raymond, Nebraska. (He’s a braver soul than me. I stay far away from karaoke mics.)

I did, however, snap a few pictures – and throw down some cash – the next day at the Old Cheney Road Farmers’ Market.

I’ve been meaning to get to Lincoln on a Sunday ever since Megan helped me put together a post about the farmers’ market for this blog.

fresh produce at Old Cheney Road Farmers' Market

A Nebraska harvest.

I picked up some fresh produce for a veggie tray I was tasked with providing for my mom’s birthday party later that day.

I also picked up something for the dogs – chewy beef heart treats from Chisholm Family Farm.

Chisholm Family Farms dog treats

Chisholm Family Farm makes it easy to feed your dog raw, natural food and treats.

The booth next door held exactly the kind of gifts I had in mind to present to my mother on her 58th birthday – all-natural beauty products.


Wingsets natural beauty care.

Wingsets is a Lincoln-based business operated by a husband and wife team. In addition to a huge array of bath, skincare and hair products for people, they have developed a robust line of pet products. I look forward to trying some of those on our pack in the future.

Stop 2: Beatrice

My next stop was my hometown for a family portrait. I let the professional photographer take care of those shots.

Before everyone got together, though, I snapped this shot of my Dad’s friend Rosie’s adorable Yorkshire terriers.


Ermahgerd! Yorkies!

After the photo session in the park, my dad took me out to the farm where he helps take care of a real menagerie of critters raised for pleasure and food.

Jag and Prowler, the resident German Shepherds he’s been training, greeted us when we rolled up.

skulky german shepherds

“Welcome to the farm!”

Named after the rottweiler I grew up with, Prowler is growing up to be a handsome and mischievous fellow. The advice is to be careful when leaving small items, from caps and t-shirts to plastic bottles, unattended in his presence.

german shepherd dog

“I promise not to steal your water bottle in half an hour.”

Dad loves zooming around the farm on the John Deere Gator. I hopped in the passenger seat, and we said hello to some of his animal friends.

dad on a gator

Just a dad, a gator and a horse.

horse and a John Deere Gator

“Didz u say hai er hay?”

Zipper the horse is a sweet old thing who peacefully resides with a small pack of burros. They have all learned to equate the arrival of the Gator in the pasture with treat time.

burros and baby

“Did someone say treats?”

The bison herd on the other side of the fence knows what the Gator means, too. My dad’s favorite bison is this big-headed bull whose tongue is bigger than my wrist.

buffalo tongue

“Just a little closer.”

Apparently, the resident elk aren’t feeling very friendly this time of year.

But in just a couple hours, on the last stop of my whirlwind Nebraska tour, I would see another hoofed creature.

Stop 3: Peru

From Beatrice, I zoomed to Peru, Nebraska, a very hilly, very small college town where the Rains side of my family has roots.

My grandfather, who is buried in Peru, grew up in the town. He was a hometown football hero there, and it’s where he met my grandmother.

Peru is also where my mother originally met my stepfather in the 1970s. Decades would pass before they came together again and began to build a life together.

We celebrated my mom’s 58th birthday at the gazebo in Neal Park where they were married in 2005.

On this Sunday afternoon, my mother was showered with thoughtful and useful gifts, including a leather jacket, an iPhone and this hoodie I wish I could take credit for:

Walk with a Friend paw print hoodie

Who could say it better?

Of course, there was cake!

Catfish the Boston Terrier resented that no one offered her any.

Boston Terrier peeks onto table

That Boston Terrier needs a booster seat.

After the food was devoured and presents unwrapped, nature treated us all to another gift – a not-so-distant view of a deer.

My mom squealed with delight at the beautiful sight.

deer in the distance

Ermahgerd! Deer!

As you can imagine, by the end of this little roadtrip, I was exhausted. But what a great weekend!

Have you gotten out of town recently? What did you do?

Have you entered the giveaway yet? Don’t miss your chance to win a Lavender Neem Shampoo Bar from Baltimore Bumble Crafts!

Best Guard Dogs for Your Home (Guest Blog)

Beware of Dog sign in Glasgow Necropolis

The following text comes from guest blogger Elspeth, who is writing on behalf of

A good guard dog is worth more than his weight in dog food. When you own a guard dog, it helps protect your home and family from intruders and potential disasters. The peace of mind that comes from owning a guard dog makes it a worthwhile investment for any homeowner.

Owning any guard dog is a major financial commitment. You need to feed your dog, provide them with shelter and take them to the veterinarian for regular medical exams and vaccinations to ensure they remain healthy and strong. Because it is an investment, as well as a companion, it is important to find a breed that has the physical and mental traits of a good guard dog that fits your lifestyle.

Here are the top five breeds of dogs we think you should consider when looking for the right canine to guard your home and protect your family.


Source: gespendet von: Dr. Manfred Herrmann Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub (ADRK) e.V.

This German breed is a popular choice for people who want a guard dog. Rottweilers are large, muscular dogs. The average Rottweiler weighs between 80 and 130 pounds and gets to be between 22 to 27 inches when full grown. This breed also has a lifespan of 9 to 12 years.

Rottweilers are a good choice for a guard dog because they are a highly intelligent breed. They are easy to train because they are alert and obedient. Besides protecting your home, Rottweilers make good pets. They possess a gentle disposition, are calm and become protective of the people under their watch.

German Shepherd

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The German Shepherd is a natural born guard dog. It was originally bred in Germany to guard and herd sheep. A typical German Shepherd weighs between 50 and 80 pounds and is 21 to 26 inches when full grown. It also has an average life span of 8 to 10 years.

This breed is a popular choice for search and rescue animals, police dogs and watch dogs. One reason why is a German Shepherd is a highly intelligent dog. They are easy to train and are highly active dogs. When a German Shepherd is brought into a home, it will form a protective bond with children and will be loyal to the family it is tasked with guarding.

Belgian Tervuren

Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 30th August 2003. Transferred from en.wikipedia

Also called a Belgian Shepherd Dog, Belgian Tervurens are a high energy breed. This dog originated in Belgium and is distinguished by a thick shaggy coat. A typical Belgian Tervuren weighs between 55 to 65 pounds and is 22 to 26 inches when it’s full grown. Their average lifespan is 10 to 12 years.

Belgian Tervurens make good guard dogs because they are highly alert. They pay attention to the smallest details and can alert you immediately if something is amiss. Owning a Belgian Tervuren means you will get a large dose of daily exercise. This is an energetic breed that is prone to nervousness when kept in confined spaces for long periods. Taking them on walks and runs will help work out that nervous energy so they can be effective as guard dogs.

Doberman Pinscher

Source: Flickr

This breed is one of the first to come to mind when you think of guard dogs. Doberman Pinschers, similar to several other popular guard dog breeds, originated in Germany. A typical Doberman Pinscher weighs between 60 and 100 pounds and ranges from 25 to 28 inches when they are full grown. The average lifespan for this breed is 10 to 11 years.

Doberman Pinschers have short black and brown coats like Rottweilers. They are an athletic breed and easy to train in carrying out guard dogs duties. Loyalty and obedience are common characteristics for a Doberman Pinscher. This breed makes an excellent pet because they are highly protective of their owners and their homes.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Being a guard dog in the Kuvasz’s blood. This breed was developed in ancient Hungary and tasked with guarding livestock. When a Kuvasz is full grown, it will weigh anywhere from 75 to 150 pounds and will be about 26 to 30 inches long. A typical Kuvasz has a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

The Kuvasz are large and athletic dogs. They feature a distinctive white coat. A Kuvasz becomes attached to its owner from a young age, but requires extensive training and socializing to function well as a pet. These dogs are intelligent and protective. They can be trained to bark whenever something suspicious or potentially dangerous occurs.

Adopting a Guard Dog

If you decide to get a guard dog for your home or family, adopting one from your local animal shelter is the best way to go. These dogs need a home and you can save their lives by preventing them from being put to sleep in order to make room for other animals. Dogs adopted from a local shelter typically have been spayed or neutered and they are up-to-date on vaccinations and medical exams and can even save you money in the long run.

Owning a dog reduces stress and loneliness and it increases happiness for you and your family. There is nothing better you can do to improve your life and guarantee your safety.

Guest blogger Elspeth is a contributing author that loves dogs, cats, and pets of all sorts!  When she’s not writing about home security and guard dogs, she enjoys volunteering at animal shelters, drawing, painting, and photographing animals. 

What breeds would you add to this list? Has your dog ever scared away an intruder at your home?

Foster dog Charlie Machete thinks he’s a pretty good guardian of our yard. Check out his Adoptable profile. He is available through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull.

A special announcement from the Wayward House

German Shepherd puppies


Although baby anythings are not in Zach’s and my envisioned future anytime soon, these baby German Shepherds are real. And they do share a family connection with us.

Jag and Prowler are the newest additions to the farm from whence we occasionally receive elk and bison meat.

This means Jag and Prowler are now part of my father’s circle of animal friends, along with Rambo the elk and Boss the bison bull.

My pop has been charged with teaching these pups such things as not killing the swans that also live on the property and giving the evil eye to unwanted visitors.

Training dogs is something my father has engaged in to varying degrees over the years. Before I was born, he had doberman pinschers who accompanied him when he worked as a night security guard. 

As a police officer, Dad helped the local force train its first K9 cop. To my disappointment, Quentin the German Shepherd with a badge was not assigned to be my father’s live-in cop partner, but he did occasionally visit to practice “attacking criminals” (aka my dad wearing protective gear) in our front yard.

Dad also helped me teach our family pets basic obedience and leash manners so that they wouldn’t embarrass me too much at the Nebraska State Fair.

Although he was my 4-H project, I would classify one of those State Fair dogs as my dad’s once in a lifetime dog.

It’s been about seven years since my dad’s running partner/burglar deterrent passed away. Since then the old man has steadfastly refused to get another dog (even when I find totally awesome wayward dogs that would be perfect for him).

While he still isn’t going to be an official dog owner, as a regular caretaker for the farm pups, Dad has agreed to become emotionally involved with them. He even got to name one — Prowler.

The original Prowler was a regal rottweiler who was every bit as gentle — but not nearly as brave — as the dog nanny in Alexandra Day’s series of Good Dog, Carl children’s books. (A collection of which I maintain yet today.)

You have big paw prints to fill, Baby Prowler. Make us proud.

Blogger’s note: My other 4-H dog Tyson the miniature schnauzer inspired my oldest friend Stacy to call one of her current dogs Tyson.

Have you ever recycled a pet’s name?

Another tribute to Gretchen the gentle German Shepherd

 The story of Gretchen the gentle German Shepherd was a powerful reminder of the deep connection that can occur between dogs and people.

I shared the story because it brought me to tears — and I knew it would do the same for many readers. Magnet Lady Kathleen Henn was so moved that she made a Gretchen magnet and sent it to her owner just because.

I chose this Magnet Monday to share the Gretchen tribute magnet because the original post has been generating a fair amount of hits lately and also because another blogger, Emily at Our Waldo Bungie, posted about the loss of a family dog last week.

It hurts so much when a pet dies. I feel lucky to have not experienced that pain for many years. However, I remember too vividly the feeling of being 16 and holding my miniature schnauzer Tyson as the vet injected him with his final relief. My little 4-H dog had unexpectedly gone into seizures followed by a semi-coma on the night I attended my first rock concert. It was obvious what we needed to do.

Although I will never forget his harrowing last moments, more precious are my memories of Tyson trotting around the ring at dog shows every summer. Whether or not he decided to obey me and bring home a trophy seemed to depend on how many people were in the crowd. (He preferred to show off for a big audience.)

Since we began fostering Charlie Machete, I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that they would love to have a dog again but they couldn’t endure the idea of grieving in the event of the inevitable. I can understand their hesitation. The loss hurts so much. And it’s also true that not every animal will be a once-in-a-lifetime dog like Gretchen or Scooby.

Yet, I think those people, who obviously have the capacity to care deeply about another living being, are actually the ideal candidates to adopt a new pet. I hope they all see this in time.

With apologies for starting a sad thread on the first day of a new week, may I ask readers to share memories of pets that have passed away?

A tribute to Gretchen the gentle German Shepherd

As I mentioned before, I was really touched by some of the stories that accompanied the photo entries for the Wayward Dogs Magnet Contest. Naturally, that’s because a lot of the dogs in the contest were rescues and formerly wayward dogs. Gretchen’s story truly brought tears to my eyes. Here it is, in her owner’s words:

I adopted Gretchen from a local rescue group. Her former master died of cancer and none of his family wanted her. She sat in a kennel for 3 months in Hiawatha, KS, and was so upset when she lost him that she had stopped eating. By the time I got her, she was a rack of bones. I agreed to foster her—while waiting for a little dog—but when I saw how beautiful she was and that her demeanor was the epitome of docile and peace, she had a home for the rest of her life. She was the kindest “person” I think I’ve ever met.

After I adopted Gretchen, I noticed she favored her hip a little, so I paid a vet check her out. Turned out in her x-ray, there was a very sophisticated pin and spring installation. The vet was very impressed with it. I know that operation had to have cost her former master a lot of money, which told me he had loved Gretchen with all his heart. I hope he knew after he died that Gretchen went on to be loved and lived a very good life.

We’d go walking all the time and if an aggressive dog came at her, she didn’t even bother looking at him; just kept walking; and she was a German Shepherd! Smart. She sure changed my perception of that breed. Even the cat I later brought home–skittish and scared of anything that moved–became friends with Gretchen. I have a very simple video of them sitting at the door soaking up some sun.

This photo shows her passion—water. She loved being in the water. I had Gretchen for about 8 years; then about a year ago on Labor Day, I woke up to find her on the floor in seizures. I was devastated and my heart broken in a thousand pieces….and that was her last day. I had to put her down at the local vet hospital. As she was fading, I told her to “Watch for King. See King? Run to him!” and then she was gone. Whether there is a Heaven for dogs or anyone for that matter, was not the point. I wanted her to see something something familiar and friendly… and maybe… because she saw him, it became true. What a great soul she was. As for King, he was a beautiful Golden Retriever—the life of every party—who died of cancer about a month and a half before Gretchen. King, my brother’s dog, was Gretchen’s best buddy. She’s playing with him now and both their graves are side by side in my sister’s beautiful floral garden.

I have another dog now—also rescued from having been passed through 5 homes before he was 3. He has a permanent home now. However, for this contest, I want people to know about Gretchen.

I wonder if Gretchen’s owner would consider her a once-in-a-lifetime dog, the kind whose memory will always stand a little above the rest. I have one of those in my house right now, and I am grateful to be sharing a fifth Thanksgiving with my little Scooby. Who is the canine love of your life?

A one-eared, six-toed dog and other random encounters

As a matter of housekeeping, I must begin this post with these additional photos of Tilly, the lost German Shepherd mix whose foster dad I ran into as he was putting up posters last weekend. As far as I know, Tilly remains at large. These photos were taken during the 12 hours that she was in her foster dad’s care before she escaped.

Also at large, in my neighborhood, is a small, gray cat named Gretta. Having noticed a hand-scrawled poster in the area earlier in the week, I actually ran into her owner Thursday afternoon as I passed through South Oak Park with Luke and Machete. The older gentleman explained that his shy, two-year-old cat always returned from her daytime excursions, but she hadn’t been seen since Sunday. “It’s like the earth just swallowed her up,” he said.

Imagine Gretta all grown up.

If you live near me — and you know if you do — please call the number on this poster if you think you’ve seen Gretta.

Apparently, Gretta is up to date on her shots, but she doesn’t have a collar or a microchip, and her owner said she’s timid around most people, which is unfortunate as far as her chances for recovery go. But maybe she’ll just show up again on her own… I used to be so terrified of my own cat getting lost back at our old house that I outfitted him with more tags than any of the dogs, plus a microchip. He looked pretty blingin’.

Luxor -- heavily accessorized

And now for the part of this post that you started reading for.

Later on Thursday night, Minnie and I had an encounter with a truly unusual wayward dog. We were having an after-dark, girls-only stroll through the neighborhood when a tall, white and brown, bully mix appeared in a yard and began ambling toward us. His posturing was friendly — who could blame him with a bombshell husky mix like Minnie around?

She'll put a spell on you.

I wasn’t scared of the dog, however, the street was pretty dark, and there seemed to be no owners standing by. (This isn’t an unusual occurence in our neighborhood. In fact, just this week, Our Waldo Bungie featured a post about an unfriendly loose dog.)

As the dog got closer, I noticed two things: 1) he had a collar with a name tag and 2) he only had one ear. On one side of his head was a normal flap of white; on the other was just a hole.

Trust me, this is the ear-less side.

As he wiggled around Minnie and me, I noticed, too, that each of his back dewclaws held not one but a pair of nails, each of which had curled long past the need for trimming. They didn’t seem to be curling into his skin, thank goodness, but they clearly needed attention.

Another bad pic. Sorry.

Whether his ear anomaly owed to injury or birth, I have no clue. If injury, it was not recent. Murray, as the tag hanging from his Ed Hardy collar informed me, seemed to be a mellow and happy-go-lucky guy. Since several minutes had passed with no sign of his human, I squinted to make out the phone number below his name and called. The result: worse than no answer — disconnected.

At this point, my heart started to sink. While there was no way that I was about to leave a one-eared, six-toed dog alone in the street, I dreaded the thought of bringing him to our overdogged home, where kennel cough continues to circulate. Fortunately, in the midst of my perplexity, a woman appeared in the doorway of a home on the other side of the street. She wasn’t Murray’s owner, just a friendly neighbor who said she was quite certain of the dog’s owner and she was willing to watch over him until that person arrived home. Relieved, Minnie and I headed to our home.

Tilly jumped out of a window

Lost dog

I ran into a nice guy putting up these posters near the Trolley Trail around 55th Street today. His foster dog, Tilly, went to great lengths to escape his home. She busted out of a kennel and managed to pry a slightly open window wide enough to jump out…of the second story.

What’s more, the electric company happened to be working in the area around that time, and, apparently, one of the workers recorded Tilly’s escape on his cameraphone. I would love to see that video. And I would love more for this guy to get his foster dog back.

Tilly came from the Missouri German Shepherd Rescue (MOGS). Incidentally, after meeting her foster dad, I happened upon a pet fair at A Dog’s Fun Playce, where MOGS had a booth.

These adoptable puppies were at the pet fair.

These rescue dogs were also available.

When I mentioned Tilly to one of the MOGS representatives at the pet fair, she implied that prior to entering the rescue program, Tilly had been on her own for a while.

Of course, that reminded me of another once wayward dog. That’s right, Charlie Machete, who seems to be gradually growing out of his waywardness. We seem to be at the point now that if he happens to wiggle through our gate or under a fence, he will take freedom at top speed, even running out of our sight. But he comes back. For us, that’s a huge step.

I hope Tilly makes it back to her foster dad. If you think you can help, call the number on the poster.

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