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A holiday journey past, with Velma

With the holidays at hand, I'm reminded of taking Sparkle's mom, Velma, to Longwood Gardens in 2008.

I realize I'm overdue for an update: Foremost, Timber is still hanging in there! He's still got his appetite, wags his tail a lot, and barks when he needs help getting up. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been rather magical to me, and I think Timber has been granted one special wish. Thanks for everyone's condolences, but I was luckily a bit premature!

I've been taking advantage of the mild weather and getting Porter and Sparkle out for long walks every morning. Porter is actually thinning down because of the exercise and also because we've been more successful lately in keeping cupboards closed and food off the counters where he can snatch it.

Sparkle's energy level is extremely high, and I'm pretty sure she's about to go into season soon. At the last puppy outing, Longwood Gardens, she was flirting outrageously with Keith the golden retriever. She'll turn 1 year old on Jan. 27.

Speaking of Longwood, the trip earlier this month reminded me of the visit with Sparkle's mom, Velma, back in 2008. At first, I thought it was only two years ago, but it was actually three. I went into my Velma photo album and pulled a couple of shots. I've heard from the Seeing Eye that Velma recently had her second litter of pups. She was a joy to take out in public, completely unflappable and confident. Sparkle is flightier and wants to jump into the lap of everyone she encounters. I'm (almost) certain, though, that she'll eventually calm down!

I  have in fact been doing some writing lately, as I am closing in on my adventure novel. It's set at a troubled military prep school in Maryland horse country 40 years ago, and features a host of dogs, horses and even a couple of lurking foxes. The animal protagonists include a fearless Jack Russell terrier and a protective Rhodesian ridgeback, and a pack of magnificent Penn-Marydel  foxhounds. And there's a mischievous Appaloosa named Rocky Fudge.  I'm having a lot of fun with it, and Porter likes to come in and keep me company as I compose in the study.