Archive for July, 2013


July 23, 2013


Annie, Louie, and Sparky on the porch of the cabin in Munds Park

I finally got a new photo for my column that shows both of my dogs.  Some friends thought I was slighting Louie because he wasn’t in the other photo. I assure you Louie never had a clue.

Sparky, the larger dog, is a shitzu-poodle and almost twelve years old. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He grew up with other dogs, both large and small. Louie is a bichon-poodle mix, nine years old, and I’ve had him a year. He was rescued twice in his life. I love my dogs BUT. . .

I know that they are dogs and treat them as pets, not people. Among my friends with dogs, I am definitely in the minority. Most of them treat their dogs as people. The distinguishing factor is that I do not plan my life around my dogs. I feed my dogs dry food. They’re on “free feed” which means the food is always out. They don’t abuse this. They do get dog treats, but sparingly. Many of my friends feed their dogs people food. A few actually cook the dogs’ meals!

When I’m in Scottsdale, my dogs are very easy to manage. I have a doggie door onto my back patio. If I’m away all day, they don’t have to wait for me to relieve themselves. My job is mostly cuddling and petting them. In return they are deliriously happy whenever I get home. We give each other unconditional love.

In Munds Park I don’t have a doggie door so I give them two long walks a day, with added pee breaks during the day. These long walks are scheduled in the morning by them, usually about 6 a.m. The afternoon walk is scheduled according to my activities. Many of my friends plan their days around their dogs’ meals and walks.

In 2007, when I went to teach in China for ten weeks, I left Sparky with my trusted friend Elissa, who lives in Sun City. Sparky is a great dog but he has a talent that I do not appreciate. His nickname is “Houdini” because he is a great escape artist. After a week or two, the Sun City Posse was acquainted with Sparky and knew where to return him, sometimes before Elissa ever knew he was gone.

I’m currently dog-sitting for Elissa’s dog, Lila, a two and a half year-old schnoodle. Her hair is so soft, it feels like velour. She definitely gets enough petting from me in her owner’s absence. We worked on house-training the last time she visited and I’m proud to announce that she’s finally got it. She gets along and plays well with Sparky and Louie. I’m trying to break both her and Louie from barking at people and dogs we pass, but I can’t manage a squirting water bottle with the three leashes and a poop bag,

By the way, what’s the etiquette of waving while dog walking? Is it impolite to use the hand that’s holding the poop bag to give the Munds Park wave to people in passing cars?


Check out Annie’s website at  Her novel, Reinvented Lives, is available

Annie, Louie, and Sparky on the porch of the cabin in Munds Park

d on .


Song of the Empty Houses

July 8, 2013

My cabin decked out for the Fourth of July

My cabin decked out for the Fourth of July

In the summer I live in Munds Park, a community eighteen miles south of Flagstaff.  The town goes from a population of 630 in the winter to about five thousand in the summertime.  I usually arrive in mid-May before most of the summer people. Little by little there are more people walking the quiet streets and eating at the two restaurants. The first real action is, of course, Memorial Day Weekend. As I walked my dogs, Sparky and Louie, I noticed which houses didn’t have occupants that weekend.

The biggest weekend of the year is July 4th, with the parade, carnival, and many activities at the RV center and the Pinewood Country Club. The town swells beyond recognition. There are no traffic lights, but there is a massive traffic jam after the parade. So what about the houses that remain empty?

I’ve spent six summers here, and some of the homes have never had anyone in them. What’s happened to their owners? Are they too ill or busy? It is common for people to buy a home here, spend a lot of time the first year or two, and then dread the slow drive home on Sundays. Why do they hang on to the houses?

I’m not referring to the houses that are for sale. I wonder about the ones that are just plain vacant. When I first bought a cabin here, most of the residents seemed to average 75 years old. I’ve noticed a reversal of this. Younger families are buying because it’s very affordable, thirty degrees cooler and two hours from Phoenix The housing market has rebounded elsewhere, but there’s a vast inventory here.

As I pass the empty houses at six in the morning, they look sad. They are never decked out patriotically for the 4th of July, like most of the occupied homes The scraggly rose bushes still produce flowers and the irises, daffodils and pokers still bloom. I enjoy them, but what about the people who planted them? Who pays for the pine needle cleanup? Who whacks the weeds? Is there a child’s teddy bear in one of the bedrooms, longing to be hugged? Are there warm memories fading with the years? Are owners of these houses boiling in Phoenix, aching to get up to the pines, but shackled there by work, duty, or obligations? Or did the owners die and the heirs don’t know or care about their places? I’ll bet every empty home has a story. Since I don’t know it, I’ll just have to make up my own.