Wander project Gwen (and snow)

The hill in our backyard in Greenwood wasn’t the hill my grandparents had. But, there also weren’t trees. As a six year old (maybe five) I flew down the hill and ended up riding my sled right into a tree. Lots of stitches in my head and a story I’ve told before. Sledding, like snow skiing and water skiing, can be dangerous. Except on the tiny little hill we had at our house. First, the hill went down may 10 feet. The only danger back then to sledding was the angry Australian Shepard that didn’t like people messing up her yard. She barked and tried to herd the sledders.  It was never that Gwen was unhappy. I am not sure Gwen understood her place in the family.

The twins were born into the house Gwen ruled. Fran joined us after we moved to Indiana. Gwen was a bit skittish as a dog. Smart, however, like a whip. But, skittish about everything. I miss her herding the kids. She was very good at it. The last couple of years of Gwen’s life were not as easy, as I am sure the first few months of her life were not easy. She was happier overall in Indiana that she had been in Ohio, but there was a lot more yard to roam in Indiana. We had an invisible fence that covered the entire backyard. Other than snapping turtles on the yard, there were no other predators than Gwen and Fran (the Labrador that joined the family while we lived in Greenwood).

Gwen and I used to go on long walks. As she got older, she couldn’t go as far, but she loved going on walks. She was my walking pal for nearly eight years from Ohio to Indiana. Fran was my daughter’s dog and never really walked with me. I regret not making Fran walk more when she was a puppy. But that is for another column. This is all about sledding. But sledding without getting enough speed that you end up with a managed head. What could happen with a herding dog herding your sled anyway? She would bark, and dart in and out, but when you are wearing a coat, nipping doesn’t work. Gwen was only big enough to physically make the Twins move when they were 2, or 3 years old. Once they got to be 5 or 6, she could no longer move them and moved to barking and nipping.


family dog soft touch

Wander project dogs, places and greetings…



There was a recent movie, A Dog’s Life, that I didn’t go see in the theaters. Not that I didn’t want to see the movie, but just watching the commercials made me cry and I couldn’t go to a theater and cry for two hours. Those are the movies I need to watch at home so I can watch or read something really funny right after finishing the movie. I learned that after reading the book “Marley and me” while traveling. Also, with the journey’s we’ve taken as a family with the dogs around us. I remember every single dog I have ever been around. From Mac the collie, Anna Banana the Dachshund to Frosty and Duo the Great Pyrenees or Phoebe the Newfoundland. Every dog that lived with us changed the course of our journey. Phoebe was a second mother, always watching us and waiting to be with the family. MacGregor was a beautiful collie. He loved us but he was dad’s dog. He lived literally to see and be around dad.




The journey we take and the ones that dogs take with us really is pretty incredible. First of all, there are those who love more than anything to hang out with cats as well. They see cats the same way that I see dogs. Which is wonderful. They are companions on the road of life! Anyway today’s journey is about the changes dogs make to your family. They, the dogs, have changed as have cats. From their natural and traditional habitats and lifestyle to living with humans. They are the prowlers at night that wander your house and make sure everything is safe. You don’t often hear about guard cats, but guard dogs are not mythical. They are real additions to your home or business. Wandering around at night making sure that everything is where it is and that is where it should be. Sometimes the best part of having a dog or cat living with you, is the greeting when you get home!





Now, when they get to come with us, in their eyes, that is much better. You see then they can make sure we don’t get into trouble or cause mischief. Raven is always nervous when her boys are out and she isn’t supervising them. Much as Fran used to want to be supervising Jakki, all the time. Dylan has given up trying to train me, other than making sure I don’t yell at the TV while watching sports. Then he nips my feet to remind me to be quiet. We have had dogs living with us now in every house we have ever had. Duo lived with us in our rental house in Bloomington before we moved to Cincinnati. Blackie joined us in Fairfield Ohio and lived with us until we moved to Western Hills. Gwen joined us in Western Hills, Mt. Airy and Greenwood. Fran lived with us in Greenwood and Maryland. Dylan joined us while in Maryland living in Gaithersburg and moved with us to Germantown. Raven joined us in Germantown, three years ago now. Dogs are wonderful additions to our life!.


dog lover

The regularly scheduled blog is interrupted for Labrador propaganda…

109A2214There is something to be said for flowers of the tropics. I know I can find 1000 or more pictures dad took of various flowers in Thailand. Two huge differences being when Dad took them he thought scientific name of the flower first and then that it was pretty second. Me I think pretty flower first and in this case red second.

Dad spent years trying to teach me the various Latin names for flowers and plants. I learned early on to avoid poison ivy and poison oak, self preservation but the lessons in Latin failed. Ask me the components of a motherboard and the difference between PCI and EISA buses or E-Sate and I am happy to do so.


This is Dylan. Dylan decided when he joined our family that he was my dog. That meant in the end that I had some behavioral issues that had to be addressed. The first issue was me yelling at the TV during IU Basketball games. He ended that by attacking my feet as I was yelling. So no more yelling. The second was walking. Dylan has long felt that we didn’t take enough walks in the house. So we walk every day now. The other complaint he has is that I put dumb pictures of people stuff on my blog. He wants me to dedicate more blog space to cute Labradors. In particular himself and his sister Raven.


Raven agreed with her brother. Its funny, Raven joined our family in 2014. Fran passed away and there was a huge hole that she left. Dylan had adopted me as his primary person and Jakki as his second person. He is a mellow dude and he really doesn’t understand the energy of the boys. We decided a month after Fran died that waiting a year (which we had after Gwen had died) didn’t work. We reached out to lab rescue to see if they had any dogs that might work for us. They didn’t have any dogs but they did have a force of nature. Raven is personality plus. For whatever reason her first owners abandoned her or lost her and she was on her own for a bit. She came to the house and within a day she and Dylan were a bonded Lab pair. She also selected the boys as her people right away. Like Dylan Raven found there were many quirks of the humans that had to be adjusted. The first is that when it is time for something Raven wants she howls at her boys. Raven is a sweet girl who loves everyone. Dylan is more affectionate now that Raven is a new sheriff in town. I still miss Fran and I miss Gwen, but Raven changes the dog dynamic in our house.


This blog lab tested and lab approved…

From last to first. Each an impact on my life that I will treasure forever.


To be blessed. To receive a gift that you can never repay. The thing about that gift is there in the end is no expectation for you to repay that gift. It keeps giving and changing. What was the gift 10 years ago has changed into so much more now.

Hourly hugs turn into weekly head nods. Sure turns into “You are picking on me make someone else do it.” But conversations grow, from da to dad and then “can you take us driving?” Each passing moment is a treasure. Each picture, each memory is a moment that will never be again but can’t be taken away. It is a gift a blessing that each day unfolds. There is a joy that comes from each day, each argument and from the moment they suddenly on their own create new thoughts that make you stop and realize that they are thinking creative human beings.


Some burst on the scene right before Thanksgiving and for the next well it hasn’t stopped yet, announce their presence with authority. Each milestone another wonder and joy. Those blue eyes, that were SUPPOSED TO TURN BROWN but never did lighting up the room they enter. The bean. Surely there is no greater joy on earth than holding your child and walking around a hospital. Except there are greater joys. The little smile as she walked by in her graduation gown, a nod and a smile. Or sitting behind the wheel of a car, nervously trying to figure out what everything does. Moments that drift away but are never forgotten. She burst on the scene and ruined Thanksgiving plans. But in the end they weren’t ruined they were made so much better.


First can be last sometimes. When in reverse order of course first is always last. First here with 2nd (dog) and 2nd (child). First was a transition that occurred quickly. I went from teaching kids and then sending them home to, having a child at home. I would love to say it was perfect and the transition was simple and effective but it was a learning experience for both of us. It still is. It probably always will be. Distance sometimes makes it hard to move forward. Time doesn’t always forget. But memories last forever. There are so many wonderful memories of Becca. I think my favorite was the look of sheer joy on her face when she was accepted into the Cincinnati Ohio School for Creative and Preforming arts. I had nothing to do what her talent but I was and am very proud of her always. The first may be last only because of the pictures order, but will always be first. The first lost tooth. The first tears. The first to graduate. There is pride in each one. I cannot express the pride, love and honor I feel for each of Becca’s Firsts. Each of the four kids is Unique, special and loved.

The first dog we had, wasn’t  a good fit for the family. I am not sure that Gwen was a great fit either. She was a dog meant to be free with a large yard and run around and terrorize the world. She ended up in a small yard”ed” house in Cincinnati Ohio. Gwen moved with us to Willow Cove and then to Greenwood. She was never a great dog, but she was our dog.



Images of Ohio now more than 15 years old…


5776 Willow Cove Cincinnati Ohio. We built the house to our specifications over the spring and moved into the house in August. Little did we know that we would be moving out less than a year later. But this was the house as we were moving in in 1998.

We loved our neighbors and the neighborhood, we just got the chance to move closer to family and friends in Indiana. With young twins the support of family was critical.

We lived in Cincinnati Ohio from 1991 to 1999. It was a great time, Jakki and the boys were born in Ohio. They are the first Buckeyes in our family. We moved to Cincinnati Ohio for Barb’s job and then moved backed to Indiana for my job. I guess in the end everything that goes around comes around.

It was a grand house.


On the right side is Gwen. Yes, that is her I am playing catch stance. Gwen wasn’t he happiest dog on earth. I suspect in the end she was abused before we adopted her. Then sadly her primary care giver used to scream at everyone in the house when it came time to walk her or feed her. So in the end she was fairly traumatized.

This was how she played catch.

The picture is of the backyard of our house see above from the front.

Attack catch I used to call it. And if she got the ball that was the last time you ever saw that ball unless you were able to wrestle it away from her. But based n what was around her I don’t blame her.

Gwen and I used to take long walks. I have learned over the years that dogs respond better to long walks than they do to not having long walks. Gwen in unsorted867particular needed to have long walks to calm her down and get her focused again on being part of a family. Gwen calmed down when we moved to Indiana and the screaming abated after a time.

Today ends with a nap. This picture taken of the back bedroom of the house above where we had the boys room.

Never wake a sleeping baby.

When you have twins and one baby wakes up so does the other baby. Every time. Without fail. Seriously. It gets loud. Then like everything else they get a little older and now you couldn’t get them out of bed in the morning without lights, a cattle prod and loud crashing noises.

My father used to say when asked “how tall is your son” he would smile that wry smile of his and say “about ten inches, unless he is reading then the book adds another 4 inches of height.”

It’s all part of being a teenager.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.