Mystery Serials

Adventures in Doggy Sitting

A hyper puppy, a skittish dog and a slowing, senior dog make for an interesting mix. When you add in the unexpected like a female dog going into her heat and a stomach sick doggy, you have adventures in doggy sitting.

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break. Two weeks ago, I spent a week in Pennsylvania caring for my brother’s three dogs: two young Shetland sheepdogs and one senior Golden retriever. After coming home, I jumped right into prep for teaching Pre-K/Kindergarteners in Vacation Bible school, (but more on this second topic in a later post.)

Cinnamon, a partly merle Shetland sheepdog, three years old
Abby, a tricolor Shetland sheepdog
Princess, a senior Golden retriever

Abby, Cinnamon and Princess are all nice doggies, but their personalities are quite different. Abby, the tricolor Sheltie, has quite a bit of puppy in her still, likes to jump up on people and still likes to mouth things and “chew” on fingers. Cinnamon, the Sheltie with merle coloring, can be skittish and shy, acts submissive to her more rambunctious housemate but will still quietly seek attention. Princess, the Golden, is friendly and gentle, likes affection but takes a lot of naps and has some difficulty getting up and down.

Every day, I fed the dogs twice and let them out in the fenced yard several times. At night, I put the two Shelties to bed in their crates while letting Princess have her choice of two big dog beds. In between times, I gave them plenty of pets, cuddles and attention.

Dealing with animal care, just as with human caretaking or babysitting, can sometimes be a dirty job. This was a week where I think I dealt with nearly all of the possible bodily fluids, and I realize that I am not terribly squeamish. It makes me think I might have made a good nurse.

My brother and his wife are planning to start a breeding business with their Shelties, so neither Cinnamon nor Abby have been spayed. This made it possible that either dog could start her heat cycle while I was watching them, and it worked out that it happened for Abby.

I had to diaper her, and that process sometimes had its funny moments.

Abby is sitting on my lap here and making a fashion statement in her pink polka dots. Humorously, she seems to coordinate with my pink striped pajamas.

The first time that I attempted to diaper her was a little bit of a struggle. As you can see from the photo, I had to pull her tail through a little hole in the diaper. She didn’t cooperate too well and pulled out of it three times before I successfully diapered her. Then, I realized, to my dismay, it was time to let all three dogs out and I would have to remove it anyway.

It was also a rhythm, thinking about all three dogs and their needs when I let them out. The back deck had one set of steep steps that the Shelties could run down, but Princess, the senior dog, could not manage. I would lead her, on a leash, down some less steep side steps and then back into the fenced area of the yard via a horse gate. Because of the distraction of Princess and hooking her up to a leash, a couple of times, I forgot to remove Abby’s diaper before letting her out. She would dart out like a shot as soon as the door opened. By the time, I led Princess around into the fenced area, catching up with Abby and removing her diaper, she had already peed in it. So, I had the extra job of handwashing the diaper and swapping it out for another.

And a photo where you can see Cinnamon’s interesting merle coloring.

In spite of all this, Abby was much more cooperative with me after my first attempt to put her in her diaper.

These were not the only dirty messy jobs of the week. Cinnamon got sick to her stomach that week. I woke up in the early morning hours to the sound of her retching and found vomit inside her crate. This repeated itself multiple times. Sorry, squeamish readers, but I will try not to be too graphic. She vomited on the hardwood floor in several places the next day, and then again in her crate, so I had more messes to clean and blankets and towels to rinse.

Following instructions from my sister-in-law, I started Cinnamon on some doses of coconut milk to help her nausea, two teaspoons every two hours and, the next morning, a small piece of bread with honey and ginger. Whether it was just timing or the effect of the home remedy, she stopped vomiting after the first dose of coconut milk.

All of these extra duties could have stressed me, but it didn’t as much as it could have. Instead, I had a feeling of success from meeting these interesting challenges. I certainly would have been more worried if Cinnamon went on being sick without recovering. It’s not necessarily pleasant to deal with these messes, but it’s something we deal with out of compassion.

Certainly, caring for dogs has its rewards, and I enjoyed a lot of affection and cuddle time with this lovable bunch.

Abby again
Abby and Cinnamon

Monster in My Head, #Chant Poetry

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There’s a little monster in my head,

He’s a one-man percussion band,

beating his bongos and grinning —


There’s a little monster in my head,

who doesn’t like to go to bed.

When it’s time to sleep,

the little monster in my head

plays bongos and castanets and

vuvuzelas, jumping up and down inside my

cranium — that little monster in my head.

There’s a little monster in my head,

with a trampoline and a mallet

and — perhaps — a chisel,

and he’s doing unwelcomed and

random refurbishments —

that little monster in my head.

There’s a little monster in my head,

and he likes to play with the lights,

strobe lights and

disco lights

to go with the beat of the bongos,

to go with the beat of his mallet —

that little monster in my head.

There’s a little monster in my head,

doing the conga with his monster friends,

doing gymnastics with dangerous

objects — far worse than running

with scissors — that little monster in my head.

There’s a little monster in my head,

and I have no love for him.

I’d really like to evict him

and make him vacate —

that little monster in my head.

There’s a little monster in my head,

but I can not make him go —

that nasty wasty monster in my head.

There’s a little monster in my head,

and you might know his name.

Do you want to know it?

That little monster in my head?

His name is …


© Susan Joy Clark 2021

This was written — a little late again — for dVerse’s chant poetry challenge. I started out with a completely different poetry idea, but the migraine continues (a little bit reduced by medicine maybe) and has been quite distracting. So, I decided to write about it. There was once a commercial for some sort of migraine medication that presented the “migraine” like a cartoonized monster. In an abstract way, it kind of made sense to me (not scientifically,) but in the sense of how it feels. It’s too bad I didn’t make this coincide with Migraine Awareness Month which was in June.

Homemade Tortilla Chips (Fried)

Just the other day, we wondered what to do with these leftover flour tortillas. Then, we thought tortilla chips … to serve with some leftover enchilada filling. Though I am filing this post under “snacks,” serving these with the beef and bean enchilada filling made these hearty enough for a lunch.

The first step was to cut the tortillas into 1/6 wedges. I kept these tortilla wedges handy, piled on a small cutting board, just to the left of an iron skillet.

In an iron skillet, I poured 1/8 to 1/4 inch of oil and heated it over medium high heat until shimmering.

Interesting reflections in this oil … of light fixtures and potholders. 😛

To the right of the stove, I set up some platters lined with paper towels to receive my fried chips.

To test the heat of the oil, I broke off a small piece of tortilla and tossed it in. When I saw the oil was sizzling, I knew it was hot enough.

At this stage, I filled the pan with the tortilla wedges.

My oil was fairly hot, and my wedges started bubbling and browning quickly. I ended up using the tongs to flip my tortillas as soon as the pan was filled with them and then removing them from the pan as soon as they were all flipped. They were cooking very quickly even after I turned the heat back down to medium. It may not work this fast for you, but it’s something you need to monitor carefully. Don’t look away, and as you see them bubbling up and browning, remove them to your paper towel platters.

While my chips were hot, I sprinkled them immediately with kosher salt. I layered more paper towels over top of them and then more chips and sprinkled more salt.

I was making these the day after my second Covid shot, and right at this point, a migraine hit. So, Dad served up the chips with our enchilada filling. He likes to arrange food prettily, so this is what he delivered to me.

Try this at home and enjoy! The experience is a bit different when they are warm and fresh.

Orchids, #dVerse Poetics, #double etheree

Photo I took at New York Botanical Gardens in 2009



intrigues me,

with its beauty

and its simple grace,

varied varieties,

speckled or veined with color,

rare types, popping color contrasts,

ruffled or smooth, they’re shapeshifting things,

I begin to understand Nero Wolfe

and his fascination with orchids

or the hold they have with smugglers.

they are mimics in disguise,

as monkeys or dancers,

ducks, egrets or bees.

under greenhouse

glass they thrive,



© Susan Joy Clark 2021

This was written a little late for the dVerse Poetics challenge, in which we were challenged to write a poem with a gardening theme. I was not too inspired yesterday, suffering from a post Covid shot migraine. I decided to write about orchids which I have grown to love, beginning with some visits to public gardens such as the New York Botanical Gardens. This is a double etheree, with the following syllable count pattern, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

“Mint Eastwood” Iced Coffee at the Paper Plane Coffee Company

My “Mint Eastwood” iced coffee from the Paper Plane Coffee Company was refreshing and full of surprising flavor.

It does seem that I am indulging in interesting, refreshing beverages lately. I think that blogging is encouraging me to seek out every day opportunities for novelty and adventure, so that I have interesting things to share with you. I had to see a doctor yesterday, and when I was done there, I remembered I was in the vicinity of a unique indie coffee place I had visited once or twice before, the Paper Plane Coffee Company in Montclair, New Jersey.

Paper Plane Coffee Company on Claremont Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey

The creative and unique name of the place is explained on their website. It is named for their coffee farm in Colombia, high in the plains of the mountain where eucalyptus is grown for the national paper company.

The paper plane motif was visible inside and out of the place. You can see the paper plane designs on the outside of the window front, and the word “Departures” on the door.

These knick knack shelves inside displayed various whatnots including some coffee paraphernalia — a coffee mill and what looks to be a percolator — and a paper plane in string art. Further down the wall, colorful 3D sculpted paper planes arrayed themselves along the wall. I really wanted to photograph these, but by then, another customer was behind me, and I didn’t want to worry her that the paparazzi was after her.

The fun place was selling a few gift items too, like these mugs with their name and paper plane design.

I knew I wanted to order one of their unique drinks that you can’t find anywhere else, so I looked at the central panel of their menu under the “Science” category.

After looking over these unusual offerings, I decided to go for the Mint Eastwood in the iced version. This was made up of mint simple syrup, milk and chocolate-cinnamon espresso. I have to admit that the punny name Mint Eastwood was part of the fun.

I didn’t really expect it to look so minty or green. When the barista put it on the counter, I said, “It’s so pretty!” She beamed and said, “Thank you!”

I told the barista, mistakenly, that I had tried the West Side Story coffee drink before. When she told me that this was another pretty one, in pink, I knew I didn’t remember right. It sounds just like something I would order, because I love the musical, but I have yet to try this exotic one with guava nectar, sweetened condensed milk and espresso. What I think I did try was the spicy Nam-Dam made with cardamom, sweetened condensed milk and cold brew.

I have never before this tried any food or beverage that combined both mint and cinnamon in the same recipe. Probably most have concluded that those wouldn’t mesh. (If you can think of another example where these flavors are combined, let me know in the comments.) Maybe, because of the way the liquids were layered in my cup, initially, I tasted that sweet pungent mint, and then, a little later, got the chocolate-cinnamon flavor. As I consumed more of it, the flavors were a little more combined. I don’t know why it works, but it does. I give it a definite thumbs up. My barista friend told me that all the “Science” drinks were worth trying.

Some of these coffee sodas sound intriguing too. I have tried a coffee soda perhaps once before but nothing as complex as these recipes seem to be. The one that interests me the most is the Vincent Vega with cherry, vanilla, Mexican Coca Cola and espresso. I’m not sure what I think of mango flavor combined with coffee. The combination certainly never occurred to me before, but whether it sounds tasty to you or not, I’m sure all the Star Wars fans can appreciate the punny Mangolorian name for that one.

If you’re a local or if you’re visiting the area, try out the Paper Plane Coffee Company. Even if you’re not a local, you can order some coffee products online, including wholesale products for your restaurant or cafe.