Tales from a Dog Catcher

Tales from a Dog Catcher

"In the tradition of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small and John Grogan's Marley & Me, Tales from a Dog Catcher is a humorous and heartwarming collection about love, laughter, loss, acceptance, and fate, in the world of an animal control officer."
- Publishers Marketplace"

...Writing in a style reminiscent of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, she recalls her experiences in 22 vignettes that dispel and replace stereotypes with an image of a compassionate individual concerned with animals and people alike. Like Herriot, she is a gifted storyteller and an astute observer.... At times amusing and heart-wrenching, this memorable book deserves wide readership. Highly recommended for public libraries. "
- Library Journal (starred review)

... In Tales from a Dog Catcher, she brings together these experiences in a magical book that is funny, touching, and heartrending by turns." - Amazon.com

"This is a wonderful book. I had a hard time putting it down. I was laughing and tearing up, sometimes at the same time! I didn't want it to end..."-Nina Killham, Bestselling Author of Believe Me, How to Cook a Tart, and Mounting Desire

"Having good writing skills isn't a prerequisite for getting a job as a dog catcher, but the two certainly make a good combination for the author of Tales from a Dog Catcher...Some stories are funny - some may move you to tears. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I think they will appeal to animal lover's and even those who don't care for pets will enjoy reading about the eccentric people involved in these tales from a dog catcher." ...Phyliss Davidson - INFO Metropolitan Library System Magazine. Oklahoma

"Summer reading! Enjoy tales about hero hounds, crazy cats. Great dog books just made for Summer Reading! ... Here's a list of some of our favorite books ... Tales from a Dog Catcher by Lisa Duffy-Korpics is a collection of real stories about people and the animals they encounter...this book is in the tradition of "All Creatures Great and Small" by James Herriot. The stories are funny, sad, uplifting and even silly." ...Laurie Denger - Dayton Daily News. Ohio

"...In Tales from a Dog Catcher," author Lisa Duffy-Korpics recounts her years as an animal control officer in a series of fascinating and engaging stories...the stories can be funny and heartbreaking, often simultaneously...However, there is no shortage of entertaining encounters. Animal lovers will appreciate the candid tales, and enjoy a new perspective on an often unexamined profession."...Dog Channel.com

"Lisa's numerous on-the-job adventures are compiled in this collection of sad, charming, delightful and humorous short stories. ...Animal lovers of all ages will appreciate Lisa’s recollections of her memorable encounters with domestic animals and injured wildlife in the beautiful Hudson Valley." ...Rachelle Nones - Tri County WOMAN magazine. New York

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Shopping at the Mall - Otherwise Known as the Seventh Level of Hell

"I want my niece's ears pierced" said the loud overbearing woman with the fuzzy white hat.

"Fine, do you have custody of her?" replied the tired overworked sales girl behind the counter.

"What do you need to know that for?! I'm a paying customer! If I want her ears pierced then that's all you need to know!" Fuzzy hat's voice was getting louder - even louder than the disco version of Jingle Bells playing over the store's speaker system.

"Well" sighed the poor sales girl "I need permission from a parent in order to pierce ears on a minor."

All was silent for a moment save for the music in the background.

Jing-jing-jingle bells-wichy-wichy-woo-woo...

"It's a Christmas gift! It's a surprise!" screamed the woman with the fuzzy white hat - the hat looking whiter compared to her reddening complexion. It was a nice contrast.

"How is it a surprise? - If she's right here getting her ears pierced. She's going to know, especially once she feels the needle go through her ear lobe." Sales girl was gaining my admiration. I could sense I wasn't alone - others were quietly watching what would evolve. Mariah Carey had replaced the bad disco Jingle Bells -

"All I want for Christmas is you-oooo-ooh-ohh baaaby...." .

"I BROUGHT MY NIECE HERE TO GET HER EARS PIERCED FOR CHRISTMAS! HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME...I'M NOT SOMEONE OFF THE STREET!" (Isn't that how she got to the mall - from the street? Just a thought.)

"Sorry Ma'am. I need a parent here to pierce anything. Store policy. It prevents minors from getting things pierced without permission."

"I'M GIVING HER PERMISSION!" the woman yelled. The girl with the un-pierced ears looked like she was backing up away from the crowd. "YOU GET BACK HERE!
Fuzzy hat screeched. Yes...it was actually a screech. Excitement was building here at Clare's Boutique at the Mall, yes indeed.

"You're not the parent. Can we call her mother - maybe that would be okay?" Sales girl was really impressing me. At this point I would've probably just called for the manager-or mall security.


And that's when I didn't keep my mouth shut. All I had to do was leave quietly, go to the candle store or sample cheese or something at the Hickory Farms Stand, but no. That would've been too easy.

"If you're a registered nurse, why can't you pierce them yourself?" I asked.

For a moment it was quiet, except of course for the end of Mariah's song. I've heard Mariah has a five octave range. Fuzzy Hat seemed to be able to hit six.

"COME ON!" The Aunt grabbed her poor niece by the arm and roughly steered her out of the store. There was a bit of applause and people saying "Yeah!" and "I hope I don't end up in her hospital!" I checked out my items and the sales staff asked me if I'd like a complimentary light-up feather pen. I said thanks anyway, but I already had so many feather light-up pens already.

Nobody questioned this.

After this I went to the bookstore. Nothing like this happens at the bookstore.

Happy Shopping! There's 15 more shopping days left until Christmas - enjoy the carnage!

cranky shopper photo courtesy of 123rf royalty free photos.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Signing and Holiday Shopping Book Fair at Barnes & Noble, Newburgh New York

If you're going to be in the Hudson Valley Area next weekend December 11th through 12th, come check out the Valley Central Holiday Book Fair at the Newburgh, NY Barnes & Noble.

This two day celebration of the Valley Central Community is a great way to support our kids and reading. Please join us on Dec. 11th & 12th at Barnes and Noble. Here is a link for directions and further information. http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/3074548

When you check out, please use code:
Fair #10312056

Partial schedule of events: Jazz performed by Mike Antonelli and Tom Venable. Valley Central High School Group For the Animals & The Humane Society of Walden Presentation. The award winning VCHS Chamber Choir. Our lovely and talented Mrs. Melissa Verlin will be performing. A.J. Nappo will play the piano accompanied by teacher and well known local singer Lisa Aguilera - VC high school teachers will be reading Children's books throughout Sunday - come meet your future teachers!

Book Signings by authors:

Meet the author Travis Nichols; author of Punk Rock Etiquette; The Ultimate How-to-Guide for Punke, Indie and Underground Bands. Check out more here:

Colleen Venable Children's Author. Check out her books and more here:

Romance Author Allie Boniface. Check out her books and more here:

And finishing up Saturday with me, Lisa Duffy-Korpics. with stories and signings of Tales from a Dog Catcher. Read a review here:

All profits to go to the Valley Central Scholarship Council to directly help our community children make the dream of going to college a reality! To see the entire schedule of events go to this link check out the Book Fair Facebook Page at:

I'll be there on Saturday December 11th at 7 pm. So drop by before or after dinner and come say hi. Hope to see you there.

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from Tales from a Dog Catcher

Thanksgiving - a time to be thankful.

For my loyal readers; it's probably been pretty obvious that I've been going through some sad times. I know I'm not alone - but times like these cause my mind to drift back to those holidays filled with people who are no longer here - about the holiday plans I looked forward to this year that were completely planned around someone I lost in the past few months. I look around my circle of people close to my heart, and I see empty spaces - the list growing too quickly for comfort.

Tales from a Dog Catcher has been reviewed as a book that has encouraged people to be more reflective, grateful for things they'd overlooked. It's been reviewed as a good book to help those dealing with grief. In a way, that's sort of ironic. Maybe I need to read it again myself. I didn't write that book to elicit and manipulate emotions that I didn't feel myself. That book is me - the me underneath my sarcasm, humor and purposeful facade. I need to remember that.

Today I'm looking forward. It may not be something that's easy but it's something I have to do. For not only myself, but for those people in my life who are no longer here - but would be the first ones to tell me to "get over myself"...to live while I can, enjoy everything while it's here and be totally present. Today I give thanks for my family, sitting here with my brother and sister in law in their warm welcoming home with my husband, children, neices and my mother in law. I'm thankful for my family and friends back at home. For those I see everyday, for those I only get to see every few months, and for those I haven't seen in years.

Thanks to my readers for giving me an opportunity to share my stories and reflections, and for your kind and insightful comments and questions. I'm slowly moving on the sequel and I hope it comes to fruition - there are still yet tales to tell.

I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with laughter, great food, family and friends. Time to reflect on what you're thankful for - and time to reflect on not just what you've lost, but what you have to gain by opening your heart to the amazing array of possibilities that presents itself to us every day with the simple act of a sunrise.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Dog Catcher. :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Until We Meet Again...a Eulogy for my Guardian Angel

It is an enormous struggle to find words that express great love, because love is so vast, so intangible. It is beyond description. So I tried to find a way to describe Laila in a way that would truly illustrate who she was and how she lived her life.

And the word I finally came up with was an angel. An angel on earth that walked among us. But that in itself is a word that I believe needs explanation, because there are so many things that angels do. So I looked up the definition of an angel in both secular and biblical references and here is what I found.

A kind and lovable person

One who manifests goodness and selflessness

They are revealers, who show us what we are sometimes too blind to see

They are guides, who take our hand and guide us when we’ve lost our way

Providers who provide physical needs to others like shelter and food to the homeless and hungry

Protectors who keep you away from danger….and deliverers - who pull you out of danger once you’re in the midst of it

They strengthen and encourage those around them

They are those who God chooses to use as intermediaries to answer prayers.

Laila was all of these things. And what makes this so incredibly amazing is that while she was growing up – there were many times in her life where she could’ve used her own angel to guide her through the many difficult roads she had to travel. How could such a beautiful gentle soul endure so much pain in her young life – and become someone who embodied everything that is good and selfless and kind? She became a loving wife to Frank- I believe with divine intervention since he is an angel in his own right, and together they created a life together and a marriage that lasted for 45 years. She was a wonderful mother – who protected and guided and loved her children beyond measure.

She opened her heart, and her home to others who were less fortunate. You may wonder why I am the one writing this? It’s because I was one of them...one of the less fortunate. Many turn the other way when they see a child being abused or mistreated – especially when the last thing they need is another mouth to feed – another problem to deal with – but she didn’t. Maybe it was because when she needed someone to help her when she was that age – there had been no one willing to do it for her.

35 years ago she took my hand and promised me "I'm not going to let anyone hurt you anymore" and in that moment became more than a friend, or my neighbor...she became my mother...she revealed a future I couldn’t see, protected and delivered me from danger, and changed the course of my life.

I’m not the only one with this kind of story. Looking around at the wake, at all the people sitting around in chairs honoring and celebrating her life, I realized that if it were not for her and of how she lived her life – some of those chairs would've been empty - not because of choice, but because the people sitting in them wouldn't have been alive to be there …the one my own father sitting on being one of them. If that doesn’t explain who she was, and how her legacy of love lives on. Then nothing can.

Her sharp sense of humor would surprise you sometimes. She’d put a plate of food in front of us and one of us would say;

“It’s hot”

And she’d say “Well – yes…it wasn’t cooked in the refrigerator!”

As children, she would encourage our mischief and delight in our laughter. I remember helping to make meals with Janie, while dancing and singing to the Blues. She’d pretend she didn’t know what we were up to – but I know now that she always did. Half the time she was the co-conspirator.

She could stop your tears and make you laugh – and then make you forget about what you were crying about in the first place.

She was an exceptional Mom.

Laila leaves her loving family, her devoted husband Frank of 45 years, her beautiful daughter Jane and her husband Kurt, her lovely daughter Donna and her husband Jeff, six grandchildren, including her beloved grandson Tommy, who along with her wonderful daughters Donna and Jane and her best advocate and wonderful son-in-law Kurt, sat with her until the end. She is also survived by her devoted sister Gloria. She was predeceased by two children, three brothers, and her beloved Pekingese Shadow, all of whom are finally together again.

Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death – they would be asked two questions, and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.

The first question was; “Did you find joy?

The second question was; “Did you bring joy?”

And that is how I know where she is now.

Ancient Eygptian Quote attributed to Dr. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia Ph.D

Monday, October 25, 2010

To Every Thing There is a Season...or is There?

What do you do when you have no time to cry?

The days come. You know the ones... the dates that are carved into your heart. Days that deserve to be opened up like a box of old photographs, or a hope chest. Days where you should sit and sift through memories and smile and cry and remember...and most of all just feel.

Why is there no time to feel?

Is it American culture? Is it healthier to move on - forge ahead - be strong and resilient and look to the future? People tell us that all the time. Focus on the now, the immediate, the errands, the responsibilities, life.

But I don't want to do that right now. I want to sit and remember how the rain felt pelting against my face mixing with my tears while I stood at a grave on a crisp wet October morning some years ago.

I want to scroll through the text messages I sent every night connecting me somehow over the miles to someone who can no longer text me back. Days ago he did..and now he can't. I want to process this - but there's no time. At what distance does it become impossible to send text messages? To receive them? Can I measure it? If I could, I would because then maybe I'd understand. I sent some to him yesterday. At what point is that futile? At what point is that faith?

Life is for the living. It is a gift. It is a journey. It is all of these things and more. There is time to appreciate it - but there doesn't seem to be any time for allowing the pain that goes along with all of the joy to let the sorrow wash over you. It won't hurt you. You won't melt. But everyone's afraid of it. I want the world to stop turning just for a little bit - just long enough to let me feel it. I don't want to wallow - I want to cry and remember and feel....because I think only then can I heal.

But first I have to make dinner. Grade papers. Make a test. Pick up my son from school, coax my daughter into the bath, take out the dog, answer the phone, pay the bills and prepare to begin another day of life bright and early tomorrow where I will smile and perform and be productive because that is what is expected of me. I'm grateful. I'm lucky. I'm blessed.

But... I still just want some time to cry.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Ellerbee

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Your Life was a Gift to so Many

You broke into my house and put up a Christmas Tree - force feeding me holiday spirit.
You made me buy Halloween pumpkins and candy and told me to "get over myself". I did. You camped out on my couch and then my cat preferred you and didn't sleep with me anymore.

You would bring me coffee because you told me that I was too evil to be spoken to before I finished that first cup.

You were right.

You taught me how to wash my floor, leaving one side (yours) sparkling clean and the other (mine) dingy gray. When I asked you to help me finish you said "This isn't MY floor - I simply provide the knowledge and the tools!"

You used up all my hot water and then told me that since I was not a morning person it was in my best interest to have a cold shower to wake me up. You knew I didn't have enough money for groceries so you stockpiled bags and bags of bagels in my freezer so that I'd have enough for months - making bagels my major food group. When I wore my black skirt with the black vest and white shirt you asked me when I would be milking the cows since I had apparently decided that I was now Amish.

I changed the outfit.

The first time I met you, you said "So, you live in Peekskill. That's right past my house on the highway - so....I'll meet you out by the car everyday so you can drive me home; okay?" So...
we became commuting buddies. Then before driving you home, you made me empty all the old trash and paper cups out of the back seat before you would let me start the car. You even counted them...I think there were at least 15 or so empty cups.

You made me laugh harder than anyone ever had in my life before. You forced me to look at myself and see that I was looking at the glass half empty - and that it was the only thing getting in the way of leading a happy life. You told me to say yes to that date with the new math teacher, he was a good guy. He was...we've been married almost 18 years now. You cracked open my heart and enriched my life with your wonderful, pushy eternal optimism. You made me notice and appreciate things I would've never seen were it not for you.

You loved life with an enthusiasm and joy that I always admired. You didn't see strangers - you saw potential friends. You grew up, but never lost that childlike ability to see magic in all the things that the rest of us lose as we grow older. Your purity of spirit is something I can strive for, but I'll never achieve it because there aren't many like you here on earth. I think God only allows a few - just to show us what we're missing - to teach us about the real meaning of life and love and strength and joy.

I am so blessed that I was given the gift of knowing you - and if you can hear me from where you are - and when I close my eyes I think I can see you - with your head lying on your Dad's chest listening to his heart beat while he strokes your hair - finally holding the son he's missed for so long....there's something I want to tell you beside the obvious - that I love you and your friendship was a gift in my life that I will always hold close to my heart until I see you again...

...I want you to know, Frank....that the back seat of my car is totally clean - no cups anywhere.
And so is my floor.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Unconditional Positive Regard

When I was around 12 years old, I flipped my bike trying to navigate a rocky narrow trail through the woods on my way to buy some grape gum from a nearby store. I crash landed in a thorn bush right on top of a wasp's nest. I guess you could say it wasn't a good day.

This all could've been avoided had I listened to my mother, who told me that very day - actually only minutes before the incident - not to take my bike on the trail and not to go to the store. Of course I knew best, being almost a teenager and all...and the result of my noncompliance was over 20 stings combined with multiple cuts and bruises.

What happened when I got home? How much trouble did I get into? You would think that I definitely deserved to be punished, especially because I blatantly disregarded both directives, but I didn't. Instead, my mother cleaned all my abrasions and stings and treated them with antibiotic ointment, removed several thorns and then made me pancakes. While eating the pancakes I asked her;

"Aren't you going to yell at me or something?"

To which she answered. "No."

"Why not?" I asked. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept waiting, but nothing happened. She looked at me carefully and said. "The reason for a punishment is to get you to learn something. I think you learned today that there was a reason for my rules. I doubt you will ever do that again and the last thing you need right now, feeling as bad as you do, is for me to say "I told you so"."

She was right. I'd already punished myself worse than she would have. I learned that she had reasons behind her rules and that they weren't just designed to control me or to prevent me from having fun. I also felt that she had enough confidence in me so that in the end, I'd have the ability to learn from my mistakes. I felt sore, embarrassed, and guilty...but I also felt empowered. She trusted me, even though I didn't feel very trustworthy at the moment. I never forgot the incident, but what's clearest in my memory is not the pain of the cuts and stings, but the lessons I learned from it.

That's the kind of mother I've tried to be. It's the kind of teacher I strive to be. One who inspires confidence, tries to teach accountability, and focuses on what the famous Humanist Psychologist Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard - acceptance of a person without negative judgment of their self worth. It's hard at times, and I find that sometimes I want to tell my children "I told you so!" when I've asked them to do something numerous times and they didn't listen to me. I want to remind my students of due dates on a daily basis, up until the actual date the paper is due...but I stop myself. At some point learning only takes place when it's internalized. In order to get there - sometimes you have to make a few mistakes. Knowing someone cares about you anyway is important at those times. It's important at all times.

Hold on tight to those people in your life who show you unconditional regard - they are precious. When they're gone - they're irreplaceable. Tomorrow it will be seven years since I sat next to her, held her hand and watched her go away to a place where hopefully everyone is treated with unconditional positive regard. I know she deserves it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Day the World Changed

Nine years ago today I was in my classroom when I heard plane engines. Our school is near an airport and this is not an uncommon occurrence by any means. That day however; it was different. Louder. So loud that the windows started shaking in their frames. I stopped teaching for a moment - I couldn't talk over it. Then it was over.
Someone said "That plane was really low. Something must be wrong."

And it was.

Everyone who remembers knows where they were at the moment when they found out that the first tower was hit. My colleague came into my classroom and told me that terrorists had hijacked a plane and flew it into the World Trade Center. So close, she said. Only about 40 miles away. I remember what I said next.

"My husband works across the street from the World Trade Center."

She looked at me carefully and said quietly. "You might want to call him."

The next few hours were a blur. The phone lines weren't working. Cell phone service was down. All circuits were busy. I tried every phone I could; but to no avail. Parents started streaming into the school to pick up their children. I could understand that. There's something about holding your child close to you that makes you feel like you are in control - that in a small way you can keep your feet on solid ground when it's shifting beneath you. I remember trying to find a way for someone to go get my own children for me until I could figure out what to do. What to tell them? I wasn't sure how much they would be told, or if they would understand. I didn't want anyone else to tell them about this until I knew where he was. All the bridges were shut down and I was across the river from them. My mind was working on a different level as I helped console students and figure out what my next step was going to be. I went about each task with a sense of unreality. I remember wondering if this was going to be the day when my life changes forever.

Everyone's life changed that day. Some in a tragic, unimaginable way. The American Psyche shifted from a place where we thought we were safe - to the realization that what happens in other parts of the world was just as much a reality for us. No one is exempt from terrorism.

I recall how I felt when they paged me over the P.A. in school. I started walking from one end of the building towards the office, people looking at me without saying a word, some averting their eyes. I represented their fears. I could feel their empathy, their hope and even their relief that this wasn't happening to them. It's a natural emotion. It's why we go and look at our sleeping children when we hear on the news of the fire that killed a family in their sleep. We can cry for them, but need to make sure that tragedy hasn't somehow reached out to touch one of our own.

My heart was pounding in my throat. The last few yards I couldn't stand it anymore and started to run. "He called!" the secretaries told me. One was crying. "We hung up on him by accident, but he's fine. He's home!" They were so excited that they disconnected him. He called back. I heard his voice and he tried to tell me what he saw but he couldn't talk. There was too much to say. He'd already picked up the kids. They were all home waiting for me. My principal told me. "Go now, they opened the bridge." I left.

That night I saw his name on a missing person's list online. As I responded to tell them he was okay - I knew that we were lucky. Luck, that's all it was. He'd had to choose between two jobs when he interviewed in lower Manhattan months before. One was in the towers and the other nearby. We never know the repercussions of our choices until later.

On that Tuesday, a clear cloudless sky became blackened with fear. Lives changed, America changed. The world changed. Some of the choices people made that day were to sacrifice themselves to save others, knowing full well what they were walking into, but doing it all the same. Today I think of them and of those who simply got up and went to work like any other day, not realizing the repercussions of that simple choice. And I feel empathy, and relief, and guilt, and the collective grief of a nation that lost its innocence nine years ago today.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Infinite Summer

Summer's coming to a close - I know this now, but for weeks I've been in denial.

I ignore the "Back to School" commercials because they start about 3 days after the school year ends anyway. They're selling Halloween decorations at the local grocery store. I almost created a scene after I walked by a display and commented on how ridiculous it was. My comment may have contained some expletives - but you'd have to prove that first.

After taking a walk through my neighborhood, I chose to overlook the disappearance of the purple and pink petunias; replaced by orange and red chrysanthemums. I pretended I couldn't hear the nightly concert given by the cicadas in my yard and convinced myself that the days weren't getting shorter. I had my first "teacher dream". Those of you who are not in that field could probably relate if I told you that it's similar to those dreams you would get as a child on Sunday nights before school would start, or the "I have a presentation to make for work tomorrow" dreams. For those of you who are teachers, or ever have been...you know what I mean.

So I decided that I would create an infinite summer in my mind. I know that sounds all new-agey and trippy - but bear with me. I have the gulf coast on the screen saver of my phone - and that's where it will stay. I can look at it every time I answer it, even when it's snowing - it'll be there. I made a promise to myself to leave my job at my job when I come home this year. As much as I will hold the summer in my heart, I am going to make a concerted effort to be exactly where I am at every moment of my life - not worrying about meetings or mandates or anything else the moment I leave my job for the day. The kids in my class - that's a different story - I have a place for them inside my heart all of the time - but the other stuff...I'm letting it go.

I learned a lot this summer....about who I am, who I used to be and how to blend the two to create the person I want to be now. I made a great deal of progress on my book. I began to take better care of my health - realizing that it's an investment I deserve. I realized that my older child is beginning the move away from childhood towards young adulthood - and instead of being sad about it, I'm in awe of how much I admire the person he's becoming. My youngest will need more of me now that she's begun the early tumultuous years of adolescence. I'm going to be there to make it as easy as possible - not sitting behind my desk.

Most people make New Year's resolutions - but teachers make school year resolutions. Mine is to live in the moment but be reflective in all that I do. Take it slow even while others race by doing, accumulating, and competing. Seek balance in all the roles I play, but define myself by the ones that matter most. And keep a promise to myself to never lose the slow, peaceful and warm infinite summer in my mind.

Photo courtesy of socksoff.co.uk

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cell Memory and a Gift from my Father

Some people live through their physicality - they're in tune with their bodies, can push them to their limits, enjoy the confidence that comes in doing without thought - trusting themselves to let go of the body-mind connection. There's a freedom in that, perhaps it's almost something mystical. I see it in dancers, in athletes,in gymnasts, even in children at play.

I used to dive. I still remember what it feels like to vault yourself off a board, fly into the air, bend from the waist, touch your toes and straighten out just in time to slice into the water without as much as a splash. I remember the feeling of spinning through the air - forwards, backwards...never doubting that I'd land it. A confidence quite unnatural for me.It was the only athletic thing I ever liked, and the only one I was ever good at before the spine surgery.

It made me better...it saved my life. I was 15. I was very lucky. I'm still grateful for it today. I'm very capable and through the years nobody except those closest to me would notice how I compensate. As I became older I forged my way developing types of skills that were cerebral, emotional, or analytical...not physical.

It's only that a few days ago, for a brief moment, I remembered. I had access to an empty pool and was doing laps, trying to remember all the types of strokes my father, the former lifeguard at Jones Beach in Long Island, had taught me as a child. He could've been an Olympic swimmer, but he had responsibilities and those dreams weren't designed for blue collar Bronx immigrant families. He'd taught me to swim, to dive, to respect the water. He was an expert scuba diver as well. He'd tried to join the Navy when he was younger, but they turned him down for a heart condition. All he ever wanted was the water.

I remember watching him at our community pool. He'd wait on line at the diving board and than effortlessly perform acrobatics that would stun everyone watching. Then he'd go back to his chair and his book like nothing had happened. He could go years between doing things like that. Maybe that's what cell memory is. He'll be 70 years old tomorrow and even after a quadruple bypass and a replaced aortic valve - I wouldn't be surprised if he could still get up there and do it.

For a moment last week, I remembered. The freedom, the rush, the absence of thought - just action. It's in my cell memory, but for me that's where it will have to stay. It was a gift from my Dad that maybe I can't use anymore, but it's in there. Just as much as my love and appreciation for a humble gifted athlete who turns 70 tomorrow.

A man who gave up the ocean to support a family and raise a little girl.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paradise On Earth

Southwest Florida is beyond words - I've never been here before. I've done the requisite Disney, Orlando trips with my children - but this is a different world.

The beach, the views, the palm trees, the sea breezes, great people, serenity - I wrote more here than I have in weeks. The problem is, I don't want to leave. I want to ship everyone I know down here to come be with me!

I will promise myself to read this over when it's 20 degrees and I'm scraping ice off the window of my car, when the windchill factor is below 0, when I have to get up at 5 am and turn on the heat, gripping a cup of coffee waiting for the caffeine to penetrate my brain. I wonder how far it is to commute to upstate New York to work from here each day?

Obviously I've gotten too much sun and my brain is fried. Sigh.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Great Writer Debuts New Website: Nina Killham

Check out my friend Nina's new website!

Better than that - check out some of her books. It's hard to decide which one is my favorite so I came to the conclusion that I love them all for different reasons.

It's a rare writer that can make you laugh in the middle of a murder mystery, and cry in the middle of a comedy - and in the end make you wish there were more pages to turn. I love Nina and so will you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writer on a Vampire Schedule

I always thought that vampires sleep during the day and do their vampiring activities during the night. Apparently this isn't the case because I've recently seen Eclipse, (and also read the entire Twilight Series), and those vampires go to high school, hang out around town and basically do everything humans do during the day except that they glitter in the sun. I do know some humans that seem to glitter. I am not one of them.

I am however, on the 1970's vampire schedule. It's the way it has to be if I ever want to get this second book done. It's in the early stages right now and for some reason I couldn't get my mojo going like I did with the last one. That's when I realized that I was trying to write during the day...getting up at a normal hour and going to bed before midnight. I suppose that's what well adjusted, organized, normal writers do.

Again, like the people who glitter. I am not like that.

Early evening the words flow, faster as the night progresses. I try to make it to bed by 2 am so I can also be functional for my kids during the day - and so far it's working out okay. So, I guess I'm not ever going to be one of those well adjusted, organized types - at least not during the summer.

I'm on an old-school vampire schedule.

photo of Al Lewis. 1923-2006. My favorite vampire.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Ode to the Class of 2010

Tomorrow is their last day.

So, they will dress up in costumes, spray each other with water pistols and dance in the hallways.

They'll fight authority with colorful streamers and face paint.

They'll chase each other around, dive onto the slip and slide on the front lawn, and maybe even start a spontaneous parade. They'll cheer and chant and tell everyone that they can't wait to get out of here - all at the same time wondering what happens next.

And then they'll stop. They'll pour over their yearbooks and remember when. They'll give me hugs and ask me to never forget them. I'll tell them I never will, and I'll mean it.

They'll tell stories about those times in 3rd grade when they played kickball at recess, the crazy sleep-overs where nobody ever slept, and they'll remember the first time they stepped into the high school. It seemed so big then, and everyone there even bigger. They'll realize - some for the very first time - that you can want something and fear it at the same time. In the back of their minds a little voice will tell them it's time to grow up just a little bit. (I would advise them to ignore that voice for a while).

There will be hugs and laughter. There will be tears.

And some of them will be mine.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Driveway's in Jail

Yes, I did just say that. It's even in the newspaper.

Actually, it's not my entire driveway, that would be ridiculous! Who's ever heard of an entire driveway going to jail? Well, maybe in Canada - out in the lawless North Country or something, but not here.

To be accurate, it's not even my driveway as much as it's a piece of a of a wall adjacent to my driveway. I live on the bottom of a hill. A retaining wall of paver stones holds up part of my landscaping - my rare collection of poison ivy, poison oak and some pachysandra that got in there somehow.

They arrested my paving stone. And I wasn't even home to see the action. It made the news here in the rollicking non-stop mecca of excitement where I live. The problem is; my paving stone is no longer just a paving stone. It's now evidence. So, it currently
resides in a police station, in a bag, longing for its brother and sister paving stones. Maybe I'll visit it in jail tomorrow.

Here is the article, edited a bit to protect the not-so-innocent.


NEW YORK — Police say that a Village teenager who has been charged with two assaults this month is tied to attempts to organize gang activity in the village.

Dummy 1, 19, was charged Sunday with second-degree assault, weapons possession, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

Police say Dummy 1 threw a paving stone through a window at the Hillman Avenue home of Dummy 2, 22. When Dummy 2 pursued Dummy 1, Dummy 2 was stabbed and suffered minor injuries.

Dummy 1 and Random Dummy, 28, of the Village, were both charged with assault in an incident earlier this month.

"We've been having a lot of ongoing issues between Dummies and their friends," said Sgt. Mr. Man, noting there have also been baseball bat fights in the past week.

Dummy 1 was sent to County Jail on $100,000 cash bail and is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Village Court.

Monopoly Go to Jail Card copyright Hasbro.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

My daughter gave me a copy of this photo in a frame this morning. She said "I know you miss your Mommy, so this is from her."

She's so thoughtful...puts a lot of thought into any gift she gives, from a souvenir she brings home for her friend from Florida to things like this. She remembers her a little. She was in 1st grade when my Mom died. A few years before, I remember her sleeping on my Mom's couch early in the morning and woke up to find my mother looking over at her watching her sleep. It had taken a lot of effort to get out of bed and into the wheelchair by herself without waking anyone. I looked at them. They looked so much alike. It was as though my DNA had skipped a generation and my daughter ended up almost as a clone of my Mom. She was lucky.

My mother looked up at me and had an unusual expression on her face. It wasn't really sad, I think if I had to find a word for it, it would be acceptance.

"Look at her sleeping, she looks like a little woman. It's a shame I won't get to see her grow up."

I told her not to talk that way, that of course she would see her grow up, but my Mom smiled at me and said. "Of course honey. I know." She knew the truth. I refused to accept it.

I watch my daughter growing more each day. She's getting so tall, so feminine. I don't think she realizes how beautiful she is. Anyone who looks at her comments on it but she doesn't seem to notice it herself. She's kind and thoughtful, methodical and meticulous. She's quick to forgive but slow to forget. Her humor's so dry that people don't expect it from such a little girl. Sometimes they walk away confused - that's okay, they'll get it later. She's so much like my Mother that it makes me question nature vs. nurture - I'm leaning toward nature.

If the gods continue to smile upon me, I'll get to see her grow up. I just hope that my Mom was wrong.

I hope she's watching too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's There...

It's there...in the back of my mind. When I'm sitting at a meeting at work, (and let me tell you...there have been a lot of meetings lately.). When I'm making dinner. When I'm ordering Chinese Food because I'm too tired to make dinner. When I'm falling asleep, the first few moments in the morning when I'm having my coffee and enjoying a moment of solitude...it's there. It's telling me...

"It's time to sit down and get back to work. We have stories to tell and you're not letting us out. There are words waiting to play. Come on now...we've been waiting and enough is enough!"

It's time to write. It's not just something I want to do. I need to do it. I can usually wait until the last day of school, when I come home that first day of summer vacation in the late morning and immediately go out to my back deck and pour a huge glass of ice water and open my laptop - and then I'm free. I write and write until it's dark. Then I come inside and write some more, sometimes until it's light outside again. I take the necessary breaks to drive children to camp/friends/ice cream stands/movies and then later pick up those children from camp/friends, ice cream stands/movies. I try to make healthier meals than I do during the school year when I'm so exhausted that I sometimes wonder how much longer I can physically handle my job. I'm a Mom. I see dear friends I don't get the chance to catch up with during the year. I pay more attention to my pets, catch up with my Dad, make snacks for children's sleepovers...but mostly...I write. I sleep in short intervals from about 3 am to 7 am. I have dark circles under my eyes. I don't dry my hair and it turns into a wavy wild mess. But I'm happy!

The problem is that this year, the stories are banging at the door - demanding to get out - and I still have about six weeks left until I can really let them loose. I'll go to bed now since it's past 11 pm and I have to get up at 5 am - but before I fall asleep I'll probably do some plotting in my mind. That appeases them for a bit. I'll watch everyone I see and wonder why they do what they do. I'll observe and file away my thoughts for a few more weeks. When I was a child I loved Harriet the Spy. I WAS Harriet the Spy (minus the affluent neighborhood). Louise Fitzhugh knew exactly how to describe a girl with a driving need to write down everything she saw and thought. When her notebooks were taken away, she was lost. I'm like that with my laptop...like Harriet without her notebook.

Six more weeks. It can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Last week my husband and daughter went on vacation. They love theme parks and roller coasters - my daughter especially. Actually, love would be an understatement. She worships them. They're the screen savers on her computer. She watches YouTube videos of roller coasters across America so she can figure out which one she wants to go on next. For her, this was more than a vacation. It was a pilgrimage.

It was also a great opportunity for me to spend some time with my 16 year old son. He was my first, and for the first three years of his life - it was just us three. Sometimes it seemed more like just the two of us since my husband was working so many hours to make up for the loss of my income so I could stay home for as long as possible. Of course then - he was just a little guy. He and his best friend would spend countless hours battling with light sabers in what seemed like an eternal Star Wars episode. That was many years ago and those light sabers have moved from three different houses, been saved from bulk trash pick up day by me more than twice, and now stashed in the back of the garage. Yes, they were toys he had grown out of, but to me they represented a time when life was simpler - when a trip to the toy store could fix anything.

I wasn't ready to give them up. I kept them for me, I know that.

He's different now. He's learning to drive. His voice is so deep I hardly recognize him on the phone. His friends came over to hang out. The living room became their base of operations. They played guitar, video games, went out to get Pizza, and had long philosophical conversations about music. They laughed a lot. They fell asleep sprawled all over the place. Even the couch wasn't long enough for any of them.

After most of the boys had left, I heard some running around downstairs so I came down to see who was still here. That was when I saw my son and his friend - dueling with light sabers. They stopped short, looked at me and said "We can explain this." to which I responded. "There's nothing to explain. Whose winning, red or green?"

One said "RED!" The other said "GREEN!" and they took off around the corner.

Later on, when I was putting away some clean laundry, I saw that my son had placed the light sabers in his closet, leaning them against the back wall. I thought that was best. This way he'll know where they are when he needs them the next time.

I wasn't the only one not ready to give them up.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Things Overheard In the Hallway

"I don't know why everyone says this Atkins Diet is so great. All I've been doing is eating bagels and this cutting carbs isn't working."

"Did you buy the organic water? You should, it's low in fat and has less calories."

"I can't stand the judgemental people on the bus. They criticize everybody....I hate all those stupid girls, they're mad ugly too."

"....and that's how you wear a banana"

My school is crowded. The hallways are insane with traffic and it takes forever to get from one end of the building to the other. Some hallways are so busy at certain times of the day that it's truly gridlock. I used to get frustrated. Sometimes angry. I started doing the serpentine thing, looking for gaps in the crowd to cut in front of people or even at times...yes, this is bad.

I've used my book bag as a weapon.

I make it look like an accident. It's not personal. It's business. I have to get to class, after all - I'm the teacher.

Recently, however, I've decided to calm down and accept things. It's an ongoing process and while there's many areas of my life where I really still need to work on my whole zen-like acceptance self improvement trend - I've found that I've really started to enjoy the crowded hallways once I started opening my ears and catching these little tid-bits of conversations. I'm sure I'm taking them out of context - but that's the beauty of it. I don't want to know the rest of the conversation!

Of course if it were something serious or harmful, I would make a concerted effort to intervene, but as long as we're talking about wearing "bananas" and organic fat free water, I think it's safe

So for the time being, I'm going to relish my time stuck in the hallway as my own somewhat distorted path to reaching Nirvana.

photo courtesy of Glendale High School (not my school - ours is even more crowded!)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Lies of Childhood

There comes a time in every child's life when they learn that much of what we've been telling them is a lie. There are indeed monsters everywhere, and they're not all fuzzy and blue and like cookies. They're not misunderstood green ogres, waiting to be drawn out by a talking donkey who will help the world see that they were wrong...that ogres are nice after all.

We want them to run, ride bikes, play outside with their friends - yet even though the sun is shining and everyone is laughing, it's there. It's always there.
Where are these monsters? Everywhere. What do they look like? Us.

What is the correct balance between teaching them to recognize danger and creating a life for them based on suspicion?
I've been told that I'm overprotective, almost irrational. I watch the news too much. I don't allow my daughter to walk home from the bus, or even down the block to visit a friend. I've made her nervous and fearful. I've taken some of the joy out of her childhood and replaced it with terror.

The sun is shining. There's sidewalks, tree lined streets, people walking their dogs. My
neighborhood is quite idyllic. So when do I allow her to walk alone a few blocks in a lovely village, When she's older? All of her friends are already allowed. When she's a teenager? That time came, and passed.

So I let up. I let her walk two blocks to a friend's house.

And it didn't matter. The monsters drive. They follow you and ask you to help them find their lost puppy. She handled the situation well - just like we've always told her to. But now she's even more afraid...and so am I. When will it be okay? Will it ever be? What's going to happen when she's in college and I'm not a few minutes away? Will it be okay when she's grown?

There's a line from the book
Beloved by Toni Morrison that seems to partially answer my question. "Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that suppose to mean? In my heart it don't mean a thing."

When will it be okay? My heart says never, but my head says someday - because it will have to be. When will I be at peace with her going off places on her own?

For that answer I'm listening to my heart.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Snow-icane 2010

So...here's some unsolicited advice.

Don't ever make fun of weather forecasters. Don't blog about them on your laptop and mock them from the safety of your living room saying things like:

"Ha, yeah - Winter Storm Warning! Maybe we'll get an inch of snow again and we'll have to shovel...WITH A SPOON!"

"Are you even a meteorologist? I think not....you probably have a degree in Communications and a minor in Perfect Hair and Teeth!"

"Here's the real weather forecast...go outside...look around...judge for yourself."

They can hear you. And it makes them angry...so they call in favors, maybe program the computer models in such a way to - I need a real strong term for this - an Old Testament type term would be good here - I know! They SMITE you!

Smite: to strike sharply or heavily..to attack or afflict suddenly and injuriously..to deal a blow

We've been smitten with snow here. Probably about 50 inches they're now saying. (...and by they're, I mean those witty, intelligent, and accurate meteorologists on television. They are SO talented. Don't you just love them? I know I do!)

Trees are down all over. Roads closed. Wires down. We just got our power back on after 20 hours without electricity or heat - and we're the lucky ones since most of my immediate area is still out. I feel a little guilty about that. I don't think I'm worthy of having my power back before other neighborhoods since...well, you know....there's the whole smiting thing.

They're calling it a Snow-icane, a Snow Hurricane, Snow Slam 2010!
Okay, I made that last one up. C'mon...that's funny right? It sounds like a World Wrestling Federation Event!

I should stop now. They may be listening.

photo courtesy of my backyard 2010
Smite courtesy of the Old Testament, Bible.
"Judge for yourself" courtesy of Luann Nolen - loved that line and had to use it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tales from a Dog Catcher Now Available on Sony eReader

Tales from a Dog Catcher is now available on the Sony eReader - I'm very excited! You can download it here, or you can go directly to the eReader site at ebookstore.sony.com to download other great books.

Tales from a Dog Catcher has been available on Amazon's Kindle since publication in April 2009, but today I found a new feature that allows you to download Kindle books onto your Blackberry. These are some exciting times for people who love to read.

On a shorter note - I'm about to get slapped by Mother Nature for my last blog rant on snow, or lack thereof. I've never heard of a snow storm referred to as a "Snow Hurricane", but I suppose those of us in the Hudson Valley will find out first hand on Thursday. I would just like to say ahead of time...I am absolved from all blame.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Slow News Day

This is photograph of the Blizzard of 1978. I remember this because school was closed all week long. People couldn't find their cars. It was way above your head... it was awesome!

This is news. THIS is snow. Lately in the New York City Area we have been getting snow. There have been countless hours dedicated to talking about it on the news, emergency reports interrupting scheduled programming, people running to pick up milk and bread before it hits. But you see, it's not SNOW. It's snow.

My cousin who currently lives in Calgary, where snow is no joke, a regular expected occurrence and probably not the main topic of every conversation, made a comment the other day about how the New York news spent multiple hours covering the snow event. Well, at first it was "The blizzard of the century", than later it became "The blizzard of the year" which was right before it was downgraded to "snow storm" and then even further to "snow event." Here is the news from this past week where New York City got 2 inches of snow, most of which turned to slush almost immediately.

Reporter: "Well, as you see here, I'm standing out in snow folks! See...look!"
(Camera pans to ground. Yes, there is some snow, like a a bit...maybe it just looks moist.)
Reporter: "Travel is hectic around her, people are being extra careful...wearing boots and hats!"
(They stop someone wearing BOTH a hat and boots and hold up the microphone to them.)
Reporter: "What do you think of this! SNOW!"
Person: "Yes. today I saw it was going to snow, so I wore boots. Oh, and my hat too."
Reporter: (laughs hard at obviously hysterical comment by person) "Oh, me too. A hat AND boots...ha,ha.ha.!"
Reporter: "Lets talk to some of the plow guys, they've been working all night...wait..what...sorry I'm getting information from the studio. What's that? Oh, an hour now. Okay." "So, what is your name sir?"
Plow Man: "Joe"
Reporter: "What do you think of all this weather Joe?!"
Joe: "Yup."
Reporter: "You heard that here first! It's snowing! Just look up at how it's coming down!"
(Camera pans up...light flakes flutter down, the stars are shining through the flakes)
Reporter: "Well, it was coming down before. I have this yardstick here to measure the snow."
(She sticks ruler into snow. It falls over due to there being nothing to really hold it up)
Reporter: "Well there you go guys. Winter weather in the Big Apple! Maybe there will be no school tomorrow, what do you think kids?"
Kids: (looking at reporter and saying "YAY!", then looking back at Mom who rolls her eyes and shakes her head no).


Reporter: "So, it looks like we've had some weather, with a chance of a bit more by the morning...what would that be, Rob back at the studio?"
Rob at the Studio: "Only 3 feet".
Reporter: "3 feet by tomorrow morning...not too bad since it's only on top of the last 4 feet from last night". So on to more timely news....there's a lost cat named Fluffy in the Easton Park Area. If you find her please call 1-800-555-1222. And now for the sports..."

Well, that's enough of my rambling about snow. I think I'll turn on the news to catch the 3 hour Tiger Woods Apology Special. I think it's being close captioned for the hearing impaired which is always good, but you can also follow it on Twitter.

I think there also may have been a domestic terrorism incident with a plane crashing into the IRS building in Texas, Alexander Haig died, An American won Male figure skating for the first time in decades and I think that Haiti may still be in some need of assistance...but I'm not sure. I think there's still a war in Iraq and Afghanistan too. I'll have to check and get back to you on it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Knives

Flowers. Chocolates in heart shaped boxes laced in red ribbon. Delicately wrapped packages of expensive jewelry. We rush out to make sure we have something by the 14th of February to illustrate our undying devotion. After all, that guy in the jewelry commercial that’s been playing for a month now is giving his lady friend one of those sparkly heart necklaces that were designed by an actress known primarily for her role in Lifetime Channel movies.

Nothing says love like that.

I think there was a time when I bought into all of that…actually I know there where was a time. There is one memory I’m particularly ashamed of. It involved knives. To be more clear – Valentine’s Knives.

He was a great guy, a physicist to be exact. You can see already that it was doomed to fail since I’m a right brain dominant writer type and he was, well…a physicist. I wished on stars thinking that somehow they could give me the answers I needed. He told me I was wasting my time on balls of gas; mostly hydrogen and helium. I believe that animals have souls – he didn’t believe in souls, animal nor human. He once told me that I was the “Anti-Spock”. He was right of course, although I tend to think even now, that maybe it was exactly that quality that intrigued him to begin with.

For Valentine’s Day I had agonized over what to give him…my memory is dim but I think it had something to do with Stephen Hawking. When I opened his gift, I found that he had given me a set of kitchen knives. I wasn’t sure what to think? Was this some type of message? I did probably need some…but on Valentine’s Day? A current of estrogen fueled panic flooded my brain. That was when every woman at my job got involved:

“Knives for Valentine’s? That’s the kiss of death!”

“I wouldn’t deal with that, there’s plenty of fish in the sea….why not a nice bracelet?”

“He probably doesn’t know you well enough after all this time…that’s a bad sign.”

It was too much. I was impressionable at the time, being the youngest woman there. These ladies must know something that I didn’t. They said I wasn’t being objective.

For many reasons, that was the beginning of the end. It was probably inevitable and better for the both of us in the long run. Not long afterward, I met the man who would become my husband. He loves Valentine’s Day more than I do. He is too generous and has impeccable taste. Last year he asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s Day and when he wouldn’t accept my usual “I don’t need anything, don’t worry about it”, I finally told him what I wanted. Rubber car mats for my truck. He thought I was nuts, but he actually did it…along with flowers and a necklace. He witnessed the Valentine Knife debacle 18 years ago and I think he doesn’t trust me enough to believe that I’d be fine with a useful gift.

What I didn’t know then, was that those knives were Ever Sharp Henkel’s. They were chosen with a lot of care and probably too much expense. I’d been trying to learn to cook better, and they were a thoughtful gift that 18 years later, still sit in my kitchen drawer. I’ve learned a lot through the years, as I’m sure we all have. Things that seem so important at 25 are clearly unimportant at 45. A token of affection need not be some mass produced, overly advertised item that will be worn once a year. An object should never be something by which you measure your value or self worth.

I still use those knives. I’ve used them to chop onions, take the legs off a couch, plane a door, along with a thousand other uses through the years. Those knives taught me a lesson. They never needed sharpening.

I did.

The Lyon Press, Guilford,Connecticut
The Lyons Press is an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press
Cover design by Georgiana Goodwin
Cover photographs © Shutterstock

Printed in the United States of America
US $16.95 / CAN $19.95
Tales from a Dog CatcherDuffy-Korpics © 2009
Dewey: 636.7
Dogs — New York (State) — New York — Anecdotes. Dog rescue — New York (State) — New York — Anecdotes. Duffy-Korpics, Lisa