Dog Love: Toxic Foods & Emergency First Aid


After the incident with Moses eating chocolate, and not having hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, my dog walker, a former vet technician, gave me a list of items I should have on hand to assist in potential problems.

Of course, I hope to never need these things and vow to remain more vigilant.

Nevertheless, stuff happens.

Here’s the ASPCA list of foods toxic to dogs:

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
Coconut and Coconut Oil
Grapes and Raisins
Milk and Dairy
Nuts (including almonds, macadamia, pecans, and walnuts)
Onions, Garlic, Chives
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Xylitol -a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste
Yeast Dough
And here’s the list of items to have in your medicine cabinet:

Benadryl 25 mg tabs
Blunt edge scissors
Cling wrap
Cortisone Ointment
Dosing Syringe or turkey baster
Emergency eye wash
Hand sanitizer (for owner)
Hydrogen peroxide
Latex gloves (for owner)
Mushers salve for paw pads
Nail trimmers
Q tips
Rubbing alcohol
Small cold and hot packs
Small towels
Sports tape
Styptic powder
Thermometer- digital is fine



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Dog Love: A Cautionary Tale

My friend Helene arrived about 3 pm at our northeastern Pennsylvania lake house and we took advantage of the sunny, warm day to get in the water, swim to the dock, and bathe in the sun.  
Moses, my rescue dog, paced along the shore, watching us, and even tiptoed in a little bit. Though he can swim, he doesn’t seem to like it. Yet he likes to observe and I’m sure he’d be a lifeguard if needed.  

Later in the evening, after a lovely “girl” food dinner of tuna, corn, asparagus, and bottle of rose wine, I put out a plate of brownies I’d made and some of the chocolate chip cookies, (Tate’s) that Helene had brought. We sat in the living room, and the dessert plate lay on the coffee table. We nibbled and chatted.  As dark descended, we decided to walk Moses. Unlike my suburban life where there are sidewalks and streetlights, nighttime here can be rather spooky, even when carrying a bright flashlight.

When we returned from the walk, Helene asked me to show her the pictures of the family that adorn the walls, especially going up the staircase to the second floor. I told her who everyone was and we returned to the living room.

And the dessert plate was empty. Moses had devoured the remaining brownies and cookies and was cleaning up the crumbs from the rug.

Chocolate as pet owners know is toxic for dogs. While he seemed perfectly happy, I called his vet, who runs a 24-hour emergency service. They advised me to call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline. (888-426-4435). The wait on perma-hold seemed interminable; as both Helene and I scoured websites seeking information about the toxin, how quickly it could impact the dog, and to what degree given the amount he ate. After hearing that they charge $65 for advise, and nervous that I was wasting valuable time, I hung up and started calling local vets, hoping one nearby offered emergency care similar to my vet in New Jersey.

We read about how to induce vomiting—you give the dog 3% hydrogen peroxide with an eye dropper or syringe, and what symptoms to look for. We kept checking on Moses, who had retired to his comfy dog bed in my bedroom, and seemed content.

Having no luck with local vets, and realizing I had no hydrogen peroxide, I called a neighbor who offered to buy some and deliver it to me. Meanwhile, I called the hotline again and patiently waited. When someone answered, she asked me lots of questions about Moses: weight, breed and general health; and about the brownies: type of chocolate- baker’s the 2nd worst for dogs after cocoa powder, the amount he ate (less than 1 ounce based on the size of the brownies and that he’d eaten five not an entire batch,) and also about the other ingredients used: sugar, butter, walnuts. Apparently all these factors determine the effect on the dog. Given the information, she put me on hold and came back to me quickly. Thankfully due to his size – 50 lbs, and the small quantity he consumed,  she assured me he’d be fine and no follow up was required with a vet this morning.

So all’s well that ends well. But I learned to keep hydrogen peroxide on hand, and to be much more careful with desserts on the coffee table.



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Gun Control: WHEN?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked in two professions: journalism and education.

As a newspaper reporter in Danbury, CT, I covered local government: everything from elections to zoning meetings. I attended lengthy Board of Education meetings and would return to the newsroom to write for a midnight deadline. The News-Times then was an afternoon paper. During the day, I’d often return to town hall to meet with government officials, who patiently answered my endless questions about mill rates and taxation, planning and zoning, and all the other aspects of running a town.

I also wrote features on anything I could—human interest it was called, and readers wanted to read about their neighbors doing interesting things. I covered ball games and school plays. I loved the work and newsroom camaraderie — the night staff was mostly young college graduates starting out in their first journalism jobs.

As a teacher, I taught middle schoolers Language Arts, everything from grammar to Shakespeare, test prep and poetry. I loved interacting with my students and nurturing the love of reading and writing. I had wonderful, dedicated colleagues.

In both careers, I never worried about getting killed. I didn’t don a flak jacket and helmet to go to work. I was armed with reporter notebooks, pens, and a camera; and with books, paper clips, markers, and chalk.

Sure,  at town hall, there were some contentious debates and angry constituents. I remember the building of an addition to the library being particularly divisive. In school, I met with parents upset about their child’s progress and even had to defend a popular short story anthology against a group that wanted it banned. (The book won.)

The town I wrote about was Newtown, CT , a sleepy suburb made famous for the horrific school shooting in 2012. I taught in New Jersey, in the city of Newark and the town of South Orange.

Below appears in today’s New York Times:


Gerald Fischman
Rob Hiaasen
John McNamara
Rebecca Smith
Wendi Winters

These dedicated employees of the Capital Gazette lost their lives on Thursday serving their community. The Times Editorial Board has urged lawmakers to take action to prevent such tragedies: strengthen background checks, take guns away from stalkers and domestic abusers, enact red-flag laws and ban assault weapons. Such moves are still needed. But today we honor these men and women for the sacrifice they made in the name of a free press. They lost their lives for printing the truth.

Please support your local media. Their work is vital, and as this week’s events show, the stakes are high.

Without gun control, anyone who disagrees with you, who suffers from mental illness, who just is in the mood, can purchase a gun and create an instant tragedy.

It’s been 20 years since Columbine. Isn’t it time to say enough? A local press provides information to communities; they are as vital as national and international news organizations. Education and press are backbones of Democracy. I’ve been writing about gun control a lot; I sure would love to retire the subject.


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Sharing Amanda at Bat

It’s summer! Little League baseball and t-ball games are in full swing. Before school let out, I shared Amanda at Bat with fourth graders at a public school in Teaneck, NJ. My friend Caleb, one of the teachers, invited me to his class and arranged for me to speak to two others.

I always enjoy the chance to connect with students and loved hearing their reactions and answering their questions. Here are some excerpts from some of the letters they sent me:

We had a great day with you here on Thursday! I loved how you read with expression! Another thing I liked is when Amanda was sad, you showed that she was sad. I loved how you showed how everyone was feeling like sad, happy, angry, and all that. Another thing I liked was when Amanda stood up for herself and you showed her confidence. This is why my class loved you here!– Ashley

It was really cool meeting a book writer because it was my first time, and I enjoyed it. I’m normally into fantasy and my favorite author is Rick Riordan and I would only read Rick but I did like your book. Sometimes some of my friends don’t get picked for baseball teams and they felt the pain but they did make another team they soon got their time to shine. That could be motivational to some people because it may have happened to them also. —  Demetrius   

Thank you for spending your time to come stay with us. I have to say… It was a true honor having a journalist come into our class and reading to us. –Hunain

Thank you for coming in and reading for my class, we don’t get many chances in the whole entire year to have someone read to us like that. Maybe you can write a book about the whole class, that will sure make us happy.  –Jalen

 Amanda at Bat was an amazing story. Please write more books. –Lesley                                                                                    

Posted in Books, Education, parenting, Reading, teaching, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Melania’s Coat

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What A Wonderful World?

This morning I attended my 4-year-old grandson’s end of year show. The class had studied the earth’s biomes all year and each child wore a different costume and sang songs to reflect the many different climates and animals on the planet. My grandson was a proud penguin. 

Before the performance began, the children waved and blew kisses to their beaming parents.

The show’s theme, “What A Wonderful World” contrasted sharply with the images and reports from the news. Watching the show, I saw children filled with promise, excited about summer: day camp, library programs, travel to grandparents, and lazy days swimming and going for ice cream. My joy for my grandson mixed with anger about the children, the same age as those in the room and younger, being separated from their parents.

On the radio, as I drove, I heard horror stories. Tales straight out of both fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, and fact, Nazi Germany, an event  generations have vowed: “never again.”

It’s also UN World Refugee Day.  I want to share my sister Madeline’s Facebook post. She teaches English as a Second Language in the DC area.

A week ago, I delivered a promotion speech to the English Language Learners at my school. I told them how they had left me deeply humbled. In a society where ELL students are seen as limitations or students who are lagging behind their peers, these kids have proven they can do anything at all. They arrived shattered and beyond hope. They came seeking asylum in a country built by immigrants who once sought asylum. My students and all the immigrants before them came here to learn English and build a better life. In the process, they shared lessons about experiences no one should have to witness; about starting over and about transformation. Let’s remember what this country was built on and by whom. When my grandparents, (asylum seekers) came to America, they were greeted: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,……” Their journey wasn’t easy but it wasn’t further traumatized by being put in a cage. This policy is nothing less than inhumane.

As the children sang, “What a Wonderful World”, my eyes misted.

Surely, we can do better.

The November election can’t come soon enough.














Posted in commentary, Family, Grandchildren, History, politics, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Biking Brittany

Entering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont Saint-Michel,  my husband recalled that the former fortress inspired the depiction of Minas Tirith in the third Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King.

And I told him that St. Malo, where we’d biked and toured the previous day, was one of the settings for Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See.

We spent a week cycling in Brittany, France, (though Mont Saint- Michel is on the Normandy border), savoring rolling hills, coastal flats, pastures of cows, fish, wine, bread, desserts. The French respect cyclists, giving wide berth as they drive by. The country’s vast system of bike paths helped us navigate out of the small city of Rennes with ease. The  cycling touring company Abicyclette helped plan our self-guided trip, providing GPS navigation, luggage transfer from hotel to hotel, and airport transfers.

Vive La France!







Posted in bike riding, Books, Cycling, exercise, food, Movies & TV, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments