I have been looking and searching for a way to properly launch this blog. A simple hello didn’t seem good enough (especially since a good friend had worked so hard to make it a happy place to be…). It just needed something to do the hard work and the moment justice.
As Mother’s Day was upon its eve and I made mental preparations to NOT FORGET TO CALL MY MOTHER ON MOTHERS DAY!, it came to me…
It came to me from the very source it so often has throughout my life.
So I will simply start at the very beginning (they say it’s a very good place to start…).
Once upon a time there was a young woman in West Germany. It was a very dynamic time; the whole world was rebuilding and redefining itself. This young woman was poised, she was educated, she was social. And she was an only child.
Everyday she walked to her father’s office to meet him and walk home with him.
On one occasion, an associate of her father, a diplomat, asked if this teenage daughter would like a dog. This man loved his very high maintenance, eccentric dog that had been a gift from his last assignment; however, he was being reassigned to a new post and the dog would not be allowed into this new country. He thought this would be a good match: a good home and a teenage daughter that could use the companion and guardian.
And so this young woman met Dinah. The Afghan. Little did that man know that one day Dinah would save this young woman’s life (such a story must be saved for a later date). Dinah became her best companion and possibly had a greater social calendar than her owner.
In all the stories, over all the years, this young woman, my mother, never once mentioned Dinah uttering a single bark. She would sit stoically in the front window that looked out on the street from their apartment in Schwabing, Munich. Beside her, Schatze the Miniature Schnauzer would sit unseen and ferociously snarl and bark, warning off all passersby on the street. People would look up to the much too nearby window and jump in alarm to see the unusually large and exotic beast looming just above… sounding warning of certain doom.
Eventually this young woman would finish her university degree in American Studies hoping for a job translating in the United Nations. But, as I like to say, life interrupts life.
Through mutual friends she would meet a young Air force officer, who drove an Austin Healy. (That one day would be dropped by the crane into the Port of New Orleans just as the young woman and her best girlfriend arrived to witness the splash…) They were married and off to France for his next station.
Dinah hardly went long without notice, or rather, without getting herself noticed.
There once was a maid that suffered a love-hate relationship with Dinah. She hated Dinah and Dinah loved to terrify her. Outside the kitchen in deliberate ambush, silently Dinah would wait for the maid to fill her hands, then she would approach behind the maid without a sound and scrape her claws against the tile floor. Dinah would gleefully saunter out of the room as the maid shrieked in terror and flung whatever was in her hands into the air. Sadly, not much of the wedding crystal survived that first year.
Unfortunately, rumors came to my mother that would disconcert any young bride. My father had been seen driving through town with an elegant, thin blond with a page-boy cut (the height of the fashion rage at the time). My mother really couldn’t think who this woman could possibly be, let alone when there would be opportunity. If my father was not on duty or flying, he was with her. One morning, standing on the porch waving my father off to errands in the town, my mother saw her. The page-boy cut. Sitting there next to my father in the Austin Healy with the top down. Dinah sat tall and erect in the passenger seat. She sat so elegantly that the fur on her ears curled perfectly under to appear to be a fetching blond page-boy when seen from behind.
But this was not the sole reason everyone on base knew Dinah.
Family housing for airmen unfortunately was also well known to the more ill-intentioned local populations of the world. Husbands were gone flying for extended periods. Wives would be robbed at knife point by pretend delivery men at the kitchen door, sometimes handing over whole paychecks. Until the thieves met Dinah.
Then one evening, my mother stood at the porch while Dinah exercised her legs. She took off faster than usual. Within moments there were bloodcurdling screams. Husbands came from every home. Dinah was found silently holding a screaming man pinned to a home exterior wall. The deviant had climbed behind the bushes to watch a woman showering through the window. The harassment of their families was too much for the airmen. The man was lucky for the quick arrival of the MPs.
Eventually, Dinah was reposted.
This time it was America. My father was assigned to fly-in the new base commander on the same flight that was carrying Dinah. The base commander was also transporting his family dachshund that flight. Dinah had issues with dachshunds…and apparently base commanders too. The base commander decided it would be best for all if he simply slept with the little dog in his arms. Silently as ever, using just the very tips of her front teeth, Dinah would gently draw the blanket off… Needless to say, it was a very long flight for all parties involved.
Despite her arrogance, Dinah could not stave off the vagaries of time. She would succumb to the illnesses of age.
Over time, that young woman had five children of her own. Always well guarded by their canine companions. Many years later, the cosmopolitan model would find herself resurrecting a historic farmhouse in Eastern Washington. My father was wonderfully happy with the farm, but unfortunately was still pulled away by flight duties. He sought to repopulate the old farm with animals. And my mother did her best to keep them all… alive.
One evening coyotes got into the sheep. She called one of the local old farmers for help. He answered “wonderful, we’ll have mutton for dinner”. The young mother sobbed into the phone that he can’t eat these sheep! Grumbling and mumbling he later came down the basement steps where she had moved the sheep, with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. My mother learned to tend drunken injured sheep.
It was on that farm that I was raised. The animal population was greatly reduced to a more manageable size by the time I came around. When I was young, we had one of those pesky economic downturns. My mother was one of the first women real estate brokers in our town. Here in Arizona we all know a little too well what happens to real estate in economic downturns.
Crafty and craftily, my mother simply made more and more of what was needed, culminating even in authentic chaps for my sister in Western show (pretty phenomenal considering that that woman still can’t really sew to this day). I grew up in a house where if you can’t find it or can’t afford it, you make it (and if you wanted to use the toilet, you learned to fix the toilet too…). Eventually, those skills lead my mother to her arts business that supported our family for many years.
Many more years later, my own children have their own guardian companions. Of course, like every other girl in the family, Briar Rose (named for the wild roses where I grew up) needed pretty clothes to wear. Sadly, they do not make feminine canine wear in robust sizes. And very little that is useful as well.
Inspired by my mother’s determination, Dinah’s elegance and the practicality of the environment I was raised in, I simply decided to make my own collars to meet our own dogs’ personalities. The moment I walked into the leather shop, I was six again. The scent of memories came rushing back to me of getting supplies for show. I had to call my mother the moment I got home. Later I met a rusty old saddle-maker who taught me not only what to make, but how to make it strong and useful.
And we find ourselves in yet another economic downturn. And we all seek a little inspiration to muscle through.
And Big Bad Collars was born.