A Quieter Christmas

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It’s early morning, and I stretch awake, my half-dreaming brain struggling to focus on the real world. Derek’s off to work, and I’ve slept in – a lovely luxury. The dogs let me sleep is my initial thought. Then I remember. Belle and Gretel are gone. And Murphy – our sole remaining dog – eyes me quietly from the edge of the bed.

The Bunker is cleaner now, and I’ll admit to using less air freshener (older dogs can stress the freshener and scented candles budget). I rarely have to double mop a floor, and the living room carpet is slowly recovering its former nap. Even our backyard grass shows improvement — Belle’s favorite mudhole is filling back in (she and Gretel loved to eat mud – the vet could never figure out why).

We’ve downsized from a four-day supply “bistro” dog feeder to a petite, green bowl that matches the kitchen decor. We filled it three days ago, and it hardly looks touched, even though we know Murphy eats – he’s a 15 pound nibbler.

Life goes on without the ‘girls’, but it’s a quiet life. I have to stop myself from calling their names at times. And Murphy rarely leaves my side. He’ll adjust. And so will Derek and I.Come Christmas morning, we’ll toast their memories with egg nog and remember all those Christmases past with puppy paws and wagging tails. Perhaps by this time next year, the Bunker will ring to the happy barks of a new set of paws.

Maybe. It’s tough to replace loved ones. Thanks, Belle and Gretel for many wonderful years and lots of canine kisses. We’ll see you one day – and we’ll all run without pain in never-ending Sonshine.

Facts of the Fiction – The Armageddon Strain Comes to Life

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WHEN I WROTE the first draft of my second novel, The Armageddon Strain, something in the back of my mind feared parts of the plot would one day come true. Welcome to “one day”.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus used as the backbone of a new hybrid monster plague in The Armageddon Strain is decimating bird populations in parts of China and Southeast Asia. Up until just a week or so ago, reports of these infections have shown a remarkable resistance to the virus among chickens – in other words, the chickens became infected but survived the virus only to be slaughtered by humans in the culling process that remains one of the best ways to prevent further spread.

But now the rules have changed.China is now reporting over 500 deaths in chickens – directly from viral infection. H5N1 is preying on domestic birds, and it’s killing them at an alarming rate. Bear in mind, too, that whenever China gives out information, that you must evaluate that information in light of China’s reluctance to reveal anything negative. So, one has to wonder if the numbers might not be much higher.Both Derek and I write from the headlines – we extrapolate today’s news into a five year advance future. I wrote AS in 2004. You do the math.

And God Loves Even the Little Birds

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In Matthew 10:28-31, Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!” 

WHAT a great comfort! Just yesterday, I saw this amazing truth in action. While mowing our front lawn (with mulching action engaged), I was passing near a big pine along the west side of our home, when I thought I saw a small scrap of gray paper. Figuring the mower would make short work of it, I continued toward the small gray item. However, as I neared it, something inside me said to stop – and I did. Just inches away from the stray “paper”, I turned off the mower and knelt down. A bird! A tiny, fledgling, not yet old enough to fly.

It tore at my heart. This small baby had probably stood on the edge of the nest waiting for his parents and fallen to the hard ground. I sighed, preparing to remove the dead bird from the lawn.But to my amazement, I saw it breathe. Continue reading