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It’s that time of year…


Oh, this dog.

The funny thing is that *I* wasn’t the one who wanted a dog. I acquiesced because I thought we (me and The Ex) could adopt a puppy that was on the smaller/medium size whom we could train (ha!) to live well with the cat I’d had for nearly 10 years, named Elle. After doing some searches on Pet Finder, we drove to Seneca, Illinois, to see what was listed as a Chocolate Lab/Golden Retriever mix named James–Bartles, we were told, had already been adopted. A Chocolate Lab is not the right dog for me, especially a puppy, as he was a bundle of quivering canine energy who jumped (a lot) and would need training (also, a lot). After several more rounds of puppies, all of whom were excitable and several which peed on me, the director of the shelter said, “I think I have a dog you should meet.”

She came back in the room with a fairly large dog, clearly a Shepherd mix. He came into the room, looked at us, and walked over to me and sat down on my right side, leaned into my leg, and looked up at me with large brown eyes.

Done. I was toast, and the director knew it–she said, “they always know.”

After walking Ralph through the cat room at the shelter to see how he would respond to cats–which he passed with flying colors–we paid the fee and loaded Ralph into the back seat of what was then a new Honda Accord. This was early August–I believe August 4th or 5th–2003. On the drive home, Ralph threw up three times. Clearly, not a car dog!

After a few rocky starts (marking in the house, eating the cat’s food, etc.) Ralph soon calmed down and became accustomed to the pace. While the request to get a dog was not mine, it was very quickly apparent that Ralph was my dog. And despite my irritation at the in-home marking, I quickly fell in love with this dog.

And who wouldn’t? Ralph is, and has always been, gentle and sweet. All he’s ever wanted to do was please.

Now, as it’s becoming obvious he won’t be with me for much longer, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the seven short years we’ve shared.

He used to bark and chase after UPS trucks. Not Fed-Ex, not USPS, just UPS. Once, in the middle of winter in Chicago, I started out with him for a walk. He heard the truck going by, I lost my footing, and all I could do was hold on to the leash–Ralph had picked up enough speed that he dragged me OVER a snow-covered bush, launching me as if off a ramp, and pulled me halfway across the lawn before stopping.

He was, for a while, a stress-chewer. He chewed up several blankets and dog beds, stopping only when I got home. Some were not recognizable as dog beds by the end of the day–thank goodness Costco was selling them pretty cheaply.

He did not like to be left alone. Left in the backyard, he would attempt to tunnel out–and boy, could those paws move dirt. Once, when secluded in the mud room while I painted in the basement, he had what could only be described as a temper tantrum. He chewed up an entire box (including the box) of Scooby snacks, tore up the lid to a wastebasket, and peed on the drier–all because he could hear I was in the basement and he couldn’t get to me.

Ralph was an enormous source of comfort for me, and was my best buddy and companion for a while. The Ex-H traveled every week, and I had Ralph to keep me company. When the ex ultimately walked out, deciding he didn’t want to be married anymore, Ralph helped me keep it together. I don’t know what I would have done without Ralph–I’d just moved to New Hampshire (I’d been here around 3 weeks), I had no friends in the area, and my family was on the other side of the country in Arizona. I had a brand-new job that it was now imperative that I keep. Scary times, but right there, was Ralph.

Ralph settled right in when we moved in with AP (then boyfriend, now husband). He immediately understood the household order, and slept on the floor, right next to AP’s side of the bed. AP works primarily from home, and I will be forever grateful as I think the multiple daily walks and companionship have lengthened Ralph’s life considerably.

Ralph is fading fast. It’s breaking my heart, but I realize that this time had to come at some point. Such a sweet dog. One in a million. I’ll be forever glad he chose me.

Ralph, I’m lucky to have known you. You’ve made me a better, more patient, and more understanding person.

I love you.


07 2010

Ralph with Santa

Ralph the Wonder Dog went to visit Santa today at the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire.

Ralph with Santa Salls

Ralph with Santa Salls

I know I’ve said it before, but this is one of the best dogs ever. Ralph is a gentle and sweet dog, and such a great companion. We learned this week that he may have the early stages of degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disease that German Shepherds are predisposed to. We’re taking steps to delay the onset of symptoms, including diet and exercise. Hopefully we can keep him as healthy and mobile as possible for a while.

He is an amazing dog, I’m so lucky he picked me.


12 2009

Cheese, please…

In the latest chapter of the “just to see if I can” series of home cooking experiments, I attempted homemade cheese.

It’s very, very simple, and I made a fairly dry ricotta cheese–it actually reminded me more of a queso fresco than ricotta, but I think that’s because I let the curds go a little longer and squeezed it while draining the whey off…

Homemade ricotta.

Homemade ricotta.

All you really need to do is heat whole milk, a bit of cream, and salt, then add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. Stir, allow curds to form, then strain into cheesecloth in a strainer.

Close up of strained cheese...

Close up of strained cheese...



12 2009

I kneaded to do this…

Oy, the puns…

For my birthday, I received a class on whole grains and baking at the the King Arthur Baking Education Center in Norwich VT. What a great time! The class was instructive, and even after baking for years, I learned a few things.

Namely, that the reason I make leaden loaves when using whole wheat and whole grains is that I add too much flour. The dough for whole grain breads is incredibly, almost unbelievably, sticky. It stuck to everything–my hands, the dough scraper, I mean everything! But, the end results speak for themselves:

Whole wheat sourdough loaves, from starter.

Whole wheat sourdough loaves, from starter.

In addition to the whole wheat sourdough, we made a seeded whole wheat bread with their Harvest Grains blend:

Left, whole wheat sourdough boules, Right, Seeded whole wheat batards.

Left, whole wheat sourdough boules, Right, Seeded whole wheat batards.

Doesn’t take long before one gets into fresh bread…I also made a stop at Sugarbush Farms, makers of some of the best cheddar cheese I’ve ever had:

Vermont bounty...

Vermont bounty...

Again, it’s so amazing to live in the Northeast, where you can take a class at King Arthur, then go pick up some incredible cheese, in just over an hour or so from home.


11 2009

Ever wonder…

Women’s magazines are forever referencing different fruits when describing the shape of the female body.

Have you ever wondered where they got the notion, to, say, refer to a “pear shaped” figure?

No? Are you sure?

It was hard to eat that pear, it was so cute. It had a bottom!

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11 2009

Sweet Ride…

Well, I drive a rather predictable and reliable vehicle, however dull.

Given the chance though, this would be a fairly sweet (ha, ha!) ride, but probably not great on the highway with SUVs.

Do you think it runs on chocolate?

Do you think it runs on chocolate?


10 2009

Thankfully, something to laugh about…

My husband competes in motorcycle rallies, and was in one over the holiday weekend…and had, as he put it, “an incident.”

All is well, but the laugh of the day (and I’m so happy there is one) came a day later. The stage captain asked him “were you recently married?” My hubby: “yes, just last month–why?” Stage captain: “when we got to you, you kept using the words wife and girlfriend interchangeably. We weren’t sure who to call…”

Again, thankfully, LOL.


05 2009


I’m Jen Zingsheim, this is my personal blog. While I’ve been working with blogs and posting to others for a while now, this is my first attempt at publishing in my own space. We’ll see how it goes…


05 2009