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Boxer: A Woman’s Best Friend

chuisleIn 2005, I worked as a library director by day and renovated a haunted Victorian home by night and on the weekends. I was single, lived alone and craved a companion – the four-legged kind. On Labor Day weekend, eleven years ago, an adorable 3-1/2 month old Boxer came to live with me.

I was a bit naïve about the Boxer breed, I admit. I didn’t realize that this cute puppy with her uplifted nose and chronic under bite possessed an inbred desire to protect me above all else. Boxers are considered a personal-protection breed in the AKC working dog category. And she took her work very seriously. Any two or four-legged creature coming within sight of our car or our home was simply there to kill us. Or so she instinctively believed.

This became a problem, of course, when I brought anyone to my home or wanted to give them a ride in my car (if she was sharing it with us.) I worked continually on teaching her that my friends were her friends. But, she would have none of it and rarely understood.

However, when I met my husband Gerry and his grandson Colin, she amazingly and immediately figured out that they were to be tolerated. In fact, she came to love and protect them as much as she adored me – with her complete heart and soul. She never once barked at them or approached them with aggression. As a matter of fact, Colin at 8 years old could be extremely annoying but she simply looked the other way. His friends, however, were another matter entirely. She terrorized each and every one of them. One friend even crossed the street when he was passing our house. He didn’t trust the closed door or the expanse of lawn. Only the street-width gave him any confidence he would have a running start.

The Boxer was bred in Europe from a strain of dog originally used for fighting. It is a cousin to the Bulldog, is extremely courageous, and has a built-in desire to please and protect his or her owner(s). He or she is solid and muscular with a very short coat that can be velvety soft on the underbelly and face. Traditionally, a Boxer’s ears are cropped and its tail is bobbed. Today many countries actually prohibit the practice; the purpose for cropping and bobbing was to give the Boxer an inapproachable demeanor. No friendly feeling could be given away – the ears stood stern and the shortened tail could be seen wagging only from behind. Germans perfected the Boxer’s temperament for personal protection and immense love of its master(s). When trained for protection, no one will get between a Boxer and his charge.

The American Kennel Club describes the Boxer as “fun-loving, bright, active and loyal.” Certainly, many people who have come to our front door would not have described our protective Boxer as fun-loving. Her mission in life was to protect her loved ones and the postal worker and UPS driver were suspect enemies. Eventually, our Boxer came to understand who was okay and who wasn’t. We fine-tuned the meet and greet process and trained her to be calm and reserved before approaching new friends. Astoundingly, she was gentle and patient with each and every young grandchild born to us in the past three years.

Our Boxer’s life was filled with love and fun. When possible, she traveled with us and spent many hours in the car on the way New Jersey, New Hampshire or Maine. We rented houses on the Cape or the coast of Maine that allowed for her presence. We had to spell the word R-I-D-E when we discussed any potential that she would accompany one of us to the dump or the store. Her excitement, her high-arching jump, and her absolute joy were worth the inconvenience of short needle-like hair on the seats and in every nook and cranny of the car.

Due to a bout of Boxer Colitis as a young pup, she enjoyed a homemade diet, rich in sweet potatoes and meat broth all of her life. She was as active as a Boxer can be, racing around and across any large grassy expanse with wild abandon. Couches were her favorite sleeping spot and she never understood why some furniture was off-limits.

She snuck off into the tick-laden woods behind our Marion home as often as she could, although she was never out of our sight and she was admonished severely for leaving it. Once I mistook a deer for her. As it munched on some plants on the dip of land outside my kitchen window, it resembled our graceful fawn-colored Boxer with splashes of the whitest white on her neck and head.

While some do live longer, Boxers generally live only 8-10 years. They are susceptible to bloat (a fatal twisting of their elongated stomach) and to cancers of all types. They are playful, loving, loyal and comical as elderly dogs in their final years, however. We know this to be true.

Our beloved Boxer passed away this week after Labor Day, eleven years after she first came home with me. She had spent her first years riding shotgun in my VW Cabrio convertible (always belted in) everywhere I went. Her floppy ears flew in the breeze and people in passing cars could not help but smile. She often slept in my bed (soon enough sharing it with my new husband, Gerry) on cold winter nights. She crept on her belly to very bottom underneath piles of blankets and stayed until she was too hot to breathe. She sat still and erect, waiting for cheese sticks for lunch where Gerry visited her at lunch every weekday in our Norwood home. She took one last long ride to visit our grandson, Colin who had left for college just the week before.

And she passed away on her own terms with me beside her. She was a woman’s best friend.

Read about the Boxer in one of the many books in the Minuteman Library Network such as The Boxer Handbook by Joan Hustace Walker. Or share the joys of this breed with a young child by reading Boxers Are the Best by Elaine Landau.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the September 22, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

2016 Sneak Peeks

Reserve September & October Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Want to get a preview of some of the new releases coming out next month?

2016 September Prepub

Download or view the  September Fiction and September Non-Fiction lists to see if anything interests you. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog.  Log into your account and place a reserve. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.


Mastering the Art

EscargotsI recently reacquainted myself with one of my favorite cookbooks, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. I added this book to my personal collection back in the late ‘80s when I was working at the Morrill Memorial Library as a page.  This particular edition of this classic was being withdrawn from the collection.  Even at my young age, I knew this was a deal I shouldn’t pass up, even if I wasn’t cooking for myself yet, as I was still in high school. At home, we ate the usual American fare, mostly meat and potatoes.  Occasionally, I’d have a taste of traditional dishes from Lithuania, as both sides of my family emigrated from the Baltics.  Why I decided to bring this selection home at that time was a bit of a mystery.

Despite having a rather unique cultural heritage, I never had an adventurous palate. Even when trying the Lithuanian dishes, my favorites were blynai or kugelis – both potato based recipes.  The only time I ever tried something really different was when I traveled to France for my junior year abroad in college.  I had the benefit of living with a woman whose father was a butcher and a bit of a home chef.  We would go to her parents’ house for dinner on Sundays where her mother and father would present me with a ‘mystery’ meal.  They never told me what they were serving until we finished dinner.  I had the opportunity to taste such French delicacies as Escargots à la Bourguignonne (snails with garlic and butter), Cuisse de Grenouille (frog legs), Lapin à la Moutarde (rabbit with Dijon mustard), Terrine de Foie Gras (goose liver) and much more.

After returning from France, my culinary habits didn’t stray too far from my American staples despite my experiences in France.  I would try different recipes for the basic proteins of beef, chicken, and pork but I always stuck to American based cookbooks like the “Joy of Cooking” or “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” or even “The New York Times Cookbook.”  I started to venture out a little bit once The Food Network caught my attention but even then, I stuck to the basic American chefs like Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Rachel Ray.  Occasionally, I would refer to their cookbooks such as, Alton’s “Good Eats: The Early Years,” “Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook” or Rachel’s “30-Minute Meals.”  Once in a while, I’d branch out to try one of the Italian recipes in Giada De Laurentiis’ “Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes.” Things were perking up in the kitchen.

Then I got hooked on Bravo’s reality show, Top Chef.  Although I’m not a ‘foodie’ by any stretch of the imagination, I was mesmerized by this program and the amazing creativity and delicious looking meals the talented chefs were making in such a short period of time.  I started to scope out some of the cookbooks published in association with the show:  “Top Chef: The Cookbook”, “Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook,” and “How to Cook Like a Top Chef.”

Since I became so interested in the journey and recipes of these chefs, a colleague of mine recommended that I read “The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation”, by David Kamp. I’m learning all about the chefs and journalists who were instrumental in introducing the general American public to gourmet cuisine, including James Beard, Julia Child and Craig Claiborne.  It was during this engrossing read that I remembered that I had the two volume set of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”; a classic cookbook that I barely opened since I brought it home so many years ago.  The books had been sitting on my bookshelf in the kitchen the whole time.  I just hadn’t ventured to open the pages…yet — I decided now was the time.

I began with some of the basics and classics like: Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée, Vichyssoise, Coq au Vin, and Boeuf Bourguignon.  The dishes were delicious and it was fun to make something different.  I was recounting my new venture of cooking with a friend and she told me that I had to watch the movie, Julie & Julia, which is a tale about a young woman cooking all of the recipes in Julia Child’s classic cookbook during one year.  I wasn’t going to go to that extreme but the exercise did awaken in me a new love for cooking with ingredients that weren’t so common in my pantry.

My family never knows what might be on the table each evening.  Sometimes it’s an American staple like homemade macaroni and cheese from Rachel Ray’s cookbook or it could be quiche or even ratatouille.  The books and cooking shows brought a sense of fun back into the kitchen for me and family back to the table.

Diane Phillips is the Technical Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Diane’s column in the September 15, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


Serial: Life After the Podcast

adnan-thumbnailThe story of two young star-crossed lovers could have remained a small story. In fact, it did for about fifteen years. Two high school seniors – one murdered and the other convicted of the crime. It was 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland. There was an ice storm that closed school for two days. There was hockey and wrestling. There were cars, and jobs, and friends, and teachers. There were two devastated families of two good kids – one Korean-American and the other Pakistani-American.

If you haven’t had the inclination, time, or interest to listen to the Serial: Season One podcast, here is a very brief recap. On January 13, 1999, Hae Min Lee was murdered sometime after she left school after her last class at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, Maryland. This was sometime after 2:15 pm. She did not show up as usual to pick up a young cousin at 3:00 pm. She and Adnan Syed had been boyfriend and girlfriend for at least a year, but Hae had a new, older boyfriend who was a coworker at one of the local LensCrafters stores.

Adnan Syed was a member of a large Muslim community of Baltimore County. Both he and Hae Min Lee were typical high school students, attending proms, participating in sports, and hanging out with friends. Both worked and both were good students looking forward to furthering their education in college in the fall.

Hae’s body was found in late February 1999 amongst the wooded underbrush of Leakin Park in Baltimore. Adnan was arrested for the murder the next morning on February 28, 1999. After a first mistrial, he was convicted of the murder on February 25, 2000. He was given a life sentence and has been in jail ever since, still pleading his innocence.

The podcast about this crime and conviction began as a segment of This American Life, a public radio broadcast produced by Chicago Public Media. Sarah Koenig, a staff producer at TAL, quickly realized that the story could not be told in one hour and Serial, a spin-off of TAL, was born and became one of the most popular podcasts in listening history. It debuted on October 3, 2014 and the last episode was aired on December 18, 2014. Since that time, with the help of legal experts and the publicity to an entirely international public, a post-conviction relief hearing lasted five days from February 3-9, 2016. On June 30, 2016, Syed was granted a new trial based on evidence that his attorney was ineffective and that important evidence related to cell tower locations was unreliable. Also important to the new trial is an alibi that was overlooked in 1999 and 2000. Adnan’s conviction has been vacated. However, a long road for Adnan is ahead as the State of Maryland is appealing the new ruling. Adnan’s attorneys can only hope for bail so that Adnan can return home and await a new trail which will take months and possibly years.

I became an obsessed and avid Serial listener late in the game. Episode 12 of Season One had aired weeks earlier and the spin-offs were all in full-swing before I caught on and joined the ranks of the “serial obsessed.” I hungrily binge-listened to all 12 hour-long episodes with a week. I couldn’t get enough of it. I talked it up, chatting endlessly about it, reading everything that I could find online.

I soon caught up with my favorite police chief and discussed the podcast (and case of Adnan Syed). Chief William Brooks is an advocate against wrongful conviction. He was, in fact, honored in 2013 by the Innocence Network at their annual conference held in Charlotte, North Carolina. They presented him with the 2012 Champion of Justice award. Brooks and other police officers favor reforms such as eyewitness identification and others that wrongfully convict innocent people. I admire Norwood’s police chief and I am always proud to know that not only is he my fellow colleague and department head in Norwood, but he is the current President of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and a member of the Executive Committee of the International Chiefs of Police Association.

After finishing Serial: Season One, many listeners were torn between skepticism of Adnan Syed’s innocence, and at the same time wistfully hoping that Syed would be granted a new trial. In retrospect, that is exactly what Sarah Koenig wanted: to leave her listeners questioning everything about the case. She did not intend to solve it.

I began to listen to the other podcasts about the murder of Hae Min Lee: Serially Obsessed, The Serial Serial, Serial Dynasty, Crime Writers on Serial, Slate’s Serial Spoiler Specials, and more. Only one, Undisclosed, was of any interest to me. After listening to a few episodes of the others, I found that most of them were too chatty, sensationalized, and opinionated.

Undisclosed began as a podcast that is described on its website as “a detailed examination of the State of Maryland’s case against Adnan Syed.” Attorneys Susan Simpson and Colin Miller were assisted by Rabia Chaudry to “revisit the case,” including updates on Adnan’s legal battle, the investigation, new or overlooked evidence, and facts and analysis that was not found in the Serial podcast. The important component of the Undisclosed podcast is that Ms. Chaudry has been working on Adnan’s defense for 17 years. Not only is she an attorney, but she is the sister of Adnan Syed’s best friend. She is close to the family and was a spectator the day that Adnan was convicted by a jury in 2000. Rabia Chaudry’s new book, “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial” was published in August and I read it as soon as I got my hands on it. While criticism of her involvement, her one-sided defense of Adnan, and her attacks on the State’s case, Chaudry’s book is packed with facts about the case. Her analyses and theories are included in the last chapters of the book and I have been further convinced of Adnan’s innocence. What haunts me, however, is that a killer other than Adnan Syed has not been found, investigated, or charged with the crime. I will be watching, and listening, in the future.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the September 8, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


Rhode Island

Rhode Island: Not Just Family Guy

Rhode IslandI give directions by referencing where things used-to-be; I drink cabinets from Newport Creamery, and I drank coffee milk and Del’s Lemonade growing up (I still do, but that’s our secret).  And like most people believe themselves to be, I am a questionably qualified driver–although I’ve been told Massachusetts-people (Massachusettites?  Massachusettans?  You all really need to work on that…) don’t agree. I’m used to telling people, “No, Quahog is not an actual town,” when I am asked about the television show Family Guy.  I may be a stereotypical Rhode Islander.

But Rhode Islanders are more than coffee milk and quahogs, and Rhode Island is more than the small, dowdy sibling of Massachusetts; it is more than Family Guy references and Iggy’s Doughboys.  It is more than blossoming waterfire during summertime, beautiful anytime beaches and hiking trails, artists and theatre and literature and music.  It is the home to many including “model politicians,” Ann Hood, James Woods, Family Guy, and myself; I grew up there–near where the old homestead used to be.  I know the secrets.

My secret is the hiking trail, hidden in the heart of Rhode Island, past farms and the small freshwater pond where kids cannonball into clear water to frighten the sunfish swimming below.  Cars can reach it, but only after bumping along miles of dirt roads.  A left here, a right there.  Ignore the “Private Property” signs long enough to get to the preserve, and you’ll find it.  An unassuming wooden sign marks the trail with it’s name (I can’t tell; it’s a secret), and beyond the sign the trail snakes up and over boulders split in half from time and the earth’s shifting.  Rhododendrons have invaded every inch of the forest floor here, crawled over fallen trees, and grown larger than beachside bungalows.

When I go, I can’t bring much.  At least not anything I have to carry.  To hike the trail, I have to climb.  One hand grasped around the pine tree to the right and another on the boulder to help lower me down.  At the bottom of the first hill, I always turn around.  The trail seems impossible from that angle, from the bottom, where the incline is almost vertical–a wall of trees and rocks.  The trail disappears somewhere beyond and above my line of sight. Not many people know, but Moonrise Kingdom was filmed here (and other parts of Rhode Island); Sam (what a coincidence!) and Suzy trekked through these woods, climbing rocks, and hoisting their luggage across babbling rivers.

I walk the same paths Sam and Suzy do, pushing aside leaves and using roots as stairs to propel myself higher.  From a distance, someone’s voice echoes, deep and quiet, off leaves and swaying trees. Fluorescent pink pops through the branches; it is the someone’s shirt. The faraway voices talk about fatigue, about how far along the one-and-a-half mile trail they are.  Half way, another voice responds.  They’re at the next peak, looking out, watching the calm pond below and the darkening clouds swirl over the forest.  Leaves are shifting, and the dewey scent of rain is moving in.  I’ll be caught in the downpour, but I don’t care.

I climb while the the two people pack their hammock and pass me on their way down from the peak.  We say hello, and they disappear into the rhododendrons.  I pull myself up the trail, fingernails dirty in the way my mother would have hated, sweat beading on my forehead.  The first raindrops fall when I plant my feet in the dried pine needles and oak leaves at the peak.  I lift my face to the rain and allow my eyes to settle on the rippling pond below.  I have written about this place before, and I have called it “the place where the entire world opens up.”  Nothing but endless green trees and a deep clear pond and the silence one can experience only in a forest. Each time, its beauty reminds me of how beautiful Rhode Island is, especially if you know its secrets.

Adventurous types might be interested in finding this path.  And, while I won’t reveal the secret through its name, curious travelers may be able to find it in Walks and Rambles in Rhode Island by Ken Weber or Discover Rhode Island by Christie Matheson.  Or, to whet your hiking appetite, you may want to watch Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom to see some beautiful Rhode Island vistas, beaches, and forests.  If you wouldn’t be caught dead on a hiking trail, but might want to make fun of Rhode Island, then Family Guy is the show for you.

Samuel Simas is the technology assistant at the Morrill Memorial library; he is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. Read Samuel’s column in the May 5th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

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