Blogs > Laura Kessel's blog

Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Amazed by sudden discovery of a dog fear

Most people find this fact shocking:

I’ve never had a pet of any kind.

No dogs, no cats, no fish. No birds, no lizards, no fireflies.

The closest I come is an out-of-control collection of Boyd’s Bears that has taken up just about all the wall space in my bedroom.

But, I don’t have to walk them, or feed them or even talk to them the keep them among the living.
Because, well, they’re teddy bears.

What’s really odd about the placement of the collection is I’m one of those people who takes seriously the advice to treat your bedroom as a sleep zone.

There’s no TV, no books or board games.

So, unless I buy myself a pair of night vision goggles, I’ll never be able to check out Adora or Jeb sitting on the shelf in the dark.

During this no-pet existence, I’ve successfully dodged most of my friends’ tales of pet ownership, which usually seem to involve cleaning up things that have exited a body cavity and landed on their most expensive piece of furniture or clothing.

But, in this modern age, I’ve found myself enamored with all of the cute stuff our furry friends find themselves getting into.

Yes, Keyboard Cat has caught my eye.

So, too, has that bitter-looking feline named Grumpy Cat.

Oh, the messes these rascals are getting into.

Because it’s not my Christmas tree they’re knocking over, or my toilet paper roll they’re unfurling throughout the entire house, I can just sit back and laugh and laugh and laugh.

My lack of pet knowledge recently attracted me to my new obsession — a video showing dogs that are afraid to walk past cats.

I never knew this was a thing until someone linked to it on Facebook.

Now, every time someone links to this video, I have to click on it.

The poor pups.

The menacing cats.

The owners struggling to get their pets to get along.

And failing.

The three-minute-plus video depicts dogs of all sizes frozen in place by kitty cats they assume will pounce as they put a paw in their path.

Some howl. Some scratch the door, in a plea for help. Some just sit down on the spot and make it clear they’re not budging until the cat high-tails it.

That never happens.

Toward the end of the video (, some of the pups finally give in and walk past. I’m guessing they needed to go outside, if you know what I mean.

In nearly every case, the cat picks up a paw and swipes at the dog moving by.

One cat punches a beagle right in the face!

One owner objects, and tells the cat, “You’re so mean!”


I never realized I was missing out on this incredible phenomenon.

I’m not alone, apparently.

In my unscientific poll of people I’ve shown the video, they didn’t know it, either.
Did you?

I find it remarkable!

I mean, I guess I always just thought they were chasing each other around the house, a more civilized version of cat and mouse.

I’ve always been a little bit untrusting of cats, with their inquisitive looks and devil-may-care perches atop anything they darn well please.

But I didn’t know dogs were with me on that one!

I just have to hope my friends tire of posting the video, because every time I see it, I’m clicking and there goes another three minutes of my life.

But, what a three minutes!
Twitter: @Lauranh

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Full lives, full of promise in military academy interviews

When the big white envelope shows up in my mailbox at work, it’s like Christmas morning.

I pull it out, knowing full well what’s in it, but I still check the return address to make sure it’s the gift I’m expecting.

Sure enough, two weeks ago when I turned it over after pulling it from the cubbyhole, the name “David Joyce” stared back at me. Then, just like 5-year-old me did with the presents my mom had hidden around the house all those years ago, I hustled out of sight and got out the scissors, cutting off the top just so, making sure not to make a slice into any of the contents.

A peek inside found the greatest gift of all — information packets from the 14 young men and women I’d be meeting Dec. 7 as part of their process to secure a nomination to one of the United States military academies.

The students are seniors at high schools in the 14th Congressional District, which Joyce serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. Joyce is in the first year of his first term, after replacing Steve LaTourette.

LaTourette did these events just about every year, inviting everyday citizens from his district to form a panel that gets to quiz the youngsters hoping to score an appointment to attend either the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.; or Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.

The Coast Guard Academy does not require a nomination from a member of Congress, the vice president or the president.

As with most years in recent time, the Naval Academy got the most action on interview day. What is regarded as one of the top engineering schools in the country is highly popular among seniors seeking appointments, both for those studies and for its reputation as one of the toughest schools around.

So, no, these are not young adults looking to just get by.

Once I receive my packets, I carve out time in the evening to sit and read them over. I look for the tiniest facts about the students — why did this one take up the tuba; what does the one who’s volunteered more than 1,100 hours get out of that much time serving the underprivileged; and when’s the last time the girl with all As in high school actually got a B?

I enjoy reading about them and then meeting them, trying to figure out just how accurate were those who wrote letters on their behalf.

A St. Ignatius senior from Sagamore Hills had what I consider the greatest comment in any packet I’ve read during my five years of sitting on this panel:

“His papers were almost completely free from the annoying grammatical errors that plague the writings of most people his age.”

It’s a statement only an editor could love. Going in to the interviews, I knew I had to find out how he got so good at it.

A little more background on him, before I share his answer: He scored a 32 on the ACT and a 2280 on the SAT. Perfect scores are 36 and 2400.

He said in his personal essay that he’s long known the military was for him.

“From my earliest days, I’ve been inculcated with the importance of our nation’s armed forces…”

If you’re wondering, “inculcated” means, according to, “to implant by repeated statement or admonition; or teach persistently and earnestly.”

When it was my turn to address him, I honed in on the writing.

His response: “I just like it.”

Sigh. And let’s move on.

We met a young man from Perry High who wants to be a Marine, “because of the way they carry themselves.”

He pointed us to his transcript and took head-on a few Cs in his early high school years.

“I’m not the smartest guy in this room, but I’ll work harder than most.”

He said he had to learn something basic when he got into high school.

“I did not know how to study, at all,” he said, explaining the special value in taking advanced placement courses. “AP classes taught me how to study.”

Every year, one candidate stands out at the end for me. It’s usually not the academics, or athletic skill, or even the military dream.

This year, it was a senior at Jefferson High School in Ashtabula County.

She caught the attention of all of us with a transcript that showed off straight As from eighth grade.

“When is the last time you got a B?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a B,” she said, looking off in the distance, clearly wracking her brain to remember the wayback of her education.

When asked to list a leadership failure from her recent past and what she learned from it, she focused on the lost potential of having her favorite extracurricular activity, Model United Nations, dropped due to budget cuts.

What did she do about it? She became the adviser herself and kept the team going and scoring victories at meets.

But when I asked about her decision to quit softball after earning a letter as a freshman, she left me in tears.

She said it was incredibly hard, but that she knew she needed to get a job, in order to help her family make ends meet and pay for things she needed. She said, though, that when she went to sign up again, after having to get a second job, her coach said she’d have to pick between work and sports to be able to take part.

This 17-year-old described how hurt she was by the coach’s demands, and failure to understand the situation. She said she was easily able to walk away.

Anyone want to talk about the maturity level of today’s teenagers?

Then there’s the senior at Kenston, who’s a first-generation American. He said his father emigrated to America from Austria.

He’s a volunteer, a decorated athlete, and a member of the National Honor Society.

But, he said what sets him apart is a level of patience he’s gained from a significant number of tragedies that have occurred in his 17 years. Among them was the death of his uncle, Geauga County Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Charles “Chip” Henry, the victim of a drunken driver.

He said he thinks constantly of how far he and his father have come in their lives.

“He started from nothing,” he said. “To go from that to be considered for acceptance to one of the finest institutions, means more than I can put into words.”

I’ll give it a try.

Regardless of what happens in this process, my friend, you and the others I met on Dec. 7 are superstars.

As happens every year when I leave Lakeland Community College, I’m resting easier knowing that you and so many more like you are the leaders of the future.

We’re in good hands.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Look, up in the sky: That's no bird, it's my purchase!

Bad Laura!

I’m a little angry with myself for missing the biggest shopping news since the first store opened.

On Sunday night during CBS’ broadcast of “60 Minutes,” I was wasting time watching some lame holiday special on a channel I normally don’t watch.

I should have been tuned in to see unveil its plan for shipping its many goods around the world.

Yes, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company intends to employ drones to make its deliveries.

But don’t get too excited. They’ll only be able to deliver within a 10-mile radius of Amazon’s distribution centers.

Where’s the closest one to us here in the Cleveland area? It appears to be Indiana or Pennsylvania.

So, no dice.

For now.

But, as “60 Minutes” was still airing, Twitter and Facebook were giving a real-time look at how quickly people’s brains were processing the many other applications for the technology.

A firefighter friend pointed to a discussion of delivery of relief supplies in an emergency.

A newspaper friend suggested drones might be able to deliver the paper in the morning. And, since Bezos just recently bought The Washington Post, I’ll be looking for this idea in the next few weeks.

Other friends focused on more conveniences it could provide — fast food delivery, prescriptions called in by the doctor arriving on the doorstep of the sick person, and the elimination of tedious trips around the grocery store.

My concerns lie not only with the lack of participation for those of us in Ohio.

Both Indiana and Pennsylvania have the weather flux we endure here, so I wonder if rain or freezing rain or sleet or snow or wind or lightning or tornadoes or hurricanes cause grounding that will delay the arrival of goods?

If they just slow down in these everyday occurrences, how does a five-day drone wait beat six-day standard shipping?

I know what you’re thinking — one day better. The worth in that case would depend on the cost, I’m afraid.

How many people are going to lose their jobs because of the drones?

If we follow the logic of my friends and their invented uses, it could be a whole lot of them.

If the drones catch on like, well, Amazon did, then we’ll be dodging boxes all day long as we’re moving about town.

What’s in them will be anyone’s guess, but the thing they’ll have in common is that a human being used to handle them.

How much information do they have about me?

It’s Amazon, so they already have my credit card number saved from a purchase I made in 2010. Even though I’m pretty sure I told them not to.

But are they collecting data on me and storing it along with pictures of my neighborhood?

Guess it doesn’t really matter that much because Amazon isn’t alone in the drone dream-world. Turns out UPS and Google also are studying the idea.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The drones would certainly eliminate an annoying issue with deliveries — drivers’ habit of parking wherever they feel like it while delivering a package. Blocking walkways, or parking in turning lanes on busy city streets is nothing to them.

A fly-in and drop-off by a drone would definitely clear up traffic.

So, as this technology takes shape, I’ll be anxious to see how soon I’ll turn from looking up information on my delivery via computer to looking up in the sky for my package.

Check us out, one step closer to that world the Jetsons promised us so long ago.