Dec. 30--People featured in this column have been selected randomly from the telephone book.
COLFAX -- Upon her arrival 10 years ago, Cindee Carlson says she became the subject of a curious rumor that swept across the wheat fields like a wind with no origin.
Word was, a Hollywood actress had arrived via helicopter and her giant dogs came at the same time loaded in an air-conditioned semi-tractor trailer.
"That's what went everywhere," Cindee confirms.
Today, at 52, Cindee says the rumor was the product of coincidence and unfounded speculation after the Dodge motor vehicle company rented a staging area in a nearby pasture for production of a television commercial. Brand-new pickups were trucked to the site, while actors arrived in a whirlybird.
Cindee even confesses to perpetuating the gossip, just for fun, until people soon realized the truth.
"I'm nobody. I'm just a person who found a place in the Palouse and I love it here."
But there was some truth in the fiction. Cindee really did come from California. She had, and still has, Great Dane show dogs -- including the skeletal remains of her first dog erected in the living room, with ashes from others on a mantel. Instead of a background in cinema, she came packing a law degree with 15 years experience as a practicing attorney.
Now, after going back to undergraduate school for three years and attending almost five years of graduate school at Washington State University, Cindee is a veterinarian. She admits she'll probably never actually practice veterinary medicine, nor return to the courtroom.
"I have the best job in the world. I write for a company called Pet Wave. It's a website dedicated to owners of dogs and cats." The site offers information on breeds, health issues and even legal matters pertaining to pets, Cindee says.
In the meantime, she and her husband of 19 years, Bob Russell, call the Palouse their home. "He has two children. I have many," Cindee says, "but they all have tails." Bob is also an attorney from California who went back to school at WSU, obtained a teaching credential and is currently working in the Garfield-Palouse School District.
Both worked in the same California law firm; Cindee concentrating on employment law and Bob on real estate matters. "And both of us worked on insurance defense," Cindee says. "I would say our biggest case was dealing with groundwater contamination, getting insurance companies to pay for cleanup of groundwater contamination that was going under an elementary school in Stockton, Calif. That was a really big case. The cleanup is probably still going on."
Cindee and Bob were engaged in Alaska'sDenali National Park. She named her first great Dane after the park and admits that having the dog's skeleton on display is a bit "creepy" for some people. But the tail-wagging welcome her other giant dogs offer visitors soon overrides the scene.
"Hey, no. It is not OK to jump," Cindee instructs the swarming pack. "You guys go downstairs. Everybody stay down."
The dogs, Cindee says, along with more than a dozen cats that have adopted her, are the focus of her days.
"I have the only natural-eared great Dane champion parent-offspring in the history of the American Kennel Club," she says, explaining that most people crop the dogs' ears to make them perk up instead of hang down.
As for the cats, she speculates WSU students may dump some of them where they know they'll be rescued -- like the mama cat who arrived recently with five kittens trailing behind up the driveway.
"So I scooped them up," Cindee says of the felines. "They don't come in the house, but they've got heated beds and heated waterers right outside the door."
Having grown up in San Diego, attended college and worked in California, Cindee says the Palouse has afforded her a lifestyle she probably couldn't find in many other places.
"I can go take a horse ride, I can play with my dogs, I can have a litter of puppies, I mean, how perfect is that?" she says. And while not many people would opt to leave dormant their degrees in law and veterinary medicine, Cindee says she's at peace with the decision.
"So yes, I'm a little unusual."
Johnson may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 883-0564.
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