Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy 12th Birthday, Mama Pajama and Fat Charlie!

Mama Pajama and Fat Charlie, photo by Laurie Erickson in May '09

Two of the most wonderful dogs in the world were twelve years old yesterday.

My long time readers will know that these birthdays are more special to me than one would expect. (How could any dog's twelfth birthday be any more special, you could rightly ask, but hang on ...)

Fat Charlie had a freak accident at a field trial in April of 2000. His Achilles tendon was severed. That he has all four legs is a testament to the veterinary care (including two surgeries) he received. He even got to race one more time. Watching him chase toys as he wears an I-dare-you-to-catch-me smile on his twelfth birthday face, is oh so good for my heart.

Most readers know that Mama Pajama was scheduled to be euthanized on May 12, 2003. She had a horrid autoimmune disease, neutriphilic vasculitis. She lost most of her ears, a lot of her kidney function, and one of her lungs to the illness. After six years of managing the disease with steroids, she has at long last been able to go without prednisone for the past three months.

She is silly again. She now does whippet spins (just picture a top - if you're old enough, or a speeding bicycle tire gone horizontal if you're not) out in the yard, purely for the fun of it. She takes the time to chew her food, no longer feeling starvation brought on by the corticosteroids.

And, after six years, she's continent again.

The little whippet who was once the #1 AKC Lure Coursing whippet in America, who can tell a story with the best of them, and who is the inspiration for the main character in my novel is twelve and she feels great!

To celebrate, I took Mama Pajama and Fat Charlie, and Easy and Spice (both of whom will also be twelve in October) out to the Kennel Club property to run. No young'uns! Just the four old friends. The weather gods were respectful of the importance of the day; they lowered the temperature by eight degrees and the humidity by 40%, and even threw in a cooling breeze to show their magnanimity.


There were games of keep away. (Easy, left, Fat Charlie with toy)

Easy: "My toy!"

Fat Charlie: "I got this one!"

Spice: Zooooooooom!!! Too fast for you!!!

Summer time, and the livin' is Easy

Easy and Spice stop for a drink

When Mama Pajama was very ill, she wrote this:

My human Patience is a terrible worrier. She worries that she’s not doing enough to make me comfortable. They tried another new medicine, but it started to mess up my kidneys like the one that almost killed me, so they stopped it right away. I have Patience lift me into her lap – I can’t jump even into her lap anymore – and I try so hard to make her listen. I tell her it’s not the length of a life that’s important; it’s the living of it. I tell her how much I have loved every moment of my life, even now. I tell her that those of us souls who are highly evolved enough to have been dogs, know that worry is a sinful waste of energy and life.
And I tell her, as best I can, the Good Universe gave her to me and that I love her, and that I know she loves me, and that is enough. The rest we must simply accept as it comes, with courage and dignity, as all the worrying in the world won’t change a thing.

And then I lick her leaky face.

Mama Pajama: Was there not some mention of steak and ice cream?

Hug your hounds

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Sunday

What's this?

This strange sensation on my face, my arms, my legs?

Oh. Aaaaaah. It's a cool breeze. It's a break. It's heaven.

I do prefer heat to cold. I hate winter, so I do not whine about hot weather. Here lately? Those bawdy, naughty weather gods have been messin' with us.

A solid week - or has it been two - of heat indices around a hundred and ten. (A hunderd n teyin in the local lingo. It sounds hotter, doesn't it?) We've been getting up at 5:00 so that walks are done by 7:30. Even then, we come back with tongues dragging, sweat that won't stop even after a cold shower. A tepid shower; it's been so hot that the water in the pipes doesn't resemble cold. The radio admonishes, "Take extra care with your elderly and your pets." (Yur eeldurlay n yur peeyits. It becomes a beautifully cadenced song, not just a sentence.)

I opened the breezeway door this morning, expecting the saunic blast. (I made saunic up: pertaining or relating to a sauna. I like it.) Even the dogs stopped their mad dash mid zoom to their morning potty. They noticed the difference. And then they got silly.

Sunday mornings project the magic that is this southern river town. We pass another dog walker and wave. "Mornin'". I turn to avoid the goddam feral cat up the street, but Sammy saw him. Sam gets a blueberry treat for being quiet. Sshhhh, Sam. Look at me. Good boy.

The city is a sleeping child. The quiet beauty. There is not an engine running. We see one person a block away looking under his car. It's too early for summer church. Even the River is alone. Not a single boat interrupts him on his way. Everywhere downtown are flowering beds, planned and planted by the city horticulturist. She was laid off because of the economic hard times, and I feel guilty admiring her handiwork. The petunias don't worry about it. They share their spicy fragrance with us.

It's only eighty. I planned our route so we walk into the breeze on the way home. Swede William tenses every considerable muscle in his perfect body. For a moment, it's better than the marble statues in Florence - he is living art - and then I see the Stupid City Squirrel. It runs toward us, the one with half a tail. Maybe he seeks symmetry. To have his stupid head bitten off to match the stupid stump on his butt. No dog barks. They dance, but they are quiet.

Blueberry treats all around.

Maybe my sweet dogs are enjoying the peace of the place, too. I'll take them to the Kennel Club for a run today. They can bark and buck and fly and bask and chase and dodge and be dogs.

Enjoy your quiet Sunday.

hug your hounds

Thursday, June 25, 2009


When I drive, I jot down random thoughts. I've spent a lot of time driving by myself lately; the trip to see my sister in Toledo is about nine hours each way.

I kiss Bill and the dogs goodbye and launch my coffee-swilling self into a paradox: heading east on the Western Kentucky Parkway. Into the sun. Going south to get north. Revisiting a not so peachy past to face a futile future. Enough alliteration for you? I have fun with that as I drive, drearily drumming my digits on the dash.

Okay. I'll stop. Maybe.

Oh, no, Mr. Turtle. He's made it across the fast lane. Now he's in my path, his neck quite literally stuck out as far as it will stretch, willing his turtle-ocidal shell to hurry. That shell designed to protect him, now his deadly anchor.

I swear he looked me in the eye. Panicked as though he knew the consequences of his poor life choice. Did he wake up before the sun, as I had, and had he written in his turtle planner, "Wed June 17: travel south across the Western KY PKWY"? He had made it across the westbound lanes, across the median. He looked at me now and said, "Shit! Shit! Shit! Bad idea. Crap, I'm toast, CRAP!!!" [Sorry for the vulgarity. It's a direct quote. Blame the turtle. Although, how can you, really?]
I did not crush him. It only required a minor swerve on my part. I watched his small, hopeless figure in my rear view. Not a good day for Mr. Turtle.

I pass a big dog dead in the slow lane. Who lets the family dog run along a highway? Maybe he slipped out a door that hadn't been properly closed. Maybe someone was calling and calling and posting lost dog signs. Maybe no one cared.

I get off to pee, and pass a Baptist day camp. Twenty bored teenagers pretending to play a game with a basket ball. Shouldn't one or two of them wear a smile with their sweat and matching tee shirts? Maybe it was the camp dog on the highway.

I buy a Hostess cinnamon roll, and I wonder if my sister likes sweet tea. I make a mistake and read the wrapper. Eight hundred calories, folks, for real. Good God, no wonder we're all obese diabetics. I don't eat it. I wasted $1.79.

I'm still hungry.

Back on the highway, cruise control at 75, I pass a sign in the valley of a postcard-perfect farm, a hand written proclamation, "Now is the day of salvation!"

Not for the dog or the deer, I think. Not for Mr. Turtle. Not for the 'beloved son' marked by the cross and plastic flowers along the shoulder.

Maybe for the buzzard. It's a great day for the buzzard brothers. Par-tayyyy!

Four days later, finally heading west into the afternoon sun, I cry. I cry for Mr. Turtle and the dogs and the deer and I laugh at myself. I'm going to find answers. People have fabricated deities, whole religions, gone to war, committed atrocities, to answer these questions.

But I'm going to find the answers in the eye contact of a turtle who's about to be very squished, crossing the Western Kentucky Parkway.


But there's welcome in the utter chaos of the waggle (oh it's loud) when I try to get through the kitchen door. There's my salvation in the warmth of Bill's lips. In Lee and Dee's belly laughs. In blogland.


hug your hounds

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fireworks Phobia?

Here's a wonderful post on a friend's blog. Shoot, the whole blog is wonderful and you will enjoy following it.

Stephanie is a talented professional dog trainer and an entertaining writer. What's not to love?

Click HERE for the fireworks article.

hug your hounds

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Bravest Person I Know

(I used to have a blog.)

(I will again someday.)

Right now I'm back up in Toledo visiting my sister.

She is the bravest person I know.

hug your hounds, and mine too if you see them

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I *should* have said...


I was asked to appear before the Mayor and the City Commissioners last night, to remind the good folks of Paducah about the dog ordinance already in place. I had it all thought out: I'd be ever so witty, and I'd touch on several points that are of vital importance to Paducah's dogs and dog owners.

But lordy it's hard in front of God and TV cameras and the American Flag to remember what you were going to say. Especially when I left my notes in the bag at my feet. Could I have just bent down and retrieved them? Apparently, that was too much for my addled brain to accomplish.

The ordinance says, among other things that at City sponsored events, dogs must be on a leash no longer than three feet, and they must be muzzled. Now before you all get your tails stuck in a fan, let me explain, since I served on the committee which drafted said ordinance. We're talking about downtown events, with thousands of people, food, and loud music. Local dogs aren't used to big crowds on city streets. Paducah hosts Downtown After Dinner a fantabulous program where every Saturday night from May through October, the streets are closed to car traffic and live entertainment is on every block. The streets and sidewalks are jammed with people.

Before the ordinance, a Bad Thing was happening. Some Irresponsible Dog Owners (boooooo, hisss, wrinkle nose and spit) were bringing sad dogs on heavy chains to Downtown After Dinner, with the sole purpose of intimidation. Yuck and poor dogs and I've already said boo hiss spit.

But a greyhound rescue group also came to advocate for the sweet greyhounds looking for homes. (YAY!! HOORAY!!! GOOD HUMANS!!!)

The ordinance committee didn't want to ban all dogs, so we made a compromise. Dogs would be muzzled and on short leads.

During last night's commission meeting, Commissioner Kaler asked if I would be willing to bring one of my dogs to Downtown After Dinner and talk to folks about the proper muzzles, etc. (People have been using groomer's muzzles which clamp the dogs' mouths shut. OH this is dangerous as the dog can't pant. The appropriate muzzle is a basket muzzle, pictured above.)

Now, Dear Readers, this is where I missed a wonderful opportunity. I should have answered, "Commissioner Kaler, thank you for the chance to make this point. I don't think Downtown After Dinner is a particularly fun thing for most dogs. They are on the pavement which is at least ten degrees hotter. They are surrounded by a claustrophobic ocean of humans. The bands are loud for us; imagine what it would feel like to ears that are exponentially more sensitive than ours. I personally feel that my dogs would be happier at home."

But no. I did not say that. I looked like a deer in headlights for a moment, and then my mouth said, "Yes. Yes I would." (Sam I Am is going to kill me.) Somewhere my brain was flashing "WRONG ANSWER" but I couldn't get the right answer to my mouth in time.

My mouth was busy saying other clever things. I had given each commissioner an unlit poop candle and a poop baggie. Commissioners Gault and Abraham gamely did on-camera demonstrations of proper poop bagging technique. I said, "I'm sure City Commissioners must become adept at dealing with poop on a regular basis. Not dog poop, but, you know Commissioner poop."

That didn't come out quite right!

hug your hounds