Saturday, September 29, 2007

Classic Time

Here's a story from my book, Mama Pajama Tells a Story. It is a favorite. I am too full of smoke and barbecue and fried pies (well, I had to try one, now didn't I?) to write anything other than... duhhhhhh.

The Wild Dinner Party

It was a lovely autumn morning in Western Kentucky. We were having a lazy day. Well, most of us were. Sam I Am, by then a seven-month-old puppy woke up just full of himself. Maybe it was something he ate the day before. Having already worn out his usual play buddy, Luciano, Sam was out in the little yard tearing around with his Hurl-A-Squirrel all by himself. I watched him, and I was transported to an earlier time in my life; images of thoroughbred yearlings dancing in their paddocks, instead of one silly Whippet puppy in a small city yard. The shrieks of the senior Whippets at an upstairs window brought me back to Whippetdom, as they screamed profanities at a squirrel sitting on the branch right outside the TV room window.

I had been debating whether to take the dogs out to the Kennel Club property to let them chase the lure on that lazy Sunday. I was thinking not. We had a dinner party the nigh beforet. It had been a late night, after a long day of cooking and cleaning, and I was thinking of a day watching football, catching up on correspondence, maybe reading Southern Living for some holiday decorating ideas. But when almost ten-year-old Caruso, and just turned eleven-year-old Gracious are bouncing up and down, tails up and wagging, ears at full point, voices at full cry over a squirrel on a telephone pole just outside the upstairs bedroom window, it’s time to load everyone up for a trip to the country for a little run.

Though infinitely better since Bill’s arrival, things just kept on being different in our new home. My dogs have always been so well behaved, a great source of personal pride and delight. Since I was a ten-year-old child, with my very first dog, a wonderful pound rescue named Rex, folks have always remarked at how well trained my dogs are. “Your dogs are so quiet, so calm,” people said about the whippets. “Your eight dogs are better behaved than our one!” they’d exclaim. I would humbly say, “Oh, they’re just good dogs,” while inside I would beam. What a great dog trainer I was. But that night, as the guests were politely seated at our dining room table, new people that didn’t really know us yet, city people that have a pug and a Lhassa Apso, as we made quaint small talk about the recent elections, the political eccentricities of this old Southern city, my guests were looking anxiously over my shoulder into the kitchen.

Mid-sentence, I casually turned my head in the direction of their concerned glances. “I don’t understand how we’ve let Bush and Cheney off Scott free with their involvement, no entrenchment, in ...” Enron, I was about to say. I was going to be really impressive, quoting a recent interview I heard on NPR about Bush being Governor of Texas while Enron was doing all its dirty dealings, and the personal meeting Kenny-boy had with Cheney after he became the Veep, but instead, I turned my head to see Fat Charlie standing up on the counter just snacking merrily away on the apple enchiladas that were going to be dessert.

Now, a more composed hostess might have handled this situation by continuing on with her thought, casually getting up from the table, correcting the situation, and deciding to serve just the ice cream for dessert. But, alas, composure has never been my strong suit. "CHARLIEEEEEEEEE, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I leapt up from my chair, knocking into the table with such force that I spilled five of the six glasses of wine in the process. Into the guests’ laps. My glass of course is the only one to remain upright. The wine is a nice, crisp Merlot. The guests’ laps were sodden. Deep ruby.

Fat Charlie gulped faster, with gusto, wagging his tail guiltily, not even budging from his counter perch. And since I was franticly grabbing towels, napkins, anything to get the wine off the formally dressed laps, Fat Charlie was not only free to finish the home baked treats, but he was joined on the counter by his nephew Sam I Am.

In my haste, I grabbed the dog towel that I had earlier used to clean the excrement off of Giacomino’s neck. I don’t know from which animal it had been eliminated. Raccoon maybe, or skunk. Some omnivore. It was way too stinky to have been a squirrel or even a cat. Giacomino had rolled and rolled until his entire body was thick with the stuff. Never had I smelled such a eye watering, gut gagging horror. And it had been so thick that I had wiped off as much as I could with a towel before throwing the dog in the tub. And, sadly, this was the very towel with which I found myself wiping the lap of my proper city guest.

Yup, things were different for me there in the city. And, come to think of it, I bet our new friends had never been to a dinner party like that before the Whippets and I moved south, either!

I decided to load up the dogs after all, and headed out to the Kennel Club property for a little run. I figured I could catch up on my correspondence on a rainy day.

copyright Patience C. Renzulli

And here are some more photos from Barbecue On the River from last night:

here are three of the big cookers:

Here's the little trailer where I worked, right below the stop sign:

Yes, fried dill pickles... yumm?

Friday, September 28, 2007


barbecue on the river

It's a Paducah Happenin'. It's eight blocks from our house. And when the wind is right, my dogs curse the fence which blocks their egress. There is nothing they would purely like to do more right this very minute than to find the source of the smoke that carries an abundance of doggy heaven to their titillated nostrils.

Filling four blocks of streets and Downtown's largest parking lots there are hundreds of big ol' barrel cookers, some the size of SUV's or church vans, and a forest of hickory logs burning into coals. Everything goes to charity. Warring factions trying to out do one another for the best ribs, best pulled pork, best chicken, best brisket. A sloppy joe or a McRib is no more like Kentucky barbecue than a fake plastic chew is like a fresh raw knuckle bone with meat hanging off it right from the butcher. Kentucky barbecue is marinated, and then slow cooked over hickory coals in a covered special cooker until the meat falls off the bone, moist and smoky and tender. There is no sticky gooey thick sweet "barbecue" sauce anywhere in sight, but there is a little container of hot, thin and oh so spicy dip to accompany your meat. It is all about the meat and the smoke and it's heavenly.

I donate a couple of hours of my time each day selling soft drinks out of a bouncy little trailer. Here's my view

The booth right behind me is the Fraternal Order of Police.

They must have good barbecue because there is always a line.

It is prime people watching/overhearing territory:
  • "Hey, Kenny where in the world did you find you that corn dawg? I have got to git me a corn dawg and I have got to get it now."
  • An extremely elderly couple passes slowly, in their little boat hats and cardigan sweaters despite temps in the eighties and their pressed khakis with extra starch.
  • cigarettes, always the cigarettes hanging from ruddy faces
  • A man in a Viagra tee shirt says into his cell phone, "where am I? Have I gone to far?"
  • Everyone who passes my little drink trailer smiles and says hi, or hey.
  • Excited little girls in matching flowered dresses
  • Big shots in their golf carts
  • Little boys in camo chant "I want BBQ! We want BBQ!" as they each hang on their gramma's arm
  • Plaid shorts and boat shoes
  • Awkward teenage boys contrast comically with smooth politicians, both sauntering by
  • cigarettes and cell phones
  • pot bellies in overalls
  • "Oh those fried pies. Well, did y'all have some? Yes we had to, didn't we? How could you not have a fried pie?"
  • Girls - young women - so involved with themselves, so very, very busy being pretty, like they are having a hard time being away from a mirror for so long
  • Plates of corn on the cob and fries and ribs and candied apples and cheesecake on a stick and deep fried Oreos and Twinkies and strawberry shortcakes and I didn't eat lunch.

Last night I brought home a chicken, benefiting a nursing scholarship charity. Bill and I benefited too! And the dogs got enough skin that they were just a little loose this morning. The area vets work overtime this weekend. Pancreatitis and just gastric gallops from all the sharing that unknowing humans do.

Tonight I think we're getting ribs. No sharing with the dogs. We're walking down and eating there so as not to torment the gang waiting at home.

But they'll be smelling us big time when we get back. And they won't be thinking kind things about their useless Servants!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our Version of Yesterday, by the dogs

For the Human version of yesterday, simply scroll down to the next story.

William: The sun is coming up. Wake up, Humans.

Very Old Dog: Sigh, stretch, snuggle in. Be quiet Young One.

All: They're getting up! Me first! Here we go. Race you to the door, can't beat me, I'm winning, let us out. Look out Squirrels here we come!

All: aaahhhhhhhh. peeeee. poop.

All: breakfast time yum and yum it's breakfast time

Maria: squeak Mr. Squeaktoy. squeak squeak squeak squeak. You want my squeak toy. You cannot have my squeaktoy.

Mama Pajama: I do not want your old squeaktoy. I have my own squeaktoy! squeak squeak squeak squeak. I squeak my squeaktoy louder than you!

All: Bowls going down! Chomp chomp gulp yum lick lick, that's all?

Mama Pajama to Lindy Loo: Are you going to eat all that? Move away from your bowl.

Lindy Loo: gulp, swallow, lick lick. All done.

Delia to her Manservant: Uh-oh. Why are you in dressy clothes? Where are your walking shoes? This concerns me greatly.

Luciano to Delia's manservant: Time for our walk, Buddy. You forget or what?

All: We're all going in the yard? This is new. You have the schedule all mixed up, Silly Human.

Delia: I'll stay with my Human. He's confused. Oh all right, if you insist I'll go in the yard, but now I have Serious Concerns.

Fat Charlie: She's taking the loud gassy machine out of the yard.

All: Us too! Take us too! Oh she's so rude. Let's follow the loud gassy machine.


[generalized chaos ensues]

Very Old Dog: She's taking a shower before our walkies, this is a Very Bad Sign.

All: Here she comes, it's Walk Time! Woo-hoo joy abounds Death to Stupid City Squirrels. Walk me first! Me first! Me first! Me... Huh? Oh boy, biscuits in crates! YES!

Very Old Dog: She's leaving. No walk today. She's going away without us.

Mama Pajama: Are there chewies involved?

Maria: Oh my, she is going away. Oh my they are both going away. He is getting the keys. They have forgotten our walks and they are going away.

Mama Pajama: There should definitely be chewies involved.

All: Yay! Chewies! Good job Mama Pajama, she heard you!

[sound of door closing, gate opening and closing, car starting and driving away]

All: chew, chew, chew, chew, chew

Mama Pajama to Sam I Am: Are you going to finish that chewie?

Sam I Am: Yes, [chew] I [chew] am [chew].

All: chew... zzzz ... ch-e-w... zzz-z-z-z-z


Luciano: Was that our car? I think I heard our car!

Fat Charlie: No.

Very Old Dog: What? Speak up! What did you hear?


Mama Pajama: We need to dock their pay. This is ridiculous. Good help is so hard to find.


William and Lindy Loo: There it is that's the car it's our car and our Humans does anyone else have to pee?

Fat Charlie: No, that car is not ours.

Very Old Dog: What? Is it them? Speak UP; you all mumble.

[pause... sleeping sounds]

Luciano: Woof woof woof woof strange dog on our sidewalk. Danger danger woof woof woof!!

All: Woof woofwoofwoofwoof! This house is protected by all of us! Woof Woof Woof!

Lindy Loo: woof woof. Is it a very large dog? Would it be one to eat little dogs? Woof?

Very Old Dog: I hear THAT! Woof woof woof cough woof woof!

Maria: It's gone but let's have a nice howl ah-wooooooooooo, wooerooooooooo!

All: Woo Ah-roooooo ah-woooo-woooooow-wooooooooooooooooooooooo.

[much scratching of bedding and curling up and flumping back down. sleep]

Sam I Am: HEY! Listen!

Mama Pajama and Fat Charlie and Delia: It's our friends' van! It's Lee and Dee! Maybe they found the Humans.

All except Very Old Dog: They're coming in oh hello dear friends we're so glad and we have to pee and you found your way here and our humans are lost and ...

Very Old Dog: What? What is going... oh, hi there Miss Lee and Miss Dee! I heard you the whole time. Nice of you to come visit. Whew... Excuse me I've got to pee!

[a lovely visit ensues, dogs play in the yard and potty and much canine gratitude is bestowed on the dear friends who let the dogs out.]

All to Lee and Dee: Our Humans are lost. Have you seen them? We're quite concerned about their return. They can't run, they can't smell a squished worm when it's right under their nose, and they have no sense of direction whatsoever. Oh, biscuits, how lovely of you.

[dogs get biscuits back in their crates and friends leave]

Mama Pajama: There should have been more chewies involved.

Very Old Dog: I am greatly concerned about our Dear Humans. Greatly concerned. They can't possibly survive this long without us.

Maria: I know what will help - let's howl. Ah-wooooooooooooooo rah rah rah wooooooooo

All: Howl, howl, howl howl-a-rama rooooooooooooooooo. What are we to doooooooooooo?

[settling noises, some licking of privates, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz]

William: Here they come! I hear the van!

Mama Pajama: They didn't even take the van, idiot, they took the car. Did you finish your chewie?

[long pause]

Delia: I love my Human. I want him home now. He was worried when they left. So was she. I want them home. I want him home.

[time passes]

William: I have to pee.

Lindy Loo: I'm hungry.

Mama Pajama: Tell me about it.

Very Old Dog: What? You're mumbling again.

Delia: He's here he's here he's back that's the car he's here oh he's here let me out of this crate before I explode he's here he found us he's home!!!


All: Hi Woman! You were lost and you are home wowsa are we hungry you're late gotta pee you're HOME oh you're HOME oh Man, you smell like you've been to Doc Ol' Poke and Stick, yikes we'll be gentle mmmmmm dinner!

All: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Day Off

If you are new to this blog, please scroll down to some of the other stories first. This is not my best writing; it's been a long day.

My husband had some outpatient surgery in Nashville today. Nothing serious, but he did have general anesthesia and that's always a little worry. Fifteen years ago I was an RN working in the Operating Room and Recovery Room, so I do know that complications in minor surgeries are rare, but my head could not get through to my heart.

There wasn't time to walk all of the dogs before we left, and Bill understandably didn't feel like walking, so I had a great plan. After their breakfast, I put them all out in the yard, while I mowed the strip outside the fence, between the sidewalk and the street. It was a great plan! It took me a half and hour, and the dogs ran back and forth, took care of all their morning potty issues, and it rained while we were gone (finally) so it would have been too wet to mow tomorrow.

It's a good two and a half hour drive to Nashville, so of course we had to allow three hours. The dogs are used to being crated when we go out to dinner, or if I have to run errands, but not from eight thirty in the morning until six or later at night.

That's when you know how lucky you are to have friends who happily and without hesitation volunteer to let your dogs out for you. Not your dog or your two dogs but your nine dogs. And you thank your lucky stars when you get home with your sleepy husband who had no trouble at all. He so enjoyed modern anesthesia that he proposed to three nurses and Bob the anesthetist.

And thanks to your wonderful friends, the dogs are just fine.

I settled Bill in, and enjoyed the Excessive Greeting Disorder of nine wild dogs. They were wildly happy that we found our way home. They ate while I made Bill some soup for dinner, and then they collapsed.
I would expect them to be full of energy and play, after being cooped up way more than they're used to being. But looking back and forth between my post-anesthetized husband and my comatose dogs, it was hard to tell which of them was the one enjoying the benefits of Versed and Propofol with an IV Demerol chaser for the ride home.

I think they spent the day thinking we were lost. I think they worried that with our pathetic senses we could not find our way home. I bet they tried as hard as they could to tell our friends who let them out that their Servants might need help. That their Humans were out there somewhere without them. I think they listened for our car all day.

We will all sleep well tonight. Bill's surgery is over and he did just fine: I'll sleep well. The Humans managed to find their way home, despite having no sense of direction or smell. The dogs are sleeping like, well, dogs. Bill is still enjoying the effects of all that anesthesia. He's sleeping like a baby.

Thanks to good friends, good doctors, good nurses, and good dogs -

Life is sweet.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What is in a name?

Oh boy. Be careful what you name your dog.

My father named my first childhood dog. Rex. Not so very original, and I didn't find out until years later that the reason my dog had to have the dumb every-dog-in-the-world name of Rex, was because my father's childhood dog was named Napoleon, and he got teased. (Frankly, I think he would have gotten teased even if his dog's name was Rex or Spot or Rover, because he was the minister's oldest son, and kids love to tease the minister's kids, but it's too late now.) And I can't really complain about a dog named Rex, because I had a parakeet named Birdie, two cats named Stripey and Blacky, and a stuffed animal named Horsey. So who was I to talk. And Rex was a regal dog indeed, there you go.

My last pound rescue was Measly. She was a marvellous dog. I had asked the folks at the shelter to let me know when a "mixed hound" came in for adoption. Oh, they said, they just happened to have one at that very moment, and she was even young - probably five or six months old. I should come right over. So I bundled up my three year old son and over we went. They showed me a sickly puppy, a typical Heinz 57 - black, with brown eyebrows and leggings, with a white blaze, chest and socks. And freckles. My precocious little son eyeballed the freckles and announced, "She's meezwhee," having just been introduced to measles in a children's book. I looked at the skinny, sorry, sad little pup and thought that she certainly was, but she had a bottomless sweetness in her huge eyes. Not an ounce of trust in those eyes toward any of the adults on that day, but her immediate adoration of the little boy who was quietly stroking her head won me over. Her name stuck, and as names do, it fit her. It was the seventies and we had hideous, celery-soup-green shag carpeting in the family room. That poor puppy was sick so many times in the first months. She couldn't always make it outside (no doubt due to the Human's missing her clues), but she would sneak down to that long shag wall to wall carpet. I should have been grateful. The grossout green color matched just about anything she hurled or spewed upon it. But how I dreaded scrubbing the long fibers and then renting a huge carpet cleaning machine from the Giant again. She finally outgrew her illnesses, became an unqualified delight of a family member, seeing me through a divorce, single parenthood, nursing school in an apartment, marriage to Bill, and thank God she got to enjoy life on our farm. She died in my arms, way too young, of a degenerative spinal disease, common in her extremely distant German Sheppard ancestors.

I don't want to take up too much of your time, so I'll fast forward to puppy William. (There are many wonderful names with delightful stories, but I know you are busy, dear readers, and I'll not abuse you.) William came all the way from Sweden, with the fancy official name of Burnt Sienna Midsummer Night. I chose to call him William for two reasons. First after the slightly talented author of the Midsummer Night's Dream; "William" sounded nicer than "the bard" to me. And more importantly after my extraordinary grandson, William. William the puppy's fawn coat was nearly identical in color to William the grandson's dirty blond hair. William the puppy's sunny disposition reminded me so much of William the grandson's ready, charming smile. And William the puppy had this sense of fun that made me wish William the grandson lived much much closer. And so the puppy from Sweden was named after the grandson from Chicago, and it fits.

But. (Here is where you really do have to consider all of the ramifications in naming your dog beforehand.) My husband's name is William, though he's called Bill. And we live in the city where houses are just a matter of feet apart. And William the puppy is enjoying his adolescence. So I find myself yelling things while sitting on the porch, like "William, do NOT hump your sister!" "William don't pee on the boxwood, puh-leeeeze!" "William so help me if you eat that poop, you are dead meat and you will never kiss me again, do you hear me! Never!"

I noticed that the neighbors were looking a little strangely at Bill.

Yup, be careful what you name your dog.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Well, it's hot again. Forget the charming Southern expression, "a little warm." It's hot. There is a fortunate cooling breeze in the shade, but the ground is baked brown and hard and the grass has flat out given up and died. Hot.

I don't want to bore my gentle readers to distraction with yet more Stupid City Squirrels (SCS's)and Outdoor Cats the Bane of our Existence stories. This morning our walks were adventures, like the African safaris of the 1920's. I would not have been the tiniest bit surprised if Tarzan himself had swung over Harrison Street and landed on the roof of Kijsa's Art Gallery and pounded his chest with the hand that wasn't holding on to, oh shoot, what was Tarzan's chimp-friend's name? Tarzan, Jane, Boy...

Ha! I googled it. Do you know the answer? Man, poor Tarzan needed some more English lessons: his Chimp buddy's name was Cheeta. Hey Tarz, that's not even close. In fact I think that's like naming your pet steer "Meat Processing Plant"! Don't cheetahs hunt and eat chimpanzees? I'm not going to google that, the photos would be way too disturbing for me.

So back to what I'm not going to bore you with - this morning's walks. There is a tall brick wall that borders the sidewalk on the back half of our block, so as you walk down Eighth Street you can't see around the corner to know if anyone is approaching on Harrison. I was late starting the first walk, because we had a very nice visit with a neighbor first thing this morning. I think it was around seven. I don't know, because I hadn't had enough coffee yet to do the higher brain functions like telling time. He stopped by to invite Bill to go along to the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Show in town. Bill couldn't go, so Allan stayed for a cuppa and visited for a bit. What a treat! And Allan likes the dogs, too. It's funny serving Allan coffee, because Allan and Johanna own the very cool coffee shop, Et Cetera. I went there yesterday and had a delicious cup of Organic Fair Trade Love Buzz (dark roast, full bodied, robust) and a fruit and yogurt and granola parfait. (I am addicted to those daggone fruit and yogurt parfaits.) But when Allan came to visit somewhere in the vicinity of seven this morning I gave him a cup of Folgers (gold lid med-dark). Well, it was still a very nice visit.

Back to that story I'm not going to tell you. As I got to the end of our block with the Two Oldest (whose combined ages equal twenty six years) at that corner you can't see around, a neighbor with his young, male American Bulldog (or Pit Bull) appeared from behind the corner wall, not five yards from the astonished noses of the Two Oldest. I gasped, "OH..." but luckily the visit with Allan afforded me enough coffee to be sufficiently awake to stop myself before the expletive flew out of my mouth. I don't know what the breed of this dog is. He has cropped ears of a Pit Bull, but the size and build of an American Bulldog, and weighs - I'm guessing - about ninety to one hundred and twenty pounds. Maybe more. His owner has done a good job of training him, as he used to be very dog aggressive, and I have watched his owner work hard with him. I don't think he even barked today. Lunged, but didn't bark. Too much, anyway. Maria did once, but I really couldn't blame her, because she hadn't had any coffee, and I really think it was just her "Gasp, oh .... [expletive]" surprise reaction. I know we were all awake then.

And I don't need to tell you about the ten, count 'em ten, SCS's on Lorrie's front yard. Lorrie has moved to be with family and the abandoned cats she had been caring for moved away as well. So it is Happy Hour with all the acorns you can eat at the oak tree at Lorrie's. The Stupid City Squirrels must get drunk on acorns. My Two Oldest were being so good, with all those SCS's totally dissing them and swishing their furry tails and daring them. The old dogs were leaping (never good) and twisting (worse yet) but they were not barking, and I kept giving them treats. Good quiet dogs! In the mean time I was stamping my feet and yelling "SHEW dammit" to no avail. Finally I got so mad that I let the Two Oldest toddle at the vermin, with me running behind, hollering "HA! TAKE THAT YOU FREAKIN' MONSTER RODENT CREEPHEAD MORNING WRECKERS! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! SCARED THE POOP OUT OF YOU DIDN'T WE!!! HA HA HA HA HA. Yeeee-HAAAAA!"

The Two Oldest looked at me in wonderment. Unfortunately, so did the startled person who was waiting at the stop sign in her car. Innocently waiting for me, with my two skinny dogs to cross the street. Being polite. And then watching while I take off with my dogs into the grass right there, and start madly screaming, aiming the dogs at all the cute little squirrels, which scatter like marbles in an earthquake, and then the woman in the car hears me screaming and spitting and doing the Howard Dean yee-haw. And sees me do some kind of knee stomping twirly victory dance. And at that point she forgot all about being polite, gunned her car through the intersection, and stared wide-eyed at me as she flew by. She was probably wide awake then too.

And I know you don't want to hear about the four cats that graced the next walk. Or the SCS that ran down the telephone pole to greet the dogs on the last walk. So I won't tell you about it. But I will tell you that other than Maria's one woof at the seismic disturbance that was the magically appearing Pit Bull, no one barked, no one pulled my arms out of their sockets, no one bit each other because they couldn't bite anything else.

Dang! We're making progress. Yeeee-HAAAAAAW!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Today's Little Miracle

We saw a hawk this morning, flying over the corner of Sixth and Jefferson. She landed on the top of the brick faux facade of a little, nondescript storefront across the street from the bank. I was so astonished, so delighted, that when a lady came up to admire the dogs, all I could do was blurt out, "Look! There's a hawk on that building! Right there!"
"Your dogs are lovely, and so well behaved," she complimented.
"Did you not hear? Are you daft? I am having a personal miracle of sorts and you are blathering on about my dogs, and of course they are well behaved, what do you expect that they would knock you down and tear out your throat and carry you home with their powerful talons to their nestlings?" I couldn't stay on topic.

In my Life Before Paducah, I talked to the neighborhood hawks. The neighborhood consisted of 450 acres of farmland and woods, and the hawks were
Redtails. Their call is simple to imitate, and I would whistle to them, and they would follow us and whistle back. It occurred to me that I might be saying, "You have heads like toilets!" when I was trying to say, "You are magnificent raptors" or "My butt wears toenail polish" instead of "I appreciate your soaring beauty," because I don't know how to speak Red-Tailed Hawk, but they never flew down and plucked out my eyeballs, so I guess I didn't say anything too horrible. I hedged my bets by speaking to them in Human too. Birds understand Human. Try it out: then next time a cardinal is nearby, tell him you've never witnessed a more gorgeous bird in your life. Keep flattering him and watch him cock his head at you and fly closer. Cardinals, especially males, are as vain as movie stars. Don't say I'm cuckoo until you try this.

I miss the hawks. I see them if I drive the long, boring highways of central Illinois. They are perched all along I-57, and I thank them for making me smile. But in downtown Paducah, not so much. So this morning's sighting was truly a gift. Unfortunately, I was too dumbfounded to tell the hawk about all the easy eats on my block. The squirrels there would provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for a hungry hawk family for months. And they're stupid to the nth degree: it would be like "hunting" for beef at Super Valu! But did I tell my new hawk friend this? No, I just stood there all slack-jawed, mute, worshipful.
I think my little hawk this morning was a Cooper's Hawk. I listened to their call on that link, and I do believe I've heard it - I'm ashamed to say I thought it was a Stupid City Squirrel scolding. But I guess I better NOT try talking to them as I walk along Paducah's streets. I'm already the "crazy dog lady" and if I were looking in trees and on roof tops making a loud sound somewhere between an angry squirrel and a giggling chimpanzee, well, this town does embrace its eccentrics, but that might be too much. Even for Paducah.
I hope you enjoy any little miracles that fly your way today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What Do Dogs Think?

Most of the time I believe I know what dogs are thinking.

And then there are times...

When it's better not to know!

Thanks Laurie for the great photos, copyright protected, used here with permission.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dog Dreams

On the dog lists, there is frequently a new owner who cries for help:

"I think my dog is having seizures. When he is sound asleep he will twitch his legs and his eyes roll around and he yelps in pain. What do I do?"
Ah, dog dreams. This morning - technically it was, I suppose, the middle of the night, three or four AM - Very Old Dog had repositioned himself from our determination of "his spot" on the bottom of our bed, to his determination of "his spot" on my pillow between Bill and me. He had kindly but firmly reminded me of the clause in his contract where
3 (c) Human Servant shall at all hours, immediately awaken and raise bedsheets to allow access to Canine for snuggling under covers.

OK, so I was a little sketchy on the "awaken" part, but I had managed to lift up our covers and enjoy the warmth and closeness of Very Old Dog. Unfortunately, Bill was fulfilling another clause in the contract

3 (f). Human shall move to the very edge of the bed, taking up no more that six (6) inches of mattress space, and shall uncomplainingly endure doggy toenails digging into all parts of Human's body, including but not limited to chest, back, face, rump, and private parts.

You get the picture: Bill clinging for dear life to remain on his own bed, me feeling warm and snugly with Very Old Dog, and said Very Old Dog entering his deepest REM phase of sleep.

This dog was so full of fun in his youth and middle age. He was a dog who would run butt tuck zoomies in figure eights just for the sheer enjoyment of the running. He would play ball until he dropped. He would chase squirrels up a tree and then jump ten feet up the trunk for fun. He still tries - hard - to join when the youngsters now do zoomies and leapies, scaring the living bejesus out of his Servant. He's got some bad discs in his neck, and his legs go all wobbly, and zoomies and leapies are life threatening events. So his Servant, sadly, must do everything in her power to curtail such activities.

But not when he's dreaming. I watch with delight as my darling Very Old Dog paddles madly in his sleep. I imagine him running through autumn crisp gold fields of oat straw, zigging and zagging and leaping to get a better view, just because he can, and just to afford me the thrill. I see my torpid dog's tail thumping on my bed, and I picture him racing by me in his dream, sporting a devilishly delighted grin as he skims past my vulnerable shins, accelerating as he goes by, gaily wagging his pleasure. His eyes, blinking and unseeing in his sleep, sparkle with life and joy and boundless energy in his dream. He purely winks at me as he runs by. And when I hear the quiet, "Yip, yip, rahr, ruhr," of his sleeping voice I translate that into battle cries of the hunt. Oh is there no more beautiful music than that of a hound in full tongue? Or the barks of a joyful reunion? The woof of anticipation at the soon-to-be-thrown toy or ball?

I know my Very Old Dog's dreams are full of pleasure. They allow him the pure canine thrills which now elude him. Perhaps that's why he sleeps so much more these days.

I hope I am a part, even a small one, of his dreams. I hope I was a good enough Servant to be included in remembered good times. I hold him close and I feel the dream melt away. He sighs, snuggles into the pillow, and waits for the next dream to take him back to his glory days.

Every day is a gift. Every day is a treasure.

Dream on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Sad Story of the Senile Servant

First, I simply have to thank you readers again!!! You are amazing! This collection of little stories is being read by more people than I ever dreamed, already. I have added a little box thingy on the side of the page so you can sign up to be notified by email when a new story is posted. And I do so much want to let you know how much I appreciate your sharing this site with your friends and lists and groups. I am stunned.
Thank you!
all the grateful best-
The Sad Story of the Senile Servant
Multi-tasking was never a problem for me in my younger years. Shoot. I could talk on the phone, and cook dinner, feed the dogs, and help my son with his homework all at once, no problem.

If I tried to do that today, the dogs would eat chili, we would sit down to dine on some geometry problems, my son would have kibble and bits in his notebook, and I would have flushed the phone down the toilet.

And here's what I did last night.

Fat Charlie is a big lovable lump of a dog. Sweet and every bit as good as gold. You just never hear the words "no" and "Fat Charlie" juxtaposed. OK, he does hold firm the opinion that any food on any counter is his personal property, but we know that, so fair is fair. (Translation: you leave the three pound hunk of pot roast defrosting unattended on the counter, you might as well just hand it to Fat Charlie, because that's where it is going to end up. This applies equally to coconut cake, Asiago cheese, whole loaves of bread, and very expensive entire catered meals. But I digressed.)

He is quiet, undemanding, ever so soft, and always generous with smiles, wags, and kisses.

Last night, I was talking to my friend Laurie on the phone, answering some email, changing over clothes from washer to dryer, and putting the dogs to bed, all at the same time. I thought I had done a fine job of it, and happily went to bed.

This morning, after dragging my raggedy self out of bed at 6:10, brushing my teeth, and throwing on my walking clothes, I began the choreographed routine of letting the dogs out. I could smell the coffee, so I knew that Bill was already down in the kitchen. Giacomino was already... hey! Giacomino wasn't following the routine. He sleeps on the bed with us, and his morning part is to dance around in front of each crate as it opens to welcome its occupant to the day. (Or to say, "Ha, ha. I sleep on the bed and you don't!" But I think it's the former.) I opened Maria's crate, and Mama Pajama's crate, but Giacomino was staring at Fat Charlie's crate with his head pressed to its door. Then I saw Fat Charlie's bedtime biscuit lying in the front of the crate, untouched.

My un-caffeinated morning brain said, "Huh?"

Then it said, "Is Fat Charlie under his covers?" (The crates are full of quilts and comforters so the dogs can snuggle against our air conditioning.)

Then my synapses started firing and the connection was made: Fat Charlie was not in his crate when I closed it last night and gave him his biscuit.

Oh God, where was Fat Charlie?

What had I been doing when I put the dogs to bed?

Oh God, Fat Charlie was in the dryer!!!!!

I raced to the laundry room, in a full panic. No dogs were in the dryer, and just in case... Nope, no dogs in the washing machine either. I ran back into the bedroom to see if I had closed two dogs in the same crate. Nope.

By this time Giacomino, Maria and Mama Pajama were looking for someplace to pee, so I grabbed Beans and we all went downstairs. There was Fat Charlie curled uncomplainingly in the new fancy dog bed. "Good morning," he wagged.

I got the rest of the dogs out, and then apologized profusely to Fat Charlie.

"Oh buddy, did I lose you last night? Were you lonely? Why didn't you scratch at the door?"

Of course he wouldn't have. He would have just sat outside the bedroom door with his sweet head tilted, ears cocked, waiting for me to remember him.

I'm sorry, Fat Charlie! At least I hope he enjoyed the box of cereal he "found" on the counter.

Tim Caro photo copyright protected

Monday, September 17, 2007

Porch time

It fits right in the "NEVER" category.

If you asked me if I would live in a southern city and spend late afternoons on the porch, I'd look at you askance and raise one eyebrow - I'm good at that - and say NEVER!

So of course, here I am, in a charming southern city. And the dogs bring me to the porch nearly every afternoon. We do our long walks in the morning. After the dogs eat their dinner I want them to get some sunshine and fresh air, so I grab a book and a glass of water, and Bill grabs a book and a glass of wine, and someone grabs some Wheat Thins, and we turn on the porch fans and life is just great.

They patrol the yard, well, the telephone wires and poles for evil squirrellies and we remind them "hush, quiet city voices." Our neighbors pass by and visit. Giacomino teaches the youngsters How To Dig a Giant Hole. The sun drops behind the neighbor's house and the fans are joined by a pleasant evening breeze. Giacomino and Maria settle in the papasan chairs. The youngsters play tag with a squeak toy. Sammy squeals his wagging delight when his very Favorite Neighbor emerges from her car down the block.

A squirrel jumps from a telephone pole to the dogwood tree in the next yard and the whole school of dogs swims from all corners to that one spot at the fence. Nine noses in one square foot of fence. The five years of begging the dogs to be quiet is working, and only Delia barks. Good dogs.

Maria and Giacomino are smart enough to get back to the papasan chairs first. Luciano climbs in my lap. He likes to breathe the exact same air that I breathe on these occasions, so he positions his nose an inch from mine and keeps it there. Silly old dog.

If it weren't for the dogs, I would be doing some inane busy work. Like vacuuming, or doing laundry, or cleaning out the van. But I'm sitting on the porch, with the man I love the most in the world, enjoying the neighborhood. Enjoying the neighbors. Enjoying the dogs.

Appreciating this wonderful life.

Maria rolls around in the papasan chair and barks her silliness to the world.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Too old

Have you ever seen dog agility? Maybe on TV – it’s a super exciting dog sport where the dogs sail over jumps, and climb up and down obstacles, weave through upright poles, and zoom through tunnels, all at their handler’s signal, and at warp speed. It is a brilliantly fun event, and is ridiculously popular, in a bazillion countries.

It was dog agility, in fact, that led me to get my first purebred dog after years and years of shelter rescued mixed breeds. I was at an International horse trial and there was an agility trial going on up by the Trade Fair tents. Well, I had just never seen anything so cool in my life! Here I was, a grownup who used to train my childhood dog to jump lawn chairs, broomsticks, sideways ladders, et cetera, pretending poor Rex was a horse. And now, here was a whole sport with real dog stuff. I was getting a little old and brittle to be falling off a horse which was jumping a four foot fence, and here was a fun sport where if you fell, you “only” fell off your own two feet. (Remember that “only”, dear readers; it will come back to bite me in my ample butt.)

So fifteen years ago, I entered the world of purebred dogs, purely to do dog agility. Only that first purebred dog, Miss Gracious, Her Royal Highness Queen of All, had a different opinion. She felt that if I had this big desire for jumping and climbing and being so undignified, I could go right ahead and do it. She would watch. She would not, however, climb on a seesaw, wait for the thing to go bang on the ground and climb down off it. She would not leap over a twenty-inch, gaily striped jump just because it would please the Servant. She would fly over a four-foot barbed wire cattle fence to follow a disappearing deer, without thinking twice or batting a beautiful eye, but that was an entirely different matter, now, wasn’t it? She would agree to showing off her loveliness at a dog show, and field trials were her idea of a fine time, so there I went. Weekends were devoted to doing that which pleased the Queen.

Now, fifteen years later, I am doing agility with five-year-old Sam I Am. Never mind that I said I would start with him when he was six months old. We had the Big Move and I’m sure I could bore you with about a million other excuses. I’m great at finding excuses. But Sam I Am is entered in his first Agility Trial in six weeks. I could technically say that he has been in training for four years. But I don't think one practice session a year counts.

Thanks to the kindness of fellow Paducah Kennel Club members (especially Martha, wow!!) I am slowly learning. Sam I Am learns fast and is really awesome. He is handicapped by me. WE practiced today in Martha's excellent yard on her fantastic equipment. Here is club member Judy with her gorgeous Standard Poodle Tessa, showing how it's done.

Tessa waits to start as Judy goes over her strategy.

Tessa flies over a jump while Judy shows her with the subtlest of graceful hand signals what comes next.

Tessa zips through the weave poles as Judy claps her encouragement. "Weave Tess! Good Girl! Go, go, go!!"

Now, here is what poor Sam I Am has to contend with...

I don't know. I may be too old for this!

Have fun with your dog, no matter how old you are...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


My little Critter K walkers, Swede William and Lindy Loo

I didn't feel like getting up extra early. But one of the local vets was hosting a "Critter K" to benefit a no kill shelter.
So I got up early, shortened the normal walks (and dear Bill walked an extra time) threw Lindy Loo and Swede William and a cup of coffee in the van and headed out to Reidland. (I have a particular fondness for this town, since the highschool mascot is the greyhound, and the Reidland water tower is festooned with a giant red greyhound.)
I was a little cranky. Early mornings do that to me. Sorry.
And the weather gods are still enjoying their big chortle, so it was forty-something at six AM, and I put coats on the dogs.
But then...

Things were looking festive

And our friends from the Paducah Kennel Club were there

And there were even more Kennel Club Friends

And so many, many people and their dogs walked, to raise money for the pets who have no home.

these dogs

And I realize I am part of a wonderful community.

And I realize I am blessed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Walk-o-rama in Squirrel City, but first..

... First, some clarifications.

The novel I'm excerpting (hmmm, Mr. Spellcheck see if that's a word!) is a work in progress, and is not available yet. But, if you just happen to know any big time fancy literary agents by all means do let them know I'm available for representation! Or if you happen to be a close friend of Oprah, or Garrison Keillor... oh shoot, I fainted again. Dear Bill encourages, "You have to think it is possible, for it to come true." I love dear Bill.

This blog is spreading like wildfire, and I have you, dear readers, to thank! Thank you thank you thank you! Apparently you are sharing the address with your friends and your lists and your groups and it is working!

OK, back to the good stuff!

Walk-o-rama in Squirrel City

It is up to me to walk all of the nine dogs this morning. Bill has to go in for some early morning blood tests and he can't have coffee, so he's not going to walk his usual two.

This arrangement does not please Delia, who adopted Bill as her Own Human, and the affront of his early morning departure, coupled with the poor substitution of me as her walking companion is nearly too much. To make it even worse, she has to go on the second walk. Humph! Pee-yew to the Inferior Human.

I've been walking the grownups in pairs, although the last walk includes the two yearlings plus Sam I Am. There was a time, back on the farm, when I walked all eight, plus (Saint) Opie the big old black lab, at once. But that was at the farm, and if they took off and dragged my well-padded butt across some plowed field in pursuit of deer, rabbits, ground hogs, or fox, we might emerge bruised and battered, but at least we would emerge. Here, in the city, if they drag me into the street, and there's a truck coming, well it's not a pretty picture.

And then there's the noise factor. We feel compelled to sound the GREAT VERMIN ALERT at the sighting of any squirrel, evil horrible cat, or hairy dog, and we've been known to be fooled by Blowing Trash. And we can make some noise. I have been training them to be quiet by carrying pockets full of treats. If they see any of the Great Vermin subspecies, and they don't bark, they get a treat. It's worked better than any other method I have tried. The 'head bop' method simply taught them to duck while they screamed. And lordy it was a mess when I forgot I had the poop bag in my hand and I bopped Luciano on the head and the poop bag exploded. That was not a good method. Walking in smaller groups greatly decreases the noise factor, and a pair of dogs doesn't get nearly as riled as a pack of nine.

I did decide to walk in threes this morning. Call me lazy. First three consisted of Giacomino, Maria, and Mama Pajama. The cumulative ages (not counting me) top thirty-six years. Thirteen and a half, twelve and more than a half, and ten and a half. That's a lot of dog years. In people years they would be ninety-three, ninety, and seventy-three. In deference to Mama Pajama, we went around two blocks instead of one. On the last leg, a Stupid City Squirrel decided to jump out on the sidewalk ten feet in front of us. Ouch! (Instinct propels the dogs forward playing havoc with my decrepit shoulders.) Good dogs! They regain their brain function and turn to look for their no barking treats. Ouch! Mama Pajama likes a little blood gravy with hers: chomp. I am nonetheless delighted with their restraint.

Then a big treat. Neighbor Lorrie is out in her yard. Lorrie is one of Mama Pajama's Very Favorite People in the Whole World. Oh she wiggles and wags and grins, and praises me for having found Lorrie, and goes back to wagging her delight at Lorrie. Lorrie makes a great fuss over the little sweetheart, and then Lorrie and I catch up. I have no doubt that I missed the dogs' hints. Lorrie and I were talking away, and I'm quite certain that the dogs were trying to get my attention.

"You-hoooo??? Hello, idiot Human? Anyone home in la la land? Do you hear that? Do you have a single scent gland in your entire olfactory system? Ears, please?"

"Blah, blah, blah." I was talking to my friend in total oblivion.

So, Mama Pajama sounded the full GREAT VERMIN ALERT.

"Wow," said Lorrie, hands over her ears.

Once a month on the first Saturday at noon, since we live in Tornado country and have a nuclear plant next door, they test the Emergency Alert Siren System. (This can be quite disconcerting to people who have moved here from other parts and don't know it is a test.) The sirens can be heard for miles. They don't hold a candle to Mama Pajama's GREAT VERMIN ALERT.

"Oh, man!" cried Lorrie as blood from her ruptured eardrums trickled through her fingers. "She is loud!"

The Stupid City Squirrel hopped along the telephone wires overhead. I wished he would get electrocuted. (I'm sorry, but I really did.) Giacomino and Maria are head butting me for their treats, because they haven't made a sound. I am mortified as it is only 7:30 in the morning, and this is not at all neighborly.

"Later, Lorrie," I say, dragging the dogs the half a block home. Mama Pajama's eyes are shining; it's been a great morning for her, so far.

Next walk was Mama Pajama's brother Fat Charlie, and the much miffed Delia and her brother Luciano. "Well, it is high time," sniffs Delia. "Second group, indeed. Humph and grumble." But then we're out the gate and heading down the sidewalk and all is forgiven. And there are squirrels everywhere. What is it, National Torment Dogs Day in squirreldom? And I don't help matters. When I see a squirrel or cat as we walk along, I let out an involuntary gasp, usually coupled with an expletive. I can't help it. If the dogs haven't already seen the critter, my gasping and expleting sets them in a fit. They know what it means. In fact, you can sit in the TV room, amid somnolent dog bodies, and I can gasp an expletive and the entire pack will explode and run around looking for vermin. Then they realize they are in the TV room and I have played a joke on them and they shoot me "how could you" looks and try to find a better place to lie down than the one they just vacated.

But the three dogs were fantastic, and I managed to sing songs the whole time to distract myself from gasping and we did fine.

(to the tune of Home on the Range)
Oh give me a home where the squirrellies don't roam
And the sidewalks are all free from prey!
Where the cats stay inside
And the loose dogs all hide
And in peace we would walk everyday...
Only two and a half more miles to go. The third group. I stuffed my pockets full of Really Yummy Treats. I sang. First thing the neighbor's cat comes trotting down the sidewalk towards us. Gasp, expletive, BACK TO SINGING IN A SHOUT:


The dogs, along with the workers on the roof next door, look a little frightened of me. I'm a little frightened of me. I have no effect on the squirrels or cats, alas. We must have passed twenty of them. I passed out treat after treat, and I beamed at the dogs. Good dogs! Wonderful dogs! We pass a couple of hairy dogs and we don't make a sound. My nerves are frazzled to the point where I'm quite positive that you can see sparks flying out the top of my head, the ends of my fingers, and probably out my butt too, but the dogs, bless them, haven't screamed once.
And people say, "It's so nice you can walk with your lovely dogs. Isn't it a great way to relax?"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another Excerpt from the Novel

“Little Hope, where are you? Hopie? LITTLE Miss HOPE! Where the heck are you? Come on, we’re waiting for dinner.”
The Woman was starting to get a bit annoyed.
“She must be hoarding a dead squirrel in the yard. She knows if I see it I’ll take it away. I don’t have time for this,” she moaned to the rest of the Pack.
She pushed the full dinner bowls to the very back of the counter and pointed at Proper and said, “Leave it,” in her most businesslike voice, and went back into the yard.
“Little Hope, dinner! Dinner dogs, come on, Hope. Hope?”
Just a splinter of worry crept around the corner of her consciousness. Where was the dog? She was always the first one when the food dishes came out, not the last. Maybe her husband had inadvertently closed Hope in the bedroom. Relieved at that notion, she ran upstairs.
“Little Hope did you get locked in here?” But as soon as she opened the door she knew that she was talking to an empty room. Now the first feeling of real fear closed around the woman’s throat. Where the hell was her dog?
She threw every door in the house open, searching in every closet, both bathrooms, and she even went down in the basement, perfectly aware of the futility of it all, but compelled to look. She looked out in the yard again, pleading “Please, Little Hope! Where are you?” She didn’t realize that she had started to cry but her face was soaked.

Her husband heard the panic in her voice. “Maybe she got out and is hunting out back. Did you look in the bedroom? Maybe she got shut in the bedroom by mistake.”
“I’ve looked in the bedroom, in the basement, in the yard a hundred times. I tell you she’s not there. Little Hope!” she yelled. “I’ll go look again.” She thought of the definition of insanity: trying the same behavior and expecting different results. This was nuts. Where was her little dog? She went back inside and threw leads on the rest of her confused dogs, who were in collective wonderment as to what the heck happened to the whole dinner process. The Human seemed to have totally lost her mind, and now, instead of giving them their bowls of food, had decided to go for a walk. The dogs were fine with that, but Buddy, the lab, thought a little reminding was in order.
“Woof,” he said, eyes smiling counterward. “You forgot our supper.”
“Buddy, come on. Get over here now. We’ve got to find Hope.”
The old lab, for the umpteenth million time, forgave the Human and wagged slowly over to her, accepting his leash.
The dogs all felt the woman’s alarm, and noticed that she was searching with her blind eyes for something. They heard her call the little one’s name over and over. Proper [Hope's litter brother] felt lost. His Human’s fright and his own loneliness were making him feel too heavy, as though he were walking in a deeply plowed field of uneven, loose earth. He was losing his footing.
They walked the entire two mile loop, down the tractor trail along the cornfield, left along the woods to the wheat field, through the woods to emerge at the soybean field, and up the hill that brought them back to the cornfield and home. The woman calling for her young dog, at times through tears, other times with an edge of anger, but calling, calling, calling. The woods filled with the Woman’s voice crying “Hope. Little Hope! Come here Hope. Where are you, Little Hope? Here Hope. Oh, Little Hope please come here.” And finally, surrounded by her dogs and her worst fears, the Woman sat on a flat field rock and heard a sound bleed from her soul. A long, loud keening sound as she knew she had lost her dog, and the rest of the pack howled her sadness to the sky.

copyright Patience C. Renzulli

Meet Levin

Levin is the inspiration behind the fictional story below.
In real life, Levin is blind, and he did have to learn to walk and run after having spent way, way, way too long in a crate.
For those of you who have my book, he was one of the dogs rescued in the essay, "Am I A Collector?" (page 65 of the 1st edition, page 66 of the 2nd edition)
He looks so much like my rescue Giacomino, that I nearly fainted when I saw his photo. Levin is about five years younger than Beans. I just wonder if they could be closely related.
Thanks to Levin's foster mom, Dina, for sharing Levin's story with me.
Dina just corrected me.
She is not Levin's foster home.
She is Levin's FOREVER home!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time for a little fiction

Her tea had gotten cold again.
She stood, balancing herself for a moment against the kitchen chair, and then carried the cup over to the microwave, thought better of it and dumped the stuff in the sink. And put the kettle on. She would start over.
She glanced at the clock and realized she had been lost somewhere in her thoughts for a good half an hour. This was a bit concerning; what was happening to her?
She was eighty-six years old. She had outlived her husband by twenty-two years. It had been a good marriage, wonderful really, and she was ashamed that after twenty-two years of living alone, she could barely remember what living with her husband had been like. She could no longer remember the smell of him, or his touch, and she no longer thought she heard him call her from his study. That hadn't happened in years.
She buried her only child ten years ago. She thanked God her husband hadn't been alive for that. She had been close with her daughter, Cappy, who had been quite the scientist, never married and childless. Her funeral had been so very hard, and if it hadn't been for Zelda, she was quite certain she would have simply blown away, like one little spent spark of a fireworks display. No one to notice, plenty of other fireworks to see, just drifting away on the dark breeze.
But there was Zelda. Her dog needed to go out. Needed to be fed. Needed to be hugged. Five years before she died, Cappy had argued and argued with her mother.
"You should not rattle around this old house alone. You've never been without a dog. Of course you can still travel, Jim and Sue will watch a dog for you, you know that. You are not too old, don't be obtuse."
And finally, she had simply brought Zelda to her mother. But that was fifteen years ago, and Cappy had been inconsiderate enough to die, and then last month, so had Zelda.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, we have a policy not to adopt our pets to anyone over eighty-five. I'm sure you understand: there's such a likelihood that the pet would have to be re-homed in the future, and that wouldn't be fair, would it?" said the nice lady at the shelter. And it seemed most breeders had the same policy.
She knew better than to buy a puppy from the Internet, as that was just the newest outlet for puppy mills, now that folks knew not to buy from pet stores. Then a neighbor asked her if she had tried any pure breed rescue representatives in the area.
"Maybe they would have an older rescue which needs a home. It wouldn't hurt to try."
She felt a little excitement for the first time since Zelda died as she contacted several rescuers by email. But the replies weren't coming. And then she noticed that one person lived right in her town.
"Hello, is this Sarah Jones? I contacted you before about getting a rescue. I don't mean to be a bother, and I can understand why people wouldn't want to adopt to me, I mean at my age. But my Zelda had such a very good life, you see, and I think I could give another dog a nice home. I'm alone, you know. I have no family." And she immediately hated herself for sounding so old, so pathetic, so hungry.
The voice on the other end of the phone said, "Oh I think you would be a fine home. Luckily our breed doesn't get that many into rescue but sometimes we do get an older dog in and you would be just perfect. I will definitely spread the word, and let you know if I hear of a good match for you."
"Well, I don't think I could handle a dog with a lot of health problems, but I would appreciate your help."
It had been two months since that phone call, and no word.

The foster home "mom" figured Old Mac would be with her for the rest of his life. He didn't know how to walk, and was nearly totally blind. He had been kept in a crate for his entire eight years, and when the animal control officer opened the crate door, the dog refused to come out. He could stand, but to move he would drop on his belly and slither like a snake. But he would wag his tail, and he would melt with delight at a kind touch.

She sat down with her newly brewed cup of tea, picked up the newspaper and was trying to be interested in the front page when her phone rang.

"Hello? This is Sarah Jones. I have heard about a dog that might work out. I'm so sorry it took me so long to get back to you. The dog is in Chicago, and he needed some time with his foster mom before he was ready to be adopted. He will need a very special home, and you came to mind."
She worried about a "very special home" - that spelled trouble.
"Could you please tell me about him?"
The rescuer took a little too deep of a breath.
"Well, he hasn't had such a great life. Horrid, really. He stayed in a crate for eight years, and he had to learn to walk again. Well, not again, I mean, he had to learn to walk."
"Oh, oh dear."
"But he's quite healthy, and though he's a little timid, his foster mom says he is just a love, and he adores to snuggle, and he's never ever had an accident in the house. He is a beautiful dog, and just as sweet as they come. He's been neutered and of course has a totally clean bill of health."
"Well, that sounds promising!" She felt her heart step up the beat, just a bit. "How would we get him here? I couldn't drive to Chicago."
"Oh that's no problem, we can get him a ride with folks going to shows. He loves to ride in the car. There is one thing."
"Yes?" She didn't want there to be one thing.
"He's pretty much blind. He can see light, so when he goes out at night you'll have to lead him with a good, strong flashlight. He still plays with toys, and can fetch a ball like you wouldn't believe, but he will depend on you more than most dogs would."
"Oh. Oh, I see. Oh, dear. I don't know."
There was a pause. An awkward, loaded silence.
The rescuer said, "Would you like to think about it? You could talk to your vet, do some Internet searches and learn about blind dogs, talk to friends."

She had never been the impulsive sort. She had always planned and studied, researched and carefully considered before she made any decision, and she could scarcely believe her ears when she heard her own self say, "Why no, I don't think I need to do any of that. I think I need to get some dog food and biscuits and a new, no two new flashlights and lots of extra batteries. How soon can he come home?"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nap time
copyright L. J. Erickson

I just had to post this awesome photo by my friend Laurie Erickson.

Spins and zoomies


OK, I already feel like the biggest hypocrite in the world for that not-so-private celebration. But Yippeeeeeeee! Hoooorayyyyy! Oh, dear, there I go again.

Seems a little cool front has made its way to Western Kentucky. (And that's not a typo, the W in Western Kentucky is capitalized, like the N in North Carolina. I was told so when I neglected to capitalize it in a local essay. Western Kentucky is practically its own state, and probably would be if it weren't for the UK Wildcats and the Kentucky Derby.) Last night at agility practice out at the kennel club property, it was so close - that's southernspeak for "sauna-like", or "more humid than a pan of boiling Karo syrup" - that I sweated off the bug spray and the skeeters posted a big "PAR-TAAY" announcement on my old self, and I was their happy hour with free rounds for all.

I hate the cold. I have a pact with the weather gods: I don't complain about the heat all summer long, so that I can whine with abandon when the temperature dips below fifty. Well, the weather gods clearly have the same warped sense of humor as the dog show gods, and they threw some doozies at me this year. I do apologize to the entire southern Midwest for the heat and drought. Forget global warming; it was my fault. I think we had something like a million days in a row over ninety-five. And a record number of days over 100. And the average temperature for the summer was something like twenty degrees over the hottest average ever. (It makes me smile when the public service announcements on the radio say, "The heat index will get over one hundurd and tee-in again today. Watch out for yur elderly and yur pee-its.") As my neighbors wilted, I bravely - stupidly - entertained the weather gods with my declarations that it was better than winter, at least.

"HA! Take this!" chortled the god of humidity.

My poor dogs would go out in the yard and drop like old dead catfish, only to straggle into the house not two minutes later, wobbly and dazed from the heat. And walking was dangerous. Even at six in the morning, my absolute worst time of day, it would already be eighty-six, and any later the sidewalks would literally burn their feet. And then there were the mosquitoes.

I have finally discovered the purpose for biting insects. Mosquitoes, ticks, gnats. I wondered all of my life what the heck good they are. It came to me today. Two things: hell and winter. For those of us who don't believe in a literal place called Hell, there are mosquitoes, just to keep us wondering. If I go to Hell, it will most surely be full of skeeters, biting flies, and all varieties of ticks. Oh lord and fleas, too. How I hate a flea. And chiggers... arrrrgh!!! Hang on a minute, I need to take a shower...

OK, I'm back. So little things that bite me make me want to hedge my bets about the existence of an address for Hell. But since everything has balance, I discovered the flip side today. Mosquitoes have given me a reason to welcome cooler weather. Yes they have. Back in Maryland (where I spent the rest of my adult life) autumn lasted a week. And it rained the whole time, our little farm became a giant mud bog, and then it was winter and I had to use a pickax to get the ice off the horses' buckets. Autumn was a Bad Sign. But here, Autumn is delightful, lasting all of September (under normal circumstances when I haven't been playing double-dog-dare with the weather gods) clear through December. And with this morning's chilly breeze came a miracle. No bugs!

Except down by the river. Suddenly there are these odd, clumsy, mutant looking things by the hundreds of thousands. They just appeared, and they kind of look like a cross between a mosquito and a butterfly. They don't bite, so they don't bother me a bit. Yearlings William and Lindy Loo were beyond ecstatic. Even Sam I Am got into the hunt. Suddenly, my three well-behaved walkers were leaping, snapping, lunging contortionists. It sounded like I was inside a movie theater popcorn maker, with all of those jaws clacking simultaneously, frantically, maniacally.

Well, then it was all just too much for William. The cool breeze, the thrill of the hunt, and maybe the new supplement I'm giving them made him go bonkers. He tucked his butt under him and started spinning wildly. Like a whirling Dervish. ( Like an old fashioned top, pumped beyond capacity. Spin, twirl, spin, twirl! This sets Lindy Loo in a fit, and she tries to bite his butt or neck in play chomps and soon Sammy is spinning in the opposite direction. I am like the Chinese plate spinner, only instead of plates, I have crazy dogs. No was around the little river park to witness this demonstration of Dogs Gone Bonkers, so all I had to do was hang on. No small task, that. What they really wanted to do was to take off, full speed, and worship their god - the god of zoomies. But they had to walk gently the thirteen blocks home to get to their House of Worship: the yard.

They tried hard to behave, with an occasional flare up of butt-tuck-itis, or a sudden fit of spins, and we got home. I opened the gate and slipped off their leads and stepped back. Blurring whirrs of dogstreams (that is a word I made up to convey a dog moving so fast that it leaves a jet stream in its wake) flew around our little city yard on and off all day.

Autumn is going to be all right. No mosquitoes, happy dogs, clear sunny days. Life is good.


Want to drive an "I'm never going to have a blog" blogger nuts? Get her all excited about this new venue for her writing, have her getting new readers by the dozen, and then have Comcast have an "OUTAGE" - whatever that is - all day. Oh well, got lots done on the neglected gardens and yard. Too nice to torture dogs with toenail dremmeling; we'll save that for another day.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment - they are most appreciated.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Some Days...

I woke to the sound of gentle rain.

This is a good thing, as our region is as dry as your Great Aunt Martha's fruitcake three bites after your last swallow of milk. Dry as the devil's laugh. Dry as dust. We need this slow, soaking rain.

This is a bad thing because the nine dogs believe that during times of slow, soaking rain, the Human Servant is responsible for providing (a) entertainment in an indoor venue, (b) two miles of dry outdoor area for walks, and (c) indoor bathroom facilities for Canine Americans. They swear it's in their contracts.

I take them downstairs from our bedroom in three shifts. (Trust me, otherwise it is a Great Whippet Race and the kitchen door becomes the starting gate/bottleneck/fighting pit, and I start swearing and when I do get the door open, at least three sets of accelerating Whippet toenails launch from the tender tops of my feet, and I screech obscenities while howling in pain, and right then my sweet neighbors are coming down from their second floor apartment with their first grader and pre-schooler, not fifteen feet from where I'm standing, and the first grader asks, "Daddy what does [insert that really bad word that I just shouted] mean?" and the pre-schooler practices the word outloud to herself all the way to the car.)

So I get the last shift of dogs downstairs, only to see all nine of them huddled up on the breezeway by the edge of the steps to their potty yard.

"Go out in the rain to poop? I think not!"

"It's raining. On us!"

"There is definitely a clause in the contract against this."

"Bad Servant. Awful Servant."

Fanny by fanny I push the disgusted dogs out in the drizzle to do their business.

Later, after dogs and humans break their fast, and I get enough coffee in me to pry one eye open, I decide to walk, rain or no. Bill gamely took his two regulars, sporting a large black plastic poncho which came in its own little pouch from the dollar store for ninety-nine cents and makes him look like a cross between Antonio Banderas and Grampa Smurf. I walk Giacomino and Maria around their one block and they are pretty darn good sports. They poop immediately as they had been holding out for the walk. If they have to "go" in the rain, there better damn well be a walk attached.

Mama Pajama and Fat Charlie are next, and the drizzle has devolved into a mild spit. I notice that all the critters and vermin - squirrels, evil cats bane of the earth, and loose dogs - have yet to emerge and our walk is down right pleasant.

The last walk is five year old Sam I Am and the two yearlings, William and Lindy Loo. The rain has for all intents and purposes stopped and the dogs are in high spirits. We walk the fifty feet from the side gate to my corner garden and all heck breaks loose. There is a cat in the garden. What sort of Darwinian flunky cat thinks my garden is a cool place to hang? Nine dogs bred to chase, catch, and kill small furry things live here, duh head!

Tra la the cat runs off down the sidewalk. Tra la the cortisone injections I got in both shoulders on Thursday are now a total waste of time and money. Actually, the dogs were really pretty good, after they got over their initial instinctual urge to chase. Sam and Lindy Loo turned to get their treats because they didn't bark (good dogs) and William thought about it for a moment, and decided it was more fun to bark. I tried to get my shoulders back in their sockets in order to render my hands useful enough to dig the treats out of my pocket. Oh, rats, I noticed I was swearing out loud. And then I see my brand new across the street neighbor on her porch.

"I hate loose cats, " I explain. "What a horrible way to start my walk." (In all fairness, my shoulders were still screaming in pain.)

"Oh, I hope it wasn't my cat."

(Wonderful. I forgot this neighbor has a cat or two that go outside. Now I've offended.) The dogs recognise the perfect opportunity to fulfill the bad-poop-timing contract clause, and all assume their individual but collective positions. I whip out my baggies, only to see two monsterous poops that some irresponsible citizen with two Very Large Dogs has left right next to my dogs' little gifts. So now I have to pick up after my three, plus the Creep who didn't's. I have sandwich sized baggies, not gallon. Yuck. But if I leave the Monster Piles, my newly offended neighbor will naturally think that it came from my dogs.

Who lets their dog dump and just walks away? It is exactly the same as if you pull your pants down and poop on your neighbor's yard and leave. And people do it next to church sidewalks! You can't change your shoes once you're in church. Some sermons can be long enough, but add the smell of dog poop.... glory be. It is so bad here that it was discussed in the last City Commissioners Meeting. There can be a $10 to $1000 fine for not cleaning up. I'm going to look into the cost of supplying the neighborhood with motion activated infra-red video recording devices. We should be able to pay for them with the fines levied. I think I'll bring it up at the next Commissioners meeting.