Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some mornings stink... literally!

The Innocent Victim

When your life revolves around nine dogs, your life is blessed with a symphony of fragrances. The smell of love carried on a furiously wagging body. The smell of delight ferried on the backs of loud "Welcome Home woo-ahroooooos!" as you walk in your door. The smell of excitement leaking from pores when you grab your purse and keys. "Take me! And me!" The smell of contentment rising like heat waves from comatose forms in front of the fireplace. The smell of anticipation after a trick learned and performed. The stinking stench of your own fear when you find that new lump on your Very Old Dog. And the blessed blissful smell, so like the delicate notice of a wild Lilly of the Valley found in a surprising shady spot, when that lump turns out to be Nothing. Nothing at all.

My life abounds with other smells too. I am married, for these twenty-four privileged years to an Italian. Coming home to our little farmhouse after a long day of lure coursing in the cold, wet New Jersey or Pennsylvania November fields, to the ambrosial aroma of Bill's simmering sauce. The anticipation of that smell made the trip home faster. And writing that, I am reminded of the van on the way home from those coursing trials. Wet dog clothing smelling faintly of laundry detergent. Mud, apples, and the morning's empty coffee cups. The comfortable smell of a long day spent with a good soul-friend and laughter. A vehicle full of deeply satisfied canine snores.

I so miss those weekends.

Then there are the more mundane scents. Dog farts. I have found that dogs do not have to fart. It is entirely dependant on their food, and that is entirely up to the provider of same. You may recall our recent revisit to the land of the Green Gasses when I switched to a new food. We have left that land and returned to Life Without Peeling Paint, with a simple switch back. There is the odor that accompanies picking up poop. Well, it's just part of it and we can all be grateful when the bag doesn't break. That's a lot of gratitude from me; my days are full of lots of bags. Our bedroom in the morning can smell fairly doggy. It's a gentle reminder to their Servant that dogs should bathe, too, and their bedding needs laundering as regularly as our own.

There's the embarrassingly hard to explain smell of forgotten Bil-Jac liver treats in your pocket at a Mainstreet Board meeting with the town's fanciest Movers and Shakers. A smell repugnant even to my own dog-loving nose, and I know my fellow board members believe it emanates from my mortified self.

This morning we hosted a smell-o-rama in the Casa Renzulli Kitchen. Bill, a confirmed non-breakfast-eater for his entire adult life, has changed his ways. A Silly Diet from two years ago had the most excellent side effect of transforming him into a regular morning feaster. And his Italian heritage prevents him from ingestion of boring cereal or ho-hum toast. So this morning he was sauteing onions and Canadian bacon to decorate his perfectly sunny side up eggs.

And I am here to tell you that particular onion was the stinkiest specimen of oniondom ever created. I unsuccessfully tried to refrain from critical comment.

"Jeeee-sus Almighty Gawd that think stinks," I lovingly declared. "I think I'm going to be sick. Onions with shredded wheat have always been my idea of a perfect start to a perfect day."

Bill has a confident nature and a strong ego and he couldn't have cared less about my expression of displeasure. His breakfast was delicious.

"That has to be the Worst Smell in the World," I gently suggested. "You are grossing me out," I said with love.

Bill licked his lips and read the paper.

I busied myself scrubbing the cutting board for the third time, exclaiming to myself, "Pee-yooo. Nasty stank. Yuck."

Then, when Bill had finished eating his much maligned meal, he was loading the evidence into the dishwasher. We have a deal with the dogs. They are the pre-rinse cycle, licking the plates and platters on the floor. They are not to indulge in further pre-rinsing of dishes already loaded in the dishwasher. This is a safety feature of The Contract, due to the presence of sharp knives, wine glasses, and the like. Swede William prefers to opt out of this contractual agreement. As do Lindy Loo, Mama Pajama, Fat Charlie, and anyone else when we aren't looking and often when we are. But Swede William is the most determined.

Bill was just saying, "Get out of there, dogs," when all hell broke loose, along with the entire bottom tray of the dishwasher. It was attached somehow to Swede William who was trying to beat a whippet-speed retreat. Dishes crashed and broke. Poor Swede William cried out the injustice of it all, obviously feeling that the Man Servant had unfairly attacked him with the dishwasher. I finally got him untangled - his tag had gotten wedged between the silverware trough and the main tray - and he flew out of the room.

And then, as Bill and I were sweeping up the broken glass and porcelain, there was that smell. As my brain processed what the old olfactory cells were sending up, I said, "That was either the world's rankest onion, or am I smelling anal glands?"

Bill choked, "That is no onion."

Swede William had clearly been of the opinion that the Attacking Dishwasher Tray was going to kill him and he did what nature provided as his Last Hope of Survival. He let loose with his anal glands. All over the kitchen.

And once again I was humbled by the dog gods.

There was, most certainly, without any possible argument, a smell much, much, ever so much worse than Bill's breakfast onion.

As I humbly went about cleaning it up, I made a mental note. Good, kind, wonderful husband. Occasionally smelly breakfast. Not worth bitching about. Got it.

Hug your smelly hounds!

And don't forget to enter the drawing! See the next post and good luck.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Celebrate! Our "1000th visitor" give away!

According to Google Analytics, we're about to get our 1000th unique visitor to our blog! You know, the blog we were NEVER going to have? Woo-HOOOO! As of yesterday we've had 2811 visits, with 3873 pageviews and 944 unique visitors. All since September 15th when we figured out how to use Google Analytics.

We got the idea to have a celebration give away from our blog friends and actual neighbors Kari & Kijsa (who have a really cool home decorating blog - make no mistake, I need all the inspiration and help I can get) . Soooooo, if you would like to get a free, autographed and pawtographed copy of Mama Pajama Tells A Story, 2nd edition just post a comment to this thread, and I'll enter you in a drawing. If you already have a copy of the book, I will make you a custom collar like this instead.

It's our way of saying thanks for visiting and thank thanks thanks for spreading the word!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Someone's Garbage

My next door neighbor called me. I didn't even realize they had our phone number, because we talk several times a day over our communal fence. I love my neighbors. A young couple with two of the most beautiful, delightful children you could ever meet. When they first moved in, Michael was still serving in Iraq and Ashley was raising then three year old Gavin. Michael came home and the family was blessed with baby Grace. Now Gavin is six and Grace is two and Michael has passed his Boards and is a Critical Care RN.

It was Ashley on the phone. "Oh Patience there's a little dog running loose on Jefferson Street. It's going to get hit. I've tried to catch it, but I'm late for work."

"OK, I'll go look." I loaded my pockets with goodies and set out with absolutely no luck at all. Not a glimpse.

About an hour after I got home, Michael called me. He said, "Hey that little dog is in our back yard, but it won't let me go anywhere near it." I grabbed some ham from the fridge and ran next door.

There was an emaciated little Pekingese up on a stack of bricks. The poor thing had made itself as big as possible by climbing on the bricks, putting itself at about waist height. Michael and Ashley's yard is fenced on three sides. I was doing everything I had learned about dogs so that this little one wouldn't bolt. I didn't make eye contact with it. I continued to talk to Michael in a cheerful voice, with my head turned away from the dog, all the while rubbing my ham in an outstretched hand to release the delectable scent.

I placed a piece of ham on the brick pile about three feet from the dog and stepped back. I heard a frightened growl as I approached. I kept laughing and talking with Michael and not looking at the dog. It inched over and snarfed down the ham. Yes! Another piece was offered, I stepped back less, the growl still came but the ham got gobbled with less hesitation. Step by step. Finally the poor soul was eating out of my hand, and then it allowed me to pat it, with a wary wag of it's sad little tail. Then we made eye contact, and I told the little dog that I was going to help and I had food and water and kindness to give. The relief on that dog's face was practically palpable, audible, touchable, it was so real. She allowed me to cradle her in my arms, with a tiny growl which melted into a groaning sigh.

Now what? She had no collar, no tattoo, and looked as though she had weaned puppies not too long ago. No spay scar. And she was so skinny. Here I was with my whippets, accustomed to feeling ribs as a normal state of affairs, with what should have been a roly-poly Pekingese in my arms. Horrified at feeling ribs, vertebrae, and pelvic bones protruding. Her coat was filthy and matted and dull, and one eye had an old scar on the cornea. My puppies were due in only two weeks and it would have been irresponsible of me all the way around to bring this poor soul into the household. Momma Whippet would have been exposed to Lord knew what diseases, plus she would have no doubt seen this intact female intruder as a threat to her unborn pups. And the rest of my pack would have thought of her as a squeak toy.

I called Bill from my cell phone and asked him to put his studio buddy Delia in the house. Didn't tell him why. I brought the poor Peke into the studio, through the gallery entrance, avoiding the house and the breezeway. Now, my husband is a Good Man. He immediately got eyes full of tears as he felt the bony little feather-light body in his arms. "Are we keeping her?" he asked without hesitation. I explained the dangers of trying to do that, and though I doubted it, I thought someone might be looking for her. I called the shelter, and all of the local vets, and our wonderful Animal Control Officer. I looked in the paper for a lost ad. Nothing.

Then I called Erica. She had been talking about getting a dog. Something bigger than my whippets. A German Shepherd or maybe a Rottweiler. But she was an animal lover through and through, with two cats, and I was in a bind. "Erica, can you come over? I need a little help. I found a dog."

Erica sat on the floor of Bill's studio with tears streaming down her face. "Oh she's so sweet. She's starved! Who would do this to a helpless little dog?" I explained why I couldn't take her in, and why I hated to take her to our city's high kill shelter. "Oh you couldn't take her there!" cried Erica as she hand fed her another bite of the kibble I had brought out to the studio.

"Would you be able to keep her until we can find her owners or find her a home?" I am a devious soul. Shameless, sneaky, underhanded. But the very picture of innocence.

Erica did take her home. She named her Bella. Beautiful Bella. She cleaned her up, took her to the vet. Posted a found ad in the paper. Called all around for someone looking for the dog. Loved her, walked her, fed her, groomed her, and loved her some more. Got her spayed after six months when the vet said she was healthy enough and had a little tumor removed. Got her teeth cleaned. Took her everywhere, let her play with dog friends in the neighborhood, walked her every day rain or shine all around town. Loved her. Adored her.

I don't know what Bella's life had been. I can guess though. I think she was some body's extra income. I think she was bred over and over again for someone to sell "AKC Pekingese puppies" or maybe "Peke-a-poos". Who knows. And I think when she got too old to breed, she got dumped. I think she was running around Jefferson Street looking for the car that had just driven away. I think she had never been adored, except by her puppies which were probably sold before they were ready to be weaned. I bet she had never known real tenderness and love. I bet she had never been valued as a soul full of sunshine and grace.

And now, years later, I see Bella and Erica walking through the neighborhood, with Bella's beautiful tail wagging gloriously and her Pekingese smile ready for everyone. With her eyes never leaving Erica's face for too awfully long; those eyes so dedicated, so loving, so grateful, so sparkling with health and fun. When I see this, every single time I see this, my heart swells with gratitude. I thank God that this little dog who has nothing but benevolence to offer the world, knows human love.

*hug your dogs*

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oh Sammy! What A SUPER STAR!

The sweet plaque was a present waiting for Sam when we got home from one of his good friends in the neighborhood.

What a good, generous, smart, kind, fun, sweet, wonderful Sam I Am!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Nervous Nellie

Tomorrow is Sam I Am's first agility trial.

I saw my first agility trial in 1990 at a horse trial. I thought it was the World's Coolest Sport. I had taught my childhood dog, Rex, to jump over broomsticks perched between the couch and coffee table, and had taught every dog I owned since to be little horses. And here it was in real life. I was reaching an age where the notion of simply falling down instead of falling off was appealing.

I got my first Whippet in 1992 so that we could do agility. (Always had shelter rescues prior to that.)

Laurie Erickson photo - HRH Queen Gracious

HRH Queen Gracious had other ideas. She enjoyed showing off her loveliness in the conformation ring (think of the movie Best In Show) and if I told her to jump something that she didn't feel like jumping, she would say "No thank you, but if you feel it needs to be jumped, you go right ahead. I'll watch." Well, you couldn't argue with that, now could you? So we went to shows, and she adored lure coursing, and that's what we did.

And here it is fifteen and a half years later, and Sam I Am and I are going in our first Agility Trial tomorrow. We're not really ready. Honest. He sort of gets the weaves, but he thinks if we're in a hurry, we shouldn't bother. He loves to jump. He scares me sometimes on the teeter by going too fast. And I'm scared to death of heights, so I always close my eyes when he does the A frame. We love the tunnels, both of us. Zoom he goes!

Tim Caro photo - Sam I Am loves tunnels

And last weekend in New Jersey, he pulled a muscle in his back. I thought we wouldn't be able to go this weekend, and didn't practice at all this week. But he's jumping on the bed and skipping the four stairs up to the porch and having big zoomies in the yard, so we'll give it a try. If he indicates even a little twinge tomorrow, we'll excuse ourselves. But if he feels fine and is having fun, we'll give it a try.

No expectations of even qualifying. Just a fun practice.

We're going to an Agility Trial! Fifteen years late, but we're going. I am so excited!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Troubling [a break from my stories]

Here's your chance to leave a comment if you never have before. I would like your opinion.

I was going from blog to blog from the comments pages and I found a nice blog. On his sidebar though was an "award" - a clickable button - from a website which is a puppy mill outlet. Ick.

(I don't give the web address here, because the last thing I want to do is to drive traffic to the puppy mill outlet.)

So do I forget about it? Do I post a comment on his blog saying "nice blog but did you know that award button leads people to puppy mill puppies and supports the puppy millers and sentences the 'breeding stock' to more years of misery?" I don't see a option to email the blogger.

OK, I already have decided I won't forget about it. Can I complain to google?

Probably not.


Rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain

We need it desperately, we truly do.

I'm trying to be grateful.

I have nine dogs, bred for speed, who know I can turn lights on and off. Who are purely cognizant of the fact that I can make it warmer or cooler in the house. Nine dogs who expect more from me. Who sail down the stairs to go out first thing this morning, thinking nothing but lovely thoughts about me their Humble Servant, only to reach the edge of the breezeway and slam on their disappointed, highly disgusted brakes.

Tails helicopter to hasten the braking process. Imagine the sound of squealing tires. Toenails on concrete.

And then the heads turn my way.

"It is still raining."
"It is colder and wetter than ever."
"We are extremely disappointed in you."
"You want me to take my naked little self out into the cold wet stuff and poop? Are you daft?"
"I could melt! It's happened before, I've heard all about it."

Shake shiver droop slink. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

"Is it too much for a little whippet to ask for a little dryness and warmth in the morning? We notice that your potty area is plenty warm, and if you wouldn't go into the rain closet and make it rain on you on purpose it would be dry, as well. If you want to stand in a rain closet, good for you. We prefer our mornings dry, Stupid Human."
"Well, I am not going out there. Not not not. Oooph, well you don't have to push. Humans are so rude."

Of course all is immediately forgiven the instant the breakfast bowls are served. But now comes the walkies, and though each will wear a snugly waterproof coat, I will still have to endure their distaste.

I'm sorry dogs. Someday the sun will shine again. I promise.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tornado Warning

[We're home. I can happily say that many drought-ridden areas of our nation got some much needed rain, thanks to the passing through of the Whippet Wagon. I was afraid that buying new windshield wiper blades would deprive folks of precipitation, but I feared for naught. It started raining soon after we got on the road and hasn't stopped. All the way back, listening to Public Radio stories on the historical proportions of the drought - the worst on record for many locations, and according to tree ring data, the worst in over five hundred years - I took pleasure in knowing that where the Whippet Wagon goes, rain goes. I do want it to be known that I have not been to New Orleans or to the state of Louisiana since 1963. Just so's you know. I should really pack up and head out to poor California.
Since you had to suffer through the inane journalistic road mumblings I offer the following in atonement.]

Tornado Warning

Paducah resides smack in the middle of the Dixie Alley portion of Tornado Alley. The Dixie Alley is where the most deaths from tornadoes occur, due to population density. It was a concern when we moved here, along with the fact that it sits on a major fault line and there's that pesky nuclear plant just next door. But back in Maryland, we had the highest cancer rate in the nation, and Three Mile Island, and the occasional hurricane, so there you go.

When I first moved here, I was alone with the nine whippets. Sam I Am was the baby of the family then, just three months old, but Queen Gracious and Caruso bless their dear souls were still with us and ably leading the Pack. Bill was wrapping up his medical practice back in Maryland, and the rehab on the Paducah house wasn't finished, so the dogs and I were all living in the addition which housed Bill's brand new studio and gallery. Before it actually was a studio and gallery. I bathed in the utility sink. The bathroom didn't have a light yet, and its door didn't have a knob, so I stuck a flashlight in the doorknob hole, providing both light and privacy. The light sort of acted like a blinding spotlight as I sat contemplating life, but it was better than sitting in the dark. A little better.

Instead of drawing tables and easels, imagine a mattress on the floor and eight crates, two fold up fabric chairs and numerous dog beds.

There was no fence, so no yard yet. My dogs were accustomed to their two acres of fenced squirrel-murdering, sun-bathing, tag-playing fun back at the farm in Maryland. I felt guilty of being the Worst Servant in the World. If there was a Worst Servant in the World degree, I would have earned a Masters. So I walked them, three at a time, three times a day. Nine half-hour walks. People thought I was walking the same three skinny dogs for hours. No wonder they were so skinny, they thought. I quickly became the new neighborhood nut. And with the dogs not yet knowing about being quiet city dogs, and setting off the Stupid City Squirrel Alarm constantly and at the top of their lungs, it wasn't like we weren't noticed.

It was not the happiest of times.

So we were innocently sitting around on a Saturday at one o'clock, minding our own depression, wishing we had a phone or a computer or a friend when it happened. The Loudest Siren In the World. It was an air raid siren. The dogs shook their heads, trying to avoid pierced eardrums. I said "Oh! Um. Oh my! What do I do?" Was there a nuclear accident? A tornado? Oh that had to be it a tornado was coming we would all die and be calm, be calm the radio listen to the radio. I didn't have a TV yet, and my radio was already turned to WKMS. But they were playing bluegrass music just as happy as a hog in horseshit and no help at all. Where was the "This Is Not A TEST" emergency broadcast system when you needed it? (More on that later.) I ran out in the street. I seemed to be the only one in the neighborhood who was running in little circles in panic. People were walking on the sidewalks, driving around, and riding bikes in blissful oblivion. And the siren was just a'blasting. The dogs inside were in full howl, singing along to spare their ears.

I stood on the corner by the stop sign, and mustered my courage. I waved at the next car, whose driver kindly lowered the passenger side window.
"Is there a tornado coming?" I asked.
"Huh?" said the driver. (My accent was difficult for the locals to decipher.)
"The siren! Should I get in the closet? Are you evacuating?"
"Whut saaaaren?"
"Um... the one I'm shouting over. What does it mean?"
"Oh! Thayat! Shoot Ah don't even hear it any mowure. They jest tayest hit on the furst Satiday of the month."
"Oh, it IS just a test. Oh, what a relief. Thank you. Thank you so much."
"No one pays any attention to thayat even when it is real. We don't get any tornadoes in town cause of the rivers, and if it's the Nuclear Plant, oh wayell, whatcha goin' to do? Hayell, we'll all be toast anywaay. You have a good day nayow."

OK. So. The siren goes off the first Saturday of every month, and nowadays I don't hear it either. Another thing that took some getting used to is the Emergency Alert. It's that annoying signal that plays on radio station, followed by, "The preceding was a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was only at test. In the event of an actual emergency... blah, blah, blah." Only here, it is often the Real Deal. Tornado Ally and all. That gave me some cause for concern. And the first time that the radio was playing the Emergency Alert and the Siren From Hayell went off at the same time, I ran and checked out the TV. (By that time Bill was here and the house rehab was finished.) But the weather map showed the tornadoes splitting to the north and the south of Paducah, bouncing off the electrical field caused by the confluence of the Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi Rivers. So I learned to ignore all of the warnings, just like my neighbors. Until.

Until one night when Bill was away on yet another trip back home. The Siren and the Emergency Alert were going off, and the radio announcer sounded pretty concerned. He kept saying, "This is a bad one, folks. This time you really need to seek shelter." So I turned on the TV. We have a Weather Child. She looks to be about twelve. She's quite the professional, and she does a great job, despite her youthful appearance. The station had preempted the regular programming and was showing only the Weather Child, who was declaring the serious dangers of this storm, while pointing at her map. She kept pointing right at Paducah.

I had been in the TV news studio, having once been an early morning guest promoting the Paducah Kennel Club show. The Weather Child's voice climbed a notch. "You should no longer be watching your television, unless it is in a basement or in a closet on the first floor of your home. You should turn off your television and seek shelter immediately." Hmmmm. That was unusual. TV personalities getting lots of attention don't often tell you to turn off your TV. She kept glancing off camera to the side. I wondered what she was looking at. The window. I remembered that the studio had a window to the Weather Garden, and that would be what she was looking at. "Really," the Weather Child's voice was now downright squeaky with terror, "Terrible tornadoes are bearing right down on Paducah as ..." She cast a frightened, uncontrollable look at the Weather Window. "As we speak. Run to the basement. Run for your life! GET DOWN!"

She looked so small and frightened. And serious. She looked like she wished she could be in a basement. The Siren from Hayell was blaring. The Emergency Alert was going crazy. There was no one on the streets, not a living soul. The sky was an eerie black purple bruise. It wasn't raining, but I realized there was not a bird to be seen or heard. I was not going in our scary basement. When we bought the house, it had a demolition notice nailed to the front plywood. (There was no front door.) And in the dining room there was a six by eight foot hole in the floor, open to the basement which had four feet of water and two dead possums floating in it. I was not going in that basement.

So I decided on the coat closet. It was under the staircase on the ground floor, which I imagined gave it more stability. It was full of stuff. Bill and I are pack rats; there it is and that's that. I pulled out twenty coats, boots from the farm, boxes of treasures - Lord knows what, and the rack of leaves for the dining room table. I said to the dogs, "Let's go in the closet!"
The waggle was eightfold at that time. Lindy Loo and Swede William had not been born and Lindy's great grandfather Dear Caruso was still with us. The dogs looked at me and looked at the closet. Their answer was unanimous. "No." I ran upstairs and checked back with the Weather Child. Her voice was two octaves above her normal, and the whites of her eyes completely surrounded her frightened irises, and her hair was defying its products and flying wildly. "TAKE COVER! IT'S COMING! GOD SAVE US ALL!"

Right. I grabbed two quilts from the bedroom and flew back down the stairs. I spread the quilts on the coat closet floor. I grabbed a land phone and my cell phone and a box of dog biscuits. In my no-nonsense, I-mean-business voice I told the dogs to get in the closet with me. They immediately obeyed my strict command (as soon as they realized I had a whole box of their favorite treats) and we all piled in the coat closet. We just barely fit. Biscuits all around.

I want you to engage your very best imagination, kind readers. Try to visualise this scene. Eight dogs, cramped into a coat closet with their Humble Servant. Sixteen big, brown eyes focused on the face of their up to then fairly reliable Human Being. Sixteen eyes saying, "What are we doing in the coat closet? How long are we going to be in here? Perhaps it is time for another round of biscuits, don't you think?"

And then the hail came. Huge hail easily the size of golf balls pelted the windows. I was sure they would break. And the wind roared. I passed out biscuits. Some of the dogs started to tremble. The noise was deafening. The hail blocked out the Siren from Haayell. I held the closet door shut as if I could manually keep us safe. The dogs stared at me, not liking my new Go In the Closet Game one bit. It was much too loud.

It was done after what seemed like a week, but was less than five minutes. Tornadoes had hit just north, east, west and south of us, but bounced off the rivers once again. Hundreds of cars had been damaged by the hail, and trees were down all over the place. We crawled out of the coat closet, and the dogs checked out the hail on the ground. We called Bill to tell him what had happened and that we were OK.

Now any time I have to get something out of the coat closet a dog jumps in, looking for a biscuit. I still don't pay attention to the Siren. But I check out the Weather Child and if I ever see her look that scared, you better believe that the Husband, the Waggle and I are heading for the closet.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Last Leg

We're up and ready to go. The dogs are already in the van eating their breakfast. I'm so proud of them. I'm not the only one with dogs who loves this hotel. There are always lots of dogs here. My fear is that I will be walking down the hall with my five and someone will emerge from a room with a little white fluffy dog, looking all the world like a bunny to doggy eyes, and my dogs would set off the WAHOOOOOOO ALARM! So I hold my breath, and peek down the hall before we zoom from our room to the stairway, down the stairs, and out.
When we got outside this morning, there was a little fluffy dog to the left, and a big hairy German shepherd and his little fluffy friend to the right. OY. But, aside from one tiny woof from Lindy Loo who felt it her duty, quiet whippets abounded! Good, good wonderful dogs!
The gang quickly did their businesses and I got it all picked up in no time. (So many people who travel with their dogs apparently don't know about cleaning up after them. We have to watch where we step. It's a shame.) They are munching on breakfast and chewies and waiting for me, so I better wrap this up.
I can't wait to get home to my Bill and the rest of the waggle. Nine more hours.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Night in Virginia

In our very own Best Western hotel. On countless trips home we've spent the night in this hotel. Too many times to remember. On the way to Westminster and back, this winter. And this summer, all nine dogs and I stayed here on the way to ninety-six year old Uncle Fatty's funeral. Bill had flown out to be with him when his condition was critical. I had no dog sitter, so if I wanted to go, I had to take the whole waggle. I arrived at this hotel, bone tired at one in the morning, and walked in with nine dogs in tow. Nine wonderful, well behaved, quiet, lovely good dogs.

The five in the room with me as I write this are already asleep. Good dogs. As I told the rotten clam in the not-so-super-8 story to the other folks who travel with dogs over the weekend, I was given invaluable advice. Febreeze. The more seasoned travelers smiled at my naivete. "You don't know about bringing Febreeze," they smiled? I surely do now. Lord that was nasty.

No need for Febreeze in our best Best Western, though I could use a nice scented candle to combat the dog farts. I can't wait to switch back to our old food. This is awful. The van is starting to glow green. It is probably a nice safety feature, being more visible to fellow drivers with its lime green glow, but sometimes I have to open the windows simply to prevent my asphyxiation.

Oh, I was sad leaving today. I feel like a part of me gets torn open. And yet, in a contradiction impossible to understand, I can't wait to get home to Paducah. Maybe I have learned a thing or two from the dogs. Mama Pajama and Sam I Am are uninhibited in their joy at seeing their friends back east. And they will be just as joyful to see Bill and their pack in Paducah.

I know just how they feel.

We'll zoom the rest of the way home tomorrow, impatient to get back. And I probably won't even have to buy gas... the dogs will provide plenty!


Sunday in New Jersey

Not much better than a long day with dear friends, with dogs doing the thing they love absolutely best, in perfect weather.

Linda has been my friend for thirty-two years. I know that, because she was the first person I told that I was pregnant, and Jake will be thirty-one next month. (How did that happen?) My dogs adore Linda. She is the person in the story "Mama Pajama Tells a Story" that Mama Pajama told the story to! (That is a train wreck of a sentence, but it's 6:21 in the morning, I've had exactly three sips of coffee, and I need to get to the field.) Sam I Am was born at Linda's house.

When we arrived at the field yesterday, I got Sam out to see his Nana Linda. She had placed a bag of blankets out to save us a parking place. Sammy dove his nose into that bunch of blankets and wagged and danced and grinned and wagged his entire body in pure doggy ecstasy. I didn't need to translate; the language of his joy was universal. His Nana Linda was there.

And when he saw her in the flesh, he turned inside out. I know just how he felt! There is something that creates a deep, satisfied soul-sigh when you get to hug a friend. And when you get to hug four soul-sigh friends all in one day, that's a good day. It might make your eyes a little leaky, but it's a good day.

I'll get my hugs in today, too. Rhonda, Carolyn, Mary, and Linda will be well hugged. So will their dogs. And then, after the dogs have run and run and run I will give some last hugs and I will load up my waggle and we will head home. Mama Pajama will lecture me (through her translator Linda) about how bad it is to lose your pack. She will remember how full her life was when she saw her Sisters, Cousins and Friends, and their Servants Linda and Rhonda at adventures every single weekend. And how nobody had to be left home. And how the extended Pack was always one.

But as we drive back over the mountains, I will be wishing I could fly home to my Bill. And to my Very Old Dog, and silly old Maria, and Fat Charlie, Luciano and Delia.

It seems, no matter where I am, I'm always missing someone. I guess that is a by product of being entirely too fortunate.


Friday, October 19, 2007


[Warning: tonight's entry is distressingly journal-like. I'm too tired to make it into a story. I will probably end up deleting these and making them into one better organized, more fun tale when I get home. Apologies in the mean time.]

This hotel is lovely. The dogs kept checking behind the dresser when we first came in, hoping for more stinky seafood. Thank goodness, they were disappointed. Mama Pajama's breathing looks the smallest bit labored to me tonight. I hope I am seeing things. She is comfortable and resting and wondering where her bedtime snacky is. It is insanely warm and humid here; that front should blow over tonight.

I wish I had remembered my camera. The fall colors in the mountains in eastern Tennessee and southern Virginia were spectacular. And, having grown up in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts, I'm quite the fall foliage snob. But it was the best autumn scenery I've ever witnessed. The trees went from deep green to brilliant golden to fiery orange and crimson. I bought some new windshield wiper blades, and of course the rain immediately stopped. If only I had bought them before my trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin; all that flooding would have been prevented. I'm sorry, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We took a detour to visit my son and to meet his beautiful girlfriend. The young 'uns got to meet their first horse, nose to nose. (Whyyyy did I forget the camera... ?) They thought it was pretty funny in a let's run and spin and woof kind of way.

The new dog food is making them fart. Five fartin' dogs in a van for seventeen hours. Woo-hoo, my sinuses are clear!

I'm being silly. Too tired to write. I apologize for this drivel.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

On The Road

We're on a trip... last minute decision to go after agonizing whether or not to for a month. This story will be uncharacteristically abbreviated, as the computer battery is running low and I left the chord out in the van.

The dogs and I travel quite a bit, as there's not much to do in our part of the world. We used to have a wonderful camper, but we sold it. Then I tried putting a bed and a portable toilet in our van. (More on that later, fear not!) Now this is the first trip trying hotels again. And I'm SURE it's the last.

We left our house at 3:30 in the afternoon, after finishing up the last orders, and mucking out the van, and filling the crates with lots of fresh blankets and chew bones. A rather tearful hug to Bill and Very Old Dog and the others who stayed home; I do detest having to travel without Bill and the Other Dogs. The older I get the more I hate it.

I loaded up the elated Mama Pajama, Sam I Am, Swede William, and Lindy Loo, and drove the eight blocks to dear Heather's house to kidnap Lindy Loo's litter brother, Emmett, as I am wont to do. As soon as I pulled away from the curb at our house it started to pour down rain. Again. We'd been having tornado watches all day. It was ninety degrees with thirty mph winds. Freaky for October.

I kidnapped Emmett and fell down the porch steps leaving Heather's house. Drat. Now I was sopping wet on my bottom. And that last cortisone injection in my shoulder and the two weeks of physical therapy? Undone. But I did not let go of Emmett's leash, good Human! I sat in a puddle in the downpour and contemplated if I were capable of getting up, decided I was, and off we went again.

Then it started to hail.

Eek, this computer battery is going to die. Fast forward: it's 1:15 AM. On the fifth attempt we find a hotel with a supposed non-smoking room, for only $80 plus tax. There is not one single blade of grass anywhere. There is a junk yard dog tied in the lot next to the hotel. (A not so Super 8.) The room smelled just horrid, and I thought maybe it was a smoking room.

Until the dogs found the whole clam, shell and all, behind the dresser. Someone had carry out steamers, and one apparently went overboard. And it was long enough ago to stink.

GROOOOSSSSSSSSS! Gross me out. Gross-o-mundo.

Now if the little dog in the next room would stop barking, I'll get to sleep and decide that this is all hysterically funny.

Six hours of driving down, ten more to go!

Later... I think I'm going to dream of the ocean.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's raining.

The dogs will not go outside to pee or worse in the rain.

They will stand there for hours, as I block their way back into the house, shouting, "Go pee. You are not coming back into this house until you pee." I cannot get them to understand that if they had gone ahead and done their business, they would be out of the rain by now. They stand in the storm and look sad. "Go pee! No one gets in until they pee."

But of course I let them in. Sodden, but full of bladder or worse. I, too, am soaked by now. I waste a little time. Putter on the computer. Think about the Meaning of Life. (Rain can have that effect on a person.) Towel off the old dogs. Watch the rain in the streetlight outside my window.

"Out, dogs! Right now, time for bed, let's go!" The downpour had momentarily lessened to a drizzle.

With decidedly less than their usual enthusiasm, the dogs slink down the stairs behind me, anticipating another drenching. There is no jostling jockeying to be first out. Noses tentatively poke around the doorway to see if it's worth proceeding. One by one they tippy-toe onto the the breezeway, and then, with me poking the reticent butts, they descend the three steps into the potty yard.

BLAM! Here comes the rain again. But I am at the top of the steps standing guard, and bladder-emptying has begun. It's pouring harder than ever. They have all peed.

They slink by me, casting glances of "How could you? We trust you, and you have made us wet. We are disappointed in you."

But, they're dogs. So the instant they are out of the rain and in the house the celebration begins. "Woo-hooooo! We are out of the horrid wetness! We are wet and silly!" As I attempt to dry them off with the big, soft, oversized towels kept handy for just such an occasion, the young 'uns start the Wet Whippet Zoomies. The Old Dogs bark at them. It sounds to my dog-language-challenged ears as though they are encouraging, rather than chastising the folly.

And then, the sweet smelling, rain water soft, whole happy herd ascends the stairs. They get their biscuits, snuggle into their blankets and dream of sunshine and dry, golden fields where they run and run and run.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meet the Whippet Waggle

This photo was taken one year ago today by the incomparable Laurie Erickson. I am so lucky to have her as a good, wonderful, generous friend, and also so fortunate to have Sam I Am's brother Rivet and Lindy Loo's sister Simmer living in her gentle, capable care.

Anywhooooo, here's the waggle for those of you who don't know them:

And my other dear, generous, wonderful friend Rhonda took some lovely photos of Lindy Loo

And Swede William at a show this summer when they were more grown up.

William is saying "Yes, I know I am SOOOOOO handsome! Now please give me the liver!"
They both LOVE to show!

Anyway, that is the group.


There is a mouse in the house.

I am not afraid of mice. I am not. I do, however, have a freakish instinctual reaction to a mouse running amok in my presence. I do the Screaming Mouse Dance.

It is an embarrassing display. I am not by nature a screamer, or even a squealer for that matter. I mean, I've been known to laugh a little too loud, but for the most part I'm fairly reserved. Shy. Quiet. But let a mouse zip by, and I'm suddenly a bobby-socks wearing teenage girl in the presence of Elvis. SHRRREEIK!!!!

That's the history.

So last week as I was typing away in my dark little computer room, Mr. Mouse poked out from under my file cabinet and said hey. Oh, Lord you scared me, I said. Please don't run, I begged, because Bill and the dogs are sound asleep and they won't be if you run. And Mr. Mouse, being a polite fellow, flicked his whiskers a bit in a dignified, sure-whatever-you-say kind of way, and ducked back under the file cabinet. I decided the story I was working on could wait (still haven't finished it) and went immediately to bed.

Mr. Mouse said hi a few more times during the course of the week, in a delightfully stationary fashion, and we became friends. We used to get lots of field mice coming to visit this time of year when the nights got chilly, back at the farm. But though I had expected to see many, this was the very first mouse encounter since moving to this old house in Paducah five years ago. Some old houses in the neighborhood are being rehabbed, and perhaps Mr. Mouse has had to find new digs.

Then, on Thursday night, a friend stopped by. The dogs and I were upstairs. The dogs heard the knocking before I did, and the stampede down the stairs was on. I must grab Very Old Dog's collar as he goes down, as his legs don't always carry out the instructions from his brain, and our stairs are steep and twisting. I looked down to get the right collar. (Oh, yes, I've done that - Very Old Dog is left to his own reduced devices while I mistakenly have a death grip on the perfectly capable but similarly marked Mama Pajama's collar.) Something on the steps caught my eye.

It was Mr. Mouse.

Now. I have nine whippets. Sighthounds. Bred for centuries to chase small furry things, depending on their keen vision to detect moving critters and run them down. And all nine whippets crashed down the stairs, barking their greetings to our visitor, stepping on, over, and next to Mr. Mouse.

And, Mr. Mouse was most definitely not stationary any more.

He was leaping madly to try to get up the stairs, but they were too tall. And now there was bedlam. My voice, aided and abetted by my lungs and mouth, but totally bypassing my brain, started the Moving Mouse Scream.


The poor guest who was knocking on my door was entertaining the possibilty that I had fallen and broken my leg. It's that kind of scream. I managed to open the door between outbursts, or during them, I should say.

"There's a mouse and a squirrel in your house?" My bemused guest was understandably confused.

And then of all the hunters in the house, it was little Lindy Loo, the baby of the family, who finally saw Mr. Mouse. That set off a whole new fit of screaming from the idiot which had taken over my body. "Get it Lindy! Oh no, don't get it. AAAAAAAA! Look! Help her!" But the dogs, having infinitely better manners than their Servant, were welcoming our bewildered friend, who was standing in the foyer wondering what emergency service she should call to come get me. And poor Mr. Mouse was leaping up a step, only to fall down two, and then he would remember that I preferred my mice to be immobile, and he would hunker down and not move a whisker. When he did this, Lindy Loo would lose him, even if she were standing on his tail.
Finally, Fat Charlie saw our little rodent friend. Uh-oh. This was not good news for Mr. Mouse's loved ones. Now I changed my mind. "No, Fat Charlie! Leave it... Ohhh AAAAAAAAA! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Oh NOOO! Oh.. OHHHHH. LOOK OUT HERE IT COMES! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Lindy Loo, Fat Charlie, Luciano, Mama Pajama, Mr. Mouse and I all tumbled down the stairs, and I was in Full Shreiking Mouse Alarm. I imaging people heard me three towns away and headed into their basements, mistaking me for the tornado siren.
Thank goodness, I provided ample distraction for Mr. Mouse who ducked into the coat closet. I immediately returned to my unpossessed self, turned to my guest, and said, "Hi! Shall we go out for a bite to eat? Lovely evening isn't it? How have you been?"

You can't blame me for being fond of Mr. Mouse:

Lindy Loo and Swede William

He looks like family!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Terrible Scare

I spelled gate wrong... but it's a long way from the bedroom down the hall, down the stairs, back under the bedroom out the kitchen door onto the breezeway in this old rambling house.

Thank God for our weird morning routine. (Here it is in my Alone With the Dogs entry.) This morning I came down to the kitchen with the first group, including Very Old Dog, Maria, Fat Charlie and Mama Pajama. They're combined ages equal forty-five years. I opened the door to let them out and instead of heading left to the potty area, they headed right to the yard. It was 6:23, and I am anything but a morning person, but I can tell the difference between right and left, even before coffee. I had baby-gated the breezeway entrance to the yard before bed, so I waited for them to do an about turn and go left. Only they didn't.

Huh, I thought.


So I stepped out on the breezeway and looked to the right. This is what I saw:

My very worst fear.

Someone had opened our gate during the night. I don't know when I realized that my bicycle had been stolen off the breezeway, but Maria and Mama Pajama were on the grass outside of the fence. Peeing. (Thank God also for old bladders.) Mama Pajama was scanning for all she was worth for Stupid City Squirrels in the oak tree across the street. Very Old Dog only made it just to the grass on the left, and Fat Charlie, bless him, either didn't notice that the gate was actually open, or the dear sweet good soul just knew he was not supposed to go out that gate without his lead on.

I ran out (in my tee shirt and undies, I might add) and called the girls. They were still peeing; Mama Pajama was still scanning. As I reached the sidewalk outside of the fence, oh relief thy name is good dogs, they came to me. I swear I could feel the panic drip off me like ice cream from a two-year-old's cone in August when there's not a napkin in sight.

Safely back inside the yard, I thanked my four sterling seniors for all I was worth. I sat on the ground and I blessed them. You are the best dogs in the world. Then one car that drove by honked, and I instinctually waved and in the process I remembered about being in my undies.

What oh what if I let all nine of them out at once? The thought of the consequences literally sickens me. They would have zoomed out that gate one following the next, the young 'uns rendered totally unmindful of any potty needs, would have scattered like turkeys at Thanksgiving, looking for squirrels and the evil kitties that tease them constantly, just outside their fence. They are reliable, if a person is going through their gate and they do not have their leads on, they will not go through. But a wide open gate in predawn haze with squirrel-o-rama going on? Oh my soul I just hate to think.

I will miss my bike, but I've always been terrified that someone would open our gate. And it happened. I went to the hardware store this morning to find some sort of locking system. I'm not ever going to see that nightmare again. And don't think for a moment I don't realize how lucky I am.

Good, good, good girls!


And for all the lovely comments left on The Smile Maker:

Hug your hounds!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Smile Maker

This is Mama Pajama, of Mama Pajama Tells A Story fame. I am but her humble servant, so I do not dare attempt to speak for her. She is amazingly capable of speaking for herself. This talent literally saved her life four and a half years ago. So many of my dear readers know Mama Pajama's story so well that I hate to abuse them by re-telling it here. But if you don't know it, and if you love miracles, you can read it here: . It is just a page on my website, no spam or spyware or evilness, no ads or anything for sale, and it tells the brief story of this amazing little dog.

Mama Pajama is one of those souls who makes everyone she meets feel special. I had a customer call me yesterday, who knows Mama Pajama only through the book and the Internet. But this wonderful customer just NAILED everything about this awe-inspiring sweetheart when she said, "Mama Pajama is a smile maker."

Her disease is in remission enough that I had slowly been weaning down the steroids. I got her down to 2 mg a day and I was excited about the prospect that maybe, just maybe she could stop them altogether. But late last week I saw a new sore starting on her back and that was that. She's back on her regular dose, and there she'll stay, I suppose.

She's had a fun time this week. Because of the Stupid City Squirrels, I've been driving some of the dogs out to the kennel club property to run. Now Mama Pajama and her brother Fat Charlie are ten years old but I took them for some fun. Mama Pajama was grinning from ear to ear. Her Very Good Human Friends Lee and Dee were there and she wagged and smiled and high-fived them a great good morning greeting. The young 'uns went in the fenced area and chased the skunker:

Mama Pajama sat with Miss Lee on her golf cart making smiles all over the place, pretending not to be the least bit interested in the ginormous stinker toy. I put the young 'uns up to catch their breath, and let Fat Charlie have a turn. Mama Pajama jumped down from her golf cart perch to give her brother a happy hump which she loves to do, only to her best beloved Fat Charlie bro. Still no interest in the squawking squeaking skunker, not one bit. Then Fat Charlie needed a breather, so he went back to the van for a little rest up.

Mama Pajama allowed as how she just might enjoy a little look-see in the fenced area where the others had been running and playing, just to see if there was something squishy to roll in or to see if there was any poop to eat. I opened the gate for her and she couldn't stand it any more. She zoomed over to that squawkin' furry skunktoy and bit it up and shook the beejesus out of it and squawked it to death and back. She wagged and spun and jumped and acted just like a young 'un and finally looked up and smiled a mountain full of joy my way.

Mama Pajama. Smile maker. My hero.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Entirely Too Nice Out

... to be inside writing on the computer.
the dogs

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I love my kennel club and day two alone with dogs

working together, enjoying each other's company

When you've been into dogs for a while, I mean when they really start taking up a big chunk of your life and your passion, eventually you become one of the millions of people all around the globe who belong to some sort of a dog club. When you go to a kennel club meeting, and you say I have nine dogs, people don't look at you like you grew an extra nose, they just ask you what kind of dogs they are.

Now, back when I had fourteen horses and was hauling myself and a horse or two to events all over the east coast, if you had sauntered up to me and said, "Hey one day you'll live in Western Kentucky on a corner lot in Paducah and have nine dogs and belong to the Paducah Kennel Club," I would have laughed so hard that I would have woken up from what ever weird dream I was having.

But here I am and here we are and there you go and I belong to the Best Dog Club In The World.

Ok, I spent twenty minutes writing how great the Paducah Kennel Club is, and erased it, and re-wrote it, and ditched it. I can't make it not sound sappy. I added photos and then deleted them and looks like you're just going to have to take my word. The people are the best. We work well together and we laugh and we congratulate each other and I love my kennel club.

the President out mowin' the lovely property

And now Day Two Alone With Dogs

We did ok on our day two without Bill. I got everyone up and out and walked without incident. I walked the last three one at a time. And the little stinkers! One on one, they behave like little angels when faced with vermin of all sorts. Swede William had two squirrels run down a tree right at him, and boy was I ready to do some serious training. Delicious treats in pocket, death grip on his leash, cortisone injections working on my shoulders. I was ready.

I said, I was ready, William! William trotted along, Swedish Mr. Manners. La la la squirrels what squirrels?

And then on Lindy Loo's walk, as I was talking to a neighbor, their cat strolled up just as happy as you please. "He thinks he's a dog," said my neighbor. "She knows he's not," said I, steeling myself for the craziness that would surely begin any second now. "La la la cat what cat?" said Miss Innocence and Light.

Sam I Am got to meet Mr. Turn Off Your Electricity Man. Seems Bill got the payment dates mixed up - again. I am NOT complaining. Bill is willing to pay the bills and if it were up to me we'd be in jail . In fact the very same Mr. Turn Off Your Electricity Man came to visit us the very last time Bill went out of town. But I'm sure it's a coincidence and not a plan on Bill's part. So Sammy and I were just coming around the corner to head off on our walk when we saw Mr. Turn Off Your Electricity Man pounding on the front door. "Hi!" said Sammy. "I remember you; it's great to see you." Now, I personally think that if Sam I Am had been all growlly and horribly rude, Mr. Turn Off Your Electricity Man would have carried out his intentions. But with Sam being so very charming and welcoming? He did not. Which is why I can be telling you this story: I have electricity.

There you have it. Life is good. Delia is stuck like glue to me and I am delighting in her presence. I have electricity. I belong to the world's best kennel club.

It was a glorious day. Come home safe to me, Bill. Have a wonderful time and give everyone an extra hug for me. We're doing fine, but we miss you.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Alone With the Dogs

Delia looking for Her Bill

Bill is going to his umptieth high school reunion. He is driving the fifteen hours to go "home" to the small town in South Jersey where he grew up. To reconnect. He is taking a week to visit daughters and grandchildren and cousins and friends in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania while he's there.

I can't go. I am feeling plenty o'pity for my sorry little self, but there it is.

I just haven't found anyone here whom I would feel comfortable with leaving my nine dogs. Heck, with the absurd number of squirrels populating the sidewalks this autumn, I am not comfortable managing my nine dogs these days. And it's not just the squirrels. It's the steep twisting slippery staircase and the Very Old Dog. It's ancient Maria's delicate tummy. It's the canine "best buddy" status which can so quickly devolve into "get out of my space dog fight" status under times of stress. It's my not being willing to ask anyone to poop scoop after nine dogs, especially if they would be here long enough to have to empty the poop buckets. And I'm watching a dear friend's two dogs this weekend, so we'll actually be eleven.

When we lived at the farm, it was a different story. There were college kids who had grown up on farms who jumped at the opportunity to stay at our house while Bill and I travelled. They took care of the horses and the dogs. It helped that we had about two fenced acres for the dogs, accessible by opening the living room door. And there were no stairs from hell. And no one had to scoop. And, to be fair, none of the dogs were so geriatric and fragile.

So. It's me and the dogs. Of course there are some fun things when Bill's away. I can have cereal every night for dinner! Um. And... Um. Oh, and some sweet friends invited me out one night, to which I am really looking forward. And... Um... OK, so that's all that is fun about when Bill is away. I actually hate it. His poor Delia dog is beyond distraught. I've already had to let her in the studio to show her he's not in there twice and it's only ten-thirty and he didn't leave until eight-thirty and then I walked everyone. And she's on my lap now as I type. (I am a poor substitute for Her Bill, but I'm all there is.)

Getting the dogs out in the morning will be a good aerobic exercise for me. The normal routine is

  • Bill goes down and makes coffee and writes in his journal

  • I carry Very Old Dog down, along with fragile Maria, and Fat Charlie and Mama Pajama

  • Bill opens the kitchen door for them and makes sure Very Old Dog doesn't come back upstairs to find me

  • I go back upstairs and let bossy Delia and Luciano out, following them to the top of the stairs to make sure they go down and don't wait in ambush for the clueless youngsters. Bill calls them from the kitchen and shews them out.

  • I go back to the bedroom and let Sam I Am and the yearlings, Swede William and Lindy Loo out and go downstairs with them.

  • I pick up poop while the dogs hang with Bill.

  • I feed the dogs their breakfast.

  • Bill and I have coffee and discuss the news in the paper and the state of Our World.

  • Bill walks Delia and Luciano while I eat.

  • Bill eats while I walk the rest in twos.

We are a well-oiled machine. You can see how that machine gets its gears grinding wrong when a part goes all missing.

But we'll make do. We'll do great. And we'll all do happy dances when Our Bill gets home. And we'll tell him we were fine and we didn't miss him a bit. And then we'll tell him that was a big lie and we're so much better when we can hug him.

Friday, October 5, 2007


(Taken from Mama Pajama Tells A Story)


Giacomino was my “quiet one”. (Please note accurate, intentional use of past tense.) He is, and has always been the worried one of the bunch, as well. He will get more wrinkles in his forehead than a Shar-pei when things cause him concern.
When he was a little guy, he was SO serious. He was a rescue, and was starved and sick and infected everywhere. Even though he was so young, it took him forever to have fun. The rest of the dogs and I have therapeutic “howls” periodically, as needed. (My first dog of my own was a Siberian Husky who taught me well.) I love to see dogs throw their heads back and make perfect little O’s out of their lips and sing to their wolf-y ancestors. [Note: if, by some quirk of cruel fate, you’ve never tried this, please do. Howling like a wolf, with total abandon, is better than an entire year of psychotherapy, or two quarts of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It is, however, best practiced in the hearing of only lifelong friends, or people who are so intricately bound to you that extricating themselves from the relationship would be both emotionally and financially costly.]
But I digress... During these howls, Giacomino would run from me to dog to dog, looking all worried and more wrinkled than a California Raisin. But he would not sing along - with Mitch, or anyone else. Now I was on a mission: Giacomino would speak.

Fast-forward past six months of training “speak”. One day he could resist no longer, and as the filet mignon dangled in my hand, and I commanded “Sssssss”, he said “arf”. Yay! GOOOOD DOG! Filet mignon all around! Then he said, “Arf”. Then “AARF”. Then “AAARRRFFF, AAARRRRFFFF! “ Then YEEEOOOOWWWWAAAARRRRAAAARRRFFFFEEEEOOOWW rah, rah, whrrrrrrrrr ah-wooo!
He has not shut up in the last twelve years.
So you may want to think twice about enjoying your mute dog. Train him to fetch, sit, come, play dead, anything, but speak.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bed Time

My dogs love bed time.

They lobby for it. Maria - Little Miss Mouth of the South - starts reminding me at least a half an hour early that bed time is coming. I can't say as I blame her, as I have sure been forgetting things lately. I support my nine dogs by making and selling fancy collars. I had an order for a collar and I knew I had enough of that particular trim to make one collar. I looked in the drawer for the trim. Couldn't find it. Huh? I knew I had enough of that trim; I was certain I had just recently had my hands on it. I searched. I tore my little sewing/computer room to shreds. That was when I noticed the package addressed to my customer. With the collar I had already made in it. So you see, you can't blame Maria for thinking she needs to remind me about bed time.

Bed time for the dogs is somewhere between nine and ten. Closer to nine on the nights where I'm home all evening. Maria will be lying on a couch in the TV room, completely snuggled under a lap quilt. I'm typing away on the computer in the next room. It's about eight-thirty, and I hear "rrruhrr" from the lap quilt. "Maria, it's not time yet," I say. Five minutes later the quilt says, "rraaahrrr rrrrr." "Hush, Maria." Four minutes later, the quilt lifts enough to reveal a darling little schnoz and I hear, "Rrahh, rrahr, rooooo." "Stop! It is not time for bed!"

Oh that really works, because "time for bed" are the magic words I say to get the whole gang to jump up and run downstairs and go out. So I've said, "time for bed" and even though it was preceded by "It's not" the contract states that if I say "time for bed" in any context what so ever it is damn well "time for bed." Consequently, eight of the nine dogs are now dancing around my tiny computer/sewing room celebrating the fact that it is, you know what time.

I would like to finish my little typing project, so I pat each one and try to put them off. "Good dogs, wonderful dogs. Oh aren't you lovely? Mmmm, would you like to lie down here on the new bed? Keep me company as I just take a moment to finish? Won't be a second, that's my sweet hearts."

Maria is having none of it. She stands facing me and shouts, "Woof. Woof. Ruff. Rrraahr, rrrrrrrr, rrrrraaah." Tail wagging like crazy, eyes bright as high beams and she's caught me in them. She bounces a little off the ground with every woof. The rest of her pack catch on to the game. They can see that she's wearing me down. Now I've got all eight of the dogs in the little sewing/computer room woofing and trying to jump on me and the two youngest start to wrestle, and I give up.

"Fine," I say. "Fine. Time for bed! Let's go out. Fat Charlie, come on!" You may have noticed that there were only eight dogs in my little room. Fat Charlie is the lone abstainer from the bed time follies. He's already curled up in his crate and he doesn't think he needs to go out, and he'd just the same stay put and wait for the snackie, thank you very much.

Yep, that's why bed time is so popular in this house: the bed time snackie. The dogs all zoom down the steep, twisting stairs and race - literally - to the kitchen door and tumble over the tops of each other to get out first. (There could be a cat or a critter of some kind outside, you never can tell.) Then they try to pee where someone else wants to pee, occasionally peeing on each other, sigh, and then they remember the whole snackie deal and now the race is on to see who can get into the house, up the same steep twisting stairs, down the hall, into our bedroom and into their crate first. And of course if poor Bill happens to be "reading" on our bed... Bill has a peculiar way of reading at night. He lies on his back, with the book face down on his stomach, his eyes closed and his mouth open, emitting a loud, operatic snore. He does a lot of "reading" in the evenings. So if he's "reading" when the dogs zoom up to our room, they are just beyond delighted to find him there, and they leap on his prostrate body (as well as his unfortunate prostate gland once in a while) and he turns a whopper snore into an "oooph" followed invariably by a Very Bad Word or twelve.

I yell, "Dogs, get off of Bill!" and they do and they each jump in their own crate. Except Very Old Dog who inhales his biscuit so he can follow me as I give each of the others their snackies just in case someone drops theirs, or my aim is off. Then he snarfs up an extra snackie for himself and is immensely satisfied at his bonus. I go to each crate after snackies are consumed and cover each dog up with their blanket, except Sam I Am and Delia who prefer to sleep nude. And I kiss every nose and tell each of them that they are ever so wonderful and I am the most fortunate human in the world.

I go back downstairs and get my laptop, and finish my little story in bed, so that Very Old Dog can settle in and not worry about where I am or if I've gotten lost.

Which is why, dear readers, it is nearly midnight and I am finally closing my laptop, kissing my sweet Old Dog on his peaceful forehead, rolling my snoring good husband onto his side, and going, at last to sleep.

Sweet dreams!


Monday, October 1, 2007

The Difference Between Dogs and Humans

Laurie Erickson photo

Dog people already know how much we have in common with our dogs. We do often start to look alike after years together. (Unfortunately, my older whippets are getting fatter, instead of me adopting the sleek svelte form of the younger ones.) But, lordy are there differences.

A dog won't say one thing and mean another. If you offer a dog the last piece of your home made coconut cream pie, there isn't a healthy dog in the world who would say, "Oh, no, really, I want you to have it." All that dog is going to say is "Gulp and thank you. Are you sure there's no more?"

Dogs will still love you when they can't trust you. Amazing. Human love is all about trust, because it is conditional love. But you can treat a dog very badly, you can be as unfair as all get out, you can raise your hand in anger, you can subject a dog to any number of miseries and humiliation and that dog will still love you. He might be cowed and wary, but he will still express unabashed delight at seeing your return. He will still take on your sadness as his own or try to share his joy with you. If allowed he will lick your feet. His devotion will not waver in the least.

This is not to say that a dog won't voice her displeasure at poor human conduct. When I have loaded up the dogs in the van, promising "Let's go for a ride!" only to have them discover that I have brought them to the vet, hooo boy do they let me know I've been a bad servant. They take a whiff of Ol' Poke and Stick's parking lot and they give me looks that could melt a cast iron skillet. But they'll still love me, and they'll still do a happy dance when we find our way home.

Dogs are unfailingly honest. A dog will not smile and wag and then bite you. She will warn you. If you don't understand the Language of Dogs you might miss the warning, but it was there. And if a dog is guilty of an indiscretion, she won't lie about it. If you come home to garbage on the floor, you can just look at your dog and she will smile, and roll around, and say, "Oh, yah, that was me. I got in the garbage. Oh, and look, I ate your shoe, too, see?" Some dogs will even take on a "collective" confession. If one of the puppies has acted as a paper shredder with the Sunday News all over the yard, sweet old Fat Charlie will tell me he is so sorry he didn't prevent it. He apologizes for being their distant relation. And if you set that sandwich unattended on the kitchen counter, Fat Charlie will tell me, whether or not I'm listening, that he will eat it. And he does.

The sense of smell. We humans rely on our eyes and our ears. We communicate with our eyes and words, both of which can lie masterfully. But dogs rely on their noses, first and foremost, so you can't lie to a dog. There is no covering the stink of dishonesty, the crackling odor of fear. The perfume of caring concern, the sweet fragrance of joy. The stench of anger. Now, I've got to tell you that I'm as grateful as can be that we humans can recognize each other by sight and greet with a handshake or a hug; smelling crotches and sniffing butts to see what my friends have been up to does not appeal in the least!

Dogs aren't proud. Please don't confuse being noble with being proud. Dogs can be the noblest creatures, even more so because it isn't all contaminated with pride. No vanity, no need to be right. We get so tangled up in our human need to win, half of the time we lose sight of what we were fighting for. So we make up something else. If a dog fights - not the perverted man made depravity of Michael Vick's ilk - it is for survival. Food, procreation, defending property or pack order, not over hurt feelings or because "she said I have a big butt."

So, let's see. Could I love someone who had treated me unfairly or with malice, someone who betrayed my trust, just as much as I had beforehand? Could I say what I want without concern about what others think? Could I readily admit to transgressions, knowing that there will be consequences? Could I share my joy contagiously, and deny myself any inklings of pride?

Nope. I'm human. But I'm trying to learn from my dogs, and they are constant, generous teachers.