Thursday, January 31, 2008

OK, Old Dog?

You didn't eat your breakfast.

That has never been your way.

You look so tired and troubled,

What's the matter, can you say?

Fourteen years you've been my shadow

Now you're curled up in a knot

Like the one that's in my stomach

And my breath which can't be caught.

I'm not ready for this, Old Dog,

Surely I can't be that brave.

You have always been my courage;

I can't make my heart behave.

I must be calm and comfort you.

Oh God how will I cope?

Though grateful for your life, your soul,

I cannot help but hope

That we can have still one more day,

To sit, warm in the sun.

You nestled in my guarding arms,

Time's dirty work undone.

So sleep tonight, my dear Old Dog.

I'm here, I'll hold you close.

Tomorrow you'll feel better and

We'll chase away the ghosts.

Hug your hounds

More collars

Peanut requested boy collars.

Masculine chevrons:

There be dragons:


Junk food:

I have no explanation for this:

And since it's Valentine's Day:

You can find them HERE.

Here ends the commercial break.

Hug your hounds anyway!

Who's Trained Whom? Hmmmm?

This is going to be a bit hard, because the majority of my dear readers know sweet Mama Pajama so well, she could easily be one of their own. But my new friends from blogland barely know her at all. I don't want to bore the former, nor mystify the latter, so here's the skinny.

Mama Pajama is living proof of miracles. At least to me. She was a brilliant little lure courser, and was actually the number one whippet in the country in AKC lure coursing. She was always one of the smallest, but zoom she would dust the big boys, including her brother Fat Charlie. She got her obedience title (just to humor me) and had a magical way of communicating with her special people.

And she charmed everyone who met her.

Then she got sick. She got a horrible disease, called neutrophilic vasculitis. A wacko reaction by her body to a wasp sting, where she started attacking her own microscopic blood vessels, choking off the oxygen supply to the surrounding tissues. She rotted. Her ears died, and she had deep abcesses in her feet, and she lost a lung. Her kidneys stopped working and we made an appointment to have her put down.

But as clear as a bell, she told me, "Not yet."

And then she got better.

She's been on prednisone for six years. She'll be eleven in June. She appears to be in complete remission, and other than her raggedy ears and some places where her hair never grew back, you couldn't tell she was ever sick. She has had a little problem with bladder control ever since she became ill, though, which has persisted. OK, she leaks like a sieve. She simply doesn't seem to feel when her bladder is full, and will wake up sopping wet, and I do mean sopping.

So I decided to teach her to pee on command. When she would go out, I would say "go pee" and when she did, I'd give her a treat. Often, she would squeeze out a little unnecessary turd and expect a cookie, but no, I held firm. Only pee got treats. It took a long time, but after six months she pretty reliably peed on command, even though she didn't feel any urge. As long as I remembered to get her out in a timely fashion - every couple of hours - I didn't have to wash slip covers and bedding and her.

Yesterday when we went on our walk, Mama Pajama peed and I gave her a treat. It was a particularly good treat. We walked on, and Mama Pajama peed again. That was unusual. We walked another thirty feet and down she squatted. This concerned me. And she continued to strain to pee every ten to thirty paces throughout the walk. I called the vet.

"I think Mama Pajama has a bladder infection," I told them, hoping and praying that it wasn't something much more ominous. "Yes, I can have her there at 2:45 tomorrow. Thank you."

I expected to spend a long and sleepless night, taking Mama Pajama out repeatedly. Giacomino got cystitis once and he had to go out every half hour all night long; it was horrible. But I woke up a couple of times and peered in her crate to make sure she was still breathing, and she was, and she wondered why I was disturbing her rest. I let her out and collected her normal looking pee in the morning, and went about my business with Mama Pajama as happy as a clam. I started to wonder if... Nah.

Mama Pajama was thrilled to go for a ride in the van, but frankly disappointed with my choice of destinations. But she was happy to see her vet tech friend Robin, and polite, if a bit reserved, in greeting Ol' Poke 'n Stick himself. Doc, in contrast, was thrilled to see his little miracle, and went on and on about how great she looks. Before Doc came into the room, I admitted to Robin my silly theory that I might have created a peeing monster, but I said I thought that was pretty far fetched. Robin went out to test the urine I brought.

She came back in smiling. Mama Pajama was still spilling some protein in her urine, but she didn't have any infection. "So, do you think I've trained her to pee every ten feet?"

Robin said, "I think she enjoys you as her own personal Pez Dispenser!" I laughed at that. Robin always makes me laugh.

Doc pronounced her "Great, just great," and I celebrated.

And when we left the clinic, Mama Pajama didn't squat. But I gave her a special treat anyway.

Hug your hounds

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gross Commercialism or How About A Collar?

I FINALLY got some collars made an up on eBay. For years I had a custom collar business, but it got so busy, and I'm trying to get this novel written, so I retired from that. My plan was to put collars on eBay at my convenience, thus earning my keep. But I continued to spent time writing instead of sewing, and there you go.

Now my sweet Bedside Table Occupant (see below if this makes no sense to you) needs to have a lump surgically removed from his gum on Friday (please God let it be a benign thingy) and I got a sudden jolt of I need to pay-the-bill-itis, so woo-hoo it's collars for you!

Here are some samples:

There are a lot more. You can just go to my eBay Store to see them all. If you want something in a larger size, just email me. OK, sorry for the commercial break and thanks for looking.
I still have to post about Sam I Am's fantastic Agility weekend and my Bertha Big Butt Moment, but we have B & B guests arriving this afternoon and don't even try to imagine what the house looks like. YIKES!
hug your hounds
(and come wash my floors??? well, it was a nice idea!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fun Monday and more

I signed up to participate in Fun Monday, though I'm not at all sure how it started, or even how it works. I do know that there is about one hour and thirty-six minutes left of this Monday (at least in America, sorry England and Europe and parts easterner to be tardy) so I'd better get busy posting. I don't want to blow my very first Fun Monday assignment!

So the assignment was given by The Lurchers of London, although I gather the assignment duties shift, but I don't know how, and here it is:

  • For today's Fun Monday, continuing in the spirit of "being interested in people", I would like to know, or see, what's on, in or under your bedside table! So open those draws and bare your soul to us! Is there anything special there that has a story or a memory that you can tell us about? Books that you keep there to delve into from time to time? Trinkets that you don't know where else to put? Let's see!

OK, here goes.

This is my bedside table:
Several months ago, Fat Charlie decided that he did not want to sleep in his crate in our bedroom. The crate was where it had been in the bank of eight crates on the opposite side of the room. He could see me, and he had been happily sleeping there for four years. Having him sleep on the bed with us didn't work out, because our dear Very Old Dog already does. And he is rather frail and there is only so much room.
I moved my bedside table out of the way and put Fat Charlie's crate where it had been, and BINGO! Happy dog.

On the top, on the back left hand corner are two water glasses. One for me (I drink a lot of water, not because I'm being healthy, I just like it) and the wider one is for Very Old Dog. He gets thirsty at night, and he should not jump off the bed by himself. When I hear him rustling, I grab his water and give him a slurp, and he plunks back down to sleep.
Then there's the Ikea lamp, which I inadvertently cut off when I took the photo. There is a Casual Living catalog which I carried up at least a month ago but I haven't thumbed through it yet.
Underneath the catalog are two rough drafts of commentaries I've written for our local NPR station. (National Public Radio) Now, mind you, I finished those commentaries and recorded them in December, and one has already been played, but there lie the rough drafts.

Then you see the medicine for Fat Charlie's owie toe, not put back in its box, of course, and the Clock From Hell. That clock is the meanest, most ornery, cussed piece of electronic devilry ever invented. It says Made In China but I think it was made by some furiously frustrated leftover Evil Spirit which had no other outlet for its Creative Calamity, owing to the fact that no one believed in it any more and that took away all the fun.
So It made this clock, and it visited it upon ... me. You cannot make this clock behave. If you set the alarm for 4 AM it will go off a 2 PM. If you turn the alarm off altogether, the radio comes on at midnight, full blast, on a station to which you have never, ever listened. And the next night the alarm goes boop, boop, BOOP BOOWOOP, BOOWOOP at midnight, and 1 AM, and 3:30 AM and five.

I'm telling you the thing is Evil, and it was made by something Very Bad. I've unplugged it.

You can just get a glimpse of a lovely quilted piece that Bill's daughter Beth made. It is sort of trying to disguise the fact that I have a crate as a bedside table. It's a pretty, if ineffective, disguise. And Mama Pajama's old collar lies next to my reading glasses. It's not good for the neck to try to use trifocals in bed.

And this is what is inside my bedside table, at least from the time Bill comes to bed, until we get up in the morning. (Until Bill comes to bed, the contents of my bedside table warm Bill's side of the bed for him. )

If he looks a bit concerned, or perhaps disconcerted is a better word, it's because I popped him into his crate at 11 AM this morning. An unprecedented event.
They get crated in their downstairs crates at odd times of day quite frequently, if I have an errand to run or such. But I put Fat Charlie to bed before lunch and then snapped photos.
I can barely imagine what he was thinking.

So, that's my first Fun Monday!
Thanks for letting me join in the Fun, even if I almost missed it.
We went to Sam I Am's second ever Agility Trials this weekend. I had planned to tell about it here, but I'm falling asleep, so it shall have to wait.
He was a super wonderful superbly clever fantastic boy, though!
hug your hounds

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dog Angst

How amazingly strange.
The word angst is not in my 1984 Webster's New World Dictionary, nor is it to be found in my 1992 New Webster's Dictionary. (Note to self: maybe it's time for a new dictionary?) On Mirriam-Webster online dictionary, the word is defined as a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity and is said to have appeared circa 1942, a result of Freud's reign.
American Heritage dictionary defines angst as a feeling of anxiety or apprehension often accompanied by depression.
WordNet gives us an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom.
And the Cambridge Dictionaries Online goes a little farther: strong anxiety and unhappiness, especially about personal problems.

So. Do dogs experience angst? We like to think of our carefree companions as experiencing life as it comes, loving the moment and making the wagging best of any situation. After all, they don't have to worry about a mortgage or the rent. Their food appears magically before them, usually on time. Certainly all of you who are reading this have dogs who are warm and safe at night. How could a dog experience philosophical anxiety about the world?

Ha. One look at Delia during the past week and you could have no doubt about the existence of doggy angst. Her world was turned upside down. Her Bill was poorly. No heading out to the studio with him at 8:30 each morning, to lie in her special bed, or on his chair, breathing in the familiar art smells. Sneezy pastel dust, benign acrylics, pungent oil paint, turpentine. No singing along to Johnny Cash or Pavarotti. No standing at the glass front door to the gallery, scanning for squirrels and feral cats, or dogs walking by with their owners to bark at. No treats and loves from Bill's friend and studio-mate, Harvey. And it got worse.

She had to go on her walks with me. Angst, all over her being. Dripping from her like tears from a widow. She would don her coat and leash and then run to Bill's side. Yay! A walk! No, she couldn't leave her Bill. This was so wrong. Deeply, personally, philosophically wrong. Now, Delia is a polite dog. She would wag and wiggle and show the proper exuberance to me for taking her. But she would cast worried glances back at the house, and once the walk had turned itself towards home, her step was just a little more lively, and her pace was quickened.

Visit any veterinarian's waiting room. Doggy angst in spades. Observe the wide eyes, the panting tongues curled in concern. What did those definitions say? Oh, yes, there are feelings of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity thick in the air in the waiting room. There are always some youngsters who don't know better. But keep looking. Look at the face of that boxer and imagine the word bubble above his bugging eyes. "Hello? This was a mistake! We were going on a fun ride in the car, and you got confused and brought me here? Last time you brought me here, you forgot me and they cut off my boy parts! Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?"

And the little rotund dachshund pacing between the the laps of the elderly couple. His lap, her lap, his lap, her lap. Pant, pant, pant. "There is the door. Right there. Out the door, people, out the door! They are going to poke me if we don't leave now. They are going to cut off my toes. There could be blood. Out the door, let's go. OUT. THE. DOOR." This is a dog experiencing strong anxiety and unhappiness, especially about personal problems. Angst.

I think what we humans call Separation Anxiety, a term that appeared only after the practice of long term crating became popular, could fall right into the angst category. Of course crates, used properly, are a great boon to modern dog owners. I have nothing against crates and my dogs happily jump into theirs. But, I wonder about the six month old puppy, whose owner pops him into a crate at seven in the morning and returns at six at night. The puppy goes out to do his business and then goes back in the crate while the owner goes out to dinner. Day after day. An acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom. Angst.

Delia's troubles, I am happy to report, are fading. Her Bill is feeling better. A little studio time with him today will make her walk with me much more tolerable.

And I have a confession to make, dear readers. I am right there with Delia on this one.

Hug your hounds.

And hug your special humans, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hot Hot Hot News!

Holy Cow how cool is this! We are extraordinarily fortunate in our little city to have an amazing Internet Calendar of Events, the brainchild of clever, clever, clever Mary Thorsby with the magic of web designer fantissimo, Nikki May. It's called iList Paducah and it comes out weekly and it's just awesome. (They are the ones who let me do the article about giving puppies for Christmas being a Bad Idea.)

Well, it just got more awesome. They do regular features, like iDine, (hey, Tanner and Joe Stains, it's about wine tasting this week), iLove it, and (drum roll) the iDate of the week. Every week they interview a local single person, from twenty-somethings to eighty-somethings. So why am happily, totally, thoroughly married I so excited about this week's iDate of the week?

BECAUSE THIS WEEK'S iLIST PADUCAH'S iDATE OF THE WEEK IS... (another drum roll, I love drum rolls)...

(with her angels Deb and Merle)

The wonderful Nikki and Mary featured Shelby to help to find her perfect forever home. You can read the interview HERE. And if you all could take just a moment to leave them a comment how great they are for doing this for Shelby on Mary's blog just on any entry, it would mean a lot. (Mary has on occasion admitted to comment envy. We all know how that is. How wonderful if she heard kudos from folks all over for doing this cool thing for Shelby?)

If you haven't read about Shelby (who used to be Elsa) the starving dog found in our neighborhood, you can click HERE.

And thank you dear readers for all your prayers and good wishes.

Hug your hounds.

ADDENDUM: Kudos and thank you to Snoutbeagle, and Cara from Canada, and Dis for leaving a comment on the iList blog! When folks see how many people care about Shelby, that has to be a good thing! I never thought I'd say it, but don't leave a comment here. Please take just a moment to thank Mary and Nikki for helping Shelby HERE.
Thank you thank you thank you!

Monday, January 21, 2008


Here is Delia's story, written two years ago, from my book:

I have always said I could never place one of my adult dogs. I have nothing against folks who do, mind you, but heck, I have a hard enough time placing a puppy. I'm just too selfish. Until Delia.
My husband Bill would not own a dog if he weren’t married to me. When people comment that he must really love dogs, upon realizing that we have eight of them sleeping in our bedroom, Bill loves to reply, “No, I don’t. I love my wife.”

Back when we lived on the farm, the animals were my thing. Bill loved watching me ride. He loved watching the foals in their paddocks and the yearlings playing wild stallion rearing games. He loved singing to Rosie, our rescued abuse case, who used to hide her head in the corner of the stall, and who now rested that same head on his shoulder, eyes closed, as he sang her song.
But my rules were that he never mucked a stall, never cleaned a bucket, never turned the horses out or brought them in. Never fed the cats, or the ducks, or the dogs. They were my responsibility. That was fair.

As the horse numbers dwindled and the whippet numbers grew, the same rules applied. I fed, walked, bathed, trained, cut nails, paid vet bills, and picked up poop. Bill generously shared his couch, lap, bed, affection. And then came the Big Move. To the city.

My husband and I have been married twenty-two, nearly twenty-three years. [Twenty-five, now.] I flat out love him. I love him so much that when he wanted to sell our farm and move to a blighted section of a city fifteen hours away from my friends and my extended whippet family, I said, “Let’s go.” Seems they were recruiting artists to come to this place and rehab the houses and start a community. Bill’s dream come true. The farm had been my dream. It was his turn.
But as doe-eyed in love with him as I am, I am also a realist. I told him I would need help with the dogs if we moved to the city. Nine dogs in a teeny city lot. Nine dogs who were used to a fenced two acres right out their back door, and 450 acres out back. Nine dogs who had their own race track mowed out of the hay field. Nine fit dogs. Nope, I would need help. So Bill started walking with me. Getting to know the dogs a little better. And vice versa.

Well, by now you’re wondering what all this has to do with Delia. Delia was one of my most promising puppies. Stunning to look at and fast to boot. She split the bottom ARX points in her first race meet, and had nice show placements in some puppy Sweepstakes. But she caught a squirrel at the same second that the squirrel got to the tree, which Delia hadn’t noticed in her locked-on-missile-mode. Twenty-four pound Delia at about thirty mph, versus the seventy-five foot beech tree. The tree won.

I called the contractor who was rehabbing the house in the city. “Mark? You know the granite counter tops we planned for the kitchen? Well, one of my dogs collided with a tree… yes, a tree… What? Oh, a squirrel. Well, the dog destroyed her hind leg. What? Yes, I was talking about our granite counter tops. What does that have to do with my dog’s broken leg? Well, everything. See, She just had surgery, by a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon to reconstruct her knee. So, I can’t afford the granite counter tops any more. … Corian? No, can’t go there, either. Did I mention the word ORTHOPOD? The way I figure it, we’ll go with corrugated cardboard covered with heavy duty Reynold’s Wrap. It will be the new, environmentally conscientious thing. Disposable, recyclable counter tops. No, I cannot do Formica! Yup, cardboard! OK. Bye.”

Delia’s days of any sort of competition were over. She was the best patient, and healed beautifully. She had to have some hardware removed a year later because it was working its way out. When we went to chase the lure at the Kennel Club property, we’d muzzle up Delia, and let her kill it without actually chasing it, and she’d wear herself out and smile. Delia is not a complainer.

And so our lives went. Delia happily one of the pack. Getting her share of tummy rubs and ear scratches. Staying behind with her mother Maria and the rest of the retired gang when I took her brother and nephew to dog shows and racing. Greeting me with big smiles and woo-woos and wags and dances when I got back. Never a grumble about her lot.

And then we lost our Queen. My sweet Gracious died. The dogs all stayed on inconspicuous tiptoes for the five days of her illness. (Was it only five days? Everything was in slow mode. Gracious on the couch with her IV bag attached to the wall above her. The rest of the dogs being so respectful, so quietly present, so visibly invisible. Seemed like such a long time.) And afterwards, while Bill and I cried we didn’t notice Delia being the one on his lap more than any other. But she was. In retrospect, she most surely was.

And then I noticed that Delia would frequently sit on the hardwood steps, watching out the window facing the street where we park. I thought she was bored, just looking for interesting sights. And one day while I was upstairs sewing, and the rest of the dogs were draped over the couches and each other in front of the fire, I heard a dog whining downstairs. “Delia! Do you have to go out?” She wagged in relief. But when I let her out, she bounced across the breezeway and scratched at Bill’s studio door. “Are you looking for your mom? Maria is upstairs, silly!” I told her to go pee, and brought her back upstairs.

Humans are slow in the ways of the heart. We rely on clumsy spoken language, with its innuendo, lies, and defense mechanisms. It took me about two weeks to realize what Delia had done. She had fallen in love with Bill. I finally realized one day when she was on her stairway perch looking out the window. She started screaming and flew down the stairs, missing at least half of them. I thought she had seen a cat or a squirrel outside, but no … Bill’s car was pulling up to the curb. What??? “Delia?” I watched her as he came through the door. There it was, clear as day: Excessive Greeting Disorder. I said, “Bill, you have a dog.”

Oh he pooh-poohed the idea completely. He had a million excuses. It’s just because she wants a biscuit. It’s just because he had walked her. It’s just because he had treats in the studio. But I saw her look at him. “Nope,” I said. “That dog is your dog. Plain and simple. I don’t think you have a say in this.”

About a week later, he was sitting in his chair with Delia in his lap. He looked up and his eyes were full of tears. “I’m afraid of the responsibility.”

My husband who had been responsible for literally thousands of people’s very lives over the span of his medical career. My husband who had raised four children to be responsible, wonderful adults. My husband who had been responsible for a hospital as President of the Medical Staff and even now is responsible to our new city as President of the Neighborhood Association. There he sat, tears in his eyes, his “new” dog in his arms, afraid of the immense responsibility that comes with true love.

Delia doesn’t sit on the stairs and wait for him anymore. He puts her little coat and lead on and takes her with him on all his errands. He took her along to Memphis to pick up his new computer. That’s four hours each way. She goes to the studio every day with him. I still feed her, and I tuck her in, and do her toenails and give her the treats.

But with every ounce of her beautiful being, Delia is Bill’s first dog.

©2005 Patience C. Renzulli

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I got a comment on this post which made me happy. (All of your comments make me happy.) Here it is:

  • May I say too that as Star's birthday gift to me, I received your terrific book.... I ordered it through Barnes and Noble so they know people are interested in it.
    I was worried that you are giving away too much on your entries. Not true! I am delighted to find the book is packed full of much more than can be imagined. I'm looking forward to hours of chuckles and tears. Thank you for tempting me into its purchase.
    Hugging my hound,Kathy (and Star the Wonder Dog)

Thank you for your kind words, Kathy! You made my day.

It is cold, for Western Kentucky. Too cold for walks on cement. So I loaded up Fat Charlie, Luciano, Delia, Sam I Am, Swede William, and Lindy Loo and we drove out to the Kennel Club property. I didn't take Very Old Dog, or Maria whose thirteenth birthday is in a few short weeks, or Mama Pajama; it was just too cold. We met our friend Heather (Baby Ben too, but he was sacked out in his toasty car seat with the engine running) and Lindy Loo's brother Emmett and his big adoptive brother, Edgar.

It is strange. The sun is southern strength in Western Kentucky, but the wind comes from Canada. Straight on down that wind blows. Quite frankly, we wish the Canadians would be a little less generous this time of year. We wish they would keep their stinkin' cold old wind. Heather and Edgar and Emmett were all ready out in the fenced area when we arrived, and Heather said, "Oh, P-p-p-patience, it's c-c-cold out here." Only it came out as, "Euh, P-p-p-puhshunse, uht's c-c-c-uhld ewt heeew" because her lips were sort of frozen in place and weren't all that functional. The dogs were running zoomies and hardly even noticed.

I mixed and matched combinations of dogs, so that no one would get their shorts in an uproar and a grand time was had. I had to take off Swede William's and Lindy Loo's coats; they were zipping around so fast, that soon their tongues were hanging out, even without their coats. Fat Charlie chased Sam I Am, who grabbed the squeak toy and played the part of the "bunny". Around and around in dizzying huge circles the two flew. Fat Charlie grinned in disbelief. Used to be the time when no way could Sammy run faster than Fat Charlie. But he did today.

The timing was perfect; as Luciano and Delia were winding down, another club member arrived to use the fenced area. I said, "Hi! My guys are just finishing their run. Your guys will love it!" Only by then, my lips had frozen, so it came out, "Heuy! Meuy geuys ur juhst funshung thuhr run. Yuhr geuys wul luhve ut!"

I moved the van to a spot where the wind was blocked by the Kennel Club building, but it was still smack in the sun. Everyone had gotten their coats back on before getting in. I took Sammy into the building for a little practice in agility. Woo hoo, he was stupendous! For the first time ever, he did the weave poles without looking at me for direction. He put his head down and weaved on his own. This might not sound earth-shattering, but boy oh is it for me! I emptied my pockets of every delectable and proffered them up to him. I took out my squeaky frog and tossed it for him to grab mid air and squeak and zoom. I fell on my knees and thanked All that is Good. I let Sammy zoom through some tunnels and jumps because they are his favorites, and then we went home.

It was while I was picking up the yard at home that I realized how fortunate we are here. OK, there are a bazillion reasons, like Heather, and the Kennel Club, and Betsy who donated the fencing and Dee and her nephew who put it up, and my husband who is the best person in the world. But when I was picking up poop, I noticed that the ground in my yard was frozen like a rock. The very front, where the sun shines all day was soft, but the rest of the yard was like concrete. That's when it dawned on me; the ground wasn't even frozen out at the club. If the ground had been frozen, the dogs could not have run without hurting themselves.

And tonight my Minnesota friend, Laurie, mentioned that it -6 there, going down to -15. Not wind chill, which will be -35, but actual temperature. Yikes. I bet their ground is frozen everywhere. I bet I better stop whining. I am so grateful that we could go and run.

The dogs slept all evening. They all had expansive dreams of running, which proved contagious to the three who stayed home. They knew perfectly well where the others had been, having thoroughly sniffed each returning runner. Maybe the smell of the field would spark their memories. I hoped they were getting tons of running in their dreaming brains. I hoped they were running through warm fields of sunshine.

hug your hounds

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Update on Shelby - you won't believe your eyes!

[If you came here looking for the funny story, click on "For Dog Lovers Only"]
Remember Shelby? (We called her Elsa at first.) She was found in our neighborhood, about (per our wonderful vet) twenty-four to forty-eight hours before she would have starved to death. Our most wonderful and dogless neighbors, Deb and Merle, have taken her in to foster her. The wire fox terriers in Florida, Jake and Just Harry's human Joan kindly asked how Shelby is doing.

Here she was in December:

And here she is last week:

She loves her cuz!

Deb made her a warm coat.

I think Deb and Merle are doing an awesome job. What do you think?

But we still must find Shelby's forever home. Deb and Merle have been beyond kind and generous, and I really want to help them. Ideally, Shelby's forever home would be someone with a huge heart who can help her through her heartworm treatment. Who wants to continue with Shelby's obedience training (she LOVES to learn), and who loves to play ball and Frisbee. Shelby is a big strong girl and her wagging tail can clear a table! Small children probably wouldn't stand a chance.

Any ideas? She is such a great dog.
Hug hour hounds.

Finally Photos!!!

The photos I ordered from Sam I Am's first ever agility trial, way back in October finally came in today's mail. Shall I put may very favorite photo first, or last? Hmmmmm. Best for last I say!

BIG jump!

Looking for what's next

His first ever tire

I love this photo. He hadn't qualified in this clas, but I was SO proud of him! And I love that those are my fellow Paducah Kennel Club members smiling in the background.

And this is the best, which I saved for last. This is why he didn't qualify in this class. He was supposed to lie down on this table, but he had never practiced a down on the pause table. (I mentioned we were totally not ready for this trial.) So I'm telling him "DOWN!" and he's telling me, "YES, I CAN do that same thing with MY paw, see?" Look at that sweet expression!
I love it!
I'm hugging my hounds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For Dog Lovers Only

There are some things that only dog lovers can understand.

Now, that said, I do try to be socially acceptable, for the most part, in non doggy circles as well. I am a total NPR geek, listening during all my waking hours, which helps me to be marginally conversant with people who don't know a dew claw from a stop pad. And on the rare occasion when the television is on, it is usually turned to Antiques Road Show or Bill Moyers or American Masters on PBS. (Except I have this morbid fascination with the Biggest Loser, don't even ask me why, and I do like Law & Order and the Medium, so there's some hope for me.)

Yesterday, as the dear Very Old Dog hinted, Bill had surgery in Nashville. We left the house at 4:37 AM for the 8:00 AM surgery time. The dogs bounded downstairs at O-dark-thirty, in a high state of anticipation because usually an arising at such an hour spells a dog show or field trial and no one wants to be left home. Oh the sad faces when the realization struck that there would be no canine travellers!

Very Old Dog, I believe, could even get politicians and kings to behave with one of his looks of disappointment. (World Leader: "Send the Troops into harm's way to make me more powerful!" Very Old Dog, worry wrinkles in his dear brow: "I'm disappointed in you, World Leader. Perhaps you could work on a diplomatic solution and not make people die and lose their loved ones." World Leader, scratching Very Old Dog behind his ears: "Yes, well, um. Never mind. Let's schedule some peace talks.")

But much to the collective doggy delight, our dear friend and neighbor and wonderful canine artist Karen came to their rescue. And knowing I would be relieved to hear that all was well, she called me on my cell phone.

Want to get some attention in a crowded waiting room at a busy surgicenter of a major teaching hospital? Easy! Just have the following conversation:

Hi! Thanks so much for looking after the kids! I just hated leaving them alone so early. I bet they were happy to see you. Did they scream? What? Maria won't stop whining? Oh, she wants to be tucked in. Yes, there's an extra blanket there to cover her. Still? Did you cover her head? Yes, cover her whole body, head and all, so you can't even see her. She likes to feel like she's suffocating!
William and Lindy and Sammy can play outside for a while. No, don't worry about putting their coats on. [It was a record cold day.] I know, but if they want to stay warm, they can run! Oh and sometimes William pees on Lindy's head. Yup she is always putting her nose where it doesn't belong right at the wrong second. If you see yellow on her face could you wipe it off with a wet paper towel? I'm sorry to ask you to do that, but it gets really stinky if it stays on there.

No, you do NOT have to pick up! That was NOT part of the deal and I can do it when I get home. . No, don't worry about it! If William eats poop it won't be the first time and it won't be the last, just don't let him kiss you goodbye when you leave!

After profusely thanking my generous friend, I flipped my cell phone closed and looked up from my conversation to see every single horrified eye in the room fixed in abject revulsion on my face. Why do I have to give my dogs human names? Why could I not have been discussing "Spot" and "Fluffy"?


I'll post a photo of dear Nurse Delia ministering to her manservant in just a bit. And here it is:


hug your hounds, even the poop eaters

(Fortunately, Delia is not a poop eater!)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Something is Up...

Hello, it's Very Old Dog here. This is me on the right, walking with my Lady Maria so you know who's talking.

My name is Giacomino (phonetically speaking 'Jocko MEEN') or Beans for short.

Something is fishy around here. We think it might be something that the C-A-T did. Or not. Our Servant was sprucing up everything and putting name tags on our downstairs crates. This is usually Good News as it usually foretells of a Trip. I always get to go on the Trips, unless the Senile Servant forgets me. I do worry that she'll forget me.

They've been all preoccupied with Benign Potatoes Hyper Trophies and all they talk about is TUNA, TUNA, TUNA. And the manservant has been uncharacteristically jumpy and worried and they've set the alarm for FOUR AM. The weirdest thing is I heard them talking about going to Nashville for the TUNA. I know they've gotten tuna in Paducah before, because the Servant pours the juice from the can over our food and we LOVE it, so why would they drive two and a half hours each way for TUNA? And leave at O-dark-thirty in the morning?

But the Servant is so Senile and starkers, that nothing would surprise us at this point. In her big rant post she quoted Senator McGovern and called him Senator McCarthy... Woooo weeee talk about fractured fairy tails!!! Luckily a blogger named Nat whose fingers are still connected to his brain pointed out her error, so she fixed it right away on the rant. Of course she had already written her two senators and her representative quoting Senator McCarthy's Washington Post editorial... You should see just how red she can blush, and just how long it stays. Silly Senile Servant! Trying so hard to do the right thing and being so human and fallible! I gave her extra snuggles for that, and Sam I Am did too. but she's human so she's still embarrassed and mad at herself.

The good news is that our really good friend and neighbor Karen came calling today, and the Servant showed her where all our treats and biscuits are. So if they do go on a Trip to Nashville for the TUNA tomorrow, at least Karen knows which crates are whose (I don't have one, I have a BED) and where the treats are.

That's the news from here. The Servants are finally asleep. They won't admit it to each other, but they're both so nervous and upset. Silly things.

Hug your humans-

Very Old Dog


Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Very Different War

While the whippets are at war with a certain kitty, I'm going to post something very personal.

At dinner parties, at the coffee house, and amongst friends I have long been wondering how our current President and Vice President have been operating above the law. Or way below it, depending on one's perspective. I believe that the lingering and deserved embarrassment over the impeachment proceedings against Clinton for having an extra marital affair has prevented this impotent Congress from taking the action that is clearly indicated. This administration has repeatedly broken the law, getting away with torture, murder, and crimes against American citizens. And benefiting financially. Big time.

Please read Senator McGovern's Washington Post editorial. Even if you are the staunchest Republican. Senator McGovern takes the Democrats to task as well, citing "a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians." I wish we could bring about the end of the two party system, because apathetic Americans, needing no excuse not to pay attention, simply support our "team" giving no thought whatsoever as to what our "team" is doing.

In these days of email, it wouldn't even cost us a stamp or an envelope to contact our Senator to let them know how we feel. And while we're at it we can send a copy to our Representative. Because supposedly they are making the big bucks in Washington to represent us. Not corporations or lobbies or special interests. Us. Ha. We are much more interested in American Idol and football and playing with our dogs because our lives are good and we are comfortable.

Things got a little personal this week. My husband lost a friend in Iraq. He wrote about it on his blog. Bill is a wise and generous man. He was deeply hurt by this loss, and his reaction was anger that the burden of this war is only being felt by the military and their families. Those of us who are supporting this war simply by being citizens of this country are not being asked to sacrifice a thing. We bitch when gas goes over $3.00 and we buy $2.00 magnets that say "support the troops." And stand idly by while Halliburton makes record profits. And more profits. And more profits. And we, ordinary Americans who have no involvement in the military, we sacrifice nothing. This is what made my good husband angry.

But, watching my good husband crying over his loss, I got mad. I got mad at the lies. I got mad at the profiteering at the cost of 4000 American lives, and somewhere between 151,000 and 600,000 Iraqi men, women, and children. Men, women, and children who never attacked our country. Who had nothing to do with our World Trade Center. Whose country was not hiding weapons of mass destruction. These were only fabrications which our leadership used, and we know this, and we let them continue, knowing that they lied. Because we're lazy and complacent and because there is no ethical leadership in Washington. And that's fine with us.

Some of us trust this President because he says he's a Christian. A Christian who loved the fun of alcohol and cocaine. Oh that was before he was saved, OK. So after he was saved, he was the Governor who was intimately linked to and benefited hugely from his relationship with Enron. And after he was saved, he personally approved the killing of 152 sinners. Statistics show that 7% of prisoners on death row are there wrongfully. But this saved Christian signed off on the killing of 152 people. Some of them who themselves claimed to have been saved. Some of whom were retarded. I've studied the words of Jesus Christ and nowhere, nowhere can I find where He says to kill the worst sinners among us. Can't find it. And then there are all those innocent civilians in Iraq. Yah. He's a Christian.

So I'm mad that our military, our soldiers who are willing to risk and give their lives to protect this country, who do what they are told, have been used by this evil administration. And I'm mad that our legislators in Washington are such political whores incapable of ethical leadership. I'm mad that we sit and watch our TV's and don't care. And I'm mad at myself for being guiltiest of all.

Today I'm going to write my elected officials. Bill's friend David is still dead. David's father is still without his son, of whom he was so justifiably proud. David's wife is still a widow. David's friend Richard is still in harm's way, mourning the loss of his friend. But today, by God, I am going to write my elected officials.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Corruption at the Highest Level and Not Playing Fair

Very Old Dog: I don't believe it. There is some kind of mistake!

Lady Maria: There simply has to be an explanation.

Luciano: It's the end of the world! I SAW it with my OWN eyes! DoG have mercy on us all ... what will become of us. Are we homeless? We're homeless aren't we. I KNEW one day we'd be HOMELESS. OOH WAIL...!!!!

Fat Charlie: Any food on the counter?

Mama Pajama: Luciano, stop wailing. If she brings one home, we shall chase it and eat it, that's all.

Delia: Whatever. I'm hanging with my manservant, so what. ever.

Sam I Am: Maybe she needs more hugs. Do you think I didn't give her enough hugs and she went crackers? Humans need so many hugs. She's been looking unbalanced lately. I should have given her more hugs. Oh dear, what to do?

Lindy Loo and Swede William: Not it! Not it! Tag you're it! I got the toy, you can't catch me! I'm going to get you!!! ZZZZOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!

Very Old Dog: Here's the story. The Servant got a blog award. She passed it on, and I guess she had some kind of FIT or SEIZURE and gave it to a C-A-T.

Luciano: Arrrrrrgggghhhh! Say it ain't so, Old Dog, say it ain't so.

Mama Pajama: Loochie, dear, get a grip. [Aside to her brother Fat Charlie: I swear, Looch's Kong is totally unstuffed, if you know what I mean.]

Fat Charlie: Yeah, um, do you smell butter? I think I smell butter.

Lady Maria: That fetid feline said some horrible things. Our Servant will ALWAYS be the crazy dog lady, NEVER the crazy C-A-T lady, but... It is the photograph, I just can't get over the photograph. The one on the C-A-T's blog oh I just can't bear it.

Lindy Loo zooming by: Hey LOOK! That's the picture of the Servant and me when I was a teeny pup!

Swede William screeching to a halt: That's not you, Lindy! That's a CAT!!! Woof CAT ALARM!!


Very Old Dog: Ah. I knew there was an explanation. Look closely, my dears. The C-A-T has used black magic and foolery and photoshop on us. It magicked itself into Little Lindy Loo's photo. Pretty clever the way it even got the human's big pointy chin just right. Our Servant may be foolish and a do-gooder and a goody two shoes and several biscuits short of a full box, if you know what I mean, but she would never leave us for a C-A-T!!!

Lady Maria: Ah! Very Old Dog you are right as always! GRRRRRR... I see some kitty stew in our future.

Mama Pajama, eyes on fire: Evil Kitty dares to mess with the Whippets?

Luciano, fanning himself: I think I'm going to faint. This was just too much for me.

Delia: What. EVER.

Fat Charlie, licking his lips: Dang, that was a good stick of butter! Our Servant is so kind to leave things on the counter for me. [His eyes light up.] Kitty STEW??? Counter me in!!!

Lindy Loo zooming by from the other direction: There I am! Wasn't I adorable!!!

Swede William, in hot pursuit: Oh Lindy you are getting more adorable by the minute! Ouch! What did you bite me for? Geez, one butt sniff and blammo! HA! I got the stuffie! Neener neener can't catch me now!

Sam I Am, leaning his head into his human's chest: I never doubted you. Not for a minute.

All: C-A-T we're giving you fair warning.





We got another award from Marvin in Scotland and from Asta, in New York City, though after that last post they may take it back! (But thank you both for being so kind and generous!)

Here are the rules attached to this award:
1. You must write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think. (No fish or bird blogs, they'll just make you hungry)
2. Acknowledge this post.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.
4. Go tell your humans to fork over the treats!
We would like to pass it on to Peanut and Flash whom we think of every day while their dad is in Iraq, Lesley Rigby Tillie's gran who doesn't even have a blog, but leaves nice comments and we can never thank her so we just did, Jake and Just Harry for their masterpiece of an Edgar Allan Paw poem, and Xsara all the way in Slovenia who prove that a beagle can ROCK in agility, and THAT STINKIN C-A-T because he's going to have to think REAL hard about how he's not going to end up as our kitty stew dinner.
hug your hounds

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Rex, 1971

It is raining again today. Not a spritz or drizzle in which you can go about your business with the inconvenience of misted glasses and uncooperative hair. This is yet another steady you-couldn't-possibly-think-of-walking-dogs-in-this-hard-rain kind of day. It is a definite improvement over the tornadoes of Tuesday, but lordy it has rained this miserable winter. Enough.

I enjoyed reading a fellow dog blogger's delightful post about the dogs of her past. (Her blog is The Lurchers. It's wonderful - go have a read.) It inspired me to reminisce about mine. Actually I am so senile that I thought this was a wonderful original idea that just popped into my brain, until I got started and the memory bulb finally lit.

When I was ten, my mother drew me aside and whispered, "Your father has said we may get a dog." This was not "may" as in might possibly, but was "may" as in have permission to. Twice as a young girl I cried tears of joy. This was the second time. I vividly remember standing in our dining room, in my mother's arms, weeping tears too big and too old for my face. After years of wishing, we were going to get a dog.

The next day, when I got home from school, there was Rex. My father had driven to the Baltimore City Pound and looked for a dog who reminded him the most of a childhood dog of his. He had named his childhood dog Napoleon, and had suffered mightily for it in the form of unrelenting teasing from his peers. So our dog would be Rex. Though miffed at the time, I'm now sure it was a kindness. My most precious stuffed animal was named Horsey, my parakeet was Birdie, and our cats had been Stripey and Blackie. Perhaps that explains my current whippets' names: Giacomino, Fat Charlie, Mama Pajama, Swede William. Nowadays, three syllables is the minimum, and the dogs enjoy a wealth of letters to call their own.

My two older sisters were both away at boarding schools, so Rex was my constant companion. We did not have to share each other's attention. He was a marvellous confusion of breeds. About twenty-five pounds of good humor and a serious hunter. Rex would not approach a human without a gift, so he nearly always had a leaf in his mouth. He would proffer it up, and then accept it back, smiling and wagging at this canine form of hand shaking good will. If we were indoors, it would be a napkin or a scrap of paper, but he always had something to give. If he had been out on a hunting jag, his gift usually took the form of a very dead and abused ground hog cadaver, no matter that dragging the thing home was as big an effort as the battle had been. Rex was a generous provider.

About a year after Rex's arrival we had a dinner party. Our neighbor had gone with my father into Baltimore and returned with a bushel of oysters. Much ado was made about the shucking of these oysters, with both men claiming expertise, and both ending up with numerous cuts and gouges in their hands, proving otherwise. Oysters Rockefeller were the first course. Our neighbor's youngest son, Sandy, was my best friend, and sat across the table. He would have preferred to skip this first course entirely, but his parents insisted that he try one oyster. Sandy was an adventurous and slightly mischievous character. But to my surprise, his appetizer plate soon contained only a shell, though he politely declined seconds. (During the bloody preparation of the salty mollusks, Sandy had promised me that no matter what the punishment, he was not letting one of those disgusting blobs of snot pass his lips.) And there was his empty oyster shell, without a word of protest.

After the guests had left I was helping my mother with the kitchen clean up. Rex was marching around, cheering us on, tail and head up, proud as ever of the gift he carried. Because of the Nazi-like enforcement of table manners rules in our house, Rex had never tasted a crumb from a table, nor had he licked a plate. But he was peculiarly intent on sharing this particular gift, and kept trying to interrupt the dish washing. Finally, in exasperation, my mother said, "Patience, see what Rex has this time."

I dried my hands and turned to Rex. "What do you have for me, buddy?"

The normal, expected rules of Rex's giving game were to receive the gift, hold it up and exclaim, "Oh thank you, Rex, this is the best leaf/napkin/rubber band ever. Here you go!" and give it back. I did not play by the rules this time.

I held out my hand and Rex, just bursting with pride gave me his gift.

I screamed and dropped the thing on the kitchen linoleum. What in God's green Earth?

It was Sandy's oyster.

Sandy had surreptitiously passed it off to the dog under cover of tablecloth. Rex had been overwhelmed with gratitude and was overcome with superbia at this unaccustomed blessing. For an hour and a half he had been holding this treasure, thrilled beyond measure. Yet, he was so generous of nature that he gave it without hesitation to me.

The hurt in the dog's eyes, caused by my so inappropriately callous response quickly spread to his whole being. His proud tail drooped, his ears fell, and his head ducked below his knees. I feared that he might just die, right on the spot, his lifeless body landing in a lump on the famous oyster on the kitchen floor.

My mother saved the day. "Oh Rex!" she exclaimed. "What a treasure! What a good dog! Thank you so much!" she cried, her own tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks. She scooped up the scorned shellfish and grabbed a paper doily from the dessert plate to return to Rex. The sweet dog immediately regained his self esteem, and true to his nature he bore me no grudge.

We laughed about that oyster for years. And that night, I let Rex sleep in my bed. It was my only way to apologize, and I would have been severely punished if my father ever found out. But Rex cheerfully let me feel as though no forgiveness was needed.

What a great little dog he was.

Hug your hounds.


Our blogging friends, the Wrigglebutts generously gave us a very sweet award!!

Hmmm. We will pass it on to Graham and Tilly and Joker and Phoebe the lurchers,

both of whom keep wonderful blogs that I think my dear readers would enjoy. Thank you, Wrigglebutts!


It is a banner day! We have received another award from the whippets' dear wirey friend, Koobusssss!

"The award is awarded to 'people whose blog brings you happiness & inspiration and makes you feel happy about Blogland.The 'rules' of this award say we may nominate up to 10 bloggers who make our day." Be sure to notify them.

Thank you Koobuss! We feel happy and are excited that you thought of us! Ten bloggers, huh? OK, here goes:

  1. Bill (he will get all flustered and not know what to do)
  2. Kandinski and Aynex (that's a CAT!! Are you KIDDING???)
  3. Linda and Maisie (to help her broken toe heal faster and she's part whippet)
  4. Bizzy and Furgirl (because it's true)
  5. Jake and Just Harry (and their human who made my day)
  6. Vee and the boys (so you can see her awesome art and Lindy's brother Nearly)
  7. The WriggleButts (because we love her amazing photos and Nimbus)
  8. Gus the wirey boy (who made up a new song every day in December!)
  9. Joe Stains' ma (who shares recipes that are fantastically stupendous) and
  10. Mary T (because I can't figure out my day without her blog and it's her fault I have a blog!)

Monday, January 7, 2008

First Night of Class

Our Kennel Club held the first night of beginner Agility classes tonight. Lindy Loo (lying on top) was in the first class, and her BFF Swede William (Lindy Loo's extra cushion in the photo above) was in the second class. They are both about a year and a half old. Sam I Am went too, as he is entered in a trial in a couple of weeks, and I thought maybe he'd learn by, I don't know, osmosis possibly.

I love watching animals learn. I loved it when I worked with young horses, and I love it with dogs. Our teacher is one of our Kennel Club members and she's patient and kind and explains things well, so neither the dogs nor the humans are having anything but fun. Lindy Loo and Swede William have gotten a little headstart; yet another Kennel Club member took pity on me this fall and graciously has given me some private lessons at her home. I could tell she has started us off on the right feet, because both of the puppies were thrilled tonight to see the equipment.

We think that humans are the only ones who learn by observation, but I don't believe it for a minute. Back when I trained young horses to accept a saddle and rider, I soon realized that it was exponentially easier and less traumatic when the horses had seen other horses be ridden. When youngsters came from broodmare farms where they never had seen a horse under tack, no matter how used to being handled they were, they were much harder to convince that this was a reasonable proposal!

I had messed up training poor Sam I Am the teeter. (In Agility, one of the obstacles is a seesaw. The dog runs up one side, hesitates slightly as he reaches the fulcrum point, and then runs down after the teeter tots.) Sam was afraid. So for two training sessions last year, I stood Sammy next to the teeter while the advanced dogs ran over it. And every time a dog banged the teeter, I gave Sammy a treat. Bang! Treat. Bang! Treat. After watching all those dogs and getting treats just for watching, he stopped being afraid. Now I have to work on slowing him down on the teeter!

In tonight's class there was a beautiful big Doberman. Just a gorgeous dog with a gleaming coat that a Pantene commercial would crave. His handler blatantly adores the dog and is justifiably proud. To introduce the dogs to the A-frame, a pause table that was set at about a foot off the ground was placed on the side almost at the bottom of the A-frame. The dogs were to jump up on the table, and then ease onto the A-frame and creep down to the bottom. Just a few steps. The Doberman thought this was not a clever thing to do with his Monday night. He climbed willingly onto the table, but was intimidated by the pitch of the A-frame. Our instructor wisely didn't want to frighten him, and when he placed just one paw on the obstacle, she had his handler give him a treat, and tell him he was brave, and that was it.

I looked at the Dobe as the other dogs climbed onto the table and down the A-frame. He'd watch, and then glance at his handler. And wag. I could see his brain working. When it was his turn again, he climbed right up on the table and then put one of his big, gentle paws on the A-frame. And with trepidation but without hesitation, there went the next foot and the next and the next and he had his courageous bulk on that steep ramp and there he was with his back feet on and front feet on terra firma and he was getting treats and whoops of praise and he fairly beamed and his human beamed right back and is there anything much cooler on Earth?



It's amazing what dogs will do to please us. Astonishing how much they trust us.

hug your hounds

Saturday, January 5, 2008


[If you came looking for the poem, scroll down to the next post, after you read this important message.]

For over a year I have been working on a novel about a stolen dog, whose owner won't give up searching. Imagine my sadness in discovering that this scenario is playing out in real life in Australia. I cannot fathom the living nightmare this woman is enduring.
Someone, somewhere knows where her dog is.

Please direct everyone to this website:

Hug your hounds extra tight.
And count your blessings. Twice.

Friday, January 4, 2008


What can I say when they just don't get it?
When I'm in front of a room full of people who have never loved a dog, or worse, have a dog tied to a tree out back and think he has a great life?
They look at me like I'm Martian, at best, or silly:
Loving a dog isn't important when people are dying in wars and famine and military coups.
Worrying about whether an old dog's pain is controlled is cliche'.
It's just so beneath them, being important and all.
What can I say?

I say that I see in that old dog's heart the answer to wars and famine and military coups.
I say that if we could learn a simple lesson of forgiveness from that dog tied to their tree, hell, Israel and Palestine would be a piece of cake.
I say that we've got no better example of unconditional love and trusting the untrustworthy, but what do I know?
I know that when people I respect behave badly, when they push and bully,
That I can go watch my dogs run for the sheer joy of it and I couldn't care less.

What do I know.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy times (from the Novel)

[This is when Hope and her litter brother were growing up. Enjoy! I you want to read all of the excerpts from my novel-in-progress, simply click on the "novel excerpt" label at the bottom of this story.]

Hope loved everything about her farm. She loved the smell of the horses. She loved to devil the barn cats, and couldn’t understand why the Woman didn’t see them as Vermin. She loved the sun, oh how she loved the sun. She loved to bake in it in the summer, and to worship its hidden warmth in the fall. She and her brother Proper would hunker down together in a pile of leaves and let that autumn sun reach through and warm their souls. They shared their heat, as was their nature, and took turns sleeping and feigning sleep. She loved the pretending best. Watching through one seemingly closed eye. When a squirrel would carelessly scan and miss them entirely and twitch his evil tempting tail and chatter his insults, she would move nothing; just change the pattern of her breathing. She would feel Proper’s heart race next to her, but he wouldn’t move as much as a whisker. Wait. Wait. The pounding of their two hearts was deafening, pumping oxygen like bullets, getting ready. Wait. She felt Proper shift just a fraction. Wait.

And then the leaves exploded. She would beat her bigger brother, though she saw nothing at all but the idiot squirrel. Got it. And now the Woman was out in the yard, yelling and stumping along and the idiot squirrel was dead and it was hers, but her brother thought it was his, and what was the silly Woman doing? Arrgh, that moment she took her mind off the carcass, Proper got it and took off, and the silly Woman was stumping around the yard after Proper and the idiot dead squirrel, and so was she. She was just inches away from grabbing it out of her brother’s jaws, only he turned just then, well, he learned that trick from her, now didn’t he? And the silly Woman was panting like a bellowing bull, and screaming “Leave it! Drop it!” As if Proper would. And life was so grand.

After Proper chomped down the idiot squirrel’s head, he stopped playing Dodge the Human and allowed the Woman to have the rest of the carcass. She retched and gagged and took the thing by the very tip of its tail and threw it over the fence. Humans were so wasteful. Why disgrace the idiot squirrel by letting the good parts rot? It should be eaten, and rolled in as perfume, and then let the flies get what’s left. She noticed that the Woman was still huffing and was all red and sweaty, so she thought she should see if she were all right. She trotted over, wagging. The Woman took them inside and cared for their wounds in her odd, clumsy way, by putting some cold bubbly liquid out of a bottle on them. This she followed with an ointment, smelling unnatural and medicinal that at least they could lick off. The Woman asked Proper please not to throw up the idiot squirrel’s head on the living room rug. Perfect example of the Human’s lack of understanding. What did she want? If the idiot squirrel’s brain was full of sickness, did she want Proper to absorb the sickness? Humans!

There were lots of days of chasing squirrels. When Hope and Proper went on the walks with the Woman and the elders in the Big Back Fields, they were attached to the Woman so she didn’t get left behind and lost. The Woman would release an elder from the obligation and they would run and tease the rest of the pack. Hope’s sire was especially good at finding deer, fox, rabbits and those vile groundhogs. When they would hear the Sire sound the hunting alarm, they would all try their best to help the Woman run to catch up. Whippets can go from zero to thirty in less time than you could say “OOF” so more often than not, the Woman would end up on her belly, and a couple of them used to get to go off and help the Sire. With the attachments still around their necks and dragging behind them, though no longer in the Woman’s hands, they could not be as helpful as they would like, but they tried. If it was a deer, they would turn the deer to come back to the pack. Usually by then, the Woman was just getting up and assessing her bumps and bruises. The sight of a big old buck, heading right toward them, with their Sire and pack mates on its flagging white tail, would cause the pack to try with all their might to help the Woman run towards the deer, and down she’d go again on her slow, useless Human belly.

The Pack thought that by repeating this scenario on every possible opportunity, the Woman would either learn to run faster, or would relieve them of their obligation to her, at least for the walks. But Humans just don’t learn, and so off they’d go, morning, noon and evening, tethered to the Woman, with only one or occasionally two at a time running free.

Hope loved more than anything when it was her time to run. The Woman was at least smart enough to pair her with the Queen or her Sire. So many lessons to learn! The first time she was let free out back, she was running hell bent for leather, when suddenly pie-yow there was an explosion and Hope was turning head over heels in the hay field. She looked up, once she stopped seeing stars, to see her Sire grinning down at her. He had intentionally crashed into her, sending her ass over tin cups. “Watch out. Respect your elders. Pay attention.” But Hope was very young, and full of run, and finally free of the tethered Woman, and she took off just as fast as her spirit could fly, in big silly looping butt-tucked circles. Another explosion sent her tumbling, and this time when she finally stopped, her Sire had her gently by her throat, his tail wagging and his eyes shining. “Watch out. Respect your elders. Pay attention.” He held her still, on her back for a moment, with his jaws as strong as his character and as gentle as his soul. When he let her up, Hope trotted off, looked around, and carefully started running. But having no desire to be a doggy bowling pin yet again, when she heard her Sire thundering up behind her, she ducked down and hugged the ground. Her Sire jumped clear over her and looked over his shoulder, daring her to run with him. They ran in big circles, grinning around their tongues, and any time her Sire would look at her, she would crouch and wait until he dared her to run with him again.

When she was completely out of breath, she trotted back to the Pack and the Woman, and sides just a-heaving, gladly accepted the Woman’s tether. The Woman carried a squirt bottle of water, which Hope gratefully gulped. Then she strained at her tether as Proper got to run with the Queen. When Hope saw the Queen bearing down on him she barked an excited little warning, but Proper was all about running and then boom it was all over as the Queen sent him sprawling. “Watch out. Respect your elders. Pay attention.” It took four explosions for Proper to learn, but sure enough, he did. It was a lesson that served them all their lives; no matter how fast they were going, they stayed aware of their surroundings. They honed their peripheral senses.