Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's raining, it's pouring, Mama Pajama isn't snoring!

When you look at the photo above you see a two-year-old smiling Mama Pajama, covered in mud, running. 

This morning if I had somehow been able to video her in the dark, in the pouring rain, you would pretty much have seen the same thing. She hasn't done a zoomie in weeks. First we had the bitter cold and ice forever. Then she did an accidental splits with her hind legs on the hard wood floor, which made her yelp, made me cry, and left her spooked. 

Today it is balmy. In true Western Kentucky style, the winter solstice (hooray for days getting longer and lighter and inching towards Spring!) dawns warm, muggy, and sodden. Mama Pajama was never a fan of damp in her youth, hence my delight with her grin captured in the photo; when a lure was involved, she noticed nothing else. In her dotage, she has become unawares. She stands in a deluge, la la la, and I put on my shoes to retrieve her. Come on sweetheart, you are getting rained on. Time for dinner, or breakfast, or bed.

Mama Pajama had attempted one zoomie, before the splits, when the yard was covered in ice, and she smacked into the fence on her first spin. Want your heart to shatter like your very most precious Christmas ornament dropped in slow motion from the top branch? Have your very most precious sixteen year old dog smack her head into the fence mid-spin and then turn her unbelieving eyes to yours and ask, "Why did you do that to me? I was only having a bit of fun."

Damned stupid fucking ice.

But yay for today! This morning, the ice has finally surrendered, and my old dog is back to trusting her hind legs. Yay for the pouring rain and mud and muck! Mama Pajama leapt off the breezeway and splashed in her crazy reigning horse spins, around and around, this way and that, running willy-nilly with eyes blazing. She stopped, still in butt-up play bow pose, and smiled at me. And this was no drizzle! Thunder lightning downpour. She came into the kitchen with mud all up her four legs, splashed on her underbelly, and even splattered on her back and her face.

Merry Christmas to me!

Happy solstice to you!

Hug your hounds...


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving With A Silly Bill

I've been trying to get a video of sixteen year old Mama Pajama interacting with the rest of her pack, without much success. When she sees me pointing the phone or the iPad at her - realizing that it will steal her soul or eat her biscuits or do something equally heinous in dog-think - she gives me a righteous stink eye and departs. Pronto.

She had a mighty perky day yesterday. In fact, this blog post might not have come to fruition, what with how the morning started and my near death experience, and all.

You see, Mama Pajama woke up in fine fettle yesterday morning. So much so that she started her zoomies when her feet first hit the floor. This was amusing and delightful to my sleepcracked brain; she sparkled and spun and did wobbly leapies at 5:30 AM, and my heart went right along with her. 

Until she bounded ahead of me down the hall. Toward the Stairs of Satan. Twisting narrow hardwood eleven-foot uneven opportunities for neck-breaking disaster. Slo-mo sleep addled me with some lonely synapse firing, "Danger Will Smith, or old dog, or whatever precious being is careening towards the brink!"


I grabbed her by her skinny, bald tail as she hurled her fragile bones over the precipice. Gack.

When I got home from work in the evening Mama Pajama was still having a good day. I thought I would try to get a video - yet again. I want to share how she boinks the younger dogs; how she bows at them and pounces in fun. How they respond so gently to her, even the wild ones. I want to let you smile with your heart the way I do. So I tried again.

I don't have to say one more word about what I'm grateful for on this Thanksgiving morning, do I?

hug your hounds and your silly humans and Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mama Pajama's Eyes

Yesterday I shared an old post about what I see in my old dog's eyes, and I promised I would write about Mama Pajama's eyes today. I've never had a dog as old as Mama Pajama; she is sixteen years and five months. She and her brother, Fat Charlie, were Very Old Souls even when they wore very young bodies. Mama Pajama's eyes carry stories of centuries.

 I think she is around nine or ten weeks old in this photo - taken by Rhonda Gold, maybe.   She looks quite serious, doesn't she? She had a solemn, pensive quality from her earliest moments. She seemed to know things.  She had stories to tell. 

In this photo she is twelve weeks old. She was promised to a home who couldn't take her until she was six months old. She was going to be a hearing dog. It didn't work out - on the other end - and I think she is telling Bill that we were being foolish humans; that she would be with us for life. She knew better than we did. She's always known better. I was trying not to become too attached to her at this point. How ridiculous was that? I thought she was going to leave me and I couldn't bear it.

The pack: Gracious, Caruso, Mama Pajama, Giacomino, Fat Charlie, Maria. All gone now, except Mama Pajama. 

I don't want to give the impression that Mama Pajama was dour or humorless. Far from it! One of her first nicknames, one that sticks to this day, was Bright Eyes. Her eyes sparkled with fun. She and Fat Charlie spent hours playing chase, dodge, bob and weave in our big old yard at the farm. That yard was two acres of fenced frenzy. Squirrels and leaves and room for a whippet to get up to full speed. Plenty of sun and shade for a perfect lay-down in the grass with one eye scanning for witless squirrels who weren't paying attention. Mama Pajama always paid attention. 

She is around nine months old in this picture and she is giving the lure a piece of her mind. This dog loved to run. She's a small whippet. At her heaviest she was twenty-five pounds. 

She ran against bigger whippets and she beat them. Look at her smile. Look at her go!

She ran against Irish Wolfhounds and Borzoi, she ran against Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Salukis, she ran against Scottish Deerhounds and Afghans and she beat them all.

I know there are other dogs who love to run as much as Mama Pajama did, but I don't believe there has ever been a soul who loved to run more. 

I have never laughed more while training a dog for obedience competition. She got her title in three trials, wagging and smiling every step of the way. Doing her trademark leap into my arms when we left the ring, and right along her shining eyes telling me I had done a good job. I don't remember teaching Mama Pajama. She just knew.
The photo below was actually after she got sick. It was a leapie for old times' sake. You can see it in her eyes.

When Mama Pajama got sick, her eyes told a story I didn't want to hear. 

At first, in the face of her god-awful disease, her eyes were pure courage, while her ears rotted off and abscesses formed in her feet. 

 As she got sicker her eyes changed. She could not comprehend her world - what her world had become. She was tired. My brave little dog was frightened. If any of her pack bumped into her she screamed in pain. She went off by herself. She stopped looking at me. 

She stopped trusting.

She stopped having fun.

I thought she was going to leave me and I couldn't bear it. But she didn't leave me. She beat that damned disease. She went into remission - physically. Because for years, after her body was healed, her mind and spirit weren't.  I don't have photos of this time that I am willing to share. She was afraid of everything. She was afraid to run. My throat closes and burns like fire as I write these words: she was afraid of me. 

My little brave Bright Eyes was afraid of me.

I thought she had left me and I couldn't bear it.

I don't know what miracle brought her back to me. I had told Ol' Poke and Stick* that I had some serious thinking to do. That I didn't know what quality there was to Mama Pajama's life. That I couldn't find a drop of joy. That maybe it was time. "No," said the man who had saved her life, "No, Patience. She's still eating, isn't she?" Yes. "No," he said. "You don't need to be thinking like that now. You don't need to be thinking like that."

It wasn't long, maybe only a day or two after that conversation that Mama Pajama started to wag her tail again. Once in a while she would smile at me. She started sniffing Fat Charlie and she would greet him with a play bow! Oh my heart!

One day when she went out in the little city yard to pee, out of the blue she did something she'd never done before. She channeled her half-sister Willow and did backwards spins, like a reining horse. I laughed like a four-year-old child on Christmas morning. I blinked my eyes; surely they were playing a trick on me. Her eyes sparkled and danced faster than her feet! She spun until she was dizzy. Her one remaining lung sucked great gulps of air through an enormous open-mouthed grin. That tail of hers, bald now, wagged just like it had all those years ago.

Can you blame me for sounding like a silly old fool? Can you blame me after all of those years?

She rejoined the pack. She adores her youngest great grand niece, Tindra the wild. She plays with Tindra and Jabber.

At sixteen, Mama Pajama's eyes are cloudy. When we all go to bed, Mama cries. She never cried. Not when she was dying. Not when she sat in her crate in the van when it wasn't her turn to run, and I had forgotten to close her crate door, and she waited with the door wide open until I picked up her slip lead. Then she exploded out of her crate, but she didn't cry.

When she cries at night now - such a strange sound - I get up and I love on her. I massage her neck and her bony shoulders. She quiets, until I've gotten back in bed and am nearly asleep. (We still can't convince her to sleep in our bed; God knows we've tried.) She cries again. I get up and offer her a drink. Ah that was it; she was thirsty. I tickle her tummy and kiss her nose and this time we all fall asleep.

I am the luckiest servant alive. I have my little dog back. Those eyes. They don't see much any more but they sparkle again. I see my little Old Soul. I see her courage, her fun, her spunk, her fire. I see her brother and her uncle and her father, her sister and her mother. I see my friends and my past and my future in my little dog's eyes. I probably am just a silly old fool, but that's okay.

 hug your hounds

Saturday, November 2, 2013


On the first of November in 1991 my first whippet was born. At the time neither she nor I had the slightest inkling that we would meet and that she would change my life rather dramatically; or maybe she knew. Dogs do know things.

I got Gracious when she was six months old. I was her fifth home. After she had been with me for three months, I went to visit a faraway friend for a week. When I returned, Gracious was nearly bald. Her hair had fallen out. I promised her I wouldn't leave her again. And I didn't.

Gracious had the best memory of any dog - or human for that matter - I've ever encountered. I nearly lost her at a dog event when she saw Lesley Potts. I didn't know Lesley. Gracious had lived with Lesley for a few weeks when she was an eleven week old pup. She was eight months old at the time, and she saw her old friend and bolted to greet her, nearly pulling her lead from my hand. I learned to hold on to Gracious's lead extra tight whenever we were somewhere that Lesley might be.

Then there was Linda. All of my dogs adored Linda. Well, so do I! Gracious bestowed her highest honor upon Linda: she gave my dearest friend her one and only puppy, Willow. There was absolutely no question of her gift, or of her pleasure and satisfaction at Linda's acceptance.

Throughout Willow's life, at least once a week Linda would drive the hour to our farm to visit and walk, and Gracious and Willow would revel in the fantastic-ness of their reunion. Gracious would greet her daughter, and thank Linda and share her glee. Light would shine in our farmhouse kitchen. It was a delicious contagion; a warm smile erupts even now as I remember.

Gracious got me started with my appreciation of European whippets. Her dad was the ultra-traveled, highly successful Kiwi: AM, DK, FR, Int CH Beautiful Dreamer du Sac à Malices. I think he even went to Japan an got his championship there, as well. 

Gracious got me started. She got me started showing. Got me started lure coursing and racing. Got me started in obedience and agility. The fun, the joy, the friendships, the joy, the addiction, the joy, the commitment, the joy, all of that love, and all of that joy

Top photo by me, middle photo by Laurie Erickson, bottom photo by Steve Surfman.

hug your hounds and hold your memories close

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sucky day I laugh at you hahahahahahahahaha. Be gone.

Mama Pajama hadn't done her trademark morning spinzoomies in a week. This was not unheard of, but troubling. She had left some food in her bowl on a few occasions, and a couple of times she couldn't make the stairs and had to be carried. Today, the 29th of September, she is sixteen years and three months old, so none of this is surprising. But.

Yesterday morning, I could tell from the way she bounced and wagged from our bedroom to the kitchen door this was going to be a zoomie day, and I was ready, iPad in hand.

She outdid herself!

We came in (juggling the breedable Tindra with the Boys with Balls - her father and brother - so we would have NONE OF THAT), fed everyone their breakfast, gave Tindra a chewie in her protected castle tower, and sat down to my own. (Breakfast, not chewie.) I went to upload my treasure to YouTube. (Have I lost you? I need more coffee. I'm back to the video of Mama Pajama  doing her zoomies.) (And this is probably enough parentheses for one post.) (Already.) I pushed the 'upload to YouTube' button.





Crash, crash, crash. I hadn't had but a sip of coffee at that point and the Boys with Balls were singing, as they had been since about 5:00 AM, addling my two functioning brain cells further, so I repeated the futile behavior about 1,738 times with, surprisingly, the exact same results. Crash. And then I surmised the problem.

iOS 7. The dirty little bastard. Dammit!

If you haven't downloaded it, friends: don't. Enough on that. You can thank me later. Nothing works, what does work takes ten times longer, and it's oh so frustrating.

Since Wednesday Paducah has been hosting BBQ on the River. Six blocks from our house, according to the official website, "50 plus BBQ teams from Western Kentucky and beyond cook up over 60 tons of meat" slowly over hickory. I told Laurie it was 150. Close. Our normal walking route is crowded with 200,000 - guessing, probably more - people who come to 'pig' out. So I thought, "This day started sucky, and I'm going to change that. I shall go for a lovely walk, two actually, now while the streets are empty, and the sidewalks are all ours. That will lessen the frustrations of the Boys with Balls and I will get over my frustration with iOS7. The dirty little bastard."

The first walk was Sam I Am, Lindy Loo, and Horny Butt, I mean darling Tindra. It's a shorter walk because Sammy is eleven and has an old back injury. Strange how many cars were in the neighborhood already. And people, very strange. It wasn't even 8:00 AM yet. I put the first three back and got the howling Boys with Balls. Their walk is two miles, so it's a much broader circle. I saw the cones. Then my friend Heather pulled up. "Hi Heather!!! Whatcha doing?" "Signing up the kids for the race." "Race?" "Yes, there's a 10K and a 5K and a 1K or 1/2 K later on for the kids." "Oh."

So, I got to visit with my friend Heather, which is always a good thing, but instead of dealing with 200,000 people with greasy fingers, we dealt with 500,000 people running at us, up behind us, zooming by us. It all started two blocks from our house. So much for a peaceful morning walk. So much for my big idea.

I will skip the three hours I assassinated trying to design an ad for the dogs. That is normally a rewarding activity for me. It was not. In fact, I was a foolish old woman crying to my computer, trashing every futile attempt, thinking well, that's three hours of my life I'll never get back and I still don't have an ad.

I am the luckiest woman on Earth for a bazillion reasons. One of those is that when  Horny Butt, I mean darling Tindra gets to the point in her season where the Boys with Balls start panting, shaking, and throwing up, Saints Lee and Dee let her come live with them. This is a love/hate situation for me. I LOVE that they are generous enough to do this, thus preserving everyone's sanity and my marriage. I HATE having to send away my puppy who is not a puppy but is two years old, though since she is the youngest dog in the house, she is my puppy. I cry.

So, I thought, "I'll do a happy thing." Some amazingly generous souls had recently given me a gift certificate for a new iPhone. I got my last one for a buck at the AT&T store because it was so outdated. I thought, "I'll go to the AT&T store and get my new, fancy iPhone and shew this sucky day to oblivion. Then I'll come home and do the 43 loads of laundry, and zip through the 21 hours of continuing ed I need to complete by the end of October to keep my nurse's license." Which just might be the thing weighing the most heavily on my head, making the day sucky no matter what.

I bounced into the AT&T store. Odd. There were people sitting in groups of three at tables as though it were a coffeehouse. A check-in man at a podium at the front of the store spoke to another man. They both went out of their way to ignore me. I circled them, much the way the Boys with Balls have been circling  Horny Butt, I mean darling Tindra's crate for the past two weeks. I may have even kicked imaginary dirt, such was my excitement.

After a good five minutes of ignored circling I said, "Excuse me. I'm sorry to interrupt. I'd like to purchase the new iPhone!" I knew the check-in-man would be tickled: a customer! And for a new model, not the $1 variety.

Without remotely turning in my direction, or acknowledging my meager existence, the check-in-man said to his ear piece, "There's at least an hour wait."

I looked around to see to whom he could be speaking. I tried again. "Excuse me, sir. I'd like to purchase a new iPhone!"

This time he made eye contact. "An hour. Or more."

Which is why I'm writing this from Jail. I feel bad for the cleaning people at the AT&T store, though the new enzyme products get blood out of carpet pretty well.  I don't have a new iPhone. I think Bill has started on our laundry. And I won't need to complete those pesky 21 hours of CEUs if I'm incarcerated, now will I?

It's a whole new day!

hug your hounds

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walking Nekkid?

I have been walking for so many years like this:

That if I have to walk anywhere without my dogs, I feel as though I'm walking like this:

Hug your hounds, fully clothed please and thank you!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Life With A Sixteen Year Old Dog

Here is Mama Pajama this morning. We celebrated her sixteenth birthday in June. She was born on June 29, 1997 into my hands, so we are not guessing her age. Her sister, Jessie, is also thriving in Baltimore and loved by her Linda. We lost their brother Fat Charlie just this spring. Good genes.

Those of you who have shared your world with a Very Old Dog will understand. You'll nod and your heart might feel a bit full and for a moment you'll have to think about breathing. In. Out now. In again. Okay.

It's that juxtaposition of one moment you're staring hard: oh please! Are you still with me? And you see your old dog's ribs moving and yes everything is fine. You go back to getting dressed, or doing the laundry. And the next moment your old dog is looking at you through her cloudy eyes and wagging her tail. She smiles at you, which makes her sneeze. You laugh. You scratch her neck and she's not sixteen, she's just your dog like she has been for sixteen years. More than half of your thirty year marriage. Feels like she's been with you forever.

Mama Pajama is particular. She always has been, in her quiet little way. She will not sleep in our bed. Will not. We have seven crates in our bedroom. Mama Pajama's "crate" is the first soft-side (mesh) I ever bought, back in the '90s. The zipper broke somewhere around 2001, so the flap stays open 24/7. She has always been an upper-berth-er. No bottom crates for her. Which means she still jumps in and out of her crate. Which means I try to help her every single time and every single time she sees my approach, gets a stubborn look on her face, jumps in or out by herself, and then turns around and tells me told you so.

We have - mostly - come to an agreement concerning stairs. She agrees to wait for me, unless she is absolutely positive she doesn't need my help, in which case she launches herself willy-nilly and I have a heart attack every single time.

There are more agreements. I give her a nightly all-over massage. She gives me one kiss at some point during said massage. I stick to her schedule. You can't have a Very Old Dog without sticking to their schedule. And even though I stick to her schedule like it's Velcro and I'm dog bed fluff, I understand there will be Accidents and the Accidents are All My Fault. You have the immense privilege of a Very Old Dog in your life? You pay for that privilege with clean up. That's the deal and it's a great good deal.

 I feed her her very favorite food, until she decides it's poison, then I find her new very favorite food, and feed her that. She holds up her end of the bargain by licking her bowl of Grape-Nuts and goat milk, or boiled meat and oatmeal bread with the sugar snap peas cut up into indiscernible bits shiny clean. Woo-weeee now that is some happiness: the shiny clean bowl of a sixteen year old dog!

Sometimes, because I am only human, I do not live up to an agreement. Last week I forgot to turn on my bedside lamp in the evening. We were watching TV in the other room and I thought, "Crap! I forgot to turn on a light for Mama Pajama." I spilled all the dogs who were using me for extra cushions and ran in to our dark room and flicked on the light. I found Mama Pajama facing the back of her crate, staring hard with her filmy eyes and special ears at the wall, wondering why on earth I had shut her in. "Oh honey, I'm sorry!" I told her. "Here!" I clapped my hands. "Here! You're not closed in, you're just backwards, sweetheart!" Because she is not only human, she forgave me.

She has forgiven me for so much in 16 plus years. Only dogs and God are capable of that. All the nail dremelings, tooth scalings, late dinners. The getting left behinds, that whole nightmare of her illness, the accidental toes stepped on, the empty water dishes. I mean really, as you know, it's infinite.

But after all of that, with all of my disappointing shortcomings, she is here, welcoming me home.

And I am the luckiest person on earth.

Hug your hounds...