A SERIOUS TALK WITH BONNIE

 I feel this is a perfect opportunity to air a grievance still fresh in my mind.

Although we are indulgent dog parents, we don’t sleep with dogs. They outnumber us two to one and the bed isn’t all that big.  Moreover, they hang with us on the loveseat in the living room and in the offices from morning till we toddle off to bed in the wee hours. The bed is ours. Ours alone. I refuse to feel guilty about it. Okay, a little guilty, but only a bit. We have enough trouble getting comfortable without trying to maneuver around you dogs.

Not to mention the dirt and fur that inevitably accompanies our beloved beasts. We have a gate across the hallway. We close it at night when we go to bed, confining our poor, oppressed pets to the living room, kitchen and of course the yard via the doggy door. For the 5 or 6 hours during which I try to catch some Zs, it’s No Dogs Allowed. You guys — yes, I mean you, my black-furred miscreant — know this is our time alone. You know perfectly well that when the gate is closed, it’s “give them a rest” time.

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Except last night, Bonnie, you didn’t feel like sleeping and proceeded to fling yourself at the gate. The whole house shook. I’m surprised you didn’t knock it right off its hinges. The howling and barking and yapping was bad enough, but this was like an earthquake. Totally uncool.

Bonnie, my beloved Scottish Terrier? Listen up. If you persist in flinging yourself at the gate through the night, it isn’t biscuits you’ll get. Just because you’re bored and think 3 am is a grand time for a romp and a treat, doesn’t mean we humans agree. You are going to wind up in a crate. Worse, I’ll take away your computer privileges. You won’t be able to use my laptop anymore. You know I can do it, darling Bonnie, so don’t test me. Last night, you were a wicked Scottie.

When you rousted me out of bed for that fourth and final time — was that just about 4 am?– you knew I wasn’t coming to give you a cookie. Because you ran out the doggy door and didn’t come back until I’d gone back to bed. How did you know I was mad at you? I didn’t say anything. The first three times you got your dad, then me up, you snagged a biscuit. That was supposed to shut you up. How did you know this wasn’t another goody on the way?

But you knew. You ran for the yard. Interesting. Was it the sound of steam coming out of my nose and ears? Or just the way I tread the floorboards?

Bonnie, my darling. You do that again, tonight — or any other night — and your spoiled rotten little life will be in serious peril. Do you understand? Don’t laugh at me. I’m serious. I’m mad at you!

DAILY POST: OUR MOST PRECIOUS FUR CHILD

Bonnie Annie Laurie, the Scottish Terrier lass who runs our home with charm, grace and efficiency can do no wrong.

Although she steals dirty napkins as if they were prey and has relieved us of our socks and dish towels, we have responded appropriately — by buying more socks and letting her have her own dish towels. We keep ours in a basket out of reach and hang hers where she can steal them, as a proper Scottie must. Garry even ties them up a little to make the experience more challenging. She then takes the dish towels — and socks, let’s not forget the socks — out through the doggy door into the yard where they are never seen again. It’s hard to figure where they go. I mean … she has stolen easily a dozen and they are bright colors and reasonably large tea towels. But they are gone. We do not think they will appear again. Maybe she has friends with wings and donates them to the cause. Whatever.

Me and Bonnie

She has the power of chemical weaponry on her side and can gas an entire room. Even the other dogs will leave while Garry and I cough and wheeze. Sometimes, it gets bad enough that she herself will leave. It is one of her many magical powers.

My husband will twist his body into a pretzel shape so as not to cause Milady discomfort as she stretches out on our loveseat. When Bonnie wants a treat or dinner, she makes her wishes clearly know, barking, pulling at Garry’s cuffs, or head butting the back of his knees until he falls over or accedes to her belief that if she is not fed right now, she will collapse from hunger.

She is the dog of dogs, the terrier of terriers, a Scottish Terrorist of the first order.

She is perfect.

AWFUL PICTURES OF TWO TERRIERS

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I don’t post a lot of pictures of my dogs. They do not coöperate. They will not sit still. They will run out of the room or stick their wet black noses right up my lens. Outdoors, they will run  and hide. I’ll get nothing but pictures of their furry butts as they disappear around the corner or through the doggy door.

Inside? They huddle in the darkest corner of the room or spread out so no lens will get them.

Two Terriers - Toy Camera

The two miscreant terriers were groomed yesterday so they’re looking pretty spiffy. Garry offered to hold them while I took a few pictures. Emerging from my office into the dimly lit living room, I realized even if I turned on every light, it would still not be enough to get sharp images.

I am nothing if not persistent. I turned on lights. Garry had the two terrorists on his lap in a death grip. What do they have against me and the camera? I don’t even use a flash.

Garry was wearing his comfortable clothing. A sweatshirt paired with weird green fishing print pajama bottoms. The throws on the sofa are a blocky red, white and bluish print — not beautiful to begin with — that clash in a particularly noxious way with the green print pants.

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Between the bad light, the wriggling dogs, the ugly background, the bad pants, the clashing colors … well, these are among the worst pictures I’ve ever taken. Barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, color shifts and everything out of focus. Absolutely nothing to recommend them. So bad I had nothing to lose by trying out some of the special effects in my filter packages. I never use special effects on good pictures. Why waste a good image?

The doggies came out kind of cute. I used a toy lens effect on one shot. On the other two, I used various vintage camera effects, with added blur, light leaks and other kinds of aging. Cute — bad — pictures. Proving if you have enough filters, you can make anything look okay.

PERSPECTIVE IS WHERE YOU’RE COMING FROM

It depends on where you stand, doesn’t it? On what you are looking at. Personally, I want coffee. But first, I need to capture that interesting shadow on the wall in the little bathroom.

Morning Shadows

And the fur people, they have a different perspective. Biscuits. Until they get their biscuits, they are obsessive, determined, focused. Notice that Bonnie is missing? She’s a bouncing shaggy black ball of energy. No way I’m going to catch her (but I keep trying). Even if I do, she doesn’t look like a dog. She won’t until I find money to get her groomed. She looks like a pile of dirty black dog hair. In perpetual motion.

While Mr. Coffee brews and I need to put some clothing on. Sandy is in my office, making copies on the printer.

Bish and Nan Biscuit Time

“What are you doing up so early?” It’s eight in the morning.

“I’m not up. It’s an illusion. There’s a picture I need to take.”

“I’m not going to ask.”

“Good choice,” I agree. I realize I don’t have my glasses on and can’t see anything clearly. If I fail to notice I’m not wearing my eyeglasses, I’m asleep. Ignore me.

 

FUR BALLS

Yesterday, all the doors and windows were open to catch the fresh air on one of the remaining warm days of late autumn. Mid late November is when it switches from summer to winter in a few hours. Last night, the temps dropped 30 degrees. Yesterday, zephyr breezes. Today? Chill winds.

DangerDogsWe have four dogs, one of whom is a giant constantly shedding hairball (Australian Shepherd to you). He’s affectionate and despite all evidence to the contrary, believes he is a lap-dog. His sensitive feelings are constantly hurt because I won’t let him in my lap. All 75 hairy pounds of him.

I have conversations with him. I explain, in detail, the issues involved. Not only will he not fit, but his paws are wicked weapons, cats-like with claws that dig deep holes in me. Bishop is a passionate boy. We have all learned to never look him in the eyes. The moment you do, he will become a huge piece of velcro, use his tongue to slather your eyeglasses with a thick layer of dog spit.

Which brings me back to the weather. Bishop and Bonnie (the Scottie) love winter. Bishop is at his happiest sleeping — literally — in a snowdrift with Bonnie on top of him, using him as a bed. Nan, at 12, is a couch potato, thinks the ultimate good time is a comfy spot on the sofa with frequent biscuit breaks. Amber lives under a blanket downstairs. Of the dogs in the house, Amber (the dachshund) is the one with short hair and does not care much for ice and snow. Garry and I are with her on that one. And with Nan (the Norwich). A nice nap, a cozy throw, a good TV show and maybe a little fire in the woodstove.

Nan and BishopThe issue is not just weather, but dog hair. Oodles of dog hair. Great gouts and lumps and bushy piles of fur on sofas, rugs, in  corners and on clothing. I find I own a lot of nice clothing I refuse to wear because I don’t want to ruin it with dog hair, not to mention the giant holes that Bishop — in a fit of overwhelming love — will tear with those wicked paws. What then, you ask (I ask, we all ask) is the point of having nice clothing?

That is a good question and if anyone has an answer, I’d like to hear it. I seem to be under the illusion I might actually go someplace someday and need attractive clothing. A lifetime of working embedded this idea in my brain. One must have Decent Clothing for job interviews — but when was the last time I had one of those? For Events — once in a blue moon seems to be the frequency. So I have nice stuff and anything I wear is instantly covered with dog hair. Everything looks tweedy.

Terriers and Garry

Ironically, the other day I realized the clothing in my closet, including stuff I’ve never worn, is hairy. Pet hair is vicious, pernicious, aggressive. It sneaks into closets in rooms where dogs are  forbidden — though somehow they manage to steal my underwear.

It’s part of what makes this time of year challenging. I have wonderful sweaters. Cashmere and cotton and wool. Tunics and ponchos. Many are years old but barely worn. I don’t want to ruin them.

My nice clothing is dying in the closet. Getting old and hairy and hanger worn. We could solve the problem by having fewer dogs.

Nah. Not happening.

JUST ANY MORNING IN A TIME OF CRISIS – A WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

You’d think that somehow, with that sickish feeling you get when the world is coming down around you, that the morning would stand out. Be different. Or at least, something about it would be different.

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Not a bit. Regardless of events in my life — good, bad and catastrophic — morning is the same. Wake up. My back hurts. Spend half an hour awake, in bed, checking email, wondering if there’s any chance I might be able to go back to sleep. Looking to see if there’s a prompt to which I feel like responding.

Maybe I won a contest and became an overnight millionaire  (dream on, my lovely, dream on). Somewhere, someone is winning those big lottery prizes. Why not me?

And finally, fully awake, getting up. Finding my glasses. Brushing teeth and meandering to the kitchen to be greeted by three dogs, spinning and yipping in joy. “The giver of biscuits has arisen. She has come! Oh biscuits, oh great joy of morning!”

Bonnie

I insist I be allowed to start the coffee before distributing the first treats of the day. I need to know the coffee will come soon. Hot, rich coffee. Mmm. Click. Hiss. Yes. I can hear that drip beginning and just a hint of the taste wafts from the machine to my nose. Vanilla. It’s vanilla coffee today.

The little dogs are spinning so fast you’d think they’d fall down dizzy, but it never happens. The big one is trying to spin, but he’s a klutz and spends more time bumping into things than getting a good spin going. “Okay,” I say. “The big moment is here. Are we ready?”

Yip, whine, woof, grr. I think it means they’re ready. Tooth cleaning biscuits for the little guys with dental problems. Until a couple of days ago, my biggest financial worry — the short-term rather the longer view concern — was how to find affordable dental care for the terriers. Since I’m now worrying about staying alive, the terriers have dropped into the number two worry slot. One must prioritize.

I have a substantial chewy in hand for Bishop, the big furry dude.”Hey, Bubba, come and get it!

With a doggie grin and a shake of his silky coat, he gently takes the cookie from my hand, but maintains his position in the kitchen in preparation for the next round of goodies.

Bishop

The terriers are dancing as I give them each an oral hygiene greenie … which fortunately, they love. Bonnie is a Scottie and has to take her greenie to the other room and hide while she consumes it. It’s a Scottie thing: never let another dog see what you do with your bones. Nan is a Norwich and getting on in years. She’ll just hang with the Bishop by the treats container. She is very focused.

Nan

I go over and wash the couple of things in the sink. I hear heavy breathing behind me. The fur children are restless. Time for round two. After which, it’s my turn. The coffee is ready. My cup is waiting. I need that coffee. If I were one of the dogs, I’d be spinning too.

Nothing is different from yesterday or the day before that. My world is upside down but everything is exactly the same. How weird is that?

Write About Dogs

My favorite cartoon – by George Booth — was originally published in The New Yorker. It shows a man sitting in front of a typewriter. Dogs are everywhere A woman, presumably his wife, watches from the doorway. The caption reads “Write about dogs.”

My home is full of dogs. Anyone who comes to visit must compete with the dogs for the comfortable chairs and the best spots on the sofa. (Come to think of it, we have to fight them for the best seats too.) That’s the way it is. The dogs are family.

If we have guests who are old, frail or allergic, we do our best to accommodate their needs. We put the most rambunctious, smelly, and hairy dogs out of the way if we can, but that depends on the weather. Basically, if you don’t like dogs, you’ve come to the wrong house. People who don’t like dogs are not frequent visitors.

That’s fine with me. I prefer the company of most dogs to most people. There are lots of reasons to prefer dogs. But the two big ones are love and honesty.

Dogs love you completely, totally, and without reservation. They don’t care about your social status or education, whether you are young or old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor. They love you completely.

Your dog will never betray or abandon you.

Dogs are terrible liars. Not that they don’t try. Every dog will do his or her best to convince each human to give them treats. Your dog will tell you she needs a biscuit now or will collapse from hunger. This is not particularly convincing when the canine in question is a beefy pooch who has obviously never missed a meal. Eternally optimistic, all dogs figure it’s worth a shot. It’s a dog thing. You never know when a biscuit might fall your way.

When the performance our furry kids put on in hopes of getting a tasteless dry biscuit is especially hilarious, we relax the rules and give them a little something. After all, they don’t have hands and can’t grab one for themselves. Now and again, they need to get lucky because they’re cute and we love them.

Dogs lie, but their lies are simple and transparent. There’s no malice in them. They just want a biscuit. If they don’t get one, they love you anyway.

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When it comes to love, dogs are the best. They “get” love and think you are wonderful. They think you are wonderful every day of their lives. When they are dying, the last thing they will do is look at you with love in their eyes, wag their tail one final time and try to give you a kiss.

I have spent my life lurching between my quest for God and an equally ardent quest for the best dog food at the most reasonable price. When times have been hard and we’ve had to choose between food for us and food for our furry children, the fur kids always win.

Our dogs do not suffer from angst. They don’t worry unless supper runs late or biscuits are forgotten in the bustle of a day’s activities. If such a catastrophe should occur, they know exactly where to present their grievances and apply for redress.

Dogs live close to their deities. They hang out with their gods on the sofa. They get biscuits from them in the morning and evening. If life is circumscribed and a bit confined, it is nonetheless good.

Sometimes one of their gods gets angry and yells at them. That might make them unhappy for a few minutes, but the gods of their world don’t stay angry. Our dogs have kindly and loving gods who are inclined to scratch them behind the ears and talk to them in soft voices.

TinkerizedRemotes

We are gods to our dogs and as such, we set laws for them to live by. Don’t poop or pee in the house.

Do not chew things not given to you for chewing, especially not anything containing batteries. Don’t jump on old people or babies. Don’t growl at delivery people. Don’t stay up late barking. Abide by the law and all will be well.

When rules are clear and understood by all, life runs smoothly.

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The human side of the contract is more complicated. It’s harder being god than dog.

We pledge to care for them all the days of their lives. We keep them healthy. We love and nurture them. We feed them properly, make sure they get exercise – though they don’t get enough of it and neither do we. We keep them warm and dry in winter, cool and dry in summer.

If we force them to go outside to do their business, it is because they are, after all, dogs.

Every evening, for at least a little while, their gods climb down from heaven to play on the floor.

Our dogs don’t fret about the future. They live in a joyful present. When their time comes, we will make sure they pass gently out of this world. We promise to keep them as free from suffering as is within our power.

That is our solemn contract. We live up to that pledge because we really are gods to our fur children and must never let them down. Pets teach you a lot about the divine contract.

Water Retrieving

It was a party on the Cape. Beautiful house. A group of politicians, media folks, and their Others. And one, big, wet Golden Retriever.

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To be fair, he could have been a happier retriever if only someone had thrown one of his hoarded tennis balls. He had carefully corralled them in the family swimming pool and while the spiffily dressed guests sipped cocktails and munched on sandwiches, he swam in the pool, then dripping he would try to convince someone to throw a sodden tennis ball.

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Alas, it was not his lucky day. How to make him understand that even we dog lovers couldn’t embrace so much wet dog dressed in our “nice” clothing?

Sometimes you just need a good shake …

Griff - good shake

This was Griffin having a good shake. He was a pure-bred Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a medium-size shaggy scent hound originally tasked to hunt rabbits over rough terrain. Petits (or PBGVs) were never pack hunters, not like Beagles or Harriers. They were usually hunted individually or in a small pack of two or three.

I got him as a pup and he grew up to be my huggy bear. He was the smelliest, noisiest, funniest clown of a hound ever put on earth. He would do anything to make you laugh. The harder you laughed, the sillier he behaved. He liked to snuggle, but he wasn’t a needy dog. He would drop by for a hug and a treat, then he’d be off about his business.

He was always busy, but he was always good-natured. I never knew him to snarl, growl or be even a little unpleasant to any person. As official leader of the pack, he sometimes let another dog know she was out of line, but all he needed to was make a little soft growly noise deep in his throat. That was enough.

GreatGriff

No super Alpha he. Nope, if Griffin were human, he’d have been the kind of guy who was so popular, he never needed to prove anything. He’d have loved sports and drunk a lot of beer.

About a year before he died, he suddenly wanted to be near me all the time. I knew something was very wrong with him. He got so old so fast, but there was nothing obvious … but I knew. We always know, don’t we?

Tinker died first, of cancer. About a month later, Griffin had a massive seizure and died. We never knew what was wrong with him. There will never be another like him. Half clown, all hound. Smart and funny and cute in a big, hairy way. I miss him very much.

Daily Prompt: You’ll find me at home where I belong

NOTE: This topic is identical to “A Rolling Stone” from just the week before last.

gypsy wagon with hohrse

When I think about giving up my roots and hitting the open road … selling it all and taking that big old gypsy wagon, er RV … down the endless highway, my whole life stuffed in it … rolling place to place, sleeping wherever we find ourselves and waking to watch the sun rise somewhere, I start making charts, budgets, schedules.

©Gipsy-Caravan

I calculate the price of gasoline. Do you know how much it costs to run an RV? It’s not how many miles to the gallon. More like how many gallons to the mile. Seriously — that’s a lot of money! And much as I love them, I don’t see us hitching up the horse. Giddyup!

gypsy caravans BW

And we have four dogs. And there we are, rolling down the big highway, singing joyously while watching the gas gauge drop, We suddenly realize one of more of the dogs is restless. Is he/she serious? Or just messing with our heads? Do we want to take a chance on guessing wrong? Our dogs are smart enough to think it’s a hoot to get us to stop everything so they can run around. Day or night. And their cheerful barks of bliss will, I’m sure, be the hit of the RV park.

dog caravan

With no doggy door, no fenced yard, it’s just us, the dogs and the leashes, moaning as the rain pelts down “Please, go, it’s late, I’m tired, I want to go to bed,” while Bonnie snickers at us as only a Scottie can.

And then there is the matter of bathrooms. My husband has a thing about the bathroom. He wants a nice, comfortable room. A spacious shower. Unlimited hot water.A friendly place, not an airline-sized nook. Room to spread out a Sunday paper. And me? While he’s doing his leisurely morning ablutions, what am I doing? Getting poison ivy while beating the bushes for a bit of privacy.

But wait. Someone has got to pump out the head, fill the water tanks. Hook up to some electricity. Buy groceries. Dog food. Cook meals in a tiny kitchen galley. I pretty much never want to cook at all, ever, even with a big fully equipped kitchen. Am I going to rediscover the joy of cooking in the galley of an RV? Not.gypsy-caravanbed-3

And WiFi? Take away my Internet connection and I will collapse in a useless heap of damp rubble. Give me a week before I start to wail “Take me home!”

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I don’t think Garry would last a week. I’m tired of rolling. I want my bed and recliner. I want my modem, router and computers, my big screen television, my desk. And the fenced yard with the doggy door. The kitchen. The DVR.

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The gypsy life is a great idea. You should try it. Send me postcards!

Love at a Price: The Life and Times of Tinker Belle.

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of health care, toys, dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France, but have become over the past 20 years, quite popular as pets, though they are definitely not a dog for just anyone. They are smart, funny (they will do almost anything to make you laugh), noisy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home from the airport (she had just flown up from her breeder’s home in North Carolina), she wasn’t like any other puppy I’d ever met. She was incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else. Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

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She was deeply sensitive. Probably born to be a therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, she knew who was sick. She knew where you hurt. She was the only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine. She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound and a hunter at that, born to track, point and if necessary, kill prey.

She was the smartest of our five dogs, the smartest dog of my life. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit. She knew. We called her Tinker the Thinker because she planned, she remembered. She held grudges. More on that. For all that, she was Omega (the bottom) in the pack, we thought it was mostly her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding and other criminal activities. Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

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When Griffin, our big male Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog!) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally … well … Tinker’s heart was broken. She became depressed, would not play anymore with humans or other dogs. For the next 10 years, Tinker refused to so much as look at Griffin. Worse, she apparently blamed us, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began her Reign of Terror.

Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs on when she was three years old. She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than a chewer. She would steal your stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys (Kaity was very young), towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them. She would do more damage in under a minute than I thought possible. For Garry and I, it meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything away where Tink couldn’t get it. Tinker would strike quickly and she was lethal. If we were going to bed for the night, every single movable item that was less than 6 feet off the ground had to be put away. If she couldn’t get to any small expensive electronic items, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs …. and for dessert, shoes were always yummy. For many years, I didn’t own any shoes without tooth marks. We called such items “Tinkerized” and we had a grading system ranging from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.

Kaitlin’s toys were safe if Kaity was currently paying a lot of attention to Tinker. If not, she was punished with the beheading of any doll Tinker could find. She didn’t bother with limbs, but always went straight for the head. She gutted stuffed things with grim efficiency.

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During one memorable intermission, Garry and I went to the kitchen to grab something to drink and she dismembered our remote controls. We were gone, by the clock, about a minute. The kitchen is adjacent to the sofa were we watch TV, so she managed to do this with us not 10 feet away. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to replace them. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but never ate them), then ripped out the wiring and boards. She didn’t waste any time, either. If she had the leisure, she’d also tear out the keys and generally mangle the cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

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For 10 years, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

Yet we loved Tinker and for the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. Under the influence of Bonnie, the friendliest, happiest, most charming Scottie on earth, Tinker came out of her sullens and played with Bonnie. She ran around the yard and played tag, joined the chorus when the other dogs pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang. Hounds have such beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful of all. When she sang, nature sang with her. I suppose this is a matter of taste, but for those of us who love hounds, you know what I mean. Singing is a social function for canines. When a pack sings, it isn’t an alert. It’s a chorus. They are really truly singing together. Each dog has a part, joining in, then pausing and rejoining at the right moment. Tinker was a baritone, the deepest and loudest of the canine voices and Bonnie is a coloratura soprano, very musical, but light.

Almost exactly a year ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down and a very minimally reduced appetite. One day, she collapsed. She was riddled with cancer. There was no organ in her body that was unaffected. How in the world she had so effectively hidden her illness is mind-boggling, but she did. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died. They were almost exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that the timing of their passing was mere coincidence. Despite Griffin’s infidelity, the two PBGVs were Karmically joined and could not live without each other.

The house was so quiet with the two hounds gone. We didn’t have to hide everything anymore, though it took us months to realize it was safe, that I could leave my laptop out at night and no dog would bother it. After the two hounds passed, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again. Now, they sing twice a day, early in the morning (get up Mom) and in the evening (pause that show, time for the chorus).

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What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her when she was a puppy. Who knows how much her medical care cost over the years? Who remembers? That’s such a basic part of the contract between dogs and their keepers. They love us, we care for them. Other damages? Thousands of dollars in electronic gear, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies and who knows what else.

But she paid us back, you see. Because when I was terribly ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How does it add up? How much was the love worth? What is the true cost of a lifetime love of my dearest friend?

Daily Prompt: Rolling Stone – Where’s my moss?

I used to think about tossing it all in and getting an RV — just rolling from place to place, sleeping wherever we landed. Waking up to watch the sun rise atop the Rockies, or something like that. The problem is, I have this annoying brain. It doesn’t let me just fantasize. It wants the details. It wants a workable plan. So I don’t fantasize. I obsess. About the logistics of the thing. I start making charts, budgets, schedules.

Rolling into Gettysburg. Goal, a comfy motel wioth WiFim cable TV and lots of hot water. A good restaurant too.

Rolling into Gettysburg. Goal, a comfy motel with WiFi, cable TV and lots of hot water.  A good restaurant too.

The price of gasoline. I mean, do you know how much it costs to run an RV? Holy smoke! It’s not a question of how many miles to the gallon. More like how many gallons to the mile. I have friends who own a yacht, but they almost never go anywhere. They hang out in the marina because it cost too much to actually go anywhere in the boat. I’m not arguing with the joy of yachting, or RV-ing, but seriously — that’s mucho dinero.

How much can I fit into the trunk? And about those dogs?

How much can I fit into the trunk? And about those dogs?

Then, there are the dogs. There we are, on the open highway, tooling along, watching the gas gauge drop and the dogs are restless. Do they really need to do something? Or are they just messing with us? Who knows? Do we want to take the chance? Our dogs are smart enough to know if they exhibit certain behaviors, they are going to get what they want and I can see us never making much progress because the dogs think it’s a real hoot to get us to stop everything and let them run around. Even at 3 in the morning when we’ve just fallen asleep.

With no doggy door, no fenced yard, it’s us, the dogs and leashes, standing there, whining “Please, go already, it’s cold, I’m tired, I want to go to bed,” while Bonnie laughs at us as only a Scottie can.

Now a train, that might be okay. Except how long can youstay aboard? Really? And what about those dogs?

Now a train, that might be okay. Except how long can you stay aboard? Really? And what about those dogs?

And then … well … there are the bathrooms. My husband has a thing about the bathroom. He would be okay for a few days, but then … he wants a nice, comfortable room with a spacious shower and unlimited hot water. A place to sit, ponder and all the rest. Not squinched into a little tiny airline-size nook (or cranny? does anyone know the difference?), but room to spread out, leisurely. And me? While he’s doing his leisurely morning ablutions, what the hell am I doing? Beating the bushes for a bit of privacy where it isn’t full of poison ivy?

But wait. You gotta pump out the head. You gotta fill the water tanks. You need to hook up to some electricity. Buy groceries. Dog food. Cook meals in that tiny little galley. I stopped loving meal preparation about a decade ago. Am I going to rediscover the joy of cooking in the galley of an RV? Why do I doubt that?

And WiFi? Without getting complicated, Garry has bathroom issues. I have WiFi issues. Take away my Internet connection and I will probably have a psychotic break.

Who is going to water the plants?

Who is going to water the plants?

My head is reeling. I WANT TO GO HOME TO MY COMFORTABLE BED. I’m not a stone and I don’t roll. I limp. And hey, I have a doctor’s appointment. I’m tired of rolling. I want my recliner. I want my computers, my big screen television, my huge oak desk.

I want my desk. My computer. My big monitor. My chair.

I want my desk. My computer. My big monitor. My chair.

Roll, roll ye stones. But I don’t think I’ll be rolling with you. Nice but not for me. Nope. Sorry, the gypsy life passed me by. Send postcards!

Oh, thank you Lord. My bed! I need my bed!

Oh, thank you Lord. My bed! I need my bed!

Dogs of Morning

Pagan's Granddaughter carried on her granny's reign of terror for more than a decade.

Pagan’s Granddaughter carried on her granny’s reign of terror for more than a decade.

Long ago, many years having passed since then, we lived in the great city of Boston, Hub of the Universe. In addition to thousands of books and millions of “little wheels off things,” we accumulated furry friends. Two ferrets (Bonnie and Clyde), one smart, sickly and extraordinary Somali cat, a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, and a Norwich Terrier, both retired show dogs. Of the many critters, only the dogs needed walking … but everyone needed love. And snacks.

* * *

Morning. 6am. Do you know where your dogs are? I do. Divot is tap dancing on my head and growling ferociously. I don’t know how she gets up on the bed. It is 2-1/2 times her height.

Pagan, ever subtle, knows there is one sound which will always get my full attention in a hurry. It’s the sound of teeth crushing plastic. For her morning delicacy, she has chosen an elegant blue disposable razor which she dug out of the wastebasket in the bathroom. Good choice, Pagan!

The dogs are raring to go. To start their day. Once, not long ago, they were separate dogs, merely sharing space. But something happened. They fused into a well-oiled, coördinated team of four-legged terrorists, able to raise the reluctant dead. I admit I shouldn’t have stayed up reading quite so late.  Perhaps early might be more realistic. The sun was peeking over the horizon when I finished the final chapter. But golly folks, I’m supposed to have free will, including the right to do stupid, even self-destructive stuff because I am a grown up person and I can do whatever I want. More or less.

The dogs are unimpressed by my arguments, to which they are not listening and if they were, would not understand or care. They just want me up and handing out biscuits. And walks in the neighborhood. Whose idea was this? Oh, right. Mine.

I let them sleep with their leashes attached. It is one less task for me as I stumble through the haze of unfinished dreams into the day. I don’t have to play hide and seek with collars and leashes.

“I need to get dressed before we go out,” I explain as they charge around the room. This is clearly Pagan’s doing. Divot used to be so polite. Now she growls and bites my legs and arms if I don’t dress fast enough. A shower? Don’t kid yourself. These dogs want to GO OUTSIDE NOW. I find a sweatshirt. I find jeans. I’m already wearing socks. Cold feet in the night. Slide into clogs. I’m moving.

Garry and Divot

Garry and Divot

Eyeglasses? I fumble for them. The girls are going nuts. The bedroom is a mad whirlwind of zooming PBGV and snapping terrier jaws.Ferocious growls and chuffing mix with my moans of misery. A mere three minutes has passed since the girls decided to get me on my feet, but It seems so much longer. I open the bedroom door and we pour out of the room, nearly crushing Big Guy — our beautiful, sweet Somali cat — who waits patiently by the door. He needs to remind me lest I forget that he gets a can of Fancy Feast before anything else happens.

I am so tired. I didn’t get much sleep. But the girls did. They sleep all the time, saving up energy for moments like this. They are fully charged.

“It’s MORNING MOM!!!!! LET’S GOOOOOOOO!!!!

Stumbling and groaning, we get to the door. I unlatch it and anchored to my wrist, they drag me down the steps, splitting at the foot of the stairs to the right and left. I stand there as my shoulders slowly separate from their sockets while the girls work out the details. Left. They are going left. They drag me to the first of four fields we will visit this morning on our travels where serious business will be conducted.

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With the coordination of a marine corps drill team, they perform bodily functions with grace, dancers in the high grass. I would be impressed, but I am looking for someplace to lie down for a little nap.

On to the next field. This is the bird and stray cat field and Pagan who is a scent hound, has reinvented herself as a pointer and general field dog supremo. Divot, the Norwich American Princess, is interested in rats and mice, with an occasional frog for dessert. She likes her frogs still squirming and they are the only snack on the hoof for which she will get her dainty paws damp.

We stalk birds for a while. The stray cats are — wisely — asleep somewhere. How I envy them.

At home I announce, “I’m going back to bed.”

“WE’RE COMING WITH YOU, HUFFA HUFFA.” the girls explain. I go to the bedroom. I drop my jeans by the bed, and still wearing the sweatshirt, I lie down. Divot bounces up.

She is kissing me. She is biting me. Pagan is zooming around and over the bed. She is eating my stockings. She is unearthing all my dirty underwear. In fewer than five minutes, I am defeated. It is over. I am not going to back to bed or to sleep. I’m up for the day. I am mumbling imprecations interspersed with pathetic pleas for coffee.

I am trying to put my jeans back on. Divot, corrupted by Pagan’s PBGV ways, is growling and pulling at my jeans while I try to slide my body into them. I win, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory at best.

Nan, now.

Nan, now.

And now, at the computer, I have only the cat, purring in the my lap for company. The girls, having accomplished their goal of making sure that I get up on time, are out cold on the sofa. It will be a long day.

 

Condemned to Death

It’s the policy everywhere to put to death dogs who bite. It doesn’t matter why. You can beat your dog, torture him, tie him up, starve him, let kids tease him without mercy from puppy-hood through the remainder of his life. No dog is ever – no matter how severe the provocation – allowed to fight back. Usually, the dog can’t even run away. For reasons I don’t understand, the courts don’t find anything wrong with this picture.

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When my granddaughter was 5 or so, it was Thanksgiving dinner and she was on the floor playing with our beloved (adored, maybe even worshiped) Norwich Terrier champion (yes she was, really). Divot was retired from the show ring, but she was Garry’s champion of the heart. The two of them had a serious thing going. He was her devoted love slave. I’m glad he never had to choose between us because I know I’d have lost the toss.

As the gathering concentrated on passing the turkey and cranberry sauce, a shriek loud enough to breathe life into the dead bird arose from under the table. Divot had bitten Kaity. No blood. Some red indentations. And Divot had not bothered to run away or hide. She was still sitting next to Kaity, calmly and quietly. Whatever had happened, the drama was all coming from Kaity’s side.

“She BIT me,” wailed my granddaughter.

“And what,” asked her father, “did YOU do?”

We are very doggy around here. We all knew Divot (aka Her Majesty). And we knew Kaity (aka Drama Queen). Divot wouldn’t bite for no reason and if she intended harm, even at her advanced age, she would have done more damage than that.

It turned out Kaity had been teasing Divot, offering her pieces of turkey, then pulling them away. She’d been playing the game for a while. How long? Five-year olds are not good about time and Divot wasn’t saying. Whatever time had passed, it proved long enough to convince Divot this pup (Kaity) needed to learn some manners. So she bit Kaity. She didn’t savage her, tear her to pieces. It would have been hard for an 11-pound terrier to wreak life-threatening havoc on any human. The bite was a statement, not an attack. Divot just wanted to make a point. She couldn’t give Kaity a time out or have long talk. So — she used her jaws.

The outcome for Kaity was a rebuke for teasing Divot — rather redundant since Divot had made her point. Kaity never teased Divot again, though she was caught teasing other dogs. Now, at 16, she’d be humiliated to admit teasing a dog, but kids tease animals. Even good kids who love animals. They tease each other too and occasionally bite although I’ve never heard anyone suggest we kill a kid for biting another kid. Nor do we murder cats for scratching.

How come we kill dogs so swiftly and mercilessly? If we had foolishly taken Kaitlin to the emergency room, the incident would have been reported. They’d have taken Divot from us and killed her and done it without a second thought. Rules are rules after all. A dog bites, a dog dies.75-KKandTinker The legal definition for “vicious dog” is:

1 – The dog bit? Yes?

2 – The dog is vicious.

3 – Kill the dog.

A bit simplistic? You think? It’s a legal relic. It comes from back when the term “mad dog” terrified everyone. Mad dogs bite; kill them.

In our modern society, “vicious dogs” are usually frightened dogs. Abused and mistreated dogs. Dogs that have been trained to attack because someone finds it funny — or is trying to protect a stash of illegal whatever. A few dogs are genuinely bad seeds, but it’s rare. Some dogs get nervous around children or noise or just too many people. These dogs should live in homes that don’t have children, a lot of noise or many people. Duh.

The long incarceration and brief trial of Phineas, the yellow Labrador Retriever

In the news right now is the story of Phineas, a yellow Labrador retriever. He has been locked up in his home town of Salem, Missouri for a year. Last June, he bit a 7-year-old girl. The bite wasn’t severe but it drew blood. The mayor ruled the dog was vicious and ordered him put down. Exactly how the incident unfolded has yet to be clearly determined. Probably because Phineas has been strangely silent in his own defense and as far as I can tell, most of the people around him are none too bright.

Phineas is (was?) owned by Patrick and Amber Sanders. They got two pups from a friend in 2010. The kids named them after cartoon characters Phineas and Ferb. Ferb went to live with an uncle. Phineas stayed . He was kept on a long lead in the fenced-in backyard and played with the kids. A family dog.

The Sanders’ had no particular trouble with Phineas. Police had no reports of problems. On June 22, the dog bit a friend of one of the Sanders children as they played in the yard. She went to the hospital for treatment. Police were called. They issued a report that indicates the girl’s mom didn’t want to press charges. She just wanted to be sure the dog was healthy. The town’s animal control and nuisance officer took Phineas for a 10-day hold in quarantine. No rabies. Patrick Sanders was cited by police for his failing to keep Phineas’ rabies shots up to date. He paid an $86 fine.

A couple of weeks later, the town’s mayor held a brief hearing to determine Phineas’ fate. He looked at photos, read the report. By now, the report had expanded to include two previously unreported dog bites by Phineas, one involving the same 7-year-old girl and an incident involving the same girl’s older sister. No one had mentioned either incident to the police until after the June 22 bite.

Objection! The defense never heard about these incidents during discovery!

It goes to motive, your honor.

Mayor Brown sentenced the dog to death.

The fight to save Phineas became a local and then a national cause célèbre. Maybe, with all the publicity, the pooch will win a pass. Maybe not. Most of the time, the dog loses no matter how much effort is put into saving him or her.

Would I keep Phineas if I had children and knew the dog snapped or bit sometimes? No. I would have re-homed Phineas to a child free environment or one with older children who knew how to behave with dogs. I would also never keep my dog tied. That’s asking for trouble. Big dogs who nip shouldn’t be with children, certainly not unsupervised. Any dog bite from a 100 pound retriever could be serious. There’s a lot of power in those jaws. Obviously Phineas’ owners were clueless about proper care and training for a large breed pup. But hey, this is America. We sell guns to people who are even more irresponsible. Why not let them have big dogs too? You mean it’s not in the Bill of Rights? Of course, dogs have no rights, so if anything goes wrong, we just kill them.

Bishop

Any dog will bite if tormented enough. Some will bite when startled or frightened. Abused dogs sometimes try to fight back against their tormentors. We kill them too. The dog is always wrong.

Intentional bites by otherwise good canine citizen are usually gentle, a reproof. Puppies nip all the time when they play. They nip each other, their owners and their moms. She bites them back to remind them to keep their teeth to themselves. It’s the obligation of puppy owners to teach their pets to not bite, even in fun. Many owners don’t seem to get the connection between letting them bite when they are little and the dog thinking biting is okay when they grow up.

Small dogs bite more often big breeds, but people don’t report being savaged by a Chihuahua. Little dogs are less patient and protective of children than big dogs. Maybe they are aware of their own vulnerability. Over all, a family dog will opt to protect the kids. It’s DNA, their job. Hard-wired into the system. When something else happens, there’s a reason. Personally, I’m inclined to presume the dog is innocent until proven very guilty.

Summer Memories: Divot at Riverbend

Summer Memories: Divot at River Bend

And now, for my final anecdote

I was raised with Doberman Pinschers, wonderful smart dogs who get a bad rap in popular media. One day, my mother was yelling at my sister. The dog — never trained as a guard dog — was sometimes over-protective of we kids. She was very protective of the family as a whole, but where me and my siblings were concerned, she was hyper-vigilant. At that particular moment, her judgment was tested. From her doggish point of view, my mother was threatening my sister. Poor Rusty had to make a choice and she nipped my mother.

Considering how powerful a Dobie’s bite can be, it wasn’t much of a bite. I do far worse things to my hands cutting veggies in the kitchen. No one punished Rusty, though she slunk around looking guilty for days. But we understood: she had felt she needed to protect the younger, weaker child from the big strong mommy. She was just a dog and her ability to figure out the situation was limited.

Should we have had our dog put down? Of course not. It was our fault. My mother learned a lesson: don’t yell at the kids in front of the dog. It upsets the dog. Rusty was miserable at having hurt one of her charges.

People will continue to buy dogs and mistreat them, sometimes with malice or cruelty, often through ignorance and stupidity. People will buy the wrong breeds, will fail to provide ample training, socialization, exercise, or even a reasonable degree of supervision. Dogs will continue to pay with their lives for their owners’ ignorance and errors and the bad things done to them.

- – -

Good Morning, Good Morning, To You (And You And You And You)

Every morning, as I limp down the hallway from the bedroom to the kitchen, no matter how stiff I am with arthritis, no matter how poorly I’ve slept, as soon as I get to the kitchen, my heart becomes lighter.

Kitchen

“Good morning, fur children,” I chirp. They woof and growl and gambol and pant. They know it’s cookie time for the canine contingent, but coffee time for me.

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I make a brief detour to turn on the coffee pot. Priorities.

Mr. Coffee

There’s no more time to waste. Eager faces surround me as I approach the huge dog biscuit container on the table in the corner. It’s shaped like a giant dog biscuit — lest I forget.  The dogs , with their acute senses of smell, are more than aware of where to find the biscuits. Eyes not required.

They know my hands are the true source of all biscuits, so they watch me with their eyes. Excitement mounts.

Bishop

Bishop is an Australian Shepherd. Lacking sheep, he stares at me, with the apparent objective of engendering guilt. It works pretty well. He is also Bonnie’s love slave.

Then there’s Nan, the Norwich Terrier. Nan stares, but adds sound effects. Grunts and agonized moans. She’s starving she says. She hasn’t eaten in … minutes. She will repeat this performance whether she is still chewing the biscuit she just got or it’s been a whole night since her last treat.

Nan

And last, but not at all least, there’s Bonnie. She bounces up and down, bounds around the kitchen like a mad thing, twirling and spinning, yapping and prancing. She’s young and full of joie de vivre. Shortly, she will be full of biscuits.

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They all believe if they don’t remind me, I will forget them and their cookies. These dogs have never missed a treat or a meal in their lives but you’d never guess it.

The sun streaks in through the windows, the smell of coffee fills the room. Joyous gurgling and crunching from the furry ones and I’m off to the office to check my email and see what surprises the night has brought. Another day is begun.

Happy morning to all!