FOR LOVE OF A DOG – TINKER

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of veterinary care? Squeaky toys? Greenies?  Dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, usually called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France.

PBGVs are not the dog for everyone. Smart, sometime scarily. Natural clowns who will do almost anything to make you laugh. Noisy, nosy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home, she wasn’t like any other puppy. 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 sensitive. Probably a born therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, who was sick. She knew where you hurt. 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. A hunter, born to track, point and carry prey back to a master.

She was the smartest of our dogs, the smartest dog every. 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. Remembered. She held grudges. Nonetheless, she was at the bottom of the pack hierarchy.

We thought it was 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 canine criminality.

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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 Petite 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.

Tinker’s sensitive heart broke. She became depressed, would not play with humans or dogs. For the next decade, Tinker wouldn’t even look at Griffin. She apparently blamed us, too, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began a 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 you could imagine. It meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything where Tinker couldn’t get it. She would strike quickly. If we were off to bed for the night, every item had to be put away. If she couldn’t get to an electronic item, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs.

For dessert, shoes were yummy. I didn’t own shoes without tooth marks. We called them “Tinkerized.” We had a grading system 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.

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During one memorable intermission, Tinker dismembered the remotes. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but did not eat them). Then she ripped out the innards. It was less than two minutes.

She didn’t waste time. If she had leisure, she’d also tear out keys and mangle 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.

For the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker ran around. Played tag. Joined the chorus when the pack pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.

Hounds have beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful.

Three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down. One day, she collapsed. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a stroke and died too. They were exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that their nearly simultaneous passing was a coincidence.

After the two hounds were gone, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again.

Great Griffin

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What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a pup. She caused thousands of dollars of damage to electronics, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies — who knows what else?

She paid us back and more. When I was 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 much is that worth? What is the true cost of a lifetime love of a dear friend?

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SNOOPING

Snooping is unlike eavesdropping. It’s just curiosity, expanded. In any case, I can’t help myself. When I visit someone for the first time, I must look at their books. Assuming, of course, they read.

I’m suspicious of anyone whose home has no books. My friends and I have exploding bookcases. Books on tables. On the floor. Everywhere. Old books. Paperbacks. Audiobooks. Kindles. Magazines. Newspapers.

Next, I look at their other media — movies and music. Naturally I look at whatever is hanging on the walls. I had a painter friend who ended a relationship because she couldn’t cope with his taste in art.

Next, I find somewhere to sit. Is the furniture comfortable? Have they traded comfort for style? It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is a statement about priorities and to a degree, age. There was a time in my life when I owned uncomfortable furniture because I liked the way it looks. I was younger then. My back didn’t hurt as much.

I do not snoop in medicine cabinets. Medical information is considered private. Fair is fair. Welcome to my little world. You won’t learn everything, but you can find out a lot if you know how to look.

Let the snooping commence.

TONGUE ANYONE?

Daily Post: Take That, Rosetta!

by Ben Huberman on February 10, 2014

If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TONGUE.

I want to learn DOG. I want to explain to all my canines in their own unique tongues so they can’t pretend they don’t understand (oh, I know your games … you understand fine when you want to) to stop barking all the time at absolutely nothing. Of, if you are barking at something, please … tell me what you see that I don’t see? And about that early morning chorus. You have such beautiful voices, my furry babies … but why six in the morning? If you are all about praising the Lord (other than Garry, your Dog God) … can we reschedule services for a bit later? How about 11 in the morning? Even noon. I don’t think a deity would be offended by a slightly late start and I would be personally grateful.

And about those tongues.

When I get out of the shower, you do not have to lick every exposed inch of my body. Really, I just did that with soap and hot water and although I’m sure you mean the very best, I always feel sort of slimy when you’ve finished redoing the process in your own special ways. And hey, I’ve seen the stuff you eat out in the yard. Don’t lie to me. I know where that tongue has been. Eww and double yuck!

I know you talk to each other. I’ve seen you each approach one another … then get up, and go and a pair to the next canine, then all three of you embark on some kind of group activity … usually barking in chorus or a good howl. Or a trip to the kitchen where you stand around giving us the dead-eye until we produce treats. So you communicate. I just would appreciate you letting me in on the secret.

I could make a pretty penny doing dog food commercials and movies if I could simply explain in native DOG … tell you guys what I want you to do. Training would be unnecessary. Just a simple chat, and voilà! Tricks? No problem. Then, instead of being fuzzy, over-indulged lounge lizards, you could become productive members of society. Maybe with dental and health benefits. And think about how great it would be if you could really tell me what was bothering you? I could stop guessing … a boon for both of us!

Thanks for listening. And please, whatever you are barking at? Give it a rest!

IF THAT MOCKINGBIRD DON’T SING

When we lived in Boston, a mockingbird used to sit on the rail of our stoop and shout imprecations at the two dogs and the cat, Big Guy. It made them crazy. They wanted that bird so bad.

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One fateful day, I was walking the dogs. Mockingbird was perched on the wire over our head, yelling at us. Then he flew down to the garden, perhaps to refuel with a seed or two. Divot, the Norwich Terrier, lunged into the garden (it was one of those stretchy leads). There was a flutter, another flutter, a chomp, chomp.

Divot emerged from the garden, the mockingbird in her smiling jaws. She passed the bird to her partner, Pagan, the big hairy hound (PBGV or Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen) as if they had been practicing for years.

Together, like the thoroughbreds they were, they trotted homeward where Big Guy was clinging to the screen door, apparently aware of all the events that had transpired. Meanwhile, I was trying to wrench the bird from Pagan’s jaws before we went into the house where Big Guy was waiting to get his jaws around the prize.

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Here ye oh Mockingbirds! This is a cautionary tale for mouthy birds. Don’t taunt the dogs. Or the cats. They may be smarter than you think.

SHOOTING DOGS (WITH A CAMERA)

I have a lot of good pictures of Nan. I have great pictures of Bishop. Both Nan and Bishop were show dogs and when they see a camera, they sit and give you their good side. If you try to take a picture of another dog, they will bomb the picture.

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Then there are Bonnie and Amber. Amber runs for the hills. Maybe you’ll get a shot of her butt as she disappears down the hall. Bonnie, on the other hand, is a tease and her timing is impeccable. She sits perfectly still. Waits. As my finger approaches the shutter, she springs into action.

For example, here is Bishop this morning:

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Elegant. A proud, handsome dog. Dignified, yet always ready for a bit of pizza crust … or watermelon. Next, we see my best picture of Bonnie. Same camera. Same light. Same five-minute period in the same room.

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What does she have against me and my cameras? I’m sure she does it on purpose. Want to see another one? The white streaks are snow in her beard.

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Obviously a far superior shot since you can tell it’s a dog. Probably.

You should see the ones I deleted.

CEE’S WHICH WAY PHOTO CHALLENGE, WEEK 9

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2015 Week #9

Welcome everyone to Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge. This challenge subject is all about capturing the roads, walks, trails, rails, we move from one place to another on. You can walk on them, climb them, drive them, ride them, as long as the way is visible. Any angle of a bridge is acceptable as are any signs.

And this week’s entry … a gallery.

BISHOP IN THE SNOW – NEW PICTURES!

72-Bishop_01It didn’t snow a lot today — at least not compared to a lot of other days — but it snowed and is still snowing. I keep hoping it’s the last one. That the winds will change and spring will begin to inch into the world.

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Not everyone is tired of winter.

Today, after the new snow, Bishop didn't want to come in ... until he heard the sound of biscuits being offered ...

Today, after the new snow, Bishop didn’t want to come in … until he heard the sound of biscuits being offered …

Bishop, our big Australian Shepherd, of all our dogs, loves winter. His coat is so thick, so weather-proof, he will — by choice — sleep in a snow drift and let the little dogs use his body as a mattress. They have their own flap door, so this is their choice. They come and go as they please.

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To each his or her own. I prefer my recliner and a hot cup of coffee. Or tea.

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MERELY LIVING

DAILY PROMPT: ME TIME — What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?


I woke up this morning. I did my physical checklist. Did anything hurt more than usual? Less? Breathing okay? Everything was working as well (or better) than usual, so I put a bit more effort into “me” than usual, weeding through eyebrows until I found an arch. Not as nice as the lady in town creates with her wax, but weather has made going anywhere a hassle. I haven’t gotten to town more than a couple of times all month.

I made it to the kitchen and did my Alpha Bitch thing. The dogs obediently (with just a bit of back talk) went outside to do whatever business they needed to conduct. By the time they got back, I was cleaning.

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It’s not that I don’t clean. It’s that I need inspiration and energy. I had a little of both and I cleaned the places around the sink that don’t get cleaned because they are behind or under something. I did the sink, scrubbed the water dishes, refilled them … all the while hearing heavy breathing and the click-clack of excited toenails on linoleum.

The dogs were swirling with energy. Admittedly, I was slow with biscuits. The longer I take, the more worked up they get. Finally, finished, I pivoted to face the fur people. “Huffa, huffa, huffa,” they said. You’d think no one ever feeds them.

“Liars,” I tell them. They huff some more. Bonnie does her happy dance, leaping up and down until finally, I distribute a Greenie and a crunchy to each. Do they think if they don’t do their routine, I won’t give them their treats?

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I’ve been up a while. Coffee is emitting little hisses of steamy satisfaction. I straighten the sofa. Bishop has been sleeping on it. He knows he isn’t allowed, but his interpretation is “what she/he doesn’t know doesn’t count” and makes sure he is off before Garry or I gets to the end of the hallway. Sometimes his timing is off and he gets caught in “flagrante delicto” so to speak. He leaves huge tufts of hair behind, so it’s not hard to figure out. Not to mention (but I will mention it) he rearranges the coverlets, pulling them off and putting them in a pile more to his liking. Bishop has the soul of an interior decorator. A hairy decorator with limited taste.

Eventually, seated, with a cup of coffee in hand, I turn on the computer and my day begins.

Today is Saturday. We are retired, so everyday is much the same as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Soon, Garry will join me. We’ll share quiet time, sifting through our email, answering and writing comments. It’s my favorite part of the day. Quiet, friendly, low stress. Whatever hassles the rest of the day may bring, morning is our time to decompress.

It’s life. Unsegmented into “me time” or “he time.” Life does not have sections. I don’t own a piece of the day, nor does Garry. I supposed you might say the dogs own all of it because they own us — but that’s another story.