DOGS WITH SUPERPOWERS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I have had some awesome dogs. And some of them had some mad skills.

For example, Tom had a Giant Schnauzer named George. He was a serious herder. When Tom had a party, everyone always ended up huddled together in the corner of one room. George would be happily asleep nearby.

In addition to herding humans, George was a skilled dog herder. Often when Tom came home from work, he’d find six to eight dogs from the neighborhood in his backyard. George had collected them and brought them home. Tom would have to shoo the dogs off and send them back to their own homes.

Tom had a radio show years ago and he wrote comedy skits for the show. One was about a dog advice columnist and was called “Ask Dr. Dog”. Tom would put George in front of a microphone and point at him and George would bark on cue. Another hand signal and George would stop. Better than most human radio personalities!

Friday was a Shepard mix of Tom’s. He would obsessively steal silverware. Tom never knew why, just that he would sneak off with forks or spoons or knives in his mouth.

One day, Tom followed Friday to see where he took his stolen dinnerware. Friday had a big stash behind his favorite chair. The amazing thing was that Friday had organized the cutlery by type. All the forks were together, all the spoons were together and all the knives were together. That requires a level of cognitive skills that dogs are not supposed to have. It was a surprising feat for a dog.

I had a wonderful Golden Retriever Border Collie mix named Sam. Everyone loved this beautiful dog. But he was an escape artist and a food thief. He got out of a locked crate and actually bent some of the bars in the process. He also got out of a house with all the doors shut. We have no idea how he did it. After that we nicknamed Sam, “Hairy Houdini”.

Sam’s other talent was stealing food very, very discreetly. One day I put a chicken sandwich on the kitchen table for my son, David. David called up to me asking why I had given him a lettuce sandwich. I insisted that I had made him a chicken sandwich. I went into the kitchen and David was right. There was no chicken in the sandwich. But the sandwich looked totally normal. No signs of tampering. Except for one telltale piece of lettuce on the floor next to the table. The smoking gun! We found out later that Tom had actually watched Sam carefully pull the chicken out of the sandwich, leaving the rest of the sandwich intact.

Sam also got some Rugellah I had left in the car with him for a few minutes. But the cookies were tightly wrapped in two layers of aluminum foil. When I got back to the car, the two layers of foil had been carefully unwrapped. There wasn’t a single tear anywhere in the foil. And there were only a few crumbs left sitting in the middle of the package.

One other dog of mine and Tom’s also had a superpower. His name was Caley and he was a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. He was an extraordinary Frisbee dog. He could catch almost any Frisbee you could throw at him. He’d jump in the air and do all kinds of twists and flips, backwards and forwards, to get to the Frisbee. As impressive as that is, many dogs can do that. Caley could do something else.

When we had landscapers working in our yard, they had to pick the rocks out of the soil to create planting areas. Caley was out with the landscapers. The boss knocked on my door and asked me to please keep Caley inside. Apparently when the men threw a rock away, Caley would retrieve it and bring it back to them. So he was slowing the work down. We tested him to see if he was bringing back the same rocks that had been thrown. And he was.

A year later, the landscaper was standing outside the house with me, reminiscing about the amazing rock trick Caley had done the previous year. Caley came running outside and went right up to the landscaper. Then he ran off. He came back with a rock in his mouth and dropped it excitedly at the landscaper’s feet. He waited, wagging his tail, for the rock to be thrown for him. He remembered the rock game and wanted to play it again!

There are a lot of talented dogs out there. These are just some of our stories about our dogs with unique talents.

PROBLEM PETS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve had some crises with pets in my day. I’ve also had a wide variety of pets, both when I was a kid and when my kids were growing up. I’ve had gerbils, rabbits, birds, cats and dogs. Thanks to my son, I’ve had a lot of reptiles and amphibians too, like turtles, frogs, an iguana and several snakes. We kept five frogs alive in a home-made terrarium for five years! That could be some kind of frog longevity record. I’ve also had tanks of tropical fish. These were my least favorite in terms of care and clean up.

One of my favorite ‘pets gone wild’ stories, is about my childhood dog, Schnitzel, a dachshund. I had Schnitzel from the ages of eleven to twenty-six. When he was young, he had a habit of jumping into our lake to chase ducks. Usually he’d come back to shore after a short chase. One day, he was chasing three ducks. The ducks would swim together until Schnitzel got close. Then they’d split off and go in three different directions. That made Schnitzel crazy. He would bark and chase one and then turn around and go in a different direction after a different duck. The ducks stayed calm throughout.

Schnitzel photos

My grandfather and I couldn’t get him to come back to shore. I was afraid that Schnitzel would get tired and drown. So, Grandpa and I got into our canoe and went onto the lake to chase after Schnitzel. So Schnitzel was going after the ducks and we were going after him. As soon as we got close to Schnitzel, he’d take off in another direction and allude us. Just like what the ducks were doing to Schnitzel.

We finally managed to herd him close to shore. I jumped into the lake and grabbed him. We were both covered in mud. So I threw Schnitzel into the swimming pool to clean off and I went in after him, fully clothed. We all came home soaked and exhausted!

Another pet incident happened with my college son’s Python, Princess. My son was at school and my daughter and I were scheduled to leave for Germany the next day. I fed Princess the night before, but I must have forgotten to put the top back on the tank. The morning we had to leave, I discovered the top off and the snake gone! Frantic, my daughter and I searched and searched but couldn’t find Princess.

This is probably our second python, Turbo, but Turbo and Princess looked alike

We had to leave for the airport so I called my son and told him that he had to drive the three hours home to find his lost pet, ASAP. I worried through the entire flight that I had killed my son’s pet, or lost her forever. When we got to Germany, I called home immediately. My son had no trouble finding Princess. He had put her back in her tank and had gone back to school. Crisis averted!

The next pet story involves my nine-year old daughter’s rabbit, Coffee. This rabbit loved to chew wires, eat paper and explore whenever my daughter let her loose in the house. Probably not the best idea, even though we watched her closely when she was out of her cage.

My daughter, Sarah, and Coffee

One day, Coffee hopped into the bathroom. Before we could grab her, she wedged herself behind the built-in sink cabinet. We could not get her out. To make a long story short, we had to call a carpenter we knew and told him that it was a life or death emergency. I doubt he got too many calls like that in his line of work!

The carpenter had to take the entire cabinet apart, piece by piece to get the rabbit. Each time he’d get close, she’d move farther back into the built-in. It was not cheap to have the carpenter basically rebuild the entire cabinet. We never let Coffee roam free again.

One other pet problem we had was really not the pet’s fault. We rescued a tiny baby turtle from my mother’s swimming pool. We created a terrarium for him, complete with a swimming pool. We named him Jaws as a joke, because he was so small and cute. The joke was on us. He grew and grew and turned into a humongous snapping turtle. He grew into his name. We couldn’t keep him anymore so we donated him to the local Audubon Society. He was on display there, in a huge tank, for years. Hopefully happy years.

So these are a few of the ‘adventures’ we’ve had with our numerous pets over the years. Nothing earth shattering. But I’ll bet a lot of people have similar stories to tell about their pets.

JUST CALL HIM DUKE

Our granddaughter called.

“I probably shouldn’t ask this, but I’m going to ask anyway. I’ve got friends who have to find a home for their dog. How do you feel about another dog?”

“Male? Female? How big? House broken? How old?” I think she knew she had a sale because I wasn’t flat-out saying “no.” I was negotiating.

“Small. Boston terrier maybe crossed with a border collie? Just about a year old.”

“I’m pretty sure I can give you a solid ‘maybe’ on that. Garry’s at the grocery store and I don’t think he wants another dog … but he’d say probably say yes if you ask. Because you’re you and he’ll do anything for you.”

“True,” she said. Garry’s feelings about Kaity are not a big secret.

Garry and the dog and dog’s parents all arrived at the same time.

Duke the First

We had some minor negotiations. A lot of running around and playing. Lots of tongues hanging out. Play positions, a bit of yapping. No biting, no sulking. He figured out the doggy door by following Bonnie through it.

Kaity said: “Grandpa, you should give him a name. He’s never had a real name.”

Garry went outside to clean up the walk and came in the house.

“His name is Duke,” said Garry. We were getting another dog.

Duke never had a name and has grown up inside a truck. He wasn’t confined to the truck. The family who owned him lived in the truck, too. Eventually they gave the dog up for adoption and the people with whom he was living liked him, but their dog really didn’t. They had had a week of growling and serious biting and felt it wasn’t working out. Unable to get in touch with the adoption people, there was Kaitlin. And then, there was us.

This is a dog who, like Gibbs, never had the room to just run around and be a dog. He looks more like a Cavalier King Charles or a Shih Tzu crossed with a border collie. He has a rather eastern dog-face.

Tom Curley believes that when you need a dog, a dog will be there. I had been thinking that both dogs were now past 10 years old as I was cooking supper. A dog appeared. Magic!

One ear up, one ear down. And I have a feeling he’s a barker.

THE CAT IN THE TREE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The story of the cat in the tree is part of our family folk-lore. While not a major, life-altering event, it’s a good story with a happy ending.

Tom and I were scheduled to leave for London the following day. It was summer. Both of our young adult children were living at home with us. We were relaxing after dinner when we heard a cat meowing from outside the house. Our two cats — we also had three dogs — were exclusively indoor cats.

Tom, me, our kids, David and Sarah, and our three dogs at our wedding in 2002

We commented that we hadn’t realized our neighbors had cats. After a few more ‘meows’, we decided to do a head count and make sure that both of our cats were where they were supposed to be. One cat, Hillary, was missing. Shit!

So all four of us went outside and started to frantically search the fenced in backyard for our missing cat. We were worried she might be injured since she lived on the second floor of the house. The only way to get from there to the back yard, was off our bedroom deck and roof, which was pretty high up from the ground.

We searched and searched. It started to get dark so we got flashlights. When we called, she would answer us, but we couldn’t pinpoint her location. One minute she’d sound like she was off to our left. The next minute, she’d sound as if she was on our right. We got increasingly confused. We were also beginning to panic. We had to find Hillary if we wanted to leave on our trip the next day!

It eventually occurred to us that cats can climb trees. We might be looking in the wrong place for Hillary. So Tom took the flashlight up to the bedroom deck and shined it straight into the giant evergreen tree right outside our bedroom. There she was. Contentedly sitting in the tree. We figured she must have started to slide down the slanted roof and caught her fall by jumping onto the overhanging tree branch.

Tom said he’d climb the tree and get Hillary. The rest of us were afraid Tom would kill himself so we tried to dissuade him. Tom convinced us that it was an easy tree to climb and that he was an expert tree climber. So we agree and Tom climbed up to the second floor level and tried to grab Hillary. She got spooked and moved higher up the tree. After this little dance continued for a while, our daughter, Sarah, decided to step in.

Who do you call when your cat is stuck in a tree? The Fire Department. Sarah called our Volunteer Fire Department. She explained that both her cat and father were in a tree and needed help. The operator then asked Sarah if it was her father or the cat’s father who was up in the tree with Hillary.

Hillary

The Fire Department actually came. You might think firemen rescue cats from trees all the time and would know how to do it. This was true — fifty years ago. Not, however, these days. The firemen asked US what we wanted them to do. “Get a ladder.” Tom answered. So they brought out a tall ladder. But it was not tall enough.

The fireman then yelled up to Tom, “The ladder’s too short! What do you want me to do?”

What Tom did was creative and brave. He grabbed Hillary, hung upside down by his knees on a branch and handed the cat off to the fireman at the top of the ladder. Victory! Everyone gathered around the rescued cat – and completely forgot about Tom, still hanging upside down in the tree. One fireman finally went back to the tree and asked if Tom could get down on his own. Tom was hot and sweaty and exhausted, but he managed to climb down safely.

Before the firemen left, one of them phoned in a report to the office. This is what he said: “One cat and one adult male in tree. Successful recovery.”

That pretty much sums it all up!

A WORLD OF SHARING

Share Your World – July 10, 2017


How do you like to spend a rainy day?

We spend rainy days pretty much the way we spend every other day, except we are less likely to go out. When the weather is good — or especially pretty — we grab cameras and take pictures.

Rainy days are less inspiring. And we have to berate the dogs to go out. We don’t love pouring rain, but they really hate it. You need strong self-esteem to convince a Scottish Terrier to go out in the rain. They will test you.

List at least five favorite treats. 

Fruit is probably all five treats. Cherries. Melon. An occasional banana. Grapes — in season. Apples if I think my tummy can deal with it. Kiwi (mm). Oranges and grapefruit, if they are any good — and in recent years, they have been pretty bad. Ditto peaches and nectarines. Plums are sometimes worth hunting down and the early strawberries are great.

Otherwise, I have some crispy, low-fat, low-calorie vanilla cookies I like with coffee and if you haven’t tried Thin Oreos … well .. they are the king of store-bought cookies. Don’t argue until you’ve tried them. The chocolate mint is potentially lethal.

I love popcorn, but my gums don’t. I love other nuts, but my stomach disagrees. I could eat cashews until the tips of my fingers need surgery to repair the damage, but they are just a wee bit fattening, especially eaten by the pound.

And, when everything else is too sweet or out of season, thin pretzels.

Where’s your favorite place to take out-of-town guests?

The rivers. Starting at the canal. Weaving through River Bend. Stopping at the dam in the middle of town. Weaving over to Manchaug, then down route 98 to where the river widens enough to fish.

Aldrich Creek runs parallel to this street, so you can go to the next street over, forgetting the name. This would be pretending I knew the name. I don’t think I ever learned it. It is just “that road over there.” Drive down past the farm and watch the cows grazing in the meadows while watching the river flow past.

Water is everywhere, especially this year after so much rain!

You are trapped in an elevator, who would you want to be trapped with?

I’ll take a pass on that. I can’t imagine wanting to be trapped in any elevator, no matter who I was with. Well, okay. There are a couple of authors that I might not mind, as long as it’s a short amount of trapping. I have this fear of being in an elevator with no bathroom that exceeds anything I might gain from someone interesting to talk to!

BUYING A DOOR FOR THE DOGS

Now that the front door and sidelights is ordered, I need to get a doggy door. The one we’ve got is huge. We’ve had so many different dogs, from very small to really big, we needed one door to fit all of them. Now, though, with just the two terriers, we can drop down from the extra-large to a medium. Both dogs are the right height for medium, but if Bonnie gets any more rotund, I’m afraid it’ll be like Winnie the Pooh all over again. Poor Bonnie, stuck in the door!

I measured the dogs. When I was done, I put the tape measure back in its container and looked up Scottish Terriers because you can’t measure a wriggling dog. Bonnie was either 10 or 13-inches tall. Gibbs was maybe 12 or possibly 14-inches tall. Both seemed to be about 15-inches wide, which would make them wider than they are tall … so I went with the breed description.

Medium.

You’d think getting a doggy door would be a no-brainer after dealing with getting the entire front door, but nothing is easy. Initially, I figured I’d get another Pet Safe door since we’ve had them for the past 17 years and they never wear out. You just get a new flap when the old ones gets warped from sun, wind, snow, rain … and being whacked head-first by a charging dog. When Bishop was a young one, he’d leap down the stairs and straight out the door with all the other guys following him.

Whack, thump, bang, whack, whack. Then they all turned around and came back in. More whacks and thumps and bangs.

Dog doors come with and without electronics. With soft and hard doors. They also come with multiple layers of flaps or hard doors  to keep the heat in and the cold out … or the cold in and the bugs out. Some were more expensive than the entire front door and two sidelights I just bought.

I wanted a regular door. Not hard, because our dogs are not used to hard doors and I’m pretty sure getting smacked on the head by a hard plastic door a few hundred times a day might discourage them from using it — not what I want. So soft. And not black. One of the nicer doors comes with a heavy black flap … but Gibbs gets freaked out when he can’t see the light on the other side. I also didn’t want one of the new Pet Safe doors because there are a lot of complaints from people like me who had the older doors and think the new ones are plastic junk.

Crazy dogs!

Eventually, I went to PetDoors.com and had a sensible conversation with their online chat person. She said “Go with Ideal. Better than Pet Safe, not as expensive as Hale.” There were a few others she didn’t bother to mention. A bit pricey. You could buy a Harley for less money.

So, I’m down to two doors. Really, more like one door, but you can buy it in plastic or aluminum. I’m betting we’ll go with aluminum.

All of this took me hours and I’m exhausted. I have spent a lot of money I don’t have and will have to spend another few hundred for all the finishing pieces. Two-by-fours and molding and paint and doggy doors and flooring. Weather stripping. Screw and nuts and bolts and blades for the Sawzall. And, at the end of this, presumably, we will have a door for humans and dogs and I will not have to think about this again for another decade or two.

Just imagine how much more complicated planning health care would be. My mind boggles.