PUPPY LOVE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I had forgotten how cute puppies are. Or how much work they are. Then my brother-in-law came to visit with his 12-week old Catahoula Leopard Dog, named Houla. She is one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen!

Houla

Before she came, Tom and I worried about how our two dogs, ages two and eight, would get along with the puppy. At first, our guys didn’t know how to react to this 17-pound ball of energy. Lexi, the eight-year-old, is usually overly aggressive with other dogs. But she played nicely and gently with Houla. Remy, the two-year-old, is usually great with other dogs. But she just barked in the puppy’s face non-stop. Total role reversal.

Then they switched back and started acting true to character. That first day involved snarling and growling and lots of human intervention to avoid a trip to the vet. But there was no bloodshed and the drama was relatively low-keyed.

Then something wonderful happened The three dogs negotiated a working agreement. Or rather, a play agreement. Suddenly the dogs were all playing together 24/7. Happy as clams. They chased each other and rolled around on the floor together. They climbed all over each other. All the time barking, yipping, and yelping with doggie glee.

Of course, the puppy still managed to find time to get into our stuff. There she goes running down the hall with a Time Magazine in her mouth! There goes one of Tom’s shoes! A wine cork is a fun chew toy to throw in the air and catch!

By evening everyone was exhausted, especially the humans. Thank God the dogs were too. After a good post-dinner romp, all three dogs found a comfy place to crash and they all passed out!

One night, Tom and his brother slept on the boat so I was home alone with the dogs. Houla slept on the bed with me and my dogs. Peace reigned until I got up to feed them at 6 AM. After eating, Houla was wired and kept running around the bed. This drove Lexi crazy and she wouldn’t stop barking at Houla. So I was up off and on for hours until Houla finally went back to sleep.

The next night, Houla slept with us till the 6 AM feeding and then I took her back to my brother-in-law’s room. She cuddled with him and slept till it was time to get up.

It’s been funny to see how three adults can barely hold their own in the face of an energetic, happy puppy. Every conversation attempt was punctuated with “Houla NO! NO!” We kept hearing suspicious sounds that had to be investigated. There goes an empty plastic bottle or a plastic bag. (Why do dogs love plastic bags? They can’t taste good). There goes a CD case whizzing by!

These few days have been SO much fun! We have all been smiling and laughing so much our faces hurt! I am SOOO sad to see this puppy depart! The house will be quiet and boring. But I think the puppy is wonderful for my brother-in-law, who lives alone in the middle of nowhere. She gives him companionship and something to do with his days as a retiree.

This visit has confirmed for me my love of all dogs. And my great appreciation for having two in my life who enrich my days and warm my heart.

RDP #9 – HE WAS A RAGABASH, BUT WE LOVED HIM ANYWAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #9 – The Ragabash Puppy

He had been raised in a truck. His owners drove a truck and that’s where he lived. At some point, they got The Duke. Who knows from where?

“What is he?” people ask and all I can say is “I have no idea.” He looks like a Border Collie crossed with some kind of Asian flat-faced dog — or maybe a Boston Terrier. Every day, I thank heaven for the availability of Prozac because, without it, he is just a wee bit difficult to control.

I’m sure his original owners were sure he was going to be a much smaller dog and he was smaller, even when we got him almost a year ago. When he got to be really difficult to handle — that Border Collie in there makes him a handful — they passed him to another owner who couldn’t manage him and put him in a crate where he was living when we took him in.

This is a dog about whom it is frequently said: “He needs a job.”

He does. He could rewire the house. Pave the driveway. Do some masonry on the roof.

He can seem to be quite the tough little scoundrel. A blatant ragamuffin, although no more idle or worthless than any other “what is he?” mutt of a dog. I suppose one could consider him disrespectful.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

He does as he pleases which can be maddening, but I think he has shaped us up pretty well and we behave much better than we did in the beginning. We tell him he’s a good boy, but really, he’s terrible and hilarious.

We are his third home and although we know we could easily rehome him, I think that would be cruel. He has had enough homes. I don’t think he would benefit from a different future. We’ve got him and he’s got us. We promised him he could stay here.

Here he will stay.

TRAGICALLY LOST YET MAGICALLY FOUND – Garry Armstrong

Photos: Garry Armstrong


Back in the day (I hate that cliché), I used to do features like this for slow TV news days. It’s been a week of family soap opera, spawned by disciples of “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Father Knows Best” and “Modern Family.” Oh, the angst!

Today figured to be a reprieve. Lunch with an old pal from my working days. I looked forward to sharing stories about baseball, favorite TV shows, and guy gossip. Perfect weather. Tee shirt weather. Ready to roll. But, as Columbo would say, “… just one more thing, Sir.”

I couldn’t find my shoulder bag. My shoulder bag which contains my driver’s license, Social Security card, medical, and credit cards. Marilyn joined me in the household search, from casual to frantic. Car searches turned up nothing.

I stared accusingly at the dogs. Visions of a conspiracy grew. Why me?

Marilyn tried to calm me down as my grumbling grew louder, laced with profanity and anger. Why me?

She tried to call my friend to cancel lunch but his contact numbers were out-of-date. I had failed to update the contact information. Why me?

I dashed off an email to my pal, explaining the situation and apologizing for the last minute lunch cancellation. My anger was growing. Except, I was the perp.

Finally, I decided to retrace my movements of the past 24 to 36 hours. Local deli to the supermarket. I kept thinking of what potentially lay ahead if my ID and credit cards were really lost … or even worse, had been stolen.

Dammit!

The supermarket folks were kind. They knew me. One of the perks of living in a small town is that everyone knows your name. One of the managers smiled and indicated they had it — even before I could get the question out.

I gulped and stepped back, taking a deep breath. They searched high and low, assuring me my bag was safe, under lock and key.

The long wait. Finally, with deep apologies, they said my bag was at the police station. Why were they apologizing?? I was the one who’d lost the bag. I gave myself a Gibbs’ head slap.

The police station is only a couple of minutes away, but season-long road work has the middle of town in a virtual freeze frame. Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the police station parking lot. I counted to ten and got out of the car. I took a few steps, then got back into the car … to turn the engine off. Another count from one-to-ten. Then I advanced into the police station.

They greeted me with smiles. Yes, they had my bag!! They recognized my police badge. Actually, it’s an auxiliary police badge given to me back in my working days. Yes, I still like to flip the holder cover open, casually revealing the badge. I’m admittedly an aging ham.

My bag was returned to me. I signed a release form with a BIG “Thank You”. The station personnel kept smiling. I wanted to slowly back out, feeling very stupid. They wouldn’t let me leave. Why me??

It seems they wanted to take pictures with me. To show off to their family and friends. Who used to watch me on television. Very weird.

I kept thinking … they shoot horses, don’t they?

PICKLES: THE ONLY FOOD OUR DOGS WON’T EAT – Marilyn Armstrong

I love pickles, but the dogs don’t

Picking up on the theme of “placate” from Fandango’s FOWC, pickles are the only known food our dogs will not eat. To be fair, none of them are overly fond of plain old cucumbers, either … but pickles? They get them in their mouths, make a very strange face (for a dog) and drop them on the floor. They then stare at us with a look that screams: “What IS this stuff? What are you trying to do to us?”

I always point out that they were the ones who asked for it. I didn’t go into the fridge looking for pickles for them. I wanted one for me. I’m particularly fond of the big sour or half-sour dill pickles. I think they might actually eat the sweet ones, but I’m not nearly as fond of them and always go for the dills.

If we had more pickles in the house and fewer tasteless crunchy treats, the dogs would be slimmer and possibly I would be slimmer too. You can eat a huge number of pickles without putting on an ounce. It’s like eating a cucumber with super-powers.

This morning, my darling Garry and I are actually socializing, going for brunch with another couple. He’s an old Channel 7 colleague and she, like me, is the other part of the couple. Two stars and their less famous (but not unworthy) wives.

We’ll make a dynamic duo at the J & M Diner in Framingham!

PLACATING THE FURRY PEOPLE – Marilyn Armstrong

Placating the furry friends

They want food. It doesn’t matter if they are hungry. It doesn’t matter if they consumed an entire meal a minute and a half before. They figure if we are in or even near (which is to say, on our feet and moving) the kitchen, they want something. Anything. Literally anything — except pickles. It’s the only food they won’t eat, even on a bet.  Note to self: Buy more pickles.

Boinnie

Why? It’s probably our fault. They are absolutely sure that any movement on our part indicates a treat in the works. It can be a big treat — “That leftover half sandwich would work for me,” says The Duke — or a little crunchy, tasteless thing from a big jar of little crunchy tasteless things.

Recently on Amazon, I found a version of tasteless crunchies from Milkbone that declare them to be “the guilt-free” treat for over-treaters.

I think we are probably over-treaters. We are easily guilted. A stern look from eager dogs makes us sad. We feel, after all, that can get anything we want from the fridge or cupboard, but our poor pathetic (beefy, overweight) dogs depend on us.

Gibbs

So as soon as we finish up the approximately 20 pounds of stuff already bought and in closets, I’m going for the guilt-free stuff. Really, they are only big boxes of very small biscuits and we probably will wind up giving them two or three of them, even though I know for a fact that it’s the idea that counts with dogs. They really don’t notice if it’s a big lumpy thing or a tiny little thing. It’s all about the concept.

Duke

I had never realized how much guilt dogs could stir in a human heart. I think I had the same problem with cats if I remember correctly.

I have toughed it out with the plants, though. I do not water them no matter how much I want to.  At least plants don’t bark or meow at me if I don’t water them.

They merely wilt. Frankly, I find that difficult enough.

FLUMMOXED AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Flummoxed by Life, Rain, and Dawgz

It’s a great literary word and I love what it means. To be completely (pardon the expression) bamboozled. Stunned. Lost in the complexity. Wandering mentally aimless. Made mentally woolly by the ghosts of the past.


”Naked and alone we came into exile,” Thomas Wolfe wrote. ”In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. . . . Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”


And then he said … and he repeated it throughout the book: “Lost, o lost. Ghost, come back again.” By which he was remembering his dead brother.

I read this book– all of his books, actually — when I was 14 and 15. Those were my serious reading years.  Wolfe really spoke to me. “Look Homeward, Angel” was nearly 1000 pages of poetry. I don’t think I’d get through the first chapter today. My taste for poetry has withered on its vine. Even so, a really good poem grabs me by the heart.

A beautiful poem isn’t just words. It’s a cry to your soul and all of “Look Homeward, Angel” was a soul’s cry.

Duke on a rainy day

The thing that makes me bring up a book I haven’t read for nearly 60 years was that the main character in all of Wolfe’s books — especially his three early ones — was permanently flummoxed. The world meant little to him. He was never clear on where the boundaries between real and ghostly began or ended.

Gibbs

That’s how I felt then and sometimes today. It’s not dementia. That’s when I can’t remember a perfectly simple word because it has flown my mental coop and I have to find it on Google (how could I survive without Google?) … or just write around it until later when the word just shows up. Like a lost kitten who was hiding under the bed, the word looks at me and says: “What’s your problem? I was just under the bed. Didn’t you look there?”

This morning it was raining so hard I thought there was a strong wind blowing. I looked outside and realized the trees were shaking from the weight of water falling on them.

Gibbs was never housebroken. He got here, doped out where shit went and proceeded to become housebroken. Unless it rains. None of our three dogs likes rain, but Gibbs truly loathes it.

Snow? Not a problem. Cold? No worries. Light rain? Can handle that.


“HEAVY RAIN?
You want ME to go out THERE?
You go out. I’m home until it stops.”


Gibbs had already left a load for me in the kitchen, right next to the trash can. He’s very neat that way and never goes for a rug or anything soft. I threw the dogs out. Gibbs lay down in front of the doggy door and went limp. I had to lift his front end, push it out the door, then lift his butt (which seems to be growing) and pushed it out, too. Then I locked the door while I cleaned the kitchen and gave them fresh water.

They stood in front of the house. Dripping. Looking at me. Daggers to my heart. I let them back in, went to the bathroom and came back. Gibbs had saved a pile to remind me he is a proud, stubborn terrier. Amazingly, he also looked guilty and has spent the rest of the morning giving me his best “sad-eyed” look.  He knows he has done wrong, but if it rains like this again, guilt will not change him. At 11-years-old, this is not a dog with a lot of “give” in his nature. Much love, but little flexibility.

I could have gotten up earlier and tossed them out. I was tired. The bed was warm. Excuses, excuses.

I wasn’t flummoxed. I was tired, warm, and cozy — the lethal “stay in bed” potion. Pushing reluctant dogs out a dog door wasn’t on my list of “things I wanted to do.”

Life keeps getting livelier and I don’t understand how two long-since retired people could get so godawful busy this late in life. Life never seems to go where we want it to do, though sometimes —  maybe even often — it does something more strange, but better.

HOME AND THE GIANT FIX-IT LIST – Marilyn Armstrong

It may be grubby, but it’s home.

Home is …

where the DVRs record the shows we watch.

where the bed is comfortable and we can sleep.

where the dogs are … dirt and all.

where the furniture isn’t classy, but is back-friendly and lets me put my feet up so my ankles don’t swell.

where my stuff lives.

 

It’s grubby. Frayed at the edges. Dusty. Full of memories, hopes and dreams. It ain’t fancy, big, or likely to impress anyone. Lots of things need fixing, replacing, painting, cleaning.

For all that, it’s incredibly comfortable. It has soft edges and inviting places to sit and rest. The roof don’t leak … and most of all,  it’s ours.