WRITE ABOUT DOGS

This is one of the few posts I wrote more than four years ago which I occasionally republish without changes. For some reason, this one seems “just right.”


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.

Gibbs with Duke

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.

Duke and Bonnie

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 or maybe have you throw that ball. If they don’t get what they want, they love you anyway.

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.

Bonnie

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.

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.

About to engage …

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.

WORLD SHARING IN A COLD MONTH

Share Your World – January 8, 2018


Do you prefer a bath or shower?

I would like to take the occasional bath, but I can’t extract myself from the tub. Gravity gets me down into it, but my sky hook is broken. Nothing will get me up, so showers it is and will be.

What do you do to make a living or during the day? If you are retired what mostly occupies your day? Or if you are a student what are you studying?

Homey scene of me and a camera, two matching Scottish terriers, and sunshine through the picture window. A post-Christmas painting of life in the country.

I write. I take pictures. I process pictures. I read and then I read more. I cook. I pay bills. I organize Life.

I do not believe my dogs are the cutest animals on Planet Earth, but really they are. Bonnie and Gibbs all snuggled up on the sofa were beyond all previous levels of adorable. I took pictures. Garry took pictures. The problem is, the moment you try to get to your camera, they move. Garry crept across the room to grab his and mine, which was just below my arm at the edge of the sofa , but sadly had the wide-angle lens on it. We did the best we could.

I make phone calls for both of us since Garry can’t and even if he could, he won’t. He hates the telephone. He hated it long before mobile phones were invented. You might say he was a pre-technological telephone hater,

Together, we go to doctors – his, mine and of course, the dogs,

Too cute for words.

We laugh at the dogs, watch some TV and united, we wait for the world to thaw, spring to arrive, and a sane government to come into office.

Is there a stuffed animal in your bedroom?

There are a few stuffed animals in the bedroom, but there are a lot more antique dolls including a bunch of historical and Hollywood figure dolls.

See Pluto on the ledge above the bed.

My favorite stuffed critter is a beanbag of Pluto, the Disney dog. He always makes me smile.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  

I’m still appreciating getting my oil delivery. The house is warm. The roof doesn’t leak. The driveway got plowed. There’s food in the freezer and we have lots of coffee, half & half, and I baked a fresh gingerbread. The dogs are content and basically, so are we.

What could be better?

ALLERGIC?

Allergic? I have a few words for you to consider:


Dust and Dog Hair.

If you don’t have a problem with either of them, wait for spring and add … POLLEN! Oh, and don’t forget autumn RAGWEED.

Anyone feel like coming and clearing our gutters and moving out those big blocks of ice and snow before the ice dams form?

No?

I thought not. I got a notice from National Grid about doing exactly that along with a few other things we can’t afford. It took me two years to find someone to clean the gutters last time. He never came back and turned out to be a big time thief, so I’m glad I didn’t pay him in advance.

Pass the tissues.

DOUBLE T-T PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THE FUN OF IT

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:
T – Needs to have two T’s anywhere in the word


Bonnie is a Scottish Terrier
Gibbs is also a Scottish Terrier
Together, these are two Scottish Terriers
Cattle grazing
Old tractor
Little plane up in the air!
Little bottle

OIL TRUCKS, DOGS, AND AN EXTRAVAGANCE OF BARKING

We need an oil delivery. Last I looked — about a week ago — the gauge indicated just barely a quarter of a tank and it has been very cold outside. The heat has been pumping at a rate far above its normal, relatively languid rate. The truck is supposed to show up today. In a normal home, they come, pump, and leave. That’s the whole story.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

However, we’ve got dogs. Before they enter the yard, I need to secure the three of them so they can safely open the front gate and drag the long, heavy hose across the yard. They tried heaving it over the fence, but the fence collapsed. Now, they unlock it — and we have to dig through however much snow so they can do this. The year we got 12 feet of snow, we did a lot of digging.

I live in mortal terror of dogs running into the road. We don’t have a lot of traffic, but it is always too fast. People drive this road as if no one lives here, but it is lined on both sides with homes. Houses are set far apart, I grant you, but this is no kind of speedway. I sometimes wonder if they are going to whack me at the mailbox. They’ve gotten close.

Generally speaking, it’s easy to get the dogs inside. Food works wonders. If they think there is something in it for them, they are in like flashes. Then,of course, there’s dinner. They are always early for dinner by at least half an hour. From when they think they should get dinner to when they actually do get dinner, they leap into the air and twirl for us, often while barking. Because you know, if they didn’t do that, we’d probably forget to feed them. They can barely survive from meal to meal and still stand steadily on their paws, the poor starving creatures.

I’m strong about this issue. Unless we are going out and need to feed them early, they get dinner at four and occasionally — please, understand that life sometimes causes the dog’s dinners to be deferred — as late as five or six. I try not break down and give them dinner early because if they eat early, they are sure they need another dinner a few hours later.

They do not need another dinner. It’s a lie. They lie like dogs.

Getting them in the house is usually easy. Unless there’s someone or something on the property. A vehicle. A delivery person. A truck in the driveway produces chaos and all bets are off. No bribery will nudge them from their assigned duty of protecting us from deliveries — and neighbors.

Gibbs races around the yard at a speed you wouldn’t think a Scottie could manage while simultaneously barking in a frenzy until whatever was there is gone. This means if it’s a worker — say, the cable guy — who is going to be here a while, Gibbs will continuously race around the yard barking frantically the entire time. It is wearing on everyone’s nerves and it is, as far as we can tell, impossible to get him to shut up — or  even come inside. The few times we have convinced him to come in, he still barks the whole time. Inside. Barking.

Bonnie gives a few friendly “got a cookie?” barks. She’s fine with everybody. Not a great watch dog and lacking the deep suspicion of strangers Gibbs and Duke have.

Duke goes all protective — a 40-pound coil of canine protection, including a considerable amount of growling. He’s not obedient any time, but with someone in the driveway and in particular, a truck? He is The Guardian. If the oil people are coming, I need to have them call me before they open the gate. All drivers have cell phones, so it’s not so hard. As soon as we get the call, Garry and I race out to corral the dogs and lock the dog’s door.

This was easier when we were younger.

We could try to keep them inside, but they have lost that “tell your people when you need to go out” thing dogs usually have as part of housebreaking. They know they can always get outside, the same way we know the bathroom is just down the hall. It is one of the side effects of having a door of their own. I’m not sure they entirely recognize that “out” is a different place than “in.” It’s all just “home” to them.

So today, we wait for when cometh the oil delivery.  As I type, the dogs are calm, collected, peacefully resting on the sofa. Yet I know, at any moment, the truck will show up and these same peaceful dogs will become insane balls of fiery protective energy.

It’s fortunate we don’t need oil very often.

DOGS, TOYS AND A HOLIDAY

We gave them three brand new Kong toys … the only ones worth buying because they are the only ones that last longer than a couple of minutes. Of the three, the one that looked like a little Teddy Bear disappeared entirely within minutes of Bonnie adopting it, but has reappeared several times. I saw it as recently as this morning, but when we came back from the hospital, I saw it on the far side of the front yard near the other gate.

We gave the strange birdlike stuffed creature to The Duke and eventually when Gibbs appeared, gave the Dodo to him.

Sometimes missing toys reappear. Others vanish and are never seen again.

Of the original three, one still looks almost newish. It’s identical to its original, the strangely birdlike creature that all the dogs dearly love. So there are two of them — the old one and the new one.

Then, there’s the blue Dodo. It was brand new. Gibbs grabbed it and took it outside. Later, he brought it back. Covered in ice and snow and mud, it was one of the most disgusting items ever brought in from outside. I washed it with soap and hot water and Garry threw it in the dryer. It sat in lonely isolation on the end table until Duke, frustrated by seeing it but not having it, went rogue and got it on his own. It is out in the snow in the front yard now. Maybe it will come home later.

You certainly couldn’t accuse our dogs of not appreciating their new toys. I wish they wouldn’t drag them out into the mud and ice so fast, but they don’t lack enthusiasm. They sure do love the toys. Looking around, one of the two strange birdlike creatures has gone missing. Again.

THE DOG HE DESERVES

Duke is not our first dog. We’ve had a big selection of hounds, terriers, and mutts of various backgrounds, sizes, ages. Somehow or other they have all fit in here because anyone or anything can fit in here, assuming they want to. For years, there has been great howling and yapping and barking in this house and that’s the way we seem to like it.

The thing we’ve never had, however, are truly obedient dogs. We don’t demand obedience, so we don’t get it. I wasn’t a very good disciplinarian as a mom, either. Discipline makes me feel guilty, as if to say — who am I to demand obedience? Who do I think I am anyway?

Garry is worse. Garry was born with a gene that says “whatever you tell me to do, I won’t do it.” It’s a special piece of DNA that screams “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?” Even in the Marine Corps, when his drill instructor yelled at him, he laughed. It got him a lot of days scrubbing bathrooms with toothbrushes, but it’s in his blood. He cannot help himself. I cannot help him either. He’s a tough nut. People think he’s so easy-going … and he is … unless you get him mad. Then he isn’t. Easy-going.

Duke is the dog Garry deserves. Duke also has no grip on “Do what they tell you. Be a GOOD dog.” You stare at Duke and he stares back. You can see every inch of Duke screaming “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?”

Certainly not Garry. They try to stare each other down, but Garry starts laughing long before he manages to get obedience … and anyway, I don’t think Duke can do it. It’s not in him. The other dogs, if they hear that “tone” in my voice will do what I say because they hear the “alpha” note — and figure they ought to behave, even if it’s just a few minutes.

Not Duke. Nope. Never. He doesn’t do “obey.” He would make a feral cat look like a well-trained pup.

Unless I’m holding a piece of chicken. Chicken is another level of training and if I actually needed Duke to behave, I would need a lot of chickens. Possibly a whole cow. Or an entire flock of sheep and maybe a school of shrimp. Do shrimp swim in a school or is that just fish?

Anyway, Duke is the dog Garry needed. He is the dog that will go eyeball-to-eyeball with Garry until they are both laughing themselves silly. Well, Garry does most of the laughing, but I swear Duke is grinning.

So we know why Garry wound up with Duke, but what did the two Scotties and I do to deserve him?