We got him by accident. We kept him because he needed a home. We thought eventually, he’d calm down.
He has not calmed down.
He has not become mellow.
He has not recognized that he is home and it safe to relax. Mostly, he wants to be attached to Garry all the time. Physically joined if possible.
He has calm periods, but mostly, he’s like a giant, over-wound spring and if the hour strikes just right, he goes into hyper action and zooms madly around the house, knocking over fences and making the two, relatively quiet little Scotties looking lost and confused.
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. 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?
Two Scottish Terriers and a mutt of Asian extraction.
2. How long have you had your current pet(s)?
We’ve had Bonnie since she was 9 weeks old and she is now 11. After that, We’ve had Gibbs for two years and Duke for one year
3. What’s the longest period of time you’ve lived with a pet?
Bonnie wins that one. We got her when she was only 9 weeks old. And suddenly, she’s 11. How did that happen?
4. What type of animals do you generally gravitate towards when adopting pets?
At this point? Dogs.
For a long time, we didn’t live anywhere we could keep dogs, so we didn’t have them, but once we could, we got one, then another. And then some more.
5. What type of animal do you think is the easiest to care for as a pet?
Pets are not “easy” really. When they are healthy and happy and not old and cranky, they are all easy. But time does to dogs what it does to people.
They develop physical issues, including arthritis and cancer and because their lives are so short, it feels like no time passes between puppyhood and old age.
6. Do any of your pets have annoying habits that you can’t break them of?
Gibbs barks continuously when Owen is around the house. NO idea why because he doesn’t do that with anyone else. Duke tends to try to bully the Scotties.
They don’t like it and neither do I, but he has a passionate yearning to be top dog and he’s pushy. The Scotties are not pushy, so he gets away with it.
7. What, in your opinion, is the most difficult thing about being a pet owner?
Vet bills. And losing your dogs to age.
8. Do any of your animals have amusing traits that are particular to them?
All of them.
Bonnie is just adorable, stubborn, funny. Duke lived most of his life in a cage, but he has come a long way in a short time.
He’s quite the cuddler these days when The Duke doesn’t try to muscle him out of the way.
The Duke is totally wacko. Seriously nuts.
9. Which type of pet do you think requires the most care?
Fish, absolutely. Fish tanks always need care.
10. Was there a furbaby that you bonded with more closely than any other?
Griffin, our big boy PBGV was my favorite. He didn’t live nearly long enough.
But I love them all. He was just such a big heap of love and he made me laugh.
11. Do you spoil your pets? In what way?
Basically, they run the joint and let us live here and feed them. We are very good about that.
12. How do your pets react to strangers in the yard? at the door? in the house?
It depends on the stranger. Mostly, strangers don’t come into the yard. I have signs everywhere warning people away.
It’s not to protect them. It’s to protect the dogs from them.
13. Do you tend to anthropomorphize your animals? If so, how far do you take it? For example: Do you dress them in clothing?
Not so much as I’ve gotten older. I often wish I could get into their heads and understand them better.
14. Have you ever had what might be considered “unusual” or exotic pets?
We had a pair of ferrets, Bonnie and Clyde. They were adorable, but they weren’t our pets. They were our cat’s pets. He adopted them.
15. How old were you when you (or your family) adopted your first pet?
I grew up with Doberman Pinschers. I think we got the first one when I was four and they were there until I was a teenager. Then they got a German Shepherd, but by then, I was out of the house and living a separate life.
Garry and I both had cats when we met. He had two, I had one. Getting them to like each other was not easy, but neither of us was willing to give up a cat!
16. What’s the most trouble you can remember a pet getting into?
Bonnie was stolen, but the cops brought her home. Sirens and all.
18. What does your relationship with your furbaby mean to you?
They keep us sane. I swear I’d never survive life without them.
19. How do your pets react when you sing and/or dance?
We don’t dance and our singing seems to be mostly ignored.
20. Have you ever adopted a pet and found out you didn’t get along with them? What did you do?
Yes. We rehomed them to people who loved them.
21. Where do your pets sleep in relation to you? Do they have their own bed, or do you allow them to share yours?
Our pets own the living room and sleep on the sofas. My back is too twisted to share it with three dogs and in any case, the Scotties are too short-legged to get up on a bed without being in danger of getting hurt falling off.
22. How do you come up with names for your pets?
Garry picked Bonnie whose full name is Bonnie Annie Laurie if you please.
I picked Gibbs.
Garry picked The Duke.
23. Putting aside money and sanitary issues — If you could fill your house and property with animals, what type would they be?
Dogs. And maybe a donkey.
24. What was the most expensive pet you’ve ever adopted?
A Norwich terrier who turned out to be a horrible mistake. We rehomed her and she lived a GREAT life, but she was not a dog who got along with other animals. And she was dumb as a rock.
25. What, in your opinion, is the best thing about adopting animals into your home?
They remind you to keep living! Because you need them — and they need YOU.
I haven’t written about our dogs in a while. That’s unusual for me because they are such a big part of our lives.
Our two rescue dogs are my constant companions, or nearly constant. More often than not, wherever I am, they are too. But, they each have favorite spots around the house that they like to go to hang out on their own. So sometimes Tom and I will realize that we humans are the only living beings in the room. When that happens, we usually get up and go looking for our furry pals. I’m embarrassed to admit that we often try to cajole them to come back and hang out with us again.
Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. I like that independent streak in our pets. Especially with Lexi, our eight year old. She is generally too attached and dependent on me and has separation issues. She is usually my shadow so I’m thrilled when she goes into another room on her own. It has taken years to get her to this point.
Our two-year old, Remy, is much more independent. But she is such a lover and a cuddler! She is one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever known. She greets us each morning with sheer joy! She is so thrilled to see us again after a long night. It almost feels like she is excited and grateful to see that we’re still here and so is she. I believe that most rescue dogs have a deep sense of gratitude for being rescued. And also a great appreciation for being part of a family. I see that clearly in Remy, who was eight months old when we got her.
Remy exudes doggie charisma. Everyone loves her instantly. People sense her sweetness and take to her like bees to honey. She sits next to our friends and cuddles with them. She paws them gently to get them to pet her. She rests her head on their arm or thigh. She sniffs and occasionally licks their faces and hands. She just charms the pants off of everyone she meets.
Stacked on sofa
Butt to butt
Sometimes I feel bad for Lexi. She is a shyer and more obviously neurotic dog. So people don’t realize right away how special she is. But once she warms up to you, she is truly awesome. She is very interactive with people. And she is the most verbally communicative dog I’ve ever had. She ‘talks’ – not just barks. She has a wide vocabulary of distinctive sounds and she responds verbally when you talk to her. It’s delightful to have ‘conversations’ with her.
Lexi, like Remy, as also very affectionate. She elicits attention from people with her paws and her voice. She drapes herself over people she’s comfortable with. Sometimes Remy is sitting next to me so there’s no room for Lexi at my side. But that doesn’t stop Lexi! If she wants to cuddle with me, she’ll just climb over Remy and onto my lap. Or she will climb onto the sofa cushion BEHIND me and wrap herself around my neck. Very creative cuddling!
Remy’s favored modes of verbalization are whining as well as barking. I’ve never had a whiner before. Apparently it’s a breed trait of the Red Boned Coon Hound, which seems to be part of Remy’s DNA. (She also looks similar to dogs of that breed and shares their unique and beautiful color).
Her whining can get really high-pitched and shrill, not her best feature. We’re much happier when she just barks at us. But to get Tom to play with her, she whines. She starts softly and then escalates into shrieks if Tom dares to ignore her. This tactic usually works to motivate Tom to get up and take the dogs into the backyard. Or to run around the house with both dogs frantically chasing him and barking with glee.
Both dogs are still skittish, as are many rescue dogs. They startle at sudden noises or movements. They bark frantically when people come into the house and it takes them a while to calm down. Even when we come home after being out for a while, they greet us with frenzied squealing and barking and crazed jumping and running around. They’re a bit over the top, but we enjoy our enthusiastic greetings whenever we walk into the house. It’s a family ritual.
Me and my dogs
Captain Tom and his boat (Serenity) and dog – Photo: Ellin Curley
Remy and Tom
Our dogs sleep in bed with us. All our dogs have. Like most dogs, Lexi and Remy have nighttime rituals they follow religiously. When we first go to bed, Remy lies between Tom and me and cuddles with both of us, in turn. Lexi curls up against my legs or feet. Then at some point towards morning, the dogs switch places. Lexi ends up cuddling with me and Remy takes up her place at my feet or up against Tom.
Sometimes when we get up to go to the bathroom during the night, we get back to find little or no room for us on the bed. We have to push and prod the dogs to get them to move over and create a viable, albeit small, space for us.
In the morning, when the dogs sense we’re getting ready to get up, they pounce on us. Lots of licks and nuzzles. They climb all over Tom and lick him until he finally gets out of bed. What a great wake up call. We start the day with a big dose of love and enthusiasm! Lots of joyful wiggles and wags!
We get out of bed smiling and laughing – which says a lot. We DO NOT like getting out of bed in the mornings!
We don’t have grandchildren, so maybe that’s a factor in our obsession with our dogs. But, whatever the reason, we love our human/canine family. They fill our days with laughter and love. They provide entertainment and affection. They make us happy. And we can’t imagine living any other way!
I was drying my hair in the bathroom and heard a noise out back that sounded remarkably like a dog messing around in “stuff.” I looked out the window — and there was Duke. In the backyard. Where he should not be able to go because the front yard is fully fenced.
So obviously, he’s jumping one of the areas of the fence but we have no idea where he’s doing the jump. The thing is, he doesn’t go anywhere. He just hangs around the property, which is okay. Except we have a lot of critters around here and he could take off and chase one. I’d rather that not happen.
Coyotes and Fishers (they look like mink). Squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats, gophers, skunk … and a huge selection of flying creatures. Not to mention the occasional wildcat and deer.
Before we can keep him IN the yard, we first have to figure out how he is getting out of it.
At least — unlike the terriers — he doesn’t head for parts unknown. He just hangs around the house. That’s something, right?
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.
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.
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 USwhat 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.”
I wrote a blog a while back about how I’ve grown to hate repetitive, routine household chores, like doing the laundry and washing the dishes. But things have changed. The Trump presidency has altered my perspective on a lot of things.
Trump and his team have caused political whiplash and existential chaos, which, in turn, has increased my appreciation for the small things in life. Things like the belief in facts, the existence of truth and the joys of a shared reality, at least with my husband. Also, a renewed love of predictability, consistency and reliability – in people and in the world.
So my boring daily slog is suddenly comforting. It makes me feel secure. My husband’s predictable routines now seem appealing and safe, almost sexy. Chores are no longer frustrating necessities. Sorting socks is now a calming Zen exercise. Fitting dishes into the slots in the dishwasher gives me a sense of success and accomplishment. These are the things in life I can count on. I am not helpless in my own home.
My chores also take me away, for a short time, from the onslaught of breaking news from Washington, DC. They give me moments of quiet before the next storm. I deeply appreciate them for the very repetitiveness that had turned me against them before. Boredom is now my friend. I see it as calmness and peace without the negative connotations I used to attribute to it. It’s the antidote to my PTSD – Perpetual Trump Shitstorm Distress!
I look forward to training my dogs. Sit! Stay! Come! Good girl! Repeat. No lump in my stomach, no sense of dread. No alternative facts or alternate reality. Just me and my dogs agreeing that ‘sit’ means ‘put your butt on the floor’ and ‘stay’ means ‘don’t move until I tell you to.’ Boring, but very reassuring and gratifying.
I appreciate my friends more, at least the ones who share my version of facts and reality. They help me stay grounded. And if I continue to focus on the small things in life that give me pleasure and comfort, I just might make it through the Trump years.
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