Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow

We have no snow in Texas.  Well, at least in the Dallas area, there isn't.  In fact, I walked the dogs in a tank top today.  Now some of you might be thinking "How grand!".  No.  No, it isn't.  It's just wrong for December.

I remember dustings of snow, snow showers, snow flurries and all out nor'easters in Portland, ME.  Downtown, they'd issue a parking ban and everyone would have to rush and get their cars off the streets before the plows started their overnight work.  On those mornings, Matt would haul himself out of bed to recover the car parked blocks away near the waterfront.  Somehow, I was saved from this trek - he's a better snow driver than I am anyhow.  At least, that's how I justified it in my mind.

The snow and the cold weather was a part of each day.  You'd plan for it and get excited about discussing what storm might be blowing in with your friends and coworkers.  There would be plans made around the weather and the gear required for each day's events.  I had these special rubber attachments to the soles of my boots that had metal spirals and spikes.  These gave extra traction on the icy sidewalks and streets.  Snow chains for my feet!

There were days so cold that even Mainers stayed indoors.  The wind chill was far below zero and gusts would blow ice crystals into your face.  For these mornings I would wear sunglasses, (very important to keep eyes moist in the face of wind, and snowglare at a minimum), gloves, scarf, hat, long underwear, fleece, pants over long underwear, wool socks, boots, ski jacket.  And cell phone.  Always a cell phone.  You never know what can happen even in town in weather like that.

We lived near the water, a stone's throw from Casco Bay.  With the windows open, the foghorns from the closest lighthouse could be heard, guiding ships in through the fog.  We could smell the sea air every day.  Our apartment was located at the highest point in Portland, just under the Portland Observatory, so walking to it or away from it meant a hill in some form or other.  On these especially cold days, I knew I could walk Nyxie  safely.  With two dogs wary of other dogs, and one wary of all strangers, this is akin to going to the dog park in the rain!  I had the run of icy, residential Portland.  Arwen stayed behind, content to rest on her dog bed and be thankful for not being born in Siberia.   (She's an odd Sibe, who's never shown any excitement about the cold).  So Nyxie and I would walk down the center of each street, headed towards the waterfront.  The ice particles would swirl all around us and Nyxie's ears would flick at each icy onslaught.  Aside from the wind, she never showed any cold weather reluctance.  She would dance and jump at the end of the leash, diving into snow drifts and inspecting each white-covered shape.

Eastern Promenade is the road that faces Casco Bay.  Lined with stately New England mansions and B&B's, the view of the water is glorious.  The Bay sits across a vast expanse of snowy hills that lead to the dog beach, a small marina and a city park.  We'd reach this area and Nyxie would bound into the snow, headlong,  tongue lolling.  I would throw snow balls for her and she's lose them with a snowy CLOMP of her jaws, then spend a great amount of energy trying to dig them back out of the snow.  Snow-digging was magical to her!  Meanwhile, I would start to lose the feelings in my legs, my hands and my cheeks just below my sunglasses.  My L.L Bean boots were made for snow, but even they were struggling when Nyxie would shower them with powder.  She discovered that digging for my feet in the snow was a new game, and no matter where I'd jump to, she'd be a step behind me tossing snow with her great big paws until she found my red snow boots.  The walks back and forth from the Bay were lessons in walking manners.  I had her sit and wait at each block's end before crossing the street.  "What do good dogs do?", I'd ask.  And she would sit in answer, looking to me, all the while with what must have been a frozen doggie bottom.  I often wondered about that, but she never seemed to mind!

How I miss Portland, the people, the snow, the weather, and the ocean.  There's a palpable ache in my heart if I allow myself to think too long about my life there.  So I try and remember that although I loved it there, I can love it here, too.  Or at least like it.  I walked my dogs in a tank top today.  I suppose that's pretty cool in its on way.  But most importantly, I walked my dogs.  And wherever I am with them will be just fine.



 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Perspective

I have an odd 1/2 day from work today and have been fairly excited at the prospect of a morning to myself to do myself kind of things - blog, read, maybe sleep a bit more.  The universe had other plans for me.  I woke to the fragrant odors of poo and 2 angelically sleeping dogs.  Hm.  I suspected Arwen as she had some loose stool last night and she's not very good at letting me know that she needs to go out in the middle of the night.  As I waited the 6 minutes until my alarm was set to go off, I started my day off worrying about Arwen and trying to remember if I had enough paper towels on hand for my impending cleanup task.

No breakfast for them today - 24 hour fast.  This will not be a popular concept with the canine in this family.    I started the cleanup process, took Arwen out twice each time she pleaded to go out (both times were unfortunately quite goopily productive) and then dropped the kiddo off at school.  I drove straight home, forgetting to pick up more paper towels.  Frustration level rising.  More blotting, spraying, scrubbing.  Another foot away and I'd have been wiping the poo off the tile and not scrubbing carpet.  More frustration.  I heard the dogs romping in the other room until Nyxie came rushing in to me whining, as though she needed to go out urgently.

"Fine!  I'll just drop everything and take you out!", actually crossed my mind.  Now very frustrated.  Coat on, out we went, long wait to inspect the perimeter, sniff each blade of grass, and finally a little runny stool.  Hm.  Maybe they are both poorly of the tummy?  Frustration combined with worry now.  We went back inside and the girls started romping again.  But this time, just steps away from where I was cleaning.  I finally yelled, "ENOUGH!!" and they flattened as though I'd launched a grenade.  And to them, I suppose I had.
"I wonder what we did?  Our tummies are feeling better!  Yeah!"
" I stewed some more, but this time, my thoughts were drenched in guilt.

Instead of being joyful that my girls were feeling well enough to play, I was concentrating only on the fact that I was inconvenienced. They have hurt tummies and I am yelling at them for making my morning less than what I was hoping it would be.  I should have been rejoicing in the fact that I could take them out this am and give them the opportunity to get the ickiness out, rather than cleaning it up at the end of a long day.  They would have had to endure their own diarrhea in their crates for the hours we were away.

So now with the mess cleaned up and the poo wave seeming to have subsided, I will have to snuggle in with my girls and make up for my yelling outburst.  I know I am already forgiven, being that they are dogs and I am human.  They will snuggle in beside me and just enjoy our time together, not concerned about my morning's negative perspective, the need for forgiveness, or the paper towel shortage.  They are simply, and gracefully, dogs.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Objects of Affection

My friend Robert sent me a text picture of his beautiful German Shorthair Pointer, Maggie, a few nights ago.  She is under a blankie with her paws wrapped around her Snoopy stuffed animal, one of Dad's favorites!  What a tender moment indeed.  This family is in need of peace this holiday season, with another of their canine pack ill.  The picture got me thinking about our own attachments, and what they signify in our lives.

When I was a young girl, I had many stuffed animals.  These were my toys of choice, valuing them above all others.  Some specific ones were even more valued, and I rarely parted ways with them if I could help it.  I assigned them feelings, clearly extensions of my own feelings.  I gave them "food" and "water" and lots of love.  Always treating them as though they were living, breathing beings needing care.  I had a great deal of empathy for them and was attached to them.  I remember my grandmother sewing me (by hand) a dress for my Monchichi doll (my absolute favorite) and then teaching me how to sew a second dress for her.  My father would tuck me into bed by "making them talk".  He would mimic their voices and they would show me the "Proper Way of Getting Into Bed".  Often I would foil his efforts and he would have to start over.  This was a fun game we played and I learned to look forward to bedtime.

As I grew, these stuffed animal attachments waned.  I brought home a hamster and then 2 cats of my very own that were far more interesting than any stuffed animal could ever be.  I was gentle and giving with these cats.  They could do no wrong in my eyes.  Were these the "stuffed animals" of my early childhood?  Was I already predisposed to loving animals from my earlier attachments?  Try not to laugh now - I still have 1 German Shepherd stuffie which I sleep with every night - "Puddles" as she remimds me of my 1st GSD, Tank,  that passed away years ago

The girls have favorite toys.  They will prance around with them and sometimes sleep with them, but mostly it's the waking hours that they'll seek them out.  Sometimes frozen in time, stuffed animal in her mouth, Nyxie will alert to some outside sound.  Her ears will cock and the fun of playtime is put on hold.  How heartwarming this is!  That split second between carefree fun and "PERIMETER ALERT!".

I'm glad that I haven't grown out of my attachments to animals.  It is part of my foundation, my fabric.  My Objects of Affection are very much real, and alive and I am thankful for them.

And after all this, I forgot to add the picture of Maggie with her Snoopy!!!  Here she is:




Editor's Apology

Breaking News:

I wanted to apologize to all my bloggie friends out there today.  Over the past day or so, I've come to realize that I wasn't "following" many of you properly through FriendConnect as I thought I was.  Somehow, anything technological seems to escape my keen eye for details, further reinforcing the fact that I will never be rich from a career in technology.  I love hearing from everyone in my daily FriendConnect feed and I read your blogs religiously.  I think I was somehow not signed in properly to my Google, FriendConnect, Yahoo, Blogger, Etsy, Facebook, etc accounts.  (Damn, I managed to confuse myself yet again.)  For those of you whose blogs I've not posted much on,  I'm very sorry.  I spend a great deal of my time and energy being technologically confounded, getting in my own way and trying to think of things that will make my life harder.

And now, back to our regular scheduled blog...  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Awesome

As a little reminder of how amazing our canine companions are, I'd like to share this video.  I found it on a website that's my guilty pleasure - Loldogs

It's a bit long, but worth a look.  I'm impressed that someone (WyUtahMed) took the time to create this tribute to pups that highlights some magnificent stunts!  At the end of it all, think about your own pup and all the little things about her that make her truly awesome.  Happy Weekend!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hope

Hope is a forward-looking longing.  A moment to seek something beyond ourselves and to see it in a positive light.  I have the feeling that this coming year will bring change.  And I have hope that this change will be good, long-overdue change.  My blogs have been few and far between as of late, a symptom of my mood, I'm afraid.  Every time I've sat at this computer and decided to blog, I've had writer's block.  Not for a lack of trying, but nothing noteworthy has really happened.  Or so I've felt.  The routine has been monotonous and I've felt in a rut.  The girls have been doing fine, same routines as always, the kiddo's been mostly good and the job's the job.  So why discuss hope now?

I can't pinpoint exactly how things have already changed, although I know there's been a turning away from negativity.  There've been moments of despair and frustration, particularly involving Matty's work, T's behavior and the ever-heavy financial burdens that never seem to improve significantly.  All of these things, along with the negativity of several particular individuals has weighed heavily on me as of late.  What I've realized just recently is that it's not these influences that have become louder, but the amount of volume I've allowed them to have in my universe.

Each day, Arwen eats first.  A nod to her queen-bee status.  She is the Elder, the Deserving, the First.  Nyxie can't help but voice her displeasure.  She'll whine softly from the other room, impatiently awaiting her chance at yummies.  Arwen's focus is like an arrow knocked on me.  There exists nothing in her world save the singular (yet complicated) act of creating and serving her dinner.  Her blue eyes trained on me, watching my every move. There exists no whining, she is the only dog on the planet.  What I see in those ice blue eyes is hope and focus.  She has a goal and she will not stop until it's won.  Poor Nyxie in the other room, seemingly forgotten.  But she's far from forgotten.  Arwen is quite aware of her and if I were to bring Nyxie into the room, Arwen would shoulder her away and let her know in no uncertain terms that she is in the way!

There are goals that I've formed for the coming year.  Spiritual, professional and financial.  Like Arwen, I must have this singular focus.  There will be distractions, there might be negativity, but how much of this do I allow in?  Can I keep my eyes forward and shoulder away intrusions?  A born leader, Arwen's a great example.  Even the whining from the next room can be ignored.  I am looking forward, with the hope and focus of a Husky at dinnertime.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wishes

I am a very lucky woman.  For many reasons, really.  I have a wonderful, albeit quirky family.  We are a bit like The Osbournes, but less rich.  We are all healthy - even the furry girls.  I have a job that I truly enjoy - what could be better than helping new fuzzy kids everyday?  I am healthy.  I have good friends and people that love me.  I laugh more than I cry.  I am happy.  And, I have 5 consecutive days off all to myself!

What will I be doing, you ask?  Well, cooking is high on the list, as Thanksgiving is a couple of days away.  We're doing the big turkey festivus as T hasn't had a traditional Thanksgiving with us in many years.  It's predicted to be chilly here, in the 40's, so we'll probably have a fire going, too.  I'd like to clean.  Yes, this does actually bring me joy. Nothing like a clean house to feel organized and uncluttered.  Well, maybe not uncluttered, but clean.  I'd like to see the new Harry Potter movie, and do a little shopping.  Not too much shopping, though (see aforementioned "Osbournes but less rich").  I'm considering making home-brewed beer.  The new TV show "Brew Masters" featuring Dogfish Head Brewery has inspired me to brew some yummy beer.  I brewed some long ago, but it's been many moons since then.  I'd like to work on my short stories and maybe settle on one to see through for a completed novel. I want to play ball with Nyxie until she's exhausted, rather than when I have to rush off.  I want to rub Arwen's belly until she falls asleep.  I'd like to go to the gym and not have to stare at the clock so I can hurry to the next thing.  There never seems to be an end to the "things".

Most importantly, though - I want to spend time with my family.  I want to have a few days of no "things".  No appointments, no work, no clock-ins, no stress.  I want to be able to have a conversation with Matt and T and not have my mind wander to what needs to be completed, and by when.  These are my Thanksgiving wishes.  Do we wish on Thanksgiving?  Well, since it's my time to do what I please, I say we do.  I wish for family, plenty, and laughter.  And I wish this for you, too.  Much love to all my blogging buddies - I am thankful that you all choose to share your lives with me and my pack.  You are loved and thought of more than you know!  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
    

Monday, November 15, 2010

Envy

I have a dirty little secret to confess...I have dog envy.  Not envy for different dogs in my life, but envy for dogs that I could take anywhere and introduce to anyone.  Dogs that like, no, love other dogs and people.  Arwen likes people, and only dogs she can dominate, but it's always a gamble with her.  Nyxie...well, you all know how well Nyxie plays with others.  She is coming around to the fact that all people are not murdering thieves bent on our pack's demise, but rather a signal for treats and yummy goodness!  In her deep chocolate eyes, dogs, are still not to be trusted.  In fact, her rule of thumb is to bark as menacingly and ferociously as possible to dispel these canine interlopers.  How dare they exist in her universe!!

Needless to say, going to the dogpark is an adventure of epic proportions.  One might ask - why bother?  Well, we don't have a yard of our own and after having taken Nyxie the week before last with no incident and actually enjoying my dog as other people can enjoy their dogs, I was again addicted.  I loved taking her when she was a wee pup and I miss those times spent with her running about, off the leash.  So I decided to try it with both girls -to give them a bit of much-needed run time.

Getting the 2-headed beast out the door and into the car is the first leg of my perilous journey.  They scramble for 1st out.  Nyxie will then conform to me, walking loosely while Arwen hurdles forward.  It must be quite the sight...I shudder the think about a dog or an unsuspecting squirrel dashing into view just as I'm reaching the car.  The trip to the park is heralded by panting - hot, wet panting.  Nose prints on every inch of glass, save the windshield, mark me as "that crazy dog lady".

Thankfully, the park is nearby, only a few miles from home and we pull into the parking lot.  I was hoping the threatening rain clouds would keep the regulars away, but no such luck.  There are several people lounging about on the benches, casually watching small dogs in sweaters sniff about the yard closest to the parking lot.  Now I understand using the closest yard (there are four separate areas) - after all, the point of going to the dogpark is to allow your dog to play with other dogs.  This assumption based of course on the premise that your dog is a well-socialized member of canine society.  I only hoped for a yard.  A fenced area in which they could run freely.  But to get to one of the unused yards, I would have to pass the closest one.

We decided to wait in the car.  There, Nyxie was fed treats when she stopped menacing the other dogs through the window and was able to sit quietly, albeit nervously in her seat.  A first step to safe exposure conditioning.  When the heat of the panting and the fading sun's rays was too much for a parked car, I left the lot and drove a few miles, allowing the girls to calm down after seeing all the canine excitement.  They must've thought I was cruel for not letting them play..."But mom - we just got here!!"

Just as I had hoped, the skies began to open and big drops fell hard.  "Yes!  Now I can go to the dogpark!"  Undoubtedly not what most dog parents say when the rain starts, but with my 2 miscreants, I have to be super careful.  Just as I suspected, everyone was clearing out.  All but one lady with a rather large Shar Pei mix in a far away yard.  Maybe we shared a dirty little secret...

Texas cold fronts move in fast, like within a half hour fast.  We arrived to rain, but temps in the 70's.  The clouds were rushing in and even the hawks flying above seemed eager for cover, giving up hopes of fat little chihuahua meals.  We made it to the farthest yard, I unleashed the beasties and they ran like the wind.  All their pent up energy and mine dissipating with the rain and clouds.  Their ears flapping, tails flying, legs pumping.  Grace and beauty unleashed!  My misfit dogs ran and ran, sniffed and read the signposts left by others before them.  After a short time, the rain fell heavier and the winds picked up.  Cooler now, bringing with them the expected cold front.  The temperature was dipping into the 60's.  The girls panted in tired relief, energy spent, tackles and bitey face over, they settled under the awning by the water fountain.  They were done.  No need to stay longer.

"No worries, mom!  We'll be back soon - when's it supposed to rain next?"  My girls are a work in progress.  They are slowly tolerating more and more out of their comfort zones.  They are evolving and growing, as I am, too.  I don't have dog envy...I have yard envy!!    


video

Friday, November 5, 2010

Indulgence

I'm a person who trudges through chores and banalities and can only relax after all that needs to be done is done.  Generally I'll feel agitated until all these things are completed.  For example, each day when I come home, I immediately walk and feed everyone, pick up after everyone, put the trash out and make or have dinner (depending on how ambitious I'm feeling) and then finally relax into my own interests - TV, a movie, reading.

The other night, I was so overwhelmed with these responsibilities, add the daily task of caring for a high maintenance 13 year old, that I just lost it.  I crumpled into tears and pitiful helplessness - not a state I'm at all used to or remotely comfortable with.  In fact, admitting this to you all is a bit, well, embarrassing.  Matt, my loving partner of 10 years, reminded me of an important metaphor:

You're on a plane, when an emergency's declared.  The oxygen masks drop and are suspended above you.  Do you put a mask on your child or on yourself first?  If you get theirs on first, you might be overcome with smoke, and then the child is left to cope alone.  If you put yours on first, you are then readily prepared to help everyone around you!  So the lesson here is you have to help yourself first before you can be of use to another.

This realization gave birth to the notion of Utterly Indulgent Me Day!  I went to the store, took Arwen for a training walk, took Nyxie to the dog park (yup, I sure did), worked out, and made myself a yummy lunch.  It was a wonderful day!  I've been meaning to start loose-leash-walk training with Arwen, but just haven't felt   motivated enough.  It's been incredibly annoying, but I fought my frustrations, and I did it!  By about the middle of our walk, she understood what was asked of her - if she pulled, I halted all forward motion.  I'm sure she was wondering at first what was wrong with mom- was she hurt?  Clueless?  "Just smell that amazing tree and all the pee-mail scattered about!  I can a-l-m-o-s-t reach it..."  We'll have to keep training ongoing, but it was a great start.  The most important aspect of our walk was my mental state - calm and assertive.


I wanted to have fun with Nyxie and it suddenly occurred to me that we hadn't been to the new dog park in my city since it opened.  Not that this is shocking - Nyxie has rejected her own kind for years now.  This is something I'm working on with her, but it's taking time and the very patience I've lacked recently.  The park was clean, and divided into 4 separate fields.  When we arrived, Nyxie sniffed the air and even though she'd never been there, she began to whine excitedly.  She never barked at anyone or their dogs, and when we walked through the gates to the airlock, her whining intensified.  She remembered what a dog park is and what it signified - running, fun, and freedom!!  She dashed around, over and over running straight at me and veering right or left at the last possible second.  What a blast!  We ran together until we sank exhausted into the grass.

Who needs an oxygen mask when you have dogs to save you from yourself!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Celebrate

Frost stretched across the clearing behind our home this morning, and true mist hovered just above the stream.  The mist stretched across the clearing, obscuring the far side.  I imagined coyotes stealing away a few more undetected minutes before the sun rose, watching us, watching for them.

Fall is brief in northern Texas, but it's my favorite season.  There's a feeling, an essence to each season that sets the tone for the days ahead.  Winter is a time of rest, of survival.  We dig deep and layer, holding close to those we love.  Spring reminds us that life weathers on, regardless of winter, regardless of pale legs.  Summer days and nights have an air of electricity, of life, of having reached a pinnacle of sorts.  Our weary, sunburned shoulders testament to how hard and long we played in the sun.  When we lived in Maine, spring was like an oasis in the drought of winter.  We were moles, ascending from our caves into the bright sunlight.  Pale skin and sunglasses on, we ventured out to see the neighbors that we scurried past all winter, back and forth into our respective warm homes.

The seasons define the cycle of growth, life, death and rebirth.  We lose sight of this fundamental cycle in a world of iPads, highways, and work schedules.  There's a disconnect there.  Sadly, I think we all feel it, and to get us back on track, we need holidays.  I'm not referring to the commercialized urge to shop, to decorate and to guilt ourselves out of our honest-earned income.  I'm referring to the essence of the holidays themselves.  Each one, starting with Halloween, gives us the opportunity to stop and think, to catch our collective breath and think about the greater picture.

Halloween is the direct descendant of the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).  Samhain marked "summer's end", and was the time the ancient Celts believed ushered out the "light half" and ushered in the "dark half" of the year.  Also referred to as the Celtic New Year, this was a time when the veil between the world of the living and the dead was thin.  Both good and bad spirits could pass through more easily.  Family and friends now deceased were honored, while bad entities were warded off with masks and costumes.

There are many people that get sucked into the chaos of each holiday, but like all life's lessons, dogs seem to have it sorted out long before we've considered it.  When a member of a pack dies, the survivors mourn.  When the pack is reunited, they celebrate.  Dogs don't need a certain time of the year to be reminded of the gift of life.  When they wake, they bound about, licking faces, rejoicing in seeing it through to a new day.  They don't set aside a day to be thankful for their life as we do.  They thank us continually with muzzle licks, cuddles and tail wags.

Why am I posting this today?  Two nights ago, I had an awful scare from Arwen.  She ate her chicken and Honest Kitchen blend and promptly began vomiting.  Arwen never gets sick- not really, at least.  She's got an iron stomach and a tough girl's attitude.  She horked up three times in 30 min, driving me to panic.   As many of you know, we feed raw, and with raw there are certain risks.  I suspected that a bone had become lodged in her throat, or further along, and she was in dire straits.  I started imagining myself calling her Dr, my boss and friend at home, then rushing her to the emergency clinic.  I imagined her deteriorating and losing consciousness.  I imagined the enormous vet bill and racked my brain devising financially creative schemes to cover the expenses.


During a break in the vomiting, I saw she still looked uncomfortable so I did the one thing I knew would change her demeanor if at all possible.  I leashed her up, and along with Matt (not leashed), took her for a walk.  Slow at first, gaining momentum and speed, she finally raised her enormous plume flag of a tail and dove headlong into the walk.  She would be OK.  No more vomit.  No more panic.  I put my cell phone away and realized how thankful I was of having this amazing animal in my life.  I was thankful for my Matt, who indulges me through thick and thin.  We should never wait to celebrate life.  It's fleeting and precious.  Remember those that are gone and celebrate the sweetness of each moment.  Dogs do it with or without pumpkins or costumes.  In fact, they strongly discourage costumes!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Drool

A few nights ago, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated with our two legged child, T.  Just over a year ago, came to us from her mother's neglectful home and has struggled with relationships, school, friends.  Trust and honesty are daily struggles, and understandably so.  Her 12 years of life have been difficult to say the least, the past 3 years in her mother's home away from us, even more so.

T's on the cusp of becoming a "poor me" girl or of choosing a path of strength and positivity.  I can't make this choice for her, though.  And as a parent, stepping back and allowing learning to occur is tough.  I'm certainly not giving up on her, but she needs to learn some things the hard way, through experience.  Natural consequences and outcomes from action.  I suppose that's just allowing her to grow up.  How do parents learn when to do this?  Is there a manual, a guide, a website?  I keep trying to reference my own childhood, but then I get smacked with the realization that this young woman is not me and needs to navigate the world through her own lens.  


So after a long day of work, and then struggling with T, I still had to find dinner for myself.  I knew one of the only places open was that horrible, evil mecca of grease and sugar - McDonald's.  I try to avoid eating this kind of "food" as much as possible, as I know it's akin to rat poison.  Matt knew how frustrated and upset I was and suggested that I go get my "food" with Arwen.  Now why hadn't I thought of that?  I don't normally take the dogs on quick trips like that, but there was no reason not to.  Arwen's  mostly well-behaved in the car, and I knew she'd appreciate the ride and the olfactory hits off the drive-through window to laying about in front of the TV.  


She loves getting into cars so very much.  On our walks, we sometimes run into a parked and open Jeep Wrangler down the street which is almost irresistible for her - clearly an open invitation!  She gets into spring mode by the door and I have to tug her away to avoid breaking and entering!   So off we went. Arwen sat in the backseat of my car, the night air revitalizing her nostrils and my soul.  It was a joy to get away.  I felt the pressures of parenthood slip away and lowered the window some more.  I'll definitely take her on mini-trips more often.  Arwen pressed her head on my shoulder, drool dripping down my arm.  And with that, she reminded me to take the good with the bad.  What's bit of drool, anyway?





Monday, October 18, 2010

Guardian

This morning's walk was uneventful until I fell flat onto my knees on the median strip of a busy road.  I had Nyxie in tow and she was doing beautifully.  I saw a man walking towards us on the sidewalk so I decided to hop over to the median strip to avoid direct confrontation and work on her calm reaction to strangers.  No sooner had I made it onto the grassy median strip, but I lost my footing in the uneven grass and landed on all fours.  I don't know why the grass in Texas is like this, but it's not the first time I've face-planted here.  From above, you see a lovely expanse of grass that has been evenly mowed and groomed.  Below the surface, however, lie crags and holes large enough to lose a Honda in.  There's nothing more graceful than walking along what appears to be even footing and suddenly collapse.

Nyxie was unfazed.  She's seen me do it before.  I was dreading that the man might run over to help me and get barked at by Nyxie and all out training would be set back.  I had no need to worry.  The man walked past, never even looking my way.  He couldn't have missed my fall, I was in his line of sight and there were no cars zooming past us at the time.  Alas, chivalry is dying.

After regaining my composure and walking on, I felt a sharp pain in my left, lower back.  It was a shooting pain - harsh enough to slow me down and think about stopping altogether.  This was a dangerous idea, though.  What if after I rested it, I couldn't get back up to walk home?  I had to get home as fast as possible.  Without much instruction, Nyxie stayed at my side.  She slowed her pace to match mine and seemed somehow to know that something was wrong.

How do dogs know this?  Aside from a few pathetic whines, she could not have understood that I was hurt.  Whatever it was, she changed her pace to match mine and seemed to shield me bodily from the cars zooming past us and later from another walker on the opposite side of the street.  Twice she pulled me into the grass to sniff something fascinating, but with less enthusiasm, cautious.

We made it home after what seemed like an eternity of steps.  I stretched my back out and I'm feeling better, but Nyxie still keeps checking in on me.  Attentive, watchful.  It's what she does best.
 

Friday, October 15, 2010

In a Moment

There are a few secret moments in my day to day life with my girls that I want to be selfish with, but they're too good not to share.  Everyone has their favorite moments.  Maybe for you it's when you're on a walk with your pup and you're in step with one another and your breathing relaxes.  Maybe it's that "Aha!" moment when your dog learns a new trick and you find all your patience and hard work coming to fruition.  Maybe it's that moment when you hear a crack of a branch in the woods and you stop breathing to listen alongside your dog, the two of you ready as one being, to face any impending challenge.  Maybe it's just that moment when your pooch figures out that diarrhea on your bathroom floor is a better option than just inches away on your bedroom carpet.

My moment happens twice a week.  These are the mornings when I get out of bed after Matt, my loving partner of 10 years.  I hear his alarm going off (eight trillion times, or so it seems in the sleepy haze of morning) and he finally drags himself out of bed.  No sooner is he off the bed, but I feel Nyxie's paws land on the bed beside me.  I get a customary greeting lick on the cheek or elbow, and then she snuggles in against Matt's still-warm pillow.  She faces me and tucks her long nose into the blanket.  If I'm tucked in tight, she'll slide her head against mine but on the outside of the blankets.  If I've left space around my head, she'll burrow her snout into the space between my skin and the warm blankets.  The warmth of her breathing lulls me back to sleep.  We'll snuggle like this until one of us gets hot, or my own alarm sounds off.  

There is no feeling sweeter than this, no moment more tender.  Along with those other moments I mentioned, all of which are on my Top Trillion Things I Love About Dogs list, this is the one that brings it all home.

It's these moments strung together that define Love.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Torture

As my last post was a bit, er, angry...today's will be sunnier.  Halloween is fast approaching and I haven't decided what the girls should go as.  I say "go as" as though they will be going somewhere.  The reality is, if we buy them costumes, it will simply be for our own pleasure.  They will not be seen as they really aren't the "going to the pet costume contest" type of dogs.

Although we have had further improvements!  This morning Nyxie battled walkers (not the kind with the tennis balls on the ends of the legs, but the strolling kind), a whole herd of club-swinging golfers, a dead squirrel, and a biker.  The walkers we simply avoided but at closer range than before, treats given, no problem.  The golfers stirred a bit of anxiety as she heard the metallic "clack!" of the club sending the ball into orbit.  There was a whole bunch of them milling about admiring themselves very close to where we were waling, and the sheer number of them was a tad overwhelming.  She's never seen that many crew neck shirts in one location.  And all of them "armed"?  How very odd it must have seemed to her.  A few looks back at them, a few extra treats given, no problem.  As for the biker, I saw a bit too late to get off the sidewalk, so I pushed her back towards the golf course perimeter fence and made myself and the treats her total focus.  One longing stare after him, extra treats given, no problem.  The squirrel?  She didn't even notice it and we had to step right over it.  On our last walk I saw his poor lifeless body, so robust, that I had to be sure he was really deceased.  Today, he'd been moved and all that was left was hair and skin.  I suspect the coyotes had a midnight snack of him.  Even the scent of another predator I figured would trigger some reaction.  She didn't even attempt to smell it.  Hmm...interesting.  Well, to me it was.

Neither girl is ready for a public venue, though.  Arwen could handle people beautifully - she's a total ham.  Eats up all the adoring attention.  But dogs are a different story.  As for Nyxie, no way.  A few select people, maybe, but no crowd of strangers.  So the costumes would really only please me and T.  She's already discussed how to pose them for pictures, etc.  Matt will roll his eyes, but secretly enjoy the whole thing.

So what should they be?  Clowns?  Devils?  Witches?  All of these are fitting....I've also considered the rider costume where a Headless Horseman or cowboy is straddling the dog's harness so it looks as though they're riding the dog.  Too cute, but the Cowboy would end up headless if Arwen managed to slide him around for a bite.  And the Headless Horseman?  Well, I think Nyxie might look like the perfect black steed of death until her tongue comes lolling out of her big, goofy grin.  I just can't decide...

Whatever we choose, the girls will enjoy it all.  They'll love the big smiles, the photo shoot, the attention and the adoration.  One more arduous sacrifice for pack life.  Will anyone else be torturing their dogs this Halloween?    

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Logic

I recently had an experience that's been on my mind for several days.  I was playing with a Rottie puppy at my clinic who's been boarding with us, when a young man approached us.  As puppies will do, he nipped joyfully at the newcomers hands, play-bowing and hopping about happily.  After we exchanged a few pleasantries, the young man tells me that although the pup's cute now, "all these breeds - Rotties, Pitties and German Shepherds - they can turn on you when they're older".

I was floored and once I'd regained my composure enough to contradict him with LOGIC, I shared with him my personal experiences.  I explained to him that as an owner of 2 of the 3 breeds he mentioned, I'd had nothing but unswerving loyalty and devotion from each.  What  followed was the usual chatter about breeds, media hype and bad owners and then the young man went on his way.  I don't know that I was able to change his mind, but surely his beliefs weren't based on scientific research or personal experience with vast numbers of dogs of these breeds.  They were conjecture.

So now you're thinking that I'll discuss more about breeds, predispositions, temperaments and misconceptions...

Nope.

In mulling all this over for the past week or so, I've come to the conclusion that we expect too much from dogs.  They are expected to be unflappable in the face of pain, loyal when faced with neglect and utterly submissive when bullied.  How much would you take if someone were hitting you, teasing you, or otherwise mistreating you?  The healthy answer would be that you would stop that treatment as quickly as possible.  Either by discussing it, pushing back or simply walking away.  What is considered "turning on you"?  What's the context?  You're walking through your house and Sadie your German Shepherd of 5 years suddenly decided the Kibbles 'N Bits are unacceptable (I can't say I'd blame her) and hauls off and goes for your jugular?!  I find this hard to believe.  A more conceivable, yet troubling scenario is that Sadie is under- socialized, lives in the backyard, is tied to a chain and when you smack her around a bit, or take food from her bowl, she snaps at your hand.

So how much do we expect our dogs to take from us?  If your friend lied to you once, slapped you once, ignored and neglected you, you'd probably stop returning their phone calls.  Stop going to their house, stop the relationship once and for all.  A dog doesn't have that option.  Her first line of defense is the growl, then snap.  Forget about breed propensities - I've seen many a 3 lb chihuahua turn into a piranha pooch at the sight of a nail trimmer.  But wouldn't you react if you were hurt or scared?

So the next time you hear someone talking about a dog "turning" on its owner, conduct your own little experiment.  Raise your arm and bring it really far back, and slap them across the face.  Slap them really hard.  I'm pretty sure they'll act just like a dog.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Friendship

One of the great pleasures of my job is watching puppies play at our daycare.  There's nothing more joyful for me.  They leave all their stresses and anxieties behind and just run, romp and wrestle their cares away.  Today there was a new addition to the day care group, a sweet 12 week old puppy.  It didn't hurt any that he was one of the most beautiful German Shepherd puppies I've ever seen (a close second to my own Nyxie).  It was intriguing to watch him navigate the doggy "playground" so to speak.  Sniffing bottoms, testing limits, avoiding the humpers...all with great natural dexterity.  

Poor Nyxie never had this ease - when we took her to puppy play group at Planet Dog in Portland, she hurled herself at the gate until we were asked to take her outside for a "time out".  Red-faced, we picked our little girl out of the pen of romping puppies and dutifully took her outside and into the cold Maine air.  She showered us with kisses for the rescue.  She despised being penned in and was placed in the "shy" puppy group.  Still, no luck.

The dog park was her salvation!  She was able to get away from strange dogs there, hang out with the playmates that were her friends (Vinnie and Napoleon -that means you!) and run, run, run.  She'd run so fast, she'd tumble over her own legs and then hop up and run some more, her still-floppy ears bouncing.  Memories...

So today's puppy made me consider our need for friends, companionship and kindred spirits.  Like this puppy, we need to find our place amongst our peers.  We need safety and comfort.  We need to be corrected and we need to be bolstered.  We need understanding and appreciation.  We need love.  I don't know if I always give love as I should, but I try.  There are moments when we feel pulled under as in quicksand and that lifeline gets tossed out.  Like those first few moments of arriving on the playground, we're unsure and vulnerable. We take a chance and open up.  Friendship.  

     

Friday, September 17, 2010

Double Agent

Friday morning brings another long walk with the girls - first Arwen and then Nyxie.  Arwen goes out first as she's the oldest - all that fur and a little arthritis can cause a girl to suffer in the Texas heat.  She's so excited to set out, tail held high, flag flying proudly.  She's the all-sniffer and I let her get away with murder.  I act tough, but in reality, I pretty much let her sniff any old thing she wants.  She knows I'm weak when it comes to her royal fuzziness.  I feel I should keep her on the straight and narrow.

"We are on a walk!" and keep everything military style.  Nose forward, pace steady, no pulling.
The reality of it all is a bit different.

 Picture a woman walking behind her husky, being tugged, really.  We stop at about 8 feet intervals, or wherever there is a break in concrete, a patch of grass.  It's a bit like walking seizures.  Each inch is examined thoroughly.  There are little piles of poo, bugs, a bottle cap, flowers, anything and everything must be sniffed.  I am like an anchor to her drive.  Small corrections work, but I am secretly wishing for a smaller, more user-friendly Pug.  Huskies are the hippie free spirits of the dog world.  They live in the ethereal moment.  Arwen's never seen a flower she didn't have to smell.  She looks up at the clouds moving and considers chasing them.  She's the primitive warrior, the most irreverent jester.  She needs this freedom.  And I am a sap.  So what's the harm in a little hiccup-walking?

Nyxie on the other hand is the soldier.  She blazes out the door with a sense of authority, excitement, tingling anticipation.  Ears are pricked, nose is on hyper-drive.  I don't let her have an inch.  She's too strong and powerful to go unchecked.  We walk as a unit, she's attentive to my movements, eyes on me.  When she tries to tug ahead, I stop dead.  Her stop is rewarded with my forward motion.  She's a quick study.  We walk fiercely, she knows to stay close.  Eyes scanning, ears forward.  She's coming into her own.  Her fearful hesitation is gone and she's learned to trust my leadership.  She's still young and when there's something she doesn't understand, she looks to me for guidance.  Each confident attempt is rewarded.  She's still sniffing of course, (when is she not...?!) but her size allows her to sniff and walk, never breaking stride.

Today we had no yummy treats (a travesty, I know) and the poor deprived darling had to walk with substandard treats.  Now, these will do in a pinch - when we're home and I break out the box, there's no reluctance at all.  But the walks require something marvelous, something still at the store.  Luckily we had no close encounters at all today.  There was a small situation in which a lady with 2 small dogs was walking ahead of us, something which would have created a reaction previously, but only a small tail raise and a steady stare resulted.  Distraction was easily made.  Progress!

When Nyxie was good and tired, I pulled out my long 30 ft lead and we did a bit of "stay, approach, come" work just for a bit of mental stimulation.  She did a strange thing then.  This was the leash we used with protection training.  During this, her goal when allowed, was to bite the handler's sleeve and hang on.  To get to that point, she had to run at the handler not around him.  Today, when I allowed her to "come" to me from a lying down "stay", she ran at me and didn't swerve.  Of course there was no bite, but she's never bodily tackled me before. Her usual run at me is a game where she swerves out of the way at the last moment, like playing "chicken".  I think she remembered the leash and her previous training.  She also had the presence of mind to understand that biting would have ended badly for both of us.  After a few goes at me (which are quite humbling, really as you recognize that 75 lbs of pure muscle have just hurled themselves at you and you're bracing to stay upright!), entirely controlled by command to "come!", she understood that this was not the same game as before.  I can only imagine what my neighbors must've thought...both the human and the wild ones.

I like to imagine that there are coyotes, raccoons, hawks, all around us, watching us as we play in their world.  They must wonder at us - we're a spectacle.  What an eyeful today!  Maybe they think I'm a spy.  I'm seen with the strangest characters.  First, the hippie wild child, then the soldier girl.
I'm a double agent.
Truth is stranger than fiction...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Help me win a NON micro water bowl for Arwen!!

LuckyPups is offering a free, personalized dog bowl for one lucky winner with great friends!! The baby's picture with the most "likes" wins!!  Many of you know about Arwen's micro water bowl issue. She needs a new water bowl!! Please help my little girl get a brand new, personalized water bowl!! You just need to go to  http://www....facebook.com/luckypups.shop on Facebook.  First you will need to "LIKE" LuckyPups, then "LIKE" Arwen's picture.  I suppose some of you will want to upload your own pic and have a chance to win, but I hope you'll "LIKE" Arwen's pic, too!!  What a fun way to start the week!  She is the adorable husky in the hamper, as seen above.

THANKS and GOOD LUCK!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pride

I am so very proud of my Nyxie -  I have to share with you.  As some of you may know, Nyxie is a shy baby.  She has a "wide defense perimeter" as her Schutzhund handler told me when we had decided to work with her.  As she's a pet and not a border patrol dog or a K9 military service dog, I need to make the world she knows a less threatening place.  She will alert and bark at anyone who gets too close or is perceived as a threat.  If the person persists in befriending her, the warning barks will turn into play barks and soon she's bringing her tennis ball for the person to throw.  I believe we need to boost her confidence and her sharp Czech lines will be more, well...in check.

The girls each get a long walk when mornings allow and today I took Nyxie out last, just as the lawn crew was finishing around the complex.  After a nice, long trek, both she and I were limber enough to run and we jogged a bit.  Suddenly, we were trapped at a crossroads.

In order to get back home, we had to pass a man measuring, cutting and carrying large rolls of carpet into a new unit.  She watched him with erect ears, body on high alert.  Being the prepared dog-mom that I am, I immediately popped open the treat pouch at my waist (Yes, it's like a fanny pack, and yes, I feel like a dork.).  Through a practiced "Look" command by which she's been trained to focus on my eyes - to attend to me and me only - she gets treats and I pop 'em at her like the "Giver of All Good Things" Pez dispenser that I am.  She practices the "look" command each time she's served meals, regardless of who's feeding her, so it's become automatic.  There are awkward moments when I'll be yelling "look!" at Matt or T to point something out and she will come running or pop up from a nap, just to look at me.

That little dog actually got so relaxed with the carpet guy (who was doing all kinds of "odd" movements and gestures - not what she would ever encounter on a daily basis) not 50 ft from her, that she laid down and turned her back to him for my treats!  After he went inside, we passed by his area to be trapped by 3 lawn guys blowing around all the freshly cut grass trimmings.  I worried for a split second that all that good work would be lost through panic.  I moved her about 15 ft from them, and we settled on the grass.  Again, she laid down and took my treats with gusto.  Sometimes her eyes would focus on them, but not terribly intently.  One man even came to within 10 ft of us with the loud leaf blower and still, no negative reaction.  What an accomplishment!

I have no doubt that if anyone were to threaten me, Nyxie would step between us, but I think my many months of training are starting to pay off.  I'm proud of her progress.  I'm proud that I trusted my instincts and followed a positive training methodology.  I'm proud that I didn't panic in anticipation of her reaction.  Finally, I'm proud that our bond's positive energy is allowing her to trust.

Now I'm off to the store to get more treats!!!   Happy Friday!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ice

I know you may be considering that "Ice" is a funny title for early September, but I am not referring to the frozen water that falls from the skies or that which takes shape on the ground.  No, I am referring to the magical little half-moon shapes dropped into the ice cube tray in noisy "thunks" throughout each day.  From anywhere in my home, I can call the girls by simply opening the freezer and grabbing an ice cube.  Any rattle of the bucket will send them flying to the edge of the kitchen.  Arwen will break the rules and cross the threshold, just to be a toe's lead ahead of her baby sister.

Ice cubes?  Really?  I would never have thought that such a simple treat would get such mileage!  Arwen is such an ice hound, that if I drop a bunch of cubes in the water bowl, she'll fish them out.  Entire snout into the icy water!  I suppose the cold isn't something she throws much concern towards.  Other than the icy cubes in the water, she's a bit funny about drinking water.  We won't even talk about how she feels about bath water...

After a recent urinary tract infection, we realized that she just wasn't drinking enough water.  Matt suggested that the bowl was the problem so we tried almost every bowl in the house, figuring she'd settle on one of them.  It was like trying to find the right shoe for the glass slipper.  Size, shape, glass, ceramic, then tiny sauce bowl.  Ah yes - this was the one!  So Arwen now drinks from the micro-water bowl next to the regular water bowl.  This small, white sauce bowl is rather ridiculous.  I fill it at least 7 or 8 times each day.  Royalty knows no shame.

Nyxie loves her giant water bowl and her current practically exclusive use of it!  When in desperation Arwen sinks to drinking out of it, I know she's giving me a sideways hairy eyeball.  Nyxie requires water EVERY time we return from the outside.  Even after a 2 minute quickie pee trek.  Yup - more water.  No sooner is her leash off than she's making a mad dash around the corner to the bowl.

My girls are quirky.  I suppose they take after their mother.

The picture below was taken before the use of the micro-water bowl.  Note the ice vigil...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Secrets

What a wild week!  With a schedule change at work and picking up a petsitting job over the long weekend, I've been long absent.  The girls are marveling at the new kitty smells from this moonlighting job and I'm thoroughly sniffed after each visit.  The gig involves feeding, medicating and scooping litter for 2 kitties. Each requires oral medications and one receives insulin twice daily.  A fairly easy job, but the kitties themselves have made me wonder a few things.

1) They're extremely shy and are generally hiding under the bed or behind a curtain when I arrive.  Are they always this introverted, or is my presence that intimidating?  I've tried all my tricks to get them acclimated to me and even after 4 days of twice daily visits, they regard me with disdain and fear.

2) The kitties live with a quiet and shy middle-aged woman.  She adores her kitties!  But the stillness in this house is unsettling when you stop and pet the kitties.  Now, I understand that my comfort zone in a foreign house is far different from that of the home's owner, but aside from the a/c kicking on, the house is silent.  Like mausoleum silent.

So I wonder if these kitties and their shy and quiet nature is a learned state of being, animals feeding off the energy of their humans?  Or were the kitties always shy and they simply fit right in to this lady's life?  Also, as I posted about recently, are they happy?  There's little stimulation for them aside from some foam balls that I see scattered about to play with.

I must add that the key I use to get into the house is a newly cut key just for me.  I have spent almost 30 min at a time fidgeting and finessing this key in the lock.  (Yeah, it's pretty humbling to be defeated by a simple deadbolt, but I digress...)  The kitties have ample warning that I've arrived.  Is it possible that these seemingly reticent and subdued cats are hiding their true wild natures?

"Hide the catnip, Effie, she's back!!!"

Ah, the secret lives of cats.

 And then I arrive home to tails wagging, happy whining and little joyous hops!  The girls are no good with secrets...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beauty in Simplicity

This is a wonderful video that brought me great joy.  I think you'll like it.  It was posted on a wonderful blog:  http://dogblog.dogster.com/
The direct link to this video with the photographer and choreographer credits are here:  http://dogblog.dogster.com/2010/08/23/beautiful-relaxing-dog-video-for-your-monday/

ENJOY!!



Genius

Here in Texas, we are hopefully going into the final days of a heat wave that would singe Satan's eyebrows.  Yup- it's really hot here.  I've lived in quite a few different places in my life both in the north and the south, and had grown accustomed to the heat of the day eventually giving way to the relief of an afternoon storm.  Like lifting the top off a pot of boiling water, the heat slips away, only to start building again early the next day.  This was the natural order of things, or so I thought.  Not so in Texas.  I had a lot to learn.

And learn I did after the 75th consecutive day of heat that climbed to over 100 degrees this summer.  Ok, well maybe not 75 days, but that's what it feels like.  The heat here is the kind that you have to take a short breath after a regular breath just to fill your lungs properly.  Feeling light-headed happens fast and you seek shelter in any structure with a/c as fast as you can.  Not to be an alarmist, but this heat is really dangerous.  Crime-inducing, even!  I, for one, am having treacherous thoughts about the weather man...

The girls pant away in the afternoon, feeling the heat outside bake the sun-drenched facade of our home.  I've found Nyxie in the bedroom, panting away in relative darkness, tongue lolling out of her head, trying hard not to move.  Poor Arwen has simply stopped moving at all in the afternoons.  Her eyeballs still follow my movements, but even they are hot.

While watching TV this evening, Arwen was laying on the ground in front of the couch a seat away from mine.  Nyxie was laying on the couch just above Arwen.  I leaned over to love on Nyxie and discovered the most lovely, cooling breeze on the back of my neck.  The air vent behind us was blowing directly across Nyxie's cushion and eventually onto Arwen's spot on the floor.  They had positioned themselves right in the coolness path!!  Those little stinkers!  Meanwhile, I am not totally uncomfortable just a foot and a half away, but still perspiring slightly.  Well, I suppose if I wasn't smart enough to sit in the cool spot to begin with, I'll let them have it.

Wait a minute.  Nyxie's spot was where Matt was sitting just a few minutes before...No wonder he's always getting to the couch first!
 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Neurosis

Many of you who've read my blog and know me, know how very neurotic I am about my dogs.  I'm also sure many of you can sympathize as you, too, are as wacky as I am.  This being said, I know that the standards I hold for my dogs' care may be a bit high - they're food is the best I feel I can offer, home prepared with love.  Their bodies are canvassed daily for any anomalies, lumps, holes, etc.  They're included in all family activities, taken on lovely walks, and enjoy sleeping on the bed (actually all the household furniture).  A dog's life in our home is pretty plush.

There are some dogs that come to the clinic that make me a bit sad.  They're not mistreated, but their owners seem a bit distracted, preoccupied.  I think their priorities are different than mine, or maybe I'm being judgmental, I suspect a bit of both.  I can't help but wonder why certain creatures end up living where they do.  Does that habit of whistling at the dog annoy it?  Do the owners realize their dog's lameness is painful?  Some of observations are my job to clarify or shed light on, but others are just people and animals whose personalities may conflict.  I know a girl whose dog refuses to kiss her, won't do much for her at home, but loves her friends.  The dog actually snaps at her but no one else.  Is this dog like some sort of prisoner in her own home?  Imagine having a family that you despise, or are utterly annoyed by ALL the time.  


I'm not sure that I'm looking at this the right way.  It's said that for every old shoe, there's an old sock that goes with it.  Maybe these dogs are thrilled to have such delightfully aloof humans.  Maybe some dogs would consider me a smothering whack-job.  Maybe our girls think I'm a smothering whack-job...

I'll just go bake them some liver treats to make them happy..."Walkies, girls!?"  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Recognition!!

Thanks so much for the awards!  It's so wonderful to know that my ramblings are not only entertained and deemed worthy of your time, but that you actually like them!  I've been slow to get on here and pass on my awards and thanks, so here goes...

Special thanks go to Lauren M. Davis Folk Art! , Pup Fan and House of Carnivores for your awards, also to twinkietinydog for giving me the opportunity to be heard on your blog!  I've met so many wonderful people and furkids here, that I look forward to reading here every night.  Please keep those comments coming, they really make my day!!
Seven things about us, huh....?  Here goes:

1) I used to be a tremendous cat person.  LOVED cats.  I still do respect and love cats, but dogs are my passion!  I was never allowed to have a dog of my own until after college when I met Matt and had my first dog, Tank.  She was a German Shepherd rescue that stole my heart.  I was hooked.  She passed away entirely too young from distemper.  (vaccines are NOT full-proof)  I think right around this time, I realized that I wanted to become a vet tech.

2) I'm a veterinary technician.  I get to spend my days doing something that I love.  Sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's easy, but giving care and compassion to a animals is paramount.  What could be better than that?

3) I'm a mom.  And not only to my furry beasts.  I don't think the term "motherhood" should be solely reserved for women who care for human children.  There are those that care for their pets as graciously and patiently as a mother should a child.  Sadly too, all mothers are not moms, as my poor T knows.  After a brief yet difficult separation from us, my step-daughter, T, now lives with us again.  She and the girls are my daughters.

4) Arwen and Nyxie are our two best blended dogs.  They love each other deeply and respect each other beautifully.  We're so lucky to have wonderful dogs that compliment each other richly.  True sisters.

5) Arwen loves ice cream.  Flavor is irrelevant, as long as it's cold.  She also loves spinach, popcorn, carrots, meat of any variety, beer and wine.  Ok, she really likes food.  Any food really.  Many items on the preceding list were accidental discoveries, by the way...so please don't think I'm just feeding my girls any old scrap!    Nyxie is not a big fan of alot of things that aren't meat.  She loves meat.  Any and all meat.  I dropped a bit of spinach while cooking once and it took her a trillion tries to chew it to realize it was not meat and therefore, not edible.  Arwen has convinced her that ice cream is meat though.

6) My two dream jobs (besides what I already do) are to be a dog behaviorist and/or a writer.  I believe that people are the ones who need the training to be effective canine guardian/moms/dads, not for the dog to be trained.  Knowing this, I'm not sure I'd be a very good people trainer...I would LOVE to be published and one day hold a copy of my own book.  I'm not sure what it will be about, but most likely dogs will be involved.  Big surprise...

7)  We could be considered gypsies, I suppose.  Matt and I have moved around quite a bit together and before I met him, I lived in several different places myself.  Experiencing new places and people is exhilarating.  You never know what "the new" will bring - food, sights, friends.  Most importantly, though, the "new" tends to enlighten.  It pushes you out of what's comfortable, forcing you to strengthen and survive.

I need to add a #8 here...

8)  My Matt is my perfect fit.  He's the best man I know and I love him for it.  If I could choose anyone in the universe to have an adventure with, and spend the rest of my days with, it's Matt.  There's not a whole lot more to say about that here, except that I've been very lucky.  He loves his crazy dog lady!

So that's us in a nutshell.  A nutshell all covered with dog hair...
And my awards go to: *drumroll*

Pup Fan       http://istillwantmorepuppies.blogspot.com/
♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥       http://thechronicleofwoos.blogspot.com/
Beanz       http://jumpthedog.blogspot.com/
Lauren M. Davis Folk Art!       http://furbabychat.blogspot.com/
House of Carnivores       http://houseofcarnivores.blogspot.com/
Hound Girl       http://www.houndgirl.com/
Shawnee the Shepherd        http://shawneetheshep.blogspot.com/
scotsmad       http://scotsmad.blogspot.com/
Jes       http://myhorsemyrules.blogspot.com/
twinkietinydog        http://twinkietinydog.blogspot.com/
Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom       http://khyraskhorner.blogspot.com/
24 Paws of Love      http://24pawsoflove.blogspot.com/

Opportunity

Yesterday morning I woke early to feed and walk both dogs before work.  Although Matt and T were still home and sleeping in, I didn't want the poor girls to go hungry and wait to have to pee until everyone was awake (most probably many hours later).  So they enjoyed First Breakfast and a little stroll for business around 6:30 am.  Yes, I did say "First Breakfast"

I went off to work, comforted in the knowledge that all the fuzzy creatures were cared for and content, surely back to bed with Dad.  Work was uneventful, and I was on my way to an early afternoon appointment at which point I called to check in with home.  Matt asked me if I had fed the dogs and when I said that I had done so before I left, he laughed.  Why?  Because he and T had just fed them Second Breakfast.
 
"Did you walk the dogs before you left, too?"
"I sure did!"
He tells me that they seemed desperate to go out and pee, so they had also taken a second tour of the outside.

Apparently they saw the opportunity and took it!  We had to laugh.  For the girls, this was a sure sign of an upward trend.

"Maybe every time we wake up, they'll feed us!"

Now I know why they were so eager to nap with me later that afternoon.  In their wildest dreams, they could only imagine that following the nap, they'd be served First Supper...  

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Intelligence

Like humans, each dog falls into a certain spot on the intelligence continuum.  There are those that we consider "smart" and those that are...well, "vacant".  You know the difference when you see it.  For example, there are those dogs that seem to hang on your every word (like Miss M in this blog post from Two Pitties in the City:  http://pittiesincity.blogspot.com/2010/08/another-favorite-miss-ms-over-attention.html) and watch everything you do and can seemingly interpret every word, nuance, movement and look.  They are quietly taking it all in and processing.  These are the uber-intelligent dogs.  Those that we tend to trust with jobs like life-saving.  The same dogs that we have to keep our cookies away from, tucked away on the top shelf.  The other "duller" dogs are those who's lives are spent almost solely on panting, scratching, licking , zoning-out.  Rinse and repeat.

See, I don't believe it's only about trainability, or desire to please.  Having two incredibly intelligent dogs, I'm at an advantage for observing this in action.  (Some might call me a victim...)  I love watching these 2 very different dogs process the world from totally different perspectives.  

Nyxie, the German Shepherd - the ultimately trainable dog.  The dog that will ask "how high" while in mid-air if you tell her to jump.  Anything to make you happy.  And it really only takes one or two instances of repetition, and she's got it down.  "It" being just about anything.  Really.  She's that damn smart.  She's always watching, taking everything in and observing.  You'll look across the room and find her staring.  "What's next, Mom?"  Her emotional link is unmatched, too.  She can pick up on even the slightest variation of mood, and will react accordingly.  Genius, you say?  I agree!

And then there's Arwen.  Arwen, the Siberian husky, has a more primitive intelligence.  Her eyes track you, too.  Every move, sound...thought?  Arwen is the first one planted directly under you while you eat, laser-beam eyes intent on canine telekinesis..."Drop that bit of pork, damn you!"  She'll initiate indoor romper-room play bouts which eventually end in Nyxie getting in trouble for being loud as Arwen looks away, laying quietly on the floor.  Only her panting gives her away.  And when I think they're settled and turn my head, she'll play- bite Nyxie on the butt, resetting the game.  (It took me awhile to figure this one out, I was sure Nyxie being the youngest was always eager to initiate playtime.)  Arwen is even a better hunter.  She'll watch a rabbit from a few yards away, slinking low and then containing her burst until the last minute.  (Nyxie will have torn onto the scene barking)  One day Arwen's sure she'll shed the dead weight on the other end of the leash and actually catch one.  This isn't the dog that has any desire to return a tennis ball, or chase anything without a beating heart.  "You threw it, you go get it".  There is one exception to this rule - she has an orange "Chuck It" ball that is her favorite toy ever.  This she chews on.  No catching or returning thoughts at all.  She has this uncanny way of getting you to pet her, too.  She watches you and then suddenly flips over, demanding belly rubs.  Genius?  Yes!  

So here are two amazingly intelligent dogs.  One wants to please and the other to cuddle.  One hopes to learn a new trick today and the other hopes you'll drop some pizza.  One will bring over the ball for a head pat, the other will cuddle up and make herself irresistible to scratch.  Which one is the most intelligent?  I can't answer that.  It's like being book-smart and street-smart...who's to say which is superior?  I'm just glad they're smarties...I think.

"Honey, where those cookies I left on the top shelf?"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Light

The title of this post is misleading.  Many of you will think it refers to those first dim moments as the sun tips the scales in the sky, vanquishing the darkness.  In most cases, you'd be right.  Not today.  I'm referring to the first light that my eyes take in before I realize it's way too early to be awake.  If I stir, or even sigh, I'll give myself away.  Yawns and scratches are right out.  I'm bookended by two very observant creatures.

On my days off, I have to dupe them with all the acting ability I can muster to simply stay in bed undisturbed for just a few minutes longer.  Sometimes I get a whole extra hour!  Rarely, though.  Arwen will be strewn about somewhere on the floor, usually spilling luxuriously out of her bed.  Nyxie will have moved to Daddy's pillow next to me.  This will happen before Daddy has actually made it to the bathroom.  She keeps an eye on "her spot" as he struggles out of bed, like a canine pillow pirate.  Arwen will take her time with moving.  She prefers the foot of the bed, closest to the fan.  (Did I mention that it was 104 degrees today?  Concrete is cracking, folks...)  She'll sprawl out, crowding Nyxie, who loves being near Big Sissy.

I'll feel their movements, the jumps onto the bed, the circling and settling.  Nyxie will tuck her snoot under my arm or pillow.  It's a long nose, chilliness happens...And then we'll have a few more minutes, maybe an hour or two (even more rarely) of the softest, cuddliest sleep imaginable.  The stillness will break as their tummies take over, breakfast calling and The Giver of All Good Things needs to shake a leg.  These are some of my favorite moments.

But I've fooled them!  I got my extra sleep, and they had no idea I was awake!  I don't think they saw me peeking at them...or maybe, they look forward to sleeping in as much as I do.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Incidents

Nyxie has a fascination with sprinklers.  Obsession, really.  We have the kind that magically and unexpectedly pop out of the ground.  The kind that get sucked down into the earth with a foot tap.  Each night they come on and she seems restless to seek them out, hearing them with her satellite ears from inside.  If we're outside and they're on, her ears rotate  forward, her shoulders stiffen, and she pulls toward them like they're a slab of bacon.  She'll play bark and dance about, desperate to get to them.  She wants to bite them.  There's something about the water splashing in her mouth that gets her wonky.

The first time she showed interest in them, we laughed and let her investigate the sprinkler heads.  Then the attraction intensified.  Now, a walk is further complicated by errant sprinkler heads that haven't automatically been pulled to their earthly depths.  I can reset her with a yummy freeze-dried chicken treat (of course my girls aren't spoiled).

I was talking to a client at the vet hospital just the other day, who was explaining to me how she walked and jogged with her 2 Australian shepherds, one of whom is newly adopted.

"Well, it's not without incident", she revealed.  I couldn't help but laugh like a mad woman at this understatement.

This morning, my daughter slept in, tired from a late night and still enjoying the last few weeks of her summer vacation.  I quietly fed the girls, which was a challenge with Arwen's "WOO, WOO"-ing at the edge of the kitchen.  I slipped on my workout clothes, grabbed my phone, poopy bags and treats, and out into the great unknown we went.

When I take the girls out, this is our time.  My mind is focused on the terrain, the breathing of 2 creatures bonded and in sync.  We take one step at a time, eager to explore "our" domain, as the girls most certainly believe it is.  We are doing the most primitive of acts.  This is what people have done for a trillion, billion, gazillion years.  I'm quite sure poopy bags and clothing were not involved, the idea of a leash absurd in any truly pack-oriented, symbiotic relationship.

No two walks are ever the same.  They are never "without incident", good or bad.  Something new is always experienced, whether it's watching Arwen do her balancing tightrope walk on every short wall, or Nyxie's careful, gradual approach to giant construction equipment.  Something new happens, hurdles are surmounted, new poo is sniffed.  All urine-sprayed signposts are read.  And all this has a sense of urgency - we race the rising temperature of the Texas heat scorch.  (It went up to 105 today)

And for just a brief exhale in my busy life, I am one with my two wild things.  It's all simple for a moment.  They are working with me on the common purpose of movement, exploration, protection.  We return spent - the girls in full panting mode, me dripping in sweat.  They lay about exhausted and calm, content.  

My day is just beginning.  I need to check my email, get some coffee, "oh, honey, you're awake!..."  And a new day unfolds, surely "not without incident".  I suppose that's what it's all about.    

Thanks and welcome!

Arwen, Nyxie and I would like to thank everyone for visiting and posting comments on this little blog.  This is all fairly new to us and the girls are excited to share their adventures and infamy with everyone.  I marvel at the thought that there are so many of us that love our beasties in such a fanatical way as to share their lives with others of our ilk.  The more of you I meet here, the more I think how fun it would be to bring everyone together in one place for a festivus of sorts.  I know this would be nearly impossible, but still a fun thought.

Hugs to you all and ear scritchers to your furkids!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stress Relief

My arrival from work is greeted with much jubilation and exultation.  And sniffing.  My entire person is sniffed thoroughly, every inch of my scrubs thoroughly examined.  As some of you know, I'm a vet tech, or veterinary nurse, so just being at work covers me with smells of all kinds.  They range from the soft, soothing aromas of puppy breath to the harsh, fearful smell of anal gland excretions.  It's nothing if not glorious, folks.

Really though, I love what I do.  I love being able to provide comfort to the pets in my care.  At times they're scared, anxious, hopeful and sometimes painful.  Every last, little one of them wants to be well.  Every last, little one of them is a fighter.

When I was a social worker, I found myself lending my ego to the patients in my care.  Human brains are experts at behavioral rationalization.  We can explain away our mistakes and flaws - blaming anything from timing, parents, our environments, to our astrological moon and sun signs.  I'd come home exhausted and spent, frustrated by the poor choices of my patients.  Not now, though.  My furry patients are tough.  They're little warriors.  They just want to keep going -  eating, drinking, scratching, playing - living.  Even pain is masked when possible.  Impressive.

So I come home wearing all these odors.  I'm some kind of other-worldly pet ambassador, as far as Arwen and Nyxie are concerned.  In a single day they don't even see that many other animals.  What must they think?  All I know is both girls are riveted by these smells, taking them all in usually with tails wagging wildly.  The tails wag more slowly when there's a particularly sick patient I've held that day.  As though excited to "meet" them, but sad for their predicament.  They just know.  But how?  I suppose it doesn't really matter.

I've learned from the girls to live in the moment, so that stress stays at work.  And it feels good to be reunited with my family, furry and otherwise.  The girls greet and then examine me with such ardor - I'm kind of like their super hero.  But stinkier.