Friday, April 30, 2010


Yesterday was Nyxie's bath day. The days leading up to bath day were mixed with excitement and dread. See, Nyxie hasn't had a bath in about a year. That's right, a year. I brush her often with the Furminator given to me as a sample from a sales rep years ago, when they were just gaining fame. What a lucky acquisition that was! With a husky and a German Shepherd, there's no winning the war on hair. For those of you unfamiliar with the Furminator, allow me to share. It's a dog grooming brush that allows you to get the maximum amount of undercoat from your dog with each stroke of the brush. The girls don't seem to mind me using it on them and it works efficiently. Since we just moved, and I was starting to actually smell her doggy smell, it was time for Nyxie to experience the new detachable shower head.
Let me just point out that Arwen has not had a bath in years. In fact, she will probably never have one again. She despises getting wet like vampires despise the sun. When we bathed her in the past, she made sounds that would make you think we were pulling her legs off. She is a very dramatic soul and the bath is just right out. The good part of this, as any of you husky owners know, huskies just don't get oily like other dogs. Therefore, no smell. Mud and dirt just shakes off their ridiculously luxurious coats. Not to mention they shed their ENTIRE coat twice a year with constant shedding peppering the the time between the major blow-outs. So again, no smell. This is what I am glad to say is a win / win situation for both Arwen and us.

So into the bath Nyxie went. We even bought her a no-slip mat made for giving your dog a bath in your own tub. Of course there was only organic, oatmeal and almond smelling shampoo for our little peanut. Daddy wanted to do it, and I was glad to step back. I figured this could go one of two ways. Either Matt would end up trampled by a soaking wet German Shepherd desperate to get out of the tub, or it would be a daddy and daughter bonding experience. All the while I would be calm and dry on the other side of the door.

What I heard would melt your heart. Calm, soothing tones from Matt and a quiet little black dog remembering her puppy days when Daddy would give her a bath. When Nyxie was a puppy, she was too small and wiggly to stay within reach in the shower. Matt came up with an ingenious device for her baths. He took a large Rubbermaid and poked holes in the bottom. This way, she was confined to the tub, but the water could filter out the bottom. He's always coming up with creative devices to make our lives easier. I love this about him. And I love the patience he has for Nyxie, it's a beautiful thing.

The best part of bath time is after bath time. This is the time when you see your dog's spirit take flight. Absolute abandon for all the rules and limitations. Nyxie was a blur, running laps around the house hopping from bed to bed and banking the couch on her way through the living room. What a beautiful thing to watch. If you can get past the dog hair, the wet comforter, and the run over toes, you just have to throw your head back to laugh. It's that infectious. It's the feeling of walking out of school on the last day of the year. It's the adrenalin burst you work off with a sprint. It 's the feeling I had today of walking out of work, a full weekend off ahead of me. I just popped open an ice cold Abita. Cheers to a clean dog and an open weekend with my family.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


So the big move went through catastrophe free. We moved all of our stuff, big and small, furry and scaly, to our new home. After a painful stretch with my computer scattered about in pieces, packed in overflowing boxes, Matt finally found a moment to put it all back together. I'm feeling reconnected to the universe.
I suspect you're wondering how the dogs did...and even if you're not, I'm going to tell you. We were forced to crate the girls while the door was opened and closed countless times. They were not impressed, whining almost constantly. I had to wonder if every time we left they questioned if we'd return. The anxiety was thick enough to slice with a knife, but they were just feeding on ours.
Moving all your things is so very disruptive. There are those that like change, and I suppose after a great deal of panic and anxiety, I too get excited about the newness of it all. But the moving days themselves are horrific and then there's the physical pain. I have bruises in places that I don't remember hurting! And of course there's the finding of where to put all your things in your new home.
"Should this go here or there?"
"There's no room for this - well I'm glad I brought that all the way up those stairs for nothing..."
The girls had none of these questions. They ran in and smelled EVERYTHING. There was no bit of carpet, wall, or door that was not probed with a snout. There was much pacing, back and forth. Learning new patterns and new doors. They found their bowls, they found their beds, and thankfully, there was still chicken!! And after a few days of this nervous pacing and sniffing, they were home. But truly, home is where we are. Wherever we are. I'm pretty sure that's why the waiting in the crates was so stressful for them.
But they have it all wrong, home is wherever they are. And now they are settled and we are all home.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The boxes are out, the bubble wrap is loud and the dogs are leery. Arwen's been through it with us 3 times before, she knows the signs of an upcoming move. Poor Nyxie's been through only one move but it was a long one. So long, in fact that we had to have a week's visit with the in-laws to catch our collective breath. This move will be a tiny one, just 2 buildings over. It doesn't seem so far when you consider it from that perspective. No moving truck and most of our stuff isn't even boxed yet.

This year has seen many changes. Seven months ago we were seriously considering a move to New Orleans...ah New Orleans, how I miss you. But it wasn't meant to be, not yet at least. Our small family grew to include my stepdaughter on a permanent basis, making us whole again. We're sorting out the parent of a "tween" thing one day at a time. The dogs adore her and she has them wrapped around her little finger, much like we are I suppose.

So we are going to a larger home. The smells will be different, the doggy beds in a new room. The dogs will have to adapt. But they will do just that.
"Oh we live here now? Ok. Where's my bed and bowl?" They have simple needs. They'll wonder at us with big eyes as we lock up the old place,
"We're all going together, right?"
"Yes, girls. We're all going together" That's what packs do.

Friday, April 9, 2010


I suppose I should introduce the 2nd canine member of Arwen's pack. She is Nyxie, named after the dark dragon boss in World of Warcraft's Onyxia's Lair. Now they say the name you give your puppy is an indicator of their future personality, or is it the other way around? Well, in Nyxie's case, she has lived up to her name.
We brought her home at 9 weeks, when she could still curl up into a tight little ball on the trucks' console. What is it with our dogs and consoles?
She was precocious and quiet, all the while watching and learning. Her favorite time of the day was mealtime, when she would devour all her little raw chicken necks by gulping them down in record time. She was weaned onto raw chicken straight from her mama's bosom, and just the mention of the word "chicken" would send her little tiny black German Shepherd head tilting every which way. Now if anyone has ever been lucky enough to raise a tiny German Shepherd, you know exactly what I'm describing. That famous head tilt that makes us grab our cameras and squeak in hopes for more. The giant ears flop to one side and then the other as she tries to understand every syllable of squeak.
Nyxie was a dog park puppy. She would romp and play, but was nervous around the dogs that played too rough and preferred instead to fly through the giant mud puddle hunting her tennis balls and retrieving them for me. We bought her all the latest interactive toys and several different leashes and collars, what a pampered baby she was! She could follow many commands by 12 weeks and was potty trained with ease. She did enjoy eating her own poop, though. A habit I'm forever grateful she's dropped.
So how does this lovely puppy become a dark dragon of lore? Well, I can't be certain, but I know that as she grew older, she became mistrustful of strangers and one day decided that other dogs stressed her out too much at the dog park. I suppose the signs were always there. She was a nervous puppy, and shy. As an adult, this became more pronounced and we continue to battle her fears daily. She is a tender, loving, observant and playful dog with us, but there's some internal alarm that goes off in her head when an unknown person approaches, "stranger danger!". A German Shepherd barking loudly at you is a scary thing and she's learned that it keeps people away. Like I said, we work on this every day.
With that being said, my youngest baby has learned so much from Arwen. She torments her constantly with playful licks and head smacks to entice her to play, but Arwen only plays when Arwen wants. She is older and wiser, but also, I'm quite sure she enjoys the mastery over her pupil. Arwen has never been a fan of dogs, but upon first meeting Nyxie, she couldn't have been more thrilled. "You got me a minion?!" She nuzzled at her and licked her and followed her around until Nyxie was hooked and then it began. The hero worship. So in bringing Nyxie home we really got our dog a dog of her own. A fellow compatriot in a foreign land. It must've felt so good to be understood at last, even by this pushy, bouncy little black dragon whelpling.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Arwen is fearless. She truly is a confident, no nonsense kind of dog. Today, however, we found something she's afraid of. We were walking through the big field which is semi-mowed, and only on occasion. Today it was overgrown and wild, full of new spring growth and delicate little wildflowers which were bursting with color. Arwen cannot walk past a flower without smelling it, so this particular walk required a great deal of patience on my part. She, however, was mesmerized.
Suddenly, she hopped away from a particular leafy weed and darted around it anxiously. I thought for sure she was sniffing coyote urine or scat, as I've heard dogs tend to avoid them (although there are coyotes near us and they only make the girls curious) My own curiosity got the best of me and I found myself poking around. And then I see it. Black scales on a body that was about a quarter in diameter. Fairly large for a wild snake in a residential area. Whether it was alive or dead, I couldn't tell you. I couldn't resist one quick poke with my toe, although in retrospect, probably not the brightest of ideas. There was no movement at all but the poor thing was probably trying desperately to look dead so we'd move on. I saw no reason to disturb it further so we did just that.
Where did this instinct come from? We have 2 pet snakes of our own that Arwen has always lived alongside. She's never shown the least bit of fear around them at all. This must be some sort of built-in alarm warning system. Some ancient knowledge that a hidden predator is dangerous. She's a mysterious and primitive little creature, but today I learned to trust her instincts. Had she not become anxious and warned me, would I have stepped on it? It was lying directly in my path. My morning might have gone very differently. As would've the snake's...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Dogs can't lie. Not like we do, at least. They have no guile. They mislead, they coerce, they cover up, but they never outright lie. And even these are done from a standpoint of self-preservation. Lying is an ugly thing which creates shame. A dog is rarely shameful and when they appear so, they are generally shrinking away because they are astute enough to know they've violated one of our rules. Have you ever seen a shameful stray?
Arwen is watching me type. Actually she's watching me eat an ice cream sandwich while I think about typing. Ice cream is her favorite food, the one she will do almost anything to get. Almost. She's staring at me, then at the ice cream, then back at me. "I really want that now". There is no lie here, I know exactly what she wants. I also know that if I get up and leave the room, she won't steal it. I've tried it. She'll sniff it, stare longingly at it, but never take it. She has a code, and that is a lovely thing.

Monday, April 5, 2010


So I suppose I should introduce my oldest girl first. The girls. The pups, the ladies, they have many names. Some of them unprintable and private. Arwen is the oldest. The elder, the teacher, the alpha. On so many levels, she is the alpha. She has taught Nyxie everything she knows about how to survive in our home. How the rules work, what their canine expectations are...and more importantly, what they can get away with.
Arwen came to us by chance. She was a foundling of sorts. When we lived in Miami, we often visited the Miami-Dade animal shelter to scratch noses and visit the dogs. There is a high turnover rate for dogs there, as there are many cast offs and unwanted creatures. They do the best they can, but the facility is a sad place. It's loud and smells of feces. It's been about 7 years since I've been there, but I can't imagine there have been radical improvements.
As we headed towards the shelter's entrance, Matt pointed out a man walking in with a beautiful young Siberian husky. Black and white with silver blue steel eyes. She tugged at her leash and wandered back and forth at the very end of it. No manners, no guidance. Matt approached the man who was intending on surrendering her. She had recently gone into heat and kept escaping from the backyard. Her name was Roxy then, and a year prior had been a present to his then 1 year old baby girl. A genius plan that hadn't worked out very well as you can imagine.
So here she was, untouched by the hell that was that shelter, on the brink of a second chance. Matt turned to me and I knew there was no turning back. I'd heard alot about the untrainability and mischievous behavior of Siberian huskies. What were we getting into? Our first taste was when she dove into the ashtray outside the shelter, lapping desperately at the dirty water that was pooled there.
But I couldn't say no. She rested her head on my arm all the way home.
What a strange day that must have been for her. Imagine the confusion for her of leaving everything and everyone she knew and suddenly landing in a new home with new people calling the shots. How to adapt? Who to trust? But trust she did.
How do dogs do this? We take years to trust and even when we do, there are parts of us we hold back. Dogs function like aliens from another species, having to learn our language and behavior patterns just to survive. And we demand so much of them. Eat, defecate, sleep, run, walk, sit, when we say so. How do dogs learn all this? And when we poke them with needles at the vet and connect them to fluid lines for hydration and take rectal temperatures...what must they think? I can't be sure. I know at work, when I do these things, most of these dogs will turn and lick at my face submissively, "Please be good to me!". I speak to them with my hands, caressing them gently.
Was this what Arwen was thinking on that life-changing afternoon? I can't be sure.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


The first thing I see this afternoon as I wake...eyes. Two pairs, in fact, waiting for me to stir and make dinner. I could feel them on me, even before I opened my own. Arwen's silver blue and Nyxie's sparkling brown. These are our 2 dogs, and they want dinner. NOW. If the staring doesn't work, there's a practiced repertoire of jumping up and settling between me and Matt. This could go on for quite some time, mostly just enough movement to shake the bed. On and then off, on, then off, on, off...
I'm up, I'm up.
The nap was necessary. I had spent the last 24 hrs or so enjoying a visit from my old college roommate, Amy, her husband, Ray, and their family. After all these many years later (ok, not THAT many) we found each other on Facebook and got back in touch. What a relief. Her friendship kept me sane then and I've no doubt it will do so now.
But I digress. We took the kids to dinner, went back to the hotel and let them watch movies while we laughed and drank beer. Breakfast this morning and then they were gone too soon. They live 4 hours away and we've been lucky enough to visit each other 4 times since Facebook worked last year. One of those trips was a reunion with our beloved New Orleans. It was a reunion because I was lucky enough to visit Amy and Ray for a few months about 10 years ago while they lived there. But that's a story for another time.
And as always, the dogs are waiting for us to come home and then waiting for us to wake from our nap, and then waiting for their dinner. They wait, and wait. I'm constantly astounded by their patience. And grateful. Grateful that like the greatest of friends, they are there when we need them most. They are the reason I am a veterinary technician, and the reason I love them.