Thursday, July 29, 2010


Dogs are not known for their patience.  But I think we're short-changing them on this one.  Imagine what it would be like to have needs that must be met, but relying on people to meet them!  Now, people aren't necessarily dumb or ill-intentioned, although if you meet enough of them, you'll witness the full spectrum of human good and bad.  I lean towards the belief that people are basically good, but the incentive to be good must be there, much like in puppies.  So therefore humans are like puppies (hopefully with better coordination) - we need to be rewarded for our good behavior.  Repetition is reinforced, behavior is repeated, etc.  Allow me to prove to you Nyxie's amazing feat of patience and my reinforced response:

Sign of patience # 1.   Early this morning, when all humans should be asleep, I woke to the whining and whimpering of a desperate Nyxie.  She had to poo, NOW.  The urgency of her need was quite clear, despite the crazy hour.  I dragged myself out of bed with what seemed to me lightning speed, and most likely seemed to her a tequila-pickled  turtle.

Sign of patience # 2.  Earlier still in the night, I vaguely remember hearing some whimpering, but ignored it in my sleepy state.  I most likely incorporated the sounds into my dream.  Don't ask me what I was dreaming about...There was never any jumping on the bed, because Nyxie knows she's not supposed to jump on the bed while we sleep.  There was no pawing at me or my face, which would not only injure me, but surely Nyxie would think this too rude.

Sign of patience # 3.  As I stiffly made my way towards shoes and her leash, surely I figured she must've squirted a little present somewhere on the white carpet.  Scanning the room with eyes and nose, it was clear to me that she had held it all in for however long the urgings had been tormenting her.  As we made our way to the door, she leaped all around me in sheer joy that I had understood her need and was obliging her.

Sign of patience # 4.  Finally, as Nyxie is a working-bred German Shepherd, with blazing "protect, obey and duty" instincts, she didn't immediately release her poo as I'm certain she desperately wanted.  No.  She scanned the perimeter, sniffed the air, listened to the sounds of the creek at night and craned her neck to see and smell far beyond the immediate area.  Safety was confirmed, and only then did she release the horrendous poo.

Now that I've completely disgusted some of you, let's review.  How many of us could show such patience?  I for one know that if I was in Nyxie's fuzzy shoes, the carpet would've been the first casualty.  Not just in one spot, but in many places as I tried to get away from the stank but still complete my mission.  I would've also bopped my human a few times in the face with enough force and nails to get the job done so she/he could clean up the mess!  I don't think I'd make a very good dog.

In the bigger picture, Nyxie has taught me well.  She's rewarded me with a clean carpet and furniture, and no bodily injuries.  Now I know the difference between the play whine, "Hey, toss the ball already!" and the, "Holy hell, I HAVE TO POO NOW!!!" whine.  Also, she's learned that her human is trustworthy.  I can meet her needs, albeit slowly and clumsily.  What was that about puppies again?  Positive reinforcement is a wonderful, glorious thing.  

Thursday, July 22, 2010


As a dog owner, guardian, parent, one of my responsibilities is to take my dog into the outdoors while tethered to me.  Take them outside the den, into the varied and wonderful aromas of "the wild".  Dogs need to smell the richness of the earth, the markings of other creatures that came before them and feel the breeze inhaled deeply.  I suspect they're just being nosy, but I'm getting off track here.

When I first entered the world of Dog, brought that 1st canine ambassador into my home, I thought "the walk" would be a drag.  Something I had to do because that's what dogs need.  The thought of dragging myself out of a deep sleep, a warm and silent bed to dress with eyes closed and legs heavy, was akin to throwing acid on myself on a daily basis.

"Having a dog better be worth all this damn hassle", I thought back then.

Now that I'm a card-carrying member of the Cult of Dog, I know those walk worries came from my inner cat person talking.  The person who wants a roommate who's never really home - a roommate that's a  flight attendant, maybe.  Or a roommate that's started an intense relationship with their future life partner who's got a swanky apartment on the water.  Someone who doesn't really want to be committed to another living being.

Now before you wonderful cat folks attack, please remember that I love cats and have always (until about 3 years ago) had cats as a part of my family.  That surly teenage family member, but family member nonetheless.      Truthfully, though, the cats that I've always had in my home were more like dogs.  They'd follow me around and were rather playful.  Not so cat-like at all.

This morning I woke earlier than usual for a day off (later than I'd really wanted, but the bed felt extra foofy this morning), and took the girls for a long walk.  I walk one at a time, as combined they weigh almost as much as I do.  The heat wasn't quite unbearable yet.  The neighborhood was quiet - that perfect time of the morning after those going to work have gone and those staying home aren't up and around yet.  First Arwen, then Nyxie.  Poor girls in their coats, they truck along, diligently sniffing all the morning news.

I haven't taken them for long walks in a couple of weeks, the heat and my own schedule keeping them inside.  There's been a lot of work being done in the neighborhood lately, and as most of you know, Nyxie's not receptive to such intrusions.  I forgot how much I missed my private time with each of them.

Each has their own style of "the walk".  Arwen will pull until she's tired and then will lope from patch of grass to patch of grass.  Eventually she'll tire and walk next to me.  We end the walk with her looking like a beautifully leash-trained member of her species.  Exemplary.  Nyxie will try so very hard to not pull at first but her excitement takes herculean efforts on her part to contain.  Her strict German blood wins, and she submits.  Walking with Nyxie is musical.  She falls in next to me, every few steps turning her head to be sure she is pleasing me.  For this I give her free reign as we get closer to home.  With this freedom, she leaps a few times, then back in line on her own accord.  All bets are off if there are perceived "intruders" to her space, so I've learned to bring yummy freeze-dried chicken in the nerd pouch on my hip.

There's something primal to the walk.  The girls know it, I feel it.  We've surveyed our territory and all is well.  Smells have been taken in.  Tensions released.  Things have been peed on, messages left.  Perimeter's secure.  The pack will sleep soundly tonight.    

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Some dogs will greet you by climbing all over you for attention, demanding that you focus on them and only then.  We'll call this Group A.  There are those that are more subtle with their attention-seeking.  They'll greet you enthusiastically but not jump up and demand center stage.  They are more reserved, more gracious.  We'll call this Group B.  Then of course, there are those dogs that want nothing to do with you.  These are the dogs that belong to other people.  These are friendly "other people dogs", but they generally do not charge you with the "long-lost friend" greeting.  Those of you with dogs can probably agree that your own furry canine fits into either Group A or Group B.  (Unless of course your dog doesn't like you and you can therefore safely label yourself an ass-hat.  I'm sure even Hitler's dog was excited to see him.  Really though, Hitler always seemed to me to be more of a cat person.  But I digress.)  

So Nyxie falls squarely into Group A.  The euphoric, jump in mid-air and lick you wildly greeting is my daily experience.  She does this for all of her pack members, and only her pack members.  The rest of you be damned (Nyxie's words, not mine).    Short or long absences are not her concern.  Taking a stroll to the mailbox sometimes earns you a hero's welcome.  It's quite an ego boost if I do say so myself.

Arwen isn't a Group A member, unless it's dinnertime and she can't seem to help herself.  Even these wild displays for her are graceful - more "Ice Skater Ivana" than "Mosh Pit Molly".  But then she settles into the routine of quietly following me around.

Regardless of greeting style or Group membership, they share one thing in common - they must be near me.   I have quite the entourage.  Wherever I go, the 2 girls are just a footfall behind me.  As I type, they're laying around my chair.  When I was in the other room, they chewed their bones at my feet.  If I were to go to the bathroom - yup, you guessed it.  My royal subjects would escort me.  I'll often turn on a dime and collide violently with my 2 furry minions.  I'm not really sure what they expect me to do.  I'll admit to some performance anxiety at times - Do I dance for them?  Pantomime?  Maybe sing?

No.  None of that's important.  What's important is that we're close.  Arwen will find the spot on the couch closest to me, ideally touching me.  Then she'll curl up and close her eyes.  I sleep the easiest when they are close.  When the breathing slows and I can feel the warmth of their furry bodies together with mine.  Of course having Matt there helps.  After all, he is part of the pack, too...

Monday, July 12, 2010


Dogs are energy junkies. They'll feed off of whatever energy surrounds them. My girls are no exception to this canine rule. If I'm sad or angry, they sense this on some primal level and either steer clear of me or lick my tears away in an effort to console me. The pack must be maintained at all costs - emotional balance must return!

My first thoughts this morning were that I was sore. Physically twisted and sore. I must've contorted myself into some horrifically awkward sleeping position. Either that, or some mischievous creature had bashed me with a baseball bat and left me for dead. Nevertheless, not an ideal way to jump start the work week. So I decided to make gym time for myself before work.

What a change in attitude! I came home revitalized, energized and just plain happy. I put on my "Mamma Mia!" soundtrack (which I recommend for an immediate pick me up if gym time is not possible) and danced with the dogs. Yup, I said it. I danced with my girls. They hopped around with their front paws in my hands as I danced. Tongues lolling, tails wagging. They could feel my energy and fed freely, like little furry psychic vampires.

I know some of you are rolling your eyes in disgust..."she's such a dog psycho!". Say what you will, there's nothing like sharing happiness with someone (or something) that reflects it back in spades. No pretensions, no embarrassment, no "what will they think". Unabashed happiness. What a pure, beautiful thing.

Monday, July 5, 2010


For those of you who are expecting a Nyxie story from the "Attack" title, you'll be disappointed. She hasn't hurt a fly. In fact, she made friends with a little bird on the deck railing this morning. I think they're now BFF.

The attack I'm referring to was a made by evil little red minions of satan. Yup - red ants. The South is chock full of dastardly creatures ready to bite and suck out your very living essence. Biting flies, red ants, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, wasps, yellow jackets, tarantulas, brown recluses, black widows - I'm sure I'm leaving out plenty, but you get the idea. The Southern outdoors can be a formidably hostile place.

Now imagine not having the tactical use of indoor plumbing - meaning all your bodily expressions are meant for the outdoors. Such is the sad fate of our dogs.

We took the girls out for a potty break first thing on Sunday morning. Danger seemed at a minimum. (warning- potty scene coming in 3..2..1...) Both Arwen and Nyxie evacuated their bowels and we brought them back inside after some sniffing and wandering about. I stretched myself out on the bed as this was clearly a lot of activity for a Sunday morning and invited Miss Arwen onto the bed for a belly scratch and snuggle. Matt stretched out next to us and scratched her between the ears, one of her favorite spots. I noticed some flecks of dirt on her snow-white paws and started picking at them, thinking she had tracked some mud into the house.

The mud started moving.

"Oh my god!! They're red ants!! Matt get her off the bed !!"

There were a ton of red ants swarming all over her left paw. (ok - by a "ton" I mean about 20, but they feel like a "ton" when they're on your bed!) They were trying desperately to bite through her polar armor with what I can only imagine was no luck - she never reacted like I do when attacked by red ants. My standard response - hop around on the unbitten foot, curse like a hood-rat and smack the hell out of the foot on fire. Poor kid got scooped up and taken into the bathroom where I soaked her paw in cold water. Those little bastards never saw it coming. And Arwen was not impressed.

"You know how much I hate water! You've finally lost your mind!"

She was pretty good, though - wriggling only a little bit. I think she was enjoying being carried around by Dad, and being taller than Nyxie for the first time in 2 and a half years. The Evil Minions writhed helplessly until they were all washed down the drain. HA! Vanquished by modern plumbing. How dare they attack Arwen? This battle was won, but the war wages on. Why do people live here?