“Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” ~ Dave Barry

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” ~ Johnny Depp

I sat down to write a post but ended up playing Spider Solitaire. I just couldn’t find the words. So I thought I’d post these wonderful pictures. After all, it’s hard to compete with a smiling dog.

                   

Music by Nicolas Jaar, “Encore”

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“Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” ~ Mac McCleary

Snow completely covering a road in Clifton, Virginia during December Blizzard 09

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~ H. Jackson Brown

Vintage Christmas Card

Today is the day I slated to do my Christmas cards . . . finally. Look. I used to be very anal about getting my cards out before the middle of December. In the past few years, I have found myself to be quite pleased if I managed to post them by Christmas day. This year, if they make it to the post office before New Year’s Eve, I will be content.

Anyway, we received so few cards this year that I am truly beginning to think that people just do not take the time to send things via regular post any more, and that, dear readers, is a shame. Opening Christmas cards and holiday greetings from friends and relatives is such a wonderful moment in time, even if the sender does nothing more than sign a name. I mean, at least the presence of the name in ink means that someone took at least a few seconds out of the ever-decreasing free moments in our lives to remember my family and me.

But this is not a discussion on the dearth of letters and cards that arrive in the mail, making all of the accompanying bills and flyers pale in comparison. No, this post is to update everyone on the saga of the December trip to Ohio . . .

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.  ~ Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn

So, how was this latest trip to Ohio?

Oh, not bad. After the first twenty-four hours in the vehicle, your body is so numb that you really don’t care any more.

Twenty-four hours? Are you serious?

Actually, it was twenty-seven. We actually pulled out of our driveway at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18.  We pulled into their driveway on Saturday, December 19 at 10:40 p.m.

DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C., December Blizzard 2009

No. It’s more like 696 miles, give or take, depending on which route we use.

So why so long?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because we were driving in snow, ice, and blizzard conditions. Or maybe it’s because once we got past Newport News, the traffic began to move at about 30 mph. Or, it could be that for every five miles that we traveled, we saw at least one car in a ditch, or on a tree, or upside down.

We had scanned the radar for the entire area, and the usual route through the western part of Virginia was out of the question. They were expecting 12-18 inches of snow, and there were warnings that some roads might be closed. That left going north around DC, into Maryland, and across to Ohio. Little did we know that there was no good route.

Then there was the little problem with the windshield wipers.

What happened to the wipers?

Well, at first, we thought that we needed new ones because one entire area of the driver’s side wasn’t clearing with the swipes back and forth. So when we finally made it to Fredericksburg, a trip that normally takes about two hours but took about eight (I mean, we didn’t make it to Richmond until after midnight, and that’s a 90-minute drive), we stopped at that bastion of American consumerism, Wal Mart, and bought wipers and Rain-X spray to keep the windshield from freezing because by then we realized that the wipers themselves were freezing.

That worked better, for a while, but then there was that whole Pennsylvania turnpike thing after we stopped for breakfast in Maryland. Of course, we only stopped because I threatened Corey with bodily harm if I didn’t get the chance to get out of the van and use a real bathroom. But trust me, I was only thinking of him . . .

I mean, Corey hadn’t had a break since the Wal Mart and he was getting grouchy (wonder why), so I suggested that we stop for a real meal and rest for a bit. We pulled into a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Maryland and ate. I drank about four cups of coffee and tried to convince Corey to let me drive for a while. No go. That whole male driving thing. Don’t ask me because it makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Doesn't even begin to depict the conditions

Why did you go on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

More coffee and a bathroom. Actually, I thought that since it was such a heavily-traveled road that surely the snowplows and salters would be out (because they certainly weren’t out on the other interstates) and that we would be able to travel faster than the snow. Wrong. It was worse than I95, which was virtually a parking lot.  But by the time we stopped at one of the driver’s centers on the Turnpike, Corey was clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought he might break it, so I decided to drive. He relented, but only from exhaustion. (More of that it’s not safe for you to drive in this, ya da ya da ya da. I lived in Blacksburg for God’s sakes. Snow is a way of life there.  Bah.)

As I was pulling out of the driver’s center, the driver’s side wiper broke, as in the arm just limped, kind of like a drunk slug. Of course that was before the flat tire.

What flat tire?

Well, we got directions from the first toll collector to an auto parts store so that we could try to fix the wiper. We found that store fairly easily, but when I was pulling into the parking lot, I ran over something, probably the curb that was buried under three feet of snow. One of the employees in the store came out and looked at the wiper and tightened it, and it seemed to be working again. 

Another stop for coffee, and then I drove off, feeling somewhat relieved until the wiper flailed and then died again as soon as I got back on the main road.

So we got off on the next exit as I was trying to see the road through a space of about 12 inches square and got directions from another toll collector for an auto store that was supposed to be eight miles down some state road. (Exactly why are there toll collectors on interstates that are paid for with tax dollars? Another story.) This particular store was not quite so easy to find, and we found a NAPA auto parts store first. We pulled in, and the guy next to us said, “Do you know you have a flat tire?” Lovely. Just lovely.

NAPA didn’t have a part of any kind, so Corey bought a can of Fix-a-Flat (another miracle product), and we tried to find the other store, but when we got there, it was closed. We pulled into the lot of a dollar store and Corey came out with the universal fix-it: duct tape. Apparently, the bolt was stripped, so Corey wrapped the tape around it, and we made a make-shift coupling.

Duct tape is a wonderful thing, just like Windex, but again, I digress . . .

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Beautiful but Treacherous

Corey went back to sleep, and I drove with the window partially down, sticking my hand out in the snow and then rubbing my face with my cold, wet hand. It was refreshing, and I knew that in spite of two gallons of coffee, I was not going to be able to drive that much longer. I just don’t have that y-chromosone-related driving non-stop thing going on. I made it to Washington, West Virginia (there’s a Washington in every state, by the way), which is right on the border of Ohio. By this time, it was about four on Saturday afternoon, and I had told Corey’s parents in the last update not to expect us before four.

Obviously that anticipated arrival time had come and gone.

Then what happened?

The duct tape held for the most part. We had wipers. The Fix-a-Flat seemed to be holding, and the snow finally lessened almost to a stopping point. There was the one incident around Columbus, though.

What happened in Columbus?

Corey missed the bypass, so we went through Columbus, and then we missed our turn. Consensus was to take one of the state roads the rest of the way in. I think that was when I started to see things.

It was probably due to a combination of the coffee, need to go to the bathroom, exhaustion, and the fact that my teeth felt as if cotton balls were glued to them. Of course by this time, we were all punchy from exhaustion. Everything was funny, even when it wasn’t.

But did you get there safely?

Safely is a relative term. No, we didn’t go off the road, although we did spin once. Our bodies were in one piece, but the van had all kinds of sensor lights flashing at us by the time we pulled into the driveway. And I believe that I aged at least two years in two days. Other than that and the fact that when I finally got into bed I had the spins (now that hasn’t happened in a long time), everything was fine.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr.

Plowed Roads on the Way Home

So ends the saga of our trip to Ohio. Our journey home to Virginia was the complete opposite. We left at 10:30 in the morning with the stated goal being 10 a.m., rather a record for us. We drove to Marion to get the wiper part, and then we headed down to Cincinnatti to go to a branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers, my favorite bookstore in the world, well, at least in this country. The best one is the original JB, though, in Lexington Kentucky.

We ambled through the store for about an hour, and then we had a nice relaxing dinner at Don Pablo’s, a chain Mexican restaurant that actually has quite good food. Apparently, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat tacos. Corey and Brett each had their fill. I abstained from coffee, and we got back on the road by our goal time. We took our preferred route, which is down Route 35 to I64 through part of West Virginia and into Virginia. No storms, no ice, no car problems (well, other than the sensor lights still going off in the van), no major drama—just the way I like it.

I have to say that I do enjoy visiting Corey’s family, and the time that we spend there is always full, but I really, really hate actually making the trip. Corey and I thought about it, and I don’t think that we have ever had an uneventful trip to Ohio, whether it’s the weather, car trouble, more car trouble, getting lost, not having enough money for gas, whatever. So with that in mind, we have decided that next time, flying is the way to go.

More later. Peace.

Traditional German Christmas Carol (no, not ready to stop posting them, yet): “Still, Still, Still”

 

“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts

Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” ~ Susan Heller 

Well, this is the latest on our planned trip to Ohio: Corey bought the new tire today and had all of the tires rotated and balanced. The Trooper is still acting funny, which gives all of us a warm, happy feeling.

I think that we are going to try to change the brakes and fix the one window while we are in Ohio and Corey can get some help from his brother and his cousin, both of whom know a lot about cars. At least, that was the plan yesterday.

We both tend to get a little anxious and testy before these trips because it’s not just a three hour trip to D.C. It’s a good 12 hours in the car, through mountains. While the Trooper is a very comfortable SUV that does reasonably well on gas, she’s been driven hard for the last few years, and she just isn’t what she used to be. I’m hoping that this will be her last long trip.

“And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.” ~ Dave Barry

Pew Island Trail
Pew Island Trail at Indian Lake, Ohio

We’ve decided to get a motel room  in Sidney, which is outside of Bellefontaine (a lovey French word which is pronounced Bell Fountain in Ohio???). It will be easier for everyone because our arrival is supposed to be a surprise for Corey’s dad, and while Chad, one of Corey’s brothers, had invited us to stay in his house, it’s really too much for the three of us plus Tillie to show up at his house, which is not any bigger than ours, and his girlfriend’s kids have all been bitten by dogs, which makes them dog-shy.

Tillie wouldn’t bite anyone, but try to get a child who sees a big black dog to understand that. It’s simply not fair to the children.

So we’ve found a fairly inexpensive hotel that is pet-friendly and is on the way to Indian Lake, which is where we are supposed to meet everyone on Saturday. 

In spite of all of the pre-travel stress, I know that Corey is looking forward to seeing all of his family and spending some quality time with them. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Indian Lake as the last time that we were there, I was unaware that there was a nature trail. I’m also hoping to rent a kayak.

I haven’t been kayaking in years, but it is not terribly strenuous to do. For a while, I harbored a desire to own my own kayak and taking it out on the Chesapeake Bay. Ah well. So much for that.

“What do nudists wear on casual Fridays?” ~ A.J. Esther 

So those are the big travel plans. Eamonn’s job will be to look after the two Jack Russells, who are staying home, and to take care of the house. I don’t anticipate any parties, but with Eamonn, I would never try to predict.

Aside from the upcoming trip, there really isn’t much to talk about. Corey and I spent hours yesterday doing laundry, getting caught up with all of that as Brett informed us that he did not have any shorts. He has shorts, but they were all in the dirty clothes hamper.

Poor Brett. Eamonn manages to acquire clothes that aren’t his on a continual basis, so every once in a while, I take Brett in Eamonn’s room (when Eamonn is gone, of course) and ask him to look through the clothes to see if anything is his. I must clarify, though. Eamonn acquires clothes from everywhere. We have strange things show up in our laundry all of the time—by strange, I mean that I know with certainty that I never purchased these clothes and that I have never seen them before.

blue heron
Blue Heron at Indian Lake, Ohio

My mom used to hate that when I was in school. I would come out into the living room wearing a shirt, and she would say, “Where did that come from?” The answer would usually be Sarah. But mom would go on a rant about how I had plenty of clothes of my own, and didn’t she buy me enough clothes, and what would people think?

I always loved that one: what would people think? Like the guy at the mall was going to know that the shirt I was wearing wasn’t mine? I dunno. My mom had some major quirks about clothes and jewelry. I suppose that she still does, considering that she always has a kind word to say about whatever I happen to be wearing, which is really annoying because she is always trying to give me an outfit that she bought for herself that doesn’t work.

Consider: My mother is about five inches shorter than I am. Her tastes run to fancy t-shirts. She tried to give me an ecru shirt and pants with some kind of embroidery on it and then became really pissed when I told her that I cannot wear ecru becase it makes me look yellow. She said that the set was beige and had never heard of people who can’t wear certain colors.

This is my mother, who has witnessed certain colors of clothes turn me a wonderful shade of jaundice.

I think not.

“When in doubt, wear red.”~ Bill Blass 

I really wish that I had some chocolate to sweeten my disposition because right now, I’m feeling pretty gnarly. Not happy. Not angry. Just gnarly. Only way I know how to describe it.

I’m pretty sure that a chocolate shake from Sonic would help the situation. That or it would give me a headache. Ah, life’s choices. The rich pageantry.

More later. Peace.

I wrote this post last night but forgot to post it. Amazing. Don’t know where my mind is. Then realized that once again, a paragraph had disappeared from my earlier version. My computer has a ghost.

“When you feel dog tired at night, it may be because you’ve growled all day long.” ~ Unknown

adventure-dog1 

 Alfie’s Big Adventure

 “Every dog must have his day.” – Jonathan Swift

Alfie’s has his day and leads me around by my nose . . .

dog-in-glassesWhen I finally managed to fall asleep yesterday after my insomnia bout during the night, it was early evening. I spend most of the afternoon with an ice pack on my head because of the migraine that was brought on from fatigue.  Not until the pain subsided was I actually able to fall asleep. Apparently, while I was sound asleep, Corey and Alexis were out searching the neighborhood for Alfie, that little bugger.

Let me rewind the story a bit.

In the forbidden forest that is the side of the yard outside my bedroom, the overgrowth had become scary. I told Corey that I wouldn’t mind the wild look so much if only I could have my pond back (love the sound of the frogs). Then Brett got the idea that he’d like to make a little zen garden. That area of the backyard would be perfect because it actually has a narrow picket fence that divides it from the rest of the yard.

Corey decided to take the weed whacker to the area and cut back a lot of the growth. Now that part is the good part of the enterprise. The bad part of the enterprise involves the smallest dog, Alfie, and the fence.

There is a very small hole in the main fence that encloses that part of the yard from the front yard. We plugged that whole a few years ago, and don’t really have to worry about it because the dogs don’t go into the forbidden forest because of the picket fence: that is, unless Corey forgets to close the fence to the forbidden forest, in which case Alfie, who yearns for adventure, find his way through the fence and out. He then romps and yells “I’m free,” before splitting like a hare (get it, split hair? audible groan? okay, back to the story).

Well, Corey did not notice at first that Alfie had escaped because he was mowing the back yard (the other part that is not the forbidden forest). When he finished mowing, Corey realized what he had not done and began calling Alfie’s name. Then he came into the house and asked if anyone had seen Alfie lately. Big no’s all around. Hence the hunt ensued.

“The dog wags his tail, not for you, but for your bread.” ~ Portuguese Proverb

dog-peanut-butter-jarThey finally gave up around 8:30 after making several routes through the park, where people had seen “the cute, little white dog,” and after Alexis rode through the neighborhood calling out her window: “Alfie. I have chocolate!”).

To explain: Alfie is a chocolate fiend. We know that chocolate is bad for dogs, and we don’t give him chocolate: the little bugger steals it. If for some reason we have forgotten to move the chocolate out of his reach, he steals it and eats it, sometimes wrapper included. I’ll never forget the time that I had gotten some Lindor Truffles, a personal favorite. Well I left some on the nightstand, which is easily within Alfie’s reach, even with his short little legs. Found the Truffle wrappers under the buffet in the dining room and Alfie with a smug look on his face.

Back to the adventure: I called the Norfolk shelter to report him missing and to see if anyone had brought him in or if he had been swooped up by Animal Control, which occasionally patrols the neighborhood looking for strays. An absolutely delightful woman told me that I would have to call back in the morning because they did not release any information unless it was during normal business hours.

“The greater love is a mother’s; then comes a dog’s; then a sweetheart’s.” ~ Polish Proverb

This morning Corey left for school early because they were going out on the water today, and I waited until 9 a.m. to call. The first woman I spoke with asked me to come in and fill out a lost pet report. I explained that I did not have transportation, and asked if she could take the information over the phone. She did but was not terribly happy to do so. About a minute later the phone rang, and a different woman from the shelter told me that she knew that a dog matching Alfie’s description was there, that he had been brought in last night. The fee to pick him up would be $15 for the bordering and $5 for a city license, which we never remember to get at the beginning of the year because or dogs never leave the yard (almost).

dancing-dogsThat fee was contingent upon having a valid rabies shot. Well, Corey is pretty good about keeping the dogs shots up to date, so I assumed that there would be no problem there. I called the vet that we go to and asked the woman if she could fax a copy of Alfie’s rabies’ record to the shelter. She was actually delightful and said that she would be happy to. She looked up Alfie’s record only to find that his shot expired n February. I was very confused because I thought that rabies shots lasted for several years, but apparently, when Alfie and Shakes were vaccinated last year, they were given one-year shots because we could not find records of their previous shots (new vet).

End result: I have to add to the fee for Alfie to get a rabies shot at the clinic next door to the shelter. Great . . .

Amidst all of this telephone calling, I had asked my mother if she could give me a ride to Corey’s school so that I could pick up the truck. After a delightful conversation with her in which I had to reiterate that we didn’t quite have the exorbitant amount of money needed to fix Izzie the Trooper yet, she agreed to take me to get the truck.

So, my mother picks me up and delivers me to the truck, and then she does something really extraordinary and unpredictable: she gives me a check to cover the fees to pick up Alfie from the shelter. Corey had done some heavy lifting for her, and she said that she wanted to give him something. I told her that Corey neither wanted nor expected to be paid when he helped her, but she said that she wanted to do it.  Snotty comment about earlier conversation with mother retracted.

In between all of this (oh yes, more complications), Brett had called and left a message that he needed to be picked up at 3 instead of 2 because he had to stay after school to work on a project. I knew that Corey would probably need to be picked up between 3 and 4 because that’s when the classes have been ending, but there was no way of knowing for sure since they were on the water in the lifeboats today. The shelter closed at 4:30. Timing was going to be tricky.

I rode to the bank at a few minutes after 2 p.m. Went to the gas station down the street since the little monitor that tells you how far you can go before you run out of gas was reading 0 miles. Put in just enough gas to leave me with enough money to pay Alfie’s bail, then decided to make a run for the shelter before picking up Brett. I hightailed it to the shelter which was in a different direction from the school, all the while keeping a lookout for police cars since I didn’t have time to be pulled over for the expired inspection sticker on the truck (different story).

“Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” ~ Dave Barry

blonde-brunette-and-redheadMade it to the shelter by 2:32. Made a positive identification of the suspect, who was looking very pitiful (in the meantime, tried very hard not to look at any of the other cages, made of mistake of looking into two or three, and immediately wanted to rescue more dogs who were barking and whining to get my attention). Filled out paperwork while one woman took Alfie next door to the clinic to get his rabies shot.

I had assured the woman that Alfie was small, 10 years old, and would be nice to her as he loves strangers (Alfie never goes psycho on strangers, only the family that he loves). The woman came back five minutes later out of breath—It seems that once Alfie was released from the cage and had his collar put on, he managed to break free and run away from the woman as fast as he could. Luckily, there wasn’t too far to run, but this woman was not a sprinter.

She asked me if I was sure that Alfie was 10. I assured her that he was indeed not a puppy but apologized that he was also very fast, a fact that I hadn’t taken into consideration when I was describing the culprit to her.

Alfie comes around the corner and is beyond happy. I fold all of the papers that return him to my custody, pick up Alfie, and head to the truck, whereupon Alfie immediately becomes the Energizer Bunny and wants to simultaneously jump on me, look out the window, help me drive, claw at my arm, and whine. He is not a good bye bye dog, so he doesn’t get in the vehicles very often. Time is now 2:45, and I am on my way to school to pick up Brett, which is approximately 15 minutes away if a take the interstate.

While I’m driving the speed limit, by the way, Alfie manages to crawl behind my neck at one point, wrapping the leash that I have wrapped around my hand, around my neck. I free myself with one hand while maintaining my steering power with the other hand. Alfie is not at all interested in listening to the voice of reason. Somewhere in my subconscious I have a feeling that there is going to be a train at the railroad tracks that I have to cross to get to Brett’s school if I take the usual exit off the interstate. I decide to chance it and arrive at the school at exactly 3 p.m.

“A house without either a cat or a dog is the house of a scoundrel.” ~ Portuguese Proverb

happy-dogAlfie immediately becomes Brett’s best friend, and I am finally allowed to drive. We turn down Little Creek Road and as I approach the train tracks, we hear the train coming. I cross the tracks, and within two seconds, the arms come down blocking the tracks. Brett and I just look at each other, and I tell him that I knew that the train was coming.

We make it home; everyone (meaning Eamonn, Tillie, and Shakes) is happy to see Alfie, except probably Shakes. My phone rings, and it’s Corey asking me to pick him up. It’s 3:57. Once more into the fray . . .

By the way, Alfie is comfortably asleep on Corey’s pillow at the moment, but the first thing that he did when I let him out in the backyard was to run to the fence of the forbidden (although not so forboding anymore) forest. Obviously he was not at all humbled by his adventure.

More later. Peace.

My Life Has Gone to the Dogs

yellow-lab-goes-sailing

 

“Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you

 in the car, in case the need should arise for them

to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” 

 ~Dave Barry 

 

 

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole” (Roger Cares)

So I’m sitting here pondering. That’s what I do before I being to write: I ponder. And in runs Tillie to show me her latest interesting conquest from the yard. The only problem is that it has been raining, and Corey is not quite as thorough as I am in drying off the dogs when they come back into the house after being out in the rain. Let me pause here. When I’m sitting at my computer, I am usually wearing some kind of sweat pants or yoga pants and a white sweater. That’s because I have a surplus of soft, white sweaters from my buying days. I went through a white sweater phase, and now I have about six old white sweaters that are thoroughly broken in, too old to wear out of the house, but perfect for wearing around the house.

So Tillie runs in and share her bounty with me. She’s a lab puppy with all of the inherent lab puppy enthusiasm. My white sweater now has a wonderful brown puppy paw pattern. A few years ago, this might have bothered me enough to change my sweater immediately. Now, I’ll just finish my coffee and my entry, and then I’ll change. She’s a puppy. She’s happy. It’s infectious. If I still had a white couch, I might think differently, but I don’t, and I probably never will again. I had a white couch when my OCD was in full bloom and the boys weren’t born yet. My house was pristine.

It’s not any more. Which would I rather have: my dogs or a white couch? My dogs. No question.

dsc000991
Shakes Waiting for Christmas

For example, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with The Golden Compass, but armored polar bears play a large part in the plotline of that story, which is book one of His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman. However, Shakes, my largest Jack Russell, has now reached the proportions of a small polar bear. I like to call him horizontally tall. I tell him that it is time for him to build his armor so that he, too, can become a majestic armored bear like Iorek Byrnison. Shakes, however, is much too lazy for such work, and prefers to spend all of his time at my feet as I work at the computer. From there, he moves to the bed with me where he takes his place beneath the covers.

Before the Jack Russells, I never had dogs that actually liked to get beneath the covers, but both Alfie and Shakes are very particular about it. They burrow beneath the bedding on either side of me. That is, unless Alfie is sleeping on Corey’s head. Alfie, you see, is psychotic.

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Alfie Would Prefer to Have the Bow Removed

We finally determined that Alfie has “doggie rage syndrome.” I kid you not. He can be very quiet and unassuming, sleeping on Corey’s pillow when Corey is not in bed, and then, all of a sudden, he will charge across the bed at someone. It’s extremely unnerving. He takes medicine for his “condition” now, and he is much better, but sometimes he still has episodes. Of course, my dogs cannot be normal. That would be too easy. Alfie is the smallest dog in the house, so we thought for a while that maybe he was suffering from “short man syndrome.”

The interesting thing is that even though both of the boys have been “tutored,” (got that from “Far Side”) every once in a while, Alfie still thinks that he has all of his working parts. It’s kind of sad, and I don’t tell him any differently. Who am I to spoil his delusions? It would be like taking away his birthday.

At some point, I don’t know when, the human boys created a MySpace for Alfie, or at least, that’s the rumor I heard. I haven’t searched for it. I think that I’m afraid of what I’ll find. They threatened to put one up for Tillie, but then we thought we’d attract a lot of pedophiles. I know, it’s a warped house. But our dogs really are a part of our family. Tillie talks, is very opinionated, and has verbal hissie fits when she feels that she isn’t being paid enough attention, and she brings her bowl to us when she wants to order takeout.

Shakes has been termed the fat, gay, mama’s boy, which I think is entirely unfair, because I don’t believe that he’s fat, just fluffy, and as to his sexual preference, I really don’t think that he has one. Alfie is everyone’s favorite at first because he’s so small and cute until he literally turns on the person giving him love. Personally, I think that Alfie is into S&M, and hasn’t found the right partner yet. Everyone is just fooled by his innocent face.

As far as their outside lives, Alfie and Shakes are escape artists and used to get out frequently, so much so that pretty much everyone in the neighborhood knew them. Believe me, it wasn’t because we didn’t try. We had a privacy fence, but if there was a weak spot in it, they found it. It was as if it were “Prison Break” for dogs. You would have thought that we mistreated them, no cookies, no chewies, made them sleep on the floor. They would find a hole, and it would be “RUN! The humans aren’t looking. Run now!”

We replaced the fence, which cut down on the prison breaks significantly, but every once in a while, the wind blows the gate at such an angle that it sticks open, and wouldn’t you know it, Alfie taught Tillie how to make a break for it. Shakes came back. I think that he got too tired. The other two were in the baseball field next to the house. “BE FREE!”  

Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs.  They usually bark when there is a stranger about,

but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance

to meet somebody new, not a warning.”  ~ Norman Strung

 

I’ve always wondered what dogs actually call themselves. You know that they can’t possibly use the names that we give them. I mean, Alfie probably thinks of himself as “Zoltar, Biter of Hands and Thief of Bread Loaves,” while Shakes is “Rombus, Owner of Container of Treats—Trespassers Beware.” Tillie on the other hand is probably Tillie. Let’s face it: Labs don’t have time to be concerned with such things. They want to know about three things: when they can have their next treat, who is going to play with them next, and when someone is going to scratch their belly next.

 

I love my dogs. They bring me pure joy, except when they are barking at nothing but air and leaves, and I have a migraine. Then, I have to admit, I wish that they were cats, but only momentarily, because cats have totally different feelings about people, as in, cats truly believe that people are superfluous. There has only been one dog in my life that I didn’t really like. He was a poodle that we owned when we were in London, and he was definitely my Dad’s dog. His name was Sooty, and that dog hated me. Swear to god. Sooty used to chew little round holes in everything I owned, my clothes, my toys, even my curtains. If Dad paid any attention to me, you can bet the next day there would be a new hole in something I owned. 

When we went to the park to play, Dad would take Sooty for a walk on his leash, and the two of them would sit at the bench while we played. Sooty always had this superior look on his like, “Ha, you have to climb on those metal things while I get to sit here with my human.” (Okay, so maybe I’m imagining things, but I don’t think so.) When we came back to the states, we were planning to go across country and then to the Philippines. Sooty would have had to stay in quarantine for six months. Mom and Dad gave him to some friends. It didn’t break my heart.

Aside from that one blip on the screen, though, all of the dogs in my life have been wonderful companions that I have loved and missed terribly once they were gone. Getting a dog may be a gamble because you never know how long he or she will be in your life, but it’s definitely a gamble worth taking. Dogs love you unconditionally. They ask so little of you and give you so much in return. Looking into a dogs eyes is like looking into a well, an endless pool. You can see pretty much anything you want to see there.

If you ever want to know the quality of a person’s soul, look at how they treat their animals. Especially, look at how they treat a dog. If an individual has no time for a dog, views dogs as beneath them, sees dogs as stupid, thinks of dogs as expendable, or worse, would kill a dog without batting an eye—run, don’t walk, because how an individual treats a dog is a good indicator of how that individual treats other people, especially women and children. Animal abusers are people abusers.

Always remember,

“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms”

~ George Eliot

And one of my personal favorites: 

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.

For me they are the role model for being alive.

~Gilda Radner

 

More later. Peace.