Spoiled. Rotten.

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Yes. I spoil our girls.  Rotten.

A trip to the pet store buys them a treat of smoked pig’s ears or a cow’s hoof.  Just b’cuz. Cruising through the aisles,  I’ll nimbly toss into my cart peanut butter nibbles and pull toys. Sometimes its a doggy cookie frosted with cute little sayings. Other times it might be a jerky treat or a rawhide.

Of course, if the packaging has a Berner on it – it’s a given.  I’m buying it.  And then there’s Costco…..

“Oh! Look honey!” I yell over the clamor of Costco shoppers.  I’m pointing to a dog treat package that has a picture of a Bernese Mountain Dog sitting proudly on the bottom corner.  Malcolm is five carts away grabbing his Mexican Coke.

“We should get these for Dolce and Amore,” I state as I’m tossing two packs onto the Costco flatbed.

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“Geezus!  They’re $27 bucks each! Put ’em back!”  Malcolm has sticker shock. He shoves the packages back in their bin and tries to push the cart on down the aisle.

“But the girls will love’em and it has a Berner on it!”  Like that justifies the cost and the purchase.

“We are not spending $50 some odd dollars just because it has a Berner on the packaging – you don’t even know what it is!”  thinking that will close the conversation down and we can get the hell out of Costco.

“Yes, I do, they’re Bull Sticks or if you want the technical name, PENIS.  PENIS. PENIS.” I repeated.  Well that certainly garnered some stares from strangers. Malcolm grabs the package to read the labeling. That starts another tirade.

“Geezus!  These things cost over $2 a piece!  There’s only twelve in the pack.”

“So?”

And then he did the calculations.

“Holy Mother of Gawd!  It’s over twenty dollars a pound.  We don’t even buy filet steak for ourselves for that much and you’re gonna buy it for our dogs?”

“And your point being?”  I dug my heels in deep.  My stubborn Swedish heritage was kick’n in.  His frugal Scottish blood was simmering but not boiling. I had this one in the bag.

“Fine! I’ll only get one package.” I relented.  “We can always buy more later,” I added under my breath as I put the single package of Bull Sticks on top of the bag of lemons. Oops.  He heard that.  Malcolm shot me that look.  You know, that look husbands give wives that wives almost always ignore.  I gave him one back.  You know, the one wives gives to husbands when they are being a male.  A male that has no understanding of a female.

We bought the Bull Sticks.

Many spent dollars later, we begin the trek back up the hill to Santa Fe.  “Now don’t be giving them to the girls all at once.  Dole’em out slowly so they’ll last,” Malcolm lectured me on the drive home. “I know, I know, I’ll space them out to last  It will be for special ocassions.” I gave him the answer he wanted.  I knew the girls would love them.  And they did.

Luv’ed them so much that one night a few weeks ago, we walked in from being out and found bits of plastic packaging scattered throughout the room.  The room was decimated with small pieces of plastic stuff.

“Oh crap!” Malcolm heard me shouting as I walked into the house first. Well, actually my language was much worse than a simple “crap”.  Every swear word that rhymes with “duck”, “luck” and “truck” spewed from my lips. “What did you two do?” I asked Dolce and Amore.  d-and-a-1Hearing me from out in the garage, Malcolm hesitated coming on through. He knew there had to be a mess and he knew if he waited in the garage long enough, perhaps I would be the one to clean it up. He didn’t know what, just that he didn’t want to deal with it. What he didn’t realize was the girls had counter-surfed the kitchen and nabbed the Bull Stick package. Twelve sticks missing. One $27 bag of Bull Penis’ ripped and shredded throughout the room. I have no doubt it was Dolce, our sneaky  instigator. Just as I have no doubt that Amore quickly joined in to get her share of the loot.  They both looked guilty. And pretty damn pleased with themselves.

When I went to grab the broom to clean up their mess, I saw an unopened Bull Stick bag sitting above the garage refrigerator that Malcolm had purchased on his last trip to Costco. I chuckled to myself, knowing Malcolm is just as bad as I am.

Like I said, spoiled.  Rotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

happy pawlidays!

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it’s mine!

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From day one, the tag line for this blog has been, “if it falls on the floor, it’s mine!” You guys have no idea how apropos this statement has come to mean.

Two words.  Two syllables. But full of meaning and emotion  –  “It’s mine!”

Those two words have taken on a life of its own.  Those two syllables have created a monster.  “It’s mine” has morphed into blurred lines and non-existent boundaries.  “It’s mine” has bestowed entitlement to a dog.  A big dog with a mine of it’s own.  Strong willed and defiant, this dog has decided “it’s mine!” is her M.O.

I’m not talking a few dropped cheese crumbs on the floor tiles, however that’s part of the problem. It’s a proven fact, all edible scraps that fall onto the floor is in canine territory and belongs to our dog mops.  And, I’m not just talking about bones to chew on or Kongs to gnaw.  I recognize those are in the possession of our girls, purchased for their enjoyment.  It’s theirs.

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Nope, I’m talking about the true doggy definition of “it’s mine.”  I’m talking Amore. You see, she believes everything is hers.  It goes something like this…..

ME:  Amore!  That’s my shoe!

AMORE:  No, it’s mine!

ME:  No, Amore, it’s my shoe.

AMORE:  But, I like it, therefore it’s mine.

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my shoe

ME:  All shoes are mine, Amore.

AMORE:  Well, it’s in my mouth, so it’s mine.

ME:  It doesn’t work like that Amore.  That’s my shoe.

AMORE:  But, I just had it a little while ago, so that makes it mine.

ME:  Amore, let go of my shoe.

AMORE:  It looks like mine, so it must it’s mine.

ME:  Bad girl!  Drop!

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grrrrrr…..

AMORE:  I saw it first, it’s mine.

AMORE:  Do not even think of it, it’s mine!

ME:  It was in the closet, it’s not yours.

AMORE:  If I chew it, then all the pieces are mine!

ME:  You don’t get my shoe! Or its pieces!

AMORE:  Well, if you put it down, it’s mine!

AMORE:  AND, if I tire of it, it’s still mine!

ME:  No and NO!

AMORE:  And, if I don’t even want it, it’s mine!

AMORE:  Besides, it’s practically edible, so it’s mine! AH!

ME:  AMORE!  Let me repeat myself, All SHOES ARE MINE!

AMORE:  Not if I can take it, then it’s mine!

ME:  No Shoes or no dinner!

AMORE:  Hee, hee, hee.  If I want it back, it’s mine!

AMORE:  Ok, FINE!  (pout)

AMORE:  Mom?

AMORE:  Mom?

AMORE:  Where’s Dolce’s Kong?

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Mine!

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grand marshal

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Amore and Dolce have always been our ‘go-everywhere’ dogs.  Where we go, they go.  To the store, into town, over to friends, the girls tag-along.  And, it never fails, where they go, they attract attention.  I mean, come on, two big Berners?  Sittin’ side-by-side?  Tails a-waggin?  Loopy grins on their faces?  A day doesn’t go by without Malcolm or I receiving some type of comment on the girls.

Take them to the store and immediately Dolce and Amore jump into the front seats as we exit the vehicle. Other store patrons chuckle over seeing our two dogs, respectfully sitting upright in the driver’s and passenger’s seats.  dolce-in-drivers-seat

“Beautiful dogs,” “Love your dogs,” “What kind of dogs are these,” “Can I pet them?” are words heard regularly, as we load our groceries into the car.

On occasion, we spy people discretely pulling out their phones to snap a quick pic of our prom queens in their limo. They always say it for someone else.  Yeah, right.

Amore and Dolce soak up the attention.  They paw and preen, even do the leaning thing against stranger’s legs as they are ooh’ed and ahh’ed over on our walks.   In an instant, they are the Grand Marshals of the parade.  All important.  All expectant of the praise. Passing out doggy smiles and paw waves like they were throwing penny candy to the spectators.

A few weekends ago, Malcolm and I took the girls up the mountain to hike around in the Aspens. It was a truly beautiful day.  The leaves had already initiated their pageantry of yellows, oranges, and reds as we headed up the trail.  The sky was crystal blue.  The air crisp with the scent of pine boughs and cones.  Amore and Dolce were in canine heaven. New scents and a new trail were theirs for the taking.  Along with more adoration from strangers.

I doubt we had gone more than twenty yards up the trail, when we were stopped by a group of tourists asking about the girls.  “What kind of dogs are they?”  “Can we take a picture with them?” We paused for the Kodak moment.

Another thirty yards and we were hailed by a family with young children.  “Can I pet the doggie?” a brave little lass asked in a small voice.  With nods of permission, she stepped forward to give Dolce a small caress on her head.  Dolce, sweetheart that she is, laid down at the sneaker-clad feet of the little girl, rolling over for a belly rub. Giggles erupted from the child as Amore licked her face.  Little ones are a favorite with our girls.

The next mile was broken up with no less than eleven groups of hikers all asking about our dogs, slowing down our parade up the hill.

In betwimg_0127een, Malcolm and I tried for our own photo-op of our dogs.  I had visions of the perfect Christmas Card.  The girls had visions of more dog worshiping.  Of them.  By others. Cuz they don’t get enough love at home.  NOT!

Every time we stopped for a selfie, people would stop to pet Amore and Dolce. Every time we would strike up the band to move on up the trail, strangers pumped us with questions about the breed of Amore and Dolce.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade through New York moved faster than we were getting hiking up the trail.

When we heard there was a small creek up ahead and around a bend, we made that our destination.  The girls would be able to wade in to cool off.  Malc and I would be able to scout for suitable location for our holiday photo shoot.

With the creek in sight, I found a good-sized boulder to pramore-creekop against, the girls found the shallow water, and Malcolm found a fellow hiker to take a few pictures.

Click.  Click.

“Come in closer.” Click.

“No, closer.”  Click.

“You’re too far away.”  Click. Click.

That’s the great thing about digital pictures.  You can delete all the crappy ones and it hasn’t cost you a thing.  Outmalc-amore-creek of 50 or so pictures, we actually had quite a few that were decent.  A couple were card worthy, a few were blog worthy.

The best ones were with our Grand Marshals.  Amore and Dolce were the hit of the parade.

 

 
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When Tiamo had her litter, the pups averaged about one pound each with Dolce and Amore weighing in at .98 lbs and 1.5 lbs respectively.  They were so tiny you could nestle a single puppy in the palm of your hand and still wiggle your pinkie and thumb.  Within 48 hours they had doubled their weight.  We were impressed.

And slightly nervous…

 

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With Momma supplying the nutrition, each puppy easily grew two to four pounds a week.  By the time the little tykes had opened their eyes they had gained some solid substance.  They had outgrown our food scale we used to weigh them, and the palm of our hands as we held them.  It now took two hands to hold our roly poly’s.  We knew the puppies were healthy, which was a good sign.  It was also a sign of things to come.

When we added chow to their diets, Amore and Dolce  were tipping the scales at 14 pounds, give or take a few ounces.   With their fat bellies, they were nothing but huge balls of fur.  Now that I think back on those times, they were bigger than huge.  It was time to be scared.  But noooo, we were oblivious to our future.

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14 lbs. It’s all relative.  To a weightlifter, 14 lbs. is nothing.  They single-handedly lift weights many times that.  To us, fourteen  pounds is huge when it is all wiggly and squirmy.  For us, fourteen pounds is really twenty-eight pounds.  14 lbs. times two.  You never just get one dog on your lap, you get both.

Fourteen pounds can make your wrists ache. And your back twinge as you pick the pups up in your arms. And 14 pounds will soon be 100 pounds.  100 lbs. times two.  We were screwed and there was no going back.

When 14 lbs became 34 pounds in a little over a month later, we knew we were in trouble.  Our food costs doubled as they ate more and more, and our vet bills tripled.  And both girls wanted to sit on us or be beside us.  And there was Tiamo, our momma.  We were a household of dogs.  Our life was never gonna be the same.

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At six months Amore and Dolce hit 65 lbs.,  friends would comment, “Oh, my!” as one of the dogs would lean up against them, causing them to lose their balance.  “Just look at those paws! These are gonna be some big dogs!”  We knew that.  Yup, we knew that.

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Sixty-five pounds cranked up to 84 lbs by the time they had their first birthday.  We were never gonna return to normal.  Our  lives just became all about our girls.  Momma weighed in at 98 lbs. and here were two more fast approaching three digits on the scale.  Within the next year, we were going to be looking at 300 lbs. worth of lap-dogs. Two-thirds of which were still puppies. Yikes!

Over the next two to three years a Berner could easily add another 10-30 lbs onto their frame.  Well into their second and third year, Bernese Mountain Dogs will continue to lay down bone, put on width and substance, and their heads will continue to broaden.  Amore and Dolce were no exception to the general rule of Berners being slow maturing dogs.

Three years old, Amore and Dolce finally grew into their bodies but they were far from mature.  They still had their puppy on.  For over 36 months, Malcolm and I would look at each other and ask,”when will they calm down?”  “When will they grow out of their puppy phase?”  “When will they quit growing?” We were at the 200 marker:  200 pounds of puppy plus 100 pounds of chow a month costing us $200 every 60 days.  We were exhausted.

I can honestly say, to this day, they haven’t.  Grown out of their puppy years that is.  Well, not completely.  They take longer naps and have quit chewing shoes and books, but Amore and Dolce will always be our puppies.  Our girls.  And the best gifts we could have ever given ourselves.

At eight years of age, Amore and Dolce hover just under 100 lbs. each.  Dolce is slightly heavier from eating too many apples, Amore is slightly higher in height.  Both fight over who gets to sit on Malcolm or me.  We have resigned ourselves to dog hair in our wine and canine bodies in our laps.

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There is an old Swiss saying, “Three years a puppy, three years a good dog, three years an old dog and the rest is a gift.”  It’s an accurate description of Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Here’s to our 100 lb. gift(s) that still likes to sit on our lap!

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happy campers

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Like most pet owners, nothing brings us more joy then seeing our beloved four-legged children happy.  And we go out of our way to bring them nothing but an abundance of happiness and comfort.  We buy them special treats and toys, make sure they have soft cushiony pillows to sleep on, take’em on walks.  We love’em, pet’em, provide for them.

Malcolm and I have found a simple scratch behind the ears and Dolce is in ecstasy.  Eyes closed, you just know she is in heaven.  Amore adores a rough love down.  Rub her sides and back haunches like a deep massage and she is in bliss land.  One of the few times she’ll stay still.

They go berserko when it’s time for their hikes, initiating a barking frenzy until loaded into the car.  365 days a year we take them out to the Galisteo basin for their daily walks.  Through rain, snow, wind and cold, we suffer for their happiness.  Our girls love the cold.  Us, not so much.  But we do it cuz we know how much joy it brings them.

“Man, Amore was one happy camper when she spotted a jack rabbit on our hike today!” Malcolm relayed to me when I got home from work.  “She took off after it like a shotgun blast!  Of course, she only ran about 40 yards before she tuckered out.”  Malcolm chuckled over the memory.  “She came back all shiney eyed and excited!”   Amore is our scout, always on the look out for adventure.

Over the years, we have narrowed down Dolce and Amore’s happy list to three main activities. We are talking happy camper activities here.  Total happiness.  Total joy. Two of the three are seasonal.  The third is daily.  And just so you know, treats are a given so they aren’t on the list.

Snow.

There are no two ways about it, Amore and Dolce love the snow.  On occasion they even sleep in it, only to come inside covered with white and hop on the bed at four in the morning shaking off the wet debris.  Snow days are happy camper days.  The girls would live and breathe snow if it was available on a regular basis.  So we bundle up like Ralphie in the Christmas Story movie and take them to play.  We freeze our asses off, along with our noses and our toes to watch Dolce make snow angels and Amore run through the powder like a dolphin.  Their joy brings us joy.

Then there is our harvest.

About every four or five years, if we are lucky enough, come late August through October, we get apples.  Our girls love apples.  No, you don’t understand, they loooove apples.  Love to snap those shiney red orbs off of the low hanging limbs.  Love to lay down in the cool shade of the branches and stock pile the fruit.  And they love to eat’em.

The second she hears the portal door opens, Dolce is out, with Amore on her heels.  They’ll beeline down to our lone fruit tree and burrow into the apple-laddened nirvana. I’m serious here, this tree is their heaven.  You can see their eyes fold back as they tug an apple off it’s mooring.  We watch as they each back up, apple in their mouth and drop the red fruit onto their growing pile of fruit.  Like a kid in a candy store, Dolce and Amore don’t know which apple to chomp on first.  The girls are in their element and they couldn’t be happier.

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On a daily basis, Dolce and Amore bring happy to our hearts.  And, on a daily basis, Dolce and Amore get their third happy.  It’s their special time that has become a ritual.

I like to get up early, get ready for work, and then enjoy a cup of coffee before leaving to head into town.  I feed the girls, grab a mug and read a bit on my iPad.  One by one, Amore and then Dolce come by for their early morning snuggle.  First Amore, always a bit restless, she’ll hop up on the couch lay her head down for a few minutes and then go search out her next adventure.   A scratch on the belly, a rub behind the ears and she is off and running.  Then it’s Dolce’s turn.

Dolce knows the drill.  She positions herself on the sofa, backs up into the couch pocket and gives me the nod.  She knows with a certainty, I’ll gently pull her back into my arms.  It her cuddle time.  They say dogs don’t like to cuddle.  They lie.  My Dolce could stay for hours nestled besides me.  For the next 40 or so minutes, Dolce is in her happy place, content with nuzzles and hugs.  And me…….

I really don’t get much reading done, but I am one happy camper!

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what dog hears

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We all know dogs have selective hearing.

When Amore was in her teenage years, she was a handful.  Headstrong, willful, she refused to “sit”, “stay” or “come” when we called to her.  Totally blew us off.  Even with the promise of a treat, she would ignore us when we issued commands.  Oh, she heard us alright.   We would see her ears twitch, her head would cock to the side, her little brain thinking and then she would give us her tail.  The canine equivalent to flipping us the bird.

Malcolm would put on his serious voice, deepening the word as he gave the command.  “Come” he would say in his stern sargent’s voice.

“Come!” he repeated, sharpening the directive.

“Amore! COME!!” he said for the third time.

Amore gave him the look and went back to what she was doing. There was no “three-time’s-a-charm” ol’ college try.  And, after the third repeat, dogs really don’t tune in anymore.  All they hear is yada, yada, yada, etc., etc., etc., and so on and so on and so on.

After talking to a dog trainer, we realized Amore just didn’t like the word “come”.  Why?  It started with a “C”.  Poor baby, it hurt her ears. It seems a lot of dogs comprehend “H” and “W” word commands easier.  Who knew?

Word commands such as HERE, HEEL, HUPP (H + up), and WAIT,  are more pleasing to their ears.  All one-syllable words.  Words like HOLD,  HUGG, WHERE, WALK, and  WHAT (to be said when furiously barking) became synonymous with the old standards of, come, sit, follow, up, stay, stand, no, load up, fetch and find.

Malcolm and I liked the new commands, not only were they one-syllable, but they were mostly four-letter words.  Always a good feeling to spew those.  In the past, there was nothing like a four-letter word to get the point across.

G.A.W.D    D.A.M.N   it   D.A.W.G.   C.O.M.E.!  Screamed in frustration.

or, my favorite,

F # & K  –   N.O.T.T.  my  N.U.T.T.s, said in pain as Amore jumped, paws first, on Malcolm as he was spawled on the couch.

We switched our command to “HERE” (minus the gawd damn) and lo and behold, Amore obeyed. Came wanting her treat, but she came none the less.  We now say “WAIT” to Amore before allowed to sit on the sofa, with all body parts preserved.  HUPP is for the girls to load up into the car for a WALK, and HUGG will get you a cuddle and dog licks as their paws wrap around our waist.

And Malcolm and I, we have a running joke about what Amore and Dolce actually hear……..

what a dog hears

 

 

 

pin the tail

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In 2002, Malcolm and I threw the dart.

The finely chiseled point hit Santa Fe, New Mexico on our relocation map and a few months later we packed up and moved to the Land of Enchantment.  As we were narrowing down the destination to call our new home, I informed Malc I would moved anywhere west of the Mississippi.  Malcolm calmly informed me, the zip code we called “ours” must have the New York Times delivered.

Well, I can safely say, Santa Fe is west of the mighty river but the Times delivery was a bit spotty the first few years of residence.  Yes, it was delivered, sometimes only 3 days after print.  Other times we would collect a weeks worth of daily papers crammed in our mail box.

We contracted with a REALTOR® and started the process of buying our dream home.  It was September and the weather was gorgeous.  As we walked through houses that fit our criteria, attended open houses on the weekends, and looked through the Internet for FSBOs, we found one consistent fact.  Very few homes in Santa Fe have air conditioning.  For that matter, very few even have swamp coolers.

“Oh, you don’t really need them,” our REALTOR® stated.  “It’s only warm a few weeks in June.”

“What do you mean no central air?”  Malcolm questioned.  Malcolm hails from Hotlanta, Georgia.  My roots are from Central California.  Hot, hot, hot summers were a staple for both of us.

“Seriously, the temperature here only gets to about 85 – 90 degrees for a couple of weeks in June.”  SOLD!  We signed the mortgage sans air conditioning and ceiling fans.

Our beautiful fall turned into a cold winter.  We have radiant heat and my toes have never been so warm. We loved the snow and the cold. We were loving our new digs. Then the snow melted into a windy spring.

“When does the wind stop?” I asked our now REALTOR® friend.

“Dont’t worry, this is just our March winds.”  She replied.

It was May.

“Don’t plant anything until after May 15,” she added.  “We could easy have another freeze or some spring snow.”  And we did have another freeze and more snow. With snow in May, there was no way our summers would be reminiscent of our past ones.  We smiled to ourselves, glad to be away from the humidity of Georgia and the high temperatures of California.

We blew into June, by now well versed in New Mexico’s erratic weather.  From past experiences, we both knew 85 degrees of hot days was nothing.  Anything under 95 degrees was cool compared to where we came from.  We convinced ourselves we didn’t need manufactured cold air.  We opened our doors and windows and captured the cross winds. For the most part, it worked.

Through out the years, June in Santa Fe has varied from cold to cool to warmish to hot.  We have installed ceiling fans where needed.  Five of them.  We have purchased oscillating fans for air movement.  Six of them.  Our REALTOR® was correct – the hot temperatures last only a few weeks.  Usually from mid-June to Labor day, with July cooling down some from the monsoons.

Until this year.

This year, it has been 100 and hell degrees since Memorial weekend.  It is time to flip the calendar to August.

Dolce and Amore have suffered right along with us.  It’s too hot to walk them, too hot to leave them in the car as we run errands in town.  Too hot period. The temperatures this summer have been almost unbearable for the girls.

Even with the fans spinning on high, the hot summer air has been stifling.   On occasion I’ve resorted to using their bushy wagging tails as a fan, convincing Malcolm to rub their ears as I positioned myself behind one of the girls to catch some tail wind.  

We watch the girls panting on the cool brick floor in misery.

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We watch them move from room to room searching out the coolest areas of the house.

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We take them on car drives with the air conditioning blasting. Not going anywhere in particular – just driving in a cold car to cool down.

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We have even taken them down to the local pool to give them some relief.

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We have clipped their fur as short was possible, trimming their feathers, their bellies, their sides and chests.  We fill their water bowl with ice cubes for chomping. We keep water spritzers close by to spray some coolness on Dolce or Amore.  It’s still too hot.

And it’s still 100 and hell degrees.

 

 

 

screeeeeech!

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screeeeeech.

“Did you hear that?” I questioned Malcolm.  We were both reading our pads in the living room, the windows and doors open to allow the gentle cross-breeze through.  It was one of those early evenings where the work was done and the day was wrapping up.  Malcolm had poured us each a glass of an Australian Malbec to sip as we read.  Fat cat was sprawled on her back, paws in the air.  Dolce was gnawing on a bone and Amore was wandering the perimeter.

SCREeeeeech.

“WTF?” Malcolm heard the loud chirring noise this time.  My eyes flew to the ceiling.  The large vigas up high will crack and groan as the house settles but this screech was different.  This sounded like it was coming from the guest bedroom and it was louder than a mouse.

SCREEEeeech.

“What do you think it is?” I asked.

“No idea!”  Another loud squeak was heard, along with a heavy thud.

“Do you think it came from down in the guest room?”

“Why don’t you go check?”

“You go check!  I’m not going down there!”

SCREEEEEECH!  THUMP! THUD!

Crap!  This time the screeeeeech reverberated between the living room and guest room.

“It’s coming closer!”  I whispered to Malcolm.  “Do you think a critter came indoors?”  We’ve had a few varmints brought in by Gordita and the girls.  A couple of times a bird has flown in via the fireplace chimney.  This screeeeeech wasn’t human.  It brought the hairs on the back of my neck straight out.  My reptilian brain was flashing danger, danger.  Another screeeeeech came from under our large picturesque windows in the living room.  Followed by a thump and a thud.   It was coming closer.

“Where are the girls?”  I did a quick head count.  Gordita was still on her back, paws up, unperturbed by the noise.  Still intent on her bone, Dolce was uncaring of our panic.  Where was Amore?   Dear god, where was she? With the doors open, Amore had been in and out.   Had she been attacked?  Coyotes roam fairly close to the house, could she have been lured out from the safety of our portal?

SCREEEEEECH!

The hairs on my arm were on full alert.  I slowly backed up, inching towards the garage.  When my back hit the door, I reached for the knob and slowly opened it, sliding my arm through the crack to grab a nearby shovel.  Any weapon was better than nothing.  Malcolm headed to the portal to find Amore.

SCREEEEEECH!  THUMP!  THUMP! THUD!

I raised the shovel in attack mode.

“psst!”

“Psst!”

“PSST!”

“Megs!  Come out here!”  Malcolm whispered from the portal, his index finger raised up to his lips, silently telling me to keep quiet.  I tip-toed out, shovel in hand.  Malcolm had stepped off the brick portal and was leaning around the corner of the house.  I peered around him, my heart beating out of my chest.

SCREEEEEECH! THUD!

And there was Amore.

SCREEEEEECH!

Chasing after lizards.

THUMP!

As they climbed up the stuccoed sides of our house.

THUD!

The screeeeeeching noise was Amore jumping up and raking her paws along the outer walls.  Her strong claws scraping the stucco as she reached out to snag a lizard.  Imagine a large canine taking vertical leaps against  the solid structure of our house.  That was Amore.  Her whole body stretching upwards as she sprang into the air.  Her focus solely on the lizard.  Her paws screeeeeeching against the wall as she slid back down to the ground.

The thumps and thuds was her 100 pound body sumo wrestling with the same barrier of wood and stucco.  I lowered the shovel, my heart rate slowing, my panic subsiding.  The movement attracted Amore’s attention.

Eyes shiny and bright, tail wagging in pure, unadulterated joy, Amore had her catch dangling from her muzzle.  Amore had tagged her first lizard.

Thank god it wasn’t a snake.

wiggle butt

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I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t have one.  A wiggle butt that is.

That happy dance of joy performed just for you when you return home.  That warp-speed tail wag when it is chow time.  That hinny shake when it’s time for a w-a-l-k.  That twirl of excitement when car keys rattle and a trip in the truck is gonna happen.

I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t have a three-foot leap when an adventure is about to start.

That gyrating spin of tail and fur when the back door is opened for escape.  That springing vault over the back of a sofa when the frig door is opened.  That hurdle over arms and legs  when they hear the garage door rolling up and the car being parked. That tail waggle bound over muddy puddles, through rain, sleet and snow.

I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t voice their opinion when the doorbell peals.

That barking frenzy disco rendered when they realize someone is on the other side of the door. That clamorous running from room to room to announce we have company. That twist and turn accompanied with loudness when they spot another person on the trail.

I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t have one.  A wiggle butt that is.

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conspiracy theory

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Somewhere within a normal weekend, I sort through my dirty laundry to start my standard three loads of wash for the week.  Whites, coloreds, and darks.  I find myself doing the usual routine of coloreds first, so I can start the drying process of the “hang-dry” only sweaters, then on to the darks, and lastly the delicates, the unmentionables, the whites.  Those take some genteel care.

Somewhere within all three loads of laundry are a multitude of socks.  White ones, colored ones, and dark ones.  They go into the washer as a pair.  Side by side they spin together, dancing the wash waltz through soap and suds.  When the cycle ends, they get tossed within a soggy pile of wet mess into the dryer.  It’s here where the marriage tumbles.  Throw in a bounce or two and what used to be matching pair of argyle socks is now a fight of unraveling yarn.

Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Socks, the once matching duo of socks is now separated and divorced.  Single.   Alone.

As I sort and fold together the matching pairs, there is always one lone sock leftover.  I doubt there isn’t a weekend that goes by that I don’t lose a cute little toe warmer.  And stupid me, I hang on to those single leftovers, with hopes they will partner up again.  Surely, the other matching sock will come marching back home.  I have a whole drawer of single socks just waiting to get back into dating again.  Just waiting to be part of the pair, folded back into productivity and in the proper sock drawer.  All they need is a matching mate.

Unless Amore or Dolce get a hold of them. Amore or Dolce are home wreckers (I’m not sure whom is the canine culprit) .  Those little bitches are Sock Stealers!  That’s what they are.

It’s bad enough to lose a sock from the dryer, but to have Dolce happily be the other woman, stealing away Mr. Robert Sock is too much!  Chewing away the fibers of a solid cotton partnership, leaving holes in a marriage of toes and a heel, is beyond me.   How dare she!

For Amore to drag the morally-lacking Mr. Sock out to the muddy, snow melting pen into oblivion is to lose all trust in our canine friends.  To purposely separate a knee-hi couple, to deliberately come between a smart-wool pair,  to destroy a happily knitted toe’n heel matched duo, is, well, unbecoming of our girls.

I thought I had trained them better.  Raised them properly.  Guided them gently through their middle years. BUT NOOOooooo!  They have to go steal socks!  And with no remorse.  Does she look guilty?  Remorseful?  Sorry?  Nope, not Amore.  That is her giving the “what? I don’t see a chewed up, destroyed sock sitting on my pillow right next to me” look.  The “I don’t know what you are talking about” look.  Notice the non-eye contact, the ignorance of the situation?  AND do you notice the huge disconnect of the elephant in the room?  A huge hole in the toes.  Welcome to my world.

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Do you think this happens to Malcolm’s socks.  Oh, no, not to him! Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t give a rats-ass if it was one of his socks.  All of his are white and thrown into one big happy orgy of a drawer.  He doesn’t sort and fold, he doesn’t match up, he wouldn’t even notice a sock that was newly divorced.

This is a conspiracy!

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Happy Tail Wags

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pockets

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I once worked with this accountant guy, who would walk around the office saying,  “Same pair of jeans, different pocket.”  It was his slang for the familiar saying, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  To him, money was the same no matter which bank account it came from (I didn’t say he was a good accountant). He was a doofus kind of guy, typical nerdy numbers man, can’t even remember what he looked like, but I never forgot his quote.

My dad always carried his keys and loose change in his pockets.  Wallet in the back right pocket, his keys in the front left, mixed in with nickels and dimes. Myself? I’ve learned never to put my car keys in any of my pockets after I water-logged the key fob in the washer from forgetting to clear out my pockets.  Then I found out how much those fobs cost to replace. Never. Again.

Pockets today are designed differently from yesteryear’s.  Frequently advertised as an added feature, you’ll see the “5-pocket” everywhere. That fifth pocket is a joke.  It’s not like you can put anything in it. What? Taxi money?  Your spare key?  A dog treat?  And if you do, I can guaran-damn-tee ya’, you will forget about it and all will be in this week’s wash. That fifth pocket is for decor only.  Don’t use it.

Now a days, almost all of my pockets harbor food.  Dog food and dog treats and dog biscuits. Filled with anything peanut butter flavored, we use dog treats to keep our big mutts in line. You’ll find ’em in my pant’s pockets, coat pockets, vest pockets, even shirt pockets.  I have it down to a science:  Jean pockets will hold around one large handful of treats, each; Coat pockets can hold up to 50 or so dog biscuits; Vests, somewhere around a cup’s worth if in the outer pockets, less if using the inside ones.  Shirts, not so much.  Only use the shirt pocket if going through your bank’s drive thru teller and you specifically ask for a dog treat.  Tuck that baby in the pen pocket to award your canine for sitting so sweetly in the back seat later.

On walks, both girls know I carry treats in my pockets to reward good behavior.  Amore especially, will block my path with dandelion hopes of getting a treat.  Ten feet down the trail and she’s body blocking me for a kibble.  Dolce is more discreet. DSC00523She’ll dog our steps three feet from behind so she doesn’t miss out when the goods are distributed.  She’s right there, eyeing our hands and elbows just in case they rise above the waist line as we reach into the pocket. Dolce is quick to align herself front row and center when the treats come out of hiding.

The other day, the weather just cold enough to need an outer garment,  I grabbed my down vest as we were leaving to walk the dogs.  To my dismay, I discovered last year’s crumbs when I stuffed my hands in the outer pockets. Uck!  Dolce and Amore were all over that once they got a whiff.

Dolce gloating after getting an extra treat!

Dolce gloating after getting an extra treat!

It used to be I could wear my jeans several times before throwing them in the wash.  Until dogs.  Until Dolce and Amore. Now I need to pull out my pockets to shake out the dog treat debris.  Now crumbs and broken pieces of dog biscuits accumulating deep in the caverns of my pockets need to be shop vac ‘d out.  Now, I am a poster child for nose dribble and muzzle drool deposited from Dolce and Amore poking in my pockets, sniffing out treats.

And now, after one wearing, my jeans look and smell like peanut butter dog treats, sometimes worse, depending on where the nose has been. I do lots of laundry and I check out the pockets. All of them.

And now, for some reason, every time I pull out my pockets to shake out the crumbs, I think of doofus saying, “Same pair of jeans, different pocket.”

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White noise

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Swish.  Swosh.  Swish.  Swosh.  Click click click click.  Click click click click.

The subtle sounds vibrate through the house as Dolce and Amore ramble in and out from the pen.  Swish.  Swosh.  The first sound is the dog door flap as it swings back and forth.  There is a gentle cadence in the sway of the heavy plastic protecting the entrance to the house.  Swish.  Swosh.  Swish.  Swosh.  Two dogs in.  Two dogs out.  The click click click click clatter comes later, as they move further into our residence.

Throughout the day, Malcolm and I tune out the swish swosh as the girls come and go.  The sounds blend into the audible buzz of our household.  The hum of the refrigerator, ticks of the clocks, birds cawing, cars that drive by.  White noise that doesn’t even penetrate.

In our sub-consciousness, we know Dolce just came in from the pen.  Swish.  Swosh.  Coming through for a drive by to check out what’s going on, Dolce swings through the kitchen first before going to the water bowl and on to the couch.  As we hear the slurps of her licking up water, somewhere in the back of our brain we tell ourselves to add fresh water and ice to the bowl.  We listen to her grunts and sighs as she settles into a comfy position on the sofa.  We hear all this as we continue with what we’re doing.  We have become so use to the background melody Dolce and Amore make, it has become an echoing beat in our minds.  A little song that plays over and over.  A part of our everyday life we don’t even notice.  White noise we won’t even hear.

“Where are the girls?” Malcolm will ask.  “I just heard them go outside,” I’ll reply.  I chronicled the swish swosh as an exit.  It’s an unconscious, sightless audit I do, taking inventory of the girl’s actions.

During the night, Malcolm and I register the acoustic swish in our sleep.  It’s part of the sounds our minds filter out as we slumber.  It’s immediately followed by little clicks as their paws hit the brick floors.  In our sleep, we mindlessly track them as they wander through the darken house.  Click click click click.  Followed by another set of click click click click.  Never loud enough to fully wake either one of us, never annoying, it’s a calming presence that blankets us with warmth.

Dolce especially has turned into our protector.  She likes to sleep just outside the dog door, guarding the entrance.  Amore likes to sleep on the cool bricks at the foot of our bed, chaperoning her human folks. During the night they take turns as they roam through the house, securing the premises.  Click click click click.  Even in the depth of sleep, I hear the clicks as they defend their territory.  Patrolling.  A small moan is heard as our canine sentinels settle back down to sleep.  All is well in their world.

Many believe white noise is like radio static.  Disturbing, irritating, abrasive.  To Malcolm and I, white noise is music to our ears.

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Out of coffee

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“Don’t you ever run out of D & A (short for Dolce and Amore) stories to write about?” friends often ask me.  Even Malcolm will question, “how do you remember all the things Amore and Dolce do?”  I think to myself, of course I remember the silly antics of Amore and funny things Dolce does.  They’re my kids.  My brain goes into mother mode and takes a memory snapshot of their canine shenanigans.  I mean, hello?  Have ya’ not been reading along here?  Dolce and Amore never fail to deliver.  Those two are always up to something.

I equate all this to coffee.  Something is always brewing.  And we have lost more than one coffee filled cup to a swish of a tail or a head lifting muzzle.

The funny thing is, the girls understand the importance of coffee.  The start of their mornings evolve around my first cuppa Joe on to Malcolm’s reheating the coffee pot a few hours later.  The girls know they will get fed directly following my early morning stumble out to the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker.  They eagerly trail behind me as I make my way to the counter and push the start button.  They hear that loud beep and they take their places next to their individual feed stands, ready for deliverance.  Their breakfast comes after my coffee.  Oh yeah, coffee is a big deal to them.

I’ve always enjoyed my coffee. When I was a kid, I remember being told to drink it black.  Straight up.  No fillers.  Leaded. I took that to mean only wussies put cream and sugar in their coffee.  Back then, we didn’t have Starbucks in our lives.  Skinny Lattes and Cafe Mochas were never heard of. Our choices were limited to Folgers and MJB.  Sometimes Sanka (uck!).  If you worked in an office, Farmers Brothers was your only option in the employee lounge.  Juan Valdez was our coffee god.

Coffee is my social hour.  I savor the dark rich brew as I enjoy the early morning hours prior to leaving for work.  Me, Dolce and Amore cuddled together, as I read the morning news. I savor my friendships as I join my BFFs on weekends for a small respite from the dogs, catching up on what’s going on.  I savor the enjoyment of a special brew after a special dinner on the town.  Winding down the conversation before we pay, leave and head home to Dolce and Amore.  One last moment of a perfect meal someone else prepared.

I learned to appreciate coffee even more so when I had an opportunity to spend several weeks in Brasil.  Coffee harvesting is extremely labor intensive.  Hand-picked, those little beans eventually end up in a football field sized brick floor, sorted by color and hand-raked with brooms into rows for further processing.   And, those hardened hands that picked the beans only make about $5 a tree as they pick their way through the orchard.  Since then, I have never questioned the cost of coffee or the price of a Starbucks.

Dolce and Amore get pretty excited once Malcolm is ready to get going for the day.  The hours between me leaving for work and Malcolm arising from slumber, leave them eager for company.  The girls have learned a different beep with Malcolm.  Malcolm is usually left with a cold pot of coffee that he will nuke for his morning beverage.  The two minutes in the microwave is when they get the Malcolm Morning Meet n’ Greet.  From the first beep of starting the microwave to the final beep announcing the nuke job is done, the coffee hot, the dogs get their morning love from Malcolm.  Two minutes of rubbing, scratching and love.  Yep, Dolce and Amore understand the importance of coffee.

So, as long as our household doesn’t run out of coffee, I won’t run out of stories about the dogs. However, I do confess, I have, at times, resorted to stealing hotel room coffee packets for our emergency stash.

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a sad adieu

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Last night a dear, dear friend died.

Greg Murrey died while doing what he loved the absolute most.  Attending a Braves game.

I remember the first time I met Greg, was at a Braves ball game.  I had flown into Atlanta to see Malcolm and Greg wanted to treat us to a game.  It was August and it was hot.  Typical Atlanta.  I  remember walking out the airport and immediately started to sweat.  The night of the game, Greg put the top down on his Corvette, cranked up the radio, and drove us to the ball field – game day had started.    Wind tossed and glowing profusely from the humidity of Hotlanta, I was a bit cranky,  a lot grouchy and definitely not looking my best, and still Greg accepted me, befriended me,  and loved me because I loved Malcolm, his friend.  I considered Greg a friend from the moment my then long hair snarled in the wind as we shouted over the radio.  He was the kind of guy you just instinctively liked.  You wanted to sit at his table. Greg is the one who taught me, any inning after the ninth is considered free baseball.  And we all know, everything is better when it’s free.

A year later, I catered a dinner for San Francisco Giant’s Pitcher Dave Dravecky and received a signed baseball as a gift of appreciation.  I promptly sent the ball off to Greg to add to his collection as I knew how much he loved the game.  In the years since, I have forwarded on more signed memorabilia.  Signed balls from Dodger Sandy Koufax and  Royal’s outfielder Willie Wilson are now in Greg’s line up.  Baseball was the common thread in which I had met Greg and now he is tossing those baseballs I gave him throughout the years, around with baseball’s finest in his own field of dreams.

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When I sent Malcolm off to Vegas for a well deserved mini-vacation this past April, Greg’s hand was raised the highest to join up with him.  Along with another member of the buddy gang, Greg and Malcolm spent four days enjoying life.  It was a trip filled with good food and good times along with a little Jerry Seinfeld thrown in.   Cubans, Cognac and a Craps table rounded out the Vegas adventure.  Friendships don’t get any better than this.  And Greg was a good friend.  One of the best.

Greg was like a brother to Malcolm but closer.  He was like family to him but even closer.  With over 45 years of friendship, Greg and Malcolm had bonded in Junior High School running track and carried their close friendship throughout college, marriage, babies, jobs, and life.  Their bond of friendship was unbreakable.  Though separated by over a five state span, they talked and emailed across the miles constantly.

Greg was there when Malcolm and I married, standing at the altar with us as we whispered our vows.  Greg was there when we lost our nephew Sam, standing by Malcolm’s side to prop him up in our time of grief.  Greg was there when we had to put Tiamo down.  Knowing how the sharp barbs were piercing our hearts, Greg stood with us in understanding.

Today, Malcolm and I have to stand alone without our friend and it’s heart wrenching.

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I just learned the flag is at half-mast today at Turner Field in honor of Greg.

May the breeze be gentle and the sun at your back my friend, as you look down on the game.  God bless.

the mutt manuscripts

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Meet the girls!

Two of the most beautiful and very spoiled Bernese Mountain Dogs, whose adorable, funny antics will bring chuckles and smiles and sometimes a few tears as you read their tales.  True stories, hilarious escapades, and entertaining dog adventures, all chronicling their heartwarming and humorous capers, along with their playful frolics that often times land these fearless canines in the dog house.

Touching and tender, amusing and comical, these moving narratives and snippets of their lives impart bow-wow wisdom and show the loyalty and love between man’s best friend and their human care givers.

COMING SOON!

mutt manuscript cover

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selfies

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In the wake of social media and networking apps came selfies.  A high angle shot held steady by a selfie stick or an arm stretched to the high heavens, selfies are designed to appear casual and natural.  No airbrushing, no photo-shopping, and more importantly, at no cost.  Selfies exaggerate the size of ones eyes and minimize any double chin you may be working on.  The appeal of selfies came about from how cheap and easy they are to create and share.  Almost instantly.  The best part is the control they give the self-photographers over how they look.

It’s safe to say Kim Kardashian is officially People magazine’s queen of selfies.  She has legitimately earned the crown by taking Twitter, Instagram, and other just-click-here media outlets very seriously.  She even has her own set of selfie rules she adheres to. Not a day goes by without some comment, tweet or article rambling on about Kim’s latest picture post.  Well, move over Kim, there is a new bitch in town.

It didn’t take long for selfies to cross-over into the canine world.  Doggie self-portraits are popping up all over the internet in dog blogs and pet sites.  Pup pics, pooch Polaroids and puppy photos are filling up Instagram and Twitter accounts.  Pinterest is over-flowing with dog selfies.  Do a quick google search on mutt mugs and thousands of images of Fido selfies can be found.

The selfie trend took hold right around the time the girls were born and Amore jumped on the Instagram craze like a house on fire.  At three weeks, Amore took her first selfie.  A shy peek-a-boo portrait with big puppy eyes and paws. DSC00596

Next came her pensive selfie.  Two months old and she already knew her good side.

AmoreAs Amore aged, her posturing adapted to her personality.  Her selfies emphasized her crazy, the photos defining her complex individuality.

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the backThe selfies continued.

DSC00331 And continued.   Amore went selfie happy.  No photo went unposted.

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She had only one rule.  She had to be front row and center in the picture.  She didn’t share film or credits.

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Snow only brought out more opportunity for snapshots.

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To our dismay, our cute little Amore had turned into a selfie slut.

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oblivious

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There are times when Malcolm and I really wonder about the dogs.  Seriously, Einstein they are so not.  That’s not saying Amore or Dolce are dull as dishwater or as dumb as dirt, they definitely have personality.  But there are times when their lack of intellect shines way too brightly.  Maybe I should have said, their lack of awareness, with their head-in-the-clouds wool gathering.  Both dogs have a tendency to be a little bit of a ditz. Both have a susceptibility to be slightly unaware of events.  Both are a little spacy and a whole lot of space cadet.  That’s not to say Amore and Dolce don’t have moments of smartness or acts of cleverness.  It’s just, these moments are usually overshadowed by their propensity to be totally oblivious to their surroundings.

On one hand, it adds multiple chuckles full of humor to Malc’s and my day.  Like the day when Dolce was barking at a dog that wasn’t there.

Dolce is our traveling watchdog when we take the girls in the car with us.  She sits in the middle of the back seat, head scrunched down to study the countryside.  Eyes alert, tracking left and right, she scrutinizes the walking trails on the shoulders of the road, waiting to call out her find.  When she spots a dog and owner on the hike n’ bike path as we drive by, she lets out a rowdy clamor, claiming dibs on spying the other canine first.  The larger the dog, the louder the bark.

It so happens, about the time we cross over the RR tracks on our main drag, there always seems to be this one dog, an Airedale, walking with its owner.  We pass by them enough times that Dolce is constantly on the lookout for them.  Ready to be the first to hit the buzzer.  Ready to bark.  A month or so ago, we were driving towards home, when Amore blocked Dolce view (deliberate or not, we’ll never know).  Dolce, so intent at being upset with Amore, forgot all about the upcoming railroad tracks.  Until she heard our tires thump thump over the parallel tracks. By the second thump Dolce was in a barking frenzy as she was sprawled out in the back.  When her head popped up to finish her spiel, she realized there was no dog, no Airedale, no human.  Nothing walked the trail but a gentle breeze.  Totally oblivious there had been no one on the trail.  Her embarrassment took over, as her yelps quickly puttered out.  Yeah, we got a good laugh over that one.

On the other hand, we (okay, maybe it’s just me) fret and worry over their absent-mindedness, their inattentiveness.  Like last week when Malcolm was walking the girls at the Galisteo Basin.

If Malcolm and I were to describe ourselves as parents, I would be the worry wart.  The one that takes all the safety precautions.  The one that harps on Malcolm to leash up the girls. The one that errs on the far side of caution when it comes to Amore and Dolce.  Malcolm on the other hand is the easy-going parent.  The dad that is always reassuring me that they will be just fine.  Leave em’ be.  They need to run off their excess energy he tells me as he unhooks their leashes.  That being said, when Malcolm walks the dogs, he usually doesn’t harness and leash them.  I’m mostly ok with that, as the Galisteo Basin is fairly empty of other hikers during the work day.  I mean, how much trouble could they get into, right?

Last week was no different from any other day at the Basin.  Malcolm let the girls take a twenty yard lead as he started out on the trail.  About five minutes into the walk they both came running back up to Malcolm as he trailed behind, hopeful for a treat.  While Amore was hugging his wake, Dolce took over the point position.  She was maybe fifteen feet or so in front, happily dog-jogging along, stopping every once in a while to sniff out what was new in the neighborhood, when Malcolm heard a loud buzzing.  There was something in the back of his brain that screamed danger.  Malcolm calls it his reptilian brain coming forward.  In any case, it was a noise he had never heard before, but he instinctively knew.  He grabbed Amore from behind him and bellowed at Dolce to come.  Whether it was his tone of voice, or if she, for once, decided to obey his command, miraculously, Dolce ambled back to Malcolm, totally oblivious to any threat.  Right there, in the middle of the road, not two feet away from where Dolce just was trotting along, was a rattlesnake.  Mean, coiled and ready to attack.   IMG_0184

Dolce had no idea she was literally inches to being bit.  She was in her own little world, enjoying life.  Didn’t even see the blasted thing.  Didn’t sense it, hear it, or see it.  Scared the be-jebbies out of Malcolm.  Scared me just hearing out it.  Rattlesnakes are no laughing matter.

It’s true that God protects children and animals.  I’m thinking someone upstairs was watching over Dolce that day.

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flip flop

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Flip flop.  Yup.  That’s all it took.  A quick flip-flop.

From the moment we brought Tiamo into our lives, we knew there were some risks.  There were ‘things’ to look out for.  Large breed dogs characteristically have a higher tendency to have bad hip and shoulder placements.  Bernese Mountain Dogs especially, have a higher rate of having cancer.  And there was the dreaded and deadly stomach twist, something our vet had informed Malcolm and I to be aware of.

Berners’ typically only stay in our lives 7 to 10 years, their longevity is much shorter than other breeds.  Malcolm and I vowed to love Tiamo every minute, every day, we would be lucky enough to have her in our lives. Every day would be a blessing.

When Tiamo passed, we were heart-broken.  Our hearts did a tragic flip-flop turning upside down, inside out.  We understood the hazards, knew the uncertainly of her life span and were still willing to take the gamble that maybe she would be with us for seven years, or, if we were lucky, ten.  We would take whatever the creator gave us.

When cancer took Tiamo’s life, we became even more vigilant with Amore and Dolce.  I am constantly checking for swollen lymph glands.  Malcolm and I are attentive in watching for limps of pain from their hips or shoulders.  The slightest sign of discomfort, not eating, or an abnormally of behavior in either dog will put us both on alert.

The girls have certainly seen the inside of the vet’s clinic more than enough times.  We’ve been through two shoulder surgeries (Dolce), a stuck bone in the throat that required surgery (Amore), a swallowed rope, almost requiring surgery (Amore), another swallowed bone, more surgery (Amore), grass splinters in the throat, only a local needed this time (Amore), the plague (Amore), cactus spines in the paw (Amore and Dolce) and more.  For as many times as we’ve taken the dogs to the vet’s, Malcolm likes to joke that we have bought and paid for at least two F-250’s that Dr. Bob likes drives.  We know we have, at the very least, financially helped build his new clinic.

With each vet’s visit, it’s a hit to our wallet.  Canine health care isn’t cheap.  Each surgery lowers our saving’s balance.  Ka-ching!  Each time, Malcolm and I examine how far are we willing to go, willing to spend,  and willing to do.  Our biggest concern is whether or not the surgery or procedure will continue to bring quality of life to the dogs.  Will they suffer if we do, or if we don’t, do something.

What we learned is we will do anything when an emergency hits. As we all know, emergencies only hit when you least expect it, usually at night or on a weekend…..

Our night was progressing like normal.  I arrived at home from work at my usual time.  The girls were fed their dinner before Malcolm started our evening meal.  I set the table, Malcolm was at the stove, Amore and Dolce were watching for fallen scraps.  When dinner was ready, Amore laid down by my feet, Dolce behind Malcolm’s chair.  All normal occurrences.  Then about an hour later, I noticed Amore started to get agitated.  Whinny.  Making noise.  Acting weird.

“What’s going on with Amore?” Malc asked me as he walked into the room.

“Don’t know.  Something’s going on with her,” I answered as I observed her strange behavior. “I’ve been watching her, but can’t figure it out.”

“What do you think?”

“Ah, it will probably pass, it usually does.  She ate all her dinner and I just saw her drink some water.  She’ll most likely be fine.”  Eating dinner and drinking water are good signs.  She’d be all right.

“Well, let’s just watch it for a while and if she’s still acting up in the morning, we’ll take her in”

“Ok.”

Only it wasn’t okay.  Ten minutes later both Malcolm and I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.  We knew not to wait. Some sixth sense told us to take her into the ER Vet Clinic.  Now.  Not twelve hours later.  Not in the morning. Now.

Thirty minutes later, the night-time ER vet told us we either do surgery now or she’ll need to euthanize Amore.  Amore’s stomach had twisted.  Flipped-flopped an 180.  The vet needed our consent and Amore needed to be prepped immediately if going into surgery.  Time was critical.  What were we going to do? We had no time to analyze the situation.  No time to assess. The vet explained the consequences of surgery.  Amore had a 40% chance of not surviving the surgery.  Without surgery, no chance at all.

“How much is the surgery?”  The question had to be asked.

“Depends on what I find when I go in, how bad the stomach flipped and twisted.” Dr. Mourano replied.  “Best case scenario, around $3,500, worse case would be $5,500.  Then there is after-care. Maybe another grand or so.”

Both Malcolm and I gulped in a quick breath.  Tears flooded my eyes, running down my checks.  I turned to Malcolm.  “I’ll get a second job, I’ll work weekends!” I sobbed.  We can’t lose Amore.”  Malcolm’s eyes told me he felt the same.  We would do whatever it took to save Amore.

Malcolm turned to the vet, “do it!” he ordered.  We would worry aboût how much it would cost later.  For now, our worries were concentrated on Amore making it through the surgery.  For now, we worried about how much contamination was done to the stomach, how much collateral damage was done to her spleen, if they could keep her blood pressure from dropping, and we worried if her heart would make it though.  Ten p.m. turned into midnight as we waited in the empty lobby while the techs were keeping up posted on her status.  By one a.m. Dr. Mourano ventured out to the waiting room in her scrubs.  Her smile answered our fears.

“Amore did great!” were her first words.  “Her spleen was intact and still attached, and there wasn’t any damage to the stomach lining that needed to be cut away.  I tacked the stomach down so this won’t happen again.”  All I felt was relief as she launched into the surgery specifics.  I heard phrases like, “you were lucky you brought her in when you did”, and “her blood count is rising to where we want it”.  The rest was a blur.  Amore’s flipped-flopped stomach had flipped-flopped my mental state all to hell.IMG_0342

I had to be up in four more hours for work.  I had a huge meeting I was chairing four hours after that.  I didn’t care, Amore would be okay. Our family would be okay.

At five p.m. that next day, we brought Amore home.  She had over thirty staples and had to take all sorts of pills and medication. She had three of her four paws shaved for IV’s and hook ups during the operation.  She looked like a poodle.  She was on soft foods and no running, jumping or getting excited.  The drugs kept her sedated for five days.  Our little girl was not her usual self.

A week later Amore started licking her incision.  We tried the collar cone only to find it chewed and ripped up in the dog pen, so we safety pinned one of Malcolm’s t-shirts around her torso and back for tummy protection.  She loved it!  We had our Amore back.IMG_0350

We might be digging out of debt but we wouldn’t be digging a grave.

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