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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I’m outta’ here

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You ever feel like it’s never-ending?  Like it’s one thing after another and it just doesn’t stop?  Such is our life.  This summer it has been one thing after another.  Just when we get one dog healed, the other decides she wants equal attention.  Just when we pay off the first vet’s bill, we rack up another.  Just when we think things are calming down, it’s safe to stick our heads out of the hole, life throws us another whammy.

Earlier this summer, Amore flipped her stomach.  The vet gave us a choice of emergency surgery or to euthanize her.  Amore breezed through her ordeal and Malcolm and I both thought we had dodged the bullet.  Two days later you would never have known anything was wrong other than a shaved belly.

A month later Dolce pulled up with the same symptoms.  Again, we thought we had dodged the bullet when we were reassured her stomach was stable, but the vet thought we needed to check out her back leg.  In layman’s terms, it looked like she had torn her ACL in her left hind elbow.  We brought her home and made an appointment with the surgeon.

Malcolm and I are big proponents of ensuring quality of life for our dogs.  When we took on the responsibility of caring for the girls, we accepted this.  We took a big gulp, sucked it up big time, and headed into repairing her leg.  July 24th.  It was a Friday.  The vet planned on keeping her a good, solid week to keep the leg protected and give it a good start to heal before she would be able to come home.  Once home, she would need to be crated for six weeks. Yikes!  We knew she wouldn’t like that, not one bit.  We dragged out the crate from the garage, dusted it off and made room in our bedroom for the unsightly, huge thing in anticipation for her home-coming.

Our vet, Dr. Gruda, called late that night to give us an update.  Dolce came through just fine.  She had a few pins in her to stabilize the leg and she was groggy from the drugs but over all she was doing good.  We planned to pick her up the following week.  The next Friday, Malcolm hadn’t even made it all the way home with Dolce in the car when he had to turn around and bring her back to the vets.  Halfway home he noticed some bleeding from her incision.  Dolce was going back to the vets.

Nine days later, we were able to bring our baby home.  Yep, she had to wear the collar of shame.  IMG_1431Yep, she had to be crated at all times.  And, yep, our life was hell.  Dolce hated the crate, just as we suspected she would.  She whined, she barked, she whimpered.

When Malcolm brought her in for her two-week check up, x-rays showed the pins had slipped and her little bone was broken.  She was going back under the knife.  We have no idea what happened, just that her six weeks of crating had just been extended and another surgery was needed.  By this time, a month had passed.  Scar tissue and healing had occurred hiding the pins.  Dr. Gruda was working blind as he plated the break, repinned the joint and sewed her up.  X-rays revealed she still had one pin in her joint and it had to be removed.  A third operation was needed just days after the second one.  They say the third time’s the charm and this time it was.  With Dr. Gruda’s blessing, we kept Dolce at the vets for two weeks, almost three, just so she would heal.

September 11th, late in the afternoon, both Malcolm and I went bring Dolce home.  I sat in the back seat to keep her calm in her excitement to see us.  This time, her incarceration had been 18 days and she was done with the vets.  She was stick a fork in it done.  She wanted home, she wanted us.  Even though we had visited her on weekends, even though there were other dogs to bark with, even though she had vet techs she favored, she wanted outta’ there.

Straight into the crate she went, only to be released to be fed and to do her duty outside.  Always leashed, always under control.  We could walk her for about 10 minutes for a little exercise but other than that, she was in her padded cell.  For two days, all was well.  The third day, hell broke out.

Malcolm and I had to run into town late afternoon that Sunday.  Dolce had her brief walk, she was fed and watered and back in her crate.  We quickly took our leave.  We were only gone two hours, when I opened the back door upon our return and was greeted by two happy dogs.  WTF?  Dolce wasn’t suppose to be out.  Son of a bitch!  I checked the crate and found it still latched but the front gate was bent.  The little shit had squirmed through the bottom of the gate to freedom.  Immediately we grabbed some strip ties to re-enforce the seams and bottom. That worked for one more day.  Twice more she escaped.  IMG_1632

There was no way we were going to be able to keep Dolce in her crate.  She was not going back in.  She was outta’ there.

I texted Dr. Gruda:  We have a situation.  Dolce has broken out 3x’s from crate.  Please advise.

Dr. Gruda:  Bring her back.  We’ll keep her for another two weeks until her leg has healed well enough.

Me:  On our way.

We are on day four, ten more and she’s outta’ there!

 

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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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when push comes to pull

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Bernese Mountain Dogs are an old breed.  Amore and Dolce’s long ago ancestors were once used as all-purpose farm dogs. Originating from Switzerland long before the time they were recognized as a purebred dog, Berners were used as watchdogs for guarding property and to drive dairy cattle long distances from the farm to up to the alpine pastures.  And, they were considered great draft dogs.  One of their most essential historical tasks was to transport fresh milk, cheese and other farm fresh produce for small farmers pulling carts and small wagons containing the wares to market. berner-cart 2

Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred to haul small drays.  Like a cowdog’s first instinct is to herd, nipping at the heels of cattle, Berner’s have a predisposition to want to push and pull.  Their deep barreled chest and strong upper body strength gives them a solid muscle pack to push against a harness.  berner cart 1

When Tiamo was a youngster, she started to push her way between our legs, usually from behind. Similar to her forebears, she would thrust her shoulders against Malcolm or my lower limbs, her head slightly down, her front paws digging into the ground for traction.  If you were ready for the intrusion, Tiamo would continue to press through, gaining a neck rub and an ear scratch as she emerged on the other side.  If you weren’t on the ready, tragic tumbling could befall.

We first thought this was some sort of game with her.  Her canine way of getting some extra lovin!  We came to realize Tiamo was doing what she was bred to do – to push against a harness, to pull her freight.  Our legs were her harness.  We toyed with the idea of cart training her.  We had grand thoughts of her hauling our groceries, or maybe even us, to and from the store.  We nixed that thought pretty damn quick.  The cost of equipment and training gave that idea an abrupt death.  Add the image of another large thing to store and gather dust in the garage and Malcolm and I dropped the cart notion like a hot potato.berner cart 3

To her dying day, Tiamo loved to push between our legs to petting victory on the other side.  She always won.

Her heritage lying deep in her heart, Dolce has the same innate desire to push.  In the last couple of years, Dolce has started the same game of pushing between our legs from behind and coming up the victor with scratchin’ and rubbin’ as she pokes her head through. Dolce considers it her duty, when she can make Malcolm or myself move forward ten feet or more.  It’s her role even if  she gets us to travel less.  No matter, she still gets her reward of lovin’ for a job well done.

Berners are a breed that has served for generations as helpmates and faithful canine companions.  They are considered working dogs and need chores to feel useful to their owners, to have a purpose, to feel important. For Dolce, the labor is in the pushing, the challenge is in moving one of us forward, and the reward is some well deserved lovin! blog signature 2-25-14

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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defensive linemen

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Football is a given in our American culture.  It ranks fourth on the list behind apple pie, hotdogs and baseball.  However, it’s not a sport I ever imagined our girls liking, let alone enjoy playing.  I’d like to know when our dogs became such footballs fans. And, I’d especially like to know when they became such good defensive linemen.

Take Amore for example….

Like her offensive counterparts, her defensive linemen dog approach lines up directly on the line of scrimmage, close to the ball, or in her case, the closest available human. Good defensive linemen dogs are big, strong, and alert. They are quick to react to the snap of the ball or movement of her human and can get up field to jam up the offensive blocking scheme in a nano second.

If it’s a run play, she’ll play a good gap defense and make the block using whatever moves and dexterity she has in her arsenal to get to the quarterback, i.e., Malcolm and/or myself.  If it’s a passing game, Amore will disrupt the timing of the throw or try to make either one of us hesitate just enough to make her play.  And just like that, (finger snap!) Amore’s block is a success.

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in uniform, ready for action!

Her first tactic is to walk right besides us, usually from the right side of the field.  Pacing her paws in time with our gait and with a slight increase in speed, Amore angles her whole body across our path.  Shoulders down, paws wide apart, Amore comes in for the interception.  She puts her all into a full body block to interrupt our field play.

Amore plays the game of football in the trenches, going nose-to-nose with our knees.  Her mission, rushing one of us and stopping the running path directed up the field.  Her goal, stopping Malcolm for a 30 second time-out for some extra love and petting.  She knows she has scored once Malc starts to rub her sides and shoulders.

And then there is Dolce….

She plays more of a defensive back position.  Rather than blocking us, she likes nothing better than to defend against pass plays by covering Malcolm and/or myself from completing the play.  In a rushing situation, Dolce’s job is to contain the human either by forcing one of us out-of-bounds or by tackling us herself.  Dolce is the last line of defense for a walk-block and pet, especially if Malcolm or myself have gotten past Amore.

Her fave blocking technique is to come from behind, swoop in between our legs, and lift the back of her head up to our crotch. It’s a guaranteed ball block with a 90% guarantee of interception.  Her odds of a loving pet are high enough that the bookies in Vegas give her a 21 point spread against her opponent.

Her tackle is assured if I have a skirt on. Less so with jeans. Once we’ve come to a full stop to give her a rub behind the ears, Amore joins the fray for her share of scratching.

So the next time you’re watching a football game, keep your eye on the trenches. Underneath the dog pile you just might see Malc or myself calling foul!

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jealousy

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Over the years, Malcolm and I have watched jealousy fits spike between Amore and Dolce.  One has a bone, the other doesn’t.  Dolce is riding shotgun in the car, Amore wants to be.  Amore is on the bed, Dolce covets her spot.  Paws hold down the toy, growls are disposed, fights ensue, each dog is sent to their timeout corner.  Detention is given to the misbehaving mutts.  Treats taken away.

We have watched Dolce tense and snarl when Amore comes to close to her bone.  We watch as Dolce tucks her bone under her paw, her head lowering just above.  A deep rumble emits from her throat in warning.  Amore antagonizing Dolce over the treat.  Dolce fighting back.amore and bone

We have seen Amore literally pushing Dolce off the front seat as they establish who will be riding shotgun.  Dolce scrunched against the car door as Amore thrusts her 100 lb. frame into the seat. Neither giving so much as an inch of chair up in ownership of the front, both fighting for supremacy over who gets to ride shotgun.

Riding shotgun!

Riding shotgun!

We chuckle over Amore keeping Dolce off the bed, refusing to allow her up on her reign of the soft mattress.  It usually takes Malcolm holding on to Amore so Dolce can jump up and grab a corner of the bed.

It’s a whole different story when the jealousy is between Malcolm and myself.  Oh yeah, we each sing a different tune then.

In the beginning, way back when we first had Tiamo, I wasn’t working.  I was an equal caregiver, getting up to feed our early riser, walking Tiamo around the loop to tire her for the day.  Malcolm had the evening shift. He would take her on another trek around the loop, and worked on Tiamo’s training. I gave her belly rubs and messages. Malcolm gave her rides in the car. Tiamo’s love was pretty much evenly dispersed between the two of us.

And then I got a job.

I still tended to the morning mutt chores, feeding the girls as I prepared for work.  I would give each dog some belly scratches just as I left to drive into town, leaving Malcolm with the girls for the hours I was gone.  Upon my return home, I had three eager dogs waiting for me to enter though the garage door.  Malcolm was like the proverbial housewife that hands over the baby when dad walks through the door.  He had the dogs all day, it was my turn to have ’em.

Slowly, as my days at work turned into years, I watched a pattern emerge.

I saw the girls getting more excited to see Malcolm than me.  I watched them scramble to head out to the garage as they heard the garage door pulling up, chomping at the bit to reach Malcolm before the other.  I only receive wagging tails once I am inside the house.  If we happen to stop at the store, I watch how vigilant both girls are, waiting for Malcolm to return.  Their eyes never leaving the front entrance of where he disappeared.  When I take them up to the grocery, I find them fast asleep in the back as I unload the cart.  I notice how Amore and Dolce look to Malcolm for guidance on our walks, running to him for treats, listening to him give commands.

I have to admit, there is a big, fat, ugly green-eyed monster sitting on my left and my right shoulder.  I am a little envious of this lop-sided affection.  Okay, I’m a lot envious.  Alright, alright, I’m flat-out jealous of how the dogs go to him first, how they go bonkers to sit by him, how they hang with him in the den at night rather than with me.  My pouts of “they love you more” are volleyed with “but I have  them all day” comments from Malcolm.  Obviously, my internal ploy to minimize their devotion to Malcolm isn’t working.

I’ve concluded Amore and Dolce might “favor” Malcolm just a little more…. but I love them more!  Ten times more! So there!

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Vanity Fair

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Vanity Fair.  A magazine worthy of the rich, the famous and the celebrity.  Glossy pages filled with stick thin models touting the latest from Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Dior and Armani.  Articles on Saudi Princesses and Hollywood Queens are filed in between regular columns and Editor’s Letters. And in the way back, literally on the last page of each monthly print, sits the Proust Questionnaire.

The Proust Questionnaire is a one page canvas of a world-known entity, known to us lessor folks as celebrities.  Once a month, a well deserved VIP wittingly answers prosaic questions such as “How would you like to die?”  and “What is your most overrated virtue?” and so on.

I’ve often asked myself how would Dolce and Amore respond to such an interview.

If VF showed up in the dog pen, here’s how it would go…..

Proust Questionnaire

Dolce and Amore

At age 4, Dolce and Amore were the youngest canines ever to be featured in a cookbook, for their role in eating whatever fell to the kitchen floor.  Almost three years later, the star’s of If It Falls On the Floor, It’s Mine! cookbook admits their lifelong yearning to own every bone there is.

Q:  What is your idea of perfect happiness?  Amore:  steak!  Then cheese, next would be green beans – woof!  Dolce:  A smoked bone, grrrrrr, mine!

Q:  What is your greatest fear?  Dolce:  Being left behind on a trip in the car

Q:  Who is your favorite hero of fiction?  Amore:  Ol’ Yellow  Dolce:  Tramp, with a bowl of spaghetti, yummm

Q:  Which living canine do you most admire?  Dolce & Amore:  MarleyDSC00656 and Giant George

Q:  What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Dolce:  Amore stealing my food or my bone

Q:  What is your greatest extravagance?  Dolce &  Amore:  Shoes

Q:  What is your favorite journey?  Dolce:  A trip to the grocery store!   Amore:  Running away from Papa Malcolm

Q:  What do you consider the most overrated virtue:  Amore:  Behaving

Q:  What do you dislike most about your appearance?  Dolce:  Panting, the rest of me is damn near perfect   Amore:  Drool, it’s so unbecoming

Q:  What is your greatest regret?  Dolce: Losing my bone to Amore

Q:  Which talent would more like to have?  Dolce:  Bone maker

Q:  When and where were you happiest?  Amore:  I’m always happy!   Dolce:  Woof!  Me too!

Q:  What is your current state of mind?  Dolce & Amore:  Happy in the land of enchantment

Q:  What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Amore:  Flunking obedience school – now that was fun!

Q:  What is your most treasured possession?  Dolce:  Woof!  Woof!  Woof!  BONES!!!!

Q:  What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  Dolce & Amore:  Being taken to the vet’s for our shots

Q:  Where would you like to live?  Dolce & Amore:  Right here with Mommy Megan and Papa Malcolm – woof!

Q:  What is your favorite occupation?  Dolce:  Afternoon naps on the couch   Amore: Running wild and driving Papa Malcolm crazy

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do together?  Dolce & Amore:  Sumo wrestling in the living room

Q:  What is it that you most dislike?  Dolce:  Bone stealing

Q:  On what occasion do you lie?  Amore:  When Papa Malcolm wants to know who did it

Q:  What is the quality you most like in a male?  Dolce:  Alpha dog   Amore:  His deep-barreled furry chest

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dripping faucet

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From behind me, I heard the soft ping of splatter hitting a hard surface.  Seconds later, another drip followed.   A sort of pling…. pling…. pling sound vibrated through me.  The drops of moisture I envisioned were quietly being announced by the audible drip, drip, drip sound coming from somewhere behind my back.   I was in the kitchen preparing dinner for Amore and Dolce, as Malcolm was away for the weekend.  When one of us is traveling, all household chores falls on the other.  Supper for the dogs being one.

I instinctively knew the kitchen sink faucet had bitten the big one.  Gone on to faucet heaven.  We’d been having trouble with our sink faucet.  The swivel arm was reduced to a “left-side” only rotation, the handy-dandy nozzle handle only pulled out about a fifth of its length, and the water pressure was down to a weak flow.  The week before Malcolm left was filled so full of busy, we told ourselves we would deal with the faulty faucet when Malcolm got back into town.

Damn!  Just my luck the sink faucet died while Malcolm was gone. With a heavy sigh, I prepared myself to clearing out the underneath junk pile of trash bins, scrubbers, rubber gloves and cleaning supplies, crawling on my back to hunt for the turn-off valve.  I was going to have to deal with replacing the faucet on my own.

Another splash, louder this time, had me turning around to glare at the offensive faucet.  Only the faucet was dripless.  Dry as bone.  Nothing.  Nada.  No drip.  No mess.  Nope the problem wasn’t with the leaking faucet, but rather with the girls.  Both of which were obsessively oozing dog drool, while eagerly waiting for their kibble feast.

Dogs drool.  There’s no getting around it.  They drip, dribble, drop, drivel and drool.  Boy, do they drooooool.  One large, dog infused drip  at a time.  Times two.  Amore and Dolce both are droolers.  Both are heavy slavers. Malcolm and I have dealt with dog slobber and wet spots going on near seven years.  Ten if you include Tiamo in the mix.

Those whom know and understand dogs, know there is no telling what that dog drool is mixed with – there is no telling where a dog’s tongue has been.  And there is sure as hell no telling what a dog  has put in it’s mouth.DSC00561

We have learned to discretely wipe our drooled upon hands against our jeans before greeting friends and acquaintances.  We have quickly positioned couch pillows over pools of moisture when guests go to sit on the sofa.  We have become adept at hiding all slobber evidence. We have mopped more floors than the average housewife and we have changed clothing more than a super-model on the runway.  We keep hand sanitizer in every room and in the car.  Dog drool does that to a  person.

There are two things I am thankful for… The first being, we have brick floors throughout the house.  It’s an easy clean.  And second, Malcolm got to deal with the faucet!

 

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Never in my house!

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Growing up we always had pets.  Cats and dogs mainly, with a token gold-fish thrown into the menagerie when the county fair was going on.  There were short-lived turtles and frogs and once in a while, one of us kids would catch a lizard and try to house it in an old shoe box, which usually ended up as a make shift coffin when the little guy croaked.

At one point we had a calico cat named Squeaker, so named as she didn’t meow, she squeaked.  My mother was of the school that animals, especially cats, weren’t allowed in the house, they belonged outdoors.  Except on Saturdays.  On Saturdays, Squeaker could come inside as long as we kept an eye on her.  She would sit under the coffee table in the living room as we ate our cereal and watched cartoons.  When the TV was turned off, Squeaker was put back outside.  As were we got a little older, we would sneak Squeaker inside the house after school while mom was still working, being sure to hide any evidence before she returned home.  We figured what mother didn’t know, didn’t hurt her.

Our dogs were the same.  They did not belong indoors and mother was very firm about that!  If we wanted to play with our canine friends, we did it out side.  We had a big fenced back yard that kept them off the street so they were presumed safe and sound.  All of our dogs were fed outside, watered outside and they slept outside.  Oh, we had a detached garage that our pets would hunker down in at night, but never in a million years were they allowed inside the house.  And god forbid, that they ever get on our beds or take a nap on the couch, or my heavens, leave some dog hair on the carpet. That was so not going to happen. Not in mother’s house.

And then Tibbers came along, a blue-eyed cow dog with no cows to work.  For the first few years, he pretty much stayed outdoors in the back yard, herding all of us as we walked in and out of the house. On cold nights, we would beg our parents to let Tibbers inside, sure he would freeze to death, only to have our pleas turned down.  At some point mother must have had an epiphany – or maybe a touch of guilt set in, she eventually allowed us to let Tibbers inside, but only in the utility room, you know, in case there was an ‘accident’.

As he aged, his allowable indoor territory increased to the kitchen and beyond to the dining room.  I once caught my mom with Tibbers laying by her feet as she watched television in the living room, way beyond his prescribed interior boundaries.  I discovered then that Mother had a soft spot for ol’ Tibbers.  Somehow, throughout the years, Tibbers had become my mother’s dog.  As each of us girls left for college, leaving mom, dad and Tibbers at home, mother and Tibbers had bonded.  For the rest of his years, mother would bring Tibbers inside at night but only in rooms with vinyl flooring.  That in itself was pushing it for my mom.  My mom just didn’t believe in indoor pets.

I have no doubt my mother would be appalled at our choice of allowing the girls indoors.  Not only do we let them inside, but to be honest, Dolce, Amore and even Gordita pretty much have the run of the house. Gasp!  My mother would be horrified.  They aren’t outdoor dogs. Never will be.  Gordita isn’t an outdoor cat, although she likes to prowl around the perimeters. They are part of our family.  They are allowed on the couches and sofas, the recliner chairs, the beds, even my lap.  We have dog hair and cat fur everywhere.  Our home is their home.  Our couch is their couch.

Yep, my mother would be rolling over in her grave at the thought of Dolce or Amore taking a little nap on the couch!

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Rooh-tines

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“I have my rooh-tine,” Malcolm tells me as I ask him about his day.  He’s a southern boy and some words he drag-asses out.  Just as he likes to drag out the morning.  Me? I’m usually up and out first thing so I mostly miss the his ‘morning rooh-tine’.

“Fur-rst,” Malcolm informs me, “I mosey on out to the kitchen while the dawgs are clamoring for attention. Their tails are furiously whaagging, but they keep their distance until I’m able to pour some coffee and nud-ke it in the mic, warming it up.  Once they hear the beep of the microwave starting its radiation, they know I have 1 1/2 minutes to give them their morning L.O.O.O.V.E. and they zero in for the kell.”

“Ahhhh,” I coo. The girls are so cute trying to edge out the other when it comes to getting attention. The competition between them can be fierce.  Two hands, two dogs.  Each hand goes out to pet the girls.  But Amore is only interested in keeping the other hand off of Dolce.  And Dolce is only concerned with pushing Amore further away than an arms stretch.  The most you can hope for is for Dolce to stay on the right and Amore keeps to the left.

“Yeah, it’s phunny how Dolce and Amore know when it’s their time,” He continues.  Okay, now, I’m making fun of Malc’s southern drawl, which I love by the way.

“And then what?” I question.

“Well, then it’s S & M time,” he grins proudly.  S & M time? Is there something I need to know? Something he hasn’t told me yet.  Thirteen years of marriage and the things you learn about your spouse. I wait him out.

“Yeeep!” Malcolm chuckles. Sofa and Malcolm time.  DSC00491That’s when they know I’ll let them up on the couch, while I’m reading the paper.  Dolce waits along side of me while I position the pillows and get sit-u-ated.” Again, Malcolm draws out his words and his story.  Once I’m prone with a blanket and my coffee, Dolce leaps over my legs to the back of the couch and settles in for a nap.  Amore takes the spare space by my feet.”

Malcolm loves his dogs and loves having them next to him.  The coffee tastes sweeter when the dogs are up close.  The paper reads better when surrounded by Amore and Dolce.  The sofa softer.  And his day perfect, when all the elements of his ‘rooh-tine’ come together.

“Once the NY TImes is read, we all take a lit’ nap,” he finishes.

“A nap? You just got up!”

“Yeah, but its rooh-tine!”

Fast forward to a few days ago, when a special uncle of Amore and Dolce’s sent an email to Malcolm and I.  Uncle Dan is from D.C. and is especially fond of the girls. He understands how our world revolves around the dogs and he most definitely understands Malcolm and his ‘rooh-tines’. The email included a short poem his brother-in-law had written.  It is spot on.

Until I had a dog
I never knew how sweet a routine could be.
I hear her stir, subtly, and I think she hears me.
She eagerly waits for my door to open in the morning.
We both stretch when I emerge and her tail gently wags as I rub her head.

She paces while I fix my coffee, passing in
front of me as I discard yesterday’s filter.
She walks up and down the hall, and circles the island.
I can hear paws on the hardwoods.
When I spin the metal lid onto the glass coffee canister 
she comes back like a cat to a can opener.
She knows I have a piece of a banana for her before she goes outside.

I change her water and fill a bowl with a scoop of food,
leaving it on the washstand.
If I take too long she occasionally paws at the door.
When I let her in she goes directly to the washstand and
rears up like a stallion until I put it down.
Her tail wags wildly as she digs in, then slows to a stop as she
gets serious about eating, like she hasn’t been fed for days.

I take my coffee to the living room, plug my phone in to charge,
and grab a meditation book from the coffee table.
She patiently waits by my spot on the couch.
Then the sweetest part of every day happens.
As I sit to read she lays her adorable face on my leg.
I rub her head as I read and when I look at her she is watching me.

These are moments I can never take for granted.
Every day it is as sweet as the day before.
I never knew how sweet a routine could be
Until I had a dog.
 Written by Joe Thomas
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say CHEESE!

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Last year, I found the cutest red velveteen holiday collars for the girls.  They were adorable, dark red collars with tiny little bells attached.  Both Amore and Dolce loved ‘ em!  Didn’t want me to take them off in fact.  Amore and Dolce paraded around loving the little tinkle of the bells. They would fight over who got to put on the first collar I held out for them, nosing out the other for first dibs on getting the collar on.

They were so cute, I was bound and determined our Christmas picture card would be of our precious dogs with their collars on.  The perfect photo-op in mind, I envisioned pinons with snowy boughs in the background, our blue skies above and there in the forefront of our beautiful Southwest backdrop, would be Amore and Dolce sitting side by side with their matching collars on. It so didn’t happen!

misbehaving models

If Dolce was still, Amore was looking off somewhere besides the camera.  If Amore was behaving, Dolce had her eyes shut.   The girls just didn’t want to sit still and smile for the camera.  They didn’t want to sit side by side and they didn’t want to pose.  On top of my canine models not cooperating, we didn’t have any snow in the background, nor blue skies on the day we took the shoot. Malcolm, my dog wrangler for the day, laughed at the impossibility of my efforts. My christmas card was doomed from the get-go.

I promised myself this year would be different.  This year, our Christmas picture card would feature Amore and Dolce shoulder to shoulder, smiling for the camera with their beautiful red velveteen collars on.  And some snow!  Fate was on my side.  Our first snow drop arrived mid-November.  Malcolm and I took the girls for their photo shoot as soon as the roads were plowed.  Once the girls were tired out from their first of the season’s frolic in the snow, I started clicking.

Digital cameras are great.  Since we don’t have to pay for developing film like in the old days, the pictures are essentially free. It doesn’t matter how many bad shots you take, how many pic’s are deleted, somewhere in the day’s photo session there would be a good to great shot.  Between cropping and tint adjusting, I was sure I would have the perfect photo.

And I would have.  Had I remembered to find and bring the collars.

DAMN and Double Damn!  blogI had my perfect shoulder to shoulder, smiling dog photo sans the collar.  I had the snow sans the snow-capped Pinon trees and blue skies.  I went with it.  My models behaved just enough for me to get that one out fifty perfect photo.  The cards went out anyway.  Mailed to family and friends, posted on the website to my blogger buddies.

We were fortunate to see more snow flakes over the Christmas weekend.  I grabbed my sweet dog wrangler and the camera, loaded up the dogs and headed out for another photo shoot.  This time with the collars.

It’s not often I’m able to get Amore to sit still!

Dolce

Dolce

before the angle roll

before the angel roll

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

snow chumping

snow chomping

Dolce between photos poses

Dolce

Dolce

I’m all set for 2015!

 

 

Happy Holidays!

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blog

off! down!

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From day one, a dog should never be allowed to jump on people.  Nor should they ever leap or hurdle themselves at their human folks. Never should a dog misbehave or act out.  A dog should never lift those two front paws higher than a grasshopper.  From the on set of their training, a dog should learn who is in command, who is boss.  They should understand the most basic of commands such as “sit”, “stay”, “down” and “off”.  Not only should they learn these directives but they should obey them.  At all times.

And then we have our dogs.  Two of the sweetest, most precious spoiled brats ever.

Obedience training was never a problem with their mother, Tiamo. She learned her lessons quick and fast.  She was obedient, well-behaved, and damn near perfect.  She was gentle, kind and calm.  Our mama was doggy royalty, she was so regal. Friends and neighbors would ask her over for visits, we were just tag-a-longs.  And she was asked everywhere.  Invitations were addressed to Tiamo and guests, Malcolm and I being reduced to being chauffeurs for our favored canine. Tiamo had been so easy be around, people flocked to her. Everyone loved her.

And, then we have Dolce and Amore.  Two of the most rambunctious, excitable troublemakers ever.

In the beginning puppy days, we tried to master Dolce and Amore’s training.  We tried to obtain the end-product of perfectly well-behaved dogs.  We wanted the kind of dogs that others would kindly whisper how well-mannered they were, how “good” they were. We wanted another well-trained Tiamo.

And we got Dolce and Amore.

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Good natured but not good mannered.  So good-looking but not so good at obeying orders.  Good at instigating canine capers but not good at staying out of mischief.

We’re not bad doggy parents.  Really we’re not! In the beginning, the girls weren’t allowed on the couch or the bed.  All furniture was off-limits.  That lasted all of five days.  We didn’t permit them to jump on us or give in to their silent pleas to sit on our laps.  Well, that lasted at least a good five hours.  Malcolm and I didn’t tolerate begging at the dinner table for scraps or sanction any counter-surfing.  That one lasted maybe five minutes, max.  We tried our best and found the system was broken.  Training for Dolce and Amore came to a halt.

There  was no way we could hold out against two of the most precious little puppies looking at us beseechingly with hope in their eyes.  There was no way I could command “OFF!” when my girls were giving me hugs as they welcomed me home.  I know, I know, dog hugs equate to jumping on me, paws at my waist, head at my chest.  But dog hugs are so precious.  A special dance between puppy love and human affection.

I gave up saying “DOWN!” when one of the girls crawled up on the couch to cuddle with me, their head on my lap.  I couldn’t give up our special time together.  DSC00404

We no longer command “STAY!” when we really mean come, when the dogs are such a part of our family we want them with us.  Where we goeth, they goeth, only not to visit friends.  Our friends don’t quite know what to make of Dolce and Amore, especially after Tiamo.  High-energy and high maintainance, the girls require a dog-proofed house.  But damn if they aren’t happy dogs!

happy dawg

happy dawg

We’re so glad we got Dolce and Amore.

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$51.95

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$51.95.

$51.95 every two to three weeks.

$51.95 every two to three weeks for over eight years.  (with yearly price increases)

$51.95 is how much we pay for a 30 lb. (used to be 40 lbs.) bag of dog food.  Plus tax.  Nutro’s Lamb and Rice. No corn or corn gluten, no wheat or soy protein, Nutro’s Lamb and Rice is a natural blend of lamb, whole brown rice, oatmeal, and all those special vitamins and minerals, guaranteed to help minimize gastric sensitivities while delivering natural nutrition.  It’s the only dog food brand we’ll buy.  nutro-LID-large-breed-adult-lamb-rice

Is it expensive?  You bet!  Could we buy cheaper dog food somewhere else?  Yeah, we could… but we don’t.

Five miles down the road is a very special pet store that caters to all the spoiled pets in the area.  Starting out in a closet space of a store front, the Eldorado Country Pet Store has increased in size ten-fold, expanded its merchandise and is our “go-to” pet store.  They’ve been “our” pet store since the beginning.  Since ECP opened it’s doors, since we brought Tiamo home, since the puppies were born.  ECP has been there through Thugs and Tiamo.  They special ordered the thunder shirt for Amore and sold us our travel water bowls.  For over eight years.

Over eight years equals over $10,000 that has been charged to our Visa.

$10,000 plus treats.

Plus pig ears. Plus peanut butter squares.  Plus cow hooves, raw hides and dog cookies.  Plus dog toys, dog collars, dog beds and dog blankets.  Plus doggy holiday stocking stuffers and cute dog picture frames and precious little doggy items found on the internet.  In the last eight years, we have happily (ok, maybe not Malcolm) flipped open our wallets and pulled out our credit cards, to pay for special canine goodies for Tiamo, Amore and Dolce, two to three times a month.

I’m a sucker for those Bernese Mountain Dog socks on display by the check out counter.  They’re only $12.95.  If the girls are with me when I run the bi-monthly Saturday dog food errand, I tuck in a pig ear for each.  What’s another $1.29/ea.  By November of each year, I’ve ordered my BMD calendar for the next year, with free shipping.  Every Christmas, the girls get a holiday bonus bone.  $3.95 is pittance to pay when it brings them such joy.

Let’s face it, the pet industry is big business. Statistics claim there are over 115.4 million Americans that own a pet. Nearly 60 percent of those same Americans own canines. Of which, more than half consider their dog(s) to be members of the family. Americans will spend an estimated $52.87 billion from their budgets on their pets this year alone. Big name corporations such as Omaha Steaks, Old Navy and Harley Davidson have introduced pet product lines that include gourmet treats and food, pet attire and pet toys. Pet parents are buying orthopedic dog beds, designer sweaters, IQ-raising toys and even travel seat belt systems.  And food – every kind of dog food from basic to breed-specific to organic, all at a dizzying array of price points.  People from every demographic group and income level are spending more on their pets.

 

But is it worth it?  Absolutely!

It’s only $51.95

 

 

Wicked Pricklers

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“Gawd Damn! Son-ov-ah-beeeeach!” I heard from the other room. Malcolm was swearing up a storm. I peeked around the kitchen corner and watched him hobble to the couch on one foot.  Poor guy had stepped on a broken-off cactus spine, it’s embedded head sticking out of his bare footed heel. Another screech of cussing occurred as he pulled out the offending sticker.  Surgery is sometimes worse than the injury. The spines don’t pull out easily and one needs a pair of needle nose pliers and a steady hand.  Ouch! I cringed, having stepped on a few of them myself. It hurts like a muther, with the agony lasting for a good hour. As usual, one of the girls had carried in the aggressive prong and Malcolm was the unlucky sole that found it.

If it’s not a cactus spine, it’s a goat-head or a cocklebur, or puncture vines, or sand burrs. When you live in the high desert, there are a number abusive pricklers that attach themselves to any and every passersby. Amore and Dolce seem to be hosts to all of them.  Their long hair attracting it’s share of stickers.  We take precautions with their fur.  We trim their coat, their under belly and forelegs.  At the start of summer, their beautiful leg feathers are clipped short, their paws sheared.  We shave their tummy’s, cut back on their tail fringe and prune their sides.  Anything to keep the stickers to a minimum. For both the dogs and for us. As we have painfully experienced, if it hitches a ride on the girl’s fur and makes it inside the house, it stands to reason, at some point, those prickly lit’le bastards will latch on to one of us…….

As I’ve mentioned in the past, we like to walk the girls at the Galisteo Basin Preserve, an open space trail network with over 18 miles of bike and hike trails.  What use to be ranch land, the GBP still has remnants of its past with tall windmills, falling down sheep herder shacks, and man-made dams for watering the livestock and wildlife.  If we happened to have had a good monsoon season, the odds are good the dam will be full of water.  Back in September, we hiked the Cottonwood trail and found the dam full.  Amore and Dolce made straight for the water, playing in the shallow lake. Mud and muck be damned, our girls were partying in the cool pool of rain run-off.

Belly high play

Belly high play

So yesterday we thought we would check to see if the dam still had some water.  The past few weeks we have had some measurable rain and I figured there should still be some water available for the girls to soak their paws.

“Let’s take em’ to the dam” I suggested.  The hike to the pond is only a mile or so up the trail with just a slight incline.  Malc agreed.  We noticed the grass was taller but much drier than when we had hiked this route in September.  With the coming of winter, the green turf had already turned to golden tan and brown.  But yesterday was one of those perfect fall days that had a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. It was warm enough for wearing just a T-Shirt and shorts with the slight breeze a modest whisper.  If there was water in the dam, it would be the last pool party of the year.  I couldn’t wait to check.

We rounded the last bend to the dam and Amore took off.  She was headed for the water and sprinted towards the cool reservoir.  We were right behind her.  The lake was down to a mud patch and a little surface water but enough for Dolce and Amore to get dirty. Enough for some muddy play time.  Malcolm and I stopped to watch Amore race to the mire.  Abruptly, she turned, hastily running back to us.

“What’s wrong with Amore?” I turned to Malcolm and asked.

“Oh, shit!”

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nasty little suckers

I looked down at Amore. She was covered in stickers. Infested with them.  Her collar, sides, belly, underarms, legs, tail and paws had hundreds of nasty burrs tangled within her fur.  Amore had run straight through a large patch of wicked pricklers.  The dry burrs clung to her coat, knotting in her hair.  Every time she moved, the sharp barbed stickers dug in deeper beneath her beautiful black coat.  With resolve, I pulled out the Leatherman from my pack.  Malcolm and I started the long tedious process of removing the thorns.  We stopped counting after eighty and still had more to go. Our gloveless fingers were numb from the penetrating prickly points. There would be no water play today.  We hiked back down the trail.  We knew there were more burrs buried on her body, but needed scissors to cut out the rest.  We headed home.

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one of hundreds

Amore had had enough of Malcolm and I picking at her fur. She was done with us yanking and pulling her hair as we extracted the stickers from her body.  It took the two of us over an hour on the trail to pick out the worst of the bunch.  We still had more to go.  I sat in the back of the SUV to soothe and placate her on the ride home.

Once home, I grabbed the scissors and began cutting out the remaining burrs. By the end of Amore’s impromptu hair cut, I had a good sized pile of stickers, stacked on the floor, ready for me to throw away…..

“Gawd Damn! Son-ov-ah-beeeeach!” I heard from the other room an hour or two later.

Oops!  Must’ve missed one on the floor.