The limp

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It started in July with a limp.

Well, a limp is nothing new to Malcolm and I.  Between Amore and a Dolce and all their combined surgeries, a limp is nothing.  When it comes to the girls, a limp can be caused by a multitude of things.  A bad landing when jumping out of the SUV.  An embedded cacti spine.  Arthritis.

It was a slight limp, no biggie.  Dolce still loved her walks, was still jumping up on the couch and scrambling off the bed.  Dolce still ran after Amore and ran in for dinner.  Her eyes still bright and full of life, it was nothing to be concerned over.  It was just a little noticeable.  Really, it was nothing.

It was a persistent limp.  Like a lingering cough, it just wouldn’t go away.  A vet visit determined it was macro-degerative joint disease or in common language, arthritis.  Not an unexpected diagnosis.  Dolce was a month shy of nine years and in Berner years, this is old.  After shoulder and leg surgeries in her puppy days, arthritis seemed not only plausible but a reasonable conclusion.  Nine years of over compensating on her driver’s side had created complications down the road.  Pain meds were prescribed, exercise was ordered, weight loss recommended.  All geared to help with her arthritis.  We were all over it.

But the limp didn’t go away and by the end of August the limp had worsened.  To the point where Dolce wasn’t putting any weight on her left paw.  Her load-bearing front leg was hitched up and held up, she refused to use it.  Her walks were shortened, her running subdued and awkward.  Dolce was hopping, not walking.  She was panting, not breathing normal.  Her eyes dull, not shiny. She was in pain.  Terrible pain.  Worried, Malcolm and I made an appointment for a Canine Physical Therapist.  A rehab specialist for dogs.  We knew how important it was for Dolce to use her leg, and it was obvious the arthritis had advanced.

One look at Dolce’s front paw and we were told to head straight to our vet.  Something wasn’t right.  Our worry turned into panic.  Another set of x-rays showed the bone configuration had changed.  It was time for a biopsy.

Biopsies are never fun. For neither the patient nor the parent.  Dolce needed to spend  time in the vet hospital, Malcolm and I needed to wait for the results.  We had an unknown. Arthritis is much easier to understand and comprehend.  Humans have arthritis.  Berners have bad hips, e.g., Hip Dysplasia. We could deal with arthritis – but this new unknown threw us off kilter.  We were unprepared.  The “what if’s” and “if so’s”  and “how do we’s” swirled in our heads.  Our discussions were geared around quality of life, and costs, and the unacceptable that neither one of us were willing to say out loud, but it stood out there like the ugly pink elephant in the room.  The only one not affected was Amore.  She was soaking up the attention, having us all to herself.  With one less child in the house, Amore was loving the extra love.  No sharing us, the couch and bed just for her.

It was the end of September when Malcolm called me at work.  I remember it was mid-afternoon and I had worked through lunch.  “Hon, you need to come over to Dr. Gruda’s.”  No hello.  Tersely spoken.  “Let me finish up what I’m working on and I’ll meet you over there.”  “No, honey, now!  I’m already there.”  Click.  Dr. Gruda has been the girls’ vet since he removed their dew claws at two days old.  He has been through every surgery, every sickness, every shot Dolce and Amore has had.  I headed his way.

Our waiting was over.  The biopsy confirmed Dolce had a cancerous tumor entwined between the bones of her left front paw.  On the driver’s side.  Our sweet, sweet Dolce had cancer.  The dreaded big “C”.  Our worse fears confirmed. We were devastated.  “Has it spread?”  “What does Dr. Gruda say?”  “What are our options?”

“Honey, we either amputate in the morning and start chemo ASAP, or Dr. Gruda needs to put her down this afternoon. We have to make a decision.  Now.”  There was no question in my heart as to what we should do, but there were so many more concerns to discuss.  Monetary issues being one of them. Surgery and chemo wasn’t going to be cheap.  Less than college but a whole lot more than braces would cost if we had kids. Does anyone want to put a price on a life? When does it become too much? Chemo treatments might only extend her life by 18 months or so. Was it worth the expense? Dolce had just turned nine.  With a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years, we were in her bonus years as it were.  What if her hips go out.  Or her other paw?  What if the cancer had spread? What if? What if? What if?  I was a wreck.  Malcolm was my rock.

With a deep breath and a choking gulp, I told Malcolm I wanted to amputate.  I wasn’t ready to let Dolce go.  I just couldn’t do it. My sweet, sweet baby was still good everywhere else.  She still had heart.  She still had three mostly good legs. We walked inside the vet’s office and signed the release.  I am thankful Malcolm felt the same.  Surgery was scheduled for early the next morning.

And just like that Dolce is now a three-legged canine.  Her limp turned into gimp.  Although in pain from the surgery, Dolce’s breathing evened out, her eyes went back to bright.  Dolce no longer suffered with pain.  My little trooper was a bit unsteady, wrapped in bandages and gauzes, and wobbling on three legs, but was able to come home a week later.

It’s been ten weeks since surgery.  We are on the last leg of chemo treatments and slowly building up Dolce’s stamina.  She is gaining her confidence back, growing stronger, and learning a new kind of balance. Her walks are longer and just this Thanksgiving weekend, she ran past us while out on the trail. A first.  She struggles with stairs with over two steps, and with positioning her back legs.  She still needs assistance getting up on the bed but can jump on the couch like an old pro.

All in all, she’s a healthy canine and is accepting of the circumstance.  We tease her and call her Peggy, Gimpy  and Tripod.  She jokes back with a push between our legs.

Its a new life.  For all of us. But we have our baby.

 

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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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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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.

 

 

 

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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lassie

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How come

with just a few barks

everyone can understand

that Lassie is saying

Timmy fell down the well

but with my endless whining and gnawing

you can’t understand

that I am saying

I’d rather the earth swallowed me whole

than go out in public wearing this raincoat

     by Francesco Marciuliano


After Dolce spent weeks at the vet’s recovering from her several surgeries last summer, she returned to us with a new vice.  Her days rubbing paws with other canine inmates manifested into a  penchant to be heard. In the 53 days spent at the vet’s healing, Dolce learned how to bark.  Loud.  Often. And for no reason.

This is no Lassie bark.  This is no “the house is burning down and I’m saving you” bark.  It’s not a doorbell bark or a TV bark or a car just drove up bark.  Nope.  This is a trumpet of deafening, abrasive clamoring.  With no translation. No explanation.

Now, Tiamo, she had a few Lassie bark moments.  She would come down into the den as Malcolm and I watched TV and do the bedtime bark shuffle.  She would stand in the doorway and back up as she barked three times.  It was nine o’clock and time for me to come to bed.  Nine o’clock on the dot.  She never missed the dot.  Three sharp barks with exclamation marks.  She would then race back to the bedroom and wait for me.

Once Tiamo came down to the den calling out to us with an excited yawp.  There was enough bellow in her bluster to give us pause.  It wasn’t nine yet, there had been no yelp from the TV, we were curious as to her behavior.  I followed her back up into the kitchen and discovered Thugs, our old and aging cat at the time, had gotten himself stuck on the counter and could not get down.  He had expanded all his energy in his jump up and now found himself without the stamina to climb down.  Thug’s days of enterprising activity had long passed him by.  He had twenty years of hard living behind him and his life style had catch up to him.  Tiamo just wanted her buddy safe, down on the ground where she could look after him.

Another time, another barking frenzy, Tiamo came to warn us the replacement mousers had knocked over a glass vase full of water.  Not only was there water all over the table and floor, but shards of glass was everywhere.  Her mayday kept our bare feet from being sliced up.

But Dolce, she just barks.

Bark.  Bark.  Bark.  She knows only one word.  Bark.

It’s all about context.

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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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crouch n’ scrunch

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It doesn’t take much for Dolce and Amore to realize there is a car trip on the agenda.  Just the simple act of putting on socks and shoes will start the dancing chorus of excited barking.  The grabbing of the car keys, the purse in hand, are more visuals for them to be on the alert.  Two steps taken in the direction of the garage door has the girls pawing at the door knob to be the first one out.  Nothing excites the dogs more than the thought of a trip in the car.

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the backFor Dolce, her excitement starts at the first right out of our driveway. And then the crouch n’ scrunch starts.  What’s that you say?  Oh, let me tell ya….

The crouch n’ scrunch is the side effect of frenzied scouting for the first available opportunity to bark. Loudly.  It’s the first phase of searching for movement on the hike and bike trail that runs along side the road. It begins with Dolce planting herself in the middle of the back between the two front seats.  Then she crouches.  Scrooching down, she scrunches her shoulders and head to have the perfect view out the front window.  Posture be damned, she is on the look out for fellow canines, humans, cyclists, birds, pesky flies, anything, just give her something to objectify. Okay, nothing works just as well.

Because nothing, is just as good if not better, than barking away at the possible threat a dog on a leash might pose as we drive by at warp speed.  A walking human will incite her vocal chords with or without the slightest possibility a dog might be trotting next to them as we pass.  A cyclist in the bike lane will receive a barking to just because.  It is, therefore she will bark.  There is nothing, therefore she will bark some more.

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

The crouch n’ scrunch is Dolce’s latest trademark in car-riding alignment.  She compliments the position with a ping-pong head bobble.  Right, left, right, left.  Her eyes darting up and down the trail as she swings her head back and forth.  Wishing.  Hoping.  For anything.

During the summer months, Dolce’s frustration escalates when her vision is impaired by the tall grass and weeds that sprout up along side the trail. Her brown-haired brows pull down in annoyance when she can’t lay her eyes on the short-legged canines.  Those little dogs that fall below the weed line, hidden from sight. You want to really piss Dolce off? Block her view.  Pull down the sun visor or lean too far over the center console where she’s on the look out and you’ll get a quick retaliation, doggy style.  A strong paw and/or snout will inform you to move back to your own territory.  A small yip will instruct you to put up the visor.  Don’t obstruct her vista.

We are fortunate this crouch n’ scrunch is a short-lived phase.  Ten miles later, Dolce has forgotten all about barking at nothing.

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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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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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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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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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