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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Jumping the shark!

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It starts out innocently enough.  The day is one of those beautiful New Mexico ones with brilliant blue skies, almost cloudless.  The temperature not too warm, not too cool, a slight breeze ruffling the leaves.  The dogs hear my keys jingle as I grab my purse, their normal exuberance expanding from mild interest to all out frenzied commotion as they spy Malcolm and I heading to the garage.

Little do they realize, this trip is all about them.

“Come on,” Malcolm calls to out to Dolce and Amore.  His added, “load up!” is overshadowed as the pandemonium of paws hustle to be first in the car.  Dolce is out the door and in the car before the garage door has fully risen on its hinges.  She ducks under the door as the remote button is hit, giving her a two foot clearance to squat n’ scramble.  Amore is a tail’s length behind.  In a dog’s world, there is nothing better than a road trip.  Anywhere.  Their excitement knows no bounds when it comes to a ride in a car.  Whether it’s just a 2-mile jaunt to the Agora or an hour drive down the hill to Duke City, the joy is in the adventure not the destination.

Only, this expedition is neither.

Dolce is panting, her euphoria at just the thought of riding shotgun on full mode.  Amore is in the back, intoxicated by the scents blowing in from the partially rolled-down back window.  Her nose is scrunched and wiggling as she takes in all the flavors. Both drooling with happiness.  Both bark at people walking on the hike n’ bike trail.  Both bluster when they see another dog on a leash.  They have no idea where we’re going, just happy to share the outing with us.

We turn left at the light.  Right means a walk in the Galisteo Basin Preserve.  Left means we’re heading into town.  We blow past the first two exits off the freeway.  The girls aren’t concerned, lowering their heads for a little cat-nap.  Malcolm takes the next off ramp, his right blinker clicking a steady beat.   I glance back at the dogs.

“I’m glad we harnessed and leashed them at home,” I comment. Should we take them out the passenger door or the hatch?”

“Let’s use the side door, we’ll have more control over them.”

“You take Amore, you’re stronger.  I’ll grab Dolce from my side.”

Driving around the clover-leaf, Malcolm merges on to the road we want.  We only have a mile or so more to go.  Amore pokes her head up to peruse the area.  Recognition hits.  Her left brow perks up an inch higher than the right. She tenses.  Immediately, Dolce feeds off of her tension, her own unease starting to build.  She knows.  Both girl’s bodies tighten with apprehension.  I see their fear mounting.  The whites of their eyes are prominent.  The gig is up.

We jumped the shark.

They know where we are. The beautiful day, the wonderful car ride, the family togetherness, has just declined drastically.  Their day is no longer in the top ratings.  They both look at us with reproach.  How could we! How could we do this to them.  Swiftly, their day has gone to hell in a hand basket and our hell is just starting.  There is nothing I can do to distract them.  There is no gimmick on hand or ruse I can use to entertain them.  That shark has been jumped.  The girls know where we are headed.  From here on out, it all goes downhill.  They start to freak.

Malcolm pulls into the paved parking lot.  We are at our destination.

“Want me to go check in first?  Or do you want to just go ahead and bring them on in?”

“Let’s bring them in.”

“You sure?”  I question.  “Maybe there is a back door we can use.” I’m not so sure about this.  Previous experience has taught me Dolce and Amore are not gonna like this.  Period.  This is worse than death to them.  “Nah, they’ll be ok.”  Malcolm has eternal faith.  I have none.

I open the side door to grab Dolce’s collar and leash.  She bolts past me, springing from the back seat to open territory, her leash trailing behind her.  Amore sees freedom and follows.  All hell breaks out.  The dogs are barking something fierce, sprinting through the parking lot.  Malcolm is cussing profusely.  I’m freaking out.

I leave Malcolm to deal with the dogs and go on in to the reception desk. I scan the waiting area.  Crap!  There are four other dogs and one cat.  Not good.  Sooo not good. Crap! Crap! Crap!  I was really hoping to see zero number of dogs and no cat.

“Hi, I’m here for Dolce and Amore.”  I give her my best you-didn’t-just-see-them-escape-from-the-car-and-the-dogs-are-running-wild-in-your-parking-lot look.

“Here, sign in and we’ll call you when the….” her voice trails off as Malcolm enters from outside with Dolce and Amore.  On leash, but barely.  I have never seen a place erupt into chaos so quickly or so loudly.  Barking, yelping, whining. and very disgruntled meows echo off the stuccoed walls.   Bedlam takes place.  Four dogs and a cat have joined in the McFarlane Berner chorus.  Their handlers add their two cents, sending the evil eye to our girls and perturbed looks to Malc.  Amore and Dolce are barking.  The visiting four dogs are barking.  The lone feline is squalling in its carrier.

We are at the vet’s.

The place our darling dogs know only as where they get shots, surgeries, and reprimands to lose weight.  In nothing flat, we jump the lengthy waiting line of patrons as the vet-tech shows us to the furthest exam room from the lobby.  Management’s way of bringing quiet to the canine riot Amore and Dolce have created.  Removal of the instigators.  Evacuation of the problem children.  Banishment.  The noise level drops straight off.  Well, at least in the lobby it does.  The girls are still voicing their displeasure at how their day has turned out.  Let it be known Amore and Dolce do not like the vet clinic.  If this day was Happy Days, the series would be terminated.  Immediately.  The Fonz a distance memory.

Amore and Dolce are weighed, tested for Heartworm, and receive a rattlesnake booster.  In short order:  Dolce outweighs Amore by seven pounds.  It’s diet time for her.  The booster shots are administered and the huge heartworm pills are to commence on June 1 and halt on November 1. We exit as fast as we can, the door slamming our asses with big bruises.  Dogs in the car,  Malcolm punches the gas.

The barking has yet to cease.

Malcolm and my ratings are down, way down.

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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
blog signature 2-25-14

Wowouch!

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For the last ten weeks, If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! has been dark.  Seventy plus days of total radio silence.  1,680 hours or more of being closed.  Over 100,800 minutes of being turned off.  In all that time, the girls have been fine, Malcolm has been wonderful and moi…. ?

Moi has been recuperating.

In early January, I had surgery.  Nothing earth shattering.  Nothing from the hips on up north, nothing close to the heart or anything above the shoulders. It was however, a very serious and major surgery.  Recovery has been long and arduous.  I had a donor tendon attached to my previously ripped off hamstring and pinned to the above bone, recreating a single length of muscle/tendon.  Due to the condition of the muscle and extensive scar tissue on my sciatic nerve, my surgery went several hours past the expected norm.

And there you have it, why my blog has been so quiet.

The good news:  I had a very difficult surgery that went brilliantly. I also had a wonderful husband that took the absolute best of care of me.  And, I had two, sweet as sugar dogs and one cat that instinctively knew I was in pain.

Upon release from the hospital, Malcolm’s and my concern was keeping Amore and Dolce at a safe distance from my leg.  I was under strict orders to keep my knee in a brace, bent at a 90 degree angle to avoid stretching the muscle/tendon off its moors.  Most importantly, I was NOT allowed to put any weight on my leg.  For nine long weeks.  Crutches, walkers and wheelchairs were my mode of transportation. None of which I was very proficient at.  I worried the girls would knock the crutches out from under me in their frenzied excitement to see me.  The wheelchair didn’t fit through some of our door ways and had to be abandoned after the first few days.  For nine weeks, I was one-legged and at my most vulnerable. I could not afford to have 100 lbs. of canine jumping on me.

What were we going to do with the dogs? They were use to cuddling with me on the couch.  Jumping over my legs, only to land between the back of the sofa and my torso, stretching their legs out, then positioning themselves on their back for the ultimate belly rub.  They were allowed on the bed for some night-time loving, hopping up and over to lay their heads on my legs as they fell asleep.  Dolce loved to push between my legs to get some special petting, coming from behind.  Amore liked to give hugs, lifting up on her hind legs and hugging my waist with her front paws.  How were we going to keep them away from me?  How were we going to contain their eagerness, their jubilee, to see me after being gone for three long days in the hospital?

We needn’t have worried.

Dogs are amazing creatures.  They sense when their family is out-of-sorts.  They know when their humans are happy, sad, excited or, as in my case, in pain.  Dolce and Amore knew immediately something was up the minute Malcolm pushed me through the door in the wheelchair.  Though still enthusiastic to have their family back, they were cautious.  Impatient as they were to have us home, they were both careful and curious. They knew.

Dolce approached me first.  Carefully tip-toeing up to me to sniff the wheelchair, her nose fiercely wrinkling as she took in the new smells.  She moved her muzzle down to my leg, taking in the brace.  For a few minutes, all we heard was Dolce breathing in the new scents.  Unsure of this moving contraption, Amore hung back, a look of nervousness passing through her eyes as she took in the wheelchair.  With some encouragement, Amore came up to my side for a quick pet.  She inhaled a deep breath as she took in my leg brace, and slowly stepped back.  They knew.

And the cat, our most independent feline, never left my side.  Gordita stayed curled up in my lap from the moment I came home.  She slept by my side at night, never moving.  She followed me from the bed to recliner and back to the bed, only leaving me to be fed.  She offered me warmth and comfort.  She knew.

For nine weeks, neither dog jumped on the bed. In the mornings, their cold noses would press up against the covers, sniffing for my hand to offer some love.
Their paws staying on the floor.  For nine weeks, neither Dolce or Amore jumped up on the recliner as I rested to sit in my lap.  They would show up for a little petting, a little scratching on the ears, and move on.  Not once did they get underfoot as I hopped on my good leg with the walker to the living room.  Not once did they get in they way as I slowly made my way through the house.  They knew.

I am now in physical therapy to strengthen my leg and to relearn how to walk.  The day I was allowed to take off the brace was the day Dolce leaped up on the bed from the other side and placed her paws and head on my stomach. Still avoiding my leg, she knew it was okay now.  Gordita started to disappear from my lap for more than just food.  Hours would pass before she would make an appearance.  She knew I was healing, getting better. And, two days later, Amore carefully climbed up into my lap, as I sat in the recliner.  Paws and head hanging over the arm of the chair, her body stretched across me.  She instinctively knew it was all right.  Mama was getting better.

With the aid of a cane, I can hobble along pretty good now.  I went with Malcolm to walk the dogs today for the first time in three months.  And, for the first time today, Dolce came from behind and pushed through my legs to finagle some extra love.  Amore hasn’t given me my special hug yet but I’m confident it will happen.

When the time is right, she will.  They just know.

 

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.

IMG_6928

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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paw prints

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We had our first snow of the season last Sunday. Not much. Not like what they received back East anyway.  Maybe two inches. In Santa Fe, two inches of snow is enough to shut down the entire City Different.  If we’re fortunate for the snow to fall on a school day, it’s a bonus day of sleeping in a few extra hours and driving in to work at a later hour.  Government offices and schools then follow a delayed schedule. Four inches of the white stuff will see me working from home for the day.  Malcolm and I live outside of Santa Fe and the few token snow plows never seem to find their way out to us.  It’d be different if one of our five esteemed County Commissioners were a close-by neighbor.  Sadly however, that’s not the case.  Hence, we suffer through snow-covered roads and are dependent on the sun melting our way to town.

DSC00671

 

Last Sunday it snowed just enough to bring the girls out to the Galisteo Basin to play. There was just enough to leave a distinguishable trail of paw prints. Just enough for our dogs to chomp and bite at the powder.  Just enough to roll over in and make snow angels.  And just enough snow to enjoy life to its fullest.

 

Dolce was in heaven.  Dog heaven. Doggy snow heaven. Our furry little snow bunny immediately ran to find a gentle slope to toboggan down. Her enjoyment comes from plopping on her stomach, rolling over on her back, shaking her booty with a little wiggle to start the move and sliding down the incline.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Until she tires.  It’s never-ending.

DSC01125Then there’s Amore.  She runs.  Just for the hell of it.  She loves to feel the cold snow on her paws, sniff out the fresh scents, bite at the snow as she speeds over the snow.  I wish I could catch on camera the times she trips over her two front paws while she tries to grab at the snow and run at the same time.  Head over heels, she shakes it off and runs again.  She just loves to run.

DSC00666

Amore is at her happiest when at full throttle, barreling down on us. On a good day, and if we are lucky, Amore will put on the front paw brakes within two inches from our knees. On those days when we aren’t so fortunate, we hobble back to the car after being wiped out from a 100 lb. beast.  Last Sunday was a good day.

And last Sunday – it was a perfect play day for a first snow.  It was a perfect day to make paw prints.  And it was a perfect day to enjoy life.

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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

 

 

just yesterday

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The old gray mare,
She ain’t what she used to be
Ain’t what she used to be,
Ain’t what she used to be
The old gray mare,
She ain’t what she used to be
Many long years ago.

Many long years ago,
Many long years ago,
The old gray mare,
She ain’t what she used to be
Many long years ago.

Oh, yeah!  We’ve all had that wonderful little ditty sung to us at one birthday or another.  A childish tune to remind us of our age, our wrinkles and our gray strands of hair.

It’s never an issue when others start to show signs of aging.  When friends “out gray” you or when siblings are first to parade their seniority with age spots and knee creaks.  Nope, it’s never a concern when others display their maturity with saggy boobs, baggy jowls or flabby old-women arms.  In today’s world, all theses aging deficits can be overcome with a little nip n’ tuck, a little botox and a long sleeve sweater.

photo 2-1

matching crows feet

Me?  I’m okay with my beginners set of wrinkles, I’ve always found crows feet attractive.  I call’em laugh lines.  I’m doing okay with the sag, bag and flab trio that comes with sliding past the 50 year marker. I’ve earned those.   I’m even okay with my dyed gray hairs… as long as they stay dyed.  And, I’m okay with my few expanding freckles I found on my wrist and forearm.  Age spots aren’t THAT bad.  Those are badges of experiences and wisdom.  Comes with the territory I tell myself.

What I’m not okay with is seeing these same aging symptoms on the girls.

Just yesterday they were little wiggly puppies with roly-poly tummies and the most precious puppy breath ever.

Photo 6 - Amore and Dolce

Amore and Dolce in their younger days

Just yesterday they were rambunctious young pups with more energy than a power plant on steroids.  And, just yesterday Amore and Dolce were full of piss n’ vinegar, eager to start the morning before the first light of the day, not crossing the finish line until dark.

showing some gray

showing some gray

But just yesterday, I noticed Amore showing some gray in her brows, a little gray in her muzzle.  Just yesterday, I watched Dolce rising up in the mornings a little slower, her back hips reluctant to move as quick.  Just yesterday Malcolm had to lift Amore down from the SUV when he returned from taking the girls for a walk.  The jump too much for her.

Just yesterday I remarked to Malcolm how the girls were sleeping later into the morning, how they were taking longer naps and seeking the sun’s warmth as they curled up on the couch for a snooze.  Just yesterday I observed Amore running slower on our walks, and Dolce lagging further behind.

Just yesterday Amore and Dolce were sumo wrestling in the living room, today they flop down on the sun-warmed bricks for some shut-eye.  Just yesterday, they were destroying books, magazines and newspapers in our absence.  Today they don’t even notice we are gone.

Just yesterday …

company’s a’comin

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Ever have one of those weeks jammed packed with work, travel, outside life, and company coming to visit at the end of it?  Not to mention tending to the busy-every-day-activities of our dogs?

Last week I had one of those hari-kari weeks that included a lot of work, our Association’s Annual Conference causing me to be away from home for four days, Indian Market at the Plaza and company flying in.  The best part of my crazy week was of course the company but I still had to get through the rest of it before I could enjoy their visit.

I had everything planned out – down to the littlest detail.  My Monday and half of Tuesday was prep work for the Conference.  Busy work, copying speaker material, picking up banners from the printers, running errands, finalizing the agendas for meetings.  Crossing off items on a long list of “to-do’s”. Packing and hauling conference ‘stuff’. Long hours.  It is always frantic performing last-minute details.  The other half of Tuesday was travel.  I was going to be out-of-town Tues-Fri.  Not far.  Just Albuquerque.  But still away from normalcy.  Wednesday through Friday was our Annual Conference.  Meetings, speakers, sessions.  Wednesday the house-cleaner would be dealing with our dog-dirty house, doing the standard company coming clean.  Thursday after work, our dog-sitter would show up to tend to Amore and Dolce while Malcolm drove down to join me at our Celebration Gala and to pick up our visiting friends at the airport, flying from in Hotlanta, GA for Indian Market.  Since my conference was over mid-morning on Friday, our Georgia friends enjoyed ABQ for the night before we traveled back up to Santa Fe.  And finally, Saturday and Sunday.  Indian Market.  Fun.  Wine.  Great friends. Phew!  It took a whirlwind to get to the fun part.

I couldn’t do any of this without some key people.  My house-cleaner (my one extravagance)  and our puppy-sitter (our one necessity).  I was reassured the house would be clean and ready for company.  I knew the dogs would be reasonably calm after having one of their favorite people care for them.  After being away for four days and arriving back home with company in tow, I was comforted knowing all was ready for our guests.  It was time to let the weekend start!

So it came as a bit of shock to receive a text from our puppy-sitter on Thursday evening just as the Gala was starting, stating Dolce was barking down in the den area.  Unusual behavior for our normally calm girl.  Before I could text back with questions, she sent back a photo of the cause.  Our little girl had cornered an intruder.

IMG_8927

“Look what I found in the guest bathroom!”  she wrote.  Crap! Shit! Son-of-a-bitch!  Oh yeah, this allows for all the cuss words.  I had company arriving soon and this little toddler was in their bathroom, up against the tub.  It was no wonder Dolce was barking up a storm, calling in the Calvary.  Consequential texts informed me all three girls: Dolce, Amore and Gordita had entered the fray.  Pandemonium had started. Dogs barking, cat wanting in on the action.  Dog drama in an already drama filled week.  I’m not sure how she did it, but with my final text from the sitter, I learned the mouse was outside, the girls quiet and lounging around. Gordita sniffing corners and under furniture looking for her lost toy.

Gordita was at it again.  Our dear fat cat likes to bring in the outside wonders of the rodent world to play with.  Live animated toys to her, she enjoys playing Catch and Release with the damn things. She is a good mouser, but likes them alive.  And likes to show off her live catch.

We are used to mice, we live out in the country where they are abundant.  It’s one of the reasons we have Gordita.  But I certainly don’t want a mouse in the house hours before company is arriving.

I showed Malcolm the text/photo once he arrived at the gala banquet.  “Oh shit!” was his only comment.

“Yeah, you took the words right out of my mouth!” I replied, I think the sitter was able to get it out of the house.”

“We owe her some hazard pay!” I added.  Malcolm nodded his agreement.

“We won’t say anything to Greg and Laura until Monday when they leave,” Malcolm chuckled.  Yeah, right before we drop them off at the airport!” By now both Malcolm and I were starting to laugh over the mouse and our secret.

Welcome to my life!

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what is luv?

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sad dog

blog signature 2-25-14

digby o’dell

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The 40’s were famous for radio series programs, especially situation comedies.  One of the more popular shows was “The Life of Riley”, a meat-and-potatoes story of about a Brooklyn family living in California.  Blundering Chester A. Riley, was a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California and his frequent exclamation of indignation – “What a revoltin’ development this is!” became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s.

The radio series also benefited from the huge popularity of support character, Digby “Digger” O’Dell, the friendly undertaker. Chester A. Riley was a sort of lay about, blue-collar worker who always managed to do everything with the minimum of effort, just getting by.  Riley managed to change any ant-hill of a problem into a Grade-A disaster! For 8 years, Riley’s weekly mishaps included Digger O’Dell.  Riley was constantly getting himself into trouble and Digger was constantly “trying to help him out of a hole” as Digger would have put it.  Digger was known for his oft repetitive lines, including puns based on his profession.  His signature sign-off, “Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off” was renowned throughout radio land.  And although “The Life of Riley” has long been off the air, buried deep in the annuals of radio sit coms, Digger’s spirit lives on.

Yes, Digger lives on!  He lives on in Dolce, channeled into a canine proclivity to dig and bury.  Unfortunately, Dolce has inherited Digger’s fondness for, well, for digging.  And for burying.

DSC00589

a found Kong

It started as a puppy.  Small bushes and plants would be discovered on their sides, roots uprooted, deep holes in the ground found next to their curled up leaves.  Dolce’s little snout would be covered with evidence, fresh soil clinging to her nose.  Her dirty paws were proof enough she was the culprit, the excavator.  Digging replacement plant holes would unearth previously buried treasure; bones, shoes, rag toys, socks, even her precious Kong.

We knew we were in trouble when the graveyard started to grow, when the burial plots started to multiply.  What we had thought were gopher holes were in fact Kong entombments.  What we believed to be left over potting soil from our garden work was actually a small bone mausoleum.  We learned Digger O’Dell lived on.

As Dolce grew older, her dirt crypts grew bigger.  Now she hollowed out cavities, body vaults.  During the hot summer months, she would snout shovel a small cave to cool off in, her paws furiously digging a sizable hole she could burrow into to escape the day’s heat.  We would fill the hole, Dolce would dig another one.  We would stuff the crater with rocks, Dolce would find another patch of barren soil to unearth.  We would pack the void with brick and debris, and Digger O’Dolch would start again.  We would sprinkle cayenne pepper in the soil.  She would sniff, sneeze and shovel all in one breath.  Our canine grave-digger kept at it.

The dog pen is riddled with graves, burial plots and land mines.  Pits and caverns.  Holes and voids.  It has turned into an ankle-twisting death trap.  Malcolm grumbles about buying dirt to fill-in the holes when we live in a desert.  Bags and bags of dirt.  Used to fill the divots littering the pen.  Used to pack in the exposed Kong graves and the bone burial plots. Bags of dirt that gets dug up over and over, again and again.

Yep, Digger O’Dell’s humor might still be able to produce a laugh and a chuckle under today’s comic relief,  but it’s Dolce that has the last laugh.

Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off!

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the fisherman

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DSC00453

tilting at the windmill

The Galisteo Basin Preserve was once a large cattle ranch.   It is miles of cow trails, rutted dirt roads and nature.  Old cowboy camps and lean tos dot the countryside with broken-down foundation remains and falling-down corrals.  A dry river bed runs through the ranch, it’s eroded banks reaching as high as twenty-to-thirty feet above the sandy river floor in some places.  I know of three windmills with water troughs at their base, their blades creaking against the wind as the pump struggles to pull up water for the trough.  All combined, it is a rustic reminder of its western heritage and the old frontier.

Just a few miles from our home, the GBP is now a hiker’s mecca.  It’s a horse and rider’s trail workout and mountain biker’s nirvana.  It’s where we take the girls for their daily walks.

Our first few experiences at the Preserve were riddled with adventure.  As Amore scouted for lizards, Tiamo trotted along sniffing every low hanging branch there was.  Dolce stayed at our heels.  New trails brought new scents and the girls would scatter about to investigate the foreign territory.  Once or twice we will catch sight of a coyote, several times we have crossed paths with snakes.  We’ve seen evidence of antelope and deer and have heard of sightings of mountain lions.  The easy access to water makes the area ideal for wildlife.  And koi.

The dogs had a habit of drinking the trough water at the tail end of our hikes.  Though we packed water with us to keep the girls hydrated throughout our walks, they like the cold, fresh from the well, water.  We make a point to stop at the troughs before loading up into the car, allowing the girls one last sip.

It was on a cold, drizzly January day, the wind kicking up due to an incoming storm, when we were trying to get a quick walk in before being hit with the impending deluge.  As we finished our hike and neared the water trough, Tiamo ran ahead to get her fill.  At the edge of the trough she stilled, looking intently into the darkened mossy water.  We saw she was tracking something but had no idea what.  Her quick eyes had spotted movement and she was on it. Waiting just a few seconds, she moved her head in a little circle and before we knew it, leaped over the rim into the water trough.  Icy cold water splashed heavily over the sides.   Large water droplets landing on both Malcolm and I.  Cold, freezing ucky water  soaking our sweatshirts.  The wake of her splash landing on our boots.

“What the hell?” Malcolm shouted.  With a death grip, I grabbed on to the collars of Amore and Dolce, the only foot-loose canines left on dry land.  I wasn’t about to let Amore and Dolce follow into the trough along with mama.  Malcolm scrambled to get to Tiamo.  Once in the trough, Tiamo didn’t want to get out.  She had more fish to fry.  Literally.  Namely the koi hiding deep in the bottom moss of the water tank.  Tiamo had gone fishing.

As I held on to the girls, Malcolm struggled to haul Tiamo out of the water.  Jumping in was much easier than climbing out.  The rim was nothing more than a sharp torch-cut metal edge, hurtful for Tiamo to balance her paws on to jump out.  The weight of the water, the slippery moss-covered bottom hindered her escape from the cold water.  She was stuck.  She was completely soaked, now trembling from the frigid water.   The koi forgotten, she wanted out.

There was no two ways about it.  Malcolm was going to have to lift her out.  He was going to have to reach in the finger-numbing icy water to pull Tiamo out.  Cussing like a sailor, Malc stripped off his jacket and sweatshirt, pulled off his gloves and plunged his arms into the water, encircling Tiamo’s belly to heft her out of the water.  100 pounds of basically full on dead weight – this was not going to be an easy feat.  As she was clearing the water Tiamo panicked.  Back legs kicking, front paws scratching Malcolm’s bare torso, Tiamo twisted and turned for freedom.  Malcolm and Tiamo landed on dry land but both were soaking wet.  And freezing.  And stinky from the stagnant waters.  Malcolm was covered in stinky mossy uck.  Tiamo just stunk.

Needless to say, I drove home, Malcolm sat in the back with the dogs.

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Dolce scouting for goldfish

 

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Brats

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“Get your elbows off the table!” my mother scolded.  She was always after us kids to mind our P’s and Q’s, reminding us to say “please”, “thank you”, and “yes, Sir”.  Dinners were lessons in the napkin goes on the left, the glass in the upper right corner, spoon to the right of the knife facing inwards towards the plate.  Reprimands of “don’t chew with your mouth open” and “don’t talk with your mouth full” were dispersed between the meal’s conversation.  My mom was big on manners.  Over and over and over mother would admonish our unbecoming behavior.

The lectures didn’t come to a stop when one by one, we matured into adults.  They just took a different slant.  “Take your feet off the furniture!” she would chastise my sisters and I when we would come to visit.  As the grandbabies started arriving, we were chided for our language, “not in front of the kids” mom would caution as a swear word slipped out of our mouths. I have no doubt we caused her many embarrassing moments with our inappropriate, or lack of, etiquette.  “You just wait until you have kids!” was mother’s final reproach to us.

My past regressions are coming to haunt me, cause now Malcolm and I have kids, or rather dogs (same thing).  And talk about embarrassing!

Tiamo was so good, so well-behaved, Malc and I just assumed her good manners would rub off on the pups.  Tiamo never begged or whined when company was over.  Tiamo never mis-behaved while out in public.  We had worked hard in her training, repeating commands, rewarding her good behavior.   She sat, she came, she heeled.  She stayed, she stayed off the bed and she stayed close to our side when walking.  She was damn near perfect!

When the puppies were born,  we morphed from a family of three to a fledgling football team of eleven.  Overnight.  Spring Training consisted of performing head-counts twice a day to be sure we still had our team intact.  On a sunny day, we exercised the puppies in the pen.  On a cold day, they ran amok in the house.  We held on tightly to the belief that when the puppies were traded to their new home-camp, they would receive the proper training.  That, once we were down to Mama, Amore and Dolce we would get to work on their end-game.

However, once we were down to just Tiamo, Amore and Dolce training halted.  Came to a complete stop, occasionally back pedaling.  The coaches had thrown in the towel.

Don’t get me wrong, we tried.  We tried really hard.  With treats, Amore and Dolce learned how to sit.  With arms of steel, a heavy ballast, and treats in our pockets, they learned to walk by our sides.  With a whistle and a treat in hand, they learned to come…  well, mostly come…. okay, sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t, mostly they don’t.   Everything else we tried was useless.  We tried the STAY command.  The DOWN command.  The OFF command.  The HERE and WALK.  The pat on the thigh, the out-stretched hand, the hand-held up and out.  We tried the clicker.  We tried separating them with individual workout sessions.  We paid for trainers, enrolled in behavior classes.  I tried to mimic my mother’s stern voice.  I tried the full name reprimand including the middle name like my mother when she was upset with us.   Nothing worked.

My famous saying to Malcolm was, “when the girls turn 6 months”,  they’ll be better with their manners.  They just need time, they are still puppies.  That turned into “when Amore and Dolce are a year old”, they’ll be more mature, better able to handle the training.  They needed to grow out of their puppy stage.  That turned into “let’s wait until the puppies are around 18 months”  before we expect to a see difference.  Then, I pushed the time frame out further.  “Maybe when they are 3 years old”, Amore and Dolce will be better mannered, more behaved.

They turn six years old in a month.  They only know “sit”, “down” and “off” and not very well at that.  And Amore still picks her nose.

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