fat boy is coming!

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Santa’s comin’

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Amore – Santa – Dolce

happy first of Christmas

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red or green

just say Christmas!

 

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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towels

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It rained yesterday.  Hallelujah!  Praise be to the rain gods.

Even in the normal scheme of things, this is a big deal to us desert dwellers.  When looking at the big picture, New Mexico needs every drop of water we can get.  Based on what I saw in the rain gauge, I’m guessing we probably had just under two inches of rain.   Rain is good.

Yesterday’s rain was one of those rains we call a “good rain.”  A steady fall of moisture, spread out over several hours, allowing the parched soil the ability to soak it all up.  This storm also brought a good-sized dump of snow up in the higher elevations.  It’s always to good have an early snow pack.  Snow is good.

What is not so good is mud.  Yesterday’s rain also brought muddy roads, muddy shoes, muddy pants, and muddy towels.  It brought muddy couches, muddy bed spreads, muddy rugs and muddy towels. But what it really brought was muddy dogs, muddy paws, muddy floors and muddy towels.  Shoes, towels, pants, towels, couches, towels, bed spreads, towels, rugs, towels, dogs, towels, paws, towels, floors and towels being the optimum words.

So, let me set the scene….

Yesterday was Wednesday and Wednesday is cleaning day. The one day of the week my house is actually clean.  Not just picked up or straightened up, but mop n’ glowed clean.  Walk in the door after work and smell Pine Sol clean. Tables are pledged, dressers are dusted, tubs are scrubbed. With a house full of dogs, having a clean abode is a novelty, cuz it doesn’t happen but once a week.  For only a few hours.  Max.  Come Thursday morning, we’re back to status quo.

Our house cleaner, who is my designated house-cleaning goddess, I mean, I worship that girl, is busy doing her magic.  Malcolm is charged with keeping the dogs out of her way while she is whipping the house in shape. As the storm is sending it’s drops of water, she is mopping the brick floors. The dogs, whom had been out in the pen loving the brisk weather, decided to come in from out of the rain.  Smart dogs, but obviously not smart enough. Dolce and Amore came inside wet, muddy, happy.  My wonderful house-cleaner, not so much – happy that is.

wet dog

wet dog

The girls didn’t have sense enough to come inside before the rain started, before they wallowed in the mud and before they were nothing but wet dog.  A wet, muddy dog does not a happy house cleaner make.  My house-cleaning goddess was not happy.  At all.

Dolce and Amore had trooped in ooey, gooey mud from one end of the house to the other as they searched for Malcolm. On the what was once a Pine Sol cleaned floor.  That had been just mopped.  By my now upset house-cleaner.  Muddy paw prints now  dotted the brick floor from the master bedroom to the office in the back of the house.  Muddy paw prints now decorated the cream colored couch.  Muddy paw prints were now everywhere.

I came home to three huge piles of wet, muddy towels. There were towels still spread out on the bricks to absorb the uck and muck brought in by Dolce and Amore. Towels used to clean up after our wet canine heathens. Towels used to wipe muddy paws.  Towels used to fluff dry the dogs.  Towels used to mop up the floors and clean off the couches.  Towels were stacked up in the laundry room waiting their turn in the wash. Towels everywhere.  All dirty.  All wet.

Malcolm is on his fourth load of laundry.  I’m hoping my house-cleaning hero returns next week.

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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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my side

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As creatures of comfort, we all have special rituals and/or habits that brings us small pleasures.  From sneaking a piece of sinful dark chocolate to a cherished cup of coffee, it’s the little things that bring us bliss. Simple joys that give us that drawn out “ahhhhh” moment.  It’s a cold beer after a hot day.  It’s grabbing a warm blanket and settling into your favorite chair in the evening to watch some TV. It’s fresh sheets as you climb into bed, curling up to sleep.

We all know there’s nothing better than nature fresh, clean sheets.  Crisp, cool, clean sheets – how many of us stretch and sigh as we slide between the covers?  Rolling into the perfect position as we lay on our side of the bed and close our eyes. How many of you fluff your pillows and arrange them just so?  Who among us rolls first to the left and then on to their stomach?  Or do you sleep on you back, arms above your head, knee bent?  Are you a left sider or a right sider?

We humans get pretty territorial when it comes to which side of the bed we sleep on.  Some want the side closest to the bathroom.  Some want the right side just because that is what they are used to. And some want next to the side closest to an electrical outlet for their alarm clocks and landline.  In our household, either one of us is lucky enough to have a side.

When you have dogs, dogs who consider the middle, bottom and your down pillow as their side of the bed, we’re lucky to have a corner of the blanket and three square inches of mattress. There are two sides to each bed and Dolce and Amore have ownership of both.  There is no left or right side, only a Dolce or Amore’s side.

the dog sideBoth girls like to climb on the bed for a little night-time loving as I prepare to go to sleep.  Dolce especially loves to curl up against my legs as I absently scratch her ears, her head draped across my thighs.  Amore will troop cover the covers and pillows as she heads to the top of the bed to get her share of rubs.  Ten minutes later they are off to other parts of the house, only to return in the wee hours of the night to take over the bed, staking their claim on the mattress.

There are times when I ask Malcolm to call the dogs so I can have some leg space.  I beg him to give me ten minutes to enjoy the bed to myself before he lets the girls in.

“Let me get settled and then they can hop up,”  I plead.  Without his help, I’d be curled up into a cramped ball, while the dogs sleep diagonally across the bed, paws in the air, taking up all the space.

But still, we let them up on the bed.  It’s a special time for me to give love and comfort to our girls.  My special ritual.  My special pleasure.

The other day on facebook, I ran across a video of James Stewart and Johnny Carson. In it, James Stewart reads a poem about his dog.

And, now you know why Dolce and Amore have their side of the bed.

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selfies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wiggling

Snow only brought out more opportunity for snapshots.

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

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when push comes to pull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the excuse

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Excuses.

We all have ’em.

Riding shotgun besides a blatant lie or perhaps a gentle apology, they line up in the corners of our brain, ready to be put to use.  Some are old standbys.  Some are reality.  And some are just shameless whoppers.  We have the famous ones such as, ‘not tonight, I have a headache’ or ‘I have to wash my hair’.  Along side of those, we have the “I’m sick, I can’t come into work” ones.  All in all, excuses are disguised as justification, a feeble attempt to absolve our guilt at doing or not doing, something.

Excuses are issued to grant us a little wiggle room, when we just can’t verbalize the true words.  They pave the way out of saying what we really want to convey.  Our exit clause. In realty, excuses keep us on the hook, wiggling around like the worm being cast out to the fish, wondering if they’ll bite.

I can remember when my sisters were just starting their families.  As the babies came, one by one, so did the excuses.  They weaseled out of more dish duty and kitchen prep work with one baby excuse after another.  They were either feeding babies or tending to their bath time.  Putting them down for bed time or setting up Finding Nemo for the little ones to watch.  Always at the precise time of dinner clean up.  Not married and with no incumbents, I suffered dishwater hands for most of my young adult life. But not any more. Nope, now, I have my own cop-out.

Every so often, Malcolm and/or myself find ourselves presenting our own excuse.  A standby that is now our reality. The words ‘can’t’ and ‘unfortunately’ creep into the conversation when we offer our necessary confession.  The words like ‘not tonight’  and ‘the kids’ pepper our cover story.

I call it the Dog Excuse. We have two of them.

The first one is utilized when Malcolm or myself, absolutely do not want to perform.  And by perform, I mean attend a B-list type party, dinner or soiree where we pretend to enjoy ourselves, where we bluff our way through convo’s and feign delight at being a contributing factor to the event.  This is when the dogs come in handy as an attempt to save us.  When they are our excuse to be excused.  When we happily say the word ‘can’t’ and ‘not tonight’ cuz Dolce and Amore need us at home.  This is when the no-go turns into a no-show.

Our other rationalization is airtight.  It is also our sum and substance of our lives.  If we want a mess-free house to return to when out and about, we have a four to five-hour window of absence before canine chaos hits the home front. This dog excuse releases us out of whatever agreement and/or obligation we are in the middle of. This is where I now joyfully get out of KP duty. Somewhere around the four-hour mark of being gone, Malcolm starts to get antsy, making noise it’s time to get home. Time to check on Amore and Dolce, making sure they haven’t caused any additional mischief.  Time to make sure the house is intact and sound.  Time to make tracks for home.  Leave or be left with mayhem.  This is when our time-to-go turns into gotta-go. Now!  By the fifth hour of our truancy, Malcolm is in the driver’s seat, revving the engine, tapping the horn at me, to hurry and get on the road. Our dog excuses said, we leave to attend to our life’s choice – two beautiful dogs that need us at home.

Life with dogs means exonerated whitewashing, circumspect cop-outs and plenty of canine cover-ups.  What’s your excuse?

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flip flop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you think?”

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

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

“Ok.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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say CHEESE!

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

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

misbehaving models

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolce

Dolce

before the angle roll

before the angel roll

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

snow chumping

snow chomping

Dolce between photos poses

Dolce

Dolce

I’m all set for 2015!

 

 

Happy Holidays!

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blog

off! down!

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

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

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

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

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

And we got Dolce and Amore.

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

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

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

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

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

happy dawg

happy dawg

We’re so glad we got Dolce and Amore.

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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

 

 

selective hearing

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what dog hears

 

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be more dog!

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