The limp

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It started in July with a limp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spoiled. Rotten.

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Yes. I spoil our girls.  Rotten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So?”

And then he did the calculations.

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

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

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

We bought the Bull Sticks.

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

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

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

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

Like I said, spoiled.  Rotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s mine!

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

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

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

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

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

ME:  Amore!  That’s my shoe!

AMORE:  No, it’s mine!

ME:  No, Amore, it’s my shoe.

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

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my shoe

ME:  All shoes are mine, Amore.

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

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

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

ME:  Amore, let go of my shoe.

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

ME:  Bad girl!  Drop!

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grrrrrr…..

AMORE:  I saw it first, it’s mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ME:  No and NO!

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

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

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

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

ME:  No Shoes or no dinner!

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

AMORE:  Ok, FINE!  (pout)

AMORE:  Mom?

AMORE:  Mom?

AMORE:  Where’s Dolce’s Kong?

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Mine!

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grand marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click.  Click.

“Come in closer.” Click.

“No, closer.”  Click.

“You’re too far away.”  Click. Click.

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

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

 

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

And slightly nervous…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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what dog hears

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We all know dogs have selective hearing.

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

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

“Come!” he repeated, sharpening the directive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

or, my favorite,

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

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

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

what a dog hears

 

 

 

pin the tail

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In 2002, Malcolm and I threw the dart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was May.

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

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

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

Until this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s still 100 and hell degrees.

 

 

 

conspiracy theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a conspiracy!

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Happy Tail Wags

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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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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.

Photo 9 - Amore

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

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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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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!

 

 

Wicked Pricklers

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

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

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

Belly high play

Belly high play

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

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

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

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

“Oh, shit!”

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nasty little suckers

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

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one of hundreds

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

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

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

Oops!  Must’ve missed one on the floor.

 

 

 

 

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 …

You choose!

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Help!

I’m sending out an S.O.S. to all of you.

I need your help!  Help me choose the best photo from the final round of photo edits.  How do you choose the absolute best Kodak moment? How do you pick just one photo out of literally hundreds of images when they all have special meaning?  Especially when each impression, each picture is so expressive.   Here’s where you get to help.

After sorting through over 800 plus photos of the girls, I was able to narrow down the first round of cuts to over 60 pictures.  The second round of edits was much harder.  I scrutinized the pics over and over.  I agonized over similar images, clicking back and forth and back and forth before finally making the selection.  I would click for a larger view, toggle back to the other photo, resort the order, review the pictures again, place the images side by side and then chanted, “enny, meanny, minny moe”.  The final click deleted the next 45 or so of puppy pics.

Leaving the last round of selecting the best photo to you.

The past five months between work, travel and life, I started writing another book.  I know, I know, am I crazy or what?  But crazy or not, I’m at the “designing the cover” stage and need your assistance.  Scroll down and view the final round of possible cover pictures.  Imagine each photo on the cover of a dog tale story and place your vote!  Leave a comment, offer your reasons, or suggest something different.  Let me know your thoughts.

To help you, here is a brief description of my soon-to-be published book.

Meet Tiamo, Amore and Dolce; three, 100 pound, beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs, whose adorable, funny antics will bring chuckles and smiles and sometimes a few tears as you read their tales.  True stories, hilarious escapades, and entertaining dog adventures, all chronicling their heartwarming, and many times, humorous capers…. along with their playful frolics that often land our fearless canines in the dog house. Touching and tender, amusing and comical, these moving narratives and snippets of their lives impart bow-wow wisdom and show the loyalty and love between man’s best friend and their care-tenders.

Photo 1 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 1 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 2 - Amore

Photo 2 – Amore

Photo 3 - Amore

Photo 3 – Amore

Photo 4 - Amore

Photo 4 – Amore

Photo 5 - the three musketeers

Photo 5 – the three musketeers

Photo 6 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 6 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 8 - Dolce

Photo 8 – Dolce

Photo 9 - Amore

Photo 9 – Amore

Photo 10 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 10 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 11 - Amore

Photo 11 – Amore

Photo 12 - Amore

Photo 12 – Amore

Photo 13 - Amore

Photo 13 – Amore

Please vote for your favorite photo

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shotgun!

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“Shotgun!” my nephew shouted as he ran in front of his siblings, edging them out of the opportunity to sit in the front of the car.  He was all of ten years old at the time, but could outrun his sisters.  Riding shotgun has probably started and/or caused more fights among children than anything else.

“You had it last time” cried his younger sister.  It’s my turn!”

“I was here first!” he taunted back. “First come, first serve!” he added for good measure as he quickly jumped in the front seat and buckled up.  He wasn’t budging.  And so the childish argument starts, only to continue again on the next trip in the car.

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Dolce and Amore loading up in the SUV

Dolce and Amore have the same disagreement over who gets dibs to sit in the front of the car.  It’s a sure bet, Dolce will be in the car, haunches down in the front passenger seat before Amore has even thought about jumping up into the car.  Safely ensconced deep into the bucket seat, Dolce has squatter’s rights in the front.  Until there is a passenger.  Or another canine that wants the same piece of vehicle territory.  We are talking prime real estate here and it comes with a price.

For the first four years of Dolce and Amore’s life, if I was riding along on the trip, I usually had a dog in my lap.  Most likely it was Dolce.  Tiamo would position herself in the middle of the back seat, peering through the two front seats, enjoying the air conditioning that blew towards her between the valley of the front bucket seats.  In deference to Mama, Amore tucked herself way in the back of the SUV.

Dolce riding shotgun!

Dolce riding shotgun!

The sitting dynamics changed drastically once there were only two dogs along for the ride.  Boy did it change!  Amore decided she had enough of sitting in the back-end of the car and it was time to move up front.  Once she made her decision, she didn’t let anything stop her.  It didn’t matter that I was already sitting in the chair, she didn’t care that Dolce was already in my lap.  In Amore’s mind, it was time for a change.  There was a new sheriff in town and there was going to be a shift in the sitting arrangements.  The names on the place cards were to be rewritten.  Now.

It so happened on the day Amore came to the conclusion it was her turn to ride shotgun, I was coming along as well.  We were only going to the market a few miles up the road for a few items for dinner.  I told Malcolm to let me get in the car first, so I could buckle up before he let the dogs in, I then gave him the nod of “okay” once I was situated in the seat.  He called to the girls and the race was on!  Dolce shot ahead of Amore in her rabid eagerness to be on my lap.  She plopped herself down across my lap, her back-end hanging over the middle console, her head already poking out of the open window.  Only this time, Amore had designs on front.  Before Malcolm had a chance to arrange himself in the front driver’s seat, Amore had jumped in his place.  Though Malcolm patiently ordered Amore to move,  Amore had other plans.  Oh, she moved all right.  She moved right across the console onto the edge of my seat, pushing Dolce down into the floorboard of the car.  It wasn’t a good move.  I now had two huge dogs in the front passenger seat with me somewhere underneath it all.  Fur, paws and tails covered me.  Dolce was spitting mad she had been usurped from her perch.  Amore was gloating she had outmaneuvered Dolce.  The childish argument began, a canine fight ensued.  I was caught in the middle of it.

Several paw scratches later, I ended up with Amore on my lap and Dolce sulking in the back.  She was so upset she had lost her shotgun status, that she wasn’t on my lap, she barked the whole way up to the grocery store, sharing with us her great displeasure.  She balefully eyed me from the back of the car.  I had turned traitor on her, allowing Amore in her seat. Dolce was one mad mutt.

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the back

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the back

On the return trip home, I decided I would sit in the back seat to avoid all shotgun squabbles.  Dolce was only slightly mollified.  She liked the idea of being next to be in the back but she still was not happy with the new seating arrangements.  Amore’s gloating had dimmed greatly.  With me now in the back, she wasn’t so sure she liked her sibling sitting so close to me, she was sure that Dolce would get something she wouldn’t.  Her distrust was evident.

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the back

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the back

The two have grudgingly learned to share riding shotgun.  Sometimes sitting side by side, scrunched together in the front seat.  It’s a tight fit, with neither willing to give up their chair.  Neither budging.  Sometimes, one of them cries “uncle” and retreats to the back bench.  Once in a while both will forfeit the passenger side, deciding to enjoy the ride in the back back.

I now sit in the back with a bag of doggy treats to soothe the ruffled fur of the displaced mutt.

betcha can’t…

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Betcha can’t eat just one

A few years ago, Lay’s Potato Chips threw down the gauntlet in a new advertising campaign:  “Bet you can’t eat just one!”  It was a clever slogan–and had a clever commercial to match.  But I think the line resonated so much because it’s true.  It’s quite difficult to eat just one potato chip.  You tear open the bag and, before you know it, you’ve somehow eaten the whole bag.  Even when you didn’t think you were all that hungry.

Popcorn, potato chips, peanuts.  It’s pretty hard to stop at eating just one.  They’re hard to resist.  These salty little snacks are downright addicting.  Just try having only one peanut or just one chip.  It’s not gonna happen.  Thinking that you are just going to have one handful of popcorn, turns into two and three and four grabs into the popcorn bowl until there is nothing left but salt and kernels.  Peanuts – try tossing just one peanut in the air to catch in your mouth.  Within minutes you’ve thrown a dozen or so nuts up high, tilting your head back and opening your jaws wide to catch em’ on the down swing.

I give a half-ass attempt in not keeping any chips or peanuts in the house and let me tell ya’, it’s really hard to do.  Along with ice cream, I purposely don’t add snacks to my grocery list.  And yet, somehow, I find my shelves lined with microwave popcorn and Planter’s nuts.  Cheetos, Frito’s and Ruffles fill the cupboards and there is Chocolate Chip ice cream in the freezer.  I blame it on the weekends.  And Malcolm.

Weekends are for errands, exercise and extracurricular activities.  It’s when Malcolm and I run into town to do odd tasks we can’t get to during the week.  It’s when we are able to swim and/or work out at the club and it’s when we have friends over for a get-to-gether.  Inevitably, as we are heading home on the freeway after running around doing errands or from swimming, Malcolm will look over at me sitting in the passenger seat, and with an expectant look on his face.

“Know what I’m thinking?” he’ll ask.

“No, what?”  Of course, by now, I should know what he is up to.

“I’m thinking we should stop at the store and get some ice cream?” Malcolm looks at me with hope in his eyes.  He senses my hesitation.  Before I can voice any veto, he continues, “You can pick out what flavor you want,” adding incentive for me to give the okay to stop at the store.

“All right,” I cave, thinking I’ll swim extra laps the next day.  “But I want Chocolate Moose Swirl and you have to go in to buy it,” I tacked on my conditions for bringing the forbidden ice cream into the house.

Other times, we’ll stop at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and walk out with a bag of chips.  Midnight snacks include popcorn with Tabasco sauce and butter and during the summers, we’ll sit outside under the portal, cracking open the roasted shells as we sip our beers, eating peanuts.  Yep, it’s hard to keep snacks out of our household.

So the other day when we were driving home from swimming and Malcolm looked over at me with that same expectant look, asking, “know what I’m thinking?” I knew he wanted to stop at the store.  It was almost noon and I didn’t have much on hand for sandwich makings’.  I geared up for the big ask but I already knew I was going to relent since I was craving some Crunchy Cheetos.  I put on my “not-gonna-budge” face.

“No, what?”  I braced myself.  Since it was lunch time, I just knew he wanted the full spread.  Popcorn, potato chips and peanuts.  The three “P’s”.

“I’m thinking we should have another puppy,” Malcolm glanced over at me, watching for my reaction.  Unfortunately, I had just swallowed a big gulp of water.  My mouthful of water sprayed all over the dashboard.

“A puppy?” I croaked, mopping up the spewed water with my shirt sleeve.

DSC00596“Another kid?” I questioned.  Malcolm and I were late bloomers.  We didn’t marry until we were both in our forties and children weren’t truly an option.  Our dogs were our kids.

“Are you serious?” I asked.  (No, I did not shriek, I politely asked).  I had thought once or twice about having another puppy, another Berner, but had been hesitant in bringing up the subject.  I figured it would be a few years yet before we were ready for another dog. Amore and Dolce were still going strong.  When we had Tiamo, along with the girls, raising three dogs was a huge commitment.  Vacations were out of the question.  Weekend trips were a big hassle.  Finding a puppy-sitter we could trust, the expense of it all, took a toll on the joy of being away from our girls. A puppy would only add another layer to our lives.IMG_6953

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm sheepishly replied.  “This time it would be different,” he swore.

“Different how?” I wondered.  We would still be back to three dogs.  Three huge dogs.

“For starters, this puppy wouldn’t be allowed on the bed!” Malc exclaimed.  “It’ll be trained, like we trained Tiamo, not like the girls!”  I chuckled over that statement.  Amore and Dolce mean well, but they do have excitement issues.  Tiamo was so well-mannered, so well-behaved, we just assumed Amore and Dolce would be as well.  Even with training, Amore and Dolce are hellions only a mother can love.

“What brought this on?” I queried.

“I just want another one,” Malcolm said.  I wondered if this is how married couples discuss having another child.

“Don’t you remember all the chewed up shoes, all the torn library books, all the middle-of-the-night-keep-me-company times?”  I poked at his memory.  “You sure you want another child?”  IMG_7010

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm repeated.  “It doesn’t last forever.  They grow out of it.”  Dolce and Amore’s “terrible twos” lasted four years.  In dog years that’s 28 long years.

“When were you thinking of bringing on this addition?”  In other words, how many years apart do you want the kids to be?  Amore and Dolce are working on their sixth birthday and unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a short life expectancy.  The average life span for a Berner is seven to ten years.  Tiamo was with us less than seven years.  In Berner terms, the girls were getting up there.

“Well, not for another year or too,”  he answered.  I relaxed a little bit. “But you can’t just stop at one!”  Malcolm added.  My thoughts turned to the Lay’s potato chip “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Nope, you can’t just stop at one.  Even though the word “puppy” was added to the forbidden snack list, and is now part of the four “P’s”,  I know without a doubt, in another year or too, a puppy will be brought into our household.  Snuck into the house when my back is turned.

We exited the freeway at our turnoff, puppy conversation over.

ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

“Wanna stop and get some ice cream?” I heard from the driver’s side.

 

 

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1000 words

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Like most high desert living, it’s either feast or famine.  We either have an abundance of snow or a dribble of water.  Our last snow fall was just days after Thanksgiving.  Edging closer towards February, the only patches of white left to be found are in remote arroyos facing north or under dense juniper branches.  Dolce and Amore’s snowy playground has all but disappeared……

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

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pawing

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tuckered out

being famous is soooo exhausting!

Book signings, book tours, book readings.  Amore and Dolce would rather chew a book than attend a book fair.  They are tired of being paraded around, having to be on their best behavior, putting their white paw in it-doesn’t-wash-off ink to initial one of my cookbooks.  They are worn out from all the ‘meet n’ greets’ they have attended, from all the paw shaking, all the tail wagging.  They are fed up with pawing.  Put a fork in it, they are done!  Fini.  Through.  Over.

They are especially annoyed with the numerous showers they have suffered through in preparation for their appearances.  The strawberry scented shampoo (the store was out of un-scented), the loud fur dryers, the cute little red kerchief that I tie around their necks.  If they see me in my bathing suit, if they get a whiff of shampoo and see a huge pile of towels, if they get locked in the bathroom once again, I have no doubt they will revolt.  Stage a canine mutiny.  Quit the book-signing show.  Though there is nothing more precious than a fresh-from-their-bath dog, nothing more huggable than a clean one, but I think the girls have had enough.

Secretly, I know they enjoy the attention while pawing at the book signings, the extra love they receive from fellow dog lovers and cookbook lovers requesting a signed book.  They love showing off for us.  They are definitely not bashful when it comes to grabbing the spotlight.  I’ve seen Amore push Dolce aside when she wants center stage.  I’ve noticed the nose nudges from Dolce, reminding those petting her, while waiting in line, not to stop, there is plenty of light left in the day for them to continue rubbing her.

Nevertheless, they know the Holidays are here, and they know a signed cookbook is a much better gift than an unsigned one.  If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook makes for a perfect holiday present.  Personalized or left unsigned, Amore and Dolce will even dog-tag their favorite recipes for you!  Order yours today!

It's almost here!

Order your cookbook now – just in time for Christmas 

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For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823