happy campers

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Like most pet owners, nothing brings us more joy then seeing our beloved four-legged children happy.  And we go out of our way to bring them nothing but an abundance of happiness and comfort.  We buy them special treats and toys, make sure they have soft cushiony pillows to sleep on, take’em on walks.  We love’em, pet’em, provide for them.

Malcolm and I have found a simple scratch behind the ears and Dolce is in ecstasy.  Eyes closed, you just know she is in heaven.  Amore adores a rough love down.  Rub her sides and back haunches like a deep massage and she is in bliss land.  One of the few times she’ll stay still.

They go berserko when it’s time for their hikes, initiating a barking frenzy until loaded into the car.  365 days a year we take them out to the Galisteo basin for their daily walks.  Through rain, snow, wind and cold, we suffer for their happiness.  Our girls love the cold.  Us, not so much.  But we do it cuz we know how much joy it brings them.

“Man, Amore was one happy camper when she spotted a jack rabbit on our hike today!” Malcolm relayed to me when I got home from work.  “She took off after it like a shotgun blast!  Of course, she only ran about 40 yards before she tuckered out.”  Malcolm chuckled over the memory.  “She came back all shiney eyed and excited!”   Amore is our scout, always on the look out for adventure.

Over the years, we have narrowed down Dolce and Amore’s happy list to three main activities. We are talking happy camper activities here.  Total happiness.  Total joy. Two of the three are seasonal.  The third is daily.  And just so you know, treats are a given so they aren’t on the list.

Snow.

There are no two ways about it, Amore and Dolce love the snow.  On occasion they even sleep in it, only to come inside covered with white and hop on the bed at four in the morning shaking off the wet debris.  Snow days are happy camper days.  The girls would live and breathe snow if it was available on a regular basis.  So we bundle up like Ralphie in the Christmas Story movie and take them to play.  We freeze our asses off, along with our noses and our toes to watch Dolce make snow angels and Amore run through the powder like a dolphin.  Their joy brings us joy.

Then there is our harvest.

About every four or five years, if we are lucky enough, come late August through October, we get apples.  Our girls love apples.  No, you don’t understand, they loooove apples.  Love to snap those shiney red orbs off of the low hanging limbs.  Love to lay down in the cool shade of the branches and stock pile the fruit.  And they love to eat’em.

The second she hears the portal door opens, Dolce is out, with Amore on her heels.  They’ll beeline down to our lone fruit tree and burrow into the apple-laddened nirvana. I’m serious here, this tree is their heaven.  You can see their eyes fold back as they tug an apple off it’s mooring.  We watch as they each back up, apple in their mouth and drop the red fruit onto their growing pile of fruit.  Like a kid in a candy store, Dolce and Amore don’t know which apple to chomp on first.  The girls are in their element and they couldn’t be happier.

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On a daily basis, Dolce and Amore bring happy to our hearts.  And, on a daily basis, Dolce and Amore get their third happy.  It’s their special time that has become a ritual.

I like to get up early, get ready for work, and then enjoy a cup of coffee before leaving to head into town.  I feed the girls, grab a mug and read a bit on my iPad.  One by one, Amore and then Dolce come by for their early morning snuggle.  First Amore, always a bit restless, she’ll hop up on the couch lay her head down for a few minutes and then go search out her next adventure.   A scratch on the belly, a rub behind the ears and she is off and running.  Then it’s Dolce’s turn.

Dolce knows the drill.  She positions herself on the sofa, backs up into the couch pocket and gives me the nod.  She knows with a certainty, I’ll gently pull her back into my arms.  It her cuddle time.  They say dogs don’t like to cuddle.  They lie.  My Dolce could stay for hours nestled besides me.  For the next 40 or so minutes, Dolce is in her happy place, content with nuzzles and hugs.  And me…….

I really don’t get much reading done, but I am one happy camper!

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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.

 

 

 

screeeeeech!

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screeeeeech.

“Did you hear that?” I questioned Malcolm.  We were both reading our pads in the living room, the windows and doors open to allow the gentle cross-breeze through.  It was one of those early evenings where the work was done and the day was wrapping up.  Malcolm had poured us each a glass of an Australian Malbec to sip as we read.  Fat cat was sprawled on her back, paws in the air.  Dolce was gnawing on a bone and Amore was wandering the perimeter.

SCREeeeeech.

“WTF?” Malcolm heard the loud chirring noise this time.  My eyes flew to the ceiling.  The large vigas up high will crack and groan as the house settles but this screech was different.  This sounded like it was coming from the guest bedroom and it was louder than a mouse.

SCREEEeeech.

“What do you think it is?” I asked.

“No idea!”  Another loud squeak was heard, along with a heavy thud.

“Do you think it came from down in the guest room?”

“Why don’t you go check?”

“You go check!  I’m not going down there!”

SCREEEEEECH!  THUMP! THUD!

Crap!  This time the screeeeeech reverberated between the living room and guest room.

“It’s coming closer!”  I whispered to Malcolm.  “Do you think a critter came indoors?”  We’ve had a few varmints brought in by Gordita and the girls.  A couple of times a bird has flown in via the fireplace chimney.  This screeeeeech wasn’t human.  It brought the hairs on the back of my neck straight out.  My reptilian brain was flashing danger, danger.  Another screeeeeech came from under our large picturesque windows in the living room.  Followed by a thump and a thud.   It was coming closer.

“Where are the girls?”  I did a quick head count.  Gordita was still on her back, paws up, unperturbed by the noise.  Still intent on her bone, Dolce was uncaring of our panic.  Where was Amore?   Dear god, where was she? With the doors open, Amore had been in and out.   Had she been attacked?  Coyotes roam fairly close to the house, could she have been lured out from the safety of our portal?

SCREEEEEECH!

The hairs on my arm were on full alert.  I slowly backed up, inching towards the garage.  When my back hit the door, I reached for the knob and slowly opened it, sliding my arm through the crack to grab a nearby shovel.  Any weapon was better than nothing.  Malcolm headed to the portal to find Amore.

SCREEEEEECH!  THUMP!  THUMP! THUD!

I raised the shovel in attack mode.

“psst!”

“Psst!”

“PSST!”

“Megs!  Come out here!”  Malcolm whispered from the portal, his index finger raised up to his lips, silently telling me to keep quiet.  I tip-toed out, shovel in hand.  Malcolm had stepped off the brick portal and was leaning around the corner of the house.  I peered around him, my heart beating out of my chest.

SCREEEEEECH! THUD!

And there was Amore.

SCREEEEEECH!

Chasing after lizards.

THUMP!

As they climbed up the stuccoed sides of our house.

THUD!

The screeeeeeching noise was Amore jumping up and raking her paws along the outer walls.  Her strong claws scraping the stucco as she reached out to snag a lizard.  Imagine a large canine taking vertical leaps against  the solid structure of our house.  That was Amore.  Her whole body stretching upwards as she sprang into the air.  Her focus solely on the lizard.  Her paws screeeeeeching against the wall as she slid back down to the ground.

The thumps and thuds was her 100 pound body sumo wrestling with the same barrier of wood and stucco.  I lowered the shovel, my heart rate slowing, my panic subsiding.  The movement attracted Amore’s attention.

Eyes shiny and bright, tail wagging in pure, unadulterated joy, Amore had her catch dangling from her muzzle.  Amore had tagged her first lizard.

Thank god it wasn’t a snake.

wiggle butt

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I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t have one.  A wiggle butt that is.

That happy dance of joy performed just for you when you return home.  That warp-speed tail wag when it is chow time.  That hinny shake when it’s time for a w-a-l-k.  That twirl of excitement when car keys rattle and a trip in the truck is gonna happen.

I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t have a three-foot leap when an adventure is about to start.

That gyrating spin of tail and fur when the back door is opened for escape.  That springing vault over the back of a sofa when the frig door is opened.  That hurdle over arms and legs  when they hear the garage door rolling up and the car being parked. That tail waggle bound over muddy puddles, through rain, sleet and snow.

I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t voice their opinion when the doorbell peals.

That barking frenzy disco rendered when they realize someone is on the other side of the door. That clamorous running from room to room to announce we have company. That twist and turn accompanied with loudness when they spot another person on the trail.

I doubt there is a dog alive that doesn’t have one.  A wiggle butt that is.

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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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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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White noise

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Swish.  Swosh.  Swish.  Swosh.  Click click click click.  Click click click click.

The subtle sounds vibrate through the house as Dolce and Amore ramble in and out from the pen.  Swish.  Swosh.  The first sound is the dog door flap as it swings back and forth.  There is a gentle cadence in the sway of the heavy plastic protecting the entrance to the house.  Swish.  Swosh.  Swish.  Swosh.  Two dogs in.  Two dogs out.  The click click click click clatter comes later, as they move further into our residence.

Throughout the day, Malcolm and I tune out the swish swosh as the girls come and go.  The sounds blend into the audible buzz of our household.  The hum of the refrigerator, ticks of the clocks, birds cawing, cars that drive by.  White noise that doesn’t even penetrate.

In our sub-consciousness, we know Dolce just came in from the pen.  Swish.  Swosh.  Coming through for a drive by to check out what’s going on, Dolce swings through the kitchen first before going to the water bowl and on to the couch.  As we hear the slurps of her licking up water, somewhere in the back of our brain we tell ourselves to add fresh water and ice to the bowl.  We listen to her grunts and sighs as she settles into a comfy position on the sofa.  We hear all this as we continue with what we’re doing.  We have become so use to the background melody Dolce and Amore make, it has become an echoing beat in our minds.  A little song that plays over and over.  A part of our everyday life we don’t even notice.  White noise we won’t even hear.

“Where are the girls?” Malcolm will ask.  “I just heard them go outside,” I’ll reply.  I chronicled the swish swosh as an exit.  It’s an unconscious, sightless audit I do, taking inventory of the girl’s actions.

During the night, Malcolm and I register the acoustic swish in our sleep.  It’s part of the sounds our minds filter out as we slumber.  It’s immediately followed by little clicks as their paws hit the brick floors.  In our sleep, we mindlessly track them as they wander through the darken house.  Click click click click.  Followed by another set of click click click click.  Never loud enough to fully wake either one of us, never annoying, it’s a calming presence that blankets us with warmth.

Dolce especially has turned into our protector.  She likes to sleep just outside the dog door, guarding the entrance.  Amore likes to sleep on the cool bricks at the foot of our bed, chaperoning her human folks. During the night they take turns as they roam through the house, securing the premises.  Click click click click.  Even in the depth of sleep, I hear the clicks as they defend their territory.  Patrolling.  A small moan is heard as our canine sentinels settle back down to sleep.  All is well in their world.

Many believe white noise is like radio static.  Disturbing, irritating, abrasive.  To Malcolm and I, white noise is music to our ears.

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Out of coffee

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“Don’t you ever run out of D & A (short for Dolce and Amore) stories to write about?” friends often ask me.  Even Malcolm will question, “how do you remember all the things Amore and Dolce do?”  I think to myself, of course I remember the silly antics of Amore and funny things Dolce does.  They’re my kids.  My brain goes into mother mode and takes a memory snapshot of their canine shenanigans.  I mean, hello?  Have ya’ not been reading along here?  Dolce and Amore never fail to deliver.  Those two are always up to something.

I equate all this to coffee.  Something is always brewing.  And we have lost more than one coffee filled cup to a swish of a tail or a head lifting muzzle.

The funny thing is, the girls understand the importance of coffee.  The start of their mornings evolve around my first cuppa Joe on to Malcolm’s reheating the coffee pot a few hours later.  The girls know they will get fed directly following my early morning stumble out to the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker.  They eagerly trail behind me as I make my way to the counter and push the start button.  They hear that loud beep and they take their places next to their individual feed stands, ready for deliverance.  Their breakfast comes after my coffee.  Oh yeah, coffee is a big deal to them.

I’ve always enjoyed my coffee. When I was a kid, I remember being told to drink it black.  Straight up.  No fillers.  Leaded. I took that to mean only wussies put cream and sugar in their coffee.  Back then, we didn’t have Starbucks in our lives.  Skinny Lattes and Cafe Mochas were never heard of. Our choices were limited to Folgers and MJB.  Sometimes Sanka (uck!).  If you worked in an office, Farmers Brothers was your only option in the employee lounge.  Juan Valdez was our coffee god.

Coffee is my social hour.  I savor the dark rich brew as I enjoy the early morning hours prior to leaving for work.  Me, Dolce and Amore cuddled together, as I read the morning news. I savor my friendships as I join my BFFs on weekends for a small respite from the dogs, catching up on what’s going on.  I savor the enjoyment of a special brew after a special dinner on the town.  Winding down the conversation before we pay, leave and head home to Dolce and Amore.  One last moment of a perfect meal someone else prepared.

I learned to appreciate coffee even more so when I had an opportunity to spend several weeks in Brasil.  Coffee harvesting is extremely labor intensive.  Hand-picked, those little beans eventually end up in a football field sized brick floor, sorted by color and hand-raked with brooms into rows for further processing.   And, those hardened hands that picked the beans only make about $5 a tree as they pick their way through the orchard.  Since then, I have never questioned the cost of coffee or the price of a Starbucks.

Dolce and Amore get pretty excited once Malcolm is ready to get going for the day.  The hours between me leaving for work and Malcolm arising from slumber, leave them eager for company.  The girls have learned a different beep with Malcolm.  Malcolm is usually left with a cold pot of coffee that he will nuke for his morning beverage.  The two minutes in the microwave is when they get the Malcolm Morning Meet n’ Greet.  From the first beep of starting the microwave to the final beep announcing the nuke job is done, the coffee hot, the dogs get their morning love from Malcolm.  Two minutes of rubbing, scratching and love.  Yep, Dolce and Amore understand the importance of coffee.

So, as long as our household doesn’t run out of coffee, I won’t run out of stories about the dogs. However, I do confess, I have, at times, resorted to stealing hotel room coffee packets for our emergency stash.

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the mutt manuscripts

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Meet the girls!

Two of the most beautiful and very spoiled Bernese Mountain Dogs, whose adorable, funny antics will bring chuckles and smiles and sometimes a few tears as you read their tales.  True stories, hilarious escapades, and entertaining dog adventures, all chronicling their heartwarming and humorous capers, along with their playful frolics that often times land these fearless canines in the dog house.

Touching and tender, amusing and comical, these moving narratives and snippets of their lives impart bow-wow wisdom and show the loyalty and love between man’s best friend and their human care givers.

COMING SOON!

mutt manuscript cover

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oblivious

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There are times when Malcolm and I really wonder about the dogs.  Seriously, Einstein they are so not.  That’s not saying Amore or Dolce are dull as dishwater or as dumb as dirt, they definitely have personality.  But there are times when their lack of intellect shines way too brightly.  Maybe I should have said, their lack of awareness, with their head-in-the-clouds wool gathering.  Both dogs have a tendency to be a little bit of a ditz. Both have a susceptibility to be slightly unaware of events.  Both are a little spacy and a whole lot of space cadet.  That’s not to say Amore and Dolce don’t have moments of smartness or acts of cleverness.  It’s just, these moments are usually overshadowed by their propensity to be totally oblivious to their surroundings.

On one hand, it adds multiple chuckles full of humor to Malc’s and my day.  Like the day when Dolce was barking at a dog that wasn’t there.

Dolce is our traveling watchdog when we take the girls in the car with us.  She sits in the middle of the back seat, head scrunched down to study the countryside.  Eyes alert, tracking left and right, she scrutinizes the walking trails on the shoulders of the road, waiting to call out her find.  When she spots a dog and owner on the hike n’ bike path as we drive by, she lets out a rowdy clamor, claiming dibs on spying the other canine first.  The larger the dog, the louder the bark.

It so happens, about the time we cross over the RR tracks on our main drag, there always seems to be this one dog, an Airedale, walking with its owner.  We pass by them enough times that Dolce is constantly on the lookout for them.  Ready to be the first to hit the buzzer.  Ready to bark.  A month or so ago, we were driving towards home, when Amore blocked Dolce view (deliberate or not, we’ll never know).  Dolce, so intent at being upset with Amore, forgot all about the upcoming railroad tracks.  Until she heard our tires thump thump over the parallel tracks. By the second thump Dolce was in a barking frenzy as she was sprawled out in the back.  When her head popped up to finish her spiel, she realized there was no dog, no Airedale, no human.  Nothing walked the trail but a gentle breeze.  Totally oblivious there had been no one on the trail.  Her embarrassment took over, as her yelps quickly puttered out.  Yeah, we got a good laugh over that one.

On the other hand, we (okay, maybe it’s just me) fret and worry over their absent-mindedness, their inattentiveness.  Like last week when Malcolm was walking the girls at the Galisteo Basin.

If Malcolm and I were to describe ourselves as parents, I would be the worry wart.  The one that takes all the safety precautions.  The one that harps on Malcolm to leash up the girls. The one that errs on the far side of caution when it comes to Amore and Dolce.  Malcolm on the other hand is the easy-going parent.  The dad that is always reassuring me that they will be just fine.  Leave em’ be.  They need to run off their excess energy he tells me as he unhooks their leashes.  That being said, when Malcolm walks the dogs, he usually doesn’t harness and leash them.  I’m mostly ok with that, as the Galisteo Basin is fairly empty of other hikers during the work day.  I mean, how much trouble could they get into, right?

Last week was no different from any other day at the Basin.  Malcolm let the girls take a twenty yard lead as he started out on the trail.  About five minutes into the walk they both came running back up to Malcolm as he trailed behind, hopeful for a treat.  While Amore was hugging his wake, Dolce took over the point position.  She was maybe fifteen feet or so in front, happily dog-jogging along, stopping every once in a while to sniff out what was new in the neighborhood, when Malcolm heard a loud buzzing.  There was something in the back of his brain that screamed danger.  Malcolm calls it his reptilian brain coming forward.  In any case, it was a noise he had never heard before, but he instinctively knew.  He grabbed Amore from behind him and bellowed at Dolce to come.  Whether it was his tone of voice, or if she, for once, decided to obey his command, miraculously, Dolce ambled back to Malcolm, totally oblivious to any threat.  Right there, in the middle of the road, not two feet away from where Dolce just was trotting along, was a rattlesnake.  Mean, coiled and ready to attack.   IMG_0184

Dolce had no idea she was literally inches to being bit.  She was in her own little world, enjoying life.  Didn’t even see the blasted thing.  Didn’t sense it, hear it, or see it.  Scared the be-jebbies out of Malcolm.  Scared me just hearing out it.  Rattlesnakes are no laughing matter.

It’s true that God protects children and animals.  I’m thinking someone upstairs was watching over Dolce that day.

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flip flop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you think?”

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

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

“Ok.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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defensive linemen

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

Take Amore for example….

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

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

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in uniform, ready for action!

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

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

And then there is Dolce….

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

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

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

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

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jealousy

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

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

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

Riding shotgun!

Riding shotgun!

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

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

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

And then I got a job.

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

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

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

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

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

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Vanity Fair

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

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

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

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

Proust Questionnaire

Dolce and Amore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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dripping faucet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Never in my house!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rooh-tines

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

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

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

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

“And then what?” I question.

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

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

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

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

“A nap? You just got up!”

“Yeah, but its rooh-tine!”

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

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

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

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

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

These are moments I can never take for granted.
Every day it is as sweet as the day before.
I never knew how sweet a routine could be
Until I had a dog.
 Written by Joe Thomas
blog signature 2-25-14

Wowouch!

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

Moi has been recuperating.

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

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

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

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

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

We needn’t have worried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

say CHEESE!

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

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

misbehaving models

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolce

Dolce

before the angle roll

before the angel roll

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

snow chumping

snow chomping

Dolce between photos poses

Dolce

Dolce

I’m all set for 2015!