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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Jumping the shark!

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

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

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

Only, this expedition is neither.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We jumped the shark.

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

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

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

“Let’s bring them in.”

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

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

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

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

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

We are at the vet’s.

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

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

The barking has yet to cease.

Malcolm and my ratings are down, way down.

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dripping faucet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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!

 

 

off! down!

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

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

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

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

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

And we got Dolce and Amore.

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

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

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

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

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

happy dawg

happy dawg

We’re so glad we got Dolce and Amore.

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$51.95

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$51.95.

$51.95 every two to three weeks.

$51.95 every two to three weeks for over eight years.  (with yearly price increases)

$51.95 is how much we pay for a 30 lb. (used to be 40 lbs.) bag of dog food.  Plus tax.  Nutro’s Lamb and Rice. No corn or corn gluten, no wheat or soy protein, Nutro’s Lamb and Rice is a natural blend of lamb, whole brown rice, oatmeal, and all those special vitamins and minerals, guaranteed to help minimize gastric sensitivities while delivering natural nutrition.  It’s the only dog food brand we’ll buy.  nutro-LID-large-breed-adult-lamb-rice

Is it expensive?  You bet!  Could we buy cheaper dog food somewhere else?  Yeah, we could… but we don’t.

Five miles down the road is a very special pet store that caters to all the spoiled pets in the area.  Starting out in a closet space of a store front, the Eldorado Country Pet Store has increased in size ten-fold, expanded its merchandise and is our “go-to” pet store.  They’ve been “our” pet store since the beginning.  Since ECP opened it’s doors, since we brought Tiamo home, since the puppies were born.  ECP has been there through Thugs and Tiamo.  They special ordered the thunder shirt for Amore and sold us our travel water bowls.  For over eight years.

Over eight years equals over $10,000 that has been charged to our Visa.

$10,000 plus treats.

Plus pig ears. Plus peanut butter squares.  Plus cow hooves, raw hides and dog cookies.  Plus dog toys, dog collars, dog beds and dog blankets.  Plus doggy holiday stocking stuffers and cute dog picture frames and precious little doggy items found on the internet.  In the last eight years, we have happily (ok, maybe not Malcolm) flipped open our wallets and pulled out our credit cards, to pay for special canine goodies for Tiamo, Amore and Dolce, two to three times a month.

I’m a sucker for those Bernese Mountain Dog socks on display by the check out counter.  They’re only $12.95.  If the girls are with me when I run the bi-monthly Saturday dog food errand, I tuck in a pig ear for each.  What’s another $1.29/ea.  By November of each year, I’ve ordered my BMD calendar for the next year, with free shipping.  Every Christmas, the girls get a holiday bonus bone.  $3.95 is pittance to pay when it brings them such joy.

Let’s face it, the pet industry is big business. Statistics claim there are over 115.4 million Americans that own a pet. Nearly 60 percent of those same Americans own canines. Of which, more than half consider their dog(s) to be members of the family. Americans will spend an estimated $52.87 billion from their budgets on their pets this year alone. Big name corporations such as Omaha Steaks, Old Navy and Harley Davidson have introduced pet product lines that include gourmet treats and food, pet attire and pet toys. Pet parents are buying orthopedic dog beds, designer sweaters, IQ-raising toys and even travel seat belt systems.  And food – every kind of dog food from basic to breed-specific to organic, all at a dizzying array of price points.  People from every demographic group and income level are spending more on their pets.

 

But is it worth it?  Absolutely!

It’s only $51.95

 

 

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.

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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 …

digby o’dell

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

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

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

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a found Kong

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

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

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

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

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

Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off!

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Brats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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so god made a dog

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It starts with a tiny whimper, a small murmur barely audible to our human ears.  The slight quaking of Amore’s front fore legs is, at first, scarcely discernible underneath her thick feathery fur.  Amore’s apprehension and anxiety quickly escalates into deep, heavy panting and full body tremors, along with wide-eyed panic and fright.  All caused by thunder. Thunder and lightning.

Up until a year ago, Amore would sleep right through the loud clashing of thunder.  Up until a year ago, the rumble of thunderstorms, the whip of lightning didn’t bother her.  Up until a year ago, Amore was fine with the summer storms that rolled over our high desert. Today it’s a different story.

Today, Amore’s fear from the loud crack of lightning sends her into terrifying distress.  Today, her terror and fear of a storm can last long after the billowing dark clouds have passed.  It’s heartrending to witness.  Her terror and anguish is agonizing to watch.  We’ve tried everything.  Thunder shirts, calming music, distractions, car drives.  We have read articles and books and talked to experts to learn how to minimize and/or eliminate her fear.  Nothing seems works but to wait it out, giving her time to calm down while the tempest blows by.

July marks the start of our monsoon season and right on cue, our monsoon rains came within days after the calendar flipped to the seventh month.  This Fourth of July weekend brought a series of rains, cool relief from the hot temperatures of summer.  But with the rains came thunder and lightning, and on it’s heels, came Amore’s shaking and rapid breathing,  her anxiety palatable.  By late Sunday afternoon another storm was rolling through, the growl and grumble of thunder far in the background was faint and distant.  Amore’s keen hearing distinguished the thunder.  Fear gathered in her brown eyes as she quickly recognized the rumble.  The tremors already starting as terror locked in on her body.

Malcolm and I instinctively knew this time it was going to be a bad one.  Malcolm hurried to retrieve the thunder shirt as I went towards Amore.  Before I could reach her shaking frame, before I could take two steps forward, Dolce was already there besides Amore, offering her comfort and love.

As obvious dog lovers, Malcolm and I understand the joy and comfort dogs give humans.  We know how rehab dogs can help patients heal, both physically and mentally.  We are aware that canines can sense the onset of seizures and depression and assist their owners.  Dogs give and give and give and give some more to their loved ones.  They are a comfort to our soul, a balm to our weary hearts. They can pack more smiles in the wag of their tail then a kid in a candy store. Loyal, a trusted companion, without judgement, they are man’s best friend.  We understand why god made a dog.

So when Malcolm and I saw Dolce come along side of Amore, leaning against her to give relief, we froze in place to observe.  We watched in awe as Dolce nudged her litter mate, reassuring Amore that all would be okay. We watched Dolce as she licked away at Amore’s mental fear and pain.  We watched Dolce place a gentle paw on a quivering Amore to calm her, soothe her.  Dolce’s paw stayed on Amore shoulder for over ten minutes before the shaking began to still.  We watched Dolce lean against her sister for more than a half-hour, easing Amore’s anguish, absorbing her fear.  We watched Dolce give peace to her sibling.  Watching Dolce give comfort, we understand why god made a dog.

So God made a dog……

Video by webartads   http://www.youtube.com/user/webartads

 

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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.

what a dog thinks

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didn’t write this, but boy is it on target!

 

By Samantha Drake | Pet360

In general, the most exciting thing that happens to your dog all day is the moment you come home, whether it’s from vacation, work, or just checking the mailbox. Here’s what goes through your dog’s mind during this much-anticipated reunion.

 

  • ZZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzz …
  • Ooh! Someone is at the door. Must investigate.
  • Is this a barking situation? Who is it? Friend or foe? Friend or foe? Friend or- Oh, wait, I hear keys …I know who it is!
  • It’s YOU!!! MY WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL FRIEND!!! YOU’RE HOME! I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU!!!
  • Where have you been? What’s in that bag? Is it for me? What did you bring me?
  • I’M JUMPING FOR JOY!!!
  • I know, I know. I’m not supposed to jump. I’m so ashamed. Really, I just got carried away. I won’t do it again … I’m just so HAPPY!
  • Oh yes, please pet and scratch my head more, yesyesyesyes, don’t stop …I’m so happy you’re home!
  • Wait, where are you going? Can I come? Ooh, you’re opening the cabinet … I love that cabinet. MY YUMMY, YUMMY TREATS ARE IN THAT CABINET!
  • Those are for me! Yes please! Wait, what? You want me to sit? Okay, anything for one of my yummy treats. See, I’m sitting! I’m sitting! Look at me! Look how good I’m sitting!
  • YES! I love my yummy treats so much!
  • Can I have another one? Pleasepleaseplease? No, no, that wasn’t jumping, I’m just putting my paws up on you to let you know how badly I want … I’m sorry. I just get sooooo excited. Don’t be mad at me. I hate that so much. But you’re still holding one of my yummy treats … do you think you could possibly … Look! I’m sitting! Pleasepleaseplease? PLEASE!?
  • YES! Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I love you so much!
  • In honor of this wonderful moment, I’m going to go get my favorite, most chewed-upon squeaky toy to show you how much I love you and want to play with you. I want to play and play and play!
  • Here, take my toy. No, it’s my toy. Really, take my toy. No, you can’t have it. Take my toy. Oh, do we have to stop already? Can I interest you in going back over to my yummy treat cabinet? No?
  • Ah, more petting and scratching. I love that. I love you. I’m so happy.
  • Oh sure, you can take your coat off. Absolutely. Go ahead.
  • But hey, could you take me outside now? I just realized I have to PEE. Can we PLEASE go outside NOW?

my favorite color

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dog hair

inch by inch

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There is an old adage, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”, that most of you have heard a million times.  In other words, be generous to someone and the person will demand even more.

This maxim aptly applies when talking about dogs.  Ya’ give em’ an inch and before you know it they have taken over. Completely. Then demanding more.

Especially on the bed.  It starts off innocently enough, curled up on the bottom corner of the king-sized bed. Before you know it, it ends up with the canine fully stretched out on their back, paws in the air, laying diagonally across the mattress. Taking over the bed.  Right down to their head on the down pillows.DSC01135

As a puppy, Tiamo was not allowed on the bed.  Ever.  It was easy the first three to five months or so of her life.  The bed was too high for her to jump on, she was too little to reach the bed with her paws.  She had her own spot in the bedroom.  We had purchased a large dog pillow and placed it on the floor at the edge of the bed by my side.  That was Tiamo’s pillow, her bed.  With us, but not on us.  As she grew, as her muscles developed, she tried a few times to jump up on the bed.  Repeatedly.  But, Malcolm and I held firm.  Dogs were not allowed on the bed.  Even though she tried, Tiamo knew her place.  And, it wasn’t on the bed.  For two years Tiamo never put so much as a paw on the bed.  Until I caved.

It was one of those weeks when Malcolm was out-of-town visiting friends in Atlanta, I stayed home to hold down the fort.  Missing my honey, I was lonely and wanted comfort, even if it was canine comfort.  I called Tiamo up on the bed.  She wouldn’t budge off her pillow.  She knew better than to climb up on the bed and here I was encouraging her to misbehave. I tried again to get Tiamo to jump up and join me.  No luck. The good news was Tiamo was well-trained and wasn’t going to jump on the bed.  The bad news was, I was determined to have her up on the bed with me.  I literally picked her up and placed her on the bed.  Tiamo immediately jumped down, afraid she would be in trouble.  Again, I  picked her up and set her on the bed.  Again, she jumped off.  By the third attempt, Tiamo realized she was allowed on the bed.  She tucked herself into a small ball, curled up on the corner of the large bed and nervously fell asleep.  Sometime in the middle of the night, she crawled down off the bed onto her pillow.  She was uncomfortable on the bed.  I should have stopped there, but noooooo.

The next night was easier.  I picked up Tiamo and placed her on the bed where she lounged, spread eagle throughout the night, softly snoring by my side.  By the time Malcolm returned from his trip to Georgia, Tiamo was a fixture on the bed.  She had a special spot down on the corner keeping my feet warm.

Throughout the years, her small corner property increased in acreage.  Tiamo started to take up more and more territory on the bed. DSC01136 Her motto became “possession is nine-tenths ownership”.  Tiamo barely allowed us to sleep on her bed with a thin strip of mattress on the very edge of the bed.  Sometimes with blankets and covers, sometimes without.

I noticed dogs do the same thing with our hearts as they do the with bed.  We give them a little space, a tiny corner in bottom of our hearts and pretty soon they are on their backs, spread out all over our emotions.   With their paws extended over our souls, dogs will fill up every spare inch available, laying diagonally across our love, getting a belly rub in the meantime.  They will inch their way, paw by paw into ours hearts, hugging our spirit, licking through our defenses.  It doesn’t take much time.  In just seconds, they can have us willingly wrapped around each one of their paws.  In just minutes dogs can make our hearts sing and dance and smile, bringing contentment to our lives, compassion.  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.

Thank goodness!

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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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the berner sandwich

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The best sandwich starts with two substantial slices of still-warm from the oven, crusty bread.  I never use that day-old bread crap often buried in your mom’s chest freezer.  Found six months later, the loaf’s slices have already started to show off their curled corners.  With ice particles clinging to the outer crusts, the bread slices are separated and thinned from their once highly advertised, don’t squeeze the bread bag, freshness.  What I’m talking about is a hearty bread with a crust worthy of a sandwich.  Perfect tops and bottoms, perfect bookends to hold all the flavorful goodness of your sandwich makings together.

The best sandwich always has some sort of special sauce.  Generously spread on the inside flanks of the sliced bread, it might be a garlicky aioli, or a spicy brown mustard, or perhaps a savory chutney.  An oniony jam, a cranberry-brandy marmalade, a citrusy-fruity preserve, are all considered for their deliberate culinary palates.  The special sauce is an integral part of the whole sandwich package, a succulent pairing of tang and piquancy.

The best sandwich has complementary enhancements.  Such as Romaine lettuce, a thick slice of “tamatah” from a dark reddish-purple hued Beefeater, or some roasted green chili peppers.  Augmented with a wedge of peppery jack cheese or some smoked Gouda, and you’ve just increased your sandwich stack with both subtle flavors and added height.

The best sandwich has a mountain of tender, thinly sliced meat.  Usually left over from last night’s dinner and stacked in the middle of the sandwich with folded precision.  The sandwich is best when layered with beef steak that has been grilled over aged and seasoned oak logs, finished to a medium-rare redness and has a light dusting of seasonings still sitting on it’s outside edges.  Or perhaps some residual roasted turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.  Or maybe some BBQ’ed boneless pork loin chilled in a mustard sauce.  In any case, the main entrée of the sandwich, the meat, is the key principle in any double-decker and the center piece of any sandwich arrangement.

Some might think the best sandwiches are bestowed with specialty side lineups.  A scoop of homemade potato salad or a small cup of minestrone soup. But for Malcolm and I, we have a totally different idea of the best sandwich.  Our view of the perfect sandwich doesn’t need any of the above …..

You see, for us, we would rather be sandwiched in between our two girls, Dolce and Amore.  Folded in the middle by 100 pounds of fur on each side, we call it our Berner sanwich.   The Berner Sandwich is generously spread with a huge dollop of canine kisses, drool, and enhanced with paw pats and nose nudges.  Add a wedge of dog hair, some slices of doggy love and you have the best dog gone sandwich ever.  The Berner sandwich! DSC00489

Now, that is the best sandwich ever!

TRI-TIP STEAK SANDWICHES WITH HOMEMADE TOMATO PESTO

Be sure to drop some steak ends on the floor for your four-legged beasts.
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup drained bottled dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed, cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound thinly sliced medium-rare Tri-tip steak (about 2 cups)
  • 4 Romaine leaves, cleaned and left whole
  • thin sliced Monterey Jack cheese
  • eight 1/2-inch slices sourdough bread, toasted lightly

In a small saucepan, saute’ garlic in olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened.  Cool. In a small food processor or blender purée tomatoes, basil, oil mixture, and vinegar until pesto is smooth.  Set aside.

In a bowl toss steak slices with half of pesto and spread remaining pesto on bread. Divide steak among 4 bread slices and top with romaine lettuce leaves, Monterey Jack cheese and top with the  remaining 4 bread slices.

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