company’s a’comin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to my life!

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cat fight

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This morning was a normal 5:00 a.m. wake-up.  Amore lumbered by at her usual time of 4:55 a.m. to press wet wake up doggy kisses on my cheek.  Not to be outdone, Dolce barreled in between Amore and the side of the bed to ensure her share of early morning love.  Like clock-work, the girls followed me through my morning ritual of getting ready for work, eagerly anticipating breakfast once I was finished.  About 10 minutes in, Gordita arrived from her night-time-hidey-hole to loudly scratch at the bottom of the bathroom door, determined to be let in to join the party.  The three quietly lazed about, each curled up in their own special spot on the floor, still waking up to their full potential for the day to come.  One by one, they took turns in giving me good morning hugs.  Amore likes to put her front paws on the counter next to me so she can rub her muzzle up against me, receiving a rub in return.  Gordita jumps from the rim of the tub to the sink counter and weaves her quiet way softly over hair brushes and toothpaste to leap onto my shoulder, liking to nuzzle my neck for a few minutes before I set her back down, and Dolce loves to push her way through from behind your legs to get her ears scratched.  About the time I’m ready for some hot coffee, Amore and Dolce have fully woken up and are ready for their own breakfast.

We all headed out to the kitchen, Dolce in the lead as Gordita sprinted between dog paws  and dog tails to reach a safe haven under the kitchen table, ready to watch the breakfast festivities.  I performed the routine procedure of  filling their dishes with their kibbles and bit of water before making the two sit.  Both Amore and Dolce have learned to sit quickly down on their honches, knowing I won’t place the feed bowl down until they have earned it.  Side by side, they immediately dove into their respective dog bowls, slurps and crunches and the rattle of the tin bowl,  the only noises heard.  Once I gave them their chow, I grabbed a flashlight and walked up the drive to retrieve the newspaper.  About the time I get back to the house, the girls are usually just finishing up.  Sometimes one will polish off their meal ahead of the other, sometimes they clean their bowls at the same time, but always, once finished, they wander over to where I’m sitting with the paper for a little love.  Until this morning…..

This morning the little bitches got into a cat fight!  For 4 1/2 years, Amore and Dolce have happily enjoyed their meals together, shoulder to shoulder.  They have their own dog bowls, nestled in a raised double-panned stand – Dolce’s on the right, Amore’s right next door on the left.  For over four years, they  have received the same portions, the same food, at the same time.  Dolce is always the first to sit.  Amore is always first to dig in.  And, this morning the two big babies started a fight over the last nibble!  It’s typical for Amore to finish her meal first and Dolce to lap up her’s in a close second.  Today, Amore unwisely decided to see what was left in Dolce’s bowl and gobbled up what was there before Dolce could.  War broke out in the middle of the kitchen with snarls, growls, raised paws and big fangs barred.  I’ve always been told to never get in the middle of a dog fight – with a long-handled broom, I swatted the behind of the closest dog to me, allowing a distracted mutt to cease-fire.

Talk about a little early morning excitement, their loud and contested dispute brought Malcolm running into the kitchen from a sound slumber to see me taking my last wallop with the broom and Amore slinking off to her corner to lick her pride.  Suffice to say, this evening their feed bowls were separated and the broom was kept handy.

Fat & Sassy French Toast

So good, you’ll fight over the last piece!

  • 8-10 slices day-old bread, crusts removed
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups of sliced fruit i.e., bananas, strawberries, raspberries
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Lay 4-5 slices of bread on bottom of pan, then top with cream cheese cubes and sliced fruit. Top with the rest of the bread slices and set aside.  Beat together eggs, milk and brown sugar and pour over bread.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap from pan and bake for 40 minutes or until top layer of bread of lightly golden brown.

Serve with additional warmed maple syrup if desired.

Sunday tradition

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Monday through Friday, I am the one to feed the girls their morning meal. Early.  5:00 a.m. early.  Our dogs are conditioned to enjoy their breakfast at the crack of dawn, when it’s still dark and cold out.  Once their bellies’ are full, they settle back down on their huge dog pillows for a little morning shut-eye as I sip my coffee and read the paper before I leave for work.

Come the weekend, my wonderful, sweet hubby gets up early to feed Amore and Dolce, allowing me to sleep a couple more hours before I start the day.  For some perverse reason, on the weekends, the girls start scrambling for their breakfast  around 4:00 a.m.  They’ll come around to the side of the bed, checking to see if one of us is up yet, being sure to whack their tail several times for good measure.  On a good day, they might wait until 4:30 a.m. before starting their wake-up antics.  If need be, Amore will jump up on the bed and sit on one of us in her attempt to get fed.  It’s about this time, I’m kicking Malc in the back, “it’s your turn to feed’em!” I mumble.

Blurry eyed, and three-quarters still asleep, he stumbles out to the dark kitchen, tripping over 200 excited pounds of two hungry dogs in their mad bid for their kibbles.  From the other room, I hear several choice words spewing loudly from his lips as his bare feet and legs are clawed by dog paws in their eagerness to be fed. I hear the clank and clatter from their metal dog bowls being pushed around the hard floor as they devour their food.  Then quiet. Blissful quiet.  Wonderful-fall-back-to-sleep quiet.  While the girls are still chowing down their food, Malc will crawl back into the still warm bed, staking out his territory on the mattress.  He has about 2 minutes to fluff his pillows and get comfortable before the girls search us out, climbing up on the bed to snuggle in for a few more hours.  A half hour later, Gordita joins the family snugglefest, stepping over fur and bodies to curl up on a down pillow.

By the time, I’m ready to rise, I have two dogs stretched out on each side of me and a cat up on my pillow loudly purring in my ear, a black cat tail draped across my face. I can’t move.  I look over at Malcolm and see a slight smile peaking through the covers.  “Psst! You awake?”, I persist in waking him.  One visible eye opens, we share a contented, loving look as we view our menagerie nestled on the bed.  Our family.  It brings a warm hug to our hearts.

Sunday morning is our special day of the week to laze around, read the paper, drink our coffee, share breakfast.  It’s turned into tradition, having our girls curled up around us as we read the comics, the OpEd page, the local news, sipping hot coffee, being careful not to spill any on the covers.  Breakfast turns into brunch, but who cares, it’s our lazy day to enjoy our family.

RASPBERRY PANCAKES

Perfect for those lazy Sunday mornings, these cakes are light and fluffy – the secret is taking the time to beat the egg whites separately.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup non-fat milk (may use buttermilk)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, finely grated
  • 2 large egg whites (save extra egg yolk for your canine friends)
  • 3/4 cup sliced bananas
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (heated in microwave)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk and zest.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks forms.  Stir milk mixture little by little into the flour mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites and then add the sliced bananas.

Spray non-stick cooking spray on a large non-stick skillet or griddle and warm over medium heat.  Ladle batter onto hot griddle using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter, making a hotcake.  Repeat until griddle is full.  Cook until bottom is set and golden brown, about two minutes.  Flip and cook until firm, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm until you’ve cooked all the hotcakes.

Serve hotcakes topped with warm raspberry jam and vanilla yogurt and raspberries.

Houdini

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Berners are the type of dog that want to be with you – – – always.  Where you goeth, they goeth.  If you step outside, they want to be outside with you.  If you need to run to the store, they need to go along with you, riding shotgun in the passenger seat.  They will be out the door and in the car before you’ve begun to search for your car keys.  If you need to use the restroom, they want to follow you.  Walk into the kitchen and paws pitter-patter beside you.  Two perpetual furry shadows, dogging your step.  Shutting the door on their noses only produces sniffing and scratching, amplified by two.

On occasion we elect to keep the girls home.   In the summer, the temperatures are too hot for them to be left in the car without air conditioning and other times, our errands run longer than we want to keep them cooped up in the SUV.    They’ve learned when they may join us for a car ride and when they are staying put, depending on the time of day, the clothes and shoes worn, and if they hear a certain jingle of the car keys.

Early mornings they recognize its “me leaving for work” time.  They follow me into the bathroom and hang while I am getting ready for work.  They walk with me to get the morning paper and follow me around as I pour my “must-have” coffee.  By the time I grab my car keys to drive into town for work, they are already sprawled out napping from their busy morning.  I scratch their ears good-bye as they lift their heads, watching me walk out the door, back asleep before I’ve pulled out of the garage.   They have become skilled at learning the difference between a “slide your foot into a heel” shoe and a “bend over to tie the laces of your hiking boot” shoe.  With the heel, they are accepting of their fate.  Knowing they will be staying home with Gordita, our cat, they have already gone back to what they were doing.  The boot means “WALK”, “RIDE”, or “BOTH”.  Any of which creates pandemonium.   A jingle of the car keys will bring a concerto of joyous high-pitched barking that continues through the process of loading them into the vehicle.

To our dismay, we have discovered there are times when Dolce and Amore have attempted to follow us, ignoring our command to stay.   On one such time, I drove home from work to find Dolce and Amore in the front portal, the front door wide open.   I just assumed Malcolm had opened the door for fresh air.  In reality, Malcolm had walked next door to deliver some misplaced mail.  The girls did not like the idea of being left alone at home, listening to the crunch of gravel as Malcolm walked up the driveway.  Dolce had pawed the dead bolt, unlocking it,  and on the down-swing, her paws hit the handicapped handle, swinging the door wide open.  Freedom.  Thankfully, the half-walls of the portal are too high for them to escape.

Dolce has turned her clever door-opening talent to other doors throughout the house. Back doors, garage doors, closet doors, even shower doors, she opens and shuts doors like a cat-burglar pro.  She stands on her hind legs and uses her front paws to turn the lock.  She then uses her weight to push in the door, gaining entry into the next room.  Should the door shut on her, she repeats the process, and with a descending slide, she hooks her paws on the handle lever and pulls open the door to come back through.  We caution our over-night guests to lock their bedroom door or they might have a four-legged visitor during the night.  Her special ability has forced us take stronger measures against future door openings.  We’ve installed additional hardware, slide locks and hooks, key locks and more dead-bolts, all designed to keep our Houdini dog where she belongs.

Scratch marks and all

Scratch mark evidence

Added hardware

Added hardware

I am thankful this proficiency isn’t genetic and Amore isn’t that smart!  But then, maybe she is – Dolce is the one opening the door for her.