the mutt mobile

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Dolce riding shotgun

Mutt mobile.  Canine car.  Pooch Pick-up.  Datsun Dog.  Honda Hound.  Berner Bus.  Names, throughout the years, we’ve christened our more mature automobiles.  Autos that have seen happier days and in the days before dogs,  cleaner ones.

Our mutt mobile was a Chevy Blazer, grey with matching Corinthian leather seats, back seat air conditioning, a great sound system, and it came with every button, lever, and knob, right down to the MAGPIE plates.  It was the BOMB!  It moved us to the high desert of New Mexico, carrying Thugs, our cat, 1,300 miles from California.  It hauled all of our “crap” cross-country through valleys, mountains, streams and rivers.  It cleaned up real nice, handled the road well, got good gas mileage, and was just an’ all-round good ol’ car.

When we brought Tiamo into our family, MAGPIE was our puppy Porsche.  We didn’t notice the wrinkles at first, the first strands of gray hair were few and blended in.   At 10 years old, Ol’ MAGPIE was still stylish.  The scratches from Tiamo leaping on the car door were barely visible.  And, what’s a little dog hair along the floorboard – we’ll have the car wash attendants vacuum it out real good the next time.  The broken vent for the back AC went undetected for several weeks, as did the cracked cup holder and the chewed middle seat belt.  Malcolm and I both ignored the teeth marks that perforated the back seat – it added character we said.  The fuse blew out on the passenger door window from Tiamo hitting, and holding, the up/down button with her paws when she stuck her head out of the window, and the overhead dome light cover had disappeared months earlier, no telling where to.  All fixable and all re-breakable.

Slowly, over time, MAGPIE’s age started to show.  When the little pups arrived, MAGPIE was the Berner Bus, hauling eight squirming, wiggley BMD puppies to the vet for their shots.  As the litter whittled down to Amore and Dolce, along with Tiamo, MAGPIE was known strictly as the dog car.  Each dog had their spot:  Dolce riding shotgun, Tiamo in the middle back where she could have the air conditioning full blast on her face, and Amore on the back driver’s side seat, one paw on the window.  Pealing paint, ripped leather seats, and a cracking dash-board, in dog years MAGPIE had already turned eighty-three and was going on ninety.  After years of hauling Tiamo and the girls around, the interior was trashed, covered in dog hair and reeked of dog smell.  And yet, we still drove the Dog car, Dolce in the front, Tiamo middle back, Amore on the back left. It was our car of choice, allowing us to bring the girls with us.

When the government came out with the CASH for CLUNKERS program, we jumped at the opportunity to scrap it.  Dog car was worth more dead than alive.  We traded in Dog car for a more “economical” vehicle.  Something that was easy on the road.

But still, we needed a Dog car – and sadly, that meant we elevate our Pilot to the next Honda Hound.  We’re at the dog hair on the floorboard stage.

 

all in a dog’s day

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is it morning yet? jump on mom to wake her up, nope, she’s not up yet, go out to the pen to see if anything happened overnight ,jump on mom again to wake her up, yea! she’s crawling out of bed, time to eat breakfast, follow mom outside to retrieve the newspaper, time for an early morning nap, ok, mom’s left for work, let’s chew up the newspaper before Malcolm gets to read it, sigh, check to see if there is anything new in the dog bowl, rats! nothing! take another nap, roll over and stretch, emit a bad  dog fart, sigh, head bump Malcolm for a quick rub on the ears, take another nap, wake up barking at some noise, sigh, counter-surf for crumbs – sigh, let’s go bug Malcolm, bark some more at nothing, fanegale a treat out of Malcolm, check out the kitchen floor for a quick nibble – something new might have fallen from the counter, rats! nothing – sigh, tear through the house to the outdoor pen, something might be out there,  track dirt back in the house, beg for a doggie treat, sigh, bark some more to annoy Malcolm, plop down and sigh, when is mom coming home from work? sigh, fart, bark at a car driving by, do another drive-by in the kitchen – rats again! nada – go for a walk with Malcolm – yippee! – get home and take another nap, it’s dinner time, burp, fart, run through the house and slide on the rug – yippee! – mom is home – yippee! – let’s go give her a welcome attack, bark, bark, bark, bark, jump up on mom to give her a dog hug, beg for another dog snack cuz mom doesn’t know Malcolm already gave us one, take a nap, follow mom and Malcolm around the house from room to room, is it bedtime yet? put head back down, watch mom clean up in the kitchen, any crumbs? rats! nothing! now it’s time, jump on bed and curl up to mom, cuddle, roll over for a belly rub, cuddle, nudge amore over so dolce can get closer, get dog hair all over the down pillows, stretch, roll over for one last cuddle, ohhh siiiiggghh –

good night y’all!

Bobcat’s

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Traditionally, when family and friends visit, we treat our out-of-town guests to Bobcat Bite, an old trading post-turned-gun shop-turned-burger joint located halfway between us and Santa Fe.  A family owned business since 1953, Bobcat’s sits off of historic Route 66, so named for the wild bobcats that came down from the surrounding mountains and were fed meat craps and leftovers at the back door. Owned by Bonnie and John, Bobcat’s has only 5 small tables and a long counter for singles and one-sie’s, you pay with cash or check, are given a Tootsie roll pop for dessert, and those waiting for a table get restless if you linger too long.  The name at the top of the chalkboard gets the first available table.  Those names under them impatiently toe-tap, waiting to be moved up.

The menu has changed little, except perhaps they don’t serve homemade fruit pie anymore.  Burgers, steaks, pork chops.  Salad, garlic bread and country fries.  Cole slaw, potato salad and skillet baked beans.  A simple menu, but I can guaran-damn-tee you, it is and will be, the best burger you will ever have.  Bar none.  Ten ounces of ground daily choice sirloin and chuck, cooked to order on an old cast iron griddle, it’s a two-fisted burger, bookend by a specially baked sourdough bun and served with potato chips.  The first bite is a jaw-bender.  The last bite is an assembly of hamburger pieces, broken potato chips and green chili that fell out of the burger into the paper-lined burger basket.

I like the green chili cheese burger, rare-to-medium rare, onions, no chips.  Malcolm orders the green chili cheese, medium, onions, two tomato slices, lettuce, yes on the chips and the potato salad, but only if Bonnie made it.  Dolce and Amore enjoy the leftovers minus the onions and green chili.  We’ve learned to flip the burger as soon as it arrives so the juices gravitate into new territory, spreading the succulent flavors.

Best damn burger! Ever!

Best damn burger! Ever!

When it was just Tiamo, we would bring her with us, sitting outside at a small bistro-styled table on the portale.  Tiamo would lay under the table at our feet, occasionally handed scraps of hamburger when Malcolm wasn’t watching.  Tiamo learned at a young age, if we turned left at the blinking light, it was a Bobcat night, and a sure bet she would get a treat.  She would go from zero to wildly excited before we could even round the corner.  Should we turn to get on the freeway, Tiamo sulked in the back corner of the car all the way into town.  When Dolce and Amore came along, we would leave the three dogs in the car in the parking lot while we enjoyed our meal.  Every so often, we would hear loud barks from the girls, encouraging us to hurry it up.  They knew Bonnie had wrapped up our leftovers and there were meat scraps to be had.

Typically, repeat house guests will request a Bobcat burger upon their return to Santa Fe, telling us they’ve been craving Bobcat’s since they started planning their trip.   On occasion, they will demand to come back for a second round of burger before they leave town – sort of a  “one for the road” talisman.

Dolce and Amore certainly don’t mind, they get the leftovers.

RECIPE (strike that) RULES FOR A BOBCAT BITE BURGER

  • Drive fast, dangerously fast to Bobcat’s to arrive before the other patrons, believe you me, this is serious business
  • Run, don’t walk, to the chalkboard to write your name down before the out-of-town-never-been-to-Bobcat’s-before folks have a chance to get out of the car and figure out the system
  • While waiting for a table, stare through the windows, intimidating those slow pokes eating inside into speeding up their meal.  This isn’t Paris, they don’t get to dawdle over coffee
  • Once seated, read the menu quickly and know what you want – don’t dilly-daddle.  There are people waiting for your table – like us – plus, you don’t want to delay that first bite of your burger
  • Inquire who boiled the potatoes that morning (just kidding John)
  • Order and enjoy the best damn burger ever, ever, ever!  This is no ordinary burger – hold on to your socks, you’re in for a treat!
  • Ask for more napkins, you’re gonna need’em – now ask for another one
  • Discreetly undo the snap on your jeans, pulling your shirt out and over to cover the opening.  Okay, now you have more room to indulge in your burger – oh, yeah, and you can breathe
  • Eat, pay and grab your Tootsie pop as you exit, you can enjoy it in the car on the way home
  • Start planning your next visit to Bobcat’s
  • http://www.bobcatbite.com
Bonnie with one of the buddy gang

Bonnie with one of our repeat offenders

Goldilocks

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Growing up, our father had a big ol’ over-stuffed leather chair and ottoman positioned just so — enabling him to watch our black & white at just the right angle.  That was HIS chair.  All the dirty rubber bands from the evening newspapers, his toothpicks, his torn-out magazine articles, his dog-eared paperbacks, collected on, in or by his chair.  If one of us girls happened to be sitting in HIS chair when he came in the living room to watch TV or read the paper, we had to vamoose out that chair lickety-split, forfeiting all rights to the seat.  Saturdays we would dig through the chair sides under the seat pillow, searching for loose change and coins that had slipped out of his pockets throughout the week as he sunk further into the chair.  On a good week, we could net a hefty profit, easily tripling our paltry allowance.  Most times, it was a bust.  The years brought longer afternoon naps and more cracks to the aging dried out leather,  the worn seat sagged way below the equator, the arm rests wiggled but stayed put with extra nails to the frame, and it was still HIS chair.  Worn down, broken-in, and mighty comfortable, that chair was dad’s and always would be.

Tiamo had a special seat as well.  Our kilim covered ottoman-slash-coffee table on steroids.  As a puppy, the ottoman was the only piece of furniture low enough for her to climb up on.  All of 10 weeks old, Tiamo would put her front paws on the top edge of the large oversized ottoman, her short little hind legs furiously working to gain purchase as she would pull herself up to the top where victory lay.  And there she lay, eyes sparkling from her achievement.  From the day she reached the summit, that ottoman has been hers and hers alone.  That was her spot, her place, her chair. If someone happened to be encroaching on her ottoman, a bark and a paw nudge was usually enough to get them to move along to another spot.  We have experienced her literally pushing us off her spot, leaning with all her body weight until we gave in and let her have her ottoman back.

When the puppies were born, her ottoman became more sacred and Tiamo became more territorial with her special place. Momma had staked her claim to the ottoman years prior and no little whippersnapper was going to poach on it. Amore and Dolce eventually learned to leave the ottoman to Tiamo.  The only trespasser allowed on the ottoman, was Thugs, our cat at the time, whom Tiamo grew up with and had always been protective of.

When Tiamo passed, Malcolm and I wondered who would be the first to take over the ottoman. Dolce or Amore?  Both had tried repeatedly, but to no avail when Tiamo was alive.  My bet was on Dolce, as Amore has always preferred the cold brick floor under her belly.  So far, neither has shown any desire to acquire the ottoman as “theirs”.  Amore has jumped over it, Dolce has used the ottoman as a launching pad to chase after Amore, but the girls have yet to enjoy their afternoon nap, stretched out with the sun warming their belly, on the ottoman. In their minds, it will always be Tiamo’s ottoman.

And, perhaps Gordita’s, one of the few intruders Tiamo allowed on her “spot”.

Gordita

Gordita

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.