A pack of two…

 We were a pack of two*…

IMG_20160128_170450

He came to our family 14 years ago – and despite a severe case of ADHD, fit in well with our clan. He’d escape the backyard fence, and wander the neighborhood. You could call his name for days, and he’d look at you, give a smile and a wag, and keep sniffing whatever had his interest at that moment. The only way we could recapture him? Drive by, open a car door and yell “Road Trip!” For years our neighbors thought his name was “Roadtrip”…

Mr P Jeepin 2

When the kids moved on to college, and I started over in a new home, it was just us. He kept me grounded through the biggest transition of my life. He loved me at my most unlovable. I was responsible for him, and that meant getting out of bed when I was in the deepest, darkest funk. He needed to walk. He needed to eat.

Mr. P pensive

He listened to every word I said as if it were the most important thing he’d ever heard.Mr. P bed

I jokingly referred to him as my “Canine Life Partner”. My companions had to understand who owned my heart.

Man In My Bed: You’re dog’s giving me the stink eye.

daisyfae: That’s because you’re in his spot and it’s time for him to go to bed.

Man In My Bed: That’s cute…

daisyfae: No, seriously, it’s time for you to leave. He wants to go to bed.

get offa my lawn

As Studley became part of my life, he quickly learned that Mr. Pickles was a pre-existing condition in my heart. He also found room in his heart for my large brown pup. On nights he’d stay over, Mr. Pickles would stiff-leg him out of bed over the course of the night. Get up to pee? Come back to find a giant dog sleeping on the pillow, basically saying “My spot. You got the sofa, buddy.” Most nights, Mr. Pickles was little spoon to my big spoon. I slept best next to my main manimal.

a pack of two

He wasn’t the smartest dog, but he was a gifted instructor. He taught me how to enjoy the moment. Knowing that he was only with me for a short time, he taught me not to postpone joy – a lesson that carried over to visits with my Mom. Struggling with my relationship with her, it was Mr. Pickles that taught me to let go of the past – and meet her where she was as she approached the end of her life. We learned to appreciate the seasons, knowing that the next snowfall, or splash in the pool, wasn’t guaranteed.

Happy Pup

At fifteen years old, he’d blown most canine actuarial tables. A bad reaction to medication didn’t take him down in 2012, even though his liver nearly failed. The big lump of cancer taken from his hip in January wasn’t what did it. In the end, it was his heart that got him. It was too big…

Mr P my boo

A friend told me of a service that does mobile pet euthanasia. The vet came to my home. She was a goddess, dressed in khaki shorts and sneakers… Mr. Pickles settled into his bed, with me spooning behind him. Studley was with us, petting those velvety ears. And with all that love flowing his way, he went to sleep…

pack

We were a pack of two. He wasn’t just a good boy. He was my best boy.

Reindeer Poo

“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

* Respectful acknowledgement of the amazing book of this title by Caroline Knapp. A close friend sent me a copy years ago, and it seems i’m due for another reading…

Party Dawg

When my children were small, we spent every other Christmas on the road to visit my in-laws in Florida.  Other years?  We were on the road to The Trailer Park by noon to celebrate with my family.  We agreed that as long as we had parents to visit, we would do this.

Thanksgiving was different.  His parents were too far away for a visit.  In my clan, we had time-shifted the meal to the Saturday after Thanksgiving due to issues with divorces, and the resultant logistical challenges.  Never mind that Mom had stopped making a meal* at home in the 1970’s, preferring to go out to eat at a local trough buffet restaurant.

When i asked my husband how he’d like to spend our ‘free’ holiday?  He said “At home. Watching football and drinking beer.”  When i asked my children how they’d like to spend our ‘free’ holiday?  They said “Making pizza and just hanging out…”

That’s exactly what we did.  We’d invite ‘stray’ friends over – those who didn’t have family in town.  i’d whip up some pizza dough, buy turkey pepperoni as the only nod to tradition, and we started having a great holiday at home.  Our way.

With the kids grown, and my move to the new place in 2008, i re-started the tradition. Among my friends there was a need for a holiday alternative, so “Thursday” became a thing – a non-traditional meal.  i stayed with the pizza theme, expanded the bar, and opened the doors.

The invite states “Those unable to be with family, those actively avoiding family, those without family, and those who have spent a day with their family and need respite care… Doors open at 6:00 pm, and friends are welcome to drop by until around midnight.”

Thirty or so came and went this year, bringing a variety of goodies to share.  The pool table was used and abused, with the theater room collecting the footballers.  Hot mulled wine, chilled dry cider punch, and a partially successful attempt at bacon-infused bourbon grounded the bar.  Gingerbread trifle, peanut butter pie, and gooey salted caramel chocolate bars appeared on my kitchen counter.  Guests learned to toss pizza dough, and assembled personal pizzas from a spread of toppings. We ate, laughed, and yakked through the night…

the drunk thinktank

Mr. Pickles, my senior dog, has had recent issues with bladder control. Studley was aware of this, and let him out several times to make sure he didn’t paint the carpet.

Around 10 pm, Mr. P took to intermittent barking.  This is usually due to random signals from the dog planet, but that night it was somehow more directed and urgent.  He’d stand next to someone and bark.  Not begging.  Not needing to go outside.  Not wanting attention.

So we kept taking him outside to make sure it wasn’t urinarily urgent.  i patted him and said “Pickles, shutthefuckup!” more than once.  He continued the intermittent barking or the next several hours.  As the last guests were preparing to leave around 1:30 am, he stayed nearby, and would occasionally launch a solid bark.

As i walked the last couple out, i took him for one last mercy break.  Back inside, i unhooked the leash, and he immediately trotted off to the bedroom.  i went into the kitchen to do the final sweep before bed.  Following my old pup shortly afterwards, i found him sprawled across the passenger side of my bed, snoring loudly.

The next day, Studley and i were doing the “Post-Party Analysis”.  i finally realized why Mr. Pickles had been barking.

daisyfae:  “i think i figured it out!  He wanted people to leave so he could go to bed!  He was trying to chase them away because it was past his bedtime!”

Studley:  You think?

daisyfae:  Yes!  This was the old dog equivalent of “Hey, you kids!  Get offa my lawn!”

get offa my lawn

* And we were thankful.  She couldn’t cook for shit…

How do you know it’s love?

It’s cold here.  Unusual Arctic stream alignment has brought freakish cold to places that aren’t used to freakish cold.  With a side of high winds to make it more festive!

How cold is it?

Ambient temp is -10°F (-23 C).  It will be about -20° F (-29 C) tomorrow.  There is a good 30 knot wind to assure that any exposed skin feels even colder.  Wind chill is estimated to be – 45° F (- 43 C).

To put it in context?  Here are some points of reference.

Great Wall, Antarctica………………….33° F (0 C)
Mt. Olympus, Mars (estimated)………21° F (- 6 C)
Avery Ice Shelf, Antarctica……………14° F (-10 C)
Ajan, Russia (Siberia)…………………..2° F (-16 C)
Curiosity Rover, Mars (estimated)….-19° F (-28 C)

It’s warmer in Antarctica and Mars.

But i’m fortunate.  My office closed due to extreme conditions, and my home is warm and well-insulated.  i have plenty to eat, internet for connectivity, enough booze to keep the Russian Navy afloat and no shortage of projects to do around the homestead.  i can hibernate in luxury!

Oh, wait.  My dog is not toilet, or litter box, trained.  He must go out.  As an old man, he has a fairly regular schedule for his digestive processes, requiring two walks per day (along with some short mercy breaks for his ancient bladder).

Being a skier wannabe, i have perfectly suitable gear for going out in this stuff, but i was worried about the pup.  In less-freakish cold, he has had some issues with the pads of his paws on the ice.  i was afraid he’d stick to frozen ground!

Pawz to the rescue!  i found some lovely, inexpensive and stylish kicks for my dog!  Other than the dog wrasslin’ required to get them on his feet, they fit well and don’t seem to bother him once in place.

Mr. P in his purple kicks

A bit tentative at first, he still managed to do his thing…

Mr P sproinging

Smilin’ and stylin’ before long…

Mr P Snow

i used to say “How much do i love my dog?  i pick up his turds twice a day!  If that’s not love?  i don’t know what is!”

Now? i can further qualify that statement.  “i pick up his turds in Martian-cold temperatures twice a day”.

And i’m delighted that i still get to do it…

For now…

There is only one reason to write.  Because you must.  You can join a workshop, read a ‘self help’ book, take a class or join a silly writers bootcamp, but that’s forcing the issue.  Write because you have something to say.  Something that has to come out of you or you’ll explode.  Write because you have to.  There is absolutely no other reason to do it.

Where have i been lately?

Living well.  Loving well.  Being well.  Rolling in life like a dog on a dead fish.

i don’t have a lot to say.  These days?  i spend a lot of time laughing and dancing.  So i’ll let these photos of me and me doggie say it…

We are all about “now”.  Because it won’t last.  Nothing does.

brown dog rompi love.  i am loved.  what the fuck else is there?

brown dog slobberWhat is your legacy?  What REALLY matters when we’re all reduced to carbon?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THIS link – thanks to The Unbearable Banishment.  Mr. Bukowski says it far better than i ever could… and since i’m not a writer, i suppose that should come as no big surprise!

Tale Spin

Of all of the whack things i do, taking horseback riding lessons has been one of the most rewarding.  Studley picked up an offer for discount lessons at a local stable last year. Our Monday night rides* have become a weekly highlight.

Due to random signals from the travel planet, we found ourselves at dinner Saturday with my friend Autumn, in North Carolina.  She has had a long-standing relationship with horses**, and shares our passion for the sport.  Yammering our way through a delicious dinner, Studley and i were giddy-up with horse tales.

Autumn:  I love horses, but I just don’t get them.  Never really understood them as animals.  What makes them work…. what motivates them.

daisyfae:  They’re just like big dogs!

Autumn:  That may explain it!  I’m a cat person.  I don’t understand dogs either.

Studley: I used to be just a cat person, but Mr. Pickles has converted me. Horses seem to be a lot more like dogs – just big dogs.  Dogs that you can ride!

daisyfae:  If dogs were that big, you could totally ride them!  You wouldn’t want to ride a 1,200 pound cat!

~~~~~~

Last night, we were walking our horses to get them warmed up.  My ride, Rooster, is a clever beast.  An excellent school horse, he is adept at keeping novice riders alive.  At the same time, he is a little lazy, and will often try to get away with the least amount of energy expenditure possible.

He was being particularly sluggish as we worked into the trot.  Mistress Holly, our instructor, brought me her riding crop.

Mistress Holly:  This is how you hold it…

daisyfae:  i’ve used one before, just not on a horse.

Mistress Holly [feigning deafness]: You probably won’t need to use it – he knows you have it.  Try clucking and squeezing first, but if he’s not listening, just give him a good slap with it.  Right here on the shoulder.

To say that Rooster was attentive is an understatement.

Rooster [if he could talk]: Yes, Missy, I was just fixin’ to trot!  I DO like the way you ride me!  Canter?  Anything you want!  Can I get you a sandwich?  Foot rub?

My first full circuit of the arena in a controlled canter happened last night.  And i only had to tap him on the shoulder once.

~~~~~~

After our lesson, Studley came in to lend a hand in the kitchen*** as i put the finishing touches on my holiday baked goods.  We also threw together an easy dinner of pulled pork.****

My dog, now fully recovered, was sproinging around at our feet.  A hundred pounds of optimism, waiting for either a handout, or a wayward dropped morsel.  i don’t feed him from the table, but given his advanced age and recent near-death experience, i was in a weakened state of mind.

daisyfae:  OK, buddy.  But you’re going to have to work for it!  Sit! Siiiiiiiiiiit!  Good boy!  Now, Speak!

Mr. Pickles [squirming, sitting, standing, drooling, sitting again]:  ….

daisyfae:  Look, Pickles!  Studley can do it!  Studley!  Speak!

Studley:  WOOF!

daisyfae [pretending to feed porkbit to Studley]:  GOOD BOY!  What a GOOD BOY!

Studley [wiggle-squirming on bar stool and panting with subservient enthusiasm]:

daisyfae:  Ok, Pickles!  Now your turn!  Sit! Speak!

Mr. Pickles [drool-squirm, sit, stand, shake, wiggle]:

daisyfae:  C’mon, Old Dog!  New Trick!  You can DO it!

A few more rounds of getting Studley to speak, and my goofyass old dog did it!

daisyfae:  Speak, Pickles!

Mr. Pickles:  WOOF!  Bark, bark, barkbarkbarkbark! A-WOOFWOOFWOOFWOOF!

daisyfae:  Good boy!  GOOD BOY!  Now, shutthefuckup…

of course of course

 * probably not a euphemism

** definitely not a euphemism

*** left as an exercise for the reader

**** [nhur, nhur, nhur]

What is love?

This is the face of my 12-year-old puppy, Mr. Pickles, taken right before he darted after a tennis ball, into a roiling doggie mosh pit at the local bark park.


He came up with a bit of a limp – and two tennis balls in his mouth – so we cut the Friday afternoon session short, hopped back in the jeep and headed for home.  He was still limping through the weekend, so i took him to see the Dog Doc on Monday.

News wasn’t great, but could have been worse:  partial tear of the ligament, or a severe sprain.  No surgery required, unless it got worse.  Anti-inflammatory meds, and minimal activity prescribed for the next several weeks.

Try explaining that “minimal activity” thing to a dog that takes great pleasure in the art of the “Sproing”.  His preferred method to get in bed?  A running start and a flying leap.  With the bad wheel, he was simply doing it on his three good legs.

Some improvement through the week, so i left on my planned weekend trip, leaving my critters in the capable hands of my live-in pet-sitter. While i was out-of-town, Mr. P took up the art of splatter paint – from both ends of his body.  Pet Sitter filled me in on the details, and i made another appointment with the Dog Doc.

Worse news this time.  Mr. P is one of the rare dogs that do not tolerate those specific types of anti-inflammatory meds.  Through a series of diagnostic steps, ruling out worse things, we learned that his liver had suffered severe damage.  A rough road ahead.

This is the face of my 12-year-old puppy, Mr. Pickles, as we drove home from the vet that day, with the news that he was, in fact, a very, very sick puppy.

That was almost a week ago.  i’m happy to report that he’s doing well.  As a woman who rarely cooks, i boiled chicken and steamed rice for him.  Getting him eating again was a challenge, so we started with a few bites at a time.  Hand feeding him to keep him from gulping.  Burying pills in chicken and cheese.  Tracking every change in his excretions like a human spectrometer.

The Boy came home this week for a short stay, and was watching me slowly hand feed the brown dog a viscous glop of bland chicken and rice.

daisyfae:  Watch carefully.  You might have to do this for me someday.

The Boy:  I’ll be contracting that shit out.  Ship you off to Turkey, or wherever The Girl is living at the time.

It’s nice to have him home.  Really.

The healing process for my dog is going to take some time.  And i’ve already made a mortgage payment to the veterinary clinic for the care, diagnostics and medications.  So far…

But this is the face of my 12-year-old puppy, Mr. Pickles, as we settled down for bed last night.

We are a pack of two.

Cats and Dogs

i’m relatively new to the realm of cats.  i added the gigantic orange cat, Huey Newton, to the family a couple of years ago – mostly to be a companion to my aging brown dog, Mr. Pickles.

The cat did not, however, sign on for that particular partnership arrangement.

But they co-exist nicely.  Mr. P always wants to play.  Huey wants nothing to do with this – except for rare moments of whimsy when he decides that it would be good fun to whack the sleeping dog in the nose and then run for cover.

i love them both.  My relationship with each is quite different.

As i sat in my bedroom comfy chair a couple of days after getting my leg stitched up, the difference between cats and dogs became fairly obvious.

Mr. P wanted to lick my stitches.  Make it all better.

Huey, on the other hand, decided that the strings sticking out of my shin bone would be big fun.  Catastrophe avoided, as i started a new game of “Kitty Aviator” before he finished swatting at my embroidered leg with extended claws.

Heard this a few years ago, and believe it to be true.

If a dog had thumbs?  He’d get you a beer.

If a cat had thumbs?  He’d steal your car.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note:  Photos are approximate re-enactments.  The stitches came out today, and my leg looks like a rather disgusting pile of fetid ground beef.  i am only taking that wrapper off when absolutely necessary to re-pack the muck.  There’s a reason i chose engineering over medicine…. Only have to do this for about a month.  Blechhh.

Good dog…

Part Black Lab, and part Cairn Terrorist, Turbo joined our family in 1998.  Mr. Pickles came along a couple of years later as a rescue pup, completing our clan.

“Canine custody” became an issue as my husband and i worked through our disillusionment* in 2006.  Turbo had been his dog from the very beginning, and when he moved into our vacation home, she was his sidekick.  The family joke became our argument over who had to take Mr. Pickles. We had our attorney convinced it was really an issue!

One of the best “Turbo Tales” involves her assault on a two-pound box of chocolates, neatly wrapped by my children and placed under the Christmas tree.  Arriving home from work, we found a huge mess on the floor of the office – an obvious crime scene.

With two dogs, you’re never quite sure who is responsible for such a mess – much like having more than one child.  At the top of the stairs, the mystery was resolved, as Turbo sat tweaking like a crack addict.  Having no idea how long it had been since she’d bashed the chocolates, i called the vet – who asked if she’d expelled any of the chocolate, or if it was still in her system.

“Expelled”?  You might call it that.  In the living room, splattered across my favorite Dutch Kilim throw rug, was the most unspeakably disgusting muck i’d ever seen come out of a dog.  No idea which end it came from, but ummm… “Yeah.  She’s expelled all over the place, Doc.  Now what?”

Her heart was racing, and she continued to twitch.  He suggested i bring her in, since chocolate can kill a dog.  He would  give her doggie ipecac, and keep her overnight for observation.

About an hour after i dropped her off, the vet called.

“Good news!  I found the cherry!”

i might have laughed a little harder if i hadn’t just come inside from throwing my completely destroyed rug in the dumpster.

Although i lost custody of her in the divorce, i’d usually ask after her on the infrequent occasions when i ran into my ex-husband.  And the kids kept me up to date on her doings.

My ex-husband cared for both of his parents.  As his mother went further into dementia, Turbo was her constant companion – not only for the food that Grandma offered.  They were apparently inseparable.  Turbo got pretty fat – earning the nickname “Tubbo”.  After Grandma died, The Tubster got her weight down, with the help of some Puppy Uppers and a controlled diet.

Over the past few years, she went blind.  The kids said their dad was trying to find a helmet for her because she was starting to walk into things.

Sad news this week.  Talking with my daughter, i learned that my ex had to put Turbo down.  She was a good dog.

*”Disillusionment”.  Legal term used to ‘dissolve’ a marriage when both parties agree to all terms and negotiate their own settlement.  i cannot communicate how much i love that word used in this context.

The other white meat…

i woke up at 0500 this morning, wrapped around the pillows against the headboard of my bed.  Feet wrapped in the wrought iron bars…

No.  Not like that.

Turns out, a queen sized bed is not large enough for a lumpy, middle-aged* woman, a 90 pound dog and a 20 pound orange cat.

If memory serves me correctly, however, it was just fine when i shared my bed with my dog.  Since my daughter moved out, Huey has joined us in the family bed… and somehow this “waking up wrapped in the headboard” thing has become a bit of a regular occurrence.

i suppose i could start playing a game called “The Incredible Flying Cat”, toss the furry bastard out and go back to sleep.  But there’s something about cats that has always made me uncomfortable…

Perhaps i just need a few more fluffy pillows, and i can get used to it?

items available at The Onion Store

* The Boy recently reminded me that referring to myself as “middle-aged” is a bit optimistic.  “What?  You think you’re really going to live to be a hundred years old?”

Unspoken Question

It was a very long week.  Thursday evening was the first night i had nothing scheduled…. and my four days at work, post-vacation, were extremely smelly.

Battling a headcoldfromhell, i got the car in the driveway around 5pm, and took Mr. Pickles out for a quick walk.  Coming back through the garage, i was mentally preparing to throw on the jammies and call it a night.

Mr. P had other ideas.

Instead of heading in the house, he turned and jumped in the Jeep.

Yes, my dearest pup!  It has been awhile since we’ve gone to the dog park.

(sigh)

And he had a ball….