Category Archives: dogs

50 thoughts on turning 50: #18 Take a nap

becky

My cousin Becky and her dog. The ability to nap is clearly in our DNA.

I have a friend who insists that she can’t nap. No matter how hard she tries, she says she just can’t relax enough to curl up on the couch, close her eyes and catch a few minutes of shut eye during the day.

I think there’s something seriously wrong with her.

I love taking a nap but I’ve always felt like a lazy slug for lying around in the middle of the afternoon while the rest of the world is slaving away. Then a few years ago, my doctor told me that it’s good to take a nap during the day. Not a big, deep sleep. Just a short, 15 or 20 minute snooze to clear away the cobwebs and recharge your batteries.

As someone who loves taking a nap as much as I like drinking tea, you can be sure I’ve followed her advice as often as I can. In fact, I’m off to take a nap right now.

Today’s lesson? Napping like a dog is a lot better for your life than working like one.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

Steak, turtles and good dogs

turtle i ran over on fairport rd 001

The turtle I ran over. This is what he looked like when I went back to check on him.

Pour the wine and settle in, sports fans, because this is going to be a good one:

I’ve been waiting all day to grill this little piece of strip steak I’ve been saving for my dinner. It’s so small it’s only enough for one person, so I’ve been waiting for a night when I’m alone for dinner. So I take it out of the freezer this morning, put it in the fridge to thaw, and at about 5 PM set it on the counter to get ready to cook.

I go out to let Bandit out, and come in to find … yup, Bailey had eaten it. Dammit. So  I get dressed and go to Wegmans to get another steak, because now I’m so enraptured by the thought of steak that nothing else is going to satisfy me.

On the way home, I run over a turtle on Fairport Road. Squash, crunch, right under my tires. Who knew there were turtles on Fairport Road?? At rush hour? I mean, I think it was sitting still and then started moving, because I can’t think of any reason why I’d see it at the very last minute. Good grief! I’m completely freaked out when I look in my rearview mirror and see him on his back, legs waving in the air, helpless.

Dammit. So I go to the next street, turn around, and go back. Yup, there he is, but now he’s all tucked inside what looks like a squished shell, rocking gently as the cars whiz by. I think he’s dead, but I can’t leave it in the middle of the four lane thoroughfare to get run over again and again. So I look for oncoming cars, then make my way out into the lane with a towel and gently scoop the turtle up and put it in the jeep before either one of us gets hit in traffic. What I’m going to do with the turtle, not sure.

I get home, take the turtle out and lie it on the grass while I figure out what to do with it. Then I open the door to go inside the house, arms loaded with grocery bags, only to find …

… the dogs are loose. Together! Standing at the top of the stairs! Barking at me! OMG!

(Let me interrupt the story: For those of you not familiar with my dog situation, imagine one very reactive dog + one high strung border collie + a desire on the part of both dogs to occupy the same space at the same time = severe, bloody fights and a need for constant separation. Back to our story …)

I try not to freak out, and when I open the door they both rush at me in what would normally be a precurser to a fight, both dogs at mach emotional level and trying to occupy the same space in the foyer. Instead, with Bandit almost on top of Bailey at the screen door and tails awagging, they look at me and I say, “What are you two monkeys doing out together? OK, Bailey, outside …”

Like trained movie dogs, Bailey quietly goes outside, Bandit goes to the top of the stairs to wait his turn.

No problem at all. Seriously.

Then I check for blood, damage to the house, any sign they’ve been fighting (other than the fact they’re both soaking wet from spit and tipped water bowls) or any clue as to how they bypassed the gates/doors. Nothing. No sign they’ve been romping, chasing, rough housing on the beds. The water bowls have been pawed at and clearly both dogs have had their fill (and been busy at something). But otherwise … they were good dogs. Very good dogs.

Apparently my consistant routine coming into the house clearly paid off in this case. Even though they both were very, very excited that I was home, they went through the routine like little dogbots. Bailey outside first, Bandit waits in the foyer.

Anyway, I call darling husband to tell him about it all – the steak, the turtle, the dogs –  and get the expected response: he’s so glad the dogs didn’t fight, but even through the phone I know he’s rolling his eyes that I would bring home a dead turtle. I also get the reassurance that despite the fact I’m notorious for running over strange critters (I once plowed over an owl that was sitting in the road) I am still loved.

I explain to darling husband that even if the turtle is dead, the shell is quite pretty, so why can’t I just put it in the garden? He explains that dead turtles stink. I ask, Can’t he just gut it, like he guts a deer? He sighs and tells me there’s probably something on the internet about gutting a turtle. I explain to him that it doesn’t really matter what he does with it. I usually kill ‘em and he usually disposes of the bodies. (Dead bunnies, headless birds, sick chickens, the owl …) We’re a team that way.

For the record, I haven’t slept more than a couple of hours at a time in over a week, and even then it’s really more napping than sleeping. I’m exhausted. It’s entirely possible that I forgot to close the door and actually left the dogs loose. Or at the very least didn’t check the door, which tends to stick and can be pushed open very easily. I usually double and triple check everything but not today.

And it might explain why I left the steak out where Bailey could get it in the first place, starting this whole chain of events. I can barely remember what I’m doing right now.

As for the turtle, I’m always emotional over the death of an animal, especially if it’s my fault. But in my defense …

The turtle was back from the dead, munching on some violet leaves. This morning, he was gone. Hopefully using the crosswalk this time.

The turtle is back from the dead! He crawled into the garden where I found him munching on some violet leaves. This morning, he was gone. Hopefully using the crosswalk this time.

… the turtle is alive! I put him in the grass and he’s meandered into the foliage, where, if he’s smart, he’ll make a home. It’s much safer than the middle of the  highway.

So I’ll go to drink my wine and eat my steak and hopefully get a night’s sleep free from dreams about turtle murder.

Another rant about off leash dogs and I ponder why the leash lawbreakers get to run the show

The dog owner is barely visible in the picture, far to the right. That's as close as she got to her dog, which was roaming loose in the cemetery.

The dog has finally left us alone and gone to sniff the wreaths. The dog’s owner is barely visible in the picture, far to the right. That’s as close as she got to her dog, which was roaming around off leash.

Disclaimer: I am about to rant. And rant in a way that you may think is petty. If you think I’m petty then this post is probably meant for you. 

So I’m at White Haven today, in the “Little Lambs” section, pondering the graves of the three infant children of a couple named Michael and Molly Nier, whose  infant daughter and two infant sons died within a three year period, when I hear a woman’s voice behind me say something that sounds like, “Uh oh”.

I love walking in this particular cemetery, because it’s safe and quiet and solemn. I like the tranquility. I think, I pray, I write in my head. I read the headstones and talk to the cemetery workers. I listen to the birds and take pictures of the foliage. It’s a little sanctuary. And the best part is that I can walk Bailey there with relative assurance that we’re not going to be surprised by other dog walkers. It’s not the case with the other places where I can walk Bandit.

Bailey, in case you don’t know, has some reactivity issues with other dogs. As in, if approached by a strange dog she may react in a way that causes harm to the other dog or anyone trying to separate them. It’s a behavior problem we’ve worked with in training, and we have learned to manage the situations as well as help her learn how to manage her impulses. She’s made incredible progress. I mean, really incredible. And now she even does really well in organized situations with other dogs. She can go to classes with other dogs. She can meet another dog nicely and then we do a  quick “break!” and she comes back nicely. We always work on this with another behavior-savvy dog owner whose dog is on leash.

Notice that I say “organized” situations. Surprises, like a strange dog bounding at us from out the blue? Not such a happy scenerio.  Bailey can start out happy and wiggling her butt with joy, but in an instant things can go very, very wrong, and if the other dog is off leash, there’s no way to call it off Bailey.

Translation: when my dog is on leash, I have control over her. When your dog is off leash, you not only can’t control your dog but you cause major problems for me.  Because at no time do I ever have any control over your dog.

Which is why walking at White Haven is so great for both dogs. It’s really close to home, so I can take one dog for a walk, then go home and switch. (Yes, Bailey’s issues extend to her brother Bandit. They are always separated by gates in our house. They can walk perfectly fine together as long as one person walks one dog and they don’t have to ride together in the car.) There are very few places in this cemetery where we can’t see into the distance, giving me a chance to avoid funerals, other walkers, and one maintenance golf cart that for some reason Bailey really doesn’t like. Bandit? No problems walking anywhere. You just have to make sure he doesn’t pee on everything in sight.

So there’s some background. Now, back to this afternoon.

I’d already walked Bailey, gone home to switch dogs, had walked with Bandit and am now on my way back to my car.  And again, I’m standing in the infant section for several minutes, really taking time to read the headstones and wonder about this couple and their loss, when I hear someone behind me.

I turn around and find a big, slobbering (literally, slobber just falling from its mouth) Golden Retriever headed towards me and Bandit. I tell Bandit, “No, no, no, no,” pull his leash tight to me and call to the woman to get her dog. She kind of lollygags where she is, about 20 feet away, calling to the dog, who blatantly ignores her. I call, “Get your dog!” Nothing. I yell louder, “Get your dog! This is very dangerous!” She ignores me while her dog ignores her.

OK, I know that you’re thinking, “I get how this would be a problem with Bailey, since you just told me about her issues. But Bandit is the good dog. And this is just a big, stupid Golden. What’s the problem?”

As nice as Bandit is, he’s not always a fan of other dogs. But at least he’s predictable, in the way most dogs are predictable. At this moment, Bandit is sniffing the slobbering dog but I can see his ears going back and his eyes narrowing and I know that some snapping may ensue if the Golden comes any closer to me. Bandit likes a buffer zone between me and anyone else, two- or four-legged. He’ll send out serious warning signals if he thinks someone is going to violate that zone or otherwise just pisses him off. But I don’t know what this other dog is going to do if Bandit reacts that way. I mean, my dog looks all nice and friendly at this point, too. And Bailey can’t read other dogs’ signals so I know from experience that it can be all happy tail wagging one minute and blood the next. This dog’s owner is clearly clueless; I can only assume her dog is, too.

Translation: a smart dog owner knows their own dog but is always be prepared for the worst from someone else’s dog.

I call again to the woman, “This is really dangerous!! Get your dog!!!” The woman puts her hand to her ear to imply she can’t hear me. I yell louder. She ignores me, her dog ignores her, and I’m getting more and more pissed off by the second. I’m walking away with Bandit but the Golden is following along.

I yell to the woman that she needs to keep her dog ON THE LEASH so I stop walking, and, to make a point, hold her dog’s collar for a second and tell her to come and get her dog. She tells me to leave her dog alone. I let go and basically scream (yup, at the top of my lungs), “PUT YOUR DOG ON A LEASH”. She tells me I don’t have to talk to her like that.

I pull out my cell phone and contemplate calling 9-1-1. My heart is pounding, because I know that this scenerio could go completely awry in an instant if Bandit snaps at this dog and it freaks in return. If that happens, the owner has no way to pull her dog back, mostly owing to the fact that it’s not only off leash but she’s still about 20 feet away. Do I keep walking and have her dog follow? Do I stand there and wait until her dog decides to leave, hoping that Bandit loses interest?

And running through my mind? “God, if I had Bailey with me, this would be really, really bad.” Continue reading

Dead squirrels and wormy birds (no wonder my head aches)

Bailey – she certainly keeps life interesting.

We’ve had an ongoing prediction here at The Funny Farm, that someday Bailey is going to catch a squirrel. Not only is she a fast runner, she has a super sniffer. If a critter is in the yard, she can sniff him out faster than he can find a place to hide.

Sometimes when I let the dogs out, the bolt to the back and I can hear squirrels scratching up the trees. Bailey once trapped a squirrel at the top of the 8′ high fence. The squirrel would run left; Bailey was there. He’d run right;  Bailey was there. Not that she could catch him up that high. She’s just intimidating, what with that bark.

If there’s something unusual – or dead – in the yard, Bailey will find it. Poop, peanut shells from the neighbor’s feeder, trash blown from the other side of the fence. I once saw Bailey chewing on what I thought was a stick. It turned out to be an entire dead bird. A whole bird! She had the entire thing in her mouth! I had to pry open those jaws and literally reach in to remove the intact bird.

Talk about gross.

Anyway, I had gone out to run an errand. When I came home, I let Bailey out and stayed inside for a minute to be welcomed home by Bandit. Things were quiet outside – no barking, no yipping, not a sound. That’s a good sign, usually. I went out to switch dogs – and that’s when I saw Bailey in the driveway standing over what looked like an old stuffed toy.

Except it wasn’t a toy. It was a squirrel.

Bailey had the squirrel pinned down, then she’d let it up. The squirrel would try to get away, Bailey would paw at it, it would squeak, she’d paw at it, and on and on. Bailey was strangely calm, as if she wasn’t really sure what she’s caught or what she wanted to do with it. And the squirrel was clearly in distress but seemed to know that if he stayed still Bailey was more likely to just stare, rather than cause him further harm.

I knew that freaking out would send Bailey over the edge – she’s reactively weird that way. A screetch from me and the squirrel would be toast. So I ran into the house, grabbed some biscuits and started calling Bailey, tossing biscuits in an attempt to lure her from the squirrel just long enough so I could grab her collar while avoiding a scratch from the squirrel.

It took a second or two, but I got Bailey in the house, and hoped that the squirrel would run away to wherever it is that injured squirrels go.

I called the vet – Bailey is up to date on her shots, she didn’t appear to be injured at all, so there wasn’t any worry in that regard. But when I looked outside, there was the squirrel. Dying, right outside the screen door.

The squirrel crawled up there in the middle of the garden hose tangle. And died. Sort of.

So I called the village animal control office (which in our town is also the building inspector). Not surprisingly, the clerk told me that animal control really doesn’t do anything and that usually in this situation, the critter will crawl away on its own. (This is actually a very, very common policy.) But when I told her the critter was … Eeeeww!! Right at my door!!! … Dead in the hot sun!! …. she sent over Dave, the building inspector/animal control officer.

Dave thought that the squirrel had a broken back, and that it was entirely possible that the critter was already injured when Bailey found it. I tend to agree; Bailey wasn’t worked up into a frenzy, and she didn’t seem bent on shaking or chewing or otherwise causing the critter harm. She was much more curious than murdurous about her little pal.

Thankfully, Dave removed the squirrel – it was still alive so he had to … let’s say … humanely remedy the situation. He was so nice and he took care of the situation so calmly. I will never complain about how high my taxes are again.

As I watched him drive away, I looked down, and there was a dead bird in the front yard. A gross, wormy, ant-covered dead bird.

Seriously, what is going on over here? Continue reading

Caution: influence may appear much bigger in rear view mirror

I was cleaning my office on Sunday – I’ll wait while you pick yourself up off the floor – and for reasons I can’t explain pulled out the old CD player and a box of my favorite CDs and started blasting music.

I mean, blasting music. Windows open, breeze blowing in, music pouring out.

I haven’t done that in a long, long long time, since before I crawled under my emotional rock and curled up into a ball with the dogs and dust bunnies.

But on Sunday? It was rock and roll and sing out loud and dance with whichever dog was closest to me.

I’m no musician, and I couldn’t tell you anything about the art of making music. Which, of course, is why I always felt like a fraud when I was covering music. I just know what makes me happy,  makes my blood tingle and my spirit soar. And doggone it, I love a song I can sing along with. Loudly and off-key.

What I loved about covering music was the people. I’d go to music events and pick the unknown bands to interview, especially the ones who had the time to hang out and talk, who weren’t dishing out pat, rehearsed answers about how they wanted to share Christ with their music when in reality, they just loved making music and being on stage. Which of course was often not only the more honest answer, but the one that may actually have served God the most.

So this music I was blasting away on Sunday made me think of old friends. A lot of CDs were from artists I know or I’d interviewed and remained friends with, or music that was playing while I was with friends having fun times and making memories.

But I didn’t just listen. In between listening to music and doing the cha-cha with Bandit, I actually contacted with those friends. Sent a little Facebook “I’m thinking about you today” hello.

It was awesome.

I had a discussion, for example, with an artist pal who caught me up on the band and added that he hoped big things would happen soon. I told him, “Hopefully big things will happen soon – but remember that just doing what you’re supposed to be doing might actually be the ‘big thing’. You just might not get to see how big it is until it’s in the rearview mirror.” He said that was actually encouraging.

The truth is, that was something I needed to be reminded of, too. Trying to lift the boulder I’ve been living under has been exhausting, and when I look at the work that needs to be done to clean house – literally and figuratively – I can get overwhelmed.

Which is why I am so grateful that, while at a writing conference a few years ago, someone encouraged us to create a writing mission statement to help guide us when things got overwhelming. Here’s mine:

“Connect. Inspire. Change the world.”

Nothing drastic. No plans for world peace (I can’t even manage dog peace in my own house). No specific goals to save the world or feed the hungry – although those are all tasks that happen within that little mission statement (although not nearly as much as they used to happen, which may be one of the contributing factors in my years under the rock. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

I’m reminded of that quote by Cardinal John Henry Newman, which I often share but will share again because it’s so darned inspiring for me (bold emphasis mine):

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

There’s nothing in there about meeting page view goals, making money, or being a literary rock star. I’m good at a few things: connecting people and encouraging people, and hopefully in the process facilitating others to fulfill their missions in life and thereby be a link in the chain that will change the world. 

So here I am, halfway through the week, feeling so flipping fantastic, so happy to have reached out to people and found them still there, to be reminded that nothing more is expected of me than to do exactly what I’m supposed to do today.

Which, if I’m reading the signs right,  means some serious puppy snuggling.

5 reasons why I should win the “Eukanuba Paws In Motion to BarkWorld” prize

Me, Bandit, editor friend Carol Bryant and Dexter.

In the interest of full disclosure, this post will make a shameless pitch for why I need to win an all expense paid trip to BarkWorld 2012. What can I say? I’m desperate. Continue reading

Me and my “disposable dog”

Bailey, the day I brought her home from the shelter, January 22, 2011. She was six weeks old.

13WHAM News did a story tonight on what they called “Disposable Dogs,” puppies and dogs that irresponsible backyard breeders keep producing and then bringing to the shelter. Sometimes it’s day old puppies; sometimes it’s the mother dogs who have been bred till they’re no longer useful and then dumped; sometimes it’s adult dogs people bring home and then turn over when they’re bored with them.

Reporter Jane Flasch said in the story that about 1028 pit bulls were euthanized in 2011 at Rochester Animal Services. I volunteered at RAS for a year – an experience I absolutely loved but also one that broke my heart every time I was there. (I only stopped volunteering when I had to get a real job, which lasted a few weeks. Then Scout got sick, Bailey and Bandit had their turn of events, and I wasn’t able to go back. But I digress.)

The report included not just interviews with people like Jenn Fedele, founder of Pitty Love Rescue – the story incorrectly identified Jenn as a breeder; she is most definitely not a breeder – but also photos taken in the tech rooms at RAS of dogs being euthanized.

Seriously, having just had to put my darling Scout to sleep after a battle with cancer, I did not need to see that. But maybe you did, so that you could understand how serious the problem is.

As I watched the story, one thing stood out: had Bailey not come home with me on January 22, 2011, she would have been one of those statistics. Continue reading