Friday, December 16, 2016

Snow Tires, Snow Tired

Dear Reader,

LandLady likes to encourage me by saying "I hope you're writing about this."

At least, I'm pretty sure it's meant as encouragement.  It might be private hopes that if I write the story well enough, I can sell the movie rights and she can demand a cut. After all, the whole plan to buy a house in Bangor and move Dog in with my friends and their three boys (7 and younger) was hatched under her roof.

However, as yet, the whole situation seems very unreal.  It took 3 months from offer to closing.  I signed a lot of papers and took possession of a lot of keys. And then the plumber showed up and there was a lot of banging.  And I extended my lease at LandLady's in hopes that plumbing and heating issues could be resolved before I moved in.

And this house is in Maine where it has finally snowed.  And the driveway has been plowed in.  Dog doesn't want to go outside to run or pee and when she is forced to, she holds each foot off the icy ground in turns.

 Meanwhile, it is 50° in Tulsa and Windsor.

But that doesn't matter now. I have bought a share in the snowy weather and must now close this letter to shop for insulation and dog boots and snow tires.

See LandLady. I am writing about this.
~~ LeAn

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Sudden Change of Direction: an Analogy of Dog and Life

There are times when you and Life are walking along, like good friends, and you think you know where you are going.  You think that you and Life have agreed on a direction; that there is a plan; that you understand each other.

And then Life decides that despite all the trees you have already visited, you really must see this new one.  This tree is different from all the other trees and if you don't see it, you simply won't be the person you might be if you DO see it.

And so Life changes direction.

Except you don't notice.  Because you talked about it.  And there was this plan.

And then you trip over Life.  And Life LOOKS very indignant because you weren't paying attention and kneed her in the ribs.  And you ARE very indignant because this is a stupid tree that you had no interest in ever seeing and you would chop it down and burn it if you could. Stupid tree.  Stupid Life.  Stupid little bits of gravel stuck in your palms.

But eventually, you think of a different walk and another tree.  Maybe a blooming cherry tree you are hoping to see in the future or a Christmas tree that you laughed while decorating in the past.

And you brush the gravel from your hands and make your peace with Life, and taking your memories and your hope, and perhaps paying just a little bit more attention to the world around you, you start walking again.

For all of my friends who have tripped over Life this year, I love you and I am praying for you.  And if Life will walk with you past my house, we have band-aids and dog biscuits and hugs for however long Life will let you stay.

Just don't stop walking.
~~ LeAn (and Dog)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

This Is Your Dog On Drugs

Dear Reader,

Has it really been 3 months since I last wrote to you?  My apologies.  Dog, Pony, LandLady and I have been busy.  We have had house breaks (Pony found an open door) and growling (Pony stepped on Dog and Dog was not amused).  There have been many stuffed kongs of happiness (peanut butter & bananas, frozen peaches, yogurt) and learning moments ("See Dog, when Pony quietly lets me cut his nails, he gets treats.  Why don't you try it?") and romps at the dog park.

And then, as life was starting to get a bit routine, Dog turned to drugs.

Actually the drugs were an accident.  She was really after chocolate brownies, and it just so happened that they were pot brownies*.

In a scene reminiscent of the Toast Snatching Incident, I found Dog munching her contraband brownies in LandLady's sitting room.  It takes a lot of chocolate to kill a dog of Dog's size, so I, being unaware of the brownie's active ingredient, had no immediate concerns beyond figuring out where the brownies had come from and preparing (yet another) apology to LandLady for my miscreant pet's food snatching ways.

It was LandLady who panicked and grabbed her laptop to try and identify the effect of marijuana on greyhounds.  But at the end of 10 minutes of searching, it seemed that a) people's dogs eat a lot of things that aren't good for them, b) much of this is chocolate, c) it takes a lot of marijuana to damage a small dog.  So, since it was bedtime anyway, I led Dog back upstairs to sleep it off.

For the last few weeks, Dog has been sharing the bed with me, and since she doesn't share well, I've been trying to train her to keep to her side.  But I find that her responsiveness to instruction, always iffy, is greatly reduced in her current state, and there was only so much heaving of greyhound butt that I was in the mood for last night.  So, she slept in the middle of the bed, on her side, legs out all night almost without moving.  No twitching paws, no circling to switch position.

Until she threw up chocolate brownie all over the sheets.

(And I only have one set of sheets for the bed...)

But after I had pushed and pulled and finally persuaded a confused and uncertain Dog to get down off the bed so that I could start a load of laundry, scrounged clean sheets from the pile of ratty dog stuff, and we had both resettled, she went back to silent stillness.

This morning, Dog continues to be mellow.  When I force her to get up, she's a little uncertain on her feet and more hesitant than usual on the stairs.  But she ate her breakfast... and then threw that up in her crate along with a piece of the plastic bag the brownies came in.

Have you ever tried to persuade a stoned 65 pound dog to leave a crate without tracking barf over your kitchen floor?  No?  It's a little bit tricky.

One of the internet recommendations for settling dog stomachs was goat's milk kefer, and LandLady's latest AirBnB guests conveniently left some in the fridge.  So Dog is on an hourly ration of kefer to keep her hydrated until she's back to her active self.
And I'm going to do yet another load of laundry.
And LandLady is finding a better hiding place for her brownies!

Wishing you a restful Sunday,
~~ LeAn

PS. Watch what you eat; chocolate is the *real* gateway drug.

*Legal. Medicinal. Just to be clear.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hope Deferred

Dear Reader,

Dog and Pony have been resident with me and LandLady for 4 weeks now.  The local dog trainer asked me yesterday if we were bonding.  My ability to read dog body language is still weak, so it may be...or not.

We are having some long heart to heart chats.  This one happened in the car on the way home from her stay at the boarding kennel last weekend.

Dog, in the back seat of the car, whines.
"Dog it's very important that you listen to me."
Dog turns to stare out the window.
"Dog, I don't have to keep you, you know.  I can send you back.  If you want to live with me we need to come to an understanding."
Dog turns to stare out the other window.
"There can't be any more gate jumping.  No more sticking your tongue in the peanut butter jar.  Less restless pacing."
More whining.
"And you owe LandLady an apology for taking her toast."
Dog lays down, rests her head on the seat protector and looks at me in the rearview mirror with an expression of submission (or boredom, it's hard to be sure).

A week later, I can assure you Dog is calling my bluff about sending her back.  There has been an increase in gate jumping.  I have even borrowed a taller baby gate system from a friend which Dog jumps with ease without so much as a running start.  While this is extremely frustrating since I have good reason to want to keep Dog out of the kitchen, it is also beautiful to watch how effortlessly she does this.

Today, in an attempt to help both Dog and Pony work out their afternoon "zoomies", LandLady and I took Dog and Pony to the dog park.  We were the only ones there, so we went into the big dog enclosure and turned them loose.  Both were delighted, but we could tell almost immediately why Dog had been on the track longer than Pony; after a brief sprint, he began a long, slow, sniffing investigation of the enclosure, while Dog galloped the circumference of the enclosure, took a break to sniff around, and then did a second full out lap, all with an expression of pure joy on her face.

And then without being called and with her foamy tongue lolling out, Dog came up behind me and calmly began to follow me around the enclosure.  "Awww."  I thought.  "That's my dog."

When we got home, there was still an hour before Dog's suppertime, but Pony was getting his dinner early.  Dog did everything she could to convince me she should have hers too, but because she ran harder than Pony did, I denied her request even after she paced and whined and got into her crate unasked and laid down and jumped on the couch ... and... and...

And then I turned my back and Dog was over the gate, onto the porch, pushing past LandLady and Pony to dive headlong into Pony's (re-located) crate.  Whether she hoped to steal Pony's dinner or to receive her own, I don't know.  But in the kerfluffle, she let out a cry of pain and LandLady let out a cry for me.  Pony's dinner was delayed as he was banned from the porch and Dog was checked for signs of blood or other injuries.  There was nothing obvious (to an inexperienced owner like me) wrong with her, and I decided perhaps it would be a good time to practice her "down stay" which means she gets a lot of dog food for laying down on her blanket and staying put.  And, like an over tired toddler, it wasn't long before she fell asleep.

Sigh.  That's my dog.

~~ LeAn

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Jailhouse Rock

Dear Reader,

Dog has a way of expressing sad resignation when she is confined to her crate against her will.  She sighs and lets her head fall against the crate door so it clangs on its hinges.  The more frequently she gets in trouble, the more frequently she gets sent to her "room" and the more frequently I hear ...Sigh...Clang.

The most exciting incident of this week was on Tuesday.  LandLady likes to start her days with coffee and toast, and on Tuesday morning, she took the European approach to this classic breakfast by warming the previous evening's Italian bread and adding plenty of butter.

Dog, baby gatted in the TV room, watched these proceedings with interest.

Dog watches all food related proceedings with interest.  She knows where her food is kept.  She knows where the human food is kept.  She knows where her treats are kept in two different rooms.  And she knows that LandLady uses Pony's crate as a table for things like buttered Italian toast.

So, on Tuesday, Dog watched LandLady depart the kitchen with her slice of toast.

And then...I don't quite remember the details... but something happened to the baby gate between the kitchen and the TV room. The most likely explanation is that Dog tried to jump the gate and knocked it down instead.  Pony then decided that rather than following LandLady back to the sitting room, he would make a visit to the back of the house where Dog and I are living.   He's peed on our floors more than once so, I immediately went after him.  LandLady left her toast by the sofa and came back toward the kitchen to fetch Pony.

And as I returned Pony to LandLady's hands, I heard the sound of Dog-the-opportunist galloping toward the front of the house.  I raced into the sitting room where I found Dog with her head thrown back desperately trying to swallow a slice of buttered toast whole.  A few strategic chews would have facilitated the swallowing, but there was clearly no time for that, since at any moment That Person might come in (which I did) and deprive her of this fabulous (second) breakfast (which I did).

With slobbery toast in one hand and Dog's collar in the other, we marched back to our side of the house where Dog was duly imprisoned while I set about making LandLady a replacement slice of toast.


Practicing tough love,
~~ LeAn

* A reader asked for a few photos of Dog and Pony.  So here she is dreaming of her next great escape.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Asserting Dominance

Dear Reader,

LandLady sent me a video of Pony chewing on a rope chew stick.  It's not especially funny or unusual.  Just a big happy dog gnawing on a chew stick.

I was not grateful to see this video, because I had bought the chew stick for Dog;  I wanted her to have something non-consumable to chew on since the bits of blanket and squeaky toys she had enjoyed chewing seemed to have unfortunate consequences for her digestion.  But Dog shunned the stick, presumably for the very reason that it is not-consumable.  So it was re-gifted to Pony, who is delighted by it.

Dog is, in fact, resisting all of my efforts to keep her busy with non-food based entertainment.  But she is inventing her own games.   Games like "stand quietly just out of line of sight and see how long it takes for MyPerson to come looking for me".  Since I have reasons for not trusting Dog, she usually doesn't have to wait long.  So, fun times for everyone!!

One reason I do not trust Dog is that we are having a turf war over the couch.  I want her to understand that the couch is mine; the sleeping bag and blankets on the floor are hers.  I am the big Alpha dog, who works hard in order to provide dog food and car rides and peanut butter and walks and left over chicken soup (do you notice the food theme?) and she is the lucky beneficiary of these things, ergo, I am entitled to a certain couch privilege which she does not rank.

She is unconvinced.  And today I caught her standing on the couch.
I ordered her to the floor.  
She obeyed.  

I turned my back.  
She jumped back onto the couch and laid down.

I ordered her to the floor.
She did not obey.
I hefted 60 pounds of greyhound off the couch.

I turned my back.
Dog jumped onto the couch and laid down with her back closer to the pillows and curled into a tighter ball.
I ordered her to the floor.  No movement from Dog.  More hefting.

I turned my back...
With each iteration Dog worked her way more and more tightly toward the back corner of the couch in order to make the game more challenging (and fun!!) for me.  LandLady was all but making popcorn and selling tickets.  

After what was probably round 6, I asserted possession of the couch, by collapsing on it, face down in hysterics and despair.  And Dog, sensing victory, jumped up and stand over me for a moment, before bracing herself against the wall and raising a defensive paw.

But as I outweigh her by 60 pounds and have opposable thumbs, I stood up, pried her out of the corner and shoved her back onto the floor.

And there was a temporary lull in the game.

Yours from the couch,
~~ LeAn

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Like Candy at the Cash Register

Dear Reader,

They say that dogs don't have great memories for the mundane.  For example, you can't punish a dog for a mess made on the floor earlier in the day.  By the time you get home and step in it, he's already moved on.  But for Greyhounds, trauma sticks around.*

People are like that, too.  We filter out the unimportant stimulus and information in our lives (what did you have for breakfast last Sunday?), but we remember the details of things associated with strong emotional reactions.  (Where were you when you heard about 9/11?)

I'm not sure how the memory thing works for rabbits.  
I know that when I was a kid, I had a pet rabbit.   (Cottontail, cuz she was black with a white tail.  Clever, huh?)  My parents swear that one day they heard her scream when a loose dog attacked her hutch.  I wonder now if she had flashbacks of that day when, on a day years later, she met her end at the mouth of a different neighborhood dog.

"But why this concern with the mental state of rabbits?" you may be thinking.

Because, before I brought Dog home last weekend, I went to the local pet store to look over the selection of toys and treats and training clickers.  I was very dog focused.  I bought  a supposedly "indestructible" squeaky snake.

Several days later, after Dog had shredded and consumed what I considered to be unhealthy amounts of squeaky snake (and squeaky giraffe), LandLady and I decided we would just pop in at the pet store to see if we could find something made from a hardier material (like maybe Kevlar).  Pet stores are often pet friendly, so it seemed like it would be a good outing for Dog and Pony.

SUCCESS: We got both dogs into the back of my sedan, though not without giving the neighbors much cause for amusement.
SUCCESS: Both dogs climbed and descended the steps outside the store without hesitation.  (This is a scary thing for some greyhounds.)

EPIC FAIL: I forgot about the rabbits.

Yes, dear Reader.  This particular pet store has fluffy white rabbits in a glass display near the cash register, between the door and almost everything else.  They cost $50 a piece.  

Dog spotted them immediately and lunged at the glass, sending the bunnies to the furthest corner of their (really not very big) enclosure.  She was briefly distracted by a walk down the treats and bones aisle but by the time a new chewing rope had been selected for Dog and a ball-thrower was found for Pony, Dog (the Mighty Hunteress!) had not only spotted the rabbits again, but (the generally less observant) Pony had also caught on that there was fun to be had. LandLady dragged Pony out of the store while I fumbled to pay. And then it was my turn to "lead" Dog out past the mouth watering rabbits while the shop clerk tried to block her view.  

It was only then that I realized there was a second and open rabbit display, to facilitate petting of the (presumably cheaper) rabbits.  Dog might have had to jump for them, but Pony could easily have picked one off the table.  So their fixation on the caged rabbits was perhaps a blessing in disguise.

And I hope the rabbits can take that view of the incident, if they do, in fact, remember the Day of the Dogs.

Yours with gratitude that I didn't have to pay for $100 worth of rabbit,
~~ LeAn

*Although some breeds are very forgiving of events that frighten them, retired racers can take a long time to forgive and forget. Bad memories can last a long time. Try to avoid situations that are likely to scare him.