Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's your problem?

What's your problem?

Do you not understand the importance of feeding biscuits to pugs?

Who cares what the vet says about avoiding overfeeding of pugs? Just because she said I'm beautiful and shiny and sleek doesn't mean I don't need a biscuit. I need a biscuit NOW (stamping her tiny feet). GET WITH IT, MOM! Don't you know that biscuits make my tail curl? Do you want a pug with a straight tail? Do you want a starving, traumatized pug? Do you want me to start barking hysterically and wake up all the other dogs? Do you? Because I'm fully prepared to do that...just give me a biscuit now, and nobody gets hurt. Understand?

Where's My Teddy Bear?

I had a dream, Mom.

I was dreaming. I was dreaming that I was the only dog.

It was so nice, for a while. But then I was so lonely.
Where's my Grammy?
Where's my Teddy Bear?
Where's my biscuit?
Is this my front end, or my rear end?
What time of day is this?
Is it supper time yet?
Is it sleeptime yet?
Can I have a hug?

All arms and legs

When I was growing up as a short, chubby girl, people told me I'd grow out of the baby fat. People exclaimed that their own 13-year old daughters were "all arms and legs". As far as I could tell, my body was shaped like a donut with a head and little stubs for hands and feet. Now that Jinx is in my life, though, I finally understand what the "all arms and legs" thing is about. It's about Jinx.
His arms and legs do actually fold at the joints, but you'd never know it to look at this picture.

Girly Girls

I keep trying to capture Polly and Meg together in a photo, because I'm dying to write a conversation between them in which Polly assures Meg that she looks JUST LIKE Hannah Montana, and so on and so forth. But I keep getting shots like this.

And the conversation goes like this:

Polly: Mom! Meg stole my nylabone, AGAIN!

Jean: Polly, you know perfectly well the nylabone belongs to everyone.
Polly: But it's worn down to a tiny nub. It's just my size now.
Jean: Meg, would you please share the nylabone with Polly?
Meg: Who was that at the front door? Was that the UPS man, or was that Miley Cyrus?
Polly: It was Miley! I swear, it was Miley. You'd better go look, right now. I'll take care of the nylabone while you go check, OK?
Meg: Naw, it was the UPS guy, and it wasn't my Victoria's Secret order, either.
Polly (stamping her tiny feet): Hmmph!

A Peaceable Kingdom, Part XXIV-ii23b

In our peaceable kingdom, the lamb lies down with the lion. Er, no. The lion lies down with the lamb. No, that's not it. I've got it! The lamb lies down with the lamb.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Grinch?

A visitor who would prefer to remain anonymous, but who I recognize nonetheless, pointed out that a Schnauzer dressed as Santa is a travesty because Schnauzers are actually Grinches. After some diligent research (that took me about 35 seconds), I have decided that this visitor is absolutely right. I think it's all in the eyebrow action. To get the defiant hands-on-hips-Grinch look, we would need a photo of Fritz's brother, Ziggy. Maybe Fritz & Ziggy's mom would oblige...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Job Interview

I can't reprint it without copyright violation, but I think I can safely tell you about the hilarious Peter Steiner cartoon I found in my 2010 The New Yorker Dogs appointment calendar.

A balding man in a suit sits in an armchair before a fire in a lushly-appointed office. His arms and legs are crossed as he looks down and addresses the dog sitting on the carpet before him. He says, "I've told you why I need a dog. Now suppose you tell me what makes you think you might be that dog."

It reminded me of several job interviews I've had, during which I, as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as the cartoon dog, delivered monologues about what made me perfect for the job. I couldn't help imagining how one of our dogs would fare in an interview like that, so I interviewed Teddy. I will apologize in advance if I offend anybody of Eskimo or Inuit origins.

Jean: I've told you why I need an indoor dog. What makes you think you might be that dog?

Teddy: Because I'm really cute and I deserve it.

Jean: Even after you chewed the wooden base of that chair while you were waiting for this interview?

Teddy: I wouldn't have had to do that if you kept a few issues of Highlights for Puppies in your waiting room.

Jean: So you can read?

Teddy: Well, no, but I also like to chew magazines and books. It's a form of recycling, you know. And it's roughage. Everybody knows fiber is good for you. Keeps the old pooper working.

Jean: We need more poop like the Eskimos need more ice.

Teddy: I understand you have an expert pooper scooper on staff here. It's one of the things that drew me here. I'm very interested in an apprenticeship in that area.

Jean: Let me see if Mr. Georgie is available to interview you. Perhaps you could demonstrate your current skill set for him.

Teddy: No problem! I can also provide references - hmmm, where did I put that piece of paper? (he coughs up a paper spit-ball)

Jean: Spitting on the premises is strictly forbidden.

Teddy: So sorry. It won't happen again. For at least 5 minutes. Maybe 10.
Jean: Miss Meg, will you please page Mr. Georgie to the conference room?

Friday, December 25, 2009


Smoky writes:

I admit, wasn't too sure about her at first. I thought maybe she was something to eat, like a mouse or a mole. And she was so pushy, grabbing all that attention, getting fed canned kitten food. No one ever fed me canned kitten food. And she stole my catnip mouse. And she sits on top of the tractor and jumps on me when I walk by. But I guess she's kind of growing on me now. Like a wart.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from a West Coast Correspondent

Fritz writes:

Merry freaking Christmas, Auntie Jean. Why do I have to wear a stupid Santa hat? If I wear it in front like this, can I get it filled with treats like a trick-or-treat bag? Please tell Mom to stop dressing me in stupid outfits. Does she think I'm a baby doll or something? What if my friends see me wearing this? Harley is laughing at me!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy 1st Birthday!

Looking at the porkers - excuse me, I mean puppies - now (at about 50 lbs each), it's hard to believe they were born only one year ago today weighing a little under 14 ounces each. And it's hard to grasp how much our lives have changed since then.
When it came time for their birthday party today, they were too pooped from a long day of playing to do much partying. Only Polly stayed alert, waiting for the birthday cake. Meg was inexplicably traumatized by the party hat I made for her and had to lie down with a cool cloth on her forehead and be fed red M&M's one by one. The party broke up when Georgie went outside to look for fudgsicles (which he found, judging by his breath) and Patch loudly announced that a herd of dragons had invaded the back yard. Everyone trooped out to investigate. The party was over. And so Year Two at 9 Dogs Howling begins...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Polly's Wish List

Polly: Why did you wake me up? I was so comfy. I was dreaming that Patch and I were sunbathing on a beach in the Caribbean, wearing our pink polka dot bikinis.

Jean: Sorry to disturb you, but have you finished your Christmas wish list yet?

Patch (thinking): I already got my wish. I'm an indoor dog now!

Polly: I want the pink Disney pajamas with the magic wand that you saw at JC Penney. And a pink ipod. And a pink laptop. And DVDs of Benji, Lassie Come Home, Babe, Flashdance, My Fair Lady, and Pretty Woman. And a pink collar with rhinestones on it. And a pink down jacket with fur trim and matching boots. Ten pounds of chocolate-covered Milk Bonz. A Magnum of pink champagne. A round-trip ticket (first class) to St. Lucia. A pink villa in Spain, preferably Majorca. Pink Jimmy Choo shoes. My own Visa card. A pink convertible Mustang. Pink Prada sunglasses, and pink...

Jean: OK, OK, that's enough.

Polly: But I'm not done yet!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where to keep the wastebasket when you have 7 dogs

The drawback is that I'm only 5'2" tall and can hardly reach the wastebasket. But neither can the dogs. Yet.



Definition: rest, sleep, calm, peace.

Illustration: see above


This weekend Mr. P. decided to recycle an old sleeping bag into bedding for our outdoor critters, but before he could tackle the project, Georgie and Teddy decided to go camping. All that hiking, fishing and hunting really wore them out, so they were glad to have that sleeping bag with them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Letter From Heaven

Grief lurks around the corner and ambushes me when I least expect it - when I'm driving to work, or straightening a nightgown display for the 10,000th time, or think of something funny to share with Mom. My friend Terri pointed out that Mom is in heaven now, happy with her friends, family and dogs, waiting for the rest of us to get there some day. This morning I imagined her writing me this letter:
Dear Jeannie,
I thought getting here would be harder than driving from Waltham to Gloucester on Route 128 on a Friday afternoon, but it was a snap. Please don't worry about me any more. I am no longer confused and afraid. I got to hug your grandmother, who in heaven has all of her good qualities and none of her tiresome ones, and I'm finally with my beloved dad after missing him so for over 60 years. I see my dear friends (Quimby, Dorothy Bailey Smith, and others you never had the fortune to meet) every day. It would be just perfect if only Aunt Betty Lyons were here too, but it's not time yet for that.
I haven't seen your father yet (which is probably just as well). It's entirely possible he's not here at all, but don't tell anyone I said that. All the dogs are with me, Dinty Moore and Calaban and Stratford and Hildy and Peanuts, and Peaches and Buster and Bessy too. I've had wonderful conversations with Dorothy Parker and James Thurber, who are even more entertaining in person than they are on the printed page.
Be sure to tell my sister I'm saving a seat for her on the train to Patten. Mother will pack us a huge hamper of wonderful food for the trip, and none of it will be fattening.
I know it was hard for you, but you did a good job with my memorial service, Jeannie. You are and always have been the light of my life. I still have more to teach you, but that will come in its own time.
I want you to know that I'm with you every day.
I have to run now. I have a meeting with God about the illiteracy problem in 5 minutes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Memorial Service - without dogs

It's very cold today, and I didn't feel equal to handling the dogs in the ever-so-rare event of misbehavior, so we had Mom's funeral service without dogs (although Father Brooks did mention them during the service). There were 11 of us in the chapel and the service was lovely. Father Brooks has a beautiful singing voice and in honor of Mom's military career, he sang the Navy hymn:

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deepIts own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,for those in peril on the sea.
O Christ, the Lord of hill and plain

O'er which our traffic runs amain,
by mountain pass or valley low,
Wherever Lord thy brethren go;
Protect them by Thy guardian hand
From every peril on the land.
O Spirit, Whom the Father send

To spread abroad the Firmament;
O wind of heaven, by Thy Might,
Save all who dare the eagle's flight;
And keep them by Thy watchful care
From every peril in the air.
O Trinity of love and power!

Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Memorial Service Complete with Dogs

As you can see in this photo, Mom (on the left) and her sister Tanis (on the right) had a Boston Terrier (named Dinty Moore) when they were growing up. It is unthinkable to me to have a memorial service for Mom without canine representation. I asked the Senior Warden of our church if dogs are allowed in the sanctuary, and she said, "No problem." (She too is a dog lover.) So today after morning worship, I talked to our church rector and he agreed that Mr. P. and I can bring our two smallest dogs (Polly & Georgie) to Mom's memorial service on Friday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Great Gramma is Gone

My mom (age 90) passed away today.

I just visited her yesterday - hugged and kissed her - told her I would bring one of the dogs to see her on Sunday. Today when I got home from work, Mr. P. told me she had passed away this morning. I am just heartbroken. Fortunately, I have a lot of dogs to comfort me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You want me to what? Go outside to sleep in a cold, hard dog house? Yeah, I know Grampa has spent 500 hours insulating it, but it will never, ever be as comfy as this bed and this pillow. How can you even suggest that when I smile at you like this? Don't you just want to hug me? Don't you just want me to sleep in your bed? I won't hog the bed, promise. OK, maybe a little hogging, but no snoring, I promise. Well, maybe a teeny bit of snoring...

Friday, November 20, 2009

West Coast Correspondents Hard At Work

From Sunday, November 8th: the West Coast Correspondents hard at work, helping their dad watch football.
Top to bottom:
ZZZZZZ. I feel the same way about football, guys.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

3 Little Puppies Left

Last weekend we gave away most of Blackie's puppies in the Wal-Mart parking lot, until a Wal-Mart employee hiked out to tell Mr. P. that selling/giving away anything in their parking lot is not allowed (not that day, anyway - it seems to go on every other day).

It was torture to watch those little guys go. Except for the wonderful couple who came to our house and chose one of the black/brown boys (as they drove away, the puppy was snuggled up against his new mom's ample bosom, with his head tucked under her chin), I couldn't begin to guess whether the people taking the pups would be good parents. But eventually you tell yourself not to agonize over it. Maybe the pups won't get star treatment in their new home, maybe they'll get put to work as a hunting dog, but probably it will be better than living in a cold, wet ditch.

Now that we have only 3 Little Puppies, it's much easier to give them individual attention, and they appreciate the lack of competition for loving and food. This weekend Mr. P. will try to give them away in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in a nearby town. If that doesn't work, he says we'll have a couple extra "outdoor dogs". If these last 3 puppies go to new homes, we think the one who'll miss them the most is Miss Kitty.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We got rid of it

After advertising in the local paper and putting signs on our cars and at the end of our driveway, we got rid of a puppy today.
That sounds so awful to me. Maybe because of hushed conversations I overheard in the girls' bathroom in high school, that went like this:

"I heard Janice got pregnant."
"But I heard she got rid of it."
This was long before abortion was legal, so getting rid of a baby then was even more of an ordeal than it is now.
So, we got rid of a puppy today, but we think he went to a good home - a dog lover who already has a golden retriever but wanted another dog for her kids. She chose the biggest black male puppy (unnamed by us).
So that leaves 10 puppies. One less mouth to feed. One less tail to wag when I come home.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Weaning the Puppies

Yesterday when I was feeding the Little Puppies, the sound of kibble hitting the feeding dish called Blackie into the garage to investigate. She is trying so hard to stay out of reach of the puppies (to wean them), but she just couldn't resist the kibble. As soon as she arrived, the puppies abandoned the food and headed for Blackie's teats. The first one to attempt to nurse got growled at. When he tried again, she snapped and growled at him. He cowered on the floor, ears back, whimpering, and my heart broke for him even though I know Blackie needs to do what she's doing. Then I had to laugh because as the rest of the puppies swarmed around her, Blackie stomped over to her box and hopped in so they couldn't get at her. If you look at the photo in my October 22nd post entitled Box Hab For Dogs, you'll see why.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finding homes for the puppies

We worry a bit (OK, a lot) about finding good homes for all these puppies. We'll put up signs at area animal hospitals and we'll offer them in the Wal-Mart parking lot (where many kittens and puppies are given away), but 11 is a lot of puppies. Our local animal shelter is always embroiled in (negative) controversy, but I suppose the leftovers could go there.

Part of the challenge is that the yellow pages of our small-town phone directory are so unhelpful. When we first moved here and I was having trouble finding the necessities in our new community (anything from takeout pizza to dry cleaners), I asked a coworker how to find merchants and services when they're not listed in the yellow pages. She explained, "Most people around here don't bother with the yellow pages. Customers already know where to go for pizza or whatever, and if they don't know the phone number, they look it up in the white pages. So just ask me if you need something; I'll tell you the best place to find it."

That's worked out OK for the most part, but while this person knows a lot, she doesn't know everything. Since living this area, I have discovered that when you need something, you must tell everyone you meet about it. They don't mind at all: they love knowing your business, and they love sharing their own intimate knowledge of this small southern town. Of course, you sacrifice your privacy, but I'm getting over that.

So, in addition to publishing this blog and telling all my friends (local and out-of-town), coworkers (local) and relatives (out-of-town) about the puppies, I have also told casual acquaintances and perfect strangers. I've told the barristas at the coffee shop, the support staff at my dentist's & chiropractor's offices, my acupuncturist, my massage therapist, my aerobics instructor, my hairdresser's mother, most of the physical therapists at Baptist Rehab, and more, and this strategy may eventually pay off.

Last week one of my coworkers told me about a local woman (I think she went to school with this girl's sister, or something like that) who is very involved in animal rescue and takes animals to a no-kill shelter in Clarksville, TN (nowhere near us, but it's good to know about). And I actually know this animal rescue woman. Well, not exactly, but close enough. She is married to my dentist's son (also a dentist), so I know exactly where to go for her contact information.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yummy Worm Medicine

Here I am with the recent arrival, called Butterball by me and Tugboat by Mr. P. He has decided to stick around despite the rigorous diet, exercise, and medication program at the 9 Dogs Howling Resort.

We wormed 10 of the 11 puppies today (1 of them was MIA, but showed up later for supper), with an audience of Blackie, Goldie, Smoky and Miss Kitty. Thankfully, none of the Little Puppies screamed when the medicine dropper went in their mouth, the way the Big Puppies did when they were teeny (the Big Puppies made such a fuss about the worm medicine that ever since then, when they eat or chew on something they're not supposed to, I tell them, "No, no! Ick! Tastes just like worm medicine!"). But it was a chore nonetheless. Here is the procedure:

1. Collect worm medicine and a bathroom scale.

2. Enter garage and shake the puppies out of the crate by tipping it on end.

3. Grab a puppy before it gets away.

4. Remember that you need to weigh yourself without the puppy. Hand the puppy to your partner, who says, "Are we ready yet?"

5. Weigh yourself and, while groaning about the weight, search for a pencil and paper (should have thought of that before).

6. Grab the puppy and weigh again. Calculate the difference between your joint weight and your single weight. "Um, 1XX.6 minus 1XX.8 is, dang, why didn't I bring a calculator out here? Well, about 6 pounds."

7. Stick your finger in the side of the puppy's mouth to pop open its jaw and clamp its mouth shut again after the medicine goes in. While waiting for the puppy to swallow (it's amazing how long they can go without swallowing), tell it how smart and adorable it is.

8. Put the puppy in the empty crate and shut the door.

9. Grab another puppy and repeat steps 6-8. Grabbing the next puppy gets tougher and tougher as the little devils retreat under the tractor, behind the rakes, and out into the asparagus patch.

10. Tell the imprisoned puppies, who are howling, to get over it.

11. Scratch your head. Was that 11 puppies we just dosed, or only 10? "I think the girl is missing."

12. Fruitlessly search the asparagus patch, under the shed, by the cow fence, down the driveway.

13. Take the (howling) puppies out of the crate one by one, checking their sex, while your partner counts.

14. Ten puppies, including the girl, got dosed. All we know about number 11 is that he's black. The black puppies look pretty much the same, so who knows if the missing one will ever get dosed? Better luck next time!

15. Take the scale back inside and disinfect it while your unlucky partner wipes worm medicine off his shirt.

Nobody Loves Me

Polly: Georgie, are you awake?
Georgie: Zzzzzzzz.
Polly: Wake up. We need to talk.
(Editor: Four words guaranteed to put any man to sleep.)
Georgie: Arfrmmp.
Polly: Don't you think Patch is getting kind of stuck on herself since she started sleeping indoors? I mean, it's all about Patch now. Isn't Patch darling cuddled up in my purple blankie? Isn't Patch a good girl? Does Patch want a biscuit in bed? Shhh, Patch is sleeping.
Georgie: Who's Patch?
Polly: It's just not fair.
Georgie: Zzzzzz.
Polly: Nobody loves me any more.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jean & V. Plus 21

Who needs reality TV (I've never watched it anyway)? Jon & Kate Plus Eight? Octo-Mom? They got nothin' on us. We are Jean & V. Plus 21 now.

When I went to work at 8:30 this morning, we had the 4 adult dogs, 1 adult cat, 1 kitten, 4 big puppies, and 10 little puppies (although some of them were MIA - out exploring in our neighbor's pasture). When I came home at 5:30 p.m., V. (Mr. P.) announced that another puppy arrived this afternoon. He heard someone crying out by the vegetable garden, went to investigate, and thought it was our Little Brown Puppy (as opposed to our Big Brown Puppies, Meg and Teddy). He called out to it, and as the puppy ran towards him, Mr. P. realized that it was too big and fluffy to be our L.B.P. This little guy is maybe a week older than our Little Puppies, and bears a strong resemblance to (yet another) neighborhood stray, a golden retriever we call Goldie (hey, when you have this many animals, naming them ain't easy) whose prominent teats suggest that she's nursing a litter of her own somewhere.

So I had to go out the garage and investigate. Sure enough, an extra puppy, who I instantly named Butterball for reasons that should be evident in this photo. Butterball was skittish at first, but he helped himself to puppy kibble and water and is now settled in with the L.B.P.'s and the cats after a milk nightcap courtesy of Blackie. The L.B.P.'s have to chase Blackie quite aggressively to get her to nurse now. She probably saw Butterball, shrugged, and said, "Oh, hell, let's get it over with."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hi, Honey, I'm Home!

After hiding under the front porch for several days, Miss Kitty has lived in a cosy little blanket-lined-and-draped box on the porch for 2 weeks, with her own water bowl nearby, and meals served to her in a hamster feeding dish. She would venture about 3' from the porch into the yard, then go racing back to her familiar little world. But while comfortable there, she has been very lonely. She attracted Jinx's undying devotion (and the other dogs' undying appetite) by frequently hopping up on a table and putting her tiny paws on the living room window. She clearly wanted to come inside, but Mr. P. will not tolerate indoor cats (dirty paws on the kitchen counter), and I could not tolerate the thought of even one (never mind 7) dog chasing a cat indoors. It's crazy enough in here as it is just with the dogs chasing each other. What to do, what to do?

Well, today Miss Kitty found her own answer to that question. When Mr. P. was fiddling around in the garage, she got brave enough to tiptoe through the asparagus patch, across the driveway (which is mined with puppy poops), and into Puppy Playland. Was she afraid? Not a bit. She was absolutely delighted to discover 10 new playmates, and moved right in with them.

Blackie was a bit disconcerted at first, but Miss Kitty exerted her considerable charm and prevailed. So after a few hours of watching her play and nap with the puppies and Blackie, Mr. P. moved her sleeping box into the garage, where he set it on top of Smoky's crate. I'm not so sure Smoky approves of that arrangement, but I think he'll get over it. I mean, who could resist cuddling with this little girl?

Box-Hab for Dogs

Meg at the marvelous often posts photos of kitties who need rehab for their box addiction, but it's not just cats who need box-hab. Blackie needs it too, really bad. We tried giving her a bigger box to sleep in, but she prefers this one, possibly because she stole it from Smoky.
To the left of Blackie's box, you can see a slightly-chewed dog crate (which occasionally houses Blackie's puppies), and to the rear, you can see the truly awesome chaos of Mr. P.'s garage, which is so full of stuff that he might need one day that we cannot fit even a Mini Cooper in there. But the garage is not my territory. If I gave him my opinion about it, I would have to contribute to its upkeep, and that would involve cleaning up more puppy poop than I can handle right now.

Puppies, puppies, everywhere

This photo shows some of Blackie's puppies, just waking up from a nap. It's virtually impossible to photograph them when they're awake. Walking into the garage is like walking into a roiling sea of puppies. It's cute but dangerous, because there are puppy poops everywhere (and picking them up is not my job). They are very, very busy: exploring the garage, driveway, and the garden area next to the driveway; wrestling and growling; wagging their little tails; howling pitiful little puppy howls when they're hungry; pooping; piddling.
Our project for this weekend is to give them their first (overdue) dose of worm medicine. That promises to be a challenge and a half. It's hard enough giving the other dogs their monthly heart worm and flea medication doses (we do it in this order: black dogs, brown dogs, blonde dogs). I don't know how we're going to manage the new puppies. There are 6 black ones, 2 black & brown ones, one brown one. Let me see, did this black puppy get his dose already? Or was it that black one?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Can Jinx come out and play?

This photo is dark for reasons unknown to me (I am a terrible photographer), but I love it because of the contrast between the three doggy heads in the dark indoors and the one little kitty head in the bright outdoors.

Miss Kitty is saying, "Can Jinx come out and play?"

Miss Kitty, Miss Kitty, wherefore art thou Miss Kitty?

I first learned Juliet's query of Romeo (from Shakespeare's play, Romeo & Juliet) when I was in junior high school:

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

At the time, I thought she was peering out off her balcony, couldn't see Romeo in the dark, and wanted to know where he was. It wasn't until I took a graduate course in Shakespeare in college that I discovered that she was actually asking, for what purpose are you Romeo? Because Romeo was a Montague, Juliet a Capulet, and the Montagues and Capulets feuded unto death, so Juliet was agonizing over her bad luck at loving a Montague. Should she hate him just because he was a Montague, or beg him to "deny his name" so she could love him and be with him?

Something similar is going on at our house these days. Jinx spends hours at the window waiting for Miss Kitty to appear, Unlike the other dogs (who seem to think she's their next snack), he doesn't growl at her. He whines piteously, as if lovesick. But Miss Kitty is a Capulet (or should I say Catulet?), and Jinx a Montague. Is it only her name that is the enemy? What's in a name, anyway? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet...
(Note: in the upper lefthand corner of this photo, you can see the batik picture of three dogs howling that I bought in Malaysia years ago, which could be considered the Original Howling Dogs of 9 Dogs Howling.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A few words from Miss Kitty

And now for a few words from Miss Kitty:

Well, I think I'm here to stay. Yesterday Daddy took me to the vet and I got examined and shots and I met a very fat French bulldog who was much friendlier than Georgie. After Daddy brought me home, he went to Lowe's and bought all kinds of stuff so he can put insulation in the big puppies' house so they won't freeze to death this winter. But I have to sleep in a lousy cardboard box with an old blanket draped over it. I ask you, is that fair?

Mommy says it's better than living in a ditch and having to catch mice to eat. She tries to sound gruff but she gives me a bowl of milk every day and pets me and talks baby-talk to me. So I guess I'll be OK, once I get rid of these danged fleas.

It's official

It's official: Miss Kitty is indeed a girl, about 6-7 weeks old, which means she was only 4-5 weeks old when she was abandoned out here, and she weighs 1.2 pounds.

Mr. P. took her to the vet yesterday. Unless you insist on seeing a particular vet at this place, it's luck of the draw. We like some of the vets more than others (Dr. Betsy is our favorite), but they're all good. Mr. P. and Miss Kitty got to see Dr. Buckles, the vet who started this animal hospital (who we thought had retired). He is the quintessential kindly country animal doc. Dr. Buckles was astonished that Miss Kitty had survived at all because she probably wasn't even weaned when she was abandoned (I hope there is a place in hell where animal abandoners starve to death for all eternity). She is too young to be medicated for her fleas, so she'll just have to scratch for now.

Mr. P. mentioned the 10 new puppies, and Dr. Buckles said that it will be OK to give them away at 6 weeks old because mothers usually wean big litters early (Blackie is certainly doing her best to wean them already). But Mr. P. thinks 6 weeks is too young and wants to keep them until they're 8 weeks old. We'll see how he feels about that after another week or so of cleaning up ever-increasing piles of puppy poop.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Blackie reports:

Motherhood is making me crazy - just look at my eyes! I can't seem to get these danged puppies weaned. They're 3 weeks old already, what's their problem?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dogs on guard duty

On our front porch are two rustic (wood with the bark left on it) chairs and table. Miss Kitty's favorite place to perch is on one of those chairs, which makes her easily visible from the window next to my chair. Note that there is no cushion in the chair because of numerous pee and chewing incidents. Also note that someone has peed against one corner of the ottoman. Finally, note that five dogs are on guard duty, while Georgie sits on the ottomon saying, "What's all fuss about?"

You're the one who established this militia, Georgie. Aren't you going to take up your weapons (such as they are) and march into battle with your soldiers?

Just another piece of furniture

Poor Fritz. One day he was a prince of the castle. The next day, he was just another piece of furniture.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kitty Alert

To: The World

From: Georgie

Re: Kitty Alert

It has come to my attention that yet another cat has taken up residence in MY YARD. This cannot be allowed. Every member of my staff will report to my office at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow for a briefing meeting. Yes, I know that's Sunday, but this is an extreme threat. The well-being and safety of every citizen is at risk.

Effective immediately, you are under orders to shoot (or bite) to kill any unauthorized felines who venture into MY YARD.

Minus one puppy, plus one kitten

Yesterday morning we had 11 new puppies. Yesterday afternoon we had 10. We suspect that one of the puppies died (we hope it wasn't in the mouth of a coyote) and that Blackie disposed of it. It's sad, but somehow not surprising. Blackie doesn't have enough teats to feed them all, and a few of them are really scrawny.

And while I was at work last night, Mr. P. encountered a new arrival - a tiny black and white kitten who was crying somewhere in our asparagus patch. He put out water and kibble for it. We are hoping this kitten is a girl, so our resident male cat (Smoky, a.k.a. Cat Cat) won't kill it out of a territorial imperative, and are calling her/it Miss Kitty (until gender is proven otherwise). When I got home from work today, Mr. P., Blackie, Smoky and I went out looking for Miss Kitty and found her lurking under the front steps. With some coaxing, she ventured out to inspect a bumblebee that was doing the backstroke in her water dish and to sniff Blackie (who is about 1000 times bigger). Smoky just squatted in the distance and monitored everything.
Miss Kitty is much tinier than, and just as brave, as Smoky was when he arrived. Based on the way Mr. P. acts with her, we now have another mouth to feed. Outdoors.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A lick and a promise

My mom has always hated housework. She belonged to the "lick and a promise" school of housekeeping. If the entire house was coated with a 1"thick layer of dust, she would give it a lick (a few swipes with a Kleenex) and a promise ("I'll do a better job later").

Blackie seems to be taking the same approach with her latest litter of puppies. She nurses them and she protects them if you get close to them, but basically she's doing the bare minimum to get by. It's hard not to compare her mothering skills to Patch's, but Patch only had 4 babies to nurture and keep clean, while Blackie has 11. So Blackie's pups tend to be wet with urine and sticky with poop, and abandoned for hours while Blackie roams the neighborhood (she gets into terrible mischief when we try to confine her). We change their bedding once a day and towel off the pups as best we can, and keep Blackie supplied with food and water. It may not be as great a start in life as Patch's pups got, but it's still a heck of a lot better than living in a ditch.

Most of the pups' eyes are open now, though I don't think their vision is very clear yet.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome, Lionel

Our West Coast correspondents, Fritz and Ziggy, have a new baby brother. He is a miniature dachsund: a lot of dog packed into a very small body. In this photo you see Fritz reluctantly sharing his pillow with Lionel.

Here's what Lionel had to say to our interviewer:

What's your full name? Lionel "Choo Choo" O'Leary
How old are you? 3 months
Who's your best friend? Everybody's my best friend. I'm a friendly guy!
Who's your worst enemy? My enemies are "whats". Stairs are really challenging for me because I'm so long and my legs are so short. I get stuck on each riser going up and down. And furniture. I can't jump on anything! It's not fair because Fritz and Ziggy are jumping dogs and they can go anywhere!
What's your favorite food? I like "big dog" food. I'm supposed to eat puppy food but I like whatever Fritz and Ziggy eat...and I like frogs!
What's your favorite toy? I have a stuffed doggie named "Big Boy and a lot of new toys that Fritz and Ziggy share with me. I'm partial to the green stuffed frog that crackles and the real green froggies in the back yard are really fun too. Did you know that frog legs taste just like chicken?
(Editorial comment: Here in Tennessee, frogs' legs are called "swamp chicken". You're not the only one who claims they taste just like chicken, but in my opinion they taste like swamp. Not that I've ever actually eaten or drunk a swamp)
What's your favorite time of day? Play time! Fritz and Ziggy are kind of old and need to sleep a lot so any time I can get them to play with me is my favorite time of day or night!
Can you do tricks? I can barely do stairs and you want tricks? Geez! Well, I can kind of sit when I'm told to but I still need practice. I can also run at the end of the long string my mom hooks to my collar. I don't know why they call it "going for a walk" when I have torun the entire way to keep up!
What's your motto in life? Put everything in your mouth before you judge whether you like it or not.
How do you feel about baths? No comment.
How many hours a day do you sleep? Not nearly enough for my mom and dad!
What are you afraid of? Me? Afraid? Well, I am kind of afraid of going down the long flight of stairs and when my mom claps her hands when she catches me peeing on the floor. That's scary!
Who do you love the most? I'm new here. I can't pick favorites!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Number Two? What's in a Name?

I have a Chinese friend who was born in a very small, very poor village in China and grew up in Hong Kong. Her English name is Elaine. Her family name is Number Two.

What does this have to do with dogs? Bear with me...

Elaine is among the oldest of a huge litter of children - eight living, I think (I've met them all, but only 4 of them often enough for me to remember their names). The first son died - a strange story that I will tell another day. After that, Irene was born (oldest girl, or Number One), then Elaine, then all the rest (boys and girls) in quick succession. I don't think birth control was a priority in that part of the world then; Elaine's parents were uneducated laborers; and all children were a gift from God (the family is Christian). After they moved to Hong Kong, they all lived in a tiny apartment that would fill our (small) living-room and still have space leftover. The kids slept four in a bunk bed that would sleep 2 here in America, two beds in one room.

Anyway, when Elaine was born, her parents were not optimistic about her future and named her "Two" (second of two daughters). But when little Irene started to attend school and was given her English name (I don't remember her Chinese name), she insisted that Elaine must be given her own, special name, so the Ngais named her Yin Ling, and when she went to school, she was given the English name of Elaine.

Elaine excelled in school, cared for her family, and now she owns her own trading company. She has travelled the world, speaks Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, English, and a little Italian, is totally unflappable, and is superlative friend. But to her family, she is Number Two.

Now we get to dogs. Earlier today when I was admiring Blackie's puppies, I remembered my eagerness to name Patch's puppies. The night they were born, Mr. P. told me, "Wait and see what their personalities are; then we can name them," but I couldn't wait. I wanted them each to have a special name from Day One. Since I didn't know their personalities, I based their names on their physical traits and my own gut instinct, and that has worked out very well. But how do you name 11 puppies who you know you will give away to anyone who'll take them? Do you name them Black 1, Black 2, Black 3, etc.? I don't want to invest a lot of emotion in a dog that won't be mine forever, but I don't want to sentence it to anonymity with a name like Number Two.

19 Dogs Howling?

Lisa pointed out that with the arrival of the new dogs, 9 Dogs Howling may need a new name. With 19 dogs on the premises, plus our West Coast correspondents, we are a much bigger pack now. Fortunately, the new arrivals aren't howling yet. Blackie is extremely polite (as long as you're nice to her babies) and the little ones are either sleeping or squeaking.

Cheaper by the Dozen?

Eleven puppies (9 boys, 2 girls) and their mom = a dozen new dogs.
Cheaper by the Dozen is a book (made into a movie in 1950 - NOT to be confused with the 2003 version) about husband & wife time and motion experts who had 12 children and imposed their ideas about efficiency and thrift on their brood.

But as adorable as our new dozen dogs are, I'm not convinced that dogs are cheaper by the dozen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Many Puppies?

When I went out to check on Blackie and her puppies this morning, she was nowhere in sight and a few of those tiny puppies had wriggled their way out from under the shed and were crying pitifully. I did a quick body count (12!) and ran inside and quickly assembled a bed for them using the base of a shallow plastic storage bin and some towels. While I was transferring the puppies into the bed, Blackie reappeared. I thought she might be unhappy that I was handling her pups, but she just seemed to want reassurance and petting herself. I brought the puppy bed into the shelter of the garage (it's raining today) and spread out an old quilt for Blackie beside it. When I tried to re-count the puppies and check their sex, Blackie began to act anxious - nosing my hand away from the babies and whining - so I left them alone after taking a photo. I can only find 10 puppies in that photo, but there could be 2 more underneath that pile. One puppy is brown (like our Teddy and Meg) and at least two have Rottweiler coloring (like Jinx and Berry); the rest are black (like Blackie).

These photos are of the pile-o-pups in their bed, and Blackie and a few of the pups before I got them all out from under the shed.
So, so cute...but my cute-puppy-sensor is on overload right now!

Monday, September 21, 2009

MORE puppies!

When Patch was a single girl, one of her best pals was a big black mutt (who we creatively call Black Dog or Blackie). They ran around the neighborhood together and got pregnant at around the same time. Patch had her puppies here (the rest is history) while Blackie had her puppies at a neighbor's house. Patch and Blackie each went to visit each other's puppies, but since Patch is in our yard all the time while Blackie still roams free, they're not as close as they used to be. Blackie comes to visit us at least once a day to get some loving and a dog biscuit, but we haven't been feeding her or looking after her (since we already have our hands full in the dog department).

We had Patch spayed as soon as our pups were weaned, but no one did Blackie the same favor, and last week Mr. P. remarked that Blackie is pregnant again. About five minutes ago, he called me out to our storage shed, handed me a flashlight, and told me to look and listen. Blackie was under the shed with at least one crying puppy. How on earth such a big dog got under there is a mystery to me. When I spoke to her, she wagged her tail, and when we put food and water out for her, she crawled out, ate and drank voraciously, and returned to her litter.

As Mr. P. said, "What the **** do we do now?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You Are My Sunshine

Can you hear it? Johnny Cash singing:

"You are my sunshine

My only sunshine

You make me happy

When skies are grey

You'll never know, dear

How much I love you

Please don't take my sunshine away"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If You Love Cats

If you love cats, or Christmas stories, you will love the book Three Wise Cats, by Harold M. Konstantelos and (my friend) Terri Jenkins-Brady, available November 3, 2009 from Berkley Publishing (check your favorite online retailer - the ISBN number is 978-425-23036).

When an old Siamese cat notices a star of unusual brightness shining in the heavens - indicating an event of momentous significance - he sends three young cats to journey and fulfill the prophecy: The three shall find the one. The three cats will cover many miles and have many adventures. And finally they will arrive in a far land, where the star bends close to the earth over a humble stable...

Yes, an old story, wonderfully re-told. And the story of its publication by Berkley is pretty amazing, too. Harold and Terri originally self-published the book in 2005. Somehow a copy of it made its way to the desk of an editor at publishing giant Berkley Publishing. When you think of how many thousands of book manuscripts move through publishers' offices each year with hardly a glance by an editor, it's a small miracle that this editor took the time to read and fall in love with Three Wise Cats, track down the authors, negotiate a deal, and bring it to market in less than a year.

Not surprisingly, Terri and her husband Tim (also a writer) have two "clowders" of cats - one for their office, one for their home - some of whom inspired the characters in Three Wise Cats.

Check out the specially commissioned cover artwork. Isn't it beautiful?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Abby Speaks

Lisa's niece, Abby, is a wheaten Scottish Terrier with a big nose and a big personality.
During my visit to Seattle, I especially enjoyed up-close-and-personal encounters with Miss Abby. She and I share our Scottish heritage and traits. Here's an interview with her:

What's your full name? I am Abigail McFarland…a Scottish Lass…named for my great, great grandmother. You may call me Miss Abigail.

How old are you? I am not quite one year old, but I am mature for my age.

Who's your best friend? This little mutt named “Muffin.” She's not a pure breed like me, but she’s good company for guarding the house during the day and especially at night, and she's a good companion in a ‘scrap’ when we have to put another dog in its place! We work well as a team. Our mistress leaves out a variety of entertainment items for us to shred for ‘good will.’ When she arrives home, she always says, ”More stuff for Good Will.” We prepare shoes...and magazines…and books…socks, and anything hanging low the closet. It’s nice to think we are spreading good will throughout the garage. It is filled with items we have processed.

Who's your worst enemy? Enemy? I’m not afraid of anyone! They tremble at my bark. Well, maybe the two hounds next door could be dangerous if they ever made contact. I like to go just to the edge of the fence and bark my head off. It makes them furious. They body slam the fence. I can dig under the fence and go into their territory…then turn and run back under just in time. It makes them crazy. I love the power. I try to be humble…but I AM a Scottish Terror after all.

What's your favorite food? Food, food, food. Any kind, any flavor, any texture, any heat. I am a doggie vacuum cleaner. I will eat anything left on the floor, anything in my bowl, anything in the cat’s bowl, and anything I can reach on the table. I don't care what you say about my big butt. It’s my Scottish heritage.

What's your favorite toy? Bones, bones, bones. Rib bones, steak bones, soup bones, anything I can chew to bits. I lick bones, and hid them, and carry them, and chew them, and throw them.

What's your favorite time of day? My favorite time of day is when my mistress gets home. It could be any hour, so it’s always a surprise. I love surprises. I get the leashes and it’s walkin’ time.

Can you do tricks? Sit. That’s it. I will never be a dancer.

What's your motto in life? Protect and Preserve Home and Family. I am a loyal lass who believes my role in life is to keep everyone I love safe and sound. It’s my destiny.

How do you feel about baths? Pathetic! My nose looks like a Collie’s when it is wet…long and narrow. It’s humiliating. It takes forever for my fur to dry because I have a thick undercoat. I dry looking like a fluffy crazy hair piece. My hair doesn’t calm down for days. I prefer my dread locks.

How many hours a day do you sleep? I have no clue. I wake up at the slightest noise and bark, bark, bark…just in case it is a dangerous stranger.

What are you afraid of? Are you kidding? You should ask who’s afraid of me? I am a Scottish clanswoman who fears nothing. Haven’t you seen Braveheart? That movie was all about my kinsmen.

Who do you love the most? My mistress. I love to get on her lap and gaze into her eyes when she talks to me. I sit really, really close to her so she's sure to see me. And she loves me so much, I can’t help but love her back. She scratches me in my favorite spot, way back by my tail, that I can’t reach. She says I lower her blood pressure and keep her heart wide open. That’s a good reason to be a pet! I also adore my Auntie Lisa. She is the only family member who truly respects my heritage and takes time out to stare with me. We stare at each other up close and she tells me how beautiful I am.
-- Miss Abigail

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Polly: EEEW! Boy Cooties!
Jinx: I wasn't bothering her!
Polly: Get him away from me right now!
Jinx: I'll be good, promise!
Polly: I just want to be alone.

We're gonna play until we pass out!

So we played and played and played, and then we passed out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Muffin Speaks

When I was in Seattle, I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa's canine nieces, Abby (a white Scottish terrier) and Muffin (a Yorkie-Shitzu-Maltese mutt), pictured above. They are as rambunctious as my dogs, but easier to handle because they're so much smaller.

Although Muffin moves almost continuously, she did stop long enough for an interview.

What's your full name? Ragamuffin…."Muffin” for short. My Auntie Lisa calls me Phyllis Diller (because of my hair style), but I try not to take offense.
How old are you? Hmm. Is that a trick question? Let me “pant” about it for a minute. I heard my human tell someone I was 16 months old…but I think I'm a teenager.
Who's your best friend? Abby, Abby, Abby! I love my sister Abby. We work as a team. We tear up shoes...and magazines…and whatever books are laying around…even sweater sleeves on the low rack in the closet. We have so much fun together. I can trust Abby to dig holes under fences…just big enough for ME to escape. She’s a big butt girl (a whopping 14 lbs), so I have a “slight” advantage at only 6 lbs. She says she’s just big-boned. She barks with a Scottish brogue…very high pitched. We love harmonizing when our human is trying to sleep.
Who's your worst enemy? Matlock the Ragdoll Cat. I could just chew her matted fur to pieces. She always manages to stay just out of leash range. She never brushes her fur. She is full of mats in the winter and actually has to have a shave in the summer. How embarrassing for our family. She does NOT represent the “style” of the other ladies in our household.
What's your favorite food? Matlock’s cat food rocks…especially since she hates sharing. I also have a proclivity for chicken breast…no seasoning please. The only food I truly hate is dog food of any kind. YUCK! My favorites are popsicles, pudding, ice cream, and whipping cream.
What's your favorite toy? My favorite toy is anything Abby wants.
What's your favorite time of day? My favorite time of day is when my human gets home! Oh, yeah. Oh, bliss. Oh, joy. I’ve got the wiggles just thinking about it! Oh, get the leashes! It’s walkin’ time.
Can you do tricks? Where do I begin? I can get my human to pick me up whenever I want. I can make Abby bark her head off. I can annoy my human’s son until he yells out loud—his bark is worse than his bite. I can make my cousin Fritz pout and crawl on Aunt Lisa’s lap. I can hide my grooming brush. I know the best hiding spots when it’s time to take a bath. I can make my grandma wrinkle up her nose when she smells me. I can crawl under the covers and lick my human’s feet to wake her up, when she sleeps too long. There really is no end to my talents.
What's your motto in life? Celebrate good times…come on! It’s a celebration. I get the wiggles over absolutely everything. I’m a happy-go-lucky party girl. I’m a good time waiting to happen. There’s no business like show-off business.
How do you feel about baths? No comment! I only like them when Abby has to take one.
How many hours a day do you sleep? I hate those math questions. Let’s see. I wake up with my human. Then I take a nap. I wake up with my human’s son. Then I take a nap. I wake up to go potty on the pad. Then I go to sleep. I wake up when my human comes home. We go for a walk. Then I take a nap. I wake up for my favorite TV shows. Then I sleep under the covers with my human for a while. Then it is my job to wake up and bark at the raccoons on the back patio at night…wake up and bark at any other noise or sound…wake up and bark at passing cars…wake up and bark at lights that go on…wake up and bark if my human’s son comes home…well…you get the picture. I’m a night doggie. What do you expect when I sleep most of the day? I have to keep my human safe, after all.
What are you afraid of? Nothing I would admit to. However, even the prospect of a bath makes me crazy…any water drops, splashes, sprinklers, shower sounds.
Who do you love the most? My human mommy. She spoils me to death and I love it. I can’t imagine where my human would be without me…a lonely old maid I’m sure. It’s a good thing she has me!