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When you look up the word "sincere" in the dictionary, this is the picture you'll see.
Berry is telling me: I can help you cook. I'm really good at it. Why is the cabinet door open? I don't know. No, it's just coincidence, honest. Hey, don't get all upset about it. There was just pots and pans in there. Why don't you keep food down here at my nose level? Can you tell me that?
Not counting windows, there are 4 points of entry/exit to our house. I won't say what or where they are (and if you're thinking of tracking me down and breaking in here, good luck running the gauntlet of dogs), just that 2 of those locations are accessible to the 5 outside dogs. Months ago, Mr. P. announced that we should only let the dogs in and out at Point A, never Point B or C. I honestly don't remember why - there may have been a good reason, but I forgot it.
Every time I have broken this rule, he has chided me, "I thought we agreed that the dogs would only go in and out of (Point A)." To which I usually reply, "And how am I supposed to control 270 lbs of dog when they're flinging themselves at (Point B)?" Then we talk about the benefits of consistent training, etc. etc.
The other day when it was pouring rain outside, all 7 dogs were inside and I had to get 4 of them out of the house so that I could take 1 of them to the vet and leave Polly & Georgie inside. Cruel to send them out into the rain, but they can take shelter in their house or in a covered walkway. I did my best to drive the herd out of Point A, but they weren't having it. So I flung some popcorn out of Point B (forbidden, but more sheltered), and off they went.
For some reason I felt the need to confess this to Mr. P. later that evening. He conceded that I did the right thing in the circumstances, and revised the Entry/Exit rule as follows: It is OK for the dogs to go out at Point B, but not to come in at Point B.
I said, "How are they supposed to understand why it's OK to go out there but not come in?" And got another lecture about consistent training.
According to something called Cuvier's fraction, the ratio of brain weight (E) to body weight (S) in some well-known critters is:
Dog intelligence advocates will tell you that dogs are very smart despite their 2-ounce brain size (smarter than a frog, anyway). But I want you to tell me how my dogs are supposed to understand Mr. P.'s Entry/Exit rules with brains 1/3 the size of mine if I can't understand those rules?
Fritz & Ziggy: We want to warn you about all the cats that live around here. We do our best to chase them away, but they keep coming back. You have to be really careful because they have really sharp claws and boy, are they fast! They aren't good for much cause all they do is lay around the house when they're not hissing at us, but when they run they sure are fun to chase! You should see Harley when we chase him across the yard! He jumps all the way up on top of the fence and then just sits there looking at us! We think it's really unfair that they can jump higher than we can. The last time Ziggy jumped onto the dining room table he got in trouble!
Jean: My dogs enjoy chasing cats too. Smoky used to jump up on a fence post to get away, but now the puppies are big enough to reach the top of the post. The other day, the puppies got Smoky cornered and Mr. P. had to rescue him. I think the puppies were just playing, but Mr. P. was extremely cross with them over that. We didn't see Smoky for several hours after that. I think he was hiding under the tractor.
My mother grew up in a poor logging town in northern Maine during the depression, so many of her stories of her childhood emphasized her family's poverty. When she was in the Coast Guard during WWII, she met a woman who was also from a poor family in Maine, and they used to engage in storytelling contests to prove who was poorer. Mom's friend would say, "We were so poor, we didn't have chairs in our house. We had to sit on the packing crates my dad brought home from the mill." And Mom would say, "Well, we were so poor, we didn't have chairs or packing crates. We had to sit on the floor." (None of this was true, but once they got started in this vein, they couldn't stop until everyone was laughing.)
Well, my dogs are poor. Here's how the contest would go with them.
Mom: We were so poor, we didn't have beds. We had to sleep on mattresses on the floor.
My dogs: We're so poor, we didn't have beds or mattresses. We have to sleep in our food bowls.
That's right. They sleep in their food bowls. They have dog crates out in their clubhouse, plus a huge water bowl and three food bowls. They're big food bowls. Mr. P. got them at the farmer's co-op, and for all I know, they're meant for feeding cattle. The dogs ignore their crates and compete to get into those bowls to sleep. I guess they're cosy, and with the lingering smell of food, they're full of happy memories.
Two nights ago Mom and Dad were watching a stupid movie about star wars. It didn't have any dogs in it so we went into the laundry room and ate some cat poop! It's delicious and you should see how Mom and Dad react to our breath when we come back into the t.v. room and jump in their laps! Mom made us go outside and drink water until we "aired out", whatever that means!
Georgie loves to eat dog poop. He says it's even better than cat poop, except it doesn't have that nice crunchy coating of kitty litter. (Georgie adds: "And dog poop makes your breath much, much worse than cat poop. And your farts are fantastic. They can clear a room faster than shouting, 'Look, here comes Anita Bryant' in a gay bar.")
Fritz & Ziggy:
Mom said that when you come to visit you would let us sleep with you in the guest room. We normally sleep in our crate, but if you are scared we'll sleep with you. We will also make sure you are safe when you go to the bathroom. We like to go there with Mom because we are worried that she will get sucked down that thing you call a toilet when the water goes down, down, down.
Heaven forbid I should have to sleep by myself in a dark room or go to the bathroom alone. I'm not sure I even know how to do that by myself any more. And if you think the toilet is risky, have you ever checked out the shower? First you get wet and soapy (only a human would think of doing that), and then everything starts swirling down the drain…the whole shower thing worries Georgie constantly. Or at least when he's awake long enough to notice.
When Georgie was born (and before he came to live with us), my coworkers threw me a puppy shower. I believe it was the first in the company's history. They often had bridal showers and baby showers, so they had the routine down pat: a table piled with beautifully-wrapped gifts, a chair next to it for the guest of honor, another table with cake, punch, and dishes of nuts and candy, and a crowd of guests.
One of the gifts Georgie received at this shower was a rubber dachsund toy. He was never very impressed with for reasons he never shared, so it survived his puppyhood. Polly didn't play with it (possibly because it was bigger than she was). Although we never witnessed either dog playing with or carrying the dachsund, over the years it has mysteriously traveled from room to room, which makes me think that the nighttime life of toys as described in The Velveteen Rabbit may not be a fantasy after all.
Last week the puppies discovered the dachsund. They loved it, and I was happy for them (although I soon regretted that it had a squeaker inside) until I discovered Teddy puking slime and bits of red rubber. He, or his siblings, had literally chewed the dachsund a new asshole, so the dachsund went bye-bye. The next day I bought them a nylon chewy bone, and they were delighted with that. They played with it in this order: Georgie, Polly, Berry, Meg, Jinx, and Teddy (Patch would prefer to play with a stick outside). While one dog was chewing the bone, the others would try to steal it. Finally another dog would take over. At the same time, 3 other nylon bones lay neglected on the carpet. They were old, tired, and lacked novelty. Everyone wanted the new bone.
Fritz and Ziggy, the 9 Dogs west coast correspondents, are on a much-needed summer vacation, but they kindly took the time to check in the other day. I will share their lengthy report in several posts.
F&Z: Today it's summer. It's hot too, 85 degrees! We were going to run through the sprinkler but we are afraid of it, so instead we are laying in the shade where the grass is cool. Did you know that if you lay on your tummy with your hind legs stretched straight out behind you, it feels really good? Do you ever do that when you're hot?
Jean: You know, it's probably been 54 years since I lay naked in the grass with my bare tummy on the cool ground. I may just have to try that again. It might give Mr. P. a heart attack if I did, but he would die happy.
F&Z: Yesterday while our mom was talking to our neighbor on the front porch we got out the door and ran and ran and ran! We think it's hysterical when our mommy chases us down the street yelling, "Fritz, Ziggy, come!" We never listen but sometimes Ziggy gets scared and goes back to Mommy. Not Fritz though. Mom says he's a naughty runner, but she always comes to get him and then carries him all the way back to the house. It's a fun game! When you come to visit, if you let us out the front door, we will play it with you!
Jean: Don't get your hopes up for me to let you scoot out the front door for a little run while I'm there. I'm wise to almost every canine trick in that respect. I guarantee I will not fall for the old, "Danger! Danger! The entire 2009 graduating class of 2000 of the Acme Mail Carriers College just arrived in our front yard!" line. I don't care if every mail carrier in the United States, active and retired, shows up at your house, every one of them wearing those dorky shorts… you're not going out. And remember, I have a lot of practice at keeping seven dogs from bursting out every time the Schwan's guy comes to the door (which is far, far too often). I know you doggies love to watch your moms run and shout and wave their hands, but it is not nearly as much fun for us as it is for you. Sure, your mom would be sad if you got hit by a car and killed, but remember, I have at least five spare dogs who would be happy to take your place any time. As my old Woolco Department Store boss, Ray, used to say, "You want a raise? Sure, here's a dime, and don't forget to turn in your locker key. The next girl will need it, and I'm gonna be paying her 25 cents an hour less than I pay you."
When I was in school, I was lousy in math and science. Geometry, algebra, trig, chemistry, everything (biology was OK, somehow, even dissecting frogs, because I could see how it related to ME, the most important being in the universe). My parents had to hire a tutor to help me get through enough math to graduate from high school. After that it was relatively smooth sailing because I studied art in college and aside from some passing comments about the chemistry of pottery glazes, a biology class (raising irradiated seeds in a warm greenhouse in January), and an astronomy class (I sat next to my boyfriend and copied his notes and exam answers), I didn't have to deal with anything mathematical or scientific until my late 20's, when I was taking business administration courses and found that math associated with money made lots of sense.
But anyway...how does geometry apply to a living critter like a puppy? Here's how: study Teddy's body in repose. Is that a 90 degree angle between his legs and his torso? Almost! But how you do you measure that smile with geometry?
Earlier today, Meg seemed kind of droopy (maybe the floppy ears contribute to that). Even when I cuddled and kissed her, she just lay there (no tail wagging, no smiling, no giggling). At first I thought, "Jeez, being spayed really has made her into a fat, lazy dog>'
I suppose she could have been worried about something, like not having a date for Friday night.
Then I thought, "Maybe she's having a grow day."
I hadn't heard of grow days until I married Mr. P. and we adopted a puppy who would run around at 400 mph for what seemed like 23 hours straight, then suddenly crash and sleep for another 23 hours. While the puppy slept, I would say, "Do you think Buster is sick?" and Mr. P. would say, "No, he's just having a grow day."
"A grow day?"
"He just needs to rest while his body is growing. He'll be OK. You'll see."
And sure enough, Buster would soon be up, seemingly 50% bigger than before, and trashing and bashing everything in sight.
I think that's what was going on with Meg today, even though she and her brothers are a "mature" 7 months old. She and the rest of the gang (including Patch) have not stopped moving once in the past 2 hours. So I'm happy. But I'm scared, because I'm not sure I can handle these guys if they get any bigger than they are now!
Saturday Night Live was wonderful fun when I was (a lot) younger. Now I can't stay awake long enough to watch it. But when I watch our puppies goofing around, I often think of the SNL Wild and Crazy Guys.
When I was a kid, my mother would encourage us to try an unfamiliar food by saying, "It tastes just like chicken."
As an aside: getting ME to try new foods was easy. Before my fussy-eater brother was born, my parents and their friends would drink cocktails and play the "Let's see what we can get the baby to eat" game. When other babies my age were eating applesauce and unsalted pastina, I was eating blue cheese, sardines, and the maraschino cherries from my Uncle Andy's Manhattans (not necessarily at the same time).
Recently I was trying to prepare supper with the help of all 7 dogs. Having dogs that are big enough to put their paws on the kitchen counter is a new experience for me (and a trial). First I tell them, "No!" (which is like praying to St. Jude). Then I try to shove them off with a combination elbow-jerk and backward leg-kick maneuver so that I don't have to re-wash my hands, but naturally I feel compelled to EXPLAIN to them why they really don't want the food on the counter. So the other day, I heard myself tell Berry, "You would HATE steak. It tastes just like worm medicine. Uck! Ca-ca! Blech!"
As another aside: I'm not sure of the correct spelling of ca-ca. I never even heard the term until I was 21, living in western MA, and working with a woman whose favorite saying was, "Does a bear go ca-ca in the woods?"
Worm medicine, you ask? No, I don't know what it tastes like. I just assume it tastes terrible because when the puppies were tiny, they would shriek with dismay or distaste or something every time we gave them worm medicine. I'm not talking little cries of protest. I'm talking about screams 1000 times louder than you would expect a 2-pound puppy to be able to produce. You would've thought we were pulling their toenails out one by one.
I talk to the critters all day long (inbetween talking to myself). I ask them what their plans for the day are, why they did whatever bad thing they just did, what they're thinking about, whether they have a date for Friday night, whether they're looking forward to starting kindergarten, and so on. I'm afraid we have conversations during which I speak all the parts (using different voices).
Every time I feed Patch and the puppies, we discuss the menu. Something like this:
MORNING Jean says: What would you like for breakfast today? How about some blueberry pancakes? And lots of butter. Do you want maple syrup or blueberry syrup with that? Dogs reply: (tail-wagging to express enthusiasm for the suggestion) Jean says: Coming right up! Meal served: plain puppy kibble, water on the side.
EVENING Jean says: How about macaroni and cheese for supper? With chunks of ham in it? Oh, you want some pickles with that too? OK, sounds good to me. Dogs reply: (hurling themselves onto me to express enthusiasm for the suggestion) Jean says: Hey, cool it, you guys. I haven't even boiled the water for the macaroni yet. Meal served: plain puppy kibble, water on the side.
With Smoky (who I feed only in the morning because Mr. P. does it in the evening), the conversation goes like this: Jean says: What flavor yummies do you want this morning? Mousey flavor? Bug flavor? Squirrel flavor? Smoky says: Baby bunny flavor, please. Jean says: No, we don't serve bunny flavor in this restaurant. It's against our religion. Meal served: plain kitty kibble, water on the side.
Sorry for yet another blurry photo, but I think this one gives you the general idea. I'm a writer, not a photographer!
Each one of our critters has their favorite spot.
Georgie loves Mr. Parker's chair (smells like Dad). Smoky likes to sleep on the tractor (smells like Dad? grass? motor oil?). Patch likes to sit on the wooden bench that's built onto our deck, where she can survey her kingdom. Jinx likes the big blue armchair in the livingroom (accomodates his long limbs). Teddy likes the smaller, green armchair (maybe because Jinx won't let him get up on the other chair). Meg rarely gets up on a chair - she'd rather sprawl out on the carpet in the major traffic area between the living area and the kitchen/dining area. Polly likes my chair, but like a flea, she's happy to crawl on top of any other available dog. And Berry likes the bed in my study (see today's photo for evidence of this).
Last night as I was tidying things up in my study, I happened to notice a dark spot on the quilt on the bed. Sniff and touch test results: someone peed there. Who could have done that? Quick pet check. Only Berry, Georgie and Polly are inside. G&P have never been seen to pee on the bed. And who is too freaking lazy to get up to pee? Berry! Guilty as charged!
Polly loves to suck her stuffed white squirrel. It's the only toy she's ever done this to (well, actually, it's the second toy she's done it to - the other one being her first stuffed squirrel, the one the puppies killed). In addition to the squirrel, she has a pink bear that is apparently acceptable for cuddling but not for sucking. For a long time, my friends and family thought I was making up the whole squirrel-sucking thing, and every time I tried to photograph it, Polly would stop sucking and give me a "Do you mind?" look. But I finally have photographic evidence.
Since the squirrel comes from Kenton, TN (famous for its "real" white squirrels), Polly's squirrel is now named "Ken".
Polly and Meg feel like today is going very slowly.
Meg: I'm bored. Polly: Wanna play Veterinarian Barbie? Meg: Barbie is stupid. Polly: Wanna call boys on the phone? Meg: The only boys we know are my brothers. Polly: Wanna go swimming in the Barnetts' pond? Meg: No way! The cows poop in that pond. Polly: Wanna dig a hole to China? Meg: Did that yesterday. Twice. Polly: Wanna watch a movie on TV? Meg: Nothing good on. I'm gonna take a nap. (2 minutes of silence) Polly: I'm bored.
While Georgie rests from his great labors, Polly keeps watch over him. She is not entirely altruistic, of course. She also has to keep an eye on me, because I might open that biscuit container any time. You never know...
A while back, I posted about Smoky capturing and torturing a baby bunny. He will not listen to reason about this.
Yesterday I saw him stalking through the garden with a huge, fluttering bug in his mouth. I thought it was a moth, but Mr. P. thought it was a cicada. Cicadas can be pesty and noisy in our part of the world. I didn't follow Smoky to find out what he did with the bug. Probably spit it out after it was thoroughly traumatized.