Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday School

Today is Sunday, The Feast of the Pentecost. On Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they began to speak in tongues, and the unenlightened thought they were all drunk at 9:00 am. But Peter preached to them about the Good News and 3000 people were baptized.

As I was leaving this morning to go to church, all four puppies clamored to go with me.

"Want to go to church and learn about Jesus?" I said.

They wagged their tails.

Then I had a quick mental image of the puppies in my church's little Sunday School room, chewing on the wooden creche set and learning to sing "Jesus Loves Me", and realized that the arms of Episcopal outreach may not be strong enough to hold those dogs.

On the other hand, Jesus did love animals. I can easily substitute a dog for a lamb in this picture.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Good morning, Mom!

My friend Lisa told me how touched she was by the way one of her Schnauzers greeted her this morning. He put his front paws on her lap, his chin on her thigh. and gave her an almost-human look of love.

Fritz's good morning greeting reminds me of a story my mom used to tell about Cal, the black lab we had when I was a baby. Apparently he was huge, friendly, and stupid. One of his favorite things was to roam around the neighborhood stealing soiled sanitary napkins from trash cans and bringing them home to Mom. She'd go after him and he'd run, so she'd hop in her little Morris Minor and chase him with the car. Since he loved car rides, this usually got his attention.

Anyway, at the end of one very long trying day of Cal and baby care, Mom sat down to relax. Cal loped over to her, rested his big head in her lap, and looked up at her with soulful eyes.

She said, "Oh, Cal, you really do love me, don't you. I'm sorry I yelled at you today."

And he then puked a nice warm loaf of barf into her lap.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What are you kids doing in there?

Suddenly it's quiet in the living room.
I call out, "What are you kids doing in there?"
Teddy replies, "Nothing!"
Meg adds, "We're being good, honest!"
Faint chewing noises from Berry and Jinx...
Georgie farts...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Squirrel!

I mentioned the death of Polly's stuffed squirrel earlier and realized that you haven't heard the whole story, so here it is.

Stuffed animals have a short life expectancy at our house. Even the ones designed especially for dogs don’t last very long.

Last fall, a member of my writing group gave me a white stuffed squirrel. The teeny town he lives in is famous for its white squirrels (I think they have a population of 3 of them). A local civic group bought hundreds of these stuffed squirrels for a festival, and had hundreds of them leftover (which I guess added to the town’s squirrel population, but these guys aren’t out there climbing trees or running across the road trying to fake out passing motorists—they’re confined to some cardboard cartons in Tim’s garage).

I thanked Tim nicely, thinking, “What am I going to do with this silly thing?” But when I got home, Polly expressed an interest in it, so it became her toy. More than that, it became her best friend. She cuddled it, carried it around the house in her mouth, buried it under her bedding, and most of all, sucked on it (maybe Polly was weaned too early?). Soon Mr. Squirrel was no longer white (as you can imagine), but I didn’t dare throw him in the laundry for fear that he would disintegrate, or that Polly would have a panic attack while he was spinning around in the dryer.

Then the puppies were born and ventured into the house. They quickly discovered the squirrel. We had some anxious moments when Meg tried to take the squirrel outside with her, but I managed to rescue him.

A few weeks ago I was working in my study while all 7 dogs were playing in the living room (that was my first mistake). After a while I realized that it was ominously quiet out there, so I went to check on them. Polly was standing next to her squirrel with the puppies ranged around her. Georgie and Patch watched from the sidelines. The squirrel had been badly eviscerated and there was white stuffing everywhere. Polly sniffed at the bits of stuffing and looked at me as if to say, “Please put it back together!” But it was too late. So I put Patch and the puppies outside and cleaned up the mess. As I held Mr. Squirrel over the trash container, I asked Polly, “Would you like to say a few words before he goes to his grave?” She gazed up at me in confusion (the trash container happens to be about 6” away from the dog kibble container, so she may have been wondering if I was going to feed her and the squirrel). Then it was, “Goodbye, Mr. Squirrel!”

Poor Polly. Such a traumatic day. Such a grievous loss. She did, however, manage to choke down every bite of her supper (like mother, like daughter) and has accepted a few biscuits of condolence. Memorial contributions can be made to the Humane Society of the United States.

When Mr. Parker got home that night after a bad day at work, he wasn’t too interested in the Squirrel Tragedy, but the next morning he announced that he was going to buy Polly a new stuffed toy for her to keep on the bed in my study where the puppies can’t get at it (at least until they grow a bit bigger). He actually managed to find a grey stuffed squirrel at Wal-Mart. Polly did not understand that the new toy was supposed to stay on the bed, and the grey squirrel was dead within 24 hours of arriving here. Polly hardly noticed. It was not, after all, the original Mr. Squirrel.
Finally I met up with Tim and his wife Terri, who presented me with not one but two new white squirrels. I hid one of them in a closet and gave Polly the other one. She was delirious with joy - threw it up in the air, raced around the room with it, sucked it, the whole deal. Our new arrangement is that when the puppies go to their clubhouse at night, Polly gets the squirrel. When I get up in the morning, the squirrel goes to perch on the sideboard in the dining room.

Peace & quiet would be nice

Here's Meg and Teddy. Meg's saying, "Hold still. I'll just get that bit of popcorn from behind your tooth there."

When I got home from running errands at noontime, I let the dogs inside because it's hot out and they were all panting (Mr. P. says they could all have careers taking 1-900 calls). Instant chaos. Growling, snapping, snarling, biting, giggling, jumping, pillow-stealing, toy-chewing...makes my head spin.

And I don't understand how they can spend the entire morning outside and then only realize when they're inside that they need to pee or poop. Does anybody come to me and say, "Hey, I need to run outside and take a leak?" No. I do try to be approachable, but apparently they don't have time in their busy schedules to stop and discuss piddling with me. They just do it wherever they are and keep on moving.

So I was working in my study when suddenly I realized that it was awfully quiet out in the living room. The last time that happened, we had a sudden death in the family (Polly's stuffed squirrel), so I raced out to check on everybody. They were all flopped out on the carpet being little angels (except for Georgie, who was in Mr. P's chair again). The instant I grabbed the camera to record this rare moment of peace and quiet, they all leaped into action again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sweet dreams

The puppies are in perpetual motion, but Meg did conk out for a while the other day, hugging Polly's pink blanket.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Six flags for kitties

Last week we moved Patch and the puppies into an 8x8 shed in the back yard. Here’s a photo (left to right: Berry, Teddy, Meg and Patch).

This move means that we can use their former bedroom as a much-needed storage room again. It worked well as a dog bedroom because it has doors to the master bathroom and to the fenced-in back yard, but those days are over (unless we ever get another puppy - I can't imagine that at this point - we have a lifetime supply of dogs now). We had cleaned it only in a cursory fashion when it was a dog bedroom, mostly because Mr. P put up fencing in front of all the shelving to keep the dogs out of trouble and it was a major pain to maneuver around the fencing. So we mopped the floor, changed the dog bedding, and cleaned the dog crates, but that's it.On Thursday I started a major cleaning in that room. I only did half the room because I was able to remove the fencing from only 2 of the shelving units. It was disgusting. Not just dirt. I found mouse droppings, a dead mouse (in a sticky trap), and 3 live mice. I heaved the shelving around and threw out almost everything that had been stored in there....if a mouse walked across it, I don't want it unless it's spent a few hours in an autoclave. After two hours, I gave up. When Mr. P got home from work, he removed the rest of the fencing after listening to me rant along the lines of, "How could those mice survive with FIVE dogs in that room?"Clearly, the dogs have not been earning their keep. (What a surprise.)Yesterday I tackled the rest of the room. Found shredded puppy training pads (mouse bedding, I guess) and 2 more live mice. Found Mr. P. and said, "You need to move those shelving units so I can clean underneath them, but I'm not going back in there with those mice."As you know, I'm an animal lover, but I do not love rodents. I will not go out of my way to hurt them, but if they invade my home, they're history. They're dirty and disease-infested and I'm not paying the vet to give them shots and check-ups. I'm feminine but not a girly-girl - I don't leap on tables when I see a rodent - but I sure do cuss at them.So Mr. P. went out there, moved the shelving units away from the wall, and found a dozen baby mice. And being a very resourceful guy, he put our cat's litter box and water bowl in the room. He grabbed the cat, Smoky, heaved him into the room, shut the door, and reported all this to me just as I walked out the door to go to physical therapy (for the bursitis in my hips).When I got home from PT, I asked him, "So how's it going with Smoky and the mice?"He gave me a broad smile and said, "It's Six Flags for kitties!" It seems that Smoky had been highly entertained by the mice. Mr. P. heard lots of loud noises - crashes and bangs - in the storage room. Finally curiosity overcame him and he opened the outside door to the storage room.

"Want to come outside?" he said.

Smoky, who usually hates being confined, looked out, said, "Raar," and turned his attention back to the mouse problem. So Mr. P. said, "Munch a bunch!" and shut the door again.

What am I doing with all these dogs?

Oh, man, what am I doing with all these dogs?

I love dogs. I adore them. But what am I doing with all these dogs?

It's just crazy.

I could see a counselor about it. What would the diagnosis be? Dog-mania?






Oh dear...








Tummy torture

Time for quiet time in the padded room


Who's the siren?

Meg & Elsie

Meg reminds me of Elsie the Cow. Cheerful, pretty, not so bright.

F Troop Came Through Here

I swear, F-Troop came through here today.

Don't remember F-Troop? It was a popular TV series in the mid 1960's, set at Fort Courage, KS, a fictional Army Civil War outpost. It featured a gallant but chronically clumsy and accident-prone captain and a troop of idiots.

The captain would

Nothing's sacred now

There was one place in the house that was sacred: the spare bed in my study.

That's where we kept a comforter for Polly and her stuffed toys to snuggle in.

The bed is very high, and the puppies couldn't get up there. Until today, when Jinx made the leap and immediately started chewing on the comforter.

Nothing's sacred now.

I give up

I give up. I'm not giving out any more dog advice (not that I'd already done much that you'd notice).

I'm just a total failure with this batch of dogs.

Every other dog I ever had (many) was totally bummed out when I yelled, "No!" or "Bad dog!" at their misbehavior. They were delighted when I cooed, "Good dog" after they peed or pooped outside.

These dogs (Patch and her pups) just don't care. They shred the expensive, specially-scented puppy-training pads. They pee or poop inside while looking me straight in the eye, and when I shout at them, they do the canine equivalent of shrugging. When I (verbally) reward them for doing that outside, they shrug and move on.

Maybe Mr. P. could do better with training them, but he's at work all day long and they're angelic (relatively speaking) when he gets home.

I need a dog straightjacket

I finally figured it out: what I need is a straightjacket for dogs. I'm not talking about these weenie harnesses for chihuahuas. I'm talking about serious restraint. Like this:

And some thorazine for me.

No dogs on the furniture

I've heard that some people don't allow their dogs on the furniture. As someone who bought an extra-large armchair for the sole purpose of sharing it with her dogs, I find this hard to grasp.

It's also hard to enforce. Years ago when we bought a new sofa, we put one of those electric-shock "scat mats" on it to discourage our dogs and cats from getting up there. It made absolutely no difference, and we soon gave up.

My husband picked out the living room chair he favors. It's a platform rocker and not what I would have chosen, but he paid for it and he sits in it. He strongly discourages the dogs from getting up in that chair. He's generally pretty mild-tempered, but when he yells at the dogs, we all go running. Mostly they do stay away from that chair, maybe because the rocking motion when they jump on it is so disconcerting.

Lately, though, Georgie has been sneaking onto his dad's chair. He rests his chin on the wooden arm rest, which doesn't look at all comfortable to me, but he seems quite content.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Our Miss Mighty Mouse

I'm not talking about a computer mouse. I'm talking about the superhero star of comics and TV when I was a child.
This afternoon Patch and the 4 puppies were wrestling on the living room floor while Georgie and Polly watched from the sidelines. Gradually they moved closer and closer to my chair, until they were jostling my legs and making me cry, "Cut it out, you guys!"
Evidently Polly thought this was a threat to my safety, because suddenly she leaped into the air, flew into their midst, and began biting Berry's leg. He reacted mildly - as if she were a pesky little fly (which she is) - so she renewed her attack and finally broke up the whole gang into small, harmless groups. Then she hopped on my lap and surveyed the room with considerable satisfaction on her face.
Mighty Mouse to the rescue!

Not loving the dogs today

I'm not loving these dogs today.

I just let them in after they had been playing outside for several hours. Within 2 minutes of setting foot inside, 4 of them had crapped on the rug, 2 of them had peed on the rug, 1 of them peed on my ottoman, and 1 of them peed on a throw pillow. One of the miscreants was Georgie, who as Senior Dog is supposed to know better. I guess he does know better, because he went in my study and did it where no one could see him (I just happened to catch sight of him on my way through the hallway). I shouted at him, "What are you doing? Why aren't you out in the living room eating Meg's poop?" Then I looked wildly from one dog to the next, feeling totally out of control. Not in control of them, and not in control of me either. The dogs paused in the midst of their wrestling and looked up at me with puzzled expressions. Meg backed away from me while Jinx and Patch ran to the door and begged to be let outside again. I thought, "I'm a monster," and gave myself a time-out.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Disney Dog

Jinx reminds me of Goofy,
because of his silliness and awkwardness as much as his appearance. And like Goofy, he means well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What about Georgie?

And what about Georgie?
The reincarnation of Winston Churchill?
Or Yoda?
"Like me, handsome Georgie is."

Polly, phone home!

Is Polly from Outer Space?
Sometimes we think she should phone home.
But we love having her here, and would miss her
if she went to her home planet.

The Cabana

We had been calling it "the shed" or "the doghouse".

Today I realized that it's really the Cabana.

After all, it's adjacent to the many mini-pools the dogs have dug in the yard that fill up with rainwater and provide endless splashing fun. Then they go into the Cabana to relax, maybe get a massage, maybe piddle on the floor...

What's your poison?

I apologize in advance if this offends anyone, and assure you that we never give our dogs alcohol.

But on a Friday afternoon, when you are done with your long, hard week of sniffing bunnies and defending your yard, you might stop in at your local bar and order...what?

Teddy - today I'll have martini, extra dry

Berry - a cold Bud

Meg - a Cosmo, pretty please

Jinx - a glass of milk, straight up

Patch - a Pink Lady

Polly - whatever Patch is having

Georgie - a Bud Light

Smoky - a hit of catnip

And the humans?

Mr. P - sharing a Bud Light with Georgie

Jean - a glass of Pinot Grigio


When you look up DEBONAIR in the dictionary, here are the illustrations you'll find:

David would like a whisky, neat. Teddy would like a frozen Margarita with a paper umbrella in it. Chop chop! It's cocktail hour somewhere in the world.
I think this photo of Teddy is hilarious. I didn't realize when I snapped it that he had his mouth open as if he was talking. If he was talking, I wouldn't have paid attention anyway because he always says the same thing: "Blah, blah, blah." Kind of like my old boss. Only cuter.

Puppy Trouble

A friend of mine recently pointed out how much Berry and Jinx resemble Carl of the Good Dog Carl children's books. Like my puppies, Carl gets into lots of benign mischief.
This photo of Berry is a little blurry, but I think you'll be able to see his resemblance to Carl.
And admire my feet.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I often look at Polly and wonder what she's thinking. You might look at her and say, "With eyeballs that big, there isn't any room for brains in her head." Which could be true. Mr. P. says we should have named her Lucy (as in I Love Lucy).

You might say dogs can't think because that's the exclusive province of humans. But how could you look at this face and believe there's nothing but random electrical impulses going on in there?

Fortunately (or maybe not), having 7 dogs and 1 cat is improving my animal mind-reading skills. Here's what Polly thought about this afternoon:

12:32 pm - Is it suppertime yet?

12:45 pm - I saw a dragon in the yard! I know I saw a dragon! Why won't Mum let me out there to kill it? Doesn't she realize the danger?

12: 46 pm - Is it suppertime yet?

1:04 pm - Meg just peed on the rug. I saw her with my own eyes. Why isn't Mum yelling at her about it? Why do I get yelled at for peeing on the rug, but not Meg? It just isn't fair!

1:22 pm - A biscuit sure would be nice right now.

2:01 pm - I wish I could have my own phone. A pink princess phone. I could call Patch and we could talk about boys and she could give me the answers to my math homework.

2:38 pm - There goes that dragon again! How dare it?! Why can't Georgie see the dragon? Is he blind?

3:01 pm - Mum's going to the refrigerator! What's she getting? An orange! She's eating it all by herself. Doesn't she know how much I love oranges?

3:25 pm - Oh no, Teddy's got my favorite purple blankie, the one with pink butterflies on it that match my collar. That's MY blankie!

3:26 pm - Ha ha, Teddy's getting yelled at for peeing on my blankie.

3: 28 pm - Oh no, my blankie's going into the washing machine monster. Why doesn't Mum realize how dangerous that monster is? What if my blankie never comes out again? Does it get dizzy in there?

4:05 pm - Is it suppertime yet?

4:07 pm - where's supper?

4:09 pm - I wonder what's for supper?

4:11 pm - Chicken livers for supper would be nice.

4:13 pm - Chicken livers with ice cream would be nicer.

4:15 pm - Oh, what a relief, here's my blankie, safe and sound. Oh, so nice and warm from the dryer.

4:16 pm - Now Berry's peed on my blankie. I'm not exactly sure what all the words mean, but Mum sure sounds mad.

4:17 pm - Bye bye, Berry. Write when you get work.

4:19 pm - I better check my food bowl. You never know.

4:20 pm - Nothing. Is she trying to starve me to death?

4:22 pm - Even a bowl of kibble would be OK.

4:24 pm - How about 4 pieces of kibble?

4:26 pm - Two pieces of kibble?4:28 pm - I'm going to faint with hunger. Maybe Mum will finally pay attention if I faint.

4:30 pm - Hallelujah! Here comes a big bowl of kibble! Yum, yum, munch, crunch, urrp.

4:32 pm - Now, a nice drink of water. With Jinx slobber in it. Ick.

4:33 pm - That's better.

4:34 pm - Is it suppertime yet?

Spa Day

All 7 dogs had a spa day today. First bath of the year for Georgie and Polly. First bath of a lifetime for Patch and the puppies.

This operation required 7 old bath towels, a large bottle of Hawaiian ginger flea shampoo (I told you it was a spa day), a leash, and a garden hose. And the cat supervising from a safe distance while snickering to himself.

Mr. P. and I changed into shorts and rubber sandals (sounds kinky), grabbed Berry (who we thought would object loudly) and took him outside to a place where none of the other dogs could see him and possibly freak out. Berry was very dirty (he loves to dig), but he took it like a champ. One by one we tackled the rest of the dogs. Except for Polly, who is chronically wiggly, they were all amazingly well-behaved.

Mr. P. was so invigorated by this experience that he wants to get the dogs a water slide now. Exactly how that would work in the flatlands of west Tennessee, I'm not sure. Perhaps he could spread a Slip-n-Slide over the length of the back yard, flood it with water, and fling himself onto it to demonstrate the technique for the dogs. That would be worth videotaping, if we had the equipment.

It all began like this...

Once upon a time, a happy family lived in rural Tennessee. Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear... wait, no, wrong story. I'll start again.

In a modest home on a country road lived me (Jean), my husband (Mr. P), and our two dogs, Georgie (a fawn French bulldog) and Polly (a black pug), with an outdoor cat (Smoky, who you might guess is grey) to monitor the mouse population. Our neighbors are farmers and their cows, plus countless stray dogs and cats. Apparently lots of people think it's OK to drop their unwanted pets into a ditch.

Last fall, a sweet white mutt with a black patch over one eye appeared. She evaluated every home in the area and targeted us to be her new family. She must have seen the neon "SUCKER" sign on our roof. We called her Patch, not wanting to invest a lot of effort in naming a dog who would eventually disappear. But she didn't disappear. We fed her, gave her a crate in our garage, and when she began to get fat and her teats distended, I took her to the vet. He told us Patch weighed 32 lbs, was about a year old, and was about 4 weeks away from delivering a litter of puppies. This was not exactly what we had planned for our family, but that SUCKER sign is there for a reason.

On December 21, 2008, Patch gave birth in our laundry room to 4 adorable puppies. Every time we take them to the vet for shots, he says in awe, "And you're keeping them all?" Well, yes. We can't bring ourselves to part with them. We love them all - how could we chose which one(s) to banish? We couldn't give them away in the Wal-Mart parking lot to any idiot who'd drive up and throw them in the back of his pickup truck. We'd have to do a home visit, a psychological evaluation, and get 3 references.

So the puppies stay. Patch and the pups have a large doghouse (an 8x8 shed with a pet door) and share a big fenced-in yard with Georgie and Polly. Although Georgie was interested in eating the puppies when they were small, now that they are 5 months old and bigger than him (he weighs 23 lbs, they weigh about 40 lbs each), he tolerates their rough-housing with only the occasional snarl. As their behavior improves and the weather gets warmer, Patch and the puppies spend more time indoors, but so far none of them have shown an interest in being officially house-broken. (Georgie enjoys snacking on puppy poop anyway.)

The vet theorizes that the puppies are part Rottweiler, part bloodhound. Two of them (Teddy & Meg) are tan with white markings, and the other two (Berry & Jinx) are black with tan markings. We have had Patch spayed and in a month or so will have the puppies neutered, because we can barely afford to feed this crew, never mind more pups.

As the vet says, "You gotta a whole lot of dog goin' on here!"

The sniff train

The sniff train comes through here several times a day.

Left to right:
Nutmeg (Meg)
Gorgeous George (Georgie)
Teddy Bear (Teddy)
Patch (white dog)
Polly (under Patch)
Blackberry (Berry)