Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Twilight Dogs

No, not vampire dogs.

Dogs at twilight. That's when I put Patch and the puppies to bed, because our back yard near their clubhouse is poorly lit and it's hard to manage five dogs and a flashlight.

When I put them to bed last night, they all galloped towards the clubhouse as usual (motivated by kibble time, not sleepy time). Suddenly Meg veered off at an angle. I didn't chide her for it because sometimes she stops for a quick pee. But she didn't pee. She ran, stopped, changed direction, and ran again. I was puzzled until I saw the tiny flickering lights. She was chasing fireflies. I couldn't blame her - they fascinate me too - so I just quietly asked her if she was coming to bed. I guess my voice broke the spell because she trotted right over.

Tonight when I was driving home at twilight from a session at my health club, I saw fireflies everywhere. Mr. P. had put the dogs to bed already but I thought kind of wistfully of how Miss Meg would like to see them. But getting her up meant getting up the rest of the gang, and I wasn't prepared to deal with that, so I let the sleeping dogs lie.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Ennui

Patch suffers from summer ennui.

"Ennui" is French for boredom. But not just boredom. Also: annoyance, vexation, dullness, and feeling fed up.

She and I have discussed this. At times she is happy and proud of all she has accomplished in her short life. She worked hard to get into this house. She sucked up, wagged her tail, and even got pregnant to ensure a life of leisure. No more sleeping in a cold wet ditch. Plenty of kibble for life. But since we started paying for her veterinary care and adopted her puppies, we don't let her roam the neighborhood any more, so she is stuck inside the fence. She loves her puppies, and Polly and Smoky (tolerates the rest of us), but sometimes on a sunny summer day when her old pals are roaming the soybean fields and she is trapped in here, she thinks, "What have I done to myself?"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shall we dance?

Shall we dance? Let's do the Kitchen Dance. It's all the rage! I've been practicing it a lot lately and I think you'll agree that I'm quite good at it. And a 1-2-3 and a 1-2-3... Be careful where you step!

Miss Pretty Paws

Polly had her annual veterinary checkup last week and weighed in at 14.6 lbs. Knowing that the puppies weigh about 40 lbs each, it's not surprising that her paws look so TINY now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who's the Alpha Dog?

We had a loud, snarling discussion this morning on the hotly-contested subject of Who's the Alpha Dog? I had to break it up by slapping Jinx with a box of Kleenex (animal abuse, I know, but it was actually the sound of the slap and not the pain of it that got his attention).

When I was at Wal-Mart earlier today, I bought a red, hard rubber dumbbell shaped dog toy. Since dogs are color-blind, I have to assume this toy is bright red so that the humans in the household are more likely to spot it and avoid tripping on it. Anyway, I wrestled it out of its plastic packaging and tossed it into the living room. Georgie (who never plays with toys) immediately grabbed it, and growled when the other dogs poked their noses at it. The other dogs backed off at this warning, but not Jinx. Suddenly I had a dog fight on my hands. Everybody had to get involved. After I broke it up and reprimanded Jinx, Georgie decided he didn't want the toy any more. Since then, Meg has been monopolizing it. In this photo, you can almost see the toy near her nose. So I guess Meg wins the Alpha Dog Contest today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Advanced dishwashing

Berry watches me load dirty dishes into the dishwasher. He lumbers over and sticks his big head in there. Out comes the tongue.

I say, "No, Berry."

He says, "I can help you with that. I have the most advanced licker technology available!"

She's not as dumb as she looks

Got brains?
Polly loves Patch and the puppies and plays or cuddles with them when they're in the house, but for the past week, I've noticed her pulling a trick on them that makes me think she's not as dumb as she looks.

After the pups have been inside for a while and everyone has had fun, Polly decides it's time for them to go outside. She runs to the French doors and starts barking hysterically, as if she's just seen a dragon in the yard. All the other dogs come running and have to go outside to investigate, but Polly runs in the opposite direction. When the door is closed, she trots over to the pile of dog blankets in the living room and settles down for a nap.

They fall for it every single time.

The Poky Puppy

The Poky Little Puppy was the star (I suppose he still is) of one of the classic children's Golden Books. Since Poky is one of my nicknames for Georgie, I looked that book up the other day. Georgie doesn't look much like the Golden Book Poky Puppy, except for being kind of round. But he is still my Poky Puppy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The screams!

Today Smoky caught a smaller critter and dove into our asparagus patch with it. We heard terrible screams as he tortured it. Mr. P. said, "Good boy! Kill the squirrels!"

I couldn't listen to it, went inside and forgot about it, trying to deal with everything else (puppies and so on).

Later, Mr. P. reported that the critter was a baby bunny. He snatched the bunny away before Smoky could kill it. God only knows how that baby will survive that trauma. But why is it OK to torture and kill a squirrel, but not a bunny?

I just know that Mr. P. hates squirrels, and has done in all our 22 years of marriage.

I don't hate them, except when they run across the road, freeze, and fake me out so that I steer my car into a ditch or oncoming traffic.

Always shut the bathroom door

Dogs are fascinated by the bathroom. I knew that. All 7 dogs try to accompany me to the bathroom (very crowded) and watch me with puzzled expressions, as if to say, "Why don't you just pee on the floor like we do?" But I didn't realize until this week that the bathroom is a playroom even if no human is sitting on the toilet.

Rule #39 of Living With Puppies: ALWAYS SHUT THE BATHROOM DOOR
That's Berry in the picture, caught in the act. All the dogs were involved in this incident, but the rest of them scattered when I entered the room. Berry doesn't care if he gets caught. He'll look up at me and smile, and he knows that makes me laugh.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday's Damages

The puppies had a busy day yesterday. Damages were:

2 paper towels

1 file folder

1 wooden stool

20 sheets of scrap paper

1 Bic pen

1 tube toothpaste (sensitive teeth, whitening formula)

1 dish towel

1 bath towel

approximately 2 miles of toilet paper

1 bed pillow

1 pillowcase

2 tennis balls

1 shoe

2 inner soles

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who are the 9 dogs?

Who are the 9 dogs?

The 9 dogs are all staff members of 9 Dogs Howling Publications. Their positions are:

Contributing Editors:
Beauty - Meg
Fashion - Polly
Food - Berry
Lifestyle - Teddy
Fitness - Patch
West Coast Correspondent - Fritz
West Coast Correspondent - Ziggy

Security Team:
Border Patrol - Jinx
Poop Patrol - Georgie

Also on staff are:
Managing Editor - Jean
Gardening Editor - Mr. P.
Mouse Patrol - Smoky

The Monkeys

This morning when I greeted Patch and the puppies and gave them breakfast, their joyous abandon reminded me of the Monkees singing group (circa 1966). It was a group fabricated for a TV show about a band of goofy, fun-loving musicians. Their theme song is perfect for our own band of monkeys:

Here we come
Walking down the street
We get the funniest looks from
Everyone we meet.

Hey hey we're the Monkees
And people say we monkey around
But we're too busy singing
To put anybody down

We go wherever we want to
Do what we like to do
We don't have time to get restless
There's always something new

Hey hey we're the Monkees
And people say we monkey around
But we're too busy singing
To put anybody down

And so on...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Constant motion

The puppies are in constant motion. If they are still for an instant and I make a stealthy move for my camera, someone (usually Berry) senses it and moves. If one of them decides to flop down and take a little rest from their labors, another one (often Patch) will pounce on the resting dog and provoke a tussle. I have always known this about puppies. They're active, restless, curious, easily bored, and mischievous. I just never before had to deal with so many puppies at one time. Nor did I have to deal with such big puppies. Polly weighed 12.8 lbs when we got her at 9 months old. These whoppers were three times that size at 5 months old. I can't even lift the puppies into my lap any more. Last night I lifted Polly to put her to bed (in a chair with her quilt, squirrel, and bear) and she was so light, I almost flung her across the room.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pet door pros & cons

Mr. P. installed a pet door in the door of the dogs' clubhouse. It has a swinging plastic flap and a sliding cover, so if we want to confine them inside, we just pull the cover down. It looks something like the photo here. The pet door is a great success. It took the dogs about 3 minutes to figure it out. When it's raining out and we don't want the inside of the clubhouse to get wet, we close the shed door and open the pet door so the dogs can come and go (and not poop or piddle inside the shed). Added benefits are that Polly is too dumb to figure out how to use the door and Georgie is too stumpy to jump through it. But there are 2 problems.

1) All four puppies and their mother try to enter or exit by way of the pet door at the same time. It's like a Three Stooges routine: comical to watch, but you have to wonder if they're all going to get stuck in there one day (a distinct possibility at the rate the puppies are growing).

2) I have to rely on my 55-yr-old brain to remember to shut the pet door after I've put the dogs to bed at night, or else I'll be peacefully cleaning the kitchen and suddenly notice an eager face pressed up against the French door. Getting those dogs into the clubhouse at night is like trying to put 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag, and I just hate it when my own stupidity forces me to hike back outside, round up the dogs again, and coax them back to bed. Yes, I've tried food bribery, but a handful of kibble isn't nearly as enticing when they've already had one bedtime snack.

I suppose we could have installed a locking electronic door, but we're kind of scraping the bottom of the financial barrel right now.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Part of our house was without electricity yesterday. We looked in the junction box or whatever it is, and couldn't figure it out, so this morning I called Ellis, our handyman.

I absolutely adore Ellis. He is nothing much to look at (neither am I), but he keeps his promises, does good work, remembers (most of) the dogs' names, and likes to talk about books.

Ellis came to fix the problem this afternoon while I was at the chiropractor. When I got home, there was a much-chewed extension cord on my place at the dining table and an entry for a $72.50 check in the checkbook.

When I caught up with Mr. P., he reported that Ellis had found and fixed the problem quickly, and when he produced the chewed electrical cord, said, "This musta zapped the shit outta that dog!"

Tall dogs, short dogs

Polly & Georgie would be the first to tell you how unappreciated they are. I didn't fully understand the extent of the injustice until this week, when I realized that the puppies are now tall enough to put their paws on the kitchen counter.

Although my family had a black Lab when I was a baby, in my adult life I have had only short dogs (miniature dachsunds, French bulldogs, pugs, etc.).

After our last two cats went to heaven, I stopped worrying about leaving things on the kitchen counter. I could set a stick of butter out to soften before baking with it. I could prepare a meal and walk from the microwave to the sink without fearing that a dog would steal a bowl of vegetables, the dish towel, or a kitchen sponge (just think of the wonderful smells and flavors in a used kitchen sponge!).

Those days are over. So, so, over.

Sleepy bunnies

Before we moved to Tennessee, I worked for Janlynn, a company that designed and sold a variety of arts & craft kits, including needlework like counted cross stitch. One of Janlynn's most popular kits at the time was a baby design called Sleepy Bunnies. I was reminded of that design the other day when I found Polly and Teddy flopped out on the bed in my study.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trash as treasure

One day I think we finally have the house puppy-proofed, and the next day they prove me wrong.

Teddy reminded me today that trash is treasure to a dog, full of fascinating smells, things to chew, paper to tear, and tissues to shred. I don't enjoy cleaning dog turds off the rug, but that's actually easier and quicker than picking up a zillion tiny shreds of wet tissues.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

And now for a word from Ziggy

Ziggy was a more challenging interview subject than Fritz. Let's just say that it's clear who the wise guy in the family is.

What's your full name? Ziggy. It’s the same whether I’m full or hungry.
How old are you? Why do you want to know? How old do I look?
Who's your best friend? Man.
Who's your worst enemy? Everyone on the outside of our car or behind the fence in our backyard!
What's your favorite food? Doesn’t matter. I don’t chew or taste it anyway. But, if I had to pick, I’d say that pine flavored, crunchy stuff you get in the box where the cats sit, up in the laundry room. It gets a particularly funny reaction from my mom and dad when I eat it!
What's your favorite toy? My brother Fritz. I like to play with his mind. He’s so gullible! I take his chewy every time he’s not paying attention and he always fall for it!
What's your favorite time of day? Duh, dogs don’t wear watches! Waddaya think I do, consult a sun dial?
Can you do tricks? I wanted to be a male prostitute, but my Mom wouldn’t let me. But, I can open the back door from outside.
What's your motto in life? Act tough! Run fast!
How do you feel about baths? Where’d you come up with these questions? How would you feel about a bath if you were lead there on a leash around your neck, conned into thinking you’re going to Pet Smart to pick up chicks but are then dragged into a noisy room filled with strange dogs where they proceed to take you away from your humans and lock you in the torture chamber in the back, where they pluck your ear hairs, squeeze your butt glands, hose you down, force you through a wind tunnel and spray you with enough perfume to choke a cow only to put you on public display while they shave your butt, give you something they call a “skirt”, yank on your beard and top off the whole experience off by making you wear some gay bandana!?
How many hours a day do you sleep? How would I know? I’m asleep.
What are you afraid of? Me afraid? HaHaHaHaHaHaHa!
Who do you love the most? My Mommy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interview with Fritz

My friend Lisa has almost as big a menagerie as we do, dominated by two Schnauzers, Fritz and Ziggy. F&Z have taken time out of their busy schedules to give us an interview. First, here's everything you wanted to know about Fritz.

What's your full name? Fritz or Fritzie
How old are you? I’ll turn 3 the end of July.
Who's your best friend? My brother Ziggy. He’s really nice to me and he’s really smart too!
Who's your worst enemy? I love everyone.
What's your favorite food? I enjoy most foods except for pretzels and fruit, (it’s a texture thing).
What's your favorite toy? I like to play with monkey and froggie, my pink flamingo that sounds like a chicken and our 4 cats, Harley, Pashmina, Sadie and Callie. Although, Harley sometimes scratches me when I corner him after we play chase! My mommy says it’s because he’s old and cranky.
What's your favorite time of day? Huh? What’s time?
Can you do tricks? I love to dance like a ballerina on my hind legs when I’m happy. I sit, lie down and can also roll over, but only half-way. (I’m still working on the full 360 degree roll.) I can also scratch your arm with my paw until you pet me and if you stop petting me I will scratch you again. I can do this for a very, very, long time!
What's your motto in life? I never met a person I didn’t like! But, I hate Aunt Judy’s dogs Muffin and Abby! She was my Aunt long before she was their mommy!
How do you feel about baths? I like the attention I get when I smell good. But I don’t like it when they pull my hair.
How many hours a day do you sleep? Huh? What’s an hour? What’s a day?
What are you afraid of? Loud voices, thunder and the Boogie Man!
Who do you love the most? My Mommy.

Equal time for Smoky

More than one friend has told me it's not fair that our cat, Smoky, doesn't get face time on this blog. Poor Smoky is seriously outnumbered by dogs here. One of my problems is that the only time I see Smoky is when he wants breakfast or when he's running from a dog. I don't have enough hands to handle the camera when feeding the gang breakfast and Smoky runs too fast for me to capture him the rest of the time.

Smoky found us about a year ago. He and another kitten (who we assumed was a littermate) were dropped off near our house by yet another idiot who thinks it's OK to discard unwanted animals. We fed both kittens, but the littermate disappeared after a week (probably did not meet a happy end). Smoky stayed. He was timid at first and spent a lot of time under our storage shed, but soon he attached himself to Mr. P, following him around the yard and allowing himself to be admired and petted. I took him to the vet for shots and neutering and he became our official Outside Cat (we don't keep cats indoors any longer because of the paws-on-the-kitchen-counter issue).
This photo is of Smoky when he was a little guy. He's three times bigger now.

When Patch showed up last fall, she and Smoky became devoted to each other. Each had a crate full of blankets and toys in the garage. When Patch had the puppies, we moved her indoors until the puppies were weaned (we didn't fancy bottle-feeding 4 puppies if she ran off and never came back, which is what I probably would have done in her position). Smoky is very interested in the puppies (and they in him), but their idea of play is a bit rough for him. He feels that puppies are best viewed from the garage roof. When we see all 4 puppies looking skyward, we know they're not praying. They're looking at Smoky.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tiny Dancer

I made Polly a beautiful pink ballet skirt. She looks ravishing in it, but it's quite a chore getting her into it because she's so wiggly (she is a dancer, after all).

She reminds me of the Elton John lyrics:

Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand/

And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sisters make good pillows for tired boys

When Georgie arrived in our lives, we already had a dog, a bull terrier named Bessy Lou. Bessy was a terror as a puppy. Terriers can be extremely, persistently, stubbornly...energetic. We thought Bessy would never calm down, and there were times when I wanted her to shape up or ship out (as my Navy father used to say). Like the time she tunneled under a 6' chain link fence into our neighbor's yard at 6 am, and to get her out of there so I could leave for work, I had to wake the neighbor up...Bessy and I attended obedience classes at Roger Gallant's Kanine Kollege and I was never sure who was being trained, me or Bessy.

But when she was about 8 years old, Bessy calmed down, just in time for 8-week-old Georgie to burst onto the scene, full of boyish enthusiasm. Bessy would retreat to the couch, where he couldn't reach her, but that didn't last long. We told Bessy that this was payback for the way she had behaved in her youth. She became a wonderfully tolerant, patient puppysitter.

Rest in peace, Bessy Lou. We miss you.

Friday, June 5, 2009


The photo I just posted of Georgie with his head in a saucepan reminds me of the comment a Taiwanese acquaintance of mine made about Georgie when he was a puppy.

Carrie had some kind of hairy toy dog, suitable for a small apartment in Taipei and also handy for mopping floors, so the first time I saw Carrie after Georgie arrived, I proudly showed her a photo of him. Of course, I thought he was the most handsome and adorable puppy ever born, so I was startled when Carrie started to laugh, saying (or squealing, depending on your point of view), "He look just like piggy!"

The next time I was in a restaurant in China (that night, actually), I was dismayed to see a waiter walk by with a roast suckling pig on it that looked awfully familiar...

Polly's Bad Day

Polly's bad day just got worse.

Earlier this week, we discovered (the hard, messy way) that one of the puppies has diarrhea. After 2 accidents, I caught Berry in the act yesterday afternoon.

Today I cooked some plain white rice for him and mixed Pepto Bismol into it. This remedy, suggested by a long-ago vet of ours, has worked for generations of our dogs.

When it was time to give Berry his medicine, I shut Polly and Georgie in my study and let Berry into the kitchen. He wasn't sure he liked the rice
(new and unfamiliar) but did manage to choke it down. The entire time he was eating, Polly was
shrieking in the bedroom. Finally I opened the door and she shot out of there like a little black
cannonball, only to find that Berry's bowl was empty.

Then it was time to feed her and the rest of the dogs (I'm sorry to confess that Berry ate a second supper with his brothers, sister, and mother - no wonder he's fat). Much to Polly's dismay, Mr. P. put her kibble in her bowl and put Georgie's kibble in the saucepan with the leftover rice (no Pepto). The reason for this: Georgie's the Alpha Dog (in theory, anyway), so he
gets the treats. Polly could not get over the terrible injustice of this, but had to abandon her protest and eat her own kibble before anybody else got at hers.

Little dog in a big chair

Six dogs are outside on the deck, enjoying the fresh air
and sunshine. One dog is inside, all alone. A little dog in
a big chair, looking pitiful (her specialty).

"What's the matter, Polly?" I say.

"I'm bored," she sighs.

"Go outside and play with the other kids," I say
briskly, thinking, Oh no! My mother's voice is
coming out of my mouth!

"I want to play with my toys," Polly says.

"You can't have your toys during the day. You
know what the puppies will do to them."

"Then I want to sit in your lap."

"Maybe later. Why don't you take a nap now?"

Big sigh.

Ten minutes later, I peek out into the living room.
She's still sitting there, staring mournfully at my
study door. What a hard life Polly lives. No attention,
no love, no treats, no toys, no playing.

My voice heavy with sarcasm, I tell her, "You could
go live with some other family if you'd prefer."

She leaps off the chair, puts her tiny paws on my knees,
and wags her tail. "That's a great idea, Mom!"

Ungrateful wretch.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Lion Lies Down With the Lamb

Continuing with our Biblical theme...
The lion lies down with the lamb**.
I'm not sure who's the lamb here, though:
Polly, or Berry?
** This is actually a misquote. In the King James version of the Bible, it’s the wolf that dwells with the lamb, and it’s a leopard that lies down with a kid, and “the calf and the young lion and the fatling together.” (Isaiah 11:6)