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!