Life in the Woods


When my family moved out here, into the woods, we were pretty excited about connecting with nature. We had always lived in either a city or suburb.

Now here we were, moving out to the woods. Way out into the woods. When we first moved in, the local phone number was only 4 digits.

The roads were dirt. There were no streetlights or sidewalks.

Life was pretty….country. Yep. Pretty countryish.

Now that I’ve lived here for just shy of three decades, you’d think I would have come to terms with the rural nature.

Only I haven’t.

I mean, I am delighted when I see a few deer crossing the street. I love seeing the local foxes as they play in the fields. I love watching the hawks, and the ducks and the rare but exciting bald eagle as they fly over us.

But you know what?

I’m still a big woos when it comes to strange movements in the woods.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Last night, at right about 1 AM, we woke up because both of our super-domesticated-not-at-all-wild dogs were whimpering and whining. They wanted to go out.

It was my turn to get up, so I did.

I trudged into the dining room, cell phone light in hand, and opened the slider door. Both of my canine fools went hurtling out into the night, full on baying like bloodhounds.

They raced along the fence in our yard, big noses pointed into the woods.

I stood on the deck, thinking, “What? What’s out there?????”

Now the truth is that we live in central Massachusetts. The scariest thing in our forest is most likely a big fat raccoon.

Still, my tiny brain got all excited by the dogs’ reactions. Bears? Bobcat? Moose? I wasn’t sure, but my heart was definitely racing.

I went back to bed, thinking to myself, “Wow, we really do live out in the wilderness! It could be anything out there!”

I went to sleep thinking about how fabulous it is to live out in the wilderness.

Yay, me. Such a pioneer woman!

Then I woke up.

To the sound of the dogs, screaming and going insane over the sounds in the back woods. I went out onto the deck and peered into the woods.

Nothing.

After two cups of coffee, a shower and a perusal of the news, the dogs were still hysterically barking into the woods.

I went back onto the deck. “Woods,” I told myself. “Nice, clean woods. Yay.”

Two hours went by. I gave the kids breakfast, read a book, cleaned up the table and got out trains and tracks.

The dogs were still running from the front fence to the back deck to the sofa and back again. Baying and moaning and barking and yowling the whole time.

Oh, hoorah. Life in the godforsaken, stupid, crappy woods.

After another hour of this insanity, I realized that the neighbor dogs were barking, too.

“A bear?”, I thought to myself. “Maybe there’s a bear family on their way here.”

I got very excited. I perched on the deck, camera in hand. I waited. The dogs raced and barked and yowled.

I waited some more.

After a while, I saw a chipmunk break free from the stone wall around my flower bed. He ran into the woods.

The dogs acted like they’d uncovered a T Rex.

Seriously?

I moved out to the woods, to a place where you can’t get phone reception, where the closest grocery store is a half hour away, all because the dogs can’t resist a freakin’ CHIPMUNK?

Clearly, I was not cut out to be a country girl.

“Did you hear that? Did you smell that? What IS that????”

The Amazing Oozing Puppy


When we adopted our latest doggy, little Bentley, we were told that he was sweet, affectionate, funny and sometimes stubborn.

Nobody mentioned the fact that this adorable little basset hound/ black lab mix has the incredible ability to ooze across the floor like a freakin’ amoeba.

No. We were left to discover this skill on our own.

Here is how it works.

I sit the kids down at the table to eat breakfast. I serve up some fruit and some nice buttery waffles.

Bentley immediately jumps to attention and runs under the table. As the strong, alpha, leader member of our family pack, I stand up and command, “Bentley, out!” My adorable little floppy eared baby boy looks up at me as if he has never heard this word before. “Out?”, his big brown eyes ask, “you mean, like sit down and beg?”

“OUT!” I say more sternly.

“You mean crouch down under Johnny’s baby seat?” the puppy asks, all innocence and sweetness.

“OUTIE OUT OUT OUT!!!!” I cry.

Bentley lowers his head, and acts as if he’s embarrassed by my lack of self control.

I flash back to the wonderful puppy training classes that we took with Lennie when he was an obnoxious little pain our new puppy. I remember how our trainers, Karen and Claudia, told us to use positive reinforcement to get the dogs to obey.

I change my tone, and grab a few little treats. “Bennie, honey, come!” I hold out my hand. Bentley looks at me and conveys the words “you gotta be kidding” with his eyebrows.  I go to the fridge and grab a piece of cheese.

“Bentley,” I say firmly. “Come.” I hold out the cheese.

He comes. He eats the cheese in the living room, away from the kids. “Good boy!” I say. “Now stay!”

I go back to the table, serving up more fruit and toast and a couple of newly toasted waffles. The kids eat. I sip my coffee.

I look for Ben.

He is lying on the floor, his nose just barely across the dividing line between “under the table” and “out.” I can’t really object because, you know, most of him is actually “out.” I sip my coffee. I take a bite of toast. I glance back at the doggie.

H’m.

He is in the exact same position as the last time I checked on him. Nose on paws, looking half asleep.

But now he’s four inches closer to the table. How did he DO that? I frown. “Stay out”, I tell him sternly.

Johnny asks for more fruit. By shrieking at the top of his lungs. I grab the bowl of apples and kiwis and start to slice. I give John a helping. I glance back at Bentley.

Same damn position. Same appearance of sleep.

But now his big nose is within an inch of my foot.

“Ben!” I hiss. “Stay. Out.”

He looks up at me, his entire demeanor one of innocent outrage. “I haven’t MOVED”, his face proclaims.

But then….how is it that he is suddenly all the way under Johnny’s chair? He’s still lying still, still resting his nose on his big paws. Still looking Totally. Innocent.

Really?

What the absolute hell, I ask myself. Has anyone else out there ever experienced the phenomenon of a dog who can actually ooze across an entire room? I swear, this dog is like an oil spill. You think he’s contained. You don’t ever see him move. But there he is, all the way across the room from where you thought you had planted him.

It’s a damn good thing he’s so cute. Or else I’d be ready to mop him up with a ShamWow and send him off to someone in need of a nice oozing puppy to slide across the bed and land on their backbone at midnight.

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Oozing my way into your hearts!!!

Who Am I Kidding?


As a slightly past middle aged woman, I know what it is to deal with insomnia. Sometimes I lie down at 9 pm and I’m asleep at 9:03. Of course, on nights like that one I wake up at 10:30, 11:03, 1:35 and 3:40 before getting up at 6:30.

But there are other nights where I toss and turn from 10 to 2 and finally fall asleep at 3, only to wake up at 6 with a headache.

So why in the world would I even consider sleeping with not only my aging husband of 40 years, but also our two dogs?

Why?

It. Makes. No. Sense.

This is my typical night, just so that you understand the pressures at work here.

I go to bed. Paul is in the living room, watching sports. The dogs, Lennie and Bentley, are beside him on the couch. I settle into my bed, ice pack in place on my lower back. I sigh. I settle back. I curl up on my left side.

And I hear the inevitable “ticky-ticky-tick” of Lennie’s claws as he comes down the hall. I lie still on my pillow. Lennie jumps nimbly onto the bed and settles himself into a tight curl somewhere around my legs. I fall asleep to the sound of Lennie’s gentle, rhythmic breathing.

I come awake again around midnight. The covers are now tight around me, and my butt is exposed to the cool night air. I can tell, as I roll over, that Paul has come to bed and is sound asleep beside me. Lennie is still at my feet, on top of the covers.

But Bentley is stretched out to his full length on top of the covers between Paul and I. He is happily dreaming and is totally at peace.

I roll onto my right side, slightly annoyed that I am lacking coverage on my chilly old bottom. I try to pull up the blankets, but find that I am thwarted by the two dogs who are snoring on top of the quilt.

“OK”, I think, “This is ridiculous. I need to sleep. I need my blankets. I need my bed.” I get up, thinking that I will go to the bathroom and then come back to dislodge the hounds and reestablish my human superiority.

I walk back to the bed, my phone in my hand for light. I see Lennie, curled up and sleeping like a baby at the foot of the bed.

Lennie

Gah! Why are you waking me up???

I decide that he’s OK. I mean, he’s only at the foot of the bed. He isn’t really impacting my sleep. Much.

So I turn to the other guy. To the soft, sweet, silky puppy who insists on sleeping so close to me that we seem to be fusing at the spine.

“You need to move!”, I hiss, as I slip back under the covers. “I am really REALLY tired!”

I push him off of me.

He softly and silently turns into everyone’s favorite stuffed animal. He melts. He becomes totally inert. He shloops himself onto my chest.

Benney

“Ugh”, I whisper. “Get OFF!”

He snuggles just a tiny bit closer. He lifts his soft, silky snout up toward my cheek. He lays his head against mine.

“Sfhshshsfsh” he breathes into my ear.

I try to resist. I do. I straighten my spine. He straightens his and continues to breathe into my ear.

I want to be strong. I want to move him off of the bed and onto the floor. I mean, seriously! What kind of badass woman lets herself be pushed around by a puppy?

I wait for just a second. The warm, soft fur lying against my neck feels good. The gently repetitive breathing on my cheek is oddly reassuring.

“I’ll get you guys off in a minute.” I tell myself.

Then I curl onto my side, feeling Lennie’s warmth against my feet. I sigh, and pull the covers up over my shoulders. As I do, I realize that Bentley is under those covers, his softly sleepy head resting next to mine on the pillow.

We all fall asleep.

I’m a soft touch. I’m a jerk. I’m an aging old lady who loves waking up in the middle of the night with both arms around a warm little body.

Yeesh.

Who am I kidding?

I’d rather sleep with these snoring, shedding, gassy little guys than without them. And that’s the honest truth.

When I Get Very Old


When I get very old, if I’m lucky enough to reach that milestone, I will give up my struggles to be perfect. I will eat brownies for breakfast and have ice cream for dinner, if that’s what I really want.

I’ll stop trying to be thinner or stronger or smarter or more accomplished.

When I get very old, I’ll lounge around all day in my pajamas and read trashy novels while eating a bag of chips.

You might wonder what has inspired me to accept the blessings of very old age.

Well, it was the Wolf King that did it.

I’ll let him explain in his own words.

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Only a week ago, I still needed my leash.

As soon as I woke up today, I knew that something unusual was going on. Man Who Walks Me was climbing up and down the stairs, bringing chairs and tables out into the yard. Woman Who Feeds Me was rushing around, cleaning the kitchen.

Puppy Lennie was barking and squeaking and being a general pain in the rear, as usual, even when I woofed at him to cut it out. By mid-morning, I had a headache.

I also had an idea.

I have seen this kind of rushing about many times in my long years. It always means that a lot of humans will be at our house, talking loudly and eating for hours. It always means dropped cheese and other delicious delicacies.

I was excited. At my age I show my enthusiasm by plodding around the living room and slowly laying myself in whatever spot is most likely to be in the way of the bustling humans.

I am the Wolf King. I will not be overlooked.

Today the bustling and preparing went on for quite a while, and slowly more humans arrived. I knew most of the early visitors. There was the Young Woman Who Used To Hold Me, and her newest tiny poopy human. There was the Young Man Who Used To Chase Me and his friends who always call me “Good Boy.”

I greeted them with some royal woofing, then flopped in front of their feet.

After some time, all of the humans went outside of the house and onto the lawn. Puppy Lennie still shrieked in his ear-spitting way, but he had been banished into the back fence.  I remained alone inside.

I woofed once. Softly.

I whined, a little bit louder.

Why wasn’t I outside, where the cheese would be? I wanted to be with my humans, who regularly drop food, and whom I love. But I would not beg.

Settling my chin on my royal paws, I commenced moaning pitifully with each breath.

Finally, Woman Who Feeds Me came into the house. She called my name, and I raised my wise old head to see what was up.

“Come!” I heard her say cheerily. “Come outside!”

I carefully pushed myself up on my elbows, raising my shoulders and finally balancing on my front paws. I was breathing a little fast, but it might have been the thought of cheese that had my heart rate up.

Slowly, carefully, I managed to get my back end off the floor, and I tottered toward my mistress. She called me to the front door, so I hobbled down the stairs. I prepared to have my leash clipped on, and lifted my head with regal dignity.

Nothing.

No clip, no leash.

Just Woman Who Walks Me, telling me to “Come outside.”

I looked at her in surprise. What was she asking me to do?

She stood there, right in front of me, and it was as if every dream of the past 12 1/2 years had suddenly come true.

She was holding the front door wide open.

Cautiously, I stepped toward the door. Act cool, I told myself. Pretend nothing strange is going on.

I took one step over the threshold, trying to look completely calm. Nothing to see here, folks, just the Wolf King, stepping out the front door with NO LEASH.

If I could have whistled, I would have.

As I got out onto the porch, and looked at the crowd of humans with food in their hands, I picked up a little speed.

“So long, suckers!”

I meant to run. In the old days, if I managed to get my nose out the door without a leash, I took off like a hound out of hell. I’d hit the woods, race around the house, bark at every human who dared to approach.

Man. Those were the days. Chasing squirrels, howling at the moon, rolling in dead stuff. And only coming home when I was good and ready.

I remember those days. My goal was always to go a little farther, stay out a little longer, bark a little louder.

So I tried to take off as I passed Woman Who Feeds Me. I shuffled with as much speed as I could muster, but my back end just wouldn’t keeping up.

I made my way across the grass, then chose the perfect spot to rest my royal self on the grass. I picked a spot as close to the cheese and pepperoni eaters as I could. I lowered my butt and carefully let my front end follow it down.

I allowed the peasants to approach, and to pat me as often as they liked. Many of them dropped cheese.

It was a peaceful day. My favorite small human came to bring me popcorn and crackers and to pat my royal head. Man Who Walks Me gave me extra love. Also cheese.

I am very old. I am ready to give up my quest to be the Royal Runaway, to travel farther and stay out longer. I am ready to go outside without a leash and stay in one place. I will let myself sleep in the sun while the human drop bits of tasty food all around me.

I am still the Wolf King.

 

Panic in puppyland


It’s so damn hard to be a good doggie Momma.

I’m very good with human children. I can usually tell when one is sick, or hurt, or coming down with a cold. A few times in my classroom teaching days, I was able to tell that a kid had a fever before the kid even complained.

But dogs are different. They don’t cry when they hurt and they don’t say, “Nonni, up!” when they are needy. You just have to try to figure it out, right?

Sometimes you can guess what’s going on, something not so much.

Take this morning, for example.

We were in our living room, bright and early, talking about the foot of heavy wet snow we’ll be getting today. We were making sure we are prepared in case the power goes out.

I was feeling anxious. I despise the cold, the snow, the sleet….especially when they come in the spring. I was also anxious about my daughter driving to work in the bad weather, six months pregnant and getting over bronchitis. I was worried about my granddaughter Ellie, who has had a cough all week.

And our old dog, Tucker the Wolf King, has been struggling with his back and spine and hips. He’s been in pain.

At least puppy Lennie seemed fine, and full of his usual energy.

But then Kate and Ellie arrived, and Lennie went into fits of excitement. He started his usual jumping up on Kate routine, running in circles, wagging his tail furiously. Everyone was talking at once, “Lennie, down!” “Ellie, let’s take your hat off.” “Can you leave early today?” The Wolf King was barking and Lennie was squealing.

It was your basic morning bedlam.

Suddenly, I looked over at the pup, and saw that he was having some kind of terrible back spasm. We had seen this happen to him a couple of times in the past, but it was never this severe. His back end was hunched and sort of curled forward, and his whole back end was sort of pumping forward and back, really fast.

He looked very uncomfortable.

Now, let me digress for a minute. Tucker, with his arthritic spine, sometimes makes the almost same motion, but with less vigor. His vet told us that it happens to Tuck when his back muscles go into a spasm. I massage his spine and his spasm goes away.

So, I grabbed little pumping Lennie and tried to massage along his spine. It didn’t help a bit. When I let go of his collar, the little guy started frantically licking at his private parts, or what’s left of them. He was neutered before we got him, we were told.

He kept on sort of nipping at himself and turning in circles and that back end just kept on pumping.

“Oh, no!” I said it out loud. “He’s in real pain! Oh, poor baby!”

Paul joined in and so did Kate. We all thought Lennie was suffering from some terrible crazy muscle spasm or seizure or something. We were so worried!

We all looked at him and his pumping backside.  He started to bite the tip of his tail and run in circles.

I grabbed him as he raced past me, and decided I should check his undercarriage.

Holy hard as a rock, Batman, the little guy’s niblets were like steel.

This is the part where I have to confess to complete idiocy, but at least my husband and daughter are as dumb as I am.

At the base of his fully erect little doggy rocket, there was a huge, hard, round mass, about the size of a golf ball.

Did I mention that he’s been “fixed”? You know, altered. Neutered. Deballified. There should not be a big, hard, round mass where his testicles used to be, I thought.

“He has a tumor!!!!” Was my first comment. Or maybe my second, after I quickly pulled my hand away from his altogethers.

We called the vet. Paul got dressed in a hurry to take him in. I cuddled the poor little boy, feeling overwhelmed with worry. As I stroked his neck, I noticed that he seemed to be slowly relaxing and feeling just fine.

The little rocket went back into its socket, and the golf ball disappeared.

Huh.

So. Paul took the pup to the vet, who examined him thoroughly and calmly announced that what we has witnessed was a “natural hormonal response to excitement.”

The little guy got kind of worked up from all the joy of greeting Kate and Ellie.

The vet suggested that we find a way to get him some doggy playdates so he’ll learn how to control himself a little.

Ewwww.

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He looks pretty relaxed in this shot…

Conquering the Wolf King


The Wolf King is aloof. He is regal. He needs no man.

Oh, OK. He needs man, or woman, to get the kibble out and to gently mix in the carefully cooked chicken livers. Sure. And, yeah, fine, he needs man, or woman, to let him out in the morning so he can do his royal doody.

Still.

The Wolf King is the ruler of his domain. He does not rely on any human for emotional support.

And yet.

Today the little one in our house was sick. She had a bad cough, a stuffy nose, a little bit of a fever. She was OK for most of the morning, but by lunchtime, she was really droopy.

WomanWhoFeedsMe put away the toys and handed Little Girl her favorite stuffed Floppy Puppy. They went down the long, dark hall into the nap room. The Wolf King watched them go.

He stayed in the living room. That hall is really long. And dark. He laid his royal nose on his powerful paws. He started to doze.

And then he heard it.

Little Girl was crying. The Wolf King lifted his head.

She was making that choky sobbing noise that he hated so much. There were words in her choking cry. He tilted his head to the right, and then to the left. What was she saying?

“Huck” she coughed. “Hucky..” she choked. He heard the sound of WomanWhoFeedsMe, gently cooing, trying to calm the little girl.

The Wolf King rose slowly to his feet. His back hurt. His back legs were shaky and his spine was making creaky noises.

He took one step toward the long, scary hall.

“Tuck…Tucky….hhum!”

He heard it. He heard the sound of Little Girl, calling his name. She was telling him to “come.”

The Wolf King gave one soft whine. Really?, he was asking. You really want me to walk all the way down that hall?

“Tucky…hum!”

He gave a sigh. He shook himself, from head to tail. He walked down the hall, really slowly. Past the dark, scary doorways, over the creepy scary reflections of light. He moved forward.

He would not be afraid.

Little Girl needed him. She WANTED him. He would not fail in his duty.

The Wolf King made his way to the nap room. He walked to the bed and rested his chin on the mattress.

“Tucky!!!” Little Girl cried, coughed and reached out one small hand to touch his warm head. “Tucky.”

“mmmmm,” the Wolf King answered as he lowered himself slowly to the floor beside her bed.

“Tucky…” she murmured as she curled into the arms of WomanWhoFeedsMe. She fell asleep.

So did he.

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Mutual admiration…

The Wolf King Reborn


I am the Wolf King.

Or at least, I used to be the Wolf King.

Lately I’ve been The Old Dog Who Can Hardly Get Down The Stairs.

What can I say? Time goes on, and arthritis hits hard.

For the past few weeks, I have had to contend with the humiliating prospect of a young pup, constantly jumping up to nip my ears or grab my collar. Always trying to get me to jump and play.

Annoying little fool. I have gone along with him as often as I could, but sometimes I just wanted to smack him. I have barked and growled at him so much that my royal voice is getting really creaky.

Today was a sunny day, and the air was crisp and cold. The yard was filled with fresh white snow, and birds filled our feeders.

The puppy, so foolishly named “Lennie,” was whining to go out. Woman Who Feeds Me made those sickening little cooing noises at him, and soon he was wearing his blaze orange collar.

I stood, slowly and regally. I do not beg to go outside.

But I don’t say “no”, either. I waited, aloof and calm, as the Woman Who Feeds Me put on my bra…. I mean, my Wolf King harness.

We headed out into the cold.

For a few minutes, I walked calmly alongside the Woman. The small, annoying puppy ran in circles around us, barking and yipping and racing in and out of the woods.

After a while, I noticed that my leash seemed very lax. I was able to wander away from the Woman Who Feeds Me without feeling the tug of the leash. Hmm.

Suddenly, a truck pulled into our driveway.  Somewhere, deep in my brain, I remembered that I am the Wolf King; the protector of our castle.  I began to bark. I ran toward the truck.

A though went zinging through my head.

“Hey! I’m running, and there’s no leash.” I glanced back at Woman Who Feeds Me.

Sure enough, she looked guilty.

“Tucker, come!” she called. She held out a tiny cookie.

One. Tiny. Cookie.

Ordinarily, I would walk on hot coals to get one of those cookies. But now. Now the cold wind was rushing through the woods. The smells of deer and moose and birds and fox came wafting toward me. I lifted my head. I sniffed.

I looked back at Woman Who Feeds Me. Her hand was out. Her voice sounded stressed.

I looked forward, toward the woods. I saw the puppy, running free, racing in circles.

“Tucker?”

My old eyes met the worried eyes of my Mistress.

“Adios!” I barked. And I raced like the wind away from the yard and into the woods.

Oh, OK. Mostly I didn’t really race. I sort of lumbered. And limped a bit. But I still went into the woods with the puppy dancing around me.

It was glorious. It was heaven. It was freedom, remembered from a time long ago.

It. Was. The. Best.

After a while, Woman Who Feeds Me, Annoying Puppy, Poopie Baby and Young Woman With Treats all went back inside the house. They called me to come.

But I would not be tempted back inside.

No. The Wolf King decided to sit outside of the house. Resting in the deep snow. With freezing ice pellets sticking to my niblets.

My back was aching like you read about, what with all the running through the woods, jumping over fallen trees, avoiding puppy kisses, and climbing over snowbanks.

I kind of wanted to go inside. Back to the fire. And the heat. And the cookies.

And the couch.

But I remained firm. I stayed out for hours.

I was so proud of my freedom and my strength.

Eventually, as I dozed with my paws held over my half frozen nose, I smelled the intoxicating aroma of cooking chicken livers. The window to the living room had been opened, and the simmering pot placed on the ledge.

“Oh, Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled. “Have you no shame?”

She was trying to lure me back in.

But I would NOT be moved.

I stood erect ( except for my bendy spine and my splayed-out back legs.) “NO!” I barked with royal strength. “No! I will not yield to the liver! I am the Wolf King and I am FREE!”

I lasted a full four minutes before my aching back, my shaking legs, my frozen niblets and my empty belly got the better of me.

OK. So I came back in.

I got all warm. I ate my liver. I let the Woman and the Baby cuddle me.

I came back in.

But really? I only did it because I could hear that puppy whining for me to come back home to him.

I can’t resist the little goof when he gets all kissy like that.

But don’t be fooled.

If they drop that leash again, I’ll be off.

The Wolf King will be back. You can count on it.

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Still as handsome as you ever were.

A Puppy, A Baby and a Sleepy Old Nonni


One of the many pleasures of being a ‘stay at home Nonni’ is that I get to nap when Ellie does.

I have always loved naps. Always.

My dad was a wonderful napper. He could close his eyes and sleep for 15 minutes and wake up completely refreshed.

I get this talent from him.

When Ellie was very small, we used to nap together in the recliner. I’d hold her in my arms and we’d both drift off.

Now she’s too big for that to be safe, so now we lie down together on my bed. She goes to sleep, and I read or write. Sometimes (OK, pretty much every day) I fall asleep , too.

Today was one of those challenging days, when you’re not sure you can make it all work. It was snowing hard when the puppy woke me up at 6. I stayed awake checking the school closings. Would Kate have to drive to school? Would she be able to go in late?

I finally realized that her school schedule was unchanged, which meant that mine was, too. I made the coffee and headed out into the icy snow/rain mix to get my granddaughter.

It was a long, slow, slog to her house and back, a round trip of about 10 miles. At least we turned into our driveway, and I gave the old Colonial America cheer, “Huzzah!”  To my joy and pleasure, Ellie yelled it right back at me.

The day was fine, but by the time I saw Ellie rubbing her eyes at about 2 o’clock, I was ready and willing to rest. I had already cooked, served and cleaned up both breakfast and lunch. I had wrestled Lennie for possession of 4 boots, 6 socks, a mitten, 43 toys and one winter coat.

I was more than ready to bring Ellie into my bedroom for a nice nap. The problem was that Lennie was NOT in nap mode.

He was running in circles around us, grabbing at the blankets, my book, the pillow…..

I tried offering a treat. “Good boy, Lennie, good dog. Lie down!”  No good.

I tried putting down a nice warm blanket. “Lennie, time to rest!”  No good at all; he tried to eat it.

Finally, I had had it. Ellie was whining, wanting a book. My back was aching. It was snowing outside and I wanted to LIE THE HELL DOWN.

So I turned to the puppy and snarled, “LIE THE HELL DOWN!”

To my shock, he did.

Ellie and I settled in, read “Good night Moon” and she fell asleep. I wrote an article for LiberalAmerica, and then I went to sleep, too.

And when I woke up, Ellie was still snoozing, her soft curly hair moving with her gentle breaths.

I looked over the side of the bed.

There was my baby Lennie, curled into the shape of a snail. And right beside him, curled up in the exact same shape, only three times larger, was my old dog, Tucker. Side by side on one doggie bed.

I lay back down, listening to the combined sounds of two sleeping dogs and one sleeping baby girl.

Life can be so unexpectedly perfect, you know?

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The Wolf King Meets His Biggest Challenge


Oh, for God’s sake.

Doesn’t anyone here realize that I am The Wolf King?

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I am majestic. I am proud. I am the ruler of all I survey.

So it’s been a rough few weeks.

I knew that Miss Sadie was heading out of this world. I have known it for many, many weeks.

My humans are, of course, less intuitive than I am. It took them almost too long to see that she was fading, and that only her thinnest shell was left here with us.

At last, though, they heard her, and they let her go to rest.

I miss her.

She was calm. She was quiet. She pretty much followed my orders. She used to look at me with her big golden eyes and say, “You are the Wolf King. I am not worthy.”

I liked that a lot.

Then she was gone, and the Woman Who Feeds Me was often quiet, and I could smell the sharp iron smell of sadness coming from her, even when she took me for easy walks along our street.

Man Who Walks Me smelled different, too, but with him it was harder to know what he was feeling. I know that I wanted to lean my head on him more often. I wanted to rest my noble chin on his bare foot.

He seemed a little lost, to be honest.

And so it went, for a few short weeks.

Then everything changed. I had noticed that both of my humans seemed a little more like themselves. As if a shadow had passed over. Happier times seemed to be at hand.

One morning, very early, both Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me woke up early. I could smell nervousness and eagerness on them both, like a field of grass burning far away. Their voices were tense, their bodies alert as they petted me good bye. I watched them go, the Wolf King left in charge.

I settled myself to guard the castle from my comfy perch on the couch. I dozed, but only because everything seemed pretty safe.

Then I heard the car. I slowly got up from my resting spot, stretching my spine as I made it to all four feet. I made my way to the top of the stairs, clearing my throat so that I would be ready to give the traditional Wolf King Howl Of Welcome.

Man Who Walks Me came inside. He smelled odd….he smelled like a strange mixture of happiness and guilt.

Hmmmm. I was suspicious, but I am loyal. I am the Wolf King, but I know who fills my kibble bowl. I let him attach the leash to my collar.

He lead me outside.

And there I was met by Woman Who Feeds Me and……What was this? Could it be?

A Little Dude was there, dancing on the end of his own leash.

 

He smelled like faraway places and chemicals and fear and loneliness. I did NOT like this smell.

I stood stiffly, the regal crest of my neck fur standing up with electric fury.

“STRANGER!!!!” I barked. “RED ALERT!!”

Every one of my aging muscles was rigid with warning.

“Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled in warning. “Watch out! A stranger has come to our home!”

Woman Who Feeds Me was looking kind of goofy. She had a big smile on her face and her voice was high and full of false promises. I heard her use my name, and then the tone that made me think of bath time and nail clippings. Or worse.

I was alert. I was not going to fall for the soft sound of her voice.

I looked at the stranger who stood in our midst, in the place where Miss Sadie has stood so recently.

He was tiny. He was vibrating with the energy of youth that makes the old want to simply sleep. His eyes were bright buttons of curiosity and his smooth golden fur was shivering with excitement.

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I got tired just looking at him.

I groaned and growled and barked to show my displeasure.

“I am the Wolf King!,” I cried. “I will not tolerate a wild hippy child in my kingdom! Get this Little Dude out of here!”

Nobody paid the slightest attention.

It was a long, strange day.

The Little Dude repeatedly peed on the floor. I knew that this would be a Big Problem. I settled my chin on my paws to wait out the reaction.

But Woman Who Feeds Me just kept cleaning it up without a word. She even scratched the head of the Floor Pee-er.

The Little Dude raced around the house, banging into walls, bouncing off of furniture. No one complained.

He tried to sniff my royal butt. I barked so loud I hurt my throat. That made him back off for about a minute.

He tried to lick my face.  Are. You. Kidding. I barked even more loudly, using my best Kingly voice.

That hurt my throat even more. Little Dude danced around my face until Woman Who Feeds Me got him to follow her down the hall.

At last, after a long and confusing day, we all got ready for bed. Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me filled their mouths with the sweet minty smell of bed time. They put Little Dude into a crate in our living room, and the three of us went down the hall to our beds.

Wouldn’t you know, though? That little golden furred, energetic annoyance kept whimpering and crying. I knew the sound of sadness and loneliness; I recognized it from the time when my litter mates and I were lost in the woods.

I waited a few minutes, safe and warm on my bed next to my humans. But the sound of Little Dude all alone down the hall pulled at my heart in a way that I wouldn’t want to make public.

I stood up slowly, grumbling the whole time. I made my way down the hall to the darkened living room.

“I’m scared!” I heard from the crate. “I’m not sure where I am…”

“Oh, be quiet,” I grumbled in my most royal Kingly voice. “You’re with us now. You’re safe. Stop making that ridiculous noise.”

I heard a whimper, and then the sound of a baby dog settled onto a bed. I laid my head on my royal paws, snuggled down on my lovely leather couch, and thought about what the future would bring. I fell asleep remembering what it was like to race around the yard with the wind rushing through my fur.

Life is sure an interesting journey.

 

 

Did I Dream You, Or Did You Visit?


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Dear Miss Sadie,

A few nights after you left us, I had the sweetest dream.

I was standing in the kitchen, and I heard you scratch at the front door to come in. I looked down the stairs, toward the front hall.

The inside door was open, but I could see through the clear storm door.

There you were.

Standing on the front porch, looking up at me. Your eyes were both wide open, like they used to be before you got sick. Shiny golden brown eyes, looking up at me. Your mouth was open in that loopy doggie grin, with your tongue lolling out one side.

Outside in the yard it was fall, just like in real life. Yellow leaves covered the grass and I could see the drying stalks of day lilies.

But there on the porch, on our little brick porch, it was snowing hard. You were covered in snow flakes; it was swirling all around you. You started to hop up and down, like you used to do when you were really happy or excited.

I laughed in my dream, and I thought, “Oh, wow! I forgot how she used to jump! She hasn’t done that in years.”

You were so happy, jumping in the snow, grinning up at me.

And then it was as if I was floating toward you. Suddenly you were right there, just on the other side of the glass. Jumping with joy, jumping in the snowstorm. Right there in front of me.

You looked right into my eyes, and I looked right back.

Then slowly, you simply faded, and you disappeared.

Outside it was fall again. The porch was empty.

I think you came back one last time. I think you came to say goodbye and thanks.

I miss you.

Love,

“The Mistress”