Dog Is My Copilot


The other night I had a very sweet dream. I dreamed that I was asleep, and that my Dad was hugging me. I could feel his arm around my shoulder, and hear him breathing in my ear.

My Dad has been gone from us for 11 years, but I still feel him beside me. I can still see his smile, and his uplifted eyebrows and his loving gaze.

I miss him every single day.

So my dream was sweet, and touching, and it gave me enormous comfort.

That arm around me. The gentle breath in my ear. The feeling of being loved.

As I slowly came awake in the light of an early winter dawn, I realized that my feelings of Dad were only a dream. He was no longer here with us. He was gone.

And yet.

There was definitely an arm around my shoulder, and it wasn’t my husband’s. There was a gentle breathing in my ear, but I could hear Paul snoring and I knew it wasn’t him.

I rolled over.

And found myself face to face with Bentley, our beautiful basset hound-labrador mix.

His front leg was, in fact, over my shoulder. His soft breathing was right at the level of my ear.

And I started to laugh. I laughed so hard, in fact, that I woke up my husband and had to explain what was making me so silly at 6AM.

You see, as I started to think about it, I could totally understand why I had confused my doggie with my Dad.

Both of them were given the special gift of being able to recognize people’s moods as soon as they were felt. Dad would ask me how I was doing when I was a mess of a teenager, seeming to know when I needed to talk even before I did. In the very same way, Bentley has the gift of showing up for a snuggle as soon as my spirits begin to sink.

Dad always gave unquestioning support just when a person would need it. Sometimes he’d just quietly sit beside me; Ben does the very same thing. He knows when my grandkids are sad, or upset, or not feeling at their best. He climbs up, sits beside them, and just gets ready to listen.

Dad and Bentley. I had to smile.

And the physical similarities really struck me, too.

Dad had short legs. Bentley is a basset hound. Nuff said.

Dad had a broad chest, and big shoulders. Ditto for Mr. Bentley Bass.

And the eyes; The big, warm brown eyes. Eyes that look right at a person and give them the feeling that their every word is a treasure.

Of course, not every feature can be complimented. The slightly large nose? Yup, and yup again. Two big schnozzolas. The bit of extra weight around the middle? More to love on both of them!

Dad had big ears. Bentley has ears so big that they get wet when he drinks.

And the personality quirks can’t be ignored, either. Both my beloved Dad and my darling doggie could be described as highly food motivated. Bring on a good meal, and Dad would be there before the table was set. Rattle a plastic bag, and Bentley will be in the kitchen before you can put it down.

Not to say that either could be called picky. Bentley will eat a bug if it’s the only thing around. I once heard my Dad say that the wine he was drinking was terrible, but he wasn’t about to let it go to waste.

When the kids get silly, and start to race around the house, Bentley joins in with delight, even when he clearly has no idea of what is going on. He’ll run in circles, bark happily, and chase kids up and down the hall for hours. The joy is the point, and he would never miss a chance to express it.

Dad was so much the same. I remember in my earliest childhood, sitting on his lap watching The Three Stooges. He would howl with laughter as he watched, and we all knew that a big part of his pleasure was in sharing the moment with his kids.

But for all of his joyfulness and all of his love, my Dad was also a very black and white thinker. Right was right, wrong was wrong and he rarely noticed a shade of gray. He could be rigid in his way, and very stubborn. He saw the world through his own lens.

My dearest doggie is the very same way. While he clearly loves his humans and delights in our happiness, he also sees the world through his very own eyes. ALL food is his food; if our other dog tries to eat at kibble time, Bentley is likely to stand over both bowls. It takes a stern human and some physical reorganization to get him to focus on only his own dish.

If we ask him to get up from the couch, or leave the kitchen while we cook, he will sit perfectly still and ignore us until a treat is proferred.

“Sure, I know what you want, ” he seems to be saying, “But I have my own way of approaching this problem.”

So much like Dad!

I’m not sure that I actually believe in reincarnation, but if I did?

Welp.

A sweet, smart, big old lug with a love of food and fun, and a tendency to gaze at me with his big brown eyes?

It could be either one of two beloved souls.

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????”

“She Who Sleeps With Dogs…..”


It took a long time for my husband and I to get a dog. When we first married, we had cats.

After that, we had kids.

Really, really allergic kids.

So a bunch of years went by with no furry little pals.

But then the kids got older, were able to manage their own inhalers and nose sprays, and we finally broke down and got a big old dog. We loved him with our whole hearts……but we never let him on the bed.

Sure, you let me on the couch, but what about the bed?

After a while, we got another dog. Still no bed snuggles.

And all was well.

Until both of our beloved old pups moved across that famous rainbow bridge and all three kids had the audacity to grow up.

At that point, the only one who begged to hug us at bedtime was our puppy, Lennie. Paul tried to be strong, and to hold onto his “no dogs on the bed” rule, but I was weak.

I mean, picture this. It’s a cold winter night, and you’re in your jammies, snuggled under your warm, soft blankies. You pick up your book, but you are suddenly distracted by a soft whine. You look to your left, and you are met with the big brown begging eyes of your puppy. He holds your gaze for a second, then he shivers dramatically, from the tip of his wet black nose to the end of his whippy golden tail.

Can you really say no to this face???

Come. On.

You have no choice.

No. Choice.

You pull back the blanket and make the international “come-here-doggy” kissy noise. Your sweet pup jumps up on the bed, licks your cheek and gives a deep, heart felt sigh. He falls asleep against your ribs, reminding you of your babies in ways that make you melt.

And there you are.

Suddenly you find yourself a co-sleeper with a mutt. Even though you are a happily married woman.

Cognitively, you know that this is ridiculous. There could be dirt. Fur. Ticks and deadly diseases.

But he’s so soft.

Time goes by, and that pup stays put every damn night. In fact, he starts to feel like he’s in control of who gets to use the pillow.

But it’s OK.

Mostly.

And then, for reasons that escape you now, reasons that seem to be tied to “save the poor little abandoned baby” and “wouldn’t your little Lennie love to have a playmate?”, you find yourself the happy Mommy of a whole new puppy.

A floppy, squishy, slinky black oil slick of a basset hound/lab mix. A happy bundle of love who instinctively understands that he is supposed to sleep right under your arm, with his long nose resting on your face.

Sigh.

Months go by. Months in which you question your sanity. Months in which sleep eludes you because there’s a dog butt on your left ankle and a dog head on your throat.

At last, though, the universe shows you that your current sleep situation has an important use after all.

You go to Florida with your sister and in spite of your best efforts, you burn to a crisp. You come home peeling like a banana. Molting like a snake. You leave shreds of crispy epidermis behind you wherever you go.

And. You. Itch.

No matter how much Aveeno, Cocoa Butter, Gold Bond, Vaseline you smooth onto your skin, you itch all night long.

And that’s when you finally discover the gift that you’ve been given by sleeping with two big dogs.

It happened to me last night. We’d been out for most of the day and well into the night. We finally got home after midnight, and the dogs were filled with the need to cuddle right up against us.

So I fell asleep with my big soft basset boy curled into my back. And I woke up thirty minutes later with every millimeter of my back itching. I started to reach back to scratch what I could reach, but then I realized that Bentley’s long sharp claws were resting against my back.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered. Then I proceeded to wiggle, wriggle and slither along those claws, finding the relief that has escaped me for the past week.

An hour later, I woke up again, itching all over my back. And again, Bentley’s perfect scratching post claws were right there. I wiggled and wriggled some more, while Bentley simply snored.

This went on all night.

I itched, I wriggled, he scratched. It was the most heavenly relief.

So you see?

She who lies down with dogs might wake up with fleas, but at least she’ll get some relief from the desire to peel off all of her own skin.

I knew I was doing the right thing when I invited Lennie under the covers!

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.

You Can Learn a Lot From Dogs


You really can. Dogs can be such fabulous mentors. Such great teachers.

You know, like role models.

I’ve learned a lot from my dogs over the years. For example, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much your aging hips hurt, you should still run through the woods when you get a chance. I’ve learned to age with grace and humor, and to keep my mind in the present moment, rather than wondering about the future or obsessing about the past.

But I’ve learned a whole bunch of new things in the past 5 days. I’ve learned these lessons by watching my new doggie, Bentley, as he integrates himself into our household.

I’ll give you the general description of the situation here, and I bet you’ll see those lessons, too.

We have to start with our boy Lennie, also fondly known as “Devil Dog.”  He is a jumper on guests, a licker of faces, a yipping, barking whirlwind of joyful dogginess. He has learned our household rules in the almost two years that we’ve had him.

He’s adorable. We love him!

Lennie and John

Two sweet baby boys in the winter of 2017.

Lennie does well with the grandchildren. He is loud and feisty, but he’s gentle, too. They get along very well, which brings us nothing but joy.

But recently we felt sad for Lennie. Our older dog has been gone for a year, and Lennie seemed to be in need of a canine buddy.

So we decided to adopt the world’s cutest, goofiest little boy, Bentley Bass. Bentley is a basset hound/lab/pointer? mix. He’s short, sassy, shiny black and so full of love that it practically oozes out of his velvety ears.

Bentley took about 3 minutes to get to know Lennie. It took him one transit of our house to learn where the goodies are.

It took him one nanosecond to recognize the grandkids as his best source of snacks/toys/hugs.

He’s so. so. so. lovable.

Ellie and Ben

“I bet she drops snacks.”

But here are my observations of how my two sweet dogs differ, and what that means for them.

I have two young dogs who want the best doggie toys. One of them barks every 2 seconds, shows his hackles and his teeth, threatens death and destruction over the blue nylabone.  The other stays quiet, sits back for a minute and waits until the barker is in full throttle.

Then he gently grabs the nylabone and brings it onto the couch to chew.

The hysterical screamer, Lennie, keeps yipping, jumping in circles and basically threatening to annihilate his little brother. Meanwhile, Bentley happily enjoys the bone.

The same is true with food. Lennie barks, yips, backs up and shakes his head when I put down the two matching bowls of kibble. You can practically hear his thoughts, “You just better keep your pointy nose in your own dish, buddy! Don’t even think about eating mine!”

And as he does, Bentley stands quietly at his own dish, eating his meal without any stress. He’s usually all finished and happily back on the couch (with the nylabone) before Loud Lennie has taken a bite.

Bentley growls and fake bites with Lennie as they play. He is brave, solid, unshakable as his bigger brother rolls him over. He grins, nips, pulls on Lennie’s ears and makes sure that everyone knows he’s just having fun.

When the kids are eating breakfast or lunch, and Lennie whines and begs for a bite, Bentley calmly and quietly inches his way forward into the room. If I tell him to leave, he does. But when I look away, he silently moseys back in and gets a few bites from Ellie and Johnny. If I reprimand him, he lowers his sleek head and gazes up at me with his gentle eyes.

“Oops. Sorry, Momma.” He says it so clearly. I can’t be mad.

When the two dogs come onto the bed to sleep, Lennie prances around, turns in circles, yips a few times and makes it generally known that he is the man in charge. He’ll take the best spot, thank you very much.

But of course, while he’s posturing, Bentley lays himself down beside me with his head on my pillow. He hasn’t said a word, but he’s taken the prize.

Oh, what a lesson there is in that!!!!

This goes on all day.  I hear Lennie yelping, arguing, barking and when I come to see what’s going on, there’s my Bentley, chewing on one dog toy while calmly lying on top of three more.

Bentley does not shoot off his mouth, although I have heard him bark twice in five days. He doesn’t posture or make a big deal of things. Bentley stays calm, stays friendly, and quietly gets himself what he needs.

Don’t you wish he could run for President??

The boys

“See, Lennie, I really am a good kid.”

 

Mother Guilt


I’m Italian. I was raised in the Catholic Church.

Ergo, guilt is my middle name.

When my kids were little, I learned all about “mother guilt.” I got most of my exercise by beating myself up over what I did or didn’t do for my kids. I was too strict, or I let them get away with murder. Guilty!!! I was overprotective. But I didn’t watch them closely enough. Very guilty!!!

Dinner was…gasp….frozen pizza. Take away my mothering license!

Then the kids grew up. None of them are serial killers. All three are productive members of society.

I kind of let myself relax.

But now…I am suffering from a profound attack of momma guilt.

I’ll tell you why.

Two years ago we adopted a sweet little crazy pants puppy who we named Lennie. He was good company for our old dog, Tucker the Wolf King. All was well.

A year ago, though, old Tucker crossed that rainbow bridge, and Lennie was left with no one to play with except for Papa and I, two toddlers, two “cousin” dogs, a great neighbor dog and the occasional friend met on a walk.

We felt sorry for him. Also, if truth be told, we were hoping that a second dog might run off some of his boundless energy. So we reached out to some of the wonderful rescue groups out there, and we looked at a bunch of dogs. We thought we’d open our house to another canine in need of love and attention.

This time around, though, we had at least some idea of what we were doing, so we set some parameters.

“No more puppies,” we said to ourselves. “And no more hound dogs.” We had learned the hard way that puppies chew everything from your slippers to the living room rug. We knew that hounds would run away and not come back if they caught the scent of an animal outside. We were determined to avoid the mistakes of our pasts.

A few weeks went by and we started getting messages from a dear friend about a sweet, adorable, loving little labrador/basset hound mix. He looked so cute! He really needed a home.

So.

We decided to adopt a hound puppy.  Best laid plans and all that stuff.

His name is Bentley, and we have been in touch with his foster Mom for a couple of weeks. She’s crazy about him! We’ve been so excited to meet him. Two weeks before his arrival, I bought new toys, a pretty new collar with his name and our phone number. I even talked about him to Lennie.

I thought that everything was great until last night. I went to bed thinking, “Tomorrow we get to meet our little Bentley! Hurrah!”

Then I had a dream about Tucker. My sweet, beloved Wolf King. I dreamed of him so vividly that I could smell the familiar scent of his head. I could hear his mumblepuppy voice, and feel the soft soft fur of his ears.

Tucker!

I woke up, thinking, “Oh, Tucker! We aren’t replacing you! We’ll always love you! You were our boy, our Wolf King, our best friend.”

I laid awake for at least an hour, wracked with guilt.

Finally I fell asleep again, but awoke a little bit later wondering what that sound was in my ear.

The sound was Lennie, sleeping with his head on my pillow, breathing right into my ear. I turned toward him, and he licked my cheek in his sleep.

Guilt-o-rama.

If we brought a new dog home, would Lennie feel less loved? Would he wonder why we thought we needed another dog, if we already had him? Would my sweet boy feel inadequate as a pet and need years of therapy to get over the betrayal by his Mom?

Guilt. Guilty McGuiltington. I barely slept.

This morning, early, we headed off to meet the transit van that was bringing Bentley to New England. Lennie was left at home to wonder what was up. Tucker was in my heart, looking at me with big brown accusing eyes.

There was a lump in my throat.

But there we were, committed to the new guy. He got out of the van, waddled his way over to us, greeted us with a huge doggy grin and shook his long velvety ears.

My heart turned over, I fell in love, and some of the guilt slipped away. The rest would be up to Lennie.

We made our way home, Bentley snuggled in my arms, and introduced our boys to each other.

And holy hound dog. Whaddaya know.

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“We’re gonna be the best of bruvvers!”

Within an hour, they had sniffed each other’s butts, bitten each other’s ears, shared the same water bowl, chased each other under various bushes, wrassled on the bed and the sofa and fallen asleep side by side.

I think it’s going rather well.

Now I look at Lennie and I feel guilty that I didn’t get him a baby brother months ago.

Sigh.

I tell ya, as a mother, you just can’t win.

 

 

Oh, Charlie


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Dear Charlie,

Dear sweet, lovable Charlie,

This is a love letter to you, beautiful tuxedo cat Charlie. This is a letter of thanks, of love, of appreciation and it is a letter of sorrow.

Dear Charlie,

When you came to Mom’s house, it was because my brave sister Liz wanted Momma to look forward into her future with happiness. You came to her house after Dad died, when she was at her most fragile and at her saddest. You brought your silly kitten energy, and that made her laugh.

You brought your sweet kitten neediness, too, and that was even better. Every night, as Mom sat in her glider and watched her favorite shows, you jumped up onto the footrest and asked to be brushed.

There were so many evenings when I sat there with Mom, unsure of what to say or how to act, when you would give your little “brrrrrp” sound to make sure we knew you were there. Then you’d leap gracefully onto the footrest of Mom’s glider chair, where you’d curl your tail around yourself as if it was the robe of the Emperor. You’d open wide those beautiful golden eyes and you’d stare at Mom with perfect confidence until she reached for your brush and gave you the attention you so obviously felt you deserved.

Charlie, you were so smart. So agile and graceful and sweet. My Ellie, at the tender age of two, fell in love with your yellow eyes and your sense of calm detachment. She adores you.

I do, too, Charlie. I adore you, too.

But no one loves you more than Grandma, for whom you have been the best of boon companions.

You cheered her up on lonely days, Charlie. You made her laugh when no one else could. You sat beside her when she felt sad and weak.

Oh, sweet Charlie.

I remember that shortly after she got you, Mom said to me, “I worry about what will happen to Charlie when I die.” I tried to suggest that perhaps you would go before her, but Mom was having none of it.

“I’m old,” she assured me, as if I didn’t know it. “Charlie is only a baby.”

And yet here we are. At the end of your life. Watching you struggle to eat, to walk, to rest comfortably. After surgery and medicine and more medicine and every kind of loving intervention, you’re telling us that you really do need to go.

Mom will miss you more than any of us can say. She will miss your antics, your silliness, your presence, your big yellow eyes.

We all will.

Charlie. I’m so sorry. You gave it your very, very best. You are a champ, my darling little boy.

I’ll take you to rest in a couple of days, honey. I promise. And I’ll hold in these tears until you are gone, over that rainbow bridge. Then, I promise, I will bawl like a broken hearted toddler as I mourn the loss of your sweet presence.

Rest, little guy. You’ve earned it.

 

Feeling Very Raw


Raw. Raw is in.

My human vegan friends often talk about the benefits of the raw diet. Raw veggies, raw fruits, nuts and seeds. Supposed to make you so healthy you might live to meet your great great grandchildren.

It sounds great, even though I haven’t personally adopted that particular diet. (Because cake. And bread. You have to cook them.)  At this point in my life, I am not at all sure that I want to live that long anyway. Who wants to turn into the scary old lady that the kids are forced to visit on holidays that are supposed to be about the candy and presents?

Not me.

I also have no desire to outlive many more dogs.

If you’ve been around here before, you probably know that we have had to say goodbye to two canine companions in the past year. Not in a hurry to do that again.

But back to the raw diet.

Even if this grandmother isn’t willing to go that route for the humans in the house, I’m willing to try it with the puppy.

This would be our Lennie, named for my Uncle Lennie Merullo, who was the last surviving Chicago Cub to have played in a World Series. Uncle Lennie died the season before the Cubbies finally broke their curse (we believe he was pulling strings in Heaven, but I digress.)

Our Lennie, our sweet, slightly hyperactive, never-met-a-lab-in-my-life Lab rescue has been giving us some trouble around eating.

He hates dog food.

We’ve tried a whole range of dry dog food, from the good stuff to the better stuff to the how-can-anyone-afford-this stuff. Lennie would ignore a bowl of this stuff for up to two days, at which time he would look at me with those big bulgy brown terrier eyes and carefully pick up one little chunk. He’d chew it for a full minute, force it down, sigh, shake his head and take a drink of water.

This did not seem like normal doggie behavior to me.

Then I saw Facebook post from my friend, Karen, who is a professional dog trainer. It was all about the virtues of a raw diet for dogs.

Raw beef, raw chicken, raw pork. Give ’em the livers and hearts and brains and pancreas. Give ’em the bones. Let them be the wild canine carnivores that nature intended them to be!

It made SO. MUCH. SENSE.

I was so excited.

I pulled out a package of chicken livers and plopped the whole bloody mess into Lennie’s bowl. “Hey, boy!” I called. “Come get your actual, real, I’m a hunter, my great great grampa was a wolf dinner!”

He trotted into the kitchen, wearing his bright yellow collar. He sniffed the bowl. He sat down so hard his license and rabies tags jangled. He looked at me, and (I swear this is true) his mouth was open.

“What the absolute F*&*# is this?” his face asked. He was aghast.

He left the room.

I threw away the bloody mess.

But I would NOT give up. We moved on to ground beef.

He sniffed, tasted, backed up. Slowly approached, and then he ate it! VICTORY!

I was so excited to know that I was about to have a healthy, shiny coated, no allergies, clean toothed canine who loved me to pieces but who was still only a step away from his wild roots.

I did what any good Momma would do. I researched all over the internet, watched 163 YouTube Videos and learned all about what I needed to do. For example, I learned that my doggie needs BONES!

Just like in all those old cartoons. Doggies need to eat bones. That’s how they get calcium and how they keep their digestive systems healthy.

So. I bought some chicken legs.

Woohooo!!!!

Tonight, we gave Lennie a nice raw chicken bone. Now, we were both scared of him choking, but we have been assured by all 500 blogs, articles, reports and videos that raw bones are fine.

So, we gave our boy his chicken leg. He was thrilled! He ran down into the backyard (warning, do NOT feed the meaty bones in the house unless you want to sit on meaty schmeers on your sofa). He ran in circles. He barked at the bone. He flipped it in the air. He yipped at it in what I can only imagine was his best wolf imitation.

Then he buried it under a bush.

So. I tried again. I am Momma. I will not be denied in my efforts to feed! (Just ask my kids).

This time I put Lennie on our deck, where he couldn’t get to the yard. I gave him a new chicken leg. Repeat the above performance, minus the burying part.

This dog had NO idea of what to do with a chicken leg.

I began to wonder if he was actually descended from a stuffed animal. But I persevered.

I went onto the deck myself, with a pair of kitchen scissors. (Do. Not. Laugh.) I cut meat off the bone. Lennie gobbled it right up off my fingers.

I handed him the now mostly meatless bone. He dropped it.

I handed it back.

We looked at each other.

“Listen, kid” I said. “This is a bone. You are a dog. You are supposed to eat the bone.”

I was pretty let down, I have to be honest. I left Lennie with the chicken bone and went inside. I poured a glass of wine and took a sip. I glanced out the window to check on him.

He was chomping away on what was left of the bone, held between his suddenly wolf like paws. As I watched in amazement, he gulped down the last bit, lifted his head, and I swear to you, he grinned at me.

Raw diet all the way, now Lennie! You wild thing.

Love Makes Fools Of Us All


Ah, love.

Is there anyone alive who hasn’t fallen victim to the whims of love?

When we fall in love, we give up our ability to make sane choices for ourselves. We see our beloved through misty eyes. Every fault is airbrushed out, and we only want more. More time with our beloved. More closeness. More intimacy.

When we truly fall in love, we let go of our own egos. We allow ourselves to make decisions that are not in our best interest. “But it will bring me closer to my beloved,” we tell ourselves. “This is going to be great!” All we want, when we are flushed with love, is to be near our beloved. We want to touch, to kiss and hold and nuzzle and dream.

Ah, love.

You lead us all astray. You take away our ability to do what is truly best for ourselves. When you have stormed our hearts, we care nothing for ourselves.

How do I know this, you ask? Ah, I have a confession for you all.

SONY DSC

Who, me? Ruin your sleep?

When we lost our beloved Wolf King last month, Paul and I found ourselves with a big, huge hole in our hearts. To say we miss the old fool would be the understatement of the century. Paul, in particular, was absolutely bereft without his best buddy sleeping on the dog mattress on his side of our bed.

So.

I invited Lennie to come and sleep with us.

See, up until that point, Lennie had been sleeping (all alone) in the living room. That just seemed too sad to me. So I got out some doggie treats and coaxed him into our room, and onto the newly abandoned dog bed.

He wouldn’t stay.

So.

Um.

I coaxed him up onto our bed. With doggie treats. It took some time and some effort, but….I was falling in love with my puppy! I needed him! I wanted him nearby!

The mists of love covered my eyes, and I got the (not so) little guy to stretch out on the bed between us.

He liked it!

And there he has stayed. Every night. Stretching his full length with his head on my hip and his butt on Paul’s shoulder. Or vice versa.

We now attempt to sleep in a queen sized bed where a 50 pound dog has half the mattress and the humans have about a quarter each.

On a good night.

This is not the best situation for aging humans who need our rest. It is not best for our creaky backs or our stiff spines.

But we won’t be changing it any time soon.

Love hurts.

What can I say?

Love makes fools of us all.