First Day of Summer


Well, happy Solstice, everyone! Yay! It’s finally summer, for real!

The days get shorter from here.

Sigh.

I guess you can see how ambivalent I am about the end of the school year. Now that I’m no longer a classroom teacher, the end of the year is less about having time off and more about feeling at loose ends.

My daughter has the summer off, which means I won’t have my grandkids here for a few weeks.

I mean, I am very, very happy to have some time to rest and recuperate. I love watching my grandkids every day. I really, really do!! Toddlers are magical!

Exhaustingly magical.

So I obviously need some time to catch up on sleep. I need time to organize all these art supplies, old toys, and dried out play doh. I want to garden and read and maybe finally submit some writing somewhere. Summer is a good thing!

On the other hand, it’s amazing how dull it can be when the only one to talk to around here is me. I’m somewhat less riveting than I thought.

So day one is coming to a close. I’ve watched the news, read a lot, argued and snarked at people on social media and done four loads of wash.

Yay, me.

Now what?

I need to figure out how to fill my hours without the kids here to say, “Nonni, watch!” and “Nonni, guess what?” I need to feel useful without serving food every hour on the hour to hungry kids.

At least I have the dogs for company.

But you know what?

Both Lennie and Bentley spent this entire first day of summer wandering from room to room looking for the kids. They both spent a ton of time sitting in front of me with their big, sad, hound-doggy eyes.

We took a walk. They liked that!

But then we came home and they both went from bedroom to bedroom to kitchen to the deck. They both sighed. They both turned in circles. They gazed out the window. They chewed on their nylabones, but you could tell their hearts weren’t in it.

It’s going to be a long summer, pups. No kids until September, at least not on a regular basis. No games. No laughing. No sweet snuggly little girls to wrap an arm around your furry necks. No giggly little boy for you to chase down the hall.

Most importantly, no dropped cheese for many long weeks.

What are we gonna do?

You mean….nobody will be dropping string cheese?
I kinda need a hug.

Dogs


Dogs. Dogs and more dogs.

I tell you, dogs are like Lays potato chips. No one can have just one.

In the past two years, we have found ourselves navigating the tender steps between owning two old dogs to owning one young pup.

As we let our sweet old friends cross that rainbow bridge, we pushed ourselves to welcome a new, young puppy into the house.

This was a very smart move. Even as we grieved the loss of our slow, sedate, cranky old friends, we found ourselves viewing the world through the eyes of our happy, energetic, joyful puppy.

Len

Life is good….but I’m bored.

But now we are the aging parents of one young doggie. He adores us, and its mutual. We (as in, my husband) walk him every day. He plays with our grandkids, and takes rides in the car and sometimes gets to play with our next door doggies.

He seems pretty happy.

He sleeps with us most night, resting his chin on my chest or on my husband’s hip. He follows us around with his adoring brown eyes. He kisses the grandchildren every day when they come in. He plays with us.

He seems…mostly….happy.

Until.

Until our daughter and her family go away for a few days, leaving their two dogs with us. That’s when we get to see how overjoyed our boy, Lennie, is when he has playmates of his own. Izzy is an older lady, somewhat aloof and somewhat removed from the raucousness of the kids. When things get out of hand, Izzy barks and snarls and makes the kids behave.

I consider her my ally.

Izzy

Do. Not. Cross. Me.

Nino is a funny little guy, with some significant special needs. He has dwarfism, so he can’t run as far or as long as he’d like. His head, his big old bullet pit bull head, is bigger than the rest of his body. He is awkward at best.

And he is affectionate, energetic, loving and full of beans.

He and Lennie jump on each other, bite each others’ necks and roll over each other for hours.

You can feel the happiness pouring off of both of them as they do.

Nino

Don’t you love my giant head?

It’s clear.

Lennie needs at least one more canine pal.

Kate and Sam are unlikely to turn over their two pups to us, so we need to start shopping. Lennie loves us a lot, but he obviously needs a buddy to boss around.

Just like Lays chips. You can’t get away with only one.

Anyone have a sweet youngish dog to give away??? H’mmm?

 

 

The Day I Just Plain Sucked


Have you ever had a day where, from the moment you open your gritty eyeballs, you just can’t get anything right?

Have you ever had the kind of day where every god, goddess and bad guy in the universe is seemingly engaged in a conspiracy to prove that you are a total waste of molecular energy? The kind of day where, if you could just quiet the roaring of your overflowing toilet, you’d actually hear the sound of distant maniacal laughter?

No?

Welp. I have.

In fact, as you have probably already surmised, I had one of those days today. And, yep, you’re right. You’re going to hear about it.

Let me just set the stage first, alright?

Today was the last full day in the life of my beautiful old hound dog, Tucker the Wonder Puppy. Also known as “The Wolf King.” At the age of 12 and a half, Tucker has walked his last walk, chased his last frisbee, eaten his last beef bone. He is losing his vision, and can barely get himself up or down the stairs, even with lots of loving human support.

It’s time.

The call has been made, the appointment is set. Today is his last full day on this lovely green earth.

So of course, last night Paul and I were up at 3 AM easing him down the stairs and out the front door to poop. We were up again bright and early this morning doing the same thing. We are sad, tired, nostalgic, sick at heart.

We are not at our peppy best.

And this is the first full week of school, which means that it is Nonni’s first week of trying to juggle a three month old and a two year old, both of whom miss their Mommy all day long.

All of that would have probably been more or less OK, except that it was also pouring and pelting buckets of rain all day. And I somehow messed up the bottles so that the wrong nipple was on the wrong bottle and poor baby Johnny could barely get a drop of milk all day.

Oh, and I invited my granddaughter’s best best friend and her Momma to come over to visit today. Because…why not?

So.

There I was.

New company at my door. Rain pouring down. Old dog whining on the rug. Puppy yipping, jumping and relentlessly trying to mate with the young woman who came to visit. Baby Johnny desperately trying to get milk, to no avail. Two year old Ellie and her bestie, Hazel, trying to work out the fine points of sharing while Ellie shrieked “ELLIE’S TOYS!” at about 95 decibels.

I was trying to bake a gingerbread cake, but it was in process when our guests arrived, because I had spent an hour sobbing over my old dog and I was behind schedule. I was trying to control the puppy, but I have honestly never seen him so determined to fuse himself with a human while yelping and yipping nonstop and shedding at the same time. I was trying to help Ellie with her sharing while simultaneously trying to get her to stop screaming at the top of her tiny little lungs.

I wanted our new friends to look at me and think, “Wow! Nonni sure is on top of things! What a lovely nurturing figure she’d be in our lives!”

I failed.

I failed wicked.

Instead of looking calm, serene and loving, I looked insane, sweaty, tearful and overwhelmed.

I mean. Jesus. This is NOT my first rodeo. I swear; I really can host lunch for a mommy and her adorable, sweet little girl! I CAN!

Except that today, I couldn’t.

Get this.

I offered them lunch, saying that I had lots of cold cuts and peanut butter and jelly. “Sure!” said lovely young Mommy. “We love peanut butter and jelly!”

So I went to get it out. And I discovered that…….

…..I had no bread.

None.

So I served peanut butter and jelly on graham crackers while the baby cried and the puppy howled and the old dog moaned and the wind blew and the rain poured down.

I. Absolutely. Sucked. Today.

My only hope at this point is that lovely young mommy and sweet little best friend will give us another chance. Maybe when old dog is gone, puppy is calm, the weather is good, and I’ve remembered to shop.

Sigh.

I guess you can’t win ’em all.

img_20161115_150654

Please!!! Please can I lick your face off????!!! 

 

 

Crazy pants night thoughts


It’s been a long few days. Lots of emotion. A lot of bruises. Good food. Good drinks. Too much rain. Far too many long, long, sleepless nights.

So here is a sampling of the crazy pants thoughts that stroll through Nonni’s mind in the dark of night.

What do you think? Been there, thought that? Or am I a total nutcake?

  1. What the hell is mesothelioma and why is it advertised every 20 minutes on TV? Did I miss something, or are half of my acquaintances really at risk? CREEPY!
  2. I think that funny, innocent, misguided woman on the Progressive ads is wonderful. If I didn’t already have good car insurance, you can bet I’d go to her.
  3. When did women realize that we actually hold ALL the cards in our relationships? I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when it was a very big deal for women to say that we weren’t going to wear skirts to school in the snow and ice. When did we finally realize that no one could tell us what to wear? As a grandmother now, I often think about this question. It sort of just passed us by and became life as we know it.
  4. Why did we think that breastfeeding made babies better or healthier? Why did we attack each other for our baby raising choices? And have we smartened up about all this yet? Are we ready to support each other and not condemn each other for our parenting choices?
  5. What the hell is the latest theory about allergies, anyway? I had three kids, with dogs, and cats. They all had HORRIBLE allergies/asthma and I beat myself up for years because I had pets in the house. Yeah, but…..Now they say being with pets is the best thing for allergic kids. ????
  6. Why is that if I spend 100 hours and 100 dollars planning my garden, I still end up realizing that the best plants I have are the “volunteers” brought in by the birds?
  7. Why are the little birds, chicadees, sparrows, finches, so much braver and more assertive than the big, showy cardinals and bluejays?
  8. Do dogs really know when we’re sad? How can my crazy little “Devildog” Puppy know when he should come up slowly and lick my ears and cheeks until I feel better?
  9. Do young women today suffer from the same “Perfection anxiety” that dogged every woman in my generation? Do they worry about perfectly clean kitchens? Color coordinated bath towels? Organized closets?
  10. Is aging a gift or a curse? Is it too sad to know what you can’t do anymore, or is that a freeing realization as we head into the next phase?

What do you all think?

The Wolf King Meets His Biggest Challenge


Oh, for God’s sake.

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

SONY DSC

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.

img_20161112_110953

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.

 

 

Let’s take a brief time out……


I can't help it......

I can’t help it……

Sadie, aging far more gracefully that some of us.

…….I’m old.

Let’s just take a brief respite here, shall we?  We may be on the very brink of World War III.  Paris may be burning. The climate is wrecked, the Presidential candidates are a bunch of crazy assed ego maniacs.

I know.   The world is a mess.

But let me digress for just a moment, will you?

You see, in the midst of world crisis and the possible annihilation of humanity, I have a bigger problem.

My dogs are currently producing the kind of flatulence that can peel paint, etch glass, melt solid metal and cause human eyeballs to combust.

Holy methane.

It all started when Sadie began to decline and lost the muscles on her face. This was, of course, closely followed by Tucker having a bleeding mass on his spleen and needing emergency surgery.  Within a week, we went from being the parents of two healthy, hearty dog-food-eating mutts to the grieving parents of two dying little canine angels.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that both dogs came through their ordeals and have lived to poop another day.

But:

In order to reach their new levels of health, they have had to endure several trips to the Chinese Herbalist/Acupuncturist Vet.   This woman is like a young, gentle wizard. She looked at their tongues, felt their pulses, asked about their preferences, and put them on a regimen of Chinese herbs.

She also suggested that, if I really wanted my furry children to be healthy, I should cook for them.

So I do!  Home cooked chicken, rice, oatmeal, squash, carrots, liver, beef……The dogs are absolutely thriving!  Thick, shiny coats! Happy dispositions! Extra energy!

And farts that could clear a stadium in two minutes.

Paul and I have started to sleep in a room with two kind of air freshener, an open window no matter the temperature, scented lotion on our hands and faces…….  And yet we wake up every night from the gagging gaseousness of the doggie output.

What the hell.

If we shut the door and keep them out, they both wake us up by whining, scratching, yipping at our door.   If we let them in, we are doomed.

We have been feeding them probiotics, feeding them several small meals as opposed to one or two large ones, giving them yogurt, walking them before bed, washing their rear ends with scented soap…….

To no avail.

And here is what I have come to believe.

If the US Army could somehow manage to capture and then disperse this toxic smell, every terrorist in the world would curl up in a ball and scream “Bring me lavender!”

Sorry to end suddenly, but its time for me to smear on some Vicks under my nose, insert the nose plugs, and rub rose oil on my pillow.

Dancing with an old lady


So there I was, on a Sunday evening.  My husband and son had gone away on a camping trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It was the final weekend of camping at our favorite spot up there, the spot where our daughter went into labor in July during our annual family reunion!   Paul and Tim had gone up there, to Dolly Copp Campground, for a last “hurrah” in this beautiful summer of 2015.

I stayed home.

I suppose I could make you feel bad for me, left behind by my beloved husband and much adored son, left to cope with all of the chores at the family homestead.  But I have to tell the truth: at the age of 59, I am really and truly ALL DONE with sleeping on an air mattress on the ground. Especially in October in New England.   Been there, honey, done that.  Ain’t goin’ back.

So I stayed home to “take care of the dogs” while the menfolk froze themselves into popsicles in the Great North.

Paul had been planning to drive our son, Tim, back to his home in the Berkshires before returning to our little house in Central Mass.  I expected him somewhere around 8 pm or so.

I planned a nice chicken dinner, and enjoyed my nice quiet house.  I walked the dogs, did some writing, did a bunch of laundry, read an Alice Hoffman novel out on the sunny deck.

And finally, it was around 7:30 at night.  Paul had been texting me on and off all day. His latest message read: “Bumpa to bumpa in Brattleboro.”

He was going to be way. late.

So I poured some wine.  I decided that he’d be too late for dinner, and I started to make a cake. (What? Who hasn’t had cake for dinner after a long ride?)   I was in a happy mood.  I had enjoyed two lovely days by myself in my now very clean house. My boy and my hubby had enjoyed a chance for bonding and a visit to a magical place.

All was well with the world.

I decided to listen to some music as I baked.  I firmly believe that a little good music helps the heaviest of cakes to rise.  I plugged my laptop into my dock and found a youtube video of an incredible band that I first heard when I went to the “Fresh Grass” festival in North Adams, Mass with both of my sons and one of my brothers.  I love this band.  LOVE them.  I put on one of my favorite songs by the band “Birds of Chicago“, and I started to move around my kitchen, singing and whisking and shaking out the cinnamon.

My old dog, Sadie, came into the kitchen to watch.

Now, you need to understand that at the ripe old doggie age of 14, Sadie is coming into the kitchen for the possible dropped food scraps, not for the music.

But here’s the thing: Sadie most likely has cancer.  She has lost a whole bunch of muscle mass on her head and face. She is losing weight.  She is on a bunch of medications.

We often think that this will be her last day.

So.  Last night, as the gorgeous voices of “Birds of Chicago” soared through my house, I called out, “Sadie! Come dance with me!”

And she did.  She wagged her shaggy black tail, raised up on her funny camo colored paws, and began to sway and swing with me in the kitchen.

I sang along to the music, Flying Dreams.   I danced and swayed, and so did my old Sadie, her big brown eyes on mine.

We didn’t think about life flying by, Sadie and I. We didn’t ask each other for treats or hugs or wagging tails.  She simply swayed and rocked and danced, her beautiful deep eyes on mine.  I simply sang and danced, not wondering how much time we might have together.

It was pure magic, for those few minutes.

Please listen to Birds of Chicago!  You will absolutely not be disappointed, no matter how old you are.

Dear Tucker


Still as handsome as you ever were.

Still as handsome as you ever were.

I hope you’re feeling better, big dog!  You really scared us when you got so sick the other night. We thought you had hurt your back, like you did a few years ago, remember?  Dad called you inside, but you didn’t come. You didn’t even stand up.

Good dog, Tucker, good boy.   You always come when we call (unless you have gotten out of the fence to play Wolf King, of course.)  But that night, when we called you, “Tucky! Come, come inside!”, you only looked at us.

Finally we were able to lure you in with some cheese, but you moved so slowly, so painfully.

We thought it was your back.

We didn’t know.

It was a long night; you didn’t want us to touch you, and you wouldn’t eat anything. We had wrapped a pain pill in your favorite American Cheese coating, but you wouldn’t take it.

Good dog, Tucker.

When we finally got you to your vet in the morning, we were sure that she’d just do the usual acupuncture treatment and you’d be good as new.

We didn’t know.

But she did. She took one look at you, splayed out on the floor, panting.  She shook her head, and that’s when I started to get scared.

It was a long day, with a lot of long and scary words in it. “Splenectomy”, “hemangiosarcoma”, “chemotherapy”, “metastasize”.  Emergency.

Good boy, pup.  You’re a good dog.

You’ve been our boy for almost eleven years.  We picked you out of all the others in the pen that day, remember that? We picked you, or you picked us, coming to sit beside where I crouched, putting one little paw on my knee. You looked me right in the eye.  You didn’t jump up, or bite my fingers.  You looked at me, and you tilted your head and my heart melted and we brought you home.

Such a good dog.  Our good boy.

The surgery went well, they tell us.  You are out of the ICU.  We have to wait for pathology reports, but they’ve prepared us to hear bad news.

You’re such a good dog.

We miss you at home!  Miss Sadie misses you.  She has walked from room to room for two days now, looking for you in your usual resting spots.  She goes outside to the deck, then comes right back in. She stays by my side, whether to get comfort or to give it, I can’t say.

We need you home.  I don’t know what the future will hold for you, Tucky Pup.  All I know is that it is way too quiet here without our Mumblepuppy greeting us with a big “Helloooooooow” and grumbling as he settles on his bed.

Good boy.  Good dog.

Stay.

Please stay.

Sadie, you old phony……..


IMG_0649

I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I certainly never thought I’d be outwitted by a dog.

Huh.

Miss Sadie, I’ve got your number now, you old fake.

Yesterday I woke up on the late side.  My old girl, Miss Sadie, was sound asleep on the floor by my bed.  This is not unusual; she seems to consider herself my elderly bodyguard and she usually sleeps next to me.  What happened next, though, was definitely out of character.

I got up, as usual, and creaked and groaned my way into the bathroom.  Now, the usual routine is that once I get in there, I hear Sadie’s long black toenails clicking their way toward me, followed by a long sigh and a “whump” as her big old butt hits the closed door.  This time, I went through my morning ablutions (great word, huh?) and showered.  When I came out, my old girl was still sound asleep beside the bed.

Odd.

I went into the kitchen to make breakfast.  I usually have to scoot both of my dogs out of the kitchen at least three times while the coffee drips and the toast pops. Not today.  Tucker hovered around, hinting about how delicious that rye bread smelled, but there was no sign of Sadie.  I went to look for her, and found her curled up behind the end table in the living room.

Very odd.

Now I was getting worried.   I coaxed her out with a piece of cheese, and stroked her warm fur.  “You OK, sweet pea?”, I cooed. “You feeling alright, old girl?”  She licked my fingers and looked up at me with her huge brown eyes.  Poor old doggie, poor old girl!  Her big fluffy tail thumped a few times on the floor, but she quickly laid herself back down.

I thought maybe her arthritic leg might be hurting her.  Maybe it would be a good idea to take a short walk?

Gently, kindly, I put the leashes on both dogs, and walked them very slowly down the front steps.  Sadie walked sedately by my side down the walk and onto the driveway.  She followed along all the way down the street, not pulling on the leash or trying to chase squirrels.

Wicked odd.  My worry increased, my heart sank.

Dogs don’t have very long lives; I know this.   I know that mine are getting old, but it breaks my heart to even think about that fact.  Tucker doesn’t see well any more.  He has back cramps and weak back legs.  He goes for acupuncture.  Really.

Sadie doesn’t hear well any more.  She doesn’t notice visitors until they get right to the door and knock.  She jumps up and barks if I drop a book.   She moves slowly around the house.  She rolls onto her side to show her belly if you try to pat her.

In short, I have begun to see myself as living with two elderly and slightly pitiful old canines companions.  I am very tender with them. I don’t make many demands. I feed them glucosamine and fish oil tablets wrapped in American cheese.  I swab their ears to keep them clean.  Every night I gently brush their teeth and massage their gums.

So when Sadie seemed particularly pitiful yesterday, I chalked it up to her advanced age.  We walked around the neighborhood, slowly, enjoying the warm air and birdsong.  I was heading back toward home when I realized that Tucker had “done his business” but Sadie still hadn’t.  H’mmmmm.   Maybe the problem was constipation?  It can happen to older people.  I mean, “older dogs”.

Anyway.   I decided to let Sadie off the leash so that she could rustle around in her favorite spot in the woods for a few minutes. Maybe she’d feel better, poor old thing.  I leaned down and unclipped her leash.  She raised her head slowly. Her tail swished once. “Thanks, Mom.”, she seemed to say.  Then she slowly and unsteadily made her way into the woods.

Tucker and I headed toward home, knowing that the old girl would catch up to us once her job was done.  We walked along the street, then headed down the driveway.  Slowly.

No Sadie yet.

I got all the way to the end of my driveway, ready to start up the walk toward the front door.  I looked across the yard, but didn’t see my poor old girl.

“Sadie!”, I called. “Come on, Miss Sadie!”

I waited for a moment.

And here she came!  Running full speed across the yard, her big plume of a tail arched gracefully behind her.  She leapt over the tiger lillies, arched over the irises, sped across the grass. He eyes were shining, her mouth was open in a wide doggie grin. She came on full speed, and when she got to us, she ran a full circle around Tucker and me, barking and leaping.  Dancing.

Laughing at me and my worries.

I’ve got your number now, you old fake of a guard dog.

Either all that moping around is a total act, or that was one hell of a restorative poop.

Tied to my routines.


Its funny.  When I am in the middle of a school year, all I can dream about is the freedom that will come when I am not longer a slave to my daily routines.

I imagine blissfully uninterrupted sleep, with no fear of the impending alarm.  I fantasize about lazy mornings where I can choose to either complete or ignore the list of chores on the whiteboard.  I dream, with a deep sense of longing, of afternoons spent strolling along the streets of town, obedient dogs at my heels.  I dream of freedom.

I am clearly delusional.

I will never be free of routine. Ever.

First of all, by the end of my first week of summer vacation, I invariably find myself making careful lists of “things to do”.  I cross each one off as soon as it is completed, no matter how simple it may seem. “Take shower”. Check.  “Make coffee”. Check.  “Drink coffee”.  Check, check.

On those sultry summer days, I won’t let myself relax into the Adirondack chair until I have swept up the dog hair, done some laundry and weeded the tomato garden.

I am a slave to routine.

But the thing is, even if I could manage to free myself from the chains of daily expectations, I would be hounded into following a daily routine anyway.  Literally hounded.

By this guy:SONY DSC

For reasons which completely elude me, this “not quite Mensa material” hound dog is able to recall and demand a daily routine as rigid as that of the best boot camp commander.

He wakes up when I do. He stretches, yawns, then lies down outside the bathroom door as I shower.  When I come out, he races down the hall toward the dining room, where he whines and woofs until I open the doggy door.  And then, rain or shine, ice or no ice, this aging, arthritic old boy goes charging out the door into the morning. He barks with gusto, announcing his presence to every passing squirrel.  He flings himself down the deck stairs, barking all the way, then races around the perimeter of the fence, and only pauses to do his morning business.

By that time, I have made my coffee and popped down my toast.  He runs back inside, and hurls himself at my legs, his long pink tongue lolling from his mouth with joy. Its as if this was his very first morning adventure, and he is overcome with delight.  He has done the same thing every morning for the past nine years.

When I come home from work, he and his “sister” greet me with howls and moans and yips of joy.  They bound down the stairs, rub their big warm heads against my legs, and wiggle their entire bodies with delight.

The beauty of dogs is that every homecoming is greeted as if I’d been away for five years.  The unexpected joy of seeing my return!!! The magical surprise of seeing me come home at the exact same time that I’ve come home for years!! Hoorah!! My dogs make me feel like a warrior returning from battle.

And yet.

Although they act as if my return home is a surprise and a delight, as soon as I have finished my dinner and put the dishes in the sink, they return to the routine that guides our lives.

As soon as Paul sits down to do paperwork, and I begin my preparations for the next day’s lessons, my big old hound dog begins to whine.  He lies down on the living room floor, his chin at rest on his paws. His warm brown eyes are fixed firmly on my face. He licks his lips in anticipation.

It doesn’t matter to him, or to my other dog, that I have a lot to do to get ready for tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that I’m tired. It doesn’t even matter that it’s raining, or thundering, or icing or that we are in the middle of a hurricane.

It is now “after dinner”, and that means, “Time to soak in the hot tub”.

The dogs don’t actually come into the hot tub, of course.  But they rush out onto the deck when they see me in my robe.  They bark and jump and rush around for one minute.  Then they sit down silently, until I have soaked away all of my pains.

And we come inside.  Where they are rewarded with a nice big delicious “Dentastix” to chomp.

This is the routine.  They are bound forever to it.  And through them, so am I.

I will never be free of routine.

And I guess that’s OK. As long as it comes with some doggy delight and those wonderful tongue lolling hugs.