Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Escape, X3

Yesterday, being 75 and sunny, I gave The Girls some freedom to hang out in the yard while I was working. I'm paranoid and severely overprotective by nature, so even with the fence, I hesitate to leave them out unsupervised. But we all have Spring fever, and SOMEBODY ought to be able to appreciate such a beautiful day; so, out they went.

I stepped out onto my deck to check on them at one point and Peroguey was madly and enthusiastically chewing on something that was completely concealed in her mouth. I investigated. It was a large knot from the end of a rawhide that I had not given her. Hmmmmmmm. How does a fenced-in dog get a rawhide from a source other than her mother?

Ah, yes, that's right. There was that time last Fall when she wriggled under the fence in a spot where you would never believe a Mastiff could wriggle, streaked through the neighbor-dog's yard, stole his nylabone, and came knocking on my front door, pleased as punch, with both herself and her loot. So here she is again, with some other dog's bone. Has she snuck out, burgled a rawhide, and snuck back in??

Yes! It appears that's exactly what she's done.

In one corner of the yard there is a spot where the little dog might, on a skinny day, be able to get out, but surely a Mastiff could not. Yet, in the past she clearly did, as evidenced by her arrival at my front door. So, at that time I of course reinforced the garden edging I keep over the one 6" gap between fence and ground, and all has been well. But sure enough, after wrestling the slimy knot from her drooly jowls, I turn to see that the garden edging has been moved aside. Confirmation, then, of her thievery.

I go back to the far corner of the yard, replace the edging, give her a stern, NO, and proceed back into the house.

I happen to look back over my shoulder once back inside, approximately 25 seconds after the stern and surely effective NO, to find that the edging is once again displaced and Peroguey is GONE. I run out to confirm, and I see her, through the slats of the fence, loping happily away through the vast goodness that is the wild, fascinating and strange-smelling neighborhood.

Through the house I run, grabbing a box of treats, out the front door, down the street. "PEROGUEY!! WANT A COOKIE?? PEROGUEY?? HONEY?? DON'T YOU WANT A COOKIE??"

And sure enough, here she comes, galloping, "YES I DOOOOOOOO WANT A COOKIE!!!!!"

So I drag her back home. I ensure that she is safely in the house, and back to work I go. I happen to look out after 20 minutes, based on the usual paranoia, not on any Peroguey-specific paranoia, because she's in the house. But there stand Petunia and Phoebe with their heads under that same corner of fence, darn it! So, great, have they now learned the bad habit and they're trying to get out too?? I run out and discover that the edging is again tossed to the side. I doubt very much that these two were paying such close attention to Peroguey's method as to displace the edging in exactly the same way......but Peroguey is inside.



Through the house I run, confirming there is no Peroguey to be found, grabbing a box of treats (and a leash this time, for less dragging,) out the front door, down the street. "PEROGUEY!! WANT A COOKIE?? PEROGUEY?? HONEY?? DON'T YOU WANT A COOKIE??"

Well, would you look at that? Here she comes a'galloping again. "YES, MOMMY, I DOOOOOOOO WANT A COOKIE!!!!!"

What Peroguey learned today is that if she runs away, best case, she will get a rawhide. Worst case, she'll get a cookie.

Oh, and it's okay to steal. And to trespass.

I need to work on my training skills.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

This Is Phoebe

This is Phoebe.

I keep telling my mommy to post stories about me on the blog thingy, because I find myself highly entertaining and I'm sure you do too. But she says she's busy, and I am decidedly not busy, so I thought maybe I could help.

First, I would like to clear up what may be some, shall we say, misinformation.

I am not as dumb as a tree. Well, not as dumb as the trees in my yard. I can't speak for all trees.

I have proven myself at least somewhat mechanically inclined, I think. I can get into anything. (Well, I could until that padlock showed up, but give me time.) In fact, I can't believe that I was the first to think of the refrigerator as a destination for all things happy. These other dogs were content not to get into the refrigerator, not to get into the dog food, the cupboards, the garbage, the medicine cabinets? I just call that lazy, because they sure do come running as soon as I get the dog food bin open. I also find that it's great fun to watch my mommy closely, so I can see when she puts something in a cupboard. I keep very good records, which come in handy when she's gone away!

I will acknowledge that I may not get all the social cues. How would I know that it is not considered good etiquette to sit on someone uninvited, whether person or dog? I come from another country, let's not forget. Maybe it's cultural. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that my butt is way too far away from my head for me to really know where it decides to sit. Either way.

And I don't see how it ends up being my fault when Petunia goes postal. What, because I sit on her? Because I won't take a polite "no" for an answer? Because when she really gets fed up with me and snaps at me, I pounce on her like a 145-lb kitten on a ball of yarn? I just want to be friends! Boy, she can be grouchy.

I don't think I'm a very good fighter. I only want to play that Pouncing-on-Petunia game until Petunia bites me and tells me to step off. Then I don't want to play anymore. But by then, everyone else is pouncing and biting too. Well, that's not the game I was trying to start, but it's hard to get out from under it, and it makes my mommy scream so loud, even I can hear her! Sometimes she shoots water at us to make us stop, which is sort of funny. And wet.

Which brings me to my mommy. Man, she is KISSY. I mean, you have no idea. I have never seen this kind of kissy, and I've had two other mommies. She makes these dancey-wiggly fingers at me when she's about to grab my head and start kissing, and I just have to brace myself. (I secretly love it, but I pull away sometimes, just to remind her that I'm not a baby.) I talked to Peroguey, who also used to have a different mommy, and she agrees, this amount of kissing is unheard of.

She (my mommy) is also really picky, like a mama monkey. There could not be a tick on me for more than 30 seconds before she would find it. I guess that's a good thing. No ticks!

What I think is so cool about her--aside from the grabby/kissy/picky stuff--is that she totally understands what I'm saying, and I totally understand her too, even though I can't hear her! I think that must be some kind of magic. Because even if I could hear her or say something to her, I speak French! This also seems to mean that she can tell when I'm about to get into trouble, though, so I guess that's kind of annoying. And it means that I can't deny that I realize hands-on-hips and stamping feet mean, "Baaaaaad Phoebe."

But she's definitely the best mommy in the whole world to have. She tells me sometimes that it's a good thing she found me, or else I'd be on at least my sixth family by now. I think that might be true, because the refrigerator/cupboard/dog food/garbage/medicine cabinet raiding seems to be far less popular with humans than it is with the other dogs.

She also gives the best ear scratches you could imagine. She should be a doggie ear-masseuse or something. But I don't want to bring that up because she's always telling us that we need to get jobs. That is clearly crazy talk, but I don't think I should suggest that she get a second one.

Anyway, I'm awfully glad I found her, even if she comes with Petunia. And a padlock.

In conclusion, I'm not as dumb as a tree.

Unless maybe she means socially. But when was the last time you met a socially adept tree?

Oh, wait.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Going Rogue

Dear People-

My name is Rogue, and I don't know what the heck is going on. I was born in Missouri, flew to New Jersey when I was still just a baby, and lived a happy life there. (In spite of what you might have heard about New Jersey, it's not that bad, at least not as compared to Missouri.)

Then my Dad told me that some things had changed, and that he had found me another place to live, with a nice lady and some other dog sisters. Well, I wasn't too happy about leaving my Dad, because he really loves me--and I love him too--but I trust him more than anything, so if he said this would be best, then it must be so.

We took a long, long ride to a park, and we met the lady, who is very nice and who talked to me and kissed me and scratched me right away. This I considered to be a very good sign. After my Dad left, she took me for a walk and gave me water and even a potato chip! She explained to me that she's "That Lady," and I got very excited, because all dogs know about That Lady! She's the one we all want to live with! A legend in the barking community! How lucky was I?!?

Then we took another long, long ride to my new home. I slept the whole way, but I was excited to meet my new sisters, and I was sure they must be looking forward to meeting me too!

Fast forward two weeks:


I do love my new Mommy, but these other dogs are loony toons!
  1. They get up on the furniture. Furniture is not for dogs. (But I must admit, I'm warming up to this idea. I find that TempurPedic beats the hell out of hardwood.)
  2. There is a big white one who looks like a cow, and she is the goofiest of them all. She gets into the dog food, though, so I think she'll grow on me. She has this twist-and-pull method like a food-stealing Ninja, in and out with speed and precision. I do like the occasional mid-day meal, and she seems to be the one to provide it. But boy, she doesn't listen very well. You'd think she can't hear or something, the way she ignores everyone. Apparently, she can even get into the REFRIGERATOR! There is an actual padlock to keep her out!
  3. There is a little jumpy one who seems to be well-meaning but is mostly just annoying. Mommy leaves a towel by the door to wipe off our paws--the one thing I don't appreciate at all about this new Mommy--and the little jumpy one takes it and wants to play tug of war! It doesn't even belong to her, this towel! And she just takes it! I was shocked.
  4. There is also a different kind of Mastiff....pretty much like me but with a black face....and she's a bully! She keeps snapping at me just for walking by! I decided maybe I don't really need to walk by her very much. She seems to be in charge. You'd think it would be the Mommy who makes the decisions around here, but nope, it's the black-faced Mastiff bully.
  5. Then there is another Great Dane, sort of like the cow, but my color and much more poised. She's a little bit snotty, I think, and she ignores me. She might be stuck up. But then again, she at least seems sane, and that's more than I can say for the other three!
However, in fairness, there have been some pretty pleasant surprises too:
  1. Have I already mentioned TempurPedic?
  2. My new Mommy talks to me and kisses me all the time and tells me what a good girl I am. I feel a little bit like Mae Mobley!
  3. Have I explained that the big white one gets into the food? And then shares it?
  4. My new Mommy doesn't seem to have a job, because she just sits at home all day on the phone. This means I get to go outside a lot.
  5. The mean one's bark is worse than her bite, as long as you can jump out of the way of her bite.
  6. There is a big wall around the yard, so I get to go galloping and sniffing all about without a leash!
  7. We get these chews every night that must be opiates or something, because these other dogs are ADDICTS. (But I like the chews very much, so don't say that I said anything.)
  8. We also seem to get cookies every time we pee outside, which, as understand it, is our job. (But I'm not complaining about the cookies, either.)
  9. We got to have cheeseburgers for my birthday! There are five of us! That means five cheeseburgers per year!
  10. All these other girls are named with a P, and my Mommy said I can have a P nickname too, even though I started out with an R name. She said my Aunt thought of it. I get to be Mommy's potato-filled pasta pocket. :-)
So in summary, it's anarchy here!

And I love it very much.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Recently, one of my sisters and several of my friends have been forced to reach the painful conclusion that it was time to put a beloved dog down.

It’s such a heartbreaking thing, so hard to know when the time is right. You never want the dog to get to a point of suffering, but how on earth do you bring yourself to make such a decision before there is suffering? So it is a process of looking for that moment when it becomes clear that the most humane thing to do is to say goodbye.

I am always amazed at the way we soldier on, going back to work, finishing the laundry, getting done all the things that need to get done. It can only be because we are told that this is what we should do, that it’s not that big a deal because it’s just a dog. But it’s not just a dog. It’s a child, a best friend, a confidant. Always there to lick away the tears after a lost job, a divorce, the death of a parent. Thrilled beyond belief each and every time you walk in the door. So loyal, so genuine, so loving, so smart.

It seems they deserve more of an observation of their exit from our lives than simply a quiet appointment at the vet and a return to work.

I remember sitting in 8th grade Social Studies, a hulk of a teacher with a James Earl Jones voice, who intimidated the heck out of 8th graders by his mere presence, staring me down. He was waiting for an answer to a question I hadn’t heard, because I had spent the whole period watching the clock, knowing that Skipper, the German Shepherd I had received as a puppy on my fifth birthday, was being put to sleep at any minute. I was willing time to come to a halt, finding it hard to breathe, so desperate was I for something magical to happen….an earthquake, a flat tire, a mix-up at the vet….anything that would save her. I remember it like it was yesterday, and it was almost 30 years ago.

When the time came to face the reality of losing Pirate, I didn’t sleep for weeks, both before and after. I had been giving her IV fluids every other day for a year to flush the toxins from her failing kidneys, and she was just worn out from it all. Tired. But she was my best friend. (My best human friend asked me once, “If Pirate and I were hanging off a cliff and you could only save one of us….” She still holds my answer against me.)

I loved Pirate with everything I had, and I had to voluntarily let her go. It was excruciating, and it hurt worse than I can express, probably impossible to understand for anyone who has not had a similar relationship with an animal. I love them all, but she was just different. I have the same connection with Petunia now (because Pirate sent her to me, if you’ve been following along) and I hate knowing that I will outlive her, maybe by decades.

I have the good fortune of a phenomenal vet, who does everything he can to prolong their lives, and then goes above and beyond by coming to my home to put them down when we reach a point of inevitability. They are surrounded by the rest of their pack, completely at ease in their own environment, comfortable. I am able to hold them tightly; free to look like the wreck that I am and to sob openly when they go.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the little boy, who, when his dog was put to sleep, explained to the vet that it was okay, because we’re all here on this earth to take a journey toward becoming better souls, and dogs live shorter lives because they don’t have far to go.

To those of you who have lost a friend recently, I have been thinking of you. That in its own way is an observance of these lives, I suppose. They were all fortunate dogs, because you are all wonderful people.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Petunia Has a Zipper

If you have a pet, at least one of a furry variety, you have probably observed at one point or another that this creature seems to think itself a person.

It might be evident by the way your instructions are greeted with the indifference of a teenager wearing earbuds. Maybe by the sense of entitlement exhibited when you are plating up dinner for the human segment of your home's population. Perhaps by the concern and sensitivity shown when a member of your family is hurt or feeling sadness. Or by the propensity for sleeping smack in the middle of the bed, hogging both the covers and the pillows. Even by the necessity for Amazon to send an auto-e-mail reccommending other models of refrigerator locks for your consideration.

I've had a lot of dogs in my time, and every one of them has shown some or all of the above characteristics--and then some. But Petunia, well, she's more like a person than a lot of people I know.

She's very, very smart.

Phoebe gets a lot of press because she does a lot of newsworthy things, but while she has demonstrated extreme agility getting into or out of all the places she shouldn't, her social game is lacking, to say the least.

Petunia's communication skills are excellent. She smiles, she sneers, she regards Phoebe with a confused expression as if to say, "What is WRONG with you, for the love of God?" She wags her tail if I do a little dance; she dances herself if the situation calls for it. Upon returning home, when I ask her if she missed me, she dances first, then puts her paws on my shoulders in the affirmative. (If I don't ask the question, she will not jump up.) When coming in from outside on a rainy day, she voluntarily lifts all four feet in succession to be wiped.

She's funny. When I make faces at her, she makes faces back. When she finds herself amusing, which is often, she throws her head back in an open-mouthed laugh. She is shocked anytime one of the other dogs receives attention from anyone, furrowing her brow and pawing at the offending human, "Hello! Why would you talk to PHAWN when I'M RIGHT HERE?"

She's in complete control of the household, myself included. What Petunia wants, Petunia gets. I'm not ashamed to say it. If she wants out, she opens the door and they all go out. If she wants in, she opens the door and they all come in. The rest will wait at the top of the stairs, no one going down until she goes first. She's a bully, snapping at the others frequently, though rarely making contact, just to remind everyone of the order of things. And then she laughs, because they buy it. She plays king of the hill on the bed and won't let anyone up without my escort. She does the same just inside the office door, or the bedroom door, requiring them to seek my assistance to enter. And then she laughs, because I do it.

But as it turns out, there is quite a good reason that she doesn't act like a dog: she's not a dog.

She has a fairly pronounced groove under her fur that runs vertically from just behind the crown of her head to about her collar. You can't see it, and I'd probably have to place your hand there in order for you to find it, but then you'd agree that it is unusual.

It's a zipper.

I suspect she is a class-clown teenage human being in a really good Halloween costume, who failed to consider that the lack of opposable thumbs would make it impossible to get back out. She stumbled upon me, discovered she could rule her world as a dog-person with much greater totality and far less work than as a person-person, and the rest is history. She's a little like Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but smarter. Ferris Bueller. She's Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, playing a Mastiff.

Which is fine with me, because I like her better this way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Phelony in Progress

Did you know that breaking & entering in the State of New York is always a felony? Did you know that this applies even if the perpetrator has been allowed access to part of a building but then enters an area for which permission to enter has not been granted, as long as that area is not physically left open for entry?

I submit to you, then, that I am harboring a felon.

Since I'm pretty sure this blog is read only by friends and family, you are already aware of my recent vacation, during which I took a few day trips and spent several afternoons and evenings at camp. Phoebe protested these absences in typical Phoebe fashion, the usual counter-surfing, knocking the mail onto the floor, pulling her leash off its hook, etc.

Then, as any watcher of 48-Hours or reader of suspense novels knows is common, the criminal behavior escalated.

She was into kitchen cabinets again. The upper ones. She pulled down a dessert mix that was on a shelf over my head. Then she ate it. Then she was sticky. She treated a box of 500 Splenda packets like a pinata, judging from the way they seem to have erupted into two rooms. She dragged out a fondue pot. She scattered 48 plastic forks, knives and spoons.

She stole another roll of toilet paper. She placed her favorite target of violence, a purple furry slipper, in the middle of my bed, unharmed, but the message was clear that it was in grave danger if left unattended.

However, a good lawyer could have gotten her off on whatever charges might have been brought against her as a result of these misdeeds. They didn't amount to anything more than criminal mischief, maybe a bit of mild vandalism. And as it pertained to the definition of B&E, there seemed to be a gray area: while she was not given permission to enter the cabinets, and they were closed, they were not secured. Didn't seem to be much of a case, and the old finger shake, followed by a hands-on-the-hips-furrowed-brow stare down (together known as international canine sign language for "Baaaaaaad Phoebe") had to suffice.

Unfortunately, as is true in many cases of deliquency, the punishment did not fit the crime and recidivism ensued.

I came home at dusk. The house was poorly lit. There was something on the floor near the back door. It was vaguely familiar to me, and yet I couldn't quite make it out. I approached, cautious but curious. I had it in hand before I fully recognized it, and just as it struck me what I was holding, I turned instinctively toward the kitchen to confim what I already knew. There was no longer a lock on the refrigerator.

(Insert Law & Order "dun-dun" here.)

I am the mother of a repeat offender.

I, like many mothers in similar circumstances, am in denial.

I told myself that lock was worn from use. That it came off easily because it needed to be replaced.

I went out and bought a new lock. I made sure it was strongly adhered and securely fastened.

The next time I left the house, the lock was removed once again.

I have a dog who can open a refrigerator, immediately removed the velcro straps I initially tried to use to deter her, and has now decided to put an end to this game of toying with me and pretending that she can't get past a toddler lock. She seems to be saying, "Why just open it when I can remove it entirely?"

Tonight I had plans to make a very nice dinner for Cathy & Karen, but I first had a commitment to briefly attend a fundraiser.

I officially sank to a new low in the who's-in-charge-around-here power struggle when the ingredients for dinner had to go into hiding to await my return, hereafter known as the Dinner Protection Program. I could tell you where I put them, but then I'd have to kill you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why Dogs Really Are Better than People

I've had some interesting conversations recently regarding the apparent controversy over my happiness.

It seems that it is hard for many to fathom that one can be legitimately and honestly happy without being in some form of a romantic relationship. (And I use the term "romantic" quite loosely and only to distinguish this from other types of relationships, as so very few of those I witness exhibit any actual signs of romance.)

Here are some facts that probably have significant bearing and should therefore be stated outright:
  1. I don't like very many people. The ones I do, I cherish.
  2. I definitely don't like children between the ages of five and 12, maybe 13. I therefore have no "clock," nor any other biologically-dictated reason to seek a mate.
  3. I do really like the closet space afforded by a one-person, two-story dwelling.
  4. I'm selfish. I acknowledge this. I don't have much baggage of my own, and I don't want my life cluttered by someone else's children/debt/elderly parents/crazy ex-wife.
  5. I really truly adore my dogs and have a connection with them that most don't understand and that is easily pigeon-holed into "crazy dog lady" status. I don't dispute the label, as I am admittedly both crazy and a dog lady, but I do think most people don't get it.
So, the general gist of the conversations I've had of late, with a few different people, for a few different reasons:

Other Person: I think you're kidding yourself. You can't possibly be happy alone.
Me: I'm not alone! I have four dogs with more collective personality--and probably intelligence--than any roomful of randomly selected people. I have an amazing and close family. I have great friends. Even the real kind that aren't just on Facebook.
Other Person: You know what I mean. Don't you want to be in a relationship?
Me: No, I really don't. I am genuinely happier and more fulfilled with my life than I have ever been. Nearly everyone thinks I must be fooling myself, but then a great many of those people are in relationships that are at the very least imperfect, if not plain unhappy.
Other Person: Well, I don't think it's healthy.
Me: I think there is something extremely unhealthy about being UNABLE to be happy on your own. I don't understand how anyone can be happy in ANY situation UNLESS they are first and foremost happy on their own. Like truly on their own, truly happy, and for a sustained period of time. I don't think people should be allowed into relationships if they can't achieve that first.
Other Person: But you just THINK you're happy. I doubt you really are.
Me: I have a hard time distinguishing between what it is to BELIEVE you're happy vs. what it is to actually BE happy. If I FEEL happy, then aren't I, in fact, happy?

What I find so interesting is the number of times this comes up, with different people and under different circumstances. It leads me to wonder if I am not the topic of sidebar conversations: "There she is with a dog instead of a husband again, poor thing." And if so, then touche, because I'm probably thinking, "There she is with that louse of a boyfriend again when she has a perfectly good dog at home."

I certainly don't mean to suggest that relationships aren't sometimes beautiful in their closeness and in the joy they bring to their participants. I have been in one or two of those, the problem being that the joy just did not sustain itself. Or, more accurately, we failed to continue to cultivate it. More accurately still, I was an angel of love and patience and he was a lying cheating SOB. Regardless, if that type of nirvana shows up on my doorstep, I will not close the door in its face. I'm just saying I don't expect it and I will accept no less; therefore I sure ought to be able to find joy on my own in life, no? Nothing is more depressing to me than the thought that some people face the choice of being unhappy alone or unhappy in a relationship, usually choosing to be unhappy in a relationship, because, well, at least there's somebody with whom to go out to dinner now and then.

Am I lonely? No. Would I be lonely without my family or my friends? Of course. Without The Girls? Most definitely. The Girls make me happy. They amuse me, they outsmart me, they manipulate me, they engage me, they love me unabashedly and unconditionally. Have I had relationships in which I questioned the other person's character, motives, honesty, commitment? Yes. Do I question any of those things in Petunia? Absolutely not.

Do I mean to compare my relationships with The Girls to my "romantic" relationships, past or future? Of course I don't.

The Girls are so much better.