Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Amazing Animals"

My sister Anne is a Managing Editor at US News & World Report. She is in charge of the periodic special issues with which you may be familiar. Today I received from her a copy of their latest, entitled "Amazing Animals." It's good stuff.

Makes me think about The Girls, because, well, they're pretty darn amazing. However, when measured against the standards that one would need to achieve in order to be officially classified as such, I'm suddenly developing a complex that we may be falling a bit short.

Here is The McGrath Girls' joint application for representation in the next Amazing issue:

Ability to demonstrate facial recognition?
Yes. Or at least Petunia laughs and wiggles when Mommy makes funny faces, and Phawn knows the stare that means, "sit down and knock it off."

Ability to interact with a touchscreen monitor to identify certain objects, especially animals?
No. But we're not allowed to watch Animal Planet because we get too much slobber on the TV, does that count? Peanut practically knocked the darn thing off the entertainment center a few times, if that's what you mean by "touch screen."

Ability to understand cause and effect?
Yes. Bark at Mommy's head in the middle of the night, she gets up and lets you out. (Even if you're just bored and don't really need to pee. Then she wanders around on the deck in her pajamas with her hair all poofy muttering, "You're freaking kidding me, you came out here to chew on a STICK? It's 3:00 in the morning!" That's funny.)

Ability to solve simple math problems?
Yes. Pumpkin always gets in line twice for treats and she knows she's been gypped if she only gets one.

Ability to demonstrate other problem-solving skills?
There is a lock on the refrigerator. Enough said.

Highly developed sensitivity to surroundings, aiding in ability to stay camouflaged from predators and/or to strike unsuspecting prey?
Nope. Phoebe fell out of bed last night. Again.

Use of echolocation?
Maybe. Phaythie was blind and almost never ran into stuff. Then again, Phoebe runs into stuff she can see, so that probably cancels it out.

Use of complex language?
Absolutely. Mommy understands everything we say. And we understand everything she says, we just don't do any of it.

Ability to sniff out cancer?
Not that we know of. We know when there's something on the grill, though.

Ability to aid the disabled?
Peanut could have. The rest of us are maybe too dysfunctional to be much help to others, honestly.

Ability to search and rescue?
Is "search and destroy" an option?

Ever saved a family from a burning building, foiled an armed robbery, rescued a child from a rushing river, or performed the doggy version of the Heimlich?
Ummmmmmmmmmm, no.

Anything else we should know to consider you as qualified candidates?
We acknowledge that only five solid "yes" responses out of 12 questions probably means we need to work on our more advanced skills. But we do have some talents:
  • Petunia is an excellent dancer, is very sneaky, and has a completely warped sense of humor.
  • Phawn can leap tall buildings, or at least most pieces of furniture, in a single bound.
  • Phoebe is like a heat-seeking missile when running at you from the other side of the yard and is really quite unique in her thorough lack of understanding of all social cues.
  • Pumpkin is tall and blonde and gorgeous, has come to be known as the supermodel of the group, and respectfully requests that she be considered on her own merits and not be lumped in with this band of rogues.

I'll forward the application on to Anne. There were a lot of big-time animal professionals involved in the making of this issue, like a paleoanthropologist, animal behavior researchers and professors, veterinarians, even Cesar Millan (who would be downright horrified by the pack order here, by the way.) As long as they don't form the panel that chooses the next subjects, we might have a shot. I'm hoping for a little nepotism.

I think amazing is in the eye of the beholder. For instance, it's amazing that I have never been on the floor trying to fish the remote control out from under the bed when Phoebe has fallen from above. It's amazing that I have never been trampled going down the stairs. It's amazing that the UPS man is still alive. It's amazing that he continues to deliver here. It's amazing that the refrigerator is still upright.

See? There's plenty of amazing going on if you know where to look for it. And just so you know where to look for the issue:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Screen Porch

Number of custom-made 7' x 4' screens in my screen porch: 8 (plus the door.)

Number that need to be replaced, thanks to Phoebe: 6.

Number that fit in my SUV at one time: 3.

Number of miles round-trip to the custom screen place: 21.

What Phoebe was doing while I was removing the first three screens: making a nuisance of herself pacing the other panels.

What I will be doing next summer: replacing the screens again.

Why I do this: because I love Phoebe more than the screens. :-)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Invisible Fence

The last few years I lived in NJ, I had three dogs in an apartment. No yard, no fence. Being that two of these dogs were young, enthusiastic and large (Peanut and Pumpkin, a Mastiff and a Dane,) attempting to walk more than one at a time was suicidal. I did a lot of walking in those days.

When I moved home in 2005, my first significant investment after buying the house was fencing the yard with a beautiful, white vinyl 6-ft privacy fence. Keeps dogs in, keeps people out. Perfect! It was expensive, though, nearly $10,000 for materials and installation combined. I was stunned by the cost, but I was not overly fond of the idea of going for 12 or more walks per day for the rest of my life, so in went the fence.

It's been a life-changer, really. That may sound overstated, but I spend more time outside, the dogs spend more time outside, we all spend more time together instead of going on many individual walks, they have the freedom to chase and play, and perhaps most useful, when a wrestling match breaks out inside, I can yell, "Take it outside!" and kick them out of the house.

Unfortunately for my neighbors, this fence gives me such a sense of privacy, that I forget there is even a possibility that someone might be only feet away on the other side. This exposes these poor innocents to my long conversations with the girls, which are two-sided in my head, because I know what they are saying back to me, but probably seem one-sided if overheard. "Where's Phoebe?.......Well, I don't know, Petunia.......Phawn, can you wait one minute?......Pumpkin Pie! Who are you talking to?......Petunia, that was very rude. Be nice to your sister, please.......Phoebe, you are such a goose butt......Phawn, what are you eating?.......That's disgusting........Can somebody go find the big white one and bring her inside?......Petooooooney! I miss you! Do you miss me? You do? I know! Come inside, then!......Bedtime! It's an all pee!"

And then there are my squeals and shrieks when saving toads, baby birds and bunnies from becoming chew toys: "Leavehimaloneleavehimaloneleavehimalone! I'm so sorry Mr. Toad! Those girls aren't being very friendly! Let me move you under the bush."

Most alarming, I'm sure, are the times when a fight breaks out. It's not often, but the truth is, Petunia is a bully and Pumpkin is an ambulance chaser, always trying to jump in on someone else's misfortune. When they do scuffle, the most effective way I have found to stop them is to scream as if I am being stabbed. In their desire to protect me, they (usually) stop attacking each other to see who is attacking me. However, if you can imagine the growling/barking/yelping of a dog fight, interspersed with the blood-curdling screams of a grisly horror flick, it can probably be unsettling to the poor sap trying to read the paper on the patio next door, as I discovered one day when a frightened voice interrupted, "Oh my goodness, are you okay?!?!?" She must have thought I was being torn limb from limb. I'm sure the cordless was in her hand, her thumb over the 9.
It's a whole different concept of "invisible fence." The fence itself is as visible as can be, but it makes the outside world disappear. And that has turned out to be worth far more than $10,000.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Goose Whats??

Why on earth would a blog about dogs be named for the back end of a goose?

Excellent question, the answer to which takes me back to 1999, when I was living on a small lake in Northwestern New Jersey with my two Dalmatians, Pirate and Marci. (And here comes the disclaimer I am always compelled to offer about Marci: I adopted her and that's the name with which she came. I accept no responsibility for its choosing.)

There were geese on this lake. There are a lot of geese in New Jersey, for some reason. Pirate and Marci would watch them intently from the deck, or inside, from the large floor-to-ceiling windows that faced the water. They were so fascinated by them that I started watching too. The three of us would just sit and watch the geese. It became a bit of a game.

(Disclaimer #2: you might as well know right now that I'm crazy. It will make this and future posts much easier to take if you just acknowledge it from the beginning and don't spend a lot of time questioning my behavior. The behavior of crazy people cannot be explained logically.)

So, the game. The geese would, of course, as all geese do, plunge their little goose heads into the water, sending their little goose butts straight up into the air. When this happened, Pirate and Marci and I would excitedly yell, "Goose Butt!!" It was great fun, the Goose Butt Game. We even played it when friends came over, and I am happy to report that at least two of those people were not scared away and are still my friends today.

The term evolved then, into an endearment used when the dogs were acting silly, which was most of the time: "You girls are such goose butts."

I have had a lot of goose butts over the years, the largest and goosiest of whom is Phoebe. All this time, always the desire to write, the endless fodder they have provided me, and it has taken Phoebe to actually get me started. Because, let's face it, she takes the fodder to a whole new level.

But I knew I had the right name for the blog when its explanation allowed me to start with Pirate. She was the canine equivalent of a soul mate, a concept that true dog lovers will understand and others will not. She was special on her own, but she was even more special to me. I miss her....but she sent Petunia to me and they talk every day, so I know she's still close by.

That's probably another post altogether. :-)