A special thanks to Auntie Sasa for creating this little video of Alfa, Bravo and Charlie, who are becoming increasingly difficult to photograph. Hope you enjoy.
Like a rebellious teenager when her parents leave her in charge of the house, I stay up extra late and eat more sugar than usual when my husband is out of town. This may sound boring, but my parents only left town once when I was a teen and my grandparents lived across the driveway (seriously, they were our neighbors), so this is all I’ve got, folks. And wild parties aren’t any fun without the Mister’s brilliant hand at the bar or Sasa on the trampoline, so here I am, listening to the clock tick toward midnight.
Please play along . . .
If your dog or cat (or turtle, chinchilla, rabbit, bird, et al) were a Hollywood actress/actor or movie character, who would he or she be? I ask this because tonight Mick had a little growling fit and all I could think of was Clint Eastwood and a dozen of his movie roles. Mick seemed to say, “Go ahead, make my day” any time another pooch crossed his path.*
So, dear readers, I beg you: make my night 🙂
A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky –
I’ve thought of all by turns, and still I lie
~William Wordsworth, “To Sleep”
*No offense to Gary Swanson, of “Vice Squad,” who is first credited with the line, “Go ahead scumbag, make my day,” but Clint now owns the line in Hollywood legend.
Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.
To my friends and family who follow the blog and to my blog buddies, thank you for your patience. I am beginning a new work routine and the writing has suffered a tumble to the bottom of the list. Well, not the bottom, but it is hovering only slightly above the luxury of pedicures and the dismal chore of weeding flower beds.
The puppies have GROWN — immensely! They are beautiful and sweet, hilarious and entertaining. Charlie is a fluffy little angel, fairly relaxed, but playful. She’s also making her brothers look like little slobs, choosing the piddle pad over the tile floor. I’m so proud! Bravo, who you may recall was the delicate little man when I brought them home, is burly and strong, his rather short coat revealing a muscly body ready for play. He’s the most adventuresome of the trio — we’ve had to chase him out of our closets and he stands on the gate, shoving his tiny nose through to sniff at the larger dogs. Precious Alfa looks like a furry Yoda and has fallen behind the others in growth, making him only more adorable. He is by no means fragile, however, and loves to roll and tumble with his siblings, as well as the occasional shoe.
Duke had an extended play date with Princess Mocha, Sara’s lovely chocolate lab. I am sure he is now more spoiled than before, but, really, isn’t that what having pets is all about? Any dog behaviorists may keep your answers to yourselves 🙂 I do realize the importance of discipline and training for the well-being of both human and animal, but who doesn’t love a little spoiling in good measure?
Dylan has left for an extended stay in Colorado and all the dogs, but particularly Mike, took some time relaxing after the change. Mike had never become completely comfortable with Dylan and I imagine the poor fella was watching for Dylan’s reappearance at any moment — you know the way we humans (even Muggles!) apparate and disapparate on whim. So, Mike has been more wary and a tad more bark-y of late. I’m sure it will pass.
The last thing I’d like to share is this: if my stories touch you in any way, I beg you, please please please look for ways to help the animals of your communities. You don’t have to foster or adopt. You don’t have to donate money or walk dogs. You can. And I will say it’s a great feeling. I love it! It’s not always easy, but at the end of the day, I’m glad I jumped on board the crazy train. This morning, Cherry Blossom, Sara’s yoga studio, my “work” place, hosted a fundraiser for Friends of BARC (BARC is the shelter where I volunteer). We gathered donations (monetary and pet goods), had a small raffle and taught a special workshop, donating the funds to FoB. It was a blast. The outpouring of our yoga family was sincerely touching. We simply did what we could do. That’s all I’m asking. Again, it isn’t always about money (though that helps) and it isn’t all about time (though that’s nice) — it’s really about awareness. Something as simple as cross-posting a picture and story of an animal in need is a contribution. Your signature on a petition regulating (and, admittedly, I’m not a fan of a lot of regulation) puppy mills or some other act that protects our four-legged friends is a contribution. Lend your voice. It’s more powerful than you may know.
I will now relinquish my soap box and work on a new post . . . a post of puppies on the move!!
I woke this morning around 5am and couldn’t catch my breath. To my left, Kerry, my husband, slept soundly and still. To my right, the plastic shoe box wiggled with three puppies, one of whom whined the warning, “almost time to eat.” It’s kind of them, I think, to wake slowly, giving me a chance to heat the bottles. I realize it’s rather fantastic to think they have a sense of courtesy, but I’m the one whose heart is racing in the groggy, pre-dawn hours, so I can think what I like.
Shuffling across the cold, white tile to the kitchen, I breathe slowly and deeply, dismissing the odd bit of panic to focus on the task at hand. Alfa, Bravo and Charlie only have so much patience and I have to teach in a couple of hours. Returning to bed, I snuggle each puppy individually and offer the warm mix of formula and pumpkin — feeding has become quick and sweet now the pups’ motor skills have improved.
So, why the panic? What nagging subconscious thought came bubbling to the surface to dispel my dreams?
The blog, of late, has been mostly about progress made, about fuzzy-love moments of puppy breath, ounces gained and wobbly steps taken. But it hasn’t been all sunshine these last few weeks. A storm has been brewing and I realize, after a handful of days where weather has forced us inside more than usual, that some changes need to be made. I am feeling a sharp and forceful measure of both rock and hard place.
If you’ve been following the blog, you know there are seven dogs in the house: Bailey, Mick, Duke, Mike, Alfa, Bravo and Charlie. Granted, the ABC’s are tiny and not at all under foot. Their total combined weight is less than half that of a “real” dog, as Kerry would describe it (he is of the strong opinion real dogs weigh more than eleven pounds – less than that is a rat). Bailey and Mick are the “home dogs,” while Duke and Mike are fosters – these four are all grown and well under foot — often.
It’s not the presence of the dogs, however, that presents a problem. It’s becoming an issue of chemistry. When Duke first arrived, he presented the greatest threat to Mick’s sense of home ownership. Mick had taken his time learning to share his space with us and with Bailey (who is more than double his size, but a fairly gentle and patient soul), and, though he wasn’t thrilled with Mike’s presence, he accepted it. Molly, of course, had been so ill she’d gone unnoticed. But Duke seemed to set off something in the Basenji — some trigger. Mick exploded into furious little tirades at the sight of Duke, occasionally waiting for the big dog to pass before lunging and striking his back haunches.
Duke was relatively tolerant at first and seemed almost confused at the angry attention being paid him. He was much more interested in the toys and food, both of which he was inclined to protect and hoard, a habit which we noted and have tried to discourage. Duke is very easy-going fella, playful and extremely smart. As Mick’s behavior became more pesky and intrusive, Duke avoided him unless attacked, at which point, he would slap the little dog down, sometimes giving him a nip. Bailey picked up on the tension, her herding instincts shifting into gear, and began “moving” Mick away from Duke, pushing him with her chest and shouting the odd warning growl. “Don’t make me pull this car over,” she seems to say.
That was the first month or so. Over the last few weeks, while Mick wants to mother the puppies, he has become increasingly aggressive toward all the other dogs, snapping even at Bailey. A few days ago, when I’d slipped away to the kitchen for a midnight puppy feeding, he got sideways with Duke in my bedroom — one of the only places besides the back yard that had an air of neutrality — and started a fight. Kerry stopped them, but not before Duke had put a rather large hole in Mick’s neck.
Since then, Mick grumbles around the house, working himself to fever pitch with even a peripheral glimpse of Duke. He has snapped at Mike, leaving a mark on his chest, and no longer backs down when Bailey intervenes. The two-legged family members are on edge, as well, and I worry that Lily will be bitten should she attempt to stop a quarrel. Mike and Duke are ready for adoption. I realize that will ease the current situation, but then what? Are my fostering days to end because of Mick’s territorial and intractable nature? Is it fair to consider adopting Mick out to someone who will understand him — not test his patience? I want to do what’s right, fair and best, but is it possible to accomplish all three?
“Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what is possible. And suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St. Francis of Assissi
Well, if there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s change, right? Of course I don’t mean the kind of change that jingles in your pocket. I mean the “things don’t stay the same” kind — the don’t blink or you’ll miss it kind.
Tomorrow marks the third (only the third) week since the puppies came home with me. They have since opened their eyes, found their tiny voices, begun to cut teeth and started walking or, more accurately, staggering like rummies. Alfa, the biggest pup upon arrival, is now the smallest at one pound, one ounce. Bravo weighs a pound and four ounces and baby sister, Charlie, registers one pound, three ounces according to the scale this morning. They have begun to play a bit after feedings, awkwardly tumbling over one another and mouthing each other’s ears and snouts. Alfa vocalizes with a bird-like growl and yip when vexed, while Bravo is a quiet soul. Charlie seems to have the best motor control at this point, though all the pups look a bit like Bambi on ice when they stumble off the piddle pad onto the polished wood floor.
Time has offered other rewards, as well. I am down to only one extra load of laundry per day, as the babies move from true infancy, no longer soiling their bedding at what seemed like five minute intervals. If I feed the littles around midnight, I get to sleep until four, which is only an hour and a half before the first alarms start to sound for the rest of the house. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
Ah, where to begin . . .
It’s been a very busy week around the dog house. The puppies have grown SO much, their eyes are now open and they can no longer be trusted to stay in their nest. Alfa is tipping the scales at a hefty 264 grams and little Charlie’s not far behind at 260 grams. Bravo seems the steady gainer at 256 grams. As I said, all eyes are open – the milky baby blue that will likely turn to some shade of brown – and after hours of googling puppy pics, I can say the tinies look a bit like the “designer” dog Ratshire Chihuahua. Yes, there are people who breed and sell puppies that take the Rat Terrier/Yorkshire Terrier mix and add in a dash of Chihuahua. The dogs are adorable, but I am currently constructing a soap box from which to rant about the foolishness of such breedings. When I was a kid, there were pure breeds and mutts and you could find both at the local shelter. The same is true today.
Mick, our Basenji, still struggles to accept the presence of the two adult fosters, Mike and Duke, but shows an odd tenderness to the babies, issuing a warning growl to the other dogs when they draw too close at bottle feedings. The scrappy little fellow has picked fights with massive Duke, but gently cleans the little ones, enjoying the warm, sweet mix of milk and pumpkin that spills from the corners of their mouths (at some point, I’ll create a page on my neonatal experience, explaining the pumpkin, but suffice it to say, the pumpkin was a lifesaver).
Bailey and Duke show little interest in the puppies and, unfortunately, Mike is indiscriminate in his taste and I have to keep all the soiled bedding well out of reach. To switch gears a bit, however, Mike is showing loads of progress in his fearfulness. Though he seems to meet Dylan, my teenager, with new eyes every day, he has finally allowed Dylan to approach and will, on occasion, lick his hand and accept a scratch behind the ears. Duke is still the showboat. He will need a very smart owner. Last night, I gathered all the toys (which Duke loves to hoard) and placed them in a little lidded basket I keep by the back door for pet supplies. I’ve done it before, but not in his presence. I wanted them out of the way so I could vacuum. In a moment of distraction commonly described as ADHD, I began unloading the dishwasher and making a cup of tea rather than sticking to the task at hand. As I stood at the counter, cradling my warm mug and enjoying the waft of rooibos, fruit and vanilla spice, I spied Duke lurking in the shadow of the pool table. Slinking around a table leg, he craned his neck to the right to locate me and, apparently not realizing I can see, tip-toed Scooby Doo-style to the basket where he gently nosed the lid, discovering he could retrieve his toys. He made trip after trip to the basket, removing one toy at a time, hiding each under the pool table and finding, to his delight, a NEW toy, a plush I’d stored because Mike enjoys nothing more than disemboweling stuffies. Once again, I am astounded at Duke’s genius and determination. His problem-solving ability is such a pleasure to watch and I know I will miss his antics.