April 30, 2009

Monster of the Mudway

Jane: Twentieth century British poet T. S. Eliot once wrote, "April is the cruelest month, mixing memory with desire." Why did T. S. poetically slam the month of April in The Waste Land? I suspect it was because he owned a dog.

No doubt about it, this April was cruel. Thirty days of snow and rain transformed our backyard into a personal Waste Land. Oh, we have memories: Once upon a time, long, long ago (before dogs), our lawn looked nice--think Augusta National golf course with a few dandelions. Desire? A yard that makes us proud and our neighbors jealous. But now memory mixes mostly with despair, not desire--despair over poop piles that fertilize some areas and urine circles that burn out others.

And then there's our lot location. We sit on the low point of our street. That means when we endure a deluge (of which there have been many), a run-off river runs through it. Our Waste Land becomes swamp land. Mulched gardens become mud masses.

Last Sunday the April showers temporarily abated, so we fired up the grill and invited friends over. Dear friends, but friends who are not dog owners. Sensible people. Their home is spotless, their clothing fur free. (Did I mention they're sensible people?) We sat on our deck sipping wine and chatting while our two dogs moshed in the mushy backyard and dumped directly in front of our guests' observant eyes. More wine, anyone?

Then Daisy discovered where our sump pump discharges into a storm sewer. The delights of gurgling gushes and pooling water proved too tempting to resist. Paws churned! Muck flew! Boomer looked on, curious, while our frenetic she-monster submerged her snout--repeatedly--in the primordial soup, reemerging with a mud-drunk grin. Can I pass you something?

Panic stricken, I glanced at my friend wearing a pristine white blouse. Daisy, PLEASE don't come up on the deck and shake, I thought wildly, heart pounding. PLEASE don't jump up on my friend!

Finally our Monster of the Mudway minded our stern scolding and submitted to a severe hosing. Once again looking like a ladylike cutie, Daisy settled quietly on the deck--but not before she emitted a contented sigh.

Relieved, I sighed. Catastrophe avoided. This time. Let's have dessert!

Tomorrow is May Day, the first day of May. I'm not going to miss April at all. T. S. Eliot was quite right: For dog owners, April is the cruelest month. April showers are supposed to bring May flowers. We'll see. I'm hoping for a kinder, gentler, dryer month ahead. What would T. S. have to say about that?

April 27, 2009

Seasonal Disorder

Rich: Forget the snow that fell two weeks ago. Lose the boots and the balaclava. Mothball the fleece. Prepare to suffer another stretch of good weather, even great weather, wearing t-shirts, shorts, sandals, and SPF 30.

Most years of my life I'd be thrilled to tell winter to kiss off. I'd be more than ready for sunshine, warm weather, baseball games, and motorcycle rides. But this year is different, way different. I flat out miss winter already.

I don't mean dressing in layers or the frostbitten fingers. Our area, known for its biting winds (they say the hawk flies on those blustery days), had an especially brutal time of it this year.

I miss the solitude that became my morning walk with Boomer. Most pre-Daisy mornings he and I walked before sunrise, waiting vainly for some warmth even as we received the light. It was "me and the Booms," trudging a footpath through the snow, coming back the next day to notice that ours were still the only footprints there. We shared the Prairie Path with the deer, coyotes, a fox, and birds whose songs weren't suppressed by the deepest chill. Sometimes we met another person, but not often. Others had a keener sense of survival, I suppose.

Boomer's everyday enthusiasm eventually softened my winter worldview. Winter started as a world stripped of color. It became a celebration of fiery sunrises. Without leaves the trees revealed their hidden beehives and bird nests. The cardinals and kingfishers stood out on bare branches. The many blues of the winter sky painted the pristine snow and reflected off the waters of a nearby beaver creek and pond.

Boomer wore a yellow collar round his neck, I wore a camera around mine. He explored, I observed. He pointed, I clicked. Once in a while, I could see in his eyes he knew, as did I, we were having the time of our lives.

As I press through this spring, summer, and fall, I know winter's coming back. I'll soon be missing these days of green grass, motorcycle trips, and baseball games.

But for now, believe it or not, winter memories still warm my heart.

April 23, 2009

Love Hurts

Jane: They say owning a pet keeps you healthy. But recently I'm starting to wonder. First I read a WebMD article suggesting dogs might be hazardous to your health. Then Daisy gave a dear friend a shiner.

It was purely accidental. Friends visited last Saturday to "see the baby," and as soon as Tom and Sue arrived, Daisy and Boomer transformed into whirling fur dervishes, moaning and groaning with excitement. They affectionately leaped up to greet our guests just as Tom bent down to pet Daisy. She bumped hard into his eyeglasses, socking him right in the eye.

Here's the truth about dog ownership: Love hurts.

I think Roy Orbison got it right when he sang the lyrics, "Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars." That pretty much captures what can happen when we love our dogs--and our dogs love us.

Our first dog, Bo, a lusty young fellow who never quite got the hang of the leash, one time yanked me--hard--off a curb, fracturing one of my metatarsal bones.

Then Buddy, our mild-mannered Lab, once cut Rich off in a race back to the house. Before Rich realized what had happened, he was tumbling over on the driveway with a broken wrist.

And thanks to a lovely little walk with Boomer two weeks before our daughter's wedding, I ended up having to wear a Velcro "moon boot" on my right foot for four weeks.

It seems as though all our dogs have done bodily harm. But would we give up having them in our lives simply to avoid black eyes, fractured bones, stubbed toes, and stumbles in the night? Not for a single moment.

In the end, the lyrics of this rock-band take on "Love Hurts" more closely resembles our relationship with WoofGang members:

Love hurts,
but sometimes it's a good hurt
and I feel like I'm alive.
Love sings
when it transcends the bad things.
Have a heart and try me,
'cause without love I won't survive.

Now, isn't there a J. Geils Band song out there titled "Love Stinks"? That's a whole other blog post!

April 20, 2009

Have Dog, Will Travel

The WoofGang's collective tail started wagging at the news Honda was introducing a dog-friendly Honda Element this fall. Features are to include a built-in doggie ramp, water bowl, restraint system, and cooling fan.

But what about all the other essential features every dog owner really yearns for in a vehicle? Woofie brainstormed the accessories we'd like to see included in a WoofGang Edition of the Honda Element.

The truly discerning dog owner expects:

Dog Positioning Satellite (DPS) Gives you directions for locating your runaway dog

Hair Bags Absorbs the shock of a flying dog when you slam on the brakes

DogStar Satellite system directs you to dog parks and drive-up windows that provide doggie treats

Anti-Bark System (ABS) Eliminates annoying barking with the push of a control-panel button

Car TV Monitor Plays Animal Planet network continuously

Smudge Resistant Glass with Interior Wipers Eradicates dog snot on the inside of your back windows

Emissions Control Built-in pooper scooper

What dog-friendly car features would you like to see? We're eager to hear from you!

April 15, 2009

Live Man Walking

A Monologue Conducted While Walking Two Dogs at a Time

Collars buckled. Leashes snapped on. Tails? Wagging. Good.

If I could . . . just . . . step over Daisy . . . there, that foot's flat on the floor . . . and swing the other leg over Boomer without . . . whoa! . . . without losing my balance, I'll reach to open the door and get us . . . outside . . . get us started on this walk. Let me just pass this leash behind my back to my other hand and . . . Daisy, come on, keep up! Boomer, no pulling! . . . and everything should be OK. OK, we're outside, let's get going. Not that way, Daisy, we're going this way.

I think we're going for a short walk today. You dogs are all wound up.

No, actually, you're normal. You're excited and distracted and crazy, but for you that's normal. Normal for you.

I don't think I can handle a long walk this morning. We're not going to the dog park where I can let you run off leash, that's why. Besides, it looks like rain and it'll be muddy there. And even if it isn't . . . Daisy, what's that in your mouth?

Daisy, you can't run away from me. I have you on the leash. Come over here and let me see what you picked up. (deep voice, threatening) Daisy, come here.

That didn't work. (sweet voice) Daisy, right here. Come here.

That didn't work either. (regular voice, while reeling in the leash) Daisy, come on over here. That's a piece of plastic. That's not for you. Boomer, would you hold on a minute there? I'm trying to get something out of Daisy's mouth.

OK. There we go. Let's get going again.

Very good. OK, we're coming up to Boomer's favorite tree. The one where he found live bunnies last spring. Boomer, stop pulling me. Boomer, stop pulling. You're going to . . . OK, go ahead and sniff. You too, Daisy. Boomer found live bunnies there last spring and ate them. He's been excited when we pass this tree ever since. Like it's his own personal fast-food drive-up window stocked with live treats. Yup, he ate them. That's right, Daisy, that's Boomer for you.

Alright, Boomer, that's enough. Daisy, let's go. Come on, there's no bunnies (just like the last 364 times you sniffed there since that one day last year.) Come on, let's go.

I'll tell you two that the person who invents the leash for handling two canines is going to make a fortune. What would that look like? How would it . . . Daisy, no! That's not our newspaper. Drop it.

Here's a treat. Look, I have a treat for you. First you have to drop it. Look . . . treat. Drop it. Treat. Drop . . . OK, I have it now, give it to me, there we go. Good girl. Here's your treat.

You want one now too, Boomer. There you go, good boy.

We're turning here. Right there's our house. Let's go this way. Come on. We're almost there. Yes, we're going home. I think you two have had about enough for today. You must be exhausted.

April 11, 2009

Woofie Asked, You Answered

The truth's out.

On our most recent (and totally unscientific) poll, we asked, "Does Your Dog Sleep on Your Bed?" and discovered 68 percent of you allow your dog up on the bed (some by invitation only). The other 32 percent? Woofie thinks you're missing out on all the fun--and sleep deprivation!

If you have any doubts about where The WoofGang lands on this issue, check out "Love Wrapped in Fur," and the accompanying photo of a semi-guilty looking Boomer lounging on Woofie's bed. Hmmm.

Obviously, The WoofGang's biased. But for another fun and well-written take on this conundrum, read Emily Yoffe's article, "Go Ahead, Sleep With Your Dog."

And remember, no matter what your thoughts are on where sleeping dogs should lie, don't sweat the small (or furry or funky) stuff. Life's too short. So enjoy!

April 4, 2009

Boomer and the Back Seat

Jane: I just couldn’t get that pesky dog to jump into the backseat of my Jetta.

Boomer, my 80-pound black Lab, is unabashedly the light of my middle-aged, empty-nester life. And as a proud “mama,” I hate to admit he has some quirks. But he does. For instance, when it came to jumping into my car, I just couldn’t convince this strong, obstinate creature he was physically able to do it.

Boomer’s lack of doggy courage began bothering me. My husband, Rich, and I would see other pet owners at the dog park open their car doors only to have their furry ones—even tiny breeds—launch themselves in, eager for the ride home. Not so with Boomer.

Continue reading "Boomer and the Back Seat . . ."

Love Wrapped in Fur

Jane: It started, as most "bad" habits do, innocently enough.

We'd just returned from the hospital after meeting with a series of physicians to discuss a family medical crisis. Exhausted, emotional, plagued by "what ifs," I retired to our bedroom for a nap.

But with my mind spinning and my body tense, rest eluded me. Then I noticed the gentle breathing of Buddy, our black Lab, who'd entered the bedroom with me. I impulsively tapped on the top of our comforter and said, "Buddy, come on up. Come on up, boy."

Buddy looked shocked at my unexpected invitation. After all, we had a rule about "no dogs on the bed." Wearing a guilty expression, he reluctantly jumped up and settled next to me, wondering if he was "naughty." So I rubbed his rich, soft fur to reassure him. The funny thing was, the more I stroked and petted Buddy, the more he reassured me. As my racing heart slowed and my anxiety lifted, I became able to focus and pray about my concerns. Buddy's presence soothed my weary, worried heart in a way nothing had before.

Buddy gave me a gift that afternoon. I like to call it the gift of love wrapped in fur. His was the exact comfort and distraction I needed. So from that point on, Rich and I bent our rigid rules, and throughout the remaining years of Buddy's life, we invited him onto our bed.

Then Boomer entered our lives. While Rich was away on a business trip, I decided to invite puppy Boomer to jump up on our bed, and let's just say full-grown Boomer now doesn't wait for an invitation. Jump up he does, repeatedly, during the night. Like an 80-pound dive bomber, he lands on legs and hips and bellies, then snuggles into a comfortable position (for him) and snores. On and off, on and off, on and off, that's the pattern. That is, until the wee morning hours when he decides it's time we get up to feed him. Then, looming over us, he licks us until we do his bidding.

Some might think we're nuts. Some just might not "get it." After all, there's the fur. The mess. The heavy breathing (not ours). And I admit, when we're achy or sleep-deprived, we think we're nuts, too.

But the truth is, when life wears you down, your canine companions are there, quick to offer you their gift of love wrapped in fur. So we welcome it into our lives, because everybody can use a little more love.

Now, there's just one thing: What will we do when Daisy gets big enough to jump on our bed, too?

April 3, 2009

Woofie Asked, You Answered

The poll results to our question, "Do dogs go to heaven?" are in, and the results were unanimous: Yes!

And in case you think this question is frivolous, please read what Dr. Randy Alcorn, a popular author, says about dogs and heaven. We think you'll find it thought-provoking and even comforting.


"Daisy, are they clean yet?"

Happiness Is . . .

Happiness Is . . .
a warm puppy named Daisy!