Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Transportation

This is my car:

The Super Sonic Saturnator

     This beautiful piece of machinery is a 1995 Saturn SL1 four door sedan with a four cylinder engine in sapphire blue.  It has somewhere just south of 500 000 kilometers on it, but it's hard to say for sure because the odometer only works sporadically.  You might be wondering why it is here, on this blog, let me tell you a little story.

     On Friday, October 14 at about 6:40 am I was driving to work in the dark and rain.  With me I had Duke, Nuka and my co-worker Lynn.  The night before I had mentioned to Jeremy that I thought something in the steering with the Saturn felt a little off.  He asked me if it felt loose.  I said no.  He asked me if there was a delay when I turned the wheel, I said no.  Just off, it felt off.  But, when your car is sixteen, a lot about it feels off.  I chose not to worry about it.

     That was a mistake.

     All was well, Lynn, myself and the canines were toddling along quite nicely.  We stopped at a red light at a busy intersection.  When the light turned green, I, like all well functioning people, proceeded to keep driving.  Unfortunately, I failed.
     There was a very loud grinding sound that is difficult to describe.  It was quite acute, and yet, the car did not move forward even though it sounded like it was trying very hard.  Lynn and I looked at each other in what must have been a hilarious exchange of faces, and I believe we both literally said, 'uh oh!'  The Saturn continued to do its stationary grind and then the front right side sort of thudded over.  The only way I could make it stop making horrible sounds was to put it in park and turn off the ignition.  I put on my four way flashers.

Lynn: "Try it again."

Me, appreciating her positive attitude, but knowing with a deep car-bond that it was over: "No, dude.  It won't help.  The Saturn is dead."

     So, on a busy Friday morning and totally blocking a popular intersection, Lynn did what most people do when they get into a sticky situation, she called her mom.  I am happy to report that Lynn's mom arrived promptly and did the most important thing: got the dogs out of the car.  If this blog has shown anything, it's probably that Duke and Nuka aren't the brightest bulbs in the box, but they definitely know when things are amiss.  We've had Duke for just over a year and in that time he has known no other real transportation then the folded down, blanketed back seat of the Saturn, this is a familiar spot for him, but boy, he was whining like a baby back there after a few minutes.  He too must have realized that the Saturn had taken its final drive.
     Lynn's mom arrived and successfully whisked Lynn and the canines off to work, for which I was now late. Then I was alone, sitting in the cold, dark rain, with the poor, dead Saturn.  I had informed Jeremy of the developments via text message, but he wasn't much help in Ohio.  So I sat, and waited, in my final moments with the Saturn.  It was an emotional time.
     Jeremy bought the Saturn in 2000.  In 2003, I learned how to drive in it, and in 2004 I took it over after my relationship with a 2004 Hyundai Accent didn't work out.  I have driven that car every day since that time.  It is, quite literally, the only car I have ever really driven.  Many things went through my mind during this quiet period of reflection in what was affectionately known as 'the dog car' in our house.  The kajillion trips up north, to Toronto, to Quebec city, to the US.  The Saturn's many repairs, it's lack of heat, air conditioning, functioning passenger doors and ability to keep its rear licence plate attached to the trunk.  Yes, it was the dog car, it was my car.
     My manager, Michelle, arrived on the scene with her husband, Brian.  Since Michelle has CAA, (I think that's AAA in the states, but I might just be making that up.) she offered to have it towed for free, which was amazing.  The issue was where to tow it.  I texted Jeremy, my heart all aflutter.

Me, in text form: They need to know where to tow it.

Jeremy, in text form: I think you probably know.

Me, text form: Yes, I do.

Michelle: "I just have to tell them where it's going."

Me, petting the steering wheel, and with a big sigh: "You can tell them...that it will be going to the wrecker."

     Michelle and I stood in the pouring rain under an umbrella while the CAA guy hooked up the lifeless vehicle.  It was a somber moment, and the cold grey rain was very suitable to the occasion.  Michelle remarked that it was like a funeral, and it was, of a kind, a funeral for a trusty little beast of a car.  Jeremy and I had decided some time ago the we would stop fixing the Saturn, but that didn't make it any easier.
     Brian drove us to work after the Saturn disappeared over the horizon, towed limply behind a tow truck, to its final resting place.  I worked all day, distraught, and received many condolences, and a sympathy card from my caring co workers who knew what a ninja the Saturn was.  It was a sad time.  The dogs and I were suddenly transportation-less, adrift in a world that we had no way to participate in.  Because of this, the mourning period was short.
     Saturday morning we went to the wrecker and there sat the poor little Saturn, dead, lifeless, waiting to meet its fate.  I collected the stuff from inside and was handed the licence plates and a cheque for $150.00.  I was surprised by the sympathy and caring expressed by the workers at the wrecker yard.  There was a moment of silence and many stories were exchanged about old vehicles that worm their way into your emotional range of being.

Me: "What will happen to it, the Saturn?"

Doug, wrecker guy: "Well, we drain all of the fluids and strip it for usable parts.  We recycle most of the metal and plastic."

Okay, that didn't sound too bad.  Me: "What about the rest of it?"

Doug screwed up his face and made a squishing motion with his hands. "You don't want to be around for that."

     No, no I didn't.  As we pulled away from the auto wreckers, I looked out the back window of the Volvo until I couldn't see it anymore.  Unfortunately, there was no time for sadness, as every minute without the Saturn was another minute the dogs and I were immobile.  Jeremy and I drove straight from the wrecker to the car dealer, heartless, I know.  I had hoped the Saturn's final drive would be in a demolition derby, but alas, it was not to be.  Stay tuned for Part II of Nuka and Duke vs. Transportation and our dramatic struggle to become mobile again.

Good bye, Saturn, the dogs and I will miss you terribly.

Me and my Dogmobile.  Rest in peace, little buddy.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pip the Cupboard Mouse Puts Things in Perspective

     Jeremy came into my office this morning and looked toward the mouse habitat.

Jeremy: "Where's Pip?"

Me: "He's in his nest sleeping.  He hardly comes out during the day, he's very nocturnal."

Jeremy: "That's all he does, sleep all day?"

Me: "Yeah, he comes out at night."

Jeremy moved closer to the cage and peered into its apparent emptiness: "I wonder what he does in there?  Just hangs out, thinking?"

Me: "I don't know, he might be thinking.  He hangs out at night, eats, runs on his wheel, walks around, builds things out of old socks, you know, he does stuff."

Jeremy, still contemplating the cage: "So, he basically does what we do then."

     I almost laughed at this, but stopped myself, after all, that's probably true, isn't it?

Pip hangs out in the big blue bubble at the top of the cage = Jeremy and I sit in the basement on the old green couch and watch movies.

Pip eats seeds and lettuce = Jeremy and I wolf down lasagna and garlic bread.

Pip runs on his wheel = Jeremy and I go to work.

Pip walks around = Jeremy and I go grocery shopping, sweep the floor, walk the dogs, do laundry, etc.

Pip builds various creations out of old socks and paper towel tubes = I write novels, Jeremy records cd's.

Pip does stuff = Jeremy and I do stuff too.

Pip sleeps in his nest all day = Jeremy and I sleep in our bed all night.

Jeremy: "I wonder what he thinks about."

I wander over to the mouse habitat and peer in beside Jeremy: "I don't know.  He could be plotting world domination for all I know."

Jeremy takes a sip of his coffee: "Yes, he could be."

     This short conversation this morning gave me a whole new respect for what goes on in the mouse habitat.  I'll be sure to supply Pip with a more varied selection of snacks and building materials in the future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nuka vs. The Land Walrus Introduce Pip the Cupboard Mouse

     Last winter a funny thing happened.  In the cupboard above our stove, the popcorn kept mysteriously vanishing.  At first I figured this was probably due to a porthole from another dimension, but then other things started happening in the cupboard.  Little gnaw marks appeared on containers and various foodstuffs, and then small, little black kernels littered the cupboard floor.  What could be happening in this cupboard?
     Jeremy quickly deduced that it was a mouse and presented with the evidence, I was forced to agree, so we did what most people do when confronted with a mouse, or, at least, what I assume they do, we went to the store for traps.

     That's where the trouble started.

     Your local hardware store has an aisle that will present many options for dealing with a mouse.  We took them all in and Jeremy started grabbing.  For better or worse, I am not a grabber, I am a reader, so I started reading and I didn't enjoy it at all.  Turns out the best way to deal with your mouse is to crack it with a metal bar or poison it.  This might seem like a perfectly reasonable way to deal with vermin, unfortunately, I cry when I see road kill, so I could only stare at Jeremy aghast.

Jeremy: "It's a mouse.  It's vermin.  We can't let it live in there and eat our food."

Me:  "I am not snap trapping it.  What if it doesn't die right away and it's half alive in the trap?  I will freak."

Jeremy:  "No problem, poison."

Me: "Jeremy, it is not safe to have poison in a house with dogs, and why should we poison the mouse?  He is only trying to live his mouse life, he just likes Orville Redenbacher."

Jeremy, glaring at me: "Well we have to get rid of it somehow."

     I surveyed the aisle of mouse torments and picked out two live traps designed specifically for overly sensitive babies like myself.  You put bait in there, and mice are dumb, apparently, so they walk in and then a lever goes up and the mouse can't get back out.  Captured mouse, alive at least.  Jeremy shrugged his whatevers at me and we bought the live traps.  I dutifully baited them at home and put them in the suspect cupboard, determined to show Jeremy that we could get rid of the mouse without killing it some terrible way.

     It didn't take long.

     The traps say to check them daily, so the next morning, first thing, I did just that.  Lo and behold, there, through the murky grey plastic, I spied the popcorn eater, a little brown mouse.  Gotcha!  I had captured the culprit on the first try, there was only one problem, something I failed to take into consideration upon my purchase of the live traps; what should I do with it now that I captured it?
     The trap literature helpfully recommended drowning the mouse, throwing it in the garbage, or releasing it somewhere not in your house.  Good ideas, right?  Problem is that in February, in Canada, my mouse would be a mouse-cicle in five seconds if I released it outside.  Admittedly, I had not considered this.
     I felt bad for the mouse, who was clearly not enjoying its time in the trap so I poked some holes in the lid of a coffee can and dumped him in there, like a five year old with a grass hopper.
     We named the mouse Cartman and purchased a CritterTrail habitat for it.  The mouse hated us, but at least it was alive and we could release it in the spring.  This should be the end of the story, but it isn't.  Turned out, the popcorn still wasn't safe.  Within the next few days, we caught another mouse, we named it Chili Cheese and dumped him in with Cartman, they seemed to be acquainted.  After this, thankfully, the cupboard cleared up.  I took everything out, bleached it, and nothing else violated the Orville Redenbacher.  Chili Cheese and Cartman hated us, but adjusted to life in their new habitat.  I figured that it didn't really matter anyway, because as soon as the weather warmed up they would be cheerfully released back into the wild, and that's exactly what happened, mostly.

     Chili Cheese and Cartman had four beautiful mouse babies.

     I was pretty stressed out when the mouse babies came.  I had not planned on one mouse, two mice, and then mice babies.  But, I'd come that far, so I stuck to my guns.  We would keep the mouse family until the snow was gone, then off they would go.
     Turns out our mice were White-footed mice.  I read about them, cleaned their cage once a week, fed them, changed their water and so on.  They were not much trouble as far as pets go.  The babies started getting big and I started to get worried, fortunately, the weather was beginning to break and I knew I could let them go soon.  Once the grass started to grow, I detached the portion of their cage that had their nest in it and put it out back under a large flower pot with the open end of the tunnel sticking out.  Finally, the mice were free to go when they wanted.
     The first to go was the dad mouse, Chili Cheese.  I was surprised he was the only one to make the break to freedom on the first night, but it was still early spring, so I brought them back inside for the day.  I would repeat this mouse ritual every morning and night for the next two weeks.
     Cartman went next, and then slowly, one by one, the mouse babies (now full grown) trickled off to find their own mouse lives in the wild.  It was a special time, watching my cupboard vermin be released into the wild, but of course, there was one, (isn't there always one?) that just wouldn't go.  For about a week he was the only one left and every night I would take him out back and put him under the flower pot and every morning I would go and find him still there, still nestled in the nest made out of old sock pieces and paper towels.  Eventually I tried dumping him out, (go, be free!)  but that little buggar dug his tiny hands into the side of the tunnel and held on for dear life.

Me:  "Go, little mouse!  I'm freeing you, go into the wild with your mouse family!"

Mouse: "Go to hell, lady!  I am not giving up free food and a cat-free environment!"

Me: "But you're a wild animal, it isn't right to cage you."

Mouse: "I was born in this cage, moron, and I will die here."

     I sighed and brought the mouse back in, and reattached him to the rest of his cage.  I told him I would give him one more chance to leave and then he could forget about it, because I was tiring of the charade.  That night I put him back under the flower pot and left some food scattered around.  Maybe once he got out in the world he would realize freedom was where it's at.

     No such luck.

     The next morning, I brought the stubborn mouse in for the last time and put his cage back together.  "That's it, you know." I said to him. "I am not putting you outside again, you are stuck here now."  Not surprisingly, the mouse did not reply, though he did run on the wheel with extra gusto that night.

Pip enjoys sunflower seeds and running on his wheel.
     Welcome to the blog, Pip the cupboard mouse, we're happy to have you!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. The Dog Sitter

     For six days I left the mutts out of my care.  I am sure this was liberating for all involved parties, (I know it was for me!) except perhaps Allison, the dog/house sitter.
     If you read my last blog, (Nuka vs. Olie's Ear) then you know that things did not begin well.  Nuka decided as a going away gift for me, she would bite her buddy Olie's ear.  I am happy to report that Olie has since made a full recovery.  After this ominous beginning to my holiday, it took me a few days of texting to leave Allison the hell alone, competently in charge of both my animals and my home. Upon our return, Allison informed me that all was well, the dogs were well behaved for her and things went smoothly.  I figure because of her inherent good nature, she is probably covering for them, but I digress.

I don't know where my mom is, but you're feeding me, so I'm good with it.
I just never know what is going on, because I'm a special guy!
     Allison informed me that she wrestled with Duke and Nuka regularly and allowed them to sleep in the bed with her, that fact alone probably makes them prefer her to me.  I, myself, cannot sleep with Duke and Nuka.  They take up too much room and kick a lot, so kudos to Allison for snuggling in at night with my fur children.  Her greatest success was bringing Duke and Nuka to her parents house for the day to play with her family's dog, Lily.  Such an endeavor is an act of bravery seldom rewarded with success.

Lily and Duke.  In spite of barking non-stop in dog's faces, Duke makes friends easily.
     Allison had asked me before I left if that was all right with me.  Since Allison has known my dogs for as long as I have known them, I told her to do whatever the heck she wanted with them, and she did!

I see no evidence of bloodshed...
MWAHAHA!  That's what you get for inviting me over, sucker!  This baby pool is mine.

Lily: Gee, Nuka, why are you such a jerk?
Nuka: Back off, kid, you have tasty looking ears.
Because of his nubby legs. Duke fears anything to do with water except drinking it.
Lily: What is he doing?
Nuka: Flinging giant gobs of slobber everywhere.
Lily: Ew!  Why?
Nuka: That, my dear, is a wonderful question.
     All in all, our time spent apart was refreshing for everyone.  Nuka and Duke got a break from me and I got a break from them.  They also made a new friend, Lily, which is good, because Nuka bit her last friend and that position is currently open.  Allison also left my house even cleaner then how I left it for her.  I don't even know what to say about that, except that I hope the dogs really were good for her, because she's going to have a very difficult time getting out of watching them the next time I go away.  Thanks, Allison!

We're going to get a treat for sitting still, right, Allison?  Because that's pretty  much how we roll.

*All of the pictures in this post are courtesy of Allison Branch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nuka vs. Olie's Ear

     Ah, summer holidays.  A time to leave work and the hustle and bustle of the city and take on a more leisurely pace, something a little more relaxed.  Sometimes this includes the dogs and sometimes it doesn't.  This year, it didn't.
     Between hurricane Irene and some car trouble, just going on holiday at all was a bit of a struggle, but we got it all worked out and in the end it came to be that a coworker of mine was going to both house and dog sit, the poor girl.
     No matter what, I have a lot of anxiety about this kind of thing.  Never mind the fact that Allison is a perfectly capable human and already knows my dogs, I still have anxiety.  Nuka gives me anxiety.  But in any case, Tuesday morning I rose bright and early.  Allison was working all day, so I was going to drop the dogs off with her at work.  That way, when she was done, she could just load them up and drive back here.  No problem, right?


     I got there before seven o'clock am to give her my house key, get the dogs settled for the day, then I could drive back home and Jeremy and I could load up his car and be on the road nice and early.  This would also ensure that the dogs wouldn't see us load up and leave town without them, an added bonus.  Let me set the scene for you.
     It's a nice, sunny day, birds are chirping, it's cool but you know that in a few hours it will be a beautiful August day.  I get to the kennel and let the dogs out of the car.  What is that I spy?  Ah, Olie and Nikki, a boarder collie and a husky are running around in a yard together.  Isn't that convenient!  These are another coworkers dogs and Olie is pretty well Nuka's only friend.  Wonderful, I think to myself.  I can leave Duke and Nuka out here with Olie and Nikki to play and go give Allison my key.
     The dogs run into the yard with their friends, there are greetings, and I go inside, leaving these four little soldiers unattended as I have everyday for the last three years or so.
     I talk briefly to Allison and my coworkers, but was conscious of time.  Lynn, the owner of Olie and Nikki, stopped me before I left, there was the usual chit chat, and then our conversation went something like this:

Lynn:  "Hey, Erin, Nikki has a weird little lump on her back, I was wondering if you could look at it before you leave."

Me: "Sure, I left my dogs out there with your dogs, let's go."

Lynn: "Cool."

(Lynn and Erin walk to dog yard.  Lynn has to work momentarily and Erin must leave for holidays.  Time is of the essence.)

     We open the gate and Nikki runs over ahead of the others.  I feel along her spine and Lynn directs me, there is a small little lump on her lower back.

Me: "Well, I'm not sure, but it feels like a cyst to me."

Lynn: "I'm worried about it because she's old."

Me: "It doesn't seem to be bothering her."

Lynn: "No, it isn't."

     At this point, the other three dogs run over to us and we can't help but notice that the right side of Olie's head is covered in blood.

Lynn: "Uh oh!"

Me, turning to Nuka:  "YOU %#$&(*> ")&^%$!!!!"

Lynn: "I think it's his ear."

Me: "%^&*(  &*$$@!"?>*())|"}$#%&*(?><"{*"%$!!!!"

Lynn: "We should take him up to the groom room, rinse it off and have a look at it."

Me:  "#:*%!"

(Erin and Lynn take Olie to the groom room.  There is smoke coming out of Erin's ears.  Olie is bloody, but appears unperturbed.  He jumps into the tub.)

Olie, the innocent victim.

Lynn: "Yep, it's his ear."

Erin: "Why is my dog such a %^("@?  What is wrong with her?"

(Michelle our manager appears and quickly stops the blooding with cotton pads.)

Michelle: "Yeah, stick some Polysporin on it.  It will scab up and he'll be fine."

Me: "I hate my dog!"

Lynn, sticking Polysporin on it.: "They were probably roughhousing and she caught him, no problem."

Me: "I'm so sorry!  I feel awful, I'm sorry my dog is awful and horrible and bites your dog's ear!  I'll pay for the vet bills!"

Lynn: "Meh, he'll be fine.  Don't worry about it."

Me: "But I am worried about it!  I am very, very worried about it!"

Lynn: "Don't be!  God, he's fine!  He doesn't even notice it.  It just bleeds a lot because it's his ear."

Me: (Insert pitiful whining sound)

     Eventually I am convinced to leave for my holidays after reassuring myself that Olie's ear will not fall off and he will not bleed to death.  I refuse to look at Nuka on the way out.
     When I get home, I tell Jeremy about the tragedy at the kennel and our conversation goes something like this:

Jeremy: "Did you see Nuka bite him?"

Me: "No, we were inside when it happened."

Jeremy: "Then how do you know it was Nuka?" (Pause) "Maybe it was Duke."

Me, trying unsuccessfully to picture my overweight basset hound flying through the air, jowls back, snarling, ripping Olie's ear.: "There is no way it was Duke.  It was Nuka."

Jeremy: "Nuka always gets blamed for everything."

Me: "That's because she always does everything!"

Jeremy: "Is Olie alright?"

Me: "Well yeah, but still."

Jeremy: "Don't worry about it then.  We're on vacation."

     I spend the next few days texting Lynn, assuring myself that Olie will not die from this vicious ear injury and am finally convinced he will make a full recovery.  I think of Nuka, oh, Nuka.  You have only one friend in the world and you bit his ear.  And your timing, well, it was probably premeditated.  I guess that's what I get for leaving this big girl behind.  Thanks for the send off, Nuka!

The perpetrator of the vicious ear assault.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Mingling

     I don't have kids, I have dogs.  My dogs are at least as well behaved as most people's children and since people cart their snotty, ignorant little brats everywhere and assume everyone thinks that they're cute, I do the same with my dogs.
     As with children, however, some places are just not appropriate.

     This was a quandary I ran into this weekend.  I can finagle my canines into many locales, especially when family is concerned, but a memorial service just isn't one of them, nor should it be.  There was no question that the dogs would not be accompanying us this weekend, only a question of what we would do with them.  Nivek was so easy, he used to go stay with my parents, but to be perfectly blunt, my parents are not dog people, they are cat people.  In many ways, Nivek was like a big cat, so that was no problem.  Nuka and Duke, on the other hand, well, lets just say I would be more inclined to ask someone I don't like to watch them for me then people I love.
     I also wasn't sure what our schedule would be, so to be safe, I booked the dogs into the kennel for Friday and Saturday night and dropped them off Friday afternoon.  I packed their food and some treats and that was it.  It was a little weird without them underfoot, but also kind of nice.  There was plenty on my mind this weekend without two foolish animals thrown into the mix.
     What really struck me Saturday, after all of the depressing stuff, was the family gathering afterwards.  There were two dogs present, my uncle's dog, Holly, a long haired Jack Russell, and my cousin's dog, Molly, an American Eskimo (I would have taken their picture, but it did not occur to me to take my camera to this kind of event.  Lesson learned, take camera everywhere).  It didn't bother me that they were present, I am never going to complain about dogs, what struck me was how good they were!
     My Uncle has a very cute bungalow, with a very cute yard, and both are on the small side of things.  Let me tell you, it is no easy task to cram thirty members of my boisterous family in this type of space and keep them comfortable, break out the dogs and the kids, and you have a family tragedy in the making.

     Not so!

     Holly and Molly greeted everyone calmly with wagging tails.  No jumping, no barking.  They did a lot of sniffing and following around, no doubt trying to make some sense of all the loud, obnoxious weirdos suddenly in their midst.  Mostly though, they just found a shady corner and laid down, completely out of the way, no trouble to any one or anything.

     I wish!

     To be fair to less stellar animals, (example = mine) once the barbecue began, there was some definite begging on the part of Molly and Holly, but to be fair to them, there was some definite covert feeding going on as well.
     I officially stand back in awe of these two sweet and well behaved little girls.  I also have to ask myself a tough question, are my dogs so unruly because of me?  Surely temperament has something to do with it, as does age, training not so much in this particular situation because I know that these two animals have no more formal training then mine do.  Is it because mine are rescues?  Because they have some, ahem, issues?  Or, is it because of me?  Do I somehow bring out the worst in my animals because I'm anxious about their behaviour?  Food for thought.
     At the end of the day, I'm sure it's a combination of reasons, but in the future, I will make a conscious effort not to sabotage my dogs performance with my own worries.  Then maybe they'll have a better chance of putting on a quality show.

     Thanks, Molly and Holly!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Nuka vs. The Vet

     So, Monday morning I took Nuka to the vet for her annual check up and vaccinations.  Taking Nuka anywhere is an adventure, and one that I look forward to with an interesting mix of curiosity and dread.  I had the added anxiety of leaving Duke at home, thankfully, he was not alone.  I don't think they have really been separated since his arrival last August and he is a huge baby.  I had visions of him baying forlornly at the light fixture in the kitchen until our return, thankfully, Jeremy was around to distract him with shiny objects and food.
     Experience has taught me that a good vet is hard to find, so instead of going to one of the 20 offices within ten minutes, I drive 20 minutes outside the city to go to the same vet I used to frequent when I lived in a smaller town outside the city.  I have never begrudged this drive, not even once.
     There is something nice about going to the veterinarian for something as routine as vaccinations.  As my animals have aged, I have come to increasingly relate these trips with something terrible, some horrible news or unwanted revelation.  Twice in the past three years I have travelled to my vet with one of my dogs only to return home without them.  That stays with you.
     Out vet is a bright, friendly place where my dogs and I are addressed by name and Nuka, in all her Nuka-ness, is not seen as a problem or potential danger to society, but a big, exuberant girl whose 'hugs' only show her affection for people and enthusiasm for life, not a body check by an eighty pound German shepherd mix that clearly needs more training.
     As a special bonus, the resident cat was out of sight, (phew!) and the lobby was void of waiting patients, yay!  Nuka and I sat nicely and even when a little terrier mix trotted out in a cone, Nuka only offered a brief throat rumble, nothing too serious.
     Topping the scales at just about 80 pounds, Nuka is doing fine.  She got all of her needles like a trooper and withstood a physical exam with nothing more then a mildly irritated look I've come to think of as her 'bath time face'.  This face is made by the lowering of her substantial ears, not back, but out to the sides, giving her a Yoda-esque appearance.  The real challenge came with the Bordetella (canine cough) vaccine, which Nuka needs because she comes to work with me every day.  This vaccine is administered one of two ways, by injection, or by a quick shot up the nose.  My vet, this time Dr. S, happens to prefer the shot up the nose.
Our conversation on the subject went something like this:

Dr. S: "How do you think she'll take it?"

Me, eyeing up my bad dog's giant head like a deadly weapon: "I honestly don't know."

Dr. S, now also eyeing up my dog's giant head, probably like a potential deadly weapon: "I'm pretty fast.  I've learned to be."

Me, picturing Dr. S's pretty face ripped to shreds by Nuka, and Nuka licking her chops in gruesome satisfaction: "I don't know Dr. S.  It's totally up to you.  If you want to give her the injection instead or muzzle her or something, that's totally fine with me."

Dr. S: "Let me try.  She's been good so far, let's give her a chance.  Plus, like I said, I'm pretty fast."

     From behind, I held Nuka's head and took slow breaths in the hopes that my anxiety would not travel to my dog.  Dr. S said something reassuring to Nuka, then whistled, and when Nuka glanced up at her, Dr. S shot her magic serum right up the ol' nostril.  Piece of cake.
     There was visible confusion from my canine, then annoyance, and then a grudging look of irritation for the both of us like she knew she'd been had and was not too pleased about it.  Dr. S offered some praise and then a cookie, but Nuka snubbed it now, she's like that.  I should mention here that when Dr. S and I were engaged in conversation Nuka did eat the cookie off the floor, but she hoped we wouldn't notice, no doubt.
     We talked a little about Nuka after that, all is well.  I asked how old Dr. S thought she was, but apparently her teeth are very good so it's hard to tell, somewhere between four and six, maybe.  We also talked about spaying, a cloud that has hung over both Nuka and myself since she came here in January, 2009.  Nuka is not spayed, for reasons that are a whole other entry, but she needs to be done, as all dogs should be and all of my previous dogs have been.  In this, as in everything else, Nuka is an extenuating circumstance.
     I found our conversation reassuring, however, so before the end of the year, after summer holidays and before the madness of Christmas, Nuka will go under the knife, something I have both dreaded and craved for her since the moment she barrelled through our front door.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nuka vs. The Land Walrus presents 6 Alternative Uses for your pet

     Dogs are great for many reasons.  They make fine companions, they encourage you to get outside and exercise and they are always happy to see you, no matter what.  But if you have become bored with your canine companion, I would like to present to you some alternative uses for your furry friend.

1. Alarm System

     Some people complain about a dog that barks too much, but they are really overlooking a positive quality in their pet.  Save on your Brinks bill by getting a dog that does bark when the door opens, or the window opens, or a slight breeze rustles a tree.  This is an easy notification system for you that not only works for potential criminals, but also for wayward teenagers sneaking in after curfew.

2. Scapegoat

     Passed gas?  Knocked over your mom's prized African violet?  Ate the last piece of pie?  Solution  - Blame the dog!  A simple cry of, "Oh, Nuka!" (Insert your pet's name here) will often suffice.  The key to pulling this off is the amount of sincerity in your voice with the delivery.  As a bonus, dogs do not mind taking the blame as long as you slip them a cookie while they are banished to their bed.

3. Heater

     If you live in a cold climate like I do, you know damn well that sometimes, like in the grips of February, for instance, no amount of central heating will suffice.  This is when you should take a good, long, look at your dog.  See how he is covered in fur?  He also possesses a regular body temperature that is higher then yours, making him a perfect heating pad.  Maybe it is time to let Fido sleep on the bed with you, at least during ice storms.

Duke's Belly = Foot Warmer

4. Vacuum/Swiffer

     In my experience, basset hounds work best in this role, but I'm sure other dogs would preform equally well if given the chance.  Don't feel like vacuuming?  Cutting carrots and they keep flying off the counter?  Spilled milk on the floor and can only sigh?  Now is the time to let the dog into the kitchen.  Just let him go at it, and in no time whatsoever the mess that you just made will be clean, and as an added bonus, your dog just got a tasty treat!  This ability becomes far more pronounced around eating and walking toddlers, who your dog can follow around and clean up the mess as it is being made.  Good dog!

5. Accessory

     I'm not a huge fan of dog clothes, but I do like collars and bandannas.  Celebrate the season with a festive collar or a Christmas bandanna.  Not a holiday?  No problem!  Your local fabric store will cheaply furnish you with all kinds of fabrics and colours that can be easily folded into a snazzy kerchief.  Coordinate outfits with your pup!  If you have more then one dog, then take the dog that best suits your mood.  Feeling saucy?  Take Nuka, that sassy redhead and give her a fiery colour scheme.  Want to meet some new people?  Throw a mellow blue on your freaking adorable basset hound, and head to the park!

Nivek's black fur looks stunning against this festive Halloween orange number!  Tres chic!

6. Unwanted Human Scatterer

     I know from personal experience that a German Shepherd works very well for this, but I'm sure that any motivated canine could do a stand up job.  Tired of door to door solicitors?  Had enough of those loud, screaming kids running around outside your house?  The solution, my friends, is literally standing on your toes!  Leave just your screen door closed and stop giving the dog trouble for barking at the door, let them go nuts!  You won't get any more of that pesky mail that's been plaguing you and door to door solicitations will drop dramatically.  Still not enough?  Eye up those annoying children and then eye up your dog.  Then just do what you both know you want to, open the door!  Let your dog, preferably one who is friendly at heart, but has serious psychological problems that make her run and bark like a raving fool, out, just let her out like a barking maniac, and boy oh boy, watch those kids scatter to the four corners of the earth in record time.  Ah, finally, some peace and quiet!*

     As you can see, your pet dog has many uses.  If you are ready to spice up your relationship, try one of these alternative uses for your pet.  You will both be entertained and brought closer together by exploring new and wonderful experiences, together.

*Nuka vs. The Land Walrus accepts no responsibility if your dog mauls someone, bites someone, proceeds to chase a car down the street or sees something shiny and doesn't come back when called.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dogs vs. Roadtrip: Part Three: The Actual Visit

     Jocko Point is a nice place for me to sit around, stare at water and listen to nothing but the gentle twitter of birds and the soft lull of lapping waves.  The dogs also seem to enjoy it.
     What with the tire and all, (see Part Two), not to mention the traffic, the six hour trip took us more like nine hours, and Duke and Nuka were understandably relieved when they were released from the confines of the Volvo.  Duke's first road trip had been a trial by fire, but he survived, and when we popped the back hatch and led him loose on the shores of Lake Nippissing, leashless, no less, he forgot all about the trauma.
Duke and Nuka, released from the Volvo

     No one, and I mean no one on Jocko Point leashes their dogs, and fences, what fences?  Now, here in southern Ontario, a loose dog will set you back a minimum of $200.00 and send you on a trip to the pound.  On Jocko Point, it's just a really good way to chat with the neighbours.
     I have known since we got Nuka that she is better behaved off leash.  I don't try to understand this, but I'm sure it's some deep, psychological issue she has with being restrained.  The problem, and it hurts to admit this, is that I don't trust Nuka.  I trusted Seeka, I trusted Nivek, but I don't trust Nuka, sorry girl.

There is something out there, something I want to chase...
     In spite of my blatant mistrust, Nuka has always behaved herself on Jocko Point.  She stays in the loosely defined 'yard', she does not attack and/or chase the random dogs that romp through Jocko's back hedges to say hello, and to date, she has never chased anything farther then my field of vision, except of course, a tennis ball.  It's like she knows, somehow, intuitively, that if she messes up, she may never get to come back.  On this point, she is correct.

Ice floes never stopped Nuka from swimming, they did stop Duke though.
          We played a lot of ball, and despite the water's frigid temperature, Nuka swam every day while Duke barked at her from the safety of the dock.  More then once I had to chase the hound, who followed his nose a little too far, but overall, the trip was a resounding success and the city dogs got to enjoy some country life, unrestricted and as free as a domestic pet can probably be.  Duke found a golf ball on Saturday and it became his most favorite thing.

His putt needs work, but Duke instantly bonded with the golf ball
     Jeremy and I did a lot of sitting, eating and drinking.  We played with the dogs, had Easter dinner and did a little walking tour of the traditional powwow grounds of the Nippissing First Nations People on the tip of Jocko Point.

Easter dinner?  I gots me a burnt waffle, score!
     Duke charmed Jeremy's family on his first trip to their home with his hilarious face and gentle disposition.  In the picture above, you might notice the position of his hind legs, splayed behind him in a 'T', which for whatever reason, is a position he often stays in for hours.  This struck Jeremy's mother just the right way and she spent a good portion of the weekend laughing at it and taking pictures of it.  Ah, Duke, always a ladies man.
     Like most good things, the weekend went by very quickly and Monday morning we grudgingly loaded the canines and came home.  Thankfully, there was not a repeat of the tire incident.  We were all a little depressed the first few days back in the city, but we have some very sweet, relaxing memories to see us through until next time.  If the peace we experienced is any indication, the next time probably won't be all that far in the future.

View from the tip of Jocko Point
     In case you're interested, I posted a funny video of Duke and his golf ball, it's on the sidebar to the right.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nuka vs. The Land Walrus Mourns

     I must interrupt the saga of the Easter trip, I will post the final part this coming weekend.  In the meantime, I regret to inform you that I must tell a very sad story.
     On May 19, I took Nivek to the vet.  Originally, this appointment was scheduled for his yearly check up and vaccinations, but the closer it came, the more I realized that his vaccinations were the least of my concerns.  The weekend before, a large hygroma on his elbow burst in a big, bloody mess.  This has happened to Nivek before, but this time seemed especially unpleasant.  I cleaned it up and wrapped it, but he fought me every step of the way.  That entire week he began to fail, he didn't eat like usual, and all of the sudden he could no longer get into the car to come to work with me as he has every day for the past four years.
     By Thursday, the hygroma was in pretty good shape, but Nivek was not.  Even with his air conditioner blasting, his breathing was laboured more then usual.  He stopped going for walks with Nuka, Duke and I so I started walking him alone for a few days, very short distances, but then that stopped too.  He needed a boost to stand up most of the time.
     Unfortunately, the news Dr. H had for me was not helpful.  Nivek had an enlarged heart, hence the breathing troubles, and his arthritis had continued to progress, as arthritis tends to do.  I did not go into the office with any false hopes, I only wanted to know what I could do for my oldest and most wonderful friend.  The answer, it breaks my heart to say, was nothing.
     Dr. H put Nivek on Meloxicam for pain and Benazepril for his heart.  These would not cure Nivek, but might help him along a little.  He told me to take Nivek home and keep him happy and comfortable, so that's what I did.
     Nivek's world shrank down basically to the kitchen and living room floors.  With help, he would still go outside to go to the bathroom, but this more and more became me carrying him, not that I minded lugging his 86 pounds around, but it wasn't much of a life.  On Monday, May 23, I painfully put him in the back seat of my car and drove to my parents for a holiday BBQ, Nuka and Duke went to doggie day care.  Nivek spent the day snoozing in the grass in the shade, surrounded by all of the people that have loved him so much since 1998 when he came barreling into out lives.  I think he had a good day.
     On Sunday, May 29, Nivek did not get up in the morning, nor would he with any amount of physical help or coaxing.  He did not eat.  That evening, Jeremy and I were able to carry him outside where he finally went pee.  That night I sat up with him on the kitchen floor until one am.  I cried a lot and we had a good, solid look at each other.
     On Monday, May 30, Nivek did not get up again.  He also did not eat again.  Home alone, I was unable to carry him outside without him helping me.  Dr. H said one of two things would happen, he would stop eating or he would stop moving, Nivek had stopped doing both.  We had another good, long look at each other and another big cry.
     I called Jeremy at work and told him to come home.  He did, and we carried our big, hairy baby to the back of the Volvo and drove to our vet.  Very, very slowly, Nivek was able to walk in with help.  He stopped in the middle of the lobby, breathing very heavily, surrounded by the doctors and vet techs who have taken such good care of him for the last eight years, when we moved to southern Ontario.  Dr. H was waiting in the door to the examination room and I said, "sorry, he does things in his own time."
Dr. H replied. "I think he's earned that right."  Nivek walked into the exam room by himself.
     On Monday, May 30, at 2:37pm, Nivek went to sleep and never woke up.  Jeremy and I were with him.  It was quiet and peaceful.  I might have more to say about this at a later time, but right now I can't type anymore through the tears.

Last picture taken of Nivek, April 24, 2011 with his buddy, Mortimer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dogs vs. Roadtrip: Part Two: The Drive

     Sorry for the delay in getting Part Two out, but the story about why it's late is a whole other blog, one that I will write later.
     Anyway, in Part One we saw Nivek safely into the competent care of my parents.  Friday morning saw us venture to the wilds of Jocko Point, or at least attempt to venture there.
     Since I worked all week and then spent Thursday driving Nivek to Wallaceburg, I didn't have a lot of time to prepare myself for Friday morning's rush out the door in the futile attempt to beat somehow, mythologically, the traffic in Toronto.  I am never really prepared for anything, but in spite of this, we were out the door before nine am.  That doesn't sound very impressive, but for me, it is.
     Nuka has been to Jocko Point before and overall, she is a good traveller.  We also take Jeremy's car on such long ventures and unlike the elderly and oft-mocked Saturn, the Volvo is newer, bigger and more reliable...or so you would assume.  The only wild card was Duke, who is fine in the car for short trips, but his stamina for travel was about to be seriously tested.  The drive takes around six hours on a good day, and we didn't know it then, but we were not going to have a good day.

     Like all horror films, things started innocently enough.  We stopped and got gas, we put air in the tires, we went to Tim Horton's for coffee.  Then, we blew this proverbial Popsicle stand and headed toward Toronto and points beyond.  We didn't get very far.
     About forty-five minutes in, yes, that's right, forty-five measly minutes in, Jeremy and I heard a familiar whoomp-whoomp-whoomp from somewhere in the back of the Volvo.  We exchanged a glance.  We ignored it.  Whoomp-whoomp-whoomp.  We exchanged another glance, heavy sighs and pulled into the scenic city of Woodstock, Ontario.
     Now, I say familiar sound because last year we we driving to Jeremy's sister's wedding in Algonquin Park and heard a similar sound from a similar locale.  Further investigation confirmed the same problem.

Same tire, even.  What are the odds?

     Since we were practically in Woodstock already, we managed to drive the car to the parking lot of a Christian school full of school buses, and low and behold, what did we spy across the street?

     What luck!  I'm sure those good people would be happy to sell us a tire, if IT WASN'T GOOD FRIDAY AND EVERYTHING WASN'T CLOSED!
     Thankfully, (????) when I looked the other way, I saw this:

     Yay!  Gas station.  Jeremy and I left the dogs in the car and walked over to the Petro, where a very nice girl gave us the number for a garage that had an emergency line.  I called the line, got an answering service, and then played the waiting game.

Gee, human parents, why isn't this tuna can moving?

     They called promptly and were there in about an hour and a half, which is exactly how long they said they would be.  Then we had to wait while the tire was changed, a fascinating process, to be sure, and a hundred and sixty bucks later, we were on our way...again.  Here's a shout out for Woodstock Tire Service, thanks for working the holiday, kids!
     We were mobile again around noon, we should have been halfway there by then, but I digress.  Thankfully, the rest of the drive was uneventful, except for a visual assault.

     Is that snow on April 22?  You bet it is.  Even for this Canadian, that's gross.  But, the sun was shining and the city was behind us.  Around dinner time, finally, we arrived.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dogs vs. Roadtrip: Part One: Nivek

     Ah, Easter, or for some of us, a four day weekend, well, if you book it off, that is, and I did.
     Often when holiday time comes, I work through it.  I stay at home with the dogs and generally avoid the six hour drive from southern Ontario (Canada) to Lake Nipissing and Jeremy's parents house on the beach.  It's a long drive, there's a lot of traffic and you spend about as much time driving as you do visiting, so much so that it hardly seems worth it.  But every once in a while I get tired of staying at home by myself like a loser.  I also get very, very tired of the city, and this year was one of those times.  So, I went to Jocko Point with Jeremy.  However, if I go, the dogs go.
     After a lot of humming and hawing about it, I decided that six hours in the back of the Volvo with Duke and Nuka stepping on his face would probably be too much for the elderly and arthritic Nivek.  Sure, Nivek would have a good time once he got there, sleeping on the porch, prancing in the lake, but he would have to survive the trip first, and I was unable to convince myself unequivocally that he would.  This conclusion lead me to:

     Road Trip One: Take Nivek to my parent's house.

     My parents live about two hours away, and it just so happened that the only way to get Nivek to my parents was in my car, so to prepare for this 'vacation,' I brought my sixteen year old sedan into the shop last Friday.  It ended up sleeping over in the garage until Saturday.

Money: A small price to pay for peace of mind.
      So, one oil change, one seasonal service and two sets of front brake pads and rotors later, I was on my way.
     I worked all week and rose early Thursday to do a pre-drive to my parents house in Wallaceburg before our actual trip to Jocko Point on Friday because in Jeremy's words, "I am not driving two hours in the opposite direction of where we are going and then driving to where we are going."
     A valid point.  I left home later then intended Thursday, but otherwise the trip to Wallaceburg, however brief, was both successful and uneventful.  I didn't even get lost trying to find my parents new house in their new town, and if you know me, you know that is no small miracle.  I can also report that I was able to brake successfully every time.  Phew, good thing I spent that three hundred bucks!
     So, Nivek brought all of his crap and made his way into Grandma's house.  In the first thirty seconds he took a huge poop in the yard and then laid down in the middle of the kitchen floor.  None of the cats rose to greet him.

Nivek in a highly agitated state.

     As you can no doubt see from the picture, Nivek was very upset when I left him at my parents.  Thankfully, he will have some feline company to help ease the pain.  As you can see here, Mortimer is trying to comfort him.

     Clearly Mort is a stand up guy, and as if that wasn't enough, there is also Callie and Ichabod for Nivek to not play with over the course of the weekend.  I couldn't find Ich for a picture, but here's Callie showing about as much interest in Nivek as she ever has, and likely, ever will.

     When I left Nivek, he was snoring peacefully on the kitchen floor and did not notice me leave.  I feel fairly confident that I have left him with every possible thing he could ever want or need (food, leash, eye drops, pill pockets, Busy Bone, Rollover Bone, bowl, treats, antibiotic ointment, vet wrap, collar, toy, bed, hip and joint medication) and my mom with some emergency contact numbers in case a tragedy should occur.  I feel as good as I can that Nivek will survive Easter weekend at my parents.  Whether or not I will is a completely different story.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dogs vs. Literature

     This week's post was supposed to be called Dogs vs. Spring, in the realm of my mind, anyway, but something happened this week that is still bothering me because I'm a crazy person and dwell on insignificant subjects, so I'm going to write about that instead.  I can only hope you will humour me.
     I don't have cable, that is a very long story, but I don't.  So about once a week I watch a movie.  I live in the strange, mythical, backwater igloo of Canada, and one strange and curious thing that just arrived here is Netflix.  I have this. 
     A few nights ago I watched Of Mice and Men.  Now, I have read this book, but it was a while ago.  Anyway, (spoiler alert if you somehow are unfamiliar with this book!) the part comes along where they convince Candy to take his old dog out and shoot it.  They want to do this because the dog is old, useless and smelly, or so they say.  Then Candy can get a new, more useful dog, yay!
     Long story short, I was disproportionately upset by the shooting of the dog, as was Candy.  What is wrong with these horrible people?  Candy loves that dog, you stupid goons!  Can't you see that it is his only friend, his only love in the world?  Can't you see that it is his only company, his only true friend?   Why would you take the dog and shoot it?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  ARRRGH! 

     See?  Disproportionately upset.
     This movie incident comes on the heels of a book I just finished, The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, (spoiler alert if you haven't read this book!).  At the risk of hatin' on an award winning book, I thought it was okay overall, and only okay, but again we have an elderly black lab named Gyp, beloved by all who encounter him.  Gyp is described in intimate detail, the adoring and adored pet of a fading family.  Now, I'll give you one guess what happens to Gyp, just one.  Your clue is that he is an animal in a book.  What could possibly happen to Gyp, the elderly black lab?
     That's right, he gets killed!  Shocking!
     The list of animals killed in literature is long, but Gyp inspired a rather motivated conversation at my fiction critique group which I won't bore you with, suffice to say I will make a concerted effort not to knock off a bunch of beloved pets as a cheap literary mechanism in my own writing.  It's upsetting to those of us who are apparently way too sensitive about some things, and not at all sensitive about others.  I have no problem at all with writers killing off people through various violent means, murder, torture, natural disaster, nuclear annihilation, and other duplicitous activities preformed every second of every day by human beings to other human beings.  I don't know why it's okay for horrible things to happen to people in books, and not to animals and I don't really care.  All I know, is that it is.
     Perhaps it is because I am myself in possession of an elderly dog that is not particularly useful and does not smell particularly great, but days later I am still pissed off about Candy's dog.  Maybe Steinbeck couldn't think of anything else, or maybe he really wanted to foreshadow Lenny's death in a particular way, but let me just say this.  If anyone ever tried to shoot my old, stinky, useless dog, they'd have to take me out first.  Is that going too far?  Maybe, but I'm okay with it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Random Destruction

     Ordinary sounds that surround you quickly become part of the background.  You hardly notice them, the tick of your office clock, the hum of your laptop, birds twittering outside.  There are only two reasons that you do notice them, one is that they stop, the other is that a new one is introduced.
     Sadly enough, I know the sounds of my dogs.  I know what one of them is coming up the stairs, I know who is lapping out of the water bowl and who is barking (or hounding) at the poor mail lady.  I also know when they are up to no good, unfortunately, I usually only know that when  it's too late.
     It is important to note here that on the whole, my three dogs are not destructive, at least not on a large scale, and Nivek, not at all.  They do not eat furniture, like a couch or a king size bed, for instance (example: Ollie, a boarder collie and Elias a bull mastiff, two dogs I know).  They do not raid the kitchen, (example: Hunter, a German shorthaired pointer, broke into the pantry and ate all his dog food and three tomatoes.  Dallas, a black lab mix that can only be kept out of the refrigerator with a truck strap).  So, I really shouldn't complain, but it still doesn't make it any better when they do wreck something, and this week, it happened twice.
     The first wasn't a big deal.  I left a shopping bag full of stuff I just bought in the middle of the kitchen floor to check my phone messages; that was my first mistake.  When I came back downstairs, this is what I found:
Why hate the throw blanket?
     For some reason, there was a hate-on for a small throw blanket that I bought and the label suffered thusly.  I uploaded a video to YouTube of Duke getting in trouble for it, see sidebar.  Duke likes to take things out of bags.  As a side note, I am wearing two different socks in the video, that is how awesome I am.
     The second was worse, more for the potential danger than anything else.  I was sitting in my office, innocently working away when I heard the unmistakable sound of crunching plastic.  There is no good coming out of this sound, so I ran downstairs, and this is what I found:

Not a trace remained of the BBQ chicken.
     What is this, you ask?  Well, it's the plastic tray from one of those ready made BBQ chickens you buy from the grocery store, the lid is still on the counter.  What is missing, you now ask yourself?  THE CHICKEN.  If you look carefully, you will see that the top of the black part of the tray has a nick out of it.  This is where Nuka, (no doubt about the culprit) started to consume the tray once the chicken was gone.
     But how did Nuka get the chicken?  Surely she is not so unruly that she would steal it from the counter top, she is a lady, after all!  No, of course she wouldn't.  Nuka would never, ever do that.  So how, then?

Basset Hounds: Taller than you think.

     Ah ha!  Duke.  Yes, that's right, they are now working together, against me.  The real shame of it all is that Duke did all the work, and Nuka reaped all the rewards.  Thankfully she did not choke on any bones and everything seems to have 'passed' through without incident, this time, anyway.  Who can say what they're plotting next?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nuka vs. Shih Tzu

     Bah!  Bah, I say, to the random wandering dog!  As if Bailey Hackles wasn't enough, (and he was, oh, he was) this morning we ran into a random, wandering Shih Tzu, which will be henceforth known as Small Fry.
     It was a lovely spring morning, and around seven thirty am, as usual, I took my canine brood forth for their morning stroll.  All was well and we were progressing innocently enough.  It was the kind of walk that I like the most, the kind of walk where no one is out and about and my dogs and I tour the block uninterrupted.
     Alas, it was not to be.
     We went around a corner and started up a walkway between the back of some townhouses and a fence and what should I spy, but a gallivanting Shih Tzu heading straight for us, completely unattended.  Unlike Bailey Hackles, Small Fry did not appear threatening in the least, but also unlike the Bailey Hackles incident, this time, there was a Nuka.
     A big, giant, awful Nuka.
     Being a friendly sort, Small Fry ran right up to my three dogs without the least reservation and proceeded to strike up a friendship.  For two out of the three, this was fine.  For Nuka, it meant a berserker freak out of epic proportions during which I looked like the most incompetent dog handler of all time. 
     Maybe I am.
     That, is besides the point of this particular story.  For about five minutes that felt like five hours, I attempted to restrain my giant, awful dog and made enough of a ruckus doing so that the owner finally came to collect his dog without a word, apology or note of concern and to him I say, well, you can imagine what I say.  I sincerely thank the elderly woman who came over from a nearby parking lot to see if everything was all right.  Thank you, my good woman, for caring.
     One of the great mysteries of Nuka is her on leash behaviour.  When Nuka sees another dog on leash, it is difficult to determine whether she is so excited  by the dog that she literally can't control herself, or, adversely, she wants to eat the dog's face off.  I have yet to determine a test for this that won't potentially end in tragedy.  In any case, we came home and Nuka and I drove straight to PetSmart.  I thought we had moved passed the Gentle Leader, I was wrong.

Buzz Lightyear, Nuka and Nivek.  No small dogs were harmed in the taking of this photograph.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dogs vs. Trail Walk

     Sometimes when I'm done work I take the dogs down a trail where they can be off leash.  This is an incredibly poor idea in many ways, but I am of the opinion that if I never give them the opportunity, they will never learn to be off leash.  My arms need a break.
     I have done this a few times before, but always in the winter when the trail is surrounded by high snowbanks on each side that kind of wall them in.  Monday I took them, and now that the snow is finally melting, the creek and fields are clearly visible and also more accessible.  I took them anyway.  It's a fairly isolated area, how much trouble could they possibly get into, those who are doomed to fail silently ask themselves?
     As usual, Nivek is not the problem.  He trots along, usually behind, breathing heavily and trying to keep up with his much younger brethren.  Duke does what he was bred to do and sniffs, sniffs, and sniffs, trying to keep up with Nuka on legs that are a quarter of the length.  It is Nuka that enjoys this time the most.  She's young and powerful and she rips up and down the trail with a muscular grace that I don't normally associate with her lanky, goofy body.
     Overall, they were pretty good.  Nuka took some liberties with distance she hasn't before, but she listened and didn't chase anything, she also lost her pretty pink collar, the only thing that lets anyone know that she isn't a boy.
     I learned three things on this particular off leash experience.  The first is that Nivek can't do the trail anymore.  He huffed and puffed and tried so hard to keep up that the next morning he could barely stand up.  His arthritis is just too much.
     The second is that Nuka really does look like a boy.  In lieu of the pink collar, I put on Nivek's old leather one, and yes, yes she does look like a boy.  I don't particularly care if people think she's a boy, but I don't want her to get a complex.  If no one treats her like a beautiful lady, she will never act like one.  Man, I couldn't keep a straight face while I typed that sentence.
Why can't anyone see that I am a beautiful lady?  WHY?
     Third, is that my pure bred education continues.  Even one quick google on Basset Hounds will lead you to believe that to let one off leash is about the same as picking them up and throwing them into oncoming traffic, so impaired is their ability to hear and respond to a human command.  Now, granted I have my own opinions about Duke's overall intelligence, but this was his second time on the trail and he was great.  Sometimes, he falls behind to sniff, shockingly enough, but he always runs to catch up.  Not to me, mind you, but to Nuka.  I can call him all day and he won't even flick a giant ear in my direction, but the minute Nuka is out of sight, those stubby legs really start to pump.  Maybe it's not so much that Bassets don't listen, they just don't listen all that well to people.  You can't blame them, really, I don't like listening to most people either.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dogs vs. The Furniture

     Ah, the eternal struggle of canine vs. furniture.  The passion, the daring, the stains, the slobber marks, can such an intense conflict ever end?
     No, no it can't.
     Rightly or wrongly, I tend to view my dogs as part of the family.  They live here, this is their home and they should be comfortable in it.  I am not the type of owner to relegate them to the backyard, the basement, the kitchen, or a crate.
     Nivek has never been a furniture lover and despite the presence of three large and rather expensive dogs beds, he prefers the middle of the hard, cold kitchen floor even in the middle of winter.  I do not question this.
     Thankfully, Nuka is too large to fit comfortably on most of the furniture, so she doesn't bother trying, except for my bed, of course, my king size wonder-bed of awesomeness.  In the beginning, I didn't mind this too much.  Seeka was always a bed sleeper and it never really bothered me too much if my dog wanted to sleep on my bed during the day when I'm not in it anyway.
Gee, I hope he's comfortable!
     Then Duke came.
     Turns out, the little guy loves furniture.  He loves the bed, the couch upstairs, the couch downstairs, the green chair and basically anything he can squish his rotund little body onto.  Now, none of my furniture is particularly spectacular, so I wasn't too concerned about this, at first.  Once I realized how dirty he was getting my living room sofa, I was somewhat more concerned, and then, it happened.  A most horrible event, almost too shocking to mention, Duke peed, Duke peed on the bed, on my precious bed.
     Because I am very, very stupid, I forgave this incident, but after the second Duke-peeing-on-my-bed incident, a new rule was instituted - bedroom door closed at all times.
Bed? What bed, we're not on the bed!
     By default, this worked.  Of course, it also had the simultaneous effect of pissing off Nuka, who to this day sleeps forlornly in a ball outside of the bedroom door.  Keeping Duke off of the other furniture proved a lot more challenging.  Putting a dog bed in the basement keeps him off of that couch, but the living room couch, oh, the poor living room couch has suffered the worst.  The hundred dollar cushion will never be the same.

     Part of the problem, you can no doubt see, is the lack of enforcement the new rules are getting.  The problem with Duke is that it is very difficult to be stern with him, and I am not the only one with this issue.  Those large, brown, soulful eyes, so void of intelligence, that sweet, sad, hang-dog face and that pathetic little tail, whipping around between his legs when you give him trouble, it's almost too much to take.
     So take stock of your pitiful appearance, my little friend, so far it has served you very well.

Thanks for enforcing the rules, Dad, I appreciate that.