Monday, October 1, 2012

Hell Hath no Fury like a Waitress Scorned

I do not like P. Allen Smith. This is not a statement about my feelings about the P.Allen Smith that we know from TV or books; rather, this is a statement born out of a personal interaction with said person. It was a brief interaction, and experienced many years ago, but one that has left a particularly sour taste in my mouth, rather like biting into a seemingly delicious grape, only to find it bitingly under-ripe, sharp and sour. The incident occurred when Mr. Smith was just at the brink of what would become national and even international acclaim. Well before he authored and sold a plethora of authoritative books; before he become a well-known TV personality seen regularly on sets across the nation, this was at a time when Mr. Smith as merely a local garden variety public television guest, who would also periodically show up on the five o’clock news to share his recommendations on how to choose the best perennials for your garden. I would hazard to guess that at the time of our brief encounter very few people in the state of Arkansas knew who P. Allen Smith was…but I did. I LOVED P. Allen Smith. My mother had instilled in me a love of gardening from an extremely early age, and we spent every Saturday morning watching public television gardening shows like The Victory Garden. Surprisingly, in the agrarian based society of the South information about flower gardening was very hard to come by. However, it was something that we needed and needed badly. My mother and I had been raised in Oklahoma, and found gardening in the humid turbulent weather of Arkansas far different from that of the arid and windy Plains. So, we turned each weekend to Mr. Smith. We were enchanted by his slow Southern Drawl, and seemingly endless knowledge about flower gardening in this South. So, it stands to reason that the day I met him should stand out in a brilliant and positive light. Sadly, it does not. The year couldn’t have been later than 1993, but I am fairly certain it was even earlier than that. I was in college and working as a waitress in a local eatery as many college students do to help pay their educational expenses. It was lunch rush, and probably one of the absolute worst in all my memories of being a waitress; every table in my section was packed, and had become so all at one time. I had no fewer than 30 patrons upon whom I was waiting at the time, and each of them needed something NOW. My last empty table was taken seated, and as I rushed over to greet them I found myself nearly breathless, as I would if a Hollywood star had ridden into my hometown and plopped themselves into my section. It was P. Allen Smith, and a female companion. Mr. Smith was taller than expected, made obvious by the rather awkward way he had folded his taller than average frame into the cane back chairs meant for female occupants. His blonde hair fell over a rather patrician brow just as it did each Saturday morning on channel 2, and even over the din of the lunch rush crowd I could hear the deep resonating of the tenor of his voice. His companion that day had to be nearly a decade his senior, with shoulder length salt and pepper rather frizzy hair and large framed tortoise shell spectacles. As I approached their table to ask what I could offer them to drink, neither patron turned to acknowledge my presence. Rather, Mr. Smith barked out “Tea”, and his companion “Diet Coke”, and the pair continued on with their conversation. In the mad rush that was that day, and I’ll admit, in a bit of nervous anticipation of perhaps getting to actually visit with my gardening idol, I rushed to fill their glasses and return to the table. Placing the glasses in front of the patrons I asked “have you decided what you’d like for lunch today?” Neither patron turned to acknowledge my question. You might envision that they were engaged in some sort of heated debate on the best way to produce vegetables-organic fertilizer or chemicals? Or perhaps they could be seen as debating the difference between the symmetry of the English garden and the abandon of the Prairie style. But no, their conversation was casual and seemingly slow moving; certainly nothing that couldn’t have been interrupted to reply to their wait-staff. However, it was obvious to me that Mr. Smith and his companion were wholly uninterested in my presence and apparently unconcerned with the rate at which their lunch might (or might not) arrive. So, I left the table to attend other guests who were in need of my attention. Within seconds I was again walking past Mr. Smith’s table, when from his side I heard “What is THIS” slung loudly in my direction. I stopped in my place and said “I’m sorry?” Mr. Smith replied “What is THIS!” while gesticulating at his companions glass of diet coke. I glanced at the glass and saw nothing at all out of the ordinary. He must have seen the perplexed look on my face, or perhaps, like a predator, sensed fear in his quarry. “THIS”, he said “is a glass that ISN’T full, and she hasn’t even taken a SIP”. His companion stared at me in an aloof and smug fashion, while managing not to flex a single facial muscle. Taking a second look at the glass I did see that perhaps the level wasn’t completely full. Anyone who has ever had a diet coke out of the fountain knows that it tends to bubble up rather aggressively, and once it settles, can leave the glass looking less than entirely full. I managed a weak “I’m sorry”, and grabbed the glass to take it back to refill it. And refill it I did-right up to the brim of the lip. It was so full in fact that surface tension in the beverage caused a perfect meniscus, and getting the glass back to the table in that fashion required the balance of a dancer and the patience of Job. Placing the glass back on the table, I smiled sweetly at the lady and said “Full”, and turning to Mr. Smith said “and as always, refills are free”. I don’t remember much more of that lunch encounter except that neither Mr. Smith nor his companion spoke to me again except to place their orders, and neither looked at me a second time. I did not get to ask Mr. Smith about the best way to propagate Digitalis Purpurea, nor did I get to thank him for all the garden knowledge I’d gleaned from him. Instead, that day left me with a general dislike for him that I have carried for these last two decades. Not anything nasty, spiteful or vengeful, just a general dislike- the sort one has when one encounters someone that you can genuinely say you wish you didn’t know. I stopped watching his show, never bought a single book, and felt a marginal degree of annoyance as his fame and acclaim grew. A decade later Mr. Big Prize and I very nearly bought the home that sits just next door to Mr. Smith’s home in Little Rock’s Quapaw Quarter. I liked the idea of living next door to his idyllic ‘Garden Home’ as he calls it, but loathed the idea of always having my attempts at gardening compared to his. We did not buy the house. Then, just a few years ago, I was in Illinois and switched on my television, only to be greeted by that familiar Southern drawl and sage garden advice. A national viewing audience brought him fame and fortune. Over the years I got peripheral glimpses of his many successes; so much success in fact that he has been able to build himself a pre- Civil War style manse, and fill it with both live and human stock to make it flourish. All those years I would think “If only they knew him”. Then, today I did something I had vowed never to do; I bought one of his books. I purchased P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home. I felt I could do it in good conscience as it was published in 2003, and I picked it up in a used book store. At first I picked it up merely out of curiosity, but was quickly sucked in. The dedication is to “Gloria”, and my first thought was to wonder if Gloria was the be speckled companion who had such a fondness for Diet Coke. Then I made the mistake of turning the page. I began reading, and heard in my head so clearly that deep Southern Drawl, as though it was reading those words to only me. I read page after page about how his home came to be on that corner in the Quapaw Quarter (he saved it from demolition and moved it to the site), read about his love for the home, for the land, and the meticulous way in which he planned the revitalization of both. “So many things in common” was my first traitorous thought. We, too, just completed the utter renovation of a period home, just five years older than Mr. Smiths. For the last months we have been working tirelessly to plan the specifics of the landscape, though sadly we are not nearly as well equipped either financially or professionally to execute ours in similar fashion. Still, so much in common in ideal and methodology, and so much in common in life philosophy and passion. Gardening for Mr. Smith is as essential to his life and mine as breathing is to most others. It nourished our souls, and we both think and speak of the Garden, the Earth, the Process, as though it is a living and animate being of its own. I now want to pursue urban stock keeping; I hope to start next year with a small flock of chickens and ducks. He too loves small livestock husbandry, and shares that passion beautifully through the words in his book. Sadly, I found myself falling deeply in love once again with his advice and his experience. I envy his life; one that has allowed him to make a very good career of extolling the virtues of the earth. Once again, I can appreciate what he has to share, and am open to what I can glean from him as I really embark on creating my very own Garden Home. What I would give to have him (or at very least his staff and finances) with which to create my version. In a sense, I do. I have the book. I can find inspiration and motivation. But I found an interesting thing there as well-forgiveness. Forgiveness for an old and now seemingly silly hurt-one which I am certain he neither remembers nor would credit. I was angry at him for destroying my vision of him, but perhaps I’ve been unfair in my assessment. Perhaps he’d had a very bad day. Perhaps he and his companion were deeply engrossed in the deal for this first book. Perhaps he was negotiating the deal for the very house he would someday save. Or perhaps he really is an arrogant and surly person. Whatever the case, it doesn’t change the fact that I can learn from him and enjoy his work. And it doesn’t change the fact that we should never judge quickly, and should always forgive freely. See, P. Allen Smith has taught me a lot today.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

All Good Things Must Come to an End

My husband is not what one would call ‘handy’. I have long thought that there should be some form of Fujita scale for handiness attached to all men, and before one weds, one would be fully prepared what to expect in the ‘handy’ department. Not that this scale would actually have any effect on ones likelihood to wed the desire of ones heart, but at least one would go in with your eyes wide open, right? For instance, my father would have been ranked an H9 level on the Fujita scale on Handiness (he misses the H10 mark due only to his aversion to dealing with plumbing. Not to say he can’t, he just won’t). He can do anything, as good as or better than, a professional. I do not jest, nor do I exaggerate. This is not the diatribe of one who idolizes her father and fails to see his flaws. He is a bit stubborn, often bull-headed, and a bit of a curmudgeon. But, he really can do anything. He can hand carve dollhouse furniture, build a set of human sized bedroom furniture, build my mother an arbor, fix the electricity and rebuild a car engine. These are things I’ve seen him do with my own eyes, as I grew. So, it stands to reason that I would go into my marriage fully anticipating that all men were like this. I felt that this level of ‘handiness’ was merely part of the condition we call ‘man’. If something breaks, your ‘man’ will jump in and fix it, easily and with a minimal bleeding involved. I also thought that all men enjoyed being handy. I was wrong, on both counts.
Mr. Big Prize is many things, but handy he is not. On our Fujita handiness scale I’m giving him an H4. He is totally a ‘measure once cut twice’ kinda guy. Imagine my surprise. Nor does he enjoy any kind of handy behavior. He loathes ‘projects’, be they of the yard or house variety. Now, in all fairness, I do need to say that in the 14 years of our marriage I have discovered the root of the issue. A mans handiness can be directly measured by the handiness of his predecessor. If there was ever any man handier than my father it was his father. Now, his father was also far more stubborn and bull-headed, and curmudgeon may actually be putting it lightly when discussing Charles Hatfield, but he could do ANYTHING, truly. So, it only stands to reason that his eldest son should have followed in his multi-talented footsteps. My father in law, however, is simply ‘not’. Not handy, not at all. Period. I actually saw this man crawl onto the roof of his home to try to make a tiny repair only to faint from heat. I could go on and on and on, but I shall refrain. Therefore, one would only expect his younger son would suffer from some form of handy-rexia. To be fair, MBP did extend the deck in the backyard of our first small dream home, but that was the last handy project he has taken on, and that was 13 years ago. I’m assuming by this juncture in the story you are beginning to get the point.

Three years into our marriage, we decided that we were ready to move into a slightly larger dream home. We put our small dream home on the market, and planned a move back to my hometown, where both my parents and his were living. We planned to build our next larger dream home, which would take about a year, and had hoped to rent a home while the construction was going on. However, MBP’s parents were living as empty-nesters in a 4200 rather large dream home, and offered to let us rent their top floor. A GREAT idea, no? No. But that is another story for another day…. We took them up on their very generous offer, with one codicil; the dogs had to live outside. Needless to say, neither MBP nor I were overly enthusiastic about the idea, but my mother in law has a deep and rather irrational fear of dogs, no matter the size. So, Blue and Inky were to spend the next 12 months in a doggie chateau that MBP was to build for them. This did not bode well.

One beautiful Saturday morning MBP trotted himself off to the local home improvement warehouse, and purchased all the materials he felt were necessary in the construction of said doggie dream abode. There was some sort of chicken wire, and posts, and all variety of stakes and roofing and what-not. I’m not handy, and not expected to be, so why should we assume I know what all is required? What I do know is that the materials filled the entire storage area of a rather large sized SUV, and looked absolutely sufficient to contain two canines and keep anything else out. Mr. Big Prize started work early that morning, and worked aaaallllll daaaayyyy loooonnnngggg. He dug, sawed, stretched, nailed, bolted, covered and edged. If it needed to be done, he did it, and did it with copious amounts of sweat and blood. I would periodically peer out at him through the bay window in the breakfast room in that huge dream house and marvel at the intensity with which he was working. The enclosure was planted, grew, was covered and completed all by nightfall. He was so proud. I was so proud. His father was so proud. His mother was relieved.
That evening, just after dark, we trotted Blue out to her new dream home. Her daddy took her in, showed her the fancy new igloo for her to sleep in, and made certain her food and water were full. Then he scratched her behind her huge velvety ears, told her to behave herself, and wished her goodnight. Then, with a heavy heart, MBP came in for the night, leaving his big furry baby outside for the first time in her very un-doglike life.

We all immediately gathered around that breakfast room table to regale one another with tales from the adventure of dog enclosure building, and marvel at MBP's manly ability at handiness. In all honesty I think we barely avoided some chest pounding from both father and son. By this time it was pitch black outside, and the patio light had been left off. MBP had been inside all of about 5 minutes, and we’d been talking and laughing and he’d been gloating about 2.5 of those. As we sat there we heard a very strange sound outside the window. Not a bark, or a whine, or anything remotely doglike. Just a strange sound, and one that prompted my mother in law to flip on the patio light-and there she was, Blue, sitting right up next to that same bay window through which I’d watched MBP labor all day. Her huge blue eyes were shining, and he wet nose was pressed right up to the glass. She had, apparently, been placed in her new doggie Shangri-La, only to immediately make her escape, and plop herself at that window to join in the family frivolity. She sat there, motionless and staring, I’m certain trying to decide how long to let her father believe he’d actually achieved his goal. She was a good dog, and I’m certain she hated to hurt his manly pride, but not as much as she hated being outside alone.

Blue and her little sister Inky spent the next several months living in the upstairs of that rather large dream home with MBP and me. My mother in law learned to deal with it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Tale to end all Tails (or very nearly)

There are defining moments in the lives of every married couple, moments which foretell the way the rest of your married lives will play out. For some, it is the moment they say ‘I do’, for others it is the birth of their first, or perhaps even their second, child. For us, it was the morning I awoke to see my husband running half naked down the street, Pomeranian tucked under his arm, football style. Have I gotten ahead of myself? Perhaps a bit. Let me back up and begin at the beginning, as it were.
I’ve mentioned, have I not, that Blue was a bit of a runner. Not that she had anywhere to go exactly, but she certainly wanted to get wherever it was (or was not) in a rather speedy fashion. I suppose it was due to her breed’s extremely long history of being bred to pull sleds for exceedingly long distances for exceedingly long periods of time. And so, when our Bludie made one of her mad escapes, she was simply off and going with no intent to stop. EVER. Little Inky never quite figured out that she wasn’t a sled dog herself. Actually, Pomeranians were bred down from both Siberian Husky’s and Chow Chows, so it stands to reason that they could in fact be hooked up to tiny sleds and do some pretty mean pulling themselves, and viciously. Inky’s four tiny legs were fully capable of shooting out the gate at the same rate as her big sister, but her endurance didn’t quite match up. Our long family walks usually ended with Inky tucked neatly under the arm of either MBP or me, with Bludie dragging her feet in an almost childlike reluctance to go back inside. She’d look up at us with those enormous turquoise eyes, and seemingly plead for ‘five more minutes’.
Our small dream house was built on a bit of a rise, overlooking the green slope of our backyard, then that picturesque creek we recently discussed, and behind that was a public park where children frolicked, and fields full of little tots played organized games of baseball and soccer. Saturday morning was soccer day. Dozens of children, and therefore seemingly hundreds of parents, flocked to the fields on the earliest of frosty mornings each weekend. From the bay window in our breakfast-room we could clearly see the fields, the children, and all those hundreds of parents.
I was not in the habit of rising early enough to actually see these games, but Mr. Big Prize was usually up and busy during that time. I’ve never been one for early mornings, and am quite insistent that any normal person only observes 7:00 once a day. Mr. Big Prize isn’t much better-lazy mornings are something we’ve always enjoyed together, but on Saturdays at this particular period of our marriage, he was usually up and puttering about during the soccer playing hours of the day.
One morning I was lolling about in bed, enjoying the quiet and peace and comfort of my four poster canopy bed. Then, suddenly, the front door CRASHED closed, almost launching me out of the bed. Naturally, I was extraordinarily curious as to what on earth could have caused MBP to create such a noise on my restful Saturday morning. I walked into the living room, calling to MBP, and noticing the absence of both Inky and Blue. I walked from room to room, calling for any one of the three members of my little family. No one was to be found. They were all missing, and it only stood to reason that they must have gone off on an early morning jog together. Right? Sort of. But not really.
I wandered, still bleary eyed, into the kitchen to rustle through the refrigerator in search of something to eat, or drink, or whatever fell into my hand. Then, after said sustenance had been located, I settled into a chair in our breakfast room to watch all those little tots kick that black and white ball around at random. Expecting four year olds to actually play anything actually resembling soccer is just ridiculous, so it’s best just to put them in cute outfits and watch them trip all over one another. But the sight that met my still cloudy eyes was one for the record books, and one that would define my opinion of MBP for the rest of time.
Oh, there were dozens of little tots standing on the field, and hundreds of parents watching what was going on, but it wasn’t soccer that had the crowd enthralled. Instead, it was my Adonis of a husband; wearing nothing but a pair of old denim shorts, running full speed down the length of that soccer field after a Husky, while holding a little black Pomeranian football style under his left arm. It was unreal. I was incredulous. For a split second I was certain that I was still tucked tightly in my bed, and having some sort of ridiculous but hilarious nightmare. This couldn’t possibly be happening. But it was. There he was, Mr. Big Prize, in very nearly all his glory, running smack dab down the center of the soccer field, chasing an undeterred sled dog that was apparently determined to make it back to the icy tundra or die trying.
I stood at the window agog-nose pressed to the glass like a preschooler seeing the Macy’s Christmas window display for the first time-and watched as MBP finally caught that wretched beastie by the collar, and began the long and humiliating drag back home. The three of them had made it all the way across that soccer field, and now they all had to make it back. And, if you can believe it, not a single bystander offered to help. No one offered to help corral the beastie, and once she was caught, no one offered to help him get them home. Of course, none of them knew that he was a very nice man who lived in a very nice home with a very nice wife just around the corner. For all they knew he was simply a half crazed half naked wild man chasing the call of the wild along with his wolf buddy.
But that wasn’t what he was at all. In that moment I realized a number of things about MBP. First, no matter how suave and sleek a man may look 99% of the time, he looks ridiculous running half naked down the street. Second, and far more importantly, that sleek suave man of mine was more than willing to sacrifice anything, even his hard won and highly prized dignity, for the things he loves. I realized in that instant how very lucky I was to have that man of mine, and 11 years since that time, I still revel in that knowledge.
And yes, all three of them made it home safely. Seems Bludie found a hole in the fence, wriggled her way through, and convinced Inky to follow her. MBP had seen them as they sprinted by the front door, and had gone after them instantly, catching Inky fairly quickly but not daring to risk returning her home before pursuing Blue. This was the dog that made it 5 miles down the highway at one point before being picked up by one of our contractors. So, Inky had been toted along, football style, in pursuit of Blue. Many important life lessons were learned that day, and chief among them, always keep a pair of shoes by the front door!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Snake Bit

Like mother like daughter, as they say. We have discussed in the past my love of all things fuzzy and furry, slinky and slimy (with the exclusion of one particular worm), feathered and fluffy. Blue had the same affinity for all things in the animal kingdom, with one vast distinction between us; Blue liked the taste of them. Hence, her adoration of the opossum. It wasn’t that she only liked the taste of opossum; it was more that opossums were the only animal stupid enough to let Blue close enough to catch them. We would see Blue eyeing other animals; as I mentioned, our backyard was a bit of a wilderness, especially when we first moved in. So, there were also squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and all variety of lizards and skinks on the Bludie buffet. But, the problem with said buffet was that it moved, and quickly. We’d see Blue watching all those tasty morsels scampering across her plate, but she just never seemed to be able to rustle up the energy to actually go after one.
Day after day we’d watch Blue as she watched her buffet. We’d watch her glare at a particular squirrel, while practically salivating. She’d lie on the deck, and watch her prey scamper to and fro, and up and down, then she’d let out one of those enormous Bludie sighs, and collapse in some form of attentive exhaustion. She apparently just looked herself into a stupor. But, the opossums and their slow moving sleepy act just seemed to land themselves in the jaws of that enormous slug.
Lazy though she was, she was curious none the less. She was eternally snooping around the back-yard, sticking her nose into every unlikely place she could find, just praying one of those opossums might be lolling about playing dead. We never really worried about this particular habit, as it seemed to be one of the only normal ‘dog type’ activities Blue actually participated in. We should have.
Our small dream home was built directly in front of a small creek, which was separated from our back yard by a six foot privacy fence and a plethora of passion flower vine. The creek would rise and fall depending on the amount of rain we received, and supported a full ecosystem right behind my home. All form of flora and fauna flocked to the water, and we watched them without realizing the seedier side of life was living right under our noses.
One night we went out to grab a bite of dinner, leaving Blue and Inky to make their way in and out of the doggie door at their leisure. We decided after dinner to catch a movie, and so we returned home even later than was usual. Per usual, we entered a dark house, with two balls of fur laying in the entry way to greet us, but we could sense immediately that there was something horribly wrong on this occasion. Before we flicked on the light we could hear that Blue’s breathing was labored, and she seemed to actually be moaning in pain. I rushed to turn on the light, and Mr. Big Prize rushed to Blue. Once the light was on we were horrified by the sight that met our eyes; Blue was laying on the tile of the entry way, face on the ground, with her muzzle swollen to 4x its normal size. How she was managing to breathe at all still amazes me. We were stunned, horrified and perplexed; what on earth was going on, and what could have possibly caused this? Then, we saw them, the two puncture wounds on the bridge of her long nose, spaced almost exactly one and a half inches apart. “Laine”, MBP exclaimed, “Blue’s been snake bit”. Once again MBP was in a panic over his baby and looking to me for some kind of guidance, and once again I was clueless as to how to help. God totally knew what he was doing by never giving me actual human children, but I digress.
Luckily, we live in an area that actually has a 24 hour animal hospital. MBP fired off a call to the brilliant staff of said establishment, only to be told “she’s been snake bit”, and “give her a Benadryl and bring her in if she seems to worsen”. Yeah, really.
So, we forced a Benadryl down her poor throat, and stayed by her side all night long. We tried to get her to stay in bed with us, but apparently the bed wasn’t cool enough for her poor miserable hugely swollen face. So, MBP and I alternated between spells sitting on the tile floor with our 105 pound swollen faced baby, as she literally moaned and groaned and fidgeted through the night. It was the longest and most miserable night of all of our lives.
The next morning, her face was still huge, but not quite as wretched as it had been the night before. We took her off to our vet, who once again proclaimed her ‘snake bit”, (really Einstein?) and recommended we keep her on her Benadryl treatment and watch the puncture sights for infection (again, thank you for your brilliant guidance). Then, he threw a REAL gem at us with ‘Man, this was one heck of a snake that got her too. Probably a big’un. Copperhead, more than likely. Lucky she’s a big thing’. I’m sure you are all thrilled to see that tender hearted medical professionals exist in veterinary care as well as human care…. We left the vet to buy all the weed killer and Snake-Away our local hardware store had on-hand, and suddenly viewed that lovely creek as the center of evil.
Our Bludie recovered, after days of pampering and babying from MBP and me, but she kept those two perfect puncture marks on her beautiful muzzle for the rest of her life. They were one of the last things I saw of her on the day we lost her. They were part of what made her so special and unique, and were a very visible reminder that in many many ways, our Bludie truly was snake bit!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

Ah, la joie de vie, c'est incroyable, est cela non ? Ah, the joy of life, it’s incredible, is it not? There are just some things that make life très merveilleux, are there not? There are the big things, like love and family and the comfort of home. Then there are the small things, which for me include things like fabulous cheese, the Oregon coastline, and a great antique store. My favorite things-things that make life, well, life. We came to realize that are beloved housemates had their favorite things as well, which were as unique to the dog as the dogs were themselves.
At the time we were living in our first home my parents were living in my mothers first dream house (there are two, the second of which they are currently in). It was a beautiful circa 1927 Tudor revival, all of 2200 square feet, and beautifully remodeled. My mother had lovingly filled it with period appropriate antiques, and kept it polished to a high shine. My father is a pastor, and so after years of living in parsonages, then in a home that was not her choosing, she was relishing living in the house she’d wanted since the day she married. We spent many evenings there, with Blue and Inky in tow, enjoying a great meal and even better conversation.
On one of these evenings we were enjoying said conversation in the family room, when we heard an incredibly strange squeaking sound from the hall bath. “Skreeeaaaaaaaaaakkkk-SKrreeaaaAAAAAKKKK”-over and over….a strange and totally unidentifiable noise. So, down the hall went four adults, to peak around the bathroom door to see what on earth was causing the commotion. And there, in the walk in shower, was Inky, ruuuuuubbing herself down one wall of the shower, then turning and ruuuuuubbbbbing herself down the other. She was in shear bliss-totally unaware of our presence as she wallered and rubbed and rolled in the shower. And thus we became aware of her lifelong undying devotion to Irish Spring soap. And mind you, it wasn’t just any soap that had her undying love and devotion, it was ONLY Irish Spring. She would gladly have bartered her tiny Inky soul for the glory of luxuriating in the delight of just one bar. On the rare occasion that a bar was left in her reach, it would die a slow and incredibly painful death by rolling, wallering and eventually eating. Therefore, we had to take extreme caution to keep all Irish Spring on a high enough plain that Inky couldn’t get to it-and Inky could get to a lot. We decided fairly early on that her legs were in fact made from spring. While she stood only 10 inches tall, she could in truth jump around five feet straight in the air. Hence, Irish Spring had to be kept at an extreme height. However, we did allow her to feed her addiction in a less dangerous way. Whenever a new bar of Irish Spring was opened Inky got the box. And then, for hours and hours on end, that little black dog would waller and roll and push and carry and love to death an empty box of Irish Spring. She adored them to such an extent that when we eventually lost her, at much too young an age, to a strange form of lupus, we buried her with an Irish Spring box. But I get ahead of myself. For Inky, her joie de vie was as simple as a green soap box.
And then there was Blue. Blue loved many things, but few of them with the devotion that Inky showed to Irish Spring. There were perhaps two things that came close for her; rawhide chews and possums. As we’ve discussed before, Blue loved to chew things. She absolutely adored it. And so, in an attempt to control at least some of the destruction that the jaws of a 105 pound dog can wreak on your home, we bought her rawhide chews. She adored them, and we had at least a modicum of peace of mind that we wouldn’t return home to doom and destruction. She’d sit for hours in the corner, slurping away on her chews. Then of course she’d leave the soggy, gooey messes here and there for us to find with our bare feet in the middle of the night. But they kept her occupied, so we kept her well stocked.
One night, while watching TV, we noticed her quietly carrying her chew bone around the living room. And I don’t exaggerate by saying she was being quiet. She seemed to truly be creeping around the living room, searching for something. Then, the most hilarious thing I’d seen up to that point in my life happened. She buried her chew bone…on the carpet. She crept over to the corner, and ‘dug’ carefully with her huge white paw, then ever so gingerly placed her bone in her ‘hole’, and began to ‘push’ her dirt (?) with her nose to ‘cover’ it. Mr. Big Prize and I both sat, spellbound, trying not to burst into riotous laughter. At just that moment she turned, and locked her ice Blue stair on us. After a heartbeat of time she whirled and ‘dug up’ her bone, and promptly began to search for a new spot to ‘bury’ it. She would search and work, but one hint that MBP or I had spied her hiding place, and she was off with it again. Needless to say, I quit picking her chewy-bones up off the floor. Apparently she took exception to that action.
Sadly, the chew bone adoration had to come to an end. One night we were sitting peacefully on the couch watching television, when Blue sprung to her feet and was making gagging motions. There was no sound-no air- coming from her though. MBP jumped to his feet in a panic, yelling “Laine, she’s choking! She’s CHOKING”. Being ever the cool head and oh so useful under dire stress, I sat there and stared at him blankly. NOTHING came to mind. I had no solution for this nightmare, and our Bludie was chocking to death in front of us. By the time I collected my thoughts MBP had jumped to action. He was Heimlich-ing the dog. He had wrapped his arms around her abdomen, and was jerking violently on her belly in the absolutely correct upward motion. Suddenly, a chunk of chewy shot from her mouth, and Bludie was saved. MBP was a hero, but we were both emotionally scarred. Those chewys were tossed from our home faster than all the spinning wheels in Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom. They were banned and barred and written out of our lives. But, such as the case with most adolescents when parents have to make the difficult decision to eliminate dangerous things from their lives Blue was depressed and pouting. What was a Bludie to do? She’d lost her very favorite thing. And so, she replaced the chewys with the most natural thing imaginable-opossums.
Ah yes, Didelphis virginiana, otherwise known as the American opossum. These nasty tempered marsupials are in abundant supply in our particular part of the South. They are described as cat-sized, grey-furred, and slow-moving. Bad for the opossum where the Bludie was concerned. You see, when we built our small dream house it was located in a relatively new subdivision being built smack in what had once been a bit of heavily wooded Arkansas wilderness. No one had bothered to tell the field mice, grass snakes and the plethora of opossum that we were all moving in. Kevin and his five iron of death (yes, a golf club) dealt with the field mice. Now, please don’t send me hate mail. We started out with the catch and release system, then moved on to more ‘permanent’ removal methods; but trust me, when your wife is in bed with a migraine and a persistent field mouse ends up in range of your five iron, you take action, period.
But back to the opossum, and Bludie’s fascination there-with. Opossum have the strangest habit of perhaps any creature in the animal kingdom; they play dead. You startle, rattle or unnerve an opossum, and the stupid thing just lays down like it’s dead. Their jaws even pull back into what looks like a rigor mortic state. This is not a get-away strategy I’d likely employ, but more power to ‘em.
So, apparently, one of these stupid cat-like-grey-slow-moving marsupials wandered into Bludie territory, after her favorite chewys had been banned. We can only imagine the scene that ensued upon the encounter of these two beasties, but we do know that it ended badly for the opossum.
Mr. Big Prize found Bludie enjoying her new toy on the deck early one Saturday morning. Interestingly enough, the poor thing was still alive, or at least mostly alive, and soaking wet from being licked by Blue’s huge velvety tongue for hours. Periodically the poor thing would ‘come to’, only to be scared back into it’s death like stupor by the proximity of Blue’s huge canine teeth. Blue just went on licking and licking and licking…until her daddy went out and brought her in. The first time this happened we panicked in true newlywed fashion and called animal control, which promptly arrived and removed the soaked marsupial.
Over the lifetime of that huge Malamusky , some 12 years, we had to deal with no less than five total opossum deaths at her hands. Most of them were discovered outside, but on one very special occasion Blue brought one with her through the doggie door-joy of joys. None of them were bloodied or abused-all appeared to have suffered death by licking. I wonder, can an animal actually drown by being licked by another?? Needless to say, we learned to deal with the dead opossum more expediently. No more animal control; the trash can works just fine.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Jonah's got NOTHIN' on Blue!

I love Valentines Day. It isn’t that Mr. Big prize has ever gone overboard with demonstrative shows of affection on said day; I just like the whole idea of it. I love that there is a day set aside where we, as a nation, celebrate romance. As a woman, I feel strongly that there should be several of these days every single year, and as a Southern Woman, I feel they all should include jewelry. Sadly, MBP does not understand the concept of jewelry. He doesn’t see the ‘point’; he thinks there is no ‘need’ for it. Well, I can assure you that basketball does not nourish his body but I guarantee his spirit needs it-that is how I feel about jewelry. I very nearly had a heart attack this Christmas when I opened not one, but TWO boxes containing sparklies from one Fletcher Smith Jewelers. Now, mind you, these were not boxes containing sparklies of the four/five figure variety, but I feel we are making progress. But again, I digress.
As a now two dog family we suddenly found ourselves with new and rather nerve wracking challenges with which to deal. While Blue had been a mess even from her earliest minutes there were certain doggy issues which with we’d never had to deal with her. She didn’t ‘get into’ things. If something wasn’t right out in the open for her to destroy it was relatively safe. While carpet, plants and window frames all shook with fear when she advanced on them, things like shoes and trash and underwear went unharmed. You have to actually expel some energy to get at those particular things, and as you may have deduced, Blue avoided expending energy whenever possible. But then came Inky. When not trying to exhaust herself playing ball, Inky was getting into things. As a tiny puppy she’d squeeze through a cracked closet door and nibble away with her tiny needle teeth. Almost immediately upon her entry into our family I lost dozens of pairs of beloved mules and sling-backs. But she was so cute…how could we really hold her responsible? And how can you spank a dog that is so tiny and black that you can’t tell the front from the back unless its’ tongue is sticking out? I mean, really? Can you sense that I have discipline issues with dogs under a certain weight?
And so, because of my seeming inability to discipline this tiny black dog, she continued to get into things well into her adulthood. But the problem with that really didn’t end with her canines. She turned into some kind of small black fuzzy doggy crack pusher. She’d pull things out, Blue would chew them. They made an incredible demolition team. They cooperatively got into and destroyed so many things that our home became permanently infused with ‘odor du bitter apple’. Are you familiar with Bitter Apple? Bitter Apple is a magic spray that supposedly is so offensive to animals that they turn away even from the tastiest morsel. Ha. Not Blue. She LOVED bitter apple. Adored it. If we sprayed it on something, she licked it…and licked it…and licked it. It was absurd. So that was not help whatsoever, and the destruction continued. Inky was like a tiny doggy-crack pusher, telling Blue “Here, try this, just once. Just one little lick of shoe. It won’t hurt. Give it a try.”, and Blue was hooked. So, our personal belongings suffered, greatly.
Our second Valentines Day rolled around, and promised to be much different from our first. I may have mentioned earlier that the first year of our marriage was less than sterling when it came to the condition of our bank account. It was sweet, and romantic, but relatively bare in the gift department. I wrote a fairy tale, starring MBP as Prince Charming, and I received a love letter complete with custom envelope and heart stamp. The second Valentines Day looked a bit brighter in the gifts department for both of us. Strangely, I don’t recall at all what I got for MBP, but I certainly remember what he got for me. Lingerie. It was glorious, feminine, frilly and completely impractical lingerie. I had never received lingerie as a gift before, unless you count the white granny briefs Santa always left in my stocking from childhood until I moved out of my parent’s home. And white granny briefs this was not-this was a fabulously romantic/sexy gift of the variety that a husband gives his wife. It was a lovely top/bottom set, that was only slightly ill-fitting and a fabulous deep blue. I adored it.
Then, the strangest thing happened; the bottom half of the set disappeared, before I’d even had a chance to wear it. I knew exactly where I’d left it in the closet, and it simply wasn’t there. I had put it in the laundry; because I have a strange aversion to wearing things that are that intimate that may have been handled by God knows who before it goes on my person. I know-I’m crazy. But, as I pulled the load of dark clothes from the dryer that I was certain contained my beautiful new lingerie I found only the top. I searched EVERYWHERE for the bottom, literally, and they were simply nowhere to be found. Not a scrap, not a thread, nothing. They had simply vanished, and I was heartbroken. MBP was devastated, but we won’t go into the reasons for that here.
I gave up hope of ever finding any clue as to what happened to my beautiful blue bottoms. One evening a week or so after their mysterious disappearance MBP and I were out on our back deck enjoying the sunset. We were leaning on the railing, looking over our back yard, when my eye caught a bright hint of blue in the grass below. When I looked down I saw the unthinkable; my beautiful lingerie bottoms were at the base of the deck, having obviously passed through the digestive system of one very large animal, and having been deposited as…SCAT. My gorgeous Valentines Day gift was now Blue scat! Upon closer inspection (and we are not going into detail on how that happened, but it included sticks and much stretching) we discovered that they were still in one solid piece. My undies had passed, whole, through the belly of the beast. Even Jonah would not have survived that journey-neither did the undies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


How much more work could one little eight pound dog add to the workload? Gentle reader; let me warn you, never EVER hurdle this kind of challenge at the cosmos. She has a sense of humor, and she will bite you. The only two requirements I had of my new Pomeranian were that she be a soft fluffy bundle, and that she be a lap dog. In all my extensive reading and research on the breed I had learned two things which seemed fairly definitive 1) even PQP’s have a wonderful undercoat that makes them fluffy bundles of loveliness, and 2) Pomeranians were bred to be lap dogs, and therefore simply do not need a great deal of exercise. Once again, I was destined to be disappointed.
For the first year and a half of her life I defended her scraggly and under-coat free looks with ‘she hasn’t come into her adult coat yet’. After that time I simply embraced that she was bound to eternally look like she’d just come out of the river. In lieu of a short head and teddy bear face my Inky had huge ears, googly eyes, and legs as long as mine. We’d walk our two dogs side by side, and passersby would take one look at our magnificent Malamusky and say ‘that’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen’. Then, they’d see Inky. It was almost as though they were afraid they’d injure her tiny doggie psyche if they didn’t extend a similar compliment to her, so they’d follow up with a weak ‘and she’s cute too’. She wasn’t, God bless her little heart.
And so much for all my dreams of snuggling for hours on end with my lap dog. I was the proud owner of the single Pomeranian on the planet with an absolute obsession for ‘play’. And play she did…and play and play and play and play. Inky developed an absolute obsession with her tennis ball. She’d work and work for hours to gnaw an edge of yellow skin off her ball, and carry it around by that shred of skin, begging to have it thrown again and again and again. Throwing the tennis ball became a constant activity for Mr. Big Prize and me. I ran the vacuum, and threw the ball; I cooked dinner and threw the ball; I put on my make-up and threw the ball. Basically, if MBP and I were at home we were throwing the ball for our non- lap-dog Pomeranian. It became second nature for both of us to simply continue to pick up and throw that ball for our obsessive compulsive non-lap-dog. She trained us well, that is certain.
And then, we all learned a valuable lesson on paying attention to your non-lap-dog. We live in the South, as you know, and as you may know, it is HOT in the South. And it isn’t that dry heat that people out West are always raving about. It’s a muggy wet miserable heat. Even cool days are hot in the South. MBP and I were out enjoying a cool-hot summer evening on our back deck (everyone has a deck in the South. It’s mandatory). We were visiting and laughing and watching little league baseball being played in the city park behind our home. And we were throwing the ball for Inky, naturally. Now, the thing that you need to know about our deck is that it was extremely elevated. Because of the lay of our lot, the backdoor of our home was about 20 feet off of ground level, and so our deck was elevated, with a set of stairs running down to the grass below. So, we’d throw the ball down those 20 steps or so, and Inky would fly down to retrieve the ball, and run back up. Over and over and over she ran, up and down the stairs, each time dropping her ball at our feet. After several minutes or so, MBP glanced over and said ‘Look at that stupid dog. She’s acting drunk’. Sure enough, there she stood reeling and wobbling, growling at us to throw it again. We laughed at her, and threw the -ball again…but as she trundled up the stairs we realized what was happening. Idiots. Our scraggly, mangy obsessive compulsive dog was just about to have a heat stroke. She was spinning like a true sot at this point, and stumbling like a college kid after his first bender.
In the absolute terror and panic that parents experience when their babies are ill, we scooped her up and ran her into the kitchen, where she was unceremoniously dumped into the kitchen sink and sprayed with ice cold water. We filled the sink with water, and dumped ice cubes in, and at the same time offered her ice water in a bowl to drink (I of course realize in hind-site that she could have just sipped from her bathwater, but I was panicked). The whole time that rotten little dog kept her eyes glued to that darn yellow ball, growling at it.
Within a few minutes she made a full recovery, and even got to sleep with mommy and daddy that night. However, those few minutes brought home two realities A) ball play had to be limited, and B) Our dogs had become our family. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Trouble with Tribbles

A solution, a solution, my kingdom for a solution. Actually, it wasn’t that hard to figure out a way to make sure Bludie never had to be alone again, and it also played well into another evil little plan I’d been hatching in my heart. I honestly don’t remember the very first time I saw a Pomeranian, but I know that it was around this time that I had started to believe I was simply incapable of functioning without one. Actually, I decided that I needed to name a dog after my paternal grandmother’s long deceased poodle, which I had idolized as a child. “Inky” had been my first buddy, and I decided there needed to be an “Inky, part two”. This would be an ongoing problem for me; deciding on the cutest little doggie name, then having to find a dog to go along with it. So, Inky part Deux would be a Pomeranian. And not just any Pomeranian-this is me we are talking about, after all. Once I started feeling that deep little itch that can only be scratched by the addition of another puppy to the brood I ran out and bought the ‘All You Need to Know about Owning a Pomeranian’ book. Upon reading I learned that ‘the magnificent Black Pomeranian is both rare and regal.’ I love rare, and I love regal, so this was the animal for me. And really, how hard could it really be to find a ‘rare and regal’ black Pom? Hard. Really, exceptionally, unbelievably hard, trust me. Ten years worth of searching kind of hard. At least it was going to end up being that hard to find a HIGH quality ‘rare and regal’ Black Pomeranian. You see, there are any number of ‘PQP’’s out there, otherwise known as ‘pet quality Pomeranians’. What there are not a great number of are the show quality poms that overflow the pages of publications like, oh I don’t know, “All You Need to Know about Owning a Pomeranian.”
Lucky lucky me; I found a breeder only and hour and a half from my home! And lucky lucky me, said breeder was more than willing to load her whole brood up and meet me half way between our homes so I could view and snuggle her little bundles of fluff and joy. So, on a much anticipated Saturday afternoon, Mr. Big Prize loaded me up and drove me down to meet the birth mother. I envisioned the meeting going something like this; The breeder would arrive in her high end SUV, and open her back hatch up, from whence dozens of little puff balls of bouncing fur would spill out, smelling of talc and vanilla, females designated by little pink bows, males by darling bow ties. I’d never be able to choose, as they bounced and romped and covered my face in kisses, vying for the chance to go home with this dream mommy and daddy. The reality was much, much different.
When we arrived shortly before the allotted meeting time, in the parking lot of a McDonalds (why didn’t I see the tell-tale warning signs?) and were flagged down by a bedraggled looking woman in a vehicle that I think, at one time, had been a station wagon. She opened her back gate, which was being held in place by some form of coat hanger, from what I could tell. The smell which greeted me was unreal, and bore no resemblance what-so-ever to either vanilla or talc. “I’m sorry”, she said “a couple of them got sick on the way over”. Oh yes they did, and they had done so all over each other. She opened the little carrier they were in, and out straggled several sticky, mucky and very, very stinky puppies. Instead of bouncing and romping they were drooling and reeling. Of course, I felt so sorry for them, and that was the kicker. It’s a miracle they didn’t all come home with me. I picked up the single black female, and tried to snuggle her close. She lifted her little head to mine, and looked at me with sad little black eyes which said ‘please don’t put be back in that smelly crate’. “They don’t look very fluffy”, I said. “Oh don’t worry”, she quipped confidently “they just haven’t come into their adult coats yet”. Made sense to me. I’d read about the puppy uglies in Poms, but apparently had missed the part about the fact that said uglies don’t start until about six months, not six weeks. “Where is the mother?” I asked. Having learned a very valuable lesson from becoming the unsuspecting owner of a Malamusky, I had specifically asked that she bring mom along for the ride. “Oh,” she said “she gets sick in the car, and I just didn’t feel like I could bring her along”. And then I made the mistake of looking down into that stinky black face again, and all I could think was ‘rare and regal’. The next thing I knew I was writing out a check and packing that stinky little puppy into her new pink crate, with her new pink blanket. What is it with me and the stinky puppies?
On the drive home both MBP and I realized something about which we had been apparently oblivious before. The Pomeranian puppy in this pink case was approximately ½ the size of Blue’s mouth. Should the mood strike her, Blue could off this little one in one bite, and be more than ready for her second course. In a panic we considered several courses of action, then decided that letting Blue get a good smell of her in the cage before we let them meet might be the best way to go. Of course I was scared sick. All I could think was that my new baby Inky had just had puppy kibble spewed all over her by one of her gangly siblings, so surely our now triple digit weighing mutt dog was automatically going to think we’d brought her a tasty treat home in some kind of odd take out box. I sweated and fretted and nearly cried the whole way home.
We finally arrived, far more aromatic than we’d left, and trotted inside with our new precious bundle. We decided keeping her in the crate, and keeping that crate at no more than arms length away was the way to go. So, we plopped that crate down onto that taupe covered brass and glass coffee table, and introduced Blue to her new sister.
Blue ambled over to the crate, and put that huge muzzle of hers right up to the door. From the other side we could barely see a tee-tiny black nose push its way through the metal mesh. Blue smelled and smelled and smelled and smelled. Then, she turned her head toward me and made the strangest sound I’d ever heard; “THWACK”. It was a sucking noise, like one might make if ones mouth were stuck together with peanut butter and one had to pry ones lips apart. She turned back to the cage, and back to me, and ‘thwacked’ again. Strangely, it seemed both a nervous and cautious sound, and with her second issuing thereof, sat herself down in front of that table and laid her head just inches from that mesh door. It was love at first sight if the truest form; best friends in an instant. MBP and I believed from then on that Blue was convinced she’d had a puppy of her own, only she didn’t quite remember it happening. But that’s how the two of them functioned from that day forth. There must be something to be said about coming from humble beginnings.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our house, was a very very very fine house

We have never been accused of being fast learners. After the ‘plantscepade’ of 1997 you’d think we would have realized that this dog HATED to be left alone for any length of time. But no, we convinced ourselves that it wasn’t anything more than an overworked prey drive that had caused the death of our glorious philodendron. SURELY she had brushed by the offending plant, causing its leaves to dip and sway threateningly, which then resulted in its destruction. No one to blame but the plant, and an errant breeze, right?
We’d read all those doggy self help books, and had been completely suckered into believing that our dog was indeed completely indisposed to human companionship, while totally ignoring the truth right in front of us. Blue had become my constant shadow. I was home the better part of every day, and no matter where she was, there I also happened to be. Vacuuming the living room required stepping over the dog, dishes were licked clean before they were loaded into the dishwasher, no matter where I was or what I was doing, Blue was there and doing it with me. She was a constant snuggle buddy on the couch, and a play buddy in the backyard. She pulled me around the neighborhood on my rollerblades, and protected me from over-friendly utility workmen. I’ll never forget how quickly they backed off our property when I murmured the words “she bites”-she didn’t, just for the record, but I’m fairly sure she was about to.
Mr. Big Prize may have continued to try to rustle up some Timmy/Lassie dream relationship with that fuzz-ball, but it was me who really understood her. She and I were remarkably the same; longing for companionship and understanding, but completely unwilling to let anyone see our vulnerability or neediness. I suppose that is why her eventual loss tore at me in ways that no other yet has, nor do I think, will. But, we aren’t to that part of the story yet.
We are still at the part of the story where we hadn’t quite become ‘of one mind’ with the beastie. She hadn’t fully trained us yet. One night, one crazy errant night, we left her alone again. We again decided that going out to dinner and a movie might be a great idea, and as you know, these are activities where bringing your dog along is generally frowned upon. So, Blue stayed at home-alone-again. It had been a few months since the plant episode, and there’d been no sign of trouble since, so what harm could she possibly come to? Ahhh, but what we didn’t think of was what trouble we could actually cause. We could go off and leave all the lights in the house off, and that, apparently, is right out.
We came home, and came in through the front door, for some reason I don’t remember. There sat Blue, doing her now familiar Bludie ‘speak’. Malamusky’s don’t bark-they speak. They let out a series of guttural grumbles and half howls that sound remarkably like articulate sentences. She was speaking and speaking and speaking, tossing her head from side to side. I swear she was lecturing us about coming in so late. It was dark, and all around her, scattered on the entry way tile, there was some sort of white grainy debris. What on earth was this? I leaned down to pick some of the none-to-insubstantial pile up to feel the texture. It was wood-and painted wood at that…lots and lots and lots of painted wood?!?! That was the moment MBP flicked on the entry way light, and then the living room light as well. That pile of wood chips was all that was left of each and every window frame in the whole of the entry way and living room. Five windows. She’d chewed them down to the drywall. We were eye to eye-that dog and I-on the floor, surrounded by her handiwork. She looked me deep in the eye, threw her head back, and said ‘I Love you’. I swear she did. She said it a lot. We never left her truly alone again.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Out, out, darned spot!

It’s hard to imagine the damage that a 105 pound dog can do to one little innocent and unsuspecting house. As far as I know, that house never did anything to that dog to deserve the treatment it received from her. Of course, for all I know the minute we walked out the door the house starting taunting the dog about being a mutt, or a fatso, or some such thing. If that was the case then all bets are off, but honestly I just can’t see it happening. It was a sweet little house.
One thing that my fount of knowledge book forgot to mention was that Husky’s do not like to be left alone. Perhaps that is because it isn’t truly a breed trait, but rather singular to our own dog. Or perhaps it’s a Malamusky trait, and therefore lacking in the breed about which the book was actually written. Whatever the case, our Bludie hated being left alone, and she wasn’t shy at all about letting us (and that sweet little house) know about it.
It started out innocently, really. When we built that sweet little house we were young, and naturally, relatively poor. Isn’t that just a natural condition of being young? When we starting building our little dream house there were any number of things we wanted included, ideally. Sadly, all those little ‘ideal’ details came at a price-apparently $500 each. After one or two additions of $500 we simply ran out of budget room for ‘ideal’ elements. So, we sacrificed the tile for formica and linoleum, and got the front yard covered in sod in lieu of the back. We also had to forgo the fence to enclose the backyard, to put a Jacuzzi in the bath. In hindsight that still ranks as one of the worst decisions of our entire married life…but we were newlyweds and priorities were a bit different. We figured Bludie had been living happily in a less than 1000 square foot apartment for the first 6 months of her life, so why wouldn’t she be able to live equally happily in a house more than twice that size? Because, morons that we were, we forgot that MBP had been able to come home and let her out at lunch every day in the apartment, and that wouldn’t be a possibility in the new house. That reality slammed itself home to me the day that I left work early because I had the stomach flu. I felt wretched-truly-miserable-and all I wanted was to get home and get to bed. Instead, I came home to discover that Bludie was suffering from the same affliction as was I, and was left to deal with the affects of her illness by myself. Said effects were strewn from one end of the house to the other, and that’s all you really need to know about that. From then on, Bludie spent her days on the back deck.
But remember, dear friends, that one of the monikers with which we labeled our beloved dog was Bluedini? It was honestly earned. Since we had no back fence Blue spent her days blocked onto the deck with a baby gate. She had an uncanny ability to escape that confine, gate still firmly in place, and do what she did best-RUN. We got a call one afternoon from a former contractor of ours, letting us know that he had just picked up our fuzzy darling, some 5 miles down the road from our home. I guess she’d come looking for us; or she was trying to get the heck out of Dodge. But once caught, and she was back home, she was back in the house any time we were gone.
It all went well enough for a time, and it seemed that she had adjusted to being let out at 8 hour intervals. I’m not sure what she did all alone, in those hours we weren’t there, but since she didn’t seem to much care for our presence it came as a bit of a shock when we realized she didn’t like us gone. Her first act of letting us know her dissatisfaction with our absence was at the expense of one of MBP’s prize possessions, and of course, the house.
When we met MBP told me he loved ‘modern’ style furniture and accessories. I envisioned a bastion of masculine clean design-chrome and black leather-neatly tailored and elegant. While that isn’t my favorite personal style I wouldn’t have been far more likely to allow said items into my new home than what I found in reality. He may have loved ‘modern’ style, but his apartment was furnished in mid-century garage sale. It was horrifying, really, from the brass and glass coffee table to the multi-colored tweed couch. The only thing good about that couch was it was the same color as dog vomit, so Blue’s sick-up didn’t show up on it. What that meant was that all his man-trash made its way to the Goodwill (sick-up germs and all) and we bought bright shiny new furniture for our bright shiny new house and marriage. In deference to his personal preferences, and to the fact that when we were choosing the color scheme of paint/carpet and furnishing I hadn’t officially been asked to live there with him, the house was done in his favorite color-Taupe. The night I met MBP he was wearing a taupe shirt, and I had no idea how long it was going to take me to wrestle him out of that color. But at the time, everything in our world was varying shades of taupe, the lightest of which was the carpet.
The only things that really made it through the Laine-ado (like tornado, get it?) of 1996 were his house plants. It seems that before finding his dog, and his wife, MBP had been longing for something to take care of. I guess in an attempt to try-out care giving he had brought into his apartment a number of lovely house plants, all of which flourished in his care. The most recently added to the collection was a plant from his grandfather’s funeral. His grandfather, nick-named Cotton, had passed away just a few days before we met. The night we met he actually told me about the funeral and the plant he’s brought home. When we moved into the house we’d put that plant on the hearth, and MBP continued his careful tending of it. It grew, and was really a beautiful burst of life and green in an otherwise taupe world. After a few months it outgrew its original pot, so I bought it a new grand pot, and repotted it in rich, black, potting soil.
One evening we left for dinner (didn’t cook then, don’t cook now) with my mom and dad having come to town for the meal. We left Blue, as usual; sound asleep on the couch in the living room. She didn’t even lift her huge head to acknowledge our exit. So imagine our surprise on returning to find her sitting defiantly in the middle of the largest mess either of us had ever seen, with one sad dangle of that formally majestic plant drooping from her jowls. That gorgeous plant, and all its rich black dirt, was strewn from stem to stern of our living room. She’d apparently dug MBP’s prize plant from the pot, and proceeded to drag/sling/hurl/rub and grind it around the house. It also appeared that she had spent a particularly lengthy amount of time wallowing around in one spot smack in the middle of that living room, after having dumped the majority of that black dirt in said spot. It was so deeply ground in that there was absolutely no trace of the light creamy taupe color the carpet had been left in that spot.
We were stunned, and MBP was furious. It was the angriest I’d ever seen him at his beloved beastie. “Don’t hurt her”, I said to MBP, as Blue spit that last sagging tendril from her lips, and loped over to flop her huge self down with a sigh. Apparently, wreaking havoc on a house is EXHAUSTING.
We spent weeks cleaning that carpet, which never again was just the same color it had been. And that spot in the center of the room? We covered it with a brass and glass coffee table, which was then covered with a taupe table skirt.
We sold that home just a few years later. I wonder if the new owners have had any more luck than we did getting that black soil stain out.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A slight identity crisis

After about 7months of being Blue’s mommy I did what I should have done about 7 months and two weeks earlier; I bought an “All You Need to Know Before You Buy a Husky” book. Mr. Big Prize can’t read, so it was left to me to do the educating for both of us. I suppose I should explain a bit further that last seemingly libelous statement about MBP. He can read; I’ve just never actually seen him do it. When we first met, and I expressed to him my love of literature, he gave me his best crooked smile and said “I can’t read”. Well, since he owns a company whose primary function is writing publicity materials, and he himself is head copywriter, I’m assuming he is actually capable of reading. He just abhors it. I blame it on his adult ADHD, and his refusal to seek medical treatment for it.
Therefore, I was left to do the Husky reading and research. We found ourselves trying ardently to parent a dog that seemed completely independent, bull headed, stubborn, and bothered by our existence. I’m convinced to this day that if Blue had been capable of opening the dog food bag on her own she’d have off’d us both and buried our stinking corpses in the back yard. This was not at all the snuggly, cuddly, anthropomorphic experience either of us had envisioned, and I needed to know if it was the breed to blame, or had we as dog parents done something horribly, terribly wrong.
So, into the book I dove, determined to find the answers. I was so anxious to see what this fount of knowledge had to share with me about our baby Bludie. I learned A) Husky’s are not an ideal dog for apartment living (no kidding..) B) They have an inherent and incurable urge to run (you don’t say) C) They are not affectionate by nature and do not bond readily with their owners (well thank God it wasn’t our fault) D) They can be extremely destructive if stressed (we’ll get to that later) and E) and adult female Husky should mature at around 45 pounds. WHAT??? Wait, let me read that again. An ADULT Husky female should mature at around 45 pounds. At the reading of those words my Bludie was 7 months old, and 50 pounds. According to our book she wouldn’t reach her full adult weight until a year of age, or even slightly after. At this point I can actually remember feeling faint. If she weighed this much at 7 months, how much was she going to weigh once she actually reached her full adult weight?? 105 pounds. Yep. 105. By the time she matured, my dog weighed only 5 pounds less than I did. I guess its good I got my bluff in on her pretty early.
But my question/concern when I ran in to share the dread news with Mr. Conveniently Illiterate in the other room was “how on earth is this happening?” Was there something terribly wrong with our dog? Some crazy thyroid condition? Some incurable elephantitis disorder? Contamination from a nuclear reactor? Mr. Big Prize looked confused with my concern. “But don’t you remember”, he said “her daddy weighed 120 pounds”. WHUUU??? No, I did not remember this. Her parents hadn’t been ‘on site’ as they say, so we saw neither daddy nor mommy dearest the day we took her home, so how on earth did he know that she was the spawn of some behemoth?? Well, gentle reader, unbeknownst to me, the owner of that now notorious Christmas tree farm had pulled MBP aside while I was incoherent from the stench of the place and had shown him a photo or two of Big Daddy. “Yeah, “ MBP said glibly “her daddy was a big boy. He had a bigger boxier head than she does and a longer snout, his coat was a little longer, and his eyes were brown, not blue, but he was GORGEOUS”. “HELLO” I screamed back “HUSKIES don’t weigh 120 pounds, have boxy heads or brown eyes. MALAMUTES do!!” And it was on that moment that we both realized why we had gotten our puppy for such a bottom basement price, why she’d come with out papers, and why those parents hadn’t been ‘on site’. We also realized why she just kept growing, and growing and growing. We were not the proud owners of the pure bred husky we thought we were, but the proud owners of a mutt- half Malamute, Half Husky. We had a Malamusky. Those suckers are huge.

A message from the emergency broadcast system

We interupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this message:
Go buy Dog House: A Love Story, by Carol Prisant. It's on sale now at fine retailers everywhere, and more than well worth your $22 investment. You'll laugh, cry, and possibly be motivated to start your own masterpiece...or at least on online diary of all your own doggie loves!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's just get one thing straight...

And so we wed. It was a blissful time, settling in to that home I had so carefully but inconspicuously planned. It takes some real skill to convince a single, non-cooking, dangerously heterosexual male that he really does prefer the porcelain covered cast iron sink to the stainless steel. Mr. Big Prize actually moved in, with that dog, on the first of July. They spent three heavenly weeks together in their new home, before I decided to intrude for eternity on their domestic bliss.
Once again (do you notice a theme here) had we taken the time to educate ourselves about the breed we would have known that Huskies are not only obstinate and belligerent, they can also be quite aggressive. They are ranked by insurance companies as one of the top five most dangerous dogs to own, followed by their relative, the Malamute. Again, more on that later. While we had no idea of their propensity for violence, we certainly were well aware of their bull-headedness. If Blue didn’t want to do something she simply didn’t, and if she did want to do something, she did. And she did or didn’t do so as she darn well pleased. She absolutely was NOT allowed on MBP’s bed, but each day he’d come home from work, and peak through the blinds to his bedroom, to see that stinky shedding mongrel stretched out completely unconscious on said bed. By the time his key was in the lock, and that lock turned, that dog would be sitting obediently on the tile foyer smiling her goofy smile at him as he pushed the door open. That dog was a veritable Blue-dini.
Another breed trait? Huskies are totally without that most adorable of canine attributes-the desire to please. So, early on, she and her daddy had to have more than a few come to Jesus meetings about her peculiar and often unacceptable behavior. In the days before the dog whisperer, Mr. Big Prize figured out on his very own the best way to deal with a dog such as this. One fine evening I arrived at his less than 1000 square foot apartment, slipped my newly minted shiny key into the lock, and walked in the door-to find MBP pinning that dog to the floor, his mouth on her neck, growling at her. Yes, I know. For a few fleeting seconds I considered turning and leaving and never ever ever coming back. But he saw me too soon. “She needs to know who’s boss”, he said, grinning at me with a literal mouth full of white fur. And she did. From that day forth the two of them had a relationship where MBP was truly the Alpha, and she never even considered questioning it again.
I, however, simply never had it in me to hold the dog down by my shiny white teeth and make guttural noises at her, so she and I slipped into what I considered to be a relationship of mutual respect. She seemed to do pretty much as I asked, and was never openly aggressive to me as I cuddled beside her daddy on the couch, or ate at the table with him, or gave him a kiss goodnight. She’d sit/shake/speak/lay down at my command. She never ever gave MBP kisses, but she developed a lifelong habit of acknowledging my presence by bestowing upon me ‘chin kisses’. She’d put that huge velvety muzzle of hers on my chin and give me two tiny licks, right on the bottom of the chin. So, obviously, she respected me as pack leader number two, right? Ha, wrong.
As previously mentioned, when I married I was a real estate agent, and as such, had very flexible office hours. The first day after we married I decided to stay ‘home’ and finish my unpacking, and basically revel in my newly achieved domestic bliss. MBP kissed my forehead, and cruised off in that tiny red convertible to his shiny office in the Big City. And it was just me, and that dog. The day started well enough. I let her out, I let her in. I fed her, walked her, and then proceeded to ignore her as I unpacked and arranged. I’d spent weeks collecting all manner of wonderful knick-knacks with which to fill our new home, and now was my chance to feed my decorating compulsion.
Then, it happened. I walked into the living room to find that dog spreading all of her then 50 pounds of hair covered girth on my new off white couch. “OFF!” I ordered. That dog didn’t even lift her shaggy head. “Blue, get DOWN. NOW”, I said, in a deeper, more authoritative voice. A deep sigh escaped her, and one ear might have twitched in my general direction, but nothing else. SO, not to be intimidated, I marched up and grabbed that dog by the collar and wretched her lazy butt off ‘my’ couch. HA! There, you mongrel, now we know who’s boss here. Yes, indeed she did. For the first time in our many years together I witnessed “crazy Blue”. That dog whirled on me, crouched with legs bent slightly and spread far apart. With ears pinned back, and tail tucked, she began to spin wildly, first clockwise, then counter clock wise. She’d stop periodically and observe me, ostensibly to see if I’d collapse into fits of hysteria yet. Nope, I stood firm. That dog does NOT belong on my couch. I glowered at her from my 5’6” height, hands on hips, legs spread in an authoritative stance.
So then, it really really happened. That dog whirled off to our bedroom, and jumped her furry self right on up onto our newly purchased queen bed, beautifully crafted from wrought iron and bearing an imposing canopy. She hopped herself right up onto my side of that bed, did a few more crazy Blue spins, then turned to look me dead in the eye, and peed on my pillow. Yep, smack in the middle. And not just a little piddle-no, a HUGE gallon of it, as only a 50 pound dog bladder can create. I guess I was wrong about that whole mutual respect thing. She let me know, quite clearly, that this was HER house, HER man, and HER bed, and I’d better be watching my back. I was all well and good as a mommy from afar, but was absolutely not welcome to stay and certainly not allowed to tell her what to do.
I guess I was just too stupid to know that she was in fact, big enough to rip my throat out, and considering her breed, more than capable of doing so. I was furious- and in my righteous indignation I marched all 110 pounds of me into that bedroom, grabbed up all 50 pounds of her, and tossed her sorry butt outside-where she stayed for the next 7 hours, 59 minutes, staring in the door. As I cleaned, as I cooked, and as I made it perfectly clear whose house this really was. I’d worked way too hard to get myself in there, and certainly wasn’t giving it up for some Christmas tree farm mutt.
After 7 hours and 59 minutes, and right before MBP rolled into our driveway, I let that dog back in. I gave her dinner, petted her fuzzy head, and told her to stay off the couch. She did as told, and she licked my chin. For the next 12 years she and I loved each other quite dearly, and sometimes, I even let her get up on the bed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Lifeguard on Duty; Swim At Your Own Risk

Spring melted into summer, and Mr. Big prize finally figured out he was gonna marry me. We discussed marriage in May, were officially engaged June 27th, and married July 20th- of the same summer. And before your nasty little minds start to speculate, we have no human children, so no, there was no reason for the rush except the fact that we couldn’t see any good reason why we shouldn’t just go ahead and get it done. We were two adults with careers and a new home to move into, so why delay it for the absurd reason of looking for a better wedding venue? But I digress.
There were a few odd weeks between when we decided to marry until we actually did. They were, as you can imagine, extraordinarily busy weeks, filled with wild wedding planning (I visited the cake boutique and the florist in the same day), a house to finish up, furniture to buy (because MBP was NOT bringing his man trash into my new house) and parties to attend. There was also his crying mother to contend with (you aren’t really going MARRY that girl, are you?), but those issues have long since resolved.
We were having a lovely time packing and planning, planning and packing. And all the while our ever growing baby lolled about the house watching it all take place. Blue was never an affectionate dog. Had we known anything at all about the breed we would have known that Huskies really could care less about the people in their lives. They have one purpose, one love, and one focus-running. You have no idea how many times that theme will show up in the Blue stories. They are stubborn, single minded and uninterested in their people. But we were interested in her. No, I take that back. I was interested, MBP was obsessed. There was a brief time when I was concerned that I might have made a HUGE strategic error with my whole grand evil plan. The whole purpose for getting the dog was to make me seem even more indispensable to MBP, but there were a few brief moments where I feared that stinky shedding beastie might actually just replace me entirely in his affections. Truth be told, I think I’ve been outranked on any number of occasions by certain canine loves of MBP, but he won’t admit it.
One afternoon we were packing up that beloved tiny apartment of his, and found ourselves tired and cranky and extraordinarily hot. We glanced over to where Blue was lolling, and saw that she too was panting hard from the heat. This is the part of the story where I tell you that dogs over 25 pounds were strictly forbidden in his upscale apartment complex, and that MBP had been sneaking his ever growing bundle in and out of his apartment for weeks. But hey, we both figured, he’s moving out, so why hide her anymore? More than that, it was hot and miserable, and we all needed a break. What better, we asked ourselves, than a dip in that cool crystal clear pool that was oh-so-conveniently located just steps from his sliding glass patio door? We’d be pool free too soon, so why not take a quick afternoon dip…with our overheated dog? This, as you can imagine, was extraordinarily against the rules.
The pool was surrounded by an iron fence, bars narrowly spaced. We figured we’d all be safe and sound inside those confines. We jumped into our suits, scooped up Blue, and shot out into the pool. Because of the proximity of his apartment to said pool, MBP didn’t bother bringing either shirt or shoes poolside. What’s the point, right? Well…
MBP lowered himself, and that dog, gingerly into the water, and I followed. She clung to him madly, pointed ears dropping to the far sides of her head like they did whenever she was stressed or extremely scared. Her paws, huge in relation to the rest of her, curled around his shoulders, and her neck stretched as high as it possibly could to keep her head out of water. MBP is 6’4” tall, and we were in the shallow end. She was in no danger. It’s possible that only the tip of her tail was actually in the water. Again, had we taken the time to educate ourselves at all about the breed we would have known that Huskies don’t just hate water, they loathe it. Dogs bred in the arctic for sled racing hate water? What??
Mr. Big Prize gently lowered his frenzied bundle into the water, turned in my direction, and let go. SHE SWAM! She swam beautifully and confidently, and right toward me-her MOMMY!! Then, she swan right past me, right on to the steps leading out of the pool. The minute her paws hit stairs she was running. Up the steps, across the sunning area, and right through those closely spaced iron bars she ran, at full out top Husky racing speed. She took off like there was a village in Alaska dying from the plague and she was carrying the cure. And there were MBP and I, slowed from exiting the pool by the pull of the water on legs, unable to stop what was happening.
Before I knew what was happening MBP had bolted from that pool, over those iron bars, and was running wet, shirtless and barefooted after that horrified wet dog. It was a long long footrace over sticker filled grass and gravel, her four legs to his two. He finally caught her, and was forced to carry the soggy thing all the way back to the apartment, while she quivered and clung, and I laughed.
It would not be the last time Mr. Big Prize was forced to run, nearly naked, after his first true doggie love.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Blue started growing rapidly, as did MBP’s love for the stinky blue-eyed beastie. If he made the 30 minute drive to my parent’s house to see me it was with that dog on his lap. This became an increasingly funny picture as Blue eventually reached her full 105 pound weight, especially since many of those trips were made in that shiny-tiny-red convertible.
But before she reached that full weight she was a roly-poly little bundle of eternally shedding energy (working dog, remember?)…an incredibly active but still not all that bright ball of energy. Even as a puppy she was weighty, gangly, and enthusiastic. If there was one thing that our Bludie was most enthusiastic about, it was running. We fought a life long battle against her urge to run. That is, after all, what Huskies are bred to do; run and run and run and run….and run. And for ‘our’ Husky, the only place she had to indulge that running urge was in my parent’s oversized back yard. Mr. Big Prize, after surviving another harrowing journey on the interstate with a Husky on his lap, would keep her leash bound into the house, but the minute she was at the back door she was off the leash and gone. She’d run like the proverbial bat out of hell, in no particular direction and for no discernable reason. She was just OFF and going, full force, full steam ahead, no holds barred. It was all well and good, until my mother decided she needed a screened-in back porch.
She and my father hired a fabulous contractor, and work began on a gorgeous spring day. For two weeks the contractor worked on roof and three screened walls, while mother and I patiently taped off a faux brick pattern on the concrete floor and stained it a very believable brick red. Then we painted the frame a wonderful forest green and stood back to admire our handiwork. Then Mr. Big Prize came to take it and all it’s meticulously executed beauty in. And of course, he brought that dog.
MBP has just opened the back door and released her from her leash when my mother, belatedly, realized what was about to happen. And it did, just like something out of a comedy. That roly-poly bundle of not so bright energy bounded down our three back steps and ran full force, full steam ahead, no holds barred-right through the bottom left panel of newly secured screen wall in my mothers newly constructed screened porch. And she never stopped running-that not so bright bundle of energy had no idea she’d just burst through $1500 and two weeks of work. And we all cracked up laughing. We laughed until tears streamed down our faces and our stomachs cramped. Even my mother, who is not usually known for having what one might call a ‘sense of humor’ when it comes to either money or her home, laughed and laughed and laughed. Blue was always good for a laugh.
But, gentle reader, this erstwhile tale does not end here. Mr. Big Prize felt duly miserable about it. This was still early enough in our courtship that he was feeling the need to impress the girlfriend’s parents, and his dog had just managed to create wreck and ruin in their home. So, the next Saturday MBP showed up with hammer, nails, and a roll of screen purchased at the local home supply store. I need to insert at this point that MBP is not what one might refer to as ‘handy’. His father isn’t handy, and therefore, no one ever taught him the tricks of the trade either. So, even the simplest of ‘handy’ tasks tend to take a bit longer for him. Not so much now, after 10 blissful years of owning a home rapidly approaching its 100th birthday, but then…OH YES. So, he spent his whole Saturday measuring and cutting, cutting and measuring, lather rinse repeat-you get the idea. But in the end, there in that bottom left panel of that porch was a newly stretched and secured screen. You couldn’t even tell it had been replaced, almost.
We all stood back and admired his handiwork. I glowed with some ‘I’m gonna marry him soon’ pride, my mother thanked him profusely, and my father managed not to tell him the 10 things he’d done wrong during the process. Then we opened the back door, and out ran Blue.
Right through the screen, again.