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.