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.