Friday, May 27, 2011

In Loving Memory

To anyone who has lost a loved 'one', be it a fur-covered member of the family or a human soul, today's post is my offering to you.

Kindred spirits come in all forms.  C.S. Lewis said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What!  You too?  I thought I was the only one.'"  Have you had the pleasure of meeting someone like that?  Perhaps you have been lucky enough to experience this with a number of individuals. 

I still remember my first friend, Amy.  We were in first grade when we met.  I suppose I was a loud child, because I remember people telling me to be quiet.  (Gee, I hope it was only a volume thing...)  I knew Amy and I would be friends instantly when I heard her scream.  We were out on the playground, and I heard the most marvelous, gleeful scream I had ever heard in my life.  She was playing tag or something, and having a ball.  She threw off social awareness with abandon, and just had fun!  That was my kind of gal; there was an instant spark of friendship between us.  We were practically inseparable the rest of that year, and into the next.  I was terribly sad when our school closed down, and we each headed off in different directions.  I can still hear her raucous squeals of delight, and it brings a smile to my face.

My first year of Junior High, the little school I attended had a weekend get-to-know you camp.  I hated camp.  I had always hated any kind of camp.  Not camp"ing" with my family, but away from the sanctuary of home camp.  After lunch on the first day, I lagged behind the rest of the group.  I think I was reluctant about meeting new kids and was trying to stall going out for afternoon free-time.  Suddenly, I could hear singing.  {No, I wasn't that crazy}  Someone was actually singing very quietly, as if under their breath.  I recognized a wonderfully familiar tune by Burl Ives.  "Pickin' up paw paws, put 'em in yer pocket..."  Okay, keep in mind this wasn't 1962, it was the 80's.  I didn't suppose any kid knew Burl Ives.  Well, except me.  But Laurelee did.  Again, the spark of friendship was there.  Who would have known she'd become my best friend all through junior high, and eventually be in my wedding?

My dogs do make me laugh.  When Jack was little, he would love it when we came out to work in the yard.  When we would dig up fresh earth for any project, he became absolutely giddy, as if to say, "You like to dig??  Me too!"  I believe that spark of friendship exists across all boundaries.  We are all creatures created with the intent to delight in finding that mutual spark, to build friendships and encourage one another, to share the joys as well as the burdens. 

Our hearts go out to the grieving today.  May you enjoy the wonderful memories of those sparks of friendship, and the good times that were had.  May your future be bright with the hope and anticipation of friendships to come. 

In loving memory of Max 1992-2011


Monday, May 23, 2011

Candy from Strangers

We ended a busy weekend with a nice leisurely walk around the neighborhood.  Most houses on our route are occupied by families, many who take pride in their yards.  There are a few stand-out houses; some show off exceptional green thumbs and some are in the "Hey, at least I mowed" club.  Of the former, one yard on our route is particularly inviting.  It's hard to overcome the temptation to take off my sneakers and run barefoot across this home's immaculate grass.  This grass is cropped to Marine precision, yet looks a soft as silk carpet.  I always take in the dogs' leashes until I they are neck to knee with me when I pass by this house.  The yard is clearly too nice for dogs.

The great thing about going on walks with Two and a Half Dogs, three kids, and various combinations of neighbor kids along for company is that it is never monotonous.  There is always a willing number of dog walkers.  On this particular outing, leashes were exchanged in a manner reminiscent of the game Hot-Potato.  {I dare you to get the Wiggles song out of your head}  Near the end, Ken lead the pack with both Jack and Indy. 

I don't know what it is with dogs and nice yards.  It is as if they are drawn to them by a force much greater than they.  I suppose I could relate; while I am normally a responsible driver, quite capable of abiding in my own lane, if I come upon a narrow shoulder on the freeway or a carwash that requires me to line up my tires I tend to panic.  {okay, I kinda freak out}  The dogs must have a similar glitch in their processing centers which cause them to want nothing more than to stray from the sidewalk onto the beckoning grass.  I mentioned at the beginning that I too would love to run through the yard.  What I don't share with the dogs is their involuntary loss of bodily functions at the sight of such a yard.  (Fortunately nothing like that happened on this walk.)

On this walk, Lucy and I were about a driveway's length behind Ken.  He was just crossing the indentation of the driveway belonging to the dream lawn when I saw him hesitate and smile towards the house.  I thought I heard a voice say something about {treats!  I have treats!} and arms waved between two parked trucks.  I reached my husband and saw that the driveway was empty.  "Um, was he talking to us?"  I asked.  "I think" said Ken, through a frozen smile, hardly moving his lips.  Huh.  Okaay.  We took advantage of the moment and waited for our accompanying kids to catch up.  I am positive this is a fundamental law of the universe: kids will either walk three blocks behind you or in front of you, regardless whether they like you or not.

The immaculate lawn owner emerged from his garage carrying a bucket of dog treats he then set on the hood of his pickup.  "Wow, oh, there are three!", he said, ambling back to the pickup for more.  He returned and offered a strip of meaty goodness to Lucy first.  She looked at him, sniffed the treat, and backed away behind me.  Jack, never one to insult a gift offering, came salivating over to claim the treat.  Indy realized what was going on and came over and gratefully took his share.  The man offered Lucy a treat once more, and again, she leered at the man, then the treat, then scooted away, wrapping her leash around my legs. 

Before anyone could say anything, Jack came in for the kill.  He quickly lunged his neck forward, like one of the Hungry, Hungry Hippos {yes, this makes the second childhood game reference in one post} and snatched the treat from the giver's hand.  "Hoh-kay", the man said, chuckling, "You can have it.  I'm not going to eat it."  Then he handed me the rest of the treats he had meant for Lucy and said, "You can take those and disperse them however you'd like."  Indy was already focused on home, so we thanked the man and his wife, who had come out to join him, and we continued on our way.  Lucy shot quick glances around me at the stranger as we walked away.  Jack happily accepted the remainder of the treats.  I guess Lucy regarded the admonition not to take candy from strangers.  Even ones with the nicest yard in the neighborhood.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Jack.  My first dog.  Much like preparing for my first child, prior to the acquiescence of a puppy to the family I was eager to read all the dog books I could get my hands on.  I needed to answer the question: Could I really do this?  Not knowing anything about being the one in charge of a dog - especially a puppy - I was terrified I might really mess up.  I mean, when you start to think of it, a baby at least gives you some time to get used to it.  It's a mutual learning process.  A baby is fairly reasonable {in glorified retrospect, that is}.  The baby cries, you feed it, change it, or rock it.  Can do.  A baby stays put when you lay it down.  A baby is socially acceptable to bring with you into the grocery store, the bank or to a friend's house.  You wouldn't ignore your baby and leave it home for hours on end.  

Puppies bring the challenge of micro time management.  You must constantly watch them.  It's easy to get distracted and not realize your puppy has been relishing your favorite shoe (he was thoughtful, though: he left the other one for you)  You cannot bring them with you on most errands (say, to go buy a new pair of shoes).  You absolutely can't leave them in your car while you shop; BIG NO-NO!  When leaving them at home, crate-training should be kind and limited to short stretches of time.  So, what then?  No more going out on all-day excursions?  No day-trips that aren't dog-centric?  How do people do this?  Is it worth it?  The exchange of freedom for a furry sidekick who may or may not chew through, pee on, dig up and drool on every material possession you own?

Sleepy Jack, 5 weeks old

Yep, it's worth it.  Not only is Jack my first dog, but he's my kids' first dog, too.  We get to share that unique and wonderful "first".  As our dog family has grown, so has our appreciation of and compassion toward other creatures.  Our patience has been stretched.  We were definitely not a little dog family a year ago.  When Lucy came in to our lives {settled right in, thankyouverymuch} our perspective changed.  I wonder what would have happened to her had we not already had Jack?  Or Indy?  Jack was where it all began.  One out of twelve little rolly-polly white labs.  He was the sleepy one.  The one that had played with the breeder's kids all day and was absolutely wasted by the time we'd come to visit.  But he was the one. 

I love how Alex is "watching his head",
like she knew to do with her baby brothers

We picked him out at five weeks and
took him home for good at nine. 

We're gettin' a dog!

I like this one.

Our See How He's Doin' update photo @ 7 weeks or so
He looks worried already.
He's a worrier.
But he's our worrier.

Nick's telling him it's going to be okay.

Jack: Really?  Are you sure? 
It is very hard to understand you.
But I'll try real hard.


Could he be any more spastically happy?
Golly, I love that dog.

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What?? No Walk??

We have been particularly good at getting out for sunshine and fresh air lately.  The manic-depressive weather has been just that.  Considering this, we have been skipping school (shh!) in favor of walks when the weather is accommodating.  Don't worry, we finish our studies when we get back.  You just never know how long the sun will be out around here. 

We all were winded the first several days, with the exception of Lucy.  Even Jack, who is normally our "Let's keep going!" Labrador was slowing his pace on the second half of our neighborhood tour.  It's funny the difference between little dogs and the Labs.  You'd think that little dogs, having little legs and paws, would tire out more easily.  Huh-uh.  Think about that yappy neighbor dog.  C'mon, everyone has one, right?  Does it ever run out of steam?  No!  That furball's got lungs!  That same physical attribute helps Lucy keep on going like the Energizer Bunny. 

The up side to the multiple walks was that at night, instead of the usual white streak of lightening, bouncing off couch, walls, curtains, followed in rapid succession {although the results were futile} by a slightly slower yellow flash and a much slower, but very determined chocolate blaze, we had three zonked dogs.  We were able to read or watch tv in peace.  Yikes.  Maybe next year we should train for the Bay to Breakers.  The dogs might sleep for a week.

After a couple of weeks of sunbreaks, we even attempted to jog!  Everyone was feeling pretty great.  Then the rain settled in, and the excuses came out.  {We don't want that wet dog smell lingering around all day.  And we're so not the type of people to buy a dog a raincoat.  Say, we haven't watched t.v. in a long time.  Do you suppose there are still programs on?  Let's see...}  The first rained-out day with no walk, the dogs were still in lights-out mode by 10 pm.  That must have been carryover.  The next walkless day they were only slightly restless.  By the third evening with no walk, they were beginning to conspire against us.

Although we had spectacular weather on Saturday, it was devoted to a family yard work day.  That marked the fourth day with no walk.  The tension was high.  The Labs were alternating between sullen and whiny, "Why no walk, W-h-y-ieeee??"  Lucy was like a child who had been given super high-fructose candy in place of her methylphenidate.  If she were a cat, she would have sprayed our favorite slippers.  Thankfully, we have no cat to teach this skill to her.  {She is a fast learner.  We'd be in trouble.}  As it were, she proceeded to run around the living room, taunting and provoking the morose Labs to chase her.  When she tired of that, she moved on to the people in the room; nipping at toes, jumping up on unsuspecting laps with a rubber toy, making perfect eye contact.

Lucy is funny that way.  Jack and Indy are good communicators, but Lucy has a stare that is so intense, one picks up on her leadership right away.  {"Listen, boys, this is how it's going to be done"}  Have you seen UP?  Lucy is a much less evil version of Alpha, the Doberman Pincher leader of the dog pack, while Jack and Indy are an amalgam of Dug, the fiercely friendly dog who endures the cone of shame. 


When Lucy jumps up on someone's lap with a toy, she waits patiently, statuesque-like, for them to look at her.  We've messed with this quirk before to see how long she'd wait.  Apparently, it's until the end of time or we give in.  The longest we've gone is 4 minutes.  Who's training who?  As soon as eye contact is made, the toy drops from her mouth, and she scurries up and over the couch to"go long" in the kitchen.  Rinse and repeat. 

The other day my daughter asked what life would be like without dogs.  I said, "Well, we could go places for longer than 5 hours at a time, we would save a hundred bucks a month on food, and my couch would still be mushroom.  Plus, we'd save a bundle of time not having to sweep up dog hair everywhere." {This, though, is perhaps a fair trade seeing as how with dogs we don't have to clean up any food spilled or dropped on the floor.}  Really, though, I can't imagine my life without dogs.  They are hilarious, and comforting, and can really convince you of the value in daily walking. 

 Hope you all had a great weekend.
I'm tickled you stopped by. 

 Here's to a week of pet appreciation.  Show 'em you love 'em!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Can't catch me!

You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?
{thank you Kevin McCallister}

Get her!

hee, hee, hee!

Not even close.  Sorry, Jack.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Territory

Do you have a favorite grocery store?  One who's layout you know, and have finally figured out where the *&%# they keep the croutons?  Have you ever had to run to another store, even the same chain, and you can't seem to find a thing?  That was me, yesterday, at Costco.  I love my home Costco.  It feels right; I know where most everything on my list will be - except the Organic Tortilla Chips, they keep moving those around {grr}. 

Yesterday, I thought I'd be fuel-savvy and combine a somewhat long-distance errand several towns south of us with a stop at the mega Costco in the mega city on the way home.  Not my home Costco.  Shopping in a new store layout can, at first, seem interesting and fun.  Ooh!  What's this?  Bagels?  I don't think my store has bagels!  {okay, I totally know where the bagels are at every store I've ever been to... perhaps I should have said something healthier like, dried prunes, or yogurt, or baby corn}  After the novelty wears off, though, you still have a list of groceries to buy.  And it is important that you find and bring home all the things.

I think my kids deserved medals of honor for holding it together for the 78 minutes I spent in a disoriented state trying to figure out just where this Costco kept our staple foods.  Eventually we made it up to the line where I naively thought I had crossed every item off my manifest.  Upon being the next to check-out, I realized we never found the sourdough bread{much like bagels, this is a non-negotiable item on our list}  So we found ourselves faced with the dilemma: get out of line, losing our coveted spot so that we could get our sourdough fix, or keep the prized spot and suffer sourdough withdrawal.  At an hour and eighteen minutes, the kids were breaking their previous best for longest time without disturbing the peace.  I resolved to eat cereal the next morning.

Today is a glorious day {save for the fact I missed my sourdough toast at breakfast}.  Sun shining, birds chirping, dogs barking back with breathy smiles revealing floppy pink tongues... it's simply too nice a day to stay inside for school.  Math & Language Arts will still be there when we get back.  So, in the name of P.E., we leashed up the dogs and headed out for a walk.  We have a routine route that every creature in our house knows by heart.  Chalk it up to the weather, perhaps, but today I suggested a different route.  The kids were unanimously on board.  I thought the dogs may enjoy a change of sights, smells, and routines as well.  Jack and Indy were confused at first, tugging in the normal direction, and trading sideways glances as if to say, "Mom's lost it".  But their sweet Labrador mentality soon kicked in with a perceptible, "Whatever, I'm going for a walk!"

Lucy, on the otherhand, was not sure about anything.  She slunk along the sidewalk, ears pinned to the back of her head.  Conceivably, new sights and sounds seem bigger the smaller you are.  It wasn't until we had nearly made the full circle of our walk and were back to within two blocks of home that one ear tentatively pricked up.  {Something's familiar...}  She traded ears, not wanting to fully commit to both ears at a time to the happy & relaxed position.  Left ear, right ear, left ear, right ear.  Almost home!

Everything is NEW and BIG and SCARY!

Where the *&%#'s the house?

Glad to be back home in familiar territory

I hear you, loud and clear, Lucy.  

Happy Cinco de Mayo, folks!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Busy Doing... Nothing

Physicists argue whether time is finite or infinite.  I think they're barking up the wrong tree.  I think time has a mind of its own - some viscous, irregular, twisted property that doesn't like to commit.  On many occasions, I have gotten to the end of the week, exhausted and ready for the weekend, only to sit back and wonder, "Where did the time go?"  I look at my calendar.  Eh, it's got some stuff, but nothing like some of the super-scheduled families I know. 

Weekends can sneak up in the same manner.  All of a sudden it's Monday and people are saying, "So, what did you do over the weekend?"  My standard reply is "We were really busy.  But I can't remember what we were doing!"  I really think time is a sneaky creature. 

This past week was busy at Two and a Half Dogs.  Not filled with appointments or have-tos, just busy.  We took the dogs out for walks nearly every day.  We did homeschool & co-op.  We attempted to jog at the park (stop laughing).  Lucy found a new "spot" where she can comfortably rest while looking out the window at the world going by.  Unfortunately, she is more interested in what's going on inside and hops down before I can get a picture.  My daughter attended her first dance, and my sons took their first long bike ride of the season.  We read outdoors, played with the dogs, tried to tidy up the house.  Did some laundry, paid some bills, burnt two dinners in one week.  I can't remember the last time I'd done that. 

I know we all have the same 24 hours a day, yet I feel in my core they ebb and flow.  Some weeks linger while others vanish without so much as a Howdy-do.  In the end, all the little nothings do add up to something, I suppose.


Wordless Wednesday

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Day & A Very Happy 40th Anniversary

Had a great weekend here with the dogs!  The sun was out and so were we {we have the sunburns to prove it!}.  For May Day, we spent the entire day outside in the backyard.  We played fetch with the rope.  Both big dogs got much needed baths.  We played fetch with the tennis balls.  Lucy violently protested getting her nails trimmed.  I got to two of them before I required a bandaid.  I started to think that it may be worth the $12 to have a professional do this.  We played fetch with the wiffle ball.  We cleaned up the deck furniture, powerwashed a bunch of things, and mended the trampoline cover.  Then, we played fetch with the rope again.  We played a lot of fetch.  It was a pretty grand day for all.

Hey guys!  Look what I've got!

You want it?


Good girl!  Now, gimme.

Jack, looking deceptively happy during his bath.

Milk Bone reward!

Free Rides?  Cool!  {Jack's in line}

I'm next!

Still here!

Now me?

(looks like two against one)

Never give up...

I got it!

Let's play some more!


Good job, Lucy!

Waiting to fetch...

Indy thinks fetch is more of a spectator's sport

Triumphant Jack.

On a side note, I wanted to wish my mom and dad a
very happy 40th wedding anniversary!  
How fantastic is that?  Congratulations are definitely in order. 
Love you both so much. 
{Further Congrats over on Almost There}

Have a great Monday, everyone.  So glad you stopped by!