Wednesday, May 27, 2020

6 Months

Well, actually, it's almost seven months now and our girl-dog, Cully, is still a work in progress. However, huge strides have been made. We no longer have to drive her to the lake every morning for a walk (woohoo). Whereas before her fear kept her from enjoying a ramble 'round the 'hood, now she will willingly hit the sidewalk with us for a daily stroll. Trash trucks and other noisy vehicles continue to be fear-inducing but we try to mitigate the anxiety by leading her up into the middle of the nearest yard so that she is well away from the street and can watch the monsters drive by from a safe distance. (So far, no one has called the cops on us. We are grateful.) Now that she no longer tries to back out of her skin in fear-induced panic, we recently (last week) removed her second leash - the one that was attached to a slip collar - and walk her with only a single lead attached to a harness.

Cully is still the most comfortable napping on her couch in the house, but now that the weather has warmed a bit, she can be seen (alone! more progress!) in the backyard enjoying a snooze in the sun. She also enjoys a gentle stroll around the garden with her doppelganger sister, Juno, and LOVES to help Lionel in his quest to eradicate all chipmunks from the face of the earth.

Being a smart dog, Cully is practicing social distancing. We are too, and so is Juno. Lionel, however, is another matter. His huge circle of fans demands his attention and he continues to make his daily rounds to visit the neighbors.

We hope all of you are staying safe in these trying times and have attached a video of Cully in action. We are not exactly sure what the action was but here ya go.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Comparison, Part 2

The only thing that Ray was ever afraid of (at least that I can remember) was the vacuum cleaner. He didn't tremble in fear or yell at it, he just removed himself from its vicinity as quickly as possible. For the first I-don't-know-how-many years, Ray would exit the house and stand in the bushes until I was done (I didn't vacuum much in the winter). Then as he grew braver, he would just go to a different room. Toward the end of his life when he finally conquered his fear, he would lie on the couch and "watch" it. If I bumped his couch as I was vacuuming, he would climb down and move to a chair or the other couch.

The only thing that Cully is not afraid of is the vacuum cleaner. Although she is a bit nervous when I vacuum, she doesn't head for the hills, doesn't tremble in fear, and doesn't bark at it. I can only tell she is nervous by the fact that she picks up her favorite toys and surrounds herself on the couch with them while I go about my chore. Her other less-favorite toys are left on the floor to fend for themselves.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Three Months

Yesterday was Cully's three month anniversary with us. I'd say it's almost as if she has always been with us, but truthfully that new dog smell still lingers about her, and it's a bit of a thrill whenever I take her out for a spin. I think part of the reason the feeling of special-ness remains is because it was just so difficult to adopt a dog in the first place.

So at the three month mark this is what we have;
...a rocket dog who races around the yard so fast that I have to hold my breath while watching her. It is really really really hard to adjust to a dog that can see, never mind one that can see at the speed of light. The paradox is, although she seems to love being outside, she is still mostly afraid to go out alone. The one, single thing that got her through the dog door of death without a person to keep her company, was a probable raccoon in the yard behind us. She spent the better part of an hour jumping up the fence trying to get to whatever-it-was. It was only when she started her basso profundo serenading that I had to bring her in for the day.

...a dog that sleeps as much as the cats. This dog is a couch potato. Unlike Ray who liked his daily game of keep away after breakfast and dinner, and liked to poke around the backyard looking for stuff, Cully likes a nice nap. She also likes a nap after her morning walk. That nap lasts all day until her afternoon ramble around the cul-de-sac with Lionel, quickly followed by dinner and her ecstatic greeting of Gregg as he arrives home from work. All of that wears her out terribly so she needs a nap until she goes to bed.

...a dog who is always excited to go for a walk but, four out of five times, only gets half a block before fear takes over and she wants to go home so that we can drive to the lake. There, she still has fears which manifest themselves in foamy drool that stretches elastically until she shakes her head to whip it off her mouth. More often than not,  all it does is wrap around her muzzle. I bring extra Kleenex with me wherever we go.

...a dog that is pawsy. I'm a third degree black belt and have been punched in the face more by this dog than I had been in 12 years of taekwondo. She would make a great martial artist.

...a dog that doesn't seem to like other dogs. Although we were told that Cully got along with all the other dogs at the shelter and they all liked to play with her, we have yet to find one that she will tolerate. I'm guessing it is part of her fear response. We'll see how this changes over time.

...a dog that has gone from a quivering bowl of jello when any truck went up the street to one that ignores mostly everything but the trash trucks. Those get fearsome growls and barking. Since trash trucks go up the street every single day (some of them before seven in the morning) we are diligently working on getting her to ignore them too.

...a dog that is still trying to get Lionel to play.  Hilarious.

On a side note, I always kind of wondered how many miles I walked with Ray over the years so I decided to keep a walking journal (until I get bored with it). So far, Cully and I have walked 172 miles.

Cully, have you seen my roving?

What's roving?

Feels like a pillow to me.

Ok, so now I know. Not a pillow.

Guess I'll have to use my toys instead.

Friday, January 10, 2020


Lionel is one of the stranger cats I've ever owned (I've had cats since I was about 8). He fears nothing, is dumb as a box of highly intelligent rocks, and clearly believes deep down in his soul that he is a dog. But, like people who research their ancestry, find out they are descended from one nationality, and attach themselves to their roots without ever learning a line of their ancestral language, Lionel speaks not a word of dog.

This did not appear to be a problem with Lionel and Ray interactions. Since Ray couldn't see that Lionel was not a dog, Ray obviously thought that Lionel was a dog. Their communication consisted of Ray, every day at three o'clock, standing over Lionel blasting him with the doghorn while Lionel laid there basking in the sound vibrations. Although not immediately apparent to observers why this happened, they both enjoyed this exchange and Ray clearly thought his pack-mate was a very good listener.

Now that he has a new dog, Lionel's lack of language skills has become a bit of an issue. Because Cully can see and wants to play with her new, slightly-odd-looking dog. When Cully goes into a spastic play bow, Lionel arches and puffs. When she butts him with her nose, he bops her. I can see Lionel is very confused by these messages because his other dog never communicated in this way but it in no way interferes with his attachment to Cully. He still wants to go on walks with her (the afternoon walk consists of a stroll around the cul-de-sac with both of them while Juno waits at the end of the driveway watching to make sure everyone gets home safely), likes sleeping with her on the couch in the evening, and doesn't even seem to mind (much) that he is constantly being stepped on by his bigger sister.

As for Cully, she is much better at learning a new language than Lionel. Although she can't actually speak cat, she can clearly understand a few words. When Juno starts making her porpoise noises because there is something being prepared in the kitchen that she is excited about, Cully magically appears. I have every confidence that our new dog will be fluent in cat in no time. If she ever starts to speak it, however, I will immediately be contacting Ripley's.

Our two dogs

Wednesday, January 1, 2020


It's funny how bringing home a new dog makes you think of your old dog. Now that we have Cully, I think of Ray all the time. There is a constant mental comparison going on. Not in a bad way just a "huh" kind of way. Either Cully does something just like Ray resulting in an "Oh, Ray used to do that!" moment, or she does something totally the opposite which makes me think, "Well, Ray never used to do THAT."

Every day, for every tiny detail, comparisons are made. Cully is incredibly excited at mealtime and finishes her meal in a gulp whereas Ray would politely wait just outside the kitchen and then slowly and methodically eat his bowl of gruel. Sometimes he even finished it. Cully looks out windows, which I find fascinating. Ray only ever "looked" out the front door. Cully likes only the couches; Ray liked variety, sleeping on the couches and the chairs and the floor. Cully steps on Lionel without even noticing; Ray rarely, if ever, stepped on a cat. Cully steals fabric softener sheets to roll around on, so did Ray. After a big show of chewing a vegetable, Cully either spits out a big glob of whatever or actually EATS a veg. Ray would never let a vegetable even TOUCH his lips. Cully is unsure around children; Ray could not contain his excitement. Cully is afraid of everything; Ray was fearless. Cully loves her new brain game (Christmas present) just as much as Ray loved his (brain games were his raison d'ĂȘtre).

Then there are the physical comparisons. Cully's ears are longer than Ray's. She doesn't have his stamina. Her voice is deeper and more melodious than Ray's (but let's face it, there will never be another fog horn crossed with a seal). Cully's legs are shorter but somehow she takes up more room on a couch than Ray. Cully doesn't have the dancing eyebrows that Ray had or his head tilt (I really miss these), but she has a tail wag that can't be beat. Cully is paws-y, she likes to touch her humans; Ray was careful where he put his paws.

The comparisons go on and on. I can't stop myself from making them but they make me realize something: We love Cully just as much as we loved Ray. She is more "special needs" than he ever was but it doesn't matter, I am grateful that she is here and that she reminds me every day of our amazing, 'gone but not forgotten' blind boy.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Headnote* (I don't really plan on posting to this blog any more. But then I didn't plan on posting at all after Ray died. Since I'm obviously incapable of cutting Ray's followers off without a word, I'm going to post this Cully update. I honestly can't say if there will be more or not. I like to keep myself in the dark about what I'm going to do next.)

Cully's paperwork said that she was picked up in February in a rural Virginia county, emaciated and in heat. Apparently she was immediately spayed and sent to Northern Virginia. When we adopted her, she had been at the Humane Society for eight long months. Although she was listed by the Society as a 35 pound "hound mix," in actuality she was a 58 pound Treeing Walker Coonhound (if she is a "mix," she is one hound mixed with another).

Cully came with her own bottle of Prozac and a big bag of fear. When we got her home it was raining so we took her in through the kitchen entrance. She was terrified to enter so, with one of us at her head and one at the rear, sweet talking the whole time, we coaxed/dragged/pushed her through the door and into the house. Lionel was interestedly watching from the top of the cat tree. Juno took one look and ran for the stairs then stopped on the landing to see what was going to happen next.

We let Cully off her leash, dried her with towels, and let her go. She paced nervously from the living room to the TV room, stopping at the kitchen door every time to wag her tail at Gregg who was fixing dinner. She showed absolutely no desire to go any further than those two rooms so I brought out one of Ray's old beds and positioned it at the end of the couch in the TV room. She went to stand on it for a second as if to briefly familiarize herself with her new safe spot, then resumed her pacing. I noticed that the sight and sound of the TV was freaking her out so turned the sound to murmur. Gregg and I went about our business and left Cully alone to de-stress, telling her what a good girl she was at odd moments. Based on her house fears, I don't think Cully had ever been inside one before that night.

By 10:00 Cully had worn herself out and retired to her bed. Not knowing if she was housebroken or not, I brought down a blanket and pillow and settled in on the couch for the night. But Cully slept through. Gregg and I traded couch duty for three days but it was unnecessary. Cully slept. For most of the next five days Cully slept, waking up only long enough for us to coax/drag/push her out the front door or back door for walks or to pee.

Over the first eight days we weaned her off the Prozac as instructed by the Humane Society personnel; two pills for the first five days, one pill for 3 days after. By day six, Cully's personality started to emerge.

We have had so many firsts in the last two weeks that I can't even keep up; the first time she ventured into the spinning room and the laundry room, the first time she went up the stairs to the landing, the first time we didn't have to drag her in or out the door, the first time she discovered that she liked the couch (she has not been back to her bed since), the first time she treed Lionel (he was asking for it, he charged her), the first time she howled (holey moley she has a deep voice!), the first time she jumped up into the car by herself (a major celebration was had by all), the first time she used the dog door of death and didn't perish, the first time a truck went up our street and didn't turn her into a trembling bowl of jello, the first time she discovered where we slept and joined us in the morning (followed closely by Juno, Lionel was already there. We had a snuggle fest.)

So here we are at two weeks, four days, the owners of a delightful hound girl who already knows her name, wags her tail so hard it hurts, and is working on getting over her fears one-by-one.

What follows is a list of he things that scared her but that she has overcome
  • going into the house
  • leaving the house
  • TV
  • kitchen
  • refrigerator
  • cars passing us on walks
  • the backyard
  • leaves 
  • getting into the car
  • getting out of the car
The following is a list of things that still make her nervous
  • wind
  • lawn equipment
  • helicopters
  • wheeled things in general (bikes, strollers, carts)
  • vans
  • trucks
  • kids 
The following is a list of things that terrify her and make walking really scary
  • motorcycles
  • the trash truck 

Footnote* Juno really likes her new dog. At first, Lionel was excited to have a dog again, but ever since he was chased up the tree, he is reserving judgement. 
This is really scary. Do we really have to go out?
Ok, maybe this isn't so bad.

Couches are a marvelous thing.

Ahhhh. My favorite.

I claim this human as my own.
I claim this human too. He doth be mine.

Kinda liking this spot. Perfect for bone-chewing.

Mmmmmm. Couches.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A New Chapter

Saturday night, a facebook friend of mine posted a link to a dog at the Humane Society. She had "hearted" the posting so I took a look.

It said that the "hound mix" was one of their longest residents but that they didn't know why as she was such a sweet thing. I recognized the photo of the  dog from when I started my search back in April so I knew that she had been there at least that long. She was three and a half years old back then, so close to four now. Nowhere did it say if she was cat-friendly. Feeling rather hopeless but knowing that I had nothing to lose, I filled out the online application and sent it off.

The next day there was a reply. They wanted me to call my vet and give them permission to respond to the Humane Society's questions. They didn't want to talk to a receptionist, they wanted a specific vet name. (I had been to the vet recently and told the receptionists my dog-adoption woes. They assured me that they had my back, then told me a story about a vet that had applied to adopt a cat from a local rescue and had been denied. If a veterinarian isn't qualified to adopt a cat, I don't know who is.)  So bright and early Monday morning I was on the phone to the vet doing as the Humane Society asked. By the end of the day they got back to me with a request for me to make an appointment to meet the dog along with instructions on how to find their farm.

 Feeling more hopeful than I had since my third adoption attempt, I went shopping for new dog-walking clothes. I was not quite hopeful enough, however, to buy anything for a new dog. I should have known better.

Gregg and I had a late afternoon appointment yesterday. Last night we came home with a scared girl-hound named Ellie May. Since every girl-hound I have ever met was named Ellie May, we have been calling her Cully. She is totally in love with Gregg. And Lionel is totally smitten with his new dog.

Life is good.