Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas with Ray the Blind Dog

Christmas was INSANE. Ray woke me up by thumping on the kitchen door at about 7am. I grabbed my robe and sweats and headed downstairs to let him outside. While he was out taking care of business, I put some food in his bowl, then let him back in and returned to the sink to clean up the cat dishes and a few things from the night before. I heard squeaking.
I walked into the hallway and saw Ray with his first present, a roll of 4 squeaky kong tennis balls, already half unwrapped. He was going to town on the squeaker of one of them, tossing the package into the air, spinning around, tail wagging madly.
I ran to get my cellphone to snap a few pictures but it was woefully unequal to the task of getting Ray in action on a dim morning. I ran to get my video camera. By the time I got back, Ray was working on his second present, a two- pack of flavored rawhide chews from my sister Kathy.
I recorded the event which turned into a game of keepaway. Gregg came down to join us. Hugo watched balefully from the stairs.
Gregg handed Ray his third present for the day and wished him a Merry Christmas. Ray settled down to open the present, revealing a rawhide bone with knots on the end like a pretzel.
Another gameof keepaway ensued. Then back to the flavored rawhide bones. Then to the tennis balls. Ray killed the squeaker on one and returned to the rawhide chews. He picked one up and headed outside followed by his videographer. Another game of keepaway followed by a burial.
We returned to the tree where Ray picked out a few of the cat toys and tried to open them. I insisted that he leave them for the cats. Then he picked up one of my presents and started to chew it. I took it away. He was nosing aggressively through everything interspersed with picking up his bones and tossing them in the air. (He quickly lost interest in the tennis balls.) Ray was a whirlwind of activity.
Gregg and I opened a few presents but Ray was enthusiastically entering into the spirit of Christmas by trying to eat my two new hoodies (thanks mom!), an earring box (thanks Kath!), and other packages (thanks Mary!). We closed him off in the kitchen while we finished opening presents, put everything breakable or edible up, then let Ray out. He returned to his bones.
Later that day, Ray and I visited his friends Halle, Maddie, Casey, and the two Bichons next door, Missy and Willoughby, and gave them presents of homemade dog biscuits. The previous day, Halle had come by to drop off a present for Ray (scarves, biscuits and a really cool flashlight/whistle/flasher thingy for his mom). He was so excited that his girlfriend was at the door that he barked (!)(Ray NEVER barks (ok - almost never)) and practically scratched down the storm door. It is absolutely pathetic how Ray abases himself for Halle. Ray also received a Babble Ball from Maddie. It's a ball that says something every time he picks it up or moves it. Ray was fascinated until it sang Hallelujah from the Hallelujah Chorus (just the one word). Then he dropped the ball, deployed his ears in dumbo the elephant mode and backed away a couple of steps. (He does the exact same thing every time he picks up the ball - it gets to the Hallelujah part and Ray gets freaked out and backs away.)
We had visitors for cocktails and appetizers and Ray just could not contain himself. The excitement of visitors AND the smell of Lil'Smokies was just too much for him. After trying to sit on the couch for half an hour and hold a conversation where every other word was "Bah" and jumping up every two seconds to grab Ray's collar or nudge him away from the food, I had a lightbulb go off over my head. We still had a frozen marrow bone in the freezer. The marrow bone was offered to the hound who accepted it and retreated to have a nice chew next to the Christmas tree. Peace descended and to quote from Silent Night, "All was calm, All was bright..."

I hope everyone had a great Christmas (or other holiday). Please feel free to leave comments when you have them - it keeps me motivated to write when I see that someone is actually following
Ray the Blind Dog.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I used to believe...
  • ...that there is nothing more peaceful-looking in this world than a cat sleeping but I have discovered that dogs are incredibly peaceful-looking too. In the case of Ray, they are also more mournful. I've never heard so many deep sighs and old-man groans than when Ray is curled up in bed. 
  • ...that cats are better than dogs because they can purr. Cats make you feel special by curling up in your lap and purring and purring. Dogs do this by putting their heart and soul into their eyes (even blind dogs). They look at you like you are the only person on the planet that matters to them (of course they do this to anyone with food in their hands but that is beside the point).
  • ...that cats are smarter than dogs. (actually I still believe this, I've just modified my thinking a bit. And of course some cats and dogs are smarter than others). What I've really discovered is how different their intelligence is. Cats are adult smart. You can see their brains working all the time figuring things out, looking at the pros and cons of everything then making a decision (not always the smart one though). Dogs are kid smart. They do stuff they have to to get what they want (If I sit, I will get a treat. If I learn how to open this gate to the upstairs, I can rummage through trash cans and maybe get food from the cat room). But the thing that makes me question a dog's intelligence more than anything is the fact that they eat cat shit and christmas ornaments and pretty much anything else.
  • ...that there was nothing funnier than a cat at play. But watching Ray try to kill a pair of underwear really cracks me up.
  • ...that I would always have cats and never have a dog. But we all know how that turned out...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So, how does a blind dog know which are his Christmas presents?
Today while Gregg was at work, I decided to take the Christmas presents downstairs to the dining room and do some wrapping on the dining room table. I grabbed some bags out of my closet and headed down the stairs trailed by my hound dog. Ray immediately started grabbing for one of the bags trying to rip it out of my hands. I shooed him off, deposited my load on the table and went off in search of accoutrements. Ray remained behind in the dining room (should've tipped me off). By the time I returned Ray had one of the bags on the floor and was rummaging around in it. I grabbed the bag from him but not before he had extracted a bone-shaped rubber toy. He took off down the hall towards his favorite keepaway route around the coffee table in the living room. We had a lively game for a few minutes before I was able to retrieve his now-slobbery present. I wrapped presents while Ray circled the table, every few minutes putting his front legs on the table and trying to relocate the bag with his gift, and every time getting a stern "Bah" for his trouble (at least the reprimand is finally seasonable).He's After the Bag of Squeaky Tennis Balls
I finished wrapping all the presents (except for the slobbery bone - it needed to air dry) then headed out to the mail stash to open one of the boxes that had arrived from my sister Kathy. I wanted to put the presents under the Christmas tree. The box contained presents for everyone, me, Hugo, Moonie and Ray (Gregg's gift was in a separate package). I deposited the presents under the tree and went to dispose of the box. I came back into the hallway where we had set up the tree to admire it now that it had presents under it (we set the tree up in the hallway so that we didn't have to rearrange furniture - we didn't want Ray to have to learn a new layout - although, honestly, I don't think it would be a problem for him. He's so ADAPTABLE). Ray was nosing around the base of the tree. He stretched his neck out under the tree and very carefully picked up a gift. He maneuvered it out without disturbing any ornaments then stood with the wrapped present in his mouth, his tail wagging. I went to check the tag. It was for him.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy HoliRays

Take me to Your Leader

Well, it's the holiday season and boy have we been busy. I was keeping a list of all of things that I wanted to blog about, but in the mayhem have lost it.

Ray has been a big help this season. He helped us pick out a Christmas tree (we figured that if he didn't stop to sniff it, he wouldn't feel compelled to mark it every day). He helped with the holiday cleaning by eating a couple rolls of toilet paper (I think his idea of "help" in this area might be a little different than mine).
Ray vs. Toilet Paper

He helped entertain Mom, Dad, John, Yuko and Hannah while they
were here for 4 or 5 days and even shared his bed, (Yuko, who was having an allergy attack, took a Benadryl, curled up in Ray's bed (while he was sleeping in it) and took a nap with him).
Ray Taking His Guests on a Tour Around the Backyard He helped with the tree trimming by staying out of everyone's way, then decided that maybe we had too many ornaments and crunched up a couple of the glass balls. (I told everyone to hang the glass high - but obviously his reach is higher than they thought. The second one cut his tongue so he hasn't touched one since.) He is such a good dog
Ray trying to Go Home with Hannah
Everyone Glad to be Leaving Before the BIG SNOW
Amazingly, Ray adjusted very quickly to having a tree in the house although his enthusiastic tail wagging tends to sweep whole sections of ornaments off of the tree at once. Also, he has tried to open one of the presents that arrived in the mail, but it WAS addressed to him and the cats, so technically he was within his rights. I explained to him that he had to wait until Christmas like everyone else.
Also, in the spirit of the season, we had a major snowstorm this weekend and Ray got to experience lots and lots of SNOW. To my complete surprise, Ray turned out to be quite the snow bunny. He LOVED the snow.
Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Is Anyone DOWN There?

For about 15 minutes. Now that the novelty has worn off, Ray is bored.
Will it Never END?
Has Anyone Seen the Cars?
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Headway

I was working outside raking leaves and grinding them up in the chipper/shredder. The noise is horrendous so Ray was staying inside.
After about 10 minutes of work, I checked on him just to make sure he wasn't getting into anything. Ray was in the front hallway, peacefully chewing a rawhide strip. I returned to work.
After another 10 or 15 minutes, I checked on him again. Ray was on a chair in the living room, curled up, looking peaceful.
After another 15 or 20 minutes, I checked on him again. Ray was curled up in bed, looking wide awake, but peaceful.
After another 20 or 30 minutes, I checked on him again. Ray was nowhere to be seen. The gate to the upstairs was open. I dropped my rake and ran upstairs. Ray was just coming out of the cats' room. All the dishes were empty but the bags of food were safe in a metal box (which is where they've been ever since he ate the bag of cat food last time). Moonie was in her tent completely oblivious. Hugo was in bed watching interestedly as I dragged Ray out of the room, refilled the cat dishes and put the lock on the cat room door. I took Ray downstairs, closed the gate and went back outside.
After another 10 minutes, I checked on him again. Ray was once again nowhere to be seen. The gate to the upstairs was open. I called "Ray. RAY. RAY!," then dropped my rake and walked to the stairs. Ray was standing at the top of the stairs "looking" down at me. He had a bit of drool hanging from his mouth. The hook and eye was still in place on the cat room door - holding it ajar just enough to let the cats in. There was a small puddle - right about where Ray's head is usually jammed through the crack - where he pushes and pushes but makes no headway against the hook and eye. Coulda been dog drool but I couldn't prove it.
I went back outside to work.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ray Makes New Friends

It was supposed to rain in the afternoon so I took Ray to the dogpark early. The rain started shortly after we got home. I spent the day cleaning and Ray spent the day following me from room to room looking bored. If I spent more than 15 minutes in one place he would curl up on the closest piece of furniture and take a nap.
By 3:00 he was looking for something to get into and I needed to go to the grocery store. I bundled him into the car with the thought that I would pick up what I needed then take him to my old Karate school to visit. They have an after-school program for kids 5 years and older, and I thought Ray might enjoy meeting someone new.
I picked up my groceries then hooked Ray to his leash to walk by the school. It was closed. I figured Mr. Jason was out picking up the kids so I walked Ray to the end of the strip mall and back. Ray was excited. He loves to shop (he was window shopping) and he loves the smell of McDonalds, Outback Steakhouse, and the Chinese and Greek restaurants.
By the time we got back to the school, Mr. Jason was walking across the parking lot followed by 15 or so kids. When they saw Ray coming up the walk, they all started oohing and ahhhhing. One little girl said "Can we pet your dog?" "Sure," I replied.
The word was barely out of my mouth when all 15 kids swarmed Ray, petting and hugging him. Ray didn't have time to jump. He couldn't move except to try to lick everyone's face and hands at once. He tried to flop on his back to get a belly rub but there were so many kids around that he couldn't maneuver enough to do that. He stood and wagged his tail and gave out kisses to all who wanted them. I tried to make sure that he didn't grab anyone's wrist (he only tried a couple of times) and that he didn't jump up and bop anyone in the face. Ray was in heaven.
Mr. Jason let us into the school with the kids. I handed some treats to the little girls who were fawning all over Ray and told them to tell him to flop. Ray flopped. The little girls were charmed and wanted more treats to feed to Ray. He was doing his one trick over and over (good practice for him). I told Mr. Jason that we'd have to come more often. He told us to come anytime. We stayed for about 15 minutes, then I dragged my unwilling dog away from his newfound friends and went home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The End of Thanksgiving

Three days after Thanksgiving. We decided to have a Cobb Salad with the remains of the turkey (breast) carcass. I volunteered to cut the last of the bits of turkey off the bones. The breast was covered in foil on the counter in front of me. The cats were standing by for turkey bits, Ray was in bed.
"Cough," I said to Gregg. "Cough or Ray will hear me taking the foil off of the turkey and come into the kitchen." We both started coughing. We heard the jingling and it wasn't Santa. Ray appeared at the door of the kitchen. "SIT. STAY," I said. Ray sat and stayed. I dropped a piece of turkey in front of him. Moonie scooted by him and up the stairs. Hugo hunkered down behind the rolling butcher block cart and watched Ray scarf up his tasty morsel. I filled a plate with turkey for our dinner and one for the cats. I dropped a few pieces on the ground for Ray.
We all gave thanks one last time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Everybody Play Football!

On Thanksgiving morning Ray and I headed to the dogpark. It was a bit later than we usually go and, because it was a holiday, there were tons of people and dogs. Two guys started passing a football back and forth while their dogs wandered around. A German Shepherd started chasing the ball as it flew between the two guys. The Shepherd was almost immediately joined by an American Bulldog and about a dozen other dogs, the shepherd and bulldog being the instigators and the most aggressive in their pursuit of the ball.
My blind dog Ray, not knowing what was going on, but sensing that SOMETHING FUN was happening, joined the pack, always about a half a turn behind the rest. They would be barking at the guy with the ball as he threw it, and Ray would be yelling his head off as he trotted the stretch between the two guys, generally headed in the wrong direction.
The bulldog tackled the guy who fumbled the ball. The shepherd took off with it, followed by the pack of dogs and the guy trying to get his ball back. Ray yelled. People laughed. The guy eventually got his ball back and the game broke up. We stayed at the park for over an hour. Ray was having a blast and didn't want to leave.
That night I was working on a project in my office. Gregg yelled upstairs "Ray's limping again. I massaged his leg a bit." "Give him an anti-inflammatory!" I yelled back. About half an hour later I went down to check on the hound. He was stretched out, sound asleep in his bed, snoring. Gregg had given him a pill and thrown a light blanket over him as he slept. (Do I have a great husband, or what?)
This morning, Ray was in fine form. Except for the slightly swollen leg, it was difficult to tell that he'd been under the weather the night before. We stayed home from the park even though Ray was obviously bored at home. It's going to be a tough convalescence while we wait for his knee to recuperate fully.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Top ten things I'm grateful for at Thanksgiving:
  1. My most excellent husband
  2. My wonderful family
  3. My great friends and neighbors
  4. Moonie, Hugo, and Ray
  5. Turkey and mashed potatoes
  6. Being born in America
  7. My job (when I'm actually working)
  8. Wool
  9. Olives
  10. Rubber bands (sometimes it's the little things)
  11. Dogparks (OK, so I have 11 things. Sue me.)
Top 10 things that Gregg is grateful for at Thanksgiving:
  1. A great wife
  2. My sister
  3. A steady and interesting job
  4. Relative financial security
  5. Living in America
  6. A roof over my head
  7. Good health
  8. Good running shoes
  9. Mac computers
  10. The invention of squeeze-bottle ketchup
Top 10 things that Moonie is grateful for at Thanksgiving:
  1. Turkey, catfood, lunchmeat, whip cream
  2. The hook and eye on the door to the cat room that keeps Ray out
  3. Her heated bed
  4. Bellyrubs
  5. Birdies (feathers on a stick)
  6. Catnip
  7. Catnip mousies
  8. Cardboard Scratchie Pads
  9. Her tent
  10. Milk
Top 10 things that Hugo is grateful for at Thanksgiving:
  1. Food
  2. Being able to terrorize a blind dog
  3. The gate that keeps Ray downstairs
  4. The hook and eye on the door to the cat room that keeps Ray out
  5. Bellyrubs
  6. Cat treats
  7. Chewy fabric
  8. Twist ties
  9. Small animals
  10. Windows
Top 10 things that Ray is grateful for at Thanksgiving:
  1. Food
  2. Dogparks
  3. Rawhide bones
  4. Marrow bones
  5. Treats
  6. Bellyrubs
  7. Small children
  8. Daycare
  9. Wool
  10. Coffee

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hey, That's My LUNCH!

Yesterday Ray was such a good dog that I thought maybe someone had switched him with someone else's dog. I also noticed that he was eating a lot of grass when we took our walks. This morning he didn't finish his breakfast and wasn't his usual playful self. It figures that Ray is the most perfectly-behaved dog when he isn't feeling so hot.
I decided that maybe it was the anti-inflammatories (that he was taking for his knee) that was making Ray feel bad. So I stopped giving them to him.
Noonish, I noticed that he seemed to be perking up. When I made myself a bowl of popcorn for lunch, Ray jumped up on the couch next to me and put his nose in my face, literally trying to steal the food from my mouth. I pushed him off the couch with my forearm. Ray immediately used his usual tactic of coming at me from a different direction. He hopped his front feet up on the couch and stretched his neck out. I "Bah"ed and told him "off", pushing him feebly with a hand full of popcorn. One piece popped out of my hand onto the floor. Ray hopped down and started sniffing around (how did he know that one piece fell on the carpet? can he hear a piece of popcorn hit the carpet? did it leave a scent trail as it flew through the air?). His ears were deployed in full Dumbo the Elephant mode as he sniffed, sniffed, SNIFFED. He was getting farther away from the piece of food when I noticed that the lamp and wireless telephone docking station were silently sliding across the end table. I quickly set my bowl of popcorn on the coffee table and grabbed Ray's collar. He was tangled in the phone and lamp cord. I removed the cords from around his feet, replaced the phone and lamp, and turned just in time to see his head in my bowl.
I guess he was feeling much better.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Makes Me Wonder

Sometimes when I'm standing at the kitchen sink, Ray comes up behind me and puts his nose on my butt cheek. Then he snuffles down my leg to my knee, moves to the other leg, snuffles up to my butt cheek and stops. I always find myself wondering...what did I sit in?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ray's New Toy

Gregg and I went to a yard sale this morning. I'm always looking for toys for a blind dog and this morning I bought two. A mink stole - made out of half a dozen little minks - and a sheep. Not a real sheep but one made out of wool. We all know how Ray LOVES wool. So here he is with his sheep. I'm saving the minks for later.
...And here he is playing with a rawhide chew.
And finally, Moonie when she thought Ray was never coming back (from the vet on Wednesday)

Friday, November 20, 2009


Ray is bored. He hasn't been to the dog park in three days. Of course, the first day he was sick. The second day, while he was still recovering (but bored), I took him with me to the PetStore to get food and rawhide. Ray loves to shop. It's kind of funny to see him become so overwhelmed with the smells in the store that he doesn't know which way to go first. I really have to watch him though. Ray is a shoplifter. Otherwise, he is pretty well behaved in the store. It's part of my training plan to get him completely socialized - expose him to as many people and situations as possible.
It's the third day and Ray is, apparently, fine. All day long he followed me around the house and when I stopped to do something he would hang his head and give a deep sigh. Or he would yawn so wide that I could have fit my head in his mouth. Then I would say "Oh the poor blind dog doesn't have anything to do. He doesn't have any friends and no one will pay attention to him. It's just so sad!" and Ray would look a little embarrassed but it didn't stop him.
I took him for a walk around the block this morning and we ran into Sasha (See "Ray and Sasha, A Love Story" 7-2-09) and Betsy (Sasha's mom). Ray was so glad to see Sasha. It was as if he hadn't seen another dog for weeks. They played on the ends of their leashes, both of them going a little crazy, when all of a sudden Sasha slipped her collar. She took off across the street with Betsy in hot pursuit, calling "Sasha! Come on Sasha! Come here Sashie!" I stayed on the other side of the street and was calling too, my heart was in my throat (I could only imagine what Betsy was feeling). I yelled to Betsy "Run AWAY from her and call her!" "Run away!" (Advice I'd gotten from my BFF). I pulled Ray on his leash and we started away from Sasha "Sasha! Come on Sashie," I was trying to sound like we were going to have loads of fun. Betsy hesitated for a brief moment then started away from Sasha too, still calling her. Sasha stopped and looked at all of her friends leaving, then turned and followed. As soon as Sash got within reach, Betsy tackled her (it was AWESOME). She pinned Sasha to the ground with her body, put the collar on her then led her back across the street. "That is Todd's worst nightmare," Betsy said.
It's my worst nightmare with Ray, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Ray the Blind Dog, who seemed at death's door yesterday, made a seemingly miraculous recovery overnight. This morning he ate his breakfast, then settled down for a short nap while waiting for me to get out of bed. When he got up, he rolled ecstatically around on the carpet in the front hall, opened a jar of hand cream to lick at the contents, tried to kill his bed cushion (a new morning ritual), grabbed a package of deli turkey meat off of the (newly cleaned) refrigerator shelf, joined me outside while I filled the bird feeder then tried to steal the bird food container out of my hand so that he could play with it (a half-gallon milk jug with the bottom cut off - an obvious choice for a dog toy), and finally, when I settled down with my coffee and the computer, he went back to bed. Obviously, not 100% yet.  
It's good to have him home. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I spent the day doing random things. I couldn't seem to concentrate, the refrigerator now has two shelves (of 4) that are clean, the kitchen has one clean window, the laundry room a clean sink , Gregg's office is (mostly) (somewhat) clean, two floorboards in my bedroom have been successfully de-squeaked, two spots on the stairwell have been spot-painted (where we removed the old pet gate), etc. etc. etc.
By 3:00 I couldn't take it anymore, I called the vet. "Hi, I'm calling to see if you have any updates on Ray." I said to the nice lady on the other end of the line. "Hold on," she replied, "I'll see if the Dr. has any news." I waited for a moment and my favorite vet was on the phone. "Well, he's up and around," said the doctor sounding chipper, "I'm going to take some X-rays and call you back in about an hour." "Great!," I replied feeling total relief that my dog wasn't dead yet, "Thanks." I hung up the phone and returned to my randomness. I shredded papers and emptied trash. 4:00 rolled by. I cleaned cat boxes and cleared stuff off the patio. 5:00. I wandered around the back yard looking at things that needed to be done. 6:00. Gregg came home from work. I called the vet again.
"The Dr. is with a patient. He said he'll call you as soon as he's done," the receptionist said.
At 6:50 we got a call from the vet tech. "You can come get Ray," he said "The Dr. has X-rays that he wants to show you when you get here."
On the way to the vet Gregg and I wondered if the doctor wanted to show us X-rays that would indicate how horribly ill our dog was or that would show a broken bone or something. We were nervous.
The door to the vet was locked when we got there. We knocked and the receptionist got up to let us in. "The Dr. is with a patient, he'll be with you in a minute or two," she said. Gregg and I paced and waited. After a minute or two one of the vet assistants came out with Ray on a leash looking perfectly fine. He sniffed interestedly at the bags of food around the reception area. Obviously his appetite had returned.
After the last patient had left, the vet tech came and led us into one of the rooms. The doctor showed us the X-rays and said that it looked like Ray had an inflammation of the knee and then had me run my hand over an area on his leg that was all knobbly. "It also looks like he might have been stung or bit by something right here," he said, "the combination of the two must have made him feel pretty bad. You can see that he is still favoring his leg. No more dogpark through the weekend. Give him this for the inflammation and Benedryl for the sting."
We took our dog and went home.

Ray is Sick

This morning Ray wouldn't get out of bed and wouldn't eat. We took him to the vet and dropped him off so that they can keep an eye on him.
Ray was fine yesterday although I noticed late yesterday afternoon when he got up after a nap he seemed stiff. But then we went for a walk around the block, he ate dinner with his usual gusto, and got up to sniff what we were having for dinner. Last night Gregg took him out to pee before putting him to bed. All was normal.
This morning Ray was shivering and wouldn't stand. We covered him with a blanket and carried him out to the car on his cushion.
The vet will call us later with info.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's surprising...

...the number of really funny stories that I hear at the dogpark that start out "I was doing such-and-such and the dog was with me, when all of sudden it got really quiet..."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ray the Obliging, Amazing, Blind Dog

I decided to go ahead and make Ray a bed out of the fleece fabric that he loved so much, despite the fact that his initial impulse was to kill it (see Ray and the New Toy). I used lots of velcro and a couple of different types of fabric with the fleece lining the bed part so that it was comfortable for the dog, beautiful on the outside, and functional for me. I can easily disassemble it, throw the outside cover in the wash, and replace the high density foam as needed. I finished the bed part a week or two ago and gave it to Ray to see if he would sleep in it without trying to tear it up. He did (sleep in it, I mean. Not tear it up).
Then I made a redundant, separate cushion stuffed with fiberfill so that I only have to wash that instead of the whole bed. I thought this was a little dicey considering his reaction to the fabric and the stuffed toy, but I had some leftover fleece and the fiberfill, so what the heck.
I put the cushion in his bed and Ray, the obliging dog that he is, walked over, pawed the fiberfill cushion to fluff it up a bit and went to bed. He waited until the morning to try to kill it.
Ray Testing Out the New Bed
The morning was raining. It was cold too. I figured I'd take Ray to the dogpark and let him run around a bit by himself (no one else would be stupid enough to go out in this weather.) I weatherproofed myself and brought along a towel and a flannel blanket for Ray for afterwards. (He is NOT a cold weather dog).
I hooked Ray to his leash, picked up my keys and headed to the door. Ray went along willingly (he was bored). He walked out the door and led me up to the car - this is where the amazing part comes in - Ray KNEW that we were going somewhere in the car.
I have all of my keys on a lanyard-type thing that I hang around my neck. When we go for a walk around the block, I detach the car keys from the house keys (they are attached by a small carabiner so they are easy to take off) and leave them behind. Ray KNOWS that when I have my house keys around my neck, we take a walk around the block - he heads off across the lawn; and he KNOWS that when I'm wearing my car keys, we go in the car - he heads for the car.
I think this is amazing.
We got to the dogpark, I got out of the car, and opened the back door. Ray stood up and looked out, blinking and shivering as the rain hit his face. I managed to coax him out (I knew once he was out and running around he'd be okay). The rain was pretty steady but not too hard. I turned Ray loose in the park and watched as he trotted off.
I looked around. Outside of the fenceline, it was beautiful. The fields were awash in fall colors that glowed brilliantly against the dank and dismal sky. Usually when I'm at the dogpark, I only watch the dogs. Today, I enjoyed the scenery and the experience of being alone with my hound on a chilly, rainy, beautiful day.

This was a park that we had only been to once before. I've been taking him everyday to one that is about 5 miles away. It's mostly dirt and I knew it would be an enormous mud hole.
This park is much farther away but the earth is covered with finely crushed gravel - no mud. It's not as interesting because there are few trees, just a couple of evergreens planted in two small, sad clumps with benches scattered along the perimeter of the park.
Still Life (well, nothing's moving)
I watched as Ray trotted around sniffing stuff. Then he did another amazing thing. Since there were no distractions, Ray started to memorize the park. He went to the fence line and walked the perimeter.
Then he checked out the placement of the few trees and the benches. I watched him go to the same few points (the trees and the benches) again and again. Then he came to me, did the spastic cannonball a few times to show his excitement (not sure about what), then he walked to the gate. He was ready to go.
Moonie Feeling Brave while the MONSTER Sleeps in the Background

Outrageous Generalizations

I love watching the dogs at the dogpark. I've seen breeds that I've never even heard of and have observed a few things about which I'm going to make outrageous generalizations. If generalizations bother you, stop reading now
  • Border Collies are not very social, they are only interested in chasing things.
  • Bichons always seem to be getting beat up by other dogs.
  • Great Pyrenees look like dog food commercials, especially when they are trotting towards you and all of their fur is flowing in the breeze.
  • Vizslas are attractive, eye-catching dogs.
  • Wire-haired Vizslas are eye-catching in a different way, they look like catfish with fur.
  • When a really good game gets going and four or five or six dogs are playing together, I find myself thinking of the term "dog pile." I think this must be where the term comes from.
  • Pit bull puppies have to be the cutest things in the world, it's hard to believe what people do to these dogs.
  • Sometimes a dog is so beautiful and graceful when it moves that my breath catches in my throat when I watch them.
  • Huskies, border collies, Australian shepherds, Australian Cattle dogs, and other working dogs need a ridiculous amount of exercise.
  • There sure are a lot of beagles.
  • Almost every dog I've met at the dogpark has been a "rescue" which leads me to believe that there are a lot of good people out there.
  • Almost everyone who has ever rescued a dog has been told that it is a lab mix despite the fact that it looks nothing like a lab.
  • People love to talk about their dogs.
  • I like to listen to people talk about their dogs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ray the Blind Dog Senses Something

I was working upstairs when I heard Ray start to yell. It was a nice day so I had left the backdoor open and Ray was in and out through the screen. This wasn't his usual yelling, this was a frantic, almost hysterical yell. I dropped what I was doing and ran for the back yard. Ray was at the far fence yelling his head off. The two Bichons on the other side were barking frantically also. I called to Ray, who turned and trotted to me, then turned back to run to the fence, then turned back to me, then turned back to run to the fence and started his hysterical yelling again. I followed him over, thinking maybe the little dogs had gotten him riled up.
I peered over the fence at the dogs and saw our neighbor, a young woman, lying on the ground on her back with her arms stretched out. (She has lately started having seizures). Her mother was on her knees beside the young woman, tenderly stroking her arm, murmuring soothingly to her while she was in the slow process of coming out of a seizure. My hound had either taken his cues from the other dogs, or somehow sensed what was transpiring on the other side of the fence and had frantically announced what was going on. I did what I could to help (which was basically nothing), the little dogs were anxiously running around, Ray got quiet. Her mother, with some help from the man across the street, half carried, half guided the young woman into the house. I took my dog and went back inside.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Sometimes you just gotta wonder what's going on in their heads.

Poop Patrol!

I really must remember to bring poop bags EVERY time Ray goes for a walk now. I can count on one hand (and have fingers left over) the number of times Ray has pooped outside of his own backyard. The other times I was lucky enough to have a bag in my pocket or found one the street nearby. Yesterday was not one of those times. 
We had walked up to the school for our morning training when all of a sudden Ray stopped dead and started doing the poop dance. I futilely groped around in my pocket for a poop bag and desperately looked around to see if there was a stray newspaper bag lying around somewhere. No luck. 
I took the ziplock sandwich-size baggie of dog treats out of my pocket and emptied them onto the sidewalk. I looked dubiously at the size of the bag in my hand and the growing mound of poop on the grass. Ray stepped aside and started to eat the treats off of the ground. I gingerly stepped up to the task. 
I guess I should have thought it through a bit better before starting. I should have turned the bag inside out. I now had a baggie full o steaming poop and I had no way of closing it. I daintily held it away from my person and we resumed our walk. 
We were a block from home when Ray got a wild hair. He started doing the spastic cannonball at the end of his leash. I was dodging and laughing and trying to hang onto the poop and keep it from being exploded by the cannonballs whizzing by. I was starting to sweat a little and it was 40 degrees outside. Just as quickly as it started, the fusillade stopped. We made it home without further incident. I found a larger bag for my smelly little packet and disposed of it with relief.

Training Update

Lately, I've been taking Ray to elementary school. Because he is so infatuated with eating little kids, I decided that the only way to get him past his obsession is to expose him to bunches of kids everyday. So, first thing in the morning, we take a walk to the local elementary at opening time. 
 I get Ray to sit and stay while a stream of small children, their parents, and strollers flow around us (he's really good at this part). The only problem is when one of the kids says, "Can I pet your dog?" When I reply in the affirmative, the kid gives Ray a pet and moves on. The problem is in the "moving on." The minute that the kid tries to leave, Ray lunges for their head to get in a quick lick or two or tries to grab their arm with his mouth. For some reason, he catches me off guard every single time he does it. I can't understand how he can go from docilely standing for a pet to full lunge in the blink of an eye. Obviously we need to work on this some more. 
Ray is really getting the hang of sitting and staying (except when there is another dog around). I think he will have this completely mastered by the end of the year (she says confidently, not really knowing what she's talking about). His flop is coming along fine, although a treat absolutely has to be involved for him to flop well. I use this command mostly when Ray is around really small kids and little dogs that are intimidated by him. He will lay (flop) and then roll on his side. If a little kid is involved then Ray will expose his belly for a belly rub, if it's a dog, he will just lay on his side and I usually have to hold him down while the dog comes up to him. Ray will then try to lick the dog's face to win them over. Works almost every time. 
The less we say about heeling the better. Ray is trying, I'll give him that. Our walks go something like this. Heel-3 steps. LUNGE. Heel-3 steps. LUNGE. Heel-5 steps. LUNGE. Heel. Stop dead. FULL REVERSE. Heel.  I really feel that progress is being made but it is a slow and painful process. The jury is out about whether or not Ray will ever be a heeler. However, he doesn't know it because I haven't told him, but I would be willing to settle for dog that just doesn't drag me around on the end of a leash.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What was THAT?

I was taking down the Halloween decorations. I had the front door open but hadn't yet replaced the screen, only the pet screen protector separated Ray from me. He was being whiny and kept putting his front feet on top of the mesh protector to see if there was an escape route that he hadn't fully explored yet. I was ignoring him (except for telling him that he was a whiny baby and petting him every ten minutes or so.)
I was in the driveway packing things up when I heard Ray's yell. He was in the house. Ray NEVER yells in the house (except for the first time he met Hugo, the first time he met Moonie, and the 4th of July). I dropped what I was doing and ran for front door.
Ray was in the living room. He was facing the sliding glass door. His necked was stretched out as far as it could go and his back legs were quaking in fear. I thought maybe it was Hugo. Ray was creeping forward a bit (now that he had backup), his legs were still trembling and he was snuffling under the end table, behind my wooden knitting box. I dropped to my knees and looked under the couch and table to see if there was a cat. Nothing.
When I stood up a small, brown bird flew up from somewhere and threw itself at the glass door. It was a wren. Ray yelled and retreated, his legs shaking, then crept forward again, his ears deployed in Dumbo the elephant mode to try to figure out what the heck was in his house. The wren landed behind the end table and hopped under the couch. I opened the sliding glass door and pulled Ray back a little. I got down on my hands and knees again and saw the tiny bird trying to make itself invisible under the couch. I told the bird that I had opened the door and it should probably leave before Ray started to feel brave. Then I stood back. (I have found that birds tend to understand exactly what you tell them, most people just don't take the time to explain things clearly to them.) The wren hopped out from under the couch and took off through the door. Ray pulled himself together and followed cautiously. I closed the door after him and returned to my work.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween is my favorite holiday. Gregg's too. We love giving out candy to kids and we love costumes. I like to decorate and Gregg likes to help out and to appreciate the decorations. I love watching kids run their hands through the candy, letting it drop through their fingers like it's gold and they're pirates. Now I have something else that I like about Halloween.
Y'know those people out there that dress their dogs in stupid clothes? I became one of them yesterday. I decorated my dog in a costume.
I've been giving a lot of thought to Ray and winter here. He has to be exercised because of his bum leg and I've been wondering how he's going to do in "weather." He's not really getting a winter coat and I saw him shivering when we had a cold spell a couple of weeks ago. So I decided Ray needed a raincoat. So I made him one. With a lining. While I was sewing it, I realized that the lining reminded me of a famous sleuth. Since the fasteners on the raincoat are velcro, the coat is essentially reversible. I put it on Ray and, like the chameleon he is, he immediately took on the characteristics of the sleuth. An hour or so later and I had a hat to match.

TA DA! Here he is --------- SHEERLUCK HOUND

Although he didn't try to rub it off or anything, Ray wasn't crazy about the hat so we just left it on for the photos. Then we walked across the street and up the block to do some trick or treating at Ray's friends' houses. He got biscuits.
Maddie as Spiderwoman

(He seemed to like the coat just fine, which was a good thing. It was pouring rain this morning so he got to try out the raincoat side - worked like a charm).
That evening, by the time trick or treating started, Ray was already in bed. The first time he heard a knock at the door, he jumped off the couch to see who it was. I clipped on his leash and Gregg distributed candy through the screenless door (we remove the screen from the storm door - it's a lot easier to give out candy that way). "Does anyone want to pet the blind dog," I asked? I held Ray's front legs up so that his head cleared the screen protector which was still in place. Ray got petted then returned to his spot on the couch. For the next hour, a knock would be heard, Ray would jump down, we'd clip on his leash, hand out candy, then ask if anyone wanted to pet the blind dog. Some kids would, some wouldn't. Every time, Ray would return to his place on the couch. After about an hour, every time he laid back down he'd give a groan. After an hour and a half, he'd think for a minute about whether he wanted to jump down and answer the door. After the second hour he decided he'd had enough. There was knock on the door. Ray raised his head, looked over his shoulder, groaned like an old man, put his head back down on his pillow and gave a deep sigh. He didn't move the rest of the evening.

Ray after getting back on the couch but hearing more
kids coming up the walkway. He knew he was going to have to get up again but he was really getting tired at this point.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Zombie Chipmunks

It was night. I went upstairs to change into my sweats. There was a dead chipmunk on the scatter rug outside of my bathroom. I screamed and went to get Gregg to see if he would be kind enough to dispose of it. He was.
The next afternoon I went into the backyard with Ray to check on the weather. He was sniffing delicately at something on the ground. It was a dead chipmunk with it's entrails trailing. I went inside and got a bag and some paper towels to take care of the corpse. I called Gregg.
"Where did you bury the chipmunk last night?" I asked (he insists on a proper burial for all dead things).
"It was over by the shed, but I'm not really sure where. It was pretty dark when I buried it," he replied.
I went to look for the tiny grave and, sure enough, it had been disturbed.
I called my BFF, Joanne.
"Hey," I said, "Are there zombie chipmunks?"
"Well," she replied, "There are zombie people, I don't know why there wouldn't be zombie chipmunks. Why do you ask?"
I explained the situation.
"Well, there's only one sure way to tell," she said, "Has it tried to eat your brains?"
"Not to my knowledge," I replied.
I'm not taking any chances though. Tonight I sleep with the light on.

I Wonder...

  • ...if anyone has thought of inventing brackets for trashcans so that you can mount them on the wall like potted plants. Sure would save a lot of time.
  • many angora rabbits it would take to make a felted ball the size of a basketball. Ray loves the little felted cat toys that I bought at a fiber festival. He chews them like gum until I can catch him to take them away. They aren't exactly "balls" anymore. More like lentils.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


No, my dog's not spoiled. Why do you ask?
A boy and his dog