Thursday, July 30, 2009

T-Day (revisited)

Yesterday I woke up to the sweet sounds of "Bah, Bah, Bah, NO Ray NO." I got out of bed and went downstairs. 
"What did he do now?" I asked. 
"He tore the screen off of the door," said Gregg, "TWICE."
Our sliding glass door screen is attached to the top of the door frame by a strip of heavy-duty velcro and is weighted at the bottom with a strip of fabric that contains marbles (I found this out when I had to repair the weighted part because a band of machete-wielding sugar cane workers sliced it off one day).
"What a clever dog," I said. 
I went into the kitchen and was standing at the sink when I heard a ripping noise and turned just in time to see the screen disappear around the corner of the patio. Make that THREE times. 
I ate breakfast and read the paper. I was going to try working from home because the trainer was coming back in the afternoon to teach me how to get Ray to stop lunging at people and other dogs.
I decided, since Ray was going to be a permanent member of the family, that I would try removing the baby gate that prevents Ray from getting upstairs. Ray tentatively followed me up to my office. I stood in front of the cat's room to keep him out of the cat food. Ray poked around the other rooms a bit then headed down to the stair landing and stretched out for a nap. Not too bad, I thought, for a first foray. I did wonder, though, how the cats would get past the dog and down to their cat boxes. 
I settled in to work for about an hour, Moonie on the windowsill bed, and Hugo on the office chair next to me (I had to buy a second one so that I had somewhere to sit). Ray woke up and wandered into the office. Hugo spit at him and Ray went back down to the landing looking really scared. I felt sorry for him but realized this is what needs to happen if we are ever going to see our cats downstairs again. 
The trainer arrived in the afternoon. Ray jumped up on the screen, excited to have a visitor, but calmed down pretty quickly and rolled over on his back to get a belly rub. Lee, the trainer, a very obliging guy, rubbed Ray's belly then sat down on a chair in the living room to give me directions on what to do. Ray took the other chair and fell asleep (he's such a relaxed dog). Lee said that he would leave the house again for a few minutes, come back, and knock on the door. The plan was, when Ray got up to see who was at the front door, I was supposed to lead him back to the hallway, tell him to sit and stay then come to the door and greet my guest. If Ray made a rush to meet Lee, I was to spritz him with a fine mist from the water bottle. 
"I don't think he's going to be fooled," I said.
BUt Lee thought it would work so I sat down on the couch and waited for the knock. KNOCK, KNOCK. I got up to answer the door. Ray raised his head to "look" but didn't move. 
"Pizza Guy," said Lee in a disguised voice, "I've got a pepperoni pizza for you." "I didn't order pepperoni," I said. 
"Anchovies," said Lee, "I've got an anchovy pizza." 
"With onions and garlic?" I asked, "That's mine!" 
We rambled on for another minute. Ray's tail was wagging like he was enjoying the joke but he didn't move off of the chair. Lee came in the house, Ray was trying to roll on his back to expose his belly but the chair was too small. 
"I told you he wouldn't be fooled," I said. 
I called my neighbor Charlotte and asked if she would walk Casey, her King Charles Spaniel down the street to meet us. We would try the spritz out on Ray when he met Casey. 
It worked like a CHARM. Ray really does not like to be spritzed. 
Lee took us for a walk around the block demonstrating techniques for me to use to get Ray to heel better. We were hoping to meet some people to use the water bottle again but it was too hot for anyone to be outside. Ray was behaving beautifully. I just know that Lee was wondering why I called him back.
After Lee left, I went up to my office to try to finish off a project, Ray followed a bit behind. Hugo was at the top of the stairs. Ray got half way up the second flight when Hugo hissed at him. Ray cringed, turned tail, and headed for the back door. He went out, dug up his pacifier and stayed outside until dinner. Nothing keeps him from his dinner. 
The next morning I took Ray for a walk before dropping him off at daycare. I hooked the trigger of the water bottle in the back pocket of my jeans. They were flying pretty low on my hips from the weight of the bottle. It's my "Ray the Blind Dog diet." All my pants are lowriders now. 
We were trailing a woman by about 1/2 a block. Because we tend to set a blistering pace, we overtook her pretty quickly. As we drew closer, I could see Ray's ears lurch forward on his head. He was getting reaaadddy. Lunge. Spritz. Instant heel. Obviously a good training method for Ray. He's just going to be a little damp for a very short time. He learns so fast... 
I picked up Ray at daycare, took him home, fed him, and he immediately hit the hay. He didn't move all night. Must have been a great day for OUR new dog. 

Ray Stays (the story)

Tuesday was uneventful. Ray was a good dog and that night when we watched TV, he crawled up on the couch between us (on Moonie's pillow), put his head on Gregg's arm and went to sleep. 
I went upstairs at about 9:30 to get ready for bed because I had to go to work the next day and I knew it was going to be a long one. The phone rang. It was Dan. 
"Kathy wants to pick up Ray tomorrow," he said. 
I was expecting the phone call to be the decision to take Ray not the "we're coming to get him" one.  
"I have to work tomorrow," I said. "Can you come this weekend?" 
"No," said Dan. "Kathy has off tomorrow and Thursday and we both have to work the weekend. She wants to take the next two days to settle him in before she goes back to work." 
I could understand the reasoning, but I still had to work.
"Can she come and get him before you go to work in the morning?" asked Dan.
I felt the tears stinging behind my eyes. 
"I'll go to work and try to rearrange my schedule so that I can be home by about 3:00. Will that work?" I asked. 
"Yeah, that's great," said Dan. 
"Hey," I said, "Will you keep up the blog?" 
"We don't blog," said Dan. 
"Well," I said, "I never blogged before I got Ray, but there are people following him and want to know how he's doing."
"We've never blogged," said Dan, "We're not technological, we're not that type." 
"You don't have to write a lot," I said, "Just a sentence or two to say how Ray is doing. Maybe just post a picture every once in awhile. Ask Kathy, see if she'll do it." 
I was desperate. I couldn't imagine Ray disappearing into thin air. 
"A lot of people want to know how Ray is doing," I said. "Well, maybe not a lot, but there's his foster mother and my mom, and my sister, and the people she works with and people in Columbia, SC." 
I was babbling and I knew it but I couldn't stop myself. 
"Yes," said Dan, "Yes, we'll do it. I don't want to upset you."
So we agreed that Kathy would come by at 3:00 on Wednesday. I yelled down to Gregg to tell him the news. 
"We don't have to do this," he said. 
"No," I said, "I'm still fine with my decision. They're good people and they want him and it will be fine." 
I went to bed with a lump in my throat and the tears still stinging behind my eyes. 
That night I woke up at midnight. The lump was still there. I wondered what the big hurry was with them getting Ray the next day. Why couldn't they wait until next week? It won't make it any easier but things are moving too fast. How is Ray going to adjust to another house in only two days with people he doesn't know and then having to be alone for long hours on the weekend! Ray's never been left alone for very long before (I don't actually know this to be true but in the middle of the night...), he's always had dogs around (or me). How will he manage without any kind of stimulation. He can't SEE anything. He's going to be so lonely. My mind wouldn't stop racing. I couldn't get back to sleep.
I got up the next morning and was out of the house by 7:00. I didn't eat anything because I felt sick to my stomach. I was still determined to go through with it. Kathy and Dan are good people. They would be good to Ray. The lump was still in my throat and the tears were closer to the surface than they were before. I just couldn't keep them locked away. 
I got to work and told Melissa, my office mate, what was going on. My eyes welled up and I had to stop talking. Melissa's reaction was just right; sympathetic but matter-of-fact. I got down to work. My boss, Deana, came in and asked if we needed anything from the cafeteria (great boss). I told her Ray was leaving but couldn't say anything else because of that stupid lump and those stupid tears. Melissa explained in a few succinct sentences what was going on. Deana looked at me and I could tell she felt terrible. 
At about 10:00, I called Gregg. I have no idea how the conversation went but I know that I told him I was still OK with my decision. Gregg said that he was willing to keep the dog for my sake and I told him it was too big of a life- changing thing for me to decide to have a dog for the next 10 years when Gregg didn't want one. I told him that he had to want it. And if he wanted to keep Ray, he would have to make the decision to keep Ray, and he would have to be the one to call Kathy and Dan and tell them that we were keeping him. 
And he did.

Ray Stays.... in, he's not going anywhere (sorry Dan and Kathy!).  More on this later. Just wanted everyone to know. (yipee!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Random Ray

Ray definitely has a routine. He's not as bad as the cats who are obsessive-compulsive but there are certain things that he likes to fit into his day. Sleeping on the couch and the two chairs, in order, are one of those things. Helping me put my shoes and socks on before we go for a walk is another. (I sit on his dog bed and grab my shoes, which I keep by the front door with socks jammed in them. Ray helps by biting my socks for me and then nibbling my toes and feet when the socks are on.) The he likes to take a morning walk, take an evening walk, go to daycare (if it's a really good day for Ray), play tug-of-war, dig up a (rawhide) bone, gnaw a bone, bury a bone, go out to say hi to Sasha (the romance has cooled a bit - it's sad for everyone but devastating for Sasha), play keep-away with something fun (a bone or a perrier bottle or the toilet bowl brush). It's a busy agenda but Ray manages it well. 
Ray loves keep-away. He grabs his object of choice and looks at me over his shoulder with a "bet you can't catch me" look. I walk after him slapping my feet on the floor so he can hear me coming. He walks away, through the living room around the coffee table, through the front hall, into the kitchen then back into the living room. It's a very small loop. 
Gregg, sitting in his chair, lifts his feet out of the way so that Ray doesn't trip over him. I keep talking to Ray, "I'm going to get you, I'm going to take your bone!" I head him off at the pass, making sure to make a lot of noise. Ray loves that part. He gets down on his front paws, rump in the air then takes off back the way he came, you can tell he thinks he's so smart. Sometimes he takes it outside and I chase him around the backyard. Then he starts to feel sorry for me, drops the object and pretends to lose interest. I grab it up and yell "I've got the bone!." I walk away at a brisk pace, taking his route around the coffee table, Ray at my heels, grinning and grabbing. It really is a fun game. 
Yesterday when I dropped Ray off at daycare, there was a woman with a small, white poof of a dog. The poor little guy was cowering at the front door. 
The owner looked at me and said "He hates coming here." 
I replied "Oh, that's too bad! My dog loves it here." 
"I could tell," said the poof's person, "I saw him dragging you across the parking lot." 
I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration, but then again....
I brought Ray home, left him inside, and headed out to the grocery. When I got back there was a ripped brown bag and a cloth napkin on the floor in the front hall. The brown bag had contained some corn chips left over from lunch at Chipotle. I didn't even have to get out the vacuum, there wasn't a speck left. And you gotta love a dog that uses a cloth napkin after eating his corn chips. What CLASS.
This morning when I took Ray for a walk, we took a random, long route. We were walking toward a woman with a large yellow dog. The front legs were white and there was some white on his chest. 
She looked at Ray and said "Another hound! I never see hounds around here. I've never seen him before did you just move in?" 
I explained about Ray and that I was in the next neighborhood over. I asked what kind of dog hers was. 
"We call him a West Virginia Lab," she said, "He was supposed to be a labrador retriever but obviously he has a lot of hound in him." 
"Does he bay?" I asked. 
She laughed and said that when they were looking to get a dog her husband was adamant that they not get a hound.
"He kept saying 'NO HOUNDS,'" she said. "So we brought home this 'lab' and the first time a fire engine went through the neighborhood, the kids and I were in the room with the dog and he started baying. My husband came running in and wanted to know if that was our dog but we all denied it. But we were all laughing so he wasn't fooled."
When we got back after our walk, I was in the mood for watermelon.  I sliced off a piece, my first piece of the summer, and ate it over the sink, Ray's head jammed between me and the counter. Can dogs eat watermelon? (Anyone out there know?). He seemed so interested. I got a piece of ice out of the freezer and gave it to Ray. He loves ice. He laid down and crunched it contentedly then jammed his head back between me and the counter. Another piece of ice. More contented crunching. I love the dog days of summer.
Ray's training is still in progress. He can sit now without me having to say it 10 times. Sometimes on the second or third time sometimes by the ninth time. His "stay" is also pretty good. He's walking on a leash great. It's not exactly a heel but the leash is slack and he is next to me. When he starts to pull, I shake the leash so that it jingles the tags on his collar and say "heel". (I don't like choking him at all - such a sensitive dog). He will slow down so that he is beside me again (it might take a couple shakes, but he gets it). 
I let him dictate when to stop and sniff things. I figure it's only fair. I can't tell when there is a really interesting scent around. Some days there are lots of interesting scents; some days not so much. Of course his good behavior is contingent on there being no one around. We are still working on his that when there are interesting distractions. He tends to be a bit out of control around people and dogs. 
And when we leave the house for a walk, Ray lets me out the door first and then follows me out. I tell him to sit while I lock the door and he lets me walk off the porch first. Such a civilized pooch. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saturday and Sunday

Perrier's new Spokesdog
Saturday I talked to Caleb (former neighbor, set me up with this blog, has Sadie the Australian Cattle Dog). We talked about Ray and how Ray was going to have to move on.
I haven't mentioned it before because it's been kind of hard for me to come to terms with. 
Last weekend, when Gregg was stressing because of Ray's antics, I told Gregg that I would find Ray a new home. I called Amber, Ray's foster mother to see if it would be OK for me to place him if I could. She agreed but said if I couldn't find him a home, she wanted him back. So, ever since then I have been talking to people who have been reading the blog and are interested in Ray to see if I could get someone I know to take him home. Ideally, I would like to have Ray close by so that I can visit him.
That's why I was talking to Caleb. He wanted to meet Ray before Ray had to leave and he also thought he might know someone who would want him. So I invited Caleb and his girl, Lindsay, and his dog, Sadie, over for dinner.  
When Caleb, Lindsay, and Sadie walked in to the backyard Ray went CRAZY. Two new people AND a dog coming to visit him! He couldn't decide what to do first, jump up on the people and grab their wrists, or play with the dog. So he did all three at once. It was total chaos for about 15 minutes. 
Watching Ray try to chase Sadie was like watching a spastic civil war cannonball chase a rocket. Ray's body seemed to be going in about four different directions at once. By the time he figured out which direction Sadie was going, she was back hiding behind her dad and Ray was in the middle of the yard using his paws like a white cane, tapping around to find the thing that he'd lost. 
When Ray couldn't find Sadie, he would come back to the people, only to find that Sadie was there! He would yell in her face and they would be off again. Repeat scenario. Over and over. By the time we got everything calmed down, a storm was blowing in and we had to move everything into the house. Ray climbed up on the couch and was out (it was about 7:30 - his bedtime).  
So before Caleb and Lindsay left, Caleb asked "Can I pass your contact info on to my friends? They've been looking for a dog, I told them to check out your blog and they seemed interested." I assented.
A final game of Tug-of-War
The next morning Gregg started to feel bad that Ray would have to move again. All last week, Ray was the perfect pet, mainly because he came home from daycare too tired to do anything but sleep and Gregg's stress level went down accordingly. Although Gregg is willing to keep Ray for my sake because he knows how much I love this dog, it's just not something that he feels strongly about. And for him to make a commitment to an animal (for up to - what? about 10 years?), I feel that he should really want it. Since Gregg had let me make the decision to bring Ray home, I felt that I should be the one to step up and make the decision about Ray's future. It's the downside to being an adult, making hard decisions for the good of your family instead of just doing what you want. Gregg has been seriously stressed at work and the stress that Ray causes doesn't help. The cats are creeping around like feral animals and are mostly confined to the upstairs. I can't give everyone the time they deserve, and even Ray feels left out and whines when everyone is upstairs and he has to stay downstairs. Although this all may be for the short term, it just as easily may NOT be for the short term. I just knew that giving up Ray was the right thing to do. Oddly enough, when I'm not around Ray this decision feels really right to me. When I'm anywhere near him, it feels horribly wrong. That's the force of his magnetic personality. 
Ray and Gregg, his temporary dad
So anyway, on Sunday morning, Dan, Caleb's friend, called. Caleb, Dan, and Kathy (Dan's wife) met when they were in the Peace Corps together. While I was on the phone with Dan making arrangements for him and Kathy to come over that night, Ray came and flopped down on my feet. I put my hand down and Ray started chewing on my thumb, like a baby gumming it's mothers hand, except this baby had fangs the size of a killer whale. He was doing it very gently.  I felt awful, like I was selling my baby to gypsies. I tried not to cry on the phone. It doesn't make a very good first impression.

I was depressed the rest of the day (so was Gregg) and dreading the visit. But after about two minutes with Dan and Kathy, I knew that if I gave Ray to anyone, it would be them. They were almost too good to be true. Kathy is a nurse (can massage Ray's leg if necessary!) who works three days a week (quality time for Ray!) and Dan is a realtor with a somewhat flexible schedule (more quality time for Ray!), both are active (lots of walks for Ray!), they have a house with a wooden fence (Ray can "see" solid fences easier!), there are trails through the woods near their house (Ray's loves the woods!), lots of dogs in the neighborhood (Ray loves dogs!), and good animal hospitals nearby (just in case). 
We took them out back to meet Ray and he was, as always, excited to meet new people. He was being goofy and charming and funny but, of course, tried to eat their wrists and nibble their clothes. They didn't seem at all deterred. They spent about half an hour talking to us and petting Ray, told us they would think about it, would call us by the middle of the week, and left. 

Ray and his temporary mom

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Ray at the Lake

Man, it's good to be alive!
I think I smell a fish.
Hey, did you see that fish?
Dang, he got away!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Special Needs" Dog (NOT)

Often, when I take Ray for a walk, I meet people. People with dogs and people without. Ray is a real people magnet. It's because he's good looking and uber-friendly. He's never met a person he didn't want to chew on or lick in the face. He ooozes charm and fun and friendliness. People smile when they meet Ray. But when they find out he's blind, often the smile is wiped off their faces and replaced with a look of pity, or concern, or even horror. They say things like "How sad" or "That's terrible." They tell me what a good person I am to take on a "special needs" dog.
What a load of crap. 
It just couldn't be farther from the truth that Ray is "special needs." Ray is a totally normal dog. He doesn't know he's blind. I'm sure he thinks it's normal to bonk into things until he figures out where they are. He likes to get into stuff. He loves to play with other dogs. He likes to play keep away and tug-of-war. He likes to sleep on the couch. He likes to run around the yard and yell his head off. He likes to bury bones and dig them up. He likes to counter-surf. He Loves to jump on kids and lick them until they beg for mercy. 
Don't get me wrong, Ray has needs but to think that they are in any way special is just silly. Ray's list of his "special needs" in order of importance TO Ray: 
  1. Other Dogs/Food/Water/Kids
  2. Beefy Rawhide Bones/Belly Rubs
  3. A couch to sleep on 
My list of Ray's special needs in order of importance FOR Ray:
  1. Food/Water/Other Dogs/Exercise/Fenced-in yard (preferably a solid fence, not chain-link. Ray can't see chain-link very well - but he learns the parameters fast either way)
  2. Love and Belly Rubs
  3. Doggy Door 
  4. Beefy Rawhide Bones or Kids. He likes to lick and chew on both; kids are not as good for his teeth though
There is nothing on either of those lists that screams out BLIND DOG! IMMENSE AMOUNT OF TROUBLE! As a matter of fact, if you look at the lists and provide those things to your dog, then you must be such a good person for taking on a "special needs" animal. I am actually less good than most people because Ray is so much easier to take care of than a dog that can see. He doesn't lunge after squirrels, he goes to bed early and doesn't get into any mischief after about 7:30, and he doesn't get into a lot of stuff that he could be getting into because he doesn't see it at all!
I probably shouldn't be letting this secret out, because now everyone will want a blind dog. 
Kristen, Ray's Friend at Doggy Daycare

Vote Now!

Ray wants to know which of his profiles you like better so that he can be like Mariah Carey and only be photographed from one side. Post your comments and let him know!
Yesterday when I dropped Ray at daycare, Donny, the morning guy, put Ray into the grooming pen with a bunch of little dogs. The pen was occupied by a pair of dainty Italian Greyhounds, quite a lot of mixed parentage pooches, Ty and Bear brother Schnauzers (those two are always there), and some dogs that I recognized as pure-bred-but-I-couldn't-tell-you-whats. There were also a couple of Shih-tzus cowering and shaking in a holding area between the pen and the store.
"I put them in there so that they can get used to the place a little before I turn them in with the other dogs," said Donny. 
The usual sniffing took place then Ray picked out the dog he wanted to play with, a shortish, longish, chubby black/brown/white dog with somewhat bulging eyes, and started yelling in the dog's face. The dog looked slightly taken aback and swerved a bit to get out of full blast of Ray's voice. Ray found the dog again and yelled some more. I looked over at the cowering Shih-tzus, and to my surprise, they were both standing, wagging their tails, and looking at Ray. Obviously, this yelling tactic works well with some dogs. 
Donny went to the holding area and opened the gate to coax the dogs out. They nervously paced back and forth. One of the Italian Greyhounds tiptoed in and tried to convince the two little dogs to come out, showing them the way back through the gate. The Shih-tzus were thinking about it but not quite ready to venture forth. I figured a couple of more blasts from Ray's foghorn and they'd be out there with everyone else. I didn't have time to see the end of the play and hit the road. 
Going to daycare to see the dogs interact (even if it's only for 5 or 10 minutes) is one of the high points of my day. It's just SO interesting. What is in the scent of a dog that makes Ray pick one over all the others? What is Ray saying when he yells in a dog's face? What makes some dogs so happy to be there and others cower in fear? I kinda wish I had a job at the daycare so I could see all the interactions that go on, but frankly, I think the noise would get to me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ray and William

The end of another full day of dogs and kids
 (notice his reading material)
Work has been very busy so Ray has spent the last two days (and probably the rest of the week) in daycare. Both days he has been greeted by an IMMENSE brindle-colored Mastiff appropriately named Thor. If two of Ray were stacked on two more of Ray, the resulting dog would be the size of one Thor. 
Thor is one of a family of three dogs. The other two, another Mastiff and a Boxer, were also there. I cannot imagine what the family dog food bill is like. Today when I went to pick him up, Ray's head and neck were all wet. 
Kristen (the daycare attendant) said "Thor decided that Ray was fun to play with. He was using Ray as a chew toy." 
Thor has very active salivary glands, and as I've mentioned before, Ray enjoys his status as chew-toy.  
There are two sections to the daycare, one is for the daycare pups and the other is for the grooming dogs although both pens seem to be pretty fluid. Ray will be in one when I leave and the other when I pick him up. It's good for him, he gets to make that many more friends during the day. 
I always like to stay for 5 or 10 minutes to talk to the attendant on duty and see Rays initial interaction with the day's group of dogs. This morning was the usual sniffing of all the dogs except one little terrier that was sitting alone next to the sink trying to be invisible. Ray made his way over sniffed him then started yelling in the dogs face. The dog sat, stoic. Ray yelled. No reaction.
I called to Ray, "Ray, leave the dog alone." 
Ray ambled over, surprised that I was still there, then made his way back to the terrier and started yelling again. 
"That's just how dogs communicate," said the guy on duty, "Ray barks at them until they play with him." 
They must get tired of all the yelling and cave from exhaustion. 
I took Ray for a walk when we got home. I doubt if he needed it, but I did after sitting at a desk all day. We ran into a couple of dogs and, as usual, Ray did his excited lunging. One of the dogs, an old Husky, was tied to a tree and obviously wanted to meet Ray. So I made him sit and tried to introduce them slowly. I figured it was a good training opportunity. 
Ray did well. He is trying hard to do what I want, but it is so difficult when there are people and dogs that need to be sniffed and licked and mouthed (toothed?). We tried to do the same thing later when we walked past Jilly, the Border Collie. She came out to see Ray and I tried to get him to sit so she could come up and meet him in a civilized fashion. 
When we got home and just as I fed Ray, there was a knock on the door. It was William, our next door neighbor. William is about 9 and I had asked his grandpa if William could come over so that I could take a picture of him and Ray together for my blog. Ray loves kids, and William is Ray's favorite kid in the whole world. Ray is almost totally uncontrollable when William is around. Ray mouths William's wrists and nibbles his shirts and licks and paws and lunges. William isn't afraid of Ray at all despite all of this. It is just so touching it practically makes me want to cry, except for the fact that it's just so funny.

Oh boy! He's here!

William, ready for another attack

Ray's Best Friend

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ray the Maid

Next, I'm going to teach him to vacuum.

An Exciting Morning but not so much about Ray

Wow what an exciting morning! I got up early because I thought I heard Ray moving around and needed to let him out. It was only 6:30, so I laid down on the sectional sofa in the family room. I knew that if I went back upstairs, Ray would either whine and wake Gregg or get into my knitting stuff again (I'm moving it all upstairs). 
Ray came inside, curled up on the other side of the sofa, and went to sleep. I dozed for another hour then decided to sneak back upstairs for some more sleep. I had just made it between the sheets of the bed when the whimpering started. I tried to ignore it but then it stopped, there was a thump, and some rustling noises. I hopped back out of bed and ran downstairs; nothing much, just a big, plastic container filled with plastic bags which trailed from the dining room into the front hall. 
I heard Gregg get up while I was scooping them up and stuffing them back into the container.  
I ran back upstairs to get my glasses and didn't close the stairgate behind me because I wasn't going to be long. I heard a 'BAH' from Gregg and walked into the hallway to find Ray in the cat's room. He's really fast on those stairs for a blind dog that, until Thursday, was afraid of stairs. 
Gregg went off to the grocery to get some bagels for breakfast and Ray and I went out back to play tug-of-war with a Trader Joe's bag. It makes a great crackly noise and has handles for me to hang onto. Ray was having a great time shredding the bag when all of a sudden a Bluejay tumbled out of the sky and landed all askew in a rosebush. The rosebush is planted in our neighbors yard but is adjacent to our five-foot-tall wooden fence and tops it by about a foot. The bird was thrashing about and making quite a racket. Ray and I ran over to the fence and I saw that the bird was really stuck. It was a baby, but had all of its feathers. This must have been his leave-the-nest day. What a way to start a life. 
I tried to disengage the bird but it seemed to be either impaled on a thorn or stuck between a couple of thorny stems. The rose thorns were big, the bird was fluttering, and I kept getting jabbed. Ray, being the helpful dog that he is, stayed right by my side. I think he was trying to get a good 'look' at the bird but he could have been trying to eat it. I ran back into the house grabbed a pair of gloves (ok - knit gloves turned out to be a really bad idea but they were first at hand) and ran back out to detangle the bird from it's thorny peril. 
I managed to get the bird unstuck, but it just tumbled farther down into the rosebush totally beyond my reach. I stripped off my bathrobe and quickly hopped the fence. I disentangled the bird a second time and carried it over to a low-lying tree branch. It seemed to be hyperventilating a bit, it's beak open. I put it on the branch and smoothed out it's feathers, watched it for a minute to make sure it wasn't going to fall off, then hopped back over the fence just as Gregg came back from the grocery. 
I told him what had happened and showed him where the bird was perched. He went out to take a closer look when all of a sudden I heard him yell.
"The bird flew over into our yard!" Gregg shouted.
Ray was tossing back and forth along the fence trying to find the Jay. I ran outside, grabbed his collar and closed him off in the kitchen. I went and got my gloves again. 
"I'll climb over the fence and you hand him to me," I said to Gregg. "I'll move him farther into the yard next door." 
Gregg went and got his gloves, took the bird and handed it over the fence. I went to the middle of the yard found another low-lying branch, placed the bird gently on it, hopped back over the fence, and let Ray out of the kitchen. Gregg put a hand on his heart. 
"Too much excitement this early in the morning," he said. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rice with Hamburgers

Today started out good. We all went for a long walk because it was beautiful out; cool and lovely. Gregg walked Ray for most of the way. The dog was misbehaving, probably because the weather was the kind that makes you want to run and sniff a lot of things. 
Ray met a Border Collie on the way 'round. She was in the front yard and not on a leash, but her human was in the yard on a ladder. She came charging up barking but as soon as she met Ray her tail started wagging (he has a way with the girls - except maybe Halle). The dog really wanted to play, she was zooming here and there and Ray (on his leash) was trying to keep up with her. She'd run by and Ray would "look," but by the time he'd start after her, she'd be 20 feet in an entirely different direction. Just as he would figure out where she was going and start in her direction again, she'd be somewhere else. That started Ray baying. I think maybe it was out of frustration, but it could have been excitement. We decided to keep walking.
When we got home, we put Ray in the backyard and headed out for a couple of estate sales and to Home Depot. Since his excursion upstairs, I needed more hardware to install a baby gate across the bottom of the stairs. I want to keep Ray from getting into cat territory and I want the cats to feel like they have some place safe to stay. More importantly, I want to keep Ray out of their food. Apparently, it doesn't agree with him. (Gives him wicked gas.)
While we were out, I bought Ray a softball at a sale for $1. Ray loves balls but he can't track them and loses them fast. I've been putting them in with bags of beefy rawhide chews to 'marinate' for a couple of days. I want them to have a scent that he can follow, but I think maybe I don't leave them in long enough or maybe I should use something else to scent them because the scent doesn't seem to linger. I roll them through the grass and he follows them and picks them up and brings them back to me to play tug of war with. Then I roll them again.
Ray's favorite ball is a Weasel Ball without the weasel on it. He ripped off the furry bit in about 10 seconds, but the ball is good for at least 10 or 15 minutes of (supervised) fun. He can follow the noise that the little motor makes and he likes the feeling of it in his mouth. The only problem is he can open it up by biting on it and it has to constantly be screwed back together.
When we returned from our errands, Gregg immediately took off for the grocery, and I installed another gate - I told Gregg that I like to think of it as living in a gated community. 
The cats were very interested in the drilling and sawing, but Ray was distressed. The thought of all that delicious food upstairs just beyond his reach made him go lay in the mulch outside, sulking. 
The minute I finished the gate Moonie came down to try it out. I'm hoping that she'll be braver now that she can stay on the other side of something and watch Ray. Before, she was totally out of sight in a different room. Hopefully,  she can get a closer look to see what's what.
That evening we were invited to go across the street for cocktails. We decided to leave Ray in the house, unsupervised, with the back door open so that he could go out. I wanted to test out the gates without being gone too long and this seemed a good opportunity.
Apparently the gates worked fine. Ray, stuck downstairs without anything to do, found something. When we walked through the door, we saw roving and yarn all over the place. 
Ray was asleep on the couch but got up when he heard us come in. I looked over at the lid that I had made for the roving basket and it was still in place. But one of my knitting bags and a felted bowl that had contained needles and yarn, were on the floor. It was their contents that were scattered hither and yon. A bag of roving that had been sitting on a table in the corner of the family room had taken the biggest hit. 
I shrugged and started to pick-up. 
Gregg called out from the kitchen "Hey, do you want rice with the hamburgers tonight instead of buns?" 
An odd question. 
"Fine with me," I replied. "Why rice?" 
"Because I can't find the buns," said Gregg. 
I picked up a handful of torn roving. It was mixed with breadcrumbs. 
"Oh," I said. "I think I know what happened to them. I'll go get some more." We were both laughing. Gregg got out the vacuum and was cleaning up the crumbs when I left.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Return of Ninja Ray

I had some errands to run in the afternoon so I used the baby gate to lock Ray in the kitchen because we were expecting severe weather. When I returned, Ray wasn't in the kitchen. The baby gate was still in place but he dog was nowhere in sight. 
I called and got no response. I called again and looked in all the usual spots, the chairs, the couches, the baby gate that blocks the cat boxes from Ray. I checked the stair landing. No Ray. 
I went up the stairs and was met by Hugo. Hugo always meets me at the top of the stairs (at least since Ray moved in) and I had the brief thought that there was no way he would be there if Ray was around. But Ray definitely wasn't downstairs so there was nowhere else to go. I looked in the cat room. All of the cat food dishes were empty. Moonie wasn't on the bed. I started to feel a bit anxious. 
As I started down the hallway to check our bedroom, I saw Ray's rump. His head was jammed under an old dresser that we keep in the "non room" at the top of the stairs. The non-room is a space about the size of a small bedroom. I've never been quite sure what it's supposed to be so I made it into a sitting area with a random dresser that contains miscellanea. I ran over and looked under the dresser fully expecting to see Moonie cowering in a corner but there was no cat. 
I called Ray and got him to back out from under the dresser, then dragged him over to the stairs and told him to go down. Ray went. 
I searched for Moonie and found her in my office, looking curious but not really too worried or freaked out. Hugo was milling about, but he seemed more concerned that all the food was gone from his dish. I found myself wondering what the hell had happened while I was gone, and how long and why Ray had been sitting with his head under the dresser. And most mystifying of all - how did Ray get out of the kitchen again? 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ray Goes to Summer School

Hello everyone - - Gregg again. Jean arranged an appointment with Lee, the trainer, to stop by today, so I took off half-day to meet him, discuss my concerns, and have a go at professional training. Lee arrived, Ray behaved, and we proceeded to the living room for a chat, and some practice drills outside. I mentioned my two concerns:

  • The cats' confinement. They are now in a self-imposed, shrinking area of movement, topside in the house. Lee asked if it was like "Little Big Horn" and I replied in the affirmative -  but without the massacre and such. Not much you can do here. Ray poses no threat but is getting bolder in advancing up the stairs and the cats are not particularly happy. Lee says the idea is to de-sensitize the cats to Ray's presence;  they will either deal with it or not, and I agree. 
  • Walking & command. This went pretty well. Lee emphasized tone, timing, and body language. Ray has the heel thing down, quite well, I think. He responded positively, and Lee gave me some good tips on attention. I need to work on vocalizing praises and encouragement. I am a runner/walker who enjoys the solace;  I am used to working out problems and issues while running without distraction (no headphones/earbuds/ipods for this guy!), so I guess I need to step up the chatter when I am with Ray.
Jean came home from work and took Ray for a walk, I did the same after dinner (one of those curry packets that work well in a pinch --  just add chicken and H20). 
Ray was an annoying pill at dinner; he was EXTREMELY interested in the curry.  I suppose subject for another post. 
Anyway, an informative and educational day.   

Ray Makes a Landing

Work has really picked up lately and Ray has been in daycare three days in a row now. Today he was tired, he didn't move off of the couch all morning, and wouldn't you know it, today the trainer comes to give Gregg some pointers. (I have to go to work). That guy is going to think Ray is the laziest, easiest-to-manage dog in the country. 
Ray was dreaming. He must have the most vivid dreams. His front feet were really going and his snout was moving so he must have been burying a dream bone; probably a big beefy one. I always wonder if Ray can see in his dreams. When you're born blind and don't have any frame of reference how would you know? Maybe everything is just scent-related. Maybe he just dreams that he can run and run without running into anything, chasing the intense smells that get him all excited when we're out taking a walk. Sometimes Ray has nightmares where he's growling or whining. Sometimes all of his legs are going at once and I know he's running after something, but this was definitely a happy, bone-burying dream. I've seen him do it often enough to know the motions. I didn't disturb him. 
Yesterday morning, I ran upstairs to get ready for work. When I came out of my room, there was Ray on the stair landing. He had come half way up the stairs and was laying there waiting. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good for Ray for being brave and trying things out on his own. Bad for the cats whose domain is limited to the rooms upstairs and whose food is now in peril. Guess we'll be getting another baby gate if Ray decides to make it all the way to the top. I know it's just a matter of time. 
How did I get here?
More importantly, how do I get down?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Tired Pup

It's been a busy couple of days. I've had to work so Ray has gone to daycare. I wish I could say he dreads it and that he is always so glad to get home but I'd be lying. The most I can say is that today he didn't lay down and refuse to get in the car for as long as he usually does. I think he was just too tired to resist. 
When I went to get him, Kristen said "Harry likes to chew on Ray and Ray lets him." (Harry is the yellow lab puppy - about 6 or 7 months old). I looked at Ray. 
"Don't let the other dogs use you as a chew toy," I told him. 
Ray just looked at me (figuratively speaking) and wondered why he should care when he is having so much fun. 
I brought him home and saw Sasha coming up the street with Todd. By the time I had lifted Ray out of the car, they were crossing over to our house. Ray seemed glad to see Sasha at first, but after about a minute he was ignoring her. I wondered if he had met someone else at daycare or if he was just too tired to pay attention to his favorite girlfriend.
I fed all the animals and locked Ray in the backyard so that I could run to the store for something for dinner. It was already almost 7:00. By the time I got back, Gregg was home and playing tug-of-war with Ray in the backyard. 
When they came inside I asked, "Did he announce your arrival?" 
"Yeah," said Gregg, "Then he sniffed around the yard until he found his rope and he brought it over so we could play." 
By the time Gregg finished his sentence Ray was snoozing on the couch. One tired pup. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ray Gets a Reprieve

Hogging the couch
WooHoo! We get to keep Ray for another month! (you can't see me but I'm dancing around with my pants on my head). I'm relieved as heck, although I can't imagine how bad it will be to pass him on to someone else at the end of TWO months (if we have to). It would be difficult now, after only one month. But I'm prepared to do it if I have to. A deal's a deal. And in the end, I'll do what's best for all concerned. 
This weekend hasn't been too bad. This morning Gregg heard the new baby gate rattling and went into the dining room to find Ray with his head jammed through the hole that we had cut for the cats. It's only a matter of time before he rips the whole thing off the doorjamb. Maybe I'll try a combination of clothes hanger and baby gate to keep him out.
The cats are missing us. I see Hugo sitting on the stair landing all the time, watching. I make sure to pet him whenever I see him there. 
Hugo, biding his time
But I find myself wishing that he would get tough, walk downstairs and just whack Ray one good one so that the dog wouldn't bother the cats ever again. But no such luck. Hugo and Moonie simply won't come down when they know Ray is mobile.

It was a beautiful morning so we took Ray for a walk around the lake (and let him get his feet wet). It's a good testing place because there are always lots of people and other dogs. We try to get him to mind whenever someone goes by. Mixed success. I think it's probably our fault. We just have no idea what we're doing. It must be hard for Ray to have two such ignorant parents. 
Moonie looking particularly enigmatic
When we got back, Gregg took off for the grocery and Ray and I passed out in the living room. It's only about 3 miles roundtrip but we're both still kind of out of shape. Gregg came back with pizza (yay!) and we went out on the porch to eat it. It got vewy, vewy, quiet in the house (usually not a good sign) so I went in to check on Ray. He had fallen asleep with his front feet and head on the couch again. I honestly don't know how he does that, Or why. 
After our reviving lunch, Gregg took off for the pool and Ray and I took off to do some gardening.
Ray is a very good gardener. He can dig holes like nobody's business and has been trying to grow his own rawhide bones. I think he has a good chance of success with the amount of fertilizer he's been leaving in the back yard. 
The flowers were wilting so I went to the rainbarrels to fill the watering cans. I got one about 1/4 full before Ray grabbed it by the handle (his favorite one with the chewed up spout) and took off running with me in hot pursuit. He dropped it, doubled back, and grabbed my gardening gloves. The watering can must have been a ploy; for a blind dog he's very wily. 
We played a really fun game of chase for awhile before I got my gloves back. I went into the house, got the new rawhide bone that we had bought the day before and gave that to him. Ray loves those bones almost as much as he loves Sasha. He was occupied for the rest of day while I finished my gardening (I honestly didn't know weeds could get that tall.)
The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully. I reattached a strip of fabric that had been on the bottom of the screen. It's filled with marbles that weigh it down and the strip had mysteriously become detached (ripped off? torn off? cut with a machete by marauding sugarcane workers? We'll never know.). Ray dug up his bone. Buried it. Dug it up. Buried it. Then Sasha came by to play for awhile. 
All in all, a most pleasant day. 
Gregg making dinner

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Breaking Point

Gregg here again. Last night, after Jean went upstairs to turn in, I popped in my "Band of Brothers" DVD and watched an episode called "The Breaking Point".  If you have seen the show, it is where the men of Easy Company - hobbled by casualties and overstretched with missions, hits the wall. When I woke up this morning and was having breakfast, Jean reminded me that Ray's 30 day trial period was up.  Interesting coincidence.

Earlier on, after Jean walked Ray, she decided to install a toddler door she picked up yesterday to put between the dining and utility rooms. It is one of those waffle-patterned swing gates that keeps kids out of mischief, and hopefully, Ray away from the cat-boxes. Jean wanted to cut out part of the gate to better accommodate the cats' egress, so we spent the next twenty minutes trying to figure out how to saw the odd bits of wood off of a tiny, enclosed space on the gate. For some odd reason, it reminded me of the old Renault I used to drive in college. The car was so small and the engine space was so crammed that it would take me half an hour to remove the oil filter; I could only turn it a quarter inch at a time before I had to adjust the wrench.
But I digress. We fashioned the opening and installed the gate. As of this writing, it seems to work alright. The cats (Hugo at least, Moonie is such a cypher it is difficult to tell) seem to have figured it out;  Ray has not breached it yet. Time will tell.

We put Ray out while we ran some errands, including a stop at the pet store to buy a new rawhide bone and some rawhide strips. When we got home, we tossed a strip to Ray, who appreciatively chewed it.  Little did we know the flavored coating, when combined with Ray's drool, createed a powerful stain that dyed the carpet a reddish, rawhide color. So, after carpet spot cleaning and coaxing the strip onto the newspaper, we realized we learned something new. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, with walks and tug-of-war and lots of Ray naps.

So... as they say, its "go time" on Ray's fate. Well, almost. He is settling in better and the cats are not as freaked out as before. We are adjusting to the change in routine; I have evolved into a creature of defined habits, so admittedly it is more difficult for me. His medical issues have been checked out, with generally favorable results. So I think we will give it another month. The tipping point seems to be other dogs; he craves their company, and might be better off in a home with another dog (not going to happen in this house). So time will tell.

Oh, and by the way, Easy Company needs some R&R. 

Friday, July 10, 2009


Smiling as usual
Yesterday I had to work all day so I took Ray to daycare. He was there for at least eight hours and when I went to get him he laid down on the sidewalk and didn't want to get into the car. It's embarrassing when you have a dog that doesn't want to come home at the end of the day. My BFF Joanne assures me that the same thing happens when you have kids. You drop them off at daycare and they scream their heads off because they don't want to go and when you pick them up, they don't want to leave. It's a little different with Ray. He LOVES to be dropped off and he hates to come home. It's that whole "he needs another dog" thing. I'm starting to get a complex. 
When we got home, Ray jumped down out of the car. It wasn't pretty but he landed safely. I was so proud. Usually, I have to lift him out of the backseat. The first week or so when I would take him out of the car, he would just stiffen up like I was going to drop him. Then for a week or two, he would put his front legs out like he was Underdog, flying. I could tell he wanted to jump but he was afraid. Yesterday, he jumped. How do you convince yourself that you're not jumping into a bottomless pit when you can't see? What an amazing hound. 
He was so tired that night that he only ran around the yard twice, yelling, to tell everyone that he was home. Then he hit the couch and didn't move. 
Today I had to work but decided that I'd only stay a half day. Ray was still kind of tired from the day before, so I figured I'd just leave him in the backyard for the time I was away, if he's going to sleep, why pay for it. I called Sandra and asked her if she would mind keeping an ear peeled to see how much Ray bays when we're away. She said she would be happy to and that she would take him for a walk as well. I left the leash on the table in the backyard and took off. 

I had to stay at work a bit longer than I expected and Ray was waiting for me when I got home. His leg was looking a bit larger and pinker than usual so I figured he must have slept most of the time I was gone. I decided to take him back to the lake. (Maybe I'll make it a Friday routine). This time when we got down to the water there was no Loch Ness monster so Ray wasn't as frightened. He walked right up to the water and into the lake without a second thought. I think he wanted to take a swim but I don't know how I'd ever catch him if started across the lake so I thought "Probably not a good idea." I'll have to figure something out so that he can try that if he wants. Maybe a life vest or something with a tag that says "If found, please return to..."

In the evening, Sasha and Todd came over. Usually, Todd walks her up around the circle and past our house, but this time I saw Sash cut across the street and head straight for our yard. 
"She couldn't wait." Todd said, "I've had a cold the last couple of days and she's been distressed. I think it's because she hasn't seen Ray." 
Ray and Sash played as usual, Todd and I chatted. Gregg drove up and Sasha started wrrooo wrroooing at him. 
"Look," said Todd, "She even knows Gregg now." 
While we were all chatting, Ray took off, caught me off balance, and I stepped on his back leg; not the bum leg, but the other one. Ray squealed and stood holding his leg WAAAAY off the ground. I felt sick to my stomach and thought "Oh my GOD. I haven't even had this dog for a month and I've already broken his leg." I knelt down and ran my hands down his leg (like I'd be able to tell if it was was broken) but I couldn't feel any bones poking through, and Ray wasn't pulling away or anything. 
"We had two dogs that broke their legs when I was a kid," said Todd, "And both of them started panting and drooling within about 10 minutes." 
We all looked at Ray. He flopped over and rolled on his back. I rubbed his belly and Ray closed his eyes. He was totally relaxed. 
Todd smiled and said, "I think he's okay."
We talked for a few minutes more.
"Try to get him up and see if he can walk," said Gregg. 
I gently pulled on Ray's leash, he got to his feet and walked to the front door with me trailing, looking at his legs. He wasn't limping or anything. What a drama king. 
Ray and a cat