Monday, August 31, 2009

Random Ray Photos

Ray as Grand PooBah
Ray and his friend, Chance, at daycare
Donny, checking us in
Ray in the Halti 
Ray at the top of the stairs

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Swiffer Sweepers - Toys for Blind Dogs and VIDEO ALERT: Ray and the Feather

Swiffer Sweepers, the latest in interactive toys for blind dogs, debuted today in the Ray the Blind Dog household. It takes little effort and cleans your house at the same time!
Warning: Do not let the blind dog catch the Swiffer. Once he disengages the cloths and starts slapping himself in the face with it, you will need more than a Swiffer to clean up the mess.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ray and Roxie

I took Ray for a quick walk around the block. He's been testing me lately when we walk, pulling and lunging and generally misbehaving. I thought maybe some remedial training was in order, so I got out the Halti, and slipped it on him. 
It was really kinda hard not to laugh. He looked like I'd been beating him regularly. So much for my new-found status as favorite person. His head was down, and his eyebrows were doing an "I'm so pathetic" dance on his forehead. I figured we wouldn't be keeping it on him long because he'd pull a Gandhi. But I thought I'd give it a try anyway. I coaxed him out of the house and down the street; he was in perfect "look how I've been whipped so I have to heel" mode. It really is a miracle the way this thing works.
We made it as far as Sasha's house (about a block) before Ray flopped and refused to move. I wanted to see how Sasha was doing. Dog flu has been going around and the last time we stopped to see her, Todd said he thought she had contracted it. I stood looking down at my poor, pathetic creature, when I heard a bam, bam, bam from behind. I turned and saw Todd knocking on the glass door, waving, he was hooking Sash to a leash. Sash was beside herself with joy at seeing her old boyfriend. Ray remained in martyr mode splayed out on the grass. 
"I guess she's better," I said to Todd. 
"Yeah," he said, "She's been feeling better for about the last week."
Sasha was going crazy over Ray. He lifted his head weakly, like the Halti weighed a thousand pounds. Sasha danced around him wrooo, wrooing. 
I disconnected the Halti and a miracle occurred right before our eyes. Ray was HEALED. 
Todd and I chatted for a bit. His wife, Betsy, came up to join the conversation and say hi to Ray. Ray was ecstatic to see her and did his usual wrist grab. Chaos reigned for a couple of minutes before everyone (by that I mean the dogs) calmed down.
Ray and I continued on our way. With the Halti lurking in the background threatening Ray, he was behaving (nearly) perfectly. 
We hadn't gotten far before we ran into Roxie and her mom. Roxie is a four month old black and tan beagle mix. I think she is mixed with something tiny - maybe a mini dachshund or a chihuahua, and is about the size of Ray's head. Roxie saw Ray, started whining, and crawled over to us. Ray, not being able to see her was more interested in the human that he knew was there and started lunging. I spritzed him and tried to get him to sit. I was mostly successful until Ray realized there was a puppy there also. I strenuously urged Ray to stay down so that he didn't scare Roxie any more than he already had. Ray laid and stayed. Roxie came over and Ray gently licked her face. It was heartbreakingly cute and I didn't have my camera with me.
Roxie jumped on Ray's head and his back and stuck her nose in the corner of his mouth. Ray stood up, looking embarrassed. Roxie hopped on her back legs trying to reach Ray's head  but couldn't quite make it. I made Ray lay down again. Roxie loved him and was crawling all over him. Ray was a good, sweet dog and let her.
Roxie's mom dragged here away and Ray refused to move. He turned to face the little dog. The little dog had dug in her heels and had turned back to face Ray. Her mom picked her up and carried her away. Ray stayed in place until I convinced him that we had to move on, but I could tell that part of his heart went home with Roxie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ray Revisits the Eye Doctor and VIDEO ALERT: Ray and Halle

The alarm went off at 7:00. I woke up and laid in bed staring at the ceiling. I heard Gregg move next to me. 
"I had a dream last night," I said. "We came home from work and someone (In my dream I knew it was my sister, Kathy, but I couldn't prove it) had left a Dalmatian puppy in our backyard. Ray was beside himself happy and following it everywhere." 
"Don't get any ideas," said Gregg as he rolled out of bed.
Gregg had an appointment to get his car inspected at 8:30. Ray and I had an appointment at the eye specialist (VetVision) at 8:00. Luckily the two places were near each other.
Ray's "bad" eye is usually inky dark and opaque. It's kind of like looking at a prune without the wrinkles. Last week it turned kind of greenish and clearish like a marble or a crystal ball. I didn't think it was an issue (I mean, he's blind in that eye, he can't get any blinder) but I thought I'd take him in and find out what was going on.
We got to the Vet right on time. It was already busy. We waited for a bit and I thought of our last visit here at the beginning of July and how out of control Ray had been. He has made so much progress. He was still very interested in meeting the other dogs that were in the waiting room, but I wasn't sweating trying to keep him under control. He sat and flopped although every time the door opened, he sprang to his feet and lunged. Not to get out, but to meet whoever was coming in.
Dr. Corcoran is a very likable vet and very highly-regarded by the other vets we've gone to. Actually all the vets we've met have been great. She checked out Ray and told us he was fine. She thinks that the reason the appearance of his eye changed is because his detached retina folded down on itself and now we are looking at the back of his eye, which is greenish (it's very cool looking). She told us to watch for any blood or bleeding on the eye, not that it was more likely to happen because he was blind, but because it was an indication of tick-borne disease which is treatable. If it's not treated, he can lose the little sight that he has left. 
Dr. Corcoran told us that 75% of the dogs that she has tested have been positive for tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme. She said that Rocky Mountain Spotted is an old bug and hasn't been studied much because people focus on the new (i.e. Lyme). She was very interesting and full of information. She has treated cats, dogs, fish, birds, seals, and last week some kind of rodent-y thing. Gregg thinks it was a chinchilla. He is usually right about stuff like that (his mind is like a steel trap; mine's more like a steel sieve). Ray liked her, but I guess that's not much of an endorsement because, really, Ray likes everyone.
I dropped Ray at home and headed off to work. When I returned, Ray met me at the door. He was excited to see me. This is the first time that's happened. He usually greets me with a gently wagging tail, kind of like, "oh yeah, I remember you, nice to see you again." This time it was like, "Ohmygodshe'shome!" I don't know why this day was different than any other day, but it was.
Halle stopped by to see Ray and we let them in the backyard together. Ray practiced his unique technique to get her to play.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mud, Mud, Mud

This morning I checked my email and found that I had nothing to do at work, so I washed the kitchen floor. This is one of those tasks that I do now even though I know it is a total waste of time. I used to tell Gregg, "I just washed the kitchen floor so be careful, don't drop stuff." Now I wash the kitchen floor thinking maybe it's time to revert to living with dirt floors again; lower maintenance.
I took Ray for his usual extended morning walk; there's the short walk around the block, and the extended walk which takes in a bunch of blocks but still goes in a loop. It was a hot and humid morning, so Ray was being good and heeling well. We turned the corner at the end of our block and walked down to the end of the street that intersects our cul-de-sac. That street, while not a cul-de-sac, dead-ends at a house. Ray and I don't usually go to the end of this street but I like to keep Ray from getting into a rut so I add cul-de-sacs and half-way-ups-and-backs to our walks all the time. 
The house at the dead-end is set back from the street, up a slight rise, and surrounded by a wooden fence; it isn't really visible from the road. From behind the fence, two dogs started barking at us, a big German Shepherd and a smaller Border Collie. Ray stopped dead, his hackles up on his back, his tail motionless, curled over his back, and growled. I don't know what those dogs were saying to him, but it wasn't good.
We made it around most of the route and were headed to Ray's Waterloo, the corner where he usually stops and refuses to move. I started talking to him the minute we hit the hedge that edges this corner. 
"Come on Ray. Good boy. Come on. That's right, we're almost home only a couple blocks left. Come on, keep moving," I encouraged. 
We rounded the corner, Ray was still moving. 
"Good boy, Ray! Good boy!" I said enthusiastically.
Mentally, I was congratulating myself for getting Ray to keep moving.
A sweet, cool breeze wafted up the street and fanned our faces. Ray lifted his head to greet it. A tree on the street-side of the sidewalk was casting lovely shade. Ray hit the shade, stopped dead, and flopped, panting.
I stood for a moment looking at my flopped dog, shaking my head. Gregg calls Ray lazy. I think I'm going to have to agree. We have a lazy dog.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my secret weapon, dehydrated chicken livers. I palmed one and used it like smelling salts under Ray's nose. He leapt to his feet, revitalized. I tugged on Ray's leash. We continued down the street, made it past the next corner, and then to the corner at the foot of our block. We were four houses away from being home. 
Ray flopped. 
I stood looking down at him, my hands on my hips. 
A neighbor drove up the street, stopped, rolled down his window and said, "I wish I had a camera." 
"I have a lazy dog," I replied non-sequiturally.
I used the smelling salts again and got Ray as far as the backyard. I followed him in and went to perform doggie dooty (trash pickup is on Thursday). I scoured the backyard scoopin' the poops. I looked around for Ray and didn't see him. I felt a moment of panic, but I knew that the gates were closed. I headed for the backdoor to see if maybe he had laid down on the patio tile to get cool. As a I passed the azaleas planted along the foundation, I heard rustling.
I know I haven't mentioned this before, because I find it kind of disturbing, but Ray has been digging a grave. Not a little cat-sized grave but a huge, whompin, small-human-sized grave. He's been working on it for awhile and it's been getting bigger and deeper. And bigger and deeper. The first time I saw it, I thought it was for a bone. But then it got bigger. And deeper. Ray was stretched out in his grave. 
We have a lazy, vampire dog.
I finished my dooty and went through the sliding glass door into the kitchen. Ray trotted to the door wanting to come in too. I stood blocking his path. He was covered with a film of very fine soil. I brushed him off with my hands and let him through the door, then grabbed a handful of paper towels, moistened them, and ran them over his frame. Mud. More paper towels. More mud. I was giving my dog a sponge bath. Ray flopped on the cool floor. I took some more wet paper towels and ran them over the floor from the door to the dog. Mud. That soil was finer than I thought. More paper towels, more sponging off Ray until no more mud. He got up and ambled into the hallway to lie on the carpet. Smartest thing I ever did, putting in dirt colored carpeting. And covering the couch and chairs with brown fabric. Now about that kitchen floor....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Oranges in the Market Again

Last night I didn't get much sleep. I was nudged from my slumber by Moonie who was sitting on my neck with her face millimeters from mine, purring loud enough to wake the dead. She was tapping me on the cheek with her paw, one claw unsheathed, gently but inexorably reminding me that she doesn't get enough attention. I just knew that if she had fingers she'd be using them to pry my eyelids apart. I petted her groggily and drifted in and out of sleep waiting for Gregg's alarm to go off.
I took Ray for a quick spin around the block before dropping him at daycare. As usual, he was excited to be there and immediately chose his first victim - er, playmate, a little dog (he does love the little dogs!) that just as quickly skittered out from under Ray's paws and away from his yelling. The little dog ran over to Donny, who was in the process of drying one of the groomed dogs, and tried to hide behind him. 
Donny looked at the dog and said "I don't know what you want me to do, go play with him!" 
Ray was searching all over, poking his head under the grooming and drying tables and tossing this way and that. Every time he found the dog, he would yell again and the dog would run. Ray would follow as best he could, yelling. He was in fine voice. 
I watched the game of hide and seek for a couple of minutes. Ray was relentless in his pursuit and his calling, the little dog just as determined to get away. I wanted to stay to see the resolution of the game but it looked like it could go on for quite awhile, so I headed off to work.
When I returned at the end of the day the place was quiet, as usual, the remaining dogs all sacked out. 
The girl who brought Ray to the front said, "Ray has a new thing that he does. When the dogs take a nap, they choose a spot along the wall and Ray walks along the wall and steps on all of them while they're sleeping." 
She was grinning delightedly. I found myself wishing again that they had a doggie cam to catch the action.
I brought Ray home and let him into the back yard. I went to change and heard Gregg out back. 
"Ray is chewing on something that looks like a papyrus!" he yelled. 
I went to look and found it to be a large piece of unearthed, muddy, flabby, rawhide bone. Ray was enjoying killing it, slapping it around his head. I left him to it until he brought it into the house. We had an extensive game of keep away before I was able to grab the nasty thing and throw it out back where it was followed closely by it's owner.
Gregg and I had a nice quiet dinner untroubled by hounds.

Has anyone seen my Big Book of Dogs?

Wait, unh, I think I see it up there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Salmon for Dinner

Sunday we were supposed to meet friends for dinner but they had to cancel at the last minute. We had been planning on trying Salmon burgers and decided that it was a quick and easy meal, good for a Sunday night. We ran out to the store to get some supplies and stopped in at Walmart which is next to the grocery so that I could get a new spritzer bottle. I had already replaced the one that Ray had eaten, but it didn't work well enough to be effective. It just couldn't hold a charge. I would pump the handle three or four times before getting it to spritz, and by then Ray would be in the middle of his meet and greet (aka lunge and chew). I needed one that worked on the first try, and I knew I could get it at Walmart.
Zany Ball after three minutes with Ray
While we were there, I stopped to look at dog toys and saw something that looked like a weasel ball with warts. It seemed like it would be bit more dog-friendly than the weasel ball because the exterior was a bit softer, not hard plastic like the other. It was only about three dollars, so I figured what the heck.
We returned home; Gregg headed to the kitchen and I gave Ray the "Zany Ball." Three minutes later I took it away. He loved it, but it definitely was not better than the weasel ball.

Ray settled down on the couch while Gregg was making burgers and I was making spinach with garlic. Moonie came in to join us and sat down in the middle of the kitchen. For whatever reason, Ray got up and ambled in, his head and nose down. Moonie, her back to Ray, didn't hear him come in and was caught completely by surprise when his nose pad hit her in the butt (I know how she feels). She turned, saw that huge head, and evaporated into thin air. Ray, all excited, started tossing back and forth trying to find his furry little friend. With a potholder on one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, I made a grab for Ray and caught him by the scruff of the neck just as he started by. He didn't struggle, just stood, wagging his tail and staring in the direction that he thought Moonie had headed. I let him go, checked to make sure the gate to the stairs was in place, and went to check on Moonie. She was on the top level of the cat tree looking a little rattled.
We finished making dinner and settled down to eat. Ray headed over to the coffee table that we use as our dinner table and started snuffling. First Gregg's meal, then mine. We both "Bah"ed and tried to shoo him off. Usually, Ray takes the hint, climbs on the couch at my feet, and goes to sleep. This was not a usual night. He went back and forth trying to snag a bite. I dragged him to the kitchen, closed it off with a gate, went back to dinner, and tried to relax and enjoy my meal. The burgers were delicious, I could sympathize with Ray wanting a bite.

I heard the top of the trash can 'clunk'. I jumped up and walked briskly back to the kitchen. Ray was there surrounded by a puddle of dirty paper towels, licking whatever was on them, off. I picked them up, threw them back in the trash, took Ray out of the kitchen, and put him on the couch in the living room. He sleeps there all the time. Why not now?

I headed back to my meal. Gregg was staring at his plate, waiting. Ray jumped off the couch and headed for our plates again. I jumped up, herded him into a corner of the family room, and told him to sit and stay. Ray sat and stayed. For about 30 seconds. Then tried again. And again. 
In retrospect I should have locked him outside, but in the moment, I just wanted to teach him something.

Monday morning I took Ray for a quick walk before dropping him at daycare and heading off to work. He was the perfect dog. Well mannered, calm. When I told Gregg this later, he said it was probably because Ray was so exhausted from being bad the night before. I couldn't argue.

In the evening when I brought Ray home from daycare and took him for a walk, he acted like he'd never been on a leash before. He shot out of the house, did the spastic cannonball in the front yard and down the first block, then tried to run up and around the corner and down the street. I thought maybe daycare hadn't been enough, maybe he needed to burn off a little energy, so I let him shoot down the street for a bit, then tried to rein him in. He didn't want to slow down. I 'Bah'ed and 'heel'ed till I was blue in the face. Honestly, I didn't know what had gotten into the hound. Slow day at the daycare? I didn't think so, the place was packed when I dropped him off. 
I was happy to finally get him home and turn him loose in the backyard. Just as I was closing the gate I heard a "Hi!." It was Deborah and Halle. We chatted a bit. I could hear Ray rattling the gate. 
"Let me go get him so that he can visit his girlfriend," I said. 
Deborah agreed and I went and hooked Ray up to his leash. He was SO excited he could barely contain himself. 

Ray dragged me to the center of the yard and stopped, his head up, "looking" down the street. 
"Where is she, Ray?" I said. 
"She's over here Ray!" called Deborah. 
Ray took off like a shot in the direction of Deborah's voice and plowed broadside into Halle who took it in stride but with a "What next?" look on her face (she's a very expressive dog). Ray was making a total fool of himself in his happiness. 
"We should let them run around the backyard," said Deborah.
I thought it was an excellent idea so I agreed. Maybe Halle could run him down a little. 

We brought them 'round back and slipped them off their leashes. Halle, for a moment forgetting herself, briefly dropped her air of quiet disdain and gamboled a bit (really!), then instantly collected her dignity and walked quietly around the yard, sniffing. Ray, beside himself with excitement, was acting like a total puppy frisking around her, trying desperately to get her to play. Halle ignored him, picking daintily back and forth. Ray switched gears and tried his no-fail, tried-and-true, works-every-time-except-when-it-doesn't technique and started yelling in her face, in her ear, into her side, at her rump, whatever body part was closest. Halle would tiptoe away and Ray would lose her until Deborah or I would give her up, "She's over here, Ray!"  We were all having an excellent time, except maybe Halle, who's ears were ringing.
$3/3 minutes = $1per minute

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ray the Lazy Dog

Goin' for a Walk
Just shadows of our former selves
Yesterday, Ray and I went for our usual walk around the lake. It was only 9:00 but already unbelievably hot and humid. I brought a collapsible bowl (Outward Hound brand. Isn't that a clever name?) and my water bottle. (I had knit a stylish bottle snuggie and strap for it using twine.)
Ray was lagging, or what I like to refer to as at a perfect heel. I stopped a few times to give him water to make sure he was well hydrated. We passed a few people but no one stopped to pet Ray. I think he was feeling ignored. By the time we passed the house where the little girls had been getting ready for their daytrip, he stopped dead. 
I puulllllled his leash steadily and said "Come, Ray. Come on. Come. COME. Come on. Come. Come on, we're almost home." 
Ray came, but when we got to the corner of the busy little road that bisects our subdivision, Ray stopped and flopped. I tried the same thing that I had done at the little girls house.  
I puulllllled his leash steadily and said "Come, Ray. Come on. Come. COME. Come on. Come. Come on, we're almost home." 
Ray didn't move. I tried pulling his leash from behind, like the trainer had told me to do. Ray, never leaving the perfect flop, scuttled around to face the leash, and lay panting. I looked at him nonplussed. He's too heavy to carry. Maybe he wasn't feeling well. Maybe it was the heat. I didn't want to push him too hard and give him a heart attack or anything. So I sat down on the pavement  (ok, I was a bit tired too) and waited for five minutes or so, then got up and tried again. 
Puulllllled the leash and said "Come on Ray, only two more blocks. Come. Come on. COME." 
Ray got to his feet, walked nine steps and flopped again. 
I was feeling a bit anxious. I sat back down, hoping that Ray was ok. Many cars passed. Then a car passed and I could see the driver peering out the window at us. I saw the car turn around and come back. 
The driver yelled out the window, "We're dog lovers, is your dog ok?" 
At the sound of his voice, Ray leapt to his feet, facing the driver, tail wagging. 
I stood up, "I guess he is," I said, "He just flopped over and wouldn't move."
"Watch Cesar Millan [the dog whisperer]," he yelled, "He'll straighten you out."
I thanked him and he drove on. I looked at Ray who was staring down the road in the direction that the man had driven, the big faker's tail was still wagging. He just wanted attention. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Never having had a dog before, I don't know if Ray is unusual or not. I've noticed a few things in the last couple of months that may, or may not, be Ray specific.
  • Ray uses his nose as a bumper when people are around. When we are in the kitchen or outside working, Ray knose (creative spelling alert!)  to stop when he touches us with the pad of his nose. On me, he always hits one of my butt cheeks or my thighs (depending on which direction he's coming from). 
  • Ice cubes taste better when eaten on a rug. They aren't nearly as good when eaten on the kitchen
  • If William is, or has been, anywhere around recently, Ray's tail wags. I think Ray can smell William when we are walking past his house, even when he's not present.
  • Ray never forgets a route that he has walked before. If it's one that he really likes (to the lake, to the 'beach,' to the pool, past Jilly's house) Ray likes to pull a Gandhi until he gets to go where he wants. Most of the time it doesn't work. But that doesn't stop him from trying. 
  • If we leave Ray alone in the house, he will leave at least one of the following things in the front hallway, probably more, or maybe all:
    • the toilet bowl brush
    • the salt shaker
    • the spritzer bottle
    • a felted bowl
    • a feather cat toy
    • whatever kind of paper product that he has access to  - napkins, paper towels, kleenex
  • The only thing that will rouse Ray from his bedtime is another dog.
  • So far, Ray has never met a person or a dog that he doesn't like. 
Ray at 7 months 
(courtesy of Amber - Ray's foster mother)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ray and Hugo, Ray and Maximus, Ray and the Shoe

Something has been happening lately with Hugo. He's been coming out of his self-imposed kitty exile. I'm not saying that he is unafraid of Ray, but Hugo is certainly less afraid than he was previously. This morning when I settled in on the couch for breakfast, Hugo came downstairs with me as he used to do in the days Before Ray (BR). Ray was having a quiet morning. He was curled up on one of the chairs taking an early morning nap (having been awake just long enough to eat breakfast). Hugo jumped up on the couch and came over for a brief belly rub. He wasn't able to completely relax with the dog in the room so he went to the other end of the couch and settled down there.
Ray noticed that Gregg had vacated the other chair in the room so he stretched off of his chair and started to walk around the coffee table to go sit there (Gregg's chair is obviously better even though they are exactly the same). Hugo hissed at Ray as he approached but held his ground and did not dash for the stairs. Ray slowly backed away and went to sulk in the hallway. For about a minute. Then he got up and took a different route to get to Gregg's chair where he curled up and fell asleep. Hugo remained on the end of the couch, feigning relaxation.
I went upstairs to get dressed so that I could take Ray for a walk. Usually Hugo would never be alone with the dog in the same room but he didn't budge when I got up from the couch and remained in place until Ray decided that he needed to come upstairs to see where I had gone. At this point Hugo thought maybe it was a good idea to take a hike.

I decided to take Ray on a different route than usual. (I'm learning a lot about my neighborhood now that I'm on foot). We hadn't gone too far before I realized I'd forgotten the spritzer. I didn't want to turn around, mainly because it's too hard to get Ray to turn and go back home before he's good and ready, so I just hoped for the best and kept on going. We met Halle and Deborah (Halle's Grandma) about 2 blocks out, but Ray behaved himself beautifully. He's always on his best behavior around Halle because he's still trying to impress her. Deborah and I chatted briefly while Ray licked Halle's face, then continued on our ramble.
We were on a street that parallels the one that goes to the lake and had just turned onto a road that would take us there, when a little, black, terrier-type dog came running out of the backyard of a house next to us. He started to follow us and it was clear that the dog didn't live in that house, he was on walkabout. Ray was sooo happy to have his long-lost-friend-that-he'd-never-met-before join us. He was lunging and plunging and wagging his tail (I shoulda gone back for the spritzer). The little dog zipped in and out under Ray's tap-tap-tapping, now-where-did-he-go paw. A trash truck came zooming down the street and all I could see, in my mind's eye, was a little, squished black dog on the road.
He had a tag on his collar so I stooped to try to read what it said. Between the walk, the heat, and trying to control Ray and keep him from stepping on the dog, I was sweating like a stevedore (or is that supposed to be swearing like a stevedore....? In any case I was REALLY sweating). The print on the dogs collar was tiny. I had trouble reading the address because of the sweat rolling down my forehead and into my eyes. I didn't recognize it. I heard a voice coming from across the street so I scooped up the little dog and headed across the road. It was at this point that I realized the dog reeked. No wonder Ray liked him so much. The dog must smell like roses to a blind hound like Ray.
A woman was working on her screened-in porch.
Analisa and Ray 
"Hey," I called to her, "There's a little stray dog out here, do you know where Strene Ct. is?" 
"No, I've never heard of Strene," she replied. 
That's because I had read the name totally wrong.
"Do you have a phone?" I asked.
Ray was still plunging and lunging and trying to play with his favorite new friend. By this time, he was doing his Ray thing and yelling in the dogs face. I was dripping sweat, trying to keep the inexplicably-named Maximus close by, keep ahold of Ray, and stop him from yelling to wake the dead. The woman, my new friend Analisa, came out with a cell phone. On Maximus' collar, in print microscopically small, there were three phone numbers, his name, and his address. I read the first number to Analisa. No answer. I read off the second number although I couldn't really decipher the second numeral (3? 5?), wrong number. I read off the third number. Answering machine.

I looked at the name of the street again. It wasn't Strene but Sterne. 
"Hey," I said, "It's not Strene, it's Sterne! Do you know where Sterne is?" 
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "Sterne is back that way and up. On the left." 
Analisa mentioned that she had a dog. 
"Can I borrow a leash?" I asked. "I'll just walk him home and then bring you the leash back." Analisa agreed and went to get a leash. I clipped it onto stinky Max's collar and headed up the street. Ray was thrilled to be walking with Max. I think he believed he was getting a brother. Just what he wanted! One that smelled like roses too! It just couldn't be better!
No one was home when we arrived at Max's house. I checked the gates on both sides and they were closed. I put him in the back yard then looked for holes under the fence. It looked like maybe he could have squeezed through where the mulch was dug out a bit, (he was a little dog) so I took a bag of soil that was conveniently nearby and put it over the hole. That should keep him for 15 minutes, I thought to myself. I dragged a forlorn Ray away from his best buddy and back to Analisa's.
Ray and the Cat Toy
By this time sweat was rolling off of me in buckets. Analisa and Angel, her immense German Shepherd, met us at the door. Angel was acting like she'd like to tear Ray limb from limb. Ray wagged his tail. He's never met a dog he didn't want to befriend. I thanked Analisa for the leash and we talked about dogs for half an hour or more. I was trying to will myself to stop sweating but it wasn't working. 
Ray licked Analisa's toes and flopped over for a rest. Angel calmed down and looked like maybe she was coming 'round. Ray can really charm the women. He uses a different technique for each one, but in the end, he gets them all (except the Chihuahua Mitzi).

The air conditioner of home was a welcome relief. I headed for the shower.
When I got out, Ray was on the stair landing huffing my shoe and playing with a cat toy. Serendipitously, I found this poem on the page-a-day cat calendar and thought "Huh, guess it's not just dogs."

Ray and the Shoe

No catnip tree
Could offer bliss
Of magnitude

To equal this
As in a transport
Of delight
My spaced-out cougar

Spends the night
His nose in cozy rendezvous

With my malodorous
Jogging shoe.

Dorothy Heller

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ray has an ADVENTURE (and a Bath)

This morning Gregg and I decided to take Ray for a walk through the neighborhood behind ours. We didn't get very far before we met a woman walking a big, black greyhound by the name of Gage. I had met her yesterday morning for the first time when I was walking Ray and carrying a Pabst Blue Ribbon can. Ray, always interested in recycling, had picked it up off of the sidewalk and carried it for about 10 feet before dropping it. Not wanting to be seen as a litterer, I picked it up and carried it the rest of the way home to throw in the recycle bin. Being civic minded has it's downside. Now people think I start drinking before 9 in the morning.
Anyway, back to our walk. We saw the woman again when we were pretty far from where we had met her the first time and coming from a completely unexpected direction. There was no way she could have gotten where she was by using the sidewalks or the streets. 
She saw our surprise and said "If you walk down to the next street, take a left, go to the house at the end, and walk from the sidewalk to the woods, you'll see a path. Take the path and cross a footbridge. Then follow the path to the street (that abuts our cul-de-sac). If you take the path that goes to the right just before the footbridge, it will take you to a sandy area that we call 'the beach.' The dogs love it." 
So Gregg, Ray and I headed for the path, the footbridge, and the beach. The footbridge was narrow and made out of planks with no railings on either side. Ray and I had had a rather nerve-racking experience with a footbridge previously when he had mis-stepped and fallen about a foot into a ditch. This one was higher. I looked at it with misgiving but felt that my blind dog could do anything anyone else's dog could do, so I asked Gregg to cross and call to Ray. I stayed behind him with my hands on both sides of him to guide him across. We made it without incident and continued to the path to see where we were.
We were really close to home so I said "Let's go back and check out the beach." 
We headed back to the footbridge, Gregg had Ray on the leash so I headed across first and called to Ray. He took one step and started to step off of the side. Gregg quickly pulled Ray back before he could fall. I picked him up and carried him the rest of the way across the bridge. Maybe narrow footbridges are not a good idea for a blind dog after all. 
We headed down the path through the woods and eventually came to the "beach." It was a gravel sandbar with a little stream winding back and forth through it. It was only a few feet wide and a couple of feet deep at it's deepest point. I've lived here for 15 years and never knew it was there. I led Ray to the water and he waded in to get a drink. Then he went ballistic. He was bounding through the water, biting it, lapping it, loving it. All of his body parts seemed to be going in different directions at once. It was classic spastic cannonball but with a splash of something extra. He was having a BLAST. 
We spent about 10 or 15 minutes with Ray dragging me up and down the stream bed, across the shallows, and once into the water up past my knees. It was so much fun that I wished I had a camera and a longer leash. Although truthfully, it was probably safer for Ray to have a short one. He plowed into the steep stream bank (it was steep in a few areas and flat in others) a couple of times (it's hard to predict the direction of a spastic cannonball.) 
Instead of returning the way we came, Gregg, Ray, and I headed deeper into the woods to see if we would come out on the main drag that bisects our neighborhood. Gage's mom had said that one of the paths through the woods led there. We followed a steadily dwindling trail for awhile, Gregg leading, Ray and I following. I was trying to keep Ray from poking himself with branches and thorns while at the same time trying to avoid poison ivy. (I knew it was there somewhere, but I've never been good at identifying it.) 
"I can see the main drag," said Gregg "Let me go ahead and see how we can get there." 
He took off. Ray and I stayed put. The trail had pretty much evaporated at this point. I sniffed. Something stunk. I looked around for dead animals or stinky mud holes, then bent down to smell Ray. It was he. 
When Gregg got back he said "There's a way to the street but I don't think Ray will be able to make it, let's see what else we can find." 
We headed back the way we had come, crossed the stream and meandered alongside it for awhile. 
Gregg said, "There's the back of a house, let me see if we can get through their backyard." 
He forged ahead, Ray and I trailing.
"I think this will work," he yelled. 
Ray and I followed along and Gregg made a silent sign pointing through a backyard that was gated at the front. The gate was open. We all made a dash for it and came out on a street that's a few blocks from our house. We were all charged up. Ray was smiling. 
We walked along home. Gregg took Ray's leash. I was walking in front. 
"You look like you've been in a swamp," said Gregg, "You're all muddy and wet." 
It was hot out. I felt fine. 
When we got back to the house, I said, "Don't let Ray in the house, I need to give him a bath. He's stinky!" 
Gregg attached the hose to the faucet in the laundry room and held Ray's leash while I lathered him up with Oatmeal dog shampoo. It must have smelled delicious because Ray was trying to lick it off of his legs. Gregg held his head to keep him from eating the shampoo. We finished up and I dried him off a bit with a beach towel. It didn't seem to make much of a dent in Ray's dampness although we did have a fun game of "try to grab the towel." I thought maybe a hairdryer would work better. We took Ray into the backyard and plugged it into an outdoor socket. It turns out Ray has severe reservations about hairdryers. I got a handful of dog treats and tried to distract him while Gregg tried to dry him off. It's amazing how reservations can be overcome by food. He wasn't quite dry but he was a bit fluffier when we finished.
Gregg and I needed showers ourselves so we retired upstairs. I left Ray lounging on the futon in the upstairs non-room (the stair landing) and hit the shower while Gregg shaved. I heard "Bah! Bah! Bah!" SLAM. 
Gregg came in the bathroom and said "Ray was in your closet so I shut him out of the bedroom." 
I thought this was probably a good thing. Having a damp dog on the bed was probably not something we would really want and I knew that Ray would head for the bed (we caught him there last time we left him upstairs unattended). 
I was in the bathroom with a towel wrapped around me when I heard "Uh Oh." I walked out of the bedroom to see ribbon, yarn, string, and a pair of plastic knitting needles (size 35 - they're about the size of turkey basters) strewn about the hallway. It was an experimental knitting project that I had started the year before (or maybe two years before) and had stashed under the drafting table in my office. I don't want to jump to conclusions but either it was a very localized tornado or Ray had been looking for something to do. Oh yeah, and the tornado must have had something sharp in it because the knobby end had been removed from one of the needles and the pointy end had been punctured on the other. 
Weather forecast - localized tornadoes

As we were gazing at the mess in the hallway, there was a crash downstairs. Still in towels, we ran down to see the kitchen trashcan over on it's side and the doggybag from the previous night's dinner on the floor being furiously licked by our hound dog. I guess he must have taken the term "doggy" literally. 
We put Ray outside, cleaned up the mess, and went upstairs to change. 
Gregg took off for the grocery and I washed the kitchen floor. Worn out after his exciting morning, Ray had retired to the couch. 
I finished up in the kitchen and went out back to scrub up an elaborate, black iron room divider that I had bought at an estate sale in the early spring. I had split the divider into two, used two of the sections as trellises for my vines on the patio, and had two sections left. I thought maybe we could use the remaining divider as a dog gate at the foot of the stairs. The one that I installed isn't working out too well, it's difficult to open, and if Ray is going to be here indefinitely I have to come up with something better. But first I needed to clean it. I grabbed some garden gloves and an old rag. Ray, miraculously recovered from his exciting morning, followed me outside. 
Knowing instinctively that I really wanted to play, Ray immediately started biting at my gloves and the rag. I "Bah"ed and tried to convince him otherwise. It took a few minutes and a slap on the nose (hey, he bit me first!) but Ray was finally convinced. Undeterred in the fun department, Ray went and grabbed a watering can half full of water, dragged it into the middle of yard, gnawed the spout for minute then knocked it over and "watched" interestedly as the water sloshed out. Then he picked up a scrub brush (it was fair game, it was on the bottom rack of the grill) and laid down to gnaw on the handle. 
I continued cleaning the room divider, glancing at him occasionally to see what he was up to. He had something yellow. I went to investigate and found the spritzer that I use to correct him when he lunges at people. I removed it from his jaws (it'll never be the same), put him in the house hoping he would return to his resting place on the couch and went back to work. 
I was working about 30 seconds when I heard a loud ka-thump, thump. It sounded like it was coming from upstairs. I dropped my rag, opened the sliding glass door, and sprinted up the stairs. There was a toilet brush lying in the hallway. I picked it up and went to put it back. Trash was strewn all over the bathroom. I heard a noise from the hall and went out to see Ray rummaging interestedly through the stuff we stash in the bottom of the linen closet for pickup by a local charity. I dragged him out of the closet, closed the door (not that it seems to do anything - I think he's figured out how to open closets) and ran downstairs, trailed closely by my blind dog. 
I returned to my work on the room divider. I went to get a bucket of soapy water and grabbed the scrub brush that Ray had been chewing on earlier. I scrubbed up the bottom of the divider, dropped the brush in the bucket and went to get a hose to rinse off the soap. I picked up the hose and turned just in time to see Ray grab the scrub brush out of the bucket of soapy water (HOW DOES HE KNOW IT'S THERE?  HE'S BLIND!!!!!!!) and head for the kitchen door (which, in a moment of stupidity, I had left open) and my clean kitchen floor. I intercepted him just in the nick of time, closed the door, rinsed off the divider, and went in the house to lay down.  

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ray as a Youngster

Ten-month old Ray with Emma
Today, Ray's foster mom sent me some photos of Ray when he was living with her. 
Amber (foster mom) told me that Ray's best buddy was the little terrier, Tippy. 

Nine-month-old Ray with Tippy the Terrier and
their favorite piece of wood
Playing with Tippy
Ray and Tippy again with their piece of wood
Emma, Ray, and Tippy (being sat on)

Operator, What's That Number?

Today I didn't have to work, and Gregg was home for a "staycation," so we decided to just bum around a bit. He took Ray for an early morning run and I started knitting another bowl out of leftover yarn. (I like the element of surprise - it's impossible to know what it's going to look like until it's all felted.) While Gregg and Ray were gone, Hugo came downstairs to sit on my lap and get a bellyrub. The first time in two months (Ray's two month anniversary is today!). When Ray got back, Hugo hung around just long enough to hiss at him. Ray cringed and crept into the dining room. Hugo took off for catland upstairs and I found Ray laying in the dining room looking sad. I think he really wants to make friends but Hugo is just NOT INTERESTED. 
I coaxed Ray out of the dining room and back into the living room. He rebounded quickly and wanted to play a game of keepaway with his bone. 
Gregg took off for the wine store, and Ray and I sat around and knit some more. It's nice to have someone around that shares my enthusiasm for wool. Ray may be a bit overenthusiastic at times (the possum fur yarn took me about four hours to untangle and is in six separate pieces), but I still appreciate the fact that he is the only other member of the family that 'gets' the obsession. 
When Gregg got home, we put Ray in the backyard and took off in search of a farmer's market and fresh tomatoes. We were gone for a couple of hours. When we returned, I let Ray in the house and went into the backyard to see what he'd been up to. 
Apparently, Ray was looking up phone numbers while we were gone. A couple of new telephone books had been delivered, and I had picked up the plastic bag they were in, slung them onto the patio table, and left them there. Ray, being interested in all things plastic (HOW DOES HE KNOW IT'S THERE???? HE'S BLIND!!!!) grabbed the bag, ripped it into a few pieces then started leafing through the books searching for his foster mother's phone number.  I'm sure he wanted to tell her to come on over for a swim in his new pool. I didn't have the heart to tell Ray that these phone books only cover Northern Virginia not South Carolina. He also had ripped a coupon off the front cover of the phone book. I'm not sure what it was for, because it was gone. I think he ate it - maybe it was for dog food. 
The rest of the day was uneventful. I have noticed though that every time I try to let Ray in the sliding glass door he just stands there, waiting. I think I made a serious error in judgement when Gregg and I were stripping the pork off the bone the other night when he made S.C. pork BBQ. Ray was outside the sliding glass door and every so often I would slide it open an inch and slip him a little piece. Now when the door opens he expects the pork dispenser to work again.