Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mmmmm mmmmm good.

Well, Ray was much more blase about Halloween this year than last. He didn't get up for every door knock and he was more excited to 'see' Murphy and his old friend, Ike, than he was to see the kids (not that he wasn't excited, he just managed to control himself a bit better). By 8:00 the excitement was mostly over. I went to pick up dinner at a local restaurant (I can't WAIT for the kitchen to be finished) and we sat down to eat around 8:30.
The stragglers were still stragglin' in while Gregg and I enjoyed some fine Italian take-out. Ray was asleep at the foot of the couch. When a knock came, I covered my food with the plastic take-out lid and we got up to answer the door. We returned to our meal. Another knock. Ray was still asleep at the foot of the couch. I forgot to cover my food with the plastic lid and by the time we finished handing out candy and had returned to our meal, Ray had his face in my plate and was licking the sauce off of my agnolotti, (rapini and sausage ravioli with aurora sauce, mushrooms and onions). I threw out the two ravioli that had been licked clean and continued to eat. Mmmmm mmmmm good.

Ray and the Dumpster of Doom

Ray decided to go minimalist with his Halloween costume this year. With his wonderful physique and his terrific yell, he figured he'd be a natural as Stanley Kowalski (click on the name to see the startling resemblance). So here is Ray posing with this year's decorations (and with Gregg). Who knew that a dumpster and a derelict refrigerator would be just the thing for Halloween?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm not Wearing THAT!

"Charlotte left it for Ray," I said to Rachel. Charlotte is my neighbor down the street. "It" was a halloween hat, in the form of an aviator's cap, for a dog. It looked like a pumpkin with googley eyes on the front. I was actually embarrassed for Ray but I couldn't help myself. I put it on him when no one was around to see. Laughed myself silly then took it off and gave it to him to tear into. He tried to pick the eyes off with his teeth but lost interest when they didn't come off easily (short attention span dog) and left it on the floor in the front hall where it sat for a week (or more. I'm not into cleaning so much when the house is being swiss-cheesed). It didn't really fit him well. His ears were too big to fit though the ear holes, so I thought of Murphy's perky little flappy ears
Rachel and Murphy were in the backyard. They had been walking by when I yelled out the door, "Bring Murphy over to play with Ray! He's driving me crazy!" I'd been thinking all day of the lyrics to the Elvis song, Hound Dog. "You ain't nothin but a hound dog. Cryin all the time. You ain't nothin but a hound dog. Cryin all the time. Well you ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine." I know I've mentioned before that Ray is a whiny-baby and now I know that Elvis (or his songwriters) had had, at some point, first hand experience with hound dogs and their whiny-baby trait. Ray had been following me around all day, whining. There is NOTHING more annoying than a whiny-baby dog. Even if he is blind.
We'd gone for a walk around the lake and Gregg had taken him for a walk around the block. We had played keepaway. I'd pulled him up on my lap for some quality time, and except for the moment when he tried to kill himself by stepping on the power window control in the backseat of the car and practically choking himself to death (note to self - remember to engage the window lock before letting the dog in the car again), Ray had had a pretty good day. But still he was whining.
So Rachel and Murphy were in the backyard, Ray and Murphy were tearing around having a marvelous time, and I was handing the silly, pumpkin, aviator's cap to Rachel. "You gotta put it on her and take a picture," I said, "but don't leave it on her. It's too embarrassing." Rachel was laughing but I could see the wheels spinning in her head. She was going to do it.
Just as we finished our conversation, Murphy came running up and made a flying grab at the hat in Rachel's hands. Murphy snatched it and took off like a shot with Ray in hot pursuit. She flashed the hat under Ray's nose as she went by. Ray managed to snag a bit of the orange fabric and an intense game of tug-of-war ensued. Rachel and I watched as the hat was destroyed. We were both disappointed that we'd never get to see the hat on Murphy, but dang, that game looked like fun. Still, the googley eyes remained well attached. The dogs were obviously happy that such an atrocity would never be visited on any dog ever again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Today when I got home from work, the kitchen wall, the one with the sliding glass door in it, was gone. The crew (Javier and Carlos) plus one (Filipe, the brick cutter) were still working. I had picked up Ray and Murphy on the way home so Gregg took them for a walk around the block while I changed out of my work clothes. Then, I dropped off Murphy at St. Marva's house, and Ray and I walked home. As soon as the crew left, (and after he broke a cat dish and ate a can of shave cream), I let Ray out the house. Ray was a bit freaked out by the boot scraper, which wasn't in it's usual spot by the kitchen door (which at this moment doesn't exist), and was even more freaked out when he discovered that his hole was gone. One day it was next to the kitchen door, right where he had left it. The next day it was gone. Snatched right out from under his nose.
So Ray set out to immediately rectify the situation. First, he sniffed around the spot where his hole should have been, scraped around a bit, then picked up something in his teeth, (kind of like when we try to feed him a vegetable) and carried it into the backyard. "Don't eat it!" I ordered Ray as he dropped "it" briefly into the grass then picked it up again in his teeth, his lips pulled back in a grimace. Gregg walked over to Ray and gingerly pulled the thing from between Ray's canines (ha). Ray didn't resist. "It's a cigarette butt," said Gregg. I knew that a blind dog in a construction site could face dangers, but I didn't think that one of them would be lung cancer.
Ray returned to his construction site. I watched as he started to dig, then decided that maybe I wasn't too smart letting him scratch a hole where the guys had been working. The thought that maybe there would be nails, screws and other sharp objects laying around motivated me to take his collar and gently lead him into the house and away from his industriousness. The new hole would have to wait for another day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Which Ray?

Ray was feeling neglected. I could tell because everything was going right into his mouth. Shoes, newspapers, the belt of my robe, the remote control. I was trying to ignore it. It had been a hectic morning and it wasn't even 9:00. The construction crew, Javier and Carlos hadn't arrived yet. I was trying to relax and went to pour myself a cup of coffee. By the time I walked back into the front hall from the "kitchenette" (1 minute? 2?), Ray was there chewing on something else. It was a spool (about 10 inches around and 5 inches across) of the electric element that was going to be embedded in the concrete floor to heat the new tile. I grabbed the spool from him and checked for teeth marks. There were a lot in the cardboard spool but only one section of the wire element looked kinked enough to cause me concern. I waited for Javier and Carlos to arrive to tell them what my dog had done.
Javier speaks very good English but it isn't his first language. I explained at length that Ray had lifted the spool from behind the plastic sheet that was hanging over the door to the kitchen. I told them that they couldn't leave anything out because Ray would eat it. I showed them the kinked spot on the wire and told them that I thought maybe Ray had bit into it. They looked at the wire then looked at me blankly. Then inspected the wire again. Ray lapped at the coffee in my cup. I sighed.
I hooked Ray to his leash so that I could take him to school, then ran upstairs to fetch something that I had forgotten. When I descended the stairs, they were conversing in Spanish and still inspecting the wire.
Javier turned to me and said "What did Ray say?"
 Ray is the name of the contractor with whom we signed our contract.
"Not THAT Ray," I said. I pointed at Ray the Blind Dog, "THAT Ray. I think he bit the wire right there," I said as I pointed at the kinked wire, "And he chewed the spool," I added as I pointed at the teeth marks on the cardboard spool.
The guys started laughing. I started laughing too.
"It's OK," said Javier, looking very relieved that his boss wasn't going around gnawing on wires and spools.
"It's OK," he repeated while inspecting the wire, "It's fine."
Carlos and I were still laughing.
I took my poor, neglected, blind dog and and we left them to their business.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wow, Dog Doors are Expensive

This week we started what I like to call the (large undisclosed amount of money) dog door project. It's really a kitchen/house renovation but the idea of it started last year when we got Ray and I said "I think we should put in a dog door."
It became obvious pretty quickly after we got the dog that we would have to replace the kitchen floor. The Pergo around Ray's dog dish was warping from the steady stream of water from ole sloppy (despite the tray that the dish sits on). We talked about adding a mud room (I hear angels singing every time the words "mud room" are uttered) but found out that adding a mud room would cost almost as much as we originally paid for our house (read "prohibitively expensive"). So we scaled our renovations back to the things that were absolutely necessary, the ones we've talked about doing for years, (new siding, new doors, rip off the rotting balcony and replace its sliding door with a window), and the one thing that we both wanted, a new kitchen. Oh yeah, and put in a dog door. So Tuesday, I took Ray to the park, dropped him at daycare, and returned home to a gutted kitchen and utter chaos.
I gotta admit, the thought of renovating a house in which resides a blind dog, sends chills down my spine. The number of things on which Ray can hurt himself are almost limitless. For example, Monday, when Gregg and I were packing the kitchen, I inadvertently left the stepstool in the middle of the kitchen floor. I then compounded the mistake by walking out the back door (the screen weighted with marbles) and into the yard . When Ray heard the marbles hit the door frame and realized someone was going outside to play WITHOUT HIM, he barreled through the kitchen and SMACKED full face into the kitchen stool. He then spent the next 15 minutes licking his nose. I felt awful.
Ray however is an extremely adaptable dog. Already he is learning the new routes at home.
We have closed off access to the kitchen and opened the sliding door from the living room into the back yard, trading it's screen with the kitchen's flappy screen door so that Ray can exit at will. (Or at least, he will be able to exit at will as soon as the siding guys have removed the mountain of ladders and maze of scaffolding that covers Ray's running green.) Ray immediately figured out the new location of his dog dish (a corner of the living room, the only room where we could roll up the rug) and that all the activity is now centered in the dining room (our new kitchenette) and the laundry room (a sink!). He has discovered that, since we are in it so often now, we often forget to close the dog gate into the laundry room where the cat boxes are located and which also contains a totally new trash can full of fun things like dryer lint, used paper plates, and plastic utensils. (The new kitchen will have a pull-out drawer for the trash can - a smaller choir of angels is singing in my head - so that we will no longer have to keep the kitchen trash in the bathroom).
So here we are on day three of the (large undisclosed amount of money) dog door project and it's pouring rain. The boxes of siding and insulation sitting in the driveway are soaked though despite my efforts (during the initial cloudburst) to cover them with plastic sheets (it wasn't supposed to rain until tonight). Ray is curled up in Gregg's chair, snoozing. The construction guys haven't arrived yet. And all I want to do is go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. But, like Ray, we all have to adapt to the situation. Guess I'll go to the kitchenette and pour myself another cup of coffee.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Learn Somethin' New Every Day

Although Yuko would probably disagree, I learned one thing while I was visiting South Carolina. There is no way on God's green earth to comfortably sleep with a 60 pound, lanky coonhound in a twin bed.

Mi Amor

Ray's usual type is long-haired blonds (he loves golden retrievers). Or fast girls, like Murphy and Halle. But the girl-next-door to mom and dad in S.C. is quite a bit different than Ray's usual type. She's a bit more exotic. Large and dark with a big chest and big bottom and a husky, smokey voice as if she'd spent way too many nights in all the wrong places. Ray was entranced.
The big girl next door, though, was having none of him. She's been bred to protect the home and the first day that Ray got too close to the fence separating the yards, she went off - big booming barks, snarling, baring teeth. Ray responded with a sweet, sweet serenade. The big girl looked momentarily mystified then resumed the barking and growling. I pulled Ray away from the fence.
Every day we were there the scenario repeated itself. Ray approached the fence, the exotic girl with the big chest repulsed his advances. Ray sang her a sweet song. She responded with growls and snarls.
By the fourth day I noticed that the booming barks, growls, and snarls were accompanied by intermittent wags of her stump of a tail. Ray was making progress with the girl-next-door.
On the day that we left, I packed the car. Ray could tell that we were getting ready to leave. Every time I left the house to put something in the car, he tried to tunnel through the door. Finally, I snapped his (new) leash on his collar and led him outside. He dragged me to the fence to say goodbye to his chesty girl but she wouldn't approach. Ray sadly turned away and dejectedly walked to the car. He jumped in, curled himself into a little ball, heaved a deep sigh and we departed.

The Great Escape

We'd been at mom's for five days and Ray was bored. And, when Ray is bored, everyone knows it.
John, Yuko, and Hannah had come over for dinner and we had just sat down when Ray started pacing and whining. I knew the meal was going to be good, because I had tasted it while I was cooking it, and I didn't want to be distracted while enjoying the organic lamb with artichoke hearts and leeks. So I clipped Ray to the retractable leash, let him out the back screen door, and closed the screen with the bulky handle part inside the house and Ray outside. I figured he could wander for 18' during the 15 minutes it would probably take us to eat.
Hannah finished first, went to the back door and said "I'll watch Ray." "That's a good idea," I replied, "Thanks, Hannah."
It couldn't have been five minutes later when I heard a zzzzzzzip, CLUNK. "Ray got away!" Hannah shouted. I yelled an expletive and bolted from my chair, through the kitchen, and out the back door. Ray was trotting through the backyard prancing this way and that in his random way. I called to him and he paused briefly, just long enough for me to nab his collar and lead him back into the house. A bit of leash was dangling from his neck. He had a look on his face that I hadn't seen before. He looked proud. He had figured a way out of his incarceration by leash. A couple of quick chews was all it took. I snapped a few photos.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ray Practices his Sneak Walk

It was early. I was at mom's putting on a pot of coffee before taking Ray for a quick spin around the block. Mom was still in bed and Ray was in the living room rummaging through his toy basket. I put the coffee in the filter, then filled the reservoir with water when all of a sudden I noticed that it was really quiet.
I entered the living room from the kitchen and looked around. No Ray. I walked down the hall to the bedrooms. Mom's door was closed. I looked in the room that is used as an office, then in the guest room. No Ray. I checked the bathroom and made the loop back to the kitchen. No Ray. I called, softly "Ray, Ray" and headed back through the living room, down the hall to the bedrooms, and back to the kitchen. All the doors were open except Mom's. No Ray.
I was standing in the kitchen scratching my head when I heard a scream. I raced down the hallway and opened Mom's door. Ray was at the head of her bed trying to lick her face and crawl into bed with her at the same time. Mom was laughing, trying to fend him off, and telling him what a sweet boy he was. Ray was delighted.
I grabbed his collar and dragged him away. Ray strained to get back to Mom's bed. I persisted and led him out of the room, totally mystified as to how he managed to sneak into Mom's room while she was sleeping, close the door behind him, and know exactly where to go to find her. He sure is clever.

Back to the Homeland

Well, the project at work is dragging on and we needed a break. So Ray and I headed to South Carolina for a week to stay with mom while dad traveled to Wisconsin to go fishing and visit his sister. My sister, Kathy (from Colorado) was going to stay with mom for the first week that dad was gone and I was going for the second week. I had wanted to leave on Thursday so that I had a day of overlap to visit with my sister before she returned home but a couple of things got in the way.
On Wednesday night it started raining. Buckets. At the same time, Ray got diarrhea. (Lord only knows what he got into.)
Three times during the night, Ray had to go outside to go. I felt horrible for the poor guy. I couldn't even imagine how bad it must feel to have to go outside during a torrential downpour and stand unprotected in the pouring down rain to go to the bathroom. Not once or twice but THREE times.
The biblical amounts of rain continued all day Thursday and I was considering an Ark as a mode of transportation for my trip south. Ray's problem continued throughout the day as well. On Friday, the rain was gone, but Ray was still having issues. Usually, I use canned pumpkin to clear up similar problems in Ray's digestive tract, but this time he refused to eat it. So I called the vet. She prescribed Ray some pills and after a day of those, Ray seemed to be back to normal, so with a slight bit of trepidation I decided to hit the road.
I know I've said it before but I'll say it again, Ray is a good traveler. I religiously stopped every two hours or so to give Ray a break (I didn't want there to be any need to have the HAZMAT team respond to a panicky call to clean my car) but Ray never did anything more than pee on every tree within his reach.
We were about 10 miles out of Hartsville when Ray started whining. I pulled over as soon as I saw a turnoff. It was a road to a trailer park, one without a tree, a shrub, or any vegetation at all other than grass. The trailers were very widely spaced and scattered around on a huge plot of flat land. I could imagine a gigantic, flashing arrow pointing at the spot with an equally large, attached sign saying "HIT ME" for passing tornados.
I clipped Ray to his travel leash (one of the retractable 18 footers) and let him out of the car. Instead of immediately squatting, like I thought he would, Ray stuck his nose in the air and took a deep breath. He was prancing around sniffing the air, not the ground. We walked a bit but Ray wasn't acting like he had to go to the bathroom, he was pacing and pulling at his leash, first this way, then that, nose still in air. I bundled him back in the car, rolled down the window a bit, and we headed down the road.
Ray pressed his nose out the crack in the window and drew in deep, snorting breaths, his flues flapping in the wind. We drove the last few miles like this, Ray pacing from one window to the other, sniffing and snorting the South Carolina air.
I wondered what he was remembering. Was he thinking of his first trip to Hartsville when I adopted him from the rescue in Columbia? Was he thinking about his foster mother Amber and his Jack Russell friend, Tippy? Was he thinking about all his favorite people: my niece Hannah, sister-in-law Yuko, my mom and dad, brother John?
Or was he thinking of all those bones that he left buried in Yuko and John's back yard???