Monday, January 31, 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Last week we had a major icy snowstorm. Or a major snowy icestorm. Either way it hosed up things pretty badly in the greater Washington, DC area. It's kind of hard to exercise a dog when the weather is so bad. It's not the getting wet and cold part, it's the staying on your feet part that's hard. But we adapt.
Yesterday, it was almost 40 degrees. The snow and ice were a slushy mess but it was the weekend and it has become part of our routine to walk around the lake on the weekend. So Gregg and I and Ray headed to the lake for a walk. Gregg quickly identified a nice, stout, fallen tree limb to use as a walking stick and I did the same a short time later. There were lots of downed trees from the storm, but we chose sticks that were nicely weathered and mostly stripped of bark. The walk was a tougher go than usual but uneventful.
This morning, it was below freezing. I checked the weather report to see if it was going to warm up during the day, but that did not appear to be the case. Usually, when I'm not working, I'll head to the dogpark to give Ray a run but with the thaw from the day before and the current frozen conditions, I knew the park would be frozen, slippery, and kind of dangerous for a gangly dog on the run. So I decided to take Ray back to the lake for a morning hike. I strapped him into his sniffing sweater, bundled him into the car, made sure that I still had my stick from the day before, and we set off.
The slushy paths from the day before were sheets of ice where they had been firmly trampled, and crunchy ice where there hadn't been quite as much foot traffic. It was cold and quiet and if it hadn't been for the houses circling the lake, I would have thought we were miles from everything. We met few people on the way around, a (crazy!) runner, a hiker (also with a walking stick), and an elderly couple that were gingerly picking their way down the path.
Ray and I were about half-way-round the lake when he stopped and gave a short, low growl. I looked at him, suprised. He's never growled on a walk before.
"What's wrong, Ray?" I asked. He didn't answer. I could tell that the hackles on his back were up, even though they were covered by the sweater. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up too.
Ray's lifted his nose in the air; it was twitching furiously. I looked around nervously and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A flash of red against the white snow. It was a fox slipping through the backyard of the house ahead of us. I planted my stick and held on for dear life. Ray started thrashing back and forth on the end of his leash, pulling this way and that, trying to identify the exact direction he should take off in the event that I should let him off his leash to chase his prey.
I watched as the fox got further and further away. Ray realized that he wasn't going to be allowed to have any fun and calmed down. I unstuck my stick from the snow and we continued on around the frozen landscape.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Knit Nite Saturday Night

Last night was Knit Nite. Knit Nite is just an excuse to invite a bunch of women over so that we can eat, drink, and chat; knitting is not actually a requirement to be allowed to attend. Some people actually do knit. Some crochet. Some sew. Some just eat and drink and talk. It's always fun.
I used to have Knit Nites a couple times a year but have only had one since we took in the yarn hound. At the first one, we still had a dog gate across the kitchen and Ray still slept in there, so it wasn't too much of a problem. But the dog gate broke at some point, and Ray hasn't slept in the kitchen since the construction started (and ended). Now he sleeps in front of the fireplace, or on the couch, or in Gregg's chair. So I was slightly concerned about how Ray was going to react with all the people (an even dozen) and (especially) how he was going to do with all the nose-level food.
My BFF, Joanne, was the first to arrive. Ray was ecstatic. We calmed him down and he flopped for a belly rub. Joanne and I scurried around trying to get the food ready. I had left it until the absolute last minute because of the potential for Ray-induced disaster. But oddly, Ray seemed somewhat disinterested. He was more interested in the steady stream of new friends arriving every minute.
As soon as Rachel (Murphy's mom) arrived, I put her in charge of keeping the hound out of trouble while Joanne and I continued scurrying in the kitchen. But every time someone new arrived I had to greet them at the door (with Ray), direct them where to deposit their coats and take their drink order. It was MAYHEM for about the first hour.
Ray was being good. In between greeting guests, he would settle down until the next person arrived and Rachel was monitoring him pretty well. I was feeling more confident that he was going to behave. Even when I put food on the coffee table, Ray didn't get up to investigate. I thought I was out of the woods. Then the last guest arrived, Rachel was helping one of the other guests get started on some knitting, Ray went to greet the new arrival, and as he walked back to the pile of throws (the ones that I use to cover the furniture) that I had left on the living room floor (where he had made a nest), Ray took a little taste of the Ranch Dip in the middle of veggie platter. Just a little taste, but a taste nonetheless. I directed him away and whooshed the dip away to the trash, calmly observed by a roomful of women with smiles on their faces (or looks of outrage - depending on how much they liked Ranch Dip).
Ray deposited himself on his nest. The evening wore on. Ray became uncomfortable. He got up and ambled over to where Joanne was sitting in Gregg's chair, knitting. Ray started to encroach on Joanne's space. Joanne said, "I know you want this chair, but you can't have it. I'm sitting here." Ray was persistent. Joanne reiterated, "I'm not moving, Ray." (There was nowhere to move to - I only had seats for the guests, I was already taking up space on the floor). Ray continued trying to move Joanne by pushing up against her with his chest. "Ray, you can't have my chair," said Joanne. Ray was trying to move her with the power of his mind. He was "staring" at her, his eyebrows doing the eyebrow dance on his forehead, his ears in Dumbo mode. Heat was emanating from the top of his head he was concentrating so hard.
"You might as well move," I said to Joanne, "He's not going to give up."
"Oh, alright, Ray, you can have my chair," (there's a reason she's my best friend), Joanne said with good grace as she gathered her knitting and went to sit on the floor across the room from me. I went to get a couple of pillows for us to sit on. Ray curled himself up in the relinquished chair, gave a heavy contented sigh, and went to sleep for the remainder of the evening.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Canine Quarterly

New on the runway this winter, a sniffing sweater, designed specifically for the sniffing dog. This repurposed knitwear, made from a felted celtic knit sweater (size immense), adds a dashing touch to any hound dog's wardrobe. Although designed specifically for sniff-wear this sweater can also be worn while peeing on trees, posts, and clumps of grass. No fashionable hound's wardrobe will be complete without one.

Snifffffff Snifffffffffff

(Ray to grass) "Hey, didn't you used to live in my back yard?"

You're not going to take my picture peeing are you?

Nobody can see me in this, right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scrambled Dogs


This evening when I was getting ready for bed, I accidently kicked one of Ray's rawhide bones across the wooden floor. It made a clunking sound. Ray came racing up the stairs. I know he was having a Murphy flashback.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do I Smell Fish?

By the time Murphy left, Ray was more than ready to see her go. I just knew he was thinking of the Benjamin Franklin quote "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." It was day four of the sleepover.
When I would get ready to take the dogs for a walk, Ray would pull against his leash, hanging back in the house. I could see him thinking, "Yeah, that's a good idea. You take her home. I'll just wait here."
When we would get back from the walk Ray would enter the house first and try to bite Murphy's neck as she entered after him. Then Murphy would race to the dog door, Ray would follow at break-neck speed to make sure she wasn't stealing any bones that remained buried in the backyard. Then there was the requisite tearing around and wrestling. But Ray was tired. And so was Murphy.
By the time Josh and Rachel arrived last night to pick up Murphy, both dogs were practically comatose. When her parents walked through the door, Murphy went ballistic with happiness. And so too did Ray. He jumped up on Josh, absolutely thrilled that he and Rachel were there to take his houseguest home. While Gregg and I talked to Rachel and Josh about their trip and told them what a good dog they have, Murphy planted herself by the front door and waited will ill-concealed impatience to get the heck out of here. She wasn't going to let either one of them out of her sight again. No more sneaking off in the dead of night to fly to sunnier places, no siree. Josh slipped Murphy's collar on, Rachel picked up Murphy's bed, and they left.
Ray walked over to his bed, his head practically dragging the floor. He collapsed into the cushion with his usual groan, curled himself into a tiny little ball, and fell fast asleep.
This morning he didn't really start moving until almost 10 o'clock. We took a brief walk around the ice-encrusted block (an ice storm hit last night), and I sat down to blog. Ray jumped up on the couch with me and passed out.
One tired dog.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where'd she go?

Ray can't relax. He's so worried about his bones that he just can't relax. He has spent the last three days digging them up. One by one, Ray's bones, in various levels of decomposition, have been reappearing.
The problem is, once the bones have been unearthed, Ray has to keep an eye on Murphy to make sure she doesn't steal them. The other problem is, Ray is blind so he can't really see what Murphy is up to. So every time he hears the jingle of her dogtags, Ray rushes to the dog door to make sure Murphy's not headed outside to steal his bones. Ray will stand with his head down, blocking the doorway until he hears her lay down. Only then will he curl up on a chair, one ear cocked, waiting for her next move.
So, to help out my blind dog, I've been taking his bones and putting them up on the bookshelf. I make sure he knows that that's what I've been doing with them. I take them from his mouth and clunk them on the wood so that he knows exactly where they are. Every time I do it, Ray relaxes a bit. Then he goes out and digs up another one.

Oh WHY did they leave me?

By the end of the first day, Ray was exhausted. It was probably 8 o'clock, way past his usual bedtime, before he curled up on my feet. Murphy layed down in front of the front door waiting for Rachel and Josh to come get her. When it became kind of obvious that it wasn't going to happen, she started to roam around. She rummaged through Ray's toy basket and picked up one thing after another to toss around. When she became bored playing by herself, she brought Ray one of his Christmas presents, a fuzzy yellow thing with a squeaker and a rope running through the middle. She laid the rope toy on his front feet. Ray lifted his head and briefly nuzzled her face then laid his head down on the toy and went back to sleep. Murphy turned and left.
It was a minute or two before I realized that there was no more noise coming from Ray's office. I shifted Ray off my feet and went to look for the other dog. She was in the darkened living room laying on the couch, alone, abandoned, dejected.
"Are you alright?" I asked. Murphy briefly looked at me, then dropped her head to the couch with a dispirited thud. A long, loud sigh issued from her furry body. "Did your parents abandon you to complete strangers?" I asked again in a very sympathetic tone. Murphy's head didn't move, but she watched me with eyes that expressed the pain of abandonment. "Are they never coming back? Are you going to have to live with us forever?" I asked. Murphy remained the picture of limp dejection. I petted her a few times, reassured her that her parents were just gone for a few days, and returned to the couch and the sleeping, exhausted Ray.
The next morning, Murphy was fine, her abandonment forgotten in the excitment of chasing squirrels and wrestling with the big dog in the backyard.
Until that night when depressed dog returned.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Sleepover

Yesterday morning Ray dug up his Christmas present (link to video). The wrapping paper for the beef-flavored rawhide bone was gone but the bone was still snug in it's plastic. The occasion was the kickoff of another Murphy sleepover. Rachel and Josh were off on a work-related holiday. Murphy is our guest for the next few days.
Ray and Murph and the Christmas Present
The visit started out with Ray carrying a toy into the backyard with which to impress his friend. I didn't pay any attention to it, Ray is always dragging toys into the backyard. It wasn't until later when I followed him outside to take a picture of him with his freshly unearthed present that I saw the "toy"abandoned in the mulch. It was one of my brand-new-out-of-box shoes which I had worn briefly down the street when I went to fetch Murphy. I picked up the shoe to inspect it for tooth marks (thank God it didn't have tassels) and saw that it was mostly unscathed. (Good thing. I heard that there are gypsies in town.)
She's not getting this one.
After a trip to the dogpark (link to video), Ray and I dropped Murphy at daycare. I had to attend a work function and, although I trust Ray alone in the house for a couple of hours, I wasn't so sure about leaving both of them together. Murphy has a way of stealing Ray's bones and teasing him with them that makes Ray a bit anxious. He displays his anxiety through vocalizations. His normally dulcet tones become a bit more, uh, un-dulcet. If you get close to Ray when he's yelling at Murphy about his bones, your insides liquify.
So Murphy went to daycare. I went to my function. And Ray, who had been going non-stop since Murphy entered the house, went to sleep. He was still snoozing when I returned home three hours later. I took him for a quick walk and we went to pick up his dog at school.
Murphy and Ray played outside until I locked them inside. Then they played there.
I was walking from the laundry room to the kitchen when I glanced into Ray's office (the front hall). The dogs were laying down facing each other, their lips locked together in a seemingly passionate doggy kiss. "That's new," I thought to myself. I went over to see what was going on. They were both chewing on the same thing although both had a big enough piece of whatever-it-was so that it was invisible. Hence, the 'kiss.' I pried Ray's jaws apart and extracted the thing pictured below. Murphy let go of her end (the rubbery black part).
I was bent over, inspecting the festive looking little thing and wondering where I had seen it before, when Murphy stood up and revealed the black stick part (below) that was hidden under her body. A cold hand gripped my heart. They had destroyed Moonie's favorite feather toy (link to video). The one she drags around the house while yelling bloody murder to tell us that she's caught that dang stick bird again. I didn't need gypsies to tell me that a trip to the pet store lay in my immediate future.
uh oh

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Return of Sheerluck

Ray dug this up today. If only he was wearing his Sheerluck Hound costume.
Ah, yes. May I trouble you for a light?

I think I'll head out to the veranda for a leisurely smoke.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hey! That's MY seat!

It was late Sunday afternoon. We'd been busy all day and I was more than ready to sit down and do some knitting. I gathered supplies and dropped them on the end of the couch, then collected all the stray newspapers to throw in the recycle pile. By the time I got back to the couch, Ray was there doing his usual nesting maneuver. He was digging and digging at the throw that I had draped over the cushions. (I think it offends him that I cover the couch.) I waited and watched until he was done. Usually, he curls himself into a tight little ball so that there's still room for me to sit down. But not this time. Ray stretched himself out the entire length of the couch then 'looked' in my direction. I swear there was a smirk on his face.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Gotta Go NOW

Why is it that when Ray has to go out at 2:30 in the morning because it's an 'emergency,' it takes him 15 minutes (with me following him around on the end of a leash) to find a spot to go?
I must say, it is lovely out at that time of the morning. Even when it is only 20-some degrees.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mine, All Mine

Ray, Sleeping with His Toys

Patent Pending

As mentioned before in many of my blogs, Ray is a Yarn Hound. I don't think I've knit anything since I brought him home, it's just too dicey.
But this Christmas my BFF, Joanne, and her husband, Mark, made me a really useful present.

If you can't read the label, it is a C.R.Y.P.S. A Counter-Ray Yarn Protection System (patent pending). The system (nut container) sports a picture of the Yarn Hound holding a bag with yarn and needles in it (clevely photoshopped from a photo that appeared in the blog last year.) The lid has a hole in it, through which runs the yarn.
Since I have received these amazing C.R.Y.P.S., (I got two of them) I have knit a hat and a dishcloth. Not much, I know, but I was just testing the system. One of them works really well. I think the other one is broken. Everytime I try to use it, Ray comes by and tries to stick his tongue through the hole. Apparently, judging from the faint aroma that wafts out every time I open it, at one time this C.R.Y.P.S. was a peanut container. And, if you didn't know, like every dog, Ray loves peanuts.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Goodbye Grass

This weekend I mulched my backyard. "What's she doing mulching her backyard in the middle of winter?" you might ask yourself. Good question.
Sometime this fall, my grass packed its bags and left. It snuck out in the dead of night in small clumps, until all of a sudden, there wasn't any. I can't say that I blame it. It can't be pleasant being dug all to hell and constantly trampled by packs of wild dogs (ok, two wild dogs, it just SOUNDS like there's more). The grass made the smart decision to go.
So the "grassed part" of my backyard (as opposed to the "treed part") became a frozen tundra. Until Friday, when it started to thaw. Then it became the oozing mud flat. I decided drastic action needed to be taken. I headed to the Depot for some weed block fabric and bags of mulch (a temporary fix, but like I said, drastic action needed to be taken).
So on Sunday, when Murphy returned from her Winter break, the dogs had a brand new playground.
That night, I received an email from Rachel asking if I had seen Murphy's collar. Ray loves to grab Muprhy by the collar and try to rip it off her neck, so Rachel was pretty sure it was somewhere in the backyard.
The next morning Ray and I headed outside to search for the missing fashion accessory. I looked in the mulch and he searched the treed area. I pretty quickly found the item in question and bent over to pick it up. It was undamaged. Ray hadn't chewed through it, he had cleverly unclipped the clip.
When I picked up the collar, the tags gave a soft jingle. Ray went crazy, tossing this way and that searching for his friend. He couldn't figure out how she had snuck in without him knowing. I watched him, my heart breaking just a bit. (It reminded me of the time I took his sister, Lacey's, dog tags out of a baggie and he went bonkers). I stood still and shook the tags until Ray could locate them. I let him sniff the collar. He still wasn't convinced that Murphy wasn't somewhere around and spent a bit more time trying to find her. I palmed the tags so that they wouldn't jingle and went back in the house. Ray followed me a short time later.
He was walking through his office in the front hall when he (literally) tripped over his bone. Ray's tail started to wag and he joyfully picked it up and tossed it in the air. My heart stopped breaking as I thought of the flip side to being a blind dog. Everything is a suprise (sometimes a painful suprise but a suprise nonetheless) . When you find something that you didn't know was there, everyday is Christmas. Ray lives in the moment, and right now, at this moment, he was loving life.