Saturday, April 30, 2011

HA! Fooled Ya!

I have a confession to make; I lie to my dog to get him out of the car.
A lot of times, once Ray gets comfortable in the backseat of the car, he doesn't want to get out. And since, most of the time, Ray makes himself instantly comfortable in the backseat of the car, I have a problem when we arrive at our destination (unless we are going to the lake or the dogpark). So this is mainly an issue when we go to 'school' (daycare) or arrive home.
I think I've said before that Ray recognizes certain words: hungry, eat, dinner, treat, Moonie, walk, Murphy, Marva. But I don't think I've said that one word above all others gets Ray's interest, and that word is Izzy.
Izzy is Rachel's cat. When Rachel and Josh and Murphy and Turkish and Izzy all lived in Marva's basement, Ray and I were constant visitors. We would pick up or drop off Murphy from daycare or bring her over here to play, so we were there a lot. Ray and I would always stay and have a cozy chat with Marva while we stood on the landing of her split level. And while we were chatting, Izzy would always come through for a visit.
Izzy is totally unafraid of dogs. Rachel says it's because Izzy is stupid. I think it's because Izzy knows he can take out any dog stupid enough to get close to him. So while Marva and I would chat, Izzy would come trotting up from the basement and walk through Ray's legs and under his belly or even right under his nose, on the way upstairs. And every single time Ray would go berserk. When Izzy would reach the upstairs he would come over to me (we were, at this point, eye level) and I would talk to him and pet him. So Ray learned Izzy's name.
So now, when I want to get Ray out of the car, I say "Hi, Izzy!" or "Look Ray, it's Izzy!" and every time Ray falls for it. He gets right to his feet and jumps down out of the car all excited, looking around for his friend. I feel kind of bad fooling my dog like this and I know he'll catch on eventually. But for now, I'll use whatever trick it takes to get that lazy hound out of the backseat of my car.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Matter of Trust

When I first brought Ray home, I remember telling my dad "I don't know how well Ray is going to be able to bond. He's been in a shelter for so long; I'm just hoping to get him to trust me. It's probably the best I can hope for."
As the weeks and months went by and it was obvious that Ray was not a demonstrative dog (at least not to me, he was always happy to see everyone else though), I took comfort in knowing that at least his trust in me was growing.
Last week as I was walking around the block, I passed by Ralph (of the "Promised Land") who was mowing his lawn. He turned off his mower as I approached. "Hey," he said, "Would you like to let Ray in the backyard to see if he'll play with Rambo?"
"Sure," I replied, glancing through the chain link at Rambo who was putting up a ruckus on the other side. I led Ray to the fence and looked into the backyard. It was one big booby trap for a blind dog but I had been impressed with the way Ray had handled Ken's backyard a few weeks previously. So I followed Ralph into the yard, removed Ray's leash, and turned him loose.
Rambo was still barking but nervously skittered out of Ray's way as he started to pick his way down the graveled path. Ralph went to fetch Comet, who he attached to a long tether. "Comet jumps the fence," explained Ralph. I looked admiringly at the tall dog, it was a tall fence and I found myself wanting to see Comet in action.
The dogs sniffed interestedly at each other for a moment, then Ray took off to explore. He is an intrepid explorer and loves to go into other peoples' houses and yards. Every time he approached an obstacle I would yell "step up" or "be careful," two phrases that I use consistently to warn Ray of impending problems.
"Does he not see so well?" asked Ralph. (Guess I forgot to tell him. Ooops. My bad.)
Ralph had a retaining wall to the left of the path along which Ray was gingerly picking his way, the house was to the right. The path ended at a chain link fence which enclosed a 'patio' (for Comet?). Ray came to the end of the path at the chain link fence, he turned to the retaining wall, it was chest-high to him. "Step up, Ray," I urged. The backyard sloped up from the retaining wall, first a small stand of ivy and trees, then grass and open yard.
Ray muscled up to the retaining wall, stood on his hind legs to get a feel for where the ground was then jumped up into the ivy (I was so proud). He walked through the ivy, using the chain link as a guide until he reached the end of the yard (another fence in front of him). He turned to come back, got about half way back, and stopped dead.
"Come on, Ray," I called, "Come on."
Ray didn't move. Just stood and looked at me.
"What's wrong buddy? Are you lost?" I asked.
I jumped up in the ivy and went to lead him out. A long, whiplike stem of forsythia that was arching across the route that Ray had traveled, had caught the back of his collar and was holding him immobile. Ray didn't struggle, just waited for me to rescue him.
I thought of what I had told my dad almost two years (!) ago and realized that we were there, Ray and I. For someone who's never owned a dog before, it's been a rocky road full of pitfalls. But somehow I have gained the absolute trust of a blind dog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Progress

Ray and I had spent the morning at the dogpark. He'd played hard with two different yellow labs and spent a bit of time hounding a black and grey lab mix named Semi the Big Truck Dog (named by a four year old). So Ray was tired. But he was whiny. He was following me from room to room, his head down, whining.
"What's wrong Ray?" I asked him as I rubbed his ears. I went into the kitchen to make a few phone calls and watched Ray stand in the middle of the kitchen, nose practically touching the floor, whining. I finished the calls and started to fix myself some lunch. It was still early but I was tired from the park and wanted to eat lunch and lay down to watch some TV. I glanced over at the dish drainer; Ray's dish was there. That's funny, I thought, I don't remember washing that.
I did a mental forehead slap. I'd forgotten to feed the hound before going to the park this morning. He'd been sleeping on Gregg's chair up until the moment we left. I rectified that immediately then fixed myself some lunch and went to sit on the couch.
After a short while, Moonie came down to join us. Lately she's been coming down in the afternoons when Ray is snoozing in the sun or napping on the couch. She jumped up next to me, opposite the side where Ray was sleeping. I picked her up, turned her so that her backside was toward the dog, and put her on my lap. Moonie's tail gently settled across Ray's snout.
Ray's eyes opened and his eyebrows started doing the eyebrow dance on his forehead. His nose twitched but he didn't move. His tail gently started to wag, lightly thumping one of the pillows he was laying on. Moonie, obliviously sat on my lap and purred.
Ray raised his head, and "looked" at Moonie. She nervously moved to the opposite side of me where she could keep a wary eye on the hound, but she didn't run away. Ray put his head back on his other pillow, slightly more alert than before, but not in a manner that Moonie found threatening. She stayed for a while longer, then headed back to cat Siberia.
I felt good about the progress we were making. It's unbelievably slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

The Magic of Yogurt

I used to use canned pumpkin to treat Ray's, uh... digestive issues. About a tablespoon mixed in with his food would take care of any temporary problems.
But Ray is not vegetable-minded. In a word, he HATES anything vegetal. So once he caught on that there was some vegetable matter lurking in his food bowl, he stopped eating it. I was left with the problem of how to treat sporadic outbreaks of, uh... digestive upsets.
On the recommendation of Rachel, Murphy's mom, I tried plain yogurt to treat Ray's uh... digestive problems. The first time he needed it, I didn't happen to have any regular yogurt in the house but did have a container of Greek yogurt. So every morning, I mixed a tablespoon of Greek yogurt into Ray's food. Worked a treat.
I found that the yogurt has a side benefit. Ray's gaseous emissions (which are copious and eye-watering) have disappeared almost entirely. So Ray gets yogurt in his food every day. The only problem now is Ray is so used to the Greek yogurt, he won't eat the regular cheap stuff. Our dog is a gourmhound.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ray Revisits the Teachings of Gandhi

Ray was feeling neglected. We had walked almost all the way around the block and he hadn't met a single friend of his or a person to rub his belly. We were coming up on Ken's house and the Promised Land; Ray started to pull a bit on his leash. I pulled back. Ray was well up on Ken's lawn but still had forward momentum going when all of a sudden he pulled a Gandhi. A total flop out. I tried sweet-talk. I tried stern talk. I tried the old trick of pulling on his leash from behind. Nothing.
I got down on my knees, wedged my hands under his shoulders, and pried him up (I'm not supposed to lift anything for another week - Doctor's orders). Ray stood and started walking again. Rambo, one of the foster dogs living next door to Ken's, started barking. Ray was pulling, he wanted to visit his old friend. We had made it past Rambo's house (the Promised Land), Rambo still was going crazy in the back yard, when Ray pulled another Gandhi. I was standing trying to talk him out of it, when an old man came out of the front door, gave us a glance, and started to unroll his hose from the reel on the front of his house. My urgings to Ray became slightly more urgent. I wasn't sure if we were going to have a hose turned on us and I preferred to get the heck out of range before I found out.
Ray was showing signs of life. I got on my knees and did the wedged hands again. Ray got to his feet just as the old guy turned on the hose. He wasn't paying any attention to the nozzle which was waving wildly (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt); a stream of water missed us by inches. We headed out of range just as the guy turned and looked in our direction then turned his hose on the plants along the fence where Rambo was still furiously barking (we've had an awful LOT of rain lately - must be really thirsty plants). Ray and I beat feet down the street and headed to the safety of home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Last Monday, I had surgery on my nose (a deviated septum that has been giving me lots of problems). On the day previous, in a show of solidarity to my upcoming week of misery, Ray ran nose-first into a tree (Murphy was visiting and Ray was a bit excited). Gregg said that Ray hit the tree so hard it knocked him (Ray) off of his feet. It is only the second time since we got him that I've ever heard Ray yipe in pain (the first time was when I stepped on his foot). He didn't even make a sound when he broadsided the rock at the dog park. I checked his teeth to make sure that he didn't break anything but somehow managed to overlook the big scrape on top of his nose.
"You know, he has a big scrape on the top of his nose," said Gregg, "I'll get something and clean it up."
So Dr. Gregg tended to the hound. Josh, Rachel, and I chatted while I tried to ignore my impending doom.
Monday, Ray went to daycare while we went to the hospital. The procedure and recovery took much longer than expected so Ray didn't get home until almost 7:00. I was already ensconced in a recliner, which is where I was going to be sleeping for the next five days and from which I wouldn't be moving for about as long.
Ray came over to sniff interestedly at the piece of bloody gauze suspended under my nose (I looked like an elderly Groucho Marx after a bar fight). His nose got closer and closer. I retreated into the depths of the recliner, I knew a lick was going to be next. Ray, knowing his boundaries, drew back. Everyday, a couple times a day, Ray would come over to check on the progress of my nose. Sniff, sniff, sniff, closer, closer, closer; then satisfied that all was as it should be, retreat.
The week of misery was long. My lovely husband took the week off to tend to me and keep Ray out of my nose. He ran him, took him to daycare on the one rainy day, and took him to the dogpark on the other days. Ray was good the entire week.
But on Thursday night, something outside was upsetting Ray. At about ten, Ray struggled up out of his bed, growled and started to yell. I was dozing in the recliner but was brought sharply awake.
"What's up Ray?" I asked as Ray headed to the back door, growling, snorting, and yelling.
He paced and yelled in the kitchen, wanting to get out back to take care of whatever was out there disturbing him. Gregg was smart enough not to let him.
"It's alright, Ray," I soothed, over and over.
Ray went back to bed briefly then started his pacing and yelling. I went back to soothing. Gregg put Ray on a leash and took him out back to see what was up. Nothing.
For the next hour or so, the scenario repeated itself a couple of times. Gregg went to bed. I was downstairs alone with my worried dog. He came over to check on the status of my nose one last time, then instead of going back to bed, he curled up on the couch within arms reach of me. He settled down with a bit of a grumble, then growled.
"It's OK Ray," I said.
Ray growled and grumbled, snorted and sighed.
"It's OK Ray," I repeated.
Ray growled and grumbled, snorted, sighed, groaned, yipped, growled.
"It's OK Ray," I said again.
Another series of Ray noises.
Another platitude from me.
The conversation repeated over and over for about 10 minutes. I sat in my recliner and thought briefly of retrieving my video camera to record the whole thing. The sounds coming out of the dog were so human. Like a crotchety old man that no one takes seriously. I could easily translate the whole thing.
"It's OK! Can't she hear anything! There's a pack of wolves outside the door and she tells me everything is OK! No one listens to a thing I say! I try to warn them and all I get is "it's OK." Idiots!"
Ray finally settled down and we both went to sleep. Although I didn't feel particularly well, I felt very well-protected by my grumbly hound.

On Saturday, my Groucho Marx mustache was downgraded to a Charlie Chaplin version. I'm well on my way to recovery.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just Once More, PLEASE

"Can you walk Halle for me Friday?" asked Halle's grandma, Deborah. "Sure," I replied, "Happy to do it."
So Ray and I headed over to Halle's house around lunchtime. We entered. I looked around. No Halle (some watchdog she is). I called out, "Halle! Halle!" No sound.
Ray was excited to be there. I held on to his leash tightly to keep him from banging into things as we walked into the living room for a look-around. No Halle. Not in the kitchen, not in the room off the kitchen. We walked to the bottom of the stairs. "Halle!" I called.
"Halle," I called again, "Your boyfriend is here!"
There was thump as Halle hit the floor (sleeping on a bed?). I looked up the stairs to see her skitter to a stop at the top, then come stumbling down the stairs at a high rate of speed, her tail wagging furiously. Obviously the idea of a boy in the house while no one was home was vastly appealing.
When Halle reached the bottom of the stairs (I was watching to make sure she didn't fall down, she was coming so fast), I turned to see Ray (literally) nose-to-nose with one of Deborah's five cats. The cat wasn't afraid, just curious. Ray was sniffing interestedly, his ears deployed in ULTRA Dumbo mode. Finally, he'd gotten close enough to a cat to get a good smell. I watched on high alert. I knew what was coming next and I was ready for it.
Ray leapt back about a foot with stiff front legs, ready to let out his rebel yell. I grabbed his snout so he couldn't do it. The cat looked confused for a brief moment then wisely retreated to under a table. Ray was practically hysterical with excitement. I dragged him to the back door where Halle was waiting patiently to go out. I managed to get a collar on her and get Ray out the door.
Ray dragged me and Halle the whole way around the block, he was so anxious to get back to his newfound friend. This time, though, I didn't let him into the house. When we got back, I made Ray SIT, turned Halle loose inside, hung her leash on the hook next to the door and backed out. Halle was looking at us with a seriously disappointed look on her face. But it was nothing compared to Ray's disappointment at not being allowed to sniff the cat one more time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Return of Bad Ray

The blind dog was playing with an avocado in the front hall. (If I had a dime for every time I've seen that sentence ...). I'd just been to the store and had deposited two of them on the kitchen counter. One of them was now in the front hall with dog tooth marks in it.

Murphy has been gone for a week and Ray has reverted to his old bad habits. I've been painting most of the downstairs all week long and Ray has not been helping. I've tried to keep him well-exercised but it just doesn't seem to work without Murphy in the mix. Monday was OK. We went to the dogpark for an hour and a half and Ray ran the whole time. And it was sunny and warm so he could sleep stretched out in the sun in the backyard for the rest of the day.
But Tuesday it was rainy and cold. Ray slept until noon, then woke up and started to whine. And then he started to GET INTO THINGS. Even after a long walk, he was antsy. He ate a roll of painters tape (well, he chewed it enough so that I can't get a piece of tape off of it, just a piece of a piece of tape), chewed on the handle of his new dog brush, picked a dirty swiffer out of the trash and shredded it to bits, chewed the handle of a screwdriver. Just walked around picking random things up off tables to chew on them.
Wednesday I worked so Ray went to school (daycare). I was hoping being there a whole day would tire him enough so that he would be fairly good on Thursday. But my hope was misplaced.
Thursday was more of the same. I had to keep an eye cocked the whole day to keep him out of trouble. At one point I heard rummaging from above. Visions of tasseled loafers made me bolt for stairs but Ray had just gotten lost in my studio. He was stuck behind the sewing machine and couldn't find his way out.
Friday was the worst. Even with an hour at the dogpark playing with Bacci, Ray wasn't tired. I spent a whole lot of time listening to the whining and taking things away from him. The avocado was the culmination of a long day.
I need to find him a new Murphy. Stat.

Friday, April 8, 2011

An Old Friend Returns

Today when Ray and I went to the dogpark, we were late. Usually we get there around 9 a.m. and we know most of the dogs present, but today we didn't get there until about 10. There were only two people there with their dogs. One I recognized right away, a chocolate Lab named Rollo (after the candy) and his owner (who's name I don't know). Lately, Rollo is Ray's favorite playfellow when he goes to daycare. I guess it's because they know each other from the dogpark. Rollo's owner and I can't get them to play together when they are actually at the dogpark (Ray just wants to chase Rollo and yell at him as he chases a ball), but apparently, when Ray and Rollo are at daycare, it's a totally different story.
The other dog at the park was a Husky. He looked a bit familiar but I didn't think too much of it until Ray started to yell, then the Husky started to sing (Husky's don't bark, they just wrooo wrooo). The more Ray yelled, the louder the Husky sang.
I got closer to his owner.
"Is that Ray?" she asked.
"It is," I replied recognizing the Husky's owner's accent. "Is that Bacci?" We used to see Bacci at the park all the time. He was one of the few dogs that Ray liked to play with.
"Yes," replied Maria, "I thought that was Ray, but I wasn't sure until he started barking. We haven't seen him in a long time."
"Does Bacci howl like that all the time?" I asked.
"He howls," Maria said, "but not like that. He only does that when Ray is around." Maria had her cellphone out and was trying to get a video of Bacci's song. He was really going to town.
Ray and Bacci started to play. Ray rarely plays with any of the dogs at the park. He is too busy doing what he was bred to do, chasing and yelling. The dogs were having a great time. I stood by dumbfounded as Bacci, being true to his name ('Kiss' in Italian) tried to get a bit, uh, romantic with Ray. Ray, who NEVER puts up with that kind of thing from ANY other dog, stood calmly by while Bacci licked Ray's ear and snuggled him. Then they were off, racing around and wrestling. Seeing my opportunity and thinking of the huge hole left by Murphy's move, I asked Maria if she lived anywhere near me and if she would be interested in bringing Bacci over for playdates. We swapped phone numbers and promised each other to be in touch.
Oh my gosh! It's been so long! How've you been?

Ray Discovers the Promised Land

"Hey Ken!" I yelled, "Did you find the owner of that stray dog?" There had been an incredibly clueless stray happily weaving his way down the middle of the busy street through our neighborhood. I had been walking Ray and couldn't catch it, and many motorists had stopped but couldn't catch it either. I had been close to Ken's house and had started towards it to see if he had a treat to lure the dog, when a woman in a minivan stopped me to say that she thought the dog lived at the end of the closest cul-de-sac. She drove off just as Ken came out of his house with a leash. But by this time the dog was headed on down to the next street. I told Ken what was going on then took off in pursuit. By the time I reached the next street, the dog was nowhere to be seen.
Ray and I went home.
About 15 minutes later, I got a call from Ken. "Where did you say that dog lived?" he asked, "I caught it and put it in my back yard."
I told him what the woman had told me.
So the next day when Ray and I were walking around the block and we saw Ken working in his yard, we stopped to find out what had happened. "I took him to the house you told me and it wasn't their dog but they knew where he lived so I was able to take him home," explained Ken. "Do you want to let Ray in the back to play with Miko?" he asked.
Ken has an old Husky that is going blind. Ray loves Miko but Miko tends to be more than a little indifferent to Ray.
I looked in the backyard. There was a deck, but it only had a couple of steps down to the ground, an old swing-set (Ken's kids are grown and gone so it was OLD. It looked like one that we had had in our back yard when I was a kid), and a shed. It didn't look too treacherous for a blind dog.
"Sure," I said.
Ray and I entered the yard. I kept Ray on his leash while he sniffed interestedly around the deck. When he got to the edge, I said, "Step DOWN." Ray put out a tentative paw but couldn't reach the ground so his legs started to tremble a bit. "Step DOWN, Ray," I said again. Ray decided to try a different part of the deck to see if it was safer. Miko followed us and went down the two steps to the yard. "Step DOWN," I said again to Ray. Ray put out his paw a bit farther this time and touched the next step. Then down to the ground. I let him off his leash and watched him pick around the fenceline while Ken went to fetch us some homemade lemonade.
When Ray reached the fence at the far end of the yard all hell broke lose. Rambo, a jaunty little buff-colored dog with a curly tail, started hurling insults. He was immediately joined by a teeny tiny chihuahua mix, a big greyhound mix named Comet, and an old Pomeranian named Harley (I think I'm missing someone but can't quite remember). Ray took the insults for about a minute then started yelling back.
Ken came out with the lemonade, a look of mild astonishment on his face. "Which one is making that noise?" he asked, looking at his neighbor-dogs. (His neighbor is active in a local rescue society and Rambo and Harley are foster-dogs). "Why, that's RAY!" exclaimed Ken, his look of astonishment giving way to a look of deep amusement. "I hear him barking all the time and I've been blaming Ralph (Ken's neighbor) and this whole time it's been Ray!"
I laughed. Ralph came out of his house and picked up Harley who continued to snarl and bark. I picked up Ray's front feet so that he could get closer to Harley. Ray was trying to lick the small dog who was trying to bite Ray's nose. "I don't think he likes you Ray," I told my hound as I let his feet back down. Ralph put Harley down. Harley was trying to attack Ray through the fence. Ray was trying to get over to the other yard to play with all his new friends. Rambo was still going crazy. The teeny tiny chihuahua mix was adding his two cents. Comet, a friend of Ray's, had gone back into the house.
I pulled Ray away from the fence. Ralph carried Harley away. Rambo calmed down. The teeny tiny chihuahua mix continued to bark sporadically, then wandered away too.
Ken and I chatted for awhile while Ray headed back to the fence. All his new friends were gone. He dejectedly came back to the deck. I took my dog and we went home. But now every time we get near Ken's house, Ray's tail starts wagging and he puuuullllllllls at his leash to get to the promised land. All those dogs in one yard, just a block away. Like his own private dog park. If only he could get to them....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poor Ray

Murphy (and Josh and Rachel) moved last weekend.
How long do you think it will be before Ray stops trying to drag me down the street to her house every time we go out for a walk?

Friday, April 1, 2011


One of the many things I like about Ray is that he is a demonstrative dog. Not a wag-his-tail-happy-to-see-me demonstrative but the kind of demonstrative that makes me feel fine about spending an entire day giving Ray a bath, washing dog bedding, mending the dog bed, washing the blankets in the dog bed, washing the pillows that Ray curled up on when he was still damp from his bath, washing the afghan that I had to cover him with because he was shivering, restuffing his bed cushion, and putting his bed back together. After all of that, the minute I had his nice clean bed put back together, Ray, who never sleeps in his bed until it is bedtime, went right over to it, dug around a little to fluff things up just the way he likes them, turned a few circles, and then went right to sleep.
It made me feel appreciated. What a good dog.
Ahhh, I love the smell of clean sheets