Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ray the Magician

I heard chewing noises coming from the front hall. When that happens, I'm never sure what I will find Ray chewing on. Usually it's one of his bones but often enough it's something else so that I am always compelled to look.
So when I heard the chewing noise, I quickly stepped from the kitchen into the front hall to see what Ray was up to. He was laying quietly with a bone across his front paw, his neck stretched out and his head resting on the ground in front of him. His telltale eyebrows however, were doing the eyebrow dance.
Next to him, about a foot away was one of my favorite sandals. He has been rather fascinated with this pair of sandals lately and they have been taking a bit of a beating. This particular sandal had fresh chew marks in the leather and it was still wet from (dog?) slobber.
I don't want to unjustly accuse anyone because, truthfully, the sandal wasn't in his mouth or between his feet, but I have my suspicions about the dog.

My Good Dog, Ray

One thing that I really like about Ray is the way he takes food from my hand. It's not often that I offer him anything by hand, I generally like all food to go into his dish so that he always knows where his food will be. But sometimes I offer him a treat or, in a weak moment, a piece of chicken or something else that is leftover from dinner. When I do, I hold the treat right under his nose. When Ray realizes the food is there, no matter how small that piece of food is, he will ever-so-gently take it in his teeth without touching my fingers. This always moves me just a little bit; that this big, blind dog is so concerned about my fingers. And I think for the millionth time how lucky I am that no one else in the world wanted him.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday Doldrums

Fridays are hard.
I've been working lately, so Ray has had to go to daycare everyday. He loves it when he's there but getting him to go is sometimes difficult. Generally, he's amenable to getting into the car but once we're at 'school', he doesn't want to get out. Like I've mentioned before, he gets really, really comfy in that backseat and sees no reason to get out of it.
Fridays, however, are different. Ray won't even come downstairs to get IN the car, nevermind get out of it once we're at school. Lately, Ray hasn't even wanted to get out of bed. He's tired from all that playing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So, last Friday when I saw him curl up on the futon while I was getting ready for work, I knew I was in trouble. I tried to move him, and when he wouldn't, I got my camera and set it up to record for all his fans, Ray's passive resistance. I also wanted to show everyone how much of what I say, Ray understands. Notice that when I promise him that we'll do something tomorrow because it's the weekend, he gets right up. Ray is no dummy. Like everyone else, he's just tired by the time Friday rolls around. He has the Friday Doldrums and is ready for his weekend to begin.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ray, the INTREPID Blind Dog

Ray the Intrepid
"Let's do something different this weekend," said Gregg. "We haven't done anything new lately, and the summer is just slipping away."
"Great idea!" I replied, "What did you have in mind?"
"Let's get up early, take the dog and go hiking at Fountainhead Park," proposed my lovely husband.
I agreed enthusiastically. So on Saturday, we did just that.
Usually on the weekend, we'll drive to the lake and hike the trail there, but I thought a change of scenery would be just what we all needed. We piled into the car and took off. Ray, as usual, immediately curled up in the back seat, but the minute we passed the usual turnoff to the lake, Ray stood and started whining. I'm not sure if he was trying to warn us that we had missed the turn or he was excited to be going somewhere new. I rolled down the windows in back so that Ray could hang his head out. He took deep breaths of the air, his ears were flapping in the breeze.
When we got to the park, we found that there were three trails: one for mountain biking, one for horse and rider and really serious hikers (more than 17 miles long), and one that was only a couple of miles long. We decided that maybe Ray wasn't quite ready for a 17 mile hike so chose the two mile trail.
Not knowing what we would find at Fountainhead, I had brought both of Ray's leashes, the 6 foot leather leash, and the retractable leash. I figured, if we were going to be running into a lot of people, it's easier to keep Ray from lunging for their faces (still something he surprises me with every now and again) when he is on the shorter, leather leash. But if there weren't going to be a lot of people around, the retractable leash is good for Ray because it lets him get more exercise. He can dally then run to catch up. He can jog out front. He can wander a bit farther to sniff things. He really likes the retractable leash but it is not a good idea when there are lots of people and dogs to meet and greet.
We set out. It wasn't even 10 o'clock but it was already hot and steamy. I had Ray on the retractable leash and had the leather leash hanging around my neck.
After 5 minutes, the back of my neck was sweating. I said to Gregg, "I should have left this leash in the car. I don't think we're going to be meeting many people out here."
Just then the trail did a switchback and we were skimming the parking lot.
Gregg said, "Let me just run and put it in the car. I'll be right back."
He took the leash and jogged off. I looked around. The trail we were on didn't look that bad. The woods were a lot denser and the trail was narrower than at the lake, and it was muddy from all the recent rain, but still, not too bad.
Gregg returned and off we went. Ray seemed to be having a marvelous time. He was leading. I was trying to keep him on the trail.

I know there's a coon out there with my name on it.

After about 15 minutes in, I put the brake on Ray's leash. The trail went straight down. I walked up to the top of the steeeeep drop and said "Uh oh."
Gregg walked up next to me. "Let me go down first," he said.
"Good idea." I replied, "That way if I fall, you can catch me."
When Gregg got to the bottom, he turned and called, "Come on, Ray! I'm right here!"
I took the brake off the leash and let Ray pick his way down, heading for the sound of Gregg's voice. I was picking my own way down behind him. I was congratulating myself on bringing the correct leash thinking how hard it would be to try to keep Ray from pulling me over while on a short leash.
At least, that was my thought until we came to the part of the trail that had the steep drop-off to the side. And the part of the trail that had the footbridge with no rails and the gaps between the boards that were so wide that dog paws could slip through. And then the other part of the trail that had the steep drop-off on the other side. And the other two footbridges with the wide gaps, etc. etc. etc.
What drop-off?

It was an exciting hike, fraught with peril for a blind dog, but Ray took it all in stride. He forded creeks. He climbed. He jumped over fallen logs (walk him to the log, let him feel the height with his chest, tell him to jump). He did his "I smell something" dance. (Back feet stay in place, nose goes straight up in air, front feet do a little jig from side to side). He explored a graveyard.
I smell dead people.

In short, he enjoyed himself immensely.

(I just like this one)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mousie in the Housie

I'd just gotten home from work and was following Ray (with a big pig-ear in his mouth) around the coffee table, through the hallway, into the kitchen, and around again. It's his way of celebrating being home after his long, hard day of playing with a bunch of dogs at 'school'.
I saw a small, grey movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked in the direction of the movement, a big question mark hanging in the air over my head. There was nothing there. I walked towards the movement and saw nothing. I looked in the most likely place that the movement would be hiding if it was a chipmunk and saw an eensy little mousie cowering behind the large piece of furniture upon which rests our TV. I descriptively call it the "big thing with the TV on it."
When the mousie saw me, it very intelligently turned and ran in the opposite direction from the giant that was eyeing it. I tried to head it off at the pass to keep it behind the big thing with the TV on it, but the mousie, not so smartly, kept coming at me. Stereotypically, I screamed like a girl and jumped out of its way.
Ray, who had been closely following me, immediately had my back. His ears were deployed in ultra Dumbo mode and his head was tilted as he somewhat nervously stuck close to my side to offer what protection he could. He knew something was up but he was darned if he knew what it was.
Mousie ran out from behind the big thing with the TV on it and across the room to hide behind the bookcase. I helplessly followed it and Ray just as helplessly followed me. I didn't have any mouse-wrangling equipment with me and I didn't want to let the furry little thing out of my sight to go get some.
Then Mouse, sticking close to the wall, did a tour of the entire room. Following at a safe distance, Ray and I did too. We ended up back at the big thing with the TV on it. Mouse paused. Ray and I paused.
I was pondering my options when Mouse took off again. This time it turned right where before it had turned left (obviously there was no way out to the left). It headed into the coat closet, ran to the back wall, then realizing its error, turned and raced back toward me and freedom. I eeeked but was determined to keep Mouse in a nice confined space so didn't budge (much).
Mouse, after exploring its limited options, jammed itself into a tiny gap in the corner of the closet, only its tail visible to tell me that it hadn't disappeared inside the wall.
I got down on my hands and knees. Ray got up in my face, snuffling to make sure I was still OK. I donned a pair of winter gloves that were handily by and crawled back into the closet. Ray put his nose to the floor in an attempt to figure out what the heck I was trying to track. I tried futilely to get ahold of the mousie tail to extract Mouse from its hidey hole but thick winter gloves do not lend themselves well to tiny tail grabbing.
I backed out of the closet, stood, and raced up the stairs with Ray sticking to my heels like toilet paper. I retrieved my map tube and headed back down the stairs at a high rate of speed still followed by my trusty protector. I grabbed the flashlight and yardstick and, now appropriately armed, went back to the closet.
I realized pretty quickly that my old standbys were not much use in this particular mouse situation. I couldn't scrape the mousie out of the crack into which it was wedged and couldn't convince it that the tube was the place to be when there was a giant dog and a giant at the other end of it. So I positioned the tube toward Mouse, closed the closet door, taped all along the bottom gap with painters tape so that Mouse couldn't escape, clipped a leash on Ray and went for a nice long walk.
By the time Gregg got home from work, Mouse had taken up residence in the middle of the map tube and was airlifted to more appropriate surroundings outside.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Two Years.
It's been two years since I brought home a blind, lymph-node impared, Red-Tick Coonhound (re-named) Ray. And I've loved every minute of it.
I want to say for the record, that the minute my sister Kathy read me the ad in the paper, I knew that I would end up with a blind hound dog. There was just this feeling of inevitability that settled over me. I had no control over my destiny from that moment until the moment that we hoisted Ray's butt up into the car and drove off. I can remember the feeling as if it happened yesterday. No control.
It was Fate with a capital F.
Sometimes Fate knows exactly what it is doing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ray Discovers the Joys of a Minivan

While in S.C., Yuko let me, Kathy, and Ray go with her to pick Hannah up at school. This is when Ray discovered the Magic Minivan.
Ray found that he can actually walk around in a minivan while it's moving. He can sleep on the floor between his favorite cousin and his Aunt Kathy. He can stand next to me and hang his head out the front window. Life for a blind dog, it seems, is much better in a minivan.
Unfortunately, now, every time he hears a minivan door slide open, he is THERE dragging me behind him.
I've always said I wouldn't be caught dead in a minivan. But now, I have to wonder...

Ray, Lovin' the Minivan Life