Saturday, April 7, 2012

DISCLAIMER: I only took one photo of the whole day and it doesn't contain Ray

We were all a bit tired from dinner the night before so the day started out slow. We had planned to pick up Niki and Jez at the hotel, take them on a hike with Ray, then to lunch, then back to the house to prepare for the 'Beer and Bonfire." I have these parties so that I can burn all the windfall from the trees that accumulates over a season - we hadn't had one for over a year and the twiggage was piled high. But we didn't get started 'till late so we made a last minute change of plans and decided on the closer and easier walk at the lake.

Pre-Party Activities
Gregg, Ray, and I piled into Gregg's sedan, the only one of our two cars that could possibly hold four people and a large dog, not particularly comfortably, but with all limbs contained inside. When we arrived at the hotel, I surrendered the front seat to Jez (more legroom) and made a Ray sandwich with Niki in back. Ray showed his delight at seeing his friends with ear kisses all 'round, then stood between Niki and I, looking supremely uncomfortable.
"You can lay down, Ray," said Niki trying to convince Ray to curl himself into the tiny little ball that he does so well.
Ray eventually obliged and we headed to our daily walk location.
We extracted ourselves from the car and started on our amble. I was holding Ray's leash but quickly turned it over to Jez so that I could concentrate on chatting with my new-found friend, Niki. Gregg, Jez, and Ray were out front and I couldn't resist the photo op. Unfortunately Ray, who was framed by the two men, moved at the last minute .
The difference between 5'10" and 6'4"
The day was clear, brisk, and rather gorgeous. We took our time, stopping to sniff tree trunks, clumps of grass, piles of leaves and anything else that caught our fancy. It was a most pleasant meander.
After an uneventful and delightful stroll, we dropped Ray at home and headed to lunch; more interesting conversation took place (not all of it was about dogs). We headed home.
At this point in the afternoon, the pace picked up a bit. Gregg took off to do the party shopping while Niki and Jez were pressed into service to move chairs and tables into the backyard.
We dropped the furniture randomly on one side of the fire pit, trying to minimize the disruption to the backyard while the blind dog was still out and about. I figured, optimistically, that once the sun went down, Ray would fall asleep and it wouldn't be so much of an issue to have furniture scattered about the yard. (One thing about having a blind dog, any change to their surroundings has to be carefully thought out.) Ray immediately came outside and bonked into the picnic table.
"Careful," I called too late.
We watched Ray for several minutes, yelling the same warning every time he neared something until he got the hang of things. He quickly adapted, picking his way carefully whenever he got to the end of the yard where the new things were located.
At this point Niki said that she needed to go buy T-shirts before heading back to her side of the pond. It was time for Ray's afternoon perambulation so I handed him over to Jez, told him Ray's usual route and Niki and I headed off.
I had told Jez and Niki about the many people I have met since we adopted Ray and by the time Jez made it around the block, he had met two of them and was finishing his walk up with Maddie and Sandra.
When we returned from T-shirt buying, Niki was put in charge of the music, Jez in charge of the fire, and I in charge of the food. Ray drifted between everyone, getting much attention and random belly-rubs from his friends. Gregg returned from the grocery and the activity level ramped up another notch. At 6:00 sharp, people started to arrive.

The Party
Ray is a true party animal. He loves to greet people and everyone got the same emotional treatment. Frantic tail wags, wrist and hand grabs, and a lunge to the face for a quick kiss. Usually I try to repress this activity so that it isn't intimidating to people that don't know Ray but I was in a festive mood so I let Ray do whatever he wanted. He was being quite good, greeting new friends and old, following them into the yard, announcing their arrival (only some of them got this treatment - I don't know how he chooses), then personally escorting them to the food table. I was keeping an eye on him but he was pretty distracted for awhile with all the arrivals and contained his celebration to licking the ice in washtub in which the drinks were nestled (it wasn't until later when everyone was cooking hotdogs over the fire that I had to lock him in the house for a time).
The night was crystal clear, very cool, and brightly lit by a full moon. The conversations was boisterous and the party was going fabulously when Caleb, our former next-door-neighbor and the artistic genius that designed this blog page, arrived with his wife, Lindsay. Caleb and Lindsay are particular favorites of Ray and Ray showed his favoritism, spinning in circles and fawning embarrassingly. Caleb had in his hand a present for the blind hound, a hambone, still in the store packaging. He handed it to Ray who immediately did a couple keep-away circles around the coffee table then headed outside to show everyone his prize and find a place to bury it.
It took Ray a good half hour to find exactly the right spot for his bone. He planted it (still in original package - they are more valuable this way) and covered it carefully.
A short time later, Caleb asked, "Where's Ray's bone?"
"He buried it," I responded, "Now he's guarding it."
Ray was standing near the fence, alert for predators. Caleb laughed and approached Ray. Ray nervously moved closer to the bone's grave, giving it's location away by "staring" at the exact spot he had buried it.
"I'm not going to take your bone, Ray," said Caleb. "C'mere."
Ray wagged his tail, embarrassed that he had mistrusted his good friend and went to Caleb to get his head and neck scrubbed. He then immediately returned to his guard post, dutifully protecting his prized possession. Caleb laughed and moved away.
Ray's friends, Niki and Jez, were a big hit with the assembled guests. After about five hours of food, fun, and random announcements by Ray, the party wound down. Jean's Special Taxi Service was pressed into service to return the Brits to their hotel.
Before they left, Niki and Jez went to say goodbye to their blind friend who, by this time, was locked in the house and standing with his head down, his nose pressed firmly against the crack of the door. Knowing that they probably wouldn't see Ray again, a touching scene ensued. Goodbyes were said all around. The two bundled into the cab and were driven off into the moonlit night.
The British Invasion was over.
Ray, missing his friends

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