Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Little Bad News

Yesterday, Ray had another eye appointment. I hadn't been liking the look of his 'bad' eye; the one with the glaucoma, cataract, and detached retina, so we headed back to the doggy eye doctor.
"His eye pressure is up," said the doctor. "It's gone from 21 to 45."
"Can we try the other drops?" I asked.
"Sure," she replied, then laid out the other three options I have if the new drops don't work.
We have another appointment in three weeks to re-check his pressure.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Small World

Ray and I were headed around the lake. As is our custom, we were stopping to chat with anyone who cared to, mostly people with other dogs. Approaching on the path was Leila, a one-year-old Boxer/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. Leila has the Ridgeback head and bodyshape but her size, energy level, and personality are all Boxer.
Ray doesn't particularly care for Leila, not because she is mean but because, being a Boxer, she boxes, and the last time they met, in her excitement, Leila inadvertently socked Ray in the eye. So Ray doesn't trust her. He tries not to be rude, he just tries to keep a safe distance. This is a bit tricky since Leila is a VERY strong dog and is walked by a thinnish, friendly young woman who is clearly getting a good workout during their walks.
Since I thought it would be a good idea if Leila got used to Ray so that she wouldn't be so excited when she saw him, we turned from our path and started walking with said young woman and Leila.
"So, where do you live?" asked Leila's owner.
I told her my street and asked where she lived. She reciprocated with her street name.
"You live pretty far from me," she said. "I thought you must live around me somewhere because I was talking to the people next door to me and they knew Ray."
I was fairly certain that I didn't know anyone on the street that she had mentioned and asked their names. I didn't recognize them when she told me, but on our walks Ray and I take in a LOT of territory. I knew the street was in the general direction of the grammar school and Ray and I had recently walked that route on more than one occasion. I could think of only one chance encounter during those walks.
"Do they have a baby?" I asked.
"Yes!" she replied.
Ray and I had met the couple in question one morning while they were pushing a stroller with a tiny baby propped up in the seat. As usual, Ray went bonkers at the smell of BABY. I managed to get him under sufficient control and briefly chatted with the young couple about (what else?) dogs in general and Ray in particular. I was holding Ray well away from the stroller, but his neck was stretched way out, his head snaking back and forth, his tongue flicking out over and over blindly licking the air in search of baby. His tail was wagging. The couple "awww"ed. Since they were obviously dog people, I asked if it was alright if Ray licked the baby's feet. Most people are too nervous to let Ray near their babies. This wonderful couple gave their permission. I held tightly to the leash, planted myself firmly next to him, and let Ray at the baby's feet. He frantically licked the baby's feet and nibbled the baby's toes. I was glad that the tray in front of the baby hid Ray's head. I didn't think the couple would be so sanguine if they knew Ray was a nibbler. Ray tried desperately to get his tongue to the baby's face but I was just as determined that he would stop at the feet. I pushed his nose away and pulled him from the baby. I knew that Ray could die happy that day.
"They were saying what a gentle dog Ray was," continued Leila's owner.
I laughed. If they only knew. If Ray had access to a baby 24/7, the baby would be gone in a week. Little by little, layer by layer, Ray would lick it down to nothing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home Again

I was standing on the front stoop with my hand on the doorknob. I had been gone five whole days. I hesitated a moment wondering what kind of greeting the blind dog had in store for me. The standard Ray-greet for me consists of him standing stock-still just inside the door as I carefully open it so as to not bean him in the head. When I enter, I say "Hell-oooo dog" and give him a quick pat as he tries to rummage through my bags to see if I bought him anything. Although I wasn't sure what to expect this time, I was hoping for more.
I slowly opened the door. Ray was standing just inside, his head tilted to one side, ears deployed in Dumbo mode. For a moment he didn't move at all. I tried not to feel disappointed.
Then, the Ray-greet kicked-in. The one reserved strictly for guests. The one with the spinning and the jumping and the ecstatic tail-wagging. I had only seen it once before for myself, and that was when Ray was being sarcastic. I stood, basking in the warm glow of doggy-affection as Ray picked up his bone and headed around the coffee table, overjoyed that I was back to play keepaway with him. I laughed and followed him a few times watched jealously by Hugo crouched on the stair landing. I took a few steps up, gave the big, black cat a quick scratch behind the ears, then headed back down to tell Gregg about my trip. Ray crawled up on the couch next to me and curled into his usual tightlittle ball. He gave a deep, contented sigh and fell instantly asleep. I vainly wondered if he had been sleeping with one ear open the whole time I was gone, listening for my return.
I gave Gregg an exhaustive account of my travels then, followed by my trusty hound, headed up the stairs for a shower. Ray stood just outside of the bathroom door until he heard the water running, then knowing that I was safely ensconced and couldn't easily escape, Ray jumped up on the bed for a quick nap.
For the rest of the day, Ray stuck to me like a giant, furry leach. By late afternoon, my travels had caught up with me and I was ready for a nap. But Ray was ready for this walk. He stood by his leash and nosed it a couple of times to make sure that someone noticed. Gregg offered to take the dog out while I hit the hay. I watched as they headed out the door and down the drive and was still watching as Ray got to the end of the driveway, stopped dead, and tried to back out of his collar. Gregg was tugging at the leash and encouraging the dog to come but Ray was determined to do no such thing.
I exited the house, ran across the lawn, and started down the sidewalk calling to the dog. Ray immediately ran after me, jumping up, joyfully trying to grab my arm in his teeth, then happily trotting out to the end of retractable leash, prancing his way down the block. I stopped, turned, and tiptoed back towards the house. Not fooled, Ray turned and anxiously jogged after me. Gregg called to the dog and pulled at the leash. Ray strained against the restraint, trying to follow me. I laughed and went to get my shoes. By the time I reappeared, Ray was laying down on the sidewalk. He was pulling a Gandhi*. Just for me.
It felt GREAT to be home.

*using Gandhi's method of passive resistance to get what he wants.

Friday, September 21, 2012


It was dark, it was early, and it was raining. I crawled out of bed to start the final preparations for my trip. Gregg turned on the light and wandered off down the hall. Ray, sleeping on his futon, lifted his head to look in my direction. He was ready to go, I just had to say the word.
He had followed me closely all day the day before. He knew I was getting ready to travel, and I knew he thought he was going with me. He always had in the past (except for a two-day trip to Paris (Virginia), so there was no reason for him to expect any different this time. But for the first time since I brought him home, Ray would be spending a few days home alone with his dad. And for the first time since we've had him, Ray won't be going to daycare.
I quickly finished my travel preparations and went to say goodbye to old bag-of-bones then headed downstairs. (Yesterday, Moonie had another trip to the vet. Despite the fact that we feed her about five times a day - whenever she howls for her gruel, Moonie has lost more weight and has been extremely active lately. The Vet tested for hyperthyroid. Results are pending.) Hugo followed me to the landing. I gave him an ear rub and told him to take care of his sister.
Ray was waiting at the foot of the stairs. I took him out to pee, then Ray came back in and curled up on his favorite pillow on his favorite couch. I went to say goodbye.
"Ray, your Aunt Sandra is going to come and walk you everyday. And Bill and Cindy will take you for walks too (Ray's girlfriend, Cindy, is married)."
Ray gave a very human-sounding 'harumph.' I laughed, thinking it wasn't a reflection of his thoughts about being tended to by Bill and Cindy and Sandra but more because he is being left behind.
"Ray, keep and eye on the house and take care of the cats. I'll see you in a couple of days."
Ray got up off of his couch and followed me to the door. As I left, I closed it gently in front of him.

I'll be back Sunday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I've been thinking lately of all the words that Ray has learned since he moved in. So I started writing them all down to see how many words he actually knows.
  1. Sit
  2. Stay, stay, stay, stay, stay, stay (you have to keep saying it for him to keep doing it)
  3. Shake
  4. Flop
  5. Go (and then immediately come back)
  6. Wait (he recognizes the word, he just has a tough time doing it)
  7. Walk
  8. Lake
  9. Block
  10. Ready?
  11. Moonie
  12. Marva
  13. Maddie
  14. Murphy
  15. Hugo (not sure if he knows this one. I think he does, he just pretends he doesn't)
  16. Izzy
  17. CAREFUL!
  18. Dinner
  19. Treat
  20. Bone (added post-comment from Rachel )
And then there's the complete sentences that he knows
  1. Gitup (into the back seat of the car)
  2. Get out (when he is being bad in the cat room - usually said in conjunction with #12 below)
  3. Step up (for stairs)
  4. Step down (ditto)
  5. Leave it (well, he's heard it enough so that he SHOULD know it)
  6. Get the fly! (It's like watching a cannonball being shot from a cannon)
  7. Who's coming? (sends him right to the front door)
  8. Give us a yell (he's still in the process of learning this one. works about 75% of the time)
  9. Get the CAT (means the mad pee-er - makes him instantly ready to hunt)
  10. Did you hear that? (works just as well as "Give us a yell" in making him do it. I think his response means 'yes')
  11. Go lay down.
  12. Get out of the trash. (said as one word getoutathetrash)
  13. Are you hungry?
  14. Do you want something to eat?
  15. Ray, stay. Take care of the house and keep an eye on the cats. (Works every time. So far, when we leave the house, nothing has happened to the house or the cats.)
I don't think Ray is quite at chimpanzee level yet, but he has to use quite a lot of his brain memorizing the location of furniture and trees. I have high hopes that he will eventually be the Einstein of blind dogs. However, I've pretty much given up any hope that Ray will ever learn the below word: 
  • Come
I'm pretty sure that the part of his brain that would normally house this word has been permanently damaged from bonking into things.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Step Dancing

Yesterday, Ray and I walked with Mirella Addante, the owner of Just Fur Pets, Ray's daycare. I like saying Mirella's name, it sounds delicious to me. ("Oh, yes. I'll have the Mirella Addante with extra parmesan, please.") Mirella Addante lives within walking distance of our house, and lately, because she has a new puppy, Mirella Addante has been taking a lot more walks.
Ray is not particularly interested in Ernie, the new puppy, but he fawns all over Ernie's big brother Bert, who is not particularly interested in Ray. In keeping with his penchant for older women that treat him badly or ignore him, Ray always tries to befriend cool male dogs that believe they are vastly superior to the blind hound. Although, eventually, Ray wins the hearts of the females, it never works with the males. The best Ray can hope for is to gain their tolerance.
Watching Mirella Addante walk her two dogs is like watching a dancer perform some kind of really complicated routine involving lots of hand movements and footwork. Because Ernie is zooming back and forth and around and under, Mirella Addante (OK, I'll stop now) is constantly flinging leashes back and forth and around and under, as well as performing some pretty fancy dance steps in order to keep from tripping over dogs and leashes. Because the dogs are Springers and natural swimmers, they become more excited as they near the boat landing at the lake, their usual swimming hole. Mirella's dance becomes more frantic; hands, leashes, and feet flying; choreography that would be the envy of Michael Flatley.
Meanwhile, Ray is above it all, way out front, leading the pack, and all I have to do is make sure that I lift Ray's leash high enough to keep from conking Mirella in the head as she performs her pas de deux.

Bert, Mirella Addante, and Ernie
Enjoying a swim with Bertie Bert Bert

Photos for a Saturday Morning

My BFF went on vacation. I got a present.

My choice of photo from Ray's photo shoot.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ray and the Turtle

Last weekend, besides having fun in the sun at the pool, Ray had his usual tromp around the lake. This has become pretty routine in the life of the blind dog, mainly because it is a good distance (2.5 miles), jut enough to wear Ray out for most of the day (at least in the summer months). There are also variations of this walk that we can do. We can walk to the lake, half-way-round, then back home by a different route. Or walk to the lake and half-way-round going in the opposite direction, then back. There are approximately six different versions of that walk since the lake can be accessed by six different streets in the 'hood.
But I digress. This last weekend, Ray met a box turtle. It was sitting in the middle of the path minding its own business when we came upon it. Ray was the first on the scene and tripped over the bump in the road. He would have continued on but for the fact that we stopped him. I tapped on the shell of the turtle to attract the dog's attention. Ray came in for a sniff, then, in the international display of disgusted animal, jumped back about a foot or two, flinging his head back as if he'd been stung. He sidled up to the turtle again for another sniff. Again, his head shot back as he sprang away. The scene repeated until Ray decided he'd had enough. He backed away, turned to head up the path, then got a whiff of his own foot, the one that had tripped over the turtle. Repelled and fascinated at the same time, Ray 'looked' at his foot, totally grossed out and perplexed as to what to do. He tried backing up a bit but couldn't get away from it, so he did what any sane dog would do, he tried to out-jog it. And when we reached the car and Ray had to inhabit a space with his own foot, he hung his head out the car window.
I was minding my own business, just walking along...
...when I tripped over this THING.
I didn't know what it was, so I smelled it.
And I gotta tell ya, it was DISGUSTING.
So, of course, I smelled it again.
It was even MORE disgusting.
On the way home, I tried to get the smell out of my head...
...but no matter which window I used, I could still smell that thing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pool Daze

Today was the first day of school. Which means that yesterday was the last day of pool and the annual dog-swim.

As usual, it was a blast.

I always thought that the dog-swim consisted of a whole lot of dogs barking and running around in barely controlled mayhem. This year, I actually took a moment to look around and noticed that the only mayhem at the pool was created by Ray. None of the other dogs were barking, they were quietly swimming and jumping after balls and toys.

Ray, however, was a non-stop baying machine, rushing up and down the side of the pool yelling at the water and everyone in it. I can't decide if he thinks everyone is drowning and is alerting the general public for blocks around, or if he is just excited to be around water, like at Leesylvania State Park.

Isn't it open yet?
This year, Ray took the plunge FIVE times, although some of those plunges were assisted by the general public and some were caused by Ray overbalancing at the side of the pool. He is quite the swimmer and, I think, would give Michael Phelps a run for his money.

Maybe if I try this way...
I don't want anyone to think that Ray is afraid of the water and that I am so mean to make him swim when he can't see where he is going. Because I know Ray isn't afraid. Oh no, not my dog. He's not a quivering, scared hunk of dogflesh. In fact, the second he climbs out of the pool at the end of a swim, Ray is right back at the side, rushing back and forth, yelling his fool head off. And for the entire next year, every time we pass the pool, Ray will try to pull me up the driveway and back to the water. Because that's what he does now, and did for the last year, and the year before that. You know, just in case it's open, and he's invited in for a swim.
(Thank you Maddie's dad for the great photos!)

Hey, how's the water? Let's play Marco Polo!
I know Maddie is around here somewhere.

Hee hee hee. He'll never find me.
(Sandra and Maddie)
Uh oh, here he comes.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Here, Try This On

"Come on up to my work room and I'll wind that skein of yarn into a ball for you," I told Ray's girlfriend, Cindy.
We had just returned from yarn shopping and were standing in the front hall.  Ray's ecstatic greeting, as usual, left me feeling like chopped liver. All the excitement was obviously for the benefit of his girl.
I slipped off my sandals.
"Should I take off my shoes?" asked Cindy.
"Yes, please," I replied. A couple of guys had come in the morning to clean the carpets. Instructions were, "no shoes for 24 hours." (tip of the day - when carpets crunch underfoot, it's time to get them cleaned).
Cindy left her sandals next to the small mountain of shoes adjacent to the front door. We headed to the stairs; the damp carpet felt refreshing to hot toes.
When I reached the top, I turned and caught a quick glimpse of Ray following Cindy up. Something was dangling from his mouth but I didn't get a good look at it before he was blocked from sight by her body.
"What's he got there?" I asked Cindy.
When she reached the top of the stairs, Cindy turned to look, then started to giggle. Ray was still coming up the stairs, the strap of one of Cindy's sandals held delicately between his teeth, the shoe swinging jauntily.
It was Prince Charming, looking for his Cindy-rella.