Friday, December 28, 2012


Gregg, Ray, and I had just started a walk around the lake. A woman with two young boys was walking toward us.
"Hi, Ray!" she said.
With wagging tail, Ray jumped up and tried to kiss the woman on the lips, then did a little spin, his usual greeting for his favorite people.
We stopped to chat with the woman. Ray caught a whiff of one of the boys and was straining at his leash to give him a kiss too. I was straining just as hard to not let him.
As we wished our friends "Happy New Year!" and walked on, Gregg turned to look at me with a quizzical look on his face. I knew what he was thinking.
"I have no idea who that was," I said, laughing uncontrollably.
Ray has introduced me to so many people in the last three years. I have so many friends because of him. Some of them I don't even know.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fine Dining.

I was cutting bits of roast beast off of a chunk of meat from one of the two rib bones of our leftover Christmas dinner to give to Moonie. Ray was standing in the middle of the kitchen, waiting to see if he was going to get anything. I hadn't planned on giving him the rib bone, but it looked too good to waste. I turned and held the bone under his nose. Ray gingerly took it in his teeth.
I went back to the task at hand, cutting the bits into even smaller bits for the old cat. The thought crossed my mind that I should see where Ray was going with his greasy bone, so I looked around to check on the dog.
There was a little pool of dog drool right where Ray had been standing. The pool turned into a string of saliva that stretched from the kitchen into the living room. I followed it from there into the front hall where Ray was standing over his bone, a few flecks of meat dotting the carpet around his feet. I couldn't turn the poor dog out into the cold so I went to get one of the spare dog throws. I picked up his bone, flung the old tablecloth on top of the carpet, and dropped the bone back where it had been.
Ray settled in. Twenty minutes later, not a morsel of meat remained on the bone and Ray was upstairs on the bed sleeping off his treat.
Excuse me, waiter, could you suggest a nice red to go with my dinner.
I enjoy dining in an establishment with table linens.
My compliments to the chef. This is truly the best rib bone I've ever had.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Long Day?

"Look," said Gregg.
We were standing in the laundry room, divesting ourselves of wet outerwear after a quick walk around the block with Ray in the sleety, snowy, rain (rainy, snowy, sleet?).
I turned to look. Ray was standing stock-still just outside the gate, a large bath towel draped over his head. It hung to the floor on either side of him.
"He looks like the ghost of Christmas Past," I said laughing.
I led him to the stairs and sat on the bottom-most step as I dried his cold, wet head. The rest of him had remained pleasantly toasty in his sniffing-sweater.
Feeling frisky after his rubdown, Ray headed to the Christmas tree to rummage through the ornaments on the bottom branches of the tree, then into an empty shoebox that had contained a new pair of slippers for the man of the house. Ray had tried to eat the laces off them the previous day, but since they were now safely on the feet of the new owner, Ray settled for ripping the tissue-paper stuffing to shreds in the front hall.
I knew the short walk wasn't going to cut it for the big, blind dog. It was going to be a long day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A New Holiday Tradition

It was yesterday, two days before Christmas, and I was cleaning the house after returning from being away for five and a half days. There was a knock at the door. Ray's girlfriend, Cindy, was dropping off a present and a card for us. Ray stuck his head into the bag from which Cindy had withdrawn the gift, looking to see if she had maybe forgotten his. She hadn't. There wasn't anything. I dragged the dog out of the bag.
"Are you guys going to be around for Christmas?" I asked. "If you are, we should get together."
"Sounds great!" replied Cindy. "But tomorrow someone's coming over, and Christmas day we're going to my parents."
"How 'bout tonight?" I said. "Why don't you and Bill come for cocktails? I'm cleaning the house. I hate to waste a perfectly good, clean house. I'll see if anyone else is available."
Cindy agreed and left. I called around and rounded up our usual suspects for an impromptu cocktail party. Maddie, the Cocker Spaniel's parents (Dick and Sandra) and Halle, the Greyhound's grandparents (Deborah and Steven). Dick and Sandra were bringing their son and his wife as well; a good group for such short notice.
I finished cleaning the house while Gregg went to get a few provisions for the 5:30 party.
By the time 5:30 rolled around, Ray was asleep in his spot on the couch. Although I had cleaned the rooms and removed all the dog throws, I had left his spot untouched, hoping that he would stay comfily ensconced on his bed of pillows. It was a nice thought.
At the first knock on the door, Ray was up to greet his first guests. I was stowing gifts and coats and Gregg was taking drink orders when the second couple arrived. I went to answer the door and saw a distracted Ray in the front hall with his head down, picking at something. It was the mozzarella, basil, prosciutto roll. They were on sale at the supermarket and Gregg just couldn't resist. He'd had it on the counter until the first guests arrived, then quickly plopped it on the coffee table just as the front door opened. Ray was trying to pick off the mozzarella to get at the good stuff.
I grabbed the roll out from under his nose and whisked it to the kitchen to rinse it off. Gregg cut off the half with the teethmarks in it, waited until all the guests arrived and we could keep an eye on it, then set it back out on the table.


It was 2:00 a.m. when something woke me. Before I went to bed I'd pushed together the twin beds in the guest room in an effort to give myself more sleeping space. I'd had to try something or it would end up like every other trip to my folks' house, no sleep because of the bed hog.
The something that woke me was a grunting dog. I felt him moving oddly and a then heard a groan. Another stunted, weird movement, and then a grunt and a groan. And then again.
I got up to turn on the light to see what was going on.
The mattresses had shifted. They were about five inches apart and Ray had fallen into the chasm. He was stuck.
I stifled a laugh and went to pull the poor dog from his predicament. I managed to wrestle his weight from the gap and shift Ray onto the bed that was against the wall. Then I pushed the mattresses together again, leaving five inches of box spring exposed on the outside bed.
I quickly hopped back into my bed before the hog dog could steal my spot. As soon as I lay down, Ray curled up against me, spanning the two mattresses. I felt confident that we could both finish our night's sleep without any further need for middle-of-the-night rescues.

Hey Grandpa, could you buy me a new bed?
That other one is DANGEROUS

Sunday, December 23, 2012


"Be there at 2:20," said my sister-in-law, Yuko. "Hannah gets out at 2:30."
It was 2:00. I hooked Ray to his leash, yelled "I'll be back" to my folks, and ran out the door. Ray and I jogged the half-mile or so to my brother's house then backtracked the half block to school with John and Yuko. A small group of parents were waiting at the back exit for their kids, the ones that walk home. On the other side of the school was a traffic jam of cars waiting to pick up the bulk of the students.
The bell rang. A smallish group of students poured out of the door. At the sound of the kids, Ray, who had been flopped out on the ground, resting after the exertion of the short jog, stood and pointed his nose in their direction. A wave of girls ebbed and flowed around him, stopping briefly in their surge to coo over and pet him as they went by.
Hannah, seeing her favorite dog being fussed over by others, looked a bit crestfallen at her lack of welcome and went to greet her mother. The wave of girls crested and moved on. We turned to walk home.
"Hi, Ray," said Hannah.
Ray, still overwhelmed by all the recent activity, did not react.
"Hannah, put your hand in front of his nose so that he can smell you," I said.
Hannah stopped dead and put her hand, palm open, fingers stretched, right in front of the dog's nose.
Ray who had stood still for all the little girls, instantly came alive. He gave her had a quick lick, hopped up to try to do the same to her face, did a little spin, and then jumped up to try to eat her hair (Ray loves Hannah's hair.) Hannah, smiling now, turned and ducked, and walked happily home next to her favorite dog.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Down, Please

"Can I book a room on the first floor?" I asked the hotel reservationist, "I'm traveling with a blind dog."
There was a pause. 
"I'm sorry but the best I can do is the second floor," she replied without having any actual sorrow in her voice. 
"Fine," I agreed knowing I didn't have any choice in the matter. 
Ray and I were getting a late start. We were headed to South Carolina to visit the parents and Ray's favorite cousin, Hannah, and as on our most recent previous trips, were splitting the drive into two days. The only difference was, this time we were flying solo, without the help of my sister, Kathy. I had already figured out how I was going to manage dinner and breakfast without a second person to babysit the dog, I wasn't quite prepared for the added complication of a second floor. 
We arrived at the hotel just as it was getting dark and starting to rain. I checked in, ran up to the room and looked out the window to see where I should park to keep the car in view (the bed of the truck was loaded with stuff that was covered with a tarp. I figured I would check on it periodically to make sure it wasn't being messed with). This seemed a good idea at the time, but in retrospect maybe exhaustion from a 3 a.m. doggy pee-call, a hectic morning packing, and a 4 hour drive, was keeping me from thinking particularly clearly. The spot was as far from an entrance as I could possibly park. 
I unloaded my suitcase and two other bags, one containing Ray's food, the other containing Christmas presents (if things were going to get stolen, at least I would still have presents), hooked Ray to his retractable leash and headed for the entrance I had chosen. Another bad idea I realized as soon as I got there. With my hands full of bags and dog, I couldn't hold the door open. This obviously had presented problems for people in the past. A large oblong rock the size of a football was nearby. I rolled it with my foot to prop open the door, let Ray in first, and then dragged in my bags. This led us to the bottom of the stairwell, two flights of 10 stairs each. I had briefly toyed with the idea of trying out the elevator but decided I'd stick with something that the blind dog knows how to handle before introducing him to the unknown. 

"C'mon, Ray," I said as I started up the stairs dragging all my luggage behind me. "Step up, step up, step up." 
I made it to the landing and looked back to see Ray's progress. He was still at the foot of the stairs, sitting back on his haunches. As soon as I gave his leash a little tug, he lay down. The immovable object. 
I stashed all my luggage in the corner of the stairwell and went back down. 
"C'mon, Ray, you can do it," I encouraged the hound. "Step up."
Ray stood. With trembling legs, he crawled up the first stair. 
"Step up," I said again and again as Ray, a quivering but brave mass, went up the nine remaining stairs. 
As soon as he made it to the landing, Ray once again sat back on his haunches. I moved my luggage to the top of the second flight and turned back to lead him up the remaining steps. It took awhile but Ray's trembling legs finally took him where I wanted him.   
I deposited our belongings in the room to the sound of Ray's whining. He wasn't happy about the room and wanted to complain to the management. I clipped the leash to him again and headed back to the stairs. 
"Step DOWN, Ray. Step DOWN," I said to the hound. Once again the haunches were brought into play and the quivering mass returned. Eventually, however, we made it to the bottom, and outside to the dog walk area. 
After a few more trips up and down the stairs and around the hotel, Ray was ready to try a different means of egress. He led me to the elevator and was sniffing around. 
"You want to try it?" I said to my amazing blind dog, pushing the down button. The door slid open. Ray cringed back a bit. I walked on as if nothing untoward had happened. 
"C'mon, Ray," I said giving the leash the lightest of tugs. 
Ray walked onto the elevator. The doors closed and it started to move. Ray hit the floor. We went down one floor and the doors opened. Ray didn't budge. After a bit of tugging on the leash and additional verbal encouragement, Ray was still in the same place. I moved behind him and nudged him with my legs. Ray gingerly crawled forward. We exited the elevator, Ray headed to the lobby and out the front door for another trip around the hotel, then back to the elevator. We went up. Ray's reaction did not improve. On the third try, Ray had had enough. No amount of encouragement was going to get him onto that elevator. He headed for the stairs and took them as if he went up and down two flights of stairs in strange hotels every day of his life. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Water Water Everywhere

The 4:30 arrooooo alarm went off. Thinking that I'd missed the scratching at the door and the whining part of "I have to go out," I threw back the covers and leapt out of bed. I went to the door and unhooked the hook-and-eye expecting to see the dog heading down the stairs.
Instead, Ray quickly tiptoed past me and hurled himself onto the bed, immediately settling into a tinylittle "you can't see me" posture next to Gregg.
Upon Ray's hurtling, Hugo, who had been sitting in my vacated warm spot waiting for me to come back to bed, spazzed across the bedside table in terror. Crashing ensued.
In the dark, I couldn't see what had gone flying but I heard water glugging and assumed my Tervis was a casualty. I turned on the light.
"Did you spill your water? Better get towels." said Gregg groggily as he turned over and went back to sleep.
I looked for my Tervis but didn't see it, although I still heard the water glugging out. I had bought the lidded cups when Gregg was convalescing to keep Moonie-head out of his water. She likes a nice drink of fresh water and will stick her head in any open glass to get a drink. Unfortunately, Moonie isn't smart enough to withdraw her head from a glass after a drink and will just drag the open container over once she is done. A blessing in disguise. Although water spills everywhere, at least most of the time she keeps us from unsuspectingly drinking cat-head contaminated water. As long as the drinking port is closed, the Tervis is spill-proof and cat-proof. The drinking port on my Tervis was obviously open.
I moved the bedside table and found the Tervis behind it with only an inch of water left in the bottom. I retrieved a soaking box of Kleenex from the floor next to it and removed the wet magazines from the top of table (how did water get ON the table when the cup was on the floor behind it????). I went to get towels.
As I mopped up the mess, I thought for the thousandth time of my BFF's favorite sarcastic-laden quote after a pet-related disaster: "Pets enrich our lives in SO many ways."

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Shakespearian Moment

It was close to five (in the morning) and I had to pee. This, the first decision of the day, sounds like such a minor thing. To pee or not to pee; that is the question. But the ramifications of getting out of bed to pee are significant enough that I lay in bed wondering if I could wait another hour.

I could not. I slid out of bed and crept stealthily to the bathroom. The floor creaked as I crept. I sighed.
I did my business, gently eased back into bed, and pulled the wool comforter over me. Just as I started to relax into the bed's warmth, I heard a dog collar. Then a scratch at the door. And then a barely audible whine.

I waited to see if Ray just wanted entry to the room so that he could crawl into bed with us or if he needed to go out. Lately, since I've been ignoring his whining, he's been going downstairs and howling to get me up. I heard the dog collar jingle down the stairs and then an arrrroooooo.

I sighed again and started to flip the bedclothes back when Gregg said "I'll get it. It's almost time to get up anyways."

I thanked my lovely husband. He got up, unhooked the door and exited the room.
"You can leave the door unhooked," I said as he left.

Hugo, who had been sleeping at my feet, walked the length of the bed, plucked at the comforter with his claws, slid under the cover, and curled himself against my side, right under my armpit; his excessive body mass making my arm extend from my shoulder just like a chicken wing. He purred and licked my hand, kneading my bicep with claws that were one-day away from a trimming.

At this point, the other ramification of getting up early started howling for her hoosh.* Moonie was up.

I heard the back door open and then the door to the microwave. Gregg had let the dog in and was preparing the old woman's breakfast of canned food and pancreatic enzyme. (He microwaves the food for six seconds, just enough to take the chill off.) Moonie continued her maniacal howling as Gregg carried the food up to her bedroom.

All of a sudden, Ray appeared on the bed. Hugo stopped purring and waited, ready to bolt if need be. Ray turned about a dozen circles, then settled himself on the side opposite the cat, at least half of his seventy pound weight resting uncomfortably on my body. He heaved a heavy sigh, groaned, then sighed again. Hugo resumed purring.

Ray struggled to get comfortable, squirming every few minutes, then finally stretched fully out across the bed and rested his cast-iron head on my stomach.

For some reason, sleep eluded me. I unfolded my chicken wing, removed iron-head from my belly, and left the sleeping hound in possession of the bed. Followed by my trusty cat, I headed downstairs to breakfast.

* (If you want to know what hoosh is, read about Shackleton's exploration of the Antartic, preferably when you are really, really hot. It will cool you down remarkably.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

VIDEO ALERT: Ray and Tucker Sing Christmas Carols

A new Christmas Classic. One you will want to watch over and over again. Ray and Tucker singing a spontaneous duet. I was lucky enough to have the camera in front of me on the table.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Ray and I were shopping for cat food at the local big-box pet store. One of the clerks, a girl who always makes a point of coming to pet Ray because she has a Bluetick Coonhound, was stocking the shelves. She stopped what she was doing when she saw Ray. Her eyes got a little misty.
"Hi, Ray," she said to my hound.
"What's wrong?" I asked, concerned.
"Our dog was becoming destructive. He was peeing and pooping all over," she said getting a bit choked-up.
"Oh, no," I said with dread in my voice, not wanting to hear the rest. "Was he sick? Did you have to..." my voice trailed off.
"So we had to give him to a shelter," she said.
I looked at her, stunned.
"How old was he?" I asked
"Ten." she replied. "He'd never done anything like that before. But he was peeing and pooping everywhere so my husband and I gave him to a shelter hoping that they could find him a home where he could stay outside all the time."
"That's horrible." I said, trying very hard not to sound judgmental. "It sounds like there was something wrong with him. Did you take him to the vet to find out?" I was edging away from her, not wanting to be contaminated by her nearness.
"Well, we had taken him to the vet before it started to happen and he was fine," she replied following me. Again she said, "He was getting destructive. He was peeing and pooping all over."
I was still moving away from her. I knew she was looking for me to say "You did the right thing," but all I could say was "That's horrible. You should have had him checked out. I don't know how you could give away a dog that you'd had for 10 years." I was still trying to keep the judgement out of my voice but wasn't sure I was succeeding.
"It was hard," she said, "But he was getting destructive. He was peeing and pooping all over."
She was stuck in a loop trying to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable.
"That's horrible," I said again. I moved farther away from her. I felt like crying. She had finally stopped trying to follow me and was watching me mutely as I distanced myself from her.
Just then Ray let loose with an enormous deep-from-the-belly yell. In my preoccupation, I had let him get too near the cage with two cats up for adoption. He had 'treed' them. People came running from all over the store, drawn by the horrific noise, thinking that a dog was in distress. In a way they were right. It wasn't my dog, though, but an incontinent, 10-year old Bluetick Coonhound that had been abandoned by his family.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Ray the Blind Dog Banished from Bedroom!

After four days of creeping ever northward, Ray the Blind Dog was banished from sleeping with his parents until they forget and let him do it again.

Although the hound started off innocuously enough by sleeping curled in a little ball on his dad's side of the bed, every night brought him farther pillow-ward and curled in less of a ball. After watching the dog get closer and closer to his coveted spot, Hugo the Cat decamped in a huff. Ray spent one night curled in a ball between the pillows at the head of the bed. In not-unrelated news, the next day, he was given a bath.

On the night before he was banished, Ray the Blind Dog was stretched full-out, his back against his dad's, his legs extended to their not-insignificant length, pushing against his irate mother who, at this point, was clinging to the edge of the mattress.

On the night of the banishment, the hook-and-eye was deployed and the errant hound was locked out. He spent a considerable amount of time scratching at the door and whining to reclaim his lost privilege. Despite the pathetic-ness of the noise, his parents remained unyielding, knowing full well the inadvisability of letting the dog back to the scene of the crime. Every night thereafter has brought further whining and scratching, but less each night.

After his banishment, the blind hound has resumed sleeping in the space outside the bedroom, and the futon has once again become an expensive dog bed.

Hugo the Cat has since reclaimed his rightful spot.

Banished.  sigh....