Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thanks, Murph

Ray slept in until 10:30 this morning. I can't remember the last time we've been able to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning, a short walk around the block, and then a day of doing whatever. And we owe it all to Murphy.
Last night, Murphy and her parents, (Josh and Rachel), came to dinner. Ray greeted them at the door growling and with hackles raised until Murphy made a noise and he figured out who it was.
They all came in, the dogs raced to the dog door (which was closed because it was raining) and stood, frantically scratching to get out. I was determined that they should play inside (I was just getting used to the return of our grass) for almost five minutes. But they were just so excited to see each other that I couldn't resist. So out they went.
They played. We chatted.
We had a convivial meal. They dissected a tennis ball under the dining room table.
We  enjoyed small-talk in the living room. They companionably dismembered a stuffed fox.
All in all a successful, fun-filled evening.
Murphy will be coming for a sleep-over in mid-May. We are looking forward to the return of Ray's old friend.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

VIDEO ALERT: Ray the Blind Dog does the Spastic Cannonball

If you've read this post already, just ignore this. I changed the title of the blog but the blog site changed the date of the posting. The blog site has a new format and, apparently, a few bugs to work out.

It was an absolutely gorgeous spring day so we decided to hike a different trail that parallels a stream. Ray was feeling frisky, the weather was warmish, and the water wasn't freezing. I had the brilliant idea to take a quick video of him splashing around when he went into spastic cannonball mode. I haven't been able to get this on video before because usually it is so spontaneous that I'm never prepared with a camera. It's not the best since it was taken with my phone but you get the idea...

VIDEO ALERT; Ray the Blind Dog and Tucker

Ray's latest video. Watch it in HD.

Dog of Mystery

Mein hund spricht Deutsch*. Despite his excellent hearing (see yesterday's post), Ray has never been one to come when we call. I didn't realize it was because he only understands 'come' when it is spoken in German.
Gregg was the one who discovered this when Ray was, as usual, out at the back fence yelling. It was after 9 p.m. (we try to keep him from yelling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.) so Gregg went out to call the dog in.  In one of his moments of total randomness, Gregg called to Ray "Kommen sie hier, Ray. Mach schnell."**
Ray obeyed, and continues to obey, when called to in German. We can't really explain this. We don't know where Ray learned German. And as long as he continues to come when called (in German), we don't care. But it is a bit of a mystery.

*My dog speaks German.
**Come here, Ray. Quickly.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Can you hear me now?

Today I gave my dog a hearing test, and I am happy to report that he passed with flying colors.
We had just returned from our end-of-day walk around the block. Ray was a bit on the tired side because we had jog/walked the lake trail and then Tucker had come over for a play date. As we were walking across the grass to the front door, Ray suddenly stopped and refused to move. He slowly sank to the grass and passed out in a total flop. This is not too unusual for the hound. He pulls this move a lot, mostly when we are passing the house of someone he knows. It generally takes me five or ten minutes to get him going again. I gave it quick try, but Ray was being particularly stubborn, and I had things to do.
I unfastened the leash from his collar, left the dog lying in the front yard, and went inside. I figured I could watch him through the glass storm door, and since he was only about ten or twelve feet from the door, I  could get to him pretty quickly if I had to. I had an idea about how to get him to move but I didn't know if it would work.
I went into the kitchen and got his food dish. I was watching Ray as I stood at the kitchen sink and put crunchies in his metal dog-food bowl.
No reaction.
I went to the refrigerator and got out his canned food (which I mix with his crunchies).
No reaction.
I opened the drawer to get a fork.
One ear twitched.
I popped off the plastic lid that was covering what remained of the canned food.
In less time than it takes to tell, Ray was standing at the front door, both ears fully deployed in Dumbo mode.
Taking into consideration that I was standing at a kitchen counter which is approximately two feet deep, and that I was standing on the FAR side of the kitchen, and that our kitchen is at the back of the house, and that our house is 25 feet wide, and that Ray was approximately 10-12 feet from the front door, {25-2+11 (we'll split the difference between 10 and 12)}, Ray can hear a plastic lid being removed from a can - through a glass door - approximately 34 feet away.
He may be blind, but there is NOTHING wrong with his hearing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ray's New FRIEND!

Ray has a new friend (thank GOD). Ever since Murphy moved (a year ago!) I have been on the lookout for a playmate for Ray. This is much easier said than done. There are a few specific things that a good Raymate has to have

  1. The dog has to be fast (Ray likes his friends fast)
  2. The dog has to be friendly (We don't want much in the way of actual fighting)
  3. The dog has to be tough (Being run into or over by a hound the size of Ray is not for a weakling)
  4. The dog has to want to play (Try as he might, Ray cannot get his girlfriend, Halle, or his neighbor, Maddie, to play).
So, just before we headed down to S.C., Ray and I met Tucker, a nine-month old Australian Cattle Dog that lives on the street behind us. 
Tucker fits the bill to a T (except for the fact that, unlike Murphy who steals Ray's bones and plays keepaway, Tucker steals Ray's bones and is a bit aggressive about keeping them. As long as we keep all bones out of the playground, Tucker will be the perfect playmate for the blind hound.) He is a zoomy little cannon ball, just the right height to run under the tall dog; tough as nails, full of energy, and always smiling. We have high hopes for this friendship. 
One downside though. Tucker's family plans on moving in a year. I'm hoping that by that time, Tucker and Ray will be such good friends that they won't be able to take their dog away and break up the pair. But we'll take this one day at a time for now. 
He is going to be here in fifteen minutes. I have to go outside and scoop the poops.   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No Difference

Yesterday, while out walking during another rainy day, Ray and I met blind dog Beamer and his sister dog, Ladybug. Unlike Ray, who is not obviously blind, Beamer has no eyes. While the dogs shook hands all around (sounds so much better than sniffed butts, doesn't it?), I chatted with the owners.
Beamer, a four-year old hound mix, was a new-hire. He was adopted in January to keep Ladybug, an eight-month old puppy, occupied. The owners said that it was working out great. Their description of Beamer's and Ladybug's backyard playing was a dead-on match for how Ray used to play with Murphy. (We miss Murphy).
But the reason I bring this up is because of my reaction to the dog with no eyes. I found myself strangely tentative in petting Beamer. I didn't want to startle him by putting my hands on him 'out of the blue.' I've seen this reaction in other people when they've never met Ray before, and I always tell them the same thing "Just put your hands right on him, otherwise he doesn't know you're trying to."
After a minute of examining in my head the difference between a blind dog with no eyes and a blind dog with eyes (there isn't one), I realized what a complete idiot I was and gave Beamer his due. (Truthfully, Beamer did not seem that interested in being petted by moi. He was more interested in sniffing, and being sniffed by, Ray.)
It's a good thing that we met the dog with no eyes. I didn't even realize that my notions of "eyes" vs "no eyes" were different. Now, if Ray ever gets there, I'll be ready.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I want YOU

It was 9:30 a.m., I was on my way out to meet my BFF, Joanne, for shopping and lunch. Ray hadn't yet had his morning constitutional so Gregg volunteered to take the dog for a walk around the 'long' block. The weather was getting icky fast. It was supposed to get colder and rainier as the day progressed, but for the moment, it wasn't too bad and was only lightly drizzling.
Gregg slipped Ray's collar over the dog's ears and led him outside. I heard Gregg's encouraging words, "Come on Ray, let's go. Let's go for a walk 'round the block."
"Have fun," I called as I turned from the door to turn off a few lights and do a few other last-minute things before heading out.
When I got to the door, Ray was standing, straining at the end of his leash with his nose pressed against the glass storm door. I laughed at the look on his face.
"He's having some separation anxiety," said Gregg with a smile.
I laughed again, exited, and locked the front door.
"Come on, Ray, let's go for a walk," I said as I walked across the grass to my car, pressing the unlock button on my key fob. Ray, happily followed, heard the car unlock, and headed for the rear door.
"No, you're not going, Ray," said Gregg as he tugged gently on the leash.
Ray resisted. I walked down the driveway after Gregg, "Come on, Ray," I said, stomping my feet so that he would think I was going for a walk too.
Ray followed but it was obvious he wasn't buying it, his ears were deployed in Dumbo mode and he was 'looking' at me, still straining at the leash in my general direction.
"Don't worry," soothed Gregg, "Come on, let's go for a walk."
I veered off toward my car. Ray stopped in his tracks. Gregg was still encouraging the dog as I pulled out of the driveway. Ray walked with Gregg down the street, following the sound of my car as I drove down the cul de sac.
I smiled as I stopped at the corner STOP sign. My dog may not greet me enthusiastically when I arrive home, but he sure knows how to make me feel wanted when I leave.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Note from Jez

Dear Ray, 
Please accept my most sincere apologies for taking so long to submit for consideration, as part of your utterly compelling & historic life record, my thoughts on your receiving us inferior humanoids at your home, for your global audience to read (and bay along to)

I have been following your blog, as communicated to your personal secretary with your brilliant animated eyebrows (how is your court-case against Jean-Dominique Bauby going?) and you will be both thrilled and relieved to learn that, as a result of your impeccable demonstration that sight-free canines rule OK, your greyhound cousin across the pond - Conor - was released from his shackles of human fussing to follow in your pawsteps to a full & mischievous dog's life :0)

Me and the trouble & strife (that's wife for those w/o Cockney) will be forever indebted to your friendly welcome and offer to share the culinary, sommelier, veer-here-cull and other skills provided by your live-in staff, Jean & Gregg ...not to mention allowing us all to congregate in your dining room for a sumptuous feast & witty banter whilst you relaxed in your quarters. Mainly on your back. I can only hope that our well-practiced belly-rubs more than made up for your hospitality?
Jez giving the well-practiced belly-rub
We were amazed at your house-sized kennel and the well-tended landscape gardens and your generous offer to allow Jean & Gregg to decorate both with their delightfully quirky collection of memories. Not to mention allowing them some generous dignity to refer to your fans as their friends after you had sent out an invite for a fully stocked BBQ & beer event, complete with tasty choons for you to howl along to in your inimitable way (and thus so graciously include the entire 'hood)

Smilin' for his fans
I must tip my hat to you for persuading Man to make that lake you took us round (note - our neighborhood lake is man-made - jean). And how kind of you to have a word in advance with that graceful heron and those sun-basking turtles to make an appearance as you walked us round the perimeter although, of course, your company alone would have been more than adequate. However, I just cannot apologise enough for failing to curb my shocking driving skills after I failed to alert you to that post via your communication tethering device (your female attendant referred to it as a leash if I remember rightly?)  
Graceful heron
Sun-basking turtles
Walking the perimeter

Anyhoo, I have dilly-dallied too long and been greedy with my much-valued audience with you given the short time you can afford me amongst your legion of fans. And fitting in sleep. And with your other charitable functions to attend to (such as your selfless burying of time-capsule bones for future hound generations to dig up and marvel at). We really miss you Ray. And your full time staff. We felt like we were left hanging and it took us a while to settle back in to our lives on t'other side of the pond :0(

Still, I am so glad I clearly needn't press you to look after yourself!
Yours, your 2nd biggest international fan, and most humble face-to-lick, 

PS Have you arranged with Jean yet to make a speeded-up video homage of her chasing you round the table to the Benny Hill theme tune? (note - hahahahahaha. hmmmmm, kinda like the idea -  jean)

PPS Has anyone ever told you what fantastic ears you have? (note - Ray knows - jean)

PPPS I have kept to my word of not telling Jean we caught you snuffling @ the kitchen counter (note - WHAT?! - jean)

PPPPS How kind of you to offer to critique our son's original take on funky rock with his band Jagged Lexicon & a CD will be in the post (note - Ray looks forward to it - jean)

(note - you forgot to mention Ray's meeting the alien dog during the walk-around - jean)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Izzy and Murphy playing Tag

Rachel, Murphy's mom, posted this video to her blog. It's of Ray's best friend, Murph, playing with the ever-fascinating Izzy (Murphy's cat-sister). I can only dream of Ray doing this with his cats. It would be much more likely that blood would be involved if the playmate was Hugo.
Click on the link below:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Day of Rest

Ray and I were both tired after our trip. So after a quick two and a half mile walk, we did nothing for the rest of the day. It was lovely.

I don't know how this is comfortable, but apparently it is.


The Infirmary

While Ray and I were gone, Gregg learned how to give Moonie fluids through a needle inserted under her skin. When the doctor first suggested this to me, my initial reaction was YIKES. I told her that while I was a bit too squeamish to do such a thing, I was pretty sure that Gregg could do it. So on the day that Ray and I rolled out of town, Gregg headed to the vet to get a lesson.
"So how did it go?" I asked him when I called later that day.
"It was fine," he replied breezily, "It sure makes her feel good. She's been catching her birdie all night and howling like a crazy woman."
Moonie has a cat toy, a feather on a stick (as seen in Ray the Blind Dog and the Feather) that she drags around the house screaming. Apparently, the better she feels the more that poor birdie gets it.
"It's almost annoying," he added whispering, afraid that someone would hear him and think he was a mean man for saying that his ailing old cat was being annoying.
"The fluids give her a bit of a hunch back. She looks like Quasimodo for a while, but it goes away pretty quickly," he added.
"Did she struggle at all?" I asked.
"Not really," Gregg replied, "although I think it will be easier to do with two people. She was a little squirmy when I was trying to put the needle in, but once it was in and I was petting her she was fine."
When Ray and I returned from vacation, the cat room was set up as a mini MASH unit with the fluid bag hanging by a hook from the ceiling fan.
Has anyone seen my birdie?

We gave Moonie fluids last night. I distracted her a bit while Gregg inserted the needle, then Moonie purred through the whole thing while we both petted her. The fluids pooch out the back of neck and make it look like she's wearing a fur collar but she felt great afterwards. That is one doomed birdie. (and she really is a little annoying.)

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Dog

Moonieeeeeeeeee, I'm hooooommmmmme

Where is she?

I'm over here, dog.

Are you OK? I hear you've been sick.

I'm fine. Now get outta my bed.

Vacation Over

It was the last day of our vacation. There were hugs all around. Ray escorted Yuko and Hannah to the door and was restrained from joining them when they left. They climbed into the minivan. The car started and pulled out of the driveway.
Ray stood, head cocked, ears deployed in Dumbo mode, listening to the car as it drove away. His friends gone, Ray returned to the center of the living room and gave two long (mournful?) howls then lay down with his characteristic old-man groan and passed out on the floor. His vacation was over.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Soccer Match

Over the weekend we went to Hannah's soccer game. Anyone who's ever been to a soccer game where the team members are ages 7 through 9 knows that there's a whole lotta kicking going on, just not a lot of connecting. So when Hannah's team finally scored a point, the crowd went wild. Ray got into the spirit of the game and gave a couple of good long yells which sounded incredibly like "goooooallllllllllllll."
Every team should have such a fan.

On the way to the game: Mom, Dad, Ray, and Kathy

VIDEO ALERT: Ray the Blind Dog and Hannah

My niece Hannah is a remarkable child. Not because she is brilliant (even though she is). Not because she is beautiful (even though she is). But because she loves Ray and plays with him as if he were any other dog, just different. And even though Hannah teases Ray unmercifully, he loves her back and considers her as his pack.
Hannah knows that Ray's favorite game is keepaway. She steals his bones, holds them under his nose so that he knows she has them, then runs out of his reach. She taps the rawhide with her palm so that he can track her by the sound. He trots after her until he realizes that he has no hope of catching her, then stops and waits, pretending that he is finished with the game, his head down in sad dog mode.
Hannah, who doesn't want the game to end, calls and taps the bone, calls and taps the bone, getting nearer and nearer until Ray jumps out at her, trying to catch her with his front feet. Hannah squeals and runs away followed by the blind dog until he gives up. The cycle repeats.

I cannot play this video with the volumn on. Ray hears Hannah's voice and he starts yelling. He knows she is out there and is going to steal his bone.

Friday, April 13, 2012

One more time around...

Upon arrival at my parents house, chaos reigned (we were greeted by the usual - "Oh look it's Jeannie and Kathleen. And RAY! Hi RAY! How ARE you RAY?!).
I can't really explain this phenomenon but whenever any of my family visits my parents, a state of chaos exits. It's like a tiny vortex of mayhem that grows ever bigger every time it sucks in another family member. (I have five siblings). If one of the family members in the vortex is my older sister Kathy, multiply the chaos factor by at LEAST five.
It was a very busy afternoon followed by a meal at local restaurant that included my parents as well as my brilliant, seven-year-0ld niece, Hannah, and my sister-in-law, Yuko. My brother, John, who is not a brave man, decided to stay at home because he was 'tired.'
But all of this is beside the point. Which is, during the chaotic afternoon, after I finished Ray-proofing the house,

Awkward doorjamb, Ray-proofed
dad and I were able to erect a temporary fence of stomp-in steel posts and a 50' roll of welded-wire fencing so that Ray could wander the yard unleashed. Dad's yard is huge, and most of it is already fenced, but there are a couple of tricky open areas that needed blocking, so we blocked them and then used pieces of fabric to mark them so that no one would try to walk or drive through them without noticing the fencing was there.
I'm pretty sure I used to escape this way.

Free at last
For the first time in nearly three years Ray had complete control of a really big space.
Since then, Ray has been making the most of it by burying bones wherever he wants, without some nosy Parker on the end of a leash spying on him. The problem is, with all of the extra space to chose from, Ray has trouble making up his mind exactly where to bury the bones. He wanders and wanders the yard, stopping here and there, trying to decide if the conditions are right or if maybe the spot he just passed is better.
If Hannah is around, Ray takes even more time. He is convinced that she will be behind him digging up his bones as soon as he plants them (he is right). However, Ray has found that if he takes long enough in his selection process, Hannah gets bored and goes off to do something else. So Ray has set several new records in looking for a good place to dig a hole. He made so many rounds of the yard with a bone hanging out of his mouth that Yuko finally yelled out the window to me, begging me to take Ray's bone away from him so that he could rest. (It's ironic considering the bone was a gift from her in the first place). The next time he passed, I grabbed Ray's bone and made a dash for the house. Ray chased me up the stairs and into the living room where I gave it back to him. He settled in for a nice chew and some quiet time with his favorite cousin.
Life doesn't get any better...

Exhausted after a long day of bone burying

Adaptability is his Middle Name

I was really worried about taking Ray to a hotel. But my sister, Kathy, was flying in to Virginia so that we could drive to S. Carolina together, and her flight wasn't due to arrive until 2:00. Because it's an 8 hour drive, two whole days at either end of her vacation would be taken up with travel. So we decided that I would pick her up at the airport and, if her flights were all on time and her arrival wasn't delayed (never expect a flight to be on time, you will only be disappointed), we would immediately hit the road. We would drive for 3 or 4 hours to get a good headstart, stay at a hotel overnight, and be at my parents house by noon the next day.
The only catch was finding a pet-friendly hotel; one for which we could make last-minute reservations. I spent some time doing research before our trip and settled on Country Inn and Suites in Rocky Mount, N.C.
All went as planned. Kathy's flight was on time, we hit the road immediately, managed to make a last-minute reservation, and arrived at the hotel by 7:00. The only hitch was, by the time we arrived all of the pet-friendly rooms were occupied. (If you read my comment in the previous blog, you know that they gave us the room designated for handicapped, if you didn't read it, now you know).
Ray was initially a little trepidatious at entering a room that didn't have a friendly person in it. But once he was persuaded that it was ok, he did his usual routine of pacing and pacing to memorize the layout. (This is a bit disconcerting if you don't know what he's doing.) He was also a little whiny at first but I figured maybe he just had to pee so I took him outside for a walk around the grounds. There was a nice grassy area with a large pond and a couple of geese. Ray paced and paced and paced. I thought maybe he was looking for a place to poop but it turned out he was trying to memorize the layout of that area too. He walked me all around the perimeter of the hotel a couple of times before I persuaded him to return to the room. I showed him the back entrance to the hotel, and after a couple more laps around the hotel and a couple more times entering through the back entrance, Ray felt comfortable that he could find this exit in case of a fire. The whining stopped and we settled in for the night.
I was particularly worried that there would be comings and goings and strange voices in the hall during the night. Ray doesn't like comings and goings and strange voices, and his usual reaction is a menacing growl followed by a warning arooooo, followed by a more vigorous AROOooooo, followed by his raise-the-roof ARROOOOOOOOOOO. So I had some 'concerns'. Kathy had been apprised of these concerns and we were both prepared to hit the road again if we were tossed out on our kiesters.
But Ray did none of these things. He woke me to go outside sometime after 11 and again around 5 am but at neither of these times did he arooooo, AROOoooooo, or ARROOOOOOOOOOO. The night was calm. Ray was perfectly content to sleep with me and take up 3/4 of the queen bed. And I was perfectly content with my meager bit of the mattress.
The next morning we made a couple more laps around the hotel, packed up our stuff and hit the road again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On the Road

There is NO WAY I'm staying in this fleabag hotel

Can SOMEONE please show me the way out of here.

OK, maybe this isn't so bad

Where have all the Flowers Gone?

This weekend, I was visited by the Easter Bunny. She (Halle's grandma, Deborah) left me a bit of an egg carton. In it was nestled two dyed Easter eggs, one green, one yellow, with their tops knocked off and the egg replaced with a little dirt and a plant with little red flowers. They were charming and had obviously taken a lot of time and effort.
They decorated my kitchen windowsill for a couple of days but by Tuesday the plants looked a bit dry. Not ready to part with my decoration, I decided to water the little plants still in their eggshells. I carefully added a bit to each shell and left them on the kitchen counter. I went to clean catboxes.
Upon my return, as I was walking through the dining room towards the kitchen, I noticed bright spots of green and red on the hall carpet. As I got closer, I noticed the clumps of dirt. I looked from there to the kitchen and saw the empty egg carton on the floor. I looked further and found the yellow egg, with its little red flower, in the living room. Both of the egg shells were suspiciously crunched.
I looked around for the culprit. On his favorite pillow on his favorite couch was curled the blind hound. His eyes were wide open and 'looking' out the corner of his eyes in my direction. The eyebrows were doing the dance of shame.
Without any evidence other than the fact that he was the only one in house big enough to grab eggs off of the kitchen counter, I said, "BAD DOG."
Ray stayed curled, his eyebrows doing a jig of nervousness.
"Oh, Ray, you are such a BAD DOG," I said again.
Ray curled tighter, the eyebrows were practically setting fire to his forehead they were tap dancing so fast. I cut my dog a break before his head burst into flame.
I cleaned up the eggs, and went outside to plant my flowers.

This is the link sent by the below commenter about the Michael Flatley eyebrows.

I think these kids can give Ray a run for his money as far as eyebrow action goes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Complete Package

Yesterday, we took Ray to the vet. Not that he had anything seriously wrong with him, it's just that every since his friends left, he's been off his food. I couldn't tell if it was because he went from international superstar to just plain ol' Ray overnight, or if Ray was pining for his new friends. I thought it was more likely that he'd gotten into something he shouldn't. Turns out the doc thinks he just had a case of indigestion. (I've fed him boiled chicken with rice for a couple meals and the indigestion seems to have magically disappeared - every speck of food was eaten with gusto - maybe he was just languishing over his friends...)
I bring this up because, while we were at the vet's, the vet tech, who LOVES Ray (and even gave me his card with phone number "If you ever need anyone to babysit Ray, just call me. I'll even take him for just a couple hours if you want."), walked us into the room, turned to us and said, "I have something to tell you." Usually you expect bad news when someone says that to you, but there was this look of excitement on his face.
This particular vet tech had asked me a few months ago if he could take a quick one minute video of Ray doing his 'tricks' for a class that he was taking (Ray can sit and flop and shake). So I had brought Ray to the vet, the video was shot, and I thought no more about it.
"I presented the paper I did about Ray at a conference," said the vet tech (I think he said the conference had something to do with rescues of dogs considered 'unadoptable;' blind dogs, dogs with missing limbs, etc.), "I included Ray's blog site and the youtube videos. Ever since then, rescues (of the unadoptables) are up 20%."
I've never seen 'glowing with pride' in person before, but he was doing it.
I'm not sure how 20% translates to numbers - did they have 10 adoptions before and now they have 12? - but it doesn't really matter. Ray has once again inspired someone (click here to see the story about Bess, Beverly and Blanche) to take home one of his own kind and that's all that matters.
My dog, an international superstar and do-gooder all in one package.
Ray contemplating his life
(actually he's just 'watching' the geese)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Niki's Blog

I asked Niki and Jez if they would like to send something to post to the blog and, thankfully, they said yes. So, while I take a day or two off writing, here is Niki's story about how and why she became involved with Ray the Blind Dog.

Meeting Ray

Who would have thought that around two years ago when Jez and I agreed to foster a blind greyhound, only a week after adopting our first (sighted) rescued greyhound, that it would lead to a transatlantic meeting facilitated by the peculiar route of youtube and facebook.
Well, strange but true. As I googled the words....caring for a blind various combinations, I stumbled across a link to a video called Ray the Blind Dog at the dog park. I watched it and some of the other ones containing Ray and was heartened at the way this gangly pooch embraced life despite his lack of vision. So reassured was I by this revelation, that I decided I must contact the owner to thank them for helping me realize how a blind dog can just take life in stride. So, I sent either an email or a comment and received a really nice response. The rest is history.
Jean and I became facebook friends and I followed Ray's blog. From the written exchanges we had, it emerged we had a similar sense of the ridiculous, and I thought if there was not a huge sea between us, that Jean seemed like the sort of gal I could hang around with. So anyway, when Jez and I arranged to meet my USA-dwelling brother and his family in NYC in 2012, I had the idea of combining that with a trip to meet the dog that sparked an online relationship!
I sent a tentative email to Jean asking that, if she didn't think it was a bit too weird, we would love to come and meet Ray and his family in person. Thankfully, she didn't seem to think it was SO weird that her immediate reaction was ", no way, you strange English person." (Well I knew she was a generous spirited sort when she sent my greyhound a babble ball after I mentioned I was thinking of getting one!) And so plans were made.
We duly arrived in Fairfax County via the Megabus from NYC and the metro in DC, on Wednesday, 4th April 2012. Jean was unsure of exactly what we looked like so I just said Jez is tall and I am small and hoped that would be sufficient. In the end, we easily spotted Jean as she waited in the car park with the instantly-recognizable Ray attached to her. I know Ray loves to meet new people so I won't flatter myself that I got extra special treatment, but he was truly welcoming and showed the right level of doggy excitement when he grabbed my arm (very gently) and gave me doggylicious licks and snuffles. Jean managed to resist emulating Ray's exuberance, but then she is only the sidekick after all.
We were a little embarrassed that Jean had made a journey from the suburbs to transport us to our hotel a mere 0.9 miles from the metro, but as she explained as she dropped us off, that first impression was the make or break of the next couple of days. Had we failed to pass muster she already had the 'our house burnt down' excuse pending, should she need to avoid any further encounters.
Thankfully we passed the interview process and were able to move on to the next step of interacting with Ray in his home environment. This was set up to take place the following evening after Jean had spent the day fervently preparing the house (currently undergoing some renovation to the living room) and also creating a homemade vegetarian meal for the annoyingly fussy guests (who had also just sprung the extra issue of one of them trying to avoid dairy).
Her newly-formed taxi company was once again called into service and the overseas visitors arrived to have more face-to-face Ray time. He seemed impressed with the offering of home baked doggy biscuits all the way from England and although Jean seemed confident he would turn his nose up at anything containing vegetables, he did what most dogs love doing best....i.e. showing off in front of their owners, and scoffed one down heartily.
Jez and I were introduced to Ray's other chief carer, Gregg, and offerings of wine and chocolate were handed over so the humans did not feel left out. We then gave Ray lots of belly and ear rubs until he royally decided we had taken up enough of his snooze time and retired to the sofa.
He managed to come and investigate later on when he realized we were eating without having invited him to join in. Ray also magically materialized out of thin air while we were being introduced to Moonie, the elderly moggie upstairs, in a definite case of 'excuse me but I am the superstar in this house so don't even bother with the feline inhabitants'.
At the end of a very pleasant evening, Ray once again allowed himself to be fussed over, even though normally he would be getting his beauty sleep. He is getting used to the idea that fame comes at a price.
On Friday we were given the next level of doggy interaction by accompanying Ray to the lake for his daily constitution. It was a lovely day and Jez was privileged enough to be handed the lead. (He does have some blind dog-walking training under his belt though, having owned one back in UK for 2 years, so not everyone can expect this level of contact.)
Later that evening Ray co-hosted a beer and bonfire evening after he had supervised the preparation from the sunny spot in the border. It was a rousing success and the British guests proved to be a bit of a novelty for the older (not in years) members of the fan club. Ray took the opportunity to show off his baying skills, so that anyone who had not been invited was well aware of the intended snub.
Alas, the overseas guests then had to depart after a short but fulfilling visit to a hound so full of character and personality that we felt compelled to make that extra effort to make his acquaintance. The bonus was that his owners are of equal charm, and we hope to continue our newly-formed friendship with them, and Ray, in the future.
So long Ray, and thanks for all the fish.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Instructions: Please read all dialogue with a charming British accent

Last night, Ray friends, Niki and Jez, came to dinner. They arrived by Jean's Special Taxi Service at about 7:00, which is well after Ray's bedtime. Despite this, Ray roused himself from a sound sleep and greeted them at the door, absolutely ecstatic to see them. He grabbed Niki's wrist, then hands, then wrist again while Niki gushed over the excited dog. Niki turned away from the dog to greet Gregg.
"Why don't you do mine?" Jez asked Ray, offering him a wrist while Niki piled gifts into Gregg's hands.
Ray obliged, taking Jez's wrist in his mouth, chewing it a couple of times.
"Do you think it's a bone?" asked Jez. Ray stood for a minute, holding the beefy wrist in his mouth (Jez is about the size of a small mountain) trying to decide if he could take this one out in the backyard and bury it for later. He thought the better of it and let Jez go who was then able to shake hands with Gregg.
Ray wasn't finished with his greeting though. Obviously remembering the sweet kisses that he got from Niki the other day, Ray jumped up and planted one on her face, then tried to do the same to Jez but came up short. (Did I mention that he is the size of a small mountain).
I commanded my dog to flop, but now that he is an international superstar, he does things on his own time. Ray eventually flopped and was fawned over by his adoring fans.

Niki then unveiled a special treat that she had made for our blind dog.
"These are made with mushed up peas and carrots," she said, revealing a box of dog biscuits, one with Ray's name on it.
"Don't be too offended if he doesn't eat it," I replied, "Ray doesn't eat anything vegetal."
Ray, who of course LOVES to prove me wrong, ate it with relish.
"Could you send me the recipe," I asked, chagrined but not surprised.
Ray's special dog biscuit
(I find it ironic that the only photo that isn't blurry is the one where I cut off the head of our guest)
After another minute or two of belly rubs, Ray disappeared.
"Where's Ray?" asked Niki.
"He went over there," said Jez pointing into the family room. "Is that his couch? The one that was in the photo with the plastic draped over it?"
Ray was back in bed, curled up on his favorite pillow on his favorite couch.
"Yes," I replied, "that's it."(I thought briefly of charging admission for a tour of Ray's favorite sites - "Over here we have Ray's favorite couch. And out here is where he buries his bones. And this is Ray's favorite cat's bed. And here is where he carried a carton of eggs and ate them." - then shook off the image of me as tour guide to the stars and re-entered reality.)
After a quick cocktail and some scintillating conversation, we all retired to the dining room for a brilliant vegetarian meal (Ray's friends are vegetarians) prepared by Jean's Taxi Service with help from Gregg's Catering.
After the meal, I asked, "So, would you like to meet Ray's cats?"
An affirmative response took us all upstairs to the cat room. We were all making a fuss over our old lady, Moonie, (Hugo was outside) when all of a sudden Ray appeared and made a mad dash for the cat food dish. Jez snagged Ray's collar and dragged him away, then he (Jez) sat down on the floor to get some face time with the star.
We made plans for a hike the next day, called the taxi into service, and all retired for the night.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

They're Here!

Ray's friends have arrived!
Despite the fact that we had exchanged emails the day before, and I had offered to pick them up at the Metro station and take them to their hotel, I was woefully unprepared to do so. I had been running errands most of the afternoon and cleaning everything in sight most of the morning (overcompensation for the lack of order in the house - the fireplace was half constructed, the walls and ceiling are half-covered with primer and there are no pictures hanging) and the last two things I had done before the call came were put down some mulch and sand a board (I was testing stain for the new mantle). I was running my last errand for the day and was on the way home when the cell phone rang.
After the initial moments of typical "can you hear me? hello? hello? are you there?" reception (we live in a hole), I told Niki that I would meet them at the station. I raced home, reconfigured the car (I have the back seat folded down and configured for Ray so that he can lay on a platform), and decided at the last minute to bring Ray with me. I figured Ray's friends wouldn't be able to recognize me without the hound and I knew he wouldn't want to miss his big moment.
Ray was slightly confused by the seats in back instead of his usual platform but he adapted quickly, curled into a tiny ball, and went to sleep.
We beat Niki and Jez to the station by about two minutes. Ray and I exited the car and stood, looking around, waiting for someone to recognize us, (but we recognized them first by the suitcases they were toting). Ray excitedly greeted Niki, grabbing her wrist, then hand with his teeth. (Meanwhile, I was inwardly squirming at the irony of my dog being much better groomed than I. He had a pedicure, was wearing a clean collar, and had had a bath; while I was wearing shirt with a hole in it and was not entirely convinced that I didn't have mulch and sawdust in my hair and eyebrows.) I gave Niki a quick hug, hoping that she wasn't breathing in while I did so. We threw their bags in the bed of the Baja. Niki crawled in the back seat with Ray who was trying his best to kiss her on the lips. Jez hopped in front and off we went to the hotel.

"Hey baby, how 'bout a little kiss for a blind dog."
(Niki and Ray )

"I don't have to do what you say anymore. I'm famous."
(Ray refusing to get out of the car after returning home)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Ray is going to have a foreign visitor!
One of Ray's fans, "am I a grownup now?" a frequent commenter to this blog, is coming from England, with her husband, to visit the blind hound. (In the interests of full disclosure, she is actually going to N.Y. to meet up with family. But then they are making a slight detour to the greater Washington, D.C. area to meet Ray.)
In preparation for the visit, Ray will be getting a bath today so that he doesn't smell like Fritos. (Oddly enough, when Ray and I went to the pet store yesterday to buy catfood, one of our favorite cashiers, who also has a Redtick Coonhound, said to me; "Have you ever noticed how Redtick feet smell like Fritos?" I admitted that Ray, on occasion, smells like Fritos but I didn't realize the smell was emanating from his feet.) Gregg was the first one to notice the Frito Phenomenon and ever since he mentioned it, I know when Ray is ready for a bath because I start to yearn for Fritos. So before our visitors arrive (tomorrow) Ray is going to get a bath.
We are excited. Ray is an international sensation!

Monday, April 2, 2012

(Mis)Steak for Dinner

Last night we had steak for dinner. This is pretty rare event in our household, maybe once or twice a year we have steak. It was celebrated throughout the animal kingdom by Ray and Moonie (Hugo was outside and missed out). The minute that steak entered the house from the grill, Ray was there to greet it. He stood with his head jammed between Gregg and I as we dished up our meals, then followed us into the family room and hovered, nerve-wrackingly, with his nose at plate-level (we eat at the coffee table) while we got situated.
Meanwhile, Moonie, was trying to access our plates more directly by jumping on the table and sticking her head in our food. She is the original Terminator (the one that wouldn't die no matter how you killed it). Jump on table. Remove from table. Jump on table. Remove from table. Jump on table. Remove from table. Knock dog nose away from plate. Remove cat from table.
By the time we got Moonie her own plate with a tiny bit of steak on it (on the floor - not on the table) and got Ray up on the couch in his usual spot and had given him a tiny bite, our food was not quite as hot as it should be.
Unfortunately, Ray could not relax knowing that that steak was right in front of him. He did his best impression of Snoopy doing an impression of a vulture. He stood, looming, on the couch, his head hanging down toward our plates, his ears fully deployed in Dumbo mode. He looked ready to launch. It was more than a little unnerving.
By the time we got Ray to lay down and pretend that he wasn't noticing the steak anymore, Moonie was back for another bite. I gave her another tiny bit of my steak (it was only the size of the palm of my hand, I admit that I didn't want to share).
Finally, Moonie retreated, Ray went to sleep, and Gregg and I were able to eat in peace.
"Next time we have steak," he said, "We're going to Outback."
I felt compelled to agree.