Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Sad Realization

It was Friday. We were, as usual, walking around the block.
("How many times a day do you walk?" asked a woman I had never met before, "I see you ALL the time.")
As we neared Tucker's house, I noticed that the FOR SALE sign that had just gone up, had an OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY banner on it.
I sighed. Another one of Ray's friends was moving. That makes five: Murphy, Ken, Halle, and now Tucker and Jasper, aka the new Obsession. My heart felt heavy.
Ever since Ray met Tucker's nephew, Jasper, he has tried to pull me to Tucker's house every time we have passed it. I have been equally insistent on not letting him go to visit the new puppy. It took him so long to get over Murphy after her move, that I thought it wasn't a good idea to let him anywhere near Jasper again.
Ray's usual M.O. when passing the house, which is on the opposite side of the street, is to linger while I keep walking. Then, when the retractable leash is fully expanded, I have to stop and look back. At this point, Ray leeeaaannnns towards the house and looks at me pleadingly.
I give the leash a gentle tug and say, "Nope. C'mon, Ray. Let's go home and get dinner."
Ray leeeaaannns a bit more and takes a step sideways towards the house.
"C'mon Ray. They're not home," I say to the dog as I tug his leash again.
Then, depending on how hungry he is, Ray will either come or pull a Gandhi. We've spent a lot of time lingering on the sidewalk across from Tucker's house.
But this time was different. This time Ray, who was at my side, stopped, and then sat down facing the house.
Ray is not a sitting kind of dog. It's a very uncomfortable-looking position for him. He will sit if instructed to do so, but he'd much rather flop, which, based on photographic evidence, is his much more usual position.
Since it was unusual for Ray to sit, it got my attention. I stopped too and looked at him.
"What's up, Ray?" I asked the upright dog.
Ray didn't respond, didn't move, just sat very still "looking" at the house for sale. I didn't try to move him or tell him to come. We stayed there, Ray and I, looking at Tucker's house, feeling sad. Then the big dog sighed, stood, and headed for home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Can dogs count?

It was 'can day.' Can day is when Ray gets to lick out the empty dog food can. Since Ray gets a quarter of a can of dog food with his kibble, can day occurs every other day, usually in the evening unless we get off track by trying to feed him duck.
Normally, when I feed Ray, he waits in the living room by the kitchen door until I put his dish on the floor. So when can day would roll around, I would say, "Ooooo, somebody gets to lick out the can!" and Ray would magically appear at my side to gingerly take the can in his teeth and carry it to the front hall to give it a good cleaning. Only after the can was good and clean would he come to eat his dinner.
This can day, I didn't say anything. I wanted to see if Ray knew, without being told, that it was can day.
So, here's my question. HOW did he know that it was can day? Because, of course, he did.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Click link for music!

Well, the zoysia is all planted. I promise to keep everyone that was interested updated as to its progress and present this musical interlude for those of you who contemplate planting it.
(Please substitute the word "zoysia" for the word "rice.")


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A certain je ne sais quoi

Not satisfied with his role as landscaper, Ray takes a stab at
Interior Design

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thanks Tina

FOR ME???????
Yesterday, Ray and I got a package in the mail from one of his fans. I honestly can't figure out how Ray knows which packages contain something for him, but he obviously does. Because, as Gregg handed me the padded envelope, Ray snatched it from my hands and tore into it. Since I had caught a glimpse of the return address, I was reasonably sure that the gift was fiber-related and not breakable so I let him at it.
The package was one of those envelopes made out of the stuff plastic bags are made from and was pretty tough so it took Ray quite a while to get into it. To his disappointment, as soon as he did, I took the envelope from him to see what we had received. 

How do you get into this thing?
Thanks to Tina, Ray and I are both ready for next winter. As a matter of fact, we can hardly wait for the return of the cold weather so that we can wear our gifts. Even though Ray's present was labeled a toy (and he did, in fact, grab it and flap it around a bit) I thought it would look good on him. Here we are modeling our presents from Tina. 
And it's my favorite color
I think it's quite stylish.

What do you mean it's a turtle neck?
Ray and I have never met Tina but we like her a lot. We all share a passion for fiber. And when I blogged about the girl at the pet store who had abandoned her old dog, Tina got in touch with me to say that she would adopt the hound if he was still available. Although I contacted the shelter, they were not able to tell me what had happened to the old boy. 
So Tina happens to be a good person and a good knitter. What more could a blind dog ask for in a fan? 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Helping with the Landscape Plan

Yesterday, the zoysia (grass) arrived in the mail.
Knowing that we were expecting rain the next day, which when you are planting grass is a good thing, I immediately got to work trying to get as much of it into the ground as I could in one day.
So along with my trusty hound, I headed to the backyard with the tools necessary to cut small sheets of zoysia into approximately 1,000, one-inch-square 'plugs' and to plant them approximately one foot apart. My plan is that some small percentage of them will survive and eventually take over the entire yard. (I can see you collectively shaking your heads, but I have faith.)
Being a helpful sort, Ray immediately got to work. He dug a shallow hole. Then he rested. 
He supervised. Then he rested some more. And some more. And some more. 
Finally, after I was done for the day (with about a third of the plugs planted), Ray tested out the new zoysia and found it good.

I don't doubt you, but
are you sure you know what you're doing?

Resting some more
More resting

... resting...

...and more resting
Testing the zoysia

Finding it good

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fool me once, shame on you...

I was feeding Ray. I had bought a single can of 'duck' along with the 11 other cans of 'chicken and turkey' just to make a case of 12. I had known when I had bought it that it was a long-shot. I've tried other kinds of food on Ray; beef, venison, 'turkey and chicken,' and he won't eat any of it. He likes his kibble chicken and he likes his canned food chicken and turkey; NOT turkey and chicken. No sir. Chicken and turkey.
So without much hope but with a plan in my back pocket, I did as I usually do. I put the quarter of a can of food on one side of the dish and the kibble on the other, and set the dish on the floor. Ray stood dish-side, unmoving. Without deigning to even lower his head to sniff the food, he looked at me. A very large and very tangible "REALLY?" hung in the air between us.
I put my plan into action.
"Mmmmm, mmmmm, that looks so good," I said to the food critic as I got down on my hands and knees, "I think I'll have a bite."
Then I did as every mother has ever done to her baby when food is scorned, I pretended to eat it. I stuck my head over the dish, stirred the kibble a bit with my fingers to make a noise to fool the blind hound into believing that I was enjoying his meal, and made eating noises.
I didn't have to pretend for long.
His interest piqued, Ray's head moved over the dish next to mine. I edged it out of the way with my own.
"You can't have any," I said to the dog, "This is so good, I'm going to eat it all."
Ray's head pushed back. This time, I let him have his way. Congratulating myself on my brilliant plan, I stood by and watched as Ray eagerly ate all of the food.
There was no "fool me twice." At the next meal, Ray wouldn't even approach his dish.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A bee? Or not a bee? That is the question

I was in the backyard taking photos of springtime. Ray was poking around the Grape Hyacinths which were positively ABUZZ with bees.
All of a sudden, Ray leapt backwards, his mouth open, his head shaking. He was gagging. Alarmed that perhaps he'd been stung inside his mouth, I ran to him. By the time I got to his side, the gagging fit was over. I looked inside his mouth but didn't see anything.
Ray was anxious to get back to whatever he was doing so I turned him loose but stayed close by to make sure he wasn't bothering the bees again. Ray cautiously returned to the border of flowers. Neck outstretched, ears deployed in ultra Dumbo mode, he semi-circled the area. I looked for bumblebees but didn't see any. I looked for smaller bees but didn't really see anything that could cause such curiosity in the blind dog. I watched as, again and again, Ray approached the area and pulled back. In alarm? In disgust? I couldn't tell until he pulled back and gagged. And then gagged again.
It was disgust.
Ray had found a snake.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One About Hugo

Ever since we got Ray, Hugo's routines have gone out the window. No more sitting on my lap in the morning for bellyrubs. No more strolling around the backyard in the afternoon, sniffing things while I garden. No more laying next to me in the evening watching TV. The last three years have been very hard for poor old nervous-Nelly Hugo. Lately, he has been much braver but still the routines are not back in place.
The one thing that has not changed for the black cat is his bedtime routine of getting a treat. In Hugo-land, where it's all about the food, this is the most important routine of all. As I prepare for bed, Gregg gets out Hugo's bag of treats, opens it up, squeezes the bag sideways so that it remains open, and then holds it level to the ground so that the big cat can fish his own treat out of the bag. This is very important to him. Hugo wants to get that treat himself. It makes the routine more fun and sometimes he is lucky enough to hook two treats out at once.
The other night, after the treat routine, Hugo was pacing nervously and mewing. (Even though he is a large cat, Hugo has a tiny cat mew.) As I neared the bed to turn back the covers, the pacing became more nervous, the mewing a little more frantic.
"What's wrong, Hugo?" I asked, "I know I saw your dad give you a treat, so don't try to con me."
Now that he had my attention, Hugo's pacing became even more frantic, his mewing almost hysterical.
"What? What is it? Is Timmy down the well again? Or do you just want another treat?" I asked the agitated cat.
At the word 'treat,' Hugo stopped pacing and stood facing me.
I sighed, the last thing our fatty needed was another treat. But knowing that this is all he has left in the world that makes him happy, I succumbed to my guilt at having disrupted all of Hugo's routines by bringing home a big blind dog, and got down the treat bag.
Hugo's entire body quivered with excitement.
I opened the bag. A single treat remained in the bottom. I held the bag at ground level for the cat to paw out. Hugo reached all the way into the bag, snagged his treat, and ate it in one gulp. Happy, he jumped up on the bed and plopped over.
Our little Mr. Monk had been distraught over the thought of that single treat left lying in the bag alone. OCD*-cat could now relax.

OCD-cat likes to be petted from top of head to tip of tail
*obsessive compulsive disorder

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Famous Redtick

Today in the Parade magazine section of the local paper, there was a photo of a dog sitting on a birdhouse with the caption "Can Your Dog Do This?" The accompanying blurb said that Photographer Theron Humphrey's rescue hound Maddie has the ability to keep her balance on top of anything.
The photographer has put together a book of photos, Maddie on Things, and the paper included a link so that you could see an example of some of the photos.
The reason I bring this up, Maddie is a Redtick Coonhound. I had heard that one of the characteristics of coonhounds is that they can climb trees. I don't actually thing Maddie climbed up any of these things herself, but the photos of her on things are pretty funny. So if you are interested, here's the link:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Split Personality

We were walking around the block. It was hot.
When we got even with Halle's former residence, I noticed that the woman across the street had a new puppy. She had had an old Rottweiler that was rather particular about her friends. The Rotty hadn't been aggressive with Ray, but she used to keep a close eye on him as we would traverse the block on the other side of the street. I had heard through the neighborhood grapevine that the old dog had recently died.
The puppy, an indeterminate mix with a short, smooth, fawn-colored coat was channeling the previous doggy resident and keeping a close eye on Ray, but her tail was tucked between her legs.
"Hi," I yelled to the woman, "Is your puppy friendly? Can Ray come and meet her?"
I had never met the woman before but I knew that she knew about Ray from Halle's grandma, Deborah.
"She's very timid," the woman yelled back, "She's afraid of everything, but you can come over if you want."
At the sound of her voice, Ray had stopped and looked in the woman's direction, his tail wagging. He was looking forward to making a new acquaintance.
As we crossed the street, the puppy, with tail still tucked between her legs, skittered behind her owner at the maximum length her leash would allow.
"Hi, Ray," said the woman giving Ray a friendly pat.
The puppy paced nervously behind her owner while Ray happily greeted his new friend.
"Ray, there's a dog in front of you," I told the oblivious hound.
Ray's head tilted to one side as he 'looked' in the puppy's direction then strained at his leash to get a  sniff of whatever-it-was.
The puppy paced nervously.
"Ray, SIT," I commanded.
Not wanting to do it but being a good boy, Ray sat. The puppy took a cautious step closer.
"Ray, FLOP," I said, having little expectation that he would actually do so.
Ray stood. The puppy anxiously moved back.
Ray walked a few steps into the yard and flopped flat.
"Oh, Ray, you are such a good dog," I said, impressed that Ray was calmly submitting to being sniffed by the little girl pup.
Mentally, I was incredulously comparing Ray's behavior around the nervous little puppy with the way he acts when he's around Jasper, the Australian Cattle Dog pup. It was difficult to reconcile the two Rays. I found myself thinking of the movie "The Mask" with Jim Carey; one minute he's a nice, schlubby guy, then he puts on a mask and becomes a frenetic cartoon character. The same thing happens to Ray when Jasper is around.
The puppy was sniffing different parts of Rays body and head, stepping on him every now-and-again, then quickly scooting out of the way in alarm. Ray was inert through it all.
The little dog's owner and I chatted a bit, watching the dog show. Looking a bit more relaxed but still alert, the pup lay down within a couple inches of one of Ray's big paws. Then, when the big dog remained unmoving, she relaxed further, stretching out flat between Ray's feet, inadvertently touching his belly in the process.
Startled at the unexpected contact, Ray leapt to his feet. The puppy bolted, then turned, came closer, and started barking at Ray. Unexpectedly, her tail was wagging. She liked the new game.
I laughed and pulled at Ray's leash.
"C'mon Ray, let's go home," I said to my dog.
Ray obligingly came with me. The little dog, her fear forgotten, strained at her leash to follow her new-found playmate.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Random Ray Photos

I'm booorrrrred
Wanna play keep away?

Well, then, how 'bout tug-o-war?

Have you seen my bone?
I'm pretty sure I put it here somewhere...

I love these girls

Spare a treat for a blind dog?

I'm pretty sure six down is "give Ray a treat."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Landscaping for Blind Dogs

As a person who used to be into serious landscaping, I find creating a yard that is user-friendly for a blind hound and still somewhat attractive a HUGE challenge.
When Ray first came to live with us, I limited changes to removing things from the yard that could poke him in the eye and keeping the patio furniture pushed out of the way. But after a couple of years of watching Ray in action and seeing his patterns, I have slowly but surely been renovating the yard to be more Ray-friendly.

Extra yard for Ray to run
Since Ray pees on everything, the vegetable garden became more than a little useless. It would either have to be fenced-in or it would have to go. After a couple of years of indecision, and with a bit of regret, the veggies were retired and that section of the yard was over-seeded with grass. Ray now has a bit more open yard to run in and I have more spare time in the summer. (click on photos to view text)

One of Ray's best features (and I hope I don't jinx it by talking about it) is that he has self-designated places to poop. There are two sections of the far back yard that he uses routinely, but in the summer, these areas become less desirable to Ray because of the growth of perennials. So, in the summer, Ray switches to his less-than-ideal (from our perspective) summer-pooping locale, the lawn.

Schematic of the poop path
In order to preclude this from happening, I added the poop-path; stepping stones that traverse the sea of perennials that crop up every year and hinder access to Ray's chosen bathrooms. Although this was somewhat successful last summer, more perennials popped up in unexpected places and made access not as easy as Ray would like. So last fall, I did more rearranging and purging of the obstructions. I am hoping for better results this year.

Up for adoption, the cauldron; 
perennial wood poppies included
Last fall we also removed some hardscapes. The concrete birdbath was relocated to the front yard after Ray got excited about something, went offtrack of his usual memorized path, and nearly knocked himself cold by running into it at full-speed. We also relocated the thing that we fondly refer to as the 'cauldron;' a planter made out of a recycled truck tire. We inherited this unique, indestructible landscaping element from a friend and have had it for years. It serves a dual purpose; in the spring and summer it's a planter, in the fall we fill it with bones and skulls and it's a Halloween decoration. The cauldron is residing in a temporary location in the front yard and is currently up for adoption.

Ray's navigation aid (fence) 
bordered by pesky trees
Because Ray uses the fence as his navigation aid, I have been relocating plants that get in his way (i.e. take a beating) to other places in order to give him a clear run. Unfortunately, a couple of large trees also block Ray's path along the fence. He knows where they are and slows his gait to navigate around them.

Stepping stones to come...
Ray also has a route that he consistently uses to get the fence in the far back, if he gets a bit off track, he tends to run into one or another of the trees that border this passageway. I removed a swath of daffodils that grow up every spring in that area, and which seem to confuse him, and this week plan on laying some stepping stones so that the path is bordered by the remaining flowers. That way, with the stones under-paw, Ray will always know where he is in space and be able to avoid crashing into the harder-than-he-is trees.

This week, in a moment of uncharacteristic optimism (aka insanity), I ordered Zoysia grass plugs for the back yard. This type of grass, if I can get it established, is particularly hardy and grows into an incredibly dense, thick mat which I hope will be able to prevent digging and
Not-so-tall fescue.
withstand dog-paw traffic. It has the added benefit of being Ray's preferred grass type to flop on while traversing the neighborhood. The current tall fescue has shown itself to be wussy in the current situation and I have given up on trying to re-establish it.

Hey, when are you going to move the rock?
Doe, di, doe. Doe di doe.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mock Attack

My stinky dog needed a bath.
It was a toasty 80 (26 ) so I hooked the hose to the laundry room sink, grabbed a stack of towels, positioned everything on the driveway so that it was close at hand and went to fetch Ray.
I have found that Ray is usually not averse to a nice bath as long as the water is warm and the air is too. He came willingly to the driveway and stood passively as I soaked him down and lathered him up. A few times he tried to amble away thinking I probably wouldn't notice if he went slowly enough but I had him on a short leash and was able to step on it to keep him in place.
As soon as I was done, I let go of the leash, picked up the towels and said, "Ok, you're done."
Ray made a beeline for the grass. With his front legs buckled and his butt in the air, Ray rubbed himself down with nature's towel.
I laughed and followed him, threw a towel in his path so that he could dry himself with something a bit more absorbent, then threw another towel over his head and scrubbed his face and ears dry. Ray rolled onto his back biting the air and kicking it with his back feet. He lurched to his feet, gave a mighty shake, and headed to the back gate.
"You wanna go out back?" I asked the shiny clean dog.
Ray picked up his pace and then waited for me to catch up. I found myself thinking of the first time I had ever given him a bath and what a difference a few years make. I let the dog through the back gate. Ray gingerly stepped through the narrow opening, then tucked his butt and took off like a shot across the patio and into the backyard. I followed him, grinning. It is always funny to see a lanky dog like Ray, gamboling.
I crossed the patio and watched Ray run a few tight circles around the yard then enter the shrubbery along the foundation of the house.  He went to his grave and spastically started digging, flinging dirt fast and furious. When Ray digs to bury a bone, he is very controlled and serious, his big paws acting like steam shovels on a mission from God. This was different, his whole body was moving, his ears were deployed in Dumbo mode and he was mocking me. Two could play at that game.
"Don't you get yourself dirty," I said to the dog in mock seriousness, "You stop digging right now."
Ray's digging became even more spastic, the dirt was flying even farther. He was mocking back.
"Ray, you stop that digging." I said even more unserious than before. He could tell I was smiling.
Ray stopped digging. His head lifted and he looked in my direction. He trotted 20 feet along the foundation, stopped behind another shrub, and started erratically flinging dirt again, mocking me. I could see it sticking to his wet belly and legs.
I went, took ahold of his collar, and led him out of the shrubs.
"Now Ray," I said reasonably as I wiped the dirt off of him with the towel that I was still holding, "Don't you go getting yourself all dirty again."
I let the dog loose and watched him scamper across the yard to the fence to dig another hole with reckless abandon. He was mocking me again.
I laughed and left him to it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ray's New Obsession

Ray has a new obsession, and his name is Jasper.
Jasper, Tucker's nephew, is equally obsessed with the tall, noisy one. While Ray yells non-stop at the puppy, the puppy jumps non-stop at the hound's mouth. I believe he is trying to find the source of the noise emanating from Ray's throat.
Sorry about the quality of the video, all I had with me was my phone.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Anyone interested?

Today, someone posted this link on my facebook page:
While I would love to get a sister for Ray, I am rather enjoying having my cats back and am not willing to wait another three years for them to get used to another dog.
However, if any of you out there would like to take a whack at raising a blind dog, here's your chance...

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Joke is on Me

I was sitting in the living room on Gregg's chair reading the morning paper; Gregg had already left for work. Moonie and Hugo were milling about the kitchen where I had left a little dish of milk and Moonie's third bowl of food for the day (it was only about 7 a.m.). Ray was asleep on his favorite pillow on his favorite couch in the other room.
All of a sudden, Ray spazzed off of the couch and sprinted to the front hall, his tail curled high over his back in hunt-alert mode. Hugo was nowhere to be seen and Moonie was in her own little cat world having a drink of milk.
I didn't hear anything, but Ray must have heard something, I thought to myself as I got up off of the chair, leaving my robe covering the seat, to herd Ray away from the incredible shrinking cat and her milk.
"Go lay down, Ray," I said as I stood in the doorway blocking Ray's entry to the kitchen.
Ray's tail went from full sail to half-mast as he turned and started back to the couch, then swerved and made a beeline for the chair I had been occupying. Before I could move, the dog was curled in a ball on top of my robe on top of my chair.
I sighed.
I hate April Fools Day.