Thursday, August 29, 2013

From MEWS to Aroooos

Ever since Gregg's MEWS (Moonie Early Waking System) died, he has had trouble arising in the morning. In order to catch his train, Gregg needs to be up by 5:30. Moonie was always more than happy to wake him up, usually by 5:00. But since Moonie is gone, and Gregg loathes alarm clocks, getting out of bed on time has become somewhat of an issue. It's not that he gets up much later than 5:30, but like most people, his morning routine is perfectly-timed and 10 or 15 minutes makes a big difference.
Last night, when I couldn't sleep, I went downstairs to stretch out on the couch with Ray. I figured a change of scenery was all that I needed. We have a long, narrow couch and I am able to stretch all the way out and still have room for a dog at my feet (unless he decides to stretch all the way out too, then it becomes a bit cramped). It's quite comfy and I am generally able to fall right asleep.
When I awoke next, it was 5:38. The house was completely silent, not a good sign.
"Gregg, get up!" I yelled from my prone position.
"Gregg!" I called out again.
"GREGG!" I tried one more time.
No response. No shuffling of feet, no creaking of floorboards.
I sighed. Being awake most of the night, I really didn't want to get up now.
"Hey Ray," I said to my snoozing dog.
Ray's head shot up alertly.
"Give us a yell, Ray," I said to the hound.
Ray enthusiastically crooned an aroooo.
Still no sound from above.
I repeated my request. Ray came through again with a few musical notes.
Once again I asked the dog to sound the alarm.
Getting into the spirit of the thing, Ray let off with a couple of good ones followed by menacing growls.
I head a creaking floorboard. I smiled, rubbed Ray's rump with my foot and told him what a good dog he was.
He's no Moonie, but if we can get Ray to set his aroooo to 5:30, I think Gregg will have a pretty good alternative to his MEWS.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

We were preparing Sunday's breakfast when Ray came into the kitchen with his bone in his mouth, obviously looking for someone to play keepaway.
"I'm going to get your bone, Ray," I said helpfully.
Immediately taking the game to a bigger venue, Ray shimmied through his dog door and into the backyard. I opened the backdoor and followed him.
After only a few turns around the yard, I could tell that the game was already over and Ray was looking for a place to bury his prize. I left him to it and returned to cooking the bacon.
"Ray's burying his bone," said Gregg a few minutes later.
I looked out the kitchen window and saw Ray digging a hole up against the fence in almost the exact same location that he had established interfence connection with the Pugs next door. He planted his bone and mounded mulch over it, covering it thoroughly.
"Ray, aren't you afraid that Dory is going to steal your bone?" I called to the dog through the window.
Obviously not having thought this thing through, Ray glanced nervously in my direction then, ears deployed in Dumbo mode, turned back toward the fence, listening as Dory barked then came snuffling up to the fence. Ray stood alertly over his buried treasure as Dory stood just opposite, whining. Ray lowered his head and sniffed the ground, making sure his bone hadn't been spirited away from under his nose, then stood thusly, listening to the Pug's noises. Dory, disappointed that she wasn't getting any kind of reaction from Ray (she likes to make him yell), wandered away.
Ray stood still, keeping an ear cocked for bone-pirates.
Fifteen minutes later he was still there.
"Ray, come on in," I called to the dog, "Dory's gone."
I lured my dog inside with a piece of bacon. While we ate breakfast, Ray hung around waiting for more. Just as we finished up, Dory barked.
"Ray, Dory's going to get your bone," I said urgently to the hound.
Ray, who had been relaxing at my feet waiting for the bacon to drop, got up, hustled through his dog door, and back to the fence. He unearthed his bone rapidly, dropped it far enough away from the fence so that Dory couldn't reach it, then laid down with his back to the fence so that the little dog would have to go through him to get it. His bone well protected, Ray took a quick nap.

There's no way she's getting my bone.
I can heeeear you....
I dare you to try it. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to put a Harness on a Dog

Step 1. Place harness on floor in front of dog.
Step 2. Pick up dog's right foot and place it through right loop.
Step 3. Pick up dog's left foot and place it through left loop.
Step 4. Bend over to pick up harness and watch as dog lifts left foot and places it through right loop.
Step 5. Pick up dog's left foot and place it back through left loop.
Step 6. Bend over to pick up harness and watch as dog lifts left foot and places it through right loop again
Step 7. Pick up dog's left foot and place it through left loop.
Step 8. Bend over rapidly to pick up harness and watch as dog even more quickly lifts left foot and places it through right loop again
Step 9. Sigh deeply.
Step 10. Pick up entire front end of dog, place him exactly where you want him, and hurriedly pick up harness.
Step 11. Realize that the harness is on backwards.
Step 12. Swear.
Step 13. Repeat steps 1 and 10.
Step 14. Attempt to fasten clip at back and drop harness.
Step 15. Watch as dog lifts left foot and places it through right loop.
Step 16. Swear profusely.
Step 17. Repeat steps 1 and 10.
Step 18. Fasten clip at back.
Step 19. Decide that harnesses are more trouble than they are worth.

Monday, August 19, 2013

VIDEO ALERT: Ray and Chester

I realize this video is a bit redundant to the last posting but sometimes I just feel the need to make a movie.

WARNING: if you can, in any way, be offended by oddball, overly-descriptive lyrics, you might want to skip this one.

Ray and Chester, together again.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Court Chester*

I was working in my studio when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ray enter the now-abandoned cat room. I waited a moment, listening for sounds of trashcan rustling, then when no sounds occurred, got up to investigate.
Ray was standing in the middle of the room with a bone in his mouth, his tail swinging uncertainly. My throat closed and tears stung my eyes. I knew that Ray thought his favorite game of keep-away could get his cats to come out of hiding.
"Gimme that bone, Ray," I said to the dog, my usual announcement that I was in on the game.
Ray's tail started wagging in earnest as he turned and headed for the stairs. I followed, calling "Gimme that bone!"
As I reached the landing, Ray a few steps in front of me, I noticed Chester coming up the front walkway. Just what we both needed to take our minds off, I thought, a visit from Chester.
Chester came with our new neighbors and is the pugs' 14 year old cat-brother. Not only is he the world's friendliest cat, he is also the world's most mellow. I haven't written about Chester before because I thought my first posting mentioning him would be about the tragic death of the neighbor's cat at the mouth of the overexcited blind hound. Quite frankly, it still could happen. Chester has NO fear of Ray. Which is turning out to be a good/bad thing. Ever since Chester started coming by, which was about a week after the neighbors moved in, I have spent part of almost every day trying to desensitize Ray to Chester's presence and to convince the hound that Chester is part of his pack, but I've had mixed results. Although Ray seems to love (the taste of) the cat, he also seems to think Chester is some kind of wind-up toy that, if nibbled or nudged enough, will slap Ray in the face. On occasion, Chester obliges. Ray likes it.
As we headed down the rest of the stairs, Chester saw us through the glass door, picked up his pace a bit, and meowed. Ray, still with bone in mouth and now with ears deployed in Dumbo mode, stood alertly inside the door as I went out to give Chester a good petting.
Since I had been in the middle of something when I went to check on Ray, I reentered the house and headed back upstairs. Five minutes later, I was done. As I exited my studio, I noticed Ray, still alert but now lying upright on the stair landing, still with bone in mouth, still with ears deployed in Dumbo mode, and with eyebrows now doing the Flatley on his forehead, intently 'staring' down at the front door. Chester was staring back in.
I laughed. Obviously the dog was worried about Chester stealing his bone.
Followed by the dog, who was still holding his bone, I went back down and opened the front door. Chester moved away a bit.
"Ray do you want to come out and say hi to Chester?" I said to the dog who was standing on the threshold.
Ray stood for a moment thinking about it. I waited, ready to grab the dog when, as is his wont, he made a dash to meet his new friend.
But instead of rushing out at high speed and tap, tap, tapping around to find the cat, I watched, astounded, as Ray, tail swinging and bone still in mouth, picked his way slowly out the door, down the first step, and once on the walkway, gave a come-hither look over his shoulder. Obligingly, Chester followed.
Eyeing the dog suspiciously and laughing myself silly, I knew that Ray was luring that cat out into the open so he could better eat him.
Tail still swinging, Ray slowly continued onto the front lawn. Being no dummy, Chester followed only as far as the patch of dirt that now borders the new walk and sat down.
Ray stopped when he sensed the cat wasn't following him and circled back around. Watching the dog curiously, but not apprehensively, Chester waited until Ray looked like he was going to walk right over the top of the cat, then slowly made his way to the azaleas bordering the front porch and laid down in the shade of one of them. Still with bone in mouth, Ray stopped, laid down on the walkway nearby, placed his bone across one shoulder as bait, then stretched out his neck toward Chester to show him easy access to the treat. Chester approached to see what kind of treat was being offered, but for some reason, was not enticed by the large, rolled rawhide.
After watching this scene play out, and still waiting for Ray to make his move, I squatted between the two friends, petting each in turn, ready to make a grab for the dog. I didn't have long to wait.
After a few minutes of pretended disinterest, Ray couldn't take it anymore. He leapt to his feet and made a grab for the cat. I grabbed the dog. Unconcerned, Chester never moved.

*Court is in reference to the fact that we live on one. It's a pun. 

Coming up the walk
Getting ready to set the trap
Watching from the shade (eyes without a face in background)
Trap set
Checking out the bait
Changing his mind
No stupid here
Disappointed dog
Getting ready to make the move
Making the move
Unconcerned cat

Monday, August 12, 2013


One of the good things about having a blind dog with a winning personality is you get to meet so many nice, interesting people that, otherwise, you never would.

A couple of weeks ago, when Lucian, the bigbossman, was here installing Ray's new patio and front walkway, a friend of his came by to show off her new car and to meet the blind dog. Jennifer, Lucian's friend, has FIVE rescued dogs (two HUMONGOUS ones) as well as two llamas, 17 alpacas, and three horses.

We chatted. Jennifer offered me an alpaca fleece that she just happened to have in the trunk of her new car, and in exchange, I offered her an enormous skein of yarn.

The lines of communication having been opened with fiber, Jennifer then sent Ray and me an invitation to meet her pack o' dogs and all the other animals on her farm. In an effort to get Ray's mind off of his recent loss, and because I really wanted to see Ray's reaction to horses, alpacas, and llamas, this weekend we took a drive out to God's Country to visit Ray's latest conquest.

God's Country

It was a steamy summer day but a good day for a drive with the AC blasting. As usual, Ray curled up in the back seat and went instantly to sleep. The drive was relatively easy. As the scenery grew more scenic, I knew we must be nearing our destination. When we finally lost our Washington, DC radio station, I knew we had arrived.

The initial meeting was a bit rocky. As Ray and I got out of the car, Jennifer exited her house to greet us. The sound of barking dogs followed her. Through the glass front door, one huge head was visible; Sam, one of Jennifer's Tibetan Mastiffs, was excitedly barking a greeting. 

Jennifer and I decided that maybe the best way to introduce the dogs was in the fenced backyard. As Jennifer tried to enter the house to lead the 100+ pound dog out back, he escaped and rushed to greet us. By that time, Ray and I were on the lovely, wrap-around front porch with nowhere to go. Feeling a bit trapped, Ray growled a warning at the young dog. Thinking that Ray was overwhelmed by the exuberance of the  huge, furry pup, I dragged my hound away. Jennifer did the same with Sammy, wrestling him into the house, and then out the back door. 

Meanwhile, I led Ray down the steps to the front yard. Another Tibetan Mastiff was headed our way across the yard. Knowing that these giant dogs are considered guardian dogs, I eyed him nervously wondering if we were going to get eaten, he looked almost big enough to do it. But the dog approached us calmly; Ray's tail started to wag. As Jennifer came back outside, Ray and the furry fellow were greeting each other. Obviously not seeing anything threatening about a blind hound, Drake was unmoved by Ray's presence. 

Ray and Sam's meeting in the backyard was uneventful. Sam, obviously intimidated by such an aggressive dog, wouldn't come down off of the deck. I let Ray off of his leash and he poked around a bit, then, followed by Sammy and Drake, we headed out to the paddocks to meet the other animals. 

(alpaca ladies)
What the heck is making all that NOISE?
As soon as the alpacas saw Ray headed their way, they started bleating. Ray, ears deployed in ultra-Dumbo mode, approached the fence and then, not unexpectedly, started yelling at the interesting scent. Jennifer tried to coax the nervous ladies nearer (the boy alpacas were in a separate paddock), but they politely declined to approach the freakishly noisy thing. 
Do you feel lucky, punk?

We dragged Ray away to meet the horses. Strangely, the horses seemed to like Ray's yelling. As he paced back and forth at the end of his leash, yelling at the new scent, the horses came to the fence to check him out. Ray, not knowing exactly where the fence or the horses were, got a bit too close. Niki, the most beautiful of the three horses, stuck her head over the fence to get a sniff of this new, strangely-noised dog. Her nose gently touched the hound's head. Not knowing what kind of giant was sniffing him, Ray hit the ground like he'd been sledgehammered. Then, tail wagging, and glad that whatever it was that had sniffed him didn't seem to want to eat him, Ray stood, backed up a bit, and yelled some more. 
I smell giants.

We let Ray yell for a bit then, as it was blistering hot and all the dogs were panting as if to expire, we headed up to the house and the air conditioning. 

Ray was then introduced to his dream harem; three old ladies by the names of Maggie, Holly, and Noodles. The three old gals (all in their teens) seemed very happy to have a nice-looking boy in their midst. Ray explored his environs and then passed out on the cool kitchen floor. All the other dogs passed out in various spots within eyesight. Jennifer and I sat, chatted, and ate homemade cake baked in honor of Ray's visit. 

After a couple of hours, I noticed a high-pitched whining. Ray was standing at the front door. I took his hint that maybe we had outstayed our welcome and clipped Ray to his leash. As soon as we got outside, though, Ray pulled me back toward the fascinating horses. We paid them another loud visit, gathered our things, said goodbye to all our new friends, and headed home. 
Maybe I'll get just a little closer... I need a better sniff...
(Ray to Jennifer - Drake is in the background)
Did you know that there are giants living here?

Dang, that dog makes a beautiful sound.
We need to get one of those.
Hey, guess what!
She's got an entire bucket FULL of dog biscuits in here!
I guess this spotted dog isn't that mean after all.
 He sure scared me though.

Man this is FUN.
(Maggie, at rear, to Holly, foreground)
I call dibs on the cute young fella. 
I don't know what the heck they are but they smell HUGE.

Horses, you say?  

Um...can I have a ride?
Oh, thank God they're gone. Guests are SO exhausting.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Missing Moonie

It's been over a week now since Moonie passed on to birdie-dragging heaven, and Ray has really seemed at loose ends.
When Pie was here, Ray would leap from wherever he was sleeping and rush to greet the little cat whenever she would emerge from her room for a visit. He would give her a good ear-cleaning then go back to doing what he was doing. This would happen at least half a dozen times a day. Moonie, who used to have the dirtiest ears in town, went to having the cleanest cat-ears around.
Now, Ray just sleeps and, lately, everyday, spends a little time in the cat room.
The first time I saw him there, he had jumped up on the bed and was sniffing intently at Moonie's most recent cat bed. When he couldn't find her there, he went to her winter-quarters (tent), stuck a paw inside and felt around, then withdrew his paw and stuck his head inside to see if maybe he had missed something. By the time I got back to the room with the camera, Ray was just poking around the bed and investigating the windowsill where we had been feeding Moonie. Finding no food and no Moonie, Ray settled himself on the bed to contemplate his mortality.

Friday, August 9, 2013


All week long, Ray has been howling two or three times a night. The first night, when the arrroooo alarm went off, I went to check on the blind hound. He was downstairs, standing in the front hall, looking up the stairs. Usually, when something like this happens, Ray will be at the back door waiting for me to let him out so that he can chase whatever-it-is that is passing through our backyard. But this time he was looking UP the stairs. After turning on the back and front porch lights to see if anyone was outside messing about, I stretched out on the couch for the rest of the night. Ray settled himself on my feet and we spent the rest of the night listening. Only one other time during that night did he sit up alertly and give one short, sharp rooo.

The next night was the same. Ray woke me, I went to check, and we spent the rest of the night on the couch.

By the third night, I was tired and so, obviously, was Ray. This time, when I went to turn off the arrroooo alarm, he hadn't bothered to leave his chair. There he was, curled up, ears in Dumbo mode, listening and howling.

Last night, after listening to him howl and growl for a couple of minutes, I went down to check on him. There he was, again curled in his chair, ears deployed in Dumbo mode, howling. Again I turned on the porch lights and looked out. Nothing. This time however, I went back upstairs and Ray came with me. He settled down on the futon but at some point in the night, he started howling again and went back downstairs.

I think we have ghosts. I'm not going to speculate on what kind of ghosts we have, but I'm pretty sure I know.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Perfect Location

Ever since we've had Ray's graves covered with rock, he has been at loose ends trying to find a new homestead. Although he likes the new patio and especially the new front walkway, the cool dirt along the foundation was fun to dig in AND a nice place to lie during hot Virginia summers. So Ray had set out on a quest to find new digs.
Oddly enough, Ray has settled on Hugo's favorite old spot, the one he used to occupy before we brought the blind hound home and ruined the black cat's life. Hugo loved the dark shade of the little Japanese maple and would sit for hours, completely invisible to small critters scampering across the patio and birds landing on the top fencepost. Hugo was a lazy hunter (probably because of his unknown heart condition) and preferred that small animals come directly to him.
Taking the real estate advice of "location, location, location" to heart, Ray's new, smaller, shallower digs have the advantage of being tactfully landscaped with a beach-umbrella-shaped Japanese maple,  and right between the fence where his new pug 'friends' hang out and the stone-covered patio where Ray likes to catch some rays. Ray only has to move a step in either direction to enjoy both; just perfect for the lazy hound.

The new digs
Enjoying the shade
Checking the fencewidth
Establishing high-speed inter-fence connection

Just a step away

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

THIS isn't what I ordered

Every once in awhile, I try out a new type of food on Ray. This morning it was a 'chicken stew' from a Canadian pet food company. I don't know about you but 'stew' to me indicates that there will be vegetables. And, knowing Ray's antipathy for the vile things, I don't know WHAT I was thinking to buy anything clearly labeled 'stew'.
As soon as I opened the can, I knew it was going to be a lost cause. But, determined to make the best of things, I tried to con my dog into thinking he would like it.
"Mmmmmmmm, Ray, this looks good," I said as I popped the lid on the food and saw unidentified white bits floating amidst the gravy and chunks of chicken, "Do you want to lick the lid?"
Ray reclining on his chair, showed vague interest in doing anything of the sort. I walked over to him and held the gloopy lid flat in front of the hound's nose. It twitched infinitesimally. Ray's head turned fractionally away. I moved the lid under his nose again. Ray moved his head fractionally back.
Once more I moved the lid under his nose, making yummy noises. Bored, Ray yawned.
I laughed at the lounging connoisseur, put the can aside for his friend Maddie, and popped a can of his old favorite.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Comforting Visit

I love this story. Would you read it to me again?
John, Yuko, and Hannah are on their way home. After the trauma of losing Moonie, Ray spent three blissful days being hugged, cuddled, and dressed like a French maid. He was read to, slipped smoked pork during dinner, and joined the family for some chair-painting fun. Overall, Ray had an absolutely marvelous time with his uncle, auntie, and cousin.

Can I have some pork, please?
Can I have some pork, please?
Can I have some pork, please?

The hug is nice. Thanks. But....
... can I have some pork, please?

Hey Hannah, do you want some pork too?

Pure bliss.

No, don't stop.....

Oh yeah. This is what I'm talkin' about.
(have you ever seen such a smile on Ray's face? j)

I love you guys.

Uh, I'm not too sure about this.
All right, do what you have to.
But don't expect me to clean the toilets.
And I don't do windows!
Go ahead and paint the chair without me, I'll just wait here.

(sigh. I wish I had opposable thumbs.)