Tag Archives: Darla

In Other Words (April A~Z Challenge)

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on the left, Rosa Parks; on the right, Darla

The other day I mentioned how when I say “Good Morning” to my dogs, what they hear is something more like “Roll over: show me your belly, and I will give you one hundred belly rubs.” They are so sure of it, that if I attempt to stop after only a dozen – or even fifty – belly rubs, they protest. Darla moans and puts on her sorriest expression; Rosa Parks takes my hand in her mouth to guide it (foolish me, to have lost my way) right back to her belly.

If I absolutely have to move away before that job is done…if my knees are screaming that I have to change position or my bladder is crying that I’d better make a beeline for the bathroom…both dogs flop onto their side. They don’t speak, of course, but I can read their minds. Darla’s train of thought goes this way: “What the hell?? What’s going on?? Weren’t we comfortable?? Weren’t we good?? Where is she going??” Rosa Parks simply murmurs under her breath, “That selfish bitch!”

I think I’ve grown more tolerant as I’ve grown older…but there’s a definite possibility that I simply have more patience with dogs than I do with humans. When Rosa Parks  scratches at the door asking to go out, then retreats to the rug to await her reward, I always calmly say, “Oh, you fooled me again,” as I give her a bit of kibble.  When Darla and I – returning from our walk – encounter Rosa Parks at the end of the driveway, we all pretend she walked all of the way with us. “That was a nice walk, girls,” I say, as together we make our way back to the door. “I think we’re fine,” I say soothingly, over and over, as their agitated, sharp barking at the road truck nearly raises the roof.

When my daughters were young, we had a beagle that didn’t understand English; he responded solely to our tone of voice. The girls would demonstrate for visitors. They’d say, “Good dog, Joe,” in a stern voice; his ears would droop and his tail would go between his legs. “Bad boy, Joe,” they’d say in a lilting tone, and he’d come running with his tail wagging.

Dogs read so much into the tone of voice that it’s possible to vent quite a bit of frustration in words…as long as I mind the inflection. When I say “Good girls, outside and inside one hundred times” (as the dogs are tag-teaming for the treats I offer when they come back inside), it is with an even tone that never gives away the inherent sarcasm. “You have been in and out one dozen times already this morning and I don’t for a minute believe that your situation is so desperate right now that it couldn’t wait until I got done with my bath,” I say – in a sweet voice – as I walk, dripping, to the door.

“She falls for it every single time,” Rosa Parks thinks, with a smile.

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Dogs (the April A~Z Challenge)

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On Friday, the 30th of March, weather reports predicted a big storm coming our way. High winds and cold temperatures were expected. Plus maybe several inches of wet, heavy snow. Maybe freezing rain. What did we expect? When this month had come in like a lamb, of course it was going to go out like a lion!

On Friday, though, it still looked like spring out here on the Fox Lake Road. The road itself was completely clear of snow and ice. The snow was melting away from the tree trunks, even in the deep woods, and my yard was more than halfway bare. Daily, the big dog was finding toys she’d left outside, that had been buried for months under the blanket of white. Daffodils were poking their first leaves out of the ground, and the rhododendrons were in bud. The temperature was in the 40s, and the sun was shining brightly when I got home from work.

“We’d better take advantage of this day,” I told the dogs, and they seemed to agree. The big dog, Darla, is always up for a walk. She headed right out, no need for coaxing. Even Rosa Parks, who often has to be begged or bribed to come along, was right on my heels. We crossed the road and took Cotter’s trail through the woods.

Sometimes the snow on the trail was firm enough to walk on; most of the time, though, every footfall broke through six inches of mush. That’s tiring, and hard on my knees. I hadn’t changed into boots; my cloth shoes were going to be soaked. On another day, I might have turned back. On Friday, though, the sun was shining, and both dogs were tail-wagging along beside me. We walked the whole distance in, then back out. We were all pretty proud of ourselves for it, too!

The storm did come through, as predicted, with about five inches of wet snow. Before it had time to melt away, another winter storm followed it. This morning, the dogs are barking up a storm inside as the young man that does my plowing clears almost of foot of snow from my driveway. I’m glad the dogs and I took advantage of spring weather when it made its brief appearance!

Here’s the Scoop

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Lately, when out in public, whether at the grocery store, hardware, post office or bank, I’ve been – unasked – bursting out with a story. Perhaps encouraged by a glance that seems to go on a bit too long, or a quizzical look, or a raised eyebrow, I get the feeling that an explanation is needed…and I am quick to oblige.

My face, these days, bears what I have called “the mark of Zorro.” Actually, though, it’s more of a simple “zig” than a “zig-zag.” The scratch begins under my right eye and runs diagonally across the bridge of my nose to my left nostril. There, it shifts course and makes another diagonal swipe across my upper lip to the right corner of my mouth. It was bright red for a day or two, then relaxed into a brown scab which slowly wore away until, presently, I am left with a distinct pink line. It will probably heal without leaving a scar.

Some people say, “What happened to you?” and I am happy to explain. I didn’t fall down, drunk, or trip into a thorn bush. It wasn’t clumsiness or stupidity. I have nothing to be ashamed of, though I’m embarrassed by the big mark on my face. It seems so outrageously visible, I feel an explanation is necessary whether prompted by a question or not. So, I’ve been spontaneously jumping into an explanation. This is the story:

My back is out, and I sleep more comfortably downstairs, where I can press by body against the back of the sofa for support, and where I don’t have to navigate stairs in the middle of the night. So, I’ve been sleeping on the couch. When I sleep on the couch, Rosa Parks takes position on the back of the couch, where she can see out the window. Darla sleeps on her big cushion on the floor beside me.

Last weekend, in the middle of the night, something came into the yard. At the time, I thought wild turkeys, though I’ve since been told that turkeys don’t usually move around at night. Maybe it was a coyote…or a deer…or a stray cat. In any case, at about three in the morning, when I was sound asleep, something came into the yard. It startled Rosa Parks, who sounded the alarm with her shrill bark.

Instantly, Darla was on the job. In her eagerness to assist Rosa Parks in frightening away whatever was invading our territory, she forgot I was on the couch. I had barely been frightened out of sleep by one dog barking when the second – larger – dog jumped on top of me with such force, I thought she had broken my nose.

I staggered in to the bathroom to stanch the bleeding and assess the damage. So enthused were they at their thorough job of protecting me, neither dog realized anything had gone wrong. Neither of them would ever hurt me on purpose. As I held a cold compress to my poor bleeding face, I doled out treats and told them, “Thanks for taking care of things.” I’ve considered, though, that – in the future – when my back is out and I’m forced to sleep on the sofa, a football helmet might be a good accessory!IMG_1308IMG_1309

Late!

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I’m up early today, trying to make up for all I didn’t do yesterday.

I don’t set the alarm clock on Sunday morning. I don’t have to be at work until 10:30; sunshine streaming in and the dogs needing out always assure that I’ll be up in time, no matter how late I was up the night before. Not yesterday.

Yesterday morning, the dogs had each made a trip outside before 6AM. I had taken the opportunity – while I was up – to empty my bladder and get a drink of water. The windows were open to a cool breeze; gentle rain was coming down. I was cozy and warm under a heavy comforter, with Rosa Parks curled up at my feet, Darla snoring from her bed close by. A cloudy sky blocked the morning sun. There was nothing to drive me from my bed. I thought of waking up, then let myself drift back into sleep…until I finally reached out to turn the clock around, to get an idea of the time.

TEN O’CLOCK!!!

I jumped out of bed. First, to the kitchen, to start the coffee brewing. To the bathroom next, where I ran the sink full of hot water for the sponge bath that would have to replace the shower I had planned. Having gone to bed with damp hair the night before, my hair was sticking up in a dozen directions. I wet it down and dried it into what could only be described as “better than before.” I washed, dressed, and brushed my teeth.

I filled two tiny dishes with soft food for the dogs. By that time they had roused themselves, too, and were not-too-enthusiastically considering another trip outside in the rain. “You’ll be fine,” I told them, “stay inside.” I filled my thermos and poured a cup of coffee. As I put down the dogs dishes, I reminded them that this was a short day, and told them to take care of things. Purse, thermos and coffee cup in hand, I was out the door.

Seven and a half miles is the distance to town. When I was considering this property, my Dad said, “That’s an awful long way from town, Cindy.” At that time, I was living outside of North Branch, driving ten miles to bring my daughters to ballet lessons, fifteen to visit my parents, and more than twenty for my classes in Flint, Michigan. Seven miles seemed like nothing…until I moved here.

Gas prices are high. I consolidate trips. I almost never come home and then go back to town, no matter what exciting event is taking place. The roads are, for the most part, unpaved, narrow and curvy, often littered with fallen branches. One must always be on the lookout for wildlife: chipmunks, black squirrels, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer think nothing of crossing the road without warning. So I did think about Dad on Father’s Day, and his sage advice about the long distance from town, as I made my way to work.

It gave me some comfort to have that cup of coffee nearby, though it was much too bumpy a ride to try to get a sip. As I rounded the church hill, I was glad to see Mass was still in session, for the church-goers often make their way to the hardware store as soon as the service is over. I made it to work no more than three minutes late, with customers already waiting at the door. I mixed two cans of paint before I had my coffee, and the day continued busy.

By the time I got home, I was ready for a break. As it was too wet for gardening or yard work, I took the dogs for a short walk. We then convened on the sofa to watch a movie and nap. After that, a drive to Fox Lake and then down to the frog pond. A late dinner completed the day’s theme.

Yesterday, I was behind all day. Today, I’m getting an early start.

Artifacts to Memories: Bunny Rabbit

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This bunny rabbit is not a personal artifact, but it’s been in my home for quite a few years now. Memories attach themselves to objects, and this little raggedy soft toy is no exception.

I brought two of these little bunnies home, when my dog family consisted of Maggie and Clover. Clover was a joy to watch with a new toy. She tossed it in the air and caught it in her teeth; she gave the toy a good shake before tossing it up again; she’d bring it to me coyly, inviting me to play, too. Maybe tug-of-war? What about fetch?

Maggie, on the other hand, was just a hoarder. She’d impatiently watch Clover play, until she could grab the toy away from her. Then she’d stand, chest out, on her bed, daring anyone to try to take anything away. She was the oldest, and largest, of the dogs, so she always got away with it. While I was away, she’d settle in and chew the stuffing out of any soft toy, but she didn’t otherwise engage with them. She just wanted them. All of the toys. On her doggie bed. All the time.

By the time Maggie passed on, Clover had lost interest, mostly, in toys. I’d try to engage her in games; she try to comply, for my sake, but the joy was gone. She preferred just a good walk. The collection of beat up chew toys and stuffed animals sat neglected in a corner.

Then, little Rosa Parks came in to our household. She was young, curious and ready for adventure. What were all these toys, gathering dust? Could she, with her keen young nose, detect a whiff of another dog…one that she had never met? As the toys were dragged out, one by one, Clover engaged with them as well, just to let the little dog know she knew what they were for. Mostly, they just got them all out, and strewed them around the living room.

As the years went by, though, both dogs lost interest. By the time Clover died, the toys – with a few additions – were occupying the neglected basket again. Rosa Parks, who had engaged in all kinds of games and play with Clover, was a hard dog to entertain, on her own. Often, I’d drive her down to Fox Lake, just to see her tail wag. There the water, and the memories of squirrel-chasing play, always put a spring in her step.

It seemed like Rosa Parks needed a companion, besides me. So, mainly as a gift to my little dog, I adopted Darla. Turns out, both Darla and Rosa Parks would have preferred to be the only dog in my house. Or so they thought. For my sake, they put up with each other. It took a few months for them to learn to enjoy each other’s company.

The toy basket, though, was an immediate success! Darla loves a toy. Her tail wags just snuffling through the basket, trying to pick just the right one. If she has gotten into the trash while I was at work, and she hears displeasure in my tone, she’ll bring me a toy. If that doesn’t do the trick, she’ll go get another. Once, having exhausted the toy basket while I was still picking up scraps of paper from the floor, she brought me a throw pillow!

Darla always likes to carry a toy outside with her. When she goes tearing out of the house, growling, to chase wild turkeys out of the yard, she often has a cute toy dangling from her jaws. Stuffed animals come on our walks with us. Until a chipmunk or a smelly piles of leaves distracts her, Darla will carry a soft toy in her mouth for a mile or more. I try to pay attention to where she drops it, so that I can tuck it in my pocket for the walk back home.

This stuffing-less bunny rabbit and all of his soft companions have a new lease on life, and  are getting out more, now, than they ever did before!

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Dog Comics, Part III

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Now these two. I spent about a year, after Clover passed away, wondering whether to get another dog. I work long hours, and have a lot of guilt about the time my dogs spend alone. Would a second dog be a good companion for Rosa Parks, or just double the guilt for me? My sister has a camera in her house, so that she can keep an eye on her two pups while she’s at work. They don’t really interact much, she told me, until close to the time either she or her husband are expected home. Then they get up and start looking out windows. Two veterinarians and the woman who boards my dogs when I travel all assured me that dogs do offer comfort to each other, even if they’re not actively playing. I finally made a decision, and brought Darla home to join the family.

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Rosa Parks was unimpressed. She had not been unhappy being the sole beneficiary of all of my attention. Darla, too, in our drive across the state, had come away with the idea that she was going to be an “only dog.” Neither one was happy with having to compete for treats or attention. They got along, for my sake only, but took their time becoming friends.

Some of those habits linger. If Darla is acting up, begging at the table or clambering for the attention of guests, Rosa Parks will remove herself from the situation. Suddenly she, the bossiest, most demanding and spoiled of the two, is sitting calmly off to the side, one paw crossed casually over the other, with a look of absolute superiority on her face. “Do you see this?” I imagine her saying, “I am the good dog!”

When Rosa Parks whimpers and – one ear to the floor, tail in the air – begs me to stop what I am doing and give her some attention, Darla is quick to take advantage of the opportunity. While I’m on the floor rubbing Rosa’s ears and tummy, the big dog wants her belly rubbed, too. Rosa refuses to give up her spot, but takes on a pained expression as Darla – without fail – rolls right over on top of her.

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Over the course of the last several months, though, the dogs have developed a rapport. I notice when they rush out the door to chase wild turkeys out of the yard, they look at each other, a shared mission, as they go around the corner of the house. They’ve learned to take turns begging for treats, so that neither appears too greedy, but both benefit from the handout. At their last doctor visit, Darla stoically endured being poked and prodded by the veterinarian. Then it was the little dog’s turn. Rosa Parks was simply having her nails clipped. Always the drama queen, her response might lead one to believe she was at least enduring an amputation. The vet and I grinned at her melodrama. Suddenly, from her place in the corner of the room, Darla started talking. Not a bark and not quite a howl, but the sound dogs make when they are trying to sing…clearly she was not pleased with what we were putting Rosa Parks through! “Leave her alone,” was my interpretation. At last, my dogs have become friends!

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Walking With Dogs

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Rosa Parks has not been interested in walking with me lately.

She and Clover were good walking companions, both up for chasing chipmunks and exploring all manner of smells. I once saw Clover come upon a large paw print in the snow. Coyote! She placed her nose down near it, and gave a knowing look in the direction of the little dog. Rosa Parks ran over to investigate. She also put her nose down to the indentation, and she and Clover gazed at each other. Not a word was exchanged, but an entire dialogue went on, from one dog to the other, as they each smelled the danger, and looked knowingly into each others eyes.

Ever since Clover died, Rosa has been nervous about getting out for a walk. She just doesn’t quite trust me to keep her safe (this, though I have gone over in my mind a thousand times – so I would be prepared should the need arise –  exactly how I would respond if a coyote would try to grab my little dog, throwing myself onto the offender while yelling, “Run, Rosa Parks, run!”). I thought Darla might make her feel safe again, but that hasn’t worked out quite as I’d planned. Darla doesn’t take much of an interest in the little dog, and goes about her business of chasing birds and rolling in smelly stuff without ever considering that Rosa might like to join in.

Most often, Rosa Parks stays home. She has a bum knee that makes a walking unpleasant. Still, the only way to help her knee is to have her lose some weight. That is difficult when she hardly moves from the couch. I have tried carrying her out to the road to encourage her to walk with me. Usually she turns and comes home as soon as I put her down. She stubbornly sits in the driveway, deaf to my calls, until I give up.

Yesterday, when I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk, she thought I said “ride.” She leaped right up, wagging tail and grinning. When Darla and I continued down the driveway past the car, Rosa sat down. Having loved her enthusiasm, I was not willing to let it go so easily. “Okay, Rosa Parks, we’ll go for the ride,” I told her. With Darla in the passenger seat and Rosa on my lap, we rode…one mile south, all the way to Hannigan Road. I parked on the side of the road and we all got out. If she wanted to go home from here, Rosa Parks had a long walk ahead of her. She decided to stick with me.

Hannigan Road is narrow, and lined with a mix of soft and hard woods. Darla ran ahead to explore; Rosa stayed closer to me. When I offered, after a half-mile, to turn back toward the car, Rosa kept going. “Good for you!” I told her, and we continued down the road. When we’d gone a mile, we turned. That’s when Rosa Parks sat down. I continued walking, thinking she’d catch up. She made no effort to move. Now and then, when I looked back, she was licking her sore leg. Other times, she just watched, and waited. Eventually, I went back to get her, and carried her back to the car.

Yesterday, all three of us got a walk in. As for me, after carrying my twenty pound dog down the road, I got a strength workout, too!