Tag Archives: Darla

Here’s the Scoop

Standard

 

IMG_1297

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

Advertisements

Late!

Standard

IMG_0756

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

Standard

img_7185

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!

img_9905

 

Dog Comics, Part III

Standard

img_6703

 

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.

img_6723

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.

img_7194

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!

img_7401

Walking With Dogs

Standard

img_8539

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!

Kids and Dogs…and Horses

Standard

july2016 327

Once, it seems like a hundred years ago (at those times when it doesn’t seem like just yesterday…), I was in the esteemed position of raising two precious little girls. They were not quite three years apart in age. Jenny, being the oldest, was usually the first to discover and act on little divergences from our normal acceptable behavior.

Jenny was a good girl, and they were minor infractions. Still, whether it was blowing bubbles in her milk at dinnertime, bouncing on the furniture or arguing about bedtime, there were times when I would remind her of the rules, and suggest the responsibility of being a big sister. She should try to be a good influence for Katey, I would tell her, and show by example the way we should behave.

That’s when Katey, who up to that point had been innocent, would get involved. I could always see it coming. First the slight raised eyebrow, then an expression that showed both thoughtfulness and determination. She’d give me that sideways eye, then proceed to do exactly what I had just scolded her sister for doing!

The message was clear: she would rather be in Jenny’s camp, no matter what the consequences.

I am now in the fortunate position of sharing my life and my home with two nice dogs. I make no excuses for talking to them as we go through the day. Not constantly – we’re a fairly quiet bunch – but enough. Sometimes it’s just random chatter; other times it’s flattery, scolding or reassurance. “Good girls, going outside together,” I’ll encourage them, or, “I think we’re fine, girls,” as they madly bark at the road truck passing by.

Yesterday, we were out in the front yard together. I was gathering sticks and branches that had fallen during the storm, checking the blackberry bushes and taking clothes down from the line. Darla and Rosa Parks were chasing scents: wild turkeys had been in the yard. They each found smelly patches to roll in, so that they could carry that odor through the day. Darla took off, then, through the thick brush beyond the maple trees, with Rosa Parks on her heels. The partridge they were interested in took flight, and Darla came right back into the yard.

“Where’s your sister?” I asked her, “Where did you leave Rosa Parks?”

Rosa Parks is still nursing a dislocated kneecap. Though any exercise she will take is good for her, she can’t always manage to get over, around and up onto things the way she used to. In her enthusiasm to be on a hunt with the big dog, she had managed to get over logs and through brambles. The way back was a different story. “You can’t just leave Rosa Parks behind,” I told Darla as I scrambled through the underbrush to retrieve my little dog, “You have to watch out for her.”

Just as we were all safely back in the front yard, two riders on horseback came down the road. The big dog, barking, bounded down the driveway. “Darla, NO,” I shouted with enough authority to give her pause. That’s when I noticed Rosa Parks. First a slight, raised eyebrow. Next, a look of both thoughtfulness and determination. That old, telling sideways eye. Then, she went tearing down the driveway to chase after the horses!

The message, once again, is crystal clear.

 

One Productive Day

Standard

july2016 148

Oh, my gosh, that title deserves an exclamation point!

The countdown is on, with just a few days until my birthday. This will be my sixty-fourth. That seems as momentous as any of the thirty, forty, fifty, sixty milestone birthdays, and even more meaningful than the sixty-fifth. Why? Well, sixty-five no longer means retirement. Even if I were not on the “work until death” track, sixty-six would be the minimum desired age for retirement considering social security benefits. “Sixty-five” is still more than a year away, while “sixty-four” is right here. Finally and most importantly, because the Beatles sang about age sixty-four. It’s been in my head for weeks…”Will ya still need me, will ya still feed me…when I’m sixty-four?”

So, with a momentous birthday coming up, I’ve been making self-improvement plans. My birthday is second only to January first when it comes to recharging and renovating my entire life. So far, I have started reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, 59 Seconds (Think a little, Change a lot) by Professor Richard Wiseman, and 52 Small Changes (One year to a happier, healthier you) by Brett Blumenthal. I’m also working through a book of inspirational quotes that my sister Brenda gave me. I scheduled a mammogram. I started a new journal. As a gift to myself, I met with a psychic/ Tai Chi instructor/ reiki healer for an insightful session. I have plans to get a new haircut, improve my diet and solidify an exercise habit. I am going to do better about making this house a pleasant place to be. This is just the beginning!

Yesterday was a good start. I accomplished a great deal in nine hours at work. I restocked shelves, then went down the housewares, paint, caulk and cleaning aisles to add items to this week’s order. I tidied areas of the basement and brought up all the corrugated cardboard for recycle. I organized the overhead storage of buckets, cleaning products and drywall corner bead. Finally, near the end of the day and with Kathleen’s help, I brought the Libman display upstairs and started putting it together.

After work, I filled the car up with gas, came home, picked up the dogs and took them to Fox Lake. I did not carry the little dog to the car when I wanted to leave, but waited until the dogs were ready to go. It was a humid day, and they were loving the water. Rosa Parks went in swimming six times! Darla waded the shoreline, investigating prints left by horses in the sand. We didn’t get home until after eight o’clock. By then, they were wondering why I was so late with their dinner!

While the dogs were eating, I put what was left of a roast chicken in a big pot of water with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms, to make soup. I hooked up my new dryer vent, and did a load of wash. I washed a sink full of accumulated bowls, cups and silverware, took the compost out to the bin, swept the kitchen, then sat down to supper…at eleven o’clock at night. It was a really productive day. I don’t know how many more of them I can stand!