Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Not Easy Being A Puppy In A House Full Of Old Dogs!

In our house, it's becoming a geriatric ward for older hounds in the last few years. Hawk is twelve and a half and really showing his age. Blueberry turned eight this year, and while she doesn't seem like an old dog at all, she has definitely left her puppyhood behind. Lilac will be fourteen in a couple of months and my husband and I believe she may outlive us all.

Then there's Bunny! When we went to adopt another hound last year after Treat passed away we expected to find a hound around four years old. That is the magical age when the greyhound brain finally grows in. I wanted to continue doing nursing home visits and possibly READ, and that meant I needed a new canine partner. We went to the adoption kennel and came home with an eighteen month old puppy instead.

I worried while we waited for Bunny's spay surgery to be done that possibly we'd made a mistake, and yet she'd seemed so calm the whole time we were there. Blueberry hadn't been crazy about her, but she hadn't hated her, either. Her tolerance was the closest we came to her approval of any of the greyhounds we met that day, and Bunny had completely won us over. Still, I worried about how our two older hounds would handle her. The day Bunny arrived home, however, I realized we had nothing to worry about. She was remarkably good with Hawk and Lilac. Hawk started eating again and Lilac tolerated Bunny sharing the big dog bed with her. Bunny was careful around them, and respectful of their status. Things in our house began a new routine.

Even with her wonderful behavior, however, Bunny is still a puppy at heart. There are times when she just needs to play. Usually a brief session of chasing her toys before bedtime suffices, especially if Husband is willing to play a bit, too. For months, Blueberry refused to play with her, even though it's something she enjoyed a great deal before Bunny came here. However, lately she's given in and actually played, much to Bunny's delight.

Of course, now that Blue has consented to play on occasion, Bunny wants her to play more often. This seems to be a bit of a bane to Madame Blueberry's existance. Most of the time, she's a good sport about it, and I have to admit, I greatly enjoy watching her when she does consent to play with Bunny.

It starts the same way. Husband goes into the bedroom, leaving the gate down and Bunny runs in to hide one of her toys on the bed. Soon, she's running back and forth from the living room to the bedroom, one toy at a time.

Bunny: Bluuuuuuuueberry! Come on! Don't you want to play?

Blueberry (yawning): Oh, I don't know...

Bunny (running back to the bedroom): It'll be fun!

Blueberry (looking to see if anyone is watching): Well, maybe once...

Bunny (nose to nose with Blue now, tail wagging like a little flag): Oh, I knew you couldn't resist! It'll be great!

Blueberry: You can't catch me! (She takes off running at top speed for the bed at this point.)

At this point, the chase is on. They run to the bedroom. I have no idea exactly how it happens, but they manage to unmake our bed and change it into something that's almost unrecognizable. The carnage is something most people can only imagine. There will be dog toys strewn everywhere, along with pillows and the blankets all shoved up in a lumpy mountain near the head of the bed. At this point, Husband or I go in and tell them to get off the bed, then we remake it into something that we can at least crawl into and find a place to rest our heads later.

At this point, Bunny usually tries to get the game going again. She will dance around, sometimes emitting a little bark, carrying a favorite toy to try to taunt Blueberry into playing again. Just to amuse her, Blue will jump up and run into the bedroom. Usually this sends Bunny racing to the toy box, looking for something to start the game over with. Choosing just the right toy can be difficult, however, and usually by the time she returns, Blueberry has found something better to do on our bed besides mess it up. She will artfully displace the pillows and make herself a nest amongst them, settling down with a sigh as if she is more exhausted than any mere mortal can possibly understand. Amazingly, she has the power to instantly fall asleep after she lays down inside her creation as well. No amount of puppy cajoling will convince her to move from her spot. This leaves Bunny with only one thing to do as well. She'll just rest up and dream about next time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Merrily We Stroll Along

Walking in our neighborhood is an enjoyable experience for the most part. Somehow, though, throwing two grehounds into the mix makes things infinitely more interesting. Two different styles of walking could not be found. Bunny is always eager to go. As soon as I pick up her harness, she is dancing around, barely able to be still long enough for me to put it on. It is at this point that Blueberry enters the fray. She, too, is all shades of excited, however, I am hesitant to take her. Blueberry and I have a long history over her walks. If I zig, she zags -- if I am trying to move forward, she has to stop and sniff the flowers -- if I want her on my left, she will always end up on my right. I dearly love her, but she has never been easy to walk. She also has never seemed to have the stamina for it. So, as I get ready to go for a walk, Blueberry walks between Bunny and me and gazes up at me, very soulfully. Guilt kicks in.

Me: Blue, we're going for a walk, you don't like walks.

Blueberry: I never get to do anything!

Me: That's not true, but when I take you, we always end up having a problem.

Blueberry: Oh, I see! You just love Bunny more. Woe. Is. Me.

Me: Blue, come on! Don't be like that! You'll get exhausted and I can't carry you back home.

Blueberry: I've been working out!

Me (suspiciously): Running in and messing up our bed at night is not working out.

Blueberry: Please, please, please!

At this point, she breaks through, barrels past me and stands at the door wagging her tail wildly. I know two things in this scenario. One, she is going to sulk outrageously if I don't put a leash on her and two, if i take her, I am going to end up tired and frustrated on the walk. Sadly for me, I seem to be unable to resist this one small request of hers. I know that she needs exercise and that it will make her happy to go along with us. She really does ask for very little from us. So, I give in and grab a leash for her.

In the beginning, it's all sunshine and roses. Both girls have tails wagging and the thrill of what we might encounter makes everyone's steps light. As we get to the end of our street, Blueberry is suddenly walking quietly beside me while Bunny continues to forge ahead. I try to keep Blue enthusiastic and moving along. Another two blocks and her tongue begins to loll out of her mouth. I try to sound upbeat and cheerful. As we arrive at the park, Blue is now walking behind me, switching sides on occasion so that I have to keep switching the leash back and forth to keep her moving. Bunny is now intent on the park, ecstatic with the knowledge that there might be kids to pet her, pee mail to sniff, possibly a dog to greet, and maybe even a toad to catch by the creek. Her little feet begin to dance on the sidewalk and she prances over to the grass to get to her destination even quicker. I drift over into the grass, hoping to cut corners a little and make it a tad easier on Blueberry. Finally, we reach Bunny's favorite spot to sniff and leave pee mail and Blue gets a few seconds' reprieve.

By now Blue's tongue is hanging out nearly to the sidewalk. Walking has never been her forte and now that she's getting a little older, it is even less so. Still, she doesn't want to be left behind. She soldiers on. As we leave the park, it begins to become ridiculous. I will say here, for the record, that I strongly believe that a lot of this is for dramatic purposes and that I do not believe it is possible for a brief walk to overexert a hound to this degree. This is the point, as we slowly walk up the gentle hill where her sides begin to heave. She walks as far behind me as the leash will allow. A desperate gasp escapes her lips. I look at her and realize that I have lost the battle yet again. I don't think she realizes how lucky she is to be born during the age of cell phones.

I pull out my cell phone and call Husband. I explain that I need him to come and pick up his dog in the van. He doesn't even ask where we are. The scenario has played out enough times that he knows where we will be sitting on the edge of the sidewalk like poor, shiftless drifters. A few minutes pass and he arrives. I open the door and suddenly Blue jumps in with remarkable enthusiasm. Bunny looks in the van and then hopefully down the street. I tell her to make up her mind. I see her weighing the option of greeting Husband and going for ride versus the possibility of being petted by someone she has yet to be formally introduced to, since there are no strangers in her world. Blueberry sighs from the back seat of the van and Bunny decides she doesn't want to miss an opportunity like a drive through window. We both get in and she stands between Husband and I, excited to see what might be out there.

Maybe it would be easier to just pile them into the car and go for a ride. Is exercise really that overrated?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's Not Easy Being A Cute Little Puppy

It's not easy being a cute adorable, puppy. It means you begin to think that everything you want, you will get. Over the past five weeks, I have been at home on summer break. Bunny has been a very happy puppy thanks to that fact. However, all good things must come to an end. In order for the kibble, toys and fancy collars to keep coming in, I have to go back to work. Bunny is not thrilled about this. There is much sighing, soulful eye gazing, leaning against me and general moping. She is smart enough that she knows the routine about when I go back to work.

We have been constant companions over the past weeks, usually with Bunny leaning against my leg while the two of us veg out on the couch, her napping and me writing. I am so thankful for that part. When Treat passed away, I felt like I'd lost my muse in some ways. Bunny does an excellent job of providing inspiration and moral support.

Last school year was very difficult for me for several reasons. My teaching partner had breast cancer and had to be out of the room for half the year. The substitute teacher situation was a difficult one at first. We got a new sub, a wonderful lady, but it's still a large burden on one person's shoulders. I also had a particularly difficult child in class this year who will be returning for one more year. This coming school year brings a lot of anxiety for me as well as uncertainty. One thing is a constant, however. There is always a furry little counselor waiting at home to do her best to alleviate my stress, whether it's dancing around like a crazy little monkey, pressing her warm little body against me, or simply curling up beside me on the couch to gaze at me with adoration, she is always waiting with something.

So, it tugged at my heartstrings quite a bit when I came out of the shower in the morning to find that she decided she couldn't face the world. Apparently, it was just a little too much to bear on a Monday morning. I figured I'd try to have a little chat with her.

Me: Bunny, what are you doing under there?

Bunny: Woe is me!

Me: What seems to be the problem?

Bunny: You're leaving today -- I know it!

Me: Well, I do have to work so that we have money to feed you and keep you in the fashion to which you've become accustomed.

Bunny: Who will pet me all day?

Me: I'll be home to pet you before you know it. You'll be sleeping most of the time I'm gone anyway.

Bunny: It's still not the same...

Me: I know. If it makes you feel better, I'd rather be here at home with you.

Bunny: That's not helping.

Me: I'm sorry, puppy girl. The weekend will be here soon and we'll be together all day.

Bunny: Okay.

Me: Before you know it, fall break will be here and I'll be home again, too.

Bunny (a little more of her nose emerging from the blanket): Really? How soon?

Me: Only about ten weeks. It will be fall time, so we'll be able to go to the dog park all the time if it's not raining, as well as doing other fun stuff.

Bunny: You promise you're coming back though, right?

Me: Yes, I promise. I'll have a lot of time to pet you, then, too.

Bunny: Well, alright, I'll be here waiting!

We'll both be counting the days until the end of September! Hopefully, the time will go quickly. It's awfully nice to have some great dogs to come home to in the meantime.

Wordless Wednesday 7/15 -- Art Show Swag

It's always a good thing when we find greyhound art at the art festivals.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 7/08 -- From Head to Tail

Bunny's Secret Passion

If you have been reading the blog much, you know that Bunny has one particular love in life. That is being petted. Give her a room full of people and she is more than thrilled to work the crowd. However, there is something else that Bunny loves -- her dark mistress as it were. Every morning she stalks us for, dun dun dun, yogurt. She lies on the floor, pretending to be asleep, or sometimes on the other side of the couch if Blueberry hasn't gotten there first, and feigns sleep. However, soon, as you begin to get near the bottom of your yogurt cup, you will see one of her delicate little ears begin to twitch. An eye might pop open even, if she hears the rattling sound of your spoon on the bottom of the cup. As soon as you move to set it down, she springs into action. Magically, she will appear beside my husband or me, sitting and practicing all her skills of cuteness. Her doe eyes will look up adoringly, she'll give a gentle, graceful wag of her golden tail, and then curl up into a very pretty little sit. If this doesn't elicit immediate results, she will quickly lay down on the floor beside us, looking for all the world like a regal sphinx. As soon as we set the cup down for her, she goes to work.
She seems to have been working on improving her technique over the past weeks. At first, she was content to lay on the couch and lick the rest of the yogurt out in a leisurely but efficient manner. Of course, she always has to be dainty and ladylike about it. Here she demonstrates the wrap-your-paw-around-the-bottom-of-the-cup technique for keeping the yogurt cup in place. I thought this was working pretty well for her, but apparently it wasn't enough solitude for her to properly enjoy the yogurt in peace.

She learned to pick the cup up in her mouth and carry it to the dog bed. I wish we had pictures of her carrying the cups, but she has been very elusive and refuses to do retakes. Eating the yogurt on the floor seems to be her preference, but the cup kept tipping on her while she was licking it. Still, she was very proud that she'd managed to make the cup mobile. I think it's possibly just her little show of Independence -- eating it where she wants to, instead of where we set it down.

After she mastered moving the cup, it began to bother her that a drop of her ambrosia might be left in the bottom of the cup. She learned that if she put her entire bottom jaw into the cup, cleaning out the bottom was much easier. This must have come from her discovery of how to carry the cup to the bed. I can just imagine how proud she was when she discovered this technique. It must have been better than finding gold. Now it doesn't even bother her if one of the other hounds comes over for a taste of yogurt. She knows that what's left in the bottom is all hers.

Still, keeping the cup still on the floor while she was working on the rim proved to be a problem. That is, until she discovered the art of using her paw to hold it still. I find myself relieved that she wasn't born with opposable thumbs. There would be no stopping her in any endeavor that she undertook. Despite her innocent looks and the fact that she's a natural blonde, Bunny is extremely smart. She could be a mastermind of any criminal organization and be very successful, but fortunately, she uses her powers for good -- and being petted.

On some occasions she works her incredible powers of cuteness to get two cups of yogurt at one time. There are not too many foods that she doesn't like, but I haven't seen anything that she craves like the yogurt. At least she's eating light yogurt to keep her svelte, girlish figure.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Usually, she will lie on the floor in denial that it's all gone. She will hang on to the yogurt cup for a few minutes afterward, basking in the glow of yogurt in her tummy. Her favorite flavor seems to be pineapple upside down cake, but she's also a fan of raspberry cheesecake, strawberry shortcake and apple pie flavors. Actually, I haven't seen her turn her little nose up at any flavor so far, but she doesn't go nearly as crazy for key lime pie and boston creme pie as some others. She will lick the cup completely clean, and we let her keep the cup until she starts to chew on it. That's when Husband intervenes and takes it away from her. I've also had to start being careful to look because she's taken to hiding the cups in strange places, like our bed. She always looks so crestfallen when I find them and throw them away that I almost feel guilty. I can't complain, though. As far as secret passions go, hers isn't too bad.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How May I Help You?

Yesterday something happened here that rarely occurs. Our greyounds are pretty typical of the breed in that they rarely bark. If someone comes in the door, there is about thirty seconds of fanfare before they go back to their respective napping places, well three of them do. Bunny will hold out until whoever had come in pets her. Alas, I digress. Yesterday afternoon, as I sat on the couch trying to get some writing done, Lilac stood on the other side of the coffee table and began to bark at me.

I was surprised. Lilac is not demanding at all. Sometimes she wants attention, but when she does, she simply walks up and buries her head against your chest. I had taken the dogs out an hour and a half earlier. They had been fed. It was an unusually cool summer day, so the temperature was comfortable. What else could she need?

Being the caring dog owner that I am, I got up and walked around the coffee table. She leaned against me, letting me know, as if I didn't already, that there was something she wanted. I petted her a little and leaned over close to her. We had a little conversation.

Me: Lilac, what's wrong?

Lilac: (barking meaningfully) Can't you tell?

Me: (whispering in her ear, lest the other dogs hear this part and start a riot) Do you have to go potty?

Lilac: (rolling her eyes and barking more insistantly) Of course not, I was just outside! How can you not see this?

Me: (looking around at the lay of the land) Oooooh! I think I get it!

Blueberry, in true diva fashion, had fluffed the two prime dog beds together so that she could lay her body on one bed and her head and front feet on the other. Hawk lay comfortably on the big orthopedic dog bed. Bunny was stretched out on the couch. Two small cushions lay unoccupied on the floor as a last resort.

Apparently, the cushions were not good enough for Lilac. There was a time when she would bark at Blueberry and Blue would instantly retreat to her crate. Now she simply ignores the scoldings of her mother. She closed her eyes and burrowed deeper into her nest of beds, pretending that she had no idea what Lilac wanted. Lilac barked at me again. I knew what I had to do. I oh so carefully pulled one bed from beneath Blueberry's front paws. She gave me a royal case of stinkeye when I did. I tossed the bed over to the side and fluffed it up a little. Lilac gave me a grateful look, then curled up on her bed, gave a little sigh and closed her eyes in contentment.

So who has who trained in this house, anyway?
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