Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bunny The Huntress

You may remember that Bunny is a curious young greyhound who is still exploring a lot of the world around her. This spring, she met her first nemesis, the rascally rabbit in our backyard, who whispered to all his buddies to taunt her all over town. Bunny has since discovered that she can stalk other things besides the rabbits, who seem to have calmed down some now that spring fever is coming to a close. A few days ago, she met a new object of desire and has been giving her best effort to hunting them ever since.
She actually came very close this time. I took the dogs out to the turn out pens and it was just starting to rain. I put Bunny and Blueberry in the pen together and then to my surprise and horror, Bunny dashed in and grabbed a young robin who was sitting on the ground inside the pen. I yelled at her to drop it, but she had already picked it up. It flew out of her mouth doing some crazy robin acrobatic moves and dropped to the ground. All of Bunny's hunting instincts kicked in at that moment and she ran to scoop it up in her mouth again. I rushed Hawk and Lilac into the other pen, and the pair sauntered in as if they hadn't a care in the world. Blueberry stood looking at Bunny as if she'd grown another head and I shouted something. I think it was her name, but it might not have been coherent. The whole thing was a novelty to her, however, and even the third time she picked the bird up, she dropped it. I suspect because toys are not supposed to wriggle in your mouth if you're a dog. Finally the little bird hopped out between the chain links and scurried over to rest in the grass. I don't think he was injured, but I imagine it gave him a good scare.
Now, Bunny has become the mighty huntress. She is on the prowl everytime she goes out the back door. My husband is convinced that she's part border collie. Our afternoon conversations in the back hallway have changed.
Me: Guys, stand still so I can put your leashes on.
Hawk: Today's not the day the sky will fall, is it? Dinner will be ready when I get back inside, right?
Me: Clear skies ahead, big guy! Of course dinner will magically appear while you're outside.
Lilac: Are you sure I have to go out in this heat? I'm old. I'm tired. Frankly, I'm not feeling it right now...
Me: You will have to go in ten minutes if you don't go out there and go now. I'm warning you, we are not going back outside.
Blueberry: Did you notice how patiently I've been waiting?
Me: Yes, Blue, you're almost perfect!
Bunny: Shhhhhhh! Be very, very quiet!
Me: Quiet? Are you shushing me?
Bunny, perking her ears up and crouching into stealth mode: Yes! I'm on a mission!
Me: A mission? What are you up to?
Bunny: Shhhhhh!
Me: Whatever it is, they'll hear you from a mile away with those tags jingling.
Bunny: You're ruining this for me! I'm a mighty huntress!
Me: We'll see!
We now go out the back door and Bunny drops down into the predatory creep of a lion. You would think with all the commotion that the young robins would fly off. It appears that young robins aren't the brightest in the animal kingdom, however. At least once a day, one of them is perched on the chain links of one of the turn out pens. Bunny never fails to notice if one is out there. We have been putting her in the other pen, and she is none to happy with the arrangement. She stands there on the alert, poised on the edge of the door, hoping for another shot. I am hoping that she doesn't actually get one, but I do think she will educate some young birds this year about avian safety measures. So far, she is quite pleased with herself, however. The birds at least run the other way when she comes by, but she's still waiting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roanoke Days Parade...Gone to the Dogs!

Once again, it was time for the annual Roanoke Days Parade yesterday. It was a bright, sunny day and we had a lot of friends and family over to visit and watch the parade. We like to bring the dogs out to be a part of it, but sometimes even the best laid plans go awry.

Hawk is convinced that the sky will fall on him at any moment as a result of an ill-timed walk one Memorial Day. We happened to be going past the cemetary in our little village at the time of the Memorial Day services, unaware that they actually do a real twenty one gun salute. Hawk was not a big fan of loud noises to start with, and that one completely threw him for a loop. He backed completely out of his collar and ran for home. Fortunately, he is the only greyhound I know with a homing device and since we live in a small town, everyone near our house knows he's our dog. People just pointed and said "He went that way" as we frantically ran down the street after him. So, when asked if he wanted to join us, he went in the dog crate and laid down. I can't say I blame the old guy. So, Hawk's answer was a no.

Next, I looked for Lilac. I asked the sweet little old lady if she wanted to go outside to see the parade.

Lilac: Are there going to be loud noises?

Me: Probably some drums and fire engines.

Lilac: Is it going to be hot out there?

Me: I did get the swimming pool out for you dogs already today, so that's a yes.

Lilac: Why are we still having this conversation? I'm going back to my nap.

Next, I consulted Bunny.

Me: Bunny, do you want to come out for the parade?

Bunny: Will there be people there to pet me?

Me: As a matter of fact, I think there will be people and dogs both out there.

Bunny: Where's my leash?

Score one for the watchers, at least!

Bunny was very interested in socializing, especially with her cousin, Suzie, the black lab. Having never been to a parade before, she had no idea what to expect. She was having a great time working the crowd, when suddenly a fire truck set off the siren behind her. That scared the beejeezus out of her, and so did the drums the marching band was playing, but she held her own, determined not to miss an opportunity to be with me or to schmooze a crowd.

That leaves Blueberry for the count. Blueberry believes that the parade comes by every year just to celebrate her. She is very enthusiastic about attending and so I wasn't too surprised by her response.

Me: Blue, it's time for the parade, do you want to go?
Blueberry: I have been waiting for
my public to appear to admire me all day!
Me: I expect you to be on your best behavior out there.
Blueberry: I'm practically Miss Perfect! I can't believe you said that!

Me: Well, I just want to remind you, no funny stuff with people's food!
Blueberry: I have not been looking at that apple pie you baked all morning! I swear!

All was going well, the parade was a nice, old-fashioned affair with candy being thrown and babies being kissed. Firetrucks gleamed as they drove by and local celebrities and beauty queens rode on the backs of convertibles. It really was a perfect day for a parade.
Everything was going very well and then we saw something so horrifying, so frightening and utterly nightmare inspiring that I am afraid our puppy, poor little Bunny, will need therapy for years to recover. A local sanitation company truck was preceded by a creature that should not even exist on this plane of reality. We saw, were waved at by, even, a giant six and a half foot skunk. Fortunately, there was enough candy on the street by that point that nothing made him mad and we were spared the horror of what a spray from a giant skunk could do. Still, it was so frightening that we decided it was time for Bunny to go in the house to recover her wits. How this will affect her in the future, I have no idea, but we will be observing her closely for signs of post traumatic stress. It's not every day you see a skunk taller than most men outside the front of your house, after all.

Since my husband was bringing Bunny inside, he looked over to see how Blueberry was doing. Obviously, a giant skunk was no threat to her. She's made of sterner stuff. Still, she was apparently too regal a creature, being descended from the companions of pharoahs and kings and all, to rest in the grass like Suzie. She had to take over the entire picnic blanket. As my husband looked over to ask her if she wanted to go in, she lolled to the side, letting her tongue hang out in a display of heat exhaustion. Feeling sorry for her, he brought her in the house to recline on her royal dias before the fan. And so her plans all came together. For you see, Blueberry is the most cunning of any greyhound I have ever met. She knew what was left unguarded in the kitchen while the rest of us were out in the heat watching the parade file past. She was about to get her paws on the one thing she'd had her grey eye on all morning.

Yes, Blueberry had her eye on the pie! In a remarkable second guess maneuver that stunned even the man himself, my husband went back inside. He had planned for Blueberry's attack and taken the pies into the pie protection holding cell in our basement. Most of our hounds won't venture down there as they don't like the steps. However, as he walked back in the house, Blueberry stood at the top of the stairs, nose held high as she took in the aroma of what she assumed would soon be her prize. She turned to look at him in shock as the door reopened. There was no denying she was busted. He brought her back into the living room and baracaded the door with kitchen chairs. For once, he won his battle with her over the food. We really enjoyed that pie, Blue. Better luck next time!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Miss Almost Perfect

As you look at this picture of Blueberry, no doubt you are seeing the perfect, model greyhound that everyone wishes they had on their own couch. She's a beautiful blue brindle so beautiful that an artist once asked us if she could paint a picture of her. It may be hard to believe that we were not her first home. She came to us just after she turned two years old to live here with us and her mother, Lilac. When she first came here, she was a shameless wild child. She could steal the food right off your plate and have it inhaled before you even noticed it was missing. Then she'd look up at us with those gorgeous mismatched eyes of hers and we'd forget all about her transgression. Still, she had a good heart, and her intentions were mostly good. We were in love with her despite her puppy enthusiasm. It was easy to forget that she was our wild child when we saw her curled up and looking so innocent on the couch.

She'd been taught some "tricks" by the woman who'd had her before, such as jumping up and taking a treat from her mouth. It took us months to teach her that trick wasn't acceptable. She'd sit in the rocket launch position and then just leap up at your face. I should mention at this point that I believe it might be possible she has a titanium plate attached to her skull. When your head connects with hers, you will see stars. In any event, we had some issues to work through in her younger years. Every year, on her birthday, I would explain to her that now that she was a year older, it was time to act like a big girl and give up her hoyden behaviors. She usually blew a raspberry at me and went back to what she was doing. This went on for several years -- actually right up until this time last year. I am still stunned by her sudden turn around. Although, I can't complain.

Treat's role in our home was always Miss Perfect. I'm sure I told Blue on plenty of occasions that she should act more like Treat. When Treat died last year, Blueberry suddenly took on a lot of her traits and her mantle of being Miss Perfect. She would lay beside me on the couch in Treat's spot and sprawl out so that nobody could come between us. We took her to the adoption kennel to help us find a new hound to bring home. She turned up her nose at all of them, and gave a certain male hound up there named Try a serious lesson about what happens when you get too fresh with the ladies. Finally, they brought in the last hound for us to meet. Blueberry decided that she didn't hate her and the decision was made.

Bunny came home a few weeks later and Blueberry took on the job of teaching her how to be a good dog. Bunny has followed her lessons quite carefully and we've been thrilled by her progress and by Blueberry's blossoming into the perfect dog we always knew was hiding inside her. However, Blueberry has one vice, and recently it has given me cause for concern.

Here you see Blueberry and Bunny looking like sweet, innocent hounds together. I fear that Blueberry may have an unhealthy influence on this young, impressionable young hound, however. One thing I will give Blue credit for is that she is very wily. She never misses a trick.

Enter grilling season. My husband loves to cook on the grill. Just say the word and he'll be out there flipping meat in the middle of a blizzard. There's no deterrent. When the weather starts to warm up, he cooks outside a lot more since it helps keep the house cooler. As I said, Blueberry has almost completely reformed from her old ways. There is just one thing that she cannot resist.

When my husband grills hamburgers, he'll set the buns on the plate and go out to get the meat. This spring he's returned on many occasions to find the plates empty after his quick trip out the back door. This usually results in a bit of swearing from my husband as Blueberry stands in the kitchen gently wagging her tail and batting her eyelashes at him. He then grumbles and gets out more buns as he asks me why I didn't stop her. I didn't stop her because I didn't know you were going outside and because I didn't know she or the hamburger buns were in there is what I tell him.

Her journey into larceny has escalated, however. This past weekend she got caught after she wolfed down the raw hamburger that my husband had left in a bowl for a second. At least she had a mild stomach ache afterwards! Even though she's my husband's favorite, she got quite a talking to when he figured that one out.

So now she is being watched closer than surveillance on Rod Blagovich. She doesn't set foot in the kitchen without someone watching her. So she's had to resort to a new tactic. I can imagine it goes something like this:

Blueberry: Hey, Bunny! The coast is clear! Run in the kitchen and get us those hamburger buns!

Bunny: Will somebody pet me if I do?

Blueberry: Enough with the petting! This is serious! We don't have much time!

Bunny: I don't know... If I look really cute, Mom will probably pet me and give me one anyway...

Blueberry: You are missing the point! Why ask for it when you can steal it?! Don't worry about flashing the doe eyes at Mom unless you get caught!

Bunny: Get caught?! If I get caught there won't be any petting, will there?

Blueberry: Hurry up! They're coming!

Bunny: Oh, hi mom! Pet me! Pet me! Pet me!

I've seen them standing together at the doorway. The fact that Blueberry turns around and goes to lay down when I catch them is a tell tale sign. Fortunately, so far Bunny has proven to be incorruptible. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it stays that way. Blueberry, I'm watching you! You're almost perfect, but not quite there and I love you anyway.

Wordless Wednesday 5/06

I don't think the pictures need any words. The portrait was a birthday present from my husband painted by Billie Mann.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tail Of A Princesse

Well, it's been a year since we lost our brindle princess. Adios Treat was one of a kind and we'll certainly never forget her. It's been a year of ups and downs as I try to collect my life and move past losing her. Some days I still cry when I think about her, but more often now I smile when I think about the things we went through together. Losing her was certainly one of the harder things I have gone through. A year later, though, I don't want to think about her loss or about how we lost her. I want to celebrate how she lived and how she changed my life for the better. I'd like to share the joy of Treat so that others can enjoy her like I did and so I don't forget some of the better stories we had about her.

Not long after we'd bought our house and moved out of our apartment, Treat came into our lives. She was our Christmas present to us in the year 2000. We went up to the Quad Cities Greyhound Adoption kennel and met their four cat safe greyhounds. One was a livewire who nearly jumped through a window, one only wanted to get back to his food, one was very shy and sweet and the female was very lovey dovey with us. That little female was the only one who looked back at us as they led her back to her crate. We went home to think about it. We thought we wanted the shy, sweet boy, but they advised us against him since we'd have to be walking the dog on a leash. So, we went back up to meet the dogs a few days after Christmas and make our final decision. The males milled about and socialized with the volunteers. Treat had made up her mind and she stood plastered to either my husband or me the entire time we were there. Finally, we got the message. She had decided that we were hers. She pretty much ran the show from there on out.

One of the things about her that amused me to no end involved my husband's habit for always forgetting his wallet before we were about to go somewhere. We would get to the door and Treat would be dancing with joy at the prospect of going out when he would turn and go back to the bedroom to get his wallet or checkbook. Treat always followed him, stamping her dainty feet in outrage because it was time to GO! I'd hear it start, and it always reminded me of the Jaws theme. I'd hear her teeth click together, once, twice and then "Dammit Treat" as she bit him in the rear to hurry him toward the door. It was funny because she never did it to me.

Another story that comes to mind involves her diva tendencies and her extreme dislike of the rain. Treat loved to play in bodies of water, oceans, lakes, wading pools and creeks were all things she would dive fearlessly into. However, if it came to getting a bath or going to the bathroom in the rain, she was not into it at all. One October we had a deluge that went on for about a week. We even got her a raincoat, but she would stand outside in the pen, squinch up her eyes and just wait for us to come and take her back inside. She held it for the week as far as I know. I could see the wheels turning in her head. The people have a place to go IN THE HOUSE. The cats have a place to go IN THE HOUSE. Why am I, a superior being, expected to go outside IN THE RAIN?! Friday night came and my husband and I went out to see a movie. We came home and found that Treat, who had never voluntarily gone down into the basement ever before, had gone down to the basement and relieved herself in the litter box. If she hadn't been holding it for a week, it would have been a brilliant plan. However, she flooded the cat box and made quite a mess of things. Still, how mad could I be? She'd gone downstairs, on the concrete and given it her best shot.

Treat loved to travel with us. We took her on several trips and she always handled it with such enthusiasm. The other greyhounds would sleep as we drove, but Treat was always worried that she'd miss something. She usually had to stand behind me with her head out the window as she smelled out where we were headed to. She really didn't care. Everything was an adventure just waiting for her. It amazed me how many people knew her from message boards and asked to pet her and meet her. She was always gracious and loved the attention she got. She seemed to think that it was simply her due. When we would get out of the van, we usually came back to find her sitting in the driver's seat, wishing her feet could reach the gas pedals, no doubt. I'm sure she could have driven it if she could have gotten the mechanics down. She'd still be out there, driving around the country and meeting people. We met so many wonderful people through Treat, and that is one thing that I will always be grateful for. To all the people who ever sent her gifts and well wishes in her many ventures, I send my heartfelt thanks. Treat really did know that everyone thought she was special.

Treat was in a ballet performance here of Giselle. She dutifully attended ballet practice for weeks and pranced across the stage during the performance as if she were a ballerina. While we were waiting to perform she even met Roberta Flack, who happened to be driving by and made her driver stop so she could meet the greyhounds. Treat, my little diva, was even featured in Celebrating Greyhounds magazine with the other greyhounds who were in the show. She loved all the attention. No doubt she was sure all the people showed up to see her. The mob who surrounded us during the intermission confirmed her thoughts. People couldn't get enough of her.

Another thing we experienced because of Treat was therapy dog visits. Treat became a certified therapy dog, and we went to several nursing homes where she had quite a fan club. She loved all the attention she got there and made everyone feel as if she came there just to see them. She always seemed to have time for everyone. Aside from the nursing home visits, she also was a READ dog and she helped quite a few kindergarteners and first graders believe that they could read. She loved to close her eyes and just listen to their voices as they read stories to her. Every one of them believed that she came just to listen to them. That was a huge part of her charm. She was there to make everyone feel better just by being with them.

Treat was always my nurse. I had several battles with pneumonia, and she was always right beside me, making sure my blankets were properly held down. She kept me under constant supervision when I was sick. When I had to have surgery on my hand for some nerve damage, she paid extra close attention to me. During that time, she took to sleeping right up beside me, her head propped on my splint. It was something she only did while I was recovering from the surgery. How she knew I needed extra attention at those times, I'll never know, but she was very diligent in her care when she knew I was sick or injured. Something in her always felt she should take care of me and she never failed in her mission. It was one of the things that endeared her the most to me, along with the dance of joy she always did on my behalf when I arrived back home, whether I'd been gone for a week or five minutes. She was always happy that we were back together again.

I learned so many things from her. I learned patience and persistance. I learned about a special kind of unconditional love. I learned the value and beauty of old age and dignity. I always thought I'd go through years with her where she was an elderly grande dame, but she became an old dog overnight. The disease that attacked her stuck quickly and ruthlessly, but she kept up the fight for me. She never bowed her dignity or pride to it. She learned to love having us carry her up and down the back steps and she demanded to live life, even her last weeks, on her terms. There will certainly never be another like her and while I miss her still, I am so very thankful to have shared my life with her. She made me a better person and that's something money could never buy.

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