Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Air Freshener of Doom

Living here in a house with four dogs, I do worry about keeping the house clean.  That's especially true with a very senior dog in the house who suffers a few of the indignities of old age that aren't always so fresh smelling, if you know what I mean.  Not too long ago, I was more concerned about it than usual when we had a guest staying here at the house before and after Bunny and I made our trip to the beach.  I know that she has dogs, doesn't expect my house to be perfectly clean and wouldn't think a thing about the state of our house, but, well, I still wanted it to be nice.

We spent a couple of days making sure the house was nicely cleaned, partly because it was time for it to be done anyway.  When they arrived, I was satisfied with the house and didn't have any worries about our friend being here.  While I was away, Mr. Taleteller found a new contraption to help with keeping the house smelling nice that he decided to buy as a way of being nice.  If only he'd known that he was actually a German Shepherd torture device when he paid his hard-earned dollars for it!

The gadget is an air freshener that inside a little motorized tube that you can set to release a burst of spray at certain time intervals.  Mr. Taleteller set it on nine minutes, put it on the front windowsill and pretty much forgot about it, except for the occasional whiff of a lilac-scented garden.  However, a small burst of spray isn't all that it delivers.

I might add that as part of her duties as a good Shepherd, Morgan goes on regular patrols of our house.  One of her main vantage points is the window in the front window, where people are so bold as to walk past our house on the sidewalk while churning up dried leaves.  Three weeks later, Morgan still has the same reaction to the air freshener.  It never seems to fail that her check of the front window coincides with the burst of spray from the air freshener.

Morgan:  Everybody down!  Hit the deck!  (This is spoken from the floor as she lays plastered there with paws over her head.)

Me:  Morgan, there's nothing out there...

Morgan:  We're under attack!  Did you not hear that?

Me:  It wasn't an attack.  It was just...

Morgan:  I felt the breath of the beast clinging to my fur!  It smells like rancid lilacs!

Me:  It's just the air freshener.

Morgan:  Would you all just get down?!  I can't protect you all when you're sitting there in plain view!

Me:  (sighing)  Oh, look, it's running away!

Morgan:  See!  I told you!  Where did it go?

Me:  Probably to the same place as that rabbit you're always after.

So, she goes back on patrol, making sure that we're all safe from lilac-scented ghosts and boogeymen.   Of course, the attacks by these foul phantoms occur several times a day, but Morgan is sure that one day she'll scare them off.  It's good to know that I have a ferocious dog who can keep me safe from air fresheners.

We're also participating in this Saturday's Pet Blog Hop, hosting by Life With Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers and Confessions of the Plume.  If you'd like to participate, please follow the rules and follow your three hosts, add your blog to the Linky and copy and paste the html code into your html editor.  Thanks again to our hosts for putting on the hop!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Hairy Greyhound

Yesterday was a fun but long day at work for me.  The kids in my class don't come to school on Fridays, so we had our Halloween celebrating yesterday.  While that is fun, the kids were unusually wound and when I got home, I was really exhausted.   I was looking forward to the dinner Mr. Taleteller had promised to bring home, carving a couple of pumpkins for the front porch for Saturday night and relaxing in my pajamas.

There was only one chore that awaited me when I arrived home after I carried my stuff inside.  That chore is turn out and feeding the dogs their dinner.  Turn out happens in two phases.  The first phase is taking the Greyhounds out to the turn out pen.  The second phase is taking Morgan out on her leash to do her turn out.  We don't put Morgan in the turn out pen because, well, Mr. Taleteller has spoiled her a bit and not made her go in the pen, and also because she gets very excited and we worry that Lilac may get hurt by her exhuberance.  So, when Morgan gets done, I take her inside, then bring the Greyhounds back in from the pen.  After everybody is inside, I go down to get the dog food and Morgan and I have a rousing game of hide and seek.

However, Fall is the time of year when young Shepherds who have been raised with Greyhounds' thoughts turn to rabbits.  As I took Morgan back inside, I don't know if it was the weather front that's been blowing through, the cooler temperatures, the fact that Morgan almost got the rabbit again last week, or the fact that she sensed that I was more tired than usual, but as I unhooked her leash while she was going in the back door, she suddenly pulled a maneuver that would have made any Greyhound proud.  Like quicksilver she turned and darted off out the door and around the house to the rabbit shrub.

That rabbit is darned lucky that he finally chose an afternoon to not be in that Bayberry bush.  I, however, was not having such a lucky moment.  I called her.  As big as her ears are, you'd think she would have heard me.  She made the rounds to the other shrubs to see if a rabbit might be lurking. 

Me:  Morgan, come here!

Morgan:  I'm on perimeter patrol!  Rabbits beware!

Me:  Morgan, I mean it!

Morgan:  Oh, look!  It's Sammie's yard!  His pee smells different over here than it does in our yard.

I called Mr. Taleteller on the phone as I followed her and coaxed her.  I feared he might leave me if something happened to his "real dog" princess.  I told him she was loose and he cancelled the dinner order to start on his way home.  I suspect he may have gone back to work to get a squad car so he could drive home with the lights on.  Anyway, I hung up so that I could at least try to keep up with Morgan and see where she was.  Of course, she thought a rousing game of chase the Shepherd was in order.  Did I mention how tired I was from work?

Me:  Morgan, I am not playing chase!  Now come here!

Morgan:  Oooooo!  Let's play hide and seek outside!  I'll go hide!

Me:  I am NOT playing this game!

Morgan:  Oh, rabbit!  Where aaaaaare you?

Me:  You are not a Greyhound!  I'm going home!

With that, I turned and ran back towards the house.  Of course Morgan couldn't resist the game.  She chased after me and then as we came around the neighbor's garage, she saw Bunny, Blueberry and Lilac in the pen.  Another of her favorite games is barking at the fence with Bunny and this time, Bunny and Blueberry both gave her a rousing game.  I went past the pen to the car and opened the car door.  Morgan can't resist a good car ride. I swear, she'd ride to the end of the driveway every day if she could!  So, finally, I attached the leash and took her in the house.  I sent her back into her crate and closed the door so I could go out and get the Greyhounds to bring them back inside.

At that point, I could have let her back out of the crate to eat in the kitchen with the girls, but I didn't.  I left her in the crate for her own safety, so I didn't throttle her.  After everyone had eaten in peace, I let her out so she could be sure to pounce on Mr. Taleteller when he arrived home with the dinner that he went back to get after I called him to let him know his dog was safe.

After dinner, he took Morgan with him to go get dog food at the store.  Bunny made sure to curl up with me on the couch as a reminder that she would never do such a thing.  Sure enough, when Mr. Taleteller and Morgan arrived home, she ran in and pounced on me, just to let me know she'd missed me and that she was ready for whatever the next game was.

I'm not sure having a German Shepherd raised by Greyhounds is the best thing.  I do know that we'll be doing a few things differently at turn out time now.  That has to be the luckiest rabbit in the world, and I feel pretty lucky that all's well that ends well this time!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Treat Tales -- The Grand Entrance

I was thinking back to that first day that we brought Treat home.  In the weeks leading up to us adopting a Greyhound, we'd read and studied all about the breed.  Our plan was to get our dog, bring it home and let it get used to living in our house with us before we had anyone over to meet it or took it anywhere.  Part of the reason for that was that my husband has a large family, and his youngest brother and sister were preschoolers while his niece was just a toddler.  We wanted a bit of an idea to know how our dog would react before we placed it in that situation.

However, our well-laid plans were tossed out the window the day before we were supposed to go and pick out our new Greyhound.  There was a wicked winter storm the day before, and that day happened to be Mr. Taleteller's younger brother's birthday.  The party was postponed to the next day.  We debated about what to do after we heard the news, and decided that we'd just stop in for a few minutes and give him his present, eat a bit of cake and then take our new dog home.

Well, if you read our last post, you know that Treat finally got it through our skulls that she had chosen us and we were taking her home.  After a quick stop at McDonald's, we were on our way back home to stop at the party.  Our new dog was dressed in her new collar and and coat.  The selection of coats was limited, so she had a snazzy number that was black on one side and yellow with green frogs on the other.  It was cute enough, and more importantly, it kept her warm. 

For those of you who are not familiar with Greyhound adoption, most adoption groups send you home with a plastic muzzle like the ones they wear for turn out at the track.  It's helpful in keeping them from chewing things they shouldn't, for introducing them to your cats and in the event that your dog would get an injury that you don't want them to lick.  Many times, adoption groups get used ones donated from the track, where they often write the dog's name across the bridge of the muzzle so they know which dog it is and know who gets which muzzle.

Being new Greyhound owners, we didn't quite know what to expect.  Mr. Taleteller's parents had young children, a cat, a black lab and a cake waiting at their house.  So, we decided to be safe rather than sorry.  We put her muzzle on and headed to the front door.  Treat walked into the party to meet all of Mr. Taleteller's family and the first impression she made was "KILLER" written across her nose.

It turned out that it was completely unnecessary.  I took off my coat and put it in the pile of coats by the door on the floor as we sat there and the family got to know our dog.  They were impressed by her sleek brindle fur after we took the coat off and she was extremely gentle and patient with the kids.  She soaked up the attention for a while, and then when she got tired, she went over and laid down on my coat.  When we got up to get ready to leave, she was right there beside me.

The funny thing is, she always made a grand entrance wherever she went.  I'm not sure that we ever topped that first one, though.  I really wish I'd had a video camera back then!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Question Of Greyhound Fashion

Bunny here at the keyboard to answer a question our friend Oskar asked us last week. 

He said that he'd noticed that we wear special collars and wanted to know more about them.  Greyhounds wear martingale collars, or sometimes they're called limited slip collars.  Over the years our collars have taken quite a turn from what we used to wear.

Early collars worn by dogs served an important purpose.  They were made of leather or metal and had metal spikes attached to them.  This was not for fluffy poodles who wanted to look tough walking down the street.  It was to protect the dogs' most vulnerable area from wolves, bears and boars, which they often helped to hunt.  The collars weren't just a fashion statement, they were necessary for a dog's survival.

Later, dogs began to wear collars that were particularly unique.  Many are considered valuable works of collectible art and antiquity now.  They show that we canines were loved and cared for as much back then as we are now.  Many of these collars had jewels or metalwork on them.  They weren't serving dogs for protection quite as much as before, but they did still let everyone know that the dog was a treasured companion of someone.

Today, we Greyhounds wear martingale collars made of leather or webbing and fabric.  You see the leather collars more on dogs who live in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  In the United States, we tend to wear more of the fabric collars, sometimes with fancier adornments.  Our collars still serve a valuable purpose, though.  Our noses and heads are much narrower than our necks.  So, if we wear a regular collar, it slides right off our heads and ends up on the ground or attached to a leash hanging from a human's hand.   Our collars are made to tighten up behind our ears when we pull or put our heads down while on a leash.  It doesn't tighten up enough to hurt us, just enough to keep it from coming off. 

There's a museum dedicated to dog collars in Leeds Castle in England which I would love to visit, but that seems unlikely since I live so far away from it.  It's even in a castle, which I think is fitting.  As far as I know, it's the only museum dedicated to the history of dog collars.

So, now you know perhaps more than you wanted to about collars.  Hopefully I answered Oskar's questions in a way that makes sense and entertained you all.  Greyhounds aren't the only ones who wear martingales -- often other sighthound breeds, Dobermans and Shetland Sheepdogs wear them, too.  We Greyhounds do love our extravagant collars!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Off The Beaten Path

Bunny here at the keyboard since Mom's back to work today. 

To distract myself from that sad thought, I thought I'd share our hike from Saturday with you.  This time we went to Sand Ridge State Forest.  I was worried in the morning that we wouldn't get to go, since it was raining like crazy, but it let up and off we went.  It was pretty cool, because we were just about the only ones hiking there today, and it really felt like we were taking a stroll through the woods instead of walking on a marked trail like some of the places we've been.  

What's unusual about this place is that it's a huge sand ridge, right in the middle of Illinois.  They say that thousands of years ago, a glacier up in Wisconsin melted and pushed the sand down here.  It's unique in our state, that's for sure.  Back in 1939, the state bought this tract of land to try building an experimental forest.  They wanted to see if trees could grow in the sandy soil.  I'm here to tell you that they can.  Those trees are huge!  The pine trees are sometimes used for needs by the state and the oak trees are used for safe firewood.  They are being very careful to try not to get Emerald Ash Borers here in our area.

I have to tell you that hiking uphill in wet sand is not easy.  Being a hearty little Greyhound, though, I forged on.  I did let Mom go ahead of me, though, and clear the trail a bit.  I am still a princess on the inside, you know.   Anyroo, we trekked on and it was definitely worth the climb to the top of the ridge.  The view was amazing.

A turkey must have thought it was a good idea to use the trail, too, since we saw his footprints in the sand.  Morgan and I were hoping maybe we could get things all set for Thanksgiving dinner, but that wily bird stayed out of our sight.  I know he was out there nearby, though.  Actually, there were a lot of animals nearby, because we heard a lot of rustling in the trees.  We were glad to have our bright colored backpacks, too, because there were a few hunters out, but we only heard gunshots once from far off in the distance.  

It was almost like the forest was deserted, and at times, it was a little spooky.  Mom told us a few stories about Goofy Ridge, which is pretty close by, and I sure had my eyes open.  Let's just say that lots of strange things happen there.  At one point, it looked like an enchanted forest, which I have to admit was pretty cool.  The sun just kept darting in and out and changing things.

There are some unusual plants that grow in the forest, too.  These are plants that normally grow in desert areas.  Many people come looking for the prickly pear cacti that grow here.  There are also badger, silvery bladderpod and pocket gopher.  There's also a nature preserve nearby where people come to see a lot of different songbirds and butterflies, but dogs and horses aren't allowed in there, so we skipped that small part.

Dad said that this was one of his favorite places that we've hiked so far, so I have my paws crossed that we'll go back.  Mom said she thought it was funny that we've lived so close to it all her life and she didn't know about it.  Grandpa took her to all kinds of state parks when she was a human puppy, but never to that one.  I'm glad that I could expand her horizons   Sometimes going off the beaten path can be lots of fun, even if you don't find a turkey!

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Some Enchanted Afternoon

Yesterday was my last official day of being on break, so I was thrilled when Mr. Taleteller told me he'd be able to be home early for the afternoon.  It was a beautiful Autumn day, the orange leaves falling from the bright blue sky with temperatures at very comfortable levels.  We decided to take the girls to the dog park since Morgan has had a bit of pent up energy and we could take all the girls because it was unlikely to be really busy at that time.

On the way there, Mr. Taleteller needed to run into a store and do a little business, so I waited in the van with the girls.  One of the reasons that we decided to take all of the girls is that lately Lilac seems to leave us a rather smelly gift to take care of if we leave her.  It doesn't matter if we leave her home alone, home with just Blueberry or with all of the dogs.  So, we figured she might as well just poop in the dog park where we can clean it up outdoors and not deal with it when we got home.  I should also explain here that Morgan rides in a crate in the van.  The Greyhounds use the back seat and Morgan is in the crate.  It makes life much easier for everyone involved. 

So, as we sat in the van waiting, I was reading something when suddenly I smelled a waft of the aroma of disaster.  I turned around and saw the scene unfolding.  Blueberry had decided to take of the entire back seat, in typical Blueberry fashion, and Lilac had tried to find another path to the seat.  Bunny was laying behind my seat, out of the way, but close enough to poke her little nose up if something interesting to eat should appear.  Lilac hadn't accounted for the fact that it got narrower towards the back part where the seat actually was, though.  So, she was stuck. 

Most Greyhounds have a pretty good reverse and can back up easily.  However, Lilac's back end is a bit weak, so backing up doesn't really happen too well anymore.  More accurately, when Lilac backs up, crap happens.  Literally.  The worst part is that I saw it coming, like a slow motion scene in a movie that I could do nothing about.  I'm pretty sure I even shouted "Lilac!  Noooooo!"  I undid my seatbelt and leapt for the back seat, trying to avert disaster.  Morgan sat in the crate, staring at it all like a deer in headlights.  Of course I was too late and now Lilac stood precariously close to stepping in the disaster that was making my eyes water.  I grabbed a bag and tried to pick it up out from beneath her feet.  Somehow fortune smiled upon me and I did manage to get it out before she moved and stepped in it. 

Then I realized there was another problem besides getting Lilac out of the predicament she'd gotten herself into.  Mr. Taleteller has a particular black leather leash that matches Morgan's collar which he is particularly proud of.  Wouldn't you just know that Lilac could manage to make a direct hit on the handle?  I began to wonder just how long my husband could manage to be in there.  I wrenched the crate around and somehow convinced Lilac that she could, indeed, turn around and get out from behind the crate. 

Having finally solved that problem, I looked around and was rewarded to find that there was not a single trash can in sight.  I sighed and left the bag in the door well and figured that when Mr. Taleteller came out, we could find a nearby gas station and get rid of the offending bag.  Surely nothing else would go wrong.

Well, then it turns out that a man with a leaf blower decided that the parking lot needed to be cleared.  For those of you who know the joys of living with a German Shepherd, you can guess how thrilled Morgan was.  To say that she was unhappy with the leaf blower making a complete circuit around our van would be like saying the Mona Lisa is a nice picture.  The Greyhounds all watched her and I suspect Bunny checked for signs of rabies as Morgan did her best to protect our van from the leaf blower from a crate inside the van. 

Finally, Mr. Taleteller finished his business and came out to the van.  I could see the mirth in his eyes as I related the tale until I got to the part about the leash.  It took me a few tries to get that part out.  Fortunately, by then his eyes were watering too much from the odor coming off of Lilac's gift for him to get too upset.  We stopped and left her deposit in a trash can and then headed off for the dog park.

Once we got to the dog park, it was a bit more crowded than we'd expected, but it was a happy, mellow group of dogs, so we went in with all the girls anyway.  I thought I might just keep Lilac on a leash beside me, but she seemed eager to go explore, so I let her go off in a quiet part of the park while Bunny and Morgan were busy running and playing with the other dogs there.  I followed Lilac and Blueberry along as they enjoyed sniffing and looking around the perimeter.  Blueberry spotted a squirrel and gave it a run for it's money to the tree.  Morgan found a big dog who liked to play like she likes to play, when she wasn't busy acting as Bunny's bodyguard and doing head checks.  Bunny had fun playing chase with Morgan and some Labradors.

We had the Furminator along with us and at one point when Lilac stopped, I worked on brushing out some of the dead fur on her back.  She doesn't like to stand still for too long, though, so I didn't brush her for too long.  We walked on a bit further and then I called her again.  She knew I wanted her to come over, but in true old lady style, she walked on ahead of me, picking up her pace a bit.  I hurried to catch up with her, and darned if she didn't take off and start running.  Mr. Taleteller had a good laugh about it.  She may be old, but she still knows what she wants and doesn't want, and for a little bit, she can still even outrun us. 

So, while there are a lot of disadvantages to having a dog getting older, I'd just like to say, there are also moments that are priceless gifts. 

We're also participating in this Saturday's Pet Blog Hop, hosting by Life With Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers and Confessions of the Plume.  If you'd like to participate, please follow the rules and follow your three hosts, add your blog to the Linky and copy and paste the html code into your html editor.  Thanks again to our hosts for putting on the hop!

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