Monday, December 24, 2007

Games People Play

Sailor here.

The most wonderful thing happened! Mom was watching grown men wearing pajamas spit on television and she started to smell really nervous. She mumbled something about twelve innings being too much stress, and took me for an impromptu walk! I guess innings for Mom mean outings for me! One down, eleven to go...

I think I like baseball better than the other game Mom watches on TV in which grown men wearing war paint and body armor jump on each other in the mud. During these games, there’s only halftime for walks instead of the seventh inning stretch. On the other paw, playing chase in the mud sounds just like one of Zoe’s favorite things!

Last night, Mom went to an ice hockey game and says that it was pretty noisy. She says ice hockey is a cross between Keep Away and Bowling with a lot of body slamming thrown in. Now THAT sounds like a Zoe game if I’ve ever heard of one, especially since it’s played on ice! I prefer something a bit more genteel, myself.

Mom says she won’t even tell me about golf in which grown people try to beat each other with clubs. Shudder.

Mom and I play games, too. Unlike human games where there’s usually a winner and a loser, when we play, we both win. This is because when Mom wins, she smiles and laughs. When I win, I get cookies! The first game Mom taught me was Take a Bow. She said it was easy because every time she blew air on my face, I play-bowed. So now when she says, Take a Bow, I, well, I take a bow.

My favorite game is going to dog school. Mom says this isn’t really considered a game, but it is to me. Mom smiles and laughs. I get cookies.

Another game that makes Mom smile is Find. When the family is sitting around the house, Mom will say, “Sailor, go find Katy” When I walk over to Katy, Mom smiles and laughs. I get cookies. Sometimes, Katy hides upstairs, and it takes me a while to find her, particularly if I forget why my head is in the coat closet and I wander back into the kitchen to find Mom. It’s times like these that Katy gets to take a nap upstairs on Mom’s bed.

Mom and I have also started playing Find with the cookies themselves. I find this really exciting. At first, she hid a cookie in plain view, on the floor, not in the grass or anything. She told me to find it. I found it. Mom smiled. I got more cookies. Then she hid it behind the chair in my crate room. I found it. Mom smiled. I got more cookies. She made it harder, hiding my cookie in the kitchen when I was in my crate room. Then she told me to find it.

I didn’t find it. I looked at the last place she had hidden it. I looked high, I looked low. I looked under the pillow. I looked in my crate. I looked in her pockets. Then Mom told me, “Kitchen.” I looked at her like she had lost her mind.

“Mom,” I said, “I’d think you lost my cookie.”

“I did, Sailor,” Mom answered. “I lost it in the KITCHEN.”

Light bulb.

Mom smiled. I got cookies.

Now, Mom hides my cookies in places I didn’t think we had places. Sometimes it takes me quite a bit of rug digging, pillow tossing, and toenail scrabbling to find it. She gives me fewer and fewer hints, too. She says this will be a fun game to play when the rains start and she can’t hide cookies outside. She says they disintegrate in the rain. I can’t imagine a cookie lying on the ground long enough to get to that point, but Mom is usually right.

She makes the cookies harder and harder to find. Yesterday, after a difficult game of Find the Cookie, my brain was quite drained. I took my cookie to my crate and fell asleep with crumbs still on my lips.

Mom smiled.

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Straight Fronts and Butt Awareness

Sailor here.

At dog school tonight, Mom harrumphed and grumbled about my crooked Front.

“Mo-om,” I patiently explained, “Look at me. My legs are straight. My chest is straight. My head is straight. That means my FRONT is straight.”

“Sailor,” she patiently explained, “when you run to me on the Recall, your front is indeed straight. But your butt is canted off to starboard. That makes for a crooked Front.”

What? My butt is crooked? I stood up, craned my neck and looked at my butt.

I have a nice butt. It is big. It is furry. It is round. It is independent.

“Mom,” I explained, “My butt has a mind of its own. It doesn’t always follow along in the most amiable fashion.” (I herd that somewhere and thought I’d try it out on Mom.)

“Boy, that’s for sure,” Mom agreed.

And the next day, she lugged this large white frame onto the lawn.

“We’ll practice some Butt Awareness with your ladder,” Mom said.

“Mo-om,” I groaned. “That isn’t a ladder. Ladders lean up against houses so Erik can get Zoe down from the roof. This thing is lying down in the grass.”

“Sailor,” Mom patiently explained, “Let’s throw caution to the winds and call this a ladder. I’m going to make it do an incredibly long DownStay and you are going to walk through it.”

Fine. It’s a ladder.

So I walked around it. Then I walked two steps into its slatty little sides and jumped out. I walked around it again.

Mom sighed. Then she smiled and kissed my nose. Then she led me to the end of the ladder and cookied me down the length of it. We did this more than once. I got more than one cookie. And I learned to walk down its midst without tripping. Then I learned to walk up its midst without tripping. Then Mom ran with me and I learned to run down its length without tripping or jumping off to port. What fun! This was easy.

Then Mom sat down on the grass and turned me around so I was facing the ladder.

“Sailor, I am going to have a private conversation with your butt. Just stand there and look at the hummingbird feeder or something.”

And Mom put her hand on my back and started to move her fingers in a small circle. She moved them in larger and larger circles, moving down my hips to my haunches and the back of my legs. She whispered secret things that I tried to ignore.

Finally, she stood up and led me back to that grid of white pipes she calls a ladder.

“Sailor,” she said. “Get your butt in gear. We are going to go BACK.”

What a disaster. Well, I’m not a her and I wasn’t dis-assed exactly, but my butt definitely had other ideas about backing down that ladder. But during this exercise, I discovered something quite startling.

I have two back feet. I have two back feet that are attached to my butt. I have two back feet that will actually help my butt get in gear, unless, of course, they are having an independence day of their own and running riot with my rear end. Like today.

Mom patiently lined me up again, and we started to slowly back down the ladder. My butt went to starboard, my back feet did an about-face and my body swung around sideways My rear end rioted, causing my butt to leap and bound away.

“Maybe if you’d called it a Butt Awareness Apparatus,” I said a little testily, “my butt would be more aware. If you insist on calling this thing a ladder, my butt will keep trying to climb into the air.”

“OK, Sailor,” Mom patiently agreed. “It’s a BAA. Now, let’s start over.”

She gave me the Back command.

And so, daintily picking my way down the BAA, I pictured myself backing away from a flock of wooly sheep, keeping them from bolting, while concentrating on my butt and my back legs and the grass and the BAA slats and Mom and the cookies in her pockets.

My rear end rioted. My brain took a small vacation.

Mom smiled and kissed my on the nose again. “Well, Sailor,” she said, “We just have to be patient with your butt, huh? All this patience will pay off in the end. We’ll try this next week.”

I groaned.

Maybe next week, this exercise will be easier. Maybe I won’t have so much to think about. Maybe Mom will have another heart-to-heart talk with my butt and maybe it will be more cooperative.

Maybe I can convince Mom that canting to starboard isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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Something Nude

Sailor here.

Right after dinner, Mom hupped me onto my grooming table and took the pin brush to me. “Sailor,” she said between tangles, “Tonight we are going to night-time dog school.”

“You mean I won’t see Mrs. Dogs-On-The-Inside anymore?” I asked.

“We will still go Saturday morning,” she explained. “We are adding a class Monday night to get you ready for your CD.”

This was a lot to think about. I’m glad we will still take class with my Saturday buddies. And I’ve waiting forever for that Compact Disk to appear, so Monday nights will be fine with me, too.

And in fact, Monday night was a blast. First of all, it was dark and for once, I could see better than Mom. Instead of Mrs. Dogs-On-The-Inside, our Alpha was Mrs. CounterclockwiseEveryone. I remembered her from the Nine-Year DownStay evening in which I do a DownStay for nine years and Mom listens to a bunch of people meet and talk and eat cookies. Some times I get cookies, too, when I am lying down doing nothing. (Zoe thinks this sounds like heaven: cookies for doing nothing.)

Second of all, our dog school class gave me the opportunity to show off. I love showing off. I showed off how I could heel and come and sit and heel and heel. I got to show how I have overcome my lagging tendencies and now end up forged. And best of all, I got cookies. And cheese. And Rollover.

“How do you like your Nude Dog School?” Mom asked while we were waiting in line for the Recall.

“Huh?” I looked around. No nude dogs, just a lot of hairy ones. Some of the people were hairy, too. Mom has some strange notions at times, but I decided that tact was the better part of getting cookies and overlooked Mom’s insanity..

“Great,” I said, “just great.”

On our next heeling pattern, Mom stumbled a bit on the bumpy grass and I banged into her. Her timing was all off in the dark. Mrs. CounterclockwiseEveryone then asked the humans to count in cadence when we heeled to make it easier for us dogs to keep our humans in step. I thought that was a great idea. After all, this is obedience class and our humans are learning to be obedient.

“One, two, one two,” some people counted.

“Tick, tock, tick, tock,” I heard others chant.

Mom had a different idea, though. She started singing to keep time. This would have been OK, except she started singing about our web–footed friends and this reminded me about the great duck disaster. Ducks are NOT my friends, especially puffy-headed, slappy-footed rogue ducks. I lost my concentration and took a few missteps.

“Mom,” I whined banging into her knee on the Left Turn. “Ducks? Please gimme a break here.”

“Oh, Sailor, sorry,” Mom whispered. “I forgot.”

Mom stopped, regrouped and started off on her left foot humming an Ode to Joy. I looked around for Joy, but she wasn’t there. Shrugging, I decided Joy was better than Ducks, even though she was absent, and, forging a bit, I took off by Mom’s side, keeping her more or less in step.

Too soon, it was time to go, and I reluctantly jumped into the dog car for the ride home.

But the next night, Mom again hustled me into the dog car and drove off with my water bottles in my backpack and cookies in her pocket.

“Nude Dog School again?” I asked, as we pulled into the parking lot and Mom saddled me up.

“No,” Mom answered. “It’s dog club night.”

I had a very bad moment suddenly, picturing abuse and violence. So when we arrived at the meeting room, I spent a few moments sniffing all the corners, looking for clubs. Mom noticed my agitation and patted me on the ribs reassuringly. She explained that we were at a meeting of her dog TRAINING club, but even so, it took me a while to relax. Training clubs sounded even worse.

Mrs. CounterclockwiseEveryone was there and gave my ears a rub when I wagged up to her. My other friend, Pat the Doberman, was there, patting her Doberman. I gave her a big hug and politely sniffed noses with her pretty Doberman bitch. Mom has told me to always be polite to Dobermen, and I suppose the same applies to Doberwomen, too.

Then began the long DownStay. After three minutes, I popped up.

“What?” Mom said, looking surprised.

“My three minutes are up,” I patiently explained.

“This is not the three-minute DownStay,” Mom said, waving me into a Down again.

After five minutes, I popped up.

“Sailor,” Mom said, waving me down a second. “You must stay down until I release you.”

Hearing the magic word, I popped up.

“Arrrgh,” Mom growled and gave me a very small leash pop.

I downed. And stayed down. For nine years.

I am so glad we only go to Dog Training Club once a month. It’s not easy being obedient with nothing to do but smell the cookies in Mom’s pockets.

The Town of Cats

Sailor here.

Mom has branched out into new directions, geographically speaking. We go to dog shows and hang out. I carry my own water. We go to parks and hang out. I carry my own water. We go to new towns and hang out. I carry my own water. In fact, Mom is so pleased with my water carrying that she meets friends for walks to show off how versatile I am in this new backpacking mode.

Why just this morning, Mom dragged me from my futon, remarking that yesterday must have worn me out, what with all the water carrying and hanging out in the park and all. Was this sarcasm at its best? To show Mom I was NOT tired, I sprang down the stairs and went straight to the front door where my leash lives. I was ready for my morning walk.

Mom redirected me to my dog bowl in the kitchen and gave me what she calls a quick breakfast, a misnomer if I’ve ever heard of one. A quick breakfast is actually eaten in the same amount of time that a slow breakfast is. Only the amounts change, not the inhalation time. She should have called it a small breakfast. She could have called it a miniscule breakfast. She could have called it a snack. I definitely did not qualify as a regular breakfast.

Anyway, having eaten, we jumped into the dog car, water bottles, backpack and all, and drove another million miles on the freeway to a town named (are you ready?) THE CATS!! Mom said the name is actually Los Gatos, but translates as The Cats, as any good Chihuahua would know. I thought a town full of cats was a fantastic idea. Imagine so many sporting opportunities all in one place. Imagine the chance to show how very well behaved and non-cat-aggressive I am. This is my kind of town!

Mom put on my blue backpack and shoved the water bottles into my side pockets. She put on her backpack, too, and we set off toward the town square in search of cats. I was admired by all who saw me trotting at the end of my leash, face grinning, paws prancing, Mom in tow, looking for cats.

Just as I was about to check the rear pockets of one of my admirers, Mom tugged mightily on my leash.

“Sailor,” she said, “meet Conner.”

I abandoned my cat search and turned around. There stood Conner. Conner is a collie. He has a blue backpack, too. His backpack smells a lot like mine but with spaghetti instead of water. His human, Neato, is Mom’s friend and she brought Conner along on our walk so they could admire my backpacking talents. I love Neato. She smells like cookies and collies and knows how to give great butt rubs.

We headed southeast, sniffing the sidewalk for cats, and paused on a bridge directly over the freeway. Cars whooshed below us, causing me to perk up my ears and drool a little. This was decidedly odd and maybe a little dangerous. Remembering my goal and forgetting my nervousness, I sniffed the bridge, but there were no cats lurking over the interstate.

Instead of cats, we met almost as many dogs as miles driven that morning. Los Gatos, it seems, is teeming with dogs. I saw big dogs. I saw small dogs. I saw dogs with kids and dogs with hats, but nowhere did I see dogs with cats.

Conner had a lot to say about each dog in town. I found this a bit startling at first, and turned around during a couple of his alerts to see if anybody was running up on my rear end. Nobody was, but he kept announcing dogs anyway.

“Dog! Dog! There’s a dog! Look, over there, a dog! Drooling dog! Hairy dog! DogDogDog!”

Sheesh. I mean, all right already, yes, dogs.

Dog, not cat, was Conner’s mission of the day, and Conner was exceptionally good at telling us about each and every one. Nobody got past him, not even dogs too far away to smell. He must have great eyesight and a keen sense of dog.

But no cats. We saw no cats.

Mom and Neato kept up with us quite well and even stopped twice for water. We looped back around through a neighborhood of dogs and flowers (and NO CATS), and ended up where we started, at my car. Then I had a bad moment or seven when Mom left me with Conner and Neato and drove off. Conner was quiet, and for a change, and it was me who I felt like barking as I watched Mom disappear down the street.

So I yelled inside my head, “Hey! You forgot the dog!” I did my silent bark thing. Conner was impressed.

Neato told me is was OK; Mom just had to move our car so it wouldn’t end up in the car pound. She fed me cookies and gave me water and life was good again when Mom trotted back down the street to find us. Mom said all was well; she found a parking place off the street. I wondered how high in the air it was and whether she would take off my backpack before asking me to jump into my crate in the back of the car. Or did I have to use stairs?

She may have found a parking place, but she didn’t find any cats.

We walked up another street away from town so Mom could show me where she used to live long before I was born. She said she had two cats then named Sunny and Gray. I sniffed the bushes in front of her house, but smelled no cats.

And then, wonder of wonders, just as we had turned around and started back toward the town square, we saw it. A CAT! It was big. It was black. It had green eyes and was the size of a small dog. True to his mission of the day, Conner started barking.

“Dog! Dog!” he barked, “Black dog!”

“Not quite,” I panted, “guess again.” I shouldered him to the side so he could get a good look at this creature before she fled down her driveway.

“Cat! Cat!’ he changed his tune. “Big cat! Black cat!”

Neato told Conner for the umpteenth time that she could hear him. Mom chuckled. I whispered to Mom that this cat was not a big as Josie the FatCat, but she was definitely a cat. Mom agreed.

And with that, I was content. Mom and I were able to drive home with our mission accomplished. A cat was found.

So, where ARE all these Los Gatos cats, anyway? Maybe the town name should be changed to Los Doggos.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kitchen Gymnastics

Sailor here.

We celebrated Chris’s birthday last evening. Mom’s son (human) turned 23. That’s about 3 in dog years, more or less. To figure out his exact age, you’ll have to check his teeth.

Chris came over early since Mom was late coming home from work. He walked into the kitchen with an armful of food-store bags and unloaded everything onto the kitchen counter. It’s times like these that I wish I were a real Leonberger, and not just an honorary one. Then I’d stand about 32” at the shoulder. Then I would have an easy time sniffing everything on the counters. As it was, all I could sniff was the celery, which leaned out over the edge.

Chris said he was planning to bake lasagna and Zoe and I could help. While we drooled, he chopped, grated, mixed and layered. When he put the lasagna into the oven, Zoe and I stood watch and, noses in the air, smelled all the wonderful smells. We drooled on the floor, too, which I bet would not please Mom in the least when she comes home.

Finally the dinger dinged. Mom, home at last, was not as patient with us as her son had been, and waved us away from our places by the oven. Zoe went into the family room to beg ice cubes from Chris. I stood by Mom in case she needed any help.

Mom opened the oven door, reached in with big fat blue hands and lifted out the pan. As she turned to place it on the marble counter, disaster struck. Well, she wailed in that unmistakable disastardly way, but to me it was a gift from the Dogs.

I am not sure exactly what happened. Did Mom trip? Did she have a lapse of hand-eye coordination? Did the pan miss its front handspring as it vaulted out of the oven? I’ll never know, but the lasagna did an impressive double-full Yurchenko, bounced off the counter, ricocheted off the wall, and landed right side up on the floor. I scored it a 9.975.

Mom COULDN’T have picked a worse time, however, to have me practice my Leave It! command. But she did and I had to. Drat. That was the bad news. That and the lasagna, of course.

The good news for Mom was that only about a puppy-sized serving of lasagna splashed out of the pan. The good news for me was that I got to lick the cupboard doors and Zoe got to lick the wall. Then both of us got to lick the floor.

Of all the gymnastic moves, I think I like the vault the best. It sure beats the Tsukahara that pesky duck did at the duck trials.

I am going to encourage more lasagna making and gymnastics in our kitchen, starting tomorrow. In November, when I turn four (that’s 28 in Chris years), I want a perfect-10 floor lasagna, just for me!
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Thursday, November 29, 2007


Sailor here.

This morning, we found gophers. Actually, we never saw one, but Zoe smelled them. We were walking down the sidewalk, nice as can be, when all of a sudden, Zoe went bonkers. She flung herself sideways across Mom's feet and started sniffing and digging at the grass.

"Omidog, sniff, gopher, Omidog, gopher, Lordy, Lordy, gopher, gopher, dig, dig, dig, Omidog!"

Mom says Zoe, being a Siberian, has a very high Pray Drive, but I didn’t know what that was until today. Too bad she didn't do that in front of the church; there are lots of gopher mounds there and it would have been more appropriate.

And this afternoon, guess what came in the mail? This cool machine. Mom had a tiff with it and won. My Mom can do anything! She calls it a Leaf Blower and Yard Vac all rolled into one. I call it a Sucky-Blowie. It is loud, loud in color, loud in bark, loud in rude words (Mom's). I love it!

Mom took this machine into the back yard with much erg-ing and agh-ing. She says it's heavy and God didn't make her to lift heavy things. Then there was a LOT of grumbling because she couldn't find any destructions. She managed to put it together more or less. Then she frowned. And she took it apart. Then she put it together again. And she smiled. She turned it on. With a loud noise, the Sucky-Blowie came to life. Wowsers! Mom turned it off and started to figure out how the rest of it worked.

Mom says she will ask her son-in-law, Erik, to help her with the vac part. The problem is too many parts, not enough engineering brains, she says. The wheels, for instance, have her flummoxed. What is flummoxed? There are castor wheels (they must taste AWFUL) and round rollie wheels. How can it have both? There are round parts and long parts and round, long parts. There are hoses and nozzles and things even I can't spell. Mom can't spell them either.

Next, she figured out how to make it into a leaf blower. She turned it on. With a giant roar, it blew. It blew gravel. It blew leaves. It blew my tennis ball. It blew my rope-a-dope. I mean, it really blew. When it blew me, I knew just what to do. I lay down. I didn't move. I know a hair dryer when I see one. Mom gave me a funny smile, and said, "Sailor, you smart boy. I wonder if I can blow YOU dry with this!"

I think we will have to wait until my next Leo day to find out. I can't wait to scare the wits out of Zoe!

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Baby Ellie

Sailor here.

Last week in the deep dark middle of the night, Mom answered the phone, laughed and cried, then popped out of bed, running to her dressing room to throw on cold weather running clothes over her pajamas. She started calling me “Uncle.” Zoe stayed in bed, but I, ever vigilant, went with her into the bathroom to make sure she didn’t fall in or fall out or do anything dangerous with her hair dryer. She popped in her eyes and brushed her teeth. I guessed it might be morning, although it didn’t feel like it.

Just as my tummy started yelling for breakfast, Mom called both of us to her, ran downstairs and put us in the dog yard, locking the gate behind us. What was this? Thrown out in the middle of the night with no cookies, no veggie glop, and no sunrise? Zoe told me that all humans are at times crazy and trotted into the doghouse, promptly falling asleep. With a sigh, I crawled in after her, curled up against her furry back, and dozed off, still pondering the imponderable.

Days passed.

Well, actually, only a few hours passed, according to Mom, who reappeared just as the first pink streaks of dawn were visible in the East. I trotted up to her and smelled the strange smells all over her arms and cheek and chest. Something new has come into Mom’s life. Mom gathered us both up and took us inside to feed us breakfast. Then we all climbed the staircase together and went back to bed.

Now what’s up with this?

More days passed. Real days. And one day, it all became clear. Katy and Erik drove into our driveway and took hours to get out of their car, talking in high pitched voices all the while. They ignored me when I swept out the front door in greeting. When I peeked into the back seat of the car, I was amazed. At first, I thought they had brought me a puppy, but they brought something else entirely. From the nest in her portable puppy crate, I saw a small little nose and a rosebud mouth. A tiny foot waved in the breeze. I followed the puppy crate inside and we all had a look.

BabyEllie is human! She smells like herself and her Mom and her Dad. She does not smell like Josie the FatCat or Zoe or me. She does smell a little like my Mom, though, who by now was calling herself “Grammy” and chuckling. BabyEllie was the new smell on my Mom !

Zoe went nuts. She jumped up and poked her nose into Erik’s arms, trying to figure out what he was holding. She licked a foot, she sniffed a hand, she ran around the coffee table and did it all over again. I’ve never seen her so excited, not even when chasing squirrels in the back yard.

“What is this? Huh, huh?” Zoe exclaimed. “Can I sniff it? Can I boop it with my nose? Will it play? Will it run? What is it? Should I be jealous? Huh, huh, huh?”

“It’s a human puppy,” I patiently explained. I have had vast experiences with babies in my former Life Before Life With Mom and I know all about them.

“You’ve really got to be careful, Zoe,” I warned her. “They can be lying there quiet as can be and all of a sudden, they go off like an alarm clock set on Buzz instead of Music. Then everyone comes running, at least in the beginning, to see what you’ve done.”

Zoe didn’t want to be careful. She wanted to prod and nudge and sniff and lick and play. She wanted to learn everything there was to learn about babies in exactly two seconds. That’s how Zoe is. Patience is NOT one of her virtues.

Laughing a little, Mom put Zoe in DownStay. True to form, Zoe popped up. Mom gave her The Eye and held her collar so she could not be a PopUp Dog. Zoe finally relaxed and Erik unwrapped his daughter.

I stood by protectively, but a short distance away. I did not want to be accused of setting off the alarm. Mom seemed to know exactly what she was doing, which was to trade the baby for Zoe’s collar and take BabyEllie in her arms and make funny noises. Katy looked very proud. Erik looked even prouder. Zoe looked on in rapt attention, waiting for something more to happen, like Erik forgetting to hang onto her collar.

Katy, sprightlier than I’ve seen for a long while, went around the corner to the guest room in which Josie the FatCat had been temporarily and suddenly housed. (Josie came home with Mom the day after our Middle of the Night Adventure.) After a bit, Josie poked her head out of the guest room and gave us all a small sniff.

“Oh, the Squawky One returns,” Josie said. “I thought I was on vacation.”

She then vanished under the bed for the rest of the evening.

Katy explained to me that Josie’s eyes get really big and the fur on her tail puffs up when BabyEllie goes off. Well, yeah. Katy said that Josie would probably be much happier with me and Mom and Zoe for a little while. I looked at Zoe’s wide eyes and rapidly waving tail, thought about her pray drive, and respectfully decided to disagree. Another few weeks of playing revolving rooms and closing doors wouldn’t hurt Josie, though. After all, she’s just a cat and is used to these things when she comes to stay.

Abruptly, BabyEllie went off, just as I had predicted, but was quickly stifled by a large part of Katy’s maternal anatomy. I watched from afar, Zoe watched from close-up, and Mom just sat there grinning. Mom smelled almost as excited as she smelled the day she picked me up at the airport and met me for the first time.

Quiet descended upon our house.

Erik put Zoe in her crate and left for a hockey game. Mom fixed dinner for herself and Katy. I dozed by the fire. BabyEllie made faces from inside her portable puppy crate. She certainly is more interesting than television; Mom and Katy watched here throughout evening instead of television.

I think I may actually like BabyEllie; she smells like Family. I have to remember to ask Mom, though, what is “Uncle?”

Sailor, DUCK!!

Sailor here.

Sheep. I love sheep. I love the way they smell and the way they bleat. I love the way they feel, all squishy when I run into them. I love the way they trot away from me and I love the way they tend to flock together. I love sheep.

Mom says that in actuality, it’s birds of a feather that flock together and this morning she set off in the dog car to show me what she meant. We drove a million carsick miles to the ocean side of our foothills and pulled into a gas station.

“Mom,” I burped from my crate in the back of the Volvo. “Couldn’t we have just gone to the gas station near our house? My tummy hurts.”

Mom laughed.

“I’ve got a surprise for you. Hang in there, goof-ball.”

I lay down again and closed my eyes. When the road finally straightened out, so did my tummy, my drool dried on my ruff, and I began to smell sheep. I whined in anticipation. We came to a post office and turned down a small bumpy road. We drove another million miles to the sheep corrals.

I was in seventh heaven. Sheep!

“Sailor,” Mom said, “Today we are going to herd ducks.”

Ducks? Why ducks? They smell like birds, swear like sailors (yeah, I know), they slap their webby feet on the ground and shake their booties in my face. Yuck! I am not fond of ducks.

Ducks do not flock together, no matter what anybody says about their feathers. When I tried to gather them up, they just stood there and swore at me. I walked slowly to begin driving them, and they didn’t move. They quacked and looked at me, first from one side of their puffy little heads, then from the other. When I finally got them moving, they didn’t run to Mom for protection, shouting, “Wolf! Wolf!” like sheep do. No, they ran around and tried to find their way back to the barn. Bother.

I learned that if I came too close or moved too fast, these pesky ducks went every which way, some heading north and others heading east. I tried to circle them, but they just didn't get it. Again and again, the flock split itself into noisy bunches that waddled around and called me names that just aren’t appropriate for a gentleman collie’s ears. I didn’t get it and they were not helping me out in the least.

Mom then took me in hand and made me move slowly from farther away than I thought was proper. She must have said something to the ducks, too, because they suddenly stopped flapping their feet and settled down into the semblance of a group, waddling away from the both of us.

I got between Mom and the ducks and smiled suddenly as I realized that I was actually driving them. They never shut their beaks, though, and they talked to each other and to me throughout the whole ordeal.

So there we were, all of us together, finally ambling along the fence line when disaster struck. As we marched over a small patch of weeds, one puffy-headed Rogue Duck caught his webby little toes on a tuft of grass and tripped. He rolled over in the mud trying to get back on an even keel, but his keel bone struck a small stick and he did a sudden Full Twisting Tsukahara right under my collie nose. Yikes! I had to leap into the air to avoid stomping him and did my own Full Twisting Tsukahara.

Dramatically, decidedly, and irrevocably did I split the flock. What a mess. The Rogue Duck picked himself up, calling me terrible names. Mom laughed so hard I thought she was going to join Rogue in the mud. All the other ducks started flapping and running and quacking around Mom and me. The Rogue Duck refused to return to the safety of his own kind. He wouldn’t flock. He ran around until he found a soft spot near the water trough and sat down, rudely shaking his tail feathers at me.

By this time, the rest of the ducks had decided that they were not going to meet with such an embarrassing fate and settled down to watch how I was going to handle this one really detestable duck. Keeping an eye on them, I barked at Rogue to get him on his disgusting yellow feet. He just sat there. I moved closer and barked louder. Finally he stood.

“Okay,” I thought, “This is going to be okay.”

I barked again, but he just stared at me with his beady little eyes and opened his orange beak and said rude things. I barked a salvo of barking. He didn’t move. I finally lurched forward right into his face and gave him a poke with my nose. He moved back half a step. I punched him again. He moved back another half step.

“This will take all day,” I concluded. What a stubborn duck.

So I did what I can only describe as an act of absolute desperation. I grabbed him by the neck and shoved him toward his brothers.

He flocked.

By now I was drooling with exertion. Mom calmly placed herself behind me and told me to proceed slowly. The ducks started up again, but the Rogue Duck lagged behind, then turned to face me and quacked nasty things under his fowl breath.

“Oh no you don’t!” I panted and grabbed him by the neck again.

He quickly joined his brothers, looking back at me and quacking loudly. When he started to lag, a quick “yip” kept him in line. As a matter of fact, now that we had all our ducks in a row, herding ducks became almost fun. We drove the ducks along the fence until Mom called me to her and gave me a big hug.

“Well done, Sailor,” grinned Mom. She snapped my leash onto my collar, patted my nose, and squished out the In Gate with me in tow.

For the first time, I noticed how muddy the ground was in certain spots. I noticed that the stream along the cottonwood trees was running merrily and that the llama was standing on the hillside amidst his family of puffy sheep. The clouds were as white and soft looking as newly shorn wool, and the air smelled like springtime and the sea.

Maybe next time, I will be able to herd sheep and leave those pesky ducks to the Shelties.
Photograph by David Castor, Eslov, Sweden

The Power Outrage

Sailor here.

Today was a very unusual one for Mom and me. At waking-up time, the sky turned dark and made loud howling noises, rain fell sideways, leaves blew sideways, and even a lawn chair went on what Mom calls an agricultural detour across the garden. Mom leaped out of bed to make sure the roof of my dog run was intact and not, like some of her garden umbrellas, on their way to the next county. All was well until she went into the clothes room to put on her version of a winter coat. The room was dark, very dark.

“Oh, rats,” Mom exclaimed, “I’d better shower now while we still have hot water.” She jumped into the water room, draping the towel across my back. I make a terrific towel rack except in early summer when I blow my coat. I patiently waited for her to emerge, because my job in this tiled room is to make sure Mom doesn’t disappear down the drain.

After Mom was washed, rinsed, dried and dressed, she told me we were going to prepare for a disaster and filled each bathtub upstairs with water. I headed downstairs to hide, fully expecting the disaster to be a Sailor bath, but much to my relief, she didn’t call me back upstairs. I’m not sure what Mom will decide to do with all these tubs of water, but I didn’t really want to stick around to find out.

“We’re having a power outrage,” Mom explained to me, heading downstairs.

“Oboy!” I woofed in delight, heading to the front door to get my leash. “Zoe will be so jealous because nobody likes power outrages like a Siberian husky.”

“Oh, Sailor, that’s not exactly what I meant,” Mom said, dashing my hopes. “We should probably stay inside where we’ll be safe from flying trees.”

Bother. I tried to picture flying trees but came up with a blank. When I was let out for a brief potty break, I saw quite a few branches on the driveway outside and Mom told me to expect even more to hit the deck.

I followed her around the house, watching her pull plugs and turn off switches. She explained that we wanted to be protected from a power surge. I waited. Nothing surged. Sometimes Mom is just plain nuts

“How about breakfast?” my tummy suddenly cried, awoken by all this commotion and stress about the bathtubs. I sent Mom all my very best brain pictures about the food house, my bowl, the food house, veggie glop, and the food house. It worked. Mom opened the food house door and, even though the light did not turn on, she found my breakfast and spooned it into my bowl. Ahhh, bliss. Josie the FatCat was also fed her glop but seemed to take it as a matter of course and not something to be grateful for. Such is the way of a cat.

Next, Mom put batteries into her portable radio, chuckling that she could still light the stove with matches, thank you very much, and made herself coffee and pancakes. I didn’t get any, though, hmmph. Turning on the radio and settling onto the living room couch with her coffee cup in one hand and my ear in the other, Mom and I cuddled up together to keep warm and listened to Car Talk. Well, Mom listened. I snoozed.

While I dozed and Mom laughed, the wind blew all the leaves out of the rain gutters, making Mom very happy that this year. She says that Mother Nature had accomplished this chore with a minimum of fuss and dollars. Maybe She will wash the windows, too, and Mom will be ecstatic.

I awoke to silence. Mom was asleep with Josie curled up around her head. The wind had ceased its yowling, the rain was tripping merrily down the rain gutters to the downspouts, and one lone light shown in the kitchen. The furnace turned itself on with a small whoosh and all seemed back to as normal as it ever gets around here.

I am still waiting to see what use all the water in the bathtubs will be, though. It’s kind of like waiting for the other branches to drop.

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The Not So Light Fandango

Sailor here.

Mom decided to have something called an Omelet for lunch today and I got to watch. My friend, the cold meaty bone box threw out many things, munchrooms, eggs, cheese, and butter, and I got to watch. Mom waved a bowl and her frying pan around gracefuly, so gracefully, in fact, that she dropped an egg onto the floor and I got to have lunch! That was much better than watching.

Josie the FatCat is staying with Mom and me this week, and I must say, ever since I gave her a smooch in the middle of the night and she accused me of tasting her, our relationship has been a bit strained. She gives me a wide berth made even wider by the amount of girth stuck to her ribs. I politely sidestep to allow her by, too, every chance I get.

This morning, Josie jumped down from the chair in the pouting room and started across the newly polished floors just as I rounded the corner. She caught sight of me in the mirror and up went her back, her fur bristled, and her tail puffed up and she began to lash it back and forth. Now many months ago, even years ago maybe, Hiss-Spit (may she chase mice with glee) taught me that this behavior is NOT an invitation to play no matter what Dog Language says. This is a threat gesture caused by great fright or danger. I could tell that Josie was indeed threatening the mirror. I was at first faintly puzzled at what she was doing.

She whipped her body sideways with back arched and claws extended. Then, crab-like, Josie began to tango. She took five small leaps to the right, followed by a hiss, then five small leaps to the left and another hiss. During this, she kept her body parallel to the mirror. Right she crabbed – hiss – left she crabbed – hiss - back and forth she went. It was all I could do not to bark out loud.

The game ended, though, when Josie, for reasons known only to herself, did a lovely pirouette, saw me laughing on her, and with a screech and a hiss, she scampered up the stairs to the safety of her room.

Now what was all that about?

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Lmbuga and is freely available at under the creative commons cc-by-sa 2.5 license

September 11, Christmas in the Fall

Sailor here.

Something very terrible happened two weeks ago on a Tuesday. Mom was upset for days and days. Zoe and I stayed right by her side the whole day, and she didn’t even yell YIKES! when she tripped over us. We took such good care of Mom. At night, I decided to sleep next to her on her bed, something I haven’t done since my rude awakening almost a year ago. Zoe slept on Mom’s other side, something she rarely does since her spot is at the foot of the bed. Mom even chuckled once during the night as she tried to turn over and couldn’t since she was so tightly sandwiched between us.

Mom says that she has had time to think back on the last two weeks and is struck by the spirit of the American people and their willingness to care, to love, to support, and to give. Maybe they are taking lessons from Zoe and me and all those other well-loved dogs in the world.

Mom says that selflessly, Americans everywhere have rallied to aid their fellow brothers and sisters in New York. Thousands of pounds of dog food as well as people clothing, medical supplies, water, and lunches have been donated. Warehouses overflow with the generosity of Americans everywhere. Blood donors across the country are waiting four and five hours in line to donate this precious fluid of life. Search and Rescue dogs will not want for booties, blankets, vet wrap, food or treats.

Mom says that New Yorkers are experiencing a crimeless wave never before imagined. Police are responding not to calls about burglaries or drug deals but instead are responding to calls from every passer-by who are weeping and thanking each of them for their service to the city in these terrible times. In fact, those men in uniform, be it the uniform of fire, police, medical or military service, are hard-pressed to walk down the sidewalk without well wishers and grateful citizens applauding and calling them heroes. Mom cries when she sees this on television, but she says these tears are tears of something other than sadness.

Mom says New Yorkers are coming together as never before to volunteer in whatever capacity may present itself in order to help people they do not even know. People far from the devastation are driving to New York to lend their assistance. Even our hometown Search and Rescue dogs are traveling all the way to New York to aid in the rescue effort. Mom says that these days, we are all New Yorkers.

Arms open wide, wallets empty, tears are shed, comfort is given, all with no thought of repayment or acclaim. Mom says that in spite of the horrific events that have shaken us all, she suspects that Christmas has come early this year. The spirit of Christmas surrounds us. We are one, she says, and the spirit of generosity which defines the Christmas season is here right now.

Zoe says that people are finally beginning to act like dogs and hopes this keeps up for a long, long time.

Flashbulbs and Fame

Sailor here. I am going to be famous again and I can’t wait.

Tonight after Mom came home from work, we heard a strange rumbling in the sky. The noise became louder and louder. Mom became louder and louder, too, squealing with delight and laughing about the light and the noise. This is somewhat of a rarity in California, Mom says, and she loves the sky to grumble and rumble.

Then, POW! A giant flashbulb went off right above my head. I barked and ran with Mom to the window to watch. CRACK! went the sound of the flash! The DogGoddess was taking pictures of me from across the Rainbow Bridge! Wowsers – am I ever special! She took a lot of pictures, too, before moving off to another dog’s house and photographing there.

As if that weren’t enough, after the flash bulb went off, the DogGoddess threw ice chips at us along with a lot of rain, knowing that we needed to cool down after all this excitement.

I can hardly wait to see where these pictures will show up. Can we see them down on earth when they are developed? Or do we have to wait until we cross the Bridge into heaven? I know my pictures will turn out the best of all.

This was the most special day I can remember for a long time.

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Fir0002 and is freely available at under the creative commons cc-by-sa 2.5 license

Appliance Woes

Sailor here.

Mom is having appliance woes. This morning while fixing smoothies, she announced that her blender had just gone to Sock Heaven.

“Sock Heaven?” I asked. “What’s that?”

“Sock Heaven is where inanimate objects go when they have completed their mission here on earth,” Mom told me. She has had a LOT of experience with Sock Heaven and knows these things.

“I thought that was the Rainbow Bridge,” I answered, having become well acquainted with the Rainbow Bridge lately.

“The Rainbow Bridge is for animate things,” Mom explained. “Sock Heaven is for inanimate ones.”

I thought about this and decided to politely disagree. Mom’s blender certainly behaves like an animal thing. After all, Mom talks to it, cajoles it, says rude words to it, and sometimes threatens to replace it with a younger model. The blender always answers back, too. Sometimes is says “Grrrrrrrrrrr.” Sometimes it says “Grrrr-bup-bup-grrrr.” And this morning it said in no uncertain terms, “Grrrrrr-ink-ink-inggggg..R.r.rr.rr…” and then all was silent.

Mom says it finally gave up the ghost and went to Sock Heaven. I say that if it had a ghost to give up, it most definitely must have gone to the Rainbow Bridge. And that’s not all.

Last week, Mom’s hair dryer suddenly took itself to the Rainbow Bridge. Like the blender, this appliance has lots to say in the morning. In fact, you could barely shut it up, until last week, when, during a hair blow, it became very quiet. Mom tried pushing the red button on the wall. She shook the drier. She sweet-talked the dryer, she begged, she pleaded, she smacked it, but the dryer was D-E-D dead. She had to tuck her hair behind her ears and hope for the best, and when she came home looking a little unusual at the end of the day, she carried a new hair dryer in its box. This new dryer is quieter than the old one and doesn’t smell like a fire in a DogWash either. I think I like it better. The old hair dryer’s death was really no great hardship for either of us.

But losing the blender is a huge disaster. How will I have my smoothies on warm summer evenings? How will Mom fix herself smoothies, too? I am quite worried.

I just hope the food processor doesn’t get lonely and decide to join its sisters at the Bridge. That would put an end to my veggie glop and I don’t know if I would survive without breakfast.

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at under the creative commons cc-by-sa 2.5 license

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Three

Sailor here.

My Mom was sad today. One of her friends who is a musher is even sadder. Three of her Siberian huskies who are sled dogs went to the Rainbow Bridge all on the same day but from different illnesses. The three are sisters and were raised from puppyhood to pull a dogsled. All three Siberians were leaders, although one was the leader’s leader.

When HissSpit died, Mom told me the story of Rainbow Bridge and Zoe told me about North of the Rainbow Bridge, the place to which all Northern Breeds go to await their loved ones who are still here on Earth. I am comforted. I can picture the Three Sisters frolicking in the ice and snow, chasing lemmings and running with the wind, happy and whole again.

Mom wrote a tribute to these three and here it is:


They stand immobile, North of the Rainbow Bridge, The Three. White flakes fall lightly, coating their fur with the down of this, their first celestial snowfall. Three breaths form white clouds, mingling in the frosty air. All is silence. All is peace.

“East,” the land whispers, “east.”

East is the direction that all huskies, given the choice, will face as their time on Earth draws to a close and they prepare for the last great journey. East is the Sun. East is The Beginning.

In unison, The Three wheel to the East, all senses alert to the next grand adventure. Leaving her sisters behind, The One picks her way gingerly up a short rise. Her footprints, almost unseen, tell the others the direction to follow. Standing abreast now, ears forward, bodies quivering in anticipation, The Three survey the frozen North that beckons them and bids them welcome.

Eagerly, first The One, then the others begin to trot. Down the hill, across the ice-flown river they sweep. Coats dusted with the snow of another world, they fall by habit into the pattern of their days on Earth. The One is in front, the Sisters, close behind, jogging side by side. Joyously, they pick up speed, their trot lengthens to a lope and then, suddenly, like a flight of startled ptarmigans, The Three are off, sprinting through the white powder. The winter trail magically opens up before them as they fly through the snow. Agile, strong, young again, with tongues lolling, and grins wide enough to be seen in Heaven, The Three speed, as if on wings, into Eternity.

They are home.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Caped Zoe

Sailor here.

Zoe is in Cape Cod, which I find curious. I am trying to picture fish coats but just can't do it. What does a fish need with a coat? Isn’t it hot and humid on the Cape in the summer? Mom says that fish don’t need bicycles either. Huh? I suspect I shall wait another two weeks for Zoe’s return to ask her about fish and bicycles and capes. And Moms.

Today, Zoe emailed me to tell me about her adventures on the deck at the summer house. There she was lying in her shady spot with some chicken wings between her paws having supper. When she was almost finished, she decided to stash the last one under the planter to save for a midnight snack if she ever gets let outside at midnight. She pushed the wing into a corner and lay back down to digest.

Suddenly and from out of the blue, an enormous seagull swooped down and stole Zoe’s chicken! Zoe was dumfounded. Never had she seen a bird so big. Never had she been burgled out of dinner. She leaped up and watched the gull fly off with her meal. I think it will be a long time for Zoe to recover from that one.

As if that weren’t exciting enough, Zoe also said that she has a new friend. He is part border collie and visits her at the same time on the clock every morning. Zoe says they play Spithead and wrestle and she loves him because while her tail is always high in the air, telling him who is boss, his is always much lower, telling her he agrees with her. Zoe calls him BW because he has black and white patches all over his body and smells BeWitching.

He plays with her for an exact amount of people time (but only about two seconds in dog time) and then takes off for the next stop on his daily rounds. Clearly, here is a dog completely unconcerned with doggy time and much more in tune with what Mom calls corporate time. Mom says that I, on the other hand, am completely baffled by corporate time and revel in dog time. Mom says that this world would probably be more enjoyable if the same were true for people.

I wonder where BW goes and what he eats.

Two days ago, BW came to Zoe’s house all squeaky clean and fluffy and smelling like the DogWash. When he left BW’s legs, belly and tail were coated in black, sticky mud.

“So much for the DogWash,” Zoe said. “That’ll teach them.”

Zoe didn’t tell me how her fur fared, but she was a bit nervous for the rest of the day, expecting a trip to that dreaded place herself.

The Little Things in Life

Sailor here.

Mom says the heat is making things wave again. When I look across the driveway to the street, the road waves at me. I also see puddles shimmering on the sidewalk but they disappear when I reach them Mom calls this a mirage. I call it mysterious but not beyond Mom’s powers. I mean, if she can make the sun leap ahead one whole hour in the spring and stay in bed one whole hour later in the fall, she can certainly make puddles disappear.

During the summer, Mom is very careful about the soles of my feet on hot days. Before we go walkies, she kneels down and feels the ground with her hand to make sure it won’t burn my feet.

“Burn my hand,” she says, “burn Sailor’s feetsies.” Feetsies? Gimme a break here.

I don’t have Dancing Shoes like some of my friends, so she will sometimes rub my footpads with Musher’s Secret, a wax that protects them from hot and cold surfaces. I am not overly fond of this since my feet are very ticklish. I think Dancing Shoes are a better idea; some of Zoe’s sled dog friends have many pairs of soft booties to protect their feet, but Dancing Shoes are hard plastic and make tap-tapping sounds when you walk. They sound like more fun to me. I could tap dance down the block and be the envy of all who hear.

Mom has many inventions to keep me cool when I am outside. Since Zoe ate my cooling mat last summer, Mom does other things. She freezes water in plastic gallon milk containers and hides them in my doghouse. I curl up around these or lie with them against my belly and they are so cool! Besides the water bottles, she will freeze a small block of ice to keep the water in my water bowl cool during the day. I love to bob for ice. It cools my face as well as my tongue and everyone knows that cooling the tongue makes the heat go away. Mom says it’s the evaporation caused by panting that cools my mouth and tongue and in turn keeps my whole body cool.

The biggest help to cooling me on hot days outside, though, is the oak tree over my dog run. If that weren’t enough, the car canopy over half of my run shades my doghouse and me. Triple shading is a very good way to stay cool: tree cooling followed by shade cooling and lastly doghouse cooling works pretty well. I like to be inside my doghouse on cold days, too. Mom says it’s well insulated. Speaking of insulation, I have learned that my summer coat protects me from the heat, too, and this is why you should never shave a collie. Shorn, they run the risk not only of heat stroke but also of sunburn. You should never shave huskies, either, for the same reason.

Mom also says that she will go to an orchard supply store and look for orchard misters to hang around my dog run. These are supposed to cool the air tright down, but I ask you: Do I look like an orchard to you? I do not, unless we are growing dogwood trees and they are shedding. We do have a dogwood tree in the front but so far it has not blown its coat. Maybe it needs to be moved into the deep shade of my oak tree to stay cool. Or Mom needs to give it a bath to encourage its coat to fall out like she did to me last week.

Mom also asked me if I want a kiddie pool to soak my feet, since the only other place a dog can lose heat is through the bottoms of his feet. I didn’t jump at this: what am I, a kiddie? First an orchard, then a kiddie. What a joke - misters and a pool are the wrong things for someone who doesn’t like to get wet. Maybe she will forget these ideas and buy me air conditioning.

Inside, Mom drapes ice towels over my wire crate instead of turning on our butt coolers. Ice towels are towels soaked in ice water and wrung out. She says that butt coolers are nice when electricity is abundant, but in the days of the Great California Energy Crisis, the air conditioning stays off unless we are about to broil.

Well, I am about to broil and would like the butt coolers turned on, Mom.

Left and Bereft

Sailor here.

I am bereft. Zoe left with her dad for Cape Cod, which Mom says is a terminal moraine on the East Coast. We live on the Left Coast. These two coasts are very far apart. Zoe is riding in the back of Katy and Erik’s dog car and says the trip will take seven dark-sleeps and a good many daylight-sleeps.

My Mom packed a box of stuff for Zoe’s trip. I watched her fill the box with all sorts of traveling supplies:

A brand new Chewman in the shape of a big ball, so I guess this is a Chewball
A red Kong, lots of small cookies, spray cheese, and some Pounce for stuffing
A biscuit ball to hide cookies
Zoe’s harness so she will be safe on her trolley tie-out at the Cape
A Buddy Bowl, this nifty water bowl that won’t spill even if Zoe turns it upside down
Some plastic bags, a bag of rags, and some Nature’s Miracle (just in case)
A large towel for the bottom of her wire travel crate that can be cooled in water or frozen and draped over her crate on hot days
A small jar of powdered eggshells to add to ground meat in case raw meaty bones are not easily found
An emergency I.D. tag with Erik’s cell phone and the Truro house phone number on it
A jar of Musher’s Secret to help prevent blisters on Zoe’s feet if the rest stops have only asphalt and no grass or dirt (or in case Zoe has to walk far on ice)
Zoe’s slicker brush and shedding blade because she is always shedding and may at some point need a bath
Some powdered ginger in case Zoe gets an upset tummy from all that fast food or even faster water

The first day on the open road, Zoe was puzzled by all the driving and stopping and sniffing and peeing and then back into the car and doing it all over again. Erik said that eventually, her daily routine was finalized into measurable segments as Zoe tried on various new personalities:

Pop Up Dog for the first twenty minutes
Sit and Look Out the Window Dog for the next 30 minutes
Sleep in Crate Dog for quite some time
Pop Up and Out Dog, Pee and Sniff Dog for not long enough
Back in the Car Dog, reluctantly balking for fifteen seconds
Lift Zoe into Car Dog for two seconds
Drive-Through Dog at fast food restaurants
Do It All Over Again Dog for an indeterminate length of time
Dark Time Dog after supper
Motel 6 Dog which was bliss because she slept on Erik’s bed with Erik at night
Sunrise Dog first thing the next morning followed by
Run, Relief and Repeat the Previous Day Dog

At the end of five days, Zoe emailed me to tell me all about her new adventures.

“Guess what, Sailor,” she wrote, “I live in a car now. It’s kind of cool except when it’s hot after a rest stop. Utah was boring; the wheat fields wave, and Chicago smells funny. I love raw hamburger!”

Zoe is sure going to be surprised when they arrive in Truro and stay for a while. I wonder what she’ll think when they get back in the dog car and do it all over again in the opposite direction. I wonder how many states Zoe has peed in. I wonder what new smells she will write home about and if she will see fireflies and swim in the ocean.

Maybe my Mom will take me out to our dog car and feed my raw hamburger, too.

Discovery Channel

Sailor here.

I watch my Mom all the time. If she goes into the computer room, I go with her. If she goes downstairs into the laundry room, so do I. I even escort her into the bathroom to make sure she stays safe and doesn’t fall into the human water bowl. I make some amazing discoveries this way, especially when I follow her into the laundry room on laundry days and into the kitchen at mealtimes.

In the laundry room, I have watched what Mom calls the evolution of the towel. Mom says that the milestones in the life of the towel are made in a linear direction proceeding from step one through step two, three, and so forth until the last step is reached. No so, our particular towels. They go from step two to step one to step three and then out the door into the great unknown.

According to me, the first step is the Dog Towel which Mom uses to either dry me or the floor after I drink water. She also uses the Dog Towel to dry my feet after a walk in the rain or a gallop through the latest Zoe disaster. Step two is to live upstairs with Mom in her bathing room and to dry Mom after a shower.

Mom says that step three is the RagBag, which is really a bucket in the laundry room into which the Cleaner of the House reaches for appropriately sized rags to perform the Waving Miracle on all available indoor and some outdoor surfaces. Step last is still an unknown destination; the rags from step three just disappear, occasionally to reappear in the back of the Dog Car for purposes yet to be revealed. Perhaps the last step is a trip to Sock Heaven, the ascendancy to which has its start, according to Mom, in our very own laundry room.

Mom really talks like this. What I mean to say is that the towels should go from being Dog Towels to Mom Towels to Rag Towels to Somewhere Else Towels.

In our house, though, these steps are out of order. The towel goes from being a Mom towel to a Dog towel before finally finding its proper place in the scheme of things in the RagBag and from there to the Great Unknown. This puzzles me. Why, I ask you, would the towel be start out at step two before being promoted to Dog Towel status? My Mom moves (and dries) in mysterious ways.

In the kitchen, also, I have made important discoveries. Mom and I eat much the same diet, meat and veggies, eggs and yogurt, salad and no dessert. Well, sometimes Mom has dessert and sometimes I have a fruit smoothie. The main difference is that Mom always cooks her meat and often cooks her veggies; mine are raw, all of them. We both eat salad dressing, but mine is made of apple cider vinegar and salmon oil; Mom’s is something else entirely.

Another difference is that Mom eats her meat course with her veggie course and her salad course in separated piles on her plate. On my plate I will find meat and veggies and salad all ground up together and called Breakfast. In the evening I am fed raw meaty bones called Dinner, a great improvement over last year’s diet of kibble. A fourth difference is that Mom doesn’t like my dog cookies and this means all the more for me! I like this difference the best.

Occasionally Mom will give me a taste of her cooked food for a special treat when I have been really good at standing in a certain spot on the kitchen floor with just the right look of pleading in my eye. I have decided that pasta is my favorite, and last night my snack of spaghetti gave me quite a few red splotches all over my white ruff.

“Sailor, are you sucking up the spaghetti out of the bowl and splashing the sauce all over your ruff?” Mom asked. As I have said before, Mom sometimes overstates the obvious.

“Fwip, fweep, kiss, well, yeah,” I replied scattering red blotches over Mom’s nose. “How else do you eat spaghetti?” Without opposable thumbs, forks and spoons are out of the question.

“Gee, thanks for that,” Mom replied, blinking rapidly. “Now I’ve got marinara freckles.”

She quickly transferred her freckles onto the towel which hangs over my water bowl . She uses it for quick swipes of the floor after I’ve been drinking and dunking.

“Ack, wrong towel,” I heard her mutter as she climbed the stairs in search of a clean towel and cleaner tee shirt. See? Even she is confused about dog towels and people towels.

Mom came back to the kitchen just in time to see the last strand of spaghetti flip its way past my lips.

“Now let’s wash away all that stigmata,” she said. She reached into the dog cupboard for a new dog towel and dog cleaner.

“Ooh, this smells like pina coladas!” she exclaimed as she squirted the blemishes on my white collar. “Yummy!”

She rubbed my ruff with this concoction and the dog towel. I was clean and beautiful again.

While Mom performed the waving miracle on my ruff, I kicked back onto my haunches and daydreamed about the beach, salt spray, tiny paper umbrellas, large clean beach towels, and sunglasses. And pina coladas.

How I love summer!

The Enemy is Here

Sailor here.

The enemy is here, also. It is all around us, everywhere, especially in my backyard. The enemy is loud and cheeky and comes in several colors, mostly black and gray. The enemy teases and taunts, scolds and screeches at ME. I love it!

I love to dash across the wet lawn and chase those little buggers up the nearest redwood tree. I love to get my feet wet on the early morning grass and then kick up the gorilla hair so my back feet turn a bit black themselves. I love the way the enemy runs because it is really afraid of me. I love to protect my Mom from these little furry guys.

Mom says that they have lived here on our property for longer than I have, and, like me, they belong here. She says that if I think about it, we have a lot in common. We are both furry. We have bushy tails and she says we can flirt them over our backs to punctuate our sentences. We both bark, each in our own ways, and can bark at each other for minutes on end, me from the ground, the enemy from the safety of the trees. The enemy is small enough to fit into Mom’s pocket; my nose is small enough to fit into Mom’s other pocket. We both have four feet and two eyes and two ears that sometimes prick in the air and sometimes lie close to our heads. We both run fast and like digging in the flower pots. Well, actually, I only started to THINK about digging in the flower pots one time to see what the enemy had buried, and Mom let me know that doggy digging was forbidden, at least in the flower pots.

The enemy and I are very different, though. I run on the grass and dirt; the enemy runs on the grass and dirt and the trees and fence tops. I am not very good at climbing; these little buggers can climb straight up the chimney! The enemy is black. The enemy is also gray and buff. I am sable and white. The enemy eats almonds and avocado pits and cherry plum seeds and can plant walnut trees in the ground. I eat bones and raw food and plant my butt on the butt coolers in the house in the summertime. The enemy can sneak up on me from above and drop empty walnut shells on my head. I don’t remember ever sneaking up on anything. But mostly we are different because never, not once, have I ever been chased by one of these guys.

Crop Circles and Cookie Circles

Sailor here.
Mom says we have a crop circle on our lawn. This is very interesting since I don’t know what a crop circle is. Zoe doesn’t know either. Mom says that some people believe that extra-terrestrial aliens visit us at night and draw geometric patterns in our wheat fields. This is very interesting since we have no wheat fields. Mom also says that some people believe that the patterns are made by humans impersonating extra-terrestrial aliens and creating a hoax. This is also interesting since I don’t know what hoax is. My brain was a bit dizzy from all these five-dollar words, so I went outside to look at our crop circle.

Ours is a large round brown spot in the middle of the lawn. It is very big. It is very brown. Mom says she created it herself yesterday by mistake. It doesn’t look like a mistake to me; it looks like a large brown spot in the middle of my lawn. It is so large that I can take three running steps across it and not step outside onto the green lawn. It is so large that Zoe can leap as far as she can and still not reach the green part of the lawn in a single bound. She takes two bounds. Mom says it is so big that it can be seen from a small plane 6500 feet above the deck.

Mom explained that she herself created our crop circle when she washed one of the pair of shoots she uses to cover our patio tables and chairs. These pairs are big and round and white. They keep the dust off the glass tables and blow gently in the wind. I must confess that one morning, don’t ask me what came over me, I peed on one of them. Mom didn’t see me so I didn’t get in trouble. (I only get in trouble when Mom sees me do something naughty; otherwise, she says it’s too late and she will try to circumvent the next naughtiness. Whatever that means.)

Mom told me that my pretty yellow Rorschach design on the bottom of the shoot did not fit into her hunter green patio d├ęcor, so she went after it with her favorite miracle product and the hose. When she was satisfied that the shoot was returned to its former state of cleanliness she spread it out on the lawn to dry. Later in the day, she covered the table and chairs with the dry shoot and noticed that the grass under the shoot looked decidedly bilious, she called it.

In the morning when we went outside, we had a crop circle! Mom says that all is not lost; the grass will grow again, and in the meantime, she can use the circle to practice my heeling patterns. That is just what we did. We spiraled in, we spiraled out, I got a little dizzy, and then we unwound ourselves and circled back the other way. I kept up with Mom pretty well until she took off on a tangent and left me behind. She says that the tangent was exactly that – a tangent – and was about to give me a geometry lesson when I saw a lecture coming and did my best imitation of a starving dog, reminding her that she had cookies in her pocket and that the cookies were for me.

She got the hint and cookied me, and off we went again. This time, the tangent did not surprise me and I kept my right ear next to Mom’s left hip and when she stopped, I sat very straight in the correct position and got another cookie.

I think I will call our crop circle a cookie circle. I hope Mom and the aliens do not take it back and we get to keep it for a long time.

Rainy Days

Sailor here.

Since it is raining, I have spent the day inside with Mom. During a break in the storm, Mom put me in my dog run to keep me safe. She then spent the better part of the afternoon driving over dog food with her car. She says the turkey backs are a crunching cinch, but the emu necks have her stymied. They come back in the house looking like emu necks and not road kill. This means I will have a long supper tonight and maybe have a bone to take outside with me tomorrow. I like emu necks in their original shape, but flattened dog food is easier to eat.

On our rainy day walk this morning, Mom said we had a “worm rain” evidenced by the plethora of helminths on the sidewalk. She actually said this. I say that there were worms all over the ground. I wanted to see the worms rain down from the sky, but Mom says they come up from under the ground. I am puzzled. Mom says that puzzled is OK, but she won’t even begin to explain the expression “raining cats and dogs.”

Worms aside, rainy days are fun especially when Mom lets me outside and leaves the side gate open and I run around the house and stand by the other side gate to be let back into the back yard. It's fun to watch Mom run down the driveway whistling for me and thinking I have gone on a tour of the neighborhood. She's so much fun to scare because when she whistles and sees me come running from behind her instead of in front of her, she laughs and hugs me and says what a good dog I am for running to her. Zoe has laid the groundwork for panicking at a missing dog, and, boy, have I bamboozled her! I never go far, but Mom hasn’t figured this out yet. I got to escape twice in a row because the second time she put me outside, she forgot to latch the same gate. Maybe her brain got a bit squashed in sympathy with all that flattened dog food earlier today.

Some Days Are Howlidays

Sailor here.

A few days ago in the dark of night, Mom woke me up, saying, “Sailor, are you all right?”

Huh? I was asleep. How was I to know if I was all right? She said that I woke her up howling. I was howling? She said it was that eerie sound that a dog makes when its person dies, so we checked to see if Mom was still alive. She was. She said that I must have been having a dream. Darn, I think I missed it; I’d like to know what my dream was all about.

Speaking of howling, Zoe is spending the night. Not that Zoe howls or anything, but her parents are going to a Pack Howl and thought it would me much more fun for Zoe to be here than to be home alone. Zoe agreed. Mom says that the Pack Howl is actually called the O-purr-a but that it doesn't have anything to do with cats. I find this a bit confusing. Dog language is so much easier to understand.

Mom says that going to the Pack Howl is a ritual in itself. Katy and Erik dress up wearing mostly black and right before going out the front door, they take these sticky rollers and roll each other’s clothing front and back. Zoe hair comes off all over the rollers. Then they walk down the front steps and usually drive away in the car with the least dog hair. I love it that dog hair can rule one’s social life even if Zoe does have to stay home.

I think Zoe should get to go to the event, too, since pack howls are for the whole pack. It’s the chance to yell, “I am here, where are you?” and get the answer, “I am here, right where you left me!” But Mom says that at this Howl, the audience only listens and does not join in. I find this strange. I mean, how can you go to a howl and NOT join in? I would find that impossible. Mom does say that at Christmas time, a lot of people howl along with themselves at something called Handle’s Mess. Then everybody gets to sing the Howlalulleja Chorus. This sounds more like it.

Katy and Erik love the O-purr-a because Katy is studying voice and howling O-purr-a at home. Mom says that when Katy is around, I have to call it singing. Studying voice means that she sings and takes singing lessons and practices singing at home. Zoe usually joins in and promptly gets put outside. K.aty says that Zoe is not always right on key. Josie the FatCat runs and hides in the linen closet instead of purring along. What a missed opportunity. If I were there, Zoe and I could study voice in the back yard and we’d even let Josie join in.

The Little Things in Life

Sailor here.

Mom says that the real joy in life comes not from large successes but from those small things that make being alive on this planet truly meaningful. To me, this means finally getting that click and treat, like today in dog school when I Stood for Exam and didn’t move even when Mom’s friend who was playing Judge touched me all over. Good Sailor.

Mom’s small triumphs have been many lately. Josie the FatCat ate a whole chicken neck. And this morning she even ate some of her veggie glop disguised with salmon oil and a little canned cat food. Mom is thrilled. Josie is trying to be calm about it; she’s a cat after all and can’t be seen to be too excited about mortal interests especially if they’re spelled BARF.

Mom also discovered a pin brush with enormously long pins that makes brushing my shaggy coat a breeze, so she says. I feel no tugging, no pulling, no ouchies, especially on my kilts, and no breezes, either. We usually don’t have breezes on the grooming table, but I find that Mom is rarely if ever wrong. This must be another of those figures of speech that so confuse me at times.

Another small happy thing that came to us is our freezer. Mom drove the Dog Car away last weekend and picked the freezer up and drove it home. Then all by herself, she wrestled it into the garage and strung the extension cord along the ceiling, pounding with nails as she went, and plugged it in. It hummed to life and in less than an hour was ready for my chicken legs, emu necks and whole rabbits and turkey necks and lamb breasts and oxtails. These meaty bones were another of Mom’s triumphs, since Mom says she got them for a song and now figures that she spends less on the BARF diet than on the old premium kibble diet. Mom, for good reason, does not sing all the time, but I guess she wasn’t that out of tune and charmed the butcher. This is a good thing.

Mom thinks we’re beginning to sound like Martha Stewart here. But I bet Martha never backed over HER turkey backs with the car to crunch them up for her dogs. Mom says she probably does raise her own organic emus, though….

My New Neighbor

Sailor here.
I have a new neighbor. She is what Mom calls a Springer Spaniel puppy, but I have seen no evidence of springs. Maybe, unlike Zoe, she wasn’t born on springs and has to grow them.

Her people are trying out names for her. Right now, their favorite name seems to be NoNoBadDog, but SitSitSit is running a close second. I do hope they come up with something different, though; this will save a lot of confusion later on down the road.

Anyway, she smells sweet and happy and peeks at me through the back fence. I can hardly wait until her springs grow in and she can be a pop-up dog like Zoe.

Take That You Turkey Necks

Sailor here.

Well, Mom's finally lost it. She thought she bought turkey necks for my supper but ended up with a package of turkey backs.

"Yikes," I heard her say, "these ribs look sharp. And would you look at the vertebrae? Big, really big."

She then pushed me off the computer and emailed her BARF friends to ask about turkey backs. The consensus was to smash them up a bit with a sledgehammer.

Now, believe me, Mom is NOT, and I repeat NOT, equipped to sling a sledgehammer. Even if she were to pick one up and swing it, I'm afraid it would overbalance her and she'd end up flat on her back gasping and giggling. Mom knows this, too. She said a regular hammer wouldn't do the job either. So, she got out the scary cleaver and chopping block and hacked and cleaved.

This was fun to watch. Bits of backs splattered all over the kitchen. Then she did something really strange. And she didn't even wait for the dark of night.

She rolled up the turkey backs in newspaper and went outside. She backed the car out of the garage, saying that she was taking no chances with antifreeze. If antifreeze is deadly to dogs; I can only imagine what it does to cars. Or turkey backs. Anyway, she put each turkey bundle on the ground in back of each tire, jumped into the car, turned on the engine, and threw it into reverse.


So much for my turkey backs. I kept a lookout for the neighbors. Mom has a reputation to uphold, after all.

I just can't wait to see what they actually look like when I get them for supper. I wonder if she will just throw them on my towel on the floor or if she actually has to put them in my bowl. I can't wait. Mom says I have to.

Rude Awakenings

Well, Sailor here and also on the floor again. Let me explain.

I used to sleep with Mom on her bed. I didn't start out that way, but somehow I ended up that way a little while ago. Now, don't get me wrong; I love being with Mom, but sleeping on all those duck feathers is a little too warm for me. AND Mom sometimes hogs the bed. I know she doesn't mean to, she just kind of sleeps in the middle and I have to curl up somewhere not in the middle. That's OK because I really love being scritched in the middle of the night and I can smell when she wakes up even before she opens her eyes. But when Zoe sleeps over, Mom's bed really gets crowded. Zoe is a bed-hog! She crawls between me and Mom and pushes her legs way out and makes more room for herself than is fair.

Anyway, all this bed business came to an end a few nights ago. There we were, the ducks were fluffed up under us, Mom was lawn mowing, I was asleep, the owl was hooting, and Mom decided to roll over. Big mistake. Now this is not a problem usually, but the night was warm, the comforter was not comforting, and I rolled away from her so as not to get too snuggled and overheated.

BAM! Scrabble, scrabble!

"What just happened?" I asked myself. “And why am I on the floor?”

"Sailor, did you fall out of bed?" I heard Mom ask. She sometimes overstates the obvious.

I spent the rest of the night on my fish blankie on the floor. It was cooler there and I don't think you can fall off the floor.

The following night nothing would persuade me to Hup onto Mom's bed. Mom says she understands; I get to sleep below decks, Mom gets the bed all to herself unless Zoe comes over, and the owl will go on hooting. Mom says owls never fall out of bed.

Photograph © reprinted with permission