Saturday, April 24, 2010

"They was crimes of op'purtunity, I tells ya!" -- Addie-Lou Roo blogs!

This be Addie....Addie-Lou Roo, the Baby Kangaroo Basset, as I am sometimes known.  My Mama posted a blogg about me for my birfday da odder week...  I be twoo now, but not gots my Big Girl Brainz yet.   I tole dat ol' Brown Truk Driver to stay away frum me, 'cause I don' want dose brainz yet.  I woofeded at him a bunch an' he wented away.  I don' wanna be a Big Gurl.  I likes beein' a puppy gurl.  Mama says I'm a BIG puppy gurl an' I gotz big feetz.

Anywayz...  My Grandma is sorta mad at me rite now 'cause I been swipin' stuff from hers.  I jus can't help it, tho...  She leebs stuffs all ober da place where my nose can find 'em, an', well, I jus' climb up der and takes 'em.   I figger if theys there, theys fer me to take.  Sos I do.  I reelly like hers penz and skissors an' even her nappykins, but I getz odder stuffs, too, like dishytowls an' placematz an' spoonz frum da dishywassher.  Grandma's desk is my favorite place to find stuff to steal.  I tried her purse once, but since I don' gotz da tumbs, it was hard to do da zippeys an' I gave up.  It's hard when ya don' gotz da tumbs, ya know?

Grandma beein mad at me all started th' odder day when Grandma was doin's sumptin with da magamazines.  She had a big ol' pile of 'em sittin' on her counter along with a page of some kind of sticky tings called "labbels".  She was stickin' da labbels on da magamazines an' den stickin' da magamazines inna da plastic bags.  I love plastic bags!!  When Grandma wasn' lookin', I stole a couple of da plastic bags an' took 'm to my hidey place behind Grandma's big rumbly chair  [Mama's note:  Grandma's massage/lounge chair].  I hadded 'em all nice and uncurleded an' drooleded on an' ready to chew, an' she got me!  She stole my bags back and yelled at me, "NO, ADDIE!!  NOT YOURS!!"   Humph.   They was too mine, I tooked 'em and had 'em on my spot.  She wasn't lookin' when I tooked 'em, so deys mine.   Boy!  Da op'purtunity a-roseded an' I took dem bagz.  Dey was MINE.

Ladder on,  Grandma had lunch wit da Mama-Lisa.  Dey had soup an' crackers.  We all likes crackers, and Grandma always shares some peenut-budder crackers an' some cheeze crackers wit' us, so we were all sitting an' waiting for hers to do dat.   She always gibs da crackers to Miss Penny-lope first, den Mr. Pelly-Belly, den Miz Jazzy, den me 'cause I'm da baby houndie.  Weeel,  Miz Jazzy didn't eats her cracker rite aways, so I snatched it.  Miz Jazzy grrrrrd at me an' flappeded her ear-flapz, but she let me habe da cracker cuz she reelly only likes da cheezee ones anywayz.  Dis one was da peenut budder kind, an' she don't like those as much.  Grandma said I was theef!!!  But Jazzy lefted da cracker der on da floor...it woulda gotten rottening iffin I hadn't eeten it!  Humph.  I am not a theef.  It was an op'purtunity!

On Wenzday, Gramma cut some pretty cake for dessert for her and Mama.  Mama ate hers at the table, then went to da kitchen to wash da dinner dishes.  Grandma put hers cake on da table, an' den skooted her chair over and did sumthing on her 'puter moochine an' talkeded on da tellyphone.  Her back was to da table da whoole time an' she wasn' payin' 'tention at all.  Dat cake sat dere defenseless an' lonely for a looong time.  I looked an' I sniffed an' I waited an' I waited, an' finally I could not help myself.  I climbed on da edge of da table an' et dat cake.  It wuz good, too.  I was reel careful an' didn' even skooch da placemat or leeve enny crumz.  But, Grandma got mad at me again.  She said I was a sneeky theef!  I wuz NOT sneeky!  I wus polite.  I waited an' waited an' waited until I couldn't wait enny more, den I et da cake.  Grandma wasn't goin' ta eet it, so I did.  Da op'purtunity was dere, an' I tooked it!  I tooked da cake, too!

Mama made toast for breakfast yesterday mornin'....well, toast for her an' Grandma's breakfast.  I had ol' kibbles an' some skrambled eggz  an' cheeze on top for my breakfast.  I didn't get any toast with my breakfast.   Grandma didn't eat both of her toasts, so she lefted one on top of a cup under a nappykin on da table.  I think she thot she was a-hidin' that toast frum me sos I wouldn't get it.  Ha, Grandma!!  I found it an' I gotted it before you could turn around!  I'm reelly good at gettin' stuff when I want it an' I wanted that toast.  Grandma thought she could get it back from me so she followed me to my hidey-spot.  "Crunch, crunch, crunch!  No more toast, Grandma!"  Ha!  Later on, I stole a yellow marker and chewed up the cap just because I could.  Sometimes I jus' wanna be Bad.  Da problem is, I look too innocent an' nobodee believez I'm reelly bad.  Mama says I'm not bad, I have a sense of hummor.  Whateber dat is.

I was a good girl dis mornin', though.  Grandma was feedin' dose noisy bird-critters dere breakfast an' she left a piece of pizza on da table...rite dere where my noze could smell it.  But I was good. I didn't even look at it.  She had some skrambled eggz she waz feedin' dat noisy JoJo bird , an' I wanted those instead.  (I wanna figure out how to get his skweeker outta him 'cause he mekes my earz hurt with his all da time skreechin'!)  I do like skrambled eggz.  But I lefted da pizza on da table.  I lookeded at it, though.  Put my big paws rite onna da edge of da tabble an' lookeded at dat pizza.  Den I gotz down an' went away.  Later on, when she wasn't lookin, I drank Grandma's milk outta her glass.  She went, "EEEEWWW!" an' den she gave me da rest of da milk in my bowl.  Ha, Ha, Grandma!  Den I stole her big pen an' chewed da little button offen da end. 

All of dese was crimes of da op'purtunity, I tell ya.  Every single one of 'em was 'cause Grandma left stuff where I could get it.  Mama tells her and tells her to put stuff up where I can't get it, but she doesn't.  One of dese days I'm gonna get dose teef she keeps taken outta her mouf.  I think I need some extra teef to chew on stuff.


Itz me, Addie-Lou Roo!




Thursday, April 15, 2010

Puppy Breath and Big Girl Brains

Addie is my almost-two-year-old Basset Hound puppy.  Like any young child of two or three years, she is into everything because everything is an adventure for her.  And, of course, being the youngest "child" of my four Bassets, she is a source of frequent "disgruntlements" amongst her elders.  It's just what a little sister (or brother) is supposed to do--it's in that contract they sign when they join the family!  Or so I'm told...I have no siblings, only my observations of my friends and their interactions with younger brothers and sisters.

Addie, 2/10/10

In mid-July of 2008, I brought Addie home from my local animal shelter when she was approximately 14 weeks old. I hadn't intended to adopt another dog since I already had three dogs, and wasn't actually looking for another.  A friend had told me about a Basset puppy being held at the city shelter. I went to see her to find out about her so that I could contact the local Basset rescue so that they could pull her and place her in a foster home until a permanent home could be found.  Determined to be objective, I took photos and notes about the puppy and asked about her origins, health, etc., so that I could give the rescue group the best information I could.  I've done this before, so I knew what I was up against.  It's not easy to go to a shelter full of homeless animals and not want to bring each and every one of them home.  Or, at least it's not easy for me.  To me, an animal shelter--especially a kill shelter--is a hopeless, heart-breaking, depressing place.

I played with the puppy through the cyclone fencing of her kennel.  She was cute, funny, and oh-so-typically puppy:  long floppy ears, big brown eyes, a long skinny tail that must have been twice the length of her body, and big--huge--floppy feet.  She was a tri-colored, full-blooded Basset puppy, with a cute and rather unique reversed question mark marking on the back of her head.  Her tail was inky black on the top, a long brown stripe underneath, and it curled over her back in a big arc.  There was a tiny white tip on the end that seemed to serve as the punctuation mark at the end of this long-bodied baby dog.  A lot of personality was packed into that wiggly puppy-body, and it was so hard to leave her at the shelter that evening.  I'd breathed in her sweet puppy-breath and she'd stolen my heart...the little "monster" had stolen my heart.  She cried and barked when I left, and somewhere between "being objective" and the exit door of the shelter, I knew I was sunk. Now what do I do?

I told the adoption coordinator at the shelter that I would be back the next day, either to pull her for the rescue or, heaven help me, adopt her myself.  I even went so far as to put a deposit on her so that no one else could take her.  Now I was really invested in this project.  All the way home, I told myself I had no business dealing with a puppy--I hadn't had one in over 25 years, and I knew that a baby like this one would require even more work and energy than the puppies I'd had in the past.  They were all older--like 6 or 8 months or older.  No baby stuff with them.  This little gal was a baby, and we had no real idea of what kind of life she'd had with or without her mama-dog.  Those early weeks with the mama-dog are so important in the life of a puppy!  I was counting on her having had a good base, but was mentally preparing myself for the other possibilities.

When I got home I pulled the photos from my camera into my computer, and burned a CD of them to take to show to my mother, who was in a rehab hospital recovering from knee replacement surgery.  When she saw the photos, Mom knew almost instantly that that puppy was not going to go to the rescue group, she would be coming home to our house to join our three other Bassets.  Before I could even say anything, she asked me what time I had to be at the shelter the next day to pick the puppy up.  My Mom's a sharp lady, she doesn't miss a trick.  She asked about the terms of the adoption and what we'd need to do to puppy-proof our house while little Miss Ankle-Biter was learning the ropes.  She also mentioned, just in case I'd forgotten, that she would be laid up in the rehab hospital for another 6 weeks or so, and that I would have sole puppy-wrangling responsibilities.  "Not a problem! It's summer, and I'm home all day long except when I'm here.  A couple more baby gates and some puppy training pads and we'll be fine."  (Oh, dear, what am I getting myself into?  That pup is so damned cute, though, and I just can't leave her at the shelter.  What if the rescue can't find her a home???)

What neither of us mentioned was the fact that my male dog, Pelly, was at home recovering from having a ruptured disc repaired three months prior.  Pelly was still not walking on his own, and required physical therapy to help him get his strength and balance back.  It wasn't difficult or even time-consuming, just some gentle massage and some balancing work with him for a few minutes three or four times a day.  He was self-sufficient otherwise.  He could slide himself all over the kitchen and family room on the hardwood floor, and was beginning to stand up by himself on the throw rugs where he could gain traction.  The two other dogs, Jasmine and Penelope, were his "nurses" and they took care of him and kept him company when I had to be out of the house.  Pelly is also my Velcro Dog.  Velcro is probably an understatement here, because even the Velcro people have not found something that can adhere like Pelly has to me.  Pelly is a rescue dog, one that was dumped out in the country and left completely alone and defenseless.  When he was picked up by the animal control officers, he had no collar, no identification, no microchip.  He was just sitting on the side of the road, waiting pitifully for his people to come back for him.  As a result, he has some severe abandonment and separation anxiety issues.  When I adopted him, I became his Mama, and the rest of the world can go to heck in a handbasket as far as he is concerned.  He does love his Grandma, but I am his Mama, and I am his be-all-and-end-all.  Six weeks at the hospital nearly killed him simply because he pined so much for me.  The vet and the physical therapist actually told me that it was better if I didn't visit him often because he got so agitated when I left.  Needless to say, both Mom and I were thinking about what this puppy would mean to Pelly and how he would react.  And, we would be very surprised.

Needless to say, I never made the phone call to the rescue group that evening...or the next morning, either.  The next day, a Tuesday, I arrived at the shelter about 15 minutes before the official adoption hours began, and so I planned to wait in the car with a book to read.  I had already been to Walmart that morning to purchase a few items necessary for a puppy's homecoming:  food bowls, pee pads, a couple of puppy toys, an additional baby gate, and a big dog pillow for a bed in the family room, and I'd made a list for a trip to PetsMart for other supplies once I had Miss Puppy in hand.  My reading was interrupted when the adoption coordinator came out and tapped on my window.  "You're back for the Basset puppy, right?  Come on in, we'll start that adoption paperwork..."  Jeez, even this lady knew that I was not sending that puppy to the rescue.  Am I THAT transparent? 

Twenty minutes later, papers were filled out, a microchip had been implanted, and I had little Miss Houndie in my arms.  We were waiting for an animal control officer to make an official transport of her to my vet for an examination and some shots.  While we waited I had my face "washed",  my glasses "examined", my nose nibbled, my shirt "snuffled", my earrings pulled, and a couple of rather large puppy paws run through my previously-combed hair.  And I was in heaven.  Puppy breath!!  Sweet puppy breath!! 

It would be a rather long afternoon waiting for Dr. Dan to call, so I passed the time doing brushing and ear-cleaning on the houndie kids at home, and even got in a good massage and balance session with Pelly.  When the phone rang, I tried to be nonchalant as I answered, but the vet on the other end broke my cool.  "She's so darned cute!  How did she end up at the shelter?"  My funny little girl had kept the staff at the vet hospital in stitches most of the afternoon, and the only reason they called me is because they were getting ready to close for the day and I needed to pick her up.  I told them I was on my way out the door and would be there in a few minutes.

When I arrived at the vet's office, Little Miss Puppy was playing with a couple of the vet techs in the waiting area.  She bounced and pounced and tumbled and rolled all over the tile floor and then gamboled back again.  When I came in, she bounded for the door as if to say, "Hey, Mom, where've you been?  I've been waiting for you!"  I picked her up (at just under 20 pounds, that was still possible then), and we went back to talk to Dr. Dan about his findings.  She was healthy, about three-and-a-half months old, and had had the first set of her puppy shots.  We talked about what she should eat and a few other "puppy-refresher course" topics, made plans for her spay surgery in about eight weeks, and we were on our way.  I put her in the back of my van on her new pillow, and then climbed into the driver's seat.

We weren't half way out of the driveway, and I thought I was in the middle of a really bad opera performance...there was a certain amount of howling and yowling and, for lack of a better term, yodeling, coming from the back seat.  Miss Puppy was not at all happy about being back there.  "Hang on, little girl, you won't have to be back there forever.  PetsMart is just down the road.  We've got to get you a house.  You'll get to ride in a cart and see all the neat toys.  Then we'll go see Grandma.  Okay?"   Things were getting louder and more dramatic by the minute.  This dog can emote, let me tell you.  "Ahroooooo!  RRRRooooo.... Owrrrroooooo!!!  Wooof.  Woof-woof-woof...ahroooo!"

Five minutes later, we arrived at PetsMart and I put her on an old towel in the bottom of the big blue basket.  By the time we were inside the door, she was up on her hind feet, front paws propped on the front end of the basket as if she were the bowsprit on a tall ship "navigating" our way through the store, her tail going ninety-to-nothing.  First stop, collars and leashes.  What color should we choose?  Well, let's see.  Penelope, who is caramel and cream-colored wears a purple collar. Jasmine, who is tri-colored, wears  a blue one. Pelly, also a tri-colored and who has a large white "bandanna" over his neck and shoulders, wears a red collar.  Miss Puppy, another tri-colored dog, has a few choices:  black, dark green, brown, camouflage, orange, or bright pink.  Hmmm.  Black or brown would be hard to see, dark green the same.  Camo?  Naaah.  Orange, well, no for any of a number of aesthetic reasons....  Bright, flourescent pink would be a good color for a little girl, so we'll go with that.  We found a matching leash and a cute little figure-8 type harness, too, so we would be appropriately outfitted for about two months.  Growing Puppy-Girl will need additional wardrobe items before too long.  On to the kennel crates...

Having already previously mis-bought a kennel crate for Pelly, I was not about to make the same mistake for this one, so we' consulted an "expert".  This little girl is going to be loooooooooong, so we want to find a crate that is long enough to accommodate her as an adult.  I do not want to do this again in a year or so, especially at $90 - $130 a pop.  Been there, done that.  I'd measured my other crates at home, so I had a good idea of what we needed, but shopping is always important when doing this.  We had several options, and of course, had to "try them out" by putting Miss Pup in and out of each one and discussing the relative merits of each manufacturer's features.  After some discussion and elimination, we found a nice heavy molded plastic crate with sturdy connectors, good ventilation, and a good steel-mesh door that can work in a couple of ways.  A fuzzy crate pad, a sack of puppy chow, a flat of cans of wet food, a couple more puppy toys, and we are out the door. 

Adoption fee, $80; Puppy supplies, $250; years of unconditional love, companionship, and entertainment, priceless.  Hey, MasterCard!

From PetsMart, we headed down the highway to visit my Mom.  Miss Puppy rode, rather vociferously, in her new crate on her new crate pad amongst her new toys and wearing her new collar, harness, and leash attached to said harness.  The trip took about 20 minutes, including a brief stop at a Jack-in-the-Box drive through for some iced tea, heavy on the ice.  My budding opera star sang arias--all off key--the entire trip.

We arrived at the rehab hospital, and I let Little Girl out of her crate and took her to an open field for a quick restroom break.  She'd been really good all this time, but I knew that baby puppies have tiny bladders, so it was time.  She'd eaten a little bit at the vet's office, so that was also a factor.  Good puppy that she was, she took care of business like a little trouper, and off we went to meet Grandma in the living room.

I opted to carry Miss Wiggle-Butt into the building rather than have her balk at the sight of wheelchairs, walkers, and a lot of medical equipment, not to mention a whole host of strange people and a myriad of different smells.  She knew security from me having already been held and petted and loved on earlier in the day, so she was quite content to snuggle up to me when I picked her up.  We made our presence known at the desk, and received the requisite oohs and aaahs over Her Puppiness from the staff and a few residents, and then found our way to the living room where Mom waited.  Mom was in her wheelchair with her knee wrapped and supported, but she was ready to meet her new Grandpuppy, so I put my little charge down on the floor and let her have the length of the leash to explore her new surroundings. Boinga-boinga-boinga, and there she stood on her back legs, front paws on Mom's lap, eagerly stretching her long little body to try to give Grandma a big, sloppy pink-tongued puppy kiss.  She gave an imperative little woof, and Mom petted her and talked to her, stroking her long silky ears.   Puppy's tail wagged furiously, and the white tip was a blur.  They became acquainted, and Mom was soon smitten with my...our...new little family member. "Well, you were right, she is cute.  What's her name?"  That was to be my chore for the evening.  "I don't know yet.  I need to find the 'What to name the baby' book and look up a couple of things.  Right now, she's Puppy, or Miss Puppy....  Any ideas?"  We tossed around a few ideas, but nothing seemed to fit.  When it was time to end our visit and take my baby home, she was still "Puppy", and a very tired little girl.

We said good night to Mom, and I carried one tired Puppy Girl to the car and put her into her crate.  She didn't object at all, and snuggled down into the pillow and snoozed all the way home.  When I got home, I opened up the big sliding door on the van and left her in the car for a few minutes while I set up a few things in the house.  She woke sometime in that brief interlude and made sure that I knew--and every one of our neighbors knew--she was awake. "Bark, bark, wooof....bark, bark, woooof...woooof!  Hey, Lady, I'm out here all by myself!!"  I'd been gone less than three minutes and already she was running my life. 

I'd put the Big Girls, Jasmine and Penelope, into their hallway behind a baby gate.  They could see the puppy, smell her, and get acquainted with her but not be in the same room with her right away.  I knew that Jasmine would probably be okay with a puppy because she's our little Nurse Nancy-hound, a little mother hen.  Penelope was a bit of a question, because I don't know if she'd been around very young puppies, and I wasn't completely sure of her reaction.  As she's gotten older and more arthritic, she is less tolerant of playing, so the baby gate was a way to protect her as well as the puppy.  Pelly was ensconced in the kitchen area on his big pillow.  He would be the first of the Big Kids the puppy would meet up close and personal because he had the run of the family room and kitchen area due to his disability.  He would either shut down completely or he would take to that puppy, there would be no middle ground.  If he shut down, I would call the rescue.  I could not take a chance with him because he was still so fragile after his surgery and physical ordeal.

"Okay, Little One, let's go meet your new family."  I opened the crate door and managed to body-block the Baby Basset-bullet that came flying out of the crate.  After a minute or two of "scolding" from her, I picked Puppy up and carried her into the house. I put her down on the floor just inside the door, and let her have the length of her leash to explore her new surroundings.  She snuffled the gate where the girls were, but made a bee-line towards Pelly on his pillow.  He sat up and looked at her, woofed a couple of times, and then allowed her to explore him.  She sniffed and nibbled and patted him with her paws for a couple of minutes, then plopped down on the pillow next to him.  He sniffed her from one end to the other and then shifted his body so that he could see her.   All was quiet, and the two snoozed peacefully for a good half-hour while I made doggy dinners and put things away.  So far, so good.

By the time everybody had had their dinner, Addie was a part of the family.  Jasmine had "examined" her from top to bottom, front to back, and side to side, and then gave her a bath.  Penelope was content to observe from a distance, but did sniff-and-inspect just a bit.  Pelly scooted around after his little charge as if he were a father chasing a toddler beginning to walk.  When it was bedtime, Pelly and Penelope went to their respective pillows, and Miss Baby Hound was set up in a bathroom with a baby gate across the doorway.  Jasmine parked herself in front of that gate on a pillow she'd dragged out of another crate, and set herself up as the Night Nanny.  This was to be the plan for the next several months until Puppy Girl was old enough to sleep with the Big Kids.

What to name this little ball of energy?  After everyone was in bed that first night. I pulled out the well-worn "antique" book of baby names and started looking for something that would fit.  I'd made a bit of a list as possible names came to me, but nothing really struck me.  It was getting late, and I was ready to stop for the evening.  As I flipped through the various channels on our cable tv, I came across the movie version of "Guys and Dolls", that wonderful old musical comedy with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando.  And there was inspiration:  one of the female characters, the comic element, is named Adelaide.  "Adelaide, Adelaide, ever-lovin' Adelaide...."  And that was it!   Miss Puppy became Adelaide.  Not only is this dog a comic, she sings funny, too.  Adelaide it is!

As with any name, the variations on it were to come.  Adelaide soon became "Addie","Miss Addie", "Addie-baby", "Addie-gator" or even "Addle-gator" (those still stick!), and then, "Addie-Lou".  Finally, to recognize her kangaroo-jumping abilities, Adelaide became first and foremost "Addie-Lou Roo, the Baby Kangaroo Basset".

Addie is definitely a Basset Hound (well, externally, that is...) with all of the appropriate Basset attributes and personality quirks. She has perfected the "look" that only a Basset can give as well as the attitude to go along with it.  She will cock her head just so and look down her nose at us as if she were a strict teacher admonishing a misbehaving child.  At other times, we would swear she is smirking at us just barely holding in a big giggle.  She is definitely a clown.  Sometimes her lips will catch on her teeth, and she'll give us a perfect sneer...usually just as we're getting ready to scold her for something.  It's very hard to correct her when she's being so funny.

Now, if you've ever seen or even met a Basset Hound, you are almost immediately struck by the fact that these are long, low-slung dogs with short legs.  They are dwarves by definition, and have very dense and heavy bones.  They have short legs, but are considered large-breed dogs.  Bassets generally average in weight at around 60 pounds, although there are some that are on the lighter end of the scale and some that weigh in at close to 100 pounds. They are not particularly graceful, nor are they generally considered to be functionally aerodynamic.  They are certainly not designed to jump up in the air.  But Addie did the first time I met her, and she is still a jumper to this day.

Addie has what I call "Baby Ballarina Toes" going on with her front legs:  she can stand in a perfect first-position ballet turnout with her ankles demurely placed just so--touching lightly, feet turned out almost 180 degrees. (I joke with Mom that she's ready to make her Debut, we just need to get her a tiara.)  While this is not an unusual physical attribute in a Basset, she is the only one of my four dogs that has this particular physical anomaly.  While she may have some arthritis in her elder years, her crooked front legs and feet have not slowed her down yet.  She tears around the house doing the Basset 500 with the rest of the crew and doesn't miss a step.

But on the inside, well, that is where strange and unusual things have occurred.  You see, Addie is really a baby kangaroo inside that mild-mannered-looking Basset suit.  She likes to jump, well, actually, leap, onto table edges, counter ledges, the edge of the stove, the middle shelf of the refrigerator (don't tell my Mom about that one!), and anywhere else her long body will take her.  She's not a climber, just a leaper, thank heaven, or we'd be pulling her off the bookshelves and cabinets.  She stretches her body so that she can look at whatever is on the surface she's landed those big front paws on, and she often goes "shopping" for an interesting item to steal and carry off to her favorite hiding place. There's a distinctive sound that Addie makes when she jumps up on anything, so "Addie, OFF!" is a constant command.  Most of the time she's pretty good and is just looking, but in her time with us, she has managed to steal wooden and plastic serving spoons from the dishwasher, plastic handled knives, a couple of pairs of scissors, some peanut butter cookies, and a collection of Mom's pens as well as countless paper towels, napkins, and other paper items,including Mom's pocket address book.  The cookies disappeared to a crumb, most of the paper goods have been shredded beyond recognition, and Mom's pens have not survived their Addie Encounter.  The address book was dismantled but not eaten, probably because Addie discovered that she was not listed in it and was offended.  Oddly enough, Addie doesn't generally steal my things, just Mom's.  Once in a while she'll snag something from my desk or place at the kitchen table, but most of her "scores" have been things that Mom has handled.  I'm waiting for the day Mom leaves her partial where Addie can get a hold of it.  I'm not sure how we'll explain that to the dentist--or the insurance company. 

As I mentioned before, Mom and I were concerned about Pelly's reaction to the puppy.  While our concerns were well-founded, we really had nothing to worry about.  Pelly took to the puppy almost immediately, and they became fast friends.  And, as an added bonus, he began to get stronger and his balance and muscle tone improved.  I was still doing daily sessions with him, but the playing and wrestling that he and the puppy were doing had really toned him up.  She was gentle with him, but forced him to get up and moving.  When Mom came home from the hospital in mid-August, he was standing up more and more on his own, and even walking short distances.  By the time Halloween rolled around, Mr. Pelly was walking the length of our kitchen/dining area and family room.  He wasn't up to running yet, but he'd gotten enough motivation and, in some ways, "therapy" from the puppy and all of her activity, to get himself up and walking again.  By Christmas, he was participating in the daily Basset 500 around the family room at a slow trot.  Two years after his accident (4/12/08), he is romping like normal and even racing with the three girls.  Addie was probably the best thing we could have done for him in many ways.  She certainly helped him get back on his feet.

My fellow Daily Drool subscribers often write about the anticipation of the arrival of "big boy" or "big girl" brains, signifying the end of puppyhood and the beginning of adult dog-hood.  Puppies, after all, are somewhat challenging, exasperating, exhausting, and generally a lot of work.  But they are also such fun.  There is nothing better than watching a puppy explore his or her new world.  And EVERYTHING is new!  While some wait in great anticipation for the adulthood of their pups, I am dreading it, just as a parent wants to hold onto those precious baby and child years.  Addie is my "baby", after all.  As for Addie, well, the "Big Brown Truck" has yet to stop at our door and deliver anything remotely resembling Addie's Big Girl Brain.  I'm not sure, but I think Addie must have secretly written whoever is in charge of such things and told them not to send it, at least for the time being.  But Mom and I have noticed a certain change in our "little" (70-pound!) girl of late.  Whether or not the "Big Brown Truck" has been here, we believe that Addie is becoming a Big Girl.  Her unlimited joy is still there, her quirky silliness is still present, her ability to leap into the air and bounce like the kangaroo-child she is is still a part of her, but they've taken on a different tenor.  She's becoming an adolescent...a teenager.  She's growing up.

And I am NOT ready for that!





Thursday, March 25, 2010

Socially Networked

 I used to be a lousy letter-writer, but somehow with the advent of the personal computer and email in the late 20th. century and my own acquisition of this new-fangled technology, I have become somewhat better at staying in touch with friends and family members.  That's not to say that I have kept up with every person I knew in high school, college, and grad school, but there are a few.  And I'm a lot better with keeping up with the friends of my "adult years", although there is always a lot of room for improvement.  But I make the attempt, and do try to send quick notes now and again as well as electronic birthday and "thinking about you" notes.  

(Yeah, I can say "my adult years"...with a straight face, even.  I hit the big 5-0 last June.  I am a "whole-half-a-century" old, old being the operative word here.   Wow...I never believed I'd be this old.  I remember as a little kid trying to figure out how old I would be when it became the year 2000, and I thought then, "I'll never live to bet THAT old...that's older than Mom and Dad!"   Uh-huh.  Mom is 74, Dad was 72 when he died four years ago, and he'd started subtracting years instead of adding them on his birthday.  He used to say, "I'm 'plenty-nine'" when asked his age.  Now that I'm fifty, I am a card-carrying member of AARP, although I must admit I have not yet asked for my first discount.  That will come, but later on down the road.  I'm still climbing that hill, boys and girls.  I've still got to get used to the idea of a new age bracket on demographic information forms.   But I ain't dead...yet.)

Ah, but I digress....  (Hey--that's a privilege of those of us in our  advancing years!)

Not being a social butterfly by nature, the whole idea of a "social network" is something that has taken me some time to wrap my mind around.  I knew what it was and how it worked, but the idea of posting one's personal information on the world wide web for everyone to see was a bit daunting.  Fortunately, for those of us who do not live for the spotlight or crave public notice, there are ways to limit the information that is available to the casual web surfer.  It's a matter of deciding what you want to say about yourself, how much you want to reveal, and what risks you're willing to take.  It's also a matter of whether or not you want to be found by people who might be looking for you.  After all, there are probably some people out there you'd rather not find you, right?  I can think of three or four...or even a dozen.

My first foray into the "social networking" scene came last spring and summer when I joined a couple of smaller social networks geared towards beading enthusiasts since I have taken on the hobby in my advancing years.  I wanted to find out what other beaders are doing, learn some things, find suppliers, and interact with people who share the same interest.  That seemed reasonable, and fairly "safe" for someone who's just not that "social" a butterfly.  So...   Those sites have been a lot of fun.  I've met some pretty neat people from as far away as South Africa, England, and Australia and as near as just down the interstate a few miles--all from the comfort of my family room at the keyboard of my very own little MacBook.  We have discussed quite a number of things, even beading, on occasion.  We've laughed at some of the funny things that happen to us, and cried together over the tragedies that have come into our lives.  We've supported each other in times of crisis or need, and patted each other on the back for our successes.  And yet, we have not met each other face to face and probably never will.  But we still connect, talk about our work, share what we're doing, and flutter on to other sites and interests.  And, I am finding, that we are connecting on Facebook now, too.  Small world, and getting smaller.

I'd avoided Facebook while I was still teaching because I had too many students who used the site, and was really trying to avoid any professional "questionability" with the possibility of connecting with/"friending" any of my students outside of school.  It just didn't seem like a good idea--or professionally appropriate, and given that I was teaching high school and middle school students in disciplinary alternative school settings, that simply increased my caution and disinterest in the site.  I have always been very careful to keep my personal/private life just that outside of my work.  So I avoided it.  Two years after I left teaching, though, I thought, "Oh heck, I'll try MySpace and see what all of this 'social networking' business is all about on a much larger scale."  And I did connect with a few friends there.  But after a couple of months, I lost interest in the thing, the novelty had worn off, and I really forgot all about it.  There just wasn't much that interested me about it to keep me coming back.  I actually left my page untended for about four months before I finally deleted it.  The friends I found on MySpace were migrating to Facebook anyway, so it seemed like a logical change to make.

I joined Facebook a month or so ago.  Why?  Weeellllll, I don't really know.  It was a way to connect with people I hadn't seen in years...uh, make that eons.  Actually, truth be told, I think the real impetus was attending a concert presented by my college's choir while they were on their "Southern States" tour.  The event was also a mini-alumni gathering for area Doane College graduates, and being with people who'd walked the same paths and had the same "Doane Experience" that I'd had got me thinking about friends I'd lost touch with over the years.  It was time--nearly 30 years after I graduated--to reconnect. 

Local friends and several of the organizations I belong to are using Facebook not only as a way to keep up with each other, but also to "get the word out" when necessary.   It didn't take me too long to get signed up on Facebook, fill in my profile page, and find my way around.  Of course in the past weeks I've tweaked things on my profile a bit here and there, added photos, joined in a couple of games, made my "nest", and have become, at least at some level, a "resident" there.  And, I've managed to reconnect with some people that I might otherwise never have found again, and through them, others and even made some new friends.  I've had some fun exchanges with my cousin whom I haven't seen in almost 15 years...a searingly bright and amazingly funny young man (well, he just turned 40...) that I never really got to know when we were younger because we simply lived too far apart.  When I look at his picture, I see both his dad and my own.   I'm looking forward to getting to know him better.  Connecting and  reconnecting:  that has been the best part of this social networking experience.

With the college and grad school friends (and even a few high school friends!), it amazes me the number of memories that have resurfaced lately.  Some of them have given me pause, others have made me laugh.  All are sweet memories, though....  Half a lifetime ago, when we were all young and wet-behind-the-ears, we were walking the same road as we headed toward our futures.  When the road split into the different paths we would ultimately travel, some of us stayed connected, some of us did not.  Now, as I  wander through friends' pages on Facebook, I leave little notes occasionally, look at the posted pictures, and feel a little more of a connection with my past, present, and, in some ways, my future.  Ah, but the time that we've missed being connected....water under the bridge. 
 
Not long after I'd joined Facebook I received a friend request from an old theatre classmate/buddy from my college days.  I remember him as an  amazingly creative and multi-talented guy--an actor, a musician, a poet, someone who could always see the good in other people no matter how badly they treated him.  A pure and kind soul.   He'd found me through a mutual friend and was simply saying hello, how are you, etc. in the request message.  The thing that struck me about his message, though, was the way he apologized for what he's been doing for the last 30 years, saying he'd been "in hiding" because he was afraid to contact people he knew because of the success they'd made of their lives compared to what he'd done.  He's the father of seven, married to the same sweet woman for 26 years, and working as a truck driver delivering food.  How much more successful can he be?  He's got what a lot of people--our contemporaries, even--don't have:  a stable marriage and successful family, an honorable job that people depend on, and the talents and abilities to communicate with people in so many ways.   I am awed.

It strikes me that it's easy, in a way, to connect with someone you haven't seen or talked to in a long time through an email or a post on a "wall" because it doesn't need to be a huge "reunion", but just a casual "Hi, friend, how are you?" kind of thing.  It's not face-to-face, it's not all that personal...just words on a screen.  Safe, in a detached sort of way...very 21st. century.  If you get a response, of course that's great.  If not, well, hey, you can try again or let it pass.  No biggie, right?  Well, maybe.  You and I know that there is at least ONE person out there that you really do want to connect with...but you'll curb your stalking instinct and wait patiently for a reply.  You might cruise by their page now and again, but you won't go so far as to keep sending that friend request because you don't want to seem too eager.  All the while, you're waiting and wondering, though...

I think you have to give people time and space to consider making that connection.  Your remembering them does not mean they remember you--or want to.   Some of those memories can be painful reminders of time past.  Others remind us of what might have been.  Still others bring a sense of happiness, even comfort, as we recall the friendship.  We all want to be thought of as successful beyond belief and wildly popular, when in fact the reality may be quite differennt or even completely opposite.  Posting one's profile and putting information out there for others to see makes us vulnerable to all kinds of things--not just those who read those profiles with a darker intent. 

Socially Networked?  Yeah, I am.  Isn't that the way of the 21st. century?  You almost have to be.  You can't avoid it, you're networked with others whether you know or like it or not.  Somehow, some way, somebody has you linked to someone else, and it just goes on and on.  I know only two or three people who don't have a cel phone, no one who does not have a computer or use the internet or email.    If you're not connected--tethered, if you will--to some kind of electronic device nowadays, you're just "out of it, man".  Facebook, MySpace, and all the others are just a matter of networking the networks you already have in your life.  It's human nature to want to make contact.  Just wait until it happens between humans and other species.......  Now that's a social network!

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Just order it online....."

Sounds simple, right?  Sure...pick your color, pick your size, select your options, choose how many, punch a button, and voila!  Couldn't be easier, right?

----     -----     -----
I must preface this tale.  A year ago, my beloved little PC laptop gave it's last error message and quietly died.  Dead.  Not to be resuscitated, despite the laying-on-of=hands by my favorite local Techno-Wizard, Donnie.  He tried, he truly did, but the little machine was just not able to summon enough "whatever" to bring itself back from the dark beyond.  It's little processors had finally toasted themselves into oblivion and there was nothing to do but mourn.  After four and a half years of hard labor, much abuse, and previous resurrections from the Blue Screen of Death, it was time to say good-bye.  

And so, a year ago I shifted my computer-thinking towards my MacBook Pro, and simply continued my electronic life in that mode.  This was not a huge transition, having been a teacher I've been using Macs for a number of years, so I am reasonably comfortable in moving from one environment to the other.  I've had Microsoft Office software on my Macs for a number of years, so other than remembering a few little Mac idiosyncracies, things have gone well this past year, and I have truly enjoyed using the MacBook.  

Things have gone along swimmingly well until about two weeks ago.

I was attending a Texas Association for Alternative Education conference in Austin, and had taken my computer with me to keep up with emails, etc. while I was away from home.  Working off of my 100%-full battery, I logged into the wi-fi at the hotel, and settled down for a quiet evening's session of answering emails and taking care of some personal business.  Bring on the email...I know there's a lot of it because I haven't looked at it all day, and it's nearly 10 pm.

And then it happened:  nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Nada.  No life, no cute little Mac face, no whirly color wheel, nuttin.  OH, SH-------!!  Now I am really toast.  Scramble for the power cord and plug 'er in.  Nope, nothing doin' there.  We are dead in the water.  "Houston, we have a problem."  This is a disaster.  Last seen, my inbox said something about 85 unread messages for today--and the spam folder was full to overflowing.  There's a lot of other stuff on this computer that I need to be able to get at, too, some of it pertaining to the conference I am presently attending--and not all of it is easily replaceable or "re-generate-able".  

AARGHH!   Now I'm down two computers, and my little Netbook is at home.   

[My Netbook is cute, but little, emphasis on LITTLE.  Sort of like a purse-sized dog...cute, perky, fun, but very, very little.  And until I get my new bifocals, it's almost impossible for me to read the on-screen text.  Sure, I can magnify everything, but to get it large enough for me to read it, it would take me so long to scroll across and down each page I'd be a thousand years old before I finished reading those first 85 emails.  Since I'm already 50 and some months, my time left to accomplish this task is somewhat shortened.  And, of course, none of the documents that are on the Mac are on the Netbook anyway.  I knew I should have made those back up cd's last month and transferred everything to the external hard drive...  Hindsight truly is 20-20.]

No computing for me this weekend.   Okay, I can deal...it's only two days, and I'll be so exhausted by tomorrow night it won't matter.  I'll just spend all of Sunday on Mom's computer and I can tame the email beast while I figure out what to do next with the sick (hopefully!) MacBook.  I'll call Donnie as soon as I get home.  He'll know what to do about this...I hope!


 
"Dead Laptop"--not mine, however.

----     -----     -----

I recently had the "fun" adventure  of choosing a new laptop computer for myself through a "Major Brand Computer Company's Online Outlet" store.  I found exactly what I was looking for after perusing several pages of similarly equipped machines, all brand new but returned/refused for some reason.  I even picked a color for the outside case of the machine, something I never would have done on a previous order as I cannot see any reason for paying for a colored skin for a computer that spends most of its time open on my desktop.  Black or gray is just fine for me, I don't care about the "aesthetics" as long as the blessed thing WORKS.  But, I digress...


My foray into online computer-ordering began not with the picking and choosing, but with the race for the shopping cart and finalization of my order.   "Major Brand Computer Company" has a 15-minute limit on the time the outlet store item can be in your basket before it is returned to inventory.  If you dilly-dally too long deciding on whether or not you want to add ten-gazillion options to an already-loaded-down machine, you might not get your dream machine after all and will have to start the process over again--with a different machine to configure.  I did not dilly, and I certainly did not dally.  Or at least I don't think I did.  I chose only one additional piece of software, a slightly longer service warranty,  and a natty neoprene sleeve for the thing to live/travel in, and I was on my way towards the checkout lane.  I left or took more stuff OFF of the machine than I put on.  I made quick-and-dirty decisions based on what I wanted and what I knew I needed.  It wasn't that hard, nor was it that complicated.  "So easy, a caveman (woman) can do it."  I think I'm a reasonably savvy cavewoman, and I managed to do it.


Yeah, right.  

I pushed the magic button that put my "dream machine" into my shopping cart, checked the appropriate billing information for my already-available account, and hit the CONFIRM button.  I waited.  The hourglass-thing spun round and round while I waited. And waited.  And waited some more.  And continued to wait.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.... BZZZZZZZZZTTTT.  Time's up, you lose.  Sorry, Chuck, ya didn't get it in fast enough and your dream machine has just evaporated into the cosmos.  Try again, Loser.






GRRRRRR.  I did not screw up, the website did.  It timed me out while it was whirring and chunking away.  My beautiful computer that I had so carefully and lovingly configured and ordered within that fifteen-minute time limit was GONE.  Not to be had.  It would go and live with some other person somewhere else in the wide wicked world.  I felt as it I'd lost a good friend I hardly knew.


Fall back and regroup.  We did it before, right?  We can do it again, right?  Yeah, Go Team!


Not to be daunted or intimidated, I started over.  If I did it before, I could do it again:  bigger, better, badder, brighter...and FASTER.  Be damned, you smug time clock, I'll beat you this time and in waaaay under your arbitrary 15-minute limit!  HA!  So there!  Take that!!  NYAH!  I am pumped now.  Don't mess with me!


I actually found a machine I liked better.  It had better features, more goodies that I wanted and fewer that I didn't, and came in a color I liked better.  Okay, we're cookin' with gas now.  Zing, zip, zap, zoom, and we are through the "process" of adding and subtracting, accounting, basket-izing, and finally confirming.  TA-DA!!!  You win!  The bright shiny new "ice blue" 17" laptop is yours for the low, low price of $XX.XX per month for the next 986 years.  You'll be receiving a confirmation email shortly...


Okaaaaaaaaaay!  I am feeling mighty proud of myself.  I did it all by myself and I got exactly what I wanted and I didn't have to ask anybody for help.  I am woman, hear me roar! Who needs a Techno-wizard when I can do this myself?


Sliding on over a couple of tabs to my email to check for the promised order confirmation, I am greeted by a rather large surprise.  Yes, there is an order acknowledgment email and a order confirmation email.  Actually, there are TWO of each, and each has different time stamps, approximately 15 minutes apart.  And, as I am absorbing this little bit of information, a fifth email from "Major Computer Company's" Finance Department pops up.   Oh, shiiiii-ooooooot.  Now what?


Opening the finance email confirms my "oh, shiiiii-ooooooot."  It seems that I wasn't really timed out on that first order after all--even though I got the "Sorry, Charlie" message.  So, now I have not one, but TWO shiny new 17"-screen laptops winging their way towards me.  I'll just have to use an "alternate financing option" for the second one since my credit limit will be exceeded with the additional order.  REALLY?  Gee, I wonder how that could have happened?


It is 12:34 am CST.  Customer service at "Major Computer Company" is closed wherever they are over there in Computer Company Customer Service Land Far, Far Away.  "Please call back during our regular business hours, 9 am - 5 pm."  You bet your sweet bippy I'll be calling back during your regular business hours.  I'll be sitting on the phone waiting for 8:59:59 to punch in that last digit and hit send on the phone.  This is NOT something for a quickie email to their online help desk..."Uh, Dear Customer Servide:  I made a little  oopsie and accidentally ordered two computers and I really, really only wanted one.  Please don't send the second one."


As promised, I was on the phone the next morning promptly at the stroke of nine am.  A cheerful computer voice greeted me and took me through my number-pad punching paces until I was finally rewarded with a real, live human being.  Yeppers, a live one!  Score one for me.  Of course, I could not understand him because he spoke with a very thick East Indian accent and at about a thousand-miles-a-minute.  I did manage to puzzle out enough of what he said to give him my customer ID and order numbers before I was transferred to another customer service rep.  This lady was very efficient and considerably more understandable.  I told her my tale of woe.  "Not a problem," she cheerfully chirped.  "Let me get the order numbers and we can take care of this in a couple of minutes."  GREAT!  I'm off the hook...one computer will simply go back on the shelf at the warehouse, and I won't be buying two computers until the end of time on the easy monthly payment plan.

 
"Hello...How may I help (torture) you?"


Ten minutes and two more customer service reps later--there's a lot of oversight at the "Major Computer Company" when it comes to cancelling an order--success!  I had managed to cancel the first computer I ordered, or didn't order depending on your perspective, and confirmed the order for the second one, the one I REALLY wanted.  And I would see my shiny new computer in three days.


It was a long three days of waiting in anticipation, but as scheduled, the nice man from FedEx stopped at my doorstep long enough to have me sign for the box from Major Computer Company before he skipped back up the driveway and into his truck to zoom away.  (Usually our local FedEx guy is half-way down the street before we can even get the front door open even if we're standing right behind it.)  Since I was in the middle of feeding my herd of houndies, the box was relegated to the chair in the den for a few minutes until I could open it.
 
Upon opening the box, I discovered that the computer in the box was not the one I'd ordered, but The Other One.  

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!  

While this one was a lovely shade of candy-apple red and was bright and shiny and brand-spankin' new, it wasn't the one I'd finally chosen...the pretty icey-blue one.  I felt like I'd gotten one of those little paper comic books instead of the neat shiny plastic spinning top from the box of Cracker Jack's.  Rats. Rats, rats, rats.  And rats again.


Two things immediately run through my mind as I stand there looking at the red computer:  one, they simply sent the wrong machine, and two, horror of horrors, they've sent BOTH machines and I'm going to have to deal with sending one back.  That would not have been a problem but we were going out of town for the weekend, and house-sitter would not be in the house until late the following afternoon.  The nice FedEx man would not be able to deliver the other computer without a signature, and would have to leave his little "Sorry I Missed You" Delivery Notice on the door.  This would mean playing tag with him until Monday or Tuesday.  UGH!  This is NOT GOOD.  Find the phone number for the Major Computer Company Customer Service center--again--and find out what to do next.  I do not need this, now or even next week.  I look at the computer in the box...so close, yet so far...  It was too bad to be true.


Another half an hour on the phone to "Major Computer Company's" customer service desk and I have wormed my way through another version of "Confuse the Customer", and I have some answers, but not the ones I want.  It seems that for all of their extreme efficiency and oversight, "Major Computer Company's" checks and balances as far as cancelling an order have failed.   The computer I wanted--and so very carefully confirmed--has disappeared into the black hole that is inventory in flux, and the machine I cancelled has arrived on my doorstep.  They confirmed the wrong one, plain and simple.  How, I do not know, but they did.  Three customer service reps checked, rechecked, confirmed and re-confirmed with me which machine I wanted to cancel and which I wanted to keep, and they still got it wrong.  Adding insult to injury,  the other machine is "irretrievable for the present time" (whatever that means--one assumes they have a very sophisticated inventory control system), according to them.  In other words, "Take what ya got and be happy with it, kid.  We're too big and too busy to go looking for the one you want.  Besides, we don't make mistakes."


At this point, I have two options: keep this one, or send it back and start over.  Hmmmm...a bird in the hand...albeit a RED bird, but a bird all the same....  I can get used to Cardinal red.  It is kinda pretty... At least the bird in hand is close to what I wanted and actually maybe it does have a few more of the bells and whistles than I had really wanted, but it's here, it works, and I am really tired of talking to Timbuktu or Neptune....  Okay, I guess I'll keep it.
 
"Just order it online!"  Couldn't be easier, right?  Uh-huh, sure.  That, and five bucks might get you a plain cup of crappy coffee in a flimsy recycled biodegradable paper cup somewhere, but that's about it. 



-----     -----     -----
Some good news... The MacBook is back amongst the living, so life continues on its merry way and I have taken the time to back up everything.  It seems we were having some "communication issues" betwixt power source/battery and whatever else lives inside the silver case.  I don't ask, they don't tell, and everything is right with the world.  I can continue to be semi-computer-bilingual....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Draw the Dog cartoon site...

If you have not experienced this website, you absolutely must.  Even if you are not a dog owner, the cartoons here are amazing in soooo many ways.  The site is set up so that you can watch the cartoon draw itself, all of which takes only about 30 seconds from start to finish.

Take a minute to check out Draw the Dog:  http://drawthedog.com/   You won't want to miss one of these fun cartoons, so take the extra minute to subscribe to the daily cartoon.  Then, tell your friends!

Enjoy!!!

The cartoon below is one that Bruce Kasanoff, the artist, provides for rescue groups as a way to promote dog rescue.  It's a sample of his wonderful, sensitive, perceptive work, but also reminds all of us that there are soooo many animals--dogs and cats--in shelters who need loving homes.  I'm posting it here for a couple of reasons:  it's a great example of his work, it has a definite message, and hopefully, someone will get that message and make a trip to a rescue or shelter to find a furry friend to love.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The "Robert Cat"

Early last Sunday morning, my Mom and I were up and out early, on our way to a district VFW meeting.  The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the temperature was reasonable for central Texas in January, so off we went, blissfully unaware of the carnage in the middle of our street just a few feet from our driveway entrance.

There is a small herd of deer that roams our semi-rural neighborhood, and while we don't feed them or interact with them a lot, they are as much a part of the neighborhood as the permanent human residents and everyone is aware of them.  The deer romp and play in our yards, drink from our sprinklers, and nibble at some of the tastier plants and grass in our landscaping.  They do what deer do.  They make their homes in the thickets of trees and bushes, sometimes beneath a sheltered deck or porch, and they go on about their "Deer Business" just as we humans go on about ours.  We watch out for the pregnant mamas and check their progress, we cheer on the proud little bucks as they strut their growing racks of antlers, and we carefully count the tiny spotted fawns as they venture into their new world.  (We were lucky this year, we had a bumper crop of babies despite the terrible Texas drought.)  The deer are our neighbors, and we all respect them and try to protect them as much as possible. 

We hadn't been out of our driveway more than about 30 feet when we came to a screeching halt.  In the middle of the road lay one of our "Deer Ladies", obviously deceased and pretty much worse for wear.  Fortunately, the resident turkey buzzards had not gotten to her yet, but it was still a rather horrific sight for early Sunday morning. We live near the circle-end of our cul-de-sac street,  so while it seems impossible for a car to have hit a deer in that space, it can and has happened.  (We lost a dog right in front of our house to a careless driver several years ago.)  It looked as though the deer had been hit by a car and left to die in the middle of the street.   Blood, dear fur, and other fluids surrounding the deer's body left a large mark in the street.  Neighbors were already out inspecting the carcass and a phone call to our local Animal Control had been placed, so there wasn't much else to do.  One gentleman provided a heavy tarp to place over the deer's body to help keep the buzzards and other "critters" away from it until the Animal Control techs could come out and take her away.  We acknowledged our neigbors and commented on the sadness of the occasion, but there just wasn't anything to be done for the deer,  so Mom and I went off to our meeting.  It was a sad and disturbing start to the day. 

Late that afternoon, as we drove back into our street, we met our Homeowners Association president and her husband as they were walking their dogs.  We stopped and asked about the deer incident, and were told about Animal Control's "diagnosis" of the situation.  It seems the deer had been the victim of a hungry bobcat.  A bobcat.  Hmmm.  The local university in our town claims the Bobcat as its mascot, I guess for its fierceness or something.  Bobcats are relatively small wild cats, about twice the size of a large domestic house cat.  They're kind of cute in a way with their little spots and cute furry-tufted ears, but I don't think I want to meet one on our very dark street when I'm hauling the trash barrel up the hill.  And I'd rather it not meet up with my dogs,  although I think the barking and "barroooo-ing" of four Bassets would scare the poor thing half to death.  Something had scared the cat away before it had had a chance to enjoy its kill, so not only do we have a bobcat in the neighborhood, but now he's mad and hungry to boot.  Not a happy camper, this cat.  

Lock up your kids and small pets, folks!  These little kitties like to prowl in the dusk-to-dawn hours when it's quiet.  And small animals--especially small pet dogs and house cats--are particularly interesting as food sources.  It's probably not a good idea to let your kids out to play unsupervised, either, although I think the noise of playing children alone would keep the cats at bay.  But a hungry cat is an unpredictable one.

Poor Mr. Robert Cat.  (We don't know him well enough to call him Bob...we've not been formally introduced.)  He's got a problem.  Our neighborhood is on the edge of a green belt and catchment dam area that serves as a rookery for the turkey buzzards, hawks, and other large birds of prey native to our area not to mention some very aggressive wild turkeys, as well as the home for the deer, possums, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, and other small furry woodland creatures.  Additionally, his territory is being encroached upon by a road-building project that won't see completion for another 5 or 6 years, and the city population is moving in the direction of the new road. 

So what's a cat to do?  He's got to eat, he's got to do his "wild cat thing", but where's he supposed to go?  He didn't choose to have his habitat encroached upon.  That just happened, and he hasn't got another place to go.  While I mourn the loss of one of our "Deer Ladies", I also feel sorry for poor Mr. Robert Cat who is just being his wild cat self. 

With luck, the intrepid folks at Animal Control will be able to capture him and relocate him to a more suitable environment for his evening prowls, but what of his brethren?  I am actually more worried that some gun-toting nut will go out and shoot the innocent cats because one of their number had the audacity to take an evening stroll down a residential street.  I'm worried that someday, the only place to encounter a "Robert Cat" will be in a zoo.  How sad...for the cats and for us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Old Watering Hole....

"Thwack...clatter...snort....grrrrrrrrrrrrrr."  Strange sounds emit from our kitchen....

Mom, working away at her computer, asks, "What was that?  Is Addie into something again?  Addie, off!!"

[Poor Addie...it's tough being the "kid" in the family,  Even when she's being good, she gets into trouble.  But this time, she is as innocent as a lamb.]

"No, Addie is out here helping me read my magazine. It sounds like Jazzy got the dish drainer caught on  her head again.  I guess she's telling us the waterer in the kitchen is empty.  I'll go check."

Sure enough, little Miss Jasmine is standing in the middle of the kitchen glaring at the offending plastic dish drainer she's dislodged from it's storage spot atop the dog waterer that resides in the open space under our kitchen sink.  The glare shifts its focus towards me, and my small, brown, torpedo-shaped houndette stomps over to register her great displeasure.  Jasmine has distinct opinions about everything, and she's not a happy camper about the evil dish drainer that has "attacked" her yet again.  She stares up at me and then gives me her version of "The Paw", which consists of a stomp on my instep, and a good healthy scrape with her toenails down the length of my foot.  Her little legs are so short and stubby, she can barely catch the top of my foot, but she manages to let me know about her unhappiness in no uncertain terms.

"Mama, it's empty.  You're falling down on the job!  And that thing attacked me again.  I'm not at all happy about that."

"Sorry, Jaz.  How about some nice Bathroom Water while I fill this one?"

"Nope, I'll wait."

I try to "herd" her towards the back bathroom where there is an identical 2 1/2 gallon dog waterer, but no soap, she'll have none of that Bathroom Water "stuff".  It happens to be full--it's been that way for at least two days, and the water is absolutely pristine.  Bathroom Water just doesn't have the same appeal as Kitchen Water.  Why, I do not know, but Bathroom Water is always a second choice, and only if there is no way to alert the Basset Mama that the Kitchen Water is empty.

There is no dearth of water for the dogs in our household.  Even in the worst of a Texas drought there is always a large rubber horse tub that has a float-valve stock waterer on it and a constant flow of fresh water just half a Basset-body length outside the doggie door.  Do they drink from it?  Only when they are locked outside or can't get into the kitchen or bathroom, which happens about .001% of the time.  All of the other critters in the neighborhood love that water bucket, but the Basset Brigade wants Kitchen Water.
 
With four dogs, the Kitchen Waterer is in need of refilling every other day.  The Bathroom Waterer is refilled about twice a week. I scrub each before refilling them, and run the bowl parts through the dishwasher every other week.  I use a scrub brush on the outside waterer once a week or so to keep the algae out of it.  It's not a perfect system, but it works, and there is never a lack of available water for the houndage.

Much to the consternation of the supervisory committee (Jasmine and now Pelly, too), I did the washing routine for the Kitchen Waterer and gave it a thorough scrubbing before refilling it.   I  refilled the base of the waterer, then proceeded to fill the large water-supply bottle.  In order for me to successfully flip the large bottle into the base, I need both space and no interference from an inspecting hound, so I gave the "Out" command, and the committee reluctatnly exited the kitchen.  Mission accomplished,  I let them back in and the drinking began.  Jasmine first, followed by Pelly, then Penelope, and finally Addie.  Now, we are not talking dainty little sips here, we're talking large gulping mouthsfull of water...at least half a gallon of water between the four of them.  It was as if they'd not had water in days.  The bottle gurgled and belched as it readjusted its water level.  I'll be refilling that bottle tomorrow before lunchtime, I guarantee it.  Meanwhile, the Bathroom Waterer remains perfectly full.  I'll dump it in a day or so and start over, but they won't touch unless they absolutely have to.

What is the difference between Kitchen Water and Bathroom Water?  I cannot tell you, it is a mystery understood only by the Basset Brigade.  The two rooms are less than 12 feet apart, the water comes from the same system, and the waterers are identical in size, shape, and volume.  (They do differ in color, but that does not seem to be the deciding factor, because I often switch the two after they've been through the dishwasher. )

Kitchen Water, it seems, is the premium water and better than any of that "exotic" bottled water that we humans consume.  Take that, Evian!  You, too, Aquafina!  So much for Sierra Springs!  Bathroom Water can't hold a candle to Kitchen Water.  They can't wait to get at it, they take long, luxurious drinks of it, and they seem to revel in the fact that it is, indeed, the finest Kitchen Water ever to be had.  The Bassets have spoken, and Kitchen Water prevails.


The Kitchen Watering Hole--and the infamous Dish Drainer...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Christmas Cake

I love Red Velvet Cake, and it's always one that is nice for the holidays because it's so festive and pretty, especially if it's baked in a fancy cake pan.  This year, I found a nice Nordic Ware cake pan in the shape of a poinsettia, and thought it would be a nice addition to my Mom's collection of cake pans, but would also be quite pretty to make a Red Velvet Cake in.

As per the directions on the cardboard insert of the pan, I washed the pan carefully with hot, soapy water and dried it thoroughly.  Since the pan has lots of "details" in it that create the petals and other parts of the poinsettia, I allowed the pan to air dry over night so that it would be completely dry when I made the cake the next morning.  Santa, old buddy, you'll just have to come back tomorrow for cake...

Christmas Morning dawned cool and clear, and I was in the kitchen fairly early to start on breakfast, Christmas dinner preparations, and, of course, the cake.  I gathered all of my ingredients, mixed and measured and did everything just so.  It was a rich reddish-brown batter, and it smelled wonderful.  I knew that it would be perfect in the form of the poinsettia flower, and would need only a sprinkling of some confectioner's sugar and some colored sugar crystals to "dress" it for the table.   (Martha Stuart or The Ace of Cakes I am not, but this cake doesn't need much decorating, and I can handle a bit of confectioner's sugar.)  I gave the batter a final stir, and poured it into the waiting pan.  The pan was placed on a cookie sheet, and then placed on the center rack of the oven.  No muss, no fuss.

I washed my mixing bowl and other utensils and put them away so that I could start on the next project, breakfast for Mom and myself.  The dogs' breakfast would come after I'd set the table, so my "helpers' would be out of the way while we ate breakfast.  More mixing, more stirring, more "kitchen activity".  I paused in the middle of this to check on my cake, which was baking away in the oven.  It had lost that gooey look of freshly poured batter, and had become a "cake" by this point, although not ready to be taken out of the oven.  Another 30 minutes or so would do it.

Something struck me, though, as I watched the cake baking away, all rich and chocolatey and wonderful in its nice warm oven:  I realized that I'd forgotten to grease and flour the pan....  Now this isn't exactly something that one wants to do when baking in such a pan, because although the pan is treated with a non-stick finish, the detail in the pan prevents it from being truly non-stick.  That cake was NOT coming out of that pan in its nice, pretty poinsettia shape, now way-no how.  Not gonna happen in this lifetime or the next.  AUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am kicking myself all over that kitchen.  Not only did the pan directions clearly state that the pan should be greased and floured, the cake recipe said the same thing at least three different times.  What's worse is the flour and cooking spray are still out on the counter where I'd so carefully placed them at the beginning of this debacle.  So much for a pretty poinsettia cake.  And, because it's got chocolate in it, I can't even feed it to the dogs!  Merry Christmas, Everybody...cake will be served with a spoon!  Ngh!

The cake comes out of the oven.  I am praying that whatever Kitchen God there is will take pity on me just this once and just let me have that cake out of that pan without turning it into a pile of Red Velvet Crumbs.  I dutifully cool the cake on a rack, then try to turn it out of the pan onto the rack.  No soap.  Hmmm.  Well, let it sit a few minutes longer, maybe it's not cool enough yet....  Uh-huh, sure, that's the ticket, just let it cool a bit longer.  

About 20 minutes later my Mom appears in the kitchen.  Doggies have been fed, breakfast pancakes are ready to hit the griddle, and I am pulling my hair out over moving a particular rack in the oven so that I can get the lamb shanks I've been slaving over in there to start their long low-and-slow baking process.  The rack doesn't fit where I want it to go, so I'm stuck using a different one.  GRRR.

Mom notices the cake...that &^$#*&@ cake sitting there so smugly in it's poinsettia pan just waiting to cause me more problems.  Mom mentions that the cake should probably be out of the pan by now, to which I respond rather snarlingly about the grease and flour problem.   Happy Christmas to you, too.  She says, "Let me work on it."  Now, I have qualify this just a bit.  Mom had shoulder and carpel tunnel surgery the Thursday before Christmas.  She is left-handed, and her left arm is in a sling.  But, she wants to help, and I'm game at this point because my pancakes are turning to charcoal, the lamb is still on top of the stove because I haven't yet successfully wrestled the rack into the oven, and that blessed cake is still in the pan.  "Okay.  I'll get you a plate and a spatula.  Do what you can.  If nothing else, maybe the deer will like it."

Mom sets to work in her one-handed way, and by the time I've gotten the rack back in the oven, the lamb started, and the charcoal pancake problem solved, she has half of the cake on the plate.  The rest of it is being "encouraged" out of the pan by Mom's very persistent poking with the spatula.  About 10 minutes later, there is a mound of Red Velvet Something on the plate, and Mom has put the cake pan in the sink to soak.  With some careful smooshing here and there, we have what looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Red Velvet Cake, although it does not even remotely resemble that pretty poinsettia I had envisioned.  But, it is out of the pan.  Now, what to do with the blessed thing.

Icing, she says, will help hold it together, and a little of the colored sugar sprinkled over it will "decorate it", so she thins down some of the cream cheese frosting I'd found in the pantry.  We are discussing this while I'm flipping pancakes and Mom's back is to the cake while she puts the bowl of icing in the microwave.  Out of the corner of my eye, however, I see Addie, our Basset puppy (well, she's almost 2), standing at the edge of the counter top casually munching away at the cake.  "NOOOOO, ADDIE!!!! OFF!!!!! OFF!!!  OFF!!!!  ADDIEEEEEEE!!!!"  Addie jumps down and looks at both of us as if to say, "But I was only tasting it!"  and wanders out of the kitchen as if insulted.  Not to worry, she didn't eat enough to do any harm to herself, but my poor abused cake has taken yet another insult.

Both of us are in hysterics, laughing about that poor cake, but also remembering a similar dog-eating- the-cake-incident--another Red Velvet Cake.  Amidst the disasters of the morning and all of the tears, here we are laughing over a memory from some 35 years ago....

The first Red Velvet Cake and Dog encounter occurred when we lived in Parker, Colorado in the early 1970's.  Mom had made a Red Velvet Cake to take to a faculty Christmas part at her school.  Earlier in the morning she had set it on the tailgate of our station wagon while she collected her lunch and other things to take with her to school for the day.  The garage door was open, and Ace, our big Doberman was wandering around in and out of the house and garage as everybody made their final preparations for work and school.  He often supervised this activity, so it wasn't out of the ordinary.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this hubbub, Ace decided he wanted to investigate that cake, so he pushed his big nose into it and came back with a face full of white fluffy icing.  (I don't know that he actually bit the cake, although there was a small "scrape" out of it where the icing had been removed.)  Mom saw the dog, then the cake, and shrieked for my Dad.  Dad was in the kitchen finishing his coffee.  He chased the dog out of the kitchen where he cleaning his face of the frosting and came out to see what tragedy had occurred.  While Mom was still having her conniption fit about her beautiful cake (and it was beautiful),  Dad grabbed the plate, took it into the kitchen and proceeded to cut a healthy-sized hunk out of the cake where the dog's nose had been.  He handed the cake back to her and said, "If anyone asks, just tell them your husband got hungry," and sent her off to work.  The dog maintained his skin (although he and my Mom were on the outs for a while...), and no one ever knew what really happened to the cake.  The plate was empty when Mom brought it home.  We have laughed over that story for many years, and each time Mom has made another Red Velvet Cake we remember old Ace and his little snack.


(This photo is not mine...I borrowed it for the "visual effect.  No dog nose has touched this cake--that I know of.  LOL!)

I'm sure Dad was laughing with us, too, on this past Christmas morning, and he'd have loved the "Addie addition" to the story.   This one's for you, Dad!

Someday, I will make the pretty poinsettia Red Velvet Cake the right way--but I can't promise that it won't have hunk taken out of it because of a dog.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Kibble Emergency!!!!


Dog are wonderful, loving creatures, and I cannot imagine my life without at least one in it at any time.  I don't have children, I have short, four-legged furkids, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.     Presently, I have four rescued Basset Hounds:  Penelope (who is actually half-Basset/half-Brittany), Jasmine (my "small brown hound with the great big WOOF"), Pelly (short for Pellinore, the wandering king in the King Arthur stories, and my sole long-suffering male), and Addie-Lou Roo (who is almost two and is really a baby kangaroo in a Basset suit).   Each of them has their own weird little personality quirks, and things can get interesting at times, especially when something isn't quite "right" in their opinion.  And believe me, they do have their opinions--about EVERYTHING.

Yesterday morning, I fed the dogs their kibble as usual from the large clear plastic bin in the pantry.  But yesterday morning was a little different because it was New Year's Eve day, and we were planning to go out for a while to go to lunch and do some errands and last-minute pre-holiday shopping.  Pelly, my velcro-dog supreme, who is somewhat of a worrywart to begin with, was in place to supervise tie preparation of breakfast.  He was extremely agitated because he had discovered that the level of kibble in the container was at a critical level. (He actually watches the level of the dogfood in the bin!)  He kept whining and stomping his feet and poking me with his nose as I scooped out four measuring cups of dog food into their dishes.

"RED ALERT!  RED ALERT!  KIBBLE EMERGENCY, MOM!!  KIBBLE EMERGENCY!!!  THERE'S NOT ENOUGH KIBBLE IN THERE, MOM!  IS THERE ENOUGH FOR BREAKFAST TODAY?  WHAT ABOUT DINNER??  WHAT ABOUT BREAKFAST TOMORROW???  MOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!"  Whining and stomping and tail wagging and nose poking and more whining and stomping....

"Yes, P, I see it.  I know.  Mama has to go to the feed store and get more kibble.  It's okay--I promise you'll have enough for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.  You aren't going to starve to death.  I wouldn't let that happen.  You know that.  Relax, P."

"BUT MOM!  (More stomping and whining...)  IT'S...EMPTY!!!  THERE'S ONLY TWO OR THREE MORE KIBBLES IN THERE.  IT'S EMPTY, MOM!!  WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO???  WHAT ARE WE GONNA DOOOO????"

"No, Pelly, there's easily enough in there for supper tonight.  I agree with you, though, I don't think there's enough for tomorrow's breakfast, either.  Don't worry, it's on my list...the feed store is open today, so I can still get doggy food before New Year's eve.  It's okay, Buddy."

"WELL... (snort, stomp, "huff"...)  BUT IT'S A KIBBLE EMERGENCY, MOM!  DON'T FORGET!!!  PLEEEEASE DON'T FORGET!   WE GOTTA HAVE KIBBLE!"  (stomp, stomp, stomp...whine...)

"Eat your breafast, P.  I'll take care of it.  Don't worry."

Dialogue with a dog...what a concept, but also a reality.  We do this at least once a month, Pelly and I.  It's become sort of a ritual.  He watches these things--kibble and dog cookie amounts in their respective containers--very carefully, almost to an obsession, and reports with equal intensity each and every time.  I'm thinking of making a sign with a green, yellow, and red mark on it to show the levels of Kibble Security in our household.  Of course, Pelly would want it to be on the red alert all the time.

I wish he's watch my bank account with that much intensity.   I could use a "kibble emergency" alert myself now and then.

Ah, well.  How would a dog count his "millions", anyway?