Archive for the ‘Pets ‘n Puppies’ Category

“I have to take fuzzy britches out.”

“C’mon Muttley.”

“Hey Widge!”

“Let’s go dog.”

Cripes, it’s a wonder that the dog will come to you when you call it by its right name. Of course, if you happen to call the dog by its right name, you’d be breathless by the time you finished and the poor freakin’ dog wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about!

Our new pup comes from a top breeder of Cairn Terriers. No one planned it that way. Our last two dogs have been Cairns and they’ve been wonderful. This one’s full American Kennel Club (AKC) name is – now get this – ‘Tin Top Cairn’s Winchedon’s Widget, Wicked Witch of the West,’ summarily named ‘Widget.’ It just fits; no, no, no, not the whole damned thing, but she is a Widget. For those of you ignorant of the origin of the name, Mr. Webster says…”a small gadget or mechanical device, especially one whose name is unknown or unspecified.” Okay, okay, so it doesn’t really fit; blame the breeder. She names her litters by the letter of the alphabet and this litter had to begin with ‘W.’ Therefore, for AKC purposes, her name had to begin with that letter. Then you have to take into account the fact that Winchendon is one of Juli’s favorite towns in Massachusetts and that her favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz – and with all those ‘W’s’ in there, Glenda just didn’t fit – and the naming process becomes exceedingly transparent…right?

Winchendon is a lovely little town….more on that later.

Anyway, as amazing as it may seem, Widget will come when called by name…the shorter version that is. She also knows what to do when you tell her to go to ‘poop hill.’ This really requires no edification, but is merely a dictate of the intelligence of Cairns in general and Widget in particular. It was difficult for me to teach her to ‘stay’ and ‘down;’ Juli, of course, had that down to a science the first time the dog attempted to become entangled in Juli’s legs as well as the first time the dog attempted to jump into her lap – Juli good dog trainer; Dick good chew toy, ugh!

It’s somewhat difficult to describe the manner in which the dynamic of the household has changed since we’ve gone from being dogless for six months to now having a pup – she’s now six months old – in the house. There is, however, a definite change. When I get up at 4:15 am to go to the gym, I do now speak or acknowledge Widget in any manner despite her whines of “I’ve been in this crate the whole night; my legs are crossed, I gotta go so badly. C’mon, bud, let me out.” There is a very good reason for me not to let her out to go or even to acknowledge her in any way. No, it has nothing to do with my cruel personality. Assume for a moment that there comes a day when I do not wish to go to the gym for whatever lazy excuse I may wish to use.  I do not wish to hear a Joe Lieberman whine – that’s what it sounds like – coming from the kitchen just because I elected not to stay in bed that day. It’s amazing what and how quickly dogs can learn…and no, I do not leave the kitchen light on when I leave! And yet, despite my refusal to acknowledge her as I leave, when I return and Juli has taken her out, her tail and entire body wag and wiggle at the sight of me. Perhaps it’s because she knows that if I’m wearing a hoodie, there will be treats in the muff.

I will grant that there are people who do not like dogs or cats or any pet at all. There are times when they are a colossal pain in the ass. Here in New England we seem to have a proclivity in the period between autumn and spring for things called blizzards. They can be extremely unpleasant and if one has to take one’s pet out of doors for biological reasons, the unpleasantness increases a hundred fold. When the pet has finished its ‘business,’ however, and said pet curls up in your lap or at your feet…you realize just how stupid you were not to dry its paws!

Oh, and about Winchendon…check out the town’s web site and stop expecting me to do all the work!

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We live at the very end of a dead end street

The street may end, but a path goes through to the next road over. It’s a nice path; a paved path; a path where people walk for exercise daily. In the winter, the town even sends a sidewalk plow through the path to clear a way for children who travel the path toward the school down the street. Of course, the town doesn’t plow the sidewalks, but they do a hell of a job on that path, thereby making it possible for the kiddies to walk through the beautifully cleared path and down the road to school…not the side of the road, but the middle of the road.

There are times when folks who walk the path from the ‘road over’ also walk their dogs along the path. The town has very considerately posted a sign at both ends of the path. It reads, “Please pick up after your dog.” This makes a great deal of sense. In order to keep the path clear and clean, the town has posted not a sign at one end, but signs at both ends…pick up the dog shit! The wonderful part of this is that people obviously read the signs. This is good; it indicates that people with dogs that they are walking through the path can (a) read and (b) almost can follow directions.

So, these people who can read and who wish to walk their dogs to keep the path neat and clean actually do pick up their dog’s poop and in a plastic bag designed for picking up doggie doo. Evidently, these people are either too embarrassed to carry the doggie bag with them or must feel that there is a town dog-shit collector because they may pick up poop but they leave it by the side of the path. “Oh, I’ll just leave Pookie’s today’s poop right on top of yesterday’s baggie; isn’t that cute.” And at the same time Pookie’s bag is being deposited, she’s also depositing her Starbuck’s take-out cup on the ground. What is wrong with these people? By the way, the signs also mention cleaning up after the dogs “to prevent diseases that may affect children.”

Now that we have another dog, Juli would like to take Widget for a walk every now and again. It would be nice if she could do so without having to be concerned that the dog is going to want to sniff a bag of dog shit every five feet. Why? Because there are too many people out there who have no sense of accountability or responsibility. “Why of course I bag my doggie poo,” but they never tell you what they do with the bag. They will brag about how responsible they are when they take the dog for a walk, but you’re really getting only half of the story.

Maybe this is the new way of living in the 21st Century. We can consider ourselves to be responsible if we do a part of what’s right. We justify speeding through parking lots because “There were no people walking.”  Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in their cars backing out because when they did their quick and only look, you hadn’t started your drag race to the exit. It really surprises me that more people aren’t killed in grocery store parking lots. Rules don’t apply…big signs as you enter mall lots…15 mph the sign says…you’d think every driver was dyslexic the way they explode up and down lanes looking for a space in which to cram their four-wheeled-behemoths…and God forbid it should be any further away from the entrance than five parking spaces. Have you ever tried to get by some of these idiots who are just positive “someone will be coming out soon? They don’t care; rules don’t apply to them. Signs don’t apply to them. Some will even live park at the entrance to a mall while another party in the car does the shopping…ya gotta love it…and if mall security happens to stop by…”I just got here and…” followed by some bullshit excuse.  The problem here is that most security at shopping malls don’t have the powers of arrest, detention, or the ability to write tickets Their job is to observe and report. I suppose they could file a report with the local police if you refuse to cooperate, but that is probably going to wind up as a “he said, she said” case and noting will be done.

We live in a nation and world where common sense is not all that common. It just makes sense to pick up and up after your dog. If you don’t do it, who will? That’s not in the job description for the animal control officer or the next person using the path. I’m willing to bet that if you are walking your dog and someone is with you, that little “business baggie” will be going home with you. I’ll also bet that if you saw a cop at the entrance to the grocery store lot, you wouldn’t be cruising quite so quickly. Perhaps I’ll post a sign at my end of the path…”Don’t forget to take your dog shit home with you!” or words to that effect. Ah, who am I kidding? I’ll just sit on the front steps and shoot the damned dog as it emerges from the path with its owner!

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It shouldn’t have been there…

I was only about a hundred yards from the car. I’d been taking pictures of the deer and the flowers and the beauty that you can only find in a national park. The air; the sunrise; everything seemed fresh and crystal clear…and it shouldn’t have been there.

I shouldn’t have wandered that far from the car but you lose track when everything around you is so breathtaking. Probably shouldn’t have wandered off the road either, but the colors of the flowers were so brilliant; they just begged to be photographed for posterity. They just don’t have the shades of purple and gold and reds and yellows like this anywhere else…I’m quite certain of that. Those colors felt like they were becoming a part of me; literally, I could almost feel them invading my body…like some kind of drug that leads to an inexplicable euphoria…but…it shouldn’t have been there.

And the deer; it was like ‘Bambiville’ wherever I looked. They weren’t tame; no, nothing like that, but I could see them everywhere. White-tailed rumps; the young ones with their spots gamboling in some of the nearby clearings; the adults peering from behind trees…they were all just so beautiful. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough…it was a tossup between shooting the flowers and taking shots of the deer. The beauty around me was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life…can you feel it? Can you understand the infusion of warmth and color and elegance of my surroundings? Can you breathe in the crispness of what I was breathing…it had no right to be there.

But there it was; less than fifty feet in front of me; just staring; and it became obvious rather quickly that I was the one who shouldn’t have been there. I was the invader; the one with no right to be there. It didn’t matter that I had no intention of doing harm. Hell, what harm can be done with Nikon D3000; it was hardly a Kalashnikov AK-47 with a hundred-round magazine. I mean, I’m a shooter, not a shooter! I was just taking pictures, wasn’t I?

Angry buffalo don’t seem to understand the difference between a human with a camera and a human with a weapon. If it was being aimed in their direction, they get just a wee bit irritated. Maybe this was an old one with a long memory of the days when the red man with his pointed arrows killed his ancestors. Or maybe some of his ancestors had passed down the stories of the white man with his fire sticks who killed more of his long ago kin. It didn’t really seem to matter to this big – and I mean big – animal. He was, as they say in the old country, really pissed, and all that anger was directed at me, the guy with the camera…no bow; no arrow; no fire stick…no shit; I was in trouble.

I don’t know how much you know about the American buffalo. First, it isn’t a buffalo, but a bison and it doesn’t matter what you call them because they are the heaviest land animal in America. Anything that can grow to six feet five inches tall and weigh more than a ton is nothing with which I wish to fight. In addition, its horns can be more than two feet long and how the hell do you contend with that. I might also note that this sucker can run up to forty miles per hour and in my prime, I was rather far removed from doing that. They might be characterized as herbivores, but this one looked to be snorting fire out of that nose and he was getting ready to charge.

So, here’s my dilemma; I’m more or less a hundred yards from the car; the bison is less than fifty feet from me; I’m about ten to twenty yards off the road in ‘foresty-type’ land, which, it should be noted, is more his turf than mine – are you getting the picture here? Do I stand still and hope he has bad eyesight? Do I duck behind one of the not-so-large trees and hope he won’t bull the damned thing over and me with it? Do I duck my head and charge him, thus ensuring an instantaneous and certain death? Do I turn and run like a son-of-a-bitch and pray that he’ll slip on the macadam, assuming I can get to the road before he gets to me?

Eureka, I have figured the only true alternative…I wake up; forget the dream that turned into a nightmare and get on with the day’s activities!

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There was a time…many moons ago…when I was a commuter…a single passenger commuter. I would drive to and from work via back roads and never, in any part of my professional life, did I worry about traffic jams or, to be politically correct, commuter traffic.

Today, my trips in the car consist of a 4:30 am trip to the gym that generally gets me home before traffic begins to get heavy. If we’re doing our shopping, it’s in the middle of the day, ie, no traffic…until last Thursday and the entire bloody weekend; yes, Saturday and Sunday also!

If you wish to hear the rest of the story, gather round kids, ‘cause it’s a beaut!

Once upon a time…no, no, no, scratch that. We have had dogs in our house since 1961. Our first came four years after our marriage and about three months after we moved into our first house. What’s a house without a pet, right? From that time forward there has always been a pet – in our case,  dogs – in our homes. We’ve had as many as three at one time, and they have ranged from “Sooners” [sooner crap on the floor than outside] to “Americans“ [mother was a slut and dad was a horehound] to purebreds with championship lineage [I’m not allowed to brag here}. As you may have read in another piece, our last dog, a Cairn terrier, and she – Vikki – actually was the first to know that my late wife, Joan, was ill. In April 2013, Vikki went blind; two weeks later she suffered a stroke; and two days after that she was euthanized.

When your pet dies, you vow on a stack of Holy Bibles that you will never get another. Pets don’t live as long as human beings and the pain one feels at having to put the pet down is the equivalent to losing a child. Pets are as much a member of the family as any human. I don’t know this for a fact when it comes to cats or fish or even guinea pigs, but I certainly know what it’s like with dogs so they become my point of reference. Juli, my partner was with me in the vet’s office; she cried; I cried; the vet, who had cared for Vikki for over a decade, was crying as she administered Vikki’s final injection. And just like before, I swore that I would never own another dog. Let’s see now, that was last April. By September, both Juli and I were in what might be called “doggie depression.” The house was too quiet. We love each other, but there is a certain ambience that dogs emit; that fill the house with an essence that two humans, together yet alone, just cannot duplicate.

Sneakily and somewhat discreetly, I inquired of a breeder friend regarding the availability of another Cairn being available. Yes, we could have gone to an animal shelter, but my love for the last two dogs – both Cairns – was so great that I wanted a third member of the breed. “We have nothing,” Arlene said, “but we’re going to a show in a couple of weeks. I’ll ask around.” When she came back, I received an e-mail indicating that there might be a puppy available in Maryland. Contacting the breeder at tintopcairns, I learned that there was one puppy left. You now know why and how I have become familiar with commuter traffic.

We left for Leonardtown, Maryland on a Thursday. We consulted with AAA and received a ‘Triptik’ that indicated we would be traveling to the western tip of the state. When I say western tip, it means that Leonardtown is damn near the last town at the southern tip of the western tip. I mean, it is down there! In 2010, the population was almost 3,000 people…my graduating class from college were more than the entire population of this town! However, getting there was not half the fun. Some idiot once said something to the effect that it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important. I’d like to meet that person…so I could beat him to a pulp, reconstitute the pulp and beat him to a pulp again! Morning traffic moving along a freeway into and out of Hartford, Connecticut, going 75 miles per hour in the right lane, with less than a car length between you and the car in front of you and certainly not that much difference from the car behind you is…is…is…indescribable. I am not a Roman Catholic, but you never heard so many Hail Mary’s in a car in your life! If I had to do that each and every day, I would not be able to handle it. People in the left and center lanes were doing 80 mph and above…one handed…drinking coffee…talking on the phone. To draw a poor analogy, I was in the undergrad lane; the middle lane was reserved for those earning their master’s degree, and in the left lane were the Ph.D’s and above. One glitch would be enough; one glitch and every hospital in Hartford would fill up in an instant, at least for those who survived. I was tempted to take off my seat belt so that when the crash happened, I could fly out the windshield, arms extended, screaming as my last words, “Up, up, and away!”

As if heart attack Hartford wasn’t enough, the next day we repeated the exercise with traffic going into and out of Baltimore. To bypass the City of Baltimore, there is a thing called the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. I had driven through the tunnel on a regular basis when I was stationed at the Pentagon. I remembered the tunnel as a nice respite from the highways which had been narrow, cramped at crazy. That’s how I remembered the tunnel. Over the years, I can now safely say, some bureaucrats have shrunk the tunnel. It’s either that or cars are wider…or maybe both. The tunnel was dark, dreary, dank, and although the speed limit was 50 mph, we wound up doing our usual 75 just to keep up!

I kid a great deal about the traffic…but it’s not kidding. We Americans are in on hell of a hurry to get wherever it is we’re going. The speeds are frightening; the distance between cars is frightening; and you cannot help but become a part of it. I don’t mind being passed by another car most of the time, but when a Smart car and several Mini Coopers go by me like I’m standing still, that’s a bit discouraging.

Leonardtown is beautiful. Its small town America but the next town over, California, comes equipped with a three-mile stretch of every store, restaurant, and shop imaginable. All of them are set back and not crowding the main highway. It’s intelligently design, partially hidden by a frontage road and trees and bushes. Leonardtown is American history, with plaques and maps providing a wealth of education about early America, the War of 1812, and the town’s efforts for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Meeting with the breeder was another educational experience. We spent nearly four hours with her, learning things we never knew despite having owned Cairns in the past. We met ‘Widget’ who would become our new family member, although the streaking she did around the room in which we met her tempted me to call her ‘Red Blaze’ because that’s about the speed with which she ran around from end to end of the room…a born class clown if ever there was one.

Driving home on Sunday, I was hoping for a bit of peace and quiet. Between the church goers trying to get home for Sunday afternoon football – they do love their Washington Redskins down there – and the other crazies, we again prayed our way to the Motel in New Jersey where we would spend the night. I will not tell you about Monday morning except to say that we bypassed Hartford, but were forced to hit every other major city in Connecticut with the same results. We have been home now for the better part of two days. I still have the shakes and my nightmares all regard cars and traffic. As I said earlier, the State of Maryland is a beautiful place to visit. If you decide to make the trip, avoid every single highway that you can. Fly, if you will; take a train; hop a skateboard; take half a year to get there, but don’t drive 75. Oh, and don’t forget to bring back a puppy!

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