Categories
Life Pets

Ruff

An update on our puppy, Charlie.

He’s no longer a puppy. He’s full-grown, or close to it, standing a few inches taller than our other dog (and his best friend), Mollie. He has long, spindly legs and a little underbite that, at certain angles, makes him look like a piranha. His fur has grown in, short but curly and fluffy.

He’s still chewing on things, finishing off his puppy teething days, but I’m no longer worried about leaving shoes out where he can get them. He’s learned to chew on his toys, ripping and mangling them in short bursts of time, cheerfully turning them into flapping, helpless scraps of cloth and plastic and stuffing.

He’s also discovered his bark.

His bark starts in the pit of his belly, rolls up through his neck, and ends in a growly ruff, ruff. It’s surprisingly loud for his size. It’s rare for him to burst forth with a ruff on his own; he typically waits for Mollie’s bark as a signal to begin voicing his opinion. He doesn’t bark often, but when he does, it can’t be missed.

I’m still his Favorite, his Most Beloved, his One Above All Others. He still dances with joy anytime I return from being away, even if it’s only been for a few minutes. He still snuggles with me when he naps, still sighs contentedly at night as he curls up on the blankets next to me and drifts off to sleep. I hope that’s something he never outgrows.

Here’s to that moment when you realize that the puppy is gone but some of the puppy sweetness remains. And, here’s to loving the dog that the puppy has grown up to be.

Categories
Family Life Pets

Baby

My dogs, Mollie and Charlie, wear sweaters. Yes, I’m one of those people who puts sweaters on her dogs when it’s cold outside.

When we first adopted Charlie, a few months ago, he was just a puppy. His sweater was small and fit him perfectly, covering his back all the way to his hind legs.

Today, I realized that he’s outgrown his sweater. I was watching him run around the backyard and noticed that his sweater only came halfway down his back. It was a bit of a shock, the suddenness of the change. I’m almost positive that the sweater was still the right size yesterday.

I ended up taking one of Mollie’s sweaters and putting it on him instead. Mollie seemed ok with it, but I’m an oldest child and know that it can be hard to watch your stuff be handed down to the younger ones. So, I’ll be buying Charlie a new sweater of his very own pretty soon so that Mollie can have hers back.

I suppose that, having had human children, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the fact that Charlie had outgrown his sweater. That’s just what happens with babies, including puppies.

You get used to letting go of most of the toys, the shoes, the books and trinkets that represent the moments. For sentimental reasons, however, I have saved some of my children’s clothes, the ones that they wore for special occasions or that carry special memories. I’ll pull them out of their storage boxes from time to time, look at them and marvel at how small they are, hold them gently in my hands and remember those tiny, sweet boys. Sometimes, I can do so without tears, but most often, I find myself misty-eyed, deep in happy memories.

I’m a little embarrassed at having some of the same emotions today when I replaced Charlie’s sweater. He’s a dog, not a human. Then again, he’s one of my babies. Furry, with four legs instead of two, and, of course, different in so many other ways. But one of my babies, nonetheless.

Here’s to the passage of time and the sometimes obvious, sometimes surprising changes it brings. And, here’s to parents. We must let our babies grow up…but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember the babies they once were.

Categories
Pets

Bark

Our puppy, Charlie, hasn’t quite learned to bark yet.

He makes lots of noises, especially when he’s settling down to sleep. He’ll sigh, and squeak, and make long, drawn-out sounds of sweet contentment. It’s hilarious and adorable.

He also does a “rrrrruuuuuuugggggghhhhh” growl when he meets somebody new. It’s not an aggressive sound; it’s more like curiosity mixed with caution.

Every once in a while, he’ll make a short yip that sounds a little bark-ish. And, I’ve heard him truly bark, quietly, hesitantly, once or twice, echoing our other, older dog, Mollie. But Charlie doesn’t bark on his own. He’s definitely not much of a barker, at least so far.

Mollie, on the other hand, barks all the time. She barks at squirrels. She barks at neighbors walking their dogs in front of our house. She barks at the mailman, and the cats, and even at us, if we’ve been out of the house and are coming back inside. Sometimes, she’ll just randomly let loose with a bark, and we can’t figure out why.

I’m actually okay with Charlie not barking. Mollie does enough barking for the two of them. She’s sort of the spokesdog, the big sister who tells the story. The alpha. She gives the verbal cues, and Charlie follows along.

I suspect that Mollie is also good with this arrangement. Mollie and Charlie are good companions now, but there’s still a bit of jealousy from time to time. Mollie’s gone from Only Dog to Older Dog. It’s been an adjustment, this learning to share toys and snacks, walks and sleeping spaces, attention and affection.

One day, Charlie will probably become a little more verbal. He’ll most likely have more to say. As long as he understands, however, that Mollie gets to have her say first and loudest, I think everything will work out just fine.

Categories
Fun Holidays Pets

Sweater

Today is National Ugly Sweater Day here in the U.S.

The real fun of wearing an ugly holiday sweater is sharing the experience with others, laughing at the ridiculousness and figuring out who has the silliest, most creative and hilarious attire.

I’m regretfully remembering that I got rid of my Ugly Holiday Sweater in one of my cleaning and organizing frenzies earlier this year. It won’t be possible for me to participate in National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day this holiday season.

But…Mollie and Charlie have sweaters. There’s no reason that dogs can’t participate in National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day.

Let the festive frivolity commence!

Categories
Pets

Neon

We have some coasters that light up in neon colors when something is placed on them.

We don’t actually use them; they have a slick surface that doesn’t provide a secure hold on whatever’s placed on top. Still, we’ve kept them around.

One of our cats, Bandit, has taken to sitting on them. When he does, his backside glows. He looks a bit surreal, like an alien cat.

Sometimes, instead of sitting, he’ll do the kitty crouch, with his front and back paws tucked beneath him so that he looks like a loaf of fur. In that case, most of his body glows, the neon colors reflecting off his white fur.

When he’s in that position, he’s typically staring into the distance, eyes wide, watching the world around him. He looks wise, like he knows the secrets of the universe.

I suspect that, if he could talk, he’d have a lot to say about important matters in life. I also suspect that his advice would be liberally interspersed with the words “tuna” and “dinner” and “warm blanket.”


Categories
Pets

Worthy

Our new puppy, Charlie, is an early riser; most days, he awakens well before sunrise.

He’s potty-trained but still has accidents, at least one per day. They tend to happen at the most random times and in the most random places.

He’s an eating machine, always ready for another meal. We have to watch him carefully, lest he eat Mollie’s dinner or the cats’ food after he’s finished his own.

He’s teething, so he chews on everything – furniture, shoes, clothes, human fingers. He’s ripped numerous toys to shreds, leaving pieces of fluff and stuffing scattered around the house.

Sticks, leaves, dirt, the most minute pieces of life – all end up in his mouth. No matter how thoroughly we clean the floors, he will find the one fragment left behind. I’m constantly fishing something out from between his little jaws.

To put it simply, he’s high maintenance. His energy and carefree, youthful, happy-go-lucky nature necessitate constant awareness and attention. My days are filled with What’s Charlie doing where’s Charlie no Charlie no Charlie good boy Charlie come here Charlie let’s go Charlie Charlie Charlie Charlie.

He’s also overjoyed to see me anytime I’ve been out of his sight for more than a few minutes. Overjoyed. Bouncing, wiggling, tail-wagging, putting-his-paws-up-to-be-held kind of joy.

When I hold him, he snuggles against me, putting his head in the gap between my head and my shoulder, and gives tiny, contented sighs. When he’s ready for a nap, he’ll curl against me, a warm bundle of fur and happiness.

And when he looks at me, it’s with one of three expressions: cute curiosity, total trust, or absolute adoration. I am his Favorite, his One Above All Others, his Most Beloved.

Dear little Charlie, I sincerely doubt that I’ll ever be as worthy of your affection as you believe me to be. But, I promise I’ll never stop trying.

Categories
Pets

Pack

We have a new puppy. Our local animal shelter was at capacity, and we’d been contemplating adding to our pet family, so we took the plunge and brought Charlie home.

In general, Mollie and Charlie have adjusted well to each other. One area of occasional conflict, however, is the dog toys.

Mollie has a couple of favorites from the Before Puppy times, and I bought a few new toys when Charlie joined us. My plan was that he’d have his toys, and Mollie would have hers.

What’s happened, however, is that they both want to claim them all.

Sometimes, one of them grabs a toy from the other and runs off. Sometimes, they follow each other, taking a passive-aggressive approach while Moose or Dr. Pooper or Blue Dog is held captive within their teeth. At other times, they’ll stare at each other in a quiet attempt to guilt the other into relinquishing control.

Typically, I leave them both to work it out on their terms, but I do sometimes step in to help them with this process of learning to share. I’ll offer them both a toy when it’s play time, and I referee when necessary to ensure peace. Occasionally, I’ll take Froggie, Mollie’s favorite, away from Charlie and give it back to Mollie, and then distract Charlie with a different toy.

What’s interesting to me is that this situation is not that different from when my sons were little and learning to share their toys. Of course, teaching young humans to get along with other humans involves circumstances and options that don’t apply to dogs. And I recognize there’s a bit of anthropomorphic action going on in the way I evaluate and approach the dog behavior. But there are undeniable similarities.

I’m encouraged by the fact that, after struggling to gain control of a prized possession, Mollie and Charlie will often playfully run around the backyard, taking turns being the chaser and chasee. Once that game is finished, they’ll explore the fence line and trees together, sniffing and digging in the leaves and dirt. When playtime is done, they’ll both search for a comfy napping spot, sometimes near to each other, sometimes apart, and they’ll settle in and drift off into a mutually contented snooze.

Here’s to dogs and what they can teach us about the foundational elements of successful pack living.


Categories
Pets

Bald

We have a long-haired cat, Bandit, who got himself closely involved with some weeds and brambles, subsequently developing a mass of mats in his fur.

After unsuccessfully trying to brush and cut them out, I took him to the vet yesterday for what they call a “strip and clip.” He is now bald, with only the fur on his face and a little pom-pom on the tip of his tail remaining.

I tell myself that his fur will grow back, probably more soft and luxurious than before. The vet said that we did the right thing, that had we not shaved him, the mats would have dug into his skin, ultimately creating sores and causing him pain. Still, I feel guilty about subjecting him to that experience.

It’s also a bit unnerving to see him without fur. His white and black coloring, where his fur patterns will grow back in, is evident, giving him the look of an exotic animal. The white patches have a pink undertone, an indication of the skin beneath, now covered only by a thin layer of soft transparency. He also somehow seems heavier in his bald state. He’s a large cat, solid and chonky, and he feels even more so right now. Perhaps it’s because his fur creates a pillowy effect, a cloud-like feeling that is missing at the moment.

Today’s cuppa is for our (temporarily) bald Bandit. Hang in there, buddy. You’ll be back to your old, fluffy self soon. Just be sure to stay out of the weeds.

Categories
Pets

Gifts

This past week, my cat, Tom, was rather generous, bringing me a snake on one day and a lizard on another.

Fortunately for the snake and the lizard, I was able to get them both safely back outside. They appeared to be fine, although perhaps a little freaked out by their experience. I know I was.

Tom, on the other hand, appeared pleased and proud, purring and twisting around my ankles, offering kitty kisses and snuggles. He must have felt like he was providing for me, that his gifts were indicators of his affection. From his cat brain perspective, nothing could be better than a wiggling delight delivered directly at my feet.

I guess the saying is true. It’s the thought that counts, even in the case of feline benevolence.

Categories
Life Pets

Outside

There’s been somebody at our house almost every minute, every day, for the past seven months. This is quite different from one year ago.

We do leave for various reasons; we’re not completely housebound. But, we respect the advice of doctors and scientists, so we are at home much more than we are out. The places we go are specific and few. It’s rare for our house to be completely empty these days, and our hours follow generally predictable routines.

This is a summary of Mollie’s take on it:

Month 1 – YAY!

Month 2 – YAY!

Month 3 – YAY!

Month 4 – YAY!

Month 5 – Yay!

Month 6 – Yay

Month 7 – yay

She still appears to be glad we’re around all the time to keep her company. She seems to enjoy hanging out with us in the backyard, or on the couch, or on the bed, wherever we might be during the day and through the night.

However – it’s been a long time since she had to wait patiently for the sound of the key in the lock, the front door opening, after being alone. She used to wiggle with energy, bounce and bark, when we came home. She was so excited by our new presence and the affection and attention that came with it. Now, with the house so rarely empty, with somebody always available for a loving ear scratch or tummy rub, she doesn’t always notice when one of us walks in the door.

The kitchen used to be a magical place where meals were typically based on our comings and goings to and from the outside world. She knew that food followed the morning alarm clock or the evening return to home. Sometimes, we’d bring her something from a restaurant, and the crackling paper bag was her signal that she was about to enjoy an extra special treat. Now, the kitchen is still the place of food, but it’s also the place of phone calls and video meetings. The alarm clock and the restaurant meals don’t happen very often anymore. Seeing us in the kitchen no longer automatically means that it’s dinner time.

Even the backyard, that wonderful playground full of leaves and sticks, birds and squirrels, has become routine. It used to be inaccessible for most of the day. Now, it’s simply a bark away. With the weather cooling off, a bark sometimes isn’t even necessary. We often prop the back door open, allowing the breezes in and Mollie out, freely, according to her mood and interest.

It’s possible that some of the changes we’ve noticed in her behavior are due to her age. She’s four years old, not a puppy anymore. I remember what it was like as our sons grew up, the gradual shift from little boys who eagerly ran to greet us when school was over to teenagers who gave a casual wave and a Hey, ‘sup as they came through the door. Perhaps Mollie’s just moving into her teenage years.

I suspect, however, that the past seven months, our constant presence and the quiet and mostly unvaried routine of our days, play a part. The joy she displays at the word walk, at her realization that she’s getting out, she’s going somewhere, she’ll see and do new things, gives me that impression.

In many ways, Mollie’s just like us. Home is a special place. We love each other, we enjoy being together. These are the people we want around us through it all, and we appreciate what we have. We are grateful and happy.

Still, it’s fun to change things up. The world is appealing, enticing; the variety it offers, the potential adventures and interesting options call to us. We haven’t lost the desire to go, to do, to see and experience and then to share those bits and pieces of life beyond our front door.