Dirt season


Charlie cleans up the evidence after Lexie stormed through the kitchen. It was a tasty job.

Charlie cleans up the evidence after Lexie stormed through the kitchen. It was a tasty job.

Matt brushed at the sand collecting on the couch cushions.

“This is awful!” he exclaimed. “The dogs are tracking in mud every time they go outside. This place is filthy!”

I knew it was time to tell Matt. I sat down next to him, and took a deep breath.

“Since you are a relative newcomer to the house, I think it’s time we had a talk,” I said, gently placing my hand on his leg for emphasis. “In my home, there are only two seasons: dirt and dirt-free. In the fall and spring, the dogs track in all sorts of mud and sand. The trade off is that when the snow falls, and in the summer when the grass grows, we get a reprieve.”

Matt looked at me like I was a crazy woman.

“You want me to get used to this?” he asked, incredulous.

“Winter’s just a couple weeks away,” I said, looking out the front window. “Snow is just around the corner.”

Just then we heard an explosive boom, followed by what seemed like a zillion pieces of hail landing on the kitchen floor. As I ran to the hallway I just about tripped over Lexie, who was uncharacteristically moving fast. Her feet slipped on the wood floor as her momentum pushed her past me.

I glanced into the kitchen, and saw the wreckage of her run. She had cut the corner by the stove a bit too close, and made a direct hit on Charlie’s puppy kibble. That was the boom. When she hit the bowl, it sent pieces of food throughout the kitchen like confetti.

Charlie didn’t miss a beat. He arrived within seconds, and authoritatively surveyed the scene. He gave a couple quick sniffs, and quickly came up with a game plan. He would start from the outside, and work his way back toward the bowl.

Seeing Charlie had a plan of attack, I returned to Matt on the couch.

Where's the broom?!?

Where’s the broom?!?

“Do I even want to know what happ…” he started to say. I put up my hand and told him I had the situation under control. If I had any luck, Charlie would have the mess cleaned up by the time I was finished convincing Matt the snow fairy would visit that evening.

Matt grabbed the broom, which has taken a permanent spot in our living room during dirt season, and started sweeping at the tsunami of sand at my feet.

“Look!” he said pointing down at a small pile of sand. “I’ve only taken one swipe, and look at all of that dirt!”

I felt the confession would be enough. That it’s just the way our house operates. Dirt season stinks, but there’s no way around it, aside from wiping the dogs’ paws each time they come in. With a dog door, that’s nearly impossible.

But it was too much for Matt. He was unprepared. It was clear I should have briefed him weeks before. But now we were blinded by a sandstorm in our own home.

I took the broom, and finished sweeping the room. I didn’t mention that it was my third time sweeping that day.

And when Matt wasn’t looking, I said a small prayer for snow.

FurFamHORZNTL

Daddy’s little helper


Charlie heard that cuddling is the best medicine. Matt  says he agrees.

Charlie heard that cuddling is the best medicine. Matt says he agrees.

Matt woke up Thursday morning to a nagging migraine.

While he had experienced headaches before, this one seemed different. It lasted all day, and by evening he grew nauseous. I left to go to a meeting, and by the time I returned Matt was very sick. He had vomited several times while I was gone, and felt terrible.

As the night went on, his condition grew worse. And Charlie worried.

I could hear Matt heaving in the bathroom, and went to check on him. I stood at the door, peeking in, and Charlie nosed the door open, softly walking toward Matt. “Charlie NO!” I said, but it was too late. He walked to where Matt lay curled around the toilet, gently rubbed his nose on his hand, then sat down.

He wasn’t leaving.

While Matt grew sicker, he refused to go to the doctor. So I went to bed and hoped for the best. As I slept, Matt grew seriously ill, back spasms gripping his body, followed by violent retching sessions. Matt later told me he never got a wink of sleep, and that Charlie never left his side.

By morning, I found Matt laying face down on the bathroom floor. Charlie sat nearby, his brown ears pulled back, his puppy lips pursed.

Matt finally agreed to get medical care.

I called in sick, filled Charlie’s purple KONG with liver treats, then rushed Matt to the hospital.

Matt quickly was diagnosed with kidney stones, and eventually was kept for overnight observation. After about six hours, I took a break to run home to grab some toiletries, and to check on the dogs. Charlie greeted me tentatively, and looked out the front window looking for Matt. I quickly grabbed what I needed, fed the dogs and drove back to the hospital.

About 12 hours later (around 4 a.m.) I decided to run home to grab a bit of sleep. Both dogs were staring out the front window when I pulled up. Charlie hugged my legs with his paws, and softly cried. I had never heard him do that before, and my heart melted. I pulled Charlie into my arms and held him as he continued to whimper. I whispered in his ear.

“Daddy’s gonna be all right. Daddy loves you.”

He anxiously licked my nose.

Amazingly, after leaving the dogs alone for 12 hours the house was in perfect condition. I was grateful for that gift, and promptly slept for about three hours.

At 8 a.m. I woke up, and spoke with Matt. The doctors were filling out his discharge paperwork, so I could come get him. I was gone just a few hours, and Lex and Charlie were dutifully watching out the window when we returned.

The first thing we noticed was the fluff. Everywhere. It took me a moment to realize what happened, then Matt screamed out confirmation.

“You ate the bleepin’ comforter!!!” he screamed at Charlie.

Charlie dropped to his stomach, and wiggled his way out of the room.

After everything we had just been through, I was pretty sure a tore up comforter was the least of our worries. Matt grabbed the blanket, and threw it down into the basement.

Charlie trotted after Matt, following him to the couch.

“C’mon,” Matt said, patting the cushion next to him.

Without hesitation, Charlie in one motion hopped up and snuggled into Matt’s side.

Charlie was glad to have his daddy home.

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FurFamHORZNTL

Table scraps


Charlie and Roxy take a break from Thanksgiving scavenging. The stakes were high, the bounty even higher.

Table scraps have always been a no-no for Charlie, until Thanksgiving rolled around.

He arrived with a solid strategy that relied on the cute factor and an element of surprise.

At first he was all nonchalant. Chasing the ball. Sitting pretty. But he clearly had big plans. And he was fixing to change up the rules big time.

Charlie waited until everyone sat down to eat, then slid under the table, darting back and forth looking for a friendly pair of legs. That’s when he sprang his plan into action. Charlie nuzzled his snout into someone’s lap, then pushed his nose so it peeked under the tablecloth. Over and over again he pushed his disembodied, freckled nose into someone’s lap, and he trotted away with a mouthful of bounty. He scored turkey skin, handfuls of stuffing, broccoli florets.

Of course, this kind of behavior is hardly tolerated in most households, even in the most liberal dog-loving families. It’s not even allowed in our home.

Charlie and Coochie.

But this Thanksgiving was no normal holiday. It was a virtual cornucopia of canine energy, with five dogs in attendance. In addition to Charlie, we had Tippy and Coochie (who belong to Matt’s cousin Emily and her husband Loren), Spike (who owns Matt’s uncle, Joel) and Roxy (Matt’s mom’s dog). I think this chaos was made somewhat manageable because Tippy, Coochie and Spike each weigh less than 10 pounds, and we left Miss Lexie at home so she could have the couch to herself for the evening.

Charlie was a quick study. He wasted no time figuring out who would slip him tasty treats, and he made repeat visits. It also helped that none of the other dogs caught on to his ruse. The table scraps were his for the taking!

When the dinner was over, Charlie wandered off, content to defluff a squeaky duck. Roxy may or may not have licked all of the salted chocolates. Since people I really, really like had one or two, I’ll never tell.

Sleepy Lexie doesn’t want to eat.

When we got home, our arms full of wrapped leftovers, we found Lex exactly where we left her: snoozing on the couch. Her chunky holistic senior wet dog food — we left it out for Lex to eat at her leisure — remained untouched.

Charlie, with his full belly, could hardly keep his eyes open. Soon he was snoring, of course on the couch. I took this cue to encourage Lex to eat a holiday meal. She humored me for a while, then decided she would rather be sleeping as well.

I think all the turkey I ate was starting to kick in, and suddenly catching some shut-eye sounded like a great idea. I slipped into my pajamas, ate one last chocolate chip cookie then kissed the pups goodnight.

Zzzzzz.

We had a big day, and a pile of leftovers ahead of us.


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Lights out


Zzzzzzzz. Snort, snore. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Dear mommy and daddy,

We had a really rough day. We had to get up early with you, then fall asleep at your feet as you watched the morning news. Lexie lucked out because she was allowed on the couch. I sneaked up there, but just as I was about to nod off, daddy screamed “Off the couch!!” The dog bed was almost as comfy.

When you left, I was sitting on top of the couch watching through the window as you pulled out of the driveway. I know you think I stayed in that spot for the three hours you were gone, but I had more important tasks to take care of. I took all five of my femur bones into the yard, and started plotting where I would like to bury them. You see, I’ve been studying the squirrels, and I think they’re on to something. I’ve seen them bury those nuts, and I think I’ve mastered their technique. I’ve been practicing in the yard. But each time I think I’ve perfected my approach, you come out, pitch a fit and fill the hole. Next time I’m practicing out behind the shed. You never go back there.

I could hear daddy’s truck from about a mile away (us dogs have amazing hearing!), so by the time you got home I was back up in the window. The only clue that I ever left the couch was the small pile of dirt I left on the cushions.

I don’t know about you, but I’m real tired. Lexie’s old and sleeps all the time. But I’m the little man of the house, and I had things to take care of. Like tracking down all three of the stuffed chipmunks. Just so you know, only one of the squeakers still works.

I want to go to sleep, but you both are wide awake. So I’m just gonna take a quick snooze here on the floor until we can snuggle in bed. But before I fall asleep, I’m going to check out the bathroom to make sure there’s nothing yummy in the trash can. You’d be surprised what I find in there!

Saving you sloppy puppy kisses. And I promise not to hog the middle of the bed tonight.

Love,

Charlie (and Lexie)

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Pigging out


What the heck is a pig ear? Errr, umm, back off!!

At the time, pig ears seemed a logical special treat.

I know. There are various reasons to be grossed out. But the pig ears called out to us, and we bought two, one for each dog.

When we got home, Lexie and Charlie were more interested in a trio of stuffed chipmunks we picked up at Petco. They each grabbed one, and ran off, squeaking away, occasionally tossing one up in the air and catching it.

Trio of chipmunks, in varying states of dismemberment.

Once chipmunk mania subsided, I pulled out the pig ears and gave one to the dogs. Even though it had been years, Lex knew what was at stake. She bit into the ear, ran to the rug by the front door and coveted her booty.

Our puppy Charlie had other plans.

At first, he eagerly took the ear, then as he ran away, he acted like it was super heavy and let it drop from his mouth. As the ear hit the floor, Charlie jumped and scurried in the other direction with his tail buried deep between his hind legs. Matt picked up the ear, and tried to give it back to Charlie. He recoiled. Charlie lowered his head, and … was that a growl?

At one point Matt got Charlie to take the ear. Charlie took a few steps away, then returned to Matt, nudging the ear back in his hand.

“I do believe this belongs to you,” Charlie said.

We were dumbfounded.

Lex soon lost interest. Her mouth motor skills just aren’t that sharp anymore, and chewing a pig ear appeared too exhausting for this 14-year-old pup. We put her ear up on the counter, but left the other one out. After snapping a few blurry pictures of Charlie running away from the ear, Matt and I gave up. We left the ear on the kitchen floor and moved to the front room for some TV.

A few minutes later, once we realized Charlie didn’t follow us to the couch, I went looking for him. I found Charlie spread out on the kitchen floor, his front paws and mouth wrapped around the pig ear.

While he was engrossed with his tasty treat, we decided to slip out to the store. When we came back, most of the ear was gone, except for small ear chips that we found, evidence that Charlie finished off the snack on the couch.

I guess I’ll never know what was going through Charlie’s mind. I’m sure that being presented with a dried out pig’s ear is enough to scare anyone, let alone a little puppy.

From now on, I think we’ll stick to dog biscuits. I’ve never seen Charlie run from a Milkbone.

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Snuggle bug


Where’d Mom go? I guess I’ll keep her side of the bed warm.

I woke up this morning shivering. The bed sheets were gone. I felt around in the dark for a blanket, and discovered a small nest in the middle of the bed. Right on top, I found a snoring pile of fur.

“Charlie! Get off,” Matt barked.

Charlie lifted his head, sleepiliy looked around the room, then promptly fell back asleep.

The general rule is that Lex and Charlie sleep in their dog beds. Charlie’s bed is on Matt’s side, and Lexie’s is on mine. This worked out until we recently rearranged the room. Matt was a little snot and demanded to have the side of the bed closest to the window, so we swapped sides. This caused confusion because Matt still wanted Charlie to sleep on his side.

Lex would rather snooze on the couch.

The first night, I brought Lex up to check out the new arrangement. She sniffed the beds, scanned the room then walked downstairs to sleep on the couch instead.

It took some convincing with Charlie. Matt got him to the new bed location, but by the middle of the night I saw he switched to my side.

“Chaaaarlieeeeee! Come heeeeere!!” Matt begged. Charlie sighed, then buried his head deep in his bed.

By morning, Charlie had relocated between us. It would have been cute (and of course it was!) if he wasn’t such a bed hog. It’s hard to imagine how such a small pup could commandeer an entire queen-sized quilt, and build it into a small fortress. I pulled at the edges of the quilt, and they wouldn’t  budge. Somehow he had Superglued them in place. I wiggled my fingers under Charlie and tried to move him, but suddenly he weighed as much as a full-grown rottweiler.

I grabbed the rumpled bed sheet off the floor, and covered up the best I could. I snuggled in close to Charlie and Matt, shivered, then fell asleep.


The first several days we had Charlie, he happily slept between Matt and me in our bed. He would wiggle between us, roll onto his back and pass out. Waking up to puppy kisses is one of the most divine things in the world.

This continued for close to a week. Until Charlie got worms. Then he was relegated to the dog bed on the floor. He recovered from his ailment almost immediately, but the floor bed orders remained in place. Over time he would sneak up until we saw him, then sulk as he slid off the bed.

Charlie sleeps best in bed. Our bed.

It’s said that dogs sleep anywhere from 12-18 hours a day. As a growing puppy, Charlie has evolved into an expert napper. From the top of the couch, to laying in a sunbeam out in the yard, Charlie catches his share of ZZZZs.

But his favorite spot remains in bed with us. Preferably in the middle, paws outstretched, belly exposed. Soft puppy snores, paw twitches.

Sleep tight, Charlie. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

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Lexie’s first love


Lexie and Lili on top of pillow mountain.

Long before Charlie, Lexie had another love in her life.

Lili was a barrel-shaped black-and-tan cocker spaniel, with a penchant for licking anything. Hence the nickname Lili the Licker.

I rescued Lili from my former partner’s relative, who could not care for her anymore. Before I got her, Lili spent a good portion of her first year cooped up in a bathroom; after I brought her home I would often find her curled up in front of our toilet.

Lili stands guard at base camp.

The bond between Lex and Lili was fast and fierce. They followed each other through the house, and cuddled up together on the couch for a nap. Together they both learned what it meant to go camping, and the freedom of chasing wild animals through the woods.

And then there was what I’ll call “The Kissing Game.” Aah, yes. At first guests would find it charming. “Oh look, they’re kissing!” they would say, pointing at Lex and Lili’s makeout session. But after a few minutes, the mood would turn awkward. The feverish licking continued. And then, a couple minutes more — and they would still be going at it like a couple of teenagers, um, in heat.

“Go get a dog house,” I would cry out, pulling them apart, as my guests averted their eyes. Clearly I needed to have a talk with the girls about appropriate behavior when we had friends over.

They loved taking walks together. In all kinds of weather. This led to various accessories, ranging from doggie rain coats to Mutt-Luk booties to keep salt from bothering their tender paws. Once I snapped the leashes on them, Lex and Lili knew only one speed: GO! I was that person, both arms outstretched, blindly following two dogs trying out for a mush team.

Lili was a delicate flower. She had allergies that would cause her to break out in terrible sores. And then there were the ear infections. It was such a terrible case, that even her allergist could not prevent her from going deaf. We tried everything, including feeding her venison I bought at a wild game shop. I’d say there were moments when her allergies would subside, but inevitably they would return, raging out of control.

Even with her smelly ears, Lili was the only one for Lexie. She never turned her nose, and always snuggled in a bit closer.

Lili and Jilli wait for a summer storm.

What many people don’t know is that Lili was an expert crooner. The moment I walked out of eyesight, whether out into the front yard or into the next room, Lili would start winding up. It went something like: “woo-wooo-Woo-Wooo-WOO-WOOO-WOOOOO!”

The first time I heard her howl I thought she had broken a leg. My heart raced as I ran back into the house, only to find her happily panting. It was the beginning of a lifetime of false alarms. Fool me once, fool me a thousand times!

Lex and Lili were like an old married couple. They waited for each other before climbing the stairs to go to bed. They ate at the same time. They peed in unison on walks. Their bond was unbreakable.

Our last photo together.

So when Lili died, I was unsure if Lexie would survive.

For days, Lex curled up on Lili’s smelly pillow. She moped, and didn’t eat. She lost weight. But eventually she started showing interest in the world again. A year passed, and I’m sure she was convinced she would finish her days as a spinster.

Then Charlie came along.

Love is tender and unpredictable. And love has found Lexie again.

Lili would want that.

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