29 April 2008

Doggie Day Care

Almost daily ever since I made their acquaintance, my across the street neighbors Jim and Michiko have looked after Dolly during the day. Michiko strongly believes that animals should not be left alone all day while you are away at work. Period. Michiko is an animal lover, a dog lover, and she will tell you to your face, oh, I like you, but I love dogs.

So, everyday, she came over to my house, changed the dog water, let Dolly out back, spent time with her. Sometimes she swept up the dog hair out of the doggie room and maybe she might shake out the dog bed. Then she would take the collar and leash off the gate outside, put it on Dolly, take her for a leisurely stroll down the street and back for exercise, and then they would amble over to Michiko's house for an afternoon of lounging in good company.

When I would come home from work, the routine was always to pick up my mail, drop off my work stuff in the house, then cross the street to fetch Dolly home.

When Sonny first came to live with me, Michiko shook her head and maintained she would not be able to handle such a young rough and tumble dog. She regretted that she would no longer be able to bring Dolly to her house in the afternoons, because she did not want Sonny to be sad to be left alone at home, and have his feelings hurt.

Michiko still came over to my house, she let the dogs out, stayed with them in the yard, watching Sonny run up and down burning his energy. She would brush Dolly and keep them company for an hour or more each day. She told me that people would stop on the street and watch Sonny run, and ask where these dogs came from. She would shake her head and say, I don’t know, they are not mine.

A couple weeks ago when I got home from work, Dolly was not in the doggie room. And then again, a couple days later. Sometimes Dolly won’t go back into my house, she will sit down and not budge an inch, insisting to go home with Michiko, and often Michiko gives in to Dolly’s stubborn refusal to go anywhere but across the street.

Dolly might not have been home waiting for me, but there was Sonny, just sitting in his kennel, waiting for somebody to come home. He wasn’t lonely or anything, he was just being patient. Michiko had been there and made sure he had time outside during the day. He was fine.

But as fate has it, finally, the turning point came.

For the past couple days, when I get home, the house is empty.

Both Dolly AND Sonny are across the street at Michiko’s.

Dolly is relieved to be back in her old routine. Sonny is thrilled to finally be allowed to accompany her. It's like for a kid, graduating to big boy underpants.

I think it has been a rite of passage for Sonny. When I brought him home last night he led the way proudly prancing ahead of Dolly and I on his leash, leading us home, with the one toy in his mouth that Michiko allowed him to bring over during his stay.

Later last night, when I was letting him back in the house from the back yard, instead of going in the back door like usual, he started to walk over to Michiko’s.

The look back over his shoulder said it all.

See you later, back in a sec.

He's a big boy now.

15 April 2008

45 Minutes Was All It Took

For the past week he (and we all know who HE is) has spent the night out of his kennel, angelically slumbering on the bed in the living room corner. This is the bed that has the dog pillow he chewed a hole in on the first day he had it. It is now covered by a mostly intact comforter. He has been on his best behavior overnight, deceiving me.

I honestly felt he could be left alone for just an hour while I went to the eye doctor. I decided to stop home after my appointment, to see if I was right, and pick up my lunch before I go to work. I will have my true answer.

I put him in his kennel in the doggie room. I did not latch the kennel door. The baby gate was shut. Dolly was in there with him.

I was only gone for 45 minutes.

I was oh so very wrong. He is NOT ready to be left on his own when I am not there.

Here is a list of some of the things that were out of place:

A. Futon Area
1. Two throw pillows on futon removed.
2. One pillow on futon (which already had a rip in it) stuffing strewn over floor.
3. Two blankets from on back of futon are off futon.
4. Sonny hair (he is shedding horribly) is all over navy blue cover of Futon. (In my mind’s eye I suspect he has been using the back of the futon to ricochet off as he circumnavigates the room at high speeds)
5. Bed tray on futon is half off, folding legs are collapsed. Papers formerly on tray top are cast about.

B. Hearth Area
1. Batting from throw pillow mingles with shredded brown bags, debris field is widespread.
2. Dog food bowls are found here, 6-8 feet from starting points.

C. Kennel Area
1. Sheet that was under kennel is no longer under kennel. Sheet is IN kennel, in shreds.
2. Kennel is 3 feet away from starting point.
3. Kennel is now facing East, formerly facing North.

D. Dolly Area
1. As I enter the minefield Dolly looks at me with perplexity, she seems a little dizzy. Her look says, I don't know, but it was fast.

12 April 2008


May 13, 2008
If you had an assignment to write 5 of the first memories that come to your mind about how you remember mom, what would you write?

Here are my five, we’ll see in what order they pop up.

1. I am having a birthday and I am not yet in school, so it must be my 5th birthday. I am home with my mom. My two older sisters and older brother are in school, because it is January, so I know that is where they must be. I don’t know where my two younger siblings are (my youngest brother is not born yet), but in my memory it feels like mom and I are home alone and I am basking in the individual attention she is giving me. I am dressed in a special dress and I remember saying things about having certain privileges for that day because, I say, “After all, it IS my birthday”. She is standing by the stove in the kitchen, getting ready to bake my birthday cake, and she seems amused by my words, so I say it several more times during the course of the day to please her and make her smile more. She is making a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, even though there is probably cake leftover from last week. Mine is the last of four January birthdays. First my youngest brother, whose birthday is exactly seven days plus two days before my younger sister's, whose birthday is exactly seven days before my mom’s, whose birthday is exactly seven days before mine. It always was and continues to be a source of pride for me to be included with my mom in the January Birthdays.

2. I am perhaps 3 years old. I have been to the grocery store with my mom and she has bought for me a play wristwatch with a red elastic band that has numbers on the dial that glow in the dark after it has been exposed to light. I remember being impatient enough to want to see that phenomenon right away so I go into a closet in a bedroom at the old house on Corkhill Drive in Maple Hts., Ohio. While I am in there somebody has acidentally pushed a dresser in front of the door, just enough so that when I push to come out, I can’t open the door. I am afraid I will get in trouble for being in there because after a while I hear everybody calling my name in loud voices, inside and outside, over and over. I don’t know how long I was in there or if maybe I fell asleep on that pile of shoes in the back of the closet, but eventually somebody checks in the closet. I remember a squeezing hug, and the feeling of immense relief, "Didn't you hear us calling you?", and I didn't have a clue why. Not until years later, when my own son disappeared in Sears for half an hour only to be found brrrm-brrm-ing on the riding lawn mowers did I realize how frantic mom must have been.

3. I am in 3rd grade, and I remember waking up, sitting on the bedside table next to my mom’s side of the bed in the middle of the night, asking her to buy refill leads and erasers for my beloved turquoise Scripto mechanical pencil. I have been sleep walking/talking and my mom is telling me gently, go back to bed Lizzy, we’ll talk about it in the morning.

4. When I was 13 years old, Mom took 6 of the 7 of us kids across country, camping in a trailer pulled behind a white Ford CountrySquire station wagon. She took us to see canyons and mesas and forests and Las Vegas and the Pacific ocean, Badlands, corn lands, mountains, hills, deserts and prairies, and Mount Rushmore. She made the plans with my dad's help , but I know it was her idea. She executed this trip pretty much alone for the most part until car trouble around Flagstaff, Arizona (where the only camground to be found was on an Indian Reservation in Tuba City over the 4th of July) which prompted my dad to fly out and join us a little earlier than planned. That summer was an experience I never appreciated until last May when I made a similar trip with a friend and realized the enormity of what my mom had done, the gumption that it took to undertake it, with 6 in tow, kids aged 4 to 16, across the country pulling a trailer, to discover this great country with her children.

5. This last one is the last conversation I ever had with my mom. I am grown and have 3 kids of my own, I am 42. She has been having trouble catching her breath and it has been found that she has heart trouble, a torn aorta or something, I don’t recall the specifics anymore. Mom must go into the hospital for heart surgery. I speak to her the night before she goes in, our usual Sunday night talk, and she is expressing concern about the surgery, so I said, Mom, don’t worry, everything will be fine. She said back, I’m not worried Lizzy, I’m scared.

I saw her in her last days when she was on the ventilator and I wondered if she could hear me, if she knew I was there to say goodbye. I was never worried or scared for her because I never believed my mom wouldn't be there some day.

She’s been gone for 9 years today.

I miss my mom.

11 April 2008


Sonny trusts me.

Yesterday morning I encountered Sonny outside my shower door as I do every morning. He comes to investigate the room from which I emerge at this time every day, from behind a curtain, in a towel wrapped head, wringing wet.

This morning as always, he has one of his half toys in his mouth. You know, half toy, a stuffed animal that has been ripped open, squeaker destroyed, stuffing removed, essentially a toy 'skin'. This one is his raccoon. All that remains is the striped tail barely attached to some ratty looking fur. I take it from his mouth and drape it over his nose, telling him STAY as I adjust the 'skin' on his snout. He trusts me, he is obedient, Sonny doesn't move. He sits in my bathroom with the toy hanging on his nose, watching me to release his stay. He might have sat there all day long wearing his toy on his nose, but I release him, laugh and think, what a great start to a day.

Sonny is trusting me that he looks as ridiculously darling as he really does.

I trust Sonny.

Sonny is getting restless and bored staying in his kennel during the day. He is destroying his covers. He nips holes in the old comforters, and then empties them of their fill. It starts out that he is licking the material of the comforter, then he is nibbling a stray thread here and there, then before he knows it, voila, there is the stuffing poking through the hole that needs to be pulled and pulled and pulled, and oh well, thinks he, let's just make that hole a tiny bit bigger so it's easier to get at the fluffy white filling.

I bought him a dog pillow and tied a sheet around it. A comfy bed in his den. I delude myself that the sheet will remain intact. The sheet was not a deterrent. He shredded through the sheet and chewed a hole in the new pillow, which can easily be patched, but I took it away fom him with a scolding and it is now Dolly's pillow. She will show that pillow some RESPECT!

From now on he will only have old sheets for bedding in his kennel.

I feel sorry that he is so bored that he munches up his bed. But during the day when nobody is around I simply can not leave him alone outside his crate. I think that when I am out of his sight, and out of the house, I am out of his mind, and that is when he chews the blankets. When he is out of his kennel when I am home, he does not destroy the bed stuff. It is because I am always home when he is free that he knows I will be looking out for what he is doing.

Overnight last night I tried it.
I left Sonny out of his kennel.
I have noticed that at night, when the light timers turn the lamps off in the living room, he shuts down and lays on the dog beds in the living room and stays there. When I get up to go to bed I have a hard time getting him to go to his crate. I want to know if he will stay until the timers turn the lights back on in the morning.
He already knows I am down the long hall in my room. He is smart enough to realize that my many years as a mom have given me eyes in the back of my head and ears in every room. I am there. And I know that he does not ruin his blankies when he is out on his own.

I trusted him to sleep well overnight out of his kennel.
And he did.

05 April 2008

Box of Feathers.

I love birds.

I especially love parakeets.

I once had a nesting pair and ended up with 25 birds in two cages in my bedroom.

That first clutch of eggs was so exciting. I remember peeking into the nesting box now and then over the several weeks' gestation, checking on Suzy sitting on 6 eggs. It was like a Science Project. When the eggs started to hatch it was so enormous, like little whispers happening, new life coming into the world, and it was happening in a cage in my bedroom.

Those naked babies were amazing, humming in that wooden box, snuffling at first, then the faintest of prip prip, then the all out CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP! The bigger they got the louder they got.

But they grew charmingly, sprouting all different color of feathers, two were white, two were yellow, a blue one and a green one. The loudest one was a pure white bird who I named Margaret, after my sister. I named them all. Oliver. Pierre. Sirrus. Once they had names they became family.

Suzy had another clutch of eggs, and then another. The older she got the fewer the eggs she would lay, and from the last clutch the birds that came of it were small and weak. I even think one was a little bit retarded, he walked in endless circles on the bottom of the cage, like a blinker left on, and he didn't live for long.

Eventually, Suzy died, and her mate Jimmy died, and then the babies grew up and either they died or I gave them away, to friends or the pet shop, but I kept one or two for company and as keepsake of the Science Experiment, and when they died I buried them, washed out the cages and put the bird stuff away.

I didn't have another bird for many years.

Last August, feeling lonely and a little down, realizing the need for the sound of another live thing in my rooms with me, I bought a parakeet.

I named him August, and call him Gus. He is white and light blue, and I purchased him because, in the big clear plastic walled cage at Petco where he lived with all the other birds, he was doing antics on a perch, turning himself upside down and inside out, in, around, over and under that perch. He enchanted me.

Gus came home with me and sat in his cage, frightened at first, and then terribly lonely, for several weeks. He needed a friend, he was so obviously depressed.

I called my young friend Caroline and on one November Tuesday we went together, back to Petco, to look for a buddy for Gus.

We approached the bird cage in Petco and began our determination of who would be the most suitable companion for Gus. We walked around and around the cage for 30 minutes, debating the attributes of this one versus that one. Color, personality, finesse, all attributes were considered. Finally, deciding on a bold green and yellow number full of strut and gumption, we called over the Petco person and pointed out our choice.

Getting that bird out of that cage was like a hat game on the Jumbotron at a ballgame, trying to keep an eye on which one he was amidst the flutter and feather of the agitated birds when the attendant put his hand into the cage. Green and Yellow bird seemed impossible to be caught, he darted, ducked and dodged, he was one tough guy to catch.

On the way home, Caroline and I named him. Tough Guy Buddy, T.G. Buddy. I mostly just call him Buddy now.

These days they are moulting and dropping many of their most downy feathers, feathers that stick to your fingers when you pick them up. I keep a little Macy's box next to the cage to keep the feathers in. It is a beautiful surprise every time I open it and see the feathers of Gus and Buddy inside, chest feathers that are jewels of soft diamond white, Gus blue, Buddy yellow, emerald green. Cheek feathers that are miniscule with a black dot. Wing feathers, strong and tight. There are no tail feathers yet, but when they come they will be long and straight, dark green and black. They are all beautiful feathers, and I save as many as I want to.

Today I added to my box of feathers, and I think, there is a color missing. The missing color is dark blue.

I am going to Petco this afternoon, I am looking for Seamus.

03 April 2008

Get the Paper

'Get the paper' is a common command every morning at my house.

I am so excited that Sonny has, seemingly effortlessly, learned to fetch the newspaper from the end of the driveway in the mornings. It is so convenient to have a dog who can do that, especially on rainy, snowy or just plain cold mornings. Usually Dolly performs this duty for me, she came to me knowing how to retrieve the paper. Lately she has begun sauntering more and more, with her ever increasing, ho hum, I'll get it when I get there attitude it is time, I decide, to start passing the torch. Good ol' Doll has been in service to me for more than 10 years.

Training Sonny went something like this:

Day One: Dolly, get the paper! (I let Sonny follow her out to the front yard instead of putting him behind the gate, I am now confident he will not run away when given freedom to run.) Dolly gets the paper, Sonny tinkles on a bush and watches.

Day Two: Dolly, get the paper! Dolly ambles out across the lawn toward the newspaper at the end of the driveway, stops, squats, tinkles, wanders to the paper and meanders back to the house with it. Sonny lifts his leg on his bush and watches.

Day Three: Sonny, get the paper! Sonny dashes to the tree, to the other tree, to the garden, towards the backyard, a loop around the potty bush, spies the paper, brings it in. Dolly watches.

Day Four: Sonny, get the paper! Son runs to the paper, legs flying, floppy puppy racing, grabs the paper, brings it to me and drops it at my feet. Dolly has decided to relinquish her duties after these many years and has already gone out back behind the gate.

There, I think satisfied: Trained.

This morning, Day Five, 5:08 a.m. I leave them both out the door and in general say, Get the Paper. I have the gate open so they can go straight into the backyard after whoever has gotten there first brings me back the paper. Sonny gets it, Sonny has it in his mouth, I see he is running back to me, I stoop to receive the paper, he doesn't stop running, ooopsy, there he flies, past me, through the gate, into the backyard, with my newspaper in his mouth! Oh no! He sails to the far side of the yard, a very big yard, and drops the paper. I loud whisper, Get the paper Sonny, Get the paper Dolly! Somebody get the paper off the compost pile where he has plopped it so that I don't have to walk out across that big muddy yard in the before dawn dark in the rain over hidden poop bombs!

Nobody gets the paper.

I start to walk out a little ways. Dolly is now nearest to the paper. I say, Dolly get the paper. Dolly hears, and has it in her mouth for a few seconds but something catches her nose and she goes off sniffing, the paper dropped forgotten again, now in the middle of the yard. I walk a few more cautious steps, chanting Dolly get the paper Sonny get the paper Dolly get the paper Sonny get the paper. SOMEBODY get the paper!

Sonny finally brings the paper to me and drops it at my feet. There. Done.

I need to be trained: do not 'open gate' before 'get the paper' is concluded.