Melting

It’s been happening in small doses lately and it brings me hope! Over the past few days, we’ve been hearing that the weekend could bring the warmest temperatures this year. Keep your fingers crossed! The snow cover is slowly diminishing, but there is still a long ways to go.

20140328Lucy and I haven’t had any regular morning walks in months. There has been too much snow and too much cold. I feared for the well-being of her paws. But with all the talk of a warm weekend, I was determined to get out there again. I didn’t dare say the word to Lucy before it was time. Last night as she was sitting with me in the recliner, I told her, “Tomorrow, we’ll go for a double you!

Her curiosity was piqued and she tipped her head to the side, looking at me with questions in her eyes. “I can’t tell you anymore right now,” I told her. “But I promise. You’ll be happy.”

When morning arrived, even though I knew better, I said the word before my teeth were brushed or my shoes were on. As my electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy whined and pranced in the bathroom doorway, wanting me to hurry up and take her on her walk already! When we finally hit the pavement, she was bound and determined to race toward all of those fun smells and sights.

The weather app on my phone said nineteen degrees this morning. I knew the warmer weather wouldn’t show up until later today, but nineteen degrees was better than the single digit and below zero temps that hung around for too many weeks. Lucy and I had the path pretty much to ourselves, save for one ambitious runner who wore a black mask over his mouth and nose and passed us by pretty quickly. We had to weave our way off the path and back again here and there to avoid large patches of ice, but the fresh air and sunshine felt amazing.

See the ice up ahead?

See the ice up ahead?

Also, that annoying kink in my back that I haven’t been able to shake all month feels like it might be gone; Just one of the many perks of outside versus the treadmill. Lucy and I burned off a bunch of cabin fever! Looking forward to many more mornings like this in the coming months (minus the snow and ice!)

Teeny Tiny Little Speck of Light at the End of the Tunnel

Not much new here. It’s still cold.

But when I opened the garage door to leave for work today, I heard the craziest thing. I heard a bird singing. It was like twenty below this morning. (That’s my estimate, which may be slightly exaggerated in comparison to reality. But in reality, it was definitely less than zero degrees this morning.) And this bird was not just chirping and peeping. It was singing. You never stop to think how pretty a bird’s song can be until you’ve gone months without hearing it. Maybe there’s hope for an end to this winter.

But in the meantime, it is still cold. And just like everyone else, I am sick to death of being cold. Being cold has a negative affect on me.

I have to admit that I’ve snoozed the alarm a few times, skipping exercise in favor of sleeping and snuggling under the pile of blankets for an extra hour. Just can’t help myself sometimes.

I haven’t used my camera like I said I was going to. There is little of interest to photograph inside this house, and I have no interest in spending time outside if I don’t have to.

I wear big, heavy sweatshirts whenever possible. And slippers over socks when hanging around the house. And Under Armour underneath my work clothes. I’m sick of it.

I haven’t done anything special, really. I did read a really good book, though. And of course, we’re closely following the Olympic events! And I passed the time one evening registering Lucy for a doggy photo contest. She could win what amounts to a doggy spa package and portrait session. But really I’ve probably just registered myself for a bunch of junk email. Still, I’m pretty sure she’s a shoe-in to win. She’s totally the cutest dog in the contest. Lucy would appreciate your vote, if you’re so inclined.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She'll make all your dreams come true.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She’ll make all your dreams come true.

So as you can see, I’m killing time as best I can while waiting out the deep freeze. The singing bird from this morning makes me feel hopeful… and alternately makes me wonder if the extended cold is just messing with my head. What bird is out singing in the arctic cold? It’s probably a good thing we booked a vacation. I hope southern Florida hasn’t completely succumbed to this miserable winter because I am seriously in need of some rays!

The Best of Canine Friends

It’s not easy to capture moments like these. If Lucy notices that I’ve stepped outside, she tends to come running, thinking I’m only there to play or offer a treat. But this time, I was very, very quiet and I caught them in action.

These two pups have proven that friendship can blossom and grow in spite of certain barriers. A little fence can’t keep Lucy and Gracie from enjoying each other’s company. I just wonder how long before Gracie figures out how to climb or jump right over to our side!

The next-door neighbors are early risers too. When I let Lucy out for the first time each morning, Gracie is usually already out in her own yard. As soon as the sound of a patio door can be heard sliding open and shut, the dogs race toward the fence that divides their yards. They greet each other with pure joy, tails whipping side to side, and they race each other up and down the yards along the fence as if it’s been weeks since they’ve been together.

There is often a stick involved in the dogs’ playtime. Lucy finds them under the massive pine tree in our yard, where Mark left a pile of sticks and brush last fall. Gracie? She has to work a little harder to find sticks in her yard. Actually, they’re not so hard to find. There’s just a little work involved in getting one. She goes to the row of shrubs that borders her back yard and grabs a branch in her teeth, biting, twisting and wrenching until one breaks off! I’m not sure how much will be left of the corner shrub come this spring!

Once a stick has been found, the dogs chase again, up and down the yards along the fence. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear Gracie dragging her stick across the chain-link, making a clickety-clanging sound. Sometimes one of them will figure out how to maneuver their stick through the fence so they can play tug of war. Gracie seems to share a bit more easily, passing sticks to Lucy generously. Gracie never seems to remember that once Lucy has the stick, it probably won’t be coming back to her. Still, there never comes a time when she’s not willing to share what she has with her friend.

The layers of snow in our yards seem to grow deeper by the day. I was walking in the yard yesterday. In places where the snow was not disturbed before I came along, it was over my knees! Lucy and Gracie have worn paths along their play area on each side. After a particularly heavy snowfall, Kacey went outside with the shovel to clear Lucy’s way again. The dogs often dig the snow away from their fence, as if thinking they might dig deep enough to tunnel underneath and finally be able to run in the same yard. They dig furiously with their paws and bury their faces in the snow. Lucy often forgets how cold it can be until one of her paws suddenly aches with cold. Then she’ll favor the aching foot and come limping to the door to come inside. Gracie seems a little more immune to the cold and at times like these, she’ll sit on her side of the fence watching sadly as Lucy goes back inside the warmth of her own house.

We’ve often joked with the neighbors that we should just cut a doggy-door in that fence so our “girls” can play together whenever they like.

Still in a holiday-lazy groove

I had to go back to work today after having the past two days off in honor of the New Year. This morning felt like Monday all over again. And it wasn’t easy getting out of bed. It’s been so cold for the past couple of weeks! I have a blanket, a heavy comforter and a quilt on the bed. Last night I threw a fleece blanket on top for good measure. Mark was gone to work for the night, so I tried to convince one of the dogs to curl up and share some body heat, but when Brad and Heather are home, which they are right now, Lucy forgets I exist and attaches herself like velcro to Heather’s side for the duration of their stay. Dacotah, sick of fighting for attention against Lucy, hung out with me for a while, but soon wandered off to find her own people again.

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Can you tell I’m one of those people who can never get warm? Now I remember why I was in an exercise slump around this time last year. Just the thought of making even the short jaunt from the gym parking lot into the gym in this kind of cold is almost painful. Of course now that Jillian Michaels lives in my DVD player, I can’t use that excuse anymore.

I didn’t exercise this morning, though. I had the best of intentions of going to the gym, but … it was  seriously cold out. Also, I didn’t really sleep much last night. The combination of “kids” home on break from school and work, coming and going, the dogs romping around as long as someone was awake, and Dacotah periodically wandering back in to stick her nose in my face and make sure I was still in my bed, all kept me from getting a solid night of sleep.

I was kind of cranky as I drove to work today. In weather this cold, the roads can be icy even when they don’t look it. But some drivers drive stupid anyway and it annoys me. And then I was thinking about how once I arrived at work, how much I didn’t want to have to deal with an annoying coworker who constantly comes across as such a phony and always manages to push my buttons. I literally prayed as I drove that she would call in sick. No such luck. She showed up to work not long after I arrived.

But I was busy after a couple of days away. There was plenty of catching up to do, several month-end processes to complete and a couple of client “fires” to put out. I barely had a free moment to spare and thankfully, my coworker kept her distance. It also helps that I’ve finally learned to refuse to respond when she initiates conversation over the cubicle wall. If she can’t come address me directly, I’m going to pretend I can’t hear her. It helps.

The day was full enough that it passed quickly. I got everything caught up and under control, enough for me to have one more day off tomorrow. I figured that since the kids are home, I might as well make use of all that PTO time I accumulated over the past year and stretch out the holidays just one more day. So by afternoon, that Monday feeling had passed and the Friday feeling took over.

Sure is going to feel strange to have to work all five days next week. But I think it’ll do me good to get back into a normal routine again.

Chasing the Light

The sun reflecting through a pair of glasses or bouncing off the face of a watch.

Light from the living room lamp casting shadows on the carpet.

The light beam of a flashlight racing around the floor.

Doesn’t matter which one. Lucy loves to chase light.

She’s smart. She knows how to ask someone to start the game. If you have glasses on your face, she sits and stares. She whines until you take them off, find a light source and create a spot of light on the floor for her to chase. If you have a flashlight? Same thing. When she finds shadows, she can entertain herself.

Considering the fact that she chews most doggie toys to a pulp, it’s the best form of entertainment we can offer her.

Dog People

One of the many things I love about my dog is the utter joy she experiences when she is reunited with the ones she loves. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone from the house and returned again, or if we’ve just been asleep for the night and are waking up for the day. Lucy Pie demonstrates such sheer joy at seeing our faces, she nearly crawls out of her skin. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll steer clear of her tail on such occasions.

Mark worked the night shift last night. Lucy and I were just getting our day started when Mark came home this morning. She had already given me my morning kiss and had scratched my neck in an effort to, I think, hug me. Mark was understandably tired after a long night on the job and plopped into a living room chair to sit and chat with me for a few minutes before going to bed. Lucy couldn’t stand the idea of not being near him. She climbed right up on him and displayed her long-standing belief that she is too a lap dog.

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007Last night, Mark and I were playing with Lucy in the family room. Lucy is the princess in this house and she knows it. Mark looked at her and asked, “Do you know how lucky you are, Dog? You were probably on your way to euthanasia until we came along and took you home.”

“We?” I asked. “What’s this ‘we’ business? I believe it was I who went in search of Lucy. I was the one who picked her out and had to convince you to let me bring her home!”

Scratching Lucy behind both ears and pulling her face to his, Mark explained, “That’s because I didn’t think I could love another dog after Shelby. But we got lucky. We’ve been lucky enough to have the two best dogs in the world. And we’ll never have another.”

“Um, yeah we will,” I corrected him.

He looked surprised. “You would be willing to take in another dog someday when Lucy’s not around?”

It seemed an odd conversation. I don’t want to think about a time when my Lucy is no longer around. But the reality is, I am pretty likely to outlive her. I thought about Mark’s question and realized that Shelby and Lucy have taught me what a joy it is to love a dog. As much as I hate to think about a day without Lucy, I can no longer imagine a life without a loving dog. I looked at Mark and answered without hesitation.

“Yep.”

Outsmarted?

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I would move “her” chair away from the windows, but the living room just isn’t big enough that I can keep the window side of the room free of furniture. Lucy loves to sit in her chair and watch the happenings out the front window. She gets really excited when other dogs pass by. The windows inevitably end up covered in nose and tongue prints. I had just cleaned them off while doing my Saturday round of household chores and decided to close the blinds on the two middle windows to keep Lucy off of them. She could still see out the outer windows, but since those are crank-outs and have screens, she wouldn’t be able to leave her mark on them.

Apparently Lucy felt that she couldn’t see as well out of those outer windows from the seat of her chair. She wanted to get closer. Maybe it’s a trick she remembers from the days when her “sister,” Bella was still around.

Still miss our little Bells so much...

Still miss our little Bells so much…

Lucy is a very smart dog. When she first joined the family, she very quickly learned to ding the bell we hung on the back door to let us know when she wants to go outside. She knows how to shake, speak and stay. I think she plays stupid with the command, Come! I keep trying, but always resort to, Whose here? or Treat! Only then will she come in from the back yard, unless of course, she wants to come in.

On Saturday, I was playing find the treat with Lucy. Just like Kacey taught her, she sat when I said sit. She stayed when I said stay. She watched intently as I walked down the hallway with her treat. She watched me go into Kacey’s bedroom and she stayed put while I placed the Milk Bone behind Kacey’s bedroom door. I then walked out of the room and straight back to Lucy’s side before saying, Go get it!

My brainiac dog ran down the hallway, past Kacey’s bedroom and into Jake’s bedroom. She sniffed around for a few seconds before going to Kacey’s room and finding the hidden treasure. I was cracking up as I told her, Good job! I don’t know if she just thinks that part of the game is to go sniff around other rooms before finding her prize, but regardless, she provided me great amusement!

Dog Possessed

Have I ever mentioned what an extreme animal lover my mom is? Always has been. Sometimes I think she likes her animals better than she likes her people. Sometimes I can completely understand that.

There are old pictures of my mom. One in particular stands out in my mind. It’s a black and white photograph of a young farm girl. She’s standing outside in the yard in a winter coat that reaches her knees. There’s snow on the ground and she’s wearing saggy tights and has winter boots on her feet. There’s a sweet smile on her face and in her arms, she’s holding a cat that’s nearly half the size of her.

There are stories of Mom and her chickens. There’s the picture of mom and the cat. But most often, there are the stories of Mom and her dogs. Another black and white photo comes to mind. Mom isn’t in that one, but three little Pekingese dogs are in it. One was named Penny. I remember that much. The other two dogs’ names are lost somewhere in the recesses of my memory.

Almost as soon as Mom and Dad were married, they had begun their family. We four kids came in quick succession and there were dogs right from the start too. I have no memories of him; I was that young or maybe not even born yet, but the first was Sugar Pooch. (Who names their dog Sugar Pooch? My parents, that’s who!) Then there was Neko. Neko I remember. He was a big, pretty Collie who thought he was little enough to wander around under the kitchen table while the family ate. (He wasn’t.) Our little house with a family of six people and a tiny yard proved to be too small for Neko. He was constantly in trouble. He needed space. Mom and Dad sent him to live with a cousin who had a farm.  I hated saying goodbye to Neko, but he was better off in his new wide-open space.

Kippy looked a LOT like this.

Kippy looked a LOT like this.

Sometime after Neko left us, around the time I was six years old and in Kindergarten, I came home to find that Mom had a new “baby.” His name was Kippy and he was a funny-looking little Pekingese dog. He had a smushy face and a curled, furry tail. He was really cute and Mom was head-over-heels for him. And Kippy soon showed that the feeling was mutual. He was fiercely loyal to my mom and was never far from her side. In fact, he was usually in her lap.

There are a few cute stories about Kippy, like the time my mom left her place at the kitchen table to answer the phone. She had just sat down to have a bowl of homemade vegetable soup. This was before cordless phones when a length of the phone cord dictated how far a person could move from the place where the phone was located. Mom finished her short conversation and turned to head back to her chair at the table where she saw Kippy, front paws on the table, happily licking up the last remnants of her soup.

Yeah… that was cute. But Kippy wasn’t always so cute. Like I said, he worshipped my mom. He was protective of her and barked viciously at anyone who dared to walk along the fence surrounding our front yard. And god forbid anyone come to the door! Kippy also felt inclined to show us kids who was in charge in Mom’s kitchen. We didn’t dare do our after dinner chores in stocking feet. Kippy hid under the open dishwasher door. If an unsuspecting kid tried to load the dishwasher minus shoes, Kippy would bite their toes. I know he drew blood from me on at least one occasion.

He also wouldn’t let us kids pass through the kitchen to go down the basement stairs. I remember trying to sneak past Kippy as he lay on the floor guarding the doorway to the basement. He snarled and barked and lunged at anyone trying to get by (except for Mom.) If we could get to the first step though, he was usually too lazy to chase us. It got so that when I knew I had to pass Kippy to go down the basement where my bedroom was, I’d go put on my winter boots. I laughed hysterically the first time I thought to do this. I put big, black snowmobile boots on my feet and let him attack the boots to his heart’s content. He couldn’t hurt my toes anymore!

Kippy’s favorite game was “tuck the kids in bed.” My sister and I shared a double bed. Mom would call down the stairs to let us know that Kippy was coming to tuck us in. We would squeal and hide under the blankets and Mom would come in carrying her baby, then set him down on the bed where he’d bounce around, snarling, trying to get the blankets off our heads.

Kippy scared the heck out of me. He had a nasty temper and only loved one person – my mom. He tolerated my dad, but he clearly felt he ranked above us kids in the family hierarchy. And clearly, my mom had some kind of twisted sense of humor to let her dog act so nasty to us kids. But believe it or not, Kippy provided many fond family memories. I remember being fed up with that vicious little ankle-biter more times than I can count, but when we tell childhood stories, they often involve Kippy.

Thankfully, not long after Kippy came along, Mom brought home a “sister” for him. She was another Pekingese named Tina. Tina was much nicer to us kids and never thought to bite our toes. Somehow, she made up for the fact that we had to put up with Kippy, a dog who often acted so possessed!

When I was thirteen, Kippy got sick with pancreatic cancer. It was my first real experience with losing a pet and really understanding that feeling of loss. I forgot all those years of feeling what a nuisance Kippy was. I forgot about his antagonistic demeanor and my bitten toes. Suddenly he was sick, weak and fading away. He didn’t scare us anymore, but we sure wished he could. Suddenly he let us kids pet him, kiss the soft top of his furry head and tell him we loved him. Suddenly he was gone and we were so heartbroken.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Abby often has stories on her blog that are prompted by the prompts at Mama Kat’s blog. Abby’s prompted writings often prompt me to remember a story. Today I read Abby’s story about her childhood fear of dogs, her response to Mama Kat’s promptSomething that scared you when you were young. Are you still afraid?  Abby’s fear-of-dogs story reminded me of when I was afraid of a dog and I decided to jump on the prompty bandwagon.

I was afraid of my family’s own dog!

Life with Lucy

Since Lucy’s a rescue dog, we’ve never been entirely sure of her breeding. When we first saw Lucy’s photo on the rescue group’s website and I inquired about her, I was told she was most likely a Boxer/Lab/Beagle/Hound mix. Her body shape and the color of her fur seem to verify that she’s part Boxer. The other breeds aren’t so immediately apparent – until I take her for a walk. That’s when I know that Lucy’s got some Hound in her.

When we go out in the mornings, Lucy spends most of the walk with her nose to the ground. She spreads her front legs wide and literally pulls me along as she chases one scent or another. And just as I get in a rhythm with her pace, she’ll stop dead in her tracks to sniff the grass, a light pole or some low hanging pine branches where some other dog has most likely left his mark. Then, like a toddler with ADHD, she’s off like a rocket again to chase some other smell.

It’s a good thing I have long legs. They make it easier to keep up with Lucy. And if I run to keep up with her, she just moves even faster. I’m apparently not allowed to get comfortable. And to make matters worse, the local bunny population seems to have exploded all of a sudden. These cute and fuzzy bunnies reside in the grasses along the neighborhood paths we walk each day. They hop out into the open and Lucy catches their scent before I can even notice them. Unfortunately, the bunny defense mechanism is to stand completely still. Lucy does her best to yank my arm out of the socket when she lunges after them and I get an arm workout while trying to remind her who is in charge on this walk. I swear, I could hire her out as a farm hand. Hook her up to a plow and put a bunny in front of her and off she’ll go.

Lap DogLucky for Lucy, she’s got such a funny personality. She loves to give hugs and sit on laps. She doesn’t seem to realize she’s a canine. She rarely sits on her back legs, instead sitting on her back end with her hind legs stretched out in front of her.It’s obvious she thinks she’s a people. And she knows her favorite people by name. The other night, I asked Kacey, “Is Connor here?” Lucy leapt up from the floor, woofed and went running to look out the front door.

Sometimes we take her collar off and tell her, “Lucy! You’re naked!” She won’t relax until her collar is back on. Clearly she doesn’t like to be naked.

She has never learned to obey when we say, “Lucy, come!” But if someone even whispers the word “treat,” she’ll come running from the far corners of the back yard. And when it comes to treats, Lucy definitely knows sit, speak, and shake.

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She’s got the prettiest topaz-brown eyes, and she’ll melt your heart when you talk to her directly and she cocks her head to the side as if to say, “Really! Tell me more!”

She constantly makes us laugh and Kacey and I are always remarking at how we somehow managed to find the cutest dog in the world. (Feel free to argue with me, you other dog lovers. I know you will, and we’ll agree to disagree!) We spoil Lucy just a little bit, like when she hears one of us scooping ice cubes from the plastic bin in the freezer. She thinks ice is a treat, and we always give her a cube to chew. We’ve added Princess to Lucy’s long list of affectionate nick names, and she seems to take the new name to heart. But spoiled as she may be, she’s generous with her love and is the best cuddler. Which is probably the only reason I’ll forgive her for waking me up at 3:30 this morning and whining to go out for our daily walk.

On Again/Off Again – The Battle for the A/C

Mark is anti-air conditioning. We have it. I love it. And there is a constant battle in this house between using it and agreeing to let the fresh air come in through the windows. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the fresh air. I rather enjoy it, actually. But when the outside temperatures and humidity levels reach a point where it’s impossible to merely sit without sweating, I see no need to suffer.

Yesterday was the hottest, most humid day of the most summer-like week we’ve had so far this year. As the sun began to set last night, Mark came in from outside and announced, “It’s really cooling down out there! Should we shut off the air?”

I sighed and said, “Sure.”

It wasn’t really cooling down out there. But there was no point in arguing. Oh, Mark would leave it on if I’d argued, but he would be sure to let me know how wasteful he thought I was being. He wouldn’t be mean about it or anything. He would just be sure to let me know. And I would feel like I was being selfish. Sometimes I fight for the comfort. Sometimes I let him win. It was his turn to win.

So the air conditioner was turned off and the windows were opened. Our bedroom is in the lower level of the house, so the cooler air settles there anyway. And I have to admit that I slept rather comfortably most of the night. Until 5:30 this morning.

It was a combination of things that woke me. Yesterday, Mark broke the string on the pleated shade that covers our window. He took it in for repair and it won’t be ready for a few days. So the morning sunshine was coming right through our bedroom window. I tried to keep my eyes closed, but there was no pretending that I could still make it dark behind my eyelids. The air was still humid and I realized I was feeling sticky. And also? There was a bird party going on in the back yard. They were chirping and squawking like crazy! And since our window was wide open to let in the cool, fresh air, there was no way I was going to fall back asleep.

Mark was beginning to wake up too. He had to leave for work at six anyway. And Lucy was thrusting her nose in my face, wanting me to get up and play. I reluctantly crawled out of bed and went to the window to see what the bird ruckus was all about. They were scattered all over the back lawn, plucking bugs and worms from the grass. Clearly it was breakfast time in the bird world.

Mark left for work and Lucy waited for me to finish observing the Grackles, whining occasionally for me to turn my attention to her. I looked down at her hopeful face and said the magic word. “Walk?”

She became a canine ping-pong ball then, scrunching up her body and bouncing with joy. It’s always a mistake to say “the word” before the exact moment I’m ready to actually walk out the door, but I do it anyway. I love watching the way Lucy anticipates our departure. I quickly tossed on shorts and a t-shirt. Lucy danced and whined for me to hurry up. I brushed my teeth. Lucy bounced and whined for me to hurry up. I washed my face and straightened up my bed head. Lucy bounced and danced and whined for me to hurry up.

When I was ready to slip on my tennis shoes, I glanced sadly back at the bed and the early hour displayed on the clock that sits on my nightstand. Oh, well. Who was I kidding anyway? I’m an early bird even when it’s quiet and I’m not sticky and sweating.

I grabbed Lucy’s harness and leash, tied my shoes and we went off for one of those quiet, early Saturday walks that I actually really love. Lucy pulled me along sniffing all kinds of interesting smells. I appreciated the relative quiet of the morning, some blooming Asiatic Lilies and the sunshine that still feels so welcome after all of the clouds we had in recent weeks. Arriving back in our own driveway, I opened up the garage door and walked back to the house through the empty spot where Mark’s truck sits when he’s at home. Lucy was panting and I was sweating. Inside the house, I unhooked Lucy’s leash in the foyer and headed straight for the thermostat. Smiling over my own private victory, I turned the air conditioning back on!