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.

Snowfall

The deep freeze went away. Last weekend, Lucy reveled in the freedom to run and play in the back yard without freezing her cute little paws off. I think we made it past the thirties! And believe it or not, I saw a few people in shorts on Saturday!

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Looking for a stick in the brush pile

Sniffing scents in the snow

Sniffing scents in the snow

Last night and early this morning, a snowfall came to our area. It was pretty typical as far as snowfalls in Minnesota go and it left a few inches of clean, white fluff on the ground and a bit of a dip in the temperature. During the week, I get up for the day while it’s still dark outside. There’s a street light on the corner across from our house. So the first thing I did was to go to the window and watch big, heavy, wet snowflakes rain down in a slant beneath the glow of the street light. It was pretty. And I knew the drive to work would be slow.

It was a small challenge just getting out of the driveway. The lines separating the lanes on streets and freeways were invisible. I listened to the radio, laughed at the morning show antics and sang along to favorite songs as my car crawled along in traffic along with hundreds of others. It’s a good thing I left early. My usual twenty-minute to half-hour drive took an hour.

It was a busy day at work and I was immersed. Lunch break passed me by. I ate while I continued working at my desk and it was time to go home before I realized it. When I went out to my car, it was a simple pleasure to see daylight. The sun has been scarce lately or I’ve stayed at the office long enough to miss it. Thankfully, the roads were cleaner and drier for the drive home. Unfortunately, the driveway wasn’t.

The unspoken division of duties at our house means Mark usually handles the outside stuff and I cover the inside stuff. I expected him to tackle the snow in the driveway before he went to work this afternoon, but he ended up starting earlier than planned. The driveway was not visible when I pulled up after work. I had to gun it to get my car up the slight incline and into the garage. I knew that when  Jake got home, he would have trouble getting his car through the crusty lip of snow that, thanks to the snowplow, edged the end of our driveway. And then he’d have to navigate the blanket of snow the covered the rest of it and into the turn-around where he parks at the end of each day. I thought I might clear it out for him before he got home.

My parents have a snow blower. This is what Mark uses to clear our driveway and theirs, when he does the snow removal. I don’t know how to run it, and besides, it’s finicky. I bundled up and grabbed one of the many snow shovels from the selection hanging on the garage wall.

Our driveway doesn’t seem so big. Until I’m shoveling it by hand. Then it feels enormous! As I scraped and pushed and scooped up snow, I heard the whir of snow blowers all around the neighborhood. I wondered if nobody just shovels snow anymore. Neighbors drove by periodically, honked and waved. True or not, I felt like somewhat of an oddity. About halfway through the job, I was sweating, sniffling, and the cold air felt sharp in my lungs. I was getting tired! Thankfully, Jake pulled into the neighborhood just then. He left his car on the street for the time being and grabbed another shovel. Together we cleared the rest of the snow away. It’s true what they say. Many hands make light work.

Just before we finished, I realized that dusk had fallen and the moon was hanging in the sky, just behind the neighbor’s tree. It was picturesque.  I stopped a moment to appreciate the moon, recognizing the hush of winter around us. I might not have noticed the moon or the hush had I been pushing a snow blower, and for sure wouldn’t have if I had been warm and cozy in the house instead of outside in the cold.

Winter Moon

Winter Moon

That moon can come back any time it likes. I won’t mind if the snow doesn’t.

Warming up to … COLDER

I was listening to the radio while making my lunch this morning before leaving for work. I caught the weather update.

It’s currently twenty-six degrees with a high of twenty-one today.

Seems to me that if it was twenty-six degrees at seven o’clock and the temperatures were heading toward twenty-one, the high temperature for the day would be twenty-six. Apparently logic is just as unnecessary in meteorology as is accuracy.

Regardless, it is getting cold around here. I could not seem to warm up on Sunday, no matter what I did. When Mark came home from work, I joined him in the family room for an evening of lounging. Still feeling cold, I went in search of a blanket and discovered one my in-laws had given me for Christmas years ago. Mark had told them I was always cold, so they got me this awesome fleece blanket. It looks like the predecessor to the Snuggie. But it’s way better than a Snuggie. The lower half zips up and the upper half snaps together to make something like a robe.

I was having a silly time figuring out how to enclose myself in the blanket and once I was bundled up, realized there were a couple of snaps on the bottom to create legs. Lucy was fascinated and was “flea biting” the blanket while I laughed and half-heartedly kept insisting she stop. Then, caught up in the silliness, I jumped up from my chair and danced around the room while Lucy leapt and barked at me.

Mark, shaking his head but unable to hide the grin on his face, remarked, “That is so not sexy.”

“Great. I’ll be sure to wear it to bed,” I assured him.

I settled into my chair with all my necessities close at hand and in spite of Mark’s efforts to get her to come to him, Lucy proved that she does in fact love me the most. (Or maybe she just loved the blanket the most at that moment.)

coldAnd I was finally warm!

 

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!

Lucy’s Fun Weekend

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We always tell her she’s so pretty. I hope she doesn’t get conceited.

Lucy sure was happy to have Kacey home for the weekend. It was the icing on the cake after Lucy had spent the entire past week palling around with Mark, who had taken some time off work to go hunting. Except he didn’t go hunting.  Instead, he did chores around the yard, while Lucy followed him around. And he spent time at his parents’ house doing some chores there too, with Lucy in tow. Lucy loves to go visit Grandma and Grandpa. Knows exactly where the treat cupboard is and how to sucker the grandparents into giving some to her. After treats, Grandma and Grandpa will be sure to shower Lucy with attention and tell her what a good dog she is. They’ll encourage her to go upstairs to look out their bedroom window where she might spot a deer in their backyard.

Kacey came home just in time to take over where Mark and the grandparents had left off in the dog-spoiling department.

Our dog is so spoiled! Did you ever get that sense from the things I’ve written about her? Just in case there was any doubt, I kiss Lucy’s head every morning when I wake up and she comes to tackle me with affection. I snuggle with her and say, “G’morning Sweat Pea! How’s my Sweet Pea?” She nearly wiggles out of her skin and smacks me repeatedly with the vigorous wagging of her tail. (As much as we love her, there’s absolutely no doubt she is pretty fond of us too.) I kiss her head and nuzzle her before I walk out the door for work each day, saying things like, “Mommy wuvs you! Yes I do. Be good girl!”

I’ve been known to hug my dog and tell her, “Lucy, you’re the cutest dog in the whole world! Yes you are!” And then I’ll ask her, “Who loves you the mostest? Huh? Huh? Who loves you best? Huh?”

We all know that the answer to these rhetorical questions is “Mommy,” but when Kacey’s around, she insists on telling Lucy, “Kacey loves you the most! Don’t let her tell you different, Luce!”

To be honest, Kacey does love Lucy pretty intensely. I might have a slight edge with Lucy’s favor, only because I’m here to take her out for walks and share my apples with her on a daily basis. Kacey has the disadvantage of being away at college much of the time. But when Kacey is here, she spoils her dog. She’ll sit cross-legged on the living room floor for the sole purpose of letting Lucy come sit in her lap and be petted for as long as she wants. She’ll stretch out on the floor in front of the t.v. with her fleece blanket, knowing Lucy just loves to come cuddle on a fleece blanket.

Also? Kacey teaches Lucy new games, such as “find the treat.” This is a really impressive game, I have to say.

Lucy knows where her box of treats is stored, and when Kacey opens the closet door to get one, Lucy follows close on her heels, wondering, I’m sure, whether she’ll be asked to sit, speak or shake. It all begins when Kacey tells Lucy, “Sit.”

Lucy sits.

Kacey says, “Stay!”

Lucy stays.

If they’re playing “find the treat, Kacey then walks slowly down the hall toward the three bedrooms while Lucy watches her disappear into one of the rooms. She sits. She stays. But her body quivers while she fights the urge to take off after that delicious treat before she’s given the okay! Meanwhile, the treat is stashed into some hiding spot in a bedroom while Lucy patiently waits. I watched this game unfold last weekend and was seriously impressed that a dog who does not understand the command, “come,” knows to sit and wait for her treat to be hidden. I was also seriously amused to see that Lucy wanted that treat so badly that several streams of drool fell from her mouth as she watched for Kacey to return and give the command to “go get it!”

Really. Like five streams of drool. But she stays. And she waits for Kacey to give her the go-ahead. And then she goes off to find her treat. It could be behind a door, under a bed, or tucked in a corner. In less than a minute, Lucy tracks down and devours her treat.

Late Sunday afternoon, it was time for Kacey to go back to school. Lucy watched as she packed up her clothes and as I packed up food to send with her. Lucy’s disappointment was evident as Kacey hugged her, said goodbye and went out the door.

I felt bad for Lucy on Monday morning. Kacey was back at school. Jake left for work early. Mark went back to work not long after Jake had gone. Soon it was my turn to leave for the office. Lucy laid at the top of the stairs, looking at me with sad, sad eyes. I told her I was sorry and gave her extra kisses and behind-the-ear scratches.

Monday was a long day for Lucy. But all was forgiven as soon as I came back through the door after my work day. I knew it because when I walked in the door, Lucy bulldozed me and licked me to death. Life with a loving dog. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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.