Saturday, April 30, 2005

Gentle-souled, big-mouthed Elsie sitting with Daddy Don Posted by Hello

Gentle Soul; Big Mouth

Though all three dogs are gentle at heart (it's a Lab trait), Elsie has our softest touch. Certainly, Baxter and Ridge treat us with care and sensitivity, but Elsie's interactions are consistently tender and sweet.

You'd think by the way she soothingly leans against us and softly gives us kisses that she'd be our quiet, peace-filled, genteel little lady.

Think again.

Elsie, by far, has our biggest mouth. Her bark sounds more ferocious than Ridge's (whose bark is high-pitched and soft for a male); she yaps far more often than our Baxter; and she eats the most digusting things (cat poop, for instance).

And her yawn (see photo above). Her yawn...boy, oh to describe it. The last time I saw a yawn so big and tongue so long was when we were on safari in Africa (literally). A male lion we caught on film lounging on a termite mound opened his mouth to yawn when we were but 20 feet from him. His mouth was nothing short of cavernous.

Elsie could compete with Mr. Lion for Grand Canyon Mouth of the Century.

Who would have guessed: this petite, mannerly, tranquil epitome of docility has a mouth as big and husky as comedien/singer Carol Channing's (I'm dating myself here).

LOL. It's so incongruent. And it's so like Elsie.

But she knows how and when to use use mouth. And use it, she does, appropriately. Elsie never uses her mouth to wound; she only uses it to greet us exuberantly, to say hello to neighbors, or to lovingly alert us to dangers and foes.

If only people showed such restraint; if only we'd stop wounding each other with words and use our mouths in only appropriate, up-lifting, benifitting-others ways.

We have so much to learn.

'Til next time,

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The human-canine connection: there's nothing quite like it. Here, a picture of Don and Elsie is truly worth a thousand words. :o) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Elsie asleep in Dad's lap. Posted by Hello


And now from the "Did You Know?" department: Did you know that before the invention of the lightbulb Americans averaged 9.5 hours of sleep per night? And that was in the days when we were a hard-working agricultural society. We worked hard, but we allowed ourselves the grace to sleep when the sun slept so we'd be fresh for the next day's work.

Then came Thomas Edison.

Why is it that we 21st-Century humans think we can run 24/7 without rest or necessary sleep? Oh, yes, thanks to Mr. Edison, we have the light we need to work 24/7, but our bodies aren't designed that way.

We would do well to learn from our canine friends.

Oh, yes, they work hard, play hard, and eat with gusto. They perform when called upon to do so. But sleep, for them, is a must. It's a priority. And nothing will keep them from their needed sleep (except maybe a few days at the kennels, which is why they sleep for two days after their return). They'll flop anywhere, anytime, whenever their bodies cry out for rest.

I love to watch the dogs sleep; they rest peacefully most of the time. Occasional dreams make their limbs dance and their faces twitch; they may even whimper, bark, or moan while they dream. But in all, they rest well. And they stay healthy for it.

I wonder how many of our contemporary health issues are complicated by insufficient rest (probably quite a few). In a society that values performance and productivity above all else, rest becomes an expendable, devalued commodity.

But it's not expendable. It's necessary.

I'm learning that I need 8.5 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. Oh, I can get by with less, but I'm worse off for it. And if I go weeks and weeks with too little sleep, my body rebels and my health pays.

Like Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge, I think I'll pay more attention to my need for rest, and sleep when I need to. Sleep is not a waste of time, as we're tempted to think; it makes us that much more productive (and easy to live with) when we're awake.

Gee, the dogs are sleeping. Maybe I'll go take a nap (says the woman who got only 5 hours of sleep last night). ;o)

'Til next time,

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ridge, our ever-faithful, eager-to-please, always-ready-to-work-for-you retriever. Here he's waiting for Daddy Don to throw the retrieving dummy. Posted by Hello

Ridge alerting to voices he hears in the living room beyond the gate. Posted by Hello

Ridge wiggling and squirming and moaning with delight as Dan (our twenty-one-year-old son) rubs his chest and belly. Posted by Hello


If you're a regular reader you know that Ridge is our four-year-old yellow Lab (fox red end of the yellow spectrum) who came to us just a year ago as a three-year-old adoptee. With strong hunting lines, incredible athleticism, warm people orientation, and eye-catching good looks, he was our breeding investment (our stud). We expected he'd add much to the family; we had no idea how much.

Ridge is our vocalizer; he groans with complete and utter satisfaction when he stretches his legs or plops down for a nap. He sighs with delight when we rub his belly, his sigh sometimes turning into a pleasure-filled moan.

He's our affection grabber. He loves to nestle at our feet and nudge us with his nose. He'll butt his way between us and the other dogs to make sure to get his petting fix. If I'm working at the computer, and he's feeling overlooked, he'll bump my elbow with his nose until I give him attention (the same elbow of the arm that controls the mouse--try using a mouse with a dog nudging your arm; it's impossible!). Sometimes he get so excited by our touch he sounds almost human.

Ridge can also be our most vulnerable of the three. He hates thunderstorms. He needs reassurance. He needs us in ways the other two don't. It's nice to be needed.

Ridge is our watch dog and aspires to be our great protector. He alerts to strangers and car doors and cat meows and the postman far more vocally than Elsie and Baxter. And though he'd never hurt anyone, he can appear rather intimidating when he's alerting us to certain danger. ;o)

Ridge is also our always-ready-to-please-and-work-for-you retriever. He loves to train. He thoroughly enjoys doing whatever we ask of him. And he accomplishes it with an attentiveness and eagerness that puts the other two to shame. His athleticism and grace marvel us.

He's just an all-around great dog (thanks, Barnes family, for giving him up).

It's funny how each canine kid, even within the same breed, is distinct in personality. Baxter is our gentle, lumbering giant; Elsie is our old-souled imp with impeccable retrieving instincts and heart-warming affection; Ridge is our loyal, emotional, protective, hard-working companion. He's more "dog" than the other two combined.

Ridge and Elsie will make a great pairing when it's time to breed them; I can't wait to see their pups (we still have over a year to go before Elsie can be screened and cleared for breeding).

I'm glad we have them. I'm glad we have all three. Each brings his own set of life-enhancing traits and peculiarities. Life is fuller because of them.

'Til next time,

Monday, April 25, 2005

Elsie's adventure with Peanut Butter in the bone. (Oh, and no, she's not snarling in the middle picture on the right; she's just trying to get the PB off of her teeth.) She's not so sure about this PB thing; her relief in the last photo is quite evident. :o) Posted by Hello

Ohboyohboyohboyohboy! Mom gave us some bones! Posted by Hello

Satisfying a Need

Labs need to chew. Period. It's part of their wiring. They are retrievers--dogs meant to run after and pick up something with their mouths to bring back to their owners. They are, simply put, mouth-oriented dogs.

Labradors are soft-mouthed, to be sure (meaning that they hold things loosely between their jaws), but they are powerful chewers--even after their adult teeth have fully erupted.

And the need they have to chew is truly a need, not just a desire.

So, we do all we can to provide plenty of chewing opportunities of varying hardnesses and textures: soft toys, hard toys, and chewy toys; fuzzy toys, smooth toys, and knobby toys. And when we provide enough variety, the dogs stay out of trouble.

Canine boredom, at our house, results in havoc. ;o)

Insufficient satsifaction of canine need, out our house, wrecks even greater havoc still (hence the recent missing fern fiasco).

So, we invest in bones and tennis balls and kongs and ropes and denta-toys of various kinds. We provide plenty--and I mean plenty--of chew things for the canine kids.

Yes, it's expensive, but it's worth their happiness. And my sanity.

So today, while I work, the kids are in chewing heaven: marrow-filled bones and rawhide donuts (we use rawhides very sparingly because of their intestinal effect; bones are our first choice for chewing treats).

It's the only way I can get any work done.

Gee, I wonder if I can write our chew-toy investment up as a deductible business expense. I'd probably never owe the IRS another dime if I did!

Would that we could, but we can't, so I won't. :o) But I'll still provide plenty of chewy toys.

The kids do have their needs. :o)

'Til next time,

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ahh... a lazy afternoon... Posted by Hello

Pssst...Elsie...did you hear something? Should we tell Ridge? Posted by Hello

Daddy's home!!!!!! Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Huh? Did you really say Dad is coming home today? Really? Honest? Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy! Posted by Hello

The Prance Gave Her Away

So, this morning I'm sitting in my converted-dining-room-turned-office, which is an enclosed room with only one entrance, trying to get some work done. Because of the way my office is set up, when I'm at my desk I can't see into any other rooms; it's less distracting that way. My only view is of four office walls and the hills outside my windows.

I'd fed and played with the dogs, they'd been out for their morning romp, and they were settled in for their typical morning naps. I thought I was good to go.


Then I heard the prancing trot across the kitchen floor.

Now, to understand my thought process, you have to realize that the prancing trot sounds completely different on wood-laminate flooring than the low-key lumber, the meandering mosey, the determined (foot-slipping) dash, or the pre-nap flop. When I hear the prancing trot's uniform cadence of staccato toenails clicking against the floor, I can almost envision Arabian Horses in regal glory high-stepping in a show ring. It's a head-held-high-look-at-me-I'm-so-proud-of-myself gait. And it sounds like one.

And that means trouble.

You see, I forgot one thing when I started work this morning; I didn't put the kiddie gate up between the kitchen and the hallway that leads to the off-limits-for-dogs-lands that dwell in the rest of the house.

As soon as I heard the prancing trot, I dashed out of my office into the kitchen to see who it was this time who'd been prancing and why.

Need you guess? Sure enough, I found Elsie in the family room, her pose boasting of her latest find: my 21-year-old son's hand-free cell-phone headphones, which he had "safely" left on the coffee table in the doggie-off-limits living room.

There she stands, ears perked, tail curled high and swaying happily, eyes alert (even gleeful) with three-feet of small-gauge electronic gadget wire hanging out of both sides of her mouth. Thankfully the earbuds, mouthpiece, and plug were still in tact.

"Look what I found, Mom! Aren't you proud of me?"

She looked so innocently impressed by her latest retrieve, I had to laugh. Yes, I told her "no" and took the headphones away from her, but after she complied, I couldn't resist patting her on the head and nuzzling her. She's so cute, I can hardly stand it. And she warms my heart.

LOL. The Labs are our giggle factor. They make me smile.

I will say, however, that they make it challenging to get any concentrated work done.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ha! I got away with it this time. Nyah, nyah! (Elsie hauling Ridge's fleece bed around the yard.) Posted by Hello

The Imp

Well, the missing fern mystery is solved, although I don't know where it's been hiding the past few days.

This morning when I let the dogs out, I noticed a pile of debris in the middle of the yard that hadn't been there when I searched for the missing potted fern earlier this week.

Sure enough, it was the fern (or what's left of it): fuzzy fern roots, clumps of potting soil and roots, the remains of the plastic pot liner, and bits of fern stems and leaves were strewn over an area stretching at least thirty feet square. And that was just on the grass.

I found the hanger for the pot in the azalea bushes; I found the base of the pot up by the cherry tree. And who knows what happened to the rest of it.

Elsie is our imp; no doubt about it.

In addition to the fern wreckage, here's what else I found in the yard this morning (I should keep a tally; it could get interesting over time):

one sheepskin bone chew toy (turned inside out, the stuffing gone)
a cottage cheese container loaded with doggy teeth prints (who's been raiding the trash?)
a log from the pit where we sometimes do bonfires (who's been raiding the fire pit?)
a chewed up soda can (who's been raiding the recycle bin?)
the plastic sleeve from our newspaper (who's been raiding the newspaper pile?)
one Kong rope toy (okay, you can raid the doggie toy bin)
one wishbone shaped nylabone
one giant rope chew toy, shredded so it now looks like dental floss
two tennis balls
one greenie chew toy (removed from the hole by the azaleas where it previously hid)
a nicely chewed yogurt container (hmmmmm...trash rader again, I presume?)
several bones (not human)
and one, very dirty, completely hole-ridden sock (who's been raiding the laundry again?)

Now, that might seem like a lot, especially for a single day find, but if you knew how many items I rescue in a day before they make it outside, you'd think that list was a paltry one.

In fact, one big item I rescue several times a day is Ridge's fleece bed (see photo above). Elsie never drags her bed outside; only Ridge's. Smart girl.

Someday all this intelligence will be put to good use. We just have to survive until then. :o)

'Til next time,

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ridge does face swirlies to stay cool. ;o) Posted by Hello

This is a fun way to stay cool, Mom! Baxter (in the top of the picture in the dry pool) doesn't know what he's missing! Posted by Hello

Oh, it's just too hot in the sun. So Mom put up the umbrella for us so we can lounge in the shade. :o) Posted by Hello

Too Hot, Too Soon

Okay, already. I like spring. I really do. But temperatures in the 80s in mid-April is a bit much, even by southeastern PA standards. No one is ready for this kind of heat and humidity this soon. We need a few weeks of acclimation first. So do the dogs, it seems.

All three dogs have acted sluggishly all day yesterday and so far today (yesterday was only high seventies and humid). I thought they might be depressed that "dad" was still away (and I'm sure that's part of it), but their incessant panting suggests that it might also be the heat.

Elsie --our I-love-being-outside-in-the-rain-cold-sun-or-storms-Elsie-- doesn't even want to hang outdoors. She'd rather be inside stretched out on the cool brick floor of the family room. Panting. Just like Baxter and Ridge.

Even the kiddie pools don't refresh them; the water heats up too fast.

I'm sure the heat won't be so draining when it's actually summer and we've had weeks of 90-degree weather coupled with 80 percent humidity to get us used to living in this sticky air, but jumping from nights below freezing to 80s during the day is just a bit much.

Even for canines.

Maybe I'll stretch out on the cool floor with them. Or maybe I'll go do face swirlies in the kiddie pool with Ridge (just imagine...wouldn't that be a picture!). I have to agree; it's just too hot to do much today. And, it's WAY too soon to pull out the air conditioners (no, we don't have central air).

Ah, if only humans had a dog's life; then we could lounge around and pant and sleep the day away when we're too hot to work. But I don't lead a dog's life, so I suppose sweating in front of my computer will have to do for the rest of today.

Or maybe I'll go the library with my laptop; they DO have central air there. ;o)

'Til next time,
Joan (who can whine with the best of them) ;o)

Hurry home, Dad. We miss you. Oh, and we need you, too. I got stuck under the kitchen table this morning and Elsie got stuck at the bottom of the basement stairs when she chased that cat. Mom had GREAT difficulty getting us both up. We're just not ourselves without you.  Posted by Hello

Monday, April 18, 2005

Evidence of the crime. Where is the plant that used to hang here? Only Elsie knows. Posted by Hello

Elsie's been at it again. Notice the lime green greenie chew toy in the center of the hole. Note to Elsie: if you're going to bury something, you need to cover it up, too. Posted by Hello

More Mischief


It appears that Elsie's been up to her mischievous ways. First, I noticed that the cedar picket fencing around the flower bed by the deck was askew. Then I noticed the freshly disturbed mulch pile and cavernous depression in the soil behind the azalea bush on the other side of fence. Then I noticed the greenie toy in the bottom center of the depression. Could Elsie (gasp!) have been attempting to bury a bone?

We've never had a Lab bury things before.

Then I realized something was missing. I'd hung a potted fern (with these cool furry root runners) out on a flower basket pole on the other side of the deck to prepare it for outdoor planting. I bought the fern a few weeks ago, but it was too cold to plant, so I'd been keeping it indoors. I wanted to acclimate it to the temperatures outside before I planted it.

Funny thing, though. It's not there. It's gone. Vamoose. Nada. Vanished. The flower basket pole on which the plant was hanging is tilted sideways about 45 degrees (no longer verticle), like something (or someone who will remain nameless) pulled it over. But the entire fern that hung there (plant, roots, plastic basket, hangers) is gone.

For the life of me I can't find it.

I'll bet Elsie squirt knows where it is, but she's not telling.

Chalk up another loss to puppydom. ;o) But, really. A fern?

'Til next time.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Come on, Ridge! Lemme in!" Posted by Hello


One of the things I enjoy most about having three dogs is this: they always have a ready companion, even when I'm unable to pay attention to them.

Take Baxter, for example. Baxter loves companionship. He loves to be with someone (any mammal will do). He loves to hang out with his humans or nestle by their feet, but when his humans are busy and unable to provide the companionship he needs, Elsie is always there.

Baxter and Elsie both love the outdoors. Ridge, ironically, prefers the indoors (most of the time, not always). So when Ridge wants to sleep undisturbed on the family room floor, and Baxter wants to be outside, Elsie happily accompanies him.

Elsie, for another example, loves the kiddie pools. As does Ridge. Baxter, for some reason, is hesitant this season (he loved the water last year). It may still be a bit too cold for him (he has the least flexibility in his joints of all three dogs--I wonder if cold bothers him more). So when Elsie wants a companion in the pool, and Baxter would rather lounge in the warm grass, Ridge happily joins in the wet fray.

Ridge has a lesser need for companionship; he's very happy by himself (indoors or out). I suppose that may have something to do with the other two imps constantly teasing and picking on him. ;o) Or it may be that he's the oldest of the lot. In any case, he's happy to mellow alone.

But when he mellows alone inside, he fulfills my need to have a companion in the house during the day when I'm alone. He, in his own way, makes me feel less alone. :o)

If we had only Ridge and Baxter with us, the dynamic would not have worked. If we had only Ridge and Elsie, the dynamic would not have worked either. If we had only Baxter and Elsie, I'd never have anyone inside to hang with me. Again, the dynamic wouldn't have worked.

See, having three dogs isn't insane (as some of my friends tell me); it's the ideal dynamic. We all get to have the companionship we need.

Well, sort of. The canine kids have their companionship needs met in full. But though they make great company for me, they can't replace my husband's companionship when he's away (he's in Ireland now). I miss Don. They do, too (Ridge isn't eating, Baxter and Elsie keep looking for him). I wish Don were here, but I understand that he can't be. Duty calls. But I miss his companionship nonetheless. At least I know he'll be home soon.

In the meantime, Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge will have to do. I'm glad we have them.

'Til next time,

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Instead of playing in the pool, Baxter prefers lounging in the sunshine. It must not be hot enough for him yet. :o) It is, after all, only mid-April. Posted by Hello

Elsie gets rather wet when she plays in the kiddie pool. :o) Posted by Hello

Ridge, despite a few water droplets on his nose, manages to stay somewhat dry, even after performing "swirlies" in the kiddie pool and his water bowl. Posted by Hello

They're Playing in the Pool, and It's Only April!

It seems that with my hiatus the seasons changed! Three weeks ago it was cold, damp, and blustery; we experienced heavy, heavy rains and widespread flash flooding here in southeastern Pennsylvania. But for the last few days, we've had crystal blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and temperatures in the 60s and 70s.

And the dogs have been panting like they did when they spent too much time in front of the woodstove this winter--a sure sign that it was time to pull out the kiddie pools.

So out came the blue, molded-plastic, instant dog refreshers.

Ridge jumped right in, doing his classic water-bowl "swirlies" (and what is a kiddie pool, if not an overgrown water bowl!). He immerses his entire snout into the water, right up to the eyeballs, drops his head, and pushes his face around in a circular motion. The bigger the bowl, the bigger the motion--he runs in circles in the pool. It's dizzying to watch. Oddly enough, he stays dryer than the other two, even with his swirling antics. Go figure.

Elsie has never been in the kiddie pools before. She sniffed and pawed at first, but once I allowed her to examine the hose nozzle and mouth the spray, she jumped right in. Spraying water? What is that but a new moving toy with which to play! I set the hose so the spray created a circular current along the outer edge of the pool, and Elsie chased the current to her heart's content. She'd be chasing it still if the pool hadn't filled up enough for me to turn the water off.

And then there's Baxter. He opted out of pool fun today. He preferred resting in the warm, soft, spring-green grass. I suspect 60s isn't quite enough for the young chap; when it's 80, he'll be curled up in the pool. ;o)

Amazing how time flies. I never intended my blogging absence to turn into three weeks, but it did. And in that time, we went from dreary late winter weather to nearly summer sun. And as I look at today's canine kid pictures, I realize that they've suddenly grown into mature-looking dogs (notice I said mature-looking; mature-acting is another story all together). Elsie has filled out a bunch, and Baxter looks far less leggy. They're growing up.

Where does the time go? It seems the faster it goes, the more I want it to slow down. But that's not the way of it. So, instead, I'm learning to savor individual moments and to notice and appreciate little things. Then I don't feel like I miss so much. Then I don't feel like time leaves me behind.

It's good to be back. Blogging helps me enjoy the dogs and life just a little bit more. I hope my blog sparks some enjoyment in you, too.

I'm back.

'Til next time,

My Hiatus

Hello all,

This is just a personal note to let you know I haven't disappeared, disabled my blogs, or died. ;o) I've just been swamped the last three weeks and haven't kept up my posts. Part of my absence was due to frustration with Internet issues (mostly with Blogger); another part was that I was away (speaking engagements and getting collegiate daughter back to school); another part included several family and medical issues happening simultaneously; and another part was simply having too much work to do (including taxes - blech). But I'm back!

Look for regular posts to start again as of this evening.

'Til next time,