Monday, March 28, 2005
He nudges the other two dogs and flaunts his latest prize until Elsie or Ridge engages him in play. Baxter loves the attention. He even voluntarily gives up his momentary treasure after a half-hearted session of tug-of-war. I think he just wants to play; it doesn't matter what he plays with as long as someone else is playing.
Besides, once Ridge or Elsie succeed in getting Baxter's item-of-the-moment, Baxter just finds a new toy with which to tease them, and the process starts again.
That's the great thing about dogs; there's no such thing as individual ownership. It's not Elsie's ball or Baxter's bone or Ridge's rope; they hold all things in common.
What makes a toy attractive isn't ownership, but momentary possession (possession, they say after all, is nine-tenths of the law). As long as one of the dogs holds a toy, it's a treasure to be tussled for. As soon as it's dropped, it becomes a non-entity in their eyes.
Someone else's interest makes an old toy seem new again.
Hmmmm. Sounds a bit like us again, doesn't it? We become bored with what we have; we want the newer, bigger, better, more interesting version the other guy has. But, (lookout!) if someone shows interest in our old toy, it becomes valuable to us again.
I wonder which of my "toys" I've lost interest in just because they're mine and their newness has worn off. I wonder what other "toys" I covet just because I don't have them and someone else does. The thing is, I don't need newer or additional toys; I have more than I need and then some (just like the dogs). And the old ones work just fine, if I bother to pick them up and play with them.
Maybe, I just need to recruit someone to play with like Baxter does. Take exercise, for example: If I exercise with someone else, it enlivens the activity for me. I grow restless when I exercise alone.
It's funny how someone else's perception, passion, or interest can ignite our own. I guess I should learn to act less like the Lone Ranger and more like Baxter. I'd be less bored, need fewer toys, and would find life more adventuresome.
See, our canine kids really can teach us something, if only we have the hearts to learn!
'Til next time,
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Monday, March 21, 2005
I found this joke on-line today while searching for jokes to include in my son's lunch pack. I thought I'd pass it on to you just for fun. Enjoy!
Q. How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?
A. It depends on the breed:
Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we've got our whole lives ahead of us, and you're inside worrying about a burned-out light bulb?
Border Collie: Just one. And while I'm at it I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code. Got anything else for me to do?
Dachshund: I can't reach the lamp!
Toy Poodle: I'll just blow in the Border collie's ear and he'll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.
Rottweiler: Go Ahead! Make me!
Shi-tzu: Puh-leeze, dah-ling. Let the servants. . . .
Lab: Oh, me, me!!! Pleeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Can I?
Malamute: Let the Border collie do it. You can feed me while he's busy.
Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still piddle on the carpet in the dark.
Doberman Pinscher: While it's dark, I'm going to sleep on the couch.
Mastiff: Who needs a light bulb? Mastiffs are NOT afraid of the dark.
Hound Dog: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...huh?
Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb.
Pointer: I see it, there it is, right there...
Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?
Australian Shepherd: Put all the light bulbs in one little circle...
Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? Light bulb? That thing I just ate was a light bulb?
Friday, March 18, 2005
What helpers they are!
And who are these wonderful helper wannabes? None other than Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge.
I kid you not. They follow me everywhere, pushing their snouts into whatever I'm doing. And they make it nearly impossible to get anything done. Try sweeping a floor with two Labs trying to guide the broom head with their noses. You get the idea.
Vacuuming is another story. Nobody wants to help me run the vacuum. In fact, all three scurry outside when the beast (aka vacuum cleaner) comes out of hiding. Hmmmm. I wonder why.
I should vacuum more often. ;o)
Ridge is the gentlest of the helpers. He usually just sits and watches (see photo above). The other two are more active in their desire to help. I suppose that will change as they grow older.
But for now it's infuriatingly fun.
'Til next time,
Thursday, March 17, 2005
But now, it may be time to flip the deadbolt.
Elsie's habit of coming in at her discretion would be fine, mud not withstanding, if she didn't so enjoy picking up things from inside and carrying them back outside again.
Here's the shortlist of what I've found outside after Elsie's in-and-out adventures:
dirty laundry (only darks so far, thank goodness!)
Ridge's food bowl (note: not Elsie's)
Don's running hat
Don's fleece glove
the leather fireplace glove
my running shoe
my leather clog
an empty soda can
the dogs' training dummies
a broom (yes, you read that correctly)
Baxter's fleece bedding (note: not Elsie's)
a vacuum cleaner attachment
and, of course, various Kongs, Nylabones, rope chews, Dentabones, and tennis balls
Thankfully, she often returns these items to the doorstep after she's done romping through the yard with them (often, but not always). Otherwise our backyard would be littered with her treasures
Ah. Our little Elsie girl (the imp)! She's a smart one; I'll give her that.
She may be too smart for her (and my) own good. :o)
'Til next time,
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
It doesn't matter how tired I am or how busy or how much I have to do or how depressed I feel, they want to play!
"Come on, Mom! Cantcha play? Cantchacantcahcantachacantcha? Huhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuh?"
My 81-year-old mother has been in the hospital since last Friday night with pancreatitis (it's not fun). I've been spending tons of time sitting with her or hanging around while she has tests and procedures done, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is play. I'm just wiped out.
But they nudge and nudge and nudge and nudge, until they goad me into playing. And before I know it, I'm laughing and smiling and feeling less fatigued.
Maybe Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge know what's best for me; maybe I really do need to play more.
'Til next time,
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Instead of their usual teasing and rambunctuous play, they went easy on him. They sniffed his sore mouth, but didn't chew on his face (something they often do that Ridge tolerates amazingly well). They didn't flaunt toys or jump on him. They didn't bark at him or try to entice him to wrestle.
Baxter and Elsie (both sporting concerned, puzzled looks on their faces) sat quietly next to Ridge while he recovered. Their buddy was hurting, and they knew it. They sat with him but did nothing that would cause him pain.
It's pretty remarkable. We say humans are the only species capable of empathy, but I'm not so sure. Baxter and Elsie seemed empathetic enough. The knew something was wrong and instinctively knew not to rough house. But they didn't just ignore Ridge and go their merry ways; they sat with him. Every now and again either Baxter or Elsie would gently lick one of Ridge's outstretched paws, but would do no more.
Both seemed tender-hearted toward him. Both stood watch and waited with him while he endured his pain. If that's not empathy, I don't know what is.
'Til next time,
Monday, March 14, 2005
Baxter discovered it first. When curiousity prompted him to know what was happening indoors, yet not wanting to come inside himself, he'd hop up on the picnic table to look through the family room window under which the picnic table stood. Baxter found a way to see the things he wanted to see without having to go there.
Elsie uses the picnic table differently. She uses it as a perch from which she can better view her surroundings. She likes having a higher, broader, longer-distance view.
In both cases, they use the picnic table to broaden their perspectives; they use what is available to help them see.
Do we? So many resources exist to help us see and understand the world around us. We don't have to stay mired in short-sited vision or limited perspectives. We can seek to know and understand others from outside our backyard, cultural boxes.
But sometimes we'd rather remain in our blindered worlds; they're smaller, they're comfortable, and they feel safe. Sadly, however, our blinders restrict us to only what we know; we're missing the beauty and richness and color of a world we've not yet seen.
It's sad, really. So many lose out on the richness of this world because they're afraid to step off their decks of understanding. Me? I'd rather climb onto the picnic tables of education and knowledge and risk so that I might catch a glimpse of the world. I never want to stop learning; I want to understand. Sure it's uncomfortable to learn about people and cultures whose ways aren't my ways (both in this country and out), but I'm ultimately richer for it. And my understanding is deepened; my humanity is better defined.
Baxter and Elsie have figured out a way to literally broaden their horizons. Have we? We would do well to follow their examples; we have so much yet to learn.
'Til next time,
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Oh, to be sure, Baxter still nudges and flaunts and boasts, but Elsie lately does just as much so, or more. Picking up Kongs, ropes, or bones, she holds each in her mouth just far enough to create a firm grasp while leaving enough of the toy exposed for the other dogs to grab hold. Once she's gripped the toy securely, she trots up to Baxter or Ridge, nudges him with her nose or the exposed end of the toy, and then turns and runs.
She'll do this inside or outside. Doesn't matter. She just likes to tease.
The funny thing is that the fun for her seems to be the chase, not the toy. She's happy to give up whatever item she carries once the boys have chased her for a time. It's not about the toy; it's about companionship. She loves company (canine or human).
And that's a good thing. Baxter enjoys company, too, and will play her game all day. Ridge, wise old four-year-old that he is, engages Elsie's teases only briefly, then demonstrates his dominance. He gets the toy and disappears with it. He always wins.
But Elsie wins, too. She gains attention and playtime and a reminder of her place in the pack. All three help her feel secure. It's a win-win routine. Labs instinctively work these things out.
I wish humans could work things out as easily and with as much fun. Teasing, power plays, vying for attention, asserting dominance--in humans these issues end in (or are accomplished through) violence or wounding (emotional or otherwise). They never result in win-win; it's more like win-lose.
We have something to learn from our canine friends here: it's possible for us to engage one another and establish our roles without it having to cost someone so much. It can be win-win, if only we're willing to make it so.
'Til next time,
Friday, March 11, 2005
Robin (Her Wryness): Joan, it's wonderful to meet with you again and talk about a subject near and dear to your heart, your triple play of Labrador Retrievers.
Tossing aside rules and etiquette for the moment; doesn't your cat, Snickers deserve more print space?
Joan: Poor Snicks. Yes, he does deserve more blog space. But since he hides in my daughter's recently-vacated-while-she-is-away-at-college bedroom and rarely shows himself except to scurry downstairs for food or litterbox business, it's tough to find enough Snickers-worthy material to write about. And besides, this blog documents the lives of his current mortal enemies (our Labs). His buddies were our former Labs (Stoney and Strider); he doesn't care for Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge. I don't think he minds being excluded here. ;o)
Robin (Her Wryness): I'm a registered cat person, but your tales tempt me to consider adding a Lab to my family. What is the most memorable lesson you've learned from your dogs?
Joan: The most memorable? That would have to be Elsie's recent adventure in the dog food bin. I'll never forget her pained expression or her pot-bellied-pig waddle. She provided the perfect illustration of how too much of a healthful thing can hurt us.
The most important lesson, however, has to be our Labs' demonstration of unconditional love. No matter what we do or where we've been or what we have or how we treat them, our Labs love us still. They always welcome us home (and exuberantly at that!).
Robin (Her Wryness): Your oldest, Ridge, chases affable right off the property in his need for affection. Do you think his loving ways make him a better leader?
Joan: His loving ways endear him to us and make him an easy-to-train dog (he's so eager to please). His leadership with the other two, however, is best displayed in his patience with them and in his willingness to stand firm when he needs to. Baxter and Elsie seem to respect that.
Robin (Her Wryness): Do you have interest in breeding?
Joan: LOL. Not me personally, no (I'm done bearing children). ;o) But yes, we do plan to breed Ridge (our sire investment) with Elsie (our bitch investment), but not until Elsie is at least two years old and has passed her hip and eye screenings.
Robin (Her Wryness): If you had to name the single most important personality trait of Labs, what would it be? And the second most important trait?
Joan: Gosh, Robin. Labs possess so many positive traits that I find it hard to choose just one. But if I must, I'd have to say their people orientation is most important (their love for and faithfulness to people of all ages). Next, I'd say their intelligence. Labs are incredibly intelligent, trainable dogs. Loving and smart is a tough combination to beat.
Robin (Her Wryness): And now, for Extra Credit, what would you say is the Labrador Retriever's theme song?
Joan: LOL. It's Five O'Clock Somewhere (They are always ready to play!)
Robin (Her Wryness): Is that scratching at the door I hear? We better wrap this up. I'll gnaw a bone with you anytime. Thank you for letting the dogs out, so to speak.
[end of interview]
That's the interview. I hope you enjoyed it!
'Til next time,
Granted, he's still on pain meds and antibiotics, but he's improving!
Welcome back, Ridgers; we missed you.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
We brought Ridge home yesterday afternoon while he was still recovering from general anesthesia and loaded with pain killers. He could walk and wag his tail and was alert enough to eat, but he wasn't "right." His balance was off; he couldn't run; he couldn't jump up; he panted and wimpered with every breath; his pupils were dilated; his face drooped (see photo above); and all he wanted to do was lean against us (the only thing that stopped his wimpering). He seemed to need our touch.
So we sat with Ridge last night until bedtime. Then we put him in his crate for the night.
I thought he'd be his old self by morning. He's not.
His back legs still seem weak; his balance is still off; he's still wimpering; and he still just wants to lean against me. We did that for thirty minutes this morning (after he ate and took his meds) until I thought it best for him to sleep a while more (what he's doing now). I'm hoping sleeping will allow him to recover. He's not rebounding from general anesthesia the way our other dogs have (after neutering or tumor surgeries). But, then again, none of their procedures involved the mouth.
I'm glad I'm home today (Don is away on a business trip). I can work at my computer and keep an ear out for Ridge while he's sleeping. And when he's awake, if he needs to lean on me, I'll pull out my laptop and work in the family room while he rests against my legs. Baxter and Elsie, who know something is wrong and are behaving gently around him, can play outside.
I think it's going to be a long day.
'Til next time,
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Last night, Baxter and Elsie received their bedtime treats; Ridge didn't. This morning, Baxter and Elsie received their breakfasts; Ridge didn't. Last night and this morning, Baxter and Elsie went through their normal routines; Ridge couldn't.
Ridge goes to the doggie dentist today, and the vet told us to restrict his food. We know that refusing Ridge treats and breakfast are part of what's necessary to ensure a safe procedure today, but he doesn't know that. All he knows is that he's hungry. And his tooth hurts.
What he doesn't know is this: to foster his healing, we have to put him through additional discomfort--all out of love and concern. But that means little to him. I wish I could explain to him, but Labs (no matter how we humanize them) have limitations. He can't understand. He just has to trust us. And he does.
Again, I'm amazed how life with Labs reflects life with people.
Don't we sometimes have to do the same with our human loved ones? Out of love and a desire for healing we do the uncomfortable (even painful) thing. We give our children vaccinations; we set boundaries for our teenagers; we confront a co-worker; we say the honest, but difficult, thing to a friend. Our intentions are good, and our motives are loving, but our humans may not understand. Not at the time, anyway.
But later, in hindsight, our loved ones may see the care behind our actions.
Dogs don't have the benefit of hindsight. Ridge won't be able to look back next week when he's finally pain free and think, oh...that's why I coudn't eat last week; that's why mom and dad treated me that way. But I guess that doesn't really matter.
Whether he understands us or not, we've done the right thing; his tooth will be fixed; and he'll be painfree. I can live with that.
'Til next time,
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
By the time we realized what she'd done, she'd eaten so much she looked like a Pot-Bellied Pig. Her gluttony occurred a mere five minutes after she'd eaten her dinner (nearly three cups of puppy food). I can't believe she was still hungry; he was just having fun.
What began as sheer ecstasy (unlimited food), however, became a thoroughly unpleasant experience. She looked miserable: bloated belly, wide-leg stance, lethargic movement, and a confused look in her eye. She even waddled.
Poor Elsie She took what, in moderation, would normally be healthful and made herself sick with it. I guess her little misadventure proves a point: it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Well in this case, time healed all things. By dinnertime yesterday (24 hours later) her belly was back to its normal sveltness, and she was energetic and happy again.
I have to wonder, though: what are the healthful things of my life on which I'd be tempted to gorge? Hmmmm. Good question.
Blogging, perhaps? Naaaaaaaah. :o)
'Til next time,
Monday, March 07, 2005
Baxer, Elsie, and Ridge know it, too. They've begun shedding; they're lifting their snouts to sniff the air; they're alerting to flocks of geese flying overhead; and they're rammier than usual. They want to play and train and work. They seem to know that extended outdoor time is coming.
I don't know how, but they do. They sense that warmer weather is almost here, that long days of outdoor adventures await them. They sense that soon they'll be free to roam the backyard at leisure, without "mom's" concern that it might be too cold. Spring is just two weeks away.
Ah. But with spring comes mud. Ugh. And now that Elsie can open the back door at will, mud becomes a problem.
Well, sort of. It's only a problem if I view it that way. Heck, what's a little mud anyway? I can throw a few towels by the back door and on the family room's area rugs, let the dogs track in and out as they need to, and allow them to have their grand freedom. It's been a long winter.
I still have to work, though, but they can play. And when I need a break, I'll play with them.
I guess it's time to break out the towels. I hear the mud calling three names.
'Til next time,
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Yellow Tail, who was proud but timid, said "I want to find myself swaying from a spunky, out-going female retriever. I want to stand high and curled so my human owners spot me in the field and so other dogs think my Lab is really bigger than she is. But if something frightens my Lab, I want to tuck and help her run."
Black Tail, the biggest of the lot, felt no need to boast his size or to fear the world. He said, "I want to be attached to a gentle giant: an oversized black with the perfect blend of impishness and gentleness. I want to wiggle and waggle and announce my Lab's love for the world."
Fox Red Tail, the oldest and wisest of the three, said proudly, "I want to best represent my breed. I want to protrude short and dense from my Lab's hindquarters. I want to swipe rapidly and exuberantly when my Lab is happy, to stand tall when my Lab alerts and retrieves, and to sway slowly when I sense danger or feel the need to protect my Lab or his humans."
And so the three found themselves attached to the Labs of their dreams: Yellow Tail to our Elsie; Black Tail to our Baxter; and Red Fox Tail to our Ridge.
Each has made their Labs the Labs of our dreams.
And that's the Tale of Three Tails. :o)
'Til next time,
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Since every floor in our house, with the exception of our family room's brick floor, is either linoleum (the laundry room), wood laminate (the kitchen), or hard wood (every other room), his fear presents a problem.
Carpet runners and area rugs provide a solution. But they offer an imperfect solution at best. It's heartbreaking to watch Baxter navigate inside. This 97-pound, boisterous adolescent becomes a cautious, timid waif who carefully picks his way from carpet runner to carpet runner, carefully avoiding contact with any smooth-surfaced floor. It's almost as if he's walking on boulders set in lava; if he steps off he'll get burned.
We don't know what happened or why he developed this fear. As a puppy he loved trotting on the bare kitchen floor; the wood laminate tiles felt cool to rest upon on hot summer days. The hard wood floors of the front hall and living room afforded new places to explore. Baxter seemed fearless.
Then, one day several months ago, I called Baxter to come and he wouldn't budge. His paws seemed "stuck" on the kitchen's laminate flooring; he acted like he wanted to come but couldn't. At first I thought his response might be neurological, but a quick trip to the vet ruled out a physical cause. Baxter was afraid.
The vet (and canine behavior books) suggested that Baxter might have slipped once, perhaps spreading his front legs too wide (not a natural movement in dogs), and ended up straining a muscle or hurting himself somehow. So now he avoids what might cause him pain. His response to this fear, while protecting him from possible (not definite) pain, limits his freedom.
It may sound silly, but I feel like he's missing out.
What a picture of how fear can rob us! Baxter's fear keeps him from resting his head on our feet while we sit at the kitchen table (a treat both Ridge and Elsie fearlessly enjoy). His fear robs him of visits to me in my office (another hardwood floor) while I work (something his pack-mates do often). His fear robs him of the freedom to fully enjoy his surroundings. And it makes me sad for him.
But I can't remove his fear. I can only encourage him to take risks (which I do). But his fear of smooth-surfaced floors is one fear over which he seems to have little control.
When I look at Baxter on his carpet runners, I have to wonder what fears, if any, limit me. What potential pains keep me from adventure and joy? What fears keep me from taking risks or fully enjoying the world in which I live? Of what am I afraid, and is it a legitimate fear?
That's the sad thing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, walking on smooth-surfaced floors will not hurt Baxter. But he has associated pain with a certain kind of flooring, and now he avoids it all cost, even if in reality it won't hurt him.
Baxter reminds me that we all have smooth-surfaced floors in our lives: things that provoke fear and avoidance in us. He also reminds me, however, that most of our fears will never be realized; the outcomes we fear are only potentials, not realities.
The question is, am I going to allow fear of what will probably never happen to rob me of joy and adventure today? I hope not. How about you?
'Til next time,
Friday, March 04, 2005
Yesterday our neighbors decided to try out their four-wheelers: their whining, muffer-less, tear-up-the-ground, all-terrain machines (the ones they usually take to the mountains to ride).
Mind you, we live in the country, but not the country. Their yard, like ours contains only one-and-a-third acres of land. Running their ATVs means running big laps around their house. And it gets loud. Very loud.
Elsie has shown spunk and courage in the six months she's been with us. Even as a newly-arrived two-month-old she held her own with the boys. Thunderstorms and firecrackers didn't faze her (even while they drove Ridge crazy). We thought nothing would frighten or intimidate her. She's a fiesty little girl.
Then the ATVs arrived.
When the neighbors started up their ATVs yesterday, she high-tailed it home and bee-lined for my lap where she quivered and panted until she fell asleep. Our brave little squirt needed the safety and security of the "den." And we were only too willing to comply.
It's the same sometimes with our grown-up human kids. No, they don't bee-line for our laps (nor should they), but they do need to have a place to which they can run if life gets too hard or scarey. I want home to be a safe haven for them: a place where they can return for brief respite from the storms of life. I think it is (at least that's what they tell me), and for that I'm grateful.
We all need safe havens. I find mine in my husband, my friends, my God, and, yes, in my three canine kids. They provide a secure place for me, too.
Isn't that funny, we serve as mutual havens for each other: the dogs for me, and me for the dogs.
Maybe that's as it should be.
'Til next time,
Thursday, March 03, 2005
The day I returned Ridge seemed fine--his typical self: rambunctuous; neurotic; eager-to-please. And then he started panting. His rapid breathing combined with the ears-back-stressed-facial-features expression told us something was wrong. Instead of pacing and wanting to climb into our laps, all he wanted to do was sit quietly and rest his head on our knees. He looked like he was in pain and was trying to tell us so.
In pain he was, we finally discovered. Apparently, during one of his romps with the other two Lab kids, he broke a canine tooth. He snapped the tip right off and exposed the nerve.
One trip to the vet and few phone calls later (to a canine dentist, of all things!), and we've discovered we have three options: leave him as is in pain and hope he gets used to it (not an option in our book); have the canine tooth extracted, a difficult, invasive procedure that, we're told, will result in long term difficulties with jaw alignment, lip positioning, and tongue containment (again, not an option); or an $850 root canal on the broken tooth.
Yes, $850. That's more than we paid for Ridge when we bought him.
But, Ridge is a healthy purebred four-year-old Lab. He still has a long life ahead of him. When we brought Ridge home with us we assumed responsibility for his care. Part of responsible dog ownership means that we must be willing to invest in treatment and care options as our dogs have need. It gets expensive, yes, but it's part of the cost we assume when we make these canine kids part of the family.
So, we're scheduling the root canal at the doggy dentist's first opening (we think next week). And we're trying to make Ridge comfortable in the meantime.
Thankfully, my husband received his annual work bonus this month, so the financial output won't be as much a stretch as it might be other months. I'm grateful and amazed again at God's provision. He's entrusted the care of these animals to us; it's our responsibility to be faithful in providing for them.
So we will, with thanks in our hearts for what they add to our lives. I just wish it weren't so expensive! ;o)
'Til next time,