A few weeks ago, reading some Billy Collins, I came across his description of a dog “porpoising through the snow.”  Beautifully apt.

Today on Whiskey River I read this wonderful Mary Oliver poem. We’re facing a major snowstorm tonight, and I can almost see already how Crispin will illustrate this one. Dinah likes snow well enough, but she prefers to view it from her regal seat at the top step of the back porch.

The Storm
Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking the new snow
with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
until the white snow is written upon
in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
the pleasures of the body in this world.
Oh, I could not have said it better
– Mary Oliver

Happy snow day, everybody, and every dog!

Just a note to remind you that it is a good thing that you are loving and brave and affectionate and drop-dead adorable. Without these qualities . . . well, we won’t go there.

May I remind you that:

* My foot is still healing (well, thank you, but slowly) from the deep gash you gave me last September, the one that resulted in a severe infection that kept me hobbled for 8 weeks and in a $1200 hospital bill we are still paying off. Yes, I know we were just playing soccer and that you didn’t mean to hurt me and I should have had shoes on, but . . . just saying.

* We still haven’t finished paying the $700+ vet bill that resulted, last month, from your decision to make a midnight snack of the shreds of paper in my office paper shredder, thus earning yourself an intestinal obstruction that required 3 vet visits, two rounds of IV fluids, a set of X-rays, and several medications to, um, help you rid yourself of the offending obstacle. And yes, we were thrilled to high heaven when you recovered fully without needing surgery, but . . . just saying.

* Friends and strangers are still looking at me with shocked sympathy and looking askance at the poor pack leader (aka my husband aka the man who pays the bill for that expensive dog food you eat) on whom they needlessly blame this beautiful shiner I have. I just don’t see why it’s hard for them to grasp that my lovely airedale was doing his big horn sheep impression and nailed me in the temple when I bent over to pick some violets in the yard, resulting in blackness, shooting stars, and nausea. And, yes, I love the colors yellow and purple, but not so much around my eye . . . just saying.

* We’ll even overlook, for now, the purloined lasagna, the ham, the seafood curry soup, the Christmas cake, the berry cobbler, the $20 bill, the pounds of stolen butter (yes, we know it’s your favorite), the steak (ok, your dad still isn’t willing to overlook that one)–and the cost of the baby security latch we had to install on the refrigerator, but . . .
just saying.

It might be time to chill a little.

Loving you all the same,


P.S. Get off the couch.

Remember the lasagna? Yeah, that one.

The one that Crispin ate in its entirety.

The one that prompted us to go out and buy babyproofing locks to put on the refrigerator.

He’s at it again.

This new lasagna has actually made it into its third day, which is, in itself, a miracle. So tonight I’m cutting pieces out of it to put into the oven to reheat.

Picture this: I have cut one neat, square piece of lasagna and put it on a baking sheet. I am standing (this is a very important detail) between Crispin and the naked piece of lasagna. I go to cut a second piece, only moving over a tiny bit, when . . . WHAM! Crispin dematerializes, and then rematerializes with the piece of lasagna fully encased within his capacious mouth.

Seriously. It was like something from Star Trek.

Then I put the remaining lasagna in the (locked!) fridge and now he’s sitting in front of it, studying it. I’m convinced that he’s trying to figure out how to take the fridge door off its hinges.

This is a serious threat. Remember, he has Swiss Army Paws.

Anyone for takeout?

From the NY Daily News

If you fly very often, you might remember back to the pre-9/11 days when Southwest Airlines had a sense of humor.  To keep passengers chuckling during their few-frills flight, flight attendants kept up a patter worthy of the best stand-up comic:

  • We’re full today, folks, so you’re going to have to sit next to somebody. Make eye contact, sit down, and invent a whole new personality for yourself.
  • Give up, ma’am– that home stereo set is never going to fit in that overhead bin–that’s why it’s called a HOME stero.
  • [from the pilot after a long flight] We’re here. Get off.

But my favorite of all was from an attractive young male flight attendant on a trip from Providence to Nashville. It went like this:

In the event of a drop in the cabin’s air presser, an oxygen mask will drop down automatically. Grab it, strap it over your big old ugly nose and mouth, and breathe normally. If you do not normally breathe normally, breathe the way you normally breath. If you are traveling with a child, put on your mask first, then take care of them. If you are traveling with two children, decide which one you love the best.

There is a reason why I recall this and retell it here.  A story in yesterday’s New York Daily News tells of a 6 week-old pup (the very pup in the photo above) rescued from freezing after making a flight in the cargo hold of a plane traveling from Mexico to New York’s JFK Airport. It’s my sad duty to tell you that another dog didn’t make it, but this little guy did, because of a stroke of remarkable fortune: one of the baggage handlers was also a student of veterinary medicine, and knew how to give the puppy mouth-to-snout resuscitation.  After being examined by security officials who feared the dog might have been being used as a drug mule, he was cleared and released to his unnamed owner.

I have three questions:

Why did the airline put dogs in the freezing cold cargo hold of an airplane?  Do we really still do this?

Why was the pup returned to the owner, who must have been at least partially responsible for the dog’s poor treatment? Also, this little critter was only 6 weeks old–why was he even apart from his mother yet? I’m guessing the owner had never laid eyes on the dog before yesterday.

And, finally, is there a lot of human-animal mouth-to-mouth resuscitation going on?

The answer to the last question turns out to be yes.  A search for mouth-to-snout turns up any number of heartwarming stories:

  • “Pig Pig,” a farm pig in Pennsylvania, was rescued in this way by his owner after his mom (the piglet’s mom, not the farmer’s) rolled over on the baby and nearly flattened him.  To acknowledge this act of bravery, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs baseball team sent the farmer an Iron Pigs sweatshirt, free passes to an IP game, a bottle of Listerine, and a tube of Chapstick (Southwest Air, call the Iron Pigs–they found your sense of humor).
  • One  devoted dad saved his daughters’ kitten by giving it mouth-to-mouth after it got stuck in an automatic garage door.
  • An intrepid hiker saved a bear in this way after the animal (stopped by a tranquilizer dart) fell face down into a puddle. Both apparently lived to tell the tale.

But the most interesting thing I found were several stories, like this one, about devices designed to pump lifesaving air into animals who need resuscitation after an accident or exposure to smoke and fire. It includes a selection of plastic masks that fit over a dog’s snout, a kitten’s face, a ferret’s muzzle, or a bird’s beak.

Does your local fire department have one? And do you suppose they tell the critter in question, “Breathe the way you normally breath”?

I’ve gone a long time without a dog blog post, but I’m definitely still out here, as are Dinah and Crispin. It’s just that . . . and I say this while crossing my fingers, throwing grains of salt here and there, and holding my breath . . . they haven’t done anything horrible terribly blog worthy lately.

Seriously, it’s all been business as usual around here. True, Crispin did figure out how to open the tall kitchen cupboard where we store condiments, tea, jams, and so on, but there wasn’t much in there he really wanted to eat.

We made it through Christmas without either of them knocking the tree over, unwrapping any gifts, or taking any of the ornaments off the tree to play with. Okay, so we don’t actually put ornaments on the bottom third of the tree any more, but, you know, Cris can still fly, so he might have made mischief  . . . but he didn’t.

Could it be that the Crispy Critter is growing up? It’s true that he had a birthday in December–he’s 3 years old now. But airedales don’t really stop being puppies for years. An airedale owner I know was walking with her dog one day when someone stopped her to ask “Your puppy is so cute and energetic–how old is he?”

They were floored when she replied: “Eleven.”

So we’re still bouncing around, mostly in varying amounts of snow, which they both love. They don’t even mind the deep cold we’ve been having–Dinah, especially, spends long winter mornings sitting on her behind on the icy back porch, surveying her snow-covered territory (for she, like the famed turtle, is queen of all she can see). Sometimes I worry that she’ll freeze to the porch boards.

Now that would be something to write about!

Over this past weekend we delivered Dinah and Crispin to their favorite dog hotel and hit the road for points west to visit First Child at his college’s family weekend. It was a beautiful drive  (albeit a long one–Pennsylvania gets longer and longer every time we make the trip), so much so that I finally told the Pack Leader that I was getting foliage fatigue from all the spectacular fall leaves and the astonishingly rich colors.

On Saturday we headed to the school’s football game.  I am in it for the band, in which First Child plays the trombone; you would laugh every year to hear the Pack Leader trying to get me to understand football. I finally decided it’s like listening to a zen talk: “dark to the eye, but radiant to the heart.”  I try to just flow with things.

As we approached the stadium, which sits in a beautiful green bowl ringed around with golden maple trees (made more radiant this weekend by the lowering dark clouds that threatened, but never quite delivered rain), I spotted a familiar shape sitting at the top of the rise around the bowl.

First Child had told us that since he started attending college, he regularly sees a woman walking an airedale up and down the paths of the school. He has talked to her several times about our airedales, and gets his little fix by petting and talking with her dog.  So we went over and introduced ourselves, and sure enough, this was Rollie with his owner, Wendy.

Rollie was delightful–though his eyesight isn’t what it once was  (at the tender airedale age of 13), he was a perfect gentleman and permitted himself not only to be stroked and scritched, but to be photographed. As the picture shows, there’s no question about Rollie’s football loyalty:

Want to see what Rollie saw (or heard) next? Okay, this is last year’s show, but you get the picture, and so did Rollie.

Cats and dogs at the antique show.

Love the little Warhol vibe going on in this appliqued and embroidered cat pillow. I’m thinking early 20th century, but there’s something incredibly modern about them.

Had to get two pictures of this little guy. He was wonderfully lifelike, and had such a great expression on his face. I’m not, as I’ve said before, much of a collector, but if I’d had any money in my pockets, he would most definitely have come home with me.

And I could have, too–had my camera in my pocket at the emergency room and took some doozies, mostly just to help myself stay calm.

Crispin has been on a crazy mad soccer binge. We have to spell the word out–S-O-C-C-E-R–if we’re saying it out loud, unless we’re fully prepared to initiate a very long game. But Friday afternoon of the holiday weekend I was taking a long break from my desk. The pack leader and I took our respective lunches to the shady picnic table in the back yard, and Crispin joined us in the hopes of getting up a post-lunch pickup game.

What he loves best is for me to kick the soccer ball very hard and very far–gives him more time to show off his speedy and graceful returns. I had just figured out that drop-kicking the ball worked best, when, faster than I can type this, the dropped ball met the top of my (flip-flop-clad) foot, he grabbed the ball, and–bingo–everything went all slow motion as dog tooth met people foot.

I promised no photos, but did you ever see the very vintage Saturday Night Live episode in which Dan Aykroyd does his Julia Child impersonation? The one in which she cuts herself?

Yeah, that one.

It was like that.

The next few hours were rather a blur of getting to the local emergency clinic, filling out forms, getting a tetanus shot, stitches (only half the number the PA said he’d normally use for a laceration that size–apparently, animal bites* get infected if you sew them up tightly), and two kinds of antibiotics as a take-home prize.

The next few days were less than a blur–rather long, slow, couch-ridden days. Taking pills, soaking the lac, watching too much TV, reading, having those near and dear to me peel me many grapes.

Within 2 days after the event . . . well, again, no pictures. Suffice it to say that it got infected after all, I got further acquainted with the emergency clinic staff (did I mention that this all took place over a holiday weekend?), and I was in the weeds for a day or two. Now, 6 days after the event, I’m much better. Not there yet, but much better. The infection’s gone, but I’m still more or less benched from any extended walking (and no more dog soccer for the moment) until the stitches are out.

Crispin, of course, has no idea. But he was mighty glad to see me each time I got home from a clinic trip. And yesterday he brought me the ball again.

In a few more days, boy. Just a few more days.


*I was at great pains to tell everyone who worked on me that my dog hadn’t bitten me. We were just playing soccer, I kept explaining. And, you know, these things happen.

Today’s news brings an article about how smart dogs are. They begin by acknowledging that the research they describe will come as no surprise to dog people.   A dog’s vocabulary, researchers have found, can run to some 250 words, they understand gesture and inflection, can count a little, do simple mathematical calculations and open the refrigerator.

Okay, so I added that last one. That might be Crispin’s special skill.

Professor Stanley Coren at the University of British Columbia compares the intelligence of the dog to that of a 2 year old human child.

I, for one, am a believer.  Our two are a little (ahem) unruly, but one thing we have done properly  is to crate train them well. They love their crates. Dinah, for various and sundry reasons, no longer sleeps in her crate, though she will go there if we ask her to, but Crispin simply adores his. We chalk some of this up to the fact that we have never used the crates to punish the dogs, they really only go in them to sleep (or if, say, the plumber has to come here and would rather work without any canine assistance), and they always get a dog biscuit once they’re inside.

And some of it simply to smarts.

Crispin’s bedtime is around 10:00 at night, and if we let it slip, he comes and seeks us out and stares at us pointedly until we say, “Time for bed,” at which point he races to the crate. If it’s latched, he unlatches it and waits for us inside while we get a biscuit from the box. And that’s it–typically, we don’t hear from him again until he hears one of us getting up in the morning.

Lately I’ve been trying out substitutes for “time for bed.” The other night I asked him, “Are you tired now?” and off he ran to the crate.

Last night First Child was making himself a snack and I was hanging out in the kitchen with him. Crispin came in and assumed the “please let me go to bed now” pose.

I looked down at him and asked, “Would you like me to read you a story?”

Bang–you never saw a dog run so fast. He beat me to the crate, happily accepted his bisucuit, and settled down to sleep.

First Child was duly impressed.

We’re 48 hours and counting since the bone-eating incident, and His Foodiness seems in every respect his same old charming, (very) active, affectionate, soccer-playing self.

I don’t think I’ll feel perfectly comfortable again until a couple of weeks go by without a problem, but tonight we may actually sleep. We’ve kept him under a close watch and haven’t left him home alone since he stole and ate the chicken wings (20 of them, for those of you just tuning in)  on Saturday night.

It’s funny (not in the ha-ha way) how, even when there’s nothing one can actually do in such a crisis, just watching, waiting, and worrying sucks the energy right out of you. We haven’t gotten much done around here in the past two days.

Thanks very much to everyone who asked about him (online and off). That means a lot.

So far, so good.  But it’s going to be a long time before I can look at a chicken wing again.

He is so shaggy. People are amazed when he gets up and they suddenly realize they have been talking to the wrong end. --Elizabeth Jones
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Nancy Hall ©2009
September 2020