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No, not the kind Crispin left in the yard (at 4:20 a.m. and again at 5:30 a.m.–yawn) after he stole and hastily consumed some yummy leftovers we brought home from a holiday dinner with dear friends last night.

No, this is the advice kind. Something important they think you need to keep in mind if you are the type who hangs out with dogs.

Especially airedales.

Enjoy. And do, in the coming year, remember to follow the motto that serves as our blog’s header.

With love and holiday greetings from Dinah, Crispin, and their people.

Mind Control.

Happy holidays from Dinah and Crispin

Happy holidays from Dinah and Crispin

In the November 1997 issue of Food & Wine is a charming holiday reminiscence by Julia Child. She tells of growing up in a comfortably well-off home in which her mother (with the help of the “upstairs maid”) pulled out all the stops when it came to setting the Thanksgiving dinner table.

At a last-minute pre-dinner inspection of the silver and damask and elegant place settings, Child’s mother noticed that the 18 individual silver butter plates were all empty of the perfect curls of butter she expected to see.  Erna, the maid, was also mystified.

“But I rolled them myself, using the chilled wooden paddle, the way you showed me,” the maid said. “I put them on the plates just a few minutes ago.”

Child goes on to say:

“Suddenly, Mother roared, ‘Where’s Eric?’ our dearly beloved old airedale. . . . Eric lumbered in and sat beside her with an attentive, ‘Who, me?’ expression.”

Case closed.

Crispin prefers to take his purloined butter by the stick. I think if he ever entered a room filled with soft lights and snowy linen, and found 18 plates of butter–unguarded butter!–he might simply faint dead away on the spot.

After he’d carefully cleaned all those plates, of course.

The pack leader is out of town and I decided to make lasagna as a surprise dinner for his homecoming today. While I was at it I figured I would make a huge pot of meat sauce in the big LeCreuset pot and make an extra lasagna for the freezer.  So we’re talking BIG HOT CAULDRON of sauce here.

Bubble, bubble, toil and . . . here comes Trouble.

Came into the kitchen to find Crispin, calm as dammit, standing on his hind legs with his paws resting on the edge of the stove, happily chowing down on boiling hot pasta sauce. I figure it was hot enough to kill any dog cooties he dropped in it, but the boy must have an asbestos mouth.

I moved the pot of sauce to the back burner, and set the large heavy kettle in front of it, and left the room again. Half an hour later I heard a crash, and ran in to find the now-dented kettle on the floor in a pool of all the water that had been in it. Obviously, he was trying to reach the pasta sauce.

We may yet have to kill him. In the meantime, we’ve established a new unit of measure here: MPH,for “mischiefs per hour.”

Maybe the Obamas could rescue him.  He’s even hypoallergenic.

Wonder how high the counters are in the White House kitchen.

At first we blamed it on each other. But now we’ve got it figured out.

Our dogs love their crates.* They go happily to them at bedtime, and if we stay up later than what they consider a respectable hour, they come and let us know it’s time to open them up so they can go to bed. We credit this amazing phenomenon to the fact that we’ve never used crates for punishment or time-outs, and that each one gets to take a biscuit to bed at night. Also to the fact that the crates are lined with cushy beds I made by covering large pieces of upholstery foam with material from a brand new plushy Ralph Lauren throw I got at Goodwill for $6.  Hell, I’d like to sleep there.

In fact, they like these beds so much that we have to close and latch the crates during the daytime, or Crispin pulls them out of the crates, drags them through the house, and  (remember, this is Crispin) eats them.

Only now winter is icumen in, and the floors in this old house are, admittedly, chilly. The other day we came in to the room where the crates are and found Crispin comfortably ensconced in his cozy bed in the middle of the day. I fussed at the Pack Leader for not latching the door that morning.

The next day we found his bed in the middle of the kitchen floor, and the crate wide open. The Pack Leader fussed at me for not latching the crate door.

We became extra vigilant about firmly latching the door.

The door continued to open mysteriously.

Yesterday I stood Crispin in front of the securely latched door and dropped a biscuit into the locked crate from the top. Dog outside. Biscuit inside.

“Okay, boy,” I said. “Show me how you do it. Get the biscuit.”

He gave me one of his patented winsome looks and said clearly, “I would love to eat that biscuit, but I am just a humble dog and have no understanding of latches.”

I left the room.  I heard the sound of a latch being thrown back. And then the sound of a biscuit being crunched.  And I’m pretty sure I heard some snickering after that.

We began to seriously consider a theory bandied about on the Airedale List, an online mailing list for airedale people whose collective wisdom has helped us weather many a crisis. The theory is that airedales have cleverly disguised Swiss Army Paws with a variety of useful tools contained within.  One flick of those hairy paws brings up the right implement for, say,

  • standing on your purse and thus dialing 911 on your cell phone
  • Opening ziplock bags
  • Pulling open the bread drawer
  • Prying the lid off a jar of peanut butter
  • Picking their teeth to remove any traces of evidence that they might have had something to do with the missing hamburger

But today he came clean. I found him happily snoozing on his cozy designer bed and invited him to step out of the crate. I shut and latched the door. He sighed, gave the latch one flip with his nose, swung the door open, and resumed his nap.

I didn’t have the heart to make him come out again.

*looking at the close-up of the latch, I now wonder whether he wasn’t pointing out that it’s overdue for a little clean-up.  Gotta get on that.

It’s true. They really do eat your homework.

If you want to learn a lesson about impermanence, come over here and watch Dinah and Crispin when they get new toys.  Except for a Booda hedgehog that lived for two years because that’s how long he was lost under the living room sofa, a number of kongs (celestial music should play here as we sing the entirely unsolicited praises of the fine folks who make kongs), and a sturdy canvas rainbow trout that lived until it was too filthy to keep, most of Dinah’s and Crispin’s toys have had pretty short lives. They dogs aren’t bad-tempered, they’re just really rambunctious. And strong.

Sometimes a particularly favored dog toy will be petted and babied like a real puppy. Dinah will sleep with her head pillowed on it. Crispin will steal it and carry it out into the yard so he can baby it. But then some signal, inaudible to human ears, spells the end of said toy’s life, and within 4 minutes it will be ripped to shreds.

We’ve tried saving money by buying dog toys from the stuffed toy bin at Goodwill. We carefully select the ones that meet our criteria:

  • they have no glass eyes
  • they have no wires
  • they have no squeakers
  • they are not stuffed with (the devil’s own) styrofoam microbeads (man, if one of those even gets a tiny leaky hole in it, you may as well put your house up for sale and move out–you will be finding them for the rest of your natural life)
  • they cost $2 or less
  • there have to be two toys of roughly equal attractiveness so the dogs won’t fight over them

Today we brought home two soft toys from Goodwill, a yellow lion and a primary colored plush truck. The dogs were ecstatic. They were quiet, playing with their new toys. We were happy.

Then we heard the ripping noise that is the unmistakable signal of Stuffed Toy Demise.

The truck had lasted 3 minutes.

The lion lasted perhaps 3.5 minutes.

Second Child stood with me in the kitchen, surveying the wreckage and helping me to collect the cloudlike drifts of toy stuffing in a paper bag.  “Give it up, Mom,” she said. “You’d be better off getting some canvas and making your own dog toys.”

Cue celestial music again. And scurry for the black and white canvas in my fabric stash, the fabric printing paint, and a piece of rope (of course I have all these things on hand–don’t you?)

An hour later, a dog toy was born:

Within another half hour of watching Crispin sulk because I happened to hand this one to Dinah first, a second toy was produced.

Of course, before the afternoon was out, Cris had chewed the rope off of his, but–hallelujah–both toys were still here, unbowed, unbloodied, and with a full complement of stuffing still inside.

Anyone know where I can get a stronger rope?

I’ve long held a theory that murderous but absent-minded psycho killers will use whatever you carelessly leave out at night to dispatch you in your sleep. This is why I always put away the grapefruit knives.

In California this week a similar but–fortunately–less deadly incident took place. A man broke into the home of two farmworkers, and attacked them using things he found in their kitchen.

Yup, these gentlemen were awakened by someone rubbing one of them with spices and whacking the other with an 8-inch sausage.

Police apprehended the culprit after finding him hiding in a nearby field dressed only in his t-shirt, boxers, and socks.  They found his wallet (complete with ID) in the home of the victims, placing him at the scene of the heinous crime, but they may yet have difficulty making a case against him, because they can’t find the murder weapon.

The victims’ dog ate the sausage.

It’s been one of those days. First, the dogs awakened us at 6 a.m. (on this Sunday morning when we’d been planning to sleep in) to alert us to the approach of a thunderstorm. I myself love a good thunderstorm, and this was a great one, an all-day storm with all the trimmings: thunder, lightning, high winds, general darkness, and torrential rain.

Which was all great, until I had to run to the grocery store for something at about 3:00 this afternoon and discovered that I’d left both my front car windows down yesterday. Not only was the front seat pretty much sodden, but this meant I had to eat a good helping of crow because I’m the one who always brags that I NEVER forget to roll up my car windows.  Ahem . . .

Then there was some difficulty at the grocery store, because just as I swiped my ATM card, the storm knocked out power at the store, causing some small difficulty in paying for my purchases.

Then we discovered this in the family room:

Yes, indeed, that would be a vine climbing up the side of our house. The inside.

Finally (you know that where there is entropy there is bound to be a dog or two, right?), I took two perfect berry cobblers (one for home, one for me to take to my book group) out of a 400 degree oven and turned my back for a second. That turned out to be just long enough for Crispin to jump up, stick his nose into one and overturn it. I know this looks like a still from a Tarantino film, but believe me when I say that only an instant beforehand it was a blackberry/blueberry/raspberry/peach cobbler, and a very nice one, too:

Don’t worry, Crispin was mostly only shaken up, and he’s fine. Some ice water compresses took the burn away and a little bit of scrubbing took care of the berry stains (on him and the floor and the oven and the cupboards and my jeans). And maybe he’ll think twice next time about counter-surfing.


Meanwhile, Dinah made it calmly through the whole day (in between thunder-claps) by nursing one of her babies. No, we didn’t forget to announce a litter of puppies, it’s just that lately she has taken to adopting various household objects, babying them, and keeping them very close to her. This week’s choice of lovey is a large can of stewed tomatoes.

She becomes very protective of these objects, and that might not be such a terrible idea. You never know When a piping hot cobbler is suddenly going to fall out of the sky.

When I’m not herding dogs, one of the things I do is study goju ryu karate. Yesterday evening as I was preparing for class, I went to return my freshly washed and dried gi to my gym bag, which I had left, unzipped, in the mudroom next to the washing machine. Here is what I found on the floor next to the bag:

Those of you who also study a martial art may detect, upon very close inspection, a scarcely noticeable bite-shaped hole in what had previously been a perfectly lovely karate belt. A brown belt. For which, not to put too fine a point on it, I worked pretty hard. As it happens, once the belt is properly tied around the waist of–oh, say–me, the bitten space falls precisely at the center of my back.

Curiously, forensic science brought to bear on the damaged item indicates that the bite is not inconsistent with the mouth–and teeth–of a small creature. Perhaps a dog. Perhaps a small airedale. If the jury will admit evidence on the previous behavioral history of–ahem–the smaller of two airedales who happened to be found loitering in the vicinity of the crime scene, one might assume not be able to rule out the possibility that this smaller airedale might be, as they say on TV, a ” person creature of interest” in the investigation into the belt’s destruction. Further investigation is warranted.

In the meantime, please let it also be noted that the business end of the belt itself is also worth examining:

The tip end of the belt is not the only thing missing. See the two stripes of highly official goju ryu electrical tape? This time yesterday there were three stripes, one of them only recently awarded.

I’ve been demoted. By my dog.


One bored airedale + two dog parents busy watching a movie on TV + one new loaf of bread + a tricky set of bread drawer safeguards that would have confounded Houdini but posed not a moment’s problem to a bored airedale + a 10 hour stretch of time = one early morning emergency vet visit, one prescription for Flagyl, and one very repentant little airedale.

Finding out it wasn’t bloat? Priceless.

May I just add, however, that I have never had a cat do this?

Dinah: (Mom, why won’t he play today?)
Crispin: (If anybody wants me I’ll be in my crate. Don’t bother calling me for dinner.)

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
June 2020