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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?

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.

My dogs do plenty of really dumb things.  I won’t dis them by naming any of them (you can read about them here in past posts, anyway).

But once in a while they blow me away with their intelligence. I know–you’ve been a dog person for a long time and you take this for granted. I’m still new to this religion so I was startled and impressed when this happened yesterday.

I was in the back yard using the picnic table as my art studio. Crispin came out with me (not for nothing is his nickname Velcro Boy) and was keeping a watchful eye on his territory, and on me. After a while I realized Dinah hadn’t come out with us.

“Crispin,” I said. “Where is Dinah?”

He leapt to his feet and started looking all around us.

“Cris,” I said again. “Dinah’s in the house. Go get Dinah.”

He took off like a shot, and 12 seconds later he was back with Dinah in tow. We all settled down together to enjoy the afternoon.

I told this story to the Pack Leader, whose response was “Yeah, sure–what did you think he would do?”

I, however, am still in the beginner’s mind phase of dog person-hood. I’m impressed.

Yesterday afternoon Second Child and I spent some time playing soccer in the yard with Crispin. He has two soccer balls, a fat round one that rolls nicely so he can chase it and bring it back, and a partially deflated one that’s easy for him to carry and that throws sort of like a lead weight. Both of these activities are known to him not as “fetch” or “playing ball,” but simply as “soccer.” We say, “Hey, Crispin–soccer!” and he runs for the ball.

Airedales are natural soccer players. Here, for instance, is Dinah on her first day in our home, working on her game strategy:

So the radio’s on in the kitchen this afternoon, tuned to NPR’s Fresh Air, on which host Teri Gross and her guest are discussing over-involved soccer parents. The dialog on the show is going mostly: “so, soccer blah blah blah soccer soccer blah di blah di blah soccer and then soccer . . .”  And doesn’t Crispin run to the mud room, fetch the better inflated of the two soccer balls, bring it back to the kitchen, and set it down in front of the radio.

Coincidence?  I think not!

Letterman, look out!

Crispin’s fridge-raiding days are over.

At least until he spots this latch we bought from a company that sells childproofing safety devices.

And figures out how to unlatch it.

We’re pretty sure it’s only a matter of time.

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.

There’s a little more to this story (with a cameo role by Crispin’s nose) that you can read over at my other blog, especially if you are in a craftsy frame of mind. I had decided to devote much of this weekend to painting, and though I have in fact made a bunch of miscellaneous things, I haven’t yet gotten out the ink and brushes (hey, the day is still young).

But here, for your viewing pleasure, a portrait of young Crispin in . . . felt:

He’s needle felted from about four different natural shades of sheep’s wool (and one highly unnatural bit of blue dyed wool for the collar). I made him last night and I’m ridiculously pleased with him. He’s just the right size to sit in the palm of your hand, or on your desk. Not, alas, on my desk, because that would put him well within reach of the flesh and blood (and hair and snool and mud and teeth) Crispin, who has indicated in no uncertain terms this morning that he thinks his likeness is very cute and ought to belong to him.

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