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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.

Just a quickie today to refer everyone back to Dinah’s (and my) traumatic 4th of July story. Click here to read about how we almost lost her–and about how we got her back.

Love your animals today and keep them safe from the snaps, crackles, and pops!

Happy birthday, Dinah!

It occurs to me that, in dog years, she’s now only 2 years younger than I am.  And that by her next birthday, her dog years count will have surpassed my people years one. She’ll be older than me.

We’re not the sort to give the 4-legs birthday parties, but she’ll get plenty of attention today and maybe an extra treat or two. Anyway, the way we see it, Crispin took her out for a lasagna dinner last night.

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.

Nah.

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.

A few posts back, I wrote about how Dinah often seems to know when I’m coming home. She’ll plop herself down by the door to watch for me, not when I’m almost home, but when I’m just setting out for home, even if I’m over 100 miles away. I mentioned Rupert Sheldrake, who does research on this phenomenon.

Now your very own “dogs that know” story can become part of research history. I just read on Boing-Boing that researcher Alex Tsakiris is trolling for stories of other dogs who do this. Visit “Dogs who know” to find out how you can tell your own story of your dog’s connection to you and your travels–and read about other people’s experiences.

We’ve passed through the 10 days that count as spring in New England–those 10 mild and balmy days between weather that still periodically dips into the lower 30s and weather that is suddenly close to 100 degrees. Though it’s hot and we’re all scrambling to get the window units into the few rooms that positively demand air conditioning, it’s also dramatically, lushly beautiful, verdant and alive with trees in full leaf and vines and magnificent flowers–azaleas and iris and that pinky-orange-flowering umbrella-like tree with the peeling bark that we don’t know what it is but we love.

And there are birds. Many, many birds. We are fortunate enough to have a couple of acres of yard that include a stream, a pond, vegetation of all heights and densities, making it a little paradise for the birds. We have water birds–ducks and Canada geese (who somehow DO seem to have gotten the memo requiring them to stay in our neighbor’s yard where we can see them and appreciate their handsome plumage and their impossibly cute and fuzzy goslings, but where we don’t have to deal with their soil enrichments), herons and red-winged blackbirds, hawks and osprey, barn swallows, and all manner of song-birds.

Here’s where it gets interesting, because it isn’t just the human residents here who appreciate the presence of the birds. Nemo, for instance, whom you haven’t met yet, spends hours sitting in the windowsill over our bed, keeping careful track of the comings and goings of a pair of purple finches who inhabit a tangle of leafy vines that crawl up the chimney on that side of the house. She chirps softly at them in a gentle way that means, “If it weren’t for this damned screen between us, you two would be toast.”

When we disturb her voyeuristic activities gentle birdwatching, she rewards us with a fond look that clearly says, “Do you not have anything better to do than bother me?”

We do, of course. Right now we are very busy protecting these:

Protecting them from Dinah and Crispin, who have discovered this wren’s nest just at their eye-level, tucked into the frame of the office window that looks out onto the porch. We were tickled when the wrens began to build their nest their, anticipating the joy of being able to see up-close the building of the charming nest, the tiny nestled eggs, and the hungry young babies as they hatched.

Okay, first we gave them an “F” in nest-building–I’m telling you, they just flung sticks at the windowsill and however they happened to fall was okay with them. Then, at about the same time that we discovered (through quick peeks every few days when the parent wrens were away) these 5 amazing little eggs (about dime-sized), the dogs also discovered them, and it fell to us to keep them from eating the eggs. Fortunately, the pack leader cleverly hit upon an arrangement of boards (left over from a building project)–that, propped at just the right angle, blocks both the dogs’ view of the nest and their access to it, but leaves plenty of room for mama wren (who figured it out quickly) to fly in and out.

Of course, the neighbors may call the planning and zoning commission–our remodeling isn’t exactly something you might see in House Beautiful–but we think it’s a small price to pay for the safety of our new tenants.

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite books was “A Cat Called Room 8,” the story of a cat adopted by an elementary school in Los Angeles (it might be more accurate to say “the story of a cat who adopted an elementary school in Los Angeles”). Room 8 hung out at the school for 15 years, and was given quite a splendid burial when he died in (I’m dating myself here) 1968. I’m pleased to say that Room 8 not only had his own book,

but that today, owing to his enduring fame, he has his own web site.

I bring this up here not because of the charming story the Room 8 children wrote about the cat, his care, his schedule, and his life, but because of something I remember being in the book (though, given the vagaries of time and my little gray cells, I may well have made this up).

I have a vivid memory of the book containing a glossary of Room 8’s vocabulary. The children realized that he signaled his mood and needs through his body language. If his tail was high, he was happy. If his tail swished, he was irritated. And so on.

I was enchanted. A cat lover even then, I was thrilled to have this guide, a veritable Rosetta stone to help the felinophiles among us to communicate with the objects of our adoration. Why, once I’d read this miraculous lexicon, Dr. Doolittle himself had nothing on me. The language of cats had been revealed to my 9 year old self, and I’ve been comfortable with them (and, mostly, they with me) ever since. My cat Nemo, for instance, flings herself to the ground and rolls on her back when I enter the room–she purrs and cavorts and, when I bend to pet her, rubs her face against my hand. Who could fail to understand that, in her language, she’s telling me she’s comfortable, she’s glad to see me, she trusts me–and, oh yeah–she has marked me as her own.

Then there are the dogs. When I pet them and rub their noses, they scrinch up their upper lips and show their teeth. Dinah makes the most amazing sound–but is she singing? Protesting? Begging for more? Or is she about to snap my hand off?

After six years with her, I know the answer (and I’ll post a video soon of the whole performance so you can see where I might have been confused), but, honestly–cats and dogs clearly speak different languages. Neither is better than the other, but to those of us conditioned and tutored in the language of cats, it can really be confusing.

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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June 2020
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