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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.

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.

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.

Crispin loves the kids’ old rope swing. It’s nothing fancy, just a sturdy length of rope tied to the branch of a huge maple tree so that its end hangs about 6 inches off the ground, with a number of large knots tied in it at various points up its length. He’s watched Second Child swing on it a number of times and loves to play with it himself.

Most of the time he simply grabs the lower end, pulling and tugging and growling at it, sometimes running in circles as if the rope were part of some demented canine May pole ritual. I’m convinced there’s a fair amount of make-believe going on in his hard little head when he plays with it–in his imagination I’m sure he’s the fierce wild dog and the rope is a coyote that’s unwisely strayed into our yard.

But his very favorite thing to do, when he can achieve it, is to leap as high as he can, sink his teeth into the rope 4 or 5 feet off the ground (he’s a formidable jumper), and swing there for a few minutes with his feet fully off the ground. Then he lets go, drops back to earth, and gives the rope a final furious tug, as if to say “And don’t let me catch you in my territory again!”

On Sunday afternoon, though, the rope got its own back. I had taken a book and a glass of wine to the small picnic table under the same tree, and Crispin, of course, trotted out to keep me company, or, more likely, to see whether I’d brought any interesting munchies with me. Disappointed that I had not, he went off to play and I sort of tuned him out while I read, vaguely aware of the jingling of his tags as he menaced the end of the rope.

Suddenly I realized he was whimpering instead of jingling or barking, and I turned around to see him hung up on the rope BY HIS TOOTH! His feet were dangling a good 2 feet off the ground, his front legs were waving in the air, and there he was, hanging by one scary canine tooth and looking absolutely frantic.

Fortunately I was just a few feet away–I ran over and grabbed him from behind around his middle, hoisted him up and unhooked his tooth, which was badly snagged on a frayed bit in the rope, and he ran off, none the worse for his close call. As for me, it took another glass of wine and a few hours to shake the “what if I hadn’t been out there with him” fears.

Having an airedale is a lot like having a toddler–hours and hours of pleasure interspersed with moments of sheer terror.

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
July 2021