THE DOG CHRONICLES
MY LIFE AS AN UNSUBSIDIZED DOG RESCUER
THE STORY OF MAX, VERONICA AND BETTY OR AS WE LIKE TO CALL THEM – THE GENTLE SIMPLE GIANT, AND THE UNTAMED CRAZY AS JUNGLE MONKEYS INHABITANTS OF MY BACKYARD.
The Shredder Sisters
Why Rescuing Dogs Isn’t Always The Answer
Anyone who knows me for even 15 minutes will soon learn that I cannot turn my back on a stray dog. Every canine in a tri-county area having dug out, jumped a fence or just accidentally misplaced themselves, will soon find their way to my door. I have been fairly lucky at finding where they belong and returning them to their proper place (along with strict lectures to their owners.) The inability to ignore the abandoned started me on this wild journey.
It started very simply when a poor starving pup showed up at my work. He hung around for days and I began to bring him scraps from my lunch every day. I became concerned about his well being since my place of employment was on a very busy street. Each day I thought “He’ll be gone today.” Each day, he remained.
Eventually, I called my husband and asked if he knew someone who might want a dog and told him about the hobo around the studio. My husband said, “You know I wouldn’t mind having a dog.” Against my better judgment I told him to come and see the dog and if he liked him we would make him our own.
We brought the waif home, named him Max and watched him wolf down bowls and bowls of dog food over the course of the next few days. My husband assured me that he was certain the dog was grown and therefore would be a manageable size. Having some experience with dogs I wasn’t entirely convinced of his assurance but I went along.
The day of his vet appointment arrived and we gathered our new “baby” and went to make sure he would be a healthy and happy dog for years to come. Max weighed in at 55 pounds, not bad for a full grown dog. However, our hopes were dashed when we learned he was only about 5 months old and would continue growing. Yikes, he was already putting away dog food like there was no tomorrow! But other than some usual doggie problems like every single parasite known to man and malnutrition, he was a good candidate for a companion.
It didn’t matter, by now Roger and I were completely in love with the big dope and we prepared to make his life as wonderful as he deserved. Max has been a good dog even if he is a little “special.” At one point, he tipped the scales at around 90 pounds which made him impossible for me to walk. And Max has no concept of his size. If you sit in the floor he will sit in your lap. In his mind he is a “pocket dog” and should be held. He is terrified of thunder storms and small quick things make him a nervous wreck. So nervous in fact that he has what are almost seizure type spells. His teeth start to chatter and he grinds his teeth – in short – he panics.
But life with Max was fine until I started to realize that I had never got to have a little puppy. The warm and cuddly little balls of fluff with the sweet milky breath had been stolen from me. Max had come pre-packaged. I wanted a puppy and Max needed a companion. That opened the door for Jessie but her story is one for another time. She was selected and this story is about the neglected.
A couple of years ago I stumbled upon the two abandoned little waifs I affectionately refer to as “The Shredder Sisters.” Cowering in a barbed wire covered bramble patch, half starved and thirsty, they became my greatest mission and my biggest mistake all at the same time. I was put on their trail by my daughter who saw them while she was bike riding one hot August afternoon. She put in a call to the sucker she calls mom who couldn’t get there fast enough.
Fresh from work I drove to the location and as I approached I saw 2 pups run off the road and up into an overgrown hiding place. Quickly assessing the situation, I saw a bag of dog food split open in the ditch. Some good Samaritan had tried to help them by making sure they didn’t starve.
I parked my car, got out and crossed the dirt road, found a place on the other side and settled myself to wait. I’m sure I was a pretty picture in a dress and heels, sitting in the dirt, talking to myself (or so it would have appeared to a passerby), and pitching bits of dog food toward a seemingly empty pile of brush. I was patient, so were they. But, eventually, the natural curiosity of a domesticated animal won and they began to creep out. Once they were clear of cover, I saw that one was red and the other black and tan. And, unfortunately for me, I was now on the hook 100%.
It wasn’t easy but they eventually got within arm’s length of me. Very calmly and quietly I reached forward and hooked my fingers in the frayed collar of the black dog. Once I had her the other was easy. I had them both…..now what? I wrestled my cell phone out of my pocket, pushed speed dial and called my husband. I told him where I was and told him to come right away with the truck.
When Roger arrived he got out of the truck, took one look and said “Baby, let’s put them in the back of the truck.” He knew better than to try and talk me out of it. I reasonably assured him that we would feed them up, take care of the immediate medical needs and find wonderful homes for them. And we did. Unfortunately, the home we found was ours. And so the soap opera of my life began. This is only the first installment of a continuing saga that will last as long as the sisters and Max are a part of my world. Welcome to “The Dog Chronicles.”
The Day It Snowed in August
One of the great desires of my grown up life was to have a yard swing. I tried several times to accomplish this wish with porch swings and those never worked out. Most of the time I didn’t have a porch of substance enough to support a swing. But once, I actually had a porch and a swing. What I didn’t have was the knowledge of how to properly hang said swing from said porch. Always priding myself as a “can do” kind of girl, I rigged out the swing and got it hung from the roof of my wrap-a-round porch. I didn’t test it right away, saving it for a cool evening when I could take my book, a glass of sweet tea and relax in my swing.
I gathered all my comfort items including a pillow for my back in case I decided to put my feet up in the swing. I took everything out to the porch, placed everything and sat down in my heart’s desire. The next thing I knew I was waking up on the concrete floor of the porch with a pounding headache looking at a swing hanging upside down above me. Apparently, there is some balancing trick that properly hangs a suspended swing. The lifelong dream flickered but didn’t die.
After many years of hinting to everyone who would listen about the swing and not getting one, I bought myself one for Mother’s Day. It was awesome! Nice, soft and comfy on a solid metal frame with a nice shade canopy on top. It was bliss! The swing was long enough I could lay completely down in it. My heart’s desire in solid tangible form. I cross stitched a Christmas stocking for Genevieve in that swing. I read loads of books, worked tons of crossword puzzles, composed poems and took wonderful naps and guarded it with my life. I would eject anyone who assumed the right to sit in MY swing.
My old dog Max was finally old enough to not tear up, dig up and chew up everything in the back yard so we moved my swing to the back. This would afford me greater privacy. Now I could enjoy my swing in my shorty summer jammies if I wanted. Max liked for me to come into his yard with my “toys” and keep him company as I was relaxing.
Then came the momentous arrival of the “Shredder Sisters.”
While the sisters were recuperating they were very calm, passive and sweet tempered. But I persevered in their rehabilitation and finally they were happy, active and energetic little girls. I named them Veronica and Betty because they were a brunette & a redhead respectively (sorry I couldn’t think of Ginger and Mary Ann at the time.) The sisters brought new life to old Max as well. No longer was he perpetually alone in the yard, now he had companions and he was a happy , happy boy. The girls could hold their own with him, something we would never allow Jessie to even attempt. She was so much littler and had become a major “princess” and the darling of both our hearts, she was protected and out of Max’s reach. But with the sisters, he had a new lease on life. He also had other possible candidates for blame if damage was done to the back yard.
One day as I was passing the back door I noticed bits of white particles flying through the air. My first thought was “No, this isn’t right…..it’s August so that can’t be snow.” On closer inspection I discovered the white particles were bits of poly-fill. Still yet, my brain had not engaged to grasp the significance of what I was seeing. I walked over to the door and looked out. And then, my world came crashing down, and my dream died a horrible brutal death.
Out in my yard, I viewed an interesting sight. Veronica was sitting in the seat of the swing while Betty pulled it forward by grabbing hold of the seat with her mouth. As she released the seat the swing flew backward leaving Betty with a mouthful of swing stuffing. She would shake her head vigorously and the stuffing would fly all over. Max was watching this event with an extremely worried look on his face. More than anything in the world he dreads the screeching sounds that come out of me when I am distressed.
Well, the damage was already done, the swing was irretrievable and so I just let them finish it off. It took them several weeks of rapturous swinging to tear up and eat the evidence of their destruction but eventually all that was left of my dream swing was the metal skeleton.
I found the constant reminder of my poor dead swing too painful to bear so I FreeCycled the frame. The death of my yard swing was only the first of many new events attributed to the “Shredder Sisters.”
Next installment: 14 Potty Breaks and the Phantom Garage Door
14 Potty Breaks
The Phantom Garage Door
For a year and a half, my husband worked in Kansas City. He was in the big city during the week and he drove home every Friday night for the weekend. This was a difficult time for both of us. It was very hard on Roger to drive back and forth every week, be gone from his home and miss every family event that involved our grandchildren. It was difficult for me because I missed him dreadfully and I felt overwhelmed with having to be everything to everyone.
For a long time I was afraid of the dark and coming home to a dark empty house. Eighteen months of having to face these situations alone will definitely get you over your phobias.
Since I was basically alone most of the time I was hyper vigilant about locking doors and being aware of what was happening around my property. I always made sure I was tucked away safe and sound at night and being the owner of 4 dogs I felt pretty secure that I was safe from a “sneak” attack.
Jessie is the only dog we have that I can easily walk myself. She is very well behaved, well trained and will walk nicely on a leash. Therefore, my exercise is walking Jessie around our neighborhood in the evenings. Since the walk usually evolves into her using some neighbor’s yard as her personal bathroom, I take a plastic bag with me to pick up the evidence. I walk with a dog, a leash, a plastic bag, a cell phone and my garage opener. I can clip my garage door opener to my pocket and don’t have a huge wad of keys to get back into my house.
One fall evening I went to bed as usual and remarkably fell asleep quickly and easily. I was deep in dreamland when Jessie landed on my chest like a ton of bricks. I tried to move her but she stood firm not moving. This usually means she is in some uncomfortable situation involving her bathroom habits.
I struggled out of bed, not really awake, went to the front door and opened it for her. She stood inside the house and looked at me. I walked outside a few steps, she followed, stopped and looked up at me flatly refusing to go into the yard to do her business.
I gave up and re-entered the house. Since I never completely woke up I was able to return to dreamland in short order. The next thing I know she’s back on my chest insisting I get up. I’m not happy but I certainly don’t want her to have a bathroom emergency in the house. We repeat the whole previous routine and she still will not do me the honor of taking advantage of the yard. Back to bed. Honestly, I think this went on all night, over and over again we repeated the futile trip out the front door. When the new day dawned, I was exhausted having had no uninterrupted sleep.
I am a routine driven person. I do the same thing at the same time every day. I find this brings a certain amount of peace to my otherwise chaotic life. After the immediate needs of my person are taken care of first thing in the morning, I always feed my dogs. This morning was no different than any other. I staggered to the garage still trying to wake up from my night of repeated potty attempt. As I entered the garage I was suddenly wide awake. My garage door was open! My mind starts racing around like a hamster in a wheel. Door open, car in garage with keys in the ignition and the door between the garage and the house unlocked! I could have been murdered in my bed.
As I am standing there contemplating the what could have beens the door begins a slow descent. And then it stopped…..and then it started back up….stopped…..came down…..stopped….back up. Bear in mind that my mind is fogged from lack of sleep and now it is struggling to comprehend what my eyes are seeing. I immediately start trying to explain the unexplainable. Okay, first someone in the neighborhood has the same code as I do. Walk out on the driveway, look right, look left, not a car in sight. As I am standing on the driveway, the door starts down. I do have the presence of mind to race back into the garage before it gets all the way down. Otherwise I would have been locked out of my house.
I look in my car, the garage door opener is not attached to the visor in its’ usual place. Starting to become more cognizant I begin to retrace my steps the evening before. Took Jessie for a walk, used the door opener to get back in, therefore, I didn’t lose it on my walk. Hmmmm then what did I do with it?
The whole time I am spinning my mind around what is happening the door is opening, closing, opening & closing.
I dished up dog food and headed for the back door to feed the dogs. I opened the back door and there my darlings were, Max with his nose pressed to the glass waiting semi-patiently for his breakfast. And there are my two precious little waifs having a nice wrestling match on the patio. Behind me I hear the garage door continuing to repeat the pattern of open, close. Interesting, they seem to be wrestling trying to win the possession of some object………….wait…………….could it be……………it is! They have my garage door opener and with each roll and tussle they are opening and closing the door.
Well there’s a mystery solved. Apparently when I returned from the walk the evening before I walked out on the patio and laid the opener on the patio table. When I didn’t take it with me, they decided it was a new toy for them and they enjoyed it all night long.
So, all night Jessie was trying to tell me something was amiss. That is why she continued to look at me like I had taken leave of my senses each time I tried to MAKE her go potty. And, to make matters worse, later that day, my neighbor from across the street called me. She asked me if I was having trouble with my garage door. Because she said, her husband noticed that it kept going up and down all night.
I have the tooth marked garage door opener to attest to the validity of this story. I keep it as a constant reminder that things are not always what they appear to be especially when one is dealing with the Shredder Sisters.
Next installment: Baying at the Moon and The Disappearing Possum
Baying at the Moon
The Disappearing Possum
When a country girl from farming and ranching folk, makes the move to the big city, she doesn’t expect to have to continue to deal with wild life. Other than some neighbors who are apparently “border okies” who have decided to grace our fair city with their presence and their driving, things are pretty tame in town.
However, my little neighborhood is in proximity to a small creek the purpose of which seems to be to divert excessive rainfall back to the river. Living close to even a small waterway increases the likelihood of being blessed with some “critter” tourists.
As I’ve said previously, Roger was spending most of his time in Kansas City. I think it is odd that all things seem to happen when the “big, hairy & brave” part of the family unit is absent everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
One fall night I awoke to the sound of frenzied barking in my yard. Now all three of those yard dogs can hear a mouse fart at 100 yards, so this isn’t all that unusual. However, after screeching at them on my part, the barking would subside only to resume a short while later.
I can usually sleep through a nuclear explosion but one does have to have some concern for the health and peace of mind of one’s neighbors. Because of my great compassion for my fellow man I do try to keep my dogs from mindlessly barking.
This evening, they would not be hushed. I finally resorted to searching the house for a flashlight so I could enter the yard without killing myself by stepping in holes that have been dug out of boredom.
Now finding a working flashlight in this household is a pretty good trick. I’m confident we have purchased at least 100 of them in our married life. We once had one in every room, fully operational and very handy in case of power failure. Then we were blessed with grandchildren. A child and a flashlight are like opposing poles of a magnet, they cannot resist each other. With the precision of finely tuned investigators, our grandchildren have managed to ferret out every flashlight and play with it till the batteries are completely gone. At this point they discard them and we spend hours in the dark, trying each one we can unearth. In each and every case, they are totally useless. However, on this blessed evening I actually found a working flashlight.
Armed with my beacon of light I went in search of the source of the disturbance. Sweeping the yard like a lighthouse beam, I was stopped still in my tracks by two very sinister beady little eyeballs shining in the light. Crap! A wildlife invasion with no great hunter in the camp to rescue myself and my poor unfortunate and traumatized dogs. I had possum intruders before. Once I had one clinging to the fence while the dogs leaped and barked. I decided to play great white hunter and took my broom and knocked the nasty little creature backward. It was like playing with one of those socko toys. I would shove him back and he would disappear beyond the fence and then miraculously swing back up, hissing and spitting. I finally dispatched him and this new intruder would suffer a like fate.
Suddenly, Max, apparently encouraged by my physical presence decided to take matters into his own jaws. He swooped in on the unfortunate creature and grasped him with his sizable mouth and went prancing all over the yard. Now possum are filthy creatures. Usually covered in unknown numbers of pests and carrying countless diseases. Not something I want my precious doggy babes subjected to. I heard a wild keening sound and realized it was coming from me. Max, who hates the momscreech immediately dropped the possum and Mr. Possum didn’t move.
I plucked up my courage, grabbed a shovel from the shed and approached the enemy cautiously. I poked at him with my shovel, he did not move. The other dogs ran up tormenting him, barking and snapping. He remained injured and presumed dead.
Not wanting to leave a filthy dead animal in my yard with my dogs, I began to formulate my next move. The last thing I wanted was for 3 dogs to chew and tear up a dead animal and then roll in the remains. I had to get rid of the carcass. I went to my garage and got a “forceflex” trash bag, went outside and took the shovel and put the possum in the trash bag. Then I tied the bag shut several times and took it to the front and placed it by the curb. My plan was to effect a more permanent disposal in the morning.
By now it was about 2:00 am and I was ready for bed. Around 4:00 am, Miss Jessie decided that she could not wait 2 more hours for her curtsy break. As we exited the house, I realized that the first place she was probably going to go was to the possum filled trash bag at the curb. My plan was to take her as far away from it as I could and hope she didn’t notice.
Fortunately, she went immediately out and squatted. As she was completing her business, I stole a glance toward the curb. What the heck! The trash bag was gone. And by gone I don’t mean it was ripped open and lying there empty. I mean possum and bag are gone. It is moments like these that make me doubt my own sanity. Did this event really happen? Did someone come by and pick up the bag thinking they were going to be finding a great treasure? Perhaps the “border okies” rescued said possum for Sunday dinner? Or, was Mr. Possum merely playing possum? The most logical explanation is that once imminent danger was past he took his nasty lethal little claws and scratched his way out of the bag. But…..here’s the really funny part. That evening was a dead calm night without a breath of wind. I went up and down the street looking for the trash bag and could not find it anywhere. So, now my mind has a permanent mental image of a trash bag walking down the street fleeing the scene of the accident. Maybe he still is in possession of that bag. After all, it would make an excellent raincoat or disguise.
The Great Escape
Hide & Seek
This part of my story is chronologically out of order having actually happened at the beginning of my relationship with the “Shredder Sisters.” I use it at this point of my story because it sets the tone for almost everything else that happens.
The sisters bounced back from their abandonment in pretty short order. It is truly amazing how much canine health $300.00 can accomplish. Would that humans could be brought back from the brink of death for such a paltry sum. The veterinarians that had already convinced themselves that I was a couple of bubbles off “plumb” were now convinced that I could be institutionalized without much work. You see the sisters weren’t the first little waifs I had carried in their building and emptied my wallet to rehabilitate.
As the girls got better and became used to and comfortable in their new digs (literally) they became even bolder. They systematically reconnoitered the yard, checking every corner, helping to deepen existing holes, and poking their noses through even the smallest crack or hole in the fence. I guess it was bound to happen that they would inevitably find a weak spot in their captivity.
One evening Max began barking his “oh my gosh something horrible has happened” bark. I went to the door to scold him and he was running back and forth from the back fence to the door like a crazed thing. Upon further examination I learned the cause of his distress, the girl dogs were gone. My investigation revealed that the back fence had been breached and the sisters had fled to the high country or the Oklahoma border whichever came first.
This happened on a weekend when Roger was home so nothing would do but I made him get up, dress and get in the pickup and go searching. For hours he drove our immediate neighborhood calling and whistling. I stayed home walking the floor and praying they would return. I confess there was more than just moderate blubbering involved as well. Since Max was still a captive we had to immediately patch the hole in the fence which made their return home even more problematic. I had no idea how to effect the retrieval of my lost pups.
Roger returned home empty handed and made me go to bed. I cried myself to sleep. Sometime later he woke me and said “Honey, Betty is home.” I got up and sure enough, she was running up and down the back fence on the outside, barking like mad and Max was matching her in effort and voice. I stood at the fence and talked to her while Roger drove around the block and fetched her home from the lot behind us. She was soaking wet, filthy dirty and shaking like a leaf. I put her in the bathtub, cleaned her up, gave her dinner and then put her to bed in her crate in the garage. She heaved a big sigh and settled down for the remainder of the night very happy to be home.
This was better but not perfect because Veronica was still AWOL. Still upset and crying I was forced back to bed by my dear husband with assurances that he would maintain the vigil for my lost little dog. Lo and behold sometime around 4:00, Max the faithful sentry sent up his cry heralding Veronica’s return. Since neither of us had any sleep, Roger and I very unceremoniously deposited her bad self in her crate with no bath and no dinner. Little did we know that this was only the first of many escapes. Veronica was to prove herself worthy of a starring role in Hogan’s Heroes with her continued adventures over the fence.
Sometimes we become so sure of what we perceive to be the truth that the real truth evades us. We become blinded by our own version of reality and and fail to grasp the fantasy as real when we should. Such is the premise of the second part of my story.
Arkansas is one of those states that can spawn a pop up thunderstorm almost any time of year. Out of a clear blue sky there is suddenly a booming clap of thunder, blinding lightening and torrential rain. As suddenly as it has sprung up, it can be gone.
Such was the day I now recount. I was home (alone) and was deep into cleaning my house. Now, June Cleaver I’m not. I don’t flit around my house in a belted full skirted dress accessorized with a frilly apron and my mother’s pearl necklace. Housework is hot work. Therefore, I usually wear some very attractive and well worn shorts, a holey t-shirt and no undergarments.
On this momentous day, a great Arkansas thunder boomer shook the windows and the heavens opened up and began to pour. Now dear old Max is terrified of thunderstorms and tries to break into the house if one appears while he is in the yard. I decided I should bring all furbabies in and rescue them from the downpour. I opened the door and Max practically knocked me on my butt in his flight to Roger’s office which has become sanctuary for him. I called to the sisters and received no response. In spite of the rain I went outside in search of them. I could not find then anywhere. I looked in all dog houses and even peered through fences into adjoining yards. No shredder sisters.
We have already established that I am certifiably insane when it comes to my dogs so the following should not shock my gentle readers. Not even pausing to put on shoes, I grabbed two leashes and set out in search of my poor dogs.
Please picture if you will, an overweight old woman, walking barefoot in the streets in clothing that would be cast aside by a homeless person. Furthermore, there was excessive God to ground lightening and I was carrying leashes with metal snaps. The rain was pouring and my clothes were dripping wet (remember that I’m not wearing any unmentionables) and I am sloshing the streets barefooted. I walked my neighborhood in such disarray twice before the storm abated and I trudged home sans dogs. I’m pretty sure I saw young mothers pull their small impressionable children away from the windows.
The storm over, I liberated Max and went with him into the yard where I whistled and called to the sisters to no avail. Finally I remembered the nursery rhyme and decided to leave them alone hoping they would come home wagging their tails behind them. Back to my housework, I discovered I had an infestation of “piss ants” in my kitchen. I knew I had ant spray in the shed so I headed out to find it. I paused briefly in the yard to give yet one more attempt to call my errant children home.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the shed door and there were the shredder sisters merrily chewing a garden hose into as many pieces as possible. Apparently, I was the one that was lost, not them. I suppose that the shed door had not been latched properly and the wind blew it open, offering the girls safe haven from the storm, but trapping them inside when another gust blew the door shut behind them. I only suppose this is what happened because I truly don’t at this point believe they have the ability to transport themselves through solid substances. But the day will come when that option doesn’t seem quite as farfetched.
Does it not boggle the mind that they never even barked or whined when I was calling them?
I hate hide and seek, it never has a good outcome for me whether playing with dogs OR children.
Next installment: Canine Olympics and Asian Cuisine
It never ceases to amaze me how wonderfully athletic animals can be……..when they choose. Given the proper motivation they are capable of feats worthy of Underdog. But just as quickly as their super canine powers turn on they can be snuffed out.
We have a 6 foot privacy fence enclosing our backyard. It is this fence that allows me to house all my little rescue projects supposedly worry free. When we moved into the neighborhood and erected this fence we were one of few homeowners who actually fenced their yard. Being the highly evolved and aware human that I am I considered the aesthetics of a fence and decided the best thing to do was build it with the support rails to the inside. My thinking process here was twofold. One, it would be a more attractive fence from the outside. Two, wandering curious children would not be able to use the support rails to scale the fence and run the risk of landing smack in the middle of dog central. This would prove to be a great big bad idea on my part.
Max was always completely content with his incarceration. Never one to challenge it – the most interest he exhibited in the outside world that used him so badly, was a quick peek through the gaps in the fence. However, the introduction of the Shredder Sisters into the “compound” brought new levels of escape attempts.
Betty actually was fairly content but Veronica was a whole different novel. I have no idea why she always wanted to see what was on the other side so badly, but see it she would, at all costs. Unfortunately, the cost was usually paid by her mentally challenged owner.
It happened a little at a time. It happened in ways that couldn’t be readily defined or nailed down. The first was a day Roger and I went somewhere and left the dogs in the yard. When we returned home, Veronica was trapped in an area approximately 12” wide between the dog pen and the fence. This was enough to make you go “huh?” as the front of this area was closed off from the yard by a sheet of plywood secured both to the fence and the pen. We released our trapped dog and were still pondering the logistics of how this could have happened when I noticed a notice on my front door.
In brief this notice was informing me that my dog had been found wandering the neighborhood and if it happened again, there would be a warrant issued for my arrest. Again, “huh?” How could she have been wandering the yard if she was trapped between the dog pen and the fence and had to be rescued by using wire cutters. You know Judge Judy says if “something doesn’t make sense – it isn’t true.” Well, Judge Judy never met the sisters. The sisters can make everything you always thought to be true, real and correct a total load of crap. Nothing about this day made even the slightest bit of sense and yet they were true. I was in trouble with the law and my dog seemed capable of teleporting herself.
All things are revealed if you have the patience to watch and wait. And Veronica’s entrapment was no different. One day I had the dogs penned because someone was working in the yard. I have found that the storm door on my house is a very revealing window on the world. While standing at that door I was astonished to observe Veronica flinging herself at the corner of the dog pen. To my total astonishment, she leaped about half the way up the corner of the pen, dug her little feet into the chain link and climbed to the top. Once she gained the summit of the pen, she plummeted into the space between the fence and the pen.
You just have to love those AH-HA! moments. Now I knew how she managed to get in that space previously. Putting on my “powers of deduction” hat, I was able to figure out that she had probably pulled off this same feat before. But instead of landing in no man’s land she landed in a neighbor’s yard and they called the authorities who showed up, captured her and penned her. Ha! The jokes on them, she scoffs at your puny pathetic attempts at incarceration.
Okay, now I have a problem. The $300.00 dog pen I have purchased is ineffective in providing the service it was designed for. Off to the farm and ranch store I go to purchase 2 more chain link fence panels.
Have I mentioned that my husband is mostly in Kansas City during this time of my life?
I work on my dog pen for a whole weekend. I put panels on top of the pen and secure them to the frame. I then decide if I’m going to do this it would be nice to make the pen nice and shady in the summer and dry in the winter. (This will prove to create even more problems later – but that is a story for another time.) Back to the farm and ranch store for a nice heavy tarp with reinforced metal grommets.
Have I mentioned that my husband is in Kansas City almost all the time?!!!!
At last I have a nice, cozy little hidey hole for my dogs. Warm in the winter, shady in the summer, the perfect solution, right………wrong! I am absolutely not a fan of penning or tying a dog up all the time. I think it makes them weird and in some cases just downright mean. None of my dogs have the desire to be mean but they are all just a shade weird and one doesn’t want to compound it. Therefore, I would pen Veronica some and I even tied her from time to time. But I always wanted her to still enjoy as much freedom as possible. This desire to make that little black and tan dog happy would prove to be my downfall.
We live in a very nice little neighborhood and we are now probably the senior citizens here in more ways than one. We have a lot of neighbors of the Asian ethnicity. We have found them to be great neighbors, they take care of their yards, have polite children and there have been few problems co-existing. One thing I have learned is that backyards in the Asian culture are only good for one thing….agriculture. Practically every square foot of their back property is under cultivation. They dig large deep holes and sink plastic tubs and fill the tubs with soil and plants. They also recycle everything they grow and eat back into their gardens in the form of compost. I admire their industry, I don’t always admire the assault on the nostrils from decomposing garbage. But to my dogs the bouquet is heavenly and they spend lots of time with their noses pressed through knot holes in the fence. They also keep their nails filed off to non-lethal weapons trying to dig under the fence to get to the source of the aroma.
It was January, it was cold, it was late, and raining and had been for days. My dogs were outside for their final “potty” break before being tucked away snug in their crates. Apparently, they had been out a little longer than I had intended because I heard the “warning, warning!” barking. With a sick heart I opened the back door and my fears were confirmed. Veronica was gone.
I’m sure I’ve failed to mention that MY HUSBAND IS IN KANSAS CITY!!
I took a flashlight and did a fence reconnaissance and found that yes indeed she was in the neighbor’s yard. I came through the house and went next door and knocked – no one home. I checked the gate on their fence, locked. Now this IS a problem. Please remember there is freezing rain that has been falling for days. I am searching my mind for a solution. I went to the shed and got a 6 foot wooden ladder (you know the fold out kind that make an A shape) and one plastic lawn chair. I have always prided myself on my powers of innovation.
Dragging both items to the fence, I place the lawn chair as close to the fence as I can, fold the ladder out to the open position, climb into the lawn chair and grasp the ladder. With all my strength I lift the ladder and very carefully sit it on the other side of the fence. Since the support boards on my fence are on the inside, you have somewhat of a foothold to scale the fence (Veronica’s no dummy), so I proceed to hoist myself up on the fence. Probably the fact that it was cold and I was wearing heavy clothes kept me from peeling my increasingly thinning skin off of my body. I managed to get myself on top of the fence and I swung my legs over, scrabbling for the ladder with my feet.
I managed to get my feet on the ladder and I pushed myself all the way over. Hello! Days and days of rain PLUS deeply cultivated soil EQUALS a very unsteady and slowly submerging ladder. My responses were still functioning sufficiently to realize I had to grab the fence to secure the ladder. The responses were functioning but not quickly enough and I was deposited on my substantial butt in the fecund sludge of my neighbor’s yard.
If I get out of this yard, I’m driving to Kansas City and killing my husband.
Alright, I’m in the same yard with the escapee now all I have to do is get her, me AND a ladder back across the fence. Piece of cake! I’m a CAN DO kind of girl, it matters not that I am almost 60 and more than just a little overweight. I am a WOMAN……..!
I first get the ladder set back up in its’ proper upright position only to find out to my horror that the ladder is rapidly sinking deeper and deeper in the muck. Well, in the abridged words of the immortal Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll worry about that later.
I finally get my hands on that damned dog and pick her up. Holy crap! When did she get this heavy? Has she been eating lead? This could be a problem. Veronica knows she is in trouble so she is nothing but dead weight in my arms. A trip to the vet a few weeks later confirmed my fears – she weighed 55 pounds. I’m assuming that if you account for the amount of water and mud on her you can probably safely tack on another 10 pounds.
At last I am ready for the final leg of my triathlon. Alas, while I have been accused on occasion of being slightly Abby-normal, I am quite normal in my number of appendages. I have only 2 arms and 2 hands. Let us review.
Some people might be able to climb a ladder with no hands but I am not one of them. Therefore, I need one hand to help me up the ladder, I need one arm and hand to secure my dog. In perfect weather this might have worked, however, in the sleet and mud I find myself in need of an additional arm and hand to keep the ladder from tilting away from the fence. Need 3 – Have 2, I have to make it work.
Veronica and I mount the ladder and it immediately sinks about 6 inches into the mud. I swear I heard a huge sucking sound like we were going to be swallowed up by the earth. The one thing that sucking sound accomplished was it spurred me into rapid flight. I honestly don’t know how I did it. There must have been legions of guardian angels around me that night. And I certainly hope they were wearing earplugs because the language was not fit for men or angels.
We managed to inch our way up the ladder and when we got close to the top, I shoved my shoulder in Veronica’s butt and pushed with all my might. Splash!! She landed splat in my yard. Upon landing, Max and Betty kicked Veronica’s sorry tail all over the yard. From the other side of the fence I could hear her whimpering and seeking the comfort of her doghouse.
With all the strength left in my trembling freezing body I heaved myself back over the fence and landed splat in the yard in the approximate place Veronica had landed moments earlier. I seriously thought I was having a heart attack. I lay flat of my back in a puddle of mud for probably 15 minutes waiting for my heart rate to resume something resembling normal. I was freezing, crying and cursing Veronica, the neighbors and Roger with every ragged breath.
I was finally able to stand up and remount the lawn chair and retrieve my ladder – as it came over the fence, I just let it fall into the yard and I slogged to the back door, stripped out of my clothes, dropped them on the patio and fell into my house, stark naked and shivering. After about a half an hour, I was able to take a warm bath, and put on clean sleepwear and drag myself to bed. Honestly, if I had been employed, I wouldn’t have worked for days. Luckily, I could recuperate at home.
My husband needs to stay in Kansas City for a long, long time.
Next Installment: A Turnstile A Turnstile – My Kingdom for a Turnstile
A Turnstile A Turnstile –
My Kingdom for a Turnstile
When you decide to take on the responsibilities of a dog that job should not be taken lightly. Too often I have seen people commit to a dog but fail to understand that there is more to the dog than just the adorable puppy stage. Dogs are complex creatures with personalities, quirks and problems just like people.
Betty and Veronica were obviously victims of a situation where it was the “oh aren’t they cute” when they were pups and as they grew and started to do all the real dog things like dig, chew, & jump they suddenly were not cute any longer. One of the things that make me crazy are people who decide that a living thing (even one as insignificant as a dog) is disposable. Some people don’t even hesitate to load a dog, drive them miles and miles away from their house, put them out and drive off and leave them. The dog became a companion of mankind and therefore became dependent on human kindness. Dogs are not like cats. Cats will survive because they have a more independent nature. A dog likes nothing better than to be owned and loved by someone.
I’ve seen comments that dogs don’t have memories, don’t have feelings and don’t express emotions like hurt, love, joy and sadness. To those people I say “you haven’t met my dogs.” I think a dog will become as tuned into your life as you allow it to be. If dogs don’t have memories, explain the ones separated from their owners for long periods of time and become euphoric when reunited. Explain those dogs that travel through all kinds of weather, over miles and miles of terrain to find their “home.” If dogs don’t have feelings how do we explain the sheer desperation reflected in the eyes and body language of an abused and neglected dog. And if dogs don’t express emotion why do they let us know how thrilled they are when we come home to them, how unhappy they appear when they have done something wrong, and the devotion they show to their owners even when that owner doesn’t deserve it. A dog loves with its’ whole self, uncompromising and unconditionally.
I’ve talked a lot about Max and the Shredder Sisters and mentioned Jessie only briefly. Jessie is one of those dogs that make you doubt that “dumb” animals are dependent entirely on the superior human species. Not only does she understand more real words than the average 5 year old but she seems to possess some mind reading abilities as well. Jessie’s story is for another day but I mention her here because she has been the source of my realization that a simple dog is capable of amazing intelligence and cognition.
The Sisters also remember. They obviously remember a time in their lives when they were at the mercy of humans. From the moment they landed in our backyard, they were suspicious of every other person who tried to connect with them. Company at our house meant those two dogs running the back yard like jungle monkeys barking and cowering in corners. Their sheer terror at the idea of having to interact with other people made Veronica’s continuous attempts to escape all the more confusing.
Over the course of the next several months, Veronica pulled her “Houdini-esque” vanishing act so many times I lost count. I became the most accomplished fence climber in the world and Veronica exhibited some pretty circus worthy tricks herself.
I believe it was her next attempt at escape that taught me that ingenuity and innovation are real talents of mine.
Veronica went flying over the fence a few weeks after the freezing rain flight. Again, it was dark and cold and still pretty wet. But……. I had this……I had been there and done this. Tools of my trade were the same lawn chair, same ladder, same old fat lady and stupid little dog.
I got over into the neighbor’s yard and again got my hands on that damned dog. I did however vary from the routine a bit. I just wasn’t up for trying to climb the ladder with the dog in my arms, so we went for a trick dog rescue attempt. I put Veronica on the ladder, bottom feet on a lower step, front feet a few steps up. Placing myself behind her we begin to ascend the ladder. That poor little dog is trembling all over, obviously very uncomfortable at being placed in a situation so unnatural for her. Very carefully, I move her hind feet up a step, steadying her with my own body behind, then I move her front legs up a step. Gloryosky Gertrude! She is climbing the ladder! As we near the top of the ladder I began to feel her resistance at going any higher. I know it is time to make my move. I brace myself and push her over the fence again. And, again, Max and Betty kick her sorry tail all over the back yard. Veronica goes back on the tether (tied up again) and I fall back into the house, heart pounding and body shaking.
Again, this has happened without my husband being around to help. Very short sighted of him when you consider that we could be millionaires by now had we have submitted video to America’s Funniest Videos.
Months pass with me rescuing the V dog from one yard or another or tracking her down in the neighborhood after she had bailed over the back fence where the yard behind is open to the street. These escapes were interesting in the fact that she ran the neighborhood like a crazy thing with me in hot pursuit. Every time I got within 3 feet of her she would bolt and run farther away.
Eventually, even the most stupid of people gets a clue. I am no exception to that.
After a particularly trying day of chasing that dog up and down the streets, in and out of yards and garages, I just finally turned my back on her and headed home. I was upset and broken hearted to know a creature that seemed to “need” protecting so much could just run “willy nilly” all over the neighborhood. As I turned the corner and headed down my own street I heard a sound behind me. Turning around, I witnessed that little black and tan dog running toward me at breakneck speed. Wham! She ran smack into me and knocked me down in the street. I secured her with the leash I was carrying and off to the house we went and there she was promptly retied.
We repeated this particular event several times over the next few months when I was fortunate enough for her to go over the back fence instead of the side.
Veronica did continue to visit the side neighbors and on one occasion, I simply beat the boards off of our privacy fence to make a hole offering her a way back home. Of course, this didn’t work exactly as I planned. While I was looking for nails to reattach fence boards, all of my dogs went through the hole and were browsing through the various snack items readily available. Visiting my yard today, you will see a 6 foot wood fence with 3 boards nailed on the wrong side. A constant reminder and monument to Flying Dogs and Fat Bottomed Women.
Surely it is now apparent why a turnstile would have been a great Christmas gift for me
Next installment: So How’d Ya Get That Big Old Butt On Top of That Fence Anyway?
So How’d Ya Get That Big Old Butt
On Top of That Fence Anyway?
Veronica’s final flight could have possibly been the best. And, after all the months of rescuing, chasing and worrying, I finally had a witness to my plight. At long last my husband was home. Roger was in the house in his office and unknown to me, my daughter was also about to arrive.
I was actually in the yard when Veronica went sailing over. It was miraculous to behold – one moment she was just a dog enjoying the freedom of her backyard – the next she was experiencing the miracle of flight. I watched her put her nose in the air and I truly think at that moment I witnessed her brain flipping the switch to “off.” She backed up about 12 feet from the fence, made a running dash and catapulted herself toward it. She jumped high enough that her front legs hung over the top of the fence and she scrabbled with her back feet until she achieved enough purchase on the boards to push herself over.
My blood literally went from just coursing through my hardening arteries to the point of boiling and pulsating until I thought my head would explode. I went in the house in search of my husband, explained to him that the “damn” dog had taken a powder AGAIN!
Contrary to what you think you have been able to discern about my personality and character by now, patience is NOT my strong suit. I am enough like my mother to have the “I want it done and I want it done NOW” chromosome. When I have reached a personal crisis point, any delay will only serve to make me want to annihilate the source of my problem but anyone who is not responding with my same level of urgency. In short, failure to help me when I request it will put your life in peril. Or mine as this case proved to be.
My darling husband is the “great procrastinator.” He subscribes to the “why do today that which you can put off until tomorrow” credo. Therefore, he failed to come running when summoned and that was the first step in my ultimate undoing.
When I did not see any help forthcoming, the pounding in my head became so severe that I literally saw red. I’m sure anyone watching would have been able to observe that my brain shutting down just as Veronica’s had a few minutes earlier.
Stalking to the shed, muttering every expletive known to modern man plus a few that I made up by combining several foul words, I was a woman on a collision course with destiny.
I threw the tools of my fence scaling trade against the fence and began my ascent. I don’t exactly know what went wrong. It was the same problem, the same fence, same ladder and lawn chair and I was certainly the same highly pissed off person. Everything was the same except my ability to conquer the situation.
I was able to mount the fence but that was the end of my journey. Somehow once I had one leg on one side of the fence and one on the other, I was hopelessly stuck. There I was, lying on my stomach on top of the fence unable to go anywhere. I didn’t even have the ability to simply go limp and fall off the fence. I’m sure I presented a pretty picture, something akin to a beached whale impaled on a harpoon.
Under the roaring in my ears, I could hear my daughter shouting for my husband. And she must have been really worried because there was an underlying note of hysteria in her voice. Upon further examination later, I came to realize what I mistook for hysteria was actually her attempt to control hysterical laughter.
Suddenly, my rescuer arrived! It is interesting to me that a person can be amused, worried and genuinely pissed all at the same time, but Roger was all these things and more. Somehow he managed to get my fat butt down off the fence without injuring himself but not without a solid scolding about my reckless behavior. I was counseled severely about my lack of patience and need to “do everything myself.” Hello…….earth to Roger….had you come when called, none of this would have happened. To add insult to injury, he also managed to retrieve the dog without significant incident and restored order to the animal kingdom in the yard.
Men have this ingrained sense of being the superior sex, more capable at problem solving and just general chest beating testosterone machismo. And now, I had unwittingly contributed to this particular man’s ego. After all, it was a female dog that started the ball rolling and his female that rolled it smack into a brickwall, or a privacy fence in this case. I think his head grew 2 sizes that day.
It did not help that by the next day my inner thighs were bruised from where they connected to my torso all the way to my knees. This colorful reminder of my day of infamy did nothing to make my husband contrite over his failure to timely respond to my need. In fact, each time those bruises were visible, he had such a self satisfied smirk on his face that I wanted to lock him in the closet.
And then there was my daughter who continued to bemoan the fact that she had not had a video camera available. She was and still is convinced she could have been the big winner on America’s Funniest Videos. And the fact that she would have profited from my misfortune would not have bothered her in the slightest. I get NO respect and probably wouldn’t have gotten part of the money either. But hey, it is enough for me to know that I am a constant source of amusement to those I love!
Since this was written, Veronica managed to lose herself and Max has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Betty remains crazy as a loon but has evolved into an excellent weather forecaster, being able to discern thunder and lightening happening in states as far away as Idaho. And me? Well, I have contributed to my own insanity by loaded up my house with Schnauzers which are subjects for volumes of other splendid reading.
THE TAIL END