I let him have it

What I saw: Captain having the new dog toy.

What I did beforehand: the Bacon Provider got home from a business trip in time to catch a late dinner with me. Then, he had to unpack (and re-pack) his suitcase.


What I wore: dirty jeans and the sweater of intermittent self-pity

Who went with me: Captain and the Bacon Provider and even Schwartz.



How I got Captain: we took in Captain as a foster dog in the fall of 2008. 

Why I saw this show: a colleague of my husband who I met on election night gave him a gift, saying it was “for his dogs.”



Where I sat: on the floor because I didn’t want to miss any of it.

Things that were sad: that this made me feel better.


Things that were funny:

 

http://schwartzville.tumblr.com/post/153928449822/someone-got-us-a-toy-for-captain

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Things that were not funny: 

Something I ate: toast.

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What it is: a stuffed dog toy of ordinary durability, in the grip of a dog that is determined to rip the face off of every toy, empty out the stuffing, and pull out the squeaker.



Who should see it: as of this writing65,228,264 American voters, or, 2,554,576 more than the “winner.”

What I saw after: Schwartz made his inspection.


I went for a walk

What I saw: the woods of the Kitchawan Preserve, Ossining, New York

What I wore: tall black custom Vogel field boots, Prince of Wales spurs, light brown Pikeur full-seat breeches, lilac 3/4-sleeve L.L.Bean polo shirt, Charles Owen Ayr8 helmet, prescription sunglasses, black SSG® Soft Touch™ Riding Gloves. 

What I did beforehand: overslept



Who went with me: Remonta Hado, aged 15, also sometimes known as Hado or Brown or, even, Big Brown.

How I got here: a set of random, impulsive decisions that might be impossible to replicate.

Why I went for a walk: we have been working very hard and needed a break. It was a perfectly clear, bright, dry sunny day.

Where I sat: Devouxcoux mono-flap dressage saddle.

Things that were sad: you, my readers, won’t look at my last blog post

Things that were funny: there are signs posted in this park stating that dogs must be on leash, and also further stipulating that dogs must be on a leash up to six feet long. I do occasionally see people walking a dog on a leash here, but almost always see people with their dogs off leash. Walking a dog off-leash is a great pleasure, of course, for both the dog, that gets to explore its freedom, and the walker, who walks and indulges in the sight of their dog moving at liberty. But it all depends on an owner’s ability to call the loose dog and leash it up again. I saw three dogs on this walk. The first was a black lab mix named Lola. Lola’s owners shouted “come” about eleven or twelve or eighty-one times before it occurred to them to turn around and walk the other way. Their apology was, “Oh, she’s never seen a horse before.”

Things that were not funny: the next dogs I saw were a pair of merle Australian shepherds. Their owners were calling shrilly but fruitlessly, as well, perhaps unaware of the deer their dogs were presumably pursuing, when suddenly the dogs exploded from the dense brush, charged me and my quiet, motionless horse who retained all of his composure while the marauding, barking fluff-balls were re-captured. These owners shouted at me accusingly about how they hadn’t any place to move off the trail (a statement so incomprehensible I am still mulling it over, days later), and flexed their muscles dragging off the canine ruffians by the neck and making no apology at all as we paraded sedately past them. 


What it is: the Kitchawan Preserve is a 208-acre natural area bordered by New York City reservoirs. It features reasonably well-maintained, wooded trails and a few open fields. It is lovely in all four seasons, though it can be very muddy after strong rains, and is heavily used by dog-walkers, particularly on weekends in fine weather. It was once a research facility of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There are two horse farms abutting the preserve, though I rarely see other riders in the woods. 

Who should see it: didn’t Thoreau say, “Not till we are lost in the woods on horseback, out of the earshot of people and their dogs, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations?” 

What I saw on the way home: when we emerged from the woods and stepped back onto the mowed, grassy paths of the farm where Hado lives, we were again among Hado’s folk, the herd. Horses stood in paddocks alone and in pairs, heads bowed in worship of one of their gods, the late summer grass, and another of their gods, the sunshine.  Hado glanced in the direction of two of his equine brethren and compelled them to dance in his direction. He celebrated their greeting with a sequence of bounces, tossing his head and shoulders and laughing in his throaty bass-baritone. I gave him a kick, and directed him back to the barn.

Back

I sent change of address cards, and if you didn’t get one, it’s probably because I don’t have your address. It’s all email or text now, anyway. You know, back when my kids were little, I’d sacrifice the daylight of a whole day to stage a seemingly spontaneous holiday picture. I’d dress them in matching flannel shirts and try to gather them into a group, waiting for that perfect combination of kid-ness and cute-ness, in the presence of decent lighting. It wasn’t easy when the days were as short as they were in Seattle in early December. And I had film in my camera, so it was not possible to know right away whether I’d gotten a usable shot or not. Back then, I sent holiday cards to a long list, over 100, including my friends, relatives, neighbors, and friends of my parents. The list of change of address cards I sent out this November was less than 40 names.
A friend whose kids are in their 20s still gets them to sit for an Xmas photo every year. Every year for the past four years I’ve been like, no way will she get them to do it this year, and then, blammo, she does. And their smiles last year were slightly less ironic than the year before. My kids aren’t all on the same coast, so I have no hope of being able to make it happen this year; I’m not sure when was the last time I got a picture of them all together. I think instead of feeling sad about that, I will put Xmas bows on my pets and pose them in front of the tree for a photo. They will enjoy it. It might be old dog Cherry’s last Xmas anyway.
In response to our change of address cards, I got an actual, handwritten letter in the mail from one friend, and an email from the son of an old neighbor in Seattle. The old neighbor’s son was sad to report that our neighbor died in August. I have written about this neighbor before, because she was the one who so keenly reminded me what a bad neighbor I was sometimes. She was 88, and had a massive stroke.
Here in Bedhead Hills, the dogs are still learning the boundaries of our mostly wooded property. I’ve only let them out the door unleashed a few times; Captain got skunked in October, and a few nights ago he came back to the wrong door, so I was calling out into the dusk and he was barking to be let in, but we were doing it in different doorways. So, I leash them up and go out with them, and when time permits, I try, after walking them on leashes, to take them around so they can practice seeing where our boundaries are.
Yesterday, after a long walk, we took the little path into the woods on our property. We got tangled in the thorny bushes, and I unclipped their leashes. My timing was perfectly wrong. Though our yard is below a steep embankment on that side, the dogs saw a woman and her dog walking by, and charged up the hill, bursting out of the bushes and ambushing the pair on the road. The woman screamed with surprise and snatched up her little white dog; it was barking furiously. I shouted and shouted at my dogs; Captain came back cowering. Cherry, who doesn’t hear anymore, didn’t bother coming back down the embankment at all. She trotted around down the driveway and headed towards the house. So much for introducing myself to the neighbors. I don’t suppose she heard me screaming, “SORRY!” at the top of my lungs.
Captain has never been very good at anything but the most basic obedience, and with Cherry no longer offering him the model of nearly perfect sits, stays, and comes, I’m going to have to go back to daily drills with him. I don’t know how we’ll conquer his desire to chase deer or greet people who walk by with dogs, without having to risk him running into the road. He is fun to work with, though, because of his sweet and cheerful outlook, and he doesn’t get bored as long as treats are involved.

They have their own agendas

Early last January, when we still lived on a big farm, far from the busy road, I let the two dogs out to go potty on a snowy day and Captain did not come back. Because I envisioned the skunk he was tracking or the herd of deer he was chasing, a half an hour passed before I got worried. Was he lost? Had he chased the deer too far to find his way back? Ten more minutes passed. Had someone taken him? My imagination ran away with scenarios: he is a hunting dog, so maybe he’d been stolen. Or what if he’d been dog-napped? I concocted a tale of how it was the revenge of my Twitter troll, trying to threaten and intimidate us. Could she have figured out where I lived? The longer he was gone, the more outlandish my ideas became about what had happened to my dog.
I got in the car and drove slowly down our long, frozen driveway, calling out the window into the cold. I drove to a neighboring farm where our housesitter said the dog had gone once to play with one of the dogs who lives there. As my tires crunched in my steady ascent of the long, straight driveway with snow banked high on both sides, four separate texts arrived on my phone at once:
“He’s back.”
“He’s back.”
“He’s back.”
“Where are you?”
 
The narrowness of the drive meant I had to go all the way to the top to turn around, or back out the way I came. I backed out the whole way.

Red Dog, Red Dog, Red Dog

Writing every day doesn’t get easier, and to be honest I don’t get around to it when I’m busy, or upset, or tired, or frustrated, or traveling, or distracted, or busy. Some days I try to write and wind up making lists of the things I can hear that are distracting me, and these lists include mowers and trucks and robins and crows and titmice. I had a bad case of writer’s block for about thirty years, so my default is not writing.   
Giving myself a weekly deadline means I have a deadline, so I feel bad when Wednesday slips by and I haven’t posted to this blog. The past few weeks my solution has been to go digging in the archives, and I’ve found a couple of old things I wrote, revised them, and been pleased with the result.
This is a long way of saying I came up dry this week.
Errands in the city meant I had to stay an extra day, too, so instead of having Tuesday to moan and squint and thumb through old writing, I hung out in the city, counted my blisters, ordered take-out, creeped on people on LinkedIn, watched TV, and spent too much time on Twitter. When I got back to the farm, there was no food, so I had to run to the store before riding, and then there was riding, and after that the dogs needed to be walked, and it was looking, as we headed out, like I’d be putting off the moaning and squinting until nightfall, when there was supposed to be a good showing of Perseids.
As I let the dogs out the door to go circumnavigate the property, Schwartz made his usual dash for freedom. Our shorthand for this is to call, “Black dog!” Our red dogs come one, two, red dog, red dog, and then, sometimes, the black cat jogging along, right after. He’s not an outside cat, but he likes to have an adventure. I got the door closed just in time.
Out on the walk it was business as usual: Captain running ahead, and Cherry not taking any more steps than necessary. I take “Your DailyCaptain” pictures and stick them on Instagram fairly often; all I have to do is crouch down with my phone ready and Captain will usually come running for me. Yesterday, Cherry came right away, but Captain was looking at something in the bushes and I had to call him. He came, eventually, and as I snapped away, in the non-optimal light, it seemed something was coming with him.
Cherry (right) is a photo-bomber
It was a buck, with thin, velvety antlers. He really seemed to want to keep chasing Captain.
 

Third Red Dog

I missed young, wild turkeys flying over my head this spring, not because I didn’t have my phone in my hand, but because I stood agog and amazed, watching their fluffy, unfeathered bodies flapping just above my head.  I guess those pictures would have been blurry, too, as most of these turned out to be.  
Changes his mind about joining us

 

Captain: “Come Back!”


“Nope.”

Gomzilla vs. The Captain and Schwartz

Hamster’s Note: This is a story for children and related persons who enjoy stories about cats and dogs and made up monsters. The story includes no cuss words. There are opportunities for listeners to make quiet and loud noise. Readers will find brief fighting (with consequences), but no characters are eaten or killed.

Gomzilla vs. The Captain and Schwartz

Long ago, there were the three Persons of Pewter: Peter Pewter, Petra Pewter, and Persona Pewter. They took their spaceship, the Emptaprys, to the Far Away Planet, and faced a one-eyed dragon.

The Three Persons of Pewter
The one-eyed dragon thought Peter, Petra and Persona looked very crunchy in their pewter armor, and went off to find some marshmallow trees.


But Gomzilla, who lived on the Far Away Planet, and was first cousin to a much larger, more famous and more destructive monster, noticed that no one was guarding the space ship, the Emptaprys. So, she stole it and travelled back to the Planet Earth, where two pets live. The pets are known as The Captain and Schwartz.

Both The Captain (the dog) and Schwartz (the cat) like to take naps, and that is what they were doing when the sky turned red and the spaceship Emptaprys landed nearby. Out from the spaceship lumbered tiny Gomzilla (you can make lumbering noises now).

Now, even though The Captain is a silly dog and sometimes tries to run through screen doors because he didn’t notice they weren’t open, this time he did notice Gomzilla lumbering around the house.
Sniff! Sniff!

As Gomzilla drew closer, The Captain gave her a big sniff (you can make sniffing noises now).  

The Captain likes almost everything and almost everybody, and a small monster with green scales and sharp teeth seemed annoying and a little boring, so he went to sleep without being bothered (you can make snoring noises now).

Gomzilla was surprised that The Captain didn’t want to stay and fight or run away.
But The Captain was not the only pet Gomzilla would meet that day. Gomzilla turned around and there was a fluffy, black beast!
Now, Schwartz knew he was just a cat, but Gomzilla was from a Far Away Planet where there are no cats.

Gomzilla thought Schwartz would be a better beast to sneak up on, so she began to sneak  (you can make sneaking noises now).
Sneak! Sneak!

And, fast as lightning, Schwartz was ready to fight! (If you are careful, you can make fighting noises now, but no actual fighting because you don’t want to miss the end of the story.)
Fight! Fight!

Gomzilla narrowly missed being bitten, and fell over.

She was very far from her home on the Far Away Planet, and fighting with beasts wasn’t very much fun any more. Gomzilla felt sad.

Gomzilla is sad.
Schwartz gave Gomzilla a bandage, and Gomzilla said thank you, and began to feel better.
Sometimes, you need help with a bandage.

And they decided to be friends.



The end




Dog Diarrhea

Cherry would like you to think that she isn’t crate-trained, so she stands and looks at you, fawn-eyed and faux-sad when you put her food dish in her kennel. “Please,” her eyes plead, “Won’t you hold me on your lap, feed me by the spoonful, and let me sleep on your bed?” Captain thinks everything is wonderful, including dinner, dinner in his crate, treats in his crate, going in his crate, jumping on your bed, putting his butt on your pillows, going for a walk outside, eating grass, eating deer manure, lying in the sun, seeing dogs he knows, and meeting dogs he doesn’t know. Ok, I’ll stop. I could bore even the most dog-loving person with the list of what Captain loves.
Now that Cherry’s an old, sugar-faced dog, I sometimes find her in the morning with a single nugget of poo, pressed into her orthopedic pad, and baked firm from her body heat overnight.  I would always rather clean the pad cover than the carpet (or my own bed).
Except for diarrhea, Captain’s more of a barf-in-the kennel type than a mysterious nugget-o-poo dog. There’s a point where the grass must come up, according to Captain’s digestive tract. Diarrhea, when it happens, is infrequent, but memorable. And it appears overnight, as it did last time.

It was a savory smell, like someone was reheating beef stew. It might have been the soup-stock from the roast chicken the night before, back on the stove, but, then again, it wasn’t quite a chicken smell. The way smells carry can be strange and hard to predict; for example, I can smell from upstairs if the door to the basement is ajar, but I’ll miss the acrid evidence of my kids burning toast in the kitchen. Sounds, too, move, or don’t, in ways I can’t totally explain in this house. I can scream for someone upstairs and they won’t hear me at all, but if someone goes pee in the bathroom next to the office, I can hear every drip and drop. When a crow walks across the roof I can hear it, but I can’t hear a car on the driveway.

I came down to find the houseguest already at work; she was officially “working from home,” a moderately amusing concept for me, a chronically underemployed person. Only her dog greeted me and my friend called out, ”Oh, I had to put your dogs back in their kennels. Captain had diarrhea all over his kennel and Cherry’s. I wiped him off, but I had to put them back because I didn’t know what to do.”

Good morning.

I sent my dogs outside to begin the cleanup, and all three dashed out. The guest was new to being allowed off leash and I didn’t want today to be the day she really tested her new freedom, galloping off into the woods forever, but I had a huge mess to deal with.

I stripped the covers off the dog beds and put them in the wash, and put the beds themselves out in the sun. I was already pretty sure I’d gotten diarrhea on my arms. The wire kennels themselves were going to need hosing, so I had to take the pile of stuff that had accumulated on top of the kennels since the last time I had had to do this and put it someplace else. Picture me, in my jammies, chucking packages of wire and zip ties into any available toolbox drawer and throwing a stack of empty boxes into the garage without waiting to see where they landed. Do you have a vision of mania yet?

I dragged the kennels out to the patio only to discover that the hose had been moved from the side of our house to the spigot by the upper horse paddock. There is an ongoing Hose Borrowing War on the property, since a good, unpunctured hose is always in short supply at the horse barn down the hill. I had the choice of moving the hose or moving the kennels, but concluded that the liquefied dog diarrhea water that was going to be coming from the kennels was acceptable on the driveway (where we drive) and not acceptable on the patio (where we eat). So, I moved the kennels one at a time to the driveway, and this was the point where I am pretty sure I got dog diarrhea on my pajama pants. The guest dog bore witness, and correctly surmised that I was not to be messed with, and asked me to please, please let her in the house so she could be with her much-less-deranged owner.

The sprayer nozzle was nowhere to be found—another casualty of the Hose Borrowing War–so I had to do the hosing “I have no nozzle, but I’ve got a thumb” style, which works great for everyone in the world with well-functioning thumb joints. I am not among those with healthy, well-functioning thumb joints. I collected some preliminary data on my materials science research: big, gooey chunks of dog diarrhea are water-soluble, while dried-on smears of dog-diarrhea are more solid than epoxy.

In my growing irritation, I capped my geyser of profanity to call the dogs. They were not coming. What dog would? They probably thought I was ready to kill them.

I went to the door. Last night’s chicken stock was still sitting on the porch; it had been cold last night, but now the sun was warming the pot. I picked it up; I had a new mission! Diarrhea momentarily forgotten, I had soup to rescue. I let myself in.

Captain had been keeping out of reach, but saw his chance to get back inside (where the nice woman was quietly working) and away from the outside (where the other, terrifying woman was cussing and had a hose). He tore into the house, top speed, hitting me in the back of the knees and himself in the head on the soup pot. In the time-expanding magic of a moment of crisis, my mind filled with the image of me tripping and falling, the soup, carcass, pot, limp and overcooked vegetables, and pot lid flying into the house in a wave of savory slime. But I managed to take that soup-saving giant step and regain my footing. The energy of not falling was translated into the mightiest of mighty yells.
Damn that dog! Running into the house, still covered in now-dried, epoxy strong diarrhea. The roar coming from me had the power to stop a bad dog in his tracks, backed by the rage of a lazy housekeeper, not interested in shampooing the fucking rugs, amplified by wet pajama legs from the splash back of the cold hose. There was still dog diarrhea on my arms. It was a fierce, “FUCK!” full voice, the syllable drawn out as long and as loud as I could. And then, both syllables of, “CAPTAIN!”

My houseguest rose quickly and silently from her chair, turning towards me and fumbling her phone. Her eyes were wide. She was on a work call.

Snow Days

The kids looked forward to them like they were more special than Christmas Day, and in all the years we lived in Seattle it seems like we never had more than one or two, but snow days are snow days, eagerly watched for the night before, groaned over when the night’s accumulation only yielded a late start at school. The snow day is not loved by adults, certainly not by anyone who must get to work and can’t just phone it in.
 Snow days for some adults are like fretful days spent at home when a child is sick and a sitter can’t be found. Snow days are when the office building is being fumigated for rats, or when there’s an acquisition rumor, or the boss quits abruptly, or the project is cancelled, but, in any case, all the meetings are rescheduled and no one is getting anything done. Snow days are the whole day taken off work for a teacher conference that lasted twenty unproductive minutes and won’t lead to the kid being one bit happier or more adjusted to the school.
Some people seem to know just what to do on a grown-up snow day. They hit the gym, or the spa, or do some sort of whiskey tasting or a day-long iPhone photography seminar. Or, they get new tires, or clean out the garage, or completely reorganize their sewing room, with enough time leftover to can a dozen jars of bourbon roasted-cranberry relish. Some people live like they’re waiting for a snow day, and they know just how they’ll spend it.
Before it began snowing in earnest (we were awaiting Juno), I took the dogs out for the counterclockwise tour of the property. There was thick ice under the current top layer of snow, and the top layer wasn’t quite deep enough for snowshoes, so I went out in snow boots and took a pole. The dogs went fast; they just don’t mind as much as I do the scrambling and slipping. I fell on my ass, once.
We came upon a dead fox that made me sad. Who kills a fox? A bobcat? Bear? Coyotes? Old age? Lover’s quarrel? Turf war? Was it poisoned by neighbors? Should I freeze it and take it to the vet for an autopsy? We’ve been watching a fox all year. We could see it hunting along the bushes. Crouching, pouncing. The cat liked to watch it. The dogs hated the fox, and barked their angriest intruder alerts when it trotted across the upper field in the late morning sunshine. Was this that fox?
By the morning the storm had come, and we’d been promised as much as two feet of snow. I awoke to the bright whiteness of daylight without sunshine. The snow was falling, hard, but the flakes were tiny, light, and seemed determined to stay in the air and never land. Outside the windows facing east and west the snow flew by, horizontally, soundless. It gave me the impression of motion, the way that snow would look from a speeding car. Except we were in the house, and the house wasn’t whizzing along at 26 mph. The dissonance, the mismatch of perceived motion to sensed stillness made me feel a little sick.
 

Following on snowshoes

Later that day, we timed our walk to catch the end of the day and the falling snow. The young dog took off at a run while I struggled with the straps. I enjoy everything about snowshoeing except putting them on; I’m beginning to think I should strap my snow boots into them and leave them strapped in. Out on the property, I have to walk behind my husband, and he is faster and fitter and has longer legs. The old dog will follow closely behind me in the snow if I’m alone, but with my husband here she fills the space between us.
Towards the end of my parents’ marriage they took a last trip to Europe. My mother came back with a week’s worth of Kodak Ektachrome slides mostly featuring my father from about 30 feet behind; she couldn’t keep up and he wouldn’t wait. In a few years, my father moved on to a new career, and a new wife and kid. My mother moved on to a new career, and a new husband and step-kids. While I follow my husband I wonder what he is moving on to. I stop him and ask him to slow down. He is happy to. The dog gallops off to join the other dog.
We passed the dead fox. It was a simple lump, covered completely in snow. The dogs quietly sniffed it again, and moved on.