Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just a Note...

Just a note to explain our disappearance...

Last week was a flurry of activity, settling a brand new dog into the house.  I meant to blog, I did, but it somehow never happened.

Last weekend and the first half of this week I was at a professional conference in Philadelphia, which made me sick with a cough and head congestion.  It was also a good conference, but the cough and congestion are what remains.

I was home for about 24 hours and learned last night that my grandmother passed away.  It wasn't completely unexpected; she has been fighting Stage 4 lung cancer for awhile now, and that evil disease was taking its toll on her.

So I'll probably be a little scarce for just a bit longer; I need to make last-minute travel plans and get myself to Kansas City for the funeral as soon as I find out when it is going to happen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Three days.  It only took three days to get what I consider to be the "classic multiple greyhound household" photo shot.  Maera was a little leery about jumping up on the couch in the beginning; she'd get her front legs and torso up but to get her back end up, required help.  Was it just being unsure, or just not being completely recovered from her spay?  (She was only spayed on Sunday, and still has the stitches.)  She doesn't love the couch quite as much as Argos does  (YET) but will get up on her own now.  She jumped up to snuggle with me this morning while I was on my every-Saturday-morning phone call to my mom.  My prediction:  it's only a matter of time.  Argos was wary of the couch in the beginning too, and now we have to go to extraordinary lengths to convince him to jump back down.

Maera is settling into our household very easily, though there are some adjustments that we have all had to make.  I don't begrudge her that in the slightest, though - I know that she herself is the one that has had to make the most adjustments.  She's doing a fantastic job of it, though, and each day we have her, I see her becoming more of a house dog and less of a kennel dog.

She and Argos are still getting along well - the only time that they have had a little tussle was when they were crammed into the back of our small car together and someone sat on someone's head.  And even that was a "give me some space" tussle and not a "I want to kill you" tussle.

We've given her several brief encounters with the cats (always tightly leashed and controlled, for the safety of our feline friends) and she is showing no signs of having a higher prey drive than we originally thought.  She's curious about them, but I think that's normal.  All it takes is us to say her name and she immediately forgets the cat and turns to us, tail wagging.  Today, Jeff had her and Argos in the study with him, with two baby gates, one on top of the other set up in the doorway, keeping them all in.  The fosters were allowed to run free just outside the door.  She was aware that they were there, but didn't really care all that much, besides touching noses with Foster cat Patches through the holes in the gate.  (Damn, I was too slow to get the camera!)

As an aside, foster cat Mitchell, after running around for a bit, found a new cozy napping place up in the attic; my old doll bed.  So, I brought it back down into the fosters' bedroom for him.  I'd originally had it in their room, actually the guest room, anyway, as part of the decor but had removed it when we "catted it up" for the fosters' arrival.

Kitties in the Attic

Bit is the one that is taking Maera's arrival the hardest...  she is frozen in fear every time she even sees the dog, even if Maera is crated.  While I feel sorry for her, I'm less worried than I would be... she reacted this way when we first got Argos.  I think it even took her a couple of months, but she got over her fear, so I have no reason to think that it won't happen again in her own time.  As you can see, she has no qualms about stealing their nice big beds when they're nowhere around, though.

On night number two in our house, Maera played so hard with the squeaky toy in the picture that she crashed out in this position and took a nice, long nap.

So, I would say that we're all doing very well.  Right now, as I write this, Argos is crashed out on one of the beds, Maera on the other, and husband on the couch, and the cats safely dozing upstairs.  I am the only being awake in the afternoon heat.

Last night, our trip to DQ.  Both are anxiously awaiting Jeff's return with icecream.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Big Announcement

When I was writing about the dog days of summer the other night, I stated that I would have an announcement to make in a day or three.  I didn't want to come out and say anything about it until it was a "done deal" but now everything is finalized, so I can blab about it on my blog!

Houndstooth guessed correctly when she guessed that we were getting a new greyhound!  You may also remember, a couple of posts ago, that in my lists of beautiful things that gave me joy, one of the pictures that I posted was of a greyhound.  My caption for is was "Putting a smile on the face of a dog not yet anyone's own."

Here is the pic, to recap:

Well, that dog "not yet anyone's own" in very short order became OUR dog, and she's lying on my living room floor even as I write this.

Her name is Maera, after the Maera in Greek myth.  (It didn't end well for that Maera, but at least she got made into a constellation?)  We really wanted a name steeped in Greek legend and mythology to go with Argos, but it was very difficult to find a suitable name, since I wasn't enamored with any of the goddess names, nor did we want to go with any of the muse names.  And Maera is a lovely name, so it's what we decided upon.

Saturday, I went to video and take pictures of the three new dogs in the Steel City Greyhounds adoption program.  Maera, at that point named Betty, was the third and last one that I videoed.  And I realized, as I was taking some great footage of her, that I was never going to share that video on the web, because I wanted her to be mine, all mine.  I was worried that Jeff wouldn't want to take a second dog in (I don't know why, we seem to typically be on the same page with our animals.)  But once I got home and talked to him, he told me that if she got along with Argos and was cat safe, and I really felt like she was the right dog for us, that we would make it work.

So...  she gets along with Argos, and she's cat safe, and Jeff fell in love with her when he met her.

And the rest is history.  We had to wait until today to get her because of a social engagement on Wednesday night - but she is here now!

Here are some additional pictures of her first day here in the house.

We bought two huge dog beds, one for each dog.  Where does Maera go?  The old, scungy dogbed.

Maera, licking Jeff, and probably trying to eat his iPhone.  She likes iPhones.

Maera and my leg.

Argos, stealing both brand new stuffies for himself.  Maera can't figure out how to make them squeak, so didn't care

Argos showing Maera the ropes.
Some quick facts about Maera:

1.  Argos seems to like her.  He has been fine sharing beds, toys, and even food with her, at least so far.

2.  Maera is only 2 1/2 years old, so is quite a bit younger than the 'gos.  She never raced, even if she was at the track.

3.  Argos' sire also happens to be Maera's grandsire.  Does this make him her half brother or her uncle?  Hmm.

4.  Maera is insanely food-motivated.  She came in the house, and promptly ate every piece of kibble that Mr. Messy Eater had sprayed all over the floor, her entire dinner, every treat that we gave her, attempted to eat our dinner, and also attempted to eat the cat food.  Every once in awhile she walks back into the dining room to see if more food has spontaneously appeared.

5.  Her first reaction to seeing Charlotte on my lap was to gently sniff her, and then to ever so delicately lip at her ear.  Charlotte is still recovering from that little faux pas upstairs, in her "quiet space."

6.  Maera shot up our outside stairs like a champ.  I'm anticipating more trouble with the hardwood ones inside, when we take her up to bed in a few minutes.

7.  Maera has a habit of jumping up and putting her front paws on your shoulders and covering you with kisses.  I know that we need to train her not to do that, but it's kind of sweet and funny now that I expect it.

8.  Every time one of us starts talking after there's been silence for a few moments, her tail thumps against the ground.  She also already recognizes her name and responds to it.

We're very, very happy with her, and she seems to be very happy with us!  I'm even more pleased that Argos seems happy with her; I was terribly concerned that he would be jealous.

We're about ready to take her upstairs... complete with leash and muzzle until we're absolutely certain that she can be trusted around our cats.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Wow, is it ever hot and humid outside this week!  And I know that we truly have nothing to complain about, compared to some of you folks in the Midwest.  There is a REASON that I left Missouri, and while I won't claim that it was all because of the summertime humidity, it is definitely not something that I've shed tears about leaving behind me.

So we've just been hanging around and doing our best to stay cool.

Mind you, that's Argos in front of THAT fan, with another in the window, and the ceiling fan going at the same time.  That part of the house is not air-conditioned, but with all of the cross-breezes and the shade from the front porch, is not at all unpleasant.

Patches (and Mitchell, not pictured) were allowed to roam the entire upstairs of the house today while Jeff was working from home.  After patrolling the perimeter for awhile, Patches crashed HARD on our cat ledge in the study.  Right under the shade tree, and where cool air from the small window unit could blow on his fur.  No dummy, is he.

Annie decided to relax on the forbidden chair.  Doesn't she look relaxed?  And no, it is NOT me or Jeff that forbid the cats to get on any of the comfy furniture.  It's Charlotte that does the forbidding... that is HER throne.  Except that Annie has been challenging her for it a bit lately, and sometimes Charlotte just lets it go.

Bit, ever daddy's little girl, has decided to pursue a career in tech.  Just what that career would involve, I don't even dare to speculate about.

Charlotte has been spending a lot of time in the bathroom, with her belly on display.  She normally only does this in the summer, so I can only guess that it helps her cool off.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed our photos.  I'm going to have a fun announcement to make soon, but I'm going to have to wait for at least two more days, maybe one more.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


A couple of days ago, I wrote about guilt.  And recently, I wrote a few posts that described the grief and sadness that I felt upon Romeo's death.  And I have written about anger before, at those that would abuse innocent animals.  Lest I give the impression that I am roiling with negative emotions all the time, I thought I'd also post on how I counteract those feelings, how I think that many  of us do it without even thinking about it.  And as should surprise absolutely no one, my animals play a big role in helping me cope when life gets ugly.

I choose to surround myself with beauty.  And beauty can be found just about anywhere if you're willing to look for it.

First bloom on a rose bush purchased at Lowe's
The pure enjoyment that a simple little purchase like this can give my dog

Western Pennsylvania sunset

A queenly gaze

A trusting look

A sleek and beautiful house panther

Putting a smile on the face of a dog not yet anyone's own

A peaceful walk
Beauty and peace.  It's what I wish for myself, and for all of you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Sometimes, life has a way of stabbing you in the heart.  We've all experienced it - grief, and a whole rainbow of unpleasant emotions that come with it.   Perhaps one of the most distressing ways that it does this is through guilt...  honest guilt, for something that you were actually at fault for, and someone else paid the price.

When I was 11 years old, I inadvertently caused the death of my first puppy.  It is a heart-breaking story, and one that I don't talk about very often to this day because I still wince with guilt when I think about it.  But since I've been on a memory-lane kick lately, I thought that it might be good to write about it.

This puppy was one of the most anticipated puppies on the planet.  The neighbors had a female Pekapoo, who they had bred to their male Pekingese before having him neutered.  I was promised one of the puppies, for free.  The reason for this is because I loved their dogs, with an earnestness only found in 11-year-old children.  I walked them every day, and went over to spend time with them regularly, sometimes bringing treats with me.  The dogs loved to see me coming.  They would leap and cavort at the ends of their chains if I even crossed our driveway to go over to their yard.  I can still remember seeing those dogs dancing on their hind legs in anticipation of my arrival.

I waited for the birth of the pups with great anticipation, and it finally came.  There were only two pups in the litter.  I was at the neighbors' house on a daily basis, down on the floor with the puppies.  I was beside myself with joy, and couldn't WAIT to get my pick home.  I'd already named her:  Magic.

The day finally came, and I brought my beautiful little  girl home.  Her coat was silver, her muzzle black.  She was tiny, and could curl up and sleep in the palm of your hand.

She slept in a box beside my bed, so that when she got lonely for mother and sibling in the night, I could simply reach down and comfort her.

Except that one night she would not be comforted, and I sleepily brought her up to lie up against me.  I fell asleep, when I shouldn't have, and couldn't monitor her. She fell off the bed in the night.  The fall crushed her chest, because she was so delicate at that tender young age.  I found her, gasping for air, under the headboard.  We desperately rushed her to the 24-hour emergency vet, but she died before they could even end her suffering for her.

I was devastated and completely eaten up with guilt.  I certainly hadn't meant to hurt Magic, let alone kill her.  I'd only wanted to comfort her and make her stop crying.  But that didn't make her any less dead.

I didn't get out of bed for two days.  I didn't talk about it to anyone, and had difficulty even shedding tears about it.  I was just numb.  Nothing anyone said could make me feel better about it...  I mean, it WAS my carelessness that caused her death, even if I hadn't intended to.  I mean, Dumb Luck played role in it, but Dumb Luck never would have entered the picture if I'd just left her in the damned box. Or been able to stay awake.  Or any number of various possibilities that I tormented myself with.

I think that my parents realized that I wasn't going to so easily recover from this, and that I needed a distraction.  I think that they also didn't want for me to feel like I was being punished...  I was doing enough punishing myself; I certainly didn't need any more.  So they decided to get me another puppy about a week after the incident.

I was very uncertain of it at first.  I was afraid that I would kill yet another puppy, and even at that young age, knew that I would never entirely be able to forgive myself for Magic's death.  I also felt guilty for still wanting a puppy, even after everything that had happened.  Like I was being disloyal to Magic.  But I went with my dad to a breeder who had a Pekingese puppy for sale - really cheap.  In hindsight, I have to wonder if it was a bit of a puppy mill that we went to.  The only puppy left was not in very good shape.  He was even more delicate-looking than Magic was, and skinnier, and his coat was already matted.  He was in all likelihood the runt of the litter.  I was still on the fence about getting him, until the breeder put him into my open hand.  He (the pup, not the breeder) looked up at me with his huge brown eyes, and looked so pleading.  His little tail wagged hopefully, and his entire body language was asking, "Are we going to be friends?"

My heart melted, and my father paid for him on the spot.  We took him home in a shoebox, and that puppy began the first of many days of his over-protected life.  If I could have wrapped him in protective bubble-wrap and kept him in a hamster ball, I would have.  I had completely learned my lesson, probably learned it too well.  I'd panic if he got too close to people's feet, if the cats hissed at him, if it looked like he was going to  try to climb up onto the furniture.  I did my very best to keep him out of harm's way, which often just meant picking him up and retreating to my bedroom with him, away from all of the other distractions that the house can provide for a young pup.

This one was named Wicket, yes, after the Star Wars trilogy ewoks.  (Yes, I was a bit of a geek, even back then.  But have you ever SEEN a picture of a Pekingese puppy?  They totally look like ewoks.)

Wickett lived a good long life, and died well after I'd gone to college, so as it turned out, I didn't have the "cursed touch" that I feared I'd had.  I don't deny that what happened to Magic was a tragedy, and I certainly don't deny the role that I played in it.  I will feel deep sadness for that event for the rest of my life, even though I know that it's not fair to me to beat myself up over a mistake made when I was 11.  I am thankful that he lived such a long life.  Wicket was my best friend during the painful growing-up years, and was a major stabilizing influence on me at a time that I desperately needed one.

There is little to be thankful for in Magic's untimely death, but it did teach me that you can, indeed, literally kill with kindness, and it taught me to use caution when handling animals, that sometimes what they are asking for is not what they actually need, or is not what is necessarily best for them.  It also brought me Wicket, who I would have never known otherwise.  

I guess in some ways, my guilt still plays a role in how I interact with my own animals.  I am so, so very careful with them.  It's made me hyper-vigilant.   But one can't let guilt be a crippling force.  Guilt could have kept me from ever taking in another animal again, for fear of hurting them too.  Except that I would have cheated them out of a good life with me.  And cheated myself out of animal companionship.  So, I've taken that experience, and learned what I could from it.  But I can't let it cripple me, deprive me of what happiness I can find.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer Fun

Yesterday, I got a kiddie wading pool for our backyard.  Not for any children, since we don't have any and hadn't invited any over.  But for Argos.

It took him five minutes to progress from treating it as a giant water bowl to ...  this.

That was the best $11 I have spent in a long time!

The cats of course weren't going to get to participate in the water fun (not that they would want to do that at ALL.)  But they did enjoy lazing about with us.

Except that Patches is on an anti-literacy kick, apparently.

I am more interesting than any book.  You should know this.
Today is more of the same, though we've decided to give an extra-thorough cleaning to all of the house litter boxes  (Woooooo!  Never let it be said that we don't know how to celebrate our independence in style!)  Okay, there might be some grilled hot dogs later.

Happy July 4th, everyone!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Things I've Learned

We all learn things from our animals.  I like to occasionally make a list of things that I've picked up over the past few weeks, so thought that it would be a good thing to do at the beginning of a long weekend.  So, without further ado...  THE LIST.

1.  Hydrangea bushes, especially freshly planted ones, hate dog pee.  Argos has managed to kill both of the ones that I planted in the back yard last fall, and I'm wondering about the one that I planted back by the fence near Romeo's grave.  I have one perfectly healthy hydrangea - on the side of the house where Argos can't get to off-leash.

2.  Dwarf spruce shrubs, especially freshly planted ones, hate dog pee.  Two dead dwarf spruces and one that is looking kind of ragged.

3.  Grass hates being run over by dogs.  Especially my grass, which struggles due to being in dry shade anyway.

4.  I may have to completely pave my backyard to keep it from turning into a mud pit every time it rains.

5.  It doesn't matter if cats have the run of the entire house except for one room, they will obsess about that closed door and not enjoy the rest of the house.

6.  It doesn't matter where you  partition off ANY of the animals, they all want to be on the other side.  Argos desperately wants upstairs, the cats desperately want downstairs, and EVERYONE wants into the guest room with the fosters.

7. Coming home smelling like another dog is one way to make sure that Argos refuses to leave my side for the rest of the day.

8.  The fridge only exists to hold milk and other things that Charlotte might like.

9.  It is apparently okay to wake up the entire house screaming your head off because you're hungry.

10.  It is apparently okay to wake me up in the middle of the night to show me that you killed a stink bug in the hallway.