What is WRONG with this picture?

Something just isn’t RIGHT with my dogs.

I was at my computer working away a couple of days ago. The house was quiet and the dogs were resting. They are excellent at resting. Besides walking, swimming and eating, it is their FAVORITE activity.

But, The Red Dog was resting in the cage?

His cage days are long over. He used a cage as a puppy for about 6 months or so. Yet if there is a cage up, he is IN.

Where was the Little Black Dog who is just over a year old? Curled up on the couch…sound asleep.

Why do we have a cage set up?

Trust me, I wonder this myself. We rarely use it.

We have the cage out for The Little Black Dog. She is a Perfect pet 99% of the time. Every once in a while, she decides to chew up a shoe, a permanent marker, or some such thing. This generally happens when we are unusually busy–such as last weekend when we were at a wrestling tournament most of the weekend.

She might get irritable and chew a shoe. Or she might not.

I like the cage, because it eliminates the element of surprise when I return home.

However, The Red Dog LIKES the cage. When I am trying to get The Little Black Dog in, Big Red hustles in. Then The Black dogs runs away. And I have to drag The Red Dog out (because he is happy and doesn’t WANT to vacate the cage), then find The Black Dog…and it ends up being a circus.

Which makes sense. My LIFE is a three ring circus many days…

Don’t feel too sorry for The Red Dog. He sometimes enjoys a bit of ‘couch time.’

Probably, the dogs BOTH get far more time on the couch than I do. Really, they have it made…








Ode to the Doggie Playpen…

The fence of my dreams...

Cheap fencing is available and can be put up by two women in one day. Even if they have to clear overgrowth and vines using rusty old tools. Even in the pouring rain…

Back at the Big House, I had the luxury of Invisible Fence brand fencing. A fantastic product (really, it is), so long as a person can shell out $2000 to keep a couple of dogs in a yard. For this newly single mother with teenagers, underground fencing was out of the question.

Being a city girl, I was familiar with chain link fencing, wood fencing and the ever popular white picket fence. But I had never seen welded wire fencing.

After 2 years of trying to contain my dogs in my little White Ranch House—with little success—I was desperate for a solution. More so after a couple of ‘friendly’ front porch visits with the Dog Warden, citations that resulted in fines that I could ill afford. Like serendipity, I happened upon Livestock Fencing that is simply rolled out and attached to metal poles. Who knew?

For that matter, I had never heard of the Tractor Supply Store where one goes to purchase welded wire fencing. Growing up in cities, I mainly shopped at the mall. Living out toward the country– toward, because we are too close to a city to be truly rural—I have gained an affinity for smaller ‘Mom & Pop’ stores, Nurseries, Farmers Markets, Antique Stores…and now the Tractor Supply Store.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the Tractor Supply, nor the fence building equipment needed for my project. Happily ignorant and with spring in my step, I made my purchases. Thank goodness for the Nice (patient) Guy who helped me load my car.

As I almost always do, I brought the dogs. And a trunk full of eBay items headed for the  post office. Incidentally, I have an old Honda Accord, which has long since been called ‘the Honda pickup.’ Because I use it as one! I was thankful for the fruitful eBay week, but I had to move the boxes to the front seat and they took up the space of an adult person. Not the end of the world that I would be riding home with a “box buddy”…kind of like the blowup ‘passengers’ they used to sell—but in corrugated brown box form. And there was still room (barely) for the dogs in the backseat.

The dogs banged around inside the car—a bundle of whining, tail wagging, barking energy—as the Nice Guy and I loaded (jammed & crammed) my rolls of fencing and T posts into the trunk. He even used twine to secure my purchases (something I know NOTHING about) and finally tied a big red flag to the crap jutting out from my trunk. Apparently, the law requires such a flag for anything that sticks out more than 1 foot. Without it, I risked being stopped and given a ticket. It is shocking that I have NOT been fined for such a thing.

Not even on one of my more flagrant violations of this law when I brought home a patio set hanging halfway out of my van—with a few boys holding onto it to keep it inside the vehicle. Halfway home, it became necessary for the boys to scramble back to their seats and buckle up—which left us with a dangly table that miraculously stayed IN the van. The black and white car that caused the rush to the seats didn’t seem to mind that I was bumping along with a large glass-top table precariously close to concrete. Either that, or he just wasn’t in the mood to take on the situation. I mean, where to start? But I’m getting off track…

My new fence looks nothing like the adorable white picket fences in storybooks and pictures, however it does blend into the landscape and can easily be removed, if need be. It does keep the doggies in my yard and cost less than $200—less than the fines I paid to the County…I think they had something to do with having a Dog at Large.

My reality. Not as pretty or Perfect--but it DOES the trick!

Every time one of my dogs decided to step out for a little jaunt At Large in the neighborhood, they always came right back to my front door when the Warden happened along. The damn dogs could have at least run about and let us find them, so I had some chance of being anonymous. No such luck.

Those days are over now that I have my 48” welded wire fencing. My dogs have what amounts to a Doggie Playpen in the backyard. And they don’t seem to mind at all. They are happy out there.

It isn’t the fence of my dreams. Then again, my life isn’t all that I had dreamed of either. And that’s okay. Somehow, it works.

Special Thanks to Casey Nichols for showing up in the pouring rain to help with such a dreadful task. Most people would not have–I truly appreciated the help and her companionship that day!!!

Saving Grace

Ever the optimist, I welcomed a puppy into our family last week—a little mutt that we named Grace.

There are many definitions of  ‘grace,’ but I’ve always identified grace as a divine intervention that leads (or even carries) us in the direction we are meant to go. Sometimes through grace, it seems there is a much needed infusion of strength, or joy.  I’ve always associated grace with the ‘unexpected’ gifts in life.

It seemed fitting to name our new ‘bundle of joy’ Grace, because we wanted a puppy for quite some time. Then, out of nowhere she appeared and was ‘free to a good home.’  Just a politically correct way to say ‘Free to ANYBODY foolish enough to take a puppy home.’ Which suited my budget just fine.

Little Grace is supposedly a Lab and German shepherd mix—among other things. She was in need of medical attention and there was talk of her litter being sent to a shelter. She sealed her fate when she emerged from the pack and marched up to inspect us with her soulful eyes. There was no way I was leaving without her. The kids and I named her before we hit the door.  Before I could think too hard, we hopped into the car and drove off with her safely snuggled in my son’s arms.

“Mom,” he said, “I think she has fleas…”

We were barely down the street! I glanced at her in the backseat  just in time to see a flea scamper across her forehead. Ugh. It took me a split second to dial the vet and arrange to stop there on the way home. My ‘Free’ puppy quickly became $160.00. With much more to follow, I’m sure…

She is a little doll. She is cuddly, affectionate, and loves to play. We are beyond thrilled to have her. So far, anyway.

I’ve raised quite a few puppies. Or at least enough to know that we are in the honeymoon phase—that ALL puppies are wonderful in the beginning. And that the honeymoon tends to be short-lived.

My last German shepherd was a wonderful puppy, until I decided to take a part-time job. His irritation was obvious, because I returned home each day to a single vertical blind plucked off the track. I soon gave up and bought inexpensive curtains when it became impossible to camouflage his destruction. There was an incident where he consumed a whole pizza out of the box—without disrupting the box on the counter. We assumed that somebody else had been a pig, until we compared notes and realized that the dog had a pizza party. After a few trying months, he was the Perfect dog for almost 10 years.

Six years ago, I put a Golden Retriever puppy under the Christmas tree.  A few weeks later he snuck chocolate and I was forced to induce vomiting. Unfortunately, the barfing scared him so badly that he ran circles around the INSIDE of the house. He evaded the kids and I until he had christened most every room on the first floor of the house—A house we had recently built. One of his favorite puppy activities was to grab toilet paper from the wall-mounted roll and tear through the house, unraveling it as he went. He constantly shredded paper—to the point that my son once fed him his homework to avoid doing it. (I photocopied the pieces to re-create the homework). The dog is still so terrified of thunderstorms that he weasels his 85lb body into my bed and army crawls under my pillow. This takes me from a supine and blissful slumber, to nearly a sitting position, as he does not FIT under my pillow! He swims in the lake (ponds, streams, puddles, too), has been known to ride on sleds, and generally lives life with abandon. I’d love to say he is the Perfect dog, but that would be a lie. He is the most lovable of companions and we couldn’t imagine not having had him as part of our family.

Another doggie debacle—The children and I went to a pumpkin patch and came home with a puppy. A little mutt with funny markings and only half a tail who needed a home. Though a good boy, he tended to annoy my daughter. At one point, she said to me, “Mom, why couldn’t you have been a good parent, like all the other Mom’s and said NO?”  Apparently, it was my duty to nix the dog that she begged for? We never did get a pumpkin that fine fall day…

There have been quite a few dogs over the years…and now there is Grace. I’m hoping she lives up to her name and proves to be a gift, though I am smart enough to understand that naming her Little Hellion, Rascal, or even Trouble might have been more appropriate. It is too soon to see the downside, because she has thus far brought the children and I so much joy. I know that dogs invite disruption into our lives—but they also add warmth and happiness to a home. Already, Grace has brought out the kind and gentle side of the children and I—the parts of us that are patient and nurturing.

This week has been one of giggling children, of friends hanging out to play with the puppy. Of finding several teenage boys engaged in heavy XBOX play—with a tiny puppy curled up between them. Of happening upon my daughter engrossed in a book, with little Grace collapsed on her shoulder snoozing. The children (and their friends) have stepped up to care for her without being asked. My teenage daughter was up before 6am yesterday because the puppy was crying in her crate. She quietly closed both her brothers and my bedroom doors—and handled the mornings ‘puppy duty’ graciously and without being asked to do so.

Little Grace is certainly bringing out the best in us all. And she has thus far been the Perfect puppy. I know that chaos is looming, but I always tend to view a glass as half full—to find the upside, even when I need to look hard for it.

And really, why not hope for the best?