Archives for December 2008

I swear this isn’t a dog blog

But, I am writing about dogs a whole lot, huh?

Argo had surgery again yesterday to remove a lump that may or may not be a tumor. It takes 14 days for the biopsy results. I swear, if someone invented a process for getting instant biopsy results, I would pay three times the amount just to avoid the wait, and I’m a pretty frugal person. The other lumps he’s had have just been tested with a needle biopsy, but this one just looked wrong and the vet said it would be best to remove it. Basically, if it is something, even if they don’t get all of it, getting the big part out could limit the spread of cancer while we wait for the results.

Part of me thought that having another dog might dilute my feelings for Argo in some way. I thought going through stuff like this might be easier. But really, I just found more room for Stella in my tiny little Grinch heart and I still adore Argo with all the intensity I had for him before. I think seeing them together makes it even worse. Stella worships Argo, and sometimes, I can’t help but think, this little pup will be so sad if anything happens to her dog.

I don’t think I can get into it too much right now without turning into a wreck, but Argo is more than just a dog. I was at a point in my life when I needed him so much. He’s taught me amazing things about the unconditional love, connection, dedication, and living in the moment — all lessons I badly needed. And, he’s a damn great dog.

He’s kind of a celebrity at the vet’s office. Vet techs come to say hi to him when we’re waiting. The woman who handed him back to me when I picked him up after surgery said, “He’s absolutely precious,” which I’m assuming is code for “he licked the face of everyone who got close enough to him.” When we were there for our second tongue appointment, two people in the waiting room suggested that he’d make a great therapy dog. And, I think, if we get through this mess, I might look into training for him so we can go visit nursing homes and hospitals. Something about Argo just makes people happy. And something about Argo has made me a better person.

And out come the wolves. . .

Howling Hill recommended that I read Cesar Milan’s books on dog training to help with Stella, and it was a fantastic suggestion. All the Dog Whisperer stuff has been so hyped, and I tend to be skeptical of anyone who is selling posters of themselves, but I actually really like where he’s coming from, and just making some subtle changes in my mindset has made a huge difference with Stella. I am the pack leader.

I. Am. The. Pack. Leader. And as crazy as it sounds, when I think that and look at Stella, she pays attention. We’ve also been taking long walks, and I simply expect her to walk nicely next to me and not get all hyper about squirrels or garbage men, and for the most part, she complies. If she doesn’t, I stop and make her sit and we don’t walk again until she looks at me.

But here’s the problem: In the past two days, it’s gotten ridiculously icy out there. We had slush that froze, then snow, then freezing rain. And it’s pretty hard to be the confident pack leader when you’re absolutely terrified of falling and cracking your head open or re-breaking your tailbone. Stella can sense that fear, and when she does, she starts to pull, she stops paying attention, and she would rather follow Mr. Squirrel than me.

They almost never plow in our neighborhood, which is weird, because it’s not like we live out in the woods somewhere. We live in a very residential area. But they don’t plow or sand or salt the roads unless the snow is coming down in amounts that are measured in feet instead of inches.

Yesterday, I joked with J that I was going to get out my crampons since the ice on the street was an inch thick in places. Then, I remembered that I had a pair of Yak Trax in the garage somewhere. So now, Stella and I hit the sidewalk like we’re embarking on a polar expedition, and I’m learning to keep my fear response to a minimum when I do lose my footing.

I do have to say that Stella is turning into a nice little dog. I also have to say that given the events of of late (like the second trip to the vet for Argo’s tongue yesterday), the pack leader is in desperate need of a night out. I feel like the entirety of my focus for the past three weeks has been dogs, dogs, a burned hand, and more dogs. It’s a good thing those dogs are cute.

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood? – The Garden Gnome Edition

Stella comes with some fun habits. She won’t do her business while attached to leash, but she won’t necessarily come in when called. We don’t have a fenced in yard, so this makes things tricky. She was doing better with it, but then the storm door swung shut and scared her and now coming in through the door at all is a tough sell.

The other night she took off and ran through The Crap Garden next door, and it reminded me that I should tell you about The Crap Garden.

The Crap Garden is carved out of the land behind our next door neighbor’s house (even though they do not own said land). It’s full of oddities: broken clocks, old mailboxes, broom handles stuck in the ground like fence posts. Koosh balls in jars, wind chimes hung from trees, astroturf pathways, bed frame railways, vases stuck on the ends of branches, a life-sized Doberman statue, Jesus encased in half a water cooler bottle, mirrors, shelves pulled from the ends of neighboring driveways on garbage day. All of it is arranged very precicely. And all of it moves and makes noise, and the noises change depending on the season. Few things in life are so creepy as the sound of an iced over pinwheel creaking and spinning in the middle of the night while frozen wind chimes tinkle in the background.

When we first moved here, The Garden Gnomes would bring half the stuff from the garden inside to store for the winter. This year I did not see the massive crap migration, which involves laying all the crap out on the yard and then hauling it into the house in laundry baskets in many many trips. Sadly, I suspect Mr. Gnome has not been feeling well as of late, and this means much of the crap will spend the winter outside, covered in plastic bags and packing tape.

I used to very much not get along with the Gnomes, because every time I tried to do anything in our yard, Mrs. Garden Gnome would come over to tell me I was doing it wrong. Sometimes her points would be valid, but sometimes they wouldn’t be. Had she been right all the time, I would have been more tolerant of the situation. The bad advice mixed in with good and tied up with a healthy does of judgment just got me revved up and pissed off. But over the years, we’ve come to more of an understanding of each other. She seems to respect my efforts in growing some of my own food, even though she’s made it known that she doesn’t think I weed enough. And I have some malfunction in my brain that reverses the whole “familiarity breeds contempt” thing.

Seeing her out on her hands and knees picking tiny pieces of dead grass out of the lawn, mowing three times a week, or shoveling her driveway at the slightest hint of a flake has endeared her to me. Her penchant for watching me work in the yard from her kitchen window has proved useful, as she’s taken it a step further and will often run out to bring me a garden tool to borrow if she feels I’m not using the appropriate one. And over the growing season, we regularly exchanged little packages of our harvested goods by leaving them on each others’ back patios. She’s given me a lot of good advice as of late, including warning me to pace myself when I work in the garden so I don’t get burnt out. So, I have to say that I like her now. I appreciate her. She’s a part of this place that’s now my home, and I am, at the risk of sounding sappy, grateful for her.

Even The Crap Garden has started to grow on me. Chasing Stella down the garden paths the other night, it seemed less creepy and more magical. The assorted crap glistening by moonlight through a thick dusting of snow, was . . . beautiful. And it is, after all, a fantastic example of recycling.