September 25, 2016

White Dog looked back over her shoulder as I came in and shut the door behind me. She, Zsofia, Steve and I were just returning from the Park and running a few errands and it was late afternoon.

I walked across the room and sat down. Before greeting me, the White Dog Army hurried over to sniff the closed door with puzzlement. THEN they came to me for an explanation rather than the usual, "I am glad to be home. I missed you."

"My loves," I began feeling defensive. "It is that time of the year when the day takes longer to warm up and cools off earlier. And while the afternoon looks beautiful with long shadows and a golden patina over all, the sun is not offering much warmth now."

Trixie scratched at the door. "We are lucky that the temperatures have been cooperative and have allowed us to keep doors and windows open for most of the afternoon. But I am afraid as time goes on now that we will need to close up the house to stay warm and to be energy efficient."

Stormer came and laid on my feet. "Thank you, Baby Boy, but keeping me comfy requires more than your very warm body on my cold feet."

It is still a ways off on the calendar so I did not tell them that too soon in my mind, the time will change, and we will lose the long lingering light of now. By 5pm it will be night and it will still be dark when Steve rises to go get ready for work. The house will be buttoned down for Winter by then. The furnace will be on. We will long for natural breezes blowing through the house, but will have set up the wind baffle to prevent gusts from sneaking in through the dog door.

"Sweet loves," I tried to liven up their sadness. "You will soon appreciate the brisk trip outside and return inside to cozy warmth. Believe me. Think mulled  cider and oatmeal cookies. THAT is the season that is upon us." The mention of cookies lifted ears and spirits...even though they were spice drop cookies.


September 24, 2016

White Dog was tired after a full day of representing the White Dog Army at the local Bark for Life cancer walk event. She met and greeted and sniffed other noses; smiled and wagged as her smooth furs were ruffled by the pats of attendees; and ran in enthusiastic play with some of the children there.

There is never any question in the White Dog Army that if Paws To People or our family attends a cancer-related event, that White Dog WILL be the spokes dog.

WD has a lot invested in the fight against the c monster beginning with a promise made when she first arrived to her Angel Sister, Sheena, whose death from liver cancer was the beginning of White Dog's life with us. Sheena could not bear our sadness and sent us a little floofy ball of white, White Dog, in turn, promised our beloved little Sheltie girl that she would become a Warrior working to slay the beast.

She watched The Mighty Quinn battle a brain tumor...Taiko lose to pancreatic cancer...Ferguson be gripped with cancer of the mouth...and indomitable Puff push back mammary cancer until she no longer had the strength. Human friends have battled and made temporary gains, only to lose ground. Two-legged and four-legged Warriors have proven stronger than the c monster (but we always whisper the fearful "for now"). So many we love have had to stare down this awful disease. All have shown incredible courage and dignity in the face of attack by a sneaky underhanded disease.

For White Dog, it is VERY personal.   And she has an Army of support and understanding to keep her promise to never forget...and never stop fighting to conquer this monster that takes too many too soon.


September 23, 2016

White Dog asked, "Does it count for today if it happened before we were even awake?" It happened at 4 am and the proverbial, "not a creature was stirring..."

EXCEPT, that is, for Miss Trixie Marie. I thought I heard her tags jingle as she peeked into the bedroom to check on us but in my half-sleep convinced myself I was dreaming and pulled the covers up.

The crashing of the baby gate and the loud clatter shortly after...THOSE I did not dream. "What was that?" I asked instantly wide awake. Steve mumbled, "Can't be good," as he threw back the blankets and scooted to the end of the bed to get up.

Three seconds later. "TRIXIE!"

Steve, in an attempt to get ahead in our new more rushed morning routine, was experimenting with how to streamline the system. He made White Dog Army breakfasts before bedtime, put them in a tray with water to act as an ant moat, and had set the baby gate across the kitchen door to keep out marauding coyotes and ninja Nearly White Dogs. When we turned out the light at 11:30 the Army was soundly sleeping...including the one snoring on her favorite seat on the sun porch.

The System had failed. Catastrophically. In the dark in the kitchen over the knocked down gate was Trixie.

Steve flipped on the light to discover water all over the floor and Miss Trix with her head buried in the mess of kibbles and food. She had already eaten her breakfast as well as a couple of others and it was clear she was hell bent on munching through everything on the floor.

She looked up to greet Steve as she continued to chew. Steve quickly put the gate back up to prevent others from joining her as they awoke to the commotion. Trixie was ushered outside, but not without some backtalk and a Gandhi-like refusal to move. She immediately came back in through the dog door but now was on the other side of the gate so Steve could accomplish cleanup.

Almost half an hour later, Steve removed the gate. "Well that did not work very well," he reported. She ate her breakfast and about half of the Army's. He climbed back into bed and sighed at the clock. "She is not going to be happy with the morsels she receives this morning," he yawned.

"Quick!," I pushed at him. "Get her outside." In the living room I could hear the preliminary sounds of her over-indulgence coming back up to haunt her. Steve flew into the room. I heard him grab her harness and practically drag her to the back door. "Do that OUTSIDE," he told her. "Go on!" And he waited at the door so she could see him.

She lost her breakfast and came back to Steve pathetically. "It is your own greedy fault, big girl. Go lie down and hope that all is good now. We still have a bit of time before the alarm."


September 22, 2016

White Dog and the rest of the Army was awake well before the alarm...and so was Steve. Even though it was only 6am, there was an air of anticipation and nervousness as every one paced about in fidgety busy-ness. I continued to rest and breathe deeply.

Finally Zsofia could not stand it any longer. She jumped on the bed and stuck her cold nose under my arm. "MOMMA! It is dad's first day at work" she sang. "Get up and help him get ready!" "Sweet Baby, he does not leave for two and a half hours. Relax!" "We have to get him ready," she woo'd more insistently.

Next thing I knew, Sachi was jumping and scrambling for my attention at the side of the bed. Bella pushed her head under my hand. White Dog joined Zso on the bed and even Trixie came in and laid her head across my neck. Only YoYoMa grunted in my defense that everyone should settle down, let us sleep, and not panic.

"All right. I will join you all." I surrendered. "What do we need to do to get dad ready?"

"We need to make him a lunch," Stormer said. "Did it last night, it is in the refrigerator ready to go--a healthy stir fry." I responded.

"Breakfast?" Stormer, again. "A muffin all bagged up for him to take with and a banana."

"OUR breakfast?" Nilla cut to the chase. "Dad already as everything all set up; he just needs to put your bowls down."

"Getting him dressed in fancy work clothes," Bella offered. "Dad does a pretty good job of dressing himself and I think all of us helping might not be so much assistance. Just someone be sure to do the man thing." I got questioning looks. "Make sure his fly is zipped," I said. "Wouldn't want him going out in his nervousness undone." Benson raised a paw to accept the responsibility.

"How is he going to even GET to work without a car," Pearl challenged. The car was in for servicing yesterday...one of those tasks assigned before we knew Steve would find work so quickly. They did not complete the "To Do" list and insisted on keeping the car overnight. It was a twist not planned for. "Dad is going to Uber to work and then to the car place after to claim back Pumpkin." I reassured her. "Is it safe?" "Yes."

It was like a first day of school...with 11 wistful worried mommas.

White Dog said, "I think dad is nervous."

Steve came out of the office to put down dog breakfasts and share a few minutes before he had to dash. I addressed WD's concern.

"It has been almost 6 years," he replied. "Yes, I am nervous. And new people. And I feel like I will need to prove myself." I noticed welts on his neck. "Yes, I have a nerve rash," he admitted. "Kind of silly, right."

At the news of the rash the WDA was all for him taking a sick day.

"Sweet loves...all of you, Steve...everyone in this situation gets nervous but remember your have over 30 years of experience as an architect and have done some incredible projects and know all of the intricacies of the field...you have stayed on top of the specialized technology; heck, you are considered an expert here in Albuquerque...and you have stellar recommendations from coworkers, those you have worked alongside, even your students. Remember how nervous you were the first time you faced 30 students in a lecture hall? You've got this and have NOTHING to prove. Take a deep breath and feel all of us next to you all day."

"And besides," Sachi added, "if it doesn't work out you will get the chance you didn't this time to be unemployed and hang out with us for a while." White Dog glared at him. Steve laughed..."and that might not be SO horrible if you could live without treats."

As Sachi pondered the choice, the cab pulled up and we sent Steve off on his new adventure.


September 21, 2016

White Dog and the entire White Dog Army managed to capture our message of peace on this special day...despite it being Wordless Wednesday! Join our prayer...

September 20, 2016

White Dog looked down at Zsofia, mugging upside down at our feet. "Toofies Tuesday," she announced.


September 19, 2016

White Dog came into the office and nodded over her shoulder. "You need to have a little Calibration Discussion with Benson," she said. "I have never seen him in such a foul mood. He is growling at all of us. He nipped at Nilla. And Yo doesn't even want to deal with him...YoYoMa's gone out to nap on the front porch instead of sleeping next to his buddy as usual."

"That is odd," I told her. "Benson is our calm and gentle boy. He is usually even patient when one or another of the others is wearing the Crabby Crown. Has any of the Army been picking on him?"

"Not even Sachi, and you know how HE can be."

White Dog laid down next to me on the side of the desk where she is nearly invisible. I called Benson. I heard his tags as he lifted his head but he did not respond to my call. I tried again and he came as far as the hallway but turned and left when the others followed him.

I went into the bedroom and sat on the bed. Just waiting. The others peeked in and then went off to do their own things. I knew Benson would try to find me...that he would feel guilty for not responding to my call...he is like that.

He came slinking in a short time later in submissive mode. "My Sweet Boy, you are not in trouble," I reassured him. "I am worried. You do not seem to be yourself today."

I leaned over and slid one arm under his backside and the other between his front legs to cradle him like a lamb. he rested his head against me. "I am going to pick you up and put you here on the bed next to me," I told him. "Ready?"

I spent a little time just petting Ben-Ben and talking to him. Stormer came in to check on what we were doing; he was met with a low growl. "Hey, Ben, we don't talk to each other like that! He is just concerned. You are safe here next to me. Let's take a look. Do you hurt?"

I felt all up and down his body and squeezed his tummy. All felt "right" and he offered no reaction that would have indicated pain or discomfort. I rolled back his gums and looked; they were a healthy pink. His breath smelled normal. There was nothing stuck deep between his toes. His ears were clear and he actually enjoyed my hand resting on his head. I felt no burrs at joints or under his tail. In other words, every thing seemed OK.

Yet when Zso walked through on her way outside, She, too, earned a growl.

"Why are you mad at every one, Buddy?" He pressed against me. "Is it just a bad day? Help me to understand."

Benson rested his head on my lap and rolled so I could rub his tummy. As I sat and stroked him his eyes got heavy and he soon was asleep. I shifted so I could swing my legs up and lie alongside his softly snoring body. He immediately moved to fit the curve of me.

"Poor Baby Boy," I stroked his head and sides. "Just rest. It is OK to need some alone time and to have an off day. Rest a while and then we will go together into the office. If you would like you can just spend all day at my side and ignore everyone else. But I hope  a nap and time out will leave you feeling better."

He licked my arm and sighed...then closed his eyes again.


September 18, 2016

White Dog had helped us pack up most everything we would need last night. This morning Steve carried his academic robe and stole out on a hanger. It was the Commencement Exercise for his students who had completed their programs and had graduated...although the school closed abruptly and denied them the ceremony we were now going to create.

"Commencement means beginning doesn't it," White Dog asked. I nodded. "Why is the end of college called a beginning then," she pressed.

"It is the beginning of a new life for those once students," I explained. "It is the beginning of going out into the world to find a job or continue their studies at a higher level. It is assuming the mantle of adult responsibility and driving their own destinies. It is change."

The White Dog Army had gathered around to hear our conversation. "Think about it, family. This week is a commencement for us as well." Some looked confused as I continued.

"Dad is making a new beginning as he leaves teaching. We will be part of that change as he will work regular hours and be gone during the day. Fortunately we will get to ease into the change. The architecture firm has agreed to let dad work part time for his first month before diving completely in. That way he will still have time to do some of the projects he wanted to accomplish and time for extra walks and naps with all of you."

"What if Dad doesn't do well at his new job or if they do not like him?" Stormer worried. "CA, dad has skills that will be appreciated and stretched. They will be different skills than he used for teaching but worry not, dad is very talented and the firm knew they wanted him the minute they knew he was seeking a job. He is an awesome architect and manager and quite knowledgeable in the specialty technology of his industry.  It is a beginning we can face without fear."

"Can WE have a commencement celebration?" Zsofia asked. White Dog nuzzled her sister in recognition of her good idea. The room filled with "can we?"

I thought about their idea and also about the emotional catharsis the day would be for Steve. "We can but it has to be easy to put together without Dad's help. He will appreciate your efforts but will also be very spent." Ideas started flowing.

We settled on Greek food ("so we can shout OPA!" Sachi insisted). Steve and the Army especially like the sardines. And moussaka. And of course, gyros meat in warm pita. For dessert rice pudding rich with cinnamon and anise. A festive meal was put together.

White Dog begged Steve to take her for a "Dad and Me" ride when the order was ready and detoured him to the restaurant. When they returned we welcomed them with a loud "OPA!" and not so subtly lined up by the food bowls.


September 17, 2016

White Dog was gracious when I told her that the White Dog Army would not be attending the Walk to End Alzheimers. I explained that Karen, a new Paws To People volunteer, asked if she could bring her new rescue, Lossen, to see if he would someday be able to proudly represent our organization as a spokesdog.

Lossen is an older guy who has some health issues but who seems very mellow. He has not been socialized much. Karen is working on making him comfortable around other dogs and cats by bringing him to the boarding kennel where she works. But this was a chance to see how he would do with LOTS of people and many distractions and a whole range of different dog types.

We thought this first time out it would be good to let Lossen be a solo act. Plus he is IS a mostly White Dog.

White Dog thought about it and gave me a list of test questions for him and things to watch for in measuring his suitability. "Whoa! Baby Girl!", I told her. "This is his first time at this EVER; lets not stress him with performance evaluations...yet!" I promised that if Lossen liked today and it did not make him nervous or fearful that he would be regularly coming to events and that the White Dog Army would meet him one-by-one. "You will see him and be able to assess his abilities for yourself."

The REAL argument winner, I BELIEVE, was the news that we had to be at the Civic Center at 7 am to set up the wading pool for pups participating in the walk as well as the Paws To People information table.

"We would have to get up and be ready before it is light," White Dog determined. "Yes, Sweet Love, it is true. Not my best time either." I replied. "Maybe this WOULD be a good initiation for the new kid," she said and stretched, yawning.


September 16, 2016

White Dog and I have a special Autumn tradition that goes back to her puppy days. Two amazing ancient elm trees shade our home all summer from the searing sun and heat at the front of the building. The branches cover the entire front and provide shade...not to mention nesting sites for many.

This time of year as we gradually turn to cooler nights, our special trees begin their majestic process of transformation. Ours are often the last on the block to give themselves over to the change and even more stubbornly hold on to their precious leaves.

It is around now that White Dog and I begin to watch. This past week one entire branch of the tree on the right has re-dressed into radiant yellow. And this morning when WD came in from getting the newspaper from the curb she reported a second branch is in process.

Most important, the Little White Dog of My Heart carried her half of our ritual. The first bright yellow leaf that has jubilantly thrown itself into the whims of destiny found itself a part of our annual routine.

WD carefully laid the leaf in my lap. I picked it up and held to up to the light, turning it and commenting on its extraordinary beauty. She wags and dances  in delight and jumps into my arms so that we can together recollect this past growing season...from end of last winter when buds appeared on the tree, to their unfurling, to their dances in the Spring rains and winds...becoming our Summer umbrella...and now finding freedom with a final leap.

That special leaf goes into White Dog's album; where 11 others wait to meet Leaf 2016, White Dog's 12th Year. We take a moment to turn through the pages and touch the others and in doing so honor not just those leaves but the continuity that is our life together.

This tradition is a private one between WD and I. The others do not know. Except there is a painting that one Autumn's choice compelled WD and I to specially honor.