January 28, 2015

White Dog handed out assignments as Steve brought in shoes to be sorted, paired and bagged up for the Paws To People used shoe fundraiser. We had quite a collection that needed attending to. "And you?" I asked as the Leader of the White Dog Army folded her list. "I am going to sit on the arm of the chair next to you and supervise...and YoYoMa is our backup should somepup need relieving."

The others seemed OK with that plan and the project was begun. By the time Steve had to stop and  ready himself for work, the team had prepared 125 pairs of shoes for the storage unit.

"Treat time," WD called out. To me, she shared a bit of management philosophy. "Always reward the workers, food is generally most popular. And be sure to tell them what a GREAT job they have done."

I grabbed the bag. "Ahem?" she prompted. Steve, our resident MBA stepped in to cover my lapse. "Thanks every one; you did a fabulous job! Now let's all enjoy some jerky and spend the rest of the day relaxing!" Tails wagged in response.


January 27, 2015

White Dog bolted for the door. Puff was hot on her heels. Steve had just asked the girls if either wanted to go for a ride.

They were going to take donated shoes to the storage unit, stop at the pharmacy, and stop to pick up sandwiches for lunch. White Dog always likes an itinerary and enjoys a destination where she can get out and stretch her legs. Puff goes just for the sheer pleasure of the ride itself. For her, it is like that old Prince song, "I don't care where we go; don't care what we do..."

The storage place is fenced and gated and the unit donated for the shoe drive is at the very end of the facility so there is never any traffic. Steve pulled up alongside of the rollup door and opened it; then he opened the side sliding door of Pumpkin. This way he could grab a bag, take just a few steps and toss it onto the bazillion other bags already in the room. It was efficient.

White Dog sniffed around a bit then sat at the entrance of the storage unit and watched as Steve unloaded the 15 bags. Puff was content to rest in the passenger seat watching for a while before curling up to nap. When Steve completed his task, WD strolled in and nosed around the mountain of black bags. It was too daunting a task for the cell phone camera to capture the mounded black bags and Little White Dog in the interior shadows.

A bit later, Steve returned to the van after picking up pills for momma, Puff, and himself to discover Puff basking, asleep, in the sunpuddle on the driver's seat...and White Dog busily shredding a tissue she found in the side pocket of my seat. Neither girl seemed inclined to move over or surrender the scraps of kleenex.

White Dog and Puff burst into the house announcing that it was lunchtime. This brought the entire White Dog Army running. They excitedly followed Steve (carrying the bag) into the kitchen only to be told, "We are not sharing."

But drooping tails turned to wags as I reached for the familiar bag. "THAT is because it is duck jerky time!" I announced. I had just enough time before I was swarmed to pet our travelers and thank them for getting so much accomplished. Both smiled their joy at being appreciated and gratitude for the excursion.

White Dog at my shoulder and Puff against my right foot, the ladies finished their treats and in no time were gently making the sweet noises of sleep. Steve stifled a huge yawn.

"Car rides and errands seem to be a big energy drain," I commented, but no one heard...they were all in post-lunch nap mode.

January 26, 2015

White Dog asked about the photo I was holding. It was an ancient black and white snapshot of my mom and I when I was about three. We were at my grandparents' cottage on a lake in Wisconsin, clearly on vacation, and she was smiling as she supervised my exploration of duck lawn ornaments.

I was trying to clear out some old stacks of things in the office to make way for newer things that needed a place to be stacked and I found it just sitting randomly in the papers.

"Crazy serendipity," I told White Dog. "Today is mom's birthday. She would have been 91." My mom passed away when I was in college, long before there ever was a White Dog...or an Army. She had not been raised with pets or animals so in retrospect, her patient acceptance and love of the goldfish, parakeets, lovebirds, hamsters, pups, rabbits, and turtles that we children insisted on making part of our family was rather amazing.

I suspect she might have lifted an eyebrow at the sheer number of our WDA, but that she would have been mightily impressed by their good manners and loving relationships. After all, she had chosen to raise six girls and undertake the MUCH tough task of trying to instill human good manners...fortunately she did not live to see the failure of her children to form loving bonds.

Photos of my mom are rare, mostly she was never part of the camera's attention. Those captured memories long ago were the spoils that often follow loss. So I answered White dog's curiosity not with more pictures, but in the way I remember things...with words.

I told her of a human grandma who loved to play the piano but restricted her enjoyment to when all were at school or work so she would not selfishly interrupt the flow of family life...or a woman so full of childlike enthusiasm that ours was the house where the entire neighborhood played...of a parent who graciously made cookies for the funeral of a pet bird that was buried in the yard...of a woman who neglected herself to better meet our needs.

White Dog smiled as she formed the image of my mom who set her life aside to nurture and encourage, to be a scout leader and pompom squad chaperon, to shield her children through tough times with a focus on grace and dignity. She had tremendous faith.

"Like you and I," I told White Dog, "I had the opportunity to know my mom as a young adult, really the only one of the children to do so. I am grateful to have been able to share those special moments. As a result she is more human and real as a person."

White Dog called the WDA together and called for a birthday salute. I am not sure she would have understood the words and noise, but I hope the loving sentiment came through. Happy Birthday, Mom!


January 25, 2015

White Dog and Steve have decided that THIS year (now that his student days are over) we are going to have a food garden. Not just a few tomato plants stuck in a planter that are tenderly treated for a few weeks and then slowly forgotten, but a real, "return to the soil" effort to give us more control over what we eat.

"What is wrong with the Grower's Market?" I asked as the two of the them started collecting photos of hoop houses and vertical gardens and straw bale planting schemes. As wonderful as the the idea of a summer filled with fresh from the yard goodness is, I was skeptical.

"Don't rain on our parade!" WD told me. "At least not until we have the seeds in the ground!"

To their credit, Mr. Greenjeans and his Furry Assistant are researching which vegetables will do best given our climate, soil (very sandy), sun availability (we have a big house to the the north and a two-story building to our east), and drought. They are learning how to best capture and use the water needed for their project without being wasteful. Steve and White Dog are often found these past days sitting in the yard with sketch pads and tape measures.

The rest of the White Dog Army is divided in their reaction and commitment to work the fields. YoYoMa is our salad boy and is all on board, especially if working means that he can sneak in a few fresh from the vine samples. Puff is looking forward to the increased insect life this project will bring to the yard...she loves to stalk and pounce on bugs...and at 16, she is still pretty quick.

No one is sure whether Zsofia's enthusiasm to help dig will be a blessing or a curse. But as WD points out, she will be almost 10 months old by our early April planting time. "Maybe she will have matured."

Bella likes most veggies only to the point that if every one else gets one, she wants one. But most she does not eat but instead takes and hides under the edge of her treasure cave where Zso eventually comes and devours them. Sachi's favorite thing about vegetables is that they are a delight to roll in. Whether on the carpet, the kitchen floor or on the bricks in the yard, our Little Man joyfully accepts an offering, chews it a bit and then drops it so that he can begin the back and forth ecstasy, feet waving in air. I am not sure how either Bella or Sachi will contribute to the success of White Dog Farm.

Taiko has already volunteered to be an official guard dog for the crops. He loves to just stroll around the yard on his good days; on his not-so-good ones, he can watch from the deck.

Whether a garden grows or we harvest a single stringed bean, it is fun to watch the family dream and plan, and focus on the coming warmer days. Secretly, I have been stashing recipes for "putting up" things, just in case.
"If we grow pumpkins THIS big, momma, will you make LOTS of pumpkin cookies for us?"


January 24, 2015

White Dog won't even come into the room when these two start. "They are barbarians!" she has pronounced and will have nothing to do with the silly grunting and bitey-face that goes with this White Dog Army canine version of televised professional wrestling. The under the chair twist is a maneuver that Ms. Z will soon have to abandon...she nearly get stuck trying to get back out. No longer is she Sachi-sized.

But it was Saturday morning. Steve had left for a day at school. Candace was at work. The girls were out in the studio. The Army was bored. This show at least provide some entertainment.


January 23, 2015

White Dog sat with me as I watched Taiko. For most of the week, it seemed that he had gone out of his way to go over and pester YoYoMa. Yo has been very patient and has reacted by simply changing position or getting up and moving. But the provocation seemed unnecessary and potentially a cause for confrontation.

Most times, the two boys have sort of a Laissez-faire agreement and do not intrude into each other's personal space. YoYoMa sees only shadows. Taiko is nervous and some days walks with difficulty due to his bad elbow. Both have challenged navigation abilities. So when one or the other gets too close or stumbles against the other there is a startled reaction which is often misconstrued as aggression. I felt I had spent a lot more time than usual telling Taiko to leave Yo and reassuring Yo that Tai's intrusions were not an attack.

White Dog rested her head on my shoulder. "Maybe you have it wrong, momma," she gently suggested. I raised an eyebrow. "Maybe Tai is not pestering YoYoMa. Maybe it is something else." "Like?"

"Watch him," WD directed me. "Taiko is not moving boldly or aggressively. And he stops short of actually touching his brother. I don't think he is trying to make Yo mad. He just sort of stands waiting to be noticed."

WD and I sat quietly as for the hundredth time today, Taiko slowly hobbled around the coffee table and came to a stop inches from where YoYoMa slept on the hearth. He just stood there looking at Yo. After a few seconds the sleeping Yo sensed Tai's presence and started awake with a growl; this reaction startled Taiko who whimpered and quickly limped away. I heard myself saying, "It is OK sweet ones, it is OK."

Taiko came over and buried his head in my lap and Yo resettled himself on the tile.

White Dog looked down at our Tender Heart and and sighed softly. "Momma, I think Taiko is trying to make friendship overtures to YoYoMa. He walks over there and wants to be invited to join YoYoMa in his napping space. But he doesn't know how to ask so he comes across as a lurking menace."

I thought about what WD hypothesized as I continued to stroke the ears and face of our most baggage carrying rescue. Of all the WDA, Taiko most certainly comes from a past that is filled with horror, pain and dysfunction. That he survived is a miracle. That he is making progress toward becoming social and inviting the formation of bonds is astounding.

Our fragile boy, as i considered, HAS been opening up. Starting with Puff whom he has allowed to comfort him and has sought out to lie near, to Darby whom he befriended and then lost so quickly, to Bella whose new sleeping mattress is close enough that we often wake in the morning to find Taiko with a leg or backside spread over into her space, Taiko does seem to be reaching out to his siblings.

White Dog's insight has me thinking of ways to positively put the boys together. We will go slowly so as to not push Taiko faster than he is ready to go. Tonight Yo came and sat with me as I blogged, After, I asked him to stay as I called Taiko in. With a boy on each side, heads each resting on a knee, looking at each other, I stroked ears and ran my hands down flanks. We talked and shared. It was only a brief time but as Tai got up and turned to go, I gave each a kiss on the nose. "I love you both. I Kiss you nose!" I told them; it is one of Yo's favorite reinforcements. Tai considered it for a minute, then nosed my hand...and walked from the room, smiling.


January 22, 2015

White Dog and Bella are my time keepers. They keep me organized and on-track. I appreciate their diligence and care, I really do, even though I pride myself on being fairly in command of my to-dos.

In the morning, it is Bella who noses my hand until I sit up in bed and then paces huffing at me until I get up and begin the day. White Dog waits for me at the arm of my chair...and if I am slow to enter our living room, she will hop down and dramatically "check" to make sure I am all right. Both at my side (or Bella underneath and WD on the arm of my chair), they have little patience for the lingering enjoyment of the Coffee Club. Once we have a plan and a schedule, my "masters" relax a bit and can enjoy a post-breakfast nap.

These past few days, both girls have given me latitude because of my sickies. Neither have been happy at time lost and tasks postponed but they are compassionate and loving, so I have been reminded of things that needed to get done in the gentlest of ways.

Today I made the mistake of announcing that I was actually feeling better. Bella began her insistent nudging right after they ate; White Dog intervened to allow me until noon to slowly get back into the swing of things. But as the church bells tolled twelve, Bella came out from hiding to tap my knee and trot to the hallway door. WD jumped down and joined her, then looked back to make sure I followed.

"I guess the head of nursing has decided I am cured," I complained to Steve who was stretched out with Sachi cuddling on his chest; Puff and Zsofia at his feet. No one hounded him.

YoYoMa sauntered in to keep me company. He had heard the list about clearing the unruly stack on my desk and designing the new postcard. He was sympathetic but dared not incur the wrath of the time police, so he laid down behind my chair. His paw held my leg in support but he gave the girls the illusion that he was there to keep me trapped in place.

Taiko strolled out of the bedroom shaking his head to clear the last traces of dreamtime just as the mailman arrived. Yo, Bella and WD streaked past him and he stood in the doorway where he could watch the frenzy without being drawn in. His strategic position meant that he was my blocker as I rushed to use the facilities and rewrap myself in the blanket before their "Ode to the USPS" was done.


January 21, 2015

White Dog and the White Dog Army were dismayed to discover that not only did I still have sickies this morning but that it was dreary, overcast, and threatened foul weather...AND Steve was getting sickies, too. "This day is going to be worse than cat poop," WD announced. "That doesn't sound SO awful," came the reply from Puff, Zsofia and Sachi...the WDA cat poop aficionados.

Big steamy bowls of oatmeal with cream, butter and brown sugar lifted every one's spirits for awhile. By noon, it was gloomy enough that we needed to turn on lights. It was cold and damp. We cuddled together and Puff changed into a warmer sweater.

"Maybe we will get snow," Taiko suggested. Even though his arthritic body protests, at heart he...and the Baby...both like our brief moments of fluffy whiteness. The others groaned.

The WDA lounged and complained and napped. We snacked our way through nearly an entire bag of sweet potato strips wrapped in jerky. It had begun to drizzle a sad joyless wetness; no one went outside unless nature's call could no longer be denied.

The only good news as Steve left for work was that this was his short day and that he would be home in plenty of time for normal dinner. That provided some comfort to Taiko who had grown increasingly nervous as the afternoon wore on. "Don't worry, my boy," Steve told him. "You curl up and take a cozy warm nap on your bed and I will be back when you wake up."

Steve called on his return to warn that the roads were slick from the rain trying to become snow but ending up as a sort of sleet. He was taking the slower route of local roads and avoiding the expressway.

"Snow!" the word sent Zsofia running to the yard. White Dog followed. Both came in minutes later very wet and cold. "That is NOT fun snow," WD groused. "It is just freezing cold water like being sprinkled with a slushie." I toweled both girls off.

As night falls, the wetness will begin to freeze and things like the sloped drive and the deck ramp will become a bit treacherous. Our plan is early walkies and then a family movie night. All of us huddled under the comforter with hot popcorn has a special appeal on this chilled-to-the-bones night.
Looks like the setting for a horror story, so dismally dark and sinister.
Good night to hide under the covers with the WDA and Steve!


January 20, 2015

White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army cut short their practice of The Howling Wolf opera reluctantly at my request and gathered around me. "Listen," I started barely speaking above a whisper. "I think momma is getting sickies and my head really hurts. Do you all think you could plan a quiet day for me? Or maybe go out into the yard if you must continue singing? I would really appreciate it."

The White Ones looked sympathetic and each moved forward to nuzzle my hand...except Sachi who saw some motion outside the window. He jumped onto the chair and began a royal barking fit. "Sachi, Sachi, SACHI! please" I begged. White Dog hopped up next to him and issued a growl. He laid down across the top of the chair, still alert, but quiet.

I wrapped up in the afghan, WD sat pressed against my shoulder and I found a position where my face did not feel as though it was going to explode. I slept briefly and when I woke, WD was still at my side. All of the WDA, true to their word, was engaged quietly. They all hovered close, keeping watch should I need them.

YoYoMa lay on one side of my feet ripping the stuffing out of a puppy pillow in his funny gentle way; he "attacks" the pillow like a human would eat an ear of corn--little nibbles down the length and back.

Next to him sat Bella, who is just learning the fine art of toy abuse. She had just about chewed the head off of turtle; his feet were a distant memory.

Sachi was still at his post in the window but his little body straddled the length of the back and he softly snored. I smiled because he always sleeps with his tiny pink tongue sticking out.

Puff was nestled on her mattress by the fireplace and peacefully napped. Taiko's head rested on the edge of her bed and his paw was wrapped around the water dish, and he, too, slept.

I thought the baby was also taking a snooze but when I sat forward and looked between my feet where she rested I found she was silently but intently shredding a stick. She looked up and gave me a kiss before returning to her task.

"Thank you, Sweet Loves," I said and prepared to wrap myself back into the blanket. Just then the brown truck pulled up. I knew it was too much to ask..."Let the delivery man song begin," I said.


January 19, 2015

White Dog and the White Dog Army gather together every January 19 to remember and pay tribute to a wise and compassionate man who had a Dream. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspires us in our efforts to help create a better world that is loving, accepting, and caring.

This year, Zsofia listened to the story, wide-eyed, and for the first time considered the importance of Service to her fellows. “Did this great man have anything to say about dogs,” she asked. “Let’s find out,” White Dog suggested, and we all headed to the office and computer.

Turns out that like most famous people, Dr. King has been misquoted and quotes that have been attributed to him are not his. Zsofia was crestfallen. But then we found an article by Karen Biehl, a writer for the New York Examiner. She, too, was seeking the words of MLK that were appropriate for our four-legged as well as two-legged followers. We all cheered at her authenticated list, which we will share as food for thought on this special day…

From the article: Below is a list of a few MLK quotations that can apply to dogs and their owners as well.

On the unconditional love of dogs:
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

"Let no man pull you low enough to hate him."

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

On animal rights:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

"A right delayed is a right denied. That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing."

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

On rescue dogs and mutts:
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

On pet illness and loss:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important.”

The WDA asks that you take a moment to send a prayer for peace and harmony to the Universe tonight. May the disenfranchised, both humans and pets, be given shelter and protection…and love. Raise your voice at injustice and demand change that will create a better world for all. And most important, fiercely, passionately and genuinely love every creature without regard for species, race, color or belief. Be a part of completing the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that was cut short.