Missing Ming

Pot holder paws...

Pot holder paws…

It’s been 9 days since I last saw Ming-Ming.  Our pullet, Nugget was stalking her on my mother-in-law’s lawn.  Ming was just hanging out, laying in the late afternoon fall sunshine, watching the rest of the hens when Nugget decided that she wasn’t having it- there would be no cats allowed.  So, puffing up her little 6-month old body, she fluffed her feathers out and hopped at Ming.  Not once, but twice.  Hop.  HOP!  Ming, being ever the peace-keeper as well as the “Welcome Ambassador” for all new comers to our family, quietly backed up and jumped the garden fence to watch from a distance.  Nugget was mollified and continued on her way.

When I realized she was missing and hadn’t been in, I went for the heavy artillery (aka ‘banging the plate’).  It’s a simple process and has always stood me in good stead when either Ming-Ming or Moses would shoot past me out onto the deck after “lights out”.  It was how I would entice them back inside.  Wet cat food on a plate.  Knife placed at an approximent 45* angle. Strike sharply.  Several times.  You also holler the transgressor’s respective name.  It always, always worked.  But not that night.  And not the next.

I have had cats since I was 7 or 8 years old.  I have never once had to put one down.  I’ve never been allowed to say “good-bye” and thank them for their years of purring, comfort, and companionship.  They have left.  I’ve heard cats do that.  Yes, we live in a wooded area.  Yes, we have coyotes and things that go bump-in-the-night.  But even when Miss Ming managed to escape bed check and remain out to party on a night or two- I knew she slept above the chicken pen.  (We put a packing blanket up there when we saw the cat hair evidence… just to make it comfy, in case it happened again.)  She never ranged far.  She was in the yard, or near the barn, or in the woodshed.  Always within calling distance.  So I know the enemy didn’t get her.  I have to believe that, otherwise, it would wreak havoc on my heart…

Ming-Ming was 9-years old.  I keep looking for her- listening for her big ol’ paw scratching on the door.  Waiting to see her laying across the picnic table, soaking up the rays.  Missing her keen observation as I sew, and the gentle pat, pat of her pot holder paw as I attempt to thread the needle.  A gentle, sweet soul.  I should have been allowed to say “thank you” and “good-bye”.

Making sure it's soft enough for the baby...

Making sure it’s soft enough for the baby…

I miss Rose…

ImageThis is my girl.  I miss her.  She was with us for a little over 2 years.  I would give a great deal to have her up beside me on the couch one more time.  I miss her constantly wagging tail.  I don’t know why God gave her to me for such a short time… especially when I was willing to invest so much.

Rest in peace dear one.  You were loved.

 

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My 4-Legged Kids Take Wing!

Not really… but kinda.  Maybe I should explain:

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Meet Eddie.  As in “Eddie Izzard“.  We thought he was a she.  We called her “Lucy”.  You know what?  Let’s just start at the beginning, shall we?

Some asshole person dropped 4 chickens off on our dirt road.  At first, we (the four people sharing this dirt road) all thought they belonged to each other, and they had gotten loose.  Once we realized that they belonged to none of us, there were only 2 left.  Living on a dirt road in a rural area screams “DANGER! roaming foxes, fishers… oh, and bear”.  Not exactly the safest environment for chickens.   One was a gorgeous reddy, turquoise one and the other, plump and white with lots of black speckles in her feathers.  Pretty.  She always followed the red one.  They roamed up and down our dirt road. I was determined to catch them.

I put out corn.  They ate it, but as soon as I approached, they quickly waddled away.  On one of my  morning walks, with Finn and Rose,  we came across a pile of black and white feathers.  It made me sad.  And then mad!  Why would someone dump chickens on a dirt road?  How cruel.  They didn’t stand a chance.

I was even more determined to save the last remaining hen.  She was just as determined to tough it out in the ‘wilderness’…. each morning when I saw “my” hen, I said a prayer of thanks.  And put out more corn.  I began to put it in a dog crate…. which I surreptitiously moved closer to the house when I knew Lucy wasn’t looking.  We added Lucky to her first name when she kept showing up for breakfast.

One evening after the Big Guy and I had chased her around the yard, out back, and into the woods, aided by sheets, big towels, you name it… we were spent.  It was getting towards dusk so we figured she’d won one more night of freedom.  As we sat at the table, catching our breath and laughing that a hen could be so tough to catch, we heard all kinds of commotion and clucking!  All of a sudden Lucy came charging into the yard and fast on her heels, a fox!  Big Guy flew out the door, hollering and waving his arms.  The fox took to the woods and we took to Lucy.

We finally cornered her in our barn.  I gathered her up, she was so soft and was clucking quietly, as if to say, Thank you. I put her in Finn’s old kennel.  She was not going to be fox food.

The next morning my mother-in-law and I had made plans to attend a chicken swap because I was going to get Lucy a possé.  Chickens are flock animals, and if I couldn’t catch Lucy outright, I was figuring on luring her in with the promise of friends.

Chichester Chicken swap

This is for real

However, at around 6 am that morning, I awoke to crowing.  Loud, raucous crowing.  What the hell?  Heading down to Finn’s kennel in my bathrobe, there was *ahem* LUCY crowing to beat the band.  I busted out laughing…. why hadn’t I noticed the gorgeous plumage?  The sheen of the feathers?  The rich colors?  This wasn’t a hen, but a young rooster- no big tail. Yet.  But a big voice.

Lucky Lucy became Eddie Izzard  (overnight) and we went to the swap to get him some ladies.  Located in Chichester, New Hampshire, we left around 8 am and drove till we saw this:

Or “Need Lady Friends?

Right this way.”So meet the girls:  Beyoncé, Miriam, and No-Name.  Beyoncé is big breasted and bold.  Miriam’s the little girl and our ‘middle’ hen still has no name.  Suggestions anyone?

Finn and Rose don’t quite know what to make of them.  Ming-Ming and Moses enjoy watching them.  No eggs yet, but soon!

 

 

The Heart of a Lion

This is Rose Marie Logger:

That’s her full name.  (Our animals have always acquired middle names.  I’m not sure why or how, but they do.)  She’s ‘Rose’ because she nearly gassed us out of my rig on the long ride home after collecting her.  She’s ‘Logger’ because when she first started walking and hiking with Finn and I, she would haul small logs home. Yes, logs.  Not sticks, not long branches.  Logs.  She would find one, manage to get her jaws around it, and drag it home.  It was promptly deposited near the front steps.  Truth.

This is a black bear.  They are native to New Hampshire.

Rose is a small pit bull. It would surprise you to learn that she weighs 50 pounds.  But remember science class?  Can you say dense?  Rose is solid.  The girl has mass.  There isn’t one ounce of fat on her.  Her muscles ripple when she moves.

Black bears weigh between 90 and 370 pounds.  They climb trees.  Their claws look like this:

This morning, as happens every morning, I let my kids out back.  It was 5:30 am.  They did their business, came in and I fed them.  We have a slider and a lovely deck.  Finn has taught Rose how to open the slider.  Since his method wreaks havoc on the screen, I have surrendered and simply leave the slider open.  It’s just easier that way.

I was eating my oatmeal and perusing my teaching notes, when I heard Rose barking.  I went to look.  I’ve learned that my kids bark for a reason.  I pay attention to that.

She was at the far end of the yard.  I wasn’t wearing my contacts.  But I remember my first initial thought(s):  “Why is Finn all hunched over like that”  and concurrently, “Why is Rose barking at Finn?”  Then, it was weird, my mind couldn’t keep up.  Finn was right beside me.  What the hell?

And as Finn streaked by me, I realized Rose was taking on a black bear.  All cohesive thought fled.  Instinct took over.  I ran after my dogs.  Finn’s not stupid and he seemed to know this wasn’t right.  I was far too close to a rather large  bear that was making its way up a pine tree in an attempt get away from Rose.  As the bear began sliding down the tree, I bolted back to the house, yelling “BALL!”  Finn followed me.

As I slammed the slider shut, I watched in horror as the bear slid down the tree.  Rose gave not one quarter.  The bear reared up on its hind legs and Rose reared back, barking.  The bear dropped to all fours and took off, Rose Marie hot on its heels.  I began to cry as I watched my deaf girl disappear down over the embankment.

When she showed up at the slider door, I thanked God as she barreled into the kitchen, all puffed up, stiff-legged and indignant.  As she lapped water from the bowl, she was vocal, talking about it.  I didn’t know a dog could drink water and bark at the same time.  I started to laugh: with relief, joy, and thankfulness.

Our trainer Tom affectionately calls her ‘Meathead’.  Yes. Perhaps. Sometimes.  But I saw a dog protecting all that she loved, all that was hers.  In retrospect, I admire her conviction, her courage, her tenacity.

“Shpeshial”

That’s how my brother used to say it when he was making fun of the short bus.  We all know which bus that is… PC or not, we know.

the short bus

I have a teacher friend who uses the term “window lickers”.  But she does it fondly, as she shakes her head, grinning.  When I first heard her say it, in that sometimes loud, mostly offhand way of hers, I was stunned.  My mouth dropped to my chest.  I was certain that I hadn’t heard her correctly:  I’d seen her work with her second graders.  I knew she’d go to the mat for any one of her kids.  She brooked no nonsense when it came to making sure her kids got what they needed. 

Eldest daughter works with middle schoolers who aren’t able to learn in a traditional classroom.  She’s had to learn restraint techniques.  She’s been slapped, bitten, punched, and sworn at ~ But she called me one afternoon, asking if I would make a quilted table runner for a silent auction in order to raise money so that her kids would reap the benefits from a Smart Board.  And although I’ve never heard her use a term for them, she has their gestures, diction, and body language down to a “T” .  So we all know who it is she’s imitating.

“Not today!”

Enter Rose:

Er, wasn’t chewing. Just reading up on the air condiioner’s BTU’s.

The Big Guy asked me last night how things were going with her.  “I love her… but.  She’s not easy.”  What say you!?  He was concerned.  Nay, he was saddened.  I collected myself and then had an epiphany:  Rose is my/our special needs dog.  huh  Listen.  With Finn, I just call the chocolate chunk and because he can hear, off we go.  Jeep?  (that means the lake).  Walk?  (self-explanatory).  Hup? (jump into the back of Black Betty… just do it).

And poor Rose.  She’s excited when I bring out her pager collar now because she knows that it means “walk” or “lake” or just going outside to garden.  She doesn’t actually know what will take place, but she now associates the pager collar with something good.

Hard work!  In the beginning?   The pager collar used to scare her.  I’d ‘page’ her, the collar would vibrate, Rose would run away. Back to the drawing board.  Rose wears her pager collar.  I page her.  Give her a treat.  Oh?  Wait!  Where is she?  Ultimately?  I sat on her bed, with her beside me:  page, treat. Page,  treat.  Page, treat.  She likes Hebrew Franks.  Yeash.

So let’s circle back.  I started with the short bus.  If you are a parent who has a child that rides that bus… preparation is everything.  It’s most likely your usual thing.  But it takes it’s toll.  I have an ‘easy’ kid  He’s the light of my life.

Finn

And I also have a ‘hard’ kid.  She brings me joy, she makes me laugh.  But it’s been, quite frankly, a ball buster to get to semblance of ‘normalcy’.

We love this girl…

Kudos to all of you who work with, deal with, live with, and love ~ unconditionally those who would ride the short bus.  God Bless.

The Dog Days of Summer

waiting... waiting...

I am in the water

This is what we do when it’s hot out.  Muma takes us to the boat launch or to the Little Beach.  Today, we went to the Little Beach because it’s Friday and a lot of people come up from Massachusetts.  And not all of them know how to launch a boat correctly.  So it’s safer for us at the Little Beach.  Plus, we don’t have to share.  With anyone.

I bring it to Mum and she throws it. I love this game.

Rose used to not like the water.  She was afraid of it.  She was afraid of everything.  But she’s getting better and now she really likes to wade and romp and splash along the shoreline.

Mum says by the end of the summer, she’ll be out there swimming, where her feet can’t touch, just like I do.  Humph.  I seriously doubt that, but I’m not saying anything…

Rose likes hanging out near the edge… but sometimes, she gets brave:

what are these things and why are they out here?

Muma says it’s good exercise for us on hot days.  I don’t care about exercise.  I just like the water.  And getting the ball.  And I never fuss when it’s time to go because I know we’ll be back.

Life is good.

Tilly… you are thought of every single day

This is my last post about Tilly.  I thought that doing this would be cathartic and that it would somehow heal me.  It hasn’t.  I will always hold myself responsible for her death.  Had I been better informed – there are SO MANY things I would have done differently.  Yeah.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and that doesn’t help my girl.  I should have done my research and been BETTER informed.  I am a teacher.  There is no excuse.  My heart is heavy.

So.  And I can’t/won’t do the details surrounding her death.  It will serve no purpose.

I made a photo book on Shutterfly about Tilly, and I look through it often.

And this is her true legacy:

10 Reasons Why I Loved Tilly:

1.  walking her on the leash – she was on a mission:  ‘I am walking.  I AM walking.’

2. her coat was silk; her tongue was satin- she gave lovely kisses

3. she bounced.  yep.  and hopped

4.  her tail!  she could wag it sideways, up & down, helicopter style… honest

5. she aimed to please

6. she was so *damn* happy

7. she swam vertically!  her chest was so big, it acted as a buoy! truly

8. she was deaf

9. she was learning ASL

10. she loved my jeep

I’ve always been blessed with great dogs.  I will never forget Tilly.

oh sweetie…

Coming Clean, part 2

We think Tilly was around 3 years old when we adopted her. I was able to trace her back to a shelter in Massachusetts, where she’d been picked up with 3 other pit bulls, wandering the street.  No one claimed her, and it was when she went in to be spayed that they discovered she was deaf.

She loved her Bean bed

She was sent up to a kennel in New Hampshire after they’d tried placing her in several homes down their way.  She was always returned to the shelter within a week. Why?  Which is what prompted me to contact them.  They were fabulous and forth-coming.  They’d kept records- Are you ready?  These are my top 3 reasons (there were others) that Tilly was returned to the shelter:

Reason number 3-  too active in the house, jumping, hopping, tugging on leash.  Noted.  Although she was getting better about ‘climbing’ the leash.

Reason number 2-  frightened an elder couple- they claimed she bit the woman when they cornered her. Cornered her?  Why?  What happened?  They wouldn’t say, and they also wouldn’t reveal the “bite” marks. Uh-huh.  

And the number 1 reason Tilly was returned to the shelter?  Deaf.  “Doesn’t come when called.”  Yep, Ladies and Gentleman, that was listed as a reason.  So they sent her up North, thinking perhaps she’d have a better chance at a forever home in a more rural setting. That’s us!

I did a lot of things wrong.  A LOT.  She was listed as an American Staffordshire Terrier so I looked that up on Wikapedia and was good to go.  I brought her home- just let her loose in the house, leash attached.  She jumped on the bed and scared the beJesus out of Moses.

But Finn seemed to like her just fine.

He shared his bed with her

And she shared hers as well:

Took her to our vet.  Learned that other than an ear infection, she was healthy.  And oh?  Those marks on her legs and ‘elbows’? Those were “kennel sores” from being crated. Constantly.  No wonder she was a nut ball when we picked her up- zooming all over the place.

She earned several nicknames:  Tilly the tick magnet, that one’s obvious Tilly the Tank, crashed through screen door to greet Daddy, taking door frame with her.  Daddy was not amused.  Tilly the Table Top Ornament, the girl liked bagels- she got herself one- right up on the kitchen table to scarf it down.

She loved hiking the logging roads with Finn and me.  She never strayed far and always kept either Finn or me in her line of vision.  Forty-five minutes seemed to be what she required in order to behave nicely in the house.  So yeah, very high level of activity.  She played well with Finn.  He enjoyed playing with her.

Tug o’ war was their favorite game

And I actually have a video as well.  She wouldn’t let go of the blue ring and Finn hauled her all around the kitchen while she hung on.  It was hysterical to watch.

So what happened?  What went wrong?  I still ask myself those questions…

Coming Clean (part 1)

Yeah, so there’s this:  Rose Marie isn’t the first pit bull I’ve owned.

This is my chair. I like it a lot.

My very first pit bull was Tilly.

home at last…

I found her on Pet Finder,  when her name was “Emily”- the same as my youngest. She was deaf, as was my grandmother- so I took it as a sign. I applied.  No response.  I didn’t pursue it; I had a wonderful dog already:  Finn.  I honestly can’t tell you what prompted me to begin searching for another dog…er,  Wait.  Yes. Yes, I can.  If we’re coming clean here let’s do it.  *Ahem*

Rewind.  When I brought Finn home, Piper was aghast.

This is my pink bird that my girl gave me. I will keep it safe.

Piper was our German Shepherd.  We adored her.  She was getting older, and we’d been told that an older dog can ‘teach’ a younger dog the ropes- the house rules.  Plus, we thought Finn would make Piper ‘younger’.  And honestly?  (yep, let’s be  honest) I’d been without a dog only once in my life…  and it wasn’t going to happen again.

Rewind even further:  Emily was preschooler and Sara was in the second grade when we got Abbey as a puppy.  Abbey grew up with my girls.  Yeah, she chewed the legs off of their Barbie dolls.  But they burned the hair off of them with 175 watt bulbs, so Abbey must have figured legless was ‘ok’.  She was the epitome of a family dog.  She *adored* her girls.  When she died, the girls were in high school. They mourned her passing, as did I, but I wasn’t about even attempting to replace her. How could I possibly? So for the very first time in my life, I/we didn’t have a dog.

It was awful.  No one there to greet you upon coming home.  No boxer boogers. No pretzel dog.  I had tried to convince myself that life would be easier for us all without the responsibility of a dog – we all had “stuff” to do.  But it didn’t take long for us to realize that we were ‘dog’ folk.  Our lives were sorely lacking…

We held a family meeting:  No boxer.  We could never replace Abbey.

Piper.  What a lovely baby.  Tulip ears much too big for her head.  What did Sara call them?  Radar?  Satellite?  She was so easy to train.  Loved her people. Connected to my husband- who didn’t quite know what to make of the adoration and work ethic.  Piper was the first dog we sought professional training for- and never looked back.   Worth EVERY cent.  She came when called.  Sat.  Heeled.  Stayed.  Knew “kennel up”.  She was an amazing dog.

Circling back to “coming clean”…. There were too many years between Piper and Finn.  But, I can counter that- Finn wound up being Piper’s wing man.  She’d lost most of her hearing, but when we hiked up on the logging roads, we never had to worry about leaving her behind.  If she disappeared, all we had to say was, “Finn! Where’s Piper?”  And the chocolate clown would be off-

Let’s go for a walk!

Piper would realize she was being herded back to us and needed to pay attention.  It must have been tough for a girl who had previously always been the herder.  But she took it all with grace.  We had our “Clown Boy” and our “Good Girl”.

It was horrible when it was time to say good-bye to her.  But we weren’t going to let her lose her dignity along with her hearing and the loss of her back legs.  She’d been far to good to us; we owed her that much.

It was about a year later I began looking again for a companion for the Sausage Clown.  My eldest daughter was volunteering at Angell Memorial Hospital and told me all kinds of heart-warming and heart-breaking stories about the animals there.  I knew adoption was the right thing to do.

I found her on Pet Finder- “Emily” a special needs American Staffordshire terrier, approximate age 3, house trained, crate trained, good with kids and other dogs.  I filed an application.  They called!  We were given the name of her foster family to contact so that we might set up an appointment.  I called several times and left several messages.  No response.

Weird.  She must have been adopted.  So life went on.  I was busy.  Finn and I were very happy hiking, playing ball, and riding to the bank together on Saturday mornings.  He was much doted upon, ‘only child’.  Life was good…

Check back soon for part 2 of “Coming Clean”.

“Frankly?” by Finn

So this weekend, Muma told me we’re going away, just the two of us!  Not even annoying, ankle biting  Rose could come.  It was just us.  I love to ride, so the 2-hour trip was a breeze.  We arrived at this wonderful Bed & Breakfast in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Dog-friendly

But when Muma knocked on the door, no one answered!  I didn’t care, because there was a lovely yard and Mum threw the ball for me until the Innkeepers showed up.  Initially, Mum was huffy:  “I made arrangements!  They knew we were coming!”  However, when they arrived to let us in, they were very nice and made a big fuss over me.  I liked that… a lot!

We got situated in our room and then we went for a wonderful walk along a bike path that was near a river so I got to go swimming.  I met a little dog with only one eye- he was very nice.  I met Gypsy- who started to be snarky, but when she realized I was only interested in my tennis ball, swimming, and my muma, she was fine.

When we got back to the Inn, Chef P was making alfredo fresco for dinner.  Muma loves alfredo.  She said it was “to die for”…   I got my regular dinner and a marrow bone.  All was well… until:  I spied a CAT!  Underneath the end table!   What kind of Inn is this?!

This is MY Inn damn-it. What the hell is he doing here?

There was some hissing, swearing, and some other rude comments I didn’t quite catch, but the bottom line was that Miss Z wasn’t happy that I was there!  Can you imagine??  No, neither could I.

Bed time was hard for me.  Where was my bed?  Muma tried to get me to sleep with her, but I didn’t like how her bed felt.  It was too high up.  I need to be down at floor level so I could scope out the place… If there was one kitty lurking, there might be more!  Special ops and all… I finally settled down, but when I heard the neighborhood dogs barking, it was necessary that I reply.  Muma was not pleased.

The next morning, Muma was getting ready for yogurt and this happened:

I am a nasty, lurking Wolf spider… I bite.

Muma threw things in the air,  hollered and ran out of the room.  The Innkeeper arrived, took one look, and said, “I’m going to need another paper towel.”  Yep.  It was that big.  Muma wanted her money back for the room, but the Innkeepers accused her of bringing that nasty spider with her!  Can you imagine?  Muma hates spiders- she would never!

I went to the park with the Innkeeper while Muma was at yogurt.  He threw the ball for me and all was well, until we got back to the Inn and Muma wasn’t there.  I got a little anxious, so he took me outside and he read in the hammock and I lay down on the grass.  Where was Muma?  Did she leave me?

Where is my mum?

All things considered?  give that Inn 5 stars.  Even though they had a cat who sweared at me, the Innkeepers were fabulous.  Muma says only 4 stars on account of that spider.  But frankly?  It’s one of the nicest weekends we’ve had in a long time.