My dog is giving me sad eyes. He wants to go out for a walk, but the sky is like lead and the temperature has dropped so far I’m wearing jeans and a winter sweater instead of my usual summer attire. My flip-flops are discarded, and I even have socks on – and meanwhile, rain patters on the sidewalk and thunder growls somewhere in the distance. And still I get the sad-eyed look from my dog, who seems to reproach me for not donning boots and raincoat and splashing out for an adventure. He’ll win, eventually. He knows how to communicate. Dogs may be limited to barks, whines and growls – they can make themselves understood. This morning, I was awoken by his “I’m hungry! Wake up and feed me!” whine. It’s annoying, and yet, when I get up and glare at him, he wags his tail so hard it’s hard to remember why I’m cross. He spins in a happy circle, making me laugh, and leads the way to his bowl – pointing with his nose to make sure I’ve gotten the message. After he eats, he likes to nap for a while, preferably on the balcony when weather permits. Then it’s the next round of signals. He’ll come over to me and look at me expectantly. I’m supposed to stop whatever I’m doing and go get the leash. If I don’t, he’ll whine at me – (not the “I’m hungry” whine, it’s more of a “Hey! I have to go pee!”) If I don’t understand, he’ll go to the door and look back, making eye contact with me, and making it clear he wants out. Once outside, his signals are different – he’s at the end of a leash, so we have to agree on our route. If he’s not happy, he’ll duck his head down and plant his feet – bringing us both to a screeching halt. Then he’ll look up and point his nose towards where he wants to go. It’s my decision – and if I need to go the opposite way (bakery – post office…) I have to explain. Otherwise he won’t budge. Oddly enough, if I tell him, “Look, Auguste, I have to post this letter. We’ll go by the park, OK?” He’ll usually perk up and trot ahead. If I just drag him along, he’ll sulk for the whole walk – and there is nothing as silly-looking as a sulky dachshund being dragged along with his leash. After our walk, he’s happy to come home, and he’ll usually ask me to play with him for a few minutes. He’ll go to the balcony and bark at me to join him. When I do, he’ll prance and grab one of his water bottles, and pretend he wants me to throw it for him. I say “pretend”, because when I do get it away from him, he’s terrified I’ll throw it off the balcony (by accident – it’s happened – I’m not very coordinated). But he pretends he wants me to toss it, so I do, and he dashes after it, and then he goes and hides behind a plant so I can’t get his precious bottle. Right now, he’s curled up on his bed, and he’s unhappy because there is some thunder outside (he doesn’t like it) and I won’t take him for a walk. (We went this morning). He’s also waiting for Julia to come so we can go to the stables (after the rain passes, we’ll go this afternoon) and then he’ll be the most excited dog on the planet – whirling in circles in the hallway, sometimes barking (he so rarely barks it seems to surprise him as much as us), and running back and forth to make sure we hurry. Here’s what Julia does. She stops and hides behind the corner. Auguste runs ahead, turns back, sees no one following, and comes rushing back to find us. Julia pops out with a “Boo!“, and August jumps ( one of these days she’ll give him a heart attack and we’ll have to resuscitate him), and then he tilts his head as if to say “Will you stop fooling around? Life is serious – and much too short!” And he’s right. He’s already 12, and we almost lost him once. Life is far too short – especially for dogs. So as soon as it stops raining, you can imagine us heading for the door – off to splash through some puddles!
My twins bugged me for years about getting hamsters, but since we had a cat I told them “no.” So when the cat died (of old age) the boys and I went to the pet shop and bought hamsters. I wanted two males or two females – of course we got one of each sex. And they had little wrestling matches (delighted comments from the boys) I rushed out and bought a second cage – too late – at 6 a.m. we were woken up by Sebi screaming that “Brownie has Kittens!” And sure enough – in Brownie’s cage were five tiny pink…things. Baby hamsters are Not cute in the beginning. The twins (aged 10) named the new babies (Verb, Adverb, Paragraph, Page, and Cootie.) Cootie being the runt of the litter.
My daughter, aged two, loved to play with the hamsters and would take them out of their cage. I would tell her to put them back or they’d bite. She didn’t care. She got bitten a few times but it just made her stop squeezing them so hard.
One day I was vacuuming the dining room and my daughter (2 years old) came running in screaming “Stop Stop – the babies are all over!” She’d taken them out to play and left them in the dining room. Horrified I stopped the vacuum cleaner and started to look for one-inch-long baby hamsters. I found four, but not Cootie. Hands shaking, I started to take apart my vacuum cleaner, when I noticed our dog, Fudge, lying under the table licking her paws.
Eyes narrowed, I crouched down and said, “Fudge, bring it over here!” Sheepishly, she got up and walked over and spit a tiny hamster out onto my outstretched hand. The hamster was a little wet (well, a lot wet) but intact and perfectly fine. I sighed and put all the babies back with their mother, and put the cage high, where my daughter couldn’t reach it.
The baby hamsters all found good homes with the twins’ schoolmates. (The hamsters were also invited to spend a week in my daughter’s kindergarten class, where the mother hamster promptly bit the pricipal’s thumb much to the children’s delight.)
About a month later my daughter set the father hamster free in our garden. (“But he wanted to play in the bushes!”) and the mother hamster lived on for a few more years and then died peacefully in her bed. (Hamsters only live about 3 years, so don’t get too attached to them)
The twins, by then, had another hamster that they “rescued from a bunch of ‘wild hamsters’ in the pet shop that were picking on him” – he was the smallest hamster I’ve ever seen. He looked like a gray walnut with long, wild, Einstien hair.
He was so weak and sickly the boys named him Kenny – after the South Park character who was always dying. Kenny didn’t grow very much bigger, but he lived to a ripe old age of nearly 5 years – an amazing feat for a hamster. He was also the sweetest hamster, and never bit anyone, not even children or principals. When Kenny died, an old hamster practially all white by now and moving stiffly like an old man – (he died sitting in his food dish, so it took us a while to figure out he was actually dead) we decided to give away the hamster cage and not have anymore small animals. Until my daughter wanted goldfish. But that’s another story.
There is an expression, “Sick as a dog”, that means just what it says – when dogs get sick, they get very sick. When Auguste was a puppy, he got his first or second round of vaccinations, and when I took him home and looked at him, I noticed I couldn’t see his eyes anymore. His little face was all puffy and his eyes were just slits. I rushed him back to the vets, where he got some emergency care for a violent allergic reaction. A few hours later, we were back home, Auguste asleep on Julia’s lap, his face back to normal.
A few years later, I noticed a bump on his back, near his spine. It looked like a blood blister, but I took him to the vet, and she took a sample and had it tested. It turned out to be a particularly nasty sarcoma – so off that went. Operation, recuperation, home for the holidays. He has a small scar, but everything healed nicely.
Auguste loves bones – he used to get veal bones as a treat – until the day he ate his, then stole Rusty’s veal bone and ate that too – and got an intestinal obstruction. That was serious. I rushed him to the vet after seeing him walking around, straining. He spent nearly a week at the clinic and came back home covered in feces, but healed. I dumped him in the bath, scrubbed him, and put him out on the porch in the sun to dry (he was so tired, all he could do was sleep). He had a large, infected sore on his back too, and as he lay outside, a fly laid its eggs in it, and the next day, he was covered in maggots. It was horrifying – but oddly enough, they cleaned the sore so well it healed within days and never left a mark.
Auguste didn’t learn from his bone debacle. He scarfs down anything he can fit into his jaw – crunches and swallows it before we can get it away from him. Most of the time, we can, if we act quickly, grab his muzzle and stick our fingers into his mouth to pull the whatever it is he’s eating (dead bird, chicken bone, fossilized pizza crust, candy along with wrapping…) out of his jaw. But he’s a dachshund – he is low to the ground and he’s fast – he smells garbage and dives at it before we can see it! The upshot of that is he gulps a lot of garbage – and he comes home and is sick afterwards. Our conversations go like this: “Quick! He’s sick! Get him off the rug!” “Where did he go today? The stables? Weren’t you watching him?!” “Of course I was! (fingers crossed behind back – who can watch a dog every second?) He went into bushes!” “What did he eat?” “How should I know. Ugh. You clean it up!”
Sick as a dog. Makes sense – they eat everything and decide later if they want to keep it. But then, yesterday, he didn’t look good at all, and he refused his food. That made 2 days in a row. We took him straight to the vet, and he was diagnosed with a large tumor in the spleen. How did we miss it? I was devastated, but the vet reassured me. Apparently these tumors develop in less than a month – in three weeks it can go from nothing to a grapefruit size. Auguste didn’t even notice until it started to press on his stomach, taking away his appetite. He wasn’t in any pain – he just seemed slightly less boisterous than usual – and as he’s nearing his 12 year birthday, we figured he’d finally calmed down.
An emergency surgery took place last night. He’s resting this morning (minus one spleen & tumor). Hopefully he’ll be able to come home in a few days and with any luck, he’ll be up and around in a matter of weeks – ready to go back to the stables, chase cats, ride Kalin with Julia, and eat all the garbage he finds on the ground!
I remember when Auguste was a puppy, and he used to hunt the lizards in our garden. When he saw one, he’d bark and run at it, and whine in frustration when it escaped (it always escaped). He would stare at the spot he last saw the lizard. He would remember the spot and go back the next day to stare – and never notice the lizard sunning itself on a nearby rock.
I remember when Rusty was a puppy. She had an undershot jaw, so the breeder sold her to us for a pittance. When we took her to the vet, just days after we bought her, he examined her and said she was perfect. No problems with her jaw. We figured she’d held her jaw like that, so we could buy her.
When Fudge was a puppy, she started to sleep on Alexander’s bed. She slept on the foot of his bed all her life – and I never realized it, because she’d slip in his room after we went to bed, and would be back in her own bed in the hallway when Stef came downstairs in the morning. I remember when Fudge brought us a baby bunny. We kept it for a few days and released it into the wild. Fudge was always bringing pets into the house. Once she found a kitten. They slept in the same bed. She carried the kitten around until it grew too big and dragged on the ground.
I remember Auguste would often dig under the fence to run about in the village, and the postman would bring him back. “I have a package for you,” he’d say, holding Auguste under his arm.
I remember my very first dog, a golden collie named Lassie. Yes, I named her. I was only 5, give me a break!
My husband and I bought Fudge for the twins when they were five. We told them they were going to have a surprise – a D-O-G. They were all excited – they thought we were getting them GI Joes.
Rusty was Julia’s birthday present the year she turned five. The little chocolate Lab with the undershot jaw, (that wasn’t undershot at all). Rusty was sweet, but she would leap on Julia and knock her down. Labs are rambunctious. Julia used to go outside with Stef’s riding whip to keep Rusty from making her fall. They ended up best freinds. Julia trained Rusty to do tricks with a hoola hoop. I never saw a dog jump straight up in the air in the hoop, like Julia taught Rusty to do.
I remember when Fudge snarled at a boy of about twelve. I was shocked and grabbed her by the collar, intending to punish her, when the boy pulled a knife out of his pocket. I let go of Fudge, and she chased the boy out of the park. Fudge defended her twins. She would sit by them, and if anyone suspicious came near, she would utter a low, menacing growl and bare her teeth. Not many people came nearer.
Rusty never growled, nor did she bark. She was a silent dog. The only time I heard her barking, I rushed outside to find her running around a hedgehog in the garden. She must have tried to bite it and pricked her nose.
I remember Auguste and Rusty would lie on their backs in the hallway with their legs propped on the wall. When someone knocked on the door, they would open their eyes, and wag their tails – but otherwise would not move. They were the worst guard dogs in the world. Fudge was an amazing guard dog, and would bark when a stranger came to the door. She also hated gypsies and would become hysterical if they approached. I think it is because they often carry knives.
I remember when we first saw Auguste. We went to pick out a puppy from the litter, and he was the biggest, fuzziest puppy. When we stepped into their kennel, he was the first to rush over and he tried to untie Julia’s shoelaces. She picked him out. We gave him to Stef as a surprise for Christmas. We put him under a box, but when he went to pick up the box, Auguste ran, and the box slid across the floor. I’ll always remember the expression on Stef’s face!
We have a few homeless people in our town who sit in front of the post office or bakery. I usually ask them if they would mind holding my dog’s leash while I post letters or buy bread, then pay them for dog-sitting. Once, I left my dog with a man outside the store and came back to find a huge bag of dogfood had been given to his “minder” by a woman concerned about the dog. I gave the man his fee, plus full price for the bag of dog food as thanks. He thought it was hilarious. I did too, actually. My dog is a purebred dachshund with a really posh collar, and the man had explained the dog wasn’t his – but the woman had gone back into the store to buy the dog food for him since she was worried about the “homeless dog”. What galled the man was that she’d not given him anything!
Poor Auguste has a cold. He has sniffles, and coughs. It started Monday evening, when he kept us up all night with a hoarse, choking cough. The next day, I made chicken broth, which he loved, and Julia gave him some honey. He was still pretty sick, and looked like he had aches and pains. He also sneezed a lot. So on Thursday, after three days of treating him to warm cuddly blankets next to the radiator, lots of chicken soup and doggy biscuits dipped in honey, we took him to the vet, who said he had the dreaded kennel cough doggy flu, and gave him a shot, a week’s worth of cough syrup, antibiotics, as well as some anti inflammatory pills for his sore throat. Continue reading
Auguste never used to get up on the couch. He was a good dog. And then one day, he just decided he wanted to sleep on the sofa. We walked in the living room one morning, and there he was, curled up and sound asleep. Continue reading
We’re a dog family. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have a dog. When I was a baby, we had two golden Labs – Cain and Abel. I don’t remember them at all, but I do remember a golden collie named Lassie. I must have been 4 when we got her. She was sweet and silly, and was run over by a car and killed a few years later. It was my first heartbreak so I remember very clearly. I was in Sunday school then and was glad that there was a heaven, so she’d be waiting for me up there. When my Sunday school teacher said that dogs didn’t have souls, and therefore would not be in heaven, I decided I’d rather go to Hell. Continue reading
Today was a chilly, blustery day and we headed out to a horse show. Julia was the only rider from her club, so she went with Kalin and her coach, Marion, and I followed with Auguste and lunch. The show was running late, so I mostly ambled around walking Auguste, watching some of the ponies, and keeping an eye on the multitude of dogs running around without leashes. Auguste is a small dachshund, and although he is tough enough to hunt wild boars, he is a dismal fighter and I’m always worried he’ll get attacked by a big, mean dog – which is exactly what happened today at the show. Continue reading