Posts Tagged ‘corgis’

The naturalist Hal Borland wrote a memoir called The Dog Who Came to Stay. You can tell from the title how that story turned out. This story is not that story.

In September we promoted a promising new player to our family: a 10-week-old corgi. We named her Xena, Warrior Puppy.

debate prep
Xena listens to another Republican presidential debate.

Soon we were all in love, despite having to rush her outside in the middle of the night and the accidents on unlucky carpets. We were all planning to live happily ever after.

Right?

Long-term readers of this blog know I’m about to say Wrong!

We lived happily ever after for approximately two months while Xena grew from a 6-pound puff ball into an actual canine. Then she got scared. We don’t know what the trigger was, but I blame the folks on the next block who are addicted to inflatable Disney crap. One night right before Halloween, Xena and I encountered the huge gaseous Minions these style masters had staked to the grass (and the side of the house, and the roof). Xena immediately turned and rushed me homeward. I figured she had good taste.

Wrong!

Over the next three months, Xena conceived a theory of the world as being about as safe as the set of The Walking Dead. She became afraid of cars, trucks, bikes, scooters, and joggers. True to her name, she wanted to fight them. It took me an hour to negotiate a truce between her and our exercise cycle. Xena was suffering from what’s called “reactivity.” It’s uncommon. We were stuck with it.

We read the research. We hired experts. We tried various fixes. We despaired. We couldn’t walk Xena in our own neighborhood. On Tuesdays, when the Trucks of Terror came for our garbage and recycling, my wife and our dog had to be somewhere far away – one of Saturn’s moons, for example. We had to smuggle her into parks, waiting in the car until we had a clear run for the trees. It was like living in O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” where the desperate kidnappers pay the father to take his brat back.

Few things in life are as unsettling as a dog erupting two feet from your head at 4 in the morning because she wants to chase down and kill a freight train trying to sneak past her – a mile away. In all the years we’ve lived with corgis, only one ever reacted to a moving train, and that was because she’d spotted a man standing in the open door of a boxcar. Emma knew that was a safety violation.

No one here at the Bureau was thriving.

Special D finally called the breeder, who said she’d never had a litter like this and that two other people had already returned their pups. We said, we’re returning ours.

It was an emotional decision, made even more emotional by the lengthy drive to the mountain town Xena came from. Now we’d lost three dogs in three years, but this one was still alive. And ready to attack.

Xena was quiet most of the trip (we could only give her breaks in secluded areas off the highway), but when we got within 15 miles of her ancestral home, she started to bark. She knew where she was.

We arrived after dark. Xena almost flew out of the back of the car. I put her in the breeder’s arms. Xena wiggled with joy and licked the woman’s face – and then she turned and licked mine.

She’s saying goodbye, I thought, and she’s pierced my heart. No, of course not, I told myself; humans think that way, not dogs. We endow our dogs with human personalities. We speak for them. But we are not dogs and dogs are not us.

I realized that I couldn’t go through life thinking that I had failed this dog and yet she still had the decency to wish me well.

So I changed my thinking.

Xena is back at the breeder’s, with her mother and two of her siblings, in a rural area with little traffic. She’ll eventually go to a home with a lower threat level than our place. She’ll feel safe. She’ll thrive.

Xena wasn’t saying goodbye on that cold, disturbing night. She was saying thank you.

That was a month ago. Yesterday we brought home a new dog. We’ve named him Lucky. We hope this one will stay.

 

In January we adopted an undersize corgi in need of rescue. Cleo is the abridged version of this type of dog – instead of weighing in around 30 pounds, she only weighs 20. She’s so small that we thought she was not far beyond puppyhood, but our vet says she’s a senior citizen – 10 or 11.

Cleo’s miniaturized frame works well for her because one of her back legs doesn’t work well at all. She probably has the same degenerative nerve condition that struck our last dog, Teddy. Her light weight makes it easier for her other legs to do most of the work. And they do!

Cleo running Jan 2014

This dog streaks like a missile across lawns and beaches and through any open door. She can outrun me in a sprint but not in a marathon. It was when I saw her racing around the perimeter of the large grassy pen where she was being held that I knew I wanted to give this dog a chance. She has a rage to live.

Cleo running looks from behind like a hook-and-ladder fire truck, except there’s no one steering on the back end.

When she’s not charging into the forest to chase another squirrel or racing around the base of our quince bush scolding the chickadees and goldfinches that perch there, she’s happy to curl up and sleep. On the bed, on the couch, on a pile of towels. She loves everyone and expects them all to love her. When we walk her at Reed College, she elicits a cascade of ooohs from coeds that we call The Sopranos Effect. She doesn’t like being left out. She can’t handle stairs, so if I’m downstairs she comes to the landing at the top and makes clicking sounds like the primitive drumbeats in Battlestar Galactica.

Manz Mar 14 Steve vs Cleo
Run-DMSteve takes Cleo for an al fresco editorial conference.

Yesterday we let her off the leash on a baseball field to play with another corgi. This other corgi owned a ball. It turns out that every ball Cleo sees belongs to her and she immediately transformed into Bilbo face-to-face with the Ring. The two dogs ran in circles, barking and snarling, with all of the humans shouting, which to dogs sounds like now we’re all barking. I cut off one of their circles (I haven’t owned herding dogs all these years without learning something) and tackled Cleo with a last-ditch slide. This is too much raging.

I’ve put off writing about Cleo because frankly, given her age and what’s going on with her back leg, we don’t know how long she’s going to last. But she’s already become a valued team member here at the Bureau. She’s probably going to win Employee of the Month for March. It’s time I introduced her.

Tomorrow: What I did on my mid-winter vacation!

Random Pick of the Day
The Smithereens, Blown to Smithereens (1995)
If The Beatles had stayed together, and if in the 1980s they got tired of listening to Simple Minds and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and decided to record something hard and dark but closer to their rock ’n’ roll roots, they might’ve come up with something similar to this.

The Smithereens are a solid band, though some of their songs do trudge along. If you like sad, they can deliver. “Beauty & Sadness” and “Only a Memory” touch the heart. “A Girl Like You” and “House We Use to Live in” rock so very hard. “Miles From Nowhere” borrows riffs from but none of the fun of The B-52s’ “Roam” and Duran Duran’s “Rio.” “Time Won’t Let Me” is a really bad cover.

And now that I’ve twice put “Rio” in your head, let’s all enjoy one of the funniest videos of all time. Oh, to dress in a tailored suit and engage in lip synchronization on a sailboat! If only they could’ve worked this into All Is Lost.

This is about as primeval as I get these days. At around 2pm we were sitting on a ridge in the Cascades under a clear blue dome of a sky, eating steak leftovers, cholla, apples, and a red pepper. We could see Mount Jefferson to the south, Hood looming above us on the west, and running across our northern horizon the flat-topped St. Helens, the ghostly Rainier, and Adams, which could easily play Rainier’s stunt double. And this gorgeous spot wasn’t even two miles from the trailhead!

Now it’s almost lights out. I’ve put in my Write-a-thon hour, packed my lunch, and lined up my music for the work week (the first 12 Dave Clark Five albums). I’ve been practicing phrases that might prove useful with my new co-workers:

“Oh, was that your lunch?”
“Stop spamming me.”
“I did not visit that site!”

Tomorrow morning, my first day, will no doubt begin with the usual sacred ceremonies: The Ritual Bestowal of the Temporary Passwords, the Pilgrimage to the Blessed Network Server, and the Holy Resetting of the Temporary Passwords. Then we get down to business. This is going to be a good week.

Wait! It’s the last week of the Write-a-thon!
This is going to be a good week with some crowded evenings. No music reviews this week. I gotta concentrate.

Mick Jagger just turned 70
This is freaking me out. In fact, I’m super-freaking. I distinctly remember in the spring of 1973, when I was in junior high, discussing Mick Jagger’s impending 30th birthday with a friend in the school library. I had just started reading Rolling Stone and one of their writers said that Jagger would no longer be relevant. I parroted this to my friend who scornfully asked, Why not?

I couldn’t answer him. This taught me not to parrot whatever I read in Rolling Stone or anywhere else, but that writer wasn’t far off. After Exile on Main Street (1972), things went downhill for the Stones (with one last hurrah in 1978 with Some Girls).

Happy birthday, Mick! You are seriously freaking me out.

Box score
– I’ve written 30 days out of 36
– 38 total hours
– Word count: 22,000. FWIW, I have a 5,000-word file of dialog, scenes, and notes on characters that will all (or mostly?) find their way into the book as I get to them.
– This was my first post on the Write-a-thon

My sponsors (all hail):
– Karen G. Anderson
– Laurel Sercombe
– Mitch Katz

 

I’m starting a new job on Monday. It’s a contract job, and it might only last until Thanksgiving, but I’m hoping for something longer. It’s a good job and I’m excited about it. Satisfying assignments! Interesting co-workers! Payday!

It’s been an unsettled time, filled with networking, interviews, freelancing, conferences, more networking, and too much time on LinkedIn. Do I wish I had written more during these months? Of course I do. But I wrote what I wrote and page by page I’m going to get where I want to go.

We celebrated my new status by eating too much pizza. We’re going to walk it off tomorrow while hiking around Mt. Hood. Mountain ridges, views of distant peaks, alpine meadows, mountain flowers. And in two weeks, payday!

One more day in the Write-a-thon is in the books. Literally.

Random Pick of the Day 1.0
David Byrne, The Catherine Wheel (1981)
Most of David Byrne’s solo work leaves me cold, but what I like I like a lot, and that includes about half the 23 songs on this disc. The lyrics are subpar by Byrne standards, but the music often rises above – way above. I was an idiot for not appreciating this album 30 years ago.

Random Pick of the Day 2.0
Bobby Fuller Four, I Fought the Law (1966)
Bobby Fuller (who died at 23) was a talented man who loved the music of Buddy Holly (who died at 22). This record is a vision of what Holly might’ve sounded like if he’d lived, except I have the feeling that if Holly had lived past 1959, he would’ve changed a heckuva lot by 1966.

Fuller’s work is particularly interesting in that it was recorded against the tidal wave of the British Invasion and on the cusp of psychedelia. Fuller is known today solely for his version of “I Fought the Law,” but frankly I think everyone else does it better. I prefer his originals, especially “King of the Beach,” “Baby My Heart,” and “Nervous Breakdown.” They were released on other albums or as singles, but later releases of the BF4 are usually called I Fought the Law and sometimes include them. Bobby Fuller’s catalog has been messed up by decades of nostalgia but is worth exploring.

 

Teddy Ballgame

Posted: June 13, 2013 in Dog reviews, Miscellaneous
Tags: , , ,

Teddy 08

His original name was Schroeder. He’d lost two homes by the time he was four. His first home was overcrowded. His second was negligent. He lived on the streets for a week. He came to us in October 2004 through CorgiAid and a series of coincidences worthy of  A Tale of Two Cities or Les Misérables. We named him Teddy, after a collie my Dad’s family had in the 1950s. Teddy won the lottery, and that first month we had him, the Red Sox won the World Series. We gave him his first nickname, Teddy Ballgame, after the great Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams.

Like all pets, Teddy collected many other names (Teodoro, Teddilini, Teddilicious, The Tedster, Mr. T.), but the important thing to him was having a permanent address. He worked hard to fit in. He studied us as if we were his senior thesis. He was younger, larger, and stronger than our senior dog, Emma, but he bared his neck to her and followed her lead. (When Emma decided to retire, she ceded all of her duties to Teddy, even though they had no written language and no HR department to manage the transition.)

Watch and learn, kid
Emma to Teddy: “Watch and learn, kid!”

In 2005, my sister and her daughter, Isabelle, visited us. Isabelle was 6. We couldn’t predict how Teddy would act with a small child. We found out later that Teddy had had these creatures in his first home. He melted in Isabelle’s presence. Anything she wanted to do, he’d do. Isabelle wrote Teddy a couple of letters after she left. Teddy dutifully answered them. Isabelle wanted to believe that Teddy was corresponding with her, but she had her suspicions. She told my mother, “I think Uncle Stevie is helping Teddy write these letters.”

Critters in motion
Critters in motion.

Teddy was a champion sleeper who could launch himself at his bed from three feet away and land curled up and conked out. But wide awake he ran amuck whenever visitors arrived. Then he found himself in lockdown (the back room). He was not much of a cuddler. He wrestled when you picked him up. He wrestled when you brushed him. He wrestled when you toweled him off. He barked louder than God and was more stubborn than Pharaoh. It was impossible not to love him.

Steve + Teddy guard the house 0607
Steve and Teddy guard the house.

Teddy never chased squirrels or cats out of our yard unless we made an official request. He disapproved of cats outside and feared them inside. He once tried to climb on Deborah’s head when a cat entered the room where they were sitting. He was not a good puppy player – he either didn’t like other dogs or didn’t know what to do with them. He wasn’t overweight but he was built like a tank. (A vet told me, “No, tanks are built like Teddy.”) He disliked running – even when he was young, I could outrun him. He wouldn’t run after an object unless that object was an Alpo Snap.

Teddy & tulips 1 April 2008
Ready for the county fair.

There was no place Teddy would rather be than with us, whether he was sleeping on the cool tiles of the hearth while we watched TV or under the table while we talked or riding in the car and hearing our voices or walking the banks of the Boise River or the beach at Manzanita or a college campus here in Portland. He especially liked it when we were all at home. Sometimes he’d sit on the back deck and look through the window at us inside. I like to think he was marveling at his good fortune, but he was a herding dog. Maybe he was just congratulating himself on keeping both of us in the barn.

Teddy waits for a lift 0108
Stairway to Teddy.

Our friend Bob says that when a dog can’t be a dog anymore, you’ve reached the end. As pet owners we have to have the guts to recognize that and act on it. We did that today. Teddy was 13. He’d come a long way for a small dog who started off in Tulsa and was homeless in Idaho.

Iron Mt 070410 wildflowers
Teddy conquers the wilderness.

Teddy loved kibble, scrambled eggs, baby carrots, the stalks of romaine leaves, rawhide chews, sidewalk mystery snacks, all representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, and coeds. For years he patiently sat on his pillow in the living-room window and watched the street until he willed us both to return home. I’ll miss that furry face in the window, our guardian, friend, and fellow traveler. Farewell, Teddy Ballgame, and thank you for walking us all this way.

Teddy worried about the snow 1208

Emma: Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

Flying baby

Sailor: Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

Teddy: Blue Cheer, Louder Than God

Emma and Sailor are gone but Teddy barks on!

Addendum from the future (2016):

Manz Mar 14 Cleo in flight

Cleo: Quicksilver Messenger Service, Happy Trails