Posts Tagged ‘Teddy’

Sometime around 1990 I broke a shovel while trying to lever a stump out of my wife’s garden. I walked up the hill to our neighborhood hardware store and asked one of the boys there for a good shovel. I’d like to think this was bearded Greg, our favorite. Whoever it was handed down a shovel from the wall rack and said, “This is our best.”

Greg wasn’t kidding. I used that shovel in the yards and gardens of the three houses we’ve owned, digging holes for the A-Z of green growing things that Special D has planted and digging out the remains of plants that displeased her. I moved rocks. I dug post holes. I dug a ditch when one of our pipes burst underground and the plumber, who couldn’t maneuver a back hoe in the confined space at the side of our house, threatened to do it himself for a breathtaking $100 per hour.

I levered out many a stump of a plant or tree that just didn’t work anymore. I’m good at it; so good, in fact, that my metal name is Stümp Gryndr, though the sporting press refers to me as Death to Rooted Things. Here’s an azalea stump I vanquished in 2009, with a 35-pound corgi, the late Teddy, for scale:

Teddy digs it out 0909
Notice: No corgis were hurt or inconvenienced in the extraction and removal of this stump. This corgi received a transfer of one (1) Alpo Snap as soon as he was released from duty.

But last week I fought a four-year-old vine maple stump and the stump won. My shovel gave me 25 years of good service. I wish I could give you the name of the manufacturer but I long ago wore any corporate iconography off the handle.

Recycle, reuse, spend some intimate time with your tools
As a New Englander, I hate waste. What was I going to do with a broken shovel? Turn it into a stake for the garden. You pound these into the corners and when you drag your hoses across the lawn the stake keeps you from decapitating something your spouse might get wicked mad about.

Here’s the patient before surgery.

Shovel 1

Cut off the blade. I took it to my local recycler and lowered it, after a moment of respectful silence, into the metals bin.

Shovel 2

I sliced off the rubber jacket, which amazingly had stayed snug to the handle all these years, and exposed the original color of the wood.

Shovel 3

Then, through a mysterious process known only to me and Black & Decker, I sharpened one end.

Shovel 4

The result is a stake that’s just over a yard long (one full meter to the Russian Federation reader who visited this blog today). Use a heavy hammer to bury it about halfway. Here’s a stake I made earlier this summer:

Shovel 5

What if you don’t want to wait until you break a shovel?
You could invite me over to break one. Better yet, go to estate sales. The people who are passing away now and taking leave of their earthly possessions bought long-handled garden tools in an era when those handles were made of a dense wood that lasts a long time underground and exposed to the weather. I usually find them for a dollar or two. Recycle the metal business end and I won’t yell at you!

On the day I broke my shovel, I walked up the hill to our neighborhood hardware store and asked one of the boys there for a good shovel. I told him my story and said, “I’ll be back for my next shovel around 2040.” He said, solemnly, “I will not be working here.”

Next post: I’m gonna fill you full of lead (No. 2-5/10).

Random Pick of the Day
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell, Petra Haden and Bill Frisell (2003)
Includes their exquisite covers of Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe” and Coldplay’s “Yellow,” though you also have to put up with their perspectives on “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Random Pan of the Day
Randy Newman, Land of Dreams (1988)
Some beautiful piano work here, particularly on “Dixie Flyer,” but most of it sounds like Mr. Newman’s many many many soundtracks. The rap parodies were funny in 1988, if you were white and nervous about rap. And yet this is the guy who gave us Sail Away (how can you beat “You Can Leave Your Hat On”?) and the soundtrack to The Natural (which brought the whole movie to life).

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.

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