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My friends call me Elldee. And breaking the half century mark has been highly motivating: happy wife, mother, writer, teacher, day dreamer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My life with dogs

Lovey - ready for any adventure

I have had several dogs in my life, all lovely ladies. Each has given me years of devotion, enthusiastic support, and a warm sympathetic shoulder.  This post honors the girls no longer with us along with the two that currently make our lives a delight.
KELLY: a standard red dachshund my father acquired at the local pound in Costa Mesa, California.  She was already grown and well-seasoned with experience around children or she would have run away upon entering a house with five kids under the age of seven and a quite settled cat.  All of us, including the cat, formed an instant attachment to her.  She endured being wrapped up to look like she was wearing a babushka, aka my baby brother's rather rangy blanket; carried about by my sisters and I with an arm wrapped about her upper torso and the rest dangling down to our knees; and numerous moves about the country (CA to MN to CA to PA to MA to NJ) all in less than four years). My strongest memory of that little lady occurred during a thunderstorm when I was eight.  The towering oak growing just outside our den was hit by lightening sending a twenty-foot-long, eight-inch in diameter limb to the ground where we normally kept our boat which had been moved to the backyard to undergo repairs (excellent timing for an engine update).  Our father was out on a date.  We spent the evening searching for Kelly.  It was a bit of a treasure hunt to us kids.  She'd been there in the den moments before the tree limb crashed to the ground.  We were moving to the upstairs to search further when our father arrived.  He kept telling us she would show herself when she was ready, but he followed us about on our search any way.  Found: Spare bedroom, armchair with skirting around the bottom, two white starred burgundy eyes reflected the flashlight we'd shown underneath it.  In that splash of light, those eyes wiggled and nearly sent us scurrying back down stairs.  My father caught us mid-scramble and checked under the chair to pull out Kelly who was fit to shake her bones out from inside her own skin.

She had style.
LADY:  a lab the color of milk chocolate who looked like a bear cub as a pup, pudgy, with hair that stood on end like fuzz.  She leaped off an overlook, by accident, of course.  She was jumping up to sit on the top of a low rock wall where my husband was standing looking down, and over she went, slipping due to the ice on the top.  She fell a good fifty feet and landed on the only section of dirt in a carved out rock ledge.  We  raced back to the house, located rope, a large side-open duffel bag and a warm blanket.  We skidded our way back through icy roads hoping she hadn't moved from the small ledge.  When we returned to the site, it had snowed in our absence of more than an hour.  (Yes, I should have stayed, but my husband was not about to leave me alone at an empty roadside overlook.)  We ran to the rock wall and looked over.  Neither of us could see any sign of her.  We screamed her name.  Imagine two people leaning over a wall yelling, "Lady! Hey, Lady."  Aw,  we can laugh now.  Suddenly, a small snow flurry appeared on the rock ledge below.  And there was our girl looking up at us. She was clearly stiff, cold and frightened.  We scrambled to tie off ropes and toss over the bag with its tether which I kept hold off, having nothing else to clutch as my husband preceded to repel down the cliff edge to get to her.  Mind you, he had never repelled in his life, but at 24 he felt fairly confident that day was not going to be his last.  She waited for him right up until she saw he intended to stuff her inside a bag and zipper it up.  She fought him with every fiber of her six-month-old canine body.  But she didn't know he was not going to waste his time nearly killing himself going down and then up a cliff without bringing back the spoils.  He won, then climbed back up.  I learned how to pray better that day.  Then the two of us pulled up the bag, unzipped it, pulled her out and wrapped her double in a blanket.  No broken bones, lots of little cuts and one sizable half moon slice in a foot that showed bone and tendons when lifted -- so stitches and a white bandage she was quite proud of was her only souvenir, that and a fear of heights.

Lovey - bathing beauty
LOVEY:  Lived to be fifteen years old, a deep chocolate Labrador, seventy-six pounds of solid rock.  She tangled with something in our back yard.  She had in a matter of two minutes managed to acquire a slice in her scalp that laid bare a good two inches of skull and two punctures in her chin.  I was about five months pregnant at the time and had college class to get to, but I hauled her off to the vet and left her sedated to get bandaged, and returned from class to pick her up.  The vet had found it necessary to shave the top of her round crown, trim tissue around the cut and stitch her up with fourteen stitches, fourteen very stiff, long black stitches which stood up from her head like a Mohawk haircut due to the tightness at which he had had to pulled the skin together. Her favorite activities were swimming, having shovelfuls of snow dumped on her while the driveway was cleared and running circles around my husband as he road his dirt bike.

Our girls today.
And now LACEY & CAGNEY:  One is a deep chocolate brown, nearly black Labrador, while the other is the palest of yellow labs.  They curl up like reverse image bookends, and we wonder if they choreograph their positioning.  The blonde loves the vet even though he is always treating her for allergies, while the other who hasn't a physical complaint to speak of acts like she is off to her death every time we go in for yearly shots.  She curls her toes so her steel-hard nails become ice skates then slips all over the vet's linoleum floor getting more and more out of control as she loses her balance and her grace while Cagney looks on as if to say, "Really, I can't take you anywhere."  Of course, this observation is coming from a Labrador that cannot traverse the back yard without checking for unfriendlies along every foot of the walkway.  Opposites, absolute opposites.
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