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Friday, November 13, 2015

POST #47: THE LAST DOG BLOG (more to come)

So far, my 30 Plus years of dog ownership have taught me that I always have more to learn.  I should never be complacent in thinking I know the right way to do things.


 
I have learned that dogs can fly.


 
I have learned about trust and I have learned about the value of being dependable.

I have learned about silent companionship.

 

I have learned about forgiveness.


 
I have learned about jealousy.


 
I have learned how to be a better neighbor.
I have learned the importance of a good veterinarian.


 
I have learned about aging gracefully and acceptance of the physical changes that come with age.



 
I have learned about showing respect.



 
I have learned to never underestimate a dog’s loyalty.  Do not ever underestimate his or her ability to be protective of the pack.


 
I have learned that dogs can climb trees.  But that they need help coming back down.


 
I have learned that sleeping with dogs is not such a bad thing.  Unless it is in the summer and you have no air conditioning.



 
I have learned how to be brave even when facing an unknown threat.
I have learned the value of teamwork when facing down a threat.


 
I have learned how to step in and help or to take charge when others are scared.
I have learned a lot about unconditional love.  Loving someone and being loyal to them is possible even when you have been neglected and left outside to fend for yourself.
I have learned about the depth of grief for the loss of a loved one, and the sense of powerlessness when you watch the loved one die, or the guilt over feeling that you haven’t done everything in your power to stop the loss.




 


I have learned that sometimes you really can’t undo your past.  All you can do is learn from your mistakes and go forward.  I have learned that mistakes hurt.  But, if you pay attention you really do become a better person.

Living with dogs has helped me grow in my own capacities for human emotions.  Many folks say that a dog is an animal, and animals do not have the capacity for emotion.  A dog’s place was outside according to my grandparents.  They were part of the livestock, and they had a job to do: protect the other livestock. I’ve had friends tell me they would never allow a dog into their house because they are messy and dirty. 

I got mixed messages from my parents while growing up.  Sometimes our dogs would be allowed inside, but my parents’ attitude still seemed to be one of “they are only animals.”

I shared that opinion when we got our first dog, Spike, and continued with our second dog, Katie.  We wouldn’t let them in the house, except on rare occasions.  We treated them more like animals than family members. 

Opening our home to PD, and then Henry, and then Frank has really changed my mind about a dog’s capacity for emotion.  These dogs, pets, family members have changed my mind about my capacity to learn of my own humanity and emotional attachments.

They’ve also changed my mind about dirt.  I mean really, is dirt that evil?  People lived on dirt floors for centuries, and it brushes right off.  Surely it isn’t healthy for you to avoid contact with all dirt.

Whether they were outdoors dogs or inside dogs, they have all helped me learn about unconditional love, and all of the emotions that come along with that kind of love.

My dogs will continue to amaze me and to amuse me.  And I am sure there are new lessons out there for me to learn from PD and Frank.  But for now, it is time to say goodbye to those of you who have been reading along with me.  It is time to put these musing about living with dogs aside.  I have enjoyed writing these memories.  The writings have helped to examine my own thoughts, feelings and behavior, and have helped me gain some self-insight.  Hopefully, these have been of interest to you, the reader, as well.

Thank you Spike.  Thank you Katie, Thank you Henry.  Thank you PD and Frank for the lessons you have taught me.




And thank you, Reader, for following along as I’ve relived the adventures I have shared with these wonderful family members.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

POST #46: DOGGY ADDICTION

Frank has an addiction.  I know this is an addiction because he spends all of his time and energy trying to get to this substance.  He continues to seek it, despite experiencing negative consequences.  And it seems like he craves more and more.  Those are all signs of an addiction.


His addictive substance?

Frogs!

 

Frank spends all evening looking for them.  Unfortunately, this year happened to be exceptionally wet during the spring and early summer.  Which means that this is an exceptionally froggy year.

It started out innocently enough.  We had a couple of toads in our backyard in our little patio home on Balboa.  Frank pursued just one toad.  We were able to stop him from eating it, but Frank remembered the bitter taste, and he remembered the thrill of the hunt.

Yes, Frank is a thrill-seeker, too.


 
Most toads and frogs emit a toxic substance through their skin.  This is supposed to discourage predators from eating them.  Frank, on the other hand, seems to enjoy the taste, the bitterness, and tingly sensation in his mouth, and the way his saliva will start foaming out of his mouth.  He sees nothing wrong with shaking his head and slinging slobber all over the floor, himself, and anyone who happens to be standing nearby.  Slinging the foamy slobber onto his face and back allows him to actually wear the frog toxin.  Maybe this is some kind of badge of achievement among those dogs who are addicted to frogs.  Maybe it just serves to remind him of the fun and joy he’s had chasing down the frogs.

PD and Henry both went through a phase when they thought frogs were worthy prey.  But they both grew tired of the game, and they didn’t care for the after – effects of the foamy mouth.

Frank, however, just can’t seem to get enough.


 
This has been a year of rain, rather than drought.  And with so many years of drought behind us, the few surviving frogs in the area got busy making tadpoles.  I cannot take a single step into my yard without setting at least three frogs into motion.

And Frank wants to play with every one of them.  Frank is mostly addicted to the chase.  When he finds a frog, he will start by barking.  Most prey know that it is best to sit still, try to blend into the background, and hope the predator can’t see them.  So, when Frank starts barking, the frogs will freeze in place.

This is not what Frank wants!  He wants a chase.  So, he puts his nose, and sometimes his mouth, on the frog.  The frog jumps.  Frank is happy.  His tail wags.  And he barks again.  He wants more!  Frank keeps barking at the frog to keep it moving.  Every time the frog stops, Frank touches it to get it going again.  Sometimes, the poor frog gets really tired.  Frank has to get more aggressive, giving the frog a little nip.  This is usually when his mouth starts to foam, and the excitement grows.

 

Unfortunately, Frank will get too aggressive at times.  He’ll accidently kill the frog.  I don’t think Frank intends to do this.  I’m not real sure he understands what he’s done.  Frank will keep barking and lunging at the poor dead frog.  He just doesn’t understand why the frog has quit jumping.  His toy is broken, and he can’t get it to move again.

Eventually, Frank will give up and go inside. 

When possible, I will go outside and intervene in the frog’s (and neighbors’) behalf.  Sometimes, a simple command to “settle” will be enough.  But usually, I have to try to stand between Frank and the frog so that I can herd Frank back into the house.

The frog never seems to understand that I am on his side.  The result is that the three of us do this silly dance, going in circles.  Frank is trying to get to the frog.  The frog is trying to get away from both of us.  And I’m trying to figure out where the frog went so that I can get between the other two.  During this dance, I am also challenged with trying to not step on the frog.



I’m looking forward to cooler weather and fewer frogs.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Post # 45: Rabbits!

Wife has started raising a Spring/Summer garden in our backyard. She worried about the dogs getting into her garden the first year that she planted.  So I put a small fence around her little plot.
The vegetables grew and produced an abundance of produce.  But, it was difficult to step over the fence.  She worried about snakes. And she worried that everything was crowded.

The second year saw a larger garden plot with fewer plants and no fence.  This was also the year of the heavy rains and some flooding in May and June.  The garden didn’t do very well with that much water.

This was also the year that PD decided he liked squash plants.   Not the squash vegetable.  Just the plant itself, the stalk.  Over a period of a month, PD ripped out one plant after the other.  He would tug on the plant, pulling it out by its roots.  Then, PD would drag the plant out of the garden and settle down for a luscious meal of Squash Plant.



Wife and I had been worried about rabbits, not dogs.

It turns out that we were right to worry about rabbits, too.

Twice I had come home and spotted a rabbit in our back yard.  I quickly alerted Wife and had her seal off the back door.  Neither one of us wanted to watch our dogs tear up a rabbit.  We had chicken wire along the back fence to deep our dogs in the yard and other critters out.  Apparently the fence only worked on our dogs. 

I knew that the rabbit had figured out a way to breach the chicken wire.  But I also figured there would only be one or two ways in and out of that fence.  I was worried that in its panic to get away from the dogs, the rabbit would get trapped and we’d have a slaughter.

In each instance I was able to go into the back yard without the dogs, and herd the rabbit back to whatever hole it had dug or chewed to get in.



One evening, Wife and I were sitting on the porch enjoying our freshly mowed lawn.  Frank started barking at something I couldn’t see.  Wife had a better view and told me it was a rabbit.

I walked over and started “shushing” Frank.

It was just a poor baby rabbit.  The little guy was all hunkered down, trying to be still.  Despite his best effort at looking like a rock, he was trembling. 



I was able to pick up Frank.  We called PD, who obediently followed us into the house.  We closed off the dogs and I went back outside.

The bunny had hopped over to the brick border around a tree.  He sat there with his face to the wall.  I guess he thought he was hiding.  Wife was watching from the window.  He was so small.  She said that he just kind of fell over onto his side on uneven ground.

We just knew that his momma had to be nearby somewhere.  So we kept the doggy door shut and waited a couple of hours.

Two hours later, and he was still in our back yard.  Still in danger.

I scooped him up, carried him to the fence and put him gently on the other side.  That should take care him, right?

That evening just before bed time, we let the dogs out to take care of business.  And they did.  And for Frank, taking care of business included discovering that the bunny had come back into our yard.

Frank started his barking at the bunny.  He was a little afraid of it, since he had no idea what this critter was.  I walked over to get Frank but he kept avoiding me.  Then, the bunny turned around and lunged at Frank.  This little tiny thing decided he was tired of Frank’s noise.  So he lunged, not just hopped, but an aggressive lunge.  Frank backed off and into my waiting hands.



We left the little rabbit alone in the yard and locked the dogs inside for the night.  Surely, by morning the rabbit’s momma will have found him and escorted him home.
The next morning, I did a quick walk around the backyard, looking for the little rabbit.  I saw nothing, so we let the dogs out of the house.  It wasn’t long before we heard Frank barking.  What I couldn’t see, Frank managed to sniff out.  That little bunny was still in the back yard.

Back in the house went the dogs.  I scooped up the little fella and placed him in a small cage.  Then I went back into the house and got on the computer to do a bit of research.  My granddaughter had raised a rabbit for 4-H just a few months ago.  I was wondering if this rabbit might be turned into a pet for her.

Or maybe I could find a shelter for the rabbit.  It was plain this baby’s momma just didn’t care.  And he didn’t seem to be very bright.  I learned that baby rabbits’ nests often loo
k like the piles of grass we had all over our yard after mowing.  So maybe he just got turned around.

I also learned that it is very hard for a young bunny to survive as pets.  They are much more hardy than you expect, and usually do quite well on their own.  Better, in fact than they do when people try to make them pets.

So, I pulled out my folding ladder and climbed over into our neighbor’s property with the cage.  I walked a bit into their property, and behind some brush and released the rabbit back into the wild.



We’ve not seen any rabbits since then.  I don’t know whether he survived, if he found his nest or his momma.  But in Wife’s imagination, he made it back home safely and is still out there in the brush romping around with his brothers, sisters, momma, and daddy.

Of course, Wife isn’t really all that na├»ve.  She pointed out to me that her google search revealed that rabbits are food for everything else.  “Why do they have to make them so cute?” she asks. 


Maybe rabbits could look a little more like possums?


Friday, October 23, 2015

POST #44: ZOOMIES

When we lived in Aransas Pass and both PD and Henry were young, Wife and I would often sit outside in the evenings.  We would enjoy the sea breeze and the cool shade of our Live Oak trees. 
PD and Henry were full of youthful energy.  They would often entertain us by chasing each other around the yard.  PD would chase Henry around the shed, under the lawn chairs and around the trees.  We’d watch and laugh when Henry would sometimes take a break in the game.  Henry would gain distance from PD and then stop once he was out of PD’s sight.  Then he’d sit in the grass and watch PD continue to run around the course, thinking Henry was just ahead of him.  When he got tired of watching PD run by him self, Henry would take off in the opposite direction.  The two would cross paths at a high rate of speed, barely missing each other, like the Blue Angels with their thrilling in-air stunts.



Sometimes the two of them would come crashing into one of the chairs as they misjudged the turn.  Or Henry would broad-side PD and send PD rolling through the grass.

Wife and I just saw this as an interactive game of chase and enjoyed the show.
When Frank came along, PD was already too old to play chase.  But Frank was young and full of joyful exuberance.  He wanted to play and needed to release his pent up energy.  Wife and I had become busier in our lives and spent less time walking the dogs, or even sitting out in the back yard.

What’s a young, high-energy dachshund supposed to do when surrounded by a bunch of “old fogies?” 

The answer is “Zoomies!”  I have to thank the Dachshund-Talk forum for giving me a name for this phenomenon.  Without them, I would have never known what to call it.  Zoomies describes the action perfectly.

They started when we were still living in the old house in Aransas Pass.  Every evening around meal time, we would hear the clatter of toe nails on hardwood as Frank would jump off the love seat in the TV room.  We’d look up in time to see a brown and white streak flying past the kitchen door toward the living room.  Then Frank would come racing back and making a hard left turn into the kitchen.  

With the hardwood floor, he would almost always overshoot the mark, sliding past the door as his paws scrambled to make purchase, and sometimes slamming into the door frame.  Then Frank would zoom through the kitchen, into the mud room, out the doggy door, back into the mud room, and back through the kitchen.  He’d then hang a left, go back into the TV room, fly onto the loveseat, jump off, and start the whole course all over.

Frank did this with his tail wagging, and a look of joy on his face.  Usually two or three trips around the house like this, and then the Zoomies stopped, just as suddenly as they began.  He walked calmly into the kitchen and get a drink of water as if nothing unusual had happened.

Frank continued to run his Zoomies in our little patio home and he still has them in our new home.  We have a bit more of the floor covered with carpeting, and he seems thankful for that.  The paths he invents have altered a bit to accommodate the shape of the house and then number of rooms available to him.  But the behavior and the pure joy we see in him has not.

I love Zoomies!



Frank's Zoomies

If none of the videos or links above work, copy and paste on this link:

https://youtu.be/Yq7CX7Wryc0



Saturday, October 17, 2015

Post #43: Moles in the yard

PD has established his dominance over Frank, and Frank pretty much accepts his place in the pecking order.  While it is sad for us to watch Frank’s insecurity around PD there have not been anymore major fights between the two.

Frank enjoys our backyard and he usually takes advantage of the ramps we have around the house. But, he still manages to surprise us by flying on to chairs, tables, and even the bed.

Frank has filled out nicely. He is no longer the skeleton he once was. However, he can no longer fly as high or as far as he once did. Still, he does pretty good.

Frank has learned to ask for attention when he wants it. And, he can be really persistent. He will work his muzzle under our hands and then onto top of his head. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Frank has a pair of ears that need to be massaged or chest that needs to be rubbed.

Frank also does his best to earn his keep as a house dog.

When we first moved to our new house, we had mole trails all over our back and front yards. Frank decided that it is his job to hunt them down. I’m pretty good at catching gophers. I know what to look for in a gopher hole, and how to set a gopher trap.  But I’m not so good at catching moles.

On the other hand, Frank has never caught one, either. But that hasn’t stopped him from trying. He is probably one of the most enthusiastic mole hunters that you have ever seen. He spends hours in the backyard digging trenches. I’ll look out the window and see his butt in the air and dirt flying. He’ll dig for a bit, and then he will grab a grass runner and pull and shake and pull some more until that grass runner has come loose. Then Frank will stick his nose in as deep into the earth as he can. Once he has the scent firmly in his nostrils, he will pull his head out, snort, and start digging the trench again. Frank has been at this for about two years.





He’s never caught a thing.

We have a few cats in our neighborhood. Frank and PD will chase them out of the backyard when they see them back there. I don’t mind the cats. I won’t feed them, but I don’t chase them away.  And I try to be careful about not running over any cats when I pull out of the driveway. Unlike the experience we had on 11th St., we’ve not yet killed any cats in our new home.

There is a large yellow cat that likes to sleep under my truck. I think he’s watched Frank’s futile attempts at catching moles. Sometimes I see him lying in the brush behind our property staring into our yard.  I’m not sure, but he may be smiling while he is watching Frank dig trenches.




Watching Frank’s enthusiastic attempts to catch the moles motivated me into action. I’d done a bit of research and I couldn’t really see that they’re doing a lot of harm. They weren’t killing the grass. In fact, they were probably eating the cinch bugs dining on the roots of my grass.

Sometimes it is a little disconcerting to walk across the lawn and then suddenly sink lower than expected when I step on one of their trails. But that doesn’t happen too often. I’m actually more annoyed by stepping into one of the trenches Frank has dug than I am by stepping onto one of the mole trails.


I have read stories about moles damaging foundations and driveways, but I’m not sure that those stories are true. Most of these stories came from internet sites trying to sell the latest and greatest gadgets for killing moles.  Still, I felt I should do my part to help Frank’s “stamp out the moles” campaign. So I went online, and did some research.

I bought some Super-duper, Extra Large, Guaranteed to Work Mole Traps. I carefully read the instructions, bought some flags to help me carry out those instructions, and set out the next day to mark all of the trails that were crisscrossing our backyard. I’d walk a bit, and when my foot sank down I took a close look at the ground, and if it looked like there might be a mole trail under that grass I’d stick a little red flag into the ground next to where I just stepped.

The idea is that moles do not like to have their active trails shut down. If you step on one and crush the tunnel the mole will come back over overnight and reopen the tunnel.  If you look at the trail the next day, and the trail has been repaired, then you know that you have found an active trail, and that is where you want to set your trap.

By the time I finished, I had about 20 places marked off in our backyard. The next day I went out and selected four spots that I thought might have been reopened. Then I set my traps.

After about a week of hunting down trails and setting traps, I finally got one mole.  I noticed the yellow cat watching me.  Yes, that was definitely a smile.

I was setting traps in the back yard, in the front yard, and in the flower bed.  Only one mole.
One morning, sometime after I’d caught my one and only mole, but before I’d given up, I opened the garage door to go get our newspaper.  There it was.  Just outside the garage door.  The gift from our yellow cat:  a dead mole.

There haven’t been any others. The cat didn’t need to bring us any others.  He just wanted me to know that he could do it.  And he could do it anytime he wanted.

I haven’t had the heart to tell Frank.



And I’ve not bothered to set out any more mole traps.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Post #42: PD’s Criminal Record

PD had a difficult time accepting Frank into our home.  He became very possessive of me.  With Henry, PD was willing to share my lap and willing to share our bed. 

Frank was a lively, friendly dog, but he was not totally welcomed by PD.  PD would stare him down if Frank looked like he wanted to get on the couch with us.  He growled at Frank if he thought he was getting too close to my lap.  Early on, we were able to get both dogs on our laps without much of a problem.



But things began to change.  PD became more aggressive.  When Frank wandered too close to my lap, PD would snap at him.  We had a couple of loud scuffles on the love seat where Wife and I sat to watch television.

Food had become another issue between the two of them.  And part of this aggression, we believe, was due to PD’s having been put on steroids.  It wasn’t too long after PD recovered from his pancreatitis that we figured out he really was having back pain, and he was put on steroids for a while to help with that.

One evening, about three months after Wife and I had brought Frank into our home, PD taught me an important lesson.

Frank had beat PD to my lap and had settled in.  PD came up the ramp and demanded that Frank get off.  He began barking and started to lunge at Frank.  I instinctively put my hand out to block PD’s attack.  PD clamped down on one of my fingers.  I grabbed his jaw (with my finger still in his mouth), flipped him over on his back and did my “aggressive” act to let PD know that his behavior was not acceptable.

When he was looking calmer I withdrew my hand and found a couple of puncture wounds in my finger.

Things got better with PD after that, but we still watch their proximity when I am around.  The two can be best buddies as long as I am not close. 



My First Lesson?  I’ve learned not to stick my hand in front of a growling, barking dog.

DUH!

A couple of days after the biting incident, one of the puncture wounds was turning red.  I was in Victoria at the time and decided to have it checked out by a doctor.  I went to a walk-in clinic, got some antibiotics, and was told I had to wait until the Animal Control folk came out to interview me.

What?

Animal Control showed up and asked me some questions.  Then, they informed me that if PD had been in Victoria they would have required that he be taken to the pound and quarantined and observed for three days. 

They labeled him as an aggressive dog.

Since PD lived in Aransas Pass, they sent a notice to the Aransas Pass Animal Control (APAC), and it would be up to APAC to decide what to do with him.  Thank goodness they didn’t file extradition papers on PD.

A day later, the APAC knocked on our door in Aransas Pass.  Wife opened the door and PD and Frank ran out onto the porch to greet the Animal Control Officer.  Thank goodness PD wasn’t in one of his barky moods.  The officer saw the wagging tails and experienced PD’s submissive peeing (did he get her on the foot?  I think not) when she bent over to pat PD on the top of the head.

She said she could tell that PD was not an aggressive dog.  And she understood that bite was due to circumstances, after Wife explained what happened.

But, she also warned us that the dog bite is now “on his record.”  Another bite could result in his being put down because he is an aggressive dog.

The Second Lesson I’ve learned is that my family pets are just two bites away (well, PD is only one bite away) from being taken from me.

I realized that PD was aggressive around Frank, and he didn’t really like kids, but I never thought of him as a danger to the public at large.  But now he has a record.  He has one strike against him in a two strikes and you’re out system.

In my work, I do risk assessment on offenders.  How likely are they to “recidivate” or commit the same crime again?  I began to wonder if there were any assessment instruments or psychological tests out there that I could administer to PD.  Maybe I can do an assessment and show that he isn’t really a high risk dog.  He has to register every year, but that’s just for rabies.  

At least they don’t have his mug shot in a book down at the dog pound.




Saturday, October 3, 2015

Post #41: PD’s Third Miracle


PD’s third encounter with near death was also his closest call.  PD was eight years old.  Wife and I were trying to live in two places in two cities.  I had closed my private practice in Rockport and began a full-time position as faculty at the University of Houston – Victoria.  I would stay in Victoria for three or four days a week, and then would stay in Aransas Pass for three or four days.

PD began acting strangely on one Sunday in Aransas Pass.  He was depressed, not moving much, and looked like he was in pain.  This was too soon after Henry went down, and we were still very much worried about dachshund back injuries.  Our first thought was that PD had hurt his back.  Our regular vet was closed and not available. 

I drove PD to the veterinary hospital in Corpus Christi.  I expressed my concerns about PD’s back to the person who did the intake.  The tech took X-rays, the vet looked at them and said she could see some places where he had inflammation of his disc.  She gave PD a shot for his pain.  PD and I left the hospital with a bottle of pain medication, advice to keep him in a crate, and instructions on when to give him his medicine. 

I was supposed to be in Victoria on Monday, and Wife and the dogs were coming with me.  So, we crated PD, packed our things, and headed north.

PD did not get better.  PD continued to be lethargic.  He threw up a couple of times.  He refused to eat.  That was a really big thing.  PD has always been food motivated.  So, any time he refuses to eat, we know something is really wrong.  He also refused to drink.

Wife forced his pain medicine down him, and he threw it right back up.  We decided not to force him to take it again.  By late evening, PD had not had anything to drink.  I took him to his water dish, but he just looked at it.  Then I put some water on my finger and rubbed it around his lips.  That triggered a gagging reflex.  PD was warm and seemed to have a fever.  It was late Sunday evening, and we had no vet resources in Victoria.  We decided to wait it out, and hope that PD would be better in the morning.




He wasn’t.                                                                                                                     

Wife was headed to Temple to spend some time with our grandchildren, but we both knew we needed to get PD back to our vet in Rockport.  

I put PD in the car and drove south to Rockport, while Wife headed north to Temple.  Both of us with prayers for the safety of the other, and for PD to get well.

The vet examined PD and ran some blood tests.  He told me to leave PD with him so they could start him on an IV and get some fluids in him.  He was dehydrated and in pain.  The vet wanted to wait for the lab results and check some other things.  I left and went back to Victoria without PD.  When the vet called, the news was bad.

PD had pancreatitis.  His body was digesting itself.  His liver had shut down.  His kidneys had shut down.  The vet wasn’t sure that PD would live.  He told us that on paper, PD was already a dead dog.

The vet withheld all food and water.  Any food or water consumed by mouth would trigger an enzyme action against his organs.  This is why PD was vomiting and gagged when I forced him to put water in his mouth.  This enzyme action was the means in which his body was digesting itself.  Any fluids or nutrition that PD got would have to be through his IV.

PD stayed at the vet’s for several days.  We spoke to the vet every day.  At first we got encouraging news.  He seemed to be getting better.  But then, PD seemed to be getting worse.  The vet asked us to come and talk to him about taking PD home.  The vet didn’t think that there was anything else he could do for PD.

Wife and I drove to Rockport, to the vet’s office.  We went into the examination room and waited while the vet told us about what he had done for PD.  He told us that PD wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”

The tech walked in carrying PD.  He saw us and began to wag his tail.  The tech put him on the examining table, and PD was all over us with kisses and tail wags.

The vet smiled and said that was the best he had seen PD act since he had arrived.  He knew that he had done the right thing to get us to come and get him.

PD is now on a low-fat diet, and has not had any further problems with his pancreas.  He is 11 years old now, and is losing some of his eye sight.  He is often in pain because of his back, but Wife does a great job of managing his pain.




As he gets older, he accumulates symptoms that slow us all down.  We do not know how many more years we will have with PD.  We are simply grateful for all of the years that we have had.  We count each day that PD is with us as one more blessing.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Post # 40: Frank the Billy Goat?

We had two dogs buried in our back yard.  We had Katie, who loved to climb trees.  And we had Henry, our stealth dog who got into trouble in sneaky ways.  I think Frank was channeling both dogs.
One afternoon, early in June, I was outside grilling a steak for Wife and me.  PD started barking.  I thought PD and Frank were arguing over one of the toys.

I looked around to see what toy was being argued over.  I could see PD, but couldn’t find Frank.  PD was looking up at the trees, barking like he does when the squirrels are harassing him.  I noticed movement over the little hot-tub house in our backyard.  I looked up and found Frank scampering around on the roof!

I hollered for Wife to come out.  I told Wife to watch Frank while I got the ladder.  She was pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to catch him, but she agreed to watch Frank, anyway.

I grabbed the ladder and climbed up.  I called Frank to me.  I wasn’t even sure if Frank knew his name, yet.  I was both surprised and relieved when he came. 

I ran to the hardware store after supper to pick up a role of aluminum flashing and some screws.  Wife thought she knew which tree Frank had climbed.  I thought the climb was awful steep and guessed that it might be a different one with more of a slope.  When I got home, I began screwing the flashing in place around Wife’s tree so that Frank couldn’t get a toe-hold on the bark.  I covered the sharp edges with duct tape, since I was pretty sure Frank (Mr. Persistence) would probably continue to lunge at the tree and try to climb it.

As I stood back to inspect my work, PD started barking again.  Looked up, following PD’s gaze.  I guess you could call PD a tattle-tale.  Except that it was his barking a few years earlier that saved me from a deadly fall off the roof when he called Wife outside for me.  So I won’t call him a tattle – tale.  Instead, I think he just recognizes that some folk simply do not belong on tall objects.

In any event, I looked up, and there was Frank.  This time, Frank was walking across a narrow branch that hung about two feet above the roof of the hot-tub house.

I ran up the ladder and called Frank down.  I held my breath as he jumped off the limb and onto the roof.  He ran over to me and I brought him down again.

All of the trees in our backyard wore bright shiny aluminum collars before sunset.

We had bought a small house in Victoria as a place for me to stay when I was teaching.  The yard was tiny, but had a large tree.  I put an aluminum collar around that tree during my next visit.  Frank still thinks he is a Billy Goat, and I’m doing my best to convince him he’s a dog.

Did I mention he’s persistent?


Friday, September 18, 2015

Post # 39: Memorial Day Tributes


Frank had a chance to settle in and begin to feel like he was home once we got back from our Mother’s day camping trip.  One of PD’s favorite games was “chicken.”  We had a rubber chicken that I would throw in the back yard, and PD would fetch the chicken.  Sometimes he would bring it back to me.  Sometimes he would sit down at the far end of the yard with chicken and look at me expectantly.  I think Wife taught him the “sit, wait!” part of the game in order to encourage me to get more exercise.  I would walk over to PD pick up Chicken and throw it to another part of the yard.

PD was very possessive of Chicken.  When Frank tried to play, there would be raising of hackles and growling.  So, Frank learned to play with Bone.  I would throw chicken first to get PD going in one direction, and then I’d throw a squeaky Bone in another direction.  Frank would run off to the other side of the yard.


Then I would walk over to PD and pick up Chicken.  Frank learned from PD that he was supposed to wait with his toy.  So I’d have to walk over to Frank and pick up Bone.  Frank was still learning, and interested in making up his own rules.  So sometimes Pig turned into a game of “chase me.”  Once I had both Chicken and Bone in my possession, the games would start again.

Memorial Day arrived, and we honored our World War II veterans at church.  I thought about my father who had died recently and who served near the end of the war in the Philippines.  




George and William Hamilton

I thought about Wife's father and uncle, who also served.


Bill Allen

Don Allen

Bill, Gus (their father) and Don Allen

And I thought about my brother who died shortly after his services as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

Kirby Hamilton

Kirby Hamilton



I spent the afternoon digging up memories of loved ones.

Frank spent the afternoon trying to dig up Henry.

Wife looked out the window and told me that Frank was digging up Henry’s grave.  I had buried Henry pretty deep, and so I wasn’t too worried.  Henry was probably three or three and a half feet down.

I casually went outside to see what Frank was doing.  All I could see of Frank was part of his butt and his tail.  He was about half-way down to Henry and digging fast!

I took Frank inside and filled in the hole.  I put a couple of cinder blocks and bricks on top of the soft dirt.  Then we let Frank back outside.

Wife and I have really fond memories of Henry, and we miss him a lot.  But we did not want to see Henry again!

Did I mention that Frank was persistent?

I pulled Frank out of the hole again, and put a large #2 wash tub over one end of the site, and placed the concrete bird bath over the middle.

Frank finally gave up on his Memorial Day tribute to Henry.

I feel bad for Henry, though.  One of his pleasures was keeping the birds out of our yard.  And now, all of the birds would be coming to splash and play right over his head.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Post #38: Mother’s Day and Blessings of Grandchildren


It was 6:30 in the evening.  It was a Sunday.  It was Mother’s Day.  And we were in a campground, far from home, locked out of our trailer.  We should be roasting wieners (not our dogs) and marshmallows over a fire by now.

Instead, I was on the phone, talking to an RV repairman, explaining that the lock to our fifth wheel was broken, and we couldn’t get in.

Amazingly, he agreed to come out that night to help us!  Who does that?  Only an awesomely kind man who likes to help people.

The repairman showed up with a 14 year old grandson in tow.  He looked at the door.  Yes, the lock was broken.  He attempted to take it off from the outside, but could not. 

Then he asked if we had a laundry shoot in our Fifth Wheel.  If you are not familiar with Fifth Wheels, then you may not know that they have a “basement.”  The front of the fifth wheel is raised up so that you can back the bed of your pickup under it.  This is where the king pin is, that attaches to the hitch in the bed of the pickup.  The space over the bed of the pickup is where an extra room (usually the bedroom and bathroom) is.  Since a bit of ramping is involved in the construction, there is space under part of the floor which is used for storage.  Since it sits below the room, it is called the basement.  Some Fifth Wheels have a hole under the bathroom sink that can be used as a laundry shoot.  It may sound big, but trust me, it is not. 

“Yes,” I told him, “we do have a laundry shoot.”  We walked around to the side of the trailer where the laundry shoot was, and I opened the door to the basement.  We took turns sticking our heads in and looking up.  It was a mighty small hole.  An adult could not crawl through that hole.

But, maybe a seven year old girl would fit?  We just happened to have one of those.  Kathy took the truck, drove down to Jason’s campsite and kidnapped the girls.  Jason and Melissa were still working on setting up camp, and didn’t know that we now had plans for their daughters.



We brought Allie, our seven year old granddaughter over and showed her the hole. Did she think she could crawl up there for us?  She was a little nervous about crawling up into the trailer.  It was starting to get dark.  But she agreed to do it.

The repairman told Allie what he wanted her to do:  Crawl through the laundry shoot, push open the cabinet door, crawl out into the bathroom, go out into the hall and down the stairs, and then turn the deadbolt lock and open the door.  Allie did as told.  But the lock still wouldn’t open.  I started thinking about finding a dog-friendly hotel again.

The repairman had another plan.

There are two emergency exits in a Fifth wheel.  These are windows that unlatch from the inside, and are big enough for an adult to crawl out of.  In our trailer, one is upstairs in the bedroom, and requires a significant drop to get out.  The other is in the dining area, and is closer to the ground.  The dining table sits in front of this window.

The repairman asked Allie to crawl on top of the table, and described for her how to release the latches.  Allie did this promptly.

By this time, Jason and Melissa had arrived to find out what we were doing with their daughters.  And, it was time for dinner.  Of course, no dinner could be made.  Hot dogs and S’mores were supposed to be on the menu.  No dinner could be made until we could get into the trailer.

Now the window was open, but it was too high for old men like myself or the repairman to crawl through.  And then there was that dining table that had to be crawled across.

Fortunately, we had a 14 year old boy nearby, the repairman’s grandson.  We called him into action.  We boosted the young teen up through the window with a pocket full of tools.  He was able to disassemble the lock with his grandfather’s guidance.  At last, the door was open.

Kathy prepared dinner while the repairman installed a new deadbolt.

Allie was glad to be free of that trailer, which had quickly become dark.  Rachel (our four year old granddaughter) insisted that she be allowed to crawl through the laundry shoot.  With lights turned on, the girls made a game of going into and out of the trailer using their own private entrance.    




There is a follow-up to this story.

Three years later, Kathy and I stayed in an RV park in San Marcos, about an hour south of the other campground.  The water heater quit on us during this stay.  Not a big emergency, but an inconvenience.  Like all inconveniences, this one happened on a Sunday, when the usual places are closed.  I had noticed earlier that an RV repairman lived in one of the RV’s across the road from us, in the same park.  He had his name and phone number on the side of his truck.  I called his number and explained the problem.  I told him we would be OK until Monday, but I’d like to be put on his service call list.  The man came over right away, anyway.  How nice that I was able to find someone willing to work on a Sunday.  I thanked him profusely. 

I made small talk with him while he was making the repair.  I commented on how grateful we were that he was willing to come over and take care of this for us on a Sunday.  Then I launched into my story about getting locked out several years earlier, and how fortunate we were to find someone willing to work on Mother’s day.  He said the lock problem must happen a lot.  And then he began telling the rest of my story back to me!  We figured out that he was the same guy who helped me before. 

You meet a lot of nice people when you travel.

And sometimes, you get to meet the same nice person twice.