Monday, February 22, 2010


Phoenix at 7 weeks
(Photo courtesy of Catherine Shields, Carousel Malinois)

Three years ago today — Feb. 22, 2007 — Michele and I flew to Oregon to pick up Phoenix. It was supposed to be a relaxing three-day trip that included a little sight-seeing and time spent getting to know Catherine, Phoenix’s breeder, and some other west coast mal folks.

It didn’t work out that way. The best laid plans of mice and malinois . . . Our leisurely trip was replaced by a 26-hour sprint from Homestead to Cedar Rapids to Minneapolis to Portland to Woodburn and back again to beat the mother of all ice storms that was snapping at our heels.

We got to Oregon with no problems, met Catherine and the Wild litter, went with the puppies for their CERF checks, then out to supper with Catherine, Laurie and CJ at a yummy Mexican place. That evening our friend Rilda back in Iowa called to warn us about the weather forecast: one-inch ice accumulation and 40-50 mph winds, she said. Massive power outages and impossible travel conditions were expected. The eastern part of the state would pretty much shut down. Michele and I are still wondering why our husbands, who share a first name, have many similar behaviors and are collectively called “The Jeffs,” didn’t think it was necessary to call and let us know about this. Essentially, the storm was to hit the same day we were supposed to arrive home.

Thank goodness Rilda called to warn us or we wouldn’t have gotten home until March. The next morning, Michele called the airlines. Yes, we could reschedule our flight. Yes, they had a flight to Minneapolis that afternoon, with a connecting flight to Cedar Rapids. We rescheduled the appointment for Phoenix’s pre-flight health clearance at Catherine’s vet (which got me a $50 health certificate that nobody ever looked at, yeah, I’m still bitter) and scrambled for the airport.

It had been years since I’d flown, definitely pre-9/11, so the airport security processes were not only new and amazing to me - shoes off, 3 oz. bottles of liquids out of the carry-on luggage, purse, shoes and everything else on the conveyor belt - they were compounded on the return trip by the presence of a wiggly, squirmy, ambitious puppy who was not in the least little bit fazed by all the commotion.

We got to the Minneapolis airport in fine shape. Phoenix slept the whole 4 hour flight. Our flight from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids was supposed to leave at 10 p.m. It was delayed to 10:30 p.m., then 11, then 11:30. I was having visions of becoming one of those people you see on the news, sleeping in an airport lounge chair, with a malinois puppy chewing the sleeve off my coat. By the way, Phoenix totally enjoyed our four hour lay-over in Minneapolis. He met a lot of new friends in the women’s restroom where we were trying to get him to pee on a newspaper. He was too busy making friends to pee.

We finally left Minneapolis about midnight. It took longer to de-ice the plane than it did to fly to Cedar Rapids, which was not terribly reassuring. Michele’s Jeff met us at the airport, fetched my van out of long-term parking for me (bless him) and we set off for home. A fine freezing mist had already begun. The storm was coming in early. The airport closed shortly after our flight landed.

Baby Phoenix and I got back home at 1 a.m. Feb. 24 and the power went out. And stayed out for a week.

Fortunately for us, the ice storm was followed by relatively mild weather. “Mild” in February in Iowa is the mid-30s. It was about 40 degrees in our house. I had taken the week off from work to bond with my new puppy and that’s exactly what we did. We got in the van (warm) and drove to town (warm) to use the computer at the library (warm) to e-mail updates to friends. We went to fast food drive-throughs for meals (warm) and ate them in the van (warm.) We went to visit my folks (warm, shower and laundry). I got good at heating bottled water in an antique coffee boiler on our gas grill for hasty washing and at some point, I grilled a pizza. Don’t laugh. It was delicious.

When the sun went down, we snuggled under blankets in the recliner and read books by camp lantern. Well, Phoenix snuggled and I read. When it was time for bed, Phoenix crawled in with us. He was 8 weeks old, had short baby fur and very little body fat. There was no way he could sleep in a crate by himself in an unheated house.

The Farmer gave me the big eye roll the first night but Phoenix burrowed under the blankets and behaved himself. I’d never let a puppy sleep in bed with us before. Phoenix decided we were large and lumpy littermates but very warm. I was destined to be the puppy on the bottom of the pile, since when I woke during the night, Phoenix was draped over various parts of me, including my face. I usually woke to him chewing on my hair or clothes.

After six days our electricity came back on and life returned to normal. Somewhat. From then on out, Phoenix reinvented “normal.” Three years have passed. Where does the time go?

Thank you, Catherine, for my Wild boy!


  1. That is hilarious... I think we should have a "grilled pizza" party some time!!

  2. I never get tired of hearing the tale! Hugs to you both, looking fwd to some good visiting in St Louis! the kind we missed 3 yrs ago! Thank you for doing such a great job with that wild Red White and Blue boy!

  3. Looking forward to seeing you in St Louis and seeing your wild boy. It is hard to believe 3 years has gone by...but I could count the numbers of things Seeker has destroyed and get a rough estimate!

  4. Thanks....I was trying to block all that OUT! I got sick of being without electricity, hot water after ONE day! It was horrible! At least you had a puppy under the covers! G

  5. Look at that face. So cute. What a great story. Does Phoenix get to snuggle in bed now that he's all grown up?

  6. What a cutie he was! I never heard that story. Happy Anniversary.

  7. That is one seriously adorable pudum.