Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The tapestry of life with dogs

It’s been 7 years and 4 months since Phoenix arrived in my life. Seven years and 4 months since I’ve had a little baby creature in the house.

By the time Aussie-puppy-with-no-name arrives, it will have been 7 years and 5 months. I am going to see the litter next week and am nearly beside myself with anticipation. The breeder has been excellent about sending pictures and video, which quite frankly is only making matters worse. While photos of human babies leave me fumbling for something polite to say, pictures of puppies send me into paroxysms of maternal bliss. The puppy-induced endorphin rush has nearly rendered me dysfunctional. (The Farmer made a smart comment about this but I deleted it. Editorial privilege.)

A lot has happened since February of 2007 when Phoenix marched into my life, looked around and took over. I’ve sat with a parent in hospice care, said good-bye to that parent, attended four national specialties, said good-bye to two wonderful dogs, found out my heart doesn't work right, avoided being downsized at work at least nine times, had my job “reorganized” 10 times, buried a parent-in-law, became a storm spotter for the National Weather Service, had surgery and added cats to a household that contained a dog who thought cats were demon spawn to be scourged from the earth.

Through all of that, there’s been the never-ending roller coaster of Phoenix’s obedience career. Not a day has passed when at least some portion of my waking hours have not been occupied by thoughts about training that crazy dog. One of his best gifts has been giving me something else to focus on when normal life was just too toxic to embrace. Granted, that wasn’t just Phoenix. Jess, Connor and Jamie did it, too. I have endured the stress of "there will be lay-offs" staff meetings, the uncertainty of doctor’s appointments and the emotional drain of funerals while thinking about ways to clean up a drop on recall or fix a stay problem.

Dogs have always been such an integral part of my life that I tend to remember events through the years by connecting them to what my dogs were doing at the time.

Wedding planning in the spring of 1991? I was showing Jess for his UD. My mom kept wanting to do wedding stuff and I kept telling her I couldn’t because “I have a show that weekend.”

The straight-line windstorm that decimated our farm in the summer of 1998? I was just starting to show Connor for his OTCh. I remember dragging my jumps out from under the twisted wreckage of an evergreen tree in the back yard and thinking, “Crap, cleaning up this mess is going to cut into my training time.” It did.

Painting the house in the autumn of 1999? (The Farmer and I painted it by ourselves. Every. Single. Fricking. Board.) I remember finishing “my” portion (everything below the fourth rung of the extension ladder) the weekend before driving to Ohio to pick up baby Jamie in September.

The ice storm of February 2007? It hit the night I got home from the airport with Phoenix. One week without heat, lights or running water and a crazy baby malinois sleeping in the bed with us. Good times.

Putting vinyl siding on the house in 2007? I remember Phoenix grabbing big sheets of loose Tyvek house-wrap and running around the yard with them. I’m probably lucky he didn’t pull it off the house.

I wonder what non-dog memories I will attach to this puppy? What will happen in its lifetime that will leave me remembering, “Oh yeah, that was the year we . . .”?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A stitch in time

I am sewing.

I did not like sewing when I was a wee lass in 4-H and after 30 years of avoiding sewing like some kind of Third World plague, I've found I do not like it any better now.

Sewing involves needles, pins and scissors - pointy, sharp things capable of drawing blood. As far as I am concerned, this is just asking for trouble.

But I am sewing because A) I am subject to spurts of creative energy and B) I am trying to save money.

I am not sewing a new wardrobe. God made LL Bean and Christopher and Banks and outlet malls so women do not have to sit, hunched over and squinting and sticking out their tongues, trying to make their own clothes. (Am I the only one who sews like that? I suspect I am not alone.)

I have great respect for anyone who can make their own clothes. Hell, at this point, I have great respect for anyone who can thread a needle on the first try.

I grew up in an era when it was commonplace to go play at a friend's house and find tissue paper patterns from McCall's or Butterick spread across the dining room table and the sewing machine whirring away while her mother created a new blouse or skirt on a Saturday afternoon, casual as making toast.

My best friend's mom in high school made my friend's prom dress. I was still struggling to master a straight seam and she made an entire freaking prom dress. And it looked better than most of the stuff that came off the rack. That was back in the day when girls went to JCPenney and bought their prom dresses, they didn't go to a bridal store and order one and get fitted for it and register it so no other girl in any school in the surrounding six counties could buy the same one because imagine the HORROR and DEGRADATION you might experience if someone else showed up at prom wearing YOUR dress.

Ahem. But I digress.

I am making a belt pouch. If you have ever attended a Renaissance festival, you know what I'm talking about. Well, if you attended one and paid attention to the costuming. And could get past the wood nymphs, Goths, harem girls, faeries and pirates to the folks who were dressed as simple peasants, which is what I aspire to. Apparently the concept of pockets eluded folks back in the day. Or maybe their pockets were full of other things. But most folks have at least one belt pouch attached to their, um, well, belt. This was the forerunner of the modern handbag.

A group of friends and I have been tossing around the possibility of attending a Renaissance festival "in garb" at some point in the future. Said "garb" is not to be taken lightly and I'm taking my time to assemble something that is passably "peasant-ish" without being "wench-ish." However, I have learned that "wench" is simply another term for "woman" so perhaps I need to clarify that I hope to avoid the "slutty wench" look. If you've been to a Ren faire, you know what I'm talking about.

If you want to dive into another world entirely, Google "Renaissance Festival Clothing." Pretty much anything you want is available and I mean anything. Just whip out the MasterCard and click "add to cart." And be prepared to give up your firstborn child and several random body parts to pay for it.

To date, I have refrained admirably. A skirt from Amazon has been the high end of my spending, at $14. A $5 peasant blouse from a thrift store will do for a chemise. I suspect if I get into this sort of thing (like I NEED another thing to get into), I will upgrade my wardrobe but for now, I'm taking the cheapest route. Precision authenticity is not a goal. Trust me, if you've been to a Ren faire, there's a whole lot going on that has little to do with authenticity.

But I did buy a belt. One needs a good belt to hang things from. I do not anticipate buying a dagger or a drinking mug to hang from my belt but in the grand scheme of things, I will need somewhere to stash the 21st century conveniences like my keys, cell phone, lip balm and cash while at the faire. Hence the pouch. I do not anticipate tucking them into my bodice. The bodice is a whole other post entirely.

I tried hard not to buy a belt. I thought I certainly had a belt that would suffice.Wrong. My belts were woefully inadequate for doing that fancy loopy knot thing. They barely went around my waist once, let alone left any room for loopy knotty things. Okay. Fine.  I would use one of the Farmer's cast-off belts. Then I realized there is reason they are cast off. They are beat to hell. It's hard to do loopy-knotty with something that is fally-aparty. Sigh. Click "add to cart."

Which is why I am playing Scarlett O'Hara and sewing a belt pouch out of an old shirt. A pouch is a pretty simple thing to sew. Which is good, because I've nearly lost my religion already. Trust me when I tell you I will not be opening an Etsy store featuring hand-sewn items any time in the future.

If I were a good blogger, I would insert a picture of my pouch here. But I'm not going to. It's not done. It may never get done. I may grab my MasterCard and with tail between my legs, crawl off to one of the 15,839 web sites that sell Ren faire garb made by people who can actually wield a needle and thread without sewing their finger to the cloth. Not that I did that.

I'll admit this experience in hand sewing simple seams has been kind of fun. Even if my stitches are crooked and the thread is abominable demon spawn that tangles just to spite me. The longer I worked at it, the better I got. That's not to say I got good at it, just better.

Come to think of it, I don't think Scarlett O'Hara actually sewed that gown from the old drapes herself. She probably made Mammy do it. Hmmmph. Since I am decidedly Mammy-less, I will have to soldier on.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Conversation with a malinois

Me: Phoenix? C’mere, I’ve got something exciting to tell you.

Phoenix: Is it suppertime?

Me: No, it’s not suppertime.

Phoenix: Wanna play ball? Can I have a cat in the house? Is that steak in the fridge for me? When’s Papa coming back? Can we go for a walk?

Me: No. Not a chance. How did you know there was steak in the fridge? I don’t know. Yes, later.

Phoenix: Oh. Then hurry up. I’m busy. Things to do.

Me: We’re getting a puppy.

Phoenix: A what?

Me: A puppy. A baby dog.

Phoenix (doubtful): Why would you get one of those?

Me: Because I miss having 2 dogs. And so you can have a friend. I know you miss Jamie.

Phoenix: Yeah. Miss him.


Phoenix: Can I have a cat in the house instead?

Me: Um. No.

Phoenix: Why?

Me: Because I don't want to spend the rest of the year making homeowner's insurance claims.

Phoenix: This puppy thing - will it eat my food?

Me: No.

Phoenix: Will it sleep in my bed?

Me: No.

Phoenix: Will it sleep in your bed?

Me: Not at first.

Phoenix: Will it get my toys?

Me: It might. Do you think you could share some of your toys?

Phoenix: Do I have to?

Me: Yes. Some of them.

Silence. Phoenix contemplates toy sharing.

Phoenix: What will it look like?

Me: It will be a lot smaller than you. Probably tri-colored. And have a little tail nubbin. And tippy-over ears. And be very fuzzy.

Phoenix: Fuzzy? Like me?

Me: You’re not fuzzy. You’re sleekit.*

Phoenix: Papa calls me Fuzzball.

Me: Papa calls you a lot of things. You are sleekit. The puppy will be a fuzzball.

Phoenix: Will be a girl fuzzball or a boy fuzzball?

Me: I don’t know.

Phoenix: You can’t tell the difference?

Me: Yes, I can tell the difference. Smart ass. But I don’t know which one will come live with us yet.

Phoenix: Get a smart one. Don’t get a dumb one.

Me: Well, that’s the plan.

Phoenix: What will you do with it?

Me: Teach it things. You can help me.

Phoenix (gleam in eye): Really?

Me: Oh dear Lord, what am I saying? Do NOT teach it how open cupboard doors or un-pot plants or steal honey bottles off the table or that weird thing you do when you put your back legs on the edge of bed and your front legs on the window sill and bark at things out the window.

Phoenix: Every dog should know how to do that stuff. Seriously.

Me: Seriously not. Just remember that it will be very little and it won’t know anything and you’ll need to be very patient with it.

Phoenix: Will it pee in the house?

Me: Probably once or twice.

Phoenix: I never peed in the house.

Me: Um. Yes, you did.

Phoenix: I don’t remember that.

Me: I bet there’s a lot of things you don’t remember doing.

Phoenix: Papa says he likes how quiet it is with just one dog around.

Me: Papa is confused.

Phoenix: Will you take it to dog shows?

Me: Yes.

Phoenix: Will you take it instead of me?

Me: No. I will take you both.

Phoenix: Bet it won’t be as smart as me.

Me: Sweetheart, I am sure it will be nothing like you.

Phoenix (smugly): I’m one of a kind.

Me: Amen.

Phoenix: When will you get it?

Me: Later this summer, when it gets really hot.

Phoenix (thinking): Tomorrow? It will be really hot tomorrow.

Me: Not that soon. It has to live with its brothers and sisters for awhile longer.

Phoenix: You’re only getting one, right?

Me: Yes.

Phoenix: Is it a herding dog?

Me: Yes.

Phoenix: Not one of those birdy dogs or varmint dogs or hound dogs or fluffy dogs?

Me: Umm . . . sometimes you’re one of those varmint dogs. You get varmints.

Phoenix: That’s different. It needs to be a herding dog. They’re smart.

Me: It’s a herding dog.

Phoenix: Only one smaller-than-me, tri-colored, nubbin-tailed, tippy-over-eared boy or girl herding-dog smart fuzzball?

Me: Yep.

Phoenix: I suppose it’s okay. You should get it. Might be fun.

(* Sleekit is a Scottish word that means smooth and shiny, or sneaky. Phoenix is, by all accounts, very sleekit.)