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Archive for June, 2013

How many of you have read or seen “World War Z”?  Quite a few, I would imagine.  We seem to be obsessed with zombies, with impending apocalypse, with the end of the world.  But what if, instead of us becoming zombies, our dogs became the walking dead?  How would World War D change our lives?

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World War D

It started with Grimm.  I originally thought the heat had finally gotten to him. He came inside, limping a bit on his front left leg, looking around wildly.  He settled onto the couch, ignoring my calls.  I went over to him to see what I could do to make him more comfortable.  He looked up but didn’t appear to see me.  It was as if I didn’t even exist.  He shuddered once, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.

A few minutes later, Grimm started up from the couch as if struck with electricity.  He was agitated, looking around for something that he couldn’t seem to find.  I went over to him to see if I could soothe his anxiety.  And that’s when I noticed that something was extremely wrong.

His eyes were filmy, watery, a greyish color.  He continued to ignore me, instead walking aimlessly around me on his quest for…something.  I felt for his pulse to see how much his agitation had raised his heart rate and found he had absolutely no pulse at all.  What was happening?  How could my dog have no pulse and still walk around?  I examined him closer.  No respirations.  No palpable heart beat.  His mucous membranes were grey.  He was dead…and yet not.  My dog was essentially a zombie.

Devourer of Faces

At that moment, Rufus walked into the room.  Grimm immediately turned towards him, groaning in a low tone.  Rufus walked up to Grimm, preparing to commence play.  Instead, Grimm grabbed Rufus by the face and started to eat him.

Rufus yelped in surprise and tried to get away, but the grip Grimm had on him was too strong.  I looked on in horror.  What was happening?  Grimm had never hurt a fly ever in his life and here he was, eating his best friend.  I ran over and pried Rufus from his jaws.  In less than one minute, Rufus died.  A minute later, he was back but not exactly alive.  Another undead dog walked my halls.

What was happening?  Once Rufus became the walking dead, Grimm let him be.  Now two zombie dogs shuffled through the house, looking for something. To my extreme relief, they completely ignored me.  I did not relish the idea of having to fight off zombie canines.  But then I realized something.  If human zombies seek out new humans, my zombie dogs were seeking out other dogs.  Where was Zella?  She was in danger.

The Flesh Eater

I was too late.  Zella ran into the room, plowing into Rufus.  Rufus latched on, gripped her by the neck and bit into her flesh, cementing her fate.  A few minutes later, a third zombie dog shambled through my house.

I started to corral all the dogs into one room while I figured out my next move.  Was there a cure?  Were they really the walking dead?  Had anyone else had similar events happen? The dogs turned towards me, started to come my way. Was I now a target?  I did not wait around to find out if I was next on the zombie menu.  I closed off the door to the room, effectively isolating myself from them.  I had to try to find out more.  Was this the first case?  Was Grimm patient zero?  Would headlines tomorrow read “Pit Bull Starts Canine Zombie Apocalypse”?  Did my dogs really just die?  What was going on?

The Mindless Wanderer

I quickly turned on the television, scanning for news.  Nothing on national news but a local station was reporting on a disturbing incidence at the city shelter.  All the dogs had escaped their runs and cages and were attacking each other.  Animal control was trying to assess the situation.  In the background, an animal control officer was trying to slip a lead over a dog’s head.  Something was wrong with the dog, something not natural.  In fact, the dog looked a lot like how my dogs now looked.  I knew then that the man was trying to catch a zombified dog.

On screen, the man screamed.  The dog had bitten him!  Others rushed towards him, trying to help.  Suddenly, zombie dogs were coming towards them.  They all ran, barely outrunning the dogs chasing them.

This was bad.  Would the man turn into a zombie?  Were zombified dogs coming after humans next?  It appeared that the infected dogs were teaming up and, after biting unaffected dogs, were trying to come after the people around them.  Local police were on scene and opened fire on many of the canines.  Unless they were head shots, the dogs kept coming.

From my closed off room, I heard a crash and the tinkle of broken glass.  I looked out my living room window.  My dogs had escaped and were shambling away.  Other zombie dogs were coming towards them, forming a giant pack of undead canines.  Where were they headed?  Everything was happening too fast.  I didn’t dare try to stop them.

Over the next several days, all the world over, humans began the war against the dog zombies–World War D had started.  Where it originally started, no one knows.  When it will end is anyone’s guess.  Thankfully, the people who have survived an attack have not turned into zombies, too.  The disease process appears to only affect canines, domesticated and wild.  There has been no success in finding a cure for our dogs.  Man’s best friend is now man’s number one enemy.  From the biggest mastiff to the smallest chihuahua, coyotes and wolves in between, they are all out to get us.  Nowhere is safe, no one is immune from their wrath.  I will never understand why I wasn’t immediately bitten and attacked.  All I know is that somewhere out there are my dogs, the walking dead, at war with the rest of humanity.  God help us all.

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Ahhh…summer in Texas.  The sun is sweltering, the humidity is high, the mosquitoes are as big as mockingbirds and all the dogs want to laze around inside during the daylight hours.  I can’t say that I blame them.  It’s too hot to run around outside unless it’s early morning or late evening, but that’s when the giant mosquitoes swarm around and make life miserable.  What to do?  Do we risk heat stroke or exsanguination?  Both sound like bad ideas.  Maybe we’ll just stay inside.

My lazy dogs have taken over the couch this summer.

My lazy dogs have taken over the couch this summer.

Even the bunnies are too hot to run.  When the dogs are outside and rustle up a rabbit, the rabbit runs a few yards then stops and hunkers down.  My very brilliant dogs stop the chase and turn around, twirling in circles, looking every which way.  “Whaaat??  Where did the bunny go?  Bunny?  Oh, buuunnnnyyy…”.

Very slowly, rabbit ears come up over the grass.  The bunny peers at the dogs, as if to ask, “Really?  Are we really going to do this?  I’m hot, you’re hot; can’t we just pretend you got me, I’ll play dead, and we can both go on about our day?”.

The dogs exchange looks, shrug their shoulders and say, “Yeah, okay.  Good point.  But we sooooo got you, bunny.  You better play dead for a long time.”

Grimm dreams of colder days when chasing bunnies and frisbees doesn't tire him out so much.

Grimm dreams of colder days when chasing bunnies and frisbees doesn’t tire him out so much.

How do you entertain three lively dogs when it is hot enough outside to fry your brain?  Walks during the day are out of the question.  The concrete and asphalt would burn their little footsies.  Running around outside in the heat of the day leads to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, even with a giant water trough outside to jump in periodically.  Roughhousing inside causes too much chaos.  So what do we do?  We wait until dusk and then we all pile into the car and head to the nearest lake–Lake Pflugerville.

Zella can't wait until evening comes.  Her dramatic sighs from the couch illustrate her frustration with being inside during the day.

Zella can’t wait until evening comes. Her dramatic sighs from the couch illustrate her frustration with being inside during the day.

Lake Pflugerville really isn’t a true Texas lake…more of a giant Texas pond.  It does, however, have a 3.2 mile dirt and gravel track around it, a large expanse of water, and enough constant wind and rough breezes to blow even the most determined mosquito off course.  Not having many artificial lights around it makes for great star watching and moon gazing.  The croaks of the frogs, the quacks of the ducks, the splashes of the fish and all the smells in between delight the dogs.  Plus, if they want, they can go for a moonlit swim.  This biweekly excursion has become a favorite trip for the woofers and me.

Rufus daydreams about chasing Grimm through the lush prairie grass.  In a minute, his daydream will turn into reality, but instead of chasing Grimm through the grass, he will chase him around the couch...and over the rug...and under the table.

Rufus daydreams about chasing Grimm through the lush prairie grass. In a minute, his daydream will turn into reality, but instead of chasing Grimm through the grass, he will chase him around the couch…and over the rug…and under the table.

The lazy days of summer are aptly named.  The heat and humidity seem to soak up everyone’s energy.  Here at my house we seem to have become seasonal vampires, only out during the hours between twilight and early dawn.  On the days when I’m not working, we save the rest of the day for napping and lazing around, working on indoor projects or doggy behavior training while indoors.  Even though it gets hard to work their bodies during the hottest parts of summer, I can still engage their brains.  I can’t have complete lazy bums around here.  Plus, the waggle of their tails while indoors makes for a nice breeze.  If only they could aim them better, we could turn those tails in mosquito swatters.  Maybe we’ll work on that during these lazy days.

The boys wake up when the sun goes down.

The boys wake up when the sun goes down.

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Do you ever envy your dogs?  The innocence they possess allows them to openly abandon all caution and just barrel through life.  They know nothing of guilt, don’t dwell on the past and live in the moment.  If a dog ever chose his or her life motto, it would be “carpe diem”–seize the day.  Although if you were to ask my dogs, they would say their motto really should read “carpe omnia”–seize everything:  my socks, my shoes, my plants, each other.

 

 

Rufus pre

Rufus prepares to seize the day with a goofy grin on his face.

 

We humans spend a good amount of our childhood wishing we could hurry and grow up already.  As adults, we look back and wonder where the time went. Today’s pace of life seems to have sped up tenfold in the last couple of decades.  Is this because we, as adults, have so many more responsibilities and less free time or has the instant gratification we have become accustomed to forced us to go into overdrive?  I suspect it is a combination of both.  Life happens and we sometimes forget to stop and just enjoy the little things happening at that moment.

 

 

Grimm wallows in the grass, enjoying the crisp coolness on his skin.

Grimm wallows in the grass, making his version of a grass angel.

 

 

Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist, once said, “It takes a very long time to become young.”  I’m fairly certain he wasn’t referring to senility causing child-like innocence, but rather our curious nature of wanting to return to the past, to relive our childhood days.  The older we get, the more nostalgia seems to grip us.  As I’ve become older, I find myself wanting to do childish things again:   pick wildflowers, roll around in the grass, soar in a swing, putter around on a scooter, look for frogs.  I’m thirty-six going on six.  How the heck does that happen?

 

 

While wrestling, Rufus gets a mouthful of Grimm skin.

While wrestling, Rufus gets a mouthful of Grimm skin.

 

 

Watching my dogs wrestle and play, I am reminded of my own childhood.  While I never pretended to eat my siblings, we did roughhouse and wrestle quite a lot and totally enjoyed every minute of it.  We pretended to be surrounded by lava, jumping from couch to chair and back again, much to my mother’s irritation.   We had our own secret society meetings in our little wooded area, using old cut up tree logs as benches.  We fished for crawfish using strings with bacon tied on the ends.  Life was simpler, we didn’t worry about the future, our imaginations ran wild.

 

 

Rufus tackles Grimm in a quest to restart their roughhousing.

Rufus tackles Grimm in a quest to restart their roughhousing.

 

Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself to give myself a break.  Yes, I have about 1,001 projects I need to start (or finish), people I need to call back, chores that need doing.  I feel guilty when I take a few moments for myself, knowing these other things need to be done.  But when I stop and watch my dogs explore their environment and play with each other, I see how much happier they are, so much more fulfilled, getting to just be dogs and not having to be perfect little housemates, quietly watching the world go by around them. I don’t have to be perfect, either.  Life is so much better when you enjoy the little things.

 

 

My herd of dogs, pretending to be cows munching on fresh green grass.

My herd of dogs, pretending to be cows munching on fresh green grass.

 

 

If there is one lesson I have learned about life from my canines, this is it:  seize the day.  No one ever died regretting doing more fun things in life.  Take the time to play with friends, taste the grass (okay, well, feel it’s softness under your bare feet) and explore your environment.  Apologize to no one when you feel the urge to act like a kid again.  Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t beat yourself up when you procrastinate and choose to pursue fun endeavors instead.  Go.  Carpe your diem.

 

 

Zella smiles after running around outside and playing with the other woofers.

Zella smiles after running around outside and playing with the other woofers.

 

 

“No matter what happens, always keep your childhood innocence. It’s the most important thing.” 

-Federico Fellini   

 

 

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  If so, Grimm has been given the best compliment of all by his buddy Rufus.  If Grimm chases a bunny, Rufus chases after Grimm and the bunny;  if Grimm starts to munch on a stick, Rufus munches on the same stick with him;  if Grimm decides to commence a raid to steal a shoe, guess who has appointed himself his sidekick?  Yep, mini-Grimm…err…Rufus.

Grimm decided to survey the yard from the safety of the sunflowers.  Rufus decided to join him, but since his legs are so much shorter than Grimm's, he gave himself a boost.

Grimm decided to survey the yard from the safety of the sunflowers. Rufus decided to join him, but since his legs are so much shorter than Grimm’s, he gave himself a boost.

The attraction between these two isn’t just one-sided, either.   Grimm now expects his minion to follow his lead.  If I let Grimm out alone, he waits at the bottom of the deck until I let Rufus out with him and then the two of them race off around the yard to find their next adventure.  Sometimes, though, Grimm loses Rufus in the tall grass and brush in the empty field.  Grimm comes tearing back, but Rufus, with his stumpier legs and clumsier movement, can’t keep up (it’s like watching a rhinoceros chase a cheetah).  Because he is too short to see over the grass, he stops and turns in a circle, looking for Grimm.  If he sees him, he comes running.  If he doesn’t, he waits where he is, confident that his friend will come find him.  Grimm then sighs, looks at me as if to say,”Why can’t he find me?”, then turns around and goes to collect him.

Rufus sticks by Grimm, even when foraging for tasty edible plants.

Rufus sticks by Grimm, even when foraging for tasty edible plants.

Even Zella is confused by their love affair.  Sure, they both still play with her and she plays with them, but it is a rarity for her to have one-on-one playtime with one of the boys.  Lately, she has taken on old Charley’s role as referee and lets them know when they are too rowdy or rough.  Sometimes, she even leads the whole gang in their outside adventures, but after a while, the boys get bored (and a little jealous) of her finding all the bunnies and go about doing their own thing.  Zella very rarely follows them–she likes to forge her own way and is more independent.

Snacking On Leaves

Rufus mimics Grimm’s movements and eats the exact same leaves he does.

I should just start calling my wonderdog duo Grufus.  Why use both names when they are always together?  I should just save myself the trouble.  The real trouble, though, is that when these two are deep in their Grufus universe, I don’t exist.  Sure, they both still seek out my affection and are enthusiastic upon my return home from an absence, but their obedience goes out the window.  If I tell one to come, but the other is allowed to stay outside, then the one who was supposed to come back to see me just pretends he didn’t hear me. I have no reward readily available to trump their joy of  just getting to be together.

Grimm tastes a leaf, finding the juiciest tidbit...

Grimm tastes a leaf, finding the juiciest tidbit…

...and Rufus joins in, performing a perfect synchronized taste test.

…and Rufus joins in, performing a perfect synchronized taste test.

To prevent my two young hellions from combining to form one monstrous demon, I need to work on increasing their independence from one another.  Sure, it’s great they have a true brotherly friendship, but the co-dependence isn’t really that healthy.  Grimm already has some remnants of separation anxiety when he is away from me and I don’t need Rufus to have the same when away from Grimm.  Time to work on increasing Rufus’ self-reliance.  He can do things on his own, but he does prefer to have Grimm by his side as his role model.  Grimm, I know, just likes having a minion around.

Rufus poses by himself in front of the sunflowers.  Independence in a dog can be a good thing.

Rufus poses by himself in front of the sunflowers. Independence in a dog can be a good thing.

Grimm makes a good role model, but I don’t want Rufus to become an exact copy.  Plus, some of Grimm’s habits are not ones I necessarily want Rufus to have.  I don’t want to shatter the bond they have, but I do want to give them individual opportunities.  They each have so much to offer and I need to allow their own personalities to shine.  They are canines, not clones.  Time for Grufus to become Grimm and Rufus again.  No more monkey see, monkey do.  Independence training, here we come!

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