Archive for the ‘Life & Musings’ Category

Out In The Cold

Texas weather has a reputation for being bipolar. The sun shines and all seems perfect, but by the time you get dressed and open the door to go outside, hail plummets from the black sky and a tornado comes roaring down on you. Okay, so maybe not that extreme, but this past week illustrates the fluctuation of Texas weather perfectly.

Early last week, the weather was pleasantly mild. The dogs even had a blast chasing bunnies and playing outside while I caught up on some yard work. By late Thursday, however, the weather people predicted that we would have snow. Snow! Yeah! We haven’t had proper snow in years…2010 to be exact. The neighborhood kids would get a snow day, traffic would be light on my way to work and Grimm and Rufus could experience the cold, pure flakes of frost for the first time.

The weather forecasters were correct in saying we would get frozen precipitation, but wrong in leading us to believe it would be snow. Instead of white, fluffy flakes we got hard, crunchy ice. Yes, technically it was still frozen precipitation, but ice and snow are not the same thing. For one, you don’t usually slip and bust your bottom while walking on snow covered ground. Ice covered ground, however, leads to lots of slipping and cursing and muscle pulls and cursing and falling and cursing and then bruises…in that order. Even though hard pellets of sleet and ice were falling from the sky, I was determined to make allow Grimm and Rufus to experience the joys of frozen precipitation for the first time.

"I thought you said this would be fun! This is not fun...this cold stuff stings my eyes and is, well, cold!"

“I thought you said this would be fun! This is not fun…this cold stuff stings my eyes and is, well, cold!”


Both dogs were tremendously excited at first when their jackets came out. They suited up, I opened the back door onto the porch, they bolted out and promptly slid and crashed into the rear portion of the deck. Both dogs started trying to stand and continued to slip. They looked a little bit bewildered and confused, but no way were they running back indoors. I was determined they would have their moment of icy fun.


"What in the world is this cold stuff? I can't sit down properly on my wooden bench without my butt slipping and getting cold!"

“What in the world is this cold stuff? I can’t sit down properly on my wooden bench without my butt slipping and getting cold!”


Grimm gingerly walked around the deck, sniffing at the ice. He kept lifting up his feet and frankly looked miserable. The ice pellets were blasting down and hitting him in the eyes and he begged to go back indoors. Rufus kept running in circles and slipping and falling, only to try again. I did not realize that he had to really go to the bathroom. I thought his frantic circling was due to the cold ice touching his feet and the frozen precipitation hitting his head. Finally, he found the one spot on the deck where there was an actual patch of what might have passed for snow and urinated on it.


The only small patch of snow around and Rufus pees on it. So much for my tiny baby snowman.

The only small patch of snow around and Rufus pees on it. So much for my tiny baby snowman.


Where was Zella while the boys and I were having so much fun slipping and sliding and trying not to fall in yellow snow, you ask? She was curled up on the couch, refusing to step one hair over the threshold into the cold. She much preferred the warmth of the indoors to the stinging pellets of ice. I don’t know why. Ice pellets in your eye and slipping and sliding on ice seems like awesome fun to me.


"Outside, you say? Um, no. I decline your invitation. But have fun and watch for falling icicles."

“Outside, you say? Um, no. I decline your invitation. But have fun and watch for falling icicles.”


Zella is not generally a fan of frozen precipitation, snow or ice. She’s seen and experienced both before and was in no hurry to repeat the experience. There was a reason she lived in Texas, she told me, and the current weather we were experiencing was not the reason why. She never expounded on why she lived here but it must be because of her excellent owner. I feel so blessed.


This was the last time Zella experienced snow and other aspects of frozen precipitation. She was not amused then, either.

This was the last time Zella experienced snow and other aspects of frozen precipitation. She was not amused then, either.



After drying paws, the boy woofers and I came inside to thaw out. They were never going outside again if they could help it. I don’t think they are fans of cold, frozen precipitation, at least of the variety we have here in Texas.

The whole city of Austin pretty much shut down and we made national news for being the dumbest drivers in the world. I was not one of the 150 plus people who got into accidents of some kind or another driving on ice, but I did experience the fun of slipping and sliding while trying to stay on a road and not run into other vehicles or trees or houses. I must say, though, it was pretty amusing to watch a few terrified drivers pull off the road, hazard lights fluttering as quickly as their pulses, and then wait in their cars in cold panic, determined not to drive any further until the ice melted. Since it was 6:00 in the morning and temperatures were not to get above freezing until early afternoon, it looked like they had a long wait ahead. They were probably wishing they had stayed inside, curled up on the couch. Being out in the cold was not fun. Zella had the right idea.



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I must have been out of my mind the day I wished Rufus wasn’t so lazy. You’re probably saying, “Well, you know they say to be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Like I said, outta my ever-loving mind.

The only reason I wished for Rufus to not be so lazy (mind you, I didn’t wish for him to be active, just to not be so lazy) was because I was getting tired of dragging him off the couch…and out of the car…and out of his kennel…and off of my bed.  My arms and back were threatening to mutiny if I kept using them to haul fat-boy Rufus around.

The one time I took him hiking with the other dogs, I had to help him climb up some of the boulders on the hike out. Before this, I had never had to help a dog climb up a moderately steep incline–usually they were the ones pulling me. Let me tell you…it was quite awkward, trying not to slip while pushing Rufus’ derriere in front of me. He basically would just put his front legs up on the boulders and look back at me, waiting for his push. I tried to see if he could do it on his own, but he just rested his head on the rock and looked at me like I was the cruellest person in the world for not helping him. Finally I gave in (because if I hadn’t, I would have been there all week) and hoisted him up the rest of the trail until the area levelled out and he could make it on his own. Needless to say, since all the attempts I have made to get Rufus to really exercise seemed to end up with my arms falling out of their sockets, I gave up.

Rufus Before...

Over the last few months, Rufus has battled ongoing skin issues.  It started as soon as I rescued him.  He had road rash from being run over and was on antibiotics to help his skin heal.  Even after his skin healed, though, he never seemed to grow new hair and was losing what he did have left and right.

I scraped him several times looking for mange mites.  I never found any under the microscope, but because he was a pit bull type dog (they are notorious for getting demodex mites) and because he was itchy (pruritic) and because sometimes you don’t find the mites, I treated him empirically with Ivermectin for three months.  The missing hair around his eyes (an area you can’t really scrape without sedation) grew back, but the rest of him stayed as bald as ever.

I changed his food to grain free and only fed him a fish based diet. I added fatty acid supplements to his food, antihistamines to his medication routine and bathed him with oatmeal-based shampoo. His pruritus continued to worsen and he started to stink really bad. He had horrible seborrhea (oiliness to his skin), developed comedones (fancy term for blackheads) and continued to lose hair. I performed skin cytologies and more antibiotics and anti-seborrhea/antipruritic/antimicrobial/antifungal shampoo were tried. He became less itchy, but the comedones were so bad that he looked like he was growing mold. Through it all, he continued to lose hair. I could either have his skin biopsied and/or start allergy testing or see the veterinary dermatologist.

Instead of putting him under anesthesia for the biopsy, I decided that I would see the dermatologist first. In preparation for that visit, I decided to go ahead and perform a complete blood profile on him. I remember joking with one of the veterinarians at work:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if he just had a low thyroid?”

“Well, it would be an easy fix, but juvenile hypothyroidism is just so rare. One can always hope,” she replied.

Then I really started to think about it. Maybe he DID have a low thyroid. Other than the fact that it is very rare for a dog to have juvenile hypothyroidism, he did fit the other criteria:

  • Poor hair coat with lack of growth and general alopecia–Yep.  With his patchy baldness, he was starting to look like a chupacabra mixed with a hippo.
  • Lethargy–Check. It he was any lazier, people were going to start assuming he was just a weird dog-shaped pillow.
  • Mental dullness–Uh oh. I was pretty sure his IQ was well below normal for a canine…or a rock.
  • Heat seeker–Yep!  Rufus hated the cold weather and I had to give him Charley’s old jacket to wear else he trembled uncontrollably, even in 68 degree weather.
  • Gain in body weight–This was the whole reason I was trying to get his lazy behind off the couch to begin with. He was definitely becoming more rotund.
  • Neuromuscular signs–Hmmm. Rufus had been observed to do some weird head bobbles and tremors at times. I thought maybe it was just because his head was too heavy.
  • Myxedema of the face–Also known as thickened or swollen skin, this leads to the tragic expression seen in dogs with severe hypothyroidism. Rufus definitely looked tragic, with thick eyebrow folds and drooping skin.  I thought he just looked sad because I made him get off the couch every once in a while.

Rufus’ bloodwork came back with a few discrepancies:  he was slightly anemic, his cholesterol was elevated and his free T4 and total T4 were both very, very low;  all of these tests displayed biochemical trends that are usually seen in true hypothyroid dogs. In fact, his free T4 value was so very low, it was reported as “less than” the lowest number they record. I had my solution to his skin issue (and his other issues, as well). All I had to do was supplement him with thyroid hormone, no need to see the dermatologist just yet.

Rufus After

Fast forward one month. Holy mother of dog! Rufus is a new canine.  His hair coat has almost completely grown back in, his oiliness has disappeared, he lost eight pounds without any change to his diet, his tragic expression has almost gone away completely and, in answer to my wish, he has become turbo-charged. Whereas before he would only play for a few minutes, now he wants to play ALL DAY LONG. Grimm is worn out, Zella is worn out, I’m worn out. And guess what? Rufus can actually run and gallop and jump up into the car on his own. He drags me out the door by his leash rather than the other way around. AND he can go outside in 60 degree weather (like today) and not shiver at all. Now, he still likes the couch, but these days he uses it more as a springboard to jump off of rather than a bed. At times I’ve almost been tempted to stop his supplementation, just to have lazy Rufus back for a bit. But…then his hair will fall out and he’ll stink again.

The only symptom that hasn’t gone away is the mental dullness. Thyroid hormones did not make him a genius overnight. He will probably always be a little slow mentally. Puppies who don’t have enough thyroid hormone during development can have impeded mental function and retardation of growth (they call this “cretinism”). They  can  still grow once supplementation is started, but they can not catch up mentally.

So there you have it. I got exactly what I wished for (a less lazy dog with better skin) but found out I was not yet prepared for all that entailed. Now I guess I need to wish for a magical way to exercise and entertain Rufus so Grimm and Zella don’t become worn out. Then again, if I wish that, there is no telling what cruel joke fate would play on me. I just might get it.

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“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” 
-Winston Churchill  


Meet Waylon.  He’s the boxer puppy in the below picture with Grimm and Rufus, although he is much bigger now.  And no, he’s not mine.  At one point, he almost became part of my household but, because another was smitten by his cuteness, I was let off the hook.  Waylon is now 9 months old, crazy as only a boxer puppy can be, and is Rufus’ blood brother.


"I'm the baby.  I said, I'M THE BABY!"

“I may be the littlest, BUT I’M THE LOUDEST!”



Back in June, Waylon presented to my veterinary clinic on an emergency basis for vomiting, lethargy, inappetence and basically a failure to thrive.  He was skin and bones, white as a sheet and completely depressed.  Originally from a breeder in Missouri, his owner at the time brought him to Texas and assumed that everything was normal.  He trusted that the breeder had dewormed and vaccinated the puppy as stated and couldn’t believe the reason his young dog looked the way he did was because of hookworms.

Hookworms can be devastating to young pups, frequently causing severe anemia if left untreated.  Hookworms feed on their host’s blood by attaching to the mucosa of the small intestine.  Enough of these parasites were present in Waylon to reduce the amount of red blood cells in his body to 8%, a dramatically low number when a growing pup should have a hematocrit of at least 30%.  A blood transfusion was needed but the owner at the time could not afford treatment and wanted to go ahead and euthanize the little pup.  I offered the owner another option:  turn him over to my hospital, we would cover treatment and, if he survived, adopt him out.  The man readily gave his consent.  Now all Waylon needed was blood.

My personal dogs, with the exception of Charley, have always been blood donors.  (Charley could not be a donor because of his chronic ehrlichia infection.)  My dogs have been lucky enough (or unlucky, I guess, if you ask them) to be universal donors.  Grimm, because of his size, his high hematocrit level, universal donor status and easy-going nature, has been the go-to dog at the clinic for blood when we have no packed red cells in hospital or when whole blood is needed.  He has saved the lives of numerous parvo pups, IMHA dogs and other anemic puppies.  However, I did not have Grimm with me the day Waylon came in.  I did, however, have a nine month old red head named Rufus with me who was ready to step up to the plate.


Rufus Lounges in the Grass



I have warned clients in the past that I am not responsible for any changes in their dog’s behavior after receiving some of my dog’s blood.  I am joking, of course, as the new blood will not change their personality in any way (although they will feel better) and will only remain in their dog’s system for a short time.  After receiving Rufus’ blood, though, I swear Waylon became a mini-Rufus for a while, at least until the blood was replaced by his own.

Just two hours after receiving the blood, Waylon’s color and attitude improved immensely.  He started barking and jumping around, his appetite returned and he wolfed down his puppy food.  His barking turned into ogre noises like those Rufus’ makes.  He was now Rufus’ blood brother.

Waylon was adopted by one of the technicians at the hospital.  Curiously enough, the technician who adopted Waylon was the same technician who originally brought Grimm into the treatment area where I first met him.  Because of her, I have Grimm.  Because of me, she has Waylon.  Circle of life…sort of.  Anyways, I digress.  Waylon’s parasites were treated, he continued to thrive and has been my dogs buddy ever since.  Fast forward now to the end of October.

A rescue group came in with a litter of six, seven-week old Australian shepherd mix pups, all of which were suffering from hookworm anemia.  One was too sick to be saved.  The remaining five pups needed blood fast.  The only available dog at the hospital able to donate was Waylon.  Because each pup was so little, they only needed a small amount of blood and, because Waylon is now so big, he was able to donate a bit to each of them.  All of the remaining pups survived and are now in foster homes, waiting to be adopted.  See?  Even a dog can pay it forward.

There are so many things given to us each day:  a small kindness, a helping hand, the gift of life.  How many times can we say we really do pay it forward?  I would like to think I do my part, but I know at times I have fallen short.  I challenge each of you to pay one positive act forward each day.  You don’t have to give blood to save a life…sometimes a smile may make all the difference.



Here is your smile to pay forward as you see fit.

Here is your smile to pay forward as you see fit.



“You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world.”



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It goes by many names:  Elizabethan collar, doggy lamp shade, satellite dish, cone of shame.  Most dogs, at some point in their life, are buckled (and possibly wrestled) into one by their loving owners.  Contrary to what the dog may think, we do this for his or her own good—to protect them, to reduce the chance of further injury and maybe, just a little, to laugh at them.

Rufus, apparently, never read the “Caution:  Beware of…” section in the addendum to Rules and Regulations in Regards to Living in the Human World. Otherwise, he would have known about the hazards of the cone and the laughter that may befall him.  Frankly, though, he could care less.  He wears his cone with pride.

Rufus shows of his cone of shame...er, fame.  Not only is it a fabulous fashion accessory, but it also acts as a bib when he drools as shown above.

Rufus shows off his cone of shame…er, fame. Not only is it a fabulous fashion accessory, but it also acts as a bib when he drools, as shown above.

Unfortunately for Rufus (and for me…the cone becomes a weapon of mass destruction at times), he has had to wear the lampshade many times in his short life.  With his ongoing skin issues, he has to keep the cone on to prevent self-inflicted trauma.  At first, he was a little frustrated.  Now he practically shoves his head into the cone when it comes out.  He uses it to bulldoze the other dogs out of his way and to earn sympathy treats from unsuspecting humans.  When outside, it becomes a plow and is handy for making furrows in the ground.  Plus, nothing amuses other drivers on the road more than seeing a goofy pit bull sitting in the front seat of a vehicle wearing a plastic cone on his head.  Road rage goes right out the window.  City of Austin, you can thank Rufus for the calmer demeanor of the drivers on the road.  He can’t be held liable, though, for the accidents that may occur from the rubbernecking and hysterical laughter.

Accepting life as it comes is what Rufus and, generally, most dogs do.   And I’m not talking about learned helplessness, where they put up with something because they believe that their particular situation is hopeless and no matter what they do, their condition will not change.  Although this does happen (to people and animals alike), I am referring to their ability to adapt to novel situations, not them feeling helpless because they have nowhere else to turn. When Rufus wears his cone, he does so with pride.  This is why he has three of them—one for day wear, one for evening and one for formals.  Rufus is able to transform a difficult situation into an opportunity.  He turns frowns upside down, lemons into lemonade and a cone of shame into a cone of fame.

And truly, this is what makes dogs Real.  Not real, lower case (because we know they are not a figment of our imagination), but Real with a capital R.  They accept their people as they are and their life as it comes, cones and all.  This, unfortunately, is why we can abuse their trust but also why we can build such tremendous relationships with them.  They trust us to help them, take care of them, love them.  And this, in turn, makes us Real, too.  This is better explained through a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

When you are Real, you wear the cone because you trust that your person has your best interests at heart.  You put up with the jokes and the teasing because you sense the love underneath.  The cone may not make you beautiful, but that doesn’t matter because your beauty shines regardless of the piece of plastic on your head or the patchy baldness in your fur.  This is when your cone of shame becomes your cone of fame, and you wear it with pride because you are Real and nothing can take that away.  And if someone gets a chuckle at  your expense, well, that’s okay because you know that you are REALLY loved and no piece of plastic can take that away.

Cone of Fame

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Over the past few months, I have been presented with a few awards by my fellow bloggers.  To those who have bestowed these gifts, do not think I have forgotten.  I owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude and am truly honored that you all have taken an interest in the life and adventures of us here at Grimm’s Furry Tail.  As the newest addition to the canine crew, I will let Rufus speak for all of us:

Thank You

Now it is my turn to pass along these terrific little gems.  Giving an award to a fellow blogger remains one of the best forms of encouragement; it is a way to tell someone that you enjoy their work, appreciate their effort and seek to read (or see) more of their talent.  Being on the receiving end, for me at least, lets me know that others have been entertained or somehow affected by my work.  Those words strung together, those photographs perfected, made their way into the life of another person and caused some sort of effect in their life.  Did I inspire them, compel them to ponder a deeper question, alter their perception or just make their day a little brighter?  Hopefully, if I did my job, I did all of the above and maybe more.


The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Back in May, Kat from Travel. Garden. Eat. was kind enough to pass along the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Her blog addresses most of my favorite things in life and she inspires me to get out and explore, even if it is just in my own backyard.  Her pictures, too, are truly beautiful but you shouldn’t just take my word for it.  Go check her blog out for yourself.  Go on.  I’ll wait.

There are a few rules to be followed when accepting this award:  thank and link back to the person presenting the award, post the award on your blog, pass the award along to fifteen other bloggers (I’m going to cheat and only pass the award along to three inspiring bloggers) and share seven facts or thoughts about yourself.  Because this blog is more about my dogs than me, I’ll share seven facts about them instead.

  1. Grimm has recently become obsessed with squirrels.  Even when inside, if you say the word “squirrel”, he looks up at the ceiling in anticipation of a fat, furry rodent dropping from the heavens.  I worry about him getting a crick in his neck from all the head twisting he performs in his search for these delicacies…I mean critters.
  2. If Zella gets really excited, she starts to vibrate.  Playing frisbee and running with me while biking tend to bring on this condition.  If the excitement continues, she starts to make duck and monkey noises, too.  One day, I expect her head to actually explode from her fervor.
  3. When Rufus waits for his food, he drools…and drools…and drools.  A small lake forms around his front feet.  Saliva bubbles erupt from his mouth.  Strings of slime drip from his chops.  The boy needs a bib.
  4. All three of my pit bull dogs have donated blood to other canines in need.  I warn the owners of the receiving dogs that if their canine suddenly develops an urge to eat flip flops or destroy any plastic disc shaped items after the transfusion, I am not to blame.
  5. Whenever we go outside, Grimm has to run about three laps around the yard just to warm up.  Then the real shenanigans can begin.
  6. Zella excels at reading my body language.  At times, she seems to know what I’m going to do before I do.
  7. Rufus is secretly a princess trapped inside an ogre’s body.  He has to sleep on soft, fluffy surfaces, can not walk or potty on damp or wet ground and must be assisted in getting in and out of his carriage (my car).

Now for my nominees for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

  • fishofgold.net–This blogger was recently Freshly Pressed for her post titled, “How To Make A Goldfish”.  After reading this, you understand just how incredible this lady is.  She touches on subjects some of us would rather pretend didn’t exist, but that is the reason why I respect her writing so very much.  Plus, she has a super cute dog!
  • bebeinside.wordpress.com–This blog actually belongs to my sister who inspires me every day.  She currently is staying with me and the crazy dog clan and is preparing for a new little one; I am going to be an aunt for the first time in 5 months and Grimm, Zella and Rufus are going to have a new human cousin!
  • queenofzoom.com–With five kids and five dogs, she really is zooming!  Her pooches make me smile and Mr. B is just a doll.  If you haven’t already, stop by for a visit!

Zella loves awards

The Liebster Award

At the end of May, Ena from Trying To Pray presented me and the gang with The Liebster Award.  A month later, another Liebster Award came our way, this time from The Crossover.  Thank you both for this honor and I am truly grateful to have gotten to know a little about both of you through blogging.

The rules for this award are as follows:  thank and link back to the nominating blogger, state eleven random facts about yourself, answer the eleven questions presented to you at the time of the award, pass the award onto eleven other bloggers and leave them with eleven questions to answer, too.  Lots of elevens in there!  So, without further ado, here are eleven facts about me (and the pooches):

  1. I have only had a cell phone for a little over a year.  Before then, I used a landline and smoke signals to contact people.
  2. When I was little, I wanted a horse so very much, but I only had a faithful dog.  I used to make a halter out of a leash for her to wear and I would make her jump over bricks and other obstacles while I pretended to be a great equestrian hunter/jumper.  Only later, as an adult, did I learn that our playtime and make-believe was actually agility and I had been using (quite successfully) a prototype of the canine head halter.
  3. The only food I really hate is jelly.  Yuck.  Don’t hide it in doughnuts or cookies, either–I’ll find it…and spit it out.
  4. Grimm is the biggest dog I have ever owned.
  5. I really wish I had a pool right now.
  6. Every time I go to the store, I buy a little something for the pooches.
  7. Rufus loves watermelon.  Anytime anyone eats any, he immediately starts drooling.
  8. I find myself browsing the back to school aisles even though I am not going back to school nor do I have any children who are.  Buying school supplies was one of my favorite tasks and perusing the school supply section is completely nostalgic for me, even if the trapper keepers have been replaced by iPad cases.
  9. I have been vaccinated for Rabies.
  10. Zella loves to bark at the lawn mower when I attempt to start it.  Once it starts running, she stops and runs away to chase bunnies.  It has become our lawn care ritual.
  11. I have always loved to read.  When I was a kid, I would actually get in trouble for reading too much and not completing my chores.  I would lock myself in the bathroom or read outside while hiding in the woods.

Here are the answers to the questions asked by Trying to Pray:

  1.  Are you a cat, dog or other person? I’m definitely a dog person although I do love cats, horses and goats. 
  2. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?  I love coffee and vanilla bean.
  3. Best childhood memory?  Exploring the woods around my house with my siblings.
  4. What is your favorite place to sit back and ponder life?  Anywhere outdoors.
  5. If you could go back in time and place, where would you go and why?  If time travel were possible, I would be the first in line to go back to the Jurassic period.  Dinosaurs have always amazed me and seeing a live Tyrannosaurus Rex would be truly awesome.
  6. What writers have inspired you?  L.M. Montgomery, Jack London, J.R.R. Tolkien, Shel Silverstein, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Chris Wooding, Jane Austen, Jim Butcher…I could go on and on and on.
  7. If you couldn’t do what you are currently doing, what would you like to do or be?  I would love to have a little bookstore or run a plant nursery or have a hobby farm.  One day, maybe.
  8. What tastes better with ketchup on it?  I’m not a huge fan of ketchup, so I would say nothing!  Mustard is more my taste.
  9. What is your favorite color?  I love earth tones and all shades of blue, but I have been very partial lately to the color of slate.
  10. Where is the best vacation spot?  Anywhere away from the beaten path.
  11. Who fills your life with joy?  My family and friends and, of course, my dogs.

And from The Crossover:

  1. What is your all-time favorite book?  I have a lot of favorite books, but I think my all-time favorite must be The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  I think I first read it when I was about seven years old and I immediately gained a new respect for trees.  The unconditional love shown by the tree has meaning for both children and adults.  Reading it again as an adult who has experienced life and self-sacrifice makes the book relevant no matter your age. 
  2. What is your current favorite song?  Keep Your Head Up by Ben Howard.
  3. What was your favorite subject in school?  Biology and Studio Art.
  4. What is your favorite season?  I love the fall, especially when cold fronts bring blustery winds to Central Texas.  Spring comes in as a close second.
  5. If you could have any job, what would it be and why?  I would love to be trained as an architect, both structural and landscape.
  6. If you could interview any living person, who would it be and why?  Actually, this would probably be my maternal grandmother.  She is the last of my grandparents and her life experiences are always fascinating to me.  I always want to know more, but she is not the kind of person to really talk about herself.  Time is passing too fast, though, and I really need to find out all her secrets and desires, fears and feats.   
  7. What is the last movie you saw?  Pacific Rim.
  8. What is your greatest fear?  Death.  Or rather, I fear that I will die before I can accomplish all that I want or need to before I go.  I guess it is not so much the death part I fear, but rather dying with regrets.
  9. Are you a cat or dog person?  I am definitely a dog person.  I like cats, but mostly the ones who act like dogs.
  10. When are you the most productive?  Generally, I am most productive mid-morning after my coffee has kicked in and my brain has awakened.  I’m worthless after 10 pm.  My brain goes into standby mode then.
  11. Who is your hero?  Anyone who puts the needs of others before their own and who works to make the world a better place–the list is endless.  Anyone who makes the effort to make another’s life better is my hero.

And now onto my nominees for The Liebster Award (in no particular order):

For all of you listed above, these are the questions I would like to know the answers to:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. If you had to give up one cherished pastime or hobby, what would it be?
  3. Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
  4. Where did you grow up?
  5. What is your favorite food or beverage in the whole wide world?
  6. What are you least skilled at?
  7. And most?
  8. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  9. Do you prefer coffee, tea or neither?
  10. What type of landscape relaxes you the most?
  11. What television show or book series are you currently addicted to?

The WordPress Family Award

Lastly, two excellent bloggers presented us here at Grimm’s Furry Tail with the WordPress Family Award.  Thank you, Thoughts Of A Lesser Canine and Tails Of A Foster Mom for being part of our WordPress family!  Since all of you, dear readers, journey into the world of Grimm and friends, you are all a part of my WordPress Family.  Therefore, I pass this award along to all of my readers and thank you, with the deepest sincerity, for being a part of my blogging family.  I hope you will explore some of the blogs listed above and make your blogging family even bigger.

The Best

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Happy 4th of July 2013



Today America celebrates Independence Day–a day to relax with family and friends, drink a few beers, eat comfort food and ooh and aah over the spectacular fireworks that will be on display when twilight descends.  But how many of us really consider the words that started this day in motion on July 4, 1776?  I must admit…I hadn’t read The Declaration of Independence since my US government course in college.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


The second sentence of The Declaration of Independence has been said to be the heart and soul of America.  All men [and I would add, “women”; Grimm would add “canines” to that sentence if he was asked his opinion] are created equal with certain unalienable rights.  Are we, in America’s society today, living up to this credence?  Would our founding fathers be proud of what we have become…or would they shake their heads in shame, disappointed in the welfare of our nation?  I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.  After all, today’s society, and our world in general, has changed much in the past 237 years.  But no matter the changes, the above sentence has to remain true else we turn into the exact force we were trying to escape to begin with.

So today, as we celebrate our independence, think for just a moment about your own life, your own liberties, your own pursuit of happiness.  As a nation, we still have many hurdles to clear, but that is true of any large society, especially one comprised of so many different nationalities, religions and beliefs.  We have a choice, something so many others do not get.  Our founding fathers believed in it enough to make the following pledge:


And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


How many of us, today, would make the same promise?  Standing up to tyranny and speaking out for those who can’t is a very hard thing.  People the world over have suffered at the hands of oppression and not all (or even a majority) have been successful in their efforts to achieve personal freedoms.  We are not a perfect country, but we are given choices–free will–to do what we need to within our laws to pursue our own happiness.  We have the choice to drink beer, eat barbeque and gather by the hundreds or more to watch exploding fireworks.  We have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.



Life Liberty Pursuit of Happiness



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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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We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.  It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.

-W. Somerset Maugham


How fast a year flies!  It seems like only yesterday that I tentatively wrote the first post on this (or any) blog.  I remember feeling a little nervous, not knowing if what I had posted had really been sent off into the world wide web.  Would people read what I had written?  Would they think me silly, starting a blog about a dog?  Honestly, I decided that it didn’t really matter–I started writing for myself but, I must say, I am incredibly honored to find that others enjoy my ramblings.  Thank you, dear readers, for your encouragement and support.  Without it, I probably would not have made it to this blog’s first anniversary.


Three Pitties


Frankly, with my technically-challenged self, I’m surprised I got this far and that somehow, someway, I did not crash the whole Word Press universe.  Seriously.  I’ve been known to do that around technology.  Setting up this blog took some time and planning (and struggling and fighting with my computer…it’s possible a few curse words were muttered).  Once I got the hang of everything, publishing a new post became something I looked forward to.  Sharing my adventures, frustrations, musings and foolishness in regards to living with dogs allowed me to view my canine relationships in a whole other manner.  Trying to see through my readers’ eyes, I realized just how big a role my woofers play in my life.


Grimm's Big Tongue



Three weeks after my first posting, I finally got my very first follower:  Texana’s Kitchen.  Slowly, as time went by, new followers came and then, in October of 2012, something strange but miraculous happened–I got Freshly Pressed.  I was astonished because the post picked was not, in my opinion, my best work.  It was written because Grimm was starting to show more and more signs of separation anxiety and I needed an outlet for my frustration.  But after ending up on Word Press’ pick list, my little blog took off.  I was truly humbled to be placed among such terrific writers and bloggers.  More awards from fellow bloggers were received and I could not have felt more honored.  Thank you.



Grinning Rufus




The past year has been one of hope and heartbreak, of laughter and tears.  I welcomed a new dog into my household and said a final farewell to another.  I witnessed a wild, young dog mature into a gracious teacher, observed another become more patient and self-confident and learned more about life and myself along the way.   I hope, in some small way, that my words have allowed a measure of laughter or introspection to enter others’ lives, even if only for a minute.  Knowing that we are not alone in our struggles, even those not related to our pets, helps each of us in our journey through life.  I can’t promise to teach you anything new or even to always entertain you, but stick around and we’ll see where things take us; I’m pretty sure my crafty canines have many more adventures planned for the future.



Best Buds

With these two woofers around, trouble is always just around the corner. What new adventures await?



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Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

–Richard Bach

My Charley

Today I said goodbye to my oldest friend…my dog Charley.  I stood by him, face buried in his graying fur, tears dripping onto his nose, and gave him the last gift humans can give to a suffering pet–the gift of release, the gift of peace, the gift of no more pain.

Charley Wallows In The Leaves

Fifteen years ago, almost to the day, Charley came into my life.  It was Friday before Memorial Day when I first laid eyes on the emaciated, tick-ridden, partially bald pup.  He was my first rescue and showed me how truly amazing a dog can be if only given the chance.  For the next fifteen years, we journeyed through life together, learning about ourselves and each other along the way.  It was today, the Monday before Memorial Day, that he left my side and took a part of my heart with him.

Charley With Bow

Charley graciously accepted all of life’s trials and tribulations even when he seemed to have been unfairly singled out to endure more hardships than most. It would take a lot, I always thought, to finally end this old dog of mine.  After all, he had survived being run over, made it through surgery to repair a diaphragmatic hernia, recovered from liver shunts and, later in life, almost full liver failure, beat ehrlichia once only to have it come back later in life and then beat it again, regained function of his right half of his body after being paralyzed on that side for eight weeks, and finally pulled off a Lazarus-worthy stunt when it seemed myesthenia gravis (a neuromuscular disorder leading to paralysis) would surely cause him to give up the ghost.  Because he kept beating the odds, I sorta thought him invincible…like the Jack Palance of dogs.

Charley On The Couch

Up until yesterday evening, he had been doing okay.  Moving a little slower, sure, but he was still getting into canine capers with all the other woofers.  This morning, when I let all the dogs out to do their business, he didn’t come to the door as usual.  I kept hearing scrabbling sounds–he was trying to stand on his own, but didn’t have the strength.  I thought his myesthenia gravis was returning with a vengeance, but then I saw how tilted his head was…and he had nystagmus.  His eyes were darting back and forth like a metronome and I knew what was happening–vestibular disease.

Charley and Zella

Vestibular disease in dogs can be caused by several factors:  inner ear infections, nerve damage or brain tumors, but in most cases the cause is not actually known.  There are two kinds of vestibular disease:  peripheral and central.  Most dogs recover from the peripheral form, but the central form is most often caused by a tumor in the brain.  Charley’s nystagmus was not characteristic of the peripheral form:  one of his eyes moved left to right over and over again, back and forth, while his other eye moved up and down in the same manner.  He couldn’t stand, couldn’t see and refused food. He was panicking (heck, I was panicking) and I knew the prognosis was very poor–he likely had a brain tumor and there was nothing I could do to help him.

Charley Smiles

Charley has always been an active dog, even into his geriatric years.  Not being able to walk or see straight would not give him any quality of life.  This is a dog who faced just about every kind of vermin a dog could encounter in Texas. He was bitten by a copperhead snake when he was a juvenile, sprayed by a skunk, fooled by a possum, gnawed by a rat, stung by multiple yellow jackets, bitten by fire ants, almost kicked by an unruly cow, outrun by bunnies, heckled by coyotes, shared feed with a horse, and looked at sideways by a goat when he was supposed to herd him. Charley was only ever reluctant about the goat.

Charley Looking Intense

I could not let my old buddy struggle while he tried to comprehend what was happening to him.  He was miserable and was only going to get worse. I had to give him the only gift I had left for him, knowing that by doing so I would break my own heart.  I had to let him go.  My heart, eventually, would mend…Charley’s old, worn out body would not.  His sweet spirit needed to be set free.

Charley on his 15th Birthday.  If he were human, he would be somewhere around 90 years old.

Dearest Charley, you will never truly know how much I loved you.  I know you have many furry friends up in doggy heaven to keep you company until we can meet again.  Your buddies here will miss you, too, but I know that part of you lives on in Zella, Grimm and Rufus.  Your guiding wisdom helped shape them as much (or probably more, if I’m being honest) as I did.  You did your job well.  You were the greatest friend anyone could ask for–you just always knew what I needed even when I had no idea.  Oh, the wisdom of dogs!  The memories we made together will be forever cherished.  Until we meet again, my friend, those memories will have to do.  Thank you for finding me.

Charley's Tail

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If you own dogs, or any pets for that matter, you have to have a healthy sense of humor.  Dogs either have the best timing in the world or just know instinctively how to embarrass us humans.  I think, really, they are just trying to keep us humble.

No one likes to speak of the dark side to owning pets.  They are, after all, animals who never apologize for their bodily functions, follow their instinctual drives and go where their nose takes them.  If that happens to be your boyfriend’s crotch, well, tell him not to make any sudden moves.

Oh, please don't bring up all the embarrassing things we do!

Oh, please don’t bring up all the embarrassing things we do!

Over the years, I have definitely been annoyed, embarrassed and angered by (and apologetic for) my dogs behavior and actions.  I wonder, though, how many times my dogs may have thought the same about me?  Even though we live on the same planet, our worlds are entirely different and I am constantly amazed that we have made it thus far together.

Take, for instance, poop.  Humans don’t like to talk about it (generally—I have a few friends who always have to bring up some aspect of their bowels during a conversation).  Dogs, on the other hand, use it as a calling card, a treat or as a way to make our lives just plain miserable.  One day, I even woke up from a very pleasant slumber to roll over and find poop on my pillow.  Poop…on my pillow…looking at me with it’s little poop face.  Charley, my old geriatric dog, had unknowingly dropped a solid turd during his sleep, and since he has a bad habit of resting his derriere on my pillows, said turd had a very comfy resting place.

It’s not enough that I’m constantly toting little green bags around whenever we go for a walk—from my dog’s perspective, since I immediately bag the waste, they must think I am fascinated by their excretions.  Really, I’m not. But if I don’t scoop the poop, then either:  1)  I step in it or 2) the dogs step in it and drag their poop-foot all over the house or 3) the dogs step in it and then jump on someone who is over for a visit and smear poop on them (try explaining to a hysterical friend that the mud they were angry about my dog getting on them is actually feces).  I won’t even go into the whole eating-of-cat-poop nightmare.  Poop breath is, well, poopy.

Those wild young 'uns can keep their rough, hard sticks.  I prefer comfy, soft beds.  And yep, you ain't seeing things.  I do have my rump on my owner's pillow.  I make my own rules--ain't nobody gonna tell me I have to use a pillow only for my noggin.  [Needless to say, guess who's changing their sheets today?  Thanks, Charley, for putting your dog butt on my pillow.]

There is a very good reason why I don’t let Charley sleep on my bed anymore.  He has his own bed now.

Related to the poop issue is the butt and genital licking issue.  I know canines don’t use toilet paper, but dear God, the licking is out of control.  I have three male dogs in my house and the penis licking never stops.  If they are not licking their own, they are licking each others.  I know…too much information. But while I’m sharing all their deep, dark secrets, I might as well bare all.  And, speaking of baring all, Zella, my female dog, has no shame.  She lets it all hang out all the time.

Zella likes to let it all hang out.  Even Rufus is a little embarrassed by her lack of modesty.

Zella likes to let it all hang out. Even Rufus is a little embarrassed by her lack of modesty.

Another instance where my dogs and I have differing opinion is in the olfactory department.  They just can’t seem to grasp the concept that dead things are not perfume.  Grimm especially likes to generously apply his cologne—eau de putrid—after I have spent considerable time either giving him a bath or right before I have to be somewhere and really don’t have time to bathe him.  Having to smell and then clean the death slime off my dogs is slowly driving me insane.  I don’t even understand how one dog can find so many dead things.  He must have them stockpiled somewhere where only he knows. My neighbor has even been a witness to the downfall of my sanity caused by the smell of decay.

One day, after Grimm coated himself in a particularly slimy dead thing, I drug him to the hose to commence the decontamination process.  I happened to start a conversation with Grimm while I bathed him.

“Why would you do this? Why do you roll in dead things?  This is just disgusting.  I mean, what is this?  Not only do you stink to high heaven , but you are coated with yellowish grease!  You are driving me crazy!”

My neighbor, who happened to be walking by, stopped to witness the spectacle before him without my being aware of the fact.  Here I was, berating my dog and talking to myself, while the stench of a rendering plant wafted through the air.  I’m pretty sure my disheveled appearance left no doubt in his mind to the depths of crazy I had fallen.

I heard a chuckle and my neighbor said to me, “When that dog of yours tells you why he does the things he does, I want to know, too.  He does look pretty proud of himself, though.”

“How long have you been standing there?”, I asked.

“Long enough.”

“Long enough to decide I am a completely crazy person, you mean.”

“Pretty much, but also long enough to see how much you love that damn dog.”

He left, chuckling to himself and I couldn’t help but start chuckling, too.  The absurdity of the situation made me laugh out loud and Grimm, in response to my laughter, wagged and wiggled, causing death-slime water to sling all over me.  I laughed louder.  I probably even got some death juice in my mouth and eyes.  I completed my chore, dried Grimm off and went inside.  I was tired after all the scrubbing and was ready for a nap.  I told myself, the only thing that would make my day complete would be to find a piece of feces on my bed. It would have been the icing on the cake…or, in my case, the poop on the pillow.  I giggled to myself.  What else can you do?  It’s either laugh or cry, and I chose laughter.

Grimm sniffs the air, triangulating the location of his next source of death cologne.

Even fresh after a bath, Grimm sniffs the air, triangulating the location of his next source of death cologne.

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Over the past few months, my fellow bloggers have been kind enough to bestow several awards to me and my wily canines.  I appreciate the time and thought they put into nominating my little blog and wanted to say, “Thank you.”  So, while Grimm prattles on in the background saying, “You like me!  You really like me!”, I’ll tell you a little bit about those gracious writers and offer my nominations in turn.

Whew!  All these award speeches have worn me out!  Gotta rest for the after party!

Whew! All these award speeches have worn me out! Gotta rest for the after party!

In January, Kirby’s Dawg Blog presented me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Thank you, Leah and Kirby, and please accept my apology for waiting so long to accept it.  Kirby is just about the cutest little munchkin you can find and  his “dawg blog” has everything from information on the ancient beginnings of our modern dog breeds to cuteness overload and more.

February brought another Very Inspiring Blogger award, this time presented by Double Moon Pie.  This blog, like mine, also gets it’s name from an inspiring animal–in this case, a horse named Double Moon Pie, or Pie for short.  Marie Anne, the author of this blog, comes from a very animal-friendly family and her love of horses (and dogs) comes across beautifully in her posts.  Thank you, Marie Anne, for the kind nomination and again, please accept my apology for the delay in acceptance.

Very Inspiring Blog Award

Finally, earlier this month, Human Rescues Dog, an informative, witty, introspective blog mostly about my favorite subject (dogs), presented me with The Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you for this honor.  All of the above mentioned blogs contribute their own individuality to our blogosphere and are each inspiring and versatile in their own ways.


With these awards come a few rules:  thank and link back to the nominating blogs, display the awards on your page, list seven facts about yourself that may not previously have been known, and pass the awards along to other bloggers who deserve the nomination.  Since I wouldn’t have a blog without the antics of my canine pack, I will include some facts about them, too, because, after all, it’s only fair to know some of their dark secrets.

  1. My current guilty pleasure involves watching multiple episodes of Downton Abbey for hours on end when it is raining outside.  I think, however, that I have been watching it too much lately as my dogs are starting to bark with British accents…except Rufus.  He picked up the Irish accent instead.
  2. When I was younger, I once got lost hiking in the Colorado wilds.  When Charley was younger, he once got lost when he wandered to the house next door.  When I went to collect him, he looked at me suspiciously, like he had no idea who I was.  It was only when we were back in my driveway that he expressed his gratitude to me for rescuing him.
  3. I enjoy going on road trips with no exact destination in mind but instead, stopping at interesting locations along the way.  Zella also loves zooming around in the car and, if I don’t keep the window controls locked, she will roll the windows down herself.  Many a time I’ve been driving along when all of a sudden the noise of an open window drowns out the radio.  Looking into my side mirror, all I see are Zella’s tan ears and pink tongue flapping in the wind.
  4. I’ve always had an issue about swimming in natural bodies of water.  Something about the slimy rocks, the nibble of a fish and the flapping of aquatic plants against my legs sorta freaks me out.  Grimm, on the other hand, loves to swim and the murkier the water, the better.  I can’t count the times I’ve had to wash pond scum off his face after a dunk in the local lakes and creeks.  I swear he pretends to be a baleen whale, skimming the plankton with his teeth as he submerges his head underwater.  I think one time he even tried to sing like a humpback whale, but of course he forgot to breathe out, not in, when he was underwater and came up sputtering.
  5.  One of my favorite desserts is tiramisu.  Rufus’ favorite after dinner treat is one of my socks.  He doesn’t just munch on them, but swallows them whole.  He tried to hide his obsession for socks from me, but I found out about it after he vomited up two of them in the last week.
  6. Whenever I eat a meal, I find that I save my favorite morsel for last.  My dogs, however, all eat their favorite part of their meal first and save the most boring parts for last.
  7. Call me old-fashioned, but I still like to read an actual newspaper and not read the news off of the internet.  Grimm also prefers an actual newspaper because he can still eat that…a computer, not so much (but he has tried).
Rufus was floored to learn he and the other pooches had won awards.  Charley, on the other hand, smiled happily.

Rufus was floored to learn he and the other pooches had won awards. Charley, on the other hand, chuckled at his response.

As for my nominations, I have decided to pick three terrific recipients and give them both awards.  Although the actual rules call for fifteen, I feel quality over quantity serves as a valid excuse for my short list.  All of my nominated blogs offer enough substance and style to more than make up for my brevity.

So, in no particular order, my nominees for the Very Inspiring Blog and The Versatile Blogger Awards are:

  • mauriceabarry.wordpress.com–This blog inspires me to think and he can be both funny, wise and poignant all in one post–truly versatile!  If all you read is his about page, you will be hooked.
  • ourlovingpack.com–With each photograph posted, a mini-story unfolds.  Her children and pooches show how innocence makes for a splendid friendship.  Be sure to read the story of Chance–it is truly a remarkable one.
  • jbranchohio.wordpress.com–This is a newer blog but timeless in it’s humor and message.  Plus, Brittany and her husband make all organic pet products, too!

I hope you enjoy exploring these blogs as much as I have.  One of the joys I find in blogging is how we all serve to inspire each other because of our versatility.  From all of us at Grimm’s Furry Tail, thank you!

Awww, shucks!  Thanks for the awards!

Awww, shucks!  Are those awards for little old me?

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What is it about sunshine that makes us feel so vibrant…so renewed?  Sure, it helps that sunshine can stimulate the production of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) and help regulate our pineal gland, which produces melatonin (the “body clock” hormone).  Of course, it allows us to make Vitamin D and the UV radiation in sunlight causes an increase in endorphins (the “natural opiate”).  If you are like me, though, the warmth of sunshine on your face triggers memories of youth, of being carefree and relaxed, of getting to be almost one with nature.


Grimm basks in the spring sunshine.

Grimm basks in the spring sunshine.


The dogs love the spring sunshine just as much, or maybe more, than I do. Some of the above biochemical processes may occur in them, too, but with their fur coat, the benefits have to be less.  So why do they love the sunshine as much as me?  Well, for one, it means they get to run around outside and chase the spring bunnies, munch on fresh spring grass and wallow in the mud and wildflowers.  The increase in sunlight causes things that were once dormant to awake and drives the rhythms of life around us.  The canines are mesmerized by the songs and mating antics of the birds and, at times, dive-bombed by the mockingbirds when they get too close to their nests.  The best for them, though, is the proliferation of smells that have invaded their world.



Zella sits in the wildflowers as she rests in her pursuit of bunnies.

Zella sits in the wildflowers as she rests in her pursuit of bunnies.


Spring rains seem to wash the winter drudgery away while the sunshine dries the landscape to perfection.  Textures change daily as growth happens literally overnight.  The buzzing of the bees, the trills of the birds, and the whispering of the wind act in harmony to create a perfect symphony.


Charley watches the other dogs as he prepares to saunter into the greenery.

Charley watches the other dogs as he prepares to saunter into the greenery.



Watching the dogs romp and play in the new spring landscape delights me.  They are as curious about the outside world as we are.  Grimm chases butterflies, Zella rousts rabbits and Charley finds the most delectable blades of grass to nibble on.  Rufus acts like a kid who has entered a magical world–for him, this is his first spring ever.  He had never smelled wildflowers, never tasted the earthiness in a sprig of grass, never before been entranced by a buzzing bee before now.  He has learned the joys of spring and sunshine and mimics his older housemates.



Rufus and Grimm frolic through the grass, kicking up their heels in almost perfect synchronicity.

Rufus and Grimm frolic through the grass, kicking up their heels in almost perfect synchronicity.


The sunshine and beauty of spring has brought a renewal of spirit to all of us at my house, human and canine alike.  The power of the sun has enlivened our world and called forth life.  Now is the time to get out and live it.  Time to act like a kid again and race with the dogs through the wildflowers.  All of you should do the same.  Go outside, enjoy the sun and frolic with your beasts!


Grimm leads Rufus in finding more spring-time adventures.

Grimm leads Rufus in finding more spring-time adventures.


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Being the new kid on the block can bring challenges.  You have to make new friends, avoid new enemies, prove yourself worthy in a lot of ways.  Making that transition can be hard and finding new buddies to share life’s experiences can be that much harder.  So, when you are finally accepted into the fold, life feels complete.  What could be better?


Battle Over The Stick


Rufus was accepted as one of the gang right off the bat…even before I officially decided to keep him.  I thought Grimm might be a little jealous of the new guy since his position of youngest was being usurped by a new hellion.  I had visions of gang initiations and hazing going through my head.  I could just imagine Grimm, Zella and Charley making Rufus dress like a cat and meow all day or forcing him to give them his ration of treats and food as tribute.  But did they?  Nope.  They took him in and immediately made him feel welcome–sharing their toys, their food, their beds, their love.  He became their newest little buddy.


Grimm vs. Zella & Rufus


Maybe, I thought to myself, the dogs knew at that time that he wasn’t supposed to be a permanent resident.  They were just being polite.  Now that I’ve officially adopted him (and by officially, I mean I just said, “Okay, I guess you can stay”), I thought maybe the jealousy would start.  Dogs can sense so much–surely they can determine through their canine superpowers when something is temporary versus permanent.  Surely they would gauge the subtle shift in the environment when Rufus was given tenure.  Surely the petty squabbles would commence.


Three Pups Carry A Stick


Unless playing tug of war with a stick counts, then I was completely mistaken. You see, that is what is remarkable about dogs.  They have an innate sense of goodwill (well, most dogs, anyway) about taking things at face value.  The newbie didn’t have to prove his worth to them or remake himself to fit their ideals.  He could be himself, and they theirs, with no apologies for their quirks, no expectations to become something more or less…no hidden agendas, no subterfuge, no scheming or gossip.  How refreshing it would be to live in a world such as this!  To be able to just say what you mean and mean what you say…well, why can’t we?





Rufus couldn’t be happier about being accepted into the fold.  To belong to something…to be part of something…isn’t that what most of us desire?  Don’t we, too, understand the feeling of wanting to fit in and the joy of finding true friendship?  As long as we can be ourselves and be true to our spirit, then finding our niche should bring us joy.  Love your friends and accept them for who they are.  And if your friends also love to tug on sticks as much as you, well that is a huge bonus!  Tug away, my friends…tug away.

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Now, before I began, I just want to say one thing:  no one is allowed to say, “I told you so.”  I realize now that  I was probably doomed from day one but I will say, “Thank you.”  Thank you for humoring me when I said that I would be able to adopt Rufus out one day, for pretending to not see when I was so obviously smitten and for understanding when I say that I cannot give this munchkin up.

Fostering is hard.  Caring for a life–feeding him, teaching him, training him, loving him–takes a big commitment.  However, one knows that the joy of finding that perfect home makes it all worth it.  Some fosters stay with you for a long time (I had a cat I fostered for 14 months before she found her perfect home and a pit bull mix who stayed with me for 11 months before he moved on) and some only for a short while (I only had a border collie mix for 3 days before he was claimed by his new family).  No matter how hard you try not to get attached, you sometimes do.

I’ve fostered many dogs and cats over the years and I have become a foster failure a few times, too.  I ended up keeping or adopting the ones I couldn’t bear to see leave or who I felt would truly be best served by staying with me–Thomas, a ginger and white cat who I just adored, Elliott, a black and white cat who was so attached to Thomas I couldn’t separate them and Zella, whose story can be read here.

There’s a line in Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, where Marilla is talking to Matthew about returning the orphan girl who was mistakenly sent to them in lieu of a boy.  They had requested a boy from the orphanage in order to help with labor around the farm.  Matthew has been smitten by the precocious redhead and does not want to send her back.  Marilla says:


“What good would she be to us?”

“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Matthew Cuthbert, I believe that child has bewitched you!  I can see as plain as day that you want to keep her.”


And keep her they did.  Best decision they ever made, too.  The decision was made not because of what she could give them (even though she enriched their lives), but because they could make all the difference in her life by giving her a home and love.

I, too, have been bewitched by a redhead…only a male canine, not a human girl.  I feel that my dogs and I might be some good for him.  In his short life-time (six months) he has been through four homes.  That, my friends, breaks my heart. Why should he have to go on to another home when mine is able to provide him all his needs?, I ask myself.

To make matters worse (or better, depending on your point of view), Rufus is completely enamored with Grimm.  He loves him more than anything in the world.  He mimics him, he cuddles with him and he wants to play with him all the time.  Sure, Rufus likes Charley and Zella, too, but I have never seen a dog with such an intense affection for another.  At work, my coworkers joke that he is Grimm’s pet.  Grimm, patient as ever, takes it all in stride.


Rufus mimics his older brother, Grimm.  If he grows up to be just like him, I can't complain...unless he also develops a shoe fetish.

Rufus mimics his older brother, Grimm. If he grows up to be just like him, I can’t complain…unless he also develops a shoe fetish.




Even when resting outside, Rufus likes to be near Grimm.  Holding paws is best.

Even when resting outside, Rufus likes to be near Grimm. Holding paws is best.


How can I, in good faith, uproot this pup once again when the time comes?  Oh, sure, he’s young and malleable and would probably be fine…but what if he isn’t?  It’s not like I have a horde of potential adopters knocking down my door, anyways.  I have none…that I feel are worthy of him.  Plus, now that he is dealing with demodex mange, he looks a bit homely and moth eaten.  What adopter wants to take on a medical challenge right off the bat?

See what I mean?  These are the excuses I keep coming up with to not find him a suitable home.  I realized yesterday that truly, the only reason that I couldn’t find him a home was because I wanted to keep him.  Selfish, selfish, selfish.  The thing is, though…why shouldn’t I?  The other dogs like him, I have room in my house and yard, I can afford him and he seems to love it here.  Why do I feel the need to justify keeping him?  Is it because I hate being labelled a “failure” again?  Probably.  I just need to redefine Rufus:  he is not a “foster failure” but a “foster for keeps”…mine to keep, to teach, to care for, to love.

I should have known this would happen when it took me forever to name him.  That was probably my first clue he was staying.  What did his name really matter if he was to be adopted and it changed anyway?  It mattered because it was really to be his permanent name all along.  Second clue?  I got him an expensive collar and personalized name tag with my contact information on it.  I told myself his new owner could get a new tag when the time came and I needed to have my information on him “just in case”…”just in case” he became mine, permanently.  Lastly, I had him microchipped and linked all my information to his chip number.  He already had a name tag–did he really need  a microchip at this point?  Sure, I could transfer the microchip over to the new owner, but couldn’t I have waited to chip him after he was adopted?  Apparently, no…I needed to chip him asap in case he got lost or removed his tag and collar so that he could be returned to me and his rightful home.  Subconsciously, I was thinking waaayyy ahead.  It took the conscious part of my brain a while to catch up.





Please don’t judge me too harshly.  I am weak and not nearly as tough as I think I am, especially where knucklehead dogs are concerned.  So, here it is:  Rufus is officially mine, for keeps.  May this home bless him with all he could ever want or need.  And it’s really okay…you can say it.  I TOLD YOU SO.

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If you have ever owned a dog, at one point or another you have probably found yourself in this scenario:  you are sleeping soundly, dreaming a rather pleasant dream, when all of a sudden the dream changes.  You find yourself encased in a wet, moist, moldy cavern with stinky, vaporous sulfur pits surrounding you.  A hideous panting/blowing sound smothers you from all sides.  Ack!  Just as you are starting to panic, you wake up to find seventy pounds of dog breathing in your face.  No?  Never happened to you?  Guess it’s just me, then.



Nothing like waking up to this big mug in the morning, especially when his warm breath blows right in your face.

Nothing like waking up to this big mug in the morning, especially when his warm breath blows right in your face.


Grimm and the other younger dogs at my house don’t really have bad breath, per se.  Mostly it is just the wet, moist panting in my face that drives me bonkers.  Charley, on the other had, has some monstrous foul breath in the morning.  I guess if I only brushed my teeth maybe fifty times in fifteen years I’d have some monstrous breath, too.  Because of his health issues, having him under anesthesia for a full dental cleaning is not really recommended.  And because he doesn’t chew nearly as much as when he was younger, relying on him to maintain his oral hygiene isn’t happening.  Time to up the tooth brushing, I guess.


Don't Breathe On Me

“Ugh, Charley, don’t breathe on me, dude!”



Rufus, the now five month old foster pup, is finally overcoming the puppy breath stage.  I’ve never really been a big fan of puppy breath.  Some people love it, I don’t.  With new teeth coming in, too, the metallic smell of blood lingers at times in his mouth.  Because of this, his panting breath makes me want to run outside for a breath of fresh air.


Zella vs. Rufus

“I will make you retreat, Zella, by breathing my horrid metallic puppy breath in your face! Have a whiff!”


Maintaining good oral hygiene is important and is no less so in our canine buddies.  The gold standard for optimum dental care in our dogs is daily brushing.  I know this, I preach this daily at my veterinary hospital.  Do I follow my own advice?  No, not really.  Occasionally I bust out the toothbrush, the paste, the rinse and the breath spray and go to town on the dogs teeth.  They actually like getting their teeth brushed.  Problem is finding time to do it each and every day.  After spending all day taking care of other peoples critters, I must admit I’m too worn out to give mine the gold standard.

I just wish the dogs could brush their own teeth.  Lack of opposable thumbs and all makes that a little hard, I guess.  Plus, my dogs have an unhealthy obsession with eating the entire tube of paste (even the vanilla mint variety), so leaving it up to them is probably not a good idea.  I guess it’s time to practice what I preach.  Better grab that breath of fresh air while I can, because I’m going in—into the dark, sulfurous cavern known as Charley’s mouth.  If you don’t hear from me in the near future, call the professionals.  The fumes will have finally gotten me.



Okay, time to scrub this old dog's mouth.

Okay, time to scrub this old dog’s mouth.



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When a cowboy’s too old to set a bad example, he hands out good advice.

~Old West Proverb


Charley on his 15th Birthday.  If he were human, he would be somewhere around 90 years old.

Charley today, on his 15th Birthday. If he were human, he would be somewhere around 90 years old.


Fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, a young male, merle colored dog entered the world.  I don’t know how many siblings he had, what his momma and daddy were like or what type of people brought him into our realm.  I only know that somehow, someway, he found himself in a big heap of trouble when he was around four months old–lost (or abandoned) in the scrubby forest of central Texas, covered in ticks and a host to a myriad of other parasites, starving and accidentally run over.  How he ended up where he was found, I’ll never know. All I know is that he ended up being plopped on the counter at my veterinary clinic at the time, needing a home and a friend.  He became my first rescue and my second dog, but he has been so much more than that.

Charley is the epitome of an old cow dog.  He’s loyal, faithful, patient, keeps the younger canines in line and can still rustle up a bunny when the mood takes him.  Being a mix of cattle working breeds (Catahoula Leopard Dog and Australian Cattle Dog), Charley has always been a quick learner and eager to please.  Even now, being mostly deaf, arthritic, having cloudy vision and dealing with myesthenia gravis (an autoimmune, neuromuscular disorder causing severe muscle weakness), he still enjoys tagging along and participating in the day’s activities.

With today being his birthday, and his fifteenth no less, I decided to let the old man make the itinerary for the day.  Today was to be his day to do as he pleased, which, I’ll admit, isn’t much different from Charley’s other days.  He has more than earned a comfortable retirement from his years of dedicated loyalty and friendship.


Me:  What would you like to do for your fifteenth birthday, Charley?

Grimm:  I know!  He wants to have a Quinceañera!  My friend Chico the chihuahua told me all about them…we can invite all his friends and he will get lots of presents and he can even wear a tiara!

Rufus, Zella, Grimm:  Quinceañera!  Quinceañera!  Quinceañera!

Charley:  Boy, you want to put a tiara on me?  You got another think coming. Ain’t no way I’m having a big shindig.  I just want to do what I always do–relax with my family and eat good grub and maybe I’ll tell you young whippersnappers some stories from the olden days.  How’s that sound?

Me:  We can do that, no problem.  Why don’t you tell them about the time you jumped off the cliff and I had to go rescue you?

Rufus:  Oh, yes, please!  That sounds scary!

Charley:  I don’t remember that.  How ’bout I tell y’all the story of the giant, rabid skunk that tried to fumigate me and Roxie out of existence?

Me:  Well, I don’t know about rabid and I’m pretty sure it was just a baby based on it’s size, but boy did you two stink for weeks!  I had to bathe them with dish washing detergent mixed with baking soda and peroxide and both of them had red highlights where their black spots were!

Charley:  Are you telling the story or am I?  ‘Cause I’m the one who got skunk juice in my eye.

Me:  Sorry.  Tell your story.  Grimm, stop trying to sneak up on him with that tiara!

Grimm:  But he’d be so pretty!  **Sigh.**  Okay, Charley, tell us about the stinky skunk.

Charley:  Well, this would of been back in ’04…or was it ’05?  Anyways…


I left them all to listen to Charley’s old stories while I made “pupcakes” for later. After story time, Charley and the gang started the day out with some nice, tasty, meaty bones.  Then the birthday pooch proceeded to take the first of many naps, interspersed with some outdoor time.  He even went on a short car trip with me to return some movies, during which he got to enjoy the fresh, crisp air blowing in his ears.  Not a bad day for a geriatric canine!


Charley loved his steak and meaty bone for breakfast, as did the other pooches.  This is a rare (pun intended) treat for them!

Charley loved his steak and meaty bone for breakfast, as did the other pooches. This is a rare (pun intended) treat for them!


This was the first nap of the day.

This was the first nap of the day.


Grimm finally succeeded in getting Charley to wear a tiara.  Grimm kept telling Charley it was "a birthday crown", but it's really a tiara.  I have a suspicion that Charley just decided to humor the boy.  Besides, not many dogs get to celebrate a quinceanera and Charley does like to look pretty.

Grimm finally succeeded in getting Charley to wear a headpiece. Grimm kept telling Charley it was “a birthday crown”, but it’s really a tiara. I have a suspicion that Charley just decided to humor the boy. Besides, not many dogs get to celebrate a quinceanera (and Charley does like to look pretty, even if he will never admit it).


Some things get better with age–fine wine, artisan cheeses, a well-played musical instrument.  But the one thing I’ve found that gets best with age is a loyal canine friend.  Charley and I have grown older together and learned much from our experiences.  He has been my furry rock, my strong support, my constant through many changes.  Watching him gracefully come to a ripe old age both fills me with joy and sadness–joy that I’ve gotten to have him in my life for this long, but sadness knowing that his time with me is quickly fading. Fifteen is a long life span for a medium sized dog, especially one who has endured so many hardships brought on by his rough start in life.  For now, though, he’s mine.

Happy Fifteenth Birthday, my oldest friend.

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A good name is rather to be chosen than riches.

~King Solomon


Imagine, if you will, a world without proper names.  For our species, confusion would ensue.  How would we get someone’s attention?  How would someone know we were talking specifically to them?  I can guarantee that miscommunication would hinder our daily lives and the amount of description needed to single one person out would wear us down.  A name cements our individuality.

A certain power exists behind a name.  The first real display of this power is usually presented to one as a child.  The child is not paying attention, danger may be lurking and he or she seems lost in a private world.   A worried parent cannot find the child so in a loud, forceful way, shouts THE CHILD’S NAME. The power associated with the name gets the youth’s attention more so than just the shout.

A name is not just letters strung together (although it may start that way), but a representation of meanings, a collection of memories, a legacy given to us by our past.  When we leave this world, our name remains:  in writings, in memories, in our descendants.  Humans need names and, because they live in our world, so do our pets.


Pup on Porch

With all of the above being said, imagine my frustration in not being able to name the new little red pit bull pup I rescued earlier this year.  He came with a name:  “Crash”–a sensible name at the time because he would crash out when sleeping.  When I met the pup, he had just been run over (twice, if you’re keeping count) and for me, “Crash” came to be linked irreparably with his trauma.  I could not continue to call the pup “Crash” as I would constantly be reminded of his hard start in my life.  What, then, to name the little guy?

I went through a lot of suggestions:  Conan, Ronan, Titus, Zeus, Quigley, Wyatt, Woody, Lewis, Merle.  I tried Owen for a while.  None fit.  Most names I really liked were already taken in my circle, either for my friends own pets or their children.  What to do?  I decided to give myself some time and figure out what his personality was really like.

If I had named him immediately after only knowing him for four days, this would have been his name:



ogre pup


He made noises like a demon from hell when he played, he was cumbersome when he walked, he had an underbite and was earth-tone in color.  What else could he be but an Ogre?  I thought about the repercussions that would ensue with having a pit bull named Ogre.  Potential adopters would assume he was a people eater because, unless you are Shrek, that is what ogres do (and I wasn’t naming him Shrek).  I did not need to add any more burden to this poor pup by associating more bad stigma to him.  Not naming him Ogre.

Okay, now what?  Time went on.  He settled in.  He learned from his canine buds around him how to properly behave.  I still could not think of a name. What about names for red?  I tried Rogin, Flynn, Rusty and Roux.  Closer, I thought, but none still seemed to fit.  How about names meaning four? Quade/Quaid, Haidar, Quatro…those would only work if he became my fourth dog, and I’m not ready to make that commitment yet.

Yesterday I just gave up.  The next name I saw would be his, I didn’t care anymore.  Nothing was right and the pup wasn’t giving me any help.  I decided to quit thinking of names and read poetry instead.  And then I stumbled upon a poem called “The Little Great Ones” by a Slovak writer (which was translated to English by Allen Stevo).  I read this verse again and again:


Mind your kids
you bigguns.
They are gathering your pollen
those little bees from God.
They will seal it into their little bodies.
They imitate you.
They are the most exact living
little mirrors of you.

Their shape is from your anvils.
They live from your bread.

One day they will be exactly like you.
So be humane to each other.


I really liked the message he conveyed.  This not only applies to our own offspring, but all of those in our care.  Our example does much to shape young bodies and minds into the adults they will become.  And who just so happens to have a young one around to shape?  Yep, me (even if he is a canine).  This is a sign, I thought.  Who is the author, you ask?  Milan Rúfus, a multiple nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature.

Rufus…hmmm…this could work, I thought.  I know no other person or canine in my circle with this name.  It has a “good ol’ boy” quality to it, and guess what it means?  Yep, “red” or “red-haired”.  One last test:  “Rufus!”   The little pup woke up, looked at me and wagged his tail.  World, meet Rufus.


Rufus the red pit bull.

Rufus the red pit bull.


A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs. He who can pronounce my name aright, he can call me, and is entitled to my love and service.

~Henry David Thoreau


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Take two days of rain, add in one old dog and three young ones, mix in some outdoor play time and what do you get? If you answered mud puppies, you are correct.  Other answers that would be considered acceptable would include:   dirty floors, happy dogs and an owner wishing for a maid and/or personal assistant.

Soulful Pup

The red pup with no name (yet…I’m working on it) is still here with all the other pooches.  I have to stop and remind myself that he has only been here for nine days and that it can take considerable time for a foster to find a new home.  It’s not that I don’t like the boy (because I do), it’s just that I feel like he is growing up too fast and he is bonding fiercely to me and my critters.  If he finds a permanent home, I think I will feel a bit guilty taking him away from his buddies.

He has become Grimm’s little minion.  They will wrestle and play for a good bit but eventually Grimm gets exhausted.  At this point, I usually find the pup imitating a land shark by hanging off of Grimm’s rear legs by his puppy teeth. Grimm, who is now too tired to care, just drags him around and eventually just sits on him.  The pup never gives up trying to get his big, black foster brother to re-engage in puppy battle.  I never thought I’d see the day, folks, but Grimm seems a bit worn out by crazy puppy antics.

Grimm and the pup race round and round the tree.

Grimm and the pup race ’round and ’round the tree.  If the pup catches up to him, Grimm’s legs become chew sticks. 


Zella has set fairly strict boundaries with the new arrival.  When he starts acting the fool around her, she quickly lets him know he is not being amusing.  The pup calmly accepts his rebuttal and goes to find Grimm.  Usually by this point Grimm is already worn out and looks at me for help.  This is when the red pup gets to practice crate training and gets to munch on a tasty kong toy filled with peanut butter and other fun edibles.


Zella attempts to hypnotize the pup into submission.  If you look closely, you will see that she already succeeded in subduing a ladybug.

Zella attempts to hypnotize the pup into submission. If you look closely, you will see that she already succeeded in subduing a ladybug.



Charley pretty much just does the same thing he always does:  sleep, eat, referee when he feels it’s needed, and sleep some more.  The pup definitely respects his much older elder.  He only tried to jump on Charley once and all Charley did was look at him, as if saying, “Really? I am too old and tired to mess with the likes of you, boy.”  The pup seemed to understand and hasn’t tried it since.  He is always on his best puppy behavior when old Charley is awake and around.  Charley is like the godfather in the woofers world.  No one messes with him.


The pup can feel Charley watching him and knows not to try any shenanigans when the old patriarch is around.

The pup can feel Charley watching him and knows not to try any shenanigans when the old patriarch is around.


Each of my dogs has a slightly different relationship with the new arrival and he is learning much from all of them.  Grimm instructs him on the joys of friendship, Zella teaches him the importance of boundaries and self-control and Charley shows him how to show proper respect.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I guess it takes a pack to raise a pup.



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What a difference three days make!  The little rescue pup is doing much better…his cough has almost completely gone away, his limp has improved, and his personality is really starting to shine.

He is a sweet little munchkin and definitely a comfort hound.  Every little pillow, couch, bed or other soft item has been christened by his little behind laying on it.  Food is his number one motivator and he is already fattening up.  He loves his kennel,  his companions and his grub.  What else could a pup want?

Well, he still needs two things, the most important things of all:  a permanent home and a name.  I’ve already started putting out feelers to remedy the first dilemma and I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a suitable moniker for the little bugger.  He doesn’t respond at all to his original name, plus part of me feels it’s a little bit cruel to continue to call a pup who has been run over by a car, “Crash”.  Something more uplifting is needed, I think, but what that is yet, I don’t know.

In the meantime, I took some pictures today to show how truly amazing he is. He ended his day with a bath to help scrub off some of the old injured skin that is starting to slough off.  He took it like a champ.  Fear not, as Grimm and Charley were with him, offering moral support through the whole ordeal.  Zella, on the other hand, hightailed it to the other room.  It’s not that she doesn’t like the little fella, it’s that she fears baths more.  It’s okay.  He can snuggle up with her later…probably on the couch, with all the other comfort hounds.

Pup Outside


Stoic Pit Pup


The Little Tail of the Bunch


Little Muzzle



Little Bulldog


Being A Puppy


Golden Eyes


Bath Time



Better You Than Me


There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature.  A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.

~Harry Crews

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the new rescue pu



It has happened again, folks.  Another little needy pup has come into my life and stolen my heart.  I can’t really say that I will be keeping this one–my goal is to foster him until he is well and then adopt him out to a permanent, loving home.  If no suitable adopter is found, well, I’ve got room for one more, I guess.

On the second day of the new year, this little guy was brought into my veterinary clinic on an emergency basis.  He was rushed to the treatment area for triage because he had been run over, not once, but twice by his owners in their driveway.  He wasn’t walking, was shocky, had blood in his mouth and, as visible in the picture above, road rash and irritation to his skin.  His lungs were harsh and he looked miserable.  Of course, because of the trauma, he immediately received an injection of morphine to keep him comfortable until other diagnostics could be performed.

His owners felt horrible.  The family had three young boys who always left toys in the driveway, so they assumed that was what they had run over.  They literally had no financial means to even pay for the visit, much less any further diagnostics and treatments.  To alleviate his suffering, euthanasia was decided upon.

I was involved with his triage, but not with the conversation with his owners. One of my co-workers asked me to go ahead and place an IV catheter in him as we were going to perform a mercy euthanasia.  I, like everyone else, knew this was probably the kindest thing as this pup had to have serious internal trauma or, at the least, broken bones.  I asked my coworker to give me a minute to just talk with the pup and then I would put the catheter in.

You know what the little guy did?  He wiggled his tail.  Morphine is a great narcotic and all, but it doesn’t inject gratitude into a dog.  He whacked his tail back and forth, faster and faster as I spoke quietly to him.  Well, if his tail works, I thought, maybe more of him does, too.  I opened his kennel door all the way, stepped back, squatted down and said to him, “Here, little puppy. Come see me.”  He heaved himself up and did.

If you follow some of the stories here about Grimm, you know that his tail was his saving grace.  It appeared that this pup’s tail would also be his savior.  At that point, I had made up my mind.  I would tell the family about his extraordinary will and, if they couldn’t treat him, I would ask them to sign ownership over to me.

My coworker came back and said the family was ready to say goodbye to him whenever the catheter was in.  I told her that I needed to talk to them first.  I went into the exam room to find the mom of the family and her oldest son, who was probably about ten years old.  The father and the other young boys were too distraught to be in the clinic, much less the exam room.  The child in the room was crying but he had pulled his hoodie over his face to hide the fact and was trying, but not succeeding, to be tough.  I explained to them that we still didn’t know the extent of the damages, but that he could walk (with a limp) and was more bright and alert and less shocky.  She told me they absolutely could not afford to do anything for the pup.  I gave her the option of transferring ownership and she readily agreed.  I was very frank with her and told her that if he was too damaged and seemed to be suffering, I would euthanize him.  If he lived, I would either place him with a new owner or keep him.

Having that sort of conversation in front of a young kid is hard.  I knew her boy loved the pup and was angry at the situation.  To see your parents struggle day by day to make ends meet is one thing, but to have it drug out in front of you when a life is on the line has to be excruciating.  I sat next to him and talked, really talked, to him.  We spoke about the pup and what he meant to him and I told him all about me and my life with dogs.  You could see the anger drain from him.  All I wanted was for the boy to know that I understood his love for his pup and that I would give the pooch nothing less.  After our conversation, he sincerely thanked me for taking care of his dog.  Maybe there is hope for the human race, after all.

After I became the four month old pup’s official owner, multiple x-rays were taken and, miraculously, nothing was broken.  His lungs were severely bruised, but his diaphragm was intact and his internal organs did not appear crushed or ruptured.  I swear this puppy must be made of rubber.  Pit bulls are tough, though.

The little pup whose name was “Crash” is now here at my house with me.  He coughs some and is still limping on his front leg, but his tail wags faster even than Grimm’s.  He is now on oral pain medication and antibiotics for the skin injuries.  He was fairly thin and covered in fleas, so I treated him for internal and external parasites, bathed the tire tread marks off him, upped his food intake and confined him to strict crate rest.  Zella has already decided he’s her baby and Grimm thinks he makes an awesome little buddy.  Charley just sniffed him all over, looked at me as if to say, “Another one?” and went back to sleep.  Because Charley was originally run over when I first took him on almost 15 years ago, he and the pup (who needs a new name, by the way) can commiserate together later.

Oh, new year!  You didn’t even give me a whole 48 hours before bombarding me with new dilemmas.  If I can give a dog a new lease on life, then I won’t complain.  Just saying.  Hopefully in a few weeks this little guy will be better than new and on his way to a new home…or here with the rest of the crew, devising strategies to make life more entertaining.  Either way works for me.


First Day Here



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Happy New Year!

As 2012 draws to an end and 2013 takes over, we resolve to change things about ourselves.  With a new year comes new opportunities, new beginnings.   A fresh year washes away the stains of the old and we are given a new start. Why a new year is needed, I can’t say…one of our human weaknesses, I guess.

Canines need no such delineation of time.  They take each day as it comes with no lingering thoughts on the past.  Something not working for them?  They alter their approach immediately.  They make no excuses or apologies for their behavior or actions and they never resolve to change anything…they just change.  We wish they would stop eating the cat poop, getting on the counters, digging in the garden, munching flip flops…and we can change these behaviors by training and conditioning a dog.  Canines, however, don’t consciously make an effort to change for anyone other than themselves.  If something works, why try to fix it?  Something not working?  Try another tactic.

That’s what we humans do with a new year.  It is a chance to try new tactics and fix what isn’t working…or so we resolve.  Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we fail and try again the next year.  For me, I have resolved to break the rules a bit and follow the canines example and heed the lessons I have learned from them.

Against the Grain

Be yourself.  Don’t be afraid to go against the grain, even when it may not be popular to do so.  Celebrate your individuality and take a stand for your own beliefs.  Do what feels right and because you believe in the outcome.

Playing on the Couch

Share what you have with others.  Even if it is only your time or experience, giving away a part of yourself may make a tremendous difference to someone else.  More often than not, you will gain something in return.

Stand Up For The Little Guys

Stand up for the little guys.  Don’t allow the weak to be bullied by the strong.  Speak out when you see an injustice.  Help those that need a hand. One day you may be the one who requires assistance.

Big Nose

Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Don’t beat yourself up when you fail.  Learn to laugh at yourself and your mistakes.  We are only human after all.

These are the lessons I’ve resolved to incorporate into my life.  Time marches on and I’m not getting any younger.  Life is too short to worry about the little things.  I resolve this year to make no more yearly resolutions.  If I follow the advice of the woofers, I shouldn’t have to.  Here’s to another year of life, lessons and laughter…let’s make it a happy one!

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Merry Christmas 2012

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring…oh, who am I kidding?  Something’s always stirring around here.  I’ve got two out of three dogs running around my house like rabid reindeer on crack and the third is passed out beneath my feet, passing gas with a silent stink so foul, it is like a solid being.  Is it too late to ask Santa for a gas mask?

The pooches are super excited over Santa coming to visit.  They have been insisting that I leave out some of their favorite dog biscuits for him to snack on. I told them that although Santa appreciates the thought, he would prefer human treats.  They were crestfallen.  To spare their feelings, I said maybe we could leave him a few of their doggy ones and maybe he would give them to his elves…or something.  Hey, I don’t know what elves eat, do you?  And I’m pretty sure reindeer are vegetarians.

Upside Down Zella

After I told the woofers that Santa would give their biscuits to his elves, Zella decided she wanted to become an elf.  She practiced looking like an elf most of the day until she learned that the elves have to work year-round to make toys.

Grimm With Jingle Bells

Grimm was just excited that he got to wear his Christmas collar with the jingle bells on it.  At one point, however, he got his collar off and decided that maybe he should eat the bells instead.  He thought it would be cool if he jingled even without the collar on.  I told him that if he actually dared to eat one of the bells, Santa would be enraged.  Not a lie since I’m the one playing the part of Santa, even if Grimm is not aware of the fact.  I would be enraged.

Charley at Christmas

Even old Charley seemed more excited than usual today about the coming of Christmas.  He even ran around outside with the other dogs and caused some mischief himself.  One thing I noticed is that everyone seemed uplifted and happy to be together.  The magic of the holiday appears to have enchanted everyone.  If I can get peace in my house, then peace on earth should be manageable, too.

Three Dogs

Christmas comes but once a year, but the goodwill and generosity the season brings should infect us all year-round.  Material items shouldn’t be the highlight of the season.  The excitement of getting to be with family and friends and the remembrance of what the holiday truly means should hold that honor.  Make a point to give something of yourself to others each day and the thanks you receive in return will be priceless.   Thank you all for the encouragement and support given to me this year and, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

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Today I found out that Grimm and I were nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Goosey Anne.  Thank you so very much, Goosey Anne, for this honor. Goosey Anne’s blog is one you should definitely explore as there are many treasures to be found.  One of the many gems is her artwork–you can see more of her work here:  www.annesmart.weebly.com.  She is a truly versatile lady.

One of the many meanings of versatile is the ability to do many things competently or to turn with ease from one thing to another. Sometimes, like a lot of other bloggers out there, I feel like I get stuck in a rut and you, dear readers, are subjected to hearing or seeing the same things over and over again.  Receiving this award is like a vote of confidence–if others feel that I am versatile, well, maybe I’m not as boring of a writer as I sometimes feel I am.

When Grimm heard about the award, he was ecstatic!  He felt I needed to show everyone just how versatile he can be, so he forced me to create a collage to show his talents.  And yes, I know he is the dog and I am the human, but the boy can really grate on your nerves if you don’t give him a few concessions. The things I do to make this dog happy.


The Versatility of Grimm

Grimm is definitely quite versatile, but he would only allow me to showcase his more desirable talents. I wanted to add: the goofball, the sneak and the destroyer but he became the pouter so I didn’t.

There are a few rules attached to this award to make things official:

  • Display the award certificate on your website.  


  • Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award.  
  • Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
  • Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.  (I’m going to cheat a little and only nominate 7.)
  • Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked to them in the post.


Since this award belongs to both Grimm and I (since he is mostly the subject of this blog and it’s named after him), it is only fitting that I also include some facts about him, too.

1)  I have worked in the veterinary field for over 15 years now.  I’ve taken care of a lot of sick dogs, cats, squirrels, bunnies and birds over the years and I’ve learned something valuable from each and every one of them.  Grimm has been going to work with me since I rescued him and in the past year he has donated blood to three pooches and helped to save their lives.  His motto, like mine, is pay it forward.

2)  Heights and small spaces freak me out.  I start to panic if I feel too confined or if I am any higher up than six feet.  Grimm panics sometimes when he is left alone without any human around.  That is his biggest fear:  that no one will be there for him.  His anxiety is getting better, though, as he matures.

3)  One of my favorite smells (besides food) is freshly mowed grass.  To me, it is the smell of summer.  Grimm’s favorite smell (besides food) is dead thing, so much so that he likes to wear the odor as his cologne.  He and I have very different ideas on what makes a pleasant olfactory stimulant.

4)  I obtained a BS in biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin many years ago.  Grimm is currently working on obtaining his CGC (Canine Good Citizenship) Certificate so he can start more advanced training as a therapy dog.

5)  I prefer my coffee hot and my tea iced, although I will drink them both ways. I sweeten my tea but only add cream to my coffee.  Grimm prefers his water room temperature or colder but will drink it even if it is tepid.  He also doesn’t really care if his water comes from a stagnant pond or an Evian bottle–he is humble like that.

6)  My favorite songs at the moment are by The Lumineers and Imagine Dragons.  Grimm really likes the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons.  What can I say except he has good taste?

7)  To me, there is nothing better than snuggling in a warm bed on a cold night with a good book and a ridiculous amount of pillows.  Grimm is an excellent organic bed warmer but he also likes to steal the pillows.  His big head needs a lot of cushioning, I guess.


Now for the other nominees.  These are all blogs and bloggers who are very versatile in their own ways.  They are presented in no particular order:

1)  http://loveandalittlereddog.wordpress.com:  Terrific blog about life with a little red dog named Cayman.

2)  http://louisianefille.wordpress.com:  Musings and stories by a talented writer who happens to be a southern girl like me.

3)  http://throbbingsofnoontide.wordpress.com:  Beautiful photography and interesting stories grace these pages.

4)  http://40isthenew13.wordpress.com:  Stories of life and family fill these pages.  Through it all runs an undercurrent of humor and the frustrations of getting older.

5)  http://adventuresofadogmom.wordpress.com:  Versatile is this dog mom’s middle name!

6)  http://jennifervaughn.wordpress.com:  This blogger strives to make us all examine the writer within and lets us know we are not alone in some of our struggles.

7)  http://temporaryhomepermanentlove.com/:  Peek inside the life of a foster of bully breeds and the new beginnings given to these beautiful rescued dogs.


There you go.  I hope you get the chance to explore at least some of the blogs listed above.  It’s time for me and Grimm to hit the sack and for him to steal my pillows.  In some things, like his expectations of comfort, he is not versatile at all.


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Grimm Waits



Grimm has seemed very pensive lately and I’m not sure why.  Is it a sign of maturation?  Of innocence lost?  He’s not sad or depressed as he still plays with wild abandon, but I feel like I should get the boy a journal or something.  What deep canine thoughts flow through his brain?

I think my pup is growing up.  He seems more serious at times and is more apt to pay attention in his lessons and training.   He has also decided to start alerting me to outside noises and what he considers to be possible threats.  His watchdog bark starts deep enough, but when he thinks he hears something that really needs my attention, he goes into a “WOO-WOO-WOO”  yodel which, frankly, isn’t really scary and is more humorous than anything.  His “sister”, who is about 25 pounds lighter than he is, has a much fiercer bark.  Grimm does, however, have a much more intimidating appearance–until he starts wiggling. If someone actually ever broke in, I’m sure he would give everything away for a few chest scratches.  The other dogs?  Charley would sleep through the whole ordeal and Zella would probably bring them a rope to play tug.  Tough dogs I’ve got, huh?

Grimm still frolics and chews like crazy, but he actually chews on his own toys nowadays which, even up until a couple of weeks ago, was unheard of.  He is starting to actually stay seated for attention and doesn’t knock me down nearly as often when he tries to sprint out the back door.  Is his training finally paying off or have my wishes been granted?  Maybe it’s a combination of both.  Or maybe I’ve just forgotten that he has always had a contemplative aspect to his personality, as the picture above, which was taken recently, has a lot in common with the picture below that was taken almost a year ago.  Maybe my canine is just a deep thinker at times…okay, rare times, but still at times.   As long as he doesn’t take on the weight of the world and become too serious, I think I can manage.


Baby Grimm Thinking

“Wash the weight of the world from your shoulders.”


“We are shaped by out thoughts; we become what we think.  When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” 



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How do we come up with the title of our blogs?  Some of us use our own names, more use a phrase or conglomerate of words that catch the interest of a reader.  Others, like me, use puns…but that is not the only reason this blog is called Grimm’s Furry Tail.



Obviously, I have a dog named Grimm.  And yes, he has a furry tail (although not nearly as furry as some other tails).  It is because of this tail, however, that I ended up becoming Grimm’s guardian.  You may wonder what his tail has to do with anything.  Well, let me explain:

Before I was his owner, when Grimm was originally brought into the veterinary clinic (my place of employment), he was placed in a cage in my inpatient area of the hospital while waiting for the results of his parvo test.  You really would not have even known he was there.  He was small at the time and the large kennel swallowed his black little self in its embrace.  He didn’t whine or bark and wasn’t unruly. The cage was just a place for him to wait.

I kept hearing loud thunks coming from the kennel he was in.  If you glanced at the pup, he seemed still…except for his tail.  Bang, bang, bang.  It whipped back and forth against the walls of the cage and the sounds would speed up when anyone walked by.  It never stopped moving the entire 10 minutes it took for the test to run.  When I overheard that his current owners at the time were planning on euthanizing him because he ended up testing positive for parvo, I glanced at the pup and his still wiggling tail.  How could they not even try to save him, I thought.  Someone needed to–any pup who could still whip his tail that enthusiastically in the face of a possible death sentence deserved a chance.  I assumed ownership of the black pup and his banging appendage–Grimm and his furry tail–and saved him from death.

The old proverb “For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost” has been used to illustrate the idea that some small item can cause much greater consequences–in this case, because a horse lost the nail on his shoe his rider was thrown. The rider was then unable to convey an important message which was key in winning a battle.  Because the battle was lost, the kingdom fell and all was destroyed.

I propose a new proverb with a much more positive connotation:  “Because of a tail, a dog was saved.”  Grimm’s furry tail heralded his enthusiasm and proclaimed his will to live.  His rear end was the start to our beginning and, to give credit where credit is due, became the title of this blog.


This is actually the more dangerous end of my dogs–their thin little tails become weapons of mass destruction when they are happy or excited. Coffee tables lose their decoration, walls and door frames get pounded into submission and lower legs sting when the pit tails are near.


To this day, Grimm’s tail continues to proclaim his enthusiasm for life.  As he has gotten bigger (and his tail longer), the beating his furry appendage dishes out really has gotten painful.  His tail whips back and forth and wags the whole rear end assemblage.  He can never stay completely still–as soon as a person makes eye contact, his tail starts moving.  If someone starts to talk to him, the tail moves faster.  If someone touches him, well, the tail moves fast enough to create a rather large current.   He ends up folding himself in half and whacking himself in the head with his own rudder.  Sometimes I think his tail even annoys him–when it gets going too fast, sometimes he’ll grab it in his mouth to keep it from banging into his noggin.

People have commented on the brute strength Grimm’s tail possesses and some have even dared to suggest I have it shortened.  Obviously those people don’t realize the importance of his hindmost part.  Even though it can be deadly at times, his tail was part of his saving grace and is as much a part of Grimm as the rest.  Grimm’s furry tail made Grimm’s fairy tale come true–it granted his wish for life and I mean to make it the best I can.



A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences–whether good or bad–of even the least of them are far-reaching.


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Charles Darwin once said, very poetically,  “A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”  The quality of these relationships, not the quantity, defines our character.  If someone can offer us love and respect even when we are not at our best, we have found a friend.  A friend is someone who enjoys your company, listens to what you have to say, helps you in times of need and laughs with you (not at you) along the way.  A person with one true friendship is wealthier than the millionaire with none; all it takes is one.  It doesn’t even have to be another human–canines provide excellent friendship.

I like to think I am a good friend to my dogs but I realize that there are some things that I, as a human, can’t provide.  Just as they can’t give me relationship advice, I can’t really “speak” on the ins and outs of being a dog–I can’t comment on the tastiness of a bone, the allure of an especially rancid roadkill or the sheer pleasure of pretending to attack and eat another of my species.  For those occasions, my dogs need another dog.  Sure, I have multiple dogs who like each other, but sometimes they need a buddy “outside the box”.  After all, even dogs get annoyed at times by their house-mates.


Grimm and his best friend Vash hang out behind bars. No, this isn’t some prison love story. They were just being kenneled together at work.

Grimm’s best dog buddy outside of the house is a seven-month old red Doberman pinscher named Vash.  They adore each other.  Vash’s owner and I work overlapping but opposite schedules at our 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic.  The boys get about an hour together on days when we are both working and they make the most of it.  As soon as they see each other, the vocalizations begin.  They literally moan and whine until they get to make contact.  Even if they can’t play, just being able to sniff and lick the other makes them happy.  They jump and box at each other, play bow and wrestle, mouth each others ears, neck, legs and feet and then, when they are utterly exhausted, they flop down together and bask in each others company.

Vash has a sister Doberman named Vena that Grimm also loves–when he is allowed to play with both of them at the same time, Grimm delights at the idea of getting to be an honorary Doberman.  Even though Vena and Grimm were friends first, Vash and Grimm had an instant connection.  They have the same energy, they respect each others boundaries and they play really well together. My friend and I laugh and joke about our dog’s “bro-mance”.

Grimm has other doggy friends, but the relationship he has with Vash is definitely something above and beyond.  He loves Vash as much as he loves Zella and Charley–more of a brotherly love, if you will.  Seeing his friendship with Vash blossom over the last few months has been touching.  Sometimes we forget that dogs are social creatures.  Now, I understand that some dogs, like some people, prefer a life of solitude away from others of their kind, and I can respect that.  But for all the other canines (and humans) out there who seek friendship but can’t seem to find it, well, my heart aches for them.  How many of us have thought we found a friend, only to be betrayed or let down by the same in the end?  All I can say is keep trying.  When a true kindred spirit is found, you’ll know.  Human or canine, make a friend.  You’ll be glad you did.

My three dogs like each other enough to join ranks at bedtime. They love to pile in together, sometimes on top of one another. I’m lucky that they
consider each other friends.



The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?” 

– Henry David Thoreau


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My very first canine as an adult, or a barely adult as I was only twenty at the time, was a beautiful dog named Roxie.  Being a mix of mostly Labrador and pit bull, with a sprinkling of Catahoula leopard dog for coloration, she was gregarious, stubborn, and smart as a whip.  She showed me how truly extraordinary and forgiving a relationship with a dog can be.  We bumbled along together, learning about life as we went.  She was a singleton for about five months, and then Charley entered the picture, and together we explored the ins and outs of what makes our species so right for each other.  If she were still with me, she would be fifteen today.

My first dog, Roxie, who, along with Charley, started my great love affair with dogs almost fifteen years ago.

Being in college at the time, I probably should have waited a few years before I found a dog. Dogs were expensive, took a lot of time, needed exercise and training.  I knew these things–I wasn’t completely naive–but still, even with a full school load and working two jobs to pay for it all, I felt the joy of having a dog, something sentient that I could call my own and that I would be responsible for, would be reward enough.  Who would have guessed that my twenty year old, inexperienced self would be right?

I found a listing for lab/pit mix pups in the paper–yes, this was before Craigslist and people actually read a paper back then.  They were free to a good home and I thought, what the heck, I’ll call and see if any are still available.  Only one was left–a female–and if I didn’t come by that evening to look at the pup, she would be going to live with one of her litter mates who was on hold for another adopter.

When I got to the address, the lady there took me to her laundry room.  Inside were two black and grey, merle colored pups, tails whipping in unison like a metronome.  She told me the mostly grey pup was already spoken for, so my pup would be the extremely bloated, mostly black with grey.  The lady had taken them to her vet that morning for them to be vaccinated and dewormed.  Momma dog came in to say hello–a very sweet and gentle chocolate lab.  The daddy dog of these pups was the neighbor’s merle colored pit bull, who, in his lust, jumped the fence to father these illegitimate offspring.  Even though he looked all pit bull, his merle coloration spoke of some additional breed and, because here in the south people breed pit bulls with Catahoulas to make more intense hog dogs, he probably had some leopard dog blood.  I really didn’t care what breeds she was–she was a dog, she was cute and friendly, she was free and I wanted her.  I offered to reimburse the lady for her vet expenses, but she just said take good care of her as I was doing her a favor by giving her a home.

One of only a few pictures of Roxie as a pup. If digital cameras had been in mainstream use then, I’m sure I would have had hundreds of pictures of her.

Roxie, I soon found out, liked to chew.  She ate the coaxial cable at the outside cable box, chewed holes in the wooden fence and ate the window frames at my rented house within two weeks of having her.  I soon learned the value of a crate.  She loved her crate and I ended up with happier housemates, less destruction and a house-trained dog.  Like me, she loved food; any kind would do.  She really enjoyed counter surfing and many times ate the bread off the counter when all the house-mates and myself were in the adjoining room.  She could be spooky quiet at times (I swear she held her tags on her collar so they wouldn’t jingle) and carried out her mission impossible re-enactment with never a hitch.  Of course, no one stayed mad at her for long.  Roxie could charm the horns off a goat and never failed to win affection, even from those who didn’t really like dogs.

As she got older, her never-ending chewing stopped but I soon realized just how smart she was.  It became a challenge for me to come up with new behaviors and tricks for her to perform.  After some time (and after Charley joined our family), it was more fun to teach the dogs new tricks than to study for my exams.  There was a definite correlation between my acquisition of dogs and my falling GPA.

I eventually started bringing Roxie (and Charley) to work with me where she made herself the official greeter.  She became such a fixture that clients would ask where she was if she wasn’t up front when they came in.  Once she heard her name, she would grab a toy, usually a rope, run up front, jump up on the gate separating the reception area from the waiting area, and wiggle and sing until she had been thoroughly loved on and the client had played a short game of tug.  Roxie loved people, all people, and was never happier than when children were around.  She would bask in their adoration, even when they were pulling her tail and ears and poking her in the eye.

The only thing Roxie loved more than children were baby kittens.  She ADORED kittens and would come running anytime one came mewling into the clinic.  Many a client has a picture of their new tiny kitten getting thoroughly soaked by Roxie’s tongue.  Roxie was so good with the babies that I decided to foster several litters of homeless kittens over the years.  She mothered them, cleaned them and watched over them like a hawk, earning her the nickname “Mama Roxie”.  She was never really that fond of young pups, curiously enough, but would tolerate them and sigh audibly when they got too annoying.  That was my cue to come to her rescue.  My beautiful, sweet girl had the kindest soul and the biggest heart.  Cruelly, it was her heart that betrayed her in the end.

Roxie liked to lounge on the couch and daydream about baby kittens.

As she got older, she started to develop a heart murmur.  The grade of her heart murmur became higher very quickly, meaning the sound of the murmur was getting louder.  I took her to a veterinary internist for an echocardiogram and soon learned that, besides a leaky mitral valve which caused the murmur, she also had cardiomyopathy–her heart was too big, didn’t pump efficiently, and would eventually kill her.  She was started on several different heart medications to help her heart beat more efficiently, reduce blood volume to keep congestion away and to control her blood pressure.  Her very kind and well-meaning specialist advised me to keep her calm, keep her quiet and to discontinue letting her swim and run.  Roxie loved to swim and chasing rabbits gave her such joy, I had no idea how I was going to implement this plan.  Who was I to take away these very small things which brought her so much happiness?   For me, quality of life greatly outweighed quantity.  I expressed my sentiments to the internist.

“Well,” she said, “I guess there are worse ways to go than chasing bunnies.”

So, with her almost blessing, Roxie continued to swim, run after rabbits, greet people at work and mother orphan kittens.  She would have periods when she would get tired quicker than normal and not eat as well.  Fluid, or ascites, would sometimes fill her abdomen, making her uncomfortable.  At these times, we upped the dosage of diuretics and hoped for the best.  I was lucky her congestion was not in her chest, as that would have made it hard for her to breathe.  Having congestion in your abdomen, though, is bad enough and was causing stress to her liver.  Each time, however, the diuretics did their job and deflated my sweet girl.  I made a promise to her, at the beginning of her disease, that when things got too hard, when life lost it’s luster, I would not let her suffer.

Roxie loved to swim, even up til the end.

One day, Roxie was more quiet than normal and wasn’t greeting clients as enthusiastically as before.  She had been doing this job for well over eleven years and never had a down day in her life.  That same day, she seemed to be bumping into things, so I ran some lab work on her, which was normal for her, and had her veterinarian (my boss) check her heart sounds.  The murmur was about the same and she still had her very regular, irregular heart beat.  Instead of a bu-bump, her heart went bu-bu-bump *swish* bu-bump *swish* and would repeat the same pattern.  I decided to watch her and see how things went.

That evening, she was out with the other pooches and even managed to rustle up a bunny to chase.  She ate well, but after a while, I noticed that she was really tripping and running into things and acting as if she was blind.  Concerned about high blood pressure causing retinal detachment, I rushed her to the emergency vet to have her examined.  Blood and eye pressure were normal, her pupils still responded to light and her EKG was still abnormal as always.  The emergency veterinarian offered to keep her for monitoring, but since I was an experienced technician, she didn’t think she could really offer her anything more there than I could do at home.  If she got worse, I was told, come back.

Later that night, or really it was early the next morning, Roxie seized.  Her poor, weak, worn-out heart was not able to adequately oxygenate her brain–her heart was finally giving out.  Because her heart wasn’t able to move blood efficiently, clots were forming and causing her to have strokes.  She was totally blind by this point and unable to open her eyes.  I could not let her suffer any more than she already had.  I had made her a promise long ago and now I had to honor her by keeping that promise.

Since my boss and her primary veterinarian [oh, how Roxie adored him!] would be in the office soon, I bundled all the dogs into the SUV with Roxie for her last trip.  They seemed to know something was up and snuggled around her in the back.  I cried the whole way.

By the time I got to the clinic, I was a mess.  I was crying, sobbing actually, and cursing God and other beings of higher power for daring to take her from me.  She was still so young!  How could they be so cruel?  Couldn’t I have just one more day?  Even though my heart was breaking and didn’t want to let her go, my brain knew she couldn’t go on this way.  I owed her peace–and besides, I made a promise.

The decision to let her go was the hardest day of my life.  I get upset even now when I think about it.  How do you kill your best friend?  How do you tell yourself that you are ending their suffering even as you end their life?  I never understood how people could compare their dog to a child–one is a human and the other is, well, a dog.  After Roxie, I knew.  She may not have been human but she had feelings, emotions and loves, too–she had a soul.  Because I loved her, I let her go.  Keeping her alive, even though Roxie would have endured the pain to please me, was selfish.  I whispered to her all the ways she brought me joy and tried to convey to her all the love I had for her, all the love in my being, as she took her last breath and quietly, gently, left this world.

This was one of the last portraits of Roxie taken about a month before she died.

It took a very long time for me to adjust to a life without Roxie.  All the places we had been together, all the trouble we got into together, all the friends I made because of her–everytime I saw or thought of these things, the tears would begin to flow.  Charley had a really hard time without Roxie.  He had known her all his life (there was only a three month age difference between them) and relied on her strength in so many ways.  Zella tried to distract Charley as best she knew how, but even though she had some of Roxie’s mannerisms, she still wasn’t Roxie.  He was so depressed that he was actually on anti-depressants and natural supplements to alleviate anxiety.  One day, about six months later, he finally instigated play with Zella and that was when I knew he was healing.  Roxie was gone, but not forgotten, and we had to continue on without her.

These two were the best of friends.

Looking back through some of my pictures today, I came across the last picture I ever took of her.  It was taken only two days before she died, but in it, she is clearly eating a frisbee.  It made me laugh–how easily that could be Grimm (and Grimm had been wearing her old collar which is shown in the picture until he and his Doberman friend decided it would be more fun to eat it).  How cyclical life can be!  Grimm could never replace Roxie, just as none of my dogs could replace the others, but I was reminded that rough times do get better.  I would never give up my memories, even the hard ones, but knowing that new memories are wanting to be made, well, what are we waiting for?

Even though her poor heart was wearing out, Roxie still enjoyed munching on a good frisbee. Sound like anyone we know?

Here’s Grimm, wearing Roxie’s old collar, following in her footsteps. Nothing like a tasty frisbee.

Grimm reminds me of Roxie in this photograph.


Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds

will continue in others.

-Rosa Parks

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I was nominated this week by two separate bloggers for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Thank you very much for the nomination, Geeky Book Snob and Tuesday Night Boyfriend.  I share this honor with Grimm and my other pooches, for without them, I wouldn’t have very much to blog about.

When I received the notifications from both of the above mentioned, very talented bloggers, I was pleasantly surprised.  Knowing that others find my stories and exasperations somewhat inspirational definitely lifted my spirits and brightened my day.  When I told Grimm, you would have thought he had won an Academy Award.  He insisted I take his picture with one of my old trophies to commemorate the event.  What with being Freshly Pressed and now receiving two nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award all within the same month, I’m afraid Grimm’s already big head is getting even bigger.

I would like to thank the academy, GBS, TNB and all those on the Grimm’s Furry Tail team–my good friend and supporting actor Zella, my manager and financial adviser Charley and, lastly, my human and her opposable thumbs, whom without none of this could be possible. So thank you for ….wait….don’t cue the music…I’m not done!

This award comes with a few rules to follow:

  •  Link to and thank those who nominated you.  So thanks again, Geeky Book Snob and Tuesday Night Boyfriend.  I am still exploring both your blogs and am enjoying my reads.
  • Post the award on you page.  Here is my (and Grimm’s) unexpected award:

  • Share seven facts about yourself.  Since this award is as much Grimm’s as mine, I will also list seven facts about him:

1)  I am a vegetarian and have been for the past seven years.  Grimm wishes he could be a flip-flopetarian and only eat flip flops.  However, when I explained that his diet would be horribly unbalanced (and would anger flip-flop rights activists), he agreed to only eat them on special occasions, like when I’m not looking.

2)  I enjoy reading tremendously and read one to three novels a week.  Grimm enjoys eating novels and tries to devour one to three novels a week.

3)  My house is a never ending home improvement project.  Grimm enjoys helping in these projects, but only if performing demolition work (that’s his specialty).

4)  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  Grimm likes all seasons, but especially the rainy part of spring (when we have rain) because he can make mud angels.

5)  Halloween and Thanksgiving are my favorite holidays (which also take place during my favorite time of year).  Grimm’s favorite holiday is Pit Bull Awareness Day, which also occurs in the fall (October 27th, to be exact).

6)  I really like listening to live music and being that I live in Austin, the live music capital of the world, I never lack venues to visit.  Grimm’s favorite band is Journey (he can belt out Don’t Stop Believing like no one’s business).

7)  I blog to entertain myself and share my little piece of the world with others. Grimm lets me air all his deep, dark secrets because, well, he is an attention whore.  He would tell you, however, that he has lessons to teach and you, dear reader, are one of his beloved pupils.  Did I mention Grimm is also very charming?

  • Lastly, but most importantly, nominate other inspiring bloggers and post a comment on their blog informing them they have been nominated.  I picked 7 blogs to go with my seven facts, but others have nominated up to 15.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the blogs I find inspiring and also deserving of this award:

1)  http://conorcullen.com/:  I enjoy perusing his very beautiful pictures and reading his musings.

2)  http://confessionsofapitbulladdict.wordpress.com/:  A terrific read told from both the dog’s and owner’s point of view regarding dogs, rescue and pit bulls in general.

3)   http://godblessimerica.com/:  The adventures of Kitty DrunkDrunk (KDD to her fans) never cease to make me laugh.  Don’t let your cats read about her, though;  she may inspire them to do naughty things.

4)  http://ranchrunamuck.wordpress.com/:  Stories of rescue and life with dogs by another crazy dog lady.

5)  http://breezyk.wordpress.com/:  Funny stuff that never fails to make me laugh–and if you are a female who wants to become a stalker, well, maybe you can relate.

6)  http://themuddykitchen.com/:  Cooking, gardening, country life…what more could you ask for?

7)  http://tryingtopray.wordpress.com/:  This is an inspirational blog that reminds me to be thankful for each day.  You don’t have to be religious to appreciate her message and the grace she conveys.

All of the above blogs inspire me to live life to the fullest, give thanks when able, take care of those who need a little help and laugh along the way.  Grimm and I will do our best to stay deserving of this honor–here’s to inspiration!

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Normally in the mornings on my days off, I get up, let the dogs out to do their business, and make myself a giant cup of coffee.  I love coffee–strong, with just enough cream to cut the bitterness, no sweetener of any kind.  Occasionally I’ll sprinkle a little cinnamon on top or, if I have any, maybe some dark chocolate shavings.  No other seasonings, additives or spices are needed, especially not the kind of seasoning I found in my coffee after I left it sitting on the table by itself for a minute:

**Gasp!**  Is that…a hair…in my coffee?  Ewwww, gross, dog hair!  This reeked of Grimm tampering.  I leave my coffee unattended for three minutes with only him nearby, come back to find a black hair floating lazily on my mocha concoction, and what else am I supposed to think?

Me:  Grimm, is that one of your hairs in my coffee?  Why would you put one of your hairs in my drink?

Grimm:  Well, I was only trying to help.  I don’t want to be rude, but you seem a little out of sorts this morning and, well, I saw you rubbing your temples.  I know you were out drinking last night, so I came to the conclusion that you have a hangover and my hair is your remedy.  You’re welcome, by the way.

Me:  Seriously?  Have you ever thought that maybe I was rubbing my temples because you perplex me at times?  AND, my friend, I only had two glasses of wine and half a flute of champagne–I do not have a hangover!  AND hair of the dog doesn’t literally mean I need to consume a hair of the dog!

Grimm:  Are you sure?  Maybe you’re still drunk.  You should drink your coffee to sober up.

Me:  I AM NOT DRUNK!  And I would have if some dog hadn’t put his hair in it.

Sadly, I poured out my contaminated coffee and re-brewed another cup.  For all I knew, several other hairs were lurking beneath the surface, just waiting to surreptitiously enter my body.  Grimm is sneaky…only reasonable to deduct his hairs are, too.

You don’t like how I make your coffee? Fine, I’ll drink it myself.  I get no appreciation around here.

I must admit, this is not the first time I have found dog hair in my drink.  Alas, I have also found a few stray pieces on my dinner plate.  Now, lest you think I am some slovenly housekeeper, understand that I vacuum, sweep, dust and mop constantly.  I lint roll my clothing frequently and brush and bathe the dogs regularly.  I am not completely obsessive compulsive but I would say I wage a fairly aggressive war against dog hair in my home.  No matter how hard I slave, however, some rogue strand still manages to spice my recipe.

Most of my friends also have pets and we frequently commiserate together about the inability to keep pet hair out of our diet and off of our plates.  We have threatened to relegate the furry ones to the outdoors, shave them bald or trade them in for hairless varieties.  We never follow through, though.  For all of us, the companionship these critters bring outweighs the unwelcome seasonings they sometimes provide.  And really, that is the true spice of life.

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What a gorgeous day we had today in Austin!  Perfect temperature, perfect blue sky, perfect pure sunlight pouring down.  My yard, however, was not looking so perfect…straggly, even.  Time to put on the gardening gloves.

First order of business was to pull up all the dead sunflower stalks from earlier in the summer.  Grimm decided he was going to help by bringing me pieces to add to the pile.  Because the dried stalks still have a few dried sunflower heads attached, seeds are still present, too.  To keep the birds happy and to provide a place for the smaller critters to hide, I add the stalks to several brush piles I have strategically placed around the yard.  These piles are nestled in the mini-bamboo forests I have cultivated around the perimeter of my property.  The bamboo makes a perfect natural fence and with the brush hidden inside, my neighbors can’t complain about unsightly brush piles.

Step 1: Bring the stick to the stick pile. Step 2: Drop the stick on the pile. Step 3: Tap the stick into place with your foot. Step 4: Watch the stick carefully to make sure it stays in place.

Grimm was so excited to be able to help today.  I think, ladies and gentlemen, I have found Grimm’s niche:  gardening.  Granted, it took about 10 minutes for him to bring one little stick over (first he had to munch on it to make it the appropriate size, I guess), but he did add, well, five stalks to the pile.  Once he gets his stick fetching skills honed, we’ll have to start on digging next.  Maybe by next month he’ll be talented enough to work the mower.  One can hope, right?

Grimm takes his time finding the perfect spot to place his dried sunflower stalk.

While Grimm worked at collecting sticks, Zella chased a few bunnies.  I was a little surprised that Grimm stayed with me and not with her, but, as a lot of you now know, Grimm is a velcro dog–even the excitement of a rabbit chase can’t get him to truly leave my side.  He watched Zella, though, as she sprung through the tall grass.  Finally, she flushed one his way and he joined in the hunt.  Not to worry, though, they never came close to catching any of those agile rabbits.

Grimm watches Zella chase bunnies in the field next to my house.


Getting outside on such a glorious day really lifted my spirits!  The last few weeks have been a little rough and I didn’t realize how much I missed just being able to putter around outside (with the dogs, of course).  Plus, if you’ve been following or reading this blog, you’ll know that I was Freshly Pressed this week. All of your stories about your own critters and kind words of encouragement really heartened my spirits.  I would never have thought that one little story, on one little blog,  about one little (well, okay, big) dog could create such an overwhelming response!

So, thank you.  Thank you for embracing my stories and empathizing with my frustration.  I now know more about all of your toilet habits, too, which is not something many people can say.

Grimm thanks you, too.  He was elated to learn that there are other dogs out there who didn’t read their Rules and Regulations in Regards to Living in the Human World handbook, either.  He feels a little better knowing he’s not the only one with a paper fetish and a strong desire to hang out with his person by the commode.

For now, it’s back to stick clearing duty.  This garden isn’t going to prune itself. I’ll leave that chore to Grimm.  He likes to eat paper, and isn’t paper just pulverized sticks?

Maybe I’ll just munch on this stick for a while. Tastes like chicken.






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There’s an equation that most dog owners are familiar with:

Boredom + Dog = Destruction

If a dog gets bored, he or she will look for something to do or eat to pass the time.  Older, more mature dogs may just sleep or find an appropriate chew toy to help relieve the monotony, but younger dogs with an excess of energy tend to create their own excitement.  Any rules you may have regarding appropriate chew items go right out the window.

For instance, in my house, Rule #5, subsection C, states:

“Paper products, which include but are not limited to:  toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, magazines, books and mail, shall remain in the area the human places them and under no circumstances should ever enter a canine’s mouth.  The only caveat to this rule is if your human expressly asks you to bring him or her the paper, unmarred by tooth.”

Now, before you begin to think I’m some sort of severe dictator, you should know that, for one, my dogs have more toys, chew bones, comfy sleeping areas and treats than should be allowed and, two, each dog gets his or her own copy of Rules and Regulations in Regards to Living in the Human World when he or she moves in and therefore should know what is and what is not allowed.  No excuses–after all, they get free room and board, free meals, free entertainment, live-in friends, exercise privileges, internet access, unlimited television, etc.

Therefore, you can understand my confusion when I found Grimm today, in the bathroom, eating a roll of toilet paper.

Oh, hey, didn’t see you standing there.

Me:  “Ahem…don’t mean to interrupt, but WHY ARE YOU EATING THAT?  Drop the tp, step away from the toilet, and come with me.  You have blatantly violated Rule #5, subsection C, from  Rules and Regulations in Regards to Living in the Human World.”

Grimm:  “What?  I have no idea what you’re talking about.  What rules and regulations?”

Me:  “Don’t tell me you never read the handbook I gave you when you moved in.  It was the only thing I asked of you–respect the boundaries outlined in this book.”

Grimm:  “Oh, yeah….that book.  Um, I never got to Rule #5.”

Me:  “Well, go get your handbook right now and I’ll go over it with you.  We’re going to make this  a-s  c-l-e-a-r  a-s  p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e.”

Grimm:  “Um, I can’t.  I ate that.  Months ago.”

I was just lying here, minding my own business, when this roll of toilet paper jumped out of the cabinet. It started to attack me! I was only defending myself.

Rainy days like today make me ever vigilant in regard to what Grimm is doing. We can’t get outside to drain his energy and Zella can only play tug and wrestle for so long.  There is another equation I use to determine the amount of mischief Grimm is in:

If Noise = Zero, Then Grimm = Big Trouble

The quieter he gets, the more chaos is brewing.  I don’t know how a dog his size can make such a big mess at times and be so silent about it.  Apparently, he creates his own sound vacuum.  I guess it’s time to get him a new copy of Rules and Regulations in Regards to Living in the Human World.  We’ll start at the beginning:

Rule #1:  A dog may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm.

Rule #2:  A dog must obey the orders given to it by humans, except where such orders would conflict with the First Rule.

Rule #3:  A dog must protect his or her own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Rules.

Oh, wait.  My bad.  Those are the Three Laws of Robotics and a dog is not a robot.  Like us, dogs are not perfect.  They have wants, needs, desires, same as us.  What they desire, however, and why they want it, may drive us crazy at times, but really, if dogs were perfect, then we’d be bored.  And then we’d be the ones eating toilet paper.

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There’s a term people use for dogs that stay constantly by their owners:  velcro dogs.  These canines are akin to the famous fabric hook-and-loop fastener in that they cling strongly to their person and it can be difficult to separate them. Some velcro dogs will also display separation anxiety and become destructive to property or themselves when unable to be with their favorite human.  I should also point out that some people have separation anxiety from their dogs and actually seek out or encourage velcro behavior.

I, for one, like being able to go to the bathroom without being dogged or hounded by four-legged critters.   Even the terms “to dog” and “hounding” came about from the fact that canines can be hard to get away from.  That being said, I do have a velcro dog.  Yep, that’s right, Grimm is as sticky as glue–Gorilla glue, not the puny Elmer’s variety.  And, alas, if I forget to close the bathroom door completely, private time becomes doggy social hour.  Nothing is more annoying than having a live dog rug underfoot when you are trying to urinate or move your bowels.  No amount of threats or shoving mean anything to a dog when your pants are down around your ankles.  They know a compromising situation when they see it.

Wait…are you going to the bathroom? I’ll come with you. Oh, you’re just throwing away a piece of trash? I better follow you, just in case. I know it’s only twelve feet away from where we are now, but you may need my help. You just never know.

Now don’t get me wrong–I like having a loyal dog.  Loyal as in, “I will warn you of possible intruders” or “I won’t run away with the first person to offer me a tasty treat” or “I will protect you from bodily harm.”  Not loyal as in “I will help you flush the toilet” or “I will trip you when you are cooking hot things because I lay behind you when you are at the stove.”  I like to think Grimm would perform well in all of the first scenarios and I know for a fact  that he can do all of the second ones.  This dog is never more than ten feet from me at all times unless we are outside.  Even then, he will keep me in his sight.

Charley, in his old age, has developed some velcro dog tendencies, but only when indoors.   Really, he is only attached to me when I am sitting down, like when I’m writing or watching something on television.  At times like those, he likes to lay at my feet.  I can deal with that sort of attachment.

Are you fixin’ [Charley is a Texas dog through and through] to sit down? If so, I’m gonna lay on your feet. Hope ya don’t mind, but if you do, too bad. I’m gonna do it anyway.

Zella, on the other hand, is more independent.  She likes to sleep on the couch, away from me and the other dogs, when we are relaxing inside.  She’ll watch me to see what’s up, but won’t follow me room to room like Grimm does.  When outside, she doesn’t run away or try to escape and comes when called, but she doesn’t have to keep me in her sight.

If you need me, let me know. I’ll just be over here lounging on the couch.

George Eliot (who was actually Mary Anne Evans– but I digress) once said:

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults.  Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.

While I agree that we, as humans, seek affection from those who would love us despite our short-comings, attachment and affection are not the same thing. Attachment can become co-dependence, co-dependence can become obsession and obsession can become neuroses.  A neurotic dog is not something I want to encourage.  I don’t want to find Grimm turning into the canine version of Single White Female.

For now, Grimm is working on his stays and learning some independence.  To teach independence, I start by increasing his confidence.  To do this, I work him in scenarios that he is not entirely sure of (like walking through ladders, climbing on unstable (but not dangerous) objects, jumping over obstacles, etc.) so that he learns he can do things by himself.  When I leave rooms, I make him stay on his dog bed and reward him with low-key praise when I return (as long as he stays on his bed and doesn’t come to me–I go to him).  So far, he’s doing well.  He shows great aptitude in learning new behaviors.

I owe it to Grimm to help him foster some independence.  I love the relationship we as humans can have with our dogs.  I don’t, however, need an entourage wherever I go.  We don’t have to be attached at the hip.  As Alex Clare sings, “I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to breathe.  At the end of it all, you’re still my best friend.”
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him
to be worthy of such devotion.”
                                                                                                    — Unknown

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Autumn has officially arrived here in Central Texas.  Acorns are starting to fall from the live oak trees in my yard, goldenrod and ragweed are blooming, and the days and nights are getting cooler.  Squirrels are driving the dogs crazy, my allergies are killing me, and the small town chili festivals are about to commence.

Goldenrods bloom in my yard. These plants are often confused with ragweed, which also blooms this time of year. Ragweed, unlike goldenrod, causes my immune system to go haywire, leaving me (and lots of others) in misery.

Grimm stalks through the ragweed towards the oak trees where the squirrels are taunting him.

Speaking of chili festivals, I came across a funny anecdote that made the email rounds a few years back.  I hadn’t read it in a while, and thought it was time for a resurrection.  Originally, this was said to be an actual account relayed to paramedics at a chili cook-off event.  While I don’t doubt that many people have suffered at the hands of a masochistic chili connoisseur, I cannot verify its authenticity or original author.  However, this story still makes me laugh out loud, especially since I have had similar thoughts when eating some of these ridiculously spicy concoctions.  There’s hot, then there’s HOT.

Recently, a man named Frank was visiting Texas from Springfield, Illinois.  Like most tourists, he thought it would be great fun to experience some of the local flavor.  He decided to attend a local chili cook-off which was taking place that same day.  Unbeknownst to Frank, one of the original three judges of the competition called in at the last minute, regretting that he would not be able to make it to the judging.  The other two judges were at a loss as to what to do.  At that precise moment, Frank found himself at the judge’s table asking for directions on how to get to the Coors Light vendor.  Using their native Texan ingenuity, the judges asked Frank if he would like to fill in.  He was assured by the two judges that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy and, besides, he would have all the free beer he wanted during the tasting.  Luckily for them, Frank was up for the challenge and became Judge #3.  Unfortunately, Frank found out the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished.  Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

*Chili #1:  Mike’s Maniac Monster Chili

Judge #1:  A little too heavy on the tomato.  Amusing kick.

Judge #2:  Nice, smooth tomato flavor.  Very mild.

Judge #3 (aka Frank):  Holy shit!  What the hell is this stuff?  You could remove dried paint from your driveway with this stuff!  Took me two beers to put the flames out.  I hope that’s the worst one.  These Texans are crazy…

*Chili #2:  Austin’s Afterburner Chili

Judge #1:  Smoky, with a hint of pork.  Slight jalapeno tang.

Judge #2:  Exciting BBQ flavor, but needs more peppers to be taken seriously.

Judge #3:  Keep this out of the reach of children.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain.  I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver.  They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

*Chili #3:  Fred’s Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili 

Judge #1:  Excellent firehouse chili.  Great kick.

Judge #2:  A bit salty, but good use of peppers.

Judge #3:  Call the EPA.  I’ve located an uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano.  Everyone knows the routine by now.  Get me more beer before I ignite!  Barmaid pounded me on the back and now my backbone is in the front part of my chest.  I’m getting shit-faced from all the beer!

*Chili #4:  Bubba’s Black Magic

Judge #1:  Black bean chili with almost no spice.  Disappointing.

Judge #2:  Hint of lime in the black beans.  Good side dish for fish or other mild foods;  not much of a chili.

Judge #3:  I felt something scraping across my tongue, but I was unable to taste it.  Is it possible to burn off your taste buds?  Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills.  This 300 pound woman is starting to look HOT…just like this nuclear waste I’m eating.  Is chili an aphrodisiac?

*Chili #5:  Lisa’s Legal Lip Remover

Judge #1:  Meaty, strong chili.  Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick.  Very impressive!

Judge #2:  Chili using shredded beef.  Could use more tomato.  Must admit, the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.

Judge #3:  My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes.  I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics.  The contestant seemed offended when I told her I thought her chili had given me brain damage.  Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer on it directly from the pitcher.  I wonder if I’m burning my lips off?  It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming.  Screw them!

*Chili #6:  Vera’s Very Vegetarian Variety

Judge #1:  Thin yet bold vegetarian chili.  Good balance of spices and peppers.

Judge #2:  The best yet.  Aggressive use of peppers, onion and garlic.  Superb!

Judge #3:  My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames.  I shit on myself when I farted and I’m worried it will eat through the chair.  No one seems inclined to stand behind me except Sally.  I can’t feel my lips anymore and I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone.

*Chili #7:  Susan’s Screaming Sensation Chili

Judge #1:  A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

Judge #2:  Ho hum, tastes like the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment.  I should note that I am somewhat worried about Judge #3.  He appears to be in a bit of distress and is cursing uncontrollably.

Judge #3:  You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin and I wouldn’t feel a thing.  I’ve lost sight in one eye and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water.  My shirt is covered in chili which slid unnoticed out of my mouth.  My pants are full of lava to match my shirt.  At least during the autopsy they’ll know what killed me.  I’ve decided to stop breathing–it’s too painful.  Screw it!  I’m not getting any oxygen anyway.  If I need air, I’ll just suck it through the four inch hole in my stomach.

*Chili #8:  Big Tom’s Toenail Curling Chili

Judge #1:  The perfect ending!  This is a nice blend chili.  Not too bold but spicy enough to declare it’s existence.

Judge #2:  This final entry is a good, balanced chili, neither mild nor hot.  Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself.  Not sure if he’s gonna make it.  Poor fella–wonder how he would have reacted to really hot chili?

Judge #3:  <<no report>>

Giant pots of chili like this are found at local festivals known as “chili cook-offs”.

At any rate, fall happens to be my favorite time of year.  The dogs enjoy it, too, and act friskier than normal.  Of course, chasing the squirrels who are looking for acorns adds to the fun.  Grimm really hadn’t seen too many squirrels until we were outside today.  At one time, when I first bought my current home, there were no squirrels to be seen.  The trees in my neighborhood were too small and puny to adequately support a large squirrel population at the time.  Now that the trees have matured, the squirrel families have as well.

The only downfall (pun intended) to autumn is the ragweed and it’s stupid pollen.  I guess chili cook-offs can be dangerous, too.   As long as I stock up on Zyrtec I’ll be able to survive the ragweed pollen explosion.  And, as long as I take my Prilosec and Zantac, I’ll survive the chili festivals, too.  I can’t guarantee Grimm will survive the fall unscathed–those squirrels can really chunk an acorn.

Zella and Grimm clean off after a long day of chasing squirrels.

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Yesterday was Grimm’s first birthday.  I haven’t had him for a whole year, though, only about nine months.  The picture above was taken the first day I took him home.  He was a fat, wiggly pup of about eleven weeks when I first laid eyes on him.  You would not have known that he was sick.  He was placed in a kennel in the in-patient ward, my area of seniority in the veterinary hospital, waiting on his fate.  A parvovirus test was running–if it was positive, his owners were going to euthanize him.  If it was negative, well, maybe they would treat him.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of parvo pups.  Parvo is a horribly nasty virus; it destroys rapidly growing cells, especially those in the blood marrow and the gastrointestinal tract.  This leads to vomiting and bloody, mucous-filled diarrhea. The electrolyte imbalance and fluid loss from this disease also contribute to a dog’s rapid decline.   Because of the insult to the gut, normal enteric bacteria can easily cause sepsis and death.  Most parvo cases need IV fluids, antiemetics, antibiotics to combat secondary infection and other parenteral support.  This can be costly, and even the best managed cases don’t always have a favorable prognosis.

Grimm’s test came back positive (although at the time, he was called Capulin).  I was busy triaging other patients, so I wasn’t really paying attention to his results.  After all, he hadn’t technically been turned over to my care, and I had other priorities.  However, I did hear the technician who was in charge of his case say, “Put an IV catheter in him–they’re going to euthanize.”  That got my attention.  The conversation between the technician and her supervisor continued:

“The black pit bull puppy?”

“Yeah, they don’t want to treat him.”

“They don’t even want to try minimal outpatient care?  Is it a money issue?”

“I don’t know, maybe.  They just want to euthanize.”

This was when I piped up.  “I’ll take him.”  At first they didn’t hear me because of all the chaos in the treatment area.  So, louder, I said again, “I’ll take him.” Everybody sort of got quiet and looked at me like I’d grown two heads.

“I’ll take him.  See if they will sign over ownership;  if they do, I’ll treat him.”

My manager asked, “What are you going to do if he makes it?”

“Keep him, of course.”  No one but me would want him, I thought to myself.  He was a pit bull and most people don’t want or aren’t prepared to handle that particular breed of dog.  He was going to be big and he was black.  Even in this day and age a stigma exists against big, black dogs.  They may not be considered hellhounds anymore, but they still get overlooked by most adopters because no one wants a plain, black dog.  I have a crazy belief that all dogs are beautiful (can you tell I’m a dog person?) but I tend to really like the big black dogs with big, fat heads.

They say you should be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  I had been looking for another male pup to add to my household.  Charley was getting older and I wanted to bring another pup in while he was still around.  Older dogs can be amazing teachers to the youngsters and a confident, gregarious dog like Charley would be invaluable in teaching a pup good dog manners and social skills.  Plus, Zella needed a younger friend to play with.

I perused all the online listings of the local shelters and rescue groups.  Just when I thought I had found the perfect candidate, I would discover that the pup had either already been spoken for or already adopted.  I was starting to get discouraged, but then I saw a listing on Petfinder showcasing  a Catahoula/American bulldog mix litter of pups.  They had several boys available and they were all merle colored, like Charley.  I was going to look at them the next day.  I never did.  Grimm came along instead.

Life has a way of working out.  I needed a dog and Grimm needed a person. Zella needed a buddy and Charley needed an apprentice.  All of us needed each other.  I’ll never forget the look on Zella’s face when I brought Grimm home two days later.  Her eyes got wide and she started to wiggle around and dance in a circle.  She looked at me with a grin on her face, looked at Grimm, and looked at me again.  Is this for me?, she seemed to ask.  He’s for all of us, my friend.  And we’re all for him.

Happy Birthday, you big black dog.

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Today was supposed to be yard work day.  Instead, it turned into take pictures of the pooches day.  In my defense, it was almost a hundred degrees today…and I ran out of gas for the mower…and there were bunches of yellow jacket wasps eyeing me hungrily when I got close to their nests.  It became much easier to just roll out the camera and drag in the mower.

Taking pictures of the dogs  is, at times, like herding cats, especially when I want all three to be in a picture.  They all promptly forget any of the schooling they ever had and become easily distracted.  They are like kids with ADHD who ate an entire bag of Skittles, drank four cups of coffee and then smoked methamphetamines.  Here is how getting all three of mine into a frame goes:

Me:  Here, everybody!  Sit, stay, watch me!

The Dogs:  [Grimm lays down and starts to eat grass, Zella tries to catch a fly that is buzzing around her backside, and Charley starts to lick his penis.]

Me:  Hey!  Stop eating grass…stop licking your penis, Charley!  No, don’t lick Grimm’s penis, either!  Zella!  Pay attention!

The Dogs:  [All sit back up and are looking at me again.]

Me:  Gooooooooooood.  Staaaaaaaay.  [I press the button on the camera to take the picture, but the “battery low” light blinks and the camera shuts off.]

Me:  &%!$#*&$^!!! [I go inside, find new batteries and start over.]

Me:  Ok, let’s try again.  Everyone….staaaaaay.

The Dogs:  [Zella sprints off to chase a bunny, Grimm races after her, and Charley starts to lick his penis…again.]

Me:  I quit!

I have started to just take individual portraits of the pooches in order to make my life easier and to save face with my neighbors.  Yes, they really have heard me yelling at my dog for licking his penis.  They grabbed their children, covered their ears, and scurried inside.  They already think I’m the crazy dog lady; why exacerbate matters?

Grimm worked hard today–can’t you tell?

Seriously, though, I’ve either got to mow or make hay.  The pygmy tribes are going to move into my jungle soon.  Maybe I should just invest in a few goats–they’d probably be easier to photograph, too, being as they like to stay in a herd (and they probably don’t lick their penises).

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In a few weeks, Grimm will be one year old.  The puppy stage will (hopefully) soon be over.  I know, however, that pit bulls can be slow to mature (and Grimm, bless his little heart, is a little slow in everything).  I fear, though, that his constant destruction mode will never wane.  He is a mouth with legs attached.

I should have known he would be a one-dog-wrecking-crew…even when he was sick with parvo, he still ran amok seeking items to ingest.  Apparently, he never received the memo that parvo pups don’t like to eat.  He was akin to a baleen whale–he just ran around with his mouth open and whatever filtered in was fair game.  Even now, he is finally getting over a bought of gastritis secondary to eating frisbees.  He puked up yellow, green, red, blue and purple pieces for days (I haven’t even had a green frisbee around for months, so who knows how long that piece of plastic was floating around in his stomach).  What didn’t come out the front end came out the back (and 2-3 inch long pieces of plastic scraping through your intestinal tract can NOT feel good).  One ultrasound later, and no obstruction…yet.  It is never good news when your veterinary radiologist tells you, “I’m sure we’ll be scanning him again fairly soon.  He’s the type to get frequent flyer miles.”

This all got me thinking:  how many things HAS Grimm eaten since I rescued him?  Let’s make a list along with cost of damage:

1)  Seatbelt in car [approx. $250 to replace]

2)  Floormats in car [$50]

3)  All of Zella’s stuffed toys are now destuffed and mangled, no longer even resembling their original forms (and most are now long gone to the landfill) [$45, Zella had a LOT of stuffed babies]

4)  Multiple frisbees (see above) [$15]

5)  Two leashes [$20]

6)  Vacuum cleaner cord [old vacuum=$85 + new vacuum=$150 for grand total of $235]

7)  One metal crate, which led to me purchasing the most heavy duty crate available without special ordering [destoyed metal crate=$150 + new heavy duty ProSelect crate=$350 for grand total of $500]

8)  Shoes, shoes and more shoes [at least $225, Brooks running shoes ain’t cheap]

9) One dog bed [$25]

10) Multiple blankets and towels [$50]

11) Door frame [$50]

12) Two books [$15]

Dear God!  Why did I make a list?  This dog now owes me almost $1500 in damages.  This doesn’t even take into consideration the veterinary costs needed to diagnose and treat him, and we’re not even through year one yet.  This dog needs a job–anyone need their car or house turned shabby chic? How about an organic paper shredder?  Demolition job openings, anyone?

**Sigh**  We still have a few weeks to go yet.  Cross your fingers that this list doesn’t get any bigger.  New puppy owners, consider yourselves warned.  I know others of you out there must have similar bad pups–what were your first year damages?

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If you have ever played Alchemy, you’ll understand when I say I am proposing a new combination of elements.  Seriously.  Dog plus Vacuum really does equal Death, or very nearly death.  Let me explain:

I have an eleven month old pit bull named Grimm.  Grimm likes to chew on things (see The Shoes That Were Eaten To Pieces).  A few months ago, he chewed the vacuum cleaner’s cord in two.  All I can say is he was very lucky the cord wasn’t plugged in, although I will admit a little part of me kinda wished it was.  One big shock may have taught the big jerk a lesson.  After much cursing, and I’ll admit, a few threats to make a trip to the local animal shelter, I decided that I could probably wire it back together.  After all, I’d seen my dad splice wires together and it didn’t look too hard.

To do this, I needed a few things:  a pair of pliers and some electrical tape.  I stripped down the outer cord and it’s insulation until just the copper wire was exposed on both pieces.  I then twisted the two ends of copper together until they were snug and wouldn’t budge when tugged on.  Next, I covered the whole exposed part of the cord with electrical tape and made sure no wires were poking out.  I then crossed my fingers, plugged the cord in, and turned on the vacuum.  Eureka!!  It started fine, no smoke or fire broke out, I didn’t electrocute anybody and I congratulated myself for a job well done and for not having to spend another hundred bucks on a new vacuum cleaner.  Fast forward to today…

So, I was doing some cleaning, and it was time to vacuum the floor.  I have a tile floor, but vacuuming is much easier than sweeping.  Anyways, I started vacuuming and then, nothing.  The vacuum stopped working.  There was some tension on the line and I thought maybe it had come unplugged, but nope. Grimm was standing on the cord and my forward motion, along with his heavy self planted firmly on the cord, caused my beautifully spliced wires to come apart, leaving the tape on the part of the cord that was still plugged in.  Of course, I started cursing–not this again!  And caused by the same dog!  Grrrr…..definitely going to the shelter.

In my anger, I grabbed the part of the cord with the tape on it and angrily pulled the tape off, exposing the copper wires (most of you can see where this is going).  I then inadvertently touched the live wire to my forearm on the way to unplug it.  Wowzer!  I jumped about three feet in the air and dropped the wire and it started making zapping noises and sparks.  With a lovely metallic taste in my mouth, I unplugged the cord.  More cursing ensued.  I looked at Grimm–he was just calmly sitting, watching me as I ranted.  I swear he looked a little disappointed that, say, my hair hadn’t caught on fire or my arm wasn’t blackened.  His beady little eyes looked calculating.  Maybe I should rename him Grim Reaper.

Or maybe I should change my equation to read:

Me + Electricity = Stupid

Needless to say, I’m getting a new vacuum cleaner.

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I’m beginning to suspect Zella may be a superhero.  How would I know, you ask?  Well, honestly, I don’t.  But she’s definitely up to something, and a few puzzling bits are starting to make sense.

The Origin Story

All good superheroes have great origin stories–either they were traumatized by witnessing or being struck by violence and are now hell-bent on fixing the world, were given powers by something/someone that they really didn’t want or ask for and are hell-bent on using them for good, or they created something that changed/enhanced them and now are hell-bent on proving their value to mankind.  Zella’s origins fall mostly in the first category, but she could be slightly influenced by the second as well.   As far as I know, she hasn’t created or invented anything that is self-enhancing…yet.  Here’s her story, told through her point of view:

I really don’t remember much of my mother, or my siblings for that matter.  My first memories really are of dirt and cold.  I was taken from my mother when I was only four and a half weeks old.  My other siblings and I were tossed into a cardboard box and driven to the local Wal-Mart where we sat and waited.  Apparently, you really can get anything at Wal-Mart, even a puppy.  A “For Sale” sign was placed on the box and lots of people stopped to look at us, pet us, talk to us, pick us up by our scruff, drop us back in the box.  I remember my stomach grumbled and I felt bloated.

 “What kind of dogs?”, people would ask.  “American Pit Bull Terriers”, was the reply, “the blue nose kind.”  What the hell does my nose have to do with anything?  All I knew was that it was cold–was that why it was blue?

“Aren’t those dogs used for fighting?”

“Some are.  You buy this dog, you can use it for whatever you want.  They come from good lines.”

Whatever that means.  This guy was selling them a line, a line of bullshit.  How would he know?  He just threw a couple of bullish dogs together and nine weeks later got us.  He only used us to line his pockets.

After a while of being poked at and almost dropped by a couple of kids, a young girl came by.  She was unsure, but I wiggled anyways, like we all had been doing.  We were trying anything at that point to get out of the cardboard and into warm arms.  She was totally mesmerized by my blue eyes.  At that age, most puppies have blue eyes anyways, but mine were especially bright and that’s what saved me.

She wasn’t ready, though.  Not for a puppy and especially not a pit bull puppy.  I didn’t know at that time about the stigma associated with my breed.  I didn’t know I was supposed to be a monster, driven by uncontrolled genes to seek and destroy any living thing.  She didn’t believe this, either, but she just wasn’t ready to take on the challenge of a puppy.  She had me all of twenty four hours before she freaked and asked her parents, “What do I do–I’ve made a mistake.”

Lucky for me, her dad was a veterinarian.  He had her drive me up to his clinic so he could look at me and see what to do next.  I arrived in a laundry basket wearing the new purple cat collar she bought me–I was too little for a proper dog one.  I was poked with a sharp needle–“to protect me from diseases”, I heard.  I was washed and probed rectally–more torture for a young dog, but these were done to help, not hurt.  The reason for my bellyaches was determined from that probing–I was a sac of parasites.  A lady fed me some watered down wet food and gave me some horrible yellow liquid and I was left in a kennel overnight.  That night, in the darkness, I howled and cried for my family.  My belly rumbled and I had explosive diarrhea, diarrhea with horrors in it–worms as long as me were dying and there I was, rolling with them in my own diarrhea, wishing I was dying, too.

The next day, the lady who fed me and washed me the day before washed me again.  She looked a little angry, but I could tell it wasn’t at me.  It was at the injustice I had been served in my short life.  She vowed then and there to protect me, to teach me, to turn my life around.  She told the veterinarian that I was now hers, and he secretly was happy I was no longer his problem.  She took me to her house where a new, real family greeted me.  I was home.

I know what I am, where I come from, but I am not destined to go down that line.  I will use my daring, my tenacity, my strong-will that was bred into me by humans to show the world what I can do…I am not a blood thirsty monster.  I am a fighter, but I fight against stereotypes and preconceived notions.  I will change your perspective of me, even if it takes all my life.

Proof of Extraordinary Powers–Flight

The next thing on the superhero list:  superpowers.  Zella has a few, but I know you won’t believe me if I just tell you about them, so I’ll show them to you.  Above is proof that she can fly, but she has other abilities, too.

Zella demonstrates another of her super-abilities: hiding in plain sight.

Zella demonstrates psychometry, the ability to communicate with inanimate objects.

It is also very important for a superhero to have two things:

1) sidekicks and/or good familial support and…


Her doggy brothers are always there for her.

Family knows how to get rid of your sorrows.

2) …a secret identity.

Squirreldog to the rescue! Ok, well, looks like she’s still working on that. Maybe she could just wear a pair of glasses?

The last thing one needs to be a superhero is an arch nemesis.  This really is the only piece of the puzzle that is missing.  You see, Zella doesn’t even have an ordinary, run-of-the-mill enemy.  Maybe the vacuum cleaner counts…no, not really.  She just sort of looks at it funny.  The lawn mower–that’s her arch enemy.  Whenever I go to start it, she barks at it like crazy until the engine turns over.  Then she looks at me smugly, and I swear she smiles, and her eyes say, “I told it, didn’t I?”.

Zella’s only real enemy is ignorance.  Yes, she’s a pit bull; no, she’s not going to eat your child and wreak havoc on the town.  Even for all her bad starts in life, she has proven to be a remarkable dog.  I have trained and socialized her from day one, and each day is another day for her to hone her skills.  I do not let her roam or place her in any compromising situations.  I know that training can only get you so far and that genetics do play a role.  Too many pit bull owners feel they can love aggression out of their dogs, and that is just not true.  We need to respect both nature and nurture.  Zella may not be a true superhero, but I need to be hers–together we can help to change perceptions.

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“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

–Martin Buber

Have you ever truly looked at your dog’s eyes?  Gotten lost in all the colors and patterns, the striations and lines?  For that matter, have you really ever looked at your own eye?  They aren’t just brown or amber or green or blue; a symphony of color exists in the iris.  In people, there have been studies that suggest eyes really are the window to the soul–certain patterns in the iris seem to be linked to certain personality traits.  To my knowledge, no one has tested this theory in canines.  There have been, however, studies on cognition and perception in dogs by testing their ability to track our eye movements and read our intent.  Dogs, they have found, are very good at following our gazes, though some breeds and individuals are better at it than others.

Of all my current dogs, Zella makes the best eye contact.  She will watch my face very closely and look where I look, especially when she wants my help in finding a frisbee.  She will follow my gaze and go in that direction, periodically stopping to look back at me to follow my line of sight again until she finds it.  Grimm “looks” for frisbees by snuffling around with his nose or he follows Zella’s lead–he doesn’t watch my eyes the way Zella does.  When Zella is unsure of which toy to bring me to play with, she comes up to me, whines, and watches my eyes closely.  When I look at the toy I want her to bring to me, she will return with the correct one.  Pointing at the toy doesn’t work as well with her, unless I look at it also.  Charley and Zella will make eye contact with me, look at the back door, then make eye contact again when they want to go outside.  I am still waiting for Grimm to learn some of these behaviors from them.  He pretty much just gallops along wherever they go. Whereas Charley and Zella have seemingly mastered communication using eye contact, Grimm has barely scratched the surface.   All of my dogs know the “Watch Me” command, which is useful for getting their attention and keeping them distracted from trouble, but young Grimm has the attention span of a fly.

It goes both ways–we can learn a lot about a dog by looking at their eyes, too.  A “whale eye” or dilated pupils in a dog can signal fear whereas squinted eyes can relay excitement or appeasement.  Most people at some point have seen the “hard eye” of an aggressive dog or a dog that means business.  For some dogs, making eye contact with a human can be considered a threat.  Some dogs naturally follow a human gaze, others have to be taught.  Learning how to communicate with your canine companion can be challenging–I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me and Grimm.  It’s hard enough at times to communicate with other Homo sapiens; I’m always amazed that we humans do as well as we do with Canis lupus familiaris.

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Occasionally I take all three dogs with me to work, although most days I only bring two out of the three.  The other day, however, I brought all of them.   Charley was happy as a clam, but Grimm and Zella were bored and clearly not amused.

Charley, Grimm and Zella kenneled in a dog run while at work with me.

Somehow, when I took the picture, Charley’s white hairs on his head formed an almost perfect halo.  Zella’s little reddish-pink ears seemed to resemble horns.  Now when I look at the picture, all I can think about is Grimm being pulled in two directions (a canine Doctor Faustus, if you will):  Charley, on his right, imploring him to be righteous and behave;  Zella, on his left, tempting him to join her in impish delights.  What’s a dog to do?

I will say, all three are actually fairly well behaved when at work, although Zella sometimes gets a little antsy and starts making duck/monkey noises.  This day they were lucky as none of them were required to do any work.  In the past, both Zella and Grimm have been called upon to donate blood to less fortunate pooches and Charley has been summoned to help with training in simple procedures.  They are paid handsomely for their efforts, so don’t think I’m taking advantage of them.  It’s only a matter of time, I fear, until they unionize.

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Charley.  Charles.  Charley-Boy.  Charz.  Charley-Bear.  Char-Char.  Charlito.  ‘Lito.  Buddy Boy.  Boo-Boo.  Munchkin.  Pumpkin-Head.  Monkey Boy.  Knucklehead.  Chuck.  My Good Boy.  My Best Boy.

These are most of the names I have called Charley over the years, and he has always been gracious enough to respond to all of them.  Nowadays, though, with his hearing mostly gone, a piercing whistle has to do.  A little over 14 years ago, he came into my life–at the time, I was in college and didn’t really need another dog, but I couldn’t refuse the emaciated, tick-riddled, partially bald, just run-over pup.  And these were just the problems you could see.  I had just started working as a veterinary technician, and I’ll never forget my boss and mentor sitting down with me and asking, “Are you sure you want this dog?  Because he’s sorta a train wreck.  We can try to fix him up, kiddo, but I make no promises.  He’s going to be a lot of work.”  Well, I was never one to back down from a challenge and I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog.

The good news was that no bones were broken, although he urinated blood for a couple of days due to trauma to his kidneys and bladder.  His fecal material was mostly insects, cricket parts mostly, but a fecal exam revealed he had basically every intestinal parasite possible.  He literally had thousands of ticks on him and was anemic, but he was a tough little trooper.

It broke my heart that this sweet little four month old pup had endured so much in his short life–the lady who brought him in (and also accidentally run him over) found him out in the middle of nowhere when she was looking at property out near Lake Travis.  She saw the pup and tried to catch him, but he hid in the woods.  When she and her real estate agent got out of their vehicle to look at the land, the pup, unbeknownst to her, crawled under the car.  When they got back in their car to leave, she felt a bump as she started forward, and realized she had just run the pup over.

Months later, it was discovered that he had a diaphragmatic hernia, basically a tear in the  muscle separating the abdomen from the thorax.  His intestines were literally in his chest and, on ultrasound, you could actually see intestines around his heart.  Because of this organ movement, his liver had been strangulated and, to compensate, his body had formed multiple external liver shunts.  Unfortunately, these shunts did not provide adequate blood flow to the liver, so his liver was stressed, too.  One whole student loan went to pay the surgical specialist to repair the hernia–the shunts were inoperable, but eventually, once all his organs were back in place, it ended up correcting itself.

Charley became my do-anything-and-everything dog–a certified therapy dog, an enthusiastic disc dog, and an excellent agility dog.  He would go with my boss to area schools when he talked to students about how to become a veterinarian.  He went with me to visit residents at nursing homes until that became too much for me to handle.  He was a demo dog at dog training events and a teaching dog for new technicians to learn how to perform certain procedures.  He tried herding once, and although I had seen him work cattle naturally when out horseback riding, he was not a fan of the goats  they used at the herding dog seminar.  My dog, my highly trained, performance rated, can-do-anything dog, stood in the middle of the round-pen on the long line, looked at the goats, looked at the trainer, looked at the goats again, and then took a giant dump.  So much for herding.

Over the years, Charley has been a constant friend–he teaches the new dogs the ropes and keeps the younger ones in line.  He is like a cat with nine lives–he was paralyzed on his right side for a while after he tripped over a five foot horse fence when he tried to jump it, landing on his head instead of his feet;  ehrlichia has reared its ugly head a few times because of all the ticks he had as a pup; he was bit by a snake when he stayed with my parents for a while.  He currently battles arthritis and doesn’t chase the frisbee anymore, but he still occasionally volunteers to be a demo dog at work, teaching the newbies handling and simple procedures.

Old Charley’s color has faded with age, now he’s more white and his tan points have mostly faded.  He’s gained a few pounds in retirement, he’s mostly deaf, and his vision is not as good.  He’s got lots of lumps (lipomas) and broken off teeth.  But, he’s still my good boy, my best boy.  He’s a first class snuggler and can still get in trouble with the best of them.  What a dog to share my life for the past fourteen years!  I thank the higher powers that be every day for sending that poor, miserable, unloved pup my way all those years ago.  Everyone should be so lucky.

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Summer is officially here–already the temperature here in Central Texas is in the triple digits.  The dogs don’t get as much outdoor time when it is this hot.  The risk of heat stroke is too severe when you have dogs who don’t know when to quit.  Instead, we play outside in the early morning or later evening hours and they take “cool off  breaks” by jumping in the water trough (when it is not being hogged by the humans).

Zella waits her turn to jump into the water trough. My father routinely likes to wallow in the water trough, too, when he comes to visit.

The other way we keep cool is by consuming tasty treats, and by tasty treats, I mean cold watermelon.  Nothing beats the heat better than sweet, juicy chunks of perfectly sweet melon.  My dogs love munching on watermelon, even if they only receive mostly the rind portion.

Zella munches on her piece of watermelon.

Charley demonstrating the correct technique used by carnivores to eat a juicy piece of melon. First rule is to scrape out the red, meaty part.

Zella offers her assistance to Grimm in consuming his piece of watermelon.

As long as the air conditioner keeps ticking, we’ll be in good shape.  With a fridge full of watermelon as backup, we’re sure to stay cool and content.

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“If we don’t chase things,  the things following us can catch up.”

–L.M. Montgomery

My two younger dogs love to play chase.  Up, down, back and forth they race, dancing around each other in a complicated ritual.  And, for the most part, their game is ritualized, with an unspoken set of rules.  For them, the rules are as follows:

Rule #1:   Grimm is always the chaser, Zella (holding a high value toy) is always the quarry.  This is how she likes to play the game, and as she is the boss, this is how it is played.  If Grimm grabs a treasured toy (usually a frisbee) and flaunts it in front of Zella, she totally ignores him.  She will usually go on a hunt for her own frisbee in order to start the game.

Zella starts the game by searching for a frisbee.

Grimm gets ready to start the chase.

Rule #2:  The chaser (Grimm) is never allowed to tackle the quarry.  He tried that tactic once and Zella quickly put a stop to it (she is very good at effectively correcting another dog without actually hurting the other dog in any way).  The chaser may nip at heels, tail or flanks, but he better not actually jump on the quarry.  Now, if Grimm gets going too fast and it looks like a tackle may happen or appears unavoidable, he actually now will speed up and jump completely over Zella, at which point she will turn around and sprint the other way.

The chase is on!

Grimm nips at her flanks, and Zella puts on speed.

Rule #3:  When the chaser finally catches his quarry, the quarry must play tug with the valuable object before the chase can restart (this is Grimm’s rule, and since Zella set the other rules, it is only fair that he has one, too).  This usually lasts for about three to five minutes, then Zella gives him the frisbee.  He carries it around for a little while, then gets bored and drops it.  He saunters over to some greenery in the yard and starts his impression of a goat.  All the while he is munching his greens, he is eyeing the frisbee and pretending not to see Zella sneak around to snatch it up again.  As soon as she has it in her possession, the game renews.

Time to play tug.

Grimm watches to see if Zella is going to restart the game. He dropped the frisbee in the middle of the sunflowers.

Zella gets the frisbee to begin the game all over again.

Watching my dogs play their ritualized game reminded me that all of us play our part in our own ritualized games each day.  At times we are the quarry, at other times the chaser.  I also realized when watching their play that the quarry can have just as much power as the chaser and the chaser is just as much at the mercy of the quarry.  Without one, you cannot have the other.  For me, this was again another reminder of the delicate balance we face each day, but probably don’t stop to realize it.  I would never have guessed that two pit bull’s play could spark an epiphany.   Have I ever mentioned what  terrific teachers dogs are?

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My dog Grimm has a problem.  He has an entirely unhealthy fascination with footwear.  He cannot help himself.   Maybe you could call it a fetish, but if you are a shoe, you are in danger.  Sneakers, pumps, loafers, flip flops (oh, how he loves flip flops!)–doesn’t matter.  If he sees one, it immediately becomes his favorite chew toy.  I know, I know…puppies eat shoes.  But, he’s almost 10 months old, so I thought he would have outgrown this by now.  Also, I constantly keep the shoes in the house off the floor, mostly behind closed doors,  but he’s like a shoe ninja–he  uses crazy stealth techniques that a 60 pound dog shouldn’t know.  He creeps silently into closets and onto the dresser tops where a shoe may be placed, and sneakily runs off with it.  He will take the coveted shoe into his kennel or with him to his dog bed or to my bed and commence destruction.  If confronted, this is what happens:

Me:  Grimm, is that a shoe?

Grimm:  What?  No, no…  [here he starts to slowly crawl on top of said shoe so that I can no longer see it]  I was just chewing on my feet.

Me:  Then why is there a shoe lace hanging out of your mouth?

Grimm:  Uhhh….hey!  Look how cute I am when I roll on my back with my feet sticking up in the air!  [he proceeds to roll around on his back with his feet in the air]

Me:  Stop eating shoes!!!!!

Shoe? What shoe?

I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it. I think I have a problem…

Nevermind! The flip flop is mine! It is…my precious….

His obsession is getting out of hand, though.  When he meets a new person, the first thing he does is sniff and inspect their shoes.  Occasionally I see him secretly taste their shoe, but the person doesn’t notice–he or she is too distracted by his banging, whipping, waggling butt and tail that they never notice the doggy drool left on their footwear.  I notice, though, and am secretly horrified.   I guess it could be worse–he could be one of those embarrassing crotch sniffing dogs.

One of many taste-tested shoes

Hopefully one day my dog will outgrow this obsession, although right now I think he is secretly dreaming of invading Imelda Marcos’ closet.  Dreams of shoelaces, treads and heels drift through his little brain.  I will continue to try to thwart his actions and hopefully put an end to this irksome (not to mention expensive!) behavior.

Grimm’s hidden cache of favorite things under the deck. Notice the flip flop, sneaker, and frisbee.

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I was looking through some older photos of my pets, some of which are now deceased.  I noticed that my very beloved old cat, Thomas, seemed to show up in a lot of the photos of my dogs.  During his reign, he was lord over Charley, my current 14 year old cowdog cross, and Roxie, my pit-lab cross (who passed a few years ago).  I think, secretly, he always wanted to be a dog, as I frequently found him lounging in the dog kennel.  He would taste-test the food first before allowing them to eat and he oftentimes hogged the dog bed.  Alas, poor old Thomas has been at rest for a few years, but seeing some of these photos reminded me how much joy and laughter Thomas brought.

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…or, more precisely, the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit.  These cute, fluffy bunnies run rampant in central Texas because they breed like, well, rabbits.  Because of our mild winters, they can reproduce year round–they can have large litters and can reach sexual maturity in a matter of months (3 to be exact).  When you are the popular main course for coyotes, domestic dogs and cats, hawks, owls, snakes, possums, foxes, bobcats and other predators, you learn to grow up fast and hard and to have plenty of youngsters around to spread the genetic code.  Of course, you also have death by man–motor vehicles creating roadkill, wayward lawnmowers running over rabbit nests, and those well-meaning individuals who try to intervene with Mother Nature.

Zella, my 4 year old American Pit Bull Terrier, has many “jobs”–couch warmer, frisbee wrangler, food taster–but her favorite job is being the local rabbit trainer.  Every day, she makes sure those bunnies are running faster, leaping farther, and turning quicker.  She has not yet caught one, but for her I think it’s more about the chase, not the capture.

One day a few weeks ago, while out with the dogs, I noticed Zella was being very still in the empy 1/2 acre overgrown lot next to my house.  The other dogs noticed it too, and we all went to investigate.  Zella got snarky with Grimm (my other pit bull) and Charley (my 14 year old catahoula/heeler cross) when they got too close to her.  I thought, maybe, that she had found a dead critter and was keeping it all for her own.  When I got closer, she started to wiggle her tail slowly and would make deep eye contact with me, then look at the ground between her feet, then back at me again several times.  Usually if she has found something dead and she sees me coming, she either immediately starts consumption of said matter or starts to roll around on top of it, getting greasy, sticky slime all over her shoulders, chest, neck and head.  This time, she did neither.  She wasn’t jumping and lunging at it, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t a reptile of some kind (snake, lizard, turtle).  Instead, it was a nest of baby rabbits.

Zella Searches for Bunnies

Eastern cottontails don’t burrow underground–their nests are usually a few to six inches deep, lined with grasses and the mother rabbit’s fur.  This nest was far below standard–momma bunny just wasn’t trying.  It was maybe 1 inch  deep and had a few twigs around it.  No momma bunny hair in sight.  Zella stood over the little buggers, waiting for me to come.  She had not disturbed the nest or the 4 baby rabbits in any way (only dribbled some slobber on them from her panting–they were also right in the full sun).  These little guys were only about an inch and a half long, with eyes still closed, meaning 4 days old, tops.  I knew that if I left them out there, either 1) Zella would stand guard all day, 2) Charley would eventually get them and slurp them down like cocktail weenies at a free buffet, or 3) they would fry in the hot sun exposed like they were.  So I did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do with Mother Nature–I interfered.

I wrangled Grimm and Charley inside, leaving Zella to stand guard.  I collected all four babies and into the garage we went.  I placed them in a cat carrier and proceeded to learn about raising eastern cottontail babies.  Turns out, this is hard to do (like most wildlife rehabilitation).  The stress usually kills them, but trying to mimic rabbit milk is difficult, too, not to mention having to make sure they are able to establish the normal gut flora to eventually digest the plants in their diet.  To do this, you need to feed them cecotrophes.   Apparently, rabbits pass two types of stool:  the hard, round pellets you normally see, and dark, wet, sticky stool.  Cecotrophes are the second type and it is this fecal matter that contains the appropriate bacteria needed to populate the baby bunnies gut.  Because baby bunnies have an essentially sterile gut at birth, they need a momma rabbit to pass her good bacteria on to them by grooming them and by defecating around the nest where the babies can ingest these cecotrophes.  If a human decides to play momma bunny, you can go around looking for these cecotrophes and collect them and force feed them to the babies to help ensure a successful outcome.  I decided that, for one, there was no way I was ever going to find cecotrophes in my overgrown acre area and, secondly, if I started crawling around in my yard on my hands and knees looking for some, my neighbors would really think I had gone off the deep end.

I studied more on rabbit rearing habits, and learned that momma bunny usually only feeds at night, and not during the day anyway, and is usually not deterred from her babies by the smell of nearby predators.  So, I went to the spot where the nest was originally found, and basically “upgraded” it.  I dug it deeper and collected lots of grasses to line and cover it with.  I waited until dusk, then returned all the babies to the nest.  All babies were in good health when found, so I placed a few twigs over the nest to check the next morning to see if momma bunny had come to visit.

The next day, I peeked at the 4 babies under their new straw covering, and all looked fat and hydrated and content, so I let them be.  For the next 7 days, Zella dutifully went to check on them.  When Charley got close, she chased him away.  When I couldn’t ensure the dogs wouldn’t get to them when we were outside, I brought all the babies inside to the garage to stay in the cat carrier and returned them to the nest at dusk.  When they started to jump and crawl around, Zella would find them and stand over each one until I had picked each one up and returned it to the nest or I brought all of  them inside for the day.  Last I saw of them, they were 5 inches long and on their way to reaching independence.  They were already leaving the nest and eating on their own.  It appears now that they have gone their separate ways (I hope).  Zella occasionally goes to the original nest site and snuffles around, but Charley and Grimm are no longer attracted to the area.  I’m sure in a few weeks time, Zella will become these little guys personal trainer, too, ensuring that they continue to run faster and jump higher and live to pass on these genes to the next generation.

One of Zella’s baby bunnies.

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