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Waiting at the Door

15 May

He has never been a dog  to rush at the open door, hoping for a break at freedom. He waits with the leash on, sits as the other two whine and wiggle as if they had never been on a walk before.  In this, as in all things, a very good dog.

But something has shifted this week. Now, he stands at the door, determined to come along on each trip to school. He rides shotgun as I drop the children off each morning, pick them up each afternoon.


He spends more time at my side, too, tucking in beside me on the bed or couch. I type on the laptop with one hand,  pet him with the other. And I try, as I scratch his ruff, not to feel the hostile alien lumps  just below the surface.

But there’s no avoiding them, or the reality. Acute lymphoma, not curable. Maybe a month or two if the steroids stave off the angry, intruding cells.

I took him in Tuesday, because he  was coughing, and his throat felt swollen.

 “He must have something stuck in there,” I said. “I don’t know what it could be, he’s not a chewer.”

The vet was quiet. Feeling his throat, then his other lymph nodes, her tender eyes belying her hopeful words.

They took samples from the swollen places, flew them to a lab. Maybe, she said, it was a reaction to a tick’s bite on one of his hikes through the woods, maybe some fungal allergy. But probably, she said, aggressive and fast-moving cancer. She was so very sorry, and hoped she was wrong.

She wasn’t wrong, of course. She is as intuitive and skilled as she is compassionate, and honest enough to tell me if he was hers, she would do exactly as we are doing. Skip the hard drugs that won’t change the final outcome. Keep him comfortable. We’ll know when it’s time, she says. 

What I fear I don’t know is what I’ll do without him. In a year the big screen has celebrated the incorrigible hound, he is the anti-Marley. In all things, a very good dog.

puppy quince

We bought him from a sheep farm, his corgi parents named Elvis and Priscilla. In a litter of fat adorable short-legged puppies, he  stood out, the markings on the back of his neck looking like a #1.  Our daughter wanted one of his roly-poly siblings she dubed “Chubby,” but it was my call, my dog. I named him Quince, Spanish for 15 because he was a fifteenth anniversary present.

We went to the farm once to pick him out, a second time to pick him up, and my husband made two additional trips in the dead of night because our daughter kept leaving her beloved blanket in the barn. I suspect she hoped Chubby would find his way into our car.

At obedience school, the assistant called him lowrider and speed bump. He stole the show with his perfect proud walk and the way he tore across the room when I called.

Running Quince

We somehow ended up with another corgi, one found wandering the freeway that we were just going to rescue “for awhile” until we found his home. They had fights that looked like midget wrestling, raced around the room until our border collie grew weary and tripped them, and became the darlings of the dog park.

two corgis

Then, a little over a year ago, we welcomed another addition to our family, an 8-year-old boy who had spent his first years anchorless, tossed in a sea of drug-addiction and abuse and bounced from children’s shelter to foster home to relative to foster home again. The first night, as we tucked in a child that was afraid to hug or trust, Quince climbed up and settled in at the at the foot of the bed. The puppy from a sheep farm was ready to stand sentinel. He has been there every night since, only sneaking back to our room once our son is fast asleep.  In all things, a very good dog.

couch corgi

Five years is hardly long enough for a dog like this. He was supposed to grow old, see that once-scared boy off to college someday. I know there are greater tragedies than this in the world, I have faced many of them. But that perspective is no pain-killer for the ache in my heart.

I’m grateful for a few more days, as long as they are. Days to feed him cheeseburgers from Sonic, to let his make his rounds on the path at the dog park,  to find him standing at the door and waiting to head to the car.

Days to tell him a few more times that in all things, he has been a very good dog.

Housekeeping Tips for Terrier Owners

23 Apr

A Tutorial in Pictures

barbie head

Barbies cannot be left on the floor.

Dead Penguin

Stuffed animals cannot be left on the floor.

Dead Shoes

Shiny silver sandals cannot be left on the floor.

Chewed Underwear

Underwear cannot be left on the floor.

No, seriously, that was the Jack Russell. Dental records have been checked.

And finally…

Chewed Floor

The mother-freaking FLOOR cannot be left on the floor.

The end.

Friday Postcards From the Edge

3 Apr

Dear Quiznos:

I am not ever going be able to order the Toasty Torpedo.  Because I get the feeling after watching your new commercial that it just doesn’t like me that way. It’s in some kind of weird threesome with Scott the chef and the hot glowing oven. Phrases that should never be in a fast-food commercial: “Put it in me, Scott.” 

On the other hand, I say to Sonic all the time. “I wish I knew how to quit you.” So maybe the Brokeback Mountain Advertising strategy is not so far out there.

Longingly Yours,
Confused Consumer

Dear Mom,

Get your dickeys out, it’s National Cleavage Day. I’d celebrate, but since you made me completely boob-paranoid by sewing  little lace dickeys across the neckline of any v-neck shirt I owned, or adding an extra totally obvious snap, I’m already wearing a cami. However, you should totally go help Jenny at The Blogess. She’s having a total rack attack. You may need to bring snaps and a dickey.

Got You Covered

 Dear Precious Gifts from Jesus,

I have a few more things to add to the growing list of “Things You Are Not Allowed to Do While Mom’s at College.” First is an addendum to #41  “do not get the shovels from the garage and build a mud volcano in the backyard.” Under sub-point B, please add “No squirting the hose in the air and watching the dogs chase it around the yard until they are covered in mud.”

Should you fail to comply with 41-B, please at least try to remember #12 “Muddy wet dogs should not be permitted to run through the house, jump on the couch, slam into walls, or roll on MY WHITE DOWN DUVET YOU FREAKING IDIOTS. 

I’m sorry about the freaking idiots bit. Let me take a breath.

Also, if you decide to give the dogs a bath after this, don’t use the good towels.

And finally, under the subcategory of “Things I Thought Were Obvious But Apparently Aren’t,” we have a #32 now. Powdered sugar is not a snack.

Seriously. It looked like a cocaine party gone wild when I walked in the kitchen last night. I was hopeful, but a taste confirmed it was in fact, powdered sugar. 

Ok, that’s all, thanks. I’ll print out new pages for your “How to Behave” notebooks before you get home from school.


Happy Friday, Y’all. Post  your own postcard if you got ’em. – lettergirl

Of Microchips and Mayhem

30 Mar
Dear Pet Microchip Company,
Thank you for the invaluable service you provide in locating lost pets with their owners. I’m sure it’s been a cash cow really rewarding venture for you.
I do want to suggest that some additional front-end customer service training in how to use your products effectively may be in order, based on a recent experience at a local vet’s office using your products.
We are blessed to share our lives with the following three animals.


Very nice dogs.  Also, the small one? She is a hunting breed. This becomes important.
One recent morning, I was interrupted from the peaceful morning routine by something sounding like this:
“BAD DOGS! *thwack* BAD DOGS! *thwack* NO! *thwack* BAD DOGS! *thwack* *thwack* *thwack*”
I ran out to the porch to see a regrettable episode of “When Animals Attack: Suburban Edition” unfolding in the backyard. A small grey cat had unfortunately wandered under the fence at the same moment the dogs had been released outside.
Bailey, who would be a seeker if dogs played Quidditch, had caught the cat. The corgis were moving in as bruisers. The cat was valiantly trying to scale a tree and escape. My husband, the source of the thwacking, was frantically, if ineffectively, trying to interrupt the carnage by hitting the attacking pack with a cushion from the patio chairs.
I moved in, grabbing one assailing dog at a time by the hindquarters and tossing them in the house while my husband continued his chair-cushion diversion attempts. Which, although not successful, did add to the bizarre nature of the scene.
Once they were inside, the cat ran down from the tree and behind a board. It was not bleeding, but mewing its great displeasure. I was not encouraged.
The children, now ready for school, became very curious. However, they were whisked away from the attack scene with with “oh no, the cat is fine.” Which is a euphemism for “is probably headed home to meet Jesus, but  I am sure He likes cats.”
I returned from dropping off the children. The cushion-thwacker headed to work, leaving me alone with the issue of the cat.
I donned gloves and a heavy jacket, and went to see if I could get it to the vet without getting hurt. 
Alas, the vet’s services were no longer needed. The cat had crossed the rainbow bridge.
So of course, there was the unfortunate issue of what to do with the deceased feline, who was wearing  no tags, but did have a collar and clearly belonged to someone. Of course. Never mind that our neighborhood has a feral cat issue. Our dogs caught the one with a collar. SIGH.
Trying to be responsible, I wrapped the poor thing in a towel and brought it to the vet,  hoping perhaps the cat had a microchip so its owners could be notified.
Here’s how *that* adventure unfolded. The way-too-perky vet tech scanned the cat.
“Oh good, we have a chip! The cat’s name is Ike. Here are the owner’s name and numbers so you can call.”
First of all, Microchip ID people, I was kind of hoping *you* had people to make that call. Specially-trained pet grief counselors, maybe? Alas, no such luck.
So I dialed. Praying for an answering machine. Really hard.  No deal. Ike’s owner was home.  Crapcrapcrapdamnitcrapcrapcrapcrap. Deep breath.
“Ummm, I am sorry to have to make this call, but I got your number from the microchip service, and I have some sad news about your cat, Ike.”


“My cat Ike?”


“You’re sure it’s a cat?”

“Yes, very sure. Grey and white? Green collar?”

“Um, Ike is a giant schnauzer. We don’t have a cat.”


“And he’s in the backyard as far as I know.”
“Uh…. ”

“But you’re sure it was a cat? Ike is grey and white. Should I check the backyard?”
“No, definitely a cat.”

“Well, you’re really nice to call anyway.”

“Uh…. well, sorry again. I’m glad your Ike is fine. Sorry to worry you.”

“Have a good day.”

“Yeah, you too.”


I returned to the vet’s office. Told the perky vet tech that “Ike” was a giant schnauzer. So I had, in fact, made the most awkward call of my life TO THE WRONG PERSON.
“Oh, THAT Ike! Hahahahaha! That’s hilarious! He goes here! I know Ike. He was just in for shots and they must have scanned him to make sure his chip was working. Hahahahahaha.”
This was the point when I began wondering if the vet tech had a Microchip ID. Because I was contemplating murder and wondered how easy she would be to identify. Maybe that’s a good secondary market for you.
She scanned the cat again.
“Nope, no chip in this cat. I guess it was just showing the last reading from when Ike was in here. Do you want the cat back?
I assured her that in fact, I did *not* want the cat carcass. Would the vet dispose of it please?
“Yes, do you want the private cremation and we send the ashes back to you? That runs about $175. I can weigh the cat to give you an exact price.”
This was when my head exploded, so I’ll stop the story here.
However, here are my customer service recommendations: 1) Your database should differentiate between giant schnauzers and kittens. 2) You should call your own clients with the bad news. 3) Anyone who says “that is hilarious!” about an error causing the wrong pet owner to be notified should be microchipped under each fingernail. Sans anesthesia.
Caring Pet Owner

If The Dogs Had Twitter

24 Mar

bailey Just pooped in the hall. On the swirly-patterned rug so it’s indiscernible. Hilarity will ensue.

tutter  @bailey BOL! Get it? Bark out Loud.

Quince @tutter @bailey U R such a tool.

bailey Just heard the humans scream. Guess they discovered it!  #baddog

tutter @bailey UR such a bitch ROFBOL

Quince @tutter @bailey She’s done worse. I have proof.

tutter RT @Quince hahaha! #baddog

bailey @Quince UR so retarded! I can’t believe you posted that!!

tutter Heard the fridge open. Running to the kitchen at full speed. #corgisrule

Quince @tutter Full speed is pretty slow when you’re shaped like a football with feet.

tutter @Quince Bite me. At least I don’t run around barking like an idiot when the humans say “Is Timmy in the well?” #douche

bailey why is everyone who follows me a neo-con or a porn spammer? or a cat.

bigcat @bailey fine, I’m blocking you. You weren’t reciprocating anyway.

quince Totally humping @tutter right now! I rule.

Tutter @quince @bailey Hahaha! Just noticed mom is following you both. You are so busted.

twitter fail whale

lettergirl Just deactivated the dogs’ twitter accounts. Bet the site is running faster soon!

To The Poop-Rolling Dog

6 Mar
The Unspeakable Horror

The Unspeakable Horror

The quiet hour is finally here. 9:30 at night. The children are off to bed. You, my dear dog, have been let out for the last time of the evening and welcomed back in with the rest of the herd.

You leap. You snuggle. You lick.


Oh sweet baby Moses in the bull rushes do you ever smell. Before I can even adjust to the olfactory assault, I am hit with a second wave of disgusting realization. You also ooze. And you are sharing the malodorous goo with my shirt. Aack!Aack!Aack! I somehow avoid vomiting or letting out a string of expletives and throw you into the tub.

It is at this point that the husband, genteel and cultured, clad in clothes that do not ooze, comes home from an evening of orchestra practice. This is the difference in our worlds in a nutshell at the moment. And he asks a fateful question.

“Why are you giving the dog a bath at 9:30 at night?”

The expletive dam breaks.


He laughs nervously and beats a quick retreat. He does not stay for the haz-mat decontamination. This is between you and me. Our poopy prom, our dance of de-defecation.

A dog owner should not have favorites, but alas, you are mine. You speak my language, and understand the phrase “do you want to take a nap?” like other dogs salivate over a proposed walk.

If not for your propensity for poop-rolling, and occasional decision to PEE IN YOUR OWN FOOD BOWL so the other dogs won’t come near it, you would be a perfect canine companion.

Alas, you are flawed, and that is probably why I like you best.

I relate to your propensity for getting into unsavory situations despite the best of intentions. My human nature and your canine impulses are not so different.

So I extend grace and dog shampoo to you, and as I scrub, thank God for offering me  His mercies new every morning. 

I change my shirt, I bleach the tub. We start again tomorrow.

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