Dogs go wild

My adventurous dog Chico, the big black one with the red collar, has a new hobby: touring the neighbors’ house to see what he can find to eat. This can be a real surprise to the neighbors, who tend to leave their door open on warm days. I hear tell Paula was taking a nap the other day when she suddenly became aware of someone staring at her. No, it wasn’t her husband Pat. She awoke to find Chico’s big brown eyes fixed on her. Surprise!

I was down the road apiece with his leash and a pocket full of Milkbones while she got up and hauled Mr. Chico back home, locking him in the dog enclosure with his sister Annie. Hearing the gate clang shut, I hurried home. Pat, watering his new lawn, explained what had happened. Thank God he laughed.

Okay, once is okay, but then yesterday, Chico escaped twice. The first time, I found him near the mailboxes eating a slice of wheat bread. Uh-oh. The second time, I went straight across the street and knocked on the siding by the open door. Who greeted me? Right, Chico. He had just cleaned out the cat’s food and was slurping up his water. I don’t know where Pat and Paula were or if they ever discovered they had a visitor again.

What a dog. I took him on a walk through Mike Miller Park here in South Beach the other day. I’m trying to expose both dogs to new places. This may have been a mistake. I can’t believe I got back to the car with no broken bones or sprained ankles. The narrow loop trail through trees and over bridges was almost all up and down, fretted with tree roots, slick with mud. Chico was like a runaway train. The ups weren’t so bad. He pulled me up. But the downs had me screeching as he pulled me down just as quickly. My two big feet could not keep up with his four massive paws and I knew I was gonna die.

By the end of the walk, he had begun to figure out that he had a big clumsy human on the other end of the leash. We rested together on damp wooden benches along the trail. Somehow we made it back to the car, and Chico didn’t eat the people on the bridge who backed away in fear as we roared past while I hollered “Heel!”

Meanwhile, back at home, Annie, the tan one with the dirty blue collar, was digging more holes. She can get her whole head and shoulders in them now, but it looks like she’s having so much fun I don’t have the heart to stop her. I let her dig, I rake the dirt back into the hole, and then she digs again.

Then Chico comes home and they beat each other up, like all brothers and sisters do.

Dogs sure know how to have fun.

It’s an interesting life

Life has been interesting since we last met. Okay, it’s always interesting, but perhaps more interesting. For example, I had a colonoscopy last Thursday, which I am not about to discuss. If you don’t know what it is, Google it. As everyone says, the preparation is worse than the procedure. So true. But I do have a question: How come my husband got a muffin and coffee after his cataract surgery, and all I got was a tiny can of orange juice? He didn’t even have to fast for two days. Which leads to another question. I was going over insurance statements and discovered that the hospital billed over $200 for Fred’s post-op supplies. What was in that muffin?
Somebody ripped off 15 copies of my book Stories Grandma Never Told between the South Beach Post Office and the Seattle Bulk Mail Center. They sent back my box with a note and all the packing material inside. If the box had simply broken open, wouldn’t the packing material be gone, too? Meanwhile, I had a miffed distributor waiting in California and sent 15 more copies via priority mail. They arrived on Monday. He’s still miffed. I’m out $300. I hate to imagine what happened to the other books. Are they lying in a dumpster somewhere?
I have a new gig writing for a new airline mag for SeaPort Airlines, which recently started flying out of Newport. Suddenly I have to, like, work, but my first assignment is a story on the local lighthouses. Such hard duty going out to Yaquina Head on a warm, sunny afternoon to take notes and shoot pictures. But it is going to be a scramble to get four stories done by June 30.
I made my first post-move visit to my husband at Timberwood Court Memory Care Center in Albany, OR. It’s almost two hours each way. I’m stocking up on books on CD. Fred is settling in well at his new home. It’s a great place, with lots of activities, loving caregivers, tasteful d├ęcor and delicious food. But it isn’t home, and it’s almost two hours away from where I live, so I can’t visit nearly as often as I used to visit him at Graceland. Fred has forgotten so much, and he will soon forget me. Save the pity party; it’s just fact. It will be easier for him when that happens. For me, no, but that’s life.

I have resolved to stop on each trip to see something I haven’t seen before. I’ll report back, with photos.
On the way to Albany, I finally got my guitar in for servicing at Bullfrog Music Owner Kurt Dietrich has moved the store to 423 SW Third Street, so when you’re coming into Corvallis from the coast, it’s easy to find, easy to park, and, praise God, it’s in the same building with a Subway restaurant and public restrooms, everything a wandering musician needs. Plus Kurt loves to talk music, jam, teach, and sell guitars and mandolins. He promised I would fall in love with my Martin all over again. I believe him. Meanwhile, I bought myself a new Roland amp I can’t wait to plug into. It’s easy to carry, has all the bells and whistles I want and will make me sound so good.
My dog Chico has found a new place to jump the fence, and he has escaped four times in the last week. The neighbors are getting used to helping me corral him. Sometimes even a dog treat won’t stop him. He just loves to run, and I’m certainly getting my exercise chasing him around the neighborhood, calling, “Here Chico, Chic, Chic, Chic, cookies.” I’ll walk for blocks, then suddenly see him fly by, foot-long tongue hanging out, teeth showing in a big doggy grin as he zooms past me. When I finally leash him up, he shows no remorse. Sixteen months old and counting.

Yes, that’s my dog

One thing about having a fence-jumping dog is that you get to meet the neighbors. Chico tends to go through the bushes to the large property behind us. The other day, I met Sande. Today I met her husband Jim. Their names are on the sign at the coffee kiosk up the highway. Something about congratulations on 49 years. Must be marriage; they’re too old to be 49 years old. They’re nice people, and they get a lot of traffic from people buying coffee and baked goods.

I also met their golden retriever-yellow lab puppy, who’s probably about eight months old. She is so soft and sweet I was ready to trade Jumping Black Flash for her. But no, Jim came out and called her home. Eventually, I retrieved my guy, panting, drooling and pulling at the leash.

Turns out Chico has been doing more visiting than I thought. Pat across the street is used to my dogs showing up in his workshop. He’ll chuckle and say, “Oh, your pups came over for a visit.” But I didn’t realize Chico was also visiting the family at the end of the block. “Oh, he’s always over here,” the woman told me today. I thought surely she meant a different dog. “Black dog with a purple collar?” “That’s him.” In fact, she helped me catch him today when he finally grew weary enough to slow down. I clipped the short leash on him and dragged him home, back to his sister, who can’t jump the fence. He drank about a gallon of water and collapsed on the floor. We might say he has had his walk for the day.

One might ask why the dog is still jumping the fence when I spent a fortune having a taller enclosure built and just last weekend had concrete laid down so it wouldn’t be so muddy. Well, once in a while I like to let the dogs stretch their legs in the bigger yard. They mostly run in circles, chasing each other, playing hide-and-attack, sniffing the grass and enjoying the scenery. But all I have to do is turn my back for one minute, and there’s Chico on the wrong side of the fence.

We couldn’t let this happen if we still lived in suburbia. I used to chase old Sadie down Safari Drive, and it was dangerous. Too many cars, too many people, too many loose dogs with attitude. Once she got out on the highway and froze in fear, while cars dodged around her. But here in the coastal forest, where only four families live full-time on our street and everybody loves dogs, it’s pretty safe. I just get a little extra exercise and a chance to talk to the neighbors. Good old Chico.

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