Boxing Day

I could use a punching bag today, but the pugilistic type of boxing is not what the title refers to. It’s a UK tradition referring to how people box everything up and put it away the day after Christmas. I’m doing a little of that, but I’m also playing referee between my dog Chico and the world. I had taken him back to the kennel for Christmas. I was going to be gone most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He seemed happy enough to return to the world of concrete cages and barking dogs of all types. Annie and I settled into happy togetherness. I thought I would pick Chico up tomorrow.

But today, a day when I planned to relax, a woman called about Chico. She was very anxious to meet him and willing to drive an hour and half to the kennel if she could meet him today. Okay. Trying very hard to put it all into God’s hands, I drove up the frosty winding road to the kennel, parking just as she arrived. But oh, Chico. He came out like a speeding bullet, jumped all over me and almost pulled me off the hill. I got him to sit and lie down long enough for her to pet him and decide he was very cute. But they had him on a leash the width of a shoestring and that didn’t work. He needs a big-dog collar and big-dog leash. She tried to walk him and decided he was too much for her. Apologizing, she said no.

Since I was already there, I paid his bill and brought him home. If someone else calls, it will be easier if I have him with me.

When we arrived, he and Annie went into full fight mode, but they calmed down pretty quickly. However, Chico will not play with her, and as soon as I opened the door he flew over the fence. It was quite amazing. Such a graceful arc through air, up and over. If I leave the gate open, he checks in from time to time, but I can’t let Annie out now. Meanwhile, I had just started to type this when I heard my neighbor by the gate trying to call Chico, trying to bribe him into coming home. She doesn’t understand that he’s no longer the docile little puppy he used to be. At dark, I will corral him, but I can’t hold this animal that doesn’t want to stay here, and I can’t keep him if he endangers people and animals in his path. I’m giving it two weeks, then taking him to an animal shelter.

When the setting sun gilds the tops of the trees, I’ll lock him in for the night. He’ll go to sleep, blocky head on his massive paws. Both dogs will sleep in the laundry room with a portable heater going against the intense cold that has set in again. I’ll give them cookies, assure them I love them, and wish them “Boa noite” as I shut the door.

I pray that someone else, someone strong, someone with a fence and no cats, someone willing to give a bully dog a break, will call.

While Chico was gone, Christmas happened. This was my first one without any family and without Fred. The best parts happened during the hours I was playing music with the church choir onChristmas Eve and Christmas. I opened my gifts alone, so conscious of Fred’s empty chair. There weren’t many gifts until the last minute, but each one is a special blessing. I am so grateful for my friends and for the family members who remembered me from afar.

Instead of having Christmas dinner, I drove to Albany to visit Fred in the nursing home. It was a pretty ordinary day there. I doubt the residents knew it was Christmas. I read Fred’s Christmas cards to him and helped him open his gifts. Then we adjourned to the living room area for warm peanut butter cookies with sprinkles and a Christmas carol singalong with staff members. I dozed on Fred’s shoulder through part of a Christmas movie.

The same woman is still saying it’s time to go home. Loy is still hollaring “Hey!” Eugene stood up and his pants fell down, exposing his diapers and skinny white legs. And Fred and I parted with tears in our eyes.

Life has its ups and downs. In spite of everything that has happened this year, I’m hopeful for 2010. I hope you are, too.

Christmas is over. Hooray! Happy New Year!

Chico takes a ride

My black dog Chico has taken to jumping the fence. Every time I turn around, he’s on the other side while Annie, who’s shorter, is still on this side. If he could jump out, he could jump in, right? Apparently not. Until I coax him through the gate, he rustles through brush and trees and vines so thick a garter snake would have trouble moving around. I see him leaping, his tongue hanging out, his eyes glowing with excitement.

I have arranged for a large dog run to be constructed so the pups can’t escape and I can leave them without worrying about it.

Meanwhile, I guess I have a road buddy, especially on days when it’s just too nice to lock the dogs in the laundry room. I took Chico with me to visit my husband at Graceland yesterday. Chic’s a good rider. He sat in that passenger seat like a human being, watching the road, getting a little queasy on the turns, but holding it together. Yes, I know he should be in a crate, but he and Annie have chewed the fronts off their crates, so I don’t think I could attach a door anymore.

At Graceland, resident dog Lucy was not thrilled, especially when Chico greeted Grace with full-frontal enthusiasm. Lucy was growling, Chico was pulling hard on the leash, and Grace was feeling bumps rise on her cheek from an allergic reaction. “Oh my gosh, I have to take a shower,” she said, running off with pawprints on her white jacket. Oops. I never met anybody so allergic.

Fred was glad to see his buddy. They spent a long time snuggling and we three walked down the road past where the pavement ends high above the trees and the ocean. Chico did his practice sit-stays and down-stays just fine, and I got mud all over my dress boots. It was a lot chillier up on the hill; in fact, it had snowed that morning, so we turned back toward Graceland, where Lucy still stood guard. No way Chico was going in the house. I put him in the car, fully expecting him to chew up the seats, the grocery bags, the tissues, the headrests, something, but he sat up behind the steering wheel like an old man waiting for his wife at the grocery store. What a dog. No damage, just nose prints on the window. My car has finally been dog-initiated.

Fred and I watched him out the window as juncos and one robin mobbed the bird feeder and Rick and Lee tried to repair Lee’s car, which got dented up when he spun out on the corkscrew road up the hill. It was a short visit. A few hugs from the hubby, and I had to take my buddy home. Chico rode the whole way in his seat. After a while, he lay his head against the back of the seat with a look that said, “I’m so tired.”

But not tired enough. Within a half hour after arriving home, he was over the fence. A half hour after I let him back in the gate, he dashed out the front door when my friend Terry arrived to practice music. Do you know how hard it is to see a black dog in the dark? Unless you see their eyes glowing, they’re invisible. Fortunately, I heard my neighbor talking to someone and guessed where he’d gone. “Do you have an extra dog over there?” I called. Sure enough. Paula was barbecuing steaks, and Chico had decided to help. I dragged him home, but he was back over the fence again this morning.

I can’t wait till the fence builders return.