6/30/10

Thunderbolts and Lightning…Very Very Frightening

My cell phone rang and it was my mother…again.

“Just a quick question,” she said. “Are any of your dogs afraid of thunderstorms?”

The last few words were barely out and I heard a tremendous crash of thunder through the phone. My mother began laughing and choked out, “Never mind” as Chase, Charlie, Molly and George raced for the porch with her dog, Dolly hot on their heels.

I assured her that while my dogs might stick close to humans during a storm, they were not at all like my childhood dog, Drummer.

I loved my keeshond, Drummer. He was a medium-sized black and grey ball of fluff and full of playfulness and energy. He was a perfect family pet. He also was terrified of anything to do with a storm. He hated water, hated swimming and hated baths. He was terrified of thunder and would quiver and shake long before the low rumblings in the distance could be heard by our human ears. The vet prescribed a mild tranquilizer to keep him calm during storms. A great idea in theory however it could be difficult to predict when he would need it until he was already out of his mind with fear. It was not the easiest task shoving a pill down a dog’s throat when he was trembling and whimpering beneath a bed. The pill merely sedated him and did not vanquish his fears. Drummer would lie on the floor, unable to move, but the fear of the storm was still in his eyes.

It only became worse when we moved down South. The storms were most impressive: cracks of thunder that would shake the house to the foundation, wind ripping through the trees flinging pine cones, needles and branches to the ground below and violent gusts of rain pelting a deluge of water onto every surface. These were the things of Drummer’s worst nightmare. His only place of comfort in the house was in the bathroom. He would huddle in the bathtub and we would leave the fan running to drown out some of the outside noise. He would remain in his makeshift “bomb shelter” until the worst of the storm was over. A sudden storm would make things complicated if we were not at home. If the bathroom was not accessible, Drummer would dig all of the towels and sheets from the linen closet and bury himself underneath the pile. We were fortunate that he wasn’t more destructive.

Afraid of storms? Not my dogs, but storms do make them more loving and more willing to snuggle with me. As I drove home later with them through an exceptionally bad storm, all four were sleeping soundly in the back seat of the car, curled up with a blanket and not a care in the world.

6/23/10

Keep On Rollin'

Most of the dogs in my life enjoy my parents’ pool. A large rectangle of shimmering blue sits beyond a fence in the side yard, tempting hot paws to test the cool waters, a screened-in shady cabana with plenty of padded chaise lounges to be shared and lush shady bushes and flowers line the outer edges in need of exploration by wet noses.

For several years, the pool would remain uncovered during the winter months. As the weather became warm, Chase and Dolly would check the water temperature often by dabbing a paw in the water on the first step. This past winter, my parents opted for a taut blue cover professionally installed by the local pool company. Supposedly it was so tough an elephant could stand on it. We didn’t test that claim but it sure could hold the dogs. Molly, the older English cocker spaniel, was the first to wander onto the springy surface. She was so eager to swim that she settled onto a puddle that had accumulated in the center and attempted a ridiculous dog paddle. She would have to wait a few more months.

Molly was ecstatic when she saw the pool was once again open for dogs. It was hard to keep her out once she was in. Dog-paddling her way around the edges, her black fur looked shiny and luxurious and her long ears floated gracefully on the surface. When she took a break from swimming, it was merely to race along the perimeter of the pool barking with happiness. She used the heat from the cement to dry her fur as she rolled and rolled and found unused dry cement to continue her mission. Rolling, rolling, rolling….SPLASH! Molly emerged sputtering from beneath the water where she had fallen. She paddled to the steps and continued her quest for dry fur. In the process, she rolled back into the pool once more. Fool me once and maybe fool me twice but the rolling and falling into the pool continued. Molly even took to prancing along the pool’s edge and then, oops! She would “slip” and plunge into the water.

Was this the accidental discovery of pure summer bliss or a very clumsy older dog? I find the choice difficult however, I do agree with the words of American author Ambrose Bierce, “the most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.” A perfect description for this little water –logged water dog!

6/16/10

Dogs CAN Look Up!

Early on a Saturday morning, Chase took me for a walk. While I am quite aware that this sentence should be arranged differently, this was the truth of the matter. We had just started up the gravel driveway with Chase tugging me along as I stumbled in my appropriate three-inch sparkly sandals. I heard a “whoosh” sound. I ignored it, thinking that one of the neighbors must be playing with a new power tool. Our walk paused for a moment while Chase sniffed at something that caught his attention. I heard the “whoosh” again and then a man’s voice called out, “Hello! Good Morning!”

I froze. In a panic, I scanned the woods around me for axe murderers and psychopaths. The voice was alarmingly close and I peered through the trees trying to find the source. Another “whoosh” filled the air and a cat came careening down the driveway and disappeared under my car. As I was beginning to feel like I was the na├»ve star of a bad horror movie, I could hear the man laughing. I was sure he was laughing at me and I was filled with a mix of anger and dread as I still couldn’t locate the voice.

I heard another “whoosh” and noticed that Chase had frozen in place and was now staring at something above him. I followed my dog’s gaze and was amazed to see a bright yellow hot air balloon carrying a man in its basket. The man was still laughing and my dog, who was out taking me for a walk that morning had taught me a lesson: sometimes you have to look up!