Patsy Porco

Posts Tagged ‘Dogs’

Thank You, Rudy

In dogs, Pet Death, pets on August 30, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Rudy1Our beautiful Golden Retriever, Rudy, died two weeks ago. I didn’t think I’d be able to write about it because of how devastated we were, and still are, but I want him to be remembered in writing.

Until you own a pet, you don’t realize how hopelessly intertwined their lives become with yours. Every happy, joyful, thrilling, depressing, sad, dispiriting, and even mundane moment of your family’s life is shared by your pet, who contributes to your responses with joy, compassion, or equal boredom. When that pet is no longer with you, there’s a void in your lives and a gaping hole in your family unit.

My parents had black Labrador Retrievers from my teen years on. I never really noticed them, other than as peripheral beings who would lie around or occasionally swim in our pond. I know that my father considered Sam to be his dog, and my mother considered Chaka to be her dog. I’m not sure who Licorice, our first dog, belonged to. I was a teenager when we got her, and too self-involved to notice what was going on around me.

Rudy5My husband, son, and I have had only had one dog, Rudy. He had a personality as big as the house. He was so joyful that you couldn’t help but laugh at his big, drooly grin. Right up to the day he died, my young-adult son would say, “I love his face! Look at his smile!”

We really should have named him Joy. But he had other sides, too, and some were uncannily human-like. For instance, when I talked to him, he would cock his head sideways, like he was really considering what I was saying. When he saw me drinking wine, he would bark and bark so that my husband would notice. When my husband would say, “She’s allowed to drink,” Rudy would snort in disgust and walk away.

He disapproved of many things, so there was a lot of huffing and puffing from him. He didn’t like when I told him he couldn’t have what I was eating. He especially didn’t like when I stayed up too late, according to his timetable. He would bark and bark, and then my husband would yell, “Shuuuuut Uuuuup!” Then Rudy would snort and throw himself down on the rug at my feet. He would also be sure to give me the side eye while I continued reading or watching TV.

Rudy16Rudy was also very conniving. If he was outside and barked to come in, I would open the back door. Then, he’d just stand there. If I didn’t offer him something he wanted to eat, he refused to come in. However, if I closed the door on him, he’d start barking again to come in. Sometimes, if I got too close to him with whatever food I was bribing him with, he’d grab the food and run off like a burglar. We had to admit that he was clever to make us bribe him to do something he wanted to do, like come in.

We had an inkling from the day we got him, when he was barely eight weeks old, that our lives were going to get interesting. Of course he was terrified. We had just taken him from his six siblings and parents. We understood that. So, we tried not to react when he walked into our house and emptied his bowels on our new dining room rug.

Rudy8

Rudy in his homemade “Thundershirt.”

Our patience was sorely tested over the next year, however. He chewed baseboards, ate whole flip flops, and dug up our new carpets like they were dirt. He was terrified of fireworks, thunderstorms, and even rain. We learned that the hard way. One day, we left him alone and when we came home during a thunderstorm, he was happily sitting among endless curls of our new Berber carpet that he had dug up. When he was afraid, he would dig, no matter where he was.

He was also an escape artist. If the front door was open even a sliver, he’d dash out and run all over the neighborhood, behind houses, across busy streets, and onto lawns. I spent many a midnight running behind our neighbors homes, praying that they wouldn’t wake up and call the police. If it had happened to snow, the game level increased. He’d roll and jump and let me get almost close enough to grab him, and then take off.

Rudy2I remember telling a friend that the first months were exhausting, with all of the chasing and crying. “Why was Rudy crying?” she asked. “He wasn’t,” I said. “I was.” Racing up and down streets in my robe in the middle of the night was harrowing.

Rudy put my son through the same paces on their daytime walks. He learned to slip his collar and take off. No matter what kind of collar we put on him, he’d learn to escape from it. There were so many times that my son came home from walks cursing and sweating and dragging Rudy up the front steps.

But, we were always able to laugh, after the urge to kill wore off. Rudy was just so full of life and joy that it was contagious. We were able to forgive him for anything, even the times he pulled the leash out of our hands and dove into the nearest mud puddle or muddy brook at the park. At least those horrifying incidents made for good pictures. And, he always resignedly accepted his fate of being hauled to the dog-washing place.

Rudy13Rudy got bathed or hosed down a lot in the summer because, like all Retrievers, he loved to swim. He’d swim until the end of time, if we let him. We would take him to the dock of a nearby river, or to a nearby dog park at a lake, and he’d fetch balls in the water with all of the other dogs. Playing fetch combined with swimming was his idea of the best life had to offer, not counting food, of course.

Rudy3Rudy had another side, too. He was compassionate to the bone. If any of us were sick, depressed, or upset, he’d be right by that person’s side for as long as it took. He was so loyal that it touched our hearts. When we were sad, he was sad right along with us. If one of us were depressed, he’d lick and lick and lick our faces, letting us know that he loved us.

The day before he died, he was as lively as ever. He had slowed down a little, but not much. He was nine and would be 10 on Halloween. He and I had gone out back and played fetch, and then he dug and ate grass while I weeded my garden. Then, we went back inside and my husband and I left for the movies at 6:30 p.m. Our son was at work. When we came home, around 10, our son was home. I asked him where Rudy was. He said he had just gotten home and he had called Rudy, with no response. That was odd. Rudy was always waiting for us by the front door. As soon as he heard our car pull up, he would bark his head off.

I looked all around the house, and then went to the basement. Rudy was huddled in the dark. He had been sick. We cleaned him and the floor and then tried to get him to come upstairs. He refused, so my son decided to sleep on the basement couch, next to him.

Rudy18The next morning, we discovered that Rudy had been sick several times. We tried to comfort him and tell him he’d be okay. At one point, he demanded to go out back. We let him out. He never came back in.

Our son had to leave for work in the early afternoon, but before he left, he and I tried to get Rudy to the car to see the emergency vet. It was Sunday, and our regular vet’s office was closed. Rudy was very large and weighed more than 100 lbs. We couldn’t lift him, so we dragged him to a sled and got him on it. We planned to drag the sled to the car. Rudy was very weak, but he mustered his strength, stood up, and went back to where he had been lying. We tried again, with the same results. We decided that he wanted to stay home to recover. Our son left for work.

Rudy glassesMy husband and I took turns sitting with him. We truly thought Rudy was just sick and would recover. We knew that he was really sick, though. He had such little strength that, when he lifted his head to drink from his bowl, he couldn’t get his head out of the bowl.

I will be forever grateful that we kept a vigil with him during his last hours. After I sat with him, and told him that he’d be fine, that he was the most wonderful dog in the world, and that we loved him, I went inside and my husband sat with him. When my son got home from work and rushed out back to see Rudy, Rudy looked at him, convulsed, and died. He was waiting to see us all before he left us.

Rudy in poolThe shock was indescribable. The grief was awful. But we had to focus. Flies were landing on him and we had to do something quickly. We wrapped him in his vinyl blow-up pool, and dug his grave. We read that the grave should be at least three feet deep to keep animals from digging him up.

It was late afternoon and the sun would be setting soon. We dug and dug and, about two feet down, hit solid rock. We could dig no further. The sun was now lower in the sky. We could either find another place to dig or use the grave we had dug. Our yard is not an easy place to dig. We had encountered thick tree roots, vines, and rocks, that had to be cut or dug up, after almost every shovelful of dirt was removed. We didn’t know if our digging would be any easier if we started over someplace else.

We decided to use the shallow grave we had dug. We gently lowered him into the hole and covered him with dirt and rose petals from our rose bush. Our son drove to the hardware store and got topsoil and heavy rectangles of sod. We cried and cried as we covered him with more dirt, and then the sod.

Rudy4When we were finished, I walked across the sod to pat it down and made a horrible discovery. I could feel Rudy’s body under the sod. Oh my God. I was walking on his head.

It was dark by then, though, so we decided to wait until morning to do anything else. We placed the sled on top of him, to deter animals (As if that would work. We obviously weren’t thinking clearly at the time).

The next day, I cautiously approached his burial site. Thank God no animals had moved the sled or tried to dig him up. I lifted the sled. I walked on his grave. I could still feel him. It was a really terrible situation.

Our son went back to the store and bought more dirt and more sod. We piled sod on top of sod, on top of sod. This is not the recommended method for sodding a lawn. We didn’t care. We reasoned that, eventually, the first one or two layers would settle around him and then the top layers would lie flat.

That’s what we’re hoping. Meanwhile, there’s an unexpected mound in the middle of the grass. At least he’s safe.

We love you, Rudy. Thank you for nine wonderful years.

Rudy20

 

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Three Rotting Bananas

In baking, Humor on August 12, 2017 at 12:13 am

I don’t like to cook. I do it, but I don’t enjoy it –– or attain a trance-like state while I chop, slice, and dice, like a friend of mine does.

“Chopping vegetables is so relaxing,” she told me a few years ago. To this day I don’t know if she was being serious, or lying to see my reaction. I just told her she was nuts.

Chopping onions burns my eyes. When I peel carrots, I always wind up peeling the skin off my index finger. Grating cheese always involves grating my fingernail along with the cheese, and then sifting through the pile of cheese to find the nail shavings. I now polish my nails bright colors so they’re easy to spot.

Most of all, I dread having to locate the necessary spices, because when I open the above-my-head spice cabinet, an avalanche of spice bottles roll out and fall into the sink, scaring both me and the dog.

By the time I manage to get whatever I’m making onto the stove or into the oven, the counters are littered with peelings, eggshells, onion skins, meat wrappers, and dirty pots, pans, bowls, and measuring cups. And the dog is underfoot, licking up whatever hit the floor.

As much as I dislike cooking, I thought I liked baking. Tonight’s attempt at making banana bread made me realize that I was thinking of someone else, maybe one of those cake experts on the Cooking Channel.

It all started with three bananas that were so ripe that they were going to liquefy if I didn’t do something with them fast. For as long as I’ve been alive, whenever someone complains that his or her bananas are brown, another person never fails to say in a perky voice, “Make banana bread!”

Up until today, I’ve always thrown out brown bananas (and steered clear of people who make upbeat pronouncements), because baking with putrid fruit never seemed honest. But, tonight, I decided to reconsider the ethical question of disguising rotten fruit as a loaf cake.

I looked up banana bread recipes and they all called for bananas that were well past the eating stage. Some of the recipes even gave instructions for transforming  perfectly nice bananas into sludge. All of the recipes demanded that the bananas be very brown, very soft, and very aromatic.

So, I made banana bread. The process was just as annoying as cooking, and easily as messy. Flour-drenched counters, a sugar-coated Golden Retriever, sticky bowls, and caramelized beaters awaited me once I slid the pan into the oven. It took me three hours to make one loaf pan of banana bread, not including the baking time. I blame the butter.

Who knew it took hours to bring butter down to room temperature? The recipe said to soften it naturally and not expedite the process with the microwave or hot water. Don’t you think that should have been mentioned right under the title, in all capital letters? But no, the author waited until I had mashed the bananas with sour cream and vanilla, mixed the dry ingredients, and tripped over the dog before mentioning that room-temperature butter had to be beaten with sugar.

Oh well. It’s done now. I have no idea if it’s any good. Nor will I ever know. I hate banana bread. I’ll probably freeze it, and one day when I can’t identify what it is, I’ll toss it in the trash.

Next time, I’m throwing out the brown bananas.

banana bread

 

 

 

Ode to July

In Humor, Summer on July 20, 2017 at 11:32 pm

 

sunflowers

 

 

fireworksI wait all year for you to show

And when you do, my heart’s aglow

I wear few clothes, but just enough

To hide the cellulite and stuff.

 

 

hotdogs

 

Your days are long and hot and funbeach

The water’s warm from all the sun

We swim, we picnic, we yell at raccoons

Who knock over our trashcans under the moon.

 

raccoon

 

Rudy and Otto 4

Every day in July is a gift from aboveflip flops

There’s so much to do and so much to love

Swimming, sunbathing, water sports

Baseball, hotdogs, flip-flops, shorts.

 

 

yankees

 

Growing a garden, eating outsidesunset

Cutting fresh flowers, avoiding riptides

Biking, ice cream, watching the sunset

Kids, pets, adults … all soaking wet.

 

 

watermelon

 

ice-cream-cone-1274894_960_720As long as it is, with its 31 days

It still goes by fast, in a sun-drenched haze

So, don’t bitch to me about the heat

Or I’ll kick you with my sunburned feet.

 

 

feet

 

All photos were free/royalty-free from Pixabay.

Dog Justice

In dogs, Humor, pets on July 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm

If you have a dog (or cat or bird or reptile) or know someone who does, chances are one of you is going to ask a friend or relative to pet-sit while you go away for a few days. It’s a summertime ritual. It’s hard to say no to a friend or relative. It’s damn near impossible when you have a pet of your own. The first thing you think is, “Great! Now I know who to ask when I need a pet-sitter.”

That was our selfish thought last night when we agreed to watch our nephew’s Pit Bull puppy for a few days (after thinking that we wanted to help him out, of course). Otto arrived this afternoon. He is such a sweet dog. I got my lifetime’s allotment of puppy kisses within an hour of meeting him. It’s such a shame that some of these dogs are trained to be vicious. They’re very sweet and affectionate by nature.

Rudy & Otto 3Anyway, Otto and our huge Golden Retriever, Rudy, went crazy when they met each other. At first we thought they were trying to kill each other, but no. They were just over-excited and overjoyed. Once we calmed them down, they followed each other around for hours. When my nephew left, Otto had a moment of sadness. He ran to the window and watched my nephew go. Then he forgot why he was sad and went to find Rudy.

Otto and Rudy explored the whole house and the backyard. They got in Rudy’s pool together. They chased each other around and wrestled. They had treats together. They became buddies.

Then, at some point, Rudy realized that Otto wasn’t leaving. He had had enough of sharing me with another dog. So, Rudy decided to complain at the top of his lungs for hours on end. The barking became unbearable. Our yelling at him to stop barking probably became unbearable to our neighbors. We tried separating them, but they kept crashing through doors to reach each other. Then Rudy would start complaining again.

Otto got the idea that Rudy wanted him gone, so he started whimpering. Then he changed his tactic and decided to hump Rudy when Rudy was lying down. Rudy let out a rebel yell and we had to hold him back so he wouldn’t flatten Otto. Both dogs have been neutered, so the failed attempt at humping was Otto trying to show Rudy who was boss. Unfortunately for Otto, it isn’t him.

Dinnertime rolled around. Both dogs had their own food in their own bowls. Both dogs decided to eat each other’s dinner. Rudy ordinarily refuses to eat any dog food other than his brand. Today, however, Otto’s brand of kibble was the one thing in the entire world that he wanted with all of his heart.

After they ate, they ran out back and jumped in Rudy’s pool. Then they ran inside, rudy and otto 1dripping wet. Then they did it again. And again. The floors became pools themselves. The dogs skidded across the wooden planks as they flew from room to room.

My nephew had told us that Otto needed to be walked three times a day. Rudy loves walks but we have a fenced-in yard, so they’re not absolutely necessary. And Rudy never gets more than one walk a day. When it was time for Otto’s afternoon walk, I was the only person home, and there was no way that I was going to walk them both together. So, I took Otto out by himself. The look of betrayal on Rudy’s face was heartbreaking. When we got back, Rudy decided to make Otto pay. He followed Otto around, barking at him to go home.

I kept telling Rudy to be nice to Otto because Otto missed his daddy. Rudy barked at me and I knew exactly what he was saying, “Well, get him the hell out of here and give him back to his daddy.”

It’s going to be a long weekend. But at least we have a relative who owes us a pet-sitting.

 

 

Foul-Weather People

In Humor on September 9, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Awhile ago, during the anthrax scare—when government officials were receiving anthrax-laced letters—there was a rush on hardware stores for duct tape and plastic sheeting, as well as backorders for gas masks.

My husband and I didn’t buy into the panic, figuring that if chemical gas grenades were dropped into our neighborhood, plastic sheeting around our windows and doors probably wouldn’t keep it out. And we weren’t really sure we wanted to survive. We’re not industrious enough to want to help rebuild our society.

A friend of mine, however, bought everything she could get her hands on, and ordered gas masks for her family. I asked her why she wanted to survive a civilization-ending attack. She asked me why I didn’t. She didn’t have an answer, other than she didn’t want to die. My answer involved my being too lazy to start over. I didn’t state the obvious—that we’re all going to die eventually—for obvious reasons.

Then my friend mentioned that she read that bomb shelters would be built by the government to house people during bombings. I told her that, even if this were true, she and I wouldn’t be among those chosen to live in them.

“Why not?” she demanded, quite affronted.

“Because we don’t have any special talents that a new civilization would need to begin again, and we can’t have children anymore. There is going to be a need for young women who can breed, and we’re not that.”

I think the conversation ended then. What could she say? What I said made sense to both of us; we couldn’t have kids, and a post-apocalyptic world would have little need for IT managers or proofreaders.

Years later, I’m rethinking my argument. I have a very special skill that might be needed. My face predicts the weather. When it’s very humid, the right side of my head explodes in pain. This happens right before the humidity appears, too, so my head could be used to predict storms or something.

I also have Reynaud’s disease, so when it’s very cold and damp, several of my fingers lose all circulation and turn dead-white. But, by the time that happens, it’s already apparent that it’s cold and damp, so I’m waffling on the usefulness of that particular talent.

One concern I have is that there are many people who have steel plates in their heads and others who have arthritis, and they can also predict the weather with some accuracy. Dogs are also great predictors of thunder, lightning, and rain, and they’re cheaper to feed than I am. I’d better start work on my marketing campaign about why my head is a better weather-indicator than joints, steel plates, and dogs.

Then again, like I said before, I don’t want to rebuild. It makes me tired just thinking of all the work that will need to be done.

I think I’ll just stick with my original plan and ignore what’s going on around me. If that leads to the end of me, well, that will be that.

They’ll just have to find somebody else with a barometer face.

barometer-1297523_960_720

 

A Dog’s Life

In dogs, Golden Retriever, Humor, pets on May 22, 2016 at 7:55 pm

I love my life

A Lesson From My Dog

In dogs, Golden Retriever, Humor, pets on May 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Anywhere Is A Good Place To Have a Great Time

Dirty Dog

In dogs, Golden Retriever, Humor, pets on May 21, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I haven’t taken our Golden Retriever, Rudy, to Norwalk’s Cranbury Park for several years. I used to take him all the time, but then we fenced in our yard to cut down on his daily escapes, romps through the neighbors’ yards, and mad dashes across busy streets. Instead of going to the park, we’d open the back door, throw out some biscuits, and out into the yard he’d go. I would occasionally still take him to the park, but then I stopped because he always got dirty … much dirtier than any of the dozens of dogs there at any time.

Today, though, I had him in the car with me and we were in the neighborhood of the park, so I decided to take him. Cranbury Park allows dogs to be off-leash in an area called “The Orchard,” as well as on the trails. I figured that now that he was eight years old, he would be slower than he was when he was a puppy, and I’d be able to stop him before he jumped in the creek.

I was wrong.

I'm not dirty enough yet. 05212016

That sure was fun!

It was worth it, even if I have to have a bath now.

A Life-Changing Conversation

In dogs, Humor, pets on March 12, 2016 at 11:00 pm

I went to Walmart the other day with my brother, Gus, and my dog, Rudy. We left Rudy in the backseat of the car with two half-opened windows, and walked toward the store.

Gus was very disturbed by my leaving Rudy alone in the car. “Somebody is going to call 9-1-1 on you.”

“Why?” I asked. “I’ve seen lots of dogs left in cars in parking lots.”

“But,” said Gus, “their owners all get reported to the police. It happened to Katy Perry when she ran into Starbucks and left her dog in the car.”

“Really? How long could she have been in Starbucks for someone to worry about her dog’s safety?”

“Probably five minutes,” Gus said. “But that’s enough for some animal people.”

I’m an animal person, and I have no problem with Rudy’s being in the car,” I said. “He loves watching people, which he wouldn’t get to do at home.”

“I know that, and you know that,” Gus said, “But there are a lot of do-gooders out there who will think you’re being cruel.”

“But, I’m not!” I said, apparently in a loud voice, judging by the stares from people walking past us. “He’s happy and comfortable. People call the police when they see a dog in a car with the windows up during the summer, when it’s hot. It’s winter now.”

Gus shook his head. “I know it’s winter, but it’s a warmish day. Someone is going to think he’s too warm.”

“The windows are open and it’s almost 50 degrees. He’s not hot and he’s covered in fur, so he’s not cold. Nobody is going to report me.”

“Let’s just wait and see,” Gus said. “If we come back and the car is surrounded by crying women and flustered police, then we’ll worry.”

“Things sure have changed since we were kids,” I said. “Mom said that when I was ten-months old, she and Dad parked outside a store in New Hope, during the summer, and left me in the car for an hour, with the windows rolled up. When they came out, she said I had sweat pooled under my eyes and my face was beet-red.”

Gus rolled his eyes. “It’s a good thing that they raised us in the 1960s. If they did that today, they’d both be in prison.”

“You’re right,” I said. “And since I’m the oldest, the rest of you would never have been born, what with them being locked up. What would have happened to me? I could have been put into the system and become a passed-around foster child.” We walked up to the store’s entrance pondering this.

“Or,” I said, as we went through the automatic doors, “I could have been adopted by millionaires who would’ve bought me a BMW and sent me to Harvard.”

Gus laughed. “Don’t laugh,” I said. “It could’ve happened. But probably not. Anyway, isn’t it interesting to think about how one action can change the course of many lives?”

Gus looked at me. “I think I’ll go back to the car and sit with Rudy,” he said. He turned and went back through the automatic doors.

dog in car

 

 

 

Dog Days

In dogs, Humor, pets on June 24, 2015 at 11:03 pm

Our Golden Retriever, Rudy, got his summer shave today, and he is pissed. Because I am an American and speak American English, when I say “pissed,” I mean “angry.” I almost said “mad,” but he’s not a mad dog, as in crazy/rabid; he’s merely a livid dog.

If I were in the U.K. and spoke English English, then when I said that he was “pissed,” I would have meant that he was drunk. But I’m not, and he isn’t. If he were, it would be perplexing because the only dog bar in town, called “BarDog” to confuse PETA, is closed. While it took them awhile, PETA finally caught on (when one of their dogs tried to duck in for a cold one during his walk) and took action.

At BarDog’s subsequent auction, I was fortunate enough to win the “Dogs Playing Poker” photograph that had been blown up and hung waist-high, above the bar, which was very low, for obvious reasons. Dogs don’t sit on stools. This “Dogs Playing Poker” was original in that it was a photo of actual patrons playing poker, but again, they don’t sit on stools or on chairs, so it showed them the way they really play: by sprawling on the floor with cards in their mouths.

But, back to Rudy. This is his seventh year of being shaved, but he never gets used to it. He always comes home in a foul mood. Eventually he forgets that he had a haircut and everything goes back to normal. But in the meantime, he’s very unpleasant to be around. I would slip him a nip to cheer him up, since his watering hole is shuttered, but I’m afraid he’d tell his dog friends and one of them would have an owner who would object and then we’d be back to square one, except my square would be a cell.

So, until then, I guess he’ll live under the dining room table. His plan is to not come out until his hair grows back, but we all know how well that plan works. Rudy 06242015

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