Monday, July 23, 2007

World's Greatest Big Sister

As much as she pushes my buttons, Azure has to be credited with the ability to bring out the best in us.

Her boundless energy keeps me active. Her enthusiastic destruction has helped us identify the highest quality chew toys. She keeps toys that would otherwise repose at the bottom of the toy box in a state of constant rotation. As noted in a previous post, she has unbound me from my ridiculous idea of the private ownership and excessive acquisition of shoes.

Had it not been for Azure, we would not have realized that Trinity makes a great big sister.

There is no shortage of appropriate chew toys here at MisFit Farm. We have dog food, treats and toys drop-shipped in multiples. For every toy or chew-bone, there are generally two or three replicates available for the taking. This matters not to Azure, who is convinced that every toy or chew-bone Trinity selects is the absolute-most-fabulous-one-and-only-most-desired object in creation.

Azure may be on the other side of the room, deeply engrossed in the destruction of some innocent object, and from the moment she realizes Trinity has something – anything – the purpose of her life becomes to dispossess Trinity of her engagement.

Azure begins this process by hovering. She does a mean imitation of the Snoopy-vulture look, which Trinity is generally able to ignore. Deciding that her elevation is the reason her demands have not been fulfilled, Azure then drops to the floor and army-crawls as close as she can get to Trinity. Finding it difficult to continue her processing of the object of Azure’s interest with Azure’s nose pressed against hers, Trinity will then turn away. Shocked at Trinity’s rudeness, Azure bolts upright and begins articulating her displeasure, audible to everyone but her.

She will continue with this series of rejoinders until, driven nearly to insanity, Trinity will relinquish the object of Azure’s momentary obsession.

Azure settles into Trinity’s spot with a satisfied look and the object of her affection. Trinity inevitably retires to her chair with a sigh and a resigned look cast our way.

Is it ever enough for the good big sister to be acknowledged for being a good big sister?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm So Happy, I Could Bleed. . .

K felt that it was necessary to clarify from an earlier post that we are not the family who could not afford to provide Emmett with adequate veterinary care. Of course, we are not above using home remedies when necessary.

Ever since Emmett’s tail emerged from its position tucked under his body, he has walked a very fine line between happy enough and painfully happy. Periodically, he experiences a burst of the painful variety of happy, and the result is a mangled, bloody tail. The next step is blood smears across the wall, on the dryer, over the front of the refrigerator, along the knees of pants, etc. . .

Emmett has an amazing capacity for happiness. I have stepped into a wag where his tail hit me so hard, it nearly brought me to tears. We took him with us to visit K’s brother and his family. Her two-year-old niece complained loudly at one point, “Make him stop wagging me!” It is these power wags that sometimes result in physical damage to Emmett, as well as others.

If left unchecked, we have found it necessary to affix the outside of a very large syringe to the tip of his tail, to provide a “splint” and extra protection for healing. The unfortunate side effect of this arrangement is the welts and bruises experienced by others who are standing in the way of this most enthusiastic and most powerful wag. Otherwise, we keep plenty of this self-adhesive veterinary gauze on hand, apply a generous amount of hydrogen peroxide followed with a slathering of Neosporin, and wrap up Emmett’s powerful, stinging, gleeful tail for a healing period.

No Such Thing as Plan A

As is usually the way of the world, neither scenario A or scenario B played out as I had planned.

K arrived home late last night, exhausted and completely incapable of processing another event, activity or anything other than the exuberance every last inhabitant of the trailer was expressing upon her entrée through the door. I was jazzed; my preferred plan A was coming to fruition!

I woke up this morning, filled with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas morning, only five hundred times worse. I imagine my father must have felt this same way a thousand times over every Easter as he watched the agonizing process of my sister and me looking for the hidden Easter eggs. Inevitably, we would miss one or two, which would be found at a much later date in a much less appetizing state.

I was beginning to think this morning that I, too was destined for this agony. Like Sisyphus, doomed to push the boulder up the hill and helplessly watch it roll back down, I was growing more and more certain that none of the parties to my big surprise were going to cooperate. The boys, Tumnus II and Digory, are so docile that, unlike the other kids who have resided in the trailer-side kennel, they don’t cry out a lot. I made up reasons to go outside and try to stir them up. I repeatedly looked out the window at them, encouraging them to say hello, feed me, jump in a lake, anything. . . to no avail. K got up briefly, but retired back to bed, exhausted, and fell back asleep, certain to incorporate any kid calls I could coerce from the boys directly into a dream.

When K finally made her way to the window and saw them there, she was breathless, speechless, giggling, crying tears of joy. She did that absolutely adorable thing where she covers her mouth with both hands and squeezes her eyes shut.

Phoebe and her husband have really done a phenomenal job with these boys. They are as sweet and as tame as can be. We took them out into the yard, and then they walked all the way around the pond without leashes. They just followed K along, stopping to graze and sample various and sundry leaves and greeneries along the way.

I was able to catch some video footage:

So, although my “picture perfect” image of how everything would go once again fails to predict the actual course of events here at the farm, I got plenty else that turns out to be better than I could ever have imagined.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Home-coming Surprise

No, this is not a Siamese goat as the latest edition to MisFit Farm.
These two cute little fellows, and as shown here:
there are two of them, were brought to the Farm this very morning as a surprise birthday gift for K. Thanks to laws against driving while logging on to the Internet, K. hopefully will not see this dispatch from MisFit Farm before tomorrow.

I always thought I was good at keeping a secret. This has been absolutely the hardest thing to do. Logistically, it was a snap. With K out of town and a very, very thin story about running to look at the pens at an exotic poultry farm with our neighbors, Steve and Carolyn, the aspiring exotic bird breeders, to get an idea of what the proper pens should be built like, grabbing a few hours of un-accounted-for time was easy.

This ruse would place me out of pocket long enough to drive to Florence, KS and back, and was boring enough to not elicit too many follow-up questions from K that will require heaping tall tales on top of tall tales. It has been the almost-slips in casual conversation that have nearly busted me. An offhand comment about the ridiculous price of gas at a Lawrence gas station nearly prompted a comparison to the price of gas on the turnpike. Which, I should not know because I would not theoretically have taken the turnpike for any reason today, and which, for those interested, is $.20 more expensive in Lawrence.

These guys came from the same place where we have obtained the rest of our herd. They are full-bred fainters, born March 2nd. They are not brothers, but they were born within minutes of each other and have been fast friends since then. When I pulled up at the Janzen’s farm, they were both out loose just following Phoebe around in the yard. Phoebe was absolutely correct, these guys are amazingly docile.

So here’s the ideal plan for the surprise: K should get home very late tonight. With any luck, it will be late enough that it will be too dark to see into the pen we have set up where they are staying. The boys should be asleep for the night, so they won’t make any noise, and we will just mosey on into the house and into bed for the night. Tomorrow morning, as the sun is coming up, the boys will begin to cry. So just outside the bedroom window, there they will be. As our friend, Ev, pictured K’s home-coming like a Christmas morning, this is how I envision the ideal surprise goat discovery. I have this picture of K rushing outside in her bathrobe, grinning ear-to-ear, baby goats scrambling all over her lap.

Just in case this scenario plays itself out, I have cut back all the cockleburs. This is the voice of experience speaking: there is nothing worse than cockleburs in terrycloth.

The other potential scenario is that K gets home tonight and is unusually alert and observant. She notices something in the kennel, goes over to check it out, and finds her birthday surprises. Then she rushes into the kennel, grinning ear-to-ear, baby goats scrambling all over her lap.

Either way, I win. K is homecoming, ear-to-ear grinning, baby goats scrambling, dogs dancing, life is good.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


My paternal biological family lives in Hawa’ii. I was visiting them about five years ago, and among the many, many gifts of aloha I received was bar-none the largest dog collar I have ever seen. Its intended recipient was my boy, Coffee, but he would have to balloon to double his size to fit it.

It is a gorgeous collar. It is leather, with impressions of turtles, or Hōnu, as they are called in Hawaiian, pressed around it. Hōnu are a symbol of luck to the native Hawa’iians.

Perhaps it is a deep-seated psychological dysfunction that makes me associate the leather collars with boy-dogs, but after it didn’t fit Coffee-dog, I just held onto it; I guess I must have been waiting for the right boy to come along. I didn’t try it on Mercy or Trinity when they came. When our foster boys, Clapton and Alistair, came, I tried it on each of them, and although it “fit,” it didn’t seem quite right.

Emmett had been here for about three weeks before I tried it on him. It fit in every sense of the word. Naturally, it was sized just the way I like collars, not big enough to slip over his head, but plenty loose in case it is caught in underbrush. The color, which looked strange against Clapton and Alistair’s black coats, seems tailor-made for Emmett’s dappled merle. As he has worn it in multiple splash-fests into the pond, the collar has darkened and it now takes effort to discern the turtles, but it looks better on him with each passing day. We know the turtles are there, and that seems to be enough.

Somehow, wearing a “lucky” collar suits Emmett. Were he a human, he would religiously purchase Powerball © tickets, fully expecting that his day would come. Until then, he would be happy living with a family who couldn’t afford to get him adequate veterinary care, in a crowded trailer brimming with love, on a farm with room to run and a pond, or any other place he landed.
I have no doubt in my mind that Emmett could love anybody as much as he loves us. But I don’t know that there is any place in the world that would fit quite as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Good Girl, Azure (good enough, at least)

K is out of town for the week, so the dogs have been left to my care and control, such as it is.

K’s work schedule is . . . flexible. As a freelance interpreter, she tends to go where the work takes her, when it takes her. I have a basic 8 to 5 Monday through Friday gig, which can have a tendency to stretch a little beyond. This is all to explain that the dogs have human companionship, thanks to K’s job arrangements, for a goodly part of each and every day. Although Azure has slowly earned the trust of being left out of her crate overnight, we rarely afford her this luxury for the brief periods she is unattended by humans during daylight hours.

Even when we are here, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with her. Last night, as I was working on the computer, I was distracted by a ripping sound. I turned around to find Azure tearing at something soft-looking and day-glow green. As she and I were contemplating one another, me thinking, “what the dickens is she destroying now?” and trying to process. . . green. . . soft . . . tearing, she was coolly regarding me thinking, “what the dickens is she looking at now?”

And then my beer-adled mind put the pieces together: green, soft, tearing. . . my neoprene beer koozie from Devil’s Tower, Wyoming!!!!! I jumped up, snatched it from her, salvaged what I could, and decided that I didn’t really need that one portion of the koozie anyhow. I tried to amuse myself by chanting “The devil dog ate Devil’s Tower,” but no one else seemed particularly entertained.

When K is home, Azure doesn’t need to spend substantial amounts of time in her crate. K is, as mentioned previously, out of pocket, and here I am with my silly job that keeps us in these luxurious accommodations and kibble. Today was an especially intense day: I had a trial, meetings stacked end-to-end, and then an after-hours evening meeting with a group that is long overdue. Azure was facing the specter of a very long day in the crate. As I began to calculate it up, it was looking like a veeeeeeerrrryyyy long day to be left in a crate.

So I made the executive decision to leave her out of her crate for the day. We have a doggy door and a large fenced-in area. I still don’t like to leave the kids alone for too awful long, but today I had very little choice in the matter. I scoured the house for all things within reach and tempting for a destructive she-devil to shred, and filled with the dissonance of temerity and necessity, I left behind a wealth of stuffed Kong toys, bones, and pig ears, and off I went to work, a hopeful mantra chanted under my breath.

As I walked up to the front door of the trailer this evening, I was admonishing myself to visualize a positive outcome. I was squeezing my eyes closed with the effort I building the mental image of the usual toys strewn across the living room floor absent any un-toy objects. I opened the door and slipped in over the baby gate to meet a crazy, jumping, gurgling, licking mass of happy babies. A quick look around the room was quickly followed by a sigh of relief and unleashed any inhibitions I had been exercising in my greeting.

The casualty of the day was the toe of one of a pair of my shoes, which was then joined by the other shoe because what really was I going to do with just one un-chewed shoe. For the record, the shoe had to be removed from a hanging shoe tree to meet its demise.

All-in-all, I was not displeased with Azure’s performance. Of course, after the attempted assault on the Devil’s Tower koozie, she had nowhere to go but up.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone

Despite my mother’s exhortations to the contrary, we all have a job here at MisFit Farm. In a Maslowe-ian sense, I am in charge of primal needs: physiological, i.e., food and shelter. It isn’t always sexy, but it’s my job, and I think I am reasonably good at it and I like it.

On a good, aspirational day I can bleed over to the secondary needs: safety and security, if only because I am one crazy little chick who will mess you up if you mess with my family. When a wild critter ate our chickens, I tore through the barn like blazes reinforcing walls, doors and ceilings to prevent further carnage. On some level, I share this role with the dogs. My mother commented the other day that she would come to visit more oftem, but she is intimidated by all these dogs. When I told my sister this story, she guffawed and said, “I didn’t think anything intimidated Mom.” Suffice it to say that the notion that an unwanted visitor would dare breach the threshold of our space doesn’t keep either of us awake at night.

As we have pointed out in other places, the goats’ job is to keep us from being enveloped in overgrowth. Charlie and Miss May, the cats, keep the barns free of rodents and snakes (mostly). Trinity makes everyone feel welcomed and loved. Mercy keeps us all in our paces. Coffee gets me to work every day. Skeeter alerts us to impending foul weather. Emmett holds us up with the sheer magnitude of his lean. Azure; well, she keeps us on our toes.

K is the “higher order” needs satisfier. In Maslowe’s hierarchy, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization are in her realm of household fulfillments.

K is chief dog treat-er. K is the head ice-creamer dish-er.

She praises the dogs as they all take their morning pee breaks. She calls me in the middle of the day to remind me that there is sanity in the world.

K signs “good dog” to Azure with such an alarming frequency and intensity, I worry she will rub a spot off her jawbone. (I can’t ever tell if this praise is delivered as an affirmation or as an aspiration.) She reminds me that my belief that “we can do better” in this world is not a criticism, but a statement of hope.

K’s creativity and sense of aesthetic keeps us in ready supply of matching leash/collar combinations and reminds me to do silly little things like brush my teeth, put on deodorant, and stain-treat the shirt I was wearing when the goats jumped up on my back.

So what happens when there is a vacuum in those higher order needs?

We take our walks like we always do. We run and splash in the pond. We get our twice-daily kibble, sometimes with a special addition like scrambled eggs. We perfunctorily deliver our animal crackers and raisins to the goats. We pick vegetables from the garden that just aren’t as much fun to eat without her, so we can or freeze them. We joke about eating buffalo wings and beer, but really, that is dinner. We mow the lawn, water the garden, clean the house and do laundry the old-fashioned way: looks like enough to make a load, toss ‘em in there! Azure is willing to tolerate my presence, since it means she can sleep in the people bed, and as long as I keep the kibble coming.

In other words, we survive until that time when she comes home and she smiles and fills this place with her sunshine, her scent and her softness. Then, we thrive.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's 3 a.m., I must be lonely

In a nightly homage to Rob Thomas and his old pals in Matchbox 20, Mercy has developed the mid-night ritual of a 3:30 a.m. barkfest. Some nights, she wanders outside to share her barking with the wide open sky and all neighbors, friend and foe. Some nights, she makes her pronouncements from the comfort of “her” sleeping couch.

Azure has earned enough trust that she is not relegated to her crate to sleep at night, and some times, Mercy’s barking must be loud enough for Azure to hear, so Azure stirs and joins in on the fun. The difference is that Mercy can hear me when I shout, “Hey, knock it off!” from the bedroom. Azure, being deaf, can’t and doesn’t.

We have modified sleeping arrangements here at the Farm, so Skeeter, Emmett and most nights, Coffee, sleep in the bedroom with us, safely behind a two-baby-gate pile-up in the doorway. This leaves Trinity the insistent snuggler, Mercy, and Azure on the non-bedroom side.

Whether we are fortunate enough to escape the 3:30 a.m. barking or not, we are always entreated to a 5 a.m. wake up call as Trinity stands outside the bedroom door, peering through the gates and calling out for her buddy, Emmett. Trinity doesn’t bark, so much as she articulates. Her communication is occasionally punctuated by a bark, but mostly it more closely resembles talking. There is a grumble, but not a growl. There are long, guttural sounds and variations in pitch and tone. And for a teacup Dane, she has one heckuva’ low voice which amuses me at all other times that are not 5 a.m.

Trinity begins exercising her voice at 5 a.m., seemingly directed at her best pal, Emmett, more so than us. Emmett then wakes up, begins nuzzling my face, arm, back, or any other part that is handy and exposed, and begins his responding whine.

If I were fluent in dog, I believe the conversation would go something like this:

T: Psssst [stage whisper] Emmett! You up?

E: [High pitched whine] Trin! Why do you always sneak up on me like that? You know I’m sardined in here between the bed and the wall.

T: Sorry. I missed Mercy’s 3 a.m. sentinel. Hey, are the bi-peds stirring? Check that one’s pulse, will you?

E: Well, let me ask them first. I don’t want to be accused of “bad touch.” [recommences high pitched whining until a hand pokes out to pet him]

T: So what’s the prognosis?

E: Alive - but trying to placate me with head patting.

T: Oh no! Don’t give in to that! Resist! Revolt! It is time for us to run and play!

E: I could try to turn my head and twist her arm until she gurgles. That usually works.

T: Try pushing your head up there some more. Your nose will fit under the covers. If that doesn’t work, place a paw on the bed.

E: Ah, here come her feet. Time for me to do my happy dance under them! Here we come, it is time to run!

Whereupon I grab my morning chore clothes, manipulate the baby gates in pig-chute fashion to
shepard bedroom dogs into the living room while keeping living room dogs out. On my
way up the hall, I slip into the bathroom, where I am joined by four dogs, all
happy and dancing and chattering their various morning incantations.

And so begins another glorious day at MisFit Farm.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Date with the Nephew

We took my precocious nephew (referenced previously) and K’s very quiet, very sweet 14-year-old niece for dinner and a movie this evening. The following story puts a fine point on the exchange from the preceding post and may explain a lot for the reading audience.

[We are driving in the car on the way to dinner. I am driving, K is riding shotgun, C and K2, nephew and niece, are riding in the backseat.]

C: “Knock, knock.”

Me: “Who’s there?”

C: “Alaska”

Me: “Alaska who?”

C: “Alaska to shut the door one last time!” [erupts into laughter and is joined by me
and the other victims riding in the car]

C: “What do you call cheese that doesn’t belong to you?”

Me: “I don’t know, what do you call it?”

C: “Na-cho cheese! [erupts again into laughter that is joined with hesitation by me and the other victims in the car] Get it??!??! NOT YOUR cheese?!?!?! Like – it is not yo’ cheese?!?!?!?" [more laughter eruptions]

Me: “You shouldn’t have to explain the punch line.” [Cedric continues to laugh]

C: “Yeah, but it’s NOT YOUR cheese. So what do you call chips that don’t belong to you?”

Me: “Na-cho chips. [no laughter] Get it??!??! NOT YOUR chips?!?!?! Like – it is not yo’ chips?!?!?!?” [we both laugh and the other victims in the car join in]

C: “I got it – it’s just the same as not ‘yo cheese.” [we laugh and the other victims in the car chortle uncomfortably]

K: “You know, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Me: “I know, he is just like his father.”

Anyhow, we went to see Ratatouille. It was a delightful film that outlasted the attention span of everyone in the theatre under the age of 20 by about 20 minutes or so. The story line also seemed a little esoteric for most young ‘uns. It is about a rat who wants to become the greatest chef in Paris. I think you have to bring quite a bit to the party to get totally on board with that story. I mean, I myself was a hard core Iron Chef © fan when I used to do the whole TV gig, and that yummy Rachel Ray appears to be at a zenith of popularity, but I don’t know that “chef” is taught as part of the career day curriculum at most schools.

C had already seen Spiderman 3 (twice), Shrek 3, Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer (and yes, it must be referred to thusly every single time it is talked about), and any other plausible seven-year-old boy films, so that is how we ended up at Ratatouille. Having grown up in the age of “The Secret of Nimh,” I was just glad for the opportunity to re-visit the image of rats in theatrical performances. I think this film should do wonders for their image.