Friday, September 28, 2007


K is, for the most part, pretty unflappable. Not much really seems to get to her. Whether she is called upon to provide communication in extraordinarily intimate settings or required to wipe up cold dog vomit, she maintains a generally calm, staid, pleasant demeanor. She does not engage in an excess of emotive displays. She does not raise her voice in elation or crumple to the floor in sadness. With one reliable exception, she is not in the least inclined to dramatics.

Shortly after moving back to Kansas, while K, Skeeter and Susie were living with K’s parents, Skeeter became frantic about being let outside one crisp Fall evening. K took her to the back door, obligingly opened it, and when Skeeter shot out the door, K stepped out behind her, straight into the oncoming spray of a skunk.

K tried every product and every home remedy known to humankind to rid herself and Skeeter of the skunk odor. Hours, days and gallons of water were devoted to the dissolution of the powerful odor. When she showed up for an all-day engagement several days after the close encounter of the skunk kind, the other interpreter, eyes watering, demanded that K leave the assignment at once. K swears that to this day, there are remote corners of her mother’s basement where she can still smell the vestiges of her skunk attack.

A by-product of this experience is that the smell of a skunk can send K into absolute conniptions, a response that unfailingly reduces me to laughter, and reminds me of my own fond memory, a band my step-father played in, the Shyster Mountain Boys, and their rendition of my sister’s only favorite song they played. This isn’t them, but these guys are nearly as goofy as the Shyster Mountain Boys were in their heyday:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Deer Season

The air has begun to turn crisp here in Kansas, an early harbinger of the advent of the Fall season. In Kansas, Fall can last three days or three months, depending on the vagaries of El Nino, the hole in the Ozone layer, population trends or any of a variety of indiscernables. Although how brisk or how brutal the changing seasons will be in Kansas is totally unpredictable, deer season is not.

Aside from the crispness in the air, we know we are moving toward deer season when the sounds of shotgun reports echo through the valley, Wal-Mart becomes inundated with camoflauge and it is time once again to insult Mercy’s panache by outfitting her with a hunter-orange collar.

Despite her attempts to look completely annoyed and utterly unimpressed by our concern that she would be mistaken for a deer by some near-sighted, Southern-Comfort-soaked hunter in the early morning mists, we know that deep, deep down inside, Mercy really does appreciate our care and attention.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Compendium of Inappropriate Chew Toys

The dogs are not always perfect, but few are. On occassion, they will direct destructive tendencies toward less-than-appropriate chewables. Thankfully, we own very little material objects of value. There have been a couple of books destroyed, which are of course sacraments in the home of this recovering English major. CDs, DVD's, PS2 games and VHS tapes have fared well. Various paper products, including the most recent Lawrence phone book have met their pulper somewhat earlier than anticipated. Shoes have largely been the chosen object of destruction, mine in particular.

In response to my proposal to invest in a new pair of Doc Martens for the krewe's chewing pleasure, my friend, Fred, supplied the following:

"Along with Doc Martens, here is an addendum to the list of alternative dog chew toys.

Claw hammers
7 ¼ inch Skil Saw cases
Formaldehyde-treated deck timbers
Live ducks
Countless leather work gloves
Hundred-pound karate kicking bags
Electric fence insulators
Each other
Select Comfort mattress pillow-top
Pioneer VSX-515 audio/video multi-channel stereo remote control units
Live pet bunny rabbits
Holy scriptures left open on the floor
Condenser microphones
Assorted outdoor furniture
Happy Meal prizes
Lawn sprinklers
Garden hoses
Live 110-volt electrical cords
Beautiful blooming rose bushes (thorns and all)
Bicycle seats
Bicycle pedals
Lawn mower starter ropes
Empty beer cans
Full beer cans
Gasoline cans
Oil funnels
Grease rags
Prescription sunglasses
And probably wining lottery tickets (I wouldn’t know.)"

This list is empirically developed. I myself have been witness to some of the destruction to which Fred refers. Unbelievably, this is the work of five or six dogs through the years, at least half of whom fall firmly within the category of "drop kick" or "ankle biter" dogs.

See, don't we feel better now?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Tails to You

K mentioned tonight that I should update folks on the status of Emmett’s tail, particularly given its softer chosen target as documented in our “Economy” post.

As we left the story last, we were in the process of trying an under-the-belly sling to restrain our happy boy’s jubilant tail. K’s brother, the Vet, recommended affixing the tail to Emmett’s rear leg, a trick apparently employed by people who raise and treat Greyhounds. Both systems met with advantages and disadvantages of their own, or perhaps my execution was weak.

Suffice it to say that I was not getting the results I desired within the timeframe I desired.

So, with the family mantra of “better living through chemicals” dancing on my lips, I loaded Emmett into the Jeep one sunny Saturday morning to implore our Vet to give us a jump start with some antibiotics.

A word about our Vet: oh, forget it. I couldn’t possibly proffer up just a word.

A common remedy employed by our Vet is a cocktail shot, cocktail being a word I believe is very near and dear to his heart. The cocktail is usually some combination of antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and steroid. Whatever the cocktail is, experience has made us believers.

Having worked with hematomas, abrasions, skin infections, ear infections, allergies and any of a variety of other ailments that have led us to his doorstep, Emmett was dispatched to the good doctor’s office for a dosing of the cocktail.

Imagine my dismay when the good doctor’s first comment was, “Oh boy, I may have to take that off.”

Never one to exercise an expansive sense of bedside manner, Doc didn’t look up as I responded, “The idea behind this visit is to leave with MORE than we came with.”

“Well,” he responded to Emmett, “we’ll start with a shot and have your mommy give you some pills.” He finally looked at me and said, “If this isn’t a lot better in the next week, I will have to take it.”

Devastated but determined, I returned home, pills in hand, resolved to the salvation of Emmett’s tail. I purchased the entire available supply of Pet-Wrap from the local PetCo, a spray bottle of Bitter Apple, and re-committed myself to our tail-wrapping regimen, bolstered by our week’s supply of antibiotics.

The week came and went, and we did, in fact, make marked improvement. The happy tail remains attached to the happy torso. K feels confident that we have turned a corner. It has been another full week without blood splatter, and healing seems to be occurring, or maybe just scarring. We are certainly not completely out of the woods yet, but feel confident that additional damage will be manageable. Emmett, for one, looks hopeful.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lessons on Economy

Another very important lesson the dogs have taught us is about economy. Aside from the obvious: buy kibble in bulk and have it palletized and drop-shipped, they have taught us about the value of using all available resources.

Take our feet for example. Up until the krewe joined us, we were completely wasting the top parts of them. Sure, we got a lot of mileage from the bottom parts as they carried us from place to place. On occasion, the sides of our feet were used for kicking, pushing, or holding something in place. One time, I did use the top of my foot to “lever” a door into place as I was sliding it onto its hinges. Other than these few, isolated incidents, feet were pretty much all about the bottom.

Not any more.

Now, the tops of feet are routinely used as cushions, springboards, stepping stones, levers, belly scratchers and headrests.

Our legs serve as supports to hold not only our trunks upright, but also the trunks of dogs. They work as tunnels. They offer blockades for safe passage. And sometimes, as evidenced by this:

They make excellent whipping posts.

In a world where many things are taken for granted, the krewe reminds us again of the gross under-utilization and lack of imagination and innovation inherent to our dulled and bi-pedaled existence.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

PoiDog Pondering

By the way, by reference to an earlier post about my abysmal laundering abilities and the song by PoiDog Pondering with the line:

you should wear with pride/
the scars on your skin/
they're a map of the adventures/
and the places you've been

They have disabled the embedded link, but here is the video version from youtube delivered the old fashioned way:

I (heart) my Wife

Although it is not self-evident by the state of affairs on the pair of jeans I wore to work today, I have a desk job.

Now, if we had human children and they came home from school wearing a previously clean-off-the-hanger pair of pants that returned home looking like this, I imagine I would launch into a strenuous cross-examination a little something like this:

A: Are these the same pants you left the house in this morning?

A: When you embarked the school bus this morning, did it in fact drive you and
deposit you at the schoolhouse door?

A: Were you required to perform automotive maintenance to earn passage on said school bus?

A: Did I miss the Perry/Lecompton running of the bulls event?

A: Are we preparing for the science fair project where you test the empirical
effectiveness of stain remover products?

A: Was this the day your class took a field trip to the Mammoth tar pits in western Colorado?

A: Did you feel that your mother was requiring job security?

Thankfully, K just gives me that sweet, dimpled smile and pulls some magic
remedy off of the shelf to have me cleaned up and looking presentable in two shakes of a goat's tail.

An Open Letter to the Purveyors of Dog Toys

We imagine you enjoy a challenge. If you didn’t, you would have chosen an easier product for production and distribution. Something like: soufflés.

We, like you, enjoy a challenge. We own dogs. Not just any dogs. Big dogs. And some not-so-big dogs, but all dogs with “issues.” Some of our dogs have orthopedic issues, some have sensory issues, and one, in particular, has the ostensible issue that she herself enjoys challenges.

The challenge of a “tough toy” is one she is always willing to rise to meet. So far, she has been the undefeated winner. The challenge, it seems, is a timed one for her. The challenge, rather than “is this toy really indestructible?” is framed as “how quickly can I destroy a toy labeled as ‘indestructible’?”

We spend significant amounts of time and money seeking out toys purporting to be indestructible, tough, durable, everlasting and perfect-for-aggressive-chewers. As demonstrated below, most have met with a most untimely demise.

We have been keeping an admittedly unscientific tally on toy performance. To date, here are the results:

Jolly kritters: 5 minutes, decapitation and then total annihilation
Jolly ball: 15 minutes, handle chewed off
Fat Cat: 25 minutes, ripped and de-stuffed
Combat/Bamboo: 3 minutes, ripped and de-stuffed
Fire Hose: 10 minutes, ripped and frayed
Tuff Toy tug: 45 minutes, torn nearly in half
Tuff Toy Alligator: 20 minutes, eviscerated

Now, we are intrigued with this possibility:

But at a whopping $75.00, we decided it would be more cost-effective to purchase a new pair of Doc Martens for our chewing pleasure (for the record, pieces and parts of the last pair of Doc Martens continue to circulate through the toy box, nearly six months after their initial assault), or perhaps something that would give chase.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it (after your most recent soufflé is done, of course), is to create a toy that can live up to its adjectives when given the true test of mettle, and that we pay less for than a weekly vet allowance. Our vet drives a nice car, but not that nice.

In any event, the human inhabitants at MisFit Farm thank you for the few, intermittent moments of peace you have been able to proffer up until now. The canines, on the other hand, want to know, “Is that all you’ve got?!?!?” If you have anything you would like to truly put to the test, please send it along and we will fastidiously report back. You can use the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, DHL or FedEx for delivery. They all know us.

Sincerely yours,

MisFit Farm

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Camping with Dogs

Every year, my agency hosts a weekend campout. I “taught” Coffee to camp out early in our relationship, resulting in the ruination of only two tents before we got everything resolved. Last year when the rapid acquisition of canines began, K was out of town for the weekend campout, so I participated as a day camper and drove home to attend to dogs and chores in between.

This year, we camped. Lest anyone think we are completely out of our minds, we didn’t camp with all five plus one more of the dogs. Just three of them.

Now, a lot of the folks involved in the Dane rescue seem to camp, and they seem to take their dogs with them, even foster dogs. Were that I could claim to be this brave.

When I went for my day trip last year, I took Mercy and Trinity out for the evening. Mercy spent the entire time barking and drooling. Although usually I take this as evidence of a good time in humans; I think not so much for Mercy. So Mercy was out of contention for this year’s camping event.

I knew of some other dogs who would be attending the campout, and Skeeter doesn’t make a very good first impression. Early in our relationship, after K had met Coffee, and after I had met K’s mother and her two dogs, Susie (RIP - old gal) and Skeeter, we decided it would be good to try to introduce the kids. My parents divorced when I was about 10 years old, and I resolved the experience the way I resolve most experiences, by reading absolutely every book I could put my hands on about it. I cannot tell of the many travails and tragedies I read about in these tomes as they described the “blending” of post-divorce families. Let me just say that nothing I had read prepared me for what happened when I brought Coffee into K’s mom’s house and Skeeter went after him.

The end result was: K was clutching Skeeter by the collar and shaking, she was so mad. I was crying and holding an 80-pound male Laborador Coffee-dog. Although she has resolved her issues while at the Farm, Skeeter was not invited to the campout.

Azure. Azure has eaten industrial strength dog beds and chew toys. She could tear through a tent in about a millisecond. That lovely canvas fabric wouldn’t even represent an impediment.

So Coffee (of course), Trinity, and Emmett went camping with us. The campground is a great place – group camping that is relatively secluded with a good combination of cleared fields, high grass, trees, and tick nests. Suffice it to say, we tromped through them all.

The three we took were absolutely wonderful. After the first night, when every single person seemed to be consumed with the question, “You are going to sleep in that tent with all three of those dogs?” folks grew accustomed to having three oversized dogs prancing around the campsite.

Some, you might say, even loved having them there.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mean Girls

While we are on the movie tangent, count the movie, “Mean Girls” among the many neither K nor I have seen.

In my mind, it is a acht-version of “Heathers,” or a vicious version of “Clueless” so having those as a frame of reference gives me all the information I need to save a potentially wasted 90 minutes of my life.

The reason this particular genre of movies comes to mind is that, like a version of Survivor located in a trailer with gourmet dog food, first aid kits, ample supplies of water and medications, we find strange alliances formed among the krewe.

The first strange bedfellow was the Coffee/Azure pairing. Coffee is bar-none the most mellow, least motivated dog in the history of the world. When he took a shine to Azure, we were stunned. That she seemed ok with his advances left us speechless. Although his love survives, Azure has moved on to form an alliance that may be even more bizarre.

While Mercy is, to bi-peds, quite a sweetheart, she is not so generous with her love for her krewe-mates. Although getting her to eat sometimes takes an act of Congress, heaven help any poor canine who wants to move across the living room in any proximity to her food dish. Mercy has a special animus for poor Skeeter, and will sometimes, just for sport, declare the living room off-limits for the poor old gal.

Azure is, well, Azure. ‘Nuff said.

Notwithstanding the fact that playing with Azure is the equivalent of trying to capture fireflies in a whirlwind, and Azure cruises food dishes like Mark Foley at a little league game, Mercy and Azure seem to have come to terms. Azure is allowed to freely eat from Mercy’s food dish. They play tug together. Mercy occasionally tries to entice Azure into a game of “toss the good cuz.” We caught them sharing a dog-bed over the weekend. Mercy will sometimes lose herself and provide Azure with a free flea-biting treatment.

Of course, in the same instance a playful game of bite-your-face-off can begin, it can spiral quickly into a snark-fest. Neither of them seems to be particularly daunted by a little snarkiness, so the love survives.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Games People Play (with Danes)

I was thrilled to learn of a game played by a Dane friend of ours. Her family has a merle Dane, and they play I-spy with the dappling on his coat. Not being artistically inclined, I have tried this game, and to date, the only thing I have located on our merle boy, Emmett’s, coat has been an upside down version of the little logo guy for the website.

I was thrilled to learn of this game, because it seemed to validate any of a variety of the games we find ourselves applying to our babies.

We started one such game the other morning, when for some reason, I asked K out of the blue, “If Azure were a character in a movie, what character would she be?”

Among our quirky differences, K and I don’t share a common background with, interest in or exposure to: movies. K’s tastes run toward Disney, mine toward Tarantino. K has a large part of her life where movies are almost altogether missing, which pre-dates the several years in mine where movies were missing, so there is an additional temporal disconnect that amplifies generational and personality differences.

By way of example, we saw a preview for the movie, “While You Were Sleeping” on a friend’s television the other day. K’s response was, “Aw, that was such a romantic movie.” Having actually seen this one on video, my response was, “Yipes that movie was creepy. Who wants some person who doesn’t know who you are to be duped into marrying you?!” Now, I know they don’t get married in the end, but I like my goofy clueless fiancées to be the Moonstruck version, not the Million Dollar Baby version.

The game, as it turns out, is actually quite fun and illuminating. Through it, we are able to learn about one another’s life experiences through movies, what we liked and what we didn’t like, what attracted us about different characters, and how we perceive the dogs. Of course no one character captures all aspects of any one of the dogs, so the conversation continues, pulling different aspects of different characters and movies into the dialogue, respectfully listening, offering counterpoints, and compiling lists that we sometimes forget as soon as they are completed.

So, here is an initial iteration of our list:

Christian Slater in True Romance. (Emmett)

Forrest Whittaker in The Crying Game. (Coffee)

Cher in Mask; actually, Cher in just about any role. (Mercy)

Goldie Hawn in Overboard; Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta’ Give. (Skeeter)

Pipi Longstocking; Angelia Jolie in Girl, Interrupted; Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys (I was particularly pleased with the whole “Brangalina” angle with those last two selections). (Azure)

Lilo from Lilo and Stich. (Trinity)

Any guesses who selected which movies and characters?