Sunday, October 28, 2007

Love Seat

When selecting furniture for the trailer, I didn’t have any notion that we would someday call upon it to accommodate multiple large dogs. I haven’t ever been one to be fussy about things like pets on the furniture, which is a good thing, since the Danes aren’t too interested in reposing upon anything other than the furniture. How animals from checkered and caged existences come so quickly to a place where they feel entitled to have the right of first refusal for the couch is a bit of a mystery to me.

Yesterday, I was trying to teach my three-year-old niece to re-direct her one-year-old brother, instead of shouting at him and pushing him when he encroached upon her play area. Today, as I watch the dogs vie for the “couch” and look across a mass of un-occupied dog beds, I am awash in the irony of a na├»ve belief that undesirable behavior can quickly be supplanted by the availability of a reasonable alternative.

Unlike my three-year-old niece, we HAVE learned a little something about sharing.

In retrospect, I don’t know that I could have chosen a better piece of furniture than something called a love seat for our cozy little place in the country.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This Is Serious

As previously documented, the goats have been a delightful group of pets, but not so very uniformly reliable as lawn mowers. Of course, just in time for Fall and Winter, they have grazed down their pasture and the island in the pond, thereby necessitating the purchase of hay to supplement graze as the weather turns cold. And, just in time for Winter, I bought a new “toy” to help the goats with their chores.

I am externally restrained from playing with fire and sharp objects. The first Christmas I was living here at the Farm, I asked my mother to buy me a chain saw. She begged me to let her just give me the money and I could purchase it myself, so she wouldn’t have to live with the guilt of having purchased the implement that eventually severs my arm or some other part from the trunk of my body. She made up for her pessimistic attitude the next Spring when she kindly came out to watch over the smoldering embers of the two acres I accidentally set on fire while cleaning up the property and multi-tasking.

Imagine the mixture of horror and delight as I was reading through the owner’s manual for my new toy, and happened across this:

What to say beyond, “ouch”?!

The good neighbors and I were touring the property a few weekends ago and admiring the overgrowth when I told them I had ordered this industrial strength push-trimmer, but I couldn’t remember the name. We bandied about several versions of what I thought the name was when Steve remembered that it is a “D-R.” As what may turn out to be a terrible instance of foreshadowing, he proudly announced that he remembered the name because it was D-R like Doctor.

I may need to order a second Blue Cross/Blue Shield card for K to keep in her purse. I have a feeling it will be difficult to retrieve mine from my wallet if my finger looks like that. Have no fear, safety goggles were included.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just say "yolk"

These are our first two eggs.

These are our first two eggs on toast.

Any questions?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not at the Farm

O.k. - this has absolutely nothing to do with the Farm or funny stories about the krewe. I momentarily entertained the notion of attempting to create a gossamer connection via the first question asked here, which is something akin to: An animal with three letters in its name.

But that would be intellectually dishonest, wouldn't it? And I expressly save intellectual dishonestly for the fourth Wednesday of each month, which is not today.

So suffice it to say: I have watched this several times and laugh my ear off every viewing.

Part of it is the nostalgia of the program - I remember watching Family Feud with my mother for a brief period after my sister was born and my mom did the whole stay-at-home thing. Television then was incredible. We had Family Feud, The Dating Game AND The Gong Show. We had Ryan's Hope, Emergency One and Mary Hartman. People like Raquel Welch, Lena Horne and John Denver visited Sesame Street. We were rescued by Spiderman, The Bionic Woman, The Ten Million Dollar Man, and Charlie's Angels. Last but not least, Saturday Night Live was awesome then.

I would happily bet $100.00 that no one in America laughs at Survivor, The Biggest Loser, The Great Race, Big Brother, or almost any other show like we can laugh at this:

** ahem, jumping down off soapbox now **

Sunday, October 14, 2007

She Stands Accused

Or maybe Azure has just surrendered to the authorities. Not likely.

One of the people involved in Azure’s many travels spoke to me by telephone after we had brought her to the fold of MisFit Farm. Among Azure’s many transgressions while in the caller’s company, this particular person seemed to be particularly troubled by an episode where Azure “tore all the covers off the bed.” Throughout our phone conversation, the caller returned to this event repeatedly. Sure, she broke through the glass in the French doors. O.k., maybe she tried to eat the cat. And perhaps Azure used the household furniture like catwalks. The caller impressed upon me this Most important observation: she tore all the covers off the bed.

For all the behaviors we have been able to correct in Azure, tearing all the covers off the bed is one that has escaped correction. Perhaps the caller knew more about this particular behavior as a harbinger of terrible things to come. Perhaps the caller had an unnatural attachment to her bedding. Perhaps it was just the so-called straw that broke her back.

As for us, we generally just keep the bedroom door shut. On occasion, we are less vigilant, and a crack in the door quickly becomes an opening for Azure to quell her insatiable desire to tear all the covers off the bed.

I can’t help loving it when I find Azure sprawled out like this, even when she has torn all the covers off the bed. It looks, for a small moment in time like Azure has surrendered, whether she has surrendered to the pure joy of a good back scratch, the jubilation of another successful bed defiling, or the scintillating pleasure of having breached the baby gates to settle herself into exactly the place she ought not to be.

4 feet x 4 feet x 4 Danes

Storms rolled through the area last night beginning around midnight, and are prepared to settle in and stay for what looks to be at least the rest of our Saturday.

The Laboradors, notwithstanding centuries of breeding as hunting dogs, are deathly afraid of loud noises. Loud noises in the nature of fireworks and most relevant to our present situation, thunder, send the Labs into a frenzy.

So last night went a little something like this:

9:00 p.m. To bed for an out-loud chapter from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
10:20 p.m. Phone call from frantic aunt in search of runaway uncle
12:43 p.m. Phone call from frantic aunt having found runaway uncle. Faint thunder is beginning in the distance. I am awake enough after the frantic aunt phone call to get up and medicate the neurotic dogs.
4:00 a.m. Full blown storms. Effectiveness of medication called into question. Attempt to continue repose in a supine position is abandoned. Dogs are sheparded out of the bedroom so someone can get some semblance of rest.

I spent the rest of the morning attempting to sneak back to bed, sleep in a chair, sleep in the loveseat and accomplish something – anything.

Admittedly, the storms were pretty intense. Lighting was heavy, even into the late morning. I nearly completed one of the books I have been reading, “Dog Spelled Backwards,” as consolation and by way of reminder of the abiding love I have for the krewe. I disinfected dog dishes, dusted, made a special breakfast for the dogs laced with more medication for the ones who needed it, and at some point in time, noticed the four-dog pile up at my feet.

I am not a fearful human. That said, I live in mortal fear that the Labs will pass their neuroses on to the Danes. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than the combination of insane anxiety and destructive ability that could be wrapped into a tidy package in the Danes.

When I counted off the floor tiles in the photo and calculated the known width of the ghastly carpet they were spread across, it appears as though they actually have squeezed themselves into less than 16 square feet, but 4x4x4 makes for a dramatic equation.

I maintain that the building of a total house is completely unnecessary. All we really need is the 16 square feet immediately surrounding me.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

An Anniversary and An Obstacle

Time with the krewe seems to slip right through our fingers. I looked at the calendar earlier this week and was astounded to see the 22nd of October approaching.

The 22nd of October marks our un-official one-year anniversary with Azure. After I had deposited her in Northern Missouri on October 20th and turned my car toward home with much relief, it never once occurred to me that I had not seen the last of this little dervish.

Azure’s story is not just her own. It is also the story of her counterpart on the fated dane-train ride to the north, and it has grown to be the story of love and friendship across the miles.

Folks who are familiar with the story know that, a mere 36 hours after I deposited Azure at her Friday night stop on the Dane Train, she returned to us, and her angelic counterpart, Ava, left us to take her place with this forever family. The exchange of leads was tearful on both ends. As the two vehicles departed that roadside drop-off point, one headed north, and the other pointed south, both cars were filled with regret and misgiving.

For nearly a year now, Ava in her northern home and Azure here at the farm each have learned their way through their worlds. Azure has fallen into her routines and has found the structure she needs to make her life stable and sane. Ava has won over the complete allegiance of her “brother,” and made significant inroads with the family cat. By email and through the blogs, we have shared in the growth of our respective families. We had the greatest opportunity to spend time with Ava’s mother at a conference earlier this summer, and an affinity we had developed through the dogs was able to gain traction of its own, personally and professionally.

I cannot explain how it felt to receive the message that suddenly, without explanation, Ava lost the remainder of her residual eyesight a few days ago. Notwithstanding brave pronouncements about life with disability, the notion of moving from Ava’s shadowed world into total darkness was a disconcerting thought. Ava’s mommy had made the statement one time that, when we met in that parking lot in Northern Missouri to trade out dogs, she could tell that Azure would be able to find what she needed with us. Azure does indeed demand a firmer hand, probably a skill set more suited to handling by someone like me instead of the creative, ebullient, loving, sensitive types of people who are inclined to become sign language interpreters.

And now, maybe more than ever, Ava needs the security, creativity, encouragement, patience and support of the people who are the perfect-made-to-order-just-right family for her. As I gaze upon our crazy little dervish, Azure, and picture her springing up from her chair and into action, butt tucked under her and ears laid flat back as she bursts into a full-bore run, and I think of Ava leaning bravely against her mommy, teeth chattering as they step into the darkness together, I am filled with an overwhelming sense that we are all exactly where we belong.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Doggy Door

Here at the trailer, we sport the largest doggy door in the history of the world. It was installed before we began Great Dane rescue, after we had taken in a dog under threat of euthanasia. He was a black lab named Checota, a sweet, amazing lug of a dog, who was one of the most fetching-est dogs I ever met. Checota was jet-black. K. purchased this fabulous glow-in-the-dark ball for us, and when I would take him into the front yard every evening for our workout, the ball was all you could see in the wonderful, peaceful, amazing darkness we enjoy here. I would toss it across the yard and he would come streaking out of the darkness to gather the ball up in his mouth mid-bounce, and come bounding across the yard like an ecstasied “goth” at a Rave. Next to a heavy-bag recommended by a former therapist, that ball, dog, and exercise is some of the most therapeutic time I have spent in my life.

After Checota was gone, the doggy door remained, and it has come in handy as our pack has grown. Unfortunately for us, the pack’s idea of the doggy door’s utility and our ideas about its purpose have occasionally diverged.

As the largest doggy door in production, it measures roughly 15” x 20”. Even at that size, it was nearly too small for our former foster boy, Alistair. The krewe, however, seems to eschew the notion of “too small.”

Among the luxurious accommodations offered here at MisFit Farm is the omnipresence of oversized dog beds. Our average dog bed runs about 40” x 30”. Looking at them strewn across the living room floor, K. remarked the other day that it looked like we had a harem living here.

The krewe seems to be in agreement with K’s assessment and are committed to the deconstruction of this decorating motif, so they have taken to pulling the oversized dog beds out through the oversized dog door into the yard.

As I pulled into the driveway one evening last week, Trinity was majestically perched atop one of the beds out in the yard. Another bed was laying at the opening of a bunker the dogs have trenched out on the west edge of their yard.

Their spatial reasoning must be magnificent. I once endeavored to move a queen-sized mattress with hinges up a very narrow stair well to a second-story bedroom. I had to employ the use of ratchets and pullies. They don’t even have thumbs (thank the heavens).

On occasion we will come home to find a bed wedged in the doggy door. I strongly suspect, however, that this is the case only because we came home too soon and they abandoned the endeavor in favor of gang-rushing the front door to greet us and show off their handiwork.

On the other hand, I came home this evening to find this three-bed pile-up. I summarily decided that after the demise of our current stash of beds, we will upgrade to twin or crib-sized mattresses. Surely those won't fit, with or without hinges or thumbs.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Puppy Kisses

I know conventional wisdom tells us that dog kisses are gross, but at MisFit Farm, we accept them as part of our charm. Kisses are just another delight for the inhabitants of MisFit Farm, and just as our barks are completely distinct, so is our style of kisses.

Skeeter is the queen kisser. Skeeter actually likes it best if you kiss her on her snout. She will offer it up to you to receive kisses; if you do a good enough job, she will return the favor with licks to the chin, cheek, and sometimes hand.

Azure is a committed chin-licker. She prefers to climb up onto your lap with her front legs and offer firm, not-too-wet, concise licks on the chin. I refer to the process with Azure as “tenderizing.”

Emmett isn’t a licker so much. He has this funny way of putting his face right up next to yours and holding it so close, you can feel him breathing on you. Then quickly, he “bumps” his nose and mouth into you. Our neighbor, Steve, finds the whole process hilarious. Steve recounts, "Out of nowhere, a huge blocky head appears, and you are expecting the sloppiest kiss ever in the world." Instead, as long as Emmett hasn’t recently taken a dip in the water bucket (otherwise referred to as a drink), you just get a little love bump. K made the comment the other day that actually, this is probably what it feels like to Emmett when we give him kisses.

Mercy has a similar style of kissing, only she pushes her soft, wrinkly mouth and floppy lips up against the object of her affection. She is also inclined to offer a regimen of “flea biting” behavior as a special sort of flourish for her kisses.

Coffee is the exception to the rule. Among Coffee’s many personality quirks, public displays of affection cannot be counted. Given the rigors of medication regimens, he will hardly eat food out of my hand, always wary of an unsuspected pill. On occasion, however, he will give my hand a little lick, when for some unfathomable reason he is overcome with affection.

I am almost embarrassed to report the number of times Trinity has provided me with the unexpected delight of some in-the-mouth tongue action. Trinity freely offers her affection at the slightest provocation. When she is allowed into the bed, she always expresses her appreciation by offering lots of kisses and flea-bites to the cheek, chin, or any other available part (cover up, kids!). When she is feeling a need to be close and I am feeling a need to wash dishes, she will spread herself out on the kitchen floor with her head on my foot and offer my ankle intermittent kisses.

My sister and I took my nephew to the park one time when he was just under a year old. On our way home from the park, as an homage to a childhood family ritual, Lisa and I took C to Dairy Queen. He was young enough we decided going inside the DQ would be best in the interest of avoiding ice cream carnage across the back seat of my car. It wasn’t until we were inside that we realized C hadn’t ever really had ice cream before. So we decided it would be best to cut his teeth on a hot fudge sundae.

As we had expected, he loved it. He was so enthusiastic about his new treat, he was grinning and grabbing my arm to deliver hugs and kisses to my upper arm all the way back to the car. That is what Trinity kisses are like: an excitement and an acknowledgement of a love so overwhelming, it just seeps out as little kisses – a toe as you walk by, a hand that has fallen off the side of the bed, an open mouth asking K what she would like for dinner, or an elbow on a walk under a sky brilliant with stars.