Friday, December 04, 2009

Something about Emmett

One of the disadvantages of Dane ownership is summed up thusly: floppy lips. More exactly, wet, floppy lips. Wet, floppy lips that can leave an unsuspecting victim of love with a slime coating.
One of the advantages is the belly-laugh shared when standing up from the slobber assault to K's exclamation, "Oh look - hair by 'Something about Mary'!"

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Not the Boss of Me

As hard as it is for a control-freak such as myself to admit, I think we may be losing control of the pack, at least insofar as sleep rituals are concerned.

Although consensus does not exist on the etiology of the issue, I am of the belief trouble began with excessive middle-of-the-night toileting activities. First, dogs were asking to be let out around midnight. Then they added a 2 a.m. outing to the mix. The one thing we do agree on is, they have us on this one. The alternative involves more scrubbing than either of us want to engage in as a first-thing-in-the-morning ritual.

Mercy has since added a 4 a.m. rousting – not for the purpose of going outside. Heavens no, it is cold and dark outside at 4 a.m. Which makes it a perfect time to play squeaky-toy smackdown. Like clockwork, she is up and ker-plomping around the bedroom, snatching up squeaky toys. Contrary to her name, she squeaks them mercilessly, tosses them so she can chase them down and pounce on them with all the grace of a defensive lineman wearing a plaster leg cast. We have tried telling her, “Mercy, go back to bed,” but that directive doesn’t seem to exist in the small pantheon of commands she has chosen to heed.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Presley, who is a very avid communicator. She uses a whine/bark combination, always in an escalating manner, to express her wishes. Obtuse as we are, she has found it necessary to employ this communication method to various tasks throughout the day. If her twice-day feeding ritual is off-schedule, a series of whines moving to short, persistent barks is all it takes to get us back online. When she would like to be released to the front to do her business or investigate the incessant barking from the neighbors’ weenie dogs, we are similarly informed. About two weeks ago, at 9:30 p.m., Presley began doing her whine/dance/bark routine. One of us got up from our position in the living room and walked over to let her out the front door. She stood there with that “stupid human” look in her eyes and did not move to the front door. She slowly sidled toward the bedroom.

K, always the more astute communicator, observed, “I think she is ready to go to bed.” Being the accommodating person I am, and the designated 4 a.m. playmate for Mercy, I acceded to Presley’s wishes and followed her in to the bedroom to get ready for bed. In the ensuing weeks, the 9:30 p.m. bedtime call has slowly inched itself earlier and earlier, so the dancing toward the bedroom and barking begins around 9:00 p.m. these days. I was remarking that 9:00 was a little early for even me, when K pointed out it isn’t if one is to be getting up every day at 4 a.m. As usual, she has a point.

A few days ago, when I followed Mercy out into the dark living room to begin our puppy calisthenics, I noticed a dark lump on the couch. As I crouched down and moved towards it, a single eye rheumy eye opened to return my gaze. Slowly and with a great groan, the pieces fell into place: after she ushers us off to bed each night, Presley assumes a resting place on the basically-no-dog couch and settles in for her beauty sleep.

I could go further and posit that her “plan” has been working insofar as she gets up and moves off the couch before Mercy and I rise for our 4 a.m. playdate, which explains the earlier and earlier calls to bedtime, but that would make her smarter than me and we all know that can’t be true, right?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Toy Story

K was dispatched to pick up dog food the other day, and she came home with a bonus bag stuffed to the brim with toys. She meekly offered up the receipt, sheepishly smiling and pointing out “they were on sale.”

Of course: irrespective of need, the acquisition of more shreddables should be dictated by the sale rack at the local Petco or Petsmart. And of course, I don’t really care one way or another, it’s just part of the complex dance we engage in over the dogs. I say they don’t need treats – their treat is fresh water and predictable twice-daily offerings of high-quality kibble. She says they need pork rolls, greenies ©, pig ears, and Blue Dog Bakery treats. I say the dozen dog beds we have laying around the house are more than enough. She says so-and-so needs a special one in a special spot where he/she likes to rest. I say they should be happy to have each other for playmates and chewthings, and walls to eat for entertainment. She says they need toys.

So the treat jar runneth over, dogs beds fill up any available floor space, and yesterday evening K gleefully unloaded a bag full of Halloween-themed toys, busily presenting them to me, emphasizing their various features, and lined them up on the table. One by one, dogs walked up and gingerly claimed toys for themselves, pulling them off the table as K had removed tags, stickers and other potential hazards. Their new plaything in tow, they each moved to their respective corners, beds and special spots to explore the squeaking feature, chewiness, and tossability of their new playthings.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I concede the point that even if not completely necessary, the toys are well-appreciated by the krewe. They have indiscernible yet distinct preferences in toy selection. Each evening before bed, I dutifully pick up all the toys and place them in the toy basket, and every day the dogs dig through the toy basket, looking for the toy du jour.

And who I am to try to say no to an evening spent thusly:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Plan According to the Underpants Gnomes

I am not a professional communicator. K is, but aside from the bursts of inspiration and pleasant aesthetic she offers to this blogging project, she does not engineer most of the communication found within this forum.

I have a B.A. in English from a fine institution of higher education. I know what makes a good story. I know the requisite component parts and pieces. Which would lead one to wonder why characters appear within this forum, disappear and perhaps re-appear, all without any exposition. Periodically I come to the realization that I have abandoned the use of fundamental storytelling mechanisms, and for no readily identifiable reason. The only reasonable explanation is that I have adopted storytelling in the tradition of the Underpants Gnomes: something happens in the middle here ?????, and then – make profit!

As we left things last, The-dog-formerly-known-as-Princess and Merrick were traded off in a cross-state transaction. The-Dog-Formerly-Known-as-Princess had a potential home on the east side of the state; Merrick was in need of some veterinary care following his miraculous recovery from a brutal case of demodectic mange, and there was a family living close to our island in the GDRO universe who were very interested in adopting him after all health issues were resolved.

Aside from the gore factor, Merrick ’s veterinary care was completed without incident. He was neutered (a must in rescue) and Doc corrected a strange situation with his eyelids that I do not completely understand even to this day. For those with a morbid sense of curiosity, the condition is called Entropion, where the eyelids turn in so hair aggravates the inner eyelids and creates a potential for irritation, infection, etc. . . For about 4 hours – 4 days post-surgery, one would wonder if the cure is worse than the disease. Because this is a rated-PG blog, I will not include the pictures I took of Merrick's bloody dripping eyes. After full recovery, Merrick found his way to a family who wanted a baby boy, and who love him with a fierceness that in other situations may require therapeutic intervention. Another happy ending.

While we were happily cutting-and-pasting Merrick into his final adoptable version, The-Dog-Formerly-Known-as-Princess (hereinafter referred to as Presley) was in the process of alienating her potential adoptive family. Not a week after we left Merrick happily ensconced with his forever family, Presley made her way to catch a Dane-train back across the state of Missouri, and into northeast Kansas to return to MisFit Farm, where she looks likely to spend the rest of her days. Her reputed transgressions have been easily corrected, she seems to be content -- even happy, and her health is fine. We could do worse in inheriting her as our latest perma-fost. She has laid claim to any dog bed closest to where I am presently located, has enlisted the alliance of Mercy to star in the role as her co-Diva, plays a great game of Senior Olympic chase, and dispenses kisses tainted with breath that can only belong to a septuagenarian dog or someone who routinely ingests dirty gym socks soaked in fish-flavored, outdated milk. So, we have another happy ending of sorts, although our census puts us out of the foster business for a while.

Which explains why the pretty little baby with a hunched back, infected mouth and intestinal worm collection, Emma-Smudge, could not remain at MisFit Farm. She was immediately dispatched to GDRO headquarters for follow up x-rays, follow-up care and no small amount of petting, cuddling, playing, and general wonderful living. She has gained five pounds in the ensuing week, has determined that her back is going to be a permanent feature, and otherwise looks to be a perfectly fine little bundle of puppy-joy, ready to be snatched up by some loving family with an aesthetic taste in large dogs that runs toward the burnt-and-bent.

So, rest assured that despite the big question mark in the middle of our comings-and-goings, we have once again managed to muddle through another month of blessings, angst, laughter, tears, ups, downs and in-betweens, to reap the profit of satisfaction in a job well-done, and an abiding sense that every one of us is right where we belong.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Most folks don’t have to spend much time with me to figure out that I have a large appetite. I generally snack my way through most days; even at that I am able to consume large amounts of food at any given mealtime. I am told this is a longstanding characteristic – my childhood is replete with stories of consumption conquests – entire steaks at age 5, an entire large pizza at age 10, all-you-can buffets munched right into financial ruin. There are also the myriad stories of the variety of foodstuffs of which I would partake – as a toddler in a high chair happily munching down a raw green onion or pushing through my first dill pickle, or cow tongue as an appetizer, a taco filling, or a main course.

Folks in the nutrition business or diet industry will readily distinguish the difference between appetite and hunger. Make no mistake, I appreciate the difference and am thankful every day that, notwithstanding my healthy appetite, I do not go hungry.

When you are the littlest puppy in the litter and something terrible has happened to cause your spine to grow into a hump, you are experiencing great discomfort from the foreign object lodged up into your upper gum, you are being nibbled away at by hoards of fleas, and you are teeming with whipworms, hookworms and roundworms, you know hunger. With that wonderful combination, you probably couldn’t eat enough to assuage the hunger, even if you wolfed down canned food in seconds flat, and then stood for another ten minutes licking the smell out of the dog dish.

And you would be a magnificent creature indeed if even though your little belly was concave, and each and every rib could be counted, you still could enjoy the comfort of a soft bed, and had love to share with anyone willing to offer up a lap.

Mostly, we appreciate the work of the dedicated folks who keep a shoestring rescue going notwithstanding the driving, the expense, the late nights and early mornings, and the repeated heartbreak, so we know this baby will never have to know hunger again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Steve the Duck

Never ones to look a gift duck in the mouth, and completely clueless on the subject of how to catch two ducks emancipated into the wilds, we did exactly what was expected of us when the mystery ducks appeared on our pond; we submitted to their presence and incorporated them into our animal care routine. In a riff on our beloved neighbor (who finally acceded that the ducks were escapees from his barn) and without any way to tell them apart, the ducks came to be known collectively as “The Steves.”

After my initial stale-english-muffin assault, the Steves remained at the water’s edge, notwithstanding additional incursions such as dog chasings. They demonstrated an ability to fly, albeit not high or far, in escaping these intrusions, but stubbornly refused to reliquish residency from our pond. I would take feed down and deposit it at the water’s edge, but the Steves kept their distance, and I was never certain my meager offerings were consumed by their intended recipients.

Although they demonstrated the ability to escape chase from our pack, one of the Steves became the victim of some other type of attack, so by mid-Summer, we were down to one Steve. Saddened by the loss of Steve’s companion, but without any alternatives except interia we continued to offer refuge for the remaining Steve, such as it is.

At some point in time, our incorporation of the duck into our routine appears to have crossed a line into assimilation. Maybe the assimilation occurred after the great poultry slaughter of June 2009, as an unlikely alliance designed to ensure Steve’s continuing survival. Maybe this was always the more social of the Steves, now left to freely fraternize with his pasture-mates. As I have readily admitted, we are not well-versed in matters of duck so we are at a loss for any explanation for this interspecial mingling.

All I know is Steve the duck, despite, or perhaps because of, his distinct size disadvantage, has appeared to join our small herd of goats and horse.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ruminations on Regurgitations

We have been asked if we ever think about having children. I won’t lie: we have contemplated the possibility. For now, the dogs provide plenty of instructive opportunities for what parenthood would look like for us.

Late last night or early this morning, one of the dogs began making a retching noise, which eventually turned into the production of regurgitated stomach contents. I have only a vague recollection of the events, as I believe nighttime is a time for rest and repose, not holding back puppy ears and cleaning up the resulting by-product of a grass-eating binger.

I also believe any type of regurgitation is best done away – away from me, away from places where people eat, sleep or nap, away from the indoors, if possible. This means when I am in a state of wakefulness and one of the dogs makes a retching sound, I summarily usher him or her to the outdoors. This generally involves a lot of pushing, running around, arm waving, and I may have been known to shout a bit to expedite the process of moving the gagging dog from the inside of the house to the outside; mostly, I can report this process usually does not work. By the time we make it to the door, stomach contents have been cleared, and all the dogs do is go outside and munch down a thicket of grass, thereby ensuring a repeat of the process at some future point.

I don’t know that I would use this process with a child, but I suspect I might. I remember the first time my nephew got sick as a toddler. When I tried to explain the generally accepted practice of vomiting into the toilet, he looked at me as if I had asked him to bob for apples in the thing. He clearly had no concept of the controlled aspects of the process, and steadfastly refused to project his stomach contents, thereby resulting in a dribbling effect that compounded the difficulty of cleaning.

K, on the other hand, plods patiently behind the dogs, armed with a roll of paper towels, a plastic disposal bag and cleaning solution, mopping up their mess while cooing, “poor baby,” regardless of the time of day or night. I swear she didn’t curse or gag the entire time she cleaned up after Trinity last night. And when I woke up this morning, I found the most unfathomable thing of all: not only had K not sent the heretofore barfing Trinity away, she had allowed her entrĂ©e into the bed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of lightbulbs and jellybeans

Dinner this evening consisted primarily of end-of-the-season corn on the cob. We ate it until we were blissfully full and then blanched the remaining ears to freeze for a winter delight at some later time.

For now, the warm waning days of August and dinnertime banter is more than enough to delight.

K: (interrupting the satisfied crunching and butter slurping with this completely out-of-the-blue question) Why did you want to be a lightbulb when you grew up?

A: I don’t know. Mom said I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. I was just little – maybe 3 or 4. It was just something I said. Why do you ask?

K: Well, I always thought black jelly beans were cool. They were all black and slick-looking -- almost shiny.

A: You wanted to be a black jelly bean when you grew up? Now that’s just ridiculous.

K: No, I didn't want to be a black jelly bean -- I just thought they were cool! And wanting to be a lightbulb wasn’t ridiculous?

A: Hmmmmm. . . nope.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday Dane Swapping

As we were transacting the Dane trade for the second leg of our Dane train early this afternoon, Steve mentions in passing that Merrick expressed an interest in exchanging his aft-SUV position for a fore-SUV position on the ride from St. Louis. Laughing dismissively, we load Presley, who rode completely without incident, perched demurely in the back of the CRV to our rendezvous point in Columbia, into the back of Steve’s vehicle.
Merrick, in the meantime, hops into the back of our car. He rides along quite nicely for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes in the folded down cargo area of the CRV, he slowly moves his front legs onto the folded seat backs.

He responds only minimally to K’s arm-gate block.

He makes a full-fledged move over the seat barrier into the front of the car.

He seems to have a great appreciation for the view out the front windshield.

He aspired to become a hood ornament.

Whereupon, we pull off the road at some random Central Missouri location to re-assess riding arrangements. I had proposed at one point Merrick could ride in the front passenger seat and K could move to the back. K was not in favor of this. We decided on a compromise: flip the back seats up so Merrick could ride on the bench seat instead of on the dashboard or in the cargo area.

He found this gave him a satisfactory view.

And he settled down for a well-earned nap.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What We Keep

It is a point of grave concern that I do not receive proper credit for the things I do NOT say or do.

Because most people are NOT professional communicators, I cannot readily rely on others to recognize those infrequent instances when I have exercised enough self-restraint to NOT say something that is on my mind. It vexes me that this rare revving of my internal editor goes mostly unnoticed. I have worked very hard to remember that the correct response to a disingenuous, “It’s so nice to see you,” is NOT “Well, it is nice to be visible.” It has been almost two weeks since I referred to someone’s mouth as a pie-hole. Not a single solitary person has said to me, “You know I’ve noticed you haven’t told me to shut my pie hole this week. That has been refreshing.” Even after I pointed this oversight out to K, I was met with a thoughtful, although labored silence.

And that time I was gunning the truck, wholly intending to run the Johnson County jerk in a Camry who just gave me the finger off the right shoulder of the road and down into a ditch to perish in an explosive fire ball, no one thanked me for my restraint in allowing a cooler head to prevail and instead righting the vehicle and going on my merry way. Not a single person acknowledged the herculean effort of will required in that instance. Although the rider in my vehicle was laughing nervously, or perhaps hysterically, she never once said, “Hey, good job not committing vehicular homicide.”

So maybe, in trying to help out the Great Dane rescue, we agreed to try fostering a few wayward Danes while they were awaiting the perfect home for adoption. And maybe, we ended up with a few we just weren’t able to let go to anyone else. We are just talking a few – three tops, and at least one of those wouldn’t have been adoptable in any circumstance, but mostly because she was as rash and impulsive as me. And so we earn the hairshirt of “foster failures,” even though I counted up last night and at least twice as many Danes have left here on adoption as have stayed. That’s six, not that anyone’s keeping count.

Monday, July 06, 2009


It is almost rule number one in Dane rescue that no one is ever up-to-date on shots. And failing positive proof otherwise, even if the person handing you the leash says the dog she is relinquishing is up-to-date on shots, the dog is not up-to-date on shots until we make him or her so.

We took The-Dog-Formerly-Known-As-Princess to see Dr. Kevin to bring her up-to-date on shots, to have her tested for heartworms and other less severe worms, to get his general appraisal of her overall health, and to solicit his opinion or intervention with some other items of interest, namely a festering, oozing stye in her left eye, a growth that was large enough to fill the area between the pads on her rear-driver’s side paw, large skin tags strategically located all over her body, and what was hopefully just a fatty deposit the size of a golf ball on her belly. A short 24 hours later, The-Dog-Formerly-Known-As-Princess had emerged from general anesthesia sans stye, skin tags, and fatty deposit, and with bright shiny teeth to boot.

The extreme makeover must have done her a world of good, because since then she has become more and more interested in kibble, and more and more concerned about everyone else’s kibble. By the next day, she was feeling good enough to run right out of the protective wrap on her paw, depriving me of the opportunity to use my surgical shears. We are learning to communicate with one another, to the extent both a whine and a single, sharp bark are necessary to rouse us for her middle-of-the night bathroom outing.

So, now that we are up-to-date on our shots and feeling our oats, all there is to do is to wait for the absolute-perfect-made-to-order forever family. Until then, we will have to do.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

No Doubt

I was having those last-minute doubts and recriminations – it is one thing to go to visit a friend and meet her family, impose upon them to suffer a major disruption to their schedules and priorities, ask them to entertain you and help you negotiate their city; but it seemed like perhaps a bit much to ask to also provide you with accommodations for the weekend. So, even if out of nothing but a misguided notion of proper manners and genteel upbringing, I felt compelled to ask, “Are you sure you don’t want us to get a hotel?”

But from a hotel, we would have missed the talk and laughter until 2 a.m.

We would not have been able to stumble from our room for early morning snuggles with the MajorDanes.

We would have missed spontaneous outbursts of tug-o-war.

We would have been terribly overdressed for breakfast at Hell’s Kitchen.

No one would have been able to warn us about the teeter-totter crossing.

So in the end, the loving embrace and hospitality of friends won us over, and gave us new reasons to appreciate the joy of the MajorDanes family.

Friday, June 26, 2009


The life expectancy of a Great Dane is 9 – 11 years. Now, some of us see this as a definite mark in the minus categories for owning Danes. For dogs so sweet and so wonderful, it seems like such a short amount of time to share.

Or perhaps you are someone who expects your Dane to live only nine years, and then, well, she’s just marking time at the ripe old age of 9 ½, so you move and leave her behind with enough kibble to last her a couple weeks, as long as she doesn’t eat too much.

Yesterday morning, Princess ate the last 2 cups of the Ol’Roy she had been left.

Yesterday afternoon, freshly washed and coiffed, Princess made her way here to MisFit Farm, which we all expect to be the last move she makes before leaving this mortal coil. While we have an exceptional track record for longevity here at the Farm, we have every expectation Princess will leave us wanting for more time to share.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's Hot in Toe-peek-ah

This only begins to capture how the 109 degree heat index is feeling here in the Toe-peek-ah area.

The dogs have retired to lay on the cool concrete floor in the basement almost permanently. While the rest of the dogs still want to lay on the tops of our feet, when they are not curled up around the cold air register, Emmett can be found routinely sprawled out in the cool recesses of the dog room. When I let the old dogs out the front door for a potty break, they skirt along the front of the house under the covered porch and dance across the hot sidewalk into the yard. They may be goofy, but they sure aren't stupid.

True to form, my girl, Trinity, bucks the trend by following my footsteps as a sun worshipper. While the other dogs duck-dive for a cool spot in the mud under a shade tree while they accompany me for garden work, Trinity stretches out in the sun, her sleek black coat glistening. I come home from work to find her sitting out in the middle of the dog yard, head uplifted as she drinks in the warm summer air. The other dogs offer, at most, a cursory bark from their positions inside the cool confines of their air-conditioned and ceiling fanned room.

I must remember to add to my list of things I betcha didn't know: chickens can (and do) pant. They may be laying their eggs pre-hard-boiled soon. The ducks, still residing at our pond, spend most of their days languishing under the shade of the bridge, venturing out only occasionally to splash tepid pond water onto their backs. The goats and horse find shady spots of their own, take dust baths, and suck down enough water to keep RWD #6 in full employment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If It Quacks Like a Duck . . .

This may come as news to everyone, but I am someone who is relatively routine-bound; maybe not bound so much as routine-dependent. That’s it – routine dependent. Even within the chaos of our lives, which are really pretty unpredictable given the scheduling vagaries of K’s work, my impulsive decisions to do things like join semi-professional athletic teams, and our joint decisions to randomly incorporate large stray dogs into our pack, I manage to build patterns into our daily activities that make me feel grounded, centered, and almost-sane.

I have a very specific routine for the twice-daily care and feeding of the goats, horse, cats and chickens. Note the very specific list: Goats. Horse. Cats. Chickens.

Note the absence of: ducks.

Said absence would be attributable to the lack of domestic ducks here at MisFit Farm. Or perhaps I should say, would have been attributable. On Monday, as I was completing my chores with the goats, horse, cats and chickens, something by the pond caught my attention. I shuffled out to investigate, and found a pair of domestic farm ducks, handily un-camouflaged in snow-white feathers, clambering up the bank from the pond and waddling around the pasture.

We have not had historically good luck with waterfowl here at the Farm. Our annual wild goose-couple were alienated after Azure invaded their nest and consumed their bevy of eggs. Coffee-dog chased a beautiful foursome of Mallard ducks given to us by friends as a pond-warming gift were into the neighbors’ above-ground swimming pool. After these events, I sort of figured were had been labeled locus non grata in the poultry world.

Apparently this pair didn’t get the memo. And so my Monday evening routine came to a screeching halt. I try not to overthink these things. I try not to ask myself if these two have arrived to help us reconcile our be-fowled karma. I like to think of myself as a person of action, not someone mired down in the banality of mindless routine. My first action step was to retrieve some English Muffins I had thrown to the chickens over the weekend and offer them to our visitors. I crumbled and tossed the crumbs to them. When this did not catch their interest, I decided perhaps offering a full muffin half would give them something substantial. Tossing it like a Frisbee, I managed to directly hit one of our guests in the side, resulting in a lot of flapping and quacking. Understandably, they retreated out onto the pond, a safe distance from me, my flying food offerings, and my dead-on aim.

We are not off to a good start.

We are committed to taking action to locate the pair’s rightful owners, but are a bit uncertain how to go about (a) locating the owners, and then (b) the logistics of collecting the ducks for return to their owners. Do we post photos on telephone poles? Buy space on milk cartons? Take out a personal ad in the local paper?

Or do I just adjust the routine to accommodate these additional wards?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dane-love Thomas Style

People who are familiar with Great Danes as a breed know them to be extremely social – a common Dane characteristic is the “lean,” where they relinquish the task of holding their bodies upright to allow their people to support their weight. They are known to help themselves to open laps for sitting, an art form Trinity has taken to new levels as she scrambles into laps open only by virtue of sitting on a toilet at the time. They seek out companionship and attention; even she-who-will-not-be-bothered Mercy will resort to the elbow-nudge when the need to be petted strikes her. It is not uncommon here at the Farm, when trying to move from one room to another, to find oneself held fast in place by a Dane paw that has been placed atop one’s foot. And when one’s foot has been extricated from under the huge paw, one can almost always count on an entourage accompaniment that makes the journey from one room to another take on the air of a furry, squirmy, chaotic parade marched to the beat of multiple large, long tails drumming walls, doorways and furniture and punctuated by a dialogue of, “oh excuse me, didn’t mean to get in the way, guys – oh sh*t – ouch, my leg - watch out – incoming!”

As I was making my way around the house this morning, it occurred to me our foster boy, Thomas, displays all of the typical Dane traits, but he seems to have taken his need for contact one step beyond. He has somehow moved beyond Dane and reached . . . cat? Which is ironic on a number of levels, not the least of which is Thomas has a somewhat checkered history with cats.

For Thomas, padding up for a morning petting session is not enough. He likes to cram his head into you, rubbing his face on any available body surface. Bellies and hips will do, but if you would be so kind as to use both hands to rub the sides of his face, get his ears really good (he lets you know you have hit the right spot by purring with delight, which unlike a cat’s purr has a low, rolling thunder quality), and then scratch down his back.In return for this massage, he will imitate a classic feline maneuver, where they slam the side of their body against you, pushing and twining through your legs. Only in Thomas’ case with the force of a linebacker and the hazardous consequence of knocking you to the ground if caught unawares or left off balance by attempting the audacious move of continuing to prepare for the day. And as cats will sometimes give you a farewell flick with a tail to send you on your way, Thomas’ frenetically wagging tail will offer a final slap on the back of the thighs, butt, or lower back, leaving you with a sting and a welt, but in most cases, no bruising.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Planes and Wheels

I have long maintained if we are open to it, the cosmos will supply us with the things we need. This belief has carried me through pretty well; since becoming involved in the Great Dane rescue, however, the gifts we have received from the cosmos have been tenfold as much as any two people deserve.

It was through the rescue that I found myself speaking on the phone to a complete stranger about two and a half years ago while trying to coordinate an adoption transport. My lines were crossed; this was not the person to whom I would be passing the transported dog. She was in Minnesota. I was in northeast Kansas. This conversation should not have taken place. But thanks to the cosmos, it did. And it planted a seed that took root enough so that when the same woman on the Minnesota end of the line found herself making a reverse-Dane train trek, we were called into action to intercede her.

The cosmos are sneaky that way. You find yourself in the parking lot of some random gas station, tears being shed all around, and it turns out those tears won’t be the last the three of you share. Those tears are watering laughter and adventures you haven’t even realized are taking shape.
From those tears, we have shared flaming desserts, melancholy restaurant hostesses, and indifferent waitstaff in San Francisco. We have had chance encounters in local airports, where we found her dragging around a sound system as carry-on luggage. We have connected over passing canine maladies and permanent characteristics. We have shared stories and pictures and videos, albeit hers are much more well-produced.

And this past weekend, our friend from the Dane exchange in the parking lot, Evonne, winged in from Minnesota. I know from first-hand observation, she has the ability to make every creature feel like he or she is the only one in the room, so a girl can’t be too surprised at the warm reception the kritters here at MisFit Farm gave her. We watched as the people at her workshop each blossomed and basked in the warmth of her energy. It was a marvelous weekend.

Putting her on a plane to return was so difficult, we almost didn’t make it to the gate on time. But rest assured, there will be stories to come of that adventure and many more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One of the most magnificent features here at MisFit Farm is, oddly enough, another something we lack. We lack one of the hallmarks of Western Civilization. We lack the standard by which the quality of most neighborhoods is judged. Well sure, we basically lack neighbors, but more importantly, we lack street lights.

What we lack results in an amazing abundance of dark night sky.
Magnificent is almost big enough to capture how truly amazing the sky is out here. I can step out onto the back deck on a clear night and swim in the swirl and thrum of the galaxy. Orion and Sirius’ watchful gaze stand against the south sky. The big dipper pours over our pond. Cephus and Cassiopeia twirl and dance overhead. The night sky here can be so overwhelming in its expanse and its embrace; I will admit having been brought to tears on occasion.

While the stars create their own light show above, the darkness at ground-level is thick and soupy. Discerning pathways and trees is an exercise in shadow-boxing. No matter how large a silhouette, a black Great Dane can become completely invisible in a dark like this.

We learned this the hard way. Unthinking, we let Thomas out to pee last night and immediately lost him. It is not immediately apparent, but Thomas has only a small white stripe on the underside of his chest. The rest of him: pure black. Black as coal. Black as a shadow. Black as night at MisFit Farm.

We stood on the front porch, calling his name and hoping for the best. Unlike the other boys, he can’t be tracked by the sound of a urine stream, since he has more of a spray/sprinkle effect. Maybe it was only a matter of minutes. When you are holding your breath with only the night sky to witness your stupidity, moments can drag on for an eternity. We heard him before we were able to see him, the jangle of his rabies tag and his toenails clicking on the sidewalk. We could have danced there under the stars, we were so relieved to have his big goofy head bump against us for a pet.
This morning, we re-evaluated his collar selection. We dug through the spare collar bin and found something in a nice reflective red. Not so great for the camera, but a tremendous help in keeping tabs on a big, black boy with a need to frequently wade out into the star-filled night.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Name Game

Among the best things in Great Dane rescue is the “name game.” Most of the dogs who come into any type of rescue are re-named in the process. I am sure the reasons for this are myriad, to greater and lesser degrees of good taste and common sense, but suffice it to say the practice is “industry standard.” Unlike humans, dogs don’t have social security numbers or licenses, so in the case of strays who wander into rescue, the naming process is an exercise of necessity.

Each time a new Dane comes into rescue, an avalanche of e-mail repartee ensues. Although latitude is given to individual foster family preference, the unspoken rule is that KK is the ultimate arbiter of names, if not good taste. Let me add this cautionary note: the name game is not necessarily just about some friendly jockeying for “naming rights.” For some of us, it comes with dire consequences. The right to name, for some, correlates directly to foster failure.

The most obvious example is our boy, Emmett. Having plucked him up quite unexpectedly as I was in the process of relieving ourselves of another foster boy, Emmett was an unanticipated passenger peering from the backseat when I looked into the rearview mirror and commented, “You look like Emmett Kelly with those big, sad eyes.” And so he remains Emmett; and so he remains here at MisFit Farm.

We picked up another boy with big, sad eyes yesterday. Thomas. Tom Tom. Tommy. Thomas-spot. He rides very well in the car. He gets along well with other dogs; if he is not greeted with appropriate ebullience, he is at least indifferent. He is a big boy with droopy jowls that hold drool and water and give his eyes a special kind of character. He is reportedly very good at helping to keep counters cleared. He is a leaner, a groaner, and a cuddler. He is slowly losing his bravado, so we expect he will soon remember to squat and pee instead of lifting his leg and causing a sprinkler effect from his extra pee-hole. He has laid claim to one or two of the dog beds scattered around the house. He has figured out the doggy door; he has discerned K is the soft-touch and I am she-who-will-be-obeyed.

And whether she will admit it or not, I can tell K has been mulling over possible alternative names.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


In case anyone (aside from Amanda) noticed, I did NOT make a New Year’s Resolution to blog more regularly. To be completely honest, I am opposed to making New Year’s Resolutions. When I quit smoking a few years back, I actually decided to quit right around Christmas but continued to smoke for three more weeks to avoid leaving anyone with the impression I had quit as a New Year’s Resolution. Apparently impressions are more important than silly things like breathing.

So I don’t appear to be too concerned about the impression my lack of blogging may have on others, this will not be a real blog entry. These are mostly random thoughts and amusements I have collected across the past few weeks when I have not been blogging.

First: Running through fresh snow with a three-legged dog leaves interesting tracks.

Second: While these leather wipes are totally awesome at cleaning Dane drool off our fancy new couches, they are not suitable replacements for feminine wipes.

Finally: if one were inclined to follow through on a resolution, completely unrelated to any type of calendar event, such as getting oneself into better physical condition, one would find that sit-ups are a complicated matter here at MisFit Farm.