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.