Archive | May, 2012

The Puppy Thief

22 May

(As in: The Thieving Puppy, Not a Person Who Steals Baby Dogs)

Here’s a short little tale about a cute puppy, an irate owner, an innocent housekeeper, and jumping to conclusions.

Once upon a time, when I was young and working at an animal hospital, a woman came blowing into the office in a tornado of perfume and yelling and puppy paws. “I need help immediately!” she yelled, in the way one does when they think they are the only important person in the room, not in the way one does when they are running into a vet clinic with a sick animal. Hearing her, I walked my teenage self to the front and saw a well-dressed woman holding an adorable Labrador retriever puppy. He was so cute, you wanted to talk to him in baby talk all day long and rub his fuzzy ears because they were sure to feel like silky, palm-sized yellow chicks. And kiss his wet nose. I wanted to kiss his mini-little wet nose.

I can do no wrong. My cuteness trumps all things.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

She looked over at me, gawky and skinny and younger looking than I really was, and dismissed me with: “Not you. I need someone who works here.” Yes, lady, I am just hanging in a vet’s office, offering to help mean women out in the middle of the summer for the fun of it. Actually, I suppose that was what I was basically doing, but that’s not the point.

“I do work here, how can I help you?”

“Fine, here,” she said, leaning over and placing fuzzypuppybuddy in my arms. “He has an upset stomach, or something. Do whatever you need to do with him; I don’t know what’s wrong, but I can’t stay. I’ll come back in an hour; I need to fire my maid for stealing.”

Gratuitous cuteness.

“Wait! What’s your name? What’s his name?!” I yelled after her, but was answered only with the ringing of the bells we had hanging from the door as she stormed out. “Well, hi.” I said to the bundle in my arms. “Your mama is an ass. Sorry. Let me see here.” I walked into an empty exam room and put my cute new friend on the metal table. “You don’t feel so good, huh?” I looked at his tag and learned that my new friend’s name was George, and was happy to see that his owner’s last name and phone number were also on his tag. By now, the vet had come into the room and asked me what was going on. “I’m not sure, Dr. Vet. His owner, Mrs. Rude, just like, threw him at me and said he was sick and that she had to go fire her housekeeper. Or something. Upset stomach.”

“Oh, she is a handful, huh? Always nasty, for no reason.” He told me. He examined little George and found his stomach hard and distended.

“She said we could do whatever we wanted, test-wise.”

Warning: Your brain may explode from cuteness overload if you look too long.

“Well that’s good,” said Dr. Vet, “because he needs x-rays. “ In the x-ray room, we put on our heavy, lead-lined vests and I held little George down while the vet took x-rays of his belly. When we were done, I sat down in a chair with him in my lap and pet while the vet developed the films. A few minutes later, I heard laughing coming from the x-ray room, not something you hear every day in an animal hospital.  “You have got to come in here and see this!” he yelled. I went back out, and there, clear as day, was an x-ray of George’s belly, with two rings in it; one big diamond engagement ring and one plain wedding band.

Apparently, George was not alone in his taste for diamonds, because this is not his x-ray.

“George!” I yelled, looking into the sweet chocolate eyes of the puppy in my arms. “Did you do that?!” He looked up at me innocently and burped. “You have a VERY expensive belly, my friend.” And with that, the vet went to call our thieving puppy’s owner in hopes of saving her from firing her poor, innocent housekeeper for stealing her jewelry. And I enjoyed imaging her reaction when he told her how the jewels were going to come out… suffice it to say, it was the opposite of the way they went in.

And all the characters lived happily ever after, and I liked to think that every time that woman looked at her rings she remembered where they had once been.

Diamond dispenser.

Photos borrowed from: thedogtrainingsecret.com, hightest.com, askspikeonline.com, wedinator.com, thedogsofsf.com

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For the Love of an Asshole Dog

15 May

Oliver was the best dog in the world. He was my best friend, constant companion, and impenetrable bodyguard for years. He was huge and had hair that went down to the floor. He let me put it in a little ponytail on the top of his head, a fountain of tawny fur that would stick straight into the air, mimicking his expressive black ears that turned like weather-vanes towards interesting sounds. He could fetch with the best of them, and held two tennis balls in his mouth at all times when he wasn’t eating or drinking, always ready for someone to play. You could even practice soccer with him; he’d sprint around the yard with me or my brother while we worked our best moves and fake outs, and then he’d dive in and pick up the soccer ball in his mouth. Yes, a regulation-sized soccer ball.

Oliver was a Briard. Which is French for “Awesome Dog.” (This is a fake-Ollie but real Briard.)

I did everything possible with him, and he tolerated me something amazing. He let me use him as a full body pillow while watching television sprawled on the floor with him in front of the T.V. He let me put braids in his fur that then got knotted up and needed a groomer to remove. He ate the green stems of strawberries I fed him (actually the only thing he wouldn’t eat was grapes). And he sat patiently with me when I sold lemonade and pet rocks on the corner (probably scaring away more customers than attracting them). He danced with me, standing on his hind legs with his front “arms” on my shoulders, and he was actually just about the right height.

The Fire Incident (aka Totally My Bad)

I even once lit him on fire with a friend of mine by accident. We were lighting tissues on fire, watching them disappear into a puff of smoke in a second (Great idea, kids! Try this at home! Also: Sorry, Mom & Dad.) We ran out of tissues in my bedroom and got some from the bathroom. Not realizing these were the newfangled kind that had lotion in them, my friend and I lit a tissue and it burned slowly but steadily towards my hand. Panicking, I ran to the bathroom to drop it in the toilet, but Oliver, a herding dog who was always guarding me, followed. My hand got hot as the smoldering tissue got smaller, and I freaked and dropped it and it landed right on Ollie’s back. Whoosh, his fur caught on fire the tiniest bit. My friend and I quickly patted it out, and other than the acrid smell of burnt hair, Ollie was no worse for wear, but still. I lit his fur on fire and he still thought I was the coolest, and he didn’t tell on me. That all said, Ollie did have some asshole-ish tendencies.

The Shining Incident

When I say he protected me, I mean it. And while I loved it, he sure was an asshole to anyone he deemed a threat to me. He was a herding dog and I was his sheep, and no one was going to tell him otherwise. He regularly got between me and my brother, father, or friend if we were joking around or playing a little rough. He barked warnings to strangers in a deep herding dog voice, telling them to back away from his person. Sometimes he got impressively, though somewhat dangerously, protective: just ask the family friend who thought it’d be funny to torment me by whispering “redrum” to tease me after I was scarred for life by The Shining. Oliver, who was upstairs and asleep, somehow heard this and bounded downstairs. He knocked that guy clean off his chair and onto his back on our kitchen floor. Ollie then stood on him, holding him down, barking a ferocious bark in his face until he was pulled off. That’s right; no one could mess with me when Ollie was around. And in case you couldn’t conclude this on your own, The Shining is absolutely horrifying to a ten year old.

I’m 32 and it freaks me out to even look at this.

The Tongue Issues

Then there was his whole choking on his tongue bit. He’d lie on his back, his huge legs splayed every which way, chomping on a tennis ball or sleeping. And then all of a sudden you’d hear the most Chewbaccian noises (noises Chewbacca would make are Chewbaccian. I’ve decided.) that scared everyone in hearing distance. I’d calmly walk over, reach into his huge mouth up to my elbow, and pull his tongue out of his throat. Do I think he was really choking on his tongue? No… but with Ollie you could never be sure, so I stuck my hand in that huge, hot, slimy mouth and helped my boy out whenever needed. I think he did it on purpose just to get me to gross out all my friends by getting shoulder deep in his huge throat.

The ‘You are My Sheep, Little Girl, Get That in Your Head’ Incident

His herding dog tendencies could be a problem also. When I wasn’t doing what he wanted or walking where he wanted to go, he’d bite my ankles in an effort to direct me, or he’d head-butt me behind my knees to knock me on my ass. He also didn’t understand when he couldn’t go places with me. I remember one night when I was walking out the door to go to a sleepover, sleeping bag in hand. Huge Oliver heard the door open and came bounding towards me. He grabbed the hood of my coat and pulled me backwards into the kitchen, far away from the door, and wouldn’t let go of the coat. His little sheep was going nowhere on his watch.

Where’s my person? (Note: this is also an Ollie lookalike, not the original recipe).

The Let’s Go to the Videotape Incident

Then there’s the videotape of the time baby Ollie and I were running around the yard and my dad was trying to get me to train him. Ollie was just a puppy, albeit a large puppy, and he was all over me. He was biting my ankles and legs in quick little painful nips; he was jumping up and accidentally scratching my hands. I didn’t know how to control him, and the tape shows me running and Ollie chasing, ripping my coat, biting my hands, etc. as my dad yells from behind the camera, “Tell him ‘no’! Smack him on the butt!” The video then goes dark, and comes back on a few seconds later. We are now on my deck, with a whimpering me staring into the camera with a shredded winter coat, scratched cheek, bloodied hands, and baby Ollie sitting innocently next to me. “What did you learn today?” my dad asks.

“That it’s not mean to tell him ‘no’ and that I can’t keep him unless he’s trained,” I say through tears. That was the start of Oliver taking two puppy kindergarten courses. He was not a star pupil and had to repeat a grade, but he won for class clown and most popular, by far.

And last, but not least…

The “Don’t Let Go of the Leash” Incident

As I’ve mentioned before, I had my own dog walking business for a few years when I was growing up. I was annoyed that although all of these people trusted me and paid me to walk their dogs, my parents wouldn’t let me walk Oliver alone.

“But I walk big dogs all the time! Maisie is big!” I’d plead.

“Maisie does not weigh more than you do. Oliver does.” My mother would logically and infuriatingly point out. But finally, once Ollie was more trained and I was used to commanding him to listen to me, my parents relented. I was so excited. The last thing my mother said to me on our first solo walk was “Whatever you do, DO NOT LET GO OF HIS LEASH.” Got it. Duh, Mom.

We were doing well, two best friends, sniffing the grass on a pretty spring day, not a care in the world. I chatted to Ollie as we walked, and his intelligent eyes and big, twitchy ears gave the impression that he was listening to every word I had to say. Until he saw a squirrel. A squirrel he needed to herd. He started pulling me, walking fast and then faster. I pulled back, yelling “Heel! Heel, Oliver!” in my most authoritative voice, but he was deaf to my pleas.

The actual asshole-animal of this story. Screw you, Squirrel. Are you trying to get me killed?

As much as I fought it, I had to break into a jog and then a run to keep up with him, screaming “Ollie, STOP!” as I flailed along behind him. But I was not letting go of that leash. He charged on, oblivious to the fact that I was tethered to him. He was getting that damn squirrel. And then the inevitable happened. I tripped. Bam, I face-planted on the grass and was on my stomach before I knew what happened. But I am stubborn and was still holding on to that damn leash. So Ollie, without even breaking pace, pulled me along the grass of neighbors’ pristine yards. I was flat on my stomach with my arms out in front of me, eating grass and dirt and bumping along at full excited-dog speed. I was nothing more than a mild weight to him, and we flew along, me screaming the whole way. It wasn’t until a neighbor came running out towards us that Ollie was distracted enough to stop. I don’t remember much that happened next, other than 1) I think my mom, who had been secretly watching us, came running up and 2) My neighbor, who had happened to look out his window in time to see a little girl being dragged full speed by a massive dog, was laughing so hard he couldn’t stand up straight. “Why didn’t you just let go?” he asked me.

I could write a book about my adventures with Oliver, and maybe one day I will. For now though, I’ll stop here, with the smell of grass and springs past in my mind. Sometimes when I’m falling asleep at night, I think I feel the weight of him across my legs, which was the way he used to sleep with me; my legs under him so he’d wake up if I got out of bed. Those who have known the love of a great animal will understand the relationship Oliver and I had. I cannot imagine having grown up without him, and think of him regularly to this day. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of sharing your life with a loving and infuriating animal, if you can find it in your heart, perhaps you should stop by your local shelter. You never know what shape the best friend you’ll ever have in your life will come in. He might just be covered in fur and choke on his own tongue.

The real Oliver, seeing me off to a dance. That broken arm came from soccer and was not a dog-drag related injury.

Howie the Horse

8 May

Animals are Assholes, Number Six: Howie the Horse

This is not a picture of Howie, but for our purposes, this is what Howie looked like:

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Howie was a handsome, strong horse whom I loved. I drew pictures of him in art class in high school and talked about him so much people thought he was my boyfriend and not a thousand-pound animal. I always insisted that my riding instructor gave me Howie and not any of the other horses for my lessons, even though the others had prettier names, like AngelFire and Sassafras Rose Garden or something equally ridiculous. But Howie was the best jumper there was, and I felt like this riding him:

ImageOver weeks of lessons in the fall and winter, Howie and I flew through the stable’s indoor ring and the jumps we’d take grew increasingly higher and trickier. Once summer rolled around, we moved to the outdoor ring and I endured sunburns and bug bites and horrible heat, just for the thrill of riding that glorious animal. And Howie loved it, too. I was sure I was his favorite rider and he was simply enduring other riders he was forced to carry. We were the best of friends. In my head.

In the outdoor ring, my instructor sat on top of a huge lifeguard stand. He could see my form perfectly from up there, and after spending a few minutes climbing his way up, he spent my lessons barking out orders to me. “Ride closer to the rail!” “You’re posting on the wrong foot!” “You leaned forward too early!” Fun times. But he knew what he was doing and I’d do whatever he told me.  One hot, dry day, Instructor had set up an intricate series of jumps for me and Howie to conquer. We’d do one, then we’d do two in a row, then three, building our way to completing a whole chain of increasingly difficult jumps, including some of those water ones with the cute mini rivers and fake bridges. Here’s where I should note that Howie hated water jumps. No matter whether they were easy or difficult, high or low, if they had water, good luck to you.

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I was not this fancy, but you get the drift.

Howie and I were on fire, clearing the jumps easily and gracefully. Until we came upon the first water jump. Our first time around, he flew toward it and then pulled a fake-left-go-right move and flew around it. He then attempted to act like that never happened and proceeded to head on towards the next jump. I pulled him to a stop as Instructor yelled instructions. “Howie-boy, it’s okay, we got this, buddy,” I whispered in his big, brown ear. We tried again. Second time around, he didn’t even try to fake me out; instead, he sailed over the jump before the water one and then just charged straight to the one after the water jump, effectively ignoring the water jump’s existence. Again, I halted him. “Howie.” I told him. “Stop the bullshit. This. Is. Happening.”

Third try‘s a charm, right? Well, we went for it. Or, I did. Three jumps down and next up, water. And it seemed like Howie was in it to win it. Right before you go over a jump, riders “stand” in their stirrups, heels down, leaning far forward over the horse’s neck. Once you do this, you are committed. Like, married-with-five-babies-never-look-at-anyone-but-your-spouse committed. There is no going back from this position. And Howie, in all his glory, screwed me.

With no warning, he stopped dead directly in front of the jump, and I went FLYING. I flew over the jump, cleared the water part, and landed hard in the dirt on the other side. Oomph. All of the air left my body. I remember slowly looking up to make sure I wasn’t about to be crushed by my traitor equine friend and saw my instructor jump straight from his high up perch to the ground. Oomph again, he hit the ground hard and rolled. He grabbed Howie’s reins somewhat unnecessarily, as the horse was just standing on the other side of the jump looking at me inquisitively as if to say “Hey, how’d you get over there? Weren’t just on my back? I’m hungry,” and passed him off to a stable hand. My breath came rushing back to me and I sat up just as Instructor reached me. “Holy shit, are you okay? That was ROUGH!”

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“Umm, yeah…” I said, dazed and seeing about four of him. “I’m okay. My arm hurts.”

“No shit it does!” he told me cheerfully. Very helpful, Instructor. “That was almost impressive, considering how far you flew.” He checked out my arm and deemed it amazingly unbroken. “Twisted.” he said in that blunt, horse stable way. “Twisted the wrist bad. You scared to get up there again?” he asked while pointing at Howie, who was trying his best to look innocent and not like a Person Tosser.

“Now?” I asked incredulously. “You want me to get back on him now?”

“Well, hell girl, there’s a reason they say you gotta get back on the horse when you fall. And you didn’t even fall, you got thrown like a bale of hay, which is worse. You don’t get on him now, you’re gonna leave, and think about how you could’a died or some shit, and you aren’t gonna come back.” Well, I didn’t want that to happen. So I shakily got back on Howie. I held his reins in my one good hand and we trotted around the ring, avoiding all of the jumps, until my mother came to pick me up.

I dismounted and kissed Howie’s big nose, all forgiven, as Instructor told my mother to take me to the doctor to be sure I didn’t break anything. My mom took me straight there, with me covered in the dry dirt from the ring, and I presented my now very swollen wrist and bruised arm. Now, this was only about a week or two after Sara the Potbellied pig practically ate off my hand. And this was the same doctor who had cleaned and wrapped that wound and given me a tetanus shot. He looked at my arm, spoke to me, and then asked my mom to leave the room. He then proceeded to say, “So, is everything… alright at home?” I realized quickly that the doctor thought I was being abused. And while I appreciate him looking out, what did he think, my parents BIT me and then threw me at a great speed into a dirt pile? I was wearing jodhpurs and riding boots!

“Yes sir, it’s fine, I really was bitten by a pig and then thrown off a horse. My father didn’t beat me or anything.” And though I loved Howie dearly before and after that incident, the fact that I had to explain to a medical professional that my parents had not, in fact, bitten me is why Howie the Horse is an Asshole.

*Pictures borrowed from freewebs.com, sodahead.com, delmarmeadow.com, jarvisinsurance.com*