Tag Archives: dog

Strays

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Dog on Concrete RoadI was on my way home from a festival where I’d sold my handicrafts and shiny rocks. I’d just turned my van into my neighborhood when I saw a dog racing down the street ahead of me.

The people where I live take the county leash law very seriously, and I never see dogs running loose around here. As I drove very slowly behind the dog, I looked around for its person. There were no humans in sight.

I stopped the van and got out. Hey dog! I called. The dog whirled around and looked at me.

Here doggie! I called calmly, and it ran right up to me and let me pet her. What a sweetie!

She wore a collar, so I checked for a tag. She had a county registration tag, but nothing wih a name or phone number on it. She was obviously somebody’s dog and I didn’t want her to get hit by a car on the nearby highway or be torn up by the neighborhood pack of coyotes, so I decided to try to help her find her people.

I opened the van’s side door and moved some things around. As soon as there was space, the dog jumped right in.

I called the office of the place where I live. The manager answered the phone, and I asked her if she knew of anyone whose dog was missing. She said the dog had been running around for a while and other folks had called to notify her.

I’ve got the dog in my van, I told her, then asked if there was a nearby animal shelter where I should take it.

She gave me a phone number, which I called. I talked to a woman whose position I still don’t know. Was she an animal control officer? Was she a local pet rescue volunteer? I still have no idea.

I told the woman on the phone my location and described the dog I’d just ushered into my van. She said other people had called about the dog, whose name was Milly. Her person hadn’t answered his phone earlier, but the woman knew where he lived. (I suppose this information was found via the county registration on the dog’s tag.) The women on the phone gave me the dog’s address, and I said I’d drive Milly home.

As I pulled out onto the main highway, I saw a most unusual sight. Two travelers were walking on the side of the road. The guy had long salt and pepper hair pulled back into a low ponytail, and the woman had dread locks in a neat bun on the top of her head. Each carried a big backpack and held a leash hooked to a big dog. Both wore clothes made drab by long wear and road dirt. These were traveling kids, although I could see in their faces that these folks were well out of their 20s.

Seeing them there was strange because my winter home is truly in the middle of nowhere. It’s 10 miles from the nearest small town, 50 miles from the next small town, and ninety miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. These folks were over 100 miles from the next city in the direction they were headed, with practically nothing but tribal land between their current location and the city. Of course, they could have been headed somewhere on the tribal land; surely there are Native American traveling kids on the highways and backroads of the U.S. Maybe these two were almost home.

In any case, I didn’t have time to stop for them. I was trying to get the stray dog home, and the travelers and I were headed in opposite directions. I decided I’d look for them upon my return and continued on my dog rescue mission.

I found the street where Milly supposedly lived and a mailbox with the correct house number. I had a leash in my van, so I hooked it to Holly’s collar, and we went together to find her people. The houses were laid out in an odd configuration, and I had trouble finding the right one. I knocked on a door without a number and an elderly woman with thin hair and unfortunate eyeliner answered. I politely asked her if this dog was hers. She said it was not. I told her the address I was looking for. She was unsure of the location, but told me where she thought it was.

From inside the house, an unseen man hollered, She’s looking for Marv!

Marve doesn’t have a dog! she called back impatiently.

I thanked her for her help, and Milly and I were on our way.

I drove just a little ways down the street and found the number I was looking for. It was Marv’s house, if the painted rock labeled Marv and Betty was to be believed. Maybe Marv had gotten a dog without alerting the neighbors.

I leashed Milly again, and we walked up to the door. I knocked. The door was opened by an elderly woman I presume was Betty. Like the woman I’d just spoken to, she wore jeans and a sweatshirt, but Betty’s hair was a perfectly white frizzy poof surrounding her head like the nimbus of a saint in a Renaissance painting.

I politely asked her if this was her dog. She said it was not. She said she currently didn’t have any dogs. I explained I’d been given her address as the home of the dog, but she firmly maintained that Milly did not live there. I thanked her and took Milly back to the van.

I called the woman who’d given me the (mis)information about where Milly lived and told her the dog’s person didn’t live where she thought he did. She asked me if I could meet her ten miles away at the animal shelter. I agreed.

When I arrived at the county complex housing the shelter, I leashed Holly yet again and walked over to the entrance. The woman I’d been talking to was waiting for us. She was middle age, blonde, and dressed Saturday afternoon casual. She told me she’d called Milly’s person again, and he’d answered this time.

He’d been drinking, and I woke him up, she told me.

Apparently, when she asked for his address, he couldn’t tell her. Get up and wash your face, she’d told him, and figure out where you live!

I felt bad about leaving Milly in the dark concrete kennel, but she did have the company of a fuzzy white dog named Buddy.

I don’t want anything bad to happen to her here, I told the woman, meaning please don’t euthenize this sweet dog just because her person is a dumbass and lets her run around.

Nothing bad’s going to happen to her here, the woman said. If you leave her running around out there, she might run onto the highway…The woman shuddered and didn’t spell out what might happen if Milly were to run onto the highway. She didn’t need to spell it out; I know cars and animals can be a dangerous combination.

I left Milly, trusting the woman to get her home. I suspected the woman would also give Milly’s person a stern lecture on the dangers of letting her run free.

Gray Concrete Road Beside Brown Mountain during Golden HourI was almost home when I thought about the traveling couple again. I wonder what happened to them, I thought moments before I saw them sitting on the side of the road just past my turn. I purposefully missed the turn and stopped my van near them.

Where in the world are y’all going? I asked as I approached them on foot.

As I suspected he would, the guy named the city 100+ miles away, then asked hopefully, Where are you going?

I live over there, I pointed. I could tell they were disappointed.

We heard there’s a truckstop about a mile down the road, the woman said hopefully. Do you think you could drive us there?

I don’t think it’s a truckstop, I told them. I think it’s just a gas station. But yes, I can drive you there.

They loaded in their packs and their dogs, all the while tickeld that a Grateful Dead rendition of “Scarlet Begonias” was coming through the speaker attached to my phone.

What are y’all doing out here? I asked as soon as the van was rolling.

That’s a long story, the guy said. I’ll let you tell it, he said to the woman.

She kept it short. They were looking to settle down, she said, and they had friends in the nearby small town. They’d come to stay with the friends who had immediately started acting weird, so now they were heading back to the city.

I pulled int the gas station’s parking lot and handed the woman a few bucks. She was very thankful, as was her guy, who lifted his shirt to show me the word “LOVE” amateurishly tattoed high on his stomch. (Yes, that part of the encounter was as awkward as it sounds.)

I briefly toyed with the idea of offering to drive them to the city, but I really didn’t want to make a 200+ mile round trip that overcast afternoon, especially the part where I’d have to come back alone. Besides, they were old enough to have been around the block a time or two. I think they’d been on the road a while and (hopefully) knew how to handle themselves.

They unloaded their packs and their dogs, and they thanked me again before I drove off.

I hope all the strays I picked up that day eventually made it home safely.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dog-on-concrete-road-688835/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-concrete-road-beside-brown-mountain-during-golden-hour-163848/.

Madame

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Madame was a very small dog, although not the smallest I’ve ever met. While she was extremely cute, I didn’t immediately realize she was the traffic-stopping kind of adorable.

The job hadn’t originally involved a dog. The job had started out as a favor, or, more accurately, a mutually beneficial situation. My friend and her family were going away for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I was welcome to stay at their house while they were gone. I was welcome to luxuriate in their heat and their running water and their WiFi and their multitude of television options. In exchange, I’d make sure their cat had food and water and a tolerable litter pan. I wouldn’t have to leave the house for days at a time if I didn’t want to.

I was sitting on my friend’s couch when she got the email that brought Madame into my life. I was working on my blog and my friend was doing her paying job even though it was supposed to be her day off.

What does this woman want? she asked aloud in exasperation.

The woman in question was a former co-worker. My friend said the woman only contacts her when she wants something. This time she wanted my friend to care for her dog while she was out of the country for the holidays.

My friend said her family had kept the dog once years before. She was an old dog, my friend said, and not much trouble.

I’ll be here anyway, I told my friend. If you don’t mind the dog being at your house, I can take care of her. But tell your friend I want $10 a day.

Caring for a dog meant taking it for walks, which meant I couldn’t stay in the house for days at a time. I wanted a little monetary compensation for my trouble.

My friend said the dog had no teeth and ate wet food. I definitely want $10 a day if I have to feed her wet food, I told my friend. Picking up dog feces is bad enough, but a combination of feces and wet food is a lot of grossness to deal with. Yes, if wet food was involved, I definitely wanted monetary compensation.

The dog’s person was a little desperate. No one else she asked had been able to care for the dog, so she contacted my friend. I don’t know what she would have done if I hadn’t been available. I suspect she would have paid a kennel more than $10 a day. I suspect Madame would have been miserable all alone in a tiny cage.

I said I would care for Madame.

I met her on the morning of Christmas Eve. I arrived at my friend’s house early, while she and her family were still packing and preparing for their trip. Finally, they headed off to the airport, and Madame and I were alone.

Madame was a tiny chihuahua, black, although I’d imagined her as tan and looking more like a pug. I don’t know how old she was, but her muzzle was quite grey. She had big chihuahua eyes and big chihuahua ears, and her mouth was a little twisted due to her lack of teeth. She had stick-thin legs and a large pink bow on her collar.

When it came time for our walk, I found her comically thin leash and hooked it to the metal ring on her collar. She walked well on the leash, didn’t pull, altough I’m not sure if I would have noticed if she did. Like most dogs, Madame liked to stop and sniff. Sometimes if I was ready to move on and she wasn’t, she’d plant her feet and give me an ugly look. I could have easily picked her up and whisked her away, but instead I tugged gently on the leash and talked sweetly to her until she came along.

We were almost back to my friend’s house, walking on the sidewalk, when the car stopped in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a busy street, which is probably why the driver felt it was safe to stop, but still. Most people don’t stop their cars in the middle of the street.

That’s the smallest dog I’ve ever seen! the driver called out to me.

She’s pretty small, I agreed.

The driver and the passenger, both women with grey hair, both women who looked quite a bit older than I am, were gushing over Madame’s cuteness.

Is she full grown? the driver asked me.

Oh yes, I said. She’s actually quite elderly.

There were more declarations of cuteness, and I was polite, but I was ready to move on and get back to my limited-time house life.

She’s just so small, the driver said again. And she’s full grown? The driver was having a difficult time believing Madame wasn’t a puppy.

Oh yes, I said. She’s an old lady dog!

I’ve walked cute dogs before, but none of my other charges have ever brought traffic to a halt.

Is this dog cute enough to stop traffic? I took this photo.

Service Dog Fail

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One of my first jobs as a college student was working in the dining hall of the dormitory where I lived. I worked the breakfast shift three days a week and had to report for duty at a morning hour ridiculous to my 18 year-old freshman self.

I had varied duties in the dining hall. I wiped down tables. If a diner failed to clean up after him/herself and left dirty dishes on the table instead of placing them on the conveyor belt that carried items to the bowels of the dish room, I had to clean the mess not of my making. (Such messes were primarily left behind in the smoking area, so I grew to harbor a hatred in my heart for these smokers, many of whom later became my friends when I no longer had a job requiring me to wear a hairnet and clean up their filth.) Other duties included filling straw, napkin, and cereal dispensers and adding orange juice to the machine when the beverage reached critically low levels. I stayed busy.

It was also in my (unwritten) job description to assist students with vision impairments as they went through the serving line. This duty didn’t bother me. I’d spent a summer working at a camp for kids with disabilities. I wasn’t freaked out by people who couldn’t see. I knew I shouldn’t grab the arm of those folks and propel them through the room, but instead let them take my elbow as we slowly walked to their destination.

One of the fellows I saw on my work days was a dapper young Southern student. He always greeted me politely and we chatted as we walked down the long corridor between the entrance and the serving line. He held my elbow while I carried his tray. When we faced the servers, I’d tell him about his breakfast options: grits or oatmeal, pancakes on a good day, greasy sausage or soggy bacon, eggs cooked to order every morning. It was a nice break for me from cleaning up after inconsiderate slobs. It was a nice human connection.

Service dog dog graphicsOne day the Southern gentleman student arrived holding the harness of a service dog. The dog was cute, but I knew I shouldn’t pet it or talk to it while it was working. The student told me I should walk him and the dog through the line so the dog could learn the routine. Once the dog knew where to go, he’d lead the student through the line, and I’d only have to carry the tray. While I didn’t mind the man taking my elbow, I was happy for the additional independence a service dog would bring him.

I began walking with the man and his dog down the corridor to the serving line. It quickly became apparent to me that this dog had not received adequate training. He pulled on the arm holding the harness as he tried to run ahead of us. When we got to the serving line, he dove under the counter after wayward French fries. He master had to keep a firm grip on the harness to keep the dog somewhat under control.

The student was not discouraged. When I saw him two mornings later, he had the harness in hand and the dog was behaving fairly well. I offered my elbow, but the man said the thought the dog could handle leading him. He told me said I only had to carry the tray.

The dog did ok until he got up to the serving line and was distracted by more fallen food. I wondered why a service dog still lunging for tasty ground scores had been turned over to a person who couldn’t see and why the closing dining hall crew wasn’t doing a better job cleaning under the serving line.

The student held onto the harness, and he and the dog and I headed into the large dining room. I followed along with the tray, prepared to carry it to whatever table the man chose. As I watched the human/dog duo navigate the room, I saw the dog run its master right into the empty salad bar. The man didn’t seem to be hurt, but I saw the surprise on his face. I offered my help again, but he said the dog would learn.

I mentally shook my head and thought if I had a service dog that ran me into a large, stationary object, I’d send its ass back wherever it had come from and take my chances on my own.

Image from http://www.picgifs.com/dog-graphics/service-dog/dog-graphics-service-dog-898713-727907/.

Gone

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We were camping alone a river, or maybe it was a stream or a creek. I’ve been unclear on the difference for years. Anyway, we were camping on the bank of a flowing body of water.

This is the flowing body of water next to where we were camping.

Of course, Jerico had his ball. The Man had been tossing it in the direction opposite from the water. The highway was opposite the water, but our campsite was below the road, and there was a driveway area serving as a barrier too. The Man was being careful where he tossed the ball in order to keep Jerico safely in camp.

After he chased and retrieved the ball for a while, Jerico got tired and decided to take a rest on the ground between where The Man and I were sitting. He dropped the ball on the ground there too.

Jerico rested for a while, then got up again and started exploring our campsite. Sometimes when we are out in nature, Jerico can forget about the ball for a while and do regular dog things like sniffing rocks and grass and peeing on trees.

I got up from my chair and went into the van to dig my camera out of my bag. Camera in hand, I walked along the edge of the water, taking photos for future blog posts. As I walked around, I noticed Jerico’s ball was no longer on the ground between the chairs. I figured he had it in his mouth at the moment since sometimes he carries it as he runs around.

I looked over and saw Jerico standing in high green grass at the edge of the water where it makes a turn as it rushes on. The river was still really high from winter snowmelt and spring rain, and it was moving fast. I wouldn’t have felt safe wading out to the middle. Jerico was standing on the edge, looking towards where the water disappeared around the bend. He had a look of concern on his face and no ball in his mouth.

The bend in the river down which Jerico must have watched his ball disappear.

I quickly scanned the area where I’d last seen the ball. Nothing. I looked on the ground all around the camping area. No ball.

I looked over at Jerico. He was looking at me. He glanced back at the water rushing by. He still looked concerned. He also seemed about ready to spring into the current.

I understood in a flash of insight. Jerico had brought the ball over to the water. For some reason only he will ever know (or maybe by accident), he dropped the ball in and watched it float away. Now he was about to jump in after it!

Jerico! No! I called sternly. He looked at me, then back at the water.

I knew if he jumped in, at best we’d have to deal with a cold, wet dog. At worst…well, I didn’t even want to think about it.

Without taking my eyes off the dog, I explained to The Man what I thought had happened. He dropped the ball in the river, I said. He’s about to jump in after it.

Jerico! Come here! The Man commanded.

Jerico looked at The Man, then back at the water. He stared at the water longingly, then slunk over to where The Man and I were.

I thought maybe I was wrong about the ball floating away and maybe it would turn up, but it didn’t. I searched under the bed, hoping a ball had rolled among the plastic tubs and tool boxes stored there, but I didn’t find one. Jerico had to spend the next couple days being a regular dog and not a ball fiend, although he did bring out his stuffed monkey, and we did toss that around a bit for him. I felt a little sorry for him, but the silence of him not bossy barking to get us to throw the ball was a relief. Besides, I didn’t drop the ball in the river; that mistake was on him.

Jerico and his monkey. He loves the monkey, but not nearly as much as he loves the ball.

 

I took the photos in this post.

 

Dirty Dog

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Jerico is a good dog. We’ve been friends from the moment we met at the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous). He jumped up and put his paws on me, which I usually hate, but he was so cute, I didn’t even care.

The Man trained Jerico to protect his camp. One night when we were in the tent on New Mexico BLM lnad, I heard Jerico growl from under the blankets. Even though he was completely covered, his dog senses told him someone or something was out there. The Man unzipped the tent’s flap and saw a nonpredetor creature (he wasn’t sure exactly what it was) on a ridge above our camp. We figured we were safe, so we all went to sleep.

Now that Jerico and The Man live with me, the dog considers the van his camp and is very protective of it. The times people have knocked on the van in the night, Jerico’s come flying out of the bed barking and growling at the intruders. When we leave him in the van to go into a store, we know he’s protecting our van home.

What Jerico loves most in the whole world is playing ball. Actually, that is an understantment. It is more

This ball may be more than Jerico can handle.

accurate to say Jerico is a fiend for playing ball. He’s obssessed with playing ball. He wants to play ball every waking moment. I suspect his dreams are filled with playing ball.

Of course, it’s difficult for a dog to play fetch alone, so Jerico needs a human to play with him, He doesn’t care what human plays, and he thinks every human he meets is a potential ball thrower. Any time a new person enters the van, Jerico think the person should be throwing the ball for him.

Jerico barking, trying to get me to throw the ball.

Jerico has a technique for getting someone to play ball. First he brings the ball close to his target. Then he stands there and looks from the ball to the person, back to the ball, then back to the person, rapidly and repeatedly. If the person does not understand his/her role and throw the ball, Jerico begins to bark loudly. You’re so bossy, I tell him often. If the person does not throw the ball, Jerico might pick it up in his mouth and move it closer to his mark. If that doesn’t work, he’ll try the looking, then the barking again.

He’s a master of intention, The Man says of Jerico. He knows eventually the ball will be thrown.

I imagine he’s attempting mind control on the humans. Throw the ball. Throw the ball. Throwtheballthrowtheballthrowtheball, I imagine he thinks until someone does.

If one is sitting and has been able to resit throwing the ball this long, Jerico tries another tactic. He picks up the ball in his mouth and deposits it gently in his target’s lap. He is totally stealthy, and I (and others) usually don’t notice what he’s doing. Suddenly the ball is in my lap or in the bed between where The Man and I are lying, and I never even saw it happen.

Jerico was looking at the ball with intention. He was trying to use mind control to get me to throw it.

When someone finally (finally!) throws the ball, Jerico is all focus. No matter how far anyone throws–or hits with a raquet, as The Man does–the ball, Jerico is going to keep hunting until he finds it.

Be careful where you hit the ball, The Mantold me when we were on New Mexico BLM land. I had started hitting the ball with the raquet too, but my aim wasn’t as good as The Man’s. If it goes into a cactus, he’s not going to stop. He’ll dive right in and end up full of spines. He’d jump off a cliff after that ball.

When we went back to Northern New Mexico, we visited a friend who lives out in the middle of the sage, at least a mile from the nearest neighbor and ten miles from the nearest place to buy a candy bar. It’s a great place for The Man to whack the ball for Jerico, except for the pond.

The Man didn’t mean to send the ball into the pond. I didn’t see it happen, but I suddenly heard The Man yelling No! and Stop! and Don’t! Of course, Jerico didn’t heed any of those commands because he was after the ball.

This is the pond in Northern New Mexico into which Jerico dove after the ball.

By the time I made it over to the pond, Jerico was out of it and rolling around in the dirt in an attempt to

Jerico was rolling around in the dirt in an attempt to dry himself.

dry himself. He jumped up and shook, and I saw he was shivering in the cool March morning breeze. He was, of course, filthy.

He cannot get in the van like that! I told The Man.

The Man and I formulated a plan. We lured Jerico back into the pond with the precious ball so the water could rinse the dirt and mud from his body. As soon as he pulled himself out  of the pond, I grabbed his collar so he couln’t roll in the dirt again. The Man had a towel ready to dry him. When water no longer dripped from the dog’s fur, The Man carried him over to an empty, stationary van our friend has on the property. We isolated Jerico in the van (windows open!) where he could shake off the water to his heart’s content and dry out of the wind. When he was dry, we let him out.

Jerico was filthy.

The man promised to be more careful about where he hit the ball, but a couple of months later, he caused a similar–but worse–situation.

We’d spend the night at a truck stop and in the morning, The Man took Jerico to the empty lot next door to play ball. The Man hit the ball down a small hill, and Jerico disappeared from view. He came back–ball in mouth–wet and coated in a slimy, greasy mud. The Man brought the pup back to the van and asked for my help in cleaning him up.

I fetched water in the dishpan we used as Jerico’s water bowl. The Man had to use soap this time to remove the nasty mud. Thank goodness for Dr. Bronner’s Pepermint! The Man soaped Jerico, then I slowly poured water to rinse his fur.

We couldn’t even be mad at Jerico as we cleaned him because The Man knew he would chase that ball into any situation. If a ball’s thrown or whacked or otherwise propelled through the air, Jerico is going to go after it.  The humans have to be carful of where they send the ball, or they’re going to end up with a dirty dog.

Jerico is quite the handsome dog when he is clean.

I took all the photos in htis post.

 

(Guest Post) How to Travel with Your Dog…

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Today’s guest post is from Jenny of Here Pup dog blog (https://www.herepup.com/).

Traveling with a dog is possible, but it can be a huge challenge. However, if you don’t want to leave your furry buddy behind, the best thing that you can do is be prepared for the trip. This is also true if you are planning to dwell in your van, whether it’s full time or part time, or if the situation calls for it, or you want to experience this kind of lifestyle.

One of the first things that you need to do is make sure that there’s enough room for you and your pet in the van. You want your pet to be as comfortable as possible for the long journey ahead. Create a checklist of everything it needs and make sure you get them all packed. Some of the most important items to never miss are your dog’s medications, foods, favorite toy and blanket, leash, and crate.

Don’t forget to bring your dog’s medical record too. Do a research and get the contact information of the vets around the area of the places you are going to so you’ll have someone to call in case of emergency. Plan your route ahead so you’ll known where you can bring your dog for an enjoyable break.

There are more things to consider to make travel with your pet more fun and less troublesome. We prepared this great looking infographics that lists more tips for van dwellers and regular travelers alike who are traveling with dogs.

Be prepared on your journey with your best fur buddy with the help of this guide:

How to Travel with Your Dog without Going Completely Insane

Cats and Dogs

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I’ve been a cat person all my life.

My family had a few dogs during my childhood and adolescence. Though I liked them to greater and lesser degrees, they were all so stinky and slobbery and needy. I preferred the family cats who might sit on my lap, but never put their stinky breath right up in my face.

I was afraid of strange dogs for many years. Although I’d never been bitten, the big teeth and unpredictable ways of dogs made me nervous. I tried to avoid dogs as much as possible.

Then I became the co-owner of a puppy. I guess you could say I was the doggie mama. The relationship with the man ended, and I never saw the pup again, but I’d learned a lot about dogs. Canines don’t scare me any more, although I’m still cautious around strangers. If I want to pet a dog I don’t know, I ask the dog’s person first, and I don’t like any dog’s teeth (or breath!) right up in my face.

yoshi-and-pj

I took this photo of two dogs in my care.

Yes, I recognize the irony of my situation as a house sitter who usually tends to dogs. How did I go from a gal scared of dogs to one who is quite popular with the puppies? Maybe it’s because I’m loving but take no shit. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a free hand with the (dog’s-person-approved) treats.

My theory is that dogs love whomever feeds them. When I sit with dogs, the first day and night are really difficult for the critters. They look sad and a bit confused. They mope around the house. They stare longingly at the door. By the next morning, however, when they figure out I’m going to put food in the bowl and scratch bellies too, they love me. They love me! They’re happy to see me when I return. They follow me with their eyes as I move about the house. If they are accustomed to sleeping in the bed with their people, they sleep in the bed with me. Maybe dogs are fickle. Maybe dogs are opportunists. Maybe dogs simply love easily. In any case, it does make more sense to lick than bite the hand that feeds you.

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Photo of Chiweenie taken by her person

And while love is important, feeding seems to be even more so. I recently met an old friend’s beloved Chiweenie. This dog was rescued off the streets of a major city and is a bit of a ruffian. My friend has done much work to socialize this doggie girl so she  can (usually) go on walks without attacking the ankles of passersby . Despite my friend’s warnings and best intentions, the Chiweenie jumped up and nipped my fingers as I ignored her (as directed) while crossing the threshold into her home. Damn! Apparently she doesn’t know that dogs love me. What won her over was treats, lots and lots of treats, so many treats. I first fed her through the slats of her kennel; soon I was able to feed her more directly, once she was allowed to roam freely about the cabin. In less than an hour, she was lying next to me on the couch, offering her pink hairless belly for rubs. Oh! The power of food!

Despite all this puppy love, I’ll tell you a secret. I prefer cats. It’s true. For one, they’re a lot less trouble. Although I do know a handsome Siamese who perambulates about town on a leash, I’ve never been asked to take a cat for a walk. Although cleaning a litter pan is not a fun chore, I prefer it to picking up squishy dog feces in a little bag which I then must carry around until I find a trash can. Although I am touched to see a dog get all excited when I return to the house, I’d prefer not to have a critter under my feet every time I move. I appreciate the independent nature of cats, their live and let live (and let’s mostly leave each other alone) attitude.

In my house sitting career, I’ve mostly cared for dogs. Maybe because they need more attention, it’s easier to have someone in-house to care for them. Maybe people with cats can more easily believe nothing can go wrong if someone just pops by once a day to feed and water the felines. Dogs just seem to need more supervision, so most of my jobs have been to care for canines.

I am currently house sitting and caring for an elderly cat. Although over twelve years old, this gal is healthy. I don’t have to give her any medications or clean up any unseemly bodily emissions. Mostly she sleeps in a bed on top of a chest of drawers in the main bedroom.

My cat related chores are very few. I clean out the litter pan when it gets gross. I ensure her bowls contain water and dry food at all time. I give her wet food in the mornings and evenings, as she demands by standing in front of her bowls and meowing insistently. When she wants to go outside, I open a door for her. If I close the door behind her on the way out, I let her in again when she demands re-entrance. I make sure she is inside between dusk and dawn. Easy.

The other night, a couple of hours after dark, I peeked into the main bedroom to check on Madame. She was not in her bed! What? I thought I’d made sure she was in the house before I closed up all the doors. Had I really locked the cat out on a cold, damp night?

I opened the back door, stepped out on the deck, and called the cat’s name. No response. I opened the front door, stepped out on the porch and called the cat’s name. No response. I ran back and forth a few times, calling her name and shouting, Here kitty kitty! No response. How had I managed to fail in this very simple task?

I thought maybe she was hiding in some other part of the house. She was not in the kitchen. She was not in the living room. She was not in the guest bedroom where I sleep, nor in the guest bath. I went into the office, not expecting her to be there, and turned on the light. There was Madame, curled up on the satellite TV receiver.

You heard me calling and just sat there? I asked her.

She didn’t even dignify my question with a response.

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I took this photo of the cat currently under my guardianship.

 

The Firefighter and the Dog

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I don’t what official company policy is, but I don’t ask firefighters to pay to park their firetrucks in the parking lot. It seems wrong for me to hassle them for five bucks when they could be called away at any moment to risk their lives to protect people and trees.

On a Sunday afternoon when my shift was almost over, three Forest Service firetrucks pulled in, and I waved them through. Moments later, a county firetruck pulled in, and I thought What the hell, and waved it through too. I’m not going to play firefighter favoritism. Either all firetrucks get in for free or none do. That day it looked like I was going with all.

I’d seen this county firefighter before, but it had been weeks, maybe month, and I don’t think we’d done more than exchange hellos in the past.

I hadn’t even been thinking about the firefighter until a car exiting the parking lot stopped and the driver leaned his head out of the open window. He said, firefighter…something something…let dog out…something…dog ran away…firefighter chasing dog…something something…

I looked at the driver and wondered what in the hell he was talking about, but I just said ok. (I’m trying to learn not to jump up and volunteer to be part of other people’s dramas.)

Some minutes passed, when who should stroll up but the county firefighter with a medium-size dog on a long, green leash. He looped the leash over the iron ranger and told me Fido (not his real name, as far as I know) was going to stay right there. I protested that I’d be off work in thirty minutes and said Fido was not leaving with me. I told the firefighter I live in my van and cannot have a dog. I was a little bit panicked. I can barely take care of myself. No way can I be responsible for a dog.

The firefighter told me the dog’s people were on the trail, and he wouldn’t try to leave the dog with me. He said he wanted to move his firetruck into one of the spots my co-worker and I try to reserve for people with disabilities. I told him fine. Who am I to go against a firefighter in the midst of an official dog rescue?

As he was moving the firetruck, three little Latina girls came up to visit the dog. I told them I didn’t know the dog and didn’t know if it would bite. Really, this dog was super mellow. He seemed to have no plans or desire to bite anybody.

The word had already spread through the parking lot that the dog had been left in the truck by its people. The little girls thought it was really mean of the people to leave such a nice dog in the hot truck. When their dad walked up, the girls told him about Fido’s plight, and they all solemnly agreed they would never leave their dog alone in a hot car.

After the firefighter parked his truck, he filled me in on what had happened. He’d come along and some “concerned citizens” had alerted him to the dog left in the hot camper shell on the back of a pickup. He opened something (I didn’t exactly understand his gestures of explanation), and Fido jumped out and took off running. So the firefighter had to chase Fido down and get him on the leash. (I’m sorry I missed seeing that part of the show.)

The dumb thing about leaving the dog in the hot camper with no water—where he could have died—is that dogs on leashes are allowed on the trail. I don’t know if the long green leash was Fido’s or if it belonged to the firefighter. Maybe Fido’s people had left him behind because they didn’t have a leash for him. (I’ve seen a surprising number of people this summer who have a dog in their vehicle, but no leash for it.) Fido couldn’t have been left behind because he was a nuisance; during the half hour he sat with me, he did not bark once, and he never strained against the leash. Mostly he just lay quietly and looked around.

After he got Fido’s people’s license plate number, the firefighter stood around to see if Fido’s people would show. He said no way was animal control going to come all the way out there, and he said he couldn’t give the people a ticket for leaving Fido in the heat. (I guess writing animal cruelty tickets is out of his jurisdiction.) He did say he was going to ask the sheriff to send the people a ticket through the mail. He also said he wasn’t one to yell, but he was getting more upset at Fido’s people the longer they were gone.

Then the firefighter said he and Fido were going to walk the trail and try to find the dog’s people. Soon after they left, my shift ended. As I was packing my chair and my backpack, a big, blue pickup truck with a camper on the back stopped near where I was standing and the driver (who was firmly middle-age and old enough to know better than to leave an animal in an enclosed space on a hot day) said he’d heard a fireman had his dog. I told the man that the firefighter was looking for him and had walked off with the dog in hopes of finding him.

The man in the blue truck drove off, but was back when I returned from putting my co-worker’s bucket in the storage room. He said he’d gone to the campground next door, but the firefighter and the dog weren’t there. I pointed to the firetruck and told Fido’s man that the firefighter would be back eventually.

Eventually? he asked, as if he just couldn’t believe how he was being inconvenienced.

The man was pacing at the front of the parking lot. I got in my van and made the loop to exit. As I pulled out onto the highway, I saw Fido and the firefighter walking toward Fido’s man.

Now I have a little crush on the firefighter. I don’t much about him other than his name, his profession, and that he likes dogs, but I keep making up little stores about him in my mind. (Hmmmmm, I think little stories like that are called “fantasies.”)

I’d never realized rescuing a dog could make a man so seem sexy.

Wet Dog

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This incident took place several weeks ago, before I moved to my campground, when I was still filling in at the larger campground.

I made it back to the campground on the afternoon of my second day off ten minutes before the snow started. Twenty minutes after the snow started falling, there was a dusting on the ground and on the branches of the trees. After that, the eerie fog rolled in. I turned on my little propane heater and read for a while before going to sleep.

In the morning, the sky stayed grey, and the fog clung to the tops of the tall trees. The air was cold even after the snow melted, and I did my paperwork while sitting close to the heater.

Around three o’clock, I felt like a pretzel with cabin fever after spending hours curled up on myself in the van. I put my jacket on over my uniform (which was on over my long underwear) and went to sweep restrooms.

I was working on the four-plex of vault toilets near the front of the campground. I’d done the two women’s toilets  and had just walked around to the other side to do the men’s. I looked across the small concrete porch to the other side of the building and saw a…creature…looking at me.

The fog had me on edge already, and I didn’t think there were any campers in the campground, so my brain didn’t immediately register the grey, fluffy-headed, pointed-eared creature as “dog.” My brain sort of thought “bear” and sort of though”Ewok,” but mostly thought “SURPRISE!” I yelled, not a full-on blood-curdling scream, but a yell loud enough to alert the dog’s person.

The woman came over. I blamed my edginess on the fog, which was true. I also told her I didn’t realize anyone was in the campground. She said they’d only been there about ten minutes. I complemented her on their tent assembling skill, because their tent was already up.

The woman told me she was there with her husband. They only lived about twenty-five miles away, but it was their anniversary, and they’d decided to go camping to celebrate.

People are different, and thank goodness for that. (One of my dad’s right-on little nuggets of wisdom is If everybody liked the same thing, there wouldn’t be enough to go around.) But if I were having an anniversary, I would not want to spend it in a tent in a wet, muddy, cold, foggy campground. (I’m more the comfy warm bed type.)

I asked her about the dog’s parentage. He was mostly husky, she said, but his father had been part timber wolf. He was a big, grey, handsome, friendly dog. He was running around the otherwise deserted campground, and it was beautiful to see. He was one of those dogs that is just a natural athlete.

He particularly enjoyed running alongside the golf cart as I drove. He ran with me when I went to the group site area to sweep the restrooms there. I could see how wet he was from running through the soggy meadow and moving through the misty air.

I wondered how those people were going to have anniversary sex with a big, wet dog in the tent with them. For the sake of their marriage, I hope he spent the night in the truck.

The fog had me on edge...(This photo by me.)

The fog had me on edge…(This photo by me.)