Saturday, December 24, 2005

Sola Turns Two Today

The Birthday Girl

This evening we celebrated Sola's second birthday. That's right - Tater Tot is the big two on Christmas eve. Our celebration included fluffernutters with the crusts removed, a new stuffed animal toy, and a lovely new collar for Sola.

We fondly recalled our frightening jouney to get Sola; mountain biking, porch roof base jumping, food stalking, eaten walls, ruined carpets, mud baths, yard monster attacks, and more.

We feel love, joy, happiness.

We love you Tater-Tot.
Love you to pieces.

Nigel: May I administer the birthday spanking?
Sola: In your dreams chicken-legs.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Autumn Takes a Bow

Sola dreams of snow.

Winter has set in, the world around us submerged in a frigid ocean of snow and ice. Typical seasonal transitions do not take place in Vermont. Instead, a week of warm sunny days is erased in a flash, replaced with bitter winds and plummeting temperatures. The sun is suddenly distant, the power of its warming rays weakened.

This does not sit well with me. Having lived in numerous parts of the country (all of them South of Vermont) I know what four equal seasons feel like. Vermonters are shorted, experiencing just three seasons, the longest of the three being winter. Cold, hard, dark winter.

Nigel hates winter. Sola loves it. When the garage door opens and the cold hits us, Nigel & Sola demonstrate diametrically opposing reactions. Nigel looks at me and mutters something about Jack Frost and his mother's chosen occupation, which involves the exchange of money for sexual favors.

Sola springs to life, energized by the cold. Having been born and raised in a cold climate, Sola seems to favor winter above all other seasons. She dances through the snow, twisting, turning, diving in. She jumps over snowbanks, weaves through the trees, a powdery smile on her face. She emerges from the field in front of our house completely dusted in snow, looking much like Marion Barry on payday. She watches Nigel tapdance on the basketball court as I coax him toward the yard.

Waxing reminiscent.

This is not an easy task. Nigel has chosen to hold back a few times, acting like he does not need to use "the facilites", only to surprise us with a warm brownie pile in the house an hour later. I remember this as I push and pull him to the yard, begging him to take care of business. If he does oblige me, an interesting ritual ensues. Nigel stops to drop off his passengers, balancing on three (or sometimes just two) legs, wavering, teeth clacking. He looks pissed, even more so when he loses his balance and plants a foot in the stinkbomb he's just left. When he finishes I grab his leg and try to wipe his foot clean for him. He sighs, nonplussed.

Nigel: I hate cold paws, but I would not warm mine this way were my balance better.

Author: We hurry back to the garage, Sola thrilled, Nigel miffed, another winter bathroom trip survived. Before another layer of snow hides the evidence of our journey I look out over the yard, glad to be warm in the house, chuckling at the lone brown pawprint trail that weaves to the house from the arctic landscape surrounding us.

Sola: You're a real charmer Nigel.
Nigel: Come here and let me pat you on the head.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hide the Women, Children and Gourds.

You may need to look away.

Sola did a bad thing. Surprise! Be aware that Mrs. Author takes her holiday decorations seriously. Holiday floormats, seasonal candles and all form of holiday decorations are prepared just so. Mrs. Author takes pride in her decorating as well she should.

Sola cares not for such things. I imagine that Sola opens her eyes with just a few thoughts each morning: eat, drink, be merry. To Sola the world is a giant toybox, like Christmas every day. As we have learned, pumpkins are toys.

We walked out of the garage, all four of us, headed out for a drive. Nigel went about his business as Mrs. Author and I loaded our goods in the truck. A blood-curdling scream broke the silence. As I spun around to investigate the cause of the commotion I watched Sola fly across the yard, victim clenched firmly in her jaws. A cloud of Ravens darkened the sky as she tossed her victim to and fro, breaking the stem clean off of it. Mrs. Author watched silently, her mouth agape. Nigel napped. I swore loudy at Sola, begging her to stop. She ignored me.

Once a dog tastes pumpkin it's all over. Or something like that. Sola refused to drop the pumpkin for some time, just enough to test our patience. We laughed aloud as Nigel observed her, amused and bewildered. She rolled, kicked punched and pushed the pumpkin across the yard to me, hoping I would throw it. When she knew I would not she simply picked it up and ran in circles with it.

As quickly as it began it ended, Sola's curiousity satisfied. The hapless pumpkin was tossed aside as we jumped in the truck and sped off in search of autumn adventures. Sola had reminded us that simple pleasures abound. And that it was well after Thanksgiving, time to ditch the pumpkins and make room for Mrs. Author's Chistmas floormats...

Nigel: Cold blooded!
Sola: need neck brace...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

No Go

Nigel takes to the street.

The Saturday before Halloween was a perfect autumn day. Imagine the most beautiful fall weather - dry, sweet smelling air; a cloudless sky; sun that feels perfect down to your bones. There was no way we could stay in. We set off in the muttmobile in search of any activity that would provide entertainment out of doors.

Our first stop was only two miles from home. An ocean of pumpkins adorned the front yard of a quintessential Vermont farmhouse. We found a parking spot by the barn and walked across the driveway, Nigel and Sola waiting in the truck. We were greeted by Gus, the resident yellow Lab of Conants' Riverside farm. Gus bore a striking resemblace to Sola - dark around the edges, with a moderately blocky head. He rubbed against our legs, and we obliged him with a good scratching.

Gus, keeper of the pumpkins.

We met his human and learned that he was bred in the same rural area (banjos) of Vermont Sola came from. It seemed plausible that Gus and Sola were related, though there was no easy way to confirm this without additional research. We browsed the rows and clusters of pumkins and gourds. Mrs. Author made her selections (with careful consideration, matching gourd colors to our floor mats). We paid for our goods and began the walk back to the truck, Gus on our heels.

Sola came completely unglued at the site of Gus. She yelped, screamed and barked, her tail stirring the air in the truck like a helicopter blade. Nigel retracted to the rearmost corner, covering his ears. Gus perked up at the sound of Sola's pleas for attention. He observed her with a lusty look. We squeezed our way in to the truck, careful to keep them separated. As we pulled on to the highway Sola gave one last rearward look at Gus shrinking away through the back window.

We made our way to Church Street, one of our favorite fair-weather haunts. Crowds of shoppers walked the streets, taking in the air. Nigel and Sola rejoiced, visiting with dogs and humans, smelling fire hydrants, stalking pigeons.

No more than thirty minutes had passed, and Nigel did the unthinkable. He looked at the brick street below him, circled twice and dropped. That was it - he was out of gas. Thirty minutes of excitement and Nigel was ready for a nap. I looked him over for mold. All appeared well. But nothing would stir him from his resting place in the middle of the most popular pedestrian destination in the state. This is a dog that is afraid our cat is going to step on him.

Nigel: A'hem!

Author: So that's about it. There could have been a fun story, but Nigel called a major time out. And that sums up Greyhounds well. They are reserved, polite, and completely unpredictable at times. They are great fun indeed.

Nigel rules.


Sola: He most certainly does.

Nigel: ZZZZzzzzz.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

That's Just WRONG.

Sola likes me. Sola really, really likes me. Now I'm sure you're thinking, "That's a great story. My dog really likes me too." I understand. I'm sure your dog follows you around, wants to be with you wherever you go, is affectionate, and protective. Sola does all of these things. And she does...well, more. What I'm trying to convey (despite my discomfort in doing so) is that Sola likes me the wrong way. The way rednecks like their sisters.

I can already picture some of you running for the phone to call the ASPCA. But take a look at that picture above. If I choose to lie down on the floor, the bed, the couch or even outside in the yard Sola will find me and immediately jump on me. Then the real fun begins. She flattens herself on top of me and begins the all-too-familiar makeout session. At first, her licks are quick, light, good natured. Then her eyes half close as her pace slows, becomes more deliberate. She licks the entire length of my face, slowly, her jaw shaking. She tries with all of her might to force my lips open (she succeeded on one occasion and nearly took out a tonsil. I haven't been right since.) Drool pours out of her, and she literally gets "hot and bothered", panting heavily like she's just been chased by the Yard Monster.

Mrs. Author finds this amusing, laughing as I am molested against my will. I struggle under Sola's weight trying to fight off the tongue slaps that seem to come from everywhere. Sola presses on, undeterred, her panting frantic, her dog food breath hot on my face.

It ends as suddenly as it began. Sola rolls off me and stumbles away, disinterested. Mrs. Author giggles and refers to Sola with a five letter word that rhymes with "floor." I wonder if I'd feel less cheap if someone would just hold me. Nigel cracks one eye and stares at me from the couch, clearly disturbed. Sola sprawls out on the kitchen floor tiles, cooling herself. She lights a cigarette...

The answer is no. I am not crazy. Nigel and Mrs. Author have witnessed this twisted ritual countless times. Time and again I stagger to the bathroom to clean myself, praying that one day a simple game of fetch will satiate Sola. I return to the living room ashamed, and act as though nothing has happened. Nigel guffaws with glee, spared.

It only gets worse. Last week I opened my computer bag at work and found this:

Chills ran down my spine. I kept this to myself - surely Mrs. Author would take offense at such blatant gestures. I shredded the letter and threw it away. I made the drive home in silence, radio off, brain churning. I walked directly to the junk drawer and flung it open...and gasped. Stuck to a pen in the front of the drawer - yellow dog hair. Sola watched me, a telling ink stain on her right forepaw. I quickly closed the drawer and tried to forget the day and all that had happened...

It was not long before another, even more disturbing event took place. I was in the living room, listening to smoky, sultry jazz music, the lights turned down. Nigel was (as always) passed out on the couch like a crystal meth junkie. Mrs. Author was taking a bath. I thought I heard the junk drawer rattle at one point, but attributed it to a heavy bass note in the song I was listening to. I reached over to pick up my drink...and screamed. Another note, crudely scratched on a piece of scrap paper, stared at me from the table:

I sprung from my chair terrified, turning the music down and the lights up. Nigel continued to slobber on himself, unaware. I snatched the letter from the table and immediately buried it in the bottom of the trash can. I turned and- there was Sola, standing behind me, panting, unmoving, a disturbing look on her face. I threw her a chewie to distract her, and opened the freezer, palms sweating, heart pounding. My hands shook as I worked an ice cube out of its tray and pressed it to my forehead. A few deep breaths later I convinced myself I had imagined it. I dried my forehead, and fell in to bed, exhausted. Sola jumped on the bed and slept beside me, between Mrs. Author and I.

A few days passed without incident. I was careful not to lie on my back in Sola's presence. Busy with work and writing, I actually forgot about the disturbing events that had transpired. I let my guard down. Then yesterday morning, I kissed Mrs. Author, scooped up my computer bag, said goodbye to Nigel & Sola, picked up my car keys...and froze. Hidden under my car keys was another note:

My breath escaped me in a series of coughs and hacks. I crumpled the letter and stuffed it in my pocket, dumbfounded. I walked outside and looked under Mrs. Author's SUV. No brake fluid. I went back in to the garage and placed all of my tools on shelves that I knew Sola could not reach. I started my car and slowly pulled out of the driveway. I cast a glance at the window and there was Sola, her gaze focused on me, unwavering. I goosed the accelerator and made haste, seeking refuge in the familiar duties of my job.

Mrs. Author called me to let me know she had arrived at work safely. I settled in to my desk chair, sipping coffee, reading e-mail. The phone rang, I answered, and my blood went cold. My brain just registered the fact that the number on caller ID was our home number as I heard slow, pronounced panting on the other end of the phone line...

Somebody please help me.

Nigel: No Means NO...
Sola: Does this fur make my butt look big?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Greyhound Reunion; Williston, VT

Note: Many thanks to the Greyhound owners who allowed me to snap pics. I must admit, I'm terrible at remembering names. My brain is a bit cramped; had I remembered your dog's name, it's quite possible I'd have forgotten the way home. PLEASE leave a comment below, or e-mail me (look in my profile) your dog's name(s) and identify the pic for me. I'll post below the picture. Katie was remembered because she nearly took out Sola and I when we approached her blanket. Hey, the girl likes her blanket...that's quite alright.
Katie; Defender of the Blanket.

Attendees of today's Greyhound Rescue of Vermont annual reunion enjoyed wonderful fall weather and a great turnout. Nigel, Mrs. Author, Sola and I wound our way through the crowd and visited with as many dogs and humans as we could in the short time we had to attend. It was a great pleasure.

Interesting Greyhound fact: Greyhounds shake, rattle & roll. The cause: excitement for some, nervousness for others. Not all Greyhounds do it, but chances are yours does...

Now I don't want to say Greyhounds are high-strung. In fact, the inverse is true. See here:
But throw a few dozen Greyhounds together and the excitement level gets the best of them. There were Greyhounds a shakin' everywhere. The ruckus of claws clickety-clacking on concrete sounded like typing contest. Greyhounds, both caffeinated (excitable) and decaf vibrated their way around the parking, never lifting their feet.

Sola: It looked like a gigantic air hockey table.

Author: Indeed it did. The USGS registered a low level, long term seismic event centered in Williston today. After further investigation, it was revealed that the Greyhound reunion was the culprit.

But it was their day, and they reveled in it. Tails swept the air, people mingled. Vendors displayed their wares. The doggy handshake occurred everywhere. Come to think of it, I've not seen such snout-to-posterior activity since I brown-nosed my way to a promotion in 1998.

Another interesting fact: Greyhounds have sensitive digestive systems. When overexcited this results in a case of "the vapors."

Sola: You could have warned me. The place smelled like someone was stirring up a big batch of hard boiled eggs and broccoli.

Nigel: Hey!

Author: It's true. There was some wind breakage. Seagulls fell from the sky, event tents wavered on their poles, traffic was rerouted. Mrs. Author's hairstlye collapsed. I chewed gum frantically, for fear that my teeth were turning brown.

Silliness aside, kudos to GRV for the great event, and to those who attended. It was fun for all, a true celebration. Sorry if we missed you, but there's always next year...

Sola: Bunch of skinny dogs. I swear I felt like Sally Struthers in one of those "Save the Children" commercials.

Nigel: Badonkadonk!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sola: Origins of.

Sola, just before the flood.

Note: None of the names of those mentioned in this story have been changed in order to protect their privacy.

Of late, I've received inquiries from readers regarding Sola's origins. Some of the details are not known to us, but I'll give it my best shot.

We learned in April of 2004 (by word of mouth) of a three month old yellow Labrador Retriever, sitting in a cage on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We don't like cages. I tracked down the owner by phone, requested directions from her, and Mrs. Author, Nigel and I made the two hour drive to the aforementioned farm. Our journey took us from interstate to two lane blacktop, eventually leading to a dirt road winding away from civilization, drawing us nearer to one of the most bizarre spectacles I've witnessed.

We wound our way up a steep dirt driveway, and upon cresting the hill found ourselves at what appeared to be a typical Vermont farm, perched atop a cold windswept mountain. Two lovely yellow Labs greeted us as we stepped out of our dusty SUV. They were rather amicable, approaching for a scratch, retreating to guide us toward the farmhouse...coming back again for another rub. We knocked on the door, and there she was.

No, not Sola. Bernice.

Bernice (the farmer's wife) met us at the door and invited us to come in. We wiped our shoes in the mudroom, hung our coats, and walked directly in to...the 1960's. Faux wood wall panels surrounded us, our feet cushioned by grass-green shag carpet. Gold flecked counter tops drew our attention to the kitchen. Gaudy, gold filigree framed flea market quality artwork in the living room screamed out for attention. This was full-on, no holds barred tacky of the sort that makes my mannequin wielding neighbor look like Martha Stewart.

Only two items betrayed the 60's decor theme. The first was a dusty computer perched on a hideous desk in the corner; the other: the terrific hairstyle Bernice was modeling. It was perfectly preserved from 1983, frosting included. And it was big. As we sat down to speak with her I was fairly sure I heard Culture Club music emanating from her hair. She lit the longest, thinnest cigarette I have ever seen, struggling to draw a drag from it. Wrinkles around her mouth suggested that she had planted a straw in the ground and spent the last ten years trying to suck her way to China.

Bernice told us her version of Sola's story. According to her, the lovely pair of Labs that greeted us upon our arrival were the parents of the puppy that she had "out back." This comforted us; our experience with them was very positive. They were good natured, bright-eyed, hardy farm stock Labs. According to Bernice, the pup she had was one of a litter of fifteen, and she'd been unsuccessful at finding a home for this last little one. We were also assured that the pup had spent much time in the house and was completely housebroken.

Sola: Total lie.

Author: Our interest piqued, we asked if we could have a visit with the little one. Bernice led us out back to a solitary pen containing one round, lonely little female Lab. We took her out, picked her up, cooed and caressed her. She snuggled in close, kissing Mrs. Author. It was evident that she was starved for attention, and did not want to leave the warmth of our arms to return to solitary confinement. She never had to: we were sold.

Back in the funhouse, we chatted with Bernice while she prepared all pertinent paperwork. I stood at the kitchen sink, staring out the window in an attempt to avoid coming down with a headache from the glare of Bernice's press-on nails. A Buffalo wandered by in the pasture. I mentioned this to Mrs. Author, who joined me for a look. Bernice explained that they had been raising "buffaloes" for a few years, and that they were quite tasty. She then had us review the papers for the puppy we were taking home.

The papers were unfamiliar to me, issued by the CKC, or Continental Kennel Club. I asked Bernice why she did not register her pups with the AKC. Major mistake. She turned three shades of purple and went on a ten minute rant about "them AKC people." It was explained to us that the AKC had issued a ten year suspension to Bernice (and her hair) for not reporting the deaths of puppies from the litters she bred. We understood that some puppies do not survive, but Bernice felt it necessary to tell us that some of the pups wandered in to the pasture and were kicked by the "buffaloes."

Mrs. Author and I exchanged glances, horrified. A quick visual scan of the walls confirmed my suspicions: no Harvard degree to be found. Instead, Elvis stared back at me from his velvet canvas, and even he had a look on his face that said "Get me the hell outa here bubba." We thanked Bernice, grabbed our paperwork and ran for the truck. The farmer waved to us as we peeled out of the driveway, pedal to the floor, Sola in Mrs. Author's arms.

We made the trip home in record time. Sola (we had decided on the name prior to meeting her) never showed any sign of distress at having to leave the farm or her parents behind. We found this odd, but assumed that she was tired. In retrospect, I think she was happy to escape Bernice, her hair, and the buffaloes.

Once inside we stripped off our winter clothes (April in Vermont is still winter) and let Sola explore the house, with Nigel close behind, observing her every move. And then the floodgates opened. In her first twenty-four hours with us Sola urinated in our house no less than twenty-three times, just shy of a one whiz per hour average. She did not miss the 24/24 mark for lack of effort, but was instead waylaid by a one hour nap.

Sola: I told you Bernice lied.

Author: We were very much aware of that, thank you very much. The next hours, days and weeks were spent swearing, screaming, and jumping up and down on bunched up paper towels in every room of the house. Nigel stayed on the couch, safe from the flood waters. Bags of trash surrounded us, overflowing with yellow paper towels and empty wrappers.

Did we lose it at times? Hell yes we did. There were days that I would have paid every dime I could scrounge out of the cars and couches to have someone haul Sola away. Truth be told, we came close one day. But Mrs. Author and I are not quitters when it comes to critters. Weeks and months passed, Sola slowly gained bladder control, Nigel eventually took off his life preserver. The sun came out, and the carpets dried. We stopped torturing our Bernice voodoo doll.

Would I change anything if I had a chance to go back in time? I would have loved to have snapped some pics of the funhouse, the hair, the buffaloes. But I would not give up Sola for the world. She flooded the house, ate furniture (more on that in another post), and chewed on Nigel relentlessly. She tested our patience beyond reason. She also brought Mrs. Author and I together as parents, eventually made peace with and befriended Nigel, and she stole my heart.

I wouldn't trade Sola for all of the tea in China, which may very well be lodged in Bernice's straw as I type this.

Sola: Could you give me another bath? I want to make sure you washed all of the tacky off me.
Nigel: It's gonna take more than soap and water...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ignorance Personified

I hate to post this. Perhaps you've seen it, perhaps not. If anything, it certainly reinforces the immediate need for contributions to animal advocacy and rescue efforts in Louisiana and surrounding areas.

Acts of merciless ignorance should never go unchecked.

This is both graphic and heartbreaking:

There is a current online petition that specifically addresses the issue:

While I'm not certain of the eventual efficacy of this petition, it's a ten second effort to put your name on the list. Please do.


**Update 9-21-05**

Excerpt from

"On behalf of concerned citizens, ASPCA Public Information coordinator Luiza Grunebaum contacted the office of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to inquire about the dog shootings that took place in St. Bernard's Parish. According to a governor's aide, the shootings occurred under the orders of Sgt. Mike Minton, the sheriff, who "took this upon himself." Grunebaum was told the shootings have ceased, and Sgt. Minton faces disciplinary charges as a result of his directive."

Took it upon himself.

Another site mentioned possible animal cruelty charges, though I've not been able to verify that.

Looks like the cretins have had their party busted. Good riddance. Put your name on the petition anyway, as a matter of principle.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescue Efforts

Please take the time to visit this site:

Read it all, take it in, and give.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Do you want to go for a RIDE!?

Dog Mobile

I hate to admit it, but I love four letter words. In that regard I’ve been a bad influence on Mrs. Author. Every day occurrences like stubbed toes, rain, or a trip to the mudstream cause eruptions of obscenities that make our home sound like a truckstop. The dogs seem no worse for the wear.

There is one four letter word in particular that can immediately cause a dog’s brain to short-circuit. Ride. It seems innocent enough. We humans may use it freely among ourselves with little or no cause for concern. But accidentally use that word in conversation around Nigel & Sola and the world as you know it will change before your eyes. Tables are overturned, claws rip at the carpeting, the cat flattens itself in a corner. Sola leaps with joy, easily rising to the level of my face. Nigel pops wheelies and screams like a schoolgirl who’s just discovered a snake in her lunchbox.

I firmly believe that when I speak the magic word, car keys in hand, I am transformed. The dogs suddenly see me as a gigantic peanut butter covered hotdog with squirrels running all over me juggling tennis balls. They cannot help but go completely and utterly bonkers.

To a dog, ride is the great word of promise. For Nigel & Sola it might mean a run in the dog park, a walk on Church Street, or maybe a trip to Al’s for a little scoop of ice cream. Walks along the shores of Lake Champlain soothe them. They are very much aware that the car is the key to all of these experiences.

Each and every weekend the word is spoken. We drive, walk, visit, experience. We eat together, crank music with the windows down, and Sola barks at each passing car with a canine occupant on board. New smells, new people, new dogs, new places abound. We take all of this in together, as a family. And we’re all better for it.

Nigel: I do not scream like a schoolgirl.
Sola: Who cares Nigel, help me catch those squirrels!
Cat: I hate that word…

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mardi Gras, or something like it.

Sola Rules at Mardi Gras
Note: I should have posted this months ago, but time escapes me.
Interesting fact about Sola – she has eleven nipples. And each one tastes different.
Ok,I made that part up.
Not ten, twelve, or fourteen nipples. Eleven. I’ve looked everywhere and cannot find the stray. Once I felt a bump on her ear and became excited. It turned out to be a bug bite. So I have resigned myself to the odd number.
It’s sad to think that we might not see the real Mardi Gras again for quite some time. We do have our own lame/cute version of Mardi Gras in Vermont, however. In February, when full brain chill has set in, Burlington is deluged with residents of surrounding counties, each vying for a good spot to watch our Mardi Gras parade. To the outside world it’s probable that we look kooky. Thousands of us line the streets, frostbitten, senses dulled by the cold.
And then we go bonkers. A parade begins, and floats of differing shapes, colors and themes make their way up Church Street. Beads and candy fly from the floats at a furious pace. Eyes are poked out by Tootsie Rolls, beads adorn the trees, and the onlookers jump and scream for attention to have a trinket thrown their way. Sola and I assume the position.
The other frozen spectators gasp as I hoist Sola above my head. They watch dumbfounded as beads and candy rain down on her. It only makes sense. To the float pitchers Sola stands out, a beautiful blonde hovering above the crowd, with eleven cold-weather-stimulated pencil erasers pointing to the sky. She flashes with glee as bling and sweets bounce off us. Children surround us to catch our scraps.
And then it’s over.
I’ve never timed the parade, but I doubt that it lasts an hour. The streets empty as Sola, Mrs. Author and I struggle under the weight of our treasure. We are greeted with the angry stares of those carrying little. Laughter erupts among us, and we are certain that next year’s parade will bring us another victory.
Yes, Sola might be missing a nipple, but I love her just the same. She’s my Mardi Gras ringer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish assembling my bead curtain…
Nigel: Odd number of nipples for an odd dog.
Sola: Knock it off Nigel. You want me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Nigel Winds Up

Most folks know little about Greyhounds. And if I meet those folks when we’re out and about with Nigel, I inevitably hear the same question. “Do you have to walk your Greyhound eight miles a day?”, or “Do you have to let him run three times a day?” Nigel often pauses to study the inquisitor. And pauses…and pauses…

Anyone who lives with a Greyhound is laughing while reading this. Because we hold a great secret. Truth be told, we can’t help but tell the world that secret each time we have the opportunity to do so. But it takes time for news to travel, so I’ll share the secret with the uninitiated.
Greyhounds are the laziest breathing beings on the planet.
Give your brain a minute with that. Cast aside preconceived notions about the Tortise, the Snail, the Three Toed Sloth. Aside from top speed and a higher cuddle factor, the Greyhound places last.
Greyhounds like to sleep. They like to sleep more than anything. And they will sleep fourteen to eighteen hours a day if you don’t stop them. If you know Greyhounds, you know there is one place that is like a crackhouse for them: the couch. This is where Nigel passes most of his time - inanimate, to the extent that sometimes I’ll pause at the couch to take his pulse. There have been days when I considered dusting him off. Most days, Nigel moves with the speed and purpose of FEMA. On any given evening you’ll find him slouched over Mrs. Author on the couch, drooling like a drunk.

Facts about Nigel:
  1. If we spend a day away from home, and he’s on his feet too long, he’ll start looking for a couch.
  2. He loves the couch so much that Mrs. Author can vacuum him with attachments and he will not move. (Do that to Sola and she might actually explode.)
  3. If we spend a day in the city, I can pick him up (all seventy pounds of him) and sit down on a park bench with him in my lap. And he will sleep.
  4. He chases nothing.
  5. It is often the case that only two things might have the power to get him off the couch; treats, or the promise of a walk.
  6. He hates tacky Yard Monsters.
So most folks think Greyhounds are wild, strung-out Mexican Jumping Beans, and the opposite is true. They are incredibly easy to live with. They are usually calm, perceptive, and intuitive. They are gentle beyond explanation.
The other question I hear most is, “Are they smart?” This is an interesting question. Check the dog breed intelligence chart and they’re nowhere near the top. But Greyhounds were bred to do one thing and to do it well; chase the life out of anything small that moves quickly. Commands like sit, lie down, shake – these would be useless to the ancient Egyptians that bred them, or the owner of a racing dog. With patience, you might train a Greyhound to do some of these tricks, but you will be fully aware it is not terribly enthusiastic about “giving you five.”
So are they smart? Yes, I believe they are. See this previous post:
True, if you drop Nigel in a room full of well-trained Border Collies he’ll come off looking like George W. Bush at a Mensa meeting. That’s quite ok, we both know better. I’m just happy that he adheres to numbers 4 and 6 above. No shin splints for me…no rest for the Yard Monsters.

Nigel: Excuse me, but I’m certainly more intelligent than that George guy.
Sola: My tail is smarter than that George guy…

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Neighbor is a Dork

My neighbor is one hundred percent dork, and I have irrefutable proof. Want to see it?

I just don't get it.

Ain't she purty? Here is how it started...

*Ring* Ring*
Author: "Hello?"
Neighbor: "Dude, I made a really frivolous purchase today. You'll see it when you get home."
Author: "Ok."
Neighbor: "I have a date coming over later. Gotta run"

And see it we did. Propped up in the side yard for all to see. Basking in the sunlight of what would have been an otherwise beautiful summer day was a dinged up, flat-out creepy looking department store mannequin. I approached it and paused, my jaw agape. My neighbor walked over to join me. After some thirty seconds of silence passed, I looked at him and remarked, "So many things come to mind that I am speechless." He laughed. I went inside.

Mrs. Author was not amused. She believed that we were certain to make an appearance on Jerry Springer by default. I pondered the possibility. Curiosity got the best of me.
*Ring* Ring*
Neighbor: "Hello?'
Author: "Just one question. Why?"
Neighbor: "I had to buy it. It was on sale."
Author: "Ok. You're crazy. Bye."

It occurred to me that many bad deeds have been done in the name of "Sale." Every time I open my closet I run the risk of being crushed by a wall of Mrs. Author's sweaters, most of them acquired when they were "on sale." And where I live, there are certain neighborhoods to avoid when cheap beer is discounted.

The day passed without further incident. We avoided looking at the yard. The sun went down. Mr. Neighbor's date arrived. By the sounds of it, there was much merriment. The music was loud, the wine flowed freely. We went to sleep. Mr. Neighbor's date departed at 5 a.m.

I awoke refreshed, having temporarily forgotten the Yard Monster. Once the coffee maker was fired up I grabbed the leash (Sola runs free). We walked across the basketball court and I was suddenly jolted by a symphony of howls and screams. Nigel and Sola leaned forward, hackles in the upright position. And they let her have it. If there were an accurate bark translation device I think I would have heard "Son of a...", and "Your mother is..." or some such language. They wanted her gone, and they made no bones about it.

This pleased me for two reasons. First, Mr. Neighbor chose to plant his new girlfriend right next to the mudstream. Sola wasn't going near it. Second, I was pretty sure Mr. Neighbor had stayed up very late, and was due for a desert-mouth, pots and pans banging in your brain, all day toilet session hangover.

So I praised the dogs with each bark and howl. Nigel strained at the end of the leash, muscles taught, lips curled back in a snarl. He screamed with force. "Good boy, good boy.” I repeated, and he continued to make one hell of a ruckus. As did Sola, barking away, pacing, keeping her distance. I let this go on for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably three minutes.

We all returned to the house. I poured coffee.

Author: "Hello?"
Neighbor: "Well, I guess I deserve to be woken up this way."
Author: "Indeed you do."

All is well again. The Yard Monster no longer protects the yard from the dogs. Sola's blood pressure is down. Nigel's case of the trembles has subsided. Mrs. Author is over her fear of being mentioned on The Blue Collar Comedy Tour. And I am relaxed, assured that no matter what, Nigel and Sola will protect me whenever anything tacky tries to attack.

Nigel: Thank the Lord, the creepy cracker is gone.
Sola: Our neighbor is a dork.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

On a more serious note- EIC, Exercise Induced Collapse

We have discovered that Sola is afflicted with EIC - exercise induced collapse.

EIC is a condition that only affects Labrador Retrievers, and only a small percentage of them. I was fortunate to have studied this condition prior to the onset of EIC in Sola. If you have a Lab, please read this just in case:
You should become familiar with the symptoms, because they often mimic seizure symptoms. It is my hope that you will never need to use the knowledge gained...

This is a completely manageable condition - but it means the end of playing fetch on dry land. Playing fetch in the water seems to be fine, and for that Sola is thankful, as are we. Yesterday Sola spent the majority of the day in our pond, and she is just fine. Nonetheless, she is my kid, so we'll be careful about intense exercise in the future.

I do not expect this to have any impact on her ability to provide me with funny/humiliating/ridiculous writing material for this blog. See the posts below and you'll probably agree.

Comments are welcome - click below any post to leave them. Careful though - too much praise for Sola will go to her head... :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pet Peeves (pun intended)

Sola hates mats. Bath mats, door mats, floor mats. Put a mat somewhere and she enters seek and destroy mode. You always know when Sola has been in a room. Any and all mats that previously occupied space in that room will be:

a.) Scrunched up
b.) Flung from their designated position
c.) Generally disrupted

Upon entering a room, she'll make a quick visual sweep. Once she has locked on to her target she approaches it, her eyes glazed over. I watch in horror, one eye cracked open as she centers herself over her victim. I scream "Get the women and children covered!" as all hell breaks loose. The noise and commotion echo throughout the house as she uses all of her might to attack her foe. Nigel dives for cover in the cracks of the couch, just his nose visible as he struggles to hold his breath until the violence subsides.

And it does, but not before Sola has had her way. She pummels and heaves as withers and flank tense and relax in a fury of motion, carried out with machine-like precision borne from relentless repetition. Mats fly from the room in clouds of smoke like scorched magic carpets. In the forest surrounding our house all living creatures flee. Bomb-warning sirens pierce the air.

The faint clickety-clack of her claws meeting bare floor tells us the great battle is nearly over. She drops to the floor and emits a victory grunt, and we all creep from our hiding places and peer through the dust to survey the damage. And there is Sola, occupying space where an innocent bath mat used to reside. She sleeps and enjoys the spoils of a fight hard-won.

The cleanup begins, and Mrs. Author curses under her breath as she attempts to restore order. Nigel takes a drink of water to ward off stress-induced dehydration. I chuckle to myself, unable to disguise my amusement.

And why am I so amused? Because Mrs. Author loves mats. Bath mats, door mats, floor mats. If someone invented a new type of mat, say...a middle-of-the-floor mat...we would own it in at least three different color-coordinated schemes. Were we to entertain having children (we are NOT, mother) I am certain Matthew would be at the top of the list of boy names. Other people have guest towels; we have guest mats. For years I have searched in vain for a pair of earrings with little dangly bathmats hanging from them.

Each time we relocate I stand back and watched her handiwork. If there is space for any type of mat in a room she will map it out as she strategizes maximum potential coverage. In these times, when she is in the "mat zone", I step aside and let her take care of business. She studies the floor from a few different angles, cranes her neck, crouching at times for a "better feel". She is oblivious to her surroundings. I scoop up the car keys and we're off.

The selection process is a complete mystery to me because I am forbidden to participate. I wait in the car with Sola, watching intently for her reaction. When her hackles rise I look up and sure enough, Mrs. Author emerges from Sprawl*Mart, carrying impossibly large bags stuffed with mats of all shapes and sizes. She has a look of contentment that I have witnessed on only a few occasions: post mat purchases, and the day that I proposed marriage to her. As Mrs. Author nears the car I hogtie Sola before the mats are destroyed en masse. I know this dance all too well.

We are not "officially" moved in until mats have been washed, starched and ironed, placed and christened with fine champagne. What happens next is out of our hands. Sola begins to change. There is no other way to describe it; she just seems a bit off-kilter. The rest of us in the house let out a collective sigh, defeated. Sola and Mrs. Author stare each other down in anticipation...

And on and on it goes. We have yet to understand why mats anger Sola as they do. I have some ideas. Maybe Sola just prefers to lie on the cooler surface of a bare floor. It is a boring conclusion, so I pretend that is not the case. But we did have this Border Collie, Casper (more about Casper in future posts). Casper hated mats. Bath mats, door mats, floor mats. All mats he encountered suffered the same wounds that we have watched Sola inflict. I am convinced that as Sola's eyes cloud over in preparation for battle, Casper has come back from the grave to take possession of her in order to be certain that we shall never coexist peacefully with floor coverings. That might sound a little crazy, but I loved Casper dearly, so I'm sticking with that theory.

Either way, it's still a hoot to observe. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to search eBay for some earrings....

Sola: Good God are you long-winded. Much ado about nothing. I do as the voices tell me.
Nigel: She's a SuperFreak, SuperFreak, she's SuperFreakaaayow.....

WARNING: Mrs. Author's mat affliction has been a well guarded secret for years. If she happens across this post I run the risk of strangulation by my own pillow. Should my posts end with this one, please call 911.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Shades of Grey

This post brought to you by (see previous post) Percocet.

How's it hanging Nigel?

Nigel: It's not. You had me fixed.

Author: Oh yes, sorry about that. That would explain the empty change purse you carry around with you.

Nigel: You are a real hoot.

Author: So anyway, tell me about the beginning - the time before we met.

Nigel: Not much to tell. I was raised with a large group of young, nutty Greyhounds that were a bunch of morons. They fell for the fake rabbit trick. Not me - check my racing record. Click on stats at the top of this page

Author: I see...where did you find that link?

Nigel: Don't be ridiculous; I can't type. You need to lay off the painkillers.

Author: I'm looking at your racing record. You raced seven times in 2003. What an impressive career.

Nigel: Have you noticed how it appeared that I had a "mishap" in almost every race? I planned for an early retirement. The perks of racing life were lost on me. So that's how I ended up here.

Author: We're very glad that you did. And in reviewing your pedigree information, I'm reminded of your racing name. It bears no resemblance to the name we chose for you.

Nigel: Thank Jesus. What were these people thinking? In case they hadn't noticed, a large portion of my coat is black. And they named me Tom Koon.

Author: It gets better. A common practice is to take a portion of a Greyhound's racing name and use it. My previous Greyhounds were (racing names) Thunder Mountain and RC Brennie B. So we went with Thunder and Brennie as their names.

Nigel: So the folks at the Greyhound adoption service abbreviated my name and just called me Koon. What were they thinking?

Author: Hence the name change. I didn't want to stand at the dog park in a large crowd of people shouting, "Come here KOON" to my predominantly black dog. I don't need to be jailed for a hate crime.

Nigel: And I don't think a white hood would suit you. But you did live in Alabama...

Author: I'd rather forget that.

Nigel: So I met a bomb sniffing dog the other day.

Author: Really? That's interesting.

Nigel: I guess you could say that. He seemed way too tense. I asked him what he did. He said, "Well, I search buildings, cars, trains and planes for bombs. If I do a good job and find a bomb I get treats." I almost fell over. He noticed I was looking at him as though he had an extra tail growing out of his forehead and asked me what I did. I replied, "I sleep on the couch about sixteen hours a day. I roll over a few times, go out three or four times. And if I'm lucky Sola will walk by and smooch my parts. Then I get treats."
He cried and ran away.
I can't help but think that bomb sniffers must resent their owners. Imagine if you humans were subjected to that sort of treatment. It's your first day of school, and as you're getting on the bus your parents tell you that one day each week, in order to get your lunch, you have to run across the freeway in L.A. a couple of times. You never know what day it will be, but when you reach for your lunchbox on Thursday you suddenly find yourself being shoved in to that first lane of traffic. You explain to your parents that you'll be happy to skip lunch today. Heck, you'd give it up for a week if they'd let you just go home. But no, you HAVE to eat lunch. And first you play this game of Russian roulette in order to have it.
Something tells me that might make you just a tad crazy. I think I'm content to stay right here thank you.

Author: Glad to hear that. But I have to ask - why the long face?

Nigel: Like I have a choice. There you go being all funny again. I must have missed your special on Comedy Central last weekend.

Author: Point taken.