Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Hot Seat

Later that day...

Monday, March 30, 2009


Notes to self:

a. Do NOT come home early from work on a Friday afternoon.
b. Sticks can swim.
c. More to follow.

Notes to all: No other way to put it - Chester and family rule. They gave us a great laugh this weekend, and Truffles has taken notice of a certain handsome chocolate Lab from Pennsylvania.

Sola is back to 100%, and thanks you all for asking about her.

Mrs. Author celebrates a birthday this week. Entries will be short, because the greatest gift we share is time.

Let me know if you spot Mr. Stick. I have plans for him.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Best Served Cold

Get over it. Take a time out. Don't go to bed angry. Take deep breaths. Don't bear grudges.

By the time we are old enough to read, we have heard it so many ways, and in so many words - don't retain anger. Not bad advice at all. Anger is toxic. It raises our blood pressure, speeds the aging process, and causes otherwise ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The term "going postal" was borne from the ultimate expression of anger. The news is loaded with stories of scorned lovers, disputing neighbors, disgruntled coworkers: each committing a more heinous act than the next, all in the name of anger.

Fortunately, this sage advice to choose peace has stayed with me, and I am not one to bear a grudge. Life is too short, time far too valuable to devote to an angered state. This is easier said than done of course. My lack of patience is well known to those around me. I am always in a rush to get somewhere or get something done, and the days are too short for me to accomplish all that I would like. I cut to the heart of the matter in discussions, and some are turned off by my brevity. Yet I am able to control my temper as required, and I think most people would find me agreeable enough. On most days.

I was walking the yard last week - feeling rather agreeable, listening to the river sing its song of spring; water nearing the top of the banks in a torrent of leaves and branches shed by surrounding mountains. Its murky waters spoke to me, and warned of danger ahead. I did not heed that warning, my thoughts consumed with spring projects, my back to the river as I considered a new spot for our garden shed. Once I had that location mentally mapped, I turned to the river and started to walk back across the front of the house, where I was forced to freeze in my tracks.

Son of a bitch, it's Mr. Stick. Not just any stick, but a very special, three hundred dollar stick. The stick that injured Sola, scared us silly and kept me up at night with guilt. The stick that has us hand feeding Sola to this day, soft foods only thank you very much. One little stick, so much joy. My favorite pickup line.

The stick appeared to be frozen, but I managed to dislodge it from the snow with my boot. I dragged it across the yard, my face reddening by the step. An unfamiliar feeling washed over me, a feeling quite unlike any other I had known. After years of turning the other cheek and suppressing my anger, something in me snapped...like a stick. I was glowing hot and muttering jibberish until the gates of hell opened wide to let forth my fury, countless episodes of being Mr. Too Nice Guy fighting their way out of me in a constant stream of obscenities that would make a sailor blush. I was off the rails.

One would expect that in my rage I would have just snapped the stick and been done with it. That would not suffice. I had dedicated hours of work to pay the vet bill; lost countless hours of sleep staying up with Sola, and watched Mrs. Author spend her days stressing out over Sola's condition. We were just putting the incident behind us when d-bag appeared at my feet.

I needed to show my appreciation for Mr. Stick. In my own time, and in my own way. Before I even made it to the house I thought it best to let him hang out in the wood pile with the big boys for a few hours, just to be sure he felt a bit inadequate.

There were still a couple of hours of daylight left when strong wind gusts whipped up and threatened to blow Mr. Stick to freedom. I secured my prisoner.

A nagging sensation told me to bring him in when darkness fell. After all, he was a conniving bastard, and was not to be trusted. I put the truck back in the garage and brought Mr. Stick in to our humble abode. The nearest vase secured him as I paced the kitchen, talking to myself. I laughed hysterically in a brief moment of clarity as it occurred to me what it was that I was doing.

I was exacting revenge. And I was liking it.

After dinner I Chris Brown'd him, my fists pumping with delicious rage. He was looking pretty rough. Not rough enough to prevent me from making him wear a hideous sweater vest, assuring him a spot on at least one worst dressed list.

It was only unnatural that he spend the night in a pair of panties, so he did. I threatened to take pictures and put them on the internet once I had him hung up in the sunporch for all to see.

I had not given proper consideration to what the outside world saw.

The sun rose as I answered complaint calls from neighborhood parents. Mrs. Author realized the error of my ways and ran for Mr. Stick.

*Ring Ring*

Author: "Hello."

Neighbor: "WTF?"

Author: "WTF RU talking about?"

Neighbor: "Window panties freak boy. Take 'em down."

Mrs. Author did. I was far from done.

Many years ago, when Mrs. Author and I were dating and became serious, our CD collections intermingled. I am an ardent music lover, so it took me some time to allow those little jewel boxes to hang with strangers. I flipped through her CD collection, and one particular title grabbed my attention. I quietly pushed it to the bottom of the pile, where it languished in dust and obscurity for years. I remembered that horrid musical selection as Mrs. Author pulled her underwear off Mr. Stick and handed it to me. She stormed out of the living room as I set up our friend for an extended listening session with the stereo blasting Ace of Base.

I don't know about you, but an hour of that crap would have a shotgun looking pretty tasty to me. He endured.

Mrs. Author yelled down the hall to me. "Turn that garbage down!"

Author: "It's your CD. I thought you would like it."

Mrs Author: "I have no idea what you are talking about, or where that came from."

I could feel her blushing from the next room. We were eighties children after all, guilty of supporting some interesting musical movements. I just don't see anything like Cameo making a dollar today, but I digress.

I noticed Mr. Stick running down the hall, away from the truly torturous music pumping from the speakers. The dogs stopped him in his tracks.

Truffles: "Where you headed Woody?"

Sola: "You're momma's so skinny, Nigel wouldn't do her."

Nigel: "Hehe, yeah....hey wait a minute!"

I snatched Mr. Stick from the jaws of death. We had all had enough nineties music torture, so I found a better way to help him pass the time. I selected an uninterrupted showing of Hope Floats - the cinematic equivalent of waterboarding. Even the tagline is vomitous: When life fell apart, love fell into place. I don't know if you've witnessed this gem first hand, but if you do it will remind you of another item that floats. It's a double flusher.

While he squirmed and tried to close his stupid little googly eyes I filed a small claims court suit against him for three hundred dollars, plus an additional thirty five bucks for the filing fees. I shoved the paperwork in the mailbox, raised the flag, and returned to the living room to find Mr. Stick catatonic on the carpet. I was starting to wear on him.

It was time to catch the news, so I let Mr. Stick clear his sinuses hanging at the bottom of the hamper while we settled in for the evening.

I was distracted from the sportscast when I heard him stirring, the hamper smacking the wall as he tried to jump out. I decided it best to tuck, or should I say clamp him in for the evening. I introduced him to our woodstove, latched the door, and turned off the basement lights. He remained silent until 1 A.M., when I woke him by turning all the lights on high and giving a very convincing reading of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathon Edwards. He was speechless.

When I woke the following morning I noticed a slight change. I felt better. The sun shone a bit brighter. I was calming. But not too soon. Sola had made only one request throughout this bizarre process. She had whispered it to me during the Ace of Base debacle. I gladly honored her wishes.

"Make him run around the yard with a stick in his mouth" she'd implored. I was powerless to deny her. He ran all day, and was tripped frequently by a certain Labrador Retriever.

When I was certain he was too tired to run I introduced him to the resident woodchuck and let them become acquainted while I collected myself.

At this point I felt that we had made our peace, had taken our pound of flesh (or bark, really), and manged to put the entire Mr. Stick chapter behind us as a family. All that was left was the actual disposal of said Stick. I considered Craigslist...

Something told me I was not likely to find a taker so I canned the ad. I was pondering possibilities when the answer came to me from the television that evening. I knocked over the coffee table running for the phone. My hands trembled as I dialed, excitement overtaking me.

*Ring Ring*

Lady on the other end: "America's Most Wanted, how may I assist you?"

Author: "That bank robbery you were just talking about in New Hampshire. I saw the suspect."

Lady on the other end: "Ok. Could you tell me where you saw this person and offer a description?"

Author: "You bet. He's in the side yard with Chuck. He's a short skinny little bugger with dirty grey hair and googly eyes and he likes Ace of Base and he wears panties when the mood strikes him and he stabbed my dog in the throat!"

Lady on the other end: "Well, your description does not remotely match the picture of the three hundred pound suspect with brown hair. But Ace of Base is a serious matter. I'll send an officer right away."

Meanwhile, Mr. Stick had recovered, and he'd made a run for it. The police caught up to him a few miles down the road as he attempted to make a phone call from a convenience store payphone.

I don't know how he pulled it off, but within twenty four hours he was released on his own recognizance. When I heard the news I jumped in the car and flew to the police station. I managed to catch Mr. Stick just as he ran out the back door of the holding tank. He nearly made it to the woods, and I shudder to think what might have become of me had I been a few seconds later. I would not have stood a chance had I encountered him among his own kind.

Mr. Stick secured in the trunk, I found a twisty stretch of road and dug in to the accelerator, invoking the punch of the turbo charger and sending him flying with each turn of the steering wheel. Ryan Adams serenaded us from the CD changer as I turned in to our road, the long climb up the mountain complete, wheels kicking up dirt in my crazy wake.

So he drank like a river when their wedding bells rang
Watched from the steeple as the choir girls sang.

There it was. My final answer.

Our story ends where it began, our visit with Mr. Stick drawing to a close as we crossed the yard yet again, my boots crunching through the last frozen remnants of snow. I made haste to outrun the sunset as the events of the previous week replayed in my head. I had met a new side of me, and was more than a little frightened. I had alienated my neighbors, played horrendous movies, and I was pretty sure I had a splinter. I swore I'd never let myself get to this place again as the river sang a new song: no longer a harbinger of unfortunate things to come, but instead a messenger of hope - reminding me of the limitless happiness that exists - for one who is able to put aside grievances, to let the past be, to just let go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Truck Nuts

**Newbie alert** If you have not been around long, this will be lost on you unless you invest three minutes here.

I can barely contain myself.

We are modest folks, and do not often splurge on luxuries. That is why I am so proud to tell you that we have just acquired a third vehicle.

Right there in the middle, follow the arrow.

I know it's not "green" to practice excess when it comes to oil consumption, and I feel guilty with the economy tanking, but the amazing part: the truck was free!

I was at the bank last Friday, and actually walked in. I have no idea why, I always slack and use the drive through. I guess fate had different plans for me. As the door closed behind me I looked up, and there was a shiny new truck in the middle of the lobby. I asked the teller why it was parked there.

Teller: "It's free."

Author: "No way."

Teller: "Yes way. Now please take one and be gone and have a pleasant day and thank you for banking with us."

How could I not? I pulled in to the driveway that night and wailed on the horn all the way to the garage. Mrs. Author and the dogs ran out to see what all the ruckus was about.

I grinned proudly and pointed. She laughed until she cried.

I'll call tomorrow to see what the insurance runs. The dogs continue to fight over who will be driving first...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dogs rule, as do you.

As many of you know, Sola suffered a throat injury from a stick with a hidden agenda. Come to think of it, that sounds a bit like prom night, so you may want to go here for context if you did not catch up with us last week.

First, let me apologize - the crush of comments, e-mail, and messages on Facebook offering wishes for Sola's speedy recovery have been humbling, and it is impossible for me to reply to individual messages at this point because of the sheer volume. Dog lovers are a different breed indeed, and I could not be more thankful for the outpouring of support.

Now to answer the big question. Sola is on the mend. In fact, the vets were amazed at how quickly she is healing (more on that in a future post). Considering the extent of her injury I am as well. I can only attribute her speedy recovery to the tremendous care and love Mrs. Author has besotwed upon her, and the positive vibes flying our way from well-wishers near and far.

A bit of that healing love came to us in the form of a generous care package sent by one of our close new friends, Chester's Mom. I was blown away to come home to a box overflowing with goodies for the critters. A hilarious letter hinted at the contents (which Sola should be ready to attack in the next few days):

Chester, something tells me that when Sola has recovered, she'll be booking a Greyhound ticket to PA to come thank you personally. You may want to check your Blackberry ;)

My sincerest thanks to all. If I have not replied to any of your messages I will try to get to them, but know that we remain in your debt. Because in the end, it's all about the dogs.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Sticky Subject

We have been temporarily waylaid.

The weather this weekend was too intoxicating. Sola and I both needed some outside time.We grabbed a ball and ran for the yard, ready to cast off the cobwebs and loosen up rusty parts. We were having a great time - Sola was tearing up the yard, it's softened state making it ripe for kicking up divots. Snow and mud flew in her wake, and she did not tire easily.

A neighbor stopped to talk. As we caught up on neighborly news Sola continued to play. She became bored with the ball, preferring to drag an eight foot branch from the weeds. She used said branch to smack neighbor and I in the legs as a gentle reminder that she loves fetch, she needs fetch now, and you will give her fetch.

My shins already sore from Nigel's antics, I burned through patience quickly. After the third whack of wood on bone left the neighbor and I stumbling and cursing I grabbed the branch and broke a perfect foot long piece off of it and launched it.

I did not see it happen, but Sola caught the stick on something. End result? Put down that jelly roll for a second.

Really, put it down.

Nigel: I just threw up in my mouth. Then again, I'm a dog, so...bonus.

Author: Entries this week will be short for obvious reasons. But something tells me there will still be fun for all ;)

Sola requires our attention and I'm scared for her. Nothing funny about that. She's taking a pile of meds and seems to be happy to leave the vet behind. I'll be crossing sticks off my throw list for an eternity. I suck.

Keep our girl in your thoughts, she is hurting badly tonight.

Offering to the Shoe Gods

Been there?

*Picture courtesy of Truffles

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No Parking

The river is angry today. The river has reason. Spring in Vermont is cruel. We are in the midst of what I consider the toughest stretch - there are colder days in January and February, but the month of March has little mercy for dreams of green grass, melted snowbanks and short sleeves. Don't get the wrong impression - our calendars read the same as all others. But step inside the home of a Vermonter, make your way to a calendar and locate March 20th. You'll either find it surrounded by handwritten obscenities, marked with a skull and crossbones, or in our case, cut from it's page and taped over the 12th of May, a fairly well educated guess at when it will actually feel like spring here.

Our rituals are the same as elsewhere. We under dress too soon, stay out later; drive a little too fast with the windows down and stereo cranked. Those from southern climes would likely happen upon Vermont in spring and hightail it for home, convinced we are all a bunch of nutjob pot smoking hippies. Certainly, that is not the case. But long harsh winters and sun deprivation whip brain cells, pheromones and adrenaline in to a stew just waiting to be stirred by the first days of warm, sunny promise. When the sun dares to show its face and the temperatures go north of forty degrees the entire state buzzes to life with activity, it's residents stupefied by the great orange globe in the sky.

It was from this same state of intoxication that I made a decision to load up the family, leave the four walls behind and point the truck west toward the lake. We were all feeling a bit sundrunk as we motored down route 89, U2 blaring, reminding us that it was indeed a beautiful day. Our destination: one of the universal landmarks of spring for dog owners in Vermont. The dog park. The place where it all happens for dogs - peemail, butt sniff handshakes, fetch wars, sex with strangers.

Nigel: So many legs, so little time.

The dogs knew where we were going. We never mention the dog park by name - that would be a rookie mistake. But they sense it nonetheless, and by the time we have traveled half of the fifteen mile distance from the mountains to the lake, the back of our SUV looks like a Pelosi/Palin catfight, replete with flying hair and nails. Sola unleashes piercing wails, Nigel just vibrates with enthusiasm-

Nigel: That's right ladies...

Truffles just runs in circles between their legs and snorts between Sola's cries. I have no idea how we have managed to avoid notice from the authorities, but the chaos that takes place in the back of our SUV is explosive. As Mrs. Author and I played sing-a-long with Bono and pals in an attempt to drown out the noise, Nigel decided to offer up a slight change of plans by crashing the party in his own special way.

Truffles: Detour.

I consider myself a decent driver, and to that effect, I make a habit of checking my mirrors often. Mrs. Author and I were mid-chorus, Sola was baying, and Truffles was spinning her little happy circles when I made a cursory glance at the rear view mirror and noticed Nigel in the position. Not the oh pops I love you for taking me to the dog park position mind you. His figurative pants were around his ankles. Greyhounds have fickle digestive systems, and the slightest bit of excitement can blow up the works. Nigel was fudge bombing the back of the truck.

My vision blurred as the air became thick and humid at once, a telling green tint pervading our breathing space. The number of cars on the highway in front of me doubled instantly. I shook my head, but to no effect. Sola hacked, her cries replaced with laboured sputtering. Truffles fell on her side and continued to run in place, eyes fixed on the ceiling. Mrs. Author grabbed a stack of napkins from the glovebox and covered her face, tears streaking down her cheeks as she looked up at me.

Mrs. Author: "Are you ok?"

Author: "I'm seeing two of you. That's hot."

Before she had the opportunity to slap me I hit autodown on the windows and rescued the family by a narrow margin. The air cleared just enough for me to see where I was driving, and to note that Nigel had chosen to let lose while we still had five unfortunate miles to travel before we reached the next exit. Those five miles were the longest I have driven. Mrs. Author spent those miles bent over the back seat, holding collars in order to prevent all three of the dogs from contracting a serious case of brownfoot. Other drivers gaped as we careened past them, flies in hot pursuit. It may have been a matter of minutes, but it felt as though I'd celebrated a couple of rotten, tropical birthdays in the brownmobile by the time we found our exit.

When we did I made haste, blowing the redlight at the end of the ramp, foot to the floor. My vision was going again and I was lightheaded, our reduced speed doing little to clear the air and our heads. While I do recall jumping a curb and slamming the truck in to park, my memory ends just past the point at which Mrs. Author and I flung our doors open and fell out of the truck on the ground, passed out cold.

Resume memory and we are being fussed over by a couple of well-meaning passersby - old ladies pushing shopping carts. They stared down at us with a mix of pity and fascination.

Passerby 1: "How now brown cow."

Author: "Your mother is quite easy. Really, give her a shot. I'll loan you the dollar."

Onlookers cleared, I surveyed the damage. The dogs were gone - as was my wallet. The back of the truck looked like a blender full of chocolate pudding and chili had exploded. I was concerned for the dogs, but knew that nobody would survive a ride in the brownmobile if we did not clean up. In just under fifty minutes we had things in an acceptable state. The parking lot was littered in napkins and handiwipes. The dogs dodged them as they returned to the truck and found us rolling our sleeves back down.

Sola had my wallet. There was a wrinkled receipt half hanging out of it. Nigel and Truffles were fidgeting with something behind the truck. Mrs. Author went for a look as I snatched my wallet from Sola. She returned with them immediately. They each carried a neti pot, and were passing a bottle of mouthwash back and forth.

Truffles: "It burns it burns!!!"

Nigel: "One more and you'll burn the smell out kid."

I was fuming at the $30 receipt in my hand. Sola held out a paw, ready for a cleansing shot. I intercepted the pass and threw the neti pot to the sky as hard as I could. It arced out if sight...and landed squarely on the head of passerby 1 with a resounding knock. She yelped briefly before slumping over on her shopping cart, her friend yelling for help.

So it was time to go to the dog park, and we did, in record time. The windows still down, we were only aware of the slightest hint of rank beefiness and bleu cheese as we skidded to a stop in the parking lot. The sun smiled on this open stretch of land, and the field was green with promise save for scattered snowbanks around the perimeter. We poured out of the truck and left the doors open to air it out. The dogs dragged us to the gate, eager to join in the melee. We released them and stopped for a moment to catch our breath. It had already been a long day so we sought out the shade of the nearest bench. We would not rest long.

I don't know what it is about the dog park, but on that particular day the dynamic was dead wrong. It was like Walmart - there was an abundance of loonies, and crap was everywhere. When I say loonies I don't mean run-of-the-mill drooling axe murderers. I mean the actual $hithouse rats. For starters, the rednecks were flying their freak flags high. I don't know if someone told them that aliens were going to land in the dog park and dispense cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but there was no dearth of rusty Camaros with whizzing Calvin stickers in the parking lot.

More unsettling: a crowd of dog over enthusiasts. You know the type, the folks who break the one piece rule: wear more than one article of clothing that mentions your dog and you're crazy - line up for thorazine. They were everywhere, and their dogs stood out like sore thumbs: they were the park wimps. With redneck Rotties running the place these frail pampered pooches didn't stand a chance. Most of them hugged the fence or hid behind the legs of their owners, only daring to catch a brief glimpse of the action.

Sola took notice. Sola likes men. Not just male dogs, but real men as well. When she knew there was a crowd of weak willed gentlemen nearby her lady radar lit up. She fluffed her coat and whipped out a stuffie. She had a particular Golden in mind, and moved in for a closer look.

I'll give her credit: her hook works in every situation. Man or male beast can't resist her when she offers her stuffie.

Sola: I don't offer my "stuffie" to just anyone.

She sauntered up to him and whispered in his ear. His owner took notice. A lady in her mid fifties, she was breaking the one piece rule by a mile. Her shirt bragged about her golden being smarter than my honor student. On her baseball cap was a silkscreeened picture of her dog, with the words The Golden Years BOL. She wore dog earrings. A dog jacket. Dog socks. Her clicker was going like a machine gun as she tried to distract her boy from one very wanton Labrador.

I gritted my teeth as I approached her. Sola's wandering eye has left me apologizing freely, and often.

Dog freak: "Your lab is a little forward."

Author: "The inverse of your fashion sense then?"

Dog freak: "Show me her pedigree funny man."

Author: "Why the hell would I carry that?"

Dog freak: "Look, here is ours!"

She thrust out her arm and pulled back her sleeve, revealing a tattoo. Below her dog's seven names (including Pretentious, Grey and Poupon) was an extensive family tree that wrapped around her arm.

Dog freak: "My dog would never have relations with a common street mongrel."

I looked over her shoulder and grinned. She followed my gaze and turned just in time to see Sola emerging from the bushes, stuffie in tow.

Author: "Think again. Does your straight jacket have dogs on it as well?"

She wept and wandered over to the bushes in search of spent Sir seven names.

Sola was running for the other side of the park, and I followed her lead. At the midpoint she slowed and I caught up to her.

Sola: "Sorry, it's spring. Can't help it."

Author: "Whatever. How did you rope that guy in so fast?

Sola: "I told him I had eleven nipples and offered to watch adult dog movies with him."

Nigel flew past us headed for the car.

Mrs. Author grabbed his collar just before he was out of reach.

Nigel: "I should have known. That Collie's coat was way too well brushed. He tried to bag the big one when I bent over to sniff an ankle-biter."

Author: "Sorry to hear that."

Nigel: "Not as sorry as I am. I'm wasn't playing Siegfried to his Roy if you catch my drift."

Our attention turned to Truffles, who had found herself immersed in the wrong crowd. She was surrounded by dogs in spiked collars. They were smoking, kicking rocks around in the dust listlessly. Fudgepants noticed us. She ducked out of the group and ran over.

Truffles: "I need a new iPod."

Author: "For?"

Truffles: "My iPod isn't cool, and the music is all wrong. I need songs about tractors and sexy and anything by Toby Keith. And videos of Larry the Cable Guy. I also need something called "red man."

Two of the owners of the "wrong crowd" dogs approached.

Cletus: "Kin our dogs play? Yer dog sure is purty."

Author: "I'd rather that they not if it's just the same."

Cletus: "What's wrong, our dogs ain't good enough fer yer fancy purebred?"

Author: "No, I'm just trying to make sure her brain doesn't explode as she tries to comprehend why you have a thumb growing out of your back and your buddy here has an extra mouth on his forehead. That, and I fear she may now actually know the words to Honky Tonk Badonkadonk. I really don't want to have to put her down."

Needless to say, we were chased out of the dog park that day. We escaped just before the mob ran us down. Not that I minded: it was a huge case of wrong place/wrong time. The dogs would love to go back mind you - they ask frequently. I've already told them if we do, there will be ground rules. Like no brownmobile. And I can handle the dog freaks, but I'm sending Mrs. Author ahead of us in the car and having her sprinkle the parking lot with redneck repellent.

Days pass; the river calms as the temperatures recede, runoff frozen to the hillsides as March continues to taunt us. Summer will deliver on its promise one day, and we will be freed from the confines of our homes to celebrate the joy of a long winter conquered.

All but two of us, that is.