Chloë Makes a Statement

Merrie behind bars.

My good pal Charlie often brings articles for Mike and Heather to read because they are about a topic that interests them. Last week he finally gave them one that had some relevance to me. It was a column from the Wall Street Journal—on a real newsprint page, not a printout (Charlie is old school). I was immediately attracted to it because the article included a photo of a sad-eyed Basset hound who was the spitting image of my friend Merrie from down our block. Then I saw the headline, “Readers Howl Over an Insult to Canine Intelligence,” and I realized the dog in the photo couldn’t possibly be Merrie. (I like Merrie. She’s a real sweetie.)

Mike and Heather both laughed when they read the article, written by WSJ  sports columnist Jason Gay, so I made Mike read it to me one afternoon when I could pry him away from Syracuse basketball on TV. The article begins: “The new issue of the scientific journal Learning and Behavior includes a paper by researchers who studied dog intelligence—and concluded that dogs are not as smart as popularly believed. ‘There is no current case for canine exceptionalism,’ the authors wrote, a line that drew swift rebuke from the canine-loving community in letters to the esteemed journal.” His article goes on to include 11 (plus one from a cat) “letters to the editors,” each purportedly written by a dog humorously pleading its personal case for mental superiority.

Low-key approach

Really? These letter-writers show their insecurities, not their intelligence. Even if I had seen the original article in the scholarly journal, which I did not (with no pictures, not my kind of publication), I wouldn’t be tooting my own horn in rebuke or defiance. No need to bother. My blog speaks for itself.

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Chloë Does Her Laundry

Sniffing out Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday, the  only day of the year when the whole pack is in the kitchen all day long. From my perch in my camp chair, I can see, hear and smell everything that’s going on when Mike and Heather put dinner together. There are always lots of pots, plates, bowls and spoons to lick, from morning til night. In the late afternoon, before dinner, Charlie usually comes over, and it’s not  even a Sunday. That’s how I know this must be some kind of a big deal, and when I realize I’ll be getting several weeks of chopped turkey gizzards and barbecued skin mixed in with my food. Yum.

This year after Thanksgiving, we had a lazy weekend. Only Scott came over to watch the football game on Saturday, which was fine with me. Since their team was winning for a change, they were too giddy to pay much attention to me. Which was fine, since it gave Heather and me a free morning to ourselves, which we took advantage of by running all my dirty toys through the washer and dryer. They made quite a racket in the dryer, but they all looked quite a bit cleaner when their click-clacking, bouncing ordeal was over. Lamby has never looked so good.

Lamby (top left) and friends return from the wash.

Chloë Inspects Brown’s Belly

Every time my ultra-sensitive dog ears hear a UPS truck coming up our one-way street, I go nuts. Springing from bed or chair, I sprint to the front door, barking uncontrollably. Mike, who startles easily, jerks to attention. Heather yells at me to keep quiet. I could care less. I have to get outside to greet Donna, my favorite uniformed agent of a large, multinational corporation, who occasionally brings us stuff and gives me biscuits even when she doesn’t.

Waiting for brown

Usually when we meet, Donna is out of her big, brown truck with a package, so we greet each other at street level. But one day when I dragged Heather outside, Donna had parked her truck down our block and paused to eat her lunch, so she was sitting inside. Heather let me hop right up into the cab, and after Donna and I said our hellos, I investigated the back of the truck, where all the packages were stacked on shelves that went all the way to the roof. Frankly, not nearly as exciting as the vast emporium of treats I had imagined. Getting treats from Donna on the sidewalk is definitely more exciting than that. Nevertheless, when I had the opportunity to hop inside for a second look, I seized it gladly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t vastly more interesting the second time through.

Chloë gets a peek inside.

Now, of course, the busy season for package deliveries has arrived. Donna now has an assistant who helps carry packages to houses from the truck. But more often than not, when a brown truck comes up our street, it’s not Donna’s. I hate it when that happens! These extra-shift drivers never try to cultivate relationships with the customers and their canine companions. Come on guys, it’s a relationship business! Throw the dogs a bone or two. It’s that most wonderful time of the year!

Oh, well. The new drivers make me appreciate Donna even more. I’m going to have to get Heather to give her a better holiday gift this year. Just put it on my tab.

 

Chloë Ramps Up Her Recovery

Chloë takes over Heidi’s ramp.

I was meaning to write sooner, but I’ve been injured. For the second time in just three months, a bad wheel was slowing me down. The first time, when we were in Canada in August, it was my right front leg with a pulled muscle that made me limp. This time, it was muscle soreness in the back left. Some days this new injury didn’t seem to bother me at all, and I continued to leap into my camp chair, but the next day I would let out an unexpected yelp of pain just by leaping off a curb to the street. I had no problems going down a flight of stairs, but there was no way I was climbing back up, not even the two little steps in front of our house. Mike and Heather dragged Heidi’s ramp out of the garage just for me. The tread on the ramp needed a little mending, but I began using it on every trip up. Not down, just up.

To prevent further damage to my leg, Heather put me on what she called “modified bed rest.”  That meant when we went out to the Olympic Peninsula for Heather’s birthday, we didn’t go on any long, up-and-down hikes in the forest, like we usually do. This time I walked only on paved or flat trails like the Olympic Discovery Trail in Sequim. When Heather and Mike hiked to the top of Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park, I stayed in the car. Fine with me, frankly.

Olympic snoozing.

When we got back home, Heather didn’t make me stay in bed all day, but I was not allowed to play ball, not even inside with Wiffie. And I wasn’t allowed to run after squirrels or chase cats, either. Our afternoon walks were shorter, too. And with so much less exercise, I was getting crabbier every day, not to mention gaining weight. I feared the dreaded word “diet” might resurface when Mike came back from his trip east.

This lingering physical malady started to change my personality as well. I got more standoffish and timid around other dogs.  I started sleeping later, whining less, declining to get into bed and take a nap with Heather. I’d rather be alone in my beds in the office or living room. When Mike got back, I let him groom me without trying to get away. If I went downstairs with him to get a biscuit, I refused to go back up on my own. Eventually Heather would relent, come downstairs, pick me up and carry me up stairs, unsure whether my leg was still bothering me or if my reluctance to climb the stairs was all in my head.  When I demanded similar service for the two steps up to her bed, she drew the line. Dammit. As long as she thought I was hurt, I planned to make the most of it, but apparently my jig is up. Heather put Heidi’s ramp back in the garage.

 

Chloë Has a Red-Letter Day

3-Chloe On Guard

Stealth attack.

The day started off with an unexpected treat. Mike was doing his morning stretches on the living room floor and concentrating intently on counting “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand,” so I was able to sneak up behind his head and lick his nose for several seconds before he figured out what was going on. Call me the real downward dog.

My day got even better in the early afternoon when Heather took me on a field trip to the Village, where we walked around a little and visited the office of Caroline, my personal financial adviser and sometime hotelier. My portfolio may be down these days, but Caroline always keeps lots of treats in her desk, anyway. I picked up my shares.

UPS Truck

Biscuit delivery

Then, just after Heather and I got home from the Village, what came rolling down our street? A big brown truck and my favorite UPS delivery person, Donna. More treats ensued, even though the delivery was not for us. I must remind Heather to give Donna another big box of biscuits before Christmas to keep priming the pump.

My late-afternoon walk with Heather and Mike was shorter than normal because Heather was hustling us home to greet an expected visitor. I figured it would be Charlie, so I was surprised and thrilled to see it was Lynn, my other pal and favorite dog sitter of all time (that is, most generous with the treats and cuddles). I was so happy to see Lynn that she could barely make it into the house because of my jumping. When she finally managed to sit down on the couch, I leaped onto her lap and showered her with kisses. After my initial excitement subsided,  we had a nice, long cuddle while she was talking to Heather and Mike. It was great to see her again, because nobody understands me and speaks my language like Lynn does. Oh, and she always comes with a whole bag of treats, too. High-quality treats.

3-Sheperd's Pie

Heather’s shepherd’s pie.

I suspected that Mike cut my dinner ration that evening because of the many extra treats I scarfed up all day, but I did not complain. My nose told me Heather had prepared her specialty dish, shepherd’s pie, and I would likely be getting several plates, pots and bowls to lick after their dinner. Yes, it was a red-letter day, morn ’til  night.

 

Chloë Takes a Puppy to School

Mr. Fuzz

I was excited to to return to my mountain getaway in east King County last week. As soon as we exited I-90 and climbed into to the foothills, I knew where we were going, back to the palace of wall-to-wall carpet and lawns galore. It’s my absolutely favorite place to play fetch, 50 or more throws at each session. And I love being the undisputed leader of the pack with Pumpkin, the little dog who lives there, and the mysterious Mr. Fuzz, the bushy cat who mostly stays upstairs when I’m around. They know their place.

Smokey

Unfortunately, sometime after our last visit, Smokey showed up. About 8 months old when we arrived, Smokey is the successor to Tara, the brilliant Aussie who showed me the ropes out here when I was a but a wee pup. Supposedly it was my turn to pass some wisdom on to Smokey, except for one thing: Smokey just didn’t want to listen. Every single time he could, he just wanted to bite me on the ears or stick his nose up my butt, like I was going to smell different every time. Heather yelled, “Leave!” and “No” more than I’ve ever heard them yelled before, even in my own frolicking puppyhood. Heather was worn out after a week of grappling on the other end of a leash with Smokey, a strong and growing boy.

Chloe and Smokey rest on the trail.

Heather said Smokey hadn’t been out much beyond the grounds of his home property. He didn’t know anything about taking a walk, so we taught him how to do it, and we walked on the Preston-Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Valley trails. By the end of our time there, he was getting better at following the pack, although he kept trying to pick up large sticks at the end instead of in the middle, and he turned out to be a serial pooper, meaning he took several long strides between each deposit, so it was hard to know when he was done and harder to find those nuggets when he was. Heather needed a lot of bags. And she also had to teach Smokey about how to ride in the back of the car, although it took a lot of pushing and shoving from Heather and Mike in the front seat to keep him there. On the plus side, since Smokey had to be by himself in the back seat tied to my harness, I finally regained my rightful place in the front seat in Mike’s lap. Good timing, too; in this comfortable spot I could lay my head down, close my eyes, and not think about the twisty roads we were driving on, which make me queasy.

Chloë smugly watches Smokey suffer in Heather’s Boot Camp.

Heather tried valiantly to teach Smokey better manners, but even a week in Heather’s infamous Boot Camp could not make much difference. Hopefully Smokey will grow out of his rambunctiousness and be a nice guy to be around, but at this time he’s still a work in progress. While we were in the house, he mostly had to stay in his exercise pen in the living room, just to keep him out of everyone’s face and give Pumpkin and I some respite from his constant advances. We all felt sorry for Pumpkin, because when no one is around to tell Smokey “no,” he will hound her constantly and drive her into her crate or onto seats of chairs that are pushed in under the dining room table, where she crawls up in her little lair and hopes he doesn’t find her.

Status reclaimed.

Anyway, I missed out on the other Big Excitement of our week at the getaway. I was inside the house with Mike in the middle of the afternoon when Heather took Pumpkin and Smokey outside for some exercise. She threw the ball for Smokey (and he was making some progress on bringing it back!) while Pumpkin ran unleashed in in the horse ring until Heather saw a cougar standing at the edge of the property, on a trail that goes into the state forest land out back. She yanked on Smokey’s leash, called Pumpkin to come and hightailed it with them to the house, while the cougar hightailed it in the opposite direction.

It was a good thing that I didn’t happen to be out there fetching my ball on the back lawn when that big cat appeared. Everyone knows how much I love to chase cats. It could have been good practice for the Bartons’ cats down the street., and no one doubts I would have been deterred by its size.

Chloe on Preston-Snoqualmie Trail

Although I missed that opportunity, and sometimes Smokey got to be a bit intimidating, it was a worthwhile time out there. It made Heather appreciate much more just what a good dog I am. And as I always like to say, better him than me.

 

Chloë Gets a Treat on the Road

Lobbying for the front.

Lest any readers think my whole summer vacation was one long bummer, let me confess that I had a great time overall, and that the high points far outweighed the bad. For every gushing wound and terrifying voyage I endured, there were many wonderful wilderness walks and a bevy of ice-cream treats.  I did my share of whining from my perch in the back seat of the car, but I also interacted with strangers, hung out with other dogs and even got to chase a few cats. Although my perpetual quest to regain my rightful place in the front seat was still unsuccessful, I did get to spend all day, every day together with my pack-mates Mike and Heather, which doesn’t particular happen as much when we’re home.

That’s why I like hotels, too. When we stay in a hotel, all three of us are always together in the same room, unless somebody’s taking a shower. I still have to sleep in my create, of course, just like I do at home, but in the morning I can always manage to whine my way onto a mattress (always on a towel, of course). Plus, in a hotel all the people we meet in the lobbies and elevators say how cute and well-behaved I am. Which I am, as long as they don’t try to touch me.

Welcome, Chloë!

The unquestioned highlight of the whole trip was my stay at the Travelodge in Grand Island, Nebraska, on the way home. In the past two summers of driving to the East Coast and back, the nice people at this particular hotel are the only ones who gave me a welcome gift when I checked in. Not free breakfast, strong wi-fi, shampoo and soap, but a welcome gift just for me, the pet to be named later. The best thing we got at any other hotel was a $10 pet fee (only once).

And what a gift the Travelodge provided! Inside a distinctive royal blue bag (that Mike kept as a trash bag for his car) was a smaller plastic bag filled with an array of biscuits (that Mike doled out to me all too slowly). Also in the blue bag was something else that looked like it could be food, but it turned out to be a toy shaped like a Chinese food takeout container. Inside the container were three dumplings, each of them a small, fabric-skinned, squeaky toy. It didn’t take me long to rip open the velcro strip on top of the container, pull out the dumplings and start tossing those them around the hotel room, all while emitting continuous squeals of joy and writhing around on the carpet. I couldn’t have been happier/

Thus my official Trip Advisor review for the Travelodge by Wyndham Grand Island: My best hotel stay ever. Five stars!

Dancing with my dumpling.

Since we returned to Seattle, I have still been carrying my Chinese food container around the house and making Mike throw the little dumplings from the front door all the way into the kitchen, so I can run after them, chase them down and bring them back for more tosses. These once-plush white toys got so dirty that Heather has already washed them once, and then they got dirty all over again. Just the way I like them.