Sitting guard at Heather’s office before dogs were banned.
Frankly, I’m confused about how this so-called retirement thing is supposed to work. I expected a lot more napping (with Heather) and mapping (as in Mike planning trips and us hitting the road together). Instead, Heather spent a lot of time downstairs this fall, sitting at a table in front of a couple of computer screens, while I lounged nearby. Sometimes she yelled loudly at herself, and she talked to herself frequently, but I managed to tune her out and doze in front of the fireplace or in a camp chair near her desk. In fact, the fall routine was a lot like going to Heather’s office, back in the good old days when I was allowed to go there, except we had a fireplace and we don’t have to get in her car to drive there. We just have to go downstairs. And there’s never a stream of people coming through the door, asking Heather questions and saying hi to me. There’s only Mike, heading out to the garage to do whatever it is he does out there.
Tug o’ War
I’m not complaining, though. Compared to the boot camp regimen Heather had threatened, Heather has been fairly easy on me, once we got over a little rough spot. While Mike was away in October, Heather got mad at me for disobeying her by repeatedly scarfing up food scraps from the street and from the Wendy*s Way smorgasbord outside the park, as well as for not peeing when she told me to. I thought she went a bit overboard on that last one. Not peeing just to be stubborn? Please.
Anyway, when Mike returned, Heather began a short Reign of Terror, when she wouldn’t look at or talk to me and had Mike do everything related to me. But that lasted only a day or two. Then we were BFFs again, although for a while she forbade me from visiting the smorgasbord. Even that edict has been relaxed of late, however; I got myself some Swiss cheese over there just yesterday.
As the holidays approach, the pace of Heather’s work schedule has slacked off somewhat. We’ve watched a lot more TV in bed, which is always good. We sneaked in a few afternoon naps, too. And the weather has been beautiful, sunny and crystal clear every day. That always puts everyone in a better mood. Last weekend Santa Monkey, Rudolf and my stocking all arrived in the living room, and the real Santa will be showing up soon, preceded, I hope, by plenty of UPS deliveries.
Chloë waits out the blackout.
Between earlier sundowns and rotten weather, it was hard to get in a good walk the past week or so. With wind and rain lashing with regularity, our usual hour-plus sessions of walking and playing fetch in the park have been severely curtailed. The worst came one afternoon when it was so windy that Heather decided we would walk no further than me finding a convenient place to do my business. But before we even got out the front door, the lights and computers around the house all flashed a couple of times and died. It was almost dark outside when it happened, and within 20 minutes we plunged into total darkness. Heather dug out all the candles, and Mike wondered if it would last as long as the Great Blackout of 1965.
We made do. Mike brought out his Costco emergency flashlights and Heather lit enough candles to read by. She brought camp chairs into the kitchen, and all three of us sat around in a circle. While Heather read, Mike got out his iPod, put on headphones and listened to Little Feat play “Tripe Face Boogie” and other favorite selections. Mike took some bread out of the freezer so he could make tuna and cheese sandwiches, and then announced he was bored. After an hour or so, they were longing for TV and wondering how far they’d have to drive to get takeout. There were many, many more episodes of Hawaii Five-O and Charlie Rose to watch on the DVR.
Heather reads by candlelight.
I fell asleep in my chair and stayed there until dinner time. Because the microwave wasn’t working, Mike had to serve my dinner cold, but hell, I survived. After all, in a disaster protocol like this everybody has to sacrifice. Here I was, enjoying a gourmet meal served to me by my personal valet inside a small, romantically-lit room, with my entire pack surrounding me. I might have died and gone to heaven.
Unfortunately, after four hours or so, the lights came back on. So did the TV, the phone and the internet. No longer was I the sole center of attention. Worst of all, we weren’t all in the same room all the time.
Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.
My longtime readers might be shocked by that headline. After all, I boast quite a reputation for my voracious gourmand appetite, known for never meeting a food scrap in the road that I didn’t like. Alas, I have to admit the headline is true, I did turn down treats last Sunday, even some high-quality ones. I claim extenuating circumstances, however.
Here’s what happened. Mike, Heather and I went for our regular Sunday jaunt with my pal Charlie. One of the reasons Charlie is such a good pal is because he brings me his used racquet balls, softer and smaller than the balls Heather and Mike throw for me. I love them because it’s easy to gnaw on them. So I do gnaw on them, incessantly, until they break. Then it’s lots of fun to chew on the bigger pieces to break them up further, and eventually into pieces small enough to swallow. That’s where Mike and Heather seem to draw the line.
Last Sunday, when Charlie brought along two racquet balls for me to chase, I was still gnawing on one when we got home, and I refused to take it out of my mouth. Heather couldn’t pry it out or get me to let it go. When she tried to trade me Charlee Bears for the ball, I scoffed. Mike upped the ante with salmon hearts and mini-bones in addition to Charlee Bears, all to no avail. Only when Heather produced a Frozen PBB and put it right under my nose did my jaw slacken a little, enough that Heather could yank the ball out of my clinch.
Waiting to play fetch
I fooled her, though: I still had a small part of the ball in my mouth, and I quickly tucked it under my belly as I began eagerly licking the Frozen PBB. As soon as Heather looked away, however, I got cocky. I stopped licking the PBB and placed the hidden piece of racquet ball back into gnawing position in my mouth. I might have gotten away with both of them were it not for the thwack of the rubber bending between my teeth. This time Heather pounced and held my jaw open while Mike pried the hunk of ball out and threw it away. That’s OK, though. My pal Charlie always says he has “plenty” more racquet balls to bring over.
Besides, while I lost that particular ball, I still had the PBB, which was a nice consolation prize. With order restored, I could turn my nose up at a quality treat for only so long.
Harry Bliss comic 2017.
Beyond “what kind of dog is that?” the most common comment I heard from strangers on our trip across the country last summer was, “Your dog is soooo cute!”
I am flattered, but I don’t want to be labeled one-dimensional, known only for my looks. There’s so much more to me than that, don’t you think? My exemplary behavior, for example. And my athletic abilities, of course. Not to mention my humility and my many years of service to humanity and the canine world.
Cutest of them all?
All this praise leaves me tired, however. Who needs the aggravation? The people have spoken. We’ll just stick with cute for now.
Two girls in bed.
This photo gives a good indication of what Heather’s “change in schedule” (we can’t really call it retirement!) means to me: more TV watching in bed and nap time! When Heather does “go to work,” it’s downstairs in the house, not driving away in the car. Now I can be with her all day, most of the time with the fireplace on, an added bonus. So depending on my mood and temperature, I can choose to lay in my camp chair or on the rug in front of the fireplace and in either location be perfectly content all day, or at least until Heather’s cursing and yelling at herself wakes me up. She can really rile herself up, so it’s good that I’m there as a calming influence.
I haven’t abandoned the upstairs office bed entirely. It’s still my preferred spot for licking a Frozen PBB clean, and sometimes I like to go in there in the morning, when Heather is using the office computer. But as far as when Mike is in there? Not so much, except in the infrequent occasions when Heather is at a meeting or out of town. And at breakfast and dinner time, of course. That goes without saying.
The empty nest.
In fact, I was about to forget about Mike entirely when he went away for a week to visit his mom, the first time in almost a year that we’ve been separated for even a day. That’s when I realized that not only did I miss Mike, but that I needed him. If just Heather took care of me all the time, I would never get away with anything, at least not to the extent I do with Mike. He’s so easy, it’s like having three cupcakes on your non-conference schedule. Heather is tougher, more like playing Alabama every week. Come back, Mike, all is forgiven. Besides, who else can I get to do my typing?
Spanky takes over Mike’s pillow on an earlier Syracuse visit.
My Syracuse aunts, Susie and Debby, lost their cat Spanky last week. Well, they didn’t lose him, exactly, because they know where he is. He has been sick for a long time, and he finally went to that big Bidawee Home in the sky.
It makes me sad. Even though Spanky was nothing but mean to me when we finally met in Syracuse last summer, I can empathize with my aunts. I know they’re really hurting inside, because I know how much they loved him. And while it’s true that the old, nasty Spanky snarled, hissed, and threw his claws at me every time our paths crossed, now I kind of miss those little tête-à-têtes. They invigorated me, and aroused my own animal instincts.
Spanky, September 2017
Once I got back to Seattle, I started to pay my own little homage to Spanky. In Syracuse, the cat would hang out under Debby’s car in the driveway, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on me. I quickly developed the habit of looking under Debby’s car every time I walked past, just in case he was there. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been checking underneath the Bartons’ cars for their two black cats, Ted and Fred, so I can root them out and chase them back into the hedges where they belong. Every time I crouch and stare under those cars, I think of Spanky and smile. Then I get back to barking and taking off after the damn black cats.
Tracking the Bartons’ cats: The waiting is the hardest part.
Chloë’s favorite brand
It’s getting on toward mid-October already, but it still feels like Indian Summer to me, bright and clear in the afternoons and turning quickly crisp when the sun dips down. Perfect weather for chasing after my whistling balls. Last week I knocked a blue one over a bluff in the park that was so steep that Mike and Heather wouldn’t let me chase down the cliff after it. I knew where it was, too, but getting to it would have posed some problems, I admit, and it was a long, long way down. Luckily, Mike knew where to find another ball in a box in the garage, an orange one at that.
I’ve also been gnawing away at two green racquet balls that my pal Charlie brought along last weekend when we drove out to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail for a Sunday hike. We walked almost two hours, an hour and a half in glorious fall weather and the last half hour in a sudden, unexpected and torrential downpour. Huge by Washington standards, Central New York thunderstorm-level heavy but cold and piercing, including some hail. Charlie and Heather had been throwing for me when the deluge began, even as parts of the sky remained blue and the forest floor was flooded with sunshine. Mike kept saying the rain was going to stop any second, but it was still pouring when we finally reached the car and hopped in.
Since everyone was soaking wet, they scrapped their plans for dining on the way home and headed back to the city for towels, dry clothes and pizza. I got extra cheese on my own dinner and later licked plates when they were done with the pizza. All in all, another great Sunday, despite the rain.