Category Archives: A Dog's Life

Chloë Conquers a Fear

Chloë’s Stairway to Heaven

The photo shows the steps that I use to get onto Mike and Heather’s bed. Only when invited, of course, unless it’s vacant, in which case there is nobody there to tell me NOT to be there. Mike calls them Chloë’s Stairway to Heaven.

Then, sometime this spring, these steps began to scare me. Coming off my sometime inability to leap into my camp chair, this aversion to trying my usual 3-step jaunt to the mattress soon followed. With some whining, of course, and later a reluctance to climb the stairs from the lower level. There is no problem going down, of course, because downstairs is where the treats would be. That’s what led to an obvious solution.

Trepedition

Although my recent demonstration of a weakening right hindquarter has been noted and debated internally and for the moment dismissed by a leading veterinary authority, the explanation  for my reluctant behavior has thus far been summarized with the derogatory phrase, “It’s all in her head.”

Well, now.  While I might have said in my own defense that at my advancing age I need more support, figuratively and literally. Maybe additional rugs or a reorientation of the steps could provide a more favorable angle for my approach. These little things start to matter, especially when I first get out of my crate in the morning and my old bones are creaking. It’s not like I’m seeing Mike exactly sprint out of bed in the morning to open my crate. Cut me some slack.

Taking the bait.

I have to admit, however, that as soon as a Charlee Bear landed strategically on the mattress at the top of my Stairway to Heaven, it served as an immediate enticement to challenge those scary steps to claim a rightful reward upon completion of my heroic ascent. It worked. Within a couple of days I was positioning myself for the climb as soon as I heard fingers tinkling the small cup holding the Charlees, pulling one out to be tossed onto the bed. Inhibitions melting away, I sprinted up the steps to grab my prize.

Having that soft blue fleece blanket to lie on doesn’t hurt, either. “Everybody needs a psychological boost now and then,” Heather conceded this morning, after Mike lifted me onto the bed and I nosed my way under the covers.

Chloë Settles into Her New Chair

Chloë in her Coleman chair.

For reasons part age-related and part psychological, I needed a different chair. Although I still liked being off the floor, out of the reach of other dogs and small children, I was displaying increasing reluctance to hop up into it. Too many times did I take my usual three-step running leap only to crash chest-first into the chair itself and then to the floor. Every time it happened reinforced my belief that I couldn’t do it. I literally begged (i.e., whined) for help.

The solution, at least for now, is a new camp chair, this one with stylish coloring, a see-through mesh back and an amply-sized mesh seat that, most importantly, lies about 3.5 inches closer to the floor than its predecessor. To Mike’s liking,  it is lighter and easier to move around (Heather, of course, would prefer adding to her exercise routine by lifting the heavier chair). With the reduced distance from floor to seat, I can again navigate the leap with ease, at least when I want to. Sometimes, such as after an activity-filled day and my usual dinner smorgasbord,  it’s better to ask for help. Heather is always vigilant, and soon taught Mike to scoop me up with two hands supporting me. He came up with his “flying dog!” call all by himself.

Transition accomplished, Chloë relaxes with Ranger in her new chair,

From my perspective, this chair will do. With an additional pillow on the mesh seat,  and fleece covering when seasonally appropriate, this REI camp chair is at least as comfortable as the studier Coleman model. It has only one cupholder (plus another compartment that folds down from the arm), but this cupholder is much larger (perhaps designed for a cell phone, which is something I still don’t have, for some unknown reason). The compartment is just the right size for my Ranger the Reindeer toy, so he can guard me if I should happen to close my eyes for a few moments. Overall, I’m content with the new chair, but I’ve also been spending more time in my living room bed, a snug harbor conveniently located right at ground level, so I don’t need anyone’s help to get in. (Sometimes I  do need some coaxing, however.)

Another preferred location.

Things are OK for now, and I can happily relax at will in so many fine locations. But look, I’m not getting any younger. I can’t deny it. Somehow I see a rolling Ottoman in my future.

Chloë Dines on Waygu

George and Debbie with Chloë on an earlier visit.

My pal Juneau George visited last week, and I had to administer a bit of re-training. Although I’ve seen George frequently over the past year because he comes to Seattle for medical treatments, he and Debbie haven’t been staying with us. Now that all of them are vaccinated, George could again stay downstairs with us. Unfortunately, over all that time he had managed to forget where my downstairs treat container is located. It took me three tries before I could get him to figure out why I was sitting on the floor under a bank TV screen, staring at the shelving below it. Did he think I was I waiting for Wolf Blitzer to come on?

Waygu to go.

Anyway, George stayed with us for two nights this time, while his wife Debbie stayed in Juneau to take care of their dog, Yankee. George had recently sent Mike photos of him giving his labradoodle a double Whopper for his birthday. In my 11 years, no such luck for me. Until last week, the best treat I ever got was my own ice cream cone. Maybe George’s largesse rubbed off on Heather, however.  Our recent excursion to my Getaway had brought Mike and Heather home with a pound of chopped Waygu beef from Washington’s Snake River Farms – the kind of high-end stuff el cheapo Mike never buys. Mike grilled three fancy cheeseburgers, so they could each have one and a third would be leftovers for Heather. Before she savored her lunch the next day, however, she cut out a few pieces for me, and at dinner time she warmed them up and set them on the floor in front of me. They didn’t last long, and I knew immediately what all the fuss was about.

Thanks, Heather. And when am I going to get some more?

 

Chloë Stares Down Danger

Chloë rests after her ordeal.

In my previous post, I summarized the highlights of my most recent visit to my foothills getaway, but I later realized I overlooked a few minor details. That I almost died, for instance.

And no, it wasn’t a passing coyote, bobcat or cougar that nearly did me in. It was a piece of knotted rawhide. Mike pulled it out of storage to give to me on the drive out to the getaway, hoping it would keep me occupied in the car. I ignored it, however, and continued to do so until Smokey feigned interest in it, just a couple of days before our departure. That piqued my curiosity and possessiveness, so I started gnawing on it in the kitchen. Lo and behold, it wasn’t bad! Soon I had chewed it into a tiny, sodden nugget, and when Smokey passed by, I was not going to let him get it away from me. So I swallowed it.

Pepe in his paddock.

Heather leaped into action when I started braying like Pepe the Burro, choking and heaving. Foaming at the mouth, too. Heather was simultaneously screaming at Mike, “She’s going to die!,” trying to pry my clench jaw open so she could get her fingers down my throat, and applying a doggie Heimlich Maneuver to my midsection. Finally, enough of it either went down or came up that I could catch my breath. In a minute or so I was fine, except for all the rawhide-infused spittle hanging from my face, nose, mouth and ears. Yes, for just one fleeting instant, I was not pretty.

Getting a bath: Rock me on the water.

When things finally calmed down and everyone relaxed, we all agreed it was Mike’s fault, for giving me the rawhide in the first place. Let’s hope he learned his lesson

I recovered with a Spa Day. After my morning nap, Heather gave me a warm bath in the upstairs laundry room (Mr. Fuzz hid under a bed). Then Mike got out the scissors and trimmed my beard, which was matted together in long strands as a result of yesterday’s episode. I was on my best behavior for the rest of our stay.

Chloë’s lair.

That attitude more or less evaporated as soon as we returned home, however. It didn’t take more than a day until I sprinted away from Heather’s ball toss on the Parade Ground to chase a rabbit into the South Meadow and a dense thicket of blackberry.  I liked it in there: It had lots of tunnels and nooks and crannies to explore, as long as I didn’t get my leash opr harness stuck. That’s just part of the challenge! Anyway, Heather and Mike searched the area and called for me for a while, and they even clearly sighted me a couple of times. I ignored them; the thicket was more fun. So Mike limped home to get flashlights and lopping shears. He was already on the way back to the thicket when I finally came prancing out with a triumphant smile on my face. It was getting close to dinner time.

The following week I snuck out the front door and bolted down the street to the Bartons’ back yard. I’ll just never learn. Like “Secret Agent Man,” I live a life of danger!

Chloë Takes a Short Vacation

Roll Call: Smokey (front), Chloë and Pumpkin.

When we drove out to my Cascade foothills Getaway last week, it was the first time we’ve spent the night away from home in 400 days, as well as our longest car ride in that time: a whole 28 miles door to door. But for a few moments, at least, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel dipped down to the level of  I-90, with Mount Rainier and the North Cascades shimmering over the lake on a cloudless afternoon.

I love going out there, although sometimes spending 10 days fending off the advances of the adolescent Smokey is not exactly my idea of a vacation. Him constantly barking at dogs in TV commercials is bad enough, but I’m starting to get a vibe that there’s something a little kinky going on here in the wild, wild West (I’ve seen all those smarmy families in the modern Westerns on TV). Smokey not only hounded me every minute I was there, trying to sniff my butt or butt in on my food (much better than his, I can say from experience), but he also stalked poor little Pumpkin, and worse–at least twice a day, he snuck up behind her and started to hump her, stopping only when Heather started screaming at him. And here’s the kicker: Smokey squats when he pees, while Pumpkin lifts her leg every time. Definitely something amiss here.

The pack leads Heather.

The two of them were a pain when we took them on our daily walks, too. Heather took their leashes, while Mike had me, and I tried to pull him along as fast as his bum foot allowed. Smokey and Pumpkin made Heather deal with lots of pooping and stopping to sniff every leaf and rock, like they had never smelled one before.  Boring. Then one afternoon we drove to a different park for a walk, but Smokey started barking at another dog while we were still in the parking lot. Heather hustled everybody back into the car because she couldn’t trust Smokey where there were too many distractions. So we drove to another place, a logging road where there would be no people or dogs to provoke Smokey. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes uphill Smokey found a fresh animal scent to follow and yanked Heather right into the woods after it. That killed this spot as a walk location, too.

Along the Sno Valley Trail.

The number of places without distractions both at the parking lot and along the trail seemed limited, but the Snoqualmie Valley Trail always seemed to foot the bill. From our central location, we could access several  sections in 10 days without repeating our routes.

And don’t let me whine too much, because, the benefits of vacationing at my Getaway far outweigh the drawbacks. This time I got to audition my new REI camp chair, for one thing, although I do want to test it out for a couple of weeks before rendering my final verdict. Out in Fall City, the new chair was easier to leap into, but still put me safely above the Scylla and Charybdis of Smokey and the mostly upstairs cat Mr. Fuzz. I did let Pumpkin use it a couple of times when I was resting somewhere else.

Chloë’ tries her new camp chair.

Another good part of being there, of course, is that just like when my little pal Schatzi visits our house, it’s always the other dogs who are screwing up, barking unnecessarily or doing something gross, and I am looking like a descendant of a certified obedience champion (which is true!). When three’s company, I’m never the one getting yelled at.

Front seat with cushion.

But the absolute best part: Whenever Mike, Heather and the three dogs drove somewhere in Heather’s car, I got to sit in the front on Mike’s lap. True, it still wasn’t my own seat, but it was still the front seat. And I didn’t want to make Mike have to sit in the back with those two.

Chloë Gets a Clean Bill of Health

Early wakeup call.

I knew something was up one morning when the alarm on Heather’s phone awakened me, and it was still dark outside. Normally, I’m the alarm clock around here, and I’m not stirring before the sun comes up. When she served me breakfast right away, before we even went outside, I figured it out: On annual physical day, there’s no feeding within two hours of my imminent blood work and examination.

This made me nervous right away, and my anxiety escalated while I was sitting in Heather’s car in the vet’s parking lot, awaiting an assistant to snatch me up and take me into the inner sanctum, where virus protocols still forbid Heather to enter. I needn’t have bothered with all the shaking, however. My nervousness abated as soon as the vet’s assistant read the results of my weigh-in on the digital scale in the lobby. Rather than the bad news I expected, I had actually shed a whopping .12 pounds since my previous visit! With that result, I could finally be confident that Heather’s liberal dispersal of my personal stimulus treats will continue. That was a load off my mind.

Hidden camera captures previous examination with the renowned Dr. Kimmel.

And that was just the start of the good news coming post-examination from my personal physician, Dr. Aimee Kimmel. Unlike those of former President Trump’s doctors, here’s a medical report you can trust. The noted dachshund veterinarian  wrote: “Chloë was 20.88 lbs today, which is stable and a great weight. Her teeth look great, and her crown/root canal appears stable.”

Moreover, after my visit she came out to the car to personally tell Heather that I am just a “mass of muscle.” There had been some concern recently about my rear right leg shaking after exercise, but Dr. Kimmel found nothing wrong back there. “There may be a bit of pain, but could also be some muscle overexertion, ” she wrote. “She did not show obvious pain, weakness or neurologic deficits on exam. If it seems to be more prominent, we could try a nerve pain medication after heavy activity.”

After reviewing my blood and stool tests, she added, “I am very happy to report that Chloë’s lab results were all excellent, which included thyroid level, kidney and liver function, electrolytes, proteins, and red/white blood cell counts. There are also no obvious reasons for her hindlimb shaking that I see on her labs. Keep up the great work on her teeth and weight! You’d never guess she’s 11!”

Chloë on the hunt.

I celebrated the good news later that afternoon by ditching Mike and Heather  to pursue rabbits and other spring rodents around the pond adjacent to one of my favorite fetch locations. After about 20 minutes or so, I let Heather catch up to me. Chasing rabbits is fun, but I knew it was almost time for the extra cheese treats and dinner. I was about to receive. Brains as well as brawn!

Chloë Admires Her Pelts

Lounging with Ranger the Reindeer.

Lots of bunnies in Discovery Park at this time of year. Babies from the longtime inhabitants, and usually a few new arrivals from Easter-gift discards. All those newcomers are easier to catch than the regulars, who are less reckless and more cunning. I haven’t actually seen any of these newbies yet, but I know they’re around. I can smell them. On our afternoon walks, my usual passion for fetch wanes when so many distractions fill the air.

As far as hunting expeditions go, getting into trouble with Heather last week didn’t help my prospects. She has been keeping me on a tight leash, sometimes tied to her belt, like we’re hiking a national forest trail or something. It’s my sentence for running away from her on successive days on the Parade Ground, galloping toward some perceived threat and barking loudly. The “threats” were actually a German shorthair pointer running along with its master who paid no attention to me, and an elderly woman with a floppy, wide-brimmed hat and a cane who was not at all pleased. Both times, Heather screamed at me to me to come back, and I ignored her, compounding her wrath. Mike wasn’t walking close to us either time, which may have made me a bit over-protective, I guess. Or else I was just being my nervous dachshund self.

Hanging around Chloë’s trophy case. (l.to r.) Lamby, Ranger and Foxy.

Since then, my fetch opportunities are severely limited to areas and situations that can be tightly controlled. The wide expanse of the Parade Ground is strictly off limits. And the chances of me being off leash long enough to track a rabbit became even more a longshot.

I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with the pelts already hanging in my trophy case:  Lamby, Ranger and Foxy, each ready to be yanked down for a good throttle. That’s always fun, right up there with rolling around on a rug as a way to let off some steam.

Chloë Joins the Culvert Club

Checking out a culvert.

We’re still a few weeks away from astronomical spring on the calendar, but the TV weatherperson said meteorological spring began March 1, and that’s good enough for me.

Indian plum.

This week, signs of spring were everywhere. The plum tree next door emerged in  full bloom. On our walks, Mike pointed out new growth on evergreen trees and young leaves and flowers on shrubs and ground covers. Heather’s snowdrops provided a bumper crop in our front yard, with crocus and hyacinth following soon after. Our back yard featured Lenten roses and fragrant sarcococca, with the currants not far behind.

Heather’s snowdrop crop.

Chloë checks another culvert.

That’s all fine, but to me they were no better than secondary attractions. I preferred the walks that took us downhill towards the Discovery Park Visitors Center, where the former military base’s  inner roads and drainage are more prevalent, and the water flows downhill through culverts below or ditches next to the trails. I’m always interested in sticking my nose where it don’t belong, and all of these dark places smell particularly attractive come spring. I can sometimes access six or eight of them in one circuit. When it comes to spring, that’s what I’m talking ’bout!

 

Chloë Revels in Snow Daze

Finally, Seattle got its first snow of the winter. Temperatures had been so mild that I had almost given up hope. I love playing in the snow, and snow smells great, too, for some reason (maybe it insulates all  those aromas). We don’t see a lot of snow here, and when it does snow it’s either a dusting that disappears quickly or a slushy mess that turns into ice overnight. This time the snow started Friday evening and lasted until Sunday, was lighter than usual, and the air stayed cold. I got two full days of opportunities to burst through snowbanks, bark at skiers and run around uncontrollably. What fun!

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What was not nearly as much fun was getting all those ice balls off my four legs and chest when I got home. Since I would not ever sit still long enough to have them melt off by themselves into a towel wrapped around me, Heather put me in a towel on her lap and went at them with a combination of brushes and combs. I forbade Mike from taking my picture in this compromised position. By the time this ordeal was over, I was due several extra Charlee Bears.

By Monday afternoon, temperatures rose above freezing, and the snow mostly disappeared, along with the all the sledders and the many snowmen and snowwomen, some of them appropriately masked, who temporarily stood as silent sentinels on the Discovery Park Parade Ground for two brief, snowy days.

 

Chloë Uncovers Further Rewards

Recent birthday girl.

When you’ve been around the game as long as I have, you learn that you win some, you lose some. And thus my favorite new fetch ball, discovered in front of the house barely three weeks ago, just as suddenly vanished, the victim of an apparent miscommunication between Heather and me about who would be carrying it. But no sooner did that happen that another, more mysterious and desirable ball dropped into my life.

Here’s what it looks like.

Restore Ultimate Foot Massager

Gnarly ball.

Mike got it so he could massage the bottom of his feet. He tried to use it while watching TV, taking his shoes off and rolling this ball under and between his feet. I was having none of that. I immediately decided it  was my ball, and I’ll do what I want with it. For example, I can chew on it, I can knock it around, I can push it under the coffee table and whine until somebody gets it for me. I can sit on the floor beneath the basket where I know it’s sitting and stare up at it. Lots of neat stuff.

Water trap.

Heather acknowledged it was my ball, and she advised Mike to get himself a second massage ball. Mike’s too cheap for that, however, so he and I now share the ball. He rolls it around under his foot, and I watch intently until he flicks it across the floor and I pounce. Mike’s not allowed to throw it, because this ball is so bouncy and hard that it will break something. That’s what Heather said, anyway. We try to comply by just rolling the ball along the floor, but even then, it takes some funny bounces, like into my water bowl.

So we’ll see how long this ball-sharing arrangement lasts. While this new ball has currently pushed all other balls, including the two that were Christmas presents from my Syracuse aunts, into the surplus toy bins, this tends to be cyclical. Only Wiffie has real staying power. Besides, Mike will no doubt lose interest, too, once he admits that, despite rolling the massage ball under his arches and the ball of his right foot twice a day, it still hurts.

Birthday munchies.

A bigger surprise this week was a belated and unexpected birthday present from my Syracuse aunts Susie and Debby. Inside a big box from my new favorite online store, Chewy.com, were two bags of Charlee Bears, including a new cheesy flavor, and one bag of premium jerky. These Charlees came not a moment too soon, too: The last time Mike went to Trader Joe’s, he saw no Charlees on the shelf. Meanwhile, our favored brand has redesigned it’s packaging, making it slicker, and added to its product line. I fear the days of cheap Charlees at TJ’s may be over. I’m glad to have a good supply, just in case.