Category Archives: Chloë’s Toys

Chloe Seeks an Omen for the New Year

Snowy walk.

2021 went out with a whimper. It snowed on Christmas night and temperatures dipped into the teens, boxing in our block in snow and ice for a week. I much prefer going outside in the snow to the incessant rains we normally get here all winter, so several days of snowy walks and being home inside with the heat turned up was OK by me. Except, of course, when I get those pesky ice balls forming under my belly and in between my toes. Not a lot of fun there. It’s c-c-c-c-cold to start with, and then becomes painful when Heather picks them off my fur one by one. I’d much rather just drag my body around the living room rug and rub them off myself.

Treat bag found hanging from tree.

While I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions (eat more treats?), I was on the lookout for events that could serve as omens, good or bad, for the year to come. Like the evening at Carkeek Park, with darkness falling fast, that we had to scurry uphill to the car while  the loud howling of coyotes–several of them, it seemed–echoed behind us.  That was kind of spooky and possibly a bad omen, but a few days later I started leaning the other way. That’s when Mike recovered the red treat bag he had dropped the previous day in Discovery Park. When that happened, it seemed a Christmas miracle indeed, positively a good omen, even if it didn’t have any of my treats left inside.

Chloë’s tree, December.

After that high note, however, a couple of potential tragedies marked the beginning of the new year. First, the prompt removal of the holiday decorations in the living room (Aunt Susie dutifully polices this rule) revealed that my personal Christmas tree, nurtured for almost two years and seemingly thriving when it arrived on the mantel four weeks ago, was dried up and dying, deprived of sufficient water and accorded limited light for far too long.

Chloë’s tree, January.

Sensing my disappointment, Mike made a last-ditch effort to save my tree. He watered it, gave it more light in the kitchen, and finally transplanted it in a larger pot to the plastic greenhouse in the back yard. Until I see otherwise, I’ll take this as another positive sign. Check back in a month.

St. Francis, decapitated.

Likewise, Mike averted another back yard catastrophe. Whether the fault of the extreme weather or the clumsiness of a neighborhood cat, we awoke one morning to find our poor St. Francis statue lying on the ground, decapitated. He must have put up a fight, as the gashes on the side of his face seemed to indicate.

St. Francis in Traction.

Although this wasn’t the first time St. Francis lost his head, and this incision was much more severe, Mike decided to try to put Humpty St. Francis back together again. Bringing him to his garage emergency room workbench,  he applied liberal amounts of Gorilla Glue at the neckline and remounted Fran’s noggin at what felt like a comfortable angle, trussing it into place with a network of blue rubber bands recovered from organic broccoli crowns. After 24 hours, St. Francis wasn’t perfect, but he was back in one piece and again guarding the garden, befriending any raccoons and squirrels that pass through.

St. Francis ready to resume his duties.

Chloë and JP snuggle.

And to cap the holiday season, my good friend Jeré returned after missing her visit before Christmas, meaning I hadn’t seen her in a month, and she hadn’t been able to bestow my gifts. Not only did she give me a bag of high-quality treats (cheese, meat and salmon, my favorite), she also brought me a new squeaky toy–a monkey dressed as a Christmas elf, extremely soft and gnawable. Mike was first going to pack it away with Santa Monkey and the rest of the holiday decorations, but Heather convinced him to let me keep this elf/monkey in the living room year-round. I named him JP, short for Jeré’s Prezzie. He’s my best good omen so far for a better year ahead.

Chloë Makes Her Comeback

Wiffie baffles in storage.

Mike usually stuffs old towels under the living room furniture to prevent Wiffie from rolling underneath and causing him to get down on his hands and knees to pull Wiffie out. When those baffles came out of the closet and resumed their respective positions on the floor, I knew my month of “bed rest” was over.

And so I have enthusiastically reembraced playing tug of war with Lamby, and as soon as Wiffie hit the floor, I took off  after it and went flying into the kitchen, barking like a banshee. I also enjoyed knocking Wiffie into a corner and barking at it, daring it to try to get past me. No way, Wiff.

 

Fetch along the creek trail in Carkeek.

Our daily walks gradually ramped back up to an hour or more, and there has been some moderate reintroduction of fetch–kind of like pitch counts in baseball.  A few times we went to Carkeek Park, which has some of my favorite locations for chasing my ball. The trail that runs parallel to the small creek leading to the salmon hatchery is perfect, because it’s fine gravel, secluded, straight and flat, with the creek on one side and a steep slope on the other to confine me and my ball. After about 10 or 15 throws there, I felt I was getting my legs back under me. But the most recent time we went there, lots of people and other dogs were around, mostly to watch mature salmon flop up the creek to return to their original spawning ground and die, which doesn’t seem like the most fun thing to do on a fall afternoon. Instead, Heather, Mike and I ambled up the trails to the Rock, where I chased caroms for a good half-hour. I’m definitely all the way back.

Playing fetch at the Rock.

With the days getting shorter, we’ve started walking a little earlier in the afternoon, and maybe that’s a good thing. Coyote sightings from all over the neighborhood have become a daily occurrence, especially in the early morning and at dusk. We hear them howling at night and have seen them several times in the park. One morning Heather and I saw two of them walking towards us from down our block. When they saw us coming, they darted into the Bartons’ back yard–with any luck, they were after Fred, my nemesis neighborhood cat. Anyway, these days Heather keeps me on a tight leash and throws the ball only in open, controllable locations. Not a bad idea at all. Let the coyotes eat salmon.

Coyote ambling along Magnolia Boulevard.

 

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 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.

Chloë Starts the New Year Right

Trying out a raincoat.

What is usually a dreary month turned out to be not so bad. Rainy, of course, but I generally don’t let that slow me down. Unless it’s really pouring and windy, I’m OK with a little rain, at least once my nose is outside. There’s always lots of good smells on a rainy day. It’s those first steps toward the door that are the hardest.

So Mike and Heather borrowed a doggie raincoat from Caroline (her Schatzi has one of her own) to see if wearing one would make me more enthusiastic about getting my butt outside. After trying it a few times, however, they realized the raincoat protected my back but made no difference in keeping my chest or underneath clean, nor making me much drier when we got home. Thus the raincoat experiment ended abruptly. I have solidly established myself as real mossback, through and through.

Our mossback walks Azalea Way in the Arboretum.

We had several dry days toward the end of the month. Mostly we took our walks in Discovery Park, keeping an eye out for animal control patrols, although one afternoon we walked all the way to Magnolia Village and back, and a few times we stopped at the neighborhood grocery store or the flagpole at Fort Lawton for a deserted place to play fetch. Oh, and we returned to the Washington Park Arboretum with George and Debbie on one of their visits from Juneau. Its Winter Garden was blooming and fragrant at this time of year—and the Arboretum always has lots of squirrels!

Chloë’s new coupon toy.

I even got a couple of terrific new playthings this month. My pal Channon gave me a soft, crackly, squeaky toy when she and Jeré came to spiffy up the house. It’s supposed to be a dog-centered replica of the Bed, Bath & Beyond  coupons that come in the mail. Frankly, I could do without the bad puns, but I instantly took a liking to its texture and the various sounds emitting from within, a perfect blend of three squeaks and a crackle that go together like peanut butter and jelly.

New ball on the block.

And then, to top it off, I found myself a new Chuck-it! ball! Well, it’s not actually new, but new to me, and I did find it myself, on the sidewalk right outside our house. Finders keepers, I said. Some other dog may have dropped it on the way to the park, but thems the breaks. It was mine now, and for the rest of the month it became my go-to fetch ball. But it’s not hollow like my usual Chuck-it! Whistler balls, so this one is a bit heavier to carry around in my mouth, and heavier for Heather to throw. In fact, her back and her throwing-arm shoulder are starting to bother her, but so far not enough to send her to the IL (that’s the Injured List, for non- baseball fans). Luckily, whenever I get tired of carrying the ball around, Heather is always there to pick it up and carry it for me.

I’m grateful for that, too. Good caddies are hard to find.

Chloë Counts Her Blessings

A brief rest at Carkeek Park.

It was mostly a quiet holiday season, but it had its moments.  There was lots more  turkey in my meals, for starters. There were a couple of trips to Carkeek Park on sunny days when we could see the mountains and fetch my ball from caroms off the Rock. And I enjoyed brief visits from Caroline, my personal financial advisor, and Ty, Isla and Micah, the kids who live on either side of our house. 

Of course, visits from those four coincided with a day-long visit from my little pal Schatzi, still sticking her nose into my business every chance she got. Why all those kids like Schatzi better than they like me remains a mystery to me. Their attitude changes, however, when we walk around the neighborhood or in the park with Heather leading and the kids holding onto the leashes. Then I am much more desirable to them, because when they are holding the other end of the leash I do what they want me to, unlike nose-to-the-ground Schatzi who constantly pulls them in all directions. But their warm feelings last only as long as we’re walking. When we get back, Schatzi gets all their squeals and attention. As far as I’m concerned, she can have it, frankly. I’m better than I used to be, but kids are still not high on my list.

Chuckit Ultra Ball Small (2 Pack)Oh, I also don’t want to neglect mentioning the fabulous gifts I found when Mike emptied my stocking on the living room floor the afternoon of Christmas Day! I found several different kinds of treats from Mike and Heather, my Syracuse aunts and Caroline, plus a set of two orange Chuckit! balls from Syracuse aunts Susie and Debby. Even though these Chuckit! balls are the smaller size that Mike hates (because I enjoy pushing them under furniture or gnawing on them instead of bringing them back when he tosses them), I just starred at them sitting on a shelf in the living room and whined until he took both out of their packaging and rolled them along the floor for me to chase. Too bad, Mike, I am into it! Sometimes I get both of the new balls and Wiffie rolling around at the same time, which really makes Mike crazy. What fun!

Chloë pauses with Ranger the Reindeer.

The other unexpected gift I got for Christmas came from Ranger, a bernadoodle puppy who arrived about a year ago to live down our block in the house where MacDuff and MacKenzie used to live, next door to Jane and Merrie. It’s a stuffed reindeer toy that squeaks in three places, and it immediately became my chosen partner for tug, replacing Lamby as my favorite victim for a full-throttle fling. Heather named it Ranger the Reindeer, after the dog who gave it to me. That Ranger is friendly enough, but he’s already too big for me to play with, so when Mike or Heather stop outside his fence to say hi and talk to him, I just sniff the lawn and pretend to look the other way.

Anyway, I loved his gift, and I couldn’t wait to start tossing it around the living room. But my toy reindeer sprung a small hole in his belly when Mike took out one of those pesky plastic fasteners, and he needed immediate medical attention. Luckily, Ranger’s fur was a close color match to masking tape that Mike had bought to cover up a spot on his car. Heather taped up Ranger right away, and soon he was good as new, ready to be throttled and hidden from Schatzi when she came over to play. I get first dibs.

Sharing the chair with Ranger the Reindeer.

More good news for Ranger the Reindeer:  He fits comfortably into one of the drink holders on my personal camp chair, and thus he will remain visible far into the new year, long after the other holiday decorations are packed in their plastic crate and exiled to the garage. For the rest of us, there will be brighter days ahead.

Chloë Starts a New Holiday Tradition

Sniffing out the Secret Christmas Tree in Discovery Park.

‘Tis the season, all right. In our house, we have been reviving and expanding all of our holiday traditions. The big plastic storage bin that holds all the lights, ornaments and puppets came out of the garage while we were still eating Thanksgiving turkey. Not only are the mantelpiece and shutters aglow, but this year the trellises on either side of the front door have lights. A winter wonderland, indeed.

We were all happy to see Discovery Park’s Secret Christmas Tree return to the South Meadow to further brighten the pandemic pall. The tree, decorated with ornaments and a string of colored lights powered by a solar battery, first appeared two Decembers ago. Last year, some Scrooge must have cancelled it.

Chloë’s tree in its natural habitat..

News media report that sales of live Christmas trees are booming this year, as people seek a little joy, solace and tradition in these gloomy times. And so I decided to dig up my own living tree, choosing a tiny cedar sapling that must have been blown by the wind into a nesting place in our front yard. After diligently tending it through the growing season, I had Mike dig it up, pot it and bring it inside to add to our holiday display.

That smiling elf penguin moved right in with the tree, and  Mike promised to get a string of lights for it once it’s a little bigger. The tree will move in its pot into the portable greenhouse outside the kitchen door for the winter, and Mike will replant it outside in the spring.

First ornament.

Now that Mike has mounted my favorite Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer puppet on top of a cabinet where I cannot hope to reach it, my live Christmas tree will be my new favorite holiday tradition. Well, my favorite right after that special moment of opening all the goodies that fall out of my stocking on Christmas morning, that is. I can smell that there’s already something inside my stocking that’s been hung by the chimney with care, but I have been on my best behavior in order not to spoil any surprises that might be planned. While I’m not expecting anything close to a new car with a big red bow or anything else that I see advertised on TV at this time of year, a couple of biscuits and a tasty rawhide chewy would be nice.

Holiday mantel with Chloë’s tree (on right) and stocking (lower center).

Chloë Stands Her Ground

Schatzi searches faux takeout container for faux dumplings.

She was back. Schatzi, that is. And in the weeks since she’d been here (but who’s counting?), she hadn’t aged a bit! She was still  a whirling dervish of energy, barking, jumping on the furniture, taking over my bed and my chair. and getting in my face every second that she wasn’t sleeping.  In classic “the other dog’s toys are much better than mine” mode, almost all of my toys came out of their corner bins and onto the living room floor. Some had not been out of their bin in years.

Most of the time, I just let Schatzi do her thing. Whenever I had enough, I gave her a growl or a lip curl, or just stared her down. She would always back away, thank goodness.

 

Side by side by side.

Somewhere along the line, however, I had to put my paw down. Schatzi is the ultimate affection hound, demanding constant attention, but there was no way I was going to let her get more affection from Heather and Mike than I got.  I’ll allow her takeover of my dog bed and my camp chair, but I’m not budging from my space in bed between Mike’s legs on a fleece blanket. I reluctantly let Schatzi in the bed at all (I turned my nose away),  but she was not getting my personal favorite spot. And when we were sitting in front of the TV in the living room, I would let Schatzi have my usual camp chair, as long as I  got the chair closest to Heather, even if I had to crawl over a TV table to get there. Not on my watch, girlfriend.

Waiting for Heather.inside the front door.

While I was able to maintain my position in the pecking order during Schatzi’s visit, I’m not totally sure that she got the message. Not from the way she followed Heather around from room to room and whined whenever Heather went outside  without her to work in  the garden or talk to the neighbor kids. Those kids were all crazy about Schatzi, until she barked at them or pulled them along when they were trying to manage her when Heather let them hold her leash on a walk around the neighborhood. That was OK, though. Compared to Schatzi, I was easy to handle,  so the kids liked walking me, and they finally started to appreciate me a little. I got more comfortable with them as well.

Chloë with Schatzi’s toy.

Having Schatzi around was fun (and she even brought a scary Halloween tug toy that I liked a lot), but I needed a good rest after she left. Asserting yourself as the alpha dog is tiring when it’s another dog you have to dominate instead of just the usual humans.

The afternoon Schatzi left was the first one without Daylight Saving Time. That means taking an earlier afternoon walk every day, and as a result having time to get in an extended nap before dinner. I’m looking forward to sinking back into my restful winter routine.

Guard dogs relax in each other’s beds.

 

Chloë Cleans Lamby’s Clock

Groom gloom.

Not much is happening around here. Although Mike is getting steadily more mobile after his surgery, Heather is still doing most of the stuff Mike usually does, like the cooking, wiping down the tiles after a shower and taking care of me. Generally speaking, Heather’s doing a great job, although sometimes she goes a bit overboard on the grooming part, clipping my beard and turning me over onto her lap to brush my belly. That’s above and beyond, if you ask me. I never thought you’d hear me say this, but when is Mike coming back, anyway?

Still, I have managed to retain my good humor and jaunty countenance throughout, and if I ever get a little blue, I can always take it out on Lamby.

Resting with Lamby.

Look, I am not normally violent. In fact, whenever I encounter a new and larger dog on our walks, I am much more likely to cower behind Mike’s or Heather’s legs than I am to challenge the opposition. Small dogs, too, for that matter.

But when it comes to Lamby, well, that’s another story.

I like Lamby, I really do. Whenever there’s a choice of toys scattered around the room, I always go for Lamby. Sometimes I’d even prefer a good tug of Lamby with Mike even to knocking Wiffie around the kitchen and living room. As long as I get to latch my teeth onto Lamby’s smirky smile, I’m happy. And when Mike finally relinquishes his hold on the squeaky handle located below Lamby’s butt, I like to grab tighter on Lamby’s muzzle, shake her body up and down and smash her to the floor repeatedly, like a matador cracking a bullwhip back and forth. Whap, Lamby! Whap! Whap!

After early surgery.

My frequent mistreatment of Lamby is the main reason why, many times since my pal Lynn graciously bestowed Lamby upon me oh so many years ago, that Heather has had to wash Lamby in futile attempts to restore her original skin color, if not its luster. Sadly, it was not to be. The same could be said, alas, of Mike’s attempts at plastic surgery on Lamby’s scarred face with only a needle and thread, on neither of which has he achieved any degree of mastery. Lamby’s wounds were always easily reopened, and her stuffing began oozing out all over the living room rug.

Lamby II (left) & Lamby I: Who’s smiling now?.

It may have been this housekeeping aspect that prioritized the project, but I suspect it was really Mike’s aim of getting over the $49 level for free shipping on Chewy.com that finally sparked their action. In any event, one day a second Lamby arrived on my doorstep, hidden away in a box under an array of dog food, vitamins and treats. At first, Heather put both Lambys in my bed; to ease the transition, I supposed. But she needn’t have bothered. The new Lamby and its clean, soft, unpockmarked face were too strong a temptation; virgin territory, so to speak. I couldn’t wait to get my teeth around her nose and throttle her until the smile was wiped off her face and she squeaked in submission.

My original Lamby has been temporarily retired, perhaps to be sent to a spa in Florida for some rest, rehabilitation and Botox treatments, to return again with a bit less grit and stronger stitches around her nose, mouth and forehead. You can never tell if one day she might again be the fairest Lamby in all the land.

 

 

Chloë Goes Yard

A perfect spot for fetch?

I found a great new location for playing fetch. Increases in park use and various critter distractions have put a severe crimp in my favorite game. It has gotten hard to find a secluded place where I can just concentrate on the ball. That’s why the park’s maintenance yard driveway was such a find. I can’t believe we haven’t used it before.

It’s in a relatively low-traffic area and fenced in on two sides, should I entertain any thought of escape. It has enough slope to allow me to catch Heather’s throw and roll it back to her from my selected location. At the hour we walk in the late afternoon, nobody is ever working there, so we’re not going to be chased away. And for ball security, Mike can stand in front of the fence and kick away any loose throws trying to sneak through underneath it.

Delivering a strike.

Unfortunately, that’s what happened twice already. The first time, I am forced to admit, it was my fault. Mike had not yet assumed his assigned post, so when I pounced upon Heather’s hard, skipping throw, I knocked it forward and under the fence into the maintenance yard, where it continued to roll until it came to rest on the far side of the lot.  It was fenced in.

Don’t do me like that!

The next morning Heather and I walked back there, and the gate was open. At first I didn’t see my ball, but once we walked around the yard a bit I found it under a parked dump truck. I carried it home in triumph.

That’s why we decided to station Mike in front of the fence the next time. And indeed, that’s what we did when we returned there a few days later. Mike dutifully stood in front of the fence at the point of the tallest gap at the bottom, ready to block any throw that managed to get past me. With Heather throwing from the bottom of the hill, I would touch the ball before she released it and race uphill after it, often catching up to it and grasping it mid-bounce. I then turned and carried it back to Heather, dropping it neatly at her feet so we can do it again, or else pausing mid-hill, dropping the ball and letting it roll downhill to her waiting hands. When I get into a rhythm, I am world-class.

Fenced in.

Things were going so well that Mike decided to take out his camera to document my achievements. And thus he had the camera up to his face, paying attention to my movements, when Heather’s next throw sailed past me and skittered under the fence and into the maintenance yard.

Heather and I went back again the next morning, and for a second time I managed to find it and carry it back home. I still think the maintenance driveway is a good location for fetch;  if I can only get Mike to concentrate on just one thing at a time, we’ll be fine.

The winning team.