Category Archives: Chloë’s Toys

Chloë Corrals Her Balls

Chloë’s new Roller.

After I received a new Kong Roller and a Big Mean Kitty as gifts for my birthday, something had to give. My attention to specific old toys normally wanes when new ones arrive, but with the recent gifts joining two Wiffies (the traditional white Wiffie and the newer, multi-holed yellow Wiffie, which is actually a pickleball that I found one day in the park) plus the two small orange rubber balls, I suddenly had too many choices. Sometimes I played with two or more simultaneously, inevitably leaving them strewn all over the first floor in places where foot-dropped, careless Mike could easily trip over them. When he inadvertently  stepped on one of the small orange balls, lurched forward and strained his already injured shoulder, Heather had seen enough.

While all the tug toys and squeaky toys and fetch toys come and go, chasing balls, inside as well as outside, has never wavered as my favorite sport. Therefore Heather couldn’t jut take away my balls, never to be seen again. The spirited  game of throw nd fetch that she and I play every morning bas become one of the highlights of our day. I especially like the part when I push the ball under a chair or cabinet and bark at it.

The Wiffie Corral at current capacity.

Instead of hiding them, Heather rounded up all the balls and herded them into a small area at the foot of the fireplace (which never gets used) and behind the couch (which rarely gets sat on). This was a stroke of absolute genius! The balls were at once accessible and yet relatively hidden away. Once the Wiffie Corral was officially designated, any errant balls I might leave behind were re-routed back to their barn. Within a day or two, I understood where to find them, and soon enough Mike and Heather were adequately trained to look for balls anywhere on the floor and put them there. And this is how it should be! As ol’ Ben Franklin said, “A place for everything, everything in its place.”

With the Wiffie Corral firmly established, my morning romp with Heather continued unabated.

Unfortunately, Heather and Mike still get aggravated whenever I push a ball under a chair or other piece of furniture and bark at it until someone  gets on hands and knees to reach underneath and retrieve it for me. It is what it is. As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” 

Chloë Enjoys Belated Gifts

Mmm, good!

My birthday celebration may have lacked fireworks at the start, but thanks mainly to my Syracuse aunts Susie and Debby, the festivities just rolled on! Two separate boxes arrived from my favorite online retailer, one containing another selection of fabulous treats (Rachael Ray Nutrish Burger Bites no less, along with two bags of another new flavor of Charlee Bears!) and the other some excellent new toys to toss around. I am going to have to be super-nice to them when they come to visit in the spring. I’m already on the lookout for spiders, ladies, so nothing to worry about!

Getting crowded in here.

One of my new toys is called Big Mean Kitty, and he is so big that I can’t get my mouth around his body. That’s OK, though because he has a head, four legs and a tail that are always available to latch onto to tug and toss  him around. The only problem with the Big Mean Kitty is that he’s so big that he’s hogging the bed for me an J.P., my new toy from Christmas. Big Mean Kitty may not be hanging out in our bed for long if J.P. complains.

Chloë’s new Roller.

My other new toy is something new, the Chuckit! Indoor Roller. It’s supposed to be for “active play that’s gentle on your home.” We’ll have to see how that second part works out. While its doughnut shape is meant for rolling on the floor, not being thrown in the air, any errant toss or bad bounce could easily divert the Roller into breaking-glass territory, since it weighs a lot more than a Krispy Kreme. Anyway, I liked the Roller immediately, and it has already moved into regular rotation on my indoor recreational activity. Just watch what I can do with it, and I’m sure you’ll be impressed!

 

 

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.