Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dear Tucker, yes, there is a Santa Claus

And he's squeaky! Santa knew just what I'd like for Christmas, so besides this fun replica to remind my parents that the spirit of Christmas lives on, and that presents shouldn't be limited to just one day, I received a treat ball. It's designed to improve my dexterity and, just in case I use up too many calories batting it around, provides refreshment as well.

I had a big workout yesterday, bounding through the snow and dragging Mom behind me. I was kind of like an Alaskan husky, but without the sled.

To replace all those calories, I took advantage of a friend (she owns cats, so what does she know about the swiftness of a canine). She put down our order of Chinese food to take off her coat. I quickly opened a carton, grabbed a Crab Rangoon, and hightailed it.

Question: my Harry Barker Santa toy has a tag on it that says, "This is not a toy." Really? I ignored it and kept chewing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Naughty and nice: the year in review

I know there's a Santa, and that he and his crew have been tooling around my neighborhood, because all of a sudden I am awash in antlers.

My friend Lucy's parents clued in my folks to the power of antlers for teeth cleaning, and so they sent up a wish to Santa. I have elk and deer antlers, and maybe moose. They are great for chewing. Mom was so inspired she gave our relatives an antler-handled bottle opener for their Minnesota beverages, although I am assuming they will not chew on them. Maybe, in Minnesota, they are a people delicacy, too, but I am not fully informed.

I got to thinking about my behavior over the past year, and toting things up, I have to admit, I was naughty and nice.

Naughty: knocking Dad over in the middle of the road at morning rush hour. Nice: snuggling with my sister to relieve her college application stress.
Naughty: grabbing items willy nilly from every corner of the Wellesley  Booksmith. Nice: not pouting when Mom didn't buy everything I wanted.
Naughty: executing the Plop O'Doom on a regular basis. Nice: starting to learn to come when called.

Just a few examples. Now, I cannot claim to be as food-naughty as my pal Biscuit, who ate an entire pumpkin pie the day after Thanksgiving. Go, Biscuit! There's something to strive for. (Note: favorite dog poetry book, Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan. Read it and laugh hysterically.)

Does Santa count the week after Christmas toward next year's list, or does he take a hiatus from toting things up? I'd like a little break from having to balance things out all the time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookies have me salivating...for a Dreams du Dog Christmas

With Christmas coming up, Mom pulled out her Dreams du Dog special recipes and got baking. Today she made Gingerbread Bones for Good Boys. These are cookie-swap good. My friend Kiki's mom, who loves sweets, mistook them for people cookies and raved about them, then nearly had a heart attack when she found out they were for Kiki, not her.

No worries! Dreams du Dog cookies are made with ingredients—the best—right from the people pantry. I'm crazy about them, but then I'll eat anything (see previous post). Sparky was the true inspiration for the baking business. No stale supermarket "treats" for him—only the best. He'd just spit out all those old Milk-Bones that people proffer. Pitooey! So my sister and Mom started doing some baking, and he supervised every move.

Today I even sat, stayed and zoomed over when called, then knocked Mom over for my reward. "Bones for Good Boys?" she reminded me.

 So, what's in a name? When she refused to give me any more, I went into the pantry and helped myself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A disquisition on the littering habits of my countrymen

I've got to hand it to those treasure-seeking trollers on the beach of Mom's childhood: you never know what you're going to find. While they were on the lookout for coins of the realm, I'm interested in more caloric fare.

Today, for example, I found a great hunk o'bread round the shores of Lake Waban, under a pile of leaves. Then, I snagged a piece of a cupcake (chocolate! with icing!) that somehow was stuck to the trunk of someone's car. That was just a single outing.

Chicken legs, chicken bones, big hunks of roasted chicken. Parts of McDonald's Quarter Pounders. Fries to go with them. Did I mention chicken bones? Bones of all kinds.

One could conclude we are a nation who likes to throw its extra food out the window.

Now that we have a critical mass of Dunkin' Donuts emporia (roughly every 200 feet; otherwise, immediately across the street) in our town, one can expect a concomitant increase in insignia trash. When my sister was 5 and on a visit to our nation's capital, she became disturbed at all of the Dunkin' Donuts cups and napkins she saw strewn about.

While she planned to write a letter to the company president, I'm not at all sure she got around to it. Meanwhile, if people would just toss the donuts away so I can find them, and throw the paper stuff in the trash, I'd be good with that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

4 p.m. T-time: that's Tucker time

4 p.m., and I'm raring to go. So I make the appropriate noises, nudge my leash, and plaster myself to the door to the garage. There's only one way I go after 4 p.m., and that's by C-A-R.

Mom, thinking she's going to win this one, coaxes me to the front door. She wants to walk, not drive, after she's just filled the wagon with gas at $3.15 per gallon. And blah, blah, blah. She's complaining that she's going to put on all her gear, make sure she has this, has that, etc., etc. and that after she's all ready, I'll refuse to go.

Boy, she's got that right. I look like I'm aiming for the front door, but I slip—stealthily (and you can check my definition of that in an earlier post) —right into the crate, which my folks quite properly term "The $100 Avoidance Chamber." And I look perfectly comfy in there.

I'm good at this. So good, in fact, that when my very first blog follower came for a visit, I pulled the same trick. The idea was we all were going for a walk to Morses Pond. No one, of course, consulted moi. 

"Does he like his crate?" this dear person asked. Mom practically snorted.

Sure, I like it just fine, and just long enough for Mom to give up and drive me to a nice, big field. After all, I like to do things one way—my way.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Check up: good news, bad news, and does this count as a bath?

The good news from my checkup with Dr. Schettino at VCA Westboro: I didn't get weighed! No counting of Weight Watchers points for me, pal. Here's the trick. First, execute a perfect Plop O'Doom. That means a heavy sink into the floor. Plopsville. Even with Mom on the floor, pushing, and Dr. S. standing up, pulling, they got nowheresville. It was great, even though Dr. S. said I reminded him of a donkey.

Mom then tried the "door #2" method to get me into the back room where they do all those yucky procedures, but all I could say was: No can do. Finally, I gave in to have a heartworm check, bordatella vaccination, etc. etc., but having successfully tried the patience of everybody, they somehow forgot about the weigh-in. Whew!

In my defense, I recently had my mass accounted for. When I was last there a couple of weeks ago, the technician came out with a sad look. "He's 88 pounds," she lamented. Mom exulted—at least four lbs off my top weight! I didn't tell either of them that I exhaled just before getting on the scale, then shifted my bulk onto just one hindquarter.

Now the bad news. Dr. S. says I have oily skin and need a bath once a week. Sparky only needed a bath twice a year! So, does my walk this morning count? I got soaked.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sneaky, surreptitious, or just napping? You decide

So, when my parents came home from the pre-Cotillion party and left me behind, did they expect to see me bounding downstairs, wagging my tail and just overjoyed that they deigned to return and keep me company?

Apparently, I couldn't be found. What is this, Goldie Foxhound and The Three Bears in reverse? Someone would come in and steal just me (precious though I am)? Didn't they check all the beds?

They said they did. I wasn't in: the guest room (Grandma left today); the beanbag in the study; my sister's bed; my parents' bed; the living room; my chair; my $100 avoidance chamber (the crate). Precious things, they panicked!

Moms, however, keep clear heads in times of emergency. She uttered my favorite word, car of course, and out I came from my hiding place. I wish to keep that secret.

Speaking of secrets, was I being sneaky? That is, defined as furtive, or sly? Covert? Clandestine? Stealthy?

Surreptitious? Meaning my hiding spot was kept secret, connoting guilt, because it wouldn't be approved of? (That couldn't possibly be. What haven't they allowed?)

Or was I just napping, resting, dormant, or relaxed?

Friday, November 26, 2010

All hounds on deck! A hunting we will go!

I was super excited when Mom told me about the Norfolk Hunt Club's Thanksgiving Day hunt. I had visions of me leaping over fences, scrambling through ditches and generally having a wild time. The thrill of the chase! The lure of the scent!

Alas, it was not to be. Though I did snag some dark turkey meat, the only hunting I did was for scraps near the oven while Mom was cooking. Then, my people left me savoring the tantalizing smell of meat while they hoofed it out to watch the hunt.

Well, I could have told them all about it. After all, in my six months in South Carolina, I had plenty of experience. At the end of the day, while country life has its charms, and I wouldn't mind sharing a sleeping space with my canine kin, a kennel just can't compare with a warm blanket. Or a bed all to oneself. Or turkey with gravy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grateful, or thankful? What's the difference?

So, I'm thinking of things I'm thankful for, this being Thanksgiving and all, and as I'm toting up all that's terrific in my life, I start wondering: am I thankful, or am I grateful? 


For example, am I thankful for the luxurious new Italian wool throw that my cugini sent, or am I grateful that they left so I can have my room back? Furthermore, did Mom feel embarrassed that I had chewed holes through the old throw?

I will elucidate. The definitions, then:
1. grateful: feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness. So I would be grateful for a new wool throw to wrap 'round my tired self. How terribly kind of them to think of me.
2. thankful: pleased and relieved (no kidding!) Obviously, I'm thankful that I have my room back.
And Mom will be embarrassed once my dear cugini see just how grateful, and thankful, I am. Cozy, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

NY Times disses dogs twice on front page!

I'm steaming: two articles demeaning dogs on the Times' front page in the same day! Above the fold!

The first, Doubts Rise on Bedbug Sniffing Dogs, about dogs who mistake other bugs, such as rodent mites, for bedbugs, casts doubt on the ability of my sniffing cousins to detect these miniscule but horrible creatures.  What's the problem? asks Mom. Are dogs expected to identify each bug by genus and species?  Besides, any bug inside the house is a bad bug in Mom's book. Wouldn't you be grateful if a dog identified some rodent mites in your house?

Demeaning piece #2: a story, Cats Lap With Just Tip of the Tongue, trumpeting the amazing physical abilities of cats to lap up their milk. No kidding. The story even had stop-motion photographs to demonstrate this apparently incredible feat. Not only that, the author felt compelled to compare it with the water-lapping technique of dogs. Writer Nicholas Wade calls the sound accompanying my slurps "unseemly" and "crude." He even goes so far to write: "Cats, both big and little, are so much classier," attributing this judgment to several engineers.

Now, dear reader, do you really think these scientists made that evaluation in their report in Science? Or is the value judgment simply one made by this seemingly biased writer?

I went to the source, Science's November 11 issue.  I learned quite a bit about lapping kinematics, including "gravitational collapse," "pinch-off" and "mouth closure" factors, as well as the suction abilities of horses and sheep. This fascinating reading aside, the scientists do mention the "elegance" of the cat's method but make no invidious comparisons. Dogs scoop water into their mouths. And what, exactly, is wrong with that? Works for me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dog walking samaritan helps woman, builds community

Walking home from a small adventure, I was thinking about how lucky humans are to have dogs. We help them build community in ways they might not think of themselves.

As I was having this epiphany, I ran into Mom's friend Josh and a visitor from Portland, Oregon, where people are so friendly an Easterner might think they have an ulterior motive. Josh is a Natick selectman (whose dog Buddy was not a friend of Sparky's but anyway, that's how we know each other) who, among many other goals, is trying to make life easier for walkers. He'd like to see Wellesley's Crosstown Trail linked to Natick's aqueduct trail. So would I. I'd also like a trail behind the businesses on the west end of town so that I don't have to risk my life walking along Rte. 9 to get to the Crosstown Trail. I might get to meet more dogs, too.

But I digress. On our walk, we met up with my pal Brinkley and her mom, and decided to hike together. We came upon an older person who had fallen, and while Brinkley and I tried to alert the neighborhood, Mom helped her get up and brought her home. Another dogwalking friend, who lives around the corner, promised to check up on her.

That's just one example of how dogs build community. Without them, who would be out and about? How would humans meet each other?

BTW, just got some mail. Lost my I.D. last week at Lake Waban and received a phone call, then my tag with a note enclosed, wishing me happy trails and signed Willow H., with pawprint. I'm intrigued. Another community building opportunity—or could it be romance?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ah, Chicago! and all that jazz...

Can't sleep thinking about the verve, vibe and vivaciousness of Chicago, Wellesley High School's musical. It's fab, and if you can, snag the balcony seats that are released a half hour before the show (tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30; tomorrow afternoon at 2).

Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have a marabou feather float into your hand as you applaud the incredible efforts of cast and crew (my sister's the stage manager). That's what happened to Mom, who actually sewed those white satin, marabou-trimmed costumes that are in the closing number, Nowadays.


Here's where I made my entrance: why should Mom be the only one to try on those gaudy creations? While she was so doing, I leaped up for my turn. What was the problem? My paws were clean!

I was so excited that I needed a nap, immediately. Show business is exhausting!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall forward! Spring back!

My dad can be a tad contrary. It's mostly a good thing. Mom says that because he thinks differently than most, he's able to be creative. That's when she's feeling generous. Other times, she has been known to accuse him of having uncommon sense. Because after all, what's common about him?

So it makes perfect sense for our rather special family to be confused about Daylight Savings Time. Once, when Dad visited a nursing home, a resident asked which way to change the clock. "Fall forward," Dad said, and impressed by his great confidence, the poor woman ended up being two hours out of whack.

Twice a year, we rely on Grandma to set us straight. Hope she calls tomorrow! Of course, I have my own very reliable internal clock. But, just to support my dad, I'll use the confusion as an excuse to get some extra shuteye. Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Immense, mammoth, monumental—Giants!

Having just demolished, in less than 10 minutes, a bone deemed "Colossal" by its maker, I am generally in favor of things that are large.

So I salute the San Francisco Giants on their titanic win, and also would like to give a plug to my pal Dan Fost's history of those Giants. While not hefty nor voluminous, Giants Past & Present is extensive, informed, beautifully illustrated and organized, and of course, extremely well-written. The Dan himself predicted their whopping win this year in a blog post on giantspastandpresent.com:
... this year feels different. I know, I know, we should not get ahead of ourselves and predict a Giant victory – but I can’t help but feel that this team has what it takes for that ultimate Champagne shower.

Dan goes on to give 13 reasons why the Giants will win. He was right, and his tremendous book is right, too, for that special Brobdingnagian baseball fan.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why did the turkey cross the road?

Clearly, he or she wanted to check out the new striping on Central Street, which has just about everybody confounded.

He also might have questioned why the striping was done before any repaving, but that question is better left to higher minds than his. Such as mine.

However, I enjoyed seeing him early of a morn, the sun just peeking up over the evergreens and the shimmer of water in the distance. It's my kind of weather, cool, dry and of course, sunny, so I've been packing a lot of vim and vigor into my day, as I told my pal Lucy's parents.

What's vim? you ask. Well, Lucy's folks conveniently have a large dictionary on a pedestal, so you can just look up words whenever you like. Vim: energy; enthusiasm, of which I have more than enough.

So to contain some of same, Mom tried the Easy Walk harness on me. Or, I should say, retried; perhaps she forgot that the problem with the harness was not that it had problems containing me but rather that it should more properly be called the Easy Balk harness.

For that is what I did, dear reader.

Stood there, simply stood there, until she was out of her mind. I knew she was out of treats, so guess who won this round of patience? When I want, I can be very, very patient. Very, very patient.

Fortunately for Mom, the mail carrier didn't know that we were engaged in this secret war, and he pulled off the road to greet me. Bored as I was, it was a relief. Plus, I nabbed a few more calories, just in case I did walk off —or, should I say, balk off— a few during my outing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween howling: be heard!

Tonight is Worldwide Howl at the Moon Night, and I say, why should tonight be any different? At least I'll have some others joining me in song, so my howls (or bays, to use the proper term) won't be so obvious.

Fat chance.

Anyway, I'm glad that others will try to express themselves. Today I read The Dog Who Cried Wolf by Keiko Kasza, about a pup named Moka who reads a book about wolves and runs out to the woods to get back to his roots.

Unfortunately, when he does realize his dream of howling at the moon, some wolves howl back, and scare the fur off of his little self!

Because I can howl, or rather, bay, anytime I want, I have no such desire to take off and live au naturel. Besides, in all my hikes through the Hunnewell Woods, I've never seen a king-sized bed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Incessant, unceasing barking, definition of

This post was inspired by the unceasing, or is it incessant, barking of several dogs in my neighborhood, most small and yippy, one large and menacing, but all annoying.

Being a rather quiet guy, I'm a bit puzzled by the commotion. Because (notice I did not use the word "since") I'm becoming known for my clear definition of terms, especially the difference between obstinate and obdurate, it occurred to me that I didn't quite know the difference between unceasing and incessant, or even if there was a difference.

So here's the deal: unceasing and incessant both basically mean "not coming to an end," which certainly is true of the noise around here (excepting of course, the immediate environs of moi, Tucker). However, incessant has a negative connotation, and is used when the unceasing barking has become unpleasant (in other words, immediately). The definition given for incessant is "continuing without pause or interruption."

The odd thing is, that after musing over these definitions this morning, this afternoon I went out for my walk, properly leashed, of course. One of the yippy dogs, improperly off leash, bounded out of her yard and attempted to attack me, several times, dashing forward, dashing back, baring her teeth and rolling her eyes in a most unseemly manner. Finally, provoked, I let loose with my sound of alarum usually reserved for the Siberian Husky (although it was the moderate version), but the thing kept approaching, gnashing its teeth and barking. Unceasingly. Incessantly. Annoyingly.

After it was all over, I went through the paces of my walk, but my heart wasn't in it, and when I got home, I went to sleep. Immediately.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Swellesley Inn: hotel for dogs?

Time for me to make a reservation for my own room, or so it seems. No sooner did Grandma finish up her visit than our cousins booked the place for the weekend.

What is this, a revolving door? A B&B? All Mom does now is bake muffins and wash bedding. It's ridiculous. What I want is a dedicated sleeping spot, and so I proved my point this week. First, I pouted in my beanbag. And I mean in.

Next, I took advantage of the guest-ready parlor (parlance for small living room just right for some good sleeping) and snuggled on the loveseat (white). However, I was not there long enough to pose for a photo.

Then, just as Mom was about to do more bedding, I scored the down comforter as I came back from my marathon walk. Notice I do look a bit embarrassed, but not embarrassed enough to move. In fact, thanks to the laptop, I still haven't gotten up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No trophy for me at Columbus Day gorge-fest

Ever notice how people must have food nearby at every opportunity, as if they were threatened with starvation if they didn't eat something for, say, an hour? It's as sure as fleas in summer, and I am onto it big time.

For example, last Columbus Day was a food bonanza. Natick hosted a big soccer tournament, and it's true, children did run around after a ball, but, to my nose, the food trumped play.  I was kind of like Templeton the rat in Charlotte's Web: I just couldn't stop gorging myself on rolls, hotdogs, hamburgers, whatever I found—discarded of course. I'm not even sure just what was on the menu, but if it smelled like food, I ate it. And it was everywhere.

My only disappointment was that I didn't receive a trophy. I showed up, didn't I? I ate my share of food, no? I ran around, yes? So what was the problem?

Besides food, many participants, whether winners or not, received trophies. That's something that Ashley Merryman of Nurture Shock says is a no-no. Not everyone wins, right? Well, I bayed and bayed, but somehow people were not amused. They just didn't get it. And I didn't get one.

But I did win. Because when I got home, Dad asked whether I had eaten yet. "Not officially," Mom answered. So I ate some surplus rations anyway, and that was just as good as a trophy to me. Actually, it was even better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sleep deprivation: threat or menace?

What does it take to get some shuteye around here? I'm exhausted. Grandma has been visiting, and that means I've been kicked out of my room.

You know what it's like to have to sleep on the couch when visitors come? That's what I'm going through. The door to my room remains shut tight. No Tuckers allowed. I've been moping around, looking as morose as possible, hoping someone will take pity on me.

No such luck.

Instead, Grandma blames my depression on meeting some lower-class dogs at the Medway dog park, where I have just gained admission (I actually had a great time. More on that later, when I'm feeling better.). Why she persists in this erroneous line of thinking, I do not know.

So, it's from the beanbag to the crate, the chair in Mom and Dad's room, the sleeping cushion in the family room, my sister's bed...I just keep switching from place to place, disoriented, practically falling to pieces.

As Mom learned from Ashley Merryman's visit to Wellesley this week, she of the book Nurture Shock, sleep deprivation is cumulative; after a week of losing an hour's sleep a night, you've lost a whole night! Grandma's visiting for a whole week. How much is that in dog years?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The horror, the horror! Or, you broke it, you bought it

Last week, I officially opened the Halloween season with a trick at Tilly and Salvy's Bacon Street Farm: noting a seasonal display of scarecrows sitting beguilingly on hay bales, I immediately ransacked same.

As I seized the scarecrows and prepared to shake the stuffing out of them, I knocked over an adorable ghost-shaped votive candle holder ($2.99), also perched on a bale, and smashed it to smithereens. Oops!

Mom picked up the pieces and went inside to admit my crime. Rick came out to admonish me (actually, he very kindly let it go and petted me). However, I was so entranced with those stuffed creatures that I shook a few more on my way home, just to show them who's the boss.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear Mr. President, I can help with Bo

So, I see that someone from Bellevue, Wash. visited my blog for advice on training an obstinate dog. One could not find a more expert authority. Therefore, I propose my services to none other than our president.

I've always felt a bond with Bo. Actually, I had been lobbying for the president to choose a foxhound as the First Dog, given the pertinent history of my breed. (You know, George Washington, Lafayette, etc., etc.) However, I hold no grudge, especially given the late Sen. Kennedy was the generous benefactor.

But I have noticed that Bo has taken his place at the head of the family. See Politico's story on what Cesar Millan thinks. (And, btw, reporter Patrick Gavin, the Dog Whisperer's name is spelled Millan, not Milan; that's the city.) Even I think my dad is tops, and while he knows the U.S. Constitution inside and out, he's never taken the oath of office.

Bo, pal, you need to shape up.  Here's our family hierarchy: Dad, my sister, me, and Mom (I have to preside over someone!). When Mom went to visit the hounds at the Norfolk Hunt Club, she was keenly aware that the hounds never ventured in front of their master. It's a major no-no.

Here are my tips for the Obamas.
First, load up your pockets with the best treats you can find. Lots of them.
Then, find a harness that will help keep that furry body contained. It will give you more traction, and he won't mind too too much.
Next, start walking on a short leash. Practice sit every couple of steps. Give tons of treats.

Tucker's Tip: Here's a trick that drives dogs crazy: the minute they start to pull, you turn around and walk the other way. Now, it might seem odd for a president to be walking in circles, and we certainly don't want anyone to extrapolate any political meaning to same, so perhaps Sasha and Malia can take on this job.

Soon, Bo will be walking proudly next to his dad, and he can channel his other demanding behaviors for the privacy of his own home. After all, it's his castle, too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A rainy day and a Monday=extra sleep time

A tad under the weather this week, plus it's raining, so it's a good day to sleep in.

Licked something I shouldn't have that fell off a garbage truck, keeping me up at all hours of the night. And I mean all. Fortunately, the skies were clear, so Mom appreciated being able to chart the changing constellations—I mean, who sees Orion in September, unless it's 4 a.m.? She literally counted those lucky stars.

Then, just when I had recovered, a bee stung my right paw. Thank goodness, I'm a leftie when it comes to high-fives and shake, so I haven't missed out on any treats. Somehow, my injury didn't keep me from pretending I hadn't eaten already, so I gobbled down double feedings—one from Mom, one from Dad. It is getting to be trick-or-treat time, so why not? There were a few days when I had practically no calories at all, and I really needed to catch up.

Should be up and about carousing soon. Unless it's raining, of course. Anyone know a good bedtime story?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New owners for Wellesley Booksmith: paws up!

Wow! I'm thrilled that my favorite Wellesley Square destination, the Wellesley Booksmith, has new owners (see today's Globe news story). Hooray to Gillian and Bill Kohli! I'm reassured that Gillian says she intends to keep everything going as usual: for moi, of course, that means great fresh water, treats and constant inquiries about my health and well-being.

For example, last week Margaret was quite concerned that I might waste away unless I was handed a treat immediately. And then Rebecca made sure that I was properly fed before going out into that cold, vastness of the Square. (Actually, it's just a few steps down to Pinnacle's real estate office, where I am regularly refreshed. But I won't tell her that.)

So welcome, Gillian and Bill, and congratulations! I can't wait to be properly introduced. Paw?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A taste of the upper crust

OK, so it's not every day that a good ole Southern boy like me gets the opportunity to mingle with the upper crust. I have to say, I liked it very much—the pizza, I mean.

Mom prides herself on making her own pizza, so it's very rare for us to let someone else's fingers in the dough. But in between one thing and another, we found ourselves with no time to do any home cooking. Turns out, the Upper Crust Pizzeria was in between both things we had to do. That very afternoon, her fitness pal Barbara had suggested the place. Mom listened politely, paying special attention to Barbara Biceps' recommendation of the spinach leaf pie.

B.B. used to have a fetching black lab who palled around with Sparky. Both, sadly, are gone now, and both knew the realms of the upper crust (not the pizza) quite well. Born to it, you might say.

Because I'm obviously not to the manor born, but rather to its kennel back a ways into the woods, I had to settle for waiting outside the cafe for the pizza to cook. It's a super place right in Wellesley Square, and I was fortunate enough to notice some choice crumbs underneath the little outdoor tables.

Ah, Italia! My sister noticed the equal-opportunity no-animal signs on shops when she visited Roma: a slash through a rooster, cat, horse, and dog. As if those other creatures could even appreciate the treasures of Italy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cave feline, canines forever!

Though I'm not violently opposed to cats, one never knows when my coiled spring of athleticism might suddenly go off. So it was with considerable trepidation that I entered Wellesley Booksmith yesterday, Mom having received its email newsletter featuring, I believe, its first cat ever. Well, good for them, following the Golden Rule, etc. etc. etc., I charitably thought in the abstract.

After gorging on treats at both front and back counters, I paused. Was that a meow? Again I paused, tilting my gorgeous head and opening my sail-like ears to the fullest. My ears luffed during a lull, then became taut. A meow it was! And again, and again, and again.

Mom and Dad both claim to be allergic to felines, in the way of those who just don't like something. Grandma, for example, claims to be allergic to cilantro ("tastes like soap") when in reality, she's just hypersensitive, one of those rare supertasters with a questionable gift. My sister, however, is fond of all creatures, and one must love her for that, although I hope she never brings a c-a-t home.

So there I was, torn. Real, or not real? Being superaudio (if I may coin a term), I detected something robotic in the catlike utterance, and went to investigate. A tot was opening and closing a kitty book with its meowing electronic chip. Did the thrall of this toy last? I triumphantly can say, the book dropped to the floor when the tot beheld me in my awesomeness. Canines forever! Anyone know the Latin for beware of cat?

Monday, September 6, 2010

City Dog, Country Frog: what were they thinking?

OK, I've been avoiding this topic all summer, but it's really gotten under my skin. You think I'd love it: a foxhound lovingly treated by the brilliant watercolorist Jon J Muth, combined with text by the exceedingly clever Mo Willems.

Despite countless ads in the New Yorker and glowing reviews, my take on it is this: this effort simply does not work. First, deep and sincere thanks to Mr. Muth for deciding to highlight my distinguished breed. I often complain about the missed opportunities to showcase my, I mean, our handsomeness. Yet, since when is a hound a city dog? A hound is nothing but a country dog! Even Mom must admit that one reason I garner so much attention is because of my rarity here in Swellesley. My family is known for tackling tough cases when it comes to canines, so they didn't mind my country manners (read: none) too much. The owners in the book, though they never make an appearance, must have been awfully glad to get that hound back to the country.

Ok, so right dog, wrong book. The story simply makes no sense. It also has no connection to the Aesop fable The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, one of Mom's favorites.

In this effort, a dog meets a frog and they become friends. Hounds are extremely kind beings, true. I have not only two rabbits in my pack but a gazillion fish and three frogs. Although I receive my liquid refreshment from our outdoor pond, I would never dream of harming those amphibians. Somehow, I don't think they'd be great playmates, either.

And, frogs overwinter without any trouble at all, so why does this frog not reemerge in spring? We are not told. In one truly frightening picture, the hound's face is distorted to become frog-like as he remembers his friend. Then, once the reader has absorbed the fact that the frog is gone, the dog makes a new friend, just like that, with an even unlikelier creature. Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis does a better job of addressing the cruelties of nature, friendship, and loss. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print.

My favorite dog book du jour doesn't deal with any of the above heavy topics, but the joy of reading: Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates. Completely adorable, just like me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Maid, please make up my room, and pronto!

No Relais & Chateaux property has been so carefully cleaned, and I am nothing less than chagrined.

After all, it's my room, no?
Apparently not.

My room has practically been under hermetic seal, awaiting the arrival of Mom's cousins, who are bringing their daughter to Boston College. Meanwhile, where exactly am I supposed to sleep? I have my routines. Bedtime, I'm already there, stretched out on my shearling. My beanbag is more like a daybed, and while it's perfectly comfortable for a daytime snooze lasting several hours, it's too small for a proper nighttime sleep.

Each morning at 5 I head to the chair in mom and dad's room so they don't lose any of their waking moments praising my handsomeness—they can see me lounging there as soon as they wake up. It was one of those early mornings when Mom took advantage of my momentary absence from my room to swoop up the bedding and erect the barricade.

So, what's the deal: am I part of the family, or not? It's Tucker's room, not the guest room, I silently plead. I hang my head in extreme moroseness. She ignores me. I whine, reproachfully. Then I take my case to the closed door and stand immovable. I am ignored. It wasn't so long ago that I was homeless, so I'm still appreciative. I'm very appreciative. I really appreciate my bed. In fact, I appreciate all of them. The beds, I mean. Cousins, too, I guess.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tons of Tuckers: Norfolk Hunt Club's hound haven

"Well, Tucker," Mom said, "You would have loved it. Tons of hounds, all very well behaved, plus puppies!"

I didn't need her to tell me. I could smell those hounds on her from at least a mile away. Our friends Pete and Kate, dog trainers extraordinaire, help walk the hard-working hounds at the hunt club twice a week. Today they invited some members of our family. "Tucker can't come," Pete said. He was right. I wouldn't have fit in. Well-behaved is not exactly the best adjective to describe me. Goofy? Yes. Silly? Yes. Funny? Check. Strong-willed? Double check.

So off went Pete, my sister and Mom while I had Dad all to myself on our morning walk. It was my special birthday present to him.

They started out with a peek at Penny's eleven pups, just a couple weeks old and adorable. What a mom! Penny didn't mind visitors; they gave her an excuse to put her nose in the treat bin. Then, they went for a walk with hound master John and dozens of hounds. The hounds stayed right with John, and if they even thought about straying, he made sure they didn't.

Mom's favorite was Dollop, because he was goofy and endearingly puppy-like, just like me. The hounds knew exactly what to expect from their master and knew their routine. They're trained early on with the help of the older dogs, literally attached as they are paired up. I'll bet Dollop wasn't an easy baby.

The dogs became pretty voluble when we neared a spaniel and when they caught the scent of a German Shepherd, but other than that they were remarkably quiet. Just like me. Hey, maybe I could learn to work for a living. I do admire that pluck in a pup. For now, I think, I'll just take another nap. Being a pet does have its advantages—which cushion should I pick?


A big thanks to John, Pete and Kate for helping my family learn more about me.

So what did I get Dad for his birthday? Dog walking gear, of course!

Monday, August 23, 2010

These words inspired by H. D. Thoreau

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately..." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

Actually, I went to the woods because Mom and Dad took me there on my morning walk. And I am very deliberate during my time there. In fact, Henry David himself says that there's nothing like a bit of exercise to get the creative juices flowing.

Being naturally rather introspective, I consulted my two-volume set of Thoreau's journals (rather criminally discarded by a New Jersey public library which shall go unnamed) for August 19, 1851: "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow...The writing which consists with habitual sitting is mechanical, wooden, dull to read."

There you have it: the perfect argument for every writer to have an annoying, lovable pup who has only the writer's best interests (plus his own, of course) at heart, when launching himself at the writing chair. The goal: to put both writer and pup in motion.

If you need more instruction on moving, the September Runner's World has tons of info on running with dogs, including the pros and cons of running with a leash, top dogs for running with humans, things to buy for your running dog (why no high-endurance treats on the list? I'm always thinking food).

Somehow, my noble breed is not one recommended for running with humans. The problem? Humans seem to like run in a straight line! Sparky, my beloved brother Dalmatian and an excellent running companion, was fine with that. Me, perhaps because of my contrarian nature, am not.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A case for independent bookstores

Let me make this clear: I am too big to be carried.  Last week I saw a chihuahua-sized thing tenderly being bundled into the CVS in Wellesley Square. Is that legal? Then, at Michael's craft store on Rte. 9, what Mom thought was a baby turned out to be a terrier (shudder). The only places where a good ole hound like me, size large, is welcome are dog stores and independent bookstores. And the vet's, of course, which I tend to avoid. Now I've learned that half of the independent bookstores that were open 10 years ago now are closed. Not a good thing, especially for moi.

Or people. Example: in search of P. Allen Smith books, Mom stooped to Barnes and Noble, our beloved Wellesley Booksmith not yet onto P. Allen. She should have known. Nevertheless, to use Dad's favorite word for winning arguments, she combed through every one of the store's two bookcases' worth of gardening books, rather thinly stocked and not organized by topic or author as promised. The weirdest thing: by far the most books on any topic (14 separate titles!) were on growing marijuana.  While I'm all for the freedom to read, doesn't that seem a bit disproportionate?

I'll stick to ungardening, thanks, and pray that the independents survive and thrive. Pretty sure B&N doesn't allow dogs, but I wouldn't go there even if they did.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Woof! It's a wrap

For years, our house wrapping paper was a terrific dalmatian print—not the cutesy kind you're thinking of, but beautifully done and super quality. We still have a sentimental stash of it, but we've long been in need for some new themed rolls.

Enter Paper Source with a cool new wrap. OK, it's more than a tad edgy, as if all those pups were about to get into a Jets vs. Sharks brawl, but we can change with the times, no? Check it out. There's also a wicked looking Boston terrier (but is there any other kind?) backpack for those who want to terrify their schoolmates.

Wrapping paper is the perfect confluence of two mottos: PS' (and mom's) "Create Something Every Day" and mine, "Destroy Something Every Day." Gotta love it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Confessions of a destructive foxhound, Part II

Herein I continue to list my sins in hopes they will be absolved. Or at least forgotten. However, toothmarks remain on some objects not completely destroyed: I'm not the greatest at covering my tracks.

Sparky did his share of swiping just about anything off a counter, but he did it delicately. He could snag a quarter of my sister's grilled cheese sandwich, and no one would ever know. My family would think, "Hey, did I already eat that? Must have."

I, however, am more of a smash-and-grab kind of guy. Just-baked oatmeal cookies off the fancy china plate? Why not, and might as well snag the plate too. Smash!

Vase of flowers on the kitchen island? Crash!

Crystal vase on the fireplace mantel? Bash!

Then there are the wooden objects. Mom's bamboo-handled summer bag? Chomp! Mom's second wood-handled bag? Chomp! Chomp! (You think she would have gotten the idea, but no.) Leg of ottoman—should be on a menu!

On to the plastic: Mom's prescription sunglasses. Mom's prescription eyeglasses. Mom's new prescription sunglasses. Onward!

I've come a long way. Really. If only mom would get a new pair of glasses, sans toothmarks of course, she might even forget all about my destructive side. Somehow, I get the feeling that she just doesn't trust me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A world of pets: the experience

With Tails Doggie Boutique on hiatus (Noreen promises to reopen in a new Wellesley location Nov. 1) I found myself at Pet World in Natick, looking for yet another sleeping cushion.

Once inside, and entranced by the awesomely varied scents, I stood stockstill on the entrance mat (hey, a mat on which to be entranced!). Of course, that meant no one else could go in or out. No matter. I soon was moved by an incredible sight: a gigantic barrel filled with enormous ostrich tracheas! Ostriches! Who would have thought!

Regular readers of this blog know I long for tracheas. Though I can almost always sway my indulgent mom, on the matter of tracheas she will not budge. So a braided bone had to do.

What I didn't realize, quite right away, for I was extracting the odors of birds, bunnies, mice, etc., is that PetWorld is home to a myriad of cats: Kitty City, I think it's called. Felines! Lots of them. I bellowed a warning: "You cats! Go away!"

Well, they were in cages, so they couldn't go away. Nor would I.

I was given priority checkout. Victory! And please, someone, adopt those things for me. Thanks.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ungardening, or why P. Allen Smith is my man

I love to garden. I love the feel of the dirt under my nails, my feet flying, and the bliss of that nice, warm dry hole that I get to lie down in.

That's why P. Allen Smith is my man. Because while I'm busy ungardening Mom's precious flowers, she can be busy planting containers the P. Allen way.

P. Allen received some serious real estate in the Times this week (three pages!), showcasing not only his own Arkansas real estate but his gardening and marketing talents, and favorably comparing him to Mom's other idol, Martha. The Times photos were gorgeous, as P. Allen himself confessed to Mom yesterday when they met (swoon). But Mom thought Kim Severson a bit snarky as P. Allen's decorating taste and even his personal life were called into question.

P. Allen is a complete gentleman, so of course he didn't let on whether he was miffed or not. Because I wasn't allowed on the bus from Russell's Garden Center in Wayland to Loudon, NH, where Mom toured the Proven Winners greenhouses (and met the famous P.) she asked him for me whether there were many foxhounds in Arkansas. Not really, said P., more bird dogs, like his "Jackrats" (part Jack Russell, part rat terriers) featured in the Times photos. Wonder if those Jackrats catch squirrels, because they love to ungarden Mom's containers.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tub time fundraiser at Cambridge hotel benefits Trust for Public Land

Hey, I'm all for saving open space. Baths? Not so much. But the idea of going to a cool, pet-friendly Cambridge hotel for a good cause, and treats (of course) sounds pretty good. Plus the chance to get out of the 'burbs, wonderful as they are, and check out the city scene.

(I would have, last night, but some people left me behind while they took in a Boston Landmarks Orchestra concert on the Esplanade, featuring bits of the Puccini opera Tosca. I would have loved to have sung along with the pros. But no.)

So check it out: Saturday, August 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Hotel Marlowe, Cambridge. Laundromutt is handling the wash and dry, Polka Dog Bakery is proffering treats (yum!), and I hear the paparazzi will be in attendance.

The $15 fee benefits the Boston chapter of the Trust for Public Land.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Land of Used-to-Be, or, Happy Birthday, Mom!

Mom is entering the Land of  Used-to-Be, as in: "I used to be such a fast runner! I used to be such a good tennis player! I used to be able to do the Friday and Saturday New York Times crossword puzzles in five minutes!"

To which I say, Mom, you run everyone around you, especially me, completely ragged, so just stop it.

(One notable exception: Grandma. She makes everyone look like they're moving in stop time.)

A complete day for Mom ends with her being happily exhausted. In summer, this means: running, rowing, swimming, gardening, going to the dump, cleaning, going for several walks, then (it seems to me) starting all over again. In winter, it's ice skating, cross-country skiing, shoveling, walks, cleaning, dump, etc. etc. Also, working. Sometimes, cooking.

So for Mom's birthday, Dad wants her to relax. He suggests going out to lunch. "Waste of a beautiful day!" Mom replies. Eating is not high up on Mom's agenda, which is one area in which we are not at all alike. In fact, eating rates pretty high on my agenda. Only sleeping is higher. That's because my agenda has just two items.

So happy birthday, Mom! My gift to you: I promise to go for an extra walk if you promise to let me nap for the rest of the day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

House of blues: missing my sister

With my sister away, I've been getting into all kinds of trouble. She's the one who keeps me on track: makes me go for my afternoon walks; loads me in the back of the wagon when I'd rather be in the front; gives me a bath without putting up with my fussing.

So, you can imagine how I've taken advantage of Mom, poor thing. Today she promised me a mani pedi without making an appointment, and so to assuage my disappointment when the groomer wasn't available (and keep me off the tracheas) bought me a braided bone  (although they are much cheaper at Tails, still open this week. Note to self: stock up tomorrow).  While I was being fawned over for being very, very handsome (note the double form of amazement at my beauty) unbeknownst to me, she also purchased lavender scented dog shampoo. Oh, my sister never would allow that!

Here's the part where I make her life difficult: Even with that awesome bone to tempt me, I still wouldn't get in the car before I had properly examined my surroundings. Even then...you know I'm as stubborn as they come. Finally Mom gave in and put me in the back (not the way back) which she is a bit frightened of doing, but honestly, I'm bigger than she is.

Then, bath time. She thought she could trick me by covering the bucket full o' water with a towel. Hah! I knew better. She uncovered the grill (I love the grill!). She sauntered around pretending to tidy the garden. I fell for the grill trick, and that was it. I was clean. But I still laid on all the beds to help me finish drying. Wouldn't want to catch a chill.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No debarking or debaying: vocal cords protected in Massachusetts

Ah, the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, friend to dogs (cats, too), has become the first state in the country to ban surgery to keep us from talking. It's unbelievable that it could even have been allowed.

Even though I'm a very quiet guy, I just can't imagine saying nothing. I mean, how would I answer my folks when they ask, "Are you hungry?" Unless I provide a heartfelt bay, I'm not getting anything, and I know it.

It's true that some of my neighbors drive me crazy with their barking. Tonight I was out for a walk and Mom practically had a heart attack when some little yippy thing broke out into "Get away! This is my place! No walking in front of my house!" You know, that's what air conditioning is for: keeping the sound down. So you want quiet? Call the a/c guy, not the surgeon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to recover from a vacation hangover

Really, this post should be titled "How Not to Recover..." because I certainly haven't found the solution. I don't know about you, but vacations make me extraordinarily tired. There's all that to-ing and fro-ing, your food never tastes the same, and sometimes you just want to sleep in your own bed (or beds, plural, since I have so many choices at home). Then, there are the others, who just can't seem to shut up. Bark, bark, bark, all day long. I come home hoarse and exhausted. You know how people say they need a vacation from their vacation? That's me.

So, did I get what I needed? Noooo. No sooner did I arrive at my domicile, than the thunder started. I shivered in the hallway, unable to be consoled. Finally got some shuteye and slept 'til this morning, went for a walk in the Hunnewell woods, and then straight to sleep again. I mean, I was zonked. I couldn't even eat.

Then, the  First Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detection Man came on, and wouldn't let up. What does he think, I can't hear? "Evacuate! Evacuate! Smoke! Smoke!" Blare! Blare! Blare! All the alarms went off, and I think they even confused Detection Man, because he was yelling over himself. I shivered on my beanbag, trying to close my ears. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Fred the electrician from Dellorfon came to my rescue. Thanks, Fred! Sleep is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wild goose chase leads to Lake Waban rescue!

So, I emerged from my vacation exhaustion long enough to go for a short walk at Lake Waban with my dear girlfriend K—. While she's no Michael Phelps, she's been doing some swimming, and as I waded on the Wellesley College side, she decided to get wet all the way.

Problem was, some Canada geese were hanging about, and when she got in, they swam away, just slowly enough to keep out of her reach. They kept swimming, and so did she. And they kept swimming, and so did she, and soon her mom was frantically calling her to come back.  But you know us dogs, when we want to do something, we do it.

So my Mom, who grew up swimming, worked as a lifeguard, and has even been known to race other moms at Morses Pond (and win, I might add) jumped in for the rescue. Fortunately, as she and K— were getting pretty far out, K— finally gave up on her goose chase and turned around. Mom was able to grab her collar and swim with her back to shore. K—'s mom and I were worn out from our frantic pacing and grateful everything turned out OK. Lessons learned: no swimming off leash, program emergency numbers into the phone, and come when called.

Well, I haven't quite learned that last one.

In the path of destruction...Part I

You know that Paper Source motto, "Create Something Every Day"? Mom loves that, or at least the idea of it.

Well, I'm a contrarian, so my own motto is this: Destroy Something Every Day. 

However, now that I'm turning three big ones, I might be a tad more mature. True, I was a callow youth, a mere half-dozen months old, when my family brought me home. I, who had never known more than an outdoor pen, had never crossed a home's threshold or jumped gleefully into a car. Ah, a dog without a proper home is a sad thing...

So, I'm in my new yard for no more than 10 seconds when I unleash the full force of my pointy teeth onto my new, 100% guaranteed, indestructible leash. Just one chomp required—it wasn't as if it was the Gordian knot or anything. Mom did send for a replacement, but sorry to say, it did not give her the mastery she sought. Oh, no.

Herewith I confess my destructive sins, both mortal and venial. You decide which is which.

Tucker time (T) + 10 seconds: the aforementioned leash severing.

T + one day: Stand on table, break lamp.

T + two days: ditto with lamps two and three.

T + three days: chomp portable phone to smithereens

T + four days: devour family's steak dinner (I wouldn't call a thoroughly enjoyed quality meal destroyed, but Dad would)

T + five days: chomp TV remote to smithereens (Mom and sis couldn't care less, but Dad...)

T + six days: Grandma bravely comes to visit! Hour one: chomp prescription sunglasses (through hard case); Hour two: ditto with cellphone; Hour three: ditto with Italian leather wallet.

T + seven days: Grandma leaves (well, she desperately wants to, but she is far too nice).

Here ends Part I of The Confessions of a Destructive Foxhound.

More to come.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tails' end

No tails wagging here, because my favorite canine supply store, Tails Doggie Boutique, is closing at the end of the month.

Where will I go for my mani-pedis? What about my food? I might starve!

I'll miss Noreen, and Cam, and of course, that character Leroy. It's not going to be nearly as much fun in Wellesley Square without them.

Tails has been a must-stop for me ever since I arrived. Here's my route: in the back door at the Booksmith, out the front, stopping for treats at each counter, down the street straight toward Tails, where I steal a bone and careen out the front door until I reach the grassy space next to the library, where I chew my bone until it's all gone.

Life just isn't going to be the same. What's happening to Wellesley Square?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another dog blog! And, why I am the smartest dog ever

I am very fond of Wags for Walks, and a faithful customer. But they can't serve customers west of here, and while trolling around on the computer I found a pet sitting service based in Sherborn that sounds like fun. Roxie the mutt will come over to your fenced yard and play—sounds great, no?

Roxie even blogs at Roxie's Blog. She's part of a cool experiment at Harvard's Canine Cognition Lab, which is studying how dogs make decisions. Oh, but they haven't met me, the canniest canine of all!

Unfortunately, though many have claimed I am the smartest dog they ever have met, I fail the first requirement:
"Is your dog patient? If given a choice between 1 treat immediately, or 5 treats in a few minutes, will your dog wait patiently for the 5 treats?"

Waiting? Are they kidding?  Don't those psychologists know that humans collapse nearly instantly, so it makes far more sense to get the first treat immediately?  Those treats will quickly add up to 5, maybe even more, with no waiting required on your part whatsoever.

Patient, however—that's me to a T. I can wait out Mom for pretty much a lifetime. If that Canine Lab was really wanting to test inferencing, they could see how I infer that I am in charge. Constantly. Proves that I am way too intelligent for the Ivy League. Way.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Like clockwork

My summer schedule requires me to stay up much later than usual. Instead of tucking in at, say, 5ish, I'm hanging out in the evenings, watching Dad shoot hoops, or sauntering down to the pond for a fresh breeze.

There's my 5 p.m. dinner, 7 p.m. hoop-watching, then off to pick up my sister after her drama camp. Having to remind my family every day of the same activities is enough to exhaust anybody. I mean, you would think they could remember on their own, but no...

So I come down and stand there, my eyes trying to convey that the hour, the minute, the second, to do something has approached, and would they please get up and do what it is they are supposed to be doing? So I resort to Plan B: launching myself at Mom, then nosing my leash. I mean, I'm practically grabbing the car keys for her. Do I have to spell it out? C-A-R, pronto!

Of course, I would rather be sleeping, but someone has to show some responsibility.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Keep Saturday postal service, or I'll starve!

What would I do without Saturday postal service and the chance to scam free treats off the neighborhood letter carrier?

Please, USPS, I am a creature of habit. You know, walk at x time, dinner at x time, car ride at x, x, and x times, snacks anytime, etc.

And eating Milk-Bones is a habit I rather like. In fact, I might expire were I to be denied my regular treats from my favorite letter carrier. Once I have heard its curious rattle, and you know I have large ears, I have been known to scour the neighborhood in search of that glorious white truck, its kind driver, and in particular, its Milk-Bones.

Mom also is a creature of habit, and she likes to receive real mail. A few years ago, she went on a letter-writing kick in hopes of reviving the dying trend.

No one wrote back. She was crushed.

This week, though, she made a trip to the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History at Regis College in Weston. She tells me it was fascinating, and she even brought back—not treats—but mementos! The museum has tons of stamps for sale, sorted by subject. So check out these cool dog stamps from Poland she bought for me. The museum right now has a neat exhibit on V-Mail, used during World War II to cut down on the weight of the massive amounts of letters being sent between troops overseas and those at home. Besides its excellent exhibits, the museum also is an official U.S. post office!

Note to curators: bowl of dog biscuits at the entrance would be a nice touch. I was shocked to learn that nearly 3,000 mail carriers and other postal workers are attacked by dogs every year in the U.S. They obviously don't live in our neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Marks of distinction

Distinguished and distinctive—that's me! Distinguished looks, distinctive bay. Distinguished presence, distinctive...tooth marks?

Yep. Mom knew the moment she went to put on dad's helmet for a bike ride this a.m. She knows one is supposed to get new protective headgear when one's has had a fall, but the instructions say nothing about an encounter with distinctively pointy objects, or, shall we say, canines?

Gotta love me!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Make Way for Ducklings, Wellesley edition

Due to the patriotic fervor of their Boston neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard have decamped to Wellesley for a summer sojourn.

The Mallards are listed in the Social Register's summer 2010 Dilatory Domiciles as taking a cottage near Morses Pond. Their address is listed as Rose Cottage, Morses Pond, Wellesley. In residence at the pink home surrounded by yellow roses are the Mallards, and juniors Masters Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack and Ouack. Pack and Quack have not been spotted at either the cottage's fish pond, my baby pool (thanks, Mom and Dad, for offering it to the Mallards), or at MoPo and perhaps are off enriching their pre-college resumes.

Master Jack is up to his usual hijinks, toppling over as he races around and righting himself.

Mom, Dad and my sister were extremely surprised at the Mallards taking the cottage, but of course I knew they were there all along. Remember, I like birds, bunnies and all living creatures and put the gentle in gentleman.

So welcome, Mallards, to your summer home. I hope you enjoy it, even if it means I'm banned from the backyard for a couple of weeks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

7 Highly Effective Habits of Hounds *that are good for business

Being one to totally toot my own vuvuzela (although mine of course is far more musical, but, one has to admit, isn't anything?), I reveal the secrets that have made me a happy, healthy, highly successful hound.  Looking ahead to my book contract, it's obvious how these seven habits, easily learned, can  be paralleled in the business world. Of course, execution is key. So, no stealing my copyrighted idea. Only I am the true conduit to this valuable knowledge.

#1. Be quiet, but when it counts, howl with all your might.

#2. Tread lightly, but move decisively.

#3. Nap whenever necessary.

#4. Remember: the race isn't always to the swiftest; artful dodging is essential to securing that exclusive fox (or contract!)

#5. Be a pack animal, but exert your dominance when making decisions.

#6. Satisfaction comes after the goal is won, not before. In other words, eat after exercise (Mom put that one in there).

#7. He who pees highest wins.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Best places to nap

One thing about me: I can nap anytime, anywhere. I do have my favorites, however, so here's my list of the best  places to nap (summer version).

1. Home, sweet home, outside by the pond, water trickling, birds singing, me snoring. Bliss.

2. My dirt pile. Cool, dusty, and tick-free  (photo not available).

3. Carrie's lawn—the best grass in the neighborhood (don't tell her husband!)

4. Rocco's lawn—second-best grass, but it has Rocco p-mail on it. Very nice. Good for a short break just before getting home.

5. Tilly's Bacon Street Farm. Cool cement, shady, clean, plus I get to meet everyone who goes in or out—they have to step around me. The numerous compliments are excellent for my ego.

6. Lilja school field, under the trees. Always some good sticks to munch on.

7. Lilja playing fields. Good for swallow-watching (that's a bonus for Mom, because my eyes are closed).

8. Wellesley Booksmith used book cellar. Took a mid-fiesta siesta there yesterday, in fact. Rejuvenating.

9. My sister's bed.

10. The guest bedroom.

11.  Why stop at 10? White shag beanbag.

12. Etc., etc., etc.



Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life of the party!

Whew! Went to Alison Morris' farewell (sob!) at the Wellesley Booksmith today. I wasn't sure whether I should attend, being a teeny bit concerned that I might take some of the spotlight from that wonderful creature.

Not to worry. There is no one who can outshine Alison! (Just in case, I entered before she did; then I went into the back room to bring out the guest of honor. It was the right thing to do.)

Alison was her usual witty self, telling a funny story about...well, never mind, because I am horrible at jokes. Her husband, the amazing illustrator Gareth Hinds, was there, as was the outstanding children's author Jacqueline Davies and children's book guru and former Weston library teacher Pat Keogh. Quite the erudite, literary crowd. I was in very good company.

And, I was the perfect party guest (everyone said so), letting out just a few guffaws at the appropriate moments, and signing Alison's guestbook with flair. Note to Biscuit: you've got a great mom in Kym. She helped me produce a pawprint without a bit of hesitation.

Only Lorna noticed me raid the trash bin in the back room. Honestly, why let a perfectly good tuna sandwich go to waste? It wasn't until I nearly upended the treats table that Mom decided it was time to go. But really, what was I supposed to do? I couldn't reach it with all my paws on the ground!

Best wishes to Alison and Gareth as they begin their new adventure!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Warning: evacuate, evacuate! Or, the dog who cried wolf

Have you ever read The Dog Who Cried Wolf by Keiko Kasza? It's one of my favorites, about a dog who yearns to join the wolves, and when he does, is so darn scared that he can't wait to get home. He spends a lot of time howling, and so do I.

However, my howling, officially called baying, is  highly musical. On the other paw, our home's combined smoke/carbon monoxide alarm, is not. Ours is a supposedly highly evolved model, which actually speaks. Speaks, however, does not quite describe the combination of booming alarm and sharp-toned voice shouting "Evacuate! Evacuate! Smoke in the dining room!" Or, its variation, "Evacuate! Evacuate! Carbon monoxide in the basement!" The thing is so darn loud and scares me out of my skin, plus it always chooses to express itself at 2 a.m., just when I'm in my deepest sleep.

Of course, all of my sleeps are deep.

The thing is, after this outrageous brouhaha, while everyone runs frantically around trying to find out whether there actually is any cause for alarm, very quietly it will say, "carbon monoxide level 0 ppm."

In other words, never mind.

Here's the problem: this alarm is just like the boy who cried wolf. Remember that tale? Of course, when a wolf really appeared, no one cared. Here's an idea, First Alert: use a hound dog's bay for the real thing. I have two: one is the alarm I give when that awful Siberian Husky comes near; one's my plaintive, play with me wail. I suggest using the plaintive wail for the testing sound; the Husky warning for the real thing. That will shake things up. I can assure you: people will pay attention.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Take your dog to work day?

You've got to be kidding. Why work when you can lounge?
Seriously, though, the concept behind Take Your Dog to Work Day is to promote shelter adoption. Yippee! I can't think of a better cause.
Buddy Dog Humane Society was my home for a few months, and it was great, but I like it when I'm the only one making all the noise.
Here's what I did instead of working: long walk, long sleep, breakfast, long sleep, maniacal activity, long sleep, lunch, long walk (with stops for naps), long sleep, maniacal activity, long sleep.
Whew! I'm pooped. I admire the pups who put in the hours today at the office. Of course, I'm a writer, so I'm always working. Even when I'm sleeping.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goodbye, Alison Morris!

One of my greatest admirers (although they are legion) is leaving her post at the Wellesley Booksmith, where she has been the children's book buyer, and dog welcomer, for nine years. Alison is just the greatest, and I was so distraught on my last visit that the impossible occurred: I forgot to raid the biscuit bin!

Even though Margaret, Rebecca, Barry and Deb asked whether I had been proffered my entrance and exit extortion fee, I was just so scattered I could not collect. You would think she was moving to Timbuktu rather than Tribeca, but even though her able colleagues will pitch in to do her job, she has brought incredible energy, vision, good naturedness and intelligence to the post. Not to mention her writing those legendary captions to go with my photos of Big Stuffed Bear, with whom I love to cuddle.

Alison has transformed the Booksmith into a powerhouse of children's literature. Her judgment is excellent: lots of great dog books and an uncanny ability to match books to readers. Also, an uncanny ability to know when I am hungry. Which is always, except when I think of Wellesley without her.

By the way, Alison loves me so much she even mentioned me in her Publisher's Weekly blog, Shelf Talker, and included my photo! I love her! Will I ever recover?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Soundtrack to my life: my little runaway?

Was visiting the Wellesley Booksmith the other day and my pal Lorna, musing over my awesome looks and personality, wondered if I had a song that encapsulated my life.

Mom thought. "Perhaps an ode would be more appropriate—something weightier than a popular song," she said.

Today she had second thoughts. Perhaps I'm not as professorial as she thought, but hey, a guy's gotta have fun, right? I was taking my morning constitutional around Lake Waban, where off leash dogs (not so legally) abound. One fetching pup (in appearance, not habit) took off toward the water. I did the same, wrenching my leash out of dad's grasp. Mom, natch, found me on a path we hadn't tried before, behind the old tennis courts, and snagged me.

First she sang the Del Shannon hit, but it didn't quite fit. She knew quite well why I ran away. Then, being the bookish and very mom-ish sort, intoned the lines from Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny: "If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny." Which is, when you think about it, kind of an ode.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I love Paris, I love France—ooh, la, la!

Man, am I exhausted! Not only did I use up my rather tiny store of French phrases during the lovely visit of Mademoiselle M—, I found it difficult to sleep.
As I suspected, I was kicked out of my boudoir well in advance, apparently so that it could be disinfected. Where, oh, where, should I sleep, I mused. On the beanbag? The chair? Mom and Dad's bed? The $100 avoidance chamber? I was so disoriented that I could not decide. Plus, one night fireworks kept me on alert; the next night, thunderstorms.
However, Mlle. M— was very charming. She didn't even mind when I breached the barricade and took possession of her (my) bed for un petit nap.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I could have pounced, all right

Someone needs to stand up for the basset hound, after the recent, snarky Times piece, "Putting the Pounce Back in Your Pup."

I suspect author Robbie Brown (who already must have had an epiphany about hounds, changing his pup's name from Flash to Elvis) is inordinately fond of Elvis, as evidenced by his taking Elvis to the office, providing him with as many comfy beds as possible to indulge his sleeping habit. It's a good habit, too.

As for me, I have plenty of pounce left. I just choose to use it when I want to, rather than acting like some hunting automaton. I mean, really! Have some pride in one's intelligence, rather than act blindly just because some human decides that's what one should do!

Lately, I've been discovering members of the avian genus, literally right under my nose. I've encountered several baby robins, a baby oriole, and a baby bluejay. I sometimes like to fly, so perhaps I feel kinship. I could have spread my wings, and done a thousand things I've never done before...

I could have pounced, all right, but I didn't.

Someday I'll get to the Norfolk Hunt  Club and see how it's really done, but for now, I'll be happy just going nose to nose with whatever creatures come my way.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Women who vacuum too much

So, I'm just settling onto the guest room bed after a long, drippy walk in the Hunnewell woods. I'm all stretched out, cooling off. You think I could get some shuteye? Nope, because here comes Mom with her vacuum!

Next, I head to my white shag beanbag, the perfect place to cuddle. Mom decides it's long past time to scoop up my pawprints in the study. While she's at it, she'll dust off the books. Then, she tries to dust off me.

That's an exaggeration, but practically speaking, it's pretty close. Mom believes vacuuming every possible surface is the ultimate way to cleanliness. Constantly. I mean, if Tiger Woods could characterize his misbehavior as an addiction, extreme vacuuming definitely earns a place in the compendium of personality disorders.

I believe that this syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Hoovering, is genetic. Grandma used to wake up her sleepy teens by vacuuming, and when they were on the phone too long, the extension was duly dusted as well. Mom was so shocked that her friend didn't have a vacuum that she quickly donated one of her many extras. There's one for the car, one for the basement, etc., etc.

Fortunately, though the amount of vacuuming seems endless, I have not exhausted the vast number of sleeping places in my domain. I'll just have to keep moving, that's all. Faster than Mom.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Music to my ears: Lou Reed's dog concert

Who says hound dogs can’t appreciate a little culture? Being of the southern persuasion, you might think I’m more into NASCAR than Nijinski, pulled pork rather than Paganini. However, most of my youth has been spent within the cultural context of Massachusetts, curled up in close proximity to my sister’s viola. And let’s not forget my French connection.


Therefore, I’m thinking of journeying to lovely Sydney, Australia, where none other than Lou Reed is giving a concert for dogs. No kidding! Plus, it’s free. And, it’s at that gorgeous Opera House. Perhaps I could demonstrate my perfect pitch there—like a true artiste, I of course would not need a microphone.


Some folks are making a big deal that Reed's canine music is inaudible to the human ear. I say, if a tree falls in the forest…some dog is bound to hear it, and doesn't that count for anything? Life is entirely too human-centered for me. However, NPR wouldn't exist without them, so check out their story, Going to the Dogs.


“Music for Dogs,” inspired by Reed and his wife Laurie Anderson’s rat terrier, Lollabelle, will be held June 5. The concert will be 20 minutes, and there’s talk of a canine mosh pit! Plus, Anderson promises no sudden noises, thank goodness. Sign me up!


Cost of ticket to Sydney, business class, Qantas airlines: $4,110
Canine package at four star hotel, the Hughenden Boutique: Room, $228/night (a steal!) Here are the details from their website:
"Queen Victorian Room with private glass atrium or courtyard
Full Cooked Breakfast for two
Complimentary gift for your favourite pet
Quaifes Cafe and Restaurant has a number of areas reserved so that your 4 legged best friend can join you for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Centennial Parklands is just across the road for dogs to be walked on a lead or play in leash-free areas." Perfect!
On second thought, since the trip itself is 23 hours, I'd need quite a long stay. Perhaps it would be simpler to ask Lou to move his venue to this continent. Certainly, less expensive. And because I haven’t yet launched my stage career, or any other career, besides eating, sleeping, and racking up outrageous vet bills, I’m not in the position to be jetting about—yet.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Going gaga, ooh-la-la!

Ooh, la la! I hear we are to host a girl from Paree! Must brush up on my French as well as the particulars of my lineage. Maybe even submit to a bath in her honor.

Let's see, was it my great-great-great-great-great-great, times 10-or-so, grand-pere to whom Lafayette belonged? And what was the name of that adorable little bistro on the Left Bank where he would feast on foie gras?

Mademoiselle Marie has visited before, but she and I have not met yet. I hear she owns a horse, so she must love dogs, too, n'est-ce pas? Hope she likes them a lot, because even though Mom already warned me, I have no intention of giving up my room.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Petco unleashed: the horror

Two words: automatic doors.
Need I say more?
Although I realize I am given to blatheration, I must address my latest scare. Face my fears, yes?
No.
'Twas a hot day. Mom says she thought it would be a great idea while, as we sashayed around town during my sister's music lesson, to stop in the new Linden Street store. Two good reasons:
1. air conditioned
2. full of treats
Seemed full of possibilities to me. We passed through the first set of doors. No problem. But as I was about to venture over the invisible threshold of the second, I heard a strange popping noise. Having experienced fireworks just a few days before, I was skittish. And remained so, stuck in a kind of automatic door limbo, 'twixt and 'tween the two sets.
Despite the valiant, patient and kind efforts of the Petco staff, who even proffered an entire bag of treats, tried new leash configurations, backrubs, sweet talk, and the trail o'treats, I was not to be swayed. I knew better. Something scary was in there!
Consolation prize: three pig ears.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In which I am injured, body and soul

I don't know what came over my girl Miss L— last week, but suddenly she turned on me. The result: a fat lip, and a bit bloody, too. My first injury, wounding not only body but soul.

It happened this way. At a very sniffy patch in the road, its appeal puzzling to my human handler (Dad), but who humored me nonetheless, I stopped to enjoy myself. I was out walking with Dad, Miss L—, and her Mom, D—. For some reason, Miss L— became incensed. Perhaps I was not paying attention to her lovely and appealing scent? Was it a crime that I found someone else's more intriguing? It could have been a passing fancy, but she gave me no time to explain.

I couldn't see the problem. After all, we're not affianced or anything, just neighbors. It's a kind of girl-next-door thing, you know. She's cute and everything, but do I really want to be tied down, at this stage in my young life?

Whatever my perspective, Miss L— completely lost her veneer of cool, and pounced. Right in the kisser. Ouch.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Give me an inch, and I'll take...the Plop O'Doom

I've been thinking, and you know that always leads to trouble.

This morning I was walking around Lake Waban. Well, not all the way around, because partway, I heard what sounded like a shot, so I performed a perfect Plop O'Doom and pointed northward. Mom, of course, wanted to head south, along the lake and drink in the view.

Once my alarm was assuaged, I decided it would be far better to gallop over the boardwalk, fling myself over the bridge, and drink the water.

Guess who won?

My thinking is, rather than actually wait for someone to give the inch, just take the mile. After all, what would I be waiting for? I know I'm going to win anyway, so why not take what's rightfully mine?

Mom has been threatening to call Cesar Millan. I say, bring him on. He will never have met as stubborn a dog. Or as wily. Here's my plan. Cesar comes. I put on my recalcitrant show, then make him think that he's master of me. He feels good, I suffer, but only briefly. What's a bit of tarnished pride?

Then, Cesar the Great leaves, and I go back to my true, obdurate, stubborn, smart, and very handsome, self. No measurement needed.

Speaking of inches, even though Dr. S tried really hard to come up with a medical reason for why I continue to put on some poundage, it turns out I am perfectly well. The result of the weigh-in? Let's say...no, let's not.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Molly and me

Cantered around Lake Waban today, amid the whitecaps and the waves splatting against the Italian Garden. Correction: didn't canter all the way around, just enough to trim a few ounces in advance of my visit to Dr. Schettino tomorrow. That's right, the dreaded weigh-in.

My pal Kelly says that she thinks I've dropped a pound, maybe two! We'll see. Though I'm maniacal as usual, it's also good to just plop down in the sun every once in a while. You know, rest.

While I was plopped, my new friend Molly ran by, not once, not twice, but three times. That's quite a lot of lake circumference there, all added up and everything. Her mom, Susan, and my mom, knew each other long ago when they both had Dalmatians. Susan was always walking Missy and Prissy, and Mom took Sparky absolutely everywhere.

I was thinking: because Sparky was really a prince, and treated like one, my family must have had to make sure their next dog also had exceedingly special qualities. It's hard to be humble.

Molly and I had a playdate last week, and we gorged on fertilizer (organic, but still...). Now Mom really does have to call the rug guy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The wind of one foxhound's ears flapping

Ken Salazar, please rethink your approval of the Cape Wind project. Don't ruin that gorgeous view of Nantucket Sound with 440-foot windmills! There is no need! All you need is a pack of foxhounds and our energy problems will be solved.

Here is my evidence: at least 20 times a day, I give my head and neck a good, hard, shake. Anyone who doesn't want earflap burn will stay out of my way, because my folks tell me it's really, really painful. Worse than tail whiplash, even.

So Ken, here's my proposal. Say there's a pack of 40 foxhounds. That's 800 wind-propelling earflaps per day! Just think of the energy savings potential.

What's that saying about if a butterfly flaps its wings, it can create monumental change? Ah, the Butterfly Effect, so named when an MIT professor published his research in a paper titled "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?"

Now, my sister would love to attend MIT, so Ken, thinking of her future as well as the future of our country, why not try the Foxhound Effect? We could even throw in a little baying, for good measure. Ah-woooooo! Earflap power!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Places in the heart: Spotsylvania

Trotting around town, I attract a lot of attention. You know: I'm large, handsome, plus rather unusual for around here. I like the spotlight, and my family likes me to have it. But I follow literally in the pawprints of the esteemed Sparky, who had that magnetic quality that truly made him a celebrity.

You could hear people exclaiming from afar: "A Dalmatian! A Dalmatian!" Mom always said she'd be rich if she could have charged a nickel every time some child asked, "Can I pet your dog?" Let's see...say 10 times a day times 10 years...would just about cover my vet bill for a year. Maybe not rich, but still...

So Mom naturally charged right over when she saw two sets of spots on the lacrosse field, one liver (that's the brown), one the traditional black. What did she think, that she was going to see the great Sparky himself? I was standoffish, I have to admit. She liked the dogs OK, she said, but naturally she was a bit disappointed. Even though I know she loves, loves, loves me, her heart is still a little bit broken.

His birthday's coming up on May 14, and we'll say a little prayer of thanks for him being part of our lives.