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.