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.