Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The story of Balto—highs and lows

I'm crazy for dog stories, but I have high standards. One of the best in a long time is about that megahero, Balto, by virtuoso nonfiction author Meghan McCarthy. Do I need to say that Balto is one of the dogs on the sled team that brought life-saving serum to Nome, Alaska, to stem a diptheria epidemic? And that the route is now immortalized in the Iditarod race each year?

The Incredible Life of Balto is unique not only because McCarthy can take detailed historical info and distill it to its fascinating essence, but also because McCarthy doesn't leave Balto simply basking in glory. She reveals the Black Beauty like story behind this hard-working dog: neglected and relegated to a sideshow. But, like Black Beauty, Balto finds loving care toward the end of his life.

Thanks, Meghan, for telling the whole tale, and making it so special. Even though I'm not-so-secretly very, very afraid of Siberian huskies, I can appreciate Balto and his team's dedication. Next time I see the husky who lives in my neighborhood, I'll make sure he hears about it. So will everyone else, because my alarm bay is so loud, I wouldn't be surprised if my sound waves traveled all the way to Alaska.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Swellesley moms strut stuff in style

Owing to my stubbornness—or, putting it more tactfully, my independent thinking—I ended up taking my morning walk more mid-morningish, and found myself far from my usual route.
Here I am, resting my trapezius muscles.

So that's why, at about 10:30, rounding one of the fields at Sprague, I came upon the Mom Brigade. About a dozen strong, I suspected this wasn't your usual moms-with-strollers outing. First of all, it's Swellesley, and our moms are fit, smart and highly organized. All looked very, very purposeful.

Being attracted to strollers, as well as the treats and stuffed animals typically found inside them, I stopped to review the parade. Finally condescending to move on, I looked back when I heard music. Specifically, the tune was "Old McDonald."

'Twas a most melodious rendition. I tilted my head to confirm. That's when I saw them: Moms, strollers within reach, exercise bands threaded through one of the fences, singing, and rowing in time to the music. Exercising their trapezius muscles, working on their vocals, and entertaining their children at the same time! That kind of multitasking is to be admired, indeed.

They were so energetic that I became exhausted, and I needed to flop on a stranger's lawn to recuperate.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Canines and Cocktails on through September

Formal dress is optional.
This just in: the puppy happy hour (actually three hours!)  has been so successful at the Wellesley College Club that it's being continued through this month, at least.

The patio scene.
I'm kind to all, even those who can't grab their own treats.
That's what I learned when I stubbornly insisted on visiting the patio this afternoon, even though Mom told me it wasn't Thursday, the traditional C&C meetup day. I wasn't the only one confused: I ran into my neighbor, Josie the beagle, who had exactly the same thought. Wish, and it will come.

So round up your humans. They'll need to bring their wallets for their treats; ours are on the house. See you Thursday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wild beast on the loose in Wellesley and Natick!

It's a wild, wild world when I'm going at full tilt.
It's true. In violation of local bylaws, I was off-leash and not under voice control. (I should point out that I never have been under voice control, or any other control, for that matter. And let's be honest: we've all met tons of offenders like me). However, unlike many who simply are released intentionally, my liberty was obtained through guile and deceit (plus some nifty shimmying).

It happened like this: my all-too-generous cousins offered to take me for a walk, the rain having stopped and myself no longer in danger of melting. Unfamiliar with my restraining apparatus, they chose the simple collar and leash approach. I hid my glee, pretending not to notice their error.

Once we were underway, I wasted no time. I unveiled my Houdini impression, slipped the surly bonds of my collar/leash combo, and took off. I visited the Airedale down the street (she, poor thing, never ventures out of her fenced area) and investigated some choice scents emanating from a side yard. It was there, armed with treats proffered to them by a kind neighbor, that my cousins captured me.

That's what they think. It would have been awfully beastly of me to let them head home, hound-less. They would have felt terribly guilty.  Not something I would worry about, but as I did detect a drop of rain, the call of my dry, warm, man cave was irresistible.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One fish, two fish, three fish—too many fish!

Last year's babies. They're much larger now, and even prettier.
Big fish in a small pond: that's the case here. And the problem: they all are big, leaving barely any room for me to take a drink.

Remember Henry Huggins? Author Beverly Cleary's eponymous creation yearned for guppies—and he got them, jars and jars and jars of them. (He also wanted a dog, Ribsy, which is why this book is one of my favorite reads of all time.) Time for another definition: the adjective eponymous has to do with a person giving their name to something. So in this case, Henry Huggins is the title of the book and the name of the main character. Got it?

So the Huggins-like fish population explosion happened this way: Two years ago, we started with five small comet fish from Russell's Garden Center in Wayland. Last year, those five small fish had grown exponentially, and they produced more than 60 babies. We thought we gave most of them away, more than 40 three-inch babies to a friend with a big pond but hardly any fish.

On the lookout for fish at Morses Pond. Less colorful, but still fun to scare.
But, you know, a pond can be dark, and fish are excellent at hiding.

Of course, I knew there were more fish in there, but since I still had plenty of open water to lap, I didn't make a big deal of it.

Come spring, though, those babies—more than 20—surfaced, and now they are almost as big as their gigantic parents. They're also eating their way through plenty of expensive bags of Hikari Gold pellet food.

So if you need some fish, let me know. Gorgeous fish to a good pond only, within baying distance, so that would be Wellesley or Natick. I'll personally deliver them. Then, I'll go home and take a good long drink.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Want good luck? Say "rabbit, rabbit"

Licorice's ears are almost as long as mine.
The superstition is that if you say "rabbit, rabbit," or something like that, on the first day of every month, as soon as you wake up, that you'll have good luck.

One great aspect of hounds is that we are friends to all animals, unless, of course, we are hunting them. I am quite fond of rabbits, domestic and wild.

So I've been hanging around our bunny cage, just getting ready, you know. The first day of the month comes, and instead of talking, I just give a long, loud (is there any other kind) bay directly into the bunny cage. Boy, did that perk up those long ears! Think that counts?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Got pheromones? Calming a Tucker-cane is a challenge

I can go from mild

to wild,  in no time at all.
I have to admit: I can be a little wild, especially when the temperature drops. I'm also sensitive, especially to thunderstorms, nail clipping, fireworks, etc, etc. So Mom consulted with the vet, who suggested a dog pheromone collar. It releases chemicals into the environment that are supposed to be the least invasive way to help calm an anxious pup. My nails are getting a bit long, and Mom wasn't about to let the groomer put the straitjacket on me again.

So Mom puts the collar on me, and because I've taken to sleeping in my sister's closet, she objects to the smell (it's scented, for humans, I guess...they can't smell the pheromones). I'm also preternaturally calm, to which Dad objects. [Definition of preternatural: beyond that which is normal, or natural. Calm is definitely not my natural state, unless I am asleep.]

It's unsettling and true: I'm almost comatose. I can barely make it out of the closet.

They put the collar away, but I do have a large nose, and of course I can still pick up on the chemical messages. So I'm calm. Then Hurricane Irene decides to head up the coast, and we lose power. Oh no—that means that Mr. Smoke Detector Man will announce the restarting of power.  Mom worries about everything. Maybe she's the one who really needs the collar, I think.

I try the collar again. It works. But once the storm passes, my family just can't take the calm version of me. I'm just so incredibly...shall I say, boring? It's like Hurricane Irene being downgraded to a drizzle. So it's off with the collar.

Just in case the storm, whatever its formal name, wasn't exciting enough for you, I'm available to wreak havoc in your yard or home. Just call. I'll leave the pheromone collar at home.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tales of devoted dogs and faithful friends

Did you read the touching tale of the Navy SEAL dog who laid by his owner's coffin and heaved a huge sigh?

The story of Jon Tumilson, one of the 30 Americans heartbreakingly killed in Afghanistan, and his Labrador, Hawkeye, has to make everyone recognize the importance of the human-canine bond.

Two great children's books, Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman, and Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog (and the movie, Hachi) tell the story of a pup who met his professor owner every afternoon at the Shibuya train station in Japan. After his owner died at work, the Akita waited at the train station, for 10 years, until his own death. A statue of Hachiko at the station commemorates the relationship.

We dogs are faithful, loyal, and smart. We remember. We wait. And we love our human families.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Morose, forlorn, or just so darn depressed?

If I look forlorn/morose/depressed enough, will she call?
In missing my sister Golden Hair, newly off to college, I attempted to determine which word most nearly described my state of mind. In my last post on this topic, I used the word forlorn. But then it occurred to me: perhaps I actually am morose.

Upon consulting my dictionary, I find that morose means sullen and ill-tempered. Me? Never!
Depressed? "(of a person) In a state of unhappiness or despondency." Hmm. The dictionary does not include (of a dog), even a very smart one like me. So, I believe that my instinct to use forlorn was correct. Definition: pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely.

Ouch. It hurts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthshaking news happened while I was sleeping

Remember that adorable movie, While You Were Sleeping, starring Sandra Bullock as the subway token seller who saves the annoying rich guy from the train tracks, then pretends she's engaged to him? He wakes up from his coma, but she's fallen in love with his brother?

Well, that movie (called Coma Guy while a work in progress) was written by Dan Sullivan, my good pal. But I digress before I even begin.

Today's earthquake apparently was felt in Wellesley, though not by me. Sensitive though I am, I was, not surprisingly, sleeping at 2 p.m. Though something roused me, so that soon afterward, I demanded a ride in the car and a walk on the Brook Path.

Perhaps I did feel the quake. After all, it takes something really earthshattering to wake me out of a sound sleep.