18 Miles

Daphne is an Australian shepherd.  She also happens to be a red and white Australian shepherd.  I’m told that in the Aussie world, a red and white dog is the most Aussie of Aussies.  I’m not sure exactly what that means to an Aussie aficionado, but I get a little worried by the way they raise their eye brows and say things to me such as “Good luck,” or “Really? You’re willing to take care of an Aussie?”

I first met Daphne about a year ago.  At that time, she was approximately a year old, had recently been adopted by her current family, and was – how shall I put it? – a bit WILD.  She is also sweet, fun loving, incredibly agile and fast, and has boundless energy.  She is one of those dogs who greets you by smiling from ear to ear while curling her body around on itself like the letter “C”, crabbing across the floor to you, and – oops – occasionally peeing in her excitement.  I quickly learned how NOT to excite her in a way that caused her to pee on the floor.  Mostly this involves simply not greeting her until I’ve quickly walked her outside.  Everything I do with Daphne I try to do quietly.

Different dogs have different degrees of arousal to common stimuli.  Adult Cavaliers need something pretty enticing to get them off the couch.  Someone arriving with dogs is always a reliable trigger for my guys.  Bouncing a tennis ball works for the three younger ones. But Daphne views absolutely everything as a five alarm fire that has to be investigated immediately and/or announced loudly.  The trigger can be as simple as one of the other dogs getting up to change position, or to pick up a toy to chew on; or it could be something other dogs might also consider worth barking at, such as a car going by, or my neighbors walking their Weimeraners on the road.  Life with Daphne is action packed and can be noisy. Once she is alert, it takes a while for her to settle back down.

If there isn’t another dog her size to play with, Daphne uses her excess energy attempting to control every move the small dogs make.  And I’m spending mine trying to prevent her from annoying them.  The little guys get cranky about her after a while, and eventually they give me imploring looks.  The only way to get respite is to separate her from them.  But then – what to do with Daphne for fun and games?  There is always the Frisbee, which she loves, and we do a lot of that.  But sometimes I call in my Secret Weapon.

Enter Timmy.  Timmy lives with my friends Nance and Ed, and he is my go-to guy for fun and games.  He thinks of my house as his personal neighborhood playground.  I don’t have swings or a jungle gym per se, but there are other fun things to do here.  He’s  9-months-old now, about 40 lbs, tan with a black muzzle and black hair threading down his back to his tail,  and in a word, GORGEOUS. Everyone wants a Timmy clone.  He is a sleek, well-oiled, and well-muscled playing machine. And he is Daphne’s favorite playmate.  They are well matched in size, agility, strength, and perseverance.

Yesterday, Timmy came to play for the whole day.  They did take a short nap once – I think it was around lunch time – but otherwise they were out flying through the snow banks at top speed.  Their play was split about half and half between contact sport wrestling and tag.  It was awesome to behold.  We had 6 inches of fresh snow the night before, and by afternoon it looked like an army had marched through my yard.  I don’t think there was one single spot of snow that wasn’t trampled.  I brought them inside periodically for a rest, but they were unconvinced of the need and just continued exactly what they had been doing outside, albeit in a much smaller space.  After they dried a little, I let them back out.  They hardly skipped a beat the whole day.

Today, Daphne has been wandering around the house looking sort of dazed.  She has been very quiet, relatively speaking.  She has not been bothering the little guys very much.  Maybe it’s true what they say about Aussies – that they need at least 18 miles of exercise every day just to be reasonable household companions.  Daphne and Timmy both got in a good 18 miles worth yesterday.

Snow Dogs

There is a lot of snow and more falling by the moment.  Lately, it has been that very heavy, wet snow which covers every single branch and makes a truly beautiful winter wonderland.  The dogs are camouflaging themselves as snowballs.  The temperature for the last few days has been the perfect snowball/snowman temperature – which means that every dog with hair (i.e. all 12 that are currently here) is accumulating snow with every step.  After about 5 minutes, they can barely walk they are so heavily weighted with snowballs. The smaller dogs can easily fit in the sink, so they can each be thawed with the spray attachment in about two minutes, toweled off, and put by the woodstove to dry.

But Annie, oh Annie…  Annie has the longest hair and is the snowball queen.  Not only that, but she loves being in the snow and does not want to come back inside ever.  She spends her time making glorious snow angels and tunneling her face into the snow.  I hate to spoil her fun, but…  When I eventually insist that she come inside, she needs major thawing out.  If I left her to thaw naturally, it would take hours and hours and the floors would be drenched with the constant dripping.  Because she doesn’t fit in the sink, we’ve come up with some alternative measures.  One afternoon, I tried using a blow dryer to thaw her out – essentially one snowball at a time.  That worked ok, but it was pretty labor intensive.  She was very patient – with a coat like hers, she has had a lot of grooming experience – but it took a ridiculously long time.  Then I tried putting her in my only bathtub, which is upstairs.  Picture it: giant bathtub, tiny bathroom.  As anticipated, the thawing took much less time, but then I had a soaking wet dog upstairs.  Today, the temperature is supposed to drop from the current 30 degrees into the single digits by tonight.  Hopefully, that will end the snowball issue.

Their Moment of Zen

Zen is my cat.  I think she used to think of herself as just another dog.  She slept with the dogs, wrestled and played with the dogs, and went for walks with us.  When I first started boarding dogs, she would saunter out onto the driveway when dogs were arriving to say hi, assuming that everyone was going to treat her like the cavaliers do.  New dogs were always on leash initially, but there were occasions when I found myself holding my breath, wishing she would consider that a little caution might be in order.  But over time she has learned to assess each situation individually.  She figures out which ones just want to be friends, which ones will chase her, and which ones might want to eat her.  She has, thankfully, discovered that teasing is not just a bit of fun, but might be life threatening.  She would tell you she is older and wiser now.  Maybe she would tell you that she is, well, a cat.

Lilly and Gizmo are practically family members here.  Zen knows exactly who they are.  Since their very first visit, over a year ago, they have been fascinated by Zen.  They don’t seem to know quite what to do with her.  I think they’d like to chase her, but she doesn’t run from them.  Occasionally, if other questionable (in her view) dogs are not in the room, Zen will place herself just out of their reach and sit and watch.  And they watch back.  They get very quiet during their moment of Zen.