Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 15, 2009 - It's What's For Supper


Sometimes a rather routine chore takes on new depth, makes me think. Take dinner at the Shady Rest, for instance. Most nights, just fill a bunch of bowls (dogs) and plates (cats), put 'em down, listen to the slurping, keep George from starting a melee, then pick up and we're done.

Tonight, I found myself caught up in watching George with his dinner. He may be old and blind, his heart may not work right, he may have had a small stroke, but his appetite is undiminished. He attacks his dinner with the same vigor that he attacks anyone who would interfere with it. I was impressed watching rice and kibbles fly up around his head. It looked almost like something from a cartoon. I usually give him a little extra, just to account for the amount that's going to end up anywhere except inside him. I'll spend a little time later picking rice grains off my filing cabinet (he opted to eat in the office tonight), at least the ones Sammie doesn't find. I think Cj got the worst of it out of his bed.

He's not the only mess, mind you. Just the most dramatic. When I took his bowl back to the kitchen, I found Archie, very full and content, with one, perfectly clean, grain of rice stuck to the very center of his nose. Not a hint of gravy remained on it, he'd somehow managed to clean it off completely without actually swallowing it. Again, I was impressed.

It made me think a bit of Heff. He got adopted this past weekend, by the way. He'll be very happy, I'm sure - young couple, first dog of their own (though both grew up in dog-loving families - much excitement over the new grandpug.) When we got there, they'd already been shopping and had a brand new, Heff-sized dog bed full of toys and accessories and treats. They confessed they'd actually started to worry that he wouldn't like them! Most people worry about the opposite, so that was a very good sign. Fortunately, in spite of my worries about his shyness, he took to them as quickly as they fell for him.

Anyway, Heff usually wore as much of his dinner as he ate. His entire handsome black head would be flecked from mid-neck up with bits of rice, and the occasional bit of carrot.

It must be a pug thing. Freya will sometimes end up with a tiny crumb at the very tip of her long, elegant nose, but it never stays long, and in all the years she and I have kept company, I've yet to have to dig it out of her ear.

Ah, well. Dinner's done for the night. Bowls rinsed and stacked, Loki, Spencer and Freya put to bed, Archie de-riced and George mostly cleaned up. All is quiet but for the occasional soft burp or snore. Just another day at the Shady Rest.

Y'all take care now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6, 2009 - Just One of Those Moments


Not too much to say today. It's been quiet here at the Shady Rest - no arguments, no debates with the appliances, no crises. Just a day. Still, I wanted to share the quiet moment, and what a movie-star-handsome old pug looks like, when he's drowsy and being cuddled...

That's George, head on Mama Cj's shoulder, getting his tummy scratched. Life is good sometimes, here, when you're loved and you know it.

Y'all take care, now.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 3, 2009 - Talk to Me


"There's facts about dogs, and then there's opinions about them. The dogs have the facts, and the humans have the opinions. If you want the facts about the dog, always get them straight from the dog. If you want opinions, get them from humans."-- J. Allen Boone

It's so true. Talking with dogs, especially pugs, can be very enlightening about what goes on in their doggy worlds, and in their doggy heads. We have many conversations - two-sided ones - here at the Shady Rest. Here's an example from yesterday:

Mama Ky: Archie?
Archie: Hmm?
Mama Ky: Why are you trying to push the empty toner box into the litter box with your head?
Archie: I may be old and blind, but I'm still a pug. It's a pug thing.
Mama Ky: Oh. So, labs retrieve because that's a lab thing, and corgis herd because it's a corgi thing, and you push things around with your head because it's a pug thing?
Archie: Yup.
Mama Ky: You know your butt's cute when you do that. It wiggles.
Archie: Quit watching my butt. I'm busy.

You just know that GSD owners don't have these little talks...

I talk to other dogs too, not just my own, but honestly, pugs are usually better conversationalists. For one, they're more inquisitive. Some breeds are inclined to just accept human behavior as it is, but pugs want to know why. They are very interested in their world and they ask questions.

"Yes, Heff?"
"When you push the thingy on the big bowl and everything goes away, where does it go? I watch and watch, but can't see."
"That's the joy of living in the city, Heff. It all just goes away. Far away, so Mama doesn't have to worry about it."
"That's a good thing, then?"
"Yes, Heff, it's good."

Sometimes you gain insights into things you thought you knew.

"Why do you keep licking Heff's tail? You've been at it for a good ten minutes now. Does it just taste good, or is it some kind of dominance thing?"
"Because if I'm licking his tail, he can't reach my ears to chew on them, and if I don't do something, I'm going to kill him. I am SO tired of the ear-chewing thing today."
"Ah, that makes sense."

I've always been a big proponent of asking the dog. In our dealings with our dogs, we tend to tell, not ask; order, not request; talk AT but not talk TO. We expect them to learn our language and read our feelings and wants, but too rarely are we willing to do the same for them. No, dogs don't "talk" in the sense of forming coherent words and sentences; they don't have the mouth structure or the brain wiring for it. That does not, however, mean they do not communicate. They do, and quite fluently, if you learn to listen. Body movements, muscle tension, facial expression (dogs smile, wolves don't - it's a learned behavior from watching us), sounds, gestures and sometimes, if you're quiet enough to hear it, actual thoughts.

Yes, I'm well aware that a substantial portion of the population would have me medicated or worse for believing that there is more to human-dog communication than just body language and vocal tone, but so be it - I do. I think telepathy is like the ability to play the piano; some people have a talent for it, others have to work at it, but everyone can do it to one degree or another, and if you don't use the ability, it atrophies. I also tend to think that dogs do it naturally and don't have our hang-ups about it, so they try, whether we're listening or not.

So, as George and I exchange morning greetings as we pass in the hall, that's my Shady Rest advice for the day: to enrich your life with your dog, talk to him...and listen.

Ya'll take care now.