Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 7, 2009 - Talkin' 'bout My Girl


I don't write about Freya nearly as much as I should, and I should, because even though she's not a pug, she's as integral and important a part of the Shady Rest as any of the pugs.

Freya (Norse mythology - Goddess of love, beauty, magic, and battle) is an eight-year old, fifty-pound mix of Belgian Malinois, Chow and maybe a smidge of something else. Malinois are herding dogs and it shows. Freya must have a job. Without one, she will not only go crazy, she will take you with her. For the first few weeks she was here, an enthusiastic, if unsocialized and untrained, six-month-old, she was determined to herd something. Unfortunately, at that time, we had one aged, paralyzed pug, Petunia, and four cats. So, she did her best with the cats. I tried to explain to her (I explain everything to her) that an impossible task was called "like herding cats" for a reason, and the cats did not so much all want to be in the same place at the same time. Finally accepting this, she took to being Petunia's companion and body guard.

Freya is smart, scary-smart, most of the time, and she understood that Petunia's motion was very limited. She watched over her, played with her by lying down on her belly with a tug-toy, scooting as close to Petunia as she could get, and tossing her head to place the other end of the toy close enough to Petunia's mouth for her to grab it. Toonie would take the other end and pull, as hard and as far as she was able, and Freya would tug back, moving only her head, careful to never be too rough. Even at six months, she was roughly twice Toonie's size, and she could have flipped her head and flung the pug like a rag doll, but she never did.

Freya was, however, still a puppy, and a little teasing of the old pug was not beyond her. One of her favorite games we came to call Pug Tipping. Petunia spent the majority of her time on her stomach. She couldn't walk - we'd move her, carry her, make sure she was clean, dry and comfortable, and she was in no pain at all. She was very alert, still interested in life, taking in and participating in all that went on in her world. Freya would sneak up on her, push her muzzle under Petunia's tummy, and toss her head back, flipping Petunia onto her back. At first, Petunia wasn't too into the game. She'd lie there on her back, flapping her paws like an upended turtle, until Cj or I came to flip her back. After a few times, she decided it didn't hurt any, and it did provide a change of scenery for her, so she'd just accept it.

One day I was home alone and Freya flipped Petunia. Instead of rushing immediately to flip her back, I decided to watch and see what would happen. Freya went a few feet away and laid down, keeping an eye on Petunia. After just a few minutes, she got up, went back to Petunia and flipped her back into her usual position. I hadn't thought she'd just leave her there, and I was happy to be proved right.

I may have mentioned Freya is scary-smart. We really have to be careful what we do in front of her, so quickly does she learn new things. She has a slide-in-and-toggle-shut crate door, that she can get out of quite nicely if I don't crank it down tight. She's performed the Heimlich on a friend, choking on an ice cube. My friend was grasping her throat and sort of gurgling, unable to breathe, and Freya ran to her, landing on her stomach with her front paws, sending the ice cube flying.

I could brag on her for hours, but it would just go to her head (no, I have no doubt she could both access and read this blog if she took a mind to.) Her escapades are only a part of what makes her such an essential element in the Shady Rest story. The other part is the way in which she interacts with her charges, the pugs. You see, once we started having multiple pugs, Freya worked her way swiftly and easily into her job of Official Shady Rest Pug Herd. It is a job she takes very seriously and does very well. She knows each member of her bug-eyed flock by name and will happily fetch me the one I want. The pugs do not go out in the back yard without her. People have asked me "aren't you afraid to let them out without you? What if someone reached over the fence and grabbed one?" I just smile. If someone dared reach over the fence and try to grab one of HER pugs, Freya would bring me the idiot's arm, wagging and grinning (did I mention she has dimples when she smiles? She does.) all the way. I'd give her a treat, of course. She may exercise her right to discipline them, but nobody else besides the Mamas had better mess with them.

Yesterday, for instance, I let Freya out and asked the pugs if anyone want to go along (some potty trips are mandatory, some optional). Spencer and Sammie went, Orville politely declined. A moment after I closed the sliding door behind them, there was a polite tap on the glass from Freya. Not her usual, full-body-slam she does when she wants back in, just a gentle tap. I opened the door and she stuck her head in, looking around. "Orville, c'mon," I told him, "It seems you're missed." He got up and toddled through the door, with Freya sniffing him to make sure she had the right one. Today, they'd been out and I let them back in. I counted noses and found myself one pug short. "Freya!" I called. She trotted over to me. "You're missing one - where's Orville?" She looked toward the door. "Go find me Orville" I told her as I opened the door. Her ears and tail popped up and she bolted through the door to find him. Onto the deck, her head swinging back and forth, then another bounce as she spotted him. Off she ran, and a moment later came trotting back, Orville running at her heels. I highly recommend a smart, helpful herding breed for anyone with multiple pugs.
So, I could go on about her, but I'll spare you. She's my Freyagirl, pack Alpha, Pug Herd, and in truth, co-Innkeeper of the Shady Rest. Here's to you, my brindled beauty. I don't know what I'd do without you.
Just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October 31, 2009 - Halloween at the Shady Rest


Happy Halloween from the Shady Rest!

Halloween itself is actually fairly quiet here. Beggar's Night, the night on which kids are legally allowed to go trick-or-treating, was Thursday. Out of consideration for everyone's safety and security (and sanity) Cj and I dressed up and gave out candy outside, leaving the dogs to their barking frenzy inside. It's just easier and as it is, they still manage to scare some of the kids with their howling at the front window. Cj dressed as her favorite Demented Little Girl and oddly, very few of the kids wanted to play with her dolly (the one with the knife through its head...) I was the crazy old lady that every neighborhood has somewhere, usually on the corner with lots of cats (we live on a corner...with cats...)

Halloween is also something of a time for remembering and reflection. When the "veil between the worlds" is supposed to be at its thinnest, it's easier to call up the memories of those, human and animal, that have gone on before us, to wait on the other side. Petunia, our first pug, is always the first to come to mind. She loved Halloween. She wasn't much into dressing up, but she did have an orange tie with black cats on it that she'd wear. She'd march up to the door with every trick-or-treater's arrival and push her chest out proudly, "Look at MY costume!" Sadly, the current crop of Shady Resters lacks her fashion flair.

George did manage to scare the perdiddle out of Cj and I, though. When you can't get a pug, particularly an old one, to wake up for dinner, it's frightening. I knew he was definitely still breathing, but shaking, yelling, patting and scritching all failed to get an eye to open. Did he have another stroke? Is his heart acting up? Did he slip right into a coma? Finally, Cj picked him up and the combination of being lifted and finally smelling his dinner brought him around. Of course, once he woke up and figured out there was food handy, all traces of any problem at all disappeared like the morning dew. Whew. I really wish he didn't sleep quite so soundly.

Still, there was family fun too. We were completely out of dog treats, so we all gathered in the kitchen to make liver biscuits. They're blessedly easy - take two bags of generic Walmart biscuit/muffin baking mix, a cup of water, a teaspoon of garlic powder and a pound of chicken livers, boiled and mashed. Mix it all together well, then drop in spoonfuls on a greased baking sheet and bake. Good stuff, or so they tell me. I HATE chicken liver, but Cj and the dogs love the stuff.

Halloween is also the anniversary of the day Cj and I met (I was in vampire drag and she insists to this day she only agreed to see me again so she could find out what I looked like without fangs...) We always reminisce about that too. Doesn't seem like it was 23 years ago, but it was. Still being together? Definitely a treat.

Now the day is done. Most of the critters are asleep, except for Sammie and Orville, who are intently interested in the bowl of popcorn Cj and I are sharing while we watch a documentary about ghost children (I love TV around Halloween - that's when all the really good stuff is on.) George is back to sleep too, snoring softly by my left foot. If there are ghosts still about, they are only the benevolent kind.

So, all the residents of the Shady Rest hope you and yours had all treats and no tricks for Halloween this year. Y'all take care now.