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The New Dog Bed

 

We finally got rid of the old blue dog bed. First of all, both of my dogs are girls, so it was weird to have one of the beds be blue, just because that was the coziest bed at the store the day we went shopping. Second, the bed had stains on it; whether from Cricket snacking in the bed, or Butterfly throwing up on it in the car, or from Cricket’s unauthorized use of the bed for, let’s call it scratching. It was ugly and dirty looking despite many trips to the washing machine. And Cricket would fight with the bed, and yell at it, and toss it around the room, so really there was only one reliable dog bed, the red one, and Cricket would take it for herself, and leave Butterfly with the upside down blue bed in the middle of the floor.

Grumpy Cricket in her blue bed.

Grumpy Cricket in her blue bed.

Butterfly, after throwing up in the blue bed.

Butterfly, after throwing up in the blue bed.

Not quite big enough for two.

Not quite big enough for two.

We went to all three Petco stores in our area, and Target, and Wal-Mart, and who knows where else, and found nothing. The beds they had were too big, or too small, the wrong colors, or not substantial enough; and if they were perfect, they were, of course, too expensive.

"This is no longer good enough, Mommy."

“This is no longer good enough, Mommy.”

Eventually, we found the perfect dog bed online, where I seem to find everything these days. The bed is really more of a sofa, and it’s brown and cream, which seems kind of dignified, and goes nicely with the color scheme of the living room, and the color scheme of the dogs. If I were a dog, or a small child, I would want this little couch bed for myself. It’s an orthopedic bed, which means it is firm, instead of squishy, and allows for support of aching bones. And it has a bolster for resting tired chins.

Unfortunately, next to this new, wonderful, sophisticated dog bed, the nice, comfy red and tan bed that used to be so admired, looked ratty and small and in need of replacement. And the new, wonderful, sophisticated dog bed did not smell of dog, or food, or even of people, so the girls weren’t sure what to do with it. They just stared, at both beds, and looked confused.

I decided to tempt them forward by placing chewies on the new bed. I put one down for Cricket first, and she took it, and walked away to chew on it. Then I put a second one down for Butterfly, but before Butterfly could reach it, Cricket had dropped her own chewie and come running over to steal the new one. I had to take the new chewy away from Cricket, and place it on the dog bed three more times before Cricket accepted that she was not the only dog in the room, and allowed Butterfly to creep over and pick up her treat, barely letting her paws touch the new bed before she ran away to chew in the hallway.

By the second day, without any further inducements, Cricket had curled up on the new bed to sleep. But it took a few more days for Butterfly to risk stepping up onto the bed. Eventually, when I was busy at the computer, and Cricket was elsewhere, Butterfly rested her head on the bolster, and stretched her tushy back into a corner, and fell asleep.

Cricket's new bed, no butterflies allowed.

Cricket’s new bed, no butterflies allowed.

Wait, the red bed goes to Cricket too?

Wait, the red bed goes to Cricket too?

"Where am I supposed to sleep?"

“Where am I supposed to sleep?”

My favorite moments are when each one of the dogs is in a bed, sleeping peacefully, letting me watch TV or type on the computer uninterrupted. But those moments are few and far between. In the meantime, I keep sneaking looks at the new dog bed, and wishing I could get one in my size. I could probably find something big enough, made for a Great Dane or an Irish Wolfhound, or maybe we could just cushion the whole floor!

I’ll have to think about this.

Cricket’s Lost Teeth

 

Recently, out of nowhere, one of Cricket’s front teeth started to stick out. When she was really tired one night, she let me touch the tooth, and it moved. She is eight years old, middle aged for a dog, so losing teeth now is a permanent thing.

"Who needs all those teeth?"

“Who needs all those teeth?”

I worry that this happened because of all of the weeding I let her do earlier in the summer, grabbing and tearing and chewing tough roots out of the ground. She’s not a working dog; she just liked the challenge, and the flavor, of the weeds.

The happy chewer.

The happy chewer.

After the first tooth disappeared, the second tooth, right next to it, pressed forward and stuck out – kind of like her teeth were giving me the middle finger (which is very much in character for little miss Cricket).

The second tooth stayed like that for a few days and then it disappeared too. I have no idea where Cricket’s lost teeth went. Most likely she swallowed them and pooped them out. I have not been searching through her poop for evidence, though. The problem is that there are no teeth to put under her pillow for the tooth fairy, and she sleeps in so many different places, and without a pillow, so I’m not sure how the tooth fairy would know where to put her treasure anyway.

Sleeping on the people couch.

Sleeping on the people couch…

and in front of the dog bed...

and in front of the dog bed…

and in her apartment.

and in her apartment.

I should take Cricket to the vet, but I’m reluctant to put her through the trauma – she loses at least half a pound just from shaking herself silly in the waiting room. And Cricket doesn’t seem to be suffering. She has all of her strength and spring and energy. She certainly hasn’t lost her voice. She sleeps and eats and poops and pees, just like always. And those two little teeth were always crowded and crossed over each other. But, what if she loses more teeth and has to struggle to chew her chicken treats? Chicken treats and Grandma are what Cricket wakes up for in the morning.

I think what’s upsetting me about the lost teeth, though, is that at eight years old, Cricket isn’t really a puppy anymore. She is getting older. I think about mortality too much; my own, a little bit, but more the mortality of the people and dogs that I love, so this sign of frailty in Cricket hits a nerve.

Cricket’s expected life span is eighteen to twenty years, but eventually she will be an old lady, and she’ll be the curmudgeonly type, rather than the sweet old lady in the rocking chair. She won’t be able to jump up as easily, and if she wants to get on the couch or the bed she’ll have to let me pick her up, or learn how to use the doggy steps, and she won’t like that. She will, of course, continue her crazy barking to the end, just at a lower pitch, like a smoker’s cough.

I knew an elderly Cocker Spaniel who rode around in a dog carriage and barked his commentary at the neighborhood as he passed by – a deep, flemmy, insistent bark from his royal transport. Cricket would love to do that.

Cricket would love this! (not my picture)

Cricket would love this! (not my picture)

Eventually, Mom and Cricket are going to be old ladies together. They’ll both have to wear slipper socks and housedresses, and they’ll complain about heartburn and digestive issues. I’ve had previews of this when Mom gets a cold and Cricket curls up with her on her bed and acts sick too. They need tea and toast and special treats brought to them, and they grumble and mumble and whine to each other between naps.

Cozy time for Cricket and Grandma.

Cozy time for Cricket and Grandma.

So, I’m kinda hoping Cricket, and Mom, can hold off on the aging thing for a while longer. Maybe another thirty years?

 

The Dog That Glows In The Dark

 

We have a bedtime ritual at our house. Most nights we (me, Mom, Cricket and Butterfly) stay up to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. When the last show is over I say “The end” and turn off the TV. The dogs start to stretch and walk towards the hallway. Mom complains that she’s too tired to get up from the couch. I turn off the lamp by my computer, and then the air conditioner, and head off to brush my teeth.

"Where are you going, Mommy?"

“Where are you going, Mommy?”

By the time I’m ready for bed, Mom has turned all of the lights off, including the hallway, dining room and kitchen lights. I have to go looking for Butterfly, because she still can’t climb up her doggy steps (though she can race down them in a second), but Butterfly has taken to waiting for me at the end of the hallway and then twirling a bit in the dark and flattening down near the front door. She is bright white and therefore glows in the dark, so I can always find her, but, as neon as she is, nothing else in the room glows. So, the other night, as I bent down to pick her up, I smacked my eye against the back of a wooden chair. Correction, smacked my glasses, which smacked my eye and nose and the surrounding orbital socket.

Butterfly waiting in the dark.

Butterfly waiting in the dark.

The pain was extraordinary and I made some bizarre animal sounds and both dogs came over and Mom turned on the light to see where I was. I thought I was going to vomit, but I sat down on the floor, then flattened out, and the girls sniffed my head for injuries.

The curious puppies

The curious puppies

My immediate thoughts and feelings were anger – damn it chair! Damn it dog! Damn it Mom! And then there was some self pity, as in, why do these ridiculous things always happen to me?

Cricket was not impressed.

Cricket was not impressed.

As soon as I could stand up, I went to lie down on my bed with an ice pack on my eye, and the puppies by my side, and Mom standing over me looking very concerned. The thing I didn’t expect was the sobbing. It wasn’t a specific, wordy, list of anxieties or resentments, it was simply very loud sobbing, mixed with attempts at humor, and laughing, and asking why I was crying in the first place. I had to push hard to put the feelings into words, and guess where they’d come from and attach them to things I could reasonably be upset about.

Something about the sudden pain, or the shock, or where the injury hit my brain opened a whole capsule of emotions, and I was crying and whining and suddenly feeling hopeless about everything in my life, as if the physical pain were attached to a set of emotional fish hooks I didn’t even know were there.

The episode passed in less than an hour, but it made me wonder about the biological, or at least physiological, origins of emotional pain.

Physical and emotional pain seem to run over the same circuits in the central nervous system – which is why they’ve found that Tylenol can lift your mood and Prozac can reduce your knee pain. Many chronic diseases cause emotional pain, especially depression, simply by using up your Serotonin trying to relieve the physical pain, so that there isn’t enough Serotonin left to cushion even the smallest emotional upset.

By the next day my eye only hurt when I pressed on the area, and I had a small bruise against my nose from my glasses. The only lasting effect has been that I refuse to follow Butterfly into the dark to pick her up. If Mom insists on turning all of the lights off half a second after I leave the couch, and Butterfly insists on running into the dark to play chase, then that little puppy will just have to sleep on the floor.

Butterfly, snuggling next to a bone, on the floor.

Butterfly, snuggling next to a bone.

Hairy Dogs

 

My Mom likes when Cricket is so fluffy you can barely see that there’s a dog in there, but I actually prefer to be able to see her eyes. And I prefer when poop doesn’t stick to her butt.

Cricket in full fluff (in her cousin's iron grip).

Cricket in full fluff (in her cousin’s iron grip).

Cricket has, more than once, been shaved down to the pink. I feel so guilty when she gets matted enough for that, but I try to remind myself that: a, this is what her hair is prone to; and, b, she thinks the comb and the brush are instruments of evil.

Cricket, shaved down to size.

Cricket, shaved down to size.

Combing seems to genuinely cause Cricket pain, maybe because of the cottony texture of her hair. I think I’d have to oil her down every day to keep her hair from knotting, and she would, inevitably, rub herself against every surface in the apartment, including me, to get the oil off..

I used to try electric clippers on her, but they snagged in her hair, and then overheated, before I could get much done. I’ve tried spray conditioners, but she thinks I’m poisoning her and bares her teeth at me, which leads to getting the conditioner in her mouth, which probably does taste a bit like poison.

"You're killing me!"

“You’re killing me!”

But, despite all of that trouble, I think Cricket’s hair is what makes people ooh and ahh over her. People ask about her when we walk her at the beach. They want one just like her. There’s something about the poodle mixes – the Cockapoos and the Golden Doodles and the Maltipoos, and on and on. Something about that loose fluffy curly hair makes them so irresistible. It’s like a gallon jug of oxytocin has just been poured down your throat and you have to pet that dog.

That hair!

That hair!

Butterfly’s hair is thicker and has more natural oils in it than Cricket’s. It rarely mats. It does absorb odors very well though. She often smells like stale chicken and corn chips, which is odd, because I never feed her corn chips.

Butterfly, dreaming of corn chips.

Butterfly, dreaming of corn chips.

The other thing she can smell like is pee, but putting her in the sink for a rinse is not a big deal. Cricket has to cover her eyes, or hide under the bed, to avoid the visual trauma of seeing another dog take a bath, but Butterfly just stands in the sink and shivers a little bit. She doesn’t even mind smelling like shampoo, or having her tushy hair trimmed while she’s there.

"What's a bath?"

“What’s a bath?”

The only problem with cutting Butterfly’s hair at home is that her hair is so straight that all of my mistakes are obvious. On Cricket, the curls hide some of the unevenness, but I had to trim Butterfly’s hair around her eyes and nose recently, and there are now bald patches. On her face.

"What's wrong with long hair?"

“What’s wrong with long hair?”

When Cricket’s hair starts to get fluffy, but not yet fluffy enough to put her through the trauma of a hair cut, she seems to fluff up only in particular places. Her face, for example, doubles in width. Not only are her eyes made into tiny black dots, but her cheeks spread out. The other places where she puffs out are her back legs, at the hip area. She’s suddenly a voluptuous female, with a big butt, wide hips and a tiny waist, which is very much at odds with her tomboy personality.

But in full fluff, Cricket looks like a lamb. And the fact is, when she’s in the mood to snuggle, she acts like a lamb too. She’s soft and sweet and cozy, and she’s generous with her fluff, sharing warmth with her sister and her people.

Snuggle happy.

Snuggle happy.

It’s almost time for another haircut, but I’ve been putting it off. I just need a little bit more snuggle time before she goes back to her no nonsense tomboy hair.

My Mezuzah

 

A mezuzah is a totem, a sort of anti-goblin device slash symbol of Jewish identity that Jewish people are supposed to place on our doorways. The mezuzah itself is a rolled up parchment inside of a decorative case and the parchment comes from the bible and basically reminds us to love God, and believe in God, and keep the commandments, and pass it all on to our children.

It's pink!

It’s pink!

You’re supposed to kiss the mezuzah – or kiss your fingers and then touch the mezuzah – every time you enter or leave the room, but I don’t have the patience for that. I have my one mezuzah at the front door, and I notice it when I walk in, and it gives me a feeling of familiarity. I happen to think my mezuzah is pretty.

The only other thing we have in front of the apartment door is a red welcome mat that almost always has a few pieces of kibble on it. So, welcome, dogs live here. We also have a table out in the hall with plants on it, and there are plants outside the front door of our building, and a turtle made of painted rocks. So we have a few things that announce who we are – Jewish dog people with lots of plants and an interest in turtles.

Turtle guards the garden.

Turtle guards the garden.

When my brother’s family came to visit, my niece Lilah, the black lab, who had only been here once before, raced up the stairs and went straight to our door without anyone reminding her where to go. She knew which apartment smelled right. Eau de kibble sends the message.

Lilah!

Lilah!

Lilah in the snow.

Lilah chasing Cricket in the snow.

But a mezuzah shouldn’t just be a sign to other Jews, as if only Jews should feel welcome in my home. I feel more like the mezuzah announces who I am, so that you will feel more comfortable telling me who you are.

I like symbols. An idea is elusive, but a physical symbol is visceral and concrete, and makes things easier to remember. I’ve considered dog related symbols for our front door too. The shelter where we adopted Butterfly gives out huge paw magnets that you can put on your fridge, and car stickers, and sweatshirts, and blankets, and on and on. But, by the time you get close enough to my door to see a sticker, you will have heard Cricket barking at you from inside, so the sticker would be kind of irrelevant.

I’m not comfortable wearing a star of David necklace. I had one, but I kept yanking at the chain until the chain broke, two or three times. Maybe the necklace felt too reminiscent of the yellow stars Jews had to wear during the holocaust, or maybe it’s just that the necklace I had came from my father’s mother, and she grossed me out.

I wear my Koru instead. It’s a New Zealand/Maori symbol of new birth – an unfurling fern – and I wear it to try to remind myself that I can start again every day. I don’t have to be stuck in the past, even if the past is the bad day I had yesterday. It’s not a religious or spiritual symbol for me, it’s a reminder, like a rubber band on your wrist (I tried the rubber band idea first, but it hurt too much).

Koru and hair.

My Koru, and hair.

I’m afraid to post this now, given the current situation in Israel. I feel vulnerable when I watch the news. When I heard about mass protests against Israel in Europe, and anti-Semitic slurs on college campuses, I couldn’t help but feel frightened.

To me, having a mezuzah on my door means that I feel safe telling people that I am Jewish and I don’t live in a place where being Jewish makes me a target. Putting a mezuzah on my door, or writing about being Jewish in a blog that is largely about dogs, is my way of saying that I know I’m safe and I don’t have to hide who I am in order to reach out to new people.

My girls, and Ducky too.

My girls, and Ducky too.

A Post about Sleep

 

When Butterfly sleeps on my bed, instead of on the floor, or the bathmat, or the rug, etc, she sleeps next to my head, stretched out against her pillow, kicking me in the face. She may have restless paw syndrome.

Here she is, getting ready to kick Cricket in the face.

Here she is, getting ready to kick Cricket in the face.

Cricket is less of a kicker and more of a body blocker. She prefers to sleep either on top of me, so I can’t move, or squashed up against my back and gradually pushing me off the bed. I don’t (quite) believe that her intention is to do me bodily harm, she just doesn’t like to wake up and find even a whisper of space between us, so she keeps encroaching until I have nowhere left to go.

Cricket is a very good sleeper, as long as she's attached to a person.

Cricket is a very good sleeper, as long as she’s attached to a person.

There was a spate of articles recently about how having a dog sleep on your bed makes for bad sleeping. It is, actually, possible that having Butterfly kick my head interrupts my ability to sleep well, but I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never slept well. I take Benadryl or Tylenol pm every night just to get to sleep, and I seem to fling myself around a lot while I’m sleeping. I gave up on using a top sheet because it always ended up wrapped around my feet or dumped on the floor.

As a kid, I would stare up at the ceiling tiles and follow the swirls with my eyes, like walking a labyrinth, trying to put myself to sleep, but it didn’t work. Then I’d start counting down from a hundred and then down from a thousand. I spent a lot of time counting small, fluffy sheep, which might explain why I have two small fluffy white dogs now.

Counting fluffy puppies.

Counting fluffy puppies.

I feel better knowing the girls are nearby, either on the bed or next to it, because I imagine they could protect me from harm, or at least wake me up in time to protect myself. And it’s a relief to know that if I’m up at 3am, one of the dogs will notice and come to visit.

I sleep better during the day. I would be much happier with a series of naps throughout the day instead of one long sleep at night. My dreams during the daytime naps are usually less ferocious than night time dreams. The light in the room seeps into the dream, and other noises like lawn mowers and traffic and fire engines, seem to make lighter dreams as opposed to the deafening silence of the nighttime.

It’s probably fair to say that I am afraid of the dark. I’m not particularly frightened by rats or spiders or even snakes, but any one of those things crawling near me in the dark could give me a heart attack. Though puppies never scare me, no matter what time of day.

Even this face couldn't scare me.

Even this face couldn’t scare me.

My ideal of sleep would be that I could put my head down on my pillow and feel cozy and comfortable, and with no effort at all, and no long list of anxieties for the next day, I could just fall asleep. And then I would remain asleep and maybe dream of some pleasant vacation where people are smiling and happy, and everyone likes me, and I like everyone. And then I’d wake up, after a full night’s rest, and I’d feel refreshed and comfortable, not in pain, and I’d be happy and looking forward to the day to come.

I’ve had that once or twice, so I know that it’s possible. It’s just not especially probable.

There’s a computer in my brain that keeps track of the unconscious work that needs to be done overnight, and either its processors are not working at full speed, or, more likely, there is too much work to do in the allotted time, so I often wake up exhausted and feeling like there’s something I was supposed to do, but I have no idea what it is. Luckily, that’s when the dogs come to tell me it’s time to go outside, and then it’s time for treats and playing, and by then I’m awake and things are looking up.

 

"Are you up yet?"

“Are you up yet?”

The Language of Tails

 

Cricket’s tail was docked in puppyhood and the bit that’s left is about two inches long, maybe less, but she uses what she has to her fullest ability. If she has a poopy issue left over after a walk and I manage to catch her and carry her into the bathroom, she uses her stub of a tail to protect that poop from being removed. Slam! Tail down. If she’s angry and barking at intruders, she lifts her tail and shakes it like a fist. If she’s excited, her tail spins around in a tiny circle, like a propeller lifting her off the floor.

Cricket's little nub

Cricket’s little nub

Cricket’s groomer, the one we like, decided to give Cricket a puffy poodle tail one time, like a cotton ball attached to her butt. It made it very difficult to understand Cricket for a few days, until I took out the scissors and trimmed it down so she could speak clearly again.

Cricket is very bright and she can think and express opposing ideas at the same time. She can be waving her tail in great excitement, and barking as if the world is about to end. She can wag her tail, but rest her head on her paws like she’s bored. She wants to make sure that she has expressed every dimension of how she’s feeling instead of just a simple, Hello, or I hate you.

Cricket's tails says, "I've got my eye on you," and, "I'm seconds away from giving you a thousand kisses."

Cricket’s tail says, “I’ve got my eye on you,” or, “I’m seconds away from giving you a thousand kisses.”

The only time Cricket’s tail and head and whole body are in full agreement is when Grandma comes back after being a way – for one minute, ten minutes, ten hours. Cricket’s little stub is wagging in circles and she’s crying and jumping and licking. She tries to jump into Grandma’s arms and fly herself across the room. I’m sure she’s had minor tail strains from these greetings, because the whirling little stub gets an amazing work out.

I read an article that said a docked tail can limit a dog’s ability to communicate; that dogs who approach a dog with a docked tail will be more circumspect, because they have a harder time reading the docked tail for signs of aggression or submission. I wonder if this has been an issue for Cricket. Maybe she senses the other dog’s apprehension and interprets that as aggression, and so she’s aggressive right back. Would her life have been completely different, and better, if they’d never docked her tail?

I wonder if, having a full tail to swing around, Cricket wouldn’t have to bark so much to get her point across. Maybe she feels like she has to scream because part of her voice has been muted and dampened.

Is there such a thing as a tail prosthetic?

To be fair, I think her little tail is cute and at this point I wouldn’t recognize her as Cricket with any other tail. This is who she is and its an integral part of her identity. But who would she have been otherwise?

I know a Golden retriever with a long, bushy tail, and she uses it not just to express happiness or outrage, but to bar her little poodle brother from passing by. She can swing that thing like a bat and knock all the chotchkes off the coffee table, or she can carefully tuck her tail out of the way, to be polite and demure. But Cricket doesn’t have those options.

Look at that glorious tail! (not my picture, because Cricket would not let me take such a picture).

Look at that glorious tail! (not my picture, because Cricket would not let me take such a picture).

Butterfly makes more simple sentences with her tail. Her tail goes down when she’s resting or concerned. When she’s excited and happy her tail swings full out – she makes circles in the air to announce her happiness. She waves her tail as a way of saying, Yes, I want a treat, Yes, I want to go outside, Yes, I’m the cutest puppy in the world!          When she’s a bit more sedate and formal, her tail sits up on her back like a plume and you can tell she is proud. She walks her girliest walk at these times, with her hips swinging gently from side to side. She’s not inviting interaction so much as walking the cat walk, to be admired from afar.

Butterfly's curly tail

Butterfly’s curly tail

I’d like to have a long fluffy tail, like a Golden Retriever. I would love to wave my tail back and forth and be giddy and free in telling people that I’m happy to see them. I’ve never been good at unrestrained expression; I tend towards understatement and reserve. But there’s something so wonderful about a dog waving her tail when she sees you. I’d love to be that person. I’d love to feel so secure in myself that I could tell people how much I care about them.

The happiness blur!

The happiness blur!

I wonder if we’d lose our capacity for denial with a tail so earnest and open and easy to read. Because I think these tails, this earnestness in dogs, is a big part of what we love about dogs. Even the angriest dog, because he’s honest about his anger, is easier to love than a human who masks what he’s really feeling.

I remember hearing about all kinds of human body modification surgeries that were becoming popular over the past few years – pointy ears were the most obvious, or the ear lobe expanders. I wonder if anyone has come up with a way of adding a tail, to be more like a dog. You’d probably have to take classes (from a dog?) in how to express yourself with your tail, and, knowing humans, we’d probably add a lot of complicated nonsense to get in the way of what we are trying to say. But it’s an interesting idea. On the down side, you’d have much more trouble finding clothes that fit, or a comfortable place to sit down.

 

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