All In

Royal has now become a full-fledged member of our family. You know how family acts together, no inhibitions, everything hangs out, farts, burps and language is much more casual, while a guest is on their best behavior. Dogs are the same way in a fashion. They tend to be more on guard, watchful and very polite. Now Royal knows for sure that he is here to stay and his quirks and “bad habits” have emerged. Not that he is bad by any figment of the imagination, he is really a pleasure to have, it’s just that now the other habits have emerged. Maybe some of it has to do with us being on vacation and together all week or maybe he has finally “let his hair down”.

We were warned that Royal loves tennis balls to the extreme, and we would have to physically take it away from him or he would chew on it until it was destroyed, so we limit his ball time. On Monday, we drove over to Point Defiance Park to let the dogs get into Puget Sound for some swimming and romping around. Well, Royal knows what the water is good for, playing fetch with whatever is available to throw out in the water and he can retrieve. We didn’t think to take a tennis ball, so we looked for a stick. The first stick wasn’t big enough and Royal just chewed it up on the first throw. We searched around and found a small log, about two inches in diameter and about a foot long, and threw it out in the Sound for him. The log was pretty waterlogged, so Royal was able to chew it up a bit on each retrieve. Did I forget to mention that not only does he likes to go get whatever is thrown for him, but chews on it some is also a prerequisite. With each throw, Royal would destroy it bit by bit.

Orso was not as interested in swimming around and playing fetch, he was more intrigued with everything else, the beach, the trees and all the people. He kept wandering off in search of something new, so I followed him up and down the beach to keep him from getting too close to other people and their dogs. Mitch was tasked with keeping Royal entertained by throwing the stick out to him while walking down the stretch of beach. We decided that Royal would do that all day, swim out, retrieve whatever was thrown, bring it back and do it again. When we were almost back to our starting point, we tried to put the leash on Royal and he would have none of it. He wasn’t done playing and would not come to us. Just like a spoiled toddler that wanted something and couldn’t get it, he acted out. Royal raced into the water and wouldn’t come out, ran back and forth just out of reach, unless one of us wanted to wade into the cold water after him, until we threw the stick for him. He would bring the stick back out drop it and scoot away. What a stinker. We had to trick him with another stick to get him close enough to grab.

This morning on our after-breakfast walk, Royal spotted some small animal poop on the side of the road, that some moronic dog owner didn’t bother picking up, leaving it for some unsuspecting walker, (usually me) to step in. He stuck his nose almost on it to give it a good sniff, then proceeded to drop down to roll his head in the poop. I caught on just as he was headed down and jerked the leashed and gave a rather loud “no” for five in the morning. His head hit the ground next to the poop, but thankfully he missed the pile. That was the first time he did the “Drop and Roll” on something, but I can see that I need to keep a watchful eye on him in the future. When we got home from the walk, Royal got a thorough face cleaning with a Clorox wipe.

What a dog, it’s good to see that he has finally decided we are his forever home, I just hope there are no more “bad” habits to discover.

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One Month In

Royal has now been here for a month and it’s like he has been with us forever. He is completely ensconced in our home and lives. He and Orso get along almost like they had been litter mates. Both are consummate couch potatoes with short bursts of energy, running side by side full steam nipping at each other, then dropping on the grass rolling around on their backs settling on their stomachs to watch what I’m doing. There are no fights or tension, it is so pleasant, just two dogs that have the same temperament. A real breath of fresh air.

Not to pretend Royal is perfect, he is not. He has no sense of personal space, getting right in my face wanting to lick me all over (yuck). I’ve seen what they put in their mouths. Try putting your shoes on and playing dodge ball with your head in an attempt to avoid dog kisses. I can bob and weave like a pro boxer now. He walks crooked, partly because of his hip dysplasia, which is quite annoying on our walks. He must walk on my right, won’t walk on the left, so I’m left to walking in the middle of these two buffoons and Royal walks into my right leg pushing me into Orso. Then he crosses in front of me to go sniff and pee. After he is done sniffing and peeing, he crosses back to my right, but this time he crosses behind me. So I’m constantly circling the leash around my head like a lasso. I am pretty sure the neighbors think I’m nuts. What else is new?

We were told Royal gets along well with cats, but I’m not so sure about that. He has gone ballistic barking and growling at the neighbor’s cat walking across the back fence. He chased that cat the length of the yard along the fence line and I don’t think it was to introduce himself to the neighborhood. He also has no fondness for squirrels. He wants one badly and I fear the day he and Orso outsmart one. Not that I love squirrels, I just don’t want to watch the bloodletting and subsequent visit to the vet.

Bedtime means all of us in our bed. We lost that battle three dogs ago. Now we just accept the cramped sleeping space and constant dog hair. I keep the bed and pillows swathed in sheets to keep our faces free of dog hair and other dog parts. The top of the bed is no-man’s land, but under the comforter the sheets are dog free. Of course the added bodies make the bed hotter, so I keep a fan blowing on me year round. Poor Mitch has to sleep in his shorts, sweatpants, t-shirt and sweatshirt, plus in the winter he has two comforters on him, even with the dog body heat.

I’m glad we took the chance and brought him home, he is the perfect match for Orso. And I do get a kick out of walking two dogs that weigh right at a hundred pounds. You should see the faces of the people I walk by with their five pound dogs barking up a storm and mine are actually behaving. (Of course when they don’t I look like a boat anchor dragging behind them).

Just to show you I am not making it up, I have a picture of the two laying in the yard.

The Truth Comes Out

Today we finally received Royal’s vet records and needless to say, they were very enlightening and confirmed a lot of what I suspected. We didn’t get a pig in a poke but, some of the “facts” told to us were maybe a bit misleading. Not that it would matter, because as soon as Royal crossed the threshold, he became a member of the family, here to stay for the rest of his life.

The biggest fallacy was his age. I had thought Royal had led a rough life because he didn’t get around as well as Orso. His teeth are not in the best shape either for a “six-year-old” dog. One front fang is broken and the other fang is chipped, like a dog that has been living on the streets. We were told that Royal will be six years old this year, in actuality he will be nine years old this month. I guess they thought if someone knew his real age, Royal would become unadoptable. That makes him closer to Orso’s age now, who will be eleven years old in August.

Another factoid we read was that in 2013 he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. That explained the way Royal would go up and down stairs. At first we thought he had never been exposed to stairs. That was the case with AJ, our black lab. When we brought AJ home the first time, he had no idea how to go up or down stairs, we had to teach him. We thought it odd the way Royal would lie down, either on his side or if he was on his stomach, he would adjust himself so that his legs stick out behind him, like a puppy does. But no, Royal just has hip dysplasia, another check mark against someone wanting to adopt him. Good thing I bought a huge bucket of joint supplements.

We had decided that Royal is a bit overweight, not having the stamina of Orso now two years his senior. But we know he is almost nine and has hip dysplasia, we can work on a better regimen, diet and exercise, to help him feel better. With the vet records in hand, we can work with our vet to get his shots up to date and a good dog food. We’ve already talked about this year we will be taking them swimming more. Another reason to get a kayak.

So for whatever time we have left with Royal and Orso, it will be a gift and a treasure everyday.

Taking the Leap

Well call us crazy or not, we took the leap and jumped off the cliff. After we received the reprieve from the woman asking for two weeks to try and work something out with her landlord, we breathed a sigh of relief. We told each other that it was for a reason that we didn’t get the dog. That maybe later on in the future, we would start looking for a dog. Guess what? Two weeks to the day, we received an email, asking if we were still interested in meeting Royal. We said yes, but now due to prior commitments, we couldn’t take him for another two weeks. We also said we would understand if they couldn’t wait for us.

Oh no, was the response, they would be more than happy to keep him for another 2 weeks. They just wanted to make sure he had a good home. I wasn’t sure how she “knew” we would be a good home, since we had only traded emails to date. We agreed to meet Royal the following Sunday, and see how he would get along with Orso. All week, I kept going back and forth, are we doing the right thing for Orso? If we take Royal, would that be the right thing for him? Talk about making myself crazy, I must have waffled back forth enough to have worn a groove in my brain.

Sunday morning, we loaded Orso up and headed out to meet Royal. We got there early and wandered around the school grounds that we had agreed to introduce the two on. Neutral territory, that way no one felt threatened or possessive of the space. A car pulled into the far side of the parking lot and watched as a man got out with a large dark brown dog. Nope, not Royal, we thought, because it was a Doberman and we were expecting a lab/mastiff mix. The man and the dog headed off in the opposite direction so we were pretty sure, they were just out for a stroll in the drizzle.

Another car pulled in and parked. A woman and a teenage girl got out of the car and the woman turned and opened the back door of the car. Out hopped a fawn colored dog with blackish brown ears. Royal came trotting over to us, quite unafraid and eager to meet us and Orso. He was as tall as Orso and a little bigger in the chest than Orso, maybe about five to ten pounds overweight. He was super friendly and just wanted to be petted. He was also a leaner.

After introductions, we watched the two get to know each other, sniffing butts, peeing on top of the other’s pee spot and running around the grass. Orso tried to jump on his back a couple of times and each time Royal would turn and give a warning bark growl, but never showed teeth. I was quite impressed with the dog, and ready to jump over the ledge. Mitch asked a few questions, did he have any ailments, eating issues, were his shots up to date, etc. All of our questions were answered quite positively, and I couldn’t help but wonder about his owner. It would take dire circumstances for me to even consider having to find a home for Orso and not keep him.

We asked if any others had responded to the ad and the woman said yes, she had gotten eight offers but only took one other offer seriously. After meeting the couple, she told them no they couldn’t have Royal. It seems the couple had a pair of pit bulls with them that were quite beat up and kept asking her what the mastiff side was capable of. She told us that she felt uneasy and worried about Royal’s safety.

I took the first leap, looked at Mitch and said that we would love to take him, but because family was coming into town, we couldn’t take him until the following Saturday. That seemed to be quite workable, so we said good-bye, loaded up Orso and headed home. Saturday morning, we picked up Royal and brought him home. We left Orso home for the pick up so that there was no tension in cramped spaces. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I jumped out and leashed up Orso and the four of us went for a nice long walk.

We are now a week into back being a two-dog family and so far, so good. Maybe it’s because both dogs are older, Orso will be eleven and Royal is almost six, both are very calm sedate dogs, pretty much couch potatoes most of the time.

So for now, life is good, just a little more cramped on the couch, but quite relaxed. I’m sure once Royal gets comfortable and realizes the once he crossed the threshold, he was here to stay, things will get back to my normal chaotic life.

Going Down the Rabbit Hole (Almost)

We almost brought another dog into our lives, almost. We were so close. Mitch saw an ad in the Saturday paper, “A lab/mastiff mix, 6 years old” and then the magic words, “FREE TO A GOOD HOME”. Mitch was hooked. Even though he knows, there is no such thing as free. Nothing is ever free. More importantly, Mitch has been the hold out, saying over and over, “Not another dog, yet.” But there it was, Mitch urging me to send an email, asking about the dog. I reminded him of our last experience with a “lab mix”. As much as I loved Charlie, he was always a bit off. We were “on guard” with him always, because he was animal aggressive and sometimes very explosive.

So, I called his bluff, I sent an email, asking how big he was, did he get along with other dogs, etc. The ad said he was good with cats and children, but didn’t mention dogs. I got a response, that yes, he was good with other dogs, they had three other dogs, four cats and four children. A very full house. He also weighed a hundred pounds, so a good size match for Orso. Now I was curious as to why if they had three other dogs, four cats and four children, why was this dog singled out to be kicked to the curb. Why not get rid of the cats? Four cats to one dog, seemed like a fair trade.

I sent the question back, “why are you trying to find a home for this dog?” I phrased it very diplomatically, instead of saying, “why are you getting rid of this one, as opposed to one of the others?” I wanted to know the real reason for the ad. What was wrong with him? Was he a biter, a fighter, what? Why was this one getting the boot? Because the answers would determine our next step. I was still very gun shy about getting back into a situation where Orso would be victimized ever again.

We were straddling the fence, not sure which side to fall on, dog or no dog. I almost called our best friends to ask what we should do, but I already knew their answer, “Get the dog.” They have three medium to large size dogs, and are not unbiased. By the time we went to bed, we had decided that no we would pass on the dog. No dog yet.

Her email response came in the morning. The answer was not what I expected at all. The owner had gotten the dog as a puppy and now after six years had to give him up because she had to move to an apartment wouldn’t take dogs, especially large dogs, so she took him to her friend, who promised to look for a great home for him. The friend had placed the ad, with three other dogs, four cats and four children already had a full house. After reading her email, I was ready to get in the car, drive to wherever he was and bring him home on the spot. Sanity returned and I waited for Mitch to wake up.

We talked some more, pros and cons, talking ourselves out of the dog, then back into the dog. I finally sent an email back asking if we could meet with Orso to see how they might interact. I got a response saying that was a great idea and when could we get there. I asked if noon would work and waited for her response. The reply came back letting us off the hook – sort-of. The owner was not handling the separation well and asked her friend if they would keep him for two weeks, until she either found another place or could win over her landlord. But could they keep our email, “just in case.”

My heart went out to the woman and her dog, because I know how I would feel if I were forced with the same decision. I answered back that of course, they could keep our email address, and that I understood completely. I even offered to “foster the dog” for the woman if she wanted to on a short or long term basis, if the need arose.

We almost fell down the rabbit hole, not quite, but we’re teetering.

A Wet Nose

Do you have any idea how shocking a cold wet nose can be, especially when it touches the back of your thigh? Let’s just say that it’s a really good thing I am only five foot two inches tall on a good day. Otherwise I might be sporting a concussion and submitting an Aflac claim.

I had just gotten out of the shower and was drying off. I had my back to the door, (huge mistake it seems) and didn’t hear the door open. I had neglected to pull the door completely closed so there was a small gap, evidently big enough for a nose to fit through and push open the door. I was bent over drying my shins and feet when a cold wet nose ever so gently touched the back of my thigh. I guess Orso was checking to make sure I had used soap. Anyway, I stood straight up and jumped forward about two feet, narrowly missing the lighted makeup mirror that was mounted on the bathroom wall.

I sucked in my breath, grabbed the towel, wrapped it around me (too late to protect my exposed skin) and turned to face my attacker. Orso was standing there wagging his tail looking like he had just accomplished some huge feat of skill, looking very pleased with himself. At least I didn’t scream or squeal and wake up Mitch, not that he would have heard it, because he sleeps like the dead. I have no idea why Orso decided to get out of bed to come and check on me, something totally out of character for him. He normally climbs back in bed after our morning walk and sleeps until I fix breakfast.

I reached out and scratched his ear, then Orso turned around, walked out of the bathroom, jumped back up on the bed, laid down and went back to sleep. I stood there and mentally scratched my head wondering why and getting no answer.

What a way to start the day.

Don’t Try This at Home

Many years ago, Mitch gave me a hand-me-down parka that someone at his work had out grown. It is a long knee length winter parka with a zip in liner, and is quite warm. It is water proof with a hood and lots of pockets, and reflector strips to be seen in the dark, making it perfect for walking Orso in the dark and hiking when it’s cold. I’m not sure how old it is, but I can say that I have gotten at least ten or more years of wear out of it.

The down side to the parka is that it has one of those double zippers on it, you know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that you can zip up closed and at the bottom of the hem, you can zip up toward the collar to unzip to an open jacket. I have always hated that part of the parka, because the double zipper is always harder to catch at the bottom, making it more difficult to zip up. Oh, I know the theory behind it, to be able to unzip the coat to get to a pocket or to go pee without removing the coat, but I would just wait until I was somewhere warm to heed the call of nature.

Over the years, the zipper has gotten weaker, making it harder to get shoved down into the second zipper sometimes. Usually that happens when I’m in a hurry or Orso is impatient, making it take longer to get outfitted and out the door. This morning everything was going just fine, I put on my sweatshirt and hat, then put on the parka and zipped it up, donned my gloves and hooked up Orso to his harness and off we went on our pre-dawn walk.

The walk was going along smoothly when I started feeling a chill on my thighs and stomach. I looked down and saw that my parka was wide open flapping in the breeze. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the zipper on the bottom had let go and my parka was unzipping itself from the bottom up. I tried to reconnect the zipper and zip it up to meet the top zipper but that didn’t work. Then I tried to unzip the top zipper to meet the bottom of the zipper where it had stopped at open, but that didn’t work either. So, in an act of desperation, I zipped the top zipper back up all the way and pulled the two sides of my parka together in one hand to try and keep it closed until I could get back home.

When I got back home, I struggled with the zipper trying to get the upper zipper unzipped far enough to force the lower zipper down. That didn’t work either, I had only gotten the upper zipper unzipped down about three inches from the top and the lower zipper had unzipped itself up the rest of the way to meet the upper zipper.

I stood there thinking about how I was going to the parka off. Panic was starting to set in. I had to get it off and get in the shower to get ready for work. I couldn’t just stand there all day in a parka that was more unzipped than zipped but wouldn’t come off. Have you ever tried to pull a knee length parka off over your head with an opening of about five inches and not rip off your nose? It’s not easy let me tell you.