Ticklish

You know, when you scratch that “sweet” spot on a dog and his leg will scratch involuntarily along with you. That’s what I call ticklish on a dog. I think every dog has at least one spot where he is ticklish. Do dogs get more ticklish as they get older? Well lately it seems Orso has gotten more ticklish spots on him. It fact almost his whole body is one giant ticklish spot.

He will be lying on the floor and rub his chin on the rug then his back leg will go spastic scratching at the rug. Even when he scratches himself and hits a ticklish spot, his leg will get going and twitch nonstop. His throat is very ticklish and when I scratch anywhere around his collar his leg gets going. His belly, his back and hips are all on the ticklish list now. I think the only spot on him that does not get his motor running is his ears.

When his back leg gets going you want to make sure your hand is nowhere near his paw. He has great big nails on his huge paws and he scratches with great zeal. I’ve come away with a bloody hand more than once.

Last night I was awakened from a sound sleep with something shaking me. At first I thought, “So this is what an earthquake feels like.” But no, Orso was trying to scratch an itch that was on a ticklish spot, and his back leg was thumping away pushing his hips into my back shaking away at me. First I was relieved that the house wasn’t going to collapse around me, then I was irritated that now I’m wide awake at three-thirty am.

What a way to start the day.

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Chasing Waterfalls and the Coast

A couple of weeks ago we decided to buzz over to the Olympic Peninsula and search for some waterfalls. There is a waterfall road trip that loops highway 101 starting on the east side of the Peninsula goes north to the Strait of Juan De Fuca and turns south to drive along the Pacific Ocean coast for a while. We took the dogs, so we couldn’t go into the National Park, but we could go into the National Forest, so we drove west and found a couple of waterfalls in the Olympic National Forest, then drove up the coast and found a beautiful beach.

We barely scratched the surface and as soon as we have a couple of days to explore we’ll go again.

Adding to My Wellbeing

Well, maybe not so much. All the wisdom out there is that pets add to your wellbeing. Our pets are treated like family members, they eat premium dog food, carrots are their treats, along with homemade frozen yogurt pumpkin pops. I walk them at least three times a day, every day, rain or shine. I am the one out walking the dogs, in gale force winds, pouring rain and frigid temperatures. I’m the one everyone looks out their windows laughing at while they are warm or cool snug in their homes. The dogs even sleep in our bed with us, taking up the lion share of the king size bed.

But I’ve noticed a trend, maybe even a sinister bend by the dogs. I think they may be plotting against me. Lately on our walks, Royal has started walking in on me, forcing me to either move to the left or tripping over his legs. Royal keeps a watchful eye out for squirrels and will either stop or move in the direction of the squirrel with an abruptness that leaves my right shoulder in an odd angle. Orso is always lagging behind with me dragging him along a full six feet behind me. The only time he gets excited is if another dog shows up and then he tries to drag me over to the dog and its’ terrified owner. I am then tasked with the thoroughly enjoyable job of stopping two hundred pounds of dogs moving away from me – one short woman that has a lot less muscle mass than them.

Just yesterday, we had just come back from our afternoon walk and was standing in the driveway, when I noticed the black lab that lives down the street walk out of his driveway and as I took a step backward to see if he was on his way over to our house, Royal stepped behind me and as I almost stepped on him, I jerked away, yes you know it, I fell backwards hard on my rear end. I came really close to whacking the back of my head on the driveway, not that it would have caused much damage, I have a hard head. But it was jarring, none the less. Mitch turned around and looked at me sitting on the ground and asked why I was down there. I just turned and looked at Royal who was standing there with a slight smile on his face. I swear I saw a smile, I think he did that on purpose.

Oh yes, our pets enrich our lives and add to our wellbeing, and because I am enrolled in Aflac, I get rewarded every time they send me to the emergency room.

My Heartfelt Plea

Sorry, I’m not feeling funny or witty today. I am totally without any of my warped sense of humor and sarcasm. Instead I’m writing to make a plea straight from the depths of my soul. I don’t get on my soapbox very often, because no one wants to read the rantings of people today and it seems that there is always someone ranting about something. And to be completely honest, no one cares about all the opinions out there. But once in a while, I can’t stop myself.

Today while walking the dogs, a very large pickup truck drove past us. It was a truck I’d not seen before, it was raised with a lift kit and had huge exhaust pipes coming out behind the cab and went straight in the air. He was driving slowly, which was a plus, but wouldn’t move over even a bit to make room for us. I had to step off the road and into the ditch, so we wouldn’t get knocked off the road. He went on by and I said my normal caustic statement about thoughtless morons.

As I walked on up the road I heard the truck getting louder and turned around to see that he had turned around and was heading back our way. I kept the dogs close as he drove past and that’s when it happened. He had a dog tied up in the back of the truck and the dog wanted to meet us, so he jumped up and out of the truck to come over to us. The line was long enough allow him to jump out and hit the ground, get whacked by the oversized tires, rolled under the truck and came to a stop in front of the tire. If the man hadn’t stopped, he would have run over his own dog.

I stood there and held onto my dogs calling out, “Oh my god!” The man opened his truck door, hopped out and walked back to the dog. He grabbed the dog by the harness and threw him back into the back of the truck, saying, “Stupid dog.” He turned and looked at me and said, “I’m sorry about that.” I called to him and asked if the dog was okay, knowing he didn’t care. The man just climbed back in the truck, shut the door and drove off. He was just far enough away that I couldn’t get the license number.

I stood there in shock, wanting to cry, wishing I could save that dog more than anything else in the world, but knowing that wasn’t going to happen. My heart broke a bit at the indifference and lack of humanity in the man.

So here is my plea. Please if you have a pickup truck or know someone that does, don’t ever put your dog in the back tethered or untethered. If the dog can’t go in the cab, he should be in a crate that is securely fastened to the back of the pickup truck and if that isn’t an option, then leave him at home.

I know I can’t save them all, but if I can make one person rethink putting their dog in the back of a pickup truck, then I guess that’s something.

How I Spent My Spring Vacation – Or At Least I Didn’t go to the Emergency Room

Mother Nature finally came through for us. The weather here has been so damp and dank, with rain and unseasonably chilly temperatures for so long, I was beginning to fear that summer would never come. Our vacation was rapidly approaching and we had not made any plans yet, no destination in mind, we just knew that we did not want to stick around here for more misery. As the first vacation day approached, the weather forecast started looking a bit more promising with temperatures ranging in the eighties and lots of sunshine, so in the end we decided to stay here and go exploring locally.

Our first day was a trip to Woodinville, for a day of wine tasting. Hey, I have my priorities. And yes, we tasted many nice wines and bought a few bottles. Our second day we included the dogs on our day trip. We drove over to Point Defiance on Puget Sound and let the dogs run around and play in the ocean. One day we did some yard work and finished our newly built and planted raised beds. We drove down to Olympia and went to Tumwater Falls Park. It was a bit of a disappointment, I was hoping for bigger falls and a longer hike, but that was not the reality. The falls were small and the trek around them was short, maybe a mile at most.

We took a longer day trip with the dogs to the Green River Nature Area O’Grady Trail and had a longer hike. The trail was partially a road access that could handle cars and trucks with offshoot trails that were dirt paths wide enough for a horse or single file hikers. The trails had nice carved wooden signs that not only showed where the trail went but also had a “you are here” notation on each so we could place ourselves on the trail and where in the area we wanted to go. We found a homemade Tic Tac Toe Board carved into a stump complete with rocks for markers. We hiked down to the Green River, saw how fast it was running and decided it was not a good idea to let the dogs go in. We would have to drive to Puget Sound to save them.

To finish off our vacation, we decided to go kayaking. The dilemma was where? We thought about Point Defiance Park and go kayaking in Puget Sound, but common sense won out. I had only been kayaking once before, on a nice calm lake where the boats had to have a motor no larger than fifteen horse power and Mitch has never been kayaking. Out here the sky is the limit, plus there is the tides to consider. We talked it out and decided a lake would be safer and a better first time experience. We checked on kayak rentals around Lake Washington and found one in Bellevue. We got there before the rental office opened, about thirty minutes early and found a line had already formed. We rented two single kayaks so we could each experience paddling and maneuvering our own kayak, plus I watched other people in double kayaks and most weren’t paddling in unison, one paddle would be up and one paddle would be down, the kayak going nowhere.

The water was still very chilly, around sixty degrees or so, but the sky was clear no clouds for as far as the eye could see. We set off heading north crossing under the I-90 bridge to run along the coast gawking at houses on the shore. Most were very large and new, but there were some older smaller homes tucked in between the larger estate homes. We watched the boats go up and down the main channel, a few smaller boats but most were larger vessels, suitable for the ocean and felt the wake of each one. I was glad we chose a lake to start on first. After about forty-five minutes we turned around and headed in the opposite direction to see what was on the other side of the bridge and farther south. We headed into the back of the cove and gawked at some more houses.

We decided to call it a day and head back to the boat launch. We talked about how much we enjoyed this and as I headed toward the launch I made a comment about shopping for a kayak online. I got no response, so I looked around and couldn’t find Mitch. He was right there and then he was gone. I slowed my kayak and turned around to look for him and saw in the water about three hundred feet or so, his kayak flipped upside down. I looked next to his kayak and there was his head bobbing beside it. I paddled as fast I could and as I got closer, I could see him hanging on, so at least he was conscious. As I got close enough to talk to him, I asked what he did. He answered he didn’t know, not that succinctly but with more descriptive adjectives and adverbs. I asked if he was okay, but was not sure how I could help get the kayak righted without rolling myself, and not being that selfless, I didn’t offer to help right it. That’s what you get when you’re dealing with amateurs, dumb and dumber. Two guys and a little girl in a canoe came and offered help, but Mitch declined, saying he could make it to the launch. Another couple came up and offered assistance and again Mitch declined, I don’t know what he was thinking, that maybe AAA was going to show, or maybe he was suffering hypothermia. Probably not, his teeth weren’t chattering.

Finally, a man paddled over on a paddleboard that knew what he was doing and grabbed Mitch’s kayak and pulled it up on his paddleboard to steady it, then righted it and held it still for Mitch to climb back into the seat. Just like the Lone Ranger, after saving the town he paddled off to save the next unlucky soul. I think all in all, Mitch was a bit embarrassed that he rolled it and I didn’t. I contained myself and followed him in to the launch, but the whole time I kept saying over and over, “It wasn’t me, I didn’t roll it, it wasn’t me. Woo Hoo!”

We had a great time and have decided to get our own kayaks, but I think some lessons might be prudent. How could you ask for a better vacation, wine, hiking, kayaking and watching someone else crash and burn and for once it wasn’t you?

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.

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.

Orso – The New Spokesdog

I have the perfect job for Orso – Spokesdog. Not just any old spokesdog, but a spokesdog for UPS. UPS would be lucky to have him for their mouthpiece as a satisfied customer. Though I’m not sure how to approach UPS and pitch Orso as their spokesdog. It’s perfect when you think about it, Orso is a great big chocolate lab and the UPS official color is brown, it’s a match made in heaven. A big brown dog standing in a big brown truck, and who doesn’t love a big brown slobbery happy dog? Talk about PR perfection, it’s a marketing dream.

Orso loves the UPS man and his big brown truck. Orso knows the sound of the diesel truck coming from a long way away. He will jump up from a dead sleep to run to the front door to watch and wait for his favorite UPS driver. It helps that our regular driver brings large dog biscuits with him and gives one to Orso with each delivery.

When Orso hears the truck, he runs to the door and watches with great big hopeful eyes, and if the truck stops, he will cry and whine and bark this shrill bark, showing his total impatience at how slowly the world turns while he is waiting for the UPS man to climb out of the truck and bring him a dog biscuit. Because we all know that Orso NEVER gets any treats, only the ones the UPS man gives him. Not.
As soon as the driver gets out of the truck and starts to walk to the front door, Orso is standing on his hind legs barking loudly and frantically, as if he has just found his long-lost boy. It’s a bit embarrassing and I must admit to a bit of jealousness, because I’m not so sure, Orso wouldn’t just go with the UPS man. After all, he has food and Orso is a lab.

Orso has become so obsessed with the big brown UPS truck that if we’re out on a walk and he hears a truck, any truck with the telltale diesel engine, Orso will stop and search for the direction the sound is coming from, then turn and wait until the noise gets louder and closer. God forbid he sees the truck while we’re walking. That turns into an Aflac claim just waiting to happen. Twice this week the UPS truck came up the street while we were out on our morning walk. Orso turned and started barking at the truck hoping to get the driver to stop, which he did right there in the middle of the street.

Our driver, then turned the truck off and climbed into the back of his truck, just to get Orso a biscuit. Orso had already climbed up into the truck and was waiting for the treat. Our UPS driver told me that Orso was the only dog on his route that gets so excited to see him. I think that the driver gets as big a kick out of seeing Orso as Orso does when he sees him.

It’s a sad day when the truck doesn’t stop or if our regular driver is off and there is no biscuit. Orso doesn’t understand why not every delivery person that comes to our door is as prepared to meet a happy hungry lab. I guess I should keep a stash of dog treats by the door so if someone comes empty-handed I can save the day.

Orso – Spokesdog for UPS, has a ring to it don’t you think?