Goofball

That completely describes Orso in one word. Ten years old and still a big dope that acts like a two-year-old puppy. He is the one dog I didn’t want. I didn’t want to go see him, I didn’t want to add another dog to the mix. We had two dogs at the time, AJ, our black lab, a super sweet beautiful dog with a steamer trunk full of issues and Charlie, our half breed, half chocolate lab and half German shorthair, who was animal aggressive and a bit unstable.

We had just gotten the two dogs settled into a routine and everyday life was going along fairly smoothly without any episodes for a while which was all I wanted, quiet and boring. Then one day Mitch came home and said that a coworker had a son who had a dog that he needed to get rid of. The dog was a nine-month-old chocolate lab, purportedly with papers and he wanted to “just go take a look see”. I said absolutely not, we had just gotten to a point in our lives that things were settled and quiet, the dogs were happy and content. I didn’t want to upset any balance in our lives.

I knew what would happen if we went. I knew without a doubt once I set eyes on a puppy he would be in the back of the station wagon headed home with us. That was why I fought it so hard and still I lost. We drove up and as soon as our car pulled into the driveway and this ninety-five pound brown clumsy puppy came bounding out of the garage I knew that it was last time that dog would ever sleep in that garage. We loaded him up and took him home. His name was Rebar, which I thought was a stupid name for a dog and that it was getting changed right away. I liked the word orso, which is Italian for bear, and I think it suits him just perfectly.

Orso has always been a big dumb beau hunk, falling over his feet and mine, getting in the way, knocking me down and always sporting a big goofy smile on his face. We didn’t get any papers as they were reportedly lost, so we had to take it on faith that he is actually a Labrador Retriever, though at the time we suspected there was a Saint Bernard lurking around in there because Orso was and still is one giant drool machine. He can sling drool as high as seven feet and with enough velocity to knock a fly out of the air if it gets in the way. He wasn’t much of a hunting dog, preferring to walk behind me and let me knock down the brush to clear a path for him. And as far as the term “Water Dog” goes, Orso would rather ride in a boat feeling the wind on his face than get wet swimming.

He got interested in birds, but instead of pheasants Orso prefers to flush robins, sparrows and his arch nemesis, crows. Out here crows are proliferate, with large numbers banding together to swoop down and walk around searching for food. It’s not unusual to see three or four crows walking around together just a few yards away from us. This makes Orso crazy that these large birds would totally dismiss him as irrelevant and not fly away. He has taken to stalking them on leash then at the right moment Orso will stand up on his hind legs and give them a loud woof to try and make them fly. Because that is so effective the birds fly a short distance then shout back at him.

He’s the one dog I didn’t want, he’s totally devoted to me and now I’m just as devoted to him. Yes, he’s a goofball but he’s my goofball.

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I Need a Vacation

Mitch is in Seattle and I’m here getting the house ready to sell so I can load up the dogs and head west. It has been a long arduous month getting rid of a lot of stuff and packing up boxes after boxes of more stuff. What I really should do is after everything is packed up, go back through each box and throw away half of what’s in each one.

Saturday a week ago the house went on the market and I had promised myself that when it happened, I would go get a massage. Lord knows my back and feet needed some tender touches, so I decided to add in a pedicure along with the massage. I locked the dogs in crates and headed out for a little pampering.

I had my first showing almost immediately after getting home from my little bit of self-indulgence. I had just enough time to feed the dogs and load them up in the station wagon to escape. Of course this weekend was oppressively hot with temperatures over ninety eight and it felt like it was over a hundred. The station wagon struggled to pump out even moderately cool air. Sunday morning I ran a quick errand and came home to find Orso not in his crate but waiting at the top of the basement stairs. Somehow he escaped. To say I was not pleased was an understatement.

Sunday afternoon I had three showings scheduled and again it was in the high nineties and felt much hotter. I loaded up the dogs and headed out. This time I planned a little better and loaded the car with water for the dogs and me, leashes and car charger for my cell phone, just in case. We weren’t gone thirty minutes when an afternoon thunderstorm popped up causing us to sit in a ballfield parking lot watching as lightning flashed across the sky. I hoped that the car was lightning proof.

Monday morning I took the dogs to the basement to crate them up and neither one was having any of that. Charlie turned around and went back upstairs refusing to come down and Orso would not get in the crate. Can you imagine trying to push one hundred pounds of dog in one direction while he wants to go a different direction? The dogs hated the crates and I knew they wouldn’t be happy but I didn’t think I would be faced with outright anarchy. The treats I threw in the crates went untouched as both dogs refused to be bribed. I had to go to work and couldn’t leave them running loose because I had a showing scheduled for the morning and three more that evening.

I had to put the leash on Charlie to walk him down the stairs and into the crate. I grabbed Orso’s collar and shoved him in, latched the door and just to be safe I took tie downs and wrapped them around his crate cinching them tight. I then turned both crates to face each other so they could see each other and hopefully be reassured they weren’t alone. I came home for lunch to check on them and take them for a walk. Orso had been working on destroying the crate, pulling at the wire door and bending in two of the wires toward him which could poke him and make him bleed. I searched for a pair of pliers to bend the wires back and Orso pulled the door back toward him getting his head stuck between the door and the crate. I had to get his head unstuck then pull the door back to the outside of the crate and keep a very unhappy dog in the crate at the same time. Not an easy feat. This time after I finally got him secured in the crate and the door locked I used the tie downs again then turned his crate up against the wall in an effort to keep Orso contained until I got home.

Monday evening I got home and thankfully both dogs were stilled in their crates, unhappy at me but still contained. I fed them and loaded them up for three showings, all back to back from five to five forty five. Another scorcher I drove the poor overworked station wagon down to the dam to let the dogs run a bit before sitting in the air conditioned car. When I finally was headed home I noticed a hot smell in the car. Thinking it might have been the car charger for my cell phone, I pulled it out hoping that was the cause. That’s when I noticed the smoke coming out of the vents, super. I looked at the front end of the car and saw smoke coming out of the hood. Getting better. I sped up hoping everyone was gone and I could get the car into the driveway before it died.

I backed in the driveway, got the dogs out and in the house then went back to the car to check on it. I turned it off and raised the hood. Smoke was coming out at the bottom of the air-conditioning compressor. Wonderful, the day just got even better. That was the only car I had to get the dogs chauffeured around. Where is Mitch when I need him?

At that moment all I wanted to do was walk back in the house open a bottle of wine and go sit in the corner and have a pity party. Why do I get all the fun stuff to do?

Sunday Snaps

It snowed overnight, about one to two inches, not much but it is wet heavy snowball snow. Orso was so excited that he ran around with his head down scooping up snow like a steam shovel. Goofy dog. But we had enough to grad my camera and take a few pictures.

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Orso hunting for frozen goose poop, gross

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Charlie hunting for field mice under the snow covered Johnson Grass

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He kept going farther and farther down the rabbit hole

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He backed out without anything. I’m not so sure that was a bad thing.

Orso and Petco

Orso finally got to go inside Petco this morning. We don’t take our dogs to Petco, because there are usually other dogs around, small dogs and big dogs and not all are well behaved. Plus Charlie doesn’t play nice with too many other dogs, so he never gets to go inside. The last time I took any dog inside with me was Buddy, our yellow lab. Buddy was a very large yellow lab that weighed in at one hundred twenty pounds and loved to go everywhere with me. Buddy loved other dogs and people, but because of his size people with small dogs took one look at him and literally would turn and walk the other way.

On the last time that I took Buddy inside with me to Petco, I bought a fifty pound bag of dog food and had it in a cart with Buddy walking along side me attached to my wrist with his leash. As we walked out of the building Buddy spotted a little tiny dog walking toward us with an older man on the other end of the leash before I saw them. Buddy jerked and ran toward the little dog with me attached. I let go of the cart with the dog food inside in order to retain my wrist. The cart went sailing off in one direction and the two of us went catapulting in the opposite direction toward a man that was trying his best to get the little dog off the ground and in his arms before this giant carnivore gobbled him up.

A woman walking in the store from a different direction started yelling, “Run away cart,” like I could stop that while still attached to a very large dog going in the opposite direction. By the time we got to the man with the little dog, the dog owner was able to get the little guy up in his arms and out of the way of Buddy. Buddy stood there trying really hard to sniff the dog and say hello while I stood there apologizing profusely. I think we cost both the man and his dog a few years of life. The woman yelling about my cart, was nice enough to catch it before it hit a parked car. To say the least, Buddy never got to go back to Petco again.

This morning we needed to buy dog food and Orso needed a smaller collar, plus Mitch was going with me, so we decided to take a chance and take Orso in with us. Poor Charlie had to stay in the car and he wasn’t happy about that. The one thing I forgot was that today was pet adoption day and there were lots of dogs and cats there in crates hoping to be adopted. Orso thought that this was doggy heaven with all of the new dogs and people to greet and smell and bark at. Thank goodness for linoleum floors. Orso was like a kid in a candy store, so many new sights, smells and things to taste. I quickly remembered why I don’t take the dogs in Petco again.

At the check-out Orso stood up on the counter and greeted the clerk, who fell for that pitiful face and gave him a cookie. She was lucky she still had fingers. We were lucky to get out of there alive.

The Jerk and the Doofus

This morning we woke up to the first snowfall of the season. Let me correct the term morning, morning was 1:15am. Mitch ever the dedicated wanted to get up an hour earlier than normal so he could get to work extra early in order to get all of the equipment they use at work up and ready for a day of deicing one airplane after the other. Anyway at 1:15 this morning we had about two inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing fairly heavily.

After I fed the dogs and Mitch in that order, got him to work then it was time for our morning stroll. The dogs started off down the road with Orso the Doofus head down eating snow as he was loping along. He kept lurching ahead wanting to race around and play in the snow. Charlie the Jerk walked along at his usual pace head down sniffing the ground always hunting and because Mitch lets him get away with murder, Charlie has a really irritating tendency to race back and forth from one side of the road to the other, yanking my arm around. It is nearly impossible to be on both sides of the street at the same time, but Charlie gives it his best shot.

We had reached our turn around point on the walk and started back when Orso forgot he was eight years old and suddenly became a two year old again. He lunged forward yanking the leash causing me to lose my balance on the slick road. I went down in what had to be a very graceful plop in the road landing on my butt hard. I lost my grip on the leash and Orso took off with his butt down racing around in circles slipping and sliding in the snow. It was a good thing I let go of the leash because otherwise I would have literally been dragged down the road. On one of the laps around Charlie and me, Orso decided that both of us should join in the winter fun. He ran over me stepping on me and bashing into Charlie. Charlie didn’t forget he is ten years old and snapped at Orso growling and trying fruitlessly to get in a good bite or two, also stepping on me in the process.

Orso undaunted raced off to find a weapon to battle the Jerk with. He came across a stick snatched it up and waved it around whacking Charlie and me in the head. Charlie went after Orso with a deadly purpose, causing Orso to race away barking back at Charlie. Now I have one dog barking and one dog with murder in his eye at 3:30 in the morning. My neighbors just love us.

I was finally able to get back up on my feet and grabbed both leashes got the dogs under control and finished the walk with all of us covered in snow. It’s going to be a long winter.

My Inspiration

I get most of my creative inspiration from Mitch and the dogs. Granted all three have been very entertaining over the years giving me lots of good stories to write about. But now the dogs are much older, Charlie is ten and Orso is eight, and for the most part are calm and sedate spending more time sacked out either on our bed or the couch than up doing cute dog tricks. They still drag me around as a boat anchor when they spot something in the dark and want to give chase, just not as much as in the past. Orso will lunge forward give a big woof then sit because he knows I’m going to correct him and part of the correction is to make them sit then lay down, something I’ve been working on with both dogs. Making them sit then down to make them focus on me and break the focus on whatever it was that got them worked up in an agitated state. It works most of the time, but sometimes I still get yanked around getting body parts dislocated.

Mitch occasionally provides me with inspiration, usually because I come up with some off the wall idea or a remodeling project that always goes horribly wrong. With every project I always hear, “Just once I would like something to go right, just once!” Guess what, it never goes well. Everything always takes longer than expected and costs much more than it would if any other person was doing it. Part of the reason for that is because Mitch is so fastidious about his work and because the house we live in was built in three separate sections starting in 1928 and ending in 1986. But now the remodel of the house is almost done after eight long years, so there are less catastrophic remodeling projects to be had.

I came up with what I thought was a really great idea for future writing inspirations, but Mitch is not so keen on the idea. I suggested that since the dogs are old and not as much fun we should get a puppy. Mitch looked at me the same way a person looks a-would be stick up man who’s pointing a gun in their face. Shock and horror was written all over his face. I know we’ve always said that we would not get another dog until Charlie went to the “farm”, but I had a weak moment. My head knows that we can’t bring another dog into the house while Charlie is still alive, but my creative juices wanted a nudge. Charlie is animal aggressive and we have to work very carefully when introducing him to other dogs. It’s a long laborious process. When we rescued Orso, we had to call in an animal behaviorist to work with us just to keep Orso from ending up in the emergency clinic over and over. Even though Charlie is outweighed by thirty pounds, he can be a mean little dog.

“Are you out of your mind?” was Mitch’s response when he could finally talk. “We are not getting a dog.”

I knew that but I just wanted to see the look on his face when I suggested it. Besides if I start mentioning it occasionally, he’ll get used to the idea of getting another dog, in the future.

Day 2 – The Continuing Saga of the Hotel Room from Hell

Thankfully Mitch brought soap from home so at least I could be clean and not forced to use the used bar of soap, which I threw in the trash. I finished my shower, put on my makeup and fixed my hair. Yes I know, I’m going to walk around in the field carrying a gun, tripping over roots and stepping into badger holes, maybe even get shot by a fellow hunter, but at least I have on makeup and under my hunting hat my hair had been washed. All dressed and ready to go I left Mitch to shower and get ready and walked around to the front desk to check out the free complimentary breakfast.

There were frozen waffles, prepackaged cinnamon rolls cut in half, whole wheat and white slices of bread, a couple of apples, four packets of instant oatmeal and a choice of either raisin bran or frosted flakes cold cereal. Carb city, yummy. I popped two frozen waffles in the toaster and poured a glass of orange juice for Mitch. I buttered the waffles and poured syrup over the lukewarm waffles and carried them back for Mitch. After unloading the waffles and orange juice I headed back with my own oatmeal packet from home. I searched for hot water, but no hot water was not an option. How do you make hot oatmeal without hot water? My option was to add water from the faucet and put the bowl in the microwave to heat it up. Of course the only bowl offered was Styrofoam which meant I was going to get all of those bad nasty Styrofoam chemicals transferred from the bowl to my oatmeal. I don’t know how true that is but I figure why push it.

As I turned to walk back to our room Mr. Happy came up to me to tell me that the dogs couldn’t stay in the room if we weren’t there with them. I asked what he meant and he said, “You in 112?” I said that I was, he said again, “Dogs can’t stay in room if you are gone.” I assured him that the dogs would stay with us. How much fun would we have walking around in the field searching for birds without our chief sniffers? I walked back to the room finished up breakfast, loaded up the dogs and headed out for a day of communing with nature.

I had my fingers crossed for fresh towels, clean sheets and Kleenexes, but I wasn’t holding my breath. We got out in the field about nine a.m. and had really good luck in the morning. Orso turned out to finally get it, that he was a bird dog. We called it a day about 4:30 in the afternoon and headed back to the luxurious suite of our dreams. We walked in and saw that the bed looked the same as we left it, the sheets pulled up and the comforter pulled over the pillows. The sheets hadn’t been changed. I walked into the bathroom and saw towels folded and stacked into the slots for the towels. I don’t know if they were clean or just refolded. I looked on the back of the toilet and saw a new package of soap, that wasn’t opened yet. I could just imagine how busy the housekeeping staff was with seven rooms occupied.

But guess what, still no Kleenexes. There must be a world shortage.

Orso – Who Knew?

This was our first hunting trip in two years and the first time I would carry a gun in three years. Last year we didn’t go hunting and two years ago we were hunting quail. Quail are hard for me to shoot, they fly up so fast that by the time my heart stops racing and I realize what flew up the little birds are long gone and way out of range. So I carried a camera two years ago and had much better luck capturing the moments through the lens than with a gun. Two years ago was also the last time we had AJ, our black lab, to help us search out birds. We lost him the week after we came back from that trip. Now we’re down to just two dogs, Charlie, our ten year old german shorthair/lab mix and Orso, our eight year old chocolate lab. Charlie is a good hunting dog, great nose and fast. Orso on the other hand, has preferred to walk behind us letting us beat down the path for him enjoying the outing rather than getting out there looking for birds.

Saturday morning brought clear skies bright and sunny with a fairly strong wind out of the north that felt quite biting. Our group consisted of six hunters, Mitch, me and longtime family friends that spanned four generations. The oldest in our group was eighty-nine and the youngest was fourteen, a wide range indeed. We thought that since Charlie is now ten he might be a little slower and Orso was just along for the ride. Even though Mitch is ever the optimist, saying this might just be the year that Orso gets it, I am the skeptic saying, remember we only have one dog that hunts. We started off working a long strip of tall grasses, Mitch on the outside edge on the left, me just to his right in the grass and the other four spaced out to the right across the expanse to the outside on the right to block any birds from running out and escaping unscathed. The dogs ranged back and forth between us trying to pick up that elusive wonderful scent of the pheasant.

We hadn’t gone fifty feet when Charlie stopped and went on point off to my right in front of the father, grandson combination. A pheasant flew up and caught the wind to fly across my position, the grandson fired off a round and winged the bird, I shot right after and helped bring it down, with Charlie racing hot after the downed bird to make the retrieval. After two years, nothing has changed, it doesn’t matter who shoots the bird the dogs always bring them back to me. A good omen, finding a bird so quickly.

The big surprise came about twenty five yards farther as we walked the field. Orso stopped and stood stock still with his ears cocked up and forward staring at something.

I gave the command, “Get him Orso, okay.” Nothing, Orso just stood there looking at the form in the grass. I gave him the command again, this time with more emphasis, “Okay Orso, get it up!”

Orso moved forward and the bird flew up and to the left trying to catch the wind. Three shots rang out winging the bird but no one got off a clean shot. The bird flew down the hill across the road and into the trees on the other side. Mitch ran toward the spot where the bird went down with Orso following behind him. They crossed the road and worked their way down into the draw where the bird went down. The rest of us stood where we were not moving, waiting for Mitch to resurface. Charlie even came and sat down beside me waiting, taking a rare rest break. About five minutes later I spotted Mitch coming back up out of the draw fifteen feet farther west than they went in and next to him was Orso carrying the bird. Orso had rooted the bird out hiding in the grass next to a tree, went in and grabbed the bird, just like a seasoned hunting dog. Orso trotted back up the hill straight to me bringing his prize, head held high.

After eight years Orso was finally a real live hunting dog. Miracles do happen.

My New Nickname

I have a few nicknames that Mitch has given me over the years, “Speed Racer” when I spun out at the airport and crashed going too fast on wet pavement, or “Dances with Ladders” after my latest tryst carrying a ladder down a hill (it didn’t end well). But today I can add a new nickname to my list. This time it’s the dogs that can take credit for my new nickname.

On our morning predawn walk today things started off as always, Charlie and Orso sniffing and peeing on everything wandering back and forth on both sides of the street making the most of their time and bodily fluids. I was distracted thinking about a million different things, calling the doctor to rewrite a prescription, what I was going to wear to work and what to take for lunch, you know everything that goes on in your head as you go about your day. Granted, it was all my fault, I know better, when walking the dogs in the dark I have to be on guard constantly for critters large and small that might cross our path.

Just as we had crossed the road to head down a long tree lined dark stretch of road, Charlie and Orso either saw or caught the scent of something ahead. I didn’t see or hear anything but they did. Charlie was on my left side and Orso was on my right side, when Charlie jerked around and circled behind me yanking my left arm behind my back to come around and stand next to Orso, both lunging and growling at something. Jerking my arm around behind my back with enough force and the combined force of Orso lunging forward with Charlie meant my body had a choice, dislocate my shoulder or spin around and follow the leashes. In reality what happened was a combination of both. I would like to say that I pirouetted around like a ballerina, but in reality I jerked around lost my balance and very ungracefully ended up sitting down hard in the middle of the street with my feet splayed out in front of me.

The dogs turned around to look me in the face with what looked like embarrassment that I was so clumsy. How could they possibly be tough dogs facing the unseen danger ahead with this woman who can’t even stay on her feet? I on the other hand was not so pleased with their attempt to be guardians of the roads. I stood back up dusted off my behind and made sure nothing was broken or bent. Evidently whatever was out there fled in terror, not so much from the ferocity of the dogs, but because of a small woman flaying around like a madwoman.

My new nickname, “Sits in the Road”.

Almost Fatal Attraction

I almost died this morning. No, not really, I’m exaggerating but it sure felt like it for a moment or at the very least I could have ended up with a really bad case of road rash, maybe even a bruise or two. And as is almost always the case, it was because of the dogs. Those miserable mongrel beasts that I feed, walk and let sleep in my house as well as my bed. Let me put it in perspective for you, I am five foot two inches tall and weigh in at a little over a hundred plus pounds, I’m not giving exact weight that’s only for the scale and me, but you can see that I am not a super big imposing person. The dogs on the other hand come in at one hundred and seventy plus pounds together, with Orso at a hundred and one and Charlie at seventy one pounds. Plus they both have way more muscle mass than two other people and me put together. Even though they are both senior dogs, Orso is eight and Charlie will be ten on Halloween, they can still get to afterburner speed when they are so inclined.

Our morning walks are always in the predawn hours when the creatures of the night are still out carousing and the morning animals are starting to stir. Most mornings I can hear owls calling out to other owls and a few of the early birds that are just waking up. It’s quite common to see raccoons, opossums and deer in the dim light. Because of that I am always on high alert making sure I see anything before the dogs hone in on it, causing them to bolt and charge after the object of their desire, thus making me a boat anchor dragging behind them. This has happened too many times to count. I’m pretty sure I’ve paid for more than one vacation for my chiropractor all from walking the dogs.

This morning started off very sedately, that’s how it always begins by the way. I get lulled into a false sense of security, a cool morning with fresh air and a slight breeze with the dogs sniffing and peeing on all of the bushes and trees strutting down the street like we are the only ones out this time of day. We had walked out to our time limit spot and had turned back to head home so I could jump in the shower and get ready for work. We had topped the hill and had headed down to round the curve in the road when Orso saw something and lunged forward to give chase with Charlie reacting a split second later. I was caught totally off guard, thinking about what I was going to wear to work, not paying attention and almost lost my balance. I came very close to actually falling down before I regained control and jerked on the leashes to yank them back. Orso turned and looked up at me with a very contrite look on his face and sat. Charlie on the other hand looked at me with a look that said, “It’s all the big dog’s fault, I was trying to save you. I would never have done that.”

It took a few minutes for my adrenaline level to get back to normal and my heart to stop pounding in my chest. I never did see what was out there in the dark that caused Orso to want to chase after, but I will definitely be watching a little closer tomorrow even though it won’t be there.