Category Archives: Cuteness

Good dog!

Ramona the Pest has been a Very Good Girl lately. We’ve walked or jogged together almost every day since this semi-quarantine began, and now she’s learning to work off-lead. 

Getting a dog to work without a leash is challenging, because the handler has to trust and respect the dog enough to relinquish control of its movements, and the dog has to trust and respect the handler enough to listen and follow directions instead of running off and getting into mischief.

Some dogs are better suited for this than others. Under the wrong circumstances, an off-lead excursion can turn an asset into a liability or amplify a personality quirk into a real hazard.

Ramona is a bit scatterbrained when she’s excited, and walks are Very Exciting, so I start our lessons by walking or running several blocks down the alley with her on a loose lead. 

Once she’s settled down enough to focus, I drop the leash and let her drag it, paying close attention to our surroundings so I can run interference quickly if I see trouble brewing. I like working her in alleys, because they present plenty of distractions but few real hazards, and they’re narrow enough that I can catch up to her quickly if she tries to bolt. 

We had a great training session the other night. She did very well at heel, sit, and stay, remained polite while visiting her friend Bruce and his housemate (who was less polite), and even did a little modeling next to some breezeblock walls:

Brown dog cocking its head and looking at the camera
I’m pretty sure she knows how cute she is.

Brown dog licking its chops
“I was told by Applecare that there would be treats.” — Ramona, probably

Two dogs greeting each other over a concrete wall as a third dog flashes its teeth
I wish I spoke dog. I’d love to know what he was saying. (Probably some variant of “You damn kids get off my lawn!”)

My long-term goal is to be able to take her on long runs off-lead, because handling the leash siphons off a little more energy than I’d like — no big deal for a 5K, but unpleasant at half-marathon distances and beyond. We’ll see how it goes.

Emily

Hi-dee-ho, neighbor.

What’s better than a breezeblock wall? A breezeblock wall just at the golden hour, with three dogs and a cat greeting each other over it.

That guy doing his very best Wilson impression in the top photo is Bruce. He belongs to my preacher, Amy, who lives a couple of blocks down the street from us and has a fabulous hidden-circle wall around her backyard. Bruce and his housemates had a good time visiting with Ramona over the fence while Ron and I were walking the dogs yesterday evening.

Dog peeking through breezeblock wall
Look closely to see Bruce peeking at us through the breezeblocks.
Orange tabby cat atop a breezeblock wall
Jake the cat came out for a visit and took a moment to pose in the sunlight.
Two dogs greeting each other over a breezeblock wall
Ramona makes a new friend. This is Bruce’s housemate. I forgot his name.
Dog peeking under a metal fence
This guy lives a few blocks over from Amy. I’ve never seen him before, but we got a kick out of his efforts to see us as we were walking down the alley.

Our dogs love this down time. We’re home a lot more than usual, and they’re getting a lot more attention. I finally had time to download the Hal Higdon app and start training for another marathon, which is something I’d been planning to do since Ramona was a puppy. I took her out this afternoon for our first scheduled run: a three-mile jog. She’s a good running buddy. If you’ve been thinking about taking up distance running (with or without your dog), now is a good time to do it. The weather is starting to warm up, but we still have a few weeks of fairly moderate temperatures, which gives you time to acclimate and build your endurance before it gets really hot.

Emily

Drive my car

Once again, I’ve managed to neglect my blog because I was busy doing cool stuff that I should have been blogging. If you’re still with me, thanks for hanging in there.

One of the cool things I’ve been doing lately is detailed over at my teaching blog, Foolish Wand-Waving. Hop over there if you’re interested in seeing the inexpensive stim tools I’ve been cobbling together from dollar-store materials.

Another cool thing I did recently was buy a new car. I wasn’t sure this was cool at first. I wanted to drive the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar a million miles, but at 220,000, it landed in the shop with a mysterious engine problem, and school was about to start — so the day before the new semester began, I bought a Chevy Spark.

It’s not the Dreamcar, and it’s not a stick shift, but it has three redeeming features:

1. A CVT. Less fun than a stick, but optimal fuel economy.

2. A real-time mpg meter to facilitate hypermiling.

3. A trial subscription to Sirius XM, where I discovered there is an entire radio station devoted exclusively to the Beatles. Where has this been all my life?

The CVT and mileage meter are probably the main reasons I’m getting an average of 43.2 mpg (and climbing), but it can’t hurt that I am in zero hurry to arrive anywhere when I’m driving around with the Fab Four on the stereo.

Fine, Spark. You’re not the Dreamcar, but maybe I’ll love you. (Beep-beep’m … you know the rest.)

The third cool thing I did was start a free obedience class at Paws and Claws. Our first lesson was this morning. Seven dogs and their humans showed up, and Ramona happily served as my teaching assistant, demonstrating “heel,” “sit,” and “stay” as smoothly as the average Westminster champion.

I gave her a piece of bacon jerky when we got home, but I think the bigger treat for her was getting to see her old friends at the shelter. We adopted her almost a year ago, but she obviously remembered the volunteers who’d taken care of her when she was a puppy:

Woman cuddling an Australian shepherd mix
Ramona was delighted to see her old friends at the shelter.

I’m proud of Ramona. I knew she was going to be good at obedience, but she’s exceeded my wildest expectations. I suspect she’ll be able to go for walks without a leash before the winter is out.

Emily

 

Serendipity

So I’ve been plotting to adopt another Chihuahua for several months. I wanted to do it as soon as school let out, but then I had surgery, so I decided to wait until I recovered.

Once my doctor released me to resume normal activities, I sent an application to a Chihuahua rescue group in Albuquerque, but after an initial flurry of emails back and forth, they went silent, and I couldn’t get a response to my questions so we could advance the adoption process. I’d just about given up and was about ready to go to one of the shelters in Amarillo or Lubbock.

Ron and I were at the feed store Thursday when we bumped into a couple of board members from our local shelter. One of them was supposed to do my home visit for the Chihuahua group, but they never got back to her, either. Before my surgery, I’d been training dogs out at the shelter, but between recovering from surgery and fighting off the tension headaches that followed (protip: If you’re recovering from surgery, DO NOT spend the entire recovery period reading fanfic on your smartphone in bed), I hadn’t had a chance to get back out there all summer.

In my absence, someone had brought in a 13-year-old Chihuahua whose owner was ill and could no longer care for her.

As soon as we finished up our feed-store run, we headed to the shelter and came home with Tootsie, who adjusted to life in our pack very quickly and is contentedly napping on a pillow under my desk as I write this. I am not sure how I got by without a Chihuahua for the past 10 months, but I don’t ever want to go that long without one again. It’s like trying to get by without bees, chickens, or green chile.

New dog. She looks more alarmed than she is.
Man holding smiling Chihuahua
Tootsie is more tolerant of Ron than Lillian was.
Why does my dog look like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”?

That last picture is from our trip to Clovis on Saturday. Tootsie was sitting on the floorboard, watching Ron and making her very best “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!” face.

She’s a character.

Oh, and I managed to get back out to the shelter today. If you want to see pictures of the pooches I worked with, look up @redforkhippie on Instagram.

Emily

New baby

I took three dogs out for a test-drive today at the local animal shelter. The first was a beautiful German shepherd who acted a complete fool on the leash, despite the shelter volunteer putting a pinch collar on him to get him to pay attention. Nope.

The second was a smaller, female German shepherd-Lab mix who behaved better on the leash and was definitely in the running for a bit.

Three litters of puppies were roaming around — some sleek Doberman mixes, some pretty little Australian shepherd mixes that I’d been eyeing on the shelter’s website, and some pit bull mixes that could have passed for coonhounds if the insurance adjuster asked. (Don’t think I didn’t think about it. Y’all know how I feel about pibbles.)

One of the Aussie mutts knocked the rest of the pack out of the way to get to me, so I looped the leash through its own handle to create a makeshift training collar and took her for a walk, followed by one of her littermates and an overenthusiastic Dobie.

pup1
If I didn’t know for fact that her mother is a purebred Australian shepherd, I’d swear I was looking at a Belgian Malinois pup. Just look at that red coat and black muzzle!

Despite the distractions created by the other pups, she paid attention to my voice, responded quickly to leash corrections, and seemed content to follow me along without needing much direction. When I found out she was about 12 weeks old, that pretty much sealed the deal; years ago, Scout’s trainer told us years that 12 weeks is the ideal age to start obedience training. Bonus that she reminds me of that trainer’s late Belgian Malinois, who was an awesome dog.

pup3
Lillian really wishes these damn kids would get off her lawn.

Riggy seems to like the new kid just fine. Lillian is less impressed, but the only thing that has ever impressed Lillian is bacon. Either you are feeding her a piece of bacon, or you are a peasant worthy of the utmost contempt. There are no other roles in life. (Rather Elizabethan worldview, as I think about it.)

pup4
My oldest friend saw this picture on Instagram and told me Lillian says a lot of bad words with her eyes. This is an accurate assessment, I think.

We haven’t named the new pup yet, but I’m leaning toward Ramona (after the beloved Beverly Cleary character, of course), because she is a lovable pest.

Emily

 

Duck yeah!

I can’t believe I got away with this.

They already smell weird, and I’m pretty sure they are going to annoy me beyond belief, but don’t act like these aren’t the cutest little things you’ve ever seen.

I hired some help for the garden.
Complaining already. It’s gonna be a long four weeks.

Walter is a bit more curious than I’d like, but I can lock him out of my office easily enough to keep them safe when I can’t supervise.

“Mom! Mom, what is that? Is something alive in that crate? Can I make it dead?”

We’ll see how this goes. The good thing about ducks is that they grow faster than chickens, so they should be big enough to kick out into the backyard in a month or less.

Emily

Squiggly friend

Look at my new squiggly friend! I met him in the garden this afternoon.

Isn't he pretty? I think he's a garter snake.
Isn’t he pretty? I think he’s a garter snake. He’s about two feet long and about as big around as a penny.
I love his little red tongue.
I love his little red tongue.
I hope he likes slugs. I could use some help reducing the slug population.
I hope he likes slugs. I could use some help reducing the slug population.

I would like the record to show that I was a very good girl and did not try to pick up my slithery new friend or pet him, even though I really, really wanted to.

I showed my pictures to people at work today, but nobody there likes snakes. I don’t know why. I think he’s cute. I like his racing stripes and his pretty brown eyes and his flickery little tongue. I was pretty excited to find him in the garden, partly because I’ve never seen a snake in my yard before and partly because cold-blooded animals are a sure sign of spring.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Christmas edition

We spent yesterday in central Illinois, visiting Ron’s family, and today in Southern Illinois, visiting my family. My nieces and nephews decorated the cookies pictured above.

Besides spending time with family, I decided self-care this week would involve the opposite of self-care most of the rest of the time: I ignored my Fitbit’s admonitions and ate whatever I wanted instead of insisting on optimal nutrition at every meal or trying to jam extra workouts into an already busy holiday schedule just to compensate. If I gain an extra pound or two, so be it; I’ve got the rest of the winter to watch Star Trek on the treadmill.

Here are some pictures of the munchkins:

Hazel shows off one of her presents. I don't really know what it is because I'm old.
Hazel shows off one of her presents. I don’t really know what it is because I’m old.
I'm pretty sure I have a picture of Jamie making this same face when he was a toddler.
I’m pretty sure I have a picture of Jamie making this same face when he was a toddler.
Martha models the Christmas-light necklace she got in her stocking.
Martha models the Christmas-light necklace she got in her stocking.
Ollie turns a pair of bows into an impromptu Princess Leia costume. The Force is strong with this young padawan, and he wishes General Organa the best as she recovers from her recent health scare.
Ollie turns a pair of bows into an impromptu Princess Leia costume. The Force is strong with this young padawan, and he wishes General Organa the best as she recovers from her recent health scare.

Hope you had a good Christmas, wherever you are.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Four-legged bed warmer

Since the temperatures started dropping a couple of weeks ago, Ron has started doing something that lifts my spirits: When he goes to bed, he brings Lillian with him and lets her sleep on the bed with us.

His motivation is largely selfish: Dogs have higher body temperatures than humans, so Lillian is basically a space heater with feet. But she’s also very sweet, and very cute, and very good at making me smile every time I wake to find her snuggled up against me or curled up like a cat at the foot of the bed.

I have to stifle an “awwww” when one of us rolls over or moves the covers, and Lil whimpers softly in protest.

I laugh, remembering our late retired racing greyhound’s morning routine, every time Lil tells us she needs to go out by simply staring at one of us until we wake up, our subconscious apparently having realized we’re being watched.

I laugh again when Ron gets up, and Lil — who loathes him but cannot abide the thought of being left out — sits up, watches him intently for a moment, and then scrambles off the bed and dashes out after him.

And on nights when I’m tense or sad, I stroke the fur on top of her little head, soft as a baby rabbit’s, and feel my blood pressure dropping and my mood settling as my sweet little Chihuahua-Italian greyhound mix soothes me to sleep with her presence.

I love our whole pack, of course. Song is a big, sweet goober. Riggy is a funny little ball of irrepressible energy. And Walter is Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser rolled into one. They are our world, and we love them all immensely. But Lillian is the only member of the pack who can and will sit still long enough to cuddle with me on a regular basis, and that’s a Very Important Job.

If you don’t have a snuggly little dog in your life, I highly recommend adopting one. They’re worth their weight in gold.

Emily