Thursday, July 29, 2010

On to NJ

(Above is a photo of a lock house on the Delaware & Raritan Canal, my favorite running place in NJ. The towpath afforded miles of a running trail that abutted scenic river views and bucolic sites.)

Reminiscing about my dogs has brought back some happy memories, but this blog is at a stage where the stories of my “pre NJ” days are over and a new segment will be entered in the next entry. Leaving NC made me very sad, and just thinking about that day still makes me sad. The next couple of dozen entries or so will be stories of when I was living in NJ but down in NC visiting my family. My move to NJ made me sad, and thinking about it still makes me sad. I had to leave Abby behind and wasn’t sure how she would react to my absence. My mom repeatedly assured me that Abby would be fine here and that labs are not ‘1 person’ dogs such as a Western Highland Terrier or a Chihuahua.

My time in NJ would not be as miserable as I thought. One thing I noticed when people would describe NJ is that they would say “It’s not so bad.” On the other hand when a Northerner would be down in the Triangle area, they would often describe the place as being “normal.” NJ wasn’t that bad, and it could have been better for me had I taken the opportunities given to me at my old company which I didn’t take. Career-wise, I did much better at my NJ company than at GSK. Who knows, had I went through the doors opened for me at Aventis I not only may still be in chemistry but I may very well have finished out my career in NJ. Oh well, it’s water over the dam and I have to look in a forward direction.

When I was in NJ, I would come home almost every month. An overwhelming majority of the time I would drive down there. I found that if one lives within a 500 mile radius of where one is going, driving to ones destination is almost as fast if not faster than flying to it. There have been a couple of times when a flight from Newark Intl. to RDU , door-to-door, took well over 9 hours or more. My average driving time from central NJ to Raleigh was around 8 hours with my best time being 7 hours. People at work would often ask me if driving that far that much wore me out. Thinking it was none of their business, I would simply say ‘no’ and leave it at that. In reality, the drive did tire me out. With that much driving on a weekend with no days off, it was if I didn’t have a weekend at all on the trips to NC and back. I do have some regrets doing this since the time spent driving back and forth to NC and the subsequent recuperation time meant that I didn’t have much time to see NYC as often as I would have liked. I went there a few times, but not as much as I should have.

I would accumulate many memories of my time with the babies which I will share in the following entries. So, this ends the pre-NJ days and the NJ era will start in the next entry.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Waning Days in Raleigh

By July of 1998, I was resigned to the fact that my adviser was going to drag his feet and wouldn’t let me defend until the next semester which meant I had to call my employers and postpone my start date until September. Luckily for me, those guys understood and moved my first day until later in the year. I sulked and pouted a bit, but then I started enjoying the time off. I finished school work, writing my thesis, and making a seminar for defending my thesis which subsequently was used for my seminars on my job interviews. All that was between me and my degrees was defending my thesis early in the fall semester.

Being a night owl, I stayed up late and woke up late, often at noon. I’d piddle around the house during the day, surf the net (Does anyone remember CompuServe?), read some and watch TV. The evenings are when I would dedicate playing with Abby and the other dogs. I often grilled outside on the patio, after some rigorous playing in the pool with the dogs. By late afternoon, Abby, ready for me to come out and play, would sit on the pool ledge and scan the back door and side door hoping to catch a glimpse of me. She had such a long, sad face and worried that I wasn’t going to come outside to play with her. I’d often peak at her through my bedroom window just to see how sad she was. She knew how to give a guilt trip, and if that wasn’t enough, my mom would be the icing on the cake when she would come into the house and say, “You’re breaking your Baby Girl’s heart. Aren’t you going to go out and play with her, goddamnit?!”

When I went outside with a towel over my shoulder, Abby lit up and ran towards me. She knew the fun was about to commence. It was play time! However, I needed to spice things up and keep Abby lively and enthusiastic about playing since she bored easily. In that summer, I did this by playing a variation of “Cooky Coo”. Instead of running around the pool and climbing on top of the sliding board, I would sneak to the side gate at the fence from around the front of the house, sprint towards the pool while yelling ‘COO COO’. Abby went nuts over this, and moments after I jumped in the pool, I could hear her splashing in the pool after she had jumped in. I learned in these games not to resurface too quickly in such instances or else I’d take the risk of her landing on me when she jumped in.

Abby quickly caught on to this game and would start to scan the side gait at the fence as well as the side doors of the house. I would then find another point of entry such as the side porch and run into the pool from there. Other times, I went all the way around the house to the carport and ran to the pool that way. No matter how the game turned out, Abby always had a great time. If I was able to sneak into the pool, the surprise exhilarated her. If she caught me before I started my dash, she would meet me before I jumped in and play and wrestle with me there. Somehow, I think she had an intuitive grasp that she had ‘won’ the game. After that, we would get in the pool and play some more.
I look back with fondness at that time but with some regret that I didn’t enjoy those moments to the fullest.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Vortex Football

By the fall of ’97, Abby was fully mature but still growing, or should I say ‘expanding’. Abby was not shy around food and loved to eat. She was the type of dog that would keep eating until all of her food was gone which made it difficult to feed Father. Father ate only a few times a day and didn’t like an audience when he ate. Their contrasting eating styles made it hard to ensure Father was adequately fed but that Abby wasn’t overfed.

Abby also began to show signs of laziness, and her enthusiasm of the fetching games waned by then. For example one day in the front yard, Abby was sitting 20 or 30 yards from me when I threw a Frisbee at her. It was a perfect throw going within inches of her mouth. All she had to do was open her mouth and grab the Frisbee. Did she do it? No. Instead she watched the Frisbee go by her and turned her head tracking it go down the hill and saw it come to a stop, after which she looked back at me with an expression that read, “What did you expect? Don’t do that again.” And with that, the fetching games came to an end, or at least for then.
As the fall progressed and Abby’s activity level dropped since we the pool was closed, she began to put on some pounds and broke the 100 pound mark. Abby is big boned so for a dog like her, her ideal weight was around 90 pounds. It was time for me to find something, anything, to pique her interest. She bored so easily making it a challenge to keep her interested in playing. I should have taken her for walks, but by the time I arrived home, it was dark, and our neighborhood could be unsafe at times, for example one time someone threatened to shoot me one night while I was out running a mile or so from home. I should have driven Abby downtown where it was safer and quieter, but it was a ‘V-8’ moment “Wow, why didn’t I think of that!” Hindsight can be so clear at times.
My solution to keep Abby active was a toy, a Vortex football. Basically it’s a nerf football with a stem on the end which has fins on it for aerodynamics stabilizing the ball subsequently allowing the ball to be thrown for impressively far distances. In addition to this feature, the ball had a ‘whistler’ on it which would make the ball make a sound eerily similar to a bomb in those WWI movies. I swear to god it sounded like a bomb was about to go off. That whistle drove Abby and Father nuts. The first time I threw that ball, they took off after it with the greatest of enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, they never tired of that toy. On the box of the toy was a claim of how far the ball could be thrown, and in this case, it was actually a modest claim. I could throw that ball a country mile! If I could have thrown a real football that far, I would have been a QB in the NFL. One time I went to a football field at a nearby high school to measure how far I could throw it. I was able to throw that thing over 80 yards! Abby enthusiastically ran after it and brought it back.

There was something about that whistle on that ball beckoning them to play and whipping them into a tizzy. Because I could throw it so far, Abby would have to run quite a ways so after a fifteen minute session of playing with this ball, Abby had accomplished quite a work-out in these sessions. This new toy contributed to Abby’s toning down to 90 pounds over the following six months. I was proud of my Baby Girl.
The only drawbacks to this toy were that it was fragile and it hurt my throwing shoulder. In the first few sessions I threw this ball, I over did it and aggravated an old injury I sustained while swimming when I pulled my right shoulder out of socket during a race. That shoulder hasn’t been the same ever since and would flare up once in a while such as when I threw toys to my dogs a few dozen times without warming up. I could alleviate/avoid the pain and keep playing with them by either throwing left-handed or side armed.

The other drawback of the toy was the delicate construction of the fin. Obviously this toy wasn’t meant for dogs. Abby and Father would usually get to the ball about the same time and they would grab a different end and run back to me. While running back, they would be tugging back and forth trying to wrest control of it so that after a while, the stem would snap and the toy was ruined. I could still throw the ball, but not as far. At least it still made that bombing noise when I threw it. They would go through a couple of these Vortex’s a month, but considering how much fun the babies had and how effective the toy was keeping Abby active, fit and trim, it was well spent money.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Housetraining Andy

Housetraining Andy was so much easier than it was for Abby for the most part. Having Abby around combined with the fact that Andy was a follower, meant Abby essentially helped to house train Andy. I don’t remember Andy having the problems using the bathroom inside to the extent Abby had. All we had to do was let Abby outside and Andy would follow. Once outside, Andy figured out that it was a ‘bathroom break’ and acted accordingly. However, Abby wasn’t around Andy all the time. In the times Abby was away from Andy is when Andy would go off the reservation and use the bathroom in the house.

For example, my mom’s bed was positioned in the middle of her room making it quite easy for Andy to slip out of bed and soil the carpet somewhere. He thought he was slick by climbing back in the bed and acting like nothing in the world was wrong. His facial expressions often gave him away before the ‘present’ was discovered because he would lie on the bed without his relaxed appearance and have his head resting on his front paws while his eyes were slit open and cutting at you. My Little Man would not have been a good poker player. This drove me nuts because Andy knew this was wrong but didn’t bother trying to wake anyone to let him out like Abby did.

When Andy did use the bathroom at night, he would often sneak into my mom’s bathroom and relieve himself on the bathroom rug. Other times, he would sneak outside the bedroom and go to the side door and take care of business there. As a matter of fact, if my mom’s bedroom door was open, it was an open invitation for Andy to go and use the bathroom. Fortunately my mom caught on quickly to this behavior and kept her bedroom door closed at night which dramatically cut down on Andy’s midnight bathroom breaks.

There were a couple of factors making it very difficult to fully address Andy’s potty issues. First, my mom was even more slack about disciplining Andy than she was with Abby. When I would ask my mom if she spanked Andy, she simply replied, “No, he’s too cute.” I am a firm believer in negative feedback and was at my wit’s end when my mom did this. Andy knew that using the bathroom in the house was bad as evidenced by his body language when he was about to be exposed for his naughty behavior. He needed to be punished, but my time around him was limited so I wasn’t able to fully exert my will on him. Andy knew he could get away with it and kept doing it.

Something else foiling my attempts at punishing Andy was Abby. She absolutely hated to see Andy get spanked. When I did try to spank Andy in front of Abby, Abby would walk between us in an attempt to block me from Andy. She would then sit on her haunches and try to ‘huggy and kissy’ me. It was the same tactic she used when I spanked her except now she was trying to protect Andy. After looking at those those sad eyes and her pitiful begging, I almost always stopped the spanking and hugged Abby first and then Andy. As cute as I thought this was, it hampered my attempts to discipline Andy and make him understand what he did wrong.

A few years later after I had moved back to Raleigh, I returned from work and noticed that Andy left a ‘present’ in the guest bathroom. I knew it was Andy. Anyway, I let the dogs out, and when they tried to come back in, I let Andy in who was first in line (He was always first in line. He insisted on being the first in the house. It was a manifestation of his separation anxiety), then I blocked Abby from coming in with my hand. I had to put some might into it because she was determined to go back inside; my baby girl was strong. I closed the door with Abby looking up through the glass in a quizzical way. I then marched Andy back to the guest bathroom, pointed at the feces and asked ‘Did you do that?’ He did his best to look away and would not look at it or me. And then I went over and gave him a ‘little spank’ on his rump. Telling him that I was going to spank him hurt him more than the actual spanking itself.

Once the spank was over, I let Abby and Father in, and our lives returned to normal. Did my punishment work? I don’t know. Andy was relatively good about not going inside after that. I must admit that Abby had set the bar pretty high when it came to this matter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jump (For My Love)

Abby loved Andy, protected him and played with him but she could still be a jealous little Baby Girl when it came to attention we gave Andy. It didn’t take long until Andy could keep up with Abby running, and he could eventually our run her. He was a dynamo—a ‘fetching machine’. We loved and praised Andy when he would fetch along with many other activities he participated in. As far as I was concerned, Andy was cute and by definition everything he did was cute. It was so hard not to shower him with love and affection. Abby was aware of the attention he was receiving and at times would be envious and try to gain some attention for herself.

Abby pretty much conceded to Andy in fetching/retrieving games. Andy was so much faster than Abby and Father that they often let him chase down whatever toys we would toss out in the yard without even trying to go get the toy themselves. However, when Andy would make his way back to the thrower is when he would have to undergo a gauntlet of canines trying to take away his toy. Sometimes when they got too close, Andy would tuck his butt down and scoot pass me and the dogs. If one of the dogs gave chase to him, Andy would be thrilled. Other times, Andy would dig in and brace himself for tug-o-war, which pleased Abby to no end. Of course when they were playing tug-o-war, I was left out, so to get myself back into the game, I would grab another toy and throw it in the yard, after all I wanted their attention and to play as well! Once Andy saw this, he aborted the tugging game and chased the new toy. Andy loved fetching games above all others and couldn’t resist chasing any thrown object. Meanwhile, Abby would either sit down and rest or she would engage me in a game of tug-o-war.

In the pool, Abby still was top dog. She was always able to keep up with Andy well into her later years while they swam. However, when Andy started swimming and receiving ample amounts of attention and praise, Abby had to one-up Andy in the water. In the parlance of today’s youth: She stepped up her game. Abby normally entered the water by walking down the concrete steps in the shallow end, and she would exit the pool either going back up those steps or at the step ladder at the deep end. Even at the age of 2, Abby still had to be cajoled and prodded into the water. Now that Andy was at the house and was stealing some of her limelight, Abby ratcheted up her playing intensity and enthusiasm at the pool.

For example, one day in Andy’s first summer here, I was in the water towards the deep end. (I am not sure where the other dogs were.) In an attempt to bring Abby in the water, I shouted to her ‘Get in Baby Girl!’ Abby, taking me seriously, leapt off the pool’s edge straight at me, catching me completely by surprise. That was over a 100 pounds of love coming at me and she made a direct hit! It hurt a lot, but when I resurfaced, I was dismayed and laughing. My mom loudly cheered for Abby, and I made quite a fuss about it as well. With this positive reinforcement, Abby found a new repertoire in her play arsenal, and it was a doozy! From then on, I had to be aware of where Abby was and what I said when I asked her to come play in the pool with me.

She leapt with a vigor and gusto having a monopoly on a game that no other dog could play. In this game, she didn’t have to share me with any other dog, and for the moments when that game was played, Abby had me all to herself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Doggy Heaven

Left to Right: Andy & Lakota

For dogs, our house must have seemed like ‘doggy heaven’. Once Princess and Father came on the scene, it seemed like a steady stream of dogs appeared at our home. Some were curious passersby who went to the edge of our yard but didn’t show much interest in hanging around. Then there were others who were usurpers trying to challenge Father’s claim to our yard. I’ve previously described in detail of male dogs who bucked up against Father only to be smacked into submission and sent on their way with their tails tucked between their legs.

There were other dogs who I categorize as Father’s ‘concubines’. Father had the good life after he joined our household. He had free meals, free boarding, free medical coverage, and most importantly as far as his namesake is concerned, a steady stream of female dogs that found their way to our house when they were in heat. I did worry about the female visitors because I didn’t know how they would react to Abby’s presence. I worried that they would view Abby as a competitor, but luckily, there was never an incident between Father’s girlfriends and Abby.

One time, a female and her puppy visited our yard. The female was a red chow and her puppy was a fluffy, jet black little fur ball. My god was that puppy so cute. So cute in fact that I went outside the fence where they were and picked up, hugged and petted the puppy. The mom surprisingly didn’t seem upset that I was handling her baby. The puppy was an absolute doll. I’m fairly certain this puppy was Father’s. (For the sake of good taste, I’ll leave out the specifics.) This puppy was about the way I imagined Father looked like when he was a puppy. That puppy was so cute that I wanted to keep it as my own. However, Abby, who was on the other side of the fence, was agitated and quite upset. Her jealousy induced crying and whining made me realize that Abby would not like a new addition to our household, so I put the puppy on the ground. It ran into the nearby woods where its mom was, and they ran off and we never saw them again.

One stray arrived at our house with the hope of sticking around. I barely remember what it looked like, but it was a mixed breed with brown hair. At the time, I was living at my condo and wasn’t willing to adopt it. I had been burdened with thousands of dollars in vet bills the previous few years, and because there were ominous signs our company was going to have a massive lay-off in the next year, I had to go into ‘miser mode’ and watch every penny I had. My mom too needed to watch her budget, so she too couldn’t afford another pet. Realizing what fate lay ahead of this dog, it saddened us to call animal control. The animal control officer arrived at our house shortly after, put a collar around the dog which made it yelp and escorted the dog away. It was sad, but we were burdened with a lot as it was and couldn’t afford to take in a new dog.

Another interloper was a Siberian Husky named Lakota who lived in a house behind ours. The home was a ‘starter home’ in a development built in the late 80’s or early 90’s and so was relatively new compared to our house which was built in the early 50’s. Lakota ran free in her owner’s fenced-in backyard and often stood at her fence gazing at me and the babies running around the backyard playing and having fun. She longed to be with us in our games, and I could hear her whine and cry at her desire to be with us. Apparently, she paid close attention to Father’s going in and out of the fence because one day, Lakota escaped from her fence and snuck into our fence. Andy was still a puppy at the time. What triggered this memory is an old photo of Andy sitting beside Lakota by the pool filter. The dog looked like a wolf and had quite an intimidating appearance. My old fears of big dogs resurfaced, but I quickly found out Lakota was a sweetheart who was lonely and wanted to play with me and the babies. Looking back, I am surprised Father didn’t attack the trespasser, but he may have given her a pass since she was a female.

We immediately recognized Lakota as our neighbor’s dog. My mom called the phone number on the dog’s tag and told the neighbors where their dog was. I wish that is where the story ended with Lakota, but it doesn’t. The owners, a young couple, spoke to my mom a while when they came to our house to retrieve their dog. Eventually the conversation turned on the subject of my playing with the dogs. The neighbors spoke of how funny and entertaining it was when I ran around the pool teasing and playing with Abby. In particular, they thought my game of ‘cooky-coo’ (they didn’t call it that) where I climbed to the top of the slide, heckled and teased Abby followed by screaming at the top of my lungs ‘Coo Coo’ and jumping into the pool was hysterical. This game always drove Abby nuts and led her to whine and cry. The neighbors said they would go to their patio deck in their backyard, sit back and watch the show and said they even made it a point to do so when they saw the game in progress.

I’m glad I wasn’t a witness to that conversation. Just hearing about it was embarrassing enough. Here was a fully grown man running and screaming around his pool with his dog. These people must have thought I was a ‘special needs’ person or something. However, it wasn’t embarrassing enough for me to stop playing the game. The show must go on!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Hot Seat

It didn’t take long in Andy’s first summer with us for his quirks and idiosyncrasies to appear. He has so many hang-ups that it would be hard to list in one place. In some ways, his odd behaviors were sad while in a way it was cute and endearing. One day in mid-afternoon, Andy was rolling around on the lounge chair barking and fidgeting around. I had no idea what he was doing there. He didn’t appear to be playing and he didn’t appear to be happy either. He was mad, but at what I didn’t know. After a few minutes of this, he would finally settle into a position as comfortably as he could and lay with his head on his paws. He wouldn’t or couldn’t sleep. He would lie there as still as he could closing his eyes, but not all the way. He would have his eyes slit open and would cut them at his surroundings. It was obvious he was irritated, but I couldn’t figure out what was bothering him.

My mom was able to find out why Andy was so mad at the chair, and yes, he was mad at the lounge chair. In the summer sun, these chairs could get very hot. Since I didn’t lay out on them, I didn’t put things together that the chairs would be so uncomfortable due to the heat. My mom on the other hand sunbathes on a regular basis, so she knows how painful those lounge chairs could be to the touch. Normally, we would douse the lounge chair with water to cool it down or we would put a towel down to buffer our bodies from the heat.

Andy didn’t have the luxury of doing these things to avoid the hot lounge chair. We could have watered down the lounge chairs to cool them off, but once we realized what was bothering Andy so much when he was rolling around in those chairs, we thought it was so cute to watch him fuss around on the hot seat and relished every moment we could to see him perform this routine. It got to the point that Andy, in anticipation of the hot seat, would sit beside the lounge chairs and start barking at them in a preemptive manner to show his displeasure at what he knew was going to be scalding hot patio furniture. To those unfamiliar with him, Andy’s barking at an empty chair must have seemed peculiar at best and crazy at worst. To us it was so damned cute and precious. Andy in his older age doesn’t bark at the hot chairs anymore, but he does fidget around in the chair and gets real quiet stewing in the heat and discomfort of the chair. It’s still cute and makes me smile to this day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Andy's Sleeping Arrangements

Andy quickly adjusted to his new home. He immediately befriended my mom. They were inseparable, and spent almost every waking moment together, as well as their time asleep. Andy slept in her bed right by her pillow. Andy quickly established the bed as his domain and would become restless or fidgety if anyone or anything tried to get in the bed other than my mom. Andy would tolerate Abby sleeping in the bed, but she had to stay at the foot of the bed. Father, on the other hand, could not get in the bed unless under unusual circumstances such as a thunderstorm. Otherwise, Andy would growl at any attempt by Father to climb in the bed. At night, my mom had her bedtime rituals. It would be initiated with the following question to the dogs: Do you want to go nighty? It didn’t take Andy long to learn what that meant, and when he did, that question would send him into a trot down the hall straight to my mom’s room.

He did this to establish his position on the bed which was his safe haven, cocoon, and a place of his own solely of his dominion. Sometimes Abby or Father would have a head start because they were in the hall while Andy was on the couch with my mom. This only accelerated Andy’s gait. He would forcefully thrust himself past Father and Abby to jockey for position in order to be the first in bed. Abby took the slight in stride, but Father would be indignant and snarl and snap at Andy. Under these circumstances, it didn’t matter since Father couldn’t catch Andy, and once Andy was on the bed, no dog would challenge him. It was sort of like their own version of king of the mountain and Andy was the King. My mom’s bed was a place of comfort for Andy. There he was free from his fears and phobias, but it was in the bed that Andy could be aggressive.

For example, one night a couple of years later when I was down visiting, I went to my mom’s room one night after I had just arrived from my 8 hour trip from NJ. Father was so happy to see me that he wanted to jump on the bed to greet me. Andy would have none of that. Andy let out a low growl. I felt his normally soft and squishy body tense and become hard from his muscles flexing. Just then, Andy lunged at Father. It took everything I had to hold Andy back, and I’m not a little person either. Andy was a strong little bastard.

Even when if I approached my mom’s bed with Andy on it, Andy would become anxious, stand up and shift his body in a tactical position as to block any attempt of mine to sit on it. He wasn’t mean about it, but he was subtle about the fact that I was not completely welcome to approach that bed. He didn’t mind Abby getting on the bed, but she had to wait her turn while he would get in and position himself before she was allowed to climb on. He would not allow her to sleep by my mom at the head of the bed. The head of the bed was Andy’s and Andy’s alone. My mom’s bed was Andy’s sanctuary and the only place where he would sleep at night.

Andy Makes New Friends

Andy loved my mom from the start, but he still had to deal with another person and two dogs in his transition to his new home. Andy was sort of scared of me, especially after the ‘cooky-coo’ incident when I jumped off the slide and yelled at him. He liked me though since I was loved so much by Abby and Father. Andy was also scared of Father, and Father wasn’t too keen on the new upstart who he viewed as a competitor. The fact that Andy was a male exacerbated this problem. Father never did anything as dramatic to Andy as he had to Abby when Andy was a puppy. Father was tense and snarly around Andy, but he would not attack Andy, especially when I was around. The relationship Father and Andy had would always be strained and tense throughout their lives.

Abby got along with Andy right from the start. Their relationship wasn’t a mutual one. Andy viewed Abby as his big sister or even his mother, while Abby viewed Andy as a protectorate to be shielded from me and Father whenever Andy got in trouble. All traces of puppiness were gone from Abby now that Andy was on the scene. She seemed to noticeably mature before our eyes. In a way, Abby helped to raise Andy. She nurtured him and was his guide showing him the ins-and-outs of the house.

I thought it was funny and took sadistic pleasure watching Andy roughhouse Abby. He would give my Baby Girl hell, much the same way that Abby had given Nikki and Father in her younger days. Unlike Father and much like Nikki, Abby took it in good stride. Andy would jump on her back, bite her, wrestle around with her, and Abby put up with his energetic play in good natured way. Once in a while, she would show some teeth, but it was never anything malicious.

Andy never roughhoused with me. If I tried teasing him or initiating play, either he would withdraw into a shell shutting himself off from the world, or he would find a toy to play fetch with, and then I’d be committed to throwing that toy a couple of dozen times.

When it came to swimming, Andy was a natural in the water. Within a few days after Andy arrived at our home, we put Andy on the top step in the pool. Unlike Abby, Andy didn’t bolt out of the water. Instead he sat there and watched us swim and play. As a matter of fact, Andy started swimming so fast and effortlessly that we don’t remember his “first” time swimming like we did with Abby. Abby was the one who took so much time and work to show and convince to swim. Abby did her part in teaching Andy how to swim. It was so cute the way Abby did it. While Andy was sitting on the pool ledge, Abby would slip into the water, swim in a small circle, stand on the steps and look up at Andy like “See how it’s done? Now come in.” She was so sweet how she was teaching Andy how to swim and subsequently inviting him into the water. I don’t know if it was Andy’s disposition or our efforts to teach him to swim, but no more than a month after Andy arrived here, he was able to swim and loved it.

Andy navigated around Father’s temperamental ways and stayed out of trouble with him. And with me, Andy got along with me as best he could. However he made friends easily and readily with the ones who mattered the most: my mom and Abby.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Andy Adjusts to His New Home

If this narrative were strictly a linear one, I would be discussing the days of deciding to bring another dog in our house, choosing the puppy and bringing it home. I’m fairly certain we got Andy in June sometime. I had finished all of my interviews, was offered several jobs and accepted the one in NJ. I turned down both offers in the Bay area fairly quickly, but had the offer in San Diego came quicker, I most likely would have accepted the job out there. Unfortunately, the company in NJ that offered me a position needed a response from me, and the deadline for the decision there came well before the San Diego offer was made. How different my life would have been had I moved out there.

In the meantime, I sat around and waited for my adviser to read my thesis and give me the go-ahead to defend it. I pouted and sulked a lot. The guy was jerking me around taking his sweet ass time getting around to letting me defend.

I should have enjoyed the time off and the remaining time I had with Abby. I did play quite a bit with her, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. In the meantime, I watched Andy acquaint himself to his new home. I only spent a couple of months with Andy before I had to move. The most vivid memory I have of him is how pretty he was. I know I picked him out almost primarily because of his looks, but he was a cute puppy. He kept getting prettier as he aged. My power of this language isn’t strong enough to describe his pulchritude. There just aren’t enough words in this language to describe how pretty he was. His coat was soft, and he smelled so good. If a company could capture that puppy-smell of Andy’s in an air freshener, the shelves of these fresheners would never stay full because they would sell so fast. Andy felt good too. He was so ‘squishy’, making me want to hug and squeeze him any chance I could. I wanted to fawn all over him, but I had to refrain for a couple of reasons.

First, I didn’t want to make Abby jealous. Abby may have been my Baby Girl, but she could be jealous at times. The jealousy manifested itself in many ways depending on the situation and her mood. Another reason I held back from over-loving Andy was that I didn’t need two dogs pining over my departure. I didn’t need Andy becoming attached to me the way Abby had. I had been assured that Abby wouldn’t take my moving too hard, and I clung to that belief until I moved. I didn’t think Father would miss me.

Andy became quite attached to my mom, which was the way I hoped it would be. I worried that Andy would take too prominent a role in the house with my mom sacrificing love and attention that Abby would otherwise receive. Fortunately, when it came to loving the dogs, my mom’s affection was not a zero sum game. She loved them all, and they loved her. But with Andy, it was special. He clung to my mom for attention, love and protection. He gazed at her in a wide-eyed innocence. This was a look he never gave me. Don’t get me wrong, Andy would come to love me, but what he had with my mom was special. Andy quickly accepted our house as his new home and quickly made friends with my mom. Things worked out the way we planned it. He still had to establish relationships with me and more importantly the dogs.

Friday, July 9, 2010

California Dreamin'

A story about a trip to San Diego should not involve a dog that has never been west of Greensboro, NC, which is over two thousand miles from San Diego. But the trip did involve Abby, but not in a physical sense. I was on a six day trip to San Diego for two job interviews out there. By this time, I had dropped down from a PhD track to a Master’s. Yes, I am one of those who people with doctorates look down upon with scorn, derision and even sympathy for being washed out of the PhD program. Normally, getting decent grades is something to be proud of and valued, but when someone with a Master’s has good grades and some success in the lab, it raises red flags. It often means there are some personality problems, which in my case was true to some extent. I was on good relations with my research adviser until a run-in I had with a post-doc. Although I don’t regret being upset at this guy’s boorish and anti-social behavior, I regret confronting the guy for his behavior. I should have walked away and went home that day, but I didn’t. It was almost like a scene out of a Dave Chapelle skit “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong.” After that, things went downhill for me in my research group fast. I knew after incident that getting a PhD would have been a pyrrhic victory because I would not have received a good recommendation from my advisor which would have been my death knell in the chemistry world. With a Master’s, the recommendation was important but not as crucial as it is with PhDs. So, I dropped down to a Master’s.

The job market was red hot then, so I was able to find work easily. I had five interviews in a month’s time, one in NJ and four in CA. I was going to be moving from NC in a matter of months. The San Diego tour was the last stop on this five interview journey. I loved the area. The companies interviewing me put me up at an Embassy Suites in La Jolla. They even rented me a car, which I drove all over the place that weekend. I enjoyed myself, and hoped I would get a job there. Where Abby comes into this story on that trip was late one night when I awoke in the middle of my sleep. I found myself sitting upright patting the bed all around looking for Abby. I may have even said her name out loud. My heart sank. I slumped back down and tried to go back to sleep.

I realized I was going to miss Abby a whole lot. Abby belonged to my mom, and technically, Abby was my mom’s. But Abby didn’t see it that way. She thought I belonged to her. Actually, we all belonged together in her eyes. This was her world as she knew it. I had no idea how she would respond when I moved later that year. Up until I went on this trip, I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss her. I felt the same way in that bed as when I have woken up at night when I had a dream about someone close to me in my life but who was no longer there.

I never asked my mom if I could take Abby with me. It may have been presumptuous of me to have done so. Also, I would have been away for 10 or 11 hours at a time every day. I couldn’t bear her being alone for so long. Besides, Abby had my mom, Andy and Father to keep her company as well as a big yard and a pool for her to play in. My mom tried to assuage my fears and apprehension by saying that labs are not ‘One person dogs’. In other words, Abby would miss me but would still be happy and satisfied with my mom being with her.

This pang was brief; I fell back asleep. Otherwise, I enjoyed my trip out there. These interviews took place in May and June, so I wouldn’t have to worry about leaving Abby until September when I moved to NJ. Until then, I had the summer to spend with my Baby Girl. I also spent time with the new addition to our home, Pandy Please, our brand new 7 week old male Labrador Retriever.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanksgiving Trip, 1997

In Thanksgiving 1997, Abby was a year and a half old and was fully grown. She was a big girl just like her huge paws as a puppy indicated she would be. Even when she was lean, her ideal weight was 95 pounds. My second research project was coming to a close, and I could see the finish line for my graduation. My dad was still in his ‘period of troubles’ even though that era too was drawing to a close. My parents were legally divorced by this time, yet my dad’s family has kept in contact with my mom ever since.

My dad’s brother and wife invited my mom, brother, who lived in Atlanta, and me to spend Thanksgiving with them in Waynesville, a small town where my dad grew up in the NC Mountains. My dad was a guest of the state, so he was unable to spend the holidays with us. My first thought when told of this invitation was “What were we going to do about Abby?” My mom told me that she arranged to have her sister, who lived in the Raleigh area, to go to my mom’s house later on Thanksgiving Day so she could let Abby and Father out as well as feed them. My mom further added that I could go to Waynesville early on Thanksgiving Day, spend the day with my family, and early on Friday, my mom said she would return to Raleigh to be with the babies. That way, the dogs would only be alone 24 hours, and even then they would have someone check on them on Thursday evening, so it wouldn’t be that bad for them. I agreed with the plan and would go to the mountains. My mom went to the mountains a day or two before me.

I woke up a couple of hours earlier than normal. Abby wasn’t happy about that. It was way before her usual wake-up time, and she was still sleepy. I let her out, back in, and then got ready for the trip. I gave my farewells to Abby and headed west to Waynesville. During the trip up, I recalled that this would be the first time Abby had not spent the night in bed with me in well over a year. The trip is just under 300 miles, and is almost a straight shot on I-40. Since it was so early, I made the trip relatively fast. I made it to my aunt’s; everyone was there but my brother who arrived a couple of hours after I did. We spent Thanksgiving as we often had when I was a kid visiting up there. We watched a lot of TV and ate quite a bit as well. Later that evening, my mom called her sister, the one who was supposed to check on the babies that day. I overheard my mom say “You’re not going to go up there are you?” I pretty much guessed by my mom’s tone that my aunt was not going to check on the babies. The babies were going to be alone. I felt betrayed and was quite upset. Had I not had a couple of beers that day, I would have gone back to Raleigh right then and there. However, the babies were safe and secure in the house. I had left ample amount of food for them. Other than them using the bathroom in the house, what was the big deal?

I settled in for the night, and enjoyed the remaining time I had with my relatives. I had no idea when I’d see them again. (Some of them I wouldn’t see again for 8 years.) The next day, I made it back home around three or four in the afternoon. Abby greeted me in the kitchen. She was as happy as I thought she would be. One thing struck me as odd was how she tucked her rear a little and then headed towards the door leading to the patio. She never leaves the house that way. But she had to use the bathroom badly. I let her out that patio door, and Abby double-timed it to the grass nearby. Abby had to pee and pee badly. By the force and intensity of the stream of urine, I could tell right then and there that she held it all the time I was away. I had been away for close to 36 hours and she held it the whole time. This is something I couldn’t do myself, but my Baby Girl did it. I had trained her to not go to the bathroom inside. After all those spanks and scolding’s, Abby learned her lesson and must have gone through excruciating pain to avoid getting in trouble with me.

When I went back inside, I noticed there was doo-doo in the dining room left by Father. I am sure that there are some Doubting Thomas’s who are saying, “How do you know that Abby didn’t do it, and not Father?” Well, when Abby did go inside, she would do it by the side door where I usually let her out for her bathroom breaks. There was nothing at that door after I returned. Also, the force and amount of urine Abby had after I first let her out pointed to the fact that she held it the whole time. Also, Father’s “inside spot” was in the dining room.

After I settled in at the house and took care of the Babies, I had to do some grocery shopping and to buy some shoes. As I was about to leave the house, Abby blocked my exit. She literally stood in front of me and wouldn’t let me leave, despite my repeatedly telling her to let me by. Finally, I asked her if she wanted to go bye-bye with me, and she headed out the door with me. First we went to Food Lion at the Tower Shopping Center. I only had to buy a few things, so I was in and out fairly quickly. Then I headed over to a shoe store, also in that shopping center. I was able to find a spot close to the store. I went in to buy some running shoes. While I was waiting for the clerk to get the shoes, I glanced out at my car and could see that Abby was looking right at me. Just for her to see me, even at a distance, was of great comfort to her. She had a forlorn look on her face, but she seemed content knowing where I was. That previous day must have been traumatic for her, all by her babygirlself.

Had Abby used the bathroom in the house that night, I would not have spanked her. There was no way I would have asked her to do something I could not do—hold it for a day and a half. I had trained her too well in this case. How could I have told her that the ‘no peepee in the house rule’ didn’t apply under those circumstances? After that weekend, I really realized what a good girl Abby was. She seemed to have passed from a puppy to a mature adult. I also made a vow that I’d never spank her again. I pretty much held that rule except in one case when she ate some chicken bones out of the trashcan. I did have to give her a little spank for that one.

But on that day after Thanksgiving, my view of Abby changed. It was a watershed moment. She was no longer a carefree puppy I perceived her to be. She was a smart, attentive, and loyal dog. This day cemented the way I thought about her even since.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I Couldn't (and Didn't) Wait To Say "Hello."

“Hello Bebe” I said, “I love you Bebe.” It was in the summer of ’96 at the time I was uttering these words to Abby one day, and by this time, many, but not all, of my family members grew accustomed to me talking baby-talk to Abby. Maybe they thought it was weird, off-beat or even cute given my normal disposition of being taciturn and dour. My cousin, who was driving the car I was in, kept glancing in her rear-view mirror at me. She tried to be as inconspicuous as possible when she kept cutting her eyes at me. Her eyes said it all: what the hell is wrong with this guy? The problem with the scenario is that I was alone in the backseat of a car which was 5 miles away from the dog I was talking to.

My mom, cousin and I went to Greensboro to see my dad. I’m not sure if my parents were still separated at this point or if the divorce had been finalized. Ostensibly, my mom wanted to go back to her old home to retrieve a few things she forgot when she officially moved out in December, 1994. (She had left him about a month before.) I think the real reason she wanted to go back home was to check on my dad, spy on him, snoop around and see how he was doing. We did retrieve a few things, nothing of consequence except for some old tapes that he had recorded of our phone conversations. Why in the hell that man bugged his own phone is still a mystery to me to this day. It was a set of these cassettes that my mom found in the fall of ‘94 which she listened to which led to their break-up. There was some juicy stuff there. Suffice it to say, there was quite a bit of incriminating information on those tapes. Anyway, we found some more tucked away in the front closet which I sneaked into the car and listened to later on the trip back.

Normally, finding taped phone calls and listening to them would be the highlight of a trip especially with the content these tapes contained, but not this time. It had to share top billing with me talking to myself on the way back. We were a few miles from home on the beltline between Yonkers Road and New Bern Ave. when I uttered my words to Abby. My cousin didn’t want me to know she was looking at me yet she couldn’t turn her eyes away. It’s sort of like walking past the schizophrenic guy on the park bench downtown all by himself who is deep into conversation with god knows who. You know it’s impolite to stare, but it’s so entertaining that you can’t help but not to. And so it was with my cousin and me.

At about that time, the car became quiet which was when my mom noticed my cousin looking at me. By now, my mom knew full well I was talking to Abby. My mom started laughing loudly at my cousin. “Don’t you know he’s talking to Abby?” my mom said. “I didn’t know what was going on” my cousin responded “I thought he was losing his mind.” Once my cousin realized I was being a little weird and eccentric and not crazy, she too started laughing at me.

In a matter of minutes, I would be reunited with my Baby Girl who would be ecstatic to see me. She was a bright spot in an otherwise miserable year.

Monday, July 5, 2010


The nickname for Abby, Lala, generated out of what I call ‘baby talk’. I tended to speak to Abby in a singy-songy voice and often tried to find rhymes when I spoke to her. I’d also speak to her in an octave higher than what I usually talk. I often would say to Abby “I love you baby girl.” Often the words used with Abby would become abbreviated or amended so they would have a certain flow and rhythm when I spoke to her. Often these nicknames would happen seemingly spontaneously, and once it took hold, the name or phrase would stick. After that, I’d turn OCD and repeat the word many times, over and over. I don’t think Abby understood half the stuff I said. She was most likely judging my mood by the tone and volume in my voice. I often think that when a dog hears a person speaking in baby-talk or simply everyday conversation, it comforts and pleases them much the way that a cat owners are relaxed and assured when they hear their cats purring.

I am almost completely certain that ‘Lala’ finds its roots in the word ‘love’. I often told Abby how much I loved her, but at some point, the word morphed into ‘lala.’ I would say to Abby “I lala you whole lot, Baby Girl.” If I wanted to take things up a notch, I would say “I lala you whole lot, too much, whole time, every time, the end, amen.” Then I would punctuate it by singing the word ‘lala’. Abby almost always paid me no mind and kept sleeping or whatever it was she was doing. Eventually, I would simply call Abby “Lala.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Unbeknownst to me, there was a popular kid’s show aired on PBS called Tellytubbies. And as coincidence would have it, one of the Tellytubbies names was “Lala.” And like our dog, that Tellytubby was also yellow. It was my cousin who had a young daughter at the time who pointed out the fact that one of the Tellytubby’s names was Lala. If it wasn’t embarrassing enough to have someone catch you talking baby-talk to a dog, it is even worse having someone think you watch some silly kid’s show on PBS. I told her it was a coincidence, but I don’t know if she bought my story.

That is how the nickname “Lala” came into being.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air"

A couple of years ago, Andy was the only dog living with me. Abby could no longer live with us since her limited mobility made it difficult for her to get in and out of the condo I lived in, so she stayed at my mom’s ranch style home where she could move around better. There were only a couple of steps in the house and not any stairs for her to deal with, and she only had to step outside a few feet in order to get to a suitable place for her to use the bathroom.

It was the Fourth of July, later in the evening when I took Andy for his usual late evening walk, not realizing it was the holiday. I knew Andy was petrified of fireworks. He has such a nervous disposition. I found this out the hard way many years ago when I was visiting my mom during the Fourth of July earlier in the decade. I knew Andy lived his life in fear, but that didn’t stop me from buying some fireworks at the grocery store and later that night setting them off. Looking back, that was an awful idea. He was scared shitless. Andy has always been a scaredy-cat. Loud noises, for example, scared the hell out of him driving him to run into the back of the house to hide.

So here we were, halfway through our walk which is about a quarter of a mile, and a huge display of fireworks in the downtown area merely blocks from us were set off. I didn’t realize that fireworks were going to be set off so close to home. I am not sure if it had been done in previous years, actually. I think this was a new event in the downtown area as a part of the downtown revitalization initiative. Fayetteville Street back in the 70’s was closed off and turned into a mall, which didn’t work out so well. The city was fighting a nationwide trend of stores fleeing downtown areas to shopping centers and malls in the outer suburbs with safer settings and better parking. But now the mall area was torn up, and Fayetteville Street was open to traffic once again.

The fireworks were so loud that it made the ground shake. It even rattled me at first when they went off. Andy was paralyzed in fear. He crouched down and stayed still. I comforted him, and immediately took him back to my condo where the noise was well shielded from the outside. The only problem was that Andy did not doo-doo, and now that he was scared, he couldn’t or wouldn’t go. This meant that sometime later that night, he would have to go. If I didn’t take him out later in the evening, he would slip out of bed late in the night and leave me a present on the rug downstairs. Abby could have held it, but Andy wouldn’t have. Later that night after things had calmed down, and the crowds had vanished, I took Andy back out where he took care of business.

I wish Andy were not so fearful all the time, but things could have been worse. I knew of someone who left his boxer out in the backyard one evening during the Fourth of July. The dog became so spooked by the fireworks that he jumped over the fence, ran into a nearby road and was run over and killed by a car. When Andy gets scared, he becomes paralyzed with fear, shuts down and won’t move.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I have or had many many nicknames for the babies. For many of them, I had no idea how those names were generated, but on others, there is a story behind it and I may discuss it in detail in a later entry. Of course these nicknames sound even nuttier when heard in person when I use a singy-songy voice in addressing the babies.

Abby’s registered name was “Lady Abbe of Longview” while Andy’s was “Sir Andrew of Longview.” My mom named Abby after her mom who was called Abby when she was growing up, which in itself was a nickname. My grandmother’s maiden name was Abbott, so they called her Abby for short. Andy was named after a cartoon character popular in the middle of the 20th century, Andy Panda.

And for the record, the real way to spell Abby’s name was ‘Abbe’. It was my mom’s idea to spell it like that and annoyed the hell out of me. I refuse to spell it that way and use ‘Abby’ instead.

Here is a list of the nicknames for the babies. I may have forgotten a few, so I might update this list later.


Baby Girl
Sunshine Angel Beauty Queen
Curly girl
Tippy tips


Baby boy
Andy Pandy
Rooty toot toot tootily tootily toot toot toot
Rooty toot toot
Mr. Bing
Little man
Cute patootie
Man about it
Pandy please no
Pandy please
Skinny man


Twit bird
Dee dee dow dow
Dee dee
Doe (rhymes w/ go)


Mr. Mew mew
Good boy
Toy boy
Mew mew

Friday, July 2, 2010

Toy Car

I bought quite a few toys for Abby and then Father once I found he liked them, too. In the grocery store, I would buy tennis balls and racquet balls for the dogs as well as Frisbees. Abby and Father went through those things like a thrasher, so I needed to continually stock up on these items. At the big-box pet stores is where I’d buy the ‘specialized’ dog toys such as a rope shaped in a figure ‘8’ that Abby loved to play tug of war with. I’d also buy the other garden variety dog toys such as the squeaky toys or miscellaneous throwing toys to play fetch with.

Right now, a reader viewing this blog will be thinking “This seems normal. Nothing remarkable here.” However, the next toy I’ll describe which is not meant for dogs is where I pushed the boundaries of eccentricness. First, I’ll give a brief background of the inspiration for my purchasing this toy. I knew Abby loved to chase things such as ball, Frisbees and even little animals such as squirrels. Father, too, loved doing these things as well. “How would they like it if I bought them a remote control toy car?” I thought, “Would they be scared of it?” As I’ve said before, Abby craved excitement and loved doing and seeing new things. Keeping her interested in things and stopping her from being bored was quite a task at times. She had proclivities to be a lazy fat baby if given the opportunity so I had to keep her active.

In order to see how they would react to a remote control toy car, the best way to find out was to go to the store and buy one. The closest store to me at the time was a K-Mart (which is closed now) a couple of miles away on New Bern Ave., but I didn’t go there because the store always had inventory problems, the service sucked, and waiting in those indeterminable lines made a trip 5 miles away to the mall worth my while even when the time factor is considered. In the words of Raymond in Rain Man “K-Mart sucks”.

I went to a Toys-R-Us at the Crabtree Valley Mall. The store wasn’t in the mall itself but in a building across the parking lot from Belk’s. Getting to Crabtree could be a pain in the ass sometimes with the cars backed up all the way to the Beltline at times, the four or five light cycles to pass through an intersection, and of course the parking which could be sparse there. On this day, I don’t think I had much problems making my way there or finding a parking space. Since it was summer, the shopping crowd was relatively thinned out. However going to that place during Christmas can be a zoo.

I picked a silver car in the shape of a race car. I stopped by the grocery store, bought some batteries and went back home to play with my new toy. I was so excited. After I assembled everything and did a test run by myself in my bedroom, I brought the car out to the living room, placed the toy directly in the middle and watched the baby’s’ response.

Abby cautiously approached it, her ears drooped and forehead wrinkled. She sniffed it and walked around it to give a thorough inspection. Father was following Abby’s lead. After a minute or so, they became comfortable with the object which at the time, they did not view as a toy. At that point, I pressed the lever on the remote controller and lurched the car forward a few inches. Abby flinched and jumped back. She looked scared, confused and intrigued all at once. She started whining a little. I lurched the car forward again. This time she only flinched but didn’t jump. She nudged the car with her nose. Next I put the car in full throttle. Abby jumped out of the way as the car sped by. Her vocalization was a full deep-chested bark. Meanwhile, Father, who was watching the event, took on that look—a look he has when he is on the prowl. Father snapped into ‘predator mode’. He, too, barked at the car but in contrast to Abby’s, Father’s was a high pitched, shrill, and piercing bark. They both gave chase to the car. I learned quickly that I could aim the car at Abby and she would dodge it out of fear and hesitation. However if I pulled that stunt with Father, he would use his predatory skills to knock the car over or he would simply grab the car with his teeth and chew it up. It didn’t take long for the plastic protruding parts on the car to become gnarled and mangled.

This toy would give us many hours of fun both inside and out. Outside, I could maneuver the car better on the concrete pool deck and change direction better than what I could do inside. I could also make the car go faster outside was well. Regardless if the car was out or in, the dogs loved playing with it. Sometimes I would bring the car into the room and leave it in an inconspicuous place and leave the remote control by my table. The dogs would hardly take notice of it and after a while forget it was there. I would then lurch the car forward which would whip the dogs into a tizzy. Abby caught on that I was somehow associated with the car’s mobility. I can’t say with absolute certainty she knew, but when I would move the car slightly, she would, while waiting for the car to take off, glance up at my hand holding the remote. I don’t think she knew one made the other go, but she knew to associate one with the other.

I kept that toy car and used it once in a while as Abby grew older but not as much as when she was younger. Her arthritis limited her mobility. That was one reason I didn’t bring out the car as often. The main reason I didn’t play with the car in later years is that Andy was scared of it. If I brought the car out, Abby would slip out of the room and hide on my mom’s bed. Or if we were outside, he would walk up the hill in the backyard well out of the car’s reach and fearfully watch Father, Abby and I play with the car. I love Andy, but he has a nervous disposition and lives his life in fear.

The car itself suffered the ill fate of many battery operated toys. After a long period of disuse with the batteries still in the toy, the batteries turned cruddy and eroded the inside of the toy rendering it worthless. I don’t know how much money I paid for that thing, but I definitely got my money’s worth.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


(This is a frog that was in our pool, but not THE frog.)

Abby loved to give chase to some animals, in particular squirrels and frogs. Her encounters with squirrels will be discussed later and will take at least a couple of entries. For now I will say that because she loved to chase the squirrels in our yard, I installed and maintained a couple of bird feeders for the sole purpose of entertaining Abby. Just the exercise alone it gave Abby chasing the squirrels made the purchase of the bird feeders worthwhile. Anyone who has a bird feeder knows that the birds are not the only animals dining on the bird seed at those feeders. If there are any squirrels around, they will find it, loot it and empty the contents of the feeder.

The focal point for the frogs was the pool in the backyard. I don’t know how they know our pool is there, but they do. There have been times when I have super chlorinated the pool when the next day I’d find over a half dozen dead frogs floating in the pool. I can’t say I remember the first time Abby saw frog, but it didn’t take long after her first sighting of one that she developed a keen fascination of them. It also didn’t take long for her to learn a new word in her growing vocabulary “Frog.” If Abby didn’t spot a frog in the pool before I did, I would point at a frog in the pool and yell to Abby “What is that?” Abby would trot to the pool ledge and frantically look in the pool. I could tell when she had locked in on a frog by the way her ears dropped down and her brows furrowed, that and she would start whining.

Then the teasing would ensue. I would repeat the word ‘Frog’ over and over. In addition to that, I would tell her to ‘Give me that’ or ‘Getty it, Baby Girl!’ This would cause Abby more anxiety and even louder whining. She would then tip, tip, tip to the stairs (walk-in stairs), slip into the water and swim after the frog. Almost inevitably, the frog had the good sense to dart away from Abby. Once in a while, Abby would draw close enough to one to have a reasonable chance to grab one.

I always wondered what she would have done if she had caught one. I know she had a taste for some live animals, such as ground moles, but I doubt they put up much of a fight when she ate them. Killing and eating a frog would be different than killing and eating a mole. One day she did catch a frog. The thing lollygagged around; Abby swam beside it, snapped at it and took it in her mouth. She got it! I thought that was the end of the story, but a moment later when she opened her mouth to breathe, the frog leapt out of her mouth to freedom and swam away. Obviously Abby didn’t chew it or swallow it; Abby didn’t have that killer instinct. The puzzled look on her face after that frog escaped was funny. I guess she thought the frog would lay down and die like the mole did so when the thing jumped out of her mouth, it must have scared her quite a bit. I wish I could portray the look of consternation on her face.
I’m fairly sure it scared her because after that incident she would continue to stare down any frogs in the pool, cry and whine at them. She would even give chase to one from time to time, but she didn’t try to eat a frog again. She would swim beside them but never again would she try to bite at one.