Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Serpent's Tooth

More from the Dogstory Vault – this one from spring 2002.

My title comes from Shakespeare’s King Lear:
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is, to have a thankless child!”

Billie (now at 12 weeks) is our first real experience with parenting puppyhood – Marley was 6 months old when we got him and although he was a big challenge to us for the next year and a half (and chewed things ranging from our underwear to kitchen curtains to AA batteries), we probably avoided a few of the less-cute developmental stages.

Billie is more aggressively playful (paw-swipey and mouth-y) than I remember Marley being but she’s still small enough and has a short enough attention span that so far, her toothful attentions are not too destructive – she might put her mouth on the corner of the coffee table, a ledge of the fireplace brick, or corner of the back doormat but we usually yell at her in time to stop major damage. So far she prefers to swipe and bite at us (she thinks we’re puppies too and we’re not well enough versed in dog training premises that we know how to disabuse her of this) instead of destroying household property.

I soon learned though that I couldn’t do my stretching exercises with her in the room – as soon as she saw me prone (lower than herself), she was dive-bombing my arms, my legs, basically any part of me that was moving, and trying to dominate me. It was really funny one day when Marley joined the action – Billie was trying to “dominate” me and Marley was trying to dominate Billie. A less than 10-pound dog hanging on my leg (I was wearing thick sweatpants) was kind of a pleasant exercise weight, but a 30-pound on top of the 10-pound dog climbing on my lower back was too much – I had to laugh, the “dogpile” concept was just too ridiculous.

When Craig and I are around the house, we’re usually wearing jeans or sweatpants and we just bat or brush Billie aside if she attacks our legs. So I had no idea what she could do to thinner fabric – until my second day back at work, when I walked through the living room in my new pants, fully dressed and accessorized with belt, loafers, etc. I had found these pants on sale at Mervyn’s and had spent $10 having them hemmed for my short height - I had made a mad dash to the dry cleaners in the rain the night before to pick them up after being altered, I was anxious to have a new outfit to help motivate me to get re-acclimated to my old job. (In fact, the guy at the dry cleaners had told me the pants would be ready on Monday, which was either a happy-lie or a Chinese-English miscommunication, so that I ended up making consecutive two trips to pick up the damn pants.)

I’m always challenged by the whole alteration exercise – usually I leave pants too long or have them hemmed too short. Somehow with these Mervyn’s pants I had figured out the exact right length – it helped that I took the time the week before to prewash/shrink them, and I also remeasured the pants’ inseam several times, comparing it to other pants of mine to be sure I was having the pants altered the correct length. When I put these pants on Tuesday morning, I was excited to see they were actually a flattering length – I felt my time/money/effort had paid off and I actually had an office-worthy outfit (I feel that frequently I push the boundaries of what is casual/sloppy and what is appropriate).

Well, as I walked through the living room on my way to pick up my purse/work bag and go to my car to drive to work – Billie playfully wrapped herself around my leg and I immediately heard a loud ripping sound. If she analyzed these things, she would have probably have been as surprised as I was by how much damage her little teeth (my dad calls them “milk teeth” in the country way) could do to a thin fabric – which, hilariously, was a black and white HOUND’S TOOTH (jagged check) design. I yelled at Billie and lightly bopped her on her soft head (she of course was unfazed) but there was nothing else I could do other than to change my outfit.

Tuesday was a bad clothes day for me in general – that night I was sorting dirty laundry in my walk-in closet and somehow rolled the closet door over a sleeve of a Land’s End shirt (my nicest/newest long-sleeved white t-shirt) – I’m not sure how? but both sides of the sleeve received oily stripes, meaning that even the sleeve if rolled up the stains will show (detergent and stain products haven’t made a dent). In the white shirt scenario, I do accept some blame (unlike the Billie serpent-tooth pants situation) since on Tuesday night I was drinking beer and doing laundry while simultaneously checking voice mails/emails/paying bills etc., maybe a little too much going on.

I hated to spend more money in having the hole patched, but I had already bought the pants and paid to have them altered…plus my office has a casual dress policy and my coworkers are used to me looking a little different so I thought maybe I could get away with patched pants. I took these back to the dry cleaners, hoping for the best – when I picked up the pants I was shocked to see that they had used gray thread for the patch? but I guess since the fabric was black and white check the tailor thought this would be the best compromise.

While I was waiting for the patching to be done, I went back to Mervyn’s (against Craig’s advice, which was kind of a comment on “throwing good money after bad” and/or being my usual obsessive/compulsive self) and looked on the sale rack again – there were no more black and white houndstooth pairs in my size, but there was a darker-fabric version. I hadn’t bought the darker pair before because I didn’t like them – now I was compelled to “make right” the Mervn’s pants situation so I did buy them, meaning I now had two pairs, both of which needed altering, and one of which had been ripped and needed a patch.

I picked up the shortened darker pants the same day as the gray-patched pant, and I was definitely nervous walking through the house in them (thinking maybe I should pull on my pants in our garage from now on?, with a shut door between myself and Billie?) but actually Billie seemed to have no interest in this pair.

I was still looking for a way to wear the original hound’s-tooth pair, but the gray-thread patch really was not attractive and since it was on the front of a leg, all too obvious. I came up with the idea of buying an iron-on patch?, maybe a black and white flower? to put over the patch, and when I had an opportunity I went to JoAnn Fabrics to look around. Their Appliques display was rather skimpy, meaning most of the good stuff had been purchased already. There were several doggy-type patches - I wasn’t necessarily above patching my dog-ripped pants with a picture of a dog but all the available dog appliques were brown or beige and my pants were definitely black and white.

I finally settled on a hippie-type emblem of a Volkswagen, a silly concept but the colors were right (white, gray and black with a touch of floral decoration) and a second/backup choice, a black-white-floral “LOVE” emblem, also quite hippie in nature. However, after paying for these I spotted more appliques on a rack at the front of the store, these were small black-and-white flowers (maybe not large enough to cover the gray thread but more artistic) and rather than return my first two appliques, I bought two more – the checkout procedure at JoAnn Fabrics, featuring a wizened lady cashier with the name badge of “Midge” (the receipt said “Mildred”) was not exactly streamlined and I really wasn’t up to doing a cash-return at this point, I thought I would take everything home and see how it worked out.

I ended up attaching the Volkswagen emblem (the least decorative of what I bought, but the best coverage) but and will probably try wearing the pants this week – I know I will feel silly wearing the pants to work but I’m determined to wear them at least once. It will be interesting to see if anyone stares and if anyone comments, “What a cute patch” or “What is that?” etc. Rather than brave JoAnn’s and Midge again I may keep the other patches (although they do add somewhat to my total pants expenditures) in case Billie rips more wardrobe items.

Actually there’s another post-script to this story…the day that I went to JoAnn Fabrics, Craig and I were running several other errands and were gone from the house longer than we usually are on a Saturday. We had left Marley loose (like we’ve been doing since we started putting Billie in the crate) and didn’t expect any problems – he’s been good loose for the last two weeks and stupid us, we thought that was a predictor of the future. When we got home we saw that Marley had overturned the trash (a flashback to his puppyhood) and had discovered not just a fragment of my morning McDonald’s sausage biscuit but also a foil-wrapped energy bar that had been inserted as a promotional item in the morning newspaper. Unfortunately the bar was chocolate-flavored, I know chocolate is bad for dogs but when I read the ingredients list on the partly-shredded wrapper, it looked like cocoa was included in a much smaller amount than healthful things like soy, brown rice, barley malt, etc.

I watched Marley carefully for signs of illness over the next few hours, but the only change I noted was that he seemed to hold his own more strongly when fighting with Billie – more energy?, more concentration?, more focus?...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad Morning Dogs

A favorite story - not a favorite event but a funny story - from Marley's younger days - he was 7 and able to get where he wanted to go. Billie was scary young - less than 2.

(September 2003) Last week Craig took the dogs to the vet for their shots (not Craig's usual job - but he was working nights that week and had his days free) and when the vet told him that we need to reduce Marley's food, Craig had a "Eureka!" moment - now that a male authority figure was saying the same thing I have been telling Craig for years, Craig suddenly heard the truth of it.

Since then Marley has been on very slim rations since Craig and I are actually, finally in agreement about how much food to measure in his dish. Marley is totally PO'd by our united front and glares at me every time I eat in front of him (Craig only eats one meal a day so there is less potential for harassment), sending me not-so-subliminal messages that I could lose a few pounds myself, breakfast bagels are more carbs than I need, etc.

I'm on antibiotics and this morning I cut my breakfast bagel sandwich in half so I could have part at home with my vitamins and the other half when I got to work, with my morning pill. I wrapped up the remaining half and stuck it down inside my carrier bag, then went to take a 10-minute bath.

Oh, how disturbing it is to hear the sound of ripping & tearing when one emerges from the bathroom...yet I have been met with this sound more times than I care to remember.

Here is the scenario of those 10 minutes, as best I can recreate it: in pursuit of the sandwich he smelled, Marley stood up on his hind legs and knocked the carrier bag down from a chair. He couldn't unfasten the bag clips so he worked at widening the opening between the front clips.

The first item he pulled through the opening was not the sandwich, but a package of all-natural feminine hygiene products that I had just bought at Whole Foods Market. He tossed that aside (in manly-dog disgust, I am sure) and dug further for the sandwich.

Marley takes the lead role in this kind of endeavor but Billie was hovering closely at his side. As soon as she saw the bag of fluffy feminine items, she excitedly realized their potential - all-natural means all-cotton, which means...fluffy stuffing! (She destroyed her last remaining soft toy last week and has been eyeing our sofa cushions as potential replacements.)

Within the short time they were unsupervised, Billie shredded several dollars worth of feminine products, lots of organic cotton fuzz became embedded in the nylon fibers of my black carrier bag, and Marley ate not just the sandwich (I'm sure that was a 2- second job) but most of the waxed paper it was wrapped in.

I yelled & screamed at the dogs and terrorized them with the vacuum cleaner - no true remorse, of course, but they seemed a bit sad that they wouldn't get their usual morning kisses & hugs goodbye.

I think I'm most upset that I have to go back to Whole Foods for replacements since that store annoys me - I always end up in line in front of someone buying organic Oreos for their bratty kids who are banging their cart into me, the counter, and the organic candy & throat lozenge rack. (Clearly organic food is not helping those kids and they might as well get Nabisco.)

A search for big-picture meaning brings me to the thought that most of this mess can be blamed on Craig - when he bought dog food yesterday I asked him to get more stuffed dog toys for Billie to chew up, but he pretended I was joking.

I still haven't convinced him that the stuffed tigers, etc. that Billie loves so much (and consumes so expensively) must be regarded in an old-time, pagan way - as small-animal sacrifices thrown into the jaws of the evil beast so that the beast doesn't ruin our crops (or eat holes in our sofa).

Marley Houdini (Marleydini)

An email from October 2003 that seems timely to post since Marley keeps yacking on Facebook about being Super Dog...

Today's adventure of the Amazing Marleydini! Left alone in the house for only a very brief time, he uses his marvelous Marleydini Nose to sniff out for himself a 2nd breakfast worth thousands of calories!

Even though the prize is deep inside a buckled bag on a chair taller than himself, Marleydini manages with his short yet preternaturally powerful paws to extricate the tasty almonds! He completes this task without moving the book-bag even a fraction, so that his mother remains unknowing of this near-miracle...until she spies an empty sandwich bag upon the floor, licked microscopically clean by the amazing Marleydini Tongue!

This adventure cannot surpass Marleydini's Grand Feat of 2002 - when he consumed a great quantity of Sunchips that, by the testimony of both his parents, had been left high atop the refrigerator. The Sunchips mystery is a true marvel that has not been solved to this day!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another life milestone - Chucks euthanasia


My first custom designed pair of Chucks, purchased many years ago (haha, really only early 2008 - don't do the math, you will be shocked how fast I have accumulated my huge collection), are looking really limp and gray.

Now, granted, the actual fabric is gray, but there used to be more contrast between the 2 shades of gray, the white rubber, and the red stitching. Today these shoes just kind of look like they have the flu.

I guess I could trim the frayed edges that are part of the design, but that would be like trimming a pig's toenails. (Sarah Palin has pretty much ruined for me the lipstick version of that comment.)

Maybe it's more that they have served their purpose. (Yes, my Chucks have a purpose, or purposes.) Last spring I felt so bold getting shoes monogrammed BossLady on the heel. Craig squawked and I felt proud but shy to wear them. Since then I have grown into the name of Boss Lady, mostly because Craig pretty much substitutes it for my name in all situations. And I have even moved beyond Boss Lady to Princess Sarah and most recently (deliciously), Queen of Damn Near Everything (not self-named...a friend gifted me with that one).

Below are Gray BossLady's birth photos. I could post current ones but it would make me sad, and I know readers would squint to see what's wrong with the shoes - they don't look awful to the untrained eye, but to me who has lived with them so closely for so long, the visible change is too painful.

I think these Chucks are too gray & grubby for Goodwill. I may just put them into the trash - not the kitchen trash (so disrespectful, coffee grounds and cupcake icing) but maybe wrap them in a separate bag to gently lay in our green dumpster.

Not today - but soon. When I am ready.

(Original design photos for the BossLady Chucks.)

Desire for juxtapositions makes me buy more art

Of course I love this painting I bought several months ago, Red Leaf Tree by Carol Nelson ( I love all my art babies equally but in special ways (the closest I get to understanding maternal instinct).

It wasn't a huge deal that Red Leaf Tree never quite synched with my other artwork...but when Carol's recent blog feed showcased a new piece, Autumn Beauty 8, I knew this was just what I wanted-needed-must have to balance/accent/complement/amplify/glorify both works.

I am always interested in Carol's abstracts but this was the first one that moved me to the point of clicking Purchase. There's something I especially like about the unexpected color combinations and the plant world mixed with non-plant shapes.

Sometimes it almost feels like a selfless thing I am doing - artistic matchmaking - putting together lost halves with their mates. Not sure that ameliorates the sin of debting, but what does...

Both paintings are 6 x 6 inches, plus framing. This small size makes it so much easier to sneak them into the house - Oops!, I mean, easier to incorporate them into my current collection.