Hold on tight

This is the view Karen and I woke up to in New York for the climate march. Lucky us!

This is the view Karen and I woke up to in New York for the climate march. Lucky us!

OK, hold on tight, folks, because this is going to jump all over the place as I play a bit of catch up and hit on some random things, too.

First, let me mention what great long-distance friends I have. When Karen and I went to New York, both Margot Harris and Melissa McNeese came into the city to have dinner with us, Margot on Saturday night (from Edison, NJ, even though she has to drive to Staten Island every day for work), and Melissa Sunday night.

Melissa came 100 miles by train from upstate. Like I said, great gals. Thank y’all so much!

New York always makes me happy, but the street-light mosaics in East Village are just so fabulous – what a cool way to delineate an area – that I have to share this. Here’s a fabulous video about Jim Power, the Mosaic Man of New York City. You should watch it. Trust me.

Street light mosaic in East Village.

Street-light mosaic in East Village.

Another view. See where it says "Village" on the side? What a great way to make a neighborhood recognizable.

Another view. See where it says “Village” on the side? What a great way to make a neighborhood recognizable.

OK, next topic: Zuzu’s birthday!

Zuzu turns 4 Oct. 13!

Zuzu turns 4 Oct. 13!

Our big baby turns 4 tomorrow. The years have flown, of course, and she still acts like a goob much of the time, but you couldn’t ask for a better dog. She adores the grandchildren and lets them climb all over her, accompanies us on every move we make – no matter how many trips up and down the stairs that might entail, and does a great job of protecting (and herding) everyone she loves, as well as guarding her turf.

Sylvia and Silas call the dogs on FaceTime. It’s always pretty cute, but last night, during the sad Razorback game, when Silas yelled “Zuzu!” via my laptop. Zuzu came running, and for a second, she could really see him on the screen. Her eyes got huge and she touched her nose to the screen right as Silas leaned forward to kiss her on his mom’s laptop screen.


Zuzu and Tess, who is 9 1/2 now.

Zuzu and Tess, who is 9 1/2 now. They’re constant companions and are the reason our floors look like that. But they are more than worth it.

What next? So many ways this could go. OK, you may remember that Cathy, Paul, John and I did the 23andMe DNA testing for our New Year’s Eve event. Now Mother’s had hers done and yesterday we mailed in her brother’s kit – my Uncle Bill and Karen’s dad. Karen drove him down, so we’ve already gotten another visit in.

We’re going to keep that vow of holding the family together for another generation.

Anyway, I’m still a neophyte, but the past few days I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it. Can’t talk intelligently yet, but a 9th-chromosome long-section match relative from outside Chicago found me and has been coaching me a bit. My darling Doug, my cousin on Daddy’s side has been tested through another company, so I shared Sue’s info with Doug and Doug’s with Sue, and they have a match, too, but on a different chromosome.

I’ll come back to this when I know more what I’m talking about (if I ever do – complicated business), but here are good examples photographically of the kinds of things you can learn.

23andMe top

Italian! Who knew? That's one of the mysteries to solve.

Italian! Who knew? That’s one of the mysteries to solve.

Cathy and I are 56.2 percent identical, slightly higher than average for siblings. That probably doesn’t surprise people who know us. And at 2.3 percent, I’m slightly below the average Neanderthal DNA for European 23andMe members. Don’t ask me what that means, though. Still learning and way behind the curve.

Another topic: The ELO song this post’s title refers to says “hold on tight to you dreams.” One of my lifelong ones – or at least since early childhood – is coming true right now.

My under-restoration 1940 Baldwin baby grand piano!

My under-restoration 1940 Baldwin baby grand piano!

John surprised me for my birthday by getting me an antique baby grand piano, a 1940 Baldwin that he’s restoring, with the help of our friend and master piano restorer Jim McGehee. It’s currently in pieces and the keys have to be shipped off to be covered in plastic – even if ivory were still an option, I’d want plastic. Poor elephants.

John looks pretty tickled about the progress they're making.

John looks pretty tickled about the progress they’re making.

Now I’ll just have to re-learn how to play. My hope is to be able to teach my grandkids enough to see if they’re really interested in taking lessons. If only Lavinia Montgomery, my beloved piano teacher, were still alive…

Speaking (sort of) of my multi-talented husband and his ever-increasing skills, John’s just gotten the second-floor bathroom floor done (with heating coils under the marble tile!) and we finally have a door!

Bathroom floor ...

Bathroom floor …

... and bathroom door. Door frame trim in progress.

… and bathroom door. Door frame trim in progress.

OK, one more catch-up topic for the day: Books.

MysteriesI took Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh to New York. His first book, Mysteries was actually his master’s thesis. The beauty of his writing made me want to cry at times. It’s a short little book and reminded me in some respects of The Great Gatsby.

I bought it a while back because I’ve loved the other Chabon books I’ve read. Had no idea of its background. Or that it’s dedicated “To Lollie.” It was the perfect length for a quick trip – finished it as the plane was landing in Little Rock.

I highly recommend it.

Once home, it was back to Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory. Glory I’d gotten the book shortly after John and I saw Pat Tillman’s widow and brother-in-law (if memory serves) at The Clinton School, then couldn’t bear to read it. John read it immediately and I kept waiting. And waiting.

I knew how it ended, but it was still a tough read. Excellently written, but so infuriating – what a waste the Iraq War was. And here we are, all these years later, and the same issues in the book are still issues today. And getting worse daily.

Can’t remember if I mentioned reading Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit recently. That’s more like a pamphlet. I knew that JK is one of the best journalistic-style non-fiction writers around, but now I know that you don’t want to lie to him or piss him off. He will eviscerate you with words if you deserve it.

If you need some help understanding what’s going on in the Middle East or can’t remember how we lost sight of Bin Laden for so long and got distracted by destroying Iraq, read Where Men Win Glory.

WTFOne more book I must mention, though I’m not quite finished: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a first novel by David Shafer. That’s the military phonetic alphabet for WTF? It’s one of my birthday books from John and has been keeping me up way too late. It’s very, very much in the same vein as Dave Eggers’ The Circle, only much better.

I’ll let you know my final verdict, but so far it’s funny-ish and intriguing enough with interesting characters – and I hope to hell the story is as far-fetched as it seems.

Our blind faith in technology is scary if you take the blinders off. If Eggers and Shafer know something we don’t, we’re in for a future of which I don’t want to be part.

Guess that will do for this scattershot post. Oh, one last photo of something that makes me very happy, Japanese persimmons just like the ones my grandfather used to grow. Fresh (and unripe) from the Bernice Garden Farmers Market this morning, grown by my friend Robert Lashley at Willow Springs Market Garden.


Japanese persimmons



Whole lotta shakin’ going on

Today’s 90-degree heat coupled with weeks of accompanying Dad to two stinky restoration projects made this evening the perfect time for the first doggy bath of the season. Both big girls had a whole lot of shakin’ going on before, during and after their dates with The Furminator and the water hose.

The first step of the process was repairing the doggy door so I could insert the panel to prevent: A. Zuzu from running inside to hide and B. Tess scaring Zuzu to death by grabbing her collar to “help” us bathe her. They’d so warped the frame by crashing into the hard panel the few times we’d shut them in that it took some tweaking with a hammer to get it working again.

Furminating requires all-hands-0n-dog, so we couldn’t get pictures, but the piles of white undercoat were impressive.

The  process was to Furminate Tess while Zuzu watched, bathe Tess while Zuzu hid, let Tess shake then rub her with a beach towel – she likes that – then trick Tess into going in the laundry room (while blocking the younger one who desperately tried to get inside) so we could repeat the process with Zu.

Tess was frisky and playful post-Furminating, though she was pretty sassy during the process.

Tess was frisky and playful post-Furminating, though she was pretty vocal and sassy during the process.

Zuzu, on the other hand, was shaking and nervous while awaiting her turn but angelic during the procedure, since big bad Tess was stuck inside.

Zuzu, on the other hand, was shaking and nervous while awaiting her turn but angelic during the procedure, since big bad Tess was trapped in the house.

Tess promptly crashed into the hard panel trying to get back out, then commenced to complaining greatly about the indignity of being stuck inside.

Tess is pretty good when it comes to bathing, though she can’t help but shake and drench us from time to time. And unlike her sister, she understands that she needs to shake, and shake a lot. after a bath before going in the house.

Tess is an old pro at baths. Doesn't love them but tolerates pretty well now that she's 9.

Tess is an old pro at baths. Doesn’t love them but tolerates them pretty well now that she’s 9.

Zuzu, shockingly, was an angel for the whole process – comparatively speaking. Knowing Tess wasn’t watching ready to pounce did the trick. What she doesn’t understand is the part about shaking the water off – until she gets in the kitchen that is.

The floors needed mopping anyway. The cabinets, not so much, but hey …

Zuzu even assumed the German Shepherd show stance during her bath. What a good girl!

Zuzu even assumed the German Shepherd show stance during her bath. What a good girl!

Both dogs love bodies of water – we can’t keep them out of even a large puddle – and Zuzu never shakes after soaking. She seems to like to drip-dry. Black hair in the heat, you know.

Anyway, now the dogs are clean and we stink. Mission accomplished, old folks intact.

That’s a bigger achievement than young folks can imagine.

And, look - Zuzu has a waistline. Months of portion control - plus maturing into her 3-year-old figure – have paid off. Her coat is so thick and she's so big most people assume she's a male. But she's just a big old rowdy girl.

And, look – Zuzu has a waistline. Months of portion control – plus maturing into her 3-year-old figure – have paid off. Her coat is so thick and she’s so big most people assume she’s a male. But she’s just a big old rowdy girl.

Typical situation

Even though this is a typical situation, it doesn’t mean I like it – or that I keep doing the same things and – hah, you thought I’d say expecting them to turn out differently. No, that would be insanity, according to Albert Einstein.

I’m old enough to know what I do to myself and to recognize when it’s happening – sometimes I’m just powerless to stop it. Things pile up (mostly books, magazines and dirt on my floors/dust on the blinds/things on my mind that I can’t do anything about). Just when I feel I might blow a fuse, I remember to breathe.

OK, that’s only partially true. Usually I do my whirling dervish act for a bit, as my husband calls it, then pile on a few more things to do, then realize I can’t possibly do it all and decide I’ll think about that tomorrow.

So, tonight, though I have TONS to do work- and otherwise, I decided I’d just blow everything off and do a short blog about coincidences (synchronicities??) and other things.

For one, I want to say “Happy birthday” to my dear friend Rhonda – our birthdays are two days apart and we normally go to lunch on the day between our birthdays, which is tomorrow.

But tomorrow I have to drive Mother to Springdale – I’m dropping everything to drive her up to adopt a little Bichon Frisé, the dog of her dreams, who is named Lollipop, of all things. We figure it was meant to be.

This is Lollipop, who'll be joining our family tomorrow.

This is Lollipop, the little Bichon Frisé mix who’ll be joining our family tomorrow.

Our grandkids’ heads may explode when they meet her Sunday at Grammy’s for my birthday get-together – Lolly and Pop and Lollipop? What?? But Mother’s thrilled and everyone’s thrilled for her.

Cathy and Paul have new adopted babies, too, Oscar and Felix, miniature poodle brothers. Hooray for puppies!

BernadetteMy other burning news is about books. On our recent trip to the Northwest, I tore through Where’d You Go, Bernadette – read it in one day on the way up. It’s set in Seattle and very funny – and dead-on in descriptions of Seattle-ites and places. I’d wanted it last year but made myself wait – I have a ridiculous number of not-read-yet books – then broke down and got it specifically for the trip.

So, of course I went ahead and got Beautiful Ruins, which I also wanted last year. BeautifulRuins It’s also lovely – and, unbeknownst to me beforehand, set partially in Seattle. Meant to be, right?

I finished it on the trip and on the way home started Orange Is the New Black, which I’d wanted to read for quite a while before running into my friend Cary who had just finished it and told me I had to read it.

OrangeI took that as a sign and added it to my trip books. I’m almost through, but life (and Arrested Development) is getting in the way of my reading since we got home. I can’t begin to explain how that book resonates for me – too complicated on too many levels – but if you like to read, read it.

The last book coincidence/whatever has to do with one I had in my youth WatershipDown but let get away and have wanted to reread for quite a while. And since I learned John hasn’t read it, getting him to do so  has been a bit of a mild obsession. (He doesn’t like reading assignments from his former teacher wife, but he usually likes the books I push – I’m a pusher, not a dealer – if he gives in. He’ll love this one.)

Um, John, I ordered a used paperback copy of Watership Down, by the way. Had to. Randomly came up in conversation twice in three days, which, of course, was a sign – AND the first used copy I looked at was sold as a charitable donation for Books for America. A double sign.

You’ll love it. Trust me. And I’ll add it to my to-do stack.

Pictures of Lollipop to come.

Comeback kid (That’s my dog)

Nicky was a ramblin’ man, a rover, a rapscallion. Though the leash law was firmly in effect in North Little Rock well before we moved to Blackhawk Road, Nicholas von Robwillaurcath considered himself an exception to the rule.

Nicky was a rambler, but he always made it home to sleep in his own bed.

He wandered the streets of the east side of Indian Hills, meeting folks as he went. But he always came back.

People we’d never met would greet him by name if we took him for a walk. “Oh, we know Nicky,” they’d say. We were never quite sure how his name got around, but we did meet lots of people that way.

Nicky was a scrappy dog – he came from blue-blood lineage and had the paperwork to prove it, but he quickly got nicked ears (which made his name seem pretty appropriate, now that I think about it) from duking it out with other dogs over territory. Never mind that he was a slim miniature dachshund; he was large in his mind and attitude.

Once Mother heard him ferociously barking in the carport and opened the door to find the dogcatcher backed into a corner.

“Lady,” he told her sternly, “you’ve got to keep your dog at home.” Or something to that effect. Fat chance. We were lucky he didn’t arrest our four-legged juvenile delinquent; those were the good old days.

He was also a ladies man and a lover. He only sired a few puppies that we know of, once as a stud to another registered dachshund and the other time was with a homely, small mixed-breed dog from way down on another street. She used to strut down Blackhawk when she was in heat.

Pam and I called her a “slut mutt,” or something like that, and thought it was exceptionally funny that her name was Fanny. One of her litters had a couple of puppies that looked very much like dachshunds. Oops.

This was before people routinely spayed and neutered their pets. Don’t know that my dad could’ve borne neutering his boy anyway – Nicky was the other male in a family of girls for the few years he stuck around. Daddy called him “son.” They had a special bond.

When Daddy came home from work, Nicky would follow him to the bedroom and “talk” loudly about his day as Daddy changed out of his suit. “Tell me about it, son,” Daddy would say, encouraging him to go on. That little wiggling dachshund body would whip into a frenzy, and he’d twist the small round area rug on the hardwood floor into a ball as he wriggled.

Daily routine, it was. Another routine was helping Daddy mow our giant back yard. Daddy would pick up rocks and toss them into the woods behind our house to keep them out of the lawnmower. Nicky would retrieve each one.

One of his cooler tricks was turtle hunting. Daddy would say, “Go find me a turtle, boy,” and off into the woods Nicky would tear. It might take him an hour or more, but he wouldn’t come back without a turtle in his jaws.

Cathy and I (and Pam and Connie and whoever else happened to be there) liked to play a trick on Nicky, too, and though we felt mean, we thought it was hysterical to call him “Ricky” – he never seemed to notice and got just as excited when we talked to him. Shame on us. 

Nicky came to us as the cutest little wiggly Christmas present you ever saw in 1966. I was in the sixth grade and Cathy the second. It was mad love at first sight.

We decided on Nicky, short for Nicholas for his registered name, and Mother came up with the rest of it, a combination of Robert, Willette, Laura and Cathy. Robwillaurcath.

Nicky left us on Christmas Day in 1970.

What happened was this: We used to have violent acorn wars in the space between the Cartwright and Crownover houses. We’d divide into teams/sides/whatever and pelt huge acorns as hard as we could at the opposite side.

Hurt like hell, actually, but kids will be (idiot) kids and we thought it was great fun. But little Nicky wanted to be in on everything we did, and he’d chase and scoop up acorns too. At some point, he accidentally swallowed one whole, but we didn’t know it.

He became terribly ill in December and x-rays showed the acorn that had ripped his intestines. Of course my father told the vet to operate, and the surgery went well. His recovery was long and we’d go visit him to keep his spirits up.

No one was a more regular visitor than Daddy. We couldn’t go Christmas Day, of course, because the vet’s office was closed. My father came home in shock on Dec. 26 – he went to visit his boy, only to learn that the holiday caretaker hadn’t read the instructions and fed Nicky dry food.

His incisions ruptured and no one was there to notice he was dying. We were all heartbroken, beyond crushed. But none as much as my dad.

Daddy came home and took to his bed. Cathy and I, as aggrieved as we were, were scared. We tiptoed around and whispered in respect.

Sometime after he emerged from the master bedroom, Daddy announced that there would be no more dogs. He couldn’t go through the pain again. Of course that’s before we met tiny Katie Scarlett Cartwright, the cutest little gingerbread dachshund puppy you could imagine.

She was a faithful companion to Daddy through his illness and outlived him by a few years. But she’s another dog tale.

This is about Nicky, who blue-blood or no, was still nothing but a hound dog. And one heck of a guy.

Mother at 35 on the kitchen couch with my first Ben, who seems to be cleaning his foot, and Nicky shortly before the acorn wars of 1970.

Hard to make a stand

The intention was to write a New Year’s Day blog, but yesterday it was hard to make a stand – literally, after a rough and painful night. Not from too much revelry – from nocturnal inner-thigh cramps that could bring He-man to his knees.

Online research assured me that such cramps, though horrific, aren’t that uncommon for people in my age bracket, but it was the first time for me, and it felt like the flesh was ripping loose from the bone.


My thigh muscles stayed balled up and sore most of yesterday, and they’re still recuperating today. Life goes on.

My inner drama queen (she lives large, unfortunately) could easily have decreed that waking in agony the first day of 2012 portends something ominous – in fact, she tried her damnedest to make that point – but a look at the newspaper quickly hushed her.

After seeing the obituary of a classmate (sad, sad news), my inner pragmatist remembered there are no guarantees and whatever life deals you, you take it and go on.

So, there. Returned to my senses. And today, my thighs have almost returned to normal.

What I wanted to say yesterday is that I don’t make resolutions. Like diets, they set you up for failure too many times. Goals and changes are better for me.

I wanted to say what a pleasure and joy it was to spend the morning with Sylvia in her PJs, smiling and precious. She and Liz spent the night, since Brent’s band, Free Verse, had a NYE gig.

And that Tess took great early morning pleasure in taking toys from the doggy toy box one at a time and showing them to Sylvia – and that when I suggested she show Sylvie one of her new Christmas toys, she went back to the toy box and came up with their new stuffed quail.

Should’ve taken pictures, but I missed the opportunity.

But I hope not to miss many more opportunities. Life is short, and every day is a winding road.

You never know what’s around the corner. My goal is not to miss many more opportunities.

Tess opens a new toy Christmas morning. Zuzu isn’t sure destruction is acceptable.


Trudy came into our lives when Ben and Liz were in kindergarten and first grade and dear Trigger was 10 and down in her haunches.

To the kids’ dad, she was named after the Charlie Daniels Band, but to me, she was named after my paternal grandmother, Ethel Gertrude Grigsby Cartwright (or, “Lovingly, Trudie,” as she signed photos in her youth).

My Nana, the darling original Trudie at about 15

(I’d been over CDB since the devil went down to Georgia and the band went to redneck rock. But “Trudy” still holds up, actually.)

This is a story about the Trudy with a Y, though – our little black and white bundle of feist who came to us as a precious adoption puppy.

Trudy shortly after she became part of our family.

The kids had never experienced a puppy, really, since Trigger had been their Katie-Nana when they were tiny.

Oh, my gosh, Trudy was a cute puppy. She grew into a spotted lightning bolt who could catch anything – birds, squirrels, cats – and climb fences like a monkey. Chasing her down before she could get to the leaky sewer spot (don’t ask) became a regular chore for the kids.

They usually couldn’t catch her in time. Trudy’s youth involved lots of baths.

We lived in Park Hill at the intersection of Idlewild, Avondale, Garland and G Street, and Trudy was my running partner, so she got plenty of exercise. She also played outfield when the kids played baseball in the back yard, although sometimes she played keep away instead of dropping the ball.

Once she made it all the way to Lake No. 1 with me chasing her – she did a beautiful flying dive off a dock going after a duck and came out in need of surgery for the front leg she’d split open on an underwater tree stump.

That never slowed her down a bit. Neither did the electric wire we tried; it just became a plaything for Ben and his friends, who got quite a jolt out of tricking unsuspecting boys into, um, taking a whiz on it was the phrase they used, I think.

The black cat who used to walk the top of our fence to torment Trudy didn’t heed my repeated warnings that T-dog could climb the fence and it was just a matter of time. The black cat’s luck ran out one bright sunny day; he was either on No. 8 already or didn’t have nine lives.

Warning: You might want to stop reading here. I still feel terrible about what happened.

Trudy’d just had enough. The kids and I happened to see her go over the fence and on the warpath. I yelled, “Stay here,” and took off running.

Ben and Liz took off running after me. Naughty kids! Mind your mother!

We ran downhill and for blocks. The cat slipped through the space between chain-link fence and gate on lower Idlewild with ‘Trude hot on his tale. I’d seen characters do it plenty of times on cop shows, but I was still a bit surprised I could actually vault the fence.

I still didn’t make it in time. By the time I reached the back of the back yard, Trudy had the cat in her mouth (she was a small 45-or-so-pounder but powerful) and was giving it a shake.

“DROP IT!!!” I roared. She did immediately and stepped back. I reached down to scoop the cat up, thinking we’d hurry to the vet.

The cat raised his upper body, hissed at me, bit down as hard as he could on the heel of my thumb – and died. I had to dislodge his toothy grip from my hand. It was grim and I was sick and in shock.

And in a state of panic. Whose cat was it? Had Trudy killed somebody’s beloved? That would make it even worse. We were reasonably sure he was one of the feral cats who lived in the woods and that’s where he’d been headed when she caught him. But still …

We ran home. I got my little red Honda Civic SI  and sped back down to get the cat. After a consultation with my wise, much older next-door neighbor, Mary Ann, I decided to bury the cat. Mary Ann offered the soft earth under a large evergreen in her backyard.

A day or two later I was at a routine check up at my GP’s office. I was about to leave when he grabbed my hand and asked what on earth the strange puncture wounds were.

“Oh, nothing, no big deal.” I tried to brush it off. He persisted.

“A cat bit me,” I finally admitted. Dr. R’s antenna went up even higher.

“Whose cat?” Cagily I told him I wasn’t sure. That was certainly true.

“Well, you’ll have to find it,” he said. “You’ve got to know if its had its shots. Cats get rabies.”

“It doesn’t have rabies,” I told him, adding that I couldn’t find the cat.

“Why?” Dr. R persisted. “You can canvas the neighborhood. This is important.”

I told him we thought it was a feral cat that lived in the woods. He got even more alarmed and stressed that we’d have to find and catch the cat and have him tested.

I assured him that that wouldn’t be possible. When he finally drug it out of me that the cat had died as it bit me, he flipped.

“Died?!?! That could be rabies!”

I told him, no, I absolutely knew the cause of death was not rabies, still trying not to incriminate Trudy. He was so worked up that I finally admitted the whole story. Dr. R insisted the cat be dug up and taken to the health department for testing. I assured him that would not be happening, nor would I take the rabies shots he was threatening me with.

My then-husband, though highly P.O.-ed about it, rose to the occasion and dug up the cat. He knew someone to call and the cat was tested. He was, of course, rabies-negative.

He’d just been caught by the Trudinator.

Trudy is young and sassy, Trigger elderly and aching, but so strong of heart, in one of Trig's last photos.


The dog days are over

I’ve been a baaadddd dogmom. (Bad Laura, bad girl.) And John’s been a bad dogdad. It’s been hot. We’ve been lazy/busy. And Zuzu has gotten bored and desperate for attention.

Consequently, she tries so exuberantly to shake hands or high five, that she can knock you into next week. She’s still only 10 months old, but she’s a giant of a girl. Her brain is immature, but her body’s Goliath.

Zuzu, in front, is a 10-month-old giant. Dainty Tess is 6 years.

In her short little life, it’s been hotter than Hades, so she’s not gotten to walk nearly enough as she should. (I cannot do 5 a.m. walks. You wouldn’t want me to, either. I’m not nice at 5 a.m.) As a result, her nails have gotten longer than they should, and we haven’t trimmed them lately, for a few reasons: 1) The last time resulted in bleeding, and that’s so traumatizing for the parents, it alway takes months to recover. 2) She doesn’t like it and misbehaves a bit, which makes Tess the enforcer go on high alert, which is never fun. And, 3) Zuzu gets scared and does her “whoopsy-pee,” which, for an 80-pound puppy, is not cute.

Mixed in with me working almost full-time this summer, those factors and inconsistent puppy-training reinforcement have resulted in a puppy who’s a bit out of control.

But that stops now. We’ve resumed walking, since the weather’s calmed down; we have a date with Dad and the clippers tonight (for Tessie, too); Zuzu is bigger than Tess now, so the enforcer is not so quick to jump in; and we’ve already had a clicker-reinforcement session this morning, even before Mom’s workout.

The jostling over who gets to chill in front of the air conditioner after walks has stopped, too. The girls are now content – happy even – to relax together on the bed. Leaves little room for us, but Tess prefers to sleep on alert in the living room. Only Zuzu sleeps the entire night in the bed with us.

So we spoil her. That’s what kids are for.

No much room for Mom and Dad, but the girls are certainly happy.

But Zuzu loves to please – she’s a people- and fellow-dog-dog. (I typed “person” first. Oh, dear.) Getting her back on track shouldn’t take long. We don’t want her to lose her exuberance for life (or her Toby-reincarnated behavior), just her tendency to do collateral damage via said exuberance.

I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going. Wish us luck.

Not fun in the summertime

When you’re an almost-10-month-old, 80-pound-or-so, long-haired, mostly black German Shepherd, 100+-degree days are no fun. It’s too hot to go walking with Mom and Dad and too hot to play in the backyard.

Zuzu’s been really bored in this heat, miserable, panting and desperate for fun. Tess, the thin blonde that she is, will occasionally go sunbathe in the backyard. Zuzu gets as close to the air conditioner as she can. She does play with balls and other toys in the house, but that’s not really enough to let off the steam a giant puppy builds up quickly.

Consequently, Zuzu’s done a couple of big naughties lately. For one thing, she recently got John’s embarrassingly expensive glasses off the TV tray where he left them after the second WWC game, exactly eye-level for Zu. I found them the next day on the floor by the living room dog throne, and they didn’t look too good.

When John tried them on, they sat diagonally across his face – he looked like a “No” sign, minus the red – before breaking apart. His replacement glasses are a $100 pair from Success Vision; no need to invest in another good pair until puppyhood is over. (In Zuzu’s defense, Tess ate lots of cheap reading glasses I left around the house when she was young. It’s a common phenomenon.) Plus he had to get them quickly so he could watch the Women’s World Cup Final.

Last night I came in from having dinner with Rhonda. John was in the shower, but Zuzu and Tess gave me their typical exuberant greetings. Zuzu, in particular, acted like I’d returned from the land of the lost. After soothing her and petting Tess, I noticed a muddy planter in the living room surrounded by quite a mess. When I saw that the flimsy store planter said “Gardenia” on it,  I knew what she’d done and ran out back to find the destruction. In the almost dark, I had no luck. John said he’d looked everywhere for the plant earlier in the evening to see if he could save it, but Zuzu had hidden it well.

Sometime in the night, Zuzu slipped out the doggie door, retrieved the gardenia from its hiding place and brought it in the living room where she must have shaken it as hard as she could for quite a while. We had dirt on top of furniture all over the room, but mostly it looked like it had snowed potting soil on our antique Turkish rug. At least it was very dry dirt.

Luckily for the dogs, they have old parents who think most things they do are cute. John  started vacuuming while I got the dirt off the furniture and out of the other rooms. Zuzu had her usual battle with the vacuum, which is always exciting for her – she literally lifts it off the ground with her teeth then jumps back and growls. And barks and barks and barks. But by mid morning, she was flat on the floor and pitiful again.

Who can stay mad at that face?

This afternoon, though, Dad had a great idea! He got out Jude’s old wading pool and filled it with tepid water, and big little Zuzu was in splash heaven for a while. I looked out the window to see her spinning in circles in the little pool and ran for the camera, but as she’s still freaky about having her picture taken, it took quite a while to get anything shot.

Ooh, that feels good.

At least on the hottest day on record in Little Rock, (global warming, people. It’s real. It’s really real.), Zuzu got a cool treat. We all need one; if this heat doesn’t break soon, well, just fill in your own images or metaphors.

The local weather service’s announcement on KUAR of 118 degrees* being the hottest day ever isn’t an interesting fact. It’s downright spooky.

*The  National Weather service announced the high as 114 at 2:40 p.m. in Little Rock, but a sign in NLR reported 119 degrees at 3:30.

And they call it “puppy love”

Early this morning Zuzu and I were in the living room — she playing wildly with assorted toys, me lifting weights. Suddenly Tess came trotting into the room and cuddled up next to my big red Thera-ball, from which she normally keeps a wide berth. Since I was pressing an 18-pound bar, it was a particularly precarious spot for her, and I knew something must be wrong for her to squeeze in so close. But when I asked her, “What is it, girl?”, she didn’t offer to show me anything, so I kept on with what I was doing. After a few seconds, though, I realized Zuzu had stopped playing, so I raised up to look behind me.

I wish the camera had been close by, because it was one of the sweetest scenes I’d seen in a long time. Big little Zuzu, the giant 9-month-old, was comforting Tess — lying beside her looking into her face with her big puppy paw resting on Tess’s foot. They stayed in that position until I’d finished working out. I started to go for the camera but knew they’d follow me, so you’ll just have to picture it.

Tess and Zuzu are quite close.

When I finished, I went into the kitchen and told John how Zuzu had been consoling Tess, but I couldn’t imagine what it was about. He knew the answer — he’d had an extensive sneezing attack, and the only thing Tess fears more than John sneezing is thunderstorms. Actually, they rank about the same.

Poor Tessie is phobic. Most of her phobias wax and wane with time, but the sneezing thing has been lifelong, as well as storms and the vacuum. (Oddly, if I sneeze, she runs to me to see if I’m OK. If her dad sneezes, she usually high-tails it out the doggy door, even if she has to run from the living room past John in the kitchen to get out. So this morning was a deviation.) That’s a sidetrack. The point is that dogs love each other.

When Trudy had to be put down, Toby grieved deeply. For two weeks, she wouldn’t get up in the mornings, even for breakfast, and food was definitely a motivator for her. It’s been almost two years since Toby’s been gone, but a couple of days ago, I mentioned her a little too loudly within earshot of Tess, and Tess’s eyes got wide, her ears shot up and she briefly looked for her older sister. Broke my heart.

Though they look quite a bit alike, Tess and Zuzu have totally different personalities. Tess, the thin, blonde, picky eater, has always been a worrier, and as such, she acquired prematurely gray hair around her mouth when she was quite young. Now at 6, she has a gray goatee like her human dad. She’s skittish about other dogs but loves human company. She adores babies (especially before they’re very mobile) and loves our 5-year-old grandson, Jude, but doesn’t particularly want to be near him when he’s awake.

When he spends the night, though, she guards him all night long.

Tess is in position to guard her Jude all night. She really thinks that bed should be for her, though.

Zuzu, on the other hand, is a big gallumphing girl who loves everyone, man or baby or beast. Jude is her best friend — they have a fort together in the bamboo at the side of our house — and if the babies are within reach, she’ll lick them silly. We often think she’s Toby reincarnated or at least channeling her. She “talks” loudly, especially when we come in after being away; eats almost anything, including salad and cardboard; and can’t rest until she’s used her big paddle feet to empty the large water trough in the laundry room. (All of which Toby also did, bless her.) She’s still a puppy and could mature, but I don’t think she’ll ever outgrow her exuberance for life. I hope not.

Zuzu at 6-months with her boy, Jude.

The other day, when we were all worn out and hanging out after the World Cup heartbreak, 6-month-old Annabelle, who can sit up like a big girl now, had Zuzu’s tail and was flopping it up and down against the floor. Zuzu never even looked at her. She’s a good dog. They both are.

Must love dogs

J. Alfred Prufrock may have measured out his life with coffee spoons, but I measure mine with dogs. And since I’ve been an adult, big dogs.

Well, at 20, I thought 20 was an adult. Now I see it differently, but I was 20 when Trigger commandeered my life. I thought I wanted a boy German Shepherd, but she thought otherwise. The only puppy in the litter with her ears up, she was talkative, persistent — she kept dragging my purse away — and precious. So home with me in my yellow VW bug she came. When I got married way too young, she became the family dog, a role she took ever so seriously after the children were born.

Some people fretted about having a German Shepherd around babies. Please. She was the best guardian and Katie-Nana you could ever ask for. Her name was Ben’s first word. She was a fine singer — loved an audience — and a beauty. She represents the last of my girlhood and my children’s early lives. When we had to have her put down a month before her 12th birthday, part of my heart died with her, until she resurrected it with her presence, for that’s where she lives.

Trigger always kept her eye on the kids. Jude thinks this picture is Baby Jude with Tess, but it's Baby Ben with Trigger the Excellent.

Trigger used to recline in my then-husband’s recliner. She learned to push it back on her own, and there was no gate she couldn’t open. I love her still.

When Trig was 10, we decided to take in a neglected tiny puppy — the children had never experienced having one, and Trigger needed an annoyance to keep her joints loose (she had terrible arthritis by then). So Trudy, the black-and-white daughter of a chow and a who-knows-what joined our family. She was just about the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen and grew into a fashionably spotted mystery dog who pointed at birds. And caught them. She was fast as greased lightning and could climb the fence like a monkey. (But she never learned to open a gate.)

In kindergarten and first grade, Liz and Ben got their first puppy, Trudy.

Trudy (named in part for my father’s mother, Gertrude, who was Trudie in her youth) was a mid-sized dog, 47 pounds at her top weight, and became the best running partner a young mom could have. Trudy lived to a ripe old 16 years and 3 months, at which time she had a major stroke, but didn’t die. She also had to be put down — the vet said her heart was incredibly strong. Mine was incredibly broken, and I had to make the My Dog Skip call to my kids, who were both in the navy  and living in Hawaii. She’d been deaf and having mini-strokes for several years, but losing her was — well, I took a death in the family day from work at the newspaper and people, including the editor, called and e-mailed their condolences.

(Speaking of My Dog Skip, I cried myself sick when I saw it, long before Trudy went down. I’ve read, sob, Marley and Me, but I won’t watch it. Never, ever, ever.)

I was single, but, fortunately, not alone. I had Toby the wonder dog. She’d been Liz’s 16th birthday present from my sister, the one puppy from a litter of German Shepherds who happened to have a chow for a dad. She was a 5-pound black furball when we got her and topped out at 92 pounds — girlfriend loved to eat and weight was a battle. Trudy was 10 — and annoyed as heck when Toby came to the family, but she grew to love her.

Toby was, well, you had to know her. She could open any gate, but if it was locked, she’d go under, over and, once, literally through a fence. (She was scared of thunder and I wasn’t home. It was before the doggy-door days.) She talked at the top of her lungs and loved fiercely. But at the vet (after being mistreated one time by someone who shouldn’t have been anywhere near big dogs), she became Cujo. We had to knock her out  to get a check up for years, and three times I was advised to put that black beauty down, until we met Dr. Tim Paladino. Toby loved Dr. Tim.

My husband, John, and I met in the Toby years, and she loved him from the beginning. She’d sit at the door and watch for him when we were courting, and it was pointless to tell her he wan’t coming over. She’d wait at the door until 9 or 10 on those nights. And she could hear his car from a half-mile away.

For Toby's 10th birthday, she and little sister, Tess, John, Liz and I wore party hats. It was ever so festive.

She also loved Jude like nobody’s business and he loved her back. Toby — Cujo dog — would let Jude use her tail to pull himself up when he was learning to walk. We were lucky enough to have that girl until the October before she’d have been 14 on January 10. She’d been deaf for a couple of years and didn’t hear the pit bull who came flying off a porch — broke a chain — to attack her. She survived surgery and 35 staples in her right front shoulder and leg, but she was never the same. The day her back legs finally went out from under her, Dr. Tim made a house call. She died with her head in my lap.

Toby loved the water. This was one of her last dips in the fountain at a famous local building with a large dome.

Tess, aka Barbie,  named for Tess of the D’Urbervilles, grieved her sister mightily. But she and little sister  Zuzu will have to wait for another post.

Tess and Zuzu don't know they're adopted.