Dog Days

All photographs were taken by Maya Vogel. She used a matte blue Nintendo DSi and several different “lenses” for her shots.

This morning I’m sitting on the farmers porch, it is chilly, and off and on rainy out. In contrast to parched Massachusetts, Vermont is lush and green. Birds thrill and seem oddly resistant to fat raindrops hitting their exposed heads. Karin’s little lily pond is choked with cat tails; no encroaching elephant grass to be seen anywhere. Sun rays try to pierce through the low gray cloud cover to brighten up our day but it doesn’t look like a winning battle to me, a few minutes ago the rain poured down in an unrelenting deluge.

Yesterday, Chittenden County took a sudden severe storm hit: rain was said to actually be driven sideways, trees came down and with them power lines; over 700 households were reported to be without power in Essex; buildings took damage as well – Karin’s duck house lost part of its tin roof which if not mended might be another way in for the areas marauding weasels. She already can’t account for 1 duck, and earlier in June she began losing her chickens a couple at a time. I want to point out that Karin doesn’t sit by idly and not put up a fight, she nailed in new wire fencing and plugged all the holes she could find but her efforts did little good for her hens; she was out-weaseled. This was truly sad because Ron-the-Rooster, although not a fan of my visits, will be missed by the neighbors for his ability to crow exactly at 4:30 in the afternoon everyday. [News Flash! From Times There were no reports of serious injuries, but winds as high as 80-90 mph were reported in central Vermont. National Weather Service on Thursday confirmed a tornado in Bristol, Conn. Funnel cloud sightings were investigated elsewhere in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. A national weather service survey team Thursday said that storm damage was not caused by a tornado but by straight-line thunderstorm winds.]

Before yesterday’s storm I met Baron, a Great Pyrenees, a large dog with a heavy coat of white fur, black nose, intelligent eyes and a laid back attitude. He was a rescue dog from Florida adopted by Elizabeth and Bucky Brant and their two sons Forest and David. It seems that Elizabeth felt that she required a dog for company and after perusing the internet decided that Baron would be just the thing she needed. Baron is now 11 years old – Elizabeth confided that the Great Pyrenees’ life span tends to be 7 to 9 years, but Baron is an exceptional dog. [Iams Dog Breed Guide reports the the Great Pyrenees longevity is 10-12 years.]

Baron has quite a survival story, and although Karin tells it better, I’ll do my best to recount it. Baron was rescued by an elderly couple living in Florida as it was their habit to take in lost/abandoned dogs to bring back to health for adoption throughout the United States. They especially took to Baron and he to them, so they became his personal benefactors and have assisted in all of his needs even though he was adopted by Elizabeth’s family. Besides bringing Baron to the vets for his check up and certificate of health the Florida couple has sponsored a dog whisperer, dog psychologist (Baron had a bit of trouble adjusting to Vermont life), flooring changes, and a house in the Grand Isles to visit when the Florida couple vacations during the summer season. Baron even has his own dog for company, Lucy, a Chow and Shar Pei mixed breed, that calmly trots along side her big buddy whenever they go for a short stroll (due to Baron’s age and old bone problems) down the winding hill drive. Baron is the king of his domain, his people dearly love him and lavish him with a bounty of attention. What more could a dog desire?

Speaking of dogs, Nicholas (Nikki for short), a black, 8 year old Miniature Schnauzer (Karin has chosen to let his ears grow long like a Springer Spaniel which I find quite comical), is Karin’s love-of-her-life (aside from Johnny Weir, skater extraordinaire), and one of the BEST dogs that I’ve ever spent time with, been licked by, and conversed with about the benefits of dry chow as opposed to wet food. At this point in Nikki’s life he’ll choose either kind because he has been placed on a diet by his vet. He isn’t obese as dogs go, its just that he isn’t tall enough to carry his little doggy paunch and still look representative of his breed. Nikki is a prince within his household and nothing goes without his notice, not UPS trucks, garbage trucks, assorted friends or lily plant purchasers – he gives two or three short bursts of barking, growls as one would mutter discontent and stands locked-legged in a doggy challenge to all comers. “Watch out, watch out!” he barks. “This is my house, my people, stand down wind and leave my yard.”

When Karin has an errand to run on her scooter and she can’t bring Nikki along she leaves him home (first making sure that all foodstuffs are out of his reach) with me while I write. Nikki spends the whole time waiting for his mistress and life-partner to return with his little black nose pressed against the side porch door, occasionally muttering his complaints at being left behind and unable to protect his beloved.

Nikki was also a rescue dog – a plumber rescued him from a drug house that he had been called into by the landlord to fix a leak. While there he spotted Nikki (not his name then) stuffed in a too small cage, hair matted, unable to stand, paws cut by the cage flooring, smelling sick and diseased. Being a professional plumber and incapable of seeing an abused animal he opened the cage and withdrew a terrified dog. After finishing his job he left the residence calling out that he was taking the dog with his papers and that if anyone resisted he would call the police. No one bothered to resist and Nikki started his journey to find someone to love him. At first, Nikki started sleeping at the foot of Karin’s bed, then he would crawl up to her knees, waist and final where he could gaze at Karin’s face while she slept – and this is where he sleeps to this day.

Nikki reminds me of the Old Mother Hubbard nursery rhyme, the one with the dog and his bone, that was waited on hand and foot by the old lady and transformed into a bewigged gentleman at the end of the verse. Nikki is more human than dog (which I realize most pet owners also claim) but I feel that this is true – I have told Maya on quite a few occasions that Nikki was once a prince and had been put under a spell by a witch for some unknown offense, and only we knew the magic words to break the spell we could set him free. Half of the time I believe my own story, that one day I’ll come up to visit and there will be a handsome black haired brown eyed man sitting on Karin’s couch, attentively listening to every word from his beloved’s mouth and I’ll instantly know that his name is Nicholas!

Lydia, a stiletto long-legged Chihuahua (a breed of dog that I have detested since piano lesson days – another story altogether!) with expressive ears that swivel more than I thought a dog’s ears could swivel, is also a rescue dog that lives with Sarah (her person) in South Burlington. Lydia is a lively number that once she has made friends is all over you with kisses and welcome licks. I met Lydia some months back when I came up for Karin’s surgery and stayed at Sarah’s home since it was close to hospital. I am a cat person and don’t usually take to dogs – you know, the old dogs drool rhyme – especially pesky little barky Chihuahua dogs. But Lydia wasn’t too barky and when she chose me to play throw-the-tennis-ball with her, I was hooked when she brought the ball back and deposited it in my hands.

Lydia doesn’t trust or like men since her oppressor was a male, poor little pup was cruelly abused in a puppy mill and nearly starved to death. She really attempts to protect Sarah when she feels any type of threat coming on which means anyone coming into the house. But she favors Nikki when he comes to visit, she shares all her treats and toys with him and invites him into her backyard for smells and run. I was able to visit Lydia twice this time and played ball with her on both occasions – I like that she will initiate the play and even tosses the ball to herself. Smart little dog that Lydia Chihuahua!

The last dog I met was Freesia, a black curly Portugese Water Dog like President Obama’s family dog Bo. Unlike the other dogs she is not a rescue dog. She is a retired breed dog who bore 3 litters of pups, birthing 22 with 21 living. After retiring she didn’t know what to do with herself and missed her puppies, her owner Ellise told me. Freesia suffered a false pregnancy and to combat her nerves she would bring all of her squishy toys into her crate and line them up for feeding. When Ellise wanted to sleep in on the weekends Freesia would go up and down stairs transferring boots and shoes until several sets were matched and placed on Freesia’s dog bed.Even she may have not been able to see color she typed pairs by design. Freesia gave me a hug and a couple kisses until I asked her to get down, then she proceeded to show me her toys. Good girl!

I don’t get it – I am an avowed cat lover but dogs have been throwing themselves at me for two weeks. Each dog had a wonderful personality and were pretty smart, seeming to actively listen for commands and respond quickly. I think that I got a slanted group of dog people which isn’t, I’m sure, typical of all dog owners. In each home the dogs were treated like kimgs Maybe I smelled like dry dog chow – geez.

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