The Dog Days

From our first days in Wilmore, Kentucky, we’ve enjoyed a four-legged family member in our home.  Dogs are our favorite animal and we’ve grown to love quite a few over the years.

Our first, and arguably the family favorite, Isha was a pound dog.  She was our child before we had children.  There were many walks around the town of Wilmore, the neighborhoods of Muncie and Avilla with Isha on the leash.  When she died in 1999, we tearfully drove back to Kentucky to scatter her ashes on the hills of the little town where we played so freely together.   She was loyal, sweet and very smart.

Other than the time he ate our daughter’s Guinea Pig, Chip was my favorite of the family pets.  A good friend who saw me through some tough times, he never questioned me but knew that a ride in the car would make everything better.  We spent many hours together walking the woods and lake shores of Indiana.  I still get misty-eyed when I think of him.

Kula…well, let’s just say that Kula was a mistake that we couldn’t have predicted.  A pound rescue at 12 weeks old, she turned into a holy terror.  She attacked friends.  She attacked family.  She attacked me.  Needless to say, she wasn’t with us very long.

Jack is affectionately called “Our Little Space Monkey”.  He is stubborn and lovable and we wouldn’t trade him for anything.  Well, we would trade him for something nice, like a TV or a blender.  No.  I take that back.  He stays because he’s family…unless you really are offering that TV.

We were lucky enough to have Sidney join our family shortly after Chip died.  I say lucky.  My wife might use another word.  Actually, she has used lots of words but this is a family-friendly blog and I can’t post them here.  Any faithful reader of Austin’s Acre knows that Sid has posed some challenges.  She has special needs, and we freely acknowledge this.  But she’s getting better.  Sometimes.  But not today.   Just don’t look at her, call her name, get up quickly from a chair or think kind dog-thoughts and you’ll be fine.  Otherwise, it’s your own fault when the tongue-wagging, Labrador lapdog joins you.

Dogs add depth to a family.  They add character.  The house might be quiet and then a subtle yacking from the front room reminds you that you are not alone.  The house might be clean and then you let them in through the back door on a rainy day and you spend the next two hours mopping.  You might spend an extra $20 bucks at the grocery store just to feed your dogs for the week.  But every minute is worth it.  They are tried and true and they love you through thick and thin.

And I didn’t even mention Ralph, Noami, Stupeedo, Red, Stud, Bandit, Velvet, Bones, or Dale.  They were all great dogs.  Each and every one.  Well, all of them but Kula.  She would eat your arm for breakfast.  But the rest were great.

Sidney Turns 4

My dog, Sidney.

Born on October 1, 2008, this sweet dog got off to a hard beginning.  Social skills were not her strong suit.  Standing upright without flopping over was difficult.  Keeping her tongue in her mouth was impossible.

And then she came to live with us in August 2009.  Her problems became our problems.

Her lack of socialization, tendency to flop around at your feet and lick your bare legs meant that we couldn’t introduce her to more than one person at a time without sending a dozen roses and a hand-written apology the next day.

There have been times when we started to reconsider our decision.  We’ve asked the vet for drugs and even thought about giving them to the dog.  We’ve purchase correcting collars and many, MANY replacement batteries.  We’ve walked a thousand miles (per the Dog Whisperer’s advice).  And every few days we remind ourselves that she’s “gotten better.”

But most importantly, she’s survived to see another birthday.  In Lab Terms, she’s just getting out of that Terrible-Two-Stage.  I use to say, “When she turns 3 we’ll see a big improvement.”  But 3 came and went.

Let’s just hope 4 is the magic number.  Happy birthday, Sid.

Our Dogs’ Best Friends

Sidney looks forward to her trip to Parker each and every year!

I hesitate to mention my Vet here because I don’t want to cause them problems by filling their waiting room with dogs and cats but I just have to brag them up a bit.

For more than two decades, we’ve traveled to Parker City, Indiana to take our dogs and cat to the Parker Veterinary Clinic.  For the past 12 years this has meant a one-hour drive with all three animals in the car.  But I can tell you that it is worth it in more ways than you can imagine.

The Vets and their staff love animals:  They treat them like family and know every animal by name when they walk through the door.

The cost is amazing:  This past week we took two dogs and a cat to Parker and received all their shots and a good check up.  Cost?  $106.  Period.  That’s it.  Kennel Cough and all the other shots for three animals for just over one-hundred bucks.  You just can’t beat it.

There are no extras:  When we’ve taken our animals to the local Vets, we’ve been offered everything from exploratory surgery to dental care.  At the Parker Vet, you get what you need and nothing more.  They listen to your concerns and offer their advice but never, EVER push unwanted and expensive procedures on you.

The office is convenient:  Saturday walk in hours provide a quick and easy alternative to taking a day off work just to get the yearly check up for your animals.

If you have animals and love them, the Parker Veterinary Clinic is for you.  If you have unlimited funds, feel free to visit the local vet and give them your money.  At least your dog will have white teeth when you are done.

Creative Dog Food for the Masses

Patience is a virtue. For these dogs it is more like a miracle.

If your family pets are like mine, they expect to be fed.  Daily.

So panic hit me with a sickening thud in my gut when I discovered the buckets where our dog food USUALLY is located were empty.  Matters were made worse when the drool started dropping from my Lab’s jaw.  Sydney has developed a nervous habit when she thinks food is coming; she starts to smack her lips and work up a froth of saliva until food hits the bowl in front of her.  It was obvious that I had to fix this problem quickly or we would be floating away on the bubbles of dog hunger and psychosis.

On the other hand, my Pug, Jack just dances in circles when he thinks food is due.  I think this is rather cute, so he goes hungry a lot.

But in the face of canine starvation, a drool bath and salsa dance, I knew I had to do something quickly.  I had to act.  I did what any self-respecting pet owner would do.  I made my dogs macaroni and cheese.

A breakfast made for demanding tastes.

But this wasn’t just ANY maci-cheese.  This was a creamy goodness of mixed pastas, milk, Pecorino Romano, a can of tuna for protein, one egg slightly beaten for a shiny coat, and a touch of love for good measure.  It was lovely.  It was beautiful.  It was tasty.  In fact, I was tempted to serve the leftovers to my son when he came down to breakfast.

Another satisfied customer.

The dogs ate it up and I didn’t expect anything less. But being a short-order cook for a dog has its rewards and its challenges.  I’ve barely cleaned up the dishes and I’m already starting the Tortellini for supper.

Words of Wisdom Concerning Canine Ownership

For all of her good qualities, Sidney has some major self-esteem issues.

While sitting at lunch this past week, we were talking about vet bills, dog’s shots, Kitty MRI’s.  I was explaining that our country Vet, The Parker Veterinary Clinic, was low cost and worth the drive.  I reported that we pay very little for our animals…In fact, my Yellow Lab was given to me.  She was free.

There was a pause in the room and Amanda stated the obvious:  “There’s no such thing as a free dog.

And with that, we returned to eating.  Silenced by this simple and painful truth.