January 16, 2004
Helen stopped to see Don and Krista on her way back from some meeting on January 3. He wasn't feeling well -- lay down in the snow (which is natural for me but not for Don). They thought that it was his right hip giving out, but by Sunday he wasn't walking. Don was feeling so badly that on Monday, he let Krista and Helen actually lift him into the car, and then be carried into the vets. They were really concerned, because it was obviously more than his hips, like something wrong with his back. The vet gave them pills for Don.

We were really upset to see Krista, Helen and Erik carry Don into the house. What had happened to him? Erik had rearranged things in the living room before they got home, like putting the folding cot was put up so that Krista could sleep with Don.

To make a loooooong story short, it has been a long 2 weeks. Don has steadily been regaining use of his back end, and has started going outside to the bathroom. He even has gone down and up the stairs several times. Don is really, really trying. The vet was surprised when he wobbled into the office last Monday. They are not sure how much better he will get -- but he has been continuing to improve since then -- or whether whatever happened to his spine will happen again.

We appreciate the need for things to change for Don's sake, but we're not sure that people realize how much the changes really meant to us (Tess and Mahler), like
Don was thirsty because of the medication, but would peeeeeee more from drinking more. So the water dish upstairs is filled a little at a time for Don's benefit, and there are water dishes downstairs.
Eating became somewhat hazardous. Tess lost her place to eat when her crate was moved, so she has been eating in the bathroom. (Helen forgot that she was in there this morning and went back to bed. Tess said that she didn't mind being in the bathroom for 4 hours because it was nice and warm).
Don has been really snappy at times, so we have to be careful around him.
We don't always get equal attention. People try really hard, but have to do special things for Don sometimes. We try to understand that, and people are really trying to spend time with us. It will get better as Don gets better.

The one thing, though, that will be permanent, is our eating. Since Don is overweight, and that is a problem for all of us, the vet said to cut down on our food, and to give us canned pumpkin. Helen hasn't tried that yet, but we'll let you know when she does.

This note was interrupted when we all took off for a run. Kris took Don out, and the door helped by not closing tightly, although Kris thought that it was --the door is reallllllly sneaky. Anyway, we all had a good run -- even Don.
February 27, 2004
Great day for writing a note! The days are getting longer, and I am staying out in the yard philosophizing more. I actually stay out for spite sometimes, you know, just pretend that I don’t hear when someone calls me to come in. But I have learned to wait for a period of time after I do that before I bark to come in, or I get yelled at.

This morning I went out for a great time in the sun and snow. Tess joined me. We romped for a few minutes, that I lay down in the snow. Tess came and sat on top of me. She said that she didn’t want to get her bottom cold, but really liked the view and the spring sounds that are coming back.

Speaking of barking, sometimes Tess and I confuse ourselves. When one of us is in the yard – usually me, Mahler—the other starts barking. When Tess does that upstairs, I think that something important is going on, so I start barking to support her. But she may be barking just for the sake of barking. When I get let in, then we meet and ask each other what the fuss is about. Oh, well. It doesn’t hurt to stir things up once in a while.

The catz are driving the families crazy. Krista, Don and the cats were here last weekend. They left on Sunday, as Krista had made appointments at the vet’s for the cats. Merlin and Don were put in the car when they were ready to leave, but Maggie hid…..and hid….and hid. They finally left her behind. Gee, Patches did that one time when Erik tried to get her to the vet’s. Wonder how they know. Erik caught Maggie and Helen took her home last Wednesday. Oh, yes! Merlin is fine, healthy and all, and about a year old. This was his first visit to the vet. But he came back as a ‘her’, and Krista has renamed him/her as Morgan. Interesting.

May 19, 2004
There are two bird nests over doorways this year. There is a nest over the front door, but we haven’t seen a bird there for several days. Hope that nothing has happened to her. Maybe she got a better offer to go elsewhere. There is now a nest over the screen door in the family room, but we hope that our barking hasn’t bothered her. We really can’t see into the nest because it is too close to the eaves and too high.

Speaking of barking, we have been doing a lot of that lately. Maybe it’s because we have more windows open and can hear more. And there have been more boats on the stream that we have to chase away. Tess has started barking at nothing, and sometimes even I can’t figure her out. On the other hand, sometimes I start the barking, which really delights Tess. It gives her a reason to be noisy. Dick says that she is the only dog that he knows that can bark with something in her mouth. And she has increased her range of talking sounds, especially when she sees something she doesn’t like on TV, or when someone yells at her to stop. Maybe we should do a taping of her talking. Wonder if it would sell.

May 27, 2004
This morning has been busy. Helen combed me quite a bit, got a pile of fluffy golden hair (no, hair on people, fur on dogs) on the carpet (so pretty), but I still wouldn’t let her get my tail completely done. And there are still a few mats under my stomach. But we can do only so much at a time. She also clipped (with the electric razor, vibrations give me invisible ‘goose bumps’, you just can’t see them with my thick coat). Then she cleaned my ears and put some medicine in them. Pretty soon Erik will be taking me to see Buddy. He – well, his family – have invited me to spend the weekend with them at their ‘camp’. I really must get Erik up now, ‘cause I’m ready to go, after Helen packs my bag of food and ear wipes, and gets the plants that she is sending with me ready. Tess will just have to be on ‘family duty’ this weekend.

I don’t know what Helen was doing to Mahler this morning. She had him closed in the bathroom, and I could hear a horrible buzzing sound. I barked and whined to get their attention, but was just told to be quiet – really to ‘shut up’! When they came out, Mahler was trying to show me his new summer trim. I wanted some of the attention, too. So Helen patted me nicely. Maybe I’ll grow longer hair so I can get combed more. I can shed just as much as Mahler and Don, but it doesn’t show as much, except on the sheets or a light surface.

Mahler said that he is going away for the weekend. Guess I’ll be in charge of the household, if the cats and people let me. Doggone! I’ll be in charge anyway! If it stops raining, I may even help Helen with some yard work. Maybe we’ll even take some naps in the tent, with it being a holiday weekend, and all. Maybe she’ll take me swimming……..

July 29, 2004
Aha! Erik has not learned how to think like us dawgs yet!

Erik took Tess swimming, then Helen let me out to go swimming. We played in the water – well, Tess kept swimming around me and attacking me and Helen. Erik called her in, and Helen and I swam a bit more……I got out and joined Erik and Tess, who started around the house. This was an invitation to fun, as Helen usually takes us into the back yard. Well, Tess and I took off up the road. I remembered smelling some dead fish by the road when we had been on a walk with Erik several days ago. Yup! They were still there. Great for rolling in, so nice and smmmeellllly!!!!! We had a ball. It took Erik a few minutes to catch up with us, and yell at us. Yeah, then Helen put the leashes on us and we both got long, long baths. Well, Helen had been wanting to give me a bath anyway, so I just gave her a reason to do it.

Then Helen told Erik about a dog that her cousin had when Helen was growing up. She spent summers with the cousin, and the dog, a boxer, loved to roll in smelly stuff by the river – someplace called Pennsylvania. Helen really wasn’t too pleased with us, but it was like “what do you expect?” attitude. Maybe she knows us better than I think she does.

Helen was away quite a bit in the last month. I got so upset that I pooped in the house several times. Just for revenge! But when I am really feeling badly, I lie under something, like Dick’s desk, or Erik’s computer table --- well, as much of me as can get under stuff, but at least my head. What really makes me upset is that Helen has been at Donovan’s on several of her trips. don’t have a choice but to share her, but I don’t like it. She’s my alpha dawg.

The other complication this summer is the catz. Erik and Dick put up a new swinging screen on the patio door and the cats have taken over the back yard. At least Patches and Bear just crouch down with Tess and I go by them – they don’t run anymore. But Erik has started putting the flea and tick stuff on them, after he found a tick on Shadow. Now they know the cost of outdoor liberty! (Helen doesn’t bother putting the stuff on Tess. Her hide is too tough for ticks to get through, at least we’ve never seen a tick on her. The horse flies get on her but don’t bother her.)

This morning Bear was upstairs, looking out the window at the bird nest over the upstairs patio door. Bear now sits inside the screen and gets very frustrated with the chirping from the nest overhead. This morning Helen was remarking how evil she looked with her yellow eyes against her black fur, and the middle of the eyes just like black slits.

September 2, 2004
We really need to do something about these catz. I am lodging a complaint! They – Patches and Bear, anyway -- are even coming up to the table when we are eating, and they are getting tidbits at the end of the meal, just like we dawgs. Who gave them permission to come into our territory! Well, people did. Where is the species loyalty here? But Helen did stick up for us dawgs last night when Patches stood in the way when I wanted to go downstairs and hissed at me. Helen told Patches that she had no right blocking the ‘right of way’. And Patches created problems a couple of nights when she was outside when we went to bed. It is getting cool some nights, so that the patio door is closed. Well, one night I had to wake Helen up to let Patches in. And Helen had to coax her in another night before she could close the door. It would really serve Patches right if she got caught outside all night some night. The catz are just getting too bold. And it’s all Erik’s and Helen’s fault - they encourage them.

September 25, 2004
It really isn’t fair. Helen and Dick and Kris and Erik went to a place called York Wild Kingdom last weekend, and didn’t take us. They said that dawgs are not allowed, and that Tess would have barked at everything and gotten us in trouble. Then they came home and tried to tell us about the animals they saw, like giant cats called lions and tigers and cougars. And they said that the big cats acted just like our catz. The sign on the lion cage said that they – lions—rest up to 20 hours in a day. Laaazzzyyy! But I guess that we rest almost that much. We just get up and beg and tease to go out, and guard the road and stream, but all of that accumulated is about 4 hours a day. We’d do more if the humans would do more with us.

And they talked about squirrel monkeys. We know what squirrels are, and they tried to explain that monkeys had really long tails that helped them swing through the trees. We have enough trouble with the squirrels running along the branches in our trees, and trying to keep track of monkeys doing even more of that would really be a pain. Glad that they left the squirrel monkeys there.

But the real insult came when Dick and Erik tried to tell us about the animal called the capybara. They said that it was like a guinea pig, but bigger than Tess—actually guess that they—the capybaras-- can weigh more than any of us (up to 150 pounds). That is really disgusting. Thank goodness they lives in Central and South America, wherever that is, but certainly far away from here. But the description that Helen read to us says that they can be trained to do tricks and walk on a leash like a dawg. Real insult.

They told us about snakes and birds that had bright colors, and deer of all sizes, and horses with stripes, and an animal called a sloth that sleeps most of the time hanging upside down from a tree. In fairness, they tried to describe the animals by comparing them with animals that we know. Krista even talked about seeing a bird like Kira. But then they talked about birds with long tails, and birds with long legs and long necks that make them so much bigger than even dawgs that run rather than fly, called emus. We know about birds, but can’t imagine birds that can’t fly and that run. The closest that we get to that around here are the wild turkeys or the herons, but they can fly and aren’t really bigger than dawgs, just shaped differently.

Enough about the animals that we didn’t get to see.

November 2, 2004
I went with Helen and Erik to vote. Erik said that they really couldn’t understand what my barking vote meant. And they haven’t figured out how to let us make paw prints on the ballots. The candidates’ pets were never featured, so how could we make a logical choice? I wonder how we can get people’s attention for the next election. With all of the taped phone calls Helen has gotten about getting out to vote, I think that she would have really appreciated it if at least one of them had been a message from a dog or cat that she could have deferred to us.

This is the time of year that I love! It’s not too cold yet, and I like to sit out in the yard and get all of the smells and noises. Sometimes there are dogs barking down the road or across the stream, and sometimes I answer them. Then there are the leaves that are dry but still on the trees and they make a gentle rattling sound. And sometimes there are smells of wood burning as the neighbors start their wood stoves. We haven’t used our fireplace yet. Helen still calls me The Philosopher. But every time she has to wait for me to come in, I am also getting her to look at nature. There is a method to my sitting.

December 23, 2004
Here’s a story from the internet that Dick sent to Helen and Erik.
A guy is driving around and he sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog For Sale."
He rings the bell, and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes
around the house and into the backyard and sees a handsome Labrador Retriever sitting there.
"You talk?" he asks.
"Yep," the Lab replies.
"So, what's your story?"
The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young, and I wanted to help the government; so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I wanted to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
"Ten dollars", says the owner.
The guy says, "This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"
"Because he's a liar. He didn't do any of that stuff."

Maybe the point of the story is that by not talking, we don’t have to every apologize for anything we might have been thinking, ‘cause no one will know! However, having our own voices would mean that we could talk whenever we wanted to, without waiting for Helen to write for us. She does a reasonable job of interpreting for us. Sometimes we actually laugh to ourselves when you peeple try to interpret our actions and grumblings.

Speaking of grumblings, today is really messy. The shallow snow covering in the back yard is melting, so the yard is yukkkkkkky, between the emerging mud and our fertilization piles. It’s warm enough – in the 40’s—to be out, but I can’t even see the stream because of the fog. Being in the yard is literally being ‘in a fog.’

Things seem to be in place for Christmas. Erik has everything organized. Stocking things have been wrapped and put into stockings as they have found their way into the house. Erik put the tree up after Thanksgiving so he could arrange and rearrange presents under it. He wrapped many of them for himself and other members of the household. Dick got a wreath for the front door, and the lighted deer and train are in the yard and porch. With the high temperature today, Helen and Erik will probably move more of the wood closer to the porch. They are trying to get this done before the pieces really freeze together.


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