And Now for Something Completely Different....

Proper homage to the Monty Python crew for a title pirated from one of their greatest catch phrases, but it is really reflective of my total departure from the weight of all that is wrong in society. After reading some of the offerings of fellow bloggers, I am inspired to write about my furry companions, fully believing that they are often my strongest link to sanity, and more than worthy of the cost of their kibble. To this end, you would have to meet the family, in order of seniority.

First, we have Baldric (named for the Black Adder character). He is a giant, literally, a giant breed. An oversized, very blond (the breeders call it Wheaton), Irish Wolfhound. Despite his normal life expectancy being 5-7 years, he is approaching 10. While we have recently noted time taking its toll, he is overall a happy creature who just wants to be scratched and fussed over, the same big baby he has always been. True, he tends to growl a good bit in his sleep, which is really odd, because he has never been one to growl much when he is awake. And even stranger, he barks more in the past six months than in total, over the past nine years. As with any older dog, he sleeps alot, interspersed with trips to the back yard to sun himself on the deck and watch the birds and bunnies play in his yard. He has never been one for chasing them, and as a result, our back yard is somewhat of a wildlife refuge, the one place in the neighborhood safe from prowling cats and other dogs. The sparrows will literally sit next to him on the deck without fear, and love when he gets brushed. Many sparrow chicks have been kept warm in his discarded fur.

Next is Baby Girl, who came to us as a rescue. She is also getting to be quite elderly now. When we got her, the shelter told us she was about 1 1/2 years old, but watching her over the past 10 years, she is definitely older. She began life as a hunt trained, Treeing Walker Coonhound. For those of you unfamiliar, think Beagle on steroids, with all the energy and tenacity and about three times larger. We wanted to change her name when she first came to live with us, in order to prevent any negative associations with mistreatment. The family debate went on so long, and we kept referring to her as Baby Girl. Finally, we threw in the towel and that became her name. She snores like a dozen lumberjacks, always has. Poor dog is a scent hound and we suspect she has seasonal allergies as well. Doesn't interfere with her hunting ability, as we spent the first four years rounding her up from all and sundry when she would go hunting. Over the fence, under the fence, through the fence, if she was on the trail, you were not keeping her in. Thankfully, in her old age, she is content to patrol the yard, not the entire county. She is the vocal one of the group, barking, growling, baying, crying. With the snoring, you can't even say she is quiet when asleep. And she is Alpha, the pack leader, and being the smallest has never deterred her.

In between, we have my daughter's rabbits. As a parent, I should have known better, but Lola was a mutt rabbit from a pet store. She was the prettiest specimen there, and looked the healthiest-a jet black lop. Soon after Lola came to live with us, my daughter was convinced that she was lonely, even though she shared the household with the dogs. My daughter insisted on dragging me to rabbit shows, and with her own money, purchased a pedigreed lop. Not the brightest bunny in the hutch, and not as pretty as Lola either. Her father stipulated that the bunnies had better not be fruitful and multiply or he would be making hassenpfeffer.

So Rhianna came to live with Lola, and like most sibling sisters, they fight. You can hear them thundering around in the hutch, kicking, biting and scratching at one another. As my daughter learned, rabbits show dominance over one another by biting off the whiskers of the inferior. Lola and Rhianna must be pretty democratic as they seem to take turns biting the whiskers off one another. Either that, or they still haven't figured out who reigns as top bunny. They occassionally go into nesting mode and wind up with strange bald patches as they pull fur from each other to make a cozy nest, and tend to go a bit overboard. We used the term "baby" instead of bunnies, and the dogs have become protectors instead of aggressors. Baby Girl has developed a fondness for chewing on rabbit food that gets kicked out of the hutch, so as the bunnies pay proper tribute to her, she is content. Baby Girl has even been known to curl up with Lola, until Lola decides to try to muscle Baby Girl as she does with Rhianna. Baby Girl takes definite exception to her whiskers being shorn.

And finally, we have Molleigh, another Irish Wolfhound. We have to keep telling ourselves that she really is just fine by breed standard, because she looks terribly small against Baldric. She is a lively dog, wanting attention, wanting to play, and wanting to run. She can be a great annoyance to the elder dogs. When she wants to go outside, she makes the rounds and nudges and nips to wake them. She wants company. If they go out to the yard and try to snooze in the shade, she will annoy them some more, barking and jumping around. She will tug on tails, ears, and even legs to get them to come play with her, and surprisingly, they seem to take it in good stride with only minor rumbles and grumbles. She is also our picky eater. Molleigh has gone on hunger strikes because the pet store was out of beef kibble and we had to buy lamb or chicken.
The other two have not met a kibble that they didn't like, but this little one is picky, unless you add something like yogourt or the drippings from hamburger.

My husband nicknamed her "Tiger Goat". She is a brindle and as her predominant color is the same blond as Baldric, the striping is very evident. As a puppy, there was nothing safe from that mouth. We used to own a 100 foot rubber garden hose, a very expensive hose. She decided it was an excellent chew toy and would go out to play tug. My husband would cut off the damaged part, and put on a new adapter....the hose is only about 25 feet long now. She also decided that the picnic bench seat was the perfect heighth for teething. And those are some of the normal things this dog has consumed-fortunately without serious repercussions. We had a heart stopping moment when we discovered the remains of the sewing pin cushion. For days, I was finding straight pins in the carpet, but it appears that she extracted the pins and then shredded the cushion. Lucky for me, I located a couple of the pins with my bare feet, but the dog is unscathed.

That is our fur family. Regardless of how miserable your day is, they are always anxious to see you. They argue over who gets petted first which is extremely loud. They accompany you everywhere, and our bathroom can be a really crowded place. And they protect us and our home from anything and anyone that dares bend a blade of grass on the front lawn. They even have an orderly schedule for cuddling. After about 15-20 minutes, one gets down and goes to another spot in the room to let the second have a chance, and so on. Figuring out which gets first turn is a bit noisy as they argue among themselves.

And they all want to snuggle in bed at night. With the strategic use of blankets that smell like their humans, we have convinced the wolfhounds to sleep on the floor on the sides of the bed. Not so lucky with the coonhound, who has to sleep between us, as she can't be anywhere near the outside edge (fear of falling off). She can be a real blanket hog in winter, turning around in circles and literally bunching up blankets into a nest. We have adapted by keeping additional blankets on the side of the bed. We have become completely accustomed to the continual buzz of her snoring, and when we have occassion to travel, it is always too darn quiet to sleep properly away from home.

People have told us we are crazy and that we can't go and do what we want, because we have the animals. We don't look at it that way. They are part of our family and we have mourned the passing of more than one over the years. With two elder dogs, we wonder how long before we will lose another to the Rainbow Bridge. One thing is sure. Once you have been a multiple pet household, it is really hard to go back to an only dog scenario. The interactions of the animals between one another is as fascinating as their interactions with us are fulfilling. The elder animals teach the younger. I haven't had to potty train a dog in well over 20 years, as the elder dogs take care of that issue quite nicely. And because of their society with one another, they seem to be less fearful of strangers of the human variety as well. And who doesn't like true, 100%, unconditional love. Even feeling my worst, and being a real witch, they don't abandon or judge, merely try to jolly you out of the poor mood, so you can snuggle and play. That is truly priceless.

Filed under: The Fur Family


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