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December 09, 2011

A Most Unrepentant Dog

IMG_0129by Barbara O'Neal

Funny what memories Christmas will bring....

Once upon a time, I had a dog named Sasha. She was a pirate, a mixed something terrier,  about knee high with a wiry coat that never looked groomed, and a rascally Fu Manchu mustache.   I found her baking in the white hot summer sun in front of Safeway, a puppy who sort of looked like the German shepherd her owner said she was. 

I had a dog.  Had no intention of getting another one, but when I picked her up, she dropped her had on my shoulder and sighed, and that was that. 

She wasn’t a German shepherd, of course, and my ex-husband hated her on sight. She returned the favor, and they had a war that lasted nearly fifteen years.  She was a three ring circus of a dog from day one, accomplished at trash diving and Olympic counter surfing, and she roamed the perimeter of the house every hour on the hour, in case some stray crumb might have fallen to the floor.  She was an exuberant, unapologetic, unrepentant scavenger.  

Eventually, she got old.  I thought she was done for one winter when she and my other dog Jack had a fight over cat food and she had a bloody gash that made me sure she’d lose an eye.  (Let it be said that she did emerge victorious—and the other dog got in trouble.)  The eye healed, but she looked even more the pirate with a patch.

But there was her ancientness, looming.

Just before Christmas that year, I was making cookies. I put a tray in the oven, then went around the corner, maybe 15 feet away, to hang a few more ornaments on the tree.  I heard a funny noise and ran back into the kitchen, and there was Sasha, sprawled flat on her belly, limbs splatted wide.  She was having a seizure, her whole body twitching and convulsing, and I thought….oh, this is it. Poor Sasha!

I fell on the floor next to her. Unsure of what I should do, I just put my hands on her, talking soothingly, telling her I loved her, and I put my hands on her sides to see if that would make her stop twitching, or at least make her feel less afraid. “I’m here, baby,” I said, “I’m here.”

When I lifted her slightly, it must have given her body a little help, because she suddenly heaved and coughed, and out of her mouth flew out a perfectly round ball of butter.  She’d stolen a whole stick off the counter and tried to get outside with it, but before she could make her getaway, the stick melted in her mouth, and settled in her throat, quite efficiently choking her.  When it landed on the floor, she scrambled as fast as she could to grab it again, but I was faster and nabbed it out of reach.  

She leapt up after it, and when she saw she had lost, her only expression was, “Curses! I almost made it.”

Sasha’s been gone awhile now, but every time I leave butter out on the counter to soften, I think of her and her unrepentant pirate spirit.  Maybe I’ll leave some out for her ghost to steal.

Do you have a Christmas memory that comes up in a funny way?  Do you have a bad dog story?  




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Well, I have a Violet story, our mostly-cocker spaniel, leaping up to steal a freshly-baked Pillsbury biscuit out of my hand between the time I moved my hand to my mouth and put the biscuit into my mouth. I moved my hand, opened my mouth, and when I put the biscuit in, it was gone. My son, who was sitting there watching, told me that Violet had leapt up, caromed off of a piece of furniture to get altitude, and snatched the biscuit out of my hand as my mouth was opening. There's also the various assorted stories of the odd pounds of uncooked bacon, the seven decorated Easter Eggs, and other things that were mouthly reachable and thus For Her.

Violet lives down the street with her mother, and I don't see her much anymore. I do miss her.

Barbara, this cracked me up! I remember taking our rascal Dalmatian Dinah outside into the backyard for some ball-throwing, and she stood on the deck for a moment, blinking in the sunshine and enjoying the fresh air, and I thought, "She's ten and she's finally not a puppy anymore, but an adult who can enjoy the moment." A second later, she took off like a bullet, soaring through the air, landed like an eagle onto a groundhog that I hadn't seen, snatched it up in her jaws and broke its neck with a single shake. She threw it down and trotted away, tail wagging. No, she wasn't a puppy anymore, but the moment she enjoyed wasn't peaceful, but the killing of that groundhog!

Josh, you may need to move to a different street, one that doesn't make you so melancholy. Just sayin', dude.

So many dogs, so much dog crime.

One of my favorite Christmas memories, instead: I must have been in fourth grade, and my sister was in second. For Christmas that year my mother, who often dressed us alike, had gotten us the prettiest red velvet and white satin dresses, then curled our hair fetchingly, for once, instead of making us look like crazy old people. But when we got to my aunt's, from where we were going to Midnight Mass, it was insanely cold. Uncle Joe decided to test the theory that a glass of water could freeze before it hit the ground.

And ya know, I can't remember if it did or not. But an icy patch did end up on the sidewalk. My aunt was SO mad.

O'Malley was our cat when I was a kid. One day, my dad had a steak - a very rare treat in our beans and scrambled eggs for supper at the end of the month house - on the counter, getting ready for the grill.

He turned his back and the steak disappeared. The entire family was alerted. My little sister found O'Malley crouched behind the washing machine, gnawing furiously. My mom wrestled with him for the steak. She won, washed the dust off the meat, trimmed the part he had chewed, and we continued.

My cats now are shameless. Laverne once ate an entire bowl of baba ganoush while I was in the bathroom - that was before I knew I could leave nothing out in the kitchen but onions and cilantro - and was already starting to - GROSSOUT ALERT STOP HERE IF YOU GET QUEASY - vomit it up by the time I returned. At least she had the grace to vomit on a hard surface that time instead of on one of the tiny portions of the house that actually has rug on it.

I didn't eat baba ganoush for a long time after that.

And Shirley goes after the booze any chance she gets: http://class-factotum.blogspot.com/2011/04/marriage-301-lecture-520-it-could-be.html

We have a shallow wooden bowl with a wide, carved lip that we filled with mixed nuts in the shell during the holidays. As a kid I loved the process of cracking the nuts, then using the nut pick to get out all the walnut and pecan pieces. One day we found the nuts all over the floor. At first we thought someone knocked over the bowl, then I spotted Brandy, our doberman. She picked through the nuts on the floor until she found a filbert (hazelnut), slurped it up, cracked it neatly in half, then spit out the shell.

Great post, Barbara!

We had a beautiful Golden Retriever named Nicky who loved to swim and could be 'bad' on occasion. While we were at the cottage one summer, he took off for the woods and hubby went to find him. Calling Nicky's name, the only response he got was a large black dog that bounded up to him, giving hubby a bit of a scare. Until he realized that the black dog was Nicky, who'd just gone for a swim in a muddy, black swamp, LOL!

So many dog stories, so little time. It's been around 15 plus years now since the Christmas when my mother's Christmas tree came so close to near disaster and it wasn't even our dog.

My cousin Terri had come in from Alaska with her two dogs for the holidays. Hunter weighed in at around 100 lb. He was a mixed breed dog who possibly might have had some wolf in him. All the dogs in the family had been shut in the basement during Christmas dinner and following dinner someone decided to let them into the house. I don't remember whose dog came flying through the house, but I do remember Hunter chasing after that dog flying like a bat out of hell.

For some reason my mother had angled her couch in a corner facing the tree that year. It's placement created a narrow walkway through the arch which led into the living room and the tree directly in front of the plate glass picture window. All the other dogs slowed down, went through the gap and turned right and headed toward the front door.

Hunter on the other hand kept going at full speed, leaped into the air over the end of the couch and was heading straight into the tree. Then a mere three feet from the tree he made a mid-air course correction with an unbelievable 90 degree right turn by throwing his hind legs to the left and pushing off of the chest of my uncle.

The tree was safe. Hunter was banned. My mother had near heart failure and the story lives on in family lore and legend. I know someone will tell it again when the family gets together for the holidays.

So many other bad dog stories, some of them I've mentioned here before including Aspen, the underwear crotch eating dog, now sadly gone to doggie heaven this past year.

I knew I'd end up laughing my head off! Josh, Violet definitely sounds like she could give Sasha a run for her money.

Funny how we think they might be on their last legs....and they are still living full-throatedly. Love Dinah's pride, can just see her sauntering.

Karen, your Uncle Joe sounds like a candidate for Myth Busters (who live in the hearts of all boys, young or old). Love the matching dresses and curls.

Oh, cats too. O'Malley must have been a pretty big cat to steal a whole steak! My mother used to be at war with a tiny little Siamese named Puffy. Puffy stole, burrowed, tore things up. My mother tossed her outside. Puffy pooed in the bathtub. She once lived with another family for an entire year.

Sandi, that's pretty amazing that Brandy could crack the nuts so perfectly. My dog Jack loves almonds, but I doubt he could crack the shells.

Thinking about Nicky the golden, rushing her dad...and all that mud. LOLOL. There's always the big shake, too---run! Run fast!

Oh, Peach, Hunter stole the show. I was so worried he'd go through the window.

Our house was on the market and the realtor didn't want our Rottweiler, Rusty, in the house while he had a showing. I put him in the garage and went to work. When I arrived home, I found he'd pulled a case of beer off a shelf and proceeded to drink what spilled. I had a garage full of broken glass, spilled beer and a drunken Rottweiler. While I reached for a broom, Rusty staggered out of the garage and proceeded to have diarrhea in the neighbor's backyard. Afterward, he curled up on the floor, sound asleep and snoring.

As you can imagine, that story keeps being repeated in our family.

Oh, man - I could go on all day.

There was the time we had a co-worker over for dinner, and our overly-affectionate cat decided our guest looked pleasing. While we were eating dinner, the cat stood there and looked her over, then jumped and attached himself to her arm - hanging from her shoulder like a furry purse. The guest, my husband, and I all froze in shock for a minute, before we detached him and sent him speedily on his way.

The same cat and our dog at the time (both are gone from this earth now) used to be in cahoots to get food. One time the cat helped the dog by opening the cabinet where the trash was and knocking it over. Dog had fun with the turkey carcass in there. We did not have fun with the after-effects.

For a Christmas theme - same cat: 1st Christmas I was separated from my husband, my daughter was 3 - I was determined to take her out and cut down a Christmas tree. I schlepped my 3-year-old out to the woods, cut the tree myself, dragged tree and 3-year-old to the car, got someone to tie it on the car for me (he ended up tying me INTO THE CAR - doors were tied shut, I had to climb out the window). Dragged tree in the house, got it in the stand, decorated it myself. Went to bed, to wake up to the unmistakable sound of a Christmas tree falling and ornaments breaking on the linoleum floor. Sigh. The cat had taken a fancy to one of the knitted ornaments, and got his claw stuck in it. Didn't see the cat for quite a while after it fell, though.

My cocka-poo, now 14, still can manage to troll the counters for food. Our other two dogs are crated, and if Max gets his paws on something, we always find the remains right in front of the other dogs' crates. He lies right in front of them and eats it.

My friend's 14-year old beagle just died, but she was legendary in her endless quest for food. This 23-pound dog could actually open the refrigerator. They tried duct-taping it closed (which was really an attractive look, as you can imagine), and finally ended up PADLOCKING it. Which finally worked. Then they redid the kitchen and hid the new Sub-Zero behind cabinet doors that she was finally unable to figure out how to get open.

Another friend used to say this dog had an eating disorder. It would have been funny, but no, it was not.

It was 1975, in the time before thinking people spayed and neutered their pets, and our miniature beagle escaped lock down in the early fall when she was in heat. Soon puppies were on the way.

We knew the timing was going to be close, but on Christmas Eve she delivered 6 beautiful half beagle puppies. Homes were found for every one in the early spring, but my brother was allowed to keep one. Unfortunately at close to a year old, 'Nick' displayed the beagle penchant for roaming and never came home. Then that fall Joy, his mother, was hit and killed on the road.

We were without a dog for two years until I brought home a Christmas present, Nutmeg. She of nine lives, incredible agility, Heinz 57 varieties of parentage, super intelligent and long lived. She was 16 years old when we finally had to have her put to sleep.

St. Buddy was the best dog ever and not known for mischief (in his later years). He'd go outside, walk around the house and be ready to come back in. It was the afternoon of the 24th and I was busy with whatever and then noticed a peculiar smell. It smelled a lot like chicken and biscuits and I wasn't cooking anything like that. Following the scent into the other room, I found what appeared to be very large chunks of cooked chicken. Apparently the lady next door had boiled chicken and put it outside to cool. Buddy must have found it and gobbled it all down as fast as he could. Then came home and threw it up. It didn't even look chewed! Other than having to clean the mess I thought the whole episode was pretty funny. I think that was the worst thing he ever did - oh yeah, he swallowed my wedding ring when he was a puppy but we got that back a week or so later!

When Scout and I were first married we had one of those "portable" dishwashers that you hook up to the kitchen faucet to wash the dishes, then roll it out of the way when they're done. It also had a fantastic cutting-board top where I would chop veggies and cut up meats.

One day I was getting ready to debone a chicken when the phone rang. I was only gone for half a minute, but in that time Moose, our very short-legged and long-bodied basset hound, managed to get the whole chicken off the top of the rolling dishwasher and swallow it whole.

I called the vet and drove Moose over, bypassing the guards who were posted at the front gate (we lived on the Naval Weapons Center) and were stopping all traffic for searches. I didn't care. I just had to get Moose to the doctor. We pulled into his lot were the vet techs were waiting to rush Moose into the ER.

The vet said Moose would be okay. It was good the chicken was raw. Take him home and it would take care of itself. Huh? Yeah. Moose was okay, but we had to get past the guards to get back to the house. That was the worst part. I didn't want to have my driving rights suspended by the Navy's kangaroo court for civilians, so we drove North to Owens Lake then over to the Panamint Valley (where Charles Manson and his “family” would very shortly be arrested) around to the back side through Death Valley (hundreds of miles) and came in an unmanned gate somewhere near Trona.

Don’t ask me how it is that I’ve had so many of these strange encounters in life. All I can say is I’m an old adventurous kind of person who was too long stupid to be scared. I think maybe we all experience this stuff eventually, but we don’t always know it - or live to tell.

My mother-in-law comes to visit every Thanksgiving, and she and my dog Marcie were great pals. One year, I bought a box of Andes mints for after dinner and foolishly left it on the coffee table. Next morning, I found a couple of wads of white paper near the coffee table. It took me a while to figure out Marcie had eaten the box of Andes mints (foil and all) but spit out the box.

Chocolate is supposedly lethal for dogs, so we watched her carefully but she was her usual insanely happy self, because her friend was there!

We had to put her down in August of last year. Every time I see Andes mints, I want to bawl.

Barbara, your Rottie is really a frat boy!

Cats and Christmas trees....sigh. Last night, both of my yearlings were in the little tree, wondering out to use it as a springboard to get into places they haven't explored.

LOLOL on the beagle who could open the fridge. That's priceless. I thought I had troubles.

Peach, I was just thinking the other day about the endless cats who wandered through our childhood. Things were different then--they really were.

Nice of St Buddy to bring some chicken home for you. Better than the cicadas my cat used to fetch for me.

Brackman did not belong to me, but I LOVED Him as if he did. He belonged to the boys I nannied the year after grad school, and the next year, while I was gestating Sam, andtwo years after that, til we moved to Georgia.

Brackman weas huge and black and shaggy and unrepentant and ate EVERYTHING. He was half GOAT. When I made salads I woudl feed hi all the cucumber and carrot ends.

Once, the Friedmans had a Barbecue and Brackman took a roaring leap PAST the grill and AS HE PASSED IN MID AIR he hoovered up six pounds half raw boiling hot steaks.

ALL the meat was gone and his mouth was burned up; he was completely pleased with himself.

Holy cow, Reine....hundreds of miles?? With a dog who'd devoured a whole chicken?

Ok, Joss, Brackman might be the king of thieves. Or at least high on the list of contenders.

Aw, hugs, Ramona. Now I'll think of her when I see Andes mints, too.

Funny how long their spirits linger.

A naughty dag story regarding eating chicken, both raw and cooked. Our Daisy, who died of cancer three years ago, was a nortorious counter surfer. One night, she ate a 4 pound package of raw chicken thighs, bones included. Four pounds was, by the way, 1/10 of her body weight.

Worried about the bones, we called the vet who told us to keep an eye on her. We did and there was never a sign of a problem. She digested it all.

About a month later, she ate nearly 4 pounds of cooked chicken thighs. Once again, we called the vet who was somewhat more worried, but still said to watch her. We did and, once again, she digested everything just fine.

Lesson learned: Chicken is not so dangerous to dogs as we think. The wrath of the doggie mom whose chicken was eaten, much worse.

And while on the doggie theme, today is the 8th birthday of our extra sweet, yet unrepenently evil, basset hound, Winker Sue Cross. Later today, she and her sister Lucy will get Double Double Cheeseburgers from In-N-Out Burger.

Love your stories. I don't have a dog, just a cat that thinks she is.

I usually work on Christmas and Christmas Eve. One year my brother pulled a 12-24/25 24 hour shift in a gas station so the other workers could spend the day with their families.

In high school I worked at a movie theater. One year the show during Christmas was "Fritz the Cat", "The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat" and "Heavy Traffic". Doc is no doubt smiling now. "Fritz" is a 1972 X rated cartoon. Drawn by Ralph Bakshi based on Rober Crumb characters. Hippies thought it was out there.

Needless to say the number of people looking for X rated cartoons on Christmas afternoon was really small. Maybe 5 people in the theater. An older couple came in, got a little pop corn and headed in. About an hour later the guy half came out to the lobby and asked when the cartoons would be over and the movie would start. That the were at an animated movie did not please them.

So funny, Barbara!

My dog Fez and her then-partner-in-crime Jinn once ate a huge gift basket of Mrs. Beasley's Brownies. I'm talking a few dozen brownies. I was horrified, phoning all over, having heard that chocolate can kill dogs. Nope. Not these dogs. They'd jumped onto the kitchen counter and pulled the gift basket off a high shelf.

Fez also brought home a woman's purple skirt once, in our old neighborhood where dogs ran free. The next day he brought home a purple high heel.

I have a bad cat story.
We had an ancient, rascally orange cat named Hodge who was slowly dying of kidney trouble, but loved life and tormenting our senior cat. Don gave him weekly water injections and Hodge seemed to understand they were keeping him alive.
A week before Hodge died, we had Don's editor over for dinner. Hodge gave a mighty leap and stole the editor's chicken wing. We had a hard time hiding our pride in our 16-year-old cat burglar.

Harley, wasn't your old neighborhood in the mountains or gullies or whatever they are called--ridges? Ravine. That's it. Ravine. Wasn't it in a ravine or something, the kind of place where someone might dump a body, even if they might not do it in your particular ravine? I'm thinking some noire LA mystery.

OTOH, your story reminds me a bit of the dog in the movie "11:14."

We've never had an indoor dog of our own, but a NYC friend had a beagle who was like a willful old man in a fur coat. Whereas other city dogs begged to go for walks, he would go hide under bed whenever he heard the jingle of door keys. My friend used to carry him as far as she could and he would grudgingly walk home, cursing every step of the way. He couldn't really jump high, but he quickly learned how to move their kitchen chairs from table to counter and opportunistically grabbed whatever was there. They bought heavier chairs. He moved them. They had to stack the heavy chairs to keep them unmoveable. Then came the day they left a half-pound of pastrami on top of the refrigerator. Somehow he got from the table to the counter to the fridge top. "It was one of the few time he really wanted to go outside," my friend said. "He practically had the keys in his mouth."

When I was in high school, my family acquired a puppy that was half dachsund and half cocker spaniel. It was not long before he set himself up as King of the House. I could tell stories about his antics for the rest of the weekend! He was very sly/smart and learned to get what he wanted. One Thanksgiving when I was in college,my mom had baked a couple of pumpkin pies. She put them on a counter to cool. They were far from the edge of the counter. We were in the living room and heard "someone" dragging a chair across the kitchen floor. When we realized that nobody was in the kitchen, my mother jumped up and said "where's Oliver?" and ran into the kitchen. He had apparently pushed one of the chairs across the room with his nose, had it up against the counter, was standing on the chair, and helping himself to pumpkin pie! He also did the same thing once with a pasta sauce that was still on the stove!I don't know how he didn't burn his tongue. And for a short time when we had a leaky kitchen faucet, he would push a chair up to the sink, climb on to the chair, and stick his head under the faucet to help himself to some fresh water!

We learned that we could not turn our backs on him.

He idolized my dad and followed him everywhere. Two weeks after my dad's sudden death, Oliver had a stroke and was never the same. It was as though a part of him died when my dad died. He lived a more subdued life, and finally had to be put to sleep two years later, after fourteen years on this earth..

I so had to laugh at your butter story, because it reminded me of our episode with butter and our two dogs, Quinn, a golden retriever and Luke, a miniature pinscher. One day Quinn grabbed an entire pound of butter off the counter and gobbled it. Then he went into the back yard and vomited it up on the grass, whereupon Luke immediately snacked on the vomited butter, then came in and puked it up in the house. A twofer!

Holy cow, yeah - but not that many hundreds . . . um . . . maybe just a couple?

Kendall, my service dog, discovered how to operate the electronic controls for my power wheelchair to push me away from my desk and toward the kitchen . . . where his food is.

Happy birthday to Winker Sue and Lucy. Lucky dogs!

lol, Karen!

Deb, how touching that Oliver was so devoted to your dad.

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