Thursday, September 29, 2005

Toby caves

He's playing with the evil puppy. With a deep play-bow, Toby makes himself little dog size, then scoops her up and flings her bodily across the living room rug. She picks herself up with a shake and comes back for more.

She thinks she's a big dog and she loves to play with Toby, who is--conservatively speaking--six times her size.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A smile a day

Yesterday while I was getting dressing, I heard the funniest noise, kind of a “boinggg-g-g-ga!” The puppy had found one of those door stoppers that looks like a coiled spring. It kept both of us amused for several minutes.

Cassie is a brave creature. The second night she spent with me, I heard three big thumps in the night as she fell or jumped off my bed, a rather high sleigh bed with tall headboard and footboard. This morning I decided to watch her technique. I assumed that she would have figured out how to use the siderails as a halfway stop, but no. She took a running leap and launched her tiny self over the footboard into mid-air, coming to rest with a thump on the carpet. Oh my goodness! I don’t think I can watch that again.

She has also been working on stairs. I have been walking her down, holding her little collar, to avoid a headlong slide down fifteen steep steps. But today, she marched right over to the stairs and was determined, “I can do it myself, Mom.”

The minute morsel does not have the slightest fear of the big dogs, no matter how they growl and snarl. She puts up one small paw and pats their muzzles. Toby now routinely lets her curl up with him, although he still claims all the toys are his. There was one time yesterday when I swear I thought I saw out of one corner of one eye….Toby playing with the puppy. With Max, she plays the “Hey, let’s be German Shepherds together” card, and he just looks at her: “Oh, please.”

Saturday, September 24, 2005

So big

Baby Cassandra is home, and—as is the way with babies—she has changed enormously since my last visit to the breeder’s home. Somehow in the last week, the pups got longer and lankier and even more beautiful.

I picked her up yesterday. As the guy who jumped off the 50-story building opined on passing the 20th floor….so far, so good.

The 2-mile car ride home was uneventful, and after brief introductions all around, I put her in her crate for a nap and went out for half an hour’s errands. Then we all worked in the garden for awhile. Half a dozen trips to the garden and back were heavy work for an eight-week-old pup, but she loved being out with us and she slept soundly last night.

This is my first time having a pedigreed dog. All my others have been foundlings who turned up at my door. As much as I have loved them all and still love Max and Toby, I would like to avoid any repeat of the pain and expense of Max’s hip replacement. So this little girl has papers. Good genes and a good home-raised start to life—we’ll try to build on this sound foundation.

The boys are responding reasonably well. Max wants more cookies—the key to a good life in Max-world—and Toby wants to hoard the toys.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Under lights

I sit here like the plant that I am, soaking up light rays from an Ultralux UL559155, my emergency light bulb having been delivered by Fedex a couple of days ago. I feel ridiculous. And I am more than a little annoyed, and annoyed in the second degree at myself for being annoyed at physical facts that are beyond my capacity to control.

It is barely mid-September, and the light has changed dramatically in this northern clime. Days are short. Late sunrise makes it hard to squeeze in the morning walks I have come to crave, and early sunset simply startles. Where has the day gone? It is an early warning of losses to come, of snow and cold and even more darkness, all part of the cycle to be sure, so how can these changes surprise me so?

I love Vermont’s four seasons, and we have not quite left summer. True, there are orange tips on the trees, and there is sometimes a nip in the air, but mostly we bask in warm sunshine, even as we recognize these are likely the last such days. We bask, but we mourn the loss of summer, and—annoying as it is—we mourn ahead of the loss! Why can’t we enjoy these late summer days for themselves?

Part hibernation instinct, part ant-like need to prepare, part mourning, we watch these last harvest days pass in solemn review. We pack up our school bags and get back to work, feckless children turned again to our sums and sentence diagramming.

But the greatest loss is the loss of the faithless sun. The Ultralux lamp can replace its kind and gentle rays only in one spot in my house—so here I sit, constrained to this one spot, soaking up lumens and mourning the turn of the year. With all the blessings that each season brings, the loss of light is still hard to bear.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Soft between the ears

Me, not her. I don’t seem to have a thought in my brain other than attempting to get back into the swing of things and looking forward to having a new baby in the house. I am aware that puppies, like babies, are far more interesting to their parents than to anyone else, but I really, really do like her. So please bear with me.

I had to make an emergency Ultralux order a couple of days ago. I used up my full spectrum light bulb growing seedlings in the spring, and I am one of those people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Why does this sneak up on me every year? Wouldn’t you think I would remember what it is like? But no.

No, I wait until I am snarling at everyone I encounter. When the jerk quotient goes up….it usually means there is something wrong with me. When I start craving carbohydrates and dragging from home to work and back, accomplishing little or nothing in either place…there is something wrong with me. And it happens every September, or at least it happens here in Vermont where the days shorten so quickly and the angle of the light teases over the horizon—catch a ray, if you can! Honestly, I think I am a plant. But the light therapy works.

And a couple of hours in the sunshine playing with nine little German Shepherd puppies, that’s pretty effective, too. I annoyed them all today by cutting toenails (180!), but except for Cassie, they forgave me. First skirmish in the battle of wills.

Eighteen little ears are pointing every which way, not quite ready to stand up, but getting there.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wild thing

The puppies are very…active. And very interested in exploring the world with their mouths. Here is mother Sadie in a rare moment tolerating tiny razor teeth near sensitive parts. She is not nursing a lot these days, but she is wary of strangers—and I still count as a stranger—near the puppies. And yes, we do expect that the babies' ears will stand up in time. What Sadie lacks in ears, though, she makes up in sweetness of temperament, and she has turned out to be a good mother.

Little Cassandra is fast distinguishing herself as a pushy girl, and in this household, we like our girls pushy. Here she has launched herself in search of thongs and toes. Personally, I have taken to wearing heavy suede Merrell pull-on shoes when I visit the puppies.

But here she is in the breeder's arms--thirty seconds of calm before she started chewing fingers and watch and every blessed thing in reach. The boys don't know what is in store for them.

Meanwhile, they are very curious when I come home smelling like puppies, and I hope this aroma gives them a hint of one small furry thing to come. Their lives are full these days, what with the flocks of turkeys everwhere and the tendency of many of Toby's favorite rocks to hop unexpectedly. Toads, doncha know?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Better now

The key to reducing angst for me is often decluttering. Get rid of all those projects that are staring expectantly. I still have hopes of finding my other boot, but I put the one in the closet—it was staring at me. I put the zucchini on the compost pile—I refuse to be cowed by zucchini. I mowed the grass and I planted some perennials I bought at a going-out-of-business sale. I put entire stacks of magazines right into the recycling pile. I stuffed the mousehole with steel wool—a temporary solution, but at least it stops Max from sitting in front of it wailing and whining.

From Mom comes the comment that from chewing shoelaces, Cassandra can be expected to move on quickly to chewing shoes—Toby will surely teach her. And Max will likely teach her his most annoying habit, asking for a cookie every single time he comes in from outdoors. I have never before replaced a dog during the failing years, but my friend Joe routinely does so. And he notes that this practice transmits bad dog habits through the generations. Is there any hope that Cassandra will not whine incessantly for cookies, bury my shoes, and bring rocks into the house?

I washed the windows—imagine! Now I can see the spectacular Vermont landscape unblurred by dog nose prints.

Seasonal turn

A vague sense of disquiet and annoyance is my constant companion these days. I can’t get my arms around what is wrong, but everything seems wrong. My house is cleaner than in months, my dogs are well behaved, and yet, something is tickling my consciousness.

I’ve tried all my usual remedies, from physical exertion to quiet meditation, from structuring my world with lists and priorities to practicing acceptance of whatever comes. Maybe I am asking too much of this seasonal transition period.

For me, this time of year has remained—long after school days were over—a season of new beginnings. Change junkie that I am, I generally rush headlong in the direction of new experience. So has something happened that makes me unwilling to go there? Or is this year’s change that nothing much will change?

I’ve been in Vermont three years now, the magic rule for how long it talkes to feel at home in a new place. I am starting to see easier friendships. I am starting to be able to have a Vermont conversation full of who is related to who and where various things “usedta be.” My health is better than in twenty years. I like my job, and I think I am good at it. I am feeling more secure about my place in this corner of the world and my ability to take care of myself here, even in the harsh winter weather that terrified me when I moved here. And yes, I did notice the irony that it was harsh Southern coastal weather that killed the most people last week.

So why the angst? I dunno. As an old boyfriend used to say, “If you don’t know what to do, sit down.” Not bad advice, but I think I will keep doing a little more peaceful, seasonal preparation—cleaning house, clearing gardens, cutting off the mouse superhighway, and getting ready to add little miss Cassandra to our household at the end of the month.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Lazy long weekend

Well, not really. More like anxious activity. Yesterday I dug the potatoes and harvested the beets, put zucchini and yet more beans in the freezer, and reorganized the freezer all the way to the bottom for good measure. I spent time online trying to figure out why my eggplants are all plants and no eggplant, likewise my peppers. But with Labor Day weekend upon us, it is all but too late. Any minute the frost will come.

Which led me to wonder, should the frost really be allowed upon the pumpkin? And what are those round baseball size squashes that start out lemon yellow and turn orange. What did I plant? And I discover once again that all my obsessive note-taking is still not enough to shed light on mystery vegetables.

It has been a whirlwind summer, and I can’t say the garden was completely successful. Beautiful eggplant plants, beautiful pepper plants, and outstanding okra plants, but only one eggplant and a few okra pods to harvest. Sturdy collards and kale, but badly chewed by Japanese beetles, which mercifully spared the still productive broccoli. I think I might have had a melon, but Toby buried it before I could get close enough to see. Lots of lovely lemon cucumbers, masses of green tomatoes, and way more zucchini and yellow squash than anyone could possibly need. I understand that some of my neighbors donate produce to the local food shelf—I wonder if it is too late to do that.

Before I hit the garden yesterday, I dropped off clothing and food at the hurricane relief site, then joined my neighbors in line to buy gas, feeling furtive and guilty for my extra two gallons for the lawnmower. There is so much to mow and trim and weed and repair to be ready for the change of season, which is first felt in increased meetings starting this week. I feel it in the need to change over to fall transitional clothing, but even more I feel it in the worry over the new hole I found in the garage wall, a veritable mouse superhighway.

Too late, frost, surfeit of vegetables, changing seasons, changing wardrobe, head off the mice….no wonder I am feeling anxious! Today, I spent the day weeding and mulching the herb garden, getting ready to pot up the rosemary and the tarragon, worrying that I am likely to kill them indoors but knowing that the harsh winter cold will surely do so. Perhaps it is time to simplify again, or at least to sort out the priorities—the things that will get done (like making room for a new puppy) versus the things that will not.

Friday, September 02, 2005

They grow up so fast

I dropped by last night to visit little Miss Cassandra and was startled by how Sunday’s little fluff balls had become Thursday’s little dogs. Still fluffy, but where Sunday’s pups were placid, last night they were romping up and down the porch, chomping on my ankles and my shoelaces. What fun!