posts tagged with 'rascal'

family changes

Besides having a new baby around here, we've been seeing some other changes—changes more or less related to the presence of another small person. Most obviously related, Rascal is getting fed up with sleeping in our bed. You wouldn't think he'd have any room to complain, after getting in our way for the past eight years, but after sticking with it for two babies he's decided that enough is enough. He's wisely realized that Harvey's bed sees the least disturbance over the average night, so over the past week that mostly where he's been hanging out.

Rascal sleeping in Harvey's bed, in Harvey's messy room

peace and quiet

He doesn't want to sleep alone, of course, which also kept him from moving out earlier. But now there's always somebody in the other room, if only because we can't all fit in one queen-sized bed, so if there's too much commotion in the parents' room he's quick to decamp.

It may be, too, that he's developing more of an attachment to Harvey, which would be only right. Harvey's been helping feed him for some time (as has Zion), and our biggest boy can also put in a respectable effort at a game of tug (though Rascal does know to go easy on him). Harvey is even doing a fine job of holding the leash on walks.

Which points to another change we've noticed: Harvey's walking endurance is increasing by leaps and bounds. One of my physical education goals for his kindergarten year next year was to be able to walk a mile without complaining, but he's easily got that beat now. Yesterday we went up to the library and back and, though we had the double stroller along (with new tires—thanks, Jim!) he didn't even ask to go in it (it served very well to carry his new PowPow car seat, an upcycled clementine box). He kept up well, too, running every third step or so; in fact the only time I had to wait for him was when he stopped to pay more attention to his talking. I almost wrote "stopped to talk", but that would be misleading, since he was actually talking almost the entire time—which makes his demonstration of cardiovascular fitness all the more impressive!

Not that he talks all the time all the time: just when he's not doing anything else intellectually engaging. He's "reading" a lot more now, and really reading too in small doses. Grandma gave him a Tintin book for Christmas, remembering how much I enjoyed the series as a developing reader, and just like I did he's spending hours looking at the books by himself and sounding out the action words—"bang", "splosh", and such like. I can't help but notice that he's two years ahead of my own reading pace at this point.

Zion is doing some talking too. We never thought he was particularly reticent: if you want to be noticed in this family I guess you need to keep the words coming. But his vocabulary is widening dramatically, and he's also more confident socially with his speech. We might not have remarked on the changes, since they're gradual rather than sudden, but on three or four occasions friends have remarked about how much more verbal he's seemed to them. He's even starting to drop some of his idiosyncratic consonant replacements: I think I heard him say "see" this afternoon!

And of course, Elijah is changing all the time! After being very easy for his first two-three weeks he's had a fussy few days, so we're a little worn out; but we know that with him—with all our guys!—the transitions just keep on coming.

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winter keeping on

Harvey in his snow gear

in the sun and snow

To me at least, this hasn't seemed like a blockbuster winter; just regular, I suppose. Nothing like 2010-2011, that's for sure. But when I think back we did have an awful lot of snow back in December, and we have a fair amount again now, somehow. Just look what we see out the back door:

a lot of snow on the table on the back deck

accumulation

But today was fine and sunny so—after a lot of playing inside—Harvey, Rascal, and I ventured out to enjoy the winter's bounty. Harvey doesn't only enjoy snow by eating it, but that's the only time he sits still to be photographed.

Harvey sitting in deep snow against a tree eating a big piece of snow

making himself comfortable

We also worked hard to make paths around the yard, ran races, threw snowballs (only the premade ones from the old snow or plow debris; today was too cold and dry to shape the snow at all), and slid on the ice on the street. Oh, and made another snow cave.

Harvey at work on a snow cave

easily enough snow for the endeavor

Rascal was out with us the whole time, but he didn't enjoy it as much as he might have. The snow is actually a bit deeper than he'd like: he's been refusing to walk in the woods and snow in the yard is still mostly smooth and unmarred by doggy footprints (or body-prints, really, at this depth). He's made a few paths of his own, but he really appreciated the extra ones we laid down. When I threw the ball for him I made sure it was in direction with an already-trodden way.

Rascal sitting in the snow looking up at the camera

he is limited to the paths

Despite the cold temperatures the late-February sun is powerful, and if it ever stops snowing things will start melting soon. There are even signs of spring, if you know where to look for them:

two red buds on the maple tree with snow in the background

swelling

Too bad there's another winter storm warning up for tomorrow...

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take a walk with us

Since the arrival of the cool fall weather, our dog Rascal has been extremely, what's the word? Needy. He needs a walk in the morning (at least 30 minutes, please) before Dan leaves for work. He needs a walk as soon as Dan gets home, indeed he starts barking for one up to an hour before then. And often, additionally, he needs a walk sometime in the middle of the day when a walk means bribing two children into the stroller, two children who are happily doing something inside.

You know that giant yard that we fenced in at great expense so the dog could go out ANY TIME HE WANTS??? Not good enough for him. He sits at the door barking and then when I open the door for him he looks up at me like, "What is this BS? You want me to go pee BY MYSELF? Out there? But that's just not STIMULATING enough for me."

I am trying to love Rascal and deal with his needs without seeing them as a personal affront to my health, sanity, and self determination. It is a struggle.

In the meantime, I am trying to figure out non-food-related bribes to get my children in the stroller for a mid-day walk. A stroll to Bruggers can cost $10 for the three of us!!! But you know what's free? Fishing!

our local fishing hole

A brook runs under our local bike path at a spot not half a mile from our house. It's a good place to sit and stir the water with long sticks, if the weather isn't too wet or cold.

casting out, or catching something, I'm not sure

Harvey and Zion like to hook leaves on their long sticks and offer them to me as fish. Then I am obligated to take the soggy things off the end of the stick and say, "Num num num."

what can I see to bark at from here?

Rascal waits rather impatiently for the rest of his walk. I tie him a little ways from the stream or else he dives in after the sticks and gets the kids all wet. So he whines until I can't stand it anymore. My goodness that dog.

Fishing with sticks is so much fun that my kids pretend to see fish even in driveway puddles.

I think there are some minnows in here.

The children are so adorable in their enthusiasm for catching pretend fish, that it's almost enough to make me suspend my irritation with another creature barking at me. Almost.

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once bitten twice shy

Poor Rascal has not been having the best summer. Between heat and rain in July there were lots of days when he wanted nothing to do with going outside; and on top of that our schedule has been so unsettled, for reasons both pleasant and otherwise, that for a while he pretty much gave up on getting taken out. The last week or so was better—it's been beautifully cool morning and evening, and we've all had time for some nice long walks—but then yesterday he got bitten by some sort of bug and ran home immediately. And today he wouldn't go out at all. After dark, trying for the third or fourth time to walk him, I finally realized that he was still worried about bugs, and that feeling the leash against his shoulder made him think that they were after him again. Poor little guy! We ran around in the yard instead, but it's not the same. I suppose we'll see over the next few days how good his memory is; how long will it take him before he's ready to brave the wide world again?!

poor Rascal

Rascal went to the vet clinic for a checkup yesterday. It didn't go so well: in fact, it got so bad that at one point he was sedated and restrained on the operating table with an oxygen mask over his snout and his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. But don't worry, he's perfectly healthy: the vets just needed to do all that so they could, you know, prod his stomach and look in his ears and things. You know, check-up stuff.

You see, even at the best of times our wonderful puppy is a little neurotic, and he's never what you call pleased when presented with the prospect of anyone he doesn't know touching him; still less with being closed into a small exam room saturated with the odors of other dogs' terror (although I assume they do a good job of cleaning up all the actual pee...). So he wouldn't even let anyone put a muzzle on him, which was a prerequisite for getting near him in a medical capacity. Thus the sedative.

If all had gone well, he would have been sedated right there in the exam room, checked out and vaccinated, and then the sedative would have been reversed by another injection. The vet was very positive about the prospect. Unfortunately Rascal is like a super-villain in that, even when injected with a dose of tranquilizer warranted to stop a dog 20 pounds heavier than he is, he can fight it off for quite a while. And when he finally did go down, he kept fighting to the extent that he started seizuring. So they gave him valium. Here he is completely out of it being brought back to the surgery where they could make sure he wouldn't die while examined him.

Rascal being strapped onto a stretcher by two vet techs

they took off the muzzle because of the seizures

At this point I had already been at the office for over an hour, but while he was pleased to report Rascal's fine state of health the vet also had to tell me that he wouldn't recover from the valium for another couple hours. So I had to go home dogless.

After an hour at home—I was told to wait two hours before returning, but, you know, the half-hour drive each way—I headed back, this time with Harvey along for the ride. When they ushered us in to see Rascal he didn't look like he'd ever be able to stand again, but they assured me that he was coming out of it wonderfully—so much so that they had him well-muzzled up. Apparently the wild snapping part of his brain is the first to come back online.

Figuring he'd be happier waking up with his family, the techs set us up in an exam room with him (and with a movie for Harvey—Snow Dogs, have you ever seen it?). Realizing he was among friends he jumped right up but was very unsteady on his feet, and after I petted him for a couple minutes he laid back down and went to sleep. I think he would have slept all night, but there's only so much Cuba Gooding Jr. I can stand so we woke him up and hauled him out of there. He slept in the car on the way home.

Back home it was kind of scary how out of it he still was. He could walk around but didn't have any fine motor control: he tripped over things and misjudged corners and was just generally clumsy. What with that combined with the strands of drool—the drugs made him forget how to swallow—and glassy eyes, he was quite disturbingly zombie-like. But we got him settled down and he went to sleep again for an hour or so, then roused enough to come upstairs and join us on the bed.

He's still not quite himself yet—he didn't eat his dinner!—but he's much more active and coordinated today, and I'm sure that tomorrow will see him completely restored. That said, I'm not looking forward to next year's checkup. All the staff at the clinic were super-nice throughout the whole thing, but I can't help but think there has to be a better way. In all honesty, I feel the same way that he does about doctors, I just have the social conditioning to hide it!

Anyways, that's how I spent yesterday afternoon.

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dog day

He doesn't get nearly as much press in these pages as he did before June 20, 2009, but Rascal isn't completely ignored around here. Today, for example, he enjoyed two long walks—one into town on the leash and the other running free in the woods—and a couple hours of outside time playing with Harvey and terrorizing the chickens. In between that he lounged on the couch or ate Harvey's leftovers. The pup is not doing too badly.

partners in chaos

Harvey and Rascal have kind of an ambiguous relationship. When he was our only dependent, Rascal was used to nothing but doting care; Harvey's attention is much more of a mixed blessing for the dog. Now that Harvey can run, after a fashion, a new phase has opened up in their interaction. Harvey chases Rascal around the house, which he doesn't like, but he also chases him around outside, which is much more to his taste. There's also the fact that Harvey can open doors; a few days ago, as I was struggling to get the chickens inside, I heard H call from the porch, "Rascal's comin outside!" Thanks, kid.

Twice in the last few days they've managed an even more impressive feat. The yard is now all fenced in, which is why I can be so blasé about Harvey letting Rascal out whenever he feels like, but we do prefer that both of them stay inside the fence. Two days ago and again today they got under the front porch through the open panel inside the fence, which is fine—nice and cool under there—but less fine is that Harvey opened up the lattice on the other side and let the dog out. Rascal was, I'm sure, very grateful, and showed by running all around the neighbors' houses.

On his first attempt Harvey didn't even manage to get out himself: he got one foot through but then the lattice snapped back and he was trapped for who knows how long before we happened to look for him. "I'm stuck!" he said, with some equanimity. After I freed him I made sure to send him back the way he came. He learned from that effort, because today they both got out without a problem and when we looked for them we were surprised to see Harvey sitting calmly on the front steps as Rascal investigated our neighbor's garage.

But they're not in any way fast friends, which I suppose is a good thing. Harvey can get at just about all the food in the kitchen, and he knows that Rascal wishes he could do likewise; if they were really in cahoots we'd have no more bread or cheese or peanuts and sick dog. It just happens that sometimes their interests align. Too bad for us they are both mostly interested in chaos. I don't have any hope for Rascal in this regard, but when do kids start wanting to clean up?

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battle ready

The other day Harvey came into the kitchen waving a plastic ruler. "I'm fighting Rascal!" he announced excitedly.

"No you're not!" I told him. "Where'd you get that idea?!"

"On the table."

Well of course he meant the ruler came from the table, he being a child of no abstract ideas (he answers "yes" to any and all why or how questions). In any case on reflection I know where he got the idea: from his friends Ollie and Bruce. Ah, the dangers of hanging out with older kids.

(Dangers for Harvey, that is; I don't think he would emerge very well from a fair fight with the dog!)

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midsummer

We're staying up late to celebrate midsummer. I made bread and cookies and Leah is hard at work on a shirt for herself. Things are much more relaxing than they were this time last year, except when I think about the fact that we haven't yet managed to go strawberry picking and I remember that I'm very concerned about our future jam security. It's on the schedule for Thursday morning; lets hope the supplies in the fields will last that long.

But, as I say, except for that things were wonderfully calm and pleasant here this evening. Harvey and I played catch outside—he worked on getting his catching hands down by his belly button instead of right under his chin, a position that caused me some concern for his nose and teeth. I only hit him on the head once, which is a good thing since we were using a baseball. I guess Zion was doing a little fussing inside, but hey, that's what babies do, right?

Outside is, of course, beautiful this time of year. The only possible downside is the insect situation—the mosquitoes and flies are pretty startlingly numerous, and bother Leah so much that she bought a big sprayer and some liquified garlic from the internet. It hasn't been applied yet, but once she gets out there to spray we'll let you know how well it works. Harvey and I mostly don't mind the bugs, and you can even say that they have their advantages.

I guess the firefly flashing right over our front steps, while exciting, doesn't qualify as the sort of insect we're talking about, but even the flies provide their amusements. Rascal is firmly in Leah's camp vis-a-vis biting pests, and the flies especially drive him to distraction by circling around and buzzing in his keen doggy ears. This sends him into a frenzy of chomping and leaping, which this evening amused Harvey so much he was literally doubled over laughing, holding his stomach. I don't know that I've ever seen that outside of a cartoon. I wish I'd had a video camera on the pair of them, and I also wish I could communicate to Harvey the nuanced understanding that, while it's ok to laugh at Rascal for flailing around after bugs, Mama is not similarly fair game.

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2010-2011 school year in most of Lexington. As usual I don't know where I'm going to be next year, but with sweet evenings like this I can ignore that and look forward to a few months of summer fun.

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Sandwich

Mama and Harvey at the cold spring beach

down to the beach

We took a trip down to the Cape today to pick up a double stroller from Leah's cousins—but that was just an excuse to do some real vacationing for a change! As opposed to our usual aimless wanderings our wonderfully gracious hosts treated us to a tour of the finest attractions Sandwich has to offer (not to mention an incredible spread for lunch—there's a pun in there somewhere, I'm sure).

Of course, we had to go to the beach first. It was pretty cold, but that doesn't ever stop Rascal from enjoying his beach experiences to the fullest! He ran and played with his new friend Luna, and didn't miss an opportunity to take the waters.

Rascal romping in the cold waves

he is braver than the rest of us

Next stop was the Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen—if there was ever a single attraction better suited to entertaining all members of our family I don't know what it would be! Animals, science exhibits, blocks made from tree branches... all that, plus a professional kitchen for us to admire and plenty of jam and jelly to taste.

a toad in its terrerium

the only one that stood still to be photographed

the Green Briar gift shop

nature and jam, in gift shop form

The day's last stop was the Sandwich State Fish Hatchery, where we got to look at trout both big and small and, even better, feed them! The little ones especially raised quite a fuss in their efforts to get at the food raining down upon them.

fish roiling the water to get at the food

I guess they're hungry!

Harvey feeding the fish

look at those fish eat!

I have to give extra credit to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife folks for allowing dogs on the fish farm grounds; Rascal very much appreciated another chance to get out of the car.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and a great way to start our vacation week (even if the car trip back did give Mama a headache that required her to lie down immediately upon our return; don't worry, she's already better). Thanks, Barrettes!

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suburban camels

Contrary to a theory held by my mother and myself—that all the deers must have died off this terrible snowy winter—at least a handful of them have clearly survived, as proved by the fact that they showed up on our lawn this evening (note that we now actually have a lawn again, rather than an arctic wasteland, so things are looking up vis-a-vis the progression of seasons). We were eating dinner at the time, but were alerted to their presence by Rascal's very distinct there-is-a-large-unfamiliar-animal-on-my-property barks and ran to see. It was all delight and admiration for a moment or two—it's been a while since we saw any of the noble princes of the forest, not like a couple years ago when they were more common than squirrels. But when I saw the biggest one dip its head to start nibbling—nay, chomping—on the delicate shoots of a day-lily, I was all "sorry, family, but it's time for me to run these varmints off!"

Harvey was very impressed by my display of deer-discouragement (not that it takes much to scare off deers...). So much so that, once we were settled back at the dinner table, he reprised the scene as is his wont these days. You know, like whenever one of his parents stubs a toe or something and lets slip a mild ejaculation, he can't let it go and spends the next ten minutes gleefully chanting "Dada: Ow! Dada say, Ow!" "No Rascal eat the compost!" still makes an occasional appearance, even though it was a couple days ago that he heard it from Mama. This time, though, he wasn't so sure about the nature of the creatures that were receiving the reproach:

"No camels eat the plants!"

See, Harvey, that's the problem with getting all your learning from books.

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like a tweet but too long for twitter

I'm working late on work that, as poorly-paid hourly employee, I am in no way contractually obligated to do, but at least it means I was awake to appreciate Harvey calling quite loudly, out of a sound sleep, "No! No Rascal!". Pleasant dreams for the young master...

he wins this round

This afternoon while walking with me in the woods Rascal decided that he didn't, in fact, want to walk with me; he actually wanted to run the other way. Being a direct sort of dog, he scarcely entertained the thought before putting it into action. He used to do that sort of thing a lot as a puppy (you know, until he was four years old or so) but he's been better about it lately, so I just called after him a couple times and waited for him to come the right way. Nothing. So I had to go after him.

Of course, he was waiting just out of sight to see if I would come, and when he saw me he trotted right off again. Since it was right around sunset I decided that I'd avoid the battle of wills and just go his way, and we had a perfectly good walk. He even let me catch up to him eventually. But I have to admit I felt a little bad about it from a parenting standpoint. As a parent (puppy parenting counts too) I feel like I should be consistent in setting limits and, at least when the children are capable, let them handle sticking to those limits themselves. It's better for Rascal, that is, to know that I'm going to be walking my way and he can sniff where he wants for a while but will have to turn around in the end.

To worry too much about them, in other words, is to give kids (and puppies) too much power in a situation where they actually shouldn't have power. If Harvey and I are leaving the house, he needs to get his coat and boots on (oh, summer can't come soon enough!) and, while I'll obviously help him with dressing I don't want to chase him around with his winter gear or try and make him happy if he's not pleased with the getting ready. Since it's almost always the case that he actually wants to go out, it's enough to get myself ready and open the door to get him motivated.

Of course, I can go too far with that attitude. That's why we have Mama to hold up the other end of the balance, with the loving and the nurturing and whatnot. We make a good team. But this time I was all alone with Rassie, it was getting dark, and it was time for us to have dinner. Plus, he really wanted to go that way. Let the kids win a few is a good rule too.

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bedtime novelty

This evening Harvey asked if Rascal could put him to bed. He was a little wired and off-schedule from celebrating Grandma's birthday this afternoon—happy birthday Ma!—and was bouncing around on our bed like a wild thing. I offered him the choice of going to his bed with me or Mama, and then whimsically suggested Rascal as a third option. Harvey's a clever child, and getting wise to our ways, so you can guess who he chose. Less wise was when he asked Rascal to carry him. "Rascal uppy?! I'm afraid that won't quite work, my son."

In the event, I made Rascal come in and sit by Harvey's bed while Harvey got tucked in. The poor pup was a little confused; he doesn't spend much time in Harvey's room, since he wasn't really allowed in there when it was the sewing room. He was a good sport, though, and sat patiently until he was dismissed. Now Harvey is attempting to go to sleep. Up repeatedly between 2:00 and 4:30 this morning, then slept until 8:30; didn't nap until around 4:00 (usually it's before noon)... it's chaos around here!

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joyous sunshine

Forgive another short post crowded with phone cam photos, but I'm having so much fun on vacation that's all I have time for!

Harvey's boots standing on actual grass

boots on the ground

The significance of this shot may be easy to miss on first glance, but on examination you will notice that there is no snow to be seen anywhere in the frame. Yes, Harvey is standing on actual grass.

Admittedly it's just a teeny area—maybe three feet square—in the lee of the hemlock trees, but still. Since the cave under the hemlocks is Harvey's favorite place in the yard, he made a beeline for it this afternoon when we went outside. How pleasant it was to sit on the grass in the warm sun! Of course, some folks still prefer the snow:

Rascal enjoying a stick in the old snow

warm on top, cool underneath

You can see that things are still mostly white. But the sun is strong and warm, and things are melting even when the thermometer doesn't make it above freezing. Harvey knows the baby is coming "when the snow melts", so he's cheering it on. And very much enjoying being outside again, too.

me and Harvey

a couple of outdoorsmen

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Dada day

our snowy yard at sunrise

sunrise from the top of a snowbank

Rascal and I got up bright and early this morning, leaving Harvey and Mama abed. We wanted to make sure we got a good walk in before Mama had to leave for her big trip all the way down to Plymouth, an all-day trip that she was taking without any of us. You know what that means: a boys-only Saturday!

So what did we do? We had breakfast, we watched some computer, we read some books. But that's all the same as any other day. In order to make this Dada day any different we also had to do things like woodworking—we almost finished making Harvey a hammer, before he tired of the basement—and snow-cave building.

Harvey in a snow cave

'welcome to my bunny hole'

The big snowbanks enclosing our front walk—yet bigger now than they were in that picture—have been crying out to my long-latent snow-fort building instincts for some time, so this morning, with rain in the forecast for the afternoon, we sprang into action. I did most of the digging and Harvey did most of the sitting in the cave, which is as it should be; though I do wish he hadn't kicked me and Rascal out so vigorously when we tried to experience the snow-cave experience for ourselves. By the way, despite his considerable expertise in couch fort construction Harvey didn't feel that this particular structure was a fort, or even a cave; to his mind, it most resembled a bunny hole. He was actually a little disappointed there were no bunnies.

It was nice to see him excited to be outside again, especially when he was thrilled to be put in the backpack for a walk with Rascal. Less nice, though when I had to take him in for his nap; and also when, after lunch, he insisted on staying out in the rain to practice walking Rascal himself. He obviously didn't mind the weather a bit, because the next thing he insisted was that, instead of driving to the library, we should take the bicycle. Perhaps he read my last post and figured he he needed to take drastic steps to force me back into the saddle. It worked, and we had a delightful ride; never mind the freezing rain.

Harvey poses by the bicycle and a big snowbank

way too cool to take the car

Then dinner and playing with Rascal, rousting him up from every place he tried to settle himself. A little dancing to Win By Knockout finished out the day before Mama came home to put the tired boy to bed. I think I did a fine job.

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this is getting silly

Harvey between giant snow piles on the front walk

higher and higher grow the piles!

It snowed again, and we got another day off. We knew all that by 5:30, but it was only once it got light out that we started to realize the full magnitude of the snowfall. Not that it was really that big of a storm—only another foot or so—but on top of all that we already have the situation is starting to become ridiculous. For example, look what we were greeted with when we opened our bedroom shades this morning:

snow piling up alarmingly against our bedroom window

yikes?

And we're on the second floor! (yes, the porch roof). We had to laugh, at the absurdity of that much snow and at the precise resemblance the snowdrift bears to the ones keeping the farmer in his house in that Shaun the Sheep episode (sorry for no youtube link: the BBC is brutal with their takedown notices).

I kept laughing when I went outside, perhaps because having to throw snow onto a pile higher than your head while shoveling the front walk is naturally amusing. The cars looked especially silly after I cleared the snow off of them; before I did they almost in proportion to the mountains on either side of the driveway, but shorn of their covering they huddled dwarfed beneath the piles. It was hard, though, to get anyone to come outside to share my mirth, because Harvey is kind of over winter. It's understandable: with all his gear on he can barely walk anyways, and three plus feet of snow on the ground doesn't help any. He's kind of given up.

Rascal, on the other hand, continues to try his best. He loves the snow on general principles, but even he is having a little trouble with the magnitude of what we're now dealing with. The upside is that, while he still exhibits his traditional snow-day rambunctiousness in the woods, it's pretty much physically impossible for him to run away. At the beginning of the walk he took a few stabs at romping away in one direction or another, but with the snow up to his shoulders in front it was pretty hard for him to make much forward progress. Even the path, with eight or ten inches of new snow in it, was tough going. I felt so bad for him by the end that I tried to get him to go behind me so I could break trail for him with my snowshoes, but he was having none of it. Exhausted though he may have been, he knew that his job was to scout. (As a side note, it's a good thing we know he's getting a lot of exercise: a vet visit today revealed he's now almost 80 pounds! While most of that is probably due to Harvey's unwanted food, some of it has got to be added muscle mass.)

My last chore of the evening was taking out the compost, which involved a great deal of shoveling and also snowshoeing. So much work, and it was all in vain when I discovered that everything in the bucket was frozen solid and could not be induced to come out by any efforts I could muster. And it was a really warm day too, as evidenced by Harvey's wardrobe in that picture up above. Still, making paths around the yard in order to accomplish household tasks made me feel like I real hardy northern farmer. I could get used to all this snow, I think.

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own bed

Harvey's new big boy bed

own bed

Earlier this week we made good on various oaths and promises and finally got a twin mattress set up in Harvey's room, taking the first step towards THE BIGGEST DEAL IN HISTORY, which is to say getting him to sleep on his own. As we moved the mattress around on the floor I said, "You know Harvey, your mama and dada first kissed while sitting on this mattress."
"Really?" Dan said.
"Of course! This is my childhood mattress from my parent's house!"
"Okay, yeah, whatever," Dan said.

We pulled out various pieces from our linen drawer to try to find a twin sheet. "How about this cloud sheet?" Dan said.
"Sure! Those were the sheets I took to college." I said. "You know Harvey, your mama and dada decided to get married while sitting on that sheet."
"Oh yeah?" Dan said.
"YES Dan! Where have you been our entire relationship?"
"I'm sorry; I just don't pay that much attention to your bedding."

We made a big deal about this being Harvey's OWN bed, putting his animals on it and tucking him in for fun. Harvey enjoyed throwing himself on it throughout the week, each time announcing, "OFF MAMA! OFF DADA!" and sometimes "OWN BED!" Yes, he got the concept of personal property pretty quickly.

We were waiting to slowly get the room organized and the bedrails on before launching onto the solo sleep project, but last night at bedtime Harvey threw himself onto his bed crying "NURSING OTHER BED!" and he would not be moved. So I laid him down in his bed and he started laughing maniacally shouting "QUILT! QUILT!" He was so excited about the new bed and all it's tucking in accoutrements that I was afraid he would be unable to sleep. But no, he fell asleep within minutes. Easy as that. And then that was it, he was sleeping in his own bed.

And then I sat next to him sobbing uncontrollably.

Over the past year and a half we've had some casual experiments of letting Harvey sleep in a different room, but each experiment ended with a night of anxiety (mama's) and crying (Harvey's and mama's) and finally re-justification of co-sleeping. Rationally, having him farther away was a pain when he was still nursing in the night, but that ended a few months ago. Now with a new baby's on the way, I'm really out of reasonable excuses to keep him my cuddle bunny forever.

So after an intense period of freaking out (because without Harvey asking for hugs in the night WHO WOULD EVER LOVE ME?) something amazing happened. Dan and I went to bed together and actually had a CONVERSATION. With each other. In voices that were not whispers. It was like we traveled back in time to a different era.

Harvey called out for me at midnight but only needed a few pets to fall right back asleep. He woke up again at 3am and was more awake that time so I lay down in his bed and cuddled with him until we both fell asleep. Two hours later I staggered back to the grown-up bed and got a little more rest until Harvey woke up at 6. All in all this was a pretty good night for him: two wake-ups, neither of them crying, and he seemed to be genuinely happy in his new bed (unlike the crib which he likened to a Romanian prison). In the morning I asked if he liked sleeping in his new bed and he shook his head vigorously in the affirmative. I asked if he wanted to come cuddle in mama and dada's bed and he screamed "NO DADA! NO DADA BED!" So there you have it.

The one who was the most unsettled last night was Rascal. Sometime between midnight and three am he got up and laid down in the entry way of Harvey's room, just looking in at him. Dan got up and moved the dog bed in there in case Rascal wanted to sleep with Harvey, but Rascal just followed Dan back into our bedroom and jumped into the bed with us. He too must have thought we had traveled in time back to a different era because he came up to the head of the bed and laid down in-between us, his neck stretched out under my arm for petting. I have to admit, it was heart-warmingly cute. Just the answer to who will love me when Harvey grows up.

Looking at the calendar, it seems Harvey turned 19 months just yesterday. I guess that's the turning point for all grown up.

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but this could be the time that it strikes!

When we first got him, Rascal was a very nervous dog. He still is, you might argue, but if you knew him then you'd have to admit that he has made great strides in overcoming his fears. He can walk by a trash can on the sidewalk without having to detour far into the street, for example. But there are some things that still terrify him, and one such thing is the vacuum cleaner.

You'd think he'd have gotten used to it by now. It's not like we're neat freaks or anything, but we do manage to vacuum at least once a week or so—more, when Rascal is in a shedding period (six months in the spring and six months in the fall). He's five now, so he's seen a lot of that machine over the years. And yet he still runs upstairs with his tail between his legs whenever we bring it out. I suppose we should admire that sort of consistency.

In his defense, he's not afraid of it when it's not running. Even if we leave it near his food dishes he'll happily munch on his dinner without a care for the mechanical monster beside him. It's only when it's moving—or when the cord is being retracted—that he gets worried. Maybe the great victory he once won over the machine gives him courage; at least until he hears it's terrible roar.

Not that we mind this little bit of cowardice. If nothing else it gets him out of the way when we're trying to clean; unlike our other child, who would like to stand on top of the carpet attachment when he's not grabbing the handle and trying to do the vacuuming himself. But that's a subject for another post.

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walking and talking, and listening too

Harvey and Rascal walking in the woods

a boy and his dog

Harvey is doing some pretty impressive stuff now. Talking, sure, but much more than that... like actually walking when we go on walks with the dog. Yes, it can be a drag to wait for him—especially for poor Rascal, when he's on the leash—but it's worth it: at this rate he'll be ready to hike ladder trails by next summer and I won't have to carry his heavy butt in that backpack. (I am pretending right now that I will not have to deal with getting two children up and down mountains the next time we go camping.)

In any case, Harvey's been walking up a storm lately. Around the block with mama, at the pumpkins at Whole Foods with me, all around Drumlin Farm (pics to be posted later, when Mama has a moment alone with her computer). And not just outdoors, either: those rare moments when he's confined to the house he amuses himself with chasing Rascal, often for some reason walking backwards. Maybe so he can claim it was an accident when he collides with the poor dog? He still falls some, mostly from slippery floors inside or slopes outside, but he's got a pretty hard head and for the most part doesn't complain, even after some fairly spectacular falls.

Cognitive growth is evident as well. This evening we were reading books, and when we finished the stack I sent him to get another one—I was comfortable on the couch, you understand. He was about to go for a boring Baby's First Animals type of book, but when I told him that he should grab Ollie the Stomper instead, he did. Who knew the boy even listens to me?! Harvey, you're now officially ahead of Rascal on the house intelligence chart.

(Don't worry puppy, I don't think he's going to catch up to you on athleticism for quite some time yet.)

Harvey in his pjs

dry your tears, the camera is here!

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they like the same food, too

Rascal looking out the window

he keeps watch on the neighborhood

We call both Harvey and Rascal our babies, even though they are of course not biologically related. Still, that doesn't mean they don't take after each other. Harvey's ever-advancing development vis-a-vis supporting himself has now allowed him to practice one of the puppy's favorite activities:

Harvey looking out the window

he learned from a master

Next thing you know we'll be mediating disputes over window space.

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back to the beach

Leah and Harvey on Good Harbor beach

room to roam in the winter

My apologies for yet another photo post here. But hey, I'm on vacation! At least I'm not making folks sit through a slide show.

Today I convinced Leah to take the day off of work—it wasn't hard, given what's going on with her job these days—and take a family outing to the beach. With us, it's always the same one, so at least we know how to get there. The weather was a little colder this time, though.

Harvey snuggles with mama to keep warm on the beach

nice and warm in here...

Even in his snowsuit and mama-knitted hat, Harvey wasn't entirely comfortable with the conditions. It was a the wind that bothered him—him and everyone else on the beach, actually, at a good 15 mph clip. In defense he pulled his head in turtle-fashion, which meant that he couldn't see much of the proceedings; and absent exciting stimuli he went right to sleep. Oh well, it was nap time anyways.

Rascal running out of the ocean

he is not afraid of the Atlantic in February

Rascal, on the other hand, didn't mind the cold a bit. He got so overheated bothering about thirty other dogs that he had to take a dip or two to cool off. No humans dared anything like that, of course; in fact, he was one of only three dogs to brave the waters in the time we were there. The wind did whip his ears round a bit more than he may have liked, but he bore it well. I made him pose for a portrait before we left:

Rascal on the snowy beach

"going in the water was totally worth it!"

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winter wednesday walk

Leah and Harvey on a snowy morning walk

sleepy baby is dead weight

After a long snow drought, we got four or five inches Tuesday afternoon and evening, so Wednesday morning we were all eager to get out there and enjoy it! Especially since the sun was shining.

Rascal in the snow, sniffing the breeze

he is alert to potential prey

Rascal was probably the happiest of all, and I took the opportunity to create a video record of the ways in which he responds to new snow:

Pretty much the same stuff he does on every walk, actually.

Happy late-winter everyone!

sun shining through snowy trees

real New England winter weather

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To my Valentines.

I fell in love with dan in 1993. I was twelve years old. Dan was the cutest boy on our block, if not in the whole entire universe. He had long silky blond bangs that flopped in his face in a fashion that was mesmerizing.

a young danny with the long sexy hair

makin all the ladies swoon

To my credit, I was also stunningly attractive.

12-year-old Leah at her BatMitzvah

too sexy for this mitzvah

(Visual proof that 1993 was actually in the '80s.)

It was a time of great bangitude (of the hair variety). I twirled around my bedroom singing "Leah Archibald... Leah Archibald..."

I guess this is not so cute sounding now... now that it's written on my business cards.

On March 5th 1993 Dan and I we went on a date to Chadwicks WITH HIS PARENTS. At Dan's prompting I ordered a Turkey club, even though I had absolutely no idea what that was. Honestly, I expected something out of the Flintstones to arrive on the dinner table. Instead came a sandwich with so many layers of bread that I could have broken my jaw putting my mouth around it.

That was the first of many exciting things that Dan would introduce me to. Like mountain biking. And fried eggs. And the internet.

Ten years and one month later, Dan and I sat in my college dorm room, trying to figure out what to do in the face of my obstinate plans to move to LA. "I don't want to go through all the trouble dating you," Dan said, "If we don't plan on getting married."
"Okay," I said. "So let's get married."
Dan said, "I'll see if the church is free next weekend."

Our parents said, "NOT UNTIL YOU LIVE TOGETHER FIRST!!!"

So Dan moved out to LA and started this blog.

On September 4th 2005 we were married. I weighed 115 pounds. I just wanted to slip that in here because it will never happen again. A month later our lives changed irreperably forever. We visited the animal shelter in Sterling MA and spotted a mangey looking pup cowering in the corner. "That's ours!" Dan said. We took him home and became a family.

he was much smaller

he was much smaller

Then in June 2009 we got made an even bigger family with the addition of Harvey Douglas.

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

Harvey Douglas Archibald. A name I hadn't thought to fantasize about 17 years ago. He brings on all sorts of new dreams for the future. Primary among them, is that he grows up to look like my Danny.

young dan on the tire swing

free to be you and me

And lets his bangs fly in the breeze.

Happy Valentine's day.

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Let's walk and talk

Before we had Harvey we were an only-child family. The only child was Rascal, our sweet good dog who commands so much love and attention in our family that he may as well have emerged panting from my very womb.

In the days before Harvey I very much enjoyed my morning walk with Rascal. I still do, but these days it takes a bit longer to prepare the whole expedition team for our morning constitutional. In case you're venturing a zero-degree adventure with your pup and 6-month-old, here are the steps:

First the baby gets changed and clothed in something fleecy with feet. Then I lay his snowsuit on the chair and put him on top of it, but not in the snowsuit because the time in which his thumbs are unavailable must be compressed as much as possible to approach zero. Then I put on my boots (if I've slept in long-johns and put pants over them) or my snow-pants and then my boots (if I'm only wearing one layer). This ends phase 1: preliminary preparations, and begins phase 2: we're really doing this, quit barking at me, we're getting there. I fasten the ergo baby carrier around my waste and then zip the baby into his snow suit. He doesn't like the part where he's zipped up, and may cry until he's lifted high in the air and cooed at and strapped into the ergo carrier. Then we all breath a sigh of relief that that's over, and enter phase 3: outer-outer-wear. I put my down coat over both of us and I use a scarf as a belt to keep it tight around his arms. I find his hat and my hat (hopefully I found them before we started, since visibility is impaired somewhat by the baby front-pack) and I tie on his hat, then mine, then slip my gloves in my pocket, reassure that dog that we're REALLY going this time, and put on his collar and leash.

Sometimes I forget to put a fleece layer under my coat and then when we get outside I notice the wind whipping against my chest and neck. On these days I feel pretty stupid and we cut the walk short. Sometimes I forget a second layer on my legs and the effect is similar. In the fall there were days when I walked out of the house without my hat or gloves, but I learned that lesson quick.

I am constantly amazed by the dog and his ability to walk through a sixty-degree differential like it's no big thing. He looks at me as I'm tearing apart the living room to assemble our expedition gear and he's like, "Humans.... I just don't get it."

After several months of cold weather walking, I'm just starting to get to the point where this morning routing feels doable and not like some tortuous dance of the dead. It seems that most of the exhaustion and ill-humor I've experienced as a new mothers is really just due to the incredible amount of mental energy it takes to problem solve regular life. Like, I used to know how to get dressed to walk out the door... how do I do it while holding an infant? This takes more mental engineering than you think. Do it wrong and you risk provoking a screaming baby, or getting frostbite on your ears, or the dog peeing on the furniture. These considerations are not negligible. It's not just lack of sleep that makes new moms so tired.

But not at least I can say that I've got the morning walk down. This skill is firmly in my toolkit. Expert Dog Walker. Can I put it on my resume?

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gonna be friends

As in any relationship, there are ups and downs between Rascal and Harvey. At the beginning Rascal leapt to Harvey's protection, relishing his new adult role in the pack. He acted very much the big brother, checking the baby often as he slept to make sure that the little guy was safe. Then Harvey grew into a "grab everything" phase, and now Rascal sees him as a fur-pulling terror and growls every time he comes near.

Well, we're entering a new phase in the relationship now with the introduction of baby food. I think it will do wonders for our familial integrity. This footage was caught yesterday morning.

Merry Christmas

To the best of my knowledge everyone for whom we have mailing addresses has already received their annual holiday card from us, unless your name happens to be Matt, in which case ITS IN THE MAIL! At any rate, it seems safe to unveil our latest christmas card design. Dan may have more to say later about its painstaking creation, but for this post suffice it to say that All we like sheep wish you a very merry Christmas!

good babies

We took a family outing this afternoon. First Rascal waited in the car while we made a quick visit to the Harrington School Walk for the Arts, for the purpose of showing off Harvey to those of my coworkers who were volunteering. He was duly shown off, and a good job he did of it too: all smiles, and extra cute in his fleece suit. Then Harvey dozed in the Bjorn while Rascal got to run all over the hills and dales of Whipple Hill in Lexington (with plenty of swimming in the pond in addition). Not long ago we would have been nervous with him off the leash, but no more: he zipped all over the place, often out of site but never slow to change direction and dash past us when we told him we were going a different way. That meant we could just stroll along, going one mile to his eight or ten. Yup, we sure are fortunate in our dependents.

the ancient emnity

Rascal was freaking out much of this afternoon due to the presence of our neighbor's cat, newly promoted to outdoor-cat status, in and around our yard. At a point at which I interpreted his energy as a need to go out for reasons other than feline pursuit, I opened the door that he was pressing his nose against, only to see him dash into the woods. Luckily for everyone involved, cats are strictly territorial, so rather than running straight away this one doubled back, followed shortly by an excited Rascal. Despite his superior speed, however, he was unable to effect the capture—due I am sure to some doubts on his part as to what exactly would be his next step were he to actually do so.

So naturally the cat soon made its escape, under the porch or into the bushes or something, but Rascal kept dashing around trying desperately to pick up the scent. He would not be interested in a ball, or anything else I could offer. I felt for the poor cat, no doubt crouching somewhere feeling, if not abject terror, then at least some mild concern, so I told Rascal, "If you don't stop bothering that cat you'll have to go inside!"

Of all that, the only words he heard and appreciated were "cat" and "inside", and he was up the steps and at the door with some alacrity; once inside, his behavior demonstrated clearly that he was surprised not to find his prey there, perhaps under the couch. Sorry to mislead you, pups.

He's a good dog, but we wish he would get along better with cats. As it is, though, I'm happy enough that he can't catch them. Same with deers, I suppose.

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hot beach video

Rascal ran and ran at the beach the other day, and some of that I managed to capture on video. When we got home he could barely move; it took him two tries to hop up on the bed.

Music is by the Infamous Stringdusters, included so we wouldn't have to listen to the wind that would otherwise be the only thing on the soundtrack. Go ahead and Buy the song on iTunes if you like it, so I won't feel so bad about the copyright infringement!

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summer extension

We went to the beach for Yom Kippur. Non-traditional, I know.

It was delightfully tiring. Too bad we don't have another weekend now to recuperate.

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apples and trees and what not

Some people complain that Harvey's already developing a bad habit of sticking out his tongue. See exhibit A...


and B...


I can't imagine where he gets it from.


No, I've got no clue whatsoever.


Maybe from this guy?

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the bed at 9:00 am

This is what happens after the grown-ups get up in the morning:

Good thing they let us have a little room at night.

Scituations

More pictures from Scituate the other day.

Rascal played in the ocean:

Mama and Harvey watched:

It was perfect weather for a day at the seaside!

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bee afraid, bee very afraid

Yesterday afternoon Rascal asked to go outside. We were of course happy to oblige, but once he was out he sniffed around for about thirty seconds until he noticed (with his keen sight-hound senses) a bee buzzing around within a couple feet of his head. He snapped at it four or five times, with increasing concern, but he couldn't catch it or chase it away; and when it came even closer and did a little circle around his head he decided he'd had enough and ran right back up the steps to the house. How we laughed. Poor little pup.

He has been spending a whole lot of time outside at other moments, though, as have we all. It sure is nice!

valentines

Well, the weather was a little colder than the last time we went to the beach for Valentine's Day, but it was still nice. We all three had a good time, especially Rascal, who enjoyed the freedom of the vast expanse of sand and frolicked happily with the other dogs until he could barely stand up any more. Now he's lying in the bed growling at us if we make the slightest move to disturb him.

I haven't been writing lately because I tend to do so in the evening, and the evening is alot shorter when you go to bed at 8:30 or even 8:00, as we've been doing. Yesterday we locked up downstairs and turned out the lights at 6:30; today it was 6:00. Yup, life is good here at the squibix homestead.

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a different kind of telltale

A while ago I described our wind-up clock situation, in which the clock served as a representation of the degree to which we had things under control—housework and work and things like that. Well, I'm happy to report that today, a year and a half or so later, things are different. The clock is nearly always running, and in fact things are so regular that the dog has identified the winding of the clock as a signal that it's time to go upstairs to bed. When he hears the click-click-click of those little gears going, he hops right off his comfy spot on the couch and runs right upstairs, to claim a good location on the bed before anyone else gets a chance to get themselves set up there. I believe that he is hoping that one day we might allow him to take the pillows for ourselves, and maybe even decide to sleep down on the puppy bed...

drugged by the salt air

We went north to the seaside for an outing today. It was perfect seaside weather: gray and misty and cool. The only thing that would have made it better was if we had worn trousers instead of optimistic shorts. We had thought we might want to paddle a little in the ocean, if we could get to it. No. Rascal did, though, since he doesn't feel cold, and he had a great time. Unfortunately, we're still trying to force him to take it easy on his sore leg, so we didn't walk as much as we otherwise would have; and we discovered that, except for walking, there's not a great deal to do on an outing with the dog. So in the end it was not a long one, but it was nevertheless just the thing we needed to differentiate our weekend from the rest of the workaday week.

Anyways, the point of this whole story is that when we came home—in the middle of the afternoon, no less, not at some unreasonable late hour—we all three fell immediately and completely to sleep. Something in the air up there, I guess. Sleeping gas?

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black marked

I took Rascal to the vet today, and they were ready for him. Back when he was a puppy he loved the vet and the vet techs loved him—he was cute and as easy a dog to deal with as you could ever want—but all that changed within the past year when they had to clip his nails and, um, poke things up his butt. In both procedures he squirmed and thrashed around and growled and snapped, to the extent that he needed a muzzle and two or three techs to hold him down. There must be a note in his records about it now, because this time they put the muzzle on him first thing. Poor little guy. And poor nurses, too. But this time there wasn't any problems, and after they had finished squirting a vaccine up his nose they gave him treats and told him they still thought he was a good dog. He is. But he was nevertheless glad to get out of that office, and they were glad to have him gone. And now we don't need to go back until November.

super-strength? er, not so much...

Rascal is on steroids this week, part of our ongoing effort to stop him from incessantly biting at his tale. So far the medication seems to being doing its job reasonably well, but I had assumed that there would be, you know, some evidence of increased strength or better-than-usual speed in our little pup. It's steroids, right?! No such luck, however (although I suppose I'm glad he isn't any faster than he is regularly, which is plenty fast thank you very much). Instead, he's just been drinking alot more and—a natural consequence—peeing a great deal more as well.

Now, they warned us that that would be a side effect we could expect, but man! I never would have imagined the effect those tiny little pills could have. Poor Rascal has to go out at least every two hours, and if we delay at all in letting him out when he makes his request he's almost visibly hopping from foot to foot (to foot to foot) with the effort of being a Good Dog in the house.

On the plus side, though, when he does get outside there's no more wandering about aimlessly before getting down to business. Nope, he goes right at it as soon as he can, and his relief is all too clear.

We wonder if he notices the difference, or if it's all the same to him.

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adventures in the out-of-doors

We considered making another attempt at the mall this afternoon, but Leah decided she rather go for a walk in nature. It was a good choice. We took the dog, and he pulled us through swamps and over hills for about five miles; maps were not available, so perhaps two of those miles were on a loop we might not have followed had we known what we were getting into. Still, it was very pretty along that particular rocky path, and it was less muddy than the more low-lying sections of the particular state park which we were visiting. The water table is quite high this season, we find. Rascal enjoys all manner of water, and he was in and out of ponds, puddles and creeks the whole way. Luckily as a short-haired hound he features a quick-dry, self-cleaning coat; though perhaps he wasn't entirely self-cleaned by the time he got back in the car. Oh well, nobody uses that back seat except dogs and kids, and they're both already pretty dirty anyways.

All the fresh air tired the three of us out nicely, and if we didn't feel bad about going to bed before the sun set we'd all be asleep already (instead of just the dog). Still, in bed reading at 7:30 aint bad. It's the old-fashioned, fresh-air natural life for us; and we don't even have to get up to milk the cows!

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I don't want to embarass him, but...

Rascal is often very distracted when we he is exploring the great outdoors, including the times when we have brought him from the house for the express purpose of allowing him an opportunity to urinate. "Can't pee now, too busy sniffing!" Of course, this doesn't discomfit him at all, except on those occasions were he is so enthralled with the world about him that he forgets to lift his leg properly even as the pee starts flowing. Then his foot gets wet. Poor puppy.

I feel like the lion got me personally

The problem with going out for the evening and not getting home until almost midnight is that the dog sleeps all that time you're enjoying a fine musical experience, and then wants to get up even earlier than his regular time because he had such a quiet, restful evening. I, on the other hand, have yet to recover from the late night, and was not any use at all today. Good thing Leah is here to take care of me.

what makes a stick?

It is a commonplace observation that dogs enjoy chasing, and chewing on, sticks. Rascal is no exception. It occurs to me to wonder, however, what criteria does he take into consideration when deciding what separates a stick—worthy of notice, of pursuit, of prolonged destructive efforts—from the rest of the woody matter lying around the world? After all, our yard has no shortage of what might technically be called sticks, and the woods where we walk two or three times a day has thousands of times more. And yet he's never distracted by any of that.

The usual thing that, for Rascal, distinguishes what we might term a Stick from the rest of the sticks is, of course, that one of his humans picks it up. Now it's interesting! But there are other ways for pieces of broken branch to catch his attention: a Stick might be lying on top of the snow away from other debris, or protruding dramatically upwards from a larger piece of wood. More reproducibly, anything floating in or protruding from the water is fair game for considerable retrieval efforts, even if the object in question proves to be connected to the better part of an entire tree. Which is at least amusing to watch! And there may be other factors.

Clearly, more study is needed in this area. Perhaps we could charter a journal dedicated to examining it.