posts tagged with 'rascal'


Rascal died on Monday evening. He hasn't featured very much in this blog since he got upstaged by kids nine and a half years ago, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a huge part of our lives up until yesterday morning. It was really hard to say goodbye to him, and the pain keeps coming in waves. When we have someplace to go and he's not there to hear my instruction to "be good and guard the house"—something I've said at least a couple times a day, every day, for the last 12 years. When we come back and I have to catch myself before saying "where's our dog?". When I cut the crusts off of Lijah's toast and have to just put them in the compost. When I walk down the steps to the yard and see his grave.

We were lucky enough to be able to let him die at home—after a terrible experience six years ago he hasn't really done vet offices, and the last thing we wanted to do was make him spend his last moments in such a stressful environment. And we buried him in our yard right by the steps, under the rhododendron bush where he spent so many summer afternoons. The boys lit candles and Harvey offered memorials he'd written on wood.

Rascal's grave


It's strange losing him. He wasn't such an active participant in our life over the last year, especially since his first stroke—or whatever it was—affected his hips and really limited his mobility. But we counted on him to always be there, and he was: attentive and loving, or at least putting up with us asking him to move from his comfy spot on the couch. And I discover I thought about him a lot. Today I was vacuuming and thought to check where he was so I wouldn't disturb him. Then I almost cried. Our family did fun things today, and argued, and worked; we mourned all day Tuesday, from the moment it was clear that he wouldn't recover, but now life has returned pretty much to normal. Except slightly emptier. He was the best dog.

We miss you Rascal.


a longer leash

Lately I've been noticing that most people around here walk their dogs on a pretty short leash. Not crazy short—just like the typical six feet. We have one of those: it's black and thick and strong, because Rascal had some pulling power in his younger days! But we haven't used it for a long time. Instead, when he has to be on a leash at all we go with the 15-foot retractable model. Watching folks striding along the sidewalk with their golden retrievers heeling beautifully made me think, for a moment, that I wish I could walk like that with Rascal... but by the next moment I had changed my mind. Because that's not really what either of us are like.

Rascal doesn't run as much in his old age as he once did, but he still likes to stretch out every once and a while—certainly, for most of his life it was running rather than walking that gave him all his exercise. A walk, for him, is all about exploring the smells and tastes of the neighborhood. For my part, while I'm happy to walk briskly when I can, I'm not particular as to the direction—and I'm rarely in any real hurry. So it suits us both to let him come and go within that 15-foot radius. He can range ahead or behind, or go sniffing in woods or lawns, without me having to think about it too much. I figure the model is kind of like my parenting. He's coming along in the same general direction that I'm going, but I'm not going to worry to much about making him stay right next to me for show or anything. It seems to work for us.


who's a good dog?!

Leah's parents got a new puppy the other day. By the strange logic of anthropomorphizing dog-owners, I guess that makes him the boys'... uncle? Regardless, he's super cute!

Zion and Harvey playing with a baby sheltie puppy

look at that little sweety!

You can't deny puppies' appeal. They're little and fuzzy and race around like maniacs until they get tired and fall over all of a sudden. Plus they bump into things. Bumping into things is very cute. Our boys, Zion especially, would love a puppy of their own. maybe one day. But for now, we have a perfectly wonderful dog of our own already.

Sure, Rascal is getting on in years. He can't hike like he used to, and he has to think a little about jumping up onto the couch—but he still loves taking walks interesting places and menacing squirrels and, most important, hanging around with us. On a recent rainy afternoon I was doing some work outside and he very companionably came out to with me, establishing himself comfortably under a rhododendron away from the drizzle.

Rascal relaxing under a bush on a drizzly day

making himself comfortable

Puppies are fun and exciting, but lets not ignore the virtues of being calm and relaxed! Plus as big as he is Rascal is great at warming up my feet in the bed; it would take a puppy months to reach that point. So sorry Zion, we're all set for now!


fox in the farmyard

Saturday morning at around 8:00 I heard some noise from the chickens out in the yard—noise that was alarming enough to send me running out to the porch. That was the correct reaction, because right there coming around the corner of the house in hot pursuit of a few of our hens was fox! I yelled for Rascal, who was still in his morning stupor: somehow hadn't noticed when the chase started in the backyard, and he took an unsatisfactory four or five seconds to get out the door after the fox. And then about half that to chase it out of the yard.

a fox in the neighbor's driveway

lean and hungry look

Two interesting things about this fox, the first one I've seen up close and personal in an adversarial situation. One, it was small: too small, luckily, to easily engage with a chicken. It was close behind three of the for several seconds but couldn't manage to get its jaws into any of them (and somehow it didn't go after the two who made bad course decisions and caught themselves in corners of the garden fence!). Two, it showed good situational intelligence. It pretty much ignored me when I came out, but left like a shot when it noticed Rascal. But then when it got outside the fence (the outer fence right now is just a reminder to any animals much smaller than Rascal) it realized almost instantly that he wasn't after it any more, and stopped to look back—look back mockingly, I'd say, though maybe it just had its tongue out to pant.

At that early hour there wasn't anyone else around outside, so the fox felt safe to trot slowly around the edge of our property, with Rascal keenly interested in its progress the whole way (it was moving so slowly I had no trouble getting the picture above; I just wish I had thought to grab my real camera). When it got to the back yard again, though, it ran into trouble: the fence is lower in the woods, and Rascal was enraged enough to jump it to rejoin the chase. That was the last we saw of the little guy, who knew to get out while the getting was good.

Not wanting Rascal running all over the universe, I put him on the leash and tried to get him on the trail—but given he's a sight hound not a scent hound, the results were unsatisfactory. There was so much fox smell around he just followed the trail back around the house, and there was no way we could figure out which direction the fox had taken off in. So that was the end of the story. A happy ending for the chickens, thank goodness, and they went right back to pecking and scratching... just as we went right back to enjoying our Saturday. And a mostly happy ending for the fox too, I suppose; as happy as I'm prepared to allow it!


this moment

Rascal in a hole he dug in the snow

doggy snow fort

A(nother) moment from the week.

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.


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


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


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


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.


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.