Sunday, February 26, 2006

Here's the Doogmeister himself... Posted by Picasa

Requiem for All the Bad Dogs

Has anybody out there read yet? If you haven't, it's a now-bestselling dog owner's memoir of a lovable canine miscreant -- a Labrador who got into everything, and who taught his owners a thing or two about unconditional love while he was at it. I haven't read it yet, but probably will. I have to find out whether Marley holds a proverbial candle in the misadventure department to my dear old departed .

We lost Doogie a year ago today. I'm not usually one to mark anniversaries (I even had to ask Greg whether we had one), but maybe it's just that Marley's exploits recall Doogie's so clearly that I just miss the old bugger all over again, as keenly as I did last year.

Doogie wasn't my first Beardie. He wasn't even my second, or my third. He was, however, the first Beardie I'd ever had who had decided his own career path, rather than applying his considerable Beardie intellect and energy to a vocation such as obedience or sheep-herding. He decided that his life's work was to keep me busy and always on the alert for ways he could get into trouble. Maybe in another home, as a single dog, he could have been better prepped for some sort of competitive dog sport. In mine, though, he decided to become a career underachiever, the Bart Simpson of the dog pack.

Doogie had the semi-misfortune to be living with at the time. Duncan was a canine A student if there ever was one, a Border Collie in a Beardie suit. We had just lost , the World's Most Perfect Dog, and Duncan and I missed him terribly. Against the memory of old Cadence, no dog could have stood a chance, least of all Doogie.

Anyway, Doogie came to me at the age of seven from a family with three (then) pre-teenage daughters. The girls were beginning to get involved in extracurricular activities, and the family spent less and less time at home with Doogie. They decided to find a more attentive home for him, and I was it.

At the time, I was mystified. Why would a family with three children voluntarily give up a big, handsome, kid-trained, purebred Bearded Collie from a very good breeding? My dogs always waited patiently at home for me to return from the office, so what was the big deal?

And then I met Doogie. The second night I had him, he opened my back door and took himself off for a run in the dark. I chased him for about a mile through icy swamps and semi-frozen muck, and finally caught up with him before he decided to try his luck with busy Route 236. He probably would have become a Doogie pancake if he'd had any idea where he was going, but I had the geographical advantage that time. Keeping a death grip on his collar, I marched us both home, muddy ice forming on our legs. I wondered what I'd got us both into, and whether he would live to see age eight.

Doogie chose to distinguish himself from Duncan the A student and the memory of Perfect Cadence by acting as much the canine hoodlum as he could. He broke all of his teeth chewing through a metal crate. He bullied Duncan, who snarled whenever Doogie passed within twelve feet of him. He never met a trashcan he didn't like. He could open doors, cabinets, and containers, so nothing edible was safe from him. He tried to eat the sheep in our herding lessons. He figured out ways to let himself outside, even escaping from the car before I learned to tether him inside it. A few times, he opened up the bathroom door and accidentally shut himself inside, where he panicked, chewed the doorjambs to splinters, and left the floor -- and himself -- in an unspeakable pool of #1 and #2. He broke the front-door window once, attempting to escape when a thunderstorm came to town while I was away at work. He was aggressive to every dog he ever met except for , whom he adopted as "his" puppy. When we moved out here to the country, he figured out how to escape through both the back door and the backyard fence, and he'd amuse himself while I was at work by catching and eating the frogs in the pond. My sainted, animal-loving next-door neighbor would take it upon herself to catch Doogie in the act of frog-hunting and put him back into the garage to work on the trashcans while he waited for me to come home. She always left a message on my answering machine, and many times I came home to a garage full of shredded trash and a phone message that began with "Hello, Karen... your dog got out again, and I caught him eating frogs..."

You must be wondering, "But Karen, you do obedience. Why didn't you obedience-train him?" Actually, I did, and he did a fine job in class and in practice sessions... but he understood the difference between a training situation and real life, and he never really did accept that there might be some crossover between the two.

And yet, that dog adored me fiercely. When he shoved his big old Doogie face into my armpit and did the "Doogie Boogie" to show that he was glad to see me, I was lost. He might have been a "bad dog," but he would be my bad dog for the rest of his long and trash-strewn life.

I'll never forget the year I took Duncan and Doogie to a herding camp up at . Doogie, in his typical style, spent much of his time bullying the other attendees' dogs on the first day there, so that I was forced to put him in a nearby boarding kennel for that week just to keep the peace. I remember the owner telling me, "You really have to put that dog down." I stopped going to Camp after that, but not because of Doogie.

Until the Marley book came out, I always half-wondered to myself why I always seemed to have more stories about old Doogie the bad actor than I did about Charlie, or even Duncan. It finally hit me: the old miscreant just taught me the greatest number of lessons of all my dogs, and they've all taught me plenty.

Doogie taught me empathy. Before living with him, I had immediately assumed that anyone giving up a perfectly good dog was just making up excuses. I had been a little short with some of the people I'd worked with in rescue. Doogie taught me to listen to what the people were saying, as well as to what they weren't saying. It's easier to find the right home for a dog if you'll listen to why a dog might be in the wrong home.

He also taught me to value each individual Beardie as just that: an individual, with likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and to accept that a dog's work ethic might not be the same as mine or Duncan's, or anybody else's. He taught me vigilance, and how not to make assumptions. I learned a great deal about how to puppy-proof a house by making one safe for a big adult dog with crime on his mind.

Doogie may have been a pretty bad dog, but he turned out to be a pretty good teacher. The last thing he taught me is that we who live with dogs are students of canine nature all our lives, no matter what we think we already know. As I remove yet another one of Greg's used socks from the jaws of a bouncing puppy with a familiar twinkle of mischief in her eyes, I wonder what other lessons are in store.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

My, How She's Growing!

A few shots of Dinah-mo at 14 weeks, plus her big brothers. We start Auntie Sue's puppy class next week!

You can see why I named this file "Speedy":

Dinah and Charlie having some fun in last week's snow:

Seamus takes a break from his primary job as Dinah's chew toy and watches Charlie chasing Dinah:

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sex on a Plate

Greg and I both basically believe that Valentine's Day is really an invention of the greeting-card and florist industries, but we feel the need to celebrate just a little anyway. If we had an anniversary, it would be on February 13, so the timing is just about right. Besides, it gave us the perfect excuse for dinner at .

They don't serve food at Windows on the Water. They serve sex on a plate. I'm not kidding -- they really deserve the acronym WOW. Everything we had was so good it'd make a grown gourmet cry, but in particular, the mixed seafood appetizer with its amazing shrimp poke had me ready to lick the plate and beg for more. (Our waiter laughed. "We get that a lot.")

Greg chose the half roast organic chicken, and I went for the trilogy of duck. Those, paired with some nice wines, were fabulous... but the piece de resistance was their special Valentine's Day dessert: homemade white chocolate ice cream, a dark chocolate flourless torte, and two chocolate-dipped strawberries. Michael, our waiter, explained that the ice cream would have come in a Belgian chocolate shell (as described on the menu), but someone in the kitchen tripped and accidentally dropped a tray of the fragile shells. The ice cream came out in martini glasses instead, and it made for a very nice presentation for the few seconds that it remained there before we made it disappear.

I've eaten at some famous restaurants in my life, including Chez Panisse and a few of the big-name restaurants in Boston and DC, but if I've ever had a more incredible dinner from start to finish, I can't bring it to mind. Greg has eaten at Aquavit in NYC, and very favorably compares the quality of WOW's food to Aquavit's.

I didn't really think much of the movie "Like Water for Chocolate," but if you've seen it or read the book, you'll remember the scenes where the main character cooks all manner of incredible meals for other people -- including the man she loves and her sister, who is involved with him -- even though it breaks her heart. Her emotions are reflected in the meals; people consume them and are then filled with her feelings: lust, longing... you get the idea. Anyway, the meal was like that. The chefs are artists, and the emotion they put into the food was sheer joy.

Seriously, if you're looking for sex on a plate, or even just a meal that you'll remember for a good long while, go there. Look past the obligatory photos of the loathsome Bush clan (the restaurant is in Kennebunk, close to the Port) to the views outside, breathe deeply, and prepare to be ravished.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow Day

Sundays are usually pretty busy for us. Greg plays at two services on Sundays, and Seamus and I have rally class -- which we love, but it means we don't get to goof around much on Sunday mornings.

Anyway, it's snowing right now. Much as the weather gets in the way sometimes, it also forces us to kick back and relax when we had other plans. Since class and church services were cancelled, we're having the sort of Sunday often we wish we had: leisurely. Greg's improvising at the piano -- unusual for him, since he almost always composes on the computer. I plan to knit once I'm done with the blog for today, but there are a few different project clamoring for attention today, and I'm not sure which one(s) to pick up.

I did get outside with the puppies earlier this morning for a romp in the snow. Here's Charlie, King of All He Surveys...

Dinah, Puppy Princess, strikes a pose...

...before she pounces on Seamus!

All three puppers have to get in on the act!

We don't get days off like this often, so we have to go enjoy the time while we have it! Enjoy your Sunday, all!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Well Golly, My First Meme

I've managed to be on Blogger all this time without being tagged by the meme monster, but Barbara just tagged all of us on her link list. Thought I would just play along...

This is the "four" meme, in which you have to name a bunch of lists of four things (not Beatles or Horsemen of the Apocalypse). Here we go...

Four jobs I've had:

1. Technical writer
2. Graphic designer
3. R&D chemist
4. Substitute teacher

Four movies I can watch repeatedly:

1. The Blues Brothers
2. The Seven Samurai
3. Animal House
4. Henry V

Four places I've lived:

1. North Attleboro, MA
2. Exeter, NH
3. Kittery, ME
4. York, ME

Four TV shows I like to watch:

1. My Name is Earl
2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
3. Rescue Me
4. House

Four places I have been on vacation:

1. Newfoundland
2. Ireland
3. England
4. France (Paris)

Four favorite dishes:

1. Thai crazy noodles
2. Anything from Ben & Jerry's
3. Spicy scallop roll sushi
4. Eggs Benedict

Four Web sites I visit daily:


Four places I would rather be right now:

1. Italy
2. New Zealand
3. San Francisco
4. France

Since part of the game is to tag people, I'd like to pick on Dale and Lisa. Ladies, you can play along if you want to, but I won't take it amiss if you don't.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Dark Side of Handcrafts

I stumbled across a hilarious blog the other day: ThreadBared. Every day the good folks there show another wildly funny vintage pattern, complete with new caption. They have it all: sewing, crochet, knitting, garish colors, and oblivious smiling models.

Knitting Stuff

It's so hard to put down the socks and work on the other UFOs (and USOs) in my to-do list! I've finished Sock #1 of the Lorna's Laces pair, and can't wait to finish #2 so I can show Lisa the beautiful colors: blue, purple, violet, soft green, and just a touch of taupe. It's called something like Bucks Bar -- I guess you had to be there. It's sooooo pretty, though.

Of course, with about 15 minutes per day for knitting (if I'm lucky), it might be a while before I finish anything else. Between crazy work and crazy puppies, it's a good day when I can knit five stitches in a row without interruption.

And Of Course, There's the Puppy

Friday, February 03, 2006

Dinah in a rare moment of stillness. Notice how the fur around her eyes is getting lighter now that she's a big three months old. Posted by Picasa


My apologies to the folks who come to this blog for Greg's musical news. It's not that he hasn't been busy -- he's been doing a gazillion things at once -- but that I'm desperately behind on my non-puppy reporting. (Okay, I'm behind on the puppy reporting too, but hope to remedy that by putting up Dinah's Web page sometime this weekend.)

Anyway, Greg has been busy getting two choral pieces ready for performance on April 1. One is April, which he wrote last year as an SATB a cappella piece. He has added accompaniment this time around, though I hesitate to say exactly what because I know I'll get it confused with the other piece. O Holy Lamb of God has gone through a few different incarnations, with some changes of words and of accompaniment. This latest version has been arranged for SSAA choir and either piano or harp accompaniment. If my memory is functioning correctly, he also intends to do O Holy Lamb with the church choir and piano (or maybe organ).

The May concert is coming up as well, and he probably would like to get at least one movement of the Sax Quartet done. He has also been working on a string quartet, and rearranged Polyline for solo clarinet and send it off to the ACA for their June concerts.

About ragtime: Greg has been in a real Beethoven groove lately -- he's been practicing mostly the late piano sonatas and the Diabelli Variations. Last night we watched a '70s-era movie about Scott Joplin, starring Billy Dee Williams (with a cameo by Taj Mahal). It wasn't a half bad movie, surprisingly -- and Greg has since been inspired to play a few Joplin rags along with all his Beethoven.

Since the president of the Maine Composers' Forum has decided to step down and move out of state, Greg has inherited that post. He has been VP for probably about 15 years now. He feels torn: he wants to keep the mostly-moribund organization alive, but his heart isn't in it. He's hoping that one of the other members might want to adopt the organization. (I'm not sure whether it's worth saving, truth be told. As far as I can see, the members really only want to pursue their own musical projects, and don't really want to be bothered. It's almost impossible to raise a quorum for the single meeting they have per year.)

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Quick Sock Update

My friend Fran from knitting class emailed today to announce that she was working on her second pair of socks, and that her new Border Collie puppy, Rob, was settling in at the farm. Rob, Seamus, and maybe Dinah will be "classmates" in the spring when Fran starts herding lessons.

Anyway, I finished these last night and wanted to show them off:

Aren't they pretty? The yarn is Kroy Socks yarn in rust with streaks of yellow, green, and blue in it. The streaks form intriguing patterns on the socks: thin, spiraling strips on the cuffs, and those zigzag, scallopy patterns on the feet. At least the two socks look somewhat alike -- I like the "fraternal twins" look, but want my socks to at least resemble each other when I complete a pair.

Next on the needles: the pretty Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Sock yarn I took to Wales with me (on the plastic Balene needles).