Thursday, December 18, 2008

baby, it's cold outside!

Cooper's keeping his nose warm by burying it under his back leg.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

it's definitely monday

There's always something nutty going on around here at Camp Cactus. Sometimes it involves animals and sometimes it involves laundry. And often, it's a combination of both. I know, I know, my laundry basket is out of control. Just so you know...this my clean laundry pile.

Or, it was...want to read more about the Official Camp Cactus Laundry System? click here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

the ultimate indignity...

Poor Frisco. He's being held against his will in the bathroom for a few days while his abscess heals. I feel pretty bad for him, except at 3 am when he's had enough of the solitary confinement and starts whining and yowling on the other side of the bedroom door. Thankfully it's only for another day or two. Otherwise, I might just have to get some ear plugs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

good morning!

Stay tuned for a new layout on this blog soon...and in the meantime? Relax, dude!

Friday, August 1, 2008

and now...the rest of the story

So, where was I? Oh, right...Puppies!
Having already decided we wanted a boy dog, we agonized over whether we should choose Jughead or Archie from among the six puppies (Reggie was already spoken for). We ultimately chose Archie after watching Jughead devour about a pound of ripe cherries off the ground around the tree in the yard, then with a distended belly, waddle off to beg treats from the owner's three daughters.

The warning sirens went off in our heads, imagining a future Jughead waddling around the neighborhood knocking over trash cans and grazing wantonly on garbage.
Archie seemed more interested in us (and by "us" I mean he really took a shine to Dave, and vice versa) rather than the cherries.

This was all fine by me. Archie was the pick of the litter from what I could see, anyway. Sweet disposition, nice proportions and a bit larger than all the others.

I think I mentioned in the previous chapter that after we chose Archie, the unthinkable happened: Dave turned to me and said: "Maybe we should get two."

When I stopped feeling faint, and picked up my jaw from the ground where it had fallen, I demanded to know just who the hell he was, and what did he do with my husband?

As it turned out, Dave's idea didn't come completely out of thin air. Our friend Howard had been telling us about someone he knew who had gotten two lab puppies (sisters), and as he told it, it sounded like a great idea. They kept each other company and each had a built-in playmate. I had actually met these dogs, and I must admit, they seemed like very sweet and gentle labs. (I realized much later that she had gone through hell for a couple of years with her two sibling labs before they calmed down into the dogs I had met.)
So it sure seemed like a good plan to me, unrepentant (and totally naive) dog lover that I am. To tell you the truth, I'd probably have three or four dogs if we could afford it, so I looked Dave (the CFO here at Camp Cactus) in the eye and said, "How about a boy and a girl?" He thought that was a good idea, and we asked the owner's daughters who Archie got along with the best...(It was Betty, of course) and that's who we chose.

The funny thing is, a friend who raised and trained champion Border Collies had offered us a puppy from a recent litter. We had gone out to Central Oregon to help him out after he'd had an accident, and one of his dogs had just had puppies. After hanging out with him and his pups for a few days, it became clear to both of us that it probably wouldn't be a very good idea for us to have a dog that was so much smarter than we are. Border Collies are unbelievable animals. They're so incredibly smart and focused that just sitting in the same room with them gave me a headache from the laser stares they fixed me with when I wasn't even paying attention to them. I could envision taking home a puppy from that litter and being completely hypnotized into doing whatever that dog wanted within days.

So we declined the offer and stuck with our decision to adopt Archie and Betty. The day we brought them home they took a nap in the grass with Dave, and we knew they were definitely the pups for us.

And their names? Archie became Cooper (for Cooper Black, a very old type font I've always loved) and Betty became Abbie (because nobody but me seemed to think that Helvetica was an appropriate name for a dog). To be continued...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

the cat house

It's 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, and my hands are shaking. No, it's not from too much coffee, and I wish I'd just spent a leisurely hour or so reading the paper and sipping a cup or two of french roast. On the other hand, who wouldn't want to jump up from their newspaper and coffee to chase after two insane dogs hell bent on getting to their favorite destination?

It all started months ago, and without any warning whatsoever. Abbie and Cooper pulled one of their great escapes (I can't remember now whether we were walking them and they got away from us, or if they simply barged slipped out the door). Anyway, for some reason, instead of just running around the neighbors' yards in a merry game of "can't catch me", and ignoring the come! and here! commands, they took off together, running in a straight line down the street at top speed (which is roughly about 50 mph).

They seemed to be on a mission, and knew exactly where they were going. We, however, had no clue where they were headed, just that they were flying down the street like the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed. They were headed toward the busiest street in the neighborhood, merely two blocks from our house. Knowing this dynamic duo can cover two city blocks in just under 15 seconds, my heart leapt straight into my throat and threatened to choke me. I took off after them, my top speed being roughly 3 mph. Two of my neighbors (who are considerably fitter and faster than I am) saw them blow past and joined in the chase.

We found them in the backyard of a house about half a block from the busy street, hurriedly cleaning up the last of quite a few bowls of cat food set haphazardly around the unfenced backyard.

I was totally baffled how they could have possibly figured out that there was free food down the street in the backyard of a house we had walked by with them maybe twice, at most. It's just not on our regular route, mostly because there are always a few scraggly cats hanging out on the porch, and we're not keen on encouraging cat chasing, since we have three ourselves.

Since then, every time they've gotten loose lately within half mile of the cat house, they've made a beeline for the place. A few times, the homeowners have caught them, and I can tell you they don't find it amusing even the least little bit. In fact, they don't seem to have any sense of humor at all.

Several times the homeowners have angrily shouted suggested, "You need to control your dogs!", to which I have responded "Yes, you're right. I'm terribly sorry." It is our responsibility to control them, and we are working on it, but as several dog trainers have told us, if there's a reward at the end of this misbehavior, they'll continue to do it. I'm pretty sure that it's going to be a long time before this problem gets worked out. It's not as if we willfully let them loose to roam the neighborhood pooping on everyone's lawns and turning over garbage cans (which they have never done, thank god). We walk them twice a day, every day, always clean up after them, and never let them off leash deliberately.

I've recently learned that the homeowners are feeding feral cats, and belong to a feral cat coalition, whose intent is to capture, spay and neuter, then release them to keep the wild population down. Personally, I think this is a very worthwhile and humanitarian cause. I love animals and hate to see them suffer unnecessarily.

I mean, come on...since their yard isn't fenced they might consider feeding once a day and taking the bowls inside between feedings, which would also discourage other wild varmints attracted to cat food. One of their neighbors confided that they're also supporting a healthy population of raccoons along with the cats.

If the dang cat people would calm down, maybe we could work something out that would benefit both the wild cats and my wild dogs.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


The ad read, simply: Lab/Dalmation Puppies for Sale. It seems the litter was the result of letting their beloved 12 year old, Chocolate Lab-Dalmation mix have a little fling with their two year old female Yellow Lab.
Being relatively familiar with the mellow disposition, dim-bulb intellect, and easy charm of the Labrador Retriever, I read up on Dalmations, having heard that they're incredibly hyperactive energetic, smart and prone to kidney stones and deafness. I weighed the pros and cons of each breed and came to the conclusion that this particular blend of breeds could be a great mix: Athletic, smart, good natured, loyal and easy to train. (Stay tuned later for a cautionary tail about the pitfalls of amateur genetic engineering.) I think it was at that point, possibly swayed by my somewhat optimistic portrayal of the perfect mutt, (or maybe just exhausted by the strain of trying to hold off the inevitable) Dave realized he had unwittingly become a passenger on the express train to the puppy farm. He agreed that there was no harm in just taking a look.

Their names were Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Jughead, and last, but not least: Ethel. A pile of cute, glossy, sleek and squirmy puppy love. Six fat, shiny little black olives climbing all over us and each other for attention. Needless to say, we were instantly smitten.

Even Dave, firmly uncommitted to the idea of a new puppy, melted when Archie (soon to be rechristened Cooper) climbed into his lap for a snuggle.
After checking out all the puppies, and getting to know them and their parents a bit, we agreed that Archie was the one for us. And then the unthinkable happened.
To be continued...  

How It All Began

I've heard there's a name for the sort of condition I had. I think it's called "Empty Nest Syndrome", or something along those lines. Whatever it's called, I was apparently driving my two grown children nuts. In early 2004 they were both living away from home, which we were adjusting to quite nicely, thank you (or so I thought)...and then the whole charade came crashing down.
Within a three month period, I lost my job, Dave lost his, and Rosie, our sweet but paralyzed eleven year old Australian Shepherd mix passed away. In short, I lost my marbles for a bit. Don't get me wrong-it was thrilling to be without all that responsibility for the first time in over twenty years, but you can't just hang up those motherhood urges at the drop of a hat. Not that I didn't give it a shot. We took a long road trip by ourselves and enjoyed the freedom of not making plans or reservations, and pretty much wallowed in being childless and carefree again. It was when we got home that I began to notice how quiet it was, just Dave and I and the two cats. He was enjoying this newly found quiet, this relative lack of responsibilities. I missed the kids. Missed the dog. Missed the chaos.
So, after a few too many long, drawn-out phone conversations with my kids about their future, they started lobbying Dave to let Mom get a puppy, for God's sake! It took awhile. I said I would just look. We went to the Humane Society a couple of times, and debated the merits of girl dogs vs boy dogs. We've had two girl dogs, and Dave thought it was time to try for a boy. I agreed, just needing a motherhood fix. And then I started looking on craigslist.