Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sweet little lunatic

Yes, two dogs, two humans, and a cat make for a plenty interesting household. By the time I started volunteering last summer at the Oregon Humane Society (you see where this is going), Pete, Barley, Hops, Kili and I had all ambled along together for a little more than six years, riding out the rough stretches with only a few scars and white hairs to show for our trouble. (It's not the years, honey. It's the mileage.) Our equilibrium had held for an eon. Or at least an era-- depending on whether you're measuring by the span of dog and cat or human life. Those wee temporal scales had begun to haunt me, from the moment our normally sensitive vet had started sprinkling the word "senior" into discussions of the girls' health.

But the truth is that, if you're going to spend any time in an animal shelter, you had better be prepared to discover your upper limit for furry mayhem. In the years since we'd adopted Kili, I had made only a couple of joking references to "how nutty" it would be to have three dogs. Pete never laughed, he just gave me warning looks. The message in his eyes was perfectly legible: "Don't even think about going there." And I'm sure that if I had not decided finally to wave a white flag in the direction of all things animal, if I hadn't scoped out all the exits from "crazy dog lady" and found them blocked, I would have been better defended against another heart attack.

The boy looks wonderfully mellow in that photo, doesn't he? Ha. He had me fooled, too. When I first met "Zeke" at OHS, he was as wiggly and bright-eyed as a 10-month-old puppy should be, but in a raucous kennel he didn't say boo. He was shy but quick to warm-- he leaned against me when I sat down, and lay his flat little head in my lap. On a walk, he was excited but manageable. How in the world had three different homes all gone bust for him?


  1. Hi Gretchen,
    I've so enjoyed reading your blog. I hope your write a book about animals someday (my guess is that your furry menagerie would love to provide material) - you make them come alive with your humor and love.

    I've been thinking about Skinner and positive reinforcement and that tennis player who hit a wall and have been experimenting with some good habits I want to build in my life. I must say, it really does help and even if it didn't I'm in a better mood. I never, ever thought I'd give Skinner credit for anything but trying to turn humans into automatons so this is our little secret.

    Wonderful to see you the other day. I hope you'll visit my blog when you have a chance: www.sacredartplay.blogspot.com. It will give you a little idea of what mischief I've been up to.
    Warm wishes,

  2. Thanks for your number one comment, Karen! I don't know whether I'll ever find the language to do justice to my furry family's antics, but it's fun to try.

    Yeah, I'm almost the last person I would have expected to get touched by the gospel of Skinner, or espouse it as a path to joyous engagement with other creatures, but the proof has been in the pudding for me. (There's a mixed metaphor for you: do you like your gospel chocolate or butterscotch?)