Thursday, April 29, 2010

What do you get when you cross Covert Operations with Meals on Wheels?

Breakfast at The Sinkhole Café!

I thought about naming this post "Sensational crime-scene photos!" in an effort to attract readers. But I couldn't bring myself to do it, because I don't see anything criminal about feeding a stray dog. To me it's common decency.

Let me back up a step: Some of my friends had been warned by Animal Control that they'd be issued citations if they didn't cease their random acts of kindness, which were hampering AC's efforts to trap me. (The officers didn't use those exact words. I think the referenced offense was something like "interfering with law enforcement.") Come on, did they really expect compliance? These were dog lovers they were lecturing--compassionate people by nature! And haven't such humans always flirted with the notion that morality trumps legality?

So there continued to be a small, secret network of people through which intelligence was passed each morning from the early walkers to the ultimate feeders. Usually this intel took the form of a brief statement: "He's at the bank" or "He's at the house" or in some instances "Nobody's seen him." The first one meant that I'd been spotted hanging out in a field behind a closed-down, drive-up banking facility across the four-lane highway from M and J's neighborhood. The second referred to the weedy lawn of a dilapidated two-story house, long-abandoned and foreclosed, that sits a block or so inside the neighborhood's main entrance.

If the word came down that I was camped at the house, it was usually up to M and J to feed me, especially breakfast. For quite some time a number of people had fed me at the house, right in the side yard, in front of God and everybody. But once Animal Control started threatening to ticket people, M and J felt that the "house" feedings should be moved into a nearby wooded sinkhole, out of sight from unfriendly eyes. They also thought that the fewer people who knew the exact location, the better. So when I was on the "Brandywine" side of the highway, it became their gig.

Here are pictures of the house from two different angles, and the sinkhole is in the dark, wooded area to the right in the second photo.

When M and J first joined the feeding team and moved the location to the sinkhole, they fed me there both mornings and evenings, though they preferred the latter, just as it was getting dark. This is because there was only one good entrance to the new feeding place, and it was right along the main road, directly across from the neighborhood tennis club. Chances of being spotted going in at dark were much less than they were in broad daylight. Still, for several weeks they carried out this job for both meals each day that I was on their side of the highway. (They also helped with my feedings over at the bank. But that's another story.)

This is how it worked: They would load a green cloth grocery bag with a bowl of canned dog food (usually topped with scrambled eggs and grated cheddar cheese--yummy!), a bag of dry dog chow, several small Milk Bones, a gallon of fresh water, paper towels, and a serving spoon. J would then drive M down Brandywine Road toward the old house and the sinkhole, carefully checking the area as they approached for any car and foot traffic, as well as people milling around in the tennis club parking lot. And they especially watched for the few people who were known not to be among my fan-base. If everything looked clear, M would hop out of the car near the sinkhole entrance. If not, they'd drive on to the nearest place where M could exit the car unseen. He would then walk back up to the hole (like a shopper carrying groceries home from the store!), ducking in when conditions permitted.

M and J recently revisited the sinkhole to retrieve a water bowl that had been kept there. While there they took some pictures, to show you (and to remind me--though I don't think I'll ever forget) what it was like. Here is the hole as viewed from the tennis club's parking lot. At the far left, through the trees, you can see the side of the abandoned house. The Sinkhole Café's front door is the small dark triangle to the right of the light pole, midway between it and the double-trunk oak tree.

And here is J looking out of the entrance:

After making sure that the coast was clear, M would head down with the groceries!

Once at the feeding location, M would whistle and call me--but not too loud. Then he'd dump any dirty water out of my water bowl, wipe it clean with paper towels, and refill it with fresh water.

Next he'd pour the dry food onto a plate and pile the canned food and scrambled eggs and cheese on top, finally garnishing it with the Milk Bones. By the time he was finished, I was usually standing about ten feet away, watching him. For purposes of this illustration, they skipped the egg-and-cheese part. They also skipped the part about me being there. (Good call on that one!)

When this routine first began, M would leave me alone to enjoy my meal, picking up the dirty dishes and any leftovers when he returned with the next one. This was especially handy at times when I failed to appear right away, or if for some reason I wanted to save some of the food for later. The rules changed, however, after bears were reported (as they are from time to time) in the sinkhole and in some of the neighbors' yards. From that point on, M and J stopped leaving food in the hole. If I didn't come get it and eat all I wanted by the time M was ready to leave, I was out of luck until the next visit. But I was a quick study: I learned to cooperate. (I still insisted, though, that M back away from my table before I dug in. Hey, we weren't exactly BFFs yet! On the other hand, at this point he began saving the Milk Bones for "dessert," hand-feeding them to me after I'd finished my meal. Bonding-wise, I think this did us both some good.)

Later, in the final week or two before I let myself get "caught," something else changed about our routine. M and J got tired of risking the sinkhole run twice a day and struck a deal with our good friend Bonnie: They would feed me breakfast in the hole if she would feed me supper in the yard at the old house. It was fairly safe to do the latter after dark, and J sometimes accompanied her, giving M a much-appreciated break.

Oh--before I forget--as big a problem as it could be for M to get into the sinkhole unobserved, getting out was worse, since he couldn't see up and down the street from inside the hole--even just a few feet inside. And J was wary of their bright red car being noticed by any "unfriendlies" who lived nearby. J would generally pick M up along the road a set number of minutes after she dropped him off, and the funniest extraction I ever witnessed was once after they'd had to make a couple of approaches in the car for the drop-off. While M was in the hole feeding me, J drove home and exchanged the car for their hopefully less noticeable pickup truck. When M saw her drive up in that thing, he didn't know whether to whistle or wind his watch! Clever J!

Here's a picture that will show you how difficult it was to see the street when leaving the hole. It was always something of a crap-shoot. In the distance you can see our car parked up at the tennis club.

The Sinkhole Café wasn't the poshest joint in town, but the food was consistently good. And it was one of those little out-of-the-way places where the only crowds were the infernal mosquitoes. It served its purpose for a time, and the best thing is that when I moved to my new home, the kitchen staff came with me. For these reasons we give The Sinkhole Café a unanimous thumbs up!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chemistry 101 for dogs

I'm going to keep this short, 'cuz I'm not feeling too chipper today. (Probably that stupid heartworm stuff I had to take yesterday.) But Mike told me a great doggie joke on our morning walk, and I wanted to pass it along:

If H2O is on the inside of a fire hydrant, what's on the outside?

You give up?


Isn't that a riot? I laughed so hard I almost missed the light pole I was trying to mark!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Everyone needs a good Buddy!

You may have heard by now about Buddy, the German shepherd in Anchorage, Alaska, who intercepted State Troopers the night of April 4th and led them to his home, where his human dude's workshop was engulfed in flames. Though the shop was destroyed and a shed heavily damaged, Ol' Bud's quick thinking was thought to be instrumental in firefighters' being able to save the house. Buddy was honored last Friday with the presentation of an engraved, stainless steel bowl and--more importantly--a big rawhide bone.

To read the most recent coverage in the Anchorage Daily News, follow this link:

Or if you'd rather cut to the chase (hee hee--I always wanted to say that):

Buddy, I'm proud to share my name with you!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with the Man in the Skirt

Did that get your attention? Fantastic! Let me say up front that I don't really think my new man-person is a cross-dresser. Mike calls it a kilt, and that's good enough for me. But Brandywine came close to being treated to an unusual sight last night. The only thing that prevented it was darkness.

What happened was this: Mike and Jeannie went to a banquet, and M decided to go as Braveheart. They left me alone, even though I know they could hear and see me crying in the front window as they backed the car out. (Hello-o! I still have separation anxiety. Is anybody listening? Is this thing on?) The only thing that got them out of the doghouse when they came home three hours later is that they brought me some leftover steak.

But I digress. Anyway, the plan as I understand it was that when they got home, M would change out of his tartan threads and into the usual jeans and tee shirt, and then take me for my belated evening stroll. What he didn't count on is that I had to pee like the proverbial greyhound (no offense to my skinny cousins!) and couldn't wait. My back teeth were floating! So out we went, and if it had been daytime instead of pitch-black dark, here is what the neighbors would have seen. (The fact that we reenacted it for the camera this afternoon suggests that M wouldn't have been all that self-conscious anyway.)

I have to admit, I rather like the Wild Highlander look. I used to be pretty wild myself.

Incidentally, anyone who wants to see what my man wears under that kilt will have to go through me!

Stupid pet ticks!

It's official: I have Ehrlichiosis. So the antibiotics M and J think they have been hiding in my liverwurst and cheddar cheese treats twice a day will now continue for six-to-eight weeks, instead of stopping after just two. Marvelous. Truth be told, I've been feeling pretty wiped-out the past few days. I don't understand how some piddly thing that looks like this:

carried in something that looks like this:

can kick the slats out from under something that looks like this:

GRRRR!!! It just doesn't make sense. Oh, well . . . what-ever! We do what we have to do, right? At least we found out that I don't have Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And my serum titer for Lyme disease is just borderline, so I probably don't have that either.

Of course, it could be the heartworms that are making me feel puny. Heartworms, which get into dogs by way of mosquito bites, can look like spaghetti if you let them go untreated. That makes it pretty impossible for the heart and lungs to do their job.

I don't mean to spoil anyone's appetite, but these are things you need to know about if you have a dog. I'm glad I corralled M and J when I did so they could reform my health care!

The next post will be more upbeat, I promise. Can I hear an A-men?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

(Tap tap) Is this thing on? I got something to say!

Being a stray dog is no box of Milk Bones. Never knowing where your next meal is coming from--or whether you might have to skip it. Sleeping out in the rain with a rotten log for a pillow and a pile of wet leaves to keep you warm. Counting the ticks in your ears and the fleas on your bum until the itching just about drives you crazy and you lose count. And worst of all having to constantly look over your shoulder for the folks from Animal Control. (Who let those mutts out? Har-har!) Put it all together and you have some idea as to why, after a year or so on the run, I finally decided to let my new humans "catch" me. Whoever said that the hell you know is better than the hell you don't know . . . well, he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

I started the process of "getting caught" by conducting semi-silent interviews with a number of people who brought food and treats to me at my various hangouts. I'll admit I made it difficult for them to help me in this way, because they never knew from one day to the next where I'd be. (Such is life on the street and in the woods--you have to keep moving because you're never quite sure who your real friends are until it may be too late. Although many humans wished me well, a few were always on my case and trying to sic Animal Control on me. I wouldn't have put it past a couple of these self-absorbed Scrooges to poison me!) By "semi-silent" interview I mean that I just let people talk while I watched and listened. Slowly I developed a following that I could sort of trust--but I wasn't about to make any snap decisions. And then Mike and Jeannie came along.

Don't get me wrong. I love everyone who showed me kindness and compassion. But M and J were different. They approached me on my own level. Literally, they got down on all fours and even low-crawled through the weeds to get close to me. I found that comforting. Once after Jeannie had come up to me like this and handed me some yummy bits of raw New York strip steak, she lay down on the ground with her head on her purse. I couldn't resist lying down beside her!

For those of you who like pictures, here's the first one I let Mike take of me. I think he did a decent job, don't you? (Of course, he had a fair amount to work with, subject-wise.)

And here's one of Jeannie feeding me steak!

After about six weeks of checking M and J out, I was pretty sure I wanted to live with them. So a week ago last Tuesday I followed them into a friendly neighbor's fenced-in yard and let another of my fans put a leash on me. It felt strange and scary, but good in a way. Does that make any sense? From there I took a ride to the vet in a big SUV. You can tell from the next photo that I needed a little coaxing.

The doctor poked and prodded, stuck me with needles, shoved something up . . . well, let's not go there, pulled a bunch of ticks out of my ears (that hurt worse than the needles!), and subjected me to various other indignities. But I liked her, so I didn't object too much. Then it was on to my new digs.

I was mega-impressed when I went into this place Mike and Jeannie said was a living room. (I vaguely remember one from my puppy-hood.) They have this long, soft thing in there called a couch, and I felt right away that it was better for resting and sleeping on than the hard, cold ground or a pile of wet leaves--a theory that I tested and verified even before I had my leash off.


I do love me some couch!

I think I'm going to be happy here. Mike and Jeannie and their friends give me lots of gadgets called toys--mostly little furry statues--which they say are to play with. I believe this means you're supposed to tear them limb from limb and pull their stuffing out. The quicker you can accomplish this, the more impressed humans seem to be. I was able to do it almost instantly. Here's a picture of me showing my friend Davina the proper way to maim a toy.

And here is a picture of three of my favorite toys. At first their names (left to right) were Brown Bear, Bobo, and Blue Puppy--which made good sense to me. But after I played with them a time or two, M and J started calling them Anne Bear-lyn, Bobo Van Gogh, and Tripod. I'll be darned if I know why. No offense, dear reader, but humans are pretty weird.

But Mike and Jeannie are nice and they mean well (I think!)--and they let me use their computer to keep this blog. After I get some rest and start regaining my health (did I mention I have a mild case of heartworms and possibly a tick-borne illness called Ehrlichiosis?), I'll tell you more about myself and let you know how my new life is going.

One last thing I'd like to do today is thank the people (in addition to M and J, of course) who fed me and brought me fresh water and talked nice to me and otherwise, directly or indirectly, helped me survive when I was on the run. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Gail, Bonnie, Judy, Larry, Lillian, Davina, Luis, Nancy, Dewey, Ron, Cheryl, Julie, Dolores, Doyle, Martha, Rick, and Holly. Thanks, too, to the caring doctors and staff at Countryside Animal Clinic, who opened an account in my name long before they laid eyes or hands on me. There are also many supporters whose names I've never learned--but they know who they are. To them I am equally grateful. And a big shout-out in support of M and J's favorite charity, Journey's End Animal Sanctuary, a shelter that cares for many species of abandoned and abused animals. Finally, to those few who wished me ill--and they also know who they are--I would simply say: May the fleas of ten thousand stray dogs and cats infest your eyebrows!

Thanks for checking out my new blog. I hope you'll come visit me again. I hate like the dickens to see you leave. Did I mention I have separation anxiety, too? I'll tell you why in a future post, if I can work up the nerve. (It's not something I like to think about.)