Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

My First Square Dance

Square Dancer

When my girlfriend Kerry emailed asking if I wanted to sign up for square dance lessons with her, I thought, “Not no but hell no!” I’d never seen square dancers in person, but the ones on TV are rather, well, square. I pictured them just like you’re probably doing right now, and nowhere did that image fit in my idea of a good time. But I like Kerry and I decided, what the hey? We’ve been going for the last several weeks, having fun tripping over our own feet. Last night was something different, though – a real dance away from our familiar surroundings.

Nervous but determined, we walked into the Oak Grove community center to find it was a lot like ours, similar to a grade school gym/auditorium with a stage at the far end, a polished parquet floor, and one row of old wooden benches lining the two sides. About forty people mingled on the dance floor or sat on the benches – perhaps a dozen men (eight or so of them able-bodied) and the rest women. Most of the women were of a certain age with a more natural bent to their appearance, not wasting a lot of time taming their hair into current styles or enhancing their looks with makeup. Some wore those skirts over big petticoats that looked charming on the average-sized, younger girls but accentuated the older women’s tubular shapes and extra pounds. The younger men wore casual attire – one in a long-sleeved, modern printed shirt and the other in a sage sweater, the rest were earnest grandpas in western shirts stretched tight across the bellies of the ones who liked to eat.

Kerry and I immediately went past the snack table, graced with such delicacies as a torn open box of Oreos and a store-bought vegetable tray, to the clothing sale. Four long racks were packed with gently used skirts, tops and petticoats. We were enticed by some items to force a gap wide enough so we could see the whole skirt, only to be disappointed because someone had sewed on tacky lace or big silver cowboy-ish do-dads.

After perusing two racks, we’d gotten up enough nerve to sit on one of the benches and wait for someone to ask us to dance. Since it was a “New Dancers” event we figured the men would be polite and oblige us, and they did.

Each square requires four couples. Because of the paucity of men, some of the couples were two women. Kerry and I couldn’t do that because neither of us knows enough to dance as “the man.” The caller on stage tells the couples what step to make and when, such as doe-see-doe (actually spelled and pronounced dosado) or one of the fifty-one basic steps for beginners. It sounds like a lot but there are a few favorites they call over and over.

These callers were amazing. One rather large man in a black shirt tucked into black pants had a voice like thick chocolate syrup. Smooth and rich – a voice that could be deemed sexy in another circumstance but here it just sounded soothing. All of the callers sounded like professional radio announcers as they first walked us through the sequence of steps. Then they put on classic rock music and sang the calls. We all knew and loved the songs, delivered in those rich voices, the words being the steps we were supposed to make. One right after the other. Quickly changing partners. Being promenaded and twirled, showing off those big skirts and petticoats.

The callers mixed in a lot of good-natured silliness, too. One caller said, “the smartest two couples change places!” In one square, all four couples tried to change places, in another square nobody moved. He stopped the music to make several comments like, “How come nobody moved in that back square? You know what that says about you, right?”

Kerry and I danced several times, being guided by experienced men who took us by the shoulders and turned us in the right direction when we got confused, and encouraged us after every dance by saying, “you’re doing really well” so we didn’t feel so clumsy. The other women in the square would make eye contact, smile and say, “you’re doing great!” or “so glad you’re here.” The nicest, most patient people on earth are the “angels,” as they are officially named, who patiently offer themselves as partners to those of us trying to learn the steps.

During a break, Kerry and I went back to the sale racks, determined to buy a square dance ensemble. We picked out a few lacy tops and flouncy skirts to try on in the frigid area leading to the ladies room. Another woman joined us with her items, and both assured me that the black skirt and white peasant shirt I tried on were “really cute.” Kerry liked a lacy blouse that I had considered, but could tell she really wanted it so I tried on the other top which was more flattering on me anyway. We paid five dollars for each item. A steal! A good hot water wash and these things will be like new.

Happy with our purchases, we went back to sit on the bench until more kind gentlemen took pity on us. We had planned to leave at 8:30, but I looked at my watch and it was already 9:10, so we danced for the final twenty minutes when everyone gathered in a large circle, held hands and bowed in unison, offering the group a big, “T-H-A-N-K YOU!”

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. The whole evening was full of laughter. Whether it was Kerry and me commenting as we went through the racks of clothes (“can you believe someone wore this???”) to us looking across the room at two ample women slouching side by side on the bench, both in bright turquoise blouses, skirts, and petticoats. Their petticoats, thankfully, filled the space between their wide-open legs (“oh my gosh, Kerry, I wish I had my camera!”). This was a Normal Rockwell scene if there ever was one.

All of the men and women we have met since starting this adventure have been kind, lovely people, gracious and forgiving, encouraging and patient. I am so glad to be a part of their world!

Beer Bottle Billie Jean

I’d never seen anything like this video, and as I was watching I wondered how these guys came up with using beer bottles to make a song. The following scene unfolded in my head as if I’d been there with them.

Disclaimer: This is all made up. I don’t know these guys or anything about them. I have made all of this up. None of this is true.

It’s a Sunday morning. A bunch of fraternity boys like the ones in Animal House are sprawled like rag dolls on couches and chairs, empty beer bottles everywhere. The one who doesn’t get hangovers is awake. The remote control is too far away, so he starts blowing into an empty bottle to entertain himself.

He grabs a different size bottle and it produces a higher note. Another bottle, slightly bigger, gives him a lower note. He starts tooting a song that sounds like, “Louie, Louie.” His friends gradually come to life and roll toward him from the floor and couches to see what’s up.

“Hey, let me try that,” one of them says.

“Get your own bottle,” he says, pushing the guy’s hand away with his foot.

Pretty soon all are experimenting with the bottles, forgetting about their hangovers. One picks up an empty six-pack container and loads it with six different size bottles. A few minutes later he says, “Check this out.” He moves his mouth over the bottles like he’s playing a giant harmonica, and toots their fraternity’s theme song close enough that the others recognize it.

Everyone is impressed, and they crawl around looking for cartons, too. One of them spots an empty water jug. “Look, we could use this for bass notes.”

The fraternity president has slept through most of this, but he eventually starts cursing the others for waking him up. They ignore him, and he gets off the couch to take a leak. On the way back he spots an empty eight-pack carton in the kitchen and gathers bottles off the counter to fill it. Soon he figures out the Michael Jackson song stuck in his head because someone kept singing the line, “Billie Jean is not my lover,” the night before. He becomes the band leader. “Play a couple of bass notes on that water jug,” he says. “That’s good. Now PT, lemme hear you do the intro.”

After a while a marketing major says, “We sound pretty good. I think we should video this and put it on YouTube. I’ll see if the priest at the Cathedral will let us record it there. The acoustics are great.”

“Good idea,” the president agrees, “it’ll be classier than doing it here.”

After a week of practicing and recording to get their moves just right, they video their song at the Cathedral, and the marketing major posts it on YouTube, where it goes viral. They become idols throughout the world. Someone signs them to do a tour.

And you and me, we’ll never look at a beer bottle again without hearing “Billie Jean” tooting in our heads.

Machinery and the Difference Between Men and Women

I recently decided to pressure wash the concrete around my house, but I couldn’t get the pressure washer to start after pulling on the cord a few times,  So I did what every smart American woman does when she can’t get machinery to work, I asked a big, strong, burly neighbor to help me.

Sheila moseyed over and yanked the cord a few times but with no success.

I consulted Google and found a video on YouTube showing a guy repeatedly pulling the cord of an identical pressure washer. I’ve put the video below. Skip the first three minutes – he’s just putting gas in the tank, etc.

Another site said to check the air filter. I had no idea what it was supposed to look like, but checking helped because when I put the cover back on I noticed a 1-800 number. I called it and the woman said with the twang of a southern accent, “If it’s been over a year since you had it running, you’ll need to drain the gas out of the engine. Gas can get stale quickly with all these new additives like ethanol – sometimes after only a month sitting idle.”

She walked me through how to do it. “Okay, I got the gas drained, now what?”

“Fill the tank with fresh gas. Then make sure to hold the pressure washer handle in while you’re pulling the cord or it won’t start. I know it sounds hard but you can’t get it started unless you do.”

I hung up and did as she instructed, but it was too hard to hold the handle of the pressure washer at the same time I pulled the cord, so I got some ribbon and tied it around the handle to keep it squeezed tight. Then I used both hands to pull the cord, and after a couple of pulls the thing sputtered and then settled into a steady roar.

Contrast my experience with the guy in the video, pulling and tugging and doing the same thing over and over and over. Notice he is also not holding the handle while he pulls.

Women know that it saves a lot of time to get help, and we need any time we can get to accomplish everything we have to do in a day. A man, however, is only cutting into his “Duck Dynasty” and “Deadliest Catch” time on the sofa. He’s got the leisure to cuss at a machine. And if he can’t get it going he can avoid the chore altogether for a week or two.

Oh, and by the way, when I’m talking here – or elsewhere – about “a man,” I am most definitely NOT talking about my husband.

The Fine Art of Mole Herding

It’s that time of year when, overnight, your lawn sprouts a million dirt tee-pees caused by mole infestation. You want to get rid of the pesky varmints, and you’ve tried poison pellets, lethal gas, impaling them on a pitchfork, but they keep coming back.

Quite by accident, I’ve found a way you probably haven’t tried: mole herding.

Let me explain. I was walking my dog in the park the other day, and a crow flew out of the woods right in front of me. It had a mole in its clutches. The crow landed about twenty feet away and dropped the mole, ready to feast on a nice fuzzy warm breakfast.

On impulse, I shooed the crow away because, without thinking, I felt pity for the mole. The crow flew a few feet away and stood there squawking at me, and I’m pretty sure it was saying, “You lousy (insert trashy word of your choice), how DARE you steal my mole.”

I asked myself, “What the HELL are you going to do with this mole out here in the middle of the park? Because you KNOW that crow will waddle right straight over here the minute you leave.”

And I answered, “Why, I’ll get a plastic bag and pick the sweet little thing up and put it safely back in the woods.”

Even as I said the words, I knew it was a lie. I was pretty sure you can feel a mole squirming through plastic. I’d drop it and run shrieking. This I knew.

So I stood there looking at the mole, which was trying to hide in the short grass, and looking at the crow, which was watching me with a scowl on its face. I could drag this part of the story out for a long, long time – I believe it’s that interesting. But suffice it to say that after about five minutes, I bummed a plastic bag from a dog walking passer-by and spent the next ten minutes trying to get my nerve up to grab the mole.

Two men I knew came by and asked what I was doing standing there up there in the grass. After I explained my dilemma, one of them advised me to use a stick to coax the mole into the bag. A BRILLIANT plan.

I opened the bag a few inches in front of the mole, got a stick, and tapped the little black thing on its bottom. The mole went toward the bag but dodged around it and stopped. “Crap,” I thought, “a shifty little mole.” But it had moved about half a foot. Was it possible, I said to myself, to herd a mole thirty feet to the safety of the woods?

I gently nudged it with the stick, and it went forward a few inches. With more prompting it went a foot or so, and then kept going with an occasional encouraging tap. We’d gone about fifteen feet when it came to the gravel on the side of the blacktop walking path and the mole nose-dived into the gravel, digging frantically with those little pink hands. I had to put the stick under its belly several times to raise it out of there. Finally it got the message and continued on across the blacktop path and another mowed area until it reached the tall grass at the edge of the woods, where it disappeared.

This experience showed me that there is a more humane way to get rid of yard vermin. Wait for them to come out of their holes and then herd them to your least favorite neighbor’s yard. It’s easier than you think, and quite satisfying on so many levels.

Miracle Cure for Restless Leg Syndrome

I have to tell you about my miracle cure for restless leg syndrome. I’d never heard of this malady until I saw the first commercials for drugs to help it, and I thought, “Honestly, how restless could a leg be to make someone take drugs with all those ridiculous side effects?”

And then there I was, sitting in a La-Z-Boy watching “The Big Bang Theory” and for no reason my leg started to jerk. It kind of jerked on it’s own, like when the doctor thumps your knee with that pointy rubber thing and your leg swings out and bonks him in the crotch.

It’s like an eye twitch – just comes on without any warning causes this motion on you eyelid that you have no control over. Except with the leg, there’s this weird sensation before each twitch – not pain, just an odd, disquieting feeling. It keeps on going – once I timed it and my leg jerked every seventeen seconds.

So then I start getting the twitches in bed at night. I’d be dog-tired after working all day and doing a couple of hours of yard work or taking a hike, and looking so forward to sleep. Just when I turned the light out and got snuggled down in the covers with my little dog pressed up against my leg nice and cozy-like, I’d feel that sensation and the leg jerked, practically knocking the little dog across the room. She’s wondering why I whacked her, and I’m wondering why a couple of minutes before I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but now I’m lying there looking at the bedroom ceiling like an owl. I’d shift positions to try and get comfortable and ward off the twitches, but nothing helped. I’d toss for a couple of hours, and then finally the poor pooch and I would fall into exhausted sleep.

The other night I could NOT get to sleep, so I decided to get up and consult Google. I’d done this before but couldn’t find a cause or any cure except taking prescription drugs to help with the symptoms. This time I asked Google about “Natural Cures for Restless Leg Syndrome.” Google coughed up a ton of websites.

I went to one site that had 27 pages of cures, 5 or 6 cures per page. I read about 10 pages with people describing their misery and things they’d tried – like eating a teaspoon of French’s yellow mustard before bed or drinking tonic water. Some said they’d taken the drugs for years.

Then I came across an intriguing one. The person wrote that it worked like a charm and completely got rid of her restless leg. She said to stand or sit and extend your left arm (has to be the left one) straight to the side like you’re trying to look like an airplane. Then you make figure 8’s. They’re supposed to be parallel to the floor, so you’re not making this big swooping thing where the arm goes toward the floor and then ceiling. You’re just making a fairly flat figure 8 taking your arm forward and back. She said to do it 16-20 times, 3 or 4 times a day. Also do figure 8’s with the left (only left) leg.

So I got out of bed and did the left arm figure 8. I had done about 13 of them when I felt this warm sensation in my right leg (the one that’s restless). When I got to 20, I did the figure 8’s with the left leg. Then I got in bed, snuggled under the covers and waited for the twitching to begin.

And I waited, and waited. It never started back up. Not even a hint of a twitch. I couldn’t believe it. I went to sleep for the first time in a couple of years without a jerk! And I’m not talking about my husband. It was fabulous! I got seven hours of good sleep and felt like a million bucks the next day.

I’ve done the figure 8’s for 6 days and still no twitches – not in the bed and not in the La-Z-Boy, which is the other place I used to get them all the time. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. It’s a medical miracle, and it didn’t cost a thing.

I’m curious as a kitten about why this works, so if you know, please share.

Pepper Goes to Camp

Today when I went walking with my friend at the park, we saw a mini yellow school bus with several moms hovering around. The driver backed down the steps in the doorway of the bus. He was holding two leashes.

“Whoa,” I said to my friend. “Isn’t that, uh, politically incorrect to put kids on a lease?”

“Cha-yeah,” Laurie snorted. Then the noses of two dogs appeared at the end of the leashes. We stopped to gawk.

“Here you go,” the driver said to a woman who stepped forward. “They both did very well, but you know Pepper cheats at poker.”

“Oh, I know,” she said, laughing. “Whenever he and the other dogs play, he usually ends up with all their dog biscuits.” The other moms chuckled.

Dogs coming home from camp on a mini-bus

I sidled up to a woman toward the back. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“These guys are just coming home from a weekend doggie camp.”

“Really?” I said. “And they bring them back on a bus?”

“Oh, yes. They pick them all up here Friday afternoon and bring them back on Monday.”

“Really? Did I hear him say poker?” I asked.

The woman laughed. “That’s just a joke,” she said, “you know, like those velvet paintings of dogs playing cards?”

“Um, no.”

“Oh you know, like the ones they paint of dogs gathered around the table smoking cigars and playing cards, with aces sticking out of their caps and pockets?”

“I know the ones,” Laurie said. “Dogs playing poker. It’s a classic.”

“Anyway they just have a fabulous time at the camp. Oh here’s my little Poopskie now.” She went forward and scooped up a small white bijon poodle.

My friend elbowed me. “Boy the school system has gone to the dogs.”

“I’ll say.”

“Take a picture. The windows are all steamed up but you can see dogs sitting in the seats looking out.” So I snapped a picture of the bus before we proceeded on our walk.

“Can you imagine,” I said. “Here’s the bus driver –  ‘All right, everybody ready to have fun today? Okay, well let’s go! No. Wait. No. Pepper, no. I’m telling you, you’d better put that leg down. Put it down. I… will… put… a… cone…. on…. your… head… if you don’t put that leg down NOW. All right that’s it. I’m pulling this bus over, mister. You’re getting a cone head.’”

“Oh my gosh,” Laurie said. “Can’t you see that little white bijon saying, ‘Mr. Bus Driver, Chico keeps climbing on me and thumping like a bunny. Make him stop.’”

“Oh, and when they get to the place, all of them keep walking around smelling each other for the first hour and forming these little trains like circus elephants.”

“That’s too funny,” Laurie said, laughing. “I can see it.”

“And their moms pack them little doggie lunches and they trade back and forth. ‘I got a Milk Bone I’ll trade somebody for a Pupperoni stick.’”

“And there’s this one poor mutt that only has a baggie with cheap dry dog food and they all make fun of him.”

We keep walking, giggling the way you do when things get silly and it feels good to laugh and you don’t want to be the one who stops it.

“And then they play Frisbee and all the sissy dogs sit over to the side and get in little snarling matches because they can’t catch a Frisbee.”

“And then it’s nap time and there’s a big room with towels and little blankets, and they all pick theirs and start pawing and scratching them around the room until all at once they stop, walk around the towels three times, and then lie down.”

“And one of them says, ‘I’m dog tired.’”

“Yeah, and another one says, ‘It’s a dog’s life.”

“And another dog sees Chico messing with the bijon, and says, ‘It’s a dog eat dog world.’”

She leaned into me laughing and almost knocked me into a skateboarder whizzing by.

“Then one of them won’t is all hyper so the guy says, ‘You better settle down right this minute buster or you’re going in the doghouse.’”

“And he whimpers and covers his eyes with his paws.”

“And then one of them lets an SBD and they all get up and start sniffing each other’s butts trying to figure out where it came from.”

“And that bijon says, ‘This is the last time I tell you, Chico. Get your ice cold nose off of my ass.’”

“Yeah and they settle backdown but start making fun of Chico because his mom dressed him in a tiny red plaid sweater that says, ‘Macho Man,’ across the back.”

“And it’s got pompoms hanging off it that are bigger than his cojones.”

“Except he doesn’t have any.”

“Well then, how come he keeps wanting to thump the bijon?”

“Uh, don’t know, maybe muscle memory.”

As we start toward the large hill on the backside of Gabriel Park, I wonder how much longer we can keep this foolishness up – I’m already winded from the giggles, but I don’t want it to stop, so I say, “And then it’s time to go home and they all start howling, ‘99 bottles of beer,’ on the little bus and the bus driver gets really mad.,”

“And they’re smoking cigars and playing poker and one of them has a couple of aces sticking out of his bandana.”

“They get back here to the park and the bus is all foggy because of the cigar smoke but the moms think it’s just from them panting.”

“And the seats are all chewed up because they ripped chunks out every time the driver wasn’t looking and spit them across the aisles at each other.”

“Then they climb off the bus wagging their tails and the bijon starts yapping, and what’s she’s trying to say is, ‘Please don’t make me go back there ever again. They’re all just a bunch of ANIMALS!’”

“And her mom says, ‘Oh you had such a good time, didn’t you? I’ll just have to send you back again next weekend so you can play with all your new little friends.’”

“And Chico cocks one eyebrow up and says, ‘I’ll be waiting, mi amor.’”

“Oh my gosh, Suzanne, you should write this down. This is too funny.”

So I did.

Shedding Some Light on Christmas Part 2

I didn’t get my lights put up yet as planned (see Part 1), which means that I’ve had all this time to dread going outside and stinging lights which, if history repeats itself, will burn out as soon as I’ve arranged them. And spiders.

You’d think self-respecting spiders would have gone somewhere like Hawaii for the winter rather than loitering around here in freezing, rainy Oregon, especially since all their prey was smart enough to skedaddle already.

These are hearty, hungry spiders in the shrubs and low hanging branches where the Christmas lights go. They have beefy muscles to keep warm, and thick hair that sheds the rain. They are the WWE wrestlers of the spider world.

These guys like my face. No matter where I put the Christmas lights, at least one spider will end up spread-eagle on my face, staring me in the eye and saying, “Was this you what messed up my web? Hey! Yeah, I’m talkin’ to YOU.”

Hideous as they are, spiders aren’t the least of my worries. The wind is blowing out there, and branches from big trees regularly come crashing down like bowling balls.

Electrical outlit deep in the bushes.

Here’s the outlet deep in the bushes. Notice cord leading away toward the house – spiders not visible because they are camera shy

But the thing I dread most is getting on my hands and knees to plug all those partially-burnt out lights into the little electrical boxes my husband located under the small shrubs he planted years ago – the ones that grew like kudzu and have completely engulfed the boxes. Oddly, the electrician who wired them (“Electricians R Us”) installed them facing away from the house, toward the street, presumably so I could run lights over to the neighbors. That added little touch sends me over the festive cliff and really gets my Bah, Humbug revved up.

While I’m grumbling about lights, let me add that three years ago I spent a hefty sum to buy four strings of cute little ball-shaped LED lights that are supposed to last 9 times longer than the less expensive regular lights. I tested before taking them outside, and none of these strings lit up. Not one. I thought maybe it was because one of the bulbs was loose, but each one is “locked” in, so nothing is loose. I unlocked one and pulled it out to find that the whole inside was as rusty as cars in a redneck’s front yard. There is no way I can fix that.

It’s just gotten dark enough to don my gay apparel and head out into the black night to face the spiders and prickly bushes. If you don’t hear from me in awhile, check under the big bush to the left of the entry. There was a giant spider out there the other day, and I fear he is NOT going to be in the Christmas spirit.

Shedding Some Light on Christmas

In the spirit of the holiday season, tonight I’m going to risk my life on a rickety ladder pulling giant red bins off the top shelves in the garage to get to the Christmas lights. They’re stacked so high I have to rope myself off like a mountain climber lest I fall to my death on the concrete floor. Here in Oregon it has been dry for 2 days, and according to the weatherman, we’ve got one day left before the rain comes back and pours until July – I have to use this window of opportunity to get those outside lights done!

If I survive getting all ten monstrous bins down without breaking something (on me – who cares about the bins), I’ll dig through them all until I find the one with the lights that mostly don’t work. I’ve purchased replacement strings every year for the last ten years, but by New Year’s Day, only forty percent of the lights will still be twinkling. They will either go out individually or malfunction in thirds – 1/3 of the string will be lit and 2/3’s won’t.

Only two stings of cheap lights that are twenty-plus years old always manage to stay lit. I bet I could cut them with scissors and they’d still work. The new ones burn out in direct proportion to what I pay for them. I thought if I quit buying off brands (like “Great Balls of Fire Outdoor Lights**”) I’d get more life out of them, but that has not been the case. Au contraire, the more I spend, the quicker they die.

Each year when I plug these newer strings in to see if they’ve burned out while in storage (and of course some have), I try and figure out which culprit in the sting of 100 is the lowlife causing the whole bunch to go belly up. Then I go out in the cold night and throw them all over the yard to make a festive display because I’m practically the only one on our small block that decorates. They count on me. “Your house makes the whole street look merry and bright,” they say. It would be a lot merrier and brighter if they would bring me some spiked cocoa.

Their compliments are no longer enough to make me enthusiastic about this whole thing. The last couple of years I’ve strung a bunch of faulty lights together in a long line that looks like a redneck’s teeth – some white, then a black gap, then some more white. I fling them at the shrubs like I’m casting a net into the ocean. After a few minor adjustments to camouflage the un-lit parts of the strings, I call it good.

It doesn’t make much difference whether it looks decent when I finish anyway, because in the next couple of weeks, one by one, whole sections will go out and it will look like a city with a power outage – a few lights here and there, but mostly dark.

Let more ambitious people meticulously cover every inch of their yards and exhaust their savings with sleighs, Santas, reindeer, toilets filled with plastic poinsettias, snowmen, elves, etc. In the spirit of Christmas, I hope everyone has some twinkle in their yards and in their hearts, and if they’re lucky, a husband or contractor to put all that crap there for them.


My Crazy Little Dog

I have to tell you what my little dog does with the goodies she wants to save until later. Normal dogs take the treat outside and dig a hole in the dirt, drop the treat in, and push dirt over the treat to cover.

NOTE: This process involves dirt from start to finish.

My dog, a black, nine-pound Yorkie Poo, had never been outside, according to the breeder. She’d been in the house with her mom and siblings until we got her at twelve weeks.

Our dog Shelley the day we got her

My kids (on each end) and their friends the day we got Shelley

We started giving her treats like pieces of cheese when she was a little older, and we’d later find the un-eaten parts under clothes in the kids’ rooms. It took awhile, but finally we observed her dropping the cheese beside a sweater on the floor of my daughter’s room. She nudged the cheese under it, and then scuffed her nose against the carpet in all directions around the cheese as if she were pushing dirt over it to bury it.

In my opinion, this is instinctual behavior without the filter of common sense.

I told the kids to let her “bury” her stuff in peace because she needed to feel like a real dog and we should respect that. When one of them found the treat later, they’d yell, “Mo-om, I found Shelley’s gross old cheese under my skirt!” I’d dispose of it, and the dog never seemed to miss it.

Once Shelley got full size, we tried to teach her to bury a bone outside. We found a nice, loose spot in a flowerbed and started digging with our hands, but she wasn’t tracking. So I squatted over her and moved her paws in a digging motion. The light went on and she started to get the hang of it. Finally, she had a hole deep enough to cover a good portion of the bone, We encouraged her to pick the bone up, “Pick up the bone, Shelley, pick it up!” which she eventually did, but we had to pull it back out of her mouth to drop it into the hole. We pushed a little dirt over the bone, and she immediately joined us, using her little black snout to move dirt over it exactly the way she scuffed the carpet around the cheese in the house.

“SHE’S GOT IT!” we exclaimed.

The next time we gave her a bone in the backyard, she picked it up and trotted around to the front of the house and laid it on top of a Euonymus shrub. We watched through the window as she enthusiastically moved her nose forward and backward without actually coving the bone with anything. When she was done, she trotted around to the back of the house again so she could go back in the door she’d gone out – no doubt a sneaky maneuver to cover her tracks – content with the safety of that bone for the future, even though it was lying out in the open for any varmint to steal.

Gradually she ceased bothering to  hide the treats she buried in the house. We now find cheese blatantly lying in corners nowhere near sweaters. In fact, this morning there was a yellow cube of cheese in my bathroom. She went over to it and started moving her head, scuffing her nose on the rough tile – right in front of me. I said to her, “Honey, you’re not really burying anything. Just let it go.” But she kept brushing her nose against the tile, circling from every angle until she’d pushed enough invisible dirt over it to suit her.

This crazy little pooch, with her nose rubbed raw by carpet and rough tile, probably thinks that instinct stinks.

A Dog’s Best Friend

I went to Tennessee to visit relatives a few weeks ago, and at my cousin Nancy’s house in Memphis, we sat in her family room to catch up. I stretched my legs out on the ottoman and threw a throw over them, and within seconds Nancy’s two dogs were hovering at my feet begging with their big brown eyes to get on my lap. I invited Sweet Tater up – she’s the one looking at the camera. She’s named Sweet Tater because she’s so fat she looks like a sweet potato with four toothpicks stuck in the bottom.

The other dog, who’s still a puppy, couldn’t stand that he wasn’t part of the party, so he jumped up too. They took a couple of minutes to position themselves just so, and then both pretended to go to sleep.

My cousin's 2 dogs curled up in my lap

My cousin took this photo of her two dogs curled up in my lap – she obviously didn’t care if I was in the picture – it was all about the dogs

I am a great friend of almost all dogs. I like to think it’s because they sense that I am a warm and kind person, but most likely it’s because I know exactly how they like to be scratched.

The dogs I’ve met love to have their ears scratched – but not the ear itself – the part under the ear. No, not in the ear. I guess you’d call it the side of their head under the ear. Massage that area and they will groan their pleasure like a starving Italian man eating pasta.

They also like to be scratched between their front legs and will lie feet up on jagged rocks for hours as long as you continue to scratch them. You have to move your hand around, though. You can’t absent-mindedly scratch a hole in their chests. I’ve seen people do this – not a real hole, but just rhythmically moving the fingers while they’re preoccupied with something else. The dog won’t want them to quit, but will inch itself forward or back to present a new area that’s not rubbed raw.

The other place a dog likes to be scratched is right above the tail. They’ll contort themselves, hunching up and twisting toward the side of the tail you’re scratching while cocking their heads sideways. They look miserable all corkskrewed like that, but they’ll stay there until you get bored so it must feel pretty good.

I actually think it’s an honor that dogs are attracted to me, and that I know how to make them happy. A dog is easy to please and so forgiving when your don’t get things just so. I wish it were that way with people.

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