Harper, The Junk Yard Dog

harper2My dog Harper is a 90 pound gentle giant still waiting to escape his puppy energy. He has a fascination with little dogs, continuously steals laundry and is my big black shadow. You might think his relentless need to be at my side is a sign of his loyal and guarding nature, sadly I think it has more to do with his sheepish comfort and need to feel protected. My husband says “Harper is a free spirit.”

harper3Really though, Harper is my junk yard dog. I can’t even imagine the disgust of having a dirty gym sock in my mouth and that’s not even the worst of his dirty habits. He has thieved an entire stick of butter off the counter, ate a whole chicken carcass and has removed diapers from the dirty pale. Our kitchen trash can posted on a stool for years before we finally invested in a can with a lid to prevent Harper from pulling things out of it. And if a bag accidentally gets left within his reach on the deck, the contents are likely to turn up in the yard. Yes, we have been those neighbors around here for quite some time. The neighbors everyone else wishes lived on another block because of the random milk carton, sour cream container and various plastic bottles continuously showing up.

Last night I was alarmed to notice Harper was not his jovial self. On his last bathroom break to the yard I saw him lay down outside as opposed to his usual sniffing around, chasing Macy or pacing at the door. When he came in he hacked a little and then flopped his body down with a thud as if to demonstrate he is done moving for the night.

I racked my brain trying to imagine what he could have consumed to make him feel this way, it wasn’t normal for his cast iron stomach to respond and feel sick. His food hadn’t changed and he had no access to socks to swallow or trash to devour. I figured he may have had some table scraps from my daughter, though this too is very normal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even the occasional Play-doh spillage.

Then it dawned on me… Earlier this week I picked up new dog treats and opened the box for the first time yesterday. In an effort to try to cook more and eat healthier for the whole family, I bought some extra special treats for the dogs too. The treats are all natural, no preservatives, they look and smell like ginger bread cookies (shaped like hydrants, bones and squirrels.) Not stinky, not dirty, not plastic, I guess my junk yard dog is not accustomed to eating the good stuff.
harper

If My Dogs Attended School, They’d Be In Special Ed.

I love our dogs, they are a part of our family.  And they are oh so special.  Macy is a mid-sized terrier, loyal, agile, anxious and stubborn x10.  Harper is nearly 90 pounds and although he just turned 3 he seems all puppy, also extremely loyal.  This week’s walk in the park is a prime example of the nut bag behavior I deal with for these lovable clowns.

In lue of getting a work out in at home, pilates with a toddler on the hip is impossible, I figured an escape to nature would serve the same purpose and be fun for all.  I loaded up baby and pups for a ride to our favorite dog park – Shawnee Mission Park.  The parking lot was rather empty on this Tuesday morning, which worked out fine for me I was able to open the back and let the dogs run straight to the gate without leashes.

The dog park area is large in comparison to other parks we have gone to, there is a long wide path down the middle flanked with grassy areas on either side and wooded areas beyond that.  Although there are paths down towards the wooded areas, we have always seemed to stay in the middle as it is the quickest way to the water.  My dogs love to be social with other dogs, although they lack social etiquette and don’t quite get it when other dogs are annoyed with their jovial nosiness.  My husband and I haven’t dedicated adequate time to training our dogs, although, we are pretty proud of them coming when we call (eventually).  On our last trip to the dog park another dog accidentally knocked Parker to the ground, the shock made her cry and our dogs immediately retreated from their playful fun to lay down in front of their baby to protect her.

The dogs and Parker were so happy to be out free to run, Parker calling out to her dogs and laughing when they would coming running back towards her.  She alternated between running after them and breaking to be carried.  Needless to say the toddler toddling was not moving fast enough for the dogs.  There were not many other park goers when we first arrived, the dogs greeted fellow pedestrians and pets who passed then happily continued down the path.  Long down the path reaches a wooded area and the trail forks, both sides leading circling to a beach area.  The dogs had been racing forward and back to us until we neared the fork, at this point Macy couldn’t contain her excitement and ran straight out of view towards the water.

Slightly annoyed at her irregular disappearance, I figured no need to worry we would catch up to her.  The beach time was the real purpose of going all the way to Shawnee Mission Park anyway, bringing the dogs out in the heat I knew they would need some time to cool off.  Harper stayed near us, whether to look after the baby or because he is a baby himself – he stayed close.  We took our time and descended the hill down the path I thought was the shortest towards the water.  My memory served me wrong, though the twists and turns eventually got us in sight of the beach to which my daughter exclaimed “Wa wa!”  And finally I was back in sight of my little white terrier sprinting along the shore after a boxer.  A couple more turns and we were at the beach with no sign of Macy.  I called and whistled, no Macy, no boxer and no people.

I knew my anxious mutt probably followed the other park goer and his pooch back up the opposite path when she realized she would be abandoned alone on the beach.  I pleaded with Harper, as if he could suddenly exhibit Lassie’s intelligence, “Go get Macy.”  to no response…  Lugging extra 30lbs on my hip, and a good for nothing beast at my side we began to climb the opposite path, where Macy had apparently gone to join another family.  By the time I reached the spot back where the fork rejoins at the top my cell phone was ringing and I knew someone was calling from the tag on my dog.

A girl with a rottweiler had Macy leashed and was waiting for me up the path, when she realized Macy didn’t belong to the people she was following she stopped to help.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to the stranger who interviened.  She even said Macy was looking around nervously, of course I knew this was between the mindless bounding over the other dogs…  Want to play with me, where’s my mom, I’m so excited, I’m so scared.  

With our group finally reunited we headed back to the water and Macy dove right in.

Parker was dressed in a swimsuit, I assumed it would be wet and messy on the beach even though I didn’t intend on us actually getting deep in the water.  Therefore, I came without a swim suit and felt comfortable in light summer clothes until Harper made me think I might actually have to dive in for him.

Shawnee Mission Park

Despite being half golden retriever sometimes I wonder if he really has any of that blood in him, he doesn’t retrieve and he is scared to swim.  Harper will run along the water and take advantage of the splashes to cool is black furry body, he doesn’t generally go deep enough to even let the water touch his chest.  On this morning he stood in the water facing the shore when some seaweed must have brushed up against his leg.  Panic set in for my giant and he scooted his body back further into the water.  At this point fear increased more because not only was he feeling something on his leg, now he was getting into deeper water.  I called sympathetic and encouraging calls for him to come to me.  I knew if he continued his backward motion I would have to forego my plan of not getting wet in order to save him.  Yet, back further he went until the water was over his back and he appeared petrified putting his head underwater as if to bite at the lake creature pulling him out.

Just before I could leap forward and make the 10 soaked steps it would have taken to reach him, Macy swam out in front of me and snapped Harper to attention.  It was as if in a split second she taught him how to doggy paddle and he could finally make a forward motion in the water again.  She lead him to the shore and as soon as he could reach he practically leapt over her to get to dry ground again.  Macy suddenly made up for her earlier run off and became the Lassie for the day to save Harper from drowning.  Yea, like I said – they are “special” dogs.

Harper refereed a game of Tug-A-War and stayed close to the shore after his terrifying ordeal.

The Master of Disaster

My husband affectionately coined the name Master of Disaster for my daughter.  She, as toddlers typically are, has an extremely healthy level of curiosity and a seemly endless amount of energy to explore.  We did the usual child-proofing measures of putting locks on drawers, the gate at the top of the stairs and plugs in sockets.  While she continued to grow in bravery and independence we quickly learned to clear clutter in her path and try to keep her confined when possible.  Since I have not discovered how to be a hovering mom AND accomplish household tasks this has led to the nickname Master of Disaster.

For example, this morning she sat in her booster chair eating her breakfast while I was in the kitchen.  I take advantage of the moments when she is strapped in and with food to occupy her so that I can clean the kitchen and complete tasks like emptying the dishwasher without an assistance climbing in.       She sat eating in a cheerful mood, talking throughout her meal in her indistinguishable baby garble.  My overly productive morning quickly turned to the realization that my back was turned to her too much when she indicated “All done,” and I saw how she had used most of her yogurt as lotion for her pants.  

Her favorite disaster creating media is water.  She could spend hours in the bathtub, sprinkler, or faucet just playing.  The unfortunate part is that we don’t have all the time int he world to be playing with those things and she sometimes tries to make do with the dog bowl.  I have found her with a measuring cup from the drawer scooping water from the bowl to the floor.  I have scolded her for using her play kitchen set spoons to stir the dog’s water bowl.  And I have noticed a pattern in her intentionally dipping her hands in the dog dish in order to get to play with the water in the faucet since the only rational step after putting hands in the water dish would be to wash hands.

By far the most comical, yet disgusting, Master of Disaster move I have seen yet with the dog’s water bowl happened as most of these incidences started.  I am busy trying to keep up with my household mess and trust she is innocently playing with her things until I realize she has been quiet and independent for too long.

“Parker” I call from the kitchen.  Within seconds she steps into the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen, facing me, hands to her side, silent with a pacifier plugged in and avoiding eye contact.  “Have you been in the water dish Parker?”  I ask.

She loosens from her frozen position and moves past me in the kitchen to the refrigerator magnets.  I can almost see the thought bubble in her head trying to distract me from questioning if she takes position with an approved activity.  I continue to look down at her and recognize her hand is wet, of course she has been entertained by the water bowl.  Crouching down on her level I show her that I noticed.  She finally looks up at me with her big brown I’m sorry don’t I look too sweet to punish eyes.  She resumes use of the pacifier in her mouth and I can tell from the wet escaping with every suck that it too has been submerged in the dog’s water dish.