Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Day in the Life

At this point in the dotage of Pappy's blog, I'm a little embarrassed to mention how often I think of blogging (never) and expound on all my great ideas for posts (none). But one thing I've always wanted to know is what Pappy does while we are at work. Of course our bedroom, where Pappy hangs out, is way too puny for such extravagances as a webcam on an ongoing basis-- a Pappycam if you will. But for a couple of days...

So, as a coup de grace for the blog, last week I set up the webcam to do time lapse photography of Pappy while we were out at the office. I made some fascinating discoveries, like that Pappy routinely spends part of the morning flopped down on the floor by my side of the bed before moving onto his dog bed. Faithful ol' terrier. Here is a movie of his exciting exploits-- the secret life of dogs.

To all our readers, I leave you with this window on Pappy as a memento. Party on.

Nat and Pappy

Monday, September 01, 2008

Stress on the Repetitive

Over the past few months I've been noting a painful twinge in my right wrist. At times it has been bad enough to keep me from doing things-- for example my kayaking while visiting Maine this summer was at a minimum. It's gotten bad enough that the sports medicine doctor looking after my achilles tendon recommended an MRI.

The potential causes of this affliction? It doesn't seem to be carpal tunnel, so I can keep blogging away. I can think of two possiblities-- Pappy or Pappy. Either his antics chasing after cats and lunging at dogs while on leash caught me at a bad angle, or I'm a victim of ball tossing. I'm pretty certain it was the latter, because we are talking about hundreds of hours of fetch. I would get a little bored from time to time, and would try my fast ball, then trick shots ricocheting off of trees, then the long bomb the length of the dog park, then the misdirection throw over the shoulder or around the back. I'm like the one man Harlem Globetrotters of chucking.

The MRI didn't turn up anything, so I've just been resting the wrist. I've been working at throwing with my left arm, but the results are pretty feeble and can end up just about anywhere within a 180 degree range. I have yet to throw behind myself, but I'm sure that's coming. Pappy got me a Chuckit ball sling for my birthday, but that doesn't seem much less stressful on my wrist than throwing. Occasionally I gingerly throw with my right arm, and it's pure bliss. Those were the glory days.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bumper Crop

Evil WeedThanks to my tireless research last fall, I was able to pinpoint the source of the burrs all through Pappy's fur each time we would go out on a walk. Now that I am familiar with the evil weed, I can't help but notice that this summer there is a bumper crop growing along either side of the creek path. We're talking a gauntlet of six foot plants all along the route Pappy and I walk at least twice a day. And Pappy is every bit as captivated by them now as then, burrowing deep into the plants each time we pass-- thankfully the flowers haven't yet burr-ified.

It could be my imagination, but it seems like the plants are thickest in all the spots where I would stop to pick the burrs out of Pappy's face. Pappy and I might be the ideal distribution system for seeds.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Going Native

Pappy in MaineSo Pappy has been going off-leash as much as he ever has during this vacation in Maine. When we first started out taking off the leash he seemed so incredulous-- "you mean you want me to walk by myself?" Every few feet he'd stop and look back to check in. And when I beckoned to have him come back to have the leash put on, he seemed relieved. But more recently he's grown into his newfound freedom. He falls a little further behind and "forgets" to come along. And when I let him out into the unfenced front yard he no longer does his business and races back to the screen door to come in. He has started to amble down to the beach to lick spilled butter off of the rocks from the recent lobster party, or check out the spot where we dumped out the mussel shells. This morning I had to go looking for him, and he was whuffing at a poor passing walker on the road. Not all good.

But one thing he has enjoyed has been exploring the "back 40". Across the road from our house we have a patch of land shared with two other families-- about 30 acres of spruce forest and wetlands. The way through the woods is layer on layer of fallen trees and crisscrossing pointy branches, with occasional lovely clearings. Jungles wish they were as impenetrable as this. Pappy and I have made three excursions into the back 40, being unable to find the property markers and getting incredibly lost each time. He just loves it, racing back and forth and quickly recalling when I clap my hands. Of course I'm terrified that he's going to pick up some ticks, but so far so good.

Monday, August 04, 2008

World's Most Annoying Dog

Be it a swimming pool or a tidal pool, Pappy's favorite game is to drop his ball repeatedly into the water and then whine and angst until it's close enough to snatch out of the water. And then he drops it back in the water. Pappy's not afraid of swimming off of a shallow beach, but he is afraid of steep dropoffs and so won't go swimming after the ball. This video is of Pappy at my cousin's beach where they have a little tidal wading pool formed by some ancestor jamming a stick of dynamite into the rocks-- before the days of ecological correctness and greening.

Okay, so the other day Pappy was standing out on the rocks, drops his ball in the water, paws at it once or twice, and watches mournfully as it as the tide carries it away to sea. Now Pappy has been swimming in the bay since we arrived, but he has developed a flash neurosis and can only stand on the rocks whining about his lost ball while staring out to sea. I break out the kayak and paddle out after the ball. On turning around to return to shore who should I see paddling after me but our insane little seal dog, churning away in my wake. All I'm saying is that he could have saved me some trouble.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Turn in the Weather

Foggy foggy foggyWell, the beautiful view of the other day has disintegrated. The island weather has moved to the pole opposite crystal clear and beautiful-- suffocatingly foggy. Pappy has been pretty mopey for a couple of days as his paws healed from thundering around on the rocky beach, but seems to be on the mend. I've been painting away pretty happily, but our houseful of guests is getting a little stir crazy. So, I grabbed the bicycle, ditched Pappy, and rode into the village to sit at this picnic bench outside the library and filch internet access.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fair Weather Dog

Dateline: Maine

It was kind of sweet this morning when my wife went out kayaking. Pappy wandered out into the surf gazing after her, wandering farther and farther out. I called him back in and he ran up to the sea wall and just stared after her longingly, like a widow of the sea. Later when she was paddling back in I pointed her out to him, because my wife would have been charmed to see him pining away for her. Of course he just kept patrolling the beach like I was telling him to find his ball, even as she landed. He's brilliant, just not terribly cooperative.

Pappy Watching The Sea

Monday, July 28, 2008

King of the Sea

After a grueling fourteen hour drive to Maine in rain that was also driving, Pappy was more than thrilled to arrive on our vacation. He seemed to recall the house from last year, and immediately started tearing around the yard and the beach like it was all yesterday. He went down to the beach, ambled into the water and immediately took a leak, laying claim to the entire Atlantic Ocean and everything in it. As much as it embarasses me to say this, bow down all you beach-goers.

King of the Sea

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sad Times

I got word today that a friend's Chocolate Lab, Ellie, passed away after an unexpected illness. When Ellie and Pappy got together, they were like ball-obsessed, pizzle-chewing bookends-- if you could find bookends that didn't look remotely similar. And this sad news comes just after hearing that our oldest dog park pal, Jojo, has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

We bring dogs into our families knowing that we're likely to see them race through their too-short lives, but still we're never quite prepared for the reality. Hold your dogs tight tonight. I know I will.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


PoolIt's funny to watch owners at the dog park regarding the wading pool. There are the owners like me who are resigned that their active dogs need a cooldown to keep going in the heat. Then there are the poor schmucks with their beautifully groomed or thick coated dogs who are dying to dump the water out of the pool to keep from having to deal with ruined car seat covers and pets that end up looking like... well... Pappy. Rather than incur the approbation of the rest of us, they spend their whole visit to the dog park policing the pool and yelling at their dogs to get away.

And the wading pool is disgusting. Inevitably some owner starts his visit by dumping out all the muddy water and refilling it with fresh clean water. That lasts for about five minutes. Jack: Pre-PeeMaking the water all the more disgusting are dogs like Jack. On Sunday, Jack started his visit by racing over to the wading pool and arcing a stream of pee into it so that he can pwn all dogs who follow. Somebody refilled the pool, and a few minutes later Jack ambled by, lapped a sip of water out of it, and then re-peeded his previous effort-- I caught a shot of him as he was revving up to the big event. I don't mind. Pappy is pretty filthy all the time, and my philosophy is that he deposits more dirt than he takes with him.

Wet Dog

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dog Park Death March

Pappy Death MarchI'm getting old and I don't love visiting the doctor. My inclination is to ignore aches and pains as long as they seem like they might be getting better or at least aren't getting worse. Then I noticed a swelling on my Achilles Tendon last weekend, and that triggered my other response-- total hypochondria. I was suddenly convinced they would have to amputate my lower leg. On Tuesday the Doc pronounced sentence: "Achilles Tendonosis; no running for three to six months." Then he asked me questions about my routes because he wanted to start running along the Potomac, the $%*#tard.

I'm not totally bummed, because I had lost a lot of discipline over the past couple of years. I've been eating poorly and forgoing other exercise using the excuse "yes, but I run." So now I have to start exploring other activities-- the Doc has approved biking and walking.

So this weekend I came up with a great idea. My wife could drop me off at the dog park with Pappy, and then leave us to walk home. Seven and a half miles down Sligo Creek Trail after Pappy finishes with his ball chasing seemed like a good idea to me. Saturday it went very well. The weather was comfortable and Pappy seemed a happy camper the whole way home with occasional water stops. Today, Sunday, the same drill was fine up to the last two miles. Air of ComfortMy wife had walked out from the house to meet us, and Pappy was taking longer and longer breaks in the shade to examine some bit of greenery a little more closely. Finally I had to break out the ultimate incentive; I bounced his ball a few times to get his juices flowing, and hosed him down with ice water from my Camelback. Now we're home and he's happily vegging next to the air conditioning vent-- bliss.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pumping Up

Charles Atlas Ad
One of the lessons I learned from the Charles Atlas ads in comic books is that skinny pukes get pushed around. This is a sad fact that Pappy has discovered over the years. While they were closer in size when Pappy first met Jack at the dog park, Jack now has a solid 30 pound advantage on the Papster. These days when they wrangle Pappy starts with a lot of lunging and juking around in flashing terrier style, but eventually Jack just steamrolls him. Then Pappy tends to focus on ball fetching instead.

Jack HomonculousBut over the past couple of weekends a dog has been coming to the park who has revived Pappy's passion for wrestling. This dog is the very image of Jack as a puppy, and is oft referred to as Jack's Mini-Me. Pappy can't restrain himself from knocking this pup down over and over again, and the pup keeps coming back for more. I have the sense that Pappy's getting a little payback.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Poo It Forward

When Pappy and I go to the dog park, I only spot him pooing every third or fourth visit. My underlying assumption in this isn't that he has extraordinary bowel endurance, but rather that I simply missed the moment of truth. Feeling that I have incurred a pretty heavy karmic debt from this neglect, I try to regularly go on poo patrol at the bottom of the dog park to pick up the miscellaneous cold stray turds lurking around the remote grassy section.

That being said, I hope that the off-leash walkers of the world register on one key message. It's awfully hard to ignore a dog taking a crap when he's on leash-- it's not impossible, but I think it's a bit harder to make that conscious decision to leave a mound in the middle of the path. When I see a mound lying there, I generally assume that in a disproportionate number of cases that was the doo-doing of an off-leash dog out of immediate sight of the walker. So, thinking about your karmic debt when you are walking a dog off-leash, be sure to pick up a few random dog-pies to fill in your quota.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Here I Sit All Broken-Hearted

One of our big projects over the past months has been to plot out our lives after retirement, and a big part of that was the plan to relocate to Austin, Texas and spend our summers in Maine. Pappy is decidedly in the equation, because he will be a spry eight-year-old when I hope to pull the trigger.

Dream HouseToday I was supposed to be down in Texas looking at our dream home. Near Deep Eddy pool, it is a mere hop-skip-and-jump from the great Town Lake trail. More importantly it is striking distance from Redbud Island, an off-leash area known to haters everywhere as Doggy-doo Island. So what if the house is purple and has an oddball driveway that looks like a graphic designer's nightmare (what were they thinking?), it has a great studio out back! My life of making art and tending to Pappy's every need was perfectly mapped out.

Unfortunately I got the call yesterday from our realtor just hours before I was supposed to fly down that the house is under contract. I need to go now, my wife is in mourning.


After the nice reception I got after my hiatus from blogging, I was getting ready to do a posting about how funny it is when we get home and Pappy tosses his Kong up in the air to indicate that he couldn't get a treat out. Then I started to think that that sounded familiar, and sure enough I already had done a posting on the subject. I'm realizing that my brain is only so big, and only has so many ideas in it.

I've even done the topic of repeating myself before. Blogging is like a horrible hall of mirrors.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Slumber Party

Never one to ride stoically into the sunset, I thought I might throw up another blog posting (heh, heh, I said throw up). There's been no great reason for the dearth of postings; I've been busy at work, had some family responsibilities, and just got on to thinking about other stuff. Pappy is swell, as are my wife and I.

Pappy and MollyThis weekend marks a banner event-- Pappy is hosting his first slumber party. Neighbor dog Molly has been staying with us for a few days. Pappy has slept over at other peoples' houses, and we've had dogsitters come to our house, but this is the first time we have had another dog stay with us.

Highlights for Pappy are the occasional wrestling match, the novelty of licking atoms of unfamiliar kibble from another dog's bowl, and the excuse to bark in the middle of the night because Molly barked first. Lowlights... well where do I start? Pappy was never accustomed to competing for attention, so jealousy over another dog had never crossed his mind. Never quick on the uptake, he now just looks vaguely puzzled as to why Molly is in the way when he wants to be petted. Then, of course, Molly is an irrepressible tease. She loves to steal some stuffed toy Pappy has never looked twice at, and then squeak, squeak, squeak away until he takes notice. Worst of all, she steals his ball and then flops on her back waiting for Pappy to lock muzzles to haul it from her mouth. This scene always gets hot and heavy, and Pappy is a bit of a prude.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Waxing Philosophical

With me posting less and less, it seems like Pappy's Blog is dying the death of a thousand tiny cuts. The one assurance I can provide is that I give every bit as much attention to Pappy as ever, maybe a bit more since I spend less time pounding away on a keyboard. We go to the dog park every weekend morning, and you have to pry me out of the house if Pappy doesn't get to come along. Sick.

So here's the question... how has Pappy changed since two years ago when this blog started? One change is that he has figured out the whole ball retrieving thing, but that came pretty early on. Another is that he's packed on a few lbs-- we went to the vet last week, and they said he is now tipping the scales at a robust, Schwarzeneggerian 41.2 pounds, up two and a half pounds from last year ("perfect" said the vet). Shortly after we got him when we raced him to the vet because his eyes were red (eek!), I think his weight had fallen from 31 to a puny 29.5 pounds.

But the biggest way he has changed is that he truly appreciates being petted. Before he was always anxious to be around us, and getting petted seemed like the price he paid for being close at hand-- it was like he could take it or leave it. He's still a bit aloof, but now, when he's in the mood, he clearly relishes a good massage. And it still seems special when he comes up, gives me a poke on the elbow, and sits down next to me for a little head rub.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to Pappy

This is the big day... Pappy's third birthday. We celebrated last night by having over my brother's family including Pappy's dog-cousin, Ruby. The two dogs had a lovely celebratory dinner of a cake made out of chicken and rice, with a frosting made of peanut butter and chicken stock-- nobody threw up. Ruby gave Pappy some lovely stuffed animals, then she proceeded to take them into the other room and tear them to shreds in the spirit of giving.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Fear

My wife arranged to leave for work a little late yesterday because some workers were coming to install crown molding. When they got delayed, my wife asked them if it was okay if she just left a key and went on to work. Pappy has been around construction workers a fair amount over his years with us, so she figured all would be well. She didn't realize that the dog-loving guy who had visited us for the estimate wasn't going to be there.

When my wife got to work she got a call from the workers. They couldn't get in the house. Pappy was at the front door like the Spartans at Thermopylae blocking the way to Xerxes massing armies. Except that these were just a couple of workers, and Pappy was growling and barking at them rather than lopping off heads and arms. Fortunately neighbor-dog Molly's mom was home, and we called her to come dognap our stalwart warrior while the workers went about their business.

When we got home Pappy was back to normal-- still scared of the slippery kitchen floor, and he shied away from a black trashbag that blew across the street during our evening walk. Our mighty protector.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day, Everybody

Pappy loves you all. Especially if you are a little sweaty.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Funny Game

Neighbor dog Molly is about as sweet as they come, and it's easy-as-can-be for Pappy and me to pick her up on the way to the dog park. Her owners say she gets so excited anticipating weekend mornings. With other dogs she's not at all aggressive, and wouldn't hurt a fly-- except for her aim to collide with other dogs like a sandbag fired out of a cannon, but that's not out of meanness. She's great to have along, but for one thing...

Above all other things she craves someone chasing her. I've worked around her stealing Pappy's fetching ball and running away by just bringing a second ball. But then when it's time to go, she's got the ball in her mouth, her tail is wagging away, and she won't come or let anybody corral her. We used to have Molly over in the mornings before work, but had to discontinue that because it took fifteen minutes to get a leash on her. She has always been good at the dog park about coming when it was time to go, but this weekend she played her funny chase-me game both visits. If I take Pappy out to the car she looks a little forlorn for a second, but as soon as I come back she's ready to play. The only way I have had to get her to stop is to give her the hairy eyeball and repeat "bad dog"; she reacts to faces and disapproval more than Pappy. Unfortunately that wasn't working, and I don't enjoy browbeating a dog at the park.

So now I'm reduced to bribery, or training as some would call it. I'll try bringing along a little cheese (aka "Canine Kryptonite") to see if that is a stronger draw, but I have a bad feeling that she's more interested in the game. If it doesn't work, old Molly's going to be mighty sad come weekend mornings when she's staying home.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pappy Licked Him, Fair and Square

We had a big group over last night for a dinner party. For people who have watched the Pappy movies, their first time meeting him is always a surprise. First off he doesn't talk. But even more, every other person says he's much taller than they expected.

At the end of the evening one of our guests, who had played devil's advocate at dinner by pointing out the unnatural and neurotic entanglements between pets and owners, sat on the floor with Pappy. Pappy gave him a little lick on the face, and he laughed. Then Pappy licked him some more, and he started to giggle. Then Pappy laid into him full bore, licking nose, mouth, scalp, eyeball, and wrapping up with a big old wet willie. Our guest was in such paroxisms of laughter, that Pappy got a little freaked out. But that didn't keep Pappy from licking him some more.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Today I had an unexpected day off from work, so Pappy and I took a long walk through the slushy wonderland left behind after yesterday's wet snow. The interesting thing was that, when Pappy insistently followed his nose in one direction or another, I could clearly see evidence of the spoor he was following. Prominently showing in the slush were the dog and deer footprints he was tracking like a bloodhound. When he hunkered down immovable with his nose pressed to the ground, I could see a clearly delineated yellow patch. I guess he really isn't just making this stuff up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monkey Terror

MonkeyRopeFor Christmas, my aunt picked out a toy monkey for Pappy which seemed appropriately rugged, with sturdy rope arms and legs. Around the same time I gave Pappy a rope chew toy. I can't help but notice that the rope chew toy has barely attracted passing attention. But put that same rope in humanoid form, and Pappy's all about tearing it limb from limb before finally eviscerating it. In just a couple of days he's reduced the monkey to one leg.

The next time I'm feeling a little faint, I'm planning on keeping a locked door between Pappy and me. I'm not sure I'm even comfortable napping around him.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rainy Day Dog

I kind of dread taking Pappy on a walk following a rain. The moisture brings out all the smells. This morning he spent the entire walk with head cocked down and nose glued to the ground, constantly straining to follow some scent. Every damp spot on the pavement and every soggy phone pole is alive with olfactory sumptuousness. The world stinks, and Pappy loves it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

You Just Can't Take A Bad Photo of Pappy

As long as you can get him into the picture, that is.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Pappy In Eruption

Early this afternoon I got a call from the dog walker. She'd taken Pappy out for his daily walk, when he was suddenly overtaken by some digestive awfulness. Stuff started coming out of both ends. I've been around Pappy yakking often enough to know that it's probably a good thing that he has this outlet for the occasional indigestible tidbit, but coupled with the diarrhea was a little troubling. My wife headed home from work early, but when she arrived Pappy seemed none the worse for wear. When I took him for a walk in the evening, he seemed to have a reasonably solid poop-- aren't you glad you checked in on the blog?

It's sad to think of Pappy had such a bad time early in the day, but it gave me a great idea for a garden fountain.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Conversation at the Dog Park

A couple of weeks ago at the dog park, Pappy was engaged in one of his signature endless rounds of fetch. It was just me and one other owner at the park, and Pappy started dropping the ball at his feet-- I'm always at the end of Pappy's list.

Some folks are thrilled to have Pappy single them out, but this guy was clearly a bit diffident to being a cog in my dog's obsession. He mentioned to me that endless fetching seemed like a joyless preoccupation. I responded with a platitude about it being good exercise. He said he used to have a dog that would fetch incessantly, and he'd always felt it was associated with the dog's epileptic seizures. I said that Pappy had never had any trace of a problem, he's just terrier obsessive. He asked how old Pappy was, and I said almost three. He said that epilepsy could come on in older dogs, mentioning he thought he saw a little tremor when Pappy was waiting for the ball. Then he recalled fondly how he would sit and stroke his dog during one of the seizures.

It was a perfectly pleasant conversation, but I just wanted to yell at the guy "my dog does not have epilepsy just because he chases a stinking ball!" Even at the time the situation cracked me up... the discussion couldn't have been better scripted to drive me crazy.