Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Why Sassy Refused To Go Outside

 The morning walk is non-negotiable, unless...

Normally I wake up before dawn and make coffee. Sassy comes into the kitchen and sits in expectation of some Johnsonville brat pieces. Her morning walk is the long one for the day, when she visits friends and urges me onward so she can explore more yards.

By the way, some people are wroth that I write about Sassy, but I wonder who gave them a license to run the world. I assume they have done badly with their individual efforts, so they need to expand their management to Planet Earth. So I am doubly motivated to write about Sassy. Many readers consider her their CyberPet. Others need something to tweet about to their mutually despairing friends.

After finishing a mug of fresh Ethiopian coffee and providing the same to Mrs. Ichabod, I dressed for the morning outing. Normally I have a dog smiling and tagging along with me as I find shoes and socks. I was all the way to the front door when I went halfway back to collect her. We walked to the door, quietly, calmly, almost with foreboding. Then I opened the door to see a steady rain coming down. Her ears picked that up from the start. "Come on out!" Nope. I later told Mrs. I that Sassy would give her life for me, but not if it was raining. I told Sassy, "At least come out and get drained." She accomplished that and headed back to the porch.

I was left standing in a very light rain, so I came back in, too. Sassy got her morning food, which we call her crunchies. The day before we found her favorite neighbor-girl running toward the school bus, which was pulling away. I stood in the street and waved both arms until the bus stopped enough for Ess3 to get on board. Later she told her Mom that we stopped the bus for her. The four daughters' names start with S, so they are the Esses, numbered accordingly to keep them straight in conversation at home.

So the morning started with rain, something I really wanted but discounted from the recent meteorological disappointments. Three days of previously predicted rain turned into a few hours of stingy rain. The remnants of a hurricane went somewhere else and the drought continued. My plans were to gather the rain buckets and water the new Cinnabon shrubs (Clethra) and the Butterfly Garden. Instead, we had all day rain - steady, gentle, and persistent. Even in the late afternoon, a fine mist was falling. Buckets and barrels are now overflowing with rain.

 Clethra - Summersweet, aka the Cinnabon shrub.

The bulbs I planted are hydrated from the rain and forming roots for their growth in the spring. Previously planted herbs are greened up and thriving in the mild weather, 60 - 70 degrees. Soil has been settled by the steady rain. Tons of rain-fertilizer have fed the fungi, bacteria, all earthworms, all creatures large and small. The rain did more work for me in a day that I could ever accomplish.

Roses do not like the hot, dry summer, but they thrive in the cool, wet weather of spring and autumn. Bugs are relatively few, and bushes thrive from the moisture and nitrogen compounds. In addition, rain activates the soil creatures

  • to aerate the soil, 
  • to fashion tunnels for rain, and 
  • to hold usable chemicals in the root zone (by living or dying, by eating or being eaten).

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Sassy the CyberPet

This is the expression most people see with Sassy,
and "Treats!" will also elicit this response.

Sassy has quite a fan club in Springdale. She is well known at Lowe's, where she loves to shop in the garden department. She enjoys trips to Walmart, which often end with driving through McDonald's next door. She has barked into the mike, but also may hold her peace for the cashier or the second window, where her cone is delivered. Yesterday, the cone was delivered with a big smile and a bow by one of her fans on the crew.

We have shared cones for 10 years. I get the first part, and Sassy reminds me when her part is due. I get taps on the shoulder to remind me of my need to share with her. Not one tap, but three taps. At home, the reminders are, in order of urgency:

  1. The first gentle tap on the knee
  2. Two gentle scrapes across the knee
  3. Two energetic scrapes accompanied by her arrogant German Shepherd scowl. I ask Chris to watch as Sassy escalates the warnings on the bed. Naturally I am laughing as they worsen.

Sassy was amused by the photographer getting on the floor.

As her foster mother warned, Sassy is a talker, with a wide range of vocal cues, barks, moans, friendly growls, and songs. Consequently, we talk to her all day and have lots of conversations, which include her pop up ear alerts, smirks, arrogant German Shepherd scowls, grins, and kisses of all types. Her communication vocabulary seems endless. One kiss on the cheek is reserved for the dog park and a few other delights. Her warning warble is used outside the vet's office, but not every time. She sings with me or may just bark - very loudly.

Ranger Bob and our granddaughter get the loudest, most agonized greetings. A stranger would think Sassy is being tortured. Everyone else gets standard barks.

The talking part comes from her Cattle Dog heritage, and they tend to sing too. Cattle Dogs can be painfully shy and one-person dogs, but Sassy adopts everyone she sees, allowing for the unenlightened to not welcome her. She no longer expects every single person to adore her, but most see her gentle face and start warming to her at once. Sassy sniffs for dog traces on their feet and legs and knows when she has a fan almost immediately.

The loud conversations are hilarious. On walks through the neighborhood, everyone talks to Sassy. People sit in front of their homes and expect friends to drop by for a minute or even to "set a spell." Sassy will settle down and guard the property, constantly scanning it for any new activity, from a squirrel nearby to a person a half block away. Then she gets up and barks.

"Are you in a hurry?"
"Do you have an appointment soon?"
Bark! Bark!
"Let's go then."

Ranger Bob, an Army veteran, gets the full treatment: the agonized greeting, begging for dog treats, rolling over for a tummy rub, and resting nearby on the floor and listening. We often use the computer to order car parts (for our fleet of old cars) or to research an item - Social Security, taxes, car repair videos, and Command Cody's music.

Today we were walking past the big field where her friends have coffee in front of their home most mornings. Instead, the wife was leaving in her car, but stopped and opened the door to talk to Sassy. Sassy came over for hugs and praise, and the lady was all lit up with smiles.

When another morning friend sits with us, she says, "How about some love, Sassy?" Then Sassy will kiss her hand.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

For Sassy's Many Friends

 Long ago, Sassy was rescued and treated for her damaged leg. She did not want help walking anywhere. This is a photo from her foster family in Arizona.

 I took Sassy to the park in Phoenix every morning.
In Arkansas, she was perfect at catching her orange ball and bringing it back. The people at the dog park clapped for her catches, so the other dogs were jealous and wanted her magic orange ball.
Sassy gets fan-mail from blog readers. She is called the Cyber-pet by some and readers want to hear more about her. She is half German Shepherd and half Australian Cattle Dog. ACDs are also called Heelers and Queensland Heelers.

Her German Shepherd side is intensely loyal and protective, intelligent and independent in her thinking. The ACD side is also known for intelligence, independent thinking, but especially for talking and singing. When I make up a song and sing it to her, Sassy howls and barks with me, especially when her name is in the lyrics.

People adore her and make a fuss over how gentle and sweet she is. She expects that. They also laugh when she bosses me around. She barks at me for talking to neighbors on walks.
"Are you in a hurry today?"
"You have an appointment?"
"Bark! Bark!"
"You have to go now?"
"Bark! Bark! Bark!"

Children observe, "You have a bossy dog."

Yesterday Sassy stepped out for her early evening walk, went on full alert, and began barking loudly. We saw the oldest Ess girl sitting on the porch. One reason to bark was - she was Sassy's first good friend on the block. Then Ess 2 took over and doted on Sassy. Now Ess 3 makes a point of petting Sassy while the baby Ess 4 giggles and laughs. Their names all start with S, so we call them the four Esses.

The barking was so loud because Ess 1 was holding a kitty. Sassy loves them and is very gentle, but she thinks barking loudly at a cat will endure her to the kitty. Sassy homed in on the cat and eventually touched noses with her. We laughed about how Sassy used to chase her black cat onto the roof of the house. But later, the same cat latched onto Sassy's thigh for getting near her kittens. Sassy was unharmed, except for her dignity. That took place during a yard sale when we were all milling around and Sassy got between the kittens to be given away and the mother cat.

Sassy listens closely to the voices of those who meet her. We found one new neighbor who was late for work but anxious to pet her. Sassy felt that love sat for her moment of adoration. "What a sweet face. I'm so glad I met you, Sassy."

Ranger Bob leaves water out for all critters, and Sassy stops by for a drink every morning. She pauses and listens for noises inside the house. She is happy to call Bob outside to fuss over her. They are the best of pals and the primary reason we commissioned a J. C. Penney portrait of her.

Ranger Bob often talks to her like a rough, tough sargeant, but he can do no wrong in her eyes. She can hear the real Bob, who buys food for stray cats - even for the one that annoyed him by generously marking his bedroom window. Bob said, "He let me pet him while he was eating."

Three-legged in this case. Tragic?
No, we got Sassy from that horse hurting her leg and the family abandoning her.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sassy Walks, Talks, and Balks

We walked at 6 AM today, and I used the inclement weather (only 72) to do some weed trimming. Sassy often sits in the grass, in the middle of the garden, or on the driveway to supervise. I looked around for her and saw that she bulled her way through the front door, only partially shut.

We often see Pat and her husband John. We were too early for them today. Her favorites are Ranger Bob and his brother Mike, who fuss over her. "She is so spoiled," Bob says as he feeds her treats. She greets him like a long-lost owner, even though we see him several times a week. She barks loudly, her favorite way of greeting friends.

Sassy is an effective manager. She slows down behind me to explore her favorite places. Sometimes she wants to cross the street on her own. Then we have a dog-whisper talk. I hold her head gently and speak softly. "You have to ask to cross. You know that." If she pulls away, I talk longer. Afterwards, she jumps up to lick my hand, asking to be restored and reconciled. I tell her what a great dog she is, how much everyone loves her.

Sassy uses her paws for a lot of communication:

  1. A very light tap - Reminder of a task that needs to be done.
  2. A gentle paw scrape - Time to get that done. I tell Mrs. Ichabod to wait for the next stage when I close my eyes.
  3. Three very firm paw scrapes - Her patience with me is ended, and I get her arrogant German Shepherd look. I get her regular food - her crunchies.
  4. Waving the paw in the air - that turned into our mutual joke because I found it so funny. She used her claws to make noise on an antique table, then on a metal air filter. When I laughed about it, she did it with a big grin each time, now in the air because her filter machine and table are too far away. The paw is for treats. She does it to Bob in another room, too.
  5. Tapping us for her night-time routine. Sassy taps me, then Chris, for petting and talking. We tell her how much everyone loves her and how much we enjoy her. She grins and soaks it up for five minutes, then goes to sleep at the foot of the bed.
  6. Holding down our hands. If we are doing a good job petting her, Sassy uses her paws and legs to hold us in that position.
  7. The gentle knee-scrape at dawn. Sassy thinks that when Dawn, the rosy-fingered child of Morn, appears, she should be enjoying her walk. 
  8. Sassy also pouts for attention. She sits with her back towards us and looks toward us a bit, to see if we still love her. "Want some loveys?" She barks and moves up to get some petting, tummy rubs, ear massages, and pep talks.

"Resist the Beginnings" - Lenski/Pfotenhauer

Sassy's best friend at the drive-through window suggested Frosty Paws for her. I bought the pet iced milk, saw how it was made, and switched to Great Value ice cream packets. Sassy loved it from the start and we continued to serve GV as Frosty Paws.

Sassy made it clear that it was a daily night-time ritual, so we began an evening drama with her. She shows a certain amount of discomfort and murmurs a bit. We debate what the problem might be. Finally we discover it. "Frosty Paws? Does she want Frosty Paws?"

Sassy's response varies. Last night she smacked the bed with her paw and grinned, then looked out the door so I could find where the Frosty Paws were located. Once we discussed it with company in the living room. Sassy yelped from the bedroom, yes - she wanted it now.

Every so often, the product name makes her drop her head onto the bed - she is ready for it. We can get kisses and loveys from bringing the subject up. Once discussed, she is confident I will deliver one teaspoon for her. I sing various product songs as I carry it from the kitchen. Mrs. Ichabod always serves.

Frosty Paws, Frosty Paws, Gotta Have Some Frosty Paws
Guess who's here to scoop it and deliver?
You can have your Frosty Paws, get a lot of Frosty Paws.
Have some fun and get some loveys too.

 Resist the beginnings? We have had nothing but fun with this.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sassy Sue's Portrait

Sassy Sue is half German Shepherd, half Cattle Dog - intelligent, gentle. loving, and an expert in managing her staff.

Sassy has always been a bit shy around the camera, but we wanted a special portrait of her. Penney's did a great job last year, so we took her to the same studio. As always, awkward poses led to good results, and the photographer was very good.

Sassy was in a goofy mood and wanted tummy rubs to go along with her poses. She barked going in and barked even more while waiting for the selection of poses. She was clearly done with her job for the morning. Everyone loved her as they walked by the tiny office, and some wanted to pet her before and after. Sassy promotes a lot of affection. Ranger Bob insisted on a formal photo and wanted a print. He loves the photos, which were downloaded about an hour after we were done.

One studio posed Chris with plastic flowers, so I brought fresh roses from our garden.

The photographer had us sitting on the floor with Sassy, on our stomachs with her, and trying to make her a lap dog. We had a great time and got some extra photos. Our 49th anniversary is in November.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When Sassy Is Ornery

The German Shepherd on the right could be Sassy Susan, though she shows her Red Healer heritage with reddish fur on her lower half.

One reader called Sassy "the family's cyber-pet", so I decided to write about her ornery displays, which are hilarious.

One is her evening lovies, when she wants to be petted and adored by both of us. Normally she moves from the foot of the bed to us for that. But sometimes she refuses. I loudly say, "OK Sassy, I will have to draaaaaaag you!"

She responds, startled, and digs into the bedding. My dragging is a gentle tug for 1/4 inch. She acts quite alarmed.

Then I say, "Move. Move." That is a command she almost always obeys. She gets up with a smile and expects both of us to pet her and talk about the things she has done.

She is always managing me, and she has grown in skill. I like to walk her around the cul-de-sac before car trip. She gets some exercise, some sniffing time, and the rest. We go on errands. If I say "Walmart," she licks her lips for McDonalds. She loves Lowe's for the way the staff fusses over her.

Although we start with a walk, we return with a bonus. Sassy gets out of the car, sits down on the driveway, her back facing the house, and looks around like a pouting teen. She wants a second walk. No, she expects a second walk. Sometimes I laugh and take her around again.

Sassy would not pose with the Ronald McDonald statue,
so she responded by grinning and making peace with me.
A nearby customer took the family picture for me. I cannot find the photo right now, but relax, the NSA has a copy.
 I dialed 1-800-NSA-HELP and got my photo from 2014.
They were tracking Ronald McDonald photos.

Sassy does the same about waiting for Ranger Bob to come out of his house or for Mrs. Gardener's granddaughter to stop and pet her. Sassy has a way of sitting awkwardly, not in her alert pose, and making it clear it is a non-negotiable demand.

Sassy blocks a brother and sister from walking to school. They have to stop and pet her first.

Every dog trains its owner to pay up in treats for coming inside. Sassy escalated expectations gradually so I would not rebel against being snookered. I retaliated by buying training treats, which are quite small compared to regular dog treats. Here are her stages in training me:

  1. Sassy walks in from outdoors and looks sternly at me, freezing in place in the kitchen, until she is promised a treat.
  2. Sassy goes to the bedroom when I promise a treat but turns around to check if I have the bag. This makes me laugh every time.
  3. Sassy comes in and sees the treat bag in my hand, but I have to be opening it before she moves toward the bedroom. Then she grins and trots toward "her" bed.
Sassy has a lot of tricks that make me laugh, especially pawing the air in imitation of the times she got attention by scratching the antique table. She awkwardly raises it up to the imaginary table, which is in another room, and looks for my response. Then we share the joke together as I ask her what her butler can do for her.

She wants us to discover the reason for her lamentations when she is hinting for Frosty Paws. Mrs. Ichabod and I go back and forth wondering what it could possibly be. Then my wife says, "Frosty Paws?" Sassy moans, growls, and barks, "Yip. Yip. Yip." We exchange more nonsense and I go to get her evening dose - one teaspoon of ice cream. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sassy's Funny Bedtime Routine

I post about our three-legged wonder dog Sassy Sue so her foster parents can read the post. I promised photo updates for them, and I know they look for them, from time to time.

One of the Fox Valley sourpuss pastors complained, "He even writes about his dog." If one of them would visit a library or bookstore, it would become apparent that writing about dogs is just as popular as reading about them.

Sassy has an unusual bedtime routine. We are with her about 22 hours a day, and she is a real talker. She makes a lot of different noises and loves to have fun with us.

Sassy is half Red Healer and half German Shepherd.
She goes through the vocal range of both, and the super-smart independent nature of both breeds.

Sassy Initiates 
Sometimes, she comes up to us on the bed and taps me with her paw, grinning. That is my signal to pet her and tell her what a great dog she is, how many people love her. Then she turns to Chris and does the same thing. Settling down, Sassy falls asleep soon after.

 Sassy lost her leg from a horse kicking her and her family's subsequent neglect. The rescue society provided her operation and recovery time.
Everyone loves her gentle, loving face.

Bad Staff Evals - Sassy Is Upset
On other nights Sassy begins making low, complaining sounds. "What's up with Sassy?" I tell Chris, "Staff evaluations are in, and they are not good." Chris says, "Did we fail you again, Sassy? Miserable howls follow. So we go through things we should have done - food, walk...Frosty Paws. The mention of Frosty Paws ice cream for pets has Sassy barking loudly. Apologies follow and I promise to get the Frosty Paws.

Sassy is kind enough to show us where the food is, so she points with her nose - out the door toward the kitchen, the path to Frosty Paws. I use ordinary ice cream, and Sassy gets one teaspoon per night. But this is a non-negotiable demand, as they say, and it must be delivered for a night's sleep.

Her Head on the Bed
Another way Sassy goes to bed is to get her head under my hand, grinning at me as I pet her. She keeps her head flat on the bed and enjoys her head being stroked. We work over her ears, which really delights her. We also discuss her day and the friends she has made. She loves to hear Sassy stories and gets quite animated about her best friends.

 Every dog at the dogpark was jealous of Sassy's fame
with the ball and her retrieval of it, placing it in my hands.
We sang a song about that, and she howled for the chorus.

Must Make My Bed for the Night
Sassy may drop off to sleep in one corner of the bed, but she often needs to scratch up a nest for the night. She scratches on covers with manic glee. We keep a layer of thick old covers there for that purpose. Pillows may fly and blankets may fall off. Sometimes we stop her, but then she starts over. Sometimes she just stops and falls down in place.

 Our granddaughter held this pose while I got the camera,
but Sassy came into the frame for the laughs.
No one was hurt.

Making Us Laugh Out Loud
Sassy's funniest moves have developed over the years. She decided to scratch on an antique table to get my attention. Once she realized how funny I thought it was, she scratched and grinned me. That gesture meant, "I need something from you."

When the table was moved, she used the room air filter. We repeated the shock and then enjoyed the humor of it. When the filter was out of her reach, she began raising her paw and scratching in the air, a gesture so hilarious that I laughed every time.

Likewise, Sassy has done what all dogs have accomplished. She managed to get rewarded for going outside and coming back in. At first she glared at me until she got a tiny treat, standing still, glued to the kitchen floor. Later I promised a treat if she went to see her mom in the bedroom. So I waited in the bathroom to see what would happen. Each time Sassy stayed just inside the bedroom door and peered out to see if I was getting her treat. I tried not to laugh, but the Reaganesque "trust but verify" was too funny. I peered out my doorway each time - and still do - and see her looking out of hers.

Sassy has been called The Chauffeur
because she waits in the driver's seat and visits through the open window.