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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sassy's Norman Rockwell Neighborhood

 I am Sassy Sue - and this is my Norman Rockwell world.

I had rescue roses on the altar for Reformation Sunday. The frost was coming, so I cut them before we had two nights at 20 degrees. Some buds had been nipped earlier, but the five-inch rain encouraged the plants to keep growing and blooming.

They looked forlorn on the altar, mostly closed from cold outside, waiting for their big day. Yesterday, the blooms were fully open and photogenic.

I knew who wanted them most, after the service was over. Our neighbor's daughter brought two vases back not long ago. "My mother finally gave up the last rose." That meant she kept them for a long, long time. So I dropped off the new bouquet Sunday afternoon and left some coupons, too.

On our cul-de-sac we can watch the neighbors park, visit with others, barbeque, and walk the dogs. Many connections remind me of the Norman Rockwell covers of the Saturday Evening Post, which we all enjoyed each week, growing up in the 1950s.

 After surgery this year, Chris' first walk was
to the neighborhood estate sale, which yielded a
 Bissel floor cleaner.

Mr. Gardener mowed my lawn for me, without being asked, when I only had a push mower during hot, sticky, allergy-friendly weather. I delivered his newspaper to his front door each morning, since the paid service lobbed it under his car or truck each day. Sassy always waits for me to grab it and toss it to the door on our morning walks. Neighbors had an informal meeting and decided to light up his widow's home better at night. Army Ranger Bob and I pooled some twirly lights and added a solar light, so the front is lit like the White House at night.

We have the Town Car for a little longer.
Sassy enjoys trips to Walmart and the Post Office,
but most of all to her friends at Lowe's.

Bob helped the mother of the four girls on the corner to arrange her yard sales. That is one place where we swap superfluous treasures, like a Bissel floor cleaner, a neat brass table, and so forth. We donate in the hopes of removing clutter and not seeing something we want in return.

Bob sold me a Voyager - and repaired it to the point where it was more like a new car than a 2002. For rainy nights, before his camper shell was bought, he borrowed the Voyager back for the big Sunday delivery to stores. I always hand him the keys and tell him, "Don't drive too fast, son."

Sassy and I often see the vet tech and her children walking their dogs. Sassy found their runaway dog hiding in a bush, once. Our neighbor's children give me their surplus pine needles, and I pay them for their labor. A thick layer of needles provided the start for the first Hosta garden in the back.

I also used the needles to provide an acid-soil bed for the Blueberry row, but since I was raising them for the squirrels, I delivered all the plants to our dentist's wife. She laughed with happiness because she had all her plants stolen before her move. She was starting over and thought, "I really need more Blueberries."

Across the street is our Laotian family. We met the son when we first moved in. He kept asking me two or three questions at a time. I said to him, "You sound like a cop." He said, "I am taking criminal justice. Yes, I plan on it. Why do you know my mother's name?"

Next to them is the painter, who donates five-gallon paint pails to me, every so often. They are perfectly clean and so handy for storing and carrying rainwater. Our dentist's mother got one, and so did another friend. The painter's children and extended family children play outside and love to run to Sassy for some petting. She also visits the children next door, who moved in recently. Sassy is neutral about adults, until they welcome her. Then she adds them to her list of flock members. The children are always her immediate interest and she goes to them at once, a bit too loud but always gentle.

On Joye Street lives Pat and her husband John. They assume we will stop and visit when we go by. Once Pat was too tired to get out of bed. She said, "I was in bed. I heard Sassy. I said hello Sassy. Have a nice day Sassy. But I could not get up."

There are other neighbors, too. One stopped us at Cracker Barrel and said, "You own Sassy. We see you walk by every day."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sassy Updates

Sassy is doing well. She just had a good vet's appointment, where she proved to be very healthy. They are a little afraid of her, because she can make some very quick snapping motions, but she never bites. Sassy is so kindly that she cannot hold her fierce look long - it turns into a smile.

Everyone notices that smile. Sassy does have a habit of barking too loudly when excited about meeting someone. She even thinks that barking in the face of a cat is a warm and friendly gesture. Those who know her realize that all they have to do is say, "Come here, Sassy!" and she is all wiggles and happiness.

Her latest entertainment is to howl during new songs about her. She gets buggy eyed when I start to sing - not from pain, I hope - and howls for the chorus, with her muzzle in the air.

Sassy has a regular routine, which she expects to be followed:

  1. A sunrise morning walk and an afternoon walk. No excuses, except rain.
  2. Two meals a day, plus tidbits here and there.
  3. Night-time begins with a dab of ice-cream, which we call Frosty Paws, a cheap ice milk sold under that name for pets. She gets very little, but she expects it and makes a lot of noise until it is delivered with great fanfare.
  4. A treat has to follow the Frosty Paws. Normally it is a training bit of food or a little bacon flavored wafer. We though Frosty Paws would substitute for the treat, but she insists on both.
  5. She always has a lovey time before going to sleep. Sometimes she growls and demands it. At other times she comes forward on the bed and gives each of us a big hug. She smiles while we pet her and tell her what a good dog she has been.
  6. No animal videos are allowed on the computer, especially dog videos. No matter what I do, she spots them and barks them away. She tolerates graphics but growls at ones that do not please her.

 Sassy took Chris to an estate sale a block away.
That was Chris' first walk after her surgery.

Sassy attended the 50th Moline High Reunion, Class of 1966,
visiting with Toby, Guy, and the Country Style crowd.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

New Bird Spotted - And Sassy Does an Estate Sale

This young squirrel figured out how to balance on the
Jackson EZ Bird Swing and feed. He did not mind the camera.

This was too funny not to photograph. Readers can see some features of the bird feeding area:

  1. Two hanging bird-feeders, from Lowe's.
  2. Three children's swimming pools, which are bird-baths.
  3. The finch feeder is the green area under the squirrel tail.
  4. Two Butterfly Bushes are greening up. The large one is the waiting room for the birds and the elevator for the squirrels.
  5. The area is covered in cardboard and leaves, but the perimeter has such plants as Chaste Tree, Spice Bush, Gooseberry, Raspberries, and Beautyberry.
  6. One rain-barrel is positioned for the Butterfly bushes. They get the rain, then extra rain from the roof, then a bonus a few days later from the rain-barrel. Three other rain-barrels and four five-gallon paint buckets (totally clean) capture water. Last night's rain gave us two inches.
  7. There are smaller logs around the tiny Butterfly Bush. It may find its size this year.
  8. Larger stumps are planted in the yard. Birds adore having a place to perch and preen their feathers. They also like a watchtower for spotting food rustling in the leaf-mulch.
  9. Stumps and logs also attract toads and foster fungal growth in the soil.
  10. The massive green area is a planting of Elderberry, just behind the squirrel's body.
  11. The Wild Garden is in the back, with many features to screen the view and encourage the birds.

Our teen helper said, "You must have a lot of birds in your yard." Every time I open the back door, about twenty birds and several squirrels scatter.

The greatest pleasure is having an all-day display of birds eating at two windows. A male Cardinal is often eating, three feet away, no longer worried that I am watching him.

Chris took Sassy to the estate sale, with Sassy wearing her
new sweater. Both of them rocked their outfits.

The photography session was over when the doorbell rang. Our neighbor gave Sassy a dog-sweater, which Sassy was eager to wear. We trotted over to the estate sale to show it off. That was 1/2 block trek.

We visited with most of our neighbors on the block - and their relatives - during the Easter weekend.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sassy's New Song a Howling Success

 Photofunia by Norma Boeckler.

I taught Sassy two songs previously. I prompted her to howl during The Cattle Dog Blues.

She gladly barked along to Waltzing Matilda, the Australian song that has nothing to do with a girl or waltzing. Sassy is half-Australian, so I wanted her to learn her culture. She is also half-German, but we don't sing Deutschland, Deutschland, Ueber Alles.

After hearing Jackie Evancho sing God Bless America so beautifully, I came up with a new Sassy song. I didn't prompt her at all, but she added her howls to the climax, sticking her muzzle in the air.

Later the same day, she wanted the song sung twice more.

God Bless Our Sassy Sue
God bless our Sassy Sue
Dog that we love
Stand beside her and guide her
As she walks on the streets that she loves.
Loves the children, loves the doggies, sends the cats right up the tree.

God bless our Sassy Sue (howling starts), she aims to please-ease.
(More howling)
God bless our Sassy Sue, she aims to please.
(The end can be repeated, because she loves to join me on the high notes.)

When Sassy sang The Cattle Dog Blues with me at a tire store, two men copied down her blog address so they could look up more stories about her.

The funny part is that after we sang the first verse, Sassy scratched my leg to ask for the second verse. Of course, her fans were clapping for her and asking about her. They loved the second verse too.

When we sang The Cattle Dog Blues for cousin Peter and his wife Helene, family was gathered with their pets. The dogs added their howls, sticking their muzzles in the air. It looked just like the kennel singing in Lady and the Tramp.

Time-Life listed dogs as a miracle, a wonder of the world. Those who have pets realize how special their dogs, cats, and other animals are to them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Management by Sassy

Our granddaughter and Sassy posed for this one,
after the toying with the chair and spilling.
Both enjoyed the fun.
I felt the gentle tapping on my ankle. Tap, tap. Sassy was trying to tell me something, more like, "Time for breakfast." Perhaps I could sleep a little longer. I ignored the tapping. Next she began to clean my big toe off, banishing sleep forever.

Sassy knows how to manage her staff, with gentleness, humor, and an occasional sharp bark to indicate urgency. She should coach Notre Dame football.

She knows how to be quiet when Mrs. I is still asleep:

  • The steady stare tells me I have work to do - for her. 
  • Licking her jaws makes it clear she wants her morning meal.
  • A high-pitched but soft monotone means something is left undone, such as her morning walk.
I can ignore the walk command when I am writing, but she droops over the corner of the bed, as if giving up on all the delights of the world and resigning herself to boredom.

If I move about the house, she plants herself in my way, so she can give me the expectant or accusing stare. If one does the work, the other is used.

She has mastered the assumptive close that salesmen use with great success:
  1. You touched your socks. We must be leaving soon.
  2. Brushing your teeth? Let's go.
  3. Looking out the back door. No rain. The birds can wait for their food. The front door is this way.
  4. You can pet me while reading the news, but you need your morning walk.
The funniest part of her management style is the insider's humor. She no longer has an antique table to scratch to get my attention, so she scratches in the air and grins at me.

If I guess she wants a treat like Pupperoni bits, she grins as if I am looking smarter than usual.

The ultimate for her is Frosty Paws ice cream She expects some every night. After supper, around 7 PM we hear one high-pitched "Mmmmmm." 

Mrs, I - "What's wrong with Sassy."

Me - "I think I know."

Mrs. I - "Not time for the T yet, is it?"

Sassy watches us back and forth, listening for the clue. We try to be obscure, because mentioning what she wants is a one-sided concession. She will get it - fast. Any verb or noun suggesting her desires will be answered with confirming noises, barks, smiles, and other rewards. Her greatest is a gentle kiss on the cheek, which is not given often - so it means a lot.

Norma Boeckler's Photofunia portrait of Sassy.

Me - "Is it Frosty Paws time?" Sassy goes into a series of faces that blend pain and ecstasy - no loud barking like a walk when everyone is up. I get the plate for her, and Mrs. I dispenses it.

Some will think we are loading her with canine ice cream. But no, I buy the Great Value ice milk from Walmart in tiny cups.She gets about one teaspoon per night and enjoys it so much.

As I wrote earlier, Frosty Paws/Great Value was supposed to replace her Pupperoni treat, but she cleverly urged us into Pupperoni serving as her final treat. Then she falls asleep, content in his knowledge that we understand and obey her wishes. We use training bits, because dogs count the treats rather than the calories. Four little training bits are relished like a feast.

Sassy loves affection, but she sets it up in the most interesting way. Mrs. I cannot get her to move closer for petting. Nor can I just get her over by calling her. I have to pat my hands together softly and say, "Sassy, move, move." She gets up right away and flops down according to her petting needs. She raises a front paw and rolls onto her side to show she wants a chest rub. She makes sure that both of us are petting her and talking to her at once. If Mrs I gets lax, Sassy whips her head around as if to say, "Is your arm broken? Keep petting me." I join by saying, "She expects at least three hands petting her at once and both of us admiring her."

Sassy always looks for new friends instead of alienating old ones. She has he mail carrier calling her by name, the UPS driver giving her large Milk Bones. She has learned to be quiet and not bark loudly when meeting a new toddler to befriend. She is cautious about intimidating adults now, but her whole body wiggles when someone clearly wants to touch her and talk to her.

At the dog park, no dog could compete with Sassy in catching and bringing back the ball,
but all the dogs wanted that magic orange ball that made everyone clap for her.

One little girl is at eye level when Sassy is on all three legs. The girl petted Sassy the whole time I talked roses with her father. The girl was reaching up to pat the top of Sassy's head, and our gentle dog showed how quiet and affectionate she could be.

Rescue dogs may be especially loving, but their lucky owners may be especially appreciative. People thank us for taking care of her. I always say, "We are lucky to have such a remarkable, gentle dog."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sassy Deflects a Traffic Ticket

 "Officer, I was only looking around for a place to stop."

We were getting close to Arkansas when we decided to stop and fill up in Nevada, Missouri.

We got off I-49 one exit early and thought we might connect to Nevada  (Ne-vay-da to us locals) on the old highway. The streets were almost deserted - with an emphasis on almost. Soon a police car lit up behind us and stopped us.

I could only roll down Sassy's window because mine froze up weeks ago. So I began talking to the officer about our search for gasoline. He checked out my pristine driving record (no arrests) and came back without his writing pad. Good news so far.

He was very friendly and asked if he could pet Sassy. I am sure Sassy was giving him those loving eyes she uses on everyone. He petted her a while and said, "I will drive you to the nearest gas station. Follow me."

He took us north on I-49 a mile, the south on I-49, then into Nevada to the gas station, doing a U-turn and driving away, waving.

Singing Our Song

Sassy signals her need to stop with a high-pitched sound, not loud, but distinctive and lasting.

We answered by saying we were close and not to worry. Sassy's Cattle Dog style chattering began with certain mutterings mixed with high-pitched sounds.

Only four or five minutes to Ne-vay-da,
Please don't get wet on the seat
Mama will cry from the mess you make
Please wait longer for goodness sake...
(45 Minutes from Broadway)

Sassy sang and murmured along with me. My mother had us write variations in poems. At the end of her life, after a broken hip, she composed poems on the fly as we wheeled her through the nursing home where she was recovering. The staff was stunned, because she used a poetic meter and rhymed everything as she rolled along.

This is Sassy's response to being in trouble.
"No one could possibly be upset with me."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sassy Has Her Own Blog - And Her Own Best-Selling Books

"First let me sing a song of my people."