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

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."

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sassy Sue Will Be the MHS66 Mascot Again

Dateline - Sprindale, Arkansas

Sassy has agreed to return as the MHS66 mascot. Her fanbase continues to grow as she visits various cities on her travels. She was booked early for the 50th Reunion of the Class of 1966, The Class the Stars Fell On.

Favorite food - Pupperoni, grilled chicken.
Favorite snack - Frosty Paws Ice Cream.

Sassy is a big hit with children and adults, because she gets along so well with three legs. One let had to be amputated after a horse kicked Sassy and her family neglected her. They dropped her off at a shelter and a rescue group provided her the medical care she needed.

Sassy is extremely loud when she is happy, but always gentle with everyone. She makes friends with cats by barking loudly in their faces. That has not worked out well for her.

Small dogs adore Sassy and love to follow her around.

She is an excellent manager and herder. She helped return one lost little boy who was crying on a busy corner. The boy knew her and followed us home, one block away.

Sassy also collected a pitbull named Gucci, who followed us home and into the garage. His anxious owner put the full-sized dog in the car and said, "He is such a baby and he is always breaking his chain."

Sassy Sue's catching and fetching ability left the owners at the dog park slack-jawed and the other dogs jealous of that magical orange ball, which made everyone clap for the three-legged German Shepherd and Cattle Dog mix.

Sassy treats her staff well, smiling when we catch onto her hints.

A rotating tail means displeasure. When the speed picks up, the displeasure is turning into extreme disgust.

Scratching the antique table meant she wanted attention. After the table was moved, she simply began scratching in the air.

Sometimes she will perform the Cattle Dog Blues, either howling for the chorus or barking. Once she got a room full of dogs howling with their snouts in the air. It looked like a scene from Lady and the Tramp. When she performed at a tire store, the customers asked for her blog address.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sassy Does the Iberia Bank, Again.
Her Triumphant Return

One of Sassy's favorite errands was making a deposit - and withdrawal - from Iberia Bank. I would deposit a check and she would withdraw a treat - or several.

Mary loved Sassy so much that we could count on three treats each time. One new teller jumped when I had Sassy bark into the speaker. He thought that was so funny that Sassy got three treats from him too.

But Iberia decided to close our branch, as they did in Bella Vista, and send us to Robinson. Mary was retired and very sad about that, missing Sassy as well. We saw her at Walmart and she said, "I am out of retirement, working at the Robinson branch."

I said, "We will stop by and see you."

The mailman said hello to Sassy as we left.

When I told Sassy we had an errand at Iberia, she jumped up. She loves the post office, Iberia, and Walmart. When we approached the bank, Sassy began barking. Mary said she was just talking about Sassy to the other teller as we drove up. Sassy sat and barked into the mike. The other teller spilled the small treats, which was funny by itself. No, I did not laugh.

We had a conversation about ice cream treats for dogs at Walmart. Frost Pups or something like that. Sassy got one large treat and a bunch of small ones.  Mary was so happy to see her favorite dog again, and it was a great experience for Sassy and me.

As we drove home, Sassy made it clear that she knew about the little treats. The big one vanished fast, of course. I passed a few small ones to her on the way home, only 6 miles.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sassy Sue and the Mother Cat

I am trying a new tool for blogger. It is supposed to make blogging better with more SEO. I began by looking for Blog This! - which I used to use. The other tool is called  Zemanta.

We went to the second day of the yard sale, which our friends were hosting on the corner. I dropped my wife Chris off at the sale and got Sassy from her kennel at home so she could see her friends.

Walking back, I rounded the corner into the gate and yard sale, with Sassy a little ahead of me. Soon she let out a long, demonic shriek and came running toward me with a black cat clinging to her flank.

Sassy changed to her German Shepherd bark and let out quite a few barks of outrage. She only lost a tuft of hair.

Sassy had three strikes against her:
  1. She often scared that cat onto the roof where the Four Esses live.
  2. The cat had been attacked by a dog some time ago.
  3. The mother cat had kittens nearby, so they could give them away.
I walked Sassy back home after everything relaxed. She was not hurt, but her previous experience in losing a leg makes her overly sensitive and dramatic about any pain.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Twice a Day Walks with Sassy Sue

Sassy lets me know when it is time for her walk. She begins before the sun is up, then dogs my every step. I try to pick up my socks on the sly - she's there. I brush my teeth - a black nose pushes the bathroom door open. She begins flashing her triumphant grin, letting me know that nothing less than a morning walk will satisfy her.

The afternoon walk is similar. Her favorite time is 4 PM, which became 3 PM with the time change. The first notice is a gentle push of her paw against me. That can be upgraded to a paw scrape and a stern look. Tail-wagging begins slowly and becomes obviously annoyed, with some high-pitched whines added. "You don't like whining? Take me out." Once she hears some of the magical words - out, walk, go - she jumps around barking.

On the walks, my inspections are entirely visual while hers are olfactory. That is one reason why she changes her favorite street regularly. Yesterday, she chose Joye street and bounded down the sidewalk to catch up on messages. Visiting strays are just as intent on catching up at our yard, which proves that digital device addiction has its parallel in the dog world. Try to get a dog's attention when there are messages in the bushes or grass. Impossible.

We had a warm, wet winter, and an early spring, so the red bud trees are enjoying an explosive blooming that I have never seen before. The dogwoods were done just as the redbuds began to open up, so we have quite a display next door, around our neighborhood, and down the main street - Elm Springs.

I always take my Gandalf staff, because loose dogs show up here and there. The largest dogs are afraid, for good reason. They do not mind an attempted kick. The person is off balance and they side-step away. As LI said, "A dog has every advantage over a man in a street fight - center of gravity, speed, and weapons."  The Gandalf staff is an equalizer. I am sure most of the dogs are relatively friendly and probably amorous. The trouble is, Sassy gets scared and barky fast, which is interpreted by the strays as a threat. She is a drama queen for good reason - four dogs have started something with her, knowing she is weak and unbalanced. Larger dogs are more likely to become aggressive and fight now, so I thrust the staff at them and tell them, "Begone!"

The latest was a Husky, a beautiful dog that was bounding all over the block while his owner's car was being fixed. He wanted to do an inspection, but I was wary of an escalation between him and Sassy. My second warning had him running like a scalded dog, without doing any harm.

Sassy loves to cool down in the damp grass,
usually picking out a spot in the deep shade.

Sassy knows the staff is a feared weapon. She chooses to ignore me at times. I tap it on the sidewalk and she listens. If I point it at her, she stops whatever she is doing and comes over to me. If necessary, I hold her head and talk softly about her need to listen and be safe.

Sassy has learned to ask permission when meeting new people. She looks at me, smiles, and waits for the OK. Dog lovers will ask for her name and call her over. She wiggles her way over and gets special attention. Her attitude is so kind and gentle that everyone admires her and asks about the missing leg. She befriended some small children at the same time their mother was getting to know Mrs. I at the clothing store. Said their mother to my wife, "I know your husband. I see him with your dog every day."

We don't have a daily walk in the woods, but we have a twice-a-day walk in our neighborhood. I tell my urban ministry classes, "That is one way to get to know all the neighbors. They come outside at various times. They like to talk to the dog or about the dog. Various connections are made and friendship develops." I give away Bibles, illustrated Bibles, children's Bibles, The Story of Jesus in Pictures, and plenty of gardening advice when asked.

Giant Aliums will provoke conversations -
they belong to the garlic family.
"What was that purple flower I saw in your yard?"
The next shocker will be giant Elephant Ears.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Staff Evaluations Are Seldom Good

Sassy has a keen sense of time. She expects her morning walk at 7-8 AM, the earlier the better. She expects her afternoon walk at 4 PM. When we switched to Daylight Savings, she began making her noises before 3 PM.

For a loud, talkative dog, Sassy is quiet in the morning. She is expected to make no sound as we get ready to leave. In the afternoon, those rules are forgotten when she begins barking about my preparations. If I touch shoes or socks (this is Arkansas) she assumes the walk will take place right away. She goes into her bouncing, barking mode, as if suppressing one bark would make her explode.

On a good day Sassy will meet some of her best friends - the four S sisters (all names starting with S), the retired Army Ranger and his brother, our helper's family, and various neighborhood children and adults who know Sassy by name.

Staff evaluations start at 7 PM and they are seldom good. The first sign is the high pitched whine, just enough to get our attention. I will, "Staff evals are coming in."

Mrs. Ichabod asks, "Are they good?"

"No, we are not fulfilling our duties."

Next is the tail wagging, not in a friendly way, but showing great impatience. If we overlook the wagging, it gets stronger. Once Sassy positioned herself so her tail would brush against my bare foot. It felt soft and almost ticklish. The swishing got me laughing, so she soon received her evening treat.

If we dare ask, "What's wrong?" Sassy adds her glaring look. It starts with disapproval but builds to anger and loud barking. If she is hungry for a meal, the barking sounds like the warning she gave to Old Billie, who petted her too hard and then patted her down a bit too rough again. She placed her front feet and warned him with her bark. That is her bark when we are really failing in all categories - speed, amount of food, and sensitivity to her messages.

Likewise, she uses her paw to ask, as many cats and dogs do.
Stage One - a gentle touch. That means, "Get up for our walk," or "Save some of your meal for me."
Stage Two - a downward stroke of her paw. "I mean it. Time to go." or "I need that food, now."
Stage Three - a downward stroke with enough pressure to almost hurt. "No more warnings left." Our drama queen is so expressive that I have to laugh and give her a long hug.

Sassy hugs back in many ways. One is to rush into a hug (on the bed) pressing against my neck. "Do you want out now?" I get that hug for being so smart.

Setting me up for something she wants, Sassy will simply sit across my chest as she watches TV. She likes to sit on me and touch Mrs. Ichabod with her paw. Or she sits between us, touching both at once.

Lately Sassy decided to revive her trick of holding down my lower lip with her long claws. She had to learn "Gentle gentle" as a young dog, years ago. She responding by wincing and going toward my lip in ultra-slow motion. That was her funniest trick. Now she is gentle without the drama.

We are getting good use of the big stick on our walks. We seem to have a stray a day, often a male looking for a date. Sassy gets upset easily, because of previous attacks. She does not mind a circle meet-and-greet, but if it lasts too long, she can get yippy and snarly, setting the other dog off.

So I use my large walking stick to warn dogs away. Forget kicking toward a dog. They know how to dodge and leave the dumb human standing on one leg, so they move in more effectively. Too many dogs are aggressive today. Pointing my stick like a gun is enough to get them to retreat and walk away. One male dog had a Bill Clinton grin, and kept circling at 10 feet. I showed him how the stick could work as a gun, and he left us.

The funniest dogs were the two yappers who got pesky on Sassy and bothered her. I held the staff over my head and yelled, "Go back to Mordor where you belong!" They retreated yapping but came back. "Go back, I say!" I shook the staff over my head. They backed away even more and yipped louder for being humiliated and scared at the same time. Neighborhood kids are fascinated by her lack of a leg and loved hearing about my Mordor threat.

It's Downton Abbey at the Ichabode -
only we are the servants, answering Sassy's call.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Management by Sassy

Sassy is signaling me for her morning walk.
I must answer or get into trouble with her.

Everyone loves Sassy, so I decided to describe how she carefully manages our behavior and displays a remarkable amount of intelligence, independence, and humor.

Sometimes we work on threat gestures. I learned early that my intruder pose would get her leaping up and grabbing my hand. Simply by grazing my hand in a fast-moving gesture, she opened up a wound with her teeth. I was dodging without success, and I stopped. The blood stopped soon, and I did not try that again.

Sassy has assumed the role of protecting our yard from a wandering black lab. The neighboring dogs bark at the intruder walking down the grassy alley between our homes. They are large and muscular, but seem helpless. Sassy always asks to go out and take care of the lab. She goes to the fence and does her best German Shepherd attack. She plants her front legs down, barks and snarls furiously, displaying her teeth and moving her head back and forth close to the ground.  The lab takes off and the neighbor dogs bark impotently at him in a me too response.

Sassy even barked the lab out of our neighbor's yard, but the lab got its hind leg stuck up in the wire fence. Black labs matter, so I called Animal Control and got the dog freed in a few minutes. Unharmed and clueless, it came back to the same yard an hour or two later.

We have always worked on the gentle command with Sassy, and she is great responding. When I pretend to form a claw coming down on her flank, she bares her teeth menacingly. But she cannot hold her fierce pose for long, it turns into a grin. She loves the game. She has the fast motions of a Cattle Dog and snaps at my hand with incredible speed - always to lick my hand.

Sacky was our first Cattle Dog. Sacky could kiss my bare feet alternately as I walked, but never while I was looking. I never figured out how she could do that. To illustrate her speed, she simply snapped all houseflies out of the air in Phoenix.

Sassy and I walk twice a day, and she is keen to remind me when the sun is up or going down. I tired of the leash and she was quick to learn commands - wait, leave alone, cross the street, and so forth.
I can wiggle one finger and get her to run full speed at me, both of us grinning. She has to ask permission to cross the street or go meet someone. She has learned not to bark loudly in greeting adults and children. However, one friend loves her happy bark, so she lets loose when she hears, "Where is that happy bark, Sassy?" Left and right, she barks as loudly as she can.

However, Sassy's great response and intuition are tempered by her independent spirit. She loves to walk south down the side streets when we are walking west down Scott Street. Once she asked permission to cross the street and go farther down Scott. When I said yes, she darted left and ran about 20 feet south down the side street. Then she stopped and looked back, grinning. I said, "OK, let's go down that street." She pranced into each yard, catching up on all the signals left by other animals.

When one woman suggested that Sassy leave her front-yard family gathering, with Sassy meeting each child, Sassy responded by going to the woman, laying down her ears and reaching out for a final petting. The woman could not help laughing as everyone enjoyed Sassy trumping her ace. Sassy lays down her ears and reaches out in meek and friendly gesture that no one can miss.

Sassy's goal is to meet each person on our walks. She went up to one man, who said, "Oh, Sassy, you are the dog that loves everyone."

Sassy loves treats: she remembers and counts, always pushing for a greater number at any given time. One treat means two would be better. Two is the norm and three would be nice, as the dessert. The vet suggested breaking treats into small pieces so Sassy could get the count up with fewer calories.

Sassy likes to take one more trip outside once I am settled in bed to sleep. My transition from writing and grading to sleep is quick and easy to make. The bed is the best chair I have used for the painful process of grading 25 essays at a time.

To get Sassy outside before I am nodding off,  I have tried various things, such as snapping my fingers. I even dragged her off  the bed gently - and she crawled back. I used a snack once to get her up and out and another small one to reward her coming inside. After that happened once or twice,  I invited her in. She stopped in the kitchen and glared at me. "Where is treat #2?"

Talking and Singing - The Tell-Tale Tail
Sassy has many ways to talk. She uses her Cattle Dog (kelpie) voice at times. If she yips a little, I ask, "Are you going full kelpie on us?" Then she yips in that high-pitched wild dingo voice of hers, and we laugh.

She is great at singing along, as she did when we sang Happy Birthday to grandson Alex.

The ears, face, and tail are part of her signals. She may make a little whining noise for a moment. We look and ask, "What's wrong?" Her tail rotates slowly. That means she needs a treat or a walk. If I delay or miss the signal, she rotates rapidly and with great force. That can include whipping my arm as I work. Her tails is soft, but the perpetual rotation makes work impossible.

If that fails, she uses her powerful claws to pull me down on the bed for lovey time.

The rotating tail is often paired with her stupid dog look. Sacky pulled that on me too, to show how clueless I was.