Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conversation over a bowl of strawberries

I took my bowl of fresh, locally grown strawberries out to the deck and sat in a chair to eat them. My food attracted an immediate and eager audience.

Off. (Commanding voice)

This is mine; you've already eaten.

Keep your noses out of the bowl. (Mild reminder)

Don't breathe on my strawberries. (Rising frustration)

Ewww,quit drooling on my foot! (Pleading shriek)

No photo today. I took the bowl inside the house and ate the rest of the berries at the table.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

From farm house to screaming madhouse

I don’t spend the day waiting by the front door with leash, clicker and treats in case someone stops by so that the dogs and I can practice greeting visitors calmly. When I know someone is coming, rarely am I organized enough to get one dog confined and the other at the door. Then there’s the hard part—training the visitor to ignore the dog and wait for me to finish clicking and treating, all of which has to be explained in the space of a nano-second over the din of one dog setting off the other, even if the other is outside, which sets off the parrots screaming like six teenagers being tortured by having their iphones snatched away.

It just doesn’t work very well.

Alanis is the culprit who starts barking and won’t stop. Miró will bark a couple of times but he prefers to stand up on his back legs and give big aire-waves. If you happen to be within reach of the paws, so much the better. It is not easy to practice “sit” when you have to shout over the noise of barking and parrot-screaming, especially when your goal is to sound calm.

Being a dutiful student, I try. Today my son came home with two friends. Naturally they headed for the kitchen where treats and clicker happened to be still on the counter after the morning’s class, along with objects too numerous to name. I hustled Alanis outside and attempted to capture Miró’s attention.

Trainers tell you that you have to be more interesting than whatever else the dog is looking at. I am not very interesting, even with cheese in my hand. In the midst of screaming chaos and three young men investigating a food cupboard, I sustained new scratches on my arms and Miró managed one sit and one bow. Is that success or what?
If you turn the volume to max, you'll get the merest glimmer of the real noise.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Waiting to use the box.

How many times?

When you're buzzing around the house, cooking, carrying laundry up and down stairs, trying (vainly in my case) to get things organized, how many times do you have to say to the dog, "Move!" and "Will you PLEASE get out of the way?" because the dog is following you from in front and stopping frequently to make sure you're on course? Or is this mostly an Airedale thing?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blue spruce

It is probably the wrong time of year to prune a tree but today happened to be the time I remembered to cut the spruce branches hanging at forehead level over the front walkway. With the rain we've been having, forgetting to duck under the tree was like opening a door with a bucket of water fall balanced overhead. I grabbed the electric saw, stood under the nest of branches, and started sawing. Torrents of dry little bits of stuff rained down; and as soon as I'd sawed through the branch, I treated the neighbors to the sight of me doing a little dance, backing away, shaking my shoulders, brushing myself off, leaning over and batting at my hair with both hands. Bugs! In those bits of bark, dead needles and twigs there were sure to be bugs.

I took off several more branches, leaving the poor tree lopsided. If you are over, say, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, you will still have to duck when coming up the front walk.

Years ago there was a different blue spruce in a different front yard. It had snowed and I brought my three-month-old son to the window to show him the snow and watch the sun rise. We had an Airedale then, too. It was one of those moments when you know you have everything--just for that moment--that you could possibly want. And then it's gone.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A good day for dogs

Alanis spent hours under the trees with her  bone.

Miro stayed up on the patio

Muffin kept an eye on everybody.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Grill Grievance

After cleaning.

On Memorial Day morning some people visit cemeteries and some, as I did, get teary-eyed at breakfast reading news stories of dead World War II soldiers and veterans, of whom my father was one. Afterwards, we barbeque. That’s when I got mad at my husband.

I took the cover off the gas grill, lifted the lid and wanted to cry again. Things were falling apart. After a couple of trips back and forth and major excavation under the laundry room sink, I had the cooking rack soaking in oven cleaner on a pile of newspapers. While it was soaking, I went online to find out if I could find a replacement part for the thingie that went over the flame. If my husband were alive, I could have said, “John, the thingie that goes over the flame is falling apart; it looks like something I crocheted when I was a child,” and he’d make half a dozen trips to hardware stores, swear a lot, and replace all the innards in time for dinner because, in my world, grills are guy stuff. My father expertly cooked steaks on the charcoal grill; my husband cooked not quite as expertly on the gas grill, not that I cared because I don’t much like steak, anyway.

Instead I spent half the day on line figuring out that the thingie is the heat plate and where to get one for my make of grill (Florida!) and where to find the model number and, after all that searching, a rock grate with ceramic or lava rocks would cook more evenly; but the burner might be on its way out; and the grill could use a new cooking grid—not rack, grid, also. As for the built-in ignitor, I gave up on that a couple of months after I bought the grill. Who knew there are huge manuals just for ordinary maintenance? I’m supposed to poke at the holes in the burner with a paper clip? And even though I now know exactly which burner to order, I know I won’t be able to figure out the tubes and wires connected to it. That would be the spouse’s job. I would rather clean toilets.

After ten years of widowhood, this is my compelling reason for wanting to remarry or at least find a reliable, constant companion. “Honey, something’s wrong with the grill,” I’d say and he’d go fix it while I work on other important structural problems like buying shoes or matching wall paint. Of course, this imaginary friend would have to like Airedales. I can give up grilling but there isn’t one person among the 6+ billion on this planet for whom I’d give up Airedales.

One trip to a store netted me an adjustable heat plate. Standing in an aisle stocked ten feet high and three bus-lengths long with barbeque equipment, I realized that my previous search for the thingie had been conducted in the wrong season, last fall when the stores decide nobody will grill anything until next summer. There was, of course, no rock grate. The trip took two hours because I got distracted by sandals (on sale!), a long chat with another lady who was trying on sandals, lawnmowers, and Seattle’s Best Coffee (on sale!).

Back home I put my son on burger watch while I wrested lettuce from the slugs to make salad. In a clever move, he burnt the meat so that it wouldn’t drip through the sourdough bread we used in place of buns. I had forgotten all about buying buns. There’s just so much one person can do.