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The Door is Open

Our First Selfie

On occasion, Lila, our dog, seems to think that going in and out of doors is a form of entertainment.  There are times when she likes to slumber next to a tree or inside some hole she’s dug but other times, as soon as we let her out, she wants to come back in again.  

Warm weather going ins and outs are different from cold weather going ins and outs.  In the summer, when we let Lila out in the backyard, we hook her up to the leash that’s tied with rope around the big oak tree.  We end up leaving the patio door open, so we can run in and out quickly.  When Lila is ready to come back in, we’d unhook the clasp, and she’d run lickety-split into the house. 

One early September night, I got back into the cold weather going ins and outs habit.  I closed the patio door on my way out to get her. We decided to turn the heat on because the temperature inside got down to a cool 64 degrees.  Over the months, Lila forgot about the cold weather habit of mine.  After I unhooked Lila, I heard a thump, as Lila fell, when she tried to go through the door. 😭 Thankfully, the door did not break.

Lila was stunned.  I immediately thought of stories about people running through glass doors, so I was concerned.  I opened the door, and Lila walked in.  Yes, she was definitely stunned. When I sat on the floor with her, apologizing several times, petting her fur while hugging her close, she sat still taking it all in, which is unusual.  Lila is not one to cuddle.  That night was the most she ever let me cuddle her.  She even let me look into her mouth.  She showed me her straight bite. All of her teeth were evenly laid out, as usual.  Her face felt fine. No bumps.  I had no idea how she was holding her head when she hit the door.  Her head might have been pointing downward, but there were no bumps anywhere on her head.  Lila is one who likes to cry and moan when she’s not feeling well, and we were relieved she didn’t cry or moan that night.  

The next morning, I mixed half a can of dog food with half of her dry food.  Lila was so happy to have a different meal.  She went back to visit her food bowl several times to make sure she didn’t leave any crumbs behind.  Lila ate canned food mixed with the dry for a couple of days. Everything else worked fine from head to toe. 🙂

Now, when she gets ready to come back into the house, she stops to make sure the door is open.  Sometimes she lets us go through first, just to be sure.  We’ve been leaving it open now, during comings and goings, no matter how cold the days or nights get.  

A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of. ~Ogden Nash  

Why I’ve Never Had a Puppy

kona at purgatory creek
Kona

 “I’ve had this animal poison hotline magnet on my refrigerator for about 15 years,” I said to the nice lady on the other end of the phone.  “I never had to use it before.”

magnet

“Okay, well, let me talk to the vet who’s on call right now, and I’ll get back to you.  I’m going to have to put you on hold for a little while,” she said.

While sitting on the steps with my cell phone in one hand and the magnet in the other, I thought about when I first picked up the magnet.  It was when we took our first dog, Music, to the vet.  Music never got into anything poisonous and so far, neither has Lila, our current dog.  Both Music and Lila were older when they came to live with us.  As I watched Kona looking at me, I dreaded telling my daughter what happened.  Kona is Laura and her hubby’s puppy.  I’ve watched both of them work to care for and train their adorable seven-month-old dog.

Earlier that night, as I was taking a break on the sofa, I thought I heard a crunching sound when I thought Kona was laying on the mat by the front door, one of her favorite resting spots.  When I went to inspect, I found fragments of red eucalyptus leaves scattered on the floor.  The leaves had been part of a dried floral arrangement.  I wished I would have listened to myself the other day when I thought about throwing away the dusty old leaves.  Then I wouldn’t have this problem.  As I tried to piece the scattered leaves onto the empty spots on the branches, it looked like they matched up and that Kona hadn’t swallowed any.

“Hello?” the lady’s voice was on the line again.

“Yes?”

“The doctor said that it’s really dangerous if dogs ingest the essential oils of eucalyptus.  If Kona only got a little bit of the leaves, she should be okay.  If she throws up, don’t give her any water for about an hour.  If she can keep a little water down after an hour, give her a little more.  If she has excessive vomiting and diarrhea, call us right away.”

“Ok, thank you.  Now I know why I’ve never had a puppy,” I said.  Older dogs work better for me, I thought.

“Your daughter can call us too,” she said as she rattled off the case number and we said our goodbyes.

I grabbed the dusty leaves and threw them in the garbage can in the garage.  When I walked into the living room, I checked our other plants.  After searching “plants poisonous to dogs” on Google, I learned that philodendrons and Christmas cactuses are also poisonous to dogs.  Thankfully, all the leaves were intact on those plants living in our house.

When my husband, Kona and I got into the car to bring Kona home, I made sure the folded piece of paper was tucked inside my pocket.  The case number and phone number of the poison hotline were on that paper, and I knew I’d have to tell Laura what happened right away.  As we drove Kona home, she rested quietly on the backseat with her head hung low, her nose almost touching the floor.  Before the leaf chewing incident, we visited the dog park with Lila, and I figured the exercise wore Kona out.  When we pulled into Laura’s driveway, I was excited to see the new place Laura and her husband had moved into that day.  Laura greeted us at the door.  After we said our congratulations, and after Laura reported that all the carpets had been cleaned, I handed her the piece of paper and told her what happened.

“I’m sure she’ll be okay,” Laura said in a calm and even tone.  I saw a Christmas cactus sticking out of one of the moving boxes and gave it to Laura.

“These are poisonous to dogs too,” I said as I handed over the plant.

After we got the tour, said our goodbyes and made it home, I settled down on the sofa in front of the TV.  Only a few minutes passed and my cell phone rang.

“She threw up!”  Laura reported in a scary voice.

“Oh, no!”

“I gave her a half a cup of food after you left.”

“Do you see any little red leaves?”

“No.  It looks like she had a chewie.”

“Yes, I gave her half a chewie and half a dog bone when she was here.”

“Well, it looks like her dinner is here, and all that stuff too, but I don’t see any red leaves.  It’s a lot.  It’s gross.”

“Do you usually feed her food that late at night?”

“No.”

“Maybe we fed her too much.  I’m sorry!  How’s the carpet?”

“I’m not worried about the carpet, I’m worried about Kona!  We tried to get her in the bathroom, but she didn’t make it.”

“I just hope we fed her too much and that she’ll be okay.”

After we hung up, I knew the night would pass slowly for Laura and me.  When I checked my phone early the next morning, I was glad to see a text message from Laura saying, “No more barf!  Kept a little breakfast down.”

The following day Laura, Kona, Lila and I went to a dog park where we tried to coax Kona into going for a swim.  Even though Lila showed Kona how to fetch a tennis ball from the pond, Kona only ventured to the shoreline.  Laura reported that Kona only had a big cough in the middle of the night after throwing up, and that she has been okay ever since.  Plus the incident didn’t leave a stain on the carpet.

Now I know I can’t let my guard down whenever I watch Kona.  That is, if Laura will ever ask me to watch her again.

2015-05-03 14.49.11
On the shoreline!

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A Really Good Show

“Good morning.  How are you?” a lady asked as we entered the elevator.

“We’re tired,” said Susan with a laugh.

“That’s good.  That’s how it’s supposed to be when you come to New York!” she said in a chipper voice.

“Yes, we’ve been keeping really busy,” said Susan as I tried to stifle a yawn!

The doorman also greeted us with a friendly “good morning” as we left the hotel.  We walked the short distance to Sarabeth’s.  Some customers were sitting outside, but since the temperatures kept climbing each day, we decided to eat inside.  The host escorted us to the same table where we sat a couple of days before.  I ordered the French toast and patiently sipped warm coffee.  When the food arrived, I generously poured maple syrup over the large stack.  I thought the extra sugar would do me some good since my stomach was feeling pretty empty after the Miserable Outburst.

Susan and I talked about how sad we would be if one of us got sick enough where we wouldn’t be able to go to the shows.  We bought our tickets long before we got to NYC.  I had thought about how sad that would be even before we left on the trip.  That thought helped us decide that our fifth day was going to be a more relaxing one.

After breakfast, we waited for a bus on the corner of 79th Street and Amsterdam.  If it would have been any other day, we probably would have walked the short distance to Riverside Park.  When we got on the bus and noticed that we were the only customers, we told the bus driver that we were visiting from Minnesota.  He jokingly asked, “Do any people live there?”

The Lucerne (Side View)
View of The Lucerne (on the Right)
from the Bus Stop

“More people live in Minnesota than South Dakota,” I said.  He wondered how come we didn’t just walk because it was only a few blocks, but we ignored his question.  We really just liked the idea of using our bus passes!  When we got off, we walked down to The West 79th Street Boat Basin Café, which looked like a fun place to eat overlooking the Hudson River.  As we walked along, we enjoyed the quiet park and being shaded by large trees.  A lady walked towards us with a little dog, and both Susan and I said, “Aww.”  Seeing the dog made us realize how much we missed each of ours.  After the dog met us and figured out we were all right, he laid down flat and panted.

Since the dog needed a rest, the lady told us about how in the day she is a nanny to a little boy and the dog, but at night she is an actress.  She just auditioned for a show.  We wished her good luck and continued on after the lady tried to get the dog to move.  People zoomed by on bikes, and we passed others walking along the path.  When we came to the 91st Street Garden, we named off some of the flowers.  The foxgloves looked beautiful.  We could hear many little children at the nearby playground.

Riverside ParkMe at the 91st Street Garden

We walked down a beautiful path:

Riverside Park

We saw the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument:

Soldiers' and Sailor's Monument, Riverside Drive

The buildings were quite pretty:

Upper West Side, Manhattan

The warm day had us visiting Café Lalo again.  I ordered a delicious smoothie.  Susan told me about the scene in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan is patiently reading her book while waiting for her email buddy to join her at Café Lalo.  That movie ended when Tom Hanks met Meg Ryan at the 91st Street Garden!

We walked some more, visited a few shops and admired the neighborhood.

When we got back to the hotel, we took our time getting ready for “The Jersey Boys.”  Before we knew it, it was time to go on the subway.  We decided to go to Victor’s Café, a very extravagant looking Cuban restaurant.  We sat in the small bar area and ordered Papa Rellenas (stuffed potatoes and meat puffs) from the Tapas Menu.  The appetizers were so delicious; we decided to order another round.  We were glad that we were both feeling just fine.

As I read the playbill in the August Wilson Theater, I was surprised that I knew all of the songs.  I didn’t realize that Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had such a long list.  The order of the songs conveniently told the story of their lives together.  The play was quite funny until it got to the part where Frankie Valli’s wife decided that she wanted a divorce because Frankie wasn’t home very much.  When Tony Winner John Lloyd Young sang “My Eyes Adored You,”  I tried to hold back the tears.  I realized I would never think of that song the same way again.

At times the show had me stomping my feet to the music, laughing, and a moment later trying to hold back the tears.  When we left the theatre, I felt like I was leaving some good friends behind.  That’s when I knew I saw A Really Good Show.

We looked forward to going to see the Statue of Liberty the next day.

To be continued…

Fun Plan Turned into a Reality

Sometimes when we make plans to do some fun thing it doesn’t always work out for one reason or another, and we know to just let it go and move on.  But last August, when my friend Susan and I were at the Minnesota Twins game, somehow the subject of New York City came up.  The hotdogs and beers might have helped to start the conversation.  When Susan asked me what I would want to see there, I pretty much knew that the trip would become a reality.

The first place that came to mind was the Statue of Liberty.  Since the Statue of Liberty is like a heroine to me because of what she represents, of course, I wanted to meet her.  I also knew that I would be honored to be able to visit the 911 Memorial.  We saw those things and so much more.

We arrived on the Sunday before Memorial Day.  As we traveled from the airport to our hotel on the Upper West Side, we remained calm as our taxi driver swarmed about the traffic as if he was some sort of bumble bee dodging in between a winding garden of flowers. The van came close to scraping some barricades on the highway. Our cabbie, who is originally from Bangladesh, told us he has lived in New York City for over 20 years and how all his family lives close by. Since Susan, a seasoned traveler to the area, asked how he was going to get to our hotel, he delivered us there promptly without venturing off course.

The glass doors to the hotel were opened wide to greet us. Several doormen bustled about carrying customers’ luggage to and from the building. When we entered the Lucerne, I felt welcomed by the extravagantly decorated lobby. Comfy sofas and chairs were grouped in circles on each side of the room.  The elegant colors blended together and felt homey.  We weren’t able to get into our hotel room right away, so we checked in our luggage so that we could wander about the city. Seeing many other people stroll along was just what I expected. A yellow sea of cabs zoomed by while vacant cars sat parked on the street.  Every other group of walkers was accompanied by a dog. Most of the dogs were small, but occasionally a larger dog appeared. The dogs seemed to be happy as they walked along the cement sidewalks.

I thought that the subway station was crowded for a Sunday. We bought our $30 pass for the week, and walked to Le Pain Quotidien, a French bakery and restaurant on 72nd Avenue. We sat at a butcher block table close to the window. As we studied the menu, the sounds of dishes being ushered about echoed through the restaurant. People’s hushed conversations melded together. When I looked at the two women sitting next to us, I noticed a small dog inside a carrier that was sitting at its owner’s feet. If I hadn’t looked in that direction, I wouldn’t have even known the dog was there just minding his own business.

The waitress took our orders and soon she delivered this delightful creation which is a tartine:

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After lunch, we only had to walk a couple blocks to Central Park. In the back of my mind I thought Central Park was a place where people got mugged because that’s all we ever heard about New York all the time we were growing up. I was surprised to see how beautiful the park is:

We walked for hours around the park discovering the statues and attractions.  We heard many different languages and wondered if they were visitors to the park too.  More dogs could be found and enjoyed the grass all around us.

When we got back to our hotel, I wondered how many miles we walked.  It wasn’t long before we were off exploring again.  We stopped at the Gin Mill, a very lively bar that was only a block away from our hotel.  Next we had delicious lasagna at Al Dente Restaurant.  By the time we arrived at Café Lalo for dessert, it was 10:30.  I couldn’t believe the atmosphere because where I come from everyone is in bed at 10:30.  The customers were wide awake and the conversations were lively.  We split the amaretto tiramisu, and it was divine!

The minute my head hit the pillow back at the hotel, I was off to sleep in the blink of an eye.  I wasn’t even worried about the next day when I would travel on the subway for the first time.  I was just glad this fun plan turned into a reality!

To be continued…

Why Did I Wait So Long?

It seemed like a nice day for a walk around the lake. Katie and I got into the van where Lila was patiently waiting. There was just a little hint of thunder way off in the distance, but we ignored it and went on our way.

Just as we were about to park, a couple little raindrops speckled the windshield. This was our first walk around Lake Harriet since all the snow had melted away, and we really didn’t want to turn around especially since we all had been suffering from a very bad case of cabin fever.

“Let’s just walk a couple blocks and see how it goes,” Katie said. She pointed to Lila as if to say that we didn’t want to upset her because it seemed as if Lila had been trying to control her little squeaks of excitement on the ride over. We really didn’t want to disappoint our dog by getting back in the van and heading home right away, did we?

As we walked, the sweet lilac blossoms and flowers from blooming trees mingled together to help us forget the long cold winter that seemed like a bad dream to us now. We slowly climbed down the steep and narrow stairs. Lila listened to me as I told her to go slow, and we made it safely to the walking path. I thought it would be better to go in a different direction than usual because as I looked at the clouds, I hoped the rain would pass over the east side of the lake and miss us.

When we passed by the Elf’s house, we could see that his door, that is located in the nook of a tree, was closed. Under the crack of the door, we could see that many brightly colored dandelions had been left by some visitors.  A couple little drops of rain started to fall on us and on the path before us. We hoped that the Elf’s house would stay dry.  Many walkers passed by and no one seemed to mind the little rumblings of thunder. Not even the little boy who was on his bike and cheerfully asked his Dad, “Is it raining?”

“Yes,” said the Dad in a chipper voice.

Since it was warm and humid, the cool raindrops felt good. I was glad that no one could tell that underneath it all, I really was sweating! The clouds rumbled back and forth to each other as if they were having a conversation. Their lightening didn’t seem to brighten up the sky, so we just walked along more than just a few blocks. Lila kept us on pace and still seemed to be as excited to be outside as we were. As we rounded a corner, the rain started to fall down in sheets and we couldn’t see across the lake any more. Sometimes the trees sheltered us with their new bright leaves.

When we came to the area close to the band shell, many people sat in the sheltered area out of the rain. We decided to keep on going. A girl continued rollerblading while she held onto her Mom. Even though the wheels kept slipping along the path, the girl didn’t give up and neither did her mother. They just kept on going.

Lila got off track for a bit to sniff at something as Katie and I patiently waited. When we saw that Lila had found a stinky dead mouse, I told her she had a good sniffer, and that we had to keep on going.

For a short time, the sky was bright and we thought that maybe it was going to get clear. We walked along, and no drops of rain hit us to get us any wetter. As we got closer to the van, a bright light flashed and soon we heard the thunder. The lightening was showing itself now, and was no longer having a conversation just between the clouds. The rain came down again, but now it was a little bit harder.

We made it to the van safe and sound. Even though our clothes got soaked through, we realized that it was a nice day to walk around the lake after all. I also realized that I hadn’t walked in the rain like this since I was a little kid. Why did I wait so long?

Some people feel the rain — others just get wet. ~Roger Miller

Nose Kisses

As Lila floated about in the creek after our walk around the park, we could hear the barks of a dog off in the distance. Suddenly, a beautiful yellow lab came running through the woods and came close to the shoreline to look at Lila. Lila swam to the shore to greet him. The yellow lab bent down and they sniffed at each other’s noses. The yellow lab backed up some and dove in right on top of many branches and dried grass. As he sank through the mess, his face showed a look of surprise as his paws paddled a little frantically. Mike and I wondered if the yellow lab thought that mess was dry land. Mike had just removed a large stick that had been blocking the flow of water and formed a dam. Other obstacles were being held up behind it all. It looked as if some kids had been experimenting with bricks on top of Styrofoam to see how far away it would float.

The yellow lab paddled about some and came close to Lila to greet her with another nose kiss. When the yellow lab heard his people calling him, he tried to climb up where the embankment was steep, but he didn’t succeed. He paddled to the other side and ran up the hill with small branches and dried grass clinging to his fur. He was gone as fast as he came. He didn’t limp or look to be hurt at all from his jump in the creek. Little did the yellow lab know that he helped knock the dam apart by jumping on the mess. We watched as the rest of the debris broke free and traveled down the creek. Mike bent to grab the Styrofoam and bricks. He broke up the Styrofoam into little pieces and stuffed it in the garbage can. All the debris floated away and the creek was clean again.  The water washed over Lila and carried away any grass that clung to her fur.

It’s funny how dogs will go out of their way to greet each other with a nose kiss.  I wonder if those two will ever meet again!

If you can look at a dog and not feel vicarious excitement and affection, you must be a cat. ~Author Unknown

April is for Showers

Tonight the rain is tapping on the windows, but the weatherman predicts that it will soon turn to snow. All of this strange weather doesn’t bother Lila at all. On Saturday, she greeted the snow by rubbing both sides of her face in the white stuff, and then she got down and rolled over on her back and wiggled around in an unusual dance. It looked as if she was embracing the snow.

When she chased the tennis ball, some of the piles of snow at the park looked to be solid, but underneath were hidden puddles. Though her sturdy paws fell through, it didn’t scare Lila one bit. She just crunched through them and ran into other puddles as big as ponds. Even though the rain has melted some of the snow, the new snow will make it even harder for spring to appear.

I wonder if Lila misses the smells of spring like I do. Maybe Lila noticed little shoots of green grass that are trying to poke through the ground. Maybe she can smell the nests of rabbits if she tried. I miss the sight of daffodils that should be blooming and swaying in the wind and the shock of purple crocuses that we only see for a short time before rabbits eat them gone. The clouds keep greeting us day after day still sputtering snowflakes our way.

If only I could think like a dog when I see whatever the day has to offer and embrace it all no matter what. With each new day a dog still plays.

It makes me wonder if Mother Nature forgot that April is for showers of rain, not of snow.

Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while. ~Kin Hubbard

A Dog Person

skipper 3

Skipper and Me

“Your Mom used to cry every time we watched Lassie on TV,” my brother told my kids recently.  I tried to think if I ever told my kids about that, but I couldn’t remember.  “She used to drive us crazy,” my brother snickered.

It was true.  I don’t know if my brothers wanted to watch the show with me or if they were just watching me to see if I would cry again.  I would always get through the show just fine, but it was at the end, when the music played, and Lassie just sat there looking at us from behind our TV set.  When Lassie held her paw up to wave good-bye was when I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.  I busted out the tears and howled so loud.  I was just so sad that I wouldn’t be able to see Lassie for another entire week.  My brothers laughed, and I vowed that the next Sunday night I would not cry, but I always did.

lassie photo lassie.jpg
Lassie Photo Courtesy of
Only One Jess @ Photobucket.com

This entire ruckus might have led Dad to bring home a dog. I can’t remember if I ever asked for one, but Dad brought home one anyway.  One of Dad’s co-workers wasn’t able to care for his dog any more, and that’s how we got Skipper.

When Dad told me about Skipper, I was scared.  I wasn’t really used to dogs.  They were okay to love when they were sitting on the other side of the TV screen, but having one close up was going to be a different story.  Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Skipper and I became friends.  Every night, Skipper sat and listened intently to all my stories as I brushed his brown fur in the back hallway.  Mom wasn’t very happy about having a dog, and that’s why Skipper was never allowed to go beyond the kitchen.  Skipper slept in the basement, and I made sure he had a bed.  Dad taught Skipper how to jump through his arms, roll over and play fetch.  With all the attention that we gave to Skipper, we were surprised that he didn’t stay around our home very long.  He would run away and be gone for days.  When he came back, he had cuts that were deep and bleeding or he had dried up blood on his fur all from a fight with some other dog, we guessed.  Mom nursed him back to health by cleaning him up with warm water soaks.  Skipper healed up, hung around a while longer, and then ran off again.  This scene was repeated over and over again.  One day Skipper ran off and never came back, and we never found out what happened to that dog.  😦  I still wonder…

After Skipper didn’t come home for a long while, I asked for another dog because I missed our conversations.  Unfortunately, it never happened in the family I grew up in.  I had to wait a long time, but I got to get my dog, Music, about 13 years ago.  I’ve written about our dog Music here and here just to name two times so far.  Music was my dog, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one because she was just like a person stuck inside a dog’s body.

Now we are lucky to have Lila, who is a real dog, acts like a real dog, and loves her Dad.

Lassie is where it all started.  It’s when I figured out I was a dog person.  When did you figure out what kind of pet person you are or did someone else have to figure it out for you?

Too Many Dogs!


Bernese Mountain Dog.  Photo Courtesy of www.praisephotography.com

“Want to come with us to the dog park?” I asked Katie.  The words “dog” and “park” are just a couple sounds that make Lila’s ears perk up.

“The dog park stinks,” said Katie.  Not only did Lila’s ears bounce again at the sounds of those words, so did she.

“Plus, I need coffee.”   Luckily, there is a Caribou Coffee on the way.

“We can get coffee on the way!”  I said.  Lila and I can count the number of times Katie has been to the dog park on one paw.  We were happy to have the company.

Lila continued to jump up every once in a while as she watched us search for our sunglasses, hats, mittens and boots.

Lila went straight to the van after I opened the garage door.  When we arrived at the coffee shop, we had to leave Lila alone for a few minutes.  I try not to leave her alone in the van, but she handled the short abandonment very well and the inside of the van was intact after we got back.

Lila started her whiney cry as we got closer to the park.

“What’s the matter?”  Katie asked.  “Is she always like this?”

“Yes, she’s excited.”  The closer we get to the park, the louder the whining gets.

“It’s crowded,” said Katie.

I opened the door, and instructed Lila to go to the gate.  I’ve learned to just let Lila find her way by herself once we arrive.  The times I’ve tried to leash her up and hold her back have not been very good on my sciatic nerve.

Lila barked at the gate as if she were instructing me to hurry.

“I’m coming,” I said while I watched her jump, almost as high as the top of the gate.

“Did you see that lab jump?” a lady commented to her friend.  People are always amazed.

Lila ran fast towards the pink tennis ball after I chucked it across the park.  Even though we haven’t had any snow for a while, the snow at the dog park is still a bright white, all except for the little yellow spots that can be seen here and there.  We followed Lila along the worn away path.

“Do those boots have any sort of grip on the bottom?”  I asked Katie as I looked at her Uggs.  It seemed as if I could walk faster with my unfashionable boots that didn’t slide about.

“No, they’re kind of hard to walk in on the snow,” said Katie.

Lila still does not drop the ball for me, but when other dogs greeted Lila she abandoned the ball and forgot where she left it.  I was able to grab it quick, and Lila noticed right away.

“Don’t even try to keep up, Howie,” a man said to his little dog.  Howie and the man watched Lila run after the tennis ball.

It was nice to be outside and enjoying the day.  All the hustle and bustle of the holidays didn’t leave much time for me to be outside with the dog.  The sunny, blue sky and the white snow made the dog park seem fresh and clean.  One of the joys of winter is that the usual bad smells are frozen.

As a Bernese mountain dog came running towards us on its way to Lila, Katie commented on how she liked the smaller dogs.  Another lab joined us all at the park and had somehow gotten Lila’s pink tennis ball.  For a minute I had a hard time telling the two labs apart.

“Ricky, that’s not yours,” I heard a lady say.  Ricky dropped the ball, ran and jumped up to lick a lady on her face.  I remembered back to the day when Lila used to do that to practically everyone she met.  Ricky made Lila look like a good girl!

“Can we go now?” Katie asked.  “There are just too many dogs here!”  Lila was ready to go too.  We went on our way, Katie still holding her Caribou coffee cup in her hand.

Snow Brightens Up the Gloom!

This morning when I let Lila outside, we were greeted by the freshly fallen snow that covered the dull and brown grass. Lila happily licked the ground getting a mouthful of the wet, cold stuff. Her big strides around the tree sadly made her leash wrap up to limit her “freedom.” I found my boots and went outside to get her. Lila dashed inside and watched me as I unraveled the leash. My footsteps and her paw prints marked up the once untouched blanket of snow.

Inside, Lila looked up at us as if to wonder why we were busy huddling over papers: Dad with the newspaper, Laura with photos and me with a cookbook searching for a mint cookie recipe that can be made quickly. Lila looked as if she couldn’t understand us. Why didn’t we want to go outside and play in the snow?

So I pulled on all the things I needed to keep me warm and cozy. When I opened the door to the garage, Lila bolted towards the van, the only vehicle around right now where Lila is allowed to enter. After I opened the large door to the garage, we were on our way. As I backed up, the tires crunched down the snow in the driveway. I was thankful that the streets had already been plowed.

As we got closer to the dog park, Lila started her usual whining and bouncing about. Sometimes her ears twitched to the sounds of the Christmas music coming from the dashboard. After we arrived, we noticed many other canine and human friends. People were hunched over with parka hoods trying to keep the flying snow out of their eyes. The snow was piling up on their shoulders and hoods making them look like walking snowmen.

20121209_102007The Outskirts of the Dog Park

The friendly dogs waited by the gate ready to greet Lila. Lila barked and jumped so high that she could almost go over the fence. When I got the gate open, Lila greeted a couple of dogs and anxiously looked at me because she wanted me to chuck the Chuck-It.  She whined at me again, but so did Rex. Rex, a smaller black dog, that looked to be part pit bull, was ready for me to chuck the tennis ball too.

“Ok, ready?” I asked. Now four anxious eyes looked up at me. I knew Lila could outrun Rex. I chucked the ball, and they ran. Lila was in the lead and got the ball. Oops, Lila dropped the ball. Rex got it. Lila came back to me, still all smiles, but without a ball.

“Oops,” I said, as I saw Rex run off, lay down with the ball in between his front paws licking away at whatever disgusting things might be stuck to it. Rex stood up, shook his head back and forth, just the way Lila does, and as if to say, “I got it!” Rex with the ball made Rex happy.

20121209_102156Lila Running and Searching

“Go find another ball, Lila.” Lila ran to the usual spots, but today it was more difficult for her with all the fresh snow masking what she can usually sniff out right way. I followed her, and could not see one either. We circled around the park a couple more times enjoying the wintry wonderland still without a ball in sight and Rex still clinging onto the one I threw.

20121209_102109Everything Smells Like Snow Today!

“I’m going to go get a ball from the van,” I told Lila. She sat down close to the gate and waited patiently, her eyes following me the entire time. I found one, grabbed it with the Chuck-It, and Lila bounced about again, as if she were a ball. Just as I was about to chuck it, Rex greeted us again, our first ball lost or forgotten. I thought about how pit bulls can get a bad rap, but Rex was a fine dog that just wanted to play.

I threw the ball, and Lila ran off fast, got it and held it tight this time. Rex went away to mind his own business. As I walked around the park again, Lila ran back and forth swinging her head from side to side, happy to have the tennis ball. The next time I looked, the ball was gone, but she did not complain. She ran in the snow following the other dogs around. One time I lost sight of her, and she came back to me from behind having run around the entire park by herself and all out of breath.

20121209_102127Lila Running to Show Off the Tennis Ball

All the dogs seemed to be happier with the welcomed change of scenery. Last year, we didn’t get enough snow to run around and lose things in. This winter is turning out to be different, so far. The snow brightened up the gloom and made for some happy dogs and humans who had fun just playing in the snow.