Southern Way

Southern Way

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chaotic Constitutionals

Where ever Marshall was in his former life, someone walked him on a leash because he knows what he is doing when I take out. Basically, he is a smart little pup. I finally got up enough nerve to take both dogs out together on our daily constitutionals (walks). Now take into account I live only one block off one of the main streets in Charleston - Meeting Street. In the mornings and around 5-6 in the afternoon there is a lot of traffic. This did not bother the pups - it terrified me.

Naturally they are not coordinated nor are they choreographed. I try to be patient. Ellie will take her time with her nose down on the ground as if she is tracking something. Meanwhile Marshall will be bouncing along trying to check out someone's fence, porch, or trash can. Either Ellie has to be stopped while I urge Marshall along or Ellie has to reminded we are moving when she is paying too much attention to something and holding up the parade.  The entire walk is this give and take. Well, then there are parts when I feel as if I am the musher on a dog sled when both will take off at a fairly swift speed. Then it is all I can do not to run as they pull me along. 

Marshall is famous for crossing back and forth in front of me, and in the process going around Ellie's leash. I feel certain the sight of me trying to untangle the leashes without letting go of either dog on the sidewalk is quite amusing. Ellie expects acknowledgement from everyone we pass and Marshall just wants them to pick him up. 

They were both being neighborly until the first bicycle passed. For some reason Marshall decided the bike and its rider were the enemy and must be taken down. Then I just hold on to him for dear life. Ellie just sat there nonchalantly.

After reeling him in after several bicycle sightings, I realized he wasn't backing down. One afternoon, we were turning the corner by my apartment. We had survived another walk. Then Marshall started up, barking and pulling on his leash. Sure enough here came a bicycle up the street. As he passed, I apologized and assured the rider he was harmless. The older man laughed,"It's always the little ones causing the trouble, isn't it?"

I laughed and agreed. Naturally by that time Marshall had stopped barking but I looked down to see that I was standing there with the leashes tangled around my ankles. Marshall was looking suspiciously at the kid coming up the street on a skateboard. Ellie was sitting at my feet looking at me as if to say,"Seriously?"

I'm sure if I am walking them or they are walking me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Walking the Dog - Not Just a Yoyo Trick

Let me make one thing straight - a fenced in back yard is highly under rated. All my years as a dog owner, "putting the dogs out" entailed opening the back door and letting them run past you. The only hardships were when it was a cold morning and you felt the freezing weather on your face when you opened the door or the frustration of them scrambling around you to see who was going first.

Those were the salad days, the carefree times when I was innocent -the years I never appreciated. When I moved to Charleston and brought Ellie with me, we had a new reality. The first morning at 5:30 I awoke to a furry face looking at me with this, "Well, are you taking me out or what?" look. 

It was cold outside, I was still sleepy, and "going out" was now a participation sport. So I got up, pulled on some decent warm clothes, put her leash on her and we headed out the door for her morning constitutional. Now, I will say, Ellie is very good on a leash. But, I do live on the dodgy side of Meeting Street.

When I come out of my apartment building door, if I go to my right - well let's put it this way, I would be more comfortable walking a bigger dog with a bigger chip on his shoulder than 10 inch tall Ellie who, bless her heart, never got the memo that she falls in the "little dog" class. She definitely has the Napoleon Complex, which does me no good as protection detail. 

Going to the left takes us into the area of gentrification. The walk  goes past 2 small churches, several restored single houses, several houses being restored, and many that are in need of help. As we move south you get into an area where the buildings were raised and upscale faux Charleston Housing style apartments have been constructed.

So we have established our route. We know the characters on the street. We know the house that has the pit bull on the porch. (We carefully cross the street just before we get to that house, much to Ellie's dismay.) If we have time we will go several blocks and circle around, if not, we go up and back. Everyone, from the students on their way to class, the cooks on their way to work, the winos on their way home, and anyone else is friendly and always speaks.

Walking down Columbus, the houses are occupied with students and often they are out on their porches at night listening to music and talking. It is not unusual for them to call out to us from their porch. Ellie gets very offended if someone passes us on the sidewalk and does not stop and acknowledge her. I have yet to meet anyone she did not like.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays [Ellie and me] from the swift completion of [our] appointed rounds. We had a system and I finally was used to getting up early to walk her, our other walks during the day, and our trip to the dog park once or twice a week. I could handle this whether it was in the 30's, raining, windy, or fair.

Then came Marshall and all the rules went out the window . . .

Monday, February 8, 2016

Flown the Coup

Sadly, I am out of the bird business. All my beautiful finches are gone.

When I relocated to Charleston I knew I was not going to be able to take my finches or my orchids. I had hoped my DH would take care of the finches, after all what are a few finches among the flying squirrels, prairie dogs, and an Airedale or two that also called our house home.

However he knew better than to bite that off. I was meticulous about the cage being cleaned top to bottom, inside out every week, including every dish, plate, bowl, and bath removed and washed. He was used to having tortoises that lived outside so there was no "cage" to clean. In the winter, every week or so, you just hosed down the barn. He had little patience. Cleaning all the tight places, spaces, and accouterments would drive him nuts.

That did not stop him from constantly pulling out his tape measure in my apartment and showing me places the cage would fit. Personally, I had issues that doing without my sofa or that my guests would get to awake to a personal choral presentation every morning coming from the cage he pointed out would fit nicely in the guest bedroom. And, yes it would "fit" over on the far wall, however I was not willing to do without a dining table.

So the birds had to go, but where? I contacted the few friends I knew who had finches. I knew local stores did not want them, knowing what I went through to place my 5 Ruby Cut Throat chicks. Given I was tied up with a move, a new job, not to mention getting back into the workplace after a 2 year sabbatical, finding 15 finches a new home (when they were being taken care of for now) was not at the top of my list. But, every time things were not going swimmingly at home, the fate of the finches was mentioned.

So finally I placed an ad on Craigslist. Since the ads I had placed on the Columbia and Charleston Craigs List for my chicks six months or so ago, accomplished nothing, I figured this would do no more than show my DH that I was making some effort. Besides, I did not want to get rid of the birds. I enjoyed having them and missed them. But I did not have time for them now.

The ad went live at 7:32 pm on Feb 1. At 8:45 pm I had a call from a man who wanted to purchase them all. He had inside and outside aviaries and lived only 2 hours away. He was even willing to give me a credit card number right then - which I assured him was not necessary.

I awoke the next morning to find a text from a woman wanting my email so she could Paypal me the money and asking me to call her to make delivery arrangements. The emails, calls, and texts continued all day. But, the birds were going to the first man who called me.

When I called him back to set-up the arrangements, I asked if he were a dealer or a hobbyist. I learned he was a 60 year old man who had many finches and had had them for years - just a hobbyist. He said he had plenty of room for mine. I felt better after I talked to him. At least it sounded as if my birds were going to a good home.

My DH, bless his heart, volunteered to deliver the birds for me. Personally I think he was curious to see who this 60 year old man was who "had many finches" and room for more. When he returned, he called and let me know that yes, the man had had many finches. He had over 300, of all kinds in walk-in aviaries in his home and in his yard.

I thanked him profusely for taking the birds and told him I would be home the following weekend to clean and store the cage. His comment, "What about the orchids? Remember, you have two greenhouses of orchids. What do you plan to do with them?"

Clearly this man needs a hobby. He has way too much time worrying about my issues. Maybe he should try collecting stamps or coins or painting. Better than that, he could start growing orchids. I could set him real fast.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Brawl in the Hallway

Wednesday night I was on the phone with my DH. The pups were sitting by the front door listening to folks coming and going. They often stand sentry as hall monitors behind the door. Suddenly my front door burst open, there was a loud ruckus of claws and paws on hard wood, yelps and barks, and before I could say anything, both of my pups were out the door. I quickly told my DH, "I've got to go," and threw the phone down.

By the time I got to the door, I saw that Winston, my neighbor's 75 pound Wire Haired German Pointer "puppy" was wrestling in the hall with little 11 pound Marshall. Ellie was no where to be seen. I wasn't worried about her being out of the building because there is a secured door to the outside from the hall. And I felt certain at 10 inches tall she could not reach the door release button. 

Winston's owner was trying to get a hold on him. I was trying to pull Marshall away, who had no intention of giving up. They were not fighting, just having a large loud time in the middle of the hallway.

In the mean time, other neighbors were opening their doors to see what the ruckus was about. Talk about a way to meet the neighbors! Finally Marshall broke loose and ran into Winston's apartment. I ran in trying to scoop him up. By this time Winston was under control, I had captured Marshall, but Ellie was no where to be seen.  

Finally another neighbor produced her. Seemed she has decided to check their bedroom out - she always has been the curious sort. I don't know (nor I was going to ask) what she was doing in there. I apologized for Ellie's trespassing and rude behavior. Thank goodness, the neighbor took it all in good fun.

I was able to hold onto Marshall and get Ellie to move on down the hall back to my place.

Apparently, Winston had been in the hall, had heard my pups, got excited, and bounded up against the door which, obviously, was not latched. At that point the chaos ensued. As I made my way back to my apartment another neighbor came in the building bringing her 5 pound Yorkie. Marshall started up again. She laughed and said, "Marshall, you're just looking for trouble."

I just smiled opened my door and said, "You have no idea."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Captains and Commanders

My new job at the Citadel has me in a world I know nothing about - that of the military. And to make it more fun, unlike West Point, where everyone is Army or Annapolis, where everyone is in the Navy, or even the Air Force Academy, the Citadel is not wedded to any one branch of the military. I work for a retired Lieutenant General in the Air Force. So I was given a sheet that showed the seniority and ranks of US Air Force  officers as well as how to interpret the insignias on their uniforms. It was daunting but, unlike the Periodic Table (that I avoided in high school like the plague), it has some rhyme and reason to it. I would study it and learn my officers.

However, I am teamed with a retired Naval Commander, who just replaced a retired Naval Captain. Other key people I work with are a retired Marine Colonel and the Provost who is a Brigadier General. So I was also given two more charts to explain the intricacies of those the ranks in those branches of the armed forces.

A Captain is higher that a Commander which is higher than a Lieutenant in the Navy. And in the Air Force, a Lieutenant General is more senior to a Brigadier General which is senior to a Major then a Captain. So does a Major in the Air Force trump a Commander in the Navy? This is where charts and graphs come in.

It has always taken me a while to learn names when I am in a new situation. So now they throw ranks in there - for kicks and giggles. So along with keeping the names straight, I need to remember the Captains, Colonels, and Commanders. I do remember a comment a lady made during one of my interviews when she learned I had no exposure with the military - "Don't worry, we all go through this. When I started, I couldn't keep them straight, so I called all of them 'General' assuming, worse case scenario,  I had most likely elevated them."

So Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, Captain, Colonel, Commander, whatever, I would master this. Every time they introduced themselves, I would make a mental note and the rank would just become the person's first name. For example Brigadier General Connie Book, would be General Book. And Colonel Hawk Moore would become Colonel Moore. I had a plan.

One of the first phone calls I took for the General was from a nice gentleman "Tom Clark". I took a message and thanked him. My admin assistant saw the note and laughed, "What did Col Clark want?" 

I gave her a blank look.

She showed me the note, "I see he called."

"He didn't say 'Col' Clark"?

"Usually they don't. They just assume you know their rank. But don't worry when they come in you can always tell their rank by their uniform." 

I think for a while they will all be sir. Certainly there a grace period for civilians.

Friday, January 29, 2016

I Missed the Parade

Last evening I came home exhausted. I opened the door to find Marshall standing there tail wagging happy to see me. As I looked past him, the living area looked as if there had been a ticker tape parade - there were ripped pieces of paper strewn about the floor. I looked at him, he was still wagging his tail. I put my bag down and turned to go into the bedroom - more paper strewn about. The parade must have come through that room as well.

There were random shoes tossed about. One of my travel makeup bags was on the bed. I picked it up and went to put it back in the bathroom. There I found "someone" had managed to pull all the baskets off the bottom shelf. There were tubes of lotions, boxes of soap, miscellaneous makeup items, combs, and brushes littering the bathroom floor. Once again Marshall stood there wagging his tail.

I picked everything up. Miraculously, nothing was broken. It was definitely time to get them out for a walk. I changed my clothes and got their leashes. Since Marshall has taken to eating his harness, going out now involves putting his harness on him as well as his leash. This is like trying to tie a bow on a greased pig who is trying to escape.

As I am wrestling with Marshall on the floor (amongst the pieces of paper) my phone rang. It was my DH, "I'm in Walmart, where will I can find the powdered drink mixes?"

"On the same aisle as the canned fruit."

"That makes no sense."

Keep in mind I had had a long day, had found my clean apartment a mess, and was then fighting an 11 pound gremlin to get a harness on - and the gremlin was winning. Walmart's store product placement was not what I really gave a damn about at that minute. "They put it with the Kool Aide."

"Kool Aide? Why there?"

I about to lose it, "I assume because they are all fruit related, I don't know."

"Why are you being so short?"

I quickly explained about my day, Marshall's hi jinxes, and my current wrestling match. His comment - "So you just don't like Marshall. Fine, I'll come get him."

If I had had a third hand at the time, I would have turned my phone off and blocked his number. I assured him Marshall was not going anywhere. 

Then sarcastically he added, "Well sorry I did not call at a good time." With that we rang off.

Thank you Captain Obvious!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Getting to Know You

In a nutshell Marshall decided he was no longer a fan of the crate and demanded equal sleeping time in the bed. That went over well until he settled into Ellie's spot. I cannot figure out if he is a bottle short of a case or if just likes living on the edge.

Here is how the next days played out:
  • By Sunday I was able to take both dogs to the dog park. Naturally Marshall approached every Pit Bull, Rottweiler Mix, and anything over 90 pounds with reckless abandon. Ellie on the other hand, stayed on the opposite side of the park, as if to say, "I don't know him, I've never seen him, I'm appalled they let his type in."
  • That evening I ventured out with both of them on leashes - thank God no one video taped it (that I know of - if so, it may well be a You Tube viral hit.) One wants to charge forward while the other wants to stop. One will cross over, get ahead, and then cross back, thereby tangling the leashes which I have to untangle on the sidewalk albeit still holding tight to the pups less they run into the traffic. It never fails that they choose different sides of the tree go around.
  • Monday was THE day. I was going to work, leaving them at home. I knew they would be OK, unless Ellie figured out a way to send Marshall away with the mailman. 
  • I do not need an alarm clock because I have Ellie in my face at 5:30 am sharp - "Are you up yet?" So at 5:30 when it was in the 30s we were up and out for our morning constitutional.
  • By this time Marshall had totally destroyed every "Guaranteed Indestructible" toy he had, so my place is littered with ragged animals, stuffing, squeakers, and pieces of rope (all relatively new!) Monday evening I came home to find he had chewed his harness (ie the one he was wearing at the time) in two.
  • New collars and harnesses were ordered for everyone, Marshall no longer wears anything the house, less it become fodder for his destruction.
  • Tuesday morning when I walked out of the door both dogs were making such a fuss it was all I could do to get the door closed. I turned and walked down the hall only to find Marshall standing there waiting for me just inside the main door to the apartment building (sans harness of course.) Obviously he had slipped by in all the confusion.
  • When I returned from work Tuesday, something was different. Ellie was happy, her tail was wagging, something I had not seen in a while. I could tell this was getting better. As I walked around the apartment I found things a little askew. A random shoe was in the kitchen. Clothes were on the floor. A chill came over me, I remember the last time I had this feeling - we left our daughters home alone one weekend while they were in high school. They never got along, but we assumed they would not kill each other over just 2 and a half days. But when we returned the house was cleaner than it was when we left and suddenly they were best friends. No doubt there was enough guilt on the part both to keep that secret.
  • On the nutrition side, Ellie will now eat her meals, but she has certain requirements: both pups are fed at the same time, both in the their crates, and she will not start eating until both crates are shut. Once we accommodated her, meal times have gone much better.
  • Marshall and Ellie have worked out sleeping arrangements. Marshall can sleep anywhere he wants to as long as it suits Ellie, and if it doesn't, she lets out a low growl to indicate her disapproval. (However last night I awoke to find them sound asleep next to each other.
So my quiet life is suddenly busy trying to keep up with these two. I hope the "upkeep" will soon be less. 

Why Can't They be Friends

It started with a few barks at neighbors as they came home. The hard wood floors in the hall were always noisy and steps can always be heard going up the wooden stairway. Marshall noisily noted each one. Then he just started barking. And he continued for a while. Finally I realized this had nothing to do with noises. I went to the den, turned on the light, and looked at him. He wanted out. Normally I would never let a dog out of a crate at night - this breaks training. But then normally I did not fear eviction.

So I opened the door. Marshall tore past me and ran into the bedroom. As I followed him, he begged to get on the bed. I put him on the bed and turned out the light. If looks could kill, I'm not sure who Ellie would have targeted first - me or Marshall.

Ellie had moved to the side of the bed to see what the ruckus was. When I climbed in and pulled up the covers, Marshall quickly lay down beside me and snuggled up - in Ellie's spot. She was not a happy camper. With a huff she moved down to the end of the bed and slept facing away from me. We did not hear another peep from him. Now I just need to figure out sleeping arrangements to prevent Marshall from accidently (on purpose) "falling" off the bed in the middle of the night and getting hurt. 

Sunday morning, Marshall, Ellie (the curmudgeon), and I awoke as usual at 5:30. Ellie, the alarm clock, is always punctual. As I dressed in something extremely warm (it was 28 degrees outside), Ellie stretched. Marshall bounced around, totally unaware that his every move just annoyed Ellie even more. I leashed Ellie and went for her morning constitutional. 

When we returned I put Marshall's jacket on him - poor thing is so thin, you can feel all his ribs, he would freeze in this weather without something on, and off we went. Naturally, we left Ellie, whining in the apartment. I can hear her down the street as I walk Marshall Great! 6am on Sunday and I have a whining dog, how long will it take for the neighbors to complain?

At this point it is hard to remember that the point of getting Marshall was to give Ellie a pal to keep her company. I was trying to cheer her up. So far I have gone from a quiet sane existence to often total chaos. One very active and affectionate pup and one sulking dog who is patiently waiting for someone to come retrieve him. In Ellie's mind this is either someones mistake or a sick joke.

Of course everyone keeps telling me, "They will get along, give them time." "They will bond." But this is easy for everyone else to say. Yes, this is probably true. I did not expect love at first sight, but I hoped for at least some "like" after a few days.

Marshall's tale continues . . . stay tuned