When the Dog Won’t Go Out and Your Eyelashes are Frozen

“If your dog wasn’t such a diva,” Jaeger said to me, “she could go outside in the winter without a jacket and boots.” I defended Lucy, saying that she’s not a diva. She just has short fur and sensitive paws, and … Okay, maybe she is a bit of a diva. But I love her in spite of it.

My oldest son and I were talking about the sudden drop in temperatures which lately have reached an uncomfortable kind of cold. People around here will complain and brag in equal measures about how much cold we can tolerate. Personally, since I work from home, I’m fortunate not to be all that inconvenienced by the weather, except where my dog is concerned. It takes some effort to get her into her jacket (which she loves) and her doggy boots (which she hates). Think Randy in A Christmas Story only instead of a mom stuffing her child into a snowsuit, it’s me coaxing my dog’s paws into the booties that she barely tolerates. Yet if she doesn’t have them when thermometer goes below zero, she comes back inside favoring her paws and I feel like a bad dog-mom. But even with the boots yesterday, Lucy was reluctant to go out. I can’t tell you how many times I got her all bundled up only for her to stop in her tracks a few feet out the door, her body language saying NOPE in no uncertain terms as she turned back to the patio door begging to come back inside. And in case you’re asking, “Why all the fuss? When she really needs to go, she’ll go out, right?” Wrong. All of this effort is to avoid the bladder infections Lucy has given herself in previous years when she would just hold it rather than endure the cold.

You can’t make me go out there!

So it was that cold and I didn’t go out for a walk yesterday. But as I drove to the grocery store, I saw a brave soul making a hardy trek down one of my regular walking paths. And I contemplated, “I could put snow pants on too and get out there after I’m done at the store.” But then Chesney texted some photos. She and Farm Boy were spending time outside with his family after their annual New Year’s Day lunch. The little ones wanted to go sledding, and she wanted to show me her frosty eyelashes and Farm Boy’s frozen beard. I think that sealed the deal for me. No walk.

But I need to walk. Walking is usually an almost daily thing for me, except since I suffered an acute muscle strain in my lower back almost a month ago. I’d love to brag about the admirable and strenuous activity I was tackling at the time of my injury. But I can’t. I acutely strained my lower back while bending over. I was bundling up for my daily walk. I had donned my jacket, scarf, and hiking boots, and was just reaching down to pick up my ear muffs which had fallen to the floor where I was standing in the foyer. And that’s when it happened. I reached for the muffs and felt something like a snap, and then a fire spreading in my lower back. I paused for a moment in surprise and a bit of panic. I told myself, “Don’t let this defeat you! Get out there. Walk it off. WALK IT OFF!”

I tried. I really did. But there was no walking it off. I made it one block to my neighbor’s house where she met me at the corner and commented on how it appeared I was limping. I briefly explained what had happened and said I was sure the walk would ease out the kinks. But another block later, my muscles were tensing even more and I began to fear I wouldn’t be able to get back home. I admitted defeat and turned back. The next day I could barely get out of bed and could hardly move around the house without shooting pain running down my left hip. I had to steady myself for a few moments when getting up from a chair before I could take a step. It was all rather humiliating for someone who makes a good effort to stay as healthy as possible.

Three days later when I managed to get to a chiropractor appointment, my doctor told me this kind of muscle strain is really common, which made me a little better and slightly less decrepit. He also said that it would take some time to heal and that I needed to take it easy for a few weeks. A few weeks? I honestly didn’t believe it would take that long. After all, I have a pretty regular habit of moving my body, both with various workouts and walks. And for crying out loud, I’m in my mid-fifties, not the mid-nineties!

I figured I just needed a week to get back to normal, but sadly, I was wrong about that too. I really should learn to trust the chiropractor, I think, with his umpteen years of education in this area.) Prior to the muscle strain, I had really been pushing myself in my workouts, thinking the harder I pushed, the more I was fighting the aging process. But as my chiropractor also said to me, “When we reach the age that we are,” which was kind of him to say since he’s five years younger than me and in really great shape, “we have to start listening to our bodies a little more closely.”

Point taken. We will start listening to my body a little closer. I’ll continue to start my days with some kind of workout, but I’ll incorporate more gentle movement. And from now on, if it hurts, I’ll modify instead of thinking I can push past the pain. But the one thing that really seems to loosen those back muscles is walking. And I really need the weather to be more cooperative so I can get back to it. Today’s high is predicted to be three degrees, and that’s not going to happen until after I’ve gone to bed. So I can’t promise I’ll break out the snow pants and get out there today. (Maybe I’m a bit of a diva like Lucy.) The next three days, however, look much better with highs in the double digits. And I promise myself I will get out there again.

LuLu’s New Jacket

The real Minnesota winter is making an entrance this weekend. The snow that has fallen so far has been nothing to brag about and spending time outside hasn’t been unbearable. I have very much appreciated being able to go outside for my daily walk all the way into February. But the honeymoon might just be over. The temps are dropping and they aren’t expected to climb back up over the next week.

And so I did what any responsible dog mama would do. I got my baby a new jacket.

“I am a fashionista!”

She looks less than thrilled, doesn’t she? She’s a dog that clearly needs a winter jacket, yet still manages to look put off when I put one on her. But she’ll be thanking me tomorrow when the temperature is expected to be … lemme check … ZERO! Zero degrees tomorrow. That’ll be fun. Where’s the sarcasm font?

Lucy is a mix of breeds of which we’re not entirely sure. She’s got some Boxer and Pitbull for sure but beyond that – who knows? She can howl really amazingly, so she might have some kind of hound in her as well. Regardless, whatever breeds contributed to the making of this beautiful girl, they did not provide her with the genes for thick, warm fur. She gets cold easily, the benefit being that makes her a great cuddler.

Sometimes LuLu will scratch at the door to go outside. When I slide it open if we’re greeted by a sudden wall of cold air, she’ll pause, sniff, drop her head, and walk away from the door as if to say, “Forget it.”

So we learned long ago that she would need a coat for chilly winter days. With her broad chest, skinny back end, and only medium height, it took a few tries to find one that fit her well. But we did find one eventually. It was designed just right for a girl like Lucy, with Velcro on the straps so that we could snug her into it perfectly. The colors were a bit on the boyish side, but she didn’t seem to mind.

Unfortunately, the Velcro parts that held that boy-coat in place have begun to lose their stickiness. Sometimes after a good romp around the back yard, racing the neighbor dogs up and down the fence line, and chasing squirrels around the shed, LuLu returns to the door with her coat hanging on only around her middle, the front straps flapping around uselessly.

So it was time for a new one. She’ll be warm and fashionable. All the neighbor dogs are going to be so jealous!

Dog Fortune

It’s no secret to anyone that I’m a full-fledged, over-the-top dog lover. Dogs don’t judge. They forgive so easily. They simply take you at face-value and love unconditionally.

I often stop to recognize how fortunate we are that Lucy Pie came along into our lives. I just adore her. Her face is full of sweetness, and she’s loaded with personality. Anytime one of us returns home from anywhere, Lucy provides the kind of welcome deserved by one who’s been away for months on end, and whose return was anticipated with sheer uncertainty. The four-legged leaping, the whipping tail-wagging, the joyous barking is enough to sweep away the darkest of moods. And Lucy runs from one person to the next, bouncing off our shins while failing to maintain any sort of self-control. It’s as if she’s saying to each of us, “Look who’s come home! Can you believe it? We HAVE to celebrate!”

Our grand-dog, Dacotah displays similar, albeit a bit more controlled affection for her loved ones. There’s no chance of feeling lonely with these two canines around. I’m constantly amazed by their intelligence, and the way they figure out how to communicate with us.

Lucy has perfected a sort of loud yawn. She does this particularly when we awaken in the morning, or when someone comes home. She opens her jaws wide and emits a noise that sounds like she is saying, “Hiiii-eeee!” I always respond, “Hi, Baby,” and then Lucy’s tail begins to thump rapidly against the floor, so happy is she to be acknowledged.

And then there’s the sneeze. When Lucy’s excitement is too much for her to contain, she sneezes, again and again! She’s so funny.

Dacotah clacks her teeth when she wants something. She might be looking to be fed, or she might want a good scratching for her often dry skin. She knows I have the fingernails for it. She’ll sit facing me, locking eyes while snapping her jaw at me while I ask, “What choo want?” When I finally run my fingernails along her shoulders and back, her whole body melts into my hands.

It’s hard not to feel happy around these girls. And they love each other as much as they love their people. When Dacotah is visiting, there’s rarely a moment that Lucy isn’t glued to her side.


Laying claim to the sunny spot in the living room on a cold winter morning

As much as Lucy loves Dacotah, she can be a bit possessive. If Dacotah takes a toy from Lucy’s overly-stuffed toy box, Lucy runs right over to snatch the toy from her. Honestly, I want to believe she’s not always just being selfish. I think she’s hoping that Dacotah will play. She wants to chase and play tug-of-war. But Lucy’s got a bit more puppy left in her than Dacotah, and Dacotah tends to just give up and walk away, prompting us to scold, “Loooo – Seeeee!”

Lucy doesn’t tend to be bothered by the scoldings. And she is most certainly selfish about sharing “her” people with Dacotah. Lucy thinks nothing of trying to steal all attention from Dacotah’s “daddy,” Jaeger. But if Dacotah pays attention to Lucy’s people, Lucy has to squeeze between and make sure Dacotah knows we belong to her, and her alone.


If Dacotah is next to me, then Lucy is going to be on top of me!

Even though Lucy can be very rambunctious and silly, there’s a gentle and comforting side to her too. She’s thrilled when my mom visits, and seems to know how fragile she is. When she comes over, Lucy tries hard to wait for Nana to get settled in a living room chair. Then Lucy slowly and carefully lifts herself into the chair too, squeezing in next to Nana. She tips her head way back to snuggle against my mom’s neck and shoulder, and sneaks a big, wet kiss if she can get away with it.

When I’m feeling quiet, sometimes Lucy comes to me as if to ask, “Are you okay?” She’ll move in front of me, then sit back on her haunches and hold her paws out for me to hold. She looks into my eyes and cocks her head as if trying to figure out what it is that’s going on with me.

When she sits like this, she knows I’ll eventually run my hand up and down the soft fur on her chest … and maybe this is all she’s really hoping for. But I like to think there’s more intention in her actions than just a good belly rub.

A friend and her family had to make the difficult decision to put their sixteen year-old dog down this week. I expressed my condolences and remembered what a sad and difficult decision that is to make. The loss of a beloved pet leaves an undeniable hole in one’s heart. I’ve been there too many times myself. Thinking of my friend’s loss reminded me what a gift our pets can be. They bring such joy and love to the household. I’ve always considered my four-legged kids to be members of the family. And in spite of the fur on the furniture, the occasional sock or slipper lost to puppy chewing, the periodic puking that happens just inside the back door, and the clean-up that has to be done in the yard, particularly after a snowy winter, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

As Lucy was snuggling in my lap last night, I kissed her soft head and told her, “You’re a very special dog, you know that?” She simply sighed in contentment. I think she knows.

Unexpectedly Extended Weekend

The temperatures have been frigid around here again this week. The arctic cold held on through the weekend, but at least the sun was out in all its splendor on Saturday. It was blindingly bright, and even if it did nothing to warm the air, it felt good to be rid of the gray overcast for a change.

We ordered the headstone for my dad’s grave site on Saturday. Mom chose a nice, moderately sized marker. It’s going to be made from a stone called Lake Superior Green. We all agreed that this particular stone was the perfect choice for Dad, having been such a lover of lakes and the outdoors. Mom is having a special symbol engraved on the stone, the one that represents Dad’s diaconate class. The main image is a cross and there’s a robed figure kneeling at the foot. Mom also chose to include the title of which Dad was so proud, Deacon. Dad would approve. His burial place will be clearly marked by Memorial Day. And since the cemetery is so near where I work, I can imagine I’ll have lots of opportunity to go visit when the weather is more accommodating.

Our visit to the cemetery was much easier this time around than last, when our grief was so fresh. As my family and I contemplated how we would customize the stone, we perused the multitude of options for memorializing a loved one. One that caught our attention was a vault made in the shape of an upright piano. That got my brothers going, and they tossed around comments such as, Mine’s going to be a bass boat, or We’re making yours in the shape of a toilet. Yep, as much as they can frustrate me, I have to admit they can also make me laugh.

Mom had been complaining for a few days that her skin hurts. Friday night, she showed me a slight rash on her left arm and asked what I thought it was. It looked like eczema to me and I gave her some cortisone cream. Saturday morning, I woke up thinking, shingles. After a quick internet search, I felt positive that was it. So after our visit to the cemetery, I took Mom to urgent care where the doctor confirmed she most definitely has shingles.

I made a trip to Walgreen’s afterwards to pick up Mom’s prescriptions. While there, I couldn’t help but notice the middle aisles of the store were obnoxiously boasting Valentine’s Day decor and products. We don’t sucked into the hype, but I did pick up a nice card for Jack, and couldn’t resist a heart-shaped box of chocolates for him with a cover that looked like duct-tape. He gave me a silly card and a couple of bags of Dove chocolates, which I’ll likely take to work to share so I don’t eat them all myself.

It’s Presidents’ Day today. Some lucky people are enjoying a day off from work in honor of the holiday. I’m off work today too, but I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying it. I stayed home sick.

I woke up with something coming on yesterday morning. Jack was up at six, getting ready to go to work. Before he left, he leaned over the bed to kiss me goodbye. In the dark of our bedroom, his lips landed on my forehead and he remarked, “You’re burning up.”

img_3956He was right. I knew because I couldn’t get warm, even under a mountain of blankets. I’ve had a weirdly episodic progression of cold symptoms the past few weeks, feeling miserable and sinsus-y one day, and fine the next. It seems to have all come to a head now.  I guess my body was telling me to give it a rest. All day long yesterday, I dealt with aches and chills and that worn-out feeling that accompanies illness. My sweet Lucy suspected something was up. I spent most of the day in bed and she never left my side. What a love! Although, it was a bit much at the point when she literally laid on top of me. I nudged all fifty pounds of her off of me, and she plastered herself against my side instead. I’m feeling somewhat better today, just not enough to go back to work. I’m sure my coworkers will appreciate me keeping my germs at home anyway.

The Thanksgiving when the dogs almost burned down the house

Our Thanksgiving dinner was a culinary experience beyond all expectation. My sister played hostess this year, and her meal absolutely lived up to the standards set by my mom during the holidays of our childhood. The turkey was juicy and tender. The stuffing, made with mom’s now family-famous recipe, was perfect in its savory goodness. We, the guests, brought sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries, dinner rolls and other sides to complement the main dishes my sister had prepared.

For dessert, my sister-in-law made her family-favorite pumpkin chiffon pie. I made the traditional pumpkin pies. (And word has it, they were good!) Even after indulging in more food in one sitting than any of us commonly eats, we each found room for a plate of something sweet, some with an extra dollop of whipped cream on top. None of us exercised any restraint on this one day of the year when any sense of responsible eating tends to go out the window.

I had picked up my parents earlier in the day and escorted them to the holiday dinner, and by this point, they were growing tired and ready to go back home again. My family did a bit of vehicle-juggling. Hubby Jack, who had arrived in his truck after working earlier in the day, accompanied me in my car for the ride back to my parents’ house so as to assist in getting Mom and Dad safely back into their home. Ryker drove his dad’s truck back to our home, while Jaeger and Chesney went in Jaeger’s truck.

Jack and I had successfully returned my parents to the comfort of their living room and got them settled in for the evening. We were just heading back to our own house when my cell phone rang. I could see it was Ryker calling and answered it using the bluetooth option so that both Jack and I could both hear.

“What’s up?” I asked Ryker.

“I just walked in the door at home and there were two burners burning on the stove. They’ve been on for a while because it’s like a thousand degrees in the kitchen!”

Instant panic set in as I realized how bad this might have turned out had my parents not wanted to go home after dinner as soon as they did, and had Ryker not arrived home in time to shut off those burners before serious damage occurred to our home. My mind raced in the seconds following the news and I wracked my brain trying to figure out how I had possibly left the gas stove on while we were away. And then I remembered. I hadn’t used the stove-top at all that day … only the oven. How had two burners been lit and left burning for who-knows how long???

Ryker went on to say that the knife block, which sits next to the stove, was hot, as was the microwave that is positioned on the wall above the stove.

“And there was a Ziploc bag on the floor with teeth marks in it,” he finished.

Ziploc bag? Teeth marks? It only took a moment for me to remember packing up dinner rolls to bring to my sister’s house that day. I had made too many and decided to leave a half-dozen of them home. I had zipped them into a storage bag which I had tucked into a back corner of the kitchen counter, near the stove. My kids love those fresh baked rolls and I knew they’d get eaten in days after Thanksgiving.

That’s when it dawned on me. An empty storage bag with teeth marks had dogs written all over it. Someone had been counter-surfing and helped their canine selves to my fresh-baked dinner rolls! Lucy has never done such a thing, so I strongly suspected Jaeger’s dog, Dacotah as the culprit. Besides, she is taller than Lucy and more likely to reach food on the counter if she were to have jumped up there.

Jack and I arrived home just moments behind Jaeger and Chesney. As we all spilled into the foyer, I looked up the stairs to see Ryker in the kitchen doorway, holding the empty teeth-marked bag. Jaeger was sternly addressing the dogs, asking, “What did you do? What did you do?

The dogs appeared appropriately sheepish and hung their heads as Jaeger scolded them. I made my way upstairs and confirmed what Ryker had told me, that the upper level of the house was decidedly warmer than the furnace would normally make it on a snowy, cold day such as this one. At Ryker’s urging, I held my palm above the stove grates and confirmed they were really hot, as was the knife block, and the microwave above. Those burners had been burning for some time while we were away. This could have been so bad! Our house could have caught on fire. Our beloved fur-babies … I can’t even think about it!

In all the times Dacotah has spent time with us, nothing like this has ever happened. How could we have known to take extra precautions in leaving the two dogs alone for a few hours?

My panic gave way to gratefulness that our circumstances had fallen together in such a way that we were able to come home in time to avert any real disaster. It’s amazing to me now that it even happened. The knobs for the stove burners are somewhat child-proof. You have to push one in and turn it before the ignitor kicks in and lights the flame. Dacotah’s paws must have landed just right in order to turn two burners on. And she’s lucky she didn’t light her own fur on fire!

After all of our heart rates had returned to normal and we’d had a chance to catch our breath, Jaeger agreed it was probably Dacotah who was to blame, (although there’s little doubt that Lucy participated in the glutton-fest that surely followed the thievery of the dinner rolls.) Dacotah had likely learned the counter-surfing tactic a couple of weekends ago while Jaeger’s buddy was dog-sitting her in his own home. The buddy has a roommate with a poorly trained dog who is known to steal food within reach. Dacotah likely picked up a new trick during her brief stay. And in the days following our near miss, she proved her guilt when several times we caught her trailing her snout along the edge of our kitchen counters.

We had to leave the dogs alone again last night when we all went out for dinner and then to our bowling league. We were all set to block the dogs into the lower level of the house when Jack came up with a much simpler plan. He called me to the kitchen and showed me. He’d pulled all of the burners off of the stove. And yes, all food had been properly put away, well out of the reach of tempted dogs.

Guilty Dogs B


I am still breathing a huge sigh of relief!