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11.29.2010

The Pitter Pat of 16 Tiny Feet.

Dogs have been an integral part of my life since boyhood and especially since I met Tish. In fact we met because our puppies got entangled in front of my house one day. Actually, it goes back further. I rented that house because they allowed dogs. Doggy destiny if ever there was one. None of that cute little tale prepared me for the canine onslaught to come.

For the past 20 years we’ve had as many as six dogs at a time all living in the house. Right now we have four Australian Shepherds. I’ve had hot and cold relationship with them, the constant noise level on one end and loving to cuddle and watch them interact with each other at the other, the constant attention they need, the never quite sleeping attention they give. Tish adores them and because of them she’s become a professional canine behavior specialist.

But, man, what a learning curve. Constant noise, dog fights, dog bites, puke and dirty dog yards. A bed full of animals while we slept, a sofa crammed with fur, lapping tongues and noses when we hang out. Then there’s the floor covered with them constantly around our feet like a flock of sheep. Getting in synch with them wasn’t easy. There’s a rhythm to living with dogs to keep your own sanity and to keep them getting along in the house. Some of them never get along. I’ve torn up my share of fights and Tish has a constant fresh bite on one hand or the other from dogs at work. I remember once holding one high in the air while another hung on by her teeth, both of them suspended off the ground. It was like trying to pull taffy apart. That is, if taffy screamed and squirmed and bit and bled. We have a series of gates around the house to separate them when they don’t get along or one is in heat. Walking through our house is like prep for a hurdle race. Always lifting a leg over a barrier and opening others. If they had a hurdle event where you jump them while carrying two hot dinners and a beer, I’d win the Olympics.

So here we are all these years later and I’ve finally found my place with the dogs. Often, I’ve had one special dog that was mine alone and right now that dog is Bunnie. She’s a sweetheart of a pup but overprotective of me. That’s my fault and our resident canine expert tells me I need to do something about it. I agree totally but with all the other things going on in this house, who has time to train a dog, too?

Enter the grandsons and talk about a whirl of activity all the time. Kit likes the dogs the most, Tio the least. Doc sees them as background noise. Background, my left eye! They bark when a car goes by, they bark and jump when someone comes home, they bark at the wind blowing and they bark at each other. I don’t mean a pleasant little woof, either. I mean a cacophony of slathering, roof raising ruckus that dulls the senses and makes hearing anything else in life someone else’s enjoyment. “Be quiet!” “Shut UP!” “Leave it!” “Go lie down.” all join in as part of the chant to bring the total decibel level up to four dogs yapping and a group of humans yapping back.

I actually do love the whacked out beasts. Some days more than others but they’re definitely an important part of the insanity in our lives. Someday’s I do wonder what a quiet retiring life might be like. Tish has dreams of building a yurt on an undisclosed location that she and I can get away to.

I bet she’d want to bring the dogs.