Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chasing Rabbits

Chasing Rabbits

Sometimes I would take Roxy and Pixie, my two labs, down to the river for long walks and let them explore.  Not only was it a change of scenery but it was a time for me to reflect about life in general.  During one of those outings I observed how life works for me and why I never seemed to get ahead.  After watching the dogs in their endeavors I decided that I’ve always chased rabbits.

Roxy was the faster of the two dogs and also the more skilled hunter.  She would make wide sweeps through the brush and flush rabbits that were hiding there.  Pixie would go ahead and wait for the rabbits to come her way. 

A rabbit would jump out of the brush and race for shelter somewhere else, always with Roxy in hot pursuit.  Pixie would always be ready but somehow the rabbits would outmaneuver or jump at the right time and escape.  I didn’t pay much attention at first but I noticed the results were the same each and every time. 

I set up an observation point so I could watch the entire chase.  The chase went smoothly and their efforts proved fruitless.  Somehow, though, I had a hunch that deception was taking place right before my eyes and I was missing a key ingredient of the action. I needed more information to come up with a reasonable explanation.

Several missions later I brought my camcorder and got ready for action.  Roxy flushed a rabbit. It ran and increased its lead for a moment. Roxy gained and drew closer.  Pixie waited and then dashed in just when the rabbit arrived.  The rabbit found a sudden burst of energy and got away.  At least it seemed that way as I watched in real time.

Later as I reviewed the movie I had taken of the chase, I noticed a few strange details.  The rabbit getting away was not the rabbit at the beginning of the chase.  After studying the movie in slow motion I came to the conclusion there were four rabbits, and they were in a relay.  The first rabbit would get a big lead, slow down and hide.  The second rabbit would leap up and repeat the process.  Each rabbit in turn would take over at the appropriate time, leaving the last rabbit to make a clean getaway. 

I could almost hear each rabbit snickering behind the bushes.  “Heh, heh, heh.  I can hardly wait for my turn.  They’ll eat my dust as I show those dogs my speed.”

All my life I’ve been in pursuit of one rabbit after another.  Just when I thought life was under control, something else would leap to the front and distract me, leaving me to always be the chaser but never getting ahead.  By watching the dogs I learned to keep my eyes on my target.  When it stops I need to take a moment to rest and regain strength and then be ready to run again.  Oh, yes, and to have fun.  I don’t have to catch anything today. Tomorrow will be a new day and there will be more rabbits.

Belle and Suzi

Belle and the Hotdog

On Friday, the school cafeteria was nosier than usual. A special program had been presented during a morning assembly and everyone was so excited.  The elementary classes had listened and watched as a salesman explained how easy it was to win prizes and raise funds for the school just by selling cookie dough.  And if they sold cookie dough on the very first day they could win money and candy prizes. 

This was a win, win, win situation.   Voices competed to be heard as plans were being made.  Students mapped out strategies with their friends.  This weekend was the target. 

Joe was especially excited. Although Joe was normally talkative and restless, today he was serious and quiet.  He was just one in a sea of faces as he contemplated how to win without stirring up problems.  He knew a lot of places he could go to sell cookie dough.  That wasn’t the problem.  He wanted to win and prove he was a better salesman than Scott.  Scott was his archenemy and a bully.  Scott also wanted to win and he didn’t want any competition.  He had already warned Joe not to try so hard. 

Belle, in her therapy role, was bored with all the talk and no one was paying any attention to her.  Her senses were working overtime. The cafeteria food, hotdogs and beans, didn’t smell as good as she hoped.  She decided to wait for something better. 

She lay near Joe’s feet, listening intently to the children’s excited chatter.  Something did not sound right.  Somewhere in the middle of all the conversation a voice ceased.

 Acting on a hunch Belle raced to the place where an excited voice had changed and had become suddenly quiet.

A girl, her hands at her throat, was turning purple.  Without wondering whether she had read about this or had seen this happen, Belle hurled herself against the girl’s back. Whack!  A piece of hotdog popped from the girl’s mouth. 

Scott yelled, “This dog just attacked Suzi without warning!  I knew this dog was dangerous.”

Joe sputtered, “Belle saved her life.  If she hadn’t hit Suzi’s back, then she might have choked to death.”

Scott ranted, “Belle attacked her.  I was the one who saved Suzi from choking.”  He pointed at a second grader.  “What did you see?” he demanded.

 “Just what you said.  The dog jumped on her.”

Scott looked at the principal.  “That dog attacked Suzi but I saved her life. I should get some recognition and that dog needs to be out.”

Belle didn’t want praise for herself.  She just wanted Suzi to be okay and everything back to normal.  She knew Scott was lying but how could she prove him wrong? But did it really matter?

Suzi had recovered by then.  “Belle saved my life!  Scott was laughing at me because I was choking.  He didn’t help.  It was the dog that saved me.”

Other voices chimed in.  Nobody had been willing to go against Scott until Suzi spoke up.  There seemed to be safety in numbers and now they all clamored to be heard.  Scott turned to Joe.  “I’ll get you for this,” he vowed.  “You and that dumb dog!” 

He stomped off, angry at Belle, angry at Joe, and angry at the world.

Joe was more serious than ever about winning the cookie dough contest.  He didn’t want to worry about Scott and his threats. Scott might try to beat Joe up but Joe wasn’t afraid. He would stand up to Scott next time.  Bullies only got worse if they got their way. 

Loud Noises and the Storm

Loud Noises and the Storm

The two German shepherds were usually on self-imposed duty protecting the children.  They lay by the door watching cars and people go by on the street.  Sometimes their ears would turn and focus on certain sounds.  If the sounds were benign or considered normal the ears would relax.  If the noises hinted of trouble the ears would swivel and face the location.  Then their low throaty growls would gradually get louder until the problem was resolved or I told them it was okay and they could relax.  I thought they were rough and tough and ready for any situation that arose.

There were exceptions to their tolerance to noise.  Although they had been trained to ignore gunshots while in protection mode they were never quite ready for fireworks and firecrackers.  The sudden splashes of light and sound, as well as their confusion when pops and bangs came from varying locations, startled them into jumping and running for cover.  They never learned to adjust to any fireworks whether the explosions were large or small.  When the first firecracker exploded on special occasions both dogs became nervous shaking puppies.

Thunderstorms were another source of noise that could not be avoided.  When one of those dazzling displays of lightning occurred with accompanying thunder, Rex and Cleo would crowd closer to me, content to have my hand pat them occasionally. When the thunder became too loud and took them out of their comfort zone, they would dash for the bed and squeeze underneath.

One night in the midst of a very loud and powerful storm the power went out.  It was already after ten so my wife and I hurriedly put the children to bed and retired for the night.  We lay in bed talking about the events of the day, the children, and things we needed to do tomorrow. 

Lightning struck a tree outside splitting it in half, and the resulting boom shook the house.  At the same time our bed rose several inches.  My wife screamed and the children came running and piled on top. 

She tried to slide off the bed to get everyone resettled.  As she turned to get up, a head met hers, made one big slurp and dived underneath the bed again.   She screamed even louder this time.

 Thinking we were under attack by the elements I grabbed the children and headed for the basement.  Rex and Cleo chose this moment to escape the close quarters.  They jumped on the bed and knocked my wife to the floor.  She screamed again and then fainted. 

I called Rex and Cleo and they slunk down the steps and hid.  I went to find my wife, concerned that she was badly injured.  She wasn’t in bed nor did I find her in the bedroom.  I didn’t know she was on the other side of the bed, on the floor, next to the wall. 

I went from room to room, tripping over all the things left behind when the lights went out.  Ignoring the pain I continued to search.  The lights came back on.  The children returned and I ordered them back to bed.  The dogs returned and I ordered them back to their beds although they returned several times to see if I really meant for them to get out.

 Everything was returning to normal but I had to find my wife.  Had she ventured out into the storm?  Was she injured or worse?  My mind was exploding with possibilities.   Despite my commands Rex and Cleo bounded past me and squeezed between the bed and the wall.  Unfortunately it was at that precise time that my wife awoke.   She screamed again.  The children came running, the dogs started giving her doggie kisses, and I thought she was injured for sure.

After the dogs and children were resituated I pulled my wife to her feet.  She looked at me crossly.  “Don’t you dare say anything,” she snapped.

 I turned around and walked out onto the front porch. I studied the clear sky and took a deep breath of fresh air.  I tried not to smile but I couldn’t help it.

 In a few moments my wife joined me.  “Aren’t you coming back to bed?”

  “I’ll be there in a few moments.  The air is so clean and crisp after a storm and I want to enjoy it.” 

   She put her arm around me.  “”I want to hear your version of tonight’s events before I go to sleep.  I’ll bet it’s funny.”

 “Honey, It wasn’t funny until I knew you were okay.  Then I grinned, that’s all.  It was a rough scary night.  One I’ll remember.”

She hugged me and went inside.  I knew things were going to be all right.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Belle Rides Shotgun

She rode in the car with the wind in her face,

The passenger side was her favorite place,

When Belle pushed the button she always knew,

She’d have the wind, front seat, and a great view,

It takes more than the wind to make her grin,

An open window is just a place for her to begin,

She sees the world as she thinks it should be,

It’s nicer when everyone is happy, don’t you agree?

Belle and I were going shopping one afternoon,

It was one of those beautiful days in late June,

She rode with her head outside to enjoy the air,

The temperature was still rising but she didn’t care,

“Belle,” I said, “dogs aren’t allowed inside the mall,

We’ll get an ice cream cone and then go, that’s all,”

If one food is her favorite it might be ice cream,

I expected Belle to be excited, maybe even scream,

She struggled and fought for me to let her down,

Her expression had changed, now she wore a frown,

The pavement was burning on her little paws,

She was in rescue mode, she had a cause,

She dashed three rows away to a car shut tight,

The car looked empty, no one was in sight,

Belle was insistent, she refused to leave,

She was giving me a message, I chose to believe,

I got closer and much to my surprise,

Children were in there, I saw two sets of eyes,

Their faces were flushed, their condition was poor,

I had no time to think, I tugged at the door,

The door was locked and the children were afraid,

How could I get them out and into the cool shade?

I called 9-1-1 and waited for their parents to show,

Should I break a window? I didn’t quite know,

Belle was running in circles but didn’t go far,

Belle heard a siren and led the firemen to the car,

The children were rescued but Belle wouldn’t go,

She wanted to show me something, what I didn’t know,

One more time I listened to what she was trying to say,

On the floor was a blanket, within it a baby lay,

Before I could call for help a fireman was at my side,

He had seen me follow Belle, his eyes were open wide,

Their procedures were smooth and quickly carried out,

The two recovered quickly, the baby’s life was in doubt,

Belle watched closely and then just walked away,

I could tell by her demeanor the baby would be okay,

“We’d like to take Belle with us,” was one fireman’s remark,

“She had so much to tell us without even one frantic bark,

She was calm in an emergency and she was constantly aware,

A dog that can do so many things is certainly very rare,”

A woman approached, “What have you done to my car?

You’ve broken a window and my house is so far,

My children don’t like the air blowing in their faces,

Somebody has to fix this so we can go places,”

Belle growled at the woman, something was not right,

Belle rarely growled but she was ready to fight,

The children were trying to hide behind me,

I wanted to ask Belle, “What could it be?”

“Don’t worry, ma’am, whenever there’s some doubt,

We call the sheriff and he can work it all out,”

The fireman wanted the kids away from danger,

He was becoming certain this woman was a stranger,

“Come on, kids,” she said as she backed away,

But she ignored the baby who on the ground lay,

Belle blocked her path so she couldn’t escape,

I thought, “All Belle needs is a Superman’s cape,”

Several police cars arrived at nearly the same time,

Apparently the police were working a major crime,

The woman was surrounded and nobody was hurt,

One deputy said, “You must have heard about the Amber alert,”

When all was explained from the finish to the start,

All were convinced that Belle had a big heart,

She’d saved three children from inherent danger,

And helped capture a woman who was a stranger,

Belle doesn’t like all the publicity or strife,

All she wants to do is live a quiet life,

But no matter how sweet life is each day,

She wants to do more than just eat and play,

With all of her quirks and strange whims,

She choose what she wants except for close trims,

She can ride up front with her face in the breeze,

Except when it’s cold and I don’t want to freeze.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Belle Goes to School

Belle Goes to School

One Sunday as I finished giving Belle her weekly scrub,

Her expression said, “I’m tired of being in the tub,”

She looked shaggy while wet and needing a trim,

And I don’t think she liked her little swim,

As soon as her feet hit the bathroom floor,

Lickety-split she was out the bathroom door,

Vigorously she shook, then gave a final shrug,

She began racing from room to room, then rug to rug,

I pretended to chase her and I really did try,

But her energy seemed endless and she needed to dry,

Like a clock with a spring she finally wound down,

She lay there thinking and didn’t make a sound,

I thought she said, “I’ve been watching the kids go to school,

I’m ready to go, too, it looks pretty cool,”

I drove to school with Belle in the back, 

She knew she would have to remain in my backpack,

Even for a teacher dogs weren’t allowed at school,

But Belle looked so happy I was willing to break the rule,

The morning went smoothly, you might say it was a breeze,

Belle took her constitutional after her lunch of mac and cheese,

My lessons were great but they might have been boring,

As the afternoon progressed I heard someone snoring,

If everyone stayed quiet that was okay with me,

But a rascal named Joe had an insatiable curiosity,

He was restless, talkative, and definitely wiggly,

He teased the girls and made them giggly,

He wanted to impress the girls how tough he could be,

It was evident he was ready to challenge me,

Belle could sense that trouble was ready to brew,

So she jumped out of the backpack, she knew what to do,

Joe’s admirers saw Belle and left him behind,

Without an audience he nearly lost his mind,

Joe was ready to fight everybody he could see,

And of course, his target happened to be me,

Belle was aware that Joe didn’t care at all,

That’s when she brought him a soccer ball, 

My class went outside for the ultimate game,

Joe and his friends against me and what’s-her-name,

It was hard fought and Joe did his best,

The score was tied close to the end of the contest,

Belle looked at Joe, then gave me a grin,

And sealed their friendship, she let him win,

The principal arrived, “What’s this?” he croaked like a frog,

Joe faced him defiantly, “She’s our therapy dog,”

From then on when I brought Belle to school,

Joe claimed he taught her to read and she wasn’t a fool,

She knew not to argue when she had it so good,

Because Belle, the therapy dog, always understood.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Belle Has to Lead

She Has to Lead!

The big dogs could have eaten Belle in one mighty gulp,

But she was always fearless and she let them rough her up,

Often she romped happily with her canine friends,

When life is good like that the fun never ends,

To the other dogs her personality was a soothing balm,

This Tibetan bearded lion dog always seemed calm,

Playing with others became part of her daily game,

But Belle would stop her play when she heard me call her name,

Her best friend, though, was Fluffy the cat,

She would chase him and he would take her to the mat,

They wrestled day and night until they went to sleep,

Then they would snuggle together, in a little heap,

On evening before dinner I was watching a show,

An intruder entered, someone I didn’t know,

He carried a gun and I had no time to react,

Belle disappeared for a moment, then I lost track,

The stranger said with derision, “If that Lhasa apso is so wise,

How did I get the jump on you guys?”

He lit a cigarette and leaned against a wall,

“You’re all tied up and there’s no one to help at all,”

He smiled smugly and said, “If you make one sound,

Then you and that worthless dog are going down,”

At first Belle distracted him as she dashed from room to room,

The burglar opened the back door and out the door she zoomed,

“Hey, keep a sharp watch for the men in blue,

If I find you slacking, then I’ll be all over you,”

His two lookouts grunted, “We’re on it, we’ve got the outside,”

The burglar felt he had control so he went back inside,

At top speed Belle raced around corners and bends,

Then silent shapes in the moonlight sped to help her friends,

She led three Dobermans in a blitz the lookouts did not detect,

The lookouts were knocked to the ground, the canines they did respect,

Without a bark between them the big dogs knew what to do,

While the little dog continued onward, leading a motley crew,

Chihuahuas, terriers, bassets, two rottweilers, all were on the run,

Not one dog was willing to miss out on the evening’s fun,

The burglar heard a slew of sounds, from a squeak to a roar,

While he laughed at the sight, a dog slipped through the door,

From the top of a couch Belle found her viewing place,

The burglar took aim and shouted, “Get out of my face!”

When the waiting cat jumped on the burglar’s head,

The burglar shrieked as the cat took care of him instead,

Belle laughed to see such sport as the burglar thrashed around,

And then the rottweilers pounced to make sure he was down,

Later a patrol car pulled up and two policemen got out,

They were met by a small dog that was racing about,

She led them to the place where two men lay on the ground,

 One of the policemen said, “Look at what we’ve found,”

“Roll over, and keep your hands behind your back,

These dogs look hungry, I don’t know if we can hold them back,”

One officer stayed while the other followed Belle to the house,

Small dogs were everywhere, but inside it was quiet as a mouse,

The burglar lay on the floor watched by the two rottweilers and the cat,

His face was scratched up and his pants torn where he sat,

“Please officer, I can’t move around and I can’t see,

If I turn just one bit these animals attack me,”

“Take me in and put me in a safe cell,

I have my rights and I know them well,

I’ll sue that man for all he’s done,

He’s the only one here so he has to be the one,”

I laughed, “I’m still tied up, you tied the knots well,

Think about that while you’re in your cell,”

He stared at me oddly but that drew a hiss,

I said, “You’d better be careful glaring like this,”

More officers arrived and put the bad guys in cars,

The burglar was crying because he thought he might have scars,

A detective approached me with a pen in his hand,

“I have questions to ask, there are things I don’t understand,”

“Who got all these dogs involved, and what about the cat?

And how did you do it all tied up like that?”

The three perpetrators are as confused as anyone,

And one more question, who called 9-1-1?”

When the officers left and I was almost alone,

I patted each dog and the cat and hung up the phone,

“Belle, you did well rounding up your friends,

But you had too much fun, so wipe off your grin,”

I gave all the animals treats and sent them all home,

“Come back and visit if you need somewhere to roam,”

Wearily I climbed into bed and turned out the light,

I thought about the events of this interesting night,

Following directions is considered a sign of dogs being smart,

But Belle knowing what to do in an emergency was pure art,

The other dogs might be smarter so I’m teaching her to read,

But already she knows they have to follow and she has to lead.

Nuts in the Family Tree

Although the day was cold and crisp with cloudless skies,

I ordered a vanilla yogurt and then I sat,

The cashier looked at me with a question in her eyes,

“Would you like some nuts with that?”

She must have thought I was a normal guy,

She waited expectantly while I tried to decide,

“What are my choices?” I asked loud and clear,

She said, “Almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, are but a few,”

I guess I didn’t have to shout with her standing near,

“Don’t forget pecans, macadamias, pine nuts and cashews,”

I started giggling and then my laughter turned into a roar,

I couldn’t choose one kind when there were nuts aplenty,

Soon I collapsed with laughter and tumbled to the floor,

“What’s wrong with him?” called one voice out of many,

“I don’t know,” I heard as I was thrown out the door,

How could I explain in a few words or less,

About my family tree and the research I’d done,

How all my late night work had increased my stress,

And even though I said I was having great fun,

There were certain problems I needed to address,

As I scrambled from branch to branch on my family tree,

Expected results were not always found,

Kings and Queens were shown to be unrelated to me,

 From the base I started up from the ground,

Until I got to the top of the chart where I could see,

The diverse branches of kin no one knew,

At first they proved to be beyond my reach,

But I would continue until I overturned a stone or two,

And discovered a rowdy pirate like Edward Teach,

Who sailed the seas where strong winds blew,

I hoped that only a few pirates would I find,

I could accept Pocahontas or Belle Starr, the bandit queen,

Or other nuts that hid between the lines,

Descending through generations almost unseen,

But too many nuts would drive me out of my mind,

Peaches and almonds are on the same family tree,

Closely related although only one is a nut,

That’s crazy and I’m not sure how it came to be,

But it’s a closed case and the door is shut,

It’s a question best left to biology,

I’ve heard the saying and know it’s true,

That a nut doesn’t fall far from the tree,

Think of all the troubles that would surely ensue,

If a few more nuts were related to me,

Because I think I might be related to you.

In a Bad Mood

“You have a hernia,”

My doctor declared,

“You’re going to have problems,

If you don’t have it repaired,”

On Friday the thirteenth,

My surgery was set,

“Be at the hospital at six”,

It was written so I didn’t forget,

I made arrangements with Lori,

To get me there at six precise,

But that early in the morning,

She’d have to sacrifice,

True to her word she was on time,

Though the morning was icy and cold,

“You don’t have to pick me up later,

I have a ride home,” she was told,

Checking in was real easy,

My paperwork was already done,

Yet I was a little tense already,

The thirteenth had just begun,

I got my instructions and undressed,

And slipped on my hospital gown,

It was tied securely but still drafty,

There was no back to be found,

An early shift nurse placed my clothes,

 In a bag and in my backpack,

Out of sight, out of mind,

In a locker they were stacked,

Afterwards while I recovered,

I wanted to know when I could leave,

If it was going to be soon,

I wanted my clothes to retrieve,

According to my nurse,

I was recovering very well,

I could leave if I continued progressing,

But only time could really tell,

If the pain had lessened,

And I could finally urinate,

The surgeon said it would be okay,

For the nurse to release me late,

After much discussion,

A nurse said my clothes were found,

It wouldn’t be long before I was gone,

And I’d be homeward bound,

My thoughts were on Pam,

She’d driven from work afar,

She must be cold and anxious,

And tired of waiting in her car,

I passed nurses looking for someone,

That was my humble conclusion,

“Which way did he go?” one nurse asked,

“Over here,” I heard in all the confusion,

I followed, trying to stay out of the way,

But I lost them when I stopped to pee,

The nurses were hunting for someone,

I didn’t realize they were searching for me,

Strange things were definitely going on,

I heard them calling for “Dan”,

“What a coincidence,” I thought,

“I’ll help them if I can,”

Through the halls I wandered,

I was hot on Dan’s trail,

But the nurses couldn’t catch him,

And I was destined to fail,

However, it was Friday the 13th,

And a full moon rose to boot,

I forgot about the fugitive,

Because it was time to scoot,

Disheveled and carrying my backpack,

A large bloody spot on my shirt,

I saw no one around to question,

“Sir, are you badly hurt?”

Pam eyed me suspiciously,

When I climbed in and asked to go,

“Did you tell anyone you were leaving?

I think they would want to know,”

“Where’s your nurse and your wheelchair?

I’m sure a release you’ll need,

I think they’ll all be concerned,

If the checkout rules you didn’t heed,”

Pam called the nurse in charge,

Trying to make things right,

In a short while the nurse arrived,

She said, “It’s been a long, tiring night,”

Pam helped the nurse whisk me inside,

So I could be officially checked out,

They both seemed a little peeved,

With the full moon out and about,

I said, “It’s been fun,”

And I tried not to sound rude,

Even though Friday the 13th,

Put my nurses in a bad mood.

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