Double Digit Doggie!

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds aka Lulu aka Loose aka Loopy Lou aka Muppy.

Happy 10th birthday to the sweetest, softest, fluffiest, barkiest, fastest dog, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.

Aside from her usual walks, treats and people-food-added-to-her-dinner, Lucy didn’t have specific plans to celebrate her birthday. Then, a surprise package addressed to Lucy arrived in the mail! In it were an adorable, sparkly birthday hat and pink, unicorn kerchief. Our family had no idea who’d ordered the “doggie decorations” until Morgan’s bf Adam, fessed up. Shout out to another dog lover!

In honor of the best “person” in our family, I’m re-posting the humorous New York Times article Things People Say to Their Dogs, in which Alexandra Horowitz explores this topic with much humor.  a cognitive scientist who studies dogs–doesn’t that sound fantastic?!

Horowitz’s article, lightly edited, is below.

We talk to dogs. Happily so, for there is little bleaker than seeing a person texting while dragging a dog by her leash. It’s so natural to talk to dogs that for a long time I wasn’t even aware when I did it. But now I have evidence that I — that we all — talk to our dogs. For now, I’m listening.

Everywhere I go I encounter dogs: on the sidewalk, in the parks, in stores and airports, at readings, at my dog cognition lab. Most of the dogs are with people. Consequently, it is not long before I hear people talking to their dogs. Sure, much of what we say to dogs is request or command, exclamation points implied: Sit; Come; Go Get Your Ball. Once I began really listening, though, what surprised me was how much is not mere directive.

Heading down a city sidewalk one morning, when sleepy dogs and people stumble out for the dog’s morning micturition, I saw a woman with two small dogs, both in sweaters, one of whom had lifted a rear leg to aim directly onto a scaffolding pole. “You’re going first: excellente! Awesome job!” The dog’s owner crooned. I pulled an envelope out of my bag and scribbled down her words. Thus began my long foray into public eavesdropping on the dog-human dyad.

Once I began listening for other owners’ dog-directed soliloquies, I found that they were ubiquitous. I might catch two or three conversational snippets on a long block. It began to seem as though the act of a person walking by sometimes prompted an owner’s conversational opening to her dog — as though to emphasize how not-walking-slowly-down-the-sidewalk-alone she is. Not at all alone: She is with someone.

As every “Hi, puppy!” directed dogward demonstrates, the way we talk to dogs overlaps with the way we talk to babies. A Harris poll found that 95 percent of us consider dogs our family — so are we simply talking to them as if they were our children? “Pet-directed speech” certainly shares many features with baby talk: We raise the pitch of our voice and make it singsongy. We use a fairly limited vocabulary with infants, and with dogs too: more “You’ve been bad” than “What you did was morally indefensible.” Language is telegraphed: We tend to repeat words, slow our speech, shorten phrases and drop some categories of words, like articles.

On the other hand, when speaking to infants, we hyperarticulate our vowels: exaggeratedly saying Look at the doggeeeeee! to babies — but not nearly as much to dogs. It’s a subtle but key difference that marks a rift in our ways of thinking about kids and pups. Hyperarticulation is didactic, a way of teaching a growing human our language. When we are talking to dogs, we are under no illusion that they will grow up to use the language themselves.

Still, we do talk to dogs as though we are in a running conversation. After several hundred scribbled overhears, I began to notice some patterns in the dog-speech. One category of utterances is pure enthusiasm, the Cheering Squad:

“Good stop! I really liked that halt, guys.”

There’s the Mom Commentary on behavior. Eyes on the dog, she sees everything. And she’s gotta talk about it.

Appropriately (for the category), most of these speakers are women. In fact, among my notebook scribblings, the speakers were women about six times as often as they were men. Women speak more often, more quickly and speak longer than men — on the sidewalk and in scientific studies of dog talkers. They repeat words more and are not shy about dropping in a term of endearment. This is not to say that men are immune from the Mom Commentary:

In addition to the quotidian “Sit” and “Stay,” there are also the Perfectly Implausible Instructions:

In the spirit of conversation that doesn’t need an answer, we turn question marks toward our pups, engaging them as if they might respond — and then waiting a beat to give them due time to so reply. This is the Rhetorical Realm:

Behind every unanswered question is the feeling that we might know the answer, given that we and our dogs live together, see each other naked, and obviously know everything about each other. Hence the reliable appearance of the We’ve Discussed This utterances (dog’s full family name implied):

Most talk I hear is overheard, seemingly not intended for my ears. But when we talk to dogs around others, it serves as a social lubricant, a way to open up the possibility of talking to each other. “What’s your name?” said dog-ward is never answered — except, obligingly, by a dog’s owner. Dogs are not only reflections of us, they are social intermediaries for us. Any hesitation I may have about a person approaching me on the street is deflected by my dog Finnegan’s smiling, wag-filled greeting of them; in response, they talk not to me, but to the dog.

It’s not only strangers who can be looped in by dog-talk. We talk to our relatives — our human relatives — via our dogs as well. The linguist Deborah Tannen writes of a couple mid-argument: “The man suddenly turns to their pet dog and says in a high-pitched baby-talk register, ‘Mommy’s so mean tonight. You better sit over here and protect me.’” The dogs enable the speaking; they are not really the spoken-to.

Of course, through all our talking, dogs are more or less silent. Researchers keep looking for the language-using dog, though. Some dogs — like the Border collies Rico and Chaser, who died last week — have learned hundreds upon hundreds of words. Dogs in fMRI studies both distinguish familiar from nonsense words and process the emotional content of words. Nonetheless, dogs are not talking back. Some scholars think dog-human communication represents a “human fantasy” of how communication might go: all listening, no responding. “We like our pets’ silence,” the animal studies researcher Erica Fudge suggests, “because it allows us to write their words for them.” I do think this begins to explain our nonstop chatter with dogs. When we talk to dogs, it’s as if our private speech, the conversation we’re having in our heads, has slipped out.

The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, formulating his theories of child development, described a stage of children internalizing conversations with those around them — social speech — into a conversation in their own heads. He called it “inner speech” and thought it enabled children to use language to reflect on and consider their own behavior. We continue that monologue with ourselves as we age into adults. It’s not quite the way we’d talk to those around us, though, with its cropped syntax and a “note-form” shorthand that represents your familiarity with your own thoughts. But it’s just like what we’re saying to our dogs — as if they were in our heads.

Dogs are, of course, the preoccupation of our minds: we hope for them, care for them, love them. We narrate our thoughts while we watch them, and their thoughts while they accompany us.

One of the things we say to our dogs daily — two-thirds of us, according to one survey of North American pet owners — is I love you. Even the simple sound of our voice is an expression of that love, regardless of the content of the words we say. Through talking to them, we let them into an intimacy with us. They hear our secrets, our private thoughts.

So now you know: Pass me on the sidewalk, and I may be listening. Please don’t let it stop you from talking. It makes me feel optimistic about humans to hear us talk to other animals. We are at our best in those moments when we extend the circle we’ve drawn around ourselves to include them.

 
Continue reading “Double Digit Doggie!”

Dogs Bugging Out

Lucy wonders what I'm holding.
Lucy thinks, what is Mommy holding?

Lucy says, "How does it smell?"
Lucy thinks, how does it smell?

“When are the cicadas coming out?” I wondered.

“I can’t wait to see them,” replied a daughter. “There’s been so much hype.”

She doesn’t remember when they emerged in 2013, but will our dog Lucy? Her eyes–ummm–bugged out when she sniffed and inspected Little Miss Cicada (the one I bonded with–lol). Hubby mentioned (at dinner!) that a friend in VA shared what happened when her dog ingested a bunch of the bugs. Let’s say the digestion process did not go smoothly! Yuck! Today, I’m re-posting “Cicada City Part II,” my impressions–or should I say Lucy’s impressions?– when the cicadas were everywhere.

2013 might be the Chinese Year of the Snake, but at Bmore Energy it’s the Week of the Puppy.

Lucy “guest blogged” “Fluffy Father’s Day” and, in honor of her turning two, I’m featuring my furry sweetheart again.

In my recent post, Cicada City Part I, you met Little Miss Cicada.  What I didn’t say was how Lucy reacted to her first encounter with the large buzzing bug.  Before Lucy met Little Miss Cicada, several dog owners told me that their dogs were feasting on the cicadas. One told me she didn’t even need to give her dog kibble because he was eating so much.

Teenage Daughter #2 babysat for a family who warned her to keep their dog, Molly, inside because Molly was eating the cicadas then throwing them up.  But when Teenage Daughter #2 opened the door to let the kids in, Molly ran out and, you guessed it, ate a cicada.  Teenage Daughter #2 reported, “Molly started acting really weird.  She was twitching and gagging.  I think the cicada was still alive in her stomach!  I was just praying she wasn’t going to throw up!”

Teenage Daughter #1, who babysat for the same family, replied, “I’m afraid of throw up!  Literally, afraid.  And I couldn’t even walk on their grass because of the cicadas.  It was like step, cicada, step, cicada!  They’re disgusting!”

Cicada shells clustered in the grass.
Cicada shells clustered in the grass.

Back to Lucy.  Hon, the photos and 45 second video say it all!

Lucy's not sure she likes this big bug!
Lucy’s not sure she likes this big bug!

Happy On a Hill, Short Video

Me and Lucy.

Me and Morgan.

Me and Hannah.

Welcoming Winter!

“I have this theory that people make an implicit decision as to whether they’re going to stay young and curious and interesting and interested, or whether they’re just going to let themselves age.”*

Living on a hill has its advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages? Balls roll away, mud and ice makes it especially slippery, the garden’s on a slope, and climbing back up the hill in snow is a workout. Advantage? Being “the sledding house!”

I created this video after a blizzard in 2015, and it always make me smile.

Click link to to watch the one-minute video:  Snow Day/Blizzard 2015 

* Quote by Mitch Rothschild, Chief Executive of Vitals, a website that connects patients and doctors, from a 1/25/15 article in The New York Times.

**music on video, Paul Hardcastle-The Jazzmasters “See You in July”

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Tug-of-War Dog Toy

Lucy loves playing tug-of war.

Therapy Dog

In normal times, I pet and scratch Lucy for my own comfort as well as hers. These aren’t normal times. Everyone in our full house gives Lucy extra hugs and kisses since she’s our very own in-house therapy dog. She has a heart of gold (unless you’re a groundhog), a sweet nature (unless you’re the mailman), and is well trained  (unless you’re eating something she wants).

I was teaching After School Enrichment classes when we adopted Lucy, a Border Collie/Chocolate Lab mixed breed, so I was inspired to teach a Dog Craft Class. One of our projects was this  Tug-of-War Dog Toy. Lucy loved it!

There are two ways to get a similar Tug-of-War Dog Toy. I suspect the second way is a bit sturdier since the ends are braided together.

Version 1 (project for K-2 ASE students)

Supplies:

  • fleece, 3 strips (approximately 4-5 inches by 36 inches) in 3 colors if desired
  • masking tape

Instructions:

  1. Knot 3 strips of fleece together.
  2. Tape to a surface for resistance.
  3. Braid fleece. Knot other end.
  4. Fold braided rope in half. Feed one end of braid in and out of other side, starting in middle of folded rope until two knotted ends meet.
  5. Re-knot ends together and take out separate knots.
Version 2 (Steps and Photos Source-Raising Your Pets Naturally, craft by Tonya Wilhelm)

Supplies:

  • fleece, 3 strips (approximately 4-5 inches by 36 inches) in 3 colors if desired
  • masking tape

Instructions:

  1. Tape three strips of fleece to a surface for resistance but do not knot the end.
  2. “Start your braid from the CENTER of your fabric and braid about 5″ to each side of the center.”
  3. “After you get the center braided (the handle), bring the ends together (3 from one side, 3 from the other) and combine them in pairs so you have 3 doubled parts to continue your braid. Braid the parts together (remember to make each braid taut).”
  4. Knot the end.

Jekyll and Hyde Doggie

Lucy hypnotizes us with her “people eyes.”

Don’y let Lucy’s cutie cuteness fool you.

I am an accessory to aggravated assault and I blame Lucy!

My former sweet, little angel has never shown an interest in birds. Chipmunks? Yes. Squirrels? Definitely. Groundhogs? Think fatality. In the animal kingdom-also-known-as-my-backyard, she saves growling and running around the yard 30 mph for small, skittish mammals. Birds are barely worth a low huff, wet nose, or tail twitch.

Our vet thinks Lucy is a part Border Collie, part Black-Lab (aka. Labracollie), which explains why she loves to retrieve tennis balls and herd young children. When Lucy herds, she uses a “soft mouth” and wet nose, bonking and nipping as if to say, “Hey, you sheep, you cows, cluster!”

When Lucy’s outside, she surveys the meadow (umm, yard) from the porch, alerting us to cars and passersby. I’ve read that Border Collies hypnotize herds with their intense, brown eyes, and I believe it. Lucy stares at us intensely with her “people eyes,” hypnotizing us with her inner thoughts. (“Give me meat.” or “Play ball with me.”)

A few days ago, we spotted a Blue Jay fledgling on our driveway. It was all fuzzy down and short feathers. I was fascinated. (Hon, do you know me at all?) I squatted down. It stared at me. I inched closer. It squeaked. I came a little closer. It hop hop hopped down the driveway. Adorable! Lucy was indifferent. Since birds were never a cause for maniacal barking or hypnotism, how was I to know she was secretly Jekyll and Hyde?

The next day, Lucy and I spotted the fledgling on the sidewalk. “There you are,” I said. “Aren’t you cute?” I said. “We won’t hurt you,” I said. Lucy lowered her head as if to sniff the bird, so I let her get a bit closer. All of a sudden, she lunged and grabbed the bird!

After yanking Lucy’s collar while screaming, “Bad dog!”, I picked up the baby bird* who wasn’t bitten or bleeding but limp-ish. Oh no! Did Lucy break its neck or pick it up with a “soft mouth?” Was the bird was just shaken up, stunned and going to come-to later? I searched the internet to find out if birds play dead, and found that some people witnessed this phenomenon, but without confirmation by an expert, it seemed like a wish.

When I returned to the scene of the crime later that day, the baby bird was gone. Did a cat find it? Or a fox? Or–maybe, just maybe–as soon as we left, it perked its little head up and hopped away?

One can only hope.

Adorable Baby Jay.

* It’s a myth that if you touch a baby bird, the mommy won’t take care of it anymore. Click here to read more.

Source: Live Science

I’d love to hear if your “sweet little angels” are harboring killer instincts.

Peacock, Puppy and Boy

Peacock stutting his stuff.
Peacock strutting his stuff.

To top off my Series of Blue, I’m leaving  you with a Shel Silverstein poem,  perfect for kidlit lovers…and kids.

Put Something In

Draw a crazy picture,

Write a nutty poem.

Sing a mumble-gumble song,

Whistle through your comb.

Do a loony-goony dance

‘Cross the kitchen floor,

Put something silly in the world

That ain’t been there before.

Hot dog in a cool pool. Lucy loves the baby pool.
Hot dog in a cool pool. Isn’t Lucy adorable?

Boy with Kite, Acadia National Park, Maine.
Boy with Kite, Acadia National Park, Maine.

Lucy versus Groundhogs

'I'll go wherever you go, Mommy."
“I’ll go wherever you go, Mommy.”

"You never know what scents you'll pick up in the wind."
“I love to stick my nose out of the window.”

"I'm on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!"
“I’m on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!”

What is it about groundhogs?

Despite living in a New Jersey suburb of Manhattan, frequent visitors to our backyard include wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels and mice.  I call our neighborhood, which backs up to a nature reserve, the South Mountain Reservation “Animal Kingdom.” Lucy, our 4 year-old Labra-Collie rescue, is fascinated by all the animals, but morphs from Interested Observer to Psycho Doggie when groundhogs appear.

A few weeks ago Lucy was languishing in the heat, when she jumped up and made a bee-line down our hill.  She chomped down on something furry. I don’t know if she intended to shake the small animal–dare I say?–to death, or if she meant to scare the wits out of it.  Either way, it didn’t look good for the baby groundhog.

I raced down the hill, screeching, “Drop it!  Drop it!  Lucy, STOP IT!”  (Yes, I know that rhymes. I write picture books, hon. But, I digress.)

Did Lucy listen?  Noooo!

Instead, she proceeded to whip the baby groundhog back and forth like a stuffed toy while the groundhog struggled to free itself and while I chased her around the yard.  As I tried to catch Lucy, my youngest daughter watched from the sidelines.

“GET THE LEASH!”  I hollered.

In the meantime, I managed to grab Lucy and press on the outsides of her jaw until she dropped the groundhog.  My daughter arrived with the leash and dragged her inside.

I approached the poor little rodent, apologizing profusely. Guess what?  There were no bite marks or blood!  Lucy’s Labrador Retriever “soft mouth” clutch didn’t break any skin.  The groundhog, surely in shock, looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Despite its probable concussion, I figured it would get the word out to stay away from our yard.  Apparently, it didn’t.

Earlier this week, I heard Lucy barking with a high-pitched voice I hadn’t heard before.  I ran outside to find her nose-to-nose with an adult groundhog.  Again, I did the “Catch-a-Psycho-Doggie” dance.  Again, amused bystanders watched from the sidelines. This time, it was my son and hubby laughing as I screamed, “GET THE LEASH!”

After quite a bit of chasing (us chasing Lucy, Lucy chasing the adult groundhog), we caught Lucy and dragged her inside.

Would you believe me if I told you Lucy really is the sweetest little angel, a sponge for affection?  Don’t answer that question if you’re a groundhog or a… mailman…truck driver…repairman…motocycle driver…

 Related Post:  Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy

Toasty Tushy Melts the I.C.E.

Monotone.
Monotone.

Crystal Evergreen.
Crystal Evergreen.

Hubby showed me how to bake my buns, cook my caboose or, in other words, toast my tushy!

Lest you think this is an X-rated post, I assure you it’s G-rated. (sorry to disappoint) Hon, forget increased horse power or better mileage. I’ve figured out the most exciting innovation in the automobile industry.  I’m—umm–glowing about a modern way to bear the Arctic Zone.

If you think New Jersey isn’t an Arctic-Zone-kind-of-state, think again.  Just witness temps hovering below freezing and hunched shoulders requiring frequent trips to the chiropracter.  Crampons attached to boots would aid climbing my neighborhood’s steep, ice-covered driveways, fingers turn yellow due to loss of circulation–and that’s inside–and even my dog Lucy has decided that hibernation is preferable to doing her job (ie. barking like a maniac at mail and delivery trucks).  In fact, she won’t even venture outside to do her business UNLESS I ESCORT HER!

What does I.C.E. stand for and am I going anywhere with this?

(Insight into the mind of a “high energy” person:  as anyone who’s had a conversation with me can attest, points may seem random, but then they all connect in a perfectly logical way. Oh, and I even use parenthesis when I speak.)

I.C.E. is my newest title.  I’m an ICE CHOPPER EXTRAORDINAIRE!  You can find me outside several times a day, chopping ice as if it was the incarnation of all my frustrations (Yikes!) There’s a method to my madness.  (“You will crack under the weight of my power!”  Mwahaha!)

How do you melt the frozen heart of an I.C.E.?  You toast tushies, of course!  (Another way to melt an icicle heart?  A trip to a tropical island.  But, I digress.)

Three tried and true I.C.E. Melting Methods:

1.  Laying on a dog’s haunches. Lucy’s furry fanny is so warm, I used it as a pillow and fell asleep. For about 45 minutes. (She didn’t seem to mind.)

2.  Heating pad for the posterier. And for a sore back due to chopping ice.

3.  And now…drum roll, please… what’s the best way to toast a tushy? First, start the engine and second,  turn on the Seat Warmer! Ahhh! That’s what I’ll be doing until Spring arrives. You know what I found out? If you heat your seat, the warmth spreads upwards and even reaches extremeties such as fingers, ears and eyelashes. (I know, I know. Eyelashes aren’t extremeties, but when eyes tear up from the cold, they sure feel that way.)

Do you live in an Arctic Zone?  How do you stay warm?  I’m (ice) fishing for more ideas!

Moon Surface on Earth. (Frozen NJ River.)
Moon Surface on Earth. (Frozen NJ River.)

Fluffy tail, warm fur!
Fluffy tail, warm fur!

Ice Study--Dog Bowl.
Ice Study–Dog Bowl.

Ice Study--Garden Hose.
Ice Study–Garden Hose.

 

 

 

 

"I'd rather stay inside."
“I’d rather stay inside.”

And Just Because...Tush-shaped toast.
And Just Because…tush-shaped toast.

Motto Mom In the Moment! (Snow Day Shenanigans–a Short Video)

Liquid Copper, Curly Girl and Me.
Liquid Copper, Curly Girl and Me.

“I have this theory that people make an implicit decision as to whether they’re going to stay young and curious and interesting and interested, or whether they’re just going to let themselves age.”*

Call me “Motto Mom.”  Maybe mottos would roll off my tongue even if I didn’t have triplets, but mottos have allowed me to live in the moment.  One of them is, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” If it’s a snow day, and there is NO WAY I’m going to get any work done, I allow myself to enjoy the found time.  Guess where you’ll find my kids, their friends and me?  Outside playing because 1) living on a hill makes us the “Sledding House,” 2) you’re never to old to play, and 3) there’s always hot chocolate and marshmallows afterward!

You know what else I’m good for, besides serving snacks and hot drinks?  Videoing the shenanigans.  Except when I decide to video the “sled train” head on!  Ahhh!

Enjoy the 1 minute video of being in the moment!

Click link to watch video:  Snow Day/Blizzard 2015 

 Related Videos:  

December Defined 

Snow Puppy

* Quote by Mitch Rothschild, Chief Executive of Vitals, a website that connects patients and doctors, from a 1/25/15 article in The New York Times.

**music on video, Paul Hardcastle-The Jazzmasters “See You in July”

Rosie the Riveter (a Lost Dog)

Rosie, a Boston Terrier and lost dog.
Rosie the Lost Dog.

Rosie the Riveter.
Rosie the Riveter.

"Running around the neighborhood makes you hungry!"
“Running around the neighborhood makes you hungry!”

"Don't you want to hear my side of the story?"
“Don’t you want to hear my side of the story?”

My doorbell rang at 9 am on a Thursday morning.  There stood my neighbor with a lost dog, a Boston Terrier.  She’d put her big dog’s leash on the small dog, giving it an “on-the-lam” appearance.  It was yappy.  It had attitude.  It barged right in.

Lucy, my sweet dog, isn’t so sweet when delivery trucks pass the house, mailmen deliver the mail, workers come to the door, or when small dogs with large attitudes try to assert themselves.  Lucy barks, jumps, and runs around like a nut, saying, “I’m the alpha dog!”  She did all three while I chased her around with a leash, clipped it on her collar, and tried to restrain her from pouncing on the small pooch.  Morning mayhem!

The Boston Terrier had run up my neighbor’s driveway, and my neighbor figured a fellow dog-lover-like-her might know who it belonged to.  I had a hunch.  She started making calls, taking photos of the dog and sending them to its Likely Family.

My neighbor and I both had to be somewhere in 10 minutes.  What should we do?   I ran both crazed canines upstairs to my college daughter’s room to wake her up.

Lucy was riveted by Rosie (we found out her name when we called the Likely Family), but not in a good way.  While making calls, taking photos and sending them, Rosie had eaten Lucy’s entire bowl of kibble, drank from her water bowl, and snuffed and huffed at Lucy.  Lucy was having none of it!

Teen Daughter graciously got out of bed and gave up going to yoga. Instructions?  Separate the dogs and watch Rosie (she might need to relieve herself after eating more than her body weight in kibble) until her Mom, a teacher, arrived.

My neighbor left, apologizing for leaving us with a lost dog.  I left to go to work, apologizing to Teen Daughter that she’d miss yoga.

Later, I got the full report.  Teen Daughter kept the dogs on two sides of a glass door.  Lucy was riveted by Rosie.  Then Rosie barked and Lucy barked back.  A lot!

Rosie’s mom arrived around 10 am and Rosie was on her way home (where she was going to get a replacement battery for her electric fence collar).  The morning excitement was over.

Naptime!

Hon, do you have a lost dog story to share?

"All this excitement has worn me out!"
“All the excitement wore me out!”

Teen Daughter who was on "Doggie Duty."  Thanks, sweetheart!
Teen Daughter who was on “Doggie Duty.” Thanks, sweetheart!