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Category Archives: favorite kid

Master of the Hunt

My feet are cold.

Ok then, says Jager. I’ve got everything packed, think. Can you give me a ride to the airport?

I’m lost in a good book on my Kindle Fire, so it takes me a moment. Looking at Jager, our little All American Breed, I say, Say what? Holy cow, what are you on about this time?

I…think…I…have…everything…packed, he says slowly so I can understand him clearly this time. Got a chew toy and the squeaky tennis ball, but I might need some help carrying the dog bed. A couple of days worth of kibble too, but they should have more for me up there. 

Up WHERE?! I want to know. Are you going to Mars or something? There’s nobody on Mars with dog food, Fur Brain.

Not Mars, you cookie tosser, Jager says. He actually rolls his eyes at me. Alaska! Well, actually Anchorage to be on the spot with it. I’m going to run the Iditarod this year and need to finish my training before March.  These rockin’ abs aren’t going to stay in shape on their own, you know. Some stiff competition this year.

Oh my, I say. Ok, first of all, you were wanting to take your little self and go to Florida for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. And we had to have that awkward discussion about the necessities of being intact for such an event. As in “not neutered”. My head is still reeling from that fun talk. Never mind that your family lineage is so questionable that I wonder if there’s something other than canine in your DNA.

You know, my nose is a little kinda
cold too.

And now the Iditarod, Jager? They’ll be using a spatula to pry your frozen pampered terrier-ness off the landscape by the first checkpoint. You are not equipped for that kind of adventure and you know it. You, my love, are a house dog.

Oops, too far. Now I’ve hurt his feelings. I’m getting that Shrek Puss-in-Boots watery eye look. Behind that tough exterior is a delicate flower. I forget sometimes.

Jager is one of those who-rescued-who stories. We brought him into our home in our pre-puppy raising era. Back when I was still heartbroken over the tough loss of my beloved Dog of all Dogs, The Kaiser. I wasn’t ready to love again, but Jager showed up to show me how terribly wrong I was about that. He was a dog of the streets, rescued once then abandoned, and finally brought to a pet rescue group. He was moved around in no less than seven foster homes in a year’s time. One of those hard to adopt dogs with a nervousness about him that had folk wondering about his intentions. Even worse, a chronic medical condition that was the final deal breaker for potential adopters.

Then we met.  [Cue the theme from Love Story or that nice little tune from Dr. Zhivago. Whichever one makes you tear up a little.]

My kid saw him first. We weren’t at Petsmart for the adoption event, but still we stopped to look at the dogs anyway.  The hole in my heart left by Kaiser was not going to be filled by any of these dogs, I knew that. We can pet these dogs, give ’em some human loving and move on, I said. Then the kid wanted to see the freaky little terrier shaking in the crate. Seriously? Ok, not a prob, we’re big dog people after all. This thirty pound dog with the skinny noggin isn’t a fit for our family.  Fine, let him walk the dog for a few minutes and get it out of his system.

One scared little spotted dog

Right. I signed the foster application before we left the store and a week later we brought the quivering spotted dog home for my first and only rescue fostering experience. Oh yeah, you guessed right. We adopted Jager after the two week trial period. We have someone interested in Jager, said the rescue group. Oh, no you don’t, I said. We’ll be keeping him. I totally suck at dog fostering.

Ok, so now let’s fast forward to seven years later. Or we could measure the time in CCI increments instead. That would be four CCI puppies later, Jager is standing before me ready to defect from the Sword House.

I understand where he’s coming from. I do, I get it.  He went from Top Dog to Will you stop making those growly noises, Jager!  In all the hubbub about CCI puppy raising and Micron’s therapy work, well, it seems the spotted dog was moved into the background.

And with his seventh Gotcha Day coming up next month, this conversation about the Iditarod is making me feel pretty darn bad. The little spotted dog deserves better.

Ok, how ’bout this, kiddo? I say. Let’s put your skills to the test, shall we? You’re a hunter as your name suggests, right?

Snowflakes taste like . . . ok, they
taste like water. That’s pretty much it.

The flappy ears perk up. Yeah? He says. Yeah! I’m the Jagermeister. I am the Hunt Master, ja!  Oh! Oh! Can I catch another mole for you? I know where they live. It’s just a quick dig down to their evil lair and I can have get that hole dug up for you in a flash!

Indeed. I say. I’ve seen you in action on that one. That was remarkable, watching the turf fly. Let’s stay above terra firma today, ok? I have a different idea.

Squirrels? The tail is wagging now. Ooh, that nasty ‘possum with the jagged teeth living in the wood pile?

All good ideas, I say.  But too easy for a pro like you. A hunt master like yourself needs a real challenge. Go grab your squeaky tennis ball and let’s go outside to see how many times you can catch the thing.

Yes!! cries Jager and he runs to find his favorite ball.

Best day EVER! he says, making funny little growly noises.

I am Jagermeister, Master of the Hunt. There’s a ‘possum
back there in the wood pile and the nasty little bugger is mine.

Ok, what d’ya think? Want to try to guess the different breeds that make up this freaky little spotted dog? We’ve been around the fellow for a few years now and have our own semi-educated guesses, but we love to hear other folks’ thoughts, too.

What’s your thoughts about this All American blend? Leave your guess in the comments and let’s see how we all match up.

Wordless Wednesday: Snow Camouflage

When the Favorite Kid was a toddler, I’d dress him in bright primary colors when we’d visit amusement parks and such. My New Mom Theory was based on the simple idea that the kid would be easy to spot if he toddled too far from my watchful eye. And should a helium balloon happen its way to us, he’d also get the awesomeness of his very own balloon tied to his wrist. Again, the thought was that a bobbing object in one’s peripheral vision is harder to lose in a crowd. 

What? Is that weird or something? Nudging towards the dark precipice of paranoia perhaps? Well, I stand by this choice. I do.  Because I never lost the kid even once. Ok, there was that one time, but he was fourteen and we were at the mall. And I get the feeling he was trying to ditch me anyway, but that might just be the paranoia talking.

I was reminded of this after the recent snowfall here in Ohio.  The polar bear pup was just blending into the snowy backdrop a little too much for our photo shoot outside. The monochrome photos my camera was spitting out were simply, well, bland.

Red bow to the rescue! Kind of.  I didn’t know it, but apparently the thing held some sort of superpower that makes puppies hyperactive.  As soon as I connected the velcro straps, she was BAM! out of the starting gate.  Running around with reckless abandon like a puppy in her first big snow.

Wordless Wednesday: Hey Punkin

Micron-ness channeled into a big orange veggie.

How ’bout some dog inspired pumpkin art to get you in the mood for Halloween?

Designed and hacked out by my favorite kid, we have Micron as a punkin head. And his lovely girlfriend Sam brings us a howling werewolf.

I went all demonic face on my orange veggie. It’s the only thing I know how to carve. I’m in a pumpkin rut, it seems.

These shots are from the Halloween archives of 2010.

Boo!  Now who’s scary, witch?

You’re kind of a big deal

A gift from CCI pup in training, Rocket.
Rocket is being raised in Colorado and has his own dog blog.

Which color do you want, blue or purple?

Gimme the purple one.

Don’t draw a dog. It’ll just make you sad.

With purple crayon poised over the white butcher paper covering the restaurant table, I hesitate. What to draw while we’re awaiting our pasta dinners?  Sorely lacking in any artistic ability, I could do the same clever little cartoon fish that I usually scrawl out, but I ordered seafood and that seems insensitive. Ugh, quit being silly, I tell myself. My mood is in a bruised state and I’m getting weary of putting on a brave front.

We pass the time by writing our names upside down and with our non-dominant hands. 

My Favorite Kid, left handed and right brained, is the artist of the family. While I draw the crayon version of a play-doh snake, he creates a very nice portrait of “Labrador retriever in blue crayon”. 

You told me not to draw a dog because it would make me sad, I say.

It makes me happy, he says.

Ah, he’s got the right attitude. Let’s celebrate the journey that brought us to where we are right now. And I begin to feel a little better about this end of a busy day. Twelve hours filled with the roller coaster extremes of emotional highs and lows.

We arrive in Dublin in early morning with Yaxley in tow to meet up with other CCI puppy raisers for training and workshop. That’s Dublin, Ohio (the Heart of America!), the same state that holds other such landlocked exotic locales as Russia, Bellfontaine, Lebanon and Versailles. Each pronounced differently than one would expect, and in some cases, make one cringe a little.

Yaxley (L) and Yoda (R)

Yaxley reunites with his littermate, Yoda, who was raised in Illinois. The two haven’t seen each other since they flew in from Santa Rosa eighteen months ago. They looked liked twins at eight week old powder puffs, but today we see some very distinct differences in their appearance.

Both are devastatingly handsome, of course.  At least some things never change.

Watching the college babes.

We take a break from the workshop and move from the conference room to the auditorium, to attend CCI’s August Graduation ceremony.  I do try to make it to each graduation ceremony, held four times a year, as it keeps me grounded in this puppy raising thing. A visceral reminder that this isn’t my dog. Of why I do this.  But actually, our attendance today is rather obligatory as it’s Yaxley’s matriculation into Advanced Training.

Puppy raisers and their charges being recognized on stage. I’m on the right
(in lavender) clutching my carnation and sporting a look on my face like
 I wonder if they’ll make an even trade – flower for dog?
(photo courtesy Marty M., puppy raiser)

Like Christmas, it’s been on the calendar and I know full well it’s coming, but doesn’t mean I’m totally prepared for it. And the day shows up anyway, regardless of my self-imposed state of denial.

After the puppy raiser recognition, we return to our seats for the main event. The Pièce de résistance, pardon my French.

We watch as seven people, both children and adults, receive their fully trained assistance dogs. Graduates and dogs have completed two full weeks of intensive Team Training to reach today. (The dogs have completed six months of Advanced Training.) All have worked hard for this glorious moment when they can mark the beginning on the next path of their life.  More than a constant companion, these highly trained assistance dogs are at the ready to change their partner’s life in a deep and profound way.

The graduate is introduced on stage and when the name of their assistance dog is announced to us in the audience, we watch as the puppy raiser of this amazing creature enters the stage and hands the leash to the grad. Symbolic that, the handing over of the leash. A closure of sorts for the puppy raiser. I did this just for you, my friend. And I thank you for allowing me this awesome moment, thinks the puppy raiser.

The dog may give one last glance to the puppy raiser (I love you), but they then turn to their new partner and with a doggie smile and tail wag, they say What are we doing next? I’m ready for ya!  We witness the bond that is already there. One that will grow even stronger over the next few years. We watch as a young boy in a wheelchair asks his dog to Lap. The dog puts front legs gently onto the boys lap and leans in for a bear hug. Tail wagging as the boy presses his head into his dog’s soft fur. Amid the aaahs, there are sniffles heard about the auditorium.

How can we do this puppy raising thing? you ask. How can we “give them up?”   Yeah, people, that’s how.

We joke around the office about how to keep Yaxley from Advanced Training. Who do I need to talk to about this? asks one high level manager, only partly kidding. My friend and co-worker attended this ceremony for the first time so she could give Yaxley one last hug. Afterwards, she says, Now I get it. I understand what Yaxley’s supposed to do. I really want him to pass the program and graduate.

I can describe all this to you and try to show you in words. But people, it’s attending a CCI graduation or seeing these assistance dogs in action that brings it home. It’s actually takes being in the presence of something awesome to really understand it, I think. 

Sure, I’m sad to not have Yaxley in my life anymore. It’s been a great ride these past eighteen months and I do love that dog. A very lot. And a week later I still look for him or reach out to pat his yellow noggin and my eyes tear up a little. But our time together is done. I’m left with knowing I did my best by him and CCI – and hope that it was enough.

Because in six months, I want to hand over the leash. I want that last glance back before he turns to his new partner to wag his tail and ask What’s next?

I want, I want. It’s not about me, though. In the end, as with all the CCI pups, it will be Yaxley that determines his next path. Will he do well in his new place at CCI, will he be strong and take on the training like this is what he was born to do? Or will he not be the right stuff of an assistance dog?  Some behavioral infraction that will take him to the fork in the road that leads to being an excellent pet for someone?

The professional trainers at CCI will take him through this dog college of sorts. They’ll show him what he needs to know.

And we’ll be right here waiting to hear about his progress. With high hopes, positive thoughts and fingers crossed. And some prayers, too.

We’ll keep y’all in the loop here. Good news or not so much, updates on Yaxley will be here so we can continue to ride together on this amazing journey.

Hey lookit! I can be as still as a, well, you know.

One college grad down, one to go.

That silver lining is actually a holding tank

That silver lining is actually a holding tank

Aaah! Son of a . . . I’m getting soaked! I cry.  In balancing a dog leash, three tote bags and an impressively ineffectual umbrella, the fifteen foot walk to the truck may as well be a city block long. Minutes before we are ready to leave the house, the sky opens up the flood gates to dump a deluge upon us. And with the bonus feature of rather aggressive gusts of wind, it feels like I’m taking a cold shower with my clothes on. And it’s only 6:00 a.m.  Yep, it’s gonna be a good day, Scooter.

Yaxley, Car! Jump! I ask the pup to get in the back seat of the truck cab. It’s dark and difficult for him to see where exactly he should be landing. I don’t blame him for hesitating a moment. The truck sits pretty high (it’s a manly man truck after all) and with all that rain in his eyes, it’s just not a sure thing.  Ok, fine. No prob. I’ll just set the tote bags in the front, switch the umbrella to the other hand and . . .

[bleep]! [bleep]! [bleep] it! Aargh! In my frantic struggle, I’ve tipped the umbrella and have now soaked the last dry part of my back.

Do you need some help? asks the Husband. He’s sitting all dry and cozy in the driver’s seat and watching the drama unfold. All that’s missing here is the bowl of popcorn in his lap

Naw, I’m good. I say.  Nothing left to do here, but fold the umbrella and toss in on the cab floor. With one hand under his chest and the other snuggled into his goodies, I lift the dog and settle him into the back seat without further ado. I then heave my five foot something self up and into the manly man truck, resulting in a wedgie that I’m going to get to know personally over the next two hour drive. With the confidence of woman who knows, I can tell you that I am completely soaked through.

Well, we’ve got time to dry on our way to Bowling Green State University, I think. And if I don’t touch my hair now, I imagine maybe it’ll dry into some kicky look that will make me look all cutting edge stylish. A glance into the visor mirror tells me otherwise. Great. I shift in my seat a little in an attempt to dislodge the wedgie. No go. The truck fills with the aroma of wet dog and wasted hair spray.

This rain’s gonna be good for the lawn, says the Husband in an attempt for casual conversation. I say nothing. I’m strong that way.

Inga visits Derek in 2009

Yeah, so a bit of a rough start for the day.  But really, it is gonna be a good one, you know.  We’re off to see my favorite kid graduate from BGSU.  We’re feeling pretty jazzed about the whole affair.

While it’s absolutely not true that we replaced the kid with a dog and he should stop telling people that, it is a fact that we’ve raised three puppies for Canine Companions for Independence while he was away at college. I suppose I could have put the dog crate in his old bedroom, but that wouldn’t have been right.  That’s gonna be my new scrapbook room, of course.

But we couldn’t be prouder of Derek. He’s done so very well over these past four years.  Dean’s list, President of his Delta Chi fraternity, Undergrad Student Government and heading several philanthropy events, he’s achieved more than a degree over these four years

I recently read an article about the changes in child rearing during the past few generations. What do today’s mothers want for their children as adults, asks the writer. Many will say number one on their list is that they want their kids to grow up “to be happy.”  Compare that with a couple of generations ago when if you asked a mother what she wanted for her children, she would say “to be a good citizen.” That factoid struck me. Heck, I’m no parenting expert. We only had the one practice kid, so our mistakes varied between the no biggies to the profound. But I’m thinking if you get the good citizen part down, then achieving a happy life is totally doable too. And my kid?  A good citizen, indeed. He know it’s about what he can do to make the world a better place and not what’s the world gonna do for him.

I’m liking this mindset. A lot.

Micron and Derek 2010

So, we brought Yaxley is along for the graduation experience, as well.  Good exposure to crowds and to patiently wait in a Down during the ceremony itself, which lasted about two hours. Yax only got up once which was to stand for the National Anthem cuz that’s how we roll around here. 

Another puppy raiser asked if we were the only family in attendance with a good-looking dog. Which I replied, Yes. Yes, we were the only folk with a dog at the BGSU graduation, handsome or otherwise. And I also noted that my theory on drive-by pettings was supported by the events of the day.

Most people will ask if they may pet Yaxley. But the drive-by pettings I catch from the corner of my eye?  Always men. I’ve not been proven wrong yet on this observational theory. Darn it all fellas, the dog is wearing a cape and everything. C’mon, don’t make me get out the hairy eyeball on you. It ain’t pretty. Or so I’ve been told.  The ole’ hairy eyeball kicks butt.

Yaxley and Derek at graduation 2012

But we’re all pay attention now, Yaxley. In six months, we want to come to your graduation, too. The calendar’s already marked for next February. We want you to do well in CCI’s dog college so I can cry as you proudly walk to the stage.

Yax, my love, you can be both a good citizen and be happy. Just look at Derek. That’s how we raised you guys.

So yeah, the kid’s doing pretty darn well.  With a double major in psychology and sociology, he’s ready to hit the work force. Do wish him luck, won’t you? It’s a tough job market out there for today’s college grads.

And I’ve already moved my scrapbook stuff into the bedroom.

We’re actually in this shot.  Lower right. 
I’m the chick with the bad hair.
You know, Yaxley, graduation is a good thing. You’re next, big guy.
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