Thursday, May 28, 2009


Last night UnderDog found my cell phone where it was charging and chewed through the charger to liberate it. Then, once back in his lair, he chewed off the battery cover. My partner (bless him) managed to put the battery cover back on (mostly), but the little dealy that connects the charger to the phone is chewed clean through. Sigh. I wonder if "my dog ate it" is covered under my cell phone plan.

The phone is the most significant casualty so far, though there have been others, and perhaps my son might argue with me about how significant his little DonkeyKong toy is that was chewed in a pretty thorough way. We did yet another sweep of the floor and low tables to remove everything UnderDog might chew, which turns out to be, well, everything.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A new Leash on Life

UnderDog went on his first real leash walk today- that is to say, he was on a leash and he walked! We only got about 2 houses down the block, because he was so amazed with every smell of every inch of grass and every tree trunk. My son held Dog's leash, and he and Dog were both very patient with UnderDog's big adventure. When UnderDog got home and we were all settling in, he picked up his leash and brought it back to his bed.

At Home

We decided not to travel out of town this weekend as we had originally planned. One of the main reasons was UnderDog. Dog is an excellent guest, and is welcomed into many homes, but UnderDog is still learning how to live in this house, and panics a little just going into a new room, or visiting the front yard. Still we managed to fill up our weekend with outings and celebrations, and when our plans fell through for Monday, I had my usual type-A personality panic. It's a holiday, after all, we should DO SOMETHING.

Instead all 3 humans and 2 dogs just puttered around the house. I played a little mandolin, mopped the kitchen, taught my son a new card game. I started to remember that when we spend a day together just hanging out at home, good things happen.

My son, who had been having a tough weekend, started to smile and we started to feel like a team again.

UnderDog did some intensely amusing playing, and tried to engage Dog who still gives him the "I am too old for this" attitude, though she did shake a few fleece toys with a playful tail wag.

I tried a harness and leash on UnderDog in the back yard, and he actually walked across the yard while I held it. UnderDog even forgot himself and took a biscuit out of my hand instead of waiting for me to put it on the floor a safe distance away!

Finally it got to be bedtime, and UnderDog, who was really feeling like part of the pack, looked wistfully up the stairs after us as we ascended. I decided it was worth a try and carried him up. He went first to his bed by my desk where he is sleeping right now, but wasn't sure where to go when Dog and I headed to the bedroom. He paced and explored until I decided he was just too excited to sleep, so I carried him back downstairs to hang out with my partner.

Imagine my surprise when I woke some hours later and saw UnderDog curled up on a futon at the foot of our bed. He had climbed the stairs all by himself, and found himself a place to sleep. And that was that. He goes up and down the stairs now whenever he must (it's still hard for him to get up those tall rickety Victorian steps) and sleeps with the rest of the pack. Something huge changed for him this weekend, and I learned once again that good things happen when the family just hangs out together at home.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Too Soon?

So about all the burning...
Are you ready to say sorry?

No, probably not. I think that as enlightened as our society is at times, we are never too far from a good old fashioned witch hunt.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I was outside yesterday putting in my "wait until last chance of frost" veggies when it started to rain- big fat drops of water and ominous sky and thunder. UnderDog was outside with me and looked at me as a big drop hit his head. He flinched, and looked at the front door. He was hit again. Flinch. Looked at me. I realized he was so freaked out by the rain (which was now turning to hail) that he couldn't pull it together to travel the 7 feet to safety. A approached him cautiously and slowly, picked him up, and set him inside. What a strange life he's had.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Today UnderDog tried the stairs! I've been carrying him up with me when I come up to the study to write for the past few mornings- he's never even show an interest in trying them on his own. Today I asked (as I always do) "we're going upstairs, wanna come upstairs?" I took my coffee and books up, intending to come down to get Underdog with empty hands. Dog tip-tapped after me into the office, but I heard one more set of clunks on the stairs below. I headed back to our narrow Victorian stairs to see UnderDog on step #4 looking a little worried. I praised him profusely and he let me pick him up to join us. It's a brave new world little dog...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last Sunday

This past Sunday we held our final celebration for the first ever Coming of Age program our congregation has ever had. I've been doing coming of Age programs since my internship, and they always have a special place in my heart. I brought everything I could to the program, wanting to get it off on the right foot. (The photo above is of our retreat at a local girl scout camp. Coldest Coming of Age retreat I've ever lead.) So Sunday the 4 young women from our church and the 2 young women from a neighboring fellowship were honored in style. The Fellowship canceled their own services that Sunday, put a sign on their door and carpooled over to honor their Initiates with us. It was a packed house, and the Initiates did awesome. I think both congregations get it about why this is a cool program, and so many of them pitched in to make it really a whole-congregation endeavor. I felt I could say with some confidence to the younger brother of one of our initiates "you'll be just the right age when we do this again in 2 years."

Afterward, when the camera's were snapping away (I've decided there is a "# of cameras" indicator for how important a life event is) one participant got my attention and, holding the chalice necklace that had just been placed around her neck by her mentor, said "it was like a Bat Mitzvah or something" and I knew that we had done what we'd set out to do.

Underdog Update

As I got ready for work this morning my partner provided me with a streaming UnderDog commentary:

"He ran outside, then ran back in to get a toy and ran back out"

"He's rubbing his face in your potted plants. I called his name and he's looked up. He's got a leaf stuck to his face."

As UnderDog runs randomly back and forth at high speeds my partner says "Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance."

Dog is being pretty gracious about the whole thing. The two of them are starting to move as a pack- they appear together when it's time to eat or go outside. It no longer seems traumatic for either one if they have to pass in the hall, or occupy the same sofa at the same time. Last night as I arrived home from work they both met me at the safety gate which keeps them on the porch and sniffed me through the diamond-shaped holes just big enough to for a dog nose. I hope Dog doesn't feel like she is being overshadowed. We give her all the hugs that UnderDog is not ready for.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Collector

Things found in UnderDog's bed this morning:
All the dog toys
5 chewies
My left slipper
My son's Calvin and Hobbes book

Yesterday he tried (unsuccessfully) to get a blue serving tray and Dog's Bed up in there.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Sometimes we get a little discouraged being the new home for a rescue dog. We're just not sure how to housetrain a dog who is scared of the out-of-doors. Sometimes he uses the puppy pads. Sometimes he doesn't. Last night while we were at my son's chorus concert he peed right on our only carpet. Sigh. We won't be able to bring him visiting with us when we travel to see friends until he is house trained. I don't want to invite him to sleep upstairs with us until he knows where to "go."

We have a camping trip planned for July, so I started training UnderDog on being on a leash (since we know he is a runner, and won't be coming when called like Dog does). He was very passive and cowering, but did take a few tentative steps. I left the harness on when we came inside so he could get used to it (we figured if any dog could slip his collar UnderDog could) When I arrived home after my meeting, he was even more cowering and flinchy than usual. I took the harness off and put it nearby so he could get used to it, or get his smell on it. Moments later I heard a crunch- he had chewed off the buckle. Back to square one.

We see a mischievous playful side in him, but he is very timid about expressing it. Yesterday he brought a magazine back to his bed, and my son reports he spent the morning clearing all objects off the ottoman. He find the dog toys and brings them back to his spot, but is way too scared to play with us. I know it has only been two weeks, and that he has made tremendous progress, but sometimes I worry that if he never attached to humans in his first year of life, it might not be possible for him. And poor Dog never bonded with Dogs in her first year of life, so our two dogs are still figuring out how to relate to one another.

This morning, though, he was very sweet. He didn't venture outside when I opened the door for him, but stood in the doorway smelling the spring air. When I came home from yoga he came near me, then went back to his safe space, came close, and went back to his spot. I wondered "Is he asking me to come visit him there?" (He has not yet let me pick him up or pet him except in his spot on the sofa.) He seemed downright relaxed when I came over to say hello. So I decided to spend some extra time today reading on the sofa near him. I hated to leave him downstairs when I came up to write Sunday's service (he hasn't tried the stairs yet) so I carried him and his bed up to the study, and after some tentative exploration and anxiety about boundaries, both he and Dog are keeping me company.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Die Slippers Die

I took off my fluffy pink slippers to take out the compost bucket. My partner reports that as soon as I had gone, UnderDog snuck over and grabbed one, shook it mercilessly in his teeth, and brought it back to his lair. He then found it's mate and brought that to his lair as well. I came back from the compost bin and he resumed cowering deferentially.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

UnderDog and the Outside

In the first hours after we Brought UnderDog home, I wanted him to get to know the outside, to make sure he knew where to do his business. I brought him outside in his carrier, where he stayed for quite some time without venturing out. Eventually I reached in and pulled him out. I set him on the grass, but he seemed unsure what to do. I thought "maybe he'd be more comfortable if I weren't around" so I went back inside to work on dinner. I knew he would be okay in the back yard because Dog has spent years out there and never had any trouble. My partner and I peaked out occasionally to make sure he was doing okay, but one time UnderDog wasn't there.

It still makes my stomach clench to remember that moment when I realized he had probably squeezed under one of the tiny openings beneath our wood fence. The neighbors pointed the direction he had gone, and I followed him in my slippers, sure this was going to end in tragedy. I knew he would run if anyone tried to pick him up, and that he didn't even have a tag on his collar yet. We live right downtown, and the chances he would run out into the considerable traffic were high. At one point I was standing in the middle of State Street waving my arms at oncoming cars who could probably not see the little terrified dog trying to avoid going near the folks drinking coffee at a sidewalk cafe. He would slip out of sight for a moment, then I would catch a glimpse of him going around a corner. A neighbor joined me as I took off my slippers, thinking I could move faster in bare feet. Finally UnderDog cornered himself in a patch of tall grass next to a wooden fence. The neighbor and my partner stood in his two paths of escape. I bent down into the grass and scooped him up. I carried him in my arms the long walk home. I felt sick that I had not provided a safe yard for this already traumatized dog.

We didn't go outside again that night, but the next morning I thought "I'll just put him down and watch him carefully. If I stand between him and his exit, then we can get by until we have reinforced the fence" As I set him down he looked at me in terror, then bolted to the opposite end of our yard to a new escape route, and had his shoulders through a chipped place in the cement wall before I could cross the 8 feet of lawn to stop him. I felt miserable and powerless. I found some helpful advice on my favorite Mill-Survivor site that made me feel like maybe I wasn't the worst guardian ever, but house-training, I decided, would start another day.

Monday I begged my friends CrowJoy and Mander to come over and inspect the yard with me. We took a field trip to the Agway and found a roll of garden edging which my friend Mander fastened up with her pneumatic nail gun. We nailed extra bits to any little nook or cranny we could find. We also bought a good supply of puppy pads, because it was now clear that house-training was going to be a long-term process.

The next time Dog needed to go out, I scooped up UnderDog and I sat with him in my arms on the steps as he sniffed the air and listening to the birds. I felt safe again.

UnderDog still has some ambivalence about the out of doors. He will slip out the open door to the backyard when he is sure no one is watching, and can be seen some days bounding in joy, and other days cowering with his back against the wire mesh we installed for his safety.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pink Snow

Last night I was walking home from my environmental action meeting across the Ithaca Commons. The light was diffuse as it was just past sunset, and all the flowering fruit trees were shedding their petals. For a moment my mind was deceived and I thought I was back on a winter walk along that same path through the snow flurries. In the background was the sound of a live band at one of the pavilions -- a samba for Cinco de Mayo.

UnderDog Adventure

Today UnderDog left his couch and snuck into the kitchen while both Dog and I were there! After a few false starts he got himself a drink of water, and then found a chewie to bring back to his spot.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My "normal" mill-rescue dog

On UnderDog's second day he barely got off the sofa. I started to worry- what if he's sick? How could I tell if he was healing from getting "fixed" 3 days before and all those shots and just trying to integrate a new place and new people or if maybe he was really sick? I sure didn't want to add another vet visit to his already considerable stress. His Foster Mom had recommended a site for Puppy Mill Survivors, and it was so helpful. I read this quote about a dog 8 weeks out of the Puppy Mill:

"Susie spends nearly all her time sitting in one of our recliners. That is where she feels safe. She has shown no interest in exploring the house. She has only recently started to jump down and run around a little or occasionally to follow me into the bedroom but that is progress"

UnderDog moved his "Safe" place yesterday- about a foot up to the back of the sofa. He has spent 2 days there now. From there he can see out the window to the street, or snuggle down between the pillows until only the top of his head is showing.

We have seen great progress already- when I came home from my run, he was in the DINING ROOM! He slunk back to his safe place, belly low to the ground, when he realized he had company, but later in the day when I carefully picked him up and brought him to the kitchen (where we have put up a safety gate so he can eat and use the puppy pad) I noticed the "space bubble" he likes to have between himself and me is shrinking. He was very amazed by the sound of coffee brewing, and the site of his reflection in our back door. After a while he had eaten his fill and I was ready to leave the kitchen, so I lifted the gate. Poor UnderDog shrank into a corner in terror. I didn't realize that gate made him feel safe, I thought it was just helping me keep the house clean. I took him back to his safe spot, and he has been there all the hours since. Sometimes sleeping, sometimes sitting up with alert ears. I wonder if he'll ever want to see the upstairs?

Dog and Underdog

The very first dog that Dog and I went to meet (fully expecting to bring him home with us that very day) bounced and jumped and growled and bit there in the front yard of the Animal Shelter. Dog asked if she could please go hide in the car.

When we went to meet UnderDog, the Foster Mother recommended we not bring Dog, as the effect of 6 dogs and 2 cats might be intimidating. From our first moment in the door we saw Underdog acting as one with a fellow mill-rescue dog, pacing together, avoiding me together, hiding together, naping together. This made me feel hopeful.

When Dog and Underdog met for the first time Dog was in his carrier (door open, hiding inside) and Dog gave a cautious sniff. Later when UnderDog ventured out, they circled each other some cautiously. Meeting only once face to face, each showed teeth silently for just a second, and they went their separate ways. I was amazed by this subtle, gentle working through of territory and dominance. I also saw Dog growl quietly when UnderDog, trying to evade me, tried to hide behind/on-top-of her as she lay curled in her bed. So territories were set. UnderDog gets Dog's formerly favorite place on the couch, and Dog gets her own bed and all the rooms of the house UnderDog has yet to venture into.

It turns out the two will not be curling up together for a nap anytime soon, but Dog is being so sweet and sensitive. She has yet to make another territory stand, even when UnderDog is smelling her things. She gives UnderDog a wide birth on the rare occasions that he leaves his safe spot and makes a foray into another room. She even has noted which chewy is his, and leaves it be.

Last night after I had brought UnderDog into the kitchen for dinner, my son settled into his prized spot on the couch. UnderDog returned to the living room with a concerned look. After some circling and thinking he climbed cautiously onto the other end of the couch. Dog, realizing she couldn't also be on the couch and give UnderDog the space bubble that he needs to feel comfortable, went upstairs to lie down. I think she may have a better hang of being a big sister than I gave her credit for.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


This is the newest member of our family. UnderDog was rescued from a Puppy Mill, and had been living with foster parents (and 5 foster siblings) for 2 weeks. He had never seen the sun, or walked on the grass, and seems generally terrified of humans.

I had gone to meet another dog who looks a great deal like Dog, and when I met her I was struck by how she had Dog's same sweet deep eyes. UnderDog paced behind her, and when she lay down, UnderDog curled up on her back shoulder. I knew that the sweet Bichon/Maltese did not like to be touched, and would get up and walk away when petted. Foster Mom mentioned that UnderDog would let you pet him "if you can catch him." So they caught him for me, and put him in my arms, and we sat like that on Foster Mom's sofa as the other 5 dogs swirled around our feet or cowered in the corner. I thought- we are a family that likes to hug. No question. Like the first smiles of an infant, it would go a long way to help us be patient with the work of integrating a rescue dog into our family if we could get a hug now and then.

UnderDog came home with us yesterday. He spent the last 24 hours first trying to avoid us, and then sleeping when he found Dog's awesome space on the couch. When I got home from work this afternoon he was in his borrowed dog-carrier where he had gone to hide and sleep when my partner got up. I reached in to pet him - so far so good. I pulled him out despite is best passive resistance maneuvers, but when I picked him up, he just curled in tight to me. We sat like that on the couch for what seemed like forever, then he slowly walked off my lap and to his on spot further down the sofa.

He still looks worried most of the time he's awake, but a hug goes a long way.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Spring Blooms and Losses

It's been too long since I last blogged, and things are blooming all around. The flowering trees are right in their glorious prime, but I just don't have the energy to carry my camera with me everywhere documenting each blossom like I did last year. As I've beeen traveling and working, I've been saving up things I wanted to tell you about on a Blog Sticky, but time just keeps flowing.

I never even told you about Pap's funeral. Pap was my partner's grandfather, a warm, funny guy who loosly disguised himself in a gruff exterior. He had had many strokes recently, and I am so glad he was able to die in his own home with his son and daughter at his side. When we went back for the memorial I was a little nervous at first about stepping into his house, but the cousins filled it with music and stories of Pap. Some traditions hold that spirit of the departed lingers for a few days as it makes its transition. I don't know if our songs and stories cheered Pap on his transition, but it sure helped ours.

I never told you about the Grand-Re-Opening of the store. It was colorful and lively, full of all our favorite things: Live Music, cookies, flowers, family and friends. The local college radio station we sponsor came and brought a booth for the parking lot.

That very weekend my partner drove all the way to NYC to see the A's play, only to have the game rained out. He should have stayed here where there was an AWESOME Neko Case show that I got to see with a colleague who was filling my pulpit that weekend.

Then it was off to Albany NY for the big UU minister retreat and District Assembly. There I learned I am STILL grieving for my California district (I hope my new colleagues didn't get too sick of my talk of the "ex"). The tulips that were still green buds when I departed had bloomed an gone when I returned. There were only a few later bloomers left.

While I was retreating with my colleagues I remembered that there was something more I am supposed to be doing. Like that nagging feeling when you are in the check-out in the grocery store that you forgot to get something crucial- then I remembered: the environment. It's not that I haven't been preaching and studying about the earth, it's just that working part time there is a hole that is crying to be filled. It's not that I'm not busy, it's just that I'm busy with a million little tiny things. The story of my life lately has felt like reading Facebook, and I want to read a novel (oh, like Le Guin's Earth Sea series. I want one of those amazing stories that you can walk around in as long as it takes to read all 5 books). I realized a lot of the work I've been doing are short-term tasks that feel like snacking. I don't want to fill up on snacks, I need a good piece of work that feels like a meal. So I've joined the team that is bringing Bioneers to the Ithaca Area. We'll see if that satisfies.

I've also been thinking of adopting a friend for Dog. I have met 3 candidates so far- 2 were clearly not right for us, and one found a different home. I have an appointment today at 2:00 to meet another dog- a rescue dog from a puppy mill. I am constantly running 2 scenarios for this weekend and the coming weeks: one where a shy little dog needs consistent help with housetraining and adjustment, and one where life keeps its steady unchanging rhythm.

In the mean time I've been snacking on a new blog:
Yoga Blogn