Friday, February 22, 2013

Double-duty chores

    It’s been a fun few days here in the Smokies.  I’m acting as sole caregiver and puppy-sitter while Shirle visits with her daughters and grandchildren down in the Sunshine State.
    In the years we’ve been living in the mountains, I’ve grown quite used to these periods of solitude and double-duty chores.  I still wince a little at each hint of a need for her “babies,” but it’s futile to fight the inevitable; I just have to muster the extra time and my seldom used talents to run the household without the all-essential spousal assistance.
Bubba a/k/a Baxter
     Unfortunately, this is my first solo since Baxter, our beloved Cavalier, passed away.  The void he left has been partially filled by a new puppy, Sebastian, and although the little guy is trying real hard, he hasn’t yet replaced my “Bubba.”
    Sebastian is a mixed breed terror (oops, I mean terrier), who was not house-broken when we rescued him.  He did catch on quickly by Shirle and me acting as his biological time clock.  We “broke” him by timed, routine escorts outside and rewarding each success with treats and jubilant atta-boys.  
    These potty excursions are often interrupted with visits from White Dog and Angel, a male shepherd and a female whippet that live in the neighborhood.  Sebastian reacts to these overly friendly dogs with equal parts of excitement, jealous anger and Napoleonic challenges.  Working with gentle leash tugs, verbal commands and the occasional finger spank on the nose, he is learning his social skills and is now anxious (in a good way) for his “friends” to come visit.  (I have to tell you that while I was writing that paragraph, there was a noise at the backdoor; it was Angel wanting to come in and play.)
    Sebastian is experimenting with signals; he's got a bunch of them.  Typical of his breed, he tends to be very vocal and try as we will to understand, he keeps changing which sound means which need.  He has the typical pathetic whine (which originally meant, “I don’t want to get spanked again, so you better take me out”),  but he also uses a whimpering cry, a musical growl, a sassy yap, a snort at the door, and the totally-adorable River Dance, where he kicks his hind feet like an Irish dancer.
    The problem is his needs range from “pee-pee,” to “poo-poo,” to I want to go see if my friends are outside, to I want to sit in the sunshine, to I want to go outside for no apparent reason, to can you play with me daddy, and to “I’m bored watching you work, so I am going to drive you insane.”  He knows how to get our attention, but he has yet to settle on a definitive “this” means “that.”  There’s no way I can risk ignoring him, remember, he is only recently house-broken, so I spend half my day bookmarking my work, putting on a coat, getting him on a leash (I can’t trust him not to run away), and taking him downstairs and outside.  Unfortunately, I never know if it’s for “business” or pleasure. 
    Lately, on his hourly sojourns, he’s been sniffing around the running boards of my truck and standing on his hind feet attempting look inside.  He remembers that his mommy comes and goes in that truck, and he not sure she’s not in there waiting to get out and kiss him.
    To convince him that I really haven’t hidden Mommy’s body under the back seat…                     Sorry, I lost my train of thought. 
    Oh yeah, to satisfy his curiosity, I have been taking him on my daily trip down the mountain to the mailbox and bank.  He’s no dummy, I am sure he’s adding, “Can we go for a ride?” to his rotating list of signals.
19-year-old Hannah

    But life goes on in the mountains, and Sebastian, and Betsy, and Hannah, and me will survive this mommy-less interlude; I just can’t predict how much work will get done.

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