the stiff-legged dog still
wants to play and race
old bones, stretched
taut muscles like lightning
through molasses across
the yard like she tore up
the house as a puppy once
a white storm with black ears
and teeth she flinches
when I put the ointment on
the scrapes from falling, but
I think she knows I’m helping
her know I understand you
are not having fun if
you’re not getting hurt
This Is Not a Literary Journal :: Inside of a Dog
phoebe licks my face
behind a cirrus scrim
the dog star
drifts up the night
Today is Phoebe’s 7th birthday. We got her a little over five years ago. When we met her, they said she was almost three and that her birthday was in January. I looked in her ear since racers have their birth dates tattooed in their ears and found an extra 1 buried under a tuft of black fur. She wasn’t born in January 2003, but in November. This dog we were getting wasn’t even two yet!
One-going-on-two is young for a racer to come off the track, but since her owner was apparently a true monster (as anyone who would involve themselves in the exploitation of greyhounds must be) she was lucky to be getting out alive at any age, and we fell in love with her immediately. Having a 65 pound puppy does have its challenges, though. On day one, she tore down the blinds, ate the corners off the coffee table, and shredded all the paper she could find.
It wasn’t long before she was eating windowsills and a giant hole in the middle of the wall. She even tried to eat Daphne once, though it’s clear they were just playing. Phoebe has always been a rough and tumble dog: she’s well known at animal emergency and even owns her own cone of shame.
She was afraid of me for a long time, but we went to school and while she didn’t learn much, she did learn to trust me. Over the years, she’s mellowed into a great dog. She’s spirited and full of energy and no matter how down one of us might feel, it’s almost impossible not to smile at Phoebe.
Living with dogs is one of the most natural things in the world. I couldn’t imagine life without these guys, and so today, happy birthday, Phoebe, and many happy returns of the day.
R snapped this photo just before she left for work this morning. Phoebe, as you can see, was already at work, doing her job of holding down the couch with expert precision and attention to her craft.
Phoebe and Joey get Lichtenstein-ified
Well, look at that. We made us some art.
Last Friday, R and I took a painting class for adults at Marmalade Skies here in Austin. The class is called Pinot Picasso and it’s geared toward people who have never painted before. People like R and me. Actually, I have painted a few houses and I’m pretty good at it, but I don’t think it’s the same thing. At all. For one thing, this was fun.
The instructor was great, letting us explore and helping us out of holes all while talking about Roy Lichtenstein and his technique as well as general painting technique. We started with photographs—everyone else did people but she let us try dogs, which was new for her. In the end, much to our surprise, R and I had a couple of cool looking paintings of 2 of our favorite people (though I’ll need to go back and do one of Simon some time before he gets jealous).
What amazed me was how quickly the time went. How lost we both were in what we were doing. The instructor said, “We’re closing in 15 minutes,” and I looked around saw that it was dark outside and I had a nearly finished painting and an empty bottle of TopoChico in front of me.
I love making things, and even more, I love the act of making them. Most of what I make comes out in the form of pixels or food, but it was a thrill to make something I can hold and hold on to as I don’t do enough of that.
It’s the most fun I’ve had going out on a Friday night since I can remember, and I couldn’t wait to get home and show the dogs who weren’t interested once they realized they couldn’t eat the paintings.
The Pinot Picasso classes at Marmalade Skies at 183 and Anderson Mill in northwest Austin are held every Friday from 7-9:30, and each week they teach a different style of painting. We’ll be going back.
Joey’s birthday was last week. He’s 8. We got him in August 2006 and we almost lost him in 2007 when his dog food turned out to be poisonous. But he’s doing great these days. In fact, he’s pretty sure he’s the boss of Phoebe and maybe Simon, though Simon is sharp and best left alone.
We learn a lot from our dogs and Joey is a constant reminder to stay optimistic. He is the most optimistic dog I’ve ever known. There is not a single dark thought in his head. No matter what, he knows with absolute certainty that his food bowl will be filled twice a day, and that makes him very happy, especially a half hour before mealtimes when he likes to demonstrate what he’s capable of by battling the biggest toy he can find.
It usually ends in defeat for the toy and sometimes, he likes to pose with his prey just like hunters in the woods like to pose with their kills.
Back in August 2006, we almost didn’t get him. At the time, we already had 2 dogs and didn’t know if we could handle a third. Turns out we could. So happy birthday, big guy, may your couch always be comfy, your bowl always full, and the squirrels plentiful, fat and slow.
Phoebe hopes so too, though the camera might be more interesting.
It’s probably great to be a fast dog, cruising along at 40 miles per hour, until you stub your toe, which is what Phoebe did last week. At greyhound speeds, a stubbed toe dislocates and becomes what the vet referred to as “the greyhound injury.”
The specialists hope that keeping it splinted for a few weeks will allow it to heal on its own without surgery, of course that means we have to keep her supervised so she doesn’t eat her bandage and splint. The whole contraption has her leg immobilized so that when she walks she thumps along like a peg-legged pirate. Of course, she can still sort-of run on three legs.
Three-legged running is too easy for Phoebe, though, so last weekend she decided to somehow slice open a back paw necessitating a midnight trip to the animal emergency clinic. They know us well there. It went something like this:
ER Vet: Hello, Phoebe, what can we do for you this evening? Would you like to hear the specials?
Phoebe: No, thank you, I’ll be having the usual tonight.
ER Vet: Very good, then, two stitches coming up.
We’re hoping she can keep the other 2 paws intact while she heels.
The amazing thing is that she doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, I think she likes going to the vet, and none of this really slows her down. They’re such little heroes.
Joey, Wolf and Phoebe.
They’re tired from walking, probably. Tired enough that Joey isn’t growling at Phoebe for touching him while he tries to sleep. It seems we’ve all come a long way and I’m not just talking about walking.
We started taking the dogs with us on some of our long walks up and down the neighborhood trails lately. This is new for the pups. R and I walk the trails, but in the past the dogs have typically been too afraid to proceed too far into the teeth of whatever dragons lie on the county regional trail that our neighborhood trails connect to. There could be monsters. Greyhound-eating monsters.
For years we’ve accepted their trepidation and stuck with short walks around the block, but a few weeks ago—to our delighted surprise—Joey and Phoebe were willing to accompany us for several miles and they did this with no tail-tucking or application of the greyhound brakes. This is a far cry from the time I had to carry all 65 pounds of Phoebe half a mile home because she got spooked by a leaf blowing across the street.
We’ve taken them on more walks since, and they’ve been eager to go and enjoyed being out and about. I realized we’d been letting them be the pups they were when we got them and we’d somehow forgotten to recognize how much they’ve run away from being scared (and scarred) ex-racers to becoming just normal dogs. As normal as a lazy stubborn skinny needle-nosed speed pup can be anyway.
Sometimes it seems those changes, those moments of becoming, happen so gradually those closest can miss their occurrences, allowing ourselves to get stuck in the way we’re used to knowing the world. Fortunately for us, we’ve realized how willing they are to adventure out of their normal walks because there’s just something primal and wonderful about a good long walk with a dog whose enthusiasm and simple awareness of the world makes time spent outdoors that much sweeter, something I haven’t experienced since my days hiking with Zephyr.
It’s good to have walkin’ dogs again even if it does make them lazier than ever before. Something I hadn’t previously thought possible.