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GOOD Murphy

Because of all the negative things I have written here about Murphy, I need to make amends. Murphy is not always a Bad Dog and he is not an Evil Entity. Sometimes, he is just a funny dog and a good buddy to have.

I wrote what I wrote knowing that I am not (and may never be) a “dog” person. I like cats. I struggle with a fear of dogs. I understand this: I struggle with a fear of horses, too. They’re big. They can hurt you. I have been hurt. By dogs and by horses.

But the trick is to get inside their heads. It takes me some time to do that: I have to read up on the subject and learn all the different techniques to assert dominance  because that is the key to relationships with dogs or horses. It’s all about who is the Top Dog (or horse). In the world of Pecking Orders, you have to be the boss.

I was unprepared for the dog that Murphy is. He came to us full of himself and determined to be the Top Dog, no matter what. That, combined with my husband’s reluctance to neuter him, created an atmosphere of power struggle. One of us was going to lose, and it wasn’t going to be me. Hence, Murphy was made a eunuch. In the world of Feminine Dominance, testosterone must be cut off. (Sorry guys, I just had to insert that. Tongue-in-cheek, OK?)

Since his little “operation”, Murphy has mellowed considerably. Not mellowed in energy or flower-bed jumping and certainly not in stealing. But he has mellowed.

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He is still Don’s Lap Dog.

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What can I say?

This past week, we had all kinds of company. Levi came to visit and brought his lovely wife, Kaci, to meet all of us. Arwen’s in-laws were in-country from the Phillipines and we had a barbecue with them. The potential for a Murphy-sized disaster was – huge. Really HUGE. Because Murphy doesn’t have a large dog pen (yet), only a small temporary dog pen and a crate. He needs to be able to run all over the back yard and burn some energy.

We had to risk letting him meet Levi and a very pregnant Kaci since they were staying in our house.

stuff 043I just inserted that because I like the photo. Kaci and Levi enjoying a moment, with nephew Javen in her arms.

The week worked out great. Levi and Kaci love dogs. they’re not intimidated by BIG. They had no problem with Murphy.

Well, he did steal some socks, but he always gave them up when he got caught.

He still wasn’t allowed to run around when the babies were in our yard, but he wasn’t bereft of attention.

stuff 035Levi tossed the football to him.

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He really wanted the football.

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“Levi! Would you feel sorry for the poor dog?”

Levi retrieved the football and let Murphy pull his nose back into the kennel. Poor pup-peh (that’s Zephan’s name for him).

In the end, Murphy was just a GOOD dog. He didn’t bark too much when we had all the family in the backyard and they played croquet right by his kennel (Ball!!). The worst he got was after everyone left on the 3rd except Levi, Kaci, Don & I. And the fireworks began. Murphy is not afraid of fireworks, but he has to bark at them. Loudly. Furiously.

As Kaci said, “Why do people shoot them on the 3rd? Do you think they even know what the 4th is all about?”

We’ve been asking that question for years.

The 4th of July dawned and our soldier loaded up his car for home. Almost as soon as they were out of the driveway, we loaded up our car and headed for the woods. Our goal was to get Murphy away from town and fireworks.

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This is where Murphy belongs. In the Great Outdoors.

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Sometimes things are meant to be. I was contemplating what to blog about next (I have a LOT) and the subject of what a good dog Murphy was last week was heavy on my heart. I received a letter from my long-time pen pal tonight and she wrote “I know that you and Murphy have had your differences (!!), but you’ve actually made me fall in love with him. Does that seem like betrayal? I hope not. I am on your side, truly. It’s just that he’s so big and naughty and adorable, and he’s such a character. I can’t resist that FACE!”

Well, here’s that face again, just for you, Laurelle:

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He was SUCH a GOOD dog last week.

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Murphy & Me

I recently read the popular book by John Grogan, “Marley & Me.” It’s a movie, too, but I doubt the movie can capture the essence of living with Marley.

Living with Murphy, however, can and does capture that essence.

Murphy has never figured out that I came close to setting down the ultimatum, “This Dog Must GO or I Will!.” He has never realized that I do not necessarily love him at all moments. When I arrive home, he is standing at the kitchen window, nose plastered against the glass, body wiggling. He greets me by sticking his nose up my butt and furiously barking some tale about how his day went. He has a Very Loud Bark and a Very Large Nose.

I thought about this tonight when he met me at the door, barely restrained by my husband and throwing saliva everywhere. If I would allow him to jump up on me, he’d slime my face. As it is, he merely slimes our furniture.

Everything I read about Marley translates into my life (except fear of thunder. Murphy is not afraid of thunder. He gets very excited when he hears guns or firecrackers and runs from one end of the yard to the other, barking with joy). Murphy cannot be contained on a leash.

Murphy knows no restraint and a shock collar barely gets his attention.

From Wikipedia:

“Told in first-person narrative, the book portrays Grogan and his family’s life during the thirteen years that they lived with their dog Marley, and the relationships and lessons from this period. Marley, a yellow Labrador Retriever, is described as a highly strung, boisterous, and somewhat uncontrolled dog. He is strong, powerful, endlessly hungry, eager to be active, and often destructive of their property (but completely without malice). Marley routinely fails to “get the idea” of what humans expect of him and at one point the comment is made that mental illness might be a plausible explanation for his behavior. His acts and behaviors are forgiven, however, since it is clear that he has a heart of gold and is merely living within his nature.”

Um, that’s Murphy. He’s destroyed my gardens, ripped my sofa, eats anything he can steal, steals anything within his reach, and simply does not “get it.” He’s not 97 pounds, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s close. I think he last weighed in at 87 pounds and he’s not quite two years old. He’s been to field dog training and he can “stay” for a short period of time, but the only real obedience training he has had is to wait impatiently while I set some goody on the floor for him to eat. He does sit.

He has a heart of gold and he would probably lick an intruder to death. He thinks all other dogs want to play. He thinks the sofa is a trampoline. His interest in our grandson goes as far as checking to see what the diaper smells like, then checking to see what toys he can steal (the balls, preferably, but he is not above trying to chew a Duplo™ block). There is a stack of wood by the back door: Murphy’s depositry of “sticks” (which include a stolen axe handle) that he carries around in hopes someone will play “fetch” with him.

His newest thing is to go nuts when you ask him “what is Murphy thinking?” Murphy is thinking: “Let’s go out and PLAY!  And BARK! And smell people’s crotches! And Bark! And chase imaginary cats!”

Don calls Murphy’s barking “Doggie Blogging.” I call it nerve-wracking.

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Sitting in Dad’s chair.

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Murphy – AGAIN

Just when I think we’re making progress… Darn Dog.

Friday morning, I could not find my glasses anywhere. I had new ones ordered (new frames, new correction) and planned to use the pair I had for my back up pair. But they weren’t anywhere. I’m rather forgetful, so I have to check all the usual places two or three times. Finally found something resembling glasses on top of the microwave with a note: “Murphy chewed your glasses. Sorry.”

ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH. The frames were bent and twisted and the scratch resistant lenses were scratched. The ear pieces were gone. I need glasses to drive, so I got out the pliers and bent the frames enough to fit my head and silently thanked God I have long hair to hide the mangled earpieces. Then I prayed a silent prayer that there would be a message from the eye doctor on the phone… There was! Yay! I figured I could pick them up before I came home Friday afternoon.

So I wore the mangled pair to work and confided in one co-worker (one who likes animals and isn’t going to tell me to get rid of the dog). She managed to make me laugh about it by sharing one of her pet horror stories. “This, too, shall pass.” We hope.

The eye clinic staff was able to save my old frames and replaced the earpieces for me. They’re still slightly bent and the lenses are scratched, but they’re adequate for back up glasses. I’m being careful to keep the new glasses behind closed doors (on top of counters is apparently not high enough, so behind closed doors must work. As long as Murphy doesn’t OPEN the door and find them… He does know how to open doors).

That would be enough, but Don mentioned that Murphy chewed off a branch of one of my tree peonies. WHAT?! Those poor peonies! When we bought the house, they were struggling under a mat of thick grass. Took me three years to get the grass cleared away from their roots. They’re fragile enough, and the dog has to eat one of the branches?? I knew I’d have to look at the damage and he did: he twisted it right off. Nice work, Murphy: now the poor peony is open to disease.

A few weeks ago, I planted all those nice aroid bulbs Don and I bought last spring. I thought to put rocks over the tops of them, to keep Murphy from digging them up. Well… He dug under two of the rocks. I don’t think he dug down to the aroids, but I can’t tell. I put bigger rocks over the tops of them and I won’t move the rocks until March.

But I really am at a loss as to how to protect my garden from the ravages of this latest garden pest. Sure, I could fence off all the flower beds, but that’s an expensive task and would change my landscape from  a warm, natural, & flowing one that moves between lawn and flowers beds to a rigid, unnatural, & cold landscape. I want my flowers easily accessible to me.

I have some comfort: Murphy attacked the bonsai trees, too. He pulled one of the little spruces out of its pot. Mis Boss was not very happy about that. It’s personal when you attack Don’s bonsai trees.

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I have not been able to do much gardening this year. Sometime last spring, I tore the meniscus in my left knee. The pain kept me from trying to kneel or squat to dig in the garden, but I did manage to get in some weeding. By August, the garden was under control and I didn’t need to do much, except plan. And I had plans: divide the irises, move some of the peonies, move the day lilies, plant some bulbs, move around some bulbs: a litany of Autumn-type garden work that needs two elements: plenty of rain prior to working so the ground is soft and a nice sunny day to do the work in.

We’ve had plenty of both, but first I had to get past knee surgery. I still cannot kneel on my knees and squatting is still out of the question, so I am not even thinking about dealing with the end-of-the-season weeds. I’ll have to catch them in the spring, when I do the first of the season weeding.

Meanwhile, we adopted this dog: Murphy, the now-50#, five month old dominant ball of constant energy. Murphy has pulled up a considerable amount of the weed guard that took me five years to get into place. He digs holes in the yard. He “helped” me move a lavender plant during a mid-September rush on energy, but now the lavender lives a precarious life on the edge of the hole Murphy keeps dug out. He’s buried Winston several times. Winston

I bought some bulbs back in September (checkered lily, a variety of anenomes, spring crocuses). I saved the seeds from the wildflowers in my front borders (which I am abandoning because the rhododendrons make it impossible to keep anything alive and healthy in the bare spaces beneath them). Finally, I had the desired weather and decided I felt like I could at least plant the bulbs. So yesterday, I went out and planted them. I tried not to think about the mess of weed guard and holes in the yard. I had a narrow window of time when Murphy was gone to do this in, so I decided not to try to divide irises or move the lilies.

Today I am glad I didn’t. Murphy has been gone all day with his Boss: no short hike for them today, they went up into the mountains for the entire day. I decided today was the day to get that end-of-season work done. There’s a cold rain front moving in this afternoon and I may not get another chance.

My first job was to cut back all the fading stalks from the peonies, asters, and daisies. While I worked at that, I noticed a new hole in the first garden bed. Right where I planted a bulb yesterday. By the time I had all the dead-heading done, I had discovered five new holes: all where I carefully planted, tamped down, and sealed bulbs yesterday. I recovered two displaced bulbs, but I do not know what happened to the other three (I hope they aren’t poisonous to dogs). I was nearly in tears.

I am not going to even attempt to dig into the irises, lilies or peonies. I can’t begin to replace the ripped up weed guard. I can’t bend down onto my knee to weed. My garden is just going to have to go to winter unfinished. I’m rather upset about it. It took me five years to clean the weeds out of the established beds, put down the weed guard, and cover that with mulch. I did most of the work by myself while Don worked in the vegetable garden (which is fenced in). All I want is a nice flower garden with a year-long array of color.

We haven’t planted the arum bulbs, but I can’t see attempting to do it unless Don can think of a way to keep Murphy from sniffing them out and digging them back up. We spent a lot of money buying those bulbs. Fortunately, I did not spend a lot of money on the anenomes that Murphy ate (the two bulbs I found are the checkered lilies). I guess the best I can do this autumn is to make certain things are trimmed back and to hang onto my plans for my flower beds. Maybe by spring, Murphy will have settled down a bit. I really doubt it, however. I think by springtime I will be dealing with a 70# year old idiot dog. There may be a bigger dog run in his future, away from my flower beds.

I can hope.

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Murphy and gardening

Actually, because of Murphy, I have not gardened much. Well, Murphy and the strange summer we are having. It is one of those on-again/off-again summers that I so hate. One day it is 80 degrees (Farenheit) and the next, it is 60. I’m a summer/winter person and I want my summers to be definite, not confused. This is a confused summer: doesn’t know if it is coming or going.

Murphy hasn’t helped. He’s obnoxious, stubborn, mouthy, and entirely too curious. If I were to go out and pull weeds, he would have to help me. He’s already unearthed quite a bit of the roots of the camelia. I really don’t need him to unearth my peonies. He has, fortunately, not tried to eat the poisonous plants in the yard: nightshade among them. Don pulled most of the nightshade finally, but I really hate to see it go. I love the pretty purple and yellow flowers.

Murphy “talks”. Actually, it’s more back talk: he only does this when he is sassing us or wants something from us. But there he is, sounding for all the world like my mom’s long dead Schnauzer telling a long story. “Arrr rowrrr rowr rar rowr rowr.” My mom would answer the Schnauzer with snippets like, “Is that so? I didn’t know. I think you are making that up.” With Murphy, you can’t get a word in edgewise.

We did finally go on a flower deadheading campaign yesterday. Murphy has been eating the fallen apples (and picking a few from the espalier), but he hasn’t bothered my flowers. He even seemed uninterested in the daisies as I deadheaded them yesterday, but the butterfly bush was fair game. He loves lavender. I think he pulls over the holly hocks. He hasn’t touched the asters or fuschias.  The peonies are an eternal fascination: but since I have started to allow him to dig up the camelia, he hasn’t tried to dig up the peonies.

He’s a puppy, I tell myself. A large puppy. A large puppy with an appetite for fallen apples and onions. He loves the spent onion blossoms. We let the onions go to seed because the honey bees loved the flowers so much, and now Murphy carries the long stalks with the ball of dead flower on the end around the yard. And chews on them. Loves onions. Rotten apples and onions. We had to pick up all the rotten apples from the neighbor’s tree because Murphy was getting drunk on the fermented downfall.

Puppies are so much fun.

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I have forgotten how silly kittens can be. I will post a picture tomorrow when I am on the other computer, but I have to say: this guy is silly. He looks very much like the first cat we ever had. He’s black and white – I think they call this a “tuxedo” kitten, but he doesn’t actually look like a cat in a tuxedo. He’s more spotted. He’s also not my kitten: he belongs to the resident teenager. When he was just seven weeks old, she took him on a city bus trip across town and spent the night with a girlfriend and all her animals. She’s grounded for that little adventure. Apollo survived and is possibly more mature for the adventure, but I still think it was an “iffy” thing to do with an unvaccinated kitten weaned too early. He was dehydrated and exposed to who-knows-what. Come to think of it, she still hasn’t made that first vet appointment for him. That’s OK: he’s limited to our house right now. But he’s maturing rapidly.

When Apollo came to live with us, he was scarcely seven weeks and unsocialized. He’s now 8 weeks and highly socialized. Granny (me) has been teaching him to bathe and to climb trees. I have also been trying to teach him to NOT chase birds (since I have parakeets). I do a lot of Kitty Sitting. Which is what I am doing as I write this: kitty sitting. I make kitties MEAN. Count that as a Very Big Grin.

I love cats.

We are adding a dog to the dynamics in July. Just got a call from the breeder: our pup has a hernia. We had the option of trading pups and taking one of the bitches or waiting for another litter since this hernia could possibly affect our pup’s ability to reproduce. We weren’t planning on breeding anyway, so the breeder knocked $200 off the price and we still get the pup we wanted, He’ll come home with us in July and wil;l grow up with this kitten.

My parakeets are less-than-thrilled. They probably have reason to be: the kitten was afraid of them last week but this week he’s twitching his tail when they fly. I really have a lot of work to do there.

All these babies remind me of the Real Baby: I am going to be a Grandmother!!! I thought my oldest had that “look” about her, but she didn’t make the announcement until last night. When I showed no surprise, she turned to her husband and said, “Wee, I TOLD you my mom would already know. She probably had a dream or something.”

No dream, but I know that “look”: pregnant women truly “glow.”

I’m excited.

Apollo is worn out. Time to return him to his “mom.” I’ll be such a GREAT Granny!!!

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