Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dogs and Dinner

This is the story of the Very Long Saturday.

We started early as the dogs' obedience class in down in southern Maine (totally worth the drive every week). We were up by 6am and out the door by 8am. Okay, we intended to be out the door by 8am...we may have been running slightly late.

While I was getting stuff together, the dogs actually started playing. Together. This is a rarity. Big isn't a fan of playing with other dogs. He's particularly not fond of playing with the Gator Girl because she's a little....bitch. In every sense of the word. Now, Big is more than twice the Gator Girl's size but she makes up for it with personality. Yeah, I think personality is a PC way of saying it. One of her many nicknames is "Bitchlette" because she can be oh so delightful. Big does not have a pushy personality so he tends to avoid her. He did sit on her head once, which was hysterical, because all you could see were the Gator Girl's feet kicking out in panic and Big just sitting there, looking rather cool and smug.

But this morning, they played together. If you watch the show Modern Family, you would've seen the scene where the "traditional" marriage couple (whose names I cannot remember) are mesmerized by two of their children playing together nicely. The dad even says, "Why are they not trying to kill each other?" and the two parents stay very, very still as to not disturb the magic.

Well, that was Joe and I. We sat on the bed for a while and watched the magic. It might have contributed to our late departure. It came to an end when Fat Cat had the misfortune to stroll into the room. The dogs went to chase her and then the Bitchlette returned and the magic spell was broken.

When the dogs see me get the backpack which contains all their training gear (well, not all, but most), they start prancing and whining. The Gator Girl is always very excited and worried that she's going to miss something. Big is just worried he's going to be left home. Some weeks he is because Joe can't come to class for one reason or another and some classes, I find, are not conducive to having two dogs to one handler, so I only bring one dog. And if I only bring one dog, I'm going to bring the Gator Girl because the tireless terror certainly needs the outlet more.

But today, Joe was coming along because that evening, we would be going out to dinner with a group of his family, in celebration of his mother's birthday. This also meant Big was coming along but despite me repeatedly saying, "Everybody's going in the car today", the dogs were still anxiety ridden. Must've been Saturday.

We made it down to class without incident, which was a nice change of pace. The group went out to the Tick Trail where we proceeded to walk two miles out and two miles back. The trail is also very popular with bicyclists and joggers. Whoever was last (generally me and Big) got the task of checking over our shoulder for oncoming traffic and then shouting for our group to move over to the right. "Meals on Wheels" was our term for bicyclists and "Snack on Track" was for joggers. I'm not sure the bicyclists and joggers thought we were as clever as we did. But, to their credit, they continued to pass by our group even though it contained a total of ten dogs comprised of six German Shepherds, two Belgian Malinois, one Briard and one Golden Retriever.

So anyway, we walked. Turns out that was a little too much for Big. Plus, it was sunny and he had to wear his doggles. He doesn't much like wearing them but he's getting better about it. He got very fussy when he knocked them askew and I had to stop him in order to put them right again. He was whiny because he was lagging behind the group and he didn't want to be lagging behind the group. He was particularly unhappy when the rest of the group took the loop back to the parking lot, but I chose to take the shorter route back to the parking lot because he was starting to favor his back leg a little.

He started dragged behind me even more then and kept looking over his shoulder to see if maybe his dad and his sister had come back. They, of course, didn't, but a dad and his two kids appeared on the trail so he had something new to look at.

Big is really the wrong breed of dog to stop and stare at people. It makes people nervous. The sunglasses made the kids giggle but eventually, I thought I should stop and explain why my big ass German Shepherd was continuously staring at them.

"He's friendly," I said. "He's just curious."

The dad and the kids came closer to see Big. They asked about the sunglasses and I explained about the Pannus. The eldest girl was delighted to find out she was the same age as Big.

"Haven't seen you in a while," the dad said to me.

"Have I ever seen you?" was what I wanted to reply but didn't. Instead I agreed and took a good look at him. I'm pretty sure we were in the same class in high school. Just not exactly sure what his name is. Wondered if he knew mine or if we were both doing the same thing.

Anyway, we parted ways and Big and I went back to the parking lot. Of course, Joe and the Gator Girl had the car keys and were still on the scenic route with the rest of the group so we waited. While we waited, one of the soccer games being played on the field finished and a parade of cars drove by. Every single driver looked at Big and me and every single one of them did a double take on Sebastian's sunglasses.

"Yes, my dog is wearing sunglasses!" I exclaimed at one point.

A couple of cyclists were loading up the car next to us and the woman looked down and did her own double take.

"Does he really wear those?" she asked.

I declined to point out that he was in fact wearing them. It wasn't just some clever illusion or something. I explained the situation behind the sunglasses.

Members of the group started to trickle back into the parking lot. Big was delighted when his dad showed up because it meant he could get back in the car. Big always thinks he wants to go somewhere until he actually gets there. Then he realizes just how much he wants to go home.

Unfortunately for him, our day was really just getting going. We made a stop at my mother's house next. Big loves my parents, my mother in particular. She will sit on the couch and pet him and tell him how he's the good dog and he's the favorite (and sanest), how handsome he is (so much more handsome than any of those GSDs on the dog shows) and how life must be so tough with a crazy little baby sister and so on and so forth. Big can't get enough of it.

So while he was thrilled to be at Mimi's house, he was still hurting from the walk so I gave him some tylenol. He can't have aspirin because, according to our vet, there are studies that show it can sometime conflict with Pannus and make it worse. So we give him tylenol. The first one went down all right. The second one he kept spitting out. And not just spitting it out on the floor at his feet but turning the capsule into a projectile that shot across the kitchen. Twice. So I recruited Joe to help me and we finally got the second pill down his throat. Big then retreated to the couch and to Mimi's protection.

Mimi pet him and told him how good he was and how she was sorry he hurt and so on and so forth and Big just lay there, half asleep and gazing at my mother as though he was wondering if she might be willing to come home with him and sit with him on his couch and do the same.

The Gator Girl, meanwhile, had found every tennis ball in a ten mile radius of the house and expected me to throw them for her repeatedly. She'd only been on the move for a good nine hours by this point. Why would she be tired?

At five o'clock, we headed to the Olive Garden to meet Joe's family for dinner. There were eleven of us altogether. The restaurant wisely stuck us in a corner. I was the furthest in the corner, so much so that the two waitresses stuck with serving us forgot about me when they took drink orders. They almost forgot about me when it came to dinner orders too but they remember. Joe's grandfather made sure to point out a couple of times that I was the odd one out, the only one not related to anyone else in the group. Joe's grandmother made sure to point out that he didn't mean it the way it sounded, which I already knew, so it just made me laugh.

Our dinner conversation ranging from our dogs (Joe's grandfather likes to call the dogs his best behaved great grandchildren) to television to police raids to beetles found in food. I particularly enjoyed that last one and had to ask Joe and his aunt to save the rest for another time when I was not trying to eat my fettuccine alfredo.

It was about 8 o'clock when we headed for home. Both dogs slept. Even the Gator Girl slept. I played with the iPod, skipping around looking for songs I could sing to. I sang "I'll Never Tell" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's musical episode, Once More With Feeling and "Waiting for the Bus" by the Violent Femmes. I spent a lot of time searching for Dr. Horrible songs but I think my iPod might be tiring of my Dr. Horrible obsession because I wasn't having any luck with the shuffling.

I did learn a very important lesson. When Joe is driving at night, it is not advisable to yell out "Deer!" because one spots a deer in the woods on the side of the road. It is not advisable because then Joe slams on the breaks and the dogs slide off the backseat.

"Where?" Joe asked.

"Oh," I said. "In the woods. Not on the road. Sorry."

I then serenaded him with a rousing rendition of "My Eyes" from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. It's a duet, which can be challenging for one singer to properly perform, but I am nothing if not talented.

We finally arrived home about quarter of ten. The Gator Girl ran inside and Big limped. All his time in the car didn't do him any favors. We gave him some more tylenol and some eye drops and then I think he started making plans to run away to his Mimi's house because his Mimi doesn't force tylenol down his throat and put drops in his eyes. Afterward, Big climbed on the couch and sat with his head in my lap. The Gator Girl laid on the floor and played for a few minutes before she gave in to her exhaustion and climbed into her chair to take a nap.

Joe and I sat on the couch, staring at the television, watching the weather channel without ever really seeing the forecast which, by the way, involved a mix of rain and snow, neither of which we've seen so far today (today being Sunday).

Big woke up this morning, still sore and favoring his back legs. We gave him more tylenol and he's been on the couch ever since. The Gator Girl is currently lying on the floor with her head on Joe's snuggie covered feet. She hasn't moved much today. Certainly not as much as she usually does.

My goodness, I love long Saturdays.

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