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Tag: brittany spaniel

The pawlitics of bedtime

On my first night in Missoula, I fell asleep with one dog and woke up with a different one.

On the next night, I fell asleep with two dogs and woke up with one.

On the third night, I fell asleep with two dogs and woke up with none. 

For the first time in our five months of traveling, in the latest of the long line of friends and family off whom we have freeloaded, Ace opted to sleep with someone other than me.

My feelings are hurt, but not too badly.

Back in Missoula, Ace has found a lively playmate, and I’ve been in full freeloading mode, enjoying all the comforts of somebody else’s home.

Gwen Florio, a reporter for the Missoulian, who I used to work with at the Philadelphia Inquirer, was kind enough to invite Ace and I to stay with her, her husband Scott, and their dog Nell – a four-month-old Brittany spaniel.

I’ve eaten most of their leftovers, drank most of their milk, eaten most of their eggs, watched their TV and had my own room in the basement, featuring one of the top two beds I’ve slept on (the other being in Santa Fe) during our journey.

Two more weeks on it, and I think my back would stop hurting.

But, as  much as I’ve enjoyed nesting at Gwen’s, it’s time to press on to Seattle.

On the first night, I retired early and Ace came to bed with me. When Nell jumped in – well to be honest, she jumped up, putting her front paws on the bed, and I pulled her up the rest of the way – Ace jumped off. I fell asleep snuggling with Nell, but when I woke up she was gone, and Ace was laying at my side.

On the second night, Gwen was working late on election night, and after watching a little bit of the “shellacking” on TV, I retired early. This time, Ace didn’t mind Nell joining us (if only Republicans and Democrats could learn to co-exist so quickly), and I fell asleep with the two of them – once Nell completed her process of nibbling my hands, squirming, walking over me, turning in circles, pawing at the bedspread, nibbling my hands some more, turning a few more circles and finally flopping down with a sigh. By morning, though (like many a Democrat), she was gone.

On the third night, I retired even earlier, and they both followed me to bed, and  both got in. But when I woke up they had both abandoned me. While I slept, Gwen had returned home and the dogs joined her for the night. Fortunately, her husband was out of town so there was room in her bed for them both.

Ace and Nell have gotten along great, and it has been interesting to watch their play progress — from timid and restrained to no-holds-barred wrestling. She’s Muhammad Ali to Ace’s Joe Frazier. In her back yard, a stone’s throw from the base of Mt. Jumbo, she runs circles around him, eggs him on, gives him a jab or a nip, then darts away. He keeps plodding forward, swinging with his paws, then watching as she bounces across the yard like a pinball.

Ace — despite my initial fears — hasn’t tried to use Nell’s dog door. It’s the perfect size for her, and she speeds in and out of the house at her will. It’s the perfect size for Ace to get stuck in. I had visions of having to take the door off its hinges and taking them both to a vet, or a hardware store, to have dog and door surgically separated.

Luckily, Ace hasn’t tried to use it, or even poke his nose through, probably because it — also like politicians — flaps and makes noise .

Nell, at four months, still engages in the kind of mischief pups perpetrate. At home during the day, while I wasn’t paying attention, she snagged a full roll of toilet paper, took it through her dog door and proceeded to decorate the lawn with confetti. She managed to get into my toothpaste, but apparently decided not to make a meal of it.

Ace, though he seemed unsure how to react to her puppiness at first, now wrestles with her in the way he does with his favorite dogs, nipping at her legs, trying to put her entire head in his mouth, going after her little nub of a tail — all with his trademark gentleness.

When he tires of it all he flops down in the yard, as he did yesterday morning. The grass was white with frost, and Ace relaxed with one of Nell’s toys that he’s grown especially fond of, probably because it has, or once had, peanut butter in it.

For 15 minutes, as Nell alternately looked on, ran circles around him, darted inside and out again, Ace laid there with the purple toy, and when he got up, there was a big green circle where the frost had melted away under his body heat.

To me, it seemed symbolic (then again, I hadn’t had my coffee yet) of what dogs do for us.

They melt away our frosty exteriors, they bring out the unjaded us that can be buried pretty deeply beneath the shells we hide behind, the image we project, all our bullshit and bluster.

They knock down the walls we put up.

Maybe our politicians could learn a thing or two from them, to the point of even becoming bedfellows — not in the dirty sense of the word, but in terms of working together to achieve a goal.

How cool would that be, if they could all settle down, bark less, share the toys, and — as dogs do — make the world a better place?

Guest column: Biscoe remembered

By Ainslie Perlmutt

Biscoe was no hero. He was just a dog, a gentle, ragged Brittany Spaniel who stumbled into my life ten years ago. My parents found him on the interstate outside the small town of Biscoe, North Carolina. He walked with a slant and his clipped tail wagged furiously whenever he saw a friendly face.

From the start, his life wasn’t perfect. Stricken with heartworm, his first days in our home didn’t go beyond the walls of our kitchen. Biscoe didn’t mind. As the years passed, his eyes marbleized to a cloudy blue and his life turned to darkness. His hearing disappeared and after an emergency tracheotomy his bark turned to a muffled woof. But Biscoe happily trudged on. Over time, he taught me that obstacles were to be overcome, that when asthma slowed me on the soccer field, I kept playing. Or when a judge gave my Odyssey of the Mind team an unfair point reduction, we kept competing.

Biscoe was a hunting dog without hunting instincts, yelping when he stepped on sharp twigs. But he loved to swim. His ears perked up as his paws first dipped into the water’s edge. Every chance he got, he’d follow my mother’s kayak, his nose navigating just above the water. A few years ago, all of that changed. Biscoe’s larynx had paralyzed, forcing him to gasp for air. After the surgery, Biscoe breathed through a hole in his neck, the size of a quarter. Swimming was no longer an option. He was already fifteen and his days were spent mostly sleeping. Now he was deaf and blind, his once magnificent bark muted. Biscoe didn’t mind. He still had his nose; smell was his GPS. And when my father carried him into the back yard, he’d rally like a puppy and proudly prance off wherever his nose took him.

I have grown up around dogs, most of them rescued like Biscoe. They have come and gone, always leaving a paw print on my life. But Biscoe was different. His needs were simple, happy with the occasional belly rub and his nightly meal. When the other dogs were in our faces, Biscoe was off in the corner sleeping, waiting patiently for his chance. He played a paternal figure. He was never annoyed when our rambunctious Golden Retriever, Caki, nipped at his ears wanting to play, or when Clancy, our wiry-haired, hole-digging terrier, growled, protecting his precious bone. From Biscoe I learned to appreciate the underdog: Everyone has a purpose and a contribution to make to society. Biscoe never got the attention he deserved, but he knew he was loved.

Last summer, I was at Virginia Commonwealth University in an intensive art program, when my father called. The sadness in his voice told me all I needed to know: Biscoe had passed away. Tears flowed, as I took a journey through memories of my beloved dog. Then I smiled, knowing that wherever death took Biscoe, he went with that noble, broken-tooth smile I always loved.

He will always have a spot on our family bench. No, he wasn’t the typical hero, but he was my hero. Biscoe has inspired me to confront problems in life with strong determination, purpose, and a smile.

(Ainslie Perlmutt, of Charlotte, N.C., is an incoming freshman at the University of North Carolina. She wrote this essay as part of her college application. The painting of Biscoe is also by her.)