Dog Quest 2017

 

Animal, Dog, Pet, Puppy, Cute, CanineNext Dog????

Our dog Sammi died in the fall of 2003.  As a black, white and tan rat terrier she was eight pounds of guile, cunning and nervous agitation.  When she ran down the street her legs moved so fast they blurred.  The neighborhood kids called her “The Hover Dog”.

At times her terrier level of anxious energy was too much for me, and I swore a few days after I buried her in our back yard that I’d never get another dog.  But my daughter and her fiance’ visited over Christmas with their two pups, and my wife Judy and I found ourselves talking about the possibility of getting one.  Our house seems large and empty after our visitors leave, and we feel an urge to fill up the open spaces with an active presence.  And Judy and I are somewhat tied to staying close at home.  We have spells when direct contact with friends and family is limited, and we feel a need for extra companionship.

My sister had an Australian Shepherd the last few years of her life when she suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and Charlie was an intelligent, very loyal mid sized dog.  He was a consistently hopeful and cheerful presence.  However he was extremely protective of Carla and would butt anyone with his nose who came too near to her.  Once he got me in the side of the neck when I attempted to arrange Carla’s feet on the foot rests of her motorized chair.  And my Dad had bruises up and down his forearms from similarly misguided interventions.  Judy has vertigo and sometimes walks with difficulty, and while I liked Charlie a lot I don’t want to get a dog who protects her from me.

Our search is complicated by our allergies to dog dander, so Judy is looking up hypoallergenic breeds.  We’re discovering that most of these are expensive.  And we want a more mellow dog, but one not too large and dull witted like a Lab.  We may have to find a mixed breed mutt to suit our needs.  And we’ll probably have to wait until after our daughter gets married in May to get serious about finding a dog.  We don’t want to deal with new routines and dog training while planning a wedding.

On Sunday we went to Central Park in downtown Winter Park.  Judy wanted to see something beside the insides of our house and our yard.  We sat in the shade and watched a squirrel digging up nuts, toddlers chased by parents, a guy making balloon animals for children, and two lovers kissing and caressing on a blanket.  And we saw dogs, dogs, dogs.  We commented on the size, shape and personalities of the ones we saw, and I turned to Judy and said, “It really does sound like we’re getting a dog.”  And I thought about all the happy possibilities.

 

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Wedding Bells and Christmas

dsc_0094-2Alan and Amy

My son married his high school and college sweetheart three days ago.  They have known each other since they were four or five, and played together when we visited with Amy’s parents.  Amy asked Alan out for a date when they were seniors in high school, and their romance continued long distance while Alan attended Rollins College in Winter Park and Amy went to FSU in Tallahassee.  About a year ago they became engaged, and three days after this Christmas they said their vows in the Rose Garden at Leu Gardens in Orlando.  This was a climax to a week of frenetic activity what with Christmas celebrations, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, the wedding and reception.  My wife and I had guests and house guests from the 21st through the 30th: my brother and nephew drove down with their wives from Ohio for the wedding;  Judy’s brother Rick flew in from Colorado; and my daughter and her fiance’ and their two dogs drove to town for Christmas and the wedding.

Judy and I lead a very quiet existence, and the sudden bombardment of social activities was quite a break from our usual routine.  Our soon-to-be grand dogs added a lot of welcome noise and commotion to Christmas Eve and Day, and I found it comforting to watch them curl up around folks and fall asleep on a sofa when they finally wore themselves out.

dsc_0066Annie and Shakespeare

Now the newlyweds are off on their honeymoon.  Our daughter and fiance’ have returned to Miami with dogs in tow, and my brother and his wife are on the road back to Ohio.  Rick flew out yesterday, and we spent today cleaning up and reorganizing the house.  The normal business of life presses in and demands our attention once again, and it’s fortunate that we are busy.  If we’re quiet and idle we notice the echoes in the house.  And the sudden absence of loved ones makes our rooms appear too large for our needs.

Judy and I discussed taking down the Christmas tree this afternoon.  I’m usually impatient to get back to my customary rounds after a prolonged break and to banish Christmas until its due time in the coming year. But I told her that I wouldn’t mind waiting a few more days.  I want to savor this holiday season a little longer.

dsc_0060

Why Artists Get Snippy

Sandhill crane

Artists have a reputation for being a bit touchy.  Their egos appear to be easily bruised to those in professions in which work has no personal value beyond earning cash and prestige.  Artists work for those goals too, but their production is tied to their personal creativity, to their internal values.  When someone tells a painter that he or she doesn’t like a painting the artist often feels a twinge of rejection that an administrator in a food packing plant doesn’t feel when consumers say that they don’t like a particular brand of canned asparagus.

The skills that artists use and the work they make are consistently undervalued by the public, gallery dealers, and officials in arts organizations.  We’re fresh meat until our work gains enough clout so that we can call some of the shots.  But even then there are instances of exploitation.  The situation truly reverses only when the artist’s work is so in demand that a gallery, museum and the buying public have more to lose than the artist.  Then a painter (Picasso got away with this quite often) can take his or her revenge by fobbing off mediocre work on fools willing to pay for anything bearing the artist’s signature regardless of its quality.

I’ve told a few of the following stories to newby artists who are beginning to consider using their talent to earn a living.  Most think that I’m being incredibly negative until they’ve had a few experiences of their own. 

I once received a phone call from a stranger who heard that I painted murals.  He wanted to hire me to paint scenes of an ancient Roman bath on the walls of his bathroom.  I was appalled at the idea of trying to work images of Roman columns and marble statuary into a composition that would complement this guy’s toilet and bathtub, but I politely told him that I wasn’t the right man for the job.  He was angry that I turned down the project and sneered, “You artists are all alike.  My mother was an artist, and she was way too sensitive.  She always got huffy when I said anything about her art.  You’re just like her.”  Our conversation ended badly.

On a another venture I drove down to Kissimmee, Florida to a janitorial service company.  They wanted a mural on the inside wall of their office to brighten things up.  I got lost and arrived a bit late, and my reception by the manager wasn’t all that friendly.  He pointed to a five feet wide by eight feet tall gap on a dimly lit wall between gray metal shelves holding cleaning supplies.  My mural would have to fit in that space.  I asked him, a secretary and an accountant what kind of imagery they wanted.  One wanted a teddy bear flying a biplane pulling a banner with company’s name.  One wanted a giraffe (she liked giraffes) dressed in a company uniform pushing a broom.  The final request was a pink dolphin leaping out of a pond in a clearing of an Amazonian jungle. (I swear that I’m not making this up.)  They would have added a few more things, but I told them that that imagery was more than enough to make a compelling composition.  I went home and actually began to do some sketches for the mural, but they didn’t contact me again as they had promised.  I decided to forgo forcing my services on them out of a sense of self-preservation.

I went on a fool’s errand several more times in hope of landing mural painting jobs.  One was to a juvenile detention center in West Orlando.  I was told that I would be paid $300 to paint the front facade of their building, which ran about 50 yards long and was twenty feet high. At best, once I took out the cost of the paint, I’d make five dollars per hour for the job.  The committee that met me to discuss imagery had not convened before, offered no previously agreed upon theme for the mural, but unanimously disliked the drawings I brought.  We brainstormed.  One woman wanted me to paint happy, skippy families walking hand in hand on a path in a park.  She didn’t like it when I questioned the propriety of putting a greeting card message on the front of a jail.  Another thought that beige stripes might be nice.  The other two committee members stared blankly at me.  We reached no agreement.  I killed that deal by telling them to call me when they figured out what they really  wanted.  They never did.

The last attempt to win a mural contract was negotiated with a young mother living in an uppity upscale neighborhood in Winter Park.  She wanted a floral garden for a wall in her dining room.  I showed her several of my landscape paintings, and we discussed a composition.  She paid me $40 to do a small scale mock-up canvas for the project, and she was thrilled when I brought it over a few days later.  She held onto the painting to show it to her husband, friends and decorator.  The next time I met her the deal fell through.  The colors in the painting were too bright.  “I can add white to make them more pastel,” I countered.

“You added an arch along the garden path.  We didn’t talk about that,” she said.  Her tone of voice accused me of trying to pull a fast one on her.

“The arch makes the composition better,” I said and added, “But I can take it out.”

“My decorator says that the focal point of the room is the French door.  She thinks that a mural would be a distraction.”

I didn’t tell her what I was thinking, that what she really needed for that wall was wallpaper.  Instead I waited for the final shoe to drop–she was building up to something.  She looked at me shrewdly and said, “Well I did pay you $40, and I’d like to keep the little painting.”

“We agreed that that money was to pay for my services in coming up with a design for the mural, not for the painting itself,” I answered.  I usually sold my landscapes for $200.  She insisted that she deserved something for her money, and I gave in.  She was more determined to rip me off than I was to wrestle the canvas out of her hands.

I’ve also been treated poorly while minding my own business painting landscapes.  Ex-frat boy business men out on the streets to get lunch mock me with “Yo, Picasso!” when they see me working at my easel in downtown Orlando.  Random passersby like to stand in front of me to block my view.  They caper and dance up and down and ask, “Want to paint me?  Want to paint me?  How much will you pay me to pose?”  This has happened so many times that I’ve learned to ignore these prancing idiots and work on the sky until they go away.  If they are persistent I tell them, “No, sir.  I really, really don’t want to paint you.”  Some folks will stand a few inches behind me and look over my shoulder as I work.  If they linger they inevitably begin to tell me, their captive audience, all about their personal history, love life, troubles at work, etc.  One guy, an unemployed nurse who had difficulty getting along with supervisors, bent my ear for twenty minutes.  Then he graced my unfinished painting with a disparaging glance and gave me a grade:  B+.  A woman murmured a few condescending pleasantries before advising me to add figures to my painting of Central Park in downtown Winter Park.  When I didn’t immediately start painting the oldsters sitting on the park benches she added, “Your painting is dead if you don’t add figures.”  She had a smug, cruel smile on her face as she spoke–she apparently knew a lot more about painting than I did, and she was used to having her wishes immediately obeyed–and was surprised when I waved her away with twinkly fingers and said, “Bye bye.”

Outdoor art festivals are other public sites of humiliation for artists.  I gave them up long ago, but a friend of mine, a fellow landscape painter, endured several years of intermittent abuse as she waited on potential customers in her canvas tent.  I witnessed one such moment.  Brenda loved sandhill cranes and had done several paintings of these unusual birds.  I listened in as a customer, a middle aged woman with a red face, exploded in outrage in front of the crane paintings.   She cried, “Sandhill cranes!  I hate those birds!  They land on my car and leave claw marks.  They shit all over my lawn, and they tear up golf courses and they’re a nuisance down at the docks where we keep our boat.  If it were up to me I’d shoot every last one of them!”  She stormed out of the tent convinced that Brenda had schemed to paint those birds in order to personally insult her.

Brenda’s tent and the tents of several other good painters were mostly empty that night.  But down the row from Brenda’s booth were a man and a woman doing brisk business.  They had figured out that a fair number of budding alcoholics in Orlando were sentimental about booze and dogs, and had brilliantly decided to combine the two subjects into improbable but popular images. When a patron walked up they asked, “What’s your favorite dog?”  Then, “What’s your favorite drink?”  Then they would use a laptop and an inkjet printer to run off an image of a miniature dog curled up inside a drinking glass (a chihuahua in a martini glass or a beagle in a wine goblet) and would charge $25 for the print.

I once comforted a student who was upset that one of his paintings wasn’t selected for a show.  I told him that he would get along fine in the art world as long as he accepted the following adage:  In art there is no god, and in art there is no justice.

 

 

The Chihuahuas Must Die: Rental House Blues

When we bought our home on the outskirts of Winter Park we didn’t mind that the house next door was a rental unit. It looked a bit run down, but not as bad as the worst examples in our old neighborhood in Orange County. And we had rented houses for nearly all of our married life and had been responsible about the upkeep of the properties. My wife and I had no fear of being tormented by the folks next door. We were lulled further into a state of complacency when the first three families beside us turned out to be friendly, reasonable people.

The first sign of trouble came when a couple moved in with a beagle named Copper. Copper was an aggressive, territorial dog who charged the fence separating our two back yards. He never accepted us as natural inhabitants of his environment, and saw us as invaders hovering on the edge of the land that he had sworn to protect. Sometimes he dug his way into our back yard and would bark and charges at us when we went to open the side gate. He apparently believed that he had a right to defend any piece of property in which he currently found himself enclosed.

We moved to Gainesville for Judy’s first sabbatical after earning tenure, and when we got back we discovered that three young men lived next door. One came over soon after we unpacked the last box, and he showed us his two Dobermans. He said that they were really friendly, but that was hard to believe when I saw the predatory look in their eyes. Our neighbor also gave us his phone number and told us to call if he and his housemates ever played music too loudly or if a party woke us up at night. He was more than willing to personally address our concerns, and there would never be any need for us to call the police.

We discovered about a year later that the police were interested in our neighbor without receiving any complaints from us. My son looked out his bedroom window one morning and saw men wearing black hoods in the rental’s back yard. They had guns drawn. Alan reported the news to us, and I yelled, “Get down!” I heard a loud bang just as I entered his room and saw white smoke billowing out of the French door of the neighbor’s house. Two hooded men charged inside.

I didn’t call the police. There were officers in the front yard and more men in black hoods. When I looked closely at their jackets I saw the initials, DEA, on their chests. A half hour later I walked down to my mail box to deposit a letter, and startled one of the officers in the rental’s front yard when I opened the squeaky lid. His hand went to his gun and he stared me down. When I backed my car out a few minutes later to take Alan to school the same officer reacted the same way when the brakes squeaked at the bottom of my driveway. I began to wonder if the police expected an imminent shoot out.

When I returned I saw them handcuff the young man who had befriended us and stuff him into a patrol car. We found out that he had been involved in a grow house operation, though the rental house hadn’t been the actual site of illegal, agricultural pursuits.

We began to miss the druggy Doberman guy a few months after a fresh set of tenants moved in. A young couple and their disabled boy were our new neighbors. When Judy said “hello” to the mother and began a conversation, the father stepped out of the back door and yelled, “No! Stop that. Get away from there.” His wife obediently turned on her heel and left Judy standing there.

They mostly pretended that we didn’t exist if we encountered them at the mailboxes by the road or in the adjacent driveways. I was content to ignore them, but had to engage with them several times when the father’s brother moved in. The young man liked to do yard work while playing rap at high decibels. I went over several times to ask him to turn it down, and at first he complied. He figured out eventually that I had no plans to assault him and grew more and more reluctant to do the decent thing. Sometimes he left the boom box on after having gone to meet up with friends.

I called the police and made a complaint two months after the two brothers installed a pool table in their carport. Judy was awakened night after night at three or four in the morning by the crack of pool balls and the loud, obscene conversations held by the men. I listened in once and discovered that human beings could construct sentences that included a noun, adjective, adverb, and verb all built around the root word of “fuck”.

The younger brother moved on shortly after a police officer gave the two brothers a chat about being responsible neighbors. Silence, intensely hostile silence, reigned once again between the two households. But a few months later The Chihuahua Scourge began.

Our neighbors owned two female Chihuahuas that occasionally barked at us when we worked in our back yard. One day the father brought over a stud, a male Chihuahua with a jaunty bandanna tied around its neck. He mounted the compliant bitches, and a few months later the two dogs pupped. The tiny, newborn, bug-eyed creatures looked cute until they grew up to the point where their ears stretched long and pointy and their barks got loud enough to be piercing. After that they became very aware of their environment and yipped at butterflies, crickets, airplanes passing high overhead and phantom intruders that only they could see. We began to close the blinds when we discovered that they could spy us within our bedrooms and would consequently yip whenever we came into view. Our backyard became a forbidden zone: the high pitched barks of a chorus of seven Chihuahuas were devastating to both the eardrums and nervous system.

I hired a man to enclose my carport and turn it into a studio after my last workshop closed down. We needed a place to store the garden equipment, bicycles and mower, and I paid a local company to put up a shed in my back yard. Two lean, muscular men went to work sawing, hammering and using a nail gun to erect a wood frame shed. They worked at a high pace, and when they finished after a couple hours I approached them with checkbook in hand. One of the men was covered in sweat and his chest heaved as he struggled to catch his breath. I asked them why they had driven themselves at such a furious pace. They told me that the seven Chihuahuas had pestered them the whole time that they had been working. Three took up a position across the fence and near to where the men worked, and they barked and yipped. When they grew tired a second shift of dogs took their place near the fence and renewed the harassment with fresh vigor.

The man with the heaving chest held on tight to a nail gun, and I could see him flexing the muscles in his forearm. He looked over his shoulder at the Chihuahuas who still tormented him with their barking, and he grimly said, “I want to kill those little motherfuckers.”

A month or two later our hostile neighbors sold the five pups and used the cash for a down payment on a house further north. As they pulled out of their driveway one last time I was glad that they and their two remaining dogs were gone for good, but I pitied their new neighbors.

We visited Bill and Carmen after the Chihuahua people left. They were an elderly couple who lived on the other side of the rental house and had suffered torments similar to ours. We compared notes about how many exterminators had visited the rental during a massive clean up operation, and speculated that the house must have been crawling with fleas while all those dogs were in residence. Bill shook his head and said, “I can’t believe that they were here for seven years. Seven years!” I answered, “Seven Chihuahuas!”

We talked about how it would be nice if the rental management company left the house vacant while it took its time making the repairs, and Judy related her dream of buying the property, razing the house and turning the lot into a garden. But I just hoped that the next tenants would not surprise us with something worse.

Annie Baby (V): Crows, Planes, Socks and a Bible Verse

annie baby backpack

When Annie was a few months old I began to carry her around in a back pack. I would take her outside for a walk in the neighborhood, a suburban plat of one story brick houses, or farther afield to the Penn State farm that abutted the houses on the northern most street of our development. We would walk through a small wood and come out into open spaces that were mostly corn fields. I would point out birds and rabbits and squirrels to her, and she wiggled when she got excited by something. Sometimes we found cows behind a fence in a side field tucked away in the corner of the wood, and I mooed at them to try to get them to come near.

One day we saw crows on the ground in front of us in a harvested corn field. I decided to sneak up on the birds, but a sentinel crow in the top of a pine tree fifty yards away cawed a warning every time we got near. Our target would fly off and settle twenty feet further on. We stalked several birds, but to no avail. I decided to walk toward the sentinel. I waved my arms and cawed at it, and it decided that the jig was up. The sentinel and the rest of the flock took off from their perches in a fluttering black wave climbing upward into the sky, wheeled in formation and flew far away.

The seasons changed to fall and winter, and sometimes we went out on walks even when it snowed as long as the temperature wasn’t too bitter or the wind too blustery. Sometimes Annie would tire out quickly and I would feel her head slump forward until it rested on the back of mine. Then I could feel her softly breathing on my neck. I would immediately head back home and carefully extricate her from the back pack while sitting on my bed. She usually stayed sound asleep, and I would lay her in her crib still wearing her pink, furry snow suit.

One day as we were passing through a park we encountered a woman walking her dog. The dog jumped, strain at its leash and barked at us. The middle aged lady shushed her German shepherd mix and apologized for the commotion, but added as she pulled it away from us, “He’s never seen a two headed person before.” I didn’t know what she meant at first, but eventually figured out that Annie had leaned forward and peeped when she first saw the dog. It must have looked like her head had erupted out of my shoulder.

I played games with her during the day when she was in a happy mood. I would lay her on my bed on her back, and circle around the room with my arms stretched out as I pretended to be an airplane. I would suddenly halt and stare down at her. I would make a few tentative dives toward her while making an engine sound (“rrrrrrrr”). She would start wiggling her arms and legs in anticipation, and then I would roar toward her at full throttle and make my attack run. I would pretend to dive at her, but swerved to one side at the last moment and landed on the bed beside her. She would bounce up and down for a second or two and look confused and excited.

I used the laundry to entertain her too. I would lay her down on the bed beside a basket of clean laundry. I would start out by dropping a sock down on top of her. She would bat it away with her feet while it was in mid air. Then two socks were dropped. She would dispose of them in the same way. Then I would bomb her with a clump of socks. Bat, bat, bat! Finally I would take the rest of the basket and dump half a load of whites down on top of her until she was partially covered. She would fight her way out by batting, swatting and thrashing, and would emerge with bright eyes and an eager look on her face.

annie baby crib

She always cried when she woke up from a nap, but would be happy and eager to see me once I showed up in her doorway. When she got strong enough to pull herself up, she would be standing at the bars of her crib when I came into the room. She began to make noises early on, and her first word was “Ma”. She would chirp, “Ma, ma, ma, ma,” at me when I greeted her. I would bend down and say to her in a mock-fierce voice, “I’m not your mother!” She would giggle and run away from me to the other side of the crib. Sometimes I would add, “Sharper, sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child!” while wiggling a crooked finger at her.

She found her first Bible lesson hilarious, and didn’t take the meaning of the verse seriously at all. I crossed “theologian” off my list of probable careers for Annie.

Outings in the Country with Father.

Outings in the Country with Father.  Acrylic on canvas, 16×20″.

Text panel:  Outings in the country with father were always an adventure.  He explained the mysteries of nature to me, and I got to meet woodland creatures and father’s rustic friends.  One day we say Trapper Bob and his dogs, Patsy and Fred.  They were playing with a bear.

Text panel:  Mother stayed home and gave French lessons to Luann and Marta, our maids…Father said that French is bad.

Bear speech bubble:  “Et tu Bob?”

Dog speech bubble:  “Sic semper tyrannis”

Father’s speech bubble:  “Bear”

Sammi’s in Love

Sammi was a 9 lbs. rat terrier of great cleverness and sometimes inopportune ferocity.  She never met a dog that she thought she couldn’t defeat, and only learned dog by dog which were the masters of her and which were subordinate.  She had high cocked, pointy ears until a 50 lbs. golden retriever named Pippi took offense when Sammit urinated on a spot that Pippi had just marked.  I had to pull Pippi’s jaws open while my wife pried Sammi’s head out.  She emerged with a bleeding laceration one inch above and behind her right eye, a permanently bent ear, and the concrete knowledge that she owed subservience to Pippi.  Sammi kept her urine in her bladder henceforth whenever she trod the grass in Pippi’s yard.

Sammi also had trouble judging the importance of size in matters of love.  She remained pupless because of this inability as she was consistently impractical when selecting potential mates.  She scorned the advances of males her size and doted on dogs that dwarfed her when they trotted side by side.  Sammi would have needed a step ladder to sniff the butt of the Dalmatian to whom she finally agreed to surrender her virginity.

We met Sammi when my wife, our children and I moved to Orlando in 1991.  We rented a tiny one story house with two bedrooms, one bath and a Florida room in a neighborhood called Azalea Park.  A.P. was a trendy location in the mid 60s when it was built, but was in a state of steady decline by the time we settled there.  Many of the houses had a run down appearance; some yards had cars resting on their rims on cinder blocks poking up out of knee high weeds; the street lights on some streets were shattered; many carports were stacked high with belongings bundled up in black, plastic, trash bags; some houses had bars on the windows, and many kept their blinds and curtains perpetually shut (I began to wonder if mole people were hiding from the bright Florida sun inside these homes.).

Sammi fit in with the ambiance of her surroundings.  She was a trash can dog who pilfered and begged for scraps of food.  She roamed far and wide in search of opportunities to feed.  We got acquainted on a hot day in September when we pulled into our driveway and found her reclining at her leisure on our doormat.  She was gnawing on a pork chop bone and growled at us when we came near. I believe that she thought that we had come to take her treasure away.

I’m not sure how we ended up getting owned by her. We found out later that our next door neighbor had title to her, but had neglected her once their first child was born.  Sammi, a dog bred to sit on laps and cushioned seats, was exiled to a sandy, fenced in back yard.  She eventually figured out how to tunnel her way out of confinement, and began to live her life as a dog of chance and opportunity.  After she figured out that we would never rob her of her pork chop bones and chicken gristle, she started to hang around our carport more and more.  She used it as a rest stop between her foraging campaigns, and I eventually succumbed to temptation and put out bowls of water for her.  We reached a point of no return when I began to pet her and laid an old rug out for her near the washing machine.

Sometime in February or March Sammi began to go into heat.  She attracted the attention of several suitors from the neighborhood, but took her time in making a final selection.  The first poor slob to make a bid for her affection was a scruffy, little, white poodle.  He hung around with his tongue hanging out and his eyes wide and bright with feverish hope.  Sammi occasionally allowed him to sniff her nether parts, but mostly subjected him to her attitude of studied indifference.  His owner may have found him, or perhaps he finally slunk away in humiliation, but after the fourth day we saw him no more.

The second suitor was a mutt of German shepherd/border collie/hound dog heritage.  He was more aggressive and carried the air of a ne’er do well, a cad, a bounder.  His campaign consisted of two distinct phases:  a blunt, frontal attack followed by an attempt to win her with gifts.  Sammi woke me up in the middle of the night when the rake first sprang at her.  She barked beneath my window and dashed away with her tormentor in hot pursuit.  When I stepped out onto our carport to intervene she was running in circles and figure eights around our lawn mower, a stack of crates, and the baby stroller. The rake was gaining on her, but paused when he saw me looming out of the darkness.  I scooped up Sammi and put her in an open box on top of the washing machine.  She slept the rest of the night content in the knowledge that she was safe from his lecherous intentions.  The cur glared at me with hate and frustration before he slowly made his exit.

The next day he reappeared with a different approach and attitude.  He came dragging a doormat in his jaws.  He left it in the shade of a tall hedge near the carport and calmly waited for his offering to be acknowledged.  Sammi diffidently accepted his gift but gave him no satisfaction.  He continued to patiently bring her doormats for the next few days and nights, but it was to no avail.  She understood that his presents did not disguise the fact that he was no gentleman.  One evening after dark we heard a clanking sound in our driveway.  The rake had returned with yet another mat, but someone had tied tin cans to it.  An old man with a flash light slowly trudged after the dog into our yard and asked me whether I owned the mutt who kept stealing his doormats.  He had grown tired of replacing them and had devised a plan to follow the culprit back to his base of operations.  I told him that neither the thief nor the object of his affection belonged to me, and that his stolen mats were being used to win Sammi’s favor.  He laughed and shook his head, and then trudged back home with a stack of doormats under his arm.  The second suitor gave up at that point.  We never saw him again.

The third suitor was a Dalmatian named Bandit.  He lived three blocks away, and he and Sammi met when she followed me down the street  one day when I took my children out for their daily ride in the stroller.  It was love at first sight.  Bandit sniffed and savored her pheromones, and licked her back until it was soaked.  Sammi responded with tender, melting looks of trust and affection.  Their love produced no issue, however, as the two could never make a true connection.  Bandit’s shoulder stood three feet off the ground, whereas Sammi’s only reached a height of ten inches. When the time came for them to consummate their mutual passion Sammi bent down on her forepaws and tilted her butt up in the air.  Bandit responded by crouching down behind her and waggling his hips and aroused doghood in the general direction of her lady bits.  They never came closer than a foot to making contact, and Sammi looked back over her shoulder at her would be lover as if to say, “Is that all there is?”

Although their physical desires were frustrated by a gap between them that could not be closed, they continued to show each other love and affection.  Sammi’s hormone levels returned to less provocative levels soon after their failed attempt, but Bandit licked her back whenever they met.  Sammi still looked at him with adoration and seemed very content with his company.  I am convinced that he was the true love of her life, and even though she dallied with many another dog, she showed none of them the regard she gave to Bandit.