I’ll be talking a lot about them, because it’s what I do. I’m one of those people who has pets instead of kids, so instead of hundreds of photos of babies doing cute things, I have hundreds of photos of pets doing cute things. So it’s probably a good idea to introduce my puppies right about now.
The above picture was taken while they were hanging out at last year’s 4th of July parade in downtown Mount Dora. They love going to the parade because (1) it’s a great long walk, and walks are awesome; (2) they get to hang out at Piglet’s Pantry and get some cookies (their backpacks are so they can carry home their loot); and (3) getting all dressed up gets them attention and petting, and being told what pretty dogs they are. They love that. Especially Sarah.
We’re very committed to animal rescue, so all of our pets are strays or pets who needed new loving homes. In other words, we apparently have an invisible sign in our yard that says “SUCKERS LIVE HERE.”
Sarah is a chow-lab mix. We found her when she was a puppy and we were living in our cruddy little apartment in Orlando. She was a scared ball of black fuzz hiding behind our air conditioner unit on our second-floor balcony. We called her a pot-luck dog because we had no idea how big she was going to get. Now, at the age of nine and a half, she’s the matriarch of the family. She still loves walks, but gets tired a little more easily, and her joints are getting a little creaky. She loves wearing her fancy party collars and going to events though, because people tell her how pretty she is and she loves that.
She’s sort of the unofficial boss of things. Gambit and Kasha bark like spazzes if a leaf falls off a tree outside, but if it’s worth it for Sarah to get up and bark, there’s definitely Something Up.
Her hobbies include drinking water, taking naps, and being told how pretty she is.
Gambit is a cattle dog mix of some kind. Maybe border collie, but his usually bow-legged stance looks more like a cattle dog to me. He showed up in our lives about five years ago as an adolescent puppy who had wandered from home to home, finally ending up in the backyard of a co-worker who couldn’t keep him. Because of his little black mask, we wanted to give him a thief-type name – Bandit, Zorro, etc. I’m an X-Men fan, so Gambit was a natural choice.
He is the Head of the Household. If he could get a job, he would. He’s a herding dog. Oh my is he a herding dog. He herds the other dogs. He herds the cats. He herds us. He herded the iguana when we had one. He doesn’t like disorder, or anything involving fun. He breaks up wrestling matches at the dog park. Those kids on bikes out there in the street, riding around all willy-nilly? No structure at all, they must be barked at. My husband and I hugging in the kitchen? Looks suspiciously like wrestling, and must be stopped. For all his bluster and bossiness, he is also a Mama’s boy and needs daily cuddle time.
His hobbies include making sure everything is ship-shape. That’s about it. No time for relaxing!
Kasha was a very special case. She came to us with severe abandonment issues. A big dog who thinks she’s roughly Chihuahua-sized, she doesn’t understand that playful growls over a stuffed animal make her sound like Cujo about to tear out your throat. A friend of mine rescued her from a family member moving out of state who “couldn’t keep her.” (A pet peeve of mine, don’t get me started.) My friend spent a good few months trying to place her into a loving home, and every attempt found Kasha being returned for one reason or another, mostly because she was “aggressive.” Of course, all the abandonment only made it worse: when she got to us she had severe trust issues. We would get snapped at if we tried to clean her ears. It’s taken a lot of work (with help from Gambit), but now, three years later, she’s a love of a dog. She still has moments, and will occasionally swipe something and guard it like a dragon on a mountain of gold (see photo of her with her precious hamburger roll). But she pretty much knows if she sticks with Gambit she will be fine.
We usually tell people we have three and a half dogs. Here’s dog # 3.5:
Wash is a tiny, tiny cat. The runt of the litter, he’s roughly the size of an adolescent kitten, even though he’s about 4 years old. Being raised in a house full of dogs, he’s pretty fearless when it comes to them, and is actually pretty convinced that he’s a dog himself.
His hobbies include eating, exploring the great outdoors, and teasing the dogs.
When we moved to Mount Dora, we used to joke that we really bought a yard for the pets that happened to have a house attached for us to live in. It wasn’t far from the truth. We live pretty far away from traffic, so we can let the cat roam with a minimum of worry. We’re a relatively short walk from the lake, so it’s not uncommon on a weekend evening to leash up the puppies and walk down to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. And this is such a dog-friendly town – they’re always greeted when they come walking down Donnelly Street with their little backpacks on. If only we could take advantage of the dog-friendliness of some of the local restaurants – but I think trying to eat while keeping rein on three pretty big dogs would be pretty miserable for everyone involved. So we take them out for walks to socialize them, then go out on our own later. Good thing we live close enough to downtown that we don’t mind two trips!