I started to write stories about the animals so that I could preserve some of the memories that we had of them, and their antics. I focused on the ones we had at the time, Inja, Kodey, Jasmine and Nana who certainly gave me plenty of material for stories.
After Jazzy died I couldn't bring myself to write anymore - the memories were too painful. Enough time has passed, so now I want to be able to start up again - for sure Dodger alone gave me material for a lot of stories. Let's see where this goes.
The material I'll start with is from "What the Deaf Dawg Heard", a collection I wrote and gave to Penney for Christmas, 2006.
|What the Deaf Dawg Heard||Jasmine||2006||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Grandpa||Kodey||2007||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|The Fence||Jasmine, Nana||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Houdini||Inja||1996||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Nana Talks||Nana||2003||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|The Gumball Machine||Inja||1987||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Sand Crabs||Jasmine, Kodey||2002||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|The Guardian||Kodey||1989||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Auntie Jen||Nana||2006||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|The Piper||Inja, Kodey||1988||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Nana's Toys||Nana||2004||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Fame||Inja, Kodey, Poncho, Jonathan, Jennifer||1990||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Locked Out||Inja, Kodey||1987||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Bundles of Fluff||Kodey, Inja||1987||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|The Weather Channel||Inja||1996||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Redecorating||Inja||1985||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Feeding Time||Kodey||1989||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|Circle of Friends||Friends||2006||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|The Bunt Pan||Jasmine||1992||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
|And in the end||Inja, Kodey, Jasmine||1984-1997||What the Deaf Dawg Heard|
Jasmine is deaf. She’s been that way for a couple of years now, and we’ve all become accustomed to it. Initially, it certainly caused problems. Jaz couldn’t understand why everyone kept creeping up and startling her and her reaction was to turn and snap. The problem was that she slept right beside Penney’s side of the bed. In the mornings, I get dressed to go to work and when I’m ready to leave, Penney pops out of bed to give me a hug. Unfortunately, she didn’t always look to make sure where Jaz was sleeping, and would sometime brush against a paw. Jaz would snap, occasionally making contact, typically with Penney’s foot. It was seldom strong enough to break the skin, but certainly enough to provide a shot of “wake up” adrenalin. Nana is convinced that Jazzy's full name is "Dammit Jasmine!"
Fortunately, both Penney and Jasmine are getting used to Jasmine’s deafness, and the snapping is, mostly, a thing of the past.
Jasmine can hear certain things. Sometimes, clapping is something that will get her attention. Normal voices will not, particularly those telling her to come in. A dawg that is barking, two miles away, will be a great communication partner, particularly at night, yet she can’t hear Nana telling her that breakfast is ready from 10 feet away.
Jasmine has always been attracted to lights. If you wanted to get her attention, all you would have to do is shine a flashlight on the floor, or ground, someplace near her, and she would chase it. It was an easy way to make sure that she got exercise; you could just sit in a chair on the deck and play a flashlight around the back yard. Jasmine would have the time of her life trying to catch it. With Jasmine now being deaf, it is a great way to get her back inside at night. We just get her attention with the light and 'lead' her back into the house. Unfortunately, that only works at night.
Being deaf, Jasmine typically sleeps through any type of ruckus, so it caught us off guard when, one night, she popped up from a sound sleep, rushed to the front door, barking and growling. Penney and I went over to find out what was wrong. It was very dark out, and we really couldn't see anything. Jasmine was in her best guard dawg mode, growling, barking, and clawing at the screen door. I went out to see what the problem was but found nothing. I put Jasmine's leash on and took her out to show her that everything was fine. She sniffed around, then reluctantly followed me back inside. Jasmine wasn't completely convinced, but settled down in the hallway, facing the door, and went to sleep. A few minutes later, Penney and I heard Jasmine start up again; at the door, barking and growling. I went out, once again, searched all over, but couldn't hear, or see, anything. I repeated the exercise of bringing Jasmine out and taking her around to show her that there was nothing out there.
Half an hour after bringing Jasmine back inside, she was back at it. After a few minutes of standing with her trying to keep her quiet, and trying to listen to what could have caused Jasmine to get into such an agitated state, Penney looked at me and said "It's the bushes!" Sure enough, when we really looked at it, there was a slight breeze playing across the bushes along the front pathway. This was causing the bushes to move in front of the lights we have along the path. The lights were, effectively, flashing, and this was making Jasmine very anxious. I took her out and moved the branches out of the way so the lights stopped flashing. Jasmine watched me do this, then aggressively barked at the light and trotted inside, head held high, content that she had scared the lights into behaving.
And we never had this problem again.
From the time he was about 60, my father was non-too-steady on his feet. As he grew older, he suffered from deafness, and the problems with his inner ear made it difficult to keep his balance, so from the time that Inga first met him, he had walked with a cane. Whenever they would come to visit, Inga and Kodey would jump right up on Grandma, as soon as she got out of the car, then walk over and stand beside Grandpa, waiting to be petted. How they knew they shouldn't jump up on him, I don’t know, but they never put Grandpa in a position where he would feel threatened by them.
One of the things that my father loved to do was to take a nap. Kodey, who also appreciated a good nap, quickly bonded with him. Kodey was a big dawg; 120 pounds at his largest and when he got on the couch, his favorite napping spot, he would tend to monopolize it. When my father came to visit it was inevitable that, at some point, my father would settle into “Kodey’s couch”, put his feet up, and nod off. Kodey lived for these moments. As soon as my father started snoring, Kodey would climb up beside his Grandpa, snuggle in, and together they would have a good nap.
After we sold our house in Beaconsfield, but before we could move down to the States, Penney spent several days with my folks. Their house was small, the yard smaller. Yet everyone adapted. At night Penney, Inga and Kodey would sleep in my old room, the door closed to prevent the dawgs from wandering through the house. In the mornings, Penney would get up, and the two dawgs would be bouncing by the door, anxious to get downstairs. The dawgs were always anxious to get outside, but this was far beyond their normal reaction. Penney would open the door, and the dawgs would bound down the stairs. Penney, following a couple of minutes later, would find them both sitting next to my father, who was always the first person in the household to get up in the morning. He’d be sitting at the table, drinking coffee, with both dawgs right beside him, behaving very well, in fact, extraordinarily well behaved. He’d be petting them telling them what good dawgs they were. Penney couldn’t figure out what was causing this behavior, the anxiety to get down the stairs, and the “good as gold” behavior once they got there. Then one day she went down at the same time as the dawgs. And there, at the entrance to the kitchen, was my father, a bag of marshmallows in hand. He had been feeding them marshmallows every morning since Penney got there! My father had mastered behavioral science with dawgs!
And whenever the dawgs saw him again, my father always seemed to find some marshmallows for them. When he thought Penney and I weren’t looking, he’d open a bag and slip them a couple.
My father passed away in 1997. We didn’t give the dawgs marshmallows after that. It wasn’t just that they were bad for the dawgs (anything that tastes that good must be bad), but they were his treat. It didn’t seem right for us to continue something that was patently my father's.
Six years later, Kodey left us. He had a disease called degenerative myelopathy, and over the period of two years, started to lose control of his hind quarters. Through all of this, Kodey fought on. Towards the end, he could only walk with someone holding up his rear with a special harness, but oh, how he enjoyed those walks. Penney would sit with him every night, his head in her lap, his eyes watching her. He clearly did not want to die, and Penney knew that Kodey would let her know when it was the right time.
Late in the evening of April 22nd, just a few days shy of his 16th birthday, an age almost unheard of for a dawg his size, Kodey scarfed down his dinner and had a cookie for desert. Then he rolled over, gave Penney, his soul mate, a long look and closed his eyes for the last time.
In the morning, we took Kodey to the crematorium. The day was dull and overcast, mirroring how we felt. We did the requisite paperwork, and left, knowing that Kodey would always be part of our memories, never really leaving us. As we drove home, the sky miraculously cleared up, and there were big fluffy cumulous clouds in the sky. The image was unmistakable, and we looked at each other and simultaneously said “Grandpa”. We knew that this was Kodey, telling us that everything was all right, and that Grandpa had been waiting for him, with a big bag of marshmallows in his hand.
We moved into the house in Blacklick in mid November, 2002. The first year was quite overwhelming for us; there was just a lot of work to do, and it wasn't until the spring of 2004 that we seriously started to think about putting up a fence. We have had fenced yards at previous homes, both in Atlanta and in Powell, and it made both us and the dawgs happy; we weren't concerned about them running free and they weren't tied to leashes that tended to get tangled up.
The challenge of adding a fence was the size. We would be fencing in about 1 ¼ acre. Fortunately, from an aesthetic perspective, most of this was through brush, so we could use wire fencing. I had talked to the owner of BarkPark, a 10 acre dawg playground, and they were able to give me some good ideas on how to get the fence tight enough that the dawgs couldn't slip underneath, so armed with that information, a post hole digger, a bunch of 4x4 posts, wire, shovels, rakes and implements of destruction, I started off.
The first challenge had nothing to do with the fence, but a lot to do with how I could get things done. Our yard, and the woods surrounding it, is rampant with poison ivy. That added a complexity. I'm allergic to the point that I itch a lot, but Penney will actually break out in blisters and that ruled out any help from her. That was also going to be a factor once the fence was finished; the dawgs would start to wander more, pick up the oil from the ivy on their coats and transfer it to Penney, who would break out in blisters. Since poison ivy is at its worst at the peak of the wedding season, we were worried that Penney would be going to weddings dressed like "The Mummy", with a sign on her back saying "I'm not contagious … honest!" The poison ivy also meant I had to be selective about who could help. We had one friend who had to back out after 1 day because he was covered with blisters.
I dug holes, stretched wire and pounded in tension poles, sometimes with friends helping, often alone. It was hard work, but pleasant enough. I'd often be working at the back and would look up to see a deer watching me from the woods. Or I could take a break and lay down on the grass and watch hawks floating in the air currents above the yard.
The last piece I had to do was the ornamental fence at the front; the one Penney's customers would see every day. This would take a bit more effort. Whereas the spacing of the posts for the back part wasn't critical, the prefabricated fence required them every 8 feet, plus or minus 1 inch. Not a lot of leeway and it took me several days to complete. I had just put up the last piece, and was doing the finishing touches, when Penney came out and asked if it was OK for the dawgs to go loose. This would be their first 'free' exposure to the yard. Penney let them loose, and the dawgs started to explore. Penney and I sat back for a few minutes and watched them enjoy themselves, then Penney went back inside, and I went back to finishing up. I was working outside the fence, cleaning mud off some of the posts, when Jasmine came up and gave me a big "Thank You" slurp on the side of the face. I gave her a scrootch behind the ears, turned back to the fence, and then it hit me. Jasmine was with me … outside the fence! We never figured it out. That's the only time - that we are aware of - that she has gotten out of the yard without our help.
Penney and I have often talked about how much Inga and Kodey would have liked the yard. It's big and open, lots of places to explore, lots of sunlight, yet lots of shade. Both would have been in their glory. There are times that I think that it was Inga, escape artist extraordinaire, that came back and showed Jasmine how to get out, that one time.
Nana has now taken on the responsibility of ensuring that 'her' yard is kept free from intruders. Twice a day, morning and night, she patrols the yard, always walking the same path, often enough that it is, indeed, a worn-down path. She does this job well and takes pride in her work. The day that she chased a couple of deer away (they were actually outside the fence, but they could have come in!) she came back to tell me about it and was actually strutting as she came across the yard. She tends to leave the birds for Jasmine to deal with, while she concentrates on the bigger things.
One of her favorites is airplanes. As soon as one of them crosses our property, at 30,000 feet, Nana runs after it, barking furiously, and makes sure that she chases it off.
So far, she has a 100% success rate.
It is a piece of recorded history that Harry Houdini died in 1926. Late in his life, Houdini spent a lot of energy debunking false spiritualists, but he was, himself, a believer in reincarnation
If Houdini did come back, it was as Inga.
Inga refused to be locked up. If we tried to do that, she took every opportunity to break free. Often it seemed like it was a game to her. We couldn't tie her to a tree with rope; she would chew and worry one spot on the rope until she got free. We had to use metal wire covered in plastic if we needed to tie her to something for more than a few minutes.
Inga would sometimes lull us into a sense of security, then, when our guard was down, make a break for it. When we were in Beaconsfield, I would let them out loose in the front early on Sunday mornings. There wasn't any traffic, and very few people, so they could do their business and then come in for breakfast. Inga did this for a few weeks, behaving perfectly. She waited until the morning after we had been to a party, and I was clearly not at my best and not wearing shoes. She suddenly took off at a run, barking at Kodey to follow her. Kodey was still very young, so when I yelled at them to stop, he looked at Inga, then back at me, and decided to come back. Inga, on the other hand, was gone. I searched for an hour without finding her, then woke Penney up and we looked for another hour. We came back to the house, thinking that she was gone forever, and there she was, sitting pretty as could be, right in front of the house.
When we received complaints about her barking, we decided to lock her in the basement while we were out. That lasted one day. We came back to find that she had chewed through the bottom if the door, and if we hadn't come back when we did, she would have been out.
When we moved to Atlanta we had a fenced yard. It took us about a month to figure out all the spots that she could get out of and to fix them. We'd find one, fix it, and within an hour she had another.
One night in Atlanta we were hosting a small get-together of 4 or 5 couples. Inga decided we weren't paying her enough attention, went to the kitchen, made a hole in the screen door going out to the garage and slipped through a gap in the latticework that couldn't have been more than 2 ½ inches wide. No one could believe that Inga had managed to get through a hole that small.
In Powell, I built a pen for the dawgs in the basement. After I finished it, Penney came down and said "Won't work." "Why not?" I wanted to know. Penney pointed to a 3 inch gap and said that Inga would be through that in no time. I had spent several evenings building the pen, and wasn't about to believe it would be so easy to get out. Penney brought Inga and Kodey downstairs and put them in the pen. I locked the door, and we headed back upstairs. Inga was waiting for us at the top of the stairs. That started a contest between us. I'd fix a hole, Inga would find another. I'd fix that, and then she'd chew through the boards and get out. I'd fix the boards and make them too thick to chew, and she'd climb up the side and get out. Or sometime, she'd just appear, with no obvious way she could have gotten out.
Finally I conceded defeat. We let the two dawgs have the run of the house while we were out. We figured that we'd put up with the two of them destroying carpets and furniture; it was easier than trying to lock them up.
And from that day on, Inga and Kodey were good as gold, nothing was ever damaged.
Inga had made it clear: she just wanted to be free.
Anyone who has ever met Nana has no doubt that she has a lot to say. Few dawgs bark with the energy, volume and frequency of Nana.
On October 6, 2003, Nana made her debut on the small screen. The NBC Columbus news station, Channel 4, had a local interest segment on the 12:00 (noon) news. On this occasion they were going to interview a local Vet, Dr. Tami Shearer, who was the representative for "Bowlingual", a Japanese developed device that interpreted dog barks. The product was based on sound scientific principles that analyzed the type of bark and the timbre, and with this was able to provide an indication of the mood of a dog, and what the dog was trying to say.
Dr. Shearer was discussing the upcoming television spot with a mutual friend, Peg Kaplan, and said that she was looking for a dog that could bark on cue. Peg immediately thought of Nana. I think Peg tuned out the part of the sentence after ' .. a dog that barks ...". Getting Nana to bark is not the problem, getting her to stop is!
Peg called Penney, and Nana was in show business.
The day of the show did not start off well. Penney put Nana in the car, which typically gets Nana to start barking. Nana sat in the car, not a peep coming out of her, all the way across town to the studio. Penney let Nana out of the car. Silence. She brought her into the studio, introduced her to Dr. Shearer and the show's host. Nothing. Until that day, Nana had never met a new person where she didn't bark at them. Penney was starting to get very nervous, the show was in an hour and it would be done live; there were no chances for retakes. The device had to be calibrated and tested on Nana before then. Penney and Dr. Shearer put the collar on and took Nana outside. Some people walked by, and Nana strained against her leash. She wanted to go see them, and she finally barked. The device interpreted it as "I'm frustrated. You won't let me do what I want". With this result, they were relatively convinced that the Bowlingual device was working. They brought her in, got set up and started the cameras. As soon as the bright lights came on, Nana got pretty excited and obviously wanted to run around and see the studio and the people. She gave out one bark that 'said' "I want to see the world", which loosely interpreted, would be right; she wanted to go explore. The second bark was harder to get out of her, but Penney, off camera, coaxed her and as Dr. Shearer fed her some treats, Nana barked something that translated to: "I'm happy, I want to play". She had a third bark right after that: "Come on, play with me!"
That was it. 4 barks total. Of course, when Penney brought her home, Nana had to tell Jasmine about it. Over and over. Penney couldn't get her to stop barking.
We chalked Bowlingual up to being a novelty, and I didn't think too much more of it, other than to show the clip to some friends. That year, Santa surprised Penney and I with a Bowlingual for Christmas. We tried it on Nana over the next week or so and got a few laughs out of it. We left it in the kitchen because we didn't want to have Nana wear it outside, and also because we felt that we would use a lot of batteries, the way Nana barks.
One night I came home late from work. Nana was barking her head off, so I jokingly asked Penney what Nana was saying. We put the Bowlingual collar back on and Nana didn't say a peep for an hour or so. Penney and I looked at each other, and I spoke the words that were on both our minds: "Whatever this cost, it's worth it to get a bit of peace and quiet." When Nana did start barking, I looked at the translation and it came out to be "I'm frustrated. I don't like you." We were quite perplexed until Penney said "Oh my gosh, it's two hours past their dinner time and I forgot to feed them". Penney went to get their food and Nana barked "I'm frustrated. You have something I want". In an attempt to train Nana to stop barking, Penney makes Nana wait until she is quiet for 15 seconds before she puts the food down. Nana barked "I'm frustrated. I don't like you.", then she was quiet and Penney gave her the food. When she finished eating she barked "I'm happy. Let's play".
So if anyone doesn't believe that these things work...
Several weeks later, we put it on Nana when Peg Kaplan and Dayna Linehan were over for dinner. Peg had brought Nana a stuffed bunny, a great toy for Nana. At one point, Nana was getting too rough with the bunny, so Peg took it away from her. Nana barked, translating to "I don't like you either!" Later, as we were having dinner, Nana was sitting by the side of the table and barked "I'm frustrated. You won't let me have what I want!" I got up from the table and put Nana outside while we finished eating. Nana's parting bark, right after I closed the door was:
"That's not what I wanted!"
In a general sense, dogs are intelligent animals, and as a breed, Samoyeds are in the upper quartile of intelligent breeds. The intelligence typically manifests itself in curiosity; a Samoyed loves nothing more than to explore. They are quick to figure out the relationships between actions and reactions, and will find ways that they can use this to their advantage.
Inga was the most intelligent of all of our dawgs. She always hated it when Penney and I would argue, but she quickly figured out that if she would come up to one of us with the most hang-dog look on her face, pushing herself into our arms or lap, we'd almost always start to smile and laugh, and whatever we'd been arguing about would have lost its importance. Invariably, Inga would walk away with a big Sammy smile on her face.
But we really started to understand the intelligence she had when she figured out how the bubble gum machine worked.
After we moved into our house in Beaconsfield, I got a bubble gum machine. The idea was that any time any children came over, they would be able to have some gum, but generally it was a novelty. People did try it, and Inga quickly figured out that she could capitalize on a flaw in the machine. Frequently, after a coin was fed in and the handle turned, there would be two gumballs that would come out. The second one would often hit the first and knock it, often on to the floor. Inga would wait by the machine when someone was putting money in, and quickly grab any piece of gum that hit the floor.
We weren't sure that it was good for her but it was obvious that Inga loved bubble gum. If Penney or I were standing by the machine, Inga would come up to us and nudge us, her intent obvious, until we'd give in and give her a piece.
Then Inga put the final piece into place. Penney and I were sitting on the couch watching a movie, when Inga came up to us, then got quite excited and started to run back and forth between our coffee table and the gumball machine. We looked at her, unsure of what she wanted, when Penney looked at the coffee table and noticed some change that was sitting there. Penney looked at me and said "No, it can't be!" But it was. Inga had made the connection between the loose change and the coin required to get apiece of gum.
We used one of the coins, got a piece of gum, and gave it to Inga. She was happy and we learned two important lessons: one was that Inga was a very intelligent dawg and the second was that we could never leave change lying around.
In 2001 and 2002 I spent a lot of time overseas. My company had a project in Australia that was not going well, and I was tapped to see if it could be salvaged. I ended up spending about 8 months shuttling back and forth between the U.S., Norway and Australia.
On my first trip there, I had flown from Columbus to Melbourne, worked through the day, had dinner and was in bed early. I woke up around 2:00 A.M., looked at my phone and noticed that I had 6 messages. I listened to the first, Penney's voice saying "I know you're ok, and I wanted you to know that we are too. I just needed to hear your voice." For the rest of my life I will remember the words and tone of that message. In the United States, that was the morning of September 11, 2001.
I worked on this project until April, 2002, then immediately jumped to another back in the U.S. By July, I was ready for a vacation.
Penney did some research, and we decided to spend a couple of weeks in Florida, figuring that nobody would be down there in mid July. We packed Kodey and Jasmine into a minivan and we headed out.
Traveling with Jasmine is always entertaining. Jasmine has always been attracted to flashing lights. She loves nothing more than to chase a flashlight beam around the yard at night. Unfortunately, while in a car on the highway, there are many sources of flashing lights; trucks going by, the sun through bushes, turn signals on the car ahead of us. Jasmine wanted to chase them all. We would be driving along in silence, and then out of the blue, Jasmine would be barking and clawing, Normally right behind the driver, trying to get at the light. All of this makes for eventful driving … there were never concerns about falling asleep.
We stopped after 10 hours or so in the car, and the next day we drove to Tallahassee, then to the beach house on Alligator Point on the Gulf of Mexico, and were there shortly after noon. There we realized our first challenge. Kodey had trouble getting up and down stairs, and the beach houses on the Gulf Coast are all raised, so we would have a flight of stairs each time we went in or out.
We had a great two weeks there. The beaches in Florida are deserted in July. It wasn't a problem to let Kodey out without a leash; he didn't move that fast, but Jasmine could, and did. Fortunately we were the only people on this section of beach. A lady would walk by with her dawg early in the mornings, but after that we never saw anyone. Penney and I would sit by the water, Kodey would sprawl out on a beach towel beside us and Jasmine would run back and forth, in and out of the water. On the beach, she discovered sand crabs, and would chase them back into their holes, occasionally catching them. Penney didn't like it when Jaz caught one, but it wasn't all that often, and Jasmine was having a great time.
The only thing that went wrong in the two weeks was when we took the dawgs in to be groomed. Penney wanted Kodey to keep up on his acupuncture, a treatment for his degenerative myelopathy, while we were gone and had found a place in Tallahassee that would do it. While we were going in to town, we decided to get the dawgs groomed; thinking that a bit less fur might make them more comfortable. We went to a groomer, explained Kodey's condition, and how he just needed a bit of help to get up, and then he would be alright. We left them our mobile phone numbers and instructions to call us if anything went wrong. We went and had some lunch, then went back to pick them up. Kodey had been left in a small cage, was lying down and had soiled himself. He had a big scrape on one of his shoulders. The groomer said that they weren't able to get him to come out and they had tried "everything". Everything except what we had told them; he just needed help getting up. Penney and I were livid as we got Kodey out of the cage and into the van.
Then we were exposed to the opposite side of human nature. We got to the acupuncturist and explained what had just happened. He called his staff together and they gave Kodey a warm bath, cleaned him up and cuddled him, while others played with Jasmine so she wouldn't feel left out. Kodey had his acupuncture session and we went back to the beach.
The days were all too short, but we all had a great time. Kodey didn't like the heat, so he would only stay for a short time. One day he had enough, and felt that we were taking too long, so he headed up the path to the house by himself. Unfortunately he didn't have the right house, and with Penney and I laughing, I went chasing after him. I caught up to Kodey as he got to the end of the path, and saw the house. The expression on his face was clear: "Hey, this isn't the right place!" Then he turned around and marched back to the beach, then looked at me and barked, seemingly saying "OK wise guy, stop laughing and take me home!" Which we did.
Kodey wasn't able to run, and he would get quite jealous of Jasmine and I when I'd take her for a run down the beach. He wanted so badly to join us, and on several occasions, normally late in the day after it started to get cooler, the four of us would go for a long walk along the beach. It took us a while; Kodey would get tired, so we'd let him sit down and rest, then we'd go on. It was hard work for Kodey, but the smile on his face made it all worthwhile.
Kodey would always watch Jasmine when she was chasing the sand crabs, and one day decided to see what the excitement was all about. He struggled up, and then followed Jasmine over to where she had chased a crab back into the hole. Jasmine took off to find another one, and Kodey looked down, then turned and looked at Penney and I, with a look on his face of pure puzzlement:
"It's just a hole!"
Kodey was Penney's dawg. He looked after her, and over time he adopted some her mannerisms.
In the latter half of 1989 I was working in Atlanta and traveling extensively, while Penney was still in Montréal. One cold, rainy Friday night in November was one of the infrequent times that I was at home. Penney, who had gone out to run a few errands, burst in through the front door with the words "Don't worry; it's just for the night!"
A cold shiver went down my spine as I heard these words. A large knot started to form in my stomache.
Penney came into the kitchen with a very tiny kitten in her hands. She explained that she had been at the vet and a litter of several day old kittens had been brought in. They had been left to drown in a ditch, but had been discovered and brought in to the vet. Someone had to look after them overnight, until they could go to a proper shelter, so Penney volunteered to take one. She set the kitten down on the floor in the kitchen. The other katz came up, took a look and scampered off, obviously upset that there was another kitten in the house. Inga took one look and hightailed it into the family room.
Kodey watched all of this, finally took a long look at Penney, and plunked himself down on the floor with his big forearms around the kitten. As the kitten tried to crawl away, Kodey would gently nudge it back to a 'safe' place. And that was it for the night. Kodey stayed there, always vigilant, with a look on his face that dared anyone to try to interfere.
In the morning, Penney proved her word was good and took the kitten to a new home with our next-door neighbors, and Kodey, duty done, ate his breakfast and went off for a well deserved nap.
Marc went back to his book on dawg breeds, stuck on the line that said "Samoyeds do not like cats."
We don't know all the details, but we believe that Nana was abused before she came to us. We know that in her last house she was locked up in the basement for most of the day, and we know that we are the fourth family she has been with. When Nana came to us in 2002 she had a lot of emotional baggage. For three years she would not sleep while we were in the room, rather she would lay down and watch us, in case we either got up to do something to her, or to leave her.
Nana also barks. Non-stop at times. This is probably a product of her upbringing and we understand that, but, fair or not, at some point, we have all got tired of her barking, and have yelled at Nana to try to keep quiet.
Except for Auntie Jen.
Jennifer came to work with Penney in 2003, and bonded immediately with Nana, really the only co-worker that Penney has had that genuinely liked Nana.
Jennifer has a daughter, Allison, and Allie occasionally comes to work with Mom when she doesn't have school, and she loves to play outside with the dawgs. Allie and Jasmine get along famously, and it is quite funny to watch Jasmine the morning after a session with Allie. She'll come trotting downstairs, look all over the house and come up to us as if to say "Hey, where's the kid? I want the kid back!"
Auntie Jen has a special relationship with Nana. Nana loves Penney and I but Jennifer is Nana's best friend. Whenever Nana does something to get people upset with her, she knows that she can just go down and see Auntie Jen and everything will be better. Every morning, Nana is the first one down to the office, she needs to find Auntie Jen and tell her everything that happened between the night before and now. They have a great two-way discussion, Nana barking, and Jennifer almost understanding and saying "Really! Tell me more."
It is always funny to watch Nana when something doesn't go the way she wants. She will seek Jen out and let her know that she needs to 'fix' whatever is going wrong. When there is nothing Jennifer can do, Nana will grumble, walk away and sit down, making sure she has a spot where she can watch Jennifer, and wait for the next opportunity to bring this up.
Auntie Jen house-sits for us when we are away and the dawgs tend to be incredibly spoiled when we get back. Part of this is because Jen will bring Allie over, and there is no better treat for the dawgs than an afternoon with Allie. But a large part is that Jennifer loves and understands the dawgs, and treats them well.
Auntie Jen is part of our 'family'; the only person beside Penney and I that Nana trusts and loves.
Jim Dobie lived next door to us in Beaconsfield. Jim was retired, advancing in age, but was far from 'old'. A spry gentleman who never lost his strong Scottish accent, he had the neatest property in the neighborhood. In the summer his lawn was immaculate, in the winter, his driveway was the first cleared after a snowfall.
Jim had been a Piper in the Black Watch, and in the afternoons he would give bagpipe lessons. Bagpipes are not an easy instrument to play, and whenever the students would practice Inga and Kodey would come into the house and try to find someplace to hide.
Jim played the pipes beautifully. At night, when he played for himself, the two dawgs, occasionally with me tagging along, would sit on a little hill in our back yard overlooking Jim's house. They would sit there for hours, completely silent, concentrating on the music emanating from Jim's basement. On the coldest nights, in the dead of winter, we would watch the two white dawgs, sitting on a snow covered hill, heads moving back and forth with the music.
I told Jim about this. Jim wasn't a pet person, and I'm not sure if he just didn't believe me, or if perhaps he was insulted; the thought that his music was fit for 'dawgs' may have offended him.
Every New Years Eve that we were in Beaconsfield, we hosted a neighborhood party, and on one of these occasions, Jim volunteered to "Pipe in the New Year" for us. He brought his pipes in, set up in the kitchen, and proceeded to pace: As soon as the opening notes came out of the pipes, Inga and Kodey made a dash up from the family room towards the kitchen. Jim, not a large man, saw these two big dawgs racing towards him, but to his credit, he did not falter.
And then the magic happened. Inga and Kodey sat down and, sitting perfectly still, followed Jim with their eyes as he marched back and forth. Jim played for ten minutes or so, the dawgs unmoving, other than their heads. When Jim was finished, he put down the pipes, and the two dawgs walked over and nudged him; effectively telling him what a good job he had done.
From that day on, the dawgs could do no wrong. When another neighbor chastised us for something that our dawgs had done, Jim, overhearing, said in his best Scottish brogue "I'll nay hear you speaking poorly about these animals.
And after that, when Jim played at night in his basement, he knew that he was no longer playing for himself. He would sometimes look out and see his two biggest fans, sitting in the snow, attentively listening to every note.
Nana has always been a difficult dawg to get to play. This was a source of frustration to Jasmine, who loves to play, anytime, anywhere. When Nana first came to us, Jasmine started to nip at Nana's back legs, the same method that she had used with Inga and Kodey. Nana responded by baring her teeth and snapping at Jasmine. Fortunately, no major damage was done; the only thing hurt was Jasmine's feelings.
Jasmine loves to play 'tug'. We'll tell her to go get her 'ball', which is the word she associates with play toys, and she will trot over to the toy corner and pick up a rope toy for us to play tug with. Nana watches us, gets all excited, barks loudly, then moves in and disrupts the tug match. She isn't sure if we are hurting Jasmine or more likely, she figured we shouldn't be fighting over a piece of rope.
But Nana does like stuffed toys. She is partial to the ones that have a 'squeaker' in them, and will chew and worry the poor stuffed toy until she gets the squeaker out, then discard the toy. She will pay absolutely no attention to it until you pick it up to throw it out. Then it becomes Nana's once again, and she will gently take it from your hand and sit down and guard it, making sure that you aren't going to take it again.
One day in 2004, Peg Kaplan came over and brought two big stuffed rabbits, one for Jasmine, one for Nana. Nana took hers and trotted over to her toy corner and deposited it, then went back to where Peg and Jasmine were, took Jasmine's bunny from her and brought it back to her corner, sat down and prepared to defend her bunnies from all comers.
At Christmas, each dawg gets some treats, Jasmine gets a new tug toy and Nana gets some stuffed animals. We aren't sure if this is a good thing; Nana takes the toys and settles down, guarding them. She will growl, quite menacingly, if Jasmine or I go near them. This causes some conflict for Nana, especially when the Christmas treats come out. Jasmine goes right for the treats and Nana has to try to get to the treats while making sure no one gets to her toys.
We had been trying to teach Jasmine and Nana to play together. It's hard since Nana only likes the soft, plush animals and Jasmine likes to play tug with ropes. We found the 'ultimate' toy: a stuffed toy with a rope going through it. We got the dawgs together, gave Nana the soft end and Jasmine the rope. They caught on right away and Jasmine gave a good tug and pulled the rope out. End of that experiment, but both dawgs went away happy.
One day when I got home from work, Nana was in a funk. She had destroyed the last of her chew toys. It was dead ... the stuffing was strewn across the whole living room. We cleaned it up as best we could, and then Penney took pity on Nana and got out her sewing kit. Well, you've never seen a happier dawg! As soon as Penney sat down to start sewing, Nana came right up to the couch (where Penney was sitting) and put her paw on Penney's leg. And she wouldn't let go. When Penney finished stuffing and sewing it, she gave it to Nana who very gently took it, went back to her corner and proceeded to guard it. That lasted about 35 seconds, and then she had enough of being gentle and started to chew away at it.
Nana has also discovered that toilet paper is very similar to stuffed animals. It is soft, chewable and leaves pieces all over the carpet. We've learned that we can't leave bathroom doors open, or a roll of toilet paper exposed. Occasionally it is like a television commercial; we'll find Nana sitting in the family room with the end of a roll of toilet paper that has made its way from our bathroom, down the stairs and into the family room.
Occasionally, we need to get Nana's attention, to distract her from something that Jasmine is doing, or just to get her to play. The easiest way is to take one of Nana's toys and let her see you. She will immediately come over and try to take it. I'll sit on the couch and hide it behind my back, which gets Nana quite upset. Then I'll pop it out and rub it into her face, and quickly hide it again. It induces a lot of stress in Nana, and she doesn't think this is playing, but it certainly keeps her occupied for as long as we continue this.
One weekend in July 2004 we were hosting a picnic for a group of friends. The picnic was to be on the Sunday, and Penney had a wedding on the Saturday, so most of the preparation was left for me. I had been working outside in the morning and came in for lunch. While I was making lunch, I took a few minutes to clean up the family room, so I could vacuum it once I was finished outside. I spent ten minutes picking up all of Nana's stuffed animals, probably thirty of them, that were strewn all over the floor. I packed them away in her toy box, then proceeded to move the toy box into the laundry room, out of the way. Nana just sat on the floor and watched me, intently, through the whole process. I ate lunch and went outside to finish up. A couple of hours later, I came back in to start vacuuming the floors in the house. As soon as I opened the door, I saw Nana, with a big smile on her face, sitting in the middle of the family room, with all her stuffed animals that I had painstakingly cleaned up scattered around her. She had managed to force her way into the laundry room, and took each toy from the box and put it back where she felt it belonged!
Her message was clear: "Don't mess with my toys!"
In the mid 1990's I had an opportunity to change companies and move from the Montréal area to Atlanta, Georgia. This was quite a change, cultural and physical, and also a slow process. I was in the States working for 6 months, while waiting for a Visa that would allow Penney and the animals to come down.
Eventually, the paperwork was done, my U.S. work Visa in place, the house in Beaconsfield sold, one in Norcross, a suburb of Atlanta, purchased. Penney had been staying with my folks, and I flew up, we said our goodbyes and on a bright Saturday morning in early 1990, we packed up the car, loaded the dawgs and the katz, and headed off on our move south. Except it really wasn't this easy!
At the time we had a Honda Accord Hatchback. Two doors and not much space. Kodey took up the rear floor, Inga the seat, suitcases, clothes and travel items in the hatchback and the katz, well, they tended to be wherever they wanted to be.
It was a 1,170 miles, door to door trip. Twenty hours of travel time. Jennifer Katz hated being in a car. She would give the most pitiful, but loud, meows and screeches whenever she was in the car for an extended duration; say more than 10 minutes.
It was early when we left, and we drove to Gananoque, Ontario where we would cross into the United States and pick up highway 81 heading south. All our paperwork was in order, and Penney had given Jennifer a tranquilizer to calm her down and help her sleep.
The tranquilizer didn't have the desired effect. It just slowed Jennifer down, and made the pitiful meowing and screeching come out as if it was being played at the wrong speed, or by an inebriated kat. Eventually, the dawgs would get fed up and start barking, setting the other two katz off on a meowing frenzy. Within an hour of traveling, Penney was threatening to throw Jennifer out of the car, within 2 hours she was actively trying to catch Jennifer to follow through on the threat. Eventually, it took the kat hater, me, to sort things out and prevent Jennifer's early demise. We doubled Jennifer's dosage, had Jon Katz curled up around my neck and Poncho Katz at Penney's feet. Jennifer eventually settled down in the hatchback area and nodded off to sleep. She'd doze for an hour, then get up and wander around the whole car, disrupting everyone, for about 10 minutes.
We got to the U.S. Customs at Wellesley Island, New York, explained to the Customs Agent what we were doing and passed over my visa, our passports, and the vet certificates for the animals. The Customs Agent looked at us curiously, and said "You're driving all the way to Atlanta?" I assured him that we were. Inga and Kodey had, by this time, put their noses up against the window with big Sammy smiles on. Jennifer took the opportunity to start her crying and generally creating a ruckus, and Penney was trying to get everyone calmed down. The Customs Agent shook his head and asked me "Are these all yours?" I replied "No sir. The dawgs are ours, but the katz are hers." He smiled, shook his head, handed us back our documents, wished us good luck, and passed us through.
We continued our journey southward on Interstate 81, stopping every couple of hours to let the dawgs out and I would take them for a 10 minute run. Then everyone would pile back in the hatchback and we'd go onward. Jonathan seemed to like the view from the top of my headrest, and Poncho was quite content sleeping with Penney. About the only other excitement occurred driving through Pennsylvania, where it was quite foggy. Jennifer was on one of her periodic tours of the car and was down on the floor in the front of the car just as visibility suddenly decreased and I was about to press on the brakes and slow down. Penney grabbed my arm and shouted "Don't press on the brake!" Thinking she thought we were on ice or something, I hesitated and Penney continued "Jennifer is under the brake peddle." I quickly scooted Jennifer out with my left foot, and then asked "Wasn't this the kat you wanted to throw out of the car a few hours back?" Penney seemed to take this as a rhetorical question, and I turned up the heat in the car to combat the sudden drop in temperature.
We made it to Roanoke, Virginia and started the hunt for a hotel that would accept animals. We had the Automobile Association travel books, so we knew which ones accepted animals. This was before the day of enlightened hotel policies and mobile phones. The first hotel we stopped at asked how many animals we had and Penney told them. They explained that they were sorry, they were full up. After several stops with the same results, we caught on and revised the story, saying we had one small dawg and a kat. Truthful, just not complete. We found a place and fortunately the entry door was at the back of the hotel, so we didn't have to parade them through the lobby.
We left early Sunday, cutting across to Interstate 85, and continuing on towards Atlanta. We made our final exercise stop just outside of Greensville, South Carolina, which was just over 2 hours from our final stop in Norcross, Georgia. Penney headed off to the restroom and I took the dawgs for a good run. I was back at the car, with the door open getting ready to put the dawgs back in, when another person who was at the rest area came up and asked to pet the dawgs. I told him to go ahead and he commented that they looked so beautiful he just had to come over and say "Hello" to them. I thanked him, and then went to grab Jonathan Katz who was trying to sneak out of the car. The man looked at the kat, the dawgs and then into the car and exclaimed:
"You have a cat … cats! You're the guy the customs agent was telling us about!
In the mid 1980's I was in South Africa for an extended period of time, and phone calls home were infrequent. I called Penney early one morning, and as soon as I said hello, Penney responded with “Do you know what your dawg did today?”. I have learned to dread calls that start that way. My dawg, in this case was Inga. Penney was happy to refer to the dawgs as 'ours' unless they did something seriously bad, so I knew this would be an interesting call.
At that time, Penney had three katz, in addition to our two dawgs, so trips to the pet store for supplies were quite frequent. Penney was working full time, so when I was away, she'd stop and pick up what she needed, move it into the house, then start dinner, feed the brood and all the other day-to-day tasks that needed to be done. With me not being around, some of this was an additional burden on Penney, and occasionally some things got put off to the next day, and this had been the case the night before I called.
Penney had gone to work, leaving Inga and Kodey in the living room, as she did most days. She came back, late and tired, unlocked the front door, turned the handle, and tried to push it open. No luck; the door would not budge. Penney tried again, without success, and then checked all the other doors, which were locked and bolted. Penney was about to go and ask a neighbor for help, when she gave one last shove at the front door, and it opened an inch or so. She shoved again, harder, and got it open enough to slip in. She walked through the living room to the kitchen and found Inga and Kodey sitting in the family room, with a look of utter dejection on their faces. They knew that they had done something Penney didn't appreciate.
What Penney had not put away was a 50 pound bag of kitty litter. The dawgs had a great time, it appeared, opening the bag and spreading the kitty litter, to a uniform height of 3 inches across the floor. Penney couldn't get the front door open because of the kitty litter that was blocking it.
She cleaned up as best she could, yet much later, as we were preparing the house for sale, we were still finding kitty litter stuck between the boards of the floor in the living room.
I had been working on a project in Cali, Columbia since the middle of February, and after many delays, I made it home on the 1st of May. Penney met me at the airport, and with her was Inga, but a much different Inga than I remembered. When I had left to go to Columbia, Inga was a sleek, active dawg, and now I was staring at a very fat Samoyed, who waddled rather than walked. My reaction was an incredulous "What have you been feeding her?". Penney responded with "She's not fat, she's pregnant." And then the whole story came out.
Samoyeds are people dawgs. Inga never liked being left alone, and she would bark constantly when we were gone. After some comments from neighbors, Penney did a bit of research and read that once a dawg was mated and had a litter, they would typically calm right down. So while I was gone, Penney had Inga bred. I missed that, and was away for the entire gestation period. Inga was going to be a mom any day.
On May 2nd, the day after I got home, we were lying in bed when I got a call from my brother telling me that my uncle Ansel, my godfather, had just died. Another uncle, Vincent, had died a few months earlier and I knew that this would be very hard on my mother. Penney agreed that she needed to stay with Inga, and I went to stay with my mother until the funeral.
The morning that Ansel was buried, Inga decided that it was time to have her pups. Penney had set up a birthing box for Inga, a nicely lined cardboard box that she could have the puppies in, and they would be protected, and not be able to wander off. Inga had other ideas. She had always slept on the bed, and she felt that she should have the puppies there as well. Inga woke Penney up that morning with the birth of the first puppy, on our bed, right beside Penney. Penney called me first, providing some good news on an otherwise sad day, then called our vet who kept repeating "That's OK. That's natural. That's what it's supposed to look like. Yes, that is what she will do." Helpful and marginally, but somewhat calming.
After the first puppy was born and cleaned off, Penney went to pick it up. Inga didn't mind trusting Penney with her firstborn. Penney put the newborn into the birthing box, and urged Inga over. Inga came right over, picked up the puppy gently in her mouth and moved back to the bed and had her second pup. Penney moved both pups to the birthing box, and Inga picked both up and brought them back to the bed and had her third. Penney got the idea and left her alone after that.
Inga had six healthy puppies and one stillborn. She spent the rest of the day feeding the puppies and putting up with all the attention they were getting from Penney, the Katz, and eventually me.
When I got home that night, the bedroom was a disaster area, not suitable for habitation. We closed off the bedroom until we could get the bedclothes and mattress clean, and moved into the spare bedroom where we had a twin bed. Inga made it perfectly clear to us that she had done her duty, and it was up to us to keep the puppies occupied overnight. We put the pups into the birthing box, set it beside the bed, and Inga crawled under the bed, to where she could keep an eye on things, but the puppies weren't bothering her. After a few minutes of listening to the cries from the pups, I dangled my fingers off the bed and let the pups nudge up against them and try to get their mouths on them. It was far from perfect, but they were a bit quieter.
And that was the way that things went. Inga was happy to look after the pups during the day, but at night it was up to Penney and me.
After a few weeks the puppies were able to eat a bit of gruel, which made it easier for everyone, and then they started to spend their time in the family room. The floor was hardwood and relatively easy to keep clean, although it seemed we were constantly mopping.
Whenever Penney was mopping the floor, or anywhere in the room, one of the little pups would always come and stand beside her. He'd face the window and growl if there was any noise from outside. When the pups were old enough to let go to other homes it would be impossible to separate Penney from this one; Kodey.
When they were about 4 weeks old we let the pups outside for the first time. Inga bounded out the front door and waited on the front lawn. The six little pups came out the door, tumbled down the single step, started across the lawn and fell down, dead asleep. The fresh air hit them so hard that they only made it about 3 yards.
After that, we took them outside fairly regularly, and they started to run and play on the lawn. Our house was less than 50 yards from a soccer field, and we were responsible for quite a few near accidents on Saturday mornings. Parents would be driving their children to a game, see the pups and slam on their breaks. Everyone had to stop to see them.
Eventually the pups grew to the point where we started to find homes for them. Kodey, of course, stayed with us and became Penney's soul mate. The first time that we took a walk together, Penney, Inga, Kodey and I, we walked past the house where Sirius lived. Sirius was a very large Newfoundlander, and whenever we walked by he would put his paws up on the top of his 5 foot fence, and in a deep voice woof his "hello" at us. That day, with Kodey on his first walk and weighing all of 3 pounds, Sirius gave his usual greeting and Kodey, not knowing how friendly Sirius was, immediately moved in front of Penney, spread his little legs as wide as they could go, and growled and barked back at Sirius.
Perhaps Sirius laughed, but the message was from Kodey was clear: "Back off, this is my mom"
Living in Montréal we had lots of snow storms, but few really big, nasty, windstorms. Penney and I got our first exposure to a major windstorm when she was down in Atlanta on a house-hunting trip. A tornado came through a few miles from where we were staying and the next morning, as we drove by, we saw the magnitude of damage that a storm like that can have.
Shortly after we had moved into our house in Norcross, a storm came through in the middle of the night. The conversation went like this:
Penney: Marc, Marc, wake up.
Marc: Huh, what???
Penney: What's that noise?
Marc: It's just a train, honey. Go back to sleep.
Penney: Marc, Marc, wake up.
Marc: What now?
Penney: There aren't any trains around here!
A tornado had touched down ½ mile away.
Inga never let weather bother her until we moved down to Atlanta. We aren't sure what triggered it, but when a storm would come through she would get extremely anxious. We would try to hug and cuddle her, but to no avail, she would get almost frantic.
One day, Inga was shaking with fear and Penney turned the television on to see how long the storm was going to last. She switched to the weather channel and Inga immediately calmed down and sat, looking at the television screen. Penney changed the channel and Inga started to get worried again.
It took us a while to make the connection. Whenever a storm would come through, we'd switch on the weather channel and Inga would calm right down. Many a night we would be sound asleep, Inga lying between us, staring at the television screen.
Not many people believed us when we told them about this. We'd get knowing looks and nods, but invariably if someone was over and the weather started to get bad, we'd turn the television on and they would leave shaking their heads in wonder.
This continued on throughout our time in Atlanta, and also after we moved to Columbus. A storm would start, Inga would get anxious, we'd turn the television on, and Inga would calm down. None of the other dawgs were badly affected by storms, and certainly television had no affect on any of them. Except Inga. And it had to be the Weather Channel. If we changed channels, even to a local channel that had the weather report on, she'd start to get upset again.
Scientists will still tell you that a dog cannot make out an image on a television. And that if they could, they wouldn't be able to understand what was going on.
But Inga could.
Inga hated to be alone. That is a characteristic of Samoyeds, but it was particularly strong in Inga, then later in Kodey.
We got Inga just when we moved into our first home. As new, young, homeowners, we didn't have a lot of money to fix things up, so we concentrated on what was important to us. As far as we were concerned, it was the "Great Room" off the kitchen which was really the sole reason we bought the house. The owners had taken a standard 4 bedroom bungalow and added a great room to the rear. It was 23 feet deep, 28 feet wide and tapered from 12 to 23 feet tall. The back wall was almost entirely glass with a great view of the woods in back of the property. The fireplace was huge; about 5 feet wide and deep enough that you could easily put a 3 foot diameter log in it.
We bought the house based on that room, and never regretted it. We spent our first Christmas Eve on a mattress on the floor in front of the fireplace, and the next night in the same spot, but with Inga, Penney's Christmas present to me, cuddled between us. We did that a few times in the winter months; drag the mattress down, put a nice fire on and fall asleep looking out at the stars.
In the 2 weeks before we moved in we concentrated on cleaning up the Great Room. We cleaned and painted it and bought curtains for the back wall, and then we put up Christmas decorations as we were moving in on Christmas Eve. And after that, we basically stopped decorating. We hated the 1960's orange rust wallpaper and a brown and orange shag rug that was in the living and dining room, but we didn't spend much time there, so we thought it could wait until we saved enough money to redecorate the way we wanted.
But Inga hated to be alone. And Inga hated the wallpaper almost as much as we did and she had no concept of money. Inga decided to redecorate.
Penney and I came home from work one night to find Inga sitting in the living room, a piece of wallpaper stuck out the side of her mouth, and two strips of wallpaper half off the wall. What could we do? We gave her a hug and said "Good Girl".
Inga continued on like that. She would grab the bottom of a strip and work backwards until she had it half off the wall. I'd come home later and finish it for her, and together we got almost all the wallpaper off.
Then the day came that we walked in and Inga was sitting in the middle of the floor, a big smile on her face, and a big piece of carpet torn up. Penney and I were devastated; we knew we couldn't afford to replace the carpet. We weren't sure what to do, and Penney walked over to see if she could fix it, somehow. She looked, and then called me over with a funny tone in her voice. We both looked, and under the very ugly carpet were planks of oak flooring. The entire front of the house had beautiful oak floors, covered with a hideous carpet.
We pulled up the rest of the carpet, Inga not helping much once she showed us what to do. My brothers helped sand and finish the floors, and we ended up with beautiful wood floors and nicely painted walls, all thanks to Inga, interior decorator extraordinaire!
In late 1989 I was already working down in Atlanta and Penney was still up in Montréal, taking care of getting the house in Beaconsfield ready for sale.
While waiting for the final paperwork there was a period where Penney, along with the dawgs and the katz, spent several days with both her and my parents.
Inga and Kodey were always very good with children, but we really didn't know how good they could be until one episode at Penney's parents apartment.
Penney's parents lived in a 3 bedroom apartment in Verdun, a Montréal suburb, and Penney's mom would baby-sit some of her great nephews; while her niece was at work. The family tended to congregate in the kitchen, and on this particular afternoon, there were a number of people around the kitchen table. Penney had just put Kodey's food down and Kodey came in, ready to start eating.
There was one small problem. Mathew, the 1 ½ year old son of Penney's cousin Diane, was also on the floor, and was right up at Kodey's dish. Kodey was the most even tempered dawg that we have ever seen. While it is not recommended to get between a dawg and his food, Kodey never seemed to mind. He'd just wait until you were finished doing whatever it was, then continue.
On this occasion, Mathew decided that he wanted to feed the dawg. So he picked up a kibble and proceeded to put his little arm right into Kodey's mouth. It was right around this time that everyone at the kitchen table saw what was going on. One person started to say "Look …" then everyone kept perfectly still and silent, not wanting to startle Kodey any more than he was already.
Kodey, the gentle giant, waited for the chubby hand to open, and the arm to withdraw, then he chewed and swallowed the kibble.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but before they could act, Mathew picked up a second piece and repeated the process.
Then the group sat, mesmerized as Mathew fed Kodey his bowl of food … one kibble at a time.
Over the years our animals have touched us in many ways. One that we don't always credit them for is that they have led us to the development of some tremendous friendships.
A couple of years back, Penney was at the Vet with one of the animals, and the Vet gave her a diagnosis that she wasn't expecting. She was given a couple of options and wasn't sure which one to choose, so she said "I'm just going to call Barry and get his opinion."
“Barry?" the Vet responded, "Barry Kipperman?". Penney nodded, dug out her phone and gave Barry a call.
With all due respect to the Veterinarians we frequent, knowing that Barry is a friend has increased the level of co-operation and service we've received from some Vets, or at least it appears to have.
Barry is one of the best diagnosticians and animal surgeons in the country. He's a New Yorker … no one will ever mistake him for anything else. He's witty, compassionate, smart and a great friend. His mannerism is very similar to Jerry Seinfeld, one of his idols. Penney first met Barry when one of her katz, Jennifer, needed a diagnosis, and despite his knowledge and skill, I think that Barry learned an important lesson from that first encounter. Jennifer was quite sick, and Barry didn't give her long to live. Penney refused to accept that answer and asked what she could do to keep Jennifer alive and comfortable, with a quality of life that Jennifer could enjoy. Barry worked with Penney and with their combined efforts, Jennifer lived for an additional 3 1/2 years, far exceeding the weeks that Barry had thought she would last. I think that today, Barry would acknowledge that the love and attention of a caregiver adds to whatever science and medicine can accomplish.
Barry started his career in New York, and as part of his migration west, was in Columbus for several years. He helped Penney with Jennifer, and she got to know him, professionally, during that period. Barry seemed to want to keep his professional and private lives apart, so we knew him as a vet, not a person during that time. When Barry decided to continue moving westward and open his own clinic near San Francisco, those barriers came down and the friendship blossomed. Today he is successfully running his clinic in Dublin, California and we see him far too infrequently. Barry is a great Veterinarian and he is a better friend.
When Barry was leaving Columbus, a number of caretakers of his patients got together to give him a going away present. Penney arranged to take photographs of the people and pets, and one of the people she photographed was Peg Kaplan. Peg is beautiful, dedicated, smart and the only person I know that has ever been on the cover of Time magazine.
Peg is an animal advocate and was the driving force behind Ohio's Pet license plate. She has a tremendous amount of focused energy, and if she is late for, or skips one of the dinners we have together it is likely because she is crawling through a culvert under a road, rescuing a trapped or missing animal. One weekend Penney and I had gone out of town, and had left before the house sitter arrived. He didn't show up at all the first night we were away. Penney was frantic, not having been able to contact the him and knowing that Kodey would be very upset being locked up in the house that long. She called Peg to ask her to look up some phone numbers. Peg dropped everything, headed over to our house and cuddled and comforted Kodey for several hours until the house sitter got there. Friends like that are one in a million. Peg is the 'Godmother' for all the animals in our house.
When Kodey started to get Degenerative Myelopathy, Penney did some research and discovered that acupuncture could help with the symptoms. Dr. Danya Linehan agreed to treat Kodey, and Penney started to get to know her. Barry Kipperman had come back to Columbus for a weekend to attend a conference, and we hosted a brunch for some of his friends on the Sunday he left. Dr. Linehan came to the brunch, and stayed with Peg and Penney well into the afternoon, long after Barry left. Danya quickly became a good friend, our preferred local Vet and she holds the distinction of being the only Vet that is unafraid of Carlos the Kat. She is one of the sweetest people I know, and is now teaching at Stautzenberger College in Strongsville, Ohio. Her students will graduate having learned not just about veterinary medicine, but also understanding the compassion required by a Vet, and having a good grasp of animal rights and ethics.
One day while Penney was at the Vet, she met Ingrid Robechek. She was with Mocha Java, who had degenerative myelopathy, a disease that Kodey was also suffering from. Penney took some portraits of Mocha, Ingrid and her husband John so that they would have a lasting memory of Mocha Java. After Mocha died, Penney invited Ingrid to join her, Peg and Danya for a ladies night gab-fest, and officially joined the 'Circle'. Ingrid and John have a new pup now, and Ingrid is known around Penney's studio as "Slider's Mom".
The men also form a major part of this circle of friends; Slider's dad, John Robechek, Peg's husband Rick and Danya's husband Mike. This is a very diverse group of individuals, with a common love of animals forming the bond.
This small circle of dear friends was, formed because of the influence that Barry had on many of the members. When Kodey passed away, late one Sunday night, I called Barry to let him know. It was too late to call anyone in Columbus, but only 9:00 at night on the West Coast. By morning, Barry made sure everyone else knew what had happened and everyone in the 'circle' was calling.
The friendship that we have is strong. Barry, Peg, Danya, Ingrid and Penney, along with their spouses, brought together through Barry. All of us come from different backgrounds, and the bond we share is a love of animals.
Jasmine was the first 'rescued' dawg we had, and we learned a lot from the experience. Jasmine was young and well tempered, but she had a different upbringing than our dawgs had.
Inga was the matriarch of the family, and Kodey knew his place. From the day that Kodey was born we could put their food out for them and Inga would eat from her bowl, Kodey from his. Kodey never tried to push his way in and steal any of Inga's food, and really never did anything that Inga wouldn't approve of. At some point in Jasmine's upbringing food must have been scarce, or it was very competitive to get to it. Once the food was put down, she would gobble up hers, then push Kodey out of the way and eat his. Kodey, outweighing Jasmine by some 70 pounds, never objected, somehow thinking that she must really need the food if she was taking his. That led to some minor changes in how we fed the dawgs, which solved that problem. But a larger problem was that Jasmine would eat her food very quickly, then regurgitate it almost immediately. We talked to our Vet about it, and the consensus was that she was just eating too fast, and if we could slow down her eating, she would be able to retain it. Trying to get Jasmine to slow down is somewhat akin to catching moonbeams; it is near to impossible to do!
Penney came up with an idea. She went into her baking dishes and came out with a bunt pan. Penney thought that if we put the food in and added a bit of water, Jasmine would be forced to chase the kibbles of food around the bowl, and this should slow her eating down, perhaps enough to fix the regurgitation problem. We tried it, and sure enough, it almost doubled the time that it took Jasmine to eat, and she was able to keep her food down.
Jasmine was always excited about being fed. As a young pup she would dance around, bark loudly and generally make a nuisance of herself. Since I typically get up before Penney on weekends, I wanted to let her sleep, and there was no possibility of that while Jasmine waited for me to get the food ready. I started to let the dawgs outside as soon as we came downstairs, then I'd fill up their bowls and set them in their spots, so when the dawgs came back in, they just started to eat. This worked really well, so Penney and I started to do this at night as well. The consequence of this was that Jasmine learned to associate going outside with the bowls being filled. To this day, whenever she comes into the house from outside, she will immediately go over to where her "Magic Bowl" is to see if it is filled up, and give us a look of disappointment when it is not.
Using the bunt pan as a special dawg dish meant that we no longer had one, but fortunately, this isn't something that is used every day. Several months later, my father passed away, and with my mother in a nursing home there wasn't much need to keep the house they lived in. So, in mid-summer, Penney and I went up to Montréal to help the rest of the family clean up the house. Most of the cleanup occurred in the basement; my father was, to be charitable, a pack rat. While the boys were busy emptying the basement, my mother, my sister Marion and Penney started on the kitchen. Penney told everyone the story of Jasmine and the bunt pan, which got a chuckle from most, but a little flicker of alarm crossed my mothers face. Many of the items in the house were taken by siblings; my father's rocking chair and my mother's living room couch are now in our house and frequently used. As the ladies were cleaning up the kitchen, Penney spied my mothers bunt pan, and asked if she could have that, since we no longer had one. "No", my mother said, "Marion wants that." Marion said that, actually, she had one and didn't need a second one. "Oh," said my mother, "Then Carole (my other sister) wants it." Marion waited until she thought we were out of earshot and said to my mother "What's going on? You know Carole doesn't want a bunt pan. Why not let Penney take it?" My mother's forceful reply was "I am not going to have my cooking pans used as a dog dish!" Marion laughed and explained that we already had one we were using and this was to be used as a baking dish, not a dawg bowl. We still have that bunt pan, and almost 10 years later, no dawg has gotten close to it.
Auntie Jen house sits for us frequently when we are out of town and she and her daughter, Allie, have taken care of the dawgs for us innumerable times. Auntie Jen is Nana's special friend, and Allie and Jasmine love to play together. For Allie's birthday this year, Jennifer decided to make her a cake. With Allie watching, she mixed the ingredients, and then took out a bunt pan to bake it in.
Allie's immediate reaction was "Mom! You're not going to make my Birthday cake in a dawg dish, are you?"
In 1969, Paul McCartney wrote “The love you make is equal to the love you take”. Yet sometimes you realize that the scales are so far out of kilter that you can't believe it will ever be possible to bring them together.
Inga came into our lives as a joyful, energetic ball of fluff. She lived her life, from that first day with us, loving us with all her heart, yet all the while maintaining her independence. We looked after her, fed her, got her to the vet when needed, but the reality is that she looked after us much more. Inga moved in with us on our first Christmas as a married couple, in the first house we could call our own. We had moved a mattress downstairs, so we spent our first Christmas night in front of the fire. From the first night, Inga would snuggle in with us in bed, and sometimes, after we were asleep, she’d go off and sleep in a corner by herself. In January of that first year with her I had some knee surgery. When I got home from the hospital, Inga plopped herself down beside me, and sat there with me. If I started to get uncomfortable she would go and get Penney to have her make sure I was all right.
Inga went from being a pup to maturity in a heartbeat. It is incredible how fast those years passed. She had strong likes and dislikes, loved people and other dawgs, loved children, hated orange rust wallpaper. At one party, we found Inga buried in a pile of 1 and 2 year olds, the children climbing all over her, and Inga not moving. A few minutes later we heard a yelp from her, and when we got to her we found a 1 year old trying to touch her eye balls. Inga wouldn’t bite or snap, just yelped to let us know she was in trouble. In the 13 years she was with us, she only snapped at us twice, once when Penney was trying to get some food from her, the second when I was trying to give her a bath. In both cases, she became very contrite as soon as she realized what she had done.
Inga was always my dawg, the same as Kodey was Penney’s. On the hottest Sunday mornings in an Atlanta summer, Inga would be outside sitting beside me on the deck, while Kodey was inside, with Penney, sitting in the air conditioned house. The weather didn’t matter, hot days in Atlanta or cold winter nights in Beaconsfield, if I was going out, Inga always wanted to come along too Penney did the hard work, keeping them healthy, taking them to the vet, with all the animals, but Inga was mine, or more likely, I was hers.
In late 1996, we found that Inga had inoperable cancer and was given a few weeks to live. Penney and I made a decision to get another puppy at that point, mainly to ensure that Kodey wouldn’t be alone. Since his birth, Kodey had been with either us or Inga all the time, the one exception being for an hour when Penney left him alone in the house in Powell. She came back to find him completely agitated, his dew claw torn off, and blood all over him. That was the last time we left him alone. Knowing that Inga was not going to be around much longer prompted us to look for another Samoyed.
We found Jasmine through the Central Ohio Samoyed Rescue. She was a bright eyed, somewhat shy youngster, who seemed to accept us, and more important, she got along well with Kodey. She stayed overnight on trial, then a week, and has been with us ever since. The unexpected consequence of getting Jasmine was the impact on Inga. Inga had always loved to play; when she was a pup I’d pick her up and throw her into a snow pile, and she’d bounce back for more. If I was shoveling snow, I only had to toss some her way and she’d be trying to catch the flakes in the air. If it was possible to make a game of something, she’d show us how. Kodey never really caught on to the idea of games. He had nothing against them, he could sit and watch Inga play for hours, but they never seemed to do much for him. Jasmine came in as a young pup, and loved to play. She would go after Kodey, then Inga, until one would react. Usually it was Inga. As sick as she was, she was having a grand time with this young pup. Inga played, sometimes with Jasmine; sometimes the two would gang up on Kodey. At night they would make so much noise, that we would have to bring them in because we were afraid they would wake up the neighbors. Inga stretched her “weeks to live” into several months.
Yet all good things come to an end. In late April I was out on the west coast when Penney called to say that Inga was looking worse and I should plan on coming home the next weekend. On Friday, April 25th, Penney came downstairs to find Inga looking at her with sad eyes, in obvious pain. Penney called me, and we decided that it was time to let her go. Penney asked if I wanted to wait until I could get home, but we both knew that wouldn’t be fair to Inga. Inga might have been my dawg, but Penney has always made the difficult decisions. Penney carried Inga to the car, and with Jasmine and Kodey drove to the Vet. With Penney hugging her, the vet gave Inga an injection to free her from pain for all time.
I took the red-eye flight back that night. When I got home, Penney was out; the house empty. I started to go up the stairs with my bag, but stopped. On the wall beside the stairs was a picture of Inga and Kodey that Penney had taken of the dawgs sitting out in the grass in Beaconsfield, with big smiles on their faces. I couldn’t get by that picture, and when Penney came home, she found me sitting on the stairs with the picture in my lap. We hugged, and then both of us sat down and put our arms around each other. We told stories of the scrapes she had got in, the funny things she had done. But mostly, we sat there, holding each other, and we cried.
In this case, McCartney didn't get it quite right. The love we got from Inga, indeed from all our dawgs, has vastly outweighed the love they got from us. Not a day goes by without my thinking of Inga, and Kodey. Some day the love that Penney and I have for Inga and Kodey may equal the love they gave us in their all too short lives, but it is likely that day will not come for many years.