The Life And Times of a Sword Swallower

This is the first morning in over 13 years I’ve gotten up and haven’t then heard the sound of little paws coming out to find me.

Weston was my shadow. My boy. He wanted to be where I was, most all the time. Following me downstairs when I went to fold the clothes from the dryer, outside if I went to look at the blooms in the yard or just to hang out on our deck, into the kitchen or the dining room, following me into the living room with hopeful eyes that I would sit in our chair and he could join me, settling himself against one of my legs. That guy even followed me into the bathroom where I was supposed to pet him until I was done and would then say OK which was his signal to move along.

He loved love, more than anything. He loved pets. He was insistent about them. Pawing or nosing your hand to let you know it should be on him, and no where else.

Don’t get me wrong. He was cantankerous. We’ve all been bitten by Weston. K and I more than once. He didn’t like certain things… to be picked up like a normal dog around the middle, to have things taken from him that he’d procured somehow, to have someone reach at him if he was in places he considered his den at the time, or just to try and help him when he didn’t want to be helped. He was independent, to a fault, but that was his way. And he would let you know it.

He was our little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The most loving dog you’d ever meet who wanted nothing more than loves from you and to give kisses right back and the snarky cantankerous boy who would have none of whatever he would have none of.

We loved him so.

Our little man was an amazing thief. He stole things all the time. We realized yesterday, as we picked up after ourselves, that we’d been thoroughly trained by him to not leave a paper towel or Kleenex anywhere he could get it. He would steal it immediately. He loved to rip up and eat those things. We’ve lost many pairs of glasses and Kleenex and post-it notes and paper towels to him over the years.

He even ate things he shouldn’t. Things that were dangerous for him. We were talking last night and laughing, amazed, at all the times he grabbed things and tried to eat them, or just swallowed them in a hurry so no one would try and take whatever it was from him. We called him the sword swallower because when we first brought him home, and he was so very tiny, we’d given him this bone we’d gotten for him. We were leaving him alone in the house for the first time, in his playpen, and we wanted him to have something good while we were gone. We weren’t gone long and when we got back we couldn’t find the bone in the playpen. We couldn’t find it anywhere. What’s more, he had this weird look on his face. Sort of surprised and slightly distressed, though he wasn’t acting distressed. We took him out of the playpen and he ran off into the living room where he jumped up on his chair and ottoman. We walked out of the room, walked back in, and there was that bone, all 6-8 inches of it, harked back up, out of him onto the ottoman. Lordy. We knew we were in trouble with him from then on. And over the years we were proven right. He stole and tried to eat a rib bone, same result with the harking it up. When we were camping once he found a piece of sausage someone had wrapped around a stick and then put hooks on and used to fish. Don’t ask me what that was supposed to catch, but there it was, discarded on the side of the river, and who would find it? Weston. Of course he would. He got a hold of it and then carried it around. We kept him walking so he wouldn’t try to start eating it because we knew the hooks would be disastrous. We got back to the Jeep and took out our bite gloves (yes, we had heavy cowhide work gloves we carried that we called bite gloves for times just like this when we had to get something from him or do something to him we knew he wouldn’t like). K managed to snatch that thing from him. To this day I don’t even know how she did it. And there was that time, road tripping as we do, when we were walking the pups near this gas station (sometimes there just aren’t great spots to take them on the road) and he found a petrified hamburger. It was hard and because he thought we might try to take it from him he tried to swallow it. He started to choke. I thought, right then, Oh God, he’s going to choke to death. I was trying to figure out how to give him the Heimlich maneuver and low and behold he managed to get it down. One time we’d returned from Europe and we had a bag of these really good chocolates inside a zipped up backpack. In fact, they were in a bag inside the backpack, inside a closed closet. He managed to get into the closet (it was a slider), get the backpack out, open the zippered compartment, open the package of chocolate, and eat them all. We were horrified. We called the dog poison hotline and were told we had to get some hydrogen peroxide down him so he would throw up. So there we were in the bathroom, on the tile floor, me holding him and getting the crap scratched out of me for it, and K pouring peroxide down his throat. It worked, he threw most of it up. But man oh man, what an incident.

We had to be hyper vigilant with him. He did what he wanted and sometimes that was dangerous for him. He didn’t care. He was Weston, danger dog.

He was also a smoker. He loved to find cigarette butts on his walks. If he found one, he would eat it. So we had to be vigilant when we walked him, butts, unfortunately, are everywhere. Crazy dog. We would joke that it was time to take Weston our for his smoke break. Because as much as we tried to keep him away from them, we was sneaky and got them anyway.

He was a smart little guy. Too smart. Too cunning. A true mischief maker.

K used to take him to her office once in a while, long ago when she had one. There were like 100 proof machines and next to each one was a garbage can. He loved garbage cans. Or a better description, he loved to knock garbage cans over. He was always looking for whatever treasures he might find there. Her staff would laugh when they came back in and ask her if Weston had been there. They knew he had because every garbage can, every last one, would be tipped over. When we visited anyone, my Mom, K’s parents, we had to make sure we went in first, his advance team, to put all the garbage cans up out of his reach. We had to scan for candy, or wrappers that might be places he could grab them, and move those things up high enough he couldn’t get to them.

Here at home he got into all sorts of mischief. You couldn’t leave your coffee cup sitting next to your chair for even a moment because the second you left the area he was there, drinking your coffee. He was a master thief, lying in wait, watching all the time, waiting for any opportunity. He pulled things off shelves in the kitchen. We had to organize with him in mind, and even when we did he still went for things. His reach, for being small in stature, was amazing. One time we came back into the living room and found he had managed to pull this old package of instant breakfast we had shoved to the back of the top shelf in the cart and forgotten about. He shouldn’t have been able to get that, but somehow, he did. We found him standing over the ripped up package with powder all over his muzzle. We re-arranged our shelves, again, for him after coming up from watching TV to find him in the living room with a bag of sugar he’d managed to somehow pull down off the shelf, drag to the living room, tear open, and enjoy. The most hilarious thing was the time we were downstairs watching TV in the evening and he had disappeared, which was always a bad sign. Suddenly we heard a loud bang. We both ran up the stairs to find he’d gotten a box of cans of green beans off the bottom shelf, drug it into the living room, and torn up most of an end of the box. I’m not sure how he thought he was getting into the cans, but you know, after everything he’d pulled off, I wouldn’t have put it past him. There is an endless list of things he stole and ate, or tried to eat. A classic was the time, when we still lived in Oregon, I’d set an egg salad sandwich on our pool table while I went into the kitchen for a moment, thinking that was a safe place out of reach for him. No. I came back and my sandwich was gone. He’d managed to jump up onto the sectional, get on the back of the sectional, and jump to the pool table to get to the sandwich. He liked to jump into chairs that were left out to get to tables. We felt like he could’ve been a circus performer in another life.

Every night he had the same routine. As we got ready for bed and after they went outside to do their business he would, as we brushed teeth and got some water and changed, go into K’s office and rummage through whatever pants she’d been wearing that day. He pulled them down off of wherever she’d put them and went through her pockets. If there was anything… Kleenex, cough drop, candy wrapper, he would get it.

A standard phrase yelled in our house for the last 13 years has been, “TREAT!”. It was our way of getting him inside if he was barking at a neighbor (he was friendly to them, but wanted them to pet him and if they didn’t, or until they did, he would bark at them) or a squirrel he’d run up a tree. Yelling “TREAT!” was also our way of getting something away from him he shouldn’t have. Again, we were trained, not him. We couldn’t just take anything from him because of his snarkiness so our option was to bribe him into letting whatever it was go. It worked, but really I think it was all just part of his plan. He would steal something he knew we didn’t want him to have, we would offer him a treat to give it up. Pretty smart. But then, he was a very very smart dog. It was a blessing and a curse, and also the reason for his name.

Weston. Our beautiful boy. He was named after his birthplace, Weston, Oregon. It’s in the Blue Mountains, and it’s lovely. As we were driving to pick him up we’d already picked out a name for him. We had a tag and everything. But when we picked him up and he looked at us with those deep brown eyes, eyes that looked into you, that felt like they were a thousand years old, we knew the name we’d picked wasn’t right. We felt like he looked studious, nerdy, deep thinking. K said, he sort of looks like he should be wearing little glasses and a blazer. Kind of like Harry Potter. We laughed, but it was true. So on the drive back the name change process began. I don’t know how it happened, which one of us thought of it, but somehow in that conversation, as we were running over things, where was he born, intellectual people we could name him after, etc. we said the name of the town. We looked at each other and bam, that was it. Weston. Perfect somehow. Perfectly him.

You know, the funny thing about him, and about his snarkiness, is that we always warned groomers and the people at his vet office about his snarkiness. We always said, watch him, don’t try to pick him up around the middle, cradle him to pick him up, don’t try to take anything from him if he gets anything, etc. We did this every time. We didn’t want anyone to get nipped. But he never bit anyone at those places and in fact everyone always told us, when we picked him up, how wonderful he was. How loving. What a great dog he was.

And he was. He was a great dog. He was the best boy. Snarkiness, and stealing, and mischief, and all. Because with all of that came so much love from him. So much joy. He loved to go for walks and play ball and play with his toys and chew on his bully sticks and run on the beach. The beach was his favorite place. When we could let him off his lead he would run like the wind, chase balls, get sticks, dig holes. He ran and ran, he played, he chased birds, then he would trot over periodically to get a pet or two, giving you little gentle kisses to let you know he loved you as much as you loved him. Letting you know he was so grateful to be there with us, in whatever place we were.

He was our boy. Complicated and intense and a pain in the ass and so loving. So loving.

He had our hearts, and still does. He always will. Our beautiful boy. Our sword swallowing mischief maker. Our one of a kind, full of personality, wonderful, beautiful boy.

Sleeping

March 1, 2007 – June 28, 2020

Checking Storm Updates & His Email

Seven

Weston And Hedgie
Weston And Hedgie (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Our boy turns seven today.  Seven years of love and snuggles and play and joy and laughter and smiles and exasperation and sweetness and tail wagging and pawing and cuddle-time and barks and bullies and deep soulful looks.  Happy birthday little man, we love you so.

Weston at Saturday Market

Weston and Hedgehog
Weston and Hedgehog (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Sir Weston
Sir Weston (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Weston
Weston (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Weston in the creeper
Weston in the creeper (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

Weston
Weston (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

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Weston
Weston

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7:24 AM

7:24 AM

I wake up, suddenly.  I feel like someone is staring at me.  I turn over slowly and there he is, a small furry little fella with big brown eyes sitting over me looking down.  His eyes say everything he can’t speak.  I’m half awake and tell him no.  Gently at first… no buddy, lay down, lay down now.  He doesn’t take no for an answer and leans down and gives me a kiss on the cheek.  Again I say, no buddy, lay down.  He’s relentless.  I try to go a bit more firm with him, NO, Weston, lay down.  He ignores me.  We’re having a battle of wills.

I tell him I didn’t get to sleep until really late last night and in fact have only slept for about four or five hours.  He doesn’t seem to care.  I change tactics.  I ask if he needs to go outside.  Maybe that’s it.  I get up, he follows, and I think, OK, this is it.  I open the doggie door and he sticks his head out, then pulls it back in.  He sticks it out one more time, looks around, and again pulls it back in.  I don’t have time for these shenanigans.  I open the door, telling him it’s OK and that a little rain/freezing rain won’t hurt him and that I’ll stand right there in the door, in t-shirt and shorts, waiting for him.  It’s freezing cold outside and I’m cold waiting in the doorway.  He ventures out tentatively, makes it to the bottom of the steps, and immediately turns around and comes back in.  I shake my head and pad back toward the bedroom.  I need more sleep.

Of course, he follows me.  I get back in bed and look down.  He’s sitting on the floor next to the bed looking up at me, those big eyes doing their magic trick on me again.  Practically programmed I scoot back, making room for him.  I open up the covers and he jumps up effortlessly, laying down up against me with his head on my arm.  He demands to be petted for a while, continually nudging me with his nose until I get just the right spot on his tummy.  It’s nearly 8:00 AM now.  I still want to go back to sleep.

We stay in that place for what seems like a long while, me petting his tummy, him enjoying what we have come to call his morning cuddle time.  This is not the first time this scenario has happened.  He’s trained me well.

Finally, finally, I hear him snore.  This little sign tells me I can stop petting him and try to go to sleep.  I do.

9:15 AM

We both wake up.  Him still up against me, head on my arm.  I just spent over an hour spooning our boy.  I vow, as I get up, and he gets up reluctantly, that this won’t happen again.  It’s a vow I’ve made many times.  His soul filled eyes melt my heart, even when I’m irritated by him.  I remind myself he’s just a dog, but I love him so.

4:50 PM

He jumps up on the sofa next to me, stares at me with those eyes, and paws my hand.

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For The Love of Dogs

I was sitting here this morning doing my usual routine… drink some tea, have a bagel, check my email, Facebook, Google Reader… and I heard it.  The tell tale sound of Weston opening the closet door and rummaging through the shred box.  By the time I responded, which was actually pretty quickly, with my usual…. Weston, NO, get out of there, he had a piece of paper and was making for the hills.  Or in his case, more accurately, I should say his chair.  He looked up at me and then, miraculously, dropped the paper. Riley, our little girlie, just stayed in her bed the whole time looking at both of us like we were lame idiots.  She doesn’t play those games.

It made me think about them… our little lovelies.  They are so different, in almost every way save one, they sort of look alike.  And even that likeness has diminished as Riley aged and became more silver than dark gray.  They are beauties.  But then… we love them. And love might not even be a strong enough word for it…. but it’s all I’ve got.

Weston…  He is the oldest, so he gets first billing.  He’s our poet.  Our feeling gent.  He is ruled by emotion, no matter what kind, and acts on it purposefully and sometimes impulsively… or compulsively.  He loves people and wants attention and love constantly.  Always looking at you with those deep feeling eyes full of soul and pawing or nosing for a quick pet.  He’s a bit of a two personality guy… taken away from his mother at too young an age (not our choice but the breeder’s, who was wanting to get out of the puppy business and did it too soon) he suffers from not enough discipline when he was young.  We tried, but we weren’t his mamma and though he is ultra smart (sometimes the bane of our existence) he is equally as stubborn.  He will look at you, know he’s being told no, and still do whatever it is he’s doing.  Which mostly consists of being a thief of the highest caliber.  We’ve tried every form of discipline we’ve researched and though he responds best to being ignored for a time (he loves us you see and doesn’t like to be left out), he still won’t give in.  Stubborn.  A stubborn, very very smart thief.  He’s magic at it.  He can get things off countertops… standing on his little hind legs, using his paw to reach up over where he can’t really see that well, pull something over to the edge, then grab it with his teeth.  He opens closets doors, drawers, tips over trash cans, and jumps up in any chair that’s left out.  It’s hilarious… and sometimes aggravating.  We don’t really care.  In the moment you get mad at him, but then you think about all the cunning and planning and skill and you have to laugh.  His best, yet worst, thieving experience was when he opened a pocked in a backpack that was fully zipped closed, got out a bag of chocolate, and ate it all.  This is always what we worry about the most… that he will thieve something bad for him.  He tends to eat what he steals so you can’t get it from him.  He’s swallowed ear plugs, numerous kleenex, napkins, food of all kinds, q-tips… the list goes on.  The chocolate was the worst.  We called the vet and had to pour (to his great displeasure) some hydrogen peroxide down him to get him to throw it all up.  We did… and he did… all over the bathroom floor.  Yuck… but we were happy because he was safe.  He’s incorrigible.  And his feelings run deep.  He looks at you, as he’s flipping over onto his back and opening up his legs to get a good pet, with eyes that speak volumes.  Not all dogs are like this… but he is.  He’s the most feeling dog I’ve ever seen.  It’s amazing, the soul that pours from his eyes to yours.  Very expressive.  Very sweet.  Very deep and full of love.  He’s our boy.  Our little mister.  Our Woodsy (as Karen calls him).

Riley… our little girl.  She is a spitfire.  Confident in every way save one.  She’s afraid of the oven.  It’s true.  The minute the oven goes on, she makes haste to the family room and the back of the sectional that’s furthest from the door up to the kitchen.  She hates the oven.  We know it’s because it used to (before we unplugged this particular one) set off the smoke alarm.  We have another nearby that isn’t as sensitive and has stayed plugged in…. have to be safe and all.  When the oven door used to be opened, no matter what we were cooking in there, it set off this particular smoke detector… and the girlie hated it.  That isn’t a strong enough word.  Her ears are very sensitive…. we think it’s because her vision isn’t good.  So even now, with the detector not going off every time, when the oven gets turned on she makes for the other room.  She’s smart too… knows what that oven going on could mean.  And she doesn’t like it.  It’s cute and sad at the same time as she lays out there, a tiny ball, quivering.  It’s the only time she seems afraid.  Otherwise she’s a little ball of confidence, all ten pounds of her.  She knows who she is and owns her space.  Her little strut, and I will call it a strut, is so cute.  Head held high, barking occasionally at anyone or anything she feels like, jumping up to put her front paws over her brother’s back to show she’s in charge.  Confident.  She’s sometimes loud, barking crazy-like whenever we get home, or someone comes over, or she thinks she hears someone outside.  But it’s her… loud, confident, and so very cute.  She’s chalk full of personality… playing like a cat likes to play, spinning around, hardly able to contain all the energy inside her little body.  Yes, she sometimes tries to jump up (and she’s a fantastic jumper… so high for the size of her little self) up onto the couch or a chair and misses… her eyes again, not working as well as they should for depth… but she doesn’t let it stop her.  Bouncing off the furniture only to immediately jump up again.  She has moxy.  She’s full of it.  If only the rest of us could have half the confidence she possesses in her little self… fantastic.

And that’s them… our little cuties.  So many nicknames… the boy, the girlie, riles, ri-ri, girlie cutie, wooser, woodsie, westenheimer, riley-roosey… it goes on and on.  Whatever we happen to call them they are a big part of the joy in our lives.  We love our little schnoodles.  We also spoil the crap out of them… they eat great for them food, which we mix up, they have special beds all over the place, we buy them bones and bullies and toys, we take them for walks when it’s sunny (they hate the rain), we built up a really nice dog run/area at the back of our house including their own little door for going in and out with a gate we lock when we leave so that no one can accidentally let them out, we play ball (for Weston) and tug (for Riley) in the house when we can’t take them out for walks, and we love on them… all the time.  It’s all so worth it because they are precious… they love us and bring us immense delight.

How could you not love these faces?

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Shaking It Off

Shaking It Off, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Took the kids to Hondo Dog Park yesterday after work. Perfect weather for it. It was Riley’s first time there. She did pretty well considering she can tend toward the anti-social. She never bites, or even tries to, but she sometimes likes to give a warning high pitched bark or five. Yesterday though… not bad. She didn’t do bad at all. I think there will be many more trips to Hondo in her future.

Daring Duo

Daring Duo

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

Here are the boys, excited to be moving along the trail. Pretty terrific, both of them, making it the whole way without even one complaint.