Adopting a 10 year old basset hound

Steve Huffman
Steve Huffman

by Steve Huffman

In the midst of our first winter storm in years, Meg and I did did what any sane adults would do: We rescued a 10-year-old basset hound.

OK, to say we “rescued” Lucky might be a bit of a stretch. He belonged to a neighbor a couple of blocks down the street. But the neighbor has apparently moved into an apartment, so Lucky has been patrolling his fenced backyard alone for … well, years, or so we’re told.

Someone would stop by to feed Lucky on occasion, but other than that he was on his own. When I walked past, I’d often hear him wailing, begging for attention.
I leaned over the fence and petted Lucky a time or two while on my strolls. He seemed sweet. And lonesome.

So with the storm approaching, I left a note on the down-the-street neighbor’s porch offering to take Lucky. Phone calls were exchanged this afternoon.

a basset hound (not Lucky)
a basset hound (not Lucky)

Meg bought Lucky a collar on her way home from work. We walked down the street in the snow to bring Lucky home.

We had to do a bit of coaxing to get him out of his house, which is understandable. It was cold. But once Lucky stepped out and saw we were taking him somewhere, he seemed excited.

Well, as excited as an overweight 10-year-old basset hound can appear.

Lucky peed on every telephone pole on the walk home. He apparently hadn’t been outside his fence or inside a house for years. Did I mention he’s not housebroken?

He was also filthy. One of the first things Meg and I did was put him in the bathtub and wash him. He whined, but that seems to be Lucky’s way. He hasn’t stopped whining since we brought him inside.

His nails are also in terrible need of being trimmed. If he’s not deaf, he’s not missing it by much. I’ve learned all this within the first couple of hours of Lucky being ours.
Remind me again what a wonderful thing we’re doing.

Sarah and Jackie Mudpie

It’s wonderful having Sarah home. Here’s a picture of her (taken without her permission or knowledge), asleep on our couch this morning with Jackie Mudpie.  They are very close.


If it weren’t for Sarah, we would not have Jackie.  We rescued this dog from a woman who had dozens, perhaps hundreds, of dogs.

We went there that day, looking for a puppy.  We had just lost Honey, our previous canine family member.

My father drove us there, with my two daughters.  We were disgusted by all of these dogs, the way they were being treated, and the crazy lady who begged us to “send help!”

The kids wanted to leave, and we decided to look elsewhere for a puppy.  We were leaving, when suddenly an armful of sweetness appeared in Sarah’s arms.

“Look at this one,” she said.

“Jackie!” screamed Emma.

“Mudpie!” shouted Sarah.

“Jackie Mudpie!” they said, together.

Thus, for the past five years we’ve had a great dog that answers to the name of Jackie Mudpie.

They call it self-service for a reason

I just gave my dog a bath at one of those self-service dog washes.

She really needed it.  She smelled like shit.

In so many ways, she’s such a civilized, evolved, spiritual creature.  She’s very good at breathing, meditation, peace, unconditional love, and living in the moment.

But why — why — does she insist on rolling in other dog’s crap?

She loves getting shit on her back, which makes it look, to me, intentional.  First she has to sniff around and find it.  Then she has to lie down in it.  Why?  What’s the huge fascination with other dog’s shit?

I liked this place.  My dog is afraid of a lot of things, including cats and baths.  It’s a lot easier there than in the bathtub at home.  It’s quicker.  Less messy.

When I was leaving the self-service dog wash, I tidied my space, paid the $11, and thanked the lady.  She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to read it before I came back.

“Was I a bad customer?” I asked.  “Did I make a mistake?”

No answer.

Upon returning to my car, I read the instructions and really can’t see that I did anything wrong.

I confess that, when I first got there, I asked a few questions.  It was my first time.  I just wanted to know sort of how it all worked.  I needed to know where things were — including the tubs.

I think when they say self-service, they really mean it.  It’s like a laundromat.  You’re suppose to go in, do your wash, and not bother anybody.

Little to talk about

It’s not that I haven’t had time to blog lately.

It’s just that I haven’t had anything to say.

I have been watching the political news, the talk of health care, racism, tea baggers, Obama, Obama-haters, financial Situations, unemployment — all the American-style extremism…  What can you say?  It’s all crazy — our leaders trying to find their way in the world with all this new media.  Let’s hope they do find their way and we become a country that is, once again, governable.

But, there are a couple of things:

Started a new walking routine.  I’ve found a bench near a creek, and I stop there for about fifteen minutes — in the middle of my walk — and well…sort of meditate.

The dog calms down also.  Sometimes she interrupts by licking my fingers.

This is a pleasant addition to the daily walk, and I highly recommend it.

Other than that, same ol’ same ol’…

My yoga teacher

A dog makes a wonderful yoga teacher and all-around guru.

She teaches how to stretch, relax, breathe, meditate. All by example.

Notice her tail is on the corner of the yoga mat.

my yoga teacher and guru
my yoga teacher and guru

Walking her at night (a sonnet)

When I go out in night to walk the street
and smell the lurk of growth in humid air
I see the half moon orange against the heat
and smell myself, my sweat, my sticky hair.

I feel the sprinkler push a lazy song
arranging colors on a spotted earth.
It steals the time away from summer’s wrong.
It tries to make of natural death a birth.

And when this splash of night can meditate
and strike the skin with sounds that utter soul
as if the force of breath could hesitate
and make a moment of an empty whole

it’s then I tell my dog that we are one
and bend to kiss her head and let her run.

My daughters’ puppies died too young

Last night, my daughter’s new puppy died from Parvo.

It’s hard to lose a pet, especially a dog.  They are nothing but love.

We never knew the puppy personally.  Sarah lives in Alaska.  We did know how much she wanted and loved it.  She visited the puppy in the shelter since it was three weeks old and finally brought it home — only to have it live two weeks.

Murphy, Sarah's puppy
Murphy, Sarah’s puppy

In those two weeks, she posted pictures on Facebook and asked her friends to suggest names.  She named it Murphy.  When the dog became sick, she posted updates about her feelings and about Murphy’s battle.

I’ve always been a liberal Democrat and disagree with most things Charles Krauthammer writes — but I was very moved by a column he wrote in 2003 about losing his dog.  At the time, we had just lost our dog, Honey.

He talks about growing up in a city apartment with few pets, and then being introduced to the joy of dogs by his wife.

This is the concluding passage that has stayed with me:  “Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, it is something between eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal, indeed, deeply human to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty. Should we not be moved when it produces a vision — a creature — of the purest sweetness?”

His column is available here.

I also remember hearing an interview on NPR about how much we learn about loss — and the human condition itself — from having pets.

Our dog, Honey, died a week after her first birthday.  I had just gotten my video camera and recorded the grand event, which was carefully arranged by my other daughter (see video below).

Honey spent her days at my parents’ house, with my parents’ dog, Zellie.  Zellie, who is still my mother’s constant companion, was Honey’s mother. My younger daughter — whose life revolved around this dog — visited my father each day after school, while we — her parents — worked.  She played cards with my dad, sometimes for hours, and then put Honey on a leash and walked the three blocks home, often stopping to discuss dog ownership with all the other dog owners in the neighborhood.  When she was outside, Honey required a leash at all times, and we had several of them.

Honey’s miracle was that she was a total surprise.  My parents thought Zellie had been spayed and didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth. My daughter had been begging for a dog for years — so she had her puppy only minutes after it was born.

At one point, when Zellie was nursing her two puppies, the proud mother found a baby possum outside and brought into the bed with her puppies.

I remarked to my father, “She can’t tell the difference between a possum and a puppy.”

“She also can’t count very well,” my father said.

She kept bringing baby possums in and I had to eventually take that possum deep into the woods and let it go.

The tragedy occurred when the guy who mowed my parents’ lawn left without closing the fence gate.  Honey and her mother, Zellie, decided to leave the yard.  Zellie came back home.  Honey was Lhasa, part Jack Russell, and part Chiwawa — and much younger.  She sprinted two blocks and got hit by a car.  The person who hit her took her to the vet’s office.  It was our vet, and we found her there after an afternoon of frantic searching.

We do learn about grief, whether we want to or not.  Sarah, I’m sorry about your broken heart.  I wish you weren’t so far away.  I’m glad we have Facebook.  I know, with Parvo, you have to wait before getting another dog.  But when you do, I can’t wait to see the pictures.

Drama in the front yard

The dogwood blossoms are gone.  The azaleas are browning.

Sometimes I fear the rogue rhododendron could eventually crowd out the azaleas. I’m very meticulous about the way I ignore care for these beautiful plants. Haven’t pruned, fertilized, or anything else in 24 years. Since I don’t know how to do it properly, I’m afraid an attempt would do more harm than good.

The blossoms, however, are more than adequate.

The last photo shows Jackie Mudpie, as she reclines on “the lawn,” enjoying the sun.





April evening

Catawba students playing lacrosse

Originally uploaded by smpost

On my left, lacrosse in the football stadium.

Listening to Leonard Cohen.

Taught Jackie (my dog) to get out of the road and obey the command “on the grass.” She’s four or five years old. Still learns fast. She’ll happily do almost anything for a pat on the head and kind word or two.