Sunday, February 13, 2011

Doggone Dogblog

The human population seems to be divided between cat people and dog people.  I am decidedly in the latter camp.   Don’t get me wrong, I love our two cats, Buddy and 2kee, but when kibble comes to bits, I would pick our dog Pippi any day.

Everyone knows that dogs are man’s best friend.  Woman’s too.  We wax eloquent about the virtues of dogs—how little they ask of us, and how much they give back.  And there is a great deal of truth there.   Pippi’s list of needs is pretty short.    Food, water, an occasional pat on the head.  A place to run and frequent walks.  Being let out often enough to accommodate our mutual cleanliness standards.  

Yes, pretty basic stuff.

And what does she give back?  Absolute unconditional love.   She has never failed to bring a smile to my face when I return home, and no matter what anyone else might think, SHE thinks I totally rock.  While Buddy and 2kee tend to be moody-- snuggly and affectionate one minute, aloof and distant the next --Pippi only knows one mood.  Joy.  When she was younger, joy manifested itself as unbridled jubilation.  At over 14 years of age, that joy looks more like self-satisfied contentment.

Pippi has always been a beautiful dog, and people often ask about her breed.  The truth is that she came from the wrong side of the tracks, and  we don’t know much about her origins.  She is black from nose to tail and as best as our vet can guess, she is mainly Black Lab and Husky.  Judging by her polka-dotted tongue, there is also little Chow DNA mixed in there, and some people have speculated that there might also be some German Sheppard.  Who knows?  We rescued her from the dog pound when she was just nine weeks old and since then she has just been another member of the family.

Pippi, 1996
The kids wanted to name her after Pippi Longstocking, one of their favorite storybook characters.  Ellen, who was just five when Pippi came to live with us, thought she needed more formal name and officially named her Pepper.  “Pepper” has been called lots of things.  Pippi , of course.  Pipster, Pips, Muttface, Stoopid Mutt, Pippilada Enchilada, and so on.  But never Pepper.   While many dogs have human favorites, Pippi has always been loyal to the whole family.  When we are spread out within the house, she does some fancy geometry to station herself equidistant from each of us.   If you drew a free body diagram, I suspect she would be pretty close to the center of mass of the family. 

Pippi is a talker.  Some canine aficionado friends tell me that Huskies are like that.  When we picked her up at the vet’s office after she was neutered, she walked over to us, sat down and began baying and yowling the story of her medical woes.  The vet laughed and told me not to believe a word of it, that they were, in fact, very good to her.  When we get home from work, she yowls for a while, presumably telling us what she and the cats have been up to all day.  We humans are pretty smug in our knowledge that we are much smarter than dogs, but while Pippi probably knows a dozen English words,  I have never mastered a single doggie word.  If she wants to go out, she can’t just bark “out,” she  has go to the back door so I get the idea. If she wants a doggie treat, she has to go to the cabinet where they are kept.  If she doesn’t stand by the cabinet while barking her “word” for treat, I am likely to misunderstand and shoo her outside.   Yet, I can sit on the sofa and ask in a normal tone of voice,  “Where is your leash?” and she goes straight to the table where it is usually left and if it is not there, she’ll go to the laundry room where it actually belongs.    She must think we are real morons.

But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.  She is no paragon of virtue. 

For example, she is a  thief.

A thief and a glutton. 

Especially for cupcakes.

The first cupcake incident occurred a long time ago.  Pippi was about three and Ellen was a Brownie Girl Scout.  It was our turn to bring snacks to the Girl Scout meeting, so I made 2 dozen cupcakes.  These were made to please a bunch of second grade girls, so they were vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, decorated with “chocolate” jimmies or green sugar.     I had just finished frosting them in time for our meeting.  I left them on the counter and ran upstairs to finish getting ready.  Less than five minutes later, I was back but there was not a cupcake to be seen.  No cupcake crumbs, no smeared frosting, not even a paper wrapper.  In just a couple of minutes, Pippi, the world’s best dog ever, had inhaled 24 cupcakes, wrappers and all, obliterating all evidence of the cupcakes’ short existence.  Al walked into the kitchen and said, “I thought you were bringing the snack to Girl Scouts.  Did you change your mind?”    You might think that 24 frosted cupcakes would make a 65 pound dog pretty sick, but you would be wrong.  She was just fine.  Happy as could be.

Years later, I had made a batch of cupcakes to take to Eric when he first started college.  These were chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  I left them in a covered box in the middle of the dining room table.  The box was closed.  It was pretty far out of reach, I thought.  When Ellen got home from school, she found the box on the dining room floor.  The cupcakes were gone, the frosting rubbed into the carpet and Pippi had a guilty look in her eye.   There was really no question about the perpetrator,  her fur was still stiff with frosting.  Based on the fact that both her face and her back were covered with icing, we figure she must have been writhing on the floor in cupcake-induced orgiastic ecstasy.

Between those cupcake incidents were numerous cases of stolen cookies, brownies, pork chops, pancakes, popcorn, chicken… really, nothing was safe if left out.  People always tell me that chocolate makes dogs sick, but nothing has ever made our Pippi sick—not even an entire 2 pound box of chocolate turtle candies we received as a Christmas gift one year.  We have learned to keep food completely out of her reach and  to this day, if we are serving hors d'oeurves to guests, we have to sequester her in our bedroom or else her rather large nose is right there sniffing the delicacies on the coffee table.

But it is cupcakes she likes best. For the last couple of years, whenever her 'calendar year' birthday or Christmas rolls around, her gift is a package of chocolate Hostess Cupcakes.  She gets one, and Al, always concerned about the Pipster's health, eats the other.

Pippi is getting pretty old.  Recently we did the math and discovered that her 100th doggie-year birthday was last Friday.   Maybe I am sentimental, or maybe pathetic, or maybe just an empty nester looking for something to do, but whatever the reason,  I baked a batch of homemade chocolate chip cupcakes just for her.   Because, after all, you don’t turn 100 every day.  She and Al have been enjoying them all weekend.   They may not be healthy for her, but at this stage, I am not too worried.

December 2010
There is no doubt that the Pipster is slowing down.  The jubilant energetic puppy has transformed into a (usually) dignified old lady.  She is nearly deaf now.  When we get home, she no longer greets us at the door eager to play.  Instead she is usually sound asleep on her mat in our bedroom.  We go upstairs, calling her name, but she often doesn’t hear us until we gently touch her shoulder and say, “Hey Pips!  We’re home,”   She slowly gets up, tail wagging and greets us with the stories of the day.  Happy to see us.  Just happy to be.  

Yes,  Pippi’s list of needs is pretty short.    Food, water, an occasional pat on the head.  A place to run (a little slower now) and frequent walks.  Being let out often enough to accommodate our mutual cleanliness standards.   And cupcakes.

Today I am grateful for our good friend Pippi.  Happy Birthday Muttface!

1 comment:

  1. So sweet. Happy birthday Pippi!
    Nicely written, as always.