November 16, 2012

Unlimited Combinations

Often, Gretchen wakes up in the morning and has toast. This might seem like a simple breakfast, but over the years, I’ve watched her take this simple ingredient and turn it into something yummy and scrumptious…well, for her it is. It’s only sometimes delicious to me. First, she takes the bread of her choice. Occasionally this is bread she’s made herself, but lately, because we’ve been so busy, it’s been Dave’s Killer Bread. She puts it in the toaster and then decides what else to do with it once toasted.

There’s the bare necessities approach — plain or with butter (though I’m here to tell you she rarely has it plain…well, only when her tummy’s upset). And yes, it’s butter not margarine or any other substitute. Then the rest of the choices begin — toast with butter, toast with butter and cinnamon sugar, toast with peanut butter (and when she’s feeling decadent, butter AND peanut butter), toast with butter and jam, toast with a hard-boiled egg smooshed on top, or a fried egg, or scrambled eggs, or her personal favorite, a poached egg. Or there’s toast with butter and honey — something she likes with her own homemade bread. Once she tried toast with cottage cheese on top but that didn’t go over well as she’s not a big fan of cottage cheese (me either).

If she’s got time, she makes a BLT on toast.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. One ingredient and unlimited combinations.

That’s about how it’s felt this past week as we’ve not only walked our regular dog clients, but we’ve also cared for a variety of combinations of dogs at our house. The simple ingredient in this instance is “dog” and the combinations for walks or feeding or sleeping are, as you guessed it, unlimited.

Paige and Cosmo were here for the weekend. While it seems like we should all be able to walk together with Gretchen, this is not the case. Often, Ann has to accompany us. Three dogs and two humans is the proper equation when walking with Paige and Cosmo. And rarely can you take a camera because it’s impossible to get us all to behave for a photo.

So, we take photos at night when we’re crashed out from all of our walking (which you should read as WATCHING FOR SQUIRRELS! because that’s what Paige does on walks and then Cosmo watches Paige and when we spot a squirrel, Dog save Gretchen’s shoulders because they just about pop out of their sockets!)

Or she takes photos of us in pairs because, as I’ve said, three wild dogs is almost impossible for her to capture.

Walking in different combinations is the only recourse. I walk with Paige, then Paige walks with Cosmo. Then I go out with Cosmo and get an off-leash run with Paige in the woods. Yes, I sleep very well on those nights.

But let’s add another dog into the mix and you can see why my curly legs are tired this week. Tuesday and Scout arrives. Not only is he kind of my doppelganger (as in look-a-like) we walk kind of the same way — attentive and out of the way of the Dobermans.

So, with Scout here the walking commences this way — Paige, Scout and me. Paige and Cosmo. Cosmo, Scout and me. And in between it all, there’s the dog walking clients. I mostly do that duty walking with Tyson for instance, though sometimes Gretchen walks the dog walking clients by herself– as she did with Carter and Kali — because even Gretchen needs time away from the crowd at our house.

Once the Dobermans go home, I’m thinking that hanging with Scout is rather nice. We share nicely.

Then Wednesday arrives and we pick up Monty who spends the day with us and to my surprise, in walks Dezi who, it appears is staying with us for a long time. Wow, really?

The combinations continue: Dezi and me. Monty, Scout, and Dezi (I needed a break). Scout, Dezi, and me (Monty went home for the day).

That’s it, I’m thinking by Thursday but then it’s me, Dezi and Scout followed by all of us with Roux…and it’s impossible to get us all to look at the camera at the same time!

And in the evening who arrives at the door? Tyson!

So now it’s Scout with Tyson then Dezi and me. And in the morning, it’s Dezi with Tyson, Scout and me. Yep all four. All with Gretchen.

On Friday Gretchen declares, “A full house of boys!” and I sigh with exhaustion.

Oh and let’s not forget about Carter and Kali again on Thursday and Monty again on Friday. The combos continue — this time, it’s rather back to normal with Tyson, Monty and me while Scout and Dezi wait at home.

And then it’s Tyson with Dezi, Monty, and Scout and I get some quiet time by myself.

Are you tired yet? Trust me…I am! I can only imagine how tired Gretchen is! (Dare I say…she’s toast!)

At night we’re all designated to certain places. Scout likes his bed, but I like the human bed and apparently so do Tyson and Dezi so instead of crowding out the humans, Gretchen sleeps in the guest room sharing the bed with Tyson except he doesn’t share very well — he curls up as tight as he can against Gretchen pushing her to a sliver of the queen-sized bed with an equal amount of covers.

Meal time is a challenge as well. We all want each other’s food. Dezi eats like a bird, but throw some cooked chicken on his meal and he’s very content. Scout thinks my food (raw turkey and a couple of whole raw chicken necks) smells divine and Tyson, as polite as he is thinks everyone’s food looks interesting in addition to his own.

So up go the gates and Scout and Dezi eat in the living while Tyson and I eat in the kitchen. Bowls are picked up pronto lest someone gets a bit growly for someone else’s dregs at the bottom of the bowl. But so far, everyone’s been incredibly gracious and kind.

By Friday, I was thinking that someone else was going to walk through the door just to keep things interesting, but instead, Scout went home and the weekend is all set with Dezi, Tyson, and me.


“Is that it?” I asked Gretchen.

“That’s pretty much it,” Gretchen said. “Just Tyson and Dezi for awhile.”

“Just,” I sighed.

And here I was thinking toast was complicated, but it’s easy compared with dog ingredients.

Through it all, though, I’ve been a very good boy. No squabbling with the guests, no being territorial, no demanding more attention than anyone else, and offering up the comfiest spots to anyone who was interested.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not an easy job. Watching pets for other people and walking them for miles and miles and miles is a lot of work. Gretchen always thinks she wants another dog in our lives — you know a baby sister for me (she wants a girl, not another boy), but Ann is quick to remind her that our lives are PACKED with dogs (yes, pun intended!) and that frankly there isn’t enough room on the couch for that much needed nap.

But unlike toast and it’s many combinations, dog combinations last longer and taste sweeter, if you ask me.

Gretchen’s toast breakfast lasts 5 minutes max. Our dog combinations last for hours, days, and apparently in some instances, weeks. As far as I can see the only downside to a house full of dogs is the constant running of the vacuum cleaner, which doesn’t bother me, but does make Dezi and Monty a bit squirmy.

That’s the price you pay, I guess, for your work. “Remember,” I said to Gretchen the other day when she was really really tired and a bit overwhelmed with keeping it/us all straight, “It beats grading papers all weekend and making lessons plans for a classroom packed with too many students.”

She just smiled, but I knew she got it.

We sure hope your weekend is filled with dogs (perhaps not as many as we have, but still…a few…)…and may your toast have something yummy on top!




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