Sunday, January 08, 2006


It's been a while since I posted, and I can only attribute that to holiday madness. I was on the road a lot, catching up with people for the seasonal celebrations, taking advantage of travel schedules to spend time with people I don't get to see every week, and generally being out of my routine. I LOVED IT!

I had a great holiday season, and got to spend quality time with everyone from my niece-dog, Orenda, to my old buddies from Austin, to my new friends in Dallas. My sister, the one with the new babies, got to slip away for a couple of days on vacation. My mom got my nieces, and I got my niece-dog! She is a yellow lab, which makes her a nice counterpoint to my own black lab, Molly, but aside from breed similarity they are about as opposite as cousins can be. Orenda was trained as a service dog, not necessarily a seeing-eye dog, but as a handicapped assistance dog. She didn't finish her training because she's a fraidy-dog and spooks at loud sounds, so my sister adopted her. Molly is the original "country dog". She likes to run, jump, bark, swim, fetch, chew and frolic. Orenda is a "city dog" who likes to have her ears scratched, lie in sunbeams, bring your cell phone to you, and sleep. Molly thinks my cell phone is the devil in a blue box with flashing lights. Orenda is so polite that she won't jump on the bed while I'm in it, unless I specifically call her up. Molly races me to the bed and gets stretched out across my side before I can even get my eyeglasses off. Orenda carries plushies around like they're her babies, Molly disembowels plushies and leaves their hollow carcasses on my floor.

This personality contrast makes walking them together a special sort of fun. :) Not only do I have to handle their leashes completely differently and remember two different sets of commands for similar activities, these two dogs physically go in totally different directions at all times. If Molly ever stops to pee, that's the instant at which Orenda suddenly wants to go forward. Orenda likes to stop and sniff a lot, so I spend a lot of time exhorting her to keep up while Molly tries to drag me off my feet.

The funniest, and most relaxing, part for me was when I got them down to the river and off their leashes. Where we start our walk, the river is very wide and shallow with a rocky bottom. Molly and Orenda both splashed around in that and had fun, until Orenda found a hole and fell in it up to her chin. She was NOT pleased at the sudden dunking and started paying attention to Molly's route a lot more. Molly used to fall in the holes, too, but she just bounces right up and keeps going. Orenda was a little un-done by her experience. So Orenda stuck pretty close to the bank (when she'd get in the water at all) for the rest of the day.

Over the course of the week, though, Orenda got a little braver every day. There was lots of riverbank to roam around on and other dogs' scents to sniff and sometimes she'd play defense while Molly was trying to get out of the water or return the ball. But every day, when we got to the shallow spot, she'd follow Molly out into the water and she'd get further from shore every time. Then she started climbing down the bank and getting her feet in the water, even at the deep places. She especially liked the spots where a drainage ditch would join the river and there would be a shallow little stillwater for her to stand in.

Finally, on about the 5th day of this, Orenda actually got in the water on purpose (she had fallen in once or twice) and splashed out to where Molly was swimming with the ball. Molly could only be described as STUNNED AND SURPRISED to find her cousin-dog out in the water with her. The water used to be a safe place where Molly could chase the ball without Orenda grabbing onto her jaw or her ear and generally playing defense. Suddenly, it was not. Luckily for Molly, she still has speed on her side. She and Orenda are the same height, but Molly is kinda like Jennifer Garner and Orenda is kinda like Renee Zellweger (especially in the Bridget Jones movies). Molly's just a little faster...

Anyway, Orenda finally started getting the hang of the country dog thing, and she taught Molly that it's best to eat your food when it's served and not to wait around until you're in the mood. :) We all had a good time, especially when they finally figured out that they both like to wrestle. I would sit back with a book and a cup of tea in the evenings and watch them throw each other around the room just like I imagine I'd do if i had kids. Molly won most of their athletic contests, but Orenda definitely has an edge over Molly in the "scary face" department. I'll see if I can bribe my sister into capturing it on film, because Orenda has the greatest snarl I've ever seen, and she can deliver it while her tail is wagging in play.

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