Airedale Chronicles: Little Big Dog

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Bruno at 15 weeks, with size 14 boots for scale

I took Bruno to the vet today for the last of his vaccinations. He will be 15 weeks old on Thursday, and in the past month, has gained exactly 11 pounds and (I’m guessing on this) about three or four inches in height. When he first came to us, he could scoot under the lowest cross-brace on our kitchen chairs or plunge beneath the futon almost without breaking stride. Now he belly-crawls beneath the futon and pushes between the chairs. At more than 27 wriggling pounds, he’s a lot to scoop up these days—like when he doesn’t want to get in the van or walk into the veterinary office. And he’s still got that puppy awkwardness, only magnified by his adolescent frame. He trips, stumbles, rolls, and keeps going.

The doc remembered him—she doesn’t see many Airedales—and voiced her approval of his growth. She checked him over and commented on how muscular he is for a puppy. On my way out, the lady with the mini (toy?) schnauzer said, “Look at those paws! He’s gonna be HUGE!”

I don’t know whether to be proud or scared.

Continue reading

Airedale Chronicles: Rise of the Snow Dog

SkepticalBruno

Skeptical…

When we heard last week that snow was moving in, I told the kids that one of my favorite parts of raising a puppy is seeing his or her reaction to firsts…in this case, Bruno’s first ever snow. When the skies finally opened Friday morning, he did not disappoint.

Bruno wakes up on puppy time, which means he can be a little sluggish until he gets wound up. Usually by the time we take our morning walk, however, he’s ready to go. On Friday, however, I opened the door to windblown white flakes, and Bruno stopped short of stepping outside. He stared a moment and then, as if to feign nonchalance, put his big front paws on the front stoop and stre-e-e-e-e-etched, glancing around all the while. He stepped outside, slowly put his front paws down a step, and stretched again, subtly sniffing the white and windy air around him.

And again with the last step down only to sidewalk: Gotta act casual…but what is this stuff? Continue reading

Bruno, or Feeding the Mouth that Bites You…

bruno21.jpgMany of you know by now that a few weeks ago, we welcomed a new, four-legged member to our family—an eight-and-a-half-week-old Airedale Terrier pup.

This is monumental in some ways. First and foremost, Jodi is not big on pets. Early in our marriage, not only did she deal with multiple dogs and pregnancies, sometimes simultaneously, but she also dealt with a boneheaded, dog-loving husband who was away from home a lot and failed to see why leaving her home with child and with a puppy was a big deal.

Second, I am a dog lover and do not remember a time when we didn’t have at least one dog, and usually two or more. Our most recent canine companion, a mini Schnauzer named Puck, passed away almost three years ago. The kids and I have been pining, but very carefully not pressing, for a dog ever since. Continue reading

Dog-Tired, or the Good, the Bad…and a Puppy

I’m dog-tired.

My dad used to say, whenever I would complain of not sleeping well, “When you get tired enough, you’ll sleep.” Over the past year or so, I had taken that to heart: if I found myself tossing and turning in the wee hours, I would get up, brew a cup of coffee, and write, figuring I’d sleep better the next night.

Generally it worked—but these days I know what Dad really meant.

The good news is that I’m working full-time and making just enough to keep us afloat another month. The bad news is that I’m working two part-time jobs, and one of them starts at 3 a.m., which means the alarm sounds at 2 a.m. and to function, I need to go to bed around 8 whenever possible. (Like tonight.)

The good? My early-morning job involves four hours of steady exercise, loading packages as quickly as I can. I’ve lost 10 to 15 pounds, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in probably 20 years. I’m no longer sore at the end of the day. I rise, stretch, down a cup of coffee and a protein bar, then drain a water bottle and say my morning prayers on the way to the warehouse.

The bad? I joke with Jodi that I get paid to go to the gym each morning—but who in his right mind goes to the gym at 3 a.m., for four hours? I come home tired, filthy, and soaked with sweat, usually after everyone has left for work and school; I see my wife and kids for a little while after school and work, but usually turn in not long after supper.

Most afternoons and evenings I’m too tired to write much. I nod off at the keyboard. Continue reading

Road Trip Review, Part 1: What Were We Doing?

On Sunday, May 1, just as soon as I got home from First Communion Mass and changed my clothes, Emma, Trevor, and I left for a week-long road trip. So many of you were curious about where we were going and what we were doing that it became a source of amusement to keep you guessing.

Now that we’re back, it appears some of our friends still insist there must be some method to our madness. Surely we didn’t drive 60-plus hours in seven days for kicks?

I assure you: there was very little method. Only madness. Or maybe dadness.

It all started in September 2008, when I took Bren (then 10) and Gabe (then 8) on  a road trip to the East Coast for a Yankees game, a Yale football game, and various other amusements. We had a great time, and when we returned (and ever since), Emma and Trevor have reminded me I owed them a trip. We’ve talked about various destinations over the years, but when we got serious about a year or two ago, they agreed: they wanted to go to Florida.

“Florida,” I said. “Really? Florida?”

“Yes,” they insisted. “Everyone goes to Florida. We never have.”

Exactly, I thought. Everyone goes; we never do. What I said out loud was, “Well, if that’s your choice…but we’re not going to Disney or that kind of thing. If we’re going, we’re doing something I’ve never done.”

“Like what?” they asked.

“Like go to the Everglades. Or the Keys. Or go fishing.”

They looked at each other and grinned. “Okay!” they said.

“Alright,” I said, “I’ll start figuring it out.”

Their grins grew even bigger. “We’re going to Florida!”

They’ve been excited since.

I’ve been to Florida twice: once as a three-year-old (I have vague memories of visiting family and Disney World — Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and Mickey’s big plastic cheek made lasting impressions) and again with the high-school marching band (I mostly recall the bus ride down and back, a big waterpark in Orlando with a crazy steep slide called Der Stuka, a.k.a. the Wedgiemaker, and not knowing the marching music because as a football player I rarely marched). My recollection of the state itself was pretty green ranch country punctuated by neon t-shirt shops, tourist-trap towns, and RV parks. I wasn’t excited to return, until I started planning the trip.

Our purpose — our primary goal — was to drive to end of the road and eat good food along the way. That was it. Beyond that, I wanted to see gators in the Everglades; they hoped to see whales or dolphins and new country. Some months after we decided to go south, we connected with an Airedale breeder in Alabama, and thought, God willing, we might come home with a pup.

We knew before we left he wouldn’t have puppies for us yet, but we decided to stop through anyway to meet Randy and Pat and their dogs, which also enabled us to rendezvous at an old favorite spot for ribs in downtown Memphis (a place I used to love in a previous life, working for Hanley Wood Marketing and visiting our clients at FedEx).

Aside from no-see-ums the first night in the Keys and sunburn the next day, it was a great trip. I’ll share much more in words and photos in the coming days.