Airedale Chronicles: Bruno At Six Months


Name: Bruno

Aliases: Bru, Bru-ski, Muttley, Fluffydog, Fat-Dog, Bonehead

Age: Six months

Occupation: Complete Nut

On Saturday, Bruno reached his half-birthday. People ask all the time how things are going with the puppy. I tell them, imagine your son hit puberty during the terrible twos.

Gone almost overnight are the tiny puppy teeth. We found some of his tiny incisors, and I snatched out three hanging molars myself, but those needle-like puppy canines simply disappeared. His adult canines are lengthening daily. They look worse, but feel better.

He no longer snaps or chews on us, but he approaches everything and everyone he loves with jaws agape. He wants to mouth you. He also wants to rub his head and body against your legs like a cat, to push himself between them as you stand or beneath them as you sit. (He took little Lily for a ride the other day by standing up while she was carefully stepping over him.)

If you are lying down, his first move is to stick his cold wet nose in your ear, and if you’ve only just gotten up and are wearing your pajama shorts, he likes to run that same nose from the back of your calf to the back of your knee, leaving a cold wet snail-trail to help bring your morning into focus.

As a young friend of ours says, he “got his puberty.” He is rapidly approaching fifty pounds, and beneath the dark puppy fur on his head, ears, shoulders and neck, he is rapidly turning tan. And he stinks. Again almost overnight, he went from a sweet-smelling puppy to a rank jock of a dog; we’re bathing him weekly to keep up (or rather, to keep the smell down).

Wanderlust has also kicked in, so we keep him tethered outside and are beginning to work specifically on coming when called.

It was bitterly cold for awhile, then quite icy, making the walking of a forty-plus-pound, high-energy puppy treacherous. Thankfully for the past few weeks Bruno has seemed content to play and sleep in the house, all the while gaining size (and storing energy, apparently). Yesterday I took him for a walk, and was struck by how much stronger, more energetic, and more fearless he is. He strained forward with his body and his attention; he needed constant reminders not to pull, and shot this way and that to investigate chunks of snow, icy patches, debris, and other dogs. A Pomeranian elicited insistent whining, two separate retrievers sparked whining and great leaps up into the air, and the pair of enormous, booming Great Danes up the street (which Bruno refused to walk past as a pup, and had to be carried), garnered leaps, barks, and playful growls and snarls.

He jumped around, spun circles, scrambled and skittered on the ice, snapped at his lead, and was generally nutty. He paid acute attention to the neighbor’s horse (his giiiiiirlfriend…) and to a pickup hauling a bouncing and rattling aluminum trailer (which caused him to jump back, scoot sideways, and stare). Then, when we returned home, he tore around the house, a rubber mallard in his jaws, tossing it violently, shaking it viciously, and generally showing himself to be an adolescent terrier.

He still tries to sit in my lap. He still has one corkscrew ear that springs sideways from his head. We joke that this ear is attuned to the voices in his head while the other is listening to us. Which one wins the moment is a crap shoot.

He’s a good puppy, on his way to becoming a good dog. Good boy, Bruno.

Peace in God’s Hands

A week ago Friday, Emma and I went for a drive. The purpose was to get her on the freeway for the first time—on Saturday, we were heading to Bismarck to visit friends, and that long drive straight west is a great opportunity to get practice hours behind the wheel. We had planned to take the Suburban, but Emma had less experience and comfort with the Blue Beast, so we opted to take the minivan. It is getting older, but it’s my daily driver and a little easier for a new driver to manage.

Emma has been doing well in her driving thus far. She is focused and attentive and rarely gets rattled. She has driven 55 to 60 miles per hour on regular roads and has experience in town traffic, but this was to be her first time on the freeway. I drove us westward on I-94, away from the Cities and end-of-the-workday traffic, reminding her as we went of what she had learned in class: merging, moving over for entering traffic, blind spots, etc. She admitted she was nervous, but no more so than trying any other new thing behind the wheel. I offered that we should get off at the Hasty exit, and that she could drive toward Maple Lake on regular roads a bit before we looped back and got on the freeway. And so we did.

The sun was setting as we approached the freeway and turned right onto the eastbound ramp. Westbound traffic was still heavy; eastbound, not so much. So far so good. I talked her through the merge as we headed down the ramp, and she responded: Get up to speed. Signal. Check your blind spot…

A vehicle was in the near lane, closing on us. We both saw it; it was difficult to tell if they were letting us in, and Emma said so.  We looked forward at roughly the same time and saw we were coming off the ramp and onto the shoulder, which was covered with a thin layer of slushy snow. The van began to fishtail.

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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.

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Forty-Third Birthday, Extended and Remixed

I am still a such a kid when it comes to birthdays. I still love the food and fun, the off-key singing, the warmth and glow and light and presents. Yes, I know that material wealth does not avail, but I love receiving (and giving) gifts. I can’t help it.

At the same time, birthdays are also a bit melancholy. As each year passes, I find myself reflecting on those things I have not yet done, and the speed with which time seems to pass these days. That mix of joy and anticipation with reflection and blues often leaves me quiet, recollected, and prayerful—which, in the end, is not a bad place to be.

Nevertheless, when my 43rd birthday rolled around on Friday, I struggled a bit. Jodi and I worked during the day, which is not unusual, but Gabe needed to work late afternoon through early evening. In addition, a couple of conversations with my bride (one somewhat veiled, one not so much) led me to believe that she was struggling to come up with a gift of any sort, much less the one she hoped to purchase. It was shaping up to be a subdued celebration.

So when Emma was offered a babysitting gig for Friday evening, I sighed and surrendered. We would celebrate Saturday, gift or no gift.

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Geek Feast: How to Eat Like a Hobbit

Last weekend our offspring (minus Brendan, who’s at UMary, of course) and the Engel clan gathered at our house for a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. Of course, such a quest—nine-hours-plus of movie-watching—requires a substantial outlay of provisions. I came home from work that Friday afternoon to a house that rang with laughter and hobbit songs, and smelled of savory meats and sweet baked goods.

The eldest Miss Engel had cracked open her hobbit cookbook (and not a few eggs, I suspect), and the teens were busy filling meat pies, cooling fresh lembas and cupcakes, and preparing mushrooms for stuffing. Bacon-wrapped sausages and po-tay-toes (“boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew…”) rounded out the feast.

Rosebud had frosted the cupcakes: nine with blue circles to represent the Rings of Men, seven red ones for the Dwarf-lords, three in green for the elves, and five yellow-frosted cakes with delicate runes in black (“It’s some form of Elvish, but I can’t read it.”) translated as “One ring to rule them all.”

Mike and Stacy came over to eat after Jodi got home from work. The teens watched movies all night. We ate for days.

Hobbits eat well, as do Lord of the Rings geeks, it appears!