Marie, Blaine and I feel so blessed to have a lovely home, a turn of the century Craftsman style, in the Hawthorne district of Portland, Oregon. Marie bought this house in 1977, and when I came into the picture in 1997, she acquired the everyday handyman skills a house needs. It’s not a huge house, but it is plenty big for the three of us. Over the past seven or eight years, together, we have made vast improvements, and the house has truly become our castle. My step-son Blaine, who uses a wheelchair, has his own accessible room on the first floor, with a full accessible bath, including a roll-in shower. In the front yard, leading to the porch, is a fully landscaped concrete ramp. And Marie’s proclivity for gardening has turned both front and back yards into a virtual jungle, lush with unusual and fragrant flora, and including a massive banana plant. In mid-summer, giant bright green banana leaves unfurl in the sunlight, as we sit with our Chardonnay beneath the towering bamboo, and enjoy the view, while the fragrance of fresh line-caught barbecuing Salmon fills the air.
One thing that makes this house a home, or, rather, two things, are those precious fluffy white canines, our Bichon Frises, Pippi and Poppi. When Marie gets home from work each day, she has to sit on the couch with them immediately, so they can plant her with many kisses, all jumpy and excited, and it fills us with glee. Marie, because she is the object of their affection, and me, just watching. Every moment of the day, just having them at our feet, or watching their antics, brings more warmth and love into our home. I say, send those angry terrorists a truckload of Bichon puppies. Call it “Operation Puppy Love”.
Bichons are good little watch dogs, and we can tell everytime someone is walking by the house, with a dog, or even alone. They let us know by jumping to the top of the couch, growling, and barking. We realized in retrospect that they were trying to tell us something was wrong, the night my van was broken into. Of course one can dwell on the positive aspects of their nosey and excitable nature, but I admit, sometimes they are, shall we say, a bit yappy.
Occasionally, when they are extra barky, or making a mess of things, maybe destroying one of Blaine’s Sports Illustrated magazines, before it hits the floor after coming through the mail slot, I tell them...”Quit actin’ like dogs”! But we all realize, if we are gonna have dogs, there will be a thing or three we’ll need to tolerate. Like walking them several times a day, and retrieving their poop. Like having them in your face when you are trying to savor your barbecued lamb. Or trying to fall asleep in your bed, while petting them, but every time you quit petting them, on the brink of slumber, they reawaken you with a paw to the ribs, saying, “Hey Dad, don’t stop petting me, I want more! Please!!!!”
All of those things pale in comparison to the joy I feel as they follow me from room to room, or when Pippi, especially, just stops in her tracks and stares up at me so adoringly, oily eyed and loyal, or when I see one of the dogs sitting comfortably on Blaine’s lap, while he cruises the internet from his wheelchair.
But yesterday, the doggies exibited some completely unacceptable behavior, once again, just bein’ dogs, but behavior that they will have to curb.
For several days, I had noticed that Poppi, the more assertive of the two, was coming into the house after being in the backyard, with a very dirty face. I thought she was just enjoying the Spring, that she was just digging around a bit. I would tease her, tell her what a mess she was, but didn’t think much about it. I had also noticed that she’d been especially fond of cats and anything that moves, for the last few days, as we walked the neighborhood. Then, yesterday, I found some small balls of dirt, on my studio floor, and on our bedroom floor, and thought, this is weird, what the heck is this? I vacuumed them up, as Pippi growled and attacked my dustbuster.
But all was revealed last night, as I typed away in my office, and Marie slid into our bed to read and retire. Suddenly, I heard Marie scream out, not a blood curdling scream, but more a scream of surprise than fear. I rushed to the bedroom. As I entered the room, Marie, lying under the covers, spoke, as she glared at the foot of the bed, “there’s a dead rat on the bed.”’ My eyes quickly followed her glare, and there, standing out among the bright pink folds of the comforter, was one dead, long-tailed rat, resembling a grey and furry dog toy, not yet putrid, and sleeping peacefully, it’s soul departed. A poet might say “chilly, crisp, unarmed.” I’m sayin’, one huge fucking rat.
I removed the rat with a dustpan and a trowel, and disposed of it in the garbage can outside, as the English say, “straight away”. Seeing that Marie wasn’t really freaking out, I said to her, upon my return, “man, I’m glad you’re a farm girl”. She replied, “yeah, I was just thinking about that. It takes a lot more than a dead rat to rattle me.” I suppose that when you grow up in Milo, Oregon, and have to watch out for cougars when you are just playing in your own yard, at seven years old, seeing a dead rat is not a big deal. And when a forest fire is threatening your house, and just about to jump the river to destoy it, a dead rat is not much of a menace. And when your Dad says, “go chop off a chicken’s head and bring me the chicken”, a dead rat does not intimidate.
When we woke this morning, I could see that my sweet wife, who slept with her feet directly under the spot where that dead rat landed, courtesy of some dog, had slept quite restfully, and, well, like a farm girl.
See a few photos of the naughty canines here:
And here's a clip of "The Bichon Song" from my CD "Santa Monica"
Or this clip of my song "One On The Dogs", inspired by our two pups.