Sunday, July 31, 2011


Puppy had quite a large vocabulary. Though she she could only speak in barks and yodels, dog knew the meaning of several words. Words like motorcycle, police, harley, cat and squirrel.

There were times she mixed the words up based on the beginning or end sound. Take for example school and squirrel, both start with a "ske" sound. Zoe didn't care what the ending was, all she needed to hear was the first sound and she would react. School sounded a lot like squirrel to her and squirrels needed to be dealt with in a serious manner. All forms of barking ensued with the mention of the word school.

Then there was Earl.

Earl was a family member that died and after his funeral my family got together to reminisce about him. We would say his name and recount past times. All the while, puppy would bark at us.

One conversation began about how, "Earl use to love telling children about his experiences on his job," to which Zoe reacted passionately. The more we talked about Earl the more adamantly she would vocalize her opinion. And it was a strong opinion. I turned to my sister and said, "I didn't know Zoe had even met Earl."

That's when my nephew piped up that it wasn't Earl she was reacting to but another word she was familiar with - Squirrel. Seems that the ending to squirrel is earl. SKEwaEARL. In puppy's world this made perfect sense.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Running Water

Zoe preferred drinking running water. Stagnant water in a bowl didn't interest her much. Given a choice puppy would drink from the bath faucet or a gurgling creek. She was a camel without a hump. A lick or two from her bowl was all she needed to survive.

When she went to my parents house, Zoe would drink a large bowl of water. So great was dog's water consumption that my Mom wold quiz me as to the last time I filled Zoe's water bowl. "I fill her bowl daily and wash it every other day," was my response. Mom couldn't believe me. See saw a dog so thirsty that the water bowl was constantly empty. What was the difference between the water in my town and my parents? Both houses got their water from the City of Detroit water system out of Lake Huron - or so I thought.

I found out that the town I lived in relied on a water tower for its water when Detroit's supply lines pressure was reduced. Low water pressure meant I was drinking from a community well.

Somehow Zoe could tell the difference in water. Maybe it had an iron taste or less chlorine. There were times she flat out refused to drink the water, while I did.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Watch" Dog

Ever have someone watch you constantly. Each move you make tracked even when you think they are sleeping. That was Zoe.

You would swear she was asleep and suddenly her eyes would open every few minutes as if verifying where I was and what I was doing. Watching over every movement. Go to the bathroom, she waited outside. Walk into another room, puppy was right behind me. Go to the mailbox and she was by the door. If I talked to the postal worker too long she began to bark. I was her food source and dog knew a good thing when she saw it. Puppy wasn't going to let me stray too far from her side.

If I would go down the basement I knew I could only stay there long enough to start a load of laundry before I would hear her nails clicking down the steps to find me. Once down the basement, dog would patrol for varmints and insects keeping the area clean. When I was ready to go back upstairs, puppy would lead the way racing up the stairs to the top. It became a game for us to see who could reach the landing first.

One day, my neighbor asked me to watch their townhouse while they went away for the weekend- water the flowers and pick up their mail. Since I lived next door this was an easy task. The first day went by without a hitch. The second day I noticed something through the window on my kitchen table as I was watering the neighbor's plants in their backyard. It was Zoe. She was standing on the table straining to get a better look at what I was doing.

"Get down!" I yelled. "Get down now!" Did she? No. Dog was bound and determined to see what I was doing. If I left the yard it was her job to stay vigilant and alert people as to my plight. I ran back to the house, through the patio door and into the kitchen. She jumped off the table, onto a bench and ran over to me tail wagging and waiting for a treat. "You are a naughty girl, naughty", I said. "Five minutes" to which puppy replied by bringing me a ball. She did not feel she did anything wrong and would not go under the table. Why should she when she just came from on top of the same table.

Zoe was the queen of all she surveyed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zoe's Nicknames

What possesses us to create new forms of endearment for our pets? I had so many cutesie names for Zoe that it's a wonder she ever came when I called her. And yet, she knew all the names and responded accordingly.

Because she had the tiniest white feet I called her, "little rabbit feet." And she would proudly place one paw over the other like a lady crossing her legs.

The shepherd part of her breeding meant she had a thick under coat and more fur by her tail which led to , "fuzzy butt."

Then there were puppy's large bat-like ears. She was akin to a chihuahua on steriods which garnered the name, "Pookala." No rhyme or reason to how that name stuck.

My sister christened her , "Zoester the toaster," for her skills at popping up to catch a ball from a sitting position.

The all-time classic name was "Mrs. Houdini ," for my dog's ability to free herself from any situation from cages to blankets tossed over her head in record time. I miss you pookie.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Judging Contractors

Most people believe they are an excellent judge of character. They know when someone is lying to them and when the truth is spouted. Truth is most people are wrong. Those that want to deceive are very good at hiding information and twisting words.

I was one of those people that thought I could pick an honest contractor. Loaded with information and testimonials I would choose someone to repair items in my home. What I should have done was listen to my dog.

Zoe instinctively knew who to trust. When she wouldn't pay attention to a man I was interviewing to install a garage door and who claimed to love dogs - they all claim to love dogs - I should have gone with my gut and not hired him. But, hire him I did and he did a rotten job. So poor of an installation I called the door manufacturer and found out he was not a registered dealer for their product. The manufacturer agreed to pay for a new garage door and its installation. Puppy loved the new crew and they did a phenomenal job with the door.

A fluke you say. Hardly. Zoe proved her prowess with gutter installer and roofer. Loved the roofer and ignored gutter guy. Never mind that gutter guy was tall and handsome and rode up on his Harley motorcycle. Zoe wouldn't play ball with this man. Can you guess the outcome? Gutter guy had to come back three times to fix his mistakes and roofer did the job right the first time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Puppy and Toothpaste

Vets tell pet owners that they should brush their dog or cat's teeth to maintain their health. Who amongst us does that everyday or even a couple times a week consistently? Not me.

I mean, I tried to brush the dog's teeth and it turned into a licking match with puppy licking all the chicken flavored paste off the rubber tine finger brush. I felt compelled to try again and again to no avail. Zoe would not stand for it.

So I succumbed and bought her petrified bones and pig ears that cleaned her incisors as she chewed. They worked pretty well until she coughed up a gob of white goo that was once a rawhide. Yuck.

One day, while brushing my pearly whites, puppy came up to me, staring at me with those big, brown eyes. Drool started coming down her tongue. She began to whimper. I decided to give her a smear of toothpaste, Colgate I think.

Dog was ecstatic. She begged for more. I gave her another taste and off she went as if she had brushed her teeth. Zoe continued that ritual until she passed away. Adored mint of any kind and wanted a taste each day so toothpaste with its salt and mint was a morning treat.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Alarm Clock

Zoe was never beaten or struck in any way. I would yell sometimes, but that was even rare. I treated her as I would a child. And what do children crave most from adults? Attention.

When Zoe misbehaved, as puppy's tend to do, I would give her, "time-out". "Time-out" consisted of placing the dog under the kitchen table and making her stay there for an allotted time.It began with five minutes. If the dog moved from the spot, I placed her under the table and told her, "Ten minutes" and so on. During "time-out" I would not look in her direction. This pained puppy more than you could imagine. She was a very social dog. Very social.

When visitors left my house she would run to the screen door. The door had a solid bottom panel and a removable screen/storm window on the upper half. Zoe would place her paws on the door and look out the screen, whining as people left the house. She believed everyone came to see her and no one should ever leave.

Puppy learned the concept of "time-out" quickly. When she was naughty I only had to say, "Five minutes" and point to the table and she would obey. One day, she took the concept of "time-out" to a new level.

Zoe liked to rise and shine early. Up with the sun and out with the birds was her mantra. That meant I did not get a chance to sleep in. How did she wake me? She would check to see if I was stirring in bed. And she knew the difference between sleeping and pretending to sleep. If I was drowsy in the morning she would walk to the footboard and bite my toes. WHOA! That's a wake up call. Nothing says, "get your butt out of bed now" like a dog biting your feet.

Her little tactic earned a "time-out". I was still sleepy so I told her, "Just five more minutes, Zoe, five minutes." She left in a huff and laid in the hallway. Five minutes passed and puppy returned. "Ten minutes, Zoe. Please, just ten minutes." Again she turned tail and laid down. This continued for 20 minutes until Zoe would have no more of my snooze button antics and barked at me and I got my lazy bones out of bed and let her outside for her morning ritual.

I wondered if she really was coming back every five minutes when I gave her the command. The next day, I tried the snooze alarm bit again this time checking the clock when she left the room and when she returned. Sure enough, she was spot on with the time.

I waited a week and did the snooze alarm command once again. Five minutes, ten, all the way to 20 minutes - each time Zoe got the command right. What a dog! Zoe, the wonder dog.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bite My Arm

My former job required long hours at a computer. Colleagues would complain of mouse arm - a condition we referred to when your elbow and hand began to stiffen and pain radiated from your hand to your shoulder because you held the computer mouse too tight. It happened to me a few times. A long, hot bath and aspirin would ease the pain and make you good as new again.

One day, I arrived home from work with mouse arm and puppy greeted me at the door as normal. Dogs are great greeters, always happy to see you even if you just went to the mailbox and back to the house. The reaction was the same, "Your back, I'm so happy your back. I thought you'd never get here. What did you bring? Is it for me? I don't care, I'm just so thrilled you returned. Let's play ball." At least that's the thought process I imagine went through Zoe's mind when I crossed the threshold. She bounced around came up to my hand and licked it then dog bit me. My dog clamped down on my wrist hard. "Zoe!" I cried out. Maybe it was more like a shriek. Puppy licked my hand and wrist as if to say she was sorry then she bit me again. She didn't draw blood but left indentations of her teeth in my skin. I yelled at her. Zoe proceeded to lick my wrist.

It was then I noticed that I didn't have mouse arm any more. The pain left after she applied pressure to my arm.

I have heard that dogs can smell certain diseases and know when seizures will occur. I never had a dog perform acupressure before.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Soap and Puppy

Puppy loved soap. The first indication of her love for the stuff was when I brought her home and she licked my arms. Kind of unusual.

When people came to the house she would lick their hands and sometimes their knees if they wore shorts. Kind of unusual.

Men who worked on cars would get a thorough hand cleaning. She would lick their palm, flip their hand over to lick the other side and then flip the hand over again. Kind of unusual.

What I found different was when the dog came to visit me while I was taking a bath. She would drink my bath water. My soapy bath water. This encouraged me to finish my bath quickly since there's no quicker way for loose bowels than drinking warm, soapy water. It's an enema waiting to happen. Very unusual.

I think that's part of the reason she loved soap bubbles and demanded more and more of them - they were an, "air bubble bath".

Zoe also loved watching the "Lawrence Welk Show." The beginning of each show started with a bubble machine. Something about bubbles that she found fascinating. Yet, she hated champagne and getting a bath or her feet wet.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Zoe and Children

Children played an important part in Zoe's life. She never minded walking amongst children, she just went about her business even when they played with her toys. Perhaps because Zoe didn't think she was a dog, she thought she was human.

Toddlers were the perfect ball partner for her. A child would toss the ball across a coffee table and Zoe would fetch and give the toy back placing perfectly in front of the youngster. Then puppy would place herself in front of the table ready to begin the process all over again.

What better way to obtain food than sitting under a child’s chair or licking the face of a baby in a stroller. Strained carrots and jam - YUM!

Boys that played street hockey between the ages of 6 and 11 were her favorite. If she escaped from the house I could find puppy playing by these kids. They used a tennis ball, skated fast and liked being active - all attributes the dog loved.

Soap bubbles were a delight for Zoe. When children would play with bubbles she would jump in the air trying to bite the bubbles as they floated upward. They higher the bubbles rose, the higher she jumped. When the bubbles ceased, puppy would bark demanding more. Children would laugh and make a continuous stream of bubbles to keep the dog happy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Liquor, Cigarettes and Squirrel

Puppy loved the smell of liquor and cigarette smoke. Come home from a bar and the dog would take one whiff and be in heaven. She would become the perfect pet and follow every command. I could only surmise that her former owner smoked and drank.

It became a long-standing joke in the family that the dog needed liquor and cigarettes in order to stand living with me. But who would provide the contraband? I don't smoke and rarely drink. Who would bring these to Zoe?


Zoe would chase a little black squirrel throughout the yard and never catch it. And Zoe was lightening fast. She could catch rabbits, voles and flys. A squirrel would be no match for the dog's speedy gait and powerful grip. Puppy must be choosing not to kill squirrel. Why?

The reason was clear - liquor and cigarettes. Squirrel was Zoe's source, her provider of nicotine and beer. This would account for the dog staring at the tree or telephone pole for hours waiting for squirrel. When squirrel failed to get the goods to the dog in a timely manner, Zoe would put the fear of God in squirrel, chasing her within inches of certain death. But puppy refrained from the final pounce. She needed squirrel and squirrel needed her. It was a mutually beneficial relationship.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peach Cobbler

Nothing says summertime like eating peach cobbler with ice cream. The warmth of the sweet, orange fruit and biscuit base mixed with the luscious creamy milk fat. Mmmmm. That's one mighty fine dessert.

You may recall I mentioned that my Dad told me that my dog would love what I love and my favorite dessert was no exception.

I had made two baking dishes filled with peach cobbler and brought them to my parents house along with the dog. Mom and I were going to a bridal shower and I envisioned Zoe keeping my Dad company while we were gone. I brought two desserts; one to share after the party and one for them to eat during the week.

After placing one glass dish on the table and another on the counter, Mom and I went to the party.

When we returned I noticed that one of the cobbler's was missing. I asked Dad if he enjoyed the dessert. He looked at me funny and said he never touched the cobbler. I said, "But, one of the Pyrex dishes is gone. What happened? Where did it go?" He replied that he only saw the cobbler on the counter and that I was mistaken and must have left the other dessert at home.

Much discussion ensued. The dog was in the family room napping during the series of questions ignoring all of us. That was pretty unusual for Zoe. She likes to be in the thick of things especially gatherings of any kind.

It came out that Dad left the house for a half hour to go to the hardware store leaving puppy to her own devices. Hmmm. The kitchen was open to a dog that loved to eat. An escape artist. We began to search the rooms for signs of peach cobbler starting with the dog's mouth and gums. Nothing. We looked under the table. Nothing. In another room. Nothing. Back to the kitchen and in a corner under chair and that's when we found the missing pyrex glass baking dish. Clean as a whistle, upright and intact.

Zoe must have climbed onto the table, knocked the dish off and eaten an entire peach cobbler. Dad swears he didn't do it. And puppy was mysteriously sleepy. All the sugar and carbs perhaps?

Here's her favorite recipe for Peach Cobbler:
Combine 1/3 cup sugar and tablespoon corn starch in a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water and 4 cups sliced, fresh peaches. Cook until thick and bubbly. Grease an 8"x8" square baking dish. In a separate bowl melt 3 tablespoons butter in the microwave. Add an egg and 3 tablespoons of milk to the butter. Mix 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the butter, egg and milk.

Place fruit mixture into the glass baking dish. Drop mounds of topping onto the fruit. Bake in 400 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 6 (or one hungry Basenji)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I mentioned that to Zoe, ball was love. To that end she would play ball all day, devising new ways to work with the ball. We played "Monkey in the Middle" and puppy was the monkey and she adored the game. She would grow angry after awhile if no one dropped the ball and we always complied to keep her in the game.

I began using her ball to practice golf shots. I would hit the ball with the club and she would chase after the ball retrieving it and dropping it by the club, then sit on her haunches ready to spring into action again to get the ball. This would continue until I was tired. She never tired of ball.

While the toy was all consuming in her world, I had other chores to do and Zoe would have none of that. She would follow me around with ball, placing it at my feet. One day, I learned the magic word for puppy - "Enough!" The mere mention of the word and the ball dropped from her mouth and onto the floor. She would then go onto her bed and lie down. All in one fell swoop.

I did not teach her the word. Her reaction was spontaneous and ingrained. Someone else had taught her the command and I just stumbled upon the key. It was the first of many commands that she knew before coming to live in my home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Puppy's Unusual Features

There were a couple of things that stood out about Zoe when I took her home from the Humane Society. Things I didn't know before I adopted her at seven to eight months old. The most obvious was that she was missing part of her tongue. The vet assured me it must have been an old injury. Seriously?! I thought I had a defective dog missing a chunk of her tongue on the right side. It didn't stop her from licking my hand or playing ball. If anything she was more outgoing and independent.

Speaking of playing ball, I had to teach her about toys. Whoever raised puppy did so without balls or squeaky toys or sticks. Zoe had no concept of play. I would toss her a ball and she would look at me like it was a cactus. "Ball - what's that?" was the look she gave me. I was beside myself. I called my Dad and asked him what to do. I never had a dog that didn't know how to play. My Dad said, "If you enjoy doing something, your dog will learn from you and take a cue from your actions and love it too." He was right. Each night I would work with her rolling the ball toward her and praising her when she paid attention to it. Soon she was catching the ball, doing flips in the air and bouncing the ball off her nose like a soccer player. Ball was love.

What I found so appealing about Zoe initially was that she didn't bark at me when I approached her pen at the Humane Society. All the other dogs joined in a barking match to see who would be the loudest of them all. Zoe refrained. She came up to the chain-link door and looked at me. Even when she was at home with me, she didn't bark. She made an unusual noise. Puppy yodeled. That was one of the clues that she was a Basenji.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Escape Artist

It was useless to cage the dog. I found that out early on in our relationship. I had borrowed a large cage from my sister until I could afford to buy one for Zoe. It was a wire cage with openings all around and it sat in the kitchen with a view of the backyard. Spacious by all standards.

I placed the dog in the cage and went to work. When I got home, she greeted me at the door. I went into the kitchen and checked the cage door - it was closed. I tried to open the cage door and it opened with some hesitation. It wasn't the easiest device to operate. I looked at the dog, She looked at me. I tried the cage door again and told myself I must have let the dog out before going to work and forgotten to put her in the cage.

The next day I repeated the process. I put Zoe in the cage and went to work. Again, she greeted me at the door, tail wagging when I came home. Now this time I was certain I put her in the cage. I rechecked the cage's door handle, still in the closed position. How did the dog get out of the cage? Did someone come into my house and let her out? Why would someone do this? Who would do this? There had to be another explanation.

There was. I put Zoe in her cage again then went into the living room. I called out to her, "Zoe, come here Zoe" as I watched the front of the cage from the other room. "Come here girl," I said. All 35 pounds of muscle squeezed together. I watched her head slide out between the cage's bars and the rest of her body followed. It was if I witnessed the great Houdini perform a magic act in my kitchen.

My jaw dropped as she ran over to me. There was no point in crating this dog. This dog was Mrs. Houdini.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rumble on the Highway

Harley Davidson Motorcycles. What's the most recognizable feature of these American made machines? The throaty roar of their engines rumbling so loud that the deaf can hear them. (sorry, hearing impaired) That same familiar sound was what my dog loved. Although, I didn't know her love for Harley’s until my nephew pointed it out to me.

We were driving to Indiana with Zoe riding shotgun. Zoe bounced into the back seat of the car each time she heard a motorcycle like a ping pong ball across the net. Legs jumping and nose to the back window, she would begin barking. "Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, " she called out to the riders, barking until they passed our vehicle. At times she would bark less at the choppers and more at others. I figured she became tired or bored with barking. She was a dog after all.

Rarely did Zoe know the meaning of the word, "tired." She was all about moving and being active.

It was then that my nephew mentioned that Zoe only reacted to Harleys. "A Kawasaki," he said, "only got three barks. A Honda didn't warrant even lifting her head to look. But a Harley Davidson was a long series of barks." That's how we knew she loved Harley’s above all else. She could even identify a parked Harley that was for sale at the side of the road.

So great was her love for this machine that near the end of a three mile walk she spotted a Harley turning a corner, yanked the leash from my hands and took off down the road after the rumble. Zoe bolted at full force -lightening speed compared to my run which looked like a walk next to her speedy legs. Lucky for me, a teenage male working on his car saw the chase and called out to my dog. Given her affection for men, she tuned her attention to the young fellow who promptly handed her back to me. Nothing like a Harley to get your heart started. After all the excitement, Zoe was ready to walk another three miles.

To satisfy her desire for motorcycles I took her to the local Harley Fest each year. She was in heaven. These were her people and she felt comfortable and content walking amongst the bikes and their riders. I was a fish out of water.

I even got her photo taken with Santa on an Indian motorcycle one year. Zoe sat in the sidecar happy as a lark and Santa had a quizzical look on his face. Anything to please the dog.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Puppy and Rain

Another unusual habit puppy had was staying out in the rain. She refused to come in during a storm when I first got her.

Zoe would lie beneath a bush or against the house as I tried to encourage her to come inside. "Come on puppy, come inside," I would say. The dog didn't move. I would stand in front of her waving my arms and motioning for her to go into the warm house. "Go on, go inside." The dog looked away. Did she not want to be warm? Did she prefer the cold, damp air? I certainly preferred being warm and dry.

This scene would go on for almost 30 minutes. It would involve me bribing the dog with food - which didn't faze her. I would cajole her - no response. Throw a ball or squeaky toy to her - she would roll her eyes. Finally, I ended up going outside with a leash and bringing her in that way.

I am certain my neighbors got a kick out of watching our antics in the rain. Maybe she was waiting for a squirrel to pass through and couldn't leave until it did. Maybe she loved falling asleep to the sound of rain on the ground. Maybe she was waiting for her former owner. I will never know.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spiders, Flys and June Bugs...oh my!

I never had to call an exterminator for my house when Zoe was near. She ate everything. All manner of bugs and insects - flying or crawling. In some cases, demanded that I retrieve the intruder and present it to her like a gift, or a treat. Many the time she sat on my bed, barking at the ceiling in the middle of the night. I awoke only to find a spider patiently making its way across the drywall like an upside down high-wire artist on a tightrope. Did she hear the spider? Not unless the spider was wearing tap shoes. Did she see the spider? Zoe slept in another room. My only conclusion was that she "sensed" the spider was there.

I could leave the screen door open and know that any fly that dared to enter my puppy's air space was not long for this world. The fly would buzz by me and the dog whizzed past, hot on its trail. A few leaps, a snap of the jaw and the sound of a tongue licking its chops and I knew that Zoe had a protein snack for the day.

The most unusual bug she desired was the June Bug. She would patrol the yard at night and come back with the creature in her mouth - sometimes in mid-chew, other times dropping it on the floor to devour it in front of me. I would hear the crunching sound and see the contentment on her face. This was a delicacy to her.

I must point out that I did not teach her about bugs or encourage her love of making them a snack. Zoe entered my life when she was seven or eight months old and had a previous owner. She was found as a stray and brought to the shelter. Because she was such a sweet dog, the workers fostered her to a family until she found a forever home - me. Puppy brought her refined tastes with her into my home.

My first insight to her discriminating palate was when I was removing a lilac bush. The roots were a mangled mess and as I dug, I found grubs in the soil. The dog would eat the immature Japanese Beetles off the shovel as I dug around the plant - fighting me for the grubs before I squished them with the shovel.

She must have been on her own for awhile and had to eat what she could to survive. I wonder if I could do the same if I was hungry.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Giver

My beloved puppy of 17 years was taken from this earth last week. She led a long life. A good life and was treated with respect and love.

Zoe was a Basenji mix. That's 36 pounds of muscle combined with intelligence and charisma. She could charm the socks off of anyone. And she could ignore anyone.

I miss my little pookie bear so much. I expect to hear the tags on her collar jiggle as she walked down the hall. Or alert me to a potential squirrel onslaught with a series of barks. But the house is quiet. There are no little feet pattering across the kitchen floor. The birds and rabbits seem to be in mourning for the loss of their adversary and are convening in other yards for the moment. The world is still.

Zoe was such a unique canine. I feel the need to share her idiosyncrasies with the world. Partly to honor her memory and partly to console my grief.

For the next few weeks,this blog is dedicated to my warrior - Zoe, the wonder dog. The toaster. The champion ball catcher and giver. She gave me much love and taught me more than any book. I sometimes felt as if she was the owner and I was the pet.