MUTTS ARE LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES by Jayne Ormerod

<with apologies to Forest Gump…> Mutts are like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get.

Over the course of our almost 40 years together, my husband and I have spun the roulette wheel of doggie DNA six times as we’ve welcomed “mutts” into our lives. Three were labeled Shepard/Husky mixes, one was a lab mix, one was a shepherd/Carolina dog mix, and one was straight up Heinz 57 (a Puerto Rican street dog with at least 57 breeds in his lineage.) Success ratio: 1 out of 6.

Dog one was the truest to his cage tag of shepherd/husky mix. I suspect there were other breeds mixed in there, but those were his predominant size, color, and personality traits. So far so good.

Dog two was not even close to the shepherd/husky mix the cardboard box at a South Carolina flea market promised. He topped out at a whopping 104 pounds. He had Doberman markings, but we never did figure out what the “big dog” cross was. And, um, let’s just say he didn’t have quite the IQ of our super smart shepherd/husky mix. Not even close.

Dog three picked my husband as she huddled in her cage at the shelter. Tag read shepherd/husky. She turned out to be a Norwegian Elkhound. In all fairness, the Elkhound resembles a shepherd, but the Elkhounds are smaller. I believe she was a purebred, but what are the odds someone dumped a box of purebreds when they could have sold them for big money?

Dog four who came from a foster dog program, looked like a mottled lab; short-haired (our preference) and roly-poly—who could resist? She didn’t grow much, so the lab lineage didn’t pan out. Her fur grew long and silky, and she had the rounding-up instincts of a border collie. When wet, she had the body image of a beagle. Oh, and she had the beagle howl. Surprise, surprise.

Dog five came to us in an emergency rehome situation, a tawny, twelve-pound bundle of skin and bones. Diagnosis: Carolina dog/shepherd mix, projected full size of 30 to 40 pounds. This dog has literally grown before our very eyes, weighing it at 74 pounds at his one-year checkup. He has the conformation and droopy jowls of a Great Dane; the wide, cement-hard head of a yellow lab; and the sit-under-the-porch-on-a-sunny-summer’s-day smarts of a Carolina dog. He loves to snuggle on a lap. The problem is nobody in our household has a lap that big.

Dog six, the Puerto Rican street dog, came with no guesses as to his lineage or false promises of size or temper. He is what he is: a little brown dog with a great big heart. He just celebrated his first birthday, and doesn’t appear to be getting much taller (wider maybe…that dog is always hungry! I think that comes from spending the first four months of his life not knowing where his next meal was coming from.) He might have a little chihuahua and/or min-pin in him, but the rest is a mystery.

You know where this is going, right?

To Doggie-DNA test, or not to Doggie-DNA test. That is the question we are currently debating.

Costs range from $50 to $200 per test. I can take a sample of my dog’s saliva and send it in and see which breeds exactly are inside my fur babies. Many of my friends have tested their dogs and shown the results, some surprising, but most not telling them anything they didn’t already know.

While the true breed of “mutt” is never going to be invited to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show—I’m not sure any self-respecting Mutt would even want to—would knowing their lineage have any effect on their lives? Or mine? Would it make me more enthusiastic about vacuuming fur off the sofa cushions? Would the level of spoiling them increase? Would our love for these snuggle bunnies change? The answer to all of these questions is No.

The mutts in my house are always welcome, and in good company. After all, I’m a mutt myself.

<<If any of you have had an experience with a canine DNA test, I’d love to hear about it.>>

ABOUT JAYNE

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck, as well as a dozen other short stories and novellas. Her most recent releases are Goin’ Coastal and “It’s a Dog Gone Shame!” in To Fetch a Thief.

         

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I CAN Have it All by Jayne Ormerod

Dogs and vegetable gardens do not go well together. Call me a germaphobe, but I just don’t like the idea of dog poo in my oregano.

My instincts were confirmed in an article in yesterday’s local paper, The Virginian Pilot. The opening paragraph caught my attention:

“Animal waste tainting fresh produce is one of the major causes of food-borne ailments. So farmers markets and pick-your-own growers who fear fecal contamination are increasingly guarded about tolerating pets near their edibles.” You can read the entire article by clicking here.

My reaction was, “People really need to be told the basic sensibilities of life?”

But alas, yes, it seems people need to be told everything to think, feel, and do anymore. But that’s another topic for another more socially conscious blog. This one is about dogs.

I have waged a battle my entire adult life…do I want fresh grown vegetables and herbs or do I want playful pups? Pups won out, every single time! Fresh herbs can be procured at the market, puppy snuggles cannot.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon what I thought would be the perfect solution to my little dilemma. A stackable garden higher than an aging girl dog could pee, and I could tuck it discreetly away from the spot in the lawn where she routinely (more like religiously) did her business.

 

Problem solved! That year we enjoyed what I called the Scarborough Fair medley of fresh herbs (Really? You don’t know what the Scarborough Fair medley is? Why, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, of course!) (Old Simon and Garfunkel song. You can listen to it here.) (I fear my age is showing…again!)

Anyway, things changed when we got the puppies, Tiller and Scout. Perhaps more aptly named The Destructo Brothers!

 

Don’t let that innocent look fool you. That stack of tissue paper did not shred itself! They LOVE to chew on anything and everything.

I let them out in the backyard one sunny afternoon and ran inside to do something real quick, and raced outside seconds later, to find my herbs scattered hither and yon throughout my backyard. Not full plants, but tiny pieces parts as if each tender little plant had provided 3.2 seconds of a tug-o-war before they’d moved on to the next. Three tiers (12 plants) gone in the blink of an eye.

When my husband came home with two flats of fresh herbs, I knew I had to do something. He very kindly cobbled together a fence made of castoffs and garbage-day finds. Voila! A little side yard for my garden that was safe from the pups. He then suggested I channel my inner farm girl. Nope, not gonna till that earth that had been a popular potty spot for the pups. I let my fingers do the shopping on the Internet and found the perfect solution. Something three feet off the ground, and would be tucked behind the aforementioned fence. It is 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. It is filled with over 2 dozen little (but growing quickly!) plants! It took a lot of fresh soil to fill the basin. A lot. Like 13 bags. Overall, I figure the one sprig of thyme I put in my last casserole cost me $50. It’s gonna be a long time before this little garden pays for itself, but in the meantime, it’s safe from the beasts. Any time a recipe calls for a soupçon of tarragon or a snip of fresh chives, I can walk outside and harvest all I need. All the time singing another old favorite song, “Old McDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.”

So, in this wonderful world of imaginative people who solve all sorts of problems, I CAN have it all…and more! If you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop by and harvest some basil or cilantro, I think planted more than I can use in a lifetime!

That’s all from this dog-loving city farmer this round. Next time I’ll wax poetic on the joys/horrors that are part of the every day life with rescue pups. In the meantime, I’m working hard on writing my second Mutt Mystery, tentatively titled “Yappy Hour.” Watch for more info on that, soon!

 

ABOUT JAYNE

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck, as well as a doze other short stories and novellas. Her most recent releases are Goin’ Coastal and To Fetch a Thief.

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A Funny Thing Happened When Dad Walked my Dogs

Before we get started, I want to offer a HUGE thank you to Heather Weidner and the other Pens, Paws and Claws bloggers who have welcomed me into the litter! I am truly honored to be amongst such great writers and animal lovers! This is going to be fun!

So, a little bit about myself, I write light-hearted mysteries that usually have a coastal setting and sometimes include animals. I figure it’s best to keep with that tradition while blogging here, so my first post is the true tale of the one (and only) time I let my dad walk my dogs.

My military husband had deployed for six months. I was left home with a toddler and two BIG dogs (combined weight 175 pounds! They weren’t supposed to be that big, but that’s another story for another day.) My dad, a 60-something apple-shaped man who never met a piece of pie he didn’t devour, travelled 400 miles to help me out for a few weeks. His “help” consisted of letting me cook for him and clean up after him while he sat and watched Golden Girls reruns. But, to his credit, having another adult to talk to during the day saved my sanity. One afternoon the toddler was being a toddler (cutting teeth, if memory serves), so given the choice of staying home with the cranky child or taking the dogs for a walk to burn off some canine energy, Dad chose the dogs. Off he went, leashed up to the usually well-behaved beasts for an anticipated 15-minute trot around the block.

He was gone a really long time. I got really worried. My fears ran the gamut from Dad suffering a heart attack to the dogs getting loose and running into traffic.

At the 52-minute mark, I strapped toddler onto the seat on the back of my bicycle and we went looking.

We found dad and the dogs about two blocks from home. He’d taken a wrong turn and gotten lost on the winding streets of our planned development. HUGE sigh of relief. We rode alongside to make sure he found his way home, all the while chatting about what I would cook for dinner that night.

“Uh-oh,” I said when I saw a calico cat perched on a neighbor’s sunny front porch.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“A cat.” My dogs didn’t like cats. And they especially didn’t like that particular calico who took great pleasure in taunting them as she cleaned herself while perched atop the fencepost in our backyard.

“What does that mean?” Dad asked.

The cat streaked across our path. “Hold on tight!”

Next thing I knew, my dad was on his bulbous belly, being dragged across a neighbor’s front yard. His arms were stretched over his head as he rocked back and forth, the leashes tight around his wrists as the dogs pulled him the length of the lawn. The cat jumped over the fence and disappeared. My dogs sniffed the ground where the cat had last set paw. My dad lay, stunned, with little bits of grass stuck to his face.

Yes, it was horrific, but I sheepishly admit I have never laughed so hard in my life. Tears streamed down my eyes and I couldn’t get a single word out. I still laugh at the memory.

We made it home without further incident. Dad’s pride was bruised, but his 200 body parts remained intact. The grass stains on his shirt and knees came out in the wash. My son would put his arms over his head and rock his body, imitating dad’s adventure, and we would all break out into peals of laughter again.

We laughed about his suburban version of his Nantucket sleighride the rest of his life.

Employing the old writer’s adage, “write what you know,” I used this experience to craft the opening scene in my first romance novel, Bailey’s Most Wanted. Don’t go rushing off to buy a copy, because nopublisher ever wanted to waste paper and ink on that one. While the first scene was great, I’m the first to admit it went downhill…fast…from there. Turns out romance is not my genre. While I enjoy reading it, I just can’t keep two desperately in love people apart for 300 pages. Stories need conflict! Hence, I found my niche in mysteries, wherein when the story gets boring, I kill off a character. But I do so with a soupçon of hilarity, because life—and stories—are better when filled with humor.

ABOUT JAYNE

 

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck, as well as a doze other short stories and novellas. Her most recent releases are Goin’ Coastal and To Fetch a Thief

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