Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peanuts and Prayer

I thought at first that writing yet another entry about Fang would be weird; I'm so pathetic I can only talk about dogs, and not even ones I own.

But I got over it.

When we gather for meals, we hold hands briefly at the start for a few minutes of grace (Quaker version). Early on in her arrival, Fang identified this as something she needed to be a part of, so when we do it, she comes to the circle, usually between my seat and Mom's and agitates until we each put a hand on her. Often we'll each take an ear. She'll sit quietly until we all say amen, then is back to her active campaign for attention and or scraps. I don't know what she thinks this ritual is for, but she seems clear on two aspects at least in her own world; 1) everyone is supposed to be touching, and 2) everyone is still and quiet for the duration.

Unless it's peanut butter day. Then all bets are off. Today was peanut butter day. Some time ago, when Mom and Dad had dinner guests, they tried a dog training trick by filling up a rubber dog toy, called a kong, (it looks like a red rubber ziggurat, I don't know how else to explain it; well, I do, but I'm not going to) with peanut butter which the dog then happily licked out, her focus laser-like, her attention unwavering, thus staying shut away from less dog-enamoured guests without moaning and complaining.

This procedure proved to be very effective, but they didn't know just how much she was going to fall in love with the taste. The next time they had peanut butter for lunch, Fang was singing, dancing about, generally being more importunate than she usually is. James was the one who figured it out. When he picked up the kong, she went into conniptions ("finally the stupid bi-peds are catching on!"), and a weekly ritual was born.

It starts as soon as she smells the peanut butter on the table. We all try to get her to bring the kong to the table, but she just runs back and forth between the two, showing us where it is, and where she'd like it to go, until Mom gives up and gets the damn thing. She has us very well trained, does Fang. Once it's filled she happily works away at it, holding it with her paws in such a way that it looks like she's trying to develop opposable thumbs. She almost always gets seconds, because then she WILL bring the kong to the table but usually not until she's tossed it about exuberantly a few times. For those unfamiliar with this toy, it's main point for being is the fact that when you throw it, it's hard to anticipate how it's going to bounce, so it's a great way to exercise dogs who like to fetch. Fang seems to find this feature entertaining, or she's aware of how hysterical we find it, especially Dad. Lots of joyful tossing of the head, juggling the kong in her mouth, throwing it randomly around the room, she often looks like she's performing. Dad calls it the floor show. When he came out of the hospital after a double by-pass, this was his first meal of non-hospital food, and it was just what he needed, meal and floor show.

Since she eventually does bring it to the table, and we're trying to get her to do that more regularly, she gets rewarded with seconds. This is one of the many little routines of family life I look forward to when I come to visit.

The weather is oddly warm today, and is going to hit 50 degrees tomorrow, so all the snow will be gone. Then I'll just have the greys and browns I love so much about Winter here. I love this land the way I love sparrows and chickadees. They're little birds, not particularly brightly colored, easily over-looked, but I love them. I love the flashier birds too, just as I adore mountains, lakes, forests and rivers, but this flat land, the distant horizons, the quiet browns, blacks and greys have charms all their own.


Java said...

It is never too soon to post a dog story. I love this one! It is very funny. I'm enamored with Fang. I know what the kong looks like, thankfully, because if I didn't, I'd be confused. I've had dogs who absolutely love peanut butter. I used peanut butter Captain Crunch cereal as rewards when training our dog.

You paint a beautiful word picture of the landscape.

tornwordo said...

When Sara does her floor show, we're always nervous about all the noise she's making throwing things into the air. Sounds like a wonderful routine you've got there.

somewhere joe said...

Fang is thankful too. It's only right that she be included in the circle of prayer. Our dog Barney used to get peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth, or maybe we put it there. That produced quite the floor show too.

I remember well those muted winter colors - lovely, subtle, somehow even tasteful. The perfect foil for the color and cheer inside.

Jess said...

Post all of the entries about Fang you like! I love this stuff!