All I wanted was a hot cup of coffee

Our hound dog is being harassed by a bunny.

Yeah, you heard that right.

We are officially one week and one day into this mess and it just keeps getting weirder. Sit back and let me paint you a picture of what’s been going down in the Romano house these last eight days.

After a busy few weeks at work, all I was really looking forward to over the long Labor Day weekend was a chance to sit down and drink a hot cup of coffee. See, as a mom, I’m always brewing coffee and pouring myself fresh cups, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was able to sit down and drink a full cup while it’s still hot. There’s always some interruption that pulls me away–Stevie, the kids, the dog, the doorbell, the dog running out the door because the kids opened it after one of their neighbor friends rang the doorbell. So I finally decided I was going to brew my coffee, pour a cup, and then take it outside on the patio to enjoy a little early-September sunshine and maybe even do a little writing.

I took one glorious sip before Henry came over and tapped me on the arm.

“Mommy, Electra’s digging,” he said, pointing behind me.

I didn’t even bother to turn around. On hot days, Electra will occasionally dig herself a cool spot in the dirt near the garage and flop down to snooze in the shade.

“It’s okay buddy. Digging won’t hurt anything.”

I opened my notebook and held my pen to the empty page, taking a second sip while I gathered my thoughts.

“Mommy, Electra’s got something in her mouth,” Henry said. And then I heard a muffled squeaking noise before Electra let out an excited hound dog whine.

I set my coffee on the table, tossed my notebook and pen in the empty chair beside me, and jumped up from the chair all in one frantic motion. I hollered at Henry to stay back and braced myself for whatever I was about to find. Electra has surprised us a few times over the years–digging snakes out from under lilac bushes, chasing (and sometimes killing) birds and rabbits, trapping an opossum and her babies in a dark corner of the yard. Hell, there was one night I caught her stalking a screech owl that had perched itself on the post of our chainlink fence. Luckily I managed to grab her and drag her away before she pissed the owl off and suffered any damage.

And as soon as I saw her gingerly pulling something small and brown and squeaking from a hole she’d carefully excavated in the flowerbed, I knew exactly what we were dealing with.

Electra had gone and found herself a nest of baby bunnies.

Now, if you’re new to this blog, let me give you a little bit of history…

We adopted Electra when she was just shy of a year old. Her life pre-Romanos was spent with a dozen other beagles and beagle-basset mixes living in a kennel and being trained to track rabbits. No lazy couch naps. No gourmet dog cookies. Just training and tracking and learning how to put that hound dog nose to good use finding rabbits.

Electra obviously knows how to catch a rabbit scent, and knows to make a helluva lot of noise to let us know when she’s on the trail. But we’re guessing that’s about as far as she made it in her training before she was surrendered to the Arizona Beagle Rescue and adopted by us. There’s no mistaking it when Electra starts tracking a rabbit. She puts the whole neighborhood on alert with her booming hound dog voice. But the thing with Electra is she doesn’t quite seem to understand what to actually do with the rabbits once she finds them.

Hell, half the time she’s so focused on tracking that she doesn’t even realize the damn rabbits are sitting less than two feet from her face.

Then the rabbit takes off and Electra takes off, barking and howling and hauling ass around the yard in hot pursuit. And somehow, as lazy and uncoordinated as our sweet dog is, she has managed to catch (and unfortunately kill) more than a dozen full grown rabbits. Most of the murders unfortunate incidents honestly appear to be mistakes…like she somehow managed to catch up with the rabbits when they hit a fence or took a wrong turn.

Once, Electra even managed to trap a rabbit in the space between our chainlink fence and the neighbors wooden fence and all of her excitement and barking scared the damn thing to death. She spent the rest of the afternoon whining  and crying like she’d just lost a dear old friend.

But baby bunnies? Totally different story.

Electra has managed to find two rabbit nests in her life. And both times, all she wants to do is pull all of the babies gently out of the nest so she can lick them and love them and apparently make them her own.

Poor sweet hound. She just doesn’t seem to understand that’s not how it works.

So, I managed to grab Electra by the collar and wrestle her away from the nest. She’d only had a chance to pull one baby out and drop it gently in the grass. Behind me, Henry was squealing.

“Oh look at the baby! He’s so cute! Look at the baby rabbit Mommy!”

“Don’t touch the baby, H. Just stay back. We gotta get Electra away and help him.”

Henry followed close behind as I pushed Electra back in the house and grabbed a pair of gardening gloves from the garage.

“What are you doing Mommy?” he asked. “You helping the baby?”

“Yep, I’m helping the baby. We gotta get the baby back in his nest so his Mommy will come back.”

The baby was squirming and trying to burrow into the lawn. I nudged gently, looking for any sign of blood or broken bones. But other than a thin layer of dog slobber, the little guy seemed to be in good shape. He made little clucking noises and kicked his legs as I scooped him gently into my gloved hands. I peered into the hole in the flower bed and saw three other little bunnies huddled together, so I carefully laid Electra’s baby on top of the pile. He wiggled and snuggled back in with the others.

Then I gathered the scattered piles of dry grass and tried to rebuild the nest the best I could. Inside the house Electra was howling in protest.

“Okay H-man, we gotta stay away from the babies now that they’re back in the nest. And we gotta keep Electra away, okay?”

“Okay,” Henry agreed.

I grabbed Electra’s old tie-out chain from the shelf in the garage and wrapped it around one of the trees on the opposite side of the patio. Stretched taut, she would be at least five feet away from the bunnies. I figured that was as good as it was going to get, and as long as Mama Rabbit would come back, we might be able to watch these babies grow and bid them farewell with no casualties. I reached out to a local wildlife rescue to make sure we had a solid plan, and a very helpful lady named Vikki told me all would be well if we could keep Electra away for a week or two.

For the next few days, we kept Electra on her chain and left the nest undisturbed. We even saw Mama Rabbit come back a few times to check in on the babies. All was well, right up until Friday evening when someone let Electra out without putting her on her chain.

(I’ve got two guesses…ahem…Cadence and Henry)

And then, the nest was empty. No sign of Mama Rabbit or the babies (and thankfully no sign of any carnage either). So, we assumed that we’d seen the last of our little rabbit friends, and wished them well.

Now this is where shit started to get weird.

Saturday morning, approximately 7:30 am – Cadence bursts into our room yelling that Electra is barking really loud and there’s a bunny on the patio. Sure enough, one of the bunnies is hiding behind the stack of plastic patio chairs. With Electra safely wrangled in the house, we manage to shoo Baby Bunny into a small box, fill the box with some of the discarded nest, and place the box in the flowerbed near the original nest hoping Mama and Baby will figure this shit out. Baby hangs out in the box most of the day and then disappears mid-afternoon.

Saturday night, approximately 9:30 pm – Electra has her last meal of the day and we put her out on her chain, just in case. Lots of barking and whining, so obviously Mama or Babies (or both) are somewhere close by.

Sunday morning, approximately 11:00 am – Electra goes into full-blown tracking mode and everyone in Southeast Lincoln knows it. It’s been a long time since Electra has tracked this hard (she’s honestly gotten way lazy in her old age) and the kids think it’s hilarious, so I pull out my phone and start recording. As I try to get in front of Electra and get some good video, I suddenly look down and see Baby hiding in plain sight, burrowed in a patch of long grass near the tree trunk less than six inches from Electra’s nose. That’s me almost dropping my phone as I quickly grab Electra to pull her away. (And what I really should have been recording was the next 10-15 minutes of us shooing the Baby over to the side of the yard away from Electra’s chain. Every time Baby would jump, Henry would squeal and Cadence would holler and laugh. It was like a slapstick scene straight out of a Carol Burnett Show special).

Sunday afternoon, approximately 1:30 pm – I come down from putting Henry down for a nap and hear Electra going nuts in the back yard. Cadence let her out and forgot to put her on the chain. I go around the side of the house near the gate and Electra is trying her damndest to shove her face between the brick garage wall and the chainlink fence post. On closer inspection, I see Baby Bunny oh so casually lying in a patch of overgrown grass near the garage about a foot from Electra’s slobbery face. Electra spends the next four hours whining and pleading with Baby Bunny to please just come a little bit closer. You gotta give Electra credit for being persistent.

Sunday night, approximately 11:00 pm – Heading to bed late (always a bad idea when you’ve got work the next morning) and I put Electra out one more time. She’s off-chain because I couldn’t imagine the rabbits would actually return after being so thoroughly shepherded out of the yard. Suddenly, Electra’s hound dog voice is echoing in the darkness. I pull on my slippers and head outside. She’s on a fresh scent in the yard. It’s late, and I can’t indulge her anymore, so I grab her collar and haul her into the house. I turn around and Baby Bunny is sitting on the edge of patio, not three feet from the back door, just hanging out like he owns the place. He doesn’t even move when I grab my phone to snap a picture. I’m starting to think Electra might have a stalker, or this poor Baby is all sorts of confused and thinks Electra might be his mother.

Today (Monday) noon – Stevie comes home for lunch, let’s Electra out, and she’s tracking again. Baby is back and exploring the yard.

Today (Monday), approximately 7:00 pm – Electra is trying again to shove her face between the brick garage wall and the chainlink fence post to lick Baby Bunny who is hiding in the grass less than eight inches away.

Today (Monday), approximately 7:30 pm – Doorbell rings. It’s Cadence and the neighbor girls telling us that Electra got out of the yard when one of the other neighbor boys opened the gate. Baby Bunny is gone. Electra is tracking like crazy.

Tonight (Monday), approximately 10:00 pm – Stevie puts Electra out and notices Mama Rabbit is hanging out in the yard, so he hooks Electra to her chain. Mama Rabbit hops away without Electra even noticing. Now Electra is tracking in the yard and occasionally howling when she catches a whiff of a fresh scent.

At this point, Stevie and I are convinced that these rabbits are just screwing with our dog. I guess we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

To be continued?…

Day 86 – Life lessons with Electra

Sometimes you have to squeeze yourself through some really uncomfortable places to reach your goals.

Don’t give up.

Day 79 – Family game night

All we wanted was a family game night.

Electra obviously needs to brush up on the rules.

Day 66 – The evolution of Electra

You know, there was a time when we first got Electra that we worried she was mute. Electra wasn’t even a year old when we adopted her from the Arizona Beagle Rescue, and she was the calmest, most laidback dog Stevie and I had ever seen. We first met her at a foster mom’s house in Goodyear. Electra and a dozen other beagle and beagle/basset mixes ended up being rescued after their owner had a heart attack and was told by his doctors that he needed to get rid of all the pups he was training to track rabbits. Electra had gone to a foster home with six other young beagles, and when we walked up to the door and rang the doorbell, both Stevie and I jumped when full pack of crazy hound dogs started jumping and howling and falling over each other trying to greet us and lick us and sniff our pockets for hidden treats as we edged our way into the living room.

It was mass chaos.

But across the room, sitting demurely in the corner and staring at us with a pair of big brown eyes, was our sweet Electra. She just sat, watching, quietly waiting her turn. When we called her name she walked over, put her paws up on my thighs and invited me to scratch behind her floppy brown ears.

Five minutes later, we signed the adoption papers and took her home.

For the first six months or so, we honestly wondered if something was wrong with her. She wasn’t like any other puppy we’d ever known. She would occasionally get up and play and run around, but she never really barked or growled or made any kind of noise. And she was lazy as hell, right from the beginning, preferring to snuggle up in your lap and take long naps and follow us slowly from room to room, flopping down on the floor at our feet as soon as we stopped moving.

Hell, she even faked a leg injury to keep me from taking her for walks. Apparently she didn’t appreciate the pace I demanded, which is an average (and maybe even slightly slower than average) walking pace. But Electra simply isn’t interested in doing anything except meandering at a snail’s pace around the neighborhood, nose glued to the ground.

At that point, we were honestly thinking maybe Electra couldn’t bark. When we were going through the adoption process, we’d heard that there were several beagles at the rescue whose former owners had the dog’s voice boxes surgically removed because they couldn’t stand the way the beagle’s howled and barked.

No joke. That’s actually a thing some people think it’s okay to do to a pet. Pricks.

But the folks at AZBR assured us that Electra was in perfect health and there was no sign her former owner had done anything of the sort. In fact, before he had to surrender Electra, she was being trained to hunt and track rabbits, which meant she had actually been rewarded for catching a rabbit’s scent and then signaling her victory would a good ol’ hound dog howl.

The first time we ever heard Electra voice, we didn’t even know it was her. She’d been out in the backyard for awhile, when all of a sudden we heard a booming, rhythmic bark that was so loud and deep it rattled the windows. We went outside, thinking one of our neighbors must have a new pet, but all we saw was Electra, nose bouncing along over the ground and making some weird wah-wah-wah-wah sound, sort of like a small helicopter, her tail wagging so hard her entire ass-end was swaying back and forth and damn near knocking her off-balance. Outside, the barking was so loud it was echoing, and it wasn’t until Stevie walked right up beside Electra that he realized she was the one making all the noise. We tried calling to her, tugging on her collar, promising her cookies, but there was no stopping her until the scent ran out.

There was something about Electra’s deep, booming bark that just cracked me up, so I thought it might be funny to actually teach her to bark on command. And knowing how food whorish motivated she is, I decided to train her to bark on command and reward her with dog cookies and bits of kibble.

Worked like a charm.

But it also wasn’t long before I realized I’d unleashed a beast. As soon as Electra discovered that she could actually be rewarded with food for barking, she decided that it was perfectly acceptable to let us know LOUDLY each and every time she felt it was time for breakfast or lunch or dinner or second and third dinner (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that we have to feed this ridiculous hound five small meals a day to keep her from acting sullen and waking us up every couple hours through the night).

And now that she’s entered her senior years and she’s getting old and ornery like a Betty White sort of old lady who just doesn’t give a f*** anymore and will do whatever the hell she wants, Electra does not give two shits whether we yell at her or scold her or plead for her to stop. She just announces her hunger and her impatience like this:

If she wasn’t such a great dog otherwise, this would be really annoying. 😉

Love you Electra!

Day 42 – Late night confusion

At some point, we started feeding Electra five times a day.

Sounds crazy, I know. But here’s the thing–our dog’s one weakness is her absolute addiction to food. There have been a handful of times over the years that she has attempted to eat herself to death. After owning her for a year or two and realizing that she kept waking us up earlier and earlier in the morning because she simply couldn’t last another minute without being fed, we decided to take her twice-a-day feeding and split it up into five smaller meals so she would sleep through the night and give us a little peace.

6:00 am, Noon, 5:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 9:30 pm, like clockwork.

But somehow, in her old age, Electra seems to be getting a little senile because anytime I stay up too late, she starts getting antsy and acting like I owe her another round. Case in point–I caught her staring at me about 20 minutes ago.

Then, she got up, walked over, and started barking at me, full freakin’ volume, until I got up and gave her another serving.

She’s either losing her damn mind, or she’s just really damn smart because she seriously just harassed me out of more kibble.

Yep, I just got bested by a dog.

Day 25 – Escape Room

We’re closing in on Electra turning 11, and it’s getting harder to deny, our sweet hound is getting old. Obviously we noticed it in her face, as it slowly turned from mostly brown to mostly white. And this past year or so, she has turned into brash old lady who just doesn’t give a fu** about anything but trying to live her best life. And that roughly translates into her being more stubborn than usual and completely disregarding any rules we try to set in place to quash her food-whoring ways.

I imagine Betty White is her spirit human.

Most recently, though, her give-no-shits attitude has prompted her to attempt slow-motion jailbreaks. This morning, while we were attempting to get the kids wrangled and out the door to load up the car, Electra quietly sauntered out the door with us. Luckily Stevie managed to wrangle her back into the house with the promise of a cookie.

Less than 10 minutes later, as Stevie was pulling out of the driveway with the kids, I stepped out the garage door to start my car, and didn’t notice that the door stayed open a crack behind me. The next thing I knew, Electra was out the door again and heading for the driveway. I hollered and grabbed her collar and promised her another cookie if she would just get her ass inside.

I mean seriously, what does this dog think she’s doing? It’s 8 degrees out, a foot of snow on the ground, and God knows there is no way she’s going to go out there and find another family who is going to stick to her ridiculous feeding schedule.

I honestly don’t think she would make it far. This old girl has about two blocks of stamina in her. But hey, at least she still has enough spunk left in her to try, right? Even if she gives me a mild heart attack every time she tries to escape, part of me is kinda proud that she is the type of dog who, even in her ripe old age, will see her opportunity and take it.

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