St. Mitch, Keeper of the Canines

Have I mentioned yet that my brother is a saint?  Not only has he worked nearly every day the past 30 years side-by-side my dad (just kidding dad 🙂 ), but he took charge of our 3-foot-tall 115 lb baby (aka Ozzie the Great Dane) when British Air barred him from entry onto the airplane to Lusaka 20 minutes before take-off (we were already on-board and seat-belted in).  On top of that, when BA also off-loaded our Westie-Poo without our knowledge, he went ballistic and demanded that that dog be on that flight, so emergency vehicles appeared at the dog cargo loading building, Buddy the Westie-Poo was loaded in an ambulance and made it to the plane, lights a-flashing.   My brother, bless his soul, didn’t even tell me this until 2-3 weeks later, but he knew that I would have been heartbroken to have not one but both dogs fail to meet us in Zambia.

His most recent act of sainthood (along with St. Terri, his wife of 25 years), was to offer to take care of Alex’s dogs for two weeks while Alex visited his fiancee.  This was no small offer – Kala is a 125 lb snorty curious bulldozer of a Rottweiler and Sasha is a hyper mini-me West Indies island mutt version of Kala who chews everything in sight.

We had always had dogs when we were small children, but as we got older we really started to accumulate the zoo – horses (Brandy & Spike), goats (Romeo & Juliet, Sugar & Spice), a sheep (can’t remember its name but it was the stupidest thing ever), pigs (Cowabunga & Conrad), cats (Alfie + many others), turkeys, chickens, and so forth. (We never had a cow, oh, how I want a cow!)  This created a love of animals for both Mitch and I.  Mitch and Terri’s hilltop home attracts hundreds of hummingbirds, who though they are territorial, all manage to coexist in their backyard Eden.

Do they have a way with hummingbirds or what?  Further, Mitch can’t bear to kill even nuisance animals, so when he had a rat problem he would trap them, and on his way to work from his Riverside County home into Orange County (known for being a little snooty and pretentious), he would pull off into some affluent neighborhood and turn them loose.  What else was he to do with them?  He couldn’t kill them and he didn’t want to drop them in the barrio or citrus orchards.  Let some OC multi-millionaire deal with them, he thought.

Anyways, when Mitch and Terri found out it was going to cost Alex $800 to board his dogs they volunteered to take care of them.  Now, in my opinion, anything over two dogs is too many.  Two dogs are nice.  They keep each other company.  More than that and they form factions, spin out of control, egg each other on to chew or wander deeper into the woods.  At one time I was baby sitting five dogs.

Ozzie the Great Dane and Buddy the little white dog were ours, Alex’s dogs were Kala the Rottweiler and Luke the husky, and Daisy the golden retriever was a housesitting friend of ours.  Arghhhhh.  What a zoo.  They killed a possum right in front of me in a feeding frenzy.  Kala and Ozzie together began to wander off the property, deep into the woods.  The front door broke because the ill-mannered beasts all tried to squeeze out at the same time.  Like I said, five dogs is three too many.

But, Mitch and Terri didn’t know this.  They were used to their three cats and their tea-cup-poodle-trapped-in-a-Great-Dane-body Ozzie.  When asked my brother even said, “It’ll be fun! Ozzie will like having someone to play with.”  Uh-huh, I thought.

The warning signs started immediately.  Kala became very protective of Sasha and would snap at Ozzie.  Sasha chewed her way through every room in the house.  Ozzie became territorial and anxious.  Terri said, “It was a blitzkrieg the first afternoon!”  (What exactly is a blitzkrieg I thought?  “Lightning war…concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines…”  Yup.  That sounds about right.)

But, Mitch and Terri are smart cookies.  They quickly created a “playpen” area for the two interlopers by clearing out a spare bedroom and putting in toys, chew bones, doggy beds, food and water.  Then, they put one of their webcams in the room so they could monitor the dogs while they were at work.  The puppies looked pretty happy.  (They sent the links to Alex and I so we could check in on them too.)

Terri only works half day so she’d come home around noon and let the dogs out back.  Kala and Sasha, having lived the past two years on a remote island in the West Indies, would do their business and promptly jump in the pool.  (Mitch put a webcam on this too so we could watch the action.)  Mitch and Terri spent one Saturday afternoon throwing Kala’s yellow ball into the pool and watching her retrieve it.  (If you look hard in this photo Sasha’s standing up in Terri’s lap getting petted; she’s in the middle of the photo.)

On Monday this week Mitch sent me their daily spa camp schedule:

12:30 PM             Lunch –  tender rabbit vittles w/ country gravy, steamed long grain rice, golden baked potatoes (all blended up for easy chew).

1:00 PM                Pool –  relaxation and cooling off in the shallow end; chase yellow squeak ball.

3:00 PM                Rejuvenation – roll in the side yard planter for cleansing mud roll followed by grass scratching therapy.

4:00 PM                Sensory stimulation – lay in shade, observe birds, squirrels. Give chase if urge overwhelming.

6:00 PM                Pool – round two of pool time; bedtime clean-up.

6:30 PM                Intellectual stimulation – Animal Planet on TV; in house sofa time.

7:30 PM                Story time – Good Dog Carl and Scooby-Doo.

8:30 PM                Bedtime – Obedience quiz; evening prayers.

In case you’re wondering where Ozzie is while Terri’s at work, well, he gets special treatment.  He gets to sleep up on the couch and have free reign of the house.  (I think mommy and daddy are playing favorites.)

There’s a nine-hour difference between Lusaka and California, so often when I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is check on the puppies.  Don’t they look happy?

Alex comes home tomorrow so life will return to normal for Mitch and Terri.  A  humongous(!) ginormous(!!) Himalayan-size(!!!) THANK YOU to them both for taking care of Alex’s dogs for two weeks.


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About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/3794765860/
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5 Responses to St. Mitch, Keeper of the Canines

  1. Cheryl Tomandl says:

    Only Mitch and Terri! What a menagerie. One questions – where are the cats???

  2. Maureen Witte says:

    Well, my first comment got lost, I think, so I’ll try again. Mitch and Terri are true saints. They’ve been so good to Kala and Sasha. If we’d be younger and more agile, we could have geen good great-grandparents and taken care of them. But we’d never have been able to keep up with them. We’re picking up Alex at 4 p.m. tomorrow, will give him something to eat, and send him on his way. So far we haven’t put any new dings in his car in our driveway, ha!

  3. Terri says:

    Hip hip, attention we are having a big, big, party tomorrow night. B.Y.O.B and bones and snacks. All the toilet bowl water you can drink, (for the dog) and lemon water for the girls, (cats) what’s the event you say? The DOGS are going home. The big one (kala) looks at us like we’re tonight’s dinner and that little one never slows down, even to pee. We are so happy, so please join us
    The girls, moqui, Kokopelli, kachina
    Ow and the dog, Ozzie

    • Maureen Witte says:

      Very funny! We’re picking up Alex at the Orange Co Airport and 4 p.m. and will send him on his way to recue your family a.s.a.p., ha!

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