It won’t take much to beat last year’s trick-or-treater count: three, in one group.
Granted, the house looked ghastly with the shutters removed and the windows covered in plastic. The crime scene tape that wrapped the property to warn of lead paint probably didn’t help either.
The Ordinary House is freshly painted and more approachable this Halloween, so drop by and grab some candy. Just look for the Heisenberg-o’-lantern (If you didn’t follow Breaking Bad, the awesomeness of this pumpkin will be lost on you.)
Bonus: dog costumes.
Louis begins his hunt for the Triple Crown:
Meg lets her inner personality show:
p.s. – Go Sox. Beard strong!
When the weather is nice, we like to let the pups spend long hours outdoors where Louis shreds the contents of the recycling bin and Meg skulks around wondering why nature doesn’t have couches. Our newly painted fence keeps them safely contained in the yard, but both Weezie and I worry about inattentive visitors not fully latching the gate and providing an escape route for puttering pooches. To allay these concerns, I ventured onto the Interwebs in search of a stout, lockable gate latch, preferably operated with a key to avoid the hassle of a padlock.
Enter the Iron Aldrop Latch from Van Dyke’s Restorers:
This thing looks like it belongs on the front door of Neuschwanstein: simple, no-nonense, and more than a little medieval. Best part? The keys are skeleton keys. Instant keyring gravitas.
Installation began by carefully laying out the latch mounting loops and hasp locking bar.
Before installing the second mounting loop, I made sure that the latch rod was level and moved freely.
Once the latch was attached to the pickets, I closed the gate and marked the spot where the rod hits the fence post. I drilled a slightly oversized hole into the fence post to accept the rod in the closed position, using a scrap piece of plywood to keep the drill bit centered.
Finally, I inserted a short length of copper tubing to protect the hole from weather and wear.
The latch locks securely, with a satisfying click. Built with few moving parts and solid components, I expect it to keep our menagerie safe for many years to come.
Since I’m in charge of canine acquisition and well-being in this household, and since it’s been a while since you’ve heard from Louis and even longer since you’ve heard from Meg, I thought you might like to hear how they’re doing.
Meg had a rough winter. In late January, her tranquil home was invaded by a 5-pound monster (Louis) who liked to bite her ears and disturb her naps. She went from getting 23.5 hours of sleep a day to only 23.25 hours. Then in early February, she was bitten by a rheumy-eyed Boston terrier and developed a lip abscess. About two weeks later, we got heat. That same day, she was so overjoyed that she took a frolick in a nearby field and tore her other ACL. For those of you who don’t believe Meg can frolick, here’s proof from back in January:
All the antibiotics she received for the abscess and the ACL surgery, not to mention the piece of rawhide she ate whole, led to a six-week bout of GI distress from which we are only just emerging. On the bright side, the ACL tear did mean that we had to separate her from Louis, so she’s now much better-rested. Reid thinks she tore her ACL on purpose for this very reason. She does like her sleep. She’s completed her rehab now and even frolicked (cautiously) a couple of weeks ago. Here’s hoping she has an uneventful summer.
Louis is thriving. Up to 17 pounds from 5 when we got him less than four months ago, he enjoys chewing just about everything: cigarette butts, dead baby snakes, rocks, dead squirrels (he’s found two), Meg’s ears, pants legs, stairs, doors, books, fingers – you get the idea. He’s mostly potty-trained. Meg’s ACL tear, and the fact that we came home to a puddle and a pile every day for a month, meant that we finally stopped ignoring everyone’s advice and crate-trained him; it really worked. Training in other ways has not gone as well, and he thinks the word “no” means “let’s keep playing this super-fun game.” He also loves doing figure-of-eights around the yard and fighting with rakes:
He loves everyone he meets. (I apologize to those of you whom we’ve encountered on our walks whose fingers he’s chewed. He seems to be growing out of it now that his adult teeth are in.) Over the last few weeks, he’s started turning orange. I wonder if that’s a sign that Jacques approves of him. I hope so.
That’s ‘Loo-ee’ for all you Americans. After all, Louis is 3/4 French Bulldog (with a dash of Boston Terrier to round out his mutt-liness). Weezie and I have had a serious hankering for a puppy since Jacques passed, and this weekend we finally got our fix. Louis is just shy of 8 weeks old and comes from a breeder in Eastern NC where my parents got their dog, Cooper.
Louis has only been with us for a couple days, but so far he’s adjusted remarkably well to his new surroundings. Somewhere under that fur he’s got an on-off button, because he alternates between joyous fits of playfulness and blissful slumber. We’ll get to know him better in the coming weeks, but so far we know that he likes stuffed hedgehogs, snuggle beds, and magnolia leaves.
Thanks to the moderate temperatures this weekend, we were able to spend a good deal of time outdoors. Louis enjoyed his new yard and seems content to call Hillsborough home. I did a little work around the house and he tagged right along, so here’s hoping that he’s a proper job site dog…he’ll certainly see plenty of projects over his lifetime. Welcome, pal!
Ever wonder what’s in a squirrel’s nest? Me neither.
But I was given the chance to find out earlier this week. Before we began painting, we discovered that we had a small family of squirrels living in our attic. The pitter-patter of their feet overhead was the first indicator of their presence. Frequent sightings of the bushy-tailed critters scampering along the ridge of the roof made me more suspicious. And when a neighbor drove by and announced that he’d seen something crawl into our roof, I knew it was time to face the rodents. A quick climb into the attic revealed a family of three squirrels balled up in the soffit, right next to a huge hole that they’d gnawed through the fascia board. The biggest of the three gave me a defiant look that seemed to say, “Yeah, so?”.
A few days later, I came face-to-face with one of the them as I was making repairs to a window sill on the roof. He stuck his head out of his hidey-hole and chirped an incessant message that translated from squirrel-speak probably meant, “Beat it, scumbag!” It probably HAS been his house for the past two years, but still. I should have trapped the critters in the attic and relocated them, but I chose to let them be until the painter’s carpenter replaced the rotten fascia board. Fortunately, the squirrel family was out foraging at the time and must have vacation digs in the next yard over because there’s no indication that they’ve tried to return.
Just to verify this fact, I made another trip to the attic on Tuesday, and decided to clean out the nest while I was up there. It was a foul job. The nest was horribly dusty and reeked of urine. Among the things used to build this particular nest were: plastic bags, camellia cuttings, leaves, bark and…a squirrel’s tail. Seriously, squirrels? How can you sleep at night with the full-length severed appendage of one of your housemates wrapped around you?
I used to think squirrels were moderately cute as they bounded around the yard. That opinion is currently under review after the nest-extraction event. Know what’s absolutely, 100% super-cute though? This guy:
We haven’t settled on a name yet, but this is our new 3/4 French Bulldog, 1/4 Boston Terrier puppy. We both miss Jacques terribly. It hasn’t been the same without a goofy bulldog around the house. In about five weeks’ time, we’ll remedy that by going to fetch our new furry fella and introducing him to his new house and yard. I suppose given our current heating situation we’ll need to stock up on doggy sweaters. Until now, this is not a purchasing activity that has been endorsed in this household, but I’m certain that my wife is delighted by the change of heart.
Not sure what to expect from a Hillsborough Halloween, but we’re loaded down with $50 worth of candy, a carved pumpkin and costumes…for Meg.
One of our first major projects for the new house was to install a fence for the dogs (priorities, right?). Our planning efforts started well before we moved since we needed formal approval of the style and placement of the fence from the town’s Historic District Commission in order to build. Similar groups in nearby towns have reputations as project-killers (ahem, Chapel Hill, ahem), so I was a bit nervous leading into the approvals meeting. Fortunately, my concerns were unfounded.
We considered several types of fence, but ultimately decided to replicate the existing white picket fence on the street-facing sides of the property and to use a post and wire style along the inside lot lines. We weren’t certain that the wire fence would be acceptable to the commission, but they were reasonable and agreed that it was the least visually-intrusive fence style for side and rear yards.
Our fence builder started on Friday and will probably wrap up in the next day or so. I’ll post more images when it’s complete, but I wanted to share one view that I particularly like:
There’s something primally satisfying about defining a dead straight line in a decidedly non-linear world. Perhaps it’s the control freak in me, or maybe the architect (or both), but I really enjoy the occasional rational overlay on our wild and woolly wilderness.
Last Wednesday, I had to say goodbye to a dear friend. Jacques, my French Bulldog, began having seizures three weeks ago. By 3:00 a.m. on that morning, he’d had four fits in a single day and hadn’t recovered between them. We’ll never know for certain, but his breed, age and symptoms all point towards a brain tumor. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I got Jacques when he was one from a family that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep him. He was chubby, enthusiastic and fun. He saw me through the highest and lowest moments of my 20s, acting as a constant companion through a turbulent decade. For plenty of people, a dog is “just a dog”. I can’t understand that; Jacques enriched my life beyond measure and there are no words that can convey how much I miss him.
Jacques loved life.
He loved running in the snow:
He loved sprawling out when he was hot:
He loved beer:
And he especially liked being curled up and comfy:
He didn’t like playing Santa Claus:I wanted Jacques to be close to us in death, as he preferred. Just outside the door to the kitchen used to be a green thing, half wisteria, half rotten tree. It was ugly and had to go:This thing was brutal to get rid of. It took two solid days of digging, cutting, hacking, chopping and cursing before it was gone. But in its place lives Jacques’ tree, a crape myrtle that’s red like he was:
We sprinkled his ashes around the root ball as we planted it. It was a cool, sunny Carolina day, the kind Jacques loved. He never got to take full advantage of this amazing yard, but it gives me comfort that he’ll rest here eternally.
Life doesn’t feel right without him. I hope that we’re shouldering the suffering he might have been subjected to if we had kept him going. I hope that he somehow knows that I did what I did because I loved him.
Belly rub, anyone?
As evidenced by her pendulous undercarriage, Meg was a total turbo-slut in her early years. Newly reformed after a brush with death at the animal shelter and a just-in-time rescue by Saint Weezie, she now lives out her days alternating brief forays into reality with naps so epic, you feel compelled to occasionally check her pulse. Let’s just say that this beagle-basset mix makes Eeyore seem like he’s tweaked out on Ecstasy.
When she does surface, Meg enjoys walks that cover the length of the driveway in an hour or so, poops on the deck and whoring for belly rubs. Seriously, she’s a really good dog, even if none of us quite “get” her. Except for Saint Weezie, who seems to share unfettered direct access to this mongrel’s soul.
Meg’s nicknames include: Boober McPhee, Bar, Babs, Barista McPhee, Little Miss Cannelini Beans, Boobar al Muq’fee, Beelzebub-er (Reid’s names) and Beauty, Sweetie, Perfect Dog, Angel, and Love (Weezie’s names).