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Ellie’s Grey Eye

            For a few days in a row, Ellie’s left eye was a little bit red and she occasionally seemed reluctant to open it, but she’d had similar symptoms before and they usually cleared up on their own, so I wasn’t worried. The vet had given us an ointment way back when, but when we ran out we didn’t bother to get it refilled. When I saw the redness in Ellie’s eye I had it in the back of my mind to call the vet and ask if she should come in, or if we could just refill the old prescription, but it didn’t feel like an emergency.


            And then, at around ten thirty one night, Ellie looked up at me (to tell me that it was time to go out for the final walk of the day) and her left eye, almost all of it, was grey. It looked like a particularly opaque cataract, except that her eye had been clear just a little while before. I started to panic. My baby was going blind! She had multi-system organ failure that was showing up first in her eye! The emergency vet clinic would cost thousands of dollars I did not have, but how could I not rush her out to the car right away!

            I was freaking out.


            Mom went to the computer to google the symptoms while I watched Ellie dance around on her toes to let me know that she really, really, really wanted to go outside. There were a bunch of possibilities, like a sudden cataract or irritation, Mom said, so let’s wash her eye with warm salt water and see of that helps. We took the girls out for their walk, because they were now barking up a storm, but I was still freaking out. When we got back inside I made the salt water mixture and held Ellie in the bathroom sink and poured the water over her eye, over and over again, to her great frustration. I was hoping the greyness would just disappear with the water, but no such luck. At least the salt water didn’t seem to be hurting her (though she was very annoyed at getting wet and required serious treats as a reward).

            I went to sleep that night worried that I was condemning my baby to death, or at least blindness, by not rushing her to the emergency vet, but Mom said we would go to Ellie’s own doctor the next day and he would know what to do. I was not convinced. I had nightmares about stray dogs coming to my house for help with serious medical problems and I couldn’t help them. The guilt was endless and I woke up feeling like the most awful, selfish, hopeless, incapable person to ever live. And then Ellie came running into my room with a smile on her face and almost no greyness left in her eye.

            Oh Lord.

            We made the appointment with the vet anyway, and did everything we could do to distract Cricket while shuttling Ellie out of the apartment. Ellie cried in the car, but she always does that. She sits in the back seat and makes very high pitched conversation with us, to make sure we don’t forget she’s back there (when her sister is in the car with her, Cricket will climb behind my neck, in the passenger seat, to deal with her anxiety and leave Ellie in the back on her own anyway).

“Hey! Don’t forget about me!”

            By the time we’d reached the vet’s office, and the vet tech came out to get Ellie, I actually had to point out which eye was bothering her, because it was hard to see even the redness now. And then we had to sit in the car and wait. I hate this. Going to the vet is always anxiety producing (for me almost as much as for my dogs), but at least I can be there with them to give them comfort and ask questions and remind the doctor of whatever I think he needs to know. With Covid, I just have to sit in the car and wait while they steal my baby away from me.

            Eventually, the doctor came out and told me that Ellie had had a thorn in her eye (!) and he’d removed it, but there was an ulceration at the wound site and she would need eye drops twice a day, and she’d have to come back in a week to have her eye examined again to make sure it was healing. The vet has something of a hang dog face to begin with, but he looked even sadder this time, clearly upset for what my baby girl had been through; which sort of helped, but also sort of made me worry more.

            Then the vet tech brought Ellie back out to the car and, other than the yellow stain on the hair around her eye from the examination, Ellie looked fine. She was eager to get onto her own feet and get the hell out of there, and she had a lot to say about her adventure on the drive home.

            As soon as we got home, Ellie and Cricket had a tête à tête about the vet visit (mostly Ellie reassuring Cricket that she really didn’t miss anything good), and Cricket seemed to be reassured. They both got a treat for their different traumas and then bedded down for their afternoon naps.

            My first attempt at giving Ellie her eye drops that night was not especially successful (she kept closing her eye so that the drop just rolled down her face, but I eventually figured out how to tilt her head back far enough to get the drop into her actual eye). Once she got the hang of the eye drop routine, though, she got so excited about the treat-to-come that she started to dance around before I could get the drop into her. By the end of the week I just accepted that I would never be good at this, and if it took three drops before one got into her actual eye, so be it.

            We never figured out how Ellie had gotten a thorn in her eye, but given her propensity for rolling around on the floor, bed, and ground whenever and wherever she can, it’s not a big mystery. Days after her visit to the vet she managed to get what I hope was just poop on her back (we have dead mice out there in the yard, and who knows what else I don’t what to know about), and she had to have a full bath to wash it all off, and of course treats to make it better, which meant that along with the twice daily eye drop treats she and her sister had pretty much hit the jackpot.

            We went back to the vet after a week of eye drops and he stained her eye again and there was no sign of the ulceration. I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be, because of how healthy and wide open and brown her eye looked, but we had to check and make sure.

            So now we’re back to the usual problems – with Cricket intimidating Ellie away from Grandma, and off the couch, and away from the leftovers meant for both of them. Not that any of that went away while Ellie was suffering; Cricket doesn’t believe in having mercy on an injured opponent. She takes any advantage she can get.

“Who me?”

            G’mar Chatima Tova! To another year of silliness and treats and good health for everyone!

P.S. Ellie begs for treats even while she’s sleeping

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Ellie Goes to the Vet

            We put off Ellie’s yearly check-up with the Vet in July, hoping that the Covid restrictions would end soon enough that we wouldn’t have to drop Ellie off from the car window. But, alas, Covid has remained and we finally gave in and made an appointment with the Vet last month. As expected, I still had to hand my baby off to the Vet Tech through the open door of the car, with Cricket screaming in my ear, warning her sister to run for her life and/or bring back treats. The appointment went quickly, and we paid the bill, and had Ellie safely back in the car, when the Vet came to tell us that, oh by the way, Ellie would need a dental cleaning. She’d had one two years ago, soon after we’d first adopted her, and now, he said, it was time for a re-do.


            I nodded my head, closed the window, and took off my mask, trying not to think about it as Mom drove us home. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’ve heard too many horror stories about dogs dying from anesthesia during regular dental cleanings. But, bad teeth can lead to all kinds of medical issues that I didn’t want Ellie to have to deal with either, and the Vet was insistent that she needed this procedure.

            It took us another few weeks, but we finally made the appointment for Ellie’s dental cleaning and drove back to the Vet’s parking lot. When the Vet Tech came to pick Ellie up from the car, this time without Cricket nearby sending smoke signals, she had me sign a form that said I understood the risks of anesthesia. I had a much harder time letting Ellie go after that.


            Mom and I went food shopping right away, just to keep busy, but I still couldn’t block out the endless scenarios filling my brain, including complications from the anesthesia and lost teeth and then progressing to mixed up name tags and accidentally removed limbs. By the time we got home and put away the groceries, I was exhausted, but still too worried to sleep. Eventually, the Vet called to tell us that Ellie was fine, and would be ready for pick up in a few hours, but, by the way, they’d had a hard time getting the tube down her throat, because the scar tissue from her de-barking surgery had grown. It’s possible that Ellie’s attempts to bark along with her sister have been irritating her throat and exacerbating the scar tissue from the surgery done by her breeder long ago (which is unspeakable). That could also explain the proliferation of her snoring habit, which has become operatic of late. The Vet said not to worry about the scar tissue, which of course made me worry about the scar tissue more, but knowing that Ellie had survived this procedure was enough of a relief that I was able to sleep for a while, with only a few nightmares about Ellie losing her voice to an evil wizard.

“Did you say something?”

            We brought Cricket with us to pick up Ellie, because leaving her at home that morning had not gone over well, and as soon as Ellie was brought to the car she was placed on her grandma’s lap, blurry eyed from the drugs. We’d already paid, and the chat with the dental specialist went quickly, and I wanted to race out of there before one of the Vet Techs could decide that Ellie needed to go back inside for some reason, except, Cricket didn’t like the seating arrangements. Cricket believes that Grandma’s lap belongs to her, so she kept trying to push her confused sister off the lap. It took a while to convince Cricket that she could be just as comfortable owning another part of Grandma’s real estate (in this case, behind Grandma’s neck) for the short ride home.

“Stay away from my Grandma!”

            In the meantime, even in her drugged haze and with Cricket’s drama all around her, Ellie managed to find the chicken treats hidden deep in Grandma’s jacket pocket and gobble them down before anyone could stop her. We’d been warned that Ellie’s gut would be a little slow for the next day or so, and that she should eat only half as much as usual, but she clearly didn’t get that message. By the time we got home, Ellie was uninterested in eating her delayed breakfast (either the kibble or the wet stuff), and she was ready for a nap. Cricket generously ate the late breakfast for her, and then took a nap of her own.

Ellie did a lot of heavy raspy breathing for the next day or so, which kept me anxious, but pretty quickly she was back to running around the backyard, visiting with her squirrel friends, eating her meals, and showing off her pearly white teeth.

“Any more treats?”

            I can still feel the worry, though, as if every time she goes to sleep there’s a chance that her scar tissue will expand and start to choke her. It’s probably an unreasonable fear, and I will likely forget how harrowing the whole thing was, until next time.

For now, the next thing on our to-do list is to schedule Cricket’s yearly check-up. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, though. She may have to be sedated BEFORE we get to the Vet’s parking lot, because the prospect of handing Cricket through a car window, to an unsuspecting Vet Tech wearing only a fabric mask and plastic gloves, instead of full armor, does not bode well for any of us. I’m sure Cricket would vote to send Ellie in again in her stead, but the vaccinations and ear cleaning that Cricket needs can’t be done by proxy, and at thirteen and a half she really can’t be skipping her regular checkups, Covid or no Covid. It’s a good thing we have a month or so before she has to go in, though, because we really need to build up our strength for the ordeal.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Ellie’s Progress

Ellie’s Progress


Ellie will be six years old this month and she is basically unrecognizable from when she first arrived as a shy, quiet, skinny little girl a year and a half ago. First of all, she loves to eat. She would eat second breakfast (aka Cricket’s breakfast) every morning if we didn’t keep a close eye on her. Cricket is often blasé about breakfast, but Miss Ellie is teetering on the edge of a weight problem, so we have to be careful. Second, she makes eye contact all the time and has learned to make puppy dog eyes at me to ask for more treats and scratchies whenever she wants them. She barks to go outside, and races across the hall to bark at her friend Oliver on her way out the door. And then she zooms! She does figure eights and spirals and circles out on the lawn out of sheer joy!


“That’s me!”

She even lets me wash her butt in the sink, even though it scares her, so she doesn’t have to walk around with poop on her butt, the way Cricket chooses to do. And Ellie loves her people. At her most recent grooming appointment the groomer said, a little resentfully, that Ellie has really attached to me now (she was rescued by the groomer in the first place and then came to us).

Ellie with Gerry

“Who are you strange people?”

Ellie still pees too much indoors, though, and despite two wee wee pads (next to the front door and in my room), she still ends up peeing in the “wrong” places too often. But she seems to pee a lot more often than Cricket does, so I choose to blame her particular anatomy for this problem instead of blaming her.

Ellie is all love and enthusiasm, even when she’s sleeping, and she’s not self-conscious about her poochy belly (there used to be puppies in there, so she has an excuse!).


I finally started to work on training with Ellie a few weeks ago, because she’s been getting extra barky lately and I wondered if teaching her some basic commands might help her as much as it would help me. Up until now I was reluctant to bother her with obedience lessons, because I was thinking of her as another Butterfly (a puppy mill mama rescued at eight years old), someone in need of freedom more than anything else. But Ellie isn’t Butterfly. She’s younger and healthier and less traumatized by her still-difficult early life as a breeding dog with a local breeder.


“Ellie isn’t me. She’s her own special person.”

And it turns out that Cricket loves to act as role model for our training sessions, gleefully taking treats for every good “sit” and “stay” and “twirl” and “down.” Except that we had to go through an enormous amount of treats just to get a handful of good sits out of Ellie. And the process was exhausting. Ellie seemed to learn “sit,” and then unlearn it, ten times over. Cricket was a very quick learner, way back when (not that it’s done us much good), but while Miss Ellie really tries, training doesn’t seem to be her strength. She actually had solid name recall when we first brought her home (which Cricket has never managed), but that seems to have been the extent of her previous training. I have to use very small treats to train her, because she needs so many repetitions, and I ran out of the special tiny treats very quickly. I’ve been slow to re-order them, because those training sessions exhausted me so much more than they exhausted the dogs.


“Cricket would have liked a few more treats.”

But even without formal training, Ellie has made tons of progress. When she first came home she was kind of stiff and inflexible, and I assumed it was just her body type. Cricket can curl up in a tiny ball and almost disappear, and I assumed that was just not possible for Ellie. But over time Ellie’s back has become looser, and longer, and she can curl up nose to toes just like Cricket, when she wants to, or stretch out across the couch to connect her people. Her back is like an accordion, contracting and stretching with each breath. She’s also stronger, and faster, than before, and she runs and jumps and begs for kisses while standing straight up on her hind legs.


“Hi Mommy!”

I can’t train the sisterly relationship, though, so that’s still up to the girls. Ellie will lean on Cricket, and Cricket will lean on Ellie, but only if Cricket can pretend it’s not happening. They sniff each other for information whenever they’ve been apart for a few minutes, and they work together to demand outings, and to warn of incipient attacks by the mailman, but seconds later Cricket will act as if Ellie is a complete stranger who has wandered into our home by accident. Cricket gets especially riled up when she thinks her food and scratchies are being stolen by the interloper. And she can be quite a bully, intimidating Ellie away from the snacks.


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

When I try to intervene, Ellie lowers her eyes, as if to say, No, Mommy, Cricket knows best. I’ve tried to explain to Ellie that, clearly, Cricket does not know best, but Ellie doesn’t believe me and I haven’t figured out a way to train her out of her subservience, or to train Cricket into learning how to share. My hope is that, over time, Cricket will learn to find Ellie’s devotion endearing, and start to bend a little bit in return. There will be plenty of treats in it for her when that happens, and she knows it, but sometimes even treats aren’t enough motivation.


“Wait, when are treats not enough? Cricket, is this one of those unanswerable koans?”


“Do you see what you’ve done?”


If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?



Cricket Bites


Cricket is a biter. She has been a biter since she was a puppy, and now that she’s 12 years old, I don’t see it changing. We were warned that Cockapoos could bite – though the warning came after Cricket came home from the breeder, and from an unreliable source, so, not especially helpful.

puppy in November 010

She ate most of this pumpkin before we knew what was happening.

Cricket bites when she’s scared, angry, overexcited, etc. She resents any attempt to brush, comb, or clean her hair (though groomers have been able to do it, when she’s medicated). For her first two years, I worked hard at trying to condition Cricket to grooming at home. It was a long ritual, with lots of chicken treats and very gradual steps, and it was never, ever successful.

puppy in November 001

“You’re killing me, Mommy.”

puppy in November 039.jpg

“I kill you back!”

When the groomer left a small mat on one of Cricket’s ears, during a grooming visit a few months ago, I got nervous, because Cricket has very cottony hair, prone to knotting up if we’re not careful. I even took out the round-edged scissors to try to remove the small mat before it could grow. Cricket didn’t appreciate that, of course, and I decided to keep my fingers for a while longer. That meant that, at her most recent grooming, after the mat had grown and spread to both ears and her face, Cricket faced the indignity of being shaved down to the nubs. Her head is surprisingly small without all of the fluff, and she looked a bit like a tiny alpaca, with her naked ears and prominent nose, and big, wide open eyes.


Escaping from the groomer’s house!


The thing is, at this point, I’m done battling with her about her hair. I’m done risking life and limb to save her from another bad haircut, that she will, of course, blame on me. She is a senior citizen in the dog world, and this is the best she’s going to be. I may have better luck cleaning her up once she loses a few more teeth, though. That’s something to look forward to, and since she has resisted every attempt at tooth brushing, with every kind of special doggy toothbrush and chicken flavored toothpaste, she won’t keep all those sharp little teeth forever.


The immediate problem is that she has convinced Ellie that any attempts at home grooming are the equivalent of death threats, and Ellie has fluffy ears and a long fluffy tail that need regular combing to avoid mats. Ellie doesn’t bite, Thank God, but she does run away from me, or give me those puppy dog eyes that seem to say, Mommy, why are you hurting me? Aren’t I a good girl? Which really is worse than a dog bite in terms of long lasting damage to the soul.


“Cricket says you’re trying to kill me.”

I think we need to come up with something like a miniature carwash for dogs, where the dog is harnessed in and washed and brushed and dried without any human fingers put at risk. I mean, sure, the actual haircut would still have to be done by professional, but in between, the carwash could keep the girls from smelling like pee, and covering their faces with snot. And, I would be able to keep all of my fingers. Wouldn’t that be great?


“No, Mommy. I don’t think so.”


The poor miniature alpaca doesn’t think so either


If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel called to write a review of the book on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes is true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Cricket and Ellie

Cricket and Ellie have been together for almost a year now, and I think it’s been a long year for Cricket. She wasn’t convinced that she needed a new sister, and she will never acknowledge that having Ellie with her has lowered her anxiety level a few decibels (but it has).


“I don’t need no sister!”

It was luck that we got the call about Ellie on Cricket’s 11th birthday, last year, and were able to pick her up the following day. I’d like to believe that Ellie was, in a way, Cricket’s birthday present, but Cricket didn’t see it that way, especially because, in the turmoil, we forgot to have a celebration with Cricket’s favorite foods (peanut butter, red bell peppers, olives, and, of course, chicken). We tried to make up for it with a week full of chicken, for both of them, but Cricket remembered the slight.


“I remember everything.”

I worry that if we celebrate Ellie’s Gotcha Day, right after Cricket’s 12th birthday, Cricket will feel neglected, or resentful. I mean, more than usual. But Ellie deserves to be celebrated too. She’s found her place in the world, through trial and error, and luck, and quite a lot of therapy, just like me.


“What are you looking at?”

From the beginning, Ellie has come to therapy with me once a week. My therapist insisted that Ellie should come, not so much for my sake, or even for Ellie’s really, but because my therapist likes having dog patients. She misses her own dogs during the day, now that she works from an office building instead of from home. But it turns out that I like bringing Ellie with me, because it’s the one time of the week when she sits on my lap. At home she prefers to stretch out nearby, on the floor, on the couch, or on the bed, but in therapy she needs more contact. And if I have to talk about something particularly painful I can cuddle with her for comfort, or talk about her as a break from the tension, just for a little while. And therapy has been good for Ellie too. She’s been gradually learning self-calming techniques, and realizing that she has a safe base to return to (me), which allows her to spend more and more time exploring the office. Recently, she even built up the courage to go over to my therapist directly, which she never did early on (though my therapist clearly cheated by bringing in cheese). It’s Ellie’s one hour per week when she gets to go out alone with Mommy, while Cricket stays home with Grandma, and she seems to look forward to it, and know where we’re going, though, really, it could be all about the cheese.


Ellie in therapy: thinking deeply.

I brought Cricket along with us to therapy one day, when my Mom had her quilting group in the city, and Cricket seemed forlorn at the thought of being left home alone. Cricket used to go to therapy with me herself, when she was a puppy, so she was thrilled to see her therapist again; so thrilled that she peed on the rug three times, and used the furniture, and my therapist, as a jungle gym, and then stole a chocolate-filled candy from the coffee table. All of this while Ellie sat calmly on my lap, bewildered.

Cricket does not believe that she is going to be twelve years old. Yes, she’s had occasional back trouble, and she takes CBD oil each morning to relieve general aches and pains, but she thinks she’s still a puppy, and the fact is, she is still as smart and stubborn as ever. I can see that she has slowed down over time, but that’s only because she used to be a raging speed demon and now she’s not dragging me down the street, as much. In her trip to therapy she forgot her age completely and went back to acting like the puppy she used to be: raging speed demon, excitement peeing, and all. I can’t afford to replace the office carpeting, though, so Cricket will be staying home from now on.



Cricket is still clearly the boss around here. If there’s a plate on the floor, Ellie will run for it, until she sees Cricket out of the corner of her eye, and then she backs off and waits for permission, from Cricket, to lick up the leftovers. Though, Ellie has occasionally ignored her sister’s rules and elbowed for space, when there were scratchies on offer, but not too often.

Ellie generally sleeps in my room, because Cricket won’t allow her up on Grandma’s bed, though Ellie has no problem sharing my bed with Cricket. They often take their afternoon naps with me, each staking out her own territory and stretching out. Ellie has tried to get Cricket to play with her, doing a play bow, or running circles around her out in the yard, but Cricket just gets confused. Cricket can play by herself, or with a human, but she doesn’t understand dog to dog play. It’s just too weird for her.

We will have to find a way to celebrate Cricket’s 12th birthday, and Ellie’s Gotcha day, and their sisterhood, all at once, in a way that Cricket will enjoy. Ideally, I would buy six or seven roasted chickens and hide them strategically around the backyard for the girls to find, but, there are other animals around here, and our yard isn’t fenced in, and, it’s possible that there is such a thing as too much chicken, even for my girls.

I’ll have to keep thinking about this. But in the meantime, I’m going to celebrate the fact that Ellie has made her way into our hearts, and made our world a warmer, happier, funnier place. And if Cricket wants to pretend that she’d be better off as an only dog, panting and shaking with separation anxiety each time we leave the apartment, she can certainly hold on to her illusions. But I know the truth.


“Shut up.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel called to write a review of the book on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes is true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?


Miss Ellie Goes to the Vet


We took Ellie for her first vet visit last week, or her first one as an official member of the family, but for some reason she didn’t see it as the beautiful rite of passage I’d imagined. She sat on my lap in the waiting room, ignoring Boopy, the African Grey parrot (even though he was whistling and banging on his noisemakers to get her attention). She also ignored the enormous German Shephard puppy on the floor, and the little apricot poodle on the bench across from us, and just sat there and shook.

boopy giving me the eye

Boopy, giving me the eye

She didn’t need the kind of restraints Cricket generally needs during her exam, though she was clearly tempted to pee on the table. The vet took blood and gave shots and added another tag to her collar (we’d gotten her a blingy grey collar, and red flower name tag by then). Then the vet answered my questions: about a grain-free diet (because we’d been told that Havanese dogs need a grain-free diet, but the vet said no way, research has shown heart trouble resulting from unnecessarily grain-free diets); and about wet versus dry food (both fine, to Ellie’s great disappointment, since she was hoping for a prescription for whole roasted chickens). And then he said that Ellie would need a dental cleaning, as soon as possible. Eek! He showed me the plaque at her gum line, just to make sure I got the message, that only bad dog mommies would leave those teeth uncleaned. We paid for the visit but I didn’t schedule the dental procedure right away, because, one, anesthesia scares the crap out of me, especially for someone as small as Ellie, and two, the cost of the cleaning would start at $400 and go up from there depending on the seriousness of her dental situation.


Ellie, very concerned

My last experience with anesthesia was with Butterfly’s emergency hernia surgery, a few months before she died, when, with her heart disease, she had less than a fifty percent chance of survival. I tried to talk myself through the differences between the two situations, but flashbacks were inevitable. Of course, I decided to go through with it anyway. I trust Cricket and Ellie’s vet, both on what he thinks my girls need for their health, and on what is safe or unsafe for them. And I want Ellie to have her teeth for as long as possible. Miss Butterfly made do with the teeth she had, but I know she would have enjoyed having more teeth to chew her food with.


Miss B

So, a week later, we took the food and water bowls off the floor at nine PM, because Ellie had to be empty for anesthesia. And no one got treats after the first walk of the day the next morning, because I was afraid that if I gave one to Cricket, Ellie would wrestle her to the ground and grab it out of her mouth. She likes food, a lot. Cricket stared at the treat shelf for an extra ten seconds, to let me know that I was making a horrible mistake, but she actually gave up pretty quickly and both girls went back to sleep.


The girls, resting with Grandma

The real problem came when I went to put Ellie’s leash on, and Cricket pushed in front of her and started jumping at me, looking for her own leash. Usually Cricket gets her leash on first, so clearly something was wrong. I told Cricket that she didn’t want to go to the place where Ellie was going, and that as soon as we left she’d get to eat her breakfast, but she didn’t believe me. I had to pick her up and hand her off to Grandma, so that I could get Ellie out the door.

Ellie sat calmly in the backseat of the car, and then sat by my feet in the waiting room until the vet tech arrived to take her to the back. She even made sure to give me nose kisses before she was taken away, and that helped a little bit. Well, it helped me.

We got the call about an hour later that she was already out of the anesthesia and awake and no teeth had to be extracted. I’d been ready for a day of worrying, that I’d never see her again, or that the procedure would get complicated and she’d lose ten teeth and maybe a limb, but here they were calling and saying, nope, all good. We weren’t allowed to pick her up until three o’clock in the afternoon though, and, since I couldn’t think straight, I ended up doing a jigsaw puzzle for the next few hours, until we were finally allowed to go get her.

Cricket refused to be left at home for the pickup, even though I made sure to remind her that we’d be going to the vet. She sat on my lap in the passenger seat of the car while Mom drove, and then she huddled behind my neck as we got closer to the vet’s office, and then she jumped out of the car as soon as the door was open half an inch. When we went to the front desk to tell the receptionist we were there to pick up Ellie, Cricket spoke up too, and then we heard Ellie’s little whisper bark from the back room. She’d heard our voices! She knew us! Either that or she’d been barking at every noise for the past four or five hours, but I prefer my version.

C waiting for E at the vet

“Where’s my sister?!”

They had to do a few more things in the back room, though, and Cricket was impatient to see her sister, so she waited at the door, ignoring Boopy’s whistles and greetings. When Ellie came marching out she was perky and totally fine, and I was shocked. Even after just getting x-rays Miss Cricket always looked like she’d been hit by a truck, but here was Ellie, after anesthesia and dental scraping, looking like she was ready to party. And she knew exactly who I was, and that I was her home. How had she learned that so fast? I was sure she’d be angry at me, or think I was a stranger coming to pick her up, but no, she was blasé about the whole thing. Like, Hey Mom, are you ready to go? Anything good for lunch?


We loaded back into the car and Cricket immediately took up her spot behind my neck, letting me know that her ordeal had been much more traumatizing than anything Ellie had gone through. And Ellie was cool with it, leaning forward to see what was going on, sniffing Cricket’s nose, and licking my arm.

E showing teeth

“Look at my beautiful teeth!”

The fact is, even in the short month they’ve been together, Cricket and Ellie have learned how to work as a team. They wake me up early to go out for their first morning walk (and then their morning treat, and breakfast, and their second morning walk). Ellie waits for Cricket to finish as much as she’s hungry for, before she gobbles up the rest of the food in Cricket’s bowl. Sometimes they elbow each other out of the way when scratchies are on offer, but they’ll accept tandem scratching. They even nap together, or at least they nap in the same place and at the same time.

When we got home, Ellie was only allowed to have a few ice cubes and still no food, but she was still fine with everything. I was wiped out and in need of a three hour nap, but she looked like she could have taken another five walks. I don’t know where her resilience comes from, or how she’s managed to adapt to life with us so quickly. She trusts me. She snuggles next to me. And she smiles. She asked to come up on the bed, and she let me look at her newly shiny teeth, and then she stretched out for a nap, a few inches away from me on one side, and a few inches away from Cricket on the other side and she fell asleep. I’m pretty sure she was dreaming about eating roasted chicken, but maybe she was just sending herself to sleep with the knowledge that she was finally home, where she belongs.

ellie relaxed

The Battle Hymn of the Nap


Cricket is prone to fits of crazy digging. She’ll dig outside in the dirt, if she can, but most of the time she digs on the rug, on my bed, or under the couch. And there is a vocal accompaniment to what she’s doing with her paws. I would call it ululating, except that there’s a lack of musicality to Cricket’s version; her rhythms are chaotic, and her pitches unrecognizable. She sounds kind of like a high pitched car alarm on speed.

The crazy digger's butt.

The crazy digger’s butt.

Very often, her crazy attacks of digging are part of her preparation for bedtime. Cricket is like a toddler who is exhausted, but enraged that she has to go to bed. She loses her mind, racing around in circles, picking up toys and growling and crying. She doesn’t want to be overtaken by sleep; it’s an awful fate that she has to fight off like the monster it is.

She does the same things whether it is a daytime nap or a nighttime nap: she will either do a running jump up onto my bed from the doorway, or stand next to my bed and try to jump from a standstill, which usually takes five or six tries; when she’s finally up on the bed, she starts digging at the sheet, and crawling under the blanket to dig in the dark; the digging speeds up and the ululating kicks in, and then she starts to push the blanket around, creating a fort; and then, finally, she falls asleep, in her fort.

Cricket in her fort.

Cricket in her fort.

Butterfly has a different bedtime ritual, which requires me to chase her around the apartment for some period of time, and then pick her up from the floor, and carry her to her blanket on my bed. Sometimes she is very excited and hops around the apartment, sticking her tongue out and smiling at me. Other times she is more of a little princess, waiting to be lifted and carried to her throne.

Butterfly is very sleepy.

Butterfly is very sleepy.

Sometimes, when I pick Butterfly up for nap time, something about the slight squeeze around her middle makes her fart. Cricket’s farts are silent and stinky, but Butterfly’s farts are musical. It’s a bit like the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, or a kazoo, played staccato. Once, when I picked Butterfly up to carry her to my room, Cricket was walking ahead of us, and Butterfly made one of her musical farts. Cricket turned around and sniffed her own butt, to see if that’s where the fart came from.

"Which one of us farted, Mommy??"

“Which one of us farted, Mommy??”

When Butterfly is really tired, she just topples. She’ll walk down the hall to my room, alone, and plop down on the rug, to let me know that I have kept her up too late. There’s no running or jumping or raging at the dying of the light, there’s just motionlessness.

When Cricket is in a particularly dastardly mood, she sees Butterfly resting comfortably on my bed and starts scheming. She’ll run to the front door and start barking, as if something very important is going on and she needs all hands on deck. Butterfly, being a loyal sister, she shakes herself awake and rushes down the doggy stairs to help Cricket in her time of need. Within seconds, Cricket runs back into my room, jumps up on the bed, and stretches out on Butterfly’s blanket, leaving Butterfly stranded on the floor, because she doesn’t know how to climb back up the doggy steps.

"It's too scary, Mommy."

“It’s too scary, Mommy.”

If this had happened only once or twice, I would give Cricket the benefit of the doubt, but it happens on a regular basis. Butterfly just accepts her fate, and goes to sleep on the rug, one ear up, ready to respond to her sister’s next call to arms, while Cricket snuggles in for a long, comfortable nap, on the bed.

If only.

Butterfly’s dream.

The Neglected Cricket


Cricket has been giving me the evil eye more often lately. She sits in her dog bed and rests her chin on the edge and stares at me. She jumps on my bed, climbs on my chest and stares. She especially crawls under her couch, looks up at me, and stares.



I have started to imagine the letters Cricket would send me, if she could write.


Dear Mommy,

            You have been using too much of my blog (The Cricket Pages!!!!) to talk about Butterfly. I am cute too. I am exciting and interesting and doing lots of great stuff. So, stop being a doodie.

            Yours truly,



I’ve tried to explain to this imaginary Cricket that early on, the blog was entirely about her, but I’m afraid this would not go over well, and she would begin to reminisce about the good old days of being an only dog.

The fact is, with all of the health stuff Butterfly and I have been going through lately, we haven’t been focusing enough on Cricket’s need for adventure. We’ve almost entirely given up on training. Cricket hasn’t been to the beach or been able to run full out or even been able to go on her long walks. Her resentments must have been seething under the surface for quite some time.

"I'm not tired at all!"

“I’m not tired at all!”


            Dear Mommy,

            Have you seen how high I can jump? And I don’t need shots or blood tests and I only bark at really important stuff, like dangerous intruders trying to kill my family! Write about me!

            Your neglected puppy,



I’ve been trying to think of potential blog posts that would be all about Cricket. Maybe a post about her tiny stump of a tail, and how she uses it to communicate alternate messages to the looks on her face. She can’t send mixed messages verbally, the way humans can, so she has to make do with mixed body language.

But that’s not a whole post, and it might lead to rhapsodies about Butterfly’s long plume of a tail, and the way it dances in circles and swings like a fan dancer. Clearly a danger zone.

If I had more energy, I could take her on some adventures just for her. Cricket would love to go on another car trip, or to fight with seagulls at the beach, or to a lake to meet some frogs or turtles. She’d love to go to the duck pond and chase the geese, as long as she wouldn’t fall into the water. She’d like to go on long walks and sniff new things. But she would not like to go to a training class, or to the vet or the groomer. She’d love to go to Petco to find treats and toys and other doggy smells, but not if it meant trying on outfits. She especially likes to poop on the floor there.

I would love to be able to send her to school for half a day. She could have gym class and meet new dogs and learn to read, of course. And that would be a rich source of new blog topics, about her athletic triumphs, and social anxieties, and public speaking disasters. And then she could come home exhausted and not give me so many dirty looks for the rest of the day. This is a very good idea. This is the next thing we should be doing in America: public school for dogs.

In the meantime, I did find something fun for Cricket to do closer to home that fulfills her need for excitement and lends itself to pictures for the blog. Her favorite poopy area in the backyard has been getting crowded out by weeds, and Cricket loves to battle weeds. All I have to do is pull one or two weeds up to show her the way, and she sticks her head in the ground and searches for more roots and digs and bites and steals the weeds and runs around in a frenzy. She especially likes the tall fat weeds that look like juicy green sticks.

Criket, guarding her treasure.

Cricket, guarding her treasure.



"Don't interrupt me while I'm weeding, Mommy."

“Don’t interrupt me while I’m weeding, Mommy.”

For minutes at a time, Cricket is unbelievably happy, and distracted. She comes back in the house with a smile and dirt all over her face and a light in her eyes. It’s a good thing we’ve been getting so much rain lately so that the weeds can keep growing and taking over the yard. The longer this Cricket happiness can last, the better life will be, for everyone in Cricket’s house.

"Shh. We're sleeping."

“Shh. We’re sleeping.”

Becoming Sisters

When Butterfly first arrived last year as an eight year old rescue dog, she saw Cricket as the all knowing mentor about things like poop, and stairs, and dinner time. But Cricket looked at her with suspicion and made it clear that everything in the house belonged to Cricket first: the food, the toys, and most especially the people. Cricket had been an only dog for six years and did not see any reason to change that. But I did. I wanted her to learn social skills, to calm down her protective instincts and to widen her emotional repertoire. She preferred to sit on her grandma’s lap and give the usurper her best death stare.

"Hello, Cricket!"

“Hello, Cricket!”

"What are you looking at?!"

“What are you looking at?!”

My job was to make sure that Cricket had no good reason to feel usurped. That doesn’t mean she never felt jealous or resentful, just that she had no good reason to feel that way. I had to make sure that Cricket didn’t run low on scratchies or treats or have her walks curtailed.

When Butterfly pooped in the house or looked at the stairs with terror, Cricket rolled her eyes. She lived like there was no other dog in the house, just a distant, annoying, buzz of noise that had no interest for her. But Butterfly ran a campaign of attrition. She was unremittingly loyal, and upbeat, and ignored every sign of Cricket’s disdain. Butterfly was the kind of friend anyone would want, but no one could quite believe they deserved.

"Are you down there, Cricket?"

“Are you down there, Cricket?”

Butterfly started to show her usefulness to Cricket by being the one who woke me up at the break of dawn to go outside. Cricket just had to yawn and stretch and meet us at the door. Butterfly also made chicken treats more available, by needing and responding well to training, so that if I was giving Butterfly treats, Cricket had to have some too, and again, without much effort, Cricket’s treat intake at least doubled.

But the biggest benefit of having Butterfly around is the unconditional love. Cricket can be snotty and grumpy and indifferent, and Butterfly will still look at her with devotion, follow her around, and pee where she pees. It has to be a nice ego boost.

I’ve caught Cricket, recently, snuggling up to Butterfly, purposely resting her head next to Butterfly’s tushy, for comfort and wonderful aromas. Cricket doesn’t find it quite as annoying anymore that Butterfly worships the ground that she walks on, especially because the worship has been tempered over time. If food or scratchies are being offered, Butterfly will shove Cricket out of the way to get first dibs.

Tushy to tushy.

Tushy to tushy.

I wanted Cricket to have a sister so that she would have someone to talk to, someone who could speak her language. No matter how much I love my dogs and try to understand them, there is a language barrier that stops important messages from coming through. Butterfly and Cricket know that language. A lot of it seems to be transmitted by the smell of pee. They sniff-in with each other multiple times a day, to see what’s going on, as if they are reading each other’s diaries.

The girls, intentionally, do things together now. They cozy up for warmth. They sit on either side of grandma’s rolling chair at the computer. They take turns eating at the bowls. They especially try to walk down the stairs at the same time, in the same place, so that they are piled on top of each other and jockeying for position. They do the same thing when they notice a strange pee in the backyard. They pull me forward like two horses pulling a cart, and then they both have to examine the pee at the same time, pushing each other out of the way, eventually smushing their heads together so they can both smell at once.

The facsination of pee.

The fascination of pee.

Cricket has attempted a play bow, though she still doesn’t know what to do after that, so Butterfly is trying to figure out how to grab a tug toy with her few teeth so she can play in the way Cricket likes best.

There was an incident one night recently when Butterfly managed to get in Cricket’s way, unintentionally, and Cricket was so angry that she made a screeching sound, like a car suddenly breaking on the highway. There was no dog fight, just the sound of Cricket’s outrage and then the scuffling sound of Cricket rushing under the bed to sulk. Cricket has a big mouth, but when push comes to shove she doesn’t really want to do damage.

But that incident made me realize that in more than a year, we’ve never had a dog fight. A few grumps here and there, but mostly smooth sailing. Maybe it has taken this long for Cricket to finally believe that there is room for two dogs here, and we are not going to get rid of her. I don’t know what she’s been thinking. She’s inscrutable when she wants to be.

Cozy time.

Cozy time.

I think Cricket would even protect her sister now. She won’t admit it, but she cares about Butterfly and would never let anyone hurt her. She still doesn’t think Butterfly should ever get more than she gets – of food or attention or outings or freedom – but she’s learned to tolerate a fair and equal distribution of goods, with Cricket being ever so slightly more equal.

The sherriff and her deputy.

The sheriff and her deputy.

The Social Butterfly


Butterfly at Grandma’s colorful feet


            When Butterfly first came home from the shelter she didn’t make eye contact with me or Mom, and I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to bond with us. They told us not to expect too much from her after spending her whole eight years in a puppy mill. She was afraid of being picked up or petted, but she licked my hand to say hello, so we started there.


Butterfly’s tongue

She was hyper vigilant even in sleep, curling up in a ball, waking at any noise. The first time she was able to sleep on her side, with her legs stretched out and her belly exposed, I knew what a triumph that was. A few weeks later, she started to do a little move where she twisted her head to expose her neck and chest for scratching. And then, just once, she rolled entirely onto her back.

But she has been a social butterfly with other dogs from the very beginning, especially in contrast to Cricket. Butterfly will walk up to any dog, big or small, yappy or shy. She doesn’t let Cricket’s fear or standoffishness deter her. The other day we took the girls out for a long walk around the neighborhood. We went to the left instead of the right this time and met a male dachshund and his human mother. Cricket kept her distance, because she usually does. But Butterfly was drawn straight to him. She sniffed his nose. Then she sniffed his butt. He peed obsessively against the telephone pole on his lawn.

Butterfly clearly liked him, but whenever he tried to sniff her butt, she hopped away like a good southern belle, exclaiming, “well, I never…” But she didn’t want to leave. When we finally convinced Butterfly to leave, she was in a great mood. Her hips twitched from side to side, and her nose and tail were up in the air.


The girls get all tangled with their friend Bella

            Cricket is not a social butterfly. When we’re outside and strangers walk by, Cricket automatically barks her head off. She needs to tell them that this is her neighborhood, her street, her sidewalk, and they have no business near by. Butterfly just stands there and studies them. She isn’t upset by Cricket’s barking. She almost doesn’t seem to notice it. She just seems curious, and like a scientist, she is taking time to patiently examine the evidence.

But in the house, Butterfly barks. She especially likes to bark at the doggy in the mirror. She’ll be walking around in my room, surveying the territory, and then look to her left and see another little white dog. The mirror on the closet is full length so she can see herself down to the toes, and she barks and hops and gets into play pose as if she really believes that another dog has come into the room to challenge her.

Butterfly’s biggest challenge is to teach Cricket how to be her friend. It is an uphill battle, with a lot of grumbling and suspicion and hiding under beds and hoarding treats. But right now, Butterfly is napping only inches away from Cricket on the bed. They are getting closer every day, whether Cricket likes it or not.


Blurry but happy. At least Butterfly is.