The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Staff Evaluations at the Ichabode - Sassy Is Not Pleased


Sassy has a keen sense of time. She expects her morning walk at 7-8 AM, the earlier the better. She expects her afternoon walk at 4 PM. When we switched to Daylight Savings, she began making her noises before 3 PM.

For a loud, talkative dog, Sassy is quiet in the morning. She is expected to make no sound as we get ready to leave. In the afternoon, those rules are forgotten when she begins barking about my preparations. If I touch shoes or socks (this is Arkansas) she assumes the walk will take place right away. She goes into her bouncing, barking mode, as if suppressing one bark would make her explode.

On a good day Sassy will meet some of her best friends - the four S sisters (all names starting with S), the retired Army Ranger and his brother, our helper's family, and various neighborhood children and adults who know Sassy by name.

Staff evaluations start at 7 PM and they are seldom good. The first sign is the high pitched whine, just enough to get our attention. I will, "Staff evals are coming in."

Mrs. Ichabod asks, "Are they good?"

"No, we are not fulfilling our duties."

Next is the tail wagging, not in a friendly way, but showing great impatience. If we overlook the wagging, it gets stronger. Once Sassy positioned herself so her tail would brush against my bare foot. It felt soft and almost ticklish. The swishing got me laughing, so she soon received her evening treat.

If we dare ask, "What's wrong?" Sassy adds her glaring look. It starts with disapproval but builds to anger and loud barking. If she is hungry for a meal, the barking sounds like the warning she gave to Old Billie, who petted her too hard and then patted her down a bit too rough again. She placed her front feet and warned him with her bark. That is her bark when we are really failing in all categories - speed, amount of food, and sensitivity to her messages.

Likewise, she uses her paw to ask, as many cats and dogs do.
Stage One - a gentle touch. That means, "Get up for our walk," or "Save some of your meal for me."
Stage Two - a downward stroke of her paw. "I mean it. Time to go." or "I need that food, now."
Stage Three - a downward stroke with enough pressure to almost hurt. "No more warnings left." Our drama queen is so expressive that I have to laugh and give her a long hug.

Sassy hugs back in many ways. One is to rush into a hug (on the bed) pressing against my neck. "Do you want out now?" I get that hug for being so smart.

Setting me up for something she wants, Sassy will simply sit across my chest as she watches TV. She likes to sit on me and touch Mrs. Ichabod with her paw. Or she sits between us, touching both at once.

Lately Sassy decided to revive her trick of holding down my lower lip with her long claws. She had to learn "Gentle gentle" as a young dog, years ago. She responding by wincing and going toward my lip in ultra-slow motion. That was her funniest trick. Now she is gentle without the drama.

We are getting good use of the big stick on our walks. We seem to have a stray a day, often a male looking for a date. Sassy gets upset easily, because of previous attacks. She does not mind a circle meet-and-greet, but if it lasts too long, she can get yippy and snarly, setting the other dog off.

So I use my large walking stick to warn dogs away. Forget kicking toward a dog. They know how to dodge and leave the dumb human standing on one leg, so they move in more effectively. Too many dogs are aggressive today. Pointing my stick like a gun is enough to get them to retreat and walk away. One male dog had a Bill Clinton grin, and kept circling at 10 feet. I showed him how the stick could work as a gun, and he left us.

The funniest dogs were the two yappers who got pesky on Sassy and bothered her. I held the staff over my head and yelled, "Go back to Mordor where you belong!" They retreated yapping but came back. "Go back, I say!" I shook the staff over my head. They backed away even more and yipped louder for being humiliated and scared at the same time. Neighborhood kids are fascinated by her lack of a leg and loved hearing about my Mordor threat.

It's Downton Abbey at the Ichabode -
only we are the servants, answering Sassy's call.