Mexican Standoff

I’ve apparently had a Mexican standoff going on in my home for the past couple of days, and I wasn’t even aware that the parties involved had any beef with each other. This does not bode well for the admittedly slightly uneasy equilibrium of my household.

Per Wikipedia, “A Mexican standoff is a confrontation in which no strategy exists that allows any party to achieve victory.[1][2] Any party initiating aggression might trigger their own demise. At the same time, the parties are unable to extricate themselves from the situation without suffering a loss. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it.”

Outside event. That doesn’t sound promising.

The Parties:

In this corner we have Cocoa:

That “thing” hanging there is extra skin. It happens when you lose 10+ pounds. That’s like a human losing 100 lbs!

Cocoa is a 14 year old blue and fawn Chihuahua I adopted two years ago after her human went into hospice care. She was once 26 lbs! That’s why you see that extra skin hanging there — she’s now a svelte 13-14 lbs (she’s a large framed chi to begin with, and should really be closer to 10-12 lbs but the extra skin weighs a bit). I fixed her color dilution alopecia problems, her busted thyroid and she’s thriving now. She got used to being in a household with my two larger dogs as well.

Taken while I was doing her nails. Just chillin’

She’s pretty chill, and mostly just doesn’t care much about anything except feeding time. She’s still very much an obese dog in a thinner dogs body. (This is not about body-shaming, obesity in pets is NOT COOL. It’s dangerous, it’s abusive, FIGHT ME.) Anyway — she’s chill.

And in this corner, it’s Smokey.

At the Animal League of Birmingham’s Next Hot Dog Contest. He placed 2nd in the “Sassiest Senior” category. I thought he was pretty dapper in his hat. Only had him for 2 mos at this point.

Smokey also came to me when his person was in hospice, last year. He’s now 16 years old and he’s quite the feisty old fellow. He was also an only dog, very loved, and is used to be spoiled rotten. He HATES Joker, 11 year old pit bull, who tolerates it with his usual grace and aplomb (he looks upon these chis like they’re puppies, and puppies can do no wrong). After a year in my home, we’ve mostly worked out the kinks with Smokey – he’s got a few weird issues but he’s really a charmer and quite lovable, once you get to know him. And, he’s 16 years old. I mean…dude. You should SEE him tear around the house, jump up into the chair, it’s amazing.

He acts much younger than his 16 years. Don’t let that silver face fool you.

For the past year and a bit, they’ve gotten along. They weren’t **friends** but, you know, they hanged.

Old eyes, staring out at you.

They dealt with being in the stroller together.

I’m pretty sure someone had food.

They did the Santa Claus thing.

At our local pharmacy. Yes, they let me bring my littles in with me, all the time.

 So believe me when I say to you that when I heard growling from behind me last night, I paid it no mind. I thought it was Smokey growling at Joker again. I continued doing my work, knowing that Joker would just go to the other side of the couch. But then the growling continued, and I realized it was a different pitch, not the usual “smokey” pitch. (Hence his name, he sounds like he’s been smoking too many cigars and drinking too much whiskey. Raspy, harsh, the dude’s an old jazz man from N’awlin’s down on his luck, looking for a place to hang his hat in his golden years…that’s my imaginary backstory for him.)

I look behind me, and see Cocoa and Smokey: Cocoa is sitting on the pillow with the heating pad, ears set back, clearly saying, “This is MY spot.” Smokey is standing sideways to her, at an angle, ears up, trying to get her to move. Anyone who studies dog behavior can see that this is clear aggression, he is trying to force her to either share or move completely. Cocoa’s lip is curled and she is snarling and growling, and her whole body is tensed. I’ve never seen her this mad. I’ve never seen Smokey want that pillow that much either.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” I thunder. They stop and look at me. I settle Cocoa down, bring Smokey onto his *preferred* seating (my lap) and go back to work, thinking that was odd but it’s over now.

Then at dinner time, the usual juggling of the dinner dishes, watching over Smokey so he can finish in peace and neither Joker nor Cocoa will push him away before he’s finished (there is a fourth dog, who has NO PLAY in this at all, smart girl). I’m cleaning up, and from the hall, more little growling. Again: the standoff. Smokey is hassling Cocoa again. Usually at mealtimes it’s the other way around. He’s all up her butt, sniffing at her like he’s “interested” in her. What the…. and she snaps at him and lumbers off.

Now, you might be saying to yourselves – so what, chihuahuas arguing, big deal.


Cocoa, with her past weight issues has major arthritis and while she walks and runs, it’s not without problems. She has a “hitch in her giddy-up” so to speak. Her teeth are better since she’s eating raw but they’re not great. She’s not fast. Her eyesight is fading, and quickly. Smokey also has arthritis, has fast-growing cataracts and while he ACTS like he’s a young man, he’s not. His teeth are perfect but c’mon…an old Chihuahua battle? Really?

Over….what? I have no idea what’s going on between these two. And just this morning, it started again over on the couch. I snagged Smokey and am writing this with him snugged against me in the chair so Cocoa can lie peacefully on the pillow. She didn’t want to sit with me while HE had the pillow earlier. *rolls eyes*

Clearly, they’re going to need to work this out without hurting each other. I can’t afford the vet bills if they do. I never in a million years thought I would have to separate my ELDERLY CHIHUAHUAS when I left the house to avoid bloodshed. But just in case, Cocoa and Joker in one room; Smokey and Gypsy Kale (the good one) in another.

Because that “outside event” part of the Mexican standoff? They’re both old, but in good health. I’m not looking for either one to kick it anytime soon. In a house full of senior dogs, death isn’t an option we look FORWARD to.


Is there more than one way to skin a squirrel?


I have no idea. I’ve never done it before today. I’ve seen it done in movies, most notably “Winter’s Bone” where Jennifer Lawrence teaches her younger siblings how to do it – and quite graphically – so I followed what she did. Why? Because my dog killed one. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself, let me back up.

Yesterday, I let my big dogs out in the backyard. Shortly afterward I heard an unusual commotion, so I ran out to see Joker, my pit bull, at the side fence and Gypsy, my mutt running around upset. Panthera, the neighbor dog was also making a lot more noise than usual at this one junction in the fence. Then I notice that Joker is bleeding from his snout. Gypsy also has blood on her. THEN, I see the squirrel in between the fence and the tree that has grown around it. A-ha. I start to check Joker’s wounds and get him cleaned up, trying to determine whether he was punctured by chain link or squirrel and said squirrel shakily scurries up the tree with some major wounds of his own to tend to. Gypsy is fine, the blood isn’t hers.  Both dogs got a bath while the foster puppies cried outside the bathroom.

Oh yeah, foster puppies. They want to know why they can’t do everything the big dogs do. BECAUSE YOU’RE PUPPIES and only here for the week. Thank Gods.

Later that night, I have to kill a GIANT SPIDER IN MY KITCHEN. I have arachnophobia. It was awful. And the size of a spoon. OMG.

This morning I let everyone out, and everyone but Gypsy came back in. She’s focused on the squirrels. Fine. A couple of hours later I open the door to take laundry out to dry and look to see my garden shoes are covered in drops of fresh blood. The same garden shoes I’d worn the day before, hosed off all the mud and left to dry on the steps. WHOSE BLOOD IS THIS???? Gypsy isn’t bleeding. But why are flies all over her? WHAT? I start looking for the squirrel, it HAS to be the squirrel. Joker and Gypsy are now digging at another part of the fence by the alley. So I open the gate and go out into the alley and then I see it, covered in flies but not dead yet. Oh dear gods. All dogs go back inside but Gypsy. This is her kill. She has to finish what she started.  I put her on a leash and take her to it.

And this is where I discover that Gypsy most likely ISN’T the killer of the animals I’ve found dead in my yard. She’s likely the one that catches them, but Joker is most likely the finisher. I had to encourage her to finish, to kill, to strike the killing blow. I didn’t want the squirrel to suffer for however long it was going to take for it to die — I wanted her to do what a dog does: swiftly break a neck/back/skull — whatever.  And then I remembered what my neighbor said happened while I was on vacation. The dogs had caught one of the feral cats and killed it. He tried to get them off of it, and Gypsy let go as soon as he yelled out, but Joker was the one that held on and mauled until it was dead. Joker isn’t as fast or agile, he can’t jump as high (nor climb a tree the way Gypsy does). But they do team up and hunt as a pack (they ARE dogs) and I’ve watched Gypsy lead the hunt. So she catches, and he kills. Makes sense. She is the gentler of the two but has the stronger prey instinct — she enjoys the chase part, but once that is over, she’s lost interest.

AND NO ONE wanted it after I skinned it, either. My raw fed dogs turned their noses up to fresh meat. Fresh, bloody, warm squirrel meat. Now that’s just rude. Ungrateful beasts. So I had to put the body parts (and it’s parts. Skin, organs, ripped apart limbs…I offered all pieces to five dogs, puppies included and no one wanted any part of it – although the puppies licked up some of the blood) in some bags and store it in my chest freezer until next garbage pickup because rotting squirrel in Alabama heat is just stinky grossness.


Can I be done being Madame Death now? Please?


Adventures in Dog Containment

As I mow my lawn and look at the disconnected electric wire fencing, I wonder why I’m keeping it. I could just take it all up as it would certainly make lawn maintenance easier. I disconnected the transformer after adopting an elderly chihuahua, because if the actual electric shock doesn’t kill her I think the shock of being shocked might. Gypsy, my whippet mix with the high prey drive and massive play motivation for whom I installed it still won’t go near the wire, even though she knows it isn’t working anymore.

It’s funny, really, to watch the interactions between dogs and the wire. Pix the chihuahua goes under it without a care in the world, touching it, doing her thing. Gypsy looks at her, aghast: “OMG, PIX! DON’T GO THERE!!!!!” Joker knows it’s not connected and ignores it. Bella the rottweiler has had her experiences with it live, and respects it but seems to forget it often enough that she has to be reminded so now that it’s disconnected it no longer registers. Only Gypsy remembers; only Gypsy is smart enough to realize that the tumbleweed of wire near the tree is safe while the straight piece of wire by the bushes might not be safe. Gypsy doesn’t take chances, she won’t go within a foot of the hot wire if her ball lands there on the off-chance that it’s live.

The transformer is a new one and it HURTS. I’ve tried to teach Pix about the wire, but since it was disconnected when she got here she doesn’t see it as a threat. “Why?” when I tell her it’s dangerous. There’s a regular fence behind it; she can SEE that so why should she respect some not-scary wire that does nothing? She’d have to experience the zap that all the other dogs have experienced to understand why it’s to be respected. But — there’s the danger that it’ll kill her. So I guess I should just be grateful that Gypsy is mostly still suspicious of it.

And also be grateful that Gypsy hasn’t jumped the fence. I’m pretty sure she knows she is able to do so. She knows she CAN, but she also knows she’s SHOULD NOT. The fact that she mostly doesn’t CARE that she SHOULD NOT is a REALLY BIG DEAL in Gypsy-world. Because she hasn’t.