Tuesday, September 09, 2008


In Which We Keep On Walking...

Heavens, but I have been busy. I have much to tell, not the least of which being my adventures in New Hampshire with my Big Brother, but I think for today we’ll keep things strictly close to home, where there have been doings aplenty, I assure you.

Since I know the trouble I’m going to put you to this week, (let’s just say some upcoming posts come with Vomit Alerts and leave it at that for now), I think it’s only fair if I set us rolling with a story I know you’ll like:

The Éclair, as you may be aware, is walking now. She’s still a bit unsteady on her feet, and there are challenging stretches of the house--the tiled bathroom, the slick hardwood floor of the kitchen--where she’d rather crawl.

But day by day she becomes more enamored of those little legs of hers and in the afternoon, when the kids are home from school and everyone’s playing outside, she likes to stretch those legs on the length of sidewalk that goes from our driveway up to the corner. Sometimes she’ll bring things with her when she goes: her beloved stuffed bear, or a plastic doll baby; other times she pushes her stroller ahead of her or pulls her Daddy behind her.

This particular afternoon, she was by herself, while I was back in the driveway, fixing my shoe. The lace had just broken and so I was realigning the remaining slack through the eyelets so that I could continue to tie the thing. The Brownie was with me, engaged in an elaborate chalk drawing on the pavement.

We were about 10 yards away and could see the Éclair perfectly. She was on her way back to us, tottering from foot to foot and had just passed a fairly large mass of bushes that rests in the far corner of our next-door neighbor’s yard. She was waving in our direction, but was taking no notice of me. She’s got a pretty serious case of big-sister worship these days and so only has eyes for the Brownie. So she was waving extravagantly and yelling “Brownie! Brownie Brownie Brownie Brownie!” Just making sure she had her sister’s undivided attention, you know. Every few seconds, the Brownie would look up from her chalk masterpiece and dutifully wave back. I also waved, the lame attention-seeker, hoping for scraps, and continued to rethread the lace in my shoe.

Then several things happened at once.

First, I noticed some unexpected movement from the neighbor’s yard and looked up in time to see their bushes begin to twitch and sway suddenly. Rabbits love to hang out in there and I assumed one had just pelted from the bushes. Except the bushes continued to sway and no furry brown woodland creature appeared.

But the Éclair evidently caught the sudden movement out of the corner of her eye and it spooked her. She turned and looked at me, her mouth a perfect “o” of surprise and began toddling back to the house as fast as her little legs could move.

And then the bushes parted and the border collie burst from them.

Until that second, I didn’t even know our neighbors--a very nice older couple who have no kids (at least none who live with them)--had a dog. As I was to find out later, the creature was kept mostly indoors, for good reason. But apparently, the dog had snuck out of the house unnoticed and had been lying in wait in the bushes.

Now, I don’t know what your experience has been with the breed, but I find border collies to be a bit of a high-strung, quick-to-yap, fast-to-snap bunch, especially if they’re kept indoors and not given a chance to indulge their instincts, which lean towards rustling sheep into pens.

Or, in this case, terrorizing toddlers.

The Éclair screamed bloody murder as the collie came charging across the lawn. Myself, I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu. Overcome, but not overwhelmed. I was up off the deck and hopping across my driveway with one shoe on, but it was hopeless. The border collie was much closer to the Éclair and on a line designed to intercept her.

Of course, the baby shouldn’t have tried to run because I’m sure that only triggered the dog’s instincts. He was maybe a dozen feet from her and closing the distance with a speed and determination that made my heart shrivel. Then, as I knew would inevitably happen, the Éclair stumbled and sprawled on the sidewalk.

I opened my mouth to yell something—anything—to distract the dog or shoo him away, but before I could utter a single noise, the Brownie was on her feet behind me and shouted what, evidently, was the first word to come to mind, probably the only word she would ever think to utter in a situation like this. Probably the only word long-time readers of this blog would ever bother to utter either.

She shouted “BLAZE!”

I have no idea where our dog was. This time of day, he usually hangs out in a patch of late afternoon sunlight in the living room, where it also happens, he’s close by the front windows and gets a good view of the kids. I assume he was either there or possibly out on his runner out back. Which means he would have had to pull some serious Houdini out of his butt to either work free of his collar that was latched to the runner, or develop the opposable thumbs needed to open one of the doors to the house. But really, it doesn’t matter. Because while my older daughter’s command was still echoing throughout the neighborhood like some latter-day Billy Batson calling on the power of Shazam, I heard a bang, a skittering of toys in the garage behind me, felt a displacing breeze shunt me aside, and saw a fat, furry bullet launched on perfectly straight line across the yard.

The border collie saw it too. He paused about a foot from the fallen Éclair and got a good look at what was coming. I realized in that moment that he was kind of a small dog, really not much bigger than the Éclair herself. But in my view of things, no matter how big or small you are, the moment you decide to chase after a defenseless toddler, you pretty much deserve what you get. Which in this case was a high-speed Blazeyburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The last time something like this happened—the event that triggered my earlier moment of déjà vu—was just a short while after Blaze had come to live with us. He had saved the Brownie from a ravening mean dog, but had done so simply by interjecting his body between the offending dog and the girl, creating a contact-free standoff that I was able to break when I finally arrived on the scene. I’m not sure what was different about this scenario—whether it’s the fact that Blaze has gotten older and slightly crotchetier, or because he now considers our street to be his undisputed territory. Or it may be that he simply adores the Éclair above all (even the Brownie, if that’s possible). He certainly does follow her like, well, like a dog, all day, everywhere.

But regardless of reason, this encounter was no contact-free standoff. The border collie turned to face Blaze, had time to open his mouth for one preemptive yap, and then Blaze hit him at full speed.

The yap turned into a surprised yelp as Blaze charged on dragging him across my neighbor’s yard, putting as much distance between themselves and the baby as he could. For a moment, there was just a jumble of feet and fur and then Blaze was up. He had the collie by the back of the neck, shaking him like a rag doll and for a beat, I could only stare. My dog and I have been through a lot together. I’ve seen him scared and beaten; I’ve seen him angry and determined. But I had never seen him like this. Oh Jesus, he’s going to kill that dog, I thought.

But first things first. I hopped over to the screaming Éclair (who for the record was not screaming “Daddy! Daddy!” but “Bazey! Bazey!”). I swept her up into my arms, then turned to look--we both did--at the full-blown dogfight unfolding before me.

I’ll give the collie this: he evidently realized he might be in the fight of his life, because he had found his feet and was now darting under Blaze’s defenses, ducking to snap at his vulnerable under-belly. But Blaze wasn’t having it. He whirled and dodged and finally got a good purchase on the collie and pushed him to the ground. Blaze was like a different dog in that moment, his muzzle curled back to show a goodly row of teeth, his throat full of growling menace. The collie moved marginally, perhaps hoping to get out from under this threat, but Blaze snapped aggressively at the collie and he went absolutely still, his body inert in total submission.

By this point, my neighbor at last emerged from the house, all apologies and worried that the Éclair had been bitten (in her excitement, she let slip that this dog, had a history of chasing and biting people, which explained why they were generally at pains to keep him indoors). Well, thankfully my daughter hadn’t been hurt, but that collie sure had. When we finally convinced Blaze to step away and let his opponent up, I could see that blood was running from a torn ear, as well as from superficial bites on the back of his neck. Blaze didn’t have a mark on him.

The Éclair, you’ll be pleased to know, escaped with only a few scuffs on her hands and knees. Afterward, I was afraid she might be too scared to walk outside now, but thankfully that hasn’t happened.

I do find, though, that whenever she gets ready to go outside now, she stops and looks around, yelling “Where Baze?” and will only proceed when she sees that he has taken up his position in the patch of sunlight by the window, ready to emerge the next time someone utters the magic word.

From Somewhere on the Masthead


As a parent, I say this with a clear voice: You are a lucky man. That situation could have gone the other way. I assume you'll be buying Blaze filet mignon from now on.
love the Blaze stories. You should write a book just about the dog.
Whew. Glad to hear everyone is all right!
Blaze is amazing. Taught that Collie some manners he did, uh huh.

That Eclair is spoonfuls of cuteness!
So have I said lately that Blaze is probably the. coolest. dogg-ay. evar. You are a lucky man, MM. Not only was the Eclair uninjured, but you've got Blaze in your family. Keep the stories coming...and I'll echo Todd's thought and agree that you should write a book about the adventures of the Mighty Blaze!
That is a damn good dog.

Blaze is the kind of dog that SHOULD be cloned.
Blaze is amazing. I'm finally making that move I mentioned so I am DEFINITELY going to be keeping your recommendation in mind when I'm ready for a dog..

I can't believe she's walking already! What a cutie pie.

You have, without a doubt, the world's greatest dog. And, continuing Stu's thought: If you don't buy Blaze a great steak, I'll be happy to do so. He's provided me with more than enough entertainment to make it a worthwhile purchase.
What a great dog. A what a bond between him and your children. Great story. I'm glad that Eclaire and Blaze escaped unscathed.
Blaze is, without a doubt, the hands on amazingist dog ever. He knew that collie's intent and he was not taking any of it.

As long as he's around, the Brownie and the Eclair are in good, ah, paws.

Way to go good doggie. :)

Now if I can just get my heart to relax after reading that entry. I was, in all honesty, sitting here on the edge of my chair, with my heart in my throat.
Oh, and I want to hear this one from Blaze's point of view too. :)

Just . . . wow.

As a parent with small children, I can relate to the horror of this situation. I'm so glad the Eclair is okay. I'm also glad that Blaze was there to make sure.

You're right about the border collie, thing. They're working dogs and need to be given active things to DO. Being cooped up in a house isn't going to cut with, them.

Collies will try to "herd" neighborhood children. Most collies aren't as aggressive as your neighbor's seemed to be, though. In most cases, you can catch them as they slowly stalk around the kids, not burst forth at full speed to attack them as this one did. Even this stalking behavior MUST be trained out of them, though. A nip on the ankle can be a dangerous source of infection.

My family used to have a border collie, but we lost him nearly two years ago. It amazes me how teary eyed I'm getting just writing this. If you don't mind the self indulgence, I'd like to share my own blog posting where I recorded the event.


I miss that dog.
Concept for the "Me And Blaze" book - Blaze, in a cape, standing upright, arms crossed in front of his chest, looking defiantly at the reader, with you, shorter and standing half a step back, with leotards on, green and yellow, and a slight mask, but no cape.
And, as for the steak, here's my quick recipe for the greatest filet mignon in the world:

Heat a pan as hot as she'll go, let her sit for five minutes. Dip your filet once on each side into a plate of oil mixed with salt and pepper. When the pan is super hot, drop the filet onto the pan. Don't place it, drop it. Wait 2 and 1/2 minutes, then use tongs to lift it and drop it on it's other side. 2 minutes later, pull it and let it sit for a bit on a plate. After it's cooled a bit, pop it into a 425-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on your choice of the shade of the inside. Chow down, pardner, that's good eatin' right there.
Blaze RULES.
Tell the Brownie that she is my hero along with Blaze. So frightening to think of what might have happened without her quick thinking.

What are you going to do about the dog next door? If he got out once...
You have an amazing canine, my friend. Truly amazing.

Blaze rocks, and he rocks hard.
Your link fu skillz are a little rusty. Otherwise, good story about the amazing Blaze and a cute video to boot.
Yeesh, thanks, Anon, for telling me. I nearly always double-check my links but I was in a rush yesterday. I feel like I've been walking around with my fly unzipped.
"Blaze rocks, and he rocks hard.
# posted by Blogger Merujo : 9:43 PM "

The Blazey-tales just rock! He's the best dog in the whole wide world...besides mine. ;)

Glad all's well in the mansion. Thanks to Blaze~
Blaze to the rescue again! Good going Blaze! Have you sent the application for dog of the year yet?
Welcome back - can I tell you, without any girly squeeing, that I love the way you write? You made me cry a little bit, more with the linked story sure, about a dog who protects his family.

I grew up with a dog like that (rest in peace, Hu Chan Tzu). He would ferociously stand between me and any boyfriend looking for a goodnight kiss, ass-end turned to the interloper, pleading eyes turned toward me. I hope Blaze lives long enough to be a pestilence to her boyfriends.
Every time I get to the part where Brownie calls out for Blaze, I get goosebumps on my body and tears in my eyes. I'm not sure why I react so strongly to this certain post, brave dog to the rescue, but I do. I'm sure a large factor is your skill as a writer. The rest, probably something in my past.

I'll add my vote that Blaze deserves some steak.
damn, that blaze is one awesome dog. forget you writing a book, i think he should write one full of his fantastic canine adventures.
Great to have you back!
Great story, great dog, lovely post. As one who was once bitten by a confused St. Bernard, Eclair is one lucky girl.
Blaze is just fabulous. Good going, Brownie! She's a smart girl, you should keep her.

Glad to have you back. I have to say that I'm excited to look forward to more posts in the near future, even if they do include vomit warnings.

Add my vote to the "Give that Dog a Steak" ticket.
In my book Blaze has been wearing the superhero cape for years. Good to know you've been back in here in the Granite State.....can't wait to hear those adventures.
seriously. seriously. cute vid.
Very glad everyone is safe there. Hope the other dog wasn't hurt TOO bad...in spite of him being a bullying asshat, I hate to see anybody get hurt. But he'll probably think twice before bugging another toddler.

Just to be proactive though you might let your local dog officer read this story. In case someone elses kid does NOT have a Blaze dog

(though I have to admit IF Blaze was a Rottweiler instead the neighbor would have had the cops there demanding your killer beast destroyed-irony that would be eh?. LUCKILY Blaze does not resemble my dogs so you have NO worries)
yay for blaze, again! we were due, i think, for a blaze story.

yay to the brownie too, for knowing just who to call (no offense, mm).

and kudos to the eclair for getting that whole upright thing - at least mostly.
I love stories about "Baze."

And I'm glad he was close at hand.

Maybe we should make T-shirts with his picture on them?
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