For Every Nest – A Dog

There are probably a half-dozen people I know who added a dog to their household about the time their teens got all gnarly and, well…like teenagers. Most claim it was so they would feel loved during this sometimes difficult stage of parenting.

Indeed, unlike most teens, a dog likes you no matter what. They are always glad to see you. They don’t mind hugs. They don’t ask for money. They won’t talk back.

But having a pet as a teen replacement?  Nah, I think there’s more to it. I think these new dog owners were planning ahead for the empty nest. Don’t you?

We’re over a month into this new life without our child around. I have to say the thing that gets me the most is the quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I am rather reclusive and enjoy my space and quiet. As a matter of fact, I must have solitude, or I’d go even crazier. (And we sure don’t want that now, do we?) But after a while, coming home to a silent house can be a little lonely.

Thank goodness for our Bella Bunny!

Studious Bella Bunny

She thinks that I am the almighty goddess of her dog kingdom. When I arrive home she sees me in a flowing white robe, gold tie belt and a golden crown on my head. I’m pretty sure she is in awe of me.

Me, through Bella Bunny's eyes

No human has ever made me feel this much adoration.

Maybe it’s just because she can’t speak.

Bells with one of her besties, Carmen during a sleep over

Anyway, I have loved and been loved by many dogs over my fifty-one years. I will tell you about all of them here, but please note that I will not mention when the ones who have gone before  left this world. It’s just too heartbreaking.

The first family dog was settled in before I was born. Lady was my brothers’ dog.

She didn’t adore me.

And after she snapped at me, my parents sent her away to a new home. I’ve always wondered if this was why my brothers didn’t adore me either. I’m just joking…Well, sort of.

My second dog was named Rebel because he rebelled against staying home. He took off not long after we got him, and never came back.

Then there was Brandy.

Okay. I didn't realize until I was looking through these old Polaroids that my family really does have an issue with dress up. Here's Brandy of Arabia

We first met when my mother took me to catch the bus to Camp Sycamore Hills. One of the other mothers had a cardboard box in the back of her wood panel station wagon, and it was overflowing with irresistible puppies. And even though I wanted to, I don’t recall begging for one. I think my mother was just as in love as I was with those cute puppies. So, for my 7thbirthday, one of them came home with us. She was a toy poodle, the color of apricot brandy.


Brandy was a perfect name, except for the time my mother was running through the neighborhood looking for her, calling her name. It wouldn’t have been that bad except she was carrying a glass with her. See, Mom was an ice chomper. You know the kind. They keep a cup of ice going all day long, and chew and chomp. When Brandy got out the door, she just took off after her, not thinking to put that glass down. She was waving it in the air yelling, “BRANDY! BRANDY!”

Who knows, maybe this was the beginning of my neighbor issues? (See Mommy in the Skype with Diamonds posted 9/15)

Since my brothers were 9 and 11 years older than me, I was like an only child, and it was good to have Brandy as a companion. She played dress up with me, slept with me and we had grand games of chase in our backyard. At Christmas, we would sometimes come home to find that the decorations from the lower limbs of our Christmas tree had been removed. We would find the ornaments under our pillows, unbroken, left there by Brandy as a gift.

The next dog in our household was Muggs. We named her after a character in a James Thurber short story. She followed me home when I was out riding my bike one morning. She was my running and biking companion, and let me tell you, that dog could run!

Me and Muggs out on a ride/run

Muggsy not only loved to run, she loved to ride in the car. She would stick her head out the window and dream that she was running 55 miles per hour. We took her pretty much everywhere we went. When I had to deliver photos on Music Row, she would go with me. I was doing a lot of work for MCA Records. There were many dog lovers who worked there, and she knew exactly where their offices were. She would run in the door and make her rounds while I took care of business. When I was ready to leave, I would just whistle and she’d meet me at the front door. There was one office assistant at the Musician’s Union who kept a desk drawer of dog treats. Muggs made a bee line for her office when she would go there with me or Sweetbuns.

I found Sweetbuns and Muggs the same year. It was a good year.

Muggs was around when we were dating, and she was with us when we married.

My mother was so worn out during the wedding planning stage. One night, I told her that I would like for Muggs to be at the wedding and reception. I wanted her to wear blue ribbons and to have blue and white balloons tied to her collar. I can still see Mom’s face. She was so tired that she, for a few moments, actually looked like she was considering it. I could see her mind working, trying to figure out the logistics of this added plan. Who could be the pet wrangler? How many balloons?

Muggs was our baby. She was our first and only child.

Then came Punky.

Baby Punky and Muggsy

All I could think of was Lady and how she was not happy with a new baby in the house. Thank goodness, Punky and Muggs had a wonderful relationship. When I put Punky down for naps, Muggs was right with her. She followed her around when she began to crawl and walk. Muggs ate many a goldfish cracker and Cheerio, just cleaning up after the resident toddler.

Punky and Muggs (We just can't get away from dress up, can we?)

We found Sugar Bear, the tutu wearing Australian Cattle Dog at the animal shelter when Punky was about 7.

Sugar Bear in her favorite tutu with pink boa

It was a match made in heaven. The dog loved to play with Punky. We had wild games of tag that would send us into fits of laughter. (Note: We played tag, not just chase!) She loved to dress up so much that when Punky would take off her favorite tutu and put it in the dress up closet, The Bear, as we sometimes called her, would go stare at the door until we’d get it out and put it back on her. We were her herd and she was like Punky’s sibling.

Sweet Punky and Sweet Sugar Bear

Our current little furry friend is Bella Bunny. Punky named her Bella after the main character in the book series Twilight. (It’s true, what you’ve heard. I’m a Twi-Mom.) Sweetbuns protested, saying there were too many dogs named Bella, and that she looked like a Bunny. So, Bella Bunny it is. Sometimes I call her Bella Bon Bunny or Cute Stuff, and Punky sometimes calls her Bells. She was rescued  from Doggy Death Row.

Bella Bunny

We joke that during a storm she ran away from some little old lady who taught music lessons and lived in Kansas, and ran so hard that she ended up in Nashville at the shelter. How did we come up with this crazy idea? Because Bella B. loves live music, she loves to run, she loves my mother, and she is deathly afraid of storms.

With Punky away in college, she will go in her room, look around and come back out. I think that she believes that she has gone to camp.

For the past few months, Bella Bunny has a new service project. She visits the folks over at the local rehab center. It is very heartwarming to see the joy in those faces when they hold or pet her. Miss H. pets her and says her name over and over in a monotone voice, and eventually it turns from Bella Bunny to Lil Bit, whom I’m sure was a pet from her past.

Bella B. visiting with Mr. J.

Bella Bunny is my constant companion when I am at home alone. She’s not a replacement for my Punky. No animal or person could be. But I believe it would be way too quiet around the house if she were not here.

I’m thinking every empty nest needs a dog. Or at least an aquarium (See Gucci Mane and Mr.Pooey – Project #1 posted 9/3)

 It’s a bonus if you have a Skyping dog!

Bella Bunny visiting with Punky via Skype

Happy wagging tails to you!

– Libby Lu

Mommy in the Skype, with Diamonds

Our first microwave did not show up in the kitchen until 1993. It’s not that we’re slow. We just wanted everyone else to try them out first. Same with the DVD player that we finally purchased out of desperation once they quit carrying those chunky VHS tapes at Blockbuster. It hasn’t been that long since we ditched the 300 pound wood grain TV set for a flat screen. And I didn’t have a Facebook account until about two years ago. Sweetbuns still doesn’t have one! So, it shall come as no surprise that we did not own a webcam for our PC until just this week.

I don’t think I’ve been so excited and anxious waiting on anything since my Mom put the cereal box tops and a dollar in an envelope and sent it off for my “free” Woody Woodpecker whistle. It felt like I waited by the mailbox for months.

And why you ask, was I so excited about a silly little webcam?

So we can visit with Punky while she’s at college, of course!

Although I knew good and well that package would be arriving by UPS, I checked the mailbox every evening last week. One day, I checked it twice. About 3 times a night, I opened the front and side doors just to make sure our UPS dude hadn’t left it on the porch.

Our UPS dude is Tommy. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent here!)

UPS dude.

I honestly cannot say UPS handler or UPS man or UPS person. It has to be dude. And after that “bend and snap” scene in the movie, Legally Blonde…Well, have we ever looked at UPS dudes the same since?

I have known Tommy since we were about 12 years old because our fathers were good friends. But, I think the last time I saw him was when we were about 18.

That was until I realized that the UPS dude sure looked familiar.

Oh, the reunion we held in the front yard!  We shared a big hug. I think I jumped up and down. I could not wait to call Dad and tell him, and I emailed Tommy’s dad.

And of course the neighbors were watching, wondering why I am so friendly with the UPS dude.

Tommy feels at home in our neighborhood. He knows who is usually at home. He knows which doors are best for leaving deliveries. Sometimes he’ll come looking for you if you don’t answer the door.

He once found me in my back yard with my head stuck in a boxwood shrub. (If you must know, I was quietly spying on some newly hatched baby blue jays.) When he yelled my name…well, let’s just say I’m glad I had an empty bladder.

He also once surprised my next door neighbor. But I think it surprised him more. She was sitting on her couch in front of the French doors enjoying the view of her back yard. Tommy, thinking they weren’t home, carried a package to that door. How could he have known that she had just finished nursing her new son and was “airing her boobs,” as she calls it, with her shirt completely open?

There’s never a dull moment in our neighborhood…or, at least in a neighborhood where we are living.

Not long after we moved in, while unpacking I found Punky’s Tweety Bird rod and reel. It had a chunky, yellow plastic fish for a child friendly “hook” and I couldn’t resist casting it out into the yard and reeling it in. I soon realized that the neighbor’s cats were very interested. This was the beginning of a game I call Fishing for Cats. It became great afternoon entertainment, and was a wonderful bonding tool for me, Chigger, Milk Bone and Gracie Peanut.

This is how I met our across the street neighbor for the first time. He was just standing in his yard watching. Too bad he also witnessed me talking to the cats while we played. Between this and the fish funerals, I’m pretty sure they wonder about our sanity.

We left our old neighborhood with the same questions.

But first, you need some background info:

Punky and her D-Dot with their matching hats

Punky has always enjoyed painting faces and playing dress up. It was never uncommon to see one of us working around the house with a clown face, or a strange hat. No one was immune to dress up time, not even our dog Sugar Bear, who often sported a tutu and pink feather boa.

P-Pa, playing dress up with Punky

Sweetbuns was great about letting Punky paint his face.

Punky painting Sweetbun's face

He is also a deep sleeper.

Punky strings beads while Sweetbuns sleeps

Deep sleeper + family members who love face paint and dress up = prank time!!!

Okay, back to the last neighborhood…

Mr. W. lived next door.

He had already witnessed a couple of odd incidents.  One of them involved me and a half-dozen I’ve been Krogering! stickers that were placed on my rear end without my notice. (Thank you, Punky.) The next, I can hardly talk about here, but it involved a bra. And me. Me and my bra.

The best incident that Mr. W witnessed though, shall go down in the family prank history book for generations.  We joke that it did him in, as he sold his home not long after.

Sweetbuns fell asleep on the couch one night. Punky proceeded to paint not only his fingernails, but also his toenails.

Sweetbuns, pretty in pink!

She put little stick on green frog earrings on each of his earlobes. Together, we placed a few toddler size hair clasps in his hair. (You know the kind…bright colorful plastic, molded into the shapes of bows and cute dogs.)

Sweetbuns with pink nails and matching hair clasp

Punky added blush. (I know…I can’t imagine sleeping through this make-over, either, but when Sweetbuns is out, he’s out.) To top off the look, Punky found an old bridesmaid dress in the dress up closet (Yes, we had a dress up closet!) and placed it on top of him before we snapped a photo.

Blush did not wake him, but the flash did. He threw off the dress and got off the couch. We were in hysterics laughing at him.  He obviously thought it was all about the dress, since he had been a victim of this prank before.

Sweetbuns, the victim of household pranksters

All of us got ready for bed. Sweetbuns had not seen a mirror when he did the manly thing of looking out the front door before locking up for the night.

This was when he discovered there was a police car in our cul-de-sac. Mr. W. was talking to an officer, along with another man and woman, whose car was close by.

I don’t know…Maybe I would have stopped him before he went out there, had I known.

But I was brushing my teeth.

He said when he walked up to the small gathering, everyone stared at him, but he didn’t think anything about it.

Evidently, the couple had called the police and they were out searching the area for an elderly relative that had wandered off.

Sweetbuns said everyone really looked at him funny when he, being the caring person he is, asked the police officer, “Does she have a history of mental illness?”

After the couple and the police left, Mr. W. just stared at Sweetbuns, standing there, not knowing he had on make-up, hair clasps and earrings.

Mr. W.: You have something in your hair.

(Sweetbuns raked his hand through his hair to find 3 clasps.)

Mr.W.: And on your face…

They said their goodbyes and Sweetbuns came in to look in the mirror. This was when he discovered his pink nail polish.

And the blush

And the earrings

Most of the time, Sweetbuns is a good sport about our pranks.

This one did not set as well.

Still, dress up and pranks are a part of our household. Weird I know. I try to contain my dress up habits for the one day of Halloween, but I had another occasion that I felt I should dress up for recently…

My first Skype session with Punky.

We knew from the website that our webcam was due to arrive on Monday. When I got home that night, I checked both porches and the deck. I began to feel sad, thinking I wouldn’t be able to visit with my girl, when finally I heard the roar of the UPS dude’s truck.

I ran out the door and met Tommy in the front yard and began tearing that box open while we chatted. I could not get rid of him quick enough.

I was giddy.

I could not wait to talk to Punky, almost in person, by way of this new contraption of a camera.

Earlier I had thought I’d let Sweetbuns set up the new webcam. No! I could not wait! SO, I figured it out myself. Well, with some directions texted by Punky.

While waiting for her to get back from the dining hall to her room so we could Skype, I could not sit still and just kept laughing out loud with joy and anticipation. I decided to take this time to dress up.

The dress up closet has been reduced to a large plastic container in the corner of a closet. I rummaged through and found:

Fairy wings (from the latest Harry Potter movie release night when Punky dressed as a Golden Snitch)

A “Hollywood Scarf” that my mother wore in the mid ‘60’s

A plastic princess crown with “diamonds”

I was set.

Next thing I knew, I was visiting with Punky like she was sitting across from me at the dinner table! Just WHAT would Ben Franklin think? I love technology, even if I discover it a tad later than most.

Punky just about died of laughter when she saw me. The first thing out of her mouth was, “MOM! Do you have on my fairy wings?” Indeed. I do. Someone has to wear them, right? No need for them to go to waste!

Mommy in the Skype with diamonds, and Punky in Texas!

I am a Skype Junkie in the making. I love this way to communicate with my child while she is 1,000 miles away at college. Punky looks happy and healthy. I got a tour of her room and visited with her roomie. Bella Bunny said “hello.” It was a joyous occasion. (Oh, I could NOT stop giggling and laughing and touching the screen.)

I can read my child’s texts and emails, but I can’t really read her without seeing her in person. Skype is the next best thing. It is just what every empty nest needs.

Wishing you clear Skypes and happy days of fun,

-Libby Lu

P.S. NEVER fall asleep with a prankster in the house!