Lucy’s Evening Mood

It usually happens between 7-9 pm. Ever since she was a puppy. No one knows why and we’ve yet to discover a remedy but during that time, Lucy gets into a mood. And in this mood, she starts looking for trouble. And when a Leonberger decides it’s time for some trouble, look out! Because it’s coming. Trouble, that is. A dog that big with twice the spirit to match is not to be taken lightly.

This search for trouble will manifest itself in several ways.

She’ll harass a random cat. She’ll bark outside at the top of her Leo lungs. She’ll pace around all of the furniture. She’ll rummage through one of her toy baskets. And then finally, she’ll give me the look. I can’t really describe the look, but I know it when I see it. It’s a type of annoyed stare she’ll give me eye-to-eye.

When this mood hit her as a puppy, she’d give everyone incessant little puppy bites and make shark faces. The nipping was easily trained out of her, and the shark face has waned naturally over time (reserved now only for other dogs who try her patience). But the mood is still alive and well.

The calm before the mood storm

The calm before the mood storm

And it always seems to hit at the same time. 7-9 pm, give or take. The episode usually ends with her grabbing her favorite big stuffed animal and bunching it up in a certain way. Then she’ll suckle on it until she falls asleep. Sometimes, in an attempt to preempt this, we’ll catch her in the mood and get this stuffed toy over to her ASAP.

“Lucy’s in her mood. Quick! Grab her toy!”

If I had a Benjamin for every time that phrase was uttered, work would be completely optional.

Lucy's calming toy

Lucy’s calming toy

Anyway, this big stuffed toy usually does the trick. And as with all things Lucy, I find her moods charming in their own way. It gives me a chance to play dog counselor, even though I’m not really qualified for it. For example, during last night’s moment, she sat a few feet away from me, giving me the look. I spoke to her (as I do dozens of times per day).

“Come here, girl. What’s got you down? Lucy…you were walked. You swam. You met new dog friends. Pia prepared an excellent chicken and vegetable dish for you, which you ate. I showered you with attention and told you for the 1,000,000th time what a good girl you are. So what is it?”

She looked down at the carpet, then met my gaze. Down at the carpet, back to full eye contact. This repeated several times, each time with me motioning for her to come to me. She didn’t…at first. Then finally relented and came over to me for some petting and free ear massages. After she was satisfied, she paced a few times, then collapsed for a nap.

Next morning, she was (as she is always) her happy self again, tail wagging and wookie noises greeting us in the morning. All day she’s nothing but smiles and action. It’s just that magic witching hour in the evening where you better be ready. Because if the Leo ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Silly puppy…

Lucy is Not a Dog

Everyone at work knows Lucy. While none of them have actually met her yet, they know who she is. How could they not? My office is adorned with reminders of her, including a big framed photo of her with good friends like Bella and the late Brave Bear. There’s also a newsclipping of Lucy and Bear that Stephanie Lucero was so kind to have made when they came up together last time. And I’m constantly noticing Lucinda hairs on my clothes at work, too. No one has said anything about these, but I’m sure they notice them.

But there’s something more. There are email reminders. Like, say, when I go away from the office for several days during travel or holidays, I’ll often send a holiday message along with a fitting photo of Lucy. For example, Thanksgiving might have her standing next to a turkey, Christmas with her bells on, Arbor Day by an old oak tree, etc. You get the idea.

And sometimes, when I send out spreadsheets or charts to my staff, they will see a photo of Lucinda in a special place on the document. Of course, they will have to hunt for her. I don’t just jam a big picture of her in a column or row. But they’ll notice something funny about the box and, when they hover over it with their mouse, POOF! Lucy appears with a cartoon balloon saying something like: “Nice job, Mark!” or “Way to go, Misti!”

I’m sure this was initially cause for some concern on the part of some. But over time, people have not only accepted this somewhat unusual practice but have actually embraced it. Indeed, in the rare instance that I forget to send out a Lucy shot prior to going away for a while, I’ll get a message or two asking: “Where’s the dog photo?”


I try not to ever forget now.

And let me be perfectly honest. There are some who do not find it amusing at all. But these are the ones who need it most!

I recently hired a new employee on my team, and did not explain Lucy or anything at all about Leonbergers. He would learn in time. And so, during the NFL playoff games, I fired off a shot of Lucy making fun of the New England Patriots (eating my words now). Most people got a kick out of it (except my boss, who is from Boston…uh oh, my days may be numbered).

The new employee, not knowing who in the world Lucy was, wrote something kinda funny to the entire group like “If that is the same dog from the beer commercials, he better not quit his day job.”


Well, I’m not sure what beer commercials he was referring to but I do know Lucy is not a “he.” Additionally, she has no “day job” as she is not interested in working. I have no doubt that she would make an excellent water rescue dog and a very good tracker. But for the moment, Lucinda has simply told me these things are not in the cards.

There was silence on the day job comment in the email world for days and I simply forgot about it. But one day, a long-term employee told me that after the new guy wrote that, a few of them spoke to him and educated him on Leonberger protocol. And I really like the way one guy put it the most. Said he to the newb: “You don’t understand, Lucy is NOT a dog.”

Well she is, in fact, a dog. But very well said!

Return of the Turkey(s)

This year, Lucy was ready. Before the bird could even get the first “Pssst hey dog, help me” out, Lucy spoke up.

"Don't ask me to free you."

“Don’t ask me to free you.”

“Don’t ask me to free you. I won’t do it,” she proclaimed while staring up at the turkey.

Before the turkey could respond, Lucy added, “And don’t try to scare me with stories about how the humans will cook me next. It won’t work. This is my 3rd turkey year with them and they haven’t done anything like that and never will.”

Bella barked twice from behind Lucy.

“Oh yeah,” Lucy said, remembering something more, “and don’t even think about trying to bolt out the front door again. No matter how fast you think you are, my little friend here is faster. She makes a Whippet look like a tortoise.”

Bella barked once in approval, straightening up even higher on her powerful legs. Then she suddenly froze, and pointed up at the kitchen counter. Lucy knew by now this usually meant something. The Luce cocked her head to one side while trying to follow Bella’s gaze.

Something was different. Something was very different this year. Something was just a little off. Lucy could feel it.

The turkey was just sitting there, not begging or speaking in rapid fire pleadings, or sputtering oil and salt and pepper, or falling over into the sink. Nothing like the previous encounters.

Both dogs stared up in silence while the turkey in the sink remained motionless.

And then it happened. A second turkey swooped in from higher up on the counter, and landed right in front of the first. This one seemed much swifter, and Bella completely missed when she took a swipe at the bird with her paw.

The moving turkey catapulted itself on top of the faucet and lay perched there for a moment. It screamed out in momentary pain as some of its innards flew out and onto the sink basin. But the bird quickly recovered. Having already been skinned and packaged, losing some guts was a minor inconvenience.

Losing some guts was a minor inconvenience.

Losing some guts was a minor inconvenience.

This one spoke. “I heard of you. I know you. I know you won’t free us. Don’t care. Have no fear of you, do we.”

All Lucy said was “Two turkeys?”

The talking turkey’s neck wobbled a little at this. It was very unsteady. The first turkey remained silent, but looked on.

“TWO Turkeys?” Lucy repeated excitedly.

“Yes yes, I heard you the first time. We are two. Yes.”

A voice from another side of the house chimed in “At least that big smelly animal can count!” Both turkey’s necks craned in unison to discover the source of the sound. It was a furry white cat. Two other cats stood by, flanking the one who spoke.

Lucy and Bella ignored the sound. The silent turkey turned its neck just a bit too far, causing its entire neck to separate, and flop into the sink with a loud thud.

Bella growled softly, ending in a high-pitched bark.

“That’s right,” Lucy snorted. “One down.”

The talking turkey was enraged. “You think this is funny??”

“A little,” Lucy replied.

The cat chimed in again. “They are easily amused, such simpleton creatures are the canines.”

At this, Bella lunged in their direction, causing a few hisses as the cats scattered up high onto the furniture. One found recluse at the top of her cat tree, the other two on the high back rest of a couch.

Bella returned to Lucy’s side as if nothing had happened. The cats shot over looks that could kill, flicking their tails up and down angrily.

“Do you know what this means?” Lucy asked the turkey with the remaining neck.

The turkey spoke again, craning his neck gently so as not to lose it. “It means you can’t catch both of us. No you can’t catch both of us. You can’t you can’t no way. One of us will act as a decoy while the other runs out the door. It is a turkey tactical deception, it is. Been practicing it all year. Yes all year.”

Bella instantly accepted the challenge, and looked ready to run. Lucy was expressionless but curious as well. This was all new. And she liked new things.

“No,” Lucy replied thoughtfully. “They brought both of you here, which must mean one of you is for us and the other for them. It means dogs get their own turkey this year!”

The turkey looked perplexed.

Bella looked ready to give chase. She raised her hips high in preparation for a good sprint. She barked twice, then once more.

“No need,” Lucy responded to Bella. “I have a better idea. Howl like you have to go outside.”

Without hesitation, Bella howled. She cried and barked and swatted the back door with a paw. She put on her best emergency face and looked quite desperate to go out.

In no time, two humans were there. As they rounded the corner, Lucy had two paws up on the kitchen counter with her nose almost on the turkey.”

Lucy pretends to grab a turkey.

Lucy pretends to grab a turkey.

“Lucy leave it!” one of them shouted while the other let Bella outside. Then they worked together to quickly grab both turkeys and secure them in the oven until it was time to turn on the heat. The people left the room as quickly as they had arrived.

For the turkeys, there was no getting out now.

The turkey without the neck lay helpless in the oven. It hadn’t spoken once and never would. The other looked angry, and shook a wing at Lucy and Bella through the glass.

Its muffled voice could barely be heard as it cursed, “Ohhhhh I HATE Thanksgiving and dogs who sympathize with them people there who do this to us poor turkeys! It isn’t right!”

Lucy just turned her head from side to side as the bird uttered his last breath. She couldn’t wait for the humans to start the cooking, to smell the sweet aroma of not one but two basting turkeys.

And this year it seemed, the turkeys were getting smarter. She would have to remember that for next time.

And the humans were getting smarter too. They bought an extra turkey this time. This was smart because there was never enough to go around for both canines and humans. They would always just give little meat samples to the dogs. Just enough to taste it but not enough for a whole meal.

But not this time. Now, there would be one whole turkey for the people, and one whole turkey for the dogs.

Bella and Lucy looked forward to the feast, and enjoyed watching the turkeys fall asleep on the other side of the glass.

Two turkeys were indeed better than one.

Two turkeys are better than one.

Two turkeys are better than one.



Lucy Gets Stuck in a Storm Drain

This is one of those moments I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness. It all happened in flash and, since I was out of town when it went happened, didn’t even learn about it until I came back. The story is short but heart-pounding.

Pia took Lucy and Bella out to the dog park, something they enjoy almost every day. The park is long and wide and if you didn’t know better, you might think it wasn’t enclosed at all (but it is). There are several small bodies of water, woods, trees, fields, plains, paths, hills and if it is Lucy’s lucky day, a few squirrels as well.

Except on this day, Lucy wasn’t so lucky. She ran with Bella down into a ravine and discovered a shallow storm drain pipe. In all my hundreds of visits to this park I’d never noticed the thing before. In fact, it’s so well camouflaged that I’m not even sure it functions as a drain anymore. Half the large pipe is now filled with earth. And therein lies the problem.

What possessed Lucy to push herself into this tunnel is beyond me, but push in she did. No one but Bella watched her do it so we’re not sure how Lucy made her grand entrance, but by the time Pia found her Lucy was backed all the way into it, facing out. Flattened like a sandwich, paws next to her head on either side. Big brown eyes looking worried.

Bella stood there pointing at the helpless Lucinda.

Pia had spotted Bella then ran over and discovered the scene. “Lucy, how in the world did you get in there???” Pia asked.

Lucy offered no response but stared back at Pia with a frightened look on her face. The girl was really stuck. Pia pushed aside some tumbleweeds and got down on her hands and knees to see how badly wedged in Lucy was. It was quite tight.

She contemplated calling the fire department, but thought she’d make an attempt on her own first. She placed a hand on the back of Lucy’s neck to see if she could be led out, but Lucy was having none of that. In fact, she reacted by scooting back even deeper into the pipe.

Not good.

Pia felt there was enough space for Lucy to get free, versus being hopelessly stuck (in which case the rescuers would indeed need to be called in). So she began tugging both paws gently to pull her out. Lucy didn’t like this and cried a little, but Pia only needed to get those paws extended just a few more inches so she could get a better hold on the elbows.

The paws were moving just fine. Pia crouched down even lower, feeling the tumbleweeds scratch and crumble around her. Pieces went down her back and into her hair. Lucy, she now noticed, was all covered with pieces of tumbleweed as well.

It finally worked. Lucy came sliding out, sulked for a few moments, then forgot about it and ran off with Bella to chase squirrels again. And for the rest of the day and well into the evening, Pia was picking sharp tumbleweed pieces out of her clothing and feeling one pinch after another.

Poor girl said they even made their way into her underwear (ouch!).

We came back the next day and I’m happy to say, the intelligent Lucinda had apparently learned her lesson. We walked with her to the same storm drain and she looked at it and didn’t even think about trying to enter.

Now this marks only the SECOND time Pia has rescued Lucy in the park. No wonder their bond has become so close…

Here are a couple of photos of Lucy and the storm drain (taken the day after her incident). I really am glad I missed this adventure:

Lucy smiles by her tunnel

Lucy smiles by her tunnel

Not going in there again

Not going in there again

Lucy Uses Night Vision to Spot a Fox

Lucy has the best night vision. Many late nights when I take her out into the fenced backyard for evening business, she spots something in the dark that I can’t see. She’ll fixate on something outside the fence line and paw at it, barking and running back and forth. There’s not much lighting beyond our yard, so I always go out with a big flashlight so I can see what’s moving out there.

I don’t usually see much.

When she barks about some unseen night visitor, I shine the light over to where I think she’s looking and sometimes catch a little movement in the bushes. But so far I could never see what she’s looking at.

Until the other night. I shined the light where Lucy was pointing and there it was. A big fox looking back at me. His eyes glowed like bright marbles when the beam hit his face. Lucy was barking and moving back and forth, even more so now that the fox was literally in the spotlight.

I said to the fox: “Psssst. Hey. Fox. Get out of here!”

The fox didn’t say anything, but ran off.

Then I heard our fence rattle and turned the light over to the sound. The fence just finished shaking a little, and I suddenly realized that’s where Bella had been standing. That girl jumped the fence again, something she hadn’t done for quite some time. I guess the fox motivated her to go for it again.

Luckily, the fox was long gone and Bella came right back when I called her. That could have ended ugly.

Lucy enjoyed watching all of this, and calmed down once the fox was away and Bella was back inside.

This also shed some light on why both dogs sniff the ground like crazy each morning when I take them out before the sun rises. Between visiting foxes and packs of coyotes we often hear outside in the middle of the night, I’m sure our ground captures a lot of wild scents. They frantically pace and smell the grass each morning and I always wonder what’s up.Now  I wonder if those coyotes or foxes hop inside our fence at times…

Well, the mountain visitors aren’t going to stop coming by, so I just have to deal with it. Now Bella has been placed on extended leash probation. She’s just too good at fence-hopping and has truly perfected it to an art form. Lucy, who is more than twice her size, still wonders how on earth Bella gets over to the other side.

I’m very thankful Lucy doesn’t jump fences. And that Bella at least listens well to voice commands.

Here are a couple photos of our latest night fox exploration.

Lucy tells me she's ready

Lucy tells me she’s ready

Spotlight on Lucy (so I know exactly where she is)

Spotlight on Lucy (so I know exactly where she is)