Friday, March 9, 2012

Lana & Liyla, Belle, and Howdy

Who is in the photo at right?

The photo is of me, Lana, along with my lounging Liyla, Belle the Yorkie, and Howdy the Australian Shepherd. I am a retired Real Estate Broker turned Writer dedicated toward bringing awareness and support to those, like me, who have a rare disease called Addison's disease. I write candidly on my blog about this disease at my Finding Lana blog. Overall, it has been very rewarding to tackle this difficult subject and to reach out. Also, I write on my other "lighter" blog about our long time efforts to move from the Greater Houston area to the wooded country, it's fianlly happening. This blog signifies all that I "do" in life these days. Our house in the city went up for sale this week! So, we are living with all the craziness that goes with revamping our life-style from metropolitan to rural residents tucked in the middle of a forest in The Big Thicket of Texas. I'm very nervous, but thrilled about all the new things I'm doing in life! It's wonderful to have my doggie companions...Liyla is about eight years old, and she's part Boxer-part Collie mix; Belle the Yorkie is approximately two years old; and Howdy is a full-blooded Black-Tri Australian Shepherd, and he is about three and a half years old. I know all of our doggies will love moving to the country!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Being Texan, we are addicted to our tea. However, I'm an odd Texan, having lived over five years of my younger life in Europe, I'm a bit different. Unlike most Texans, our household does not like iced tea, we like it room temperature. My husband, "Deputy Dave," makes us a fresh pot of tea, and brings me a mug of it every morning for over 25 years of marriage. My dogs are happy to have such a loving set of owners who enjoy their morning tea. Coffee is for special occasions, such as when the daughters are in town. During their visits, we love to sit and enjoy a delicious cup of Coffee con Leche as a night-time ritual. My grown gals think I can make a "designer" cup of coffee that beats Starbucks any day. We sit at the breakfast table, sipping our coffee as all five dogs lay calmly at our feet. I love those occasions the most. It's a beautiful thing.

What's brewing?

Lipton Green Tea or Folgers Breakfast Blend Coffee with different twists of flavor added, per daughter, such as hazelnut, french vanilla, or peppermint and always topped with freshly whipped cream made at home.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Since I am from Texas, my personal favorite morning treats are stuffed jalapenos --- forget the bowl of cereal! The doggies sometimes get a special treat of scrambled eggs, freshly gathered from the laying hens in the backyard.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Liyla is our rescue dog. If a dog could be described as "beautiful," she's fits the description. Stefie, my youngest daughter, named her Liyla. However, this had initially been a slight problem because Heather, my oldest daughter, had wanted to name her "Lola." Since Heather was leaving for college and that meant leaving her little sissy behind at home, Stefie got to claim naming rights. Just so you know, the name "Lola" would never have worked as a name for this dog, especially because my beloved great-grandmother's name was Lola. I expect to have a grand-child one day named Lola, so our dogs cannot have the name. I certainly wouldn't want to be calling "Lola" and have both the three year old little grand-daughter of my future imaginings and old dog come running together at hearing their names! Since it sounded similar to "Lola," Stefie stuck with Liyla. And there you go for Liyla, our red-haired beauty who is growing older and wiser by the day.

The little Yorkie was also named by Stefie who wanted this sweet dog to have a Disney Princess name. She tried for "Rapunzel," but I refused to call a dog by a name that is a mouthful. Simple and sweet please! So, Stefie settled upon Belle as the name for our Yorkie. I do believe that Belle has the mind-set of a princess, so the name fits her perfectly. Even so, I must admit that Belle has days where she can be testy and I lovingly refer to her as "Bellatrix."

Then, Howdy, the full-blooded Australian Shepherd earned his name as our oldest daughter was graduating from Texas A&M with her Biology degree and our youngest daughter was enjoying her freshman year at Texas A&M as a Marine Biology major. A&M has a long-standing tradition of not letting another person pass them on campus without saying a robust, "HOWDY!" This dog lives up to his name in every respect. Never has a dog given us such enthusiastic greetings after we walk through the front door. Howdy Howdy!!

How were you and your dogs united?

About eight years ago, we found out about a person in our neighborhood who had a neglected litter of puppies in their backyard. I couldn't believe it was true until we went for "walks" and passed back and forth in front of this particular house as we tried to peer into the backyard through the chain-link fence...yes, we were stalking the house to find out whether or not the tale could be true. Indeed, there were several little starving pups in the backyard that were drinking water from a baby pool that was blackened by algae, their little ribs showed easily and it had gone round the neighborhood that if the people of the house could not find homes for the pups that week, they were to be dumped at an unknown location. Word spread and everyone began to adopt the dogs until there were none left at the house. The runt of the litter, the only female of the bunch and the only puppy to not have a Brindle coat was a reddish dog with a white chest. My daughters brought her home in their arms. Liyla was literally caked in mud, from head to toe and thirsty beyond measure. My husband, a police officer, was sleeping, so us three girls took the dog into the backyard and gave her a good scrubbing. Then, we woke the man up to meet the puppy, and he instantly fell in love.

After losing an apple-head Chihuahua we'd had for 16 years that had belonged to my oldest daughter, Heather, we could see that Liyla was very sad to be without her companion of six years. Two weeks after Cinnamon died from old age, at home, Liyla continued to wander around the house and sniffing around the backyard, trying to find her sweet Mama-Friend. Liyla would sit and literally moan with each exhale, it was pitiful. So, we began to look for another companion, but this time we'd get a dog that was larger than four pounds so play-time would not find the scales balanced too far either way. Knowing we would be moving from the city to acreage in the country, we also decided to get a dog suitable for a farm. After much research, we decided upon an Aussie. After further research, we found Howdy as a four month old puppy living on a ranch here in Texas with his stud-father as the lead working dog. Howdy had been born and raised on the ranch, from the moment he could run around; he grew up around cattle and other livestock. With several dogs to choose from, the lady of the ranch kept strongly suggesting that we take one of the other Aussies, but I had fallen head over heels with Howdy as he made his way to plop down in my lap, as if he'd known me forever. Our house goes up for sale this coming week and Howdy will finally be able to live on several acres of land here in Texas again. Our place in the country is a place he loves to visit, frequently. I'll be so happy for him to live out there full-time and to have all that running space...soon.

Belle the Yorkie showed up at our house after she'd been running around the neighborhood, desperate and filthy. My husband was outside washing his truck and the dog scared him half to death as it leapt into truck with him. She had been clearly neglected, had so many fleas with eggs attached to her fur that she'd become anemic. After doing our part to find an owner, we realized that someone must not have wanted the dog back...they obviously had not cared for the dog in any respect. The vet said she was too thin and, of course, anemic. We had her checked for a chip...nothing, so she became a member of our house where she gets to eat at her leisure and not worry about fleas. However, on the night that she found our family, she let us take her inside for a thorough washing, gentle dipping and lots of picking, without complaint. It was as if she were so thankful to be getting attention that she didn't even mind the soapy suds coating her body. She kept giving me kisses as we bathed her. Afterward, she was a brand new dog, but needed some behavior modification. She kept attacking the other two dogs who were about 40-50 pounds larger than her small frame. Thankfully, Liyla and Howdy are well mannered and patient, they seemed to pick up on her need for loving guidance. After a couple of months and heavy supervision, she quit going for an attack upon the other dogs and the chickens in the backyard. These days, she lives in peace with both the chickens and the dogs. She still has a feisty character, but with a lot of love, she's been assured that everything is really okay! Now, she fits right in and is one happy little gal.

Do your dogs have a favorite place to go for an outing?

For years, our dogs have always loved going to our acreage in The Big Thicket of Texas. As we are hitching up the utility trailer with the tractor and tools, they are running to fetch their leashes because they know where we're going. We can hardly keep them from running to the truck and jumping into the backseat prematurely because they are so thrilled to be going to their favorite place. Once we turn onto the private road on our acreage, the dogs stand up in the backseat and start giving us the excited whimper to be released. They jump out of the truck and run and leap and make us laugh until we are holding our sides. And if anyone thinks a dog doesn't smile, then they need to see our dogs' facial expressions as they get to play in unlimited space. Their obvious happiness brings me great joy.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Heather, my oldest daughter, has two Aussies as well. Once we get her dogs and our dogs together, all five of them are rambunctious and obsessed with each other. Howdy is in heaven because he constantly wants to herd the other dogs. Seeing several Aussies together is amusing. They love to play tug of rope together. They are quite competitive with each other. We all love our dogs and do whatever is necessary to accommodate them in our lives. They are part of our family.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Cats are animals that our three dogs would love to "meet." We have a couple of roaming cats in our neighborhood that seem to enjoy prancing back and forth in front of the formal dining room windows. The dogs are usually standing at the windowsill growling and thoroughly irritated by the cats' arrogance and confidence that they are safe from the dogs. However, even if the dogs do enjoy a good chase after a cat, they never go hard enough at it to catch one...and Howdy absolutely could, if he wanted. I think the chase is the part they love. To my dogs, a cat = sporting event and the cat probably wishes it would have never trespassed into our yard. Then again, the cat might be having the most fun out of all of them.

Squeaky-top, ball, stick...?

Liyla, the old gal, is happy to have a rawhide bone tucked beneath her chin. Howdy is happy with any toy and consistently greets us at the front door after he obeys his obsession to find a toy, any dog toy, and bring it to us as a welcoming gift. It is very sweet. Belle loves her little pink pig squeaky toy that Stefie bought for her. She squeaks it with a ferociousness that lets us know she's trying to kill the little toy. A ball is a must have for both Howdy and Belle, both dogs love playing catch. However, Howdy will take the ball and lay on his back while using his paws to throw the ball in the air for himself to catch. I've never seen anything like it.

What is each dog's best quality?

Liyla has this uncanny quality to be the quiet observer. Her big brown eyes seem to absorb everything around her. Her vocabulary understanding is broad, so I can say something to her and she obeys, without fail. This dog is the epitome of gentle obedience. If a dog could be seen as "wise" then I would have to say that Liyla displays a regal sort of character. She is not into silliness. She watches everything going on around her and steps in to intercede whenever she feels her authority is needed. She is an awesome guard dog who does not bark unless it's something truly worth barking at, and she is a dog who automatically wants to walk side by side with us, never going ahead, never falling behind, but always by our side.

Howdy has so many good qualities that it's difficult to pick a "best" one to discuss. I would have to say that he is the dog who wants to do everything we do. He learned to open the exterior doors within a short time, simply by observing our actions. I had no idea that he had picked it up until he let himself in through the backdoor. When I take a nap and wake up, he is at my side with the covers gently in his mouth, pulling them back off of me because he knows that's what I do and he wants to be the one to do it. If he could make dinner with me, I think he'd be stirring the pot. He's very inquisitive, the Curious George of dogs, but not just to be curious, but to watch and learn. I never knew Aussies were so determined to be useful until we owned a few. They never cease to amaze me. They will not only herd your livestock, but they will also nurture them. Most herding dogs want to keep their emotional distance from the herd, but not an Aussie...he is loving, needing to literally press himself against you for a big hug. This dog has truly been my hero, even probably saving me from a terrifying intruder at one time...Howdy made him have second thoughts about fulfilling his plan to get into our house. My little niece can wrap her arms around him, tug on his ears, squeeze his paws and he is happy to oblige her because it means he has loving contact. I guess I would have to summarize his best quality as wanting to be an actual part of the family in affection and in deeds.

Belle the Yorkie has taught me about the intelligence of this breed. These dogs have an awesome quality of having keen senses. Her eyesight is Wonder Woman quality, her ears seem to be bionic...she is fully aware of surroundings that are a block away. She can hear my husband's truck approaching from around the corner, before the other dogs know he's coming. I've learned to be aware of her sensitivity to her surroundings. I think it must often be difficult to be a Yorkie with their heightened senses, they can't turn it off. However, it is great to have a Yorkie; she's the only dog who will truly fit in our lap. She is a high-strung sweetie.

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

If my dogs could change anything about me that they'd like, it'd be to let them pee wherever they'd like inside the house, whenever they want and for me to never say a cross word about it. Just pee, pee, pee as they please, in peace as I stand nearby with a smile. No yellow puddles allowed!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Belle the Yorkie --- Taylor Swift.
Liyla ---- Meryl Streep.
Howdy the Aussie ---- if we could turn back time, John Wayne, otherwise it would have to be Tim Allen.

Visit the Finding Lana and Farm Life Lessons blogs.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. What a wonderful family! I am going to go over to their blog and read more!

  2. Loved reading about the dogs! They are all so lucky to have a loving Mom like you. I'm definitely going to check out your blog as well :)

  3. I really enjoyed reading all about your dogs. I hope they have a blast in your new place, and I hope your move goes smoothly! Thanks for sharing your babies with us!

  4. Glad you had my friend, Lana, on here - She's a wonderful "doggy" person! Loved hearing more about her pooches!

  5. Great Q&A!! ;)
    Wow.... You certainly have a heart the size of Texas for taking in Belle and Liyla!! Both stories were heartbreaking!! ;-}
    Liyla is beautiful.... Because she's an irreplaceable mixed breed!! That's right. She is beautifully unique!! ;op

  6. I really benefited a lot from your informative blog post. Thanks so much and more power!