Ali, the border (disorder) collie at work, continued


Ali spends almost all of her day at her “perch” of sorts by the window that, as Mary Kay says, we had built for her.  She deems it her job to watch and protect our house and it is from this vantage point that she performs her daily task.  If we don’t raise the blinds, she will put her snout right through the blinds, it is quite obvious from the look of the numerous slats that are slightly bent. 

So, there she sits on a daily basis watching the world and when we aren’t looking, up she goes on the window seat.  At this point, she doesn’t care a whole lot that we know this; the minute we leave, she generally jumps up there and relaxes in the afternoon sun.

So many people have said that they would love to spend some time as Ali since she has a great life, watching out the window, chasing balls, and the like.


Ali, the border (disorder) collie

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Ali is pretty smart, being a so-called border (disorder) collie.  She knows enough that when we don’t pay attention, she can take advantage.  Here she is doing her job protecting the estate while snoozing/watching from her favorite chair. 

She doesn’t like leather, I don’t know why, she loves to chase and herd cows, so this is her only option in the living room other than the floor, the loveseat is in leather. 

While sitting here, she has a great view through the picture window.  That window was put in, after all, just for her!  At least that is what she thinks!

Ali’s toilette

I am prepared to not be bothered about something. For days now, I kept hearing that Ali needs to be bathed. Ali hasn’t really had a good bath in a long time and frankly, I have been avoiding it. I kept hoping against hope that someone would rise up to the plate and take charge of her. It didn’t happen!

Ali is not the easiest dog to bathe. Although she is about the same size as our previous dog, she is much more difficult. Freckles was much more docile (and far less intelligent) and I was able to put her in the laundry tub. Ali is the queen of squirm and the laundry tub doesn’t work unless there is more than one person there.

I have done the regular bathtub but frankly Ali has her PhD in jumping. This is no surprise as she is a border collie.

So, I resorted to pretty much completely stripping and getting in the master bathroom’s shower stall. Once I got her in, I closed the bedroom door, then closed the bathroom door as I pulled her in, and finally brought her in to the shower. It is an easy walk in and I do believe that she knew what was coming.

Supplied with plenty of mini bacon bit treats, I began the task at hand. I made sure she was plenty wet and then soaped her up with baby shampoo. She was pretty docile and other than having a tough time positioning her to rinse her off, it went well.

Ali has a double coat and the shedding the past several years has been absolutely monumental. Several family members have taken to brushing her. Frankly, I don’t because she has never enjoyed being brushed and I am not willing to risk the bared teeth scenario. Mikey told me there is some new rubber brush out there and I am dying to try it, but so far we have not procured one.

So, I finished up washing her, removed the clumps of fur, attempted to dry her off with the towels I had and made her lie down with a fresh one in the living room. She looks right now like she has been brow beaten. She sure does smell good, though.

I am so happy that I am now “off the hook!”

I am certifiably ________ (you fill in the blank)!

I am certifiably _______________ (you fill in the blank).  I realize I must be totally crazy. It is freezing outside and I went out with the idea of ostensibly picking up a few twigs left in the aftermath of heavy winds, recent tree trimming, etc.  I got outside, took a gander at my estate (this statement alone makes me certifiably _________), miniscule as it is, pulled the leaf grabbing net off the pond, realized I had a koi that hasn’t survived this part of the winter, tried to take it out, could not because of the ice covering and started picking up twigs.  I realized during my view of the pond that the new apparatus to keep a “blowhole” in the ice is working, so I am wondering what killed my eight inch fish.

Anyhow, went up front, the wind is blowing in typical Chicago fashion and I decided to rake.  Thought I would get me a little workout since I wasn’t hitting the gym today, hadn’t managed to fit myself into the time window that the gym has today.  Raking was exhilarating, but my fingers started freezing despite my gloves, so I came in for a breather and hand warm up.  I bet everyone knew keyboarding is great to get the blood flowing in the fingers, so here I am.

I am going out in a few minutes to complete the job.  Ali accompanied me and was so unhelpful to my venture.  I am wondering if she and Mary Kay have some sort of silent dog/person contract to keep tabs on me and/or maybe keep me busy.  No sooner had I started raking the lawn that Ali went in the back yard and located a branch somewhere which she pulled out into the front and proceeded to tear it apart.  Is this in the master plan for my yard cleanup?  A dog hell bent on keeping me in my aerobic pursuit of bits of wood?  Mary Kay, did you pay her in dog treats?

While doing all this I am pleased to say that I am using my latest iPhone app which allows me to hear a pop music station in France, NRJ.  It is kind of funny listening to so much American music that is introduced in fast deejay French and a real treat to bide my outdoor time.  Right now, they are playing a song that has nothing more than orchestral music interrupted every few minutes by an Anglo saying, “Barbra Streisand.”  Odd, to say the least.

Okay, my fingers are warm and I think I should continue my workout.  Later!

Mind wandering on Day Eight of rehab

It is just a smidgen after eight o’clock and once again I find myself sitting with my coffee next to the Christmas tree hoping to absorb some of its magic before getting on with my day.  I did a bunch of my “Hausherr” tasks before getting to this point, getting the coffee underway (I had set it up last night as I usually do), feeding the dog, having her get the newspaper, straightening up a few things here and there. 

Ali has been surprising me of late in that she has been eating without needing to have us with her as much and even without the television being on.  As I sit here, I am listening to the crunch of her food as she eats, crunching probably not that much unlike my crunching on food which Mary Kay points out every so often, after having knocked over her bowl.  Ali has strange eating habits, eating habits probably not unlike many of her canine peers, but they are different.  We have always had a strange problem with her knocking the bowl over and then trying to take her food and hiding it.  The hiding portion we get, it is an ancestral trait to take the food gleaned from the hunt and make sure that the leftovers are nicely hidden for later, but she also needs to physically change the position of the food by knocking it out of the bowl.  We have done all sorts of experiments with this; have changed bowls and thanks to MK’s grand niece Abby who said, “Why don’t you raise the height of the bowl for her by putting it on this stool?”  I thought it was a silly effort but went along with it and lo and behold, Abby was certainly right.  Ali, for a very long time, was content to just eat out of the raised bowl.  That however changed in the not so distant past and we are back to normal, whatever normal is.

Communications from California and from Michael keep reminding us of all of the interesting tasks and decisions we are going to have once he is out of rehab.  He sounded great yesterday, somewhat bored, and even decided to do some exercise.  He would have started sooner, exercise is an addiction he once again wants to pursue, but the room provided at the clinic was not being used all that much nor was it being touted as a good thing.  The reason being is that I am surmising that they are not able to “police” it as much as they should given their current level of staffing and apparently drug deals might well have a  tendency to occur there.  Very sad!  He also had mentioned to us that the two week program is soon morphing into detox only, there not being appropriate funding for the current situation.  That doesn’t surprise anyone, given the state of the recession. It makes one wonder where the victims of addiction are going to get the care they need, but that is another question altogether.

From California, we hear of this issue and that issue regarding Michael’s employment and we are trying to get a hold of his important papers regarding all sorts of issues.  We are in touch and hearing from all sorts of people, friends, acquaintances of how we can ameliorate the situation and move on.  At this point, we need to have Michael home and then figure out where we are going.  For now it is all conjecture and we have some ideas that need to be formalized.  One question is how to get Michael’s possessions back here, UPS?  U Haul?  We shall see.  At this point, we don’t even know what the actual amount of his post divorce possessions happens to be.  It helps not having a “formal” job at the present time since I shall have time to be around and do things others cannot take the time for.

I am wondering as well about what the ramifications are for us with an individual in the house again living with us.  Last year saw us with our fourth son, Charlie, living with us for a while.  I had thought, upon his departure, that we were done with that.  Foolish thought!  A parent is never done, that is one thing we have learned.

I have decided, however, that I have always been a very tolerant dad when it comes to all sorts of things in the household.  Although I have always wanted to make everyone hold my standards, I am smart enough to know that frankly, they are a bit higher than they should be for most everyone, so I relax my desire to hold everything to that line.  Usually a bedroom used by a son was relatively off limits to my control and I never had reason to change that, now I feel as though the towels must be hanging in the bathroom at all times and that I should never have to “wade through” anything in his future room.  I worry about the “parameters” of his lifestyle once home and wonder how involved we need to be.  There is no room for tolerance of any type of situation where Michael would place himself in a compromising moment with friends given his need to abstain from any addictive item for the immediate future, yet I wonder what our role needs to be here.

Not that I want to be monetary, but the return of Michael to the fold is going to involve cash outlay and already has.  That is another issue as well as we head off to “normalization.” 

I also have no intention to be involved in any sort of enabling whatsoever.  I understand that a certain amount will occur just because of not always knowing all the details.  We love our son, but we are not going to do anything that reeks of allowing inappropriateness because of our relationship or because we cannot say “no.”  Saying no as parents was something that we did, much more so than many of our North Shore parental peers.  I remember MK telling me that one mother, upon hearing of our decision to not allow a son to travel north after a prom to a post prom bash near Lake Geneva, say that she was a “spoilsport.”  We did that often, making us somewhat unpopular with other parents and we never cared.  I also remember that we said to our boys regarding unpopular decisions we made regarding things they could do to just “blame the silly old fogey parents.”  I remember their reply that they were okay with it and just wouldn’t do that. 

There are lots of things to think about for all of us.  Today is a visiting day at the clinic and there actually is time in the early evening for a family member or two to visit.  I don’t yet know who is going although I don’t think we are, I believe a brother is going; the day shall play that one out.

I want to get on with it, I am naturally impatient by nature, yet we have to allow things to run their course.  We all have to hang in there. Meanwhile, goal number one is health.  There IS no replacement for that.

A Christmastime Sunday

TheManger scene with Ali's headless donkey


It is about eight o’clock in the morning and I am awake with my coffee enjoying the silence in the house.  It is hard to believe I slept this late, it doesn’t happen very often.  I have my coffee in hand and am about to get the Sunday paper.  I always used to really enjoy the Sunday paper but I find it harder and harder to read it.  Maybe it is just me but the writing style has changed in such a way that it does not hold my interest.  The advent (nice choice of words considering the time of year) of the Internet seems to have hastened a “demise” of the printed newspaper anyway.  At this point, Mary Kay and I don’t agree, I would actually drop the newspaper subscription and read it with my app on the iPhone or iPad.  Such is life.

Ali hasn’t yet asked to go out, she is still snoozing at the foot of the tree which I just illuminated.  I don’t know if my feeling is justified, but I feel so much safer now that the LED lights are doing the Christmas decorating.  I don’t feel as funny about having the lights on.  It was nice, as well, to only have to string two sets of lights together (although they have numerous LED bulbs) to really light the tree.  Ali, for some reason, really likes to sleep by the tree, which she generally pretends doesn’t exist.  In her puppylike exuberance at the age of ten, she “flashes” by the tree in our living room and either brushes by it or allows her tail to whack it, the result being fallen ornaments.

Ali is also guilty of having done a little Christmas damage yesterday when we had our family Christmas get together and birthday celebration for Mikey.  She had been eyeing the Fisher Price manger set we had bought Samantha.  What originally caught our eye was the border collie it had along with all the other animals.  It is a favorite of Samantha’s as she can press the star on top of it and play “Away in a Manger.” Ali had been eyeing the little animals, thinking they were for her.  I had chastised her for it.  Yesterday she got a hold of the donkey and now he is headless!

Ali is a firm believer in consistency so she is a bit out of it in the hubbub chez Koerner.  Mikey’s arrival, which should have had her going crazy as he is one of her favorite people, had her snubbing him for the most part.  Yesterday, Samantha’s snack which was on a coffee table in the family room attracted Ali’s attention.  Ali will normally not pay any attention to that as she knows it is off limits, but yesterday she came close to checking it out.  So we have to keep a better eye on her.  Her predecessor, Freckles, was known to pop up on the counter and just plain old remove entire roasts if you weren’t looking.  The odd thing was that she would do it and there would be no mess, no evidence of the struggle to get the household “prey.”  I remember fondly that pork chop on my plate, some neighborhood fracas called me outside and in the interim my dinner disappeared!  With Ali, that just doesn’t happen.  I guess she feels we aren’t paying her enough attention at the moment.

My original intent this morning was to write a quick blurb and get on with my business.  It strikes me funny how sometimes the memories and stories just flow out out a person like water from a spigot.  And like that water, you need to deal with it immediately or it will evaporate away.  Good thing I was using my keyboard to note it.

We are going downtown with dear friends today to see “A White Christmas,” a play currently being done in the loop.  It should be a great time, we always have the most amazingly fun time with Tony and CC.  They are intelligent, personable, have great life stories, put up with the antics of the Koerners, and are delightful to be with as they don’t have any particular agenda and make these excursions so delightful.  We have even been traveling with them on  a yearly basis to Stratford, Ontario for the Shakespeare Festival, which is always  an amazing trip.  Not only are the plays very entertaining and thought provoking, the restaurant forays, the occasional shopping and sightseeing are also enjoyable.  So Mary Kay, Tony, CC, and I shall drive downtown and enjoy a play and the winter wonderland sights of the city today and it should be a good time.

Off to the kitchen to make more coffee, get the newspaper either by walking outside or seeing if the canine wonder shall perform today.  Sundays are not good performance days for her as the paper is usually too large, but my first glance at the paper makes me think that it actually might be possible as it looks miniscule!

Denali, not the one in Alaska

Denali, or Ali (pronounced Alley) as we call her is the second Koerner dog.  She is a border collie and not only looks the part but acts the part.   She is an amazing companion, a dog above all other dogs for intelligence, for care, and the like.  That is not to say she doesn’t have her issues, just on Thanksgiving we had to put her in the back room.  She is very protective of her “sheep” and particularly protective of some more than others.  Charlie, our fourth son, not biological, probably a blog subject to come,  was the reason for Ali’s being put in the back room.

Charlie is one of the first in our “family” that Ali bonded with when she was a puppy.  This means a lot to her.  When Stephen, our grand nephew moved quickly in the direction of Charlie, Ali decided it was “nip” time.  So, off to her back room.  Ali takes this in stride; she actually doesn’t like to be in situations where she might misbehave.

Ali is so bright that she pretty much stays within our yard without needing a fence.  She has strayed every once in a while, but for the most part, she is really good.  She gets the newspaper every day.  She does overdo it in exuberance every so often, though, and rips up the paper a bit.

If you say, “kill,” she will go crazy with whatever is in her mouth and makes it quickly go back and forth in a pendulum like way at fast speed.  She will do this as well if you mention the name of a well known rapper as she doesn’t like him.

She loves to watch TV.  Her favorite movie is “Shrek.”  Her favorite way of having her dinner is to have all of her “sheep” downstairs in the family room and then turn on the TV.  Feed her and leave the family room and she often will just not eat.  We have been known to come home from a party, late at night, and have to sit and watch TV as Ali eats.

She is, as her predecessor, Freckles was, the world’s best child/people psychologist.  If you are having a bad day or are sick,  she will spend time with you.  If voices are raised, she gets upset and runs to the person she deems as the “victim” of the bad behavior.  The times the boys came home and were upset, Freckles would do her job and cuddle with them until they felt better.

Both Freckles and Ali share the common trait of being black and white.  Although I thought Freckles was a great dog, Ali has her beat since she is so smart and intuitive.  Freckles was an inveterate hunter (Brittany Spaniel and Shelty combo) whereas Ali thinks she is and is not.  Ali has managed to prove her prowess in the field with cows, though.  She definitely knows what to do when it comes to herding animals.

Ali was a great surprise to us all.  Freckles was getting up in years.  The boys were concerned that Mikey was going to be the only one left with the parents.  We left for the only weekend I ever remember leaving the two of them alone, to go to Lansing, Michigan for a swimming banquet for their older brother.  We warned them against parties and such.  We came home to find they had taken their tax return money and gone off to Carol Stream, IL or somewhere like that and purchased a dog.  When we saw her with her little bow, we couldn’t resist her, even though we knew better.  Freckles hated other dogs, having a puppy was a major concern.  We were frankly always afraid to leave them alone.  In any case, Freckles exerted her alpha female power and managed to keep Ali in line without killing her.  Ali learned how to maintain her existence, pick up some few bad Freckles traits, and avoid trouble with her.

Freckles lasted, I think, about a year before getting very ill and then finally being put to sleep with the two older boys in attendance.  It was a very sad time for us all and we were thankful to have Ali.

Ali has managed to surprise us all, she is not fond of other dogs, and, as mentioned, little kids, especially those who move fast.  With the arrival of Samantha on the scene, we were all concerned.  Ali rose to the occasion and now views Samantha as an excuse to go outside, play Frisbee, and eat like a queen.  Samantha just loves sharing her food with Ali!

Dogs can be a pain, but they can be such a wonderful addition to a family and help out emotionally at all times.  Ali and her predecessor, Freckles, have definitely fit that bill!