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MEASURING UP, WEIGHING IN

 Hi folks, it’s me again, Zeus. It’s been quite a long time and much has happened, so I’ll try to fill you in.

The humans have been acting funny lately. As best as I can understand it, they need to know stuff about us. They need to know how big we are. This doesn’t make sense to me because they only have to look at us, right? They can look at us and see we are actually quite big. Even my little sisters, Zelda and Zoe, are growing a lot although they’re not the same shape as me and Zorba and Zza Zza.

 Zza Zza won’t leave Mythos alone. Mythos is one big cat. He’s a very big cat, and he can be a really grumpy cat, but not with the humans – he loves them a lot and loves to snuggle with them. He’s old, Cathy says, and he doesn’t like to be bothered by irritating youngsters anymore, but try telling that to Zza Zza…Anyway, Mythos isn’t nasty to her. You can see  here that Zza Zza is already quite a bit taller than old Mythako, so you can tell we’re growing fast.

We have lots and lots of fun in this big playground. There’s all kinds of places to chase each other. We can run and hide, but when we’re tired we just fall asleep where we are. The humans never leave us alone when we play. They take pictures of us and tell each other how adorable we are. And how clever. We love to show them all the things we can do, and if our legs are too little to do something, then they help us and stroke us and tickle us.

They worry about us apparently, so when we’re tired they take us back to the big kennel and the fenced area they’ve made so we can sleep. This is so we can’t get out. I did go away up the drive once – it’s a long story – and the humans were very, very worried. I might tell you the story one day, but right now I’m so very happy to be back at my nice home. I was very tired, let me tell you, and very frightened. My humans couldn’t believe that I could go so far, but I’m strong. I really am. “Sturdy” is the word Cathy uses when she talks about me. Ron and Cathy were very upset until they found me. Cathy squeezed me so hard I could hardly breathe.

Zorba brushing up on stuff

 Zorba was having fun, and then Freddie picked him up so that the humans could do what they were calling measuring. Something about how tall we were. Cathy had the bright idea of getting her sewing mat so they could do this. She said it was easier than trying to use a yardstick. I didn’t know what she was talking about – there are lots of sticks in the yard – but it was interesting to watch. Zorba was bored with it and wanted to go play and explore. I can’t blame him – there’s so much to do and see and we love to race around.

Well, the humans seemed happy when they got us to stand still in front of that green thing. Freddie was doing that, Ron was writing stuff down and Cathy was taking photos. After each of us had finished with the green thing, we got put in a bucket and then the bucket got lifted up on the end of a big hook with a sort of clock on it – I think they called it a dial. Then Ron looked at that dial and said words like: “Wow! Zoe’s heavier than I thought,” and “Zorba looks so big, but he’s not much heavier than Zelda.”

Zelda always looks smaller than me and Zorba and Zza Zza, but when Ron had her in that bucket with the weighing thing, he was very surprised and said that Zelda weighed almost the same as us. “Not much difference,” is what he said. “She’s a very solid little girl.”

Zza Zza’s a girl – and I hear the humans saying things about girls being smaller – but apparently she’s much the same on that green thing as me and Zorba. She may be a girl but she’s as strong and lively as we are. The humans love to cuddle her because they say she’s like a big teddy bear. I don’t know much about teddy bears but apparently that’s a nice thing they say about Zza Zza.

Zoe isn’t like me. Her hair is short and silky. I think she’s Cathy’s favorite of all of us, though she doesn’t say so. “She’s a thinker,” Cathy says. That’s good to be, apparently.

“She’s got a lot of Labrador in her,” Ron says, “that’s why she’s calm and steady.” That’s also very good to be.

All that weighing and measuring business seemed important to the humans, though I’m not sure what it was all about. We had fun and the humans were pleased. That’s good.

Can you see how good I was? I went first and I had to set a good example. I’m Zeus, and I’m the leader. I must show the others what to do.

PEEK A BOO!

Does Zoe think she’s the leader?

What is it over there?

Hey! You’re supposed to follow me!

Oops!

I think I’ll stay awhile

I really like this!

 

GETTING VERY GROWN UP

 Hi everybody!  This is me, Zeus, telling you about some of our doings. You would be amazed if you saw us now. We’re getting quite big. Well, me and Zorba and Zza Zza are, but Zoe and Zelda are different and aren’t as tall as we three are.

We’ve been eating some really good stuff that our Cathy mom makes for us. She calls it ‘being weaned.” I don’t know what that means, but she tells Ron that making baby food for human kids was easier. She started this weaning business by giving us human baby porridge all mushed up with tinned dog food and these little dry bits that come in a packet and are for weaning puppies. Those she’d first soak in hot water, and then with this noisy thing she has, she makes it what she calls “just right’ for us.

We’d sort of slurp it up when she gave it to us. It was fun because we were running from our own plate to each other’s plates, but it seems we all had the same food. Nobody got anything different. We liked it a lot – Cathy mom was worried we wouldn’t like being weaned, but we do. It didn’t taste like our mom, of course, but we would drink as much as we wanted from our mom. But our mom was getting a bit tired of us – so Cathy said. Anyway, Cathy was giving us this quite yummy stuff four times a day, and after we got used to it, she’d sprinkle the little dry bits into it without first soaking them. We like those dry bits – they make little crunching noises when you bite them.

Cathy and Ron spend a lot of time with us, and especially when we get our wet food – that’s what they call the yummy mixture they make for us. We have bowls of the dry puppy food there all the time for us and we like it, but for the wet food feeding times, they have to take turns to keep our mom busy because she really likes to eat our soft mixture. She’s not hungry – not at all – our mom gets some very good food for grownup dogs. She gets fresh meat, but Cathy thinks maybe she’s a bit jealous…Anyway, whatever we don’t eat, then our mom comes and finishes it all up.

We had to have pills that our mom got from the vet. Hmmm – we weren’t too sure about that, I can tell you. Cathy and Freddie were trying to get us to eat them – they were wrapped in some nice stuff. Ground meat, Cathy called it. Zorba, Zza and Zelda ate theirs quickly, but me and Zoe…well, we’re thinkers, we are, and so Cathy and Freddie had to really make sure we did eat ours. Seems it’s good for us. I dunno, but I did like that meat business. Quite delicious.

Apparently, I’m the biggest of all of us, and Ron and Cathy are always telling people I’m the leader. Whatever that means.

I really like to be with my brothers and sisters, and I ‘specially like to look after Zelda. She’s not furry like me, and she’s a lot smaller, but she’s a very feisty little girl and runs after me all the time. I look out for her because her legs are kind of short and she can’t always reach where I do. But she never cries – she just keeps on and on trying. She’s very determined, and she’s a really nice little sister.

Zoe is also different. She’s not like me, but she’s also not like Zelda. The humans say Zoe has a lot of labrador in her – mostly labrador it seems. She’s very gentle, very quiet, very loving. Zelda, the humans say, is a real mix. But they say mixes are good – being mixed makes them very strong. I don’t really understand all that, but we’re well and very happy and we love our lives.

 

WE’RE SIX WEEKS OLD…AND LIFE’S REALLY GOOD

Zeus

 Hi, this is me, Zeus, and I thought I’d tell you a bit about us and what’s going on here in the Ham household of Kalamos. Our mum, Bella, hasn’t got round to telling us who was born first, but Cathy, our nice human mummy, seems to think I’m Number One around here. Well, in our puppy world, I am. Seems that pesky white cat with the grey blob on his head and that short grey tail is important to the humans here. Raki, I believe he’s called. Anyway, I don’t mind him ‘cos I’m bigger than he is and he’ll find that out soon enough if he bugs me too much.

I love our humans. We all do. We can’t wait to see them in the morning, and we hate to see them go after they put us to bed at night. They are always very kind to us. They stroke us and tickle us, and say all kinds of nice things to us. They play a lot with us, and tell us how clever we are, and that they’re amazed we’re so calm and not frightened by loud noises. This is true – we’re not scared of people and other stuff because nobody’s ever been nasty to us. But our mother tells us that not all doggies are as lucky as we are, and though she doesn’t talk about it much, we’ve come to understand that mum didn’t always have the nice life she has here now.

Zorba

Zorba’s my best buddy. He’s very like me. He thinks like I do, and always wants to do what I’m doing. It’s such good fun to have a pal like him. I don’t know who’s going to be bigger – me or him – but he doesn’t try to be the top dog around here. He’s very nice to Zoe, who’s the smallest of us.

Zoe

She loves him and runs behind him a lot, but she’s more careful than he and I are, and watches and thinks before she does something. Our humans think that’s a very nice quality she has. She’s very pretty, our little Zoe, and very gentle, and she likes to play with us.

Zelda

Zelda’s like that too. She and Zoe are our baby sisters, and we love them, and we look after them, but they aren’t the same size and shape as us. Our humans tell each other that Zoe and Zelda have a different father to us, and that they will be just like our mum, Bella. I don’t know about this fathers stuff – we just know our mom and we’re only interested in her. She really is the bestest mom.

Zza Zza

Zza Zza, it seems from what our humans say, has the same father that Zorba and I have. She’s smaller than we are, but that’s apparently because she’s a girl and won’t be quite as big as we are. But she’s not a sissy girl, for sure she’s not, because she does just exactly what Zorba and I do, and she often has even better ideas than we do. Our Cathy mom tells Ron that’s because Zza Zza’s a girl – this makes her more clever than us boys. I don’t know about that but Zza Zza is always up for anything. We love all this exploring!

There’s such a lot to do around here. You can’t get bored, and now that we’re not sleeping as much as we used to do, there’s all kinds of things we’re learning about. Especially the cats.

They have a lot of cats, these Hams, but this one doesn’t like us much. His name is Mythos, and he’s old and grumpy, and he’s actually quite big, so we leave him alone. Zza Zza hasn’t learnt yet that it’s best if we don’t bother him.

Zoe and Zorba are pals, but I have a lot of time for Zelda. She’s grown up a lot lately, and is not so timid. She thinks I’m a very nice big brother, and I try very hard to be, but I have to keep remembering that she’s little and make sure not to stand on her.

  Zelda often gets too crowded when we’re eating, so Cathy tries to give her a plate of her own.

But sometimes I try to take it from her, and she always lets me. Yes, I know I’m bad, I know I shouldn’t, but Cathy always has lots and lots of our special puppy food she makes us, so nobody is ever hungry.

There’s this sort of water place where we love to play around now that we’re big enough to climb in and out of it. The best fun is when Ron turns on that thing that lets the water run out and we can chomp on it.

This morning I found this lovely chew thing and I kept it quietly to myself, hoping the others wouldn’t notice.

No chance!

  

HAPPY DAYS

BELLA’S PUPS

Bella’s pups are five weeks old and enjoying what might well be some of the happiest days of their lives. Personalities are emerging, and although all the puplets are eating very well and lapping water, they still want to cuddle with mama from time to time.

Zelda’s a feisty little thing, but she does seek out the comfort of mum when she can. The pups don’t eat much at Bella’s generous table anymore – she certainly doesn’t encourage them –  but have begun developing their very own patterns of eating.

I feed them four times a day, but notice that not all of them are interested in the late morning feed – what Ron calls “second breakfast” – as they grow. Zoe and Zelda often skip this meal which makes me wonder if it’s something to do with their different physiques – they’re smaller boned than the other three.

Zorba’s showing a very independent streak. He likes to rough and tumble with his siblings, but then he takes himself off for long naps. Alone. Maybe he’s channeling his inner Greta Garbo, but he’s given me a few anxious moments when I’ve had to go in search of him.  Here he is earlier this morning – he was hard to spot until he moved.

ZORBA

He does enjoy his food, which he takes on his own schedule. I suppose because he’s bigger, he can eat enough to keep him happy for several hours.

ZEUS

Zeus plays hard and naps long. He sleeps through just about anything, does Zeus. Not even the jets roaring overhead will cause him to stir, much less his siblings clambering all over him.

What’s your problem, Zza Zza?

Can’t a guy get some peace and quiet around here?

Zeus and Zorba

Zeus and Zorba are great pals and are identical in size. Will that change as they grow?

Hey! Where’d you all go?

Yes? What?

Shall we wake up and play?

Have it your own way then. See if I care!

Life’s good!

 

THE ZED-TEAM

ZEUS

Zeus stood out from the others almost immediately, not only by virtue of his colouring, but because of his striking personality. He’s so distinctly the leader of the group that Zeus is a name truly befitting him. And it’s also somehow appropriate that he’s the biggest of the gang. At least, so far he is. He’s quite fearless, and very inquisitive. I foresee much mischief!

ZORBA

Zorba is the other male. He and Zeus are great pals, often together which doubtless means they’ll be partners in crime. They are similar in size and shape, very broad of shoulder and beam, with sturdy legs and thick tails. They almost certainly have the same dad – he must be quite big –  but goodness only knows who he is and where he is. Bella was pregnant when she arrived at our house, and where she came from is also unknown. We are outside of the village, and there are no other dogs around us here, so I guess their dad might even have been some distance away.

Zorba’s a happy, happy little guy. He runs about all over the place, wanting to play with the others. But most of all he wants to be petted. He only has to hear my voice to come scampering along, wriggling between my feet, tail going like a little windmill. Scratch his back, behind his ears and he’s beside himself with delight. Put him down and he begs to be picked up again. He’ll be a most devoted pet. No question. They will all be, for each one is affectionate and contented.

Freddie came back today from Albania where he’d gone to spend Easter with the family. When he left, the puppies were six days old. To say Freddie was astonished at their growth is something of an understatement. Zorba ran straight up to him, and wanted to be friends. I think that’s amazing at only four weeks of age, and shows what a trusting and friendly doggie Zorba is.

ZOE

Zoe, one of the three girls, seemed at first to be of the same father as Zeus and Zorba, but is smaller. Now as she grows, I’m not so sure for her tail is more slender than theirs, and her head not as square. She’s very fond of her brothers and makes a point of being around them. Zoe means life in Greek, and she’s certainly full of life. She’s a solid fawn colour with just a titch of white on the paws, and a little white bib. Some darker hair is beginning to appear on her back, so maybe she will change colour as she grows. It’s hard to tell. She’s as well adjusted as her brothers, though the girls are not quite as strong as they.

ZZA ZZA

Zza Zza has a teensy tip of white on her ever-wagging tail. She’s very particular about where she’ll lie down, and very dainty when she eats. It’s quite funny to watch her. She doesn’t like to be spattered with food by the boys who are rather rambunctious in their eating habits, rushing from plate to plate as they do in their eagerness to stick their noses into everybody’s business.

Why did I call her Zza Zza? For some reason the late Zza Zza Gabor flashed into my mind as I watched the fastidious doggie trying to brush puppy food off her face. Miss Gabor was always immaculately groomed – and quite a character she was – so Bella’s little girl has been named for her.

ZELDA

Zelda is different. Freddie says she’s a hunting dog, whereas her siblings are mostly Greek sheepdog. Certainly Zelda has a different shape, a smaller head, a longer, thinner tail, and the brown markings typically seen on the hounds here on the Pelion. She’s the smallest of all the pups, leaner in build, and a little less adventurous, but is happy and thriving.

She’ll sit quietly in the kennel, watching and pondering, and then, after much consideration, she’ll join in all the fun; it seems she’s of a philosophical bent. Why Zelda? Zelda Fitzgerald was the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby. She was a complicated person, greatly talented and very high spirited – different, one could say. So yes, I’ve called Bella’s smallest pup Zelda, but that’s not to imply that she’ll have the tragic life Zelda Fitzgerald did, but rather that she marches to a different drum.

Never a dull moment here!

And who was perhaps the most delighted of all to welcome Freddie back?

Raki, of course.

 

ON THE OLD HIGHWAY

 Yesterday we drove to Larissa and took the old highway for a portion of the trip. Now there’s a new highway linking Athens and Thessaloniki, part of the E75.

The old road is more interesting – we passed here through some of the fertile farmlands of the Thessalian plain – but the new road is faster and more convenient, and a great deal more expensive what with all the tolls that are springing up more swiftly, it seems, than the poppies.

Alexander the Great must surely have seen mile upon mile upon mile of these bold blooms when he marched his men through Thessaly, astride his horse, Bucephalus, bred on Thessaly’s great plains.

It thrills me to drive along a route that Alexander himself was familiar with, though he’d not recognize it now. But then again, he surely would, for the mountains still rise as they did between Macedonia and Thessaly.

And Olympus, its snow-capped peak often draped in a cape of cloud, would have been given particular attention by him, for Alexander revered Zeus and the rest of the Olympian gods. They must have followed his progress far below their legendary home, as they lay about sipping the wine Dionysus took such great care of.

Enough of the history lessons! Feast your eyes on the poppies whose ancestors flourished unseen for aeons before Man ever came to Thessaly.

(Moi, we missed you!)

 

THE GREAT ESCAPE!

 Bella’s pups are growing and maturing so fast that people are finding it hard to believe that they aren’t yet four weeks old. I think they’re going to be bigger than she is, and as we have no idea who papa (or papas were) we can only wait and see how they develop.

Zeus

 This past Wednesday, when they were just exactly three weeks old, led by the obvious leader of the pack – I’m calling him Zeus – they clambered over the rocks keeping their door ajar and out into The Great Unknown. Actually, it wasn’t quite so unknown as we’ve carried them outside before several times and placed them on the ground, but on this occasion it was under their own steam.

It was funny watching them. They were a bit bewildered at first, not too sure of themselves. There was quite a bit of high-pitched squealing, and snuffling around, and several attempts to get back inside to the safety of the familiar, but once inside again, they climbed directly back out. Ron opened the door wide for them to make it easier, and then the game was on.

Bella, however, was totally disinterested. This rather surprised me. Did she not care, or was she letting them find their feet, as it were, in the Great Big World? She wasn’t far away, but she made no effort to approach them, no matter how much they squeaked and wailed. Ron and I were greatly amused watching them, and I suppose Bella was well aware that her puddle of pups were in no danger. Interestingly enough, as each one tired, he or she waddled on shaky little legs back to the snuggly comfort of their bedding and dropped off to sleep very quickly.

Again, I was a bit taken aback that Bella didn’t join them. I guess I’m more accustomed to mother cats who are far more solicitous – at least in my experience – of their babies. The pups’ little bellies must have been full though, for they slept quietly for a long time. Or maybe they were simply exhausted by their adventure.

It definitely hasn’t been dull around here in this quiet little part of Kalamos.

 

POPPYING UP ALL OVER!

FROM HOMELESS TO PROPERTY PORTFOLIO

Bella has moved right up in the world, and well she deserves it. When she got what I’m calling her sunlounger, she surely thought that’s as good as it could possibly get.

 I was certainly not prepared for how fast her offspring would grow, and soon it became clear that it was getting a bit crowded in Sophia’s kennel, big though it is.

 Several years ago we turned the large space under the front steps into a dog house for Sophia to use during the day if we were away; Costa would put her into the house at night. We had the cement floor tiled, installed a heater for winter, and ordered a dog door over the internet. It certainly is very comfortable, but Sophia preferred to use the kennel on the porch if she wasn’t inside the house with us.

Over the last few years we put a large pallet inside the understairs space and placed several olive crates with blankets on it. In there the many and varied cats who seek refuge here, and which we provide food for, could get shelter from the miserable winter weather. (We have seven much-loved pet cats who sleep inside the main house).

Last week we took all the cat beds out – the hanger-on cats are not sleeping there now as it’s warm – and arranged bedding for Bella, who was not made aware of the new accommodations. We went to Volos for the day, intending to introduce her to the new home when we returned. The kennel was empty when we got back and I panicked for a moment, but would you believe – Bella and family were stretched out in there! How she got them in I have no idea. They are far too big for her to pick up, so we can only assume she pushed them out of the kennel, and then rolled them into the new apartment. She loves it in there. That dog is not stupid, that’s for sure.

Ron was anxious about not having a kennel for the ‘wild’ cats to use if they wanted to, so while we were in Volos, he bought another kennel of the same brand, but smaller. These are made of cedar wood, stand on legs and are wind and water tight; very nicely constructed.

Well, no sooner had he assembled it and placed it on the porch than Bella took her ease in it.

Got to hand it to that dog – she knows a good thing when she sees it. When she’s not feeding her pups she has a choice of three spots to relax in, and she all but grins.

 The pups are walking about in their house-under-the stairs – not that they’re awake very much – and it can only be a day or two before they’ll get out into the yard. We’re having to give some thought to containing them. It’s certainly going to get very lively around here, and I will literally have to watch my step.

 

MOVING SEASON

 The flycatchers were having a serious squabble yesterday morning outside my study window. The migrant birds have arrived, and this nesting spot which has been empty through the winter, has suddenly become much sought after real estate. I’m not sure if the original occupants have come back to their summer home, or if squatters are trying to take over.

You may recall this entry, Bye-Bye-Birdies, where I pointed out how the birds seem to like using my knitting and sewing trimmings. Yesterday’s argument involved pulling out the previous bedding arrangements – presumably in preparation for a fresh new look – and the dwelling was left in what realtors might term “move-in ready condition,” or des res, as in “desirable residence.”

But today all is quiet. No sign of eager tenants. There are plenty of flycatchers darting about the grounds, and many have nested at the side of the house, but this particular residence appears to be no longer desirable. 

I think it’s a fine spot to raise a family. It’s sheltered, the views are fabulous, the air is fresh, and there’s an abundance of organic food for the offspring.

It will be interesting to see what happens.