Unconventional Canines

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I’ve always been a dog lover and even used to want one of my own.

I’ve filed that idea away for the time being, though.

My husband had said no to a dog for many years because of his allergies. Then one day, out of the blue he agreed that I could finally get the Dachshund that I had always been begging him for, as long as he didn’t have to walk it or clean up after it. I said, “What about your allergies?” To which he replied, “Benadryl.”

So, I had immersed myself in a search for a canine companion. I had been searching rescue websites and asking around for about a week, when 2 things happened.

First of all, Ray happened. Ray Darr. The rabbit that, I have surmised, was probably found abandoned because Satan had thrown the hairy little troublemaker out of hell. My husband declared that if Ray stayed, the idea of getting a dog was out.

Then my step daughter’s dog Athena came to spend a night at our house.

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When I stuck my head into the girls’ room that night, the smell of dog was so overwhelming that my anxiety went through the roof. That’s when I realized that while I may have made great strides of improvement in the OCD department, my issues still weren’t ready to face dog ownership.

I was rather saddened by this until my daughter pointed out that we do, in fact, have dogs. Two of them. They just don’t bark or need to be taken outside regularly like your customary canines, which makes them that much better.

You see, Ray Darr thinks he’s a dog.

He digs holes:

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Yeah, don’t try to look innocent.

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He goes for rides:

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He gives kisses:

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He has his own harness and leash so we can take him for walks, where he knocks people down and jumps on them:

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Then, if he doesn’t claw the flesh right off your legs begging when he knows you have food of any kind, he just plain steals it:

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So you see he’s not really a rabbit, he’s just a rabbit-shaped dog.

And then there’s Lizzie:

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Now, don’t let her lack of fur fool you. She’s just your average pooch in so many ways.

She’ll flop down on top of her house for afternoon naps:

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She’ll lie in awkward positions:

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She’ll climb on top of things that she shouldn’t:

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(I guess the secret’s out. Now you know who writes most of my blog posts.)

She’ll knock stuff over and then look guilty:

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You can put food on top of her head and command her to stay:

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And she begs, too. Her tank sits near our dining room table, and at dinner time, she’ll rush over to the corner, mash her little face up against the glass, and start clawing until we notice her.

Then, either me or my bleeding heart, animal junkie daughter or will get her out and let her join us for dinner:

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Yep, that’s the dinner scene most nights at our house.

She’ll eat pretty much anything, too, because she’s just a dog in a lizard suit.

So I guess, in reality, I am a dog owner.

No matter how unconventional my canines happen to be.

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Hot, Stale, Crazy, Rainy, Dirty, Summer, Saturday, Morning, Breakfast Memories.

Daily Prompt: Three-Tenths

Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!

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I couldn’t think of a good cover photo, so here’s a monkey riding an Australian Shepherd while chasing a goat. Enjoy.

Hot, Stale, Crazy, Rainy, Dirty, Summer, Saturday, Morning, Breakfast Memories.

I sit back and look over my quickly scrawled ten word list. I then recite it out loud. I smile and decide to keep all ten words, which probably defeats the purpose of the whole exercise in the first place. I shrug. It just sounds rather awesome this way, and I like it.

I look over at my daughter sitting next to me playing a game on her cell phone at the thrift store desk. Yeah, it’s Saturday. That means it’s go time in Ghettoville. It’s been rainy all weekend, so business has been slow. I haven’t seen any crazies yet to give me new writing material for my ‘Tales from the Thrift Store’ stories, either. This deeply saddens me.

“What do I write about today, Big Red?” I ask my daughter. I call her that because she’s not only a redhead, but the child towers over me by a good 5 inches now. It was bound to happen eventually. Her daddy is 6’7. I’m 5’2. I know, I know. Given those numbers, the fact that this child was even created is a story problem in and of itself.  I’ve done the math. The answer equals Pi.

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Mmmm, pie. I realize how hungry I am. I forgot to bring something for breakfast. Lunch might just have to come early today.

“Well, what’s the daily thingy?” she asks. I relay today’s writing assignment to her. “Hmmm. Write about a childhood memory or something.” She says. “Just make it a good one, though. Something funny. Not those crappy sad ones that you always write about.”

Hoo boy. Make it hard on me, why don’t ya? I tap into my mental file cabinet and thumb through my neatly stacked and alphabetized memories (OCD, duh) for something decent to pull out. My mental fine cabinet is hot pink, to match the one in my closet. The latch sticks sometimes, too.

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Ooo, here’s one. I was probably about 7, and I saw the dogs eating grass so I figured that they must really like the way it tasted. l then set to work loading up their newly filled water buckets (compliments of my dad) with fresh cut grass clippings so that they could enjoy a nice mouthful with every refreshing lap. There. Mission accomplished.  Dad didn’t think it was a brilliant idea though. He was really angry. He hauled me over to one of the buckets and told me to take a drink and see how I liked it. I cried and begged not to…

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Ohhhkay. Maybe not the best memory, after all.

I quickly file it away and start digging for something better.

How about this one? I was maybe 10, and I was climbing my favorite Dogwood tree in the front yard. It wasn’t an overly large tree, and I wasn’t an overly large child, so there wasn’t any great danger in me thinking I was part monkey. I was about halfway up when it happened. I can’t really remember now if a branch had snapped or if I had simply lost my footing, but down came baby, cradle and all. Flat on baby’s back. It knocked the wind out of me, of course, but I wasn’t genuinely hurt. I had, however, felt the squish between my shoulder blades when I landed.

As I laid there for a second catching my breath and regaining my composure, the smell became obviously more adept than I had been at my task, and swiftly climbed right up my nostrils. Apparently, the dog would do just about anything under the Dogwood tree.

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I stood up and reached my hand around to touch my back like an idiot. I could smell it. I knew what it was. Further investigation wasn’t in order, but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to do it anyway. I guess I was just in shock. Or maybe it was denial. Sure enough, I pulled my hand back to find a tacky brown paste now coating my palm. Eww, just…eww. A large portion of the back of my white ‘Front Porch Ice Cream Parlor’ t-shirt was caked in fresh, gooey…and really, really stinky…dog excrement. It just had to be a white t-shirt, too, didn’t it?

I ran my hand under the outside faucet until I could go inside to better wash it, and went to the sliding glass door at the back of the house. Mom was in the kitchen. “What are you doing?” She asked with one raised eyebrow as I tried to sneak past her. I was pretty sure I heard an audible gasp as she turned to see the back of my shirt trying to discretely disappear around the corner.

“Oh no you don’t…get back here.” I halted and cringed. “Outside. Now.”

“But mom…” I stunk so bad. It was growing colder, too, as it seeped through my shirt and caressed my skin like a dead lover’s rotting fingertips.  I stepped out onto the porch again, where mom waited to take my clothes as she made me strip. Outside. Where the neighbors might see. I’m fairly certain that those clothes got burned afterward, too. “Shower. Now. Go.” But..but… Shower time usually meant outside playtime was over. There was still plenty of daylight left to burn. I wasn’t ready to be done for the day.

I really don’t know how this was originally going play out in my mind. Maybe I would just sneak into the bathroom with one of mom’s good washcloths, wipe the poop off my back, wash my hands, change my shirt, and be on my merry way again? At any rate, I hung my head dejectedly and shuffled off toward the bathroom…

You know, now that I think about it, maybe that wasn’t the greatest memory selection, either. I stuff it back into the file cabinet. I’ll try for one more.

Let’s see. Okay. I was perhaps 9 and we were out fishing on dad’s little leisure boat. I don’t know what else to call it. It wasn’t a speed boat; the thing maybe went 45 miles per hour tops. It wasn’t a fishing boat, either. It was baby blue, and it had 4 seats, 2 back to back on each side. It also had windshields in front of the forward facing seats, and a large, flat bow section where I could sit along the edge, and dangle my feet into the water.

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Close Enough

So, we were out fishing, my dad, mom, uncle Hose, and I. My uncle’s real name is Dave, by the way. For as long as I can remember, though, I’ve called him uncle Hose because my dad made a crack when they were younger about him changing his name to José, on account of some funky mustache that he had grown that made him look Hispanic. It was later shortened to just plain “Hose”, which stuck with him like a bad chicken pox scar for all these years.

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Anyway, I was propped up on my usual fishing perch; the top of the large, bulky Evinrude motor dangling over the back of the boat, when my uncle told a joke. Funny guy, that uncle Hose. Always had a joke or 50. I couldn’t possibly recall that joke now, but I know that it must have been hilarious, because I tossed my head back and laughed so hard that it threw off my balance, and I tumbled end over end into the murky bayou below.  I surfaced a moment later, shocked, gasping, and thankful that my parents always made me wear a life jacket while out on the boat.

My uncle grabbed hold of that water-logged life jacket and hauled me up into the boat like a sack of soggy potatoes. All 3 of them made sure I was alright, and then they stopped and stared at me for a moment before bursting into peals of laughter. Somehow, I had just made the joke that was told even funnier as I stood there and dripped all over the fiberglass.

It was funny, that is, until my mom realized that my fishing pole went right over the back of the boat with me, and all that remained in sight was my bobber innocently riding the ripples that skimmed over the surface of the water. It was maybe 5 or 6 feet away from the boat, so my mom got the oar out of the side compartment and used it to drag the bobber close enough to reach. With bobber retrieved, the excess line could now be hauled in until the pole magically appeared from somewhere out of the depths below. Problem solved.

Or not.  See, my dad always bought those cheap, closed faced, Zebco reels that you had to push the button to cast. We were a lazy bunch of fishermen, what can I say.  Apparently, I had just pushed the button on my reel and was about to cast the line before I went tumbling butt over teakettle into the lake.

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Needless to say, my mom spent the entire rest of that fishing trip wrapping hundreds of yards of excess fishing line around a can of bug spray until my pole finally emerged. She wasn’t laughing anymore by that time. As a matter of fact, she was quite hot…

Okay, maybe that isn’t some top shelf memory either.

I think maybe I stink at this come up with a “good memory” business.

I give up.

Until next time…

The Bad Place

Daily Prompt: Smell You Later

Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

Yesterday, I traveled 30 years back in time to a place that I had never really wanted to revisit…

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There’s nothing particularly special or unusual about what I do during the week. It’s just your average blue collar job giving painted facelifts to aging and abused apartments. It was just your average Thursday morning, and I was in my average lazy mood.

After a fifteen minute commute, I arrived at the run-down property that my husband manages. It’s not his fault that it’s in such disrepair; he does his best with what he has. The outside of place hasn’t been painted in over fifteen years, and though I offered to do the job for much less than any of the other commercial painters, the economy still won’t allow for any major renovations right now. The wooden privacy fence surrounding the property has either been pulled down in several places by the local class-cutting high school students looking for a place to hide out, or it has simply rotted away. The pool fence is being eaten away by rust. Most of the fenced in enclosures that house the air conditioning units have been destroyed by the local kids on their summer vacation. Many of the window screens have been torn up or ripped out. Several of the decorative shutters have fallen off. The parking lot needs to be resurfaced. The list goes on and on, but there’s just no money to have any of it repaired or replaced.  I tell my husband that he’s been demoted from property manager to slum lord, but he’s just too optimistic to accept it.

The insides of the places aren’t much better. I’ve come to realize that because of the deteriorating conditions outside, most of the residents aren’t motivated enough to take care of the inside, either. The apartment that I’m currently working in has a thick layer of nicotine on everything, torn up carpets with thick greasy stains all over them, and roaches as abundant as the stars.

I sat on the couch in my husband’s office for awhile, taking my sweet time nibbling at a microwaved breakfast sandwich, and trying to devise new ways to stall the inevitable. Eventually, though, I had to face the facts; 402 wasn’t going to paint itself, and I needed the money. So, I summoned up enough energy to haul my lazy rear end up of the sofa, grabbed my roller and brushes out of the refrigerator (that’s a nice little painter trick so that you don’t have to rinse them out at the end of every day), and toddled off to earn my dollar fifty and a small fry.

After fighting with the door for a moment because it’s one of those that you have to pull on in order for the key to properly turn in the lock, I finally managed to work it open and step inside. That same familiar nicotine smell ran to the threshold and greeted me, though it was admittedly not as strong as before due to the fresh coat of paint on several of the walls. I had already seen enough of this particular apartment to last a lifetime, though, so I decided to waste no more time getting started. I set my painting paraphernalia on the kitchen counter, grabbed my angled trim brush, popped open the 5 gallon bucket of white, and knelt down in a far corner of the living room to get started.

I had been avoiding that particular corner with good reason. I knew what those thick brown and yellow stains covering that matted patch of carpet were from. Sure enough, as I squatted down, my nasal passages were instantly assaulted by an all too familiar odor. Ooo, that smell. Can’t you smell that smell?

That memory smell. The one that sent a cold chill up my spine the second that my nostrils caught the first pungent whiff.

Animal urine…

I was instantly transported out of the ‘now’ to find myself gazing into the ‘way back when’.

Christmas time and a week or two of summer vacation in which I went with my parents to “The Cabin up North”, were really the only times of the year that I was made to visit my grandfather as a child. I couldn’t have been more thankful for that fact.

He was a crotchety old man. The kind that you see in the movies or on TV, waving a fist in the air on his front porch yelling “stay off my lawn!” at the neighborhood kids playing outside. I never saw him smile; at least, not in any of my childhood memories.

I was admittedly afraid of him, as would be any happy-go lucky, pig-tailed little girl whose attempts at fun were met with stern and foreboding glares and admonitions that little girls don’t behave in such a manner. Don’t run around the dogs. Don’t play around the dogs. Don’t raise your voice around the dogs. Don’t have fun around the dogs. Don’t be a child around the dogs…

The dogs.

My grandfather had 4 of them. Four Daschunds. These were NOT your average cute, cuddly little sausage dogs, either. No, these dogs were spawned directly out of the 10th pit of hell. They could not have been scarier had they had multiple heads and breathed fire. You could not make any sudden movements around these dogs, like running, or they’d tear into you faster than you could scream. You could not be loud around these dogs, for loud noises set them off and you could possibly lose a limb. There was one in particular, Schnapps, that was the meanest one of the bunch. You couldn’t even look at him, or he would growl and lunge at your face.

They behaved that way due mostly in part to the fact that they were spoiled rotten. They were the kings and queens of their castle. So much so, that they weren’t even made to go outside to go to the bathroom. There was a dog door in the kitchen that they NEVER used. They had corners of certain rooms that they had claimed as their toilets, and because of this, my grandfather’s house always smelled very strongly of animal urine. You really didn’t want to play in any of the rooms, either, unless you had to, because you’d have to dodge doggy land mines.

I remember the Christmas it happened. The Christmas that I first broke the rules. I was 8 years old. Perhaps even younger, but for some reason, my mind always reverts back to that particular age when I travel once again to the long ago and far away.

We were gathered at my grandfather’s house to exchange gifts and enjoy a holiday meal. I was “playing” in the guestroom, if you could even call it playing, with my grandfather’s wife’s grandson, Joey. In truth, it was more like we were sitting on the sofa watching TV and trying not to draw attention to ourselves.

We were kids, though, and boring TV quickly turned into some childish game that resulted in me running down the hallway. My feet had barely hit the cold, hard floor before Schnapps was hard on my heels and had his teeth sunk into the leg of my pants and the flesh within. He tore my corduroys, the ones that my beloved grandma had made for me. They were tan and had a monkey patch on the back pocket. The tears immediately started flowing, and to make matters worse, here came the grandwarden around the corner. He surveyed the scene. He didn’t really care whether or not I was hurt, he just started yelling at me because I had upset his precious dog.

He then wanted me to try to calm the vicious beast and make friends with it. “Just talk to him, just talk to him…” He’d say. I didn’t want to come within talking distance of that dog. I wanted nothing to do with Schnapps, or my grandfather, who seemingly cared nothing for me.

Every Christmas trip to grandpa’s house thereafter was just some nightmare that I had to live through. At least during the summer trips to the cabin I could hideout in the loft where my grandfather and his evil beasts wouldn’t venture, or I’d spend my time outside on the dock watching the ships roll through the channel, highlighting each new ship that I saw in my special book.

Gramps is long gone, and so is Schnapps. This still doesn’t change the fact that a filthy carpet ripe with animal urine takes me back. Back to a place that I’d never otherwise go.

Crazy Defined

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THIS in my father. My father and his entourage. My parents happen to be the equivalent of your average crazy cat lady with their animal collecting, except they collect…Collies. Full-fledged, bona fide Lassie dogs. They have 5 of their own right now, and they also participate in a collie rescue program where they foster unwanted collies until they can be adopted by worthy families. There can be up to 7 of them in their house at any given time.

I grew up with a house full of Collies, so I’ve never known a different way of life at my parent’s house. Since I’m an only child, my parents had me convinced that these hairy, slobbery 4 legged beasts were really my brothers and sisters until I was about 12. This is probably why I love to have my hair stroked and petted now.

My favorite childhood collies out of the many that have passed through my life in the 38 years since my birth were Jaica, Mica, and Nick. We had them all within the same time frame, and my parents thought that having 3 collies at once was really pushing the limits of sanity back then. That must make them certifiably straight jacket and padded room crazy now because they’ve expanded their brood to 5 plus the occasional extra.

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Jaica (left), Mica (middle), and Nick as a puppy (right)

Jaica, or “Jake Break” as she was called by my father, was a schizophrenic nutball of a critter. She was scared of her own shadow. I’ve found out over the years that most female collies are. She ran away for 2 weeks once because she heard a gunshot while she was outside. We put up lost dog flyers, and several people spotted her, but she’d run from them in fear. My mom was driving home from town one day when she spotted her crossing the street and called to her. It took her a minute or 2 to recognize my mom, but she eventually came to her. I was so happy to see her when she got home, that I ran to her and hugged her tight, and we fell on the floor in a big bundle of arms, legs, and fur. The fur was mostly mine. Yep, she was nuts, but I loved her. She would sleep with me every night, and she was the best cuddler. She had some wicked dog breath, though.

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My Jaica

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Poor Jaica. I tormented that dog.

Mica, “Mr. Mica-phone” as my dad later dubbed him, and Mikey to me, was my buddy as a kid. He was trained to go into my room, jump onto my bed, and lay across me to wake me up on Saturday mornings. There was no sleeping in with him around. We’d play house. He was quite the hairy husband.  We’d play office. He was my boss, I was his secretary. We’d try to play barbies, but he wasn’t very adept at upholding his end of the relationship as Ken. So, I’d use him as a barbie, and dress him up in beads, purses, dresses, and hats. My dad came downstairs to yell at me once for something that I had done, saw Mica in full ‘bag lady’ regalia, and laughed all the way back up the stairs after he had forgotten whatever atrocity I had committed. Mikey tolerated it like a trooper, too. I once dressed him up in a white T-shirt and a bow tie, put Jaica in my favorite dress, and held a wedding ceremony for the 2 of them. It was a teary-eyed, beautiful moment.

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The Infamous Wedding Picture

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Mica. I tormented him, too.

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Mica loved car rides.

Nick, a.k.a “Nickymeister Burger Bear”, as was his ‘Nick name’, will always hold a special place in my heart because he was discovered by me. I was Christmas shopping at the mall with my friends and decided to go into the puppy store, where I stumbled upon 2 of the cutest little collie pups I’d ever seen. I went home and told my parents that evening, and we went back up to the mall to see them. By that time, one puppy was already gone, and there sat Nick, staring up at us with his big, forlorn ‘please love me’ eyes. We didn’t stand a chance at that point. We went home with a bundle of fluffy collie pup, complete with hernia that had to be removed by the vet. He kept us all up howling that first night, and several nights after that, and I remember my dad saying, “Maybe we made a mistake?” Not my darling Nicky! We all grew to love Nick quickly, though, even as obnoxious as he was. He developed into a huge ball of fur with the shortest, stumpiest legs that I’ve ever seen on a collie. Nick, our Christmas dog. That’s how he got his name. Saint Nick. I miss him so much.

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Me and my Nicky

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Nicky and Dad.

My parents refer to their current herd of hairballs as “The Bears”. There’s Malibu, a.k.a “Boo”. We say that she ‘can’t hold her licker’, and your toes are fair game. There’s Bella, or “Bells” as my father calls her, and she, like my beloved Jaica, is afraid of her own shadow. Then there’s Savannah. She’s deaf and blind, has seizures, and her hind legs don’t work the best, but she’s my mom’s favorite so they do all that they can to make her comfortable in her old age. There’s Wyatt, or “Erpster” as my dad has dubbed him, (he happens to have a nickname for almost every dog that’s ever passed through their home, if you haven’t noticed by now.) Wyatt is a grumpy old man, and king of his domain. Then let’s not forget Gus, the skinny escape artist that’s a favorite among all of the grandkids, and the reason that the chain link fence surrounding the yard is now lined with an electric wire on the top. There’s nothing that can contain Gus, he’s pushed his way out of a screen window before in his efforts to be free.

These days, as my parents have grown older and softer, the collies have gotten considerably more spoiled than the ones they had when I was growing up. Most of them are fat enough to feed a starving family of 7 for a month. I call them couches with legs. They weren’t allowed on the beds without special dog blankets when I was young, and that rule went out the window years ago. My dad feeds them from his plate, too, so “no people food” is a foreign concept to this batch of furballs.

There isn’t anything that my parents wouldn’t do for their dogs. They spend top dollar on the best food, frequent vet trips, treats, toys, and medications to keep the whole herd happier and healthier than your average wet-nosed companions.

I could be jealous of my 4 legged siblings, getting all that special love and attention, but nah. I have a life of my own now, and the thundering herd not only keeps my parents busy in their senior years, but they’re all just too cute for animosity. To each their own, I suppose, and for mom and dad, with the wall to wall canine carpet, ‘Crazy in Colliewood’ is just the story of their lives.

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How do my parents even sleep at night?!