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Curated subscription review: Barkbox

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Yay, a new variety of curated subscription club! For $25/month (S&H included), Barkbox sends "four or more" products for your dog. When you set up your account, you select a dog size, so the products are at least somewhat tailored to your specific needs. A percentage of the proceeds from each box goes to support dog-related charities. Good deal, right?

I got my first Barkbox in April. The company sent me a complimentary box to review, so I cannot speak to ordering and shipping speeds on this one.

The box I received was a regular cardboard shipping box, branded with the Barkbox logo. When I opened it, it looked like this:

barkbox 1.jpg

Inside I found:

barkbox 2.jpg

From top left:
-Carob Chip Little Eatz, 3 oz package (estimated value $3.99): I'm always game for new pet treats, but these ones, unfortunately, are wheat based. We don't feed any of our animals wheat.
-Barkbox promotional t-shirt, size medium: I honestly think Barkbox did themselves a disservice by including promotional items for their company in the box. People do not want to pay to promote you. This item didn't add value, and it rubbed me the wrong way.
-Barkworthies 5" Bull Ring (estimated value $5.95): Again, a reasonable addition to the box, and I liked that they included the bigger version of this product, as I have a big dog, but these are not something we use for our dog.
-K-10+ Calcium Supplement and Vitamin Supplement, 1 of each (estimated value $34.99 for 14, or $2.50 each): I thought these were an interesting addition, because they're a product I wasn't aware of, and I can see the utility of (it's not easy to get a dog to take a vitamin). However, only including one packet of each doesn't really make them useful to trial, so I'm mixed on how I feel about this inclusion.
-Eco Dog Planet Doggy Waste Bags, 20 ct (estimated value $9.99 for 60, or $3.33): These are biodegradable bags made of tapioca, which I thought was kind of interesting, but other than that I am non-plussed. It seems like every pet-related anything you get includes poop pick-up bags, and we tend towards using bags from Target or the supermarket, which are a little...sturdier.
-Freezy Pups Kit (estimated value $19.99): This kit was the box's "big item," and it was definitely the one I thought was the coolest. It's a little dog-bone shaped ice cube tray, which comes with four packets of mixes to make dog Popsicle treats (each one will make a tray of treats). The mixes are made of real food, too! The Juicy Apple mix is just dehydrated apples, the Sweet Potato N' Maple just sweet potatoes and maple syrup, the Chicken Soup just chicken broth, carrot, and a bit of salt, and the White Cheddar Cheese just cheddar, whey, milk, and a bit of salt. AND they're all organic. I think this item is really, really cool.

Total estimated value of box: $38.26

All told, my feelings about my first Barkbox are mixed. With the exception of the Freezy Pups Kit, there was nothing in it that excited me, and it's not likely we'll use any of the other products. However, the treats, bully ring, and waste bags are legitimate inclusions, just not things we happen to use, so I can't really fault the company for that. The t-shirt, as I mentioned, was, to my view, a misstep in marketing. I liked the inclusion of the vitamin packets, but they suffer from the too-small-to-be-useful-sample issue (which is a bit inevitable with something that high value). I would have liked to see a toy included, as the box seemed to rely a little heavily on treats, with three treat items. Overall, I think Barkbox would make a great gift for a new dog owner who is not up-to-date on the items available for dogs, but I'm not sure it would be worth the cost of subscription for a seasoned pet owner.

For the sake of being complete, I took at look around at other Barkbox review to see if other people's received items were more or less useful. The heavily reliance on treat items seems to be standard--the January box reviewed at PuppyDust included two bully sticks, a bag of treats, and a food additive, and the other April box reviews I found included the same or similar items as mine. Barkbox should probably be aware that treats are going to be a difficult thing to lean on so heavily, since dog owners are increasingly picky about what they give their pups.

Would you like to try Barkbox? Use the coupon code NOONEWATCHING for $5 off your first box! And do come and let me know what you get!

Barkbox provided the box I reviewed. This review is not otherwise compensated and all thoughts are my own.

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Checking in on the pack

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Julia has been asking me to post about my pets. I don't know why I don't post about them very often anymore. I think it may have something to do with Leo. I still miss him more than I can properly articulate.

But the rest of the crew is doing well! Atticus' autoimmune disorder is so far easily manageable with low-dose steroids, and we're hoping that will continue to be the case. it is amazing what sickness has done to his personality--he's a whole different cat than he used to be. He's very cuddly and spends the best part of most evenings on either my lap or Mark's, where he seems content. Esme continues to be the most cat-like of our cats, showing us affection only occasionally and only on her terms, but she sleeps on our bed every night, which I like (and Mark hates). Illy is as odd as ever, and is still refusing to be brushed and developing new dreads that will likely result in another shaving before too long. Which I don't mind--I thought she was adorable shaved. She's still jumpy and I think she'll always be just a little bit feral, but she's calmed down a lot. I'm still struck fairly regularly at what a pretty cat she is.

And then there's Ata. Ata confounds me more every year. He is more and more than canine version of Mark, with piles of odd behaviors and neuroses. He loves walks, behaves nearly perfectly almost all the time, and spends most of the time laying around. He's more food motivated than he used to be, which would be good if we were trying to train him, but we've been too lazy to do much, given his natural state of good behavior. He still won't let you pet him with your feet--it's undignified.

This is what they're looking like these days:

Grace and Ata

Ata with the Christmas hedgehog

Atticus and Mark

Atticus and Esme

Esme and Atticus

Grace and Esme

Mark with kitties!

Illy with gingerbread toy

Illy in the new cat house

7 Comments

Yay! furry creatures. I love the photos.

Ata forever looks mistrusting or worried around a camera. His eyes were glancing at your arm like he knew you were holding him still for a picture!

And I love the one of mark getting groomed. Which kitty is that?

But Ata is soulful.

Oh the cuteness!! It's almost unbearable!

When I think of what Ata looked like when you and Mark brought him home ... you have done such a great job with him. Love seeing the kitties, too--esp. Miss Esme. I am so grateful to you and Mark for giving her a wonderful home.

But is Ata frightened of unusual doors? ;)
I'm glad Atticus is feeling better. And I hear you on missing Leo -- I still regularly forget that Cinzi is gone and look for her.

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Everybody hurts sometimes (or, cats grieve too)

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Never let it be said that cats and dogs don't have feelings for each other, and don't miss each other when they are apart.

On our mantle, we have two sets of photographs, leashes, and collars. One is Chance's, one is Leo's.

Atticus is only interested in one of them.

10 Comments

Awww. Poor Atticus. He loved his Leo.

Awww! Poor baby misses his buddy!

I don't know if you remember the comment I posted on oct 29th but basically I was desperate to find a good home for my two dogs and I thought that home was yours. I am happy to tell you I was wrong... they were in the right home all along. We kept them and everybody is adjusted and happy. Thanks for letting me vent on your blog that night. I really needed a space in the universe to put that out there.

Mike (you don't know me) from Cleveland Hts. oh

awwww...that's sweet and sad all wrapped up into one bundle. :(

That is too sweet. Sniffles.

I don't think I've ever seen anything so sweet. When I lost my poodle, one of my dachshunds looked for her for two weeks. Broke my heart.

Oh my goodness. That's too much cute/sad all in one photo set. Poor sweet kitty.

Oh my, I'm sitting here crying...

This is so totally: 'I can smellz you, but where is you?'

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Snow day

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We woke up to snow this morning, and it hasn't let up for at least two hours. I don't think we're going to have it long--it's over 35 degrees--but it's sure nice while it lasts.

Ata thinks so, too.

Ata in the snow

Ata in the snow

Ata in the snow

3 Comments

Awww! That last shot of Ata with the tree and the fence should be your holiday card! It's beautiful!

He looks so content. Does he do that thing where he scoops up snow with his nose? I LOVE it when dogs do that.

Snow certainly suits Ata. He's so handsome!

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Today's proof that I have totally lost the plot

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People ask my advice about getting a dog fairly regularly. Almost without fail, I tell them to adopt a young adult dog from a rescue. I have repeated at least a hundred times that puppies are an excessive amount of work, and that there is no reason to put yourself through that work unless your heart is set on a particular breed that can't often be rescued as an adult, or the puppy is going to require some sort of specialized training (like an assistance dog). For a regular pet dog, get an adult. It just makes more sense. Let someone else handle the destructive phase and the part where they aren't house trained.

I already held this position before we fostered seven Lab puppies from their fourth week to their twelfth, but even if I hadn't, doing that would have solidified it. Those pups were a shitload of work. They were, like, an infant-level of work. Up every two hours, feeding with bottles, constant crying, and a mess I can't even describe. Though the experience remains among the very most rewarding of my life, I've always said I would never do it again.

You know where I'm going with this, right?

Today we were in a big box pet store, buying cat food (yeah, I know, but I'm damned if I can find a local anything here, much less a local pet store). And there was a rescue group there with several litters of puppies. Lab mix puppies. Shepherd mix puppies. Husky mix puppies. All sort of medium-to-large mutt puppies. Dogs that are going to be infinitely easier to adopt out at this cute puppy stage than they would be as very average looking adult dogs. Dogs that are likely not house-trained, probably chew everything, and may well cry all not.

I wanted one so bad I swear my ovaries twinged. It was just like baby lust. Their bellies! Their noses! Their too big paws! The way they tripped all over each other! I very nearly squealed.

And then I got to thinking about it, and it would actually be fairly reasonable to get a puppy now. Well, maybe not now, since we're going away for Christmas, but in the new year. I'm home all day, in a perfect position to house-train and spend as much time as is needed with all the basic puppy care stuff that made me crazy with the Labs. Ata is a gentle and patient dog, but also an Alpha--he'd be great with a puppy. The cats are used to rescue dogs, but aren't aggressive in the least--they'd do fine. We really could adopt a puppy and have it be OK.

The thing is, everybody wants to adopt puppies. No matter how much I tell them that they'd be better off with young adult dogs, puppies adopt out much faster. So would it be wrong for us, people who know about taking in adult and even elderly dogs from shelters and aren't afraid to do so, to get a puppy instead this time? Would it be a cop-out? And if not, is there any chance in hell I could talk Mark into it?

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Don't wait to love

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If you were wondering, this is what a wholly good creature looks like.

If you have one, hug him or her for me today. Leo died this morning.

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Aw, mama. I'm so sorry. My heart hurts for you and Mark.

I am so sorry. He looks wonderful.

I'm so very sorry. My thoughts are with you and Mark.

I lost my Sophie a couple of months ago. It's a sad, sad thing.

Oh, Grace, I am so sorry. Leo was one of a kind, and I am grateful to have known him. I'll never forget his smile.

Grace, I'm so sorry to hear about this. Our thoughts and sympathy are with you and Mark.

I'm so glad Leo found y'all and vice versa. It was a wonderful match. I'm sorry you didn't get more time to enjoy each other.

What? How? I'm so sorry. We lost Maya this year, after 14 years. It's terrible.

I saw this on your facebook too and it made me so sad. He was obviously a joy to you and you gave him a great life.

I am so sorry for your loss

I've already said it, but I'm incredibly sorry, Grace. He was a very beautiful, well loved boy.

Oh, Grace, I'm so sorry.

He'll be remembered. Take care of yourself, OK?

Oh, I am so sorry!

Aw sweetie. What a good dog he was. And you were a good dog mom.

Grace, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you & your family.

Finches are difficult to hug, but I will give my elderly wee birdies a little extra care today in memory of Leo.

So sorry to hear this.

Oh, Grace. I know how you loved him. I'm so sorry.

Aw, Grace, I'm so sorry. That feeling that your heart might actually break is one of the saddest things there is. I'm hugging my guys and thinking of you.

I'm sorry, I just had to put down my rabbit, it was the first time I had to choose to death for an animal... she was suffering and i think it was the right choice... it was a really crappy situation and i miss her.

My condolences...

David

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Love Thursday: A boy and his dog

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I couldn't not share these pictures for Love Thursday. Mark and Ata--peas in a pod.

Ata and Mark

Ata and Mark

Ata and Mark

Ata and Mark

Ata and Mark

6 Comments

Oh my gosh, my dog is a cuddler, too!!! Don't you just love extra-large lap dogs? Ata is gorgeous! Happy Love Thursday. :)

That dog's face is HUGE! The entire dog is huge! I love him!

Awe! And I thought Rascal was a big guy. Do you know what Ata might be, breed-wise?

Omg, I had no idea that Ata was so huuuge! How cute!

So sweet! Awesome, awesome face on that dog. God I love dogs.

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Dear Mr. Goodell,

I'm sure this letter will echo many others you have received lately and will continue to receive. It will likely not say anything you haven't heard before. Still, there are times when one has to speak out, even if it seems like yelling into the wind, and this is one of those times.

I am a football fan. I am also a dog rescuer and advocate. It is in both of these capacities that I am both shocked and horrified at your decision to allow Michael Vick to return to the National Football League. It matters very little whether he is allowed to play as soon a team picks him up or has to wait until October. He should not be playing at all. He should never play professional football again.

In your statement, you said "I hope that the public will have a chance to understand his position as I have." What understanding is it, exactly, that you hope the public will achieve? Michael Vick bankrolled and participated in an operation dedicated to the abuse and extermination of innocent animals. He admitted as much. I see no need for any further "understanding" of that "position." This is not an issue up for some kind of debate, where we all just have the wrong idea. This man did these things. He served 18 months in jail for them. You suspended him for them. Now you're allowing him a second chance.

Michael Vick does not deserve a second chance in the NFL. It undermines the seriousness of the crimes he committed that you are giving him one. Not only are you allowing Vick himself a second chance at a great opportunity that he squandered the first time (playing professional football), but you are sending a message to the fans of your sport that this kind of behavior is acceptable. Sure, he had to miss a couple of years and do some time, but his career is salvageable. Suspensions similar in length to Vick's have been issued for doping and substance abuse. Was Vick's crime really no more serious?

I had hoped that the Vick situation would shed some much needed light on the problem of dog fighting in the United States, and that it would begin to be taken more seriously in that light. For a while, it looked like that might happen. Now, I am not so sure. It seems equally likely that Vick and his supporters will be allowed to sweep this under the rug and that he will pick up where he left off. Anyone who has seen the long-term consequences of dog fighting, including shelters full of dogs bred to be fought and killed who are now unable to be rehabilitated, due only to human greed and stupidity, knows this is unacceptable.

I only hope that the NFL teams themselves will follow the lead of the Giants, Jets, Cowboys, and Falcons and show better judgment than you have when it comes to Vick. Just as he is an embarrassment to your league, he will be an embarrassment to any team that will have him, just as he ought to be to you.

Grace Mitchell

6 Comments

I am still waiting for someone to explain his position to me in a way that gives me any reason for sympathy. My rage has died down since the news of his arrest, but I don't understand how anyone can justify letting him play on the big stage again.

I'm sick over this decision. Great post.

Mmm...I have more of a problem with professional sports figures who rape girls. If they don't get a pass, why should he?

Did you actually send this, or just post it?

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The foster learning curve

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Back when I had that contest to ask for blogging ideas, Jill wrote:

I'm with Julia: more about your dogs. I'd like to know how you introduce rescues to your permanent pets, do you walk all of them?, do you do anything (obedience, etc.) to make the fosters more adoptable...that type of thing.

Those are good questions. I'm afraid my answers aren't going to be that enlightening, though. I'm not really a great dog advice person. I've been around a lot of dogs now, and done quite a bit of work, but I don't have a real philosophy or guidelines or anything. For a real dog expert, I highly recommend checking out Joanna's blog. That woman knows her shit.

Me, I just sorta do what works.

Grace and Chance 2The whole dog rescue journey started quite by mistake. Mark and I adopted our first dog, Chance, from a rescue in 2003. In retrospect, adopting Chance was a big mistake. I wouldn't change a thing, of course, but we went in pretty blind. You should NOT choose a totally untrained 120 lb Rott-Anatolian cross to be your first dog. But we did, and we loved him from the beginning. Which is good, because if we'd loved him any less, he'd have ended up being put down. Chance was aggresisve. Aggressive enough that he was dangerous. We spent a whole lot of time and money fixing that issue, which the help of a really high quality trainer. Those training sessions (and there were a lot of them) are pretty much the sum total of my dog training expertise. And much of what was suggested for Chance, particularly regarding establishing dominance, I don't bother with when relating to my current dogs. Chance needed it. They don't.

7 napping puppiesAbout a year after we adopted Chance, we found ourselves fostering seven five-week old Lab mix puppies. The how and why of that is a long story, which you can read here if you are interested. By that time, Chance was pretty mellow (well, all things considered). But seven five-week old puppies is a lot by anybody's standards, and we were completely unprepared. It was, as well as being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, hell on Earth. Weeks of cleaning up after them, running after them, not getting any sleep, worrying about them...but they all lived to be happy, healthy dogs, and we found homes for all of them. It was expensive, it was frustrating, and it was amazing.

After that, we just knew we could do it. We didn't actually do any more rescue for a while, as we weren't quite sure how Chance would react to having another adult dog in the house (he loved the puppies), plus we were in a rental, but the seed had been planted.

Then we bought our house, and Chance died. We adopted Leo, and when we went to pick him up from the rural rescue where he was living, I fell in love with the idea of having land and being able to rescue large scale. We didn't take any more fosters for a bit, though, as we wanted to give, Leo, who turned out to be elderly and have some health issues, time to adjust. Then we met and unexpectedly fell in love with Ata, and so we had two dogs. They got on so well together, we figured it was time to take the plunge.

Ata, Bridgie, and LeoOur first intentional foster was Bridget, the Anatolian Shepherd. We had Bridget for about six months. She was not an easy dog. Unlike Ata, Bridget was a very typical Anatolian--very standoffish and difficult to get attached to. Plus, we learned about the difficulty of walking three dogs who are all 90 lbs+. But we kept at it, and she came out of her shell. She never really fit in as part of our pack, but she was safe and healthy with us, and we eventually were able to find her a great home.

The bug had bitten us by then. We started looking more seriously for a rescue with whom we would like to work. And, a bit later, we hooked up with Hound Rescue. Neither of us had any particular hound-love, but I heard or saw a call for fosters from them somewhere, and called on a lark. I liked the person who got back to me so much that we decided to give hounds a try, with the specification that we wanted bigger hounds, not the beagles the rescue specializes in, since they'd surely be yappy and annoying.

Mark and Friday on the couch 5Our first HR foster was Friday, who was an absolute nightmare. He was a basset hound/fox hound mix. When we first got him, he was sick with kennel cough and seemed very mellow. The healthier he got, the worse he was. He was destructive, he howled non-stop, and he refused to be housetrained. It was such a headache! He clearly knew he was supposed to go outside to go to the bathroom, but he would get mad at you and look straight at you and pee on the floor. We made him wear a doggie diaper. He peed in it, then peed through it. We checked for a health issue. The issue was determined to be behavioral. We pulled our hair out.

And then Friday got adopted, and we learned from his new owner that he never peed in the house. We realized it was us, or our other dogs, or our house. Sometimes dogs are good matches for your family and sometimes they aren't. You do the best you can. The thing we learned from Friday was that the key to being succesful in rescue is support. We had lots of people to talk about our issues with, they made suggestions, they offered supplies, and when it became clear Friday just wasn't going to work out at our house, they offered to house him elsewhere (which ended up not being necessary). Even though our experience with Friday hadn't been great, our experience with the rescue was, so we went on to foster through them again as soon as Friday was adopted out.

oliverAnd since then, we've fostered, by my count, 10 dogs through Hound Rescue. Four beagles; three beagle mixes; two larger hound mixes; and a bloodhound. One of the mixes was a puppy. The bloodhound was a disaster and did have to go to another home (suddenly, it became clear just what it means for a house to be too small for a dog). Three of them I would have kept in a heartbeat. Two of them had fairly major medical issues. Nearly all of them had ear infections, mange, fleas, or all three. All of them taught me something. And, most importantly, all of them had a home with us, and now have homes with other loving families (well, aside from Huey, but he will).

I've never done anything else that has filled me with such a sense of wonder as dog rescue. These animals NEED us, and they give us so much for what amounts to so little. But it's not always easy. I've had to learn to be more patient, for sure, and deal with more extreme nastiness than I ever could have guessed (there is seriously nothing grosser than seven puppies being dewormed). It's been hard on my permanent animals, particularly the cats. It's been hard to let them go. It's been hard to keep them.

grace and eug 5My major piece of advice for anyone considering doing rescue is to focus not on the type of dog you want to foster, but on the organization with whom you are going to work. The support you are offered by the organization makes ALL the difference. It turns out that we love beagles, and I can't imagine not having more of them in my lifetime, but I doubt we'll foster beagles in Virginia, unless we happen to find another fantastic hound rescue. It's generally harder to find fosters for larger breed dogs, and we're comfortable with the big guys, so we'll likely look in that direction. Also, since I am going to work from home, we're open to puppies again, which we haven't been. Mostly, though, what we're going to look for is an organization that supports its fosters, provides resources, and never makes you feel like you should do more than you can. We've found that here, and we never would have gotten this far into rescue without it. I very much hope we can find it there, too.

4 Comments

What amazing forgiveness and perseverance you embody to work with such a wide range of challenging animals. I don't know how you find enough time in your life or love in your heart to do it, but it's amazing that you do.

We were very briefly thinking of becoming cat fosterers this fall, but then we had the kitten debacle, where I learned for the first time what it meant to encounter a truly bad animal. Now I think I'm off pets for at least another five years.

Awwww, Chancers ...

So nice to see his face. Y'all did such a great job with him. I remember him licking my head repeatedly when I sat in front of him. So, yes, he could be aggressive--though never with Tosca, thankfully--but also very affectionate. A cuddly handful, perhaps.

And gone way too damned soon.

Thanks, Grace. This is exactly the type of info I was hoping to read. (I've been away from blogs for a couple of weeks so I'm late to the game.)

I've got two giant breed dogs, a St. Bernard (from a shelter) and a Bernese Mountain Dog (owner turn-in), who both love other dogs. I've thought about trying to foster someone. Your perspective is helpful as I consider it.

My sister in Maryland has some experience with beagle rescue there if you're interested after the move.

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The further adventures of Huey P.

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Remember when Huey got his head stuck in the cat box lid?

Well, apparently, it's not just the cat boxes he gets in too far with. He's into their toys, too.

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The Story of Goo

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In September, the rescue called to ask if Mark and I could pick up a dog at the shelter and hang on to him for a couple of days before another foster could take him. Since we already had one foster (Belle), we said sure, so long as he wasn't permanent. We were briefed on him--older, friendly, overweight--and expected a dog much like our Belly.

That was the day we met Huey. While we were waiting for someone at the shelter to bring him out to us, we looked at his intake form. Under weight, it said 62.5 lbs. "Must be misprint," we said to each other. "Or he's a mixed breed. No way a beagle can be that big."

When he came through the door, we saw that we were wrong. I took one look at his rotund body and short little legs and smile, and christened him Huey P. Long (though the man himself was apparently not that fat, whenever I think of him I see him as portrayed by John Goodman, and that's what popped into my brain upon seeing Huey for the first time).

Huey P. had a lot of weight-related issues, obviously, but some fairy serious other problems as well. He had parasites, fleas, and the worst ear infection I have ever seen (there was, literally, black liquid coming out of his ears). Boy were we glad he was only going to be with us for a few days!

And then a few days became "a bit longer," as the foster who was supposed to take him ended up with another dog instead. And by the time "a bit longer" could possibly have rolled around, we'd already decided he was fine where he was. We are pretty centrally located and close to the vet the rescue uses, so we had less trouble than most taking him in for his numerous appointments. And he was getting along very well with everyone at our house, including Atticus, who is, in general, not that easy to love.

Not just easy to get along with, though, Huey also just made himself at home. Unlike a lot of fosters, he was almost immediately comfortable and at home at our house. He picked out his spots, attached to us, and moved right on in. He was too fat to get onto the furniture, but loved the dog beds, and made a special favorite place out of a basket intended for the much smaller Belle (much to her dismay).

Then, in late October, Huey suddenly started limping very seriously. When it didn't get better, we took him to the vet and learned that he had torn his cruciate ligament. This is not an uncommon injury in dogs, especially those who are very overweight and large breeds. It can be fixed surgically--often very successfully--but the surgery costs a lot of money and comes complete with a long recovery period. Before Mark and I called our rescue coordinator to tell her all this, we talked about it ourselves. We both agreed that if the rescue couldn't come up with the cash to fix Huey's leg, we could. These are the situations for which credit cards are invented.

Luckily, the rescue did come up with the cash. Some very generous folks (including some who came right from the button on this blog!) ponied up, and we were able to schedule Huey's surgery for January.

A few days before Huey's pre-surgical consult, he started limping on the other side. It looked bad. Mark took him to the consult and the doctor confirmed that he had indeed blown the other ligament. Since it would render the dog completely unable to walk, he recommended against getting both sides fixed at once. Rather, he said, he would fix the new injury, which was more serious, and Huey would continue to get around on his other leg until he was healed up from surgery and the second one could be done. We agreed to this plan.

While we were waiting for his surgery, Huey continued to endear himself to us in all kinds of ways. One reason we didn't adore him, however, was his insistence on trying to get into the cat boxes (which neither Leo nor Ata shares). To keep him away from them, we put a baby gate up in the doorway to our laundry room. Then, one day, we came home to find the gate knocked down and Huey running around with his head completely stuck in a cat box lid! (I blogged about that here.) Even though we ended up having to cut the box lid off him, we couldn't be too mad--it was just too damn funny!

As luck would have it, Mark ended up being out of town on the day of Huey's surgery. I worried myself into near hysterics and got horribly lost on the way to the surgical hospital (which is the same place where Chance had his post-bloat surgeries and died). By the time I got there, I was frantic, but I had to hand him over and hope for the best.

Early that afternoon, they called to let me know that it had gone fine and I could come and pick him up after work. When I got there, he looked a bit pathetic and out of it, but happy to see me. He had a couple of tumors removed as well as the ligament repair (including a large one in his tail), and those injuries were even nastier than the stitched up leg. With strict instructions to keep him still and coned, I took him home.

Huey was not the model patient. Always rambunctious (especially given his size and age), he had trouble understanding why he couldn't play fetch or roam outside. For the first few days, he had to be crated whenever I wasn't watching him, and he hated that. He also hated being taken outside on a leash only. But we survived, and his leg and other injuries began to heal.

After about a month of healing, we discovered something--Huey could now (with a little boost) get on the couch! To many people, this wouldn't be considered a good thing, but given how much Huey loves to cuddle, we thought it was excellent.

Now it's June. Huey's incisions are all healed up and he's down to around 45 pounds. He's still big for a beagle, but he looks very good. He's ready to have his other leg fixed, and I'm sad to say that we won't be the ones who care for him after that happens. See, we're moving across the country, and we can't take foster dogs with us. And, even after spending the better part of a year as part of our family, Huey is a foster dog. So, he's is going to be going to another foster family. It's probably going to happen sooner rather than later, in order to give us one less pet with whom we had to deal while trying to fix up and show our house.

This is the part people ask about most often. How do you let them go? It's a very good question. It's not easy. Especially after so many months and him (and by extension, us) having gone through so much. But even after all this time, and as much as I adore Huey, I don't feel like he's one of my dogs. I knew from the beginning that he was with us only temporarily, and I kept that idea in the back of my head all the time. Which isn't to say I didn't get attached to him--I did and I am--but it is still a very different thing than the way I feel about the dogs I know are staying with me until they (or I) die.

One thing that makes it easier is being very confident that he'll be taken care of. It is not unlikely that Huey will remain a "foster" dog forever. He's approximately 10 years old and he's beat up. He's got scars and a permanent limp and his tail, though much better, is still pretty mutant. As well as he's doing, he's still not a dog for someone who isn't willing to spend a lot of time and money at the vet over the next few years, or for someone who isn't willing to take on the possibility that s/he just won't have very long with him. Given those odds, and as many dogs as are in rescue right now, it may be that nobody ever picks Huey. But if they don't, he'll still have a home, just like the one he's had with us. One of the benefits of working with a small rescue, like we do, is knowing the other foster families. Because I know them, I know that Huey will be fine with them. It's a tribute to Huey's personality, as well, that I am so confident he'll make himself right at home and become part of someone else's family, just like he became part of ours. And if it turns out he needs to move between several homes over the remainder of his life, which may well end up being the case, he'll do fine with that. He's that kind of dog. I have absolute faith, however, that the rescue we've been working with over these past few years will do right by him, even if he costs more money than he brings in (which will be the case no matter what happens) and takes up valuable foster space. That day Mark and I, as representatives of the rescue, pulled Huey out of the pound, the rescue made a commitment to him forever. And they will see it through, even if Mark and I aren't here to help out.

Over the past few years, rescuing dogs has been among the most challenging and worthwhile things I have done. It may well be THE most worthwhile thing. It has been a fantastic experience that I absolutely believe has made me a better person. Having Huey here for this last year has been the perfect end to that experience, and has done nothing but cement my commitment to rescue, and in particular to rescuing old dogs and dogs with health issues. He is an amazing, resilient, goofy, lovable, loud, loyal, wonderful animal. Our lives have been vastly improved by having him, as I am sure his has been by being with us. The end our role in it may be making me a little bit weepy, but Huey's a very good story.

4 Comments

OK, that totally made me lose it. Grace, I've always admired your willingness to accept a dog into your family and care for it no matter how long it was staying. Those of us who read your blog have also grown to adore Huey and his antics. I think if Huey could speak human he would say he's a better dog for having been allowed to be apart of your family. Now I need to go clean up my mascara.

Yay! Thanks for the Huey update! He looks so much better than when you first got him, you guys did a great job fixing him up.

When you move, will you work with another hound rescue?

I do not like the cone of shame.

(from the movie UP, which all dog lovers should see)

What a great story.

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Thoughts upon meeting a canine champion

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So, as anybody who reads WINOW for more than a day or two knows, I'm a dog person. In my case, "dog person" means someone who loves dogs, has dogs, volunteers for dog rescue, and has done quite a bit of dog training work. It means someone who has all sorts of opinions on dog politics and health care. It doesn't mean someone who knows a damn thing about grooming or really much at all about breeds or showing or dog pedagogy. For that stuff, by all means let me refer you to Joanna's amazing blog. Joanna knows her dogs.

I've never been to a dog show. I watch them on TV, but I've never attended one. I have been exposed to show dogs only in the form of the relatively low-ranking show Akitas and Boston Terriers raised by my family. Due, I guess, to this lack of information, I haven't ever really considered that there is a world of difference between a champion dog and a "regular" dog.

unoAnd then, on Saturday, I met Uno.

Remember Uno? The beagle who won the Westminster Dog Show last year? First beagle ever? His owner was kind enough to bring him to an event we held for Hound Rescue this weekend. He was a big draw and we got a ton of donations, but beyond that, I think seeing him was really eye opening for some of our rescuers. I know it was for me.

Over the past couple of years, I've either fostered or evaluated lots of beagles. At least a couple of dozen. Some of them have clearly been mixes, some poorly bred, a couple AKC-registered. I have never seen a beagle that looks anything like Uno.

yogi close upThis is a picture of Yogi, who we fostered last year. Yogi was pretty typical of the dogs we see in rescue--likely full beagle, but not "perfect." The "flaws" in his body were pretty obvious--heavy set, short legs, smoother and longer than breed standard tail, etc. These are areas in which I'd expect our average foster dog to differ from Uno. What is really interesting and surprising to me, though, is the face. Yogi's face, as you can see, has a very definite point, with pointed ears and a narrower forhead.

unofaceThis is Uno's face. The jaw is much more square, the ears are set differently, they eyes are farther apart. This, apparently, is what a beagle is supposed to look like.

So what happened? Why have I never seen a beagle that looks like Uno before, if Uno is the standard for beagles?

Dogs bred indescriminately is what happened. The beagles I know and love don't look like Uno because Uno is a purposeful creation. Before Uno was ever conceived of, people were thinking about the genetics that would make him up--his perfect head, his perfect stack, his perfect little beagle yodel. Uno is, frankly, eugenics. My beagles are, by and large, accidents.

None of this is to say that Uno is "better" than any beagle I've ever fostered. He seemed like a very nice little dog, but I'll keep Huey, who is, frankly, funny looking, but has one of the best canine personalities I've ever encountered. But Uno is markedly different than our dogs. It seems almost wrong to call Uno and Huey (or Yogi, or any of our beagles) the same breed. I hadn't realized it before, but even if you are comparing two "full bred" dogs, the difference between one that is intentionally and carefully bred and one that isn't is almost as big as the difference between one breed and another.

All of which is to say that I think, finally, I kind of understand what good breeders are trying to do in protecting the integrity of breeds. Had I never met Uno, I honestly would not have known that our beagles, varied and wonderful as they are, do not very well represent the beagle breed standard. I love every one of our muttly beagle crew, but even those among them who are likely "pure" beagle are steps away from, rather than towards, what beagles are "supposed" to be.

Whether or not maintaining the greatest possible variety of differnet breeds is imporant is, of course, a matter of debate. If you think it is, however, this illustration proves, at least to me, that intentional and careful breeding is the only way to succesfully do that.

7 Comments

Great post Grace!

Joanna mentioned going to a dog show one time where a pug rescue also had some of their dogs and a champion show pug for comparison. The difference between "accident" pugs and show pugs is HUGE. And they're a breed where the closer to the standard, the healthier they are.

Our pug Aggie, while the cutest thing on four legs, is far from the show standard and this puts her at greater risk of several health issues. Mainly issues with her breathing and her eyes (they protrude to much, which makes them more likely to pop out!).

I also think it's great that his breeder is helping out hound rescue! Do you know if he's made appearances at other rescues?

When we got Ranger (shelter dog, probably "purebred" rough collie, picked up as stray) I looked up collies to see how close he was to standard. While beautiful, he is nowhere near standard (which is what I expected) -- his ears point up, instead of having a small fold at the point, and he is built kind of oddly, possibly from malnutrition in his early months.

The most interesting thing, though, is how important character and expression are for a collie, and how a shy, timid expression is as bad a fault as something physical. Ranger has a sweet face, but he is a timid, submissive dog, and it shows in his expression. No medals for him.

I am a big fan of the mutt, as you may know from my millions of photos of my dear Goldie dog (greyhound/lab/maybe something else).

But I thought that Uno was so cute that I had his photo as my screen saver for a long time. He is one pretty dog!

Wow, when you meet your first show beagle you don't fool around, do you?

Uno is absolutely astounding; he is as close to flawless as I've ever seen a dog be. In most show dogs, even ranked champions, you can pick one one or more minor flaws. It might be useful for you to look at Westminster's videos for 2008 to see the class that Uno was in and look at the differences between dogs - even among all those gorgeous Beagles, you can't take your eyes off him.

Which is a long way of saying that most show breeders never get an Uno, and those who do almost never get more than one in a lifetime. But trying to get there, not just to the perfect head but the balanced body and free-flowing movement with perfect economy (no movement of the body anything but forward - no jiggle in the topline or paddling of the legs or structural faults on the move), is what drives most of us.

What you're talking about, where the vast majority of the dogs out there don't come even close to breed standard, is why I think "counterfeit" comes closer than "carelessly bred" to describing what happens to the dogs. You think you're buying everything that you've read about and seen on TV, but in fact very little has been preserved in the dog except the breed name. So please, PLEASE do ADOPT those dogs, because they deserve every bit of the amazing life that Uno has lived, but don't pay for them any more than you'd pay for Monopoly money.

I am horribly envious that you got to meet him - I've been in the same building as him but never saw him up close. He is by all accounts a good boy, which is even more important than his looks.

Isn't it amazing the difference after you see a well bred version of the same breed? Any time I have come across one I then find myself noticing the "faults" in all others I see of that breed. I use "" since sometimes those are the things that endear them to us. I do think that purposeful breeding is important, since wouldn't it be sad if they stopped trying, letting it all be accidental and there was never again a Beagle like Uno? I am looking into getting a purebred of the breed of dog I have wanted for about 6 years, and while I don't require a show quality pet, I am trying to make sure I get my puppy from a breeder who is purposefully breeding to better the breed.

I completely agree with everything in this post. If only all dog owners thought this way!

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Dog Rant: Use a collar!

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While waiting for his bus yesterday morning, Mark saw a dog across the street. The dog didn't seem to have a person, but it was just wandering around in a neigborhood, so Mark hoped its person was close by and go on the bus. Just as he did so, the dog crossed the street (using the crosswalk!) right in front of the bus.

The bus stop is on a busy major road. It's not remotely dog friendly. So Mark did what he felt he had to do, and I would have done the same. He resigned himself to getting to work late, got off the bus, and called the dog over to him (out of the street).

The dog was very friendly and came right to Mark. She was an older, overweight chocolate lab with some clear hip issues. No collar or tags.

So Mark borrowed a length of rope from the gas station next to the bus stop, looped it around to make a leash for the dog, and brought her to our house, a few blocks away. Then he called Animal Control to see if there as a missing dog report that matched her description. There was not.

Needing to go to work, Mark asked our neighbor if the dog could stay in her back yard until he got home and could figure out what to do about her. This would at least keep her safe and out of the street. She couldn't stay in our back yard, because our dogs, who are inside during the day, would go ballstic and tear the house apart if she was back there. Our neighbor agreed and Mark went to work.

When Mark got home, he tried to introduce the dog, whom he was calling "Pickles" (which is what we call all random dogs, for reasons unknown to me at this point), to our dogs. She was so friendly to him and to the neighbor, he thought she'd be fine. She wasn't. She growled and snarled at our Leo.

This is, always, our limitus test for dogs staying in our house. We will deal with many things, but threats to Leo are not acceptable. And so, by the time I got hom, Martk had already pretty much resigned himself to having to take the dog to animal control and hope for the best.

We decided, however, to take her on a walk through the neighborhood first, just to see if she would lead us to where she belonged, or if anybody would recognize her. So we leashed her up and began to walk, following her lead.

She led us through the neighborhood where Mark first saw her, then across the major street and down a side street. Along the way, we asked everyone we saw if they knew her, but nobody did.

Then we came to a Montessori School. A little girl and her mother were just leaving the school, and the little girl immediately ran toward her. We asked her mother if she recognized the dog, and she did! In fact, she said, she'd picked up th same dog less than two weeks ago, right here in the school parking lot, along with another dog, a Husky. After having both dogs for two days, she found their owner via a call to Animal Control. She knew the owner's name, and that he lived on the cul de sac of that street, but not which house. So we continued on with the dog, letting her lead.

And she led us directly to the last house on the cul de sac. There was a Husky in the back yard. And nobody was there.

After waiting a few minutes, we decided to ask the neighbors if they recognized the Lab. Just as Mark went to knock on their door, a truck pulled up and the owner of the house hopped out, thanking us for finding his dog, who had gotten scared and bolted during the storm the night before.

Then he told us that she gets out often.

I am very happy this all worked out. It's often not this easy. As much as you'd think maybe they should, dogs don't always lead you back to their homes. But also, honestly, I'm pissed. It is just not that hard to put a collar and tags on your dog. Then, if s/he gets out, the nice person who finds her can simply call you, rather than having to go on a wild goose chase, or make the tough decision to take your pet to an animal control facility that will, in the best case, be uncomfortable and tramautic for him/her.

The owner of this particular dog went on to tell us that since she gets out a lot, they microchipped her. And that's good, but it's not sufficient. A microchip is only useful if the dog is taken to a vet or animal control facility that can read it and find you. It's not useful in the least for the person who disrupts their life to scoop your dog up out of traffic. It's a back-up plan. It shouldn't be your pet's only indentification.

I'm not perfect. My dogs have gotten out before. Once, Huey even got out without a collar on, as we had taken it off to bathe him and hadn't put it back on yet. But that happened once. It should not and does not happen regularly. That would just be irresponsible.

OK. Rant/PSA over. Put a collar on your dog. That's all.

3 Comments

How wonderful of you to have found this dog's home!

Recently a dog was wandering near our home. I could tell he had a collar complete with all of the tags-- including a pet license-- but I could not get him to come to me. I tried treats and using commands and everything for a while. It was difficult because my daughters wanted to go see him but I didn't feel comfortable with that. He just barked and barked at me. I ended up calling animal control, but they never were able to find him. I hope he got back home safely!

I feel fortunate that our dog is such a people-loving girl that she would go up to anyone and they could easily check out her tags.

Blah blah blah. Just wanted to share!

I do try to rescue dogs that I see running on the street, but I won't if they don't have a collar. It is too hard to catch and restrain a dog without a collar and I figure "How will I ever find the owner?" Our pound is 15 miles away and I'm not always willing to go all the way over there to drop off a collarless dog.

Goldie is chipped and tagged and has never gotten out. She isn't much of a runner - the one time the gardener left the gate open, she just sat there looking. What a GOOD pooch.

I couldn't agree more! Our neighbors have a dog that is constantly getting out -- I can't tell you how many times we've returned that dog to his house, and one time the dog got out when nobody was around to notice and he was missing for most of an afternoon. But do these people put a collar and tags on their dog? Of course not! It makes absolutely no sense to me.

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Pepper

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She's leaving tomorrow, and I can't say I'm sad about that. She has been fun and educational, though!

And I thought you might like to see her.

Pepper and Grace

2 Comments

You guys are saints! She's a cutie, but I can see the Lab-crazies in her eyes.

Cute!
but obviously crazy.

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Owners of labs, I salute you

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Mark and I have found ourselves taking care of a five-month-old black lab puppy, Pepper, for a few days. It's an extreme situation, or I never would have volunteered--a five-month-old lab is, to be blunt, not my kind of dog.

I have to be fair to her: She is very sweet. Completely affectionate, absolutely no aggression, very soft mouth (especially for one who is still teething), and fairly good behavior. But even the best behaved dog in the world is a handful at this age, and a dog like a lab, who is really, really supposed to be doing something and not just lying around at my house, has the potential to be completely insane.

So far she hasn't been. She's been maybe...partially insane? She's trying to play with all three of my old man dogs, none of whom really want anything to do with her. Leo sort of humors her, Ata growls at her if she gets too close to him, and Leo barks right up in her face, which may or may not be his version of a playful gesture. But none of them are exactly frolicking material. So she wants to play with us. And play, in this case, means be right on top of every minute. Me especially--her owner told us that she has much more love for women than for men, and that is clearly the case. If I leave the room for even a moment, she sits at the baby gate and whines. Luckily, it hasn't yet occurred to her that she could clear said baby gate in an instant if she had a mind to.

It's frustrating, because I know exactly what she needs. A long walk, a swim, some time on an agility course, some concentrated training. But we are really not in a position to provide those things right now, which is exactly why we don't foster dogs like her normally. I did walk her for nearly an hour this morning, and will try to take her again this evening (not like I can't use the exercise), but she's not getting the stimulation or the activity she needs otherwise.

Makes me realize, again, how much I admire people who do foster dogs like her. People always think we're saintly for taking the old and sick ones, but in many ways, they are easier. Huey hasn't been on a walk in months, and won't be able to go on anything but a very short one for months more. He spends 90% of his time lying down and watching the world go by because that's what he is physically capable of doing (and because that is the time he's at in his life). We don't just take older dogs and larger breed dogs because we like them and because a lot of people won't--we take them because they are lazy!

The other thing that strikes me is that Pepper is a member of one of the most popular dog breeds in America. Many, many people have labs, and may of them have never even had a dog before and have no idea what they are getting into. Going in blind and then having her kind of energy and chaos in your house all of a sudden has to be awful, both for the dog and for the people. It's a rare person who can give a dog like her the environment she really needs in order to thrive, and the way they can behave when they don't get what they need is so totally disruptive that it suddenly begins to make sense why some people hate dogs.

Mostly, having her here makes me realize how lucky I am to know what I do about dogs and about my own limits. Doing rescue work is incredibly important to me, but I would have to restructure my entire life in order to rescue dogs like Pepper. I'd have to become someone I'm not. And it's not just labs--some of my very favorite breeds fall into that category (pit bulls come immediately to mind). If, back when we had no idea what we were doing, we'd have tried to fit these breeds into what is essentially a sedentary lifestyle, I'll bet we never would have even had a dog of our own long term, much less starting doing rescue work.

So, give us your old, your sick, and your extra large. While an occasional few days with the young and hyper is OK and keeps us on our toes, it only reaffirms my commitment to dogs who, like me, find that the best exercise is a good nap.

7 Comments

I just really liked this entry and wanted to comment on it.

I feel your pain. There would have some pretty special circumstances for us to take in a lab puppy! We're tearing our hair out half the time with our 10 lb foster!

How old is Ata? For some reason I thought he's younger than the others.

This is the exact reason I adopted Pixel....Mugsy was a PITA crazy Boston Terrier puppy and I was not up to giving him activity he needed. Pixel was. They're so much happier as a pair.

You know, I think because so many people assume a lab is an "easy" dog, they are numer 1 on the list of biting incidents (at least here they are). Most of them don't get what they need like you describe and turn their frustration into agression. People never understand how our greyhound doesn't need hours and hours of walking (obviously those people don't know much about sprinters vs long-distance runners, lol), but apart from him being senior, I've honestly never met such a lazy dog in my life. A high-energy dog wouldn't fit into our lifestyle right now either. Maybe one day, because I do like a dog you can do stuff with.

Christine

Ah yes, labs. I have not one, but two friends who chose labs as their "impulse pet purchase." One gave the dog away after a few months, and one keeps hers in a crate all the time because it attacked one of her kids. The only people I know who've kept their labs were hunters and people who live on several acres of land.

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Pet pictures

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Haven't you missed them?

Leo got a sock monkey at the bins tonight:

Leo with sock monkey

Atticus cuddles with his dog buddies:

Sphinx kitties:

Sphinx kitties

2 Comments

Awww…I always forget how HUGE the dogs are. Is Leo ok? I saw he had a shaved patch on his leg.

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Love Thursday

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This is what love looks like to me.

sleeping huey

2 Comments

Delicious picture!

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NaBloPoMo #29: Show Me Saturday

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We just took Belle to her new home.

I know I should be thankful, and it's not that I'm not--I like the home a lot for her and I think they'll do well together.

But I'm really, really sad.

belle with stuffie 2

3 Comments

You did a good thing.

Of course you're sad, I understand. But Belle will love her forever home, and perhaps now there's room for another hound to help! I'm sure you've given her the best start in her new life, that's a wonderful thing. You should be proud of yourself. Foster families are the best!!

Christine

Awww, I'm so happy for Belle! She's a very lucky girl.

What a wonderful (though no doubt bittersweet) Thanksgiving gift!

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NaBloPoMo #27: Love Thursday

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I don't think Huey realizes this is the same creature he spends half of his waking hours chasing after and howling.

huey and atticus

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Party at my house

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At about 9pm last night, I looked around at my companions and found that I must be very boring company indeed.

curled up ata 2

sleeping huey

belle on bed 2

sleeping illy 2

Were it not for Leo, I may have gotten lonely.

leo on the couch

4 Comments

How funny. My dog does that too, he saves his excitement for my kid and snoozes whenever he's around me.

Those are beautiful pets, even sleeping.

I love it when they curl up in a circle like the first photo.

You are an extremely soothing presence.

Lol, how funny! And that lovely Leo, he's too cute! Must be his name. ;-)

Christine

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Help Huey?

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Huey close upRemember I told you about Huey, the beagle/porpoise cross we've been fostering who likes cat boxes? Well, it turns out that Mr. Huey needs some surgery. It's nothing huge--he blew out his ACL and it needs to be repaired. It's a fairly common surgery for dogs and has an excellent success rate. Huey will need several months of post-surgical recovery time, but Mark and I love him to death and will be happy to have him into the spring. After that time, there is no reason to believe that he won't go on to leave several more happy and healthy years.

The problem, of course, is that the surgery isn't cheap. As I believe I've mentioned, Hound Rescue has been really swamped these past months--the worse the economy gets, the more dogs are in need. Right now, HR just can't afford a couple of grand for a beagle surgery that isn't life-saving. So, for at least the time being, we're in a holding pattern. Huey is on three legs and we're trying to raise funds.

If you can, please consider helping Huey out. If you click on the Huey button in this post, or on the sidebar, you will be taken to Hound Rescue's donation pages (through Paypal). If you can make a donation, that would be great. Please indicate in the comments that it is for Huey's surgery. And if you can't give but want to help, or want another way to help, please grab the button and post it on your blog or online space.

Thank you!

1 Comments

FYI, it doesn't let you provide a comment within Paypal, but there is a note: "or addt'l notes: email HoundRF@yahoo.com", so I guess that is how you indicate how you want the donation directed.

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NaBloPoMo #1: Show Me Saturday

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Since this is my first post this year, and I am hopeful that I have a few new readers (maybe some of you from the contest stuck around?), I thought it might be a good use of my first Show Me Saturday post to introduce you to the players here in the What If No One's Watching saga.

First, there's me. I'm Grace, and I'll be your host. I'm a 29 year old Oregon native, transplanted in Austin, Texas by reason of education. My Austin-education is over (Masters in Public Affairs that I plan to never use), and my partner's is nearly completed, so we'll be moving on here within the year. I work as a University number cruncher, which is not my passion but does me just fine for now. My actual intellectual passion is U.S. history, and I'm still playing with the idea of getting a Ph.D. in that field some day. My non-work passions are dog rescue (more on that in a minute), reading, movies, crafting, thrifting, and, recently, the English Premiere League (football).

cranky mark drinks wineNext up is Mark, my partner. Mark and I have been together for seven years, and we were friends for four years before that, so we've known each other pretty much our entire adult lives. He's a fantastic human being, even if he doesn't think so. He's a Ph.D. student in neuroscience, and he's very, very smart. He's also truly good-hearted, which he sometimes tries to hide. He's into gourmet cooking and home repair, as well as sharing my passions for dogs and soccer.

Leo close upThe next eldest member of our family is Leo. Leo is a rescue dog. Mark and I adopted him in August of 2005 (read about it here). At that time, we thought he was between 6 and 8. Three plus years later, it's clear he was definitely closer to 6 than 8, because there is no way he's 11 now. 9, maybe. We don't know what Leo's mix is, though we're always game to hear a guess. The current best-guess is Pyr/Old English Sheepdog.

Leo is basically my soul mate in dog form. I loved our previous dog, Chance, whom we lost way way too soon, but Leo...Leo is something else. He truly makes me believe in miracles.

fat atticus 2Our next addition was tabby cat Atticus, in September 2005. We adopted Atticus from a PetSmart, where they were housing cats that had been moved out of shelters to make room for animals orphaned by Hurricane Katrina. It took me a bit to sell Mark on the cat idea, but I really wanted one, and then I met Atticus. His name was Sam then, and he was about 4 months old. All of the the other cats were mellow and friendly. Sam jumped out of my lap and made a mad escape into the store. Yep, that's the one I want. He continues to be alternatively cranky and affectionate, and to love Mark and only barely tolerate me. (You can read Atticus' story here.)

Ata likes to read 2 1-1-2003In January of 2006, we added our second dog, Atakan (pronounced Ah-tah-kahn, called Ata). Ata is another rescue, this time from the next county over's county shelter (read his adoption story here). He was a pathetic case when we adopted him, but has grown into an absolutely beautiful Anatolian Shepherd. With a kind of strange personality. Honestly, if Leo is my dog soul mate, Ata is Mark's. He's socially phobic, yet sort of outgoing. He's a guardian breed with a fear of thunderstorms. He's weird, and atypical and totally awesome.

At this point, with our two dogs and our cat, we thought we were done. The perfect pack. But things happen...

Comfy EsmeWe inherited our tortie cat, Esme, when our good friends moved to Europe. They wanted to take Esme, who they'd adopted not that long before they learned of their move, with them, but they were moving into a small apartment with their two big dogs, and poor Ez wouldn't have had a good place to escape the dogginess. So, in October 2006, she came to us (read that story here). And I will tell you absolutely unequivocably, Esme is my favorite cat. She's our most low-maintenance animal, spending most of her time chilling on or under our bed and in our bathroom, but she's extremely cuddly once she gets to know you (unlike Atticus, she doesn't make a game of showing you her claws). Give her something soft to stretch out in a sunbeam on and let her drink from the faucet when you brush your teeth and she's a happy, happy cat. I adore her.

After Esme, with two of each, we really were done. We were fostering dogs (all of whom have great stories, spread out over the last couple of years--click on the "Dogs" category on the sidebar if you want to read those), and we had a full house. But thing still happen...

kittens playing with illy 4The thing that happened next was Illy. In October 2007, this incredibly scrawny, sick-looking Siamese mix cat showed up in our neighbor's yard. Said neighbors have two great dogs who are not cat friendly, so they brought the scrawny cat over here to ask for our advice/help, since they knew we have cats and do animal rescue. And we said we'd take her (read about it here). We made a cursory effort at finding her people, but she had pretty clearly been stray quite a while, and nothing came of it.

Come to find out, a couple weeks later, that the cat, who we'd dubbed Illy after the espresso company, was pregnant. It was impossible to believe--she was SO little--but there you have it. So we took care of her, she thrived (all she really needed was to be fed, she was already pretty friendly), and in December, she had four healthy kittens (read about them here). She was a great mama, the kittens did wonderfully, and we adopted them all out by Valentine's Day. But kept Illy, who has since grown extremely fat and rules the roost here at our house with an iron paw.

That wraps up our permanent crew. But we do have two long-term temps right now, so I should probably introduce you to them as well. We have been fostering with a local organization called Hound Rescue (see that button on the side bar? Click it to give HR a chance to win some cash!) for a couple of years now. We typically only have one dog at a time, and we often have larger dogs, rather than beagles, but this time we have two beagles.

belle in basketBelle came to us in June, from the city pound, where she had been owner surrender (read about that here). She's one of the nicest and most well-mannered dogs I've ever met. She won't get on furniture, even with an invitation, even though the rest of our crew goes where they want when they want. She's not loud. She's gentle and calm and just fantastic. Plus she's Leo's BFF--they play non-stop, which is wonderful to see in a dog Leo's age. Belle has clearly had a hard road, and she has some scars to prove it (most significantly some pretty advanced cherry eye, which isn't bothering her, but doesn't look so great), but she's come out an incredible dog. She's one of those foster dogs I'd be happy to keep.

huey 2Our more recent addition is Huey P. Long, who came our way in September. Initially we were only supposed to have Huey for a few days before another foster would take him, but the rescue is overrun right now (hard economic times will do that), so we've needed to hang on to him. Huey is very, very fat (he weighted 62.5 lbs on the day we picked him up, hence the name I bestowed him with the minute I saw him). He's also old (9 or 10 is the best guess) and has a host of medical problems (a horrible ear infection when we got him, bad teeth, various lumps and bumps, some skin conditions, arthritis, and most recently a torn ACL which will have to be repaired surgically). Despite all of that, he's a joy. He's active, friendly, and seems to have no idea he's old or sick. He's probably a long-term boarder, given his host of issues, and honestly, that's fine. He can be a bit of pain (likes to bark at the cats), but he's a super sweet dog, and we're enjoying having him.

Whew. How's that for a first post of the month novel? Hope you got through it OK, and now that you've been introduced to the players, you will know who I am talking about when I write my posts for the rest of the month. Welcome to NaBloPoMo at What If No One's Watching. Happy to have you!

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I loved reading everything about you and your family! How cool you're a foster home to those dogs. I'd like to do that one day, once the kids are bigger and we have more space. I love dogs. And you're 29! You spring chicken. ;-)

Christine

Greetings from the blogosphere. I'm also participating in NaBloPoMo, as I have done for the past 2-3 years. In addition to writing my own blogpost each day, I try to leave a comment on someone else's blog. Curiously enough, I start at the end of the alphabet and work my way up. At any rate, your blog title intrigued me, so here I am. Stop by The Zone sometime and say hello!

Love the menagerie you have there!

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Getting in to what you can't get out of

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As you know, we have dogs and cats. As many people who have both species know, dogs, in general, find the contents of litter boxes endlessly fascinating and enticing. Which is, to put it mildly, nasty. In order to combat this problem, we keep our litter boxes in our laundry room and we keep the dogs out of the laundry room with a baby gate that the cats can easily jump over but the beagles are thwarted by (our bigger dogs, thankfully, have no interest in the cat boxes, as they could jump the gate if they wanted to).

Except that Huey the big-ass beag has learned to dislodge the gate somehow. One evening last week, we came home to find the gate down, cat litter all over the floor, and the top to one of the cat boxes missing.

Then we saw this.

stuck huey from the back

That, folks, is a beagle with not just his head, but his entire upper body (including both front legs) stuck in the cat box lid.

Once we got up off the floor and our hysterical laughter subsided, we tried to get it off of him. But not before we took some more pictures.

stuck huey 2

stuck huey

As it turned out, he was well and truly stuck--we couldn't work the box lid off him and had to cut him out of it. He clearly hadn't been like that very long, though, as he wasn't all that agitated and he didn't have any abrasions or anything from trying to get out of it himself. So no danger. Just the funny.

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OMG that's hilarious! Rascal loved kitty boxes also. We haven't had one since we lost our last cat but he's a pro at sniffing them out.

PS. Grace, I love that tile!

OMG That is hilarious.

Too funny! That first photo of him lying on the floor, he seems to be thinking, "While we're bothering with all of this, how about you just scratch my tummy for a while?"

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Why yes, this is a solicitation

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belle in basketAs I've mentioned, Mark and I are very active in dog rescue. We currently have two foster beagles, Belle (who you see in the basket here) and Huey. For the last couple of years, we've been fostering through a great local organization, Hound Rescue. Today we had a Hound Rescue meeting, and we learned, among other things, that the organization is not doing great financially. Mostly, this is due to a recent influx of older and sicker dogs, due, at least in part, to the general economic downturn. People give up their dogs when they can't make ends meet, especially if those dogs are elderly or have health issues (like both Huey and Belle do). In order to keep taking in and taking care of these elderly dogs, the organization needs to refocus on fund raising.

And that's how I want you to help. No, I am not asking you to write a check or Paypal over some cash (though we of course wouldn't turn it down). Rather, I am asking for some mouse clicks. If you go over to The Animal Rescue site, you'll find a contest they are having, the Petfinder Shelter Challenge. Once a day on each computer, you can go there and vote for Hound Rescue in Austin, Texas. If we get the most votes in our state, we get $1,000. If we get the most votes in a given week, we get $1,000. If we win the grand prize, we get $25,000 (that's a lot of beagle care, folks). $1,000 goes quite a long way for these guys, and voting is really no big deal to do, so please take a second (or as many seconds as you can, on different days between now and December 14), and give us a vote.

Over on my side bar you'll see a button that will take you straight to the voting. Just come back to WINOW and click on it anytime.

Thank you!

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Our house, 10pm, Monday

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It is their world, we just live in it.

mark with the boys

mark with the boys 4

mark with the boys 2

1 Comments

Guess there's no room for you, huh? LOL

That's adorable!

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Our newest boarder

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So we have too many dogs. It's a fact. Our current crew includes our two and two foster beagles.

And now, number 5.

This is her:

stray rott mix

rott mix 2

Hopefully she'll be a very short term addition. Mark found her running down the street this morning. We're betting she's a neighborhood dog that escaped her yard, and have put up some signs and contacted our animal shelter. She's got a Home Again tag, but it's registered to our local animal control, implying that she was adopted there and it was never re-registered. We'd hoped they would be able to tell us to whom she was adopted, but so far they aren't returning phone calls.

So, until we find her family, she's hanging out with us. Luckily she's got a great personality--very sweet, mellow, and loving. The only big problem is that she can't be trusted in the yard. She tries to swim in the pond.

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Ha! I'm sorry she tries to swim in the pond, but that is adorable. If she tries it again, please get a picture!

Somebody obviously doesn't care enough about her to trim her nails. That makes me so mad!

Bless you for taking her in. She looks like a sweet dear.

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When you cross a beagle with a porpoise

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You get Huey.

huey 2

huey p long

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I love love love it when dogs and cats lie that way!

My first Shih Tzu used to lay like that all the time.

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They would run us oughtta Jesus Maria

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Seems that a "middle class neighborhood" in Lima, Peru, has passed an ordinance whereby apartment dwellers are only allowed to have one dog; detached home dwellers are allowed two. The reason? Barking dogs were decreasing quality of life in the neighborhood. And somehow, having fewer dogs in each home is going to fix that.

This would really piss me off if it didn't seem so patently ridiculous. I mean, I know there are various ways that people think it's OK for the government, at whatever level, to infringe on our lives, but this one seems particularly odd. Enough to turn a girl into a Libertarian.

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Interesting. It actually seems like those sorts of laws/regulations are fairly common - e.g. I think many towns limit the number of pets you can keep, and certainly they limit the types of pets you can keep. I guess I'm not sure how this is different than ordinances that you can only have 12 or less cats, except maybe that the barking rational makes less sense.

What are your thoughts on those types of laws in general??

I would pay extra money to not have to live near babies or pets. That's the libertarian way!

That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for extrapolating. It does seem that there should be a 'override' that allows rescuers and other responsible owners to keep more pets. Hm...

Are they citywide ordinances, or neighborhood association style laws?

I'm totally against neighborhood association rules, but I do think cities should be able to ban dogs from their city limits.

I can see why they'd want to prevent hoarders and suchlike (especially ones who don't take the dogs out to sh*t and don't clean it up off the floor!) but ime a dog with company is less likely to bark than a lonely dog. So only allowing one is not the best way of stopping barking.

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Funny

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Well, funny for passers by, anyway. Not so much funny for me until afterwards.

Picture this:

An overweight and completely out of shape woman, dressed in nearly see-through PJ pants that are three sizes too big, a tee shirt that is several sizes too small and shows her belly rolls, and flip flops. With no bra. Running down a residential street at her absolute top speed, after a very short beagle who, despite her 2" legs, manages to stay just ahead of her.

At 2pm.

She's out to get me.

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Beagles are notorious escapers! I suggest you remain fully dressed at all times in case of repeat offenses.

With any luck they'll have been looking at the cute dog rather than your clothes. :)

Have I ever been there. My parents' beagle of 17 years attempted and managed many escapes, including the time she took off on the leash while I was standing on a patch of ice (I have scar from that one), and the time she almost ran away with a Canadian family who offered her snacks.

She was also famous for burying edible items in the house. There is nothing like sitting down on a living room chair and discovering a half-chewed rawhide bone while searching for the remote...or having to explain to one's exchange student in a mix of French and English why the candy stash her mom so lovingly packed for her has been removed to the floor one's closet.

HA! What a great image. She sounds like a dog who is going to give you many stories.

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Belle update

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A few weeks back, I introduced you to our newest foster foundling, Belle. It occurs to me to give an update:

belleFirst: Belle is doing great. We love having her. She's got a fantastic personality--she's incredibly loving, obedient, and eager to please. She is getting along great with our pack, particularly Leo, with whom she's gotten quite close. They play every day, and he grooms her. She is definitely good for him.

She's warmed up to us quickly as well. Though she clearly wasn't well taken care of when we got her, she just as clearly hasn't been abused and has had good relationships with people. She's very trusting. After a few nights in the crate, we thought she was trustworthy, so we put a bed for her in our room. It's so cute how excited she was. She trots right in there and lies right down when we're going to bed, and doesn't move all night. She's also pretty clearly been trained--she refuses to come up on to furniture even if we invite her.

We've been extremely lucky with our fosters, and Belle is definitely another in that line of luck.

belleAll of the above is good, since it seems we might have Belle for a while. After consulting with our vet this weekend, we've decided not to have her cherry eye surgically corrected. In a dog her age, who has clearly had the condition for quite some time, the procedure could very well do more harm than good. While the cherry eye itself is mostly a cosmetic problem (unless the exposed glands get scratched or dry out or become infected, but Belle's seem very healthy), the surgery would have a good chance of leaving her unable to produce tears for the rest of her life. This wouldn't be unbearable--but it would necessitate eye drops multiple times a day for the rest of her life.

So the cherry eyes, pending any additional problems with them, will stay. Sadly, this significantly changes Belle's prospects at adoption. I feel very sure we'll find a perfect family for her eventually, but it will likely take longer than placing a totally healthy and cosmetically perfect dog. As it happens, that's fine--we're happy to keep her for as long as she needs to stay.

In the meantime, if you know anybody in the Austin area who is looking for an extremely well behaved and absolutely lovely dog who happens to have funny eyes, do let me know.

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Three years

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Three years ago this week, we lost our first baby.

We still miss you Chancey.

grace and chance

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Oh, you are making me cry! It is so hard to see dear dogs go.

Aw...what a great picture! He looks SO much like Gorm...they would have had a time, I tell you.

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5th of July

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We had such a lovely 4th of July. A few friends, the best burgers I've had in years, some really tasty watermelon, a homemade pie, a few drinks. Really a splendid time. I insisted we go "All-American" with the food: burgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, apple pie. It was so good. And the company was just as excellent as the food.

The best part? It's still only Saturday morning. There's a whole weekend left! So I can give in to my exhaustion and just laze around this morning, not doing any chores, and still have plenty of time to get everything that needs doing done before Monday.

I'm making my way through The Last Emperor this weekend (from my Oscar moving watching project). I'm only about an hour and a half in, but I am really enjoying it so far, or at least enjoying it more than I had expected to. It is unfortunately racist, but I know almost nothing about Chinese history, so it is interesting from that angle, plus I really like the main actor, John Lone. Next up is Out of Africa. Can't say I'm all that excited. Ghandi is after that, though, and that is one of the ones I haven't seen but feel that I should have that got me started on this project to begin with.

Belle the foster beagle is doing exceptionally well. Her ringworm seems to be healing up nicely (hopefully--she's got to go back to the vet for a re-check next week) and she's got a lovely personality. She sleeps right next to our bed now--we're only crating when we're gone. She is still terrorizing the cats a little bit, but that's good for them.

OK. Off to at least put in some laundry before I begin my day of serious loafing.

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We spent the day taking shifts holding a screaming baby with a 101 degree temperature and forcing him to swallow motrin and antibiotics for an ear infection.

Oh, wait, we spent the night doing that too.

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New addition

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We picked up a new foster dog, Belle, on Saturday morning. The story is a bit long and complicated, but basically she'll be staying with us for a while. She has a few health issues--short term, some allergies and ringworm, and longer term, cherry eye--and she'll need some taking care of before she can be put up for adoption.

The hard part is happening right now--because ringworm is contagious to both us and our other pets, she has to be quarantined until she's no longer contagious (72 hours after we began her treatment, more or less). That means she has to spend any time that we can't supervise her outside in a crate. She's taking it very well--minimal fussing and crying--but it's still a pain. Her house manners show every indication of being very good, so it will be nice when she can be out and about with our dogs and cats (and when we can pet her without fear of contamination).

Once the ringworm has cleared up and she's had a couple of weeks of good food and being taken care of, we'll get her in for a surgical consult for her cherry eye. Hopefully it's fixable. The concern is that her eyelids have been prolapsed for too long already and it won't be reparable. We'll have to wait and see.

So, meet Belle:


2 Comments

what are doggies allergic to?

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List 21: Favorite dog breeds

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I got this meme from Sarahlynn:

What dog breed are you? I'm a Bulldog! Find out at Dogster.com

Not necessarily accurate, but funny anyway. And made me think, what are my favorite dog breeds? If I have to hold it down to say, 10, which ones do I choose? Thus, today's list.

Grace's Top 10 Dog Breeds
irish-wolfhound10. Akita
9. Rottweiler
8. Beagle
7. Otterhound
6. Great Pyrenees
5. American Staffordshire Terrier
4. Anatolian Shepherd Dog
3. Mastiiff
2. Bernese Mountain Dog
1. Irish Wolfhound

Gee, do you think I maybe have a type?

1 Comments

hah! i am a jack russell. just like prince...for whatever that's worth.

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Pick me ups

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Some mornings, you just need a pick me up (or two). Luckily, we have the Internets. My personal pick me up predilection? Dogs adopting other animals.

daschund and piggie
Dachshund Adopts Piglet

boxer and goat
Boxer Adopts Goat

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I love these. I saw them this morning on Fark and emailed them to co workers.

dude if you want to go thrifting while i am in town, i am totally pro-that.

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Impossible not to love them

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Check out this idyllic scene from my house last night.

Atticus and Yuel sleeping next to each other in the same position

1 Comments

Aw, peace in the kingdom. I love your dog - looks a bit like mine. In other words, gorgeous.

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Something new

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(This is my second post for the OTHER mother's carnival.)

Last night, in a small corner of the world about which not all that many people care, history was made. Something new happened.

A beagle won Westminster.

unoWhat you see here is the 15-inch beagle, Ch K-Run's Park Me In First, or Uno, being crowned the top dog in the nation.

Why do I care? Well, a few reasons. The first is that I love to see a dog from a working breed of any sort win. A dog that functions first as a dog, not as a showpiece. And beagles, who have changed not much at all from their hunting stock, definitely fit that bill. Secondly, I love to see breeds that don't usually win take the big trophy. If you look here, you can see a list of the historical winners of the show over the past 100 years. Lots of terriers. Spaniels. Poodles. Almost no working dogs, and few hounds of any kind (all I see is a couple of Afghans). So a beagle winning is unprecedented, which is great. Third, I loved watching Uno show--he's a perfect show dog. Great movement, beautiful coat, fantastic stack. Loved it.

And finally? Mark and I are, at present, hound rescuers. We see first-hand the surplus of beagles and how badly they need homes. Having one in the news could increase interest, which could increase our possible adopters. That's not a bad thing.

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wow. i have a whole new appreciation for beagles. thanks for the news, and even more importantly, thanks for your work as hound rescuers!

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Not all bad

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Lest you think things at my house are all bad, I give you the following photo series:

mark and leo.jpg

mark and leo 2.jpg

mark and leo 3.jpg

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Bad news from the homefront

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mom and bellaEmail dispatch from my mom:

Now, the bad news. Bella started having seizures Sat. night she had 5 that I know of. Then Sun. night she had one every 1-2 hours. I think she had been having them during the day Sun. too, I just didn't see any. Mon. she kept having them during the day. When she wasn't having a seizure she was mostly out of it. I didn't see but two, but I know she had some outside too from the way she looked and she was covered on the back with mud (she is on her back when they are happening.) Before when she had them they never went more than two days - and she only had a cluster of 2-4 each day. I thought she would probably be over them and be good for another month or so. But when she was so bad Sun. night and Mon. I knew we had to do something. Anyway, George took me to the school Mon. afternoon and I worked for 1 hr. When we got back Bella was dead on the porch. Evidently she had one that she just didn't come out of, or maybe had a heart attack or something. I don't' know. I had decided that we were probably going to have to have her put down on Tues. but I felt really bad we weren't there. The seizures were awful though and I know she is better off. It's pretty sad though. We feel pretty bad. It helps that Hank is here during the day. I could have dealt with her having a few every couple of months but these were almost non stop and she didn't deserve to have to go through that.

Hope you're in a better place, Bella.

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I am so sorry. :(

If I have ever had to go through anything in my life harder than losing a pet, I cannot recall what it may have been.

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Repose

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I am cool with the lion bedding down the lamb and all that, but do they have to do it on my bed?

ata and cats on bed

(The photo is of a large white dog, Ata, stretched out on the bed, along with two cats, the tabby, Atty, and the tortie, Esme.)


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Dog breeds

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E vet

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We spent a couple of hours last night with Leo at the emergency vet. Always a good time. Nothing to worry about, he'll be fine, but still, stressful.

On Friday night, Leo and Ata got into it briefly over something (not sure what). This never happens, so it was scary in and of itself, but what was scarier was that Leo fell and got a pretty gnarly, though small, puncture wound (I think from something on the dog crate he fell against, but honestly I'm not sure--Ata didn't bite him, though, it had to be from the fall). It looked pretty clean and not terrible, and wasn't bleeding much, so we just cleaned it up and bandaged it. However, by last evening it was clear that he was developing cellulitis in the leg below where he was cut, so off to the emergency vet we went.

Two plus hours later, we left with a newly cleaned and wrapped wound, a bottle of antibiotics, a $150 bill, and directions to follow up with our regular vet on Monday. So now we're checking and re-wrapping every 12 hours, trying to keep him from chewing on it, watching for infection, and administering antibiotics with the tried-and-true peanut butter method.

The thing is that the emergency vet hospital that is closest to us, where we spent much of our evening yesterday, is the same one to which Chance was rushed when he got bloat at the kennel. And I know Mark and I were both thinking about that as we waited with Leo. Chance dying was so terrible, and although we intellectually know that Leo is old and we can't expect to him to be happy and healthy and alive forever, it still turns us cold to imagine losing him like we did Chance. Because of that, the emergency vet's concern over Leo's heart murmur, which seems to be getting worse, was particularly troubling.

I know I've posted this here before, but I love this dog. Like I don't think I've ever loved another creature. He is just all good. Even when he misbehaves (which has been happening more lately, oddly), I can't get mad at him. I don't care how bad he smells (and y'all, he does not smell good), or how much his ridiculous vet care costs, or how gross he gets (nasty stuff stuck in his beard and worse). This is as close as I think I'll ever get to unconditional love. And any time he has to go to the vet, I'm filled with dread that this will be the visit where we find out what is going to kill him. Morbid, isn't it? But probably not surprising.

Anyway, it looks like this time he'll be fine. And I will once again remember to treasure every day we have with him.

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I'm so glad he is going to be okay. He sounds like a wonderful creature.

Poor Leo, and poor you and M! I am glad he is going to be ok. Rub his belly for me, please. (I miss it so!)

Gah. I understand the dread of the emergency vet. I'm glad it went well. Damn them for not outliving us.

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Smeagol

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Mark has started calling Yogi Smeagol the Beagle. Which is funny, really.

ata%20and%20yogi.jpg
Smeagol totally attacked Ata like 2 seconds after this picture was taken.
(The photo is of Ata, a very large white dog, and Yogi, a largish beagle, lying close together and smiling.)

yogi%20looking%20up.jpg
Clearly a killing machine.
(The photo is of Yogi looking up with an angelic expression.)

yogi.jpg
And so miserable!
(The photo is of Yogi with a big smile on his face.)

Happy Sunday, y'all. Gotta go help with the lemon-poppyseed Challah French toast now.

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I can see the look in Smeagol's eye. She is planning something.

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Meet Yogi

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The foster dog of the moment is the very lovely Mr. Yogi Bear.

Yogi looking up

yogi looking back

yogi close up

1 Comments

Awwww! He looks SO snuggly.

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Tucker

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On Friday evening, Eugene went to his new home. All signs are good there and I think it will be a great situation for his new family (which includes a not-quite-five year-old boy) and for him.

On Saturday, we inherited our new foster dog, Tucker, from another foster home who needed to get him out in order to make room for a new high needs dog. Tucker already has an adopter lined up, so we will only have him for 1-2 weeks (until we can make transportation arrangements, as his new adopter is out of town).

Tucker is a 14-month old bloodhound. He is very much on the skinny side (and eating 8 cups of high energy puppy food a day!) and weighs about 100 lbs. He's a big, big boy. He's also a drooler, and has an amazing bark/bay. He's a big sweet love. He's not at all what we expected to have next, so we've had to make some adjustments, but I think he's going to be just fine. Doesn't he look like one of ours already?

Tucker on the couch

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Poor skinny baby. :( Glad to see him settling in so quickly.

That face!!

Holy eff, what an enormous puppy!

How are you all doing with Eugene's adoption, btw?

We're doing fine. Mark is 100% fine, and I am getting there. I got an email from his adopters this morning that said he's fitting in well and already sleeping next to their little boy, so it sounds like a good situation. I do miss him, though.

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What we find, and what finds us

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When I was a kid, I used to tell people I was going to travel the world and get pregnant in different countries and end up with a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic brood of kids. As I got older and understood adoption, I decided I'd do it that way. I had in mind a family that looked a bit like Brad and Angelina's, actually. I loved the idea that I would have a family that had all come from different places, at different ages, and had different life experiences. In my biological family, people tend to resemble each other quite a bit physically, talk in similar ways, and live in similar conditions. I wanted something more exotic (remember, this is when I was a kid, please, and no flames for what I now recognize as a pretty obnoxious thought patterns). A mixed bag.

As an adult, I have no plans to adopt an international brood. Or, really, to adopt even one child (at anytime soon, anyway). But it occurred to me today that my motley passel of canines and felines in some ways fits the dream I had all that time back, without the nasty using-kids-as-accessories undertone. The folks who came to visit Eugene the other day asked us where our dogs had come from, and this started us down a path of explaining it to them, and in doing so, I realized that the stories are pretty funny. We haven't gotten a pet from a breeder, but we've gone just about every other route.

Our first dog, Chance, came to us from Blue Dog Rescue, a local multi-breed rescue organization. Chance had been a puppy at the city pound who was adopted for a year and then given back to the pound, where the rescue picked him up.

After Chance died, we adopted Leo from another multi-breed rescue organization, this one several hours away. Leo was found living alone on a farm in the middle of nowhere, pretty clearly abandoned. More than any of our other pets, Leo was "shopped" for, only really, it was just that the pictures of him drew me in and I couldn't not go get him.

After we'd had Leo a few months, we adopted Atticus. Atty was a kitten born at the county shelter the next county over, but I found him at Petsmart, where they were displaying local shelter animals in the hopes of clearing the shelters out to make more room for animals after Hurricane Katrina.

A few months later, we added Atakan. Ata was our first true pound puppy, rescued off doggie death row at the county kill-shelter with fleas, mange, a horrible ear infection, and nearly starved to death. He'd been picked up as a stray. He was our biggest risk, with clear health issues, no temperament testing, and no sure way to even tell his breed. We had no idea what we were getting into.

About a year later, we added another cat, Esme. Essy came to us from our good friends when they moved to Norway to a small apartment where she wouldn't have an easy way to stay away from their dogs, who are friendly but not much for respecting kitty peace and privacy. She was born a barn cat in Oklahoma and came to our friend by way of her parents.

Now, finally, we have our new kitty (still no name), who is your basic off-the-street stray, found by our next door neighbors and brought to us because we now have a reputation as people who will help animals in need.

Twenty years ago, or even ten, this wasn't what I pictured. Pets, beyond perhaps a fish, were never my intention, and certainly I didn't think of myself spending my future living in what is quickly turning into a menagerie of lost or discarded animals. Each new addition has been sure to be the last for a while, and yet the more of them there are, the easier it becomes to open our arms one more time, make a little more space on the couch and in the budget. And the more sure I am that the offensive crap about multi-colored babies I spouted as a child was, in fact, coming from somewhere inside me, something I knew I was meant to do. I just didn't know then that the babies would be of the furry and four legged variety, or that I could get them all within a few square miles and still have them be so different and have come so far.

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Pictures with Eugene

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I am going to have SUCH a hard time letting this dog go.

grace and eug 1

grace and eug 3

grace and eug 4

grace and eug 2

grace and eug 5

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Ellen and pet rescue

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OK, so Ellen DeGeneres adopted a dog from a rescue organization. The dog didn't work out with her cats. Rather than returning it to the rescue, as the contract she signed stated she was obligated to do, she gave it to her her hairdresser (read about it here). When the rescue called to check on the adoption and was informed that that dog had been given away, a rescue representative went to the home of the hairdresser (who has pre-teen children) and reclaimed the dog. The Ellen went on her show crying and apologizing, saying that she thought she had done the right thing by finding the dog a family, and that the rescue is not a home or a family, and that her mistake shouldn't be taken out on the dog or the children, who had become attached to it.

Got it?

Now imagine livid little me.

Ellen's "I guess I signed a piece of paper that says if I can't keep Iggy, it goes back to the rescue organization" doesn't cut it. If you adopt a pet from a rescue, it is standard procedure to agree to give the pet back to the rescue if you cannot care for it. There is a really good reason for this--rescue organizations put a ton of time and money into their rescues, and we are absolutely committed to finding appropriate homes for our animals. Your home may have been screened and found appropriate, but that doesn't mean the home of whomever you decide to give the animal to will, and it is both the right and the responsibility of the rescue to make sure the placement is healthy and happy.

The obligation of the rescue is not to you, to the family you decide to give your pet away to, or to any other human. The responsibility of the rescue is to find the best placement for that pet. And even if the family to whom DeGeneres gave the dog is perfect, the responsible thing for the rescue to do, in my opinion, is to reclaim that dog until that judgment can be made. I understand why that would be hard on the kids in that family, but the emotions of those kids cannot be the rescue priority--the rescue priority HAS to be the dog.

DeGeneres' flip attitude toward this rescue policy (which is, to my mind, the single most important policy a rescue can have) is the thing that bothers me most. To me, it implies that she never took rescuing seriously enough--she clearly didn't even read the contract! I also wonder about her reasons for giving up the dog--shouldn't it have been tested with her cats before the adoption ever happened?

We will probably have an adoption go through for Eugene this week. Not only will the adopters sign a contract that says they'll return Eugene to us if they can't keep him for any reason, we also institute a seven day trial period wherein Eugene will live with them but can be returned to us at any time if it isn't working, for a full refund of his adoption fee. Mark and I will make sure our adopters are aware of both of these clauses before they ever take possession of the animal for which we've been caring. And if we find out down the line that they decided to give him away to someone we've never heard of, rather than bringing him back to us, you can bet your ass I'll be at that person's door taking the dog back. He's my obligation.

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I couldn't agree with you more. When I saw Ellen first bring that puppy on her show, she admitted that she really shouldn't get a puppy because she's so busy. Then she said something about him being so cute. She reinforced the general public's tendency to make impulse decisions regarding adopting pets just because an animal is cute without thinking about the responsibility involved. She had no right to place that dog and the rescue organization is not obligated to return this puppy to a home they never would have placed the puppy in in the first place.

OK - Ellen signed an agreement with the agency and clearly violated that agreement. How does that give the agency the authority to enter someone elses home and take their "property"? - I hate to refer to a pet as property, but use the term for legal discussion.

If the agency has some kind of legal claim to title of the dog (again with the property talk) - they should have / could have obtained a court order. My understanding is that they did not repossess the dog thru legal channels but thru intimidation tactics. If so - where do they get off with their talk about being bullied by Ellen?

I would suggest that the family file a theft complaint with the local police.

I have discussed this so many times over the past few days that I am honestly just about done talking about it. However, I will say two things:

1. I don't think this rescue handled things well.

2. I still think that the return clause is absolutely essential to good rescue.

Grace - I don't disagree with either statement. I think a well written return clause makes a lot of sense. I just think than in order to enforce it - especially against someone who wasn't a party to the agreement - you MUST go thru the courts. Mutts and Moms is very lucky that they haven't been sued (yet) because of their action.

One note on this particular agency. They waived Ellen thru their screening process because of who she is - then they complain about her using her public platform when things don't go well. They didn't handle the matter well at all (the adoption, the return, or the PR aftermath) - the worse part is the damage they are doing to well run rescue agencies.

Obviously not my area of expertise, but when rules come before an actual relationship with an animal a family who wants and can take care of a pet has, that seems bad. Good rule, bad application.

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This dog has had enough for now.

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I don't usually post the images from my dog-of-the-day calendar here, because, well, it would get annoying. And also probably be copyright infringement. But because today is Friday, and because it is not yet 9 AM and I am already fed up, I'm making an exception:

picture of frowning dog

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Eugene

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I just realized I haven't introduced you all to our new foster dog, Eugene.

eugene

After our long break from fostering, we decided it was time to start up again. Since our house is pretty much in shambles anyway (more even than usual--I actually put my foot through the shower wall the other night), there isn't much they can hurt, and we're going to be home steadily from now until Christmas. So we went last week and met a beagle mix, at the pound, and Saturday we brought him home. And named him Eugene, because we're cruel like that.

Eugene is a fantastic dog. He's clearly been someone's beloved and cherished pet. He is the cuddliest thing ever, loves to sit on your lap and sleeps contentedly (and quietly!) right next to me at night. I really wish I could find his people, as I'd assume he lost them, but since I can't, I am dedicated to finding him a great family to replace them. Honestly, I'd keep himself if given half the chance.

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Eugene is simply lovely. I feel sure that he is going to make someone very, very happy. His white fur is so white that it glows!

What a sweetie! Love the ears. :)

I so miss your menagerie . . . :(

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Making Monday easier

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If you are having that cranky Monday feeling this morning, I suggest taking a trip over to the American Humane website, where they have posted the winners and finalists of their pet photo contest.

Not as good as another hour's sleep, maybe, but it'll do.

P.S. This one is my favorite, hands down.

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Woohoo Austin!

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The Austin city council has passed an anti-chaining ordinance! Basically, it states that it will be illegal as of October 1 to chain or tether your dog and leave him/her. It further states that dogs who live in outdoor pens or kennels must have at least 150 square feet of space per adult dog. These are both big advances in humane pet ownership and I'm thrilled that the city council has taken this stand. Now I am crossing my fingers for actual enforcement.

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Update on Michael Vick

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There is news today that Michael Vick is entering a plea bargain in his dog fighting case. It sounds as if he may well do some actual prison time for his crimes, though probably not much. His sponsors are pretty much all ending their relationships with him, and he's currently suspended from the NFL. I wouldn't be surprised if he never plays again.

It's not nearly enough.

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Shilling for dog toys

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Leghorn toyChance (my former dog, for those who are newer to the blog) was hell on toys. He loved to chew and pull on things and was a big dog with a very powerful set of chompers, so things didn't last too long around him. Due to this predilection for destruction, and the ridiculous cost of dog toys, we learned fairly quickly that Goodwill stuffed animals were the best way to go. Since they were just going to be gutted in short order anyway, it didn't much matter how ugly or silly looking they were.

Leo and Ata (current dogs) aren't anywhere near as hard on toys, or as excited about toys, as Chance was. They'll sniff and lick and lightly chew on anything new that comes into the house, but once they've thoroughly explored whatever it is, it's likely to sit in the toy basket for a month before either one of them thinks to pick it up again. We have holiday-specific stuffies from at least a year ago, and when something does get thrown out, it's usually because it's just gotten too damn dirty, not because it's been eviscerated.

So, since dog toys now have a longer life span, we have to buy fewer of them and look at the ones we do buy for longer. Time, perhaps, to step up the quality a notch from Goodwill leftovers.

And I've found the perfect thing.

Cheeky Squeaky Pets are just your basic plushies with squeakers, nothing all that exceptional, except they are SO DAMN CUTE. They come with their own funny names and little stories, and they make me smile when I look at them. They sell for about $10 each at pet stores and on their website, but they're also available at dog.com (my favorite source for dog stuff online--check out their prices on Greenies) for about $5. I added a couple of them to my last order on a whim, and the boys are loving them (and continuing to not tear them up). I think they're going to be my new go-to toy for people with new dogs/rescue homes. I'll just buy a bunch of them and keep them in my gift tub.

C'mon, doesn't your canine baby (or feline baby--I think they do cat toys too) need a new toy?

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The Goodwill toy with the tennis ball that we just brought home was DESTROYED this morning at our house in under 15 minutes. I have never seen fuzz come off a tennis ball that fast in my life.

Chance was the worst on tennis balls. I swear he swallowed them whole. We have to give up on them completely for fear they were going to get stuck in his digestive tract. I don't think either Leo or Ata would lower himself to run after a tennis ball, though. Lazy ass dogs.

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FlexPetz

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I've been meaning, for a bit of time, to write about FlexPetz (no link from me, fuck them) and how much I hate the whole concept and how it makes me want to vomit. However, Laurie at BlogHer wrote a post this morning that made all of my major points without extraneous cursing, so go her.

One thing I will add is this: if you want an animal in your life, but don't feel ready to foster in your home, then you should really look into volunteering with an animal shelter or rescue. You can help homeless pets without putting them or yourself in a situation that is destined to fail. Pets should not be consumables, to be bought, or, in the case of FlexPetz, rented. While I can think of nothing in my life that has been as singularly rewarding as working in animal rescue, the rewards it brings to me are absolutely the wrong reason to do it. It has to be for them, first, last, and always.

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See I thought this was a good idea for several reasons:
1. for kids. i think this is way preferable to kids thinking they could take care of a pet, getting it, and then giving it away in a few months. i thought this would be perfect when kids think they are responsible enough to have a pet, but aren't really. you could show them by adopting one for a day and showing them how much work it is.

2. people who know little about dogs, but want to try out a few breeds to see which one would be best.

3. people who are allergic to pets, and want to try out if a hypoallergenic pet is REALLY hypoallergenic or if they are allergic to certain breeds.

All of these goals can be achieved by volunteering, fostering, or working with breed-specific rescues to meet dogs of particular breeds - any of those choices makes a positive contribution instead of treating the dog as an object that can be taken out and played with when convenient.

Okay so if I foster a dog and figure out that I am allergic to him within an hour, how is he any better off? Are there a lot of purebreds available for me to foster to check my allergies?

And if the whole point is to bring a pet home for a day to convince your kid that they aren't responsible enough for a pet, fostering a pet doesn't really achieve that.

I just don't think it's evil to all pets to find a good fit between owner and pet, to make sure you're ready for a pet, and to save pets that would otherwise be euthanized. It's a pet one night stand!

Thanks for the shout-out, Grace.

Jenny - the "one night stand" factor is exactly the problem with these services. Sorry for your allergies, but dogs shouldn't have to be shuttled around like this to meet human needs. That's why pet rescues exist - people get in over their heads with animals they can't handle and give them up. I've had dogs for a long time and have known many people with pet allergies. They can usually tell within an hour or so if they're going to be affected. My ex could handle no pet hair or dander. He would start sniffling within a half hour or so of being in my parents' house. And given that allergies change with seasons, I wouldn't bank on it that you'd always have the same reaction.

Fostering is typically done by people who have a love for dogs in general or a particular breed, who care for them while permanent homes are being found. It's often the only alternative to sending them to a kill shelter. This kind of rental service is horrible for dogs, in my opinion. If you foster to see if you're allergic, what if you're allergic immediately and have to remove the dog from the home? A rescue organization wouldn't likely approve you to foster knowing that was a danger.

You can attend breed-specific dog shows or club meetings in your area to hang around with the animals and see if you can handle it. And as for the kids - if you feel they're not ready for a dog, tell them no. It worked for my mom. I didn't have a dog til I was out on my own. If you really want the kids to see the reality, have them hang out with a friend or family member who has a dog.

HOpe you find a dog that meets your needs, if it's the right time and place for you to have one. : )

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In which I hate on Michael Vick and the SCLC

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So I have been refraining from posting anything about Michael Vick, mostly because I didn't think my blog readers needed to have their eyes assaulted by the inevitable onslaught of profanity that would ensue. I also didn't think my repeated wishes of great pain and suffering to Vick would put me in the best light. However, today it was brought to my attention that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is planning to honor Vick at their 50th anniversary celebration this weekend.

Honestly, there are no words for the pure rage that fills me with.

The SCLC has done fantastic work, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott through the March on Washington, voter registration drives, etc. I am fully in support of their history, even if my loyalties tend to lie with more radical organizations. Choosing to honor a man who is currently facing charges of horrendous, sadistic animal abuse, however, is beyond the pale (hit Google if you want info on Vick's case, I really don't have it in me to go through those stories again). How can the SCLC choose to honor Vick for his outstanding humanity? The message they send by doing so it terrible in two ways. First, it implies that Vick's alleged crimes against animals make no difference is his great humanity; and secondly, it implies that they couldn't find any other great black people to honor who actually are outstanding humans. This choice is offends me not only as a dog advocate, but as a human being. It's not just completely without regards to the animals abused and destroyed by Vick and others like him, it's also really racist.

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More foster pup pictures

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I just couldn't resist...

Sonny close-up

sonny sticking out his tongue

Ruby in profile

Ruby

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Stop. You are killing me.
Zib

Soooo sweet! Makes me want a dog. Or a dozen dogs.

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Fosters

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It occurred to me that I haven't introduced you all to our current foster pups. Yes, that's plural--we have two. We didn't mean to have two, it's just that Ruby, the little one, was in a high-kill situation and needed an immediate placement. We're hoping not to have her for too long, though honestly she's a joy so far (could be because she was just spayed on Tuesday and her energy is still kind of low).

Anyway, the bigger one on the left is Sonny and the smaller one on the right is Ruby.

Sonny and Ruby

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They're adorable! Poor Ruby does look a little low-energy, though, poor girl.

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New foster dog: Jake!

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jake.jpgMeet our newest foster pup, Jake! Jake is a four to five year old black & tan coonhound mix (maybe mixed with Doberman, or at least that's the best guess we've heard so far). As you can see, he's very very skinny. He has had a hard life, and spent the last several months (maybe more than a year) roaming without a home. He got into some kind of a scrap with a critter of some variety (the guess is raccoon) and got a bad bite on his back leg, which got really really infected. Then some good person picked him up and took him to the vet, who fixed up the leg and got in touch with us, and now he's walking fine, infection free, and at our house.

It will be a bit before Jake is ready to be adopted--he needs to finish his course of antibiotics, and he needs to gain some weight. Right now, he has worms, which is impeding his weight gain, but that will be cleared up pretty quickly. He's either had some sort of throat surgery or been debarked, as he has a large scar on his neck and no real bark (a howl/whine instead). And he's totally sweet--he is very affectionate, playful with the other dogs, and just wants to be loved and taken care of. We're working on his manners (he's a jumper), but otherwise is no trouble at all, so we aren't going to mind taking care of him until we find him a perfect home.

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You were right, he's so skinny! But such a cutie. I think I'll come steal him.

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Sounds like we're fostering right breed!

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ORLANDO, Fla. --A 17-pound beagle named Belle is more than man's best friend. She's a lifesaver. Belle was in Washington, D.C., on Monday to receive an award for biting onto owner Kevin Weaver's cell phone to call 911 after the diabetic Ocoee man had a seizure and collapsed.

Heh. Awesome! Go here for the rest.

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Layla barked at a kitchen fire once (before we knew it was there), but she's got nothin' on Belle.

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Catch up

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I haven't written in a few days, but it's been busy! Lots going on!

First, Friday found his forever home, and it's a great situation. He's living with a single man who was obviously just yearning for a dog. The guy works at home, so Friday has his own full-time person, and his own giant yard (at least twice the size of our yard). His person is not at all adverse to getting another dog in the future, and there are dogs living on both sides of his new home, so he won't be lonely for canine companionship either. A match made in heaven.

oliver_edie_small.jpgBut we weren't without additional dogs for long. Our new fosters, Edie the middle-aged heavyweight, beautifully-tempered beagle and Oliver the rambunctious puppy joined our pack yesterday. Both of them were in danger of euthanization at an overly-crowded city pound in one of the suburbs. I had just come for Edie, having been alerted by the Hound Rescue, but they showed me Oliver and it wasn't like I could leave him there to get killed. I have no idea what manner of puppy he is (guesses are welcome), but so far he's a joy--hyper, of course, but very well-behaved, sleeps through the night, and only a couple of minor potty accidents so far.

On other fronts, things are good. Work is busy, but I'm thriving on it. My plants are doing exceptionally well. I'm harried enough that I don't have time to shop anyway, so not shopping is going well.

Also, I went to church on Sunday and it felt really, really good. Better and more comfortable than it ever has before. Maybe I'm ready this time.

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So cute! We have a cat Oliver, one of three former strays who live with us now.

Oh! Those doggies! So cute. That little puppy. I just want to smooch them both so much!

And how nice that Friday got such a good home.

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Wal-Mart sucks again!

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I came upon a story today about a California Wal-Mart asking a woman and her service dog in training to leave the store. Why? Because the dog, 10 month old Chloe, is a pit bull. You can see a bit of local news coverage of the incident here.

There's so much wrong with this...first, it is illegal, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), to deny access to a person with a service dog. Everybody should know that by now. I t shouldn't ever be questioned. That's the last thing folks who use dogs to help them get around and get through their days need or should have to put up with. Secondly, there are no breed specifications on who can and cannot be a service dog. Just because we are used to seeing labs in service vests doesn't mean they are the only dogs that can perform the tasks needed of service dogs, or even that they are necessarily the best choice for service dogs. There are many breed characteristics of pit bulls (including loyalty, strength, and intelligence) that make them great candidates for service animals. The Wal-Mart employee who approached this dog and her owner/handler asked them to leave because "there are children in the store and we can't have a vicious breed in here" was showing nothing but plain ignorance.

And it's all so typical. Because the dog is what some schmuck recognizes as a pit bull, she must be aggressive, vicious, mean, and untrustworthy. Even though she's a well-trained and vetted dog, identifiable by her service vest, there's something wrong with her based on the physical characteristics that help someone who clearly doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground identify her by her breed. Did Chloe do anything wrong in the store? No. Were Chloe and her owner/handler completely within their rights as per California state law in being the store? Yes. But does any of that matter once people get "ooh, scary pit bull!" into their heads? No.

Now obviously, I am not a fan of Wal-Mart anyway, and this hardly surprises me in the context of their bizarre and prejudicial store policies in general. What really burns me up about this is the number of people to whom it seems perfectly fine. Pit bulls shouldn't be service dogs, they say, or what do you expect, bringing a member of a well-know vicious breed into a family store? Well, what I expect is for stores and their employees to respect the hard-won rights Americans with Disabilities are owned via the ADA. That is the very very least I expect. Beyond that, I'd love for people to get a fucking grip on their pit bull paranoia and actually listen when they are educated about the breed. Expecting every dog who looks like a pit to attack you the minute you see it is not only ill-advised, it's flat-out stupid, and you have no right to take your stupidity out on other people or their dogs.

For more up-to-date information on this story, see www.chloethepitbull.com.

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hey grace. speaking of walmart, what happened to your neighborhood's efforts to keep walmart out?

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Where there's a dog, there's a way

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Came across this article this morning, about some lost hikers who made it off Mount Hood alive. In part, their luck was due to the lab mix hiking with them, Velvet. Quoth the article:

"The dog probably saved their lives" by lying across them during the cold night, said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team. As the group started out on Saturday, the weather was clear and Velvet was leading the way, Liston said. "She looked back every once in awhile to make sure we were OK."

Gotta love that.

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I was actually kinda pissed that they put the dog in danger. She had to have been cold and miserable. And the publicity may make it cool to take dogs hiking. My guess is that the dogs needs wont be terribly important in an emergency.

I was very glad that the dog is OK.

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Westminster Wrap-Up

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The second night was just as exciting as the first!

westminster_golden.jpgThe first group of the night was the Sporting dogs. So a very long parade of spaniels. I was very fond of the Golden Retriever, but he didn't place. The other dogs that stood out to me were the Brittany, James, who took first, and the Irish Setter, Fonzie, who took fourth.westminster_setter.jpg

westminster_pbgv.jpgThe next group were the hounds, my second favorite. Again, I called the winner, the PBGV, Fairchild. I also really liked the look of the Deerhound, Margot, who took third.margot.jpg I've seen her show before and she's a gorgeous dog. I didn't expect either of them to place (and they didn't), but the Wolfhound and the Bloodhound were also really nice looking dogs who showed well, given their breeds.

bouvier.jpgThe final group was the herding dogs, and I couldn't make a prediction for this group, because our cable went out for a few minutes right in the middle of it. I did note, however, when viewing the first few dogs, that the Bouviers, Indy, looked particularly good. And he won!

t2.james.ap.jpgAnd then best in show. At first, I insisted that the spaniel would take it. Then I saw how well the PBGV was showing and changed my call. Apparently I should have stuck with my original thought, because the spaniel won. And it wasn't a ridiculous choice--he showed beautifully. Still, I would have loved to see the scruffy hound dog take it. Maybe next time. At least it wasn't Bill Cosby's Dandie Denmont.

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Westminster, Day 1

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As you may or may not know (depending on whether you are a dog dork like me), last night was the first night of the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Even though I am (some would say nastily) against purebred registered dogs, I love watching dog shows, and this is one of the biggies. So Mark and I plopped ourselves in front of the TV for multiple hours last night and watched the dogs, making predictions, naming our favorites, and making fun of the truly funny-looking breeds.

Here's how the first night went:

maceywestminster.jpgThe Working Group was the first in the ring. This is both Mark's and my favorite group (unsurprisingly, given the dogs we live with). From the minute she entered the ring, my money was on the Akita to win. A 3-year old female, called Macey, she's one of the best looking Akitas I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a number of them (my aunt bred and raised them for years). Her coat is phenomenal and her movement is beautiful. How surprised was I when the judge agreed with me!?

westminster_dane.jpgI didn't much agree with the other top-ranked Working dogs--the Malamute that took second looked a little shaggy to me, the Kuvasz at fourth was bleary-eyed. The Newfoundland at third, who was sired by Josh, the Newfie who won Westminster in 2004, was beautiful, but I would have put him at fourth. My picks for second and third would have been the phenomenal, regal Great Dane, Ch M&M's Kevlar's Guardian Angel (I didn't catch his shortened name) and theCharzard.jpggorgeous Bernese Mountain Dog, Charzard. I was also disappointed by the Anatolian, Maggie, who got more attention than this breed (one of my favorites) ever gets. She had a great line and a strong gait, but I just can't reconcile myself to the bland beige coloring when Ata's markings are so striking.

harry_westminster.jpgNext came the long, long Terrier group. My Lord there are a lot of terriers! I had read enough before the show to know that the Dandie Dinmont co-owned by Bill Cosby, Harry, was a shoo-in. And he didn't disappoint as a show dog. Lots of personality for such a strange looking little thing.

staffie_westminster.jpgThe second and third placements, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Sealyham, didn't do much for me, but I was very excited to see the Staffordshire Bull Terrier take fourth.

irish_terrier_westminster.jpgMy picks for second and third again didn't place, they were the Irish Terrier, Lily, and the Parson Russell, Duke.

The next group was Toys, and frankly, I didn't watch it. There are big dog people and small dog people, and I am the former and just can't get too excited about toy dogs. For the sake of inclusivity, though, I'll tell you that the toy poodle, Vikki, took the group. She was followed by the Pekingese in second, the Pug in third, and the Brussels Griffon in fourth.

remy_westminster.jpgThe last group of the night was the overly broad Non-Sporting group. This was a really hard one to pick winners for, but I ended up with two of the top four on my list. The winning dog was the standard poodle, Remy. I can't tell one poodle from another, so I didn't pick her. Irock_westminster.jpghad my eye on the either dog that took second, the bulldog, Rock, or the one who took third, the Dalmatian, Boomer.boomer_westminster.jpg I was also totally surprised by the Shar-Pei taking fourth--my pick was the American Eskimo Dog, Juneau.

All in all, the first night was a good time. Of the four top contenders, I still like the Akita, but I'm afraid it's going to be the Dandie Denmont. Tonight will tell!

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New addition

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Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Friday!

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Hope he's feeling better.

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Four more muddy feet

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Mark and I have decided to start back up with dog fostering. This is good, I think. We've wanted to do it for a while, now that we've gotten over our several month run with the Bridget. I advocated strongly for fostering a new type of dog this time, one we didn't already have experience with, and probably a smaller one, since we do still have two gigantic hounds already. While Mark and I were talking about what type of dog we'd like to foster and what type of foster organization we'd like to get involved with, I happened to see a posting on Petfinder from the Austin Hound Rescue, saying they were looking to expand their foster network. Hounds, I thought, would be perfect. So I talked to Mark and got in touch with them and we're going to give fostering hounds a shot.

Mostly, the rescue takes in beagles. This is both because they are the most commonly found in need and because their current foster network is most comfortable with small dogs. Mark and I are more comfortable with large dogs, so we said we'd be happy, in the future, to take in larger hounds in need. This could be really good for local dogs and for the rescue, as they'd had to turn away some larger hounds because of lack of foster space for them. However, we're going to start with something a bit smaller, just in case it doesn't work out and the dog needs to go to another foster home (once we start taking large dogs, we won't really have any "back-up," as none of the other current foster homes are equipped for large dogs). And that's fine with me, because I am really curious to see how having a small dog in your home is different than our big beasts.

Turvey.jpgSo it looks like we'll be getting our first foster tomorrow. His name is Turvey and he's a beagle mix whose time at the county pound is just about up. As you can see, he's mixed with something else--I'm guessing either Corgi or some kind of terrier or both, based on the stumpy legs and pointy head--and he's kind of a fat little thing. The folks at the pound say he's sweet as can be and has no issues with other dogs, and he seems to be fairly young (four, maybe?) and healthy, so he should be a good adoption prospect. I'm really excited about meeting him. Once we get him bathed and acclimated and on high-quality food (and exercise) he should do just fine.

Friday.jpgThere's another possibility at the pound as well. He hasn't been in as long as Turvey, so we're taking Turvey first, but I am in love with this dog by his picture, so I am hoping we'll be able to help him as well. His name is Friday and they think he's a basset/bloodhound cross. He looks like a basset, but he's bigger and taller. Isn't he cute as hell? The shelter says he is very lazy and mellow, which would fit in well at our house. Hopefully we'll be able to pull him in the next week or two as well.

I'm excited, though a bit trepidatious, as I know next to nothing about hounds in general, and have heard mostly bad things about domestic beagles. The folks at the rescue are very supportive so far, though, and I think they'll continue to be. It's quite a small operation with very dedicated volunteers, and that's exactly the kind of thing I wanted to be involved in. So I'll keep you posted...

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I think Turvey looks like a sweetheart. Also, whatever breed mix he is sure is funny looking, in a very charming way.

On a whim, I decided to google my dog's name because i always thought it was unusual. I typed in Turvey the beagle and to my surprise I came to your page and saw a picture of my dog! I adopted Turvey from hound rescue in February and am curious if you ended up fostering him or got to spend any time with him?

Hi Renee!

We didn't end up fostering Turvey, though we did meet him. We ended up with Friday, who was a very, very difficult foster dog. But Turvey seemed like a total sweetheart--I'm glad he was adopted by someone nice. And it is an unusual name (I think it's a cool one, too).

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What to expect when you're expecting

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By request, I am re-posting this entry from August 10, 2006.

picture of smiling LeoAn acquaintance of mine is about to adopt a dog. While it is not her first dog, it is her first extra-large breed dog, and the first time she's planning on having a dog reside mainly inside her house. It's also her first experience with rescue, rather than buying dogs from breeders. So she's asked me quite a few questions lately, and I've given her what advice I can, based on my experiences. This has gotten me thinking about a more general list of recommendations/advice for those who are adopting a dog for the first time, or who are considering their first very large dogs, or first inside dogs, or their first dogs of any kind, or whatever. So I thought I'd start compiling a list.

1. Make friends with your vacuum cleaner. Seriously, if you and your vacuum do not have a good relationship, then get a new one. If it's subpar, replace it now. You are going to be spending a lot of time with it in the near future. This is important particularly if you are adopting your first long-haired dog, but even with a short-haired dog you'll be surprised how often you need to vacuum. It's not just their hair (though it is, at least in our case, mainly their hair); they also bring in a lot of dirt and leave and various other stuff you don't want on your floors. Someone asked me once how often we need to vacuum. Need is an ever-changing thing. In order to keep my house in the shape it was typically in pre-dog, I'd need to vacuum every day, at least once. In order to keep it livable by my new, dog-adopter standards, we vacuum at least twice a week, and usually 3-4 times. So, like I said, learn to love your vacuum, or purchase one you can love. Also, buy stock in the vacuum bag company, because you are going to be changing your bag a lot more than you ever thought possible.

2. Get a Dustbuster. If you have a multiple level house, get one for each floor. Your Dustbuster will get lots of us, and they are not that hearty to begin with, so plan on having to replace it every year or so. We are on our fourth Dustbuster. It's worth it. Any mess that isn't worth hauling at the vacuum for can probably be handled by the Dustbuster, including spilled dog food, small piles of hair/dirt/leaves, etc.

3. Give up your attachment to your carpet, or get rid of it. As I plan to own dogs (and as many as I can fit) for the rest of my life, I will never choose to have carpeting. Simply put, they ruin it. Even if they are perfectly house-trained (which you shouldn't count on, no matter what their foster families say), they will eventually vomit or have a bout of diarrhea and you will have a stain. Depending on the type of carpet you have and how quickly you find the stain, you may be able to get rid of most of it with a carpet cleaner (I particularly like Kids N' Pets, though it can be kind of hard to find), but no matter what you do, something is eventually going to stick. It's better to accept this now. If you are committed to having dogs and have a choice in flooring material, I'd go with heavy duty laminate or tile. Stains aside, it's much more fun to clean up vomit or poop off tile than off carpet. Trust me on that one.

4. Consider your schedule. I can't stress this enough. Dogs are very different than cats. They cannot be left alone for endless hours and expected to entertain themselves and behave. They need companionship, and they need to be let out to go to the bathroom. So, if you work long days regularly, reconsider the dog idea, or figure out a way (lunch at home, a paid caretaker, neighbor willing to look in, whatever) to give your dog what s/he needs BEFORE you get him/her. We are not prize examples of this, because we regularly leave our dogs home for 10 hours a day, but we're lucky in that we have exceptionally mellow dogs with large bladder capacities. Partially this is breed dependent, partially it's age dependent, and partially it's luck. It's not something you should count on, though.

5. Dog-proof your house. What this entails depends a lot on the size and age of the dog, as well as her natural tendencies. My dogs don't generally chew on anything but toys, so we can leave our shoes out, the remote control lying on the coffee table, etc. This isn't true of some other dogs. If you are getting a large dog, consider what might be a tail level (pictures on end tables, vases, etc.). If it's at tail height, the tail will eventually hit it. In the case of my acquaintance, who is planning to adopt a Great Dane, dog-proofing includes removing anything the dog might get into from kitchen counters, because he's tall enough to counter surf.

6. Do your research. If you've never had a dog before, don't assume you know how to handle one. Talk to some folks. Read some books. Sign up for a training class. Look into the traits of the breed(s) of dog you are considering, then disregard half of them because they're so often BS. Look beyond the physical phenotypes that appeal to you and think about the type of personality you are looking for in a dog. No matter how cute you think Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are, for example, if you want a low-energy dog, they probably aren't for you. Think about what kind of relationship you envision yourself having with a dog, and keep that relationship in mind when you are choosing a new companion. All dogs are not good matches for all people.

7. Budget. Dogs are expensive, more so than you'd ever think, and even in the best of circumstances, when nothing goes wrong (and something will go wrong). Estimates of the cost of having a dog abound all over the place, and they are very dependent on the individual dog, but I'd say our dogs cost at least $2,000/year each, and that's assuming they remain relatively healthy. It's important to plan for extreme cases as well--a sick or injured dog's vet bills add up very fast. Look into pet insurance and decide if you think it's a good investment in your particular case (for us, it's worth it for one dog and not for the other, based on risk factors including age and breed). Look at the research and decide if you think premium dog food is worth the extra cost (my feeling is that it is, for a whole host of reasons). Consider whether you are going to have to board your dog or hire a dogsitter if/when you leave town, and factor that in. Consider the costs of preventative medicines (heartworm, flea and tick, etc.), which generally go up in price as your dog gets bigger. What about grooming? Toys, beds, etc? Training? If you considering an extra large breed specifically, I recommend this amusing blog post about how much that costs. Maybe my estimates are low...

picture of Ata curled up on the couchOnce a dog actually lives at your house, everything changes. These are only the few, top of my head things I can think of that you might need to consider. There is much, much more. But please don't let that scare you off getting a dog. There is no question in my mind as to whether they are worth it. There is honestly no way I'd rather spend my time or my money. However, I think that the more realistic your expectations are before you bring a dog or dogs into your life, the happier everyone will be.

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I'm pretty sure Layla's bill is only about $800/year, last time I did the math. Maybe $900 now that she eats the schmancy food.

Our little cat has been a mess lately, so we've taken him to do remarkable dog training and so far have been proud to keep our furniture as is! Does anyone else have some experience with a 2 year old domestic dog playing like a 6 month old?! I apprise the service.

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Life in the multi-pet household

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A perennial favorite question: how many cats do you need to have to be the crazy cat lady? Alternatively, how many dogs do you need to have to be the crazy dog lady? What if you mix it up and have both?

The current size of our menagerie is four: two feline, two canine. For some people this would clearly be too many. I respect that. Four pets is a lot of work, a lot of expense, a lot of poop scooping and litter box cleaning and lugging bags of dog food and a million other not wholly enjoyable things. We always have vet bills. We always spend a lot at the pet store. We always have hair on our clothes, on our furniture, and often between our teeth. We spend a ton of time grooming and feeding and medicating and walking and playing. Our pets are our number one priority, the first place we direct our money and time. For many, probably most, people, there is little appeal to this lifestyle.

For Mark and I, though, it simply can't be any other way.

We're only stopped at four due to constraint of space and money. We want a bigger brood. In my perfect world, I'll have a big house with a big yard, rundown is fine, so that I can be surrounded by a whole herd of ambling big dogs and sleek, tempermental cats.

The question, then, is whether that makes me a crazy cat/dog lady.

I'm pretty sure it does. And I'm OK with that. My quality of life has increased exponentially with each pet we've adopted. The extra work is easily overshadowed by the extra love and extra joy each new animal brings.

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The great Anatolian

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Bridget and AtaYesterday, some kind soul looked at my pictures on Flickr and sent me the following e-mail:

I love your Anatolians, and I thinking of getting one to be a companion to my little girl (she is 10).

I heard they are very good with children.

Little does this unsuspecting soul know that she's given me license to ramble on at length about one of my very favorite subjects. So I emailed her back, but the audience of one wasn't ultimately satisfying, so I'm going to share my thoughts on the noble Anatolian Shepherd with you unsuspecting blog readers as well (increasing my audience to about three, probably).

First, to answer the Flickr correspondent's question, are Anatolians good with kids? I'd say yes and no. From my experience so far (and remember x=2 here, so I'm not exactly an expert), Anatolians are quite fond of kids they recognize as part of their own packs, but not all that interested in kids as a general species. If you are considering an Anatolian as a pet, it's a good idea to remember that they're a fairly serious working dog. They come from a long line of dogs bred and raised to guard and protect flocks of livestock, and you can see this in their personalities even a generation or three away from actual work. They are watchful. They are serious. And they have a definite idea of who "belongs" to them and who doesn't. They have a lot of the same breed characteristics as other livestock guarding breeds, like the Great Pyrenees, but in my experience so far, Pyrenees are more playful and more affectionate. They're also more likely to be removed from actual working lineage. Anatolians aren't as common in the U.S., and they're more likely to be directly descended from working lines.

Which isn't to say that they aren't fantastic pets. Ata is nearly the perfect dog, and he just came that way--we've done hardly any work with him. It's not every day that you get a year old dog from the county pound and bring him home with no records and no information about his personality and get as lucky as we got with Ata. He's a naturally calm, mellow, sweet-tempered dog with few to no behavioral problems. He learns quickly and easily and he remembers well. He is completely content to spend most of his time lying in one spot, watching everything around him. He alerts to strange noises or people but he doesn't bark constantly. And he's very, very gentle. I would absolutely trust him with small children or frail elderly folks.

I guess one question is what someone means when they ask if a given breed is "good with children." Some dogs aren't, by any definition (many toy breeds, for example, are notoriously bad with kids). But many breeds are good with children in different ways. If what you are looking for a is a gentle, unassuming, completely committed protector of your kids, I'd say Anatolians (and probably also Pyrs, Wolfhounds, mastiffs, and St. Bernards) are great with kids. If you want a playmate, though, there are better breeds. If you want a dog to wear your kids out romping with them, a lab is probably a better choice (or even a pit bull, but how great I think pit bulls are with kids is a whole other treatise). Anatolians probably aren't ever going to play fetch.

Size is also a consideration. I personally love the combination of kids and big dogs, and I think I would even if the kids were mine. Big dogs make me feel safer, and I think they'd make me feel like my kids were safer, too. But there are drawbacks to having canines that are three or four or ten times the size of your children. People often think about this in terms of aggression, but I'm more concerned about run-of-the-mill clumsiness. A large dog who doesn't pay attention to where it's paws/tail/teeth are can really hurt a small child without meaning to or realizing it, and some dogs are definitely better than others both at realizing children are frail and at keeping their limbs and tails in check. This is another area where I am convinced Anatolians are a great breed. In general, they move more slowly and carefully than many large breeds and are more aware of their size and surroundings (comparing a young Anatolian's general behavior to that of a Great Dane will show you what I mean). I have no evidence for this, but I'd suspect that it's a product of spending generations guarding flocks of animals that are significantly smaller and weaker than the dogs themselves. Anatolians also have very soft mouths in my experience, which is great with kids (and great in general).

The National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network (a fantastic resource) says the following:

If you want a dog who...

-Is very large and rugged, yet agile and athletic
-"MAY" protect your horses, llamas, sheep, goats, or chickens
-Is steady and dependable, rather than playful
-Is serious with strangers, but not aggressive unless provoked
-Needs only moderate exercise

An Anatolian Shepherd Dog may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

-A very large dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
-Providing enough exercise to keep him satisfied
-Massive destructiveness when bored
-Suspiciousness toward strangers
-Aggression toward animals who don't belong to his family (and sometimes aggression to animals within his family as well)
-Providing five to six-foot fences. These are not dogs that will "learn to stay home" without fencing. Also never taking off lead hiking or trail riding
-Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge. You will be living with a dog that is more "wolf-like" than "dog-like". Can you take on the role of the "Alpha Wolf"?
-Deep booming barks, especially at night when he hears a sound
-Heavy shedding
-Legal liabilities (increased chance of lawsuits)

An Anatolian Shepherd Dog may not be right for you.

While I don't completely agree with this analysis (like I mentioned, we don't have much of a barking problem, and Ata is not much of a flight risk, though we do have a secure fence), I think it's generally all true. The shedding is not to be underestimated. The take-home point, though, in my mind, is that Anatolians are not, strictly speaking "fun" dogs. They're serious by nature and not particularly playful. This makes them great pet material for people like Mark and I, but may not suit them to families who have different ideas of canine perfection.

One final thought, about Anatolians or any other breed you're considering: while doing your research, reading books, expecting a dog of a given breed to act like s/he's a dog of that breed, is all great, dogs are just like people in that there is a ton of individual variance. This is one reason why getting an adult dog from a reputable rescue organization, where the dog has been in foster care, is such a great option--you have someone to tell you what that particular dog's personality seems to be like. That's something you're never going to get from a breeder, no matter how well that breeder says s/he knows his/her lineages.

If you're interested in getting an Anatolian, please start with the National Anatolian Rescue Network and seriously consider a rescue dog. Although Anatolians are not particularly common in the U.S., they are becoming more so all the time, and are increasingly turning up in rescue and shelters. Because of their large size, as well as unfamiliarity with the breed, they can be hard to adopt and there are always dogs in not-great situations that could use loving homes.

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Good review of the Anatolian. I have a working Anatolian and she is the most lovable dog and plays great with my 6 year old grandson. He is afraid of dogs except for Anna. She is nearly aa big as him and they get along great. He leaves and she goes right back to guarding the goats. Check out my blog for some pics.

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Love Thursday: Lovin' Leo

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smiling_leo.jpgIt is once again Love Thursday, and I'm all in it today. I love, love, love Leo. And today Leo is having surgery. Just a minor surgery, to take out a few broken off teeth and get the rest of the chompers cleaned up so they won't rot away, but it's still making me plenty nervous. So I'm thinking about what a wonderful, positive presence has has been in my life, and in Mark's, since we adopted him last summer.

I'm not generally the dopey "dogs are all angels" type, but if I were, I would tell you that Leo is an angel. He was exactly what we needed when we needed it, when the grief over Chance was so deep we had no idea how we'd slog through it. He is a patient, gentle, loving creature, as well as being a dog who had fallen on some very hard times and really needed our help to get back into a comfortable, safe life. I'd like to think that we've done as much for Leo as he's done for us, but honestly, we haven't even scratched the surface.

So that's what I'm thinking about on this Love Thursday. Hoping that Leo has a safe and speedy surgery and that his mouth doesn't hurt when he wakes up. Or at least that it doesn't hurt anymore than soft food and a few doggie painkillers can take care of.

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Ata the lap dog

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Atakan, our younger dog, is completely convinced that he is a lap dog. I think in his mind he weighs about 10 lbs. In reality, he weighs about 120 lbs, I think. When these pictures were taken, it felt more like 300.

Ata on Grace's lap

Ata on Grace's lap 2

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National Canine Cancer Foundation

One of my favorite blog-dogs, Mrs. Kennedy's gorgeous bulldog Katie, had to be put down this week due to cancer. In her name, September giving goes to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, to support research into cancer in dogs.

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Leo clones

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I have probably mentioned here before that if I could clone our older dog, Leo, I would. Leo is a beautiful animal and a truly good soul. I told Mark the other night that in the last year (the time we've had him), Leo has given me more unmitigated joy than any other creature I've ever known (it speaks to how well Mark and I understand each other that he didn't find this insulting in the least). And it's true, he really has. Chance taught me that I love dogs, and that they are completely worth the effort, but Leo is my canine soul mate.

A few days ago, on one of my frequent trips through all of the local dogs on Petfinder, I may have found Leo's clones. Or perhaps even his offspring.

This is Leo:

picture of Leo

This is Louisa, Poe, and Shelley:

picture of the literary puppies

Leo is, we think, an Irish Wolfhound/Great Pyrennes mix. Louisa, Poe, and Shelley (they're called the "Literary pups" by their rescue) were listed as Giant Schnauzer/Pyr mixes, but I don't think that's the case. They just look too much like our boy, and have heads and tails that remind me too much of full wolfhounds. They are four months old. They were rescued after being used by some sadistic fucks as target practice. They were starving, ridden with fleas and mites, and mangy. They're all doing much better now. The weirdest part? They were rescued within only about sixty miles of where Leo was found (a few hours from where we live).

Descriptions of their personalities given to me by their foster mom don't sound exactly like Leo, but as similar as you'd expect when comparing an elderly dog to a puppy. They sound like fantastic dogs. And, as irresponsible or impractical as some people (Mark) may think bringing a third permanent dog into our family is, I can't stop thinking about them. I can't help but think that these puppies are the answer to my wish for a Leo with a full life ahead of him/her. My heart feels good looking at their pictures, and feels the same pull as it did when I first saw pictures of Leo, only a couple of short weeks after we lost Chance. Like there are millions of dogs in the world, but this is my dog.

Now to convince Mark.

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They are so cute! At this point, my 2 cents is to do it. I stupidly went to the shelter the other day and saw Sandy's clone. I honestly believe it is her littermate (same age, probably the sibling I left behind when I adopted her). I went back today and they had her in the back. She snapped at an employee because she was afraid to go back in the kennel. They are putting her down. I feel like they are putting Sandy down.

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What to expect when you're expecting...

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picture of smiling LeoAn acquaintance of mine is about to adopt a dog. While it is not her first dog, it is her first extra-large breed dog, and the first time she's planning on having a dog reside mainly inside her house. It's also her first experience with rescue, rather than buying dogs from breeders. So she's asked me quite a few questions lately, and I've given her what advice I can, based on my experiences. This has gotten me thinking about a more general list of recommendations/advice for those who are adopting a dog for the first time, or who are considering their first very large dogs, or first inside dogs, or their first dogs of any kind, or whatever. So I thought I'd start compiling a list.

1. Make friends with your vacuum cleaner. Seriously, if you and your vacuum do not have a good relationship, then get a new one. If it's subpar, replace it now. You are going to be spending a lot of time with it in the near future. This is important particularly if you are adopting your first long-haired dog, but even with a short-haired dog you'll be surprised how often you need to vacuum. It's not just their hair (though it is, at least in our case, mainly their hair); they also bring in a lot of dirt and leave and various other stuff you don't want on your floors. Someone asked me once how often we need to vacuum. Need is an ever-changing thing. In order to keep my house in the shape it was typically in pre-dog, I'd need to vacuum every day, at least once. In order to keep it livable by my new, dog-adopter standards, we vacuum at least twice a week, and usually 3-4 times. So, like I said, learn to love your vacuum, or purchase one you can love. Also, buy stock in the vacuum bag company, because you are going to be changing your bag a lot more than you ever thought possible.

2. Get a Dustbuster. If you have a multiple level house, get one for each floor. Your Dustbuster will get lots of us, and they are not that hearty to begin with, so plan on having to replace it every year or so. We are on our fourth Dustbuster. It's worth it. Any mess that isn't worth hauling at the vacuum for can probably be handled by the Dustbuster, including spilled dog food, small piles of hair/dirt/leaves, etc.

3. Give up your attachment to your carpet, or get rid of it. As I plan to own dogs (and as many as I can fit) for the rest of my life, I will never choose to have carpeting. Simply put, they ruin it. Even if they are perfectly house-trained (which you shouldn't count on, no matter what their foster families say), they will eventually vomit or have a bout of diarrhea and you will have a stain. Depending on the type of carpet you have and how quickly you find the stain, you may be able to get rid of most of it with a carpet cleaner (I particularly like Kids N' Pets, though it can be kind of hard to find), but no matter what you do, something is eventually going to stick. It's better to accept this now. If you are committed to having dogs and have a choice in flooring material, I'd go with heavy duty laminate or tile. Stains aside, it's much more fun to clean up vomit or poop off tile than off carpet. Trust me on that one.

4. Consider your schedule. I can't stress this enough. Dogs are very different than cats. They cannot be left alone for endless hours and expected to entertain themselves and behave. They need companionship, and they need to be let out to go to the bathroom. So, if you work long days regularly, reconsider the dog idea, or figure out a way (lunch at home, a paid caretaker, neighbor willing to look in, whatever) to give your dog what s/he needs BEFORE you get him/her. We are not prize examples of this, because we regularly leave our dogs home for 10 hours a day, but we're lucky in that we have exceptionally mellow dogs with large bladder capacities. Partially this is breed dependent, partially it's age dependent, and partially it's luck. It's not something you should count on, though.

5. Dog-proof your house. What this entails depends a lot on the size and age of the dog, as well as her natural tendencies. My dogs don't generally chew on anything but toys, so we can leave our shoes out, the remote control lying on the coffee table, etc. This isn't true of some other dogs. If you are getting a large dog, consider what might be a tail level (pictures on end tables, vases, etc.). If it's at tail height, the tail will eventually hit it. In the case of my acquaintance, who is planning to adopt a Great Dane, dog-proofing includes removing anything the dog might get into from kitchen counters, because he's tall enough to counter surf.

6. Do your research. If you've never had a dog before, don't assume you know how to handle one. Talk to some folks. Read some books. Sign up for a training class. Look into the traits of the breed(s) of dog you are considering, then disregard half of them because they're so often BS. Look beyond the physical phenotypes that appeal to you and think about the type of personality you are looking for in a dog. No matter how cute you think Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are, for example, if you want a low-energy dog, they probably aren't for you. Think about what kind of relationship you envision yourself having with a dog, and keep that relationship in mind when you are choosing a new companion. All dogs are not good matches for all people.

7. Budget. Dogs are expensive, more so than you'd ever think, and even in the best of circumstances, when nothing goes wrong (and something will go wrong). Estimates of the cost of having a dog abound all over the place, and they are very dependent on the individual dog, but I'd say our dogs cost at least $2,000/year each, and that's assuming they remain relatively healthy. It's important to plan for extreme cases as well--a sick or injured dog's vet bills add up very fast. Look into pet insurance and decide if you think it's a good investment in your particular case (for us, it's worth it for one dog and not for the other, based on risk factors including age and breed). Look at the research and decide if you think premium dog food is worth the extra cost (my feeling is that it is, for a whole host of reasons). Consider whether you are going to have to board your dog or hire a dogsitter if/when you leave town, and factor that in. Consider the costs of preventative medicines (heartworm, flea and tick, etc.), which generally go up in price as your dog gets bigger. What about grooming? Toys, beds, etc? Training? If you considering an extra large breed specifically, I recommend this amusing blog post about how much that costs. Maybe my estimates are low...

picture of Ata curled up on the couchOnce a dog actually lives at your house, everything changes. These are only the few, top of my head things I can think of that you might need to consider. There is much, much more. But please don't let that scare you off getting a dog. There is no question in my mind as to whether they are worth it. There is honestly no way I'd rather spend my time or my money. However, I think that the more realistic your expectations are before you bring a dog or dogs into your life, the happier everyone will be.

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Weekend

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What a lovely weekend I had! I wish it weren't over. Mondays are so depressing. No matter how much I like my job, Mondays are just sad.

We sold the Mazda, which was fantastic. We got $200 less than we asked for it. We probably could have held out for full price, but it's nice just to have it over and done with, and the family to whom we sold it were very nice. So now our floor fund is complete, I think, and we are going to start figuring out what our plan is for the floors. Finally. Mark got all emotional about letting the car go--it's such a great car, it was our first major purchase together, etc. I thought it was funny. But I apparently have ice water in my veins, so there you go.

LeoI watched a couple of movies, finished a book, hung out with my friends The Princess and Siobhan, and generally just had a fantastic time all weekend. We took Leo to the vet for his annual shots on Saturday morning and he came away with a clean bill of health, down 5 lbs (124, yay!), and looking great, except for his teeth, which are a mess. Dr. Julian, our beloved vet, says that he doesn't have to have a dental cleaning right now, but there is likely one in his near future, and his two broken canines will need to be extracted at that time. The cleaning and the extraction are no big deal--he's not using the teeth anyway, and they are damaged enough to be a risk for infection, so taking them out is the right thing--but we, as always, fear anesthetic. Even though there is no earthly reason Leo shouldn't come out of it fine, there's always that back of the mind concern. So I'm glad we can put it off for a little bit longer. In the meantime, we're trying to brush his teeth, which seems to be a pretty lost cause. Does anyone have any input on how to successfully brush a dog's teeth? I'm at a loss.

We bought some new houseplants and potted them last night, which was a pain in the ass (the mosquitoes wouldn't leave us alone and it was still hot at 9PM), but they look great in our living room. I made a major effort to choose plants that are supposed to thrive in low light, so hopefully they won't die. Much as I love my house, it doesn't get very good natural light. Given the climate in which we live, that is mostly good, but it is hard on plants. The plants I have in my office do much better than the ones at home. We have a peace lily that is outgrowing its pot every couple of months, though. Apparently they require neither light nor care in order to thrive. I actually hope it stops growing soon, as it's now in the biggest pot that I want in my living room. Is there a way to stunt a plant's growth? Should I water it with coffee?

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Dog toothbrushing depends on the dog. You can watch how I do Layla's sometime if you want, though she's a lot smaller.

And Mark shouldn't feel bad. When I posted my old television on Freecycle, I burst into tears and finally had to tell the nice lady that I had to keep it because it had been with me for so long.

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Tuesday's gone

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A year ago this week (I thought today, but actually Tuesday--which I am glad I didn't know on Tuesday), Chance died. It's something I honestly don't think about any more than I have to, because even a year later it still hurts too much, He was my first dog-baby, my best friend, and the bridge over which Mark and I crossed from two individuals to a family. He kindled what will clearly be a lifelong passion for dogs in me, and I am grateful in so many ways for the little tiny bit of time we had.

What I keep thinking about today, though, is talking to my dad on the phone a couple of days after he died. When Dad gave me what is probably the only good piece of advice he's ever given me or ever will. He told me that as soon as we could stand it, Mark and I should go get another dog, because we're dog people now, and that's what dog people do. And he was right. I know some people think they should wait after one pet dies to get another pet, wait until they are ready. Well, the truth is that if we'd waited we never would have been ready. It was something we had to jump into, and without Leo, I don't think we ever would have been able to live with losing Chance.

So July 11 was the first anniversay of Chance's death, and July 30 is the first anniversary of our life with Leo. And that's the cycle, how it's always going to be. It breaks your heart, but that's how it is.

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I can't picture how your lives would have been without Chance or without Leo. Or Ata. Chance opened up your world/hearts in that respect. What a gift! His life was far too short, but he made an impression on all those fortunate enough to make his accquaintance. I know I'll never forget him or his anvil-sized head. Seeing Leo blossom under your care and Mark's has been so lovely. I am so glad you brought him into the fold. Same with Atakan. You two have a real gift, where dogs are concerned.

I can't believe it's been a year. Chance was a beautiful boy, but I love looking at pictures of Leo and Atakan too. They look so happy with you.

A YEAR?! Holy cow. Your dad did good. I'm so glad your family has grown with more doggy love. Thanks for sharing it all with us. Especially the dog-envious. :p Thinking of you! A.

I don't know if we would get another dog after Layla. She has been with me for 1/3 of my life, and we are so acculturated to her behaviors and habits. I think we'd have to do the overlap thing, or nothing. But I won't know until I'm there.

I had my last dog for 16 years, and then she died, back in 1988. I wasn't ready for another dog until 2002. I think everyone is different on this kind of thing. Maybe if we hadn't been apartment dwellers, we would have gotten another dog sooner. Maybe not. I'm not sure.

You're probably quite right that people handle this differently. I wasn't meaning to prescribe to anyone else, just say what had worked for me. Mark and I don't plan to ever have less than 2 dogs again. I can't imagine going through even one of the dogless nights we went through at this time last year. I don't think I could take it. I dunno if it has something to do with my inability to connect properly with humans or what, but my dogs are my lifeline. Anyway, I'm glad Dad told me what he did. I don't know if Mark and I could have held it together in the first months without Chance if we hadn't had Leo.

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Rules of Responsible Dog Ownership

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In talking with a few people about Take Your Dog to Work Day, and about dogs in public in general, it's become clear that a lot of people who have issues with dogs in public places or work places really have issues with dog owners who don't act responsibly. And I can understand that. As I hope I made clear before, I think it's a necessary part of dog ownership to make sure your dog isn't a PITA to other people, at least to a reasonable degree. I also think it's part of the responsibility of someone like me, who wants to see the places for dogs in our society expand, to show how that can be done without inconveniencing anyone. In that spirit, I decided to start a list of rules for responsible dog ownership. Please feel free to add other rule suggestions in the comments--this list is a work in progress.

Rules for Responsible Dog Ownership

1. Keep your dog on a leash in public places. With the exception of places that are explicitly leash-free, like dog parks and private yards, I believe dog owners, no matter what size their dogs are, should keep their dogs leased when they aren't at home. Even if you completely trust your dog to stay right with you and you're only walking through the neighborhood, I still think the dog should be leashed. This is both for the dog's protection (particularly from cars) and for the peace of mind of anyone you encounter. Because the truth is that no matter how trustworthy you know your dog is, someone out there is going to be afraid of him/her, and it's going to freak that person out to see the dog without a leash and not under your physical control. People don't need that.

2. Accept and respect that some people don't like/are afraid of/are allergic to dogs. And that your dog, no matter how great you think s/he is, is not an exception to this rule. People should not be forced to interact with your dog if they don't want to, no matter what their reasoning is. Do not assume people want to interact with your dog without asking them, and if they say no, respect that. This goes for the street, the work place, and anywhere else.

3. In this spirit, don't let your dog approach people. People should approach your dog (and as a sidenote, they should ask before doing so, even though a lot of them won't). No one should be put in a situation where s/he is forced to deal with your dog if s/he doesn't want to, unless it's at your house and you've made clear that dogs are part of the package at your house and they shouldn't come visit if they can't deal with that. And even at your own house, anyone who has to be there for a job (delivery person, work person, etc.) should not have to deal with your dog. Ever.

4. Do not expect your dog to train itself. Dogs have to be taught how to act in a given situation. They don't pick up on social cues, at least not human ones, and they can't read your mind. Train your dog to behave properly (not jump on people, not bark, whatever) BEFORE you take him/her in public. Start with safe situations, move up to more challenging ones. It's not the dog's responsibility to figure out what constitutes proper behavior and adapt, it's your responsibility.

5. For God's sake, don't let your dog jump on people. I don't care what kind of dog you have, if it weighs 5 lbs or 150, it should not be allowed to jump up on people.

6. Or lick them.Same thing. A lot of people don't appreciate dog kisses, and your dog shouldn't put its tongue on people.

7. Do not allow children to mishandle your dog. I think this is really important. Even if your dog is the most mellow creature on Earth and kids could do whatever they wanted to him/her and s/he wouldn't mind, you still shouldn't let this happen. While I don't think kids should learn to be afraid of dogs, they do need to learn to approach them with caution and not mishandle them. Just because your calm, well-trained dog will allow kids to stick their fingers in its mouth and pull its tail doesn't mean all dogs will, and we don't want anybody to get hurt.

8. Take care of your dog's health. Obviously keeping your dog healthy is part of dog ownership for the dog's sake, but since I'm focusing on dog-people interactions, it's also vital for people's sake. A great number of attacks by dogs are attacks by sick dogs. If your dog has an untreated medical condition or is in pain, in may act in a way it otherwise would not (just like many people). Don't let that happen.

9. Pick up the poop. This really ought to go without saying, but apparently it doesn't. When your dog shits, pick it up and throw in a trash can. Even if nobody saw it happen. Duh. Similarly, don't let your dog urinate on people's flower beds, or walk through them or dig them up. Or pee on their tires. Or display any other nasty potty behavior.

10. Maintain control. This is really the bottom line rule. If you can't control your dog's behavior and make sure that the people around him/her are safe and not bothered, then you need to work more with the dog before you take him/her out of your own space. Dogs are a privlege; they come with responsibility. If you don't take this responsibility seriously, you shouldn't have a dog.

A good start, I think. More?

Edited to add more rules:

11. Don't leave your barking dog out all day/night. Dogs bark. It's part of what they do. Fine. But if your dog barks all day or all night if you leave him/her out in your yard, then s/he probably shouldn't be left out in your yard. Constant barking will annoy the hell out of your neighbors, and it's likely a sign your dog isn't having a very good time either.

12. Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die. I know people disagree with this, but this is my list, so I'm adding it. I don't think buying or breeding dogs is responsible behavior given the plethora of wonderful dogs who are killed every year in shelters. And that's all I'm going to say about that, since I've blessed you all with that particular rant before. More than once.

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Train your dog to behave properly (not jump on people, not bark, whatever) BEFORE you take him/her in public. i've been thinking that next fall i might be ready to get a dog (though now that i'm considering moving i probably won't be able to afford it, but the intent is there) and i've been looking at dog training sites and i read one guy who said that the best way he's found to train puppies is to take them to a dog park, make them go f-ing bezerk, and start training them when they're dead tired. i kinda like that method. great list. especially about not jumping or licking people. i love dogs more than anything but i don't want it on me. a person who can't control their dog isn't really a person i want to be around, i've found.

I think this sounds terrific. I'm storing up your advice for future reference, because I'd like to own a dog one day. I also have a question - my neighbour has a large dog (a mastiff, I think, but I'm not sure) that barks and barks and barks and barks and barks. All day. Allll daaaaay. Does this mean he is in some kind of distress, or is he just being a dog? I mean, if he's bored or lonely, I'd be more than happy to volunteer to take him for walks and play with him, but I don't want to piss off my neighbours by implying I think they're bad dog owners or anything.

It's hard to say, Sofiya. Some dogs bark because they are bored/lonely/unhappy. Some alert bark at every leaf that blows by. Some seem to bark just to hear themselves bark. However, I don't think it's very responsible to leave your dog in your yard all day/all night if s/he barks constantly. It's an annoyance to your neighbors, and chances are the dog isn't very happy. I think it would be nice if you made an offer to walk or play with the dog, assuming you sort of know the neighbors and it wouldn't be too weird. However, you should probably get a feel for the dog before you take it out on a leash alone, especially if it's a good sized dog (and if it's actually a mastiff, it could easily weigh more than you do). You don't want to get pulled all over the city.

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Take Your Dog to Work Day

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This Friday, June 23, is the 8th Annual Take Your Dog to Work Day. I'm fairly certain I'm not going to be able to participate (though I am going to inquire about bringing Leo in), but I think anybody who can do so should. I'd love to see it normalized to take dogs to more places--I think it's good for dogs and good for people. And yes, I realize there are problems with it (allergies being the biggest one and dog phobia falling close behind it), but I think those issues can be negotiated if dog owners are willing to be reasonable and responsible.

So heres to reasonable and responsible pet ownership, and to the increases in employee satisfaction and productivity dogs can bring to work places!

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As someone affected thanks for pointing out that responsible pet ownership ALSO includes finding out if anyone in your workplace might DIE or be incredible adversely affected by bringing your pet to work. ~J

"if dog owners are willing to be reasonable and responsible." DING DING DING. It's hard enough in public spaces having *some* dog owners look after their dogs appropriately. Sadly, not all adults can be counted on to be responsible.

Every day is take your dog to work day around here. There are two dogs in my office currently: a black lab and a husky. Both sweetie pies who are fun to have around. Which is probably very related to the fact that both are super duper mellow and never bark.

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My life in dog years

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I was asked recently by an acquaintance what precipitated my interest in and love for dogs. I gave her a fairly brief answer, but the question got me to thinking about the long answer, so I thought I'd have a go at it here. An illustrated history of my life in dogs...

Boston TerrierChapter One, the Boston Years

I was born into a dog loving family, though as far as I know, neither of my parents had a dog at the time of my birth. My mom's parents, with whom we lived briefly right after my birth, had a Springer spaniel whose name escapes me now. My dad's parents had a whole passel of Boston terriers. Dad's dad bred them. These Bostons are my first dog memories, and I remember them as vicious, yipping, nasty little things. For a long time, even after I started loving dogs, I really disliked Bostons. He named all the female ones ridiculous things like Beauty and Princess and Darling, but they were still mean and ugly, to my little girl's mind. He even gave one to my mom and me (my parents weren't together), but she ate the furniture and nipped at me, so she didn't last long. Twenty-five plus years later, my grandfather is gone, but my grandmother still raises Boston terriers. And though I've come to have some appreciation for them, they still are not my favorite breed. I'm irrationally scared of them, to be honest. Guess they make me feel like I'm two again.

Airedale TerrierChapter Two, an Airedale's Sweetheart

My mom married my stepdad when I was four, and we moved into his house. At that time, he had a dog, Sissy. Sissy was a gorgeous Airedale. I remember her as being quite large, but I think that was probably due to my being quite small at the time, as Airedale's aren't huge (breed standard is only 45-55 lbs). She was a gentle, wonderful creature, and she followed me around the yard when I played and protected my every move. She was really shy and refused to ever come in the house, but she had the sweetest temperament in the world. That's all retrospective, of course, because by the time I was four I had decided that I didn't like dogs, and I found her to be quite the pest. I missed her after she died, though. My parents have recently started talking about getting another Airedale, and I hope they do.

HuskyChapter Three, Sheba and Shiloh

My stepmom and my dad had different attitudes than my country-living mom and stepdad about dogs. They are both unmitigated dog freaks, and their dogs lived in the house. In my early childhood, these dogs were Sheba and Shiloh. Sheba, my dad's dog, was a Husky mix of some sort (he said she was part wolf, but I don't think she actually was). Shiloh, my stepmom's dog, was some sort of hound. A Black & Tan Coonhound, maybe. Though I don't remember him having the floppy ears. Both were good sized dogs. I couldn't stand either one of them, but I think that had to do with my dad forcing my step-sister and I to pick up their shit in the back yard. Sheba got out one day and was hit by a car and killed. I can't remember what happened to Shiloh, but my guess is that he was sent to live with my grandparents when my dad and stepmom moved to an apartment in Portland when I was in third grade.

Rat TerrierChapter Four, the Terror of Terriers

After Sissy died, my mom and stepdad wanted to get another dog. And so a succession of terriers began. The terriers ran away. They chased cars. The first two or three didn't last. Finally, however, we got a Rat Terrier who was christened Spike. Spike was neither an attractive nor an intelligent dog. He chased cars no matter what we did to dissuade him, and he was hit more than once. He was impossible to bathe. He was one of the dumbest animals I've ever seen. I think my parents had ideas of working cattle with him. Yeah, right. He did, however, live to a ripe and incredibly stinky old age of 13 or 14. I can't even remember exactly when we got him, and he didn't die until I was in college.

AkitaChapter Five, Japanese Dog Royalty

The dog fancy that runs in my dad's family hit his little sister, Kathie, the hardest. I never remember her not having a dog. The first dog I remember specifically, though, was the giant hairy beast she came home from college with one year. His name was Baloo, and she said he was some sort of Japanese royal dog, an Akita. I was ten or eleven at the time and thought that sounded romantic. Male Akita breed standard is 100-130 lbs, and Baloo was every bit of that and likely more. He was huge. He was also the best behaved dog I've ever seen. In his entire (long) life, I never saw that dog do anything he wasn't supposed to do. He was a beautiful, affectionate, amazing creature. It was unsurprising when Kathie said she was going to breed him. And breed him she did. I've seen countless litters of Baloo's children and grandchildren grow up (she soon after got a female, Katai). Baloo died quite a few years back, but Katai was just put down last winter.

Border CollieChapter Six, Missy, Head of Ranch Security

After it became clear that Spike was never going to be a cattle dog, he was joined by a Border Collie runt pup we got from a neighbor and called Missy. Missy was as smart as Spike was stupid. She learned everything, including human-speak, the first time it was thrown at her. However, it's not just legend that Border collies need a job, and Missy never had enough steady work to keep her properly fit and entertained. So she started amusing herself by seeing how many times a day she could get fed, and how much of Spike's food she could steal, and soon she became a much too fat Border collie to do any work even if there was some to be done. And she still is. She's got to be about 12 by now, and she's still hanging out under my parents' porch, looking like a furry pot-bellied pig. Greedy and quick-witted, she's the first dog I remember being actively fond of, though I certainly wouldn't have admitted it while I still lived there.

RottweilerChapter Seven, a Rott by Any Other Name

One of the things my stepmother hated the very most about the series of apartments she and dad lived in when they first moved to Portland was the lack of dog. So when they finally moved into a dog-allowing house, it didn't take her too long to adopt Kahn. Roofus Kahn was a year-old Rottweiler adopted from the local Humane Society on the first birthday of my niece, Karla. He was a breathtakingly lovely dog, with the slimmer, less bruiser-ish Rottie physique, and a fantastic personality. He went everywhere with Nana, riding in the backseat of her car and claiming biscuits at the bank drive through and the coffee stand. Dad loved him too, but he was Nana's dog. And after getting to know him, I just wasn't afraid of dogs anymore. In the early-mid 1990s, when I met Kahn, Rottweilers were pretty much what Pit Bulls are now--everyone was afraid of them. What possessed my tiny and ladylike stepmother to choose a pound Rott as her next dog was and is beyond me. But she was right. He was an incredible dog. He had to be put down a couple of years ago, and my stepmother has not recovered. Currently, she doesn't have a dog, though she is a fantastic grandparent to my pack.

AkitaChapter Eight, When Royalty Goes Bad

Kahn wasn't an only dog for very long. A bit after Nana adopted Kahn, Kathie got word that one of the people who bought one of Katai and Baloo's puppies, Kuma, was at his wit's end and about to get rid of the dog. Kuma had grown into a 175 lb dog, and he was ill-behaved. Akita's aren't known for the solidity of their temperament, and Kuma was out of control. So Kathie took him back, and embarked upon her brother, my dad, to give him the firm hand he needed.

And so began the saga of Kuma. Kuma ate every piece of furniture in my dad and stepmom's house. He ran through their plate glass front window to get to a dog on the street. He terrorized Kahn. He was awful. But my dad fell in love with him, so he stayed. And stayed. He's gotten more mellow in his old age, and lost some weight (down to 160 when I last heard). He was diagnosed with bone cancer and given three to six months to live nearly three years ago now. He's still living with my dad and his girlfriend, and he's doing well, all things considered. My dad has no plans to keep him alive once he's in pain or not getting joy from his life, but reports that he's still eating, playing, and walking (though slowly). So it goes.

mastiffChapter Nine, Barley

By the time I got to college, I wasn't vitriolically anti-dog. I just didn't want one personally. Then, post-college, I started dating Mark. And Mark is a bona fide dog freak. I was told, not asked, that once it became possible with our living situation, we'd have a dog. I figured it was something I could deal with when it was an actual possibility, so I let it go. But then I met Barley. Barley belonged to some people in the neighborhood where Mark and I hung out and ate a lot in Portland, and we ran into him and his people several times. Mark being Mark, willing to talk to anyone about dogs, we learned quite a bit about Barley and his breed. The mastiff.

Mastiffs are huge dogs. Barley, when we met him, was under two years old and weighed about 150 lbs with no extra fat. He was a beautiful brindle mastiff with a massive head, his eyes nearly twice as far apart as a person's. And he was clearly a baby. A big, gentle, baby. His people told us that he slept most of the time, loved to cuddle, and was nearly un-excitable. There was none of the hyperactivity and senseless love I'd seen from so many of the dogs (damn terriers!) in my past. I loved Barley--and the breed--on site. And I still do. I feel sure we'll have a mastiff some day.

ChanceChapter Ten, Taking a Chance

After we moved to Austin, it was clear that Mark and I would be getting a dog sooner rather than later. He found a dog that appealed to him on a rescue website and set up an appointment to meet him. I didn't think much of the dog from his picture, but figured it wouldn't hurt, so off we went. Off to meet Chance.

Chance, whose name was Champ at that point, had been a pound puppy from Day 1. Some people adopted him from the local kill shelter as a pup, but a year later he was back at the shelter, having grown much too big and hard to handle for the folks who adopted him (I am honestly amazed that people actually do that, but whatever). Someone at Blue Dog Rescue saw him at the shelter and thought he was too good to pass up, and so he was rescued again. He'd been in foster care with them for a few weeks when we met him. About a year or a year and a half old, about 100 lbs, he was a stunning creature. His parentage was unknown and the rescue listed him as a German Shepherd-Rottweiler cross, which was as good a guess as any. He was lithe and graceful, yet goofy. He was friendly but not outgoing. He was amazing. And he just felt right. We'd not been there five minutes before I was motioning to Mark that this was it, I was done. Chance was the dog for us.

So we went home and bought some dog stuff and tried to think of a name (briefly he was called Che, before we settled for naming him in honor of UT's then-quarterback, Chance Mock), and he came to live with us the next day.

I've written here before about Chance's various behavioral problems, so I won't go into it again, but suffice it to say he was not an easy first dog. He was very dominant, aggressive towards people and other dogs, and required a ton of training. For the first several months or even year we weren't sure we were going to make it with him. But we (and really, mostly that means Mark) put in the time and the effort and the money, and he was worth every bit of it. I learned to like dogs before Chance, but Chance taught me to love them. Chance taught me I could and would love them as much and more as people. He was both Mark's and my best friend, and he was what made us into a family. There are no words for what he meant to us.

Lucky puppiesChapter Eleven, A Plethora of Puppies

A bit more than a year into our relationship with Chance, I upped our dog ante. By quite a lot. I happened upon a man on the side of the road, attempting to sell seven four week-old Lab puppies. They were sick, skinny, flea-infested, with bloated wormy tummies. It was horrible. And over the course of a few days, with methods I won't disclose, I managed to liberate all of them. Having no place to liberate them to, however, that meant they were all at our house. Suddenly, we'd gone from one dog to eight, and seven of them couldn't feed themselves.

While Chance turned me into a dog lover, the puppies, named Monday through Sunday, turned me into a dog advocate. Into a person not only willing to use whatever tools were at her disposal to save dying pups, but to then spent two months taking care of them, including midnight feedings and cleaning up endless amounts of worm-ridden puppy poop. A person who carefully screened each potential adopter before she let her puppies go home with him or her. A person who still thinks about those puppies nearly every day and does her damdnest to keep in touch with their adoptive families. The puppy rescue was quite possibly the most difficult and trying thing I've ever had to do. It was also the most worthwhile. And now I know, without a doubt, that I am committed to dogs.

LeoChapter Twelve, The Old Man

After we lost Chance so suddenly last summer, Mark wasn't sure when he'd be ready to adopt another dog. I, on the other hand, was ready immediately. I knew I couldn't replace Chance and didn't want to, but I felt very strongly that we were capable of giving another dog a good home, so we should do so. I also couldn't stand living without a canine present. My house and heart felt empty. It was horrible. So I started looking on Petfinder for possible contenders. Something I could tempt Mark with. And it didn't take me long to find Leo. Leo was an Irish Wolfhound/Great Pyrennes mix. Mark had long admired Wolfhounds when we watched dog shows, and they are almost unheard of in rescue. This could be my opportunity. I pushed and pushed, and Mark agreed we could go pick Leo up.

When we first got him, we were quite worried about Leo. He's old, though nobody sure just how old, and he has arthritis. He was in terrible shape at first, barely walking, and we thought he might only have months to live. But he slowly got better, with good food and medicine, and now he's better than ever. We still keep in mind that Leo is not a young dog, but we're not expecting him to get sick every day like we used to be. It seems likely now that Leo's retirement at our house will be measured in years rather than in weeks or months. And that's as it should be.

I loved Chance to death, but Leo is my dog soul mate. Leo is the dog I had in mind when Barley was described to me. Gentle and mellow and shy and affectionate, he's my perfect dog. After he came to live with us, Chance's death made more sense. The short lifespans of dogs made more sense. It all started to feel OK, or if not OK, at least bearable. It's painful to love them and know you're going to lose them, but loving them is so worth it.

AtakanChapter Thirteen, The Anatolians

We got Leo in July. By Christmas time, Mark was adamant about a second dog. I didn't think it was all that good an idea, due to not having sufficient car space to carry Leo and a second dog, but we started looking anyway, with vague plans to buy a bigger vehicle. Then a funny looking big white dog showed up at a kill shelter near here. He was listed as Pyrennes, but having made the acquaintance of some Pyrs, neither Mark nor I thought that was quite right. So we went out to take a look. And what we found was Ata. Called Zeus by the shelter, he was sickly skinny and terrified. When they let him out of his pen, we came directly up to us and leaned against our legs, begging us to get him the hell out of there. And without any knowledge of his background or behavior, or even if he was house trained, we did. Again, at my insistence. It had become a pattern, my being uncharacteristically willing to take chances when it came to dogs.

And again I was right. Zeus was renamed Atakan, which is Turkish for "ancestral blood." We chose a Turkish name because it was pretty clear after seeing him that Zeus/Ata was not a Pyr, or at least not much of a Pyr. He looked an awful lot like an Anatolian Shepherd, which was another breed we'd admired at dog shows but not seen much of in real life. After he got cleaned up and started gaining weight, it became clear that Anatolian was all Ata is, and he's pretty much a perfect representation of the breed. It also became clear that our new dog was quite young. At this point, given how much he's grown since January, I'd doubt Ata was more than a year old when we adopted him. Which gives me great pleasure, as it increases the chances that he'll be with us for a while.

Not to long ago, a second Anatolian popped up at a kill shelter, and after contacting the National Anatolian Rescue Network about her, she came to live with us as a foster dog. Bridget has been a bit of a handful, with dominance issues and potty training problems, but she's turned into a fantastic dog. She's sweet and gentle like all my favorite dogs have been, and she's more affectionate towards people than any dog I've ever met. I feel sure we'll find her an excellent family soon.

And then? Then we'll get another dog to foster. Mark and I agree that three is capacity at this point, but that it's best if only Leo and Ata are permanent, since we are going to have to move in the semi-near future. Who knows if that will actually happen. I'm sure if we got a foster dog we thought would fit better with us than with someone else, we'd keep him/her. I am hoping that we'll be able to afford more space wherever we land next so that we can foster more than one, and maybe have more than two of our own. That may well make me the crazy dog lady, but so be it. There are worse things to be.

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Lovely post, Grace, and a great idea for one as well. I think I share a lot of your views/values about dogs, so it is interesting to see how people come to them. Too bad about the boston terriers, though :(

I think my story is pretty much the exact opposite of yours. My mother forbade animals in our house (no cats or dogs) unless caged. So I had hamsters and stuff, and vowed that I'd have a million dogs when I grew up. I told my mother that when she was old and had to live with me, she'd be surrounded by dogs, cats, rodents, etc. I'm an only child, so I'm sure that keeps her up nights. People I knew had dogs, and I've always loved them and felt a special connection with them. I'm usually more interested in the dog of the house than the people who live there. Now we have four dogs and four cats. The moust just died. We also have a couple of fish.

Fostering animals is addictive, isn't it? It's like you know your next friend is out there waiting for you... somewhere.

You MUST meet my Bostons.

Excellent blog and thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts here. I also love dogs and I decided to put together a website dedicated to dog training. However, I am actually trying to offer both some general tips for training your dog and some breed-specific training techniques. I believe each dog breed is slightly different and thus requires an adaptation of the standard dog training methods, to suit the breed’s behavioral patterns and genetic predispositions. This is why I believe there is quite a bit of difference between Teddy Roosevelt Terrier training and Utonagan dog training. Or between Xoloitzcuintle training and Wetterhoun training. Each breed has its own distinct personality, and an independent breed like the husky will be different when it comes to obedience training than a bulldog or a ridgeback. There are hundreds of dog breeds I wish to cover and I am only half way through, but I hope to turn my site in the best dog training resource on the Internet quite soon. An excellent day to everyone reading this! Michael R. Webmaster – expert dog training advice at www.expert-dog-training.com

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Woman's Best Friend book coveredited by Megan McMorris
Seal Press, March 28, 2006

This is a book of short pieces from a variety of female writers (mostly journalists), all about dogs. I've been slowly reading it for several weeks now, and just finished it the other night.

A few of the women featured in the book are ones I've read before, most notably Pam Houston and (the late) Caroline Knapp, both of whom have other work I much admire. The dogs featured are a motley bunch, from Pam Houston's herd of Irish Wolfhounds (how I envy that!) to a couple of dauschunds. They are personal pets, dogs of friends and family, or neighborhood menances. Some of them are already gone, but most are still alive. And the essays in the book explore several angles of the human-dog relationship. Or, I guess, more specifically, the woman-dog relationship. There are good dogs and bad dogs, and relationships that are more and less fulfilling. Which is exactly why I liked the book as a whole--it portrays the relationships between women and their dogs as something more than a simple idea of unconditional love or, worse yet, surrogate children. It portrays these relationships as complex, organic entities. Which is what, in my experience, they are. As books about dogs go, I'd rank this one up there with Knapp's full length work, Pack of Two. And that's saying something.

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This book sounds interesting, but is it going to make me cry? I am so over-sensitive to anything about dogs, that often I can't read some of the articles in Bark Magazine because they upset me too much...

A few of the stories are very sad, but most of them aren't. It's worth the sadness.

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Another perspective

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Ata curled up picture

As you can see, Ata is really quite tiny.

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he is surprisingly smaller!

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How cute!

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I feel sure that pictures of my dogs will improve your day. Or, you know, just improve mine.

dogs lyng around picture

Bridget in kennel picture

Grace and Ata picture

Grace and Ata picture

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I can see from their glowing eyes that you've opted for the less smelly, less slobbery, less poopy, "Robo-Dogs". I salute you for entering this 23rd century.

Dogs rock! Cute pics.

Pictures of your dogs do improve my day. That is why I added you as a flickr contact, hope you don't mind! One of the main reasons I am looking forward to getting out of grad school is so I can adopt a very large dog.

Your hair color looks gorgeous, btw... that's the color a want.

What gorgeous dogs! Have you got three now? In the third picture that puppy is just adorable.

definitely made my day better. thanks.

yay for huge and lunksome dogs!

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Miracle

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Last week, a dog hoarder was busted near here. I haven't written about it because I've been too angry to get anything sensical down. The person wasn't just hoarding, I guess, but was breeding intentionally and selling as well, in really despicable conditions. Over 100 dogs (mostly daushunds, with some other small dogs as well) were rescued from her place, and they all went to local rescue, mostly the Humane Society.

It's a sad story, and it's one that happens all the damn time. So I was going to write about it in order to cajole any readers to donate to their local Humane Societies and what have you. And you all should still do that.

BUT, I just went to the website of the Austin Humane Society, and it had this to say: "It was a whirlwind adoption weekend and every Brownwood Dog that was available, got adopted. Even our 'special needs' friends: Prancy, Calvin and Deja! It was so crowded in the adoption center, and many of our longer term dogs like Oreo got adopted too! Congratulations to everyone who took home a new friend this weekend."

Bless you.

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When I think of what these pups have been through, I can't see straight. I'm glad to hear the Austin contingent has all been adopted, though. It's a significant number of dogs, so that was no mean feat. Perhaps Chance, Samantha, and Hank pulled some strings . . .

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Dogs and kids

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When I was a kid, my dad referred to his and my then-stepmother's dogs--when I was young, a Husky-mix, Sheba and a hound mix, Shiloh, then later a Rottweiler, Khan, and an Akita, Kuma--as my brothers. It always drove me nuts. The dogs were smelly. The dogs were hairy. The dogs drooled. The dogs were...dogs. They were not my brothers. It seemed devaluing to me, as a human child, to be referred to with the same terms as dogs.

What I didn't know then, and I do know now, was that my dad loved those dogs so much that if he'd felt half of what he felt for them for me I'd have had a much better parent. I ought to have been honored to be compared to them. My dad makes no excuses about preferring dogs to people.

And the older I get, the more I see the old man's point.

As I mentioned previously, I'm not planning to have children. There are a bunch of reasons for that, including my certainty that I'd be a shitty mother. And given the likelihood that I'll never parent, I will never be sure that the way I feel about my dogs is anything like the way I'd feel about kids. However, given the way people talk about their relationships with their kids, I think there are definitely similarities. I take my responsibility to my dogs, as dependant creatures who cannot survive without me, very seriously. Things that some pet-owners consider luxuries--high-quality food, interactive toys, top-notch vet care--are necessities to me. I believe that I owe them to my pets. And I am bonded to my dogs in a way that many pet owners aren't. They are never more than a few feet away from me when I'm home. I miss them terribly if I go on any sort of vacation. I worry about their health, their happiness. When Chance died, I grieved as I never have for a person.

This doesn't mean that I think my dogs are people. They are a seperate species. Treating them like human children would make no sense. They don't have human brain function. They have short life spans, and prey drives, and they will never use toilets. I am not trying to make a one-to-one equation between dogs and kids. Rather, as a childless person who plans to remain so, I'm arguing that in many ways, the roles my dogs play in my life mimic the role of your child in yours.

And people find that really, really insulting. Really insulting. For a long time, I haven't been sure why. Then I started thinking about how I felt, as a kid, about my bad referring to his dogs as my brothers. And I think people are having the same reaction to me now. Partially, they just think a comparison beween dogs and kids is ridiculous. Partially, they are horrified that I'd belittle the role of children so much as to compare them to dogs. And they are wrong, just like I was. It's not about belittling kids. If my dad had loved me and taken care of me like he did his dogs, we'd have a much better relationship. And if I thought I could parent kids as well as I take care of my dogs, I'd probably consider having them.

As a sidenote: Someone asked me why I always limit these rants to my dogs and don't include my cat. The truth is that I don't feel the same way about Atticus as I do about the dogs. I love Atticus, but my relationship with him is not reciprocal in the way it is with the dogs. I wish that I did. But cats don't speak to me the same way dogs do. They obviously do for some people, for me they don't. Which isn't to say that my cat isn't well taken care of--he is--but it's not the same.

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Heh, when I talk to my father on the phone he'll still tell me to "say hello to your brother" and hold the phone up to his cat. I'm totally ok with a cat being part of the family, but not sure how I feel like being pushed out of favorite child status for someone named 'Squeaker.' GX

You just don't feel the same way about Attacus because he is completely oblivious to any other object. Attacus' only question to answer in life is "How would laying on this thing feel?" Everyone says that people who don't have kids can't imagine what it's like to have kids. I think that's probably true, so I wouldn't go so far as to equate anything with it, not having kids as comparison. Also, no matter what I really think having kids is a completely different realm of responsibility. Your dog can't go on a shooting spree. Your dog can't become addicted to smack. Your dog will never get tens of thousands of dollars in debt and ask for help. Your dog will never be married to someone who beats them up. Your dog can't get raped. You will never have to pay for your dog's multi-thousand dollar wedding. Your dog will never become president. Your dog will never get a doctorate. Your dog won't cure cancer. Those are things parents find their human kids involved in. And those can be way way more heartrenching and monetarily disasterous and crazy levels of responsibility I cannot imagine. They can also be accomplishments that must bring so much pride in personally CREATING another being that does something so great. And that cannot in any way be similar to having a dog. Sorry. It's levels of magnitude more serious. Also, the only people who seriously talk about their animals as kids usually are annoying yuppies who buy their dogs organic cookies and bullshit and live in lofts. And I hate those people, so that makes me anti-the serious calling of animals your "kids." It doesn't make me angry so much, as make me think "that person is ridiculous." In the same way, can I call my computer my kid? I won't go anywhere without it and if it's injured I freak out. That sounds ridiculous if I am not joking, right? And sort of pathetic? Exactly.

Yeah, you don't get it. That's cool. Whatever.

Hi there! I'm a first-time reader, and I'm psyched to see you posting about dogs and cats as siblings. When I was growing up, our cats and dog were always considered to be Orca's and my siblings. In fact, my parents hung a huge photo of my doggy sister Zoe next to much smaller photos of my human brother and me! It never bothered me at all, and now that I'm expecting a child of my own (through adoption, doncha know), I make sure to tell our dog and cats they they'll be having a little brother or sister soon.

Just pointing out that when you talk to people who have actual kids, with really huge responsibilities, they will probably think you are 1. joking, 2. silly, or 3. an ass.

I think that caring for pets calls upon many of the same skills and traits (empathy, self-sacrifice, patience, etc.)that are needed in parenting, but they're just not fundamentally the same. The level of risk exposure, and potential reward, is just not on the same scale AT ALL. The level of investment -- in money and time -- is magnitudes apart. I mean, I routinely leave my dog at home for hours during the day. She sleeps. No one cares. If I did this with a child? D.C. jail, here I come! I love my dog. I really do. But let's get real here -- it takes me 30 seconds a day to feed her. I will spend roughly one-third of the first three months of my baby's life just feeding him or her. It took me a few weeks to housebreak my dog. I'll need a few years for kiddo. The minimum amount of time I could get by spending with my child would probably feel like harrassment to my dog. We keep pets chiefly for our personal pleasure and use. There is a broader social responsibility involved in raising children. As far as society at large is concerned, all I have to do to be a good dog owner is keeping her from biting people and shitting in other people's yard. The potential contribution and damage my child could do in society at large knows no bounds. Biting and inappropriate shitting are the least of it, and a stage most human kids are well past by kindergarten. My goal in raising a child is to turn out a responsible, contributing citizen. I couldn't do that with my dog if I wanted. Her little paws would struggle with the voting machines. People who talk about loving their dogs "like children" often praise dogs' ability to give unconditional love. Guess what? Children don't love their parents unconditionally. Parents do tend to love their kids unconditionally, though. Fools. If you want the experience of giving, giving, giving to an adorable but ungrateful creature who could show up 10 years later on Maury saying you were the most vile person ever, have a kid. If you want to *receive* unconditional love, better stick with dogs. Which brings me to my last point: Why compare your dogs to children? They are all adult animals, no? Some with health issues? Why not compare them with the elderly? Or the physically and/or mentally disabled? Oh wait, that IS clearly offensive. Maybe we should re-think this kid thing, no? Maybe dogs don't need to be "like" anything to be treated well. Maybe we should just love them like dogs.

Also, while I totally understand that you grieved when Chance died, do you really think you could look a mother who lost her child in the eye and tell her "I know just how you feel"? As much as I have loved every dog I have ever had, and as sad as I have been when I lost them, I know I couldn't. My grandmother lost one of her adult sons to suicide. This was almost 10 years ago. There are still days she can't leave the house over this. Same for my great uncle who lost his daughter 20 years ago as a teenager in a car accident. He still hasn't moved a thing in her room.

I agree with the other posters that the reason people find it so offensive is because there are so many worlds of difference between having a dog and having a kid. I've got two pet rats. Is that the same as having a kid? Of course not. It's not even the same as having a dog! Its not the same level of emotional or financial or temporal committment. I would never compare my rat to your dog, just like I would never compare my dog to a baby. They just aren't the same... Like Mary Ellen, I think its best to leave the comparisons alone, because they just aren't fair to anyone.

ME, that was a great comment. And Jess is right, the comparisons aren't fair to anyone.

Hrm. First, regarding Chance, all I can say is that I have never grieved for a person like that. Perhaps I just haven't lost anyone close enough yet, but I hope not. You are right that I wouldn't compare that grief to a mother's or anyone else's--but I will compare it to any I've felt, and it doesn't compare. On the subject of unconditional love, I don't believe my dogs love me unconditionally. In fact, I don't think they love me at all, really. I'm not sure they are capable of it, or have any interest in it. I don't know that, I can't ask them, but it's not about unconditional love for me. It's about giving back to the world, taking care of creatures that wouldn't survive otherwise, and getting real joy just out of seeing them happy. Finally, to Mary Ellen's comment that maybe dogs don't need to be "like" anything to be treated well, if that were the case, I'd never be making this analogy. The fact is that dogs aren't treated well. The fact is that they are considered disposable, to be given away or even killed when they become inconvenient. If dogs, all on their own, were instilled with enough social worth for that to stop happening, then I'd drop the analogy.

Grace: "The fact is that they are considered disposable, to be given away or even killed when they become inconvenient. If dogs, all on their own, were instilled with enough social worth for that to stop happening, then I'd drop the analogy." Scand: That comment just makes me think about some members of our human society (e.g., homeless, poor, uneducated, criminal, people of color, combinations of some/all of these) and the fact that *they* still do not enjoy the privilege of not being disposable when they become inconvenient. Part of me wants to say that dogs don't stand a chance of being afforded the rights you think they deserve if these rights are still denied of some humans. The other part of me, tho, wants to say that the dogs have a much better shot at those rights because they have the advantage of being "cute". I don't think either of these say anything good about human society.

I don't see the point in comparing. I think it's potentially insulting to parents to compare your pet to a child (unless you actually have children and fully understand the difference), and I think it's potentially insulting for others to tell you how much you do or don't love your pets. I loved my pet fiercely, but that changed pretty drastically when human children showed up. Obviously people's experience with that vary.

I've never understood the incredibly strong reaction people have to this issue. I didn't understand it back at Ms. when it was suggested that parents - especially good parents - would be offended by the comparison and surely I'd change my mind once my daughter was born. I haven't. Pets aren't people. Raising a pet is in no way the same as or as serious as raising a person. For all the reasons people have listed here, and more. But I know plenty of people for whom their pets serve roughly the same role in their lives as children fill in others' lives. It's not a perfect comparison, but then, lots of comparisons we make aren't. To each her own. (FTR, the way I felt about Lizzi changed dramatically and overnight when Ellie was born. I never, ever thought that could happen and I'm still a little stunned by the change. But I love the way the two interact now, and I'm not offended when people call Lizzi Ellie's "big sister," although I don't do it myself.)

I've been thinking about this a little more today. I think it would change things if you (Grace) kept it to a statement like, "I love my dogs like they're my children", rather than saying, "I love my dogs like you love your children". This definitely bypasses the point of contention between you and the people who don't see the comparison, and I think it's a okay statement even given your own human childlessness. Or is it your point that you believe you love your dogs like other people love their children? First off, I don't think you should have to show that to get people to understand/respect your relationship with your dogs. Also, I would have to agree with others that there's no way you could know that, even though it's something that people _think_ they know all the time about other subjects. I'd say the same thing to those other people, too--there's no way you can know what other people really feel. I might just be wasting my time arguing semantics, but it does seem to me that those two assertions are different, and it would help if you clarified which one you actually are putting forth here.

since people treat other people very poorly, i don't know how comparing animals to people will help them be treated better. I think even saying "I treat them LIKE they are my children." is suspect since *I* don't have children and I don't know how I would treat children. It's like saying "I'd be exactly the same if I were raised in China.": suspect, a needless comparison, and unverifiable. In the fact that you have said you don't think you are responsible enough to have kids, you are clearly making a distinction between dogs and children and how we have to treat them differently yourself!

Why can't Grace compare dogs to kids if she wants to? It's not like it hurts any children if she does! Or is it like with gay marriage - if gays can get married it will mock het marriage? Are your marriages and children so frail that they get somehow damaged if somebody else claims the word? I hesitate to tell people IRL that I love my cats like they love their children, although I know I love my cats more than some people love their children. I bet if I told somebody that my (now dead) cat was my soulmate everyone would be on my case saying "my husband is my soulmate and don't you dare compare cats to him". I'm totally glad that I don't have a kid or a husband to be so defensive about.

"Or is it like with gay marriage - if gays can get married it will mock het marriage? Are your marriages and children so frail that they get somehow damaged if somebody else claims the word?" Are you sure you want to use this comparison? Because I happen to think lesbian and heterosexual women have the *exact* same fundamental rights, something the vast majority of animal welfarists would never claim about skinks and 7th graders. So it pretty much comes across as yet another offensive and ridiculous comparison. But hey, you mentioned gay marriage, so I'm sure it's all appropriately liberal, right?

Hmmm. You'll probably never read this comment, because it's June now, and this post is from April, but I am a parent, and I can think of one major way that parenting a child is very different than parenting a pet. (Not arguing with you, I agree with much of what you say.) When I think of my choices with my child, I have to think of the kind of adult she will grow up to be, because she will be out there in the world, making choices and decisions without me, helping or hurting people, in a large part based on my actions now. So I need to get it right. With my dog, she gets only the best food, two walks a day, regular check ups and lots of love. But I don't worry about her character, and whether she'll be a good person when she grows up. Otherwise, yeah, I think pets are a LOT like kids. Sounds to me like you're a great parent to your pets. :)

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Responsibility

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I have some things to say about responsibility.

Our foster dog, Bridget, is suffering from a tick-borne virus. It's not (usually) fatal. It's being treated with antibiotics. She will most likely be fine, after a lengthy time-and-money intensive treatment.

However, it seems a bit suspicious whenever a dog who has obviously been someone's pet shows up at the pound and isn't claimed. Especially in smaller towns. The likelihood that the dog was dumped seems much higher. And when the dog has an illness that's expensive to treat, it seems even higher.

In other news, an acquaintance of mine has a lovely pit mix. She's going to give her away, or surrend her to the pound, or have her put down (hopefully not the latter). Why? Because she's "too hard to handle" has "too much energy" and training is "too expensive."

Newsflash, assholes. When you adopt a pet into your life, you are responsible for that pet. Even if it's hard to handle. Even if it's expensive. Even if it's inconvenient. Even if your circumstances change.

I am not planning to have children. There are a whole bunch of reasons for that, but one of the big ones is that I am not sure I'm willing make the kind of sacrifices good parents make. I'm not sure I'm willing to have other people always come first. I'm not sure I'm willing to keep a job I don't like because I have someone to support. I'm not sure I'm willing to wear the same shoes for years, or be sleep deprived, or eat out only at kid-friendly restaurants. And because I'm not sure I'm willing to do these things, I shouldn't have kids.

It's the same deal with pets. If I'm not willing to pay vet bills--even big, nasty ones, and take training classes--even expensive ones that are at inconvenient times, and curtail where I choose to live, and do a million other things, I shouldn't adopt a pet. No pet. Because when you take responsibility for a creature that depends on your for it's life, it's food, it's medical care, everything, you need to make a commitment to see that creature through thick and thin. A bigger commitment than marriage, in my opinion--when you get married, you aren't promising to take care of someone who can't take care of themselves. It's not a commitment "until something more interesting comes along" or "until it gets too expensive" or "until I decide I don't really like this breed after all." It is--or should be--a lifetime commitment. And not just a commitment to do barely enough to get by--a commitment to take care of that pet the way you'd want to be taken care of if you depended on someone else for everything.

There are a lot of relationships in our lives that we can't choose. We have (I believe) responsibility to people that we didn't necessarily sign on for--our parents are an example of this. Those are tough situations, in which we have to do the right thing, even if it sucks for us, and there was nothing we could have done to avoid it. However, most of the things and people and creatures for which we are responsible are within our control--including and especially kids and pets. And if you can't or won't take care of them properly, then you shouldn't have them. Period.

Nobody is a perfect parent, or a perfect pet owner. However, there's a difference between the occasional fuck-up and discarding the creature in your care when the going gets rough. And, as far as I'm concerned, the latter is just about unforgivable.

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I mostly agree with you, but I think it's the difference between thinking of animals as and object or a living thing. When I buy a plant and it dies, no one gets mad at me, even though it was living because I OWNED it, and it was mine to do what I want with. Likewise, because people BUY animals, they own them and get to do what they want with them. I think I feel equally in each direction mainly because I have seen a million dumb hippies buy a dog and neglect it, knowing full well the second they bought it that they were never going to treat it right. And that's BS. I am not for needless injuring of animals. On the other hand, many people buy their animals all the luxuries in the world, but keep them locked inside all day. They're not strictly mistreating them, but why buy an animal if you can't let them run outside all day? I am not judging here, I am just saying where does a person's inconvenience for a living object they bought stop? And why if I buy a cow, get tired of it and kill it should that be fine, but a dog not?

For the most part, I agree with you, Grace. I also disagree with most of Jenny's post. I didn't "buy" my dogs. I paid fees to two rescue organizations to help defray the costs they'd incurred in caring for the dogs until I showed up. In any case, pets aren't like a lamp or a new pair of shoes or even a plant, which, last time I checked, isn't a sentient being with a capacity for suffering. When you agree to take an animal into your home, you are agreeing to be RESPONSIBLE for it and take care of it, not subject it to your whim of whether you feel like being a fucking human being where they are concerned on any particular day. It think this is a big reason why "adoption" language now prevails these transactions, esp. in rescue situations, to get away from this mistaken "ownership" paradigm. The need to move away from this paradigm is so necessary that I don't get offended by "adoption language" with regard to pets, even though I'm an adoptive parent of a human and according to some folks I should be insulted. I also disagree that leaving a dog in the house is necessarily abusive, though I do feel extended crating can be problematic. At least one of my dogs is in the house (not in a crate) most of the time. He's a Pyrenees. It's hot in Texas a good part of the year, and he prefers being indoors with the A/C. Indeed, he was surrendered because his previous family kept him outdoors all the time and he was miserable. (Pyrs like to be with their people.) Our other dog likes being outside more, but until we moved to our new home, we kept her inside (again, not crated) when we'd leave because otherwise she'd dig out and be hit by a car or get lost. (For some reason she hasn't tried to escape the new yard, so it is no longer an issue. As long as it isn't TOO hot or raining, she can stay outdoors if she so wishes.) I think a lot of people just don't think about how much responsibility having a pet entails. They're selfish and focus on how cute the dog is and how fun it will be to have the companionship--they don't look at a furry face and do the math of how much simple flea/tick prevention and heartworm tabs are going to cost them, much less consider how much basic training or even a medical emergency could set them back. No one is entitled to have a pet. If you can't care for it properly, don't get one.

Siobhan, I think you misunderstood me! Or perhaps I phrased it poorly. We agree that people SHOULD be responsible with animals, but in reality there is nothing implicit when you get an animal that makes people be that way. When you buy or pay fees for an animal, you DON'T sign up for responsibility in the same way you don't sign up for responsibility when you have kids. Should you be responsible? YES. But in our society currently, animals are things most people buy in the same way you buy crap at Target you might throw out in a year or two. I don't think leaving dogs in the house is necessarily bad EITHER, my point is, most dog owners think that's a completely acceptable way to ignore their dogs a few hours a day. So where do you draw that line b/t acceptable and unacceptable? Some people think it's fine to jettison animals at a point in their lives when they can't accomodate them....which is a more extreme version of leaving them for hours, days or weeks. My point was not to condemn people who leave their dogs all day, but to say what makes that okay and not the other? Because you do one and someone else does the other? I think you're right that a lot of people don't think about the responsibility a pet takes, but I think it's more that people think pets are a commodity like anything else--a book, silverware, plastic doohickeys, etc. You may think they aren't but to people who aren't that into animals they are. We use animals every day as objects for convenience (i.e. I don't care about chickens, and their death is convenient and tasty to me). So again, what makes it okay to use sentient things as widgets of convenience in one situation and not in the other? I am not condemning, but honestly asking.

Oh, I see. Sorry I misread you. That will teach me to multitask.

I'm currently very angry at someone in my life who I feel is being incredibly irresponsible with their pet. She was given a pit/mastiff mix puppy last year and never got her spayed or trained her. Now she is likely pregnant by a rottweiler. It doesn't look like she's taking the three week window of opportunity to still get her spayed. If you don't have time/money to spay/train one dog - why the hell are you letting her have puppies? I'm so incredibly mad that I really think this dog would have been better off if she had gone to a shelter. Though I usually agree that the owner needs to step up to the plate and take care of their pets for their whole lives (pet's life that is), I just don't get why you'd keep a pet and then act so irresponsible/ignorant/just plain stupid. Irresponsible owners piss me off.

Ouch, Bea, that's a big problem. Particularly given those breeds. What is she planning to do with those pups? Jenny, I actually agree with you re: pets as commodities. It's one of the approx 1,000,000 reasons I don't think pets should be sold for profit.

I echo Jenny's question about the rationale for having different standards for different types of animals. I see the plant/animal difference that Siobhan pointed out (animals, being sentient, deserve special status over plants), but that doesn't help me understand the cow/dog or chicken/dog differences that some of you seem to apply. Not that any of you are advocating any type of animal abuse, but there seems to be the opinion here that some sorts of animals are disposable while others are not (as Jenny pointed out). I don't mean to beat a dead horse here (har har), but I brought up that question a month or so ago when we last talked about dogs' rights, and it wasn't really answered. I just wonder if you've given it any more thought.

The distinction is arbitrary. We socialize some animals as pets while others are for food, or labor. But if you decided you wanted a cow as a pet, I'd think you had a responsibility to properly care for it, too. It's not so much about what type of animal as it it about responsibility to take care of something dependant that is in your charge.

Just curious: if you can't afford a pet's medical costs, what should you do?

"When I buy a plant and it dies, no one gets mad at me" Sometimes when I buy a plant and it dies, I get mad at it.

In my opinion, you should do the same thing you'd do if you were sick. Find a way. Take out some debt. Get a loan. Whatever. The larger issue, though, is why you have a pet in the first place if you don't have the means--either in the form of savings or of credit or something-- for a medical emergency. Most pets--like most people--will have one eventually. What were you planning to do? What you should NOT do, IMO, is get rid of that pet, either by abandonment or by killing it, and get a healthier one.

As usual, Grace, I agree with everything you say regarding pets.

Canopy, I also get mad at the plant. Damn you Chia herb garden! I think you should hesitate before writing off the difference as arbitrary, Grace. If the difference is arbitrary, you have no right to be angry in one case and not in another. It weakens your case. There clearly is SOME distinction. I wish I knew though!

"why you have a pet in the first place if you don't have the means--either in the form of savings or of credit or something-- for a medical emergency. " This is such unmitigated bullshit. Caring people worry about this stuff and make judgment calls the best they can. Uncaring people won't take care of a pet properly no matter how much money they have. If you want to compare pets and kids, try this one on for size: plenty of poor people are able to parent just fine, thank you, and don't need lectures about how maybe they should have gotten a better credit score and/or a bigger savings account before getting pregnant. Or, horrors, pregnant again. I live next to a very nice woman, on welfare, in public housing, with multiple children AND a sweet gray cat named Gert. I'm glad she has all of them. They all seem happy and well-fed. More than that, it's really not my business to question why she thinks she deserves kids and cats (or, hey, love!) since she's in desperate financial straits. WTF.

Hang on, hang on. The red flag of this post is in the third sentence. Why is a viral infection being treated with an antibiotic? This may foster the growth of bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic, and that would be detrimental to the whole canine population, not to mention your dogs. "why [do] you have a pet in the first place if you don't have the means--either in the form of savings or of credit or something-- for a medical emergency. " The Wisconsin Humane Society estimates the annual cost of cat ownership to be in the range of $360-$725. When your neighbor was thinking about getting a cat, did she carefully weigh the benefits against the drawbacks? If not, then she made an irresponsible decision; it's not like the costs of pet ownership are any big secret. There may come a day when that cat is sick, and she can't take care of it becasue of limited funds. It sucks for her, and it sucks for the cat, and it's a situation that could have been avoided by avoiding cat-ownership. You are describing a person who is in 'desperate finincial straits,' and yet choses to spend money on a cat that could be used toward getting out of those straits. That sounds irresponsible to me.

If you think $65/mo could really ease a modern American's financial straits, I doubt you understand very much about poverty. Luckily, it's not up to you to determine what's ir/responsible.

I wrote a long comment about this last week, saying something similar to what Funnie has now posted, but Blogger wasn't interested in allowing me to post it. Basically, I find it incredibly offensive to suggest that poor people shouldn't be allowed to have kids. And I think that suggesting that poor people shouldn't have pets is not much different.

I'm sorry you find it offensive. I find unncessarily dead pets offensive. Look, I'm not saying anyone needs to be rich to own a pet. However, I do think that it's irresponsible to knowingly take on a dependant creature if you don't have a way to pay for that creature's care.

Well, it really depends on how you determine "care." You've said that you don't consider the most expensive brands of dog food to be luxuries, so should everyone who can't afford the most expensive brands of dog food abstain from owning pets? Unfortunately, it happens all the time that people find themselves suddenly unable to care for a pet or a child or other major life expenses. What matters is how you deal with the situation. You really don't think it's offensive to suggest that poor people shouldn't have children? Regarding giving up a pet when "the going gets rough:" People do that with children too, all the time. Especially fetuses (e.g. after prenatal testing suggests or diagnoses Down syndrome) but also children who are living and breathing outside of someone's uterus. And I don't think that's necessarily morally reprehensible. I know first-hand that caring for a child with special needs can be rough. It's not for everyone. Ditto caring for a sick or dangerous pet. I think it's better to give the children or pets to someone who can love and care for them rather than to keep the children or pets out of a sense of duty but not treat them well at all.

I actually agree with you. Unfortunately, what I am talking about is mostly not giving up pets to people who can care for them properly. I'm talking about abandoning or killing them. Which is what happens, in reality. Not all the time, but too much of the time. As I mentioned, I'm currently caring for a dog for whom that was likely the case. Her people dumped her at a kill shelter when she got sick. That's intolerable. Of course I think it's offensive to say that poor people shouldn't have kids (or, for that matter, pets). I didn't say that poor people shouldn't have kids, or that they shouldn't have pets. I said that people shouldn't take on dependant creatures they know they won't be able to provide with base level care. I grew up poor and taken care of. I know it's possible. And no, I don't consider premium dog food a must, though I think that you should feed your pets the best food you can afford. However, I do consider basic medical care a necessity. For the children of the very poor, there are ways to get that necessary care without money (to rapdily disappearing extents). For pets, there aren't, or mostly aren't. That's the problem I see with having pets as opposed to having kids. If you have kids and they have a medical emergency, you can get them treated, even if it requires going into debt--treatment isn't going to be refused unless you pay up front. For pets, that's not the situation.

"I find unncessarily dead pets offensive." It's certainly sad. But since, IIRC, you eat meat and support hunting, I really don't understand where you get off being OFFENDED by an animal dying a humane death - arguably more humane than the wildlife or livestock deaths you remain unoffended by. Valuing animals not because of any inherent worth of their own, but according to their role in YOUR life (food or friend) is one thing when you limit this thinking TO your life. When you extrapolate that society is irresponsible and heartless if it does not draw the same arbitrary distinctions you do about when it's OK to be influenced by your economic reality when deciding whether to kill an animal vs. when it's completely unacceptable, YOU are most definitely the offender.

The difference, to my way of thinking, is in whether you take something on as a pet or as food. I guess it's sort of about commitment? When you adopt a pet with the understanding that the pet is a part of your family now, and then don't treat it as such, that's what I find offensive. That's different than the human relationship with livestock or wild animals. Which isn't to say that I don't agree there's a large degree of hypocricy to my feeling the way I do about dogs and still eating meat. There most certainly is.

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Last Chance Canine Retirement Home

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A while back, I wrote a post about my new personal hero Pali Boucher, the founder and driving force behind Rocket Dog Rescue. Boucher's story inspired the hell out of me when Mark and I saw the show on Animal Planet about her work, and I've been thinking a lot about her and her rescue ever since. And Mark and I have bandied about the idea of our own rescue some day, but not here, since there are already so many rescue orgs and foster networks and we don't really have the time or the money or the space to dedicate to it.

Lately, though, both my thoughts on the matter and our discussions have become a bit more centered. What I really want to focus on, I've realized, is providing a happy, comfortable, safe "retirement" for older dogs, particularly older large breed dogs, who are often abandoned or euthanized in their old age because they are so expensive to care for. Having Leo has made me realize that there are few things in life as fantastic as a calm, gentle, wise old dog. He has been such a gift, and I am only partially joking when I say he's my canine soulmate. Just having him around, lying on his bed while I read or do housework or watch TV or whatever, petting him and taking him for slow, short walks, makes my life a much better place. And it makes his a better place as well. While the shelter/pound system is rough on all dogs, it's particulary rough, I think, on gentle old souls like Leo, who need some extra care and companionship. Particularly with the circumstances he was in, with living outside, not having quality food, etc. So as much as Leo has added to our lives, I am also really happy with what we've been able to give him--a safe, happy, comfortable place to live out the rest of his life, however long that may be. What we weren't able to do for Chance.

And thus, the idea of the Last Chance Canine Retirement Home is born.

What I want to be able to do, I think, is get to a career place where I can work freelance from home, doing business writing and grant applications and stuff. I also want Mark and I to be able to afford to live somewhere that has sufficient space and is not suburban--a rural area very close to a city, I guess, where we can buy some land with a big house. And then we'll take in as many dogs as we have time/space/capacity for, focusing on dogs in their later years that other people have given up on. Dogs on their last chance. We'll make sure they get good food, soft beds, lots of companionship, and good vet care. We'll drive a car they can easily ride in (yay for the Element!). We'll take them on short, slow walks if they are arthritic and let them get up on the furniture if they aren't. For many of them, it will be the only time in their lives people have been nice to them, and they'll be happy. And so will we.

It's a great dream, I think, and an even better goal.

And it's a goal we may be moving towards faster than I'd thought. We've become aware of an elderly Anatolian who is in a not-great shelter situation a few hours from here, and I've been in contact with the national Anatolian Rescue Network. It looks as if we may soon be fostering her through them. I hope we do. And I hope this is the beginning.

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Sounds great, hope it works out. :)

Oh, Grace, you are a wonderful human being and I love you.

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More about the dogs

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Intrigued by Belinda's comparison of my position on pet breeding and that of PeTA (in the comments to my last dog post), I decided to delve a bit more into things. A good starting place was Belinda's own anti-PeTA post from October. Then I checked out PeTA's website to make sure Belinda was portraying their views correctly, and I think she is. In addition to being against animal research and wearing or eating animals, PeTA is also conceptually against pets (or, if you prefer "companion animals") and believes that they should not be intentionally bred.

So, while PeTA and I apparently do share the view that the domestication of animals for the purpose of human companionship was wrong, that's about all we have in common. For one thing, I'm not a vegetarian (although I don't eat pork). For another, I am not against all animal research (though I am against cosmetic testing on animals, certain kinds of inhumane research, and primate research). But really the question is how much of PeTA's view on pets I share...

I agree, on a basic philosophical level, that it was incredibly selfish of humans to domesticate animals for companionship. I understand domestication for food and for work, as those were at one point near necessities, and are still at least useful. Domestication for the purposes of companionship, however, was just a qualify of life improvement measure. Please understand that I say this as someone who has two dogs and a cat, whom she loves with all of her heart. I don't think owning pets is wrong--the animals have already been domesticated, we can't go back. I just think it was a mistake to domesticate in the first place.

A related but semi-seperate issue is my view on breeding pets and buying pets from breeders. My primary reason for opposing this is our society's huge pet overpopulation problem. I believe that we, as human beings, are responsible for the well-being of the entirety of this domestic pet population, which is a monster of our own creation. It is stupid and negligent, given pet overpopulation, to intentionally create more pets. I understand the appeal of it--people are attached to certain breeds and lineages, to dog shows, to getting puppies, to getting health and temperment guarantees, etc.--but those advantages of bred pets pale in my mind in comparison to saving the lives of already existing pets, which is what rescue does. That's why I favor legislation against pet breeding. While I understand that the logical outcome of this could be no pets at all, I don't really see that happening, because that would require perfect compliance with the law, which is ridiculous. My concern is much more literal than theoretical here--once there are no more homeless pets in shelters, or at least a very marked decrease, I'd have to revisit my position on breeding. I don't think that stopping breeding with the eventual goal of eradicating the domestic species of dogs and cats is a really reasonable goal, and it's not my goal. My goal is to stop breeding while so many pets die.

On a personal and practical note, this is what it boils down to: I will never purchase a pet. I will make an effort to rescue pets that might otherwise be put down. I will strongly encourage my friends and family to adopt pets from shelters and rescues rather than buying them. At some point, I may put myeslf on the list for breed specific rescues, since there are particular breeds to which I am attracted. My primary focus, though, is on adopting pets that might otherwise not make it. And so far, that's been a pretty damn succesful way to go about things. Which I will now prove to you, with picture of my dogs, both rescues, in party hats.

Oh, and one more thing about PeTA--they support pit bull breed bans. As anybody who's been reading WINOW for long knows, I am admantly, totally, vitrolically against that. So screw PeTA.

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I don't agree with all your current views about the pet legislation, however, when you speak about purchasing a dog or to rescue a dog I completly agree. I have always told friends and family that there is no need to purchase a dog, though this does not mean it will not cost money. Rescues and Shelters often charge fees, but when you pay these fees you are encouraging the abatement of an overpopulated pet market. If you pay money to a breeder, your money encourages the continual overpopulation. There are simply too many wonderful dogs available at shelters to even think about ever purchasing one from a breeder. - Doofy Dog

Indeed. Which parts don't you agree with?

Beautiful! And dogs in party hats clinch ANY argument! (here is where I would type the universally understood acronym for "Laughing Out Loud," except that it would give me hives to do so, but I did. Laugh out loud at the ending of your post.) You already know where we disagree, so I won't belabor that point. If you compare statistics of dogs in this country compared to AKC registrations...well, the difference is staggering. If you go further and compare number of AKC register dogs with titles versus those without, well, it's even more drastic. So I just think we're better served in attacking the worst of the pet overpopulation problem, which does not sit with ethical breeders. Very nice clarification, very well-stated, and just overall well-done. I don't have anything new to add, just wanted to give some applause. I find it refreshing and heartening when we as people can disagree with each other and still appreciate each other. And address *issues* and not personalities. Brava.

I would still like someone to explain the difference between a pet animal and a food animal to me. Is a pet animal a food animal that someone loves? Aren't you just anthropomorphizing someone's dinner? Is it wrong to eat dogs that have had to be euthanized because nobody would adopt them because they disdain dogs with dirty blood?

I hope all these comments with negative components won't taken collectively as an attack. You've characterized your views as "extreme", though, and seem to be open to discussion about it, so I thought I'd throw in my one-cents worth. Specifically, you've mentioned that you think our original domestication of animals was selfish and a mistake. I disagree with this for a couple of reasons. First, I would venture to guess that animals--especially dogs--weren't originally domesticated intentionally. I think there was some sort of benefit to both species from hanging around each other (e.g., mutual protection, shared food/shelter), and eventually this led into a concerted effort on the part of humans to breed the hell out of them when they discovered they could exploit and enhance certain traits. Breeding the hell out of them may have been selfish and a mistake, but the original domestication may have been beneficial to--and "chosen" by, insofar as either species was able to/did choose this consciously--both species. Those benefits continue to this day. If you think of surviving the longest as being a sign of success of a species, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, and sheep may have chosen the best route possible, because their habitats are guaranteed to be around a hell of a lot longer than natural savannas & forests where they were originally found (and would continue to live until today if they hadn't been domesticated). Look at how much fun it's been to be a wolf, or a jaguar, or a zebra--starving to death as their available homes and food sources have been driven to near-extinction by human success. Our breeding efforts have often neglected dogs' best interests, but look at how we're neglecting every other species of animal on this planet. In the end, domestication has been the only saving grace for pandas, chimps, elephants, and other cute little zoo animals that we've had to intentionally breed to avoid extinction. Don't like domestication? Then we need to seriously talk about conservation, because domestication is written into the futures of thousands of species that don't stand a chance in the wild. So do I think it sucks that we've bred dogs that can't see, breathe, or walk because we like spots, flat noses, and cute shapes? Of course! Is survival a better outcome than terrific quality of life? That's a huge question. We can't do much for the animals that have already been domesticated, but we're going to have to answer that question every day for wild animals whose only option for survival is domestication.

peta=evil. and they kill a ton of animals. there's a penn and teller bullshit episode about it. i think domesticating animals in the first place was fine. exploitative, yes. but i don't think animals are on the same level as humans, so it doesn't bother me. i think if an animal's only chance is domestication or extinction, then i err on the side of extinction. since when is slavery to the human race better than death? isn't domesticating a species changing it totally? isn't that more wrong than letting nature take its course?

I don't think that domestication is apart from "letting nature take its course". There are plenty of non-human species that exploit other species for their own benefit (and in a lot of these relationships, the "exploited" species also benefits). Lots of humans think that living in a safe, comfortable home with the conveniences of modern medicine and prepared foods is preferable to death or even to living the way our ancestors did, as hunters/gatherers and extremely vulnerable to natural selection. We were the first species to become "domesticated", and it did totally change us. But how can this be progress for ourselves and yet so terrible for other animals that they'd be better off dead?

I actually came back *just* to look at the beautiful dogs in the pink froufy hats. I LOVE them.

Hehe. Aren't they great? It's even funnier when you consider that they are both very large, "masculine" dogs. And they loved those hats. Scand, you are raising good points. I'm thinking about them. Not ignoring them, just not sure yet what I think.

Scand I think it's different because we domesticated ourselves. Dogs and cats didn't choose to be domesticated, or be spayed, or be declawed. We chose that for them. I think saying "oh but they're better off if we take them inside and make them like us." is exactly the rationale used for slavery. don't get me wrong I don't think it's the same, but it is the same rationale. My favorite book as a kid was Shel Silverstein's Lafcadio. It's about a lion who learns to shoot, so the humans take him to NYC and domesticate him. He makes a lot of money but ends up unhappy because he's not a human and not really a lion. It's a great book and, although I didn't think of it until now, really influences my thoughts on this situation. Basically, making anything--person or animal dependent on you where they once were not=exploitative, IMO.

I love Shel Silverstein! I've not read that book, so I'll have to look for it. This is where a time machine would come in handy, to see the process by which animals became domesticated, and whether and how much all these human and non-human species migrated toward each other. It's still hard for me to believe that dogs and cats were passively domesticated. Unfortunately, our differences of opinion are based solely on what we can picture in our heads. I can't ignore, though, that when I turn my cats loose into the outdoors, they always come back (eventually--not always when I'd like them to). Cats and dogs are capable of becoming feral, but if they're well-cared for, they usually won't do that. Some breeds of dogs wouldn't be able to survive in the wild (so I would agree with you that breeding those dogs, who are definitely dependent on us, who have often been bred for aesthetics, and who often suffer from poor health as a consequence, is exploitative) but many breeds of dogs can survive, and I imagine most cats would eventually figure it out, too, so I'm not sure that I believe that they're "dependent" on us. To the extent that they are able, they choose to continue living with us and our modern conveniences now, and I think they've chosen that in the past, as well. Anyhow, I appreciate your explanations of your POV, 'cause they've helped me clarify my own opinions for myself. I hope this discussion is taken in good spirit and not as an attack on anyone's opinions. I realize that my opinions on domesticated animals, as Grace has said of her own, are often considered "extreme".

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I have been following the discussion over on Fussy with great interest. Mrs. Kennedy posted about the eye health issues her bulldog, Katie, is having, and that started an intense debate on breeders vs. rescues as places which to obtain dogs, neutering and spaying, etc. This is obviously something on which I have an opinion. And quite a strong one. One which is different from Mrs. Kennedy's. So, rather than clog up her fantastic blog with it, I'm going to use my soapbox.

With possible exceptions for working and service dogs, I don't think dogs should be intentionally bred. Not by large scale breeders or small scale breeders, not with any kind of licensing, just not at all. I place little value in keeping up breed lineages, especially as compared to saving the lives of the thousands of dogs that are put down every year for no reason other than that there are too many of them. The truth is that we (humans) have domesticated these animals and we are responsible for their surival. All of them, not just the breeds we fancy on a given day, not just the ones that are genetically perfect, all of them. And breeding is bad for them as a whole.

Like just about everything else, it's a supply and demand issue. People who breed their dogs intentionally do so with a motive to sell puppies. It may not be extremely profitable for most, but if there wasn't at least some market for it, far fewer people would do it. So, first, the impetus is on the "consumer." DO NOT BUY A DOG FROM A BREEDER. Rescue a dog. If you are adamant about a given breed, look into breed-specific rescue. And, better yet, take a good hard look at your reasons for being breed specific, and for not wanting to consider mixed breeds. Then weigh those reasons against a dog's life. Because if you buy instead of rescue, you are sentancing one more dog to death row. It's that simple.

If you are insistent upon getting a puppy rather than an older dog (I honestly think this is a terrible idea, having taken in both puppies and older dogs, but to each their own), and you are committed to rescue, you are just going to have to be a bit less picky about breed. Which isn't to say that you should discount breed completely--there are good reasons to lean towards specific breeds and discount other breeds, and I think taking breed into account is a good idea. However, if you have decided that of all of the possible breeds of dog out there, there is only ONE that is right for you, then you probably shouldn't have a dog. They are more similar than they are different.

Another thing to consider is time. Often, you get be put on a waiting list at a breed specific rescue, then notified when a dog of your preferred breed comes up for rescue. Mark and I will likely do this in the future, as there are a few specific breeds we are interested in having, and they don't show up in rescue all that often. It's the combo of thinking you need a healthy dog of your preferred breed and your preferred age RIGHT NOW that makes people think breeders are the only way.

Having addressed demand, there's also supply. Why not buy from a breeder when they are so many of them? The lack of control over dog breeding is, to my mind, atrocious. That we'd actually consider breed specific legislation before we'd consider putting basic restraints on breeding is ridiculous. Here again I get radical--I don't think spaying and neutering should be optional. I think that having an non-altered adult dog should be illegal, except in regulated and rare cases. People should not be able to breed their dogs just because they want to. Think that's a civil liberties violation, that your dog is your property and you should be able to do with it was you wish? I disagree. Just like you can't legally beat your dog, you shouldn't legally be able to breed your dog. And the only want to stop breeding, either intentionally or not, is to get the dog fixed.

Obviously my positions on this subject are radical. Most people, even dog rescue advocates, don't agree with me. But I don't care. I think the way we fail to take care of the animals we've domesticated in this society is a fucking disgrace, and radical measures are going to be necessary to correct that situation.

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I know it is a totally unoriginal idea, but I'm pretty sure the solution to our problems lies in Cambodia. Specifically, selling our extra dogs to Cambodians as food. I don't think they are particular about the breed, either, which is wierd -- I imagine different dogs taste differently. In my imagination, poodles and purse dogs are sweeter, while the tougher dogs are naturally salty and make a better jerky.

I agree completely. (with Grace rather than the dog-eating weirdo, in case there was any doubt)

I can't believe you called Cambodia "wierd"! Nothing wierd about Cambodia, unless you count the explosive potatoes that grow all over the place.

I didn't, I called you weird. And at least i can spell it.

Your sentiments are so perfectly understandable, and respectfully stated. But there is just a lot you don't know, as well, and I say that will the utmost respect and love. "People who breed their dogs intentionally do so with a motive to sell puppies." 100%, patently, unmitigatedly false. Yes, I am one of those "evil breeders," and there are thousands like me in the following regard: I show my dogs, and I only breed when I want to further my program. I have not only never made a profit on a litter of puppies, I've never, EVER even recouped what I put into that litter financially. Just curious--do you hold the PeTA stance that there should be NO domesticated animals, period? It's fine if you do; it's a free country, and we're all entitled. The only reason I ask is that your hard line of "intact dogs should be illegal, period," will result, ultimately, in the extinction not of just a few "select breeds" but the extinction of dogs as a species, altogether. Thanks for being nice about it--it's shocking how few people who hold strong opinions are capable of that, and you do it well.

Actually, I do believe that dogs shouldn't have been domesticated. I think that since they were, we have a responsibility to take care of them, but their eventual extinction as a domestic speices would be OK with me, theoretically. I don't think it would actually happen, though. Whether your motive is to sell puppies or further your lineage of show dogs really doesn't make much difference to me, actually. Either way I think it's selfish, given the circumstances. he fact remains that intentional breeding feeds into the already huge dog overpopulation problem, and dogs get killed because of it.

OK. That tells me all I need to know. You follow, to a 'T', the Ingrid Newkirk line. Thanks for explaining your position. I hope you are right that it "won't actually happen," because my animals, both dogs and horses, have gotten me through some tough times and shared with me some of the best times of my life. I think the world would be a much sadder place without pets, but your vision of a world like that is perfectly within your right to work toward. Can't say I wish you luck in that regard, but I can say I like you. (I would love it if you could ask any of my dogs, or any that I have bred, in their cushy homes being loved like crazy how "selfish" I am. ;-)) Ditto the horses. I do disagree that thoughtful breeding "feeds into" the dog overpopulation problem, because the kinds of people who are buying from what I would consider "bad" breeders are going to demand a supply from somewhere--and since they're not getting it from me or people like me, you can bet they'll go somewhere else, which is just what they'll do if all the "good" breeders suddenly stop ALL breeding. And it's headed that way, especially with the current administration. With Hunte Corporation being given protected status, dog breeding is becoming agribusiness. Maybe soon that's all that will be left. Thanks again for a thoughtful, non-confrontational response.

You are preaching to the choir re: how much your animals mean to you. I honestly don't know if I could live without my dogs at this point. I certainly wouldn't want to. But that doesn't change the fact that I don't think domestication is fair or right, as a concept. A world without pets would be sadder for humans, I agree, but what right do we have to enslave animals for our own companionship? I very much doubt your particular pets think you are selfish--that wasn't what I was getting at. It's more what I stated above--breeding creates more animals for what is, in essense, enslavement. And it does this while other, already existing animals, are unnecessarily killed. I can't think that is anything but selfish, not just on the part of the breeder, but on the part of anyone who purchases a pet (i.e. creates demand for intentionally bred pets).

I can't answer that, because I simply do not, and never will, see a good, loving, human/dog relationship as "enslavement." I find the idea ridiculous, laughable. As you do my position. But that's what makes the world go 'round.

I totally agree with you, Grace. Also on the "enslavement." Not all pet owners think of their pets as individuals with rights and needs but mere servants to feed their egos, keep them company, obey orders and even to kick around when the mood strikes them. I'm a cat person myself and I preach to friends with cats not to let them have kittens. We do not need more kittens!

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Texas Governor: How hard can it be?

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Kinky dollIn case anybody was wondering, I am supporting Kinky Friedman for governor my beloved adopted home, the Lone Star State. And yes, I am completely serious. Not only is he the by-far least nauseating of the "candidates," he actually does and has done good things, which is more than I can say for 99.9% of politicians, especially viable ones (let's save the discussion re: whether or not he's viable for another day). Don't believe me? Check out the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch.

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Who are you trying to impress? If it is me, you have done ok here - I totally never thought you'd vote for an action figure for Governor. What was it that sold you? The weapons accessories, or the button on the back that you can push and hear him say, "Texas is home to the greatest number of super billionaires of any place in the world!"

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Meet my new hero, Pali Boucher

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The other day, Mark and I caught a show on Animal Planet called "Rocket Dogs." Rocket Dog Rescue is a dog rescue in San Francisco, run by an amazing women named Pali Boucher. The show did not just talk about the rescue, but about Pali's life and how she came to be doing what she's doing. I have rarely admired anyone more. Born a ward of the state with a drug addicted mother who died when she was 10, Pali had a rough, rough childhood and early adulthood. A number of years back, she was homeless and drug addicted. Then she met a dog named Leadbelly (looked to be a hound/Rott mix of some time) and wanted to be able to take care of him so badly that she went into rehab and got clean.

Pali had several good years with Leadbelly, during which she also fostered other dogs. Then Leadbelly died, and Rocket Dog Rescue was born. Pali doesn't just rescue any dogs, but dogs that are on their last chance. She specifically chooses dogs that are old, or sick, or have other issues that are keeping them from being easily adoptable, and she often swoops in in their last hours and saves them from being put down by city and county shelters. Judging from the both the show and the rescue's website, Pali has quite a network, but she also fosters up to a dozen dogs at a time at her house, and it was clear in the program that she is tireless in the work she's doing. The show said that she'd placed about 700 dogs in the five years since she founded Rocket Dog Rescue, and that is an amazing number, particularly given the type of dogs she takes in. And though Pali's active time may be limited (she's HIV-positive), she also has big plans for the future, including an urban sanctuary dog shelter in San Francisco.

I could go on and on about how amazing Pali is and how great the work she's doing is, but I won't. There's a pretty good little article about it here, or, if Animal Planet plays the show again, set your DVR.

Or hey, send a donation Pali's way. I'm gonna.

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You said "set your DVR" and I went, "set my what now?" Dog Video Recorder? Dangerously Volatile Redneck? I can't work it out.

I'm a friend of Pali's and I was very touched by what you wrote. She's an amazing lady and you echoed my sentiments exactly about the tv show. Pali wished more of the volunteers could have been shown but I think the human interest angle of what she went through made the show so watchable. I've sent your link on to Pali. It looks like a lot of people were moved by the show.

Hey! My name is Laura and I am a volunteer for Rocket Dog Rescue. I stumbled upon your AWESOME blog and was wondering if you could help me by posting info about a new book that is coming out where 100% of the gross proceeds will be going to 5 non-profit animal groups in the SF Bay Area (SFSPCA, PAWS, Friends of Animal Care and Control, Pets Unlimited and Rocket Dog Rescue. For more info on the groups, please visit: http://www.tailsofdevotion.com/non_profits.html) The author even donated the cost of the publishing so literally every cent raised goes to these non-profits! Anyway, the book is amazing - full of stories about people (from Amy Tan to Robin Williams to the woman who lives down the block from you!) and the animals who share their lives. It's a beautiful, full color coffee table book and would be a great mother's or father's day gift! I do think that blogs are a huge way that people communicate these days so I thought you would be a great person to get the word out and help raise a load of money for these amazing groups. The more books sold, the more lives saved. It's just a fact. Please let me know if you want more information on Tails Of Devotion or you can get it at www.tailsofdevotion.com. Thank you so much for your time and help ? Best, Laura Beck laura@rocketdogrescue.org 510 205 3945 Rocket Dog Rescue San Francisco, CA

Pali Boucher is my new hero too. To see SUCH a beautiful soul makes life inspirational. I wanna be like her one day, love Roshelle. xx

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Weekend update

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We had a big weekend at my house this weekend. Friday night was the usual laze about, but Saturday was jam packed with activity. First, Mark and I took Atty and Leo to the vet, Atty to get microchipped and Leo to get blood work down. Atty screamed like he was being killed while they were inserting the chip, but was otherwise fine. Leo was a trooper, but we're under strict orders to reduce his food intake, as he's up to 135 lbs, when he'd be healthier at closer to 110. Which is totally my fault, I'll admit it. I just couldn't see how fat he was getting.

Post-vet visit, we went mattress shopping. What a nightmare that was. Went to Sears and saw 6 twin sized floor models of extremely expensive mattresses and nobody helped us. Went to another Sears and found the entire store overrun with people in UT apparel lining up to have their pictures taken with the Rose Bowl trophy (no, I'm not joking). Then we went to the Mattress Firm Clearance Center, which was horrible in that slimy salesperson way, but at least had choices and full sized models. Still found things to be very expensive, but we finally ended up with a nice pillowtop with a 10 year warranty, delivered, for a bit over $700. Seems like a ton of money to me, but when I went home and took the allergy cover off our old mattress to find that the tag was definitely 70s style and that it was once "extra firm," it reconfirmed that it has long since been time for something new.

After we were done mattress shopping, we headed out to the Humane Society in the next county over, to check out a dog I found online. The plan was to go and meet him, then go meet another dog on Sunday, then see how we felt about a second dog adoption. Things didn't go as planned. We got there and the place was horrible. Lines of kennels of barking dogs, none of whom had been bathed, none of whom had any toys or beds or anything, and none of whom have long to live if someone doesn't rescue them.

So, unsurprisingly, the dog we'd gone to see came home with us, and I'm sorry I couldn't take most of the rest of them as well. He's an Anatolian Shepherd/Great Pyrennes, as far as we can tell. They were calling him Zeus, but we've renamed him Atakan (ah-tah-kan), which is Turkish for "ancestral blood." We chose the name for its meaning, since Anatolians are such an old breed, and for the sound of it. We're calling him Ata (a-TA). He is a beautiful, well-mannered dog, and he's getting along with us, Leo, and Atticus swimmingly. We are going to the vet to get that all checked out this afternoon, but the only obvious health issue he has is his weight. He's approximately a year old, and he's at least 30 lbs underweight. He's so skinny you can see his ribs, backbone, hipbones, etc. It's really sad. We shouldn't have any trouble fattening him up now that he doesn't have to fight for food, though--his appetite seems very good.

Ata was really filthy from being a stray and being at the shelter, so our first stop after picking him up was the self-service dog wash. Bad move on a couple of counts. He obviously has no experience in the car and is terrified of it, so the drive was very trying, and he's also terrified of water, so washing him was even more so. After spending an hour at the dog wash, we had a marginally cleaner dog, but Mark and I were covered in head to foot fur, dirt, and water. It was really gross. The car was also a complete disaster and I had to take it to be cleaned yesterday.

After we got home, things went well. Ata and Leo sorted themselves out right away and seem to be developing a good friendship. Leo was the most active we'd ever seen Saturday night, running and jumping and playing like a young dog. You could tell his hips didn't thank him for it, and he definitely had a hitch in his get along later, but I think it was worth it. He'll figure out how to moderate it (and the activity should help with the recommended weight loss, too).

Sunday was more mellow, mostly just hanging out at home, supervising the dogs and playing with them and seeing how things are going to shake out. Seems to be going almost weirdly well. If it continues to go so well, this will be the fourth (or tenth, depending whether you could the puppies seperately or together) time I've made a completely rash decision about taking in a dog, Mark has questioned it but agreed to do it, and I've been completely right.

Makes me wonder if there is any wrong.

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Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Ata is a beauty, and it's great that he gets along so well with everyone else. It's really very surprising to me that Leo wasn't more defensive of his home and family, but I underestimated his easy-goingness, obviously. How much do you know of Ata's history? And have you been taking your new dogs to Lee (I think that's his name--Chance's trainer who we met when we were there) or training them yourselves? And what of your choice to get your pets microchipped? How did you decide that, how much does it cost, and what's involved? Whoa, sorry for the bombardment of questions...

No problem. I'll email you....

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Depression in dog food

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My co-worker brought this ad in to share with me yesterday, and it amused me so much, I have to share it with all of you. Tell me, does this depressed-ass dog make you want to buy his variety of food?

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Atticus: the name, the man

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In the comments to my original post about Atticus, Scand asked me to speak about why I have all-male pets, as feminist. She also asked why I gave Atticus the name I did. So I thought I'd answer those things:

The all-male pet thing has been almost purely coincidental. We were looking for a female dog, and I was skeptical about getting a male dog, when we got Chance. However, I loved Chance on site, so I got over my gender preference. The rescue person from whom we adopted Chance also told us that male dogs are harder to get adopted out than are female dogs, so for me, that's one more reason to consider male dogs. With Leo, we were attracted to him due to his breed makeup and personality, his gender was really an afterthought. Also, both Chance and Leo were altered when we got them, which I guess effects the "maleness" of the personality. In Leo's case, I doubt it made much difference, I'd wager that he was always gentle. In Chance's case, he may have been a real problem had he not been neutered (and I believe he was neutered early on). In any case, I wouldn't consider having a non-altered male dog (but I wouldn't consider having any non-altered pet, so I guess that's sort of neither here nor there).

With Atticus, I didn't even know what his gender was until after I'd decided to adopt him. The tag just said his name was "Sam," which could have gone either way, and you can't tell by looking at him (at least not without a closer inspection than I was willing to perform in Petsmart). I've heard male cats are actually more friendly and less mean-spirited than female cats, but at Atticus' age, I doubt there would be any difference even if that were true. So again, it was pretty much a coincidence that I found a cat that I was draw to and that cat happened to be male.

Mostly, the truth of it is that I don't really think of my pets as gendered at all. It just doesn't really occur to me.

The bigger question, I think, and one that I will try to remember to address here at some point, is why I, as a feminist, am so attracted to "aggressive," stereotypically male breeds of dogs. But that is a whole other discussion.

Atticus is named after Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I decided a couple of years back, after watching a dog show, that I wanted to get a beagle and name it Atticus Finch. It just seemed like a great beagle name. However, I then learned a bit about beagles and realized that I will never get one (they have a totally wrong personality for my type of lifestyle, and it's sort of mean to get just one, as they are quintessential pack dogs). So I decided I'd hold on to the name for a cat, since it has the added benefit of working with the nickname "Atticus Catticus," which I think is hysterical (I also named a stray neighborhood cat in our old neighborhood Purrsephone, so you see how my tiny brain works here). Mark doesn't like the name much, but he'll live with it.

Incidentally, I also really like Atticus for a child's name, but it's one of those names I like but wouldn't ever actually saddle a kid with, so it's perfect for the cat.

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Yay, i was right about where the name came from! :) Funny how it is male dogs and female cats that are harder to rehome, though - especially since the usual stereotypes of the animals in question are linked to those genders. I think the choice is just about our personalities - i like female cats, with all the stroppiness and so on that this entails, but then i also admire women who have some of those characteristics more than i should.

PS i used to know some people who called their cat 'Oedipuss', so you're in good company.

I love Atticus Catticus. That's too great. Now I want a kitten. Again.

My dad-in-law speaks fondly of a cat that a college dormmate illegally owned called "Entropy". I think that name is hilarious for a cat.

Oh, yeah, and thanks for responding to my questions in such detail. A whole post, even!

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Leo!

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He's absolutely fabulous. He's sweet and gentle (even has an amazing soft mouth). He is warming up to us very quickly. For the first two days, he was almost completely immobile (as in, we had to put a leash on him to get him up off the dog bed for any reason), but now he wanders around and follows us from room to room. He has shown no signs of aggression or fear. We're bonding. Mark and I are both in love with him already.

So far, things have gone better than I ever would have even dared to hope. There are no behavioral issues to speak of (he doens't know any commands, so I suppose that is something, but given his personality it barely matters). He is house trained. He's a dream.

His age and health are a little bit of a concern, but not too much. Dr. Julian (our vet) is estimating him to be about 6, which is senior for a dog his size, but he's in good shape. He has a bit of arthritis in one hip, but a few days of anti-inflammatories have made a world of difference, so it may well be something we can control with natural means (as well as exercise and taking some weight off him) and then just use the anti-inflammatories for flare-ups. That's the hope, anyway.

One decision we are facing now is whether or not get a preventative gastropexy for him. The surgery would make it all but impossible for what happened to Chance to happen to him. However, it could be a major procedure (they try to it orthoscopically first, but sometimes have to go in if that doesn't work) and any kind of anesthesia for a dog that size can be dangerous, especially given the advanced age. It's also spendy (about $1,400). So we are thinking about it and will talk to Dr. Julian more about it on Saturday when we take Mr. Leo in for his vaccinations.

I thought having Leo would make me miss Chance less, but it doesn't. It is better, though. Having him feels right.

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He's here!

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Actual text about our adventures in picking him up to come, but until then, pictures!!

Leo

Looks pretty comfy in his new home, no?

Leo in the garden

Exploring the garden jungle.

Leo with a toy

Learning about toys.

Leo after a bath

After his much-needed first bath.

Isn't he cute? So far he's an absolute joy, but I'll fill in the details later.

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he is a beauty, grace! can't wait to meet him!

Did he really change colour after his bath, or is it just a difference in light between the two shots?

What a cutie. And he's so chill! The pictures crack me up: "Leo exploring his new toy" = Leo chilling beside his toy. "Leo exploring the garden" = Leo laying in the garden. Even his post-bath pose is relaxed! And I had the same question as Nella--did he really change color so dramatically with his bath? If so, he really did need a bath!

Yes, the color change is all bath. He was filthy. He'd been living outside and it showed. In reality, he's pure white.

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Pet Insurance, a PSA

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When Mark and I first adopted Chance, we considered getting pet insurance. I'm the type who likes to insure things (as well as ensure things, I guess), so I assumed we'd get it, but we'd heard it didn't cover routine stuff (shots, yearly exams, etc.) and Chance was young and healthy, so we decided against it without ever really doing any research.

Mistake.

This week we will be paying a total of about $5,200 in vet bills, all incurred over the space of four days. Just like hospital bills for humans, these are pages of itemized expenses. The two surgeries were around $1,000 each, there were lots of medications, hospital stay fees, and everything else under the sun. Emergency vet care expensive.

We are now about to adopt a dog who, unlike Chance, has excellent probability of needing a lot of vet care. Leo is older than Chance and his breeds are known and know to be high-needs in the vet department. His chances of getting the gastric tortion that killed Chancey is excellent, as are hip problems and cancer. And that's all aside from the regular vet care needs of a dog his size (larger dog=bigger vet bill, especially since most animal medications are prescribed by weight of the animal and priced accordingly).

So I am researching pet insurance, and I'm floored at what I'm finding. It's not very expensive! Looks like we'll pay somewhere between $300-$400/year for pretty comprehensive coverage for Leo, and that's without lying about his age or his breeds, both of which raise the prices on the quotes. There are still some co-pays, or caps on how much the insurance will pay for a given procedure, but most of those look to my eyes to be pretty reasonable. For example, the VPI Superior Plan pays about $2,000 for a gastric tortion surgery. Chance's first one (the one that was actually a tortion surgery) cost $2,700 altogether. Putting Leo on this plan would cost $306/year, with an additional optional $99/year for vaccination and rountine care coverage. I find that to be very reasonable.

The take home message is this: if you have a large breed dog, or an old dog, or a dog whose breed predisposes it to medical conditions, or hell, maybe any dog at all, really look into pet insurance. I wish we had. It's hard enough to lose your pet without having to worry about how you are going to pay for it as well.

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I had pet insurance for my puppies, and then for Layla alone once Tirza went to her dad, until Layla was about 7. Then I switched to putting the money I was spending on insurance into savings, because now I can afford to take a hit if something bad happens. Vet insurance isn't like people insurance - buying anything that includes the preventive stuff is rarely cost-effective - but it's well worth it.

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Leo and the one that got away

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Leo lying down

I just talked to the woman who runs the rescue where Leo is. We are going to adopt him. I am so, so happy. It feels very right, adopting a dog his age (they are now guessing him at closer to 6 than 4). We will be able to give him the spoiled, mellow old age that we weren't able to give Chance.

Like all things, though, there is some sadness in this. Specifically, I also heard back about Cookie, the Bernese (now called Caroline by her rescue, which is a much better name, I think). She sounds delightful as well, and is, as you can see, quite beautiful in a goofy puppy way. I would have loved to have her. Mark and I even taked about taking them both (they both get on well with other dogs), but decided that Leo needs some time to adjust to us and to living inside and everything else before we get another dog, especially a fairly hyper young dog. So someone else will have to make a good home for Caroline. I hope that they do.

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How exciting that you get to bring home Leo! He is gorgeous!!

Leo's definitely a beaut, and he looks mellow and calm and really lovable. You guys were great for Chance, and you'd be excellent for a dog with behavioral problems, but you also earned a mellow, calm dog after all the cost and time of obedience training. Leo looks like a wonderful dog. I know your sign, but is Mark a Leo? Not that it's either here or there, but just curious with the dog's name and all...

Nope. Mark's birthday is only 5 days after mine. The consumate virgin. :)

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Dogs

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Mark and I have started looking for a new dog. There's a lot of controversy about whether or not that's a good idea at this stage--Chance has only been gone for a week--but it definitely feels right to me, and I think it's beginning to feel right to Mark as well.

We haven't met anyone yet, but I've been in touch with some fosters and rescues and we have some contenders. One is a 1 year-old female Bernese named Cookie. I don't have a picture of her yet, but her personality sounds great, if a bit on the hyper side for us, and I absolutely love Bernese Mountain Dogs. She's at a rescue in Dallas, and I am communicating with someone there to get more information about her.

Leo
Anther contender is Leo. Leo is an Irish Wolfhound-Pry mix. He's at a rescue north of Dallas. He is estimated to be around 4 years old, whch is a bit older than we would like. It sounds like he has a great personality--very gentle, very loving, very mellow. He hasn't shown any signs of abuse or fear or aggression issues. He was found living by an abandoned mobile home in the middle of nowhere, nearly starved to death. He's now healthy and is weighing in at about 120 lbs.

Isn't he a beautiful boy?

Maddie

A bit close to home (just over at the Williamson County ASPCA), we have Maddie. We don't know anything about her yet, but isn't she gorgeous?

Mark and I are going back and forth about whether or not it makes sense to go three hours to rescue a dog when we could rescue one right here in Austin. Why look for specific breeds and such when there are so many wonderful dogs being put down right here every day? It's a legitimate question, but we both feel drawn towards very large dogs, and there don't seem to be any in the Austin rescue circuit currnently, aside from a number of Great Danes. I'd be happy to adopt a Dane myself--I think they are super cute and they tend to have great, mellow personalities--but Mark is adverse to them.

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leo is gorgeous (i have a weak spot for irish wolfhounds), and maddie is really beautiful too.

Leo is about the most gorgeous animal I've ever seen. Seriously.

Beautiful dog. I'd wait a little bit though. Your new pup will be a handful (4 years old or not). It'll be a hard adjustment-- especially since you just lost your dog. There's no rush. When you're ready there will be plenty of big gorgeous dogs for you-- waiting for a good home.

Thank you for the advice, but I think we're going to ignore it. We need another dog. Our house is too empty, and we feel like Leo is too perfect to pass up. Pending a conversation with his foster mom tomorrow, we are going to apply to adopt him.

Leo is just as I'd pictured him in my mind during our conversation last week. Gorgeous boy! I hope it works out. If it doesn't and you do want to go the Pyr route (I would never have thought so, but Maddie's pic made me re-think that), check out the Pyr rescue network here: http://www.txpyrs.org/ This is where we found Seamus. He wasn't even included in the photo lineup--they get new dogs in all the time, sadly. But Leo seems really cool, so I'll have my fingers crossed for you. When I picked up the dogs last night, and I saw Tosca, I teared up all over again. I know she'll miss her "boyfriend".:(

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In Memoriam

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For those who have been so kind as to email me and ask, this is the rescue who pulled Chance out of the kill shelter, and anyone who wants to donate in his name, we'd be happy if you'd send your money here.

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There will never be another

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There will never be another dog like this dog.

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(sorry if I am double posting) I know there are no words for you right now, Grace. Dogs are the absolute best thing that can ever happen to a person, IMO. We just don't deserve them. I know you loved Chance with all your heart, and so did he. I doubt he would have chosen any person other than you. As I recall, you saved him from an unhappy life. I am so sorry he had to leave you.

Oh my God, honey. I just saw this. (My cell phone's battery is gone right now, so I can't call you.) Chance was a phenomenal dog. I'm just stunned. I can't believe he is gone. I am so, so very sorry. I will never forget the last time we saw him. I'll never forget how he felt under my hands as I pet him. I'm grateful to have those memories. Thank you. Damn it. It is so fucking unfair.

Oh Grace, I wish it hadn't turned out like this. I know how much he meant to you and Mark. I wish I had met him, but the picture we have in Casa de Monkies of you three after he got a training certificate is one of my favorites. He's so lucky to have had such great people as you and Mark.

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My baby is gone. Sudden heart failure this afternoon, after living through surgery #2, to repair a several inch diameter hole in his stomach. They did everything they could do, there was just too much damage. His stomach had been leaking into his abdominal cavity, which caused infection and a fever spike. They went in and fixed what they could with surgery this morning. We saw him briefly before he came out of the anesthesia, but were supposed to go back this afternoon when he was awake. The doctor called a couple of hours ago to tell us that he died in his sleep.

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oh grace, i'm so sorry. he was a very special guy...i'm glad i had the chance to meet him.

omg, that is so terrible. i can't imagine anything in my life that would equal losing my dog. fwiw, it's clear that he had a great life. make sure you take all the time you need to deal with this. there is a good site called rainbowbridge (i think) that might be of some help. you are in my thoughts.

I am so sad to read your update about Chance. You gave him the best life he could have and he obviously loved you as much as you loved him from all of your stories. (Josie from Phoenix)

So sorry to hear this. Remember at least that you gave Chance a better life than he'd otherwise have had.

I'm so sorry, Grace - loosing a furbaby is so tough - my prayers are with you and Mark.

I'm so sorry, Grace. He looks like a lovely dog, and was obviously very loved.

Grace, I am so sorry. I know how much you guys loved him. Please tell mark how sorry I am and I hope you know all my love and hugs of symapthy are coming your way.

Grace, I'm so very sorry to hear about Chance.

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The rest of the story

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It all started at 6:30 AM on Thursday, when the alarm went off to wake us up to go to the airport. Actually, it started before that, about six weeks ago, when my job was making me crazy and I was yelling "I need a fucking vacation!" at the top of my lungs every 30 minutes or so. After some discussion and exploration of ticket prices and possibilities, Mark and I decided to take a long weekend vacation in Boston in early July. Some of our favorite people in the world happen to live there, so it seemed a good idea. The tickets were ridiculously expensive, but we decided to do it anyway. Fast forward back to the alarm Thursday morning. We got up and got to the airport alright, and our plane from Austin to Dallas only left about 30 minutes late, which was close enough to on-schedule that we didn't have any connection worries. So far, so good.

Right after we landed in Dallas, the weather turned to shit. Thunder and lightening meant that no planes were going out or coming in. Knowing we'd be delayed, we decided to have breakfast at the airport T.G.I. Friday's. Yeah, I know, bad idea. But what really turned me off was not the absolute disgusting nature of the food, but the TV. Bombs in London. Tens of people already confirmed dead, hundreds injured, and nothing but ridiculously macho statements from the relevant politicians. Shit. Bad things were happening.

As the lightening seemed to be subsiding, Mark walked over to our gate to see how delayed our flight, originally supposed to take of at 10:45, was going to be. Just as he stepped up the counter, the gate agent got on the intercom and announced that the flight had been cancelled. Since Mark was first in line, we got seats on the next Boston flight, due to take off at 12:05. Good stuff.

But not so much. After being shut down for over an hour, the airport was backed up. Our gate was backed up, flight crews weren't arriving when they were supposed to, and it was delay after delay. Our second flight, originally supposed to leave at 12:05, finally started boarding at 5:15. Because the airport was so crowded, there were no chairs to be had and we spent the waiting time either standing or sitting on the concrete floor. My legs began to swell.

And then things got a lot worse.

As we were boarding the plane (finally!), Mark noticed a message on his phone. When he listened to it, the look of horror on his face told me it was something serious. It was the kennel. Chance had been taken to the vet. He had bloat.

I didn't know much about bloat (do now...), but I knew it was life threatening. I started shaking as Mark called the kennel back to get the full story. He had bloated, but they got him to the vet and got it stopped before his stomach turned. This is very good. He seems like he is doing OK now, they have him separated from the rest of the dogs and are watching him carefully. No, we don't need to get off the plane and come home. The plane door was closing as we decided that they knew better than us and that we would go ahead with our planned trip to Boston. We call our friend S. and ask her to go and check on Chance, and she says she will.

Fast forward four flight hours, and we land in Boston at about 10:00. We are thrilled to see our friends M. and H. are at the gate to meet us (they let you do that in Boston--how cool is that?). We call S. and she tells us that she saw Chance and he seems bummed out, but OK. We relax a bit. H. has brought her car so we don't have to take the T--looks like our shitty day is finally changing. We go to their house, where our other friend, also H., is waiting with fresh-baked cookies. We relax, have some food, sit around and talk. It seems like things are going to be OK.

As we get ready to go to bed at about 12:30, Mark notices another phone message. He checks it. Chance has bloated again and been rushed to emergency surgery. His stomach has turned this time. Mark calls the vet and is connected with the surgeon. The news isn't good--a large part of his stomach was choked off with no blood supply and is now black and necrotic. They are going t have to remove it. When the surgery is this intense and large parts of stomach have to be removed, the procedure is about 50% successful. What does not successful mean? It means he will die. Mark is sobbing as he hangs up the phone and tries to tell me what the vet said. I can't believe this s happening. I can't believe we stayed on that plane in Dallas and our boy is going through this alone.

I get on the phone to American Airlines and change our flights back. We are headed home at 7:00 AM. It's now 1:30. We wait for the surgeon to call back. We are both inconsolable, but H. and M. do their best and are, as usual, amazing. They make plans for a taxi to take us to the airport at 5. They even pay for it.

About 2:30, the surgeon calls back. The news is better. After they got the stomach untwisted, blood flow returned to the areas they thought were necrotic and color returned with it. They may be OK. After attaching some stomach to abdominal wall, which will help to ensure the bloat doesn't reoccur, they closed up without removing anything. This is better than expected, but it doesn't mean Chance is out of the woods. Besides the general risks of any surgery (which are greater in dogs than in people), we also have to worry about possible infection, especially if there was more damage to the stomach than they thought. If there are signs of this, they will have to go back in and do the removal, which will seriously diminish chances of survival. There is also the possibility of sudden heart failure, spurred by the toxins built up in the body while the stomach was twisted. There are lots of things that can go wrong. We need to get home as soon as we can to see him, because it's still very possible he could die.

At 5, we leave for the airport. Logan is a nightmare. The changes I made to our reservation last night are fucked up somehow and we have to stand in multiple lines to get things straightened out. We make our plane on time, however, and by 10:15 we are back in Dallas.

Dallas is a shorter repeat of the day before--our first flight is cancelled, but we are lucky enough to get tickets on the next plane. At 2:30, we are back in Austin. By 3:30, we are at the emergency clinic and can see our boy.

He looks rough, but not as bad as we thought he would. His belly is shaved and there is some leakage from his suture, so he's wearing a big bandage around his middle. He's hooked to an IV and is getting fluids, antibiotics, and morphine. He's hooked to a heart monitor because his heart is arrythmic. This is normal, we're told, and not yet cause for concern. He won't eat or drink, but that's not surprising. He's happy to see us and wags his tail. We sit and pet him for a few minutes, then he gets a booster shot of morphine. A few minutes later his eyes get glassy and he's drooling. Time to put him back in his kennel for more sleep. The vet who is caring for him is in surgery, but the tech tells us that he's doing as well as can be expected and that no news is good news--they will call us only if something bad changes, otherwise we can come seem him at 9:30 in the morning, and the vet will talk to us then.

We spend the evening worrying and attempting decompression. We get some food. We jump out of our skins every time either of our phones ring, but there is no bad news. The doctor who performed the surgery (a different doctor at a different clinic than the post-op) calls to check on him. The kennel owner calls to check on him. Our friends call. Our families call. The post-op clinic blessedly does not call. At 10PM I feel sure enough that my phone won't ring that I get in the shower. I either black out or fall asleep rinsing my hair and fall out of the shower, but I'm not hurt. After turning our phone ringers up all the way, we go to bed and both sleep like the dead.

This morning we get up and go immediately to visit Chance. Before we see him, the vet comes out to talk to us. She's amazing and I am immediately at ease. She is also very positive. She says he's eating, his heart arrythmias have died down enough that she's comfortable removing him from the ECG, and she has changed him to all oral meds. Once they stopped trying to give him the nasty prescription food and offered him some regular dry kibble, he even started to eat. This is an excellent sign. While he is still not out of the woods, things look much better. We are close to 36 hours post-surgery now, and she says that generally if anything bad is going to happen, it will happen in the first 72 hours.

Then we get to see him. It's better than yesterday, because he isn't hooked up to anything and can come to an exam room and sit with us privately, rather than us having to sit next to his kennel in the open room of recovering and invalid animals. He is so happy to see us he does his usual butt wiggle. His bandage is off, so we can see how bad his incision is, and it's bad. They split all the way from his chest to his genitals, and it is closed with metal staples. His stomach is shaved and there are shaved patches on both his sides where his heart monitor electrodes were. His capped off IV tubes are still attached to his leg. But bad as he looks, he seems like himself. He sniffs all around the exam room and then comes to us to be petted. After a few minutes, he lies down on the exam room floor and goes to sleep, lifting his head periodically to make sure we're still with him, then resting some more. This time, we can stay for about an hour and a half, so we do.

The tech who is helping us is fantastic. He tell us that the sleeping is very normal, both because of the drugs and because of the stressful environment. It's good for him to have us near and feel safe so he can get some rest. He is also obviously fond of our boy. He says they did muzzle him while they were removing the bandage and taking his temperature, because he growled at them, but goes on to say that he doens't think Chance is at all mean, he's just scared, and you can't blame him for that.

We leave feeling better than we have in days.

It is now 9:00 PM and we haven't heard anything, which is good. There are no visiting hours tomorrow, unfortunately, but the vet's assistant comes in and does rounds, and there is always someone there to watch the animals. We are to expect an update phone call tomorrow morning, and then, if everything continues to go this well, we will be able to bring him home on Monday.

Home care is going to be fairly simple--he just has to be kept down and not run or jump or get too excited until the sutures are removed (about two weeks). I'm sure he'll need meds for a while, as there has to be some pretty significant pain and he'll need a full course of antibiotics to fight off infection. We will need to watch him closely, but it is very likely that he will make a full recovery.

These have quite possibly been the most stressful three days of my life. As I've been saying a lot lately, this dog is part of my family and I love him very, very much. I cannot fathom losing him, and I particularly couldn't fathom losing him without even being there to be with him and to say goodbye. I feel horrible that this happened while we were gone, and that we didn't turn back when we originally go the call. It has to be said, though, that we were lucky this happened when it did, as the kennel staff did an absolutely excellent job monitoring him and getting him excellent care as soon as he needed it. It's quite likely they saved his life.

It's also quite likely that I will never attempt to go on vacation again.

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ah shit grace. it is the worst feeling in the entire world. maxie was hit by a car once and she looked at us with these eyes so positive that she just knew we'd take care of her even though she had no idea what was happening to her. you wouldn't believe the number of cars that stopped to help us, either. i remember at least three, plus one woman who had a piece of wood and a pickup truck and helped us slide the wood under maxie to put her in the back of the truck and drove her to the emergency vet. it's almost bringing tears my eyes just remembering that day. at any rate, ask the vet if chance should have a lampshade thing. maxie enjoyed the taste of her cast and ate it about two or three times until we forced her to keep the lampshade on no matter how much she argued with us.

Man, poor Chance :( And poor you--not much of a vacation, huh? I'm taking my rottweiler to the vet tomorrow finally--his surgery isn't scheduled till Wednesday, but he's too sick for me to feel comfortable not taking him to be checked on now. Luckily he looooves the prescription food, so that will be exciting for him. I'm stressed out and worried for him, though, and he isn't even my dog.

Oh wow. That's just horrible, and I'm crying. I hope you guys make it through this - it reminds me of my little Trixie, when she got hit by a car and lost a leg...it was horrible. But I remember being able to go in and visit her, and sit with her, and how much that helped both of us. Positive vibes from my Corgi-fied house hold to your house!

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Chance

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Chance is in at the emergency vet. He had surgery late last night for bloat. His stomach was completely turned and it is not yet 100% sure if parts of it died off or not (they did not think so when the did the surgery, so nothing was removed). If he lives through the next few days without complications, he should be fine (we are currently told the chances of this happening are 80-90%). If there are complications, it likely means that part of his stomach is dead and there could be infection. This would mean another surgery and his chances of living through it would be very decreased (50%, possibly lower depending on the extent of the damage).

This dog is my family. Please, please if you believe at all in praying or sending good vibes or whatever you do for animals, do it.

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Sorry to hear your dog is sick. If it is a comfort, I have been dreaming about dogs menacing me (very small dogs.)

Why in the world would that be a comfort? Anyway... Grace, I love you and I am sending all the positive energy in my world towards Chance. Please let me know if you need anything at all.

Have been doing so since HandM told me what happened. I'm so sorry we didn't get to see you, but you guys are good parents for heading home to give your puppy love.

I definitely am sending on very positive vibes to Chance. I know that you will take excellent care of him when he comes home.

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Another argument against BSL

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This is Sahara. She is somewhere between 2 and 3. She's half Pit Bull, half Boxer. She was rescued within minutes of being put down.

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Are you fostering her?

Nope, she's Mark's friend Michelle's dog who came over for a play date last night. She wore both Bow and Chance out.

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Worth a thousand words

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Cuddly Bow and Chancers

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Addendum

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Going over what I wrote last night, I realize I've barely scratched the surface of what I wanted to say. That is what happens when I try to post with the television on and Mark yammering at me. :)

First, I don't know if I made my feelings about my dog clear. I do not think Chance is a person. He is an entirely different species, with completely different needs and capacities. He does not understand logic, he cannot be reasoned with, he has a prey drive, he will never be able to use a toilet...the list goes on and on. But even though I don't think of Chance as human or humanesque, his life is worth as much to me as a human life. Yes, you read that correctly. My dog's life is worth as much to me as a person's life.

I've never gotten involved in the debates about whether "parenting" a pet can be compared to parenting a child, mostly because I don't see what good it does to argue about it, and also because I don't have a child, so I don't think I'm a fair judge of what the similarities and differences between the two are. I also think it's very person-specific: some people do not feel the same way about their companion animals that I do about Chance (some people also don't love their kids). What I can say is this: I am more committed to my dog and love my dog more than I ever would have thought possible. The way I feel about him isn't really comparable to the way I feel about the human beings I am close to, because the relationships are a totally different sort, but if I'm forced to quantify, then I'd say that he is more important to me than most people. That's simply the way it is.

This is why I find the whole topic of breed specific legislation so very troubling. The idea that someone could take Chance away from me--break up my family--just because of generalizations that have been made (wrongly, in my opinion) about his breed(s) is both terrifying and infuriating. And it doesn't have to happen to me to make it wrong--why on earth would I assume that there are no people who love their pit bulls like I love Chance?

A friend of mine just told me that her dog, a half-Pyr, half-Chow, is officially a "Pyr mix." Why? Because she couldn't get home owner's insurance if her dog was listed as a Chow, a dangerous breed. If you can't get home owner's insurance, you can't buy a house. If you can't buy, you have to rent. If you are renting, it's going to be difficult to find somewhere that will let you live with your supposedly dangerous dog. And so you face a choice, basically, between homelessness and getting rid of your dog. That is not a fair position to put people in, especially when the supposed good that comes out of it really amounts to a false sense of safety for ignorant people.

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I love my pit more than any person. Some people just don't get it. And it sucks that I have to hide the fact that she's a pit mix because of insurance. Some people just don't get it and never will.

I just want to say that Chance is one of my favorite dogs ever. You and Mark have done so much work with Chance's (and your) training and it really shows. He's a real sweetheart, and I have zero fear around him (other than being covered in drool) or having my toddler around him for that matter. I am so glad he wasn't put down.

I never had Chows down as dangerous, aren't they those tiny ones like Pekes?

not at all, they're huge. i have a german shepard/chow that's pretty damn vicious. well, she used to be until she started knocking on death's door, my poor puppy. but they're disgustingly loyal, the type that will beg you to let them lay down their life for you. you just need to make sure they're locked away when people come over.

Chows are mid-sized--it is the (shh) Chow in our Pyr mix (her mum was full Pyr) that kept her size down to 75 lbs. Chows are usually 45-60 lbs. Honestly, I can say that don't "know" that she is half Chow, because her mum was found as a stray and the folks that took her in didn't realize she was pregnant, because she was so gaunt. (When she went into labor in their bedroom after a week, they caught on.) But it is a little intellectual dishonesty, since even though the dad is unknown, Tosca's tongue is solid purple and her tail, though fringey like a Pyr's, arcs gracefully over onto her back, so there isn't much doubt. I also call her a Pyr mix to strangers because it changes how they react to her. When my SO would tell people she was a Chow-Pyr mix, you could see folks stiffen. (I recommended to him that he say the Pyr part first and see if that changed things. Sure enough, when he started saying "Pyr-Chow", they weren't as tense and more likely to approach her to pet her.) The problem with some Chows is that they are fiercely loyal and protective of their people (Tosca *is* a real mama bear when it comes to our child). And proper Chows have this foreshortened muzzle that hinders their peripheal vision--you should never approach an unknown Chow from the side, because they won't see you coming and the startle could cause a reaction. So, they have been known to bite, but Tosca is not aggressive at all. Her first instinct upon meeting people is to flop on her back for a belly pet--she goes submissive immediately. She also got a Pyr head from her mixture, so that helps with the vision issue. When you go to a Chow owner's home, don't be surprised to be hugged at the door--even if you aren't a hugger by nature. This signals to the dog that you are welcomed by the human. For us, with Tosca's mama bear routine, I've found going out on the porch with new arrivals and shutting the door, then entering with the guest calms her down immensely. p.s. Nella, I think you might be thinking of Pomeranians?

No Siobhan, it was much sillier than that. The pavillion in my local park was built on what had previously been a designated patch for dogs to do their business, a subject of much humour in the local paper. The pavillion had a kind of 'oriental' theme, which also got the piss taken. So the joke was they'd give pooing permits to 'pekinese and chows', which had always led me to lump the two together. *blushes* I'll stick to ducks in future.

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Treatise on canines

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You know, the best friend I ever had was a dog
It sounds like a cliche unless it's happened to you
Some days that dog was the only reason I even got out of bed

-Dan Bern, "Estelle"

Tonight, I am moved to share my feelings about dogs.

First, a bit of history. I grew up around a lot of dogs. I hated them. I wasn't scared of them (except for my continuing phobia of Boston Terriers, but that's another story for another time), I just didn't like them. They were smelly, they were slobbery, and I just didn't get what was so cool about them.

These dogs came into my life in various forms. The household I grew up in included an Airedale (Sissy) when I was a small child and later was home to a Fox Terrier mutt (Spike) and a Border Collie (Missy). My grandfather on one side bred and raised Boston Terriers. My grandparents on the other side had a Pit Bull (Rowdy). My dad and stepmom had a Black and Tan Hound mutt (S