Saturday, April 29, 2006

Happiness is a Brand New Pillow

I guess I never realized how much influence a pillow can have over a person's emotional state. Our old pillows really weren't beyond hope. They were not torn to shreds by the dogs. They were not ripped the way our first and second fitted sheets ripped (Clark, somehow). They were not peed on by a foster puppy, or burned, or moldy. They were still quite functional.

But they were all several years old, flat as a pancake, and extremely yellow. They all had a distinct odor... not strong or unpleasant, but slightly musty. I'd attempted to wash one of them, and it came out of the machine as a lumpy, shapeless mutant. From then on the pillow was treated like the nerdy kid at tryouts, unwanted and rejected until there were no other options.

Last night, while changing the sheets, I became aware of my mental state as I peeled the pillowcases off. As if on automatic pilot, I put the case in the hamper and headed for the trash to throw the pillow away. It took me several moments of silence before I realized what I was doing, and a few more minutes to come to a conclusion: time for new pillows.

This morning we went to Target and bought two new pillows. They fill the pillowcases completely, like fat balloons. I spent the rest of the day dreaming about them. Tonight we get to try them out, and I can't be happier.

Update: The pillows were nicer to sleep on than I ever imagined. They weren't that expensive, but worth every penny. A cheap and effective treatment for the "blahs".

Monday, April 24, 2006

Will Classes Ever End?

This may have been my first semester back at college, but I sure seem to remember the semesters during my undergrad years lasted longer and ended with significantly less panic. This semester's end has crept up on me like a gigantic tidal wave. Now the bulk of it looms over me as I paddle frantically toward shore against a riptide. Will I drown? Stay tuned.

Needless to say, the work I want to do on my website and my blog remains untouched as I splash through the end of the semester. Even my day-to-day life is completely on hold. Our fridge is barren. Pieces of shredded dog toy litter the floor weeks after the dirty deed was done. Piles of clothes sway and quiver in the laundry room. Up until yesterday our lawn looked like we'd been on vacation for months. I finally conned Byrd into mowing after musing aloud that I might hire someone to do yard work. (I think the suggestion brought his masculinity into question.) I have spent the last week like a hermit in my office, working on projects and papers with sweaty hands and strained eyes. When will it end?

Over the weekend I wrote a twenty-page paper. I have one more twenty-page paper due by Thursday, plus a personal portfolio, a large website plus documentation, and a software documentation project. I need three or four of me.

And that's why I haven't touched my site or my blog in weeks. See you in early May!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Put Tags On Your Dog, Dammit!

Imagine - your dog disappears through a hole in the back fence. How are you going to get it back? If your dog isn't wearing any ID, you will have to scour the neighborhood, put up fliers, make phone calls to local vets, and visit all the local shelters. While you're doing all this, where's your dog? Maybe at the local pound, mere days away from being offered for adoption or euthanized, surrounded by scary dogs and scary people. Maybe some kind dog lover found your dog wandering on the highway. They assume the poor dog's been dumped and decide to keep him.

Why go through all this hassle and misery when you could simply put an ID tag on your dog, thereby dramatically increasing the liklihood that your dog's finder will call YOU, probably within minutes after they have found your dog. Heck, your phone number is right there!

On Friday afternoon two little girls came by my house. They had a little white Lhasa Apso dog with them. "We found this dog. Do you want it?" asked one of them, offering it up to me.

"Was it running loose? Did you ask the neighbors if it's theirs?" I asked them. I didn't recognize the dog at all. It didn't have a collar. Damn.

"We don't know whose it is. We asked around." The girls left the little dog with me. I put it in the backyard in one of our escape-proof kennels. I think I have strays in those kennels more often than our own dogs stay in them. I promptly called animal control and left a message. It was late in the afternoon, and I felt sure someone was going to come home from work and wonder where their dog was. If animal control could come get the dog right away, the dog would probably be home by dinnertime.

After two hours and no response, I called animal control again. The little dog had barked nearly nonstop for those two hours, and I felt sure my neighbors would take matters into their own hands if I didn't do something about it. Animal control finally answered the phone. Their facility was full. They didn't want to come get the dog. They tried to guilt me into keeping the dog overnight. "We're going to have to euthanize some of our animals in order to make room."

I didn't want to sound cruel, but to be honest, I didn't care. They weren't going to make me feel guilty. Our animal control facility recently downsized despite loud protests from the public, and had the balls to proclaim their newly shrunken program a "success" by manipulating their euthanization statistics to an obscene degree. They have made no effort to educate the public on responsible pet ownership, which, properly implemented, probably would significantly reduce the number of loose animals they constantly have to house and euthanize. I wasn't about to let them dump their problems on me. "Well, that kinda sounds like your problem, not mine," I said. "I can't keep this dog overnight."

"Call your vet and see if they will hold it for us," said AC.

"I highly doubt it," I said, feeling irritated. I wasn't about to ask my vet to do a freebie for AC.

"Then call the emergency animal clinic off the highway. They hold dogs for us," said AC at last. I gave in and drove the dog to the emergency animal clinic. The clinic staff did not seemed pleased, but they gave me an AC intake form to fill out and took the dog.

"We just don't like to broadcast that we do this," said the clinic manager. Then he tried to talk at me about irresponsible ownership. Dude, do you realize I volunteer for two humane societies, rescue and rehome critters, and run a website about responsible dog ownership? You think I don't know all this already?, I thought, but I kept silent and nodded. Yeah, yeah.

All this hassle, all this grief, just because the dog didn't have any frikkin' ID!

If the dog had ID, I could have called the owner, and the dog would have been home by that evening. No conversations with AC about euthanisia. No exasperated emergency clinic staff. No going out of my way to drive the dog to the facility. The poor dog wouldn't have to spend days cooped up in a little stainless steel kennel, stressed out and scared. And a few dogs would probably still be alive, rather than euth'ed to make room for yet another stray. That pisses me off more than anything.

Today - Monday, three days later - a boy stopped by. "Did you find a little white dog?"


"Here, tell my mom." The woman was too lazy to even get out of her car until the boy waved at her. She came up to my sidewalk.

"Did you find a little white dog?" she asked.

"Yes. Some neighborhood kids found her and brought her to me. She didn't have a collar or tags so I didn't know who she belonged to," I explained.

"Oh," said the woman, looking surprised. "Oh, well, we only put her out in the backyard." Her tone of voice said You really don't need tags for that, sweetie! I'm sure the look on my face in response probably confused her more, since it was a mix of disgust, frustration, and irritation. "I guess she got out of a hole in the fence..." the woman tried to explain.

"Well, that's exactly why she should have been wearing tags, right?" I smiled. I was trying to be patient but couldn't keep a hard edge out of my voice. I explained that I had taken the dog to the emergency vet at AC's request, and now that several days had gone by, she needed to call animal control. And that was that. Off she went.

The more I think about it, the more pissed off I get. I was the one who AC tried to pressure into doing their job by making it seem like my fault that some dog would have to be euthanized to make room for this woman's dog. I was the one who had to sit through a lament about the dearth of responsible pet ownership, courtesy of the emergency vet. I was the one who let this yappy dog contaminate my kennel and piss off my neighbors for two hours, and I was the one who had to drive the dog to the vet in rush hour traffic. All because this lady couldn't go through the simple motion of putting a frikkin' tag on her dog.

What does this lady get? Her dog is safe and sound instead of dead or stolen. She forks over a pittance - maybe $50 - to get her dog out of the slammer. And despite her lazy thoughtlessness, she won't hear about the dog that died to make room for her dog, or the mess I had to deal with, or lengthy lectures on responsible dog ownership. I can only pray the monetary punishment is enough to inspire her to put a tag on her dog from now on.

Is your dog wearing tags? Don't make me come over there.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Five Days??

Has it really been five days since my last blog? Time certainly flies, even when you're not having much fun. As most college students are fully aware, the end of the semester is upon us. My three graduate classes are wrapping up the semester thick with projects galore. I have been doing homework pretty much nonstop for days now.

I admit, I wasted today. I spent a good portion of the morning working on my Happy Pit Bull website. I'm trying to revise the Shelter page to more accurately discuss the various methods of appropriate and inappropriate canine containment. It's not re-posted quite yet, but I hope to finish it soon, and quickly, since it's eating up so much of my time.

What else did I get done today? Clark and I went to Sonic for lunch. The toy in the kid's meal was a coroplast glider. I assembled it, put stickers on it, and then went outside to throw it for a few minutes. I went back inside and tried to read chapter 9 of "Writing Software Documentation", fell asleep for two hours, woke up, and went upstairs to work on my website for a while longer. Then Clark came out of his office and fell asleep on the couch for several hours. I moved into the bedroom and sat on my laptop reading headlines. Clark came into the bedroom and fell asleep on the bed. I played ZamBeeZee for an hour. And now I'm doing this. Next I will make some leftover spaghetti and try to finish my reading so I can start answering the homework questions.

The dogs have spent the entire day sleeping in whatever room I am in. When I was upstairs, they went to sleep upstairs in their crates. Now that I am in the bedroom, they are sleeping on the floor beside the bed. Felanie is snoring, but Dozer is keeping one eye on me. He knows dinnertime is fast approaching (8:00 pm every night). For a little while this afternoon I stood outside on the back steps and threw a Frisbee-like toy for Dozer. But there are nails in the yard after our roof was re-shingled, and the mosquitoes have also come out of hibernation, so the game of fetch was very short-lived.

What a waste of a beautiful day. Why do I always feel so miserable when I spend the day sitting around like this? The stress of unfinished homework and class projects is weighing heavily upon me, yet I resist and procrastinate. Perhaps tomorrow will be more fun; it's our first anniversary and we are planning to go to Enchanted Rock State Park.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Student journalist gets one thing right

An obscure article by Katie Bradford in the Henderson State University Oracle online newspaper dared to cover the topic of pit bulls and dangerous dog legislation. But her research led her astray, and she ended up making several false statements about the breed-type, including the persistent myth of the locking jaw.

Read the original article here.

Needless to say, she got feedback. And how. Her next article carried an undertone of irritation and frustration. She loved dogs and didn't believe pit bulls should be banned, she had tried to do research, and she had even solicited help via email from a couple of experts (didn't name names) on pit bulls and dog attacks, to receive no reply until after she had already published the article. Thus her article contained glaring factual errors despite her best efforts (or so she says).

Read the second article here.

But this is really beside the point. What I found interesting was one of her comments thus:
"Self-proclaimed canine authorities won’t leave me alone. I talked to several of them, and the more I listened, the more I realized that none of them could agree on a damn thing."

Bradford may have gotten a lot wrong in her article (and in her second article she still persisted with the locking jaw thing), but this is one statement she got hands-down, 100%, abso-freakin'-lutely correct. Wanna learn the truth about pit bulls in less than a week? It's not gonna happen. In fact, learning about pit bulls is nearly impossible unless you have months, even years, to devote to the study.

Experts about pit bulls conflict over just about every aspect of the breed-type. One expert will tell you that pit bulls make fabulous guard dogs. Another expert will tell you that they are so friendly to strangers that they are worthless for protection. One expert will tell you that pit bull jaws are super-strong and that they do not let go once they bite down (like a milder version of a locking jaw), and other experts will scoff at that notion. One expert will tell you the pit bull is highly resistant to pain, or that pit bulls get a "rush" from pain, while another expert will roll their eyes at the idea. Some pit bull enthusiasts love to assert that the pit bull can whip any other breed (or even species) in a fight ("purely hypothetically, of course, ahem") while others rub their foreheads and try to explain that such claims are merely a stereotype that certain ignoramuses perpetuate in order to boost their own egos. Some people say the pit bull is unparallelled as a companion dog, some say it is the most dangerous and vicious breed-type, and still others (like myself) say it is just one breed-type out of many, with a few special considerations (as any breed will have) but nothing extreme one way or the other.

I won't even discuss the zillions of different ways that novice pit bull owners are told to care for their pit bulls. What is the right way to raise and care for and train a dog? Do you use clicker training, positive reinforcement, choke chains, electric collars, treats, praise, punishment, "time out", or what? Knowing the "right way" to train a dog is hard regardless of the breed of dog you own, and even harder if you are a novice pit bull owner. The pit bull stereotype falsely singles out the breed as requiring special training techniques. I can't tell you how many emails I get from novice pit bull owners who wonder if there's a special food or training regimen or exercise regimen for pit bulls.

No matter where you go to learn about pit bulls, finding a straight answer is tough. Bradford is not alone. There are probably tens of thousands of people out there who truly believe the pit bull can lock its jaws. There are millions of people out there who believe the breed-type is fantastically different from all other breeds, whether to a positive extreme or a negative. One thing is for sure. The pit bull is set apart from all other breeds in one respect - our society's treatment of it. The myths and stereotypes that cling to the pit bull are hard to get past when you're just trying to do a quick journalistic piece - a snappy bit of research - on the breed-type.

Unfortunately, the more frequently the myths and stereotypes make it into the media, the more likely we are to see it again, as writers re-use (as Bradford did) these myths from other pieces of journalistic nonsense, gleaned from still other misinformed sources. Bradford may have learned a lesson about fact checking (or perhaps not, judging from the tone and excuses in her second article) , but the myths she presented as fact are now out in public for yet another "journalist" to "borrow" from. What's worse, her failure to retract the errors in her second article (putting quotes around the words "locking jaw" does not correct the factual error that she is presenting, the myth that pit bulls do not unclamp their jaws once they bite down) only legitimizes the myths in the eyes of readers.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hooray! A Shelter Manager Who Loves Pits!

I would just like to share my pleasure that the new shelter manager at the Humane Society of Williamson County (where I am volunteer webmaster) owns a pit bull and is a huge fan of the breed-type. She expressed interest in doing pit bull education activities and I could not be more pleased to hear it, especially since the previous shelter manager was less-than-thrilled about pit bulls and had no problem putting them at the top of the euthanasia list when space got low.

Of course, the shelter itself needs a lot of work in many areas, and I am sure the new manager will have her hands full for quite a while. Any special attention given to pit bull-specific education and outreach is undoubtedly low on the priority list. But I am excited that the pits at the shelter finally have a shelter manager who cares about them.

Readers - if you have not done so recently - please make a donation of time, money, or goods to your local pit-friendly animal shelter or rescue group. It is so easy to do and it makes a huge difference in the lives of homeless pit bulls. Donations don't need to cost a lot of money. For a while, my shelter had empty milk jugs on their wish list. Empty milk jugs, for crying out loud. I throw away three empty jugs a week! (Needless to say, they took that off their wish list because of me - I keep them well stocked.) Ask your local shelter or rescue group what you can do to help them. It's probably a lot easier than you think.