Monday, December 29, 2008

Adoption

We adopted a dog this weekend. She's approx. three years old, "buff" colored (greyish tan like a nice leather car interior), 40-50 lb. pit bull mix. Sweet, alert, good on a leash, intelligent and interested in learning, and seems friendly toward other dogs. The shelter called her Lula, but I'm going to call her Star.

She's getting spayed today, so she has to stay at the shelter until Tuesday. No pics yet, alas. The only one I have is a terrible photo obviously taken by the shelter immediately upon intake; she is cowering, and her eyes are big glowing yellow balls. Her photo is so bad that I didn't even consider her when I was doing a web search; I went to the shelter to look at a different dog and ended up checking her out as well.

I'm so excited, but also nervous. I have no idea how Dozer will do. The shelter did not require us to do a meet-and-greet, which was a huge relief. Instead, I am going to do the slowest possible intro--two weeks of crate and rotate--before bringing them together. Hopefully by then he will have accepted Star as a roommate (I think 'pal' is probably asking too much).

Now I've got to do some reading up. I haven't trained a green dog for years. Our comfy routine and our house rules are about to get all shaken up. The chaos will be similar to that created by a foster dog--but we're keeping this one, so I have to get my training cap on.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sure, make this adoption a little more difficult

We've been trying to find a suitable dog to fill the hole left by Felanie. I have been taking my time, and I've had very high expectations: small adult female pit bull-type that is social and dog-friendly. That in itself narrows my options considerably.

And yet, no one seems particularly eager to rehome their adoptable dogs. To date, not a single local rescue group has bothered to respond to my general inquiries about adoption. I can't even seem to get in touch with them when I want to meet a dog they have posted on Petfinder. So I guess rescue groups are out.

That leaves shelters. And out of the six shelters in our area, two require meet-and-greets, which are guaranteed to go badly because of Dozer. No exceptions—I asked. So those are out. Three others do not require meet-and-greets, but refuse to do home visits (which might actually work for Dozer). If I adopt from any of these three, then, I'm going to have to make an on-the-spot decision.

Only one shelter does home visits. Not only that, but they allow overnights / trial runs! Perfect, right? Sure, if they had a dog there that met my criteria... but they don't.

Meanwhile, my visit to one shelter (one that recommends but does not require a meet-and-greet) netted a very promising dog that seemed to fit my criteria fairly well. I asked about the adoption process. When I explained my situation (meet-and-greet will not be a good idea) the lady helping me proceeded to advise me to look elsewhere for a shelter that would do a home visit! Yes, she was encouraging me to go away.

I ventured to suggest a trial period. The lady stared at me as if I had just fallen out of the ceiling. Then she said, "No. Once you adopt, the dog is yours permanently. You really should do a meet-and-greet. Just today we had several animals returned because they aren't getting along with the other critters in the house."

Okay, I just explained why a meet-and-greet won't work. But wait a sec. You won't do a trial period or an overnight. But it's okay for people to return the animals they adopt. Isn't that sort of the same thing? And wouldn't a trial prevent those much-lamented returns? At the very least, a trial run means one dog not sitting in a kennel going nuts, one dog not "taking up space," one dog weasling its way into a prospective adopter's heart.

I am utterly stumped. As much as I hate making a psuedo-commitment, the shelter system here has put me against a wall. How the heck am I supposed to adopt a suitable dog when nobody shows the least bit of interest in working with me (the exception being the lone shelter that allows overnights, but has no dogs that show potential)?

While our shelters refuse to help potential adopters (or treat them like loonies, which is something I keep running into whenever I ask a real question), and cling to their either-or philosophy ("either you take it home for keeps or you don't take it home at all"), all these dogs are being put to sleep.

I don't know why this is so difficult. Grr.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A great Christmas gift

Sports Illustrated is finally making up for their 1987 sensational, stereotypical, fearmongering cover and article about pit bulls:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/magazine/12/22/vick.dogs/


1987 SI cover: The article inside was similarly ridiculous.

2008 SI cover: The article inside is thoughtful and much less sensational.

The 2008 article even references the ghastly 1987 SI issue. The reference is both apologetic ("oops, we might have contributed to a problem") and exculpatory ("but the article inside was not so bad"). Yes, SI, back in 1987 you did contribute to a serious problem--and yes, the article inside was that bad.

But thank you for this positive coverage. I hope it undoes some of the damage you did to the pit bull's image twenty years ago.

Almost... there...

Come on, Christmas. I'm ready. The house is clean (kinda). The gifts are wrapped (well, halfway). The menu is done (the cooking is not). The tree is decorated (only took a week to get around to it).

Yes. I'm ready.

Dozer seems more ready than me. He is deeply disturbed by the presence of the tree. It's a bit larger than usual, true, and it does loom ominously as a result. Bigger is not always better. Next year I'm going to pick something a tad more suitable. (But it didn't look nearly as large on the lot, I swear!)

Dozer also participates in the bizarre gift-wrapping ritual that my husband and I go through every year. I say it's bizarre because we always pile the unwrapped gifts under the tree, then wrap them at the last minute. Because we have family members at our house constantly, the unwrapped gifts are a source of stress--what if Mom comes over and sees her amazing gift sitting there? The surprise is ruined! Quick, throw a sheet over it in a way that doesn't look totally suspicious. I don't know why we don't wrap as we buy. It would make life a lot less ridiculous.

Anyway, that's beside the point. Dozer, for some weird reason, likes to "help" with the gift-wrapping, which takes place on our living room floor. I bring down the paper, scissors, and tape from my office, settle onto the floor, and almost immediately find myself the target of a huge, excited white dog. He sits on me. He puts his head on my leg. His lips caress each gift--each mysterious box, each paper or plastic bag, each price tag I yank off. I pick up the scissors, and Dozer shoves his wet nose between the blades--sniff sniff sniff. I have to reach over his bulk to spread out the wrapping paper.

What on earth is this dog's problem? He's always directly between me and the gift. And if I dare to look at him or talk to him ("Dozer, move your fat head"), he starts licking my face uncontrollably.

I suppose he thinks some or all of these gifts are for him. Or perhaps it's my mistake for letting him "help" by tearing apart some of the unnecessary cardboard boxes. It actually was helpful (we must flatten for recycling), but now I have to rein in his new desire to rip apart ALL the boxes and packages.

To Dozer's credit, he has been very good about it all. This is his first year being left unsupervised and uncrated around the Christmas decorations and gifts. I expected at least one chewed candy cane or one torn gift, but the only thing he's done so far is discover his own Christmas gift. That was my mistake, as I left it on the floor in a Petco bag. Amazingly, he pulled his gift out of the bag but did not touch the cat toys or the dog toys that I had bought for friend and family pets. I guess we really know Dozer well, since he self-selected the gift intended for him.

Unfortunately, I hadn't taken the packaging off the toy yet. Fortunately, Dozer apparently realized it was not in a condition to be played with; he abandoned it on the dining room floor and we found it easily when we got home--it was still in perfect condition. Byrd stuck it in Dozer's stocking.

Oh yes. The stocking. It's a little depressing: it says "DOGS." Depressing for me, I guess. Dozer could care less. There's no way he remembers Fel after all this time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And the "meet and greet"...

...bombed. I was hoping it wouldn't, but I had doubts... doubts that proved to be right.

Dozer made his growly "I don't like you" display and the other dog said "You want some? Here's some!"

I have no problem with Dozer's behavior and I'm sure Dozer would have been quite good if this had been a home visit (shelter wouldn't do a home visit). On the other hand, this did give me an opportunity to assess the other dog's level of dog friendliness, and unfortunately she didn't meet my rather high (too high?) standards. She would still be a great dog for someone who just wanted a cuddlebug.

I think the shelter was annoyed with me for being the catalyst that resulted in a "best as only dog in household" note on the dog's file.

Back to the drawing board.

I have no idea how to choose a dog. They usually just show up at my house.

Well, the house LOOKS clean, anyway...

Sitting here eating cheese, crackers, and apples--my favorite lunch--and willing my sore throat to go away. No, I refuse to get sick over the holidays! I've been hit by at least three mysterious sore throats (plus assorted random symptoms that manifest into a knockout illness) over the last year. The doctor has no idea what the problem is. I think he's tested for everything. I'm starting to wonder if it's allergies. (Welcome to Austin, allergy capitol of the world.)

I hired a maid service to clean my house today. Could I have done the cleaning myself? Yes. Do I have time? No. Let's put it this way. It took two experienced cleaning women almost two hours to clean my house. And that's not including laundry, dishes, and picking up, which I have been doing sporadically over the past three days. It also excludes my darling husband's office, which he refused to pick up at all (probably because he knows it is beyond hope). Now the maids are gone, my house looks sparkly (sans hubby's office), and I still have four or five loads of laundry to cycle. And Christmas decorations to put up. And so much more that I am not even going to mention.

Dozer was quite polite while the maids were here. He stuck with me, per my request (read: command), and we stayed out of the way. Unfortunately, he is incredibly farty today, so our house smells a lot less clean than it should. In fact, for a short while I had him closed in the bedroom, and when I went in there to let him out, I had to turn on the ceiling fan. It was terrible! I don't even want to know what the maids thought... how embarrassing.

Today I'm taking Dozer to the animal shelter to meet a potential housemate. He's going to hate it. And it will be worse since his stomach is apparently upset--he will be awful, I know it. But at least I will find out how the other dog feels when confronted by a sick, anxious, grumpy, anti-social selfish jerk dog.

Friday, December 05, 2008

So I thought the end of November would bring me a little downtime. Instead I got an unexpected call from an old boss, and to make a long story short, I am now working on two rush copyediting jobs at once. Which is great, because I love copyediting, and more than that, I love getting paid tons of money to copyedit.

But it means no downtime. Except weekends, which I am going to fight to keep free. Not that I'll be doing any relaxing on the weekends, since I've got Christmas shopping and cards and housework and all that jazz to deal with.

Dozer has become both frisky and pesky over the last few days. I'm sure part of it is boredom, and part is the colder weather blowing in. The other night when I was copyediting past 3 am, he began to get increasingly impatient with me. He acts as my "bodyguard" around the house, following me everywhere--it's what he considers his "job"--and I guess he figured it was very late, and he was tired, and he wanted to clock out and get some sleep, and I was being unreasonable by staying up so ridiculously late.

So he started whining: a quiet, yet shrill, continuous gasping sound. I tried to silence him by letting him outside to potty. I gave him a treat. I stared him down. I told him "no," whereupon we had a conversation that went like this:

"no"
whine
"no"
whine
"no!"
whiiine
"NO!"
whiiiiiiiiiine
"ARGH! SHUT UP!"
silence....
silence....
whine

Byrd got home from his job at about 3:30 am, and at my request (Dozer was now whining with every breath out), he took Dozer to bed with him. Dozer did not go willingly, but I think he finally realized I was not ready for bed, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Back to normal, whatever that is

Titan got adopted today, and we're hoping it will stick. I think it will; the family has an extensive dog-owning history and experience with cattle dogs as well.

So with Titan's departure, I'm looking forward to cleanup. I can un-puppy-proof the house: pull down the dog toy box and the giant tiger toy (the giant lion toy succumbed to its injuries shortly after Titan discovered the stuffing inside), put away the dog crate and the extra metal bowls, wash the dog blankets and beds, vacuum, and file away Titan's adoption paperwork--or just dump it on the floor in my "to file" pile. Dozer won't care.

The timing is perfect, since it looks like I have a steady job for a while. The textbook company I'm freelancing for has started churning out chapters for me to copyedit. Yay! Work!

I'm toying with the idea of redesigning a website for a local pit bull rescue as my big donation for the holidays. They badly need a new site--their current one is outdated and unpleasant to navigate--I'm just not sure how to tactfully approach them, especially since it looks like someone took a personal interest in creating the current site, investing a lot of themselves into it. What should I say? "Wow, okay, I know you meant well when you designed this, but the purpose of your site isn't very clear. Are you trying to rescue dogs, or induce migraines?" Gah. :/

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Done and done

I finished. I finished. That's all I can manage right now. I finished.

I'm going to take a little break now, I think. Maybe do a little victory dance, have a little drink. Or five.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nanowrimo Week 4 and life is good!

Well. Where to begin? For the first time, I'm ahead of the game, having spent my entire Sunday writing. I'm at 40K words one day ahead of schedule.

And how did I manage this? Especially when the day was rainy and gloomy, preventing me from dumping my rascally foster dog outside in the outdoor kennel?

DOZER BABYSAT.

Yes, folks, my dog-hating grumpy old dog BABYSAT the foster dog.

I kid you not. Dozer played with Titan and kept him entertained for hours. I didn't have to worry about a thing because Dozer kept Titan right by my feet and kept him engaged in real play, not table-chewing and blanket-ripping and carpet-soiling (which is not play even though it's sure fun for the puppy). And after all that play, Titan was so exhausted that he completely passed out! Poor Dozer, who was covered in drool by that time because he'd been letting Titan chew on his face nonstop for twenty minutes, also took a nap.

I was so happy I nearly cried. But no, I had no time to cry. I had to write! So I didn't let my faithful dog down, my poor dog who was enduring horrible torture for my sake--I wrote like crazy.

I really don't know why Dozer played with Titan so solidly, for so long. After I had finished writing for the day, Dozer resumed his I-hate-you-you-bastard attitude toward Titan.

My dog is so weird. But I love him.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

nanowrimo week 3

Middle of week 3 or something like that, who knows, really. Will be at 30K words tonight if all goes well. My head is killing me and even though I know I'm speaking English, it just sounds like gobbledegook to me at this point.

Our foster puppy Titan, the blue heeler puppy from... not hell, but somewhere near it, I'm sure, got neutered yesterday. He was unfazed. By the time I got him home, the anesthetics were worn off and he was bouncing around like a maniac again. He cannot sit still for even a minute. He has had the honor--no, distinction is a better word--of chewing the first hole ever in our sofa. He then tried to sample the dining room table. Right now he is sitting between two Galileo Bones alternately chewing on one, then the other, then back to the first.

I say that the dog is crazy, but it's just because I feel stressed by this unexpected burden, on top of everything else I'm trying to do and everything else that is going on. I just am not in a place where I can handle this constant attention-sink. If I am watching him so he doesn't chew up the table, I can't write or make dinner or even walk off to rotate the laundry. But he's a very good dog that will make someone very happy... as long as they have the energy to keep up with him.

Mostly I am just furious with Byrd for bringing the dog home when I clearly told him "no." And when he brought it home, he swore up and down that he would be primarily responsible for taking care of it and finding it a new home. And after that, he promptly started working 16-hour shifts, night work, leaving him barely enough time to come home and collapse on the bed and get a little sleep before running off to work again. Yeeaah, sure, honey, let me know when you think your responsibility for the dog is going to kick in.

I love my husband, in part because of his soft Jello heart, but sometimes I just want to strangle him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nanowrimo Week 2

The good news is that I will hit 20K words tonight, which is right on schedule.

The bad news is that I have 30K words to go. And I'm sitting here writing this instead. And I spent all day yesterday posting updates to my StopBSL site. And though it's still in its wrapper, I can hear Fable II squeaking "play me," except that it is outshouted by the World of Warcraft WotLK expansion sitting on my dining table. (Yes, I'm a nerd, okay?)

Ok, gotta go get to 20K before dinner... or maybe I'll just write through dinner, cause from the looks of it I should start dinner now. Argh!

Also today I procrastinated by going grocery shopping (Byrd said something about an empty fridge—whatever, loser! Eating's for suckers!), and before walking out the door I set up the Mino to videotape Dozer's sleeping spot while I was gone . My gosh, I thought he would sleep the whole time, but 90% of the time he's not even on the dog bed. And he knew that camera was there... the first thing he did when I drove away was to press his nose against the camera lens. Oy. He's asked me for the video for his blog, not sure why, it's really boring.

Off to write some more...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

NaNoWriMo!

So it's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This year I have no real job, so I'm going to take a stab at writing an entire novel in a month. I can't guarantee I'm going to succeed, but I'll give it a good solid go.

Now if only there weren't so many millions of ways to procrastinate during the day...

Okay, I'm off to write. Really. Seriously. I am.

Oh, did I just hear the dryer buzz?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pit Bull Awareness Day 2008

I recently joined a new meetup group, Love-a-Bull (http://www.meetup.com/love-a-bull/), and one of the first things I got to do with them was a Pit Bull Awareness Day event.

Alas, I did not take any pictures (forgot the camera), but I believe there are photos—or will be—on the meetup group site.

It was incredibly hot and our table was in the sun for the full three hours of the event—no shade, no clouds, and barely a whisper of a breeze. But it was very nice to be with a group of people who love pit bulls and support rescue and advocacy; it was also a nice change to have a public, local presence after so many years of impersonal Internet communications.

Even better, I managed to convince my husband to come help out. Despite his anxiety in public, he stuck it out and ended up being very helpful behind the scenes; he also took pride in being the donations box bodyguard.

I think this was the first time Byrd has really volunteered at an event like this, and he was somewhat taken aback by the loose structure and lack of strong, commanding leadership. He's used to being the boss, barking orders, and performing a set task in an organized manner. Of course, it usually doesn't work like that when you're dealing with a group of volunteers, and this particular event was laid back, social, casual, and inviting. Poor Byrd started to pester me for something to do after a while, and I had to reassure him that his mere presence was sufficient!

A lot of people don't realize that just showing up and being seen has a rhetorical meaning of its own. Physical presence means support, and the more visual support a group has, the more important and interesting it becomes. When we had a crowd of people at our table, it attracted even more people. Sometimes the easiest way to help a group and show support is just to be there!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hell froze over

Byrd and I rarely agree on anything, and we have never seen eye to eye in terms of political parties. Usually our votes cancel each other out (which is fine with me, because honestly, our state always falls predictably and overwhelmingly into one political party, and my vote wasn't going to tip the scales).

So I was completely blown away when Byrd and I left the early voting place and Byrd admitted that he voted for the same guy I did, against what I would expect, considering his typical political leanings. This has NEVER happened in our ten years of being together.

Naturally, I was filled with joy, not because Byrd had "seen the light" or anything like that (in this election it's really hard to figure out where that light is, anyway), but because we actually agreed on something for once. But I knew I couldn't express that happiness because Byrd would misinterpret it.

In the end, I just patted Byrd on the arm and told him I was glad that we voted early and got it out of the way.

Please go vote. And may I suggest early voting if possible? Because I guarantee Election Day is going to be a nightmare. (P.S. If you are voting for state reps this year, please don't forget to find out your candidates' stances on BSL.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Non-discriminatory blessings

A while back, I read an article about a church that was doing a blessing for the animals—sans pit bulls, which were prohibited due to the church's insurance carrier's regulations.

http://www.patriotledger.com/lifestyle/faith/x72908093/All-God-s-creatures-welcome-except-pit-bulls

This irked me because, simply put, such an excuse is basically a cop-out—a "safe" way to get away with discrimination against "undesirables."

But there's non-discriminatory insurance out there—I've found it—and it's not necessarily more expensive. You just have to make some phone calls.

Most places would have stuck with the lame excuse, but this church's decision really surprised me. They did the right thing, albeit a little late for the blessing. The next news article:

http://www.patriotledger.com/lifestyle/faith/x707108484/Weymouth-church-invites-dogs-to-worship
Weymouth church invites dogs to worship
By Stephanie Choate
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Oct 06, 2008 @ 05:49 AM

WEYMOUTH —
Kathleen Dolaher of Quincy takes her dogs everywhereshe goes, but Sunday she took them somewhere they had never been: church.

The Pilgrim Congregational Church in North Weymouth launched its weekly “Woof ’n’ Worship” services Sunday evening.

“I love it. My life revolves around making my dogs happy,” said Dolaher, sitting in a pew with her Labradoodle Rory and miniature Labradoodle Allie. “It makes me happy and it makes them better socialized and better dogs.”

The Rev. Rachel Bickford said the response has been wonderful, and people were excited to be able to take their dogs to church.

“People are really struggling in everyday life, and the animals that we have are something that give us joy every day,” the Rev. Bickford said.

The Rev. Bickford said she came up with the idea for the Woof ’n’ Worship while reading her Bible at home.

“One of (the Psalms) talks about letting all living things praise the Lord. My dogs were at my feet, and I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to get together.”

All dogs were welcome, as long as they were leashed, even pit bulls. At first, the church’s insurance policy wouldn’t allow the reputedly aggressive breed, but the church was able to pay a little extra to allow them.

The Rev. Bickford said she wasn’t worried about unruly dogs or excessive chaos, and was glad the church was able to include all breeds.

“One thing I know about dog lovers is we’re all good people, and we know our dogs, so I trust them,” she said.

Sara Diem of Weymouth went to the service so her Bernese mountain dog, Chloe, could be blessed.

“I was excited to bring her here. She’s having a couple little health issues these days, so I just thought she could use the extra help,” she said.

Stephanie Choate may be reached at schoate@ledger.com.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Spoiled by freelancing

Okay, I admit it--freelancing has ruined the way I think about work.

I have a temporary "real job." I'm filling in for one of my old bosses while she's away on vacation. Not even for a full day, but only about 6 hours per day, and not even doing anything except checking email and bidding on the occasional job... yet I'm feeling increasingly antsy and impatient to get back home.

Back to laundry, dishes, vacuuming and dusting. Back to teaching the dog random new tricks. Back to writing, blogging, my websites, my volunteer work. Back to looking at properties with my mom, cooking for my husband, finding random yet amusing Internet sites, running boring errands, shopping for time-saving gadgets that I'll only use once, and plotting new and interesting ways to harass my husband.

I have so much to do, and work just gets in the way!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The way to a man's heart

Out of love for my husband (and probably guilt, too, due to the fact that I don't work a full 40 and I only pay three small bills), I prepared his lunch this evening.

I've been thinking of buying a large bento box (the Mr. Bento lunchbox, to be specific) for him to take to work. It's basically an insulated lunchbox with smaller boxes piled inside. You heat up or cool down the outer shell in the morning, and it stays that way until lunchtime--so Byrd, who drives his truck to various job sites all day, doesn't have to have a microwave to enjoy warm food in the winter. Each box can be filled to the brim with a different sort of food, such as rice, soup, sandwich, fruits, and so on. Or the boxes can be divvied into courses, like breakfast course, lunch course, and snack course.

And then there's always the food-as-art aspect of bento that has always attracted me. As a slowly reforming finicky eater, I've always loved bento's exciting shapes and colors (click to see some samples of bento). Oh, what's this thing? I don't know, but it's shaped like a bunny, so I'll eat it. And I wonder what this brown octopus-shaped item is? Ha ha, it's sausage. I usually hate sausage but THIS looks like a cute little OCTOPUS!! Yum!

Anyway, I don't have the bento box yet, so this evening I packed my husband's lunch in a variety of small Tupperware-type plastic boxes and crammed them delicately into his ice chest.

One of the items I made was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut... well... it was supposed to be in the shape of a heart, to show him how much I loved him.

Byrd walked in while I was eating all the leftover crust, stared at the misshapen sandwich, stared at me, then cautiously asked me how I was feeling and whether I would like to lie down for a while.

I suppose sometimes it's easier just to say "I love you honey."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Got me a new car

I heard back from the insurance company. Though I already sort of assumed it, they confirmed that my poor old CR-V was totalled. No idea yet how much I'll actually get for it. It was old, sure, but it was still in great condition. I don't think I'll get to see it one last time, but I'd sure like to. I'll probably call tomorrow and see if I can find out where it is and whether I can go see it. There are a handful of personal effects I'd really like to collect from its moldy remains if possible.


Days of car shopping later (yuck) and I've finally decided to get another CR-V to replace the one Ike ate. Except this CR-V will be 2008 and will have leather seats and a sunroof. Nice, huh?

Of course, being new and fancy, it's expensive, and the insurance settlement from my old 2001 CR-V will only cover a small portion. So it's back to car payments for us, and poor Byrd's dream of getting his very own brand new Toyota Tacoma is deferred once again.

I decided to pay extra for leather seats because of what I call the Dog Fur Factor. Dozer's fur would NOT come out of the cloth seats in my old CR-V, no matter what we did. The fur embedded itself into the cloth and resisted vacuuming and shampooing. Of course, when one opened the windows, the fur would then come loose and blow around in the car, getting into one's eyes and mouth and open drink cups so on. It was really quite awful. I'm desperately hoping leather will be easier to clean and maintain.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Where is my car?

Somewhere in this parking lot near the cruise terminal in Galveston, that's where...

When we left, all the cars were parked in tidy rows. My car was parked in the lower row, toward the left end. It's a green car.

Insert one hurricane.

The car is clearly still there. I'm just not sure whether it is still in any shape to drive. News reports indicate it's probably a goner.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A week off

Hooray, starting tomorrow Byrd and I are cruise-bound. We'll drive to Galveston, board a cruise ship, and get outta Dodge until next weekend.

This is our first real vacation in a very long time, so I'm pretty excited. Hurricane Ike and whatever all else, I could care less about that. As long as I'm away. With my husband. Having an adventure.

Poor Dozer is a wreck. I thought he was sick this morning. He was droopy, lethargic, and just plain depressed-looking. When we came home from last-minute trip shopping, he didn't even rush to greet us as he usually does. But then I realized how anxiously he's been eyeballing our rapidly filling suitcases. He definitely knows what's going on. I feel bad for him but I know he'll be fine with my mom.

So--back in a week. Au revoir!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My dog looks old

I never thought I'd say it, but Dozer is finally starting to show his age. Just a little, and really just because I gave him a bath today.

His droopy face and sagging skin, the slight jut of his joints, and even his thinning fur--when he's wet and pouting, it makes these signs even more obvious. Usually, his fluffy white fur and his chipper demeanor covers up the old, but at bathtime, he's neither fluffy nor chipper. For the first time in his life, I told him he looked like a "grumpy old man."

It made me a little sad because it reminded me of how Felanie looked when she was getting advanced in age. Dozer is a big dog like Felanie was, so his lifespan is naturally shorter than that of smaller dogs.

But he has fewer problems--fewer tumors, no real joint problems, not a bit overweight, and a much more energetic style of living--so perhaps it's too soon for me to be getting all depressed about losing another dog.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Chicken and the Vacation

Two exciting events are unfolding around here that are (finally) unrelated to dogs in any way...

Chicken

First, we have a new member of the household, a little baby chicken. I've always planned to have chickens someday, but things rarely go as planned around here, especially when we have a reputation in the neighborhood as "the people who rescue strange animals." None of our neighbors have forgotten the beautiful and hilarious Pekin ducks we used to have, and so when this new barnyard fowl somehow ended up in the neighbor's yard (we have two different chicken flocks that roam our neighborhood, which is a strange sight since we're in a well-established neighborhood), they happily handed it over to us, knowing we would know how to care for it.

So after some preparations, the chick is now settled into Dozer's old dog run, and it seems to be doing really well. It's scratched up, maybe from a cat or a car, which would explain why it was alone when it was found, but otherwise happy and healthy and perky. It loves Byrd and it even follows Dozer around; we can't help but remember our lively duck Fred when he was a little bitty baby. I wonder if this is a boy or a girl? We won't know until it starts to crow--or lay eggs!

We're going to get at least one, maybe two, more chickens as soon as is feasible. Those two will be planned and carefully picked; I've found a breeder of the type of chicken that I want, that lays the type of eggs that I want, so there won't be any Mystery surrounding them. Plus, the breeder has some chicks that are the same approximate age as our Mystery Chick, so they aren't like day olds, which require indoor care for quite a while.

I thought a chicken blog would be interesting so I can record pictures and events as the chick grows up... and we find out whether it's a boy or a girl, and what it will look like... so it's at http://achicken.wordpress.com

Vacation

And that brings us to the next thing: our vacation! Yes, a real live vacation. Byrd and I haven't been on a vacation for... well, eight years or so, if you don't count our honeymoon (a two-day excursion to San Antonio, not much of a trip). We're going on a cruise in the Caribbean, which should be entertaining considering all the hurricanes down there right now. But we are leaving on next Sunday and won't be back for a week. I'm really looking forward to it!

Dozer is going to stay here at home, and my mom is going to move in and take care of him and the chicken while we're away. So this next week I've actually got to do a lot of work. Not just packing, but also shopping and cleaning and writing care instructions and labeling cabinets and light switches and so forth, so Mom will know where everything is. The bad thing is that while we are on the cruise, we probably won't have any cell phone reception and we definitely won't have Internet access, so once we're gone, we're really gone for the whole week.

Poor Dozer, this will be the first time we have both left the house for such an extended period of time. I'm so glad Mom will be here with him, but she is not a dog person at all, and Dozer really needs to have a confident leader to tell him what to do or else he just falls to pieces. I sure hope things go okay or else I might not have a dog sitter anymore for future vacations.

Lye Burn

And as a side note, I did a really stupid thing considering I'm about to go on a cruise and I'll be wearing shorts and a swimsuit almost the whole time--I managed to get a nasty lye burn on both my knees! We just laid some concrete (for our fence--pictures and such to come at a later date), and I was helping to "finish" it by scrubbing it with water and a big stone thing. Well, after kneeling on the concrete for nearly an hour, I realized that the pain in my knees wasn't actually from kneeling on a hard surface--it was a burning feeling... and sure enough, when I pulled up my jeans (which were soaking wet and covered with concrete), my knees were red and blistered. Now I can only hope these oozing blisters will heal up in five days. :( Well, I guess the good thing is that it got me out of the rest of the job because I had to go shower straightaway!

Convenient technology

My fancy new laptop, a brand spanking new Dell Studio and the first brand spanking new computer I've ever had (except for the Apple IIc, about fifteen years ago or so), has a fingerprint reader.

Yes, a fingerprint reader.

As I placed the order online, which involves customizing the computer so that the price is almost always doubled by the time one comes out the other side, I thought, "What the heck am I going to do with that? It's not like I work for the FBI." I briefly considered removing it and saving $50.

Then I decided that I would like, for once, to be the first person in my group to have an interesting new gadget. I mean, my "new" cell phone looks a lot like the first phone I ever got (or rather, my husband forced me to get)--back in 1999. It doesn't take pictures or play songs or any of that stuff. It doesn't even flip open; it's a candybar style. I only just bought an MP3 player this year. Yes, I do have a ten-year-old printer and an eight-year-old scanner. And my digital camera, at seven years old, is just barely younger than Dozer. I often feel like I'm stuck in the early 2000s.

Anyway, back to the fancy new laptop with the fingerprint scanner. As it turns out, the fingerprint scanner not only locks unauthorized users out of my computer, but it also acts as a password vault for any and everything that asks for a login and password.

Oh my oh my.

Needless to say, I have happily set up the fingerprint scanner to log me in to just about everything I sign in to. It's so convenient to just swipe my finger across the scanner and ta da! I'm logged in to my blog, to my credit card account, to my Yahoo! groups...

The horrific side effect is that I now have absolutely no idea how to log in without the fingerprint scanner.

This is a real problem when I go up to my office to work on my desktop. User id and password? I don't remember anymore!

Sometimes I think the convenient solutions offered by technology only lead to new and different inconveniences.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When Cranes Attack

Yet another crane collapse. I had no idea these things were so dangerous, but it seems like everywhere I look, there's another deadly crane attack in the news.

Ever since that excessive news coverage about the New York crane collapses, I've been noticing more headlines with the word "crane" and I just feel compelled to click on it and read the horrible article. Heck, if you do a search for "crane collapse" in Google you get, like, a zillion results.

My psychologist keeps muttering something about "confirmation bias," but we'll see who has the last laugh when that crane falls down on top of his fancy downtown condo.

Enough is enough! These cranes are killing us. Ban them now!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An "Aha" Moment

Let me make this clear: I'm a writer, not a coder. Not a designer. Nevertheless, yesterday I eagerly pressed F12 to launch a simulation of the new StopBSL.com website, anticipating a few minor bugs, but nothing major.

The sidebars were too wide. The body, containing the text, was too narrow. I scratched my head.

So I launched the site in Firefox and Netscape. Now it looked great. I scratched my head again.

I combed through the Dreamweaver code. Misplaced tag? Wrong table width somewhere? But it looked fine.

I launched the site in Explorer again. The columns were still all wonky. I stared. (Explorer has a reputation for needing "special treatment" in page code, but since it's the most common browser, no site designer in their right mind would ignore problems that show up in Explorer.)

I fiddled in Dreamweaver, scooting tables and boxes around, inserting spacers. Relaunch. This time, if anything, the columns were even more messed up. I started to curse.

Figuring I had a corrupt chunk of code somewhere screwing the whole thing up, I rebuilt the template from scratch. An hour later, I relaunched.

Now the text was smashed into such a narrow space that it was virtually unreadable, while the rest of the page was a sea of white. I threw a book against the wall before digging into the code yet again.

Four hours later, I had dug myself into a pit so deep that I was in a very dark place indeed. The site design was a wreck.

"Why the hell can't this be as easy as my blogs?" I shrieked.

And that's when I had an "aha" moment.

Blogs: easy to write, easy to update, easy to expand, and no design skills required.

I spent today populating the new blog-site with the text from the ruined site. Want a sneak peek? http://stopbsl.wordpress.com/

No, no, don't change your bookmarks and links. When I'm ready, I'll just redirect the StopBSL.com servers to point to the WordPress site. So when you visit http://www.stopbsl.com/, you'll see the blog-site at that address.

Heck yeah I'm a genius.

/dance

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Depressing

You know what's depressing? BSL. You know what's more depressing? Writing about BSL for six hours a day, five days in a row. You know what's even more depressing? When your life is so consumed by writing about BSL that you really have to struggle to talk about anything else.

Which is why I've avoided writing in my blog. Cause it's pointless, really. There's nothing to talk about except BSL, and BSL sucks, and it's depressing.

It's depressing to read the ignorant, hateful public comments after every negative news article (and after the positive ones, too, as if there is just no way some people can believe that there's anything good about pit bulls).

It's depressing that our politicians are doing absolutely no research before mouthing off about "ticking time bombs" and "never hearing about Labs attacking people." I don't have a team of people working for me, yet I've heard of Labs attacking people.

It's depressing that everyone ignores all the experts saying BSL doesn't work, all the countless scientific studies indicating BSL doesn't work, all the organizations saying they are against BSL. For some reason, a handful of disgruntled, fearful, selfish individuals' opinions count more than logic, science, and equality.

It's depressing that all these people getting severely bitten by non-pit bulls don't say anything. You know, like "Hey, um, what does this BSL do for me?" In fact I even read a comment by a guy that was attacked by a non-pit bull who was like "Ban pit bulls!" I could not even begin to understand where his hatred of pit bulls was coming from, or why he didn't seem interested in doing anything about, you know, the dog that actually attacked him. WTF?

I'm so ready to be done with this so I can get back to enjoying my life for as long as I can before the depressing reality of January sets in. Because in January the Texas legislative session starts up and you can bet we'll be seeing... BSL.

Ugh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eight pages down...

So much for one page a day. I've finished about eight pages of the new Stop BSL site since swearing an oath a few weeks ago to get the dang thing done. And while I'm pleased with the way it is coming out, I'm not pleased with how long it is taking me to research and write the new material.

The Internet nowadays is both a blessing and a curse. I can find pretty much any information I want... but the hard part is finding the source. Sites cite sites cite sites, but nobody seems to be able to identify the original source for the material. I've found dozens of sites using a particular statistic that doesn't seem to actually come from anywhere. It just appeared one day, and has been in play ever since.

And that doesn't fly for me. I've done the whole college thing, written my fair share of research papers, and been dealing with dog-related information for just under a decade now. I've seen my fair share of made-up "facts" and twisted statistics; I'm happy to trash anything that doesn't have backup documentation to go with it, even if it seemingly supports my argument.

Not that the Internet is entirely to blame. I've found some astonishingly bad "facts" in books, too, which makes my trips to the public library that much more time-consuming (and pointless, especially since I can find the same bad information if I stay home and get online).

And danged if all that trashing and sifting and weeding and selecting and searching doesn't take an ungodly amount of time. But what can I do? I'm picky about what I publish.

Some days I wish I was dealing with an easier subject. I know a lot about ducks...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dozer's blog

Guess it's all the rage these days for pets to have their own blog... Dozer came up to me with soulful eyes and I couldn't turn him down. I mean, sure, the blog is free, but can he really handle the responsibility? He's only eight years old, after all. He swore he would write in it every day, but I am worried he'll start neglecting it when the novelty wears off. It'll be like the rope toy in his toy box all over again. Next thing you know, I'm the one who has to write in it, maintain it, add links to it... I know some people have responsible pets--younger than Dozer, even--who take good care of their blogs, but we're talking about a dog that thinks his head can fit through a two-inch slot. Well, maybe I'm just being overprotective.

Dozer's blog is at: http://dozersblog.wordpress.com

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Random dialogue at our house

Me (in lecture mode): "Well, hon, you know what happens when you assume. You make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me.'"

Byrd (rising to the challenge): "Well... know what happens when you make an assumption?"

Me (totally confused): "What?"

Byrd (with a flourish): "You make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'umption.'"

(Byrd struts off, his logic unassailable.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bruised arm and feelings

I have no night vision. At all. Even the little blue glowing plug-ins strategically placed on various walls and corners don't help.

Byrd grumbles and snarls whenever I turn on the light in the middle of the night in order to make my way to the bathroom, or to take my nightly medication, or even to rearrange the sheets (I hate when they aren't flat and square to the edge of the bed). It is a point of pride for him that he can perform all sorts of tasks with the light off. Bravo.

Things are complicated in my house by Dozer. His beloved toys are usually all over the floor, even minutes after I help him put them away. And he sleeps on the floor on my side of the bed, usually scooting his dog bed and blankets as close to me as possible. When I get out of bed, I find myself standing on his bed. So at night, I need the light on in order to pick my way through these obstacles safely.

The other night I got up at 4 am to go to the bathroom. I didn't turn on the bedside light, but I planned to hit the bathroom switch when I got there. Big mistake.

I slid out of bed carefully, feeling the dog bed under my feet. Dozer wasn't in his dog bed. This should have been my first hint to turn on the light. Keeping one hand on the bed, I moved around the foot, shuffling my feet. I kicked a toy harmlessly out of the way. Dozer was not on the floor at the foot of the bed, either, and this being his second-favorite spot, I should have scrambled for the nearest light switch immediately.

At this point, I figured I was in the clear, since Dozer's third-favorite spot is over by the television. I assumed he was there, since he was nowhere else in the room. I chalk all this idiocy up to the incredibly early hour; I was very groggy. At any rate, I commenced to take my hand off the bed and stride confidently for the bathroom door. It was only four steps at most, and nothing could possibly be in my way.

Except Dozer. He was in the bathroom doorway, which is not a typical sleeping spot at all. It was a great surprise to step directly on what I can only assume was Dozer's head, since he gave a very strangled gurgling sound (probably because I was standing on his head) and commenced to flee. Unfortunately, my foot was now relying entirely on an object that was heading the opposite direction, and my other foot was already in the air as I moved to take another step.

So I fell--directly on top of Dozer's rump, since he hadn't managed to get very far, what with me weighing down his head and all. He yelped with surprise and I shrieked as I plunged headfirst into a half-full laundry basket. My arm hit the edge of the plastic basket very hard--two days later it's become a nice purple bruise.

My poor dog fled the room for several hours, obviously confused and frightened by this sudden and vicious attack by his mommy. When he came back, he made sure to lie down on his dog bed.

Now, whenever I get up at night, Dozer presses back against the wall and makes sure to give me plenty of room to move around. His new uneasiness around scary, unpredictable Mommy makes me feel bad, but how do you explain to a dog that it's not his fault that you have incredibly poor night vision? Thank goodness for his really short-lived memory; hopefully by the time my bruise fades, he'll have forgotten all about this embarrassing incident.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oopsie

I love fried foods but I hate actually frying things. The snap-crackle of hot oil strikes terror into my very soul. My husband generally gets assigned to any sort of frying that must be done for dinner.

So when I saw a small deep fryer--with a LID!!--at the grocery store, I bought it. The lid goes over the oil while things are cooking, so the oil can't pop out and hurt me. Consequently, I've become a lot less fearful of frying things, and have made delicious calamari and fried shrimp in it so far. Byrd has also enjoyed the deep fryer because he gets to show off his fryer knowledge; apparently when he was a youngster he spent a little time as a fry cook at a fast food restaurant.

And I didn't know this, but according to the deep fryer manual, the oil can be kept in the fryer and reused over and over. However, the instructions also said that to keep the oil in best condition, I should strain out the food particles.

The deep fryer manual said to use a paper filter to strain the oil, but we'd already been to several stores and turned up nothing paper-like except coffee filters. So Byrd and I went to a local kitchen store and got a metal strainer with teeny tiny holes. I agonized quite a bit over the purchase because I wasn't convinced that the strainer would really clean the oil.

Byrd, who had been the proponent of this particular strainer (I'd been considering a smaller one), was apparently intensely curious to see if it would work--to have his purchase choice vindicated. I think that's why, when I asked if he would help me strain the oil, a potentially messy chore that he would ordinarily turn down, he readily agreed. He wanted to receive praise for his good choice if it worked out.

So we were both excited to make dirty oil into clean oil and see how well the strainer would work. I put the strainer over the sink and Byrd poured, and we were both pleased to see that all the little chunks of fried dough from the shrimp and calamari got caught by the strainer.

"Wow, that strainer works great! The oil is so clean!" I exclaimed as we watched the oil slide through the strainer.

Then Byrd and I both realized simultaneously that we'd forgotten to put a container under the strainer to catch the cleaned oil. The clean oil we were admiring snaked across the bottom of our sink and oozed down the drain--leaving us with a strainer full of greasy fried crumbles.

I don't think we've laughed that hard in quite a while.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Time flies when you're procrastinating

Attention, Public:
I am going to sit down and write one webpage per day until the entire Stop BSL site rework is complete.
This is a project I have been picking at for months without making headway, so I'm just going to make this public commitment right here and now, in hopes that fear of public humiliation will keep me on track.
The site has needed a facelift for a long time. Today I was checking links, and half of them didn't work. Oh, the shame! Anyway, I've never liked the design and I know how to do better now, not to mention all the new resources I need to add in.
On top of that, recently my sad site has gotten some extra attention (you know who you are, and I thank you for your kindness, and apologize for the state of the site). And I just noticed today that the AVMA links to my site! Holy cow, the AVMA! I'm so embarrassed!
Yes, it's time. I'm doing it. ETA end of August.
Sincerely yours,
Jennifer

Friday, July 18, 2008

Memories of early days

Yesterday while housecleaning I found old home movies on VHS tapes, so I popped them in to see what they were about.

Lo and behold, there was a very young, fit, agile Felanie prancing on the TV. For a minute, it hurt, but then I laughed because she was being chased around and bitten by our rescued duck, Fred, another family member that has since left us.

Fred was a tiny yellow duckling that got dumped at a pet store some time after Easter; the pet store gave him to me, and until he was full-grown, he lived in our house--we had just moved in and we were remodeling it while living there, another event fully covered by the home movies--and he hung out with two pit bulls, two prairie dogs, and a rabbit. While he was little, he swam in our bathtub.

After he became full-sized, we transferred Fred to the backyard and provided him with a baby pool for his swimming pleasure. Fred also matured in other ways; he became a large, intimidating fellow that, frankly, everyone preferred to admire from afar--because if he was able to get close enough, he would bite and nip anything that moved. We never had stray cats in our yard with Fred guarding it. He also honked very loudly if he saw an unfamiliar person or animal in the yard--a great watchduck. I often considered replacing the "Beware of Dog" sign on the fence with "Beware of Duck."

His love of biting is fully evident on the tape, and it's quite funny now that the painful memories have been muted by time. He bites Taz (my ex-roommate's pit bull, also no longer with us) and Felanie, and attacks my toes with dozens of sharp pecks. I pry his beak off my toes with my hands, or kick at him to knock him loose. The dogs are much nicer to him. Even when he clamps onto the loose skin on Felanie's throat and twists hard, she just stands there and waits for him to get bored. It obviously hurts, but Fel accepts it. Taz play-bows and dances around Fred, then runs in terror when he launches an assault on her paws. A few times, he chases the dogs as they play with a stick, and even attacks Felanie, apparently for control of the stick; Felanie drops the stick and flees without qualms, though she later steals it back while Fred is preening himself.

My precious Felanie looks good on the tape. This is very soon after she became my dog. She's young, and all her fur is a beautiful tan/red color that matches her nose. No gray hair, no scars from surgeries--and her natural long tail. She looks naked; the color and detail in the video is off just enough that her fur looks like skin.

There's a long segment where the dogs are playing in the hose. Felanie jumps and leaps and races around, chasing the water stream, and now I remember what inspired me to start us in agility classes. She was really lithe and athletic until she started having hip problems some years later. At some other point she races around a pile of debris in the yard (from the remodeling project) and in her enthusiasm, she crashes into a particularly sharp-looking piece of something; now I reflect on the events leading up to her tail crop some years later.

At one point I'm on film--the camera is on a tripod--and I'm having Taz and Felanie do tricks on the living room floor (oh, the horrors of pre-remodel salmon pink carpet!). After the tricks are done, I kneel down on the floor, Felanie comes to sit in front of me, and I embrace her entire body against my chest in a bear hug. She's almost as big as I am.

Watching the video, I can almost feel my old dog in my arms again, like a phantom limb. At this moment I am painfully jealous of my on-screen counterpart. She doesn't know how lucky she is. To the TV, I whisper: "Don't let her go."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Randomness

I have a daily tear-away calendar on my desk called "Pooped Puppies" that shows one picture of a pooped puppy per day. Aside from my disappointment with these sorts of all-breed calendars because pit bulls are rarely featured--they mostly show Golden Retrievers and fluffy dogs of various sorts--I'm particularly disappointed by this one because, based on the title of the calendar, one would expect to see lots of tired, sleepy, adorable widdle puppies.

Yet every few weeks, I see a picture like the one for today--what appears to be a tired, sleepy, not-so-adorable adult black Lab mix. Or the one a few weeks ago which was a tired, sleepy, adult Bloodhound (besides, don't most Bloodhounds look sleepy even when they're not?). Or one which featured a cute little puppy that was decidedly not pooped. And then of course there are photos of toy dogs. Sure, they're small, but that doesn't make them puppies.

Oh well, the calendar was a gift anyway. All the calendars I've bought for myself are pit bull rescue calendars. That way, I get my fill of cute pit bulls, and my money supports a worthy cause.

Other recent events:

One of Dozer's innocuous skin tumors bled everywhere, prompting a rushed trip to the vet for a giant bandage (he's okay and the tiny hole healed up on its own, no worries, but my carpet is stained, sigh).

I got something the doctor thinks is tracheitis--an infection of the trachea--which involves difficulty breathing, fever, swollen throat, and all that fun stuff. So I'm on antibiotics, steroids, and some sort of throat-numbing lozenge. And I actually feel great. In your face, germ or virus!

We discovered that Byrd has a serious fear of flying. When we attempted to take a short flight (45 minutes) to Houston this weekend, he couldn't even get on the plane. We were planning to go to New Zealand/Australia in September, but that has been called off because of this new development. It's a 17 hour flight and the trip itself is about $5K per person, and I don't want to risk that much money if Byrd can't even make it past the gate. We'll probably substitute with a different sort of vacation that won't require flying. That's not to say we won't go to NZ/Aus in the future, but first Byrd will need to overcome his anxiety issues and take some short flights.

BSL is stirring in Texas. Several cities are trying to (or have) passed BSL in spite of Texas state law, which prohibits BSL. And several more cities plan to ask the legislature to remove that particular state law so they can pass BSL legally. Cities in the Dallas area seem to be pushing the hardest. Makes me sick to think about the consequences if the anti-BSL clause gets dropped out of state law. It'll be like Ohio or Iowa before we know it.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dozer on YouTube

Happy Pit Bull has its own YouTube channel now, which means... videos of Dozer!

No, don't groan loudly and roll your eyes! (At least, not until you've seen the video...)

http://www.youtube.com/user/happypitbulldotcom

Now I just need to recruit some friends or family members to help me get some more footage. Stay tuned for planned episodes like "Dozer Makes a Mess," "Dozer Helps Put Away Groceries," and "Dozer Plays Until He Drops."

Happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Evidence of insanity

My dog is looney-tunes. The proof is irrefutable and I have pictures to prove it.

The heat here is unbearable; well over twenty days above 100 degrees, only just this week dropping to a slightly-less-unbearable mid-90s. Our backyard grass passed away quietly some time ago (since the front yard grass was just planted, we are actually watering that every other day, causing our water bill to be upwards of $100 this month). The resulting savannah in the back swirls with the occasional hot dust storm. It feels like being inside a clothes dryer, minus the tossing part. I would not be shocked to see flying birds burst into flames at any moment.

Sensible humans (and animals) spend the day indoors, and failing the ability to be indoors, any shady spot will do. All the neighborhood outdoor dogs have common sense and stay in the shade.

My poor dumb dog demands to go outside every day at noon. He wants it, he loves it, he expects it. I get up to make a sandwich and he dashes for the back door. I let him out and he strolls out, like a white tiger surveying his domain, and sinks down regally into the crackling yellow grass in the sunniest possible spot, basking like a giant Sphinx. Sometimes he even sits on the porch, which I find utterly insane, because during the day, the porch is so hot I can't touch it barefoot without screaming in agony. Dozer might as well have a relaxing nap on hot coals.

There he sits, gazing into space, or I should say squinting into space because the sun is blinding, until I force him to come back in (about ten minutes later) before he gets overheated or sunburned. I mean, the dog's white as can be. I've seen him sunburned; he looks rather like a moldy tomato, with his bright red skin glowing through the white fur.

But I suppose the daily baking incinerates any fleas that are foolish enough to hang on him...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Pit bull supermix

For kicks, I spent some hard-earned cash and had the Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis test run on Dozer. Byrd and I keep wondering why our "pit bull" has medium-length fur, a pronounced sagittal crest (a bony bump on the top of the skull, not typical for pit bull type dogs), and an obsessive need to put things in his mouth. Naturally, I figured there was some Lab in him. Perhaps the Wisdom Panel could shed some light on his genetic makeup.

Results came back quickly and explained very little. "Dozer's ancestry contains distant traces of American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Bulldog and Dalmatian. There are also faint signals from other breeds which are not strong enough to identify." All of these breeds were noted as "trace amounts," with little stars next to Bulldog and Dalmatian to indicate "trace amount detected at low confidence."

Anybody with a Bull Terrier breed book can read that Dalmatian was a likely add-in to create the BT. And anyone familiar with the history of both the AmStaff and the BT knows that the old-style Bulldog forms the root of both breeds, and the modern Bulldog is a mutated version of that. So, duh, Bulldog and Dalmatian are gonna be in there if AmStaff and BT are.

But the results didn't say "Your dog is a mix of AmStaff and Bull Terrier." It said there were "distant traces" of those breeds.

For all it mattered, the results might have well said "Look, lady, just face it--your dog's a mutt."

Furthermore, it said (which did not inspire any confidence in me at all as to the accuracy of the results):

"Dozer is one of a kind, unlike any other dog in the world. Our analysis has shown that Dozer is an extremely complex mixed breed dog.... Validation testing has resulted in an average accuracy of 84% in first-generation crossbred dogs of known parentage. The breeds in this validation study represent 45% of AKC registrations."

In other words, if it's not an AKC breed, it doesn't count. This means Dozer could easily be part American Bulldog, or American Pit Bull Terrier, or Dogo Argentino, or any of countless other non-AKC breeds. And it sounds like the accuracy of the test drops significantly in cases where the dog is not first-generation crossbred--which is obviously the case with Dozer. So just how accurate is this test?

And finally, all of the breeds mentioned have very short fur and flat skulls. So I still don't know why my dog's fur is so long, or why he has a sagittal crest. These aren't "faint" characteristics at all--they're major aspects of his appearance--so why don't the results explain them?

I'm left musing the deepest irony of all... that despite the fact that my dog is apparently a total mutt, with only "trace amounts" of AmStaff in his genes, he would still be legally considered a pit bull mix in any of the countless jurisdictions with BSL. Not even "trace amounts" of Dalmatian can save him from the darkness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jumping bean

Dozer's allergies are worse than usual this year. I'm not sure why, but it may have to do with the lack of a freeze over the "winter" (if you can call it that), resulting in a lot more biting and bloodsucking creepy-crawlies this summer. I've caught a few fleas on Dozer--probably brought in from outside since he gets a monthly flea pill--but nothing really severe.

Unfortunately, but hilariously, he has become super-sensitive to any sort of itch or tickle or fur movement on his rear end.

The scene: The bedroom. Usually Dozer is laying on the floor quietly, perhaps snoozing. I'm writing or reading or doing something solitary. Byrd is asleep or watching TV. All is quiet and calm.

Suddenly Dozer's eyes snap open as wide as dinner plates, he launches out of his bed, and he flies across the room as if pursued by hornets! Occasionally, this also scares the bejeezus out of me. I then have to convince myself that there's no such thing as ghosts, and that my dog is just a freak.

Then Dozer will stop, look at his rear end with great concern, and glance over at me with a face that would probably be red with embarrassment if it wasn't covered with white fur.

Most of the time, I can only assume that he's reacting to a flea bite or a random tickle, or perhaps a piece of fur being brushed by air.

But once in a while, a few moments after such an incident, everyone in the room suddenly realizes that Dozer has been startled by his own fart as it pops out of his rear. Silent, but deadly.

After one such incident, as we waved away the fumes, my husband mused: "I wonder what it's like to have no concept of what a fart is or why it's coming out of one's butt?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Living With Pit Bulls" reality show: possible, or stupid idea?

I've long been convinced that a reality show featuring responsible pit bull owners and their dogs would be a fantastic way to showcase, well, reality; and we all know, when it comes to pit bulls, we are in desperate need of a reality infusion.

If it were properly and sensitively done, I think it would be an interesting and informative show, certainly more so than the reality garbage that's already on TV. I wouldn't even have a problem with sensational advertising for this show ("See real live people eat and sleep next to vicious pit bull beasts! Will these poor people survive?!? Tune in Wednesday night at 9!") if it would draw in the viewers... and maybe make them feel a little stupid for being so bloodthirsty.

But I see one major problem: The show would be incredibly dull. Horribly, painfully, terrifically boring. How does one sustain the popularity of this sort of premise? I'm not sure it can be done, even if the words "pit bull" are in the title of the show, and the show is full of pit bulls.

It just isn't interesting to watch normal people and dogs do normal, boring, average daily activities. And that is, unfortunately, what responsible pit bull owners do. They do the same stuff every other nice respectable citizen does.

I imagine a film crew at my house, taping an episode of "Living With Pit Bulls."

Me: "So, um, here's my dog Dozer. Please don't throw his ball. Don't even touch it with your foot. In fact, don't even look at it. Because if you do, he'll take you for a sucker and try to convince you to play fetch all day."

Cameraman: "No problem. So just act normal, just do what you always do."

Me: "Sure. Okay. Uh... guess I'll just sit here at the computer and type..."

[Dozer spends the next three hours trying to get the cameraman to play fetch.]

Me: "Well, now I'll just eat some lunch. PB&J. Dozer, wanna go out?"

[Dozer runs outside, pees, and falls asleep in the grass.]

Me: "Okay, Dozer, back inside. And I'm going back to the computer."

[Dozer relocates to the office and falls asleep for the next five hours.]

Me: "Well, Byrd should be home soon; I better start dinner."

[Dozer relocates to the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room and falls asleep while I cook.]

Me: "Oh, Dozer, Daddy's home!"

[Dozer jumps up and goes to greet Byrd at the front door, making Chewbacca noises.]

Me: "Honey, go play with Dozer until dinner is ready."

Byrd: "Yeah, yeah."

[Byrd and Dozer go outside and play fetch for 20 minutes or until Dozer stops bringing the ball back, whichever comes first.]

Me: "Time to eat."

[Dozer, now hot and exhausted, gasps and wheezes in front of a fan on the kitchen floor, while we eat.]

Me: "Dozer, you want foodies?"

[Dozer jumps up and drools everywhere, eats dinner.]

Me: "Dozer, go potty."

[Dozer goes outside, does some business, comes back in.]

Me: "Okay, time for bed."

[Dozer lies down on his bed and falls asleep.]

Me: "What happened to the cameraman?"

[I find cameraman's body on the floor in my office; autopsy reveals he was literally bored to death.]

Autopsy technician: "Well, that's a first. I've never thought that could really happen."

Politician: "Can we still count it as a pit bull-related death?"

Well, if you made it all the way through that episode, maybe there's some hope for this series after all. :)

In all seriousness, I think it could be spiced up by finding some more interesting owners (involved in rescue, affected by BSL, etc.) and dogs (involved in canine sports, therapy, police work, etc.).

Again, however, the show has to be carefully crafted to present a correct and appropriate image, and to avoid making statements that are common, but in fact untrue or stereotypical (i.e. "pit bulls have to be trained to be vicious," "pit bulls are stronger than any other type of dog"). My main concern would be that a bunch of Hollywood-types with ratings on the brain, and/or producers who are unfamiliar with pit bull issues (especially social issues like BSL and proper application of rhetoric, or "how to say the right things in the right way at the right time for the right effect") will screw the whole thing up.

Anyway, that's my .02 for now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Are all politicians alike?

I was reading the news about the crane collapses in New York with curiosity when I came across this article: http://www.wnbc.com/news/16433789/detail.html?dl=mainclick

In particular, the following quotes caught my eye:
"Construction of buildings is out of control in this city," City Councilman
Tony Avella said. "How many people have to die before the mayor decides enough
is enough?"
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who represented the neighborhood affected
by the March collapse, said: "People shouldn't live in fear walking near a
construction site -- and certainly shouldn't feel fear sitting in their living
rooms."

Do politicians work off a template for fear-mongering? This sounds just like the sort of stuff politicians say about "evil" pit bulls. "How many people have to die before we ban pit bulls?" "People shouldn't live in fear of pit bulls."

It's the same regurgitated rhetoric applied to a similar-yet-different circumstance. Terrible mishap? Yes. But is it the crane's fault that the collapse occurred? Is it in the crane's "nature" to crush people? Are they now going to consider banning cranes--or new construction--from New York? Or... could it be that mismanagement and human irresponsibility are the root causes of this deadly event? Alas, our society prefers to destroy the tool rather than pursue the human who abused it--and the politicians pander to society's whims.

As for me, I know where I stand. I'll never vote for a politician that uses any of these phrases: "how many more people have to die?," "people shouldn't have to live in fear of (insert subject here)," or "next time it could be a child." In essence, people who use those phrases are threatening their audience: "Follow me, or else... DOOM!"

Sorry, but I'm an independent, educated, critical, fearless individual. I'm not so gullible as to fall for those ridiculous scare tactics--and it's downright insulting when some politician or media outlet throws this kind of junk at us and expects us to eat it up. And for the people who do buy into the fear-mongering: please, grow a brain... if not for yourself, then for the good of society.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A ride to Rent Equip

We rented a little dump trailer to haul some dirt, and when we went to return it, we brought Dozer along in the crew cab.

Earlier in the day, Dozer had had to endure two visitors (my mom and her husband) who both played fetch with him just enough to get him excited. Then he had to watch out the dining room window as we came and went with loads of dirt and shovels and rocks. Every time I walked in the front door to get some water or keys or other item, he came running madly.

For hours, he anticipated some sort of extended, hardcore entertainment, and for hours, he was let down. The excitement and frustration built in him until I worried his overstimulated heart would explode.

So when my husband brought him along on our brief jaunt, the D was shaking like... like a ninety pound Chihuahua, basically.

He had his nose out the window until we got to about 40 mph; then he pulled it in and I rolled the window up (we don't let him put his head out the window at any speed higher than 40). Then he leaned with his face pressed against the window, looking incredibly pathetic and trembling with anxiety or joy, I'm not sure which.

We let him jump up front, in between the two of us on the bench seat, and he promptly sat sideways with his face in my face, panting and shaking and leaning heavily on my shoulder. At a red light, Dozer stared through the window at some guy standing at the bus stop. At Rent Equip, he stared straight back at the guys unhooking the dump trailer. All the way home, he leaned and trembled and panted.

When we finally got home, poor D collapsed onto his bed and went straight to sleep. Only thirty minutes in the truck, doing nothing but sitting in the A/C and looking out the window--but he was totally spent.

Byrd and I, meanwhile, went back outside in the heat to move a 400 pound rock into its designated position in our landscape. I really envy my dog sometimes.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Names of toys

An anonymous poster asks how Dozer learned the names of his toys. It's a really good question, since this particular skill can be expanded upon in a variety of ways (such as when we ask Dozer to find and put up his toys).

To put it simply, we never formally taught Dozer the names of his toys. But Dozer spends the vast majority of his time with us, and we speak to him constantly; he is utterly selfish, and will eagerly learn something that he might use to gain food or entertainment; and he is extremely toy driven.

Very early on, I spent a lot of time saying the name of each toy whenever we played with it. Sort of a nonstop babble: "Oh, you brought the rope. What a nice rope. Whose rope is that? Is that your rope? Let's play with the rope. Get the rope. Yay, rope! Rope! Where's the rope?" Like that. After a while, he started connecting each name to each toy.

After extensive name-toy-name-toy associations, it's time to firm up those associations. The easiest way to do that is to ask the dog to bring a specific toy. So at playtime, I ask "Where's the [toy name]?" This is Dozer's cue to find the toy I'm asking for.

He gets nothing whatsoever for bringing the wrong toy, and sometimes I even get up and walk off, the most boring result ever. Since he tends to persist if he thinks some toy might work, I will often give him negative feedback like "uh uh," just to reinforce the idea that the wrong toy isn't going to get him squat.

I respond very positively--praise, treat, petting, or playing--when the requested toy appears.

So you can see that it is to his advantage to learn as many toy names as possible. Consequently, his vocabulary, as it applies to toys, is very large.

Of course, it takes time for a dog to learn all the names of its toys. Dozer has spent a lifetime perfecting his understanding. He learned the first toy names gradually, through a process of trial-and-error. Now that he knows all his toys' names, he learns new toys' names through a process of elimination.

Now, this is in contrast to Felanie, who was not really very toy-driven at all, and was not a "mouth" sort of dog. She would rarely pick things up on command, and my request for her to "pick it up" was often met with an incredulous stare. "You want me to what? That nasty thing in my mouth? Riiiight." Of course, maybe the fact that Dozer would immediately bulldoze her over in his haste to respond to my command (never mind that it wasn't a command given to him) had something to do with her disinterest in fetch-type games.

My point is that not all dogs are going to learn these types of skills easily. It depends on your dog's personality and motivation.

I think most dogs learn the names of their toys rather informally, through a process of trial and error, rewards and no-responses. However, formal training is also possible. The keys are consistency in commands and names (you can't say "Get the octopus" one day and "Fetch Mr. Tentacle" the next); teaching logical precursors (first teach dog to "pick it up" or "get it" or similar commands that are not geared to a specific object, spend a lot of time playing with dog and toy and saying toy's name at same time); baby steps (teach one toy name at a time); and consistent and prompt rewards for correct responses, no-response or negative-neutral-response when incorrect.

(On a side note, Dozer finally confirmed, to his satisfaction, that he really does have to put his toys in the toy box to get a treat; lately, he'd been experimenting to see whether the toy could be up against the box but not necessarily in the box. We're still working on the part where he pulls the toys out of the box right after dropping them in. I think the process of putting the toys away just makes him want to play with them all.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No job, but lots of work

Being in a line of work that can manage it without logistical nightmares, I'm making the move to freelancing. I admit, it was a bit forced; I've been working full-time at a publishing company on a six-month contract, and it just expired (and the company isn't renewing any contracts, no matter what). I suppose I could have looked harder for a job, but it occurred to me that freelancing might give me time to manage the household—God knows my husband can't do that when he's working 50-60 hrs a week—and do some extracurricular activities on top of the money-making part (the freelance work).

It's day four. I have a laundry list of things to do, and I've tried to cross at least one thing off the list each day. So far so good. I've cleaned house, called landscaping contractors, gotten my car's oil changed, and cooked dinner.

I haven't slept in, I haven't watched TV, and I've only done a little web surfing (the same amount I used to do on lunch break, and strictly news articles, nothing "fun"). I "work" from 9 am to 5 pm, with a short lunch when I get hungry.

Dozer doesn't seem particularly concerned about me being home all the time. He sleeps most of the day, usually in the same room where I am (probably because I'm the Grand Master of the Fan, thereby guaranteeing a cool and pleasant temperature where ever I sit). When I change rooms to do something else, he trails along amiably; when I go into the kitchen, he rushes to the back door in the hopes that we will go out and play. (Frankly, I'm in no mood to be outside when the temperature is almost 80 degrees out there by 7 am, so poor Dozer's hopes are inevitably dashed.)

I haven't figured out yet if writing in my blog counts as "fun" or "work."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

One more for wildlife rescue

Danged if my yard isn't the rescue center for the neighborhood.

I knew something was wrong when I let Dozer out to potty and noticed an adult bird squished onto the edge of the garden shed's foundation, which is about four inches above ground, and sticks out about an inch and a half from the shed's walls. This was a rather strange place for a bird to sit, and even stranger still, the bird wasn't really moving.

Dozer took a leak, then made a beeline for the bird. He was as perplexed as I was, I'm sure; most birds fly away as soon as he comes outside. Confronted by a giant drooling beast, this particular bird made a valiant effort to take off, but never gained much altitude, and in a few moments it had slammed into the chain link fence on the other side of the yard.

I called Dozer (who had lost interest in the bird) into the house. Byrd tossed me a hand towel, and I went out and caught the bird. It was an adult dove with one closed eye and tons of downy feathers sloughing off its body. Nothing was obviously broken or bloody save the eye.

I put the dove in the cat trap with some dove food (yes, I keep a bag of dove food in the cabinet; it comes in handy more frequently than one would expect), a small dish of water, and the hand towel.

Tomorrow I will go downtown for the March of Dimes walk, then come back home, pick up the dove, and take it to the wildlife rescue center for treatment. I'm surprised they don't recognize me yet, but I suppose bringing in one injured animal per quarter is not frequent enough. (/grin)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Boys...

My husband came home with a massive bruise on his forearm. It was dark brown and as large as a lemon.

Considering his line of work (construction), all sorts of accidents ran through my head. Banged it on a pole, got hit by a rogue hammer, slammed it into an aluminum control box... who knows. He's always coming home a little scraped up, but this was an unusually noticeable injury.

Me: "Oh my God, where'd you get that huge bruise?!"

Him: "What, this? Me and some of the guys were playing a slapping game."

Sigh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Success with toy box training!

Several months ago, I bought a little green cloth box to put all Dozer's toys in. I believe it's actually the sort of thing that goes in a child's closet or in some square nooks, and you're supposed to pull it out like a drawer, because it has a flat handle on one side to accomodate that sort of movement. But I just put it in a corner of the dining room. It's a very convenient thing; when I pick up around the house, I throw Dozer's toys into the box. When I vacuum, I just pick up the box full of toys, run the vacuum over the carpet, and set the box back down.

When I bought the toy box, I half-jokingly told everyone I was going to teach Dozer to put away his own toys. It was a nice thing to imagine, but realistically, probably out of Dozer's grasp. Until this evening.

Before I describe the training method, I should explain that Dozer knows the names of all his toys: ball, rope, bone, alligator (a stuffed alligator), and toy (meaning anything). [He also knows "Frisbee," but that toy stays permanently outside, first and foremost because it is a long-distance throw toy suitable only for the backyard, not inside, and secondly because he likes to pee on it.] So, for instance, I can tell him "Go get the bone," and he sometimes comes back with the bone, either after pulling it from the toy box, or after running through the entire house looking for it. However, he is definitely unreliable; he usually brings me a ball first, because that's his favorite toy. He seems to be saying, "Honestly, I don't know why you want that stupid old bone. Look, this ball is much better!"

So after getting the toy box, I made a little game with Dozer where I ask him for each of his toys, and he runs around collecting them all for me and putting them at my feet. Sure, it would be a lot faster if I just picked up the toys myself, but hey, I'm lazy.

This evening I went a step further and shoved the toy box under his mouth as he brought the first toy, the alligator. The toy naturally fell into the box, and Dozer got a treat and praise. Surprised, he apparently initially thought the reward was tied to that specific toy, so he immediately pulled the alligator out of the box and threw it at my feet. You like it? Okay, here it is again!

I made a "negative result" sound, sort of like unhh, so he would know that I wouldn't reward for the toy at my feet. Then I asked him to pick it up, which he did, and then put the toy box under his mouth and asked him to "drop it." Another treat and praise, and I pulled the box away so he couldn't take the alligator again. That toy was now "gone."

My husband asked him for the bone. After a few moments, he returned with the bone. This time, I didn't have to move the toy box; Dozer ran up and hovered over the box expectantly. On command, he "dropped it" into the box. Praise and treat, and something in his brain clicked. He deposited the next toy, the rope, even faster, though he still waited for the "drop it" command before doing so. In this way, he put four toys into the box.

Then the thing in his brain unclicked, and he pulled all the toys out of the box, looking perplexed but excited. I guess he was trying to pull the toys out so as to start over and earn more treats. He still didn't seem to quite understand the goal of this "game," but he sure liked getting treats!

Still, before he pulled them out, all the toys were in the box--and Dozer had put them all there himself. It may have taken three or four different commands to get each toy in there, and an awful lot of guidance, but it was an encouraging step forward. With a little effort, we might actually be able to condense the process into one or two commands.

I would say that this makes me the world's laziest pet owner, but I've seen that YouTube video of the dog getting beer cans out of the fridge for its owner.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another irresponsible neighbor

Some people in the condos down the street moved in with a Boxer that gets loose all the time. This dog's escapades have become so common that I actually have the dog's home address written on a piece of paper that we keep by the phone, so when we call animal control, we can tell dispatch exactly where the dog lives.

This Boxer has harassed dog walkers, darted in front of vehicles in the street, and gotten into trash. And today he strolled into my backyard like he owned the place—much to my horror, as I was out back with Dozer.

Imagine, if you will, a beautiful springlike day, with a soft cool breeze and sunny skies. The birds are singing, the grass is green, and in the shade you could just sit and enjoy the fresh nothingness for hours on end. Well, there I was watering plants on the back porch while Dozer flopped in the shady grass with his disc toy.

As I turned to move the water to the next pot, I heard a soft jingle to my left: keys, or loose change—or dog tags. Dozer's collar was in the house, as I had just brushed him a few minutes ago. At that exact moment, in the corner of my eye, I saw Dozer leap up from his grassy haven with a strangled, ferocious growl.

Dozer disappeared around the corner of the house in a split second, and at the same time, my brain put all the pieces together and I realized there was another dog in the yard. In the next instant, I knew it was that Boxer. All sorts of bad scenarios started flying through my head, but there was no time for me to do anything but yell.

So I put all my faith in my dog's obedience, and shouted at the top of my lungs, in my most hard-edged, furious, obey-me-or-die voice: "DOZER, GET OVER HERE THIS INSTANT!!!" A heartbeat later, Dozer came dashing back around the house and ran behind me. His tail was as frizzy as a cat, and he had a ridge of fur standing up all along his spine, but it seemed that his goal had been merely to scare the stranger away. He seemed relieved that Mommy was going to take charge now.

Tentatively, yet audaciously, the Boxer peered around the house at us. I glared at him, but he didn't seem interested in a fight. Rather, he looked surprised. Oh, is this your yard? The gate was open. I started toward the Boxer, thinking I might catch him, but when I did that, Dozer stepped forward too. No, I didn't want a fight. I led Dozer into the house and shut the door. Then I went back into the yard to see if the Boxer was still there—but he was gone.

So I made my call to animal control.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dozer and the advent of "senior"

According to the chart my vet gave me at the D's annual checkup, Dozer (age 7-going-on-8) is in his early fifties in human years. This, apparently, now qualifies him for senior dog food and supplement pills for his joints.

I guess no one actually told Dozer he needs to start acting his age. Honestly, if we hadn't adopted him when he was a bitty little puppy, we wouldn't believe he is so old. As it is, people think we are lying to them when we say, "He's a senior citizen." I'm not sure why we'd lie about something so pointless, but the fact is that Dozer still reminds everyone of a rather large, awkward, ridiculous, immature adolescent dog. "One or two years, tops," say the disbelievers.

Perhaps it's his big, goofy grin, or the clown dots under his eyes, or his soft, velvety rabbit ears, or his bright white fur that never shows gray. Maybe it's his big paws and gangly body. Maybe it's the way he gargles like Chewbacca, or squeals like a guinea pig, when he's excited.

Possibly it's because he crashes into and over everything in his path as if he were still a small puppy: as if he might be able to squeeze under the dishwasher's open door to retrieve his ball, as if he might be able to push his body between handrailing spindles to avoid climbing the icy back steps, as if he could share the front passenger seat with you on a ride to the drive-thru—if only you'd scoot over a tad. Or it might be because all his thought processes seem to end with the same conclusion: "Throw ball now."

All of these things make him seem like an oversized puppy with an undersized brain. So when the vet said Dozer was now a senior, I had a little trouble keeping the laughter in. Won't we be relieved when Dozer finally does start acting his age!

In the meantime, Dozer takes his joint pills with great reluctance. Though I believe they are supposed to taste good for most dogs, Dozer merely sticks his nose up and licks his lips unhappily. I have to force him to eat the pill, and though I am sure that a bystander might imagine that I am thrusting my tiny pink hand into a veritable alligator's jaws, it is in fact quite easy. Dozer has always been very good at opening his mouth for medicine; he opens as wide as possible at the slightest pressure on the top of his nose, and holds his mouth open for the delivery; I can stick my hand (and most of my arm) in to the back of his throat, drop the pill, and pull my arm back out in a mere second. When I press the bottom of his jaw, he closes his mouth and swallows obediently. Then I just have to wash my hands clean of the dog drool.

Not that he is having any joint problems (that we're aware of, anyway), but we would like to be proactive and build up his joints before they do start causing problems—especially considering all the backflips and other gymnastics that the D so enthusiastically delivers during his daily fetch routine.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Achieving a sense of normalcy

It's been a rough adjustment from a four-member family to a three-member family, but it's getting a little easier. I think a big part of it is my extremely poor memory. It's pathetic, I know, but when change happens, the memories of "what was" evaporate rapidly.

Another part, I am sure, is the fact that I am frankly avoiding pretty much everything having to do with Felanie, my websites, dogs, pit bulls, etc. I work, I come home, I do housework, I watch TV, and I play computer games. I just don't want to think about stuff—I don't want to poke at this funny hole in my heart.

But I know that I need to get back in the saddle. I still have blank webpages waiting for material, and updates I need to make, and so forth. I really need to get my act together.

Dozer is doing better than we ever thought he would. He's still a pathetic whiny baby, but he has grown up a bit—he no longer follows me everywhere, and he behaves himself while home alone. He hasn't torn anything up, or gotten on the furniture, or knocked over the trash, or any of a whole host of things that he could do if he really felt like it. He's obviously lonely, but he's also coping very well—and we are making sure to play a solid game of fetch with him every day, so he gets enough exercise.

I want to say a heartfelt and public "thank you" to everyone who has been so supportive during this rather difficult time for me. It meant, and means, more to me than I can properly express. Thank you.

And now, on to the future, and happier times!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Letter to Dog Heaven

Dear Felanie,

It's been two weeks since you left us, but the emptiness lingers. The first few days after your death weren't too difficult because I stayed out of the house, kept busy, and tried not to think. It just felt like you were away on a short vacation.

But after two weeks, I can't deny the reality anymore. I feel your absence when I lie awake at night.

The other day I vacuumed the kitchen and I actually sucked up pieces of food. Dog food, crumbs, some broken pasta, and even brownie crumbles—you would not have let those things sit for half a second, much less a week. We used to call you a "vulture," laughingly, as you scavenged the kitchen floor—but I never realized how true it was. I never realized how messy we are, or how clean you were.

Dozer is the same, but not the same. He whines a lot more and eats a lot less. He plays fetch, but not for very long, and without the enthusiasm he used to have. He loved you. He relied on you to set the agenda, and now he doesn't know what to do with himself. I don't know how to explain to him that you're never coming back.

The weather's turned warm again. At this time of year, you always used to love lying in the backyard in the sun like a big red cat. The wisteria is about to bloom, and the grass is turning soft and green. Remember when we used to sit together in the yard, and I would pick grass for you to lip out of my palm, like a horse? Or when I would tickle your nose with a seed stalk, and you would pretend to sneeze? You always humored me.

I'm sorry. I know you were feeling bad, and I know it was your time to go. But I still want to apologize to you. I feel like I was not honest with you, like I lied to you. How do you tell a dog that you are trying to do what's best? I couldn't tell you you had cancer. I couldn't tell you that we had scheduled your death. I couldn't tell you to savor your last day, your last bite of cheese, your last hug. You didn't know—you thought it was just another day, even though it wasn't. The look in your eyes—the surprise, the hurt, the confusion—when the vet put the needle in your leg... I will never forget that look. Please forgive me for lying to you. I didn't know how to explain it.

I'm sure you're in a better place: healthy, happy, and pain-free. I hope I will get to see you again someday. I'm going to continue sharing your teachings with others, so your spirit will live on forever. It's the least I can do to honor the memory of a dog that taught me so much. I miss you, Fel.

Love, your mommy