Category Archives: Dogs

A Wintery Treat

So, the dogs have been coming in with snow on their snouts from rooting around in the yard.

It seems they’ve been spending a lot of time under the bird feeder, and at first I thought they were munching on spilled sunflower seeds. That would be damn odd, dogs eating sunflower seeds. But after watching a while, I think what they’re doing is much more doglike: scarfing down snow that’s sprinkled with bird droppings.

Yes, that sounds revolting but we’re talking about dogs here and to a dog, that must be like a delicious snow cone.

I suppose there’s only one thing to say when they come trotting into the house after their snacking: “Go give mommy a kiss!”

Good Fences

There we were, me and the dogs, out for a walk one recent evening when I practically jumped out of my shoes. Two very angry dogs charged out of the darkness and came directly for us — until they reached the invisible fence line.

They stood at the edge of the yard viciously barking and snapping. Both me and my dogs were rattled and I impulsively yelled, “Fu*k you!” This was not just pointless, but stupid. Dogs don’t understand fu*k you, and if the owners heard me? That’s not the sort of thing that makes for good neighbors.

Some people will disagree, but invisible fences can be a bad idea. The way they work is that dogs wear a shock collar triggered by proximity to a buried boundary line. In theory, you should be able to train the dog (with pain, by the way) to stay on your property and turn off the system. Few people ever get to that point.

And there are inherent problems. Like if your a dog is wildly aggressive toward strangers and other dogs. Or if your dog learns that the rewards of escape outweigh a mildly irritating shock. Or if your dog is so frightened of being shocked she ends up fearful of leaving the property on a leash with you.

One dog in our neighborhood has learned that if it leaps high over the invisible line it can avoid a shock. Would you trust your fence system to keep that dog safe, ever again? No, me neither.

It takes a lot of time and skill to make that sort of training work — and it’s far beyond the capabilities of the average dog owner. Let’s hope none of those invisible fence dogs are lost or injured or end up biting someone. And if that does happen, don’t blame the dog.

The Kingdom of Dog

While comforting a boy on the loss of his beloved dog, Pope Francis said “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

Well, if the Pope says that dogs go to heaven, that’s pretty exciting news.

This has sparked a lively discussion, not just among theologians, but in the animal rights community, as well.

Belief in heaven is where faith is truly tested and it’s something I think about all the time. It’s hard for the rational mind have it all make sense, to completely accept that our souls will go on after death. The lack of proof is what makes it faith, not fact.

But what’s the harm in believing? There’s nothing wrong with that boy expecting to see his dog in heaven. And if after death there is nothing, he’ll never know the difference.

It would really be something to spend eternity with my dogs. The cats too, as long as I don’t have to change the litter boxes. That’s more like Hell.

A Brief Conversation with the Dogs

Scarlett and Maddy

Scarlett: Hey, you see that Cesar Millan is dead?

Rob: No, that was an internet hoax…

Maddy: I hate that jerk! He’s so mean. What’s a hoax?

Scarlett: Yeah, I read about it on Twitter and posted it to Facebook.

Rob: Well, it’s not true. Wait… you have Twitter and Facebook?

Scarlett: No, of course not, I’m a dog, silly. I used your account. You don’t mind, do you?

Rob: Well, actually…

Scarlett: It said he had a heart attack. Serves him right.

Maddy: Jerk!

Rob: Hold up… you really should check things like that before sharing them on Facebook…

Scarlett: Oh, whatever. So he’s not dead?

Rob: Not dead.

Maddy: Booo!

Rob: And don’t post things to my Facebook account when I’m at work.

Scarlett: Well, try logging off for a change. Sheesh… let’s go for a walk.

Learned Behavior

THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP…

That’s the sound of a ball bouncing down the basement steps, which I’ve now heard three times this morning.

Our dog Scarlett has learned that if she drops a ball down the steps I will often retrieve it and toss it back to her. Then she drops it down the steps again.

It occurs to me now that this is a bizarre turnaround in the training routine; she is giving a cue that makes me spring into action. I have been conditioned to react in a certain way, and she knows — to the extent that dogs know anything — what I’ll do.

Predictable behavior on command. That sounds a lot like training to me.

But she’s just a dog and she can never get me trained properly. I’m quite sure that no matter what she does, I’ll continue to eat food off the counter, lay on the couch, and poop in the house. So there.

 

Unleashed

My dog Maddy gets a bad rap.

She has a reputation for being lazy, especially when compared to her older sister, Scarlett. It’s hardly fair. Scarlett is a high energy dog driven by the impulse to work. Next to her, anyone would look like a slacker.

For example, if we go to an empty field and throw a ball, Scarlett would keep going until she dropped. Maddy? She might run after Scarlett a few times, but after that, she’d prefer to roam around, relax, and eat the occasional bit of goose poop. Goose poop is the foie gras of the dog world.

This all changes when I take them to Thacher Park. There’s something about the woods that makes Maddy go bonkers. She’ll tear up and down the trails and race around the trees, leaping over logs, chasing after something only she can see. Then when we get to a stream, she plunges into the water.

Maddy

There’s something so gratifying about seeing her like that; there’s a pure joy to it. Out of the house, away from the yard, off the leash.

Do the dogs remember these good times? I’d like to imagine that they do, and later in the day as they drift tiredly off to sleep they think about how much fun we had — and then they dream about the next time.

Channel Hopping

It sucks being sick, but it’s really wonderful to sit around and do absolutely nothing and not feel the least bit guilty about it. And the perfect tool for doing nothing is your TV.

Cruising through the channel guide I found something intriguing: Dog With a Blog. Ha! This I have to see! I love dogs — and well, blogs, hey, that’s something that interests me, so how could I not watch Dog With a Blog?

It was the typical Disney channel kid sitcom, except with a talking dog. A dog who has has a blog. According to Wikipedia, “The children learn of Stan’s talking ability in the first episode and agree to keep it a secret from their parents, fearing that if the world finds out that Stan can talk, he will be taken away and experimented on.” That’s sinister.

So, basically, this is Alf, except with a dog — and a first cousin to the famous Mr. Ed, of course, which was begat by Francis the Talking Mule. One could also argue that it’s loosely related to My Mother the Car, I suppose.

Dog was predictably bad, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most popular Disney Channel programs, and a regular fixture among the top 25 shows on cable. Kids have absolutely no taste.

By the way, Disney hosts a page that’s supposed to be the dog’s actual blog, but it’s terrible, even worse than most of what passes for blogging. If my dogs wrote a blog, it would at least be interesting.

Anyway, enough of this talk about bad TV. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a Doomsday Preppers marathon starting soon, so I gotta go.

Dogs of the Fall

On a recent ambulance call, we took care of a man who tumbled down a few steps after tripping over his dog. He dinged up his shoulder pretty well, but it could have been much worse. I resisted the temptation to ask, “Do you want us to have a look at the dog?” See, I’m getting better!

60% of my household’s pet contingent.

We’ve all read how pet ownership is good for your health, but according to a study by the CDC a few years ago, tripping over your pets poses a significant hazard — and all their toys and crap are trouble, too.

The biggest culprits? Dogs. From the report:

“Nearly 7.5 times as many injuries involved dogs (76,223 [88.0%]) compared with cats (10,130 [11.7%]).”

Also:

“The most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a dog (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by a dog (21.2%).”

I’m no stranger to the dangers posed by household pests pets; living in a house teeming with furry animals who scurry about underfoot is risky business.  It’s so bad at our house that when I get out of bed in the middle of the night, I sweep the floor with my foot to check for the presence of animals or sharp-edged bones and toys.

What I’d really like to see is a study of the relationship between stepping on cats and cardiac arrests. There’s nothing more startling than that — and speaking of cats, the study contains this odd tidbit:

“Most falls involving cats occurred at home (85.7%). Approximately 11.7% of injuries occurred while persons were chasing cats.”

To recap, a few safety tips: sweep the floor with your foot, limit the number of animals in your house, and never chase cats.

The Dogs Know You Better Than You Know You

It’s usually on Saturday when you get the dog guilt.

They come and stare at you with those eyes, giving you that deep, soulful look you’ve seldom seen before, except maybe from that girl you went out with in your freshman year of college. She looked at you that way sometimes, but her gaze was not nearly so intense or unwavering, and unlike the dogs, she was complicated. And the truth is that you can take care of what the dogs want, but with her, who knows? And in that way dogs are much better than college girlfriends.

So you take them out somewhere and play ball or throw the stick or take a long walk in Thacher Park. You get to feel less bad about not spending time with them during the week and they get some unbridled exuberance. An hour later, the dogs may not remember what you did, but you’ll remember, and it’s those moments that help make us feel good.

But it doesn’t stop there.

You get home and instead of just serving up the dry food, you top each bowl with some scrambled eggs. Pure protein.

And then they sleep and you are satisfied that you’re a good person — at least until later in the day when they start staring at you again, and it dawns on you that there’s a word for people like you. And that word is “sucker.”