My name is Rob and I own a cat. But wait, I also have a dog!
Look, I usually go my own way with head held high, but the matter of cats and dogs stirs some uneasy feelings. There’s a subtle prejudice in our culture about men with cats that’s cut with sexism and old stereotypes. In a nutshell, it’s the idea that cats are feminine, dogs are masculine and a guy with a cat — particularly a single guy — is not a manly man.
Don’t get mad at me, I’m just telling you what I’ve observed. And if you don’t believe it, read what Kristi Gustafson Barlette wrote on the topic. She stopped just shy of calling it “creepy,” for God’s sake.
You might think that as a married man with a dog none of this would phase me, but the cat stigma has affected my behavior. Here’s the thing: when I go to the pet store and buy two dozen cans of cat food, I’m always sure to throw in a dog item so the clerk doesn’t judge me over my pet proclivity.
Dog treats, dog toys, various dog accessories and dog chewy things — as long as it’s clearly for a dog. I’ve even held up an item and said to the cashier, “My DOG is going to love this!”
Yes, that’s nuts.
What can I say? Blame society for this cruel view of men and cats. It benefits no one — except maybe for my dog. She loves it.
Our dog, Scarlett, has a small repertoire of tricks — certainly enough to impress visitors and to qualify her as the best trained dog in our neighborhood.
But when it comes to training dogs, I’ve never seen anything like what I saw in Scotland.
At a Leault Farm, just off the road between Edinburgh and Inverness, shepherd Neil Ross trots out a gang of border collies who move sheep exactly where he wants them in a vast field. But what makes this truly amazing is that he controls individual dogs on command.
With a combination of words and whistles, one dog will jump up and race hundreds of yards away and loop around the sheep. Then, on command, the dog will drive the sheep where Ross wants them. With more shouts and whistles he’ll send a different dog out on another route — then another and another.
After the herding, you see how sheep are sheared – you can give it a try, if you like. The dogs wander around and socialize with the visitors; they’re calm and friendly – which is unusual for intense working dogs.
Aside from the beat up Range Rover, it could have been a hundred years ago. The lush green fields, the sheep, the dogs. A visit to this farm gives you a peek at a way of life that’s endangered on every side.
Neil Ross was born in the house on the farm, and he told us his kids are taught at home, far from “the nonsense they learn in school about the environment and politics.” That turned a few heads, but I can’t say I blame him.
NOTE: If your interested in rural life in the UK, I recommend A Shepehrd’s Life by James Rebanks. It’s a beautifully written book.
My wife called our son to tell him the dog died. We were on our way home from the vet, and were both pretty upset.
“I’m calling to tell you Maddy died.”
There was silence on the other end of the line.
The connection was not great — it took about a minute to sort out who was dead — and it was a terrible phone call over all. It’s funny now, but at the time, not so much.
So, Maddy died. She was nine-years-old and we had no idea she was walking around with a tumor growing inside of her. One day she was herself, and the next day she was lethargic and wouldn’t eat. She was bleeding inside and that was creating pressure on her heart. It was literally squeezing the life out of her.
The vet cried as much as we did when she gave us the news that there was nothing to be done. And just like that she was gone.
Our older dog, Scarlett, has been glued to my side since this happened. She always paid a great deal of attention to me, but now she doesn’t leave me alone for a minute. I don’t know what dogs feel, but she’s feeling something.
Maddy loved our walks in Thacher Park. Early in the morning, the park is deserted and most days you won’t see a soul. We’d take the dogs off leash and let them run up and down the trails and explore the woods. I know, it’s against the rules.
Maddy’s ashes are going up to the park, where we spent so many hours. I’m sure they have some sort of rule about that too — but rules be damned. Off the leash one last time, through the woods and away like the wind.
We like to walk the dogs in a neighborhood that adjoins ours. They have something on their street that I haven’t seen anywhere outside of a park: one of those boxes that dispenses poop bags. Did the village install this? We don’t have on on our street.
And these aren’t just any old bags, these are printed with instructions on how to pick up the poop.
I didn’t think instructions were necessary, but I’ve been at this for a long time.
Curious, I visited the website listed on the bag for Dog Waste Depot. The online merchant is well named, for it is rather like a Home Depot for your dog shit needs. It turns out that installing one of these bag stations — either as an individual or maybe by a neighborhood association — is very affordable. Free shipping, anyone?
But people are people. They may have a fancy schmancy sign and poop bags, but there’s still plenty of poop lining the lawns. Maybe they need better directions.
This election season would not be complete without the voice of Keith Olbermann.
Thanks to GQ magazine, we’ve been able to hear Olbermann’s views on Donald Trump — exclusively Donald Trump — in a series of web videos called The Closer with Keith Olbermann. This one below is not his most devastating takedown of Trump, but as a dog lover, it is my favorite:
I miss having Olbermann on TV. It may be that the settlement of his lawsuit with Current TV means he doesn’t need to work the sort of jobs he did before, and if so, bully for him. To say Olbermann’s relationship with management has never been great may be the understatement of the decade.
Either way, Olbermann’s unshackled commentaries on Trump are one of the good things to come out of this dismal election.
UPDATE: Another Trump reference surfaced this week in a NY Times story. He referred to Arsenio Hall as follows:
“Dead as a doornail,” was his assessment of Mr. Hall in a previously unreleased interview from two years ago. “Dead as dog meat.”
Today we return to a theme explored in many blog posts that you’ll find here: dog poop. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m certainly an enthusiastic amateur.
Albany’s Capital Hills golf course welcomes dog walkers during these winter months when the links are closed. It’s a terrific place for dogs to run, and this year it’s especially nice because El Niño has deprived us of snow.
But as usual, somebody has to ruin the good time.
There are a certain class of people who feel no responsibility to pick up the piles of poop left behind by their pooches on the course. For the purposes of this blog post, let’s refer to them as assholes.
Seriously, it’s everywhere.
So, on Saturday I’d been doing a fine job dodging the hazards, but in a moment of inattention, stepped in a huge mound of fresh crap that some asshole couldn’t be bothered to pick up. No, not the end of the world, but c’mon.
Capital Hills even has special poop cans located on the golf course.
I’m sure there are no assholes reading my blog, but if there were, I’d tell them this:
Dear dog walking assholes,
Just because nobody’s watching doesn’t mean it’s OK to leave your dog shit wherever you like. Pick it up. Believe it or not, doing the right thing will actually make you feel good, even if it involves something as unpleasant as picking up dog poop.
My wife says to me, “There’s poop on the front lawn again.”
And says I, “Human or canine?”
Look, in the burbs, letting your dog shit on someone’s lawn is the ultimate anti-social act. I’m quite sure people are peering from their windows when my dogs squat on their lawn, so I don’t just pick up the poop, but go though elaborate kubuki-like moves with the poop bag to make it obvious that I’m cleaning up.
Not everyone feels this way.
Lately we’ve found quite a bit of dog poop on the fringes of the lawn. Hopefully it’s just that dog walkers are lazy and not making a statement about me and my stupid blog.
Well, thanks to science, now you can figure out which dog pooped the poop. Several companies, like PooPrints offer DNA testing of dog sh*t with the aim of matching man’s best friend with your worst enemy. — in fact, according to the New York Times, there are Brooklyn apartment buildings using this technique to identify tenants whose dogs foul the elevators and hallways.
Great idea — but the problem? How exactly will you get a DNA sample from your neighbor’s pet to establish a match? If you live in a community strictly controlled by a neighborhood association or in a New York co-op, yes, you could require members to submit poop samples, but in the suburbs it’s a squishy proposition. Literally.
So, how does one collect a DNA sample from the suspect dog in a typical subdivision? Maybe let the Canine of interest lick your face and then swab your cheek — or sneak into their backyard to collect a sample?
I don’t know — they make it look so easy on CSI Miami. It would probably be easier — and cheaper — to just accept that sh*t happens.
After years of chasing squirrels, my dogs finally got one.
It always plays out the same way: the dogs sprint out the back door and the squirrels dash away from the bird feeder and up the tree — but this time was different.
A smallish, young squirrel fumbled its escape and Scarlett caught up with it at the bottom of the tree. Just as she put her paw on it, I called her off — but the squirrel turned and ended up right in front of Maddy, who cornered it in a nook at the base of the tree.
Maddy — who tends to be stubborn — wouldn’t back off, and I had to go over and pull her away from the startled critter.
Once the dogs were back in the house I went to the tree. The squirrel looked down at me and was like, “Dude, WTF?!” I couldn’t tell if it was injured, but after a while it vanished into the trees, so I’m assuming it was just shaken up.
The next day — like it never happened — the squirrels were back at the feeder, including one who looked a lot like the one the dogs captured.
And the dogs? I’ve got to figure that they’re filled with new hope. Now that they know they can catch a squirrel, anything is possible.