Review: Dogs Rule Nonchalantly

Dogs Rule NonchalantlyI was delighted to receive a copy of the artist Mark Ulriksen’s new book, Dogs Rule Nonchalantly. I’m familiar with Ulriksen’s work largely through the New Yorker, and it was a treat to discover that he’s an avid dog lover. I love his style, and this is a brief and beautifully collected book about life with dogs (both in general and in his personal history).

The paintings are wonderfully reproduced (as you can see from these sample pages), and the text is very funny and engaging. I also liked that the text appeared to be handwritten (presumably, a font was made of Ulriksen’s handwriting). Most of the paintings in the book are either from private commissions or covers of celebrated magazines (Ulriksen is a regular on the cover of the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly).

Of course, I also had to take a photo of one of the paintings that included a German shepherd. This one was featured on the cover of the New Yorker in 1996:

Dogs Rule Nonchalantly | Mark Ulriksen

Some favorite quotes and lines:

1: “Personally, I was never big on little dogs, and cats are a little too independent, too aloof to get close to. But dogs are different, they give you their undivided attention. They watch your every gesture, read your every emotion, listen attentively to every word you say — until they hear the rustle of a bag of chips being opened.”

2: “Whether you’ve been gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours, they’ll greet you like you’ve been gone for 5 years.”

And 3:

A typical dog 12-step program:

1. Wake up, stretch
2. Eat meal in three seconds
3. Go outside, pee, walk, poop, walk, pee, smell everything
4. Go inside, follow human’s every movement, check all floors for microscopic food particles
5. Nap
6. Repeat Steps 1-6

This certainly describes my dogs’ lives! And finally, a sweet one:

4: “Dogs have such short lives. They deserve to be spoiled.”

This book would make an excellent gift for any dog lover, and it’d even serve as a beautiful coffee table book. I could also imagine it being fun to read to children, because of the simple text and the entrancing artwork. All in all, a hearty recommendation from us!

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Over and Over Tune



Over and Over Tune

Ionna Carlsen

You could grow into it,
that sense of living like a dog,
loyal to being on your own in the fur of your skin,
able to exist only for the sake of existing.

Nothing inside your head lasting long enough for you to hold onto,
you watch your own thoughts leap across your own synapses and disappear—
small boats in a wind,
fliers in all that blue,
the swish of an arm backed with feathers,
a dress talking in a corner,
and then poof,
your mind clean as a dog’s,
your body big as the world,
important with accident—
blood or a limp, fur and paws.

You swell into survival,
you take up the whole day,
you’re all there is,
everything else is
not you, is every passing glint, is
shadows brought to you by wind,
passing into a bird’s cheep, replaced by a
rabbit skittering across a yard,
a void you yourself fall into.

You could make this beautiful,
but you don’t need to,
living is this fleshy side of the bone,
going on is this medicinal smell of the sun—
no dog ever tires of seeing his life

keep showing up at the back door
even as a rotting bone with a bad smell;
feet tottering, he dreams of it,
wakes and licks no matter what.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy Friday, everyone! Love the notion in this poem, of what it might be like to be a dog, but on a deeper, metaphysical level.

Keeping your house clean with two big dogs

Housekeeping is one of my constant battles. I adore having a clean home, but there are always two furry forces working against me.

Happy babies

These gleeful minions.

The amount of fur they produce daily is just mind-boggling — not to mention the various puddles of drool and water and clumps of clay. (We, living in the South, have the great misfortune of not having soil, like normal people do; oh, no, we have red clay instead. It is the devil’s sediment. It’s on everything. And it makes gardening a particular form of back-breaking misery.)

Furthermore, big dogs can be quite destructive. The two of them have utterly ravaged our exterior doors with their scratching and clawing and begging to get in. They also, in their fervor to be with us, punched out a glass panel in our former storm door. Charming.

So. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years to preserve my sanity and the dogs’ happiness.

  • Sweep constantly. One of these days, we’re going to spring for a Dyson, but for now, I just sweep constantly. We’re lucky to have all hardwood floors in our house, which are a blessing when it comes to cleaning up after dogs.
  • Clean the kitchen floor at least twice a week. I clean our floor on my hands and knees, like a washerwoman of yore. This makes me feel better about my life.
  • Floor runners (long, narrow rugs) at entryways. The standard rectangular rugs don’t seem to do much to catch eight paws running in from the yard. But runners? Brilliant. They cover so much more ground and pick up a lot more from muddy paws. We have an old, thick, braided runner in the basement, where the dogs usually come in, and it’s served us immensely in our battle against dirty floors.
  • Protect rugs with old towels on rainy days. When the weather is bad, I cover the few rugs we have with old towels. This works for a while, until Eden decides that the rugs are playthings set out just for her pleasure and enjoyment.
  • Or, just don’t have rugs at all. Dogs and expensive rugs just don’t mix, in my experience. If you can help it, just have hardwood floors everywhere. Personally, I find trying to keep carpet or rugs clean with dogs is a continual battle. So we only have two rugs. And they are woven jute (e.g., natural-colored/easily disguise mud and fur).
  • Wash dog bedding regularly. Our dogs can’t be trusted with expensive, padded beds, because they treat them like pinatas, so they sleep on piles of old blankets, pillows, and towels. These are fairly easy to launder, and if they have accidents, it’s also quite easy to isolate the affected bedding.

Here’s my big question, though, about housekeeping with dogs:

Pernicious Reddish Dust

I think I might be the only one with this problem, but I want to crowdsource this one. I can’t find anything online about it.

In every room where the dogs exist, we have fine layer of filthy reddish-colored dust on every surface. This was not a problem at our previous houses, where we just had Pyrrha. I’m beginning to think Eden is the culprit, because once we brought her into the home, this film of red/brown dust started appearing on everything. I know it’s dog-related, because in rooms where the dogs don’t go (like upstairs, where we have our guest bedroom and my studio), there is none of this horrible dust. It’s heavier than normal dust, and it almost adheres itself to things (like the covers of my beloved books, and papers, which it completely fouls). Am I crazy? Has anyone else experienced this? What could it possibly be?

How do you keep your house clean with pets? What are your favorite tools or tricks?

He does not judge

Berger Picard / Berger de Picardie / Picardy Shepherd Dog / Bacardi Shepherd

“A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.”

— Abbot Xanthios, ancient Christian mystic, quoted by the Monks of New Skete

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A beautiful sentiment — and a true one, I think. I love the wisdom of the Desert Fathers. If you have any taste for ancient Christian mysticism, I highly recommend Thomas Merton’s edited collection of their sayings.

Hope you have peaceful weekends ahead! It’s hard to believe that summer is nearly done.

Review: Citizen Canine

Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs

Citizen Canine, by David Grimm.

In the past few years, I have read at least 75 books about dogs, so when a new dog book comes out, I kind of assume that I’ve already read some iteration of it before. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

But this has proven to be a false assumption with David Grimm’s new book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs.

Grimm explores the fast-paced and monumental success of American pets to become the most legally protected animals in the country. Given Americans’ deep love of their dogs and cats, and the billions of dollars a year we shell out on them, it is no longer surprising to hear that we consider our pets to be valid members of our families. But what does this mean for us as a culture? And what does it mean for the dogs and cats?

The author talks with scientists, canine researchers, animal shelters, law enforcement, inmates, and everyday pet lovers as he unpacks this significant modern conundrum. He presents us with an array of ponderous questions: What kind of emotions do animals feel? Should the punishments for animal abuse be equal to those of child abuse? How far do we take the “personhood” movement for pets? And what about all of the other animals, who aren’t lucky enough to live in our homes and sleep in our beds? What kind of obligations do we owe them? It’s dizzying to even begin to think about, but it’s an important consideration for those of us who willingly share our lives — and our pocketbooks — with these beloved, domesticated creatures.

Some of the researchers (such as Marc Bekoff, Brian Hare, and Alexandra Horowitz) and their opinions recounted in the book are already very familiar to me — as they may be to many of you — but they provide important context to Grimm’s exploration of the topic. His chapter on pit bull hysteria is also particularly excellent, providing a great deal of historical and contemporary context. It’s a well-researched and well-documented book, and Grimm does a superb job balancing a variety of perspectives here.

I heartily recommend this book to any US-based intellectual pet owner who has ever thought about the philosophical, legal, and cultural implications of pets as members of a human family.

Disclosure: I was NOT provided with a review copy; I checked this book out for myself at my local public library.