Pup links!

The much-maligned Wallis Simpson, aka Duchess of Windsor, with a cairn terrier. Source: bettyswallow.blogspot.com

A lot of interesting and thought-provoking dog-related links around the Web this week…

Pet-Friendly Apartments Are Lucrative. Are you hearing this, landlords of my town?? Listen closely! (The Bark blog)

“Dog People” Are from Pluto and “Cat People” Are from Jupiter? The summary of a very interesting study on the personalities of professed “dog people” and “cat people.” I was surprised at how many more people are self-professed “dog people” than “cat people.” What do you think? Does the study’s results accurately reflect your side? (Dog Spies)

Investigating Canine Research: Are Our Dogs Spying on Us? A fascinating study from Alexandra Horowitz‘s Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. The study looks at the ways in which are dogs are watching us–reading our facial cues and listening to the tones of our voices–to get what they want. (Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab)

I Am a Clicker Convert. In a simple video, Kristine and Shiva demonstrate why a clicker really works. (Rescued Insanity)

Conflict Regarding Greeting People. I wonder about this, too. Is it better to let a dog get overexcited when meeting people in public? Or should we avoid those meetings altogether? (A Frame of Mind)

Exercises to Keep Dogs Off of Counters and Tables. I’ve always imagined that this would be a rather difficult behavior to fix. Here are some practical and helpful tips on how to address “counter surfing.” (A Frame of Mind)

Preventing Aggression Over Food. Karen London provides a fresh and helpful perspective on how to avoid food aggression. (The Bark blog)

A Canine Stress Dictionary. A list of common signs and symptoms that may indicate that your dog is totally stressed out. (Whole Dog Journal)

Fruits & Veggies, Oh My! A List of Dog-Friendly Foods. A helpful list of the healthy foods that are safe for dogs to eat. A carrot does sound like a great alternative to a fatty, calorie-packed treat. (The Hydrant)

They’re Leaving Home… I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling that Aussie puppies are the most adorable creatures on the planet. Deep down, my heart will always belong to this breed. (Inkwell Aussie News)

Yet More Quteness. A precious litter of GSD puppies at a nearby Virginia kennel. So hard to have self-control… (Blackthorn Working GSDs)

New Hounds in Town. A photo essay on the arrival of 10 recently retired greyhounds getting prepped for adoption. (ShutterHounds)

On the Street: Mulberry St., New York. Every outfit looks better with a dog! (The Sartorialist)

There’s A Dog In the House. Add this to my coffee-table-book wish list! (Dog Milk)

Summer Reading: Top Ten Favorite Dog Books. Some of my favorite dog books are on this list, too! A fun and easy guide to great books about dogs. (City Dog/Country Dog)

Up and Over. So funny. Such gleeful effort! Such hilariously tragic results. (Animals Being Di*ks)

Dog people

Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and their poodle. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives

Part I. Childhood Fear

Once upon a time, I was terrified of dogs.

This was not supposed to be my heritage. I was supposed to love dogs. But, in a strange turn of events, the whole reason I developed a dog phobia was because of my father’s deep love of dogs.

The story goes like this: When I was about six years old, my family was living in an apartment complex while we waited for our new house to be built. There wasn’t much to do around there and so my father would often take us girls out for walks. He was thrilled one afternoon to discover that one of our neighbors had a young, handsome doberman pinscher. Dad grew up with dobermans and was enamored with this dog. From then on, whenever he saw that the dog was outside, he’d take us girls out to watch and admire.

On one particular evening, we were watching this boisterous doberman chase a collie in frenzied circles around a patch of grass. I was clinging to my father’s leg, trying to avoid being run over by these whirlwinds of energy, but apparently I wasn’t paying much attention. The dogs, too caught up in chase to notice me, bowled me over and trampled me to the ground. They weren’t malicious in any way, but I screamed and cried like someone had deliberately tried to kill me. I was whisked inside–while I’m sure my father was shaking his head in regret over his totally wimpy girl child.

For years after that, I would cower in fear whenever I saw a dog. I was petrified around them and never dreamed of wanting one. For all my six-year-old mind new, dogs were bloodthirsty monsters.

Part II. What Changed

By the time I was 10 or 11, however, something changed. I wish I could remember what positive event changed my mind about dogs, but I made a complete 180 in my opinions about canines. I became obsessed with them.

Like today, back then I read everything I could get my hands on as a child. My all-time favorite Christmas present was a beautiful, glossy, hardback book of all the dog breeds. (Aside: I found this book on a recent trip home and brought it back to Charlottesville with me. I am not ashamed to say that I enjoyed reading it again the whole way back.) For my birthday, I asked for a subscription to Dog Fancy, which I read religiously. I watched the dog shows whenever they came on TV. I begged my mom to always let me go in pet stores so I could compare prices on the dog supplies list that I was already making (so, not much has changed). My sisters and I started a successful pet-sitting business in our neighborhood and I became a small-time expert on calming old Yorkies, walking rambunctious lab mixes, and chasing and capturing escaped West Highland white terriers. (My decision to never get a terrier was solidified during this time.)

And. Like today, I waited a very long time until I could get a dog of my own. When I turned 14 or 15, I finally got to pick out Emma from an adorable Aussie litter on my birthday. It was the happiest day of my young life.

Part III. A Family Who Loves Dogs

I often wonder what it was that triggered my switch from phobia to obsession. As I’ve grown older, the only hypothesis I’ve been able to create is that this shift was caused by the emergence of my family heritage. My paternal family is known for their love of animals, especially dogs. The Farsons would rather die than be accused of being cat people, although I’ve learned that they show kindness and sympathy to all animals. Even cats. Animals are a critical part of living. And to live without a dog in one’s life, well, what’s the point of that?

Although I never got to see my dad’s family that often, the Farson clan lived vividly in my mind from all of dad’s stories about growing up on farms in Indiana. His childhood always sounded so charmed and idyllic to me: Wandering corn fields with a pack of faithful dogs at his side, swimming in ponds, building forts. Dogs were always a central part of his childhood and I longed for them to be a part of mine.

Since I was little, I felt a deep connection with my dad’s mother, whom we call Gran. I rarely saw her, but I felt like she understood me. Gran is spunky, energetic, and hilarious. She is a woman who can fend for herself and always has. She raised five highly intelligent children, mostly on her own, and despite all of the obstacles that life threw her way, she is the most optimistic and joyful person I’ve ever met.

Gran is also devoted to dogs. She was likely responsible for the many dogs that my father grew up with. After her children had grown up and left, she worked full-time for the local animal shelter. She eventually adopted a lovely and devoted doberman named Chance, who was the true love of her life.

This Easter, Gran came to visit my family in North Carolina and I was thrilled to get to spend some time with her. Our time alone was spent taking Dublin for a walk around town and I loved every minute of it. I felt so much joy getting to share the company of this woman, my grandmother, whom I rarely saw and yet felt intensely connected to. We talked like had spent years together. And this was mainly because we saw eye-to-eye about dogs. She could read Dublin’s body language like I could. She suspected, as I did, that the Siberian husky we had just passed had likely tried to run away several times. She knew all of the breed stereotypes, all of the problems that keep dogs in shelters, all of the ways people could love dogs better.

My dad’s sister and her family recently went on vacation to the Outer Banks and left their precious, foxy mix breed Sadie with my parents for a few days. Gran apparently called the house four or five times to check on how Sadie was doing (probably nervous that my dad was roughhousing with her or teaching her bad habits, as he is wont to do). Mom joked that Gran would never have called if my cousins, her grandchildren, were staying with us. But the dog! The dog must be looked after.

My dad shares his mother’s devotion to dogs. He acts like Dublin is his dog. He taught her most of her Frisbee tricks, walks her around town, and takes her canoeing with him on Lake Norman.

I think the main reason that my parents don’t have a dog now is because my mother isn’t wildly fond of them. Her family had dogs, like most good suburban 1960s families, but they were not necessarily dog people. They were good and kind to their dogs, but their attention to dogs did not extend much beyond tolerated family pets. (My maternal grandfather may be the one exception to this family rule, for he is a universal animal whisperer. He can mystically charm animals that hate all other people, including squirrels, feral cats, and peacocks.)

But this overarching devotion, this need to share one’s life with a dog, that is something I inherited from my paternal family. That is my deep and lasting connection to the family that I rarely see and yet feel that I will always understand.

Did you grow up among “dog people”? Or did you acquire the trait later in life? Do you think it can be inherited?

Pup links!

Boston terrier and her flower child. Source: Femke Leemans

Dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Woof vs. Meow: What Our Furry Pals Reveal about Us. A fun and well-designed infographic about the differences between cat and dog owners. According to this survey, dog people are more likely to be extroverts, physically active, use an iPhone, enjoy Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom, and be conservative. Pretty fascinating. (Laughing Squid)

Wag.com. A new beta pet supplies site, the successor to Pets.com, launched this past week. Check it out: Fast and free shipping available. (Wag.com)

Treating Skin Disease at Home. A helpful overview of home remedies for your dog’s various skin problems. (Dog Lover’s Digest)

Mugs and Plates and Scrummy Little Things. A collection of simplistic and cute domestic goods from BBB Potters. (Under the Blanket)

Berner Puppy. There is almost nothing as purely adorable as a Bernese mountain dog puppy. (Shirley Bittner)

New Arctic Fox Pups Arrive at Aquarium of the Pacific. Just because. Everyone needs an extra dose of adorable in their day. (Zoo Borns)

The Dogs of Ratafia. Fun, modern, and colorful paintings of dogs by Carol Ratafia. (Under the Blanket)