Space Dog

File:Laika.jpg
Laika.

Space Dog
Alan Shapiro

I did not know
that no one was planning
to bring me back, either
.

—from “Laika,” by Ben Florin

As if amazed it’s his,
he holds his hand up
before the mirror, hand
too big now for the boy’s
body, hand he’s turning
slowly front to back
to front, then closes to
a fist he just as slowly
opens like an exotic
flower to its full extent.

The boy so newly merged
with the emerging man
it’s hard to say what’s boy
or man but for the eyes,
the boyish rapt confusion
in the look he looks
with at his mobile features
as he draws a blunt finger
over the shadow of hair
along his upper lip.

Shadow of hair in armpit,
crotch, voice deeper
than it was, then higher,
deeper, while the eyes
astounded, furtive, are the eyes
of someone who can not
quite wake up from the dream
in which he suddenly
discovers he is naked
among a crowd of strangers—

or like the eyes of Laika,
Soviet space dog,
in an old drawing
I remember, the stunned,
not yet distrusting but
no longer trusting look
from within the comical
glass bubble of the gawky
helmet tilted atop
the comical white spacesuit,

as the spaceship hurtles
out toward the stars, the earth
a star behind it, the earnest
dog eyes fixed on black
space like a door
the masters have walked through
and will return from, surely.
Surely they’ll come to get me.
Surely they didn’t love me
all that time for this.

. . . . . . .

Oh, MAN. This poem. It gets me every time! (More about Laika on her Wikipedia page.)

This is not really a dog poem, but it is SO good that I can’t help but share it. Fun fact: The author of the poem, Alan Shapiro, was my husband’s poetry mentor and teacher at UNC-Chapel Hill. We miss him!

Hope you all have lovely weekends ahead!

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Pretty puppy | Eden at 10 months

Eden is 10 months old now, and it seems strange that we’ve had her for half of her life!

Pretty, crazy baby

She’s certainly learned our household routines, and she and Guion have really developed a special bond. It warms my heart, because one of the top qualifications for Dog No. 2 was that he or she would love Guion (as Pyrrha may never truly bond with him as she has with me). Eden has certainly met that requirement. The two of them play Frisbee together almost every day, and Guion certainly is showered with more excitable affection than I am. (Which I am really OK with, because she really goes for you in the morning.)

Pretty, crazy baby

Now that we’ve survived her back-to-back litany of health issues (suspected victim of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency that turned out to be a bad case of giardia → first heat → presumed UTI → gaining weight → cut quick of her nail), she’s doing quite well. She’s also finally packing on the pounds, and I daresay she is turning out to be quite a beautiful girl.

Pretty, crazy baby

But good grief, German shepherd adolescence is exhausting. I know this is true of many (if not all) active, working breeds, but I feel envious of people who have Basset hounds. Or whatever breed just flops around on the couch all day. Eden NEVER STOPS. We had a house guest recently who was watching her and commented, “Wow, does she ever stop moving??” The answer is no, never. Think twice before you get a GSD, folks!

All that said, we love her, and we’re thankful she’s in our lives. Even if she is a wild thing.

Review: Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence

Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence.

Carol Lea Benjamin is a name you will see a lot in dog books, especially in dog books written in the late 1980s or in the early 1990s. She was a big name trainer at the time. Benjamin has now retired from dog training, but she still writes a blog and works with her own dogs. I was excited to find her book Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence, because it sounded like an interesting and relevant focus on a particularly trying time in a dog’s life. I also thought it might be pertinent for us, since we’re aiming to adopt a young adult dog.

After having read this brief and snappy little book, however, I found myself confused by the book’s subtitle, which says it’s “A Positive Training Program.” This was surprising to me, because the book relies heavily on physical punishments and lots of “leash pops” to get your teenage dog in line. Not much of Benjamin’s recommendations fit with the guidelines of positive reinforcement trainers like Pat Miller, Patricia McConnell, or Karen Pryor.

Rather, Benjamin’s book focuses primarily on the outmoded and damaging concepts of dominance and “alpha” leadership models. Her book assumes that your job as a trainer is to never let your dog get the upper hand, something which he is continually trying to do, because he’s like a wolf. This line of thinking, as we now well know, is false and based on inappropriately applied research, but it’s a philosophy that is still extremely prevalent among modern American dog owners (thanks to the damage done by popular trainers like Cesar Millan).

This book was published in 1993, so I can’t really fault Benjamin for not knowing this at the time. She was clearly doing what she thought was best for the dogs. Compared to other training manuals, this book isn’t nearly as harsh as some of the others I have read, and Benjamin does have some good overall advice for people with adolescent dogs. It’s just not a book that I would necessarily recommend to anyone as a training manual.