Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:
The Furry Ties That Bind. A beautiful post that reflects on what it is that makes us dog people, tracing the deep connection that children often feel with dogs. (City Dog/Country Dog)
You Don’t Have To… This post by trainer Tena is a great reminder that there are multiple alternatives to any given technique or method. It’s relieving to read. I’ve had lots of people tell me that I HAVE to use a prong/choke collar if I get a German shepherd, that I have to use physical punishments, etc. As Tena would say, “You don’t have to.” There are other alternatives. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy when it comes to training your dog. (Success Just Clicks)
AKC’s Top 11 Dog Breeds by City. This is an interesting report: Do certain cities prefer different breeds? It seems so! What breeds do you think are most popular in your city? And what does that say about your city? I think Charlottesville probably has a higher proportion of setters and spaniels than most cities; they seem to complement the landed gentry image that is somewhat prevalent around here. Here’s the more complete 2011 AKC breed report by city. (Woof Report)
Run, Doggy, Run. Laura Benn shares some great pointers on how to prepare yourself and your dog to run together. (iRun)
The Dogs of “Mad Men.” OK, Dogster made another great list, assigning breeds to characters from AMC’s original series “Mad Men.” I think they’re spot-on, and the descriptions are priceless. Roger Sterling is totally a weimaraner and, weirdly enough, I can actually see Joan as an Aussie. (Dogster)
On Expensive Medical Treatments for Your Pet. Preach it! I think this is all that needs to be said on this prevailing and backwards mentality: “No one has ever noticed that a friend has a really nice new couch, and said: ‘well, gosh, I’d feel terrible buying such a nice couch, considering how many mosquito nets the Gates Foundation could have given out in the developing world with that kind of money.’ Ever. But people WILL say that to you for choosing to spend your own money to save a living creature that really matters to you.” (Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews)
A Collection of German Shepherd Champions Over Time. This actually makes me kind of sad. Look how beautiful and strong the GSDs from the early 1900s looked. Today? They look like weirdly deformed half-dogs. It’s almost like a flip-book to deformity as you scroll upward quickly. Sigh. (Les Anges Gardiens)
Are Your Pet Adoption Listings Hurting Pets? An exhortation not to try to rope in potential adopters with sob stories; be honest about the dog’s strengths and weaknesses and you’ll give everyone a fair hand, including–or especially–the dog. (Dogged)
Woman’s Best Friend. As mentioned last weekend, this is my new pin board, featuring photographs and artwork of women and their dogs. Crazy dog ladies, enjoy! (Pinterest)
If the Characters in Downton Abbey Were Portrayed by Canine Actors… A friend shared this on my Facebook wall, and I just had to share it here, too. If you watch the period soap opera Downton Abbey, you will appreciate these comparisons. I think they’re pretty spot-on. Matthew is totally a golden retriever and Mary makes a lot of sense as a poodle. And, poor Edith! The Bedlington terrier! (Dogster)
How to Properly Care for Your Dog’s Teeth. Canine dental hygiene is usually pretty terrible, and, from my experience, it’s an easy thing to forget to take care of–and not exactly fun when you do. This is a thorough article, however, that reminds us all of why it’s very important to care for our dog’s pearly whites. (The Whole Dog Journal)
Investigating Halitosis. Related to doggy dental care, here’s a veterinarian’s list of possible causes of your dog’s terrible breath. (The Bark blog)
Where’s the Beef? Subtitle: “Why your dog should never eat another Milk Bone or Beggin Strip, and you should avoid the Slim Jims.” You won’t ever want to buy those products again after you read this article by Amy Renz. (Goodness Gracious Treats)
Identifying Merle. I grew up with a beautiful tricolor merle Australian shepherd and I’ve always had a fondness for merle coats, especially when they come from conscientious breeders. But I learned a ton from this post and learned that I’ve been incorrectly identifying some dogs as “merle” that really aren’t. Fascinating stuff. (Musings of a Biologist and a Dog Lover)
House Rules and Time-Outs. Aleksandra shares her wisdom about how they use “time-outs” to teach their newly adopted pitt, The Dude, some house manners. Great, gentle, and effective advice. (Love and a Six-Foot Leash)
Binq Design. If I was in the market for a tiny dog, and had a lot of cash to spare, I think I’d definitely consider these functional and attractive side tables + dog beds. They look like they’d be a nice place for a toy breed to hide out during family commotion. (Dog Milk)
Bambino vs. Fido: On Loving Dogs Less. Shauna, a pregnant blogger, reflects on how her relationship with her dogs will change–and stay the same–when she welcomes her baby into the world. I found this post very reassuring. As someone who hasn’t had kids yet but plans to one day, I confess I’m frankly terrified of the idea of emotionally displacing my future dogs. But, as she points out in this post, you don’t displace your dogs in your heart; you just make room. (Fido & Wino)
BFFs. Greyhounds snuggling on the couch. So cute. (Hiking Hounds)
Religious Dog Bumper Stickers. OK, pretend bumper stickers, but these still made me giggle. My favorite: “I’m Catholic but my corgi is affiliated with the Church of England.” (Dogs of the Interwebs)
Just a few dog-related links for you this week! Some thoughtful pieces, though.
America’s Pet Frenzy. An entertaining and informative infographic that presents a thoughtful look at how much we spend on our pets. The numbers are pretty insane. Americans spent $48.3 billion on pets last year! Most interesting to me: Only 15% of Americans get pets from shelters. If 100% did, they’d save $2.4 billion. (Frugal Dad)
After I got over my dog phobia, when I was around 8 or 9, I swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and became obsessed with dogs–a passion that has clearly maintained itself up to the present. The interesting thing was that until Emma, my family did not have dogs. I have always thought this strange, especially since my father is as fond of dogs as I am. But I think my parents determined that having four young children was enough of a zoo without adding actual animals to the family unit. We had rabbits and fish and mice and parakeets, which I adored to varying degrees, but all I ever wanted was a dog of my own.
To ameliorate this driving need to be with dogs, I started a pet-sitting and dog-walking business in our large suburban neighborhood when I was 11 or 12. My fellow employees were my sisters and a few of our friends. Within a few months, we became the neighborhood’s go-to pet-sitters and raked in quite a lot of cash (to us, at least). We were very popular because we were available during the day, since we were homeschooled. What these people didn’t know, however, that up until this point, all of my purported knowledge about dogs had come from books. I read voraciously, as I still do, but I had never actually lived with a dog myself. My hands-on knowledge with dogs came, therefore, from the trial-and-error of the many years that followed of walking, chasing, feeding, cleaning up after and caring for our neighborhood’s dogs.
The Dogs of My Childhood
Most of these dogs still remain very vividly in my memory. I wish I had pictures of them to share with you. Our first love was Scoop, a giant, lumbering white lab who belonged to our neighbors across the street, Kim and Dave, who later became our closest family friends (and remain so to this day). Scoop was immense, much larger than any labrador I’ve seen, even to this day. I think Dave said that he weighed 120 pounds at his peak, and he was never overweight–he was just HUGE. (Dave had a fondness for polar bears, mainly because they reminded him of Scoop.) Like most huge dogs, Scoop was endlessly gentle and patient. We were tiny little girls, but we could walk him without difficulty on his heavy, black retractable leash.
We recently watched an old home video in which we were putting on some play in the backyard about Vesuvius for a school project. We were simulating the peaceful country life of Italian residents in our homemade film, and my sister was playing a farmer, plowing his field. Attached to the makeshift plow? Scoop, who made an excellent ox. Scoop played along with us and followed our quick and frantic directions. I forget how often he was just a willing and patient companion to our many childhood antics.
He adored the water. I remember walking Scoop with my dad on the neighborhood golf course. Dad had tied a huge, long rope to his collar, because he didn’t like using the retractable leash. We came over a hill and there was a pond resting at the bottom of the high hill. The second Scoop saw the pond, he took off. I don’t think I’d ever seen him move so fast. Dad lost his grip on the rope and Scoop dove into the murky water, swimming happily. Dad started to get anxious that he would get tangled up in the long rope and drown, but he was fine. After he’d had his swim, he climbed out, shook water all over us, and was ready to follow us home.
Dave, a writer, had an office in the top floor of their house with one window that looked out over the street. This was Scoop’s perch, and we often saw his huge, white head sticking out of the window, peacefully watching the neighborhood go by. In his old age, his hips began to go, as with most dogs of giant size. He lumbered around the house and his paws with the overly long nails clacked on Kim and Dave’s floors. Dave once accidentally backed over him in their SUV, while Scoop wasn’t paying attention in the valley of the driveway. He was beside himself with grief, but Scoop seemed unfazed by the incident, and the vet declared him only bruised. He began to go deaf and blind and finally, when he could no longer walk, Dave took him into the vet to be put down. The whole neighborhood grieved for him. We still talk about him in dreamy, mythical terms, the legendary and great Scoop, the immortal lab.
When we weren’t walking Scoop, we spent many of our days walking Niko, a young and slender black lab mix. Niko looked mostly lab, but he was skinny and had a deeper chest like a sighthound. We would take him out in the afternoons while his people were at work. Niko had tons of energy and hated being left alone. We liked him, but I particularly recall one afternoon when we wanted to kill him. His mom always left our cash for us on the table and she’d leave a few days’ worth of money at a time. On this particular afternoon, we walked in and saw confetti all over the table and kitchen floor. Niko had shredded our $20 bill, which was a great deal of money to us at that time. We were furious with him. We raged and shouted at him. He slunk away but then came bounding back to us, tail wagging, eager to go on his walk. It was hard to stay angry at him for too long. For whatever reason, we never told his people that he’d eaten our payment and we just went without it for the week.
There was Koosh, the neglected black cocker spaniel who lived all of his sad, lonely life outdoors. His fur was terribly matted and his bangs had grown over his eyes so that they were difficult to find. We were never asked to walk him, but we’d always greet him through the thin slats of the wooden fence, touch the tip of his nose with our fingertips. Our friends, who lived next door to him, swore that he was abused. We spent weeks planning a coup in which we would climb the fence, grab Koosh, and keep him forever, love him and nurse him back to health. We never followed through with this dognapping, but we thought about it every time we passed his fence and saw his sad, mournful eyes.
Then there were the terriers. These terriers solidified most of my poor opinion of terriers, because they were always the most difficult and unpleasant dogs we ever had to work with–though often for no fault of their own.
There was Baron, the aging Yorkshire terrier, who had a foul disposition and had never been fully housetrained. This made for unpleasant pet-sitting, because every day, he’d leave a pile of poop in the dining room and a puddle of urine in the kitchen. His owner’s wife had recently left him and the man was in no state to tend to his sorry little dog. We were called over to take him out frequently, but Baron hated every minute of our visits. He was always afraid of us and tried to bite us when we would try to take him out. We were all bitten several times by this dog, no matter how gently or quietly or calmly we tried to approach him. It was a good day if we were actually able to snap his leash on his collar without getting bitten. Taking the leash back off was another challenge entirely. I remember one day when we were asked to take him out and he had whipped himself into a frenzy. We found one of the fathers in the neighborhood, a huge, tall man, and asked him to come over and help us. Baron was definitely upset by his presence and so the man put on pot holders and picked up the snarling, snapping little dog and just dropped him in the front yard. To our shock, Baron did his business and then quickly slunk inside.
Our childhood friend got a tiny West Highland white terrier puppy and named her Bianca. Bianca was a pretty little nightmare, but looking back, I’m not sure how much of that was our fault. She was pampered by her family and taken to dog biscuit bakeries and given cooked chicken daily. All of these excesses were new to me. But she was never trained to any noticeable degree. You couldn’t open the front door without having someone restrain Bianca, because as soon as she saw the crack of light from the outside, she was gone. And I mean GONE. This little dog could run. We spent many harrowing afternoons chasing her down the busy parkway and tackling her as soon as she would stop to pee (which was the only way we could ever catch her). (Side note: I think Bianca may still be living at this point. She has got to be about 14 or 15 years old now.)
The only terrier I’ve ever loved was Boomer. Boomer was a small, super-high energy Jack Russell terrier who lived with a young family. When her parents started having babies of their own, Boomer’s needs were difficult to meet, and so I became Boomer’s running partner. I would come over in the late afternoon to pick Boomer up and she would jump from the floor to almost over my head when I picked up her leash. Even when she was old, nearly 12 or 13, she was still a bundle of nervous and excited energy. We went running together frequently, up until her family moved away. I still think of her fondly.
Then there were Emma‘s sisters. After we picked out Emma from her litter, another friend and her family went to visit the same breeder and came back announcing that they had bought two of the puppies: The runt, which they named Belle, and the biggest female, which they named Tess. All of us only learned later that female dogs often do not coexist very peacefully and that sisters can be especially prone to fighting. We would take Emma over to visit with her sisters, expecting much fun puppy wrestling, but instead, the wrestling turned into full-scale fights, in which ears would be clipped and blood would be drawn. Sibling rivalry at its finest. Shaken, we all determined that the girls should not be permitted to visit one another anymore. As time worn on, Tess and Belle began to fight each other and it got so bad that the family had to keep them permanently separated from one another. There were happy times with the sisters, though, too. Once, we found them all frolicking together in the backyard, each of them trying to grab the same item. As we got closer, we found that they were triumphantly toting around the body of a dead bird and they were competing with one another to see who got to carry the trophy. We were disgusted, but they were extremely pleased with themselves.
All of these dogs still live in mythic proportions in my mind, but as I look back over all of these memories, I am also reminded that no dog is without his or her faults. No dog is consistently perfect, but all of these dogs were perfect guides into the diverse and complex world of canine living.