Careers in Behavior and Training. Like many of you, I suspect, I’ve daydreamed about quitting my job and becoming a full-time dog… person? Karen London, who did just that, shares some of her wisdom about careers in canine behavior and training. (The Bark blog)
In France, the (Abandoned) Dog Days of Summer. I admire a lot about French culture, but this is really appalling: Apparently, an estimated 100,000 dogs are simply abandoned every year by their French owners when they take their long summer holidays. The French SPCA comments on their campaign to end this practice. France has the highest numbers of pet ownership in all of Europe; you’d think this wouldn’t be an issue there. Big sigh. (NPR)
Hearing in Colors: Your Dog’s Coat Color Predicts His Hearing Ability. Stanley Coren, the popular canine psychologist, discusses research on how coat patterns and colors relate to hearing ability. This doesn’t break it down so far as to say that black dogs hear better than brown ones, but the research affirms the fact that primarily white or merled or piebald dogs do not hear as well or are more likely to suffer from hearing loss. (Psychology Today)
Fast and Furry-ous: Flyballin’. These are such great photos; the dogs look like they are having a blast! You can feel the energy and excitement. (Identity: V+E)
Reflections. OK, no dogs in this one, but this just made me giggle, particularly the photo with the whole crowd of sheep staring at their reflections. Really puts an image to the cliche “herd mentality.” (BCxFour)
Pawsitively Amazing: Kiya. These sweet photos of this disabled German shepherd actually brought tears to my eyes. What is it about disabled dogs that is so gut-wrenching and inspiring? Probably because they don’t seem to worry at all and still have such light and joy in their eyes. It will get me every time. Kiya looks like such a doll, too. (The Daily Dog Tag)
Do Dog Shelters Make it Too Difficult to Adopt? Dog walker and trainer Lindsey Stordahl raises an interesting question about the adoption regimens for shelters. I don’t think my local SPCA has a very difficult standard for potential adoptees, but I do feel like many of the breed-specific rescue agencies may go a bit overboard with their requirements. Regardless of what you think, it’s an interesting perspective. (That Mutt)
5 Ways You Can Train Like a “Pro.” Basic but great points to remember while training. I always have to work so hard at not repeating cues over and over again. (Success Just Clicks)
Fascinating dog-related links from around the Web this week…
Concerns about Unleashed Dogs. Karen London reflects on how we, as a community, should respond to this ever-growing social issue. Even though I’m always tempted myself to take a well-behaved dog off leash, I know I shouldn’t if it means that people with aggressive or untrained dogs can do the same. (The Bark blog)
The Evolution of Barking. Why did domestic dogs start barking? Here’s a summary of recent research on the topic, which I find quite interesting. Part of this research was briefly discussed in “Dogs Decoded.” (The Bark blog)
When Internet Memes Collide. Inter-species friends! That is one adorable and tolerant sheltie, to play so well with that squalling–but evidently delighted–infant. (Pawesome)
Polar Bear Befriends Dog. More inter-species friends! This blog should be proof enough that nothing delights me as much as YouTube videos of creatures from different species playing together. (The Premium Pet Blog)
To Barney’s New Family. A touching letter from a popular mommy blogger to her Scottish terrier’s new family. She made the wise decision to surrender the dog after determining that he did not fit well with their family and that she could no longer adequately care for him. It’s a heart-wrenching decision, but it happens so often, especially among young families with babies and poorly trained dogs. (Nat the Fat Rat)
Cousin. Famous blogger Heather Armstrong snaps a photo of a dog in Bangladesh, who accurately displays the prototype of the ancestral domestic dog. (Dooce)
Spay, Neuter Programs Are Paying Off. This year, fewer than 4 million dogs and cats will be euthanized, down from nearly 20 million in the 1970s. Let’s keep up that decline! (Ohmidog!)
I’ve always hated sappy stories about dogs. I’ve been this way since I was young. Even though my obsession with dogs began when I was a child, I loathed films about dogs, mainly because they were so cheesy and the dogs always die in the end. I also refused to read all of the classic dog-related books for children. I hated Where the Red Fern Grows when I was young. My mother was reading it aloud and I started yelling in agony when the boy finally gets his long-desired hounds. He finally gets these dogs and then has the idiotic aplomb to name them Big Dan and Little Ann! It was the worst. My eight-year-old self was deeply insulted on behalf of those red hounds.
Memoir-like books about dogs tend to be equally bad. No one really wants to read Marley and Me. No one wants to hear dramatic, hyperbolic stories about your bad dog who tore up your house but eventually stole your heart; I’d much rather get to know a real dog. Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul sounds like a perfect nightmare to me; I wouldn’t read it if you paid me.
All that to say, I was fairly wary about reading The Difficulty of Being a Dog, by French author Roger Grenier, translated by Alice Kaplan. It looked like it might be one of those little books that dripped with overwrought emotion about dogs. Thankfully, Grenier is not one inclined to displays of overwrought emotion. No, he is a proper and meditative Frenchman who loves dogs and old stories about the people who love them.
The book is composed of 43 very small vignettes and reflections about dogs and their place in our lives. And, to my great delight, it is very beautiful and not at all sappy. Grenier walks slowly through centuries-old anecdotes about kings, artists, and ordinary people who are very attached to their canines. He treats his subjects with respect and wry humor and never dips into the fatal charms of hyper-emotionality. Many of his stories and quotes will likely make their way onto this blog at any given point.
Specifically, I liked Grenier’s presentation of the French view of owning a dog. One of the things my sisters told me I’d love about Paris was how many dogs roamed the streets–but roamed politely next to their humans. They often told me about the dogs who would be left, leash-less, outside the door of a cafe and wait patiently for their people to return. You’d be hard-pressed to find any dog in urban America who could do that. I like the French sense of canine companionship. Even though there is the danger of treating your dog like a human, the French seem to get the notion of a dog as a true companion. The dog goes everywhere I go; he sits with me in restaurants, he goes with me to the market, he rides in the basket of my bicycle. Grenier paints a portrait of the dog as a free and welcomed component of city living; it’s an image toward which I happily gravitate.
All in all, I loved this tiny book. I’d give it as a Christmas or birthday gift to someone else in my life who shared my unabashed love of dogs–and I’d give it without any embarrassment.