News: Guest Posts
Bosom Buddies
The quest for the perfect dog-friendly roommate


A good roommate is hard to find, especially when you’ve got an always-around boyfriend, two dogs and a healthy imagination. I’d been apprehensive about renting out my spare room because it had been used as a very important space in the past: the dogs’ room. Renting it out meant not only would they lose their favorite space, but I’d be bringing a new person into their “pack.” Would the dogs understand the concept of renters? If the roommate was terrible, I couldn’t comfort Leo by explaining, “Don’t worry, she’s month-to-month,” or console Skipper with “Well, now with the extra cash we can buy more tennis balls for you to bury!”   Still I was getting ahead of myself. Before I could even consider the task of acclimating the dogs to someone new and potentially horrible, I have to find her first.   In the beginning, my search was abysmal. I’d received a few bites through friends of friends; but they only served to make me realize how hard finding the dream roommate might be. When I told one potential roommate I was looking for someone with a regular schedule (primarily, so the dogs don’t think she’s an attacker and scare me awake, which could end in a potential pepper-spraying), she told me it’s not a problem, she only goes out late on weekends, and sometimes Wednesdays, Thursdays, oh, and “Popscene” Mondays. When I asked another if she was a smoker, she said, “Well, I only smoke when I drink … which is probably about four to five times a week.” Another applicant asked if I was comfortable with cats. I said, “Not really, because my dogs aren’t cat-friendly.” She then asked, “So the dogs are there to stay?”   I realized I basically wanted a dog-whispering, 80-year-old spinster in the form of a twentysomething female, essentially my best friend Carrie. Since Carrie lives in New York, my search continued until I found Kristy. I had known her for a few years and we had met in passing at parties, but I had never had many interactions with her beyond that. Serendipitously, she approached me and asked if I knew of anyone renting out a room. After a few minutes of questioning, I knew it was a good fit: Kristy had grown up with four large dogs, and upon moving out of her parents’ house her mom told her she was going to adopt a fifth.   While the dogs have lost their room, they’ve gained a good friend and I have the peace of mind knowing another human is around when I’m not. Now, I have a new concern. What if my dogs fall in love with her? These types of arrangements don’t last forever (unless you’re Uncle Jesse on “Full House”). How would the dogs cope with that?


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Meeting the Neighbors
Thank you canine family members!

When we moved to our first house in Wisconsin after years of being students and renting, we were very excited about our new life as homeowners. We couldn’t help feeling that life would be just a little easier, and just a little sweeter in this new place—820 square feet of “Well, at least we own it!” And it was true—life was good there. Of course, the reason wasn’t so much that we owned the place as that we met the most wonderful neighbors and the sense of community was so strong from our very first day in the house.

  And how did we get to know people so quickly that it made our lives better? Because we walked our dog a couple of times a day, and so did most of the people living near us. In my experience, there has never been a better way to meet your neighbors than walking your dog. As soon as we pulled up and before we unloaded the truck, we took Bugsy out for a walk, and immediately ran into a couple and their dog who I had met as my clients. Half a block later, we met another woman walking her two dogs—both black mutts like ours, and we walked together for a bit until we got to her house, all the while discussing the possible breeds that our dogs might have in them. Forty-five minutes later, we had met half a dozen more of our neighbors and their dogs, and felt incredibly welcome.   By the end of the week, we had met a dozen more families that included dogs, and many of them had stopped by with wine, cookies, flowers, and from one kind neighbor who was clearly no stranger to moving, giant trash bags, some picture hangers and a magnet listing important local emergency numbers. That guy also brought over some dog treats—can you ever say you’ve met a more thoughtful person?   Of course, many nice people who welcomed us into the neighborhood did not have dogs, but I’m convinced that having a dog was a key reason we met people quickly and that they were so good to us. I realize that dogs can often be a source of great tension between neighbors, such as when barking is an issue or dogs destroy a neighbor’s garden, or other property, or worst of all, if a dog is frightening another neighbor (especially children). But I still think more good than bad neighborhood relations result from having dogs. Has anyone else found that their dogs were excellent social facilitators when they moved to a new house?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mutt Match
Finding the right dog

I still consider my one-time success at setting up friends who later married to be among the biggest accomplishments of my life. Matchmaking is a time-honored skill that has just as big a place in the dog world as in the human world. Adopting the right dog to suit your lifestyle is that first and oh-so-important step towards a happy relationship.

  That’s why I’m such a fan of Mutt Match, an organization dedicated to promoting adoption of rescue dogs into permanent, loving homes. Meg Boscov and Liz Maslow, whose love for dogs led them to found Mutt Match, are both Certified Pet Dog Trainers with a great deal of experience working with shelter dogs. The service they provide is to find the right dog for their clients to adopt. A lot of what makes a dog well suited to a particular family is not obvious to members of the general public. Even people who are very knowledgeable about dogs have been known to fall in love at first sight with one that would not ultimately be the best bet for a strong relationship and a happy life together.   Mutt Match helps people find the right dog by providing a private in-home consultation, searching local shelters for appropriate dogs and conducting behavioral testing on those dogs, conducting a meet and greet for the shelter dog with the family, and offering a follow-up consultation. They suggest a donation of $200 for the combination of all these. Since becoming established as a business in January of this year, they’ve made 36 happy matches. When I asked Meg and Liz if they have a favorite story of a match, they shared this story.   “We were walking through one of our local SPCAs when we saw a young couple standing by a kennel, and the woman was crying. We stopped to see if we could help, and she told us her story. She was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago. The disease had progressed to the point where she could no longer work or drive. She (Susan) and her fiancé Carmen had been looking for a tiny companion dog to enrich Susan's life.   “They were at the point of giving up when we met them. On their own, they were daunted by the task of finding just the right match for Susan. They had spent several frustrating months scanning Petfinder.com and visiting the local SPCAs. Tiny dogs are rarer in the rescue world compared to larger dogs, and when there was a small dog in need of a home, by the time Susan and Carmen would arrive at the SPCA, the tiny dog would already be spoken for.   

“We arranged an appointment to meet with Susan and Carmen in their home. During our meeting we discussed their hopes and dreams for Susan's own personal therapy dog, a lap dog small enough for Susan to carry. After leaving, we reached out to our amazing rescues and shelters, and within a couple of days Susan was home with Lucy, a darling six-pound Manchester Terrier whose idea of the good life was loving and being loved by her special someone. Susan says that Lucy has brightened every aspect of her life."

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs as Children
Having kids changes the way we see our pets

Does having kids change the way we see our pets? A new study presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting this month found that people with human offspring are less likely to consider their pets children. The research conducted by a professor at Indiana University South Bend found that even people who used to think of their pets as kids often re-evaluate the relationship when they have human children.

Additionally, the way we perceive our dogs is also influenced by where we live. The study found that urban pups are more likely to be considered children. People in rural areas are more likely to see animals, including dogs, in a utilitarian way.

I live in the city, so I suppose I easily fall under the category of people who would consider their pets children. Although I don't have any human kids. I can imagine that having a baby is a life changing experience. I can't say that my definition of the word child will change, but to me labels doesn't matter. I know that my pets will always be an important part of the family.

How do you define a child?


News: Guest Posts
Happy Birthday, Betsy!
Scottsdale pup turns 20

Betsy will join rarified company when she celebrates her 20th birthday on Friday at home with James and Meryl Tulin, her three veterinarians and their staff, and her two canine cousins. She’s beaten some pretty long odds and deserves a shout out on her big day.

  The Tulins found Betsy on a golf course near their Long Island, N.Y., home 19 years ago. She was badly injured with a hip and pelvis injury. “We noticed she had no identification collar and immediately took her home with us,” they explain. “We then posted a lost notice throughout the area only to find that no one claimed her.” The next day, they took her to the veterinarian who treated her injuries; he estimated she was about one-year-old at the time.   Part Pomeranian and part-something else, maybe Corgi, Betsy is still quite perky. She romps around the house like a puppy and rules a roost that includes a four-year-old Golden Retriever named Lily and a nine-year-old Shih Tzu named Winnie.   “Betsy loves donuts, Chessman Cookies and steak and also thoroughly enjoys chicken of which she has had a steady diet for the past fifteen years,” report the Tulins, who moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., about 15 years ago. “We have been truly blessed to have our love with us for so long as each and every day she lights up our life and fills our home with unmitigated happiness and joy!”   Do you have a canine senior citizen with a special story? We’d love to hear it.


News: Guest Posts
Should Dogs Attend Funeral Masses?
Mine did

I’ve been to many a dog funeral (including a Buddhist sukhavati for my own beloved dog Wallace … and I do plan to write about this someday), but never before have I brought my own dog to a funeral. Not until this week, that is.

  It wasn’t like Chloe (the dog) was invited. Nor had I planned to bring her, but circumstances were such that I had to rush back to Massachusetts to make it to the service on time, and I had to bring Chloe, because I did not have time to find a sitter. I thought I would be able to leave her in the car during the service, or at least tie her up outside the church, with a dish of water, a marrow bone and a copy of Cat Fancy magazine. But the church had no trees. And it was ninety degrees in the shade.   So I really had no choice, right? I must confess I was nervous about this decision. Risk A: The funeral service had already begun by the time I arrived, which meant I risked walking in the wrong door and finding myself at the front of the church instead of the back, thereby revealing to all the mourners my possible lapse in tact, propriety and judgment. Churches are always confusing like that—especially old New England churches, which seem to have dozens of entrances and no signs.   Risk B: The funeral was being held at a Catholic church, and, if I recall correctly, Catholics don’t believe that animals have souls, right? So would they allow a being without a soul into their chapels? Would they allow me, a Buddhist who sings Hindu and Sikh chants, and practices Native American ceremonies and believes in One God/dess Many Paths? And who believes that not only do dogs have souls, but that some of them are more advanced than we humans? (I was raised Catholic, by the way, which by Law allows me to poke fun at this institution.)   Well, there was only one way to find out. I put Chloe on a close “heel” and entered through the hallowed doors. If lightning stuck, I’d know dogs weren’t allowed at St. Joseph’s.   If lightning did not strike, and no clouds parted (revealing a hand pointing its finger of judgment at me a la Michelangelo), well, groovy.   Chloe is an exceptionally well-trained, well-behaved dog, by the way. I knew that would work in our favor. Plus, the woman whose funeral mass we were celebrating was a life-long dog lover. As was her husband, who had passed seven months prior.   We entered, and found ourselves at the back of the church. Excellent. No one noticed our entrance; the second reading had already begun and people were lost in their own thoughts—of Jane and all the goodness and kindness she had spread through the world.   I thought how Chloe was a good and kind being too. I thought of my best high school friend, sitting way up front, mourning the sudden loss of her mother. And of her father. And of her beloved, beloved dog Lydia, who had died in April. My friend had endured a lot of loss in the past seven months. And yet she sat up there with her shoulders straight and her spine erect and poised. She has always been a graceful woman. So was her mother. I said my silent goodbyes to Jane and Bill, and said a few prayers for my friend. I even said a few prayers for my long-departed dog Wallace, and asked him to keep an eye out for Lydia, who still might not be used to life beyond the beyond.   As I had this thought, my dog Chloe wagged her tail.   And the lightning did not strike.   This is when I finally cried—and how good and sweet life can be, and yet so sad at the same time. I guess you can’t have one without the other. Until you leave this world.  Death didn’t seem so bad. Neither did life. Not with a dog by your side.   Anyway, I am starting to go off on mystical tangents when I am supposed to be writing about my dog.   After the service ended, we all stood, and the family filed out of the church, preceded by the priests. The first one swung an urn of incense back and forth, filling the aisles with the scent of frankincense. The second one walked piously, with his hands folded around his Bible. This second priest made a point to make eye contact with all the mourners and because I was at the very back of the church I knew I would be one of the last. My dog stood at my side, partially hidden from view. I worried again what the priest would think—if I had committed some grave cardinal sin. (I would have known this, perhaps, if I had paid attention in Sunday School, but who does that?)   I backed up a bit, as if to shield the dog from view. But then she sneezed. Incense does that to her. The second priest looked over, to find the source of the ground-level sneeze, and thereby saw my dog. She wagged her tail at him and moved forward to say hello. He smiled in a kind and loving way.   All God’s creatures, I thought.   My friend’s entire family smiled too as they passed. And I like to think that my dog brought them some sort of comfort on this day of mourning. That the dog reminded them of their own family dogs, of the dogs their parents had raised and loved. Of love itself. For that is what dogs are: love. On four legs.   So in the end, no one complained about the presence of my large furry spaniel. She was even welcomed to come to the post-funeral reception. There, the young grandchildren clambered about her, bringing her water and pieces of fried chicken, rubbing her belly, laughing at the way she squirmed and smiled when she wagged her tail.   It was heartwarming, to say the least. Especially when Clara, my friend’s six-year old daughter, said to my friend: “Mommy, Grandma is with Grandpa in heaven now, right?”   My friend answered, yes.   “And Lydia is there, too?”   “Yes, Lydia is there, too.”   “Good,” Clara said.   And it was good. Clara went over and hugged my dog.


News: Guest Posts
Big Love
Living the poly-dog life

“Babe, how do you think Skipper felt about me bringing home Leo? I mean, do you think he feels like...inadequate, as a dog?”

  “What on earth are you talking about?”   “Maybe he feels like I got another dog because he wasn’t enough for me? Like if maybe he had a bigger personality, or liked to snuggle more, I wouldn’t have had to go elsewhere for it?”   My most recent TV obsession is “Big Love,” which was introduced into my home after my boyfriend Jason impulse-bought three seasons on DVD. For those of you not hooked on the drama, I’ll fill you in: Unlike other cable shows about vampires, serial killers or suburban drug dealers (“Weeds” or “Breaking Bad,” take your pick), “Big Love” is about a clean-cut Mormon family living in Utah. Oh, yeah, and they’re polygamists. The show has provided the kind of escapism that keeps me hooked, especially since polygamy remains a subject with which I don’t foresee myself becoming more intimately acquainted. I mean, obviously Jason isn’t going to take any more girlfriends in (at least, he wouldn’t live to tell about it if he did), and it’s not like I’m going to take in another boyfriend.   Maybe I’ve become too invested in the show and can’t separate fiction from reality, but all of the sudden I feel really guilty. Perched on the end of the sofa, staring out the window, is Skipper, my faithful first dog. We used to joke when I first adopted Skip that he thought he was my boyfriend, not my dog. He followed me everywhere and slept on my pillow at night (which for a 15 pound dog is quite a feat). Whenever Jason would come over and sit next to me on the sofa, Skipper would look at me like “You’re going to let this fool take my seat? Tell him to move!” and would eventually disappointingly concede when it was clear Jason wasn’t going anywhere.   As if my human boyfriend wasn’t enough (sorry, Skip), imagine how he felt when I brought home a younger, more outgoing canine without real warning. And what’s worse, the latecomer is a total attention-fiend. Skipper’s a little like Big-Love-first-wife-and-total-control-freak Barb, who was dragged into a plural marriage by her husband when he married second-wife-and-compulsive-spender-and-liar Nikki. Like Barb, Skipper must have tried to maintain composure those first few days, but the jealousy probably was overwhelming. When the second dog was not sitting in my lap or getting combed or doing fancy tricks, he’d be misbehaving: Peeing on the curtains, eating my favorite Lady Gaga headband, barking at the heater. Meanwhile, there’s perfectly faithful Skip, a paragon of good behavior, often going unnoticed because he doesn’t ask for much other than the occasional pat on the head or a quiet whispering of “Who’sagoodboy?”   I figured with a second dog, the more the merrier. But after marathon “Big Love” sessions, I have my doubts. What does Skipper think? Is a new dog a replacement? A competitor? While Skip and Leo get along famously whenever they’re interacting—wrestling, cleaning one another, even sharing the same dog-bed—like the wives on “Big Love” the stakes are raised when they’re vying for the affections of one person—in our case, me. Even though there are still minor squabbles from time to time over who gets to sit next to me on the couch, the dogs have worked things out among themselves and seem happier for having one another. As for me? I’ll just have to get over my guilt, stop watching “Big Love” and take the dogs out to the park together.   What about you? Is one dog enough or do you have a poly-canine family?


News: Guest Posts
Every Dog Has His Day
A birthday bash for Leo

It’s August, and that means one thing around here: Leo’s birthday is coming up. Maybe it’s because I like to throw parties or I’m obsessed with my dogs (or both), but it’s a priority for me to acknowledge my dogs’ birthdays. Leo’s big day is the day before my best friend Carrie’s, which means a dual birthday party to ensure a better turnout. (For some reason, Carrie is more popular than Leo; she always draws a crowd.) Last year’s celebration combined their interests: Carrie’s abiding love of Elton John and my dog’s passion for dancing. We picked a perfect party playlist, invited all of our friends (both human and canine), and baked two cakes, one for dogs and one for humans.

  I should mention to those of you who are rolling your eyes at me as you’re reading this, I know throwing a birthday party for your dog is borderline ridiculous. But here’s my rationale:
  • I love parties: I’m not talking about the kind of parties where someone brings an plastic jug of Montezuma Gold tequila and you end up with 10 people passed out in your living room, or awkwardly poking your friend awake and asking them to remove their head from the kennel so you can hose it out before putting the dogs to bed. That kind of fun isn’t fair to the dogs or to my post-party cleanup efforts.
  • Parties at home mean I don’t get home late for the dogs. As a dog parent, I can tell you that every party is less enjoyable on some level if I’m sitting in a corner looking at my watch, wondering how much longer I can afford to stay without the dogs wondering if I’ll ever come home. A party at home means I can see that my friends and my dogs are all having a great time: Everyone wins.
  • The dogs can be where they’re comfortable—in the spotlight. If you were to use one word to describe my dogs and me, it would be gregarious. Two words: attention hounds. My dogs’ favorite thing about parties is the abundance of laps to sit in and pant legs to sniff. We appreciate a captive audience for our hilarious party tricks (guests who come over all know about the incredible Hula-hoop of Fire….don’t worry, it’s actually just a Hula-hoop with orange streamers attached!). Best of all, the dogs can let me know when they’ve had enough fun and want to be put to bed, even if the party is still going (although Leo usually manages to stay awake longer than even me).
  • Using a dog’s birthday as an excuse to throw a party might be seen as ridiculous to some, but to me it’s a great for our social life. Plus dog poop is easier to clean up than vomit.   What about you, thinking of throwing a dog party?  


    News: Guest Posts
    Dog Receives Communion
    Kinda, sorta.

    Here’s another for the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished annals. It seems an Anglican priest in Canada, recently, slipped a holy wafer to a congregant’s dog during communion. Most witnesses were unfazed by the gesture. But a displeased parishioner complained up the church hierarchy creating a tempest in the temple. The result: No more communion for dogs. But, happily, the dog can still attend services.

      I’m no expert on these things, as terminally lapsed Catholic, but that hasn’t stopped me before: I just can’t believe that a divine intelligence credited with conjuring dinosaurs and glacial lakes, redwood trees and, yes, wonderful wagging canines would be small-minded enough to begrudge a dog his treat—whether it be a sacred host or a liver snap.


    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    People Remind Me of Dog Breeds
    This includes my children

    My oldest son reminds me of a Greyhound. He seems to have two speeds: super fast and resting. He likes to curl up on the couch next to anybody or anything warm. He loves to run and is so into rabbits that he says that when he grows up, he wants to be a rabbit scientist. My other son is very high energy, physically adventurous and amusing in his unpredictability. Nature has seen fit to give him an angelic face, perhaps in the hopes that not everyone will notice that he has a little of the devil in his eye. In my mind, I can best understand him by comparing him to a Vizsla-Irish Setter cross.

      Other moms don’t always appreciate my views, but dog people often get what I am saying. I love my sons for who they are and I enjoy having such diverse personalities and attitudes in my own family. Comparing them to dog breeds is done with great love and tremendous respect, and it’s just my own personal way of describing them and understanding them. I realize that these comparisons only explain a small part of who they are, and that there is much more to them than the few similarities I see between them and some typical qualities of various dog breeds.   Does anyone else think of people in terms of their similarities to dog breeds? And has anyone ever criticized you for this view of the individuals in your life? Please share who the people in your life are like in dog terms!