Home
humor
Culture: DogPatch
How to sing to your dog
Hummed or howled, tunes find a receptive audience.
How to Sing to Your Dog - Illustration

YES, IT’S EMBARRASSING, but many people have the urge to sing to their canine companions. Don’t worry about it—it’s natural. In fact, singing to your dog can be a lot more fun than crooning to a baby or toddler. For one thing, your dog will never develop the capacity for irony or satirical thinking so annoying in humans, so any stupid or caustic lyrics you make up won’t be understood. And your doggie will never fling these songs back to you in a family counseling session, or years later as you lie on your death bed.

The guidelines for satisfying canineoriented singing are not stringent, but you might want to consider a few strategies for making the most out of your warbling sessions with your pet.

>When choosing a name for your pooch, consider making it five letters. This enables you to use the famous song B-I-N-G-O as the base melody for special songs you can make up for your dog. For example, my new dog’s name is Nimby. I really didn’t choose it for that reason (long story—he’s named after a fairy character I created for my daughter), but WOW, what a boon! And Nimby was his name-o!

>Dig back into your past and find the songs you really enjoyed performing as a child, including perennial chestnuts such as Old MacDonald Had a Farm (for which you can substitute the repeating verses with a BARK BARK here, or a GROWL GROWL there…)

>Never underestimate the power of a narrative song, such as Little Rabbit Foo-Foo. For the uninitiated (bless you), Little Rabbit Foo-Foo is an involved tale about a little bunny who seems to go into the forest, where he scoops up all the field mice and inexplicably bops them on the head. And then a fairy descends—well, you kind of get the warped idea. So you only need to substitute your dog’s name, and perhaps his prey of choice (squirrels? moles?), and you have the makings of a really fascinating song.

>Classic folk songs are great. Consider the ballad John Henry, one version of which reads, “When John Henry was a little baby, sitting on his papa’s knee…” Think how wonderfully you can put your dog’s name in there: “When Mortimer was a little puppy, sucking on his mommy’s teat…” >Don’t discount the standards. You can adapt Cole Porter or George Gershwin pretty well to doggies. Consider “I’ve got you under my fur…” or “I get a bite out of you…” Or how about Irving Berlin? “God bless my doggie girl/Pup that I LOVE!!!/Stand beside her, and guide her…”

Well, these are merely guidelines. You must constantly look for inspiration in every facet of your past and present life—old Girl and Boy Scout songs and commercial jingles (gum, SpaghettiOs, Pepto-Bismol, late-night carpet advertisements, mnemonic bank lyrics, cereal ditties). Finding a suitable tune and putting your dog’s name into it, along with, perhaps, a few choice lyrics, is really the auditory equivalent of paint-by-numbers.

Singing to your dog is one of life’s simple pleasures. Just remember that, should you be caught doing it, you’ll have to act as though you’re warming up for choir practice. Once, someone came upon me as I was doing show tunes geared to my dog down at our community garden, and I had to pretend that I was an American Idol contestant.

News: Karen B. London
“My Dog Ate My Masters Tickets!”
It’s not just about homework anymore

Russ Berkman was excited when he won four tickets to the Masters golf tournament. Even after his dog Sierra ate them, he was determined to go. The good news is that the Augusta National Golf Club reprinted his tickets and he was able to pick them up once he arrived in Georgia. The bad news is that in order to recover the tickets, Berkman induced Sierra to vomit. He got back about 70 percent of the tickets, and was able to piece together and photograph the 20-vomit-covered pieces well enough to explain his situation and convince officials that his story was true.

I have sympathy for Berkman, who found himself in a bad spot. Honestly, who among us has not, at least once, had a dog who ate something of great value that we really wanted to get back? Yet forcing a dog to vomit if the dog’s health is not at stake is questionable.

What do you think about it?

Culture: Stories & Lit
Dog of the Day
Day care diva earns her title.
Three Dogs Art

My dog Maeby has always gotten good grades.

Every evening when I pull into the driveway at the doggy day care center that she attends,Maeby, a fluffy Aussie/Lab mix, is waiting for me, along with her daily report card.
 

Although it is fanciful thinking that one day the center might provide classes in “The Mailman Is Only in It for the Pension and Not Your Territory, Therefore the Barking Looks a Little Silly,” “A Fart Is a Fart and Not an Invisible Stench Rocket, So Stop Looking for It” or “Picking Up Your Own Poop,”my dog consistently got good marks in areas of interest such as playing nicely with others and making new friends, and was apparently well-heeled in the saucy arts, since it was reported that the flirty miss had a new boyfriend every week. While I wasn’t exactly proud that my little Lady was shaking it up for the Tramps on the playground, I was delighted when she was promoted to the position of “greeter” at the center, which is a dog who is assigned to play with a new dog in the doggy day care pack to get them adjusted and make their transition easier. She was even asked to participate in a marketing video for the day care center in which, according to her report card,“Maeby stole the show with her playtime skills.”

I mean, really. That one is still up on our refrigerator.

So, honestly, I was a little surprised when day after day, week after week, I would pick Maeby up from day care, get her report card and glance at the chalkboard of honor that stands at the entrance to the center, only to see that the Dog of the Day—the highest honor of distinction that any dog could receive—was proclaimed to be Blackjack.

Last week it had been Mossimo.

The week before it had been Sammie.

The week before that, Ziggy.

The previous week, it went to Hercules Wu, whose parents had once taken our leash because theirs looked similar and then returned it a week later with HERCULES WU written across the back side of it in black permanent marker, along with Hercules Wu’s phone number.

You know, I thought to myself as I drove home with Maeby fast asleep in the back of the car, I don’t know what’s going on here, but something’s got to give. Look at her, so busy greeting and teasing all the boys on the playground that she falls asleep the minute she gets in the car! My dog is a hardworking hussy, pouring her heart out, giving her all, and what does she get in return? A nice report card. A scratch on the ears. That’s not enough, I said to myself; that is not enough for my dog.

“I hate to break it to you,”my husband said that night at dinner after I had voiced my Dog of the Day concerns.“But I highly doubt Maeby is upset about not being The Chosen One. She is far more concerned at the moment with licking the floor where you dropped a hot dog yesterday.”

“That’s not the point,” I argued. “Do you not remember that Maeby was the one who stole the show with her playtime skills? Because if you’ve forgotten, I can show it to you.”

My husband sighed.“She doesn’t know how to spell ‘Maeby,’ ” he offered. “Just point to the sign the next time you’re there and tell her she is the Dog of the Day.”

I was stunned. “If that’s how you prefer to handle a crisis—with deceit and trickery—then I don’t even want you in this house when I finally have to tell her she’s adopted,” I stuttered.

“Did you ever think,” he finally said, “that maybe those dogs got the distinction because they earned it? That maybe they just gave a little bit extra?” I gasped, not knowing what to say, but my mind began to race.Was it possible that the other dogs got better grades than Maeby? Could it be it true that other dogs contributed more, were harder working? How could that be? Maeby was a greeter, showing new dogs the way, making them feel at ease, helping them with the introduction to the group. That was real dogitarian work.What could the other dogs possibly be doing that could outshine that? Was Sammie brokering peace accords between Indian and Pakistani dogs? Was Mossimo peacefully fighting for the rights of dogs not to be forced into wearing hats and sweaters if they chose not to? Was Blackjack removing land mines, making the playground safe for everyone else? Had Ziggy finally talked Mr.Winkle into retiring? And what was Hercules Wu doing, besides stealing leashes? Was Hercules Wu a greeter? I really doubted it. Was Hercules Wu asked to be in the video? Probably not. Did Hercules Wu steal the show with his playtime skills and his appropriated leash?

Not very likely.

So I decided to do the only thing I really could do, and that was ask. I wanted to know what the Dog of the Day criteria were, what the mitigating factors might be, and then tackle the problem from that angle. But when I went to pick Maeby up after her next day at the center, I was not at all prepared for what I saw.

It was an empty chalkboard.

No one had been proclaimed Dog of the Day yet. This was my—and Maeby’s—chance. I stood still for a moment, listening. I heard nothing, not the rustling of collars, or leashes, or barking.Everyone, it seemed, was outside on the playground.

Maeby stole the show with her playtime skills.

Maeby stole the show with her playtime skills.

I took a step forward toward the front desk.

Maeby stole the show with her playtime skills.

Where they keep the chalk.

I took another step. And another. And another,my steps becoming quicker as I neared the desk. And the chalk. And my dog’s redemption.

And I saw it, a pink, slim tube of chalk, right there next to the computer keyboard. I was a step or two away from reaching over and grabbing it, because it was lying right there in the open, when I stopped.

Maeby stole the show with her playtime skills.

It was true. But how would Maeby feel if she knew that I stole the title of Dog of the Day and gave it to her,with her name written all over the back of it in pink chalk? I didn’t take another step.

Instead, I waited there for Mandie, the center’s owner, to bring Maeby out with Hercules Wu’s leash, and then told her that Maeby would be coming in an extra day that week because I had finally made an appointment to have my terminally ill 19-year old cat, Barnaby, cross over into the Kitty Light. It would be better if she spent that day shaking her milkshake on the playground at the likes of Ziggy and Blackjack, I told Mandie, than to be at our house when something sad was going to happen.

And I was right—the day we sent Barnaby to a hereafter stocked with an all-you-can-eat buffet of Fancy Feast and Pounce was awfully sad, beginning with the moment we brought Maeby over to his cat bed to say good-bye to him. She nudged him gently, licked his head, sat and waited for Hercules Wu’s leash, and was off to day care.

When I went to pick her up later that day, I couldn’t wait to see her. Although Barnaby’s passing couldn’t have gone any smoother due to our sympathetic and patient vet, it was as emotional as any experience of letting a friend of 19 years go could be. My eyes were red and puffy when I arrived, and as I walked into the lobby, Maeby bounded in through the side door.

“What a good girl!” I said as I scratched behind her ears and she jumped and hopped around with excitement.“I’m so happy to see you!”

“That’s not all you should see,”Mandie said, and I looked up to see her pointing away from us.

I looked in that direction, and that’s when I saw it. The chalkboard, on which Maeby’s name was written in pink, swirly letters.

“You’re Dog of the Day?” I asked as she jumped and I jumped a little too, as I petted her head and she panted with excitement. “That’s wonderful! Look at that! Maeby is Dog of the Day!”

Mandie handed over the leash and we were just about to walk out the door when I realized I still had a question and was dying for the answer.

“So,” I said before I pushed the door all the way open. “How do you know who’s Dog of the Day? In what way do you judge who deserves it?”

Mandie laughed.“It’s not who ‘deserves’ it,” she explained as she smiled. “It’s who needs it the most.” “Oh,” I said as I smiled back. “I think that’s a great way. That’s really nice. Thank you.”

“Don’t forget her report card,”Mandie said as she pulled it from her pocket. “Maeby has two new boyfriends on the playground, you know.”

 

 

“Dog of the Day” © 2007 by Laurie Notaro, included in Howl: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit, October 2007 from Crown Publishers. Used with permission.

News: Karen B. London
Identifying Who Passed Gas
My dog never claimed responsibility

I’m not sure why, but I’ve reached a point where refined jokes don’t always cause me to guffaw but gas is always funny. Perhaps it’s just because I have two young boys, which means that a certain amount of potty humor is a part of daily life. Actually, the trend may pre-date having children because years ago my dog Bugsy could always prompt giggles when he passed gas.

 

It was his response that amused me. Even before the horrid smell had spread to the rest of the occupants of the room, he would sniff in the direction of his back end. His facial expression would show true disgust, and he would grudgingly stand up, look at the rest of us as if to say, “Really? Who would do such a thing?” and leave the room. It was rare for him not to want to be in our presence, but his own emissions were too much for him to bear.

 

It seemed to us he had no idea that he was the cause of the bad smell. Of course, we can’t prove that. He wasn’t the brightest of dogs, so I think it’s unlikely that he was purposely trying to feign ignorance of what he had done in a complex plan to deceive. In support of that, I should share that usually what he did was silent (but deadly) and on the rare occasions that he made noise, he would literally startle to the sound and then proceed with the behavior described above.

 

I know that Bark readers are a sophisticated group, but I’m hoping there are others out there who share my ability to enjoy lowbrow humor, too. Do you have a story to share about your own dog along these lines?

News: Karen B. London
Canine Perspective on Candidates
A humorous look at politics

People seem to oscillate between an insatiable interest in the presidential primaries (as well as the upcoming general election) and being absolutely sick of hearing about them. Just when I thought it was unwise to read one more political article or blog, unless I wanted my head to explode, I found this little gem. “In search of ponies: Dogs divided on candidates” considers the candidates from a canine perspective.

The article mentions Gingrich, Obama, Paul, Romney and Santorum—relating various dogs’ opinions based on such diverse events as Obama taking Bo out shopping for gifts, Santorum’s involvement with the Pet Animal Welfare Statute and the popularity of Ron Paul t-shirts for dogs.

As author Sharna Johnson concludes the article, “It’s going to be a long 10 [now, nine] months.”

News: Karen B. London
Dog Idioms
Big truths in little sayings

Since dogs have been such a big part of our lives for thousands of years, it’s no surprise that they appear in expressions in many human languages.

In French, “between a dog and a wolf” signifies dusk or twilight. In Spanish, “like a dog in a canoe” means being very nervous and “little dog of all weddings” is a way to describe a highly social person.

In Italian, an admonition to stop beating around the bush is expressed as “stop leading the dog around the barnyard,” while the Russian expression for “like a fifth foot on a dog” refers to something useless.

In German, “a fat dog” is a startling piece of news and to say that people get on “like a dog and a monkey” in Japanese means that they are on bad terms.

Dog idioms show up in English, too, and I’ve always really liked the expression, “the tail wagging the dog.” It is used to describe either a situation in which a small part of something is controlling the whole of it or a reversal of the proper roles. Despite the actual meanings, it always makes me think of happy dogs who wag their tails so enthusiastically that their whole bodies, from the shoulders back, are involved in the action. It looks as though the tail is literally wagging the dog.

Do you have a favorite dog-related expression?

News: Karen B. London
Yoga Dogs Calendar
So adorable I approached Nirvana

Dogs draw my focus in every situation. If I were at a dog park full of famous actors and actresses, my thought process would probably be along the lines of, “What a gorgeous Irish Setter! Look at that Greyhound run—how beautiful! And, ooh, a Havanese! You don’t see those very often. Gee, that guy with the Boxer looks familiar. . .”

So my experience last week when I tried yoga for the first time ever was not surprising. I did not immediately notice the new age music or the smell of incense. My awareness was not on my breathing or the feeling of my body relaxing in the present moment. Instead, what captured my attention was the calendar in the lobby that featured dogs practicing yoga. Honestly, it was so cute I could hardly stand it. It was the 2011 version, but the 2012 Yoga Dogs Calendar is just as charming.

At my next class, my intention will be to focus on yoga rather than on dogs. There’s always room to grow and improve, which is why I love it that people say they “practice yoga.” The dogs already look pretty experienced at it, though.

News: Karen B. London
A Beagle Is a Nose With Paws
How would you describe your favorite breed?

Capturing the essence of a breed in a short phrase is a challenge, and there are downsides even if you manage it. When an entire breed is described briefly, there’s the risk of missing the mark for many individuals. There’s the chance of explaining only a part of who these dogs are, and that doesn’t do them any favors. And, just as important, it’s easy to offend people who love a particular breed and don’t see them quite the same way.

That said, attempting to distill a breed’s fundamental nature down to a short phrase is just so fun that I can’t resist it. Here are some phrases that make me smile and refer to a few breeds I adore.

A Beagle is a nose with paws.

The Bichon Frise is mindlessly happy.

My Border Collie is smarter than your honors student.

The Labrador Retriever is the most willing play partner the world has ever known.

The Greyhound has two speeds: fast as a speeding bullet and fast asleep.

There are hundreds more breeds and so many ways to describe them as well as the few I’ve mentioned above. I find dogs’ personalities charming and I love hearing what other people have to say about the dogs they know best. How would you describe your favorite breed?

News: Karen B. London
Dog Jokes
The best bone is the funny bone

“Why do dogs run in circles? Because it’s hard to run in squares!” I overheard a child at the park tell this joke and I laughed out loud. I shared it with several other people over the next few days and a clear pattern emerged. Dog lovers found it at least a little amusing, but other people offered a courtesy laugh at best and an eye roll at worst. It seems dog humor is another bond that those of us who love dogs can share. Dog jokes typically strike me as funny even if they are just silly little plays on words.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“What do you get if you cross a cocker spaniel, a poodle, and a rooster? A cockerpoodledoo!”

“Why are dogs like phones? They both have collar IDs.”

“Why did the dog chase the red cape? Because he was a bull dog.”

“Why are there Dalmatians on fire engines? To help the firefighters find the nearest fire hydrant.”

What dog jokes make you laugh?

Dog's Life: Humane
Me and My (Unemployed) Dog

It’s another monday morning, and I’m reading the Times and sipping my coffee at an hour when most respectable people are already at work, or at least on their way. Like I used to be. Bam! The “Arts” section flies into my face as Tillie, my two-year-old Lab, head-butts her way onto my lap.

“You need a job,” I tell her as I rub her ears and wipe the sleep out of her eyes.

“Hell, I need a job,” I add.

It’s true. But had I been employed, Tillie wouldn’t have been here in my New York apartment, watching my every move to see what the day would bring. On the contrary, she was a direct result of my lack of a job — the beneficiary of my desire to accomplish something worthwhile while I had free time on my hands. Tillie is the second puppy I’ve raised for the Guide Dog Foundation. The first, Cathy, is now a working guide dog, and the pride of my life. Tillie, though quite wonderful, is a slacker. It was allergies that got her booted out of the guide-dog program and onto my couch.

So now we find ourselves in the same boat. Long days stretch ahead of the two of us like shadows on a late-summer afternoon. The intervals between our snack breaks seem to be getting shorter and shorter, and if either one of us makes even the slightest move toward the kitchen, the other is right behind. Our once-idle friends, who were always available for a romp in the park or a late-afternoon glass of wine, have moved on to big jobs and left us behind. Corey, Tillie’s favorite yellow Lab, is off guiding in New Hampshire. Leslie, my pal since college, is working such long hours that I rarely see her.

Too much free time can make you crazy. I recognize Til lie’s obsessive tendencies only because they mirror my own. She keeps a steady watch for the mean dog next door: I constantly check for Facebook updates. On our daily runs, she pees in the exact same three spots and I count my steps between lampposts. She chases her tail, I fruitlessly launch résumés into the ether. Really, the only difference between us is her lack of concern about money.

We did try the volunteer circuit, even before Tillie was tossed from Guide Dogs. An outing with an elderly woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease nearly gave me a heart attack, with my Parkinson’s lady hanging on to my right arm for dear life as Tillie yanked in the opposite direction on my left. Maybe we’ll give it another shot when she’s a little older. And the therapy dog thing? Let’s just say that neither of us survived the screening process. But I do suspect we’ll both get over that and try again, sooner or later.

I feel bad about Tillie not having a job. I understand how she feels. Like in the mornings, when that ad with Roscoe the bedbug-sniffing dog comes on TV and her head swivels around from its spot on my pillow, her eyes blazing with envy. Or when folks ask how Cathy is doing, and I feel like I should cover Tillie’s ears before recounting the stories about what a superstar guide my first puppy has become.

But then again, maybe I’m just projecting. Maybe she really doesn’t want to work. In fact, when I think about it, it seems as though those “allergies” that were making her so itchy right before she was about to go in for her formal guide-dog training suspiciously disappeared as soon as she was released to me. And she does love that couch. But in my opinion, she’s way too young for retirement. And so am I.

Now, together, we’re trying out a new job. We’re helping to raise Bau, an eightmonth- old future guide dog. I have a lot to teach him, and he has a lot to learn — mostly how “not” to do things. Like how not to trample the daffodils, how not to run down the stairs with a dog bed in his mouth, and how not to launch a stealth attack over a glass coffee table. Tillie’s lessons seem to be more focused on things like successful strategies for tug-of-war, tag and keep-away.

I hope Tillie doesn’t become too much of a role model for Bau. After all, I don’t want him to get any big ideas. He only has five months or so to go before he heads off to work, and I worry that Tillie’s going to make this whole jobless thing look a lot more appealing than it really is. I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on her, and make sure she keeps her opinions to herself. The last thing I need is another bum under my roof.

Pages