Dog's Life: Lifestyle
How should we as a community respond?
In Juliana Keeping’s column Hey Ann Arbor—put your dog on a leash. A short one, she writes about bad experiences with off leash dogs. She shares her own stories and those of a few other people and complains angrily about so many dogs being off leash in violation of the laws of her city.
The comments in response to the article are highly varied and many are as angry as the original article, whether the point was to agree or disagree with her. The whole conversation prompts me to ask some questions: How should we as a community respond? That is, how should people with dogs react to the anger that’s out there? Are we as a community largely obeying local leash laws with a few violators causing tensions, or could we do a better job overall of following the rules?
It’s worth reading Keeping’s article to hear her perspective, though I advise you to be prepared that you may dislike some of what you read, no matter what your views are. (For example, I objected to her saying, “By the way, if your menacing beast, with its bad breath and muscular jaws, comes near me and my child, I will end your pet.” Such a clear threat to an animal’s life made me very uncomfortable. I also think that Keeping strikes an inflammatory tone rather than one that seeks to find common ground, solutions to issues or even a worthwhile discussion of them.)
Despite these criticisms, I think Keeping touches on some important points that it would be wise for those of us in the dog community to address. The first and most important one is that many towns have so-called leash laws, but they are rarely strictly enforced. She also makes a fair point when she discusses that off leash dogs sometimes cause harm, and that not all people take responsibility for the situation.
For example, I was once out hiking with my kids in an area where dogs are required to be leashed. No person was in sight when an unleashed Malamute roughly knocked over my son, who was then two years old, and I still remember how angry the owner was to (finally) come around the bend, catch up to her dog and find me restraining the dog by holding his collar. (The nasty things she said to me and the fear I had that in her rage she would harm me or my children are pretty memorable, too.)
Additionally, I’ve had many clients whose efforts to help their own reactive dogs be able to walk on leash through the neighborhood were hampered by off leash dogs. When working with a dog with leash reactivity or leash aggression, it can be a major setback to have a loose dog come running up while a person half a block away calls out cheerfully, “Don’t worry! She’s friendly!” Kathleen St. John addressed this particular aspect of the value of leash laws a few months ago in her post Why I Like Leash Laws.
If too many members of our society are not happy with the way that people with dogs are behaving, it will become increasingly difficult for space to be allocated to dog parks or for dogs to have access to public areas including parks and trails. I think it’s so important for a high quality of life that dogs have opportunities to run off leash, but I do think that using leashes in the areas where they are required by law is a responsible course of action.
What do you think of Keeping’s article?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
What topics would capture their attention?
Arizona Daily Sun columnist Tom Carpenter always prompts me to start Sunday mornings with a chuckle, but this week, I laughed especially hard in response to his column “If our pets could read.” It shows great insight into what sorts of issues might be of interest to dogs.
He proposes a number of possible articles for the imaginary (as far as I know anyway!) magazine “People Fancy.” My favorites titles were:
Biting the Hands that Feed Us. Commonsense tips for avoiding this faux pas.
Ten Code Words for “Walk.” Never miss another one.
Obesity. Laps are disappearing at an alarming rate. A roundtable discussion.
Baby on Board. Twenty easy steps you can take to stay in the house and out of the shelter after the baby arrives.
What topics do you imagine your dog would want to read about?
Culture: Stories & Lit
Once upon a table shiny, while I trembled, meek and whiny, Under a dizzying dose of chloroform too pungent to ignore, While I slobbered, half-sedated, certain something grim awaited, Sure enough, the vet I hated paraded in and closed the door. “Booster shot,” I ruminated. “That is what this visit’s for. Just a shot, and nothing more.” While I let my thoughts thus wander, Doc examined me down yonder, Leaving me not one bit fonder of the guy than theretofore. Long he eyed me, clearly scheming, scalpel lifted, cruelly gleaming, All the while, his face was beaming, dreaming of his evil chore. What, I wondered, had he meant when, just before he’d closed the door, He’d whispered to me, “Nevermore.”
So intent was he on snipping precious parts not meant for clipping, That he scarcely heard me yipping, yipping as my flesh he tore. Written there, upon his pocket, in red thread that seemed to mock it, Such a name upon his smock—it shocked me to my very core. Shocked was I, and stirred and shaken, shocked and shaken to my core, Not to mention, very sore. When at last the nightmare ended, gradually my stitches mended, Due to tender care extended by the owner I adore. Nonetheless, I felt quite bitter, for no stud was ever fitter, And I’d only sired one litter, with a chocolate Labrador, Six puppies with a Labrador her human family called S’more, Who birthed them on a hardwood floor.
Now that I am ten years older—hard of hearing, stiff of shoulder— Memories grow ever colder of my youthful days of yore. Rest assured I’ve not forgotten him who did the deed most rotten, Leaving me with balls of cotton, at the fertile age of four, A fate that I could not ignore when, at the fertile age of four, My love life ended evermore.
Though fur grew back that once was shaven, on my rear is still engraven, On my tender groin engraven, in that spot erstwhile so sore, Words that cause my loins to quiver, heart to break, and spine to shiver, Loud and long, I cried a river o’er that deed I yet deplore, Words etched by the carving maven, craven surgeon I abhor— “Neutered by Yul Suffermore.”
News: Guest Posts
Beware of unwanted houseguests
Who says doggie doors are exclusive to canines? One Florida homeowner learned firsthand that the easy access has a downside. Alexis Dunbar came home to discover a six-foot alligator slithering along the floor of her bedroom. Apparently, he snuck in through the doggie door. Interestingly, she does not have a dog; the door was for Dunbar's cats, who were both alive and well.
I also use a small doggie door for my cats. It's located inside the house so they can go in the laundry room and use their litter box without a dog rudely interrupting to grab a "snack." (Ick!)
My aunt also uses a doggie door for her inside-outside cats. One night, she woke up in bed because her cat was being so restless, moving all around the comforter. She repeatedly shoved him away until she realized that both of her cats were scared stiff in separate corners of the room, hissing their little hearts out at the intruder: a raccoon! My aunt screamed and managed to shoo him out of the house. For weeks, she had noticed that the cats' food bowls emptied more quickly. It had never occurred to her that a thief was sneaking in for a bite to eat. Do you have a doggie door? Ever have a surprise houseguest?
News: Guest Posts
Size doesn't matter (except when it comes to treats)
A friend shared this hilarious photo of a small Terrier and giant Wolfhound trading spaces. Why do some big dogs prefer to sleep in smaller spaces? My theory: It's an assured attention-getter. Anytime our Dalmatian, Jolie, curls up in a tiny cat bed, my husband and I have to point it out to each other. "Oh, isn't she cute?" "Look at that silly monkey!" Then we pet her nd coo over her until one of us decides what she really needs is a treat, preferably large. Does your big dog prefer a bed that's too small?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dooley’s behavior models the Dalai Lama
Newspaper reporter Abbie Gripman read about a Tibetan Mastiff who was sold for $1.5 million dollars in China. The reason for the high price is that in China and Tibet, members of this breed are believed to be reincarnated souls of monks who did not achieve Nirvana.As any normal person with a dog would do, Gripman began to search for signs of holiness in her own dog, Dooley, whose breed mix is undetermined, presumably because of its complexity. Showing the truth of the expression, “Seek and ye shall find,” signs of his highly spiritually advanced state became apparent. Where some people might see a dog sleeping, Gripman noticed a dog who was in a deep meditative state. What others identified as snoring, she astutely realized was Dooley repeating his mantra. While certain observers might think that Dooley has low prey drive, Gripman identifies his tendency to ignore squirrels as a sign that Dooley believes in living and letting live: “He honors the life of the squirrel.” Her kids remain unconvinced that Dooley is holy. However, Gripman’s husband is either brilliant at keeping peace within a marriage or recognizes the larger truth about their dog, or both. He suggested they rename him “The Dooley Lama.” Namaste.
News: Guest Posts
They’re loyal, smart and usually get along well with others.
Dogs don’t often have much use for politics—it doesn’t make for polite conversation—but that hasn’t stopped them from taking office. Last year, the Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association in Annandale, Va., elected Beatha Lee its new president—unaware she was a dog. Nothing in the association’s bylaws prevented a dog from the presidency, and Beatha still runs meetings from under her owner’s dinner table. Though some members of the civic association were angry about Beatha’s takeover, other communities happily appoint dogs as their leaders.Bosco Ramos, Sunol, Calif.: Bosco, a handsome Rottweiler-Labrador Retriever mix, was elected honorary mayor of Sunol in 1981. He got on the ballot as a joke (not registered with any party), and wound up beating two human opponents for the mayorship. As part of his duties, Bosco appeared at social events in a stately tuxedo and helped lead the town’s annual Halloween parade. Most of Bosco’s days, however, were spent hanging outside the local bar, fostering neighborhood spirit and accepting treats. Bosco really put the Northern California town on the map, however, when a Chinese newspaper used him as an example of the failure of democracy. In defiance, Bosco joined a pro-democracy protest in San Francisco. In 2008, 14 years after his death, Sunol placed a bronze statue of Bosco under the town clock, complete with his classic neckerchief.
Lucy Lou, Rabbit Hash, Ky.: Miss Lucy Lou is a pioneer of sorts in this tiny, unincorporated country town. She’s not the first dog mayor—she’s the third—but she is the first bitch elected to the position. The Border Collie took over the mayor’s office in 2008 by defeating 15 other candidates, including a cat, an opossum and a human. (The closest the human got was 15th place.) Following in the pawprints of her predecessors, Junior and Goofy, Lucy now spends her days greeting visitors to Rabbit Hash and serving as a spokesdog for the local animal shelter. She’s even reached out to the feline community, publicly supporting the acceptance of both dogs and cats in the town’s general store.
Devlin, Abilene, Texas: Devlin, a gloriously furry Irish Wolfhound, served as “dog mayor” of Abilene in the early and mid-2000s. During his terms in office, Devlin traveled the country as an ambassador for pets—Abilene’s dog election is a fundraiser for Abilene animal organization Rescue the Animals. By 2005, Devlin had already visited 36 states on his journey of goodwill, teaching kids about dog safety and promoting shelter adoption.
News: Guest Posts
Once I was in love in Viggo Mortensen. Yes, I know that this was just a fantasy, a celebrity crush, and that I was yet another not-twenty-year-old woman who had a crush on Viggo, who fantasized about being swept away on a white horse by Aragorn. And I know that Viggo, to date, does not know that I exist.But there is one thing that sets me apart from all the other Oh, Viggo won’t you rip my bodice masses: Viggo Mortensen knows my dog exists. He kissed her. And she kissed him back. And then he kissed her again. On the mouth. I kid you not. Before I explain how their First Kiss came to be, let me first say that I’ve never had a serious celebrity crush before. I don’t have the time have a crush on a real person, let alone someone unattainable and two-dimensional (referring to their photographs, not their personalities). Secondly, I don’t even know who most celebrities are. I don’t watch TV or read gossip magazines or even see all that many movies. (Yes, I live in a bubble and that bubble is called Woodstock.) And I certainly have never followed celebrity gossip. My sister fills me in on all the crucial details (who has been outed and who remains closeted) but other than that I stick to my fictional world of novels. I am a typical Aquarian: head in the clouds, not grounded to reality, preferring to linger in the safer fictional worlds of my own creation. Except for the New Yorker magazine. And The New York Times. But for eight years I refused to read the Times because I couldn’t stand to see the words “President” and “Bush” strung together. That’s eight years without reading movie reviews. So how is it that I managed to hear of Viggo during that eight-year drought? I discovered his poetry. It was the summer of 2003, and I was visiting the apartment of a semi-famous Beat poet whom I was interviewing for Poets and Writers magazine. I happened to pull down a slim, interesting-looking volume of poetry from the shelves by one Viggo Mortensen. The name rang a bell, so I thumbed through the pages, and by the first page I was hooked. I don’t have the room to quote any of his poems here, but let’s just say they are honest and soulful and tender. The prose is delicate but the force of emotion behind them is huge. I could imagine them being whispered in a quiet room. I found myself being moved to tears. And the only poet, to date, who has moved me to tears is Rumi. So that’s saying a lot. I have a heart of stone, you see. But Viggo cracked it open. “Remind me who this poet Viggo Mortensen is?” I called out to the Beat poet. “He’s that cat from Lord of the Rings, man,” my friend answered. “He’s everywhere, man. Haven’t you heard of him?” “Oh, right,” I said. It was then I had to confess that I had never seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was then I had to confess that I hadn’t even read Tolkein’s book series, because I have always been far too serious and deludedly intolerant of “unserious” books, and had therefore declared, at an early age, that had no use for elves and dwarves and hobbits. As a child I read Jane Austen and Hermann Hesse, and could not be bothered with furry-footed midgets. “You can have that book, if you’d like,” the poet said. “I read it twice. It’s good. That cat’s got it all. Talent and looks. Fuck him.” Would that I could. Over the next few days, I read his poems over and over again, and fell more and more in love with the writer of these words. Then I began to Google him. And my crush quickly began to border on obsession. My cool icy exterior had melted and my life has never been the same. First there were his pictures. Need I saw I was astonished—absolutely astonished—at how good looking this man was? (And still is, I’m sure … eyes as blue as the sea!) Then there was the fact that our Viggo not only was a magnificent physical specimen, but also a talented painter, photographer and musician. And he’s a Democrat. Perfect for an Aquarian artist like me. I passed the next few months in a Viggo-obsession haze. I won’t bore you with the web-trolling, image down-loading, fan-site drooling details. We all know what it’s like to have internet obsessions. There I was, near 40, with writing deadlines and a life, and I was spending my nights googling him, or googling “Viggo” + “girlfriend” to see who was blessed with his presence; I joined chat rooms and fan sites, where thousands of middle-aged women would discuss the colors of Viggo’s ties, and his favorite flavor of yogurt. Once, I even tried to see a picture of him naked, because some seedy website promised this, but it was a trap, of course. I was lead to some insidious porn sight and got infected with some computer virus, which caused non-stop images of threesomes and blow jobs to pop up on my computer screen. I was certain even sensitive, feminist Viggo would have been embarrassed. Thanks to Google, I found out Viggo was a lover of dogs. Perfect! I am a lover of dogs and a writer of dogs and part of my job is to write about lovers of dogs for Bark magazine. So, long story short, I contacted Viggo’s office and asked if he would like to contribute any poems to our magazine, and the answer—Halleluiah—was yes, and thus I acquired an essay of his for Bark quite easily (see Sept/Oct. 2006 issue). I now had Viggo’s email address in my personal contact list. And no, I didn’t stalk him. I only stalked him in my mind. I created an elaborate scenario regarding our meeting and eventual marriage. It was love at first sight—he caught my eye at some film premiere— (my movie, of course, because in this fantasy I wrote an Oscar-winning screenplay in which he starred). Then we dated. Then we traveled the world and he proposed to me at some sacred site—say, the Mayan ruins. Then we had a small, intimate wedding ceremony (you know, just close friends like Orlando Bloom and Sean Bean), which included a Native American sweat lodge purification ceremony followed by a barefoot reception on the beach. Oh, what fun we had together! We would grow old together, and remain lovers and soul mates until the end of this lifetime and beyond. Then, in March, I received a press release from Viggo’s office stating that his latest volume of poetry and illustrations, Coincidence of Memory, was being published by his own Perceval Press, and that a book signing party would be taking place at such-and-such gallery in New York City. I was going to meet him in the flesh! I went on a diet (speaking of flesh) and bought some new clothing. I spent two weeks sleeping with a tray of teeth-whitener between my teeth, which caused a lot of pain but was worth the effort. Two days before the event I had my legs waxed. One day before I got a manicure and pedicure (something one never does in Woodstock) and splurged on a bottle of mysterious organic perfume, which claimed to contain pheromones that would prove irresistible to eligible mating men. On the day of the book party, I had my hair cut, colored, glossed and straight-ironed. Then I recited some positive love affirmations and Wiccan incantations regarding the love-at-first-sight that was bound to occur. And decided, at the last minute, to bring my dog. My cute, sweet, attention-grabbing, man-loving dog. What was I thinking? Once, on a first date, I invited a man to a party in Tribeca that I knew knew Uma Thurman would be attending. Imagine being in the same room with such a shining beacon. I felt like a flashlight whose batteries were half-dead. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after that, but no. I had no idea my dog Chloe was going to steal the Viggo show. Neither did the other 800 women in attendance at the book signing. This was a small space, mind you: A contemporary, steel-and-glass gallery with polished white floors, and Viggo’s excellent paintings lining the walls. Viggo was at the far end of the room, sitting behind a long table piled with books. The table served as a kind of barrier between him and the throng of women. He looked a bit dazed and uncomfortable. It’s possible he was hungover, too. In fact, everyone looked dazed. All the women had hungry, pleading, somewhat desperate looks on their faces, as if they felt this would be their one, only and final chance at the happiness they knew they deserved. They had brought copies of his older books to be signed, and photographs of him, and even new copies of Lord of the Rings. And everyone had a camera, and the room was full of the sounds of flashes and clicks. I hadn’t brought a camera, but I had brought a dog, so the crowds parted for me. They had to, because Chloe would have shimmied past them and knocked them aside if not. I don’t know what had gotten into her, but she was bee-lining, it seemed, toward Viggo. Perhaps if she too could not resist his magnetic pull. Chloe pulled me all the way to Viggo, and when he saw her his tired face lit up. Hey, I thought, that look was supposed to be saved for me. But Chloe? Viggo smiled broadly when Chloe reached his table, and he invited her around to his side of the table. He began to make smoochy noises, and he invited her to place her paws his lap, and I watched as Chloe kissed him and kissed him and he said “aw” and kissed her back. He stroked her fur. He told her she was so sweet, so pretty. She wagged her tail; she wagged her body. Viggo called over to an assistant to see if someone might bring over a few squares of cheese. “The good cheese,” he said. “The Spanish goat cheese.” I was both tickled and crestfallen. Not once did Viggo look at me, or admire my tall Italian boots or my frilly French blouse. Not once did we lock eyes (his eyes were as blue as the sea!) or fall in love. No, it seemed my fantasy man had fallen in love with Chloe. I’m surprised he didn’t slip her a key to his hotel room, which is something groupies apparently do. The caterers brought over some cheese—on a tray!—and Chloe took the treats from Viggo’s hand, and kissed him again. Then, to show her pleasure, she rolled around on the floor a bit, sashaying upside down like a fish and splaying her legs in the air. Just what I would like to have done. I was surprised at how crushed I felt! I felt ugly, undesirable, foolish, invisible. My months of fantasy-hopes, dashed in an instant. Wiped away. I know it was silly to be upset, but why can’t we dream? And if we’re going to dream of a Perfect Man then why not dream about a real-live perfect man? I dreamed, I came, I saw, I was not seen. Eventually Viggo told Chloe, in a sweet baby voice, that it was time to say goodbye, because he had to sign some books. Viggo’s attention was drawn elsewhere, and I was left with my hand on Chloe’s leash, smiling dumbly at no one, staring into a void. My fifteen minutes of fame had ended after about sixty seconds. I wish I’d had the courage to at least talk to him. I wanted to tell him how much I admired his writings, and his paintings and photographs. I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t there because he was a gorgeous and hot actor. In fact, I even wanted to say, “I haven’t even seen all your films.” But that would be offensive. Mostly I wanted to tell him I loved him for what was inside of him: a poet’s soul. I’m a writer, after all. So I know how nice it can feel to be told someone likes your work. But instead, I stepped away, to give other women their chance at happiness. I went to get myself some cheese, and a huge honking glass of wine. I wonder if people like Viggo have any idea how epic our encounters are with them can feel to us. I wonder if they realize we go through these high highs and these low lows, and question our self-worth, based on how they react to us. It’s really quite silly. I fully admit this. But it does not take away the sting. While I sipped my wine, I watched the other women. Chloe stood at my side, drooling as she stared unblinkingly at the cheese buffet. And she wasn’t the only being in the room drooling. Every woman there was staring at Viggo with incredulous, nervous, giddy smiles. A bunch of middle-aged women, fidgeting like teenagers. We straightened our skirts; pulled down our blouses to reveal more cleavage (mine was fantastic that night, by the way). In fact, we were all acting as if we were in the presence of Apollo. Or Adonis. Or an enlightened master. But I don’t think Viggo would like being compared to a god or a guru. He just wants to be a regular guy. I mean, it must be hard to be bombarded with all that adulation. At times, I sensed Viggo’s discomfort. I saw how he tried to deflect the attention away from himself and steer it toward a fellow writer, whose book Perceval had also published. This was a book signing party, after all, not a Bacchanalian rite. At times the vibe was that of a feeding frenzy a few moments before someone ladles the chum into the water. As the hours wore on and the crowd grew larger and the bodies pressed in, his smile seemed pinched and somewhat pained. The poor dear had reached his limit. Then I thought of how his face had lit up when he saw Chloe. I realized that she was the only being who loved him not because he was the celebrity Viggo Mortensen, but because he was a simple, kind, genuine and dog-loving human. I realized that even my loving Viggo for his poetry was shallow and grasping. It was shallow, in part, because I wanted him to love me back. And marry me and all that... But Chloe, she just kissed him without expecting anything in return. She gave him love him in a direct and genuine way, without disproportionate worship. She gave him the brief moment of happiness he deserved. That we all deserve. I wish I could learn to love like that. A few years have passed and I still get embarrassed when I talk about my all-consuming crush and its devastating come-down. But then I had a conversation with one of my friends, who had had a similar obsession on Orlando Bloom. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” I remember her telling me. “This crush has awakened something in you. Since your divorce you’ve been kind of shut down toward men. You should be thankful that this person has brought back in you your capacity to love.” “And lust,” I said. “Oh yes, that too.” I haven’t Googled Viggo in years, but sometimes I remember that it can just be so much fun to love someone. Now, any time I remember Chloe flirting happily and unabashedly with my fake-boyfriend, I remember all the happy times Viggo and I had together (in my head). Love is something you give, after all. It doesn’t matter if he does not love you back.
News: Guest Posts
Deck the Halls...fa-la-la, woof, meow
We can’t keep ourselves from loving this video—and we're not alone.
News: Guest Posts
One man’s plan to stop stray sex
I thought a woman hanging upside-down to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty was edgy—until I met Joey Henry. With his plan to stage elaborate raids on fornicating cats and dogs, he’s my new gold standard for the wacky frontier of animal welfare activism.His strategy is simple to describe and probably a lot more challenging to execute: Stake out strays, wait and watch from a hidden location, and when the unwanted animals set about creating more unwanted animals, leap out and make a heck of a lot of noise, convincing the parties involved to knock it off. Of course, Joey Henry knows one serious scare does not a celibate canine make. That’s why his cameraman will be nearby. The videos will be posted at HelpJoey.com, which launched last week. The aim is to use humor to spread the important spay/neuter message—and all the better for cats and dogs if that message goes viral.
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