readers write
Culture: Readers Write
No Two Puppies Are Exactly Alike

The Year of the Dog is associated with kindness, good fortune, harmony and humanitarianism; idealism is supposed to overshadow materialism.

For us, the Year of the Dog began early. Just before Christmas, as I strolled through San Francisco’s Washington Square Park on the way to the post office, my dog Jeff met Midnight.

As the two performed the doggy circle dance, a young man put down his newspaper, rose from his bench and introduced himself as Junior. He explained that he was taking care of Midnight, a throw-away, but she wasn’t really his. “I just don’t want her to be destroyed.”

From the look of things, Junior was trying to keep himself alive as well. “I can try to find her a home,” I offered. Junior liked the idea. “One of us at least could have a home.”

From my gallery nearby, I went to the post office often; stopping to talk with Junior became routine. I dropped off Christmas cookies for Junior and his bench friends, a couple, aging alcoholics. I brought dog food. “Her coat is better, but I think she’s sick,” said the woman with few teeth and bright lipstick. Junior disagreed: “I think she’s just unhappy.” He wanted to have her spayed.

I began asking around for a home. She’s lovely, I told people, very quiet and gentle, mostly Border Collie. She had black, silky fur with a white chest and white feet. I felt she would have perked right up with a little care.

One night I spotted the man–dog pair on the street near my gallery. Two Pit Bulls, residents of the housing project on the corner, set after Midnight. Terrified, she flew into the street. Junior and I got to her simultaneously. “I’m sorry,” Junior mumbled to the dog. “I love you.”

“She’s in heat,” Junior said, on my next visit. “I called the SPCA but the fee for spaying is $35. I don’t have any money.” I called. No matter what I said about homelessness, unwanted puppies, desperation, the fee was still $35. I told Junior I’d pay. I’d pick her up on Wednesday. But on Wednesday, man and dog were nowhere to be found.

“Pregnant,” announced Junior, with obvious chagrin. “Crack’s the father.” We all knew this street dog, a tough little brown thing with a stub tail who belonged to an older guy from the projects who called himself Hitler.

My real concern was the dog, but I also wondered about the man. “I’d like a simple life,” he told me. “Nothing special. Just a little apartment, an ordinary job, a family.” Junior, who was 26, had a nine-year-old son he rarely saw. “I don’t want my son to see me like this,” he explained. Once, while we were talking, he dashed away to assist a disabled man who had fallen. “You’d be good in nursing,” I suggested. “I worked in a nursing home for two years,” he said. “It’s too hard on me. People dying all the time. Maybe I could do house-painting.”

I had begun to ask around for a job for Junior. He was slight, with a somewhat askew and whimsical face. He was bright and fun to talk to, charming and gentle. I didn’t see why the situation couldn’t have an easy fix. Man with job and dog in little apartment, gets son back.

I was beginning to plan the spring exhibition for the gallery. I’d met the artist several years earlier when I was a juror for a photography competition. Looking over the photographs, we all knew immediately which would win first place. It was a large, black-and-white solarized print of a bough of roses, beautiful and sad. We’d not heard of the artist, someone called Gay Outlaw, apparently a pseudonym. At the reception, we were astonished to find Gay Outlaw to be a gracious, elegant, young Southern woman, using her given name.

In January, as Gay and I were discussing the show, she said, “I’m thinking of getting a dog.” Within minutes, we’d arrived at the park and were rubbing the now rotund Midnight. “I might be interested in one of the pups,” Gay told Junior.

From then on, Gay and I were partners in the save-the-dogs mission, conferring constantly. We brought food daily for Midnight and sometimes for Junior too. We talked to vets and animal rescue groups. I arranged with Junior to bring Midnight to the gallery for the birth, but not long after, we found Junior on his bench next to a basket of puppies. “They were born out on the pier,” he said. “I slept through it.”

There were nine pups. Then four. Then three. Then, somehow, four again. Gay chose the only female and gave Junior $60 to hold Suzette. James, a nice young man who worked in the neighborhood, fell in love with the largest one and put down $50 for Jordan.

During the day, Junior held court in the park. An old man came each morning, chatting at Junior in Chinese. A batch of private-school boys dropped by every afternoon to hold the little blind babies. Yuppies and drunks gathered to peer into the basket. Animal Control paid a visit. “Everything’s wonderful,” Junior beamed, passing out the pooper-scoopers they had left. He joked about the next litter.

At night, Junior dragged the basket, the mom loping along beside, to whereever they would spend the night. Sometimes they stayed outdoors and sometimes they slept in an old truck that belonged to Hitler.

“Midnight’s really stressed,” Gay reported, when the puppies were about a week old. “She’s barking and running after everyone. I’m afraid she’s going to bite someone.”

And bite she did. First, a cable-car driver. The police came. Junior was arrested and released. The next day, another bite, another arrest. Midnight and the puppies were taken to the pound for a 10-day rabies observation. Junior cried.

Our goal became to keep the puppies nursing for six weeks until adoption, then maybe rescue Midnight, too. Junior was frantic. “I’ve got to get my dog back,” he cried. I couldn’t decide if I thought it was worth “sacrificing” the dog for the happiness of the man.

On the release day, Gay and I went alone to the pound, feeling guilty and sneaky. We’ll take them all, we said.

Then, to our astonishment, Junior arrived, claiming ownership. Legally, he was right. I snagged an animal control officer, who led us through an hour of tense negotiations. He got Junior to agree that all the dogs would come to the gallery. Junior could walk Midnight during the day, but she would continue to mother the puppies for three more weeks. After that they could go to their new homes. Midnight would still be Junior’s dog. He promised to have her spayed. We all felt better. “This is a real nice place,” Junior said. He took a copy of the Questionnaire for Volunteers. Gay paid the fees. We all left in her car.

The gallery turned into a kennel. A show for a famous photographer I’d worked years to organize now looked down on shreds of newspapers, puddles and Purina crumbs. My assistant, Myung-Mi, disappeared for hours to coddle the little brown runt. The neighboring architects hung out in our space to watch our roly-poly cutie-pies. Passing children and tourists peered through the windows. Clients still came, and while I was initially mortified, they were enamoured. “You can be forgiven a great deal for a litter of puppies,” a friend said. He was right.

Junior bought Gay a book on puppy care. Gay bought him a watch. He came every morning at 10 to take Midnight to the park. He brought newspapers and mopped, too. “These puddles are arranged like art,” he laughed, catching on to us. At night, Midnight curled up on a quilt. Junior walked back into the chill.

The little ones grew bigger and bolder. They learned to eat and drink from bowls. They came when called. Unlike a matched set of purebreds, this litter had brown, black, white and tri-colored. No two of our puppies were exactly alike.

March 3 was an opening for a new show. We decided the dogs would move to Gay’s house. They still had another week to nurse. Junior arrived at moving time, drunk. Midnight jumped happily into the car. “Come on,” Gay said to Junior. “You can see where they will be staying.” “No,” snarled Junior. “I’m sick of all this shit. I’m sick of you. Gimme all my dogs.”

“Hit me, if you want to,” said Gay, “but you’re not taking the puppies.”

“Gimme my goddamn dogs,” he shrieked. Hitler showed up with Crack, on a chain.

I called 911. “Are there guns?” the dispatcher asked. The responding police officer proved to be another excellent negotiator. Jordan and Suzette, already paid for, were set aside as out of contention. We had to hand over the white one as promised to Hitler. Myung-Mi helped me put together $50 to buy Brownie on the spot. Junior left with Midnight. It was over.

Back in the gallery, exhausted, we locked the door, opened a bottle of wine and wondered what we’d done. Perhaps gotten too involved with too few skills. We had devoted several months to hysteria but rescued neither man nor dog. And I’d bought a puppy I couldn’t keep.

The pups stayed together another week. James took Jordan to his new suburban home. We gave Brownie to a designer we knew. Happy Suzette remains with Gay, romping in the garden, the source of the beautiful rose photographs. The gallery is quiet now. We’re back to showing real life in photographs.

Postscript: In May, Midnight was rearrested and put to sleep. Junior left—for alcohol rehab, we were told. A car hit the white puppy. Hitler was bitten by a woman.

Culture: Readers Write
A New Niche
Small Dogs Healing Ways

2009 was a terrible time in our household, just plain grind-you-to-pulp kind of year. My partner had a soul-splattering, over-bearing job dealing with others’ money, where her only bonus was the fun eight mile commute out to the suburbs on her speedy and shiny orange bike. Then in late spring, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. It was low-grade (good) but large (bad), and in my lymph node (bad), so I had to have surgery and chemo. I had only been out of vet school for a year and I suddenly had to take five months of medical leave. The cancer year is its own monster of story, for another time. But what happened during and after because of the Chihuahuas, well, that’s a tale for here.

After my mastectomy, I had to be careful around the dogs and my stitches. We had at the time one large, one medium, and one small dog. But they seemed to understand right away what was going on. Wren, the tiniest, slept on my pillow, almost in my hair, like a cat, every single moment I was in bed, which was a lot.  When my hair fell out, she slept on my shoulder, curled into my hatted head.

To this day, I tend to say how Wren saved me by sleeping on me.  She was my anchor.

And later, when I was healed, and zoom out three years later and we adopted Chibi, aka Tiny Dog, the six pound Chihuahua with dry eye, I realized Tiny Dog liked being in my sweater for heat and comfort, and I liked her being there for heat and comfort too. She fit exactly where my breast used to be, and I could zip her into my vest in the winter, and she’d fall asleep, content. I also had a prosthesis to wear out in public, but at home, I did not, and wore the Chihua instead.

I would never claim cancer gave me gifts. Cancer made me believe in randomness and not fate.  But Wren, then Tiny Dog, made niches for themselves, a kind of commensalism, lovely for all of us. And when Tiny Dog is in my vest, she’s right against my heart tick ticking away, her pulse fluttering back in counterpoint.

Culture: Readers Write
Island of Misfit Toys
What my blind Pug and overweight Labrador taught me about how to adapt and move on

Buddy was so obese that when he sat down, rolls of fat surrounded him. I found Buddy through a Labrador Retriever rescue group. My husband Brendan and I wanted to adopt an older dog who was comfortable with cats. A few weeks after submitting our application, we met Buddy. His foster mom said he was sweet, five years old, and good with cats and children.

When we met him, he nudged us with his black nose to pet his head. His foster parents told us that Buddy was free fed and left outside a lot. “But he’s such a good dog,” his foster mom said. We were in love. When we leashed him up, his foster mother teared up. “If anything goes wrong, we’ll take him back no problem.” His foster dad couldn’t watch us leave, opting to hang out in the kitchen instead.

During his first week with us, we took him to the vet and learned he was a whopping 118 pounds. The vet warned us that he needed to lose weight or diabetes and arthritis were in his future. When we took him out for walks, Buddy refused to move and sat down in the driveway. We tried to play with him. I tossed him a stuffed frog toy. It hit him in the face. He had no idea how to play. We came home one day and found Buddy had torn his bed to shreds. Cotton filling covered our floors.

To help him lose weight, we restricted his diet to a cup and a half of kibble twice a day, but Buddy was hungry all the time. He snatched at any food he’d find on walks, once devouring stale hot dog buns that were left on a front lawn. Slowly, Brendan and I got Buddy to do a 10-minute walk, then gradually 15 minutes.

He was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which made weight gain easy for him. With regular exercise and the proper medication, it took about a year and a half, but the weight came off. He slimmed down to 85 pounds, his ideal weight.

During his weight loss journey, my plump puppy often got unkind remarks from strangers. One person asked me if I fed him McDonald’s French fries. “No,” I said angrily. “He’s losing weight.” Another person told me that he looked old. Though I was annoyed when people told me how fat he was or how he looked old, Buddy still wagged his tail and greeted these rude people happily. Buddy wasn’t bothered by the insulting comments. Every person was an opportunity to be pet. Instead of snapping at people, I smiled politely when people judged him.

The change in Buddy was tremendous. He went from a lethargic dog who didn’t know how to play to a pup who loved chasing his yellow stick in the park. When we took him to the beach, he dove into the ocean to swim. I photoshopped a before-and-after photo of Buddy to show off like a proud parent. He looked younger, happier, and slimmer. My friend Darren joked that if they had a dog version of The Biggest Loser, Buddy would be the star.

After we moved to the Bay Area in 2010 for Brendan’s work, I persuaded Brendan to adopt a Pug from a local rescue group. I loved Pugs’ big dog personality in a little dog body. We found Bessie, a nine-year-old blind Pug who had been abandoned at a vet’s office. She had several litters before she was dumped.

I had no idea what was in store for me.

First, Buddy wasn’t too pleased about sharing his two favorite people with another dog. If Brendan was petting Bessie, Buddy would push his way to Brendan. I read countless articles online about how to help a blind dog—make lots of noise on walks, don’t move the furniture, and help them with stairs—but on our first walk together, Bessie bumped into me many times. The world became different. I had to be her seeing-eye human, looking out for curbs or street signs she could stumble in to.

She bumped into a lot of things—walls, furniture, people’s legs, and Buddy’s wagging tail. Brendan called her our furry Roomba. She liked to sleep in Buddy’s bed, much to his dismay, even though she had two of her own. True to Pug personalities, she was difficult and stubborn. She hated going on walks. But at night, she cuddled against my chest, snoring loudly as I pet her soft black ears. I fell in love with her hard.

We moved back to Los Angeles in 2013 and rented a house with a doggie door. Bessie, try as she might, had trouble using it. Undeterred, she kept trying every day. Instead of picking her up, I gave her encouragement. “You can do it, Bess!” I cheered as she’d attempt to hop through the door. Then, one day she made it all by herself. Her tenacious behavior taught me that if you want something, you can’t give up on your first try. Sometimes it takes a hundred attempts—a particularly helpful lesson when I was first learning to stand-up paddleboard. Even though I was nervous about balancing on a surfboard in a river and paddling forward, my companions reassured me that it was so easy. “No one ever falls,” they said. Except for me. I fell once, got up unsteadily, then promptly plunged back into the water. Clutching the board to my chest, I wanted to give up and sit on the sidelines, but like Bessie, I tried again. And this time I didn’t fall.

My friend Alina joked that I was the owner of the misfit toys. Much like the broken toys that no girl or boy would want in the classic Rudolph Christmas movie, my motley crew of a cat and two dogs were fixer uppers of the pet world. I struggled to be a good pet parent. Sometimes I got impatient with Bessie or angry when Buddy devoured a week’s worth of kibble when we weren’t home. But what I loved most about adopting these misfits was their ability to adapt. They could go through blindness, obesity, and being abandoned by previous owners—and still give unconditional love. I’m not perfect, but neither are my pets and I adore them for their imperfections.


Culture: Readers Write
Old Dog Time
Eggs, Un-scrambled

Toby was bossy, brilliant, single minded, the quintessence of Terrier tenacity. But she was once a puppy, dithering and distracted, thoughts running in every direction. A seasoned dog trainer advised me, the ingénue, that puppy’s brains are scrambled eggs: time and guidance would firm them up. Evie, just past babyhood, rescued us a month after Toby’s untimely departure. She was always a bit airheaded, eggs never solidifying like Toby’s but gelling nicely. Then the unsettling: the senility announcing itself a year ago at 15. The eternal puppy face, with its distinctive pink nose a bit faded and crusty now, doesn’t match the mechanics of her body and mind. Her devoted humans have now become her caretakers as she resides blissfully in the doggie version of la-la land. She stands looking blankly at the wall, engrossed until we bring her attention back, usually with food. Her appetite remains hearty, her meals enriched with antioxidants and life enhancers, an arthritis pill and a powder to prevent flare-ups of the gallbladder issue which nearly cancelled last year’s vacation.

Sleep drugged, I don the massive old down coat and snow boots with lightning speed to get us outside after the 2 am pacing wakeup. I try to know in this interminable, coldest winter of Evie’s long life that the hushed, moonlit, snowy outing with my fuzzy sweetheart is a fleeting blessing, that I’m grateful it’s a Saturday night and there’s no need for a working brain until Monday morning, that I must be patient as we stand in the bone chill while she tries to remember why we came out. Back in the house’s warmth, the pacing may continue, or if luck holds, she’ll doze again soon.

The dozing comes easier now. The strong short legs that carried her on hill climbs, on all weather hikes, propelling her onto the couch to her favorite lookout are slow and cranky, moving tentatively. The cloudy eyes, the small bewilderments, the hearing loss compressing her surroundings are all her present existence, yet she still loves this life way too much to leave it. Grief is for us, not for her: she is blissfully devoid of self-pity, free to live out her quirky dotage as it comes.  We accommodate, assist, hug, and excuse each mishap.

There’s no handbook for this, the Old Dog time, the way to prepare for the suddenly odd activities, the unscrambled eggs, the closing of the circle. Puppy antics, housebreaking, obedience: educational material abounds. We learn that meds exist for this cognitive disorder thing, supplements, pheromone diffusers, acupressure, herbal remedies. They all work for Evie for a time, until they don’t. What we need is an instruction manual for watching our darling, the always-game socialite, our surrogate child, fade before us, progeria-like. Polite sympathy from dog free acquaintances, friends: not the heartfelt commiseration they shared over my Mom’s denouement. I don’t expect them to get it, and I move quickly on to other subjects.

We’ve become the crazy old couple we’d have scorned in our youth, lavishing countless hours and dollars on a dog, willingly. I scale back my strength training so shoulders and hips can handle the pickup and carry without pain. We reserve movies and dinners out for only those deserving of hiring the dogsitter: we’d rather hang out with Evie, checking frequently while she naps that the soft blonde fur still gently rises and falls.

The company of this beautiful little old girl has filled the house, our hearts, seemingly forever: loving background music in our lives. Unbearable to imagine stillness.


Culture: Readers Write
First Dog: Tika

Two years after I had returned my husband of 20 years to the universe (great customer service!), my younger sister, the owner of two small rescue dogs, sent a photo of a little Border Terrier Dachshund-mix puppy to me one day at work in June of 2012. In the photo, her tail was wagging so fast you could not see it and at first I didn’t think she had a tail! My heart was captured by the little brown rectangular, “tailless” puppy in that photo and Tika became mine two weeks later. She was my first dog ever. Two months after I rescued Tika from the concrete kennel she then knew as home, as I was lying in bed, reading with Tika at my side, she kept insisting on being on my right side near my shoulder.  I scooched over a bit and allowed her to get comfy under my right arm, as I held my book to read. Tika started burrowing and nudging my right side, near my breast.  She led me to a small lump in my breast. I knew at the moment it was cancer.  It was diagnosed 5 days later.  After surgery and 6 weeks of radiation, I’m healthy, loving life and deeply in love with these 14 pounds of soft fur, big feet, scruffy tail and sweet face.  Every single day, Teeks makes me laugh and smile.  I find myself wondering how I ever lived without her before!  I did not know you could love a dog the way I cherish this little one.

News: Guest Posts
How to Spoil a Dog Park

Jake's visits to the dog park ended when he bit off part of a Bulldog's ear. Jake, a black Lab-Pit Bull mix, belonged to a first-time dog-owner who reacted to his frequent aggressive behavior by saying, “Oh, Jakey, we don't do those things” in a high, sing-song voice. Jake's owner paid the $1000-plus bill for the Bulldog's surgery but the incident reflected the biggest problem with dog parks-and it isn't the dogs.

In 2010, the city of Cambridge, Mass. built a state-of-the-art fenced dog park close to our house. It has running water and bowls for the dogs, free biodegradable waste bag dispensers, and awning-covered benches for the owners. There are two smaller fenced areas, one for puppies and one marked “Time Out.” 

At first, it was nirvana for dog-owning city-dwellers.  

But as the number of visitors increased, the “Dog Park Rules” posted at the entrance were supplanted by the unwritten code “My Way Rules.” Some examples:

1.  You must accommodate my dog's peccadilloes.
“Who does that brown dog belong to?” snarled a middle-aged woman who had been throwing a ball for her yellow Doodle.  I identified myself as the owner of the 8-month-old chocolate Lab, so she unleashed her fury on me.
“My dog is possessive about his ball, so can you keep your dog away?” demanded the Doodle's owner. My dog hadn't actually picked up the ball; she simply chased it. After all, she's a Lab, and it was a ball.  How could she ignore it?
The Doodle's owner was so belligerent that it didn't seem worth arguing with her about the meaning of the words “public park.” I simply headed home, leaving her to harass the owners of any other dogs who might dare to infringe on her dog's sole right to play.  

2.  My dog is sick. Deal with it.
Another afternoon, hacking and choking noises mingled with the barking of a dozen dogs as a new dog entered the gate. None of the dogs had swallowed a stick or ball;  the sound was unmistakable.
“That sounds like kennel cough. Have you thought of taking him to the vet?” someone asked the dog's owner.  The newcomer replied, “When I'm not feeling well, I usually go outside because it makes me feel better, so I thought it might help him, too.”  The owner didn't leave, so everyone else did.

3. My dog is a studly guy.  It's an honor for him to hump your dog. Or how about the owner who chuckled as she commented on the libido of her young 110-pound Bernese Mountain Dog while he relentlessly mounted much smaller dogs.  Observers mentioned that his behavior was a sign of dominance, not sexual prowess.  She looked annoyed and half-heartedly reprimanded him, without physically removing him from his victims. One of the objects of his supposed “affection” was a smaller dog whose rear legs collapsed under the weight of the young goliath.

4.  I've got mail. I've got to check the Red Sox scores. Dog? What dog?
Knowing that their dogs couldn't escape, owners began to focus on their cell phones, newspapers or iPads, paying no attention to what their canine buddies did. There were more biting episodes. Some owners put Animal Control on speed dial. And despite the free bag dispensers, people began to refer to the park-and not fondly-as “the poop pit.”

After avoiding the dog park for the past year, I recently walked my leashed dog on the paved path near its perimeter fence. I watched as a Weimaraner assumed “the position” near a knot of seven preoccupied owners and left a pile that could not be missed if anyone had been paying attention. Not a single person moved to clean it up.

Dog parks have become popular in urban and suburban areas, and they can be a wonderful resource if people are considerate.  Some tips for making the experience pleasant for everyone:
1.  PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DOG-don't text, and don't read a newspaper, your tablet, or your email unless you're expecting your spouse to go into labor any minute.
2.  Clean up after your dog.
3.  Remember:  the dog park is not for your private use, so act accordingly.  If your dog is not a fan of sharing, don't bring his toys.
4.  Don't take a sick dog to a dog park. If you aren't sure whether your dog's ailment is contagious, see your vet.
5.  Don't allow your dog to hump other dogs.
6.  Remove your dog at the first sign of aggressive behavior.
7.  Don't use a dog park to try to socialize your dog if he has already displayed aggressive behavior. Get training first, then expose him gradually.

Linda Handman is a long-time dog owner, writer, lawyer, and business owner living in Cambridge, Mass.


News: Letters
Skye: Lending a Helping Paw

Just had to tell you how very much I enjoyed Patricia McConnell’s “Lending a Helping Paw.” What dog person doesn’t love everything this woman has to say? She is certainly on the mark with this article.

My Skye girl came to me five years ago as a pup. It was always my hope that we could work our way to being a therapy-dog team, but that depended more on her than on me. She was such a handful—always in one’s face, independent as the day is long, knew her manners but not dependable about them.

We are fortunate to have a most marvelous canine facilitator in our area. Chris Moe-Herlick encouraged and mentored Skye and me. We started with basic classes, progressed to agility (not competition, just for fun) and I took her to several of the children’s programs at our small local library. She achieved her CGC, and miraculously, this past summer, we became a certifi ed, registered therapy-dog team. We continue with our child-oriented program participation and are now also doing twice-weekly visits to a nearby assisted-living/nursing-home facility. I couldn’t be more proud of Skye.

I wasn’t sure we would ever get to this point, but with time, patience and understanding, Skye’s personality has come together. I cannot imagine trying to force this type of interaction with a dog who did not love it.

News: Letters
Please Don't Chase the Wildlife

As an animal lover and a person who enjoys hiking with my dogs, I found it disturbing to read that contributor Rebecca Wallick allows her dog to run free through the forest; chasing deer. Her article on GPS tracking devices for dogs, (Sept/Oct 2012 issue) was informative, but her final sentence angers me. Her “knowing that if one day, he disappears after a deer, they will be reunited,” because he is wearing a GPS collar. Is this after the dog has injured, maimed or killed the deer, or any other wildlife that catches his eye?

Another of your writers, Lee Harrington, also wrote how she allows her dog to run off leash; chasing wildlife. Do people not understand how annoying and potentially dangerous it is to allow their dogs to run loose on nature trails, in public parks and recreation areas? This is the main reason dogs are banned from many local, state and national parks. I've had numerous (often frightening), encounters with loose dogs, charging into the faces of my leashed dogs. This culminates to growling, snapping, shouting and aggravating situations. An enjoyable, relaxing activity quickly spirals into a tense, nerve wracking event. People who choose to ignore the posted "All dogs must be leashed" signs, are ruining it for the rest of us.

Do us all a favor, stop this irresponsible behavior. Please keep your dog on a leash when biking, hiking or running in any public nature trail, park or recreation area. It is common courtesy, not to mention common sense. It is safer for all concerned, especially the dog and the wildlife.

—Pat Sullivan
Champlain, NY


Culture: Readers Write
A tribute to Ike on Your 7th Birthday!

[a poem]

When you entered our lives who would have guessed that our humble abode would become truly blessed! 

When I first saw your face, those gigantic feet...My firsts thought was “holy crap” how much will he eat?

Fast-forward to age 7:

Mounds of your discarded fur on the floor, a fastidious cleaner I am no more!

Horizontal streaks of mud on the walls...I guess that’s the payback for having “snipped” off your balls! (sorry ‘bout that)

Your snoring that keeps us awake through the night...the way that your drool stains my pants—right at thigh height (not a good look)

On our walks:

The horror in the eyes of the people we meet...and then hearing them exclaim “Oh my God—he is SO sweet—your tail that offers them infinite wags...you’re the sole reason I’ve started to hoard plastic bags!

So—on our next trek, with your nose to the ground...could you please stop and think

...that when you chomp on that horse poop—it makes your breathe really stink!

In closing:

Ike, you are 140 pounds of love and pure joy and it is an honor to consider you as my 3rd little boy!





News: Letters
Reactive Rover
Dream Dog Awakening

I wish there were more articles and stories like this one. I have a Boxer mix who, at about two years old (she’s just turned three) became leash reactive, or leash aggressive. We got her as a rescue at eight weeks and took her everywhere, doing everything we thought we should to socialize and train her. But the leash reactiveness happened anyway. Twice a week, she goes to doggie day care, where they say she is a complete angel; they love her to death and she’s never had a problem playing with the other dogs. We go to off-leash places (the dog park, the beach) where she plays like there are no issues whatsoever. But if she’s on a leash, she turns into Cujo, just like Saville’s dog. We don’t go for walks very often, which I miss. When we do, I’m armed with treats and patience. We don’t go to dog-friendly events where dogs have to be leashed, which I also miss. We attended a “Reactive Rover” class put on by our local humane society, and it gave us some great “homework,” which I practice as often as possible. It’s still hard to be walking my dog and encounter someone who does not understand the situation and acts as if I should not be out with my dog.

Thank you again for this article. As I said, I wish there were more, if for no other reason than to reassure myself that I am not alone, and that I am doing everything I possibly can for my sweet pea on the end of the leash.