Friday, September 29, 2006

Ball Crisis

The Big Bad Woof is out of the little bouncy rubber balls that Pappy loves-- they are kind of like racquet balls. He's probably lost or demolished fifteen of these things. While going cold turkey he's making due with the methadone of ball chasing, vanilla-scented tennis balls.


Yesterday must have been a painful one for the Papster. The morning routine is that Molly, the Labradoodle from up the street, comes by for a mad frolic with Pappy before work. Since Pappy's and Molly's mutual dog walker recently injured her foot, she's been letting them race around our back yard at midday too. They get on pretty well.

But the heartbreaking part of our story is when we take Molly home on our way to work. Yesterday, we ran into a neighbor who wanted to discuss parking problems in the 'hood, and so I was standing out front with Molly in plain sight of our dining room window. Our neighbor didn't tune in to Pappy yipping and yowling like his world was ending. It was all I could do to slip away and end Pappy's torment.

We dreaded what destruction we might find when we got home, but our dog was a good boy-- as usual.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Is It About Elizabeth Marshall whozits?

As I've mentioned, I've been listening to Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation", and in it she paraphrases my least favorite dog-book hack, Elizabeth Marshall whozits (EMw) of "Hidden Life of Dogs" notoriety.

Given that I can accept when Temple Grandin, Stanley Coren, and most other animal authors tell their share of unbelievable whoppers over the course of their books, why do I dislike EMw so? I'm capable of taking in the information, weighing how well-founded it seems, and accepting the solid research while overlooking the idle speculation. Why can't I give EMw the benefit of this balanced assessment?

Probably because she starts off poorly in the introduction of "Hidden Life" with an explanation that she is no scientist, followed by a lame-brained rationalization of anthropomorphism of dog behavior as a vital element in her "research" method. To translate, she describes a tiny scrap of dog behavior and proceeds to weave it into a tapestry of thorough nonsense. She brags of logging thousands and thousands of hours observing her pets, yet she is blithely unaware when they dig an extensive den feet away from her back door. One of the scenes that drives me nuts is when she is trying to comfort her pregnant dog by telling her that she'll be fine, but the dog won't believe her. I sure don't believe her.

Amazon is always an interesting forum for rants about authors, though it's impossible to come away with a common opinion. Here are some links to people weighing in on EMw, Temple Grandin, and Stanley Coren. In looking over the reviews for EMw, I see that I posted one many moons ago-- can you guess which one?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Leash Rant

Before we adopted Pappy, I had a little attitude about dogs and owners. The unfamiliar dogs that most non-owners notice are the ones off-leash, and they make a strong impression. As the unrestrained dog approaches you there's the moment of alarm concerning his or her intent, and then there is the too-late, grating call from the owner: "don't worry he's friendly". Like nails on the chalkboard. Equally irritating is when they bellow at their dogs for not following every order, or the owner walks ahead pointedly ignoring the dog in some expectation that this will intimidate him into keeping up. This is the total surrender of responsibility as a pet owner.

An interesting thing at the dog park is that most of the owners, who love their dogs to run free and play, are probably more rabid about leash laws than non-owners. Many of them have been in bad situations with unleashed dogs. The simple fact is that, if your dog is on a leash and another dog isn't, there is almost nothing either owner can do to control the interaction or break up a fight. At the dog park you come to trust the owners who are willing to make the commitment to use an organized off-leash area, and you accept the risk. But every dog has its unpredictable moments.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pappy And The Big Ball

Don't bother turning up your speakers for this one, because it's not a talkie. See Pappy's magnificent, if somewhat truncated, debut in an animated feature.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Animals in Translation

While doing chores this weekend I've been listening to an audiobook of Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation". She is autistic, and the central premise of the book draws parallels between the thinking and perceiving of animals and autistic people.

She says that humans process out an extraordinary amount of sensory information that animals and autistic people can't-- we can't see the same things, so we have trouble understanding their reactions. She is a consultant in the humane handling of livestock. As a result, many of her examples concern why cattle balk at entering a chute (strong transition from bright to dark lighting), and why pigs wouldn't go down an alley (bicolor vision made a yellow ladder frighteningly bright).

It's more readable than my examples indicate, and I am just now getting into the more doggy portion of the book. For scientific tastes it probably oversimplifies the subject, but for the rest of us it is a good blend of research and storytelling.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Marinating" The Ball

As noted before, Pappy is nuts for balls. But not just any balls. Though he finds his little bouncy rubber balls thrilling, somehow tennis balls keep calling him back.

This is because tennis balls have that absorbent fuzzy covering. At the dog park if I take a clean tennis ball and toss it, Pappy is likely to chase it feebly for a second and then let it go. But if he or any other dog has slobbered on the ball and rolled it in the mud, he cannot resist its siren call. We call this a "seasoned" ball. When he's taking a break, he takes the ball back to the water bowl, drops it in while he takes a drink, then looks at me to pick it out of the water and toss it again. This is a "marinated" ball.

The big problem with marinating at home is when he's managed to chew a hole in the ball. When he's finished drinking, he picks the ball out of the bowl and then traipses around the kitchen trailing a stream of water. My wife isn't crazy about this.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What Is He Thinking?

In his day-to-day affairs, Pappy often gives proof to the truism that "dogs are weird". Sometimes it's easy to interpret his actions in human terms-- "he's teasing that other dog with the toy". At other times it's possible to guess at the doggy motives for something-- "he's doing this or that because he's engaging in dominance behavior". The rest of the time, I suspect his activities would even mystify another dog. For example, give him a chicken chew or pizzle, and he'll carry the untouched treat in circles around the house crying and crying like his heart was going to break. It's really quite pathetic, but... huh?

At every opportunity, he chases balls in the back yard with lunatic abandon and twitch reflexes of a terrier. He seems to like it when I unpredictably toss it in different directions, often ricocheting it off the big tree in back. For some reason, he always snags the ricochet, heads for the tree to give it a thorough examination, and trots back to have me throw the ball again. Does he think the tree threw the ball? Is he hoping he can work out the trick so that he can get it to throw the ball when I'm not around? We may never know.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Perch

When we first got Pappy we'd come home and find him on the living room sofa, his muzzle haloed by a puddle of drool. We quickly found out that, if we left open the bedroom door, he'd spend the day on his dog bed and stay off the furniture.

But for months his absolute favorite spot is his perch on the second floor landing. This is the perfect angle for someone two feet tall to see down the stairs, through the window on the front door, down the front stoop and stairs, all the way down to the street. As we approach the house in the evening we never fail to see, silhouetted against the upstairs window, his tail start wagging.

Nature: Dogs

We rented a DVD of old episodes of the PBS series "Nature" on dogs. It had a lot of sweet footage, and some unremarkable voiceovers-- it was certainly pleasant to watch, but not very memorable. The low point was having to listen to the quackery of Elizabeth Marshall whozits, to whom I have taken an unnatural dislike since reading the insipid "Hidden Life of Dogs". On the up side, there was a fantastic shot of a shepherd describing his dog commands to the camera, and three Border Collies in the distant background darting back and forth in response.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


It seems a bit sophomoric to be talking about poo in a blog, but when you own a dog you deal with it constantly (or worse, don't deal with it). New parents get similarly intimate with poo, except 1) they stop having to deal with it after a few years, and 2) they generally have a nice padded nappie separating them from the stuff. There's only a thin layer of plastic separating typical dog owners from their pet's steaming output.

Pappy's an odd one when it comes to pooing. When he gets in the "posture", he is so pretzel'ed over that he is balancing on his front legs with his back legs almost off the ground in front of him. He constantly creeps forward while in the act to keep from hitting his front paws, so his nuggets are scattered in a semicircle over several feet. This makes it hard to find all the bits during daylight hours, and, with summer ending, our morning walks are already in the dark. You wouldn't think you'd need much equipment for this duty, but I'm going to have to start carrying a flashlight.

Cute, but Terrifying...

I am not sure this pup could crack me up much more.

They have two more movies of him here and here which continue the psychotic antics. He reminds me of this caterpillar.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Woohoo! We're Googlable!

I finally came up with a search term on Google that comes up with Pappy's blog as the #1 entry-- we're on our way. Not that this really helps much, since there's a pretty small market for Pappy news outside of my wife and I.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All Rain and No Play Makes Pappy a Crazy Boy...

A few weeks ago I was complaining about drought, but, fickle me, now I am complaining about rain. Or, at least, its effect on Pappy. The recent rain and the shorter days are making him STIR CRAZY because he isn't out running around as much. He's a bit frantic to get outside, whereupon he immediately demolishes any rubber ball in his possession-- then attempting to smuggle any mud-smeared fragments into the house so that he can rub them into the carpet and try to get us to toss them.

I hope he doesn't go bonkers and eat us over the long, dark winter, because it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This is one of my favorite Youtube movies that doesn't include Pappy. Perhaps it is a bit long, but you can't leave footage like this on the cutting room floor.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Doorbell Woes

We have one of those wireless doorbells, where the button sends a radio signal setting off the chimes plugged into an electrical outlet. It works well enough, except each time there is any power surge the chimes go off-- but it only rings once, so we know it isn't someone at the door. Trouble is that Pappy doesn't know. Blender turns on... bing-bong, WOOF! Vacuum cleaner turns on... bing-bong, WOOF!

Last night we went to bed with the dryer running. When the end-of-cycle alarm went off, it was... bzzzt, bing-bong, WOOF! Five minutes later, bzzzt, bing-bong, WOOF! Repeat.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Sunday Morning Crew at the Dog Park

We took Molly, our neighbor's puppy, with Pappy to the Wheaton Regional dog park for her first time this morning. Along with Pappy, these are the "Sunday Morning Crew" (minus Truman and some other key players) that she got to meet:

Jojo, aka "The Boss"

Jack, aka "The Muscle"

Sweet Pea, aka "Cutie"

Ollie, aka "The Enforcer"

And this is the classic scene at the dog park, with Pappy partaking in the "sniffing" of all new arrivals:

Saturday, September 09, 2006


After Riggs' Thursday night escapades hurdling fences to meet up with Pappy, I later heard that he ended up getting a couple of staples to close up some cuts on his inner leg. Ouch-- I guess he isn't quite clearing that chain link.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wegman Video

I'd be lying if I didn't confess that William Wegman's photographs of his long-suffering Weimaraners didn't have an influence on my attempts at Pappy movies-- hey, if you can find a occupation that has you spending time with your dog, why not? I came across this Today show interview with Wegman on the internet. If you can suffer through the initial commercial, it's fun if not revelational.

Riggs, Redux

Last night, I let Pappy out for a late evening pee. It was dark out, but I saw Pappy streaking around the yard chasing something like... what... a big animal? It quickly dawned on me: Riggs! The canine Houdini had once again come bounding across fences into our yard. I took him back home before he got the idea of alighting from our yard again, and his owner said he'd been gone for an hour and a half.

Really, they should just tell us to stick Pappy in the back yard when Riggs is on the loose. Pappy is like a bug light for stray dogs.

Hallelujah! Let It Rain!

We've been sorely hurting for rain in our area, and it finally came with over four inches since the beginning of September. At the same time, Pappy's early morning play dates with puppy Molly have recommenced with great enthusiasm following a long vacation hiatus. Unfortunately the two happy events have collided with the unfortunate result of us having to wrangle two mud smeared dogs at 7:20AM on the way to work. I was walking around work all day yesterday with a giant muddy paw print on my dress shirt sleeve--- Molly!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pappy in Rome

Since Pappy had to miss out on our vacation in Rome, we inserted him into a typical Roman street scene so that he could impress his friends at the dog park.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gimme a Ticket for an Air-o-plane...

Yesterday we found ourselves again racing to get home to our pup following a trip.

At 4:30AM we woke up in Rome, and walked to Trastevere station to catch the train to the airport. At the airport we thought it odd that none of the escalators or moving walkways were working, only to find out that they were having a brownout. As we stood in the long line to check in, BZZzzuuuwww... blackout. The power came back on (we got to see all of the display screens booting Windows 95) and we finally checked in, but none of the bag conveyers were working. We stood around while they determined what to do with the checked luggage. We then did the OJ dash through the airport to get on our plane for Heathrow. In Heathrow we thought we had plenty of time to recheck for the next flight, but there was a long line for check-in. We used the computerized check-in, but then the line to drop off bags was gridlocked. With one and a half hours to go until flight, they pulled us out of line and said we had to race to the gate or we'd miss our flight. With one and a half hours? Then we saw the security line, which was fully one quarter mile back and forth and down the corridor. They pulled us out of that line before we even found the end of it, and raced us to a special line for a pre-screening... before we got into another serpentine line. I was getting frisked (they confiscated my lip balm) with five minutes to go until they were to close the gate. Another mad dash, in socks, to get to the very last gate at the far end of the terminal. Needless to say, we didn't get a lot of airport shopping done.

But when we finally got home, Pappy couldn't have been much happier to see us. And we were pretty happy to be home.