Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hippy Hippy Shake

Hippy Hippy ShakeWhat exactly is the deal with Pappy's full body shake? He does it when he's wet, he does it when he's dry, he does it when he wakes up, pretty much whenever the mood strikes him. It's a sinuous movement, starting at the tip of the nose, working it's way back to the end of the tail, followed by a quick prance to walk it off.

I might have thought he was getting the hair out of his eyes, except I've seen plenty of short haired dogs doing it. I had a friend with a dog who was convinced the sole purpose of her dog's shake was to jingle her tags until my friend got out of bed. There are some opinions on the internet about shaking off bugs. Fascinating.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Growing Up

Pappy PottyAs Pappy fast approaches two years, he's showing great curiosity about the toilet. This is very promising. He's quite precocious, so we're hopeful that he'll pick up potty training soon.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pappy's Predecessor

Knucklehead, 2002At Christmas 2001 my cousin gave us a flower arrangement as a present. With a fish in it. A live fish. We ate dinner out that evening, and I remember I had to bring the vase into the coat room because I thought he'd freeze in the car.

So began the story of Knucklehead the Betta, our first pet as a married couple. He went on to survive for more than four years in nothing more than a vase of water, which is a testament to the power of neglect. In truth my wife cared for him like our firstborn, but I'd occasionally forget to feed him if she went away for the weekend. The striking thing about a fish is that it has many of the drawbacks of a "real" pet ("what are we going to do with him when we're away?"), and almost none of the perks ("Knucklehead, come here, come here. Oh, you're a fish.") But he had a beauty and a quiet dignity that often made me wonder if he was still alive. As each Christmas passed, I routinely threatened to give him back to my cousin.

In January of last year, while my wife was in New York, Knucklehead started swimming upside-down. She was quite attached to him and I hoped he would survive until her return. He didn't make it and I gave him the flush. A little more than a month later we adopted Pappy to fill the void, and the rest is history.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Alternative Care

I am currently listening to the audio book "A Good Dog" by Jon Katz, where he describes his experience with alternative treatment as a way to help his troubled Border Collie. In this section of the book he describes not only sessions with an acupuncturist and herbal healer, but also an animal communicator and a shaman.

I live in Takoma Park, which probably has more wiccans and spirit walkers per capita than any US city outside of California. And maybe New Mexico. Searching the internet, I did manage to find a small animal masseuse in town, but didn't see any animal communicators or soul retrievers. The former communicate with animals through telepathy, not just grasping ideas and images, but actual language in your pet's thoughts-- there's a more complete description here. A soul retriever goes out and reassembles the free floating parts of a pet or human soul that have escaped through trauma. One can find more information here. There are a surprising number of practitioners out there, or perhaps it isn't so surprising.

In the book Katz acts all hard-bitten and skeptical about these methods, but it's clear he's totally sucked in before he even gets to the first appointment. Personally, I am going to have to stick with veterinarians for Pappy, and, even then, as infrequently as possible.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pappy with Snow

'OriginalThough it's reduced to slush by now, this Sunday we had a nice little snowfall topped off with a nice crust of ice from freezing rain. Since we got Pappy last February we haven't had any snow, but we know he's seen it before. The very adoption photo (at left) that lured us to our bumptious "Fritz" was taken in the snow.

He seemed pretty fascinated with the snow this weekend. Cracking through the ice crust while he was running around, he sounded impressively like a one-dog stampede. His fetching was a little off. The ball would just stick in the snow instead of bouncing, leading him through a number of 360 degree skids. And while on walks, I was just giving him pieces of snow and ice off of the cars as training treats-- he seemed more intrigued by them than anything else I had to offer.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Schnairdoodle, Definitely a Schnairdoodle

Alex at PetfindersAt Petfinders.com they call this Pappy lookalike named Alex a Schnoodle (Schnauzer-Poodle). He's got Pappy's coat and expression, but Pappy's got more Airedale-y leg coloring and build. I'm thinking that Pappy is definitely a Schnairdoodle.

I wonder if the shelter is just making up that Schnoodle heritage, or if they have real information. Alex is up for adoption out in Columbia, Maryland for any of you coveting a pup-- he looks like a winner to me.

P.S. If you have a few minutes, you should stop by Freddie's blog and check out this video he found. Mindblowing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Sacred Bunny

Sacred BunnyLike many of his pooch peers, Pappy is a stuffed toy destroyer. His principal focus on receiving a new toy is to play with it briefly, followed by a process of getting everything on the inside to the outside-- starting with the squeaker before moving on to the fluffy stuff.

This is true for most toys except this bunny. It seems to have profound religious significance in his cosmology. He plays with it almost tenderly, and never enters the normal "let's-start-tearing-it-apart-and-pulling-out-the-stuffing" portion of his program. He used to have a stuffed leopard-skin bone that occupied this divine position for months, but he started pulling out it's innards a little while ago. He must have had a crisis of faith and changed denominations.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Brought to You in Pappyvision

PappyvisionSince we got Pappy, I've been interested in all the readings I have seen describing dog vision. My own sense of smell is so dulled I can't even conceive what Pappy is getting from all those phone poles, and though my hearing isn't as good I can't imagine that his is qualitatively different. But vision is a whole different ball of wax.

When I was little everyone used to say that dogs saw in black and white. More recent research indicates that their color vision is different than ours. Rather than being trichromatic, theirs is only dichromatic-- they see yellow-blue, but are red-green color blind. The picture above provides some idea of how all those brightly colored toys appear in Spectacular Dichromascope. In Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation", she talks about a problem at a farm where their pigs would mysteriously startle, and the cause was a hanging yellow raincoat fluttering in a breeze. Yellow really stands out like a searchlight in a dog's otherwise muted world.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dog Meat Trade

I take a certain amount of pride that Momopeche, a blogging buddy, adopted her dog after being lured into the wonderful world of Pappy. In her blog, she is currently championing a petition to end the particularly cruel dog meat trade in the Philippines-- something I think most of us could get behind.

I have to say, in light of recent history, I am a little leery of ham-handed westerners blundering in and enforcing their values where they don't really understand the local culture. But the background indicates that there is internal support from the Filipino community and legal system for taking action on this.

As I write this, Pappy is laying at my feet licking the carpet. I wonder what I spilled there.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pappy's Sworn Enemies

Pappy's Sworn EnemiesOn many an evening's walk in the neighborhood, Pappy will go berserk at the sight of these deer lawn ornaments. I can hardly blame him... Bambi freaks me out too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ball Champeen

Pappy, MidairThis weekend when Jack showed up at the dog park one day, Pappy had already moved in to the ball-obsessed portion of his visit. Normally on arrival, the two of them are squealing through the fence at each other like a pair of hysterical best-friends-forever schoolgirls. This time Pappy didn't even see Jack as he dropped his ball at potential ball throwers' feet. Jack kept trying to ambush him, but didn't seem to be getting a rise.

I've been looking at other dogs chasing balls, and Pappy is really in a class apart. When I bounce a ball for Jack, his reflexes are so untuned to the task of catching it that it's like he's moving through Jello. Everybody at the park gets a kick out of watching Pappy's intensity when you pick up the ball and he starts flinching in anticipation. It's kind of frightening the way Pappy can catch a ball on the fly, over his shoulder, exactly the way Terrell Owens doesn't.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

All My Worldly Possessions

This weekend is going to be extra long, because I'm taking an another day beyond the Martin Luther King holiday. I'm never quite sure whether people outside the US are familiar with MLK, but he was a civil rights leader slain when I was a kid in the 1960s.

On my extra day off my wife and I are headed to the financial planner to find out how our investments are still recovering from the bursting of the internet bubble, and how it is okay because our house appreciated. We should set up a follow up appointment with a lawyer to rewrite our wills leaving everything to Pappy. Not that I trust Pappy's Michael Jackson-like money management skills. He would probably build himself a mansion out of peanut butter carpeted with live squirrels. But, hey, what's money for if you can't enjoy it?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Good Listening

At the risk of repeating myself, I wrote a while back about listening to audio books while walking Pappy. I also talked about how some brick-and-mortar libraries in the US contract with a company called Netlibrary.com to provide downloadable audio books for free, which, in turn, can be downloaded to MP3 players branded as "PlaysforSure".

This morning I was going through the Netlibrary site looking for some new audio books. Netlibrary does not have everything by a long shot, but it seems to have a strange mix of popular current books and more obscure or classic works. I recently enjoyed "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer, and am just finishing "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. This morning I decided to check on some dog-themed books and came across Jon Katz's "A Good Dog", about his psycho Border Collie, Orson, who is mentioned in "Katz on Dogs".

It's interesting that what makes a good book for reading doesn't necessarily make for a good audio book. If you are walking around while listening, it's important that the story be fairly linear and methodically paced. Distractions and traffic noise make you miss bits and pieces, so if a story is jumping all over the place or not explaining who is speaking it is easy to get frustrated. Unlike a book it's inconvenient to back up and reread a section, especially when you're handling a dog. A lot also depends on the readers, some of whom are great, some are stiffs, and some are shameless hams. And the author is not always the best narrator-- listening to William Golding reading "Lord of the Flies" is best suited to naptime.

Today, the vast majority of my reading is audio books. The time before bed that I used to spend reading with my eyeballs is now consumed by... this blog.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Iditarod Dreams

Well, it's Sunday morning, and Pappy and I will be headed out for a run before our trip to the dog park. It's probably bad for leash training, but I let Pappy haul me along for the first half mile. And then again anytime he spots another dog or a squirrel-- hopefully directly ahead and not to the side. It makes the miles just melt away, like running downhill.

He'd be a heck of a sled dog given a chance. He's strong for being a skinny puke. And I think his endurance would be good if he were motivated. His paws are big for his weight, which should help him stay on top of the snow crust. Maybe we should go into training, in case the temperature ever drops below freezing again. I could break out the Razor scooter and test my mushing skills.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Demise of M.U.T.T.

In reviewing our demographic group of dog bloggers, I find that there is a surfeit of competing revolutionary movements. Not only do we have the much revered HULA, but we also have the ongoing Blue Bull movement at Ayatollah Mugsy's blog. There is a glut on the market for revolution, and there just aren't enough buyers out there. It's in recognition of this, that the M.U.T.T. movement is going to move underground. Our mission was pure, but I'm afraid I've scratched my itch for soapbox oratory.

Now, I must reveal my true plot in launching M.U.T.T. In simplest terms, I had some phenomenal ideas for designs for neo-socialist dog t-shirts, and I was developing a lame rationale for them to exist. I like them, and Pappy likes them, and that's all that really matters. I'd still kind of like to do a shirt with the stoic canine proletarian waving the M.U.T.T. flag in front of the dawn of the new order, but that might be a little over the top.

By the way, I got my sample t-shirt from Printfection, and I was very impressed with the result. They were able to print the logo large and well centered on the shirt. I haven't washed it yet, but the colors seemed good and saturated. I'm certainly not embarassed at the prospect of them being sold. There have been two orders since I put up the store, but I suspect it was my brother and his wife.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

If Dogs Could Say What They Are Thinking...

"What are you doing with that plastic bag? No, don't pick that... Drop it! DROP IT!

"Aaaaaw, you are a disgusting, disgusting human. "

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tough Assignment

KongsWe have a selection of Kongs at the Pappy household, and we generally load two each work day-- one to distract him during our morning departure, and another for the dog walker to give him. When we get home from work, the first thing Pappy does after greeting us is to run over and roll a Kong around on the floor. This is his signal that he wasn't able to get a treat out and wants some help. For us, it's kind of like helping a kid out with a particularly difficult math problem.

Yesterday evening when we got home, Pappy ran past the Kong giving it just a quick glance. He had finished his homework on his own without any help.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Faces of the Dog Park

Faces of the Dog Park, 2006-01
This weekend, neighbor dog Molly's owner called to say they were moving back in after a couple of months of construction. Pappy and Molly have been out of touch for the better part of that time. So Saturday morning, I bundled Pappy and Molly into the car for a trip to the dog park.

I had to keep the defroster on high to keep the windows from fogging due to Molly's freight train panting; those Lab genes are a menace. When we got to the park, I shoved my camera into a bunch of dogs faces for the collage above, revealing the true purpose of macro mode. We were at the park for a while when two dogs showed up with whom Pappy had previously shared some growls. Bizarrely, Pappy immediately moved inbetween my legs-- he's never done that before. This was endearing in a pathetic way, until Jack came up and challenged him to a wrestling match between my knees.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Avast There, Ye Landlubbers

Pappy and Polly at the Bay, 2007-01-06No, this isn't a photo of us fulfilling our New Year's resolution to get Pappy to the ocean-- it's just a simulation. We did a test run on his sea-worthiness by visiting his dog cousin Polly by the Chesapeake Bay during the freakishly warm weather. The results look promising... a nautical theme suits him, he just needs a little sailor outfit.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

M.U.T.T. Manifesto, Part 1

Mutt Emblem, version 3There is a spectre haunting dog parks, the spectre of M.U.T.T.

A while back I was ranting about faceless conspiracies to deny mixed-breed dogs their due, framing the mission of Pappy's organization, Mongrels and Underdogs Together for Tolerance. Many of the good comrades of this site are purebreds of the milky-purest bloodlines, but their mere presence here indicates they feel a greater bond to dogness than attachment to any breedist heirarchies. And yet mutts continue to have issues of self-esteem, lacking a sense of common identity.

Take the Labradoodle. Five years ago even their owners would have called them mutts. Straight hair, curly hair, long hair, short hair, tall, short, fat, thin-- they're generally friendly, but I've never seen two Labradoodles that looked recognizably alike. Just do an image search to get my point. Pack a few pounds on Pappy, die him one color, and I could pass him off as a Labradoodle without anyone being the wiser.

Yet rather than glorying in their diversity-- celebrating that each could be identified separately in a crowd-- forces seek to isolate Labradoodles as a designer breed, while others in turn squabble to deny them that identity. My advice to them and everydog is to gather under the banner of M.U.T.T. and tear down breedism. It's a shame Pappy's is always napping, else we could have ourselves a revolution.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pappyology 101

As we arrived home from work yesterday evening, we decided to conduct a little experiment. Normally Pappy storms downstairs from the bedroom as we are fumbling around with the door, and greets us as we enter with the Pappy dance. Last night I sneaked up and opened the door as quickly and silently as possible. Then I ran up the stairs as fast as I could.

The results of the experiment were inconclusive. I managed to intercept him as he rounded the corner and headed down the steps. His eyes didn't actually pop out of his head, but he was a little freaked and drowsy. He had to run down to the bottom of the steps to greet my wife and rev up his tail, at which point he came back up to bury his snout in my suit (awwwwww!).

By the way, Pappy's ceegar illustrated in yesterday's post is now being referred to as "the crack pipe". It was an untouched rawhide roll over which Pappy had been engaged in a three-day marathon bout of crying and insane antics. Late last night I managed to coax him to start eating it, whereupon it was instantly gone. Heaven help us, or at least send an interpreter.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Scrooge McPappy, Entrepreneur

Celebratory Stogie, 2006-01-03As you read this, you might be asking yourself "why is Pappy smoking a huge celebratory stogie?" Well, I'll tell you-- it's because we are launching his web store. Right here in Takoma Park. And that starts with "W", and ends with "E", which rhymes with "T", and that stands for t-shirt.

I'd have to call our store a beta effort at present, with a grand total of one item for sale. I've ordered a sample so that I felt a little more comfortable about product quality; Printfection has $2 promotional samples if you'd like to look into printing your own design. I had considered donating proceeds to a dog shelter, but the shirts seem so expensive that I can't see marking them up over what Printfection charges. I'd feel better about sending my own check to the shelter.

When I get my sample, I'll let you know how they look. Other designs are in the works. (Don't forget to check the back of this design.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Thinking Small Picture

Pappy in the Wild, 2006-01-02On days like yesterday, Pappy doesn't ponder big picture items like the enduring legacy of ex-Presidents or global warming. He was pretty happy to have us at home for an unplanned holiday during President Ford's funeral. The highlight was a nice long walk in the unseasonably warm weather. Of course I always have that crumbling Antarctic icepack from Inconvenient Truth running on a tape loop through my head.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

This Must Be How Sisyphus Felt

Meret Oppenheimer's Furry CupI've been tagged. This always brings to mind the term "attraction-repulsion" from freshman Art History. The example Ms. Goodgal (seriously) used was Meret Oppenheimer's Furry Cup, where the attraction was that luxurious fur, and the repulsion was, well, hairy coffee.

With tagging the attraction is the sense of kinship and popularity, and the repulsion is how it plays on tribal memories of chain letters promising death and dismemberment if broken. 'Nuff whining...

My good buddy Gus has tagged me with the task of writing five New Year's Resolutions. With Pappy in mind, here are my resolutions:

  1. For Pappy: chase some balls. Check!
  2. For me: I promise to use the word "depredations" in a post.
  3. For me: I know this is getting repetitive, but I have to figure out some way to get grass to grow in the back yard and survive Pappy's depredations (check!). It's too shady for zoysia grass, so maybe astroturf.
  4. For me: take Pappy on a road trip, maybe to the ocean. To my knowledge he's never been outside a 60 mile radius of Washington, DC, and that's kind of sad.
  5. For Pappy and me: I need to take my lead from Ferndoggle and get on the training bandwagon with Pappy. Her Lola has similar leash aggression issues with other dogs. While I'm getting irritated, Ferndoggle's doing something about it.

Now I am to tag five new people. In the spirit of New Year, it's time to remember old debts and get some payback. So I am going to tag people who have tagged me in the past, in hopes they'll do the same and move these tags back to the source-- beautiful symmetry. My tagees are Disgruntled Owl, Pippin, 3DogCache, and Scrappy. My fifth is a discretional tagging of Cara, since I didn't actually complete her tag (but I'd done the Xmas tag twice already).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Dogs Unclear on the Concept

Last night, during our New Year's celebration, we were sitting in the kitchen eating some appetizers. Pappy doesn't get much people food, so we decided to let him try a little spiced shrimp. He immediately dropped it on the floor and tried to roll in it.

Happy New Year everybody!