Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Taste Test in Need of a Blindfold

I have to confess to having tried a few of Pappy's treats. I would actually rate the little Charlee Bear cheese biscuits and the peanut butter newtons as quite sumptuous, and sometimes have to remind myself they are not for me.

Since Pappy eats kibble, I've never really given thought to canned food. But the guys at have. They prepared a pretty good video review of themselves sampling different dog food hors d'oeuvres. I still can't quite figure out why the one guy has a mask painted on.

For a grossout stunt, I think they did a creditable job elevating above the gratuitously disgusting. I even thought their concluding comments were fairly erudite. The only time I actually felt my gorge rising was the closeups of them spreading the dog food on crostone, and that was just a moment of weakness.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Save the Snowman

A couple of days ago on Pappy's birthday we had an unexpected four inch snowfall that was ideal construction material. But I notice while walking Pappy that our neighborhood is littered with the half-formed corpses of proto-snowmen. A big ball here, a little ball there, or maybe two balls stacked at odd angles. I'm not sure why they weren't finished-- excessive ambition, inadequate snow, the evening switchover to rain, or just poor work ethic.

In case the problem was a simple lack of schematics, I've included a blueprint below. I'd hate for this knowledge to be lost to future generations.

P.S. Adorable Chihuahua Minou has been doing poorly. Let's root for her recovery.

Snowman Assembly Instructions

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Red Carpet

FIDO, Video of the YearWell, in last night's "Films of Independant Dog Owners" (F.I.D.O.) results at the Dogs with Blogs site, Pappy won a couple of awards for the Do They Know It's Christmas? music video. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement, and congratulations to all the winners and nominees.

This naturally leads to the next question of when the next movie is coming-- and the truth is that I haven't touched video since finishing the music video. Partly it is because the winter reduces filming opportunities. Partly it is because me spending endless hours at the computer drives my wife bananas. But a lot of it is pure intimidation. Before the music video I had yet to break a few hundred views on any movie, but that one rocketed up and hauled the Teletubbies video with it. What am I supposed to do as a follow up? I can't just do a basic movie of Pappy, I have to up the ante. This must be why Orson Welles choked after Citizen Kane.

It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Lab Sings

Lawn Ornament... or Enemy?Pappy does not get along with this little guy on our walks down Longbranch Creek, but he has a history of conflict with lawn ornamentation. Just across the street was a little Border Collie barking at us. Pacifist Pappy started crying inconsolably, and before long the Border Collie was doing a little alto weeping in reply. It's like they were writing a tragic dog opera.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Having a Ball on his Birthday

Presents-2007-02-25-1203-0So, today is Pappy's honorary second birthday. It's hard to believe it's only one year (or 231 posts) since we adopted him from the rescue. In celebration of this glorious day, we have lavished presents upon him. Last night we went out to a nice steak place so that... yes, that's right... we could bring Pappy a genuine doggy bag. Though we feed him high-grade food, it's the first time we've given him real meat.

I had hoped to make it to the dog bakery to get a special cake, but a stealth blizzard has rolled in and snarled up the roads. So, instead my wife has whipped up some pup-cakes from leftover grits, oatmeal, carrots, wheat flour, chicken stock, and baking powder-- with peanut butter and chicken stock icing. Mmmm, mmmm, good. I'll have to run one up the street to neighbor dog Molly, who gave Pappy a rawhide bone for his birthday. Meanwhile, after consuming Molly's bone, Pappy is consumed by his new wealth of rubber balls.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Last Minute Shopping

Well, tomorrow's Pappy's honorary birthday, so I am scrambling for last minute gift ideas. We're going to stop by the pet store on the way back from the dog park this morning to see what draws his eye.

What he would love more than anything else is an automatic ball throwing machine. The only purpose-built one I can find, the Go Dog Go fetching machine, seems to have gone out of production. There's one US site still advertising them, but they seem to be placing fake customer testimonials peppered around review sites directing people to buy from them-- slimy! Some students at the University of Victoria were building an interesting prototype a few years ago, but it was the size of a washing machine.

So, instead, I did some browsing this morning for cr*p, I mean presents:

Good stuff. For you I mean, not Pappy. He's getting some balls and Nylabones.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Prices, My How You've Grown

The hard part about getting older is that your sense of the value of things is set when you first start paying your own way, and you never quite adjust as prices progressively balloon.

My wife went to the hair stylist yesterday, and was horrified to realize that the price of a basic 'do with tip is fast approaching the century mark. I dropped out of the barbering market a few years ago when a haircut that used to cost me $5 was beginning to push $20-- of course Mr. Yi did throw in a nice neck massage with a vibrating gizmo. Now I've got a set of hair clippers; bzzzt, bzzzt, bzzzt, and I'm done. Of course now that I've tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, I can probably never reconcile myself to paying for a decent professional haircut again.

Thankfully, Pappy is a grooming bargain-- slow-growing hair, no mats, minimal brushing and shedding. So far we've just done a little trimming around his derriere, and that's about it. Of course there was that dreadful $400 razor cut that came with his stitches. Our vet has an unfortunate sense of style, but at least Pappy didn't come away with a mullet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Lab

This week's regional paper had an article describing the activities of a local Lab mix, Cyrus:

    Left home alone, he leapt onto the stovetop where the brownies were sitting, and sparked an unlikely chain of events.

    Cyrus somehow managed to turn on the burners of the gas stove, which ignited the wax paper covering the metal tray of brownies...
There's more on his exciting misadventure here. Now I see why Labs are tremendously popular-- they make for so many great stories. Like witnessing a freeway pileup in slow-motion.

P.S. On the brownies-will-kill-your-dog front, a while back a friend's Lab ate five pounds of Christmas fudge (what a great story) and was raced to the vet. The vet said baking chocolate is a disaster for dogs, but the toxicity of fudge, brownies, and even milk chocolate is much more diluted. Here's more info.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

His Master's Voice

Pappy's not a big listener. I can bellow "NO," and he'll wag his tail expecting a treat. But this weekend something bizarre happened.

I was visiting my father at the old folks home, and Pappy spotted a wee terrier way down the corridor. Pappy goes all wolfman barky snarly around other dogs when on leash, so that's a situation best avoided around seniors. We turned off the hallway into a side room, and, as I was sitting down, Pappy pulled loose. He tore out of the room and down the corridor with me in pursuit. I have no idea what I said, but Pappy suddenly pulled up short, hunkered down and looked miserable. That has never worked before. I felt bad that I scared him, but, man, I wish I knew what I did. Those magic words could come in handy someday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Great Caesar's Goats!

The Last BallCan you guess what this picture is? Yes, in a moment of weakness I gave Pappy the fourth and final of the new bouncy rubber ball reserves, and he destroyed it. He's still got the old ball we rescued... somewhere, if we can find it.

The good news is that Pappy's honorary second birthday (and first anniversary with us) is approaching in five days, and we are looking for gift ideas. Certainly some new fetching balls would be nice, but I'm thinking Pappy might like one of the little fellows from this movie even more. I love these guys.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Weird Dog Park

Pappy at the Park, 20070218I've been tagged by Habca to list five weird things about Pappy. I did a similar one a while back, so I'm going to take some liberties with the instructions and instead list five weird things about the dog park this weekend:

  • There was icy snow blanketing the enclosure. There hasn't been much snow in this area in the last couple of years, so most of us haven't seen the dog park in the white stuff.
  • Pappy found a new tennis ball and spent much of his time grinding it in the snow to get it filthy. Ironically, it kept getting cleaner.
  • Truman kept roaming the fence perimeter on the lookout for turd-sicles. I don't want to talk about what he does with them.
  • The dogs seemed to spend way more time than usual sniffing the snow. What is there to smell in snow? It's snow.
  • And sweet Jojo spent the visit on her back wriggling and grunting. But that's pretty normal.

    Jojo at the Park, 20070218

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mission Really Accomplished

Mission Really Accomplished: Lost BallAfter the ball fiasco, Pappy and I returned to the field to recover the lost ball with excellent results. I stood in the position from which I threw the ball, judged it's velocity, gauged the lay of the slope, and walked to a precise location in the brush below. It wasn't there, but a couple of minutes later we found it. The ball is bright red, after all.

Pappy was ecstatic, and so far this ball lives on. Unfortunately I can't say the same for our perfect ice field for dog curling, which is disintegrating in the warmer weather.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ball Buster

Busted BallsPappy and I went out dog curling last night, and he was looking left when I threw right. The net result is that the last time I saw the little rubber bouncy ball it was building momentum as it rolled down an ice coated slope into the darkness. The ensuing search revealed no ball. I might have had better luck if I could have persuaded Pappy that I wasn't just hiding the ball, so that he might apply his bloodhounding skills to the task.

He had been using that ball for months, so when I went into the bag of new balls I thought we had a lifetime supply. He broke the new ball in two within ten minutes. I figured that one had a bad seam, so I got out a second ball. That one he demolished by the end of the evening. I figured it was just a case that that he was too focused on chewing the new ball rather than chasing it until broken in. All the tennis balls at the dog park were going to be buried in ice, so I brought along one of his last two balls. I bet the suspense is killing you. Yes, he tore it in two, and then wanted to play catch one half at a time.

So now I am down to one new ball, and I am afraid to give it to our little ball mauler. I'm going to have to head out to the curling pitch and see if I can't hunt up the missing ball, else Pappy is going to have to change vocations.

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Sport

Our little sleetstorm of a couple of days ago coupled with bitter cold has created a frozen crust as hard as a cinder block across our neighborhood. Last night I finally managed to chisel one of the cars out of the solidified slush. Pappy's working on eating his way through it all.

The other night as I was headed out to walk Pappy, I pocketed a rubber ball thinking we might play a little fetch in the snow. The big field near our house was surfaced with a perfect sheet of ice. I tossed the ball once to see if Pappy had problems with the footing...and he loved it. Chasing the ball, he'd whack it with his nose and it would roll along for hundreds of feet with him skittering along behind. Finally the ball would end up in a row of shrubs, and he'd race back with it to start again. Presto, dog curling! If we set Pappy loose with a ball on the shrubless expanse of a glacier, we might never see him again.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fun with Google Translate

Pappy In Snow, 20070214We had a sloppy little sleetstorm yesterday, so what better opportunity to mess with Google Translate?

In English:
See this splendid photo of Pappy playing in the snow? He is running around like a lunatic. Pappy acts as crazy as a squirrel in a bag full of nuts when he frolics in the cold.

Now let's translate to German:
Dieses herrliche Foto von Pappy sehen, im Schnee zu spielen? Er läuft herum wie ein verrücktes. Pappy dient als verrückt wie ein Eichhörnchen in einem Beutel voll der Nüsse, wenn er in die Kälte scherzt.

Back to English:
This wonderful photo of Pappy see to play in the snow? It runs around like a crazy. Pappy serves as moved like a squirrel in a bag fully the Nüsse, if he jokes into cold weather.

On to Korean:
Pappy의 이 경이롭 사진은 눈에서 놀 것을 보는가? 그것은 미친 것 같이 주변에 달린다. Pappy는 Nüsse를 부대에 있는 다람쥐 같이 완전히 이동하는으로 그가 추운 기후로 농담하는 경우에, 봉사한다.

And back to English again:
Pappy these wonderments [lop] does the photograph see the glow thing from the eye? It going mad runs together in circumference. Pappy Nüsse the squirrel which to the unit is together completely moves jokes in case, serves with the cold weather he.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Pappy ValentineIf you enjoy paint programs, one of the easier ones I have worked with is Artrage 2. It's impressive in emulating oil painting appearance and techniques.

There's a free version for the curious. The full version adds some additional tools and a layers feature, all for $20. There is a new version in the works that may include watercolor tools. Of course, it's a slippery slope. Once you start painting, you have to go out and get a tablet so you aren't stuck painting with a mouse.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's Fate

Yesterday, on Pappy's and my morning walk, I lost one of my gloves that I got for Christmas. Fortunately I found it on our evening walk right where Pappy had stopped to do his business, a little damp but no worse for wear. Unfortunately I lost it again on this morning's walk, and Pappy didn't stop to do his business this time. And a storm is blowing in promising a half inch of ice everywhere to foil recovery efforts. And the coffee overflowed the filter holder because I didn't put the pot in the coffee maker correctly. And I've got a dentist's appointment this morning. And the commute home is sure to be a nightmare because of the weather.

To the question-- "how's it going?" -- I'm fond of replying "fan-tastic, never had a bad day" in honor of an old mentor. The way I'm feeling, this day may make me a liar. Is it really Tuesday the 13th? It's feeling more like a Friday for all the wrong reasons.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lack of Possession Is Still One-Tenth of the Law

For a somewhat dominant and hyper dog, Pappy is pretty oblivious to possessiveness. I'm not just saying that he's not possessive, though he's not. If another dog drinks from his bowl, no big deal. If another dog snags his ball, he's long-suffering. He'll pathetically follow him or her around until the ball is finally dropped. As for food, another dog doesn't have much chance to test him since Pappy is a speed eater. But a human can take his bowl or his favorite treat from his mouth, and he's copacetic about it.

Ruby, 2006-11-24But when I say he's oblivious to possessiveness, I'm saying that he is clueless that other dogs might want to keep their stuff. Pappy's sweet dog-cousin Ruby has the misfortune of being a comparatively slow, slow eater. When each of them is given a pig's ear, Pappy snarfs his down and then is relentlessly lurking by Ruby as she is just getting started. Ruby then has to stress about guarding her treat from the looming spectre of Pappy, fending him off with an occasional growl. Last night we went by my brother's house for dinner. While Ruby was getting fed, my niece and I had to form a protective Pappy-proof barrier so that she could chow down in peace. Pappy kept testing the line, but we held.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Other Hobbies

Lobster Boat, Southwest HarborBefore Pappy took over as my principal hobby, I used to do a bit of painting. Picture painting that is. It was nothing that would lead me to quit my day job (despite the encouragement of acquaintances who seem persuaded that people line up outside the doors of artists' studios to throw wads of cash at them), but it gave me some sense of accomplishment at the end of the weekend.

But when we got Pappy, he was instantly afraid of going down the stairs to the basement where I keep my easel. When I am down there he just stares forlornly from the top of the steps, and I was afraid of what he would get into if he ever stopped being afraid. So, after nearly a year's retirement from painting, yesterday I brought him down while I did a little scribbling. I set up a bed with a blanket, carried him down the steps, and set to work. He spent most of his time trying to figure out what was going on by standing under the easel where all the paint drips. Potentially messy, but promising.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Valentine's Bonus

Pappy Valentine
This one is for all of you folks who are utterly stumped for Valentine's Day ideas for your loved ones, and don't find it strange to hand out pictures of other peoples' dogs. Just print out this photo, and add this text to the back:

On the day that you were born
The angels got together and decided
To create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moondust in your hair of
[insert hair color here]
And starlight in your eyes of [insert eye color here]

You are now free to barf.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Great Obelisk

2001I wouldn't call Pappy your classical obedient walker. Occasionally he is like a pinball following his nose and impulses every whichway, but not like some self-strangulating beagles of my past. But there is one point in our morning walk where he just manhauls me to this little strip of grass where he sometimes stops to poop, leading up to a phone pole where he always stops to pee.

The interesting thing is that we had a nice little snowfall this week, and for the first time I saw the pawprints of every dog in the neighborhood following the same processional path down that strip of grass to that phone pole. I get the whole "let's sniff each other's pee" compulsion among dogs, but this is something more. There's some bizarre ritual significance to this pole.

Gotta go, Pappy's licking all the road salt off my shoes in anticipation of his walk.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Dogswear Section

So, some of you will surely remember the saga of Pappy's coat-- my trepidation about clothing for dogs, and my insistence that it was only to protect him from further injury following his getting stitched up. I've relaxed a bit since those bygone days, and find myself using his coat more often because it makes Pappy seem less antsy on walks in the recent bitterly cold weather. Plus it has some very practical reflective strips for the night time.

After work last week, I drove Pappy to the neighborhood pet store prior to dropping off the car for my wife and walking Pappy home. Pappy was in his dapper little red jacket purchased at the store three months earlier, and the salesguy said: "Isn't it a little late to be headed to the dog park?" I gave him a "hunh?" look, and he said: "I remember when you bought that jacket and said you wouldn't normally put clothes on a dog, but you had to protect his stitches at the dog park. I may not remember names, but I never forget a story. Are those stitches healed yet?" Exposed as a fraud, I mumbled something about how well the coat has held up, bought my bag of dog food, and slunk out of the store.

One thing's for sure, I'm not shopping for Pappy's President's Day outfit at that store. For a theme I've been thinkin' Lincoln-- an Honest Abe stovepipe would suit Pappy, and he's already got the beard.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vocabulary Lesson

2007-01-15-1536-00Okay class, how many of you out there have to spell out the word W-A-L-K to keep your dog from going nuts? Not me! I've known plenty of dogs who go ballistic, but I can safely ask Pappy whether he wants to go on a walk without a sign of recognition. It's not until I'm actually putting on my coat and heading for the door that I get the focus of my little meathead.

I hear amazing stories of the vocabulary of dogs, but half the time I'm barely sure Pappy knows his name. The word 'treat' doesn't elicit much of a response, but surprisingly 'Good Boy' always grabs him. I immediately have his undivided attention. If I'm slow to deliver a treat, he starts experimenting-- he'll try staring at me expectantly, he'll perform a dignified sit, then he'll poke his cold nose at my fingers.

And here you thought that selective hearing was only an aptitude of husbands.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cashing in on Pappy's Blog

My blog is worth $22,581.60.
How much is your blog worth?

So I went out to this site, entered our URL, and found out that Pappy's blog is worth $22,581.60 on the open market. This valuation is scientific, based upon a model used in the sale of Weblogs Inc to AOL. So, that's our basic market value. Now, if I factor in the proceeds from the T-shirt sales to get an idea of the revenue stream. Let's see, seven shirts at $0 profit per shirt. Wait, since I ordered three of the shirts that's more like a loss-- oh well, all internet startups operate in the red.

Okay, so let's figure out my investment-- the number of hours spent writing posts (let's say 220 hours), filming and editing movies (ummm, probably 500 hours), graphics and general fiddling around (200 hours), and hours spent gazing at Pappy for inspiration (oooh, that's gotta be about 2000 hours)-- for a total of 2,920 hours. So the site has increased in value by about $7.73 for each hour invested.

So let's say I cash out now. Invested at 5% per year, the proceeds from the sale of my blog would net me a daily income of about $3.09. How much does a Starbucks coffee cost anyway? Maybe I could get a venti soy latte, or at least learn what it means.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Greetings From New York

We've popped up for a visit to NYC this weekend, staying with my brother-in-law in Chelsea. After a late arrival we raced by cab to make a dinner reservation in Soho, listening to the story on the news radio of a family who was burglarized and had their Yorkie stolen-- "They took our money and jewelry, but we didn't care about that stuff. Just give us back our dog."

We did a lot of wandering today, and saw a few dogs including a cute Rat Terrier in the Fluevog shoe store and a Lab in Bloomingdales. But from what little I have read, no-nonsense New Yorker attitudes don't lend themselves to peace in the dog parks. Manhattan Chien just put up a snarky post about the misanthropes at the city dog runs, making it sound like owners are inches from murdering each other. Thank goodness for the relative good will of our little suburban Maryland dog park-- there's no place like home.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tongue Treatment

I'm fairly manly and stoic for a geek, so I don't have much truck with emollients and lotions. But since the cold snap of the past couple of weeks, my skin has been getting a little chapped and itchy. Yesterday morning I decided to apply a little Kiehl's Creme de Corps lotion-- a scentless preparation for manly men.

Pappy raced into the room, and, in a fervor, he set to the task of licking off every scintilla of lotion within tongue's reach. It must be like butter to his kibble-weary palette, because he could not be restrained. When I mentioned his obsession to my wife, she acted like she knew all about it and it was no big deal. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, we are racing off to New York to visit my brother-in-law this weekend, leaving Pappy in the care of his favorite German housesitter. She's a student at a nearby college, and just learned English a year or two ago. Her "Pappy" sounds a bit more like "Peppy", but that's a good name too.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sweet Mystery of Life... Hey, Where Did It Go?

On occasion, I've been known to ponder the imponderable of Pappy's mongrel ancestry-- the enigma of what breeds of dog he truly is. It's a pleasant way to while away the hours.

Then, on this morning's news, I saw a bit about MMI Genomics of neighboring Beltsville, Maryland. They are coming out with a "Canine Heritage" DNA test to determine the genetic background of your mutt. Now DNA testing to verify a registered AKC dog's parentage has been around for a while. But the challenge of determining whether this dog came from that dog is comparitively simple. These guys are saying that they are putting together a shrink-wrapped kit that will unravel the milkshake that is your mutt, and tell you how many scoops of which kind of dog ice cream went into him. Scientists are such killjoys.