Friday, February 22, 2013
Yesterday, for the first time, Jazz let Little Guy into her bed. We adopted Little Guy around six months ago.
My camera's strobe light reflects off of Jazz's tapeta lucida causing a lovely eyeshine effect. Methinks turquoise compliments her complexion. To learn more about eyeshine, click here. It is impossible for me to ignore a decent picture of close dogs plus eyeshine.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Our dogs, Jazz and Little Guy, walked away from 2012 and entered 2013 without trepidation. They lack the mental wherewithall to realize they stepped into the unknown.
We rescued both of our dogs. I prefer to believe, on some level, they know that we love them. At the very least, they feel secure in their routines—feeding time, playtime, undisturbed sleeping time, nightly walks, and so on and so forth. Ultimately, I try not to dwell on what their feelings are towards us. I do know that ninety-nine percent of the time, they are a joy. We accept them for who they are: pet dogs.
These are anxious times. I sometimes rant about how the world would be better if everybody had a beloved companion dog. My "dog" friends nod in agreement. My "cat" friends do not understand. Both groups rightfully think that I am tetched when I talk about dogs and world peace in the same breath. Truthfully, I do not buy into this any more than they do. Throughout history, humanitarians and lunatics alike have kept dogs. Hitler doted on his beloved Blondie. It is interesting to note that he tested the efficacy of his suicide cyanide capsules by feeding one to Blondie. The dog died. Afterwards, Hitler swallowed a capsule. Not leaving anything to chance, he then shot himself in the head.
Just the same, it is pleasant to dwell on the idea of equating pet dogs with world peace. Jazz and Little Guy are silly, loving, affectionate, and delightful beings. In our house, they often lift our spirits during challenging times.
Dogs live in the moment. Jazz and Little Guy did not think about the passage of another year when the clock struck 12:00:01 this morning.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Last night, my wife's manager hosted a holiday get-together for his employees. We had a lovely time eating great food, enjoying easy conversation, and hanging out with Oliver—his family's Fox Terrier.
For a few moments, Oliver and I accepted each other as equals. I told him that he reminded me of Nipper, the dog pictured in the erstwhile RCA Victor logo—the one with a dog sitting alongside a gramophone attentively listening to a faithful recording of "His Master's Voice." Oliver is not familiar with gramophones, or for that matter, record players. He politely listened to me talk about the evolution of audio recording until I had crossed a line. I'd forgotten my manners. He tacitly admonished me not to talk with my mouth full. A sensible dog, I am sure he lusted after my turkey and cranberry sandwich.
My wife and I woke up early this morning. She greeted me, "happy birthday." We chitchatted before rousing ourselves out of bed. I enlisted her to help me capture a studio photograph of our spastic Chiweenie. I wanted to capture an image of him jumping up off the floor as he does every day in our kitchen before his morning and evening feedings. Lately, I have been harboring an odd obsession to make photographs of dogs so they appear to be flying or levitating. My drowsy wife only consented to indulge my whim in the chilly studio prior to 7 a.m. because today is my birthday.
Naturally, the Chiweenie did not cooperate. We even substituted chicken for kibbles. A defiant dog, he would not leap from the floor towards the opened container loaded up with an odorous carcass. Perhaps our Chiweenie is a sensible dog who knows that if he gives us an inch, we will extract a mile.
The above photo shows me tempting the dog with chicken. I eventually dispensed with the container and waved the carcass over his head. Alas, he did not leap into the air to snag a chunk.
No matter how tempting the chicken, his hind paws remained firmly planted on the ground.
Finally, he performed a pirouette. I hope he will soon relent and give me the photo that I so desire. My dear wife, Sara, insists that we will have to train him to leap for food on command. She is right.
We retired to the kitchen. There she filled his stainless steel bowl with kibbles and carried it over towards his mealtime spot—a dark secluded corner in the kitchen. Boundless—lighter than air—the Chiweenie leapt spastically into the ether toward his meal just moments before Sara set it down onto the chilly white kitchen floor.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Sara, my wife of 20 years, contributed this essay. It's about our newest family member—Little Guy.
My husband has a thing for dachshunds. There’s something about their personality—their confidence, their swagger—that he just loves. Not to mention the Cuteness Factor, which is substantial.
So after decades of admiring and photographing the breed, Bob decided he simply had to have a doxie. I consented, as I’ve always recognized that dogs are good for my husband’s mental health. Even though we already had our 40-pound mutt Jazz, Bob had a dearth of dachshunds.
So the search began.
We contacted a number of dachshund rescue leagues, filled out long forms, and participated in interviews. We had to prove ourselves worthy.
I think it was during my conversation with a south Florida rescue league that I began to have second thoughts about adopting a full-blooded dachshund. There was much talk about the potential need for expensive back surgery with this breed. Did we have several thousand dollars on hand? And would we be willing to spend it on our yet-to-be-adopted pet?
Hmmm. Maybe we’d be better off with a dachshund-ISH dog, with a little bit of gene heterogeneity.
This line of reasoning is what led us to our three-year-old Chiweenie—half dachshund, half Chihuahua—whom we ended up dubbing “Little Guy.” And this is where our lives were changed.
How to describe our Chiweenie? I think it can be summed up in a few words:
1. Scatological. Suddenly, our lives are all about dog poop. We have to take this little mutt out many times a day and pay fanatical attention to his biorhythms. Has the Chiweenie gone out? Did he poop? Did he poop more than once? And of course, there are the intermittent infuriating discoveries of unwelcome Indoor Poop.
2. Distractible. When this dog goes outside (see item #1), all his senses go on high alert. Is that a dog barking in the next county over? Did someone sneeze two blocks away? Curious Chiweenies want to know. Much of this dog’s outdoor time is spent sniffing the air and frowning at various sounds. Windblown bushes are hypnotizing.
3. Food-focused. This dog will eat anything. Any. Thing. You name it: fruit, vegetables, whatever that is that you just dropped. And of course, he eats our other dog’s food. Thank heavens he’s as short as he is, or he’d clean us out.
4. Intense. This is not a goofy, carefree dog. No lolling tongue here. This is no Labrador retriever. This fellow will stare at you right in the eyes, demanding, “What is going to happen RIGHT NOW? Will you be getting me some food? Are we going somewhere? What exactly are your intentions?”
5. Undeniably cute. Why would we tolerate such a needy creature? One that requires so much cajoling and vigilant oversight? That’s easy: he’s adorable. He has a soft coat that you can’t keep your hands off of. He’ll snuggle up to you in a way that makes your heart rate plummet. And he’s got those floppy ears. And that tail! It sticks up in the air and waves proudly wherever he goes, announcing to the world that the Chiweenie has arrived.
Would Bob adopt this dog again if he’d known what he was getting into? It depends on when you ask. If Bob’s in the front yard, begging Little Guy to defecate? Probably not. But when Little Guy is curled up cozily and snoring on Bob’s lap? Then, I think Bob would admit he’s grateful that this eleven-pound canine character marched his way into our lives.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
A couple of weeks ago my wife, Sara, purchased professional dog claw trimmers with the intent of clipping our recently adopted Chiweenie's nails. I could not control my laughter at the thought of Little Guy letting her clip his claws. Though the dog weighs a tad bit over eleven pounds, he is spry—a nipper and a wiggle worm. After a few attempts, Little Guy broke Sara's can-do spirit. Eventually, she requested that I call our favorite dog beauty parlor, Wags to Whiskers, and make an appointment for Little Guy to get his nails trimmed and for Jazz, our forty-pounder, to get bathed and buzzed and have her claws trimmed.
I dropped Jazz off early in the morning. She loves the doggie beauty parlor. The smells and yelps of the other canines fill her in on the latest and greatest Central Florida doggie gossip. When I went to pick Jazz up around five o'clock, I brought Little Guy in for his manicure/pedicure. Overwhelmed by fear, he shook and shivered at approximately eighty cycles per second. I swept him up and put him on the counter. The stylist carried him over to one of the grooming stations. The place was empty except for the two dogs, the stylist, and yours truly.
The groomer is a maestro. She calms down unruly pooches and gracefully beautifies them. As pictured below, she had no trouble with Little Guy's forepaws.
The stylist plied a powerful cordless Dremel fitted with a grinder to tame his forepaw nails.
The stylist inspects her handiwork. Little Guy is good to go.
Jazz, so sleek and clean, shows off her shiny ribbon bow. Little Guy veers over towards a stinky, sticky spot next to a lamppost.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
My lovely wife, Sara, among other things, is an advertising copywriter. She has a knack for coming up with expressions that are "sticky." Her talent has rewarded her with steady work for decades with nary an interruption.
She came up with something "sticky" about two weeks ago—"The Sillies." And what do "The Sillies" refer to? The Sillies are our old pet dog Jazz and our recently adopted three-year-old Chiweeny, Little Guy.
Jazz is not keen on the concept of sharing us with the new canine on the block. She predictably inserts herself between any family member and Little Guy—when he is the target of our affection. Our tactic is to lift Little Guy up and set him onto our laps or let him lounge on us. Jazz is polite and well mannered. She stays off the furniture.
One of our big concerns prior to adopting a Chiweeny was whether Jazz and a prospective adoptee would get along. It turns out that the dogs get along fine and spend most of their time dozing together by the dining room window. Jazz occasionally coaxes Little Guy into a spirited game of chase. Little Guy out-maneuvers her every time. He is zippy.
When I try to snap photos of them together, they initially greet me with nervous tongue flicking.
Fortunately, the dogs eventually relax and give me one or two good poses.
We resurrected Jazz's old crate for Little Guy. We figured that he would like to have a "safe haven" to retreat to for chilling out. He spends about an hour or two a day in his crate. At night, he sleeps in our daughter's bed.
Little Guy and Jazz are silly dogs. I do not know why. They just are.
For all you shutterbugs out there, these photos were taken with an Olympus Pen E-PL1 and the14-42mm kit lens.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
The dog days of summer are upon us here in North America. By chance, I happened to stumble across a wonderful photo entitled, "Dog Heaven." I found it indirectly through one of the photo blogs that I frequently visit.
I sent an email to the photographer. I told him how much I enjoyed his picture, and I asked if he would be interested in trading that one for one of mine. He sent me an email with a hi-resolution attachment of the picture. Here it is.
Now I do not know which dog is Trixie, nor for that matter Charlie. I do know this picture evokes smiles. It is timeless. Kudos to Mark Adams—photographer and generous chap (he lives in London and New Jersey). Check out his website http://goo.gl/j7mnC. Due to a WordPress/Zenfolio glitch, I had to use a URL shortener to preserve the link, which will take you to this picture. Use the navigation bar at the top of the page to see Mark's work. I spent a fair amount of time browsing his gallery and blog—well worth it.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Jazz, a forty-pound gal, gets along well with sausage dogs of the opposite sex. Wiener dog Louie is her best friend. From time to time, they get together for play dates.
Jazz is 10½ human years old. Louie is still a puppy. Jazz sometimes imparts valuable wisdom to her little friend. Other times, she loses patience and wanders off to be alone.
Louie, oblivious, soars above Jazz's moody disposition.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Thanks Doug Sasse for contributing this tale about your pet, Schatzi the doxie, to the Top Dog Blog.
Do dogs think? I believe they do. I became a believer when Schatzi, our dachshund, joined the family years ago. He was a smooth, black and tan little charmer, insatiably curious. So much so, that my wife and I felt we couldn’t leave him alone upstairs when we left the house to go to work. We constructed a kennel for him in a large basement closet that had no door. We turned a cardboard box on its side and filled it full of rag rugs to keep him cozy and warm. A chicken wire fence, nailed to the doorway, would keep him in and prevent him from exploring all of the treasures in the basement. Or so we thought.
One day, we returned home to find Schatzi, trotting ecstatically about the basement, like a little black and tan Tennessee walking horse. We immediately saw how he was able to escape. Although the fence was too high for him to climb over, he found he could push his cardboard box up next to the fence, jump up on the box, and then jump the fence to freedom. As he took his victory lap around the dark room, toenails clicking rhythmically on the concrete floor, we knew we’d have to move the little Houdini upstairs.
After “baby-proofing” the entire house, we brought Schatzi upstairs for good. Schatzi enjoyed a life of comfort. Upstairs had sofas where he could lounge, televisions for him to watch, and all of the snacks he could wheedle out of his people. Before long, he wheedled his way into our bed, where he slept every night for the rest of his life.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Dogs: I have had three dogs during my fifty-two years of existence—Alfie, Jazz, and Lila. Baby books: My mother compiled one about me. I, at the tender age of ten, made one that documented Alfie's puppyhood.
Here I am at twenty-three months. It is from my baby book.
Our first dog was a gift from my parents. My brother was twelve, my sister seven, and me ten. Having a canine-a-phobic father and a germ-a-phobic mother, my brother and I were astounded when they told us that their friend's dog had pups and that we could choose one for a pet.
Having recently gotten over my fear of dogs, I was thrilled with the prospect of having a devoted four-legged chum. My parents soon drove us over to the Cohens' whose mid-size French Poodle had had a litter of pups. I cannot remember the bitch's name. I do recall that Mrs. Cohen ushered the mom dog out of their chilly wood paneled basement rec room so that we could select one of the pups. The Cohens' were exotic. They had modern art paintings and sculptures purchased from the local museum store adorning their walls and occupying entire tabletops. Due to the Cohens' obvious level of sophistication, my ten-year-old mind figured that the pups were well bred and highly refined. The puppies were mutts, part Poodle and part indeterminate terrier. We picked out the "cutest," but had to wait a couple of weeks before the pup could leave his mum.
My brother came up with a name for the puppy—Alfie. A few years earlier, the movie "Alfie" starring Michael Caine and Shelly Winters came out. The title song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David was a chart topper. It got lots of airplay on AM radio in 1970, even though the movie came out several years earlier. Once the puppy entered our lives, we often crooned, "What's it all about Alfie?"
On the day we brought Alfie home, Mom listed the rules. "The dog stays in the basement. You kids are going to play with it after school. And, your Dad will build a pen for the dog." My brother and I tacitly understood that Mom was certifiably unreasonable. Our basement was cold in the winter and damp in the summer. On exceptionally rainy days, water seeped in and spread across the black and white checkered linoleum squares. "Never mind her rules; she'll change," I believed. "Why should anybody want to keep a pet in a dungeon?"
Understandably, alone in the basement, Alfie whined, barked, and relentlessly slammed full-body into the cardboard clad wood-frame pen. Mom eventually caved in and allowed the dog to spend his days upstairs, confined to the kitchen. This made life better for all of us. Still, at bedtime, a family member would lead Alfie by his collar to the basement pen. My dad built it out of remnants from the playpen my siblings and I hung out in during our infant and early toddler stages. The pen was rickety and weird. It had a hinged gate with an eyehook to lock the dog in.
Alfie did not have a serene life. He did not relish being alone in the kitchen when we were home, and he did not enjoy being cooped up in the basement at night and during the daytime when everybody was out. It is no wonder that he destroyed the kitchen cabinets by incessantly scratching and clawing at them from sheer boredom. Sometimes he would manage to get into the cabinet where we kept the garbage. We would then scream at him and scold him by forcibly tapping our index fingers against his sensitive nose shouting, "Alfie, that's a no; that's a no-no!" Obedience school or even getting a book about dog training eluded us. The dog's shortcomings, according to my parents, were purely the result of "bad genes." His coat was hopelessly matted and he stunk. Still, I loved him.
A few years later, we moved across town into a four-bedroom tract home in a new neighborhood dotted with spindly trees and well-manicured lawns. Mom declared that the dog would not be moving into the "new house" with the rest of the family. My dad placed an ad in the classifieds, "Dog for sale, $25." One man responded to the ad; he brought his three-year old daughter to our house to look at the doggie. Alfie immediately humped the little girl. The man pulled his daughter away and left without saying much. The last time I saw Alfie was before I went to school on the day that the movers came. When we arrived home from school, Mom cheerily announced that one of the moving men took Alfie home with him. "Why would anyone take a stinky, matted, neurotic dog into their home?" I thought, "Alfie went to the gas chamber." Thirty-three years passed before I was to have another dog.
My mother compiled baby books on each of us. My brother's was yellow, my sister's pink, and mine 1958 green. My baby book remained in mint condition until about five years ago, when a dog that we rescued from the pound named Lila chewed up the cover. Luckily, we discovered the book before the dog destroyed it. (I will not reprimand a dog for committing a crime in the past, not even if the past amounts to only ten seconds. Dog brains are unlike human brains. For canines, cause and effect occurs at a different level of consciousness than it does for humans. Simply put, dogs do not think as we do.) Although Lila was intelligent, cute, and confident, she did not respond well to training. She bothered our longtime pet dog Jazz, and one day bit our daughter. That was the final blow. We took Lila back to the pound. The SPCA filed a report with the sheriff's department and quarantined her for thirty days. I assume they euthanized her. Ironically, after I discovered Lila's mischief, I found the baby book that I had made for Alfie, unharmed, sandwiched between the middle pages of my baby book.
Baby books are handy tools for archiving important milestones in a young person's life. I am glad that my mother did this for my siblings and me. It is funny how each successive book got thinner than the previous. My older brother's is thick with pictures, tidbits, and certificates. Mine, a bit thinner, contains a lot of facts and pictures about my life until I reached the age of four. My little sister's is thin. I think Mom had her hands full raising three children and did not have the time or the energy to record data about polio booster shots, height and weight. By about the time my sister reached the tender age of two, Mom ran out of steam; she ceased recording first times for this and first times for that.
As a ten year old with a penchant for facts, figures, and photography, I took on the task of making a baby book for Alfie. I used the baby books that Mom had made as a template for Alfie's book.
To get a good picture, I had to remove the Scotch tape that secured the tooth onto the page. The tooth broke in half when I picked it up.
Interesting coincidence—notice the illustration of a baby reaching for the toy dog. Stuffed dogs were among my favorites. I think that loving dogs is part of my DNA. I do not know from whence it came. I have read that certain traits skip a generation, or two or three.
We gave Alfie a toy, a skein of multi-colored yarn, when he was a couple of months old. I cannot recall how many days, weeks, or months it took him to shred it down to "the last piece."
Thirty odd years after Alfie disappeared from my childhood, the idea of getting a dog became a topic of conversation between my wife and me. It took several months of Saturdays and Sundays checking out pounds and rescue shelters to find a good dog. We wanted a gentle dog that would be a good companion for our three-year-old daughter Helen, a pal to motivate me to go on walks and stay fit, and a friend for my wife, Sara, who grew up with many dogs. One day, Sara and Helen visited a rescue shelter a couple of miles away from our home in Boston. They walked down the narrow aisle that separated the two rows of kennels in the darkly lit cement block chamber. Amidst the cacophony of barks, yelps, and whines, they noticed Jazz. Unlike the other dogs, Jazz appeared mellow and alert. She sauntered over and put her nose against the cage so that Helen could touch her snout. Since Jazz had only arrived at the shelter the day before, she was not yet eligible for adoption. The obligatory observation period, three or four days, was not up. That night, Sara and Helen mentioned that I might want to stop by on my way home from work the next day to check her out. I did; I noticed her gentle and alert demeanor too.
I read the paperwork on the clipboard that hung above her kennel. It said Jazz was a year old and that the family that had adopted her six months earlier returned her a few days ago. Their reasons: 1. Unable to house-train; 2. Chews up the wooden fence in the backyard. Her chart included phrases like, "loves to please," and "gentle temperament." A couple days later, we dropped by the shelter and hung out with Jazz. We filled out the paperwork, and I signed Jazz and me up for an obedience class. The next day, I picked her up on my way home from work. Within a week, she learned to go pee-pee and number two outside.
We love Jazz dearly. Although she does not have a baby book, we have scads of pictures of her and anecdotes galore. We did not compile a traditional baby book for Helen either. Helen is an ongoing project. However, Sara has been maintaining a notebook of notable "Helenisms" ever since we brought her home from the hospital. Somewhere in our home, there is a cache of her baby teeth. As for Alfie's baby book, I took pictures of him with my official Cub Scout camera. After the Lila incident, I removed the photos from Alfie's book for safekeeping. The adhesive from the Scotch tape was eating the prints. I have no idea where they are. When I find them, I will include them in my next tome on dogs and baby books.