The Very Best Dogs are Manipulative

I just read a really interesting article entitled, “Science Proves a Harsh Truth About Very Good Dogs”. I almost didn’t read it, because with all that’s going on in the world, I’m not sure I’m ready for a harsh truth about my dog. I mean, seriously, I don’t think I can take one more thing. But it turns out the article was worth the read.

Have you ever fallen completely in love with a dog simply because it has a very expressive face? That pretty much does it for me. Shoot me the sad eyes and I’m completely at your mercy.

Until quite recently, the general consensus seemed to be that those expressions were involuntary, just as they are with the bulk of the animal world. If a dog feels sad, we assumed, he just automatically made a sad face. I know that when my dog gives me that look, I just have to hug him.

But no. A scientific experiment was conducted to determine if dogs made the same expressions under the same circumstances if a human was paying attention or not. They gave the dogs food with an attentive human feeder, and also with a feeder whose back was turned, and studied their facial expressions. Turns out that dogs give many more facial expressions if the human is attentive.

To make sure it was the human attention that was the game changer for the dog, rather that how visible the food was, they experimented with food visibility, too. No change. It was all about the attention. According to the article, “the faces your dog makes are less about the food you have in your hand and more about getting you to do what it wants.”

I still believe, though, that my dog loves me. Even if he is a manipulative little monster. He may be performing to get a reaction, he may know darned well that he has me wrapped around his little paw, but he’ll always be my baby.

Quagmire, my manipulative boy. ❤

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Traveling with Dogs

I would love it if my dogs could go with me wherever I go. I know they’d love it, too, unless I was going someplace scary or noisy. They live to have my attention. It would be fun if I could just say, “Let’s go!” and they would hop into the car and sit quietly and politely in the passenger seat, with a little doggy smiles on their faces.

But those are not the dogs I have. They’d be jumping from the front to the back, trying to climb on my lap while slobbering in my face. They’d bark at every moving thing they saw. If I tried to restrain them in some way, they’d howl. They have also been known to take “sit”, “stay”, “come”, and “shut the eff up” as mere suggestions.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is my fault. I’ve always been rather lax with training, albeit  generous with love. The fact remains: as much as I adore my dogs, they are a pain in the butt to travel with.

They’re even more of a trial during long distance travel, because even though they do tend to settle down eventually and snore, it’s not as if I can leave them sitting in a hot car while I sight see. Most buildings don’t allow pets, and there’s no way that my dogs could ever be mistaken for service dogs. And when out of my car, my dachshund, in particular, attempts to maul any human that comes within mauling distance. He thinks he’s a rottweiler.

I also have to stop much more frequently for potty breaks for them than I do for myself. And if we’re staying in a hotel, I can’t just drift peacefully off to sleep. No, they have to go do their business, right before bed time, regardless of wind and weather. And since it’s a new place for them, they have to thoroughly inspect the grounds before finding the perfect place to make their deposit. These things take time. And then, being the responsible citizen that I am, I have to collect that deposit. Oh, joy. A souvenir of our travels.

And just like any living creature, my dogs march to the beat of their own drummers, so if I leash them up and walk them simultaneously, they tend to want to go in different directions at different speeds. So in essence, I feel as though I’m being drawn and quartered. This can be particularly painful if they each decide to go around a different side of the same tree.

But I love my dogs to pieces, so every once in a while I relent and take them on a trip with me. But more often than not, I instantly regret it. I’ve found that missing them, but knowing that they’re safe at home and slobbering on a dog sitter, is the best way to go.

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Mid-Month Marvels: Fostering Hope

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

I just love it when people think outside the box, and their workplace is supportive of that thought process. According to this article, back in 2018, Teresa Johnston had one such thought. As the Director of Sales in Home2 Suites outside of Biloxi, Mississippi, she noticed that many of the guests seemed lonely. This is an extended stay hotel, and having stayed in one myself for several months, I can attest to the fact that the loneliness in those places is palpable. The very corridors seem to be whispering, “I want to go home.”

So, Ms. Johnston began thinking of ways to make the guests feel more at home. What were they missing? One thing, she realized, was their pets. So she coordinated with the Humane Society of South Mississippi to have the hotel foster one dog at a time. The guests could play with the dog, walk it, or even have it spend the night in their room.

If a guest or employee fell in love with one of these dogs (and who wouldn’t?) they could adopt the pet right at the hotel with a 50 dollar adoption fee. Because of such encounters, the hotel’s “Fostering Hope” program has adopted out 60 dogs to date. This just proves my theory that home is where the dog is.

I’ve never been to Biloxi, but now I’m tempted.

clancy

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Anthropomorphize Much?

Just when I thought I’d seen the most ridiculous product to waste money on, another one crosses my path. I can’t even… Just… Sigh.

Neuticles, y’all. Neuticles.

According to their website, these prosthetic nuts for pets “allow your precious pet to retain his natural look, self-esteem, and aid the pet and pet’s owner with trauma associated with altering.”

As they say in the South, Jesus, take the wheel.

I mean… I’m struggling to find the words to adequately express how… (the enormously long pause while I gather myself has been deleted in the interest of space) nonplussed, stupefied and generally flipped out I am by this product.

Oh, where to begin. I can’t even…

Okay. First of all, do you honestly believe that your dog’s self-esteem is shattered when you get him neutered? Really? I mean, I’ve had a lot of dogs fixed in my lifetime, people, and not one of them has appeared to have sunk down into a bottomless pit of depression afterward. Granted, I don’t know what they’re thinking when they wake up, all alone and nutless, at three a.m. on a random Friday night, when all the other dogs are all nutfull and partying, but whatever it is, they seem perfectly willing to play fetch the next day. Life goes on.

Trauma for the pet? Well, yeah, I’m sure it doesn’t tickle, but they seem to recover quickly, and their health and life expectancy vastly improve, all while reducing the stray dog population. (Talk about trauma. Try being a homeless dog for five minutes.)

I’ve often said that I wish my veterinarian had done my hysterectomy. It would have only cost about 75 bucks, and I would have been up and running the next day, rather than flat on my back for 6 weeks. And I think my self-esteem would have been just fine.

And trauma for the owner? For heaven’s sake, get a freakin’ life. If that’s the most traumatic experience you’ve ever had, then you must be living in a plastic bubble. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that you be subjected to the average Seattle commute or, heaven forfend, a Brazilian wax. You wouldn’t survive.

But hey, Kim Kardashian’s dog Rocky has neuticles, so we should all rush out and get some, in order to keep up. Visit the website to find a participating vet near you. (I truly hope my vet isn’t on this list.)

Oh, and while you’re there, you can also order PermaStay! Those are ear implants for dogs, “to correct broken, bent or floppy ears that should otherwise stand up straight.” Because the world can’t abide dogs who don’t have perky ears.

Give me strength.

Dog
This dog fears for your sanity.

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Yet Another Way to Share

I’ve written with great pride about the Little Free Library in front of our house. I’ve also written about Chat Benches and Little Free Galleries and Little Free Gardens and even Bug Houses. Another friend recently sent me this little article about another wonderful idea: Stick Libraries for Dogs.

It seems that this gentleman’s dog loves sticks, and there were none in the dog park in New Zealand that they frequent. So, being handy, he built a box and filled it with smooth-edged sticks for the dogs who visit to use and return. What a delightful gesture. A lending library for dogs.

All these ideas have a recurring theme: Sharing. Sharing builds community. Sharing gives people a stronger sense of place. Sharing promotes generosity.

In a world that seems increasingly polarized, the guy who built this box seems to be saying, “I’m not worried about your politics or your religion or your race or your social standing. I just want to make your dog smile.”

I’m sitting here on the other side of the world, and the concept is making me smile, too. I hope it catches on. The dogs of the world would thank us.

Stick Library

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Dog Mom Diaries

My dog Quagmire is soft and warm and relaxed at 5:30 am. It’s so sweet. I almost hate to disturb him. Almost. Then I remember the millions of times he’s woken me up out of a sound sleep without even a hint of remorse. So…

“Wake up, Fuzz Head.”

He groans. Burrows deeper into the blankets. Gives me the hairy eyeball.

Quagmire is not a morning dog.

I pick him up. He’s as limp as a dishrag. He’s hoping that if he plays dead, I’ll leave him alone.

“It’s time to go pee.”

As I carry him toward the back door, I notice that the rain is coming down in buckets. And it’s cold. Great.

I open the door and put him down. He looks at me as if I’ve taken leave of my senses. He attempts to come back inside.

“Errr.. no. Go potty.”

Maybe I have taken leave of my senses. I’ve only had about 2 hours of sleep myself, as is pretty much standard on Friday mornings, given my insane work schedule. The room is kind of spinning, if I’m honest. I need caffeine. But first, I need this dog to go outside.

He attempts to scoot past my legs. “Quag. Mire. Go. Pee.”

He reluctantly steps out onto the covered deck. He considers doing his business right there. But he forgets that I can read his mind. “Nooooo. Go potty.”

Appearing really resigned and grievously put upon, he trudges out into the downpour. I am so grateful that I’m not a dog. He can’t grasp that this is for his own good. He just knows that no one should have to get one’s paws wet.

He does his thing and runs back inside. He shakes. I towel him off and give him a hug. I put him back to bed, and he falls back to sleep instantly. Okay, maybe I do wish I were a dog.

I put on my raincoat. I grab my backpack. I trudge out into the downpour.

Somebody has to bring home the kibble.

Quagmire
Quagmire

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Pet Euthanasia: When Is the Right Time?

Recently we had to say goodbye to a beloved family member. Junior was a sweet old dog who lived a good life. He told us when it was time to go. We didn’t want to hear it, but the message was loud and clear. He had a boatload of health issues, all of which we were willing to help him with for as long as he was willing to fight the good fight. But now he had stopped eating and drinking and could barely get up on all fours. It was time.

This is not the first dog I’ve had to put to sleep. It probably won’t be the last, either. It’s not an easy choice to make, but often it’s a kindness. It’s always heartbreaking, but often, it’s the right thing to do.

When this subject comes up, the conclusion most of my loved ones seem to make is that it’s related to quality of life. When your pet is no longer experiencing a good quality of life, then it’s time to put them down.

It sounds so simple. But quality of life is pretty darned relative, when you think about it. Some people will put up with a lot more pain and suffering than others will, and they seem to use the same yardstick on their pets. The ultimate choice lies with the pet owner.

Personally, I’ve been horrified to see how long some people will make their dogs suffer, simply because they don’t want to say goodbye. They seem to overlook the fact that it isn’t about them. Or at least it shouldn’t be. No animal should suffer simply because you can’t let go. When you take on the responsibility of pets, you become the arbiter of their well-being.

Let’s talk about heroic measures for a minute. Certainly, if there is a treatment that will cure your dog’s ailment completely, then definitely go for it. But I’ve seen people put dogs through chemotherapy for a cancer that is so far advanced that these treatments will simply prolong the animal’s suffering without preventing the inevitable. I’ve seen dogs reduced to a wailing bundle of skin and bones for no good reason at all. That’s just cruel and selfish.

I wish euthanasia were more acceptable for humans, if I’m honest. I watched my mother suffer needlessly for two long years before she finally died. Most of the time, especially toward the end, she was so tranked out on morphine that she didn’t know where she was or who we were. I wouldn’t have treated a dog the way my mother was treated.

Ultimately, with pets, the decision is yours. It’s a good idea to consider the counsel of your veterinarian and your loved ones, as you may not be seeing things clearly through your profound distress. But in the end, this is a choice only you can make. And unfortunately, it’s a rare occasion when you can feel confident that you didn’t act too quickly or not quickly enough. The second guessing can be the worst part of all, but it’s your burden to bear.

My best piece of advice is to take you and your emotions out of the equation. Look into your pet’s eyes. Imagine what they’re experiencing. And then ask yourself whether you’d want to live like that.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve made this final choice for the dogs I’ve loved.

  • Mocha had a cancerous tumor on her side that was the size of a cantaloupe. It was so fast growing that it hadn’t been there a few weeks before. For a short time, it didn’t seem to bother her. But then it did, and she told me so.

  • Sugar was extremely old, had had several strokes, lost the function of her back legs, and had to be carried outside for her frequent need to urinate. I was happy to do that for her, but she’d have suffered needlessly while I was at work.

  • Charley had bone cancer, and while she was fine part of the time, when the pain came it was excruciating, and nothing the vet tried helped.

  • When I took Karenin into the vet, thinking he had a bad cold or something, they determined that he had lost 70 percent of his liver function.

  • Blue had hemolytic anemia that wasn’t responding to treatment, and he was rapidly wasting away.

  • The sac around Devo’s heart had filled with blood. They said he wasn’t in pain, but he became increasingly sleepy and nonresponsive as he was struggling to get oxygen. They said they could drain the sac, but it would fill up again. I think he died of a broken heart due to the loss of his best friend Blue.

If you are reading this because you have to make this hard choice, I’m sorry. Please remember that your pet knows he or she is loved. Please put their needs ahead of your own. Make an informed decision. Definitely fight the good fight with your furry friend. But know that surrender may ultimately be the greatest gift and the most loving act you can perform.

Looking Back at Junior
Rest in Peace, Junior. We love you.

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Coyotes Killing Cats

I know what it’s like to lose a pet. It’s heartbreaking. They are a part of your family, and the loss is felt keenly.

But.

Pets are also your responsibility. If your Pitt Bull is running around loose and bites a someone, that’s on you. If your boa constrictor gets loose and swallows the neighbor’s poodle, that’s on you. If your cat is allowed to roam free and gets killed by a coyote, that’s also on you. That coyote is only doing what coyotes do. (And your cat was probably killing songbirds anyway. It’s a cat.) Keep your cat inside and coyotes won’t be an issue.

I get so frustrated when people complain about coyotes. “Coyotes Killing Cats” is a frequent topic on my local Nextdoor.com page. It’s the coyotes’ territory as much as it is ours. They have every bit as much right to survive as we do. It would be great if they could live far away from people and feed on things that we are not emotionally attached to, but we’ve made it all but impossible for them to do that.

When people’s pets start disappearing, there’s always a call to kill the coyotes. It makes me sick. If you allow your pets to roam free, you need to be willing to live with the consequences.

I can hear the coyotes howling in the park behind my house on many nights. I think it’s a lovely sound. And I never let my dachshund outside from dusk to dawn without supervision, even if our yard is fenced, and I’ve never seen a coyote inside that fence. Because that’s what a responsible pet owner should do.

Coyote

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A New Unit of Measurement: The Quagmire

My Dachshund, Quagmire, is 31 inches from nose to tail tip. (Eight inches of that is tail.) The reason I’m telling you this is that I find I often use him as a very precise unit of measurement. This is important, so pay attention.

It takes 2 1/2 Quagmires to span the width of our king-sized bed. I know this because he often inches me from one side of it to the other in the course of a night. It’s critical to know how much bed you’ve got left. Safety first.

I also know how many Quagmires a Quagmire must be from the front door before I can open it. (Four.) If I don’t take this into account, he’ll bolt outside and head straight into traffic. I don’t know what it is about the highway that intrigues him so, but it’s a wonder he hasn’t been squashed flat.

I’ve also learned the hard way that all dog bowls must be at least 5 Quagmires apart or chaos will ensue. He’s very territorial about his kibble. Believe me, it isn’t pretty.

He only has to run about 6 Quagmires before he reaches the end of my extension leash and practically yanks my arm out of its socket.

We’ve had to install 10 Quagmires-worth of fencing to keep his sneaky little butt out of the strawberries and tomatoes in the back yard.

There aren’t enough Quagmires in the world to keep us from smelling his musk when he has rolled in something dead. He seems quite proud of this.

You can throw a toy about 5 Quagmires away and he’ll chase it, but he’ll only bring it about 1 Quagmire of the way back. A retriever, he is not.

The interesting thing about this unit of measurement is that it increases to 40 inches in the vertical. Despite his stubby little legs, he routinely jumps chest height. So you always have to consider the vertical Quagmire before leaving any food unattended. As far as he’s concerned, anything less than a Quagmire above the floor is community property.

But the very best part about this measurement is that it only takes one Quagmire to fill my heart with love.

Quagmire

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If I Were You

It is so easy for me to look at other people’s lives from the outside and figure out what they should do to solve their problems. It seems so obvious. Unfortunately, people rarely take my advice. It’s really annoying.

But they shouldn’t. Because if I were so good at this stuff, I’d have all my own problems solved, wouldn’t I? I’d be all enlightened.

The fact is, I don’t really have a clue most of the time. Like the vast majority of homo sapiens stumbling around on this planet, the sapiens part should be taken with a grain of salt. I pretty much make it up as I go along. It’s all very random.

Sometimes I think our dogs are more clued in than we are. They know what they want, and they make a point of letting us know what that is. They always get a full night’s sleep. They’ve figured out a way to survive without having to work. And they express every single ounce of love that they feel, without hesitating or expecting anything in return.

So don’t listen to me. Listen to my dogs. At least that’s what I would do if I were you.

Smart Dog

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