The Window Watcher

Russell’s dog Betty is staying with us for a few days. Betty is a happy, well-behaved dog whose needs are few. Give her food, a place in the sunshine to nap, a walk now and then, and occasional exposure to squirrels, and she is a happy camper.

But Betty is also a window dog. She’s drawn to them, like iron filings to a magnet, just to check out what’s going on in the world outside our house. One of her favorite spots to alight is our bed, so she can look outside the two windows shown above. I’ve always thought that there’s really not much of interest to see from those particular windows, which look out onto the street, the buildings across the street, and the sky beyond, but Betty obviously disagrees. Maybe she’s hoping a squirrel scampers by on one of the overhead wires, or maybe she likes seeing the clouds drift by on their journey to the east. (It’s also possible, of course, that she likes the spot because it combines soft surfaces and sunshine in the morning hours.)

When I find Betty in this spot, I usually take a look out the windows, to make sure I am not missing something. It’s another reminder that dogs and humans see the world a bit differently.

Sign Of A Dog

We haven’t had a dog in the house for several years now, although we’ve provided dog-sitting services by taking care of Betty from time to time. So when we found this chew toy left behind by Richard and Julianne’s dog Pretty, from their visit over the summer, it brought back memories of the chew toys, squeak toys, jingle balls, bones, rawhide ropes, rubber rings, and other dog paraphernalia that Dusty, Penny, and Kasey enjoyed in years past. They all had their favorites, and would contentedly spend hours munching and squeaking and jingling away. Part of dog ownership was finding the toys in various locations and returning them to the dog bed.

Pretty evidently has given this little green frog a good workout, since it’s missing one of its legs and looks like it has been chewed out of round. Still, Mr. Frog maintains his brave smile. We’ll be sending him back down to Austin to rejoin Pretty, who no doubt will be very pleased to give Mr. Frog some more good chewing.

The Squirrel Game

Yesterday morning I took a double lap around Schiller Park.  It was a bright, sunny morning, and lots of neighborhood dogs had brought their human pals to the park for a romp through the bright green grass.  Many of the dogs were off the leash.  That meant I got to watch some of the Squirrel Game.

For those not familiar with it, the Squirrel Game is played at Schiller Park on any sunny day.  The contestants are dogs and squirrels.  The squirrels venture out onto the grass.  The dogs see the squirrels and then take off in hopes of actually catching one of the furry critters.  The squirrels see the dogs coming and easily make it back to the safety of the trees, sit on a tree branch, and then taunt the dogs with a death stare like you might see in the NBA after one player posterizes another with a particularly nasty dunk.  

I would be willing to bet that, in the  storied history of Schiller Park, no dog has ever actually caught a healthy adult squirrel.  Nevertheless, their DNA compels the canines to keep trying, not matter what — which makes the Squirrel Game pretty entertaining to watch.  In fact, with people suffering from severe sports deprivation these days, what if there were a live broadcast of the Squirrel Game to help fans try to scratch that sports itch?

Play-by-play announcer:  Welcome to Schiller Park in Columbus, Ohio, for week three of the Squirrel Game!  It’s a beautiful day for squirrel chasing, and we’ve got a full slate of contestants ready to engage in a fruitless interspecies exercise.  Jim, do you think that this just might be the week where a dog actually catches a squirrel?

Color guy:  Not a chance, Frank!  But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a bunch of representatives of man’s best friend who don’t believe that this will definitely be the day when they actually catch a squirrel, and they are willing to run themselves into panting exhaustion in hopes that their dreams will be realized.

Play-by-play announcer:  Well, hope springs eternal!  And we’ve got our first contestants ready to go.  Bosco and Skippy have moved away from their tree out onto the grass, and Missy, an overly groomed Shih Tzu wearing an embarrassing pink bow in her fur, has just been let off the leash by her human.

Color guy:  Our audience will remember Bosco, of course.  Like every squirrel in the park, he’s never been caught or even put into remote physical peril by the neighborhood dogs, but Bosco is a crowd favorite because of his exceptional taunting moves.  He’s been training Skippy, so we’ll get a chance to see how that is going.

Play-by-play announcer:  The squirrels have moved pretty far away from their tree to give Missy extra hope.  Bosco has dug up some kind of nut and is munching away on it, while Skippy is twitching her tail, hoping to attract Missy’s attention.  That’s one of Bosco’s patented moves, and it looks like Skippy has mastered it.  Wait a minute — I think Missy has seen them!  Yes, and she’s taken off!  Here we go!

Color guy:  Really bad form by Missy, Frank!  She’s started running much too early, and she’s not very fast, anyway.  You’d think dogs would have learned by now that if you really want to catch a squirrel, you need to sneak up on them.

Play-by-play announcer:  Well, they are dogs, Jim.

Color guy:  Yes, they are, which is why they never have a chance but still happily try.  Bosco and Skippy have noticed Missy heading their way, and Bosco is calmly taking a few extra nibbles on that nut and waiting until the last minute, giving Missy even more hope that this might actually be the day that she catches a squirrel.  And Missy has taken the bait, and is running at top speed.  Look at that pink ribbon fly!

Play-by-play announcer:  That’s why Bosco is one of the true all-stars.  He always gives the dogs hope before crushing their expectations like a discarded soda can.

Color guy:  You’re right of course, Frank!  And now Bosco and Skippy are engaging in some very nifty broken-field running to get back to their tree.  Some great moves from the savvy veteran and the rookie there!

Play-by-play announcer:  They’ve easily made it to the tree, leaving Missy back in the dust.  And now Missy has finally reached the tree trunk and is yapping and acting like she’s protected the human world from the scourge of the squirrel menace.

Color guy:  You’ve got to give Missy credit for trying to put a happy face on a pretty dismal effort, Frank!  She didn’t even come close, not by a long shot, but her posturing and irritating yapping shows she’s a real pro.  

Play-by-play announcer:  Bosco has caught Missy’s attention again, and is giving her that famous Bosco stare.  Jim, I’ve seen it countless times, and it still gives me chills.  And wait, Skippy is joining in!  A double stare!  And now Bosco is going back to munching on that nut, showing Missy and our viewing audience that he is totally undisturbed by the entire episode.  You’ve got to give him credit for showmanship!

Color guy:  Of course, Missy doesn’t realize she’s been dissed.  Being a dog, she’s pretty much oblivious to everything except the chase.  And now she’s trotting back to her human with a very self-satisfied air, having seemingly forgotten Bosco, Skippy and the entire embarrassing episode.

Play-by-play announcer:  Time for a commercial break.  When we return, we’ll be seeing Shultzie, a morbidly obese dachshund, try to catch Tinkles, a fan favorite with a white streak in her tail.

Color guy:  Ha ha!  I love to watch fat dachshunds try to run.  Don’t miss it, folks! 

Ready To Paddy

Kish and I got a laugh from this gaily attired concrete pooch found across from Schiller Park. The hound is eagerly anticipating St. Patrick’s Day next week, and who can blame her? With everything else that is going on, St. Patrick’s Day will be a most welcome relief. The pooch even looks a bit thirsty.

Whatever happens between now and then — and this old world sure has been full of surprises lately, hasn’t it? — when the day arrives to toast the Emerald aisle, I imagine everyone will be ready to paddy.

On The Leash

I suspect that our weekend morning walks around Schiller Park are a bit less enjoyable for Betty. 

On our weekday morning walks, which typically occur at around 6 a.m., there are, at most, one or two other dogs that we encounter, and often we see no other dogs at all. 

On our weekend morning walks, on the other hand, we walk a bit later, and usually there are lots of other dogs out — some walking, some playing fetch with their human pals, and some frolicking with other dogs.  Betty is always alert to the dogs that are running free, and I sometimes entertain the notion of letting her off the leash to roam a bit.  She’s not specifically trained for that, however, and I just don’t want to take the chance that she’s going to run off and get into some kind of trouble.  So I keep the leash on, and we walk forward instead.

The weekend walks get tougher when, as happened this morning, some thoughtless person lets an untrained dog loose and the dog charges up to every other dog in the park — including Betty.  It’s unnerving to have a canine of unknown provenance run up to you and your dog with uncertain intentions.  Most dogs are friendly and just want to do the sniff routine, but there have been incidents at Schiller Park where dogs have attacked each other and done some serious damage, to the horror of owners and bystanders.  That’s why the park has a policy that, if you can’t exercise immediate control over your dog by verbal commands, you need to keep the dog on a leash . . . period.  Since there aren’t a lot of verbal command dogs, that means most dogs should be kept on a leash.

But, what’s the social protocol for what to do when some irresponsible person ignores that common-sense rule?  In today’s encounter, the owner of the roaming dog was some older woman who didn’t seem at all troubled by her failure to follow the rules and the fact that her dog was misbehaving and racing up to every other dog in the park.  Should the leashed dog owner say something, or is that crossing an improper line?  I have no desire to lecture people on following the rules, but how else are the rules going to have an impact?

It makes me wish that some dog owners could be put on a leash, too. 

For The Demure Dog

Many airports now have animal relief areas.  Often, the areas are just a square of bright green astroturf out in some corner of the concourse with a plastic red fire hydrant.  Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport is the first airport I’ve seen where the animal relief zone is a separate room with a closing door.

I think it’s a good idea, and I hope that more airports adopt it.  Obviously, the room isn’t in deference to the privacy interests of dogs, who don’t seem to care much who can see them while they do their business — or where they do it, for that matter.  Instead, it’s a nod to the sensibilities of those of us who are traveling and don’t particularly want to see a squatting dog 50 feet away from where we’re sipping our Starbucks Cafe Grande and trying to tune out the blaring CNN broadcast from the TV sets overhead. 

More and more people are traveling with “comfort animals” these days, and the animals are coming in all shapes and sizes.  As I moved through the Phoenix airport yesterday, I saw more dogs than ever before, ranging in size from a Shih Tzu clutched by her human pal to a fully grown standard poodle striding down the concourse.  I’ve even read about passengers traveling with miniature horses as “comfort animals” — which seems to really push the “comfort animal” envelope and show just how blurry the lines have become.

With the undeniable increase in animals in airports, airport facilities need to change to keep pace with the trend — and obviously making sure that there are places where the “comfort animals” can take care of their own comfort has to be part of that process.  It shouldn’t be an issue, because airports always have plenty of space and seem to be under construction at all times — so why not a simple room to let dogs, cats, miniature horses, cockatoos, and the rest of the traveling menagerie answer the call of nature?  

Amazon Is Everywhere

The depth of Amazon’s penetration of American popular culture is pretty amazing.  Last week, for example, we needed some white cranberry juice to prepare a seasonal cocktail we were making for a gathering with friends.  Kish went to several grocery stores in Columbus and couldn’t find any.  We decided to give Amazon a try, and sure enough, it offered Ocean Spray white cranberry juice — which was delivered to our doorstep the next day, with no muss and no fuss.  Pretty convenient!

But I had no idea of the stunning breadth of Amazon’s business activities until I got a surprise while walking the dog.

In our neighborhood, there are a few strategically placed containers where dog owners can get free poop bags.  It’s a good idea for the neighborhood, because it gives dog owners no excuse but to clean up after their pooches, and it’s a blessing for the dog owners who otherwise might be caught short in the crucial bag department.  The bags had been made by anonymous companies and featured cartoon drawings of happy (and apparently relieved) dogs — until now.  I stopped by one of the containers last week, pulled out two of the plastic baggies so I would have a ready supply, and saw to my surprise as I was putting them into my back pocket that they were from AmazonBasics and featured the familiar swish/smile logo.  So, Amazon has now made crucial inroads into the German Village canine poop bag market.

It’s hard to imagine that poop bags are a very lucrative, high-margin item for a supplier, but I guess if you’re aiming to dominate the supply of every product Americans might need, poop bags are just another item on the list.  And the poop bag itself makes it clear that Amazon isn’t just looking at America, either — the bags I took feature the suffocation hazard warning in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.

Achtung!  Amazon is everywhere!

 

Into The Barking Zone

Recently, our previously quiet little part of German Village has become a kind of barking zone.  Some new people have moved into the surrounding apartments with their dogs, and those dogs apparently like to bark.

Not all the time, though — just when I’m leaving the house in the morning and coming home from work at night.

A dog across the street seems to be the barking leader in the barking zone.  He stands with front paws on the ledge of the window of his home, barely visible in the shadows next to a curtain, looking outward.  From his dim outline and the nature of his bark, he looks to be some kind of hound.  When he sees me coming or going he barks and barks until he’s got to be hoarse.

After the pooch across the street starts up, dogs in some of the other places hear him and they typically join in from their homes, blending their more high-pitched yips and yowls and yelps with the leader’s deep-throated woofing.  Within seconds, we’ve got a fully developed canine cantata going on.

I’m not sure why I am the target of such furious barking, which doesn’t seem to happen with other random passersby.  There’s obviously something about my presence that the dog across the street finds disturbing, or threatening to his alpha dog status.  And although I’m curious about how the dog across the street picked me out, the muffled barking doesn’t really bother me.  It’s just become part of the greeting when I get home.  In fact, it’s kind of like my own little fanfare.

 

Eau De Wet Dog

Earlier this week, it was raining when Betty and I took our morning walk.  It was pelting down pretty hard outside as we circled Schiller Park, and by the time we got home Betty was soaked.  She did a few of the familiar dog shakes to try to fling off as much moisture as possible, and I did my best to towel her off, but when I finally let her off the leash and she scampered upstairs, the damage was already done:

2019097024-780x0Our house was filled, to every remote nook and cranny, with the distinctive aroma of eau de wet dog.

The bouquet of wet dog is one of those highly distinctive smells.  It doesn’t seem to vary much from dog to dog, or from long hair breed to short hair breed.  To paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s statement about pornography, you might not be able to accurately describe eau de wet dog, but you sure as heck know it when you smell it.  And once you smell it, you will remember the pungent, musty odor of wet fur and canine sweat and be able to immediately identify it for the rest of your life.

It’s not like one of those phony, instantly forgettable fragrances that people spray in their bathrooms.  No, the heady tang of canine cologne is clearly one of the most memorable smells in the olfactory catalog.  In the indelible odor category, it’s up there with wood smoke, a salty, algae-laden whiff of oceanfront air, or the inside of a brand-new car.

Not that you want eau de wet dog around your house, of course, but when you’ve got a dog in the house there’s not much you can do about it.

Dogfishing

Here’s another sign of how out of step I am with popular culture:  the new trend in on-line dating websites is to post a photo in which the person who wants a date poses with some cute dog . . . who isn’t actually their dog.

dog-yawningIt’s called “dogfishing.”  The underlying concept is that a picture with an adorable dog instantly communicates something about the life and personality of the person in the photo.  Dog ownership is associated with positive qualities, so photos with dogs convey, to some people, at least, that the person is a friendly, nurturing type who loves animals.  After all, if the dog in the photo evidently likes the person, that’s an endorsement of sorts.  Plus, the dog in the photo is something that the two strangers who connect through the dating site can talk about when they meet each other.

So some on-line dating app users — mostly men, apparently — have decided to latch on to the positive associations of dog ownership, without actually having to deal with poop pick-up, worms, shedding, and the other negative attributes of actual dog ownership.  They find a dog, get a consciously cute picture taken with the dog, ditch the dog, post their picture, and they’re off to the races.  Apparently they’re banking on making a lasting connection before the people they meet through the websites figure out that there is no dog.

I’ve read about users of on-line dating sites misrepresenting their physical appearance, employment status, education, and the like, so another bit of conscious deception probably shouldn’t be a surprise.  But, to me, taking a fake photo with a cute dog in hopes that some gullible dog lover decides to venture a meeting seems to plumb new depths in on-line deception.  What’s next?  Fake mothers?

A Cat In The House

After years — decades, even — of existing in my own cat-free zone, I’m back to living in a cathouse.  Richard and Julianne are here for a visit, and they brought their cat Froli and their dog Pretty along with them.

Even a non-cat person like me can see that Froli is a beautiful cat, with bright green eyes and jet-black fur.  She seems wary by nature, and it took a while for her to get her bearings in the new place.  Pretty, on the other hand, just plopped down on the floor like she’d been here a thousand times before.  Now that Froli is used to the place, she’s acting like she owns the place, too. No table, counter, shelf, or other surface is immune from a Froli prowl and exploration, and she’s apt to be found lounging and stretching just about anywhere.

We last had a cat back in the early ’90s, when we briefly provided services for an extremely haughty and diffident cat named Baby who vanished after we moved to a new house.  Since then, dealing with nothing but dogs, I’ve forgotten my cat lessons and lost my cat reflexes.  I’ve been startled by Froli’s leaping ability, her sudden movements, and her ability to silently appear just about anywhere when you least expect it.  She’s already scaled the screens on our windows and doors in her ceaseless quest to get outside and check out the neighborhood, and I’ve relearned the need to move quickly coming in and out so she can’t dart by.

When Froli jumps up next to you and hits you with her searching, green-eyed gaze, you wonder what she’s thinking.  With Pretty, on the other hand, you have a pretty good idea that she either (1) wants to be petted, or (2) wants to be fed.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a cat person, but it’s interesting being around a cat again.

Squirrel Sentinel

Russell’s dog Betty is here for a visit. At our house, her job is to protect our backyard from squirrel invasions. She sits atop the back steps, ever-vigilant, ceaselessly scanning for squirrel intrusions and the foul depredations that would inevitably follow if one of the furry rodents were to actually set foot in our yard.

At some point in the past, Betty’s ancestors must have had a serious run-in with squirrels. Betty carries around the genetic memory of that encounter in every fiber of her being. As a result, no house in the neighborhood is better protected from squirrel trespass than ours. The squirrels steer clear when our Squirrel Sentinel is at her post.

Canine Conenfreude

I always feel sorry for dogs that have to wear one of those neck cones.  They’ve got to be embarrassed.  Having to wear a cone shows that you don’t have the kind of control that a self-respecting dog really should have, and the only way you can be stopping from worrying stitches or constantly licking a wound is through some artificial restraint.  And, because you’re wearing an embarrassing neck cone, you can’t do what a dog needs to do — like chew from time to time on your back leg.

tmg-article_tallYes, I’ve always thought:  dogs must really hate those neck cones.

Now there’s proof of it.  Here’s an article about Barley, a golden retriever who lives in Amsterdam.  Poor Barley got one of those despised neck cones when he was neutered.  When Barley got the cone, he started moping around and not behaving like his normal, happy self.  Then his human family decided to see if Barley would feel better if they put one of the neck cones on the golden retriever stuffed animal that is Barley’s favorite toy and boon companion, and sure enough — Barley perked right up when he saw his pal in a cone, too.  You might call his reaction a bit of friendly schadenfreude.  In fact, you might call it canine conenfreude.

It’s nice to see a confirmation that dogs definitely have complex feelings, too.  Now if we could only figure out a way to test that The Far Side cartoon that postulated that dogs don’t like to stay inside playing the violin while other dogs are outside, pestering the postman.

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Dog Days Afternoon

Russell ‘s dog Betty is visiting for a few days. I took her for a walk this morning, and since then she hasn’t been straining at the leash to go outside into the dog days of summer. Staying inside on the cool floor with a bone is the preferred alternative.

Imagine being outside with a fur coat in this weather! Betty is one smart pooch.