Monday, November 15, 2010

NY Times disses dogs twice on front page!

I'm steaming: two articles demeaning dogs on the Times' front page in the same day! Above the fold!

The first, Doubts Rise on Bedbug Sniffing Dogs, about dogs who mistake other bugs, such as rodent mites, for bedbugs, casts doubt on the ability of my sniffing cousins to detect these miniscule but horrible creatures.  What's the problem? asks Mom. Are dogs expected to identify each bug by genus and species?  Besides, any bug inside the house is a bad bug in Mom's book. Wouldn't you be grateful if a dog identified some rodent mites in your house?

Demeaning piece #2: a story, Cats Lap With Just Tip of the Tongue, trumpeting the amazing physical abilities of cats to lap up their milk. No kidding. The story even had stop-motion photographs to demonstrate this apparently incredible feat. Not only that, the author felt compelled to compare it with the water-lapping technique of dogs. Writer Nicholas Wade calls the sound accompanying my slurps "unseemly" and "crude." He even goes so far to write: "Cats, both big and little, are so much classier," attributing this judgment to several engineers.

Now, dear reader, do you really think these scientists made that evaluation in their report in Science? Or is the value judgment simply one made by this seemingly biased writer?

I went to the source, Science's November 11 issue.  I learned quite a bit about lapping kinematics, including "gravitational collapse," "pinch-off" and "mouth closure" factors, as well as the suction abilities of horses and sheep. This fascinating reading aside, the scientists do mention the "elegance" of the cat's method but make no invidious comparisons. Dogs scoop water into their mouths. And what, exactly, is wrong with that? Works for me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dog walking samaritan helps woman, builds community

Walking home from a small adventure, I was thinking about how lucky humans are to have dogs. We help them build community in ways they might not think of themselves.

As I was having this epiphany, I ran into Mom's friend Josh and a visitor from Portland, Oregon, where people are so friendly an Easterner might think they have an ulterior motive. Josh is a Natick selectman (whose dog Buddy was not a friend of Sparky's but anyway, that's how we know each other) who, among many other goals, is trying to make life easier for walkers. He'd like to see Wellesley's Crosstown Trail linked to Natick's aqueduct trail. So would I. I'd also like a trail behind the businesses on the west end of town so that I don't have to risk my life walking along Rte. 9 to get to the Crosstown Trail. I might get to meet more dogs, too.

But I digress. On our walk, we met up with my pal Brinkley and her mom, and decided to hike together. We came upon an older person who had fallen, and while Brinkley and I tried to alert the neighborhood, Mom helped her get up and brought her home. Another dogwalking friend, who lives around the corner, promised to check up on her.

That's just one example of how dogs build community. Without them, who would be out and about? How would humans meet each other?

BTW, just got some mail. Lost my I.D. last week at Lake Waban and received a phone call, then my tag with a note enclosed, wishing me happy trails and signed Willow H., with pawprint. I'm intrigued. Another community building opportunity—or could it be romance?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ah, Chicago! and all that jazz...

Can't sleep thinking about the verve, vibe and vivaciousness of Chicago, Wellesley High School's musical. It's fab, and if you can, snag the balcony seats that are released a half hour before the show (tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30; tomorrow afternoon at 2).

Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have a marabou feather float into your hand as you applaud the incredible efforts of cast and crew (my sister's the stage manager). That's what happened to Mom, who actually sewed those white satin, marabou-trimmed costumes that are in the closing number, Nowadays.

Here's where I made my entrance: why should Mom be the only one to try on those gaudy creations? While she was so doing, I leaped up for my turn. What was the problem? My paws were clean!

I was so excited that I needed a nap, immediately. Show business is exhausting!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall forward! Spring back!

My dad can be a tad contrary. It's mostly a good thing. Mom says that because he thinks differently than most, he's able to be creative. That's when she's feeling generous. Other times, she has been known to accuse him of having uncommon sense. Because after all, what's common about him?

So it makes perfect sense for our rather special family to be confused about Daylight Savings Time. Once, when Dad visited a nursing home, a resident asked which way to change the clock. "Fall forward," Dad said, and impressed by his great confidence, the poor woman ended up being two hours out of whack.

Twice a year, we rely on Grandma to set us straight. Hope she calls tomorrow! Of course, I have my own very reliable internal clock. But, just to support my dad, I'll use the confusion as an excuse to get some extra shuteye. Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Immense, mammoth, monumental—Giants!

Having just demolished, in less than 10 minutes, a bone deemed "Colossal" by its maker, I am generally in favor of things that are large.

So I salute the San Francisco Giants on their titanic win, and also would like to give a plug to my pal Dan Fost's history of those Giants. While not hefty nor voluminous, Giants Past & Present is extensive, informed, beautifully illustrated and organized, and of course, extremely well-written. The Dan himself predicted their whopping win this year in a blog post on
... this year feels different. I know, I know, we should not get ahead of ourselves and predict a Giant victory – but I can’t help but feel that this team has what it takes for that ultimate Champagne shower.

Dan goes on to give 13 reasons why the Giants will win. He was right, and his tremendous book is right, too, for that special Brobdingnagian baseball fan.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why did the turkey cross the road?

Clearly, he or she wanted to check out the new striping on Central Street, which has just about everybody confounded.

He also might have questioned why the striping was done before any repaving, but that question is better left to higher minds than his. Such as mine.

However, I enjoyed seeing him early of a morn, the sun just peeking up over the evergreens and the shimmer of water in the distance. It's my kind of weather, cool, dry and of course, sunny, so I've been packing a lot of vim and vigor into my day, as I told my pal Lucy's parents.

What's vim? you ask. Well, Lucy's folks conveniently have a large dictionary on a pedestal, so you can just look up words whenever you like. Vim: energy; enthusiasm, of which I have more than enough.

So to contain some of same, Mom tried the Easy Walk harness on me. Or, I should say, retried; perhaps she forgot that the problem with the harness was not that it had problems containing me but rather that it should more properly be called the Easy Balk harness.

For that is what I did, dear reader.

Stood there, simply stood there, until she was out of her mind. I knew she was out of treats, so guess who won this round of patience? When I want, I can be very, very patient. Very, very patient.

Fortunately for Mom, the mail carrier didn't know that we were engaged in this secret war, and he pulled off the road to greet me. Bored as I was, it was a relief. Plus, I nabbed a few more calories, just in case I did walk off —or, should I say, balk off— a few during my outing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween howling: be heard!

Tonight is Worldwide Howl at the Moon Night, and I say, why should tonight be any different? At least I'll have some others joining me in song, so my howls (or bays, to use the proper term) won't be so obvious.

Fat chance.

Anyway, I'm glad that others will try to express themselves. Today I read The Dog Who Cried Wolf by Keiko Kasza, about a pup named Moka who reads a book about wolves and runs out to the woods to get back to his roots.

Unfortunately, when he does realize his dream of howling at the moon, some wolves howl back, and scare the fur off of his little self!

Because I can howl, or rather, bay, anytime I want, I have no such desire to take off and live au naturel. Besides, in all my hikes through the Hunnewell Woods, I've never seen a king-sized bed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Incessant, unceasing barking, definition of

This post was inspired by the unceasing, or is it incessant, barking of several dogs in my neighborhood, most small and yippy, one large and menacing, but all annoying.

Being a rather quiet guy, I'm a bit puzzled by the commotion. Because (notice I did not use the word "since") I'm becoming known for my clear definition of terms, especially the difference between obstinate and obdurate, it occurred to me that I didn't quite know the difference between unceasing and incessant, or even if there was a difference.

So here's the deal: unceasing and incessant both basically mean "not coming to an end," which certainly is true of the noise around here (excepting of course, the immediate environs of moi, Tucker). However, incessant has a negative connotation, and is used when the unceasing barking has become unpleasant (in other words, immediately). The definition given for incessant is "continuing without pause or interruption."

The odd thing is, that after musing over these definitions this morning, this afternoon I went out for my walk, properly leashed, of course. One of the yippy dogs, improperly off leash, bounded out of her yard and attempted to attack me, several times, dashing forward, dashing back, baring her teeth and rolling her eyes in a most unseemly manner. Finally, provoked, I let loose with my sound of alarum usually reserved for the Siberian Husky (although it was the moderate version), but the thing kept approaching, gnashing its teeth and barking. Unceasingly. Incessantly. Annoyingly.

After it was all over, I went through the paces of my walk, but my heart wasn't in it, and when I got home, I went to sleep. Immediately.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Swellesley Inn: hotel for dogs?

Time for me to make a reservation for my own room, or so it seems. No sooner did Grandma finish up her visit than our cousins booked the place for the weekend.

What is this, a revolving door? A B&B? All Mom does now is bake muffins and wash bedding. It's ridiculous. What I want is a dedicated sleeping spot, and so I proved my point this week. First, I pouted in my beanbag. And I mean in.

Next, I took advantage of the guest-ready parlor (parlance for small living room just right for some good sleeping) and snuggled on the loveseat (white). However, I was not there long enough to pose for a photo.

Then, just as Mom was about to do more bedding, I scored the down comforter as I came back from my marathon walk. Notice I do look a bit embarrassed, but not embarrassed enough to move. In fact, thanks to the laptop, I still haven't gotten up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No trophy for me at Columbus Day gorge-fest

Ever notice how people must have food nearby at every opportunity, as if they were threatened with starvation if they didn't eat something for, say, an hour? It's as sure as fleas in summer, and I am onto it big time.

For example, last Columbus Day was a food bonanza. Natick hosted a big soccer tournament, and it's true, children did run around after a ball, but, to my nose, the food trumped play.  I was kind of like Templeton the rat in Charlotte's Web: I just couldn't stop gorging myself on rolls, hotdogs, hamburgers, whatever I found—discarded of course. I'm not even sure just what was on the menu, but if it smelled like food, I ate it. And it was everywhere.

My only disappointment was that I didn't receive a trophy. I showed up, didn't I? I ate my share of food, no? I ran around, yes? So what was the problem?

Besides food, many participants, whether winners or not, received trophies. That's something that Ashley Merryman of Nurture Shock says is a no-no. Not everyone wins, right? Well, I bayed and bayed, but somehow people were not amused. They just didn't get it. And I didn't get one.

But I did win. Because when I got home, Dad asked whether I had eaten yet. "Not officially," Mom answered. So I ate some surplus rations anyway, and that was just as good as a trophy to me. Actually, it was even better.