Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life, death, hounds and haiku: my take on two dog books

Celebrate the dog
In poetry, art and song:
Please do so with verve.

I eagerly looked forward to  The Hound Dog's Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers. The team of Michael J. Rosen and one of my favorite illustrators, Mary Azarian, should be a winning combination.

However, I should have realized the task of using that meditative poetic form on a canine is something like putting together Mom and T'ai Chi: some things just don't go together, at least not in this volume. Mom's a fan of Rosen's The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems, but this collection just doesn't capture the uniqueness of the dog. I thought the rather abstract poems could almost could have been written about any creature.

For example, the Bluetick Coonhound's poem describes the dog resting in a straw-filled house. OK, but the creature really could be anything—a rabbit, say. The notes that Rosen provides do explain his thinking around the poems, but for me, and for Mom, they just weren't doggy enough. I'd like to see the pawing at the bedding, the settling down, the getting up again to rearrange the stuffing, the circling around to tamp things down just right, and maybe the big sigh when that perfect ratio of stuffing to dog is achieved. Most of the other poems fell short for me. Too bad.

A pet's death is just about the worst thing in the world, and I thought nothing could match Cynthia Rylant's Dog Heaven. That book was so true that it made Dad cry after Sparky died. But Mom and I both approved of Barbara Walsh's Sammy in the Sky (though we don't love the title), illustrated by Jamie Wyeth. Sammy's a hound who's lucky enough to love and be loved: he's "the best hound dog in the whole world."

Now, you might think I could disagree with that statement, but I know that to a child, their dog is the best. That's the way it should be. And it's OK to grieve when that best-loved creature is gone. Jamie Wyeth's paintings add much beauty and emotion to this story. Paws up.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Santa Paws is coming to town: a Buddy Dog fundraiser

I've barely digested my turkey, and the packages are piling up like a UPS warehouse. It's crazy. With all of the activity, I've been demanding Milk-Bone tolls from the UPS and FedEx drivers, in addition to the usual extortion from my favorite USPS driver, B.T. B.T. only delivers my treats, not my mail, so there's no conflict of interest.

Last week, a FedEx guy who was woefully untrained just didn't get the hint. He was stopped at a light; I heard his truck. I immediately and purposefully plopped, across the road from his open door. He looked at me, startled. I pointed my nose at the place where he should deliver the treat. Nothing arrived. I pointed again. And again. I mean, did the guy not understand my sign language? He must either have been exhausted, out of Milk-Bones, or new on the job. Finally, to appease me, Mom threw a treat at the appointed spot, the light changed, and off we all went.

The aptly-named Moose needs a home. Sooo handsome!
Fortunately, Santa would never be caught short-Milk-Boned. So on December 10 from 10-3, head on over to have your holiday portrait taken at the Blue Amrich photo studio, 444 Great Road, Acton, to benefit Buddy Dog Humane Society, to which I am ever grateful. Blue Amrich specializes in equine, canine, and yes, feline photography. Call 978-264-4444 to book an appointment, or just walk in. Sleeping Bear Jewelry will have its pet-themed necklaces, charms and more available, with 20 percent of proceeds going to Buddy Dog.

Speaking of Buddy Dog, check out this super handsome guy (could he be as handsome as moi?) who's at Buddy Dog right now, ready for adoption. Let me tell you, foxhounds make great companions. Just be prepared to train all of your delivery people to toss Milk-Bones in the right direction.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Count your blessings, and Happy Thanksgiving!

While I forlornly chewed on an ancient bone, my folks sauntered off to the country to catch a bit of the Norfolk Hunt Club's annual Thanksgiving Day hunt. The pageantry! The rural setting! The glorious colors! The sound of the bugle! The baying of the hounds! They went on and on about this wondrous event, rather than counting their blessings that they have moi, a genuine foxhound, right here in their own home.
In fact, one would think they have had quite enough of hound baying, with no need to go somewhere else to hear it.
Showing off my stuff.
Last week Mom was threatening to send me off to the club's kennels, somehow forgetting that they most likely wouldn't have me. Who knows what I did: she was mad. "You'll have to fight for your food with dozens of other dogs! You'll have to sleep on the floor! And if it rains, you'll still have to go outside!" Eventually, she simmered down, when she realized how lucky she is that I'm part of the family.

That could be me, right at the front.
So just to show you all that I could run, right along with those other pups, I'm posting a pic of me in full swing. Also one of the hunt, because even though I didn't get to go, it does sound pretty special.

Friday, November 18, 2011

X-rays show I swallowed something I shouldn't have

I'm now feeling well enough to go on regular walks.
You know things aren't good when the vet opens up a discussion of your physical health by saying, "If you have unlimited funds..."

What Dr. Wolfus was suggesting was that me and Mom head up to Tufts Veterinary Medical Center, get me an emergency ultrasound, and find out just what that lumpy thing is in my belly. Or, we could wait and see if it's merely an upset tum.

Because it was bad enough getting wrestled onto the table to have a couple of x-rays, plus being made to have my weight checked (a svelte 84 lbs, in case you were wondering), we decided to wait. Plus, it was our first time seeing Dr. Wolfus, who in spite of his scary name, is exceedingly kind, gentle, and needless to say, given that I can't imagine a more difficult patient, patient.

I thought back to see which delicacy might be causing such distress. People do toss the most delicious, yet inappropriate, foodstuffs on the ground. On Sunday, I was trotting about in Wellesley Square and snuffled something under some leaves. It smelled so great that I didn't even look to see what it was. Mom immediately opened my alligator-like toothed hinges, one jaw in each hand, and looked deep inside. Nothing—already gone.

So neither of us knows what exactly I consumed. We're waiting for the radiology report. Keep your paws crossed that it's nothing too serious.

Update: All is well, and I am heading back toward full beastliness. Thanks goodness!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Posh new dog collar, leash and more on the way —just for moi!

"You may have extra hardware," warns a slip of paper on those put-it-together yourself sorts of things. Well, I do. Lots and lots of extra collars, leashes, harnesses that either are worn out, don't fit well, or Tucker-escapable. That's not including the so-called chew-proof stuff that I chewed through long ago.

Is this guy sneering at my hardware?  His isn't so great, either.
So Mom sent an SOS to Bob over at Handcrafted Dog Collars in good ole North Carolina, not far from my birthplace in the sunny South (Carolina, that is). Bob is plain old fun to talk to and got some laughs out of my doggone behavior. He even spent two days trying to think up a new design that would suit a stubborn hound like moi, before he realized it was an impossible task. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has been designed, built, thought up, dreamed, nightmared, that would in any way blunt my signature quality.

If I'm going to be stubborn, Mom figured, I might as well do it in style. And if you looked at my photo a couple of posts ago, I am over-hardwared. Prong collar, recommended by Elaine Stern, partly because a leash on a regular collar slips right off my slender little head, handsome though it is. Radio collar, also recommended by Elaine, for my famous stubbornness. Then, the collar that holds my tags. Too much stuff.

Bob is going to make something that goes just perfectly with my awesome coloring—dark saddle tan with black accents. Quite the step up from my mismatched gear. He makes everything himself in Wilmington and recently was putting together something fancy out of alligator leather for some lucky pup. He can do stingray, ostrich, shark, but I'm fond of beef, so I'm good with the cowhide. Thanks to Bob, not only will I be safe and comfy, I'll be stylin'.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another pet-people book? Pitooey to the plethora!

I'm a contemplative kind of guy and don't do puppy cute.
You know that the genre exploring the dog-human bond from the human standpoint needs to be over when even I say, "Enough!" That's how I felt when I read reviews of Jill Abramson's book, The Puppy Diaries, so that while her tale may be perfectly fine, and I'm sure very sweet, I just can't take any more.

Apparently, Bruce McCall feels the same way. In the Nov. 14 New Yorker, in a Shouts & Murmurs column titled Pet Books Proliferate, McCall takes off on a quote from Abramson's book and explores people's deep relationships with a special earthworm, a withered spider plant, and an extremely cute potholder. All meet a sad, but touching end.

Now, I'm fascinated by science's attempts to demystify the canine psyche. I'm all for research. But no more cutesy memoirs, please. However, don't you think there's room for a book exploring the canine-human bond, from the canine perspective? I certainly do.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Boot camp: brutal, but effective

Grateful? I don't know, but my profile is awesome.
"It's like Cesar Millan came to Wellesley and worked a miracle!" Mom squealed. Now, Mom is prone to exaggeration, so I must tell you that while Cesar the Great did not show up at our door, he's got an unofficial East Coast counterpart.

I was the dog who wouldn't go. I wouldn't go forward, I wouldn't go backward. Tons of products exist to keep dogs in check. But what was the answer to get me to go? Mom despaired while I ruled.

The answer turned out to be Elaine Stern of The Grateful Dog (there's a misnomer!) Elaine doesn't come with a camera crew, and you don't have to submit audition videos to validate that you're a genuine worst case. Having known me from her puppy training classes, Elaine didn't need any proof of my stubborness. In fact, she had probably been expecting Mom's frantic pleas for some time now.

Given that Elaine's been visiting over the last month, putting me through my paces, and with Mom trying (valiantly, but not so successfully) to follow up, I've been exhausted. Hence, my less frequent posting. Frankly, if it weren't for the call of the food bowl, some days I would have rather stayed in bed. Dad, as always, remained on neutral ground, wisely staying out of the process.

As part of my training, Elaine took note of lots of things: the flipped-up couch cushions, my eating habits, my weight,  my sleeping places. Among other keen observations, she felt I was a bit tubby. "He's not in any shape for hunting right now," she said, not that I would dream of it. "He wouldn't get very far." She did, however, approve of my beds, all of them: Serta Perfect Sleeper, double; Sealy Posturepedic, single; armchair, large. "Big dogs need to be off the floor."

As a result of boot camp, I now condescend to an afternoon walk in my very own neighborhood. Before, a steak could have been on the front steps, the door open all the way, and I would have just looked askance while lolling in the front hall. Now, I get up and head out, like a regular dog.

Too bad Mom didn't make those videos. Because if I had been on TV, I bet I would have my own driver right now, taking me wherever I wanted to go. No walking required.