Friday, June 29, 2007

The Vet


I’m a trusting sort. Not especially suspicious. An optimist really. This morning I was sleeping peacefully when I got taken out to the car. Dog park? Pick up a friend? No. Instead we end up at a vaguely familiar place—the vet’s office. I’m not sure what happened there last year, but it doesn’t quite feel like a happy memory.

As we walk in, three dachshunds started barking at me. The air smelled of dogs, many dogs, unhappy dogs. And just as I got past the barking, a black and white dog came hopping out of the back on three legs, with a big bandage on the fourth. He was making little crying sounds and not even looking at me. Then a lady came in with a sad white dog and shows a man the dog’s tummy to see if it’s healing all right. I sat on the cold tile floor wondering what they were doing to all the dogs here?

Another limping dog came out of the back with his leg bandaged and bloody. They were doing something bad to dogs’ legs back there. I could hear faint cries and whimpering. Then my human mom took me to meet a dog that was a little bigger than me. She has diabetes, they were saying. She almost died. I just wanted to leave before I caught some terrible disease or they started messing with my legs. I have been taken to some no-fun places before, but nothing this scary.

I jumped on my owner’s lap and tried to get her to leave. She just read her book and petted me. When the door opened, the crying and barking got louder as I literally got dragged into a little room. I tried to hide behind my owner’s feet, but she put me on a slippery table that felt like it was made of ice.

A woman came in who turned out to be the vet. She looked in my ears and squeezed various body parts. I wasn’t sure if it was going to get better or worse when I felt a sharp pain in my leg. That’s when I knew I was going to limp out of there with a big bandage and never run around normally again. I looked up and saw that the doctor had a glass needle full of my blood. What was the vet going to do to me? I started crying and howling. Loud. Other dogs joined in. They understood. The humans thought this was hilarious, God knows why.

Well, I got out with a small pink bandage on one leg, but at least I was walking on four paws. I pulled it off at home and the leg seems fine. Good thing I whimpered and cried a lot.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Presents


Have you ever received a present you didn’t like? It can be awkward. You know the giver is trying to be nice and has put a lot of time and thought into getting something really nice. But sometimes you really can’t stand the gift. In my case the bad gifts are usually edible or chewable or both. There have been cookies from gourmet dog bakeries and countless bones and chews and dried body parts from larger animals. I try to be polite because I don’t want to discourage presents. Many of them have been great like Ducky and the buffalo bone. I don’t want humans thinking I’m ungrateful. What’s a dog to do?

All winter I was given pigs’ ears as an apr├Ęs ski treat. (They were on the slopes, not me.) The first one was kind of interesting, but week after week it was the same. I just got sick of them. And they seemed to be getting bigger every Saturday. Finally I hid the last one. I stuck it in a corner, hoping my owners would think I cherished it so much, I was saving it for later. After a while they got the hint and starting giving me cheddar cheese instead. Muenster I hid.

If I get some gross animal chew that I really can’t even play with, I take it upstairs and put it under the bed or in a shoe in the back of the closet. My owners think I’ve eaten it all and they forget all about it. That worked really well until Avalanche came over. I love her dearly but she’ll eat anything. As soon as she came in the door, she smelled 5 bones and rawhides and got them all out. And it was the same today when Pica came over. She ran upstairs and found the lamb bone I’d hidden.

And that was from the dog store in Breckenridge they took me into. There were so many good things there, and I ended up with dried up lamb bone. It’s too bad they don’t put out a basket and let us dogs pick out our own treats. The more it looks like real food, the less I like it, except of course if it is real food off the table. The more it smells like real food, the worse it tastes. Give me dehydrated liver or salmon and buffalo jerky. A nice smelly treat that you don’t have to pretend to like and hide somewhere.

That's Mijo and Pica up top,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In the Park

Yesterday was another one of those really hot days. Great in the shade but the pavement was hard on the paws. It was a tossup between wanting to get out of here to explore or sleeping under the ceiling fan all day. But today is quite pleasant. Good sleeping weather almost anywhere.

Today Pica and I were chasing each other and wrestling in the park when we spotted a big puddle. When you’re thirsty, there’s nothing like a good, refreshing puddle. I like them big enough to cool my feet, and maybe even splash around in, while I’m having a drink. As soon as we ran over to the puddle, we got in trouble. Our owners were screaming at us but we pretended not to hear. Finally they came over and put us on our leashes because we had crossed the road. There wasn’t much traffic and we were way over on the side. I think people can really overreact about dog dangers. Always expecting the worst. If we’re out of the city, mine are always worrying about me getting eaten by a coyote or a rattle snake. It’s a little absurd, if you ask me.

Pica’s owner and my human mom are a little nervous because they got busted by the dog police together. It was months ago, right after all the snow melted. Pica and I were running around in the middle of the park when the white truck pulled right up on the grass where I didn’t think cars were allowed. Both our owners got tickets for letting us loose and it was a long time before they did it again. We had to sneak around behind the pavilion to run around. It was deliciously muddy for a while before all the flowers were planted, but now it is more like an obstacle course with squirrels. I can’t understand the harm of running around in the grass with your friends.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Home



Home at last. Seems the folks went to Rocky Mountain National Park and couldn't take me along because that would be introducing another species to all the elk and deer and coyotes and whatever else is there. I guess carloads of humans don't count as another species. I spent most of the weekend with a member of my own species, my pal Avalanche.

I don't really understand sometimes how we dogs can all be the same species and look so different. I know humans come in different sizes and colors but their basic shape is the same. You don't find a big variety of ears and tails on people. Sure their hair might vary a little, but no where near as much as ours. Sometimes at the dog park I'm not even sure what I'm sniffing.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Weekend Getaway

Today I noticed there are places where people live in the park. Inside the big fir trees, they leave their food right on the grass. No need to climb on tables. Sometimes people are still sleeping there when I go out in the morning. I have found some very amazing things in those trees. I really like the plastic cups and bottles. Nice to toss around and chew. Some taste better than others.

Had a fabulous evening last night. A visit to my friend Avalanche’s house with lots of time for wrestling and running around. Even a balcony where we could bark at dogs walking by on the street. We took a walk together and growled at people. I was relaxing on the couch and getting a belly rub from one of the guests when I noticed my humans were getting ready to go out the door. I jumped up to follow them and got the “stay, we’ll be back” line. Very odd.

So here I am, far from my own under-the-bed sleeping spot at home, having a pajama-less party with Avalanche. It is nice to get away for the weekend. Avie’s place is huge and we can run from one end to the other. And just enough furniture—beds, couches, but not a lot of other stuff to get in the way. I think my owners were crying when they left.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Illusion of Freedom

One morning, about six months ago, I was out on my regular walk when I spotted a squirrel running around in front of me. I lunged for it expecting to only go a few feet before feeling a yank on my neck. But this time I kept going. In fact, in those few milliseconds I realized I was free and could probably catch that squirrel—WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. I was a few inches away from that chattering red fur when I thought I’d break my neck. A sharp snap reminded me that I was attached to something, but this was something new and different. That was my introduction to the stretchy leash. That is a cruel contraption that gives you the illusion of freedom but can be deadly.

I have very mixed feelings about it. True I can run around farther, but it is a carefully controlled farther. And if I find some leftovers or decide to see if a man running by would like to pet me, I can be reeled right in like a fish. And that thought does make me feel sorry for the poor fish who, even if he is caught and released like some illegal immigrant, must be traumatized by the whole experience. How can he trust bugs or food after that? I can’t even fathom the alternative. Won’t even go there.

If you turn around a few times before pooping wearing one of those things, you can get rope burns in some pretty awful places. And when I get together with a friends, if both of us are in stretchy leashes it can get ugly fast. Don’t try rolling around in the grass attached to that thing either. But who can remember? I live in the moment. Off I’ll go, only to be reminded of it in some unpleasant way.

I try to make the best of it especially when I’m on the grass. After many experiments I have worked out a system. I sit down and relax until the stretchy leash is almost ready to pull and then I can run past my owner until I’m all the way out in front. That way I get a long run and a long rest.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

From a Dog's Mouth

A late walk around the buffet I call Capital Hill. A lot of not too hungry litter-bug diners tonight in the neighborhood. First there was the almost empty MacDonald’s French fry bag, then not one but two Popeye’s chicken boxes. In the first one I only managed to lick a few scraps of skin, but the second box was almost full. Of course at this hour some ants had discovered it first. And me, being on the end of a leash, I couldn’t get far, before the whole delicious experience was rudely taken away from me. Even the tasty ants crawling all over my face were all brushed off rather harshly. Then I come home to that dry food and they wonder why I have no appetite for it.

Why is it always these dry almost tasteless things they put in my bowl and I get in trouble for eating anything good? Then people think I am rude if I don’t gobble up the free bones they offer at the hardware store and the frozen custard place. Yes, frozen custard for people and Milk Bones for dogs. Milk Bones by the way are these bland “treats” that don’t taste like milk or bones. I have tasted both and I know. I’ve had milk substances a few times when I was alone with the table. There was the yogurt I licked off some strawberries early one morning(and a bad scene followed that one) and the half empty cups of chai tea I find once in a while. I think she has switched to soy milk and it isn’t half bad. I would eat a Soy Chai bone. And I like cheese. A nice goat cheese brie treat sounds good.

I am not an unhappy dog by nature. I make the best of what I find every day. I appreciate having food given to me. I just think if I find some snack I should be allowed to eat it.

It has gotten so bad on walks that I am yanked around regularly in certain spots. At the end of our ally there are piles of peanuts every morning. No, that’s only for the squirrels. Then there are lots of things around the dumpsters. No, that’s too dirty. I find a dead bird. No, it might have the plague. It’s a wonder to me that dogs even survived in the world with all the prehistoric cave dogs running around eating whatever they wanted. They didn’t have anyone taking fried chicken with ants out of their mouths.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Day Out


Spent the day in the mountains. Sounds wonderful but a big part of it was spent in an air conditioned car. Looked like it was going to be a hot day so we took off.

That “we” was a nice surprise because most of the time it’s, “You have to stay. I’ll be back,” like some old Schwarzenegger movie. I used to try to follow. For a while, they’d throw a treat to get me away from the door, but after a couple of times I stopped falling for that old trick. Then I tried my pantomime of sorrow and loneliness. I flattened myself down as much as I could under the table and looked up at them with tears in my eyes. Totally silent. No whimpering or howling which only aggravates everyone. But they’d leave anyway. That thing called work, I think.

After a while I figured out that being alone in the house wasn’t so bad. I could walk around on the table. Carry shoes downstairs. Nibble on things like the cardboard under the couch and the edges of books. And sleep uninterrupted for hours. No TV. No one walking around doing things. No vacuum cleaners, no washing machines. Peace and quiet.

Back to the mountains which were beautiful and cool. Still lots of snow on Loveland Pass where we stopped on the way. I met a nice Golden while the bearded one lifted his leg in the woods. We walked around Breckenridge. More accurately they walked and more or less dragged me. There was just so much to smell and see. I didn’t want to be rushed.

Breckenridge had a lot of nice dogs. I met two just adopted last week. They were in the rescue after some real hard times. Brothers and a little nervous about everything. Their new owners actually looked at me on my leash and told them to walk like that. I tried telling them that living in Breckenridge with these nice folks, who never had a dog and took both of you to keep you together, is going to be sweet. And that was before I knew Breck had a whole store devoted to dog treats and toys.

It was a real family day. Stopping at Starbucks for a drink and walk on the way home. And they even took some of the junk out of the back of the car so I could stretch out without getting tangled up in a bicycle tire.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Avalanche and Me

Why do people take dogs off the leash and then get upset when they run around and do what they want? If you don’t want your dogs chasing bicycles or rolling in horse poop don’t let them go.

Just yesterday my friend Avalanche and I were roaming illegally in a local park. It was barely dawn and no one else was there. Avalanche was thirsty and headed for a sprinkler. One thing led to another and soon she was after a squirrel and then a green bicycle on the road. She has a thing for bikes. I tried it once but I just didn’t get the point. What am I going to do with a bicycle if I do catch it? Then Avie’s owner mom was calling her and running after her and I got put back on my leash even though I was only sitting there watching the whole thing.

I felt bad for Avalanche. She was just enjoying herself and had no idea that she was doing anything wrong. She’s more of a free spirit than I am, which is why I like hanging out with her. Like at the big park, she will go anywhere and I just follow. She’s in and out of the water, running up and down the banks, and going after other dogs—in a playful way but she can look scary to some overprotective people. I get her going by giving some strange dog a little growl and maybe even a little jumping nip as we pass. It’s very fast and subtle, and surprises the other dog. When that dog reacts in the least bit, Avalanches lunges and starts growling, acting as if the other dog is after me. Then I join in and it’s the two of us sounding very mean. I can get away with more because I’m smaller. We’re a good pair.

Avalanche used to stay at my house before I lived here. She’d stay overnight when her human mom was away. She had the run of the house and was very happy and spoiled here. Then one day she comes over, and there I am. On the couch, on the bed, in all her special places. The only good thing, from her point of view, was all the chew bones that I’d hidden in the closets and she sniffed them right out. She still cases the house for hidden treats whenever she comes over. It took a few days. At first she was just a big friend. Then we both got a little confused and cranky. Whose house was this anyway? My bearded owner took Avalanche to work with him just to separate us for a day. She spent the day fighting with all the dogs at his work and now she’s banned from there. But that one day apart did us a lot of good. We had a big reunion and have been best friends ever since.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Learning to Play

I taught a dog to play today. She seemed a little depressed. Judging from the story her owner told, I can understand why. This poor man was driving in New Mexico when he stopped for gas and found Kirby.* She was what humans call a stray, just hanging around the gas station. When he found out she was homeless, the man felt bad and took her with him. He was from New York City so he knew a lot about homelessness.

Kirby was just kind of sad. I sniffed her and poked her but she just stood there looking at me as if I was crazy. She didn’t know how to chase a ball, which I personally find boring and regimented, but she looked a lot like the type of dog who might enjoy that sort of thing. I kept it up, running a little but she just didn’t take a hint.

Our owners started walking and she picked up a little speed as we followed. Then my owner did this really stupid thing that she does now and then when she thinks I am being too lethargic. She called me and started running a little as if she was chasing me. I’ll admit, sometimes – ok most of the time— I fall for it and think she is actually going to run around with me, and I start running. Suddenly Kirby understood and she started chasing me.

We had a lot of fun that morning. Kirby stopped worrying about where her owner was and just and ran around. I remember when I was like that. New to the city, in a strange place with two strange people. I didn’t even know how to walk up the stairs. It was very scary, not that life in a cage had been thrilling but you get used to things. Change is good, that’s my motto now. I’ll always jump in the car when I’m invited.

Before I came to Denver, I lived in the country with a few other dogs. We were in cages most of the time and ran around a in a little yard once a day. Of course, when they let me free so my owner could look at me and that lazy cocker spaniel who just stood there, I ran around like a nut. I hadn’t been free in months. They said something about me being hyper, but my owner could see through that. “He looks like he won’t shed,” she said, but I knew she was just trying to be tactful and not hurt the cocker spaniel’s feelings.

I was scared on the ride home and I even got carsick. I still feel bad about that sometimes when I sit in the back seat even though it’s been cleaned up. And then my stupid phobia about the stairs. That was before I realized that I could stand on them and look down on the table. And I can jump on the table from one of the chairs, but that is really frowned upon in our house, so now I only do it when no one is in the room.

I used to follow my owner around too. She was the only person I knew at first. That was before I got to know the bearded one, my other owner, who is much more likely to give me pieces of cheese and let me lick his beard and mustache. Kisses, he calls it. He is good at belly rubs and ear messages, and he never uses that wire brush on me. Now I run around whenever I am loose. But when they call my name, I’m happy to get back on the leash. For me it’s not a feeling of bondage which I’m not into at all. It just reminds me that I have a family and a home now. Kirby is starting to understand that now.

*not her real name

Feast Days of Summmer

Early summer and the smell of honeysuckle and the first roses in the air—and chicken bones everywhere in the city. Odd ones on the sidewalk and a plethora of crisp little bones everywhere in the park. This morning I found one near those two trees that have huge families of squirrels all year round. My owner begged and pleaded, and called my name in all kinds of voices ranging from baby talk to stern. Doesn’t she know the chicken bone rule? No dog is going to turn his back on chicken.

The first time I found a bone we were on some dreary sidewalk with very few smells. Suddenly my nose found this delicious little scent. Not like the sterile huge things I am given at home, bones that take months to chew. No this bone was tasty, still had some meat and gristle on it, and was very chewable. I had never tasted anything like it. It even had a light flavor of barbeque sauce. I will never forget that first time. And while I savored that bone, right there on the sidewalk, my owner did something she had never done before. This previously kind and loving person reached down and put her fingers in my mouth. She actually stole the bone. I was in shock. I was sniffing every crack in that sidewalk, trying to find that bone, when I looked up and saw her throw it into a tree where it stayed like a stubborn squirrel.

Those days are gone. I am not a mean dog. I am not a violent dog. But if I have a chicken bone in my mouth I will defend it. I will growl and snarl and even pretend to bite if I have to. Now I have trained my owner to leave me alone when I find some scrap of food. It’s true I am a little ADD and can be easily distracted. If I’ve put something down for a second and someone throws a ball or hints of a treat, I may look away long enough to have my found snack taken. But I am working on that.

As the days get warmer the park is like a buffet. All winter, with all that snow, I was lucky to find frozen goose poop and a jerky wrapper. Last week, on one short walk, I found some orange crackers under a bench, a hamburger wrapper, French fries with ketchup, and a chicken bone. The feast days of summer.