Sunday, July 31, 2011

Your Dog is a Reflection on You

Whether we admit it or not, our dogs are a reflection on us.

When I meet an uncontrollable dog, I immediately judge its owner. It's the same reaction I have when I see a bratty kid. I don't think, "what a bratty kid." I think, "what an asshole of a parent."

It's even more pronounced with dogs, since they're much more easily trained than children and have a larger desire to please their owner. If a dog is "bad," that often means their owner is either ignorant or lazy. And while certain breeds have certain tendencies, you can't blame your dog's breed - the only breed of dog that can not be fully domesticated is a freaking wolf.

Am I right to have these judgements? Usually. Sometimes I don't know the whole story. The Vick dogs have been rehabilitated, but I bet in the beginning, they were difficult. Someone walking a dog that they just saved from a terrible life is different than walking a dog that they raised from birth to be an asshole.

Most shelter dogs are like Michael Oher in the first half of the Blind Side. Good instincts and good heart, but no knowledge of how to fit in to every day life. I feel like the first day we brought Bea home, she looked at her dog bed and said, "It's nice, I never had one before."

It's because of judgement that I am super conscious of Bea's behavior. When I'm with Bea in the elevator, I'm always careful to monitor her. I try to prevent her from sniffing strangers legs, hitting anyone with her wagging tail, or bearing teeth at another dog. While it's pretty normal behavior, it's the same reason I don't want other people I'm with to be obnoxious on the subway. I get too embarrassed.

And before you think I'm overreacting, this is the same reason that people teach their dogs tricks. While training is good mental exercise, most people saying "look what my dog can do" are really saying, "look what I taught my dog to do."

So next time your dog gets out of hand in public, remember, that's YOU getting out of hand.

"Sit! Good human."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Dog is a Dog!

Over the last few weeks, we've gotten Bea to exhibit some dog-like behavior on occasion. She eats (most of the time we feed her) and she sleeps (most of the time she's alive), but getting her to play has been difficult.

She has chased Leah (Jacob and Jenna's dog) a few times. Leah is yippy and Bea seems to chase her as if to say "alright bitch, you want to play? Lets play." It's a hilarious time to watch a 42-year-old run around with a 10-year-old and play as if they're colleagues. I think there was a scene like that in "Of Mice and Men."

Anyway, we took Bea to the dog park Monday, and, well, she played. A LOT. There were a few dogs that were rolling around and chasing each other and generally being dogs. They were not aggressive and their owners seemed to be people who actually paid attention. So we let Bea in on the fray, and she took to it very well.

Bea was a lot smaller than the other dogs, so watching her try to poke her head in was a perfect kind of hilarious. There were a lot of moments where she was the freshman on the football team just trying to be noticed. Though she was faster then the other dogs - amazing considering her general philosophy on life is "slow and steady wins the race." I'm still trying to catch her sprint on video. By the time I fire up the camera, Bea has already stopped running. There's some mystical magic to her run that prevents it from being filmed.

Bea Arthur likes to watch.

If her park racing wasn't enough, last night we hung out with Jacob, Jenna, and Leah. And while Bea kept up her stoic Abbott to Leah's zany Costello (or her Dorothy Zbornak to Leah's Rose Nylund), she did do one amazing thing.

Leah has a squirrel toy just like Bea's, except it's half the size. And Bea went right for it. She wasn't playing with a ball like Leah was, or doing much of anything else. But at least she found a toy and played with it for a minute. She's still only bit her own squirrel a few times. So anything she does is a positive sign.

Take that, Mini Hank.

In a related story, Bea's squirrel is now named Hank Poseidon. Sara told me she wouldn't let me name it Henry because she dated a Henry, so she wanted to name it something ridiculous, like Poseidon. We compromised and named it Hank Poseidon, which I'm convinced sounds like a 1940s detective.

"Hank Poseidon, Squirrel Detective. And I'll find your nuts."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Kick My Dog

I don't mean to kick her. And I feel horrible when I do. But sometimes, I can't help it. But enough about Ike Turner.

I'm 6'4" - so the possibility of walking while watching where I'm going and watching Bea are very unlikely. Without her walking a few feet in front of me, there's no way both things can be in my field of vision. Every now and then when we're walking, Bea gets under my feet - and while I've never stepped on her, I have accidentally kicked her a few times. We always hurt the ones we love, especially when the ones we love are 20 pounds and have a tendency to walk under our legs.

I need to keep looking forward most of the time, lest we both be hit by a car, a skateboarder, or an errant hot dog cart (which did happen to me when I was a teenager). So this is just something I need to accept as reality. When I do accidentally kick her, I make sure to stop and show her lots of affection so she knows it was an accident. Hopefully that won't condition her into thinking you need to be kicked before you get affection. But enough about Tina Turner.

Anyway, Bea, if you're reading this, I'm very sorry and I love you. Also if you're reading this, holy crap, you can read.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dachshund Pollock

I have thought more about poop in the last few weeks than I ever thought possible. As I've told you before, Bea is a ridiculous pooper. There's the hunch, then a few steps, then another hunch - and that can go on repeat for several times.

Bea typically poops on dirt, but yesterday she kept hunching, pooping again, and hunching. All the way to the sidewalk. So while we pooper-scoopered most of it, there's only so much you can do on concrete. The rest remained like traces of spilled paint. Ahh, Bea - our little budding artist.

Since she's part Dachshund, we thought Dachshund Pollack was a good nickname. It was either that or Jackson Pooplock. Either way, she'll be exhibiting at MOMA soon.

Jackson Pollock should have called this one "Good girl!"

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bea Arthur and Her Irregular Sized Pants

My apologizes for the lack of blogging. My week in LA was insanely busy, and I only had one day home before I took off again for Philly and Baltimore (where I'm writing from). What'd you miss? We came home, Bea was excited, I left, Bea was sad. Now you're all caught up.

A bit more explanation - Sara met up with me in LA last Thursday, so we boarded Bea in her vet/day care for the weekend. Everything about LA made us want to have Bea there. Tons of parks, amazing weather, and Sara's cousin has a wonderful house with an enclosed back yard. Bea would have loved to sit outside all day and enjoy the sun. Well, we think she would - it's hard to tell, since she has all the emotion range of a shoebox.

We got back around 2AM Monday/Tuesday. Amazingly, with a checked bag and in the back of the plane, we got from touch down to our door in under a half hour. The bag was waiting for us, there was no line at the cab stand, and our cab driver drove like he was a dog chasing a ball. Not our dog, since she doesn't move much - but a dog that likes actually playing with things. Yes, he took our life in his hands - but we appreciated the extra 15 minutes of sleep we were able to get.

I had a few meetings on Tuesday, so I couldn't pick Bea up until the afternoon. When I did, she didn't go nuts at first, but once she smelled me (and realized I was her daddy), she started doing her patented butt wiggle. If you ever see it and it doesn't melt your heart, you don't have a heart to melt.

The staff at the daycare are falling in love with Bea, too - they were all gushy when I picked her up. It's hard not to - Bea doesn't cause much trouble and looks as sweet as a dog can look. Except for the separation anxiety, we really picked a winner.

Well, it may not be separation anxiety - it may be isolation anxiety. She seems fine when we leave and she gets attention from other people, which makes me wonder if we should just get another dog. Of course, that'd mean twice the work and twice the cost, so that will just be a wonder for now.

When I dropped her off Wednesday afternoon before I left, I really felt awful. Partly because we went to the daycare where they don't take pictures. And partly because I barely got to spend any time with her. I can't imagine how a parent must feel dropping their kid off at school every day. Unless their kid is an asshole, then it'd be pretty easy to feel relieved.

Wednesday night, Sara took her over to Jacob and Jenna's for a playdate with their dog Leah. Leah really brings out the dog in Bea. From what I'm told, Bea ran around like a dog possessed (which may be the only way for her to run). She also tried to hump Leah twice. It's clearly her attempt to show dominance, but funny when you couple that with her proclivity to mark outside, and her name being Bea Arthur. A female dog named Bea Arthur showing a few male tendencies is a special kind of funny.

We are hoping that as Bea adjusts to life outside the shelter, she'll become more and more doglike, and accepting of her new life. I'd bet it'd be easier if we didn't live in NYC (which can be like a cage sometimes). But each week that goes by, Bea is further and further from her life in the shelter, and hopefully conditioned to know she's not going back.

The other thing that happened while I've been here is Bea's new crate came in. We felt her old crate was too small - and even though she seems to enjoy the coziness of the old one, we wanted her to be able to sleep in a crate without smushing her face against the side like she was flying coach. The new crate is ENOURMOUS. The width and length are fine, because Bea is part dachshund. But the height is twice what she needs. Lets face it - the world was not built for long dogs with stubby legs. I would love to find a crate that is as stubby as my dog - her version of irregular sized pants. Odd, since Bea Arthur was also extra long.

Excuse me, do you have anything in my size?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bea Arthur Cross Promotion - Heartprint Pets

"Adopting Bea Arthur" was just featured by "Heartprint Pets." I did a Q& A about Bea and how rewarding it has been to add her to my life. If you're interested:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bea Arthur Cross Promotion - Furry Four Legged Foster Friends

"Adopting Bea Arthur" was just featured by "Furry Four Legged Foster Friends." I did a Q& A about Bea and why it is so important to adopt instead of buy. If you're interested:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye, Yesterday

I'm writing this from a cross country flight, on my way to LA for a week of shows. My travel season is kicking back up again, which means leaving Sara and Bea, two things I don't want to do. Touring was a lot easier when I had no reason to come home.

Bea's separation anxiety complicates things. Instead of leaving her home and hiring a walker, we have to send her to daycare. It's not cheap, but it's a worthwhile investment to have a well adjusted dog. The good thing about this particular day care is the frequent posting of pictures to Facebook. We live in amazing times - I'm hurtling through the air in a metal tube 30,000 miles above ground at god knows how many miles an hour (really, he knows, he lives up here). And yet, I just got a picture of how my dog is doing in day care.

How's she doing? Adorable, that's how.

Knowing that I was leaving at 5:30 this morning, and knowing that I can't say goodbye when I actually leave, lest Bea start crying and barking, I tried to say goodbye last night. Before bed, I gave Bea an extra head rub and petting session. Of course, she was completely ambivalent. I can't go downstairs to move my laundry without her freaking out that I've abandoned her, but when I am leaving for a week, she barely moves her head. Ahh, women.

Sara will keep me updated til Thursday, when she joins me on the road - and then we'll just have to rely on the Facebook page. I have a feeling I'll be clicking "like" a lot.

Bea Arthur Cross Promotion - Shaggy Dog Stories

"Adopting Bea Arthur" was just featured by "Shaggy Dog Stories." I did a Q& A about Bea and how she's changed me, but this also includes a lot of editorial review about the blog, too. If you're interested:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Naked Dog

Normally, Bea wears a collar and a harness, and that's what we've gotten used to seeing her in. But we've realized that the harness is probably pretty itchy, and she's good about letting us put it on and take it off. So rather than make Bea uncomfortable to save us 10 seconds, we've decided to take it off around the apartment. The result of this is that now she's totally naked.

I know dogs are supposed to be naked - but when you get used to your dog wearing "clothes," it's especially funny to see her go au natural.

In the movie "Airheads," one of the criminals' demands is naked pictures of Bea Arthur, since they assumed no one has any. Well, now I do.

Bea! Put some clothes on!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bea's First Day of School

Since Bea's separation anxiety is clearly still there, we've decided that we will not crate her until she's fully trained. While it will make the next few weeks (or months) a lot more expensive and filled with hassle, it should give us years of wonderful, well adjusted dog. Well, if it works.

The problem is that, while I work from home often, I also leave for days at a time. Yesterday I had a meeting in the morning followed by a trip to Boston - so at 8AM, we took Bea to day care.

I feel like we should get her a Sponge Bob backpack.

We were wide awake at 8AM, both because we just got back from Europe a few days ago, and because Bea wakes up at 7, so we wake up at 7. Also because our stupid bedroom window is surrounded by a steel frame, making every conceivable curtain solution utterly impossible. Damn you, sun. Damn you.

Leaving Bea in someone else's care is nerve-racking, both because we want her to be happy, and we want the yippie dogs around her to stay alive. And if they yip too much, well, Bea will not be thrilled. She has not bitten (or even scratched) another dog - but she bares her teeth as often as the real Bea Arthur wore a floral print house dress.

We left Bea at City Vet, which lessens our nerves. They only have a few dogs, need piles of paperwork before admission, and take their boarded dogs on three walks a day. Also, they're a vet - if anything does go wrong, she'll be taken care of. And by "she," I mean whatever yippie dog Bea tore asunder.

Sara missed Bea tons, so she picked her up around 4PM and finished her work from home. The "teacher" said that Bea was fine. Bea bared her teeth a few times, but who doesn't on the first day of school? And thankfully there was no, um, finger-painting.

The takeaway is that the experience was good for Bea. Sara says Bea seemed calmer last night, and her separation anxiety was less palpable. I'd guess it comes from socializing her with other people and dogs, and showing Bea that her life is great with us, regardless if we're there in person.

It is funny that Sara rushed home to "rescue" Bea from her first day of school. I think we should let Bea experience a bit more, and try not to be as micro managing. Of course, I will also be driving home from Boston overnight.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There are Chicken Bones Everywhere

We got back from Europe wondering if Bea would even remember us. It had been 10 days since we last saw her. Since her fosters were watching her, she could have easily assumed that she only lived with us temporarily. I know dogs have no memory or sense of time - just conditioning. Hopefully we conditioned her enough to know that we = treats and love, and thus we are good.

She was happy to see us, though her butt wiggle was a bit muted. She was especially happy to see Sara. I think ever since we stopped letting her on the couch, my bonding with her has been cut down, since I spend most of my day sitting on the couch writing.

She was smiling more than normal though - the goofiest we've seen her yet. Compared to her usual stoic attitude, It was almost Joker-like.

I'll get you, Batman.

Walking Bea in our neighborhood is an experience. We have to be constantly vigilant, as there are somehow chicken bones everywhere. I don't know how or why it has happened, but we've seen three piles of them in the last 24 hours. There are no barbecues near by, and no packaging either. Just the terrible choking hazard for dogs. One pile was even next to a garbage can. Because eating the chicken and dropping the bones INTO the garbage can would be way too complicated. And this isn't a drumstick. This is a very large chicken that has been reduced to the skeletal remains of a very large chicken.

A few times in my life, I have seen a condom in the street. Not in the wrapper, just a condom. There are two explanations: one, it was used as a water balloon. Two, someone was in such a hurry to have sex that they couldn't wait to cross the street. Which is amazing, since they care enough about safe sex to put a condom on, but not enough to get out of the way of traffic.

The chicken bones remind me of that, because it's so odd to just eat a half a chicken outdoors and then toss the bones down. Both actions are very caveman-like. If I ever see a condom in the road surrounded by chicken bones, I'll know someone had quite the neanderthal party.

The good news is that Bea is not food aggressive - so if she gets to a bone before we see it, we can pry it out of her mouth. We are also slowly teaching her the "leave it" command, which will come in handy in our neighborhood.

Either way, it's great to have Bea back. Even if we have to avoid the perils of living with cavemen.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bea Arthur Cross Promotion - Nanny McFur

"Adopting Bea Arthur" was just featured by "Nanny McFur." They also did this cool thing called a blog hop, where they let a whole bunch of dog blogs ban together for a few days. So I am going to pitch in and join - see it below. Thanks!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bea Arthur Cross Promotion - Fur-licity

"Adopting Bea Arthur" was just featured by "Fur-licity." I did a guest post summarizing why I adopted a rescue. If you're interested:

Europe Vs. America

I’ve been in Europe for five days – one in Milan, two in Budapest, and two in Vienna. And I’ve noticed two main things about dogs in Europe: First, they’re everywhere. Second, I haven’t seen a badly behaved one yet. I wonder if there’s a correlation.

There aren’t many leash laws here (or at least ones that are enforced), yet I haven’t seen any dogs running around. There have been dozens that have politely walked by me with a wag and a smile, and dozens more that just walked by without acknowledgement. But I haven’t seen one jump up, try to eat something that wasn’t theirs, or even bark at a stranger. It didn’t matter how busy or quiet the street was, or how many noisy cars or tourists were whizzing by. The cultures of Milan, Budapest, and Vienna are quite different from each other, but all the dogs seem to behave the same.

There were dogs in supermarkets, on trains, and in restaurants. I can’t imagine it’s very sanitary (especially with lax pooper scooper laws), but it’s certainly friendly.

Right before I left the states, I had to leave Bea outside for the first time. I needed to walk her but I also needed to feed me. Since Sara and I were leaving for Europe soon, there was nothing to eat in the apartment. And pressed for time while running in and out to do laundry, waiting for delivery wasn’t an option either.

While on Bea’s walk, I stopped at a takeout place with a big open doorway, tied her leash to the railing, and went in to order. Though I came outside while they were cooking, the 30 seconds it took to order and 30 more it took to pay just seemed cruel. I could still see Bea while I was inside (and she could see me), but I was terrified someone would steal her before I could act. She is just that adorable.

I see dogs tied outside all the time, and it’s clearly because their owner has business to do inside – and inside is not a dog friendly place. And with what Bea did on the floor of Petco, I’d be terrified to bring her inside any store not designed to accommodate dog pee.

Incidentally, Bea LOVES Duane Reade drug stores. Or at least she thinks she does, she’s never successfully infiltrated one. But Bea tries to go in every Duane Reade we pass. Bea skips most restaurants, supermarkets, even pet stores. But when we pass a Duane Reade, it’s Pavlovian. The strangest part is that it doesn’t happen with CVS or Walgreens – just Duane Reade. Maybe because the first night we had Bea, Sara went in to Duane Reade briefly while we waited outside. It’s possible that Bea has been conditioned to think Sara is always in Duane Reade now, even when she’s the one at the other end of the leash.

While I was outside that takeout place with Bea, I was thinking about how it’s so cruel to leave my baby outside unattended, and everything that could have gone wrong. I also started thinking whether or not people would do that with their children. And my answer is a resounding “yes, they would.” I’ve read stories about the occasional parent leaving their child in a car while at a bar or a strip club. So if babies were not allowed in supermarkets, every Walmart in America would have a few dozen tied to the shopping cart rack.

It was interesting to see how well behaved the dogs were in countries that allowed them to go everywhere and do everything. While I still believe in leashing dogs (especially poorly trained ones), seeing dogs handle freedom gave me a new perspective on leash laws. If you treat people like prisoners, they act like prisoners. Maybe dogs are the same way. And maybe they understand that with great power comes great responsibility.

Or maybe they are just shy because they can’t translate.