Monday, April 25, 2011

Dogs vs. Roadtrip: Part One: Nivek

     Ah, Easter, or for some of us, a four day weekend, well, if you book it off, that is, and I did.
     Often when holiday time comes, I work through it.  I stay at home with the dogs and generally avoid the six hour drive from southern Ontario (Canada) to Lake Nipissing and Jeremy's parents house on the beach.  It's a long drive, there's a lot of traffic and you spend about as much time driving as you do visiting, so much so that it hardly seems worth it.  But every once in a while I get tired of staying at home by myself like a loser.  I also get very, very tired of the city, and this year was one of those times.  So, I went to Jocko Point with Jeremy.  However, if I go, the dogs go.
     After a lot of humming and hawing about it, I decided that six hours in the back of the Volvo with Duke and Nuka stepping on his face would probably be too much for the elderly and arthritic Nivek.  Sure, Nivek would have a good time once he got there, sleeping on the porch, prancing in the lake, but he would have to survive the trip first, and I was unable to convince myself unequivocally that he would.  This conclusion lead me to:

     Road Trip One: Take Nivek to my parent's house.

     My parents live about two hours away, and it just so happened that the only way to get Nivek to my parents was in my car, so to prepare for this 'vacation,' I brought my sixteen year old sedan into the shop last Friday.  It ended up sleeping over in the garage until Saturday.

Money: A small price to pay for peace of mind.
      So, one oil change, one seasonal service and two sets of front brake pads and rotors later, I was on my way.
     I worked all week and rose early Thursday to do a pre-drive to my parents house in Wallaceburg before our actual trip to Jocko Point on Friday because in Jeremy's words, "I am not driving two hours in the opposite direction of where we are going and then driving to where we are going."
     A valid point.  I left home later then intended Thursday, but otherwise the trip to Wallaceburg, however brief, was both successful and uneventful.  I didn't even get lost trying to find my parents new house in their new town, and if you know me, you know that is no small miracle.  I can also report that I was able to brake successfully every time.  Phew, good thing I spent that three hundred bucks!
     So, Nivek brought all of his crap and made his way into Grandma's house.  In the first thirty seconds he took a huge poop in the yard and then laid down in the middle of the kitchen floor.  None of the cats rose to greet him.

Nivek in a highly agitated state.

     As you can no doubt see from the picture, Nivek was very upset when I left him at my parents.  Thankfully, he will have some feline company to help ease the pain.  As you can see here, Mortimer is trying to comfort him.

     Clearly Mort is a stand up guy, and as if that wasn't enough, there is also Callie and Ichabod for Nivek to not play with over the course of the weekend.  I couldn't find Ich for a picture, but here's Callie showing about as much interest in Nivek as she ever has, and likely, ever will.

     When I left Nivek, he was snoring peacefully on the kitchen floor and did not notice me leave.  I feel fairly confident that I have left him with every possible thing he could ever want or need (food, leash, eye drops, pill pockets, Busy Bone, Rollover Bone, bowl, treats, antibiotic ointment, vet wrap, collar, toy, bed, hip and joint medication) and my mom with some emergency contact numbers in case a tragedy should occur.  I feel as good as I can that Nivek will survive Easter weekend at my parents.  Whether or not I will is a completely different story.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dogs vs. Literature

     This week's post was supposed to be called Dogs vs. Spring, in the realm of my mind, anyway, but something happened this week that is still bothering me because I'm a crazy person and dwell on insignificant subjects, so I'm going to write about that instead.  I can only hope you will humour me.
     I don't have cable, that is a very long story, but I don't.  So about once a week I watch a movie.  I live in the strange, mythical, backwater igloo of Canada, and one strange and curious thing that just arrived here is Netflix.  I have this. 
     A few nights ago I watched Of Mice and Men.  Now, I have read this book, but it was a while ago.  Anyway, (spoiler alert if you somehow are unfamiliar with this book!) the part comes along where they convince Candy to take his old dog out and shoot it.  They want to do this because the dog is old, useless and smelly, or so they say.  Then Candy can get a new, more useful dog, yay!
     Long story short, I was disproportionately upset by the shooting of the dog, as was Candy.  What is wrong with these horrible people?  Candy loves that dog, you stupid goons!  Can't you see that it is his only friend, his only love in the world?  Can't you see that it is his only company, his only true friend?   Why would you take the dog and shoot it?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  ARRRGH! 

     See?  Disproportionately upset.
     This movie incident comes on the heels of a book I just finished, The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, (spoiler alert if you haven't read this book!).  At the risk of hatin' on an award winning book, I thought it was okay overall, and only okay, but again we have an elderly black lab named Gyp, beloved by all who encounter him.  Gyp is described in intimate detail, the adoring and adored pet of a fading family.  Now, I'll give you one guess what happens to Gyp, just one.  Your clue is that he is an animal in a book.  What could possibly happen to Gyp, the elderly black lab?
     That's right, he gets killed!  Shocking!
     The list of animals killed in literature is long, but Gyp inspired a rather motivated conversation at my fiction critique group which I won't bore you with, suffice to say I will make a concerted effort not to knock off a bunch of beloved pets as a cheap literary mechanism in my own writing.  It's upsetting to those of us who are apparently way too sensitive about some things, and not at all sensitive about others.  I have no problem at all with writers killing off people through various violent means, murder, torture, natural disaster, nuclear annihilation, and other duplicitous activities preformed every second of every day by human beings to other human beings.  I don't know why it's okay for horrible things to happen to people in books, and not to animals and I don't really care.  All I know, is that it is.
     Perhaps it is because I am myself in possession of an elderly dog that is not particularly useful and does not smell particularly great, but days later I am still pissed off about Candy's dog.  Maybe Steinbeck couldn't think of anything else, or maybe he really wanted to foreshadow Lenny's death in a particular way, but let me just say this.  If anyone ever tried to shoot my old, stinky, useless dog, they'd have to take me out first.  Is that going too far?  Maybe, but I'm okay with it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Random Destruction

     Ordinary sounds that surround you quickly become part of the background.  You hardly notice them, the tick of your office clock, the hum of your laptop, birds twittering outside.  There are only two reasons that you do notice them, one is that they stop, the other is that a new one is introduced.
     Sadly enough, I know the sounds of my dogs.  I know what one of them is coming up the stairs, I know who is lapping out of the water bowl and who is barking (or hounding) at the poor mail lady.  I also know when they are up to no good, unfortunately, I usually only know that when  it's too late.
     It is important to note here that on the whole, my three dogs are not destructive, at least not on a large scale, and Nivek, not at all.  They do not eat furniture, like a couch or a king size bed, for instance (example: Ollie, a boarder collie and Elias a bull mastiff, two dogs I know).  They do not raid the kitchen, (example: Hunter, a German shorthaired pointer, broke into the pantry and ate all his dog food and three tomatoes.  Dallas, a black lab mix that can only be kept out of the refrigerator with a truck strap).  So, I really shouldn't complain, but it still doesn't make it any better when they do wreck something, and this week, it happened twice.
     The first wasn't a big deal.  I left a shopping bag full of stuff I just bought in the middle of the kitchen floor to check my phone messages; that was my first mistake.  When I came back downstairs, this is what I found:
Why hate the throw blanket?
     For some reason, there was a hate-on for a small throw blanket that I bought and the label suffered thusly.  I uploaded a video to YouTube of Duke getting in trouble for it, see sidebar.  Duke likes to take things out of bags.  As a side note, I am wearing two different socks in the video, that is how awesome I am.
     The second was worse, more for the potential danger than anything else.  I was sitting in my office, innocently working away when I heard the unmistakable sound of crunching plastic.  There is no good coming out of this sound, so I ran downstairs, and this is what I found:

Not a trace remained of the BBQ chicken.
     What is this, you ask?  Well, it's the plastic tray from one of those ready made BBQ chickens you buy from the grocery store, the lid is still on the counter.  What is missing, you now ask yourself?  THE CHICKEN.  If you look carefully, you will see that the top of the black part of the tray has a nick out of it.  This is where Nuka, (no doubt about the culprit) started to consume the tray once the chicken was gone.
     But how did Nuka get the chicken?  Surely she is not so unruly that she would steal it from the counter top, she is a lady, after all!  No, of course she wouldn't.  Nuka would never, ever do that.  So how, then?

Basset Hounds: Taller than you think.

     Ah ha!  Duke.  Yes, that's right, they are now working together, against me.  The real shame of it all is that Duke did all the work, and Nuka reaped all the rewards.  Thankfully she did not choke on any bones and everything seems to have 'passed' through without incident, this time, anyway.  Who can say what they're plotting next?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nuka vs. Shih Tzu

     Bah!  Bah, I say, to the random wandering dog!  As if Bailey Hackles wasn't enough, (and he was, oh, he was) this morning we ran into a random, wandering Shih Tzu, which will be henceforth known as Small Fry.
     It was a lovely spring morning, and around seven thirty am, as usual, I took my canine brood forth for their morning stroll.  All was well and we were progressing innocently enough.  It was the kind of walk that I like the most, the kind of walk where no one is out and about and my dogs and I tour the block uninterrupted.
     Alas, it was not to be.
     We went around a corner and started up a walkway between the back of some townhouses and a fence and what should I spy, but a gallivanting Shih Tzu heading straight for us, completely unattended.  Unlike Bailey Hackles, Small Fry did not appear threatening in the least, but also unlike the Bailey Hackles incident, this time, there was a Nuka.
     A big, giant, awful Nuka.
     Being a friendly sort, Small Fry ran right up to my three dogs without the least reservation and proceeded to strike up a friendship.  For two out of the three, this was fine.  For Nuka, it meant a berserker freak out of epic proportions during which I looked like the most incompetent dog handler of all time. 
     Maybe I am.
     That, is besides the point of this particular story.  For about five minutes that felt like five hours, I attempted to restrain my giant, awful dog and made enough of a ruckus doing so that the owner finally came to collect his dog without a word, apology or note of concern and to him I say, well, you can imagine what I say.  I sincerely thank the elderly woman who came over from a nearby parking lot to see if everything was all right.  Thank you, my good woman, for caring.
     One of the great mysteries of Nuka is her on leash behaviour.  When Nuka sees another dog on leash, it is difficult to determine whether she is so excited  by the dog that she literally can't control herself, or, adversely, she wants to eat the dog's face off.  I have yet to determine a test for this that won't potentially end in tragedy.  In any case, we came home and Nuka and I drove straight to PetSmart.  I thought we had moved passed the Gentle Leader, I was wrong.

Buzz Lightyear, Nuka and Nivek.  No small dogs were harmed in the taking of this photograph.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dogs vs. Trail Walk

     Sometimes when I'm done work I take the dogs down a trail where they can be off leash.  This is an incredibly poor idea in many ways, but I am of the opinion that if I never give them the opportunity, they will never learn to be off leash.  My arms need a break.
     I have done this a few times before, but always in the winter when the trail is surrounded by high snowbanks on each side that kind of wall them in.  Monday I took them, and now that the snow is finally melting, the creek and fields are clearly visible and also more accessible.  I took them anyway.  It's a fairly isolated area, how much trouble could they possibly get into, those who are doomed to fail silently ask themselves?
     As usual, Nivek is not the problem.  He trots along, usually behind, breathing heavily and trying to keep up with his much younger brethren.  Duke does what he was bred to do and sniffs, sniffs, and sniffs, trying to keep up with Nuka on legs that are a quarter of the length.  It is Nuka that enjoys this time the most.  She's young and powerful and she rips up and down the trail with a muscular grace that I don't normally associate with her lanky, goofy body.
     Overall, they were pretty good.  Nuka took some liberties with distance she hasn't before, but she listened and didn't chase anything, she also lost her pretty pink collar, the only thing that lets anyone know that she isn't a boy.
     I learned three things on this particular off leash experience.  The first is that Nivek can't do the trail anymore.  He huffed and puffed and tried so hard to keep up that the next morning he could barely stand up.  His arthritis is just too much.
     The second is that Nuka really does look like a boy.  In lieu of the pink collar, I put on Nivek's old leather one, and yes, yes she does look like a boy.  I don't particularly care if people think she's a boy, but I don't want her to get a complex.  If no one treats her like a beautiful lady, she will never act like one.  Man, I couldn't keep a straight face while I typed that sentence.
Why can't anyone see that I am a beautiful lady?  WHY?
     Third, is that my pure bred education continues.  Even one quick google on Basset Hounds will lead you to believe that to let one off leash is about the same as picking them up and throwing them into oncoming traffic, so impaired is their ability to hear and respond to a human command.  Now, granted I have my own opinions about Duke's overall intelligence, but this was his second time on the trail and he was great.  Sometimes, he falls behind to sniff, shockingly enough, but he always runs to catch up.  Not to me, mind you, but to Nuka.  I can call him all day and he won't even flick a giant ear in my direction, but the minute Nuka is out of sight, those stubby legs really start to pump.  Maybe it's not so much that Bassets don't listen, they just don't listen all that well to people.  You can't blame them, really, I don't like listening to most people either.