Thursday, November 19, 2009

Japan Has Dog People

ScruffyDog has been on a bit of a blog holiday... Actually, I was on a real holiday -- in Japan -- and dealing with all the craziness that happens when work compresses leading into and out of a vacation. We had a wonderful time. Mom house-sat with the grand-dogs and the neighbor was our dog walker.

Upon our return, after being away for two weeks, the boys were happy to see us and jumped all over us for at least five minutes...slightly longer than the greeting we usually get for being away for a day. I think we were even happier to see them.

For me, a vacation in another culture is such a departure from familiar things, it almost feels as if reality is suspended for a while. Even so, it doesn't take long for us to start missing the presence of our dogs. My husband and I joked that we were dog stalkers on the streets of Takayama and Kanazawa. We'd spot a dog, make eye contact with dog and walker, and soon we were petting the dog and all parties were smiling. It's been pretty easy to spot the dog-people in every country we've visited... They share knowing glances...recognizing the looks on our faces that say "we have dogs at home and we miss them, can we just pet your dog for a minute?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy 7th Birthday Paco!

Paco, a long time canine friend of this blog, Ashland dog park playmate and Kirby look-alike is celebrating his 7th birthday today.

Baxter, Kirby and the Scruffy Dog family wish Paco a rip-roaring, treat-laden, fun-filled day. Wish we could be there to help celebrate with a few laps around the dog park!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Kirby Likes Kohlrabi

We don't feed our dogs from the dinner table. But occasionally, over the course of dinner, a wee morsel of something we're eating accidentally makes its way to the floor. For years, if that morsel has been cheese, meat or anything sweet, Baxter is all over it. Veggies pretty much stay where they fall.

Enter Kirby, the veggie-loving dog. I have yet to drop a vegetable on the floor that Kirby didn't gobble up as if it were a liver biscuit. Carrots, potatoes, greens and tonight, kohlrabi. I wasn't even sure I would like kohlrabi. It's a relatively new vegetable for me. We keep getting it from our CSA farm and I'm never sure what to do with it. Someone recently told me "just slice it and eat it raw." So I cut this week's kohlrabi into little sticks and served it with some dip. Rather than double-dipping, I decided to break a stick in half. I lost my grip and the kohlrabi stick went flying. Kirby pounced on it and immediately took a bite. He decided he liked it and chomped down the rest in about 10 seconds.

Interestingly enough, Kirby frequently turns up his nose at the offer of a milkbone or other common dog biscuit but will usually accept a meat-based, grain-free, fancy dog biscuit if given the opportunity. I guess the scruffy little shelter pup has a refined and healthy palate. I wish I could be more like that myself!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Baxter's Tiger-watch vigil at the back door finally paid off in a photo opp. (and probably saved a bird or two as well). The other day, as we were walking past Baxter at his usual post by the back door, we spotted this perfect moment (thank goodness Jamie's camera was within arm's reach).

Tigerchen, the cute and crafty neighbor kitty, recently discovered that the base under our potted bamboo plant provided a perfect perch from which to hunt the birds in the feeder overhead.

Alas, this was a once-in-a-lifetime photo... Much to Tiger's chagrin, we have since covered this nice, flat platform with pointy rocks, making it unsuitable as a launch pad for pouncing on unsuspecting dining chickadees. The doorway, however, still provides an excellent spot for bird and cat-watching and, when open, a perfect launch pad for Baxter to take-off after neighbor cats hanging out on our patio...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Baxter and Kirby on Cat Watch

Jamie captured this quiet, watchful moment this morning on our patio. I love this picture!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hot Pants X Deux

The heat wave in our area has kept us hiding in the air conditioning for several days now. Baxter seems to be the only one who wants to be outside...probably to keep tabs on the neighbor cat. Kirby always seems excited to go out, then hits the hot air and changes his mind. Attempts at dog walks end up with Kirby getting about a block from home, then making a 180 to pull toward home.

Bax has a pretty high heat tolerance -- he's off the ground enough to catch the occasional breeze under his belly. But Kirby, being dark and rather close to the ground, overheats almost immediately.

What's Baxter's secret for beating the heat? A very large tongue. When I'm out with him in the heat (because trips outside must happen, heat wave or not), and he's walking along beside me with his tongue dangling out the side of his mouth, I'm always amazed at just how long and wide that tongue is. A veterinarian friend of mine told me Bax has the biggest tongue she's ever seen. Evaporative cooling.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Feeding Tigerchen, Baxter's Nemesis

We've been asked to feed Tigerchen (aka Tiger or Baxter's nemesis, the orange neighbor cat who prances around behind our house while Baxter sits inside whining) while Tiger's family is away this weekend. I am certain we'll get the 3rd degree each time we come home...Will Bax ever forgive us?

Baxter's obsession with Tiger has gone a bit too far. Our back window is, essentially, Tiger TV. Baxter will sit there for HOUR ON END at full attention, watching Tiger saunter back and forth, roll in the lawn, weave in and out of the bushes. The other day Kirby actually flushed Tiger out from under a shrub and both he and Baxter went crazy as Tiger took off, hissing. (So I hear, I wasn't there, but now every time we go outside both Baxter and Kirby have to examine that shrub just in case...)

Tiger is a young cat. We're not moving any time soon. Will this obsession with Tiger ever wear off? I seriously doubt it. Baxter had a similar "relationship" with our neighbor cat Lucky in our first home. Baxter actually caught Lucky once and then didn't know what to do...He just stood there, frozen, awe-struck by his own luck.

All I can say is, I hope our screen door on this house is stronger than the screen door on that one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Howling at Sirens

Today as Baxter, Kirby and I were out for our morning walk, we heard an ambulance coming down the road. We were stopped at a crosswalk and as the ambulance drew closer -- and louder -- Baxter became quite concerned. Suddenly, just as it passed us, he barked and then threw his head back and howled. I haven't seen him howl at a siren since he was a puppy. Baxter definitely has his own, unique howling voice...somewhere between Satchmo and a Bavarian yodeler. Nonetheless, it was quite the dramatic moment. Suddenly he stopped and just stood there as if nothing had happened. It was rather like an out-of-body howling experience, I think.

I wonder if he's been taking notes from the local coyotes...? A few nights ago, as we were watching a movie at home, we heard some very loud howling sounded like the coyotes were practically in our yard. Oh, we hear the occasional howl when a siren goes by. In the springtime we could hear a pretty good sized group that rather sounded like adolescents yipping and howling in the woods across from our home. But this was something quite spectacular and it was loud enough to be heard OVER the movie and the air conditioner and with the windows closed. Baxter and Kirby were silent. Baxter looked curious. Kirby looked nervous. My husband and I paused the movie and ran outside to listen. There must have been a dozen or more coyotes, very close by, singing along with a siren. It was quite the chorus of vocal stylings, apparently from coyotes of all ages and sizes. It went on for a few minutes and gradually tapered off as the siren disappeared into the distance. What a treat.

I love that feeling of wildness being so close to our home... And when Baxter or Kirby howls, it's a reminder that a little bit of that wildness lives with us in our home too.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday, Kirby!

Bring on the squeaky toys...for today we celebrate Kirby's third birthday! I say we celebrate it because we don't really know exactly when Kirby was born. Apparently the folks who rounded him up on the farm somewhere in Northern California didn't know how long that litter of puppies had been running around before they brought them in. When we adopted him, the folks at the shelter thought he was a wee lad of 10 weeks or so. His vet subsequently told us that, based on his teeth, he was probably a few weeks older than we thought. We counted back appropriately and decided 7/7 was a mighty fine day for a birthday.

So here's to Kirby -- Happy 3rd!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life is Better with Dogs

It has been a while since this picture was released, but I have to say it is one of my favorite POTUS pictures ever. I can't even begin to say all the reasons why I love this picture, but most could be categorized under "dogs bring joy."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Flights of Stairs

We met a fellow at the dog park the other day. He had two Irish Wolfhounds and said he lived with them in a relatively small townhome. Wow. These were BIG dogs. I thought about Baxter, who looked small in comparison. We also live in a townhome. And while Baxter is normally pretty low energy in the way he pads around the house, there are times I sense that he's cramped. He just can't cut loose and run around the way he used to when we had a bit more space. This makes visits to the dog park an essential element of life.

Kirby, on the other hand, is just the perfect size for townhome living. He runs around and under the furniture with ease and considers the stairway a recreational area. He likes to take his rubber bouncy artichoke toy and drop it from the top of the stairs, chase it down, grab it at the bottom and run back up to start again. If I sit at the top, he brings the toy to me to drop in a sort of stairway fetch routine (that's the collie in him coming out).

What's most interesting about watching Kirby navigate the stairs is the way he seems to effortlessly "fly" down them. I swear, the movements of his feet are so quick and slight, it appears as if he's not touching at all. His back legs extend fully behind him and from the rear he seems to be sliding down on a cushion of air mere inches from the surface. His feet seem to touch ever so briefly at the landing (appropriately named), as he makes a sharp left then continues "flying" down to the bottom, landing squarely on all fours. It's quite a sight.

It gets even more interesting when Baxter and Kirby attempt to descend the stairs at the same time. Baxter has to take it relatively slowly, as an increase in momentum would likely result in crashing into the landing or a long skid on the hardwood floor at the bottom (we've seen it). Bax is pretty elegant in his stairway style and he usually maintains control. But there's no doubt all four feet are taking turns on the steps. Kirby usually navigates around or under Baxter on the way down, completing the flight in about half the time.

At the dog park, the situation is reversed, however. Baxter takes longer to get up to speed, but once he's there, he glides with an elongated, elegant gait. Kirby starts out fast and scampers at a top speed that's about half of Baxter's.

While both dogs enjoy the dogpark, I tend to think of it as Baxter's time. He needs room to run. And seeing the joy on his face is worth the trip every time.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Not Acting One's Age

I struggle with this one, and apparently so does Baxter.

I feel younger than I am. I'm still working on what I want to be when I grow up. I would still much rather play than do anything else. And I still have the sense that my body should behave like it did 20 years ago; the realization that it doesn't usually comes in the form of aching muscles and kinks in places I didn't know could kink.

Baxter has similar issues, although he doesn't seem to worry about them nearly as much as I do. Hanging around the house he's still the same loafer he's always been. At 10 years old, he's a tad less riled by strange noises than when he was a youth -- he's figured out what's worth getting upset over and what merely warrants a lift of the head and a sigh before going back to sleep.

But at the dogpark, it's play time. And in this milieu he frequently forgets that he's not the limber puppy he used to be. He'll run with abandon, spin around, dip into a play bow, jump up and tag a dog to start a chase. Only once in a while all that running and jumping and spinning results in the kink, the pulled something-or-other that stops him in his tracks. He suddenly gets quite solemn and limps toward the gate. Time to go.

It usually works itself out in a few hours. But when that happens, it always makes me feel a little sad. Like me, Baxter still just wants to play. He doesn't know he's getting older, he just gives it his all. And sometimes his body just doesn't have as much to give. When I stop to think, relative to his expected lifespan, how much older Baxter is than I am, I'm quite amazed and encouraged by his youthful exhuberance. I hope I'm as enthusiastic and curious as he is when I'm his age.

The part that's hard for me to think about is how much faster his life is going by than mine. It's hard to think of Baxter as growing old. I see the little lines around his eyes, the freckles on his light brown nose and the eyes that have a little less shine than they did when he was a youth. But if you didn't know Baxter up close, you would never dream he's in his elderly years. He's in great shape. And when he's running across a field he's beautiful thing to watch -- the elegance of his long stride, nose in the wind, ears flying.

I don't want to see him hurt himself, but I also hope Baxter never loses his playful nature, his joie-de-vivre. And I hope the same for myself. I guess we'll just have to pace ourselves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

DNA Update

I've been having a pleasant email conversation with one of the staff people at Canine Heritage (very nice and responsive). She provided me with a bit more detail around Kirby's DNA results. Turns out, only about 50% of his DNA can be matched to specific breeds. It's likely that some of that other 50% is one or more of the terrier breeds that haven't yet been DNA mapped, such as Jack Russell Terrier. So the guessing game continues!

Also, she provided some clarity on the numbers...

There is approximately 23% to 25% Chihuahua in Kirby. I asked if that meant a grandparent was all or part Chihuahua or if it just all adds up to that percentage. She said that when it states that Chihuahua is Secondary, that could be more than one Chihuahua in his background, and "it certainly doesn't mean that a purebred Chihuahua was in the woodpile either."

Lhasa Apso is approximately 14 to 15% and the Collie / Shetland Sheepdog is approximately 10%. The rest of Kirby is unknown.

While I had a good time with the DNA test, I am not at all bummed to only get half of it... I've always found a certain comfort in mystery. What we don't know keeps us curious, and curiosity keeps us thinking and asking questions and pondering possibilities. And it provides more fodder for dog park conversations...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kirby's DNA Results are In!

The results of Kirby's Canine Heritage DNA breed test have arrived! Drum roll please...

Primary DNA: None

This is not surprising according to the CH people..."very few mixed breed dogs have a breed listed in Primary. The dog must have a purebred parent to have a breed in this category. Even then, the breed can end up in Secondary."

Secondary DNA: "Reports the DNA of breeds detected at significant levels within your dog. Breeds in this category can have a strong influence on your dog’s appearance and/or behavior." Kirby has only one in this category:


Ok, that was totally unexpected...

In the Mix DNA: "In the Mix category identifies breeds that appear in your dog’s DNA, but only in small amounts. Sometimes, they may represent breeds earlier in your dog’s ancestry. They may have no bearing on your dog’s appearance and/or behavior."

Lhasa Apso


Shetland Sheepdog

Unknown DNA: Says CH: "We have the markers for 106 breeds. However, there are 1100 dog breeds in the world. It is apparent that your dog is also comprised of another breed or breeds that we do not have the markers for."

The "In the mix" breeds are not as surprising to me as the Chihuahua. I had considered Lhasa Apso previously, given Kirby's body shape and underbite. We had also guessed that some sort of collie or sheepdog might be in there because of the way Kirby herds us down the beach...and there's a bit of that sheltie look about him at times, especially through the face.

But Chihuahua? That breed has not come up in ANY conversation about Kirby EVER. Wow.

I'm really surprised there isn't any terrier there. Or Schnauzer. Or Dachsund. And while he doesn't look particularly like a German Shepherd other than his coloring, the shelter thought his mom was a German Shepherd mix, so we figured it was a given. But based on her picture and Kirby's DNA, she must be some sort of collie mix.

But does this mean his dad was probably some sort of Chihuahua/Lhasa Apso mix? Apparently "Chi-Apsos" are one of the latest designer dogs - yes, people are actually crossing them on purpose. Although I think it's more likely Kirby's dad was the "design" of some teeny little Romeo who dug his way under the neighbor's fence...

Now that I think about it, Chihuahua might explain the Baja connection. Our friend Cheryl, who spends the winters in Baja and has a little Kirby look-alike dog named Paco, says there are little dogs that look like Kirby and Paco running all over the beaches of Baja. Perhaps some Kirby ancestor made the trek up to Northern California from Mexico, bringing his ancient Toltec dog DNA and some scruffy, non-DNA-mapped Baja dog along with it.

In any case, Kirby's the same loveable, sweet, spunky, bouncy, waggy, happy little dog he's always been. And after all the pondering and blog posts and dog park conversations we've had whenever someone asks "what kind of dog is he?" we're now going to have to get used to giving some different responses.

Chihuahua/Lhasa Apso/Collie/Shetland Sheepdog/Mystery Dog.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Fetching Chase Scene

Playing fetch with a dog can be a very satisfying experience. You send some object off and it is cheerfully returned to you. It's a lovely, complete circuit.

I can't say that I've had the satisfaction of that completed circuit when it comes to receiving Kirby's DNA test results... Yes, I had the test kit for a couple of months before actually doing the test and sending it off, but now that it's done, I'm in a big hurry for the postman to fetch me the results. I haven't been this interested in getting the mail since I was in college, hoping for a parental check or a box of cookies.

On the subjects of DNA and fetching...I think we've pretty much confirmed that Kirby has at least some collie blood: sheltie, border collie, Australian Shepherd, something along those lines. As I've reported from our previous beach trips, Kirby is a natural born fetcher. Add to that his keen ability to herd us as we stroll down the beach, and I think we can be pretty sure of at least one bloodline on the DNA test. Kirby may have some definite terrier traits, but I've never met a terrier who would herd and fetch right out of the box. Kirby's eyes light up at the prospect of chasing a stick and his execution is near perfect...the stick is thrown, he makes a beeline for it (no stopping to smell jellyfish or roll on dead birds), he grabs the stick, turns on a dime and brings it immediately back to drop it at your feet. Kirby will do this over and over and over with the same gusto each time.

We made another trip to the beach this past week, where Baxter did his usual "take the stick and run off to chew it to sawdust" version of "fetch." Kirby, in the meantime, was doing a superb job of demonstrating his keen retrieving ability. Perhaps it was Kirby's success at pleasing the alphas with his fetching prowess. Or perhaps Baxter just had a wild hair. But all of a sudden Bax decided it was time to steal the stick away from Kirby before he had a chance to bring it back to us. What ensued was a chase scene that brought to mind a combination of Buster Keaton, barrel racing and Wild Kingdom.

Kirby realized that Baxter was gaining on him. He darted left, darted right, ran around us, between us, around us again with Baxter in hot pursuit. I have to say, for a 10 year old dog, Baxter was doing a spectacular job of keeping up with a dog 1/3 his age and his size. But every time Bax was just about to get his jaws on the stick, Kirby would escape by mere centimeters. After about a dozen laps Bax finally gave up and Kirby brought the stick back to us for more. By this time the two had attracted a smiling audience.
So we threw the stick again and the whole thing happened a second time. This time it ended in a dog tug of war and the whole fetching mood evaporated as the two of them finally decided it was a draw, dropped the stick and stood there panting and looking at us as if to say "now what?"

Next time I'm bringing the video camera...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Happy 10th Birthday, Baxter!

It's hard to believe that today is Baxter's 10th birthday. It doesn't seem possible that nearly a decade has gone by since we fell in love with that adorable, scruffy puppy. And yet, Baxter is such an integral part of our family, it's hard to remember what life was like before he was around!

I've said this so often, but Baxter really is the sweetest dog I have ever known. I've loved all our dogs and quite a number of other peoples' dogs as well. But Baxter is special in a way that people only understand when they get to know him. I've seen family members and friends raise their eyebrows when we talk about him that way. I understand. Everyone's dog is special to them. But I've also seen those same family members and friends spend some time with Baxter and end up saying the same things to other people. He's a unique individual, an incredibly soulful, sweet, trustworthy, goofy, loving and intuitive dog. He charms people. He gets along with everybody and nearly every dog. Ok, he likes to chase cats, but he never hurts them when he catches them. (He is, after all, a dog.) But he's just, well, special.

In honor of Baxter's special day, we took the dogs to bigger dogpark a ways from where we live. While we have a nice dogpark here, we used the excuse of a lovely, sunny day to get a little change of scenery. Baxter romped and wrestled with a very cute, scruffy Airedale, then proceeded to roll in the mud and get totally filthy from head to toe. He had a great time. Kirby spent his time trying to befriend a little dachsund who didn't want anything to do with him. But he got in a bit of romping and wrestling as well. We hadn't really planned on giving the dogs baths today, but alas... At least both Baxter and Kirby smell good now!

We topped off the day by giving them each an antler to chew on and a helping of Baxter's favorite soft dog food: Grammy's Pot Pie . It was gone in about 15 seconds. Better than cake. For a dog anyway!

Happy 10th Birthday, Baxter...and MANY more!!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Irritated Feet, Irritated Homeowner

I have lots of ideas and thoughts about what I "should do" someday. One of those has been becoming more active in our neighborhood's homeowner's association. It's been easy to put-off, until NOW. After a trip outside, Baxter and Kirby proceeded to start madly licking their feet. My husband washed them thoroughly, but they have remained irritated -- particularly Baxter -- all day. On the same walk my husband noticed a guy out spraying around the houses and we looked into it. Apparently our HOA's landscaping service sprayed some toxic pesticide today and didn't bother to warn anyone about it.

I checked with the landscaping service (very helpful) and found out they have never been asked to notify us in advance or post signage about spraying having been done. Meanwhile we have LOTS of dogs and a few children who actively play in the greenspaces and yards around our neighborhood. Not to mention the protected wetland smack in the middle of the neighborhood. I was just remarking yesterday what a lovely variety of birds I can hear singing in the wetland. In addition to killing bugs that make your lawn a little less golf-course-like, this pesticide is very toxic to birds, bees and a variety of water creatures...not to mention dogs, cats and humans. Of course, I don't know the quantities they're using and I'm no expert on toxicity. But a day of constant foot-licking is not an insignificant warning sign in my book.

We have a new landscaping service this year and I'm wondering if the "perfect lawn" people are in charge of the HOA board? Or perhaps the "we don't care what you guys use, just make it pretty" people who don't ask questions and don't even give a thought to how pesticides are used around our homes and green spaces. In any case, I think it's time for the more environmentally-aware parents and pet lovers to become involved in the HOA. I'm fired-up. At the very least I'm going to advocate for posting signage when spraying occurs, and, if possible, I'm going to suggest we look for less toxic alternatives.

I guess this is my cue to "act locally." I'm just sorry that it took poor Baxter's and Kirby's sore feet to get me off my derriere to do it!

(Next stop after pesticides...getting solar panel approvals!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Black Wolves and Dog DNA

Since I'm on the subject of dog DNA these days, I took particular interest in an article in this month's Smithsonian magazine. In the "Wild Things: Life As We Know It" section there's a small, but interesting little blurb about black wolves. Most wolves have grayish coats. A few are white. But, says the article, the only place where black wolves can be found is North America. Intrigued by this unusual coat color, researchers at Stanford University and elsewhere compared wolf DNA with DNA of coyotes and dogs.

"The black coat gene, the researchers found, appears to have come from dogs. Some North American wolves likely interbred with domesticated dogs, now extinct, that accompanied people who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia more than 10,000 years ago," the article states.

We all know there's wolf ancestry in every dog...but it's kind of interesting to see that a bit of ancient dog found its way back into the wolf's DNA as well. The result is stunningly beautiful and mysterious.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bloodline Bingo is ON: Guess Kirby's "top 3" ancestral breeds...

Yep, after much fanfare about ordering the DNA test kit, I'm finally getting around to doing the actual test. I swabbed the little guy's cheek this morning, and sent the test kit off to Canine Heritage. I should be hearing back in a couple of weeks with a certificate and information about Kirby's ancestral breed heritage...that is, the breeds which have the closest DNA profiles to his.

So, I invite my readers to send me your best guesses on Kirby's "top 3" breeds. And in a couple of weeks I'll post the results.

In the meantime, for review... a look at Kirby's sisters and brothers -- I wish I could see how they turned out! Kirby was the only black-and-tan puppy in the bunch.

And Kirby's mom...we were so happy to hear that she had been adopted as well.

Soon, the Bloodline Bingo mystery will be solved! Well, sort of. There's no way we'll ever know for sure, but at least we'll have fun guessing!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another Kirby Cousin?

We encountered yet another Kirby-esque scruffy at the beach a few weeks ago... one of many. There must be something very basic about Kirby's DNA, something very old that comes out again and again among little scruffy dogs. And every one of them is a little heart-melter.

Of course, I always find it interesting that when we go places with Baxter and Kirby, everyone asks what kind of dog Baxter is. He's pretty striking, well-built and has the look of a purebred something-or-other. On the other hand, almost NO ONE asks about Kirby. This is because he is just one of those little scruffy black-and-tan terrier types one sees at shelters, running along beaches in Mexico (so I've heard) and just about everywhere else.

So here's to all the scruffy little unremarkable Kirby-kin out are adorable and sweet and our lives wouldn't be the same without you!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Children : Dogs

I've seen this sign in a number of establishments...usually coffee houses. It always makes me smile. I think few things could be more destructive than a caffeinated toddler and a puppy together. This got me to thinking once again about going places with dogs. In France, dogs are welcomed in most restaurants. Children, while tolerated, are not as often seen. I've read that the French tend to think of eating out in a nice restaurant as an adult activity that calls for Grandma or a babysitter to entertain the little ones elsewhere. There must be some grain of truth to it, because I see far fewer children in restaurants in France than I do here. Granted, I'm not going to the French Chuck-e Fromage's when I'm on vacation, but still.

The thing is, most of the dogs I've seen in restaurants in France...scratch that, make it ALL of the dogs I've seen in restaurants in France are well-behaved. I cannot say the same for the human children. The dogs lay quietly under the table and the floor is cleaner when they leave than when they came in. Again, quite the opposite with human children. (Bless the thoughtful parents who pick-up the five dozen Cheerios beneath the high-chair before they leave...most don't.)

Now, if we just allowed well-behaved dogs in restaurants here in the US, the Cheerio problem would largely be solved.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Dog Beard Patent

I'm thinking of taking out a patent on a new invention...if I can isolate the special material from which scruffy dog beards are made, I will have discovered a material that is capable of holding and transporting extremely large amounts of water. Imagine the uses...light weight vessels for carrying water from distant sources in the Sahara, streamlined backpacks for hiking in the desert... I would just need to figure out how to keep it from dripping between here and there.

I just know it would sell. Better than a Sham-Wow!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stick-stealing Beach Boys at the Oregon Coast

We recently had a wonderful day with Baxter and Kirby at the Oregon Coast. The boys ran constantly for hours and my arm is still tired from throwing sticks.

Despite a total lack of training, Kirby is a much better retriever of sticks than Baxter is. While Bax will retrieve from the water (all day if your arm can take it), he doesn't like to retrieve on land...he much prefers running off with the stick to chew on it. Kirby, who doesn't much like the water, seems to truly enjoy fetching sticks on terra firma. Of course, with the two of them, it's always a competition. But Kirby and I got in a few rounds while Baxter was off sniffing something.

It's hard to feel too bad for Kirby when Baxter comes and steals the stick from him...because Kirby is notorious for stealing Baxter's toys right out from under his nose. Kirby will sidle up stealthily, wait until Baxter stops to look at something or lick his paw, and then dart in and snatch the toy and run under the sofa so Baxter can't get to it.

In fact, just yesterday Kirby tried a new tactic... Baxter was proudly prancing around with one of the toys. From under the sofa, Kirby barked suddenly. Baxter was startled and dropped the toy so he could bark too. Kirby darted out, stole the toy and ran back under the sofa. Crafty guy!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Clean and Mean

The boys got their baths today. As always, it was fairly traumatic for Baxter. Despite nearly a decade of regular bathing, Baxter has never gotten used to the idea. At the mere mention of the word "bath" he runs for his bed and trembles.

So today we started off with a nice, long walk in the sunshine -- just Baxter and me. I let him take me where he wanted to go. He took me through the park, down a path through the woods, across an office park and straight to the big pond in front of the Oregon Graduate Institute engineering school, where he ogled the ducks and seized a brief opportunity to roll in some goose poo. He was sooooo happy. I was sooooo glad we were about to have a bath...

I realized I haven't combed Baxter nearly enough lately... he has a tendency to develop dreadlocks under his chin and around his hind quarters and while they're easily disguised by the rest of the scruffy hair, a quick comb-through makes them quite obvious. At one point my husband and I both had to hold Baxter to get him to the point where a couple of delicately placed mats could be removed. We definitely need to be better about staying ahead of that.

Next the bath. Once again, the brave dog who fords mountain streams and swims in snowmelt with nary a shivver, became a trembling ninny once he caught sight of the nice, warm, steamy shower stall. My husband usually does the honors these days. And once the shower door closes behind them, Baxter knows the alpha WILL get the job done no matter how pathetic the trembling becomes. As usual, Baxter emerged with glee and reveled in the opportunity for a blow-dry (yes, he actually likes the blow dryer...I can't imagine hating a warm shower and liking a blow dryer, but I digress...)

Kirby, being the contrary sibling, acts as if he enjoys every minute of the process. I took out the comb and he came running, actually inserting himself between Baxter and me so he would have to be combed first. (Baxter loved that one and seized the opportunity to take off.) There were a couple of mats he really didn't like having removed, but he otherwise was very cooperative...almost as if he wanted to show Baxter up. He whined the entire time Baxter was in the shower, eager to have his turn. When Baxter trotted out, Kirby practically jumped into the shower stall. An opportunity for uninteruppted warm, sudsy time with the Alpha was actually a positive event for him. But we don't even consider the blow dryer. Loud noises aren't Kirby's thing.

Now they're dry and smelling sweet and fealing feisty. For the past hour they've been fighting over the remains of the antler from Christmas. When Baxter wins control, Kirby orbits him, biting on his ears, taking an occasional jab at his hip or neck. Eventually Baxter responds by snarling, snapping or simply giving up. Kirby now has control of the antler. I guess the old guy just got tired. Kirby is relentless.

Soon they'll get into their freshly laundered beds and, I'm sure, within a couple of days they'll stop smelling like fresh dog shampoo. But in the meantime they'll both get a few extra snuggles. I can't resist a freshly bathed dog....

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best Chew Review: Antlerz

6/29/2012 UPDATE: Our veterinarian has told us that he believes Antlerz are much too hard for dogs, as are Nylabones and cooked bones. Others may disagree. I will say that, after having just gone through two tooth extractions with Kirby, both of which resulted from slab fractures to his upper molars -- the kind usually caused by biting down on very hard objects -- I'm now feeling a bit wary about any of these options for our little guy. Everything I said in the below review was true at the time, and I have no evidence that it was the Antlerz vs. a bone, a Nylabone or any other hard chew toy. But I felt compelled to write this update, as we are definitely switching to less hard chew options for our dog.

We haven't done a product review in quite a while, but one product caught our attention recently and it's definitely worthy of a positive review: Antlerz.

It all started on a holiday shopping trip with my mom, who was searching for the perfect gifts for her "grand dogs." We stopped at a natural pet store where a new product caught Mom's eye... deer antlers, packaged up as dog chews. My first three thoughts were "Will it last more than 15 minutes with Baxter?" "Does it splinter?" and "Man, that's kinda spendy!"

The clerk assured us these antlers last as long as bones and do not splinter, rather they grind away gradually into a mineral-rich powder. There are no plastics or chemicals in them and no slaughterhouses involved in the processing...the farm-raised deer naturally shed their antlers each year. The company cleans and cuts the antlers.
Sounded good, but the price still seemed rather steep for such a little chew. I figured if it was like every other natural chew we've tried, it would be gone at a rate of roughly a dollar a minute. I was ready to walk away. But being the wonderful, "spare-no-expense" grandparent she is, Mom said "I'll take one for Baxter."

I'm so glad she did. And so is Baxter. Of course, so is Kirby...all things dog are community property at our house.

Baxter helped me open the package on Christmas morning. He was immediately enthralled, engaging in an Olympic-worthy chew session on that little chunk of antler. At some point Bax decided to focus on something else (probably dinner) and Kirby grabbed it, giving quite an impressive chew performance of his own. By the time we packed up to leave the next day, the antler didn't even look like it had been touched!

Here we are, a month later, and the once four-inch antler piece is now down to about an inch-and-a-half and the dogs are still working on it. It hasn't left any greasy mess. No powder on the floor. No splinters. Just hours and hours of intense chewing on a gradually shrinking antler nubbin. I can honestly say we have NEVER had any natural chew last this long.

I haven't noticed any side effects except slightly drier stools for Kirby -- I'm assuming that's from the minerals in the powder that passes through. The positive side effect is cleaner dog teeth and calmer, happier dogs.

For all the joy this antler piece has brought to our dogs, and for its ability to stand up to two vigorous chewers for longer than any other natural chew we've tried, I'd say Antlerz are worth every penny!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Planning for a Cheek-swabbing Adventure

Ok, I confess, I've had Kirby's DNA test kit for a week now and I haven't yet swabbed the little guy's cheeks. Why? Well, mainly it's because I want to do something special with this once-in-a-dog-lifetime event. I've been thinking that Kirby's mysterious lineage might just create an opportunity for some sort of wagering...a charity "dog gene pool pool" of sorts, with the proceeds going to the local animal shelter. Trouble is, I haven't figured out just how to design such a thing. I have research to do. I have friends to hit up for money. I have to publicize it. I have to swab, mail and wait for the results. Then I have to figure out how the winner can "win" while still raising enough money for the shelter. Right now I'm thinking the winnings will just be a donation to the shelter in the winner's name.

Anyway, the jist of this is I WOULD LIKE YOUR HELP. If you know of a particularly good format for such charity wagering, please let me know. And if you don't, well, stay tuned. I have a weekend coming up, the Web to search and dog cheeks to swab.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nice Promo for a Shelter

Found this one through a new creative online service called "elements." It's a creativity-inspiring site that is fun to play with and quite useful if you are looking for some visual stimulation.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The DNA breed test kit is on its way...

Yes, I finally decided to take the plunge and get a DNA breed test for Kirby. I took advantage of one of the end-of-year the kit should be arriving any old time now. Then we'll be swabbing his little cheeks and sending it off with much anticipation.

I'm contemplating holding some sort of friendly pool or contest for guessing Kirby's "top five" breeds...with all proceeds going to the local animal shelter. Still working out the details on that one. But I'm taking any and all suggestions.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Kirby and the Snowdog

The texture of the snow on Christmas was perfect for snowman-making. So, while I was inside bouncing our new niece on my knee, my husband and his siblings decided to get creative. They sculpted a snow family that was, I must say, quite lovely, right down to the little Kirby-esque dog. When the dogs and I decided to come out for a look, Baxter gave them all a sniff and then wanted to run around in circles in the snow. Initially, Kirby was fascinated with his likeness...but he quickly lost interest when the snowdog didn't share his warm greeting. My brother-in-law (creator of snowdog) managed to snap a couple of quick photos during those first few smitten moments...