Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh deer!

Yes, I'm way behind. This working-for-a-living thing really has its drawbacks. On the bright side, Hathaway has a brand spanking new, personalized (!) mat under his dinner dishes that is keeping the kitchen floor much cleaner ... that is on the days he doesn't rummage through the trash.

Those days are fewer and farther between. Our encounters with wildlife this fall, however, are definitely more frequent. No, we haven't had any more coyote adventures thank goodness. But there are the squirrels and turkeys and deer, oh my!

Our deer encounter was by far the coolest. Bambi wanted to play.

In late September, Hath and I took some early morning walks, usually strolling through the cemetery across the street just after the sun came up, enjoying the last bits of summer before the autumn chill set in.

I usually have him off the leash over there, since we are away from the cars and he's really not too spontaneous. He never bolts after anything, and he comes when he's called. So we are walking along. He's sniffing and peeing. As we came around a bend, I see two fawns about 30 yards away. I'm so surprised, I stop in my tracks, hoping to have a moment to look at them before they run off.

The deer, however, aren't paying much attention to me. They are watching the fawn-colored pit bull walking along the edge of the path. Hathaway, oblivious, is sniffing and peeing. As he got closer, they got curiouser, still standing quite still, but raising their ears and twitching their tails. Their noses were sniffing like mad and the bolder one took a step forward.

Though he was now only about 10 yards away, Hathaway still hadn't noticed his company. I hadn't moved much, wanting to see what they would do.

When the deer finally started to move, Hathaway looked up and stopped. His tail went up and he sniffed. He looked at me, and looked back at them, then tentatively took a couple of steps forward, then a couple more. I was getting a little closer to take pictures with my phone, but Hathaway got to within about 5 feet.

The bolder deer, to my amazement, not to mention awe, stretched his front legs forward, neck bent, butt raised, in the classic play position. "Bring it on, pit bull," he was saying. "We want to run!"

Hathaway doesn't even chase squirrels, so he certainly didn't know what to make of these two creatures who were more than twice his size. He watched them and sniffed then, and then he did it -- he chased them.

Sort of. He trotted forward, at not even half speed. The deer took off, running about 10 yards, then circling back to wait when they saw he wasn't following. They did it again and again -- Hath sort of chasing, the deer running away, then coming back to wait for him.

The three of them played for nearly 15 minutes, working their way through the cemetery until I finally put him back on his leash. They were getting closer to the busy street at the bottom of the hill, and I didn't want any of them taking this game into traffic. We did another lap around the cemetery and one of the deer followed us a for a short distance before running off.

People who have pets know that animals are very effective communicators. They let us know many times a day what they want, what they need and what they do and do NOT like. They may not use words, but their body language says it all.

They do it between species as well. The deer told Hath that they wanted to play, and he obliged them with a little game of chase. It was the most incredible moment (to date) in a series of special moments with this dog.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Summer Lovin' Part D'oh

Couldn't get blogger to use two pictures and didn't have time to tinker. Here's Dan with (from back to fore) Lily, Josey, Hath, Seamus and Truman.

Summer lovin'

Fall is my favorite time of year, but we had a pretty darn good summer. This is a picture of our friends, most of whom we made in the last few months. Louie and Carmen we missed all summer, so we're extra glad it's fall. We love you all.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rescue Me

People always ask if we've had Hathaway since he was a puppy, and they're always amazed when the answer is no, he's a rescue.

The kids and I are celebrating our year anniversary with our big boy, and looking back to when we got him, thinking about many of the months before that, I think it's more accurate to say that he rescued me.

Last year was not a good year, from divorce and the tsunami it creates, waves and earthquakes rising up in places you never expected; being laid off without the option of filing for unemployment; the instability of freelance work; to minor health issues cropping up one after the other and running out of the resources to adequately address them, basically it sucked.

With all that to deal with, of course the logical solution is to adopt a dog. Or better yet, a 2-year-old male pit bull that has been surrendered twice, right? Friends said "Think about everything you're dealing with right now. Do you really need to deal with how people are going to react to a pit bull as well?" Family said "Pit bulls kill people in Detroit."

But we brought him home anyway, and what he's given us in the last year -- besides teeny tiny pieces of what used to be our stuff (cell phones, stuffed animals, food, reading glasses for starters) -- is the comfort of unconditional love and the sheer joy that comes from the very center of the heart. He is always happy, always ready to play or lick your face or just curl up next to you and find peace in the warmth of the connection.

He's given us -- me especially -- peace of mind. When we started walking, getting back to the exercise was not just good for the body, but helped clear the mind and restore the soul.

He helped me find a refuge where the only thing you are judged by is how you treat your dog. The dog park -- bark park -- is my sanctuary, whether I need to be alone or in the center of the canine mayhem. It is my reset button, regardless of how the day went.

And Hathaway has brought a world of new people into my life, a safety net of sorts. Friends and love I wouldn't have except for my dog. It all has revived feelings long ago given up for dead.

A group of us were walking the other day and somebody noted how amazing it is that we all found each other -- all with similar needs or voids to fill. And here we were, walking, needs met in many ways, filled with the simple joy of watching the dogs play and run and wrestle.

So yes, my dog may be from a shelter, but the real rescue is me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Like cats and dogs

Thinking a lot about friends these days, mine, Hathaway's, and so on. It will be a longer post, but meanwhile I had to share this video. Hath gets the same look in his eye when he plays with puppies.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eat, pray, love

It always cracks me up when I offer Hathaway something to eat and he sniffs it first, like there's the remotest chance he will not take it.

The only thing thing this dog has declined is leafy greens without dressing. Even then, because he is always the gentleman and his manners are impeccable, he will still daintily take the lettuce or baby spinach, just to spit it out when he thinks I'm not looking. The same thing goes for raw mushrooms; he prefers his fungi sauteed or on pizza.

Still, offer him things he loves: a nut or a bite of bagel, piece of apple or his favorite -- banana -- and he will take a whiff before accepting your offering. Maybe he's checking the vintage. Maybe he's whetting his appetite. Regardless, his devotion and his pleasure are food. Indulge him, and he will worship you. He eats as we all should: with love and gusto as evidenced by his prolific and appreciative drool, if not by his svelte body.

Maybe we should all follow our noses.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Go jump in the lake

Five days of our vacation are being spent at a lake-front property. It's rough, let me tell you. All this swimming, fishing, paddleboating and lounging. (Hathaway is laying at the edge of the water as I type, watching the butterflies.) It's exhausting.

Back in November, I wrote about Hath's dislike of water. As the weather got hot early this summer, he actually started dipping his paws in the ocean to cool off. Next he started chasing his pals, splashing along the shore. Then I started throwing a ball for him, and voila! the pit bull can swim. It isn't always pretty, especially since his head and shoulders account for about 45 of his 64 pounds, but he retrieves better than some of the retrievers.

Now swimming is a regular part of his daily walk, vacation being no exception. I think he likes the fresh water better than the ocean's saltiness. The water is also calmer, so I throw the ball farther. It's also warmer, so it's not a big deal if I have to go rescue him. He charges into the water with a big splash and power paddles his way out to the ball, leaving a wake like a motorboat.

The day he found a 4-year-old to throw the tennis ball for him was like a dream come true. She was as tireless with her tossing as he was with his fetching. He'd bring it back and drop it at her feet. Again! And Cassie would squeal and laugh and throw it. Again!

Even though he thinks he's a Lab sometimes, he's still a pit bull at heart. Despite all the swimming and fetching, I haven't yet been able to get him to jump off the end of the dock.

And he still avoids puddles at all cost.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bedtime story

Another day, another new place with new adventures.

Just when Hathaway was getting used to the farm, we came to my dad's lake house. New smells. New dark corners. New beds to sleep on!

Our room has three beds: A double for me, twins for the kids. When it was time to use them, Hathaway tried them all, and it was like watching Goldilocks.

This one's too hard. This one's too soft. This one's where Mama sleeps, so it's juuuuust right. At one point before curling up, he jumped from bed to bed to bed without ever putting a paw on the floor.

What we have always loved most about our boy is his joie de vivre and this vacation is no different. I was worried he'd be anxious, and there are moments of that. But for the most part, it's like traveling with another kid, full of excitement and wonder. It's all an adventure and he shows us something through new eyes each day.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation, all I ever wanted

I was a little ... what's the word ... wary, I guess, preparing for our annual summer trek to Michigan this year. The 750-mile drive was to be Hathaway's first long road trip, our first border crossings with a pit bull, first time staying in unfamiliar houses for any length of time. With cats! (And toddlers, horses and chickens ...) There was a lot to be prepared for.

Silly me. Mr. Laidback rolled with it, the way he pretty much rolls with whatever situation we throw at him. Six hours in a car? It's a good time to catch up on some sleep. Motel room? New beds to sleep on. Customs? They barely looked at our passports, forget about the dog's papers. Strange house? Lots of corners to explore and stray snacks to find.

About a half-hour after we got into Dodge, er Romeo, the kids and I walked Hath over to the pool to meet my sister-in-law and nephews, who are almost 5 and almost 2. He won Jill's approval, was pretty much ignored by the boys and made a new BFF, Sofie, in a matter of minutes.

I was a little hesitant to let him off the leash around the pool, around the boys (who at their ages are very similar to bowling pins around a tank like Hathaway) and Sofie. But we got a tennis ball and the dogs played and ran -- exactly what he needed after two days on the road.

He was puzzled by the kids playing in the pool, thinking that they might be in distress, and started to get worked up and anxious. He looked like a canine David Hasselhoff, running up to the edge of the water, ready to jump in and save the children, but I really didn't want to find out if he'd actually make the leap.

I leashed him and headed back to the house, followed faithfully and unexpectedly by Sofie, who would not turn around and go home. She ran along in front of us, urging Hath to play. Of course, the minute after I let him off the leash, a huge doe sprinted across the road in front of the dogs. Sofie knew what it was and charged after it. Hath stopped for a minute, then followed his friend in futile pursuit.

He's afraid of the horses, likes chasing the chickens and finds the boys finger-lickin' good. He spent the dinner hour under the table, licking knees and snuffling for scraps. We ended our night with an unheard-of 2.5-mile walk filled with lots of new smells and territory to mark.

And, of course, some very loud snoring from the foot of the bed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dog is my co-pilot

OK, this may be the worst picture ever, but you can sort of see Hathaway sitting in the front seat.

I know a lot of dogs ride in the front seat, but my boy has always stayed in his space in the back of the little SUV. We go for a ride, he sits in back. I run an errand, he waits anxiously, drooling, and with his nose smudging the back window.

So today, in Ontario during a brief stop to stretch legs, relieve bladders and fill bellies, imagine our surprise when we didn't see the silhouette of that damp little nose pressed against the tinted rear window. It was even more surprising to see him riding shotgun, nose pressed against the passenger-side glass.

For 11 months, he had a clear shot at the front seat, without any suitcases, computer bags, backpacks, smelly shoes, water bottles, juice pouches, books or beach bags to impede his forward motion. But Hath held his ground and maintained his space.

For nearly 600 miles in the last 24 hours, the pit bull sat out longer pit stops in higher temperatures. But something today, during the 15 minutes it took to hit the head and grab burgers to go, prompted him to climb over piles of stuff and plop himself in the front seat to wait. We can only imagine his motivation.

All in all, he is treating his first road trip like a great big adventure, which of course, it is.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

As we learned from our nation's founding fathers, the struggle for independence is never easy.

In honor of the Fourth of July (not really, but let's just say) Hathaway and one of his best friends, Lily, re-enacted the Colonists' bid for freedom the oppressive motherland, England. The part of independence was played by a blue rubber ball with a smiley face on it. (Believe me, it's in there.)

Our forebears, with the determination and gameness of pit bulls, were tireless in their struggle to wrest the basic freedoms on which the United States of America were founded from under the thumb of King James.

With clenched jaws, and often, bared teeth, the members of the Continental Congress debated forming a new nation. In the end, as you know, the pit bulls, er, Colonists, came away with the blue ball (independence) and, waving it in their opponent's face, pranced away from England to become America, united, under Dog, with liberty, justice and rubber balls for all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dog park friends

Can't believe I haven't updated this in so long, but it has been a hectic spring. Between softball two nights a week, baseball three nights a week, soccer twice a week x2 and dance once a week x2 ... well, if you do the math, it adds up to more than 7 nights a week.

So yeah, hectic. Hathaway is in some ways getting the short end of the proverbial stick, but he's been really good about it. And we do get to the dog park in short bursts. One of our early-Saturday walking buddies posted a video on YouTube. Mufasa is cute as anything and it's quintessential Hathaway, doing what he does best: chasing his ball. (more on the magic ball another time.)

Anyway, click the link above or check out MrBullMastiff100 on YouTube.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Hathaway is having a sleepover. For the next eight days, we are dog-sitting my favorite dog-nephew Sebastian.

For the last five years or so, we have hosted Sebastian for the first week in May while our neighbors are out of town. The first few years, Sebastian was one of three, fitting right in with my previous dogs, Jake and Lily (pictured). But for the last couple of years, Sebastian has been an "only child" during his visit. And of course for the last eight months, Hathaway has been king of the castle, getting all the attention in his new home.

Sebastian, some kind of hound dog mix, is about 12 now, and likes to take a walk and then nap the afternoon away. Hath, being almost 3 and very, very social, approaches every dog as his BFF and playmate. He is learning not to pounce on Sebastian, who outweighs him by at least 20 pounds. Sebastian just looks at him the way an 8th-grader looks at a 5th-grader. I know he'd roll his eyes if he could.

So far, so good. They are sharing a water dish and napping on either side of me, but each time one moves, the other sits up and watches: What are you doing, friend? Where are you going, friend? Is it time to play?

Tails are up and wagging. I'm expecting this to be an interesting experiment.

Friday, April 16, 2010

No place like home

I left a full trash bag out yesterday before I went to work for six hours. That thought clicked in my head about 5 seconds before the key clicked in the lock, so I walked in ready for some serious cleanup.

What I got was a happy boy, wagging his tail and offering a celebration ball. You're home! Love me! And he was standing in the middle of a clean floor. I'm home! I love you! And I'm glad I don't need the Swiffer!

Watching the dissipation of separation anxiety is interesting. When we first brought Hathaway home at the end of August, we tried crating him, but that just exacerbated his anxiety. He was a drooling, barking wreck and I worried that the stress would kill him or he would hurt himself trying to break out of the crate.

So we left him out, leaving for short periods of time. You could tell from the trail of drool that he'd ramble from room to room looking for me. According to the neighbors (oh kind and patient neighbors), he would bark. Continuously.

Once I knew he wasn't going to destroy the furniture or go through a window, I'd leave for a little longer. Before I'd go, I would tell him to go lay down, I'd be back soon. He would for awhile, then he'd look for things to chew, pulling papers off counters, place mats off the table, rummaging in baskets or boxes. Or, if we forgot to move it, get into the trash.

But you could also see his trust start to build. He was wandering farther away at the dog park. Letting me out of his sight both there and at home. And judging from what I was greeted with when I came through the door after work, it seemed as though the naps were getting longer as the rambling and rummaging subsided.

When I'm going to be gone for an extended period, I leave a banana on the counter for him to "find." He peels it, eats it, naps.

Over the last couple of weeks, especially, we have come home to nothing ... or nothing but a smiling, wagging pit bull next to an empty banana peel.

There has been less destruction, less chewing of random crunchy objects, and yes, less rummaging of the trash, which means (in my human brain) that Hathaway (in his doggy brain) finally feels like he's home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Down Dog!

Q: How do you get down from an elephant?

A: You don't. You get down from a goose.

Q: How do you get down from a pit bull?

A: Let him sleep on your comforter.

Hathaway likes to make himself a little nest before curling up to sleep. You've probably seen dogs do it: They turn in three circles one way, another couple of circles the other way and paw at their sleeping area in what appears to be an attempt to fluff it up a bit.

So this is what my pit bull does. Circles. Paws. Fluffs. I try to leave a pillow on the bed for him to curl up with, or some recently worn sweats. (Author's note: Hey -- separation anxiety, remember? Anything I can do to encourage him to lay down and wait for me rather than randomly roaming the house looking for crunchy things to chew, I do.)

What he has been doing, however, is making himself a little down nest on my comforter. Now, it is a good thing that he is settling down. However, the first part of the problem is, he doesn't know his own strength, and lately, as he has pawed and fluffed his sleeping area, he has also ripped the comforter.

The second part of the problem is, I don't always notice the first problem until I pull up the comforter, sending a little cloud of feathers gently into the air. They cascade lightly back down to earth, in this case the floor of my bedroom, and taunt me into trying to suck up every last one with the vacuum. Hathaway doesn't seem to mind the feathers, although they tickle our noses, making both of us sneeze.

I sewed up the first couple of rips and moved the comforter to a spot he doesn't really like, but he started nesting as I was getting into bed the other night, and by the time I said stop, it was already to late. The comforter now has more stitches in it than Frankenstein's neck. Anyone know where I can get a cheap duvet cover?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Don't drink the water

I always wonder what's going through Hathaway's head when I leave for awhile.

When we first brought him home seven months ago, it was easy to tell because you could follow either a) the trail of saliva from window to window, room to room as he searched for me; or b) followed the line of destruction from room to room as he chewed stuff when he didn't find me. As you know, Hathaway is a stress chewer. The good news is, he only swallows if it's edible (see There's a pit bull in my ... fridge? posted 11.13.09).

Fortunately, he seems to be growing out of his separation anxiety. He can sleep in the chair across the room instead of right next to me. I can go to the bathroom by myself and he'll wait patiently outside the door rather than try to push his way in.

And that makes me wonder what he does now when I leave. There are clues: paw-shaped indentations on the couch cushions, mussed up covers and pillows on the bed. Those are good signs; it means he's sleeping for at least part of the time he's alone.

Apparently, though, he's even more comfortable than I thought. On Thursday, when I got home, there were the usual clues, but an interesting new one as well: drops of water on the nightstand next to my bed and the book sitting under my half-full middle-of-the-night cup of water. Hmmmm ... I wiped up the water and left the cup where it was.

After running an errand for about 45 minutes on Friday, a drowsy-eyed dog met me at the top of the stairs. I checked the bed, and his spot was still warm. Looking at the nightstand, there were some drops of water near the almost-empty cup of water.

Now, I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but my best guess is that as soon as Mr. Please Don't Leave Me hears the car start, he heads upstairs, helps himself to a drink and goes to sleep. Of course, I discovered this two days ago, so it makes me wonder for how long and how many glasses of water he's actually been doing it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Requiem for an orange ball

Oh orange ball, my orange friend
I can't believe you've met your end

Inseparable were you and I,
and I carried you proudly, head held high

While showing you off to one and all,
"I'm Hathaway; this is my ball."

I chased you down through mud and Nor'easters;
kept bringing you back, out-retrieving Retrievers

You didn't break in my pit bull jaws
or under stomping pit bull paws

You kept your bounce, unlike the others
that split their seams and shed their covers

I could find you in a foot of snow,
and held you when I had to go

I shared with friends, Carmen and Danny,
Toby, Jake and even Manny.

We fished you out of the water before,
but this time you sank too far from shore

Dear orange ball, where for art thee?
At the bottom of the ocean, buried at sea.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fright night

It takes a lot to rattle me, but after walking Hathaway tonight, consider me rattled. Still trying to unwind.

I took the dog out tonight for a quick walk around the block -- 7-10 minutes tops. Just long enough for him to water the neighbors' bushes before we tuck in for sleep. Even though we don't do this every night, my pit bull and I have a usual route and a usual routine. And usually, I let him off his leash. Tonight, thanks to some sort of divine intervention, I kept him leashed.

We were walking and peeing (him, not me), and peeing and walking. We got about 40 yards, when Hathaway stopped, and looked -- alert to something behind us in the dark. I saw a huge, black shadow near a neighbor's house for a second, then it disappeared. It was enough to spook me good.

I couldn't help but think of the third Harry Potter book, "The Prisoner of Azkaban," when Harry thinks he sees a big, black dog, not sure if it's real or a hallucination. "The Grim," his Divination teacher calls it -- the symbol of death.

OK, so I read too much. And just home from book club, after a glass of wine, maybe I'm overreacting. I gave the dog a tug and said "walk," and we went a few more yards, starting up a side street, when he stopped again.

I turned and looked, and trotting behind us, 10, maybe 15 yards away, is the biggest coyote I've ever seen. It was the size of a German shepherd and the only thing telling me it was a coyote and not a wolf, was logic and a basic knowledge of geography. The beast was well-fed, had a beautiful coyote and scared the living crap out of me. It moved swiftly and silently, from house to house. It's trash night in the neighborhood. Plenty of goodies for a late night snack.

The coyote stopped and looked at us and we looked back, and then I yelled. Like an idiot. A loud idiot. Yelling as I searched and groped desperately for rocks that I could throw if he started toward us. "No! Go! Get!"

Thankfully, he went on his way, which was away from us, but I was scared. We finished our walk with Hathaway oblivious and me clutching my rocks, risking whiplash, trying to watch every direction at once.

I have been closer to wild coyotes before, so I'm not sure what made this different, why this time I felt threatened. Maybe it was the sheer size of the thing -- just devastatingly huge to be living that close -- and twice the size of my 60-pound pit bull. I was scared for my dog and for myself; something I've never felt walking or hiking or breaking up a dog fight. I know my dog could take care of himself if the coyote came after us. I know he would protect me at all costs. I just don't ever want to have to see it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hathaway and the Action Figure

Or maybe we should say Out-of-Action figure. Hathaway shares more than just a big head with "Alice in Wonderland's" Red Queen. His new favorite song is "Heads Will Roll," by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Off with his head!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The chronicles continue

Yes, I admit I made my dog his own page on Dogbook, the goofy Facebook application for dog lovers. I don't think I'll be updating Hathaway's status as often as I update mine, of course, but some would argue his status is probably more interesting.

I did want to share his profile picture though, because he just looks cool. Now, I am totally against those (mostly) crazy people who dress up their dogs on a regular basis. (Cough * Paris Hilton * Cough) My boy has his winter sweater, which matches his collar, because he has very thin fur and not an ounce of fat to keep him warm. That is the extent of his wardrobe, despite the best efforts of the kids. They never played with dolls but they want to dress up the dog. The Santa hat. A T-shirt. They have browsed other outerwear. No, no and no. Is it any wonder he wants to hide behind the dark glasses when they're around?

He's a pit bull for goodness sake. Let the dog have his dignity.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Remains of the Day

I was tired after a long weekend of revelry in Vermont and the 4-hour drive home, so can you really blame me for not unpacking the cooler? There was nothing cool in it, just a pot, cans of Vernors and some dry goods I had taken up to make breakfasts and a dinner.

I figured it was safe, sitting on the floor near the kitchen, lid securely fastened, and off I went to work on Monday. What I came home to would have made somebody proud -- Harry Houdini maybe, or more likely Yogi Bear. The cooler lid was off and discarded like last week's squeaky toy. The lid of the pot was vehemently cast aside, and the macaroni and cheese and maple syrup sampler boxes both had teeth marks. The jar of cayenne pepper, which had been in the pot, escaped harm. But the ripped wrappers of instant oatmeal and long grain and wild rice lay nearby, limp and empty.

Just for kicks, I left the cooler in its spot, still with the cans of soda inside. On Tuesday, the lid was again on the floor next to it, but everything inside was intact. On Wednesday, Hathaway didn't bother with the cooler at all, and there it sits, lid untouched. Nearby though was the peel from the banana I had strategically left on the kitchen counter.

Our little game of outwit-the-pit continues ...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Remains of the Day

I have no idea what Hathaway was looking for in the closet, because the shoes certainly don't smell like food. He pulled out a shoe rack and some shoes, then apparently found the cones I use for soccer drills. Looks like they were crunchy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

'Dangerous Breed'

My dad forwarded me this email the other day that read: "If you are an owner of a dog or know someone who has a dog which belongs to a 'dangerous breed' category, or if you have a child visiting your house, please take this as a warning.

"Don't leave your dog with any small child unattended under any circumstances!"

It was signed, "The Dog."

I happen to have two who fall into the "dangerous breed" category: my children -- an 11-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. I tell them at least once a day, they are lucky our dog is a pit bull, because any other breed would have bitten them by now.

Not leaving children alone with the pooch is good advice for any dog owner, whether you have a "dangerous breed" or not. As you can see from the picture, tragedy can strike even if you turn your back for a moment.

The picture is a great illustration of how patient these dogs can be. Just look at the detail in the markings on that dog's face. You know he just laid there while the petite Picasso painted away.

My kids grew up with a couple of big dogs -- both shepherd mixes -- for the first seven years of their lives. Our beautiful Lily, who was also part Rottie, was a good girl, and never growled, but she would walk away when the kids were too much for her. Hathaway sits and takes it even while his boy and girl practice what look like WWE moves from my vantage point. "Hey! Don't pick the dog up by his neck!"

In nearly six months, he has never growled at them and never snapped, although I regularly tell him he should.

Problem is, he's a pit bull. It's not his nature.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Did I ... Did I ... Did I ...

I don't know whether or not all dogs have ADHD, but I do believe that most dogs instill OCD in their humans.

I will affectionately refer to leaving the house as a routine, but the truth of the matter is that it has evolved into Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Each time, whether I'm leaving for 5 minutes or 5 hours, I have to make sure:

1) Nothing I care about being crushed by anxious pit bull jaws is on my nightstand

2) The upstairs bathroom door is shut

3) The downstairs bathroom door is shut

4) The trash is out of reach or in the breezeway

5) The remotes are not lying around

6) Look at the crap, er, toys lying on the floor and decide what can be sacrificed.

And sadly, I have come to do it in that order. If by chance I drive away and can't remember if I have actually closed a door or taken out the trash, then I have to decide if I need to turn around and do it.

If you're a regular visitor here, you've seen the Remains of the Day. Hathaway gets into the trash. And spreads it across the kitchen floor.

The 62-pound lapdog with separation anxiety has also trapped himself in the bathroom twice. I needed new molding after the first time. Fortunately, I hadn't had the work done when it happened a second time, so now I still need new molding and a towel rack. Give him credit for being a smart boy: He pulled on the towel rack trying to get the door open. Resourceful, and yet, to paraphrase Bullwinkle the Moose, "Guess he doesn't know his own strength."

So I may not wash my hands over and over, or lock the door repeatedly, but I do find myself wandering from room to room, shutting doors and checking for "chewables." And often, by the time I've finished the circuit once, I can't remember if I actually did steps 1-3, so I have to start again.

Maybe Purina should commission a study of doggie-induced OCD. I'd volunteer, but there's a chance I'd be late for the appointments. It takes awhile to get out of the house.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peace of mind

Regardless of how my day was, to finish with a walk at the dog park almost always makes it all OK.

Often, I'll tell people that Hathaway saved my sanity. (Those closest to me just laugh knowingly). But having to walk the dog gets me out of the house, which usually doubles as the office these days. It gets me exercising when really I'd just like a couple more ... hours ... in bed.

Even better than just walking is making it to the dog park -- Stodder's Neck in Hingham. (It might be Stoddard's Neck, depending on whether you believe the sign out front or the labels on the trash cans. The Stoddard I know doesn't have a neck.)

It is Happy Hour without alcohol. The dogs have their friends and playmates and their owners are just there to keep order. It's like watching children on a playground, the way they run up to each other in greeting, run, chase balls and sticks and wrestle.

Yep, sometimes there's a disagreement or somebody doesn't want to share a toy and a scuffle starts, but everybody takes a time out and then it's back to wagging tails and sniffing butts.

I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the dog park on Wednesday. With three quiet hours, I could have gotten a lot of work done. On the other hand, I'd already made a lot of progress and Hath and I both needed some fresh air. When we got there, we spent a couple of minutes with Rich, who was just leaving with Lola and Simon. Before we got very far, I heard my name and turned to see Carmen charging after us (with Ginny right behind, waving). Halfway through our first lap, we caught up with Louie and his guy and Monica and Roxy. We walk and talk, tell dog stories, compare notes.

Nearly 90 minutes later, it was time to head home to eat and get dinner ready for when the kids got back from skiing. By then, we were refreshed and renewed and content thanks to our dog park friends. There's a comfort in the camaraderie that brings peace of mind to the rest of one day and something to look forward to the next.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The problem, not the answer

Wondering if it's the dog or the way it's raised? Just look at Michael Vick. Deserved or not, BET starts a 10-part series Feb. 2 on Vick, the NFL Pro Bowl quarterback who spent more than a year in prison for running a dogfighting operation.

The series will supposedly show us how he's turned his life around after throwing away what could have been a spectacular career and being directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of countless pit bulls and other dogs.

"This is hard to imagine myself doing this years ago," Vick says in one of the episodes while walking through the former Bad Newz Kennels.

Memo to Michael Vick: It wasn't all that long ago when you were putting two dogs in a pit until one of them killed the other. It wasn't that all long ago when you hanged and drowned and beat dogs dead -- dogs like mine in this picture -- because they didn't perform.

Michael Vick is part of the reason pit bulls have the reputation of brutal killers. He, and too many others like him have fed the belief that the dogs were bred to fight, and have raised them solely for that purpose, perpetuating the problem. The misconception means that more good dogs -- good pit bulls -- die every day.

I don't mean just the ones who are raised to get thrown in the pits and fight to the death, but the ones sitting in shelters who can't get adopted because of the public perception. Dogs that have never fought a day in their lives or been taught to do so. If people won't adopt them, they are euthanized. It's not a gruesome as a dogfight, or electrocution, but the result is the same.

When Michael Vick was first arrested and sent to prison, a lot of people started taking a second look at pit bulls. Slowly, people started to learn about the breed, learn that they are bred and prized for their "gameness," and that "gameness" is very different from aggression.

Michael Vick did his time, lost an awful lot and is trying to rebuild his life. A 10-part special of him saying I'm sorry and realizing it was "pointless" doesn't absolve him in my eyes. However, how he conducts himself from here on out will. Hopefully he will advocate for the dogs and educate against the lifestyle.

I do believe we all deserve a shot at forgiveness; at some point in our lives, we all deserve a second chance. Vick got his with the Philadelphia Eagles this season, and yet another with this TV special.

I just hope some of these dogs sitting in shelters get another chance as well. My guess is they are much more deserving than the quarterback.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reality Bites

Saturday, the real world sneaked into my doggy day in two very different ways.

It was warm for coastal Massachusetts in the middle of January, a little over 40 degrees and no wind. The kind of day that gets everybody outside for awhile. Most of them went to the dog park apparently. The parking lot at Stodders Neck in Hingham was full -- meaning 50 cars or more, meaning a lot of people and dogs who aren't usually there. Reg flag anyone?

Hathaway is rarely on his leash at the park. I have it with me always, and he wears his harness, but he minds his business, chases his ball and runs with his buddies. He also sticks close to me and obeys commands most of the time. Most of the regulars know him because he's a good dog and also because this pit bull with rippling muscles trots around the path wagging his tail with a bright orange ball in his mouth and a goofy happy look on his face.

We were walking like that when I got the first dose of reality from a dad with a Bichon on a leash. Hath trotted up and sniffed: the dog and its boy, who was about 8. He asked what kind of dog, and I said a pit.

And then watched the father push his son behind him, putting himself between the boy and my dog.

I said "Hath, walk!" and as we continued on our way, the guy called after us, "Sorry, it's not the dog, it's the reputation." I resisted temptation to point out that his dog would probably bite someone before mine would. We just walked away.

The second dose of reality came a little while later. Hath was fetching his ball, and chasing and greeting the way he always does. He was chasing his ball and another dog was chasing its ball while I was talking to its owner. They'd run after each other, then get distracted by some odor or another dog or a new person, then get their balls again and bring them back to us.

I turned away for a minute, but was quickly brought back to the moment by growls and barks. The other dog was after Hathaway and my boy wasn't backing down. The guy pulled his dog off and I grabbed Hath's harness and told him to walk, which he did. He didn't need his leash. We just headed for the car, listening from across the field to the other owner disciplining his dog.

It wasn't until later that I noticed a small gash on Hathaway's head and a couple of tooth marks on the side of his face. When I rinsed them, I found more teeth marks. Today I found a small scab on his neck. All told, it was the gash and five teeth marks in a crescent shape on the side of my pit bull's face.

Put there by a golden retriever. I hope those who support breed-specific legislation take note.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Remains of the Day

Pretty good, eh? This is actually the second time he has eaten a banana right out of a peel that is still attached to the bunch. The first time, the bananas remained on the counter. I don't even want to think about how he managed that. I also will not mention how long it took me to notice.

Yes, it is rather annoying and I wish he would stop chewing things. However, I marvel at his food of choice and his determination. The latter outweighs the former.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Remains of the Day

Hathaway often greets us at the door with something: his squeaky dog, his Nylabone, a tomato. The kids call it the "celebration (item he's carrying)"

Here, amidst the trash he got because I failed to put it out, he greets me with the "celebration dog." Looks like he's smiling for his close-up.