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.