Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey, deer, and other things for which to be thankful.

Alice has decided that this visiting family for Thanksgiving thing is pretty sweet. She slept the entire trip up and has actually been doing pretty well with the two other dogs and all the people in the house. There was a little bit of territorial behavior on Wednesday-- Brodie (the Human Male's family's dog) isn't too fond of other dogs looking at her food and water dishes, and Alice didn't care much for Brodie looking at her Human Male. She also wet on my bed and coat as I was getting into bed that evening (which in truth is probably less offensive than the night before, when she went on me in bed). After being exiled from the bed and forced to sleep in her crate, she woke up in a far better mood, and was even willing to "share" her precious squeaky tennis ball with Max, the Human Aunt and Uncle's golden retriever. Personally, I thought Max's spry days were years behind him, but he played (and eventually shredded) that ball like he was a puppy.

We took Alice for two long romps yesterday-- one on a farm in the morning and another through the woods after dinner, where she tried to catch a deer (yes, the sight of a puggle in an orange owl sweater trying to catch a deer is as ridiculous to watch as it sounds)-- and between that and many, many pieces of turkey, she ended the day one dog too tired to weedle on anything. I woke up this morning at 8A and she was still conked out, only having moved enough during the night to kick her legs out a bit from the tight ball in which she'd fallen asleep. As soon as she woke up, she started begging for more turkey. Which of course she got. She's been sitting inches from me all day, intently waiting for any possible sign that I might be getting up to go to the fridge.

Something that's struck me since we got here is how genuinely kind everyone's been to Alice. Obviously I didn't expect them to throw garbage at her, but I also know that she's my dog, and I'm apt to be more enamored with her than the average person. But everyone's been petting her, giving her treats, letting her sit in their laps, telling her that her sweater and special Thanksgiving bandanna from Mamala look lovely, and doing tricks with her. They all seem to think her underbite is pretty darn cute, too. She also had an Urban Family visitor last night and is expecting another one tomorrow.

I know I shouldn't be surprised, I don't really roll with anyone who isn't obsessed with their own pets, but I've been thinking a lot lately about where she came from and what she's gone through. Last week I was playing with her and noticed the scars on her side were bleeding. I guess with the cold weather her skin was drying out and cracking. While we don't know what caused them the shape, size, and number of her scars makes it hard to believe that they were caused by any other method than human hand. Just as we have the choice to put coconut oil on them and throw her sweater on before she goes outside or let her stay chapped, someone had the choice to harm her or leave her alone. Personally, keeping her from licking the oil off and wrangling her into a sweater sounds a lot harder than the latter situation, but both seem like easy choices to get right. And yet, someone chose the wrong option (and I'm the one getting wee'd upon saying this). Theoretically, we now have to do the right thing because someone else didn't.

This makes me think about all of the abused and neglected dogs we saw in shelters and with rescue organizations while we were looking for a pet, a badly scarred yet gorgeous greyhound I saw this past weekend, and an article I read in a paper today from near my old 'hood about a man who threw a dog out of his car on a cold night, kicking it as it tried to get back in. Damn, there are so many people out there that can't make the right decision! Maybe it's the holiday season making me sentimental, maybe it's meeting new people and having to regularly explain again that her scars came as "standard features", but lately it's been making me a little weepy.

On the bright side, this kind of situation also highlights the people who are making the right choice. The Dog Park had a clean-up event a couple of weeks ago and had a great volunteer turn-out. A local shelter recently put a sign on their building boasting 1,186 adoptions this year alone.
The woman in the article stopped what she was doing and saved that dog (also look at the comments below). And I know from experience the animal hospital that took him in is a super busy one, but they've found the time and space to take care of him.

And of course, our friends and family have chosen to welcome and love Alice, to snuggle with her, sew and send her presents, vote for her for contests, give her treats, make special visits to see her, etcetera, etcetera-- not only just making the right choice, but going so far above and beyond it to show that she's appreciated and not simply tolerated or a nuisance.

Here's to the good people outnumbering the idiots.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Feats

The holidays are upon us, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is on, and the Human Male and I are packing up for the annual pilgrimage to New York. We've decided that instead of training or busing it, we're driving so we can take Alice along (in preparation for the Christmas pilgrimage to the Motherland, land of pugs, cats, and a chihuahua).

I'm trying to be prepared. Alice has her own bag, so far full of tennis balls, stuffed toys, treats, her sweaters and special Thanksgiving bandanna, and plastic bags. My camera's all juiced up to take her picture in every state.

But I'm expecting total disaster. She's great in the car, but we've never driven this far with her. And there will be many other dogs (and people) in the house-- Alice is not good with sharing her tennis balls or treats. And she steals food. Even the thought of being in someone else's house with her is a little scary.

Even so, I'm excited for her to meet some relatives and more members of the Urban Family. And she's been a lot easier than I anticipated her being since we got her, so I'm hoping I'm just overreacting.

Or the Human male's parents don't care if all the china in their cabinets gets broken.

Or that she doesn't jump on the table and eat the turkey.

Or at least not whole.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Best Jenga Partner/Worst Jenga Enemy.

The Human Male and I decided to play Jenga tonight. And so did Alice.

She's a great distractor when it's your opponent's turn, but when it's yours and she decides to pull a piece out of the bottom of the stack, you kind of start wishing you could go back in time to the day you thought it'd be funny to teach her how to sit at the kitchen table like a little human and smack yourself in the head.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Alice loves the Blazers.

Alice got some love from the NBA! Channing Frye of the Portland Trailblazers has a really entertaining blog, and last week he had a Halloween costume contest. I thought it'd be fun to send Alice's Halloween picture in, and today she got honorable mention! Check it out here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

...And then he talked about the economy or something.

Other than making the Human Male listen to me rant and rave at the campaign ads that would've played two at a time if TV air time worked that way, I tried to stay mum during the campaign (save for California's Prop 2 and Prop 8 initiatives-- those got a little noisy). Somehow all of the lovely people in my life fall into two camps: the Extreme Republicans and the Extreme Democrats. Both sides are very vocal, and both are convinced that the other one is going to be the downfall of civilization. I learned that if I said anything politically-bent, someone was going to get loud, defensive, and likely start crying and erase me from their phone.

The election is now over, and things happened as they did. Now we can focus on something important: the Obamadog.

During his acceptance speech, Obama mentioned that they would be getting a dog. I was already jazzed up about seeing Grant Park on TV (flashback to great memories of the 1998 Bulls rally, when Mamala "left us to go get the camera" and somehow ended up moving closer to the bandshell and making a whole new group of drunken Chicago friends), and the thought of a new dog neighbor made me so happy. I was even more ecstatic when I checked in on the Animals and Politics blog and read that the Obamas were looking to adopt. He mentioned his future pooch again in this afternoon's press conference.

Who knows if this is an actual consideration or just a campaign move, but being a Chicagoan living in DC with a DC shelter dog, I'd be remiss if I didn't say something about this.

DC is a great area to have a dog. While there are some definite improvements that could be made (like allowing dogs on the Metro), I don't think I've ever lived in a more dog-friendly area. There are several dog parks in the area, a lot of the stores allow dogs in-- including Barnes and Noble-- and many of the restaurants have outdoor seating. Walk up and down any business district and you'll see a water bowl outside the stores and a dish of treats at the counter.

I don't know if it's like this everywhere, but there are an unbelievable amount of homeless dogs (and cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards, etcetera) in this area. It's heartbreaking. Some of them were clearly someone's pet in the not too distant past, and others showed the obvious signs that they'd had a hard life. It's shocking to see what people do to animals, or how they'll use them to make a quick buck. I think in the DC metro area, you get a mix of situations: people who need to move quickly, dogfighting rings, backyard breeders, those who didn't notice the "no pets" clause in their leases. No matter what their former situations were, so many of them gave you the look that said "Just take me home and I'll be good". Needless to say, I cried a lot when we were looking for a dog.

Fortunately, there's quite a number of organizations working hard to find them good homes. While we were trying to find Alice, we had our list narrowed down to easily a dozen shelters, rescue organizations, and websites. Some places are lucky to even have that many! Surely there are some that are crazy or in it for the money, but the groups we frequented were run by kind, knowledgeable animal people who were really looking for out for the pet's best interest. We even found this at the county shelters-- we got Alice from Fairfax, and they had spent upwards of $600 in medical procedures on her right after she came in. That's a chunk of change when the return profit is a $20 adoption fee.

One of the things that has surprised me the most about the area is how many people have rescue dogs here. For a town obsessed with image, there are some people toting around some damn ugly mutts out there. But at least ninety percent of the dogs we've met since we got Alice have been rescues. Even the "designer" or chi-chi ones-- I've yet to meet a non-shelter puggle or bulldog yet. It's encouraging to see that, underneath the shiny postcard exterior, there are some kindhearted people out there.

Who knows if the Obamas do hit up a shelter if they'll be able to find a low-allergy dog, but since everyone else is having a field day with the suggestions, so will I. My pick for the first dog would be a pit bull or pit bull mix. They're a gorgeous, loveable, and totally underestimated breed, and there's no short supply of them in the area (I think it's both a case of local dogfighting rings and apartment complexes that ban the breed). I can't even imagine what having a shelter pit bull as the First Dog would do to changing the breed's image.

Though I have to say, I think there's a case to be made for comical little pug mutts, too...