Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chi-Chi's Enemy

(Chi-Chi died today, from complications of diabetes. Before her death, we had the chance to become actual friends. This piece, written two years ago, describes my basic relationship with that funny little dog.)

I don't think Chi-Chi really hates me. Her feelings are both deeper and more complicated than that.

Chi-Chi is the pack member I've alluded to a few times, but not written about much . She's a 14 year old, diabetic, Chihuahua who belongs to my mom, which makes her my sister. To be sure, she hates me less than my human sister does, but since I live with Chi-Chi, she has to endure me much more.

I've lived with Chi-Chi for eight years, and she still barks at me as if I was a burglar every time she sees me. Not every time I come into the house, but every time she lays eyes on me. When I get down on the floor to try to befriend her, she backs away in terror, snarling at me, until finally she's in the back of her box.

That's right. Chi-Chi lives in a box. I know it's supposed to be called a "crate," and, technically, that's what it is, but it looks like a box to me. Chi-Chi spends at least twenty hours a day in the box. The door is never latched, or even closed, it's just where Chi-Chi prefers to be. One might think this would mean she's housebroken. One would be mistaken. 

It's not that she doesn't know we'd prefer she went outside, it's that she doesn't care. Her turds are as hard and dry as rocks, and we don't have carpets in the house, so she's easy enough to clean up after. To be clear, though; these aren't "accidents." She knows better, she has the opportunity to go outside, and she decides she'd rather not. I don't much like cleaning up after her, but I must say I admire the strength of her convictions, however ill-advised they may be.

When I approach her in her box, she is as aggressive as possible. Fortunately for me, she's a Chihuahua. How aggressive can that be? I used to worry a little, until one day I decided to just let her bite me, if she wanted. She did want to, but since I could barely feel it when she dove into the flesh of my hand, we've both come to understand that actual violence on her part is an ineffective deterrent.

Chi-Chi weighs eight pounds, but the vet feels she should weigh six. At one point, she weighed twelve pounds, and looked more like the bioengineered result of blending a pot-bellied pig with a human fetus. Then she was diagnosed with diabetes, began insulin shots and a special diet, so today she's at least recognizable as some form of canine.

My parents got Chi-Chi from a rescue organization when she was already about a year old. She was tightly bonded with my father, who passed away 2 ½ years ago. Since my father's death, Chi-Chi has become much closer to my mother, and, if anything, hates me even more. Understand, I've never yelled at Chi-Chi or disciplined her in any way. I've always been as gentle with her as if she were a glass figurine. It doesn't matter, though. Chi-Chi is the only dog I've ever met who just can't stand me.

But "hate" might not be the exactly right word. Chi-Chi will accept a treat from me, though she trembles as she does so, and I have to reach my arm way out so my hand is as far away from the rest of my body as possible. She'll muster up the bravery to pluck the treat from my hand, and then immediately retire to her box to eat it. She would prefer that I never touched her, or looked at her, but I have fed her and given her insulin shots. She is terrified when I have to do this, but when I leave her alone in her room, she eats all her dinner.

Sometimes, though, I'll see Chi-Chi looking at me when she doesn't think I notice, and she's not giving me the evil eye. I'll catch her looking at me with an expression of awe, if not reverence. If she sees me looking back, she'll usually start barking and snarling again, but it doesn't matter. I know. And she knows that I know.

Chi-Chi sees me walk, feed, and totally care for Levi, Rocky and Erica (of course she's been invited on the walks, and, naturally, she refuses). She sees me comfort them during frightening times, like thunderstorms. It's clear to her that they all love me. So what's the problem?

Honestly, I believe it's that Chi-Chi is scared to love me, for whatever reason. Maybe it's something unknown in her past, like abuse from a man who looked like me, but I don't think so. I think Chi-Chi holds back from a simple fear of loss and rejection. I think that because she's so small, when Rocky and Levi are excited around me, she's scared she might get knocked over and hurt. 

Mainly, though, I think that Chi-Chi has decided she can't love me, because she wouldn't be able to stand if I didn't love her back. Of course I would, but I think Chi-Chi is a one-person sort of dog, and that, whoever her master is, better be a one-dog kind of person. Knowing I love Levi, Erica and Rocky, I think Chi-Chi is unwilling to accept sharing my love with anyone. Therefore, Chi-Chi's reasoning goes, she has to hate me.

I'm sorry for Chi-Chi in that she can't bring herself to be my friend, but she has a relatively full life, anyway (full for someone who spends twenty hours a day in a box, that is). She has a very close bond with my mom. She loves Levi, who is clearly aware of their size disparity and is always extra gentle and careful around her. Like everyone, she loves Rocky, though you can tell even she knows he's not too bright.

But Chi-Chi's best friend in the pack, outside my mom, is the other girl, close to her size and age. Chi-Chi and Erica Kane adore each other. Erica's been long habituated to dogs, but Chi-Chi is the first one she's known who's actually smaller than she is. As far as I know, Erica is the first, and only cat, Chi-Chi has ever seen, but somehow they couldn't be tighter sisters and girlfriends. 

So all in all, me and my pack moving in on her territory was a positive thing for Chi-Chi, even if it does mean she has to live with me, her enemy. I refuse to be her enemy, though. She can bark, snarl and bite all she wants, it doesn't matter. Any friend of Rocky, Levi and Erica, is a friend of mine. 

(Note to my Hispanic and Spanish speaking readers: I know what Chi-Chis are. I do not believe my parents did when they chose that name)

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands



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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Goodbye Erica Kane

On November 6, 2010, Erica died in Scottsdale, Arizona. Click here to refresh your memory of Erica.

This is the last photograph on my precious Erica, from Friday, November 5th. She was gorgeous until the end. Karen raised her from a very sick kitty into the best cat I've ever know.

My consolation is she died quickly, without lingering illness and dimishment of her powers. She was my cat to end all cats.

Webbings and Nails

Erica's Dreams.

Sleeping Arrangements

This was Erica's House; We were just tenants.

A philisophical exchange between Erica and Levi.

Don't want to hear about the damn Rainbow Bridge!

I'll miss that girl for as long as I live. She was a great cat.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Happened During Hibernation

Happy New Year! May 2010 be a great year for each of you.

Thanks to my friend, Frank, I now have a few pictures of the original pack, Lyric, the German shepherd, Chelsea, Holden, and a couple more pictures of Karen.

After enjoying a hibernation of a few weeks, I've decided to essentially shut down the Den of the Dogman. Over the last couple of months, I've written about all that I want to on the subject of dogs.

I'm not removing the site from the Internet, nor am I closing it completely. I'll post new stories from time to time, but not on a regular basis. If you want to be sure that you get any new stories that may appear, subscribe by e-mail at the upper right. You won't get on any spam list, and if something new appears, you'll be the first to know.

I've enjoyed writing this blog, and am continuing to write, just in a different, longer, format. I'd go into further detail, but I haven't begun yet. If you'd like to be kept up to date on my writing projects, just let me know and I'll be glad to do so. If you'd like to hire me to write something for you, give me a call.

Thanks for reading.


(Levi, Erica, Rocky and Chi-Chi, too)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

They Were Winners, Who Became the Doggie's Dinners

You've got to love this story from Dallas. Two pugs who ate their owners are now up for adoption! That's right. ATE their owners! It seems the married couple who owned the dogs committed suicide, together, leaving the dogs to fend for themselves, for at least days! What are two little doggies supposed to do? That's why Levi maintains dogs should always be allowed to determine their own necessary amount of fat reserves!
This reminds me of one of my favorite dog songs by proto-punk rock legend Nick Lowe, Marie Provost (sic). The song, below, is about a silent film star, Marie Prevost, who, after great early success, died alone in her Hollywood room at the age of 38. Her body was eventually found because of the incessant barking of her dachshund.
Rumor has it that Marie's legs were covered in tiny bites when the medics removed her. Nick Lowe sings that, "She was a winner/who became the doggie's dinner."
If you've not heard Nick Lowe's song, or if you have, have a listen now and enjoy this little video. It's a great tune that you'll be humming all day, as you make sure to feed your dogs plenty. But first, the lyrics:

Nick Lowe

Marie Provost did not look her best
The day the cops bust into her lonely nest
in the cheap hotel up on Hollywood west
July 29

She'd been lyin' there for two or three weeks
The neighbors said they never heard a squeak
While hungry eyes that could not speak
said even little doggies have got to eat

She was a winner that became a doggie's dinner
She never meant that much to me
Whoa oh poor Marie

Marie Provost was a movie queen
mysterious angel of the silent screen
And run like the wind the nation's young men steamed
When Marie crossed the silent screen

Whoa she came out west from New York
but when the talkies came Marie just couldn't cope
The public said Marie take a walk
All the way back to New York

-repeat chorus-

Those quaalude bombs didn't help her sleep
As her nights grew long and her days grew bleak
It's all downhill once you've passed your peak
Marie got ready for that last big sleep

The cops came in and they looked around
Throwin' up everywhere over what they found
The handiwork of Marie's little dachshund
That hungry little dachshund

-repeat chorus-

poor Marie

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tired of Your Dog? Get a Fox!

This is a remarkable three minute film! If you don't know about this, watch it.
In short, Russian scientists did an experiment wherein wild foxes were bred for tameness. Within 10 generations, the Russians found they had...dogs? And if not dogs, then what? If you have any interest in how dogs came to be, you'll learn a lot from this excerpt from "Nova."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dogs Don’t Hibernate but the Dogman Does

It's true. Look it up on Wikipedia. Dogs just keep going year round. Regardless of the biological realities, however, the Den of the Dogman is going into hibernation mode from now until the beginning of 2010.

I can feel your panic building. "What does this mean for me?" you want to know. Fair enough.

Until the beginning of January, I will not be posting new material daily to this site. I may post some new stuff, I may not. If you're a Facebook friend, I'll annoyingly announce when there's something new. But really, now is the ideal time for you to go to the bottom left of the page and become a "follower." As a follower, you will always be informed of new events in the Den. Of course, subscribing by e-mail always remains an attractive option.

I will continue with the weekly dog news, and am introducing a new feature I call, "Dogman Remix." In short, I am going to rework some of my favorite stories already posted to this site. Some changes I make will be very minor, like adding a comma here and there. Other changes will be more significant.

If you haven't read a particular story in the "Dogman Remix" series, now is the perfect time. The story will be better than ever!

If you liked a story the first time you read it, you may want to read it again. It should be at least a little better.

If you're psychotic, you will be able to spend time comparing the two stories, the original and the "re-mix," and noting the changes that have been made. I'm trying to offer something for everyone here!

Other days during hibernation, I will not post anything at all. Do not be distressed by this! Things are different during the holidays, and soon everything will be back to normal.

In the meantime, relax. Have fun. If you have to read something here, just dig around the archives. Can't go wrong there.

Happy holidays to all my readers and friends, and especially to all their dogs and cats. If nothing else, I hope my writing has made pet owners just a little more mindful of how blessed they are by their animal families.


© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands



Monday, December 14, 2009

My Turn: It’s My House, So Follow My Rules, by Erica Kane

I've lived with dogs since I was a tiny kitten, and I have to say that they are literal minded to the point of idiocy, usually, or, at their best, like Levi, they are a mass of neuroses and misguided perceptions. Don't interpret this to mean that I don't like dogs. I'm very fond of them indeed, though the things that worry or excite them are quite beyond my understanding. Do you have to act like hooligans because the doorbell rang? It just means someone's here, but they'll leave soon. You dogs need to learn to concentrate on what's important.

Because of the inattention of the dogs and humans I cohabit with, I have had the opportunity to mark everything and everyone in the house. Those stupid dogs (and humans) see me rubbing my face on chairs, tables, walls, everything, and they don't do a thing to stop me, or mark their things first. I've proceeded with some caution, but at this point I can announce, with no fear of contradiction, that I own the entire house, all its contents, and the surrounding lot and landscaping.

Though my clever encroachments have given me indisputable title to the family home, it is not in my nature to be a tyrant. I shudder to think of what antic rules might be imposed were Levi to become lord and master of our domicile. I have no intention of evicting anybody, human or dog, now that I have obtained title, and as a practical matter nothing will change. I just have a bit more security, which I need for my psychological well-being.

Which brings me to the real object of this essay: my fear of imminent starvation.

Despite being a cat of property and distinction, I am dependent upon dad for my very sustenance, and his inattention makes me fear that I might starve to death in the near future. By noting this now, and publicly, I hope to aid the possible service of justice in the event of my negligent homicide by starvation.

Of course, I free feed. My food must be available to me 24/7. Who knows when I'll be hungry? Certainly not dad! He is so inattentive!

I have what's known as a "gravity" feeder. It holds about two pounds of food. As I eat what's in the bowl, the food is replenished from the canister. It's an amazing invention, so simple but necessary and useful. Rather like the wheel. It's the kind of creation that makes me realize what useful and creative creatures humans really are.

Despite the manifest cleverness of humans, my dad will often let this device become so empty that it holds less than a pound of food! I understand that his intent is to fill it up again, sometime, but who knows how the future may conspire to make that intent untenable?

Once my gravity feeder is one quarter empty, I loudly notify everyone in the area of the potential disaster that lies ahead. If my yowls are heeded at all, it's by dad looking at my feeder and saying something wholly irrelevant like, "Erica, there's enough food there for a month. Stop it."

"Enough food for a month." What then, dad, what then?

So he lets the feeder get ever lower, dangerously lower, until I'm forced to spend much of my energy motivating him to fill my feeder up all the way! I "meow," I yowl, I run back and forth from wherever he is, to my food bowl, and he'll do nothing at all! Dad may be "the dogman," but he certainly doesn't know how to properly appease a cat. It's times like this that I wish I were big, and could make dad do what he's supposed to!

Finally, things will get dangerous. The feeder will be half empty. That's when I switch into high alert, and I will no longer be denied! I will not stop bugging everyone until the feeder is full to the top.

My rational side knows that with the feeder half-full, there is enough food for at least a week. But are my wishes so extreme? Is it too much to ask that my feeder just be kept full? Especially considering I'm the landlord around here. Really, that's all I want out of life.

Especially now that I legally own everything else.

Ed. Note: This is ordinarily Levi's column, but late Sunday night he informed me that he wasn't a machine who wrote on cue. I reminded Levi that he had known about this deadline for a week, and that he himself had insisted on a weekly column in the first place. Levi then asked for a cookie, which he got.

Erica said she would fill in for Levi, and that she had an important issue of which the public needed to be made aware. I told her that would be fine.

She handed in the above at the last minute. It's actually fairly accurate, except, of course, I dispute Erica's legal ownership of the house by virtue of her markings. 

If you don't care for Erica's opinions, feel free to check out some of Levi's past work here.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Wrap-up and Poll Question

Happy Sunday and thank you for stopping by the Den.

If you look to the bottom left of this page you'll see a box that says, "Follow Me!" It gives you an opportunity to "join" the Den of the Dogman! What could be cooler? Presently, I have 19 followers. Bless them all, but I need more, hundreds of followers, because, ultimately, the Dogman has somewhere to lead you all! Is this the beginning of a cult? I can't say. Just sign up to be a follower, and I will be your Alpha! You might have to sign up for "Google Friend Connect" first. Don't let that put you off. It's a minor inconvenience for the opportunity to follow me!

Now, what happened in the Den of the Dogman this week?

On Monday, Levi sounded off in his weekly, "My Turn," column. This time around, Levi decided he would be a mentor to puppies everywhere, so he offered some general advise to the young in, "You've Got to Stop and Smell the Urine." Come back tomorrow for some more of Levi's thoughts and opinions.

On Tuesday, a titillating title, "My Nightly Threesome," led into a short talk about the sleeping arrangements of Erica, Levi, and me. Not my best piece, but there's a really funny movie at the end that will make it worth your while to check it out.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday consisted of a series of stories that brought us back to 1984. First, Karen and I moved, with Lyric and Holden, to Los Angeles. This required Holden to fly, which really messed him up. If there's any way for you to avoid having to fly your pet in cargo, any way at all, do it. Don't risk them, too, having to experience "Dog Torture at 30,000 Feet."

Once in LA, Karen and I became disillusioned with humanity. We were living in "Apocalypse 1984!" Because of this, and some other reasons, we did the only thing that seemed logical – We got another dog!

And that dog was a beautiful, grey and white, half German shepherd, half Australian shepherd puppy named Chelsea. She was such a good puppy it made me "Wish They All Could be California Girls." Now we had three dogs. We weren't pet owners anymore, we were pack leaders.

Tomorrow, there will be yet another opinion from the demented mind of Levi. Again, he won't tell me the subject, and, again, it doesn't much matter. I'll almost certainly end up distancing myself from Levi's views, as I always have had to in the past.

For a look at some of Levi's earlier opinion pieces, click here.

Finally, leave a note and tell me which of these five Entrecards you like best, and why. I've been alternating them, and I'm curious as to reactions. Please leave a comment. Which one most attracts attention. Knowing nothing about the site, having to click ONE, which one would you choose?

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday News of the Dog

It's been my policy to stay away from disturbing news when I present my Saturday wrap-ups of the week's dog news. The papers are full of stories about puppy mills and dog fighting and people throwing dogs off balconies and such, and I don't want to fill people's heads with that kind of stuff.

Still, this first story today is far from pleasant. Bizarre, sad, disturbing story about a guy who wanted to be a dogman, and what went wrong. Robert Brunette, of Boulder, CO, kept about 50 dogs and lived with them as their "Alpha." Weird, Lord of the Flies type antics ensued. Now he's been convicted on all counts, and it seems, this putative "dogman" is facing 4 years in prison. The moral of this story: Kids, don't try this at home. Or, perhaps, try not to go too crazy.

Science has weighed in, and it's official, verified and scientific. Dogs are smarter than cats! I can't imagine this finding will result in any controversy whatsoever. I am refraining from mentioning this finding to Erica Kane, however.

Here's something positive, for a certain dog, anyway. Liza, a dog of uncertain provenance from Iraq, survived a suicide blast last week that killed 125 and injured 500. Humans. But Liza is alright, and has been reunited with a 14 year old boy who is the sole surviving member of his family. Of course the dogman wishes both Liza and her young master all the best.

With so few shopping days until Christmas, let us be thankful for The USA Today for providing us with a handy guide for the top ten gifts for dogs and cats.

Speaking of dogs and Christmas gifts, it's gratifying to know that Bo Obama will have his own Christmas stocking in the White House. Naturally, Levi opposes this, claiming that it will add to the deficit, but Levi's feelings about the First Dog might color his opinion somewhat. For one, I'm hoping Bo and the whole Obama family have a great Christmas!

This dog talks! Again, this particular dog talks!

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands



Friday, December 11, 2009

Wish They All Could Be California Girls

For Karen and me, not much good came out of Los Angeles in 1984. We'd moved there without a plan, with our two dogs, Lyric and Holden, and were soon overcome by a fear and loathing of the mass of humanity we found ourselves amidst. We decided that the logical reaction to our new found misanthropy would be to increase the canine to human ratio in our household. We decided to get a puppy.

There were two primary rationales for getting a puppy. Lyric, the Seeing Eye dog, was smart, young and strong, everything a German shepherd should be. Our other dog, Holden, was a fat, dim-witted, beagle mix, and he was simply not an ideal playmate for her. Often, in her fun, Lyric would send Holden sprawling, and we didn't want him to get hurt. We wanted Lyric to have as full a life as possible, and we thought that should include a relationship with a dog with which she could have some parity. Forcing her to play with Holden seemed like forcing Bobby Fisher to play chess with Sling Blade (look, he liked fried potatoes, OK?). It couldn't be very satisfying for Lyric.

Furthermore, Sling Blade…I mean, Holden, needed another dog, too, we believed. Though he may have been satisfied with Lyric as a playmate, since Lyric was a guide dog, when we went out, Holden would be left alone. Holden was a bad boy when left alone, prone to tremendous acts of destruction, and we reasoned that if he wasn't left all alone, but had a better behaved dog keeping him company, then maybe that would help him straighten up and fly right. We knew even then that was unlikely, but, who knows, maybe.

Let me say right now that both of the above rationales were based on false premises. After thirty years as a dogman, I'll say, with some certainty, that an intelligent dog does not need an equal for a playmate, and, with total certainty, that leaving a good dog home alone with a destructive one is much more likely to corrupt the good one than it is to mend the ways of the bad. But, back in 1984, we were at the beginning of our learning curve, and those two reasons for getting another dog seemed reasonable enough.

Anyway, Los Angeles sucked and we wanted a puppy!

We found an ad in the paper and decided to get a three month old, German shepherd/Australian shepherd mix, puppy. We figured this would be a dog that could keep up with Lyric and who might be smart enough to reform Holden. We got to the house, and met both the parents. The father, a German shepherd, was a very friendly, stable, fellow. The Australian shepherd mother seemed just a little "off," but to be fair a couple of strangers were looking over her puppies, so I guess she had every right to be.

There were four or five puppies, but we were instantly drawn to one little grey and white female who seemed more outgoing than the others. We named her Chelsea, and took her away in the car to begin her new life.

Chelsea was not only adorable, she was perfect. She was alert and interested, liked the car ride, and didn't cry for a second when separated from everything she'd ever known. She was infested with fleas, so the very first thing we had to do, before we even brought her in the house, was give her a flea dip.

It's easy to forget now just how awful a problem fleas used to be. Whatever horrifying odorless poison is in the Frontline Plus and other flea and tick products we use today is an absolute godsend. Back in 1984, the only way to de-flea a dog was to immerse it in a fluid that stunk like kerosene, let it dry, and then dip the dog again. When we first saw Chelsea, we thought she had some small scabs on her. On closer inspection, we saw they were flea colonies, massed so as to appear solid. The flea treatment had to be traumatic for a three month old puppy, but Chelsea went through the ordeal with a happy dignity.

I haven't thought about Chelsea as a puppy for a long time, and now the memory of her is flooding me with warmth. The pictures that appear with this article are not Chelsea, but they show basically what she looked like then. She was so smart, and happy, and bright-eyed, and eager to join her family.

Lyric and Holden both accepted Chelsea at once, and she was thrilled to have two other dogs to play and live with. Everyone was happy, at least for a while.

Lyric, Holden and Chelsea would live together for the rest of their long lives. Other dogs would come and go, but those three remained the core of the pack for their entire lives. Going to California might have been a bad idea, but when we left, we had our Chelsea, so, as it turns out, something good came out of us being in Los Angeles that awful summer of 1984.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands