Monday, November 30, 2009

My Turn: A Weighty Matter, by Levi

I have a bone to pick with the vet. Ordinarily, I enjoy picking bones (I am, lest you forget, a dog), but in this case, the sport of chewing is overshadowed by the seriousness of the issue at hand. According to our vet, Dr. Mengele, I assume, I need to lose weight! Me, Levi!

To further his agenda of starving dogs and cats, the vet said that Rocky and Erica were "a little overweight" as well. Chi-Chi's always been a fatty, but then it turned out she has diabetes and she's not nearly so fat now. In fact, I'd say she's just about right. Dr. Kevorkian would disagree. He says dad should be able to feel all of our ribs and spines easily. That's loony! Sure, he should be able to feel we have ribs and spines, but there shouldn't be anything easy about it. This is what I look like now:

I've heard it said that you can never be too rich or too thin. Maybe that's true about being too rich, but I can assure you, anyone thinner than me is dangerously thin.

"Why dangerously," you ask. "Aren't you engaging in hyperbole again, like when you compared the Fed Ex man to Hitler?" To that I say, "No, a hundred million times, No!"

I am not fat! This is what I would look like if I was fat! I do not look like that!

When that deranged vet says that I'm overweight, he's just demonstrating his ignorance. What he calls, "overweight," I call, "famine-proof." A smart dog like me knows trouble often lurks right around the corner. With an extra 10% or so bodyweight, I will be able to face that trouble head on, without crippling hunger thwarting my ability to plan and think clearly.

Let's suppose, for an instant, that, heaven forfend, dad and grandma ate some bad clams and keeled over dead. It could happen. Where would Chi-Chi, Rocky, Erica and I be then?

Certainly we'd be hungry, but we wouldn't starve to death. If we were what Dr. Crippen says is "ideal" weight, we would be so hungry that we would have no choice but to start eating dad and grandma immediately. Then, when help arrived, we'd look like the bad guys. That won't do. Levi never plays the villain!

With our famine-proof physiques, though, if sudden death overtook dad and grandma, we'd have at least a day before we had to start eating them to fend off death by starvation. We'd have a whole day to figure out which parts of them would be best to start with. We wouldn't have to just start eating willy-nilly, like "ideal" dogs would be forced to do. Also, maybe we'd be able to wait it out, until fortune smiled upon us once more.

In a horrible situation like that, it's possible someone could come save us. Or maybe dad and grandma would stop being dead and feed us, because we would be very hungry. But if dad and grandma stopped being dead, that would mean they hadn't been dead at all, just sleeping, maybe.

So, if we were maintained at what that crazy bastard vet says were our "ideal" weights, it could be a tragedy waiting to happen! Dad and grandma might be sleeping too long, and in our state of near starvation, the pack and I might think they were dead forever, and start eating them! Not only would we be in trouble, but it would be embarrassing. I do not like to be embarrassed.

So, in conclusion, dogs and cats should, ideally, be 10% above their "ideal" weights, so that they are famine-proof, and terrible mistakes happen less frequently. If a veterinarian says something different, he is wrong and a bad vet! He doesn't care if your dog eats you! Do you really want a guy like that treating your pets? No, of course you don't.

If your dog is more than 10% overweight, you still might want to be careful about trying to impose a diet on him. Talk with him, emphasize the health consequences, but whatever you do, let his weight-loss be his idea. When a fat dog is put on a diet he gets very hungry, and while I'm not saying a fat dog is going to eat you and your family if he gets extra hungry, I'm just saying it isn't something you want to find out about.

Editor's Note: I don't have a note today. This is just how Levi wrote it, and I think it speaks for itself. For more of Levi's interesting views, click here.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Old Dogs

No kind of dog makes me feel as good as an old dog.

Puppies are cuter. They'll do things to make you laugh and then make you go, "Aw." Their enthusiasm for everything is their charm.

Adult dogs are great. They can be your best friend and constant companion. They've learned the art of control and the virtue of patience, but they still remain ready for anything. If you want to get up at two in the morning and go for a walk, an adult dog will always be happy to go with you. For an adult dog, "going with you," is about as good as it gets.

But as the puppy turns into the adult, so, at some point, does the adult dog become an old dog. In an increasingly frenetic world, the old dog becomes increasingly still. He can't compete for attention with a puppy, but he knows he doesn't have to.

As a rule, old dogs know who they are, and are comfortable with it. We see an old dog with bad hips struggling to get up and think it's sad. But the dog isn't sad about it at all, and doesn't know what the fuss is about. He's just getting up, and it's not quite as easy as it used to be.

Puppies are taking everything in, starting to figure out the world. Adult dogs are alert and, hopefully, confident, and every decision they make helps define them. Old dogs are secure in themselves. Let the kids watch and strut and worry. An old dog's done that for years, and has begun to understand the futility of that sort of world orientation.

An old dog has learned acceptance, of his limitations, and the world's. An old dog doesn't sweat it, not because he doesn't care, but because he's learned that sweating it never helps. Old dogs don't get as embarrassed as they did when they were younger. When a young dog stumbles, for example, he's like a person, pretending that it didn't happen, or that he did it on purpose, or that his ankle isn't sore now. When an old dog stumbles, he slows down more so he won't stumble again, and understands that stumbling is just something that happens every now and then.

Over Thanksgiving, I pet sat for an old dog, Benson, a 13 year-old golden retriever who was suddenly consigned to home when his grandma decided she didn't want dog hair on her carpet. Benson lives one door down from me with his mom and dad and two young boys, and he adores his routine. Every morning he walks out of the house to bring the paper to dad in bed, just like a dog from a 50's sitcom. He's unfailingly polite and well-mannered.

And he was unhappy that he'd been left behind. When I came to see him Thursday morning he regarded me coldly and didn't want to be petted or comforted. He wanted to sit there, being mad at the family who left him behind when they left in the car. But then breakfast was served.

An old dog can be mad at the whole family, but he won't let that stop him from eating. Starving yourself never helped a situation. As Benson ate, he wagged his tail. Just eating his plain dog food, that he eats every day, is enough to make Benson happy, even after the terrible betrayal by his grandma. After he ate I gave him a special treat, a piece of a dog treat very much like chicken jerky. He was happy with this unexpected delight, but not overwhelmed. He took it with dignity, lay down where he'd been standing, and ate it happily.

Benson likes me, and he's happy to be fed by me, but he still knew he was left behind, and he still felt the injustice. He's always a good boy; he's earned the right to go on family trips. He doesn't let his sadness ruin the good things about life, though, and one of those good things, for Benson, is eating. He might have been ditched, and been sitting around home, alone, bored, all night, but those aren't reasons not to eat joyfully when he has his breakfast, and then to lie back down with the beautiful dignity you can only find in an old dog.

Most of the dogs I've had grew old with me. Lyric lived with us longer in retirement than she did as a worker, and for whatever reason, remembering her old makes me happier than remembering her in her prime. It's as if all the sweetness of a dog has been concentrated in an old dog, while energy, ego, overwhelming instinctual desires, and other less essential elements of the dog's being have been boiled away. Look into the eyes of an old dog, assuming cataracts don't render them unreadable, and you can see all the dignity, love, and understanding that have made dogs our partners for all these millennia.

Next time you see an old dog, get down on the ground and pet him, and really commune with him. Soak in the wisdom he's accumulated over his lifetime, and be quietly thankful for the opportunity. The dog will be glad for the contact, and will be happy to share his life's knowledge with you, if only you'll stop for a moment, and listen.

(This piece inspired a blogger friend of mine to write her own celebration of her older dogs. It's excellent and moving, and you can read it here).

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday News of the Dog, now with various internet stuff!

Welcome to Saturday's News of the Dog.
There's a small change in the format of the Saturday News starting this week. You know I don't include dog horror stories in the news, like stories of dog fighting, abuse, etc. That being the case, it's sometimes hard to find enough good dog news in a week to fill a web page. So, from now on, instead of strictly news, Saturday will be weekly dog news as well as dog and cat stuff I find around the internet. I guess the main thing to remember about Saturday's posting is, I still don't write any of it myself. Not that it isn't still hard work, of course.
Now, without further ado, this week's News of the Dog:

50 homeless, puppy-mill, dogs, get a Thanksgiving feast in Chicago on their way to new homes in New York. Excellent!

What was the deal with dogs at the first Thanksgiving? I was idly wondering, and then I stumble across this news story.

As has become a Saturday tradition, here's another freakishly large dog, this one is Boomer, from right here in the USA (well, South Dakota, but that's close enough).

This is so great! A squirrel attacks a dog who is going after her babies. Poor dog. Good for you, squirrel! See here!

What are you getting your dog or cat for Christmas? It'll be here before you know it.

This might be the saddest dog story I've ever read. At least it's the saddest I've read recently. It's called, "The Rescued Lab and His Tennis Balls." Proceed at your own risk here.

And, finally, a dog that does her own laundry! This is pretty impressive.

Friday, November 27, 2009


The thing about the day after Thanksgiving is it's traditionally a day of leftovers. So it is here in the Den.

The first leftover is an essay about the dogs (identical) cousin, the coyote. We might hate it for the threat it represents to our pets, but if we look a little more carefully, we can do nothing but respect it for its ability to do on its own that which our dogs need our help. Click here for some thoughts on this wily canine.

The next leftover is a piece I liked quite a bit, but others had some issues with. Regardless, it's the day after Thanksgiving so it finds it way into the leftover bin. It's a very short play entitled "Cerberus Meets Caligula." It's about a short meeting between the mythological three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hades, and Caligula, demented Roman Emperor. It's an absolutely pointless play, but I was taken with the idea of writing a part for a talking, three-headed, dog. North American production rights are still available! Click here.

The Dog on el Dia de los Inocentes is a short piece of fiction about a little dog in Mexico during the annual festival for dead children, held every November 1st. It was an attempt at something a little different, and it didn't turn out half-bad, if I do say so myself. Enjoy it here.

Finally, for desert in this meal of leftovers! All Dogs Eyes are the Same Size, a piece which seems to have inflamed the imagination of readers. Take a look here and see what you think.

Come back tomorrow for Saturday News of the Dog in an exciting new format!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Feast

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you realize how much you have to be thankful for, especially if you're lucky enough to have dogs or cats. Make sure they get some turkey today. Yes, it will give them bad turkey farts, but that's a small price to pay for their happiness. (And I just said some. I mean a few bites. See this article to find out why maybe turkey is not the best idea. Maybe a little ham?)

Today, a few of the Dogman's favorite pieces, for your holiday enjoyment.

First, meet Rocky. He's a good boy, he tries real hard, and he has a lot of character! That's a pretty good combination, if you ask me. Read about Rocky here.

I don't think Rocky's ever run into a skunk. If he had, though, he surely would have been thrilled! Dogs love skunks' odor. Why is that? A possible answer to this question lies here.

Finally, for after-dinner Thanksgiving fun, here are the rules for Rocky's favorite game, Look Out, Cat!!! I'm sure all your pets would enjoy a rousing round or two after supper and before dessert!

Learn how to play, Look Out, Cat!!! here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Levi's Views

Levi is my current dog, and since I've begun this site, he's taken to writing editorials. I wouldn't say that Levi's opinions are well-founded, but they're, well...just read them and see.

Levi's first editorial was about something he is strongly against, Those People at the Door. Read Levi's thoughts about this pressing issue here.

Next, Levi wrote a strangely aggressive anti-Obama editorial. He notes that Obama is foreign, elite, too young, and the wrong color. It's my position that Levi dove a little off the deep end in this editorial, which you can read here.

Then Levi wrote about "Dudley dogs." This one is actually sort of informative, if not entirely factual. It's right here.

Levi seems to want to attack Jenny Craig. Read about his concerns in "A Weighty Matter."

Of all dogs to offer advise to puppies, it seems Levi might be the worst choice, but he doesn't see it that way. Here, Levi advises today's youth in, "You've Got to Stop and Smell the Urine."

And Levi and Erica wax philosophical about matters mundane and transcendental.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday Special: Karen and her Seeing Eye Dogs Collection

This posting almost didn't happen. I've been struggling with my computer and seem to have whipped it into submission enough to publish, anyway.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, this week will be light on new content. Today, I am giving the story of my late wife, Karen, and her three Seeing Eye Dogs. To meet Karen, click here.

First, there was Lyric, a beautiful, sensitive, long-haired German shepherd. She started out hating Karen! Read about Lyric here in a touching story.

Next came Vinnie, a silly, black lab who was sort of a fraidey-cat. Some of the things that scared him: Pirates and monkeys! Read about Vinnie here. If this isn't enough for you, here's another story about Vinnie beings scared of...monkeys, again! Some funny stories about a wonderful boy!

Finally, Karen's last dog, Arthur. Truly a king among dogs. A tragic story, very sad and sweet.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Turn: Dudleys Rule! by Levi

Though my brother, Rocky, is adopted, and we don't generally resemble each other, we share a feature that distinguishes us, and marks us for greatness. I'm speaking, of course, of our Dudley noses.

Most dogs' noses are black, like bears. Rocky and I will not be confused with bears, though, because we are in the minority of lucky dogs with handsome pink noses. We are Dudley dogs.

The stupid AKC says a Dudley nose is a fault! That's stupid. It is evident that dogs with Dudley noses are faultless! Rocky and I, for instance, are both very good boys. Ask dad, or grandma. Ask the vet, or the groomer. Ask Dianne and Shannon! We are good, good, boys!

The internet says a Dudley nose is because of recessive genes. Dad says that's also why I'm blond. He says I'm so recessive that my toenails are pink and translucent! I'm glad they are, because I would look ugly with ugly black toenails. Rocky's toenails are black, but they don't look ugly on Rocky, like a black nose would.

I am not saying I have a problem with dogs who have black noses. Those are the common dogs, and a black nose is alright for them. But when I meet another dog who has a Dudley nose, I know I am meeting someone special. And here's something else. Bad, ugly, stupid and mean black dogs never have Dudley noses! That just proves that they're good.

Did you know a Dudley nose is called that because of a very handsome bulldog named Lord Dudley who lived in the 1800's? My nose is like his!

In cultures across time and space, dogs with a Dudley nose have been considered to be the best dogs! Egyptians worshipped Dudley dogs as gods! Romans had Dudley dogs in the Senate! Across the Orient, the appearance of a dog with a Dudley nose has long been thought auspicious! If Rocky and I went to Korea, the people would think we were auspicious, not delicious!

So I have shown that Dudley dogs are the best, and that other dogs wish they could be Dudley dogs, but only a select few get to be. Dudley dogs are more smarter, handsome, better and more greatly respected than any other dog. We Dudley dogs should stick together, like me and Rocky do, because Dudley dogs are the best! We bring joy and good luck to all around us!

People ask me, "Can a Dudley dog do wrong?" and I say, "No, Dudley do right!"

That is my joke! Dudley do right!

It is funny and Rocky thought it was funny, too, after I explained it to him!

Editor's Note: I was surprised with Levi's choice of subject, and even more surprised when I did some fact checking and found out he was actually partially right. A pink nose is called a Dudley nose, is considered a fault in purebreds, and was named after a bulldog named, Lord Dudley. Levi's assertions about the Egyptians, Romans and peoples of the Orient, on the other hand, appear to be invented out of whole cloth, and cannot be corroborated by the Editor.

For more of Levi's opinions, see NO-bama and Those People at the Door.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dogs and Their Sense of Humor

The more I think about it, the less I know how exactly we humans differ from the dogs. I know we wear pants, but so does Goofy, so that's hardly dispositive. Besides those wonderful opposable thumbs of ours, is there anything that makes us substantially different from other animals? We aren't the only animal who uses tools, nor the only animal with a complex language system. The religious might say that we're the only animal with a soul, but in the same breath, they're likely to start talking about Rainbow Bridge.

For me, one of the most salient positive attributes of the human condition is the sense of humor, which consists of not only being able to understand and appreciate a joke, but the ability to make a joke, as well. Think of the cognition the most basic humor entails! Humor is the result of an incongruity in the normal course of things with an unexpected result. To appreciate humor, one must first have a detailed expectation of what should happen, so when that expectation is thwarted by the incongruity, one is aware of it and can react.

Besides requiring a structure of what normalcy consists of to be present in a being's mind, in order to engage in humor one must have a flexible sense of perspective, an ability to remove oneself from one's own mindset and see the world empathetically, to imagine what things are like from others' points of view. It's undoubtedly a sophisticated, higher, type of thought process, which, arguably, could be used to differentiate humans from the "lower" animals. Humans are the animals who joke.

Except, dogs do, too. I've known a few humorless dogs (hello, Chi-Chi), and a lot of dogs who have no sense of humor about themselves, but I know dogs understand certain types of jokes, laugh at them, and make jokes themselves.

Levi's sense of humor, for example, tends toward the slapstick. Someone falling down pretty much always cracks him up. When he laughs he flattens his ears, so they hang off the side of his head like a jester's hat, his lips curl upward, his eyes squint with delight; he couldn't be doing anything but laughing. His appearance then has some resemblance to a submissive posture, but it's quite different in a lot of subtle ways. Because of Levi's coloring, his expressions are unusually readable, and he laughs, and he does it at appropriate times and at appropriate things.

Nothing makes Levi laugh more than playing a joke of his own. These are his two favorites.

When he's very happy to see someone, or very excited about something, he thinks nipping you in the butt is the funniest thing in the world. He knows the appropriate pressure, and it's much more of a goose than a proper nip, but when he gets one in, and recognizes that you're aware of it, he breaks up. There you were, expecting not to get pinched on the ass, and then Levi pinched you! Look at the reversal of expectation! It's a joke seeped in irony.

OK, not irony, but it's totally a canine version of standing behind someone to their right, and tapping their left shoulder so they turn the wrong way. And when Levi surprises his "victim," he laughs as hard as any perpetrator of any practical joke. I'm not claiming he's Noel Coward, just that he intentionally jokes.

But Levi's very favorite joke is this: He'll go out of the house from one door, the back door, for instance. Then, when outside, if he discovers the side door is accidentally open, he'll come back in the house through that. This is an infrequent occurrence. Almost always, when Levi goes out the back door, he comes in the back door, so when he has the opportunity to surprise me by coming in the unexpected door, it's an opportunity for comedy he simply can't resist.

When Levi has successfully pulled off this joke, he beams with happiness, and can't stop laughing. He's not happy because he got in the house, but because he did it in such a surprising way! Ha, didn't see that coming, did you, dad? You're looking out the back door, like a stupid monkey, while I, Levi, have already let myself in! Could something be funnier?

Below is a film of a dog jumping over fire. I don't know the circumstances of the filming, but it doesn't seem like any kind of abuse situation. It looks to me like this dog thinks jumping over the fire is a hoot, because who would expect a dog to jump over fire? I mean, dogs usually walk around a fire, but this guy just flies over it! If he's not intentionally being funny, what is he doing?

I'm not saying that Levi is Chris Rock, or even Gallagher, and I'm not maintaining that his jokes are funny, just that they're jokes. So, if other animals have a sense of humor, in addition to the many other more obvious similarities to us, how is it that there's any meaningful difference between us?

Dog Jumping in the Fire - Click here for more free videos

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday News of the Dog

An article about, and link to, the greatest YouTube video ever, of a soldier returning from Afghanistan being greeted by his dog, Gracie. Incredibly moving! This is why we have dogs.

If it weren't so cold in Alaska, I might apply for this job, a government dog sledder!

The little twerp from the Twilight movies, Robert Pattinson, would like to be a dog. OK.

A new stage musical of "101 Dalmatians." I didn't think anything worse than "Carrie" the musical was possible. Will wonders never cease.

And if they need a fat Dalmatian: Great Britain takes its dog obesity problem seriously. A couple weeks ago you read about the fattest dog in Scotland. Now, a British man has been banned from owning dogs for ten years because he overfed his Dalmatian. I'm as against dog obesity as the next guy, but England is seeming a little gung-ho, as if the Nazis had won WWII instead of the Allies. 

Pfizer is pushing its new car sickness drug for dogs, so they can join you for Thanksgiving at Grandma's house! Grandma will be thrilled.

I'll see you next week with some more writing about dogs.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands