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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apocalypse 1984

To engage in a little understatement here, it was probably not the best idea for me and Karen to move to Los Angeles in 1984. We didn't know anyone in L.A. and we had no jobs at a time when unemployment was at levels comparable to today. We were thousands of dollars in debt to student loans, which were taken out at 17% interest. Really, all we had that was worth anything was each other, and Lyric, Karen's Seeing Eye dog, and Holden, our little mutt.

Twenty-five years later, it's hard for me to imagine what we were thinking. We had one bachelor's degree between the two of us, a junker car, and absolutely no plan. Nevertheless, we rented a house in Glendale that we couldn't afford, and we set out to conquer the world.

These were great times for Lyric and Holden. Karen was going through a phase of custom cooking for the dogs, and homemaking biscuits. We had a huge yard they could play in, and we lived a few blocks away from a massive dog park that we took them to daily.

One of the reasons we got Holden in the first place was so that when Karen got back from training with Lyric, there would be a playmate waiting for her. Lyric adored Holden from the start, and once he got used to her, Holden reciprocated. Lyric loved spending time with Holden, and even took to grooming him daily. She knew he was still basically a puppy, and she loved mothering him.

The mothering didn't extend to the dog park, though. Lyric lived to go to the park. She would chase sticks endlessly and also just run with the exuberant energy of a German shepherd in the prime of her life. While she was doing this, Holden would leisurely wander the park, mainly sticking to the perimeters. Holden wasn't a dog who enjoyed vigorous exercise. For him the park was mainly an opportunity for a good sniff, followed by a poop, which he always took while as close to the road as possible, so he could look at cars as they whizzed by and be sure the drivers were looking at him while he produced his little masterpieces. But I digress.

There was just one problem. Almost every time we went to the park, at one time or another, Lyric steamrolled Holden.

This is another example of what I would call a dog's sense of humor. Lyric thought it was funny to see Holden at a distance of 25 yards or more, when Holden was sniffing and paying no attention. Then Lyric would charge him like a bull, and just smash into him, sometimes at full speed sending him flying and sometimes at a glancing angle simply knocking him down. Holden would get to his feet, dazed and confused, while Lyric laughed like a maniac and pranced away.

She never injured Holden, and he didn't hold it against her, long-term, anyway. It took him completely by surprise every time, which is why Lyric thought it was so funny. There was nothing mean-spirited in this steamrolling game, and at home, after the park, Lyric would gently groom her little brother before they both enjoyed their dinner that mom had made them.

At the same time, Karen and I began exploring L.A. In 1984, at least, there was a definite air of the apocalypse to Los Angeles. The summer Olympics were in L.A. that year, so the city was jam packed. It was also the year crack began appearing in cities. AIDS was still new, and seemed like a possible plague precursor. Unemployment in LA was higher than 10%, and it seemed that an air of sinister violence hung over everything.

We were out in Hollywood one hot and sticky weekend night. The street was full of weird, scary looking, people. A young Hispanic man was shouting to a soft drink vendor, "Put plenty o' coke in that Coca Cola, man!" and it seemed violence might be eminent if he didn't. There were bright lights and 80's clothes and music everywhere, and the air stunk from pollution, patchouli and piss.

I don't know what it was about that particular night, but it affected both Karen and me profoundly. It seemed impossible that Armageddon wasn't right around the corner, perhaps as close as Burbank. We saw that night, as if for the first time, just how bad people could be, and what a fragile hold "society" had over them. The world seemed violent and dangerous and full of people we didn't want to be around, or, worse, become.

Lyric and Holden brought us so much happiness, and society was letting us down. We decided to get another dog. We rationalized that Holden wasn't really a suitable playmate for Lyric, who was so much smarter, bigger and faster than he was. We thought it would be nice to get a third dog, one who could keep up with Lyric. Holden wouldn't get steamrolled anymore, and, we asked ourselves, are three dogs really any more trouble than two? (The answer is, "No." However, it's a slippery slope. Four dogs really aren't any harder than five, and so on. That's how we eventually ended up with six at a time).

There is one difference in having three dogs instead of two that we didn't know about, but which wouldn't have stopped us had we realized. When you have two dogs, you have pets. Once you hit three, though, you're part of a pack. That summer of 1984, in a strange city, repelled by humanity, we added a German Shepherd/Australian shepherd mix we named Chelsea to our family, and the group of dogs I refer to as our first pack was completed.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dog Torture at 30,000 Feet

(Over the next several days, I'll be telling a more sustained story than I normally do. My goal for this site has always been to have every story stand on its own, independent of anything previously published. The chronology of the next four or five days entries will be sequential, comprising a larger narrative, though at the same time I hope they will each stand on their own merits, apart from the larger arc.)

It was late spring of 1984, and it turned out that Big Brother wasn't in charge after all. Ronald Reagan was. To a couple flaming liberals freshly graduated from college, this wasn't necessarily preferable.

Karen and I were living in Bloomington, IL, the town we'd gone to college in, with Karen's first Seeing Eye dog, Lyric, and Holden, a generally worthless cur whom we nonetheless adored irrationally.

For reasons too convoluted and stupid to go into here, we decided that it would be a good idea to move to Los Angeles to begin our adult lives together. We didn't have jobs, didn't know a soul there, but with Randy Newman's, "I Love L.A.," echoing in our obviously hollow heads, we knew without doubt that it was going to be the Promised Land for us.

We just had to get there. We were working on a tight budget, so we had to get there as efficiently and economically as possible. It was decided that I would drive from Illinois, in a Chevy Malibu stuffed with our belongings, and find us a place to live, and then Karen, Lyric, and Holden, would fly out.

Because this is a web site of dog stories, I'm going to skip my nightmare solo trek across the continent, involving major engine trouble in Denver. Bad as my trip might have been, it was nothing compared to poor Holden's.

Karen and I always considered the dogs to be ours, jointly. But Lyric was Karen's first Seeing Eye dog, so there was a special bond, and Holden was my special boy, because…well, because Holden needed to be someone's special boy, didn't he? Not every dog can be a Seeing Eye dog, or handsome, or smart, or consistently housebroken. I won't argue that Holden had any intrinsic or objective worth, just that every dog, A.K.C. champ or lowly cur, deserves to be someone's special boy or girl.

Initially, we considered me driving to L.A. with Holden. The difficulty there was Holden was a terrible traveler. He was alternately carsick and disruptively buoyant, with a hound's howl that he could keep up for hours when he was unhappy, and at that stage of his life, car rides made Holden unhappy. Obviously we knew he wouldn't like the experience of flying more than driving, but at least it would be over for him much more quickly.

We had used acepromazine successfully on Holden before. Acepromazine is best described as knock-out drops for dogs. If you wanted to date-rape a dog, acepromazine is what you might want to slip it. I know now that acepromazine is not absolutely safe for all dogs, but our vet at the time said it was, and none of our dogs has ever had an adverse reaction to it. One little white pill, and Holden would sleep peacefully for a two-hour car trip. Two pills, and we had the bio-equivalent of a dead dog on our hands. For his cross-country voyage, it was decided that Holden would have four acepromazine tablets.

As a Seeing Eye dog, Lyric was, of course, entitled to not only fly in the plane's cabin, but to board first with Karen. As a worthless mongrel, Holden was lucky the airline let him fly as a piece of luggage. A special crate had been purchased for Holden, and furnished with his blanket and Myron, a pink, stuffed, pig that was Holden's favorite toy. He had been given one acepromazine for the two hour drive to the airport, and slept like a contented baby for the entire ride.

Upon arrival at O'Hare, Holden's sweater was put on him, he was placed in his crate, and given the rest of his tranquilizers. Karen reported that he was doped up to the gills. Then Karen brought the crate to the guys who would load Holden onto the plane, and extracted promises from them to be extra careful with him.

The second Holden was transferred to the custody of the airport crew, he woke up and began to scream. His screaming got louder as he was carried away from Karen and taken to the plane.

I wasn't there, so I'm not sure how Karen did this, but after she and Lyric boarded, she had a chance to ask a crew member how Holden was doing.

"He's making an awful lot of noise," she was told.

Five or six hours later, the plane arrived in L.A. Karen and Lyric were the first to disembark (ah, the perks of being sightless!), and we hurried to the area where we were to pick up Holden. We were there waiting as the crew member carried Holden in his crate out of the baggage area. We knew it was Holden because we heard the screaming as soon as the door to the luggage area opened.

The crate was set down in front of us, and Holden grew quiet. I was on the floor, opening the crate to let my poor boy free.

Holden half crawled, half staggered, out of his crate. His eyes remained on the floor.

"Holden, my good boy!" I exclaimed, petting and hugging him. He continued to look at the floor, and turned away. He didn't seem to have any idea who I was, or Karen and Lyric, for that matter. Never a bright bulb, the light behind Holden's eyes was completely out.

Holden ultimately recovered, mostly, but he was never quite the same dog again. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, his innocence was gone. Before his flight, he still had a puppy's outlook on life as an invariably joyful place. Then he'd been drugged, put in a box, taken away from his mom, and put in a small, cold, noisy place, alone, for hours. The dog that got off the plane in L.A. wasn't a puppy anymore. His flight had been a rite of passage, a journey into the existential void from which one can never fully return.

Meanwhile, the whole family had entered an existential void from which we were lucky to ultimately escape; we were the four newest citizens of America's Wasteland, Los Angeles.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My Nightly Threesome

It's been raining all day, which is a big deal in Phoenix. Unlike a lot of the people who live here, I hate the rain, and don't appreciate it all the more for its infrequency. I'm not sure if Levi dislikes the rain intrinsically, or if he picks up a vibe from me, but when it rains here, Levi doesn't even want to get up from the couch. If it's actively coming down, Levi won't voluntarily go in it. I've seen him refrain from peeing for 48 hours rather than get wet.

When we lived in Illinois, Levi had no choice but to go out in the rain now and then, but he didn't have to like it. In Arizona, on a day with foul weather, Levi, and Erica are basically just waiting all day to go to bed for the night. The three of us sleep in a double bed, so it's close, but not tight.

When I start to make the motions of going to bed, Levi will hurry to get there first, so he can lie horizontally across the bed. I don't know why he does this. I would say it was a joke, but he isn't laughing, and isn't very happy when I have to adjust him to something like a standard, vertical, bed position. Levi isn't a dog who would ever growl at a person, especially me, but when I have to reposition him in bed the look on his face is as close as I ever hope to get.

Levi doesn't like to get under the blanket, and he likes to press his back against me while he sleeps. As we get into our positions, Erica comes to join us.

Erica sleeps on my head. She starts out our night by cuddling against the side of my face, while I pet her with my opposite hand, which is behind my head. She purrs, and if it's a cold night, she gets under the covers with me for a while, but only until she warms up. Then she creeps out, and positions herself around my head, like a Davy Crockett coonskin cap.

That's how we stay until morning, unless Levi goes into a heavy dream cycle. Watch this video and imagine what it's like when that's happening in bed next to you.

Hopefully this terrible weather will abate, and Levi, Rocky and I can get both of our daily walks in. On rainy days like this, when Levi's under exercised, he's at his most dangerous. Especially with his Howard Hughes nails.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands