Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009

Like most years, 2009 had its personal highs and lows. John and I began 2009 with two beautiful Greyhounds: Portia and Bingley. We celebrated the first anniversary of Portia's Gotcha Day on February 10, Bingley's on February 16. Portia turned 4 on May 5. Little did we know it would be her last birthday. We lost our beautiful Portia July 7, 2009. The loss was so shocking, it was the motivation for starting this blog.

November 20, we welcomed a new girl into our home. An intriguing Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound mix: Magic. She is well named, because she is an enchantress. Magic and Bingley are slowly getting accustomed to each other. Bingley loves to play. Magic, born into unspeakable deprivation, never learned normal doggie play cues. Bingley is sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently, tutoring Magic in the joys of play. And although she might never match Bingley's exuberance in playing with toys, Magic is learning that stuffed toys--especially ones with squeakers--can be fun.

The original purpose of this blog was to make walking dogs on leash safer. That remains an important focus of Friends of Portia. But in dealing with all aspects of the unleashed dog problem here in San Diego County, I have realized that it is just one part of the larger problem that is the result of the over-breeding of dogs and an appalling lack of education about what is involved in responsible dog ownership among the general public.

The sad outcome of these problems is the suffering of hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs--dogs who flood our public shelters, humane societies, private rescues and breed rescues.

On behalf of Bingley and Magic, and in loving memory of Daphne, Zephyr and Portia, our "Rescue Dogs" who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Friends of Portia will devote 2010 to Dog Rescue Awareness.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

As the Beautiful Night of Mystery approaches, I wish one and all a Very Merry Christmas.

Bingley and Magic send their very best wishes to all humans who love and care for dogs and all their fellow canines. They didn't mention cats. I take that as a sign of impending Peace breaking out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brody II

I met Brody yesterday. He is a handsome, charming, nicely balanced Pekingese. His surgical wounds are healing and he is getting about the business of showing his new family what a fine dog he is. He has particularly ingratiated himself with the family's teen-aged daughter. Smart doggie!

Dog rescue is both rewarding and heartbreaking. It is wonderful to look at a sweet bundle of loveableness like Brody and realize that his life was saved by a chain of people who have never met, but care about human beings' responsibilities to helpless domestic pets. It is shattering to look at Brody and know that if a beautiful, pure-bred dog with so much to recommend him needed rescue, the problem of homeless dogs is beyond imagining.

Once more, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who played a part in Brody's rescue!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brody the Pekingese

Some sad stories have happy endings.

In a previous post, I mentioned an emergency plea for a four year old Pekingese who would be euthanized if no home could be found for him. His owners had chosen euthanasia rather than paying for needed eye surgery. Funds were found for the surgery, but if he had no home to go to, surgery was pointless. Fortunately, my friend and neighbor, Cheri--who already has two small dogs--offered a home for the needy Peke.

Sadly, conditions had worsened to the point that the Peke's eye had to be removed--always a risk with breeds with protruding eyes. He was also neutered during this surgery.

He finally reached Cheri's home this past Saturday. Many thanks to the Molly and Paula who made this rescue possible--and to Sandy who forwarded the email about him to me.

Cheri's daughters have name him Brody. A new name to go with his brand new start in life.

Brody has already been to his new vet. His incision had become infected and Cheri discovered a abscess on his foot. Probably caused by a fox-tail working its way through the skin between his foot pads. OUCH!

He is also underweight and will need to become accustomed to a regular diet of nutritious dog food.

It's still uncertain just what his relationship with his new pack members will be. Right now, they are gazing at the creature in an e-collar in bewilderment.

But every night, Brody is sleeping soundly in his crate in the bedroom of of one of Cheri's daughters. He seems to know that he has found a home where he will be loved and cared for.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Praise of Adopters of Older Dogs

For almost three years, Footloose has been the first on the list of Adoptable Pets on the Greyhound Adoption Center Site. Footloose had lived for years with her human companion as they both grew into old age. She had a wonderful life. She ruled the house. Her excellent physical health was testament to daily walks and routine veterinary care. But about two an a half years ago, life for Footloose changed dramatically when her human companion required assisted living--and a Greyhound could not be accommodated in the facility.

In a sense, luck still held for Footloose, because every dog who is adopted through Greyhound Adoption Center will always have a home there if they need it--and a chance for a new "forever" home. But a dog as old as Footloose is not easy to place. And each passing month meant she was older and harder to place. An additional problem was that Footloose needed to be an "only" dog. Most "dog" people who will consider a senior dog have already opened their homes to one or two oldsters. Footloose's time in the GAC kennel went on and on. The tapestry collar that her beloved human had given her was mute testimony to the life she had once enjoyed. Most of us familiar with the situation feared that Footloose would live out her days in the kennel as younger dogs came in, got healthy and rehabilitated, and went on to "forever" homes.

THEN,this past weekend, luck changed for Footloose. A couple who has had dogs in the past, but is now "dogless" asked to adopt the 11 year old beauty. They may have a few months with her. They may have years. But they want what time she has left to be spent in a loving home. I assure you that more than one person has wept for joy for Footloose.

My friend, Dayonne and her husband, Charlie own a pet wash and grooming business. Along with veterinarians, groomers are the first to face the problem of homeless senior dogs. Owners die, become incapacitated, and their treasured dogs frequently have nowhere to go. Since I have known them, I was aware of about five senior dogs that Dayonne and Charlie have taken in. But before writing about it, I thought I would check with Dayonne for accuracy. Without pausing, she listed NINE senior dogs--three of whom are presently living with them--that they have taken in over the years. Pepper, a Yorkie who was 15 when they rescued her, lived to be 18. Morgan, a 13 year old Maltese when rescued is now 18, and Dayonne thinks, perhaps, this is Morgan's last Christmas.

Recently, Lacey, a 7 year old Maltese needed a home. Dayonne contacted a couple in their 80's whom she knew were looking for a dog to replace one they had recently lost. They rejected Lacey as being too old! I'll refrain from commenting about that.

But the good news is that Lacey now has a home with Dayonne and Charlie. She joins Morgan and Henry, a really adorable 13 year old Yorkie mix.

There are rescues devoted to placing senior dogs. But there are many more senior dogs in need of homes than homes that will accept them.

Many private rescues require that dogs they place be returned to them if for any reason the adopter can no longer care for the adopted dog. If that is the case, your dog will always have a place to go and someone to take care of them.

But if you have adopted a dog from a public agency or a large humane society or you have purchased a puppy, be sure to include plans for that dog in your will or trust. When we owned Soft Coated Wheatens, their breeder agreed to be their guardian in case of John's and mine untimely demise. We added a codicil to our will to protect them.

In the meantime, if you are thinking about a dog--or another dog--consider a senior. Some people are reluctant to take in a senior because of imminent loss. But you never know. Since Morgan went to live with Dayonne and Charlie, I have lost three young dogs: Daphne, Zephyr and Portia. Life is unpredictable. Senior dogs teach us a lot about that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Magic's Story

Well. You can "know" something in principle without knowing the details for sure. That is true for what I knew about Magic's life before her rescue in July, 2008. However. It is one thing to know that back yard breeders in the California Central Valley and High Desert breed and keep sight hounds in miserable conditions, sell them for coyote and rabbit hunting to people who continue to keep them in miserable conditions, and knowing that the shy, somewhat confused, yet determined creature that you have just welcomed into your home, who at this very minute is sound asleep on the love seat in the living room--began life and lived in just those miserable conditions.

Magic lived for at least three years--and was probably born--in a cage in a backyard in the High Desert of California. No protection from the heat. No protection from the cold. No veterinarian care. Bred, for certain once, but possibly repeatedly from her first season. Her only human interaction was with a rough man who cared nothing for her or her well being.

Enter Nancy. Nancy is a Rescuer. Over the years, she has purposely maintained cordial relationships with people like Magic's original owner. Nancy's purpose is to be available when one of these backyard breeders decides that he wants to reduce his pack. Because Nancy refrains from "sharing" her true feelings about his little enterprise, he calls her to take the dog or dogs he wants to get rid of instead of shooting them or turning them loose to fend for themselves in the desert.

Nancy is one of a number of volunteers associated with Greyhound Adoption Center in San Diego County. Not every Greyhound Rescue could or would have accepted a dog like Magic. Most rescued Greyhounds are ex-racers. And as many challenges as ex-racers present, there are some aspects of their early life that make it possible for smaller rescues to work with them. Racing Greyhounds are socialized and acclimated to human touch from puppy-hood. They are accustomed to living in a kennel and being turned out at regular times to relieve themselves. These factors provide sufficient predictability that a small rescue can use foster homes to care for dogs before placement.

But predictability is not a common characteristic among sight hounds rescued from backyard breeders. First, many of these dogs are mixed breeds--Magic is probably a Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound cross--which introduces more variation in size and temperament. Then, there is rarely positive socialization with humans. Many of these dogs have learned to avoid human contact whenever possible. Their cages represent painful confinement, not a place of safety and retreat. And their health problems can be multiple and exotic. These are the dogs who are most likely to be hosts to really awful parasites. So it is not surprising that few Greyhound Rescues can accept the challenges they bring.

Fortunately for Magic, Nancy was able to bring her to Greyhound Adoption Center, which has commodious kennel facilities, fostering home options--and a truly outstanding sight hound veterinarian on call, who sees and treats all of the dogs. Before Magic came to live with us, she had been the beneficiary of Greyhound Adoption Center's full menu of rehabilitation services for more than a year. I am always struck by how much care, how many resources, how much patience is needed to even begin to correct the results of negligence--and, indeed, cruelty--that is inflicted on domestic pets.

Magic's chance for a happy, normal dog's life began the day Nancy removed Magic, two of her puppies, and the puppies' father from the Dog Hell they inhabited and brought them to the Greyhound Adoption Center kennel in Dehesa.

It was just the beginning. More of that later. But today, from Magic--and from John and me, and Bingley, too, a big Thank You to Nancy. Without your courage and intervention.... I don't want to think about it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today, Magic has been with us for twelve days. She has already made a permanent place for herself in our hearts.

As I have hinted and plan to discuss at greater length, adopting a rescued dog is very different from purchasing a puppy from a responsible breeder of pure bred dogs. Many variables are thrown into the mix which affect the dog's behavior and therefore its adjustment to your home.

Magic was rescued in July of 2008. Given her unique background, she found kenneling difficult. And so, for the past six months, she was fostered by a loving lady and her daughter who understand sight hounds. Magic was very attached to her foster parents, but her foster mother believed that being a member of a much smaller pack would be best for Magic, and so she persisted in finding that home for her.

As I type, Magic is sleeping on the love seat across the room from me. In the past twelve days, she has learned a very different way of life from what she had adjusted to in her foster home. A different schedule. Different food. (Because of Bingley's chronic tummy trouble, only prescription dog food can be fed to our dogs. We cannot risk his eating other food from another dog's bowl.) Daily walks. A man in the house. And, most importantly for Magic, I suspect, coming to terms with just one dog, who knows the ropes and, since Portia's death, had our house as his kingdom.

There have been many "firsts". The first time I left a room and Magic did not feel the need to follow me. The first time she settled down to rest someplace other than on the fleece mat in the living room--the last room where she had seen her foster mom. The first time she made the connection between going for a walk and eliminating. And last night, the first time, she walked into our bedroom at bedtime without being tricked or cajoled, curled up on her bed, and went to sleep.

Welcome to our home, Magic.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Court Report

After a terrifying attack on her dog, Chantel, by a loose Pit Bull on July 5; after dropping her Small Claims Court case when the Pit's owner promised to pay; after re-instating her Small Claims Court case when the Pit's owner did not pay, Kathi finally got her day in court on November 20.

The attacking dog's owner agreed to make monthly payments until Chantel's veterinarian's bill is paid. But having been there, done that, I must add that Small Claims Court does not give the plaintiff any court costs. So, filing fees and fees for subpoena service are out of pocket. And since Kathi was forced to pay for subpoena service a second time, she will net significantly less than what she paid the vet to treat Chantel.

All the same, in spite of the bother and frustrations, it is important that owners of dogs who are attacked by loose dogs pursue appropriate legal remedies. In my opinion, owners of loose dogs who attack leashed dogs should receive significant fines and be required to attend Responsible Dog Ownership Classes. But, until that day arrives--at least in North San Diego County--the only deterrent to repeat offenses is for the owner of the injured dog to take legal action.

Thank you, Kathi, for hanging in there. You have done all you can to make your neighborhood a safer place for dogs on leash.

Correction: Although a plaintiff may not include filing and subpoena service charges in their claim, if awarded judgment, filing and subpoena service charges will be awarded in addition to the claim. However, since Kathi agreed to mediation, she not only will not be receiving the full amount of Chantal's vet bill, she also will not be reimbursed for the fees she has paid.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Some People Should Not Have Dogs

Wednesday morning I saw an email from an animal loving friend. The title was Emergency! Before I opened it, I knew that some domestic pet was in need of rescue. Sure enough. My friend had received an email from a friend who had received an email from a friend begging for a foster or permanent home for a four year old, male Pekingese. His owners had taken him to a vet who had told them that the little dog required eye surgery. They said they wouldn't pay and told the vet to euthanize the dog. Funds were found to pay for the surgery, but there was no point in performing the surgery if there was no one to give the dog a home.

I wracked my brain, thinking of everyone I knew who might take in this needy little dog. The sad fact is, most people I know who really care about domestic pets are right at the upper limit of the number of animals for which they can be responsible. Or they have a special needs animal as a friend of mine who rescued a very temperamental Rottweiler who will not tolerate another dog in the house. Then, I remembered a friend who always has toy dogs and had "only" two.

She was immediately touched by the little Peke's plight and agreed to "at least" foster, if not adopt him.

The surgery was performed late Wednesday afternoon and the Pekingese should be making his way to his new home by Saturday.

But I had little time to celebrate.

After we came in from our evening walk, Bingley and Magic became very agitated. They would not settle. Bingley started to bark at me with great urgency. So, thinking that a potty break was being requested, I took the dogs out on the back deck, where they became even more agitated. A dog--it sounded more like a puppy--in the next block up was crying pitifully. Bingley and Magic raced up and down the yard, trying to find a way to reach the distressed puppy.

Between attempts to reach the crying dog, Bingley and Magic came to me, looking up with their soulful eyes, clearly expecting me to "do something". But my husband was out and I did not feel safe yet leaving Magic alone, especially when she and Bingley were so agitated. The puppy continued to cry.

I called a neighbor who can always be depended upon in an emergency and explained the situation. He agreed to investigate.

What he found was a 4-6 month old Spitz type puppy attached to a pulley lead in a backyard of a darkened house. The puppy was crying and straining to get free.

I called the Sheriff, and miracle of miracles, the puppy managed to free itself before the Deputy arrived, making it eligible for an emergency rescue.

Bingley and Magic made one more trip to the deck, listening intently. Assured that the crying had stopped, they came into the house and curled up for a good night's sleep.

I know times are tough. Vet bills can be high. But most vets will accept some payment arrangement if surgery is really necessary. At my vet's it is not unusual to see a collection jar for funds for surgery for a needy dog or cat. We all chip in a dollar or two, and the animal gets the required treatment. There are also organizations that will assist with emergency vet bills for needy pets.

Thanksgiving through New Year's is a busy time for kennels and pet sitters. But if you have a pet and need or want to be away for extended periods, you are responsible for the care and welfare of your pet. That's part of the deal. Maybe an old dog can tolerate hours of being alone in a dark backyard, (I don't think ANY dog should EVER be asked to do that, but I am VERY opinionated)--but a puppy???

Some people should not have dogs. That's all there is to say.

But at this time of Thanksgiving, a Big Thank You goes out to all the people involved in rescuing a needy Peke and a distressed Spitz Puppy!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Special thanks to everyone who works for a better life for dogs.

Bingley and Magic send their very best wishes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Magic!

Even in the numbness of our grief after Portia's death, we knew that eventually we would get another dog. Bingley is not a natural "only" dog. His excitement over his walks with Marilyn's pack is poignant.

We began to talk about another dog seriously about two months ago. But our trip to England was a complication--particularly six weeks ago when we met Magic, a Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound mix. Magic was never a racer and had a history of kenneling difficulties. She was being fostered and was very attached to her foster mother and her foster mother's daughter, and was a functioning member of a pack, albeit at the bottom of the status order. So, in Magic's interests, we decided to wait until our return from England to adopt her.

But Friday evening, our long awaited welcoming of Magic to our home finally arrived. We have our very own "Fuzzy" and Bingley, once more has a companion.

Special thanks to Lynnet and her daughter, Katie, for their loving care of Magic during six months of fostering.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bingley's Excellent Spa Experience

Eventually, every dog owner travels and faces the hard choice of how to guarantee the care and safety of their dog(s). Sometimes a friend can care for the dog. Sometimes a house/pet sitter is the answer. But for a high prey Greyhound with a recurring health problem like Bingley, kenneling is the only safe answer. However, finding just the right kennel is difficult. And to be really honest, having lost three beloved dogs in the past four years--Daphne, Zephyr and Portia--I am possibly a little overly anxious about the health and safety of Bingley. POSSIBLY??? I AM overly anxious.

I had made reservations for Bingley at a perfectly adequate kennel. But, while knitting at my local yarn shop, I was obsessing about my worries and fears for Bingley during our trip to England. A fellow dog lover--a Soft Coated Wheaten person!--recommended Windsong Resort for Pets. What a Godsend! It's all the thing to call boarding kennels "spas". But Windsong truly is a spa. Not only did Bingley have lovely accommodations, his special needs were understood and attended too. AND my anxieties were accepted and dealt with intelligently and compassionately.

These pictures were among a number of pictures of Bingley that Mike Dougherty, the owner and proprietor of Windsong, emailed me while I was in England. How's that for reassurance that one's beloved pet is thriving?

Thank you Mike and Michelle, and all Windsong staff.

Bingley says "hi".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Day I Became A Dog Lover

In my personal notes, I have mentioned that my sister and I received our first dog for our sixth and third birthdays. We have both been dog lovers since that day.

It was autumn, 1945. Our father had been stationed at Will Rogers Army Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. In early spring of that year, he had received orders for Japan--what was thought would be the biggest, bloodiest battle, necessary to bring World War II to a close. In late spring or early summer--my memories are vague--he came home wearing his "overseas cap". Mother cried. Shortly thereafter, he left for a big air base in South Dakota--the staging area for deployment.

Mother, my sister and I remained in Oklahoma. Mother tried to be brave, but as I eagerly awaited my third birthday in August, I was aware that something else was more important to her than my Big Birthday. She never did mention Hiroshima or Nagasaki to me. But I might have heard those words whispered by other grown ups. I think it was my sister who told me that the war was over. But it did not really make an impression. That was four days before my Big Birthday.

Mother made me a cake. It was a "war cake". Rationing was still a fact of life. But a much more important fact of life was that my father was not going to be part of the Last Battle of the War. He was coming home.

I do not remember the day of his arrival. But I do remember that not long after he came home, our parents announced that my sister and I would be getting a puppy--a Cocker Spaniel puppy.

They took us to choose the puppy. I cannot remember how many puppies were in the litter. I do remember patting their silky coats and breathing in that (to me) wonderful puppy aroma. We chose the runt of the litter, a bright coppery female, and named her Lucky Penny. We knew that we were the two luckiest little girls in the whole world.

I want to thank my friend Zoe, whose technical and artistic skills translated two aging but beloved Kodak snapshots into usable form for an internet blog. I have no picture of my sister from that momentous day. I am pretty sure that my presence in the lower right of the top picture with my mother was unplanned. My parents believed I was too small to be trusted to hold a wriggly puppy, but I just could not stay away from Penny.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Sorry for the hiatus. John and I went for a quick trip to London and West Sussex. Bingley has been vacationing at a wonderful spa for dogs nearby. More about that later. England is engrossing. Being home is great.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remembering Portia

Today Bingley and I were walking in the park with Marilyn and her pack--Franklin, Hattie and Ruby. From across the parking lot, a man who was preparing to play tennis shouted "Where's Portia?"

I told him that Portia had been killed. She had been attacked by a loose dog, had fought for her life for six days, but had lost the fight. He expressed his condolences and spoke of her beauty.

I was touched that he not only remembered that I had had another dog, but that he actually remembered her name.

As we walked away, Marilyn and I, both close to tears, agreed that Portia was one of those really unusual creatures who made a lasting impression on just about everyone who ever met her. If she had been human, Portia would have been a Supermodel or a Movie Star, an Audrey Hepburn or a Jacqueline Kennedy.

I will never forget a scene from a day or two after we adopted Portia. I was walking her about a block from my house, when two of my friends approached in their cars from opposite directions. Simultaneously, both slammed on their brakes, parked hurriedly, and came running over to Portia and me, and said--in unison--"She is beautiful!"

Portia didn't bat a lash. She thought that was how people said, "Hello."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Knitters for Critters

Just a reminder that Thanksgiving is fast approaching and if you knitters have not already sent something to Knitters for Critters, the time has come to get some yarn and start knitting.

Remember to use non-animal based yarn.

The critters thank you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rescue: Part I

Feeling too cheerful? Too upbeat? Try clicking on any one of the Rescues at the right of this blog. Still too cheerful? Go to the A.K.C. website; click on the various breeds and find their rescues and visit those sites. Or, if you really want to cry, visit your local humane society or animal control site and click on adoptable dogs. lists over 200,000 dogs in need of adoption. Some of those dogs are purebred. Most are mixed breeds. The fact is simple and undeniable: Too many, many too many dogs are being bred. The lot of homeless dogs in our country is a national disgrace. Humane Society and Animal Control staffs are overworked and close to burnout. Private shelters, whether long established and endowed, upstarts with a staff of one or two, or somewhere in between, do their best. But some dogs--actually many dogs--spend their final days in a cage before they are mercifully euthanized.

The newest trend is for "no-kill" shelters. Believe me. I am all for the end to euthanizing innocent dogs whose suffering and deaths are the price paid for human ignorance, negligence and greed. But what advantage is there in a "no-kill" policy for the dog if there is no home for it, if its life must be spent in a cage with limited human interaction and no opportunity to do the doggy things for which it was bred?

You have probably heard this before. But let me repeat. If you MUST, absolutely MUST have a purebred puppy, educate yourself on your chosen breed. Look honestly at your lifestyle and the demands you will make of a dog. Be ABSOLUTELY sure that you will be able to accommodate the predictable behaviors of the dog you have chosen.

Search your soul. Even small dogs are puppies well beyond their first birthday. Some dogs are puppies for at least THREE years. Some dogs are puppies their whole lives. If you cannot tolerate puppy behavior, DO NOT GET A PUPPY!!!

Ask yourself, "What would make me get rid of a dog?" Moving? A new love interest who isn't a "dog person?" DO NOT GET A DOG!!!

Look around your home. I promise you that if you bring a puppy or a dog into your home, SOMETHING that you now possess--perhaps even treasure--will be chewed, peed, pooped, or vomited on. If you cannot bear for that to happen, DO NOT GET A PUPPY!!! DO NOT GET A DOG!!!

If you have educated yourself on your chosen breed and know in your heart of hearts that you can tolerate puppy behavior for a VERY LONG TIME, find a breeder who is involved in showing the breed. This will not guarantee a responsible breeder, but it is a start. Expect the breeder to ask you many questions, the more, the better. The best breeders like to interview the entire family. At the very least, the puppy's mother should be on the premises for you to meet. The best breeders will take the puppy back if things don't work out.

In spite of what I have said and will say in the balance of this post, I am not opposed to breeders of purebred dogs who devote themselves to dogs that they love. Without them, the great variety of dog breeds would disappear--robbing us all of the fun and delight that the diverse dog breeds bring to our lives.


Some really, really BAD reasons to use a dog for breeding are:

1. To give the kids an appreciation for "the miracle of birth."

2. To make some money. Currently a sizable number of breeders in this category are breeding so-called "Designer Dogs." These breeders range from Totally Ignorant to Consciously Unscrupulous. "Designer Dogs" are mixed breeds, and if you want to own a mixed breed, look for one of many that are now up for adoption in various rescues and shelters. Yes. You will find both "Golden Doodles" and "Labradoodles" in shelters and rescues.

3. To give the dog the "experience" before being neutered.

4. To give the owner the experience of puppies.

Then, there is the issue of pet stores. DO NOT BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE!!!!. Pet stores sell dogs from three sources.

1. Puppy Mills--i.e. Dog Hell. Any doubt? Have a strong stomach? Click here and read the information on the right hand column if you are thinking about buying a pet store puppy.

2. "Backyard Breeders" or "Kitchen Breeders" or "Basement Breeders"--See Some really, really BAD reasons to use your dog for breeding.

3. "Non-Show Quality Puppies" from show breeders who should--and do know better. These breeders know that they should neuter the dog in question and sell it for a pet. But it's easier and more profitable to sell the poor dog to a pet store that will, in turn, sell it at an inflated price.

The result of all this ignorance, negligence, and greed is ENORMOUS suffering of ENORMOUS numbers of dogs.

If people would stop buying dogs from pet stores and irresponsible breeders, the suffering of dogs could be greatly reduced.

Meantime, there are The Rescues. You want a purebred dog? Chances are good that, if you persist, you will be able to adopt the purebred of your choice who is in need of rescue--or "re-homing"--if euphemisms are more comfortable for you. If you want one of the better-known breeds, you will have many, many dogs from which to choose. Check out Labrador Rescues in your community, or Golden Retriever Rescues, or Chihuahua Rescues or Cocker Spaniel Rescues.

If a mixed breed is what you are looking for, your choices are almost limitless.

In another post, I will discuss some of what you might expect when you bring a rescued dog into your home. Hint: You will need to do some more Soul Searching. But keep the picture of the havoc even the best, highest quality purebred puppy can wreck on a house while you are doing that Soul Searching.

To Be Continued.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Greyhound Picnic

Last Saturday, Greyhounds had a picnic: The Great Big Greyhound Picnic at the Greyhound Adoption Center in Dehesa. Humans were permitted, too. John and I went back and forth, trying to decide if we would risk taking Bingley, our Very High Prey Greyhound. Bingley is relaxed and happy mingling with fellow Greyhounds, but his reaction to most other breeds is frequently indistinguishable from his reaction to other species--he thinks they need to be chased, and I suspect, "terminated."

Back and forth, back and forth. Bingley is lonely and loves to hang out with other Greyhounds. Bingley is High Prey and will try to chase other, smaller breeds of dogs who, no doubt, will come with their more accommodating Greyhound pack members.

We decided to take him. Bingley loves to "go with." We have been working on "sit" in the car, and he responds sufficiently to encourage us. Sometimes he thinks he is sitting when his backside is up against the back of the seat. We give him marks for trying. He is even beginning to lie down and relax (somewhat) in the car.

But, by the time we had driven the fifty plus miles from San Marcos to Dehesa, Bingley was alert and On Point. We were more than a little concerned when the dogs who checked in just before us were an Italian Greyhound and a Toy Poodle. The key always is distraction--keeping Bingley from focusing on potential prey. We waited until the IG and Poodle were a good distance from check in before we approached.

And then, we entered the field. Greyhounds were everywhere. On leashes and in ex-pens, dozens and dozens of Greyhounds. Bingley was in heaven. And he behaved perfectly the entire afternoon, giving and receiving sniffs and just hanging out with his kind of folks.

There were other Sight Hounds--Greyhound-Deerhound mixes, Greyhound-Borzoi mixes, Whippets, Italian Greyhounds and three Salukis. Bingley made no distinction among them. He was so enthralled that it was no problem to steer him clear of the Poodles and a Terrier, who, normally would have received his undivided attention.

It was a wonderful day for the Greyhounds' humans, too. Every Greyhound, every Greyhound mix came with a story. They had all arrived at Greyhound Adoption Center loaded with fleas, ticks, and internal parasites. Some, like Bingley, were near starvation at the time of rescue. Some had had broken legs that required expensive surgery and long convalescence. And here we were with happy, healthy dogs that we loved and loved to talk about.

Rescuing dogs is not for the faint at heart. Many--I am tempted to say, most--breeds are in serious trouble because too many dogs are being bred and there are too few responsible owners who understand what dog ownership involves. And that doesn't even touch the countless mixed breeds whose plight is desperate.

And so, seeing such a large group of dogs--in this case, beautiful, elegant Greyhounds, all of whom, without rescue, would have died a harsh death--enjoying their own picnic, was heart warming beyond description.

Bingley had such a good time, he was exhausted. John and I were happy that we had decided to take him. He rewarded us by sleeping in an extra hour the next morning.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Great Idea!

A concept whose time has come. A new way of dealing with leash law violations based on the model of traffic violations.

Responsible Pet Ownership Program

Presently, this program is available only to residents of the City of San Diego. There are plans to make it a county-wide program. It cannot come to North County soon enough, as far as I am concerned.

It seems to me that this model could be expanded to more serious violations involving attacks on humans and other dogs by off-leash dogs, using DUI enforcement as a model.

My bias is for stiff, graduated fines for these attacks, with the ultimate penalty of the loss of the right to have a dog, if violations persist.

Owning a dog is a privilege, not a right!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Most Thursdays, I answer the phone for Greyhound Adoption Center. From time to time, callers ask me to describe life with a Greyhound.

"I hear that they are so quiet, all they do is sleep."
Well, yes and no.

"I hear that they curl up in such a tight circle, they hardly take up any room."
Perhaps some do.

"Can I leave my Greyhound in the back yard while I'm at work?"
No! No! No!

"Are Greyhounds expensive to keep?"
What do you think of as expensive? When you take a dog to the vet, what is the first thing they do? They weigh the dog. All treatments and medications increase in cost with the size of the dog. Most of the Greyhounds I know are closer to 80 pounds than to 70 pounds. Sweet little Ruby might not weigh 60 pounds, but that's unusual in an ex-racer. Wonderful Zephyr was 97 pounds in her prime. Greyhounds weigh more than Beagles and less than Great Danes. So their meds are usually costlier than Beagles' and cheaper than Great Danes'.

Then there is anesthesia. Greyhounds will die if they are given the wrong kind or an excessive amount of anesthesia. They have no body fat to speak of. With little or no body fat, there is nothing to absorb too much anesthesia. The cost of Greyhounds' streamlined design is little margin for error. If you are too timid or too careless to make sure that your veterinarian is familiar with the unique needs of Greyhounds, your Greyhound could pay for your timidity or carelessness with its life.

And skin. Greyhounds have what is called Zipper Skin. A wound that would be insignificant--not really worth a visit to the vet--in another breed, must receive prompt veterinary attention in a Greyhound. There will be stitches or staples and, perhaps, drains.

AND THEY MUST BE ON-LEAD OR IN A SECURELY CONFINED AREA AT ALL TIMES! Like all sight hounds, Greyhounds see much farther than you do; centuries of breeding push them to run after any moving object in their line of vision. "By the time you call their name, they're out of sight."

Why then, do Greyhounds inspire such devotion? Why are they said to be like potato chips: "You can't have just one."

Every Greyhound devotee would answer that question differently. But, for me, their appeal lies in their embodiment of paradox.

Greyhounds are Serious Dogs. They can run down prey at the speed of 40-45 mph, and "dispatch" the prey before the hunter arrives--traditionally, on horseback--to congratulate them on the kill.

And yet, when we take them into our homes, these Big Serious Dogs trot around with stuffed bunnies and duckies in their mouths. They tuck their "stuffies" under their chins when they sleep, like a small child with its treasured bear or blankie.

Greyhounds are inherently elegant, both moving and still. But they can get themselves into such amusing poses, one must laugh. Bingley, my Very High Prey Mighty Hunter, crosses his "wrists" in a most delicate manner when resting. Zephyr, Portia, and part Greyhound or Whippet Daphne, slept in Dead Cockroach position, on their backs, long thin legs stretched straight up.

But perhaps what attaches people most to rescue Greyhounds is their quiet dignity in face of all the indignities they have endured and the uncertainties that they face. When we adopt a rescued Greyhound, we know that their lives have changed permanently for the better. We know that, never again will they be fed goop made out of parasite-laden, lowest grade beef. We know that they will receive the medication they need, plus flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. We know that they will have routine physicals and dental care. We know that they will take to lounging on sofas and cushions almost as naturally as they chase critters. They have no way of knowing all that.

When ex-racing Greyhounds initially enter our homes, they enter a world as strange to them as Byzantium would be to you or me. Stairs, windows, furniture--and mirrors--are all brand new. Some know about riding in vans. But few know anything about getting into a car. And yet, they look to us, not with suspicion, but with trust, and they learn the rules and policies of their new digs with amazing alacrity.

And the best part is yet to come. After they figure out the lay of the land, after they settle down to their new routine, when they understand you are going to be their friend, they begin to reveal their true nature. They let you know Who They Truly Are. Zephyr was Queen of All She Surveyed. Portia was a Mischievous Beauty Who Wanted To Be Loved For Herself. Bingley is an Aw Shucks, M'am, Cowboy

I feel honored to have these elegant creatures trust me. The house would seem empty without one of them lounging on a sofa or draped over a cushion. And, I must say, they really add to the ambience of the place.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Loose Pit Bull

Last week, Zoe was walking Bella, her rescued Aussie-Chow mix, when they encountered a loose, intact Pit Bull--no tags, no collar. If you do not feel a frisson picturing such an encounter, check to be sure you have a pulse.

Like many rescues, Bella has "issues." In the years that she has lived with Zoe's family, Bella has made great strides in learning to trust and in becoming less reactive. But the emotional scars of past mistreatment will never be totally eradicated. Like all dogs, Bella enjoys and deserves walks. Her safety, of course, depends on other dog owners observing leash laws and keeping their dogs properly confined. THAT is what leash laws are for.

Somehow, Zoe maintained her composure, slowly turned Bella to return home and calmly chatted to the dogs as the loose Pit Bull followed them all the way home and settled in their yard as Zoe carefully opened the door to take Bella into safety. And yes, Bella has been spayed, but I understand that intact male dogs do not always make that distinction.

Since Zoe and Bella live in San Marcos, their leash law enforcement agency is Escondido Humane Society. Do not bother looking for the EHS phone number in the phone book. It is not there. Zoe contacted the City of San Marcos for the number, but waited until 10:00 am to call. That is when a live person begins to take messages at Escondido Humane Society.

Upon learning that an intact Pit Bull was loose in Zoe's neighborhood, the EHS representative informed Zoe that Escondido Humane Society is more than busy because they are the animal enforcement authority for the cities of Escondido, Poway, AND San Marcos. So, there was no certainty that one of their officers would be available to respond to a report of a LOOSE, INTACT, PIT BULL--with no identification.

Think about that.

The City of San Marcos, the County of San Diego--indeed, every jurisdiction within the County of San Diego--have a SERIOUS problem with an over-abundance of unsocialized Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. San Diego Pit Bull Rescue works tirelessly to ameliorate the situation, but there are limits to what a group of even the most dedicated volunteers can do.

Public shelters have more Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes brought into their custody than they can ever hope to place for adoption. One wonders just what priorities should take precedence for EHS's attention over a loose, intact Pit Bull--potential source for even MORE unplanned, unsocialized Pit Bull mixes.

San Diego County Animal Control is the dog-related law enforcement authority for most of San Diego County. However, the City of San Marcos, along with Escondido and Poway, has contracted with Escondido Humane Society to enforce their leash laws. Escondido Humane Society represented itself as capable of performing that job.

Frankly, I have my doubts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Kathi has let me know that the owner of the dog who attacked her dog, Chantal, has gone back on his word and is not paying the veterinary bill for Chantal, as he had promised.

This leaves Kathi with the only option of going back to Small Claims Court in order to recover veterinary expenses. Small Claims does not grant court and filing costs to the plaintiff. So Kathi will be out double costs for subpoena service and probably other filing costs.

Kathi's dilemma underlines the need for MAJOR reassessment of leash law enforcement and penalties for violation. Dog attacks are traumatic and the results are expensive. Remedies for victims are difficult to come by and require considerable financial outlay to even begin the process of remedy.

It is still not clear if the owner of the attacking dog has been charged with a misdemeanor. It is my understanding that most leash law violations are misdemeanors. I do wonder if sometimes authorities are reluctant to file misdemeanor charges when "just dogs" are involved. And, I know from the case of the attack on Portia, Bingley and my husband, no misdemeanor charges were filed, even though my husband was attacked and Portia was killed--and the attacking dog was "on probation."

Over the years, having had five leashed dogs attacked by off leash dogs, I have given serious thought to the present status of leash laws and their enforcement. Both the laws and the consequences for breaking those laws need a fresh look, a reformulation using a different model.

It seems to me that a system based on tickets with graduated fines for second and third offenses is a place to start.

I welcome readers ideas about creating more effective laws and consequences.

Victims of off leash dog attacks deserve better protection and intervention.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Designer Dogs

"Designer Dogs" are all the rage. A woman told me that she had spent $3000.00 for her Poodle-Golden Retriever mixed breed--the so called Golden Doodle. I've heard of Boston Terrier-Shih Tzu mixes. Reportedly, at least one outcome of this experiment resembles an Affenpinscher. Just this week, someone told me about a Beagle-Cavalier King Charles mix--bred purposely, I understand.

Give. Me. Strength.

You want a mixed breed dog? Check out Petfinders. They list tens of thousands of dogs in rescues and shelters in need of homes. These tens of thousands of dogs include thousands of mixed breed dogs.

The most I have ever heard of a private rescue charging for adoption is $350.00.* Public shelters charge much less. For $3000.00, you could shop every shelter and rescue listed on Petfinders, buy a two-way air ticket for yourself and a one-way air ticket for the dog and still save a packet, even if you traveled cross-country to find your Designer Pooch. If you NEED to tell people that you spent $3000.00 for your dog, round up your costs to the nearest thousand.

News Flash! Designer Dogs are Pure Bred Dogs. You want a Designer Dog? Go to the American Kennel Club website and click on Breeds. Spend a few hours reading comprehensive descriptions of the 150 breeds listed there. If you MUST have something rare and trendy, check out Foundation Stock Service Breeds (FSSB). These are breeds in the process of demonstrating that they are stable, distinct breeds that reliably pass predictable traits from generation to generation. Added bonus: I have no doubt that you can find a breeder who will accept $3000.00--or even more, if you insist--for one of their puppies. And since your willingness to consider spending Big Bucks for a mixed breed clearly indicates that you are not interested in the Show World, the breeder can sell you one of their Not Show Quality puppies for top price. Now THAT'S what I call a win-win!

What is being mislabeled as a Designer Dog is, in reality, the product of a random breeding between two dogs of different breeds. If the breeder truly believes that the product of such a mating will be a dog whose physical and personality characteristics can be predicted, that said dog will display 50% of the attributes of one breed and 50% of the attributes of the other breed in a desired order and relationship, you can add ignorance to greed to the attributes of the breeder.

A genuine Designer Dog is a breed that has been developed slowly and carefully by people who know dogs, know their history, know the parentage and ancestry of the breeding pair, and know the purpose of the breed.

The established breeds have been around for a very long time--in the case of Sight Hounds, centuries. Their physical characteristics, and even some temperament tendencies have been honed to GREAT predictability.

It should come as no surprise that I consider Greyhounds to be the epitome of a Designer Dog. Think about it. You want the Fastest Dog In The World. You want a dog who isn't a nuisance hanging out with you in your Silken Tent or Marble Palace, doesn't have doggie odor and doesn't pay much attention to your drunken guests, but adds to the ambience of the place. What would that dog look like? How would that dog behave? The truth is, that if Form Follows Function is your standard, there is nothing "modern" about it. It is centuries old and it is exemplified in the Sight Hounds whose beginnings are in very ancient history.

Or, take the Spitz group of dogs. Strength, endurance, all wrapped up in a double layer fur coat with a ruff for good measure.

I heard that some genius, trying to breed the Fastest Sled Dog, crossed a Greyhound with a Husky. The poor, pencil legged creature that was the result of this cross, sank in the snow on its slender, high knuckled feet under the weight of its heavy fur coat. Which was fortunate. If it had also inherited an absence of body fat from its Greyhound parent along with its long legs and slender feet, it would have frozen to death before it had run a mile--in spite of its spiffy fur coat.

So. If you long for a Labradoodle, Schnoodle, Cockapoo, Maltipoo, or Golden Doodle, check out the listings of Poodle Rescues. They are well supplied with all of these mixes. Pay the $300.00 fee. Donate $2700.00 to the rescue organization. Then you can brag to all your friends that you paid $3000.00 for your "Designer Dog."

* Today, Saturday, October 10, 2009, I heard of a rescue charging $470.00 for a dog. It is a Canadian rescue that ships in dogs from Louisiana and other Southern States. This puzzles me. I am confident that Canada has an ample number of homeless dogs in need of placement. Perhaps we have a trend here--people bragging about how much they pay for a rescued dog?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Greyhound Racing

The most important socio-economic trend in 19th Century Europe--and particularly in Great Britain--was the gradual erosion of the power of the aristocracy because of applied science and technology--The Industrial Revolution.

It should not come as a surprise that the fortunes of the canine companions of the aristocracy took a parallel hit from the same source--technology. In 1912, Owen Patrick Smith invented the mechanical rabbit. His motives were pure. He wanted to stop the killing of jack rabbits. Repeat after me: The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions.

By the end of the 1920s, Dog Racing--Greyhound Racing (Why bother with anything but the fastest?)--had shattered the fortunes of the canine companions of the aristocracy: Greyhounds. Bred on a massive scale, confined for racing life (five years max) in small cage-like kennels, and killed--frequently in the cruelest ways--the lives of all but a small number of Show and Amateur Coursing Greyhounds, descended into Canine Hell.

And there they stayed until Greyhound Rescue groups began to emerge in the 1980s, raising the awareness of the American public to the plight of thousands of beautiful, graceful, and trusting dogs.

Presently, Greyhound Racing is legal in 14 states and is being conducted in 11 of those states. Massachusetts is the most recent state to outlaw Greyhound Racing. It will become illegal there in January 2010.

As a lover of Greyhounds, I am eager for Greyhound Racing to become illegal in all 50 states. But I am not sanguine about the impact the process of winding down racing has on dogs now living in track kennels that are soon to be closed and the puppies that are still being bred.

Here in San Diego County, the closest Greyhound Track is Caliente in Tijuana, about forty miles from where I am typing. Although located in Mexico, Caliente is a track for American bred dogs. In every way, Caliente is the end of the line for hundreds, if not thousands of Greyhounds. A long fall from the palaces that were once home to their ancestors.

I love to talk about Greyhounds. I do not like to talk about What Happened To Greyhounds. But this is the basic story of most of the Greyhounds I know. Two of the Dogs of My Life: The Wonderful Zephyr and Beautiful Portia were rescued from Caliente. Bingley never made it to Caliente because he was sold into an even lower ring of Canine Hell. I have met other Greyhounds who have survived other Canine Hells made possible by the over-supply of intact Greyhounds needed to maintain the dog racing industry.

When I next discuss Greyhounds, I will talk about the dogs. But before I do that, I had to let you know Where They Came From.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pit Bull Encounter

Monday morning was the sort of morning when one remembers why, absent Santa Anas, Fall is the best season in San Diego County. Anne and I were sitting at a table outside Starbuck's when we saw a couple with a dog. The woman had a Pit Bull on a leash. Since neither Anne nor I shrieked and ran from the scene, the woman brought the dog over to greet us while her companion found a table and went for coffee.

Calm is too "busy" a descriptor for this dog--his name, we discovered is Bear. Bear was more than just calm. He was Perfectly Placid. Supremely Stoic. A warm, dark-honey fawn, he ambled over to me, and sniffed my proffered hand politely. He looked up at me to let me know he was available for pats and ear scratches.

Bear is one lucky dog. He was purchased as a puppy--he is an American Staffordshire--by a neighbor of his present owner. When he was about a year old, his first owner decided that he was more responsibility than she wanted and was prepared to dump him at the nearest Animal Control Shelter. Fortunately for Bear, his winning ways had charmed the couple next door, and he was spared days in a cage, followed by euthanasia.

The amiable, neutered--I checked--dog at Starbuck's was as unlike the terrifyingly aggressive dog who attacked Chantal as he could be, and still be the same breed. Bear is a living reminder of why, not too long ago, Pit Bulls were America's Dog, the first choice for children's movies and advertisements.

He also reminded me why, in spite of widespread misuse and abuse of Pit Bulls and the consequent havoc wrecked on both dogs and humans, I do not support breed specific dog legislation. Dogs--any breed--are not the problem. People are the problem

I have lived long enough to remember a number of breeds considered to be Inherently Dangerous Dogs. Eventually, the Weak-Ego Nasties of the World will find another breed to exploit, to use as a weapon.

Meanwhile, I thank Bear, and especially his rescuers, for a particularly charming encounter on a beautiful Autumn morning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today I was scheduled to attend Small Claims Court with Kathi, whose dog was attacked on July 5, resulting in $600.00 in veterinary expenses. At the last minute, the dog's owner has promised to pay the bill without going to court.

This is good news. But it is both my personal experience and observation that many people won't pay until they are looking directly at court. That means filing fees and serving fees and lots of paperwork for the victim. Not fair. But neither are dog attacks.

It is unclear if the authorities filed charges against the owner of the attacking dog. Will report when that is clarified.

Meanwhile, Best Wishes Kathi. Hope the payment agreement holds up and hope that Chantal is totally recovered.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Know Your Dog: Hound Group

Terrier Group, Working Group, Sporting Group, Herding Group, Non-Sporting Group, Toy Group. Now, at last, we come to the Hound Group, which really consists of two sub-groups: Scent Hounds and Sight Hounds. Widely diverging in appearance, what both sub-groups have in common is that they pursue prey for hunters. Some, including all Sight Hounds, are Independent Contractors. Some, such as Bloodhounds, are usually Partners.

The most popular of Hounds, Beagles, are third in A.K. C. registrations. The immortal Snoopy has forever engraved Beagles on Americans' hearts. Of course, real Beagles are Scent Hounds, not Sopwith-Camel pilots or freelance journalists.

My personal experience with Scent Hounds is limited to interaction with Dachshunds, mostly mini-sized. I find them to be charming and tenacious little doggies, well suited to a person or family choosing a First Dog.

The Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen is a Scent Hound that easily scores a 10 on the Adorableness Scale. Its near relative, the Basset Hound, on the other hand, invariably evokes laughter as it waddles around the show ring, relying on the sympathy vote in the Adorableness Department. Bassets' admirers are very protective of them and tell me that they are Wonderful Dogs--just not a good choice as a jogging companion.

The A.K.C. introduction to the Hound Group cautions that some hounds emit a "baying" that irritates or unnerves some people. This certainly needs to be considered before anyone acquires some Scent Hound breeds.

And Now!

At last, we come to the Sight Hounds. Don't expect objectivity from me on this subject. Three of the Dogs of My Life have been Sight Hounds. One was a Sight Hound mix. If my bias showed with Terriers, it will be glaring when I talk about the group that I was accidentally introduced to by the Unforgettable Daphne. The group to which Wonderful Zephyr; Sweet, Sweet Bingley; and my Beautiful Portia belong.

Sight Hounds are the Aristocrats of Dogdom. They are living reminders of the ancien regime. Their size and special needs are suited to palaces and estates. Their personalities reflect the assumptions of the privileged owners with whom they shared their lives for centuries.

When it comes to the prize for The Most Elegant Breed, other dogs need not apply. Afghans, Borzois, Greyhounds and Salukis, in my opinion--and that's all that counts, since this is MY blog--are the only contenders. These dogs are living, breathing Works of Art. They incorporate the aerodynamics of a high-powered sports car, the grace of a Prima Ballerina, and the sleekness of an haute couture model.

And, let's be honest. Sight Hounds also reinforce the idea that Beauty and Brains do not necessarily enjoy a high correlation. Yes, yes. I have personally met Greyhound Therapy Dogs. And Portia--I'm still grieving her loss--was, perhaps, the canniest Dog of My Life. But, as a group, Sight Hounds are the Legacy college admissions. When your portrait is enshrined on the walls of Ancient Egyptian Palaces and Tombs, you have nothing to prove to anyone.

Scottish Deerhounds and Irish Wolfhounds make up in a sense of Entitlement what they lack in sleekness. I have often suspected that Wolfhounds took a page out of their masters' books when it came to droit de seigneur. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, the Irish cottagers' dogs, have a suspiciously Wolfhound-like shaped skull. Master and hound visiting the same cottage, perhaps?

It will come as no surprise that I urge Serious Thinking and Great Caution if you are considering bringing one of these Members of Canine Aristocracy into your home. And, yes. Large as some Sight Hounds are, they will need to be In Your Home. Not in the garage. Not in the backyard. Not confined in the kitchen--or, Heaven Forbid--a bathroom.

Please, please, please. If you invite an Irish Wolfhound, a Scottish Deerhound, an Afghan or a Borzoi into your home, don't complain that they are big. These are Big Dogs.

If Counter Surfing is The Unforgivable Sin. If Dogs Do Not Belong On Sofas is An Unbreakable Rule. A Sight Hound is not for you.

If knowing where the dog is EVERY time the front door is opened and being sure that the dog is NOT going to run out is too much of a bother for you, a Sight Hound is NOT for you.

A Sight Hound must be on leash or in a securely fenced area EVERY time it is out of doors. These dogs can out-run just about any other animal--Cheetahs excepted--but they cannot outrun a car. A loose Sight Hound is, sadly, all too frequently, a dead Sight Hound.

Sight Hounds are NOT Working Dogs. Someone else will have to guard home and hearth. A Sight Hound might not lift its head from its cushion to so much as bark at a prowler. Or it might play Gracious Host and show the "guest" where the silver is kept.

Sight Hounds rarely will retrieve anything. "Finders, keepers" is their motto.

Instead of herding a flock, a Sight Hound will scatter a flock in all directions and might even hunt down and.... We won't go there.

Some Sight Hounds get along with little fluffy Toy Breeds. Some Sight Hounds.... We won't go there, either.

Sometimes, Sight Hounds will come when you call them. Having a leash in your hand increases the odds. But, they might have to run a few laps, or toss a few toys in the air to express their joy before actually standing still for you to attach the leash.

If you read all of my cautions, and you still think a Sight Hound is The Dog for You, I will have more to say in a future post about one Sight Hound in particular: my beloved Greyhounds.

But right now, I need to check the sofa pillows in the living room. Bingley rearranges them to his liking. He thinks good quality chintz is better for lounging upon than that nasty old synthetic throw I use to cover his favorite resting spot. Silk would be better than chintz. But Greyhounds have hit upon Hard Times, and Sweet Bingley is making do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Knitters for Critters

Knitters for Critters is a new charitable effort which seeks to use donated knitted or crocheted pieces--particularly hats and scarves--to support the well being of animals. Knitted items can be sent to:

Knitters for Critters
P.O. Box 235286
Encinitas, CA 92023-5286

Donated items will be sold at craft fairs, boutiques and church bazaars over the holidays and the proceeds with be donated to animal charities. It is requested that only non-animal fibers are used for these projects.

The critters thank you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sandy Nash R.I.P.

In addition to dogs, knitting is an important part of my life. I am fortunate to live a mere ten minutes from a Wonderful Knit Shop--Yarning for You. Yarning for You is the dream and creation of a remarkable lady, Sandy Nash. Yarning for You is much more than just a place to go to buy beautiful, high quality yarn. It's a place to go for help when you get stuck or lessons on basic and advanced knitting techniques. It's the first place many women go when life gets to be too much to bear alone, or something wonderful happens that must be shared. Spending a morning or afternoon knitting at Yarning for You is better than hours of therapy, as far as I and many other women are concerned.

Sandy's Right Hand is Diva Debra, her complement. Sandy is an instinctive knitter. Debra is a techno knitter. Sandy knits Continental Style. Debra knits English Style. Sandy says, "Maybe no one will see that mistake." Debra says, "No one will see that mistake, because you'll never want to wear it." Carol and Laurie and Frontine rotate in the shop to be sure that someone is always there--to talk patterns, suggest yarns--and to share the welcome of the place.

We all knew that Sandy was gravely ill. Not from Sandy, but from Sandy's ever more frequent and longer absences from the shop. Not. A. Good. Sign. I tried to reassure myself because whenever I asked how she was feeling, Sandy would say, "Good!" and flash a smile. Thursday, September 17, 2009, her last day on this earth, Sandy was still responding to doctors and nurses who inquired how she was feeling with "Good!" and a smile.

Sandy's family and her knitting family gathered at Yarning for You yesterday to comfort each other in our loss of this wonderful woman. Each of us feels a very personal connection to Sandy because Sandy was that rare person who could take your concerns and worries seriously but still convey her conviction that "things will work out."

Sandy, who was already fighting a life-threatening condition before lymphoma struck her, could listen for hours to other people's health concerns and never extract "equal time" for her own. A "cat person", Sandy listened to my agonies over the deaths of two Greyhounds with profound sympathy and passed the Kleenex.

One of our last conversations, if not our last, was about a knitting charity that she had just added to her list of charities: Knitters for Critters. In honor of Sandy, Knitters For Critters is now an official charity of Friends of Portia. I will say more about Knitters for Critters in a later post.

But now, all I can say is Thank You, Sandy. You are and always will be a reminder that life should be lived with optimism, gratitude, and generosity.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Know Your Dog: Toy Group

Toy Breeds are the official lap dogs of the canine world. They were selectively bred down from larger breeds and designed to be companions or "comforters" for their humans.

Most Toys look like diminutives of their source breed: Italian Greyhounds look like teeny tiny Greyhounds. Toy Poodles, if well bred, are just smaller versions of Miniature and Standard Poodles. Pomeranians are clearly members of the Spitz Family. But the largest sled a Pomeranian could pull would be doll sized. A Pug's face reveals Mastiff and Bull Dog origins. Silky Terriers and Yorkshire Terriers are--surprise--Terriers!

Toys are minimal bother in terms of space and quantity. They don't eat a whole lot of food. Medications and treatments that are sold by weight or count cost less for a Toy than for, say, a Golden Retriever. I could perform poop patrol for Mame, our Toy Poodle, using two Kleenex, if necessary.

It is understandable that members of this group are frequently recommended to individuals or families considering a First Dog Ever. Looking at all factors, perhaps the Pug, a Toy, is The Easiest Dog to Own. It is small. It doesn't have serious grooming challenges. It does not require much exercise.

However. There is always "However."

Many Toy Breeds require intensive grooming, both by the owner and by a professional. These are the dogs that were originally bred for owners with plenty of leisure time for such pursuits--and servants, who could always wield a brush if the owner lost interest.

Even more importantly, Toy Breeds were meant to be CLOSE companions to PEOPLE. They are not happy to be left alone all day. They are certainly not suited to long hours in a backyard or garage.

My best friend has rescued many toy dogs from neglectful situations. It is horrifying to see the emotional cost these little dogs pay when humans ignore the purpose for which they were bred. I promise you, a 4, 5, 6 pound dog can be turned into such a nervous wreck that it is VERY hard to rehabilitate. Bruiser, a Maltese with perfect show points, came to live with my friend four years ago. She now confesses, that when she saw him "in action", she almost backed out of her promise to take him. He barked and ran in circles incessantly. He approached her and backed away when she reached out to pet him. When guests visited, he latched onto trouser legs, trying his best to keep people from moving from room to room. And potty training was a challenge. He was so small and quick, the damage could be done before he was caught. Medical problems included rotten teeth, ear infections, and digestive difficulties.

Today, after four years of consistent love and care, Bruiser is a New Dog. He weighs a healthier five pounds, up from under 4 pounds when he was rescued. He is profoundly attached to my friend and her husband, but accepts short separations without hysterical protests. He understands that visitors come and go. He might bark and try to discourage departures, but he knows it's a losing battle. Recently, he has even come up to sit on my lap.

But think. Three years of neglect. Four years of rehabilitation. There just aren't enough people with time, patience, and willingness to rehab all the Toy Dogs that are being treated as toys--to be left or played with at whim, without any regard for their inbred needs.

Just yesterday, a woman at my local knit shop had a rescued toy with her while she shopped. This little Pomeranian/Maltese mix was just what a Toy Dog should be; on leash, perfectly behaved, close to her human, sharing in her human's daily life and activities, and graciously accepting, but not soliciting the greetings of the people she met.

The joys of life with a Toy are many, if you understand them and treat them as they were bred to be treated.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dog Attacks: Reporting

It has been a while since I have posted about a dog attack. Sadly, this does not mean that no attacks have occurred. I doesn't mean that I have received no reports of attacks. I have. But my policy is to post about attacks only if I have had direct contact with one of the parties involved in the attack, or with an eye-witness to an attack. I give this source an opportunity to read my post before it appears on the blog.

I believe this is important, because dog attacks are traumatic events and it is important to get the basic facts right. It is what people who are willing to re-live the trauma by telling their story deserve.

If you are thinking about telling your story about a dog attack, or if you know someone who is considering telling their story, please be assured that every effort will be made to tell the story accurately and to protect your privacy.

In the meantime, I will continue to discuss dogs and dog ownership. Dog attacks do not occur in a vacuum. Sometimes they occur because of an "oops". Dogs in multi-dog households sometimes can have altercations for no apparent reason. But attacks that occur in public spaces are all too often the result of an irresponsible or naive dog owner. Knowing a dog's personality and having a general idea of what a dog's breed was created to do is essential for responsible dog ownership.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Know Your Dog: Non-Sporting Group

In honor of the Lowchen, whose presence along a path by the railroad track several blocks from my suburban neighborhood remains a mystery, I turn to Non-Sporting Dogs. As I have previously mentioned, there is no unifying principle determining a breed's membership in this group. Many Non-Sporting Dogs could be reasonably placed in another group. Schipperkes certainly were bred to be Working Dogs. Dalmatians were used as guard dogs for horse-drawn coaches, and, in my childhood were called Firehouse Dogs--Working Dog occupations. Poodles were originally water retrievers, a pretty Sporting purpose for a Non-Sporting Dog, I'd say.

Non-Sporting is also the group for some rare breeds that have been promoted to full A.K.C. recognition relatively recently--Tibetan Spaniels, Tibetan Terriers, and, Lowchens, for example.

Many Non-Sporting Dogs are what the British call Companion Dogs. This does not refer to the American certification of a dog as an assistant to the physically challenged human, but rather to its purpose: keeping humans company. These are the dogs that are insufficiently diminutive for the Toy Group, but function very much like the Toys. Bichon Frises, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos and Miniature Poodles are in this sub-group, as are Lowchens, and Tibetan Spaniels.

Nominees for The Most Stubborn Dog are also well represented in the Non-Sporting Group: Chinese Shar-Peis and Chow Chows are obvious competitors for that title. Lhasa Apsos, for all their Adorableness Quotient, are not known to be particularly eager to please humans. They seem to believe that humans need to please THEM!

But if I were to recommend a Best First Dog--a dog for someone who had never before had a dog--I would name a few from the Non-Sporting Group. Bichon Frises; Boston Terriers; Poodles, particularly the Miniature size; and, perhaps, either of the Bulldogs would be on my list.

My personal experience of Keeshonds tempts me to put them on the list, too. I have found them to be charming, affectionate dogs. But then, they had loving, responsible owners.

But, no surprise. You can acquire the most easy-going breed of dog and turn it into a nervous wreck by neglect. Or, you can acquire an admittedly challenging breed and turn into a menace by neglect.

Some Non-Sporting Dogs require daily or twice daily grooming in addition to regular trips to a professional groomer. If you lack time and money, give the American Eskimos, Bichon Frises, Chow Chows, Lhasa Apsos, Lowchens, Poodles, Tibetan Spaniels and Tibetan Terriers a pass.

But all Non-Sporting Dogs, as all other dogs, require socialization, patience, and consistency. If you can't deliver those, don't get any dog.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Homeless Lowchen

When one thinks of dogs in need of rescue, a Lowchen is one of the last breeds that comes to mind. Indeed, it is sufficiently rare that it is one of the last breeds that comes to mind period.

When my neighbor told me that she was fostering a lost Lowchen, all that came to my mind was the dog shown right after the Lhasa Apso in the Non-Sporting group. A dog with a full front of fluffy tresses and shaved hind-quarters--The Lion Dog.

I immediately turned to the invaluable website of the American Kennel Club and read a glowing review of the breed. Smart, affectionate, low dander, cheerful, gets along with other breeds, easily trained.

None of that sounds much like the dog my neighbor was playing hostess to. THAT dog has knocked over and smashed a silk room-dividing screen, broken a window screen, broken an antique lamp, chewed various electrical cords, terrorized the resident cat, emptied and scattered the cat-litter box, scratched the resident Boxer's cornea, upset the resident Lab mix and pushed the Parrot close to a nervous breakdown.

Pretty impressive for a creature who was covered in stickers and ticks and near starvation at the time of rescue.

This particular homeless dog is much more fortunate than the average homeless dog. It is a rare and therefore valuable breed that scores a 10 on the Adorableness Scale. There is an active and diligent breed rescue organization that is being contacted.

And, this dog has found its way to the home of a true Animal Lover. Not just the sentimental type who wipes a tear from the eye and murmurs, "How sad." But an Animal Lover who takes stray pets to the vet and pays the bills and forgives the "accidents" and stays up all night, if necessary, with a frightened or sick animal. These are the strangers on whom needy domestic animals must depend when their owners find them to be too much of a bother, or they inadvertently become separated from their families.

What is this dog's story? Will we ever find out? What we do know is that even the best breed rescues must rely on the generosity of strangers--people who care for stray and hurting pets--until official rescuers can be contacted.

What we also know is that a few days of living rough can traumatize any domestic pet and can complicate the project of rescue and re-homing.

God Bless my neighbor, who just may have saved one Lowchen's life.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dog Found

A Lowchen has been found and is being cared for by my neighbor. It's not every day that a Lowchen is found running loose. If you think this might be your dog, please contact me. My email is portiasmom at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Know Your Dog: Herding Group

The time has come for me to discuss Herding Dogs. This is a MAJOR challenge for me for two reasons: 1. Dogs in the running for Most Intelligent Breed are overly represented in the Herding Group. 2. Not one of the Dogs of My Life has been a Herding Dog.

Working Dogs may have done well in literature, but Herding Dogs have movies made of the books that star them. Nana and Carl and Clifford are admirable. But Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin are Legends.

From here, I must tread carefully. Some of my best friends are Herding devotees. Unfortunately, they are not devoted to the same Herding breed. The danger of treading on some human toes is ever on my mind.

The German Shepherd Dog--or Alsatian, as the British have, I think, more wisely named it--is probably most frequently cited as The Most Intelligent Dog Breed. There. I have said it. I am sure that lovers of Australian Shepherds, Collies, Border Collies, Belgian Malinois, and just about every other Herding breed will disagree. But let me say once more. I really do not have a dog in this fight.

One of the reasons that the German Shepherd is such strong contender for the Most Intelligent Canine title is that it is what I call a Cusp Dog. My definition of a Cusp Dog is one that might reasonably be placed in two or three different groups. Although the GSD retains its ability to herd, herding is not the first activity most people associate with the breed. Indeed, when I was a child, my friends and I called German Shepherds "Police Dogs". Look in the back of any K-9 unit of your local police force. You are likely to see an impressive German Shepherd looking back at you, performing the job of a Working Dog.

Or, if you have occasion to watch a dog assist a Bomb or Drug Squad, sniffing out a Dangerous Substance, it is unlikely that you will see a Scent Hound. You will probably see a German Shepherd or a German Shepherd mix. (Here, I must add that Someone Who Ferrets Out Such Facts, assures me that the Greatest Drug Sniffing Dog of All Time was a Belgian Malinois.) Another Cusp Dog, by the way.

German Shepherd Dogs are consistently among America's favorite dogs, currently, number three in AKC registrations. This, sadly, makes them particularly vulnerable to irresponsible and unscrupulous breeders who prey on ignorant or lazy buyers. If you are purchasing ANY pure bred dog or puppy, ALWAYS buy from a breeder who shows the breed and who will take the dog back, "if things don't work out." Really careful breeders interview prospective purchasers with the skill of a trial attorney. Don't be surprised if you are required to present all members of your household for questioning. Be sure to answer all questions truthfully.

If you watch Agility Trials, you are familiar with Border Collies and Aussies--two breeds with long histories of working in close partnership with humans. Both breeds are in the running for Most Intelligent Dog. Their quick response to commands can be stunning. Border Collies have a stare designed to bring sheep under control that can almost make a human think they are mind readers.

So, if Herding Dogs are so smart, shouldn't they be the first dogs under consideration when someone is acquiring a dog? I don't think so.

If you choose one of these Canine Einsteins, you had better be prepared for serious and continuing activity with your dog. Obedience training is just the beginning. These dogs need to be OCCUPIED! Bored Herding Dogs can be destructive in all sorts of creative ways. With too much idle time on their paws, Herding Dogs go a little crazy. Then they drive YOU crazy!

Think before you bring a Herding Dog into your life. Are you truly ready to involve yourself in such a close and active partnership? If not, get some popcorn and settle back to watch an old movie. May I suggest Lassie, Come Home or The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bingley! The Survivor is Six Years Old Today

The afternoon of February 16, 2008, John and I were standing with Darren in a turnout run at Greyhound Adoption Center, trying to decide which of two dogs to adopt. Portia had romped and played with both dogs, and it was probable that either dog would adjust to her aggressive play style.

These are terrible moments. Even though the dog you don't choose will have good care from dedicated staff and volunteers at the rescue kennel, dogs need a home, and only one dog was going to get a home that day. Which to choose?

I felt a brush against my leg and looked down into the warmest, sweetest pair of brown canine eyes. "Please take me home." I swear I heard the words.

We brought the big fawn-red Greyhound home that day to be Portia's buddy. Today he is our only dog. He is a Survivor. The Survivor. This is his story.

When Bingley was three weeks shy of his second birthday, on August 11, 2005, he ran and won his first race in Florida. He continued to race in Florida until sometime between June and November of 2006. He won his first race in Tucson, Arizona on November 14, 2006. The last race he won was in Tucson on January 1, 2007. He lost races on January 4 and January 8.

Racing Greyhounds have limited chances to be winners. If they stop winning and no one rescues them, they are killed. Fortunately, Bingley wasn't killed. Unfortunately, sometime after January 8, 2007, Bingley was sold to Gambling Man. Gambling Man thought it would be a good idea to run his own string of Greyhounds.

Bingley was one of five Greyhounds that Gambling Man acquired. I don't like to think about what life was like during the months Bingley and his four companions were being hauled around while Gambling Man tried to set up races for them. Eventually, they were hauled into California, where dog racing is illegal.

The authorities caught up with Gambling Man on October 13, 2007. Greyhound Adoption Center was notified and Rescuer, with many years of removing Greyhounds from bad situations was on hand when Gambling Man's dog hauler was opened. Rescuer reports that it had been years since she had witnessed such a dreadful scene of neglect. Two dogs had died. Three had survived. Bingley was a Survivor.

It's fortunate that Gambling Man was found and the dogs were rescued when they were. A week later, San Diego County was engulfed in fires that would have made such a rescue impossible. Indeed, Bingley and his two buddies were among the dogs evacuated from the Greyhound Adoption Center kennel at the height of the fires.

Bingley knew nothing about houses when he first entered ours. We had put large pieces of paper on windows and sliding doors, so that he would understand that they were not starting gates and try to run through them. We put paper squares on the mirrored doors of my closet. But Bingley could still see the dog looking directly at him from inside the closet. No matter how hard he tried, though, he couldn't dig through the carpet to reach that dog. Each time I opened the closet door, he was poised--then puzzled.

Bingley learned to ask Portia's permission for just about anything. THE kong was the kong that Portia wanted. THE sofa was the sofa Portia wanted to laze on. Of course, as soon as Bingley got comfortable on the other sofa, Portia might--and probably would--change her mind. Bingley would let Portia have HER sofa.

The one place where Bingley ruled was out-of-doors. Houses and sofas and cushion beds and toys were wonderful, but they weren't a part of the world he knew. What he DID know was running--and chasing small or furry critters.

Portia might start a race in the back yard, but Bingley always won it.

Bingley changed--and still changes--from sweet, get-along doggie to SUPERDOG, once the front door opens. So he'd better be on leash. Shortly after he came to live with us, we discovered that he could duck out of a regular Martingale collar in a nanosecond and streak across TWO lanes of traffic in order to chase two Chihuahuas.

Both Chihuahuas and Bingley survived. But Bingley now sports a two inch wide, custom-made Martingale collar (thank you, Laurel) and a harness when he is out and about.

Bingley doesn't understand "Fetch." And certainly not "Bring it here." HE tosses. HE catches. HE keeps.

Bingley cannot always remember what "sit" means. But he remembers where he saw the last bunny in the park and which houses have cats.

The night of the attack, after Portia had been savaged and John had been bitten and fell, Bingley slipped out of both collar and harness and in spite of being bitten, he helped our neighbor, Jim, chase the attacking dog back to his yard. And very uncharacteristically for the high-prey Greyhound that he is, he returned to John promptly when he was called.

These sad two months since our beautiful Portia died, Bingley has been a constant solace to John and me. But we know Bingley is lonely. He's never been an only dog before, and not all the squeaky toys in the world can replace his pal, Portia.

We're thinking about finding another buddy for him. When we're ready. When we find the perfect--or next to perfect pal for our Survivor.

But today, it's time to say, Happy Birthday, Bingley, Bing, Bing-Bing, Bing-a-ling, Mr. Bingley, Mr. B. And many, many more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Be Kind To Your Dog

Yesterday morning, Marilyn and I walked our dogs in a nearby park. At 8am, it was already hot. We stayed in the shade as much as possible. When one of the dogs decided to lie down on the grass for a break, we understood that the dog knew best.

About 45 minutes into our walk, we saw a jogger in the distance, on the other side of the park. The man was running with a short-legged Jack Russell on leash, who was valiantly trying to keep up with him. If a Jack Russell is running more slowly than a human, that's a good sign that the little terrier is seriously tiring.

Hot summer days are not good jogging days for dogs. Heat prostration is life threatening for them.

A little over three years ago, my wonderful Zephyr was attacked on the evening of a record breaking heat wave. In spite of the fact that she was oozing and dripping blood from multiple wounds, she was triaged to be seen last at the emergency vet's. Why? Several dog owners in my community had returned from work that hot day and had taken their dogs for a run. The result was more life threatening than a dog attack that eventually required about 100 stitches and four drains for Zephyr.

I hope the jogger we saw yesterday stopped in time for his Jack Russell.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Know Your Dog: Sporting Group

If you are looking for a collection of dogs with great reputations, look no further than the Sporting Group. These dogs are bred to stand frozen--in both meanings of the word--for as long as a hunter requires; not flinch, whine, or run at the sound of a shot, and retrieve game without so much as nibbling at it. They are partners, junior partners, to their humans.

And when the long day of hunting is over, the long haired beauties of the group--the Setters, Spaniels, and Goldens--are expected to stand patiently, without complaint, as they are divested of the dirt and debris of the hunting field before being admitted to the fireside for a well deserved rest.

Some of America's favorite dogs are Sporting Dogs. At one time, Cocker Spaniels--yes, I am THAT old--were the first choice for American households--and frequently champions in the show ring. Other Sporting Breed fanciers ground their teeth as the Little Lord Fauntleroy of Sporting Dogs stood beside the 1 at Best of Group. But all over the country, Cocker lovers cheered.

I grew up in just such a household. Our red-blonde Penny was a city dog. But given outings "in the country", she was so "birdie", my father finally decided to take her hunting. She seemed to know that she was about to fulfill the destiny for which her breed was created, trembling and nosing the air as she and Dad drove through the crisp Autumn morning toward a friend's field where there were plenty of pheasant.

Dad opened the door for her and she was out in a flash! But he did not have time to get his gun out of the trunk before he heard a pathetic wail. Penny had plunged into a pit of sand burrs. Dad's hunting morning was spent removing sand burrs, one, by one, from Penny's silky Cocker coat.

I can't think of a better illustration of the juxtaposition of a dog's city upbringing and its in-bred instinct.

But some of Penny's instincts served her well in a city household. She may never have "frozen" in the hunting field, but she did "stay" at the dining room door while we were having family dinners. No nibbles of "game" for her until the family had eaten.

Cockers have long since fallen out of favor, in many ways, victims of their own popularity.

But another Sporting Dog, the Labrador Retriever, is now Number One Dog--America's most popular dog. And, sadly, many wonderful Labs are paying a steep price for their breed's well-deserved popularity.

Two years ago, my daughter and her family brought a rescued Lab, Georgia, to live with them. Georgia had just passed her first birthday. I fear her story is not unique.

Another family had bought Georgia as a puppy. She lived with them for about a year. Then, one day, she was dropped off at a local animal shelter where she sat alone in a cage for a month, acquiring behavioral and medical issues.

Why did Georgia lose her first home? Was she a Bad Dog? No. She was pretty much an average, normal Lab. She might have been intended as a hunting dog, but failed to perform up to expectations. Some people acquire Sporting Breeds and expect them to be expert gun dogs with little or no training. Some Sporting Dogs never do become accustomed to gunshot, regardless of training.

But Georgia's problem might have been even more elementary than that. Labs and other large Sporting Dogs have very long puppy-hoods. Well after they grow to adult size, their puppy behavior persists. High levels of chewing and high energy are to be expected. Labs are very food motivated, which, incidentally, makes them favorites of some dog trainers. It also makes them Counter Surfers. You forgot to put the birthday cake away? Sorry 'bout that!

Labs' popularity is well deserved because they are great dogs, if they receive the love and training they need during their extended puppy-hood. They'll jog with you. They love to swim--even in icy water. They're Happy Campers. They are the dogs who get along with everyone at Dog Beach or the neighborhood Off-Leash Park.

It's not uncommon to see them as a Companion Dog, assisting a child or adult with physical challenges.

Sporting Dogs have the potential to be loyal and obedient family pets. But as always, it is up to humans to help them achieve their potential. If you have the patience to see one of these dogs through puppy-hood, they will reward you every day of their life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Know Your Dog: Working Group

At one time, dogs were placed in one of two categories: Sporting and Non-Sporting. But the increasing number of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club and obvious differences in purposes for which breeds were developed and used led to creation of new categories. The newest category was created in 1983 when Herding Dogs were separated from Working Dogs for show purposes.

Those breeds retained in the Working Group tend to be large to very large and very strong. Rottweillers, Great Danes, Akitas, Saint Bernards, all belong to the Working Group, not to forget Newfoundlands, the various Mastiffs, and Great Pyrenees. (Hint: As far as I'm concerned, the "Great" in Great Pyrenees refers to the size of the dog, not the altitude of the mountain range.) Boxers and Samoyeds are among the lighter weight breeds in this group.

These dogs are designed to do the heavy-duty work that humans are unable or unwilling to do. Pull a sled for miles in sub-zero temperatures? Swim through changing tides and ice-flows to rescue shipwrecked sailors? Scale the Alps pulling wagons loaded with weapons for Roman Legions? Slog through twenty-foot snow drifts to deliver brandy in cute little mini-kegs to freezing travelers? No Problemo!

These are the dogs of daring-do.

They are also enshrined in children's literature from Nana to Clifford and Carl. Who can resist a massive canine who restrains a child from running into a busy street or restores a fallen blanky or teddy to a crying baby's crib?

But. Wait. One. Minute.

Their considerable dimensions and strength alone...make many working dogs unsuitable as pets for average families.

This is a quote from The American Kennel Club's description of Working Group Breeds.
These people know and love dogs. Many of them have spent their adult years breeding, showing, and loving Working Dogs. If you have a Working Breed or are thinking about acquiring a Working Breed, read the AKC's brief, but essential, introduction to this group.

Not one of the Dogs of My Life has been a Working Dog. But I have known a few memorable Working Dogs. Some are among the sweetest, most obedient dogs I have ever met. One--yes, I mean you, Onslow--is a lazy, super-sized lap dog who would drink the brandy and expect You to pull Him on a sled.

But two totally unsocialized Working Dogs initiated one of the most traumatic scenes of my life. Their brutal attack eventually resulted in the premature death of my beloved Good Soldier, Champers.

If you are willing and able to spend hours socializing your dog; if you are willing to objectively assess your dog's temperament and provide it with quantities of supervision, exercise, and, yes, "work" to make it a companion, not a menace--a Working Breed might be the dog for you.

If not, get a Shih Tzu. Join the millions of Toy Breed owners who like to tell everyone within earshot, "He thinks he's a Big Dog."