Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

May 2012 bring you peace and joy. And many walks and squeaky stuffed toys.

Bingley and Magic

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Bingley and Magic join John and me in wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

When Will They Ever Learn?

Yesterday, about 5:40 a.m, while I was walking Bingley and Magic, I chatted with another early rising neighbor. She has a VERY small Pomeranian, which, thankfully, was sleeping soundly inside her house. The ruckus that Bingley and Magic would have made over a Little Bundle of Fluff would have woken the entire neighborhood.

But I digress. Our chat drifted toward the subject of dogs and our loss of Portia. I mentioned that the attacks on all five of our dogs had occurred a short distance from their owner's houses. The dogs had been permitted to run loose from the car to the front door, or given a "brief" elimination break on their neighbor's lawns, or had "accompanied" their humans who were setting out trash cans for collection day.

My neighbor's eyes got large. She said, "Oh! I let Punkin come out with me when I roll out the trash cans."

I murmured that she was taking a great risk. She then remembered that Lucky, a minimally socialized mixed breed, lives directly across the street from her.

I rest my case.

But there was more to come.

Later in the morning I stopped at the light before turning right onto a four lane street that gives access to the freeway. Two women crossed the street with two Shih Tzus trotting along in close proximity. Actually, one woman was walking ahead of the dogs and one behind. Neither seemed to be paying close attention to what the dogs were doing. I looked closely to detect my bete noir the Awful Retractable Leash. But neither dog was leashed at all! Just two little Bundles of Fluff trotting merrily along a 4 lane street that is a favorite walking route for many neighborhood dogs of all shapes and sizes. I know of two Mastiffs and one Akita who are frequently walked there.

I wondered just what the little dogs--they're in the Toy group, for crying out loud--might meet on their totally unprotected walk. I didn't have to drive far to answer my question. Less than a block ahead of this nonchalant band of dogs and humans, another dog was being walked--Thank Heaven, on leash. A large Rottweiler.

Perhaps that particular Rottie can tolerate tiny creatures rushing up to it, yapping "hello", dodging back and forth in front of its face without feeling the urge to lunge and capture the little nuisances. Perhaps the two women, who were paying little attention to their canine companions, would see the Rottie, recognize potential disaster, scoop up the little darlings and turn for home.

Perhaps something frightening but not fatal would instruct those two women in the importance of walking their little dogs on leash.

Perhaps some tiny creature did not survive the inevitable encounter.

Call me a coward, but I was relieved that, whatever happened, I wouldn't be a witness. Traffic was moving rapidly. I didn't have time to change lanes, make a U-turn and warn the women with the Shih Tzus before they would have caught up with the Rottie.

And if I had, what do you think the odds are that they would have smiled at me and said, "Don't worry, our dogs love everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Year, I Hope I Will Not Have To Write This

Since my tradition observes Advent, I am less pressured than many are to Get Into The Holiday Spirit. Christmas begins on December 25 and lasts until January 6. So for me, there's plenty of time.

But every year there are many dogs, who do not have "plenty of time." By January 6, their brief, confused, sad lives will be drawing to a close in one of numerous public "shelters" which attempt to deal with the helpless victims of America's thoughtless merchandizing and negligent treatment of pets.

These are the dogs that are bred in inhumane conditions in puppy mills, are transported en mass to pet stores--usually chain stores in malls, are sold at grossly inflated prices to the gullible as Christmas presents, are discovered by their recipients to actually have inconvenient needs and behaviors, and are left at an animal control facility to await their predictable fate: "humane euthanasia" which will snuff out their brief, unhappy lives.

DO NOT EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BUY A DOG FROM A PET STORE!!!!

When you do, if you do, you are supporting the misery of helpless, innocent dogs. You are lining the pockets of people who are perpetuating the suffering of thousands of innocent dogs. You are encouraging the breeding of unhealthy, genetically vulnerable puppies.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ho! Ho! Ho! Time For My Annual Christmas Rant.

Christmas is coming. My neighbors have put up impressive light displays. I have hung two wreaths. One inside, one outside. Next week will come my trip to a nearby nursery to purchase Poinsettias: I'm thinking 7 large and 1 stupendous. Sometime soon, I'll venture into the garage and see if I can find one or both of our creches.

And when John gets a chance to catch his breath, we'll put up our Christmas tree which is already strung with little lights.

That's it, folks! Well. I may remember to dig out my Christmas dish towels.

But another essential preparation for Christmas is my Dire Warning Regarding Our Canine Friends.

Part One is Safety. All sorts of toxicities are introduced into the home at Christmas time. As I do every year, I'll be introducing enough Poinsettias to kill a dog. So. My Poinsettias will be placed high, where the dogs never reach. And I'll have to keep an eye out for dropped leaves and those teeny tiny flowers that occasionally fall.

Given Bingley's and Magic's general disinterest in leaping on tables and even counter-surfing, I feel pretty safe about the arrangement. But with Portia, we had to be much more cautious. Portia was an explorer and a chewer. (I still have her precious teeth marks on the lovely coffee table my mother bought in July, 1957. I think of it as The Portia Memorial, each morning as I sit opposite it to read my Prayer Book.) In fact, the one Christmas we shared with Portia, we did not put up our tree. There was little doubt that she would have made a feast of it, resulting in damage to her and to the house that I did not wish to contemplate.

Recently a friend told me an amusing story about a realistic bird ornament she placed high on a tall tree to keep it away from her Irish Setter. I'll leave the end of the story to your imagination. I laughed at her story. After twenty years or so, my friend can laugh, too.

Be especially careful with chocolate. The higher the chocolate content and the smaller the dog, the greater threat to the dog's life. If you have a toy sized darling and you love dark chocolate, be very clear where the chocolate is at all times. NEVER leave your house without securing the chocolate in a VERY safe place.

Enough on this topic. You get the idea. Look around. Think. Know the location of the nearest 24 Hour Emergency Vet.

Now we come to Part Two Of My Rant: Do. Not. Bring. A. New. Dog. Into. Your. Home. During. The. Christmas. Hanukkah. New Year's. Holidays.

It isn't fair to you. It isn't fair to your children. And, most especially, it isn't fair to the dog--be it a puppy or an adult.

New canine additions to a family require careful preparation and serious, unselfish attention. They require peace and quiet when they need rest. They require close supervision when they are NOT resting. They deserve a sane introduction to your NORMAL routine. They deserve a patient introduction to your expectations of their behavior. NONE of that is possible when you are entertaining friends, keeping out-of-school children occupied, going out to parties, dropping your children off at parties, baking, wrapping gifts etc., etc.

Add the Dire Warning listed in Part One of the Rant, and you have a formula for Serious Problems, if not Disaster.

So. If you plan to add a dog, a cat or a rabbit to your family, wait until after sanity returns to your household. Give everyone the best possible beginning.

Of course, if a starving, homeless dog turns up on your doorstep one late December evening....

But you'd better make some Pretty Serious Adjustments to your activities and expectations!!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can We Talk?

It's no secret that Friends of Portia is implacably opposed to letting unleashed dogs set paw on any urban, suburban street, lawn or park. Indeed every single one of the attacks on my leashed dogs have occurred within a few feet of the attacking, unleashed dog's house.

But there is another problem encountered by anyone who walks an adequately leashed dog: The Retractable Leash.

There is one setting in which I would give my ok to the use of a retractable leash: In The Country, Where No Other Dogs Are Present.

On city and suburban sidewalks, in city and suburban parks, retractable leashes are a serious hazard, both for the inadequately restrained dog, and for properly leashed dogs and their walkers.

One of Portia's Good Friends is Zoe, who walks her Chow Chow mix, Lucy, in a nearby park. Like many rescued dogs, Lucy is--shall we say--discriminating in her choice of canine friends.

I admit that I totally identify with Zoe and Lucy. Having met Lucy, I can assure you that she is a sweet, adorable creature. She is a loving, dependable companion to humans. However, she is one of thousands of canine companions who are devoted to their humans, but are not so sure about their tolerance of other dogs. So, of course, Zoe does not take Lucy to off-leash parks and takes all reasonable precautions when she walks Lucy on leash.

But there are no reasonable precautions that can withstand an encounter with a dog on the end of a retractable leash.

On a recent morning, Zoe and Lucy encountered, not one, but two Little Bundles of Fluff at the end of retractable leashes. I doubt the owners of those dogs had any idea of just how much strength it took for Zoe to keep their vulnerable little companions from serious injury.

There is NOTHING more tantalizing to an adequately leashed dog than the sight of a Little Bundle of Fluff making its erratic way along a path or lawn, which is what a retractable leash permits--encourages--a dog to do. And THEN, there is the moment--the inevitable moment--when the Little Bundle of Fluff realizes that it is receiving the intense, undivided attention of a Big Serious Dog.

Gentle reader, I can scarcely bring myself to describe what invariably happens next. The Little Bundle of Fluff chooses to confront the Big Serious Dog, lunging and yapping. If the human at the other end of the retractable leash is typical, he or she will interpret their darling's suicidal behavior as "an invitation to get acquainted with a new friend."

Proper leashing of dogs permits their walkers to adjust for optimal distance between turf conscious dogs and to control their dogs when optimal distances cannot be maintained. Good leashes make for good canine neighbors. Good leashes make it possible for Lucy and Bingley and Magic and Odie--and many, many other dogs I might name--to enjoy walks without jeopardizing themselves or other dogs.

But retractable leashes compromise these protections--and in the process compromise the safety of all humans and dogs in the vicinity of the retractably "leashed" dog.

Furthermore, many city codes--including the city code of the City of San Marcos where Lucy and Zoe's ordeal took place, specify that leashes are not to exceed six feet, which makes all fully extended retractable leashes illegal.

But who is going to bother with that technicality when there are so many totally unleashed dogs creating havoc.

So please. I beg of you. If you plan to walk a dog of any size, invest in sturdy equipage. And, especially, if your dog is a Little Bundle of Fluff, you should NEVER FOR ONE SECOND consider placing it on the end of a retractable leash. If you really care about its well being, pick it up if you find yourself in the vicinity of a dog who shows intense, undivided attention to it. I promise. The other dog is not looking for a new friend.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We Are Even MoreThankful!

Marilyn called last night to share the happy news that she will be released from the hospital today. She still has double pneumonia, but other health issues have been resolved or stabilized and recuperation at home is best. She has promised to follow her doctor's instructions to the letter.

Bingley and Magic are overjoyed, as are many humans.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We Are Very, Very Thankful!

This past week has been filled with anxiety for friends of Friends of Portia. One of Portia's very best friends was rushed to the hospital last Tuesday night and has been in Critical Care ever since. Marilyn, who was Portia's friend before John and I ever met her, and Bingley's friend before John and I met him, and, of course, Magic's very dear friend before we knew her, has been fighting for her life.

We are relieved that it looks like Marilyn has won her fight. And that means many, many Greyhounds have won, too. Not to mention all of us humans who love Marilyn.

All paws are crossed for Marilyn's speedy recovery. And we hope that tomorrow is the day that Marilyn is "promoted" out of Critical Care into a regular hospital room.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Miss Magic: Happy At Last-- We Hope


Today is the second anniversary of the day--or more accurately, evening--that Magic came to live with us.

No generalizations can be made about rescues, except to say they all require patience and, given enough time, they will probably let down their defenses and show you who they really are.

We don't know many exact details of Magic's life in her original location. I won't dignify the place by calling it a home. She was kept for long hours in an outdoor cage in the High Desert of California. That means blistering hot summer days and freezing cold winter nights. She was exercised: her muscle tone is excellent. She was bred to an ex-racing Greyhound and had at least 3 puppies in one litter. We suspect she had other litters and, perhaps, more puppies in that last litter.

We do know that Magic, three of her puppies, and the puppies' father were rescued by Greyhound Adoption Center in July, 2008. We know that Magic "did not kennel well." She barked whenever a human passed her kennel and was very opinionated about which volunteers she would tolerate in her presence. Men were not on her favorites list. When she opened TWO locked gates and led a little band of escapees out of the kennel, a foster home was found for her. A foster home with a high fence and secure gates!

Magic adapted to her new home where she was the seventh of seven canines. The first night when all of the resident dogs knew when to line up in the kitchen for their daily treat, Magic joined the line like an old hand. She kept to herself, but quickly established that SHE would be FIRST in or out of an open door. Her fantastic acceleration settled any dispute. To this day, it's not a good idea to be standing in the open doorway to the backyard if Magic is entering or exiting.

Magic also formed her first loving bonds with humans: her foster mother and her foster mother's daughter. Indeed, as weeks and months passed, her foster mother became convinced that Magic needed to be in a much smaller pack in order to receive the human attention that she obviously craved.

Magic had never been removed from the adoptable list at Greyhound Adoption Center, but she was not an easy dog to place. She was not a "pure-bred" Greyhound, but a "Fuzzy"--a Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound mix. She did not "sell" herself, but tended to maintain distance from new people--especially men. And, she clearly required an exceptionally secure environment. No one could forget her "kennel break."

Magic's foster mother set up a website to introduce Magic to prospective adopters and continued to do all she could to meet Magic's emotional needs while trying to find her "forever home."

About that time, John, Bingley and Portia were attacked by a loose dog and Portia died of her wounds. Either you know how painful it is to lose a beloved pet or you don't. If you know, you understand the grief that descended upon our household.

Meanwhile, when Bingley was sufficiently recovered from his wounds, we resumed our weekly walks in the park with Marilyn and her pack, which then consisted of Franklin, Hattie, and the late, much loved, Ruby. Marilyn had started to work on the profiling team at GAC, the team that matches prospective adopters with suitable dogs.

Having had sufficient experience with the loss of a loved dog, John and I knew that for us, there is never a complete end to mourning the loss. But there is a time when the sheer rawness of the pain fades just enough that we can think about rescuing another dog.

So, in September after Portia's death, we went to the kennel at Greyhound Adoption Center and met some dogs. None of the "likelies" were ready for adoption and we were planning a trip to England in November. Perhaps we would wait and look again when we came home.

Then in late October, Marilyn called me. "What about Magic?"

Indeed. I had always been charmed by the rare Fuzzies who came through Greyhound Adoption Center.

So a few days after we returned from England, Magic came to live with us.

Her mourning for her foster mother was awful to witness. She was confused by Bingley's expectations of the rowdy play he had been accustomed to with Portia. She wasn't accustomed to carpeting and house training broke down. And she wasn't at all sure that she wanted to be in the same room with John. She really didn't trust men. She wasn't accustomed to walks, and was easily startled.

And every time she went out to the backyard, she would tour the perimeter, looking for escape.

But eventually she settled in. John worked hard to earn her trust. First she learned to stay in a room with him. Then he could walk by her and she wouldn't move. Now she greets him and asks for pats. She has even decided that he can be trusted to put on her collar, harness and leashes.

She and Bingley have negotiated their arranged association. She's a little pushy and he's a good sport. But when he has reached his limit, he lets her know and she shows her respect for him. Usually, he exits the back door first, she enters first. If John and I walk them, Magic is more comfortable with John and Bingley in the lead and Magic and I trail along. But the best way to get Magic's attention is to pay Bingley attention. If I'm patting him for very long, I usually feel Magic's nose under my hand. That's when I call her Miss Me Me.

She insists on her exclusive snuggle time with me in the morning and usually naps in the room where I am working.

Her last Big Fear is of fire in the living room fireplace. Tonight is a cold, rainy night. I stayed in the bedroom with Magic and Bingley while John started the fire. She was brave enough to move into the kitchen for dinner, and even permitted John to put on her harness and leash for a short walk before the worst of the storm hit.

I tried to tempt her to come into the living room, but she's not ready to be that close to the fireplace. So she's here, lying on some cushions in my study as I type.

We have one more challenge before Miss Magic is completely happy in our home. We'll do our best. She's worth it.

UPDATE:

After I finished typing last night's post, I went into the living room and sat on the sofa opposite the fireplace. Who appeared and lay beside me on the sofa, but Miss Magic herself! I think it helped that there was no popping wood being burned last night, but, even so, we have passed a Big Milestone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Do You Spell Adorable?



This is Tosha and she needs a home. I am quite certain that she is not a pure-bred Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. But she has enough Wheaten in her to give her that wonderful Disney Dog look.

Can't you just picture her with a big red ribbon tied around her neck, helping your family celebrate the Merriest Christmas ever?

If you have room in your heart and home for Tosha, email me:

portiasmom@live.com

UPDATE:

A very knowledgeable dog person tells me that Tosha's head and ears are those of a Briard. I am certain she is right. So what Tosha looks like to me is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier/Briard mix. Sounds like an interesting dog to me--in addition to being adorable.

UPDATE II

Our Dog Expert Friend of Portia says that it is possible that Tosha is all Briard. It really is impossible to establish her breed or mix with certainty from this picture. All we can establish with certainty that she is one adorable doggie.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Not-So-Modest-Proposal

Now that Friends of Portia is well past its second anniversary, I have been considering how this blog has clarified my understanding of the relationship between my two most important concerns about canine welfare:

1.) Safety for dogs on leash and their human walkers

2.) The plight of hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs

The initial focus of Friends of Portia was on the first concern: being able to walk dogs on-leash without fearing an attack by an unleashed dog. Indeed, that was the motivation for this blog, since we had just lost Beautiful Portia because of an attack by a loose dog.

However, as Friends of Portia evolved, the other basic fact of Portia's biography became an even more frequent focus. She was a rescued dog. Had Greyhound Adoption Center, one of a number of Greyhound Rescues, not picked up Portia from the Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana when she broke her ankle, Portia would have been killed. Ooops, should I put that less starkly? She would have been "put down." Probably shot. If one really wants to speak honestly about the fate of homeless, unwanted, abandoned dogs, the facts are inevitably stark.

It is a cliche to say that the plight of dogs in the United States is a national disgrace. Too many dogs. Too few forever homes. Most Dog People have the maximum number of dogs that they can afford. I know of many people who devote a significant proportion of their discretionary spending to the maintenance of their canine companions.

Meanwhile, puppy mills, backyard breeders, and negligent owners who refuse to spay or neuter dogs that will never see the inside of a show ring, flood an already saturated "market" with puppies who will live lives of misery until they are "humanely euthanized" by a burned out, heartbroken animal control employee in a facility that we call a "shelter."

I believe we could do a much, much better job of looking after the welfare of our canine companions. And I don't think if would take more money than is currently being spent. It would only take re-thinking laws that apply to human/canine interaction and the enforcement of those laws.

It seems to me that leash laws should be enforced much the way traffic laws are enforced, with DUI enforcement as the model for serious leash law offenders.

Every driver is familiar with the Point System. Why not institute a similar system for Animal Control? If you are cited for having a dog off leash, or your dog is found wandering the neighborhood, you receive a point on your record which can be removed only by attendance at a class on responsible dog ownership, a class for which you will be required to pay a fee that not only covers the costs of instruction, but also contributes to the Animal Control budget.

Classes would include not only the basics of dog training and care, but they would also address aspects of typical behavior of breeds and groups of dogs. An option of caring for shelter dogs could be given--particularly for repeat offenders.

The ultimate penalty for habitual infractions would be loss of the privilege of having a canine companion.

Animal control points would lead to higher liability insurance for the home owner or the landlord--who would pass the added expense on to the renter.

During my years as a California resident, I have seen harsher consequences for Driving Under the Influence significantly reduce drunken driving in our state.

I think it's time that we tackle canine welfare more seriously.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Oldie But Goodie


This is Maxwell. Max to his friends. He's thirteen years old, potty trained and an all around good guy. He needs a home. Little dogs like Max have a long life expectancy, so if you take Max in, he could be your devoted pal for a number of years.

If you want to know more or are thinking about adopting Max, email me:

portiasmom@live.com

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thunder!

Bingley always hears it before I hear it.

He came to me crying.

I let him out.

He turned around and came back inside.

I offered food.

He ignored it.

I tried Pepto-Bismol.

He still whimpered.

I didn't figure it out this morning until I noticed that it was raining. About that time, I finally heard it: thunder.

Big, brave Bingley is terrified by thunder.

Timid, easily startled Magic is sleeping soundly.

Most of the thunder is too faint for me to hear, but Bingely's hearing is acute.

Happily, we live in Southern California where it "never" thunders.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Fourth--Anniversary!


I've thought that Bingley's rescue date was October 13, because that is the date of his first inoculations. But it turns out that he probably was not inoculated until a few days after rescue. So that all important date is lost to memory.

But today is the Official Celebration of the Day That Bingley Was Rescued.

I've told the story before, but it bears repeating. A compulsive gambler thought he could make a bundle running his own string of dogs. You can buy a racing Greyhound for about $50.00 at any track. Gambling Man bought five. But dogs need food and water and dog haulers require a lot of gasoline to tow. Gambling Man didn't make a bundle. He ran out of money.

When authorities caught up with him, two of the five dogs in the hauler were dead. Bingley and two of his buddies survived.

The week after he was rescued by Greyhound Adoption Center, the rescue kennel had to be evacuated because of fires raging in San Diego County. The rescue happened in the nick of time.

Happy Rescue Day, Bingley!

And many, many thanks to the intrepid Rescuer who removed him from the death hauler.

Thank you, Zoe, for Bingley's new portrait.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What I Would Have Said

Given the fact that I have had FIVE leashed dogs attacked by unleashed dogs, it's not surprising that I am still mentally reviewing my Walk In The Park yesterday. I am more grateful than I can say that I am not spending today home-nursing two traumatized, stitched and drained dogs. Or worse, visiting a wounded, bewildered dog fighting for its life in intensive care.

Only someone who has done all that can possibly know how much I never want ever, ever to have to do any of that again.

But until the general level of knowledge about dog behavior and differences bred into various groups and breeds of dogs is raised, I must accept that every time I harness and leash my beloved Bingley and Magic and take them out for their favorite treat--a walk--one of them, both of them, or all three of us, might very well end up in an emergency medical facility because some other dog owner has failed to exercise common sense or has failed to follow the law.

As I was shouting to the Boxer's walker "Leash your dog!", "Keep your dog away from my dogs!", "Don't come any closer to me!", she was walking toward me, shouting "You need to train your dogs better!", "My dog is perfectly trained!"

Aside from the fact that I doubt her dog would have remained calm and obedient if it had been leashed and had an unleashed dog charging directly at it,there are other facts that cannot be "shared" when one is literally fighting for the life of one's beloved canine companions.

I would have explained that Bingley and Magic are Sighthounds, and, as such, were bred for a very different purpose than her dog, a Boxer.

Boxers belong to the Working Group, dogs who were developed to work alongside humans, looking to humans for guidance and direction. Their work required a tough, strong body and jaws that rival those of the large terrier breeds.

I am very glad that the Boxer in question has been to obedience classes. If Boxers are not trained and socialized early in life, they can be as serious a canine menace as can be imagined. Well socialized, they are wonderful companions and family pets.

Sighthounds are just about as different from Boxers as can be imagined and still belong to the same species. Sighthounds were bred to run. Fast. They were not bred to "take directions." They were bred to follow normal canine instincts as efficiently as possible.

Greyhounds are the crowning achievement of canine aerodynamics. Greyhounds have long, slender bones, long, fine muscles, that are covered in the thinnest layer of skin and hair. Their skin is so thin that in some places not only can it not be stitched, it cannot even be cauterized. Direct pressure is the only way to stop bleeding. A Greyhound that has been attacked by another dog requires immediate veterinary care to save its life. Even that was not enough to save my beautiful Portia.

Greyhounds--and other Sighthounds, Magic is a Greyhound/Scottish Deerhound--are bred to respond to movement. They will chase ANYTHING that moves. Furthermore, their long distance vision is superior to humans', so they will see something moving before the keenest-eyed human sees it. The running/chasing response to movement is instantaneous. It cannot be trained out of their behavioral repertoire. AND within two strides, the Sighthound is moving so fast and their heart is pumping so loudly, they cannot hear even the loudest shouted command. It is nature's ultimate over-ride of training. Not only does the Sighthound not hear commands, it does not see anything but the object of the chase. Not the tree it is about to hit, nor the car that is about to hit it. An unleashed, unconfined Sighthound is very likely to be a dead Sighthound.

Now. Imagine that you are the fastest breed of dog in the world. You love your walks, but your greatest joy in life is running unrestrained. However, you cannot run unrestrained very often because your human is concerned about your safety. So, you settle for walks. And every week you get to walk with some other dogs who look a lot like you and live in similar circumstances. It's the highlight of your week.

Then, one day, you see a dog across the park who gets to run free. But it cannot run half as fast as you can. You really want to show that silly dog how running should be done! But you've got on a collar, a harness and two leashes and your human isn't responding to your urgent request to run after that clumsy excuse for a running dog.

You get the picture.

But yesterday, it got worse. The loose dog's human let it run DIRECTLY at my two excited, aroused dogs.

I supposed it's unrealistic to ever expect other dog owners to understand the unique vulnerabilities of my sweet Magic, and especially of my sweet Bingley.

But leash laws are there to protect Magic and Bingley. And Franklin and Hattie and Odie.

I can expect people to obey leash laws. Even if they don't understand them

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Walk In The Park

Marilyn and I walk our hounds in a park close to my home just about every week. The City of San Marcos has strict but reasonable leash laws. It has also provided four off leash parks for people who prefer to run their dogs off leash. The park where Marilyn and I walk Franklin, Hattie, Odie, Bingley and Magic is NOT an off leash park and is posted as such.

This morning was cloudy and cool--ideal weather for dog walking. The dogs were frisky and happy to see each other.

As we were strolling, discussing recent placements of kennel dogs in "forever" homes and dogs who need "forever" homes, Bingley let out a distinctive whine. It means: I see something I really want to chase, or, I see another dog. Sometimes it means both.

Across the width of the park, a woman was walking a large Boxer. All five of our dogs went on alert, and we did what we always do, changing the direction we were walking to maximize distance between our two packs and the new dog.

But just at the moment we thought sufficient distance had been achieved between our dogs and the Boxer, the Boxer's walker removed its leash and let it run.

Leashed dogs--especially leashed dogs whose main joy in life is running and who can out-run any other breed--become quite agitated when they see another dog running free when they are restrained.

We prepared to leave that section of the park.

But the Boxer's owner had a further "surprise" for us. She turned her dog, who began to run directly at Bingley and Magic.

I called for her to leash her dog. She was very angry with me for such presumption.

I called for her to keep her dog at a distance from my dogs. She told me to send my dogs to training school. Her dog, she said, was "perfectly trained."

Her dog was charging my dogs.

Marilyn, ever quick witted, performed an evasive action with her pack which distracted the Boxer while she engaged the Boxer's owner in further "conversation".

Eventually the Boxer and its owner left the park so that the owner could "research" San Marcos leash laws. She refused to believe that it wasn't permissible for her to run her "perfectly trained" dog off leash since there was an "open field."

I trust the Boxer's owner discovered that the park in question is,indeed, only for leashed dogs. I trust that next week we will not encounter her or her Boxer.

Only Marilyn's quick thinking and intervention saved Bingley, Magic and me from something I can't bear to picture.

As Marilyn said after the incident, Some people shouldn't have dogs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Do You Spell Relief?

You spell relief N-E-G-A-T-I=V-E.

We just got the good word from Dr. Pearson that Magic's tumor was not cancerous.

Here's hoping our Little Miss lives to be an old, old lady.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Today--Actually This Very Minute--Is All You Have II

It's one thing to think philosophically in the abstract. It's quite another to look at a philosophical proposition right in the face--or directly at the backside--as it happens.

Yesterday, Magic had a growth removed. It was right under her tail, just above her anus. General anesthesia is a little tricky for her because she stresses in strange places, which makes it problematic for her to spend her initial recovery at the vet's, where she can be monitored professionally.

So, as soon as she can stagger drunkenly to her feet, we bring her home and watch her as closely as possible, keeping her warm and talking to her and patting her when her breathing becomes shallow or irregular.

She's now beyond that stage and even took a shortened walk this morning. She has also discovered that she can maneuver to attend to the source of her discomfort which means she will spend many hours in a e-collar. Her stitches don't come out until October 18!

But the real concern is the pathology report. We hope to hear within the week. Last time we waited for path reports on both Magic and Bingley, it was two weeks, but finally, we got an all clear.

The concern this time is that Magic was intact for at least four years and that puts her at risk for this type of cancer. I don't know what the odds are, but I do know that for Magic it will either be 1 or 0. We're hoping for 0.

Meanwhile, Magic is concerned about staying out of the e-collar and enjoying the extra canned food yummies that mask her anti-biotic and pain pills.

Dogs know how to live.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today--Actually This Very Minute--Is All You Have

I just read a death notice. A much loved Greyhound, Simone--Simi "Crossed The Rainbow Bridge" yesterday. Her family is in mourning. I extend my sincere condolences to them. Simi lived with her "forever family" for six short years.

Simi was adopted on September 17, 2005. That date caught my attention.

Simi wasn't the only Greyhound adopted from Greyhound Adoption Center that day.

September 17, 2005 was the day John and I met and adopted the great, unforgettable Zephyr.

Zephyr died January 2, 2008.

Not even two and a half years after her adoption day.

I have no quarrel with people who buy pure bred puppies from responsible breeders. The only way that the wonderful multiplicity of dog breeds can be preserved is through the efforts of breeders who devote their lives and energies to dog breeds that capture their fancy.

But making the change from buying pure bred puppies from responsible breeders to adopting homeless dogs from rescues has affected my attitude toward life in ways I would never have anticipated.

Probably if I had been given a choice on September 17, 2005 to adopt a dog who would live two years, 4 months, or a dog who would live six years,I would have adopted the dog who would live six years.

I would have missed Zephyr.

The pain of losing her was awful. But she was worth it.

We have had Bingley for three and a half years. We have had Magic for not quite two years. If someone could promise me today that both of them would live with us for six years, I would be ecstatically happy. Today.

But as that sixth anniversary approached, I would be frantic with despair.

Yesterday, Magic wouldn't eat. She seemed listless. By evening, I could almost touch my fear.

Today she ate her breakfast promptly. Bingley ate his breakfast within reasonable time. Today is a very good day.

Perhaps Bingley and Magic will both set new longevity records for our rescued dogs. Perhaps they won't. But every day they bring their unique gifts to our lives. And that is more than enough.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001


I was awakened by a nearly hysterical call from my daughter, who lives in Mountain Time, an hour ahead of California.

The Twin Towers had been attacked. The Pentagon had been attacked. More planes were in the air and who knew what they would hit.

"Turn on the television, Mother!"

I told her I would first walk the dog.

Daphne was a sight-hound/terrier mix. Our first rescue. The five months she had been with us had been a steep learning curve for John and me in the ways of a canine who had spent formative puppy months learning to survive on the mean streets of L.A.

Dog walking is an anchor to reality. The dog might sense that its human is upset, but there are still smells to be smelled, friends to greet, business to be done. The fine September weather, the well kept lawns, the still leafy trees, reassured me of the normalcy of the world. A normalcy I was loathe to give up.

When I returned home, I had a delusional moment when it seemed that if I did not turn on the television, none of the terrifying news would be true.

But I did turn on the television and it all was too true and would have been true regardless.

Like most Americans, I spent the day transfixed by horrible scenes and unspeakable reports, trying to grasp the atrocity that was taking place live, in real time.

As I sat weeping, I felt a nudge. Daphne, the street wise dog with "issues", was offering me her most treasured toy. A pink dolphin that she had pilfered while I shopped at a pet supply store.

"Here, Judith, take Dolphin, he always makes me feel better."

Within a short time, Daphne had presented me with her complete collection of treasures: stuffed toys, chews--and even her beloved tennis balls.

Not long ago some recently retired friends were touting the wonderfulness of being "free from dogs", so that they could come and go as they pleased.

I really can't relate.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bingley!


I know it's Labor Day. A National Holiday. The Official End of Summer.

But in our household, today has much greater significance than that. Today is Bingley's Birthday. Bingley's EIGHTH Birthday!

Bingley is now our oldest surviving rescue dog. He is the first of our rescues to have attained this advanced age.

He celebrated this auspicious day quite inauspiciously--at least for me.

At 4:35 a.m., Bingley awakened us this morning, whimpering and refusing to go back to bed. A quick turn in the back yard did no good. Then we realized that there was some thunder and lighting off in the distance. It's sad to see a courageous, happy-go-lucky dog turn into a shaken, frightened creature and be unable to reassure him.

There was nothing to do but get up and take Bingley and Magic for their early morning walk a little earlier than usual. Outside, facing the elements head on, Bingley calmed down and went about his business. Magic, on the other hand, who was perfectly calm in the house, took exception to the thunder.

But it was a lovely morning. The thunder and lightening stopped and a cool breeze freshened the air.

It did start to rain just as we returned home.

The weather report says that we could have two days like this.

I wish we could convince Bingley that it's all in celebration of his Big Day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Running For His Life

August 11, 2005, a red-fawn Greyhound, HMS Brimstone, not yet two years old, ran and won his first race at the Flagler Stadium in Florida.

Two years later, HMS Brimstone would be shipped to Arizona where he would be sold to a compulsive gambler who thought that owning his own string of racing Greyhounds would make him rich. Of course, the gambler went broke.

When authorities caught up with the gambler, only three of his five Greyhounds were alive. HMS Brimstone was one of the survivors. He and his two lucky buddies were rescued by Greyhound Adoption Center in October, 2007. Just a week before devastating fires blazed in San Diego County. HMS Brimstone had cheated death a second time.

In honor of the season, HMS Brimstone was given the kennel name of Harvest by Greyhound Adoption Center. Kennel volunteers called him Harvey for short. He was evacuated to safety along with the other kennel dogs when fires threatened the GAC kennel.

Today, HMS Brimstone, Harvest, Harvey, is known to friends and family as Bingley and is presently munching down breakfast in the kitchen.

But he still runs. Every night, he runs circuits in the living room. He likes to be cheered. I wonder if he is reliving his glory days or if he thinks he must run or something bad will happen to him. Or maybe he's just like a lot of professional athletes who like to keep a hand in the game.

We'll never know. But we are happy beyond words that he survived to be our dog.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Summer Of Our Discontent

The absence of the promised post might have given a hint to my select readers that life has been busy in Portia's Mom's household.

Portia's Dad had his second knee replacement early last week. Once more, Magic and Bingley spent quality time at Windsong and were happy, well cared for dogs when I picked them up Monday morning. Thank you Mike, Michelle and Jessica!

Yesterday, John came home from the skilled nursing facility where he stayed for a few days after his discharge from the hospital.

So our little family is once again re-united, plus a machine or two to exercise and ice John's new knee.

But I would have had to have been much more preoccupied than I was these past ten days not to have noticed the screaming headlines both here in the United States and abroad. Most particularly in England. What is happening in England is heartbreaking for Friends of Portia. Just the names of some of our beloved dogs give a hint that this household has close affiliations with the Sceptered Isle--Champers, Portia, Bingley. Indeed, Portia's Dad is an Englishman and most of his family lives there.

We pray for their safety.

However. Through it all. The surgery, the recovery, the screaming headlines, Bingley and Magic give us an anchor. Stock market on a roller coaster? They must be walked. U.S. credit rating takes a hit? They must be fed. They never lose their trust. They always are loyal. They want to be good doggies.

Would that more humans showed more doggie virtues.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two Years

Hang in there, Faithful Readers. A Modest Proposal for addressing the dual problems of homeless dogs and negligent dog owners is still in production.

Meanwhile. Happy Second Anniversary to Friends of Portia.

Bingley is still with us, and, in another month, he will celebrate his eighth birthday. This will make him the oldest rescue dog that John and I have had. And the sweetest tempered, I must add.

Magic has made herself an important part of our lives. Her unique blend of dignity, iron will, and introversion keep us amused and enthralled.

We still remember Portia. Unforgettable Portia. The picture of decorum on walks. The epitome of mischief in the house.

Rest in Peace, Beautiful Portia.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Patience Please

I have not abandoned blogging.

In marking the second anniversary of Friends of Portia, I have been working on a Major Post, distilling the evolution of my thinking about Dog Welfare since I began to write this blog.

Please stand by. I hope to have it completed within a few days.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy Rescue Day: Happy Official Birthday


The problem with being a rescue is that no one knows for sure just what happened before you were rescued.

Such is the case with Magic, our Greyhound-Scottish Deerhound mix.

When I initially examined her records, I thought that she was rescued on July 15, 2008. However, looking more closely yesterday, I established that she came to Greyhound Adoption Center--along with two of her three puppies and the puppies' father--on July 12, 2008. A third puppy was rescued shortly thereafter.

So, Happy Rescue Day, Magic! And since we will never know her birthday, and two very knowledgeable Sighthound experts estimated her to be four years old when she was rescued, John and I decided to make her Rescue Day her Official Birthday.

Happy Birthday, Magic!

Magic was a frightened creature when she arrived at Greyhound Adoption Center. She was clever enough to open two gates and lead a little band of escapees from the kennel area. It was just very good luck that they were discovered and recovered before leaving the security of the surrounding property.

She did not "kennel well". She barked at everyone who passed her kennel and took an irrational dislike to some of the staff and volunteers, who only wanted to help her.

We will forever be grateful to her foster mother, Lynnet, who helped to socialize Magic before Magic came to live with us.

It isn't every day that a "Fuzzy", that is a Greyhound mixed with a long haired or wire haired Sighthound, becomes available for adoption. So we feel lucky to have been able to welcome one into our home.

Today our Fuzzy Valentine is officially seven years old. We hope that she has at least another seven years to go.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another Day, Another Sad Story

A great friend of dogs just emailed me with an appeal for an eight year old, 33 pound, white with dark markings, short haired mixed breed female dog who has been dumped at a high kill "shelter" in East L.A. She has lovely blue eyes and is dazed over this turn of events. Her human died and there was no one to take her in.

If you have any room or any prospects for a foster or forever home for this sweet dog, email me:

portiasmom@live.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Remembering Portia

Portia died two years ago today. She was Bright and Beautiful. She was Wise--in a canine sense. And she was definitely Wonderful.

The legal settlement for the attack that killed her and injured Bingley and John will soon be final. I pray that as news of the settlement filters through our neighborhood, it will make dog owners think before casually letting their dogs roam off leash.

Over the past two years, this blog, named for Portia, has provided a forum in which I have explored my twin concerns: dog rescue and responsible dog guardianship. I will probably never be able to demonstrate that Friends of Portia has made a "statistically significant difference" in easing the plight of homeless, neglected or unsocialized dogs. But if one dog is saved each year; if one careless owner remembers to use a leash or is nagged into using a leash, Portia's memory will have made an important difference.

Rest In Peace, Beautiful Portia.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July! It's a wonderful holiday, commemorating the founding of the most remarkable country imaginable. I'll always be in awe that of all the periods in history that people have been born, of all the places in the world that they have been born, I was among the fortunate few to have been born in Twentieth Century United States of America. I have been blessed and I will celebrate whole-heartedly today.

But for many of our canine companions, The Fourth of July is the most frightening day--or evening--of the year. We will be returning home before dark this evening to give what comfort we can to Bingley. He's a fearless hunter, but loud noises upset him. We wouldn't think of leaving him alone to panic.

So. Celebrate and have a wonderful time. But think of your dogs. Above all, do not leave a dog alone in a backyard. Tomorrow morning, Animal Control will be gathering up lost dogs who jumped fences, broke chains, ran in terror because they were left to fend for themselves during the fireworks. Don't let one of those poor creatures be one of yours.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Breed Bans

Recently, there was a horrific incident in San Diego County in which two unattended Pit Bulls broke through a neighbor's fence and viciously attacked a 75 year old woman inflicting catastrophic injuries.

Not surprisingly, there are calls for banning Pit Bulls in San Diego County.

I am old enough to remember a long line of Vicious Breeds.

When I was a very young child, "Police Dogs", that is German Shepherd Dogs, or Alsatians, as they are called in Great Britain, were the Vicious Dog.

Then there were Dobermans.

Then there were Rottweilers. Indeed, my wonderful Champers was attacked by two vicious Rottweilers, who inflicted injuries that ultimately resulted in Champer's having to be put to sleep at an early age.

Now we have Pit Bulls.

What is the common, unmentioned factor in the long line of Vicious Breeds?

It's humans, of course.

Having a dog as a companion is a privilege, not a right, not a "lifestyle statement". It is a huge responsibility.

If Pit Bulls are banned, the banning of other breeds will follow.

Funds and energies of authorities need to be directed toward the human side of the equation.

Currently, the San Diego Union Tribune is conducting a poll about banning Pit Bulls in San Diego County. Please register your support of holding humans responsible for the dogs in their care:

Call 1-800-244-6397, x2506 When asked by the automated message, press 2, to affirm human beings' responsibility not only for Pit Bulls, but for all dogs.

Thank you

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Monday!

The little Pom in the Devore Shelter found a foster home in time!

Many thanks to the network of caring people who made this rescue possible.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dog Training

If you look over the topics discussed in the almost two years of the existence of this blog, you will discover little--if any--mention of dog training.

The reason for this is simple: In all the years that I've lived with dogs, of all the dogs that have shared my life, I have taken only one--Champers--to a formal dog training class.

Taking Champers to Dog School--he graduated with the equivalent of the Gentleman's C--solidified our bond and made him a good example for our second Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Britches, whose only formal schooling was Puppy Affection Training, before she came to live with us. We concluded that Puppy Affection Training did not include such rigors as "sit", "stay", and "down". But Britches was a bright imitator, and soon learned what "sit", "stay" and "down" meant, although, as with most Terriers, her execution of these commands was somewhat selective.

"I know what you said, and I'm taking it into consideration."

Only once did I institute a regular dog training class at home. It was for Portia, who was so bright and manipulative, I had to do something to channel her behavior into constructive patterns.

Portia loved our classes, caught on fast, and was food motivated, which really helps with training. Had she lived, I believe she had potential to be a Therapy Dog.

Bingley, who is not at all food motivated and whose frame of reference is a mix of innate Sighthound instincts and training for the racetrack, sometimes participated in Portia's classes--enough to know that "sit" and "down" meant that he was supposed to do SOMETHING--but couldn't focus his attention sufficiently to know exactly what was expected. He liked to be given a kibble as a reward, but was likely to wander off and leave it for Portia to gobble up as a bonus treat that rewarded her breaking a command.

Shortly after Magic arrived, I attempted a training class. Bingley brightened up, "sat" and "downed" without being asked to do anything. Magic, who had been accustomed to many people food treats, snatched his reward out of my hand before he realized I was offering it to him. Chaos ensued. Class was dismissed.

Back when my dogs were Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, I explained to anyone who cared to listen that Terriers were not bred to work WITH humans, but were Independent Contractors who performed tasks on on their own. I implied that, far from lacking intelligence of Herding, Sporting and Working dogs who invariably won obedience trials, Terriers were Independent Thinkers. Their obedience--when it occurred--was therefore more valuable, because it was deliberately chosen--not automatic. I don't think I convinced anyone.

From Terriers, it was a natural step up/down to Sighthounds. Yes. There are Greyhound Therapy Dogs. I have actually met a few. As I said, I believe Portia had the potential to be a Therapy Dog. But the average Sighthound has been bred not only to be an Independent Contractor, but to be very speedy about conducting its business. Most Greyhounds can learn basic commands. And if nothing is moving within their range of vision, there is a good chance that they might obey the command. But I would hate to have my life or their lives depend upon it.

This is not to say that Bingley and Magic are untrained monsters. They are both deeply attached to John and me, and, everything being equal, they want to please us. Treats are not effective rewards for them, but praise is.

Monday morning is their favorite time of the week. It's Walk In The Park Day With Franklin and Hattie and Odie and Marilyn!!! They pick up very quickly on the signals that Today is Monday. Excitement grows. Getting dressed becomes a challenge for me with two hounds monitoring my every move, trying to examine every piece of clothing I'm trying to put on, reacting to the opening of every drawer, every door.

"She's picking up her toothbrush, Bingley! I know that's a good sign!"

"She's turning on her hair drier, Magic! This is for real!!!"

Jump! Twirl! Circle!

Three weeks ago it all became too much. I was desperate!

"SIT!!" I shouted.

Bingley instantly went into "Down"

I praised him profusely.

Magic followed his example.

I praised her profusely.

Peace reigned until I started lacing up my walking shoes.

All I needed was a respite, not a miracle. I was deeply grateful.

The last two Mondays, they have voluntarily assumed "down"--at least for a while--as I am getting dressed. Two elegant creatures, perfectly designed for movement, lying as still as they can manage, watching me with hope and anticipation in their soft brown eyes--not because they want to be absolutely still, but because they want to please me.

They really are too sweet.

And I have the walls and furniture to hold onto as I make my way to the front closet for leashes and harnesses, with Bingley and Magic celebrating their release from unnatural stillness, celebrating the prospect of a Walk In The Park With Franklin and Hattie and Odie and Marilyn!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Day, Another Needy Pom

A ten year old, five pound Pomeranian desperately needs a foster home by the end of tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. My source was evidently so eager to get the word out that the sex of the little dog was not included.

If you can help, email me:

portiasmom@live.com

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gone To The Dogs

Last Thursday morning, in preparation for today's routine physical, I waited for the opening of the local blood drawing establishment with others who were there for the same purpose. One man was particularly chatty and talked about how early he had gotten up to be there.

It was just after 7:30 a.m.

I mentioned that I had been up since 5 a.m., the time that Bingley and Magic wake me for their morning walk.

The man harrumphed, "I'd have a talk with my dogs if they did that to me!"

If I have a "little talk" with Bingley and Magic, it will only be to say, "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you."

My doctor pronounced me to be in Excellent Health.

I have no doubt that walking Bingley and Magic most mornings is that key to that happy pronouncement.

There is an abundance of research confirming that dog walking is among the very best forms of exercise. And as people age, it can be a life saver.

It has been found that contracting with a human walking buddy is not nearly as reliable as setting a routine for walking a dog.

Some people might be sufficiently hard-hearted to resist the nuzzle on the hand, the bright, shining eyes and wagging tail, but I'm not. And research indicates that there are a lot of people a lot like me.

So. Thank you, Bingley and Magic. I owe you, Big Time. How about a walk tomorrow morning. Say, a little after 5 a.m.?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cash, R.I.P.

Cash, a ten year old dark brindle Greyhound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge Sunday night. She was the constant companion of Dottie, a courageous lady whose lung disease ties her to an oxygen tank. But that didn't keep Dottie and Cash from taking daily walks around the retirement community where Dottie lives.

When Cash needed to visit her veterinarian, Dr. Candy Lewis, Marilyn, whose pack walks with us most Monday mornings, took Cash. If Dottie became ill or hospitalized, Cash stayed with Marilyn and her pack, and more than once, joined us for our weekly walks in the park.

But for the past month or so, Cash was unable to take walks. A spinal problem made it more and more difficult for her to walk. Last Sunday, it was clear that pain medication was no longer effective and Dottie made the tough, compassionate decision.

The deepest condolences of Friends of Portia go to Dottie, Marilyn and her pack, and all who knew and loved Cash.

In case you are wondering about Cash's name, she was rescued with a group of dogs that were given financially related names. Dottie chose not to rename her.

Typically, Greyhounds are rescued in groups, and the sheer number of ex-racing Greyhounds that need to be rescued can present a naming challenge. It would be unthinkable to just number these remarkable creatures, so typically, a group that is rescued together receives related names. There have been Valentine names, Christmas names, New Year's names, Chinese New Year's names, Rock Star names.

I'm wondering if Cash was rescued close to April 15. If she was, she was probably the best thing to come along for many people that day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good News!

Honey has a foster home!

If you are interested in fostering a needy dog pending placement in a forever home, please contact me.

portiasmom@live.com

There are always more dogs that need to be rescued.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Foster Home Needed!


An adorable 15 pound female Pomeranian named Honey--which describes both her color and her disposition--will soon be in need of a foster home. Honey was rescued from a public shelter, but it was discovered that she has pelvic injuries, probably inflicted by a car hitting her. She is undergoing surgery for these injuries and will need a foster home while she recovers and waits for her forever home.

If you can help, please contact me.

portiasmom@live.com

Friday, May 27, 2011

Senior Lady Needs A Home

Shih Tzus are small, people oriented dogs. It's a sad commentary that there are now all too many of these sweet creatures who are in need of homes.

Friends of Portia is looking for a new home for a nine year old female Shih Tzu named Midge. Midge is now living in a home where she receives great care and attention. But she really needs to be an only dog for a couple or a single person who is home most of the time.

Remember that the typical nine year old Shih Tzu can expect to live many years and will be a loyal, loving companion. That's what Shih Tzus were bred to be.

If you can give Midge the home she needs, or if you know of anyone who can, please contact me:

portiasmom@live.com

It is difficult to get a good picture of Miss Midge because she is camera shy. One will be posted soon--we hope.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wild Life In Suburbia

Two nights ago, Bingley asked to go out just as John and I were ready to turn in. We heard a bark-growl from Bingley followed by silence and a series of insistent barks. John went out to check on things.

Bingley had trapped an opossum against the back gate. A small pool of blood on the deck revealed that Bingley had done more than just chase his prey. John brought a very reluctant hunter into the house and went back out to determine if the critter had died of its injuries and a burial would be required or if it had slipped under the gate. Fortunately, there was no sign of the the opossum.

I examined Bingley for injuries and discovered a small split on the right side of his lip. Thank heavens for rabies shots! He let me clean the cut with hydrogen peroxide and began to insist on reconnoitering the scene of his conquest.

Of course, Magic caught the excitement and instead of retiring to well earned rest, John and I had to wash down the deck and monitor two very excited dogs.

We finally thought we had them settled and went to bed. I had been asleep for less than an hour when Bingley woke me again, insisting that he needed to go out. As I staggered around the deck trying to keep Bingley within the range of my flashlight, I realized that we had actually gotten off easily.

It was an opossum.

Not a skunk.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Do You Know Where Your Dog Is?

Bingley is not a barker. But if he sees a cat or rabbit or small dog out the front window, he will bark. Usually, if I open the sliding door that leads from the kitchen into the back yard, he will race out, apparently thinking that he will find the critter of interest on the opposite side of the house.

Usually, after a few minutes, Bingley comes back in, tongue hanging out from his exertions, having forgotten that the critter still might be in front of the house. He's happy to have run around the back yard. I'm happy that he has been distracted.

This evening was different. When Bingley started to bark at something he saw outside the front window, I didn't bother to check the object of his concern. I simply opened the kitchen door and he exited. But he didn't do his usual inspection tour of the garden. He stood at the door, barking and barking. So, in interest of neighborly relationships, I let him back in and followed him to see what the bother was.

Across the street, in the front yard of people I know have only indoor cats, a young boy, perhaps five years old, was trying to corral a small white dog--without any success. The erratic movements of the little boy and little dog were what had set off Bingley's unusually strong reaction. Two moving critters that needed pursuit and no way for him to pursue them. What frustration!

I managed to wedge myself out the front door without Bingley's bolting, as he clearly wished to do, so I could investigate the situation.

The little boy confirmed that the dog was his: what appeared to be a Miniature Poodle/Bichon mix, named "Chubby." No leash, collar or tags.

I called the dog and started walking up the street to where the boy said he lived--about six houses up. Chubby was happy to follow me until we passed two houses across the street with open garage doors. Both houses have dogs and Chubby needed to investigate. But it wasn't hard to coax him back and a kind neighbor driving up the street was acting as a traffic break to protect Chubby from being run over. When we arrived at the house that the little boy identified as his, the garage door was also open. No mystery how Chubby had escaped.

Since no adults were in evidence, I told the boy to take Chubby inside and close the door. I also suggested that Chubby needed a collar and tags. But five year olds shouldn't be expected to remember messages of that nature.

The episode ended happily. Chubby and his little human got safely home. Bingley settled down after Chubby disappeared. You gotta love a good distractable Sighthound--Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

But we were lucky. On our short walk to Chubby's house, we passed one house where a Rottweiler lives and another house where a Pit Bull lives. Both are well cared for dogs with responsible humans. But on warm days, the Rottweiler's people let him bark and carry on with only a screen door for protection. I've always wondered just how strong that screen door is. And on some days an irresponsible young man visits the Pit Bull and he insists it's ok for the Pitty--"he loves everyone"--to run loose in front of the house.

Today the Rottweiler's front door was closed and the Pit Bull had no irresponsible visitor.

I hope today's escape was a strange event for Chubby that will never occur again. I certainly hope that I never encounter Chubby loose at 5am when I'm walking Bingley and Magic.

I really hate to walk up to a neighbor's house and remind them that they need to keep track of where their dog is at all times and that small dogs are particularly vulnerable if left to wander.

Perhaps I'll wait to see if it happens again.

But summer is coming. That's when a lot of people in our neighborhood keep garage doors open to cool off their houses.

I'll probably be seeing Chubby again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hooray for Misty!

In April of 2001 we adopted our first rescued dog: Daphne, a Soft Coated Wheaten/Sighthound mix--perhaps Greyhound, perhaps Whippet.

I found Daphne's picture on the internet and was immediately gripped. "She's asking me to come and get her asap! Just look at that face!"

We live in San Diego County. Daphne was at Pet Orphans in Van Nuys, north of Los Angeles.

John, bless his heart, agreed to the adoption. And so, on one of the hottest April Sundays on record, we drove up to Pet Orphans, adopted Daphne and began the brand new educational experience of living with a dog who scored 10 out of 10 on the Adorable Appearance Scale, but, as we were informed, had "issues."

All I can say is that adopting a dog that was found at about one year of age on the streets of L.A.; was bounced from two placements; and because of her unique breed mix and background experienced great stress being kenneled for most of two years; was a far cry from our previous pattern of buying pure bred puppies from a highly responsible breeder.

But Daphne changed our lives. We will never again buy a pure bred dog. We will always adopt a rescue.

And I will always have a very soft spot in my heart for Pet Orphans, Daphne's Alma Mater. They loved her, did their best to socialize and train her, and stuck with her until we, her "forever home", finally materialized.

That's the reason there is a link to Pet Orphans on the right hand side of this blog. And that's why I visit their site at least once a week. It's my connection to Daphne. And I become particularly attached to and concerned about the dogs who wait and wait for forever homes.

Today I checked on the dogs of Pet Orphans who need homes. And happiness of happiness, one of my favorites, a tiny Chihuahua/Terrier mix who has been waiting and waiting and waiting--maybe not as long as Daphne, but way too long--has been adopted. Hooray for Misty! Congratulations to her new family! Only the presence of Bingley and Magic had prevented me from talking to John about another trip up to Van Nuys.

Now there's Teddy, the Pomeranian mix. He is really adorable. So he jumps five foot fences. I'm sure there's someone out there who can work with him on that issue. And Yogi, the American Bulldog, and Bart, and Annabella and Elvis--all Chihuahua mixes and....

But today is Misty's Day.

Now there's room for another dog who can be "transferred" from one of the high kill "shelters" in Los Angeles County to Pet Orphans, one of the finest private rescues, and a true shelter for Teddy and Yogi and Bart and Annabella and Elvis and all the other dogs and cats waiting there for forever homes.


Note: There is a malfunction that is preventing me from giving hot links in my posts. If you wish to visit Pet Orphans' site, the link at the right of the page is in working order and will take you to pictures of some wonderful dogs in need of forever homes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Settling In

I have no plans to ever again have a puppy as my canine companion. Of course, if a homeless puppy turned up on my doorstep and my resident canines showed no inclination to do it severe bodily harm, my plans could change in a hurry. But given the fact that John and I have made the decision to adopt rescues and given the fact that we have no inclination to train a puppy, our plans are likely to stand.

However, bringing an adult dog who has either never known a real home or has associated bad things with humans also requires loving patience and consistent re-training.

For many people, that process is too long and too demanding. But for some of us, helping an adult dog become a trusting member of a family is rewarding beyond words.

Nine days from today, Magic will have been with us for eighteen months. Her behavior patterns are dramatically different now from the way they were when she first arrived. She was a "Bolter", an "Escape Artist." She had to learn to walk on a leash. She had to learn that carpeting was NOT the place to relieve herself. She had to learn that she could trust men, most particularly John.

Magic and Bingley had to work out their relationship. Bingley is an easy going, get along kinda guy. But he was accustomed to pretty aggressive play with Portia, who always gave as good as she got. Bingley's overtures terrified Magic. His repeated play bows--his gentlemanly way of reassuring her--meant nothing to Magic.

And then, there was the First Out The Door Issue. Anytime John or I approached a door, Magic was there, ready to bolt. In her determination, she almost knocked me over more than once.

She had to learn that when returning from a walk, the human, not either dog, enters the house first. Then she had to learn to wait at the back sliding glass door until it was opened.

The very last lesson had to be taught by Bingley. With dogs, first in and out is an important expression of dominance. Bingley was clearly unhappy to have the new interloper blast past him when he was venturing into his kingdom--that is, the back yard--or returning from exploring his kingdom.

I felt sorry for Bingley, but I leave it to the dogs to tell each other what they can tolerate. It became routine to see Magic push her way out the kitchen door in front of Bingley.

Then, a few weeks ago, I opened the door to let the dogs in. Bingley was standing right by the door. But he did not come in. I called Magic. She ignored me. Bingley trotted over to where she was and transmitted some doggy signal. Magic came racing for the door. Bingley followed her in with great dignity.

The next time I let them out, I realized that it was Bingley, not Magic, who exited first. Without any help from me, Bingley had let Magic know that he would wait for her to be the first in, but she would have to defer to his being the first out.

At eighteen months, a puppy is adult size but still a puppy in behavior. At eighteen months, a frightened, insecure Magic has become an integral part of our human/canine family. Still a little quirky. Still sure of what she wants and doesn't want. But a loving companion to John and me and a reliable sidekick for Bingley. Nothing beats two middle aged dogs who get along with each other, love their humans, and fit themselves into the routines of the household.

And when both dogs are rescues, the rewards for their humans are indescribable.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Domino, R.I.P.

Friends of Portia extends its deepest condolences to Janet, Mark and Christian on the loss of their beloved Dalmatian blend, Domino. When she stopped eating and could no longer enjoy daily walks, it was clear that she was slipping away. A sweet, faithful companion has been released from pain, but leaves an empty place in the lives of those who loved her.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Updates

Patrick, the rescued Pit Bull continues to improve. But rescue is never an easy undertaking. Associated Humane Societies continues to post progress reports.

Please remember. If you wish to contribute to animals in need, be sure that you know for a certainty that the organization to which you contribute is directly involved in the rescue and or care of individual animals. Organizations whose primary activity is "advocacy" all too often drain important resources from rescues that desperately need funds for desperate animals.

There is no national umbrella organization for humane societies. Investigate the actual work that an organization does before contributing. It is scandalous that organizations that have had no part in the expensive effort to rescue and rehabilitate Patrick are trying to capitalize on his misery and are deflecting donations from the true rescuers, Associated Humane Societies.

Closer to home--I hope. Early this morning as Bingley, Magic and I were completing our walk, we heard a coyote killing party in the hills just north of our neighborhood. Perhaps this signals their return. Before long, it will be warm enough for snakes. Some predator is going to find all the rabbits now hopping all over our subdivision--and multiplying under our deck. I prefer coyotes, hawks and owls to snakes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chickens And Ducks And Rabbits, Oh No!

Every year, adorable baby critters are sold into misery so that self indulgent adults can catch a few pictures of their young children cuddling a breathing ball of down or fuzz.

Few families are prepared to make the life accommodations required to provide a humane home for an adult chicken, duck or rabbit. And no. Confinement in a cage for 23 of 24 hours a day is NOT humane treatment of a rabbit.

Years ago we were so plagued by snails that I seriously contemplated acquiring a duck to help with snail control. But a kind friend educated me about the challenging details of cleaning up after a duck. Eventually we moved to a neighborhood in San Marcos where some thoughtful person had imported common snails' only successful predator: decollate snails. And I didn't have to clean up after them.

Not long after all the Easter candy has been eaten, the few rescues that have facilities for chickens and ducks and rabbits will be inundated with new residents. Those will be the lucky ones. The majority will be abandoned to a hostile environment to live out a brief life of misery.

If you must give a child a soft, cuddly animal for Easter, make it a stuffed toy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rescues

I've been under the weather for several weeks, so Bingley, Magic and I did not take our usual Monday morning walk with Marilyn, Franklin, Hattie and Odie. Yesterday we resumed our walk and Bingley and Magic couldn't have been happier or more excited.

As we walked, I studied each dog and considered their histories.

Franklin, the senior member of our pack, is a mix of Greyhound and some unknown breed. He "passes" as a Greyhound until you study him closely. He was rescued as a puppy, covered with mange. Not exactly the sort of dog that most people are eager to bring into their homes. In fact, not the sort of dog most rescues rescue. But at fifteen months, after a few unsuccessful placements, Franklin found a home with Marilyn and her husband. Franklin required daily doses of Inteceptor to get his mange under control, but eventually, it disappeared and now he sports a soft red coat. He's a happy, confident dog who loves to go to Show and Tells which promote Greyhound Adoption Center. He's getting on in years and the arthritis in his hindquarters shows in his gait. But he's a wonderful companion and has had a good life with Marilyn's family.

Hattie, short for Manhattan, is an ex-racer who was also a "hard to place" dog. She's something of a loner and a little opinionated. Hattie suffers from an auto-immune disorder which makes her nose peel from time to time and can affect her paw-pads. But Marilyn took her in and helped integrate her into her home. Hattie is living the good life now.

Odie, Marilyn's newest pack member, also has issues. He suffers from a chronic eye condition which compromises his vision. He has separation anxiety and needs other dogs around to feel secure. But he is settling into his new home. He seems to know that he belongs.

Bingley, my sweet tempered, aw shucks cowboy, was rescued from a "death hauler" carrying two dead Greyhounds and three starving, hungry Greyhounds. Bingley's digestive system will apparently always show evidence of his near starvation. He needs prescription dog food and quantities of Pepto Bismol to keep his delicate insides functioning close to normal. He's high prey and a little tricky to walk on leash. But John and I wouldn't have missed him for the world.

Then we have Magic, our Greyhound/Deerhound princess, who was essentially unsocialized to humans--particularly men--when she was rescued with her puppies and the puppies' father. She was difficult to manage in the kennel, barking at all passersby and leading a little band of escapees one evening when a staff person wasn't paying attention. That sort of behavior gets a girl labeled "hard to place." But in the seventeen months she has lived with us, she has made great strides: accepts John as a good person, loves her walks, lets us know when she wants to go outside. And cuddles up next to me on the sofa just about every morning.

I understand that Dogs With Issues are not for every home. But if you are in a situation, a stage in life that permits taking one into your home, the rewards are indescribable.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Details, Details, Details

Some corrections and updates on the story of Patrick the Pit Bull.

At the time of Patrick's rescue, he was not taken immediately to Garden State Veterinary Specialists, but to Associated Humane Services, the emergency agency for abused and neglected animals in Newark, New Jersey. There he was stabilized before being transported to to Garden State Veterinary Specialists for long term care. And it is the Associated Humane Services who are paying and fundraising for Patrick's treatment. If Patrick's story has gripped you as it has me, I urge you to visit their website where both pictures and narrative tell Patrick's story.

Friends of Portia will be giving updates from Associated Humane Services website as Patrick's recovery continues. All paws are still crossed for him because he has a foreign object in his digestive track that cannot be removed immediately due to his fragile condition. We are well aware of long term problems following near starvation because our own darling Bingley was rescued in early stages of starvation and dehydration. Although Bingley's condition was far from the extreme suffered by Patrick, Bingley continues to have a very sensitive stomach, is on prescription dog food, and frequently requires a dose of Pepto Bismol to aid his digestion. We hope and pray that Patrick will gain sufficient weight and strength so that the foreign object issue can be resolved.

Incidentally, Associated Humane Services is a a local humane agency not affiliated with Humane Society of the United States. Many people donate to HSUS thinking that it is the umbrella organization for all local humane societies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you wish to help distressed animals in a specific locality, give to a local agency or rescue. They are the people who day after day deal directly with the objects of human neglect and cruelty. They deserve your support.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's An Ill Wind That Blows No Good

The day before St. Patrick's Day, a Pit Bull was found in the trash of a New Jersey apartment house. The poor creature's ribs were showing in graphic relief. He was so weak, he couldn't stand.

Named Patrick for the approaching saint's day and his reddish coat, he was rushed to Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls. Dr. Thomas Scavelli, director of the hospital said that usually an animal in Patrick's state would be humanely euthanized, but Patrick looked up into the doctor's eyes, seemingly pleading for his life. So the staff did what they could to save him and Patrick did the rest.

He's still far from healthy, but prospects are good that Patrick will one day find his way into his forever home where he will be loved and cared for.

His story has inspired world wide sympathy. Gifts and messages are flooding the hospital where he will remain for an indefinite time as he recovers.

And the good news is that the attention being paid his situation has enabled Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, to launch a fundraising campaign for a state-of-the-art animal shelter to be named for Patrick.

Some people are concentrating on assuring punishment for the perpetrator of the callous neglect that almost led to Patrick's dying in agony. It does appear that she will be answering several charges of animal neglect. But Friends of Portia, while believing in serious consequences for animal neglect thinks that public service at animal shelters and heavy fines are more relevant consequences for perpetrators than jail time.

Meanwhile, Patrick has become the mascot of Garden State Veterinary Specialists. He plays with the toys sent to him by well-wishers, follows staff around, and is always available for pats and attention. No looking back. No recriminations. No hostility to humans for what he has suffered.

"Going to the dogs" should be a compliment.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bella, R.I.P.

I never met Bella, a Shepherd/Sighthound mix who lived with the family of my friend, Emily. But at our weekly book studies, I grew fond of her, listening to Emily speak of her exploits around the family's acreage.

I wanted to honor Bella's memory and asked Emily the details of how Bella came to live with their family. Her words are a clearer, better tribute than I could write:

Bella followed Sam home from the school bus when he was in first grade. The kids had seen her hanging around and she was clearly lost. When I came home from work she was in the house and she never left. Of course, she had no collar, so we put up signs and ran ads in the paper to try to find her owner but there was no response. We assumed that she'd been dumped by some misguided person who thought that would be 'kinder' than placing her in a shelter.

She liked to sit in front of the house, on top of the hill, surveying her territory. That way she could see intruders like coyotes and rabbits at a good distance and tear off after them before we even knew they were there. That is where she'll be buried.


I have another friend who works in rescue who absolutely believes that the right dog finds the right home. How true that was of Bella. She was just the right dog for three boys to grow up with. Just the right dog to hang around--supervise--when Emily tended the horses.

Friends of Portia extends its deepest condolences to Emily, Ron, James, Willy and Sam on the loss of their faithful companion. Rest in Peace at the top of your hill, Bella.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Run, Rabbit, Run

Something is a little amiss in our usual balance of nature here in San Marcos, California. Our most common prey, rabbits, are proliferating unabated and our largest predator, coyotes, are notable for their absence.

For about six months, I have noticed more and more rabbits on our early morning walks. Poor Bingley has too. Every cell in Bingley's body tells him that these long eared, cotton-tailed critters need to be chased. But he has learned over the past three years that I am not going to let go of his leashes, and his strongest instinct will not be gratified.

However, the situation is becoming acute. We now have in residence in our very own garden, not one, but two rabbits: a youngster and an adult. The youngster is particularly brazen--or dumb. Just yesterday afternoon, it hopped right up the length of the flagstone walkway leading from the sidewalk to our front steps. Unhappily, Bingley was looking out the front window observing this travesty, and, I promise you, no amount of cajoling could transfer his concentration from the real rabbit outside to Harvey, the fake rabbit that is usually on the receiving end of his "attention."

I let Bingley out in the back just in time for him to chase the adult rabbit to the fence and watch in frustration as the white tail bounced up the hill out of reach and out of sight.

Then, when John came home from taking Magic and Bingley for their last walk of the evening, he reported that Bingley had flushed an entire family of rabbits from a neighbor's hedge. John was able to hold on to the dogs as five rabbits hopped across the street in front of them, but both dogs were agitated and Bingley was trembling with the need to chase.

I keep waiting for the coyotes to show up. So far, there isn't a sign of them--at least in our neighborhood. No tell-tale piles of fluffy rabbit fur in the undergrowth up the hill. No prickling on the back of the neck with the sense that a large creature is pacing us along the top of the slope that runs parallel with the sidewalk. And certainly no sightings--was that a large, scruffy dog, or...?

About three weeks ago during our morning walk, we heard the blood curdling cries of a coyote kill party. They came from a distance, but they were so loud and prolonged, both Bingley and Magic stopped to listen.

I thought that the coyotes had arrived. But since then--silence. And the rabbits keep on doing what rabbits are famous for doing: multiplying.

Of all the critters that populate our suburban development, rabbits are the cutest. In an ideal world, I wouldn't want any predator to harm them. But experience tells me that it is not a question of whether or not a predator will find them, but which predator will find them. There are two: coyotes and snakes.

Please come back, coyotes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Want To Rescue A Champion?

When I add a rescue to the list on the right side of the screen, I visit the site from time to time. I fret about dogs who wait and wait and wait for forever homes. I glow when a hard to place dog finds its place.

Today I checked in on Poodle Rescue of Southern California.

The current postings are illustrative of three themes that are dear to my heart:

1.) If you want a high quality, pure bred dog and you are patient, you can rescue one. Right at the top of the Poodle Rescue list are two show stock toy poodles looking for a new home: one is a champion.

2.) If you are not in the first blush of youth, particularly if you have no young children in your home, many dogs who are getting up in years are available for adoption. Many of these dogs are house trained, crate trained, doggy door trained. Who knows? Perhaps they can "roll over" or "shake hands." The point is, all the hard work has been done with these dogs. You get to enjoy a civilized canine companion.

3.) If you want any of the multiple Poodle mixes that the unscrupulous sell at high prices to the naive, many of these are available in rescues. "Maltipoodles", "Schoodles", "Golden Doodles", "Labradoodles"--take your pick.

My personal thanks goes to the diligent rescuers at Poodle Rescue of Southern California. Occasionally, they make room for "Honorary Poodles." Two such are Chiquita and Rambo, a charming Chihuahua pair who really need a home. Spread the word.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"We're Here For You"

Over the weekend, John celebrated a Big Birthday. One with "0" for the second digit. We won't name the first digit.

Dear friends gave him a sympathy card in recognition of the occasion. The front of the card is graced by three Greyhounds reclining on a Louis Quinze sofa, replete with silk brocade cushions and upholstery. The dogs are gazing sleepily at the camera. The caption: "We're Here For You"

To me--and I suspect any human who shares their home with a Greyhound or two or three or...--the picture and caption are not only supremely funny, but they also express the essence of living with these elegant creatures.

The back of the card informs us that the Greyhounds on the sofa are retired racers and that they are grateful for having been rescued. But in all honesty, gratitude is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I look at the lounging hounds. Complacency is more like it. What I see is, "At last someone recognizes and provides us with the sort of life that suits us best."

The card was purchased at Barnes and Noble. The designers are a gifted couple who are dedicated to rescued animals. Give their website a visit. Hooray For The Underdog.

Meanwhile, many times a day, I stop and chuckle silently over the picture of the hounds on the sofa. I chuckle silently because I don't want to disturb Bingley and Magic. They're resting. Bingley's on the sofa. Magic's on the love seat. Neither the sofa nor the love seat is covered in silk brocade. They're making do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Relief

To make Routine a Stimulus
Remember it can cease--
Capacity to Terminate
Is a Specific Grace--

Emily Dickinson


Two weeks ago, I was reminded that I am lacking in the Specific Grace of a Capacity to Terminate.

Bingley pulled up on his right rear leg and yelped. First I froze and then I cried. Clearly, he was in pain.

I gave him some pain medication left over from Magic's eye surgery and cried some more.

I had been down this road before. Zephyr had started to favor her right rear leg, then limp. I spent several days telling myself that it was a muscle pull--a strain of some sort. But it wasn't a muscle pull or a strain. It was osteosarcoma. She had only six weeks to live.

My Bingley. My sweet tempered Bingley. The sweetest tempered dog I'd ever known. How often had I held his face in my hands and told him he was to live to be a very old dog? As if that could affect anything. As if that could change some aberrant cell deep within a bone.

I started to calculate when I should have the x-rays done that would confirm or deny my fears. John was ten time zones away but would be returning in a few days. I decided to wait until he was home.

Bingley was listless. He moved slowly. He didn't run his daily racing circuit around the living room. He ignored Harvey the Rabbit and Clyde the Bear. His skin felt loose.

I cried some more as I watched the little plane on my computer screen move along the arc from Ataturk Airport, Istanbul to O'Hare Airport, Chicago.

I swear that when "Landed" appeared under "Flight Status", Bingley perked up just a little bit.

Bingley did not limp again. By the time John came home, Bingley was moving more naturally. John and I decided that it would be safe to wait a week and watch Bingley before subjecting him to the general anesthesia that diagnostic x-rays require.

Gradually, Bingley returned to his normal routine. A lap or two around the living room, a shake or toss of Harvey or Clyde, a quick run in the back yard to chase our resident rabbit.

It was, indeed, just a strain or a muscle pull. Bingley is fine and healthy.

But Bingley is a seven year old dog. Even if he lives to be an Old Man, I won't have him for as long as I would like. But now, more than ever, I feel as if every day with him is a gift. It always has been.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sight Hounds

Scottish Deerhound, Hickory Wind, the newest Westminster Best In Show, has brought a category of dogs into public awareness that does not usually enjoy great popularity: Sight Hounds.

Organizations and experts are not in complete agreement about which breeds to include on the definitive list of Sight Hounds, but core breeds which are on all lists are:

Afghan Hound

Borzoi

Greyhound

Irish Wolfhound

Saluki

Scottish Deerhound

Whippet

With the exception of the Whippet, developed in the nineteenth century, these are large to very large dogs whose beginnings reach back into antiquity. They share two distinctive characteristics: acute long distance vision, and speed. For centuries, they were companions of landed aristocrats. Their time was spent much the way their masters' time was spent: hunting out of doors; lounging indoors--"indoors" being a luxurious tent, a castle, a palace, or a simple mansion.

You might have noticed that luxurious tents, castles and palaces are not common in the United States. We do have a number of Mac Mansions--but usually they are not surrounded by large estates. One could say these dogs have lost both their employment and habitat. So their rarity--with the tragic exception of the exploited racing Greyhound--is understandable.

As an admirer of Sight Hounds, I am deeply conflicted about Hickory's win. Was I rooting for her? Yes indeed! Am I concerned that the accompanying publicity will motivate some very unsuitable humans to decide that they want to acquire a Scottish Deerhound--or some other Sight Hound? Yes indeed!

So. Let me explain once more what it is like to have one of these magnificent Sight Hounds as a member of your household. And yes. A Sight Hound is a full member of its household.

1. They want to BE with you. They may or may not want to OBEY you.

2. They will NOT be happy to be restricted to floor level. Sometimes they will settle for a comfy cushion, but usually they prefer a sofa or love seat.

3. They don't play fetch. But if it's moving, they'll chase it. If they catch it, it's THEIRS! Cats, small dogs, rabbits. There's a difference? Who knew?

4. They CANNOT be trusted off-lead or unconfined. Not. For. A. Second.

5. They are quiet and they prefer a quiet household. No shouting,please. Their Serenities require serenity.

6. They really HATE to be left alone.

7. No Sight Hound--even those with rough or long coats--should be left out of doors unattended for long periods. They may be big dogs, but they're indoor dogs.

8. Sight Hounds are NOT watch dogs. If a prowler enters your house, your Sight Hound will do one of the following: a) Slip out the door as the prowler enters. b) Hide. c) Greet the "house guest" as a good host should, perhaps guiding the newcomer to the family silver or a brand new t.v. d)Sleep soundly as family valuables are loaded into a truck. e) Any combination of a,b,c,d.

9. Sight Hounds have unique medical issues and must be treated by veterinarians who understand these issues.

Why, then,you might ask, do people choose to live with a Sight Hound--or, more likely, Sight Hounds?

That's a tough question. The best answer I can manage is: For the pleasure of their company. Either you experience pleasure in a Sight Hound's company, or living with one will drive you crazy.

Sight Hounds are relics of a bye-gone time, aristocrats of the ancien regime who have never quite been able to learn the ways of the bourgeosie .

They share our homes, trust us to figure out their needs and protect them from the depredations of a fast paced, mechanized world. In return we receive loyalty and companionship that have nothing to do with obedience, embodied in a living work of art.

Those are the terms of life with a Sight Hound. If you can't accept them, don't even consider a Sight Hound as a companion.