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.


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.