Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pretty Darn Accurate

Yesterday was a damp gray day, so I wimped out on dog exercise and declared it a browse-the-internet day instead.

I stumbled across this very cute site (the actual link is way far below, I just couldn't resist including the cute puppy graphic) called

I answered all their questions about size and care and family demographics, none of which involved a breed...and the dog they recommended for us was a Golden Retriever-Australian Shepherd cross. Uncanny!

Our first family pet was a Golden-collie cross who was very protective of our two little boys, loved car rides and taught us reams about raising a puppy.

Next in line was our half Aussie-half mutt cross who our vet insisted also had some Golden in her. I still miss her silky soft hair and her loving ways. She single-pawedly converted the entire neighborhood into dog lovers.

When it was time for another pup, we scoured PetFinder for anything Aussie or Golden. Our current girl was listed as Aussie-Border Collie, but I could see Golden in the cross almost immediately. I thought it might have been wishful thinking until I compared the photo of Zelda to the picture of Kharma's brother.
Yeah, definitely Golden!

So all of our dogs have been part Golden Retriever and the last two have also been part Aussie.

Dog Chooser was right on the mark. Try it and see how close they come to your idea of the perfect dog!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two Words: Bad Idea

(Please pause a moment here while I have a mini-meltdown over the article I just read and Kharma chews some grass so she can hurl. Deep breath.)

Michael Vick.

PETA withdrew their offer to have him tape an anti-dogfighting public service announcement. He wanted their support of his reinstatement as a condition of his participation. And here I thought public service by definition indicates a donation of one's time and/or energy, without reimbursement. Silly me.

My guess is that inmate Vick has lived in his alternate universe for so long, where athletic talent excuses any behavior, that he can no longer differentiate wrong from right (no duh, there). Twenty-three months in the slammer haven't taught him that he has a debt to repay. Or maybe he thinks he's already repaid society for his behavior and gets a free pass?

In my universe, second chances are freely given. We all make mistakes. We learn from them and we move on. We don't use our mistakes as bargaining chips though--that's immature and juvenile.

Some errors are big ones, really big. And the consequences for those are appropriately big. You have to earn your way back before being forgiven. Dogfighting isn't high up on the list of attractive occupations, but it didn't stop there. Let's be clear here, Michael Vick viciously and maliciously took innocent lives. He killed personally. There was no mercy, no second chances, no humanity displayed.

I knew what I thought the instant I heard the details. I said it then and I'll say now--if the NFL allows him to play ever again, I will never watch another football game. It would cause me pain to give up watching the Niners on a Sunday morning. I'd miss the fun of Super Bowl parties. But there are some lines you don't cross.

I'd like to believe that playing for an NFL team again is just a pipe dream that Michael Vick's had while in prison. I hope that Commissioner Goodell continues the indefinite suspension. It's an appropriate response to Vick's "reprehensible" actions. With reinstatement, any team, any owner, any commercial sponsor had better be willing to face a mass boycott from their more thoughtful fans. The bad press possible just boggles the mind.

Michael Vick might consider some other job a janitor or pipefitter or stevedore. Somewhere far from the public eye, making a living wage, while contributing a necessary skill to our economy.

Many football fans commenting on the Fox Sports article are willing to defend his actions and would like to see him play again. That's disheartening. Fortunately, there are many others who are disgusted by his actions and forthright about saying so.

Quite honestly, any message from Michael Vick would have turned my stomach. Shame on PETA for even considering him as a spokesman. If they really wanted to find a worthy voice against dog-fighting, they don't have to look any further than one of the sweet and furry wiggle-butts who escaped Bad Newz Kennel and their murderous owner.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I just finished reading Merle's Door, a book I received for my birthday. It got me to thinking how different having a dog is now than it used to be. Better different. Better for the dog and better for the people.

Back in the day, the fact that our family dog could not only sit and roll over but play dead when we pointed our finger and said bang! was an amazing thing to most folks. Now Kharma rips off a series of ten or more tricks for just one of her homemade little peanut-butter treats. Obedience class was for very few people and now nearly everyone has attended Puppy Kindergarten. Walking Fido has become Agility Classes. Dogs have their own seatbelts (at least Kharma does).

I'm no longer comfortable saying I "own" a dog. It's not a PETA thing; it just feels wrong. I'd rather say that I share my life with a dog and she shares her life with me--I guess that's the change I've been thinking about in a nutshell. I'm well aware that I've been blessed with her love and confidence for an all-too-brief time and I want Kharma to develop to her full potential.

I'm learning not to micro-manage though. She's great at hand signals that eventually have been paired with audibles and will respond to both. In our Team-Relationship Building class, our instructor would have us take our dog though a tunnel in the way that seemed foreign to me at the time. There was very little luring and no naming--both things I've done regularly and successfully with Kharma. A little lightbulb went on for me: agility happens fast and a dog who can read your intentions via body language or pick your wishes out of thin air is greatly preferable to one who needs to be told every detail.

After reading Merle's Door, another Aha! moment happened. I need to respect my dog's ability to think for herself. We aren't so lucky as to live next to a wilderness, away from speeding cars and privacy fences, where a dog can roam safely all day, choosing his own activities.

But we are lucky to live next to an undeveloped park where we walk off-leash with great satisfaction. There are cowflops for her to smell; goose poop for her to sample like See's Candy for dogs; geese families who should be wintering in the Imperial Valley instead of the Sierras and thus are fair game; voles and coyotes and other dogs leave scents to be thoroughly investigated. I walk and she ranges. Sometimes we play with neighbor dogs who are also in the park off-leash. Frequently I bring the Flippy Flopper along and we play Frisbee until her tongue hangs out far enough to show off her two blue tongue spots. There is no Calm Assertive Energy involved, no Pack Leader. We just hang out and have fun. I can't imagine always having her on-leash and I suspect she's pretty happy I think that way.

I know she enjoys meeting other dogs, although she checks in with me frequently. Running full tilt to catch her Frisbee just feels good to her. Putting a flock of lazy geese into the cool morning air tickles our mutual senses of humor. Our unstructured time together is every bit as important as clicker training or working on a new trick or taking a class. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe it's the most valuable thing we do together.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Might Be a Dog Lover If...

You own dog socks. Three pairs.

When people ask, you can show them photos of your dog, but somehow you don't have any recent ones of your kids.

Every pocket you own has a dog treat in it.

Your Christmas tree has ornaments that you've painted to look exactly like your dog.

It's easier to know what to buy your dog for Christmas, than what to get your family.

You bought a purse because you knew you could use the photo windows to showcase your favorite puppy pictures.

Your cell phone plays a puppy video when you open it.

It took you longer to decide on the perfect name for your dog than for your children.

A "relationship building" class refers to your dog, not your spouse.

When visitors complain about the blonde dog hair on their black slacks, you suggest that they invest in tan pants or Levis instead.

You smile when you go to bed because you have a puppy pillowcase on which to lay your head.

You sewed breed-specific pillowcases for your neighbor girls as soon as they got their puppy. And learned how to spell Shih Tsu properly.

When you travel, your preference is by car with a dog-friendly itinerary.

Your former canines reside on the bookcase in wooden boxes engraved with their names, which you touch tenderly each time you dust.

You'll park in the shade of a tree even if it means you have to walk three times as far to the store. Then you speed shop so she won't be out there a second longer than necessary.

You know everyone at the dog park by their dog's name instead of their human name(i.e. Cody's dad, Tootsie Roll's mom, etc.).

When you have to fly somewhere, you call the dogsitter so you can talk to your dog. Every day.

You celebrate your dog's birthday and anniversary. At home AND at work.

You don't bake cookies for your human family, you bake dog treats for training sessions instead.

Your birthday wish list consists of more doggy items than jewelry, clothing, and "toys". Combined.

Your dog has her own blog.

Your favorite parts of the day somehow involve your dog.

Guilty on all counts, and loving every minute of it.

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