Thursday, October 30, 2008


A little while ago, Allie and I headed out to a small wooded park near our home. It's one of our favorite walks, particularly since there's a cleared field that once contained a small baseball diamond, but now just has a rusty old backstop in the corner. It's perfect for playing fetch, though.

We entered the park, with the golden sunlight shining through the leaves on the trees. Splendid. We walked uphill on a path, then followed the path down the hill and rounded a bend when I saw something standing directly in front of us, blocking our path.

A deer. Specifically, a buck. He was, at most, maybe eight feet away.

My first impulse was to back away and take another route to the field, but then I decided to wait and see what happened. Allie saw the buck, too, but -- thankfully -- obeyed my whispered command to "Wait." We stood very still looking at the buck, and he did the same while looking at us. We just looked into each other's eyes and waited.

A minute or so passed, and I carefully moved Allie from my right side to my left, so that she was a little further away from the buck. Then, we took a small step toward the buck. He blinked, then took a couple of steps to his left, so that he was off the path and no longer blocking us.

Allie and I waited. The buck calmly chewed a leaf from a small sapling, then ambled another few steps away from the path, turned and looked at us. We slowly made our way past him and down the path toward the field. After a few feet, I turned -- and he was still watching us.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I did it!

After spending some time blogging here and here, I decided that I needed to move "The Allie Chronicles" to a new home.

Some of the reason for my move has to do with concerns about LiveJournal's ownership. But more of the reason had to do with my just wanting the blog to be in a place with more options.

Undoubtedly there's a way that I could have imported the whole blog from Live Journal to Blogger, but I couldn't find it and apparently a few other people couldn't either (I saw advice indicating that you gotta do it by hand.) There was some stuff in the help section about republishing an FTP blog, but somehow I didn't think that I applied to what I was trying to do.

Sooooooo ... IAC, here is (are?) The Allie Chronicles in its (their?) new home.

So *now* we can try this at home?

(Originally published September 16, 2008)

It's bad enough that Cesar Millan and National Geographic have set dog training back a gazillion years with their show "The Dog Whisperer": a regressive show wrapped in New Age packaging. (Newsflash: adopting a mantra of "calm, assertive energy" is the not sole answer to solving a dog's problems.) Worse is that the NG channel has to paste a "Do Not Try This At Home" disclaimer at the top of every episode.

Now, we've got something that we apparently can try at home: Sessions with Cesar, which a press release describes as "a new online dog coaching course [and] interactive program, which is based on the philosophy of America's most beloved dog behaviorist, [and] is the first of its kind to help dog owners establish a more fulfilling and balanced relationship with their pets."

Oh joy. Alpha rolls with online coaching? Psychological flooding prompted by a cybervoice? All for only $129? I'm so there ...

... Especially now that I've read "the Disclaimers and Warnings" section, which takes up a full third of the Terms of Service. Among the provisions of that section: "we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any Content on or provided in connection with the Service. IMG, Cesar Millan, Ilusion Millan and Cesar Millan, Inc. (collectively the “Released Parties”), and its and their affiliates, consultants, associates, and other users may also provide advice as part of the Content on the Service (“Advice”). You agree that such Advice is provided for your informational purposes only, and that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with the use of any Advice, including any reliance on the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of such information or content." IOW, if my online coach, Cesar, tells me to alpha-roll my dog, and my dog expresses her displeasure by biting me, it's my fault.

Wow. Now I really feel confident.

Revisiting earlier topics

(Originally published September 1, 2008)

Apropos of nothing, this post will update earlier ones -- mostly with new rants.

1. Verizon did eventually pull its pit bull commercial. I'm glad they finally caved, but it sure took them long enough.

2. Greatest American Dog started off great but has declined precipitously. What were the producers thinking when:-- They decided that the best way to demonstrate a dog's courage was to have that dog sit in the middle of a circle while an elephant (yes, a freakin' elephant!) ambled toward him;-- They decided that an even better way to demonstrate said courage was to have the dog jump into the air attached to a 30-some foot long zip wire;-- They concluded that the best way to assess Galaxy's post-challenge limp was to have a *dog trainer* come look at it. I have the greatest respect for positive dog trainers but they are not, repeat not, veterinarians.I won't even bother to go into the subject of the judges' utter inconsistency from week to week -- at least not right now.

3. Mad Men is still wonderful, despite its somewhat slow second-season start. But in last night's episode, when Duck decided to abandon his conscience by abandoning his faithful Irish Setter in the middle of New York City, I cried. I understand why that scene was in the script, and I understand that it's just a story, that the dog wasn't really abandoned (I've come a long way since my childhood, when I freaked out every Sunday night while watching Lassie and/or Timmy deal with their peril of the week). But I cried anyway.

I'm back

(Originally published August 31, 2008)

I know I've not been the most consistent blogger in the world, particularly the past month or so. But I have a reason. Really.

My father died a week ago today after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Over the past six years, I've come to see what a truly hideous disease this is. It robs a person not only of his mobility, but also of his dignity -- and the whole time, the person knows exactly what's going on. This summer, my dad's last, was especially harrowing as he struggled through two bouts of pneumonia. He survived the first, but not the second.

Allie and my dad developed a special relationship. Whenever she and I visited my parents, Allie would make it a point to spend time with Dad, gently soliciting attention from him and sometimes simply lying at his feet. I'll be going back up to my parents' house soon to bring my mother back here for a visit with me and with a friend in South Carolina. Allie will be coming with me, and I wonder if she'll notice that my dad is no longer there.

The Mad Men of 2008

(Originally published July 22, 2008)

I've recently become a great fan of A & E's original series "Mad Men," which depicts a 1960's New York ad agency in all its homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic glory. (Let me be clear: I'm no fan of those attitudes; what I appreciate is the show's wonderful writing and superb acting.) A better name for the fictitious Mad Men agency, Sterling Cooper, would be Stereotype Central. But that was then, when many people didn't know any better. Now, nearly half a century later, we're supposedly more sensitive and enlightened -- except, perhaps, the not-so-creative minds at the McCann-Erickson ad agency, which created a new commercial for Verizon's new LG Dare cell phone:

Clearly McCann-Erickson's creative department hasn't heard or don't care about perpetuating stereotypes about bully breeds (news flash: sometimes even Don Draper asks for research, people!). And Verizon, in refusing to pull the ad despite strong protests from experts and animal lovers, shows that it has no problem sacrificing these people-loving dogs on the altar of the almighty dollar.

This commercial is the pits.

National Geographic, this one's for you

(Originally published July 18, 2008)

Past experience has made me something of a skeptic about TV shows involving dogs. I fear that they'll showcase the humans at the expense of the dogs; advocate coercive, discredited training techniques; or otherwise do stuff that indicates that the producers know zilch about how to interact with the canine species. So it was with some trepidation that I watched the first and second episodes of the new CBS reality show, "The Greatest American Dog" (

The show employs the basic reality competition template of people having to perform tasks and facing elimination by a panel of judges if they don't perform those tasks successfully--but in this case, the human contestants are paired with their canine companions. Some of these contestants appear to have good, healthy relationships with their dogs while others seem to believe that dressing a dog in human clothing is a pre-requisite to loving ownership. In other words, while some of the people seem reasonably sane, there are others who are fodder for yet another disdainful look-how-much-we-pamper-our-pooches article in a magazine or newspaper, not to mention having some off-the-wall ideas as to how good their relationships with their dogs really are (not).

But so far the judges have surprised me -- pleasantly. Each of the two human-dog pairs they chose for elimination was having difficulty because the humans, not the dogs, were messing up, and the human mess-ups were stressing not only their own dogs but the other contestants. Each week, the dogs have clearly been the priority.

Way to go, CBS. And I hope that other networks are watching -- and learning.

I hated "Chariots of Fire" ...

(Originally published July 6, 2008)

... but check out the "Marley and Me" movie trailer:

I am *so* there.

Proven icebreaker

(Originally published June 9, 2008)

I am not the most social person in the world. Schmoozing does not come easily to me. At a party, I have trouble coming up with things to talk about; I mainly try to listen and hope I say something reasonably intelligent in response.

But ever since I started writing about dogs, my schmoozing skills have improved considerably. That's because these days, family dogs almost invariably creep into party conversation. I'll have something helpful to say (and I am *not* showing off, I swear), someone else will respond with interest, and the conversation gets into a whole new gear. Then someone will ask "how do you know that?" and I'll say that I write about dogs -- if my wonderfully supportive husband and daughter don't do it first.

One more way our canine companions can help us ...

Compassion defined

(Originally published May 26, 2008)

About a month ago, Allie had surgery to remove two lumps on her trunk. One had already been shown to be a sebaceous cyst, but the second had come up suddenly -- and, to our vet, looked a little suspicious. Because I've lost two previous dogs to cancer -- and because the idea that Allie at age 5 might also have cancer was just mind-boggling -- I was pretty much a nervous wreck until we got the word that both lumps, thankfully, were benign.

Fortunately, Allie was able to go home the same day that she had her surgery. But if she hadn't, I would have loved for her clinic to offer the service that the clinic featured in this video offers its surgical patients and their people:

(Full disclosure: I write for

Summer's coming! This dog says so!

The weather outside is more like late March than late May. I don't think anyone other than the hardiest kids (or swim team members) will venture into our local pool this weekend, Memorial Day or not. But this Doberman's putting me in a summer mood despite the highly unseasonable weather:

We owe you, Connor.

(Originally published May 19, 2008)

I'm always looking for ways to give Allie some indoor exercise when the weather's not conducive to outdoor frolicking. This past weekend, my nephew pointed the way to creating an indoor game that gave both the Golden girl and me a great workout.

Allie, Stan (my husband) and I spent the past weekend visiting my parents. My brother Jack and his son, Connor, came over Saturday evening for dinner. Allie and Connor are long-time buddies, and my Golden girl greeted my nephew with enthusiastic wiggles, wags, licks and love-whimpers. She greeted Jack in similar fashion.

After dinner, Jack and Connor went outside to practice some soccer moves, and Allie and I came out to watch. Allie went nuts over the ball. With me holding onto her leash for dear life, she and Connor proceeded to engage in a dribbling (as in soccer, not in drooling) duel. I was amazed at how intense Allie was in her effort to get the ball away from Connor, and how hard she panted when they both finally quit.

So when Stan, Allie and I arrived back in Virginia yesterday and Allie was in need of some exercise, I resurrected an old basketball from our basement and proceeded to foot-dribble it around the family room with The Big Blonde intercepting it more than once. We both had a good time moving the ball back and forth across the floor. Even better, we didn't break anything. Afterward, Miss Allie was a very mellow girl -- and I was, too.

NBC tries to play catch-up

(Originally published May 13, 2008)

I was glad that NBC decided to hold a roundtable to discuss the horse safety issues that have become the focus of public debate ever since the death of Eight Belles two weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby.

However, what was billed as a 30-minute roundtable actually lasted only 13 minutes. One got the feeling that NBC was doing only the bare minimum in response to viewers' protests over the way the network covered the Derby.

Also, I heard no one point out that not only is roundtable member Gary Stevens a former jockey and a commentator for NBC Sports; he's also a consultant to IEAH, the company that owns Big Brown, the Derby and Preakness winner. Ever hear of full disclosure, guys?

I really mean it this time

(Originally published May 3, 2008)

After Barbaro broke his leg in the 2006 Preakness, I swore I'd never watch another horse race on TV. Then, in 2007, I changed my mind.

But now, after watching the 2008 Kentucky Derby, I wish I hadn't. And for those who think that the victory of Big Brown and the demise of Eight Belles is a metaphor for how the Obama-Clinton nomination fight will turn out, this Obama supporter hopes you'll just take your callous attitude over the demise of a beautiful, gallant creature someplace else--preferably as far away from me as possible.

Rest in peace, Eight Belles.

Gratitude, part deux

(Originally published April 24, 2008)

A dozen years ago this summer, when I was totally sick of writing about agricultural trade (much less editing other people's writings about that topic), I happened upon Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Simple Abundance. The book consisted of daily meditations about living life more joyfully, creatively and appreciatively, and also directed readers to take time each day to write down three things that they were grateful for. Her message resonated with me, and soon triggered a creative rebirth that I'm still benefiting from. That was the summer that I placed my first freelance feature article -- a parenting article for The Washington Post -- followed shortly thereafter by a piece for the now-defunct magazine Pet Life about how to share an office with one's dog. The latter had been inspired by the behavior of Cory, my fax-attacking Sheltie.

One of the most memorable aspects of that summer were my daily first-thing-in-the-morning walks with Cory around our neighborhood. I loved those sojourns with my little Sheltie gentleman. The birds would always be singing, the mornings would be fresh, the grass would be so green and, often, flecked with dew. Sometimes we ventured out of the neighborhood and onto the W&OD bike trail where, one memorable morning, we encountered The Periscope Deer. But that's for another entry.

Flash forward those 12 years: Cory has long since departed for the Bridge, and succeeding him is Allie, my irrepressible but challenging Golden girl. Allie has had leash-walking issues ever since puppyhood -- and still does, even at the ripe old age of five-and-a-half. We can be in the middle of a tranquil walk when she'll appear to suddenly decide it's time to change things up. And change them she does, by jumping on me, tugging at the leash, tugging at my clothes, zooming wildly back and forth, and engaging in other tranquility-killing behaviors. I've tried all kinds of remedies, clearly with only limited success, although up till yesterday we'd gone for more than a month without incident. But yesterday, during a long walk, she was at it again, and I got royally pissed.

So I decided to institute a Walking Boot Camp for Allie: a daily 30-minute walk that includes required sits from her at street corners and elsewhere upon request from me, with zero tolerance for canine zoomie attacks or other ambulatory meltdowns. For this morning's camp session, we found ourselves taking the same route I'd taken every day with Cory a dozen years ago. The air was as fresh, the birds were as melodic and the grass was as green this morning as they were then. I felt myself relax and re-live the feelings of newness and gratitude and rebirth I experienced that summer. Meanwhile, Allie ambled with apparent contentment along side me the whole time with nary a hint of meltdown behavior. I found myself wondering if some of that long-ago tranquility had found its way to her soul, too. That thought brought a lump to my throat -- and even now, two hours later, I'm wiping away tears as I write this.

Nope, I didn't ...

(Originally published April 4, 2008)

... watch Oprah Winfrey's show on puppy mills today -- not because I thought the topic was unworthy, but because I knew I wouldn't be able to bear seeing all those poor, miserable dogs crammed into tiny cages, leading thoroughly miserable lives.

BUT several credible sources who did watch the show report that Oprah and Company did a good job of exposing the cruelty of puppy mills without unfairly bashing responsible breeders. If that's the case, then I'm fine with Oprah saying she'll only adopt shelter dogs from now on.

Taking it on Faith

(Originally published April 2, 2008)

In the last 24 hours, I've discovered that:

-- Oprah Winfrey apparently has vowed that after seeing videos of puppy mills, she will never buy a dog from a reputable breeder.

-- One of Bravo TV's "Real Housewives of New York City" hasn't figured out how to housetrain her dog, but the professional dog trainer she's hired to show her how to do it seems more intent on teaching the dog to sit anywhere than to squat in the right place.

-- Another one of those housewives LETS HER CHIHUAHUA LICK THE INSIDE OF HER NOSE. (No, I'm not kidding. I saw the dog do this.)

In the midst of such absurdity, one needs a little perspective, not to mention inspiration. I found both here.

Kleenex alert

(Originally published March 16, 2008)

Hands down, the best tribute to a beloved dog I've ever seen:

(Note: if images of hunting offend you, don't watch.)

Karma, you are an artist in more ways than one.

My dog, my accessory?

(Originally published March 15, 2008)

I'm a long-time fan of J.Jill clothing. In addition to their being one of the few manufacturers of tasteful-but-not-stuffy apparel for women my age, they also support causes that benefit women in crisis or who are attempting to improve their lives. My bad: I shouldn't have assumed that a company that supports women's causes would also support humane causes. But that's exactly what I assumed until yesterday, when the company's latest catalog arrived in my mailbox. Click here to see what appalled me:

Flip the page and you'll see a similar image: a gleeful woman carrying what appears to be a Rat Terrier in a totebag. The Rat Terrier, btw, is way too big to fit in said totebag.

It's bad enough seeing Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or other popwrecks (thank you,, for that colorful characterization) toting their little teacup dogs in handbags wherever they go. But J. Jill positions itself as a socially responsible company. Who was the nitwit who thought that stuffing a dog in a totebag would sell clothing to that company's demographic?

J.Jill, what were you thinking?

Labor of love

(Originally published March 11, 2008)

I've ridden horses only a few times in my life, and my mother has never done so. But we both love reading about the equine species -- particularly stories like this one from today's edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Thanks for telling me about this, Mom.

Are you kidding?

(Originally published March 8, 2008)

Among my many email subscriptions is's "Dog Crazy Newsletter," in which a veterinarian named Dr. Jon summarizes one of the many articles on the website and adds a few timely tips. Today's newsletter summarized an excellent article about separation anxiety by veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman. However, it was one of the tips added by Dr. Jon at the end of the email that really got my attention -- and not in a good way.

Now that you're home for the weekend, suggests Dr. Jon, spend some quality time with your dog (so far, so good). Take him to the dog park (fine, too, as long as your dog can handle being with other dogs). But then, he adds this little gem:

Dress him up and take pictures (he won't be bored, but he may be

Since when is deliberately annoying a dog a good idea? And why, for that matter, is it okay to put a dog in human clothing and then laugh at the dog or worse, coo over how cute he is? Doesn't a dog have a right to some individual dignity?

Allie dislikes human clothing so much that she can't even abide the kerchief she gets after each session with her groomer. But even if she could, I would never attempt to put her in a dress, a hat -- or, God forbid, those ridiculous doggie antlers that way too many dogs are forced to wear at Christmas time. These are our dogs, people. We supposedly love them. Why is it okay for us to make them objects of ridicule?

Dr. Jon, you should know better.

You're being so bad. Good dog!

(Originally published February 23, 2008)

Next month, filming begins on Marley and Me, the movie based on the mega-bestseller penned by John Grogan a couple of years back about his very lovable Lab, whom he dubbed "the world's worst dog." The film stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as Grogan and his wife, Jenny. I can't find any info on the dog(s) who will play Marley, but the animal trainer is Mark Forbes, who had a fairly recent gig wrangling and otherwise dealing with all the animals who appeared in that 21st-century Noah's Ark tale, Evan Almighty.

Here's what I want to know: how is Forbes going to train this dog to do all the bad things that Marley did, such as chewing through drywall, destroying his crate, and dragging his people on a frantic run through an outdoor cafe? And once that dog gets a taste of the joys of being a bad dog, what on earth is going to make him want to be a good dog again?

When this movie comes out on Netflix, I will not allow Allie to see it.

Supporting the troops

(Originally published February 15, 2008)

I enjoy dog shows. Westminster is cool. But when it comes to describing the human-animal bond, *this* is the real deal:

Role switch

(Originally published February 13, 2008)

As a working writer, I've interviewed a lot of people -- but thanks to Uno's big win at Westminster the night before last and my having written Beagles For Dummies, I've become an interviewee. The interviewer was Julia Szabo, content director for, the "You and Your Pet" columnist for Country Living, and all-around animal writer extraordinaire. Here's a link to her feature, from which you can explore the rest of her "Nose to the Ground" blog and the Fetchdog website:

Numero Uno

(Originally published February 13, 2008)

Technically, I live with a Golden Retriever -- but two years ago I felt as though I was also living with Beagles. That's because 2006 was the year I wrote Beagles For Dummies, an enterprise that required me to know as much as possible about the typical Snoopy-dog. In the process, I developed a true affection for these loving, plucky, independent little hounds.

So naturally I was very pleased late last night when Uno the Beagle, known more formally as Ch K-Run's Park Me in First, bested two Poodles, a Weimaraner, an Akita, an Australian Shepherd, and a Sealyham Terrier to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club. For his part, Uno seemed pretty pleased, too. The roar of approval from the crowd -- who gave Uno a standing ovation when he was chosen -- drowned out the sounds of any individual canine vocalizing. But from the look of his pursed lips and slightly lifted head, Uno was clearly expressing his opinion about his victory in true Beagle fashion.

Here's a link to a picture of the winner:

And pardon the commercial interruption, but here's a link to the spot on my website where you can buy Beagles For Dummies at a 15 percent discount:

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Way over the line this time

(Originally published February 11, 2008)

Once upon a time, I thought that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was okay. I admired founder Alex Pacheo's successful effort to free the Silver Spring monkeys: take a look at the photo here and you'll see why that effort was necessary.

But that was then. This is now. And if a report by Lisa deMoraes in today's Washington Post is correct, tonight PETA will cross the line between being merely off the wall to being downright despicable. The vehicle for such outrage: a PETA commercial scheduled to run after tonight's telecast of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Here is a link to the commercial:

To equate buying a dog from a responsible breeder (I'm not talking about puppy mills here) with causing the death of an animal shelter dog is ludicrous. Reputable breeders do far more than PETA to promote the spaying and neutering of canine companions, not to mention the adoption of unwanted dogs into loving homes. Writer and blogger Christie Keith -- who's been involved in both breeding and rescue -- correctly points out that "there is no reason to kill ... animals [in shelters] or stop preserving dog or cat breeds through breeding. You can do both." Which is, in fact, what many breeders do.

I've acquired dogs from reputable breeders, and I've adopted dogs from shelters -- and l have loved them all dearly. I've volunteered for shelters and rescue groups, and I'll continue to do so. But tonight and tomorrow night, I'll watch Westminster without guilt.

Dog women who dine

(Originally published February 11, 2008)

When I hear the phrase "ladies who lunch," I think of women clad in proper tweed suits, pillbox hats and white gloves who eat little tea sandwiches made from crustless bread and garnished with watercress. That is so not me: I haven't worn white gloves or a pillbox hat since I was barely in my teens and was expected to wear such attire to church on Sunday. And I have never, ever worn a tweed suit.

But there are a group of women -- dog trainers all, except for me and a Tellington TTouch practitioner -- with whom I love lunching every month. We've been dubbed the Lunch Bunch (who did the original dubbing, anyway?). I never fail to learn something when I'm with these women: not just about bringing out a dog's potential but also about subjects ranging from making money online to dealing with abusive seminar presenters (and that was just today).

So to the Lunch Bunch: many thanks for such good times, and I can't wait to enjoy more of them. I'd even don that tweed suit if that were required in order to lunch with you all -- but I'm so glad I don't have to.

Dog trainer of the year

(Originally published February 5, 2008)

I love not having to watch the Super Bowl in order to see the commercials!

Take that, Mitt

(Originally published January 29, 2008)

I know, it's been awhile. Between a trip to Florida to hang out with the in-laws, a trip to Pennsylvania to give my mom and dad their monthly Allie-fix, deadlines galore and the world's nastiest, never-leaving, let-me-give-you-one-last-wallop cold, I've been, well, occupied.

Truth be told, I haven't been thinking much about dog stuff, outside of what I'm writing for clients. There is, after all, a presidential primary season going into fifth gear -- and the contest is staying interesting long past the point where contests in years past seemed to be pretty well wrapped up. Not this time. This one-time political speechwriter who's avoided watching the news for much of the past seven years feels like she's getting back in touch with a younger self.

The only way to relate this to dogs is to say that if a presidential candidate thinks that the best way to transport a family dog is to put that dog in a crate, strap the crate onto the roof of the family vehicle (old news, yes, but still vivid to me), and zoom down the highway, that candidate should really think about running for something else. I'd say "running for dog-catcher", but that would be a major diss to animal shelter workers, most of whom do their best to care for the dogs, cats and other companion animals that no one else wants.

The fleecing of Arlington?

(Originally published January 17, 2008)

The idea that a single dog park in Arlington, VA, could cost more than $1 million is incredible:

Printer obituary

(Originally published January 13, 2008)

Susan McCullough's Hewlett-Packard 5P printer died yesterday. The printer was approximately 7 years old.

The cause of death is unknown. On the previous day, the printer appeared to be functioning normally. Yesterday, however, any and all attempts to print any documents resulted in paper jams. The little puffy sound that indicated a proper paper feed was not to be heard. On the fifth and final attempt to print, a small piece of paper became caught fast in one of the mechanical parts, making it completely inaccessible to removal by fingers or even tweezers. If Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy had been present, the latter would have intoned, "It's dead, Jim."

In lieu of a funeral, McCullough's husband took both the printer and an old Gateway computer to the local Staples for recycling. Meanwhile, McCullough decided to clean her office -- a task she should have performed weeks ago.

Succeeding the 5P is an HP P1006 that is about half the size and 1/3 of the cost of the 5P. Between the suddenly neat, orderly office and the new printer, McCullough may have trouble recognizing her workplace for a few days.

Marathon (wo)man

(Originally published January 7, 2008)

Over the past four days, I've revised three chapters of the Petfinder book, written three articles, edited and submitted two (will edit and submit last one tomorrow), and lined up an interview for an article due next week.

I've never run long distance, but I'll bet my drained/spent/satisfied feeling is somewhat similar to what marathon runners feel after they race or even hobble across the finish line.

Left behind, letting go

(Originally published January 3, 2008)

My daughter Julie went back to college yesterday, after spending six weeks at home between quarters. Except for a brief outbreak of giggliness when I first viewed that Fiesta Bowl video clip (see the previous entry), I've been feeling a little weepy since she left. Fortunately, I had one of my Christmas gifts from Stan -- Anna Quindlen's new book Good Dog.Stay. -- to give me some perspective, if not comfort. In considering the relationship of children to parents and to family dogs, she says:
For children, the point of having a dog is something like the point of
having a mother and father. Our job is not to do but to be, not to act but
to exist. We are bedrock scenery, landscape, to be often ignored and
then clung to during difficult or frightening or, occasionally, happy
times. My mom, my dad, my home, immutable, to leave and then to return to
at will and leave again.

I think that says it all.

Wipey butts, anyone?

(Originally published January 3, 2008)

Because Allie's got long golden tresses gracing her posterior -- and because sometimes those tresses get gunked up with you-know-what -- I thought that this clip was hilarious:

What the ---?

(Originally published December 27, 2007)

One family in the District of Columbia had a lousy Christmas. While they were walking their dog on Christmas Eve, a DC police officer shot the animal right in front of their eyes. Details are here:

Yes, the dog shouldn't have been off leash, at least not in this particular park. But what on earth was he doing to cause the officer to feel threatened? Did that officer have any training about normal canine behavior and body language?

The grief-stricken family wants a full accounting of what happened. I hope they get it.

Thanks to Penelope Brown for sharing this story.

It's Christmas, dammit

(Originally published December 21, 2007)

I was all set to post a mini-rant today. But then I remembered: it's four days before Christmas. I've finished all the work I need to do until after the big day. The shopping's done, too, and our four-member pack will be safe at home together. Presents for everyone are under our tree -- everyone, that is, except for Allie, who got her brand-new-soft-cushy bed yesterday, and appears to really like it. In any case, It's a time to count blessings, not get up on a soapbox.

So, Merry Christmas. Cherish the ones you love.

The Kleenex Queen as therapy dog

(Originally published December 17, 2007)

Allie and I are just back from a weekend visit to my parents, who live a little north of Philadelphia. My mom and dad are in their 80's, and are increasingly frail -- especially my dad. They still live independently, but the everyday details of independent living are becoming more and more daunting for them. One thing about them hasn't changed with age, though: they adore dogs. But for the past five years, they haven't had one; they both feel that they can't take proper care of a dog any longer.

So when Allie and I make our monthly journey northward, my parents can get their dog fix. They get to pet and cuddle with their big golden grand-dog without having to worry about when to feed her or take her out. They can laugh at her antics -- especially her ability to ferret out any and all tissues/paper towels/paper napkins from end-tables, wastebaskets and elsewhere, which is why we call her the Kleenex Queen -- without having to deal with any repercussions from those antics. And I love how gentle the often-rambunctious Kleenex Queen is around my dad, who's not all that steady on his feet these days.

To me, my parents epitomize responsible dog people -- by, paradoxically, choosing not to have a dog at all.

Bathroom transformation

(originally published December 13, 2007)

Today, two crews from Bathfitter are transforming our hideously ugly upstairs bathtub and shower into places in which we can bathe without having to ignore the way the grout looks. I am thrilled at that prospect. So are Stan and Julie. Allie, who is not permitted to venture into either bathing area, presumably doesn't care.

Right now, though, those two crews are drilling. Loudly. Directly above my office. When they're not drilling, I hear frenetic, excited sounding voices that mean only one thing: at least one of the technicians is listening to talk radio.

I thought I was going to get some work done today: continuing to write the appendix to the Petfinder book project; figuring out how much more research I need to do on my canine water sports article and (yes, really) getting my Christmas cards done.


Perhaps I should do something that doesn't involve concentration, like the laundry. Ooops, can't do that: the water's been turned off.

Tomorrow this will all be a memory. Our tubs will be glowing. In the meantime, though, I'm glad that neither Stan, Julie nor Allie are here. Sometimes stress multiplies when shared.

My blogging debut

(Originally published December 12, 2007)

First, a disclaimer: I am not Allie.My name is Susan McCullough. I write columns, articles and books about pets, mainly dogs. Allie is an irrepressible Golden Retriever who is my canine companion and muse. Together we live with my husband and daughter.

I'm starting this blog not only to recount some of Allie's and my adventures, but also to share my (and listen to your) thoughts about living with and loving all dogs. Occasionally I'll touch on other subjects, such as what writers' lives are really like, news regarding my books and articles, and even topics that have nothing to do with Allie, dogs or writing.

Although I can't answer specific questions about the behavior of canine or other four-footed individuals on this blog, I'm eager to hear what you have to say -- so that we can learn from each other.

Woofs and wags,