Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Marley-and-Me post

One of my favorite blogs is the Pet Connection blog honchoed by Gina Spadafori and Christie Keith, and which includes many other wonderful contributors. Over this weekend, Gina shared her less-than-enthusiastic opinion about the movie Marley and Me - and she got lots of support from articulate dog enthusiasts, many of whom I admire.

I was not one of them. I liked the movie.

Yes, the Grogans screwed up big time with Marley. Let's tick off at least some of their mistakes right now: they went to a breeder who had way too many dogs. They didn't dog-proof their house. They went to a Nazi trainer (Kathleen Turner, how far you have fallen!) who loved choke collars. Bottom line: they were totally clueless.

Guess what? So are a lot of, if not most, American dog lovers.

And even more of them were clueless in the early 1990's, when the Grogans and Marley got together. Certainly I hadn't heard of positive reinforcement at that time. How many of us had? And how many of us knew how to find a good breeder, as opposed to schlepping on over to Jack's Dog Farm or the local pet store?

Before I go on, let me be clear: I am totally into positive reinforcement training; heck, I'm about to start a training apprenticeship here. With the exception of his advocacy of dogs' need for exercise, I completely reject the methods of this trainer.

But Marley and Me --and the book that spawned it -- celebrates the human-canine bond in a way that few of us writers and enthusiasts have been able to do (certainly not this guy). Let's give credit to the Grogans for what they did right with Marley and subsequent dogs. Let's hold true to our principles, but leaven those principles with a little pragmatism and empathy. That way, everyone -- including the dogs -- will come out ahead.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Allie, THIS is what you should be doing

Allie is six years old, but only this year has she discovered the Christmas tree -- and not in a good way.

The Golden girl has appointed herself the Arbiter of Ornaments. In other words, when she has the opportunity, she removes ornaments from the tree, takes them over to an area rug, and proceeds to destroy them. So far, she's succeeded in culling three such trinkets from our admittedly extensive ornament collection. We're attempting to redirect Allie into other tasks, such as demolishing tennis balls, finding toys that I hide throughout the house, or just keeping me company in my office with the door closed so that she can't sneak upstairs to do more ornament editing.

If I only I knew how to teach her to do this (thank you, Deb Eldredge, for the initial alert):

Monday, December 8, 2008

My new toy

Years ago, when I was a little girl, my dad gave my mom a Eureka canister vacuum cleaner for Christmas. I remember the colors: maroon and grey. I also remember being utterly appalled that my dad considered a vacuum cleaner to be a suitable Christmas gift. Fortunately for him, my mother did not appear to share that feeling.

My attitude toward that husbandly gift pretty much summed up my attitude toward housecleaning in general -- an attitude that persists to this day. I am a charter member of the Gross-Out School of Housecleaning: when I'm grossed out, I clean. And generally, my gross-out threshhold is pretty high. For example, I've usually needed to to see a lot of Allie's shed hair drifting around the house in the form of golden dust bunnies before I've been willing to haul out the vacuum cleaner to suck up said dust bunnies.

But that changed a little over a week ago: specifically, the day my old vacuum cleaner died, and to replace it, I got a brand new Dyson DC 25 Animal.

The thing is amazing. The first time I ran it over one of my area rugs, I could not believe how much dirt and Allie hair the machine sucked up. And, joy of joys, I didn't have to change attachments to clean the floors after cleaning the rugs (and vice versa). Just one push of a button gets the beater brush rotating on the carpets, and stops the brush when it and the rest of the machine hit the floor. And that ball? Very cool. The company says that the ball enables the vaccum cleaner to turn on a dime-- but unlike so much other advertising copy, this characterization actually understates the product's characteristic: the thing is fully capable of freakin' hairpin turns.

Interestingly, ever since I acquired this machine, my gross-out threshhold has dropped considerably. For the past few days, anytime I've seen crumbs or a bit of Allie hair on a carpet, I immediately run for my new toy and suck the offending material up off the carpet. My husband and daughter have started teasing me: "Hey Susan/Mom! There's a dust-bunny over there! Hadn't you better get out the Dyson?" Amazingly, I'm not even offended.

But while I love love love my new Dyson, that love has its limits. I will not clean any one's house but my own. So don't get any ideas, guys.