Saturday, August 22, 2009

Joys and sorrows

I have special feelings for each book I've written, but I think Senior Dogs For Dummies is probably my favorite. Certainly that book was the most heartfelt. I wrote much of that book while I was grieving the sudden death of my late great Sheltie, Cory. But also, because I decided to include profiles of real-life senior dogs who were living their lives to the fullest, I also came into contact -- albeit virtual in most cases -- with some unforgettable canine characters and their devoted people.

One of those individuals was CH Bramblewood's Taali' of Husn, an Ibizan Hound who shared her nearly 16 years with Carol Dickerson Kaufmann. I profiled Taali' in SDFD because she was being treated for mast cell cancer while continuing to enjoy life. When Taali was diagnosed in 2002 at the age of 9, Carol decided to pursue the best treatment available: radiation treatments at a clinic that was 170 miles from her home. The regimen required 16 such treatments over a period of three weeks. After the treatment ended, Taali' showed no sign of cancer for nearly a year and a half. But then, another lump occurred -- and again, the diagnosis was a mast cell tumor. This time, Carol and Taali' went to the clinic so that Taali could have surgery and chemotherapy. Carol was told that such treatment offered Taali a 70 percent chance of living for another year.

That was nearly six years ago.

Today I received a note from Carol that Taali' -- an Arabic name that means "star of destiny" -- passed away this past June 23, just two weeks short of her 16th birthday. I hope that, as Carol grieves the loss of her friend, that she'll realize that Taali's courageous example has probably inspired more dog people than she or I will ever know. For my part, I never had the privilege of meeting Taali' in person -- but I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to write about her.

Pictured above: CH Bramblewood's Taali' of Husn.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The thrill is NOT gone

Even after 30 years as a working writer, 12 years of writing about dogs, and four previous books to my credit, I still getting a little thrill when my author's copies of a new opus arrive on my doorstep. That happened today when I got my copies of Housetraining For Dummies, 2nd Edition.

One reason I enjoy writing about housetraining is that, as I say in the book, I actually get paid for getting in touch with my inner eight-year-old by discussing bathroom matters. But all humor aside, I'm proud of this book for many reasons -- not the least of which is that I made almost all my deadlines despite having taken an unexpected bump to the head during the time I was writing it. (The one I missed was only by a week, and the great folks at Wiley gave me an extension.)

If you need a housetraining refresher, or know someone who needs help teaching proper potty protocol to his or her pooch, just point that person here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Et tu, Ed?

I had the pleasure of meeting Pennsylvania Governor (and former Philadelphia Mayor) Ed Rendell about five years ago when I served as a presenter at the rescue parade at the Golden Retriever Club of America's annual specialty show. The show was held in Gettysburg, and the Governor's two Goldens, Mandy and Ginger, were scheduled to participate in the parade. The Governor himself paraded each dog individually around the ring, just like any other proud owner of a rescued dog, and he graciously accepted a rosette from me for each dog. I was especially impressed that he didn't try to work the room and declined the opportunity to make a speech. He seemed to really just want to show off his dogs.

Later, I interviewed Judge Marjorie Rendell, the wife of the Governor, about the Rendells' rescued Goldens for a magazine article I was writing. There was no mistaking the commitment of both Rendells to animal rescue.

So, with the signing of Michael Vick to the Philadelphia Eagles, I figured both Rendells would be horrified. Unfortunately, according to an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, the Governor is keeping any such horror strictly private. His statement:

"I don't have to take a backseat to anyone in my commitment to helping protect all animals, and specifically our dogs and puppies. I also believe strongly in the tenets of rehabilitation and redemption. I believe Michael Vick has paid a strong and just penalty for his horrific acts, but he has endured that penalty with dignity and grace. He seems to be genuinely remorseful."

Sorry, I don't buy it.

Snippets of Vick's 60 Minutes interview, to be broadcast tomorrow night on CBS, show him saying, "I didn't step up" -- as though his worst crime was to passively allow the dog-fighting to occur on his property. But the evidence shows that Vick was an active participant in the systematic cruelty he and his cronies perpetrated on the dogs in his kennels. "Didn't step up" doesn't nearly cover what he did. He still doesn't get it.

And, apparently, neither does Governor Rendell.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dear Neighbor

Actually, you're not so dear.

Once again, you were walking up the street, reading your newspaper, with your leashless dog lagging behind. This is the same dog who got into a staring contest with my dog (leashed, thank you very much) on one occasion, charged across a neighbor's lawn to get to her and to me on another occasion, and dragged your daughter down our street to reach us on still another occasion. The last incident was particularly galling because your child's clearly clueless grandma was smiling idiotically the whole time.

I managed my dog, who frankly has no love for yours. I crossed the street, got out some treats, waited behind a car out of your dog's view, and fed the treats to my dog. Your dog still had seen mine, and was performing her customary stare. At that point you saw me, and stopped long enough for your lallygagging pooch to catch up to you. I kept feeding treats to my dog until you and your dog passed beyond where we were hiding -- yes, hiding.

And I've been nice to your dog. On several occasions when she's gotten loose, I've brought her back home. I've put her back in her yard, closed the gate, and put dumpsters in front of it to block her in . On one occasion, your next-door neighbor -- who, by the way, is deathly afraid of most dogs -- helped me. I've left you notes, asking you to please secure your fence. Not a peep from you, though.

I'm tired of having to cross the street to avoid you and your dog. I should not have to hide behind a car with my dog because you are too pig-headed to leash your not-totally-dependable dog properly. I should not have to stop your wife on the street to ask her to ask you to leash your dog. I should not have to convene an inner debate over whether to risk a confrontation with you (because you are about a gazillion feet tall to my just barely 5' 3") to just get you to comply with local leash laws.

Did you see me staring at you, douchebag?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I love Richard Cohen

Well -- today anyway.

WaPo's long-time columnist has taken on the issue of convicted dog abuser/former quarterback Michael Vick's quest to rejoin the NFL. So far, no team has signed him, and it's my sincere hope that no team does. Alas, according to Cohen, my hope may be in vain. He writes:

"In due course, Vick will play again. His entry has already been smoothed by the touching concern of Jackson and others, not to mention a bevy of sportswriters who seem to have programmed their computers to type out "paid his debt to society" with a single keystroke. Some of them have pointed out that they are dog lovers. Touching. But we have yet to hear from the dogs themselves."

It's a brilliant piece of impassioned ranting. Read it here.

Update: Philadelphia Eagles (and you other four teams), shame on you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Update and Luddite fretting

Yup, it's been way too long. But I did not vanish from the face of the earth. Instead I:

-- Continued to work with Allie on dealing with her car phobia. We were doing very well until mid-July when we took a massive couple of steps backward. Apparently the combo of a long trip, time in a crate and time with lots of other distracting dogs was just too stressful for the Golden Girl, and she balked at being asked to impose one more stressor on herself: getting back in the car. An awesome trainer named Katie Ervine did the lion's share of the work of coaxing Ms. Dog back into the Second Allie Car. We took about two weeks off from Car Re-hab, but started back again this week. Short trips to a local park to play ball have been going well.

-- Went on vacation. Stan and I journeyed to Sarasota, Florida, to see how much we like the area and whether we might want to relocate there when he retires from the Federal Government in a couple of years. The answers are, respectively, a lot and absolutely.

-- Kept working. Have lost track of what I've been writing.

-- Kept up with my dog training apprenticeship.

As to my Luddite fretting, my dilemma is this: whether to join Facebook and/or Twitter. I've been hesitating about Facebook because my dear daughter has issued me the following warning: "You know I love you, Mom. But if you join Facebook I. will. not. friend. you." That declaration hurt my feelings for awhile, but at this point, so many people I know seem to be on it that I can almost not care whether she friends me or not. The question is: will it be useful beyond re-connecting with people from high school whom I otherwise can barely remember? Or will I simply become addicted to stalking people from my past?

As for Twitter, some friends whom I have great respect for have urged me to do so, and there's a wonderful article here about why it's a good thing to do. But I still don't get it. It feels like a lot of navel-gazing to me (no flames, please -- I'm just being honest). Am I wrong? Why?

Which one should I do? Facebook? Twitter? Both?