Friday, June 29, 2012

Where to Board Caitlin--Critter Sitters

Cindy Price had been involved in the pet business for a long time, so when she started looking for work, dog sitting seemed like a natural place to start. She answered an ad for a dog-sitter and found she liked it. The sitting service she worked for charged $60 (of which she got to keep $20), and a lot of people who would otherwise have gone with her said, "The price is too high."

One of Cindy's friends suggested she start her own business.

"But I don't know anything about running a business," Cindy said.

It turns out that she knew enough, because Critter Sitters is now a thriving operation with lots of repeat customers.

I liked Cindy a lot. She boards dogs in her own home. She lets them play in the family room, where Caitlin quickly discovered a big box of toys and got busy pulling them out onto the floor to be chewed and played with. Cindy says the dogs are never left alone. Either she or her husband is always with them; and she gives them plenty of attention, takes them to walks or to the dog park at Wells Park. She offered to hike up the service road on Cowles Mountain with Caitlin. That impressed me because the service road is a somewhat more strenuous hike than the main trail at Golfcrest. Cindy likes it because, "the road is wide enough that you can see the snakes."

Her price is reasonable, pretty much in the ball park with other boarding facilities we've looked at. She is happy to let prospective clients look through her customer list and call anyone they like for a referral, which makes me think she has a lot of satisfied customers. She also seems willing to cater to any special needs a dog may have. I asked her specifically about a disabled dog who needs to have his urine manually expressed every day. "No problem," she said, "as long as the owner shows me exactly what needs to be done and how to do it."

Cindy prefers to take no more than three dogs at a time, preferably small or medium-sized dogs, since she keeps them in the house except for when she walks them or takes them to a dog park or the beach.

I think Caitlin would be fairly happy there, depending a little bit on what other dogs were there at the same time. Cindy thought she would be an easy dog to care for, but she met Caitlin right after she had spent an hour and a half playing at Harry Griffen Park. She hasn't seen Caitlin when she's roaring around the house at mach 2 or peeling the back off an upholstered chair because nobody has paid attention to her in the last 10 minutes.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Cindy to anyone with a smallish dog that could stay in the house except for walks. I have the impression--and I'm pretty confident that my impression is correct--that Cindy does more than is expected or even necessary for her doggie guests.

My only reservation about leaving Caitlin with her is Caitlin herself. I think that until such time as we find a full-time challenging job for her (such as herding sheep 12 hours a day), Caitlin will need more exercise than any mere human being can give her in a fairly small house unless she has several other mega-energy dogs to help her (which might be a problem in itself). I'm absolutely certain, however, that Cindy would make Caitlin's experience with her as good as possible to the best of her ability.

If you want truly personal service for your dog, I think Critter Sitters is the place of choice.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dog Telepathy

Here's a link to Rupert Sheldrake's website:
He's a serious scientist, educated at Cambridge University, and interested in parapsychology. I read the book that is the title of this post.
A thought provoking book. Sheldrake invites people whose dogs (or cats) seem to know when they will be arriving home to send him their stories. He gives many examples of animals who seem to be able to tell; and he discusses several possible explanations in the book. However, in the end, he thinks that the animals are probably using telepathy.

I had never thought about the idea of animal telepathy before I read his book, but maybe my cat Tigger knew when I'd be returning. I would very often see her waiting for me at the corner of our property under the pine tree. She'd greet me there, then run around to the driveway and greet me again as I started up the path to our front door. At this distance in time, it would be impossible to know whether her behavior was anything but coincidence, and there was no one else watching her to see how long she waited for me. Tigger and I did have an extremely close emotional connection, so maybe it's possible she knew.

I wonder if any of the dog owners who go to Harry Griffen Park have had apparently telepathic connections to their animals.

Dog Books by Jon Katz

While I'm thinking of books about dogs, I read one last year I really liked: Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm, a true account of his experiences running a farm, caring for the animals and his dogs. He has written a number of other books about dogs. I haven't read any of them, so I guess I'd better start compiling a list.

Here is what Amazon lists for sale by him:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Let's Start a Dog-Sitting Co-op!

On Monday I met someone at Harry Griffen Park who has a brilliant idea. His name is Jorge Rodriguez (He goes by "George"), and he's a recent transplant to San Diego from North Carolina. His girlfriend is working on her PhD in environmental biology at SDSU, and he's doing a degree in computer science. His dog is Barret.

Jorge thinks we need a dog-sitting co-op at the park. I agree. Let's get together and do it.

Without having thought about this very long, it seems to me that any of us who are interested will want to exchange the following information:
    Name, age, size, and sex of our own dog (s)
    Spayed or neutered?
    Energy level
    What kind of accommodations we have for a visiting dog
        Size of yard. Fenced?
        How much attention we'd be giving the dog
        Limitations on size, etc. of dog we could sit for
        What area we live in
        How often and how long we'd be willing to sit for another dog
Medical information & what to do in an emergency. Emergency contact information
How formal or informal we want to be regarding how we set this up
Let me know if you think of other things.

One Dog at a Time

I was waiting in the car with Caitlin yesterday while Rob went into Papa John's to order a pizza. A woman was standing on the deck nearby, talking on the phone loudly enough that I couldn't help overhearing every word. She was telling about dog books she had read recently, Marly and Me, From Baghdad with Love..

I haven't read either one, so I guess I'd better order them now, but it started me thinking about one I read last year, One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afganistan, by Pen Farthing. It is the true story of a British marine who intervenes when he sees a dog being mistreated, and how the incident starts him on a mission to rescue as many dogs as he can. The story brought both Rob and me to tears. I highly recommend it.

Thank you, unknown lady, for reminding me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bodhisattva Meets Samoyed

I always said (only half in jest) that our cat Hobo was a bodhisattva, that he was had taken the Buddhist vow not to enter into nirvana until everyone else could, too.

Hobo, at least in the incarnation in which I knew him, was a big ginger tom. We found him strolling around at Lake Murray when he was about 8 weeks old. Fearing that he would be eaten by coyotes, we took him home. He disappeared again. but I found him a few days later sauntering up Bob Street. The next week, he moved in temporarily with the cat next door, who had just given birth to a litter. A few weeks after that he returned to stay permanently with us, having by then acquired the name Hobo.

Hobo radiated Love and Good Will to all who crossed his path. He (and also our other cat, Tigger) accompanied the dogs on our evening walks. If a car pulled up to the curb, Hobo would immediately run to the driver's side door, where he would flop down on his back, purring, waiting for the driver to get out and pet him. They always did.

A large white Samoyed used to be chained to a magnolia tree in a corner garden we passed on our regular route. He would bark up a storm, frantically straining at his chain, as our 2 dogs and 2 cats passed by.

One night, Hobo was loitering across the street directly opposite the Samoyed's house. Rob and I, Tigger, and the two dogs were about halfway across the other street, when suddenly, the chain broke.

The samoyed burst out of his yard and rushed straight for Hobo, who ambled back toward the dog and then flopped on his back in the middle of the street, purring.

The dog stopped short, looked confused for a minute, and then sniffed at Hobo's nose. We left them there and continued on our walk around the block.

When we returned, Hobo and the samoyed were standing companionably side by side in the dog's garden. Hobo rubbed his body against the dog's legs, touched its nose with his, then came home with us.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Heidi--Semper Fi

Heidi was the dog we had before Caitlin. We got her from the Humane Society when she was about 5 months old. In the notes on her that they gave us was the comment, "very sweet," and she was. She was the sweetest and best dog we had ever had.

Heidi was mostly German Shepherd, but she had a few other things mixed in--probably some bird dog. She was interested in birds, butterflies, bees--anything that flew. And she sometimes did a perfect point, the sort you see in paintings of dogs on a duck hunt.

Heidi didn't really need a leash. She would walk obediently beside me, and would even refrain from chasing cats if I told her not to--as long as she hadn't actually started her run. We put her on a leash only in deference to the leash laws.

She would always take the leash in her own mouth, usually doing the entire walk holding the leash between her teeth. After a while, we didn't actually attach the leash to her collar, but just let her hold it while we walked. Once, when we came around a blind corner with her holding the retractable leash in her mouth, a woman jumped backwards in alarm, then breathed a sigh of relief commenting, "For a minute I thought that dog wasn't on a leash!"

A black rabbit lived for several years on one of the streets where we often walked our dogs. In pre-Heidi days, since our dogs were always leashed, the rabbit could hop about safely on the lawn, ignoring the dogs' lunges toward it.

I didn't see the rabbit for quite a while after we got Heidi. And then, one evening, there it was. Heidi bolted forward, came to the end of the 16 foot leash with a jerk, and stopped short.

The rabbit hopped away placidly, unaware that he had escaped only because of  Heidi's devotion to her self-imposed duty to hold her own leash.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Non-Toxic Plants

I scared myself the other day looking at ASPCA's enormous list of toxic plants. Whenever Caitlin and I go for a walk, she finds all sorts of things along the route and puts every one of them in her mouth. I'm now feeling as though she'll get poisoned for sure unless I snatch everything away or manage to train her not to touch anything without permission.

So far I haven't been able to do either of those things. I'm beginning to realize that I am not the stuff of which great dog trainers are made.

For one thing, you have to keep your mind on what the dog is doing, watching it all the time. I'm the opposite of that--which is why I was never successful at teaching children. My mind would wander and all discipline would be lost.

For another thing, you have to be relentless. You have to correct the dog every time it strays from virtue. Since I already wasn't paying attention and am not nearly as stubborn as Caitlin, I fail again on this score.

You also have to be consistent. Like my father before me, I am a dreamer, not a doer, an eager beginner of projects that get abandoned as soon as something else takes my fancy. I am not particularly good on the follow-through.

I was successful with my previous dog, Heidi, because Heidi was willing and able to train herself. She did what I wanted as soon as she understood what it was; and she was bright enough that she almost always understood.

Caitlin has her own agenda. I fear I'll have to improve my own character before I can improve hers.

There is at least a chance that Caitlin won't poison herself. ASPCA lists 559 non-toxic plants.

If she finds a hubbard squash on one of our walks, I can let her go ahead and eat it.

How to Make Your Dog Eat Artichokes

If you want your dog to eat artichokes, you must first have a dog who:
    is really weird
and another dog who
    is monumentally greedy and who absolutely cannot bear to see someone else getting something unless she's getting it too.

Our little pit bull, Sid, fell into the first category. She ate all sorts of strange things. She liked pretty much any kind of fruit. Grapes were a favorite. But she would also taste, and often eat, things that were totally unexpected.

I can't remember why we put a plate of artichoke leaves in front of her (We had already eaten all the soft part). Maybe it was just an experiment to see whether she'd eat them. She did.

Faun, who fell firmly into the greedy and envious category, came rushing up to demand her share. Since we had a second plate of artichoke leaves, we put it in front of her.

She hated them. She almost choked on them. She gagged on every bite, all the while furtively glancing over to confirm that Sid was really eating this horrible stuff.

Sid cleaned her plate--and so, despite her conspicuous misery, did Faun.

The next time we had artichokes for lunch, we offered them to the dogs again. This time, Sid had come to the sensible conclusion that spiky artichoke leaves weren't dog food, so she didn't eat them. Faun, on the other hand, ate every single leaf once again. It took her a long time, and her torment was, if anything, even more palpable than before--but rather than run the risk that Sid might get them, she cleaned her plate.

We took pity on Faun after that and never asked her to eat artichokes again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Toxic Plants

Santiago, one of the dogs in the small dog area, plopped down in front of us yesterday and began chewing on a twig he had discovered. His mother worried that it might be poisonous, which started us on a discussion of plants we know are toxic. I rather quickly realized how little any of us actually knew.

The ASPCA lists 448 plants that are toxic to dogs or cats (393 that are toxic to dogs, but not cats) The site indicates that its list is not "all-inclusive," but merely covers the most frequently encountered plants.

Everyone at the dog park yesterday knew about oleander, but how many of us knew about:
     Apple. I knew the seeds contained cyanide, although I never thought it was in sufficient quantity to harm anyone, but I didn't realize that the stems and leaves contain it, too, particularly when wilting. I see apricots on the list, I bet for the same reason.
     Avocados. The leaves, seeds, fruit, and bark all contain a toxin called persin.
     Azaleas. Or any of the 250 species of rhododendron. They contain grayantoxin.    
     Bird of Paradise. The one I clicked on caused only mild nausea, but the notes said there is another plant, also called Bird of Paradise, which is more toxic.
     Castor Beans. This is probably right up there with oleander. Not only do the beans contain ricin, which is extremely toxic, but the plants grow wild all over the place, so our dogs are highly likely to find one.

Caitlin is now climbing all over me, and I'll have to quit or lose my laptop.

From the length of the list, I'm now feeling that you should never let your dog touch anything that you don't know for sure is non-toxic.

Tomorrow I'll check out that list.

Dogs at Harry Griffen Park--Athena

This gorgeous little German Shepherd puppy is Athena.
She belongs to Annalisa Castillo, who got her as a present from her boyfriend. At four months old, Athena is already feisty and self-confident. She gallops along after the bigger dogs, gives a little squeal if one of them snaps at her or knocks her over, but then goes right back after them again.

Annalisa is enjoying Athena's puppy antics, but says she'll feel safer running after dark with Athena as her companion. She also expects her to be a reliable guardian for her four-year old son.

She seems to like all the  usual dog occupations. She shares Caitlin's proclivity for washing her head in the water buckets, and she likes to dig.
Helping Simba Dig a Hole
If the size of her feet and ears are anything to go by, Athena will be a big dog, . Simba had better be nice to her. He won't be able to knock her down and climb all over her very much longer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Update on Dog Found at Park

I called the El Cajon Animal Shelter today to see if I could find out anything about the elderly golden retriever that I took in last Thursday.

The dog is still at the shelter and is up for adoption. Although he had a microchip, the people at the shelter were unable to find his owner. They thought the owner information had probably not been updated if the original owner had moved or the dog now belonged to somebody else.

Since Rob and I are unable to adopt him, we are really hoping that someone at the dog park may be interested in having him.

Dogs at Harry Griffen Park--Jack

Jack is a real live-wire.
He is a rescue dog who's had a tough time finding a someone to love him in his single year of life. Tiffany Page took him in as a foster dog from Second Chance Rescue after his fifth "forever family" in a year tried to sell him on Craigslist.
Jack with Tiffany (on right) in background
Tiffany is a good fit for Jack, as she is something of a live-wire herself. She had just completed the Rock 'n Roll Marathon when I last spoke to her. She likes Second Chance Rescue a lot, partly because they trust her to make the important decisions on Jack's behalf.

Speaking of her right to decide who gets him, she says, "I know more about Jack than anyone else" She has interviewed a few possible new owners for Jack, but didn't think any of them would work. She is now thinking of adopting him herself.
Jack wrestling with Bengal

Jack and Caitlin chasing Bengal
I hope she does

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Cat Groomer

Faun (the master thief) had one endearing quality. She loved our cats and knew how to groom them.
Tigger appeared at our house at a few months after we had got Faun as a puppy. She was about 8 weeks old. All but about 4 inches of her tail had been chopped off, and there was a nasty lump of necrotic tissue at the place where she had been injured. We never knew what had happened to her, but it didn't seem to have affected her personality. She was outgoing and confident, and later proved herself to be a courageous and dutiful mother to her three litters of kittens.

When Tigger had her first litter, Faun was present at the delivery. She ate the afterbirth, probably over Tigger's protests. She played with the kittens almost from the moment they were born, and in fact, killed one of them by accident--an accident for which I have never quite forgiven myself because I had seen her pick the kitten up, thought "I hope she doesn't hurt that kitten," then didn't do anything about it. The kitten who died was a lovely little black female whom we had named Velvet, the pick of the litter. We held a solemn burial service for her in the flowerbed the next day.

Faun was also present at the birth of Tigger's second litter. I didn't realize that Tigger was in labor until I noticed that Faun was showing an inordinate interest in my underwear drawer. I investigated to find Tigger in the drawer, already with two kittens and more on the way.

Besides playing with our cats, Faun also figured out how to groom them. A cat would solicit grooming by flopping  down between her paws, and Faun would nibble gently up and down its spine. Then the cat would relax on its back, throat exposed, for Faun to nibble under its chin.

Grooming cats seemed to be therapy for Faun as well as for the cats. If she was upset by something, Faun would almost always search out a cat, settle down beside it, and begin grooming.

When we got Ben, rhe American Staffordshire terrier, he desperately wanted to participate in grooming,too. But he couldn't figure out how to do it. He'd go up to a cat and begin butting it with his great square head. The cats tolerated him, maybe because he was such a silly oaf, but he never did get the hang of grooming them.

I was greatly saddened when Faun stopped grooming cats. She had been having seizures, seizures that were getting more frequent and more violent. She seemed to develop dementia, and her personality began to change. She no longer took much joy in our walks or in visiting the places she had previously loved. When a cat approached her for grooming, and she just ignored him, I knew we would soon lose her.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

1:15 a.m. Caitlin is Whimpering in Her Crate

8:30 p.m. Rob asks me to wake him at 4:45 a.m. He is going shooting in the desert with one of our previous employees, who will pick him up at 5:15.

9:20 p.m. I lock Caitlin in her crate, drop into bed exhausted after last night's drama, and fall asl eep within seconds.

1:15 a.m. Caitlin is whimpering in her crate. I wake up and put my bathrobe on. I go to the kitchen and grope around in the dark until I find her leash. I return to the bedroom and turn on the bathroom light to try to find my slippers. Rob wakes up and fusses that the light is bothering him. I turn off the light grapple with the latches to Caitlin's crate in the dark. I take her out to the front garden. She pees. My sister comes out of her bedroom to see whether anything is wrong. I put Caitlin back into the crate. I put my slippers and her leash on the chest of drawers.

1:32 a.m. Caitlin's whimpering wakes me. I retrieve her leash and my slippers and take her outside again. She wanders around the garden for a few minutes, then squats as though to poop. I can't tell for sure whether or not she succeeds. We return to the bedroom and I put her back into the crate. I put my slippers and her leash on the chest of drawers.

1:54 a.m. Caitlin's whimpering wakes me. I retrieve her leash and my slippers and take her out. She pees. I return her to the crate and put my slippers and the leash on the dresser

2:25 a.m. Caitlin's whimpering wakes me. I take her out. She pees, then asks whether I'd like to go for a walk. I return her to the crate and put my slippers and the leash on the dresser.

3:07 a.m. Caitlin begins whimpering again. I ignore her. She begins rattling the metal. I ignore her. She starts gnawing loudly on the wires. I retrieve her leash and my slippers and take her out. She squats, and I hear and smell the unmistakable evidence of diarrhea. I decide not to put her in the crate again. I no longer care whether she wakes the neighborhood with her barking. I put her leash and my slippers on the chest of drawers and return to bed. Caitlin is sitting in the middle of my pillow. I push her away. The pillow smells like poo. I turn the pillow over and fall asleep.

4:15 a.m. I wake up, look at the clock, and think, "I need to wake Rob in just a few minutes."

5:05 a.m. I wake up and prod Rob. He leaps out of bed shouting, "Shit! They'll be her in 10 minutes. I wanted to have some breakfast before we left" I volunteer to make his breakfast while he gets dressed. I put my robe and slippers on and stagger out to the kitchen.

5:13 a.m. I crawl back into bed, dumping my clothes on the floor. Caitlin is asleep beside me. I hear Rob in the kitchen for a few minutes, then silence. I fall asleep.

5:32 a.m. Caitlin seems to be using the bed for a trampoline. I'm too tired to care. I ignore her.

5:37 a.m. Caitlin licks my face. I burrow deeper into the pillow and ignore her. A minute later I hear her go out the dog door. I fall asleep.

5:54 a.m. I am awakened by the sound of fabric being rent apart, a sound I have come to know well in the last four months. Caitlin is in the dining room, expertly ripping the sole off my left slipper. I get up.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3:20 a.m. Caitlin Is Barking

3:20 a.m.: The springs shudder as Caitlin catapults off the bed, bursts out the dog door, and races to the top of the bank barking her head off.

3:21 a.m. Continued barking.. I get out of bed, pull on a robe, and turn on the light in the bathroom to look for my slippers. Rob wakes up. Wants to know why the light is on.

3:22 a.m. I stumble through the junk on the patio in the dark. More frenzied barking.

3:23 a.m. Our next door neighbor comes out and yells, "Caitlin, shut up!" Three chihuahuas who live 2 doors down begin barking.

3:24 a.m. I try to hike up the bank, but keep sliding backwards out of my slippers and finally give up. More yelling and barking from all over the neighborhood.

3:25 a.m. I begin throwing rocks at Caitlin. She comes part way down the bank to see what's going on, decides it's of no interest and goes back to barking at whatever's on the other side of the fence. I throw a few more rocks, can't even get them within 3 feet of her, and give up. Everyone is still barking and yelling.

3:26 a.m. I return to the patio and turn the hose on, hoping to drive Caitlin off the bank by spraying her. When I get back to the garden, Caitlin has come down from the bank and is trying to get her head into the stream of water. We play tag with the water for about 30 seconds until I get close enough to grab her. The chihuahuas are still barking.

3:28 a.m.I drag Caitlin to the patio door and ask Rob to hold her. He is asleep and doesn't hear me. I shout at him until he wakes up. I push her through the door and he takes hold of her collar.

3:29 a.m. As I turn the hose off, Caitlin is already back at the top of the bank, barking her head off. I go back to the bedroom door to ask Rob why he let her go. He is asleep and doesn't hear me. I shout at him until he wakes up. He says he assumed I had gone through the other (locked) door and shut the dog flap. Caitlin and the chihuahuas continue their barking.
3:31 a.m. I turn the hose back on and return to the garden. Caitlin is back down the bank waiting for me. She darts in and out of the stream of  water, dancing just out of my reach. Within 45 seconds we are both drenched. The chihuahuas are still barking.

3:35 a.m. I finally catch Caitlin and drag her to the bedroom door. I wake Rob again and ask him to put her in the crate.  He says, " Aargh! She's all wet!"

3:39 a.m. I have turned the water off, taken my soggy clothes off, and gotten back into bed. Rob is asleep.

4:15 a.m. Rob is snoring. The chihuahuas are barking.  I can't sleep. I get up.

8:45 a.m. I wake Rob. I note that he carpet near the door to the patio is sodden and muddy..

Caitlin will be sleeping in the crate for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stray Dog Found at Harry Griffen

Rob came home this morning with an elderly yellow lab in tow. Apparently the dog had been kept overnight and fed by someone who lives near the park, and who said the dog had been there for at least 48 hours.

I called Second Chance Rescue, who told me they were not allowed to take strays, and that I should take it to a local shelter, and that it would not be put down.

Despite its grizzled muzzle, the dog's libido seemed healthy. He humped Caitlin all the way to the El Cajon Animal Shelter.

The people at the shelter assured me that the dog would not be put down unless he had a major illness.I asked whether they could scan him for a microchip. They could and did, and he had one. They said they would try to find his owner.

We can call them on Tuesday to find out what happened to him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Where to Board Caitlin--Tom Large

Yesterday we took Caitlin to meet Tom Large, whom my sister Demmie had suggested as a possible person to take care of her. He is an older man. After losing his last dog, he decided he didn't want to go through that agony again, but he loves dogs, so he began taking care of other people's. He charges only $20 per day--less than anyone else we have met so far. He has a lovely home in the Stonecrest development just above Aero Drive. He takes only one dog at a time, takes them for 2 or three walks a day, lets them sleep on his bed if their owner permits, and lets them have the run of his house. His garden is very small. He lets the dogs go out there only when he is with them, but he says he spends a lot of time out there.

I think he would be a wonderful dog-sitter for an older, calmer dog than Caitlin.

I don't think he'd ever speak to us again if we let him keep Caitlin for 10 days, which he has actually agreed to do. I'm pretty sure she'd chew all his furniture and pester him mercilessly for attention. I have come to think that Caitlin, at least for now, absolutely has to have the company of other dogs to play with. Even Superman probably wouldn't have the energy or the will to give her all the exercise and stimulation that she needs, let alone a mere mortal.

I would recommend him highly to anyone who has an adult dog of the right temperament. Call me for his phone number and email if you need the services of someone like him.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Did you get that out of the toilet, you nasty dog?

I said that to Caitlin on Friday while we were in Julian with my sister Ollie.

Caitlin had just emerged from the bathroom with a sodden white mass trailing from her mouth and plopped down on the living room carpet to begin chewing on it.

Ollie burst out laughing.

Now I'm trying to find the website I was looking at a couple of weeks ago. I think it had been sent to me by Stumbleupon, a service to which I subscribe that sends you strange and wonderful links on any subject in which you express an interest. This website was probably related to my interest in literature, and was a list of stories in one sentence. This may have been it; I'm not sure.

It's wonderful how the right sentence can call up a whole host of images and emotions and even an entire imagined story.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Caitlin Meets a War Hero

We went to visit my sister Ollie in Julian for a couple of days. She had invited us to a Julian Woman's Club fund raiser, the "Apple Blossom Tea," which they hold every year around this time. We couldn't take Caitlin to tea, so we asked Ollie whether she had any neighbors with dogs who might be willing to puppy-sit. She called back to say that her neighbor John Baca would be happy to do watch her for a couple of hours.

On Thursday, Ollie and I walked Caitlin over to John's house to introduce Caitlin to Jojo, John's standard poodle. He ushered us into his house, where, featured prominently on one wall, are photgraphs of John sitting next to President Obama and chatting with the First Lady. John, it turns out, is a hero, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Last year, John was invited to the Carrier Classic basketball tournament, held on the deck of the Midway. He was seated next to the President and his wife. Although he had not expected to like Mr. Obama, he was deeply impressed and even more impressed with Michelle Obama, who gave every indication of genuine warmth and concern for the veterans (in contrast, he says, to some of the brass in attendance at the affair). He shared some of his concerns about the difficulties facing returning veterans; they asked him for details, and promised to act on what he had told them. That day remains one of the most profoundly moving times of his life.

The next day when John appeared at our door to collect Caitlin, he also brought us two gifts: an apple pie and a Medal of Honor replica that he gave to Rob. We were both quite overwhelmed by his generosity. Ollie says he is always looking for ways to help other people, and does a great deal for the wounded veterans.

We are honored to have made his acquaintance.

And Caitlin really likes his dog.

Where to Board Caitlin--Four Paws Flying

The last place we saw on Tuesday was Four Paws Flying. If we had to make the decision today, it is probably where we would board Caitlin. It was clean and professional looking, with separate areas for small dogs and senior citizens. They have above-ground pools for the dogs to use, and it appeared that the dogs get plenty of play time. Although not quite as attractive in appearance as Plush Puppies, the price was far more affordable. One of the ladies at Harry Griffen Park, Kim Dimuzio, boards her dog, Cheyenne, there and recommends it highly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where to Board Caitlin--Plush Puppies

When we were on the way to the Canine Lodge yesterday, we saw signs for two other boarding facilities. We decided to visit them on the way back.

First on our way back was Plush Puppies, on Quail Valley Way. The owner, Catz Plush, reminded me of my seventh grade math teacher, Natalie Erxleben.

Miss Erxleben, who was called "Turkey Legs" behind her back, was forty-something, tall and slim with a raptor's beak--almost the stereotypical old-maid schoolmarm. She was never heard to raise her voice, but no student ever questioned her authority. Burly troublemakers who had been ejected from every other class called her "Ma'am" and did her bidding without a murmur. My math scores jumped three grades during the year I was in her class.

So, I believe, does Catz Plush keep order among her canine boarders. She says she returns them to their families better behaved than when they arrived. It's probably true.

The facility is attractive. Her large white-fenced front yard is entirely carpeted with astroturf, has several shade trees and an in-ground swimming pool. The dogs are allowed to play as much as they like, all day long if they wish.

Catz pre-screens prospective boarders for sociability. Caitlin was introduced to a firecracker little pit bull named Bruin, who chased her around relentlessly. She handled him with aplomb and remained unfazed by his obnoxious hyperactivity, so I guess Caitlin is allowed to board there if we wish.

Plush Puppies would certainly be high on my list of boarding facilities if money were no object, but t heir prices were significantly higher than anywhere else we've been. Catz was willing to board Caitlin for 2 weeks at the discounted price of $600. Anyone who can afford that should definitely check them out when looking for somewhere to board their dog.

No More Rattlesnake Training?

I noted in yesterday's paper that the county has shut down all the rattlesnake aversion classes because possessing rattlesnakes is against the law (and apparently has been for some time. Why are they choosing this particular moment to start enforcing it?) According to the article, some people are concerned about inhumane treatment of the snakes, who are muzzled or de-fanged; and others are concerned about inhumane treatment of the dogs, who are fitted with an E-collar and given a mild shock if they show interest in the snake.

I did get some negative comments from a couple of people that I told about Caitlin's lesson. Both of them asked whether I thought she had been psychologically damaged by the trauma of a shock collar, and assured me that such punitive measures should never in any circumstances be used on a dog.

Caitlin didn't appear the least bit stressed by the training--she was wagging her tail happily as she returned to me--and she isn't showing any signs of post-traumatic stress disorder now. I wouldn't want to use something as aversive as a shock collar on a day-to-day basis for training my dog. But I wouldn't totally discount their usefulness in some situations. As long as they are used carefully by people who have been properly trained, I think they are a legitimate tool. Effective rattlesnake aversion training could save a dog's life.

Val, one of the big German Shepherds that Caitlin likes to herd, wears an E-collar. He weighs 105 pounds, and his owner is a not-very-large woman. She considers the collar her insurance that she can control him. I agree with her. A dog like Val could easily injure or kill another dog or a person. His own life would probably be forfeit if he did.

I would like to hear other opinions on this subject.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where to Board Caitlin--Canine Lodge

I once took a cat to be neutered at an extremely cheap Vet in the backwaters of  El Cajon, the Agape clinic. My impression was that the vet was competent, but the place had the look and feel of a back-alley abortion clinic (not that I have ever actually seen one--so I guess I mean the look and feel of my stereotype of a back-alley abortion clinic--cramped quarters in a crummy-looking building on a street where you wouldn't want to walk alone after dark) No receptionist. Just the vet. Cash only

This morning we took Caitlin to check out the Canine Lodge & Spa. The website makes it sound fairly posh:

"Call us at (619) 443-0719, anytime to schedule a facility tour and see the kennels, the outdoor play area, and our flower gardens in gorgeous Blossom Valley. Or swing by our Hillcrest Grooming Shop to pamper your pooch. We're open weekdays, and there is always someone on staff to care for your dog.
*We offer pick up and drop off services for grooming and lodging ..."
But after we had toured the facility, I was left with exactly the same feeling I'd had about that vet in El Cajon.  An inauspicious hand-lettered sign led down the dirt drive to a dingy old house. We entered a shabby little office. A small table in one corner held an ironwood dolphin-with-cobwebs sculpture serving as a paperweight for some yellowed forms and a dog-shaped cookie jar full of dead moths (Caitlin barked at it until I put it on the floor for her to inspect). The tiles had been poorly laid and were in various stages of separation from the floor and from each other. The owner arrived after Rob had called out a few times and gave us a tour. There are 3 fenced-in yards for the dogs, mostly dirt and gopher holes, a few shade trees, and kennels where the dogs sleep. 
The owner says that several East County vets board their dogs with him, but I don't think we'll be calling them to check.
The price is certainly right. We got down to $25 a night for a 2-week stay, and the dogs get a free bath before they leave. They'd need it after rolling around among the gopher holes for a week or two.
Caitlin would probably be perfectly all right there. She doesn't care whether her lodgings look cheerful and prosperous, but I guess I do.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Being Dragged into the Dog Park

Caitlin can't get to the Dog Park fast enough.

When she thinks it's time for us to take her, she interrupts anything else we're doing, climbing up on us, attempting to bite my laptop or grab the paper out of my hands, barking and hurtling around the house.

Once we're on the way, she puts her front feet on the console between the front seats, leaning forward to watch through the windshield, and punctuating the drive with sharp, shrill demands to hurry up.

When she was a tiny puppy, I found it amusing to have her straining at the leash in her rush to the gate. By the time she weighed 25 pounds, she could pull like a freight train, and I was starting to have real fears that I would lose my footing on the rocks and roots while being hauled across the ditch. I decided to train her to walk sedately by my side.

First I tried a method that had worked well at on our walks at Lake Murray. Whenever Caitlin charged ahead of me, I would suddenly change direction, saying "Let's go!" and drag her along for a few yards, before changing direction again. It didn't take long before she was watching where I went and trotting pretty reliably beside me.

It didn't work at the dog park. I could drag her away from the gate as long and as often as I liked. The second I turned toward the gate, Caitlin charged forward at full speed. I ended up carrying her in, rather than let her drag me.

Someone suggested bribing her with food to walk calmly.

It didn't work. I could have strewn the path with hamburger, sausages, and rotting fish--and Caitlin would not have noticed in her haste to get into the dog run.

Next I tried a method I had read about. Every time she rushed ahead, I would stop, haul her back, make her sit, and try again.

It didn't work.

Next I tried just waiting until she let the leash go slack before moving forward, and stopping again as soon as she pulled.

It didn't work.

Every time she was pulled up short, Caitlin would yelp, scream, and shriek piteously while lunging to the end of the leash. Over the course of about 3 weeks, our progress was exactly zero.

Then one day someone (I think it might have been Bonnie Keck) suggested that I try an easy-walk harness.
I bought one from Amazon.

The next time we went to the dog park, Caitlin was a transformed dog. She walked beside Rob and me without a single tug on the leash. I am still amazed.

Dogs at Harry Griffen Park--Jaizy and Dean

Caitlin met two new friends yesterday.
Jaizy is a 9 month old border collie/shepherd mix belonging to David Miller and his wife. She was a rescue dog in Mexico and had been fostered in a shelter with 30 other dogs. The Millers bought her at Petco 4 weeks ago. Luckily, their vet found her to be in excellent health. She is highly energetic and loves to play and wrestle--a perfect playmate for Caitlin.

Dean is a 7 month old Thai Ridgeback, an elegant and rather aristocratic looking dog. He stood aloof watching with benign amusement at the cavorting of his less refined companions.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Flag Day Parade in La Mesa

Many of the dogs who go to Harry Griffen Park marched in yesterday's Flag Day Parade in La Mesa. For Caitlin, it was a morning full of firsts. She barked suspiciously at an 8-foot-high dove of peace that was waiting to head up the parade. It had already attracted considerable attention from the male dogs, who were busily lifting their legs against it. Then the Marine Band started practicing nearby. More barking. I took Caitlin over to see Max, a large black great Dane. Max got her calmed down to the extent that she substituted frenzied leaping at his muzzle for frenzied barking at the band.

I'm bored. When do we start?
After about an hour of everybody milling about, the parade got underway. We were number 66 in the line-up, so we got to watch about two-thirds of the parade before trooping out to follow Dennis Rifkin's motorbike, as "Who Let the Dogs Out" blared forth.
Marching in unison
My grandson, Joseph, volunteered to carry the sign heading up our group.
We are underway.
Some of the dogs Sported fancy headgear.
Check out Maddie's scarf.
Luckily, the day wasn't too hot. I hadn't even thought to bring Caitlin's canteen, and she must have been parched by the time we finished. Thankfully, volunteers were handing out bottles of water at the end point, so Caitlin got a drink before walking another 3/4 mile back to our car.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Heron at the Dog Park

Rob photographed this heron standing beside the walkway to the dog park yesterday morning. The dogs found the invasion of their territory outrageous; Caitlin went ballistic; but the heron, although watchful, was not intimidated. We've seen herons around the park fairly frequently. A woman told Rob that she had seen one with a small rodent in its beak, so maybe they're eating gophers.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Artificial Grass

Caitlin is crazy about artificial grass. If I have her on a retractable leash when we walk past some, she races around all over it, rolling and sliding and rubbing her face in it.