Monday, June 30, 2008
I am in the bathroom, getting ready to go out to dinner, and I hear David saying sternly, "Release. Release. Release. Give it. No, Booker. Release."
Booker was braced on his cushion, in our bedroom, with a deli clamshell from the garbage. The remnants of deli ham salad in the corners. This was absolutely a "score" ... doggie scavenged treasure. Booker was not giving it up. Forget release. Forget give. No way on the "no." Booker was bearing his teeth and growling. I envisioned blood. It wasn't pretty.
"KENNEL," I shouted, probably not the right command, but I was shaking. The Doppelganger frightened me. Booker beelined for his kennel, with the ham salad container clenched between his teeth. I slammed the kennel door closed and Booker attacked the wire. I was terrified. And angry. I was trembling. Disappointed.
I am H-Mom. What was this all about? Booker was growling menacingly at me. He is MY dog ... My shadow ... My "good boy!"
A serious lesson.
When you rescue a dog, you are taking on all of his baggage. Booker has food aggression ISSUES (no lower case here) and we know this. We are making progress, but he will probably always have issues. He may have been starved, abused, left to fight with a pack for his food. We have gotten past the food bowl guarding and turned dinner time into a friendly interchange. We control the food and we are kind, giving and generous. But a real delicacy, knabbed from the garbage? All bets are off.
The thing is, this was really my fault. I left the garbage bag, untied and half-full, on the floor in the kitchen, leaning against the can. It was ready to take down the hall to the trash shoot. And then I got into the shower. As Samantha has so astutely observed, Booker is an opportunist. Put out bait he will take it. And then, as we have seen, it is his.
If Booker had been picked up by animal control or dropped off at a shelter, he would have failed the food aggression test. He would have mangled that dummy hand. I do not doubt for a minute that he would bite and gravely injure to protect his food. He probably would have been euthanized as unadoptable. Because he came through a breed-specific rescue, he has slipped through the rigorous adoptability testing and landed in our lives.
And we love him. There are so many wonderful things about him, incredible calm, noble temperament, patient demeanor, quiet devotion ... the list is already, after five months, long.
There is no option but to work with this. And diligently create an environment where we avoid these confrontations. If he gets something he shouldn't have, we have to remember, in that adrenalin-filled "NO" moment, that we have to approach Booker calmly, engineer a TRADE. We will be able to gradually, very, very gradually, quash the doppelganger.
Friday, June 27, 2008
We saw this tiny little guy on the sidewalk at the dog park. At first H-Mom thought it was a crazy earthworm. It was writhing around like an insane nightcrawler on a hot sidewalk. Then it got its bearings (some dog must have disrupted it from the lawn) and wiggled with that distinctive s-winding snake motion back to the grass and leaves. It was very, very petite and only about 6 inches long from head to tail. The body was shiny black with a brilliant, thread-thin yellow ring -- like a bright sunshine-colored dog collar -- around its neck. H-Mom likes to GOOGLE everything she discovers. Now we know that this tiny snake was a southern ringneck.
from Florida Conservation on the Web: ... the most abundant snakes in Florida are seldom more than 12-14 inches long. Although common in most gardens and backyards, these diminutive snake species are easily overlooked due to their secretive habits.
A good representative is the southern ringneck snake, a distinctive little snake that is shiny black or dark gray above, with a bright orange or yellow neck ring. The belly is a startlingly bright orange or yellow with a row of black half-moons down the center. Ringnecks spend most of their lives under mulch or leaf litter, where they feed on small lizards, earthworms, slugs and salamanders. They are fairly social and often are found in groups of two or three.
The ringneck is one of the least aggressive animals in the world and almost never attempts to bite people. Even if it should try to bite, its mouth and teeth are too small to cause a wound. When seriously threatened, ringnecks defend themselves by thrashing about and expelling musk. The four to seven eggs laid in midsummer hatch 40-50 days later into tiny snakelings, only 4 inches long!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Yesterday he peed in the dining room. A really big, rug-soaking pee. This is actually very unusual, but because it wasn't a "marking" leg lift, he must have really, really had to go. He must have drunk way too much water at the dog park that morning, and was bursting before the usual allotted walk time. An earlier pee-outing after the after-the-dog-park nap is in order.
There is a Banyan tree in the park next to our condo building. The Banyan is a fig with the ability to spread laterally from the original trunk by using aerial prop roots. Small roots grow out of the branches at regular intervals. The roots grow downward to the ground, attach themselves to the soil for nourishment and form a new trunk, or prop. Old trees can cover very large areas.
This one is about 1/2 a block wide in area. The park isn't fenced, so Booker cannot go off leash, but we all try to be very patient and move slowly from trunk to root to upright. Can you imagine? This tree is a pee-intense dog's dream. There is a new target in need of marking every step.
Booker backed away carefully and went about the more important business of his walk.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard;
I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home
and was well taken care of.
He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head;
he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall,
resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour.
This continued off and on for several weeks.
I had become more curious with each day,
so one day I pinned a note to his collar:
“I would like to find out who is the owner of this wonderful, sweet dog
and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.”
The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar:
“He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 years.
He's trying to catch up on his sleep.
May I come with him tomorrow?
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
So what is this all about? In the last few days, Booker has let a little rumbling growl go when Samantha walks into the room. She is a quiet, soft-treading young human ... perhaps she startles him a bit.
Sometimes at night, she shows up next to my bed, me half-asleep and gives me momentary heart pause.
I have asked her to announce herself when she enters a room, even a quiet "hello, Booker" will work. So that he doesn't feel unsettled or threatened by her creeping presence. We don't want this to get to be a habit.
Besides, Samantha is the "distributer of treats." She taught Booker how to "lay down" "shake" and is working on "roll over." The "roll over" is a difficult one, as Booker has no interest in being belly up to get a treat!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Yesterday, there was a huge one hopping around by the poopbag dispenser.
It's an invasive, non-native species of Florida, called a Bufo Toad, or Cane Toad. They are extremely poisonous - excreting a milky substance from the glands behind their eyes. Chomping on one of these guys is fatal within minutes for a small dog, and will kill a large dog in a matter of hours ... seizures, respiratory failure. Not a pretty picture. The secretions will cause severe skin irritation to a human.
When we saw it at the dog park yesterday, one of Rick's golden retrievers was after it -- he grabbed his dog and shouted for everyone to look out. The dogs were quickly moved to the smaller fenced off area of the park, and then we carefully caught the toad with an aluminum bowl and flung it over the brick wall. This is a serious invasion -- we all have to be vigilant at the park now, especially if our dogs will chase or mouth the loathsome creatures. If you find one in your yard (they love to eat dog food -- so DO NOT leave a bowl sitting outside!) the recommended method of disposing of them is to seal in a ziplock and FREEZE it for three days. I don't think i want a Bufo next to the Lean Cuisines!
Booker has no interest in them at all. The dog park is beautiful, and there are many things much more intriguing than a hideous, and deadly, toad. Booker likes to lead the way down the middle of the paved path, checking out the doggie-crowd and baying for everyone to follow him.
I had no idea that this danger was hopping around our neighborhood. We didn't have these guys in Chicago, where the whole city becomes a giant freezer in the winter.
Look what arrived! Now Booker can sit on the sofa with David and cheer -- WOOFFFF! -- for the Cubbies! When we moved from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, we brought our sports team loyalties with us ... Bears, Cubs, Bulls ...
Right now the Cubs have the "BEST RECORD in ALL OF BASEBALL." That's a direct quote from DAVID the #1 Cubs Fan of all time. He grew up on Waveland and went to every single game, all summer, when he was a kid. The Cubs ... WINNING? ... dare to dream. At least we are all doing our part by wearing the right colors!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Allison Rose signed the guestbook below. Allison Rose even sent me a rather catty e-mail:
Hi Booker, We haven't met yet but I smelled you all over my Snuggle-Buddy last night! Now I'm seeing photos of you and her and I'm becoming a jealous kitten !!
Seems that she is one smart cat, and smelled the evidence of my couch-sharing yesterday with Mia. I hope she doesn't hold it against me for too long.
I would suggest a playdate, but that would probably not work too well. I've seen some cats lounging on front steps, and don't seem to mind them, and watched a few meander across my path when I'm walking, and I don't blink ... but ... if they looked a little too much like a raccoon (not that I'm IMPLYING anything!) I might just lose it.
This "Allison Rose" is one lucky cat because Mia is very obviously an "animal person."
Friday, June 13, 2008
This is what we love about the dog park: it makes us very very tired. Every morning, we try to spend at least an hour at the dog park. We get home around 8 a.m., and the day hasn't even started yet for most Floridians. South Florida is definitely not a morning kind of place. But it's great for morning kind of people who like some quiet time. There is only a handful of great dogs and congenial people at the dog park when we get there -- right when the gate opens at 7 a.m.
We get back up to the condo, make the bed, empty the dishwasher and do other little things, all before most people in the building have woken up! Then we can just laze around. Lazing around is a major talent, after sniffing, of hounddogs.
Later this morning, Samantha's cousin came over to hang out by the pool. Booker budged over a bit and let her share "his" sofa for a minute. He got some gentle ear rubs and a belly scratch for being so courteous.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Then, more sniffing. And finally, more sniffing.
My sister took a walk with us awhile ago. She asked me, "Does he always walk like that?"
"Like what?" I responded.
"With his nose on the ground?"
"Yep," I responded, "and he even bumps right into things that get in the way of a good sniff: a street sign, a pole, a hydrant, a park bench."
Booker might just be the best sniffer, not just in the dog park, but in all of Fort Lauderdale.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I feel like I'm poisoning my dog, but the itching has got to stop ... he is driving everyone nuts and he isn't resting properly. Last night he slept quietly through the night and was bright and playful at the dog park this morning. In retrospect, the entire last week he has been out-of-sorts.
Booker weighs 58.9 pounds. Funny how the scale struck terror in my soul ... I watched the numbers fluctuate and actually found myself holding my breath for a lower number. What a chick-thing. Like Booker cares what he weighs! The vet said he looks great: nicely muscled and lean. Dr. Gonzalez also looked at his teeth, or I should say his "missing teeth," and guesses that perhaps some of the breakage and loss is because of antibiotic dosing when Booker was a puppy. The vet said that nothing needs to be done about it. Thank goodness, I was thinking major dental surgery, implants (haha), veneers (hahahaha) and big South Florida-style cosmetic dentistry bills. Booker does have a herniated umbilical cord, though, which needs to be repaired, not with urgency, but in the near, rather then the far, future.
I am at the gallery all day today. I am shopping for designer dog collars on eBay. Booker wears an "accessory" collar for his tags and then his prong collar for the leash. He can slip out of a flat collar in a houdini-like instant. The prong collar is escape-proof, and Booker heels very obediently when it's on. It looks intimidating, but is more humane and effective than a traditional choke chain, and there is nothing good about Booker backing out of his collar and taking off toward the street.