20 December 2010

Prepping for the holiday pilgrimage

Like many people, we're preparing for the holiday pilgrimage across the country to spend a few days feasting, connecting with family and feasting a little more. This includes T2, as we'll be driving.

The first time Toni made the trek, it was just the two of us. Chris flew in a few days later. We had only had Toni for a few short months, so we didn't know what to expect.  

As I got onto the expressway, it occurred to me that we had no idea at all if she got carsick. We'd taken her an hour-long drives up to that point, but that's nothing compared to 14 hours. What would I do if she spent the whole 14 hours heaving down the back of my t-shirt? Worse—what if she spent 14 hours heaving on my suitcase, full as it was with many of my favorite clothes (which were also all I had to wear for the next week)?! As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. A car on the expressway works for Toni the same way it works for a baby: like a giant sleep machine. No heaving transpired.

When we pulled up to our first rest stop, I realized there was another issue or two that we hadn't thought about. First, Toni is petrified of new situations. When she's frightened, even enticing treats that normally make her salivate become suspicious and dangerous treats in her fear-addled brain. Toni at that time weighed around 70 pounds. I weigh more than that...but not much. What would I do if, predictably, she refused to get out of the car? As it turns out, I did the obvious: I lifted her. (But if some day I write that I am posting from bed because my back has finally given out and I am bedridden for life, know that I blame it in part on this trip and all of the heavy lifting.)

I also realized that I had absolutely no one to guard her while I went inside to take care of my own business. Being from Chicago, we are sadly aware of what can happen to an unattended dog who gets snatched by someone with an interest in dog fighting. And although Toni does look intimidating to strangers, an experienced dog handler would assess that she's a gentle soul. And then he would snatch her. I had visions of my trip turning into some bizarre I-turn-all-Laura-Croft-in-order-to-rescue-Toni scenario. There was no way I could make it 14 hours without going inside somewhere to use the facilities. So I became the fastest facility user I could possibly be. No primping, no tucking, no dawdling under the hand drier. Hell, no hand drier at allmy jeans were as good a place as any to dry my hands on. Not that it mattered, after all of my worrying. No one probably even noticed us; I was just some lady filling up her gas tank like everyone else.

We've made the drive several times now, sometimes with Chris and sometimes just T2 and me. We've learned that Toni is more likely to hop out of the car on her own now that she has Téa to lead the way. We know that for some reason, storms, thunder and lightening are not scary when viewed from a car. We've learned that no one is stalking us in order to snatch our dogs while I'm honing my fast facilities use technique. We've also learned that Téa is more than happy to take her turn behind the wheel.

Wishing you and yours (the human ones and the furry ones) happy holidays and safe travels.

02 December 2010

Decorating: Not impressed

We purchased a fixer-upper this past summer. I'm glad there is a cute name for it—it's less depressing than saying we purchased a complete wreck of a house which will need virtually everything except the studs (and maybe even some of those) updated and/or repaired.

I'm also glad that there is a multi-million dollar industry in place to support people like us. There are books, magazines, big box stores, videos and  disastrous reality TV shows to show us what to do, what not to do and to remind us that we are not alone.

We are not making progress as quickly as a Type A like me would prefer, though this is not unexpected. So currently I focus on celebrating the little things: "One electrical outlet in the kitchen was replaced today! We now have one outlet that may not kill me when I use it! Let's whip out the hand mixer!" "One of the weeds in the weed garden turned out to be Greek oregano—hooray!" "Some day way in the future when we get around to addressing the dining room, I have bookmarked the perfect chandelier that we will purchase and install!" It's a bit pathetic, but it keeps me going. 

One of my latest "Hooray!" moments came when I realized we had made enough progress on the bathroom that I could warrant purchasing a small rug for it (trust me, it was not rug-worthy for the first several months we were here). I brought our new rug home, carefully cut off the tags, patted myself on the back when I noticed it didn't get stuck under the door when the door was opened or closed, placed it this way and that until I had it just right and then I wandered off to make myself a celebratory cup of tea.

On my way past the bathroom a few minutes later, this is what I found:

"I'll help you hide this hideous rug until you come to your senses."

Apparently, Téa has decided that the new rug fails miserably as a rug and is trying to spare me the embarrassment. I know this because she has taken to wadding it up into a tiny ball every day and then tries to make it disappear by flinging herself on it so there is barely a bit of fluff visible to confirm its existence.

Maybe next time I'll just take her shopping with me so I can get her opinion up front...

24 November 2010

It's officially winter coat season!

So much more cozy than this morning when we forgot to put them on!

Guarding the corner.

Testing out the bench—not particularly comfy.

18 November 2010

The strange conversations we have - Part III

When I'm out with T2, I try to be conscious of the fact that to many people they look big and scary, and I look small and kind of girly (which can translate into: unable to handle the beasts should they decide to unleash mass destruction on Chicago pedestrians). Unless the person approaching looks scary himself, I make eye contact, smile and occasionally throw out a "hi." Although I tend naturally to avoid chatting up strangers or even appearing to be the sort of person with whom strangers may want to chat, I'm happy to put my own social preferences aside in the interest of positive pit bull PR. This is probably the second largest contributor to the many strange conversations I've had over the past couple of years with people (the first being the pit bulls at my side).

As I exited the park one day, a big, burly man was headed in our direction. He eyed the dogs and then eyed me. I could see he was a little concerned, so when he opted not to cross the street to avoid us, I silently applauded. As we were just about to pass each other, he smiled and said, "Those sure are some big teeth those dogs got." It sounded very nearly like what Little Red Riding Hood must have sounded like as she said much the same thing to the Big Bad Wolf.

The better to eat you with, my dear.

All I could think to say, using my best Pollyanna cheerful voice, was, "No bigger than other dogs' teeth!" 

He started a big belly laugh. "Well said, sister, well said."

Téa demonstrates how easily her mighty teeth destroy dead leaves.

09 November 2010

Indulge your inner monkey while you can

We have a number of pet names for T2, which I think is not uncommon among those of us who are dog obsessed. I will not share here most of those little terms of endearment in the event that you actually know us. The next time we meet for dinner, I don't want you to have to think of the ridiculous things we call our dogs in the privacy of our home. (You're welcome.)

One pet name that is not the least bit embarrassing, though, is Little Monkey. Though occasionally we use the term with Toni, it really doesn't suit her in the least. She's just not really the monkey sort. For one thing, she's far too large to be monkey-ish. (The Giant Bull might be closer to it.) Her lack of playfulness is also ill-suited to the name. To be honest, she's really more the straight man to Téa's monkey. This is just fine with Toni, whose sense of humor tends to be quite dry, at any rate. 

Téa is also not shy

Téa, on the other hand, is ridiculously monkey-ish. Téa will treat a de-stuffed squeaky toy as if it is still struggling for its life—tossing, shaking and chasing it across the hardwood as if it may yet escape. When there are no toys available (because Toni is not always a very good sharer), Téa will grab a blanket from her bed and barrel hell-bent from end to end of our condo, blanket stuck between her legs like an antelope carcass, tripping her up every third step. When Toni has had enough of the nonsense, Toni simply steps on the blanket as it goes by, leaving Téa tearing her way across the condo by herself...not that losing the blanket slows her down or even registers with her. Téa is the one who invented couch. She is the one who will fling herself on every smelly spot along the boulevard we walk to roll in its ecstasy-inducing stench. She is the one whose eyes roll back in her head from sheer happiness when given a chance to stretch her legs in a full-out run.

So it was both surprising and kind of heart-breaking when we went to the vet recently to investigate a little limp and soreness that Téa had developed. I figured we would be there for 15 minutes, pick up a prescription to help a strained muscle and promise to stick to a low energy schedule for the week. But when she actually cowered as the doctor tried to stretch out the troublesome leg, we decided to take it a little further. "Just to be sure," we decided to do an x-ray...probably nothing. When they sent Toni and me home so they could sedate Téa, whose leg was too sore to properly stretch out for an x-ray, I had a hard time telling who was more upset that we went home without her: Toni or me. 

About five hours later I was looking at an x-ray of her little hips. They're bad. Given her age (three-ish), her size (around 50 pounds) and the fact that I almost thought I was imagining the limp that got us to the vet in the first place, I was shocked at how nasty the dysplasia looks already. I'm no expert (yet), but when I compared the handout they gave me (and later the 9,000 images I found online) to Téa's actual hips...well, they're bad. I'd rather the have hips in the handout than the ones in the x-ray. 

We know this is not uncommon. We know we didn't do anything that allowed this to happen. We even know that the irritatingly irresponsible person who had Téa before dumping her at Animal Control didn't actually contribute to this particular issue. We know our options and know that we'll have good advice when it's time to consider them. All in all, we're in pretty good shape considering the unfortunate news we were given about the little monkey.

Still. We're a little less rough and tumble with her now. We take things in the yard and on the stairs more slowly. When T2 play couch, we make sure that Toni is always "it," though that's her preferred role anyway. But it makes me sad that we do—I don't want to take the monkey out of her in the hopes of keeping her hips in shape. Téa with no monkey in her...well, it would practically not be Téa at all.

I guess that's where I need to learn to take my cue from Téa: enjoy whatever it is 100 percent—a blanket, a run across the yard, a bit of smelly grass. Indulge your inner monkey while you can.

03 November 2010

Fine dining chez nous

I have a friend who says that when she dies, she would like to come back as one of our dogs. 

I admit that our dogs have it pretty good. We don't exactly spoil them, at least not in the way some people spoil their dogs. They don't make the rules in our house. They don't eat off our plates or even eat the same meals we eat. They are only allowed on furniture when invited. They must work at least a little every day to earn what they want - treats, meals, etc. That said, we do our best to make up for whatever mistreatment they had to deal with before we met them. They get loads of (healthy and sometimes ridiculously expensive) treats every day, including bones, rawhide, deer antlers and the like. We waste hundreds of dollars on squeaky toys and Extreme Kongs even though we know they will last approximately eight minutes once Toni gets ahold of them. They have poufs to lie on or use for looking out the front windows, as well as the occasional antique chair (which they actually did not have permission to be on, which is why it's no longer in front of the windows). They even having an expansive collection of collars to rotate through (they have us beat in the wardrobe department for sure).

My latest quest has been to find an economical solution for raised feeding bowls, which is a healthier approach to eating and drinking. There are a lot of really interesting options out there that I would consider. I like these planter style ones and these really mod ones. But they all seem so expensive (not to mention space hogging) when you consider that we have two food bowls and two water bowls. Then I saw this bed tray style set and got an idea. One pair of bed trays purchased on sale, one pair of carpet tiles (to keep the bowls from sliding) trimmed to fit, the same old bowls we've always had and voilà: highbrow dining for two.

26 October 2010

Twilight Series: Canis Familiaris?

It's horrible in Chicago today for weather. Power lines down, gale force winds, trees losing limbs left and right - one woman was even impaled in her own car by a tree limb through her front windshield. It's the worst storm in 70 years, by some professional estimates. 

Despite Toni's major storm fears, we have enough Drama-Trauma on hand that we seem to be doing okay so far. This in spite of the creepy howling winds and ever-present threat of downpours requiring arks for survival.

It's the complete opposite of Thursday, when T2 and I zipped over to the vet. Everyone at our vet loveslovesloves T2, which means T2 love going there as well despite the occasional unpleasantries and indignities that occur there. While we were waiting for our appointment to begin, Julie, who was working behind the desk, commented on how much T2 love to stretch out in the sun.  (She knows this not just from watching them do exactly that on the lobby floor, but also because we have sent numerous photos of T2 over to them. Every photo gets posted, either behind the desk or on the patient bulletin board in the lobby. It's hard to not respond to such an enthusiastic fan club.) She went on to theorize that the sun loves them back, makes them especially beautiful. They're almost like the vampires on Twilight was the conclusion, their fur glittering like diamonds when they're in the sun.

I might not disagree....

20 October 2010

We're lovers not fighters

I don't know what it is, but we get a lot of questions about whether we are worried about our dogs killing - killing each other, killing us, killing other dogs in the neighborhood. Not many questions about killing time as yet, but maybe that one will come up someday as well.

Just for the record: we are a peaceable home. Exceptions include rodents - furry-tailed or otherwise - and small and/or fluffy dogs (but really only Téa is opposed to this last, somewhat broad category).

In fact, T2 are most happy when touching each other in some way, be it on a pouf,
or two, 

on a bed,

on the couch, 

 playing couch or just in general.
So no, we don't much worry about them killing anything.

08 October 2010

Téa's doppelgänger!

Doppelgänger, from German, literally means 'double-goer' but is commonly understood to be an apparition or double of a living person.

Apparently Téa has one—and she works as a puppy nanny!

Thanks to Danielle for passing this fantastic photo along!

28 September 2010

The strange conversations we have - Part II

There are dog people...and then there are people who have dogs. I've heard there are other sorts of people as well, people who are not defined in relation to any sort of canine factor at all, but I'm not sure if they actually exist or if it's just a rumor.

We are dog people. Even if we we didn't have dogs in our homes for a long time (until we became a family), Chris and I have always been dog people.

People who have dogs seem to like the idea of dogs, but don't really seem to have any understanding of dogs. Dogs have needs, personalities and quirks. Sometimes dogs' needs are inconvenient (dogs need to go outside on a regular basis to relieve themselves; sick dogs throw up on things...or worse; dogs should see their vet on a regular basis; etc.). Sometimes these needs are time consuming (dogs don't need to just run to the nearest tree and then hustle back in to lie down; dogs need to be mentally and physically stimulated to distract them from finding their own means of entertainment—quite possibly in the form of the nearest shoe or couch; dogs need rules; even dogs who appear healthy should receive vaccines and check-ups; etc.). People who have dogs but are not dog people often assume the dog can operate on the basis of what is convenient to their schedules. They often have poorly mannered dogs, destructive dogs, dogs who are seeking to instill order in the chaos of their home. Generally, people who have dogs but are not dog people seem disconnected from their dogs—probably because they are.

In our old condo building, there was one particular guy who had a dog but who was clearly not a dog person. His dog was small-ish, maybe 25 pounds, with fawn and black coloring, a thick coat and a curled-up tail. It wasn't a particularly adorable dog, nor was it unattractive. I never once saw this guy take his dog beyond the perimeter of our building; and while our building did take up a full city block it wasn't nearly big enough to fully exercise even this small-ish dog. I also never saw this guy pay any attention whatsoever to his dog when they were out together. He was either on his mobile phone,smoking a cigarette or chatting up some woman who I have come to assume was his girlfriend. 

His dog had horrific mannerssnarling viciously and barking at dogs who were still as far as half a block away or more. This used to scare the bejeezus out of Toni (no matter that she could have eaten his little head in a single bite, if so inclined). If we ran into the guy and his little Tasmanian Devil on the stairs, things were even worse. The dog was even more hysterical in close proximity and the guy seemed to have no idea that standing stock still and hoping it wasn't happening was really not the right response. We usually had to retreat back up to our floor and wait until we heard the fire door close behind him went he went to his floor.

When we brought Téa home, it didn't take us long to figure out that she had her own issues with leash aggression. We opted for a different approach to the guy's: we actually contacted a trainer and learned to help her manage her issues better so that every walk wasn't a nightmare. One day after we'd gotten the aggression issue in hand, I was out with T2 when we saw the guy and Taz approaching. We weren't able to cross a street nor could we turn back the way we came (too many dogs everywhere), so we decided to stop and sit on the corner, waiting for him to pass. Surely he wouldn't exacerbate the situation by coming close or stopping to talk, right? Wrong.

The guy walked straight toward us. His dog, not surprisingly, began its beast-from-hell impersonation, which escalated in direct proportion to how close we were to him. Téa was trying to be good, she really was. But she likes to engage. She's not a "turn the other cheek" kind of girl. She's more of a "what the f*** did you just say to me, jerkoff?!" kind of girl. The guy stopped about seven feet from us (which was good, since everyone on our team was on a six-foot leash) and then he just stared. His psychotic, slathering, fixated furball was desperately trying to twist its way out of his control, which he probably didn't notice since it was a small-ish psychotic, slathering, fixated furball and he was a big-ish guy. First he stared at Toni, who dutifully pretended none of this was happening. Then he started at Téa. In the eyes. For a long time. And just when I was about to ask him to move it along, please, there was nothing here to see, he finally opened his mouth to share this little tidbit of wisdom: "That one (nodding his chin at Téa) is really intense. Really intense." 

And then he walked away, psychotic, slathering, fixated furball dragging after him like a mitten on a string.

23 September 2010

Temp for Hire

I do the home office thing. In fact, I haven’t been to my company’s offices (any of them—we have two in Chicago’s Loop and nearly two hundred around the globe) in nearly three years. I’m not complaining, believe me. 

But sometimes it’s hard to really feel connected with my colleagues. We talk on the phone frequently. We instant message each other and exchange emails 24 hours a day, depending on where in the world everyone is. (For the record, when we’re all at our home bases we have one senior manager in Florida, one part-timer in the UK, two plus design team members in South Africa and me in Chicago.) When someone new joins our team, we share PowerPoint introductions of ourselves to put some personality behind the voices on the phone.

Of course, in addition to the rest of my life (and I do have one, I swear) some of the things I talk about besides work are the antics and activities of T2. I tend to refer to T2 as my officemates. They do actually fill a role similar to that of work friends, minus rehashing the latest television show—which I’m never up to date on anyway. When I need to step away from my computer for a breather, instead of going for coffee, we go for a walk. If I have to run one of them to the vet, I book it into my calendar just like I would any other meeting. When the weather is nice, we even “go to lunch” together, which essentially consists of me eating outside with a book while they work on their tans or their squirrel alert program.

When we brought Téa home, I introduced her to the team as our new temporary assistant. Later I upgraded her to a temp-to-perm position and finally sent out the official note welcoming her to the home team on a permanent basis. Last winter, we had an emergency foster situation with a sweet little pit we named Georgia. She was the fill-in while T2 were on PTO (paid time off, for those of you outside of the corporate, acronym-laden world). They spent their PTO at sleepover camp (as we like to call our boarding facility); three large females in one small condo is akin to too many cooks in the kitchen…on steroids. Most recently, we had little Scooby on the home office team—our intern.

I thought T2 weren’t really listening, and that even if they were listening it didn’t much matter since I am certain they only speak a little English (“dinner,” “walkies,” “sit,” “off,” to name a few). However, I’m starting to think that maybe they’re paying more attention than I realized….

Téa learns about social networking.

Isn't it break time yet? Coffee? Chicken jerky?

Management supervises.

15 September 2010

The story I was going to write...

 I was going to post the story below under the title T2 + W = A new adventure:

Taking a cue from their blog heroes, Ms. M and Mr. B., T2 have agreed to welcome in a fellow pit bull who's down on his luck at the moment.

With his mush muzz and sweet personality, Willis probably won't be with Project Rescue for long before finding his forever home. While he waits, he'll be joining us at our home for a little pampering and TLC (and probably a little bullying from the two sweetest, bulliest bullies I know).

As T2 and I waited for our first introduction, we had a chat: 

      • No terrorizing the new guy.
      • If you feel you must run him through an initiation ritual, you may not re-enact the one in which Toni knocks a tooth out on Téa's head. In fact, no initiation rituals involving the vet are allowed.
      • Rudeness will not be tolerated.
      • Sharing is encouraged (including squirrel duty in the yard, couch time in the evenings and treats). There's enough for everyone.
      • Just because we have a guest, this does not mean the usual rules and regulations go out the window. If we're going to help Willis, we're going to start by setting a good example for him.
      • Please keep in mind who is the alpha dog at our house. (No, it's not you.) (No, it's not you either.)
I think we're on the same page, as the "neutral ground" intro went without incident...despite Téa's best efforts to show him that she's a bit rude and bossy. 

More to come.... 

Instead, I am happy to report that we seem to have become some sort of quirky good luck charm for foster dogs. Willis is the third of three pit bulls who were slated to stay with us as fosters but who instead went on to their forever homes before they even came for a visit. 

We're better than rabbits feet—and more humane!

08 September 2010

I could be wrong, but...

I'm fairly certain this isn't what my great-grandmother had in mind when she lovingly and painstakingly needlepointed this chair.

07 September 2010

Le dîner avec nos chiens

Chris and I invited a couple we are friends with over for dinner last evening. We were sure that they accepted our invitation in order to enjoy a good meal, catch up over a few cocktails and generally relax.... Toni and Téa seemed certain that our friends had specifically been invited over to enjoy their company, particularly as they arrived bearing a fresh supply of Wishbones Dog Treats (which can also be purchased in person at Woolly Mammouth Antiques, Oddities & Resale at 1513 W. Foster Avenue in Chicago). 

I'm starting to think T2 might have called this one correctly:

05 September 2010

Peace, love and understanding

One of the most satisfying programs I volunteer with is sponsored by, in my opinion, the most unlikely organization.

We’re all, by now, well aware of the US Humane Society’s (USHS) support of convicted dog fighter Michael Vick. Most of us, a few Philadelphia Eagles fans excepted, are also aware that while Vick talks the reform talk, he has yet to publicly prove that he feels remorse for the treatment of the dogs in his “care” at his Bad Newz Kennels and that he comprehends the inhumanity of his actions. (We do understand that he’s very sorry for the impact his actions have had on his wealth and his career, but that’s an entirely different sort of regret.) Throughout Vick’s continued failure to show true remorse for his actions, the USHS continues to tap into Vick’s status as a professional athlete and continues to hope that he will come through for them in terms of PR opps more often than he fails them. It makes it hard to take them seriously as a true animal advocacy group.

And yet it is through a little grassroots, community-run program that I am able to participate in one of the more compelling programs I’ve come across in Chicago. USHS’s End Dogfighting campaign is run out of a community center in a neighborhood with few resources, plenty of room for improvement and endless opportunities for good people to make bad decisions about their own lives and the lives of those they care about (humans and canines alike). End Dogfighting includes a Pit Bull Training Team program that teaches owners (often young men—the most likely demographic to participate in dog fighting) to interact in a positive, healthy way to show off their dogs’ strengths and assets. Many of the people who work for the program are reformed dog fighters themselves, not in a Vick talk-the-talk way but in a genuine, honest way. These men understand why people make the decision to fight their dogs and know firsthand what can motivate those same people to make a change, having made it themselves. One former fighter I know will tell you that he now cooks each of his pit bulls a full roast chicken each day, among other luxuries. Another took a vacation to the middle of nowhere America last summer and had tears in his eyes as he told me about the people he met who fought their dogs simply because they didn’t know anything else to do with them. They didn’t even bet, unlike Chicago fighters who are often earning money to put food on the table or to buy gas to get their kids to school. He spent his vacation building agility runs and introducing the people he met to the basics of dog training.

I spend my time with the program in the classroom. Targeted toward seventh graders over the course of eight weeks, the curriculum takes a hard look at dog fighting; helps the students see the wider effects of dog fighting beyond just the dogs (as we know, over 70 percent of dogfighters are also connected directly to other criminal activity); strips down pro-dog fighting media and replaces it with alternative messages; and introduces students to the idea that dogs deserve our care and protection. Kids are funny at that age. They’re on the verge of being too cool to listen, but take them to an animal shelter or put the lesson into an interactive game and all of a sudden you have a willing audience.

This year I wasn’t able to be as hands-on with the program as I had in the past, but was asked if I might be able to bring Téa in to a few classrooms (actually, five classrooms at two schools for 45 minutes each—enough even to wear out Téa, it turns out). We could hardly wait! 

A lot of kids screamed and scrambled when they came into their classroom and saw a pit bull (even though Téa’s tail was wagging and she had on her goofy pit grin the whole time). We made a deal—Téa and I would stay for a whole 45 minutes if they could help her behave by behaving themselves. (I’m always happy to bribe people get what I want—in this case, well-behaved seventh graders.) I talked about T2, passed photos and explained why Toni wasn’t with us in the classroom (treated badly in the past, she gets very nervous in new situations; it just wouldn’t be kind). No, we do not fight our dogs and no we do not worry that they will just decide to kill each other one day. In fact, our dogs go to dog daycare just so they can play with other dogs. No, we also do not worry that they might kill us one day. No, we did not crop their ears; we would not have liked it if our parents had decided one day to cut our own ears off so we would never do that to our dogs. Pit bulls with no ears are harder to place in homes, which is why we open our home to pits with cropped ears. No, we don’t yell at our dogs and we don’t hit them to make them behave. If someone yelled at me or hit me every time they wanted me to do something or to not do it, I would eventually be very irritated by it…and then I might behave badly. Dogs are not very different. We treat our dogs as we want to be treated: we use calm voices to ask them to do things; we say thank you by giving them a biscuit.

Téa and I showed them some of her tricks. We invited two students from each class to come up and do a trick each with Téa. Even the kids who had screamed earlier were waving their hands to have a chance. We took more questions. Yes, they both know more tricks than just the ones we did here. Yes, they love to be around small children. In fact, pit bulls were once called nanny dogs because they are so good with children. Dog food, they eat dog food. They sleep in our bedroom on their own beds on the floor.

In one class, a student shared with us that her uncle was in jail because he had strung his pit bull up in their tree and beat it to death. We used that as a conversation about humane behavior and consequences.

To wrap things up for each session, everyone who wanted to pet Téa was invited to line up single file and quietly for a pet before we left. Even in the last class, when I was tired of my own stories and ready for a nap, Téa was ready with a butt wiggle and an occasional back roll for every single student and teacher who wanted her attention.

I think Elvis Costello got it right: “As I walk through this wicked world searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity…there's one thing I wanna know: What's so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?”
Exhausted after a long day of promoting peace for pit bulls!

28 August 2010

The Houseguest

We have a friend who seems to stumble onto pit bulls in need all of the time. This is, most likely, due to the fact that she’s a bit obsessed with pit bulls (fair enough, so are we) and that she tends to spend an unusual amount of time (for unknown reasons) in shady neighborhoods. It’s a given (that I hope is changing) that if you find a shady neighborhood, you’re sure to find a plethora of pit bulls in need.

We were literally in flight from the UK to the US when the calls began coming in on both our phones. (I don’t know if she thinks Chris and I don’t spend time together or if she thinks that when we do, we don’t spend any of it communicating—either way, we tend to get identical voicemails from her.) She’d come across another pit bull in need. Only this time it was a puppy—just three weeks old! And she hadn’t been in a shady neighborhood, she’d been at a parade on the Southside. Oh, but she still lived in a no-pet building. Please call immediately. 

Oh dear….

I guess it’s not totally surprising that just 24 hours after landing and 22 hours after bringing T2 home from two weeks at sleepover camp, we found ourselves balancing a (probably seven-week-old rather than three-week-old) puppy on a barstool as we said, “No, no. He’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of a few days until we can get him into the rescue program.” You will notice we did not say, “No, no. We’ll be fine. We were just saying that what we really need after two weeks away, in addition to two slightly clingy dogs who missed us and a good round of jet-lag, is a puppy who has been taken away from his mother too early and who was just fed a bunch of different things that guarantee frequent trips outside at very short intervals. I mean, really, we’re not big fans of sleep or calm anyway.” Which is how we ended up with Scooby. (In my defense, I had really hoped we could find a more unique, admirable sort of name for the little guy, but the truth is that Scooby seemed to really suit him.)

The first evening was really quite something. We have our routine fairly down-pat, as do most families, and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for extras – especially extra canines. While I prep dinner, Chris settles into the
corner of the sectional with his laptop and a dog on each side. Chris works or peruses the internet while T2 use their time to catch up on some much needed sleep (somehow those four hours in the afternoon never seem to be enough). Then everyone eats and we all eventually return to the couch until it’s time for bed.

However, when you add in squiggly, wiggly, wound-to-the-brink puppy energy into the mix all of a sudden it becomes, “No, you can’t let him have her spot.” “Careful, I think he’s going to jump!” “Off the keyboard, you monkey.” “Get him out of the freaking kitchen—he’s going to get burned when I open the oven.” “Ow—those puppy teeth are sharp!” “Watch the wine!”  “Hooooney, will you please come get her…I mean him again? He can’t be in here alone while I’m cooking.” And so on. It took a full two hours every night for him to bounce and pounce and tumble enough energy out of his teeny system so he could crawl up Chris’ shirt, wiggle around to his back and settle down in a nice, warm, quiet space of his own. Every night. Two hours.

Funny thing about puppies—everyone loves them. I frequently handed him over the fence for the neighbors to cuddle and coo over. Our renters suddenly seemed more in synch with our yard schedule, stepping out to say hi to little Scooby before we went in. People on the sidewalk, a yard over from ours, even asked about him (he was so tiny I’m surprised they could even see him through the fence and grass). Even at the vet when we took him to get his vaccines and de-worming, everyone wanted a little puppy time.

It was actually at the vet that it became pretty clear to me that we, however, might not really be a puppy family, cute as they are. As we know, T2 have their own quirky relationship that involves numerous ‘conversations’ between them about who’s in charge, who gets what toy and other various things that dogs bicker over. I think it was perhaps Scooby’s added dynamic to their relationship and the arrival of an old, graying lab while we were in the vet’s lobby that prompted their first public display of what can only be described as the epitome of family dysfunction. There I was, with well-behaved Toni on one side and well-behaved Téa on the other, Scooby in a beach bag around my shoulder. The next thing I know T2 are doing their very best, most convincing
interpretation of what a two vicious pit bulls look like and why they have such a bad reputation. It only lasted about 15 seconds, but they were up on their hind legs, arms around each other with bared teeth clashing for the whole scene (no blood, there almost never is, just lots of posturing and drama). I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. The couple with the old lab were forgetting to whisper as they talked about the horrible vicious dogs in the waiting room. (I’m sure they were talking about someone else. My dogs were just having a conversation, after all.) Some staff were conscientiously shuffling papers while others had completely disappeared (to come around to help, I figured out later.) And me standing there with a puppy in in a beach bag like this was all perfectly normal. Just then I saw three prim looking King Charles spaniels and an equally prim looking woman heading in the door. I decided that it was time for my lovely family to move into the extra, out of sight waiting room for unsociables, when darned if they didn’t just up and do it again. Ten seconds of pure; all show and no damage; scare the pants of the uptight people brawling, and then back to my sides in less than 10 seconds—all wags and panting. Really, ladies?? In case we missed it the first time?

I would like to tell you that the rest of Scooby’s visit with us was drama free before he headed off to his longer-term foster home with the Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue program. And for the most part it was. Except for one teeny tiny incident involving a rawhide, a crabby adult dog (I won’t even name names) and young Scooby’s face. I’ll leave it at that with a closing statement that Mr. Scooby is just fine. Now.

We were all a little sad to see him go, I think, but the night he left no one seemed to mind a drama-free dinnertime; her or his own space on the couch, uninterrupted; and a howl-free bedtime.