Friday, September 30, 2011

Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob

One of our greatest joys over this past summer has been going to spend time with my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob, who welcome my sister and me and our boyfriends and dogs and kids and pseudo-step-kids to enjoy summer days and delicious food with them by their pool. 

Over the years they've welcomed more than a few of my foster dogs, who have had no qualms about launching right into the pool and requiring rescue once they found how deep it was.

Fozzie, fortunately, is smart enough to stick to the fountain to avoid drowning.

Not so Florian.

What a great socialization experience and all-around good time its been to have a place where the dogs can run around, chase lingering smells of woodchucks, try different depths of water, and interact with friendly humans of all ages. 

Thanks Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob! You put up with so much. We promise not to bring two wild impulsive pit bulls, a reactive Anatolian shepherd, and a big tough Akita over to visit all at the same time, and we'll try to get the kids and boyfriends to behave themselves. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tiny cuddly pit bull puppy

Her first night with us, Sandy was so happy to experience being in a home with people and dogs and soft surfaces that were all available to her that she could hardly contain herself. 

We tried to have her in bed with us, but she climbed all over us and Fozzie and Lamar and kissed us nonstop and the boys were growling and we were getting all wet and sticky and very quickly, we decided it was time for the crate.

By the third night, Florian couldn't stand being separated from her for a whole 8 hours so we decided to chance it. 

Whatever transpired in that little consciousness during those first few days with us, apparently it allowed her to settle in and just enjoy without frantically exuding her enjoyment all over her environment. She kissed us like a madwoman for a few minutes, then stretched out like a frog and promptly plotzed out. Heavy, uninterrupted breathing until morning. 

The past few nights, she's been back to her little nut job self and so its been back to the crate! I felt like an ogre putting her in there, but the rest of us did need to get some sleep. Then last night I discovered that if I let her settle down in her crate while we're reading in bed and Fozzie and Lamar are trying to turn in early, then wait until a little while after I've turned the lights out, I can bring her out, put her down between me and Florian, and she goes immediately into heavy breathing frog pose and doesn't budge all night. 

She is a wonderful, soft little sleeping companion and it is such a delight to have her there. She sleeps right between our heads, and she's such a small package that accommodating her doesn't require major contortions.

Whatever stresses and drawbacks come with the package of fostering a hyper little pit bull puppy, the one thought--that a little creature who may never have experienced a soft bed or sustained loving human contact is now experiencing them both, in excess--makes everything worthwhile.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No Kill and Conservation

I have always been an animal lover and advocate, and I have always been a tree hugger and conservationist. No way to tell which came first; they are part of the same thing. 

To me, it seems perfectly natural that if you grew up loving furry animals, you'd want to conserve habitat to help other furry animals grow and thrive. If you love nature and feel motivated to protect it, of course you'd feel an affinity for the creatures who live in it. 

So you may imagine my consternation when I started encountering people who were in one camp, and not only disinterested in the other but actually hostile to it.

In graduate school, I was part of a group tasked with figuring out management options for addressing the toll of invasive species on native wildlife in New Zealand. In many island ecosystems, introduced species--commonly rats, cats, and possums--have had a devastating impact on native wildlife, decimating the many native endemic species of ground-nesting birds and others who have no defense against these predators.

This project seemed like a perfect opportunity to me to see what humane options are out there for dealing with nonnative wildlife to protect indigenous species. 

I was surprised with the vitriol with which some of my colleagues said we should "just shoot 'em," which seemed not only a cruel way to deal with cats and rats but also an inefficient one. A little bit of digging uncovered some fascinating work being done on Virus-Vectored Immunosterilization for nonnative species--a sort of hands-off TNR program for feral animals--and this ended up being the approach our group advocated. 

At the other end of the spectrum are animal advocates who have not taken the trouble to inform themselves of basic tenets of ecosystem science. Nathan Winograd, a prominent No Kill advocate who is addressed in an excellent letter by Edie at Will My Dog Hate Me?, says that simply by virtue of being there first, native wildlife have no precedence over the nonnatives who have taken over.
A Survival of the Fittest ethic that I suppose means American pioneers were perfectly justified in giving smallpox-covered blankets to Native Americans, and the Manifest Destiny that drove native bison to near extinction as cowboys and their stock took over the American West was not the least bit morally suspect. 

An ethic that, if brought to its natural conclusion, will leave us humans to enjoy our kudzu-filled and brown tree snake-infested gardens free from the trill of songbirds and the wonder and complexity of native, functioning ecosystems. 

While I absolutely embrace the concept of No Kill and am grateful for the growing awareness of its possibility and the simple steps that make it possible, (Check out the great list at In Black & White, for example) I do feel that a proponent of such an important movement needs to be much more thoughtful before venturing into territory where his knowledge is so lacking and his views could be used to justify so much ecological havoc. 

Animal rights advocates and conservationists are natural allies, and we should be working harder at nurturing a symbiosis rather than advocating for each other's extinction. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tired ALREADY, Fozzie?

It is so fascinating to watch the dynamics among dogs, and what energies different dogs bring out in one another. I've always thought of Fozzie as a dog who has off-the-charts energy, and that was certainly what they thought of him at the shelter and almost certainly the reason he was on death row.

But watching him with other dogs, I see another side. I see the complex, sensitive dog who loves attention from all the creatures in his orbit, but needs his time to collect his thoughts, feel loved, and know that he has stability and structure in his environment. 

Sandy the little fireball is always ready for play, nipping and humping and jumping all over her uncle Fozzie every minute. At first, Fozzie was ready for all the action she could throw at him. After the first couple of days though, I could see that he was a little blown away by her energy level! As she humped and jumped, he drew into himself and tried to get to somewhere he could mellow out. He still gets into it with her on a regular basis, but he has an off-button. 

Even when I think of our time with Lars, I can remember that although Fozzie adored him and wanted to be near him always, he seemed relieved when I would put Lars away in the crate. And now, when I put Sandy in her crate, Fozzie comes immediately over to be close to his humans, and seems to crave contact with us. As if he needs comfort and structure more than ever after the somewhat overwhelming experience of a 10-month old puppy.

It is so precious to see this side of him, and to feel how deeply he connects with us. My plan of getting another foster in order to get less attached to Fozzie seems to have backfired!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back with the Bullies

We arrived home Sunday uneventfully, to a very good Swiss guy taking one very tiny pit bull for a walk. 

Fozzie was inside, and I made sure I warned my parents and brother and Elyse to fasten the gate SECURELY behind them until I got a leash on him, and I was very proud that for once the arrival of family, friends, guests, Jehovah's witnesses, or youth selling candy bars or Bibles or whatever they sell did not result in a frenzied run through the neighborhood in pursuit of Fozzie, as he ran to visit with his friends the neighborhood cats. 

In fact, our two little troublemakers were model children and I was glad my family got to see what little darlings my pit bull foster kids can be. 
It is good to be home, good to get some tomatoes from the garden and see the profusion of morning glories in the front. 
We don't get the same incredible views of the sunset as we got on the coast, but the copy of Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook that Johnny ordered me when we were down there just arrived. I hope the pitties will be inspired to join us in making a more regular family tradition of Science Hour from our own humble backyard. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Really Matters

Miraculously, I think we have managed to have a thoroughly successful vacation.

Such an incredible gift from my sister to bring us all here, and its been a joy to spend time with her and my tiny niece Ursula--my little troublemaker, who brings out the human-lover even in her crochety old aunt--among family.  

I'm not really certain, but I think Genghis has enjoyed his time here too. 

Or does he yodel and make gurgling rrrwow-wow-wow noises, and sit in the middle of the ocean, because he's trying to communicate his distress? 

Somehow, I think not. 

My Dad doesn't always readily let go of his stress, but I've been very proud of him this week. 

For being so sweet and so diligently caretaking, and so loving with all of us clucks. 

Wish I got to spend more time in general with my fun-loving mom, whose sense of humor sets something loose in me like nothing else in the world, 

and Johnny, a true child at heart, always at his best when he is being tortured and exhausted by some unremitting young person,

and gentle, patient Barry and Elyse, who never have a cross thing to say about anyone.

Glad that at least I get to see a lot of my sister, and have only a few blocks to walk to have a nice stiff drinkie or a refreshing morning dog walk with her.

And Lamar Latrell I get to take home with me, and enjoy every day the smell of his head and his paws and his hot breath, and together share the memories of our time walking together under the open sky and cuddling at night with the whole bed to ourselves. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Froggies, Family, and (tongue) Flappies

I'm happy to report that the day of my birthday dawned with a couple of quick, sweet, happy, nervously-loving kisses from Lamar.

They were fleeting moments of sweetness, which of course transformed into nervous displacement ear scratching once I got out the camera. 

But I couldn't complain--what a wet, wonderful start to the day.

Many joyous moments ensued. There was the nature dog walk around the lake with my sis, in which 
we got to see tons of tiny froggies who must have just transformed from the tadpoles we saw wiggling at the lake's edge. 

We even saw that elusive transitional stage, a little creature hopping around but still with a tiny tail. 

There was a brief rain and then a rainbow, and a drive with the whole family and some belly laughter shared between me and my sister as my folks got lost trying to caravan. A delicious veggie meal at a taco joint (veggie tostadas and jicama slaw) and then my sis and I kidnapped my mom to give her some time with us wacky girls in my sister's car. 

I rewarded Georgeo when we got back by reminding him of the fabulous hot tub, and we enjoyed a good soak. 

A walk on the beach with my sister and the dogs, and Lamar got to chase seagulls--one of his absolute favorite activities.

Then a delightful evening sunset with Mom, enjoying the sky and the almost-Equinox. 

A return of our spooky friend who helped us enjoy Science Hour with a tantalizing glimpse into the amazing world of arachnids.

Love getting Mom and Uncle Johnny together to talk about Science. They are both so bloody smart--Mom is a student of life, absorbs everything she observes or reads about natural science and especially botany. 

Johnny knows everything about stars, planets, the atmosphere, clouds, and Messier objects--the galaxies we glimpse from our own Milky Way. They appear as little smudges, visible from a small telescope or good binoculars, and were catalogued by Charles Messier in 1771 as he searched in vain for a new comet. Who knew?

Dinner was champagne, cake, and more ridiculousness.

Then one last chance to catch Lamar kissing me on camera. 

Miserable failure. Not even tasty carrot cake could induce a birthday kiss for his poor old Mom.

Fortunately, now that I am reading Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide, I find Lamar's spectacular calming signals as fascinating as his kisses are delectable. 

And then I put the camera away, and climbed into bed to listen to the crickets and cuddle with my anxious, silky-coated, expressive-eared, Anatolian Shepherd New Mexico Brown Dog, my very first foster failure and my devoted companion for more than ten years. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I have the coolest family

Why are there so few pictures of my sister?
This is the second year my sister has rented a beach house for us on the Outer Banks in September.

I just love being with my family. After growing up in New York, I went directly to the left coast for college and spent the ensuing 13 years moving from one stunningly beautiful, progressive, musical, artsy Western town to another. Stanford to Moab to Albuquerque to Taos to Santa Fe to Portland. 

Somehow never felt fulfilled until the last move I made, which was to a house three blocks away from my sister. 

My sister and I have a lot in common, not the least of which is our intense love for, and desire to rescue, dogs. 

While I've tended to go for the nondescript short-haired shepherd-something brown dogs, Nance has always been drawn to big poufy dogs. Two Akitas and a chow-chow.

Although come to think of it, there was also a nondescript brown dog she rescued from Mexico, who now lives in the 'burbs not far from us.

Here on the beach, my sister and I get to give our dogs the attention and time outside that they deserve. 

Lamar gets to relax away from the bullies, and although he and Genghis aren't the best of buddies either, with all this space the two of them are happily sniffing and peeing on the same spots, trotting along trails in tandem, and paddling around swimming holes together.

For both me and my sister, the very embodiment of joy is seeing our dogs have a good time, be accepted by other people, and have plenty of space to just be who they are. 
Last year, Barry, Mom, Uncle Johnny, and Dad all wore the
tie dye T-shirts I made for them. Yep, we went out in public 

like this.

And of course we enjoy being with our wacky family too.

Tomorrow we expect a perfect stormy spooky rainy day for my birthday. My one wish is that Lamar looks at me not-too-nervously when I ask for my kiss. What do you think the chances are?


Monday, September 19, 2011

Goodbye, Civilization!

Lamar and I are posting from the beach this week!

We're at a family getaway on the Outer Banks. 

Fozzie is back with Florian, enjoying some romantic time alone and getting a break from lifeguard duty. 

Sandy is in boarding for the week at the daycare center where I teach classes, no doubt driving everyone crazy with her own unique brand of nonstop puppy craziness. 

I felt bad separating the two canine lovebirds while their budding romance is still young, but it really does take a village to raise a 10-month-old pit bull and I didn't want to subject Florian to that level of intensity.

Hopefully Sandy will make some new friends and have some good socialization experiences, and Fozzie will get a break from all that nonstop puppy action!

Lamar and I are going to enjoy some sun-n-surf, some relaxing times in the beach house, and catching up with Mom, Dad, Nancy, Genghis, Barry, Elyse, and Uncle Johnny. 

Maybe I'll get to return to a halfway civilized living room! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fozzie LOVES his new girlfriend

Of the many well-thought-out reasons that prompted me to rescue another dog, was the desire to give Fozzie some joyful canine interaction. I remembered how much he loved to play with Lars, I've watched him get so excited when he sees other dogs on leash walks, and I've watched him play a little with Lamar, though Lamar is not one to all-out frolic. 

I was pretty sure he'd get along with any active dog I brought home, and thought the chances were even better if it was a female.

But there's always a question, with dogs, of whether there will be that certain chemistry that makes them really get along.  But Sandy needed a place to go, and there wasn't really time to see how they liked each other. 

So I went to the shelter, loaded the little wiggling ball of fire into the van, and struggled to keep my eyes on the road as this precious little red froggie sprawled out on the floor next to the driver's seat and sprawled the back paws out behind her.

When I got her home, there were just a few tense moments when Fozzie wondered just WHAT I had done. Then, they were OFF!

Humping, romping, Sandy riding Fozzie around like he's a pony.

Slurping and digging and flapping in the doggie pool, drool flying akimbo. 

They keep going and going and going, just like Fozzie used to with Lars. 

Even in the face of full-on exhaustion, they keep going. Why? I just don't get these little monsters. 

Thank goodness for dog crates!