Friday, March 30, 2012


Whoa! We've been tagged by Redberry Cottage and by Volunteers4Paws!

Gather 'round guys, this is going to be fun.

And in my usual fashion, I started this post before Sandy was adopted, so I'm going to leave the answers that refer to my former foster dog. Maybe her dad can confirm (or deny) that they are fitting.

1. Describe yourself in seven words.

Lamar: Soft, silly, silky, loving, reactive, athletic, deserving
Sandy: Hyper, loving, frenetic, kissing, cuddly, hungry, jumper     
Fozzie: Cuddly, large, strong, sleek, loving, velvety-mouthed, worried  
Florian: Flexible, verbose, hilarious, Euro-stylish, outdoorsy, loving, world-class dancer
Kirsten: Musical, loving, serene, veggie, activist, treehugger, professional boat-rocker

2. What keeps you up at night?
Lamar: Those foster dogs coming too close to the bed.
Sandy: Being forced to lie on my own bed eek how can I possibly do that HELP let me up there pleeeese this is terrible!       
Fozzie: Nothing, as long as I am nestled deep in the arms of my Swiss Guy.
Florian: Thees postmodern dance crap, Zuzi can you believe these people telling me that my neck is too extended? I say to them oh yeah, do you know who I am, I been in the Washington Post at least 12 times and I danced on three continents. Where have you danced? I'm going to show those people what dance is about, even though my bunion is killing me.
Zuzi, you gotta massage the bunion.
Oh yah, and Zuzi, I know you're tired, but just leesten to thees...
Kirsten: See above

3. Who would you like to be?
Lamar: Prince, so I could wear purple sequins.
Sandy: Kim Kardashian, so I could star in a video about physical intimacy.
Fozzie: Matthew McConaghey, so I could vacation in warm sunny spots with my shirt off.
Florian: Do you know who I am?
Kirsten: Janis Joplin without the drug abuse.

4. What are you wearing right now?
Lamar: A Celtic-inspired collar with tags that jingle.
Sandy: I'm naked!
Fozzie: A striped "Olly Dog" collar in earth tones.
Florian: A dance belt, under distressed Euro-style jeans and a purple tie-dyed T-shirt with a unicorn on it (Just kidding guys. My girlfriend have thees fantasy).
Kirsten: A sarong and a tank top. 

5. What scares me?
Lamar: Fozzie.
Sandy: Nothing!
Fozzie: My harness, my head halter, when mom and dad have intense conversations.
Florian: My girlfriend's impulsiveness with respect  to fostering dogs.
Kirsten: Losing any member of my family, human or animal.

6. The best and worst of blogging:
Lamar: Well, hmm--I think--
Sandy: Blogging? Blogging? Did you say blogging? Lemme tell you what I think about blogging! Its--
Fozzie: That blog, well, sigh, I really feel that its--
Florian: Zuzi, your blog? Its-
Kirsten: Pipe down guys! This is MY blog. I love the community and the support and learning about each others training and struggles. I love the outlet and the ability to archive amazing insights and memories. I dislike when my life starts being about my blog, rather than my blog being about my life.

7. What was the last website that you visited?
Lamar, Sandy, and Fozzie: WE CAN'T READ!
Florian: Youtube, for videos of obscure choreographers
Kirsten: Youtube, for videos of the Doobie Brothers and Moby Grape.

8. What is the one thing you would change about yourself?
Lamar: My thick undercoat, which Mom seems to think calls for use of the Furminator.
Sandy: Nothing! Life is Good! Yipee!
Fozzie: My occasional impulsiveness, because it makes people misunderstand my true nature.
Florian: My bunion.
Kirsten: Lingering shyness that makes it difficult to pursue my other passion, of being a musician

9. Slankets, yes or no?
What's a slanket?

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.
Redberry Cottage is a beautiful blog about a bevy of dogs whose mom somehow entertains them all and makes it look easy. 
Volunteers 4 Paws is the new incarnation of the old Inu-Baka Blog, and chronicles the rewards and challenges of volunteering for the betterment of dogs. It is an inspiration for anyone who volunteers at shelters or is considering doing so!

And in lieu of choosing new victims, I am going to direct you to the blog list in the right-hand pane--all worthy of your patronage. Visit someone new and make a new online friend today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

High-Value Treats

I am noticing a range of fascinating behaviors among my two gents when it comes to high-value treats.

These seem to vary in accordance with the level of value. There's your high-value treats like homemade dehydrated steaky-bits. Perfect for training in distracting situations, or for "trading up" in resource guarding training. It's hard to imagine the dog to whom these would not be high-value, and pretty much any dog knows just what to do with them: inhale them. 

Then there's the high-value treat like Greenies. Lamar loves his Greenies and savors them when given the chance. Fozzie, on the other hand, seems to understand their value enough to huddle over his when Lamar comes near, but not enough to actually eat it. 

Then there's the treat whose value is so high it just blows their little minds. Like this huge rawhide bonie that I can't give the guys without close supervision, because of its potential to cause warfare. 

I broke it out the other day during band practice, because I thought it was one thing that might occupy Fozzie and make him stop pestering us for a while. 

He couldn't even handle it. He huddled over it a bit but wouldn't chew it. He just didn't know what to do. I traded up for some steaky bits and put it away, because I felt uneasy with Fozzie huddled over something in the presence of people who don't know him like I do.

Then the other night, after a certain discussion about responsibility with a certain significant other, Fozzie knew I was upset and so was lying in my arms, cuddling as close as was possible. I wanted Lamar to have something rewarding to do too, so I gave him the big bonie.


He didn't know what to do with it either. So he walked around with it for a while, until I thought to put some peanut butter on it.

Then he knew just what to do! 

 What do your dogs do with high-value treats?

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Grooming Client

This past weekend I groomed a heavily matted golden doodle, and a couple of equally matted bichons, one of whom was very anxious. The people were very happy with my work and I felt good about it too, so I guess I was feeling cavalier about the whole grooming thing overall. 

So cavalier, in fact, that when I was approached by a brand new client, a client who wasn't even of the same species as my usual clients, I didn't hesitate. 

Now I do specialize in grooming anxious dogs, and I've come up with a few tricks that allow me to do a reasonable job on most dogs.

But an anxious Swiss guy? That presents a whole new frontier of challenges.

I don't think I've ever had a client who stood up every five seconds when I was trying to cut his hair to check himself out in the mirror

But a little TTouch to the scalp, some soothing talk, and even this client was able to settle down and allow me to groom him. 

I won't be adding "Swiss guys" to my list of breeds I'll work on anytime soon, but I think I did a pretty good job for a first time!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different: Ear Infections

When I was in grad school and living with my parents, I sometimes had the thought that I really should have gone to veterinary school. 

Then I took Dizzy to the vet when he had an ear infection, and was cured of that impulse. Of all the horrifying smells dogs are capable of generating, I think the ear infection must be about the worst. 

I encountered it powerfully with some senior cocker spaniels I used to groom, and I've learned to recognize that unique aroma long before I look in a dog's ears. 

As you might imagine, though, Dizzy's ear infection was really in a class by itself.

That incredible smell is why I was so delighted when my mom gave me some of the dog stuff she's accumulated over the years, and there happened to be a bottle of Vet Solutions Ear Cleansing Solution. That stuff smells like paradise. I don't know what they put in it, but to me it smells like a romantic, sensual potpourri of ylang-ylang, jasmine, and rose. 

Ear cleansing solution? Forget it, I'm using that stuff as a parfum. 

Bring on those cocker spaniels, those Bassets, those nappy, dreaded, oozing, foul-smelling ears. I am no longer afraid. 

Monday, March 19, 2012


Although I have had some mental shifts with regard to keeping Fozzie, something in me is not able to fully embrace that thought. 

When I have band practice, I sometimes wish my dogs were peaceful little things that could just calmly hang out on their dog beds. 

I can't believe sometimes that Fozzie is 3 years old, has been with me for 2 of those years, and he still exhibits this behavior. Its a big part of the reason it took me so long to emotionally decide that I'm probably keeping him, and its the reason there's still that "probably"--the reason I sometimes think that if I met someone, not off the internet and not just anyone, but met really the ideal person, I would let him go to that home. 

Sometimes I just want a life where I can have guests over without a dog attached to my waist, without worrying about the gate being firmly and completely latched every time someone comes in to prevent a mad chase after every feral cat that has ever left a trace of scent on my street, without having to keep one eye and the corner of my mind always on Fozzie, even when I'm in the middle of singing a song for god's sake. 

But then I look into his eyes and I do a great big flip-flop.

What I do love about Fozzie is that he's the most sensitive dog in the world, which means that when I have these thoughts, which I already feel terrible about, he knows. He picks up somehow that I am having an intense thought, and that it's about him, and he starts to look worried, and he comes over and buries his head in the couch. Or curls up in a tiny ball against me with his head on my lap. 

And then I love him. I love having this big brindled nonhuman person who lives with me and listens and cares. I love having this big scary-looking muscular brute who is really just a big sensitive New Age dog. So here I am, right where I've been for two years--I love Fozzie, even as he drives me crazy. 

But you knew that already. Thanks for your continued indulgence. Please don't stop reading my blog and I promise I'll occasionally write about something other than my tortured ambiguity about Fozzie. 

How about a nice post on ear infections?

Friday, March 16, 2012

No alphas, and no bettas either please

I know that dog bloggers are a sophisticated bunch, used to dealing with complicated psycho-social matters like blended families, rescuer martyr complexes, animal welfare concerns, and everything in-between. So maybe you can help me out with this one.
Let's just say hypothetically that a non-custodial Dad wants to give his 13-year-old son everything, maybe because he loves his son very much and maybe also because he feels a bit guilty that he is not the custodial parent, as I believe many divorced fathers do. And let's just say that said Dad is with his son during one visitation weekend and goes to a pet store, and said child begs for a pet Betta fish. A pet fish who will live at the noncustodial house, that the child will see and care for every other weekend, in between which times, the noncustodial father, and more than likely the girlfriend, will care for the fish, feed it, clean its pathetically small tank, and watch it flitter its fins aimlessly in place in a sad parody of what it might do in its native rice paddies in Thailand. 

Now let's say that said girlfriend has always felt a constriction of the chest and a sinking of the heart every time she sees a Betta fish in a store, with no life except to sip air from the top of its tiny bowl, day in and day out, until it dies a premature death of boredom, having lived a life that bears no semblance to what it was born to do. 

And lets just suppose that said girlfriend already feels a burden of responsibility that is sometimes almost unbearable, toward the budgies that also live with her, who were also the result of an impulsive decision on the part of said boyfriend, and toward the dogs who live with her, and toward the millions of dogs and cats whom she is unable to foster, who die in shelters because she is unable to foster them. And let's just suppose that said girlfriend feels overwhelmed at the thought of another life that feels like her responsibility--because let's face it, the day to day work of caring for the budgies and the dogs has fallen almost exclusively to her--and horrified at the thought of living with a creature whose existence, in its tiny bowl, is a daily reminder of how miserably we humans have failed other species. 

Should said girlfriend feel like an ogre for insisting that the fish go to the custodial parent's home with the child, or back to the store, or to the Humane Society? For believing that this child and this boyfriend need a lesson in responsibility? 

Just hypothetically, of course! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

More canine cultural enhancement

This past weekend Florian performed his thesis concert, the culmination of more than a year of incredibly intense work. The piece, Profondeur Inconnue, was his first major choreography, and after a year of hearing Oh, Zuzi, I am not a choreographer, I was so impressed. 

Florian wanted to create a piece with an underwater theme, and together we came up with the idea of exploring survival underwater following catastrophic sea level rise as a result of global warming. 

The result was spooky, and positively moving. 

And the best part was that we got to have a party this weekend with these lovely people who have put up with Florian this past year.

It's rare that I encounter a roomful of people who understand me so well. 

The icing on the cake? They love dogs. 

I think Fozzie is getting accustomed enough to gatherings at my house that he is finally able to settle down while the guests are still here. I love that I don't always have to have him on the leash, but can, with a handful of treats and a few minutes of attention, sometimes get him calm enough that he can contain himself fairly quickly. 

After some initial launching every time a new person came in, he found a comfy place on the couch, plotzed out, and just soaked up the lovin'. 

Of course he adored it when everyone gathered around to watch Florian's first major project at the university, a video project featuring some intimate moments between him and Fozzie. 

So great that my dogs are getting to soak up all this culture. Hanging out with all these musicians and dancers can't help but have a positive effect on these canine youth, don't you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Playin with the Band

A very exciting development, and part of the reason I've been blogging a bit less frequently, is that a long dry spell in my musical life has ended. For a couple of months now I've been in a band that plays groovy old songs and some originals, and they've even learned to play with me some traditional Zimbabwean mbira music. My bandmates are mellow, warm, smart, talented people, and for the first time in years I again have an outlet for that part of my personality that loves to perform and play music.

Now Florian and I haven't really had guests for a couple of years, in order to protect our friends from the maelstrom of tongues and paws and canine intensity that is our house. But the band needed a place to rehearse, and were forewarned, and still expressed an interest in meeting here once a week.

What began as a challenge has become a great opportunity for socialization, desensitization, and impulse control training. Fozzie, who has always been scared of shakers, is learning that they won't hurt him. He's learning that rather than launch on all the cool friendly people, he needs to sit before they'll pet him. He's learning that when Mom says Go to Bed or Stay, she means it--even when way more enticing alternatives are present in the form of a bunch of dog lovers standing around in his living room.   

I generally still have to just have him on a leash attached to my waist for most of the rehearsal, for fear of him knocking over someone's guitar when I'm not paying attention for a moment. But he's getting to where, after they've been here an hour or two and he's emotionally exhausted from the excitement, I can let him off leash for periods of time and trust that he won't launch. 

The whole thing feels like good practice for both of us in learning and enforcing boundaries. 

Who would have thought that band practice would double as dog training class? I am lucky that deadheads tend to be such a mellow, dog-loving bunch. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

I have a few questions for you about that dog

For the 5 months I had Sandy, there were certain things about her I just didn't get. Maybe her new dad--or some of you who have more experience than I do with these little teeny tiny pocket pit bull packets--can help. 

Here are my questions:

  1. Why does she snort when she kisses? Fozzie kisses in big, smooth, slurpy shlaps, no snorting gurgly noises whatsoever. When Sandy kisses, there are snorting wheezing snoring gurgling grunting wheezits. Why?
  2. Why is she so tiny? You can enclose her head in one hand and easily pull her whole body onto your lap. Why?
  3. Why was she so hyper? She's about a year old, no longer a tiny puppy, and yet she could keep going and going like a little motor zooming around. She loves interaction. Every night I would thank goodness for her Kibble Nibble and her Kong Wobbler, but they could only keep her occupied for so long before she absolutely needed attention and interaction with a living being. Why? Is that normal?
  4. Why didn't she get into trouble with Lamar? One young, energetic, scrappy dog, and one old, grumpy, reactive dog, and on the leash together they were like two peas in a pod. In the house she would just leave him alone. Why?
I just don't get it. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Back to Sanity....or Something

Although there were so many things about Sandy that I adored--her underbite, her snorting kisses, the way she reminded me of Tashi--it was also at times incredibly stressful to have a perpetual motion motor piglet zooming all over the house and in everybody's face. 

Fozzie enjoyed the outlet, but more than half the time he looked like he would prefer just being allowed to sleep. 

Lamar surprised me by returning Sandy's playfulness and romping around with her like a much younger dog. 

Not quite the way he used to with Tashi--where they would roll around and wrestle on the ground for hours--but still, there was a lot of playful jumping around and sparring. 

This was one of the things that made it hard to let go of Sandy, because I felt that here was a dog that Lamar actually liked. 

Florian loved the little piglet face and butt and the cuddly pittie sweetness and the tiny paws and the way she would drape herself over him with those little paws stretched out froggie-style behind her. But being awakened by a charging flaming ball of fire, licking and nipping and snorting and cavorting, every morning well before wake up time? Not so much. 

As with every dog, I was torn between the feeling of pure intense maternal love and attachment when I looked into her eyes and saw that adoring gaze and squeezed those tiny bitty paws, and the desire to just bloody be left ALONE for five minutes and the space to out and for a little while not have an intense needful ball of fire to attend to. 

I sound just like my Mom, and that probably is just how Moms feel. A perpetual dance between love and exasperation. 

A very worthwhile dance, I might add, and one that I am certain I will embark on again. Once the sanity becomes too much to bear.