11 August 2008

Doggone it (part 4)

Do these shoes go with my coat?

Final chapter (for now)...

First of all, sorry this got so long winded. I did think I was as eloquent or loquacious as some of my peers (aka Terri or Meleah) but kinda got into the theme and kept going. I promise, this is my last dog thread for a while. Don't want to make this into some kind of doggie haven.

Dog #4 - We now had this mutt for over 12 years and it's been eventful/intertaining. Did I mention last time that this was "my son's dog"? I figured it would be bond more with my son than me so I was pretty much geared to play a supporting role (wrong). Gleaning something form Velvet, I tried to train Shadow right out the gate. We kenneled him early on so he would learn his boundaries and control. After a few fitful nights, he finally took to the cage well and it eventually became his sanctuary. Whenever my son had his friend over and it got a bit intense, the dog would retreat to his kennel for some peace & quiet. Eventually, we found we could trust him in the house without any real problems. He did have a short chewing spurt, but he quickly passed that phase. To teach him control, I would walk him every morning as soon as I got up and right before bed. Got to be the highlight of his (& my day). Many mornings I would roll over to be greeted by two brown eyes in my face staring me down. He used to get fired up as soon as my alarm went off, but as the years progressed he would not get up until I had one foot on the floor. Start a pot of coffee and we're out the door. Very energetic dog with the propensity to pee on every rock, bush, tree, shrub, stick, and firehydrant in the neighborhood. It amazed me how much that dog could water the block. Not a good running dog. I tried to run with him a few times, but he kept stopping to sniff mailboxes every 15 feet. His favorite spot was to go to the local park and I would let him run off-leash. Funny guy would haul-a## across the park while I stood there and watched. Once he realized I was not with him, he would fly back to me. His favorite spot to this day is to jump up on the playground equipment and look over the park like he was lord & master. Even today he keeps trying to get up (with my help) but his hips aren't quite up to climbing the stairs.

Quirks: Loves to chase squirrels, barks everytime the doorbell rings, loves to go for car rides, tends to jump up on people when he meets you, not a really good guard dog, highly intuitive (knows your mood). He knows when I am mad or momma is upset. Typically, if I am frustrated with something and start using colorful language, he will get up and leave the room. On the other hand, if momma is upset and expressing her opinion at a higher volume, he will come over to her and climb up in her lap trying to console her.

Fears: Hates loud noises (including alpha dog cussing), is deathly afraid of thunder & lightenting, gets paranoid/depressed when we leave for vacation (unless he is going).

Braveheart (during thunderstorm)

One thing about this dog is his enthusiasm for life. Everytime I would go out for a while, he would greet you at the door like you were a long lost friend. Even after our recent road trip to the west coast, he was beside himself when we got home after midnight. He doesn't like to be left behind and will mope around until we get back. He did not eat well while we were out and lost about 5 lbs (needed to do that).

Not sure how it happened, but he looks to me as the alpha dog of the pack. I am the one who walks him, baths him, makes sure his bowls are full of food & water, picks up his souvineers and will clean up any "accidents". He is more of a pal and wants to share in your activity. One of my favorite snacks are fig newtons and this dog will go nuts for a few bites (Peanuts was a sucker for Oreos). Of course, peanut butter on a cracker is good for a few good laughs.

Where is this going? Not sure yet. Lately, the poor old man is showing his age. He is still up and active, but he has had hip problems that makes it hard for him to walk. On top of that, he has been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease which affects the adrenal gland. Makes him pant a lot and drink lots of water (leading to more accidents). We have him on medication and are getting him checked out by the vet, but I am uncertain what they can do for him at this point aside of more pills. He's been coughing like an old man on Chesterfields and we had him checked out for other problems and they tell us he has a heart mumer. After a quick sonagram today, appears that he has (to quote the vet) Mitral Valve Prolapse (big term for heart valve issue) - thought only people got that. Now, does he seem down or concerned? Hell no. He is just happy to lie on the tile and stay cool. So far this ain't slowed him down (too much) and we are still planning on keeping him around for many more years. I am glad he is still hanging on.

Road warrior

06 August 2008

Doggone it (part 2)

Continuation of the last thread...

#3 - My third dog was the first one that I got on my own and she was totally different than any of my previous canine experiences. After I got out of the Army, the wife & I moved to Dallas, bought a house, and I decided that I had to have a dog. Tried to do all of the research on dogs and worked with the local Humane Society and was intending on getting a "manly" dog like a German Shepard or Retreiver. When we went to the pound, no Shepards were available, but there was the most affectionate 9 month old female purebred Weimareiner named Velvet that was 40 lbs and full of energy (or was it hormones?). Needless to say, we kinda were drawn to her spirit and adopted her out. She was a beautiful silver-gray color (hence the name Velvet) dog that was pure energy. Turns out she was wound a bit tight and was a handful to maintain. She was a very loving but insecure dog. I had built her a dog house out in the yard and erected a shelter to keep her out of the sun but she wanted to be with us all the time and wound up parked on the back doorstep waiting for us to let her in. Now, we tried to keep her in the house, but her energy levels turned out to be a bit destructive. Even after penning her in the kitchen, she pretty much chewed through several plants and one piece of furniture when we were not around (like at work) so that relegated her to the yard. Even in the yard, she wound up eating all of the azaleas I planted and would chew on the door frame of the house while waiting on us. I finally built her a pen in the back yard to roam, but even that did not seem to slow her energy. I tried to walk her twice a day, but, unlike my earlier dogs, she was not good "off leash". She tended to run after anything that peaked her interest and I would have to chase her down across the neighborhood. She even chased down a kid on a mini-bike and almost caused him to flip the bike (funny, but not to him). I got a bit of a reputation as the crazy guy trying to chase down this ghost-like dog. She had a sleek-grey coat with fiendishly yellow eyes and looked like she was possessed when running. Whenever you put her on the leash, she would pretty much drag you down the block until you would establish who is in control (dominance issue here). My wife could not handle her when walking around block and so it became my job to take her for her walks/runs. I even resorted to walking her with my bike so to wear her down a bit, but I don't think it put a dent in her energy level. She wound up chewing through my fence, eating two lawn chairs, devouring several bushes, gnawing through a doorframe, chewing up the wiring harness under my boat trailer and uprooting a brick sidewalk (don't ask). In spite of these "minor" flaws, she was a very gentle and loving dog who wanted nothing but to be with you. Really. Any time we had company in the back yard, she would try and climb up in your lap. Cute for a Poodle or Pomeranian, but somehow, a fully grown 85 lb Weimareiner (all bone & muscle, no fat) climbing up in your lap loses its appeal. I wouldn't call her psychotic, but I did sometimes feel that there was a wee bit too much inbreeding. Had her for four years before I landed a new job in south Texas and could not take her with us (new kid, no one to take care of her and we could not keep her in our new place) so we turned her back over to the Humane Society. Our deal with the Humane Society was, if we ever have to give our dog up, we would turn her back over to them and they would place her with another family. So, with much regret, I turned her back over to them and left them with a heavy heart and large donation. They have a great facility and outstanding people and they wound up placing her with another family. Word to the wise, folks - Weimareiners are fairly high strung dogs and need lots of love and attention. They are beautiful, gentle and very attentive dogs, but prone to high energy and needs a big yard to roam.

At this point, I figured I had my run with dogs and did not plan to get another one. Needless to say, life is full of changes and you should never say never....

05 August 2008

Doggone it (part 1)

Random thoughts that sometimes stick in my head.

Was out walking the old mutt again last night when I was pondering all of the dogs I have known/had since I was a pup. Not to get melancholy, but my dog is getting long in the tooth and I was trying to recall all of his attributes/quirks and started pondering about all of the other dogs I had in my life. Now, that's not to say I have been a dog-only person. In the past 50 some-odd years, I have had/owned (or been owned by) 3 cats, one rabbit, one canary, several fish and the occasional turtle or two. However, on the canine side of the gene pool, I have had/known 4 dogs in my life each with their own unique personality. I had 2 as a youngun and 2 as a growed-up person and like to feel that they each helped me become a better person.

#1 - My first dog was a mixed breed my brother got when I was very young and we named him Pebbles. We all shared his attention but he was really my brother's dog and his favorite past time was to chase cars. Bad habit to get into as that was how he was killed. I was very young and impressionable so I do not recall much of him aside of his boundless energy and wet tongue. He used to tag along with my brothers and me when we went down to the bay to do fishing/crabbing.

# 2 - After he was killed our parents felt sorry for us and got another dog (1/2 Cocker Spaniel & 1/2 Water Spaniel) and we named him Peanuts. Beautiful dog that took to water like a duck. He was a good all-around hunting dog that we played with a lot. We were living in New Jersey and had a huge spread of woods behind our house we would always play in and the dog loved to wander through the woods with us. He was a smart dog and loved to chase squirrels whenever they appeared. Of course, being the only pet in a house with three boys, he got his share of abuse. He was a good dog but we wore him down a bit and he was a little bit cranky when he got older. He used to love kids, but as he got older, whenever young kids would come over to our house, he would slink away and hid out under the beds upstairs. He lived a very long life and was highly active until the end. He was supposed to be my brother's dog, but my dad wound up taking care of him most of the time (there is a lesson here). When we moved from Jersey in '72 and had him shipped down via plane. I recall picking him up from the airport in his wooden kennel (none of those fancy plastic, high-tech version) and he had been barking his head off the entire flight. Poor dog was almost horse from barking and took him a week to get his normal voice back. Of course, he loved Houston and loved to swim in the bayou at the end of our street. By this time, both of my brothers had gone off to college so it was just him and me and we had a blast exploring the woods/paths along the bayou. He was very independant and you never needed a leash for him as he would follow you around the block. He was an absoluet nut for water and any time we were within 1/2 mile of any water, he would be in it. After I left for college, he would still tend to sneak out of our yard for a swim on occasion only to wind up coming back home wet and happy. I will say that, even as he got older, he felt he was a player and would try to "romance" any females in the neighborhood (even though his plumbing was fixed). As I came home from college, I would note that he was getting older and a bit hard of hearing but he still never lost his spirit. While we were in the Army stationed in Germany, my mom told me that he got out of the yard and wandered off one day on one of his daily jaunts to the bayou and never came back. They scoured the neighborhood/bayou for days but never saw any sign of him. I like to think he passed away peacefully, but reality tells me he may have encountered one of the indigenous wildlife down on the bayou.

He was over 17 years old and a great dog and it broke my heart to hear he was gone.

Next round: purebred.

Playing tourist

Overlooking downtown from Coit Tower.

Our ride.

Site seeing

No storm yet. Waiting to make landfall.

In the interim, more shots from our SF-Bay area trip last week.

04 August 2008

Things we see

We're back home and almost caught up on my chores/e-mails. Now we are hunkered down waiting for TS Eduardo to make landfall in Galveston. Meanwhile, I thought I would post up a few note from our recent trek to the west coast.

Good trip. Cost me more than a few pennies, but worth it. Pulled a few days in San Jose, California visiting with my son. We got to tour San Francisco and saw most of the high points. Was not able to score tickets to Alcatraz but did take a 4- hour tour of town and got to see most of the normal tourist spots. Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, Pier 39 just to name a few. Even got to see several famous houses you may have seen on tv/movies (the house in Mrs Doubtfire, the house in Full House, various sights around time for movies scenes (Bullit, What's Up Doc?). Spent one day in Sonoma doing the wine tasting gig before heading back to San Jose. There is a great park that overlooks the city & bay (great photo op). Lots of cool history. Could easily spend 4-5 days there exploring the town but had to head north to Seattle. More on that trip next.

Famous shot of the row of houses overlooking downtown SF.

01 August 2008

Back from the west coast

Long flight. Did not get back to the hacienda until 0330 this morning.

A ton of pictures, lots of neat sites visted.

More to follow shortly.

Much cooler weather in Seattle than Houston.