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Friday, August 23, 2013

Pooch Profile: Oreo

After visiting The Mount, I returned back to the Rookwood Inn Bed & Breakfast to drop off my camera, before heading into the town of Lenox for some shopping. I stopped at my room--a 3rd floor confection (with a turret!!) called the Revel's Retreat--and as I descended the main staircase into the main entry, my eyes went from the many Victorian antiques directly to a wagging sentry near the front door.

"Who is this beautiful, happy pup?!" I asked, delighted.

"This is the innkeeper dog, Reo."

"Because he dances on the sand?" I asked, not only because I am a bit of a wisecracking jerk (please see my Twitter feed, where I let this part of my personality run wild), but also because if one gets to make a Duran-Duran reference, in real life, and with purpose, an angel gets his/her wings (this is a scientific fact, and I urge you to consult your nearest encyclopedia or rocket scientist).

Amy, a woman who serves Lenox in multiple capacities--as keeper of the incomparably serene and restful Rookwood Inn; as Justice of the Peace to all loves wishing to honor their romance in marriage--sat down with me to talk about this beautiful pooch, and share his story.


Name: Oreo, Reo for short

Age: 13

Breed: a handsome mix of Spaniel and Border Collie


How did you meet?

The year Amy's daughter was 13, her summer camp received a visit from the upstate New York SPCA. . .and Amy got a frantic, pleading phone call about a little black and white pup. At camp visiting day, Oreo became an official part of the family. (The combination of human and canine cuteness was obviously too strong to resist!)


Why that name?

Amy's daughter thought the puppy's coloring looked like an Oreo. (Yeah. There was no way something that cute could ever go unloved!)


How long have you been together?

Oreo's been with the family since his puppy days--a long and loving 13 years.


What would readers not know, just by looking?

"We call him 'the dog bell,'" said Amy. "When a new guest pulls up, he'll bark like mad. But, as soon as he knows you, he won't bark."

Oreo wasn't a really "barky" dog, it's true. . .but you know what they say about "the quiet ones"? Seems to be true for this pooch. Perhaps because of his name, and the deep, dark chocolatey cookies binding the creme center, Oreo is a fiend for chocolate, a stealthy rogue who uses his natural intelligence (he's incredibly bright) to seek chocolate, whenever possible. Amy shared two incredible stories of his chocolate-assassin powers:

When he was a year, maybe a year-and-a-half old, a friend of Amy's daughter stayed with the family. The girl's suitcase--zipped and in a room with a closed door in an upper floor--contained a one-pound bag of chocolate. When the humans arrived home, the door was open. The bag was unzipped. "And the chocolate was DECIMATED!" Amy recalled. "Oh, and it was on the couch downstairs."

True to form, as the years passed, Oreo's talents and obsession with chocolate led him to greater capers. Once, he even plundered Amy's own stash, a very expensive, decadent bar Amy secured in her zipped purse. Unsurprisingly, the zipper could not bar this canine's cacao consumption: "The bar was PERFECTLY UNWRAPPED, but the chocolate itself was gone."

Honestly, if Oreo ever ate my chocolate, I couldn't fault him. Every creature has its guilty pleasures, and few come wrapped in a package so handsome and kind as the innkeeper dog at the beautiful Rookwood Inn.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Pooch Profile: Penny

I was on the road all last week, Monday-Friday, spending two nights in two different Hilton Garden Inns (my review? the room cleanliness and breakfast buffet makes up for the misadvertised "HDTV," cuz when you plug cable into an HDTV and don't use an HDMI pick-up, it's Silly-Putty-TV, not HDTV). The second stop, Plymouth, MA gave me a day to myself. I spent it spending money on things no one needs (an Outerspace scenes coloring book. . .and yarn), while winding my way among historic landmarks. With the recreated Plimouth Plantation and Mayflower in view, I saw a fluffy, puppy-like pooch who I couldn't resist talking to. Immediately, I learned that Penny was 8, not a few months--or even a year!--as I'd assumed. Try as I might, I could not work questions into the conversation to learn about Penny's beauty regimen (though Alice, Penny's human bestie, confided that Penny just had a bath before I met her), to claim some of her anti-aging secrets for my own.


Name: Penny

Age: about 8; at adoption, the folks caring for her thought she might have been 2, but Alice thinks she was a bit older

Breed: an adorable mix, including large dollops of Collie and Sheltie


How did you meet?

Penny was a rescue dog, originally cared for in Minerva, OH. Alice learned about her, and fell in love as so many do in this Internet age: long-distance! The meet-up would bring them together in Pennsylvania, but when Alice got transportation arrangements straight into Minerva, she went all the way to meet Penny and then take her to her new home.


Why that name?

"We were supposed to get her in Pennsylvania--so Penny," Alice explained, "but even though that didn't work, I really liked the name." (As you read this, gaze at Penny's picture and imagine the morning sun kissing her fur a sparkling copper, like freshly minted pennies. . .it was the immediate simile that leapt to mind when I met her!)


How long have you been together?

They've been together for 5 years, total, since Penny was around 3.


What would readers not know, just by looking?

"She never gets into things, like the rubbish, so that's good," Alice shared. "But once, at Easter, she got into the kids' baskets. She loves coffee and chocolate, which isn't supposed to be the best for dogs, so we have to watch out for that."

Her sweet tooth must go hand in hand (paw in paw? too much?) with a sweet nature. Another dog stopped to greet Penny, and with wagging tail and sniffing nose, she happily welcomed this new face. When the dog left, she barked.

"See? She barks around other dogs. . ." Alice soothed, petting Penny's muzzle. "She's still learning."

But it wasn't a bark of authority, command or confrontation. It was happy; maybe a dog equivalent of saying goodbye to a new acquaintance, wishing a beautiful day to another being.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pooch Profile: Happy

On Wednesday morning, I decided to spend my time reading by the shores of Lake Erie, because when one's been awake since 5 AM, driving since 6:15, by 8:30 or so, things like a bench and a breeze off the water seem both romantic and necessary. And then I heard it: the unmistakable staccato of the tiny dog, a happy prance that can only come from four little feet.

That's how I met Happy, and her people, Robin and Henry


Name: Happy

Age: 3

Breed: Chihuahua


How did you meet?

Robin and Henry always cared for dogs. . .big dogs, like vizslas. Friends, who owned a chiweenie, one day urged the couple to think of the smaller end of the canine spectrum. After all, there would soon be some chihuahua puppies in need of a good home. In the couple's circle of dog-lovers, the problem became who would take which pup--between Happy, and another chihuahua (a white one). Robin and Henry decided upon Happy, while the other couple took the other pup. And then, they struck a deal: Since they all adored the little dogs, they would take over puppy sitting, whenever one couple went away and couldn't take the dog. Now, when Happy has to be away from her adoring humans, she can play with her "sisters," and live up to her name at the same time.


Why the name?

"Well, as soon as we saw her," Robin recalls, "she was boingin' up and down like she was happy, and that was the name for her!" Happy still lives up to the title, happily--yet politely--pawing Robin's or Henry's leg until she can get picked up for a cuddle (and improve the scope of her view)!


How long have you three been together?

Since Happy was a few weeks old, she's been with Robin and Henry, who drove all the way to North Carolina to pick her up. . .in a Hooter's parking lot (Robin shared this silly detail gleefully).


What would readers not know about Happy, just by looking at her?

"Like any dog, she's protective. She's small, but she's still a dog. Plus, she goes after flies," Henry said.

"Flies?!" I asked.

"Happy! There's a fly! Get it!"

Immediately, her ears perked up, her shoulders squared, and all four limbs moved swiftly and silently. The "boingin'" sprite became a fierce huntress, stalking and ready.

"What does she do when she catches them?" I asked.

"Oh. She never catches them," Henry chuckled, "but she'll chase them, even on the walls!"


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pooch Profile: Harley


For a few months, I mulled over the idea of returning to this blog, because I just really like the idea. Last summer wasn't the best time to start a blog, but this summer, a truly relaxing and recharging span, might prove better suited. So, when I spotted a beautiful boxer lazing in the sun outside a strip-mall Starbucks--when he wasn't greeting every human customer--I took it as a sign.

Harley's 8 years old. He and his self-described "sometimes man-on-the-leash," John, are equally enamoured of each other and other dog lovers. The ensuing conversation--and the ear and back scratches Harley casually commandeered--solidified my purpose, regarding this blog: If I am a human who obsessively loves her dog, my love is not unique, but it finds unique camaraderie with anyone who loves similarly, and thus deeply.

Name: Harley (just Harley)

Age: 8

Breed: Boxer

How did you meet?

John never grew up with a dog. Family allergies prevented pet ownership, but as an adult, he bonded with a girlfriend's dog. At a pet store, he began playing with a female boxer puppy. When the clerk shared that the little girl had a brother for sale, John couldn't resist.

"Maybe if I'd planned it, I would've gotten a rescue dog, but there he was, and that was it. It was like a love at first sight."*

Why the name?

This was a no-brainer. John wore a Harley-Davidson tshirt, during our impromptu conversation. Plus, it seems that a muscled, striking pooch like Harley couldn't strut with any other moniker.

How long have you two been together?

John says that when he saw Harley, the boxer had everything he wanted. The breed, itself, was an "appropriate-for-a-guy" dog, one not too small, not too loud, and one that's clean without a lot of fuss for grooming.

In eight years, Harley and John haven't spent a terrible amount of time apart, but as a first-time dog owner, John recognized the puppy-rearing learning curve. "It wasn't deep love like it is now. There were times when I didn't know if I'd made a mistake. I wasn't prepared for what a full-time job it is, but I wasn't going to give up on him. Maybe, sometimes, it was just stubbornness, but I wasn't willing to give up."

"So, what about now?" I asked. "Is it love now?"

"Oh, yeah! He got me on a schedule. He pretty much told me, 'I want you to walk me twice a day and sometimes let me out, and feed me. I want run of the house, when you're not home. I don't want much from you.' And that's how we do it."

What would readers not know about Harley, just by looking at him?

Don't let his grand paws or muscled shoulders full you: within this boxer's breast lies the heart (and stomach? Wait. . .nope. Wrong context.) of a cuddly lapdog. . .especially if it's winter and there's something good on TV.

But, as our conversation wound through puppy stories and a few tricks (Harley will kiss a grown man in public, with very little prompting. . .just FYI), it became apparent that these two were beloved characters in their community. John takes Harley with him as often as he is able, to socialize, and sometimes even to work. John's learned, through simply trying and asking, that many business owners will welcome gentlemanly pooches like Harley to outdoor areas. Even chains like Panera (and the Starbucks where I saw them) will allow dogs, while the human patron enjoys a cup and a chat. In smaller businesses, owners and managers may have different rules. And then, there are perks. In some spots, Harley's a regular. . .who gets free ham, roast beef and bacon when he visits.

"I guess it's our mission to go out and meet people. You have to break the people into the idea, not the dogs."

Indeed, as I talked to John, Harley needed no prompting to politely greet every human he saw. Some humans, however, weren't sure of the protocol. Do they pet? Do they say hello? With a wag of his tiny tail, so intense that it shook his hips in enthusiastic greeting, Harley would seem to have the easy answer: Of course you say "hello" to the happy, affectionate sentry. He's waiting to see you. He wouldn't be out here for any other reason.



*As a purebred dog owner, so many of us apologize for a dog purchase, and not a dog rescue; however, all responsible dog ownerships inherently contain an element of rescue, rescuing from an unknown, a potential abandonment. Pet store dogs, sometimes the product of unsafe breeding practices and less-than-scrupulous puppy care, deserve all the rescue of dogs in shelters. So many times purchased on impulse, by those without the tools necessary to raise a living, breathing creature, capable of deep bonding and affection for others, dogs like Harley rarely end up with loving, careful humans.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dog Blog Late-Night Confession Time

Before 1 August 2012, I saw and met dogs everywhere. Whether I poked around Shadyside shops or went to farmers' markets in Pennsylvania's Amish enclaves, dogs pranced, napped, yipped, barked, and wagged. Before 1 August 2012, my life was awash with pooches; it was a walkers and cookies and smooches all the time. And, because I saw so dang-many dogs, I thought: "I will start a dog blog. And I will chronicle all of these dogs. And people will read it and like it, and that will be nice."

And you know what else I did? I bought little calling cards, with this blog address printed on them, along with pertinent contact information and doggie little graphics. I thought: "This will give my project a sense of distinction, and it will make me seem less crazy--a cute, non-threatening type of crazy, if anything--when I approach strangers and ask them for a pooch interview and picture taking session."

What a fool I was. Because other than the 2 dogs profiled this far--and one of them is my dog, so it's almost like she doesn't count, as if she is a tiny shill or a very small paid participant (in bacon-cheese cookies)--I haven't seen one other damn dog. I'm sorry to swear; I'm bitter. I've only given out 1 card. It is now the 21st of August. I have 249 more of those things. Whatever.

In my very first post, I mentioned the movie The Big Year as a point of inspiration. Though I would like to be the Owen Wilson character, who sees all the birds (in his case), I am instead the Jack Black character, the one who sees no birds at the beginning of the movie, and then sees a bunch of birds at the end of the movie (again, that movie was about birds; this blog is about dogs; I'm on a lot of antibiotics, it's 2 AM, and my I have tonsillitis. Join me on this derailed train of thought!). Also, the Jack Black character gets to be boyfriend and girlfriend with the Rashida Jones character, so there's that. Also, I like Tenacious D a whole bunch, so I guess I'm okay being Jack Black in this metaphor, but pretty and also a girl, and me.

The point is that I have no dogs to share because the universe conspired (perhaps with one or all members of the Baha Men--this is my current theory) to reverse the effects of 25 July 2000 and pull the dogs back in. Admittedly, they have been out for 12 years, no one's ever been able to determine who let them out, and some of them were likely malnourished and turning feral.

I have gone out of my way to find dogs in these past 20+ days. I have little cards (to seem less crazy), and I am okay with being a me-version of Jack Black (with good hair and a kind word for all and excellent taste in accessories). I just want to see some dogs, share some stories, and learn about people and pooches. Is that too much to ask, universe? Don't you want me to meet all the dogs? Or just some of the dogs? Or more dogs than the nice one I saw at the gas station and the one I own?

So, that's where I am. Maybe I have to rethink my strategy on this one. But, I just hope that the next time I enter a post, it's full of pooch profiles and not whiny late-night, antibiotic-crazed rumblings.





Friday, August 10, 2012

Pooch Profile: Macey

I heard Macey before I saw her, the happy, high terrier staccato. Macey, like so many terriers, couldn't contain her barks or her happiness. She wiggled with glee, obviously a dog who loves people--friendly strangers like me and beloved family members with her.

Name: Macey Madison

Age: around 6

Breed: a terrier mix, with a big pinch of Jack Russell Terrier

How did you meet?

Macey's spokes-human, Vicky, recalled meeting at the pound. She brought her daughter to pick out a dog, and out of all the puppies, Macey walked up to Vicky. She knew that Macey was the dog for her family. After all, Macey chose her family.

Why that name?

Vicky originally planned to name her "Madison," but when Vicky's Aunt Beverly suggested "Macey," Vicky compromised and made "Madison" the pooch's middle name.

How long have you been together?

Vicky can remember the exact day--May 20th--that she met Macey, six years ago.

What would readers not know about Macey, just by looking at her picture?

Macey seems to have a number of conversational skills. She "talks" to her family members when prompted. Ask Macey how she is or what she's doing, and you'll get a full report (albeit in dog). She's also not shy about expressing her wants--food, potty, etc.--in the same chatty fashion. Personally, it sounds like a very cute way to receive orders from someone!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Walkies: The Cairn Terrier

It's time for Monday Walkies, links from the web relating to profiled pooches!  Last week, the first Pooch Profile featured my Cairn terrier, Ophelia.  I know a lot about cairns; Ophelia required that I engage in "Cairn Learning and Appreciation" on a bi-weekly basis.  The result?  A Monday Walkies devoted to the Cairn Terrier.


I, Toto:  Ophelia bought me this autobiography of Terry, the dog who played Toto in The Wizard of Oz, for Christmas one year.  Where did she get the money?  I didn't ask; I trust it came from legitimate sources.  Anyway, the book chronicles Terry's career as one of Hollywood's most beloved stars.  Aside from that iconic role, she (Terry was a little girl, not a little boy!) starred in 14 other films, including one with Shirley Temple.

The Buccaneers:  While we're on the subject of Terry the dog, you can stream this movie from Netflix.  It features Terry, and it's directed by Cecil B. DeMille!

...and finally, let's all re-watch "Africa" by Toto, because it's just a really good song.

Social Networking

Instagram:  Whether you use it on iPhone or Android, do yourself a favor and look up the #heresmycairn hashtag.  Feel free to post your thanks in the comments section of this blog entry.

Current Events

Kansas' Official Dog Debacle:  Though some sources say otherwise, the Cairn is NOT Kansas' State Dog.  As this article from Slate clearly articulates, pooches and politics make interesting bedfellows, and the ramifications of official state selections could mean poor conditions for dogs or a meteoric rise in public demand.

Walkies are Over!  Go Shopping!

Dingo Brand:  I'm not saying that I live with someone who's addicted to these things.  I'm just saying that, when we start to run low, there's a frenzy of human activity to procure more.  Ophelia's a very active chewer.  The result is clean teeth and fresh breath (it smells like dog food; it is not unpleasant).  The Dingo Brand rawhide snacks contain some sort of red inner layer that is more delicious than the white outside.  Look:  I don't understand it.  All I know is that Ophelia's eyes go googly with delight when one's handed to her from the bag.  Make your dog's eyes go all googly too.

Folkmanis Puppets:  When Ophelia was a baby, I bought her a crocodile puppet at a toy store.  Though that brave soldier did not survive (his disemboweling was imminent, from the first moment she saw him), I learned that my dog really liked hand puppets.  After purchasing some other cheaply-made puppets, I discovered Folkmanis.  I don't know how these stand up to human play, but a 16 pound Cairn terrier (all muscle and barking and fangs) hasn't been able to destroy hers in over 4 years of hard play.  Also, Folkmanis makes some really awesome puppets.  I recommend buying whichever you think will be the most hilarious, for playtime with your dog.  Ophelia has a wine colored velociraptor and a panda; both of them are bigger than she is, and both of them are (therefore) hilarious to me.  I will also say that Folkmanis puppets--because they are made for HUMAN PLAY--include plastic button eyes and some small parts sewn on.  These toys are not for solo play; they are really for interaction between you and your dog.  With proper supervision, they're delightful.