Sunday, August 31, 2008

Watsonville Rejects BSL

BSL is short for Breed Specific Legislation, the kind that make it result in laws making it illegal to own certain breeds of dogs. This almost always guess it, Pit Bulls. The Watsonville City Council showed great wisdom in recognizing that no dog is inherently dangerous, that it is irresponsible, inadequate dog owners that make them that way. The story mentions that BAD RAP member Christine Allen was there to speak on behalf of the dogs. She tells her experience in the BAD RAP blog post below. Just follow the link.

read more | digg story

BAD RAP's Christine Allen Tells Her Story

BAD RAP Blog: Thank you, Watsonville City Council!

San Bruno Couple Told To Get Rid Of 12 Chihuahuas

I had feared that this couple were hoarders not unlike the cases seen on so many episodes of "Animal Cops". If you're able to see the video of the news report you'll see that this is clearly not the case. It appears that the house is clean. The representative from the Peninsula Humane Society didn't have a problem with them. If all the city needs is to have an inspector approve it then I hope he does so . Those Chihuahuas were very cute. One of them even looked like my Zoe! I totally sympathize with the couple saying they didn't want to part with even one of their dogs.

read more | digg story

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Experiencing the Strength of the Mighty Chihuahua

Owning Zoe and Charlie has been my first true experience being a dog owner. I've wanted a dog of my own since I was a little kid. I'd had these images of me throwing a tennis ball playing fetch, or hiking down a trail with a full backpack, hiking boots and a hiking stick with my dog at my side (never mind the fact that I've never gone hiking before), or on a road trip just the dog and me, like I was Han Solo and dog would be my Chewbacca. Of all the dogs I had dreamed would be my companion a Chihuahua was never one them.

I wanted a more macho kind of dog, one that wa
s wolf-like in appearance, like a German Shepherd or an Alaskan Husky, one that would be a reflection of my masculinity. Funny, huh?

So instead of a big, rugged dog I ended up with two Chihuahuas that have a combined weight of no more than 13 pounds. And while neither one will ever fulfill my dreams of playing frisbee or will make me look like a tough guy walking down the street they have still fulfilled me in a way I hadn't expected.

I used to think that people that did things like taking their dogs with them everywhere they went, or had portraits taken with them, lavishing them with money and attention were absolutely nuts. What's wrong with these people? I understand you love your dog, but for Christ's sake they're DOGS, not people. You must have a mental condition. But now I think I understand.

I have learned so much from my dogs. Zoe and Charlie show me unconditional love. When I come home from work every day they are the ones that welcome me home, tails wagging, jumping up trying to lick my face. They live in the moment, not dwelling on past. They don't hold grudges. If they get mad, they don't stay mad. They forgive almost instantly. They give so much and ask for so little in return. Now I understand why people spoil their dogs. They're just trying to reciprocate.

I have also earned a greater appreciation of not just dogs, but of all animals. They have opened my eyes to rights of animals. I make sure that whenever I see a news item about animal
abuse I make a point to put it on Digg and add a comment or two. I now have a greater sympathy for shelter animals and the situations that led them to being there. I have always felt that Pit Bulls have been victimized by ignorance and discrimination, but now the subject enrages me. Isn't that funny? Who would ever think that a Chihuahua could serve as a goodwill ambassador for a Pit Bull?

Without having Zoe and Charlie in my life I doubt I would have ever read Cesar Millan's "Be the Pack Leader". From that book I have learned how not only does the "pack leader" mindset help you with dogs, but how it can help you become a better human being. The calm assertiveness needed by an effective pack leader can also be appli
ed in one's own person-to-person interactions as well. Learning to communicate calmly with your dog is great practice for communicating calmly with people. The principles and mental states are no different.

My dogs have had a powerful affect over me. They may look tiny, but they are strong in ways I never could have imagined.

By the way, you can see what I've "Digged" visiting

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dogs, the Perfect essay

I have always felt that every creature, every species we share the planet with was put here to serve a purpose. There is a balance that exists in nature. Every creature exists because it has its own role to play in maintaining that balance. What is the role of dogs in the natural order? I have come to believe that dogs are here to be with human beings, us, that nature has uniquely intended dogs to be our companions.

Evidence exists that would suggest that wolves, from which all dogs are descended, have accompanied man as many as 15,000 years ago. The first pet wolves probably assisted their human masters with hunting and defending. Man has made pets out of all sorts of animals besides dogs. Amongst them are cats, fishes, birds, reptiles, rodents, and horses to name a few. Some even make pets out of insects. But it is the dog that has just the right combination of attributes that fit us perfectly.

Dogs possess just enough intelligence to be teachable but not so much that its needs for mental stimulation are too burdensome to reasonably provide. Dogs have a pack mentality with the capacity to accept humans as pack members and are protected and defended as such. Big dogs are strong enough to adequately defend against attackers but not so big that they require any kind of special housing. Dogs do not have special dietary needs. Dogs are genetically easy enough to breed into variations that fulfill specific needs like pulling sleds, herding livestock, or hunting rats. Nowadays, if we need an animal to provide assistance to the blind, or assist the police in catching a criminal, or detect drugs, explosives, or survivors in pile of rubble that we might not otherwise be able to find it is the dog that we turn to.

Sure, a cat can keep you company but will never protect you against an attacker. You can't pet a fish. Reptiles and birds aren't capable of thinking of you as family. You can't take a hamster or a rabbit for a walk. Don't get me started on insects. And while a dog can't plow your field or give you a ride like a horse can, a dog can still herd the horse and keep watch over it.

Dogs have been called "man's best friend" with good reason. They've earned it.

Thank you, Cesar Millan, for providing me with the inspiration to write this.

Little Lance Making a Comeback

Sometimes the worst things bring out the best in people. Perhaps something terrible happens to serve a greater good. As horrible as that whole Michael Vick thing was, perhaps now we are all more aware of the horrors of dog fighting and the plight of the Pit Bull.

In this case, Little Lance, the little mix-breed puppy that was shot in the street and thrown out a car in East Oakland a few weeks ago has had to go through this so that perhaps all could see that animal cruelty is alive and well in the East Bay. Conversely, what we also got to see was that there are also a lot of animal lovers out there as well. This was a call to arms for those who stand against animal abuse. Indeed, over 400 answered the call with monetary donations, and over 50 people stepped forward to offer their homes as fosters.

Code 597 also got it's moment to shine, coming forward with a large donation. Code 597 is an organization named after the California Penal Code for animal abuse and neglect. It was founded by Oakland Raider Jerrod Cooper. It is an organization dedicated to keeping animals out of shelters.

As for Little Lance, he's recovered enough from his surgery so that he's up and walking around, but he still has a long way to go. He's now in a foster home in Oakland. I hope he'll have a permanent one soon.

Code 597's website
Link to Little Lance's story in the San Jose Mercury News

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Way of the Dog Whisperer

I just finished a great book, "Be the Pack Leader". It was written by Cesar Millan, known by many from his TV show, "The Dog Whisperer".

"The Dog Whisperer" is not a show where you'll find tips on potty training or teaching your dog commands or anything of that nature. Cesar will tell you himself he doesn't train dogs. He rehabilitates dogs, he trains people.

Cesar is more of a dog psychologist. He shows you how dog behavioral problems stem from being psychologically unbalanced and how those problems can be solved by attaining balance. His philosophies make a lot of sense to me, and that's why I'm such a big fan.

Cesar reminds us that dogs are not people, that dogs need to communicated with on their level, a dog level, not a human level. Spoken language does not exist amongst dogs. Their brains are not equipped to learn any language spoken by their human masters.

While TV commercials, TV shows, and Hollywood movies have done a great jobs of portraying dogs as smart, loyal, and funny companions, they've also given us unrealistic expectations for our own dogs to live up to. A scene from the movie "The Jerk" parodies this. Now, I don't remember word-for-word exactly how this scene plays out, but it goes something like this:

Navin (played by Steve Martin) is sleeping in his motel room along with his dog, a mutt, named Lucky. Suddenly, Lucky awakens, alert. He begins barking excitedly, waking Navin in the process.

"What's wrong, Lucky?"


"Are we being robbed?"




"Is the building on fire?"

"Ruff, ruff, ruff!"

"Oh, my God, the building's on fire!"

Navin and Lucky rush out the door. It's the middle of the night. He's in his pajamas pounding on everyone's door.

"Wake up! Wake up! You have to get out! The building's on fire!"

Cut to a shot with outside the motel parking lot. A large number of people are outside having exited their rooms, everyone in PJ's looking annoyed. Firefighters mill around but no actual firefighting taking place. No sign of smoke anywhere. Navin, hugging the dog, says, "Thank God for you, Lucky. You saved everyone's lives!"

A motel guest walking by says to him, "Lucky? You call him Lucky? There's no fire. You should call him Shithead."

From that point on until the end of the movie the dog's name is Shithead.

The sooner we accept the fact that our dogs, no matter much we love them, no matter how smart we think they are, will never learn to understand the English language the better off you all will be.

Dogs live their entire lives never having to speak to each other, yet it is clear that do communicate with one another. How could they, or any animal, survive as a species if not so? Elephants, packs of wolves and hyenas, and primates all live in structured social hierarchies with complex relationships. If they weren't able to communicate with one another to maintain structure there would be anarchy. How do they do it? Body language.

Because we humans rely on words we have come less attuned to body language, but it's not like we have completely lost the ability to do so. For example, if we see someone walking towards us dragging their feet, shoulders slumped, with a deflated look on their face, you'd be able to tell that they were feeling sad, wouldn't you?

Dogs are pack animals. Every dog pack has a leader. Dogs brains are hardwired to think in terms of packs, pack structure, and pack leaders. A dog's owner and the owner's family are all a part of the dog's pack in it's own mind. The dog looks for someone to step up and assume the role as pack leader. If no one demonstrates the leadership behavior that it expects and needs, the dog itself will assert itself as the leader. This manifests itself in the form of behaviors such as excessive barking or nipping, peeing all over the house, and other "bad dog" mannerisms.

What a good dog owner must do is establish and maintain the position of "pack leader". That is what Cesar's book is all about.

I've begun practicing some the things I've just learned from Cesar. For example, when Charlie and Zoe are playing a little too rough, instead of yelling, "Hey, cut it out, you two!", I mentally achieve a "calm-assertive" state, physically separate them with a firm but gentle hand, and look at each of them saying, "Cut it out", in my mind, but never verbalizing it. I try to express it with a look and with body language. And believe it or not, they actually seem to get it!

With continued practice I believe I will be able to master it.

Potty training begins again next week. I am hopeful that these things I have learned will help with that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More on Michael Vick

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~Mahatma Gandhi

One of the most important elements of spiritual and emotional growths is the act of forgiveness. It allows us to shed the emotional bonds of anger and resentment that keeps us from growing, from achieving greater things.

Spider-Man 3 is one of my all-time favorite movies, not only because I was a huge Spider-Man fan as a kid, but also because the underlying theme of the movie was forgiveness. It's not until Harry forgives Peter do they find the strength to overcome the combined might of Sandman and Venom. Peter learns to forgive himself. Sandman asks for, and receives, forgiveness. Venom is the only one that cannot find the strength to forgive, and is ultimately destroyed.

I recently discovered BAD RAP's blog site and have really enjoyed reading and participating in the exchanges in the individual blog comments. The most heated discussions revolve around the Michael Vick case.

Some of the details of the case are pretty horrific. The dog fighting aspect, by itself, is bad enough. What really got everyone's attention were allegations that eight of the dogs were killed for failing "performance" tests. Methods used to kill these dogs were said to have included strangulation, hanging, electrocution, and having their bodies slammed to the ground.

Two others that were being charged reached plea agreements in exchange for their testimony against Vick. Vick's contract with the Atlanta Falcons was cancelled. Multi-million dollar endorsement deals were also cancelled. The NFL has suspended him indefinitely. Vick was convicted on Federal charges and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. He may still have to face state charges when he is released from Federal prison.

It has been estimated that between his NFL contract and many endorsements Vick has lost about $140 million in potential income.

Even if Vick manages to avoid state charges there is no guarantee that the NFL will grant his reinstatement, and even if he does manage to get reinstated there is no guarantee any NFL franchise will want him. Many NFL experts feel that Vick's playing career is over.

Michael Vick deserves to be punished, and, indeed, he is.

Last month the Washington Post's website ran a photo gallery of featuring the survivors of Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels" with accompanying audio clips from those involved in their welfare. Click here if you'd like to see it. The first soundbite is from a local animal shelter volunteer actually thanking Vick for putting dog fighting in the public spotlight.

Is it actually possible that something good can come from this tragedy? It made me think about what the possibilities could be. What would be gained if we could bring ourselves to forgive Michael Vick? I offered this comment on the BAD RAP blog site:

I know there are those who will disagree with what I'm about to say but I feel it needs to be said. I'm rooting for Michael Vick. I feel the man should be given a chance to redeem himself like he said he would at that press conference. I want to believe that he really is sorry. I want to believe he really has seen the error of his ways. I hope that he leads a successful career when he is released from prison.

The dogs given to BAD RAP are the perfect analogy. These were animals that would have been put to death if it weren't for BAD RAP stepping in and saying, "Wait a minute. These dogs shouldn't summarily judged as being beyond help. Just give them a chance." (or words to that effect).

I'm sure that there are many who feel that Vick he is a horrible person that did horrible things and should be thoroughly punished and should not be allowed to play football ever again. And while that sentiment is understandable I believe it would be unfair to have given those dogs a chance at redemption but not extend that same chance at redemption to Vick as well.

Malcolm X is one of my heroes. He was a drug user, a drug dealer, a pimp, and a thief before he went to prison, turned his life around and became one of the greatest heroes of the civil rights movement. People CAN redeem themselves, but only if they're given the opportunity.

Here's my crazy wish for Michael Vick. My wish is that he really has seen the error of his ways, that decides to champion the fight against animal cruelty when he is released from prison, regains his superstardom in the NFL, and uses his fame to raise awareness for the cause.

I know it's nuts of me to hope for such a thing, but wouldn't it be great if it happened? I think it's worth giving it a chance."

I wasn't expecting anyone to agree with me, and no one did. Vick hasn't done yet to earn anyone's forgiveness, but I am eagerly waiting to see what he does when he is released from prison.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Question of Fairness

Since adopting our second dog, Charlie, Karen and I have tried to treat both of them in a manner we believed to be fair and equal. I have been thinking a lot about that lately and now I'm not so sure we have been.

I mentioned territorial behavior in a prior post. I've observed that it seems to be much more pronounced in females. Zoe is definitely territorial. I've come to the realization that bringing a new dog into her territory must be terribly stressful to her. She had mine and Karen's attention and affection all to herself, not to mention the bed, her toys, and her food. That is, until Charlie came along.

When it's snack time the dogs usually have to obey a command before they get the
ir treat. Usually Zoe will obey right away, but with Charlie, well, he may take a moment to be his goofy self first before he follows suit. If I attempt to reward Zoe before Charlie has earned his reward Charlie will go after Zoe's treat. This generally leads to a wrestling match, but once ended in a fight. Now I wait until Charlie has obeyed, then they both get rewarded at the same time. I've come to realize that this isn't fair either. Before Charlie, Zoe got her reward immediately, as it should be. But now she must wait even though she has already complied.

Because of Charlie is so young and hasn't finished taking all his vaccinations he's still at risk of contracting Parvo. Karen had a dog that contracted Parvo as a puppy. His treatment was long, expensive, and painful for the dog. We're not taking our chances so Charlie can't go on walks or to the dog park until he's done with his shots. Thinking it would be "unfair" to take Zoe on walks while Charlie had to remain in the house I stopped walking Zoe altogether. I hadn't realized that this is really being unfair to Zoe. I'm going to figure out a way to start walking her again without it being so upsetting to Charlie (and he does whine and cry when he feels he's being left out).

Karen recently admitted that Charlie was her favorite. I don't blame her for feeling that way. Just look at him. He's an adorable little guy with a carefree spirit, a joyful exuberance you can't help smiling at. He gets into a lot of mischief, for sure, but there's not an ounce of malice in his little body. He's definitely Dennis the Menace, but not anywhere in the ballpark of being Bart Simpson. I feel a little guilty admitting this, but it's true, Charlie really is the cuter one.

It was actually a relief to hear Karen admit this because, in all honesty, Zoe is my favorite. We kind of balance out each other out. As the first dog I could ever say was "mine" she will always be special to me.

I feel badly for her, too. I've concluded that she must have been abandoned by her first owner. She was found wandering the streets of Martinez and was taken to the Martinez Animal Shelter. If she had simply been a runaway, then surely whoever owned her would have wanted to find her, and she was at the most obvious location a Martinez resident would think to look. No, she was wandering the streets because she was no longer wanted.

On the other hand, Charlie was adopted straight from the family that owned his mother and father. He had been with his mommy, his daddy,and all his siblings until the day we took him home. Charlie has never had deal with the hardship of being abandoned. In short, he's had it pretty good.

Charlie will soon be neutered. He will be getting the last of his vaccinations, and will be getting his microchip as well. At that point I'll be able to walk both of them. Hopefully, things will begin to even out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The BAD RAP on Pit Bulls

This is gonna seem strange when you step back and think about it. I'm a Chihuahua owner writing passionately in defense of Pit Bulls.

I have always liked Pit Bulls. I really love their smiles. Go look at some pictures of dogs. All different kinds, Labs, Poodles, German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, look at them all. There is not one breed that has a smile as big as a Pit Bull's.

I've always known that they're not the killing machines with locking jaws that many choose to believe about them. The truth about them is, like any other dog, they're only as mean as they have been raised to be. While there is some truth to the idea that they are genetically disposed to being fighting dogs, it is also true that they are also genetically disposed to being people pleasers. Given this genetic dispositon for fighting the reality is that they'd probably be better at fighting than other breeds, but with the same kind of training and socialization you'd give any other breed they'd be no more inclined to attack another dog than any other breed would be.

I could train my Chihuahuas to herd sheep but they wouldn't be as good at it as a Sheep Dog would. Conversely, if I had a Sheep Dog that had never seen a sheep before wouldn't it be unreasonable to expect him to automatically know what to do if he were suddenly thrust into the middle of a herd of sheep? I'm not automatically better at using chopsticks than anyone else just because I'm Chinese, right?

What has led me to think so much of Pit Bulls lately is the Michael Vick dog fighting case. There was an article in the August issue of Bark magazine and a program they just ran on Animal Planet. Apparently, it is a common procedure in most jurisdictions that any dog seized in a dog fighting operation be automatically be euthanized. It is given that these dogs are ruined, unworthy, and beyond rehabilitation.

Such was the case with dogs in the Vick trial. But in a way they were lucky. They probably would have been euthanized right away if not for the fact that it was such a high profile case. They had only been kept alive because they were evidence. This had bought enough time for organizations like BAD RAP to step in and save their lives.

Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls, or BAD RAP for short, has been providing support for Pit Bulls and their owners for over 10 years. They were brought in by authorities to provide an expert assessment of the dogs seized from the Vick property in Virginia. They discovered that while all of them suffered horribly, a good number of them were not beyond repair. They were able to get the court to release a dozen or so into their custody.

Once back home in the Bay Area they were able to successfully retrain and rehabilitate the Vick dogs. They were eventually adopted into new homes, many with families. One was even certified as a therapy dog.

Lately I've become hooked on these "Animal Cops" shows on Animal Planet. I'm fascinated by the cases of animal neglect and abuse. I really ought to cut back though, because after watching a case involved abused dogs it makes me want to spoil my own dogs, and I think I've spoiled them too much as it is. But anyway, on "Animal Cops Miami" there have been a couple of cases involving Pit Bulls. According to the show Pit Bulls are not allowed in Dade County, Florida. I found that a little disturbing.

I suppose one could conclude then that the lawmakers in Dade County have made the unilateral decision that all Pit Bulls to be unfit, unsafe, and unworthy. That this one breed, this one variation of all domestic canines in the world is somehow beneath all the others. This has a ring to it that sounds a lot like the old Jim Crow laws in the South.

Under those laws black people were automatically considered second class citizens. A black person didn't need to have done anything wrong to be considered wrong. Just being born black was wrong enough. A black person could be a doctor or lawyer that went to church every Sunday and gave half of his income to charity, and that still wouldn't be good enough to get him a better seat on the bus.

Isn't that same kind of unfair treatment being applied to Pit Bulls here? I feel so sorry for all those Pit Bulls I've seen in those animal shelters. Too many of them will end up being destroyed before they're even given a chance.

A couple of years ago I knew this lady that had a Pit Bull that desperately needed a new home. She was out shopping one afternoon and was returning to her car. When she opened the door this blue-gray Pit Bull rushed in from the street and into the car. The dog didn't mean her any harm, she just wanted to be in the car. The dog didn't have any identification so she decided to take her home.

The lady lived in an apartment where dogs were not allowed so she was on a mission to find the dog a new home. Karen and I got to meet her once. She was clearly an adolescent, no more than a few months old. Her ears had been cropped and she was quite well muscled leading me to wonder if this dog had been trained to fight. Meeting her face to face was a real treat. She raised up on her hind legs to greet me. She had such a sweet disposition I immediately started to think of adopting her myself. Karen felt the same way, too, but it would have been unrealistic to believe we could provide the dog with what she needed.

I asked the girls how they'd feel about welcoming a Pit Bull into our home, and I was surprised to discover that they held the same common misconceptions, that they were people killers that had locking jaws. I did my best to re-educate them.

The lady didn't want to surrender her to a shelter. She knew as well as I did that if that dog ended up at the local SPCA she'd just be another Pit Bull in a shelter full of Pit Bulls. She wouldn't stand a chance.

We lost touch with the lady so I never found out what became of that sweet dog. I hope she found a new home. I will probably never stop wondering.

To find out more about BAD RAP and the good work they do visit

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Dogs in My Life

Because of extensive overtime at my job (7am-8pm all this week and a full 8 hours more on Saturday) my crate training and housebreaking activities have had to take a back burner. With no updates to share with you as of late I think this would be a good time to tell you more about the dogs themselves as individuals.

Zoe is our first dog. Karen and I adopted her from the Dublin SPCA in February on Super Bowl Sunday. They tell us that she had been picked up as a stray wandering the streets in Martinez. She spent some ti
me at the County Animal Shelter in Martinez then was transferred to the Dublin SPCA. We kind of lucked out with her. She had just been put up for adoption that day. She had just gotten over a case of kennel cough and had been in quarantine for a few weeks.

As far as anyone can tell she's a purebreed Chihuahua. Her vet estimated that she was about 10 months old at the time which would mean she was born sometime in April 2007.
The SPCA had all of her vet needs squared away. She had all her shots and vaccinations, and she had just been spayed.

Although t
here have been other dogs in my life Zoe was the first one that I could ever consider "my dog". The first dog I ever shared a bond with was my stepfather's little black Teacup Poodle, Spike. Whenever I'd come over my mom's to visit Spike was happy to see me. Whenever I'd sleep over she'd usually crawl into my sleeping bag with me. Although she would have occasional accidents in the house she was usually pretty good at signalling me when she needed to relieve herself.

Her time with us was long before good flea-killing medications like Advantage were available, and the most anyone could do to keep the fleas off of her was to rely on those horrible flea collars. On occasions when I would bathe her the number of fleas that came out in her rinse water never ceased to amaze me.

As she got on in years her body became arthritic. She could no longer jump up on the sofa without assistance. Eventually, she reached a point where she couldn't even step up or down from the porch whe
n she had to go outside. She also developed some pretty severe cataracts in both eyes. She was probably pretty much blind when she passed away.

After a few dogless years, save for one false start with the Miniature Schnauzer puppy I mentioned a previous blog, my mom and Bob adopted a Miniature Poodle named Misty from an elderly lady that could no longer care for her. She was a very sweet dog that was always following Bob around the house wherever he went. She exhibited some territorial behavior. Whenever I would first enter the house for a visit she run up to me and bark at me like I was an intruder, but as soon as I say, "Hi, Misty!" to her she immediately rolled over for a belly rub. She apparently had a congential heart defect that took her life very suddenly. It was very sad when she died.

They now have another Miniature Poodle named Ginger. I mentioned her a week or so ago. She was a little shy when they first got her, but she's warmed up quite a bit since then.

For about a year my brother Bryan and I shared a place on Treasure Island. He alre
ady owned a cat named Bailey. I had never really cared for cats. I felt that cats were generally snooty and standoffish. But Bailey has changed my attitude. Bryan found her in the Mission District in San Francisco while he was working on a job there. She was just a kitten and when he ran across her she was playing by herself in the mud. She is what's known as a Flame Point, a mixed Siamese breed. She was and still is a runt. As a young little kitty her coat was almost all white. As cats go she's a pretty cute little feline.

What changed my attitude about cats was Bailey's demeanor. She's a people
cat. Not aloof or standoffish in the least. Often times when I was alone in the house with her she'd scratch on my door until I let her in. It would never be because she was hungry or even necessarily be shown any attention. She'd be satisfied just to curl up at the foot of the bed. She just wanted to be in my presence.

A month or so after moving to The Island he found a dog on Craig's List that needed a new home. Kalli was a Rhodesian Ridgeback. They look a
lot like Labradors, just leaner. If I remember correctly she was owned by a lesbian couple that had just broken up, were moving out of the place they had together and neither one of them were moving to a place that accepted dogs. The couple also had a cat so Kalli never had a problem with Bailey.

Bailey, of course, had never lived with a dog so she was quite frightened of Kalli at first. Fortunately, it didn't take long for Bailey to figure out that Kalli didn't pose a threat to her so they got along quite well.

Kalli was generally a happy, friendly dog, but had some territorial issues herself. There was a walkin
g path that ran behind our back fence and Kalli did a lot of barking at those that walked by. At about 70 lbs. she was a fairly big dog was from a working breed to boot. She absolutely loved the water and never hesitated to leap into the freezing cold San Francisco Bay to chase after a tennis ball. She was housetrained well, too. As far as I can remember I can only recall her ever having one accident in the house.

One thi
ng that impressed me about her was that when she was play-biting you could tell that she understood the concept of play and that she needed to bite lightly. In contrast, Bailey was also quite mouthy when played, but she never quite got the idea that she needed to hold back. I think that's a great example of how dogs are smarter than cats.

As a working breed of dog she needed lots of exercise and unfortunately Bryan would often be working on a job that required long hours of him, I'd be too lazy to walk her when I woud get home from work, so she never got the amount of exercise she truly needed. And although I did like her I never had shared the kind of bond that my brother had with her. After all, she was his dog and not mine.

I had never really cared for Chihuahuas in general. My perception of them was that Chihuahuas were high-strung, nervously shaking all the time, and given their small size just not very masculine. That perception changed when we started hanging out with our friend, Cricket. She has a Chihuahua named
Buddy. Once I got to know him I began seeing Chihuahuas in a different light. He's a very smart little guy. He occasionally does the nervous shake thing, but not very often.

When Karen and I began visiting different animal shelters looking for a dog to adopt we weren't specifically looking for a Chihuahua but it had to be a small breed. As muc
h as we all would like to have a big dog it was simply out of the question given our living situation. We knew from having Buddy around that it would have to be a small dog or no dog at all.

We came very close to adopting a female Chihuahua from the Martinez Animal Shelter. She looked a lot like Buddy. We had begun the adoption process but we had to leave to get some paperwork. By the time we returned later that day the dog was already gone. Someone else had beaten us to her.

Over the next few days we hit animal shelters all over the E
ast Bay, the Pinole Animal Shelter, the Oakland SPCA, the Humane Society in Berkeley, A.R.F. in Walnut Creek, the Alameda County Shelters in San Leandro and Dublin. I was struck how many Pit Bulls were at each shelter.

Pit Bulls are probably the least adoptable of all breeds. They suffer from such a poor public image. They have such undeserved bad reputations. Most renters will almost never find a landlord that would allow them to have one. Homeowners usually don't have it any easier. It's a common provision in homeowner insurance policies that the presence of a Pit Bull in the household is cause for having either the policy cancelled or the insurance rates significantly increased.

It's really too bad, too. Pit Bulls have just as much potential for being a great fam
ily pet as any other breed. Yes, they are a fighting breed by nature, but only fighting other dogs, not people. In fact, by nature Pits like people. They generally make poor watchdogs because they like people too much.

At the Dublin SPCA we spotted a little tan Chihuahua that was getting it's picture taken presumably to put on the SPCA website. She seemed to be a very happy dog. Her name was Clover. We asked a volunteer if we could see her outside of her pen. Once in the visiting area with he we found her quite likeable.

Karen would have preferred to adopt a puppy but I felt the exact opposite way. My preference was to adopt a fully grown adult. Clover was estimated to be about ten months old. This seemed like just the right compromise between our preferences. She was older than a puppy but not yet an adult. We felt pretty good about her but we wanted to check out another couple of
places first.

Across the street from the Dublin SPCA is the Alameda County Animal Shelter. We went in to check out the dogs there and immediately discovered a tiny long-haired Chihuahua pup. He was little more than a baby, really. We had him taken out of his kennel so we could meet him and found him almost completely irresistable. He was all tail wags and kisses. We were told that he wasn't yet ready for adoption but would be in a few days. They informed us that they don't hold animals for anyone. He would go to the first person that wanted him once he was declared adoptable. We'd have to be there when the doors open on that day, and given our schedules we figured that'd be nearly impossible.

We went back to the Dublin SPCA later that afternoon and adopted Clover. They let us take her home the same day. After stopping off at Pet Food Express for some necessary
supplies we headed over to Cricket's to show her our new dog and to have her meet Buddy.

We got there just in time to see the Giants pull off that thrilling victory in the Super Bowl. We discussed names and found the name "Zoe" to be the most agreeable.

We found that self-confidence was not a problem with her. She loved playing with Buddy but it was clear that she was doing more than just playing. Even when she's playing she also clearly trying to establish herself as the dominant dog.

She carries herself with a measure of dignity. She has a walk that looks more like a prance. When she’s given the “down” command she goes prone very daintily. Her body language definitely speaks confidence.

Karen and I bonded with her very quickly. By Wednesday she had already begun giving me excited greetings at the door when I'd arrive home from work.

She also exhibits territorial behavior. We let her sleep in the bed with us and within a very short amount of time had pretty much claimed the bed as hers. Whenever anyone other than Karen or myself approaches the bed while Zoe's laying on it she jumps up and defends it very aggresively and will sometimes even nip the person, even the kids. I’ve noticed that females seem to be more territorial than males.

At the same time she can also be very sweet. She is quick to give kisses and frequently rolls over onto her back for belly rubs.

Our other dog, Charlie, is definitely a contrast to Zoe. He was born on April 16 of this year, almost exactly one year after Zoe, which makes him just a little over four months old now. Zoe wasn't exactly thrilled when we first brought Charlie home but I think she's adjusted fairly well.

Charlie's ears flop down slightly and has little tufts of hair around the ears. He looks like a mischievous little boy. And that’s what he actually is.

Like most little puppies he’s very active. He likes to chew, often things he shouldn’t. If Zoe has a treat he will run up to her, snatch it from her, and run off, even if he already has one of his own. Usually the only time you’ll hear him bark is when he’s barking at Zoe when he wants to play and she doesn’t. They play pretty rough. Often times Zoe will be physically dominating him and just when you think it’s over, that Zoe’s gotten the best of him, he’ll go right back at her. Their relationship is very much that of the older sister that very much feels she’s in charge and the annoying little brother that will take advantage of any opportunity to get under big sister's skin.

Zoe works hard to make sure Charlie knows that she's number one around here. Whenever Charlie is singled out for some affection Zoe will run over and push him out of the way to make sure she gets some first. When we get home from work she always tries to make sure that she's the one to get her kisses in first. Often times when she's laying down on the bed and Charlie approaches her she'll bark at him in a way that's quite hostile. But to Charlie's credit he never reacts. He doesn't cower from her. He doesn't answer with any hostility back towards her. He just keeps going about his business.

Charlie's also a pretty smart little guy. So far he has taken very well to the handful of commands we've taught him. He was also very quick to pick up things from Zoe, as well. For example, one of Zoe's moves when she would wrestle with Buddy was grabbing him by the collar to gain an advantage. Within a week Charlie had figured out that he could do it, too, and soon Zoe would find herself victim to her own tactics.

One thing in particular that he doesn't have in common Zoe is her grace. He's a rather clumsy little guy. He kind of lumbers when he walks. Recently I've noticed that his legs have gotten a little longer which makes him look even more awkward. And unlike Zoe's careful positioning when she follows the "down" command Charlie just kind of throw himself to the ground. Of course, this only makes him all that much cuter.

The only real bummer is that until all his vaccinations are complete he's not really safe to be outside of the house. Right now he be extremely susceptible to canine parvovirus, a potentially fatal disease. Not only can it be picked up from unknown dogs by direct contact, it can be picked up from simply walking where an infected dog had walked. His final vaccinations are in about three weeks. He'll be neutered at that time as well. I'm looking forward to taking him and Zoe on walks together.

It appears that our overtime at work will be over soon. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up the crate training as well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dogs in the News

I don't have much new to report about crate training progress. I put both dogs in their kennels for two short periods, perhaps a few minutes longer than yesterday. They both got a little antsy, but never reach a point where either began whining. I'm gonna try crating them for 30 minutes tonight.

I've been following two disturbing stories in the news recently. The first happened not too far away in East Oakland. It seems that some horrible human being beat two young dogs, threw them out of a car, and shot them both, killing one. Here's the link to the story in the news

The survivor is recovering the the Oakland Animal Shelter. Thanks to donations from a group founded by Oakland Raider Jerrod Cooper, Oakland-based Pet Food Express, and individuals like my stepdad, Bob, the dog is able to receive the treatment he needs. He may still lose one of his legs. Here's the link to the follow-up story.

Sadly, it does not surprise me that something like this would occur in this part of town. A few years ago after picking up my girls from school. We were in East Oakland not far from where this happened. We witnessed two young boys, maybe 10 or 11, that appeared to be walking home from school that were throwing rocks and swinging their book bags at a little pit bull puppy. I mean, this thing was just a baby, two or three months old at most. I pulled over and yelled at the boys to leave the dog alone. I followed the pup for a couple of blocks and drove off.

Thinking back I should have taken him in my car and drove him to the SPCA. I still feel guilty about that. I still wonder whatever became of that puppy. I also wonder about those two young boys. What other cruel things did they do to other animals?

Another story came from San Marcos, Texas (whereever that is). It seems that is young couple had a miniature poodle that began choking. They jumped in their car and sped off to rush her to the vet. A cop pulled them over for speeding and the officer proceeded to hold them there for 20 minutes before letting them go. Shockingly, at one point the cop told them to "chill out, it's just a dog, you can get another". The dog died in transit. Here's the link. After you read it be sure to go to the video link. The asshole cop's actions were all captured on tape.

Don't get me wrong. I have a great respect for cops. I appreciate the fact that they have difficult jobs. My uncle was a cop. One of my former co-workers at the County has a son who's an Oakland cop. One of Karen's close friends was a cop in Pittsburg that was shot and killed on job. I also appreciate the fact that this cop was doing his job pulling over a speeder. But was it necessary to hold them there for so long? Could he not recognize that they had an emergency? Couldn't he have escorted them to their destination and dealt with their speeding violation afterwards? And finally, was saying "it's only a dog, you can get another" part of doing his job?

If you're a dog owner and your dog was choking I defy you to tell me you'd do anything different from what this young couple did. My heart goes out to them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Crate Training Continues

Karen started working a part-time schedule today. We both start work at 8:30 am but she gets to go home at 12:30. While she's working this schedule it's the perfect opportunity to do a little extended crate training for Zoe and Charlie. It would be impractical to have them crated the entire day, but 4-5 hours? That's a little more reasonable. We may try this tomorrow.

They've both been crated for a few minutes twice today. Neither one of them really liked it. I may not be making their crates comfortable enough on the inside. Karen suggested putting small blankets in. They both have doggy beds that both fit inside the crates but I'm afraid the the beds take up so much space they won't be able to move around inside very well.

Soon we will have to face the first time they'll have to be crated all night. I'm not looking forward to it. They'll both cry. They'll both whine. But, of course, it's when they're whining and crying that we must be the most cold-hearted. This is definitely one "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you" scenarios.

These two have such a funny relationship. They really do act like big sister-annoying little brother. Charlie can be a really a little shit sometimes. The only time he barks is when he's barking at Zoe, trying to get her to play with him. Zoe absolutely thinks of herself as the alpha. Whenever she sees me giving Charlie my full attention she rushes over and either pushes him out of the way or stands directly over him like any alpha dog should. Yes, she's definitely jealous of him, but Karen and I make sure she gets more than her fair share of attention.

One new thing I have learned about puppies is that they're not supposed to be let outside or around strange dogs until they've received all their shots. That kind of took me by surprise. I had no idea their immune systems were so vulnerable.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Doggy Housebreaking Odyssey

I have never been a proponent of adopting puppies. Quite the opposite, I've always felt that if one were adopting a dog it should be an adult. A senior dog is even better. Adult dogs are more likely to be housebroken, they're usually calmer, and generally a lot less work than a puppy would be.

By no means am I claiming to be an expert on the subject. This observation is mostly based upon the one experience I've had with puppies. A few years back my mom and step-dad had adopted a miniature schnauzer, just a few weeks old. And
very cute, too. She didn't have one of those wierd schnauzer haircuts with the moustache. But, man, was she a handful. She had all this puppy energy, just constantly wanting to play. She wanted jump on you and play-bite all the time. And when they had to go to work she apparently whined and cried all day. Last but not least, she hadn't yet been housebroken either. It was too much for them. They returned her after a few short weeks.

The dog
they have now is an older miniature poodle named Ginger. They got her from a poodle rescue. She had apparently been abused by her former owner. She's not in great shape physically. You can tell by the way she walks that her hips have stiffened up on her. My mom can only walk her short distances. I've never seen her run or jump. She's also had most of her teeth removed so she can't handle dry dog food. She's elderly by dog standards, probably 11 or 12 years old. Who knows how much time she left? But my mom loves her to death and gives her all the love, care, and attention she needs. Ginger's a good dog. She deserves to live the rest of her life in relative comfort.

I feel that older dogs, even elderly dogs should be the first consideration for anyone wanting to adopt a new one. Don't feel sorry for any puppy you see at the SPCA or animal shelter. Puppies are cute and cuddly. Puppies always get adopted quickly. It's the older ones that have it hard. They don't have that puppy dog cuteness anymore. They have fewer years ahead of them. They deserve a little extra consideration.

This leads me to my little Charlie. Look at him. Adorable, isn't he? Karen mad
e a hypocrite of me. I have a genuine, bonafide puppy. He'll be four months old this week. As much as I love this little guy he can be a real pain in the butt. He's got that puppy energy all right. He gets into everything. And those baby teeth and nails are as sharp as a cat's. Thank God we've got Zoe around to be his playmate.

He has to be taught everything, and I have exactly ZERO experience with housebreaking a dog. Every dog I've every I've ever dealt with in my life has already been housebroken. But I've been doing my homework. I've been reading books and looking at websites. I will be tackling this task head on.

I'm going to be chronicling my progress on this blog.

This first thing I have to report is about crate training. Since dogs will not defecate or urinate where they sleep a dog will "hold it" while confined to their crate. But first I must get him used to being in his crate. I need to take steps to ensure that he doesn't think of his crate as a little jail cell, but rather his own private personal den. This is what I've begun working on. Zoe will be going through this as well as she is not fully housebroken either.

At this point I just want them to go inside their crates without closing the door. I've been able to tell Charlie to "go inside" while pointing at the crate. He's been really good about it. I praise him and give him a little treat. But Zoe's been a tougher nut to crack. I've only been able to get her to go inside by tossing the treat in first. And as soon as she retrieves the treat she pops right back out.

Yesterday I began closing the crate doors on them for a couple of minutes. The entire time I'm sitting in front of them, praising them and giving them treats through the little metal bars. I'm hoping to make being inside the crate a pleasant experience. I did it again today. They seemed to be fine.

That's my progress so far. I'll have another update soon