Nothing Clever Today

I’ve started this post four or five times, and it keeps being more of a laundry-list than anything else.


I now have my dog.

She isn’t vizsla (though she does have the compact, muscular body with the short hair– dark brown instead of russet), and she isn’t a Brittany (though she is that size and already proving quite trainable and perfect with the kids).

I just mention the above because those were the breeds I was researching/pursuing the most recently.
A lab-mix, Shadow displays the best of the mellow of that breed, and has learned since Thursday night several things that are very desirable to our family.

She has even managed to not-bother Jay, though that may be as much to Jay’s credit as the dog’s.

It was Jay who emphasized we shouldn’t consider the animal shelter’s 10-day exchange policy as a trial period.

“I expect the transition to be bumpy,” he said. “So we just need to commit to her and go for it.”

Amazingly, the transition has been rather smooth, so far. The girls are becoming more assertive and Shadow is learning quickly.

The one rough spot we’ve had was Friday night when the neighbor across the street brought her dog over to meet our new arrival. That deteriorated into awful barking from both of them, so we didn’t trust them nearer each other.

We neither of us lost control of our animals, but neither dog really listened to our embarrassed orders to be quiet or “nice” either. We might try again in a week or two, to see if Shadow being more settled will make a difference.

In the mean-time, I’m going to begin classes with her, and I’m hoping the presence of a more experienced dog-person will make a difference in canine introductions. There have been no problems with people.

Both girls have really embraced their role as the dog’s boss (something in question earlier in the week), and Natasha’s favorite thing right now is “walking” the dog– holding her leash and pretending to chose which direction they go in. She frequently tries to “sneak” the leash out of my hand when I’m talking to someone, but I will only let them walk together in the fenced yard.

Sometimes Shadow indulges Natasha’s preference, and sometimes Natasha is reminded the dog is stronger.

It is very fun to watch them together.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful…

But how did I end up in the “international” list for the prize drawing???

Oh dear.

I signed up for last week’s blog party, and like nearly 1000 other bloggers eagerly scanned the list of cool prizes being offered to partygoers. As many of them did, I dreamed up a “wish list” of my absolute favorites, in case I was drawn. I also mentioned I was in Alaska.

~ ~ ~

Here’s a quick reference chart (though it’s largely irrelevant I almost included it as a “public service announcement” in my intro post):

AK is not Arkansas, its Alaska
AR is not Arizona, its Arkansas
AZ is Arizona.

We’re all America, USPS ships to all three, and while mail can take a little longer to get up here, it is not much more expensive.

~ ~ ~

I hope in the future being non-contiguous won’t exclude the 49th state from the awesome prizes offered for American bloggers. (Another idea would be letting small, mailable things like gift-cards be an option for us “INTL” folk)


I don’t mean it in a nasty way. It’s always fun to hear you’ve won something, but this is a little like having someone offer to buy you their favorite painting…

Anyway, had a lovely time cruising new sites during the party, I think I picked up at least two new reads.

And if there is some sadly disappointed INTL blogger who would like my on-line prize-pack, leave a comment (find me a dog if you’re feeling really generous) and we’ll call it even.

A Dog as a Symbol

I wrote earlier my attempt to explain this desire for a dog, and have continued to pick away at it. I have to admit that part of the reason is this idea that getting a dog symbolizes for me (much as getting a diet book does for other parts of the population) beginning, even enabling, a healthier lifestyle.

Enabling, because I’d be willing to do things I won’t currently, like going out to run alone.

The question, then, is: Is this a good enough reason? I’m praying about that, because, by itself, I tend to think not. But I also think there are other reasons than this.


So I said last time that dogs that can’t be trusted off-leash were off my list. And, yes, I do have a list.

Actually my desires have shifted between a specific breed, a combination of characteristics, and a breed with those characteristics.

Jay likes the idea of my having a list.

J: Maybe this way we’ll wait longer before getting a dog.
A: Either that, or we’ll know God really wants us to have one.

But my current image, while I have a breed in mind (Brittany), is more about age and accomplishments. I would *love* to find a dog at a similar level of training as the dog we re-homed a year ago.

But here’s what we’ve talked about:

  • Running
  • Skijoring
  • Frisbee
  • Tracking

Tracking I haven’t done before, but I think would be really fun. Retrieving is rather a given, like obedience training, since my girls really got into throwing while we had our cat.

Stop it. We did not let them throw the cat.

He didn’t retrieve, of course, but he did chase balls down the hall, to the girls’ great delight.

Pit Bull Defense and Analogy

I’ve been researching dogs for a few months now, and there was a long stretch there when I was seriously considering a Pit Bull.

Don’t think I’m sick.

The practice of dog fighting was/is sick, of course, and it’s very unfortunate their name ties them so directly to that purpose they were originally bred for. But there are many attractive things about the breed, and I trusted my instinct for finding a good animal.

My 2-cents of positive PR: the whole time these dogs were being bred for dog-aggression (just as beagles were bred for their noses and greyhounds for speed) they were being selected for their ability to be man-handled under the stressful conditions of fighting.

A dog that bit under pressure was a dog whose line (if not his life) did not continue. I found an interesting statistic on the site I linked above:

Unlike the myth propagated by the media however, human aggression is NOT a problem specific to pit bulls. In fact, pit bulls tend to do better than average in temperament tests.

Okay, prove it.

The American Temperament Test Society provides temperament testing around the country for dog breeds, and gives a passing score for the entire breed based on the percentage of passed over failed within total number of the particular breed tested. As of December 2003, the American Pit Bull Terrier has a current passing rate of 83.9%, and the American Staffordshire Terrier passes [two specific breeds lumped under the name “pit-bull”] at 83.2%. In comparison, The Golden Retriever passing rate is 83.2%.

So the “average” pit bull appears to be about as stable as the “average” Golden, who, as everybody knows, is the perfect family dog.



I came up with an analogy tonight, and that was comparing the general public’s response to the pit bull-type with the general response of a woman, alone after dark, passing an unfamiliar man. (Come to think of it, she probably wouldn’t mind having a pit bull with her under those circumstances…)

Statistically, that man is not dangerous; there is no reason to assume something bad is going to happen now, other than bad things have happened in these circumstances before.

And, really, to protect yourself, you aught to think that way. I just think it puts in some perspective the instant fear-response that goes along with the name Pit Bull.

Ultimately, I passed on the PB for a similar reason I passed on the Whippet, earlier– while it meets many of my criteria, it is not trustworthy off-leash. One of my goals is to train a Frisbee dog, and that’s just not something you can do on-leash.

Dog quotes

This was not researched, and I don’t know most of the people credited with the lines, but I enjoyed them.

I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.
–Rita Rudner

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.
–Robert Benchley

Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog
–Franklin P. Jones

If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise.
— Unknown

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul — chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!
— Anne Tyler

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘Wow, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’
— Dave Barry

And when I saw these two I thought, hmm, maybe this is it.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
— Roger Caras

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.
— M. Acklam

The first sounds a little sacrilegious, but dogs make our lives whole the way children do: they add a richness and variety of experience the uninitiated may never understand.

And the later articulates perfectly my point of awe about dogs. At least the ones I consider good dogs. No matter where they fit your life, they’re thankful to fit. They’re happy to be along for the ride and are endlessly positive about the adventure.

I once stopped going to a Mom’s group largely because it was too negative. I am really hooked on positivity.

Why I Want a Dog

My mom asked me tonight why I want a dog when it’s basically getting another child. That is, even more work than I have now. For a dog.

Part of it I couldn’t articulate, since she’s not a dog-person, but some I could.

As a mom, it’s part of my job to look for and encourage the unique gifts and abilities of each of my children. While I want to guide them in the truth, I don’t choose their gifts or what they do with them.

With a dog, I can pick the type I want and develop the skills that interest me. I can have a companion for my “solitary” endeavors (running, skiing) that prevents me from being isolated in a potentially dangerous situation. I don’t need a “guard dog,” but I also don’t need to be alone.

This latter was grained deeply into me growing up, and while I know women who will run alone, not even my dad would. So I’m definitely not comfortable with it.

If I decide I’m interested in tracking or therapy work, that’s what we do. I choose the animal that will love working toward the same goals, and we go for it. I get to define the goals, rather than just finding them.

It gives me an outlet for my desire to direct without squishing anyone’s individual, inherent direction.


Those are my definable non-dog-person reasons. Maybe I’ll be able someday to articulate what about dog-ness keeps pulling me back. Lines in the books about “loyalty” and “unconditional love” don’t quite explain it, since I have those things already.

Maybe it’s the god-ness we get a taste of. I’ve heard others suggest that. The chance to be the source and completeness of life, the infallible one worthy of sole adoration. But that can’t quite be it either–

Because I already have a nursing infant.

A unique look at some mutt-mixes

From Mutts: America’s Dogs that I mentioned earlier:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix: A lab in a Leather Jacket
  • The Golden retriever-setter mix: If it’s Irish or Gordon setter, beware a beauty over brains blend
  • Lab-Australian Sheppard mix: “A young lab is a runaway boxcar and an Aussie outfits the chassis with Boeing engines. This dog has to have something to do…Something. Anything. Repeat often until tired. (Warning: you will tire far sooner than the dog.)”
  • Irish Setter mix: the gorgeous airhead of the dog world.
  • Greyhound-Lab mix: A beautiful creature mentally, physically, and spiritually, unless you’re a squirrel. Continue reading »