Read the Need of the Breed

Dogs are family.  That statement isn’t mine, but that makes it no less true.  Dogs want to be with you, protect you, and want to please you.  They want to LEARN what it takes to please you.  All they ask in return is your love, your time, and, of course, food.  Sounds like family to me….

I’ve always loved dogs, as far back as I can remember.  I never thought I’d actually get one of my own, though.  I couldn’t see having the time to care for them or the ability to schedule my life according to a pet’s needs.  And it IS hard sometimes.

It’s my ex-wife’s fault, really, that I have a dog now.  Her son (my former stepson) had been asking for a dog for awhile.  She finally caved 4 years ago, when her son was 10.  My wife and I were actually divorced at this point, but had a “friends with benefits” thing going on.  I still remember the phone call when she told me she’d gotten the dog.

What she got was a 5 or 6-month-old Bichon Frise.  I never would have thought I’d fall in love with a “foofy” dog like a Bichon, but I did indeed.  They’re actually rather cute when their fur is shorter.  The day I met this little critter, my ex and I went to PetSmart to get some supplies.  I carried him around.  I looked down at him and said, “Hold the baby”, which I think is a line from Borat that my co-workers would say all the time.  When I said it, he licked my chin.  I said it again, and he licked my chin again.  My canine obsession was born.

When we got back to my ex’s apartment, I wanted to play with him, and I drummed my hands on the floor, Ba-Da-Dum!, and he performed the same rhythm with his paws.  It was a magical bond created that day.  I would call to see if I could come over to play with him and offer to watch him if my ex was going out.  And it wasn’t one-sided.  She told me when my car would pull up that he’d go apeshit and bark at the door for me to hurry up.

Eventually, my ex and I went from “friends with benefits” to not even friends at all.  There’s the saying “My wife ran off with my dog, and I miss him”.  That’s pretty much how it felt.  Thus I made my decision to get a dog of my own.  Like I said, it’s all my ex’s fault I wanted to get one.

The point I want to get to with all of this backstory is that I could have rushed out and gotten a Bichon like hers.  But I lived in an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, and had to wait 10 months for my lease to expire.  This turned out to be an incredibly good thing, in that the time made me think.

Bichons are known for separation anxiety, we found out.  The little guy threw up every time he was left alone.  And then there’s the grooming….

I used my time to think about what might be a good fit for me, and I bought a book called The Dog Bible.  It’s a rather comprehensive encyclopedia of breeds.  I looked through and any picture that looked like a dog I might care to get, I read the profile.

Different breeds have different needs and traits.  Some dogs are high-energy, and need to run or have a lot of physical activity.  Some need a “job” to do, because they were bred for hunting, herding, digging for vermin, etc.  If they don’t have this need met, they can get bored and depressed and eventually become destructive.  Some are couch potatoes, and if you’re looking for a jogging partner, they’re not it.

And again, the grooming….

I was single again, and would be caring for an animal on my own.  A dog breed known for separation anxiety wouldn’t be good since I had to go to work to earn kibble money.  And since I don’t have a lot of said money, regular trips to the groomer wouldn’t be my best bet, either.  A short-haired breed that doesn’t need trimming would work, and a smaller dog would be better for apartment living.  I also wanted a dog with a moderate energy level, so we could play and roughhouse, but I wouldn’t have to be on the go all the time.

I narrowed it down to a final four options, including the Miniature Pinscher and Rat Terrier.  I found a Miniature Pinscher (Min Pin) rescue online, and I read books on the breed.  And read some more.  I picked out one of the dogs they had available, and it turns out she’s a Rat Terrier/Min Pin mix!  She behaves more like the Rat Terrier, so that’s how I see her.  I of course read up on them, too, when I learned she was R.T. as well as M.P.  She will likely not be my last Rat Terrier.

I don’t rule out getting other breeds in the future, including Pit Bulls, but I want to be a more experienced dog owner before getting a larger dog.  And, of course, I’ll do my research first.

That’s the moral today: Don’t make a pet purchase blindly.  Do your research.  If it looks like it won’t be a good fit for you and your lifestyle, you’ll only be out the cost of the books and not an adoption fee.  You also will not have risked traumatizing the dog (and yourself) by making uneducated decisions.

P.S.–Adopt from a rescue or shelter.  There are so many dogs that need homes, and they may be euthanized if not adopted.  They may even have been put there through no fault of their own.  Someone else might not have done THEIR research, and gave the dog up because of human mistakes.  “Open your heart to an animal in need, don’t give in to puppy mill greed.”

Dear Furgii,

Dear Furgii,

When I met you, I knew that you had hypothyroidism.  It wasn’t a big deal; you take a synthetic hormone that takes care of it.  What I didn’t know was that you also had epilepsy, and that I’d witness 3 of your seizures.  I knew when I met you that you also needed a good dental cleaning.  I didn’t know that the teeth were so bad that your jaw was being eroded, and you’d need to have 8 molars removed.  I also didn’t know the string of maladies that would require trips to the vet for the next 20 months.

You would break a nail completely off, and you’d have to get taken to the emergency vet after hours.  The broken nail would eventually get infected, of course.  You would at one point get profuse diarrhea for 3 days and have to go on an antibiotic. You would get kennel cough and have to go on more medicine.  You would also break a tooth, which I’m not sure I can completely explain.  That tooth also had to be completely removed.  You’re now down 9 of them.

You occasionally do something to your right hind leg, and you hold it up until whatever issue is resolved.  I always wonder if the latest incident will be the one requiring a trip into Moorestown.  You’ll develop little cysts here and there, and I’m afraid to assume they’re just cysts and we’ve seen the good doctors a few times on their account.

I knew when I met you that you would require periodic blood work to check your thyroid levels, but, unknowing of the epilepsy, not about the periodic testing to check your organs because the medicine preventing your seizures isn’t so great for the rest of your body.

I thought when I met you that I’d be getting a companion, a miracle, and that I’d love you.  On these counts, I got everything I expected, and more.  You may have come with more drama than I’d planned, and required more maintenance and expenditure than I could have ever foreseen, but I wouldn’t ever, ever give you up.  I regret nothing.  I DO love you, as unconditionally as you do in return.  I hope on some level you know that.

Love,

Daddy

   






For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

2012, My Personal Apocalypse: “May You Live In Interesting Times”

I wanted my blog to consist of thoughtful things, things which might engage potential readers, and to NOT be a bunch of updates on my life.  I have FaceCrook for that.  I didn’t want my page to be a bunch of diary entries, essentially.  But I haven’t had any topic ideas, and it’s been 11 days since my last post (I think).

It is said there’s an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.  The phrase is allegedly NOT Chinese, nor ancient, but it proves an amusing curse nonetheless.  And I find myself in interesting times.  As I wrote about in my post “A Week of Friday the 13ths”, I began the year with some unexpected veterinary issues (with accompanying bills) after a clean semi-annual checkup of my dog on January 4th.  This all has come to $139 I didn’t expect to spend (on top of the $132 I’d just paid for the blood work, stool and urine samples, and office visit for the clean checkup).  The worst part of it , though, is Furgii having the seizures and needing to go back on the Phenobarbital.  The money is nothing compared to concerns for her health.

Then, on the 25th, I noticed that my email account was sending some strange emails to every email address of which there were records, even if they weren’t in my address book.  I figured it out when the Mailer Daemon sent me notices that my messages to Shop.NFL.com and some other addresses were undeliverable.  This had been going on for 5 days.  When I looked into my “sent” folder, the outgoing messages consisted of what sounded like Biblical passages followed by some kind of coding.  I had to get a new email account, and I changed every user name and password for everything I do on the computer.

Today, I found upon checking my bank account (which I do fairly regularly to double check my math) that a charge of $45.51 to a merchant (WMV*Match.com) is awaiting clearance.  I naturally thought of the dating site, Match.com, to which I have never gone or used.  I called my bank, and was informed that I can dispute the charge once it clears, which will likely be tomorrow.  I had to cancel my debit card and will have to wait for a new one to arrive via mail.  In hindsight, I maybe should have gone to an ATM to get some cash before canceling the old one, because I now have no access to money.  I do have enough food in the house, so I’m not that stuck.  It’s just inconvenient.  I wanted to cancel immediately so no other charges could be made by the villain.  After getting off the phone with the bank, I googled the address, and there has been a string of credit card fraud of varying purchase amounts all made to this “merchant”.  I happen to joyously be one of the latest victims.

Not a good start to my year, to say the least.  It’s funny because just a few days ago, I was telling a co-worker that I have always been a generally unlucky person.  I have had luck kick in when I needed it most, but otherwise, mine has been dreadful.

For example, I should have failed my senior year of high school, most notably because of my history class.  I can only conclude to this day that my teacher passed me because he liked me.  I never did the homework, I never paid attention, and my tests had to be abysmal.  But I used to talk to the teacher about music all the time after class.  I simply couldn’t have earned a passing grade based on anything of a scholastic nature.  It’s unfathomable., but luck allowed me to graduate.

My wife and I found out after moving to Rhode Island that my stepson’s father was abusing him.  Very unlucky thing to have happen (most so for my stepson).  But we found out just before we were up there 6 months.  After that time, my stepson would have been a resident of that state rather than New Jersey, where he was born, and the original custody agreement that my wife was his guardian, with visitation rights by his father, would have been nullified.  Once back in Jersey, we retained the original custody order and could pursue the eventual restraining order against his father.  This was the only lucky thing in the situation, but we got the information we needed in the literal nick of time.  March 1st of 2006 would have been the deadline, and my wife and stepson made a run out of town on February 27th (when we found out about the deadline) and enrolled him in school in Jersey on the 28th.  Nick of time.

Wy wife left me, twice, in the years that followed, but the one lucky thing for me there is that I’m no longer embroiled in the drama that has befallen my former family since then.  This is an awful thing to say and think, but I know I would have been destroyed if she hadn’t left me.  Nick of time (though the scars remain).

My first dog, which I’d gotten to help me move on from that situation, came with chronic health issues that were hidden from me by a completely irresponsible and negligent foster home.  I had the dog 5 weeks before I was able to get someone else to take him.  I could not as a single person care for the dog’s needs.  But he and I were a nearly perfectly compatible match of personalities.  It’s still heartbreaking.  My”nick of time” luck there might have transferred to poor Chance.  If I hadn’t adopted him, the foster home probably would have killed him through negligence, and the home that has him now was finally able to get the proper diagnosis for a dog that has many years to go still.  My 5-week role in his life literally did SAVE it.

I got my current dog to replace him.  She had 2 seizures in my first 2 weeks with her.  The foster home that had her had not witnessed any.  I covered this also in a previous blog post, but I DO NOT in any way blame that foster situation.  It was a young couple that worked and had social lives, and if the seizures had occurred, they hadn’t noticed them. They weren’t even part of the rescue.  They just found her and agreed to foster if the rescue paid the bills.  I truly believe them, and still correspond with them sometimes.

But at this point, my abused stepson, the woman who dumped me twice (and hooked up with someone in one of her outpatient step-down programs after she went bonkers), the two dogs’ health issues….God surely hated me.  In fact, I wondered if Furgii had never had seizures UNTIL she came here, because I’d given my bad luck to her.

And last year, I had a very bad year at work.  I had let so many of the negative issues in my life effect how I was behaving on a day-to-day basis.  I’m deeply ashamed of my conduct during the middle stretch of 2011.  I am very lucky that I was given a chance to turn myself around and was not disciplined or punished in any way, though I should have been.  I was fortunate to “see the light” before it was too late.  Nick of time.  I was looking forward to a good 2012.

And now all of this email nonsense and financial b.s. happens.  I seem to have caught both in the….well, you know.  But It’s maddening that I have to go through this shit.  I know my problems are greatly outweighed by the problems some others have, I do.  But still.

Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”.  Well, THIS MAN wants to TRY to put the SOULS of his shoes up the ass of THESE TIMES.

“And I Say to Myself….’What a Wonderful World’….”

Previous entries of mine have talked about the evil in the world, mostly that inflicted on animals, and I am in no way doing an about-face regarding that.  There are so many disgusting and disheartening things to be seen daily.  But today, I want to do something else.  Yes, there are those things that are born in the darkest corners of the human mind, but there are amazing, beautiful, wondrous things, too.

There IS love out there, the love of people to make a CHANGE, and even to BE changed whether they want to or not.  I have been doing what I can to change the injustices out there, and I am but the metaphoric grain of sand in the movements I have joined.

I read an article today by someone who fostered animals, including dogs, but never considered herself a dog person until her family fostered, then adopted an aging pit bull, and helped him to live the rest of his years with dignity.  I also saw a PSA featuring a player on the St. Louis Rams football team for pet adoption.  I signed a petition for the protection of wild buffalo and other creatures.

But it’s not just about animals.  A friend of mine supports Somali Mam Foundation, an organization that’s fighting to stop human slave trafficking.  There are movements to protect children.  There are movements to save the environment.  Speaking of which, I received an email today that a bunch of jungle land that was going to be destroyed to make paper plates was saved, as per a petition I had previously signed.

There is darkness, but there is also light.

There are still individuals that care, saving farmland, saving the underprivileged, saving animals, saving the subjugated.  There are the people that even FIND OUT about these troubles in the first place, and act to CREATE the petitions I and others are signing, and making sure it’s all sent where it needs to go.  THAT can only be called LOVE.

It’s still here in this world, though it faces many obstacles.  But instead of focusing on those obstacles, today I want to focus on and be grateful for the people tearing them down.  Because I want to express what they’ve been expressing:  LOVE.

Somaly Mam Foundation

Becoming a Dog Person, article about the aging pit bull

HOMEGAME with PSA, PSA for pet adoption

(Look, I figured out how to install links!)

The Ghost in the Machine

I have been posting for a few months now, and this is my 25th post (a milestone!).  What I want to say here today is how in awe I am that I’ve been able to reach readers.  It started with friends in one of my writers’ groups at a meeting about beginning/promoting/streamlining blogs.  I have since somehow magically gained readers, or at a minimum written posts that at least one of which landed on someone else’s computer screen, and they liked it enough to click “like”, to comment (nicely), and/or to even subscribe.

I thank all of you that have enjoyed what I’m doing and especially those that follow regularly.

I’m still very new to this, and very new to computers in general by comparison to most suburban Americans.  I’m definitely NOT a tech-savvy person.  I’m amazed that the wizardry of these computers and the internet has allowed me this “voice”, and for the digital ears to “listen” to it.  I’m grateful for that, grateful for the spirit in these electrodes and wires and satellite beams that lets us reach out to each other this way.         (Reaching Out)>>

But I’m most grateful for those that support what I’m doing via that spirit by liking and continuing to be open to what I have to say.  I most humbly appreciate that and thank you all.  Peace, love and light to you all, as my friend Jacquie would say.

Revolution # K-9

I was talking with members of one of my writers’ groups during a meetup based on blogs.  Somewhere along the line, I got to talking about dogs, and it was suggested I write about dogs for my next blog post (thanks, Marie!).  This was a great idea, especially since I had earlier mentioned having a hard time coming up with topics upon which to write.

Doing all of the advocacy I do for animals, I know I shouldn’t probably have favorites, but I can’t help it; I’m a dog person.  As far as I can recall, I always have been.  I can’t relate to cats (and I’m allergic to them anyway), but the way dogs show they love and need your companionship, return all that back to you, are so expressive, and have such loyalty draws me in.  I am an extremely loyal person myself (to a fault), and I’ve been hurt by that fact in my life, most recently by my ex-wife (but we don’t need to go there).  Of course I highly regard what is arguably the most loyal creature on the planet.  I advocate for cats as well, but my heart is with canis familiaris.

The conversation I was having during my meetup centered around what we, as people, have done to make dogs the creatures we know.  At no point did golden retrievers and chihuahuas occur in the wild.  We made these breeds over approximately 15,000 years as man domesticated wolves, or wolves entered into a partnership with us.  The theory is that wolves got closer and closer to our ancestors’ encampments to feed off our scraps, perhaps gain warmth near our fires, and our ancestors saw the benefit in having protectors and mobile “alarm systems” hanging around.  Domestication was inevitable.

Why don’t the majority of today’s breeds resemble wolves?  I refer to an article I read in National Geographic (Taming the Wild, March 2011) which covered the story of a Russian geneticist doing research on foxes in the 60’s.  The most fierce and volatile-tempered of the foxes were bred with ones of similar temperament, and the most docile were bred with other docile ones.  There were also control groups bred from mixed temperaments.

After 9 generations (9 years), the ones bred strictly from volatiles were nasty little demons, but the ones bred from only docile parents began to develop patterned coats (the original generation’s just being grey), and had their ears stay droopy longer before standing upright as adult fox ears do.  They would also wag their tails and lick the geneticists’ faces.  By the 13th generation (13 years), they had tails which curled upwards upon seeing humans.  Still later generations of the foxes would include red and chestnut colored fur.

People react to puppy dog eyes and floppy ears, and pretty much every breed of puppy dog has ears and eyes that do that.   People also respond to different colors and patterns and curly tails.  The hypothesis?  It’s an evolutionary trait that developed to make us go “Oooh and Aaahhh” when we see them, and we want to take in these adorable little furballs.  So the foxes started retaining their droopy ears longer and developing different patterns, and sometimes more vibrant colors.

They even started whining when the handlers came by their cages while the aggressive ones snarled and threatened menacingly.  Some “nice ones” would even jump up into the humans’ arms.  All within 15 generations, or 15 years of selective breeding.

So, different traits would change with wolves as they became more and more domesticated, and as different jobs were created for them, such as guarding, herding, or hunting.  Then we cross-bred different emerging subclasses with others to get newer combinations of appearance, size, personality, and function.

My own dog is believed to be a rat terrier/miniature pinscher mix.  Both breeds were designed to be vermin hunters, and are smaller in stature, but possessing a very strong prey drive.  The miniature pinscher was created by mixing the German pinscher with the Italian greyhound and dachshund in all probability, and the rat terrier was likely created by mixing various terrier breeds.  So my Furgii is an amalgamation of generations of specifically designed breeding for specific purposes.

The downside to all of this is that so many of us want “purebred” dogs, such as the different retriever breeds or Yorkshire terriers or mastiffs.  But breeding “like with like” too closely will eventually cause a degradation of the health of the breed if genetic lines are bred with themselves.  The fact is that most breeders in the world are not of the careful or responsible kind, and are just mass producing dogs for a bottom line return.  They don’t remove unhealthy ones from the breeding lines.  Hence we have breeds that are likely to have ailments such as hip dysplasia, cataracts, heart conditions, patellar problems, and so on.

It’s just like human genetics.  Those of Jewish decent are at risk for Tae-Sacs, and African Americans for sickle cell anemia, while the child of a half Caucasian/half African American parent and half Latino/half Asian parent will have a significantly greater chance of being healthy, and would probably have phenomenal skin, too.  It’s the same for dogs (and other creatures, of course).  A mutt can still have been bred from poor genetic stock along the way, but mathematically should have the best chances of escaping these unwanted traits by dilution.

Wild animals, by the way, generally seem to know not to mate incestuously for these reasons.  It’s evolutionary survival not to to do so.  But long story, short, this is how we got dogs from wolves.

Now, I ultimately don’t know where my long-since-descended-from-wolves rat terrier/min pin (rat pin?) Furgii came from, who bred her, or why.  She was found wandering around North Carolina and was in a rescue for 6 months before I adopted her.  What I CAN tell you is that there’s nothing you could offer me which I would accept in trade for her.  Nothing.

And that takes me to the point I really want to make:  You could go to a breeder, even a reputable one, to get the breed of your dreams or even, as many people want, the puppy of your dreams.  But there are so many dogs that are being killed in shelters every damn day because no one wants them.  They were abandoned; they got lost; they “no longer fit into the family’s plans”; they were dumped at the shelter after getting chewed up as a bait dog in a dog fighting ring.  Some of these dogs just need a new family, are just victims of circumstance, and some need to receive love for the first time in their lives.  They’re out there waiting.  Waiting for someone who wants a dog, like you.  So please, if you’re looking for a dog, check the shelters, check the rescues.  As the slogan says, “Rescued is MY favorite breed”.