Tag Archives: pet ownership

Hell yes, my dog came from a breeder

My writer’s block has been getting worse. I know why. It’s because I am hesitant to write the one thing that will set me free. I tend to avoid controversial topics because I like to avoid fights, arguments, even heated discussions. I get overwhelmed by anxiety and very uncomfortable. I don’t like feeling attacked. I tend to take it personally. Head down, mouth shut is how I have always operated.

But I’m old enough now to not really give a rat’s ass if people don’t like what I think and say. And over the years, I’ve learned to express myself better, even under pressure.

Okay, okay. Get to the point, already.

I hear a lot of passionate, well meaning folks telling everyone within earshot that they got their dog from a rescue or shelter and how wonderful the dog is and how no-one should ever feel the need to buy a dog from a pet shop or a breeder because if you get a dog from the shelter you are really saving two dogs, the one you take home, and the one who can have that space in the shelter.

I know people who are like this. They want everyone to get their pets through rescue, and no pet should ever be left intact (with respect to reproductive organs only. Stay away from ears and tails). And by “pets” they mean all dogs, all cats. I just want to be clear on that. And on one other thing. These people are almost always pet owners or want to be pet owners.

I just always want to ask, “and then what? What happens when your fondest dream is realized and there are no more pet animals capable of reproducing. In ten, fifteen years…POOF! No more pets. At. All. None for you, none for your kids, none for their kids.” As unlikely as that is to happen in the immediate future, it is still a possibility.

Did you even realize that was your goal? Did you realize it’s the goal of some who are trying to legislate pet breeding out of existence? Because that is what will happen if they get their way. They lump all dog breeders into the “puppy mill” category to vilify anyone who would force a poor, innocent dog to mate and produce even a single litter of puppies. And they write laws to that effect. They write laws making it illegal in some cities to own a dog that is not surgically sterilized.

If some of the people in those cities dump their animals because they don’t want to comply with the ordinance, how will that “fix” the stray pet situation? If others who can afford to do so move outside the city limits to avoid the ordinance, they will no longer be paying for typical city services, and how will the city pay for enforcement of the ordinance? If some people move to another state, how is that good for the city?

The sad thing is that if all the laws are enacted that these people want, the people with the actual puppy mills will just find better places to hide and carry on. People who don’t care about their dogs certainly aren’t going to care about laws telling them how to behave. Many honest dog fanciers will simply stop breeding their dogs rather than deal with the expense of getting and maintaining a license while always looking over their shoulder for finger-pointers eager to find them guilty of the slightest infraction.

This would be a sad outcome indeed for those of us who have an interest in pure bred, carefully and consciously bred, lovingly and healthily bred dogs. I’m proud to say that my Basenjis were all bred that way, by a breeder interested in the health of the dogs and the improvement of the breed.

If we legislate away our rights to keep non-human animals as pets, there will be people who will find ways to be cruel to animals, or will simply transfer their cruelty to their own family members. There will be other people, like me, whose lives will grow dim from having all the joy and color sucked out of it. No antidepressant drug can compensate for that one creature you can always rely on to be there for you when life seems incomprehensibly bleak.

I’m all for rescue dogs. I’ve had rescued dogs and I’ve had shelter dogs, and I’ve loved them all. But I don’t want anyone telling me I can’t plan to get another Spinone Italiano puppy from a breeder some day.

You can’t legislate away the dark side of human behavior. And I suspect some of the very ones who think laws can do that have a deep, deep well of that very darkness within.

Educating Darby

In her previous home, Darby led the good life. She had other dogs her size to play with and got to go running on the beach every day. She also, apparently, didn’t have to do much of anything she didn’t like. Take grooming, for starters. “Oh, no. That pulls my hair. Hurts. Don’t do don’t do don’t do!” Head jerking this way and that to keep me from getting anywhere near her face with a TOWEL! Comb? Scissors? Forget it.

Darby at her shaggiest

Darby at her shaggiest

Same with her feet. Trim toenails? NNOOOoooooooooooooooo! Thankfully, I’m persistent. To the point of stubborn. If she wants to pull her foot away, I’ll just grab it again. It came down to me just holding her foot until she relaxed, then bringing the clippers closer, and waiting her out again until the new panic attack subsided. Over and over and over.

A few times I had to just practically sit on her to pin her long enough to get one foot “done,” as in toenails trimmed, mats clipped out from between toes, etc. When I was successful, she would sometimes go through a sea change and let me comb that foot a few days later without all the histrionics. Oh, she can be a drama queen.

I was told I needed to “get tough with her,” but I figured that would just make matters worse. I decided good old quiet, calm, dogged, pig-headed persistence was the answer.

Did I mention that Darby is a sensitive flower? She cowers at a harsh tone of voice, drops to her belly in a boneless, seventy-five-pound heap of unhappy if she gets confused about what I’m trying to get her to do. Not optimal when trying to teach “Stand,” so I could comb her belly.

I never let her decide when it was time to quit, but when I did stop “torturing” her (usually because my back was killing me from leaning over), I gave her lots of praise and special treats, then put her in her crate with a few more special treats and gave her time to calm down.

She’s been here over a year, now, and things have changed. She still doesn’t love having me comb her face and trim her nails, but she tolerates those things better all the time. The shorter hair-cut helped keep her hair from matting as quickly. Fewer mats mean less hair-pulling and pain. She’s about due for another trip to the groomer, by the way.

Now it’s time for “big dog” training. Learning to heel and stay, sit without me having to push her butt to the floor, answering reliably to her name, walking on leash like a respectable individual. Yeah, this is going to take a while.

It won’t be the kind of good life she had before, but it will be a good life with me.

Give your heart to a dog…

One of my Facebook friends has the sad task today of having to say goodbye to one of her basenjis. As I read the comments to her post, I was reminded of a line from a poem I read once, “give your heart to a dog to tear,” but I couldn’t remember if it was one of those rare serious ones by Ogden Nash, or if it was by James Thurber. I “googled” the line and found out I was wrong on both counts. It was by Rudyard Kipling, and it’s titled “The Power of the Dog.” And here it is. Get out a tissue.

The Power of the Dog
by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But…you’ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long–
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

This is for Ju-Dee and her Phoebe. “The falcon has flown to the sun.”

High Maintenance… the point

The previous post was really just the first part, but I published it so I could break up my computer time with my “take the dogs out, bring the dogs in” routine; and so I could sit under the ceiling fan with my clipboard in my lap and write with my big fat pen.  I still prefer to compose with my low tech tools.

My point in going on about all the stuff I have to do for the next few weeks for the Puppy was that it’s not really a big deal. I’ve been here before. My first dog was a dachshund with a chronic/recurring case of some mild form of mange — his vet called it “red mange.” Almost every summer we would have to put him on a schedule of twice or three times weekly baths with medicated shampoo that had to be left on his coat/skin for ten minutes, then rinsed out. This was usually my job, although my brother or one of our parents would often be on hand to help (mostly to keep him from running off while soapy and rolling in the dirt somewhere). At some point he apparently outgrew the condition, or the repeated treatments eventually eliminated all the mange bugs and all generations of their offspring, because I remember a lot of summers in his later years when I didn’t have to bathe him every other day.

At some point in their lives all my dogs have become high maintenance.  Even my easy, breezy, beautiful basenjis have had their share of glitches, although until now they mostly showed up as the dogs got older — like 13 or 14. And I always just figure out how to deal with it. Like these baths. Giving dogs baths in the tub in the house KILLS my back. Don’t want to go there. Same for a tub on the ground out in the yard. So I found a little plastic table about knee high that the tub just fits on. The little monsters darlings are less likely to jump out of a tub a little higher off the ground, especially if it also wobbles just a tiny bit.

When the Old Guy had his second stroke last fall I had to help him walk by holding his leash taut enough to hold his head steady. I had to carry him down the front steps and set him on his feet in the yard. Then I had to carry him back up the steps and set him on his feet in the house (I’m so glad I graduated from great Danes to smaller dogs). And I used a towel as a sling under his middle to hold him up on his feet while he ate. It’s just what I do. What anyone would do for someone who gives so much trust and affection and asks for so little in return.

It’s what I thought I was doing when I came home from Kentucky to look after my father after he had his stroke. But was it that simple? Oh, no.

(To be continued…)

High Maintenance

The holiday weekend just past (July 4th) and a trip to the vet with the Puppy on Monday have put me behind on my blogging. I knew I’d be too busy over the weekend watching “Independence Day” for the umpteenth time and eating barbeque to do any writing — which is one reason I published “Bicentennial.” It was already written, was about the Fourth of July, and I’ve been planning to release some of the chapters from my novel before I finish it to see if I can create a frenzy for the finished product…okay, maybe a small flutter.

I took the Puppy to the vet for a non-life threatening condition, so, not to worry. One hind foot had become puffy and inflamed-looking and I couldn’t see an obvious injury. His chest and neck were also looking inflamed and itchy — an indication that his allergies were flaring up beyond the ability of the benadryl-three-times-a-day to control. The vet said he had probably picked up a skin fungus from the yard, and since he’s got highly susceptible, sensitive skin, it made him break out.

So now I get to bathe him twice a week with special shampoo that I have to lather up and leave on for ten minutes; I’ve got some steroid spray to spray on his foot twice a day; and for good measure, I got some ear drops for the Old Guy, who seems to be having a milder case of the same thing and has been shaking his head a lot (which sometimes makes him fall down).

I consider myself lucky. For most of the first year of his life, the Puppy had one skin condition after another, and was almost always having the special baths — this was before I got him. The breeder had him evaluated for food allergies and ended up putting him on a vegetarian diet. After I got him — at age ten months — I added the benadryl because there was obviously something else “in the air” of Central Texas that he reacted to. Not surprising. A lot of people have told me that before they came to this area they never had allergy trouble. I started having to take allergy medication regularly before I left Kentucky, but could sometimes skip a dose and not really notice the difference. Not so here.

Now we’re in this prolonged drought, and there is dust everywhere, mold spores everywhere, general yuckiness everywhere. Not to mention the triple digit heat and 80-plus percent humidity. Uber yucky. So the Puppy gets his special baths on Tuesdays and Fridays, and since I wouldn’t want him to feel left out (and because he’s a dirt magnet anyway), the Old Guy gets one on Sundays. And I’ll be taking a lot of cool showers and eating a lot of popsicles.

The Basenji Code

The Basenji Code goes something like this.

1.  If I can get it in my mouth, I should be able to swallow it.

2.  If I can swallow it, it is food.

3.  If the food makes me sick, oh, well.

4.  If it moves, I need to chase it.

5.  If I can catch it, it may be food. (See #1.-3.)

6.  If no one is watching, I’m not being a bad dog.

7.  If I’m not on a leash, I don’t have to sit, heel, stay, or listen to my name.

8.  I know that Dammit and No are parts of my name.

9.  Good dog and bad dog are relative terms.

10. I know my people love me whether I do what they want or not.

Now, I’m fully aware of the fact that other dogs, other breeds, have similar Codes, but I would make the argument that the Basenji Code predates those. It may, in fact, be the original Code upon which others are based. Because basenjis are very old. Dogs like basenjis were companions to pharaohs in ancient Egypt. They set the standard for companion dog behavior, and everything that has followed has been an adaptation gained (or lost, depending on your point of view) through selective breeding.

Humans have designed dogs that do what they’re told, no matter what, whether anyone is there to see them do it or not. (Basenjis look on and shake their heads.) This is perfectly fine, and it has made dogs that much more useful to many more humans. I have even had dogs like that, myself, in my past. I found them to be “needy.” Like, “please tell me what to do. Tell me what to do and pet me. Pet me and tell me what to do. Please pet me, pet me petme.” (In fact, my first husband was like that, too.) I’ve discovered that I’m not that crazy about “needy” creatures.

I can live with the Basenji Code. I can live with being highly selective about what toys I can give my dogs, about keeping them on leashes and watching for things they’re likely to lunge after, about picking up the shredded pieces of the various things they destroy when I forget to watch out where I leave things. I can live with their subtlty in showing how much they love me. I get them. They get me. Enough said.

I need my pets, people.


There are people who, though they would squall loud and long if they had to relenquish any of their own rights, would gladly deny the rights of others, justifying their course of action as being for the good of something, someone, some group, whatever.  I’m thinking of the people who, through a misguided desire to end cruelty to animals, have set out to end all human interaction with animals.  They don’t want us to hunt them, eat them, wear their skins, use them for research, keep them captive in zoos, manipulate their lives in any way, or keep them as pets.  I think some of the most extreme of these people must indeed hate animals.  They also must hate people.

If their actions are successful they will not only be condemning all domestic animals to extintion, they will irrevocably damage millions of human lives.  Disregarding all the lives that have been saved, extended, or enhanced as a direct result of medical research first carried out on animals, think of all the people who use service animals or seeing eye dogs; all the people who owe their lives to search and rescue dogs; all the troubled souls who have been helped by therapy animals.  Are these presumably well-meaning individuals going to step in and fill those roles?  I think not.  What, then, do they propose as replacements?  Robots, perhaps?  Oh, please.

I need flesh and blood dogs.  I need them to be fallible.  I need them to remind me how fallible I am.  I need them to keep me sane.  I don’t need them to stroke my ego with slave-like devotion and burning desire to obey my every command (HA!).  I don’t need them to atract all kinds of “ooh, ahh, what cute doggies” attention.  I don’t need them to make me look good.  (And I have certainly chosen the right breed for those jobs.)  I just need them to be there, so I’ll have a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

But this is about way more than just me and my personal needs.  I think there is something basic to human nature that makes us want to connect with other (non-human) creatures.  If we suddenly lost all companion animals, the members of PETA (Persons for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) would undoubtedly rejoice, thinking they had won their fight.  But what do you really think would happen?  It doesn’t even take much imagination.

While watching the “Puppy Bowl” on the Animal Planet channel on SuperBowlSunday this January, I kept seeing commercials for pet food that featured people engaging in activities with thier “pets” — an ostrich and a rhino, among others.  I think, even though that ad was meant as a joke, that as a species, we will have pets, in whatever form that may mean.

They have not yet tried to outright make ownership of pets illegal, but they are trying to change the language of laws to make calling it ownership a thing of the past.  That’s the first step in losing the right to keep your pet if they decide to take it away from you.  If you can’t say you own it, you have no say in what happens to it.  Mandatory spay and neuter laws are another step closer to the goal of outlawing all breeding of pet animals.  Later they will want to outlaw consumption of animal products — meat, milk, eggs.

They can’t possibly be considering the effect this would have on the economy, which presumably will recover from the current disaster.  The pet industry is huge, but dwarfed by the sector of the agriculture industry that would be wiped out by making it illegal to eat meat and dairy.  And the fact that those markets are so large says something about how much control a relatively small fraction of the population is trying to wield.  And if we don’t watch out, they may just get what they want. 

It’s not just PETA and HSUS we need to look out for.  Once I started thinking about it, I realized how far we’ve come toward a future where we will have laws that tell us exactly how to live our lives, as determined by a few people who “know what’s best.”  I’m not even going to go into details.  Everybody can think of an example.  I’m reminded of a few scenes in “Demolition Man,” a movie I’ve probably seen too many times, where everyone is fined for even the mildest strong lanquage, and all the restaurants are Taco Bell (but they will only be able to serve beans).

You know how we all speculate about “if I was in charge…”  I’m just saying, be careful what you wish for.