Friday, August 31, 2007

Adventures in Dog-parenting

I alluded to more chaos coming, and it has arrived. The Coolclan is coming to stay for a few weeks while they await the completion of some work on their house. They stopped in for about an hour today to drop off some stuff before heading out of town for the long weekend.

Their 4 year old son James (who has had his own share of adventures) handed me an empty container and said "I fed Lily her food." The problem was that the container he handed me had formerly held raisins. There was a little debate about what had actually been in the container, but I was pretty sure it had been half full of raisins. I had a very clear but unsubstantiated memory that the top three foods never to feed a dog were chocolate, grapes/raisins, and onions.

I headed out to the back yard, where Lily and Digger were tied up running around, and all looked normal. I came back inside and checked the internet and found that, indeed, raisins are among the most toxic foods for dogs, at least potentially. As little as 9 ounces of raisins has led to death through renal failure. My guess is that Lily consumed about 6 ounces of raisins. The article I clicked on said that you would see vomiting immediately and then ... well, all sorts of scary things would happen. But no vomiting ensued right then, so we figured all was well and the Coolclan left.

But I am, apparently, an obsessive dog parent. I googled again and clicked on another 3 or 4 articles. From these I basically gleaned that symptoms would not appear for 6-24 hours. So, I decided we weren't out of the woods. I was basically thinking about rushing off to the vet with no apparent symptoms. I did a little more reading. The main recommendation that emerged was not going to the vet but inducing vomiting. I pictured myself trying to shove a finger down Lily's throat and didn't like the image at all.

It turns out there is a much easier way to induce vomiting in a dog: hydrogen peroxide. You give them 1 tsp for each 10 pounds of body weight. I couldn't figure out if she would just drink it or not. By the way, this is the part where I really started to feel slightly evil. I took 2.5 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide and mixed it into Lily's favorite creamy snack: peanut butter. My poor unsuspecting pup thought she was getting a treat and lapped it right up.

About 10 minutes later, she was puking all over the backyard. Poor thing. Five or six gross little piles. And let's just say the piles clearly ended any debate about whether she had eaten raisins or dogfood.

And here's the moment where I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is mine and I am hers and I'll always take care of her no matter how gross it gets. I realized that she (and Digger) were going to eat the puke if I left it there, toxic raisins and all. So I went through my yard and picked up all the puke, making certain not to miss a single raisin. I didn't do it bare-handed or anything, but it is among the grosser things I think I've done.

And I'd do it again.

Lily, though somewhat subdued for a while, seems no worse for the wear now. I do wonder if she'll ever eat peanut butter again. I have a feeling the answer is yes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The police called me

Not too long ago, I wrote about the first time I finally broke down and called the police. Tonight, the shoe was on the other foot: the police called me.

Okay, it wasn't exactly the police; it was campus security. But they were calling with a message from the police. The police had the family of one of my semi-dependent, semi-rational housemates with them, and they were desperately looking for her, and they only knew that she was staying with a prof on my street. I'm guessing that campus security perused some sort of faculty address list, because, well, they called me.

(Random aside on the gift of dogs in my life. The phone call began with, "Hello, Professor, this is So-and-so in campus security. I think I met you the other night. You were walking two cute little doggies." Yep, that's me.)

Security wasn't going to disclose my info without my permission, but there were distraught parents looking for their daughter and ....

I met the parents. Well, it turned out it was mom and a brother. Of course, there is a lot more to the drama, but I think it's more than I really want to blog. Actually, it's more than I really want to be a part of right now. Strange that the looming semester promises a certain amount of rest from the chaos of the summer.

Well, actually, the chaos is just beginning. But I'll save that for my next post.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Parish shopping?

I think I may be shopping for a new parish soon, which really bothers me, since I don't believe in parish shopping.

But here's the deal. This article was in the paper last Friday: the Dominican priest who served in my parish as a youth minister was moved here by his province after he got caught playing with teenage altar boys in another state. Disturbing enough.

But my current pastor was the guy who fired the well-loved lay youth minister (supposedly to save money) since Fr. AJ was perfectly capable of doing the youth ministry. Let me say this clearly: aware of the allegations, my pastor decided to make it the guy's job to hang out with teenagers. Are you more disturbed yet?

OK, one more then. After the news broke on Friday that the Dominicans paid out 1.2 million bucks to the guy's major victim/accuser, our pastor felt a need to address the congregation. He read a prepared statement that made no acknowledgement of the knowledge that he and/or his brother Dominicans had before placing AJ here, took no responsibility, and made no apology. It simply expressed the hope that the financial settlement would begin to bring healing.


With all due respect to the pain and the need for healing of the victim (seriously--he is definitely the most damaged, the most in need of healing), he wasn't there, and his pain and healing was not what needed to be addressed as Fr. Mike talked to his flock 48 hours after the news broke.

So, what does that statement mean? Is the idea that the victim is getting money supposed to lessen this parish's sense of betrayal? It seems to many of the folks around here that this is an extreme but typical manifestation of the sort of pastoral attention this parish tends to get.

So I'm disturbed. And I'm thinking of shopping....

Saturday, August 25, 2007

You can drag a dog to water....

The pack (Lily and Digger and I) send you our greetings from Bow Lake in New Hampshire. We are here for "adults and dogs" weekend, courtesy of some friends who have delightedly sent their two boys off with the grandparents for a while. Walking, swimming and boating were our mejor accomplishments today.

Lily didn't exactly take to the water like her alleged labrador heritage would suggest she might. She actually swam quite handily with no assistance whatsoever, unless of course you count dragging her to the water, coaxing her in, cuddling with her while she just barely had her paws in, and that finally sort of walking her in and letting her go. So she can most definitely swim, but she pretty much hates it.

Digger frolicked along the edge of the water, but never got in deep. Well, almost never. I decided that we should see if he could swim. He can. He also isn't wild about it.

Oh well.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tripped on any good smells lately?

A few days ago, the pack and I were running around campus (leashes off--ah, the freedom!) with some friends, including 7-year-old J-boy. I had called Lily back to me from quite a distance--maybe 30 yards or so. Being the almost-well-trained dog she is, she immediately dropped what she was doing and ran straight to me. And then, halfway to me, she stopped abruptly and stumbled a bit as she skidded to a halt, turned around and began to root around in the ground for something.

J-boy, having seen all this, turned to me, and, sounding a bit worried, said, "I guess she tripped over something." I said, "Yeah, I think she tripped over a smell."

He saw what I meant almost immediately, and has been revisiting the joke frequently. "Have you tripped over any good smells lately, Lily?" "Smell this, but don't trip!" It's pretty cute.

So, the phrase is on my mind a bit, and comes to the fore when I notice myself smelling something. For instance, lately I've been tripping over the smell of the basil in the herb garden just outside my kitchen door. And, what a delight it is when I remember to set the timer on my coffeemaker and groggily trip all the way down the stairs on the smell of freshly brewing coffee!

I've also been thinking a little about the idea of tripping on a smell in another sense, that sense in which a smell takes you on a trip, usually down memory lane. There are a thousand smells, I'm sure, that would take me instantly back to my mother's kitchen, but I can't really thiink of any right now. It's very hard, for me at least, to bring a smell to mind without a smell to remind me. Funny how easily the memories come flooding back together with a smell, and how hard it is to remember a smell.

Trippin' on smells, indeed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back to the dogs

I have, before in this pages, reflected on the tragic fate of the almost-virtuous. This fate, which I feel to be my own, involves being good enough to see and to recognize the good, but not good enough to really desire it, so you do it but you resent it, or fall short in a similar way.

So, lately, I am haunted by the question of whether I am doing right by my foster dog, Digger T. Cooldog. How virtuous, of course, for me to take him in. Or should I say almost virtuous? I fear I may be treating him with a little less love and affection than my beloved Lilypup. And it manifests itself more than anything, in this: when we go out in the backyard, they fight. And Digger seems to get the worst of it all of the time. I think the exercise does them good. But sometimes she seems downright mean to him. In fact, Lily is always playing and playful, wagging her tail. Digger spends half the time cowering in fear.

So, most of the day today, when it happened, I broke it up. I pulled her off of him. I made her sit and stay. I stepped on her leash and extended his, so that he could get away from her if he wanted. Then tonight, not too long ago, we came in from a walk, and here's what happened.

He tried to hump her. (For you doggie novices, don't worry. They are both fixed, and also, this is as much about dominance in the "pack" as about sex.) He spent all day cowering and having me pull her off of him, and now he's going to try to hump her? Good luck! I watched as she tossed him off of her back, onto his back on the floor, and then held him down with her teeth on his throat. I let them stay like that growling at each other for a little while, then made her release him. I kept them separate to calm down for a little while.

Guess what happened next? Just read the last paragraph again. Same exact thing.

I've decided that tomorrow, I won't protect him. And I'm not so bothered by the idea that I might not be protecting him enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Benevolent Dictator of the Animal Shelter

A quick update from life in the animal shelter. I call it an animal shelter because I am currently offering shelter to two rational animals (a student and a recent grad who had some gaps in their summer housing plans) and, of course, two nonrational canine animals, affectionately known as the Cooldog and the Lilypup.

It’s interesting to have spent so much time living in community and thinking about how to get along with many animals (mostly rational) sharing life and space together, and now have some animals with a definite pack mentality thrown into the mix, along with two young women in their very early twenties. To twist Alasdair MacIntyre, the phrase independent rational animals comes to mind.

It is interesting to feel, in the midst of this community of animals, that the dogs and I are a pack, a community, and the others are passing through, especially since one of the dogs is really just passing through. But, in the pack, as mentioned before, I’m the alpha dog: I give care and direction. I make sure all their needs are met and I pretty much control their lives. Harder to do—and, of course, I wouldn’t really want the responsibility—with rational animals.

It’s hard, living among independent rational animals—especially those who have made no real commitments to one another, who share neither covenant nor goals, nor have any real claims on one another. Dependence and interdependence, among rational animals, must be very carefully negotiated. One cannot simply—as one does with a puppy or even a child—take responsibility for another rational animal’s well being. Even when you suspect they could really use the help.

Yet again, I find myself recalling and continuing to renounce my now-defunct campaign to become benevolent dictator of the world. I pushed for this a bit during the presidential election campaign in 2004. I was, in part, trying to make the point that dictatorship doesn't have to be all bad and, actually, doesn't have to be totalitarian. I finally renounced it, not because I gave up on the idea, so much as I realized that, though it would have been good for the world, but it would have been bad for my soul.

It's too bad, eh, that life isn't easier sometimes, for all the animals? Too bad that it is so hard to find real shelter and peace and community, the kind that would really allow for right flourishing, especially for rational animals struggling somewhere between dependence, independence, and interdependence.

But dang! I'm glad I'm not in charge of arranging it for everyone in the world!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gone to the Dogs: The Return of Heidegger T. Cooldog

Things have changed in casa-de-danedy since the Cooldog was last among us. It seems that Digger is no longer top dog. He's not even number two.

Well, it depends how you count.

When Digger was here in May, I knew nothing about dogs, except that one should feed them and walk them occasionally. So, when Digger whined outside my bedroom door, I let him in so I could get some sleep. I tried to persuade him to sleep on the floor, to no avail. Within about a half an hour, he had persuaded me that the only way I was going to get any sleep was to let him into my bed, which I did. (A pause to note that most rational animals couldn't have accomplished that, and certainly not so fast!)

But now, Lily has arrived. And because of her, I have acquired a certain amount of knowledge about dogs and about pack dynamics. I did a little reading (Monks of New Skete; Cesar Millan) and learned that I should be the pack leader and some ways of maintaining that. The Monks of New Skete sold me on the idea that dogs do best when they sleep in your room but not your bed. This communicates to them both that they are part of your pack and that you are the leader. Lily sleeps in a crate on the floor near the foot of my bed. So, what to do with Digger?

I decided to put his bed on the floor near Lily, but not too close. He was determined not to stay there but to climb in bed with me. I ended up anchoring him by his leash to a knob on my dresser, where he had a little play in the leash, but certainly not enough to get to my bed. He whined, he yelped, he begged to be released. It seemed clear to me that he remembered the sleeping arrangements from before. I ignored him. He kept yelping. I kept ignoring. And before TOO long (maybe 20 minutes), he calmed down and went to sleep. (Thank God!)

By the way, Lily was an angel through all his yelping last night. Today, of course, was another story. There was about 20 minutes where Digger lay at my feet like a saint while Lily yelped and whined from her crate. (I suspect that his non-verbals were communicating (you have to read this to the "tune" of a playground taunt) "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, she likes me better, I'm at her feet and you're in a jail cell!")

I think that we've settled into a sense that, for a couple weeks at least, this is the pack, like it or not. Also, we ended up having 2 doggie-play-dates with other (big, rough, wrassling) dogs and one run-around-romp with 2 kids and a tennis ball in a fenced-in softball field). I think we're all exhausted, especially the beta and gamma dogs that did all the serious running and wrassling.

Actually, Alpha Dog is a little tired, too. But she's writing a page of her dissertation before she turns in.