Ace was born and raised a city dog, and however mean one might consider the streets of Baltimore, they (and its sidewalks) always did a good job of keeping his claws filed down to a less than deadly length.
That was a good thing, because, when it comes to a toenail trim, Ace will have no part of it.
Groomers, vets and I have all attempted it, only to receive the clear message from him that — as much as he likes to have his paws played with, as much as he likes to hold hands — bringing any sort of grooming tool near his claws is a declaration of war.
Ace’s claws, for that very reason, have always been too long.
That poses problems, to himself and others. Ace is quick to shake hands, and sometimes does so unsolicited. In Baltimore, when he was working as a therapy dog, I feared he might inadvertenly and with all good intentions rip apart the small children reading to him, and I monitored him accordingly.
They were too long when we pulled out of the city, for a year-long, John Steinbeck-inspired tour of America. But by being constantly on the go, his claws remained at least at a tolerable length during our travels.
They were too long, despite daily walks around the block, after we ended up in Winston-Salem, N.C. and moved into the apartment of my birth.
Once again, I went out and bought some expensive clippers, having misplaced several old and never-used ones. But the latest attempt didn’t work either. No brand, no style, no method of claw trimming seems to work on Ace.
He doesn’t snarl, or bite, he just bucks and flails and, at 115 pounds, overpowers anyone attempting to trim his nails. What’s much scarier is the immense stress it seems to cause him. His heartbeat speeds up. He pants and drools and squirms. His eyes get a frightened look. Maybe I just imagine it, but he even starts to exude an odor. The smell of fear?
Once, back in Baltimore, I asked Ace’s vet to trim his nails. Ace resisted. The vet muzzled him and tried again. Ace resisted more. Then the vet called two burly men into the room to usher Ace upstairs.
From below, I heard the ruckus. It sounded like a professional wrestling match was underway, and about two minutes later they brought Ace back down, saying they’d been unable to accomplish the task — despite their muscles and whatever implements of restraint were upstairs.
It was concluded then that the only way to do it would be by sedating him. The idea of that scares me at least as much as how stressed he gets.
For my my most recent effort, I bought the most expensive professional nail clippers I could find. I let them lay around the living room for a week so Ace would get used to them. Then I recruited a friend, and had her feed him treats as I attempted the deed. Despite even that incentive, he balked. By the time it was over, I was almost fully sprawled atop him while whispering sweet nothings into his ear. He bucked me off, and not a single nail got trimmed. (Anybody need some expensive professional nail clippers?)
I described all that to Ace’s most recent veterinarian, here in North Carolina, at his check-up last month.
He suggested we start jogging on sidewalks. Then, seeing my reaction, he suggested I find a young and energetic friend to jog with Ace on sidewalks.
He also suggested a complete blood work-up that, in addition to checking for any health problems, might also help determine how well Ace would handle sedation.
We didn’t take him up on the second offer, deciding to wait until Ace turns 9 for that.
We did consider his other suggestion — though not to the point of taking up jogging.
Since moving to historic Bethania, and having our own back yard, Ace doesn’t go for a walk every day. Bethania doesn’t have a lot in the way of sidewalks. Three or four times a week we take a short walk — mostly on the street — to the little post office where I pick up my mail. Two or three times a week we walk the dirt trail that meanders through Black Walnut Bottoms, behind the visitor center.
Once in a while, Ace will hear a hunter’s gunshot there, prompting him to turn around and head home. Ace also fears loud, cracking noises — anything from a bat hitting a ball to the crackle of the fireplace. His fears, as he grows older, seem to become more pronounced, but then maybe that’s true of all species. Whatever little fears we have turn into big looming nightmarish ones. Probably, there is a drug to help deal with that. But I am increasingly fearful of pharmaceuticals.
Given the lack of options, I decided Ace needed to spend more time pounding the pavement — and at a pace quicker than the slow one at which I prefer to move along.
So we took some of the vet’s advice, and reshaped it to fit our lifestyle (OK, my lifestyle). We headed down to the golf course where I work as a bartender a couple of nights a week. (Ace not having appeared in a movie in a while, I took my new camera along, too, to test out its video capabilities.)
I’m thinking of making it a twice-a-week routine. The mile-long trot seemed to make an immediate difference. His claws weren’t really any shorter, but they were much less sharp and pointy.
Ace slept great that night, but then he sleeps great every night, with only occasional scary dreams that makes his paws flutter as he emits little whimpers. I don’t think he’s chasing rabbits in his dreams. More likely, he’s running away from scary monsters that want to clip his nails.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 20th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, baltimore, bethania, cart, cart paths, city dog, claws, country dog, dog, dogs, golf, golf courses, groom, groomer, grooming, hot to trot, hygeine, jogging, long creek golf club, movie, north carolina, pavement, pet care, pets, problems, refusal, sedation, sidewalks, solutions, stress, toenails, travels with ace, trim, trimming, trot, trotting, veterinarians, vets, video, winston-salem
Didja hear the one about the blonde Fox News anchorwoman who took her golden retriever to get an IQ test?
While that has all the ingredients for a pretty good joke, it’s actually the basis of a pretty informative news report, in which Fox 8′s Katie Nordeen brought her dog Louie to Duke University scientist Brian Hare to find out just exactly what type of dog genius he — Louie, not Dr. Hare — is.
Hare, co-author of “The Genius of Dogs,” is the founder of Dognition, a research firm that puts dogs through a series of science-based games designed to assess their personality type — information that Hare says can help dog owners better understand their dogs.
Users of the service (it costs $39) don’t get to bring their dog to Hare, as Nordeen did, but get a “toolkit” and instructions on how to conduct the experiments in their own homes.
The experiments measure five dimensions: cunning, empathy, communication, reasoning and memory, and by virtue of the results, dogs are judged to be one of nine types – Ace, Maverick, Charmer, Socialite, Protodog, Renaissance Dog, Expert, Stargazer, or Einstein.
Customers, after submitting their test results, receive a full report explaining their dog’s type, and how the conclusion was reached.
Louie, for example, was found to be a socialite. (You can read Dognition’s full report on Louie here.)
“… Gracefully interacting and communicating with others requires talent. In Louie’s case, she takes this talent to a whole new level – it is definitely her genius. Although Louie is not as adept at independent problem-solving skills as other dogs, don’t jump to any conclusions about her intelligence. Louie relies on a very specific strategy – using you and other humans in her pack to get what she wants.”
(Yes, they got Louie’s sex wrong in the report, but they are personality experts, not gender experts.)
Cutsomers also have the option of becoming members of Dognition (for an additional $60 for a year, or $5 a month), entitling them to receive tailored training tips and activities and get a discount for testing additional dogs.
Hare says Dognition, established last year, is proving popular, with thousands of users from around the world.
“Everybody wants to understand what’s going on inside of a dog’s head. It has not been hard to get people excited about this.”
After visiting Dognition’s lab in Durham for the FOX8 report, Nordeen continued conducting the experiments at home over the next two weeks. Once submitting her findings, the results were delivered, by email, almost instantly.
Hare says the purpose of Dognition is to enrich people’s relationships with their dogs, but it, like his book, is also aimed at showing the public how truly brilliant dogs are.
“Dogs were thought to be totally unremarkable. There were really no interesting things they could do relative to say dolphins or bonobos, so people were focusing on these other animals,” he said. “But at our feet, literally, were geniuses that had been undiscovered … What makes dogs such geniuses is that, relative to other species, they’re really skilled, really flexible, in understanding what it is we want and what we’re trying to tell them.”
The Dognition tests, in their at-home version, may not be the hardest of science, and their results may not be irrefutable. But given the firm’s stated goals, given the not entirely exorbitant price tag, and given that they’re fun and result in people spending more time with their dogs, I think they have a place in the spectrum of doggie evaluation services.
If people are willing to pay more than $100 to determine what breeds are in their dogs, through DNA testing, $39 doesn’t seem like too much to pay to assess that dog’s personality — and may even provide more telling clues into what makes them tick.
I haven’t run my dog Ace through the online Dognition drill yet, in part because I think his genius is too vast to be measured and could forever skew Dognition’s data base, in part because I already know he’s a charmer, with shades of socialite and Einstein. But Nordeen’s report answered a lot of questions I had about the service, and one of these days, I’ll give it a try.
We’ll close with some bloopers, courtesy of Fox 8, that occured while Nordeen and Louie were taping a promo for the piece — none of which, I’m sure, had anything to do with them being blond:
Posted by John Woestendiek November 11th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, blondes, bloopers, brian hare, Charmer, cognition, communication, cunning, dog personality, dognition, dogs, duke, duke university, Einstein, empathy, experiments, expert, fox 8, fox news, games, genius, iq, katie nordeen, louie, Maverick, media, memory, news, personality, pets, Protodog, reasoning, Renaissance Dog, Socialite, Stargazer, tests, the genius of dogs
Ace dragged me down to Bethania’s annual Black Walnut Festival over the weekend, but I don’t think the nuts were the reason he was pulling so hard on the leash.
More likely it was the smell of barbecue that had been wafting up the street since the night before.
We both ate well, him especially.
In addition to getting half of my barbecue and half of my cole slaw (but none of my macaroni and cheese), Ace worked his magic to get frequent hand-outs from the crowd of festival goers — everything from Moravian sugar cake, to slow-cooked pork and beef, to hamburger buns, four of the latter from one table alone.
He got to meet a few dogs, including Roxy, shown above, who is the mascot for Pooch Couture, one of the vendors on hand for the festival.
Wearing sunglasses and a tutu, Roxy immediately attracted Ace’s interest.
So did a poodle, at least until Ace realized she was made of wood — one of many arts and crafts on display.
Walking through the crowd, his eyes would latch on to anyone carrying a plate. Every time someone stopped me to ask what breed or breeds he was, he’d get tired of hearing the explanation — it takes a while – and tug me toward the barbecue tent.
Based on the amount of food and attention he got, I’m sure Ace will want to go back next year.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 30th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, barbecue, bethania, black walnut festival, clothing, dog, dogs, festival, food, north carolina, pets, pooch couture, travels with ace, treats, vendors, winston-salem
Vermont’s only 5-Star resort — at least in the view of Forbes — has gone dog-friendly.
Three of the 20 units at Twin Farms, most of which are freestanding cottages, will now permit dogs, at least those under 100 pounds.
Located 10 miles outside of Woodstock on the 300-acre former estate of author Sinclair Lewis, the luxury resort has long been praised by Forbes magazine, and others, including the Zagat Survey, which deemed it the nation’s best small hotel, with the best service and the best rooms.
But up until now, dogs have never been allowed.
Forbes contributor Larry Olmsted, amid much gushing about the resort’s amenities, writes that three cottages have been proclaimed dog-friendly (Woods, Meadows and Log Cabin), and that the resort now has a house dog — “Maggie, a golden retriever who as Canine Guest Service Manager will gladly lead her fellow four legged guests for a swim in the pond.”
Twin Farms offers canoeing, kayaking, fly fishing, extensive hiking trails, a fleet of bicycles, ski areas and spa treatments, a pub and Japanese bath house and, Olmsted notes, fine dining.
“… Each guest is sent a lengthy questionnaire before arriving and every meal is a work of art crafted specially for that day with carefully paired wines. All the meals wine and top shelf liquor are part of the nightly rate, even if you want bubbly and chocolate chip cookies delivered to your room at midnight. Want to go for a hike and have someone meet you on a remote hilltop with a lavish gourmet picnic hamper and wine? Done. Want to ride a bike mostly downhill ten miles to the charming town of Woodstock and then get picked up? Done. Ski lessons? Done.”
The resort touts itself as “a sanctuary of unsurpassed luxury and quiet ease” and calls itself ”all inclusive” — but that’s in reference to its amenties, not its dog philosophy. Dogs who weigh 130 pounds, like my Ace, probably wouldn’t use that term.
So we won’t be giving you a first-hand report on Twin Farms — at least not until its policies change, my bank account grows, or Ace loses a bunch of weight.
(Photo: Twin Farms)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 27th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 5-star, ace, animals, dog, dog friendly, dogs, dogs allowed, forbes, inns, luxury, pets, resort, resorts, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, twin farms, vermont, woodstock
Ace, a friend and I were sitting outside at a bar downtown over the weekend when Elwood came by.
I being of the belief that one should never pass up an opportunity to meet a dog, especially a puppy, and Ace being of the belief one should never pass up an opportunity to meet anyone or anything, we stopped the young couple and asked to meet their dog.
Elwood quickly got over any camera-shyness, or Ace-shyness, he might have had.
Elwood is 9 weeks old, and a mix of dachshund and pit bull.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 28th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, dachshund, dog, dogs, elwood, encounter, mix, mixed breed, pets, pit bull, puppy, recreation billiards, winston-salem
We’re not big on dogs being tethered to anything — posts, parking meters, even, except when necessary, humans.
And, entanglements sometimes being easy to get into and hard to get out of, it’s definitely not a good idea, generally speaking, to leash them to each other.
But this was brief, and supervised, and kinda cute.
Ace was recruited into babysitting duty over the weekend when, on the quatro de Mayo, we went to a Cinco de Mayo party at a former neighbor’s home.
Two other guests brought their little dogs. First came a pipsqueak of a pup named Penny who, after greeting everyone, still had lots of energy to spare. With a fairly busy road nearby, it was suggested Penny be tethered to a somewhat stationary object — namely Ace.
Plus, he was used to being latched to smaller dogs, having shepherded a dachshund friend several times without stepping on him.
Plus, he was so happy to return to his old neighborhood he wasn’t about to dart off, or even saunter off, dragging two little balls of fluff behind him.
Plus, I was watching over it all pretty closely.
Ace didn’t seem to mind the arrangement a bit, and Penny put up with it, sometimes walking along in stride with him. She figured out pretty quickly, when she did try to scoot of on her own, that it was hopeless.
After exploring together, Ace decided to lay down, and Penny settled nearby, finding a stick to chew on.
About then, Charlie arrived, another fluffy little dog — slightly larger than Penny. That led to an energy surge, at least among the smaller, younger dogs, so we decided to hook Charlie to Ace, too.
As Charlie and Penny frolicked, Ace monitored them for a while, then worked the crowd, begging for food and ignoring the occasional little tugs on his harness.
Eventually, Charlie and Penny were freed, and they were so into playing, they didn’t go anywhere, except in tiny circles around each other — ignoring their babysitter entirely.
I think Ace liked briefly having a mission.
Like all good things though, it came to an end.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 8th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, babysitter, babysitting, backyard, charlie, cinco de mayo, dogs, harness, leash, leashed, party, penny, pets, play, supervision, tethered, tethering
My dog Ace is always pretty cooperative — you might even say a ham — when it comes to having his picture taken.
But last week he went so far as to provide not just the photo op, but the frame.
We were wandering around historic Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem, where he generally checks each shop’s doorstep for water bowls or treats, then peers inside to see if anything of interest — i.e., food related — is going on.
When we came to Village Smith Galleries, an art and framing shop, it was closed, but Ace hopped up on a bench at the entrance. Both sides of the front step were surrounded by lattice, allowing opportunities for him to present his good sides (and there are many) in a pre-framed manner.
In case you can’t read it, that bandana he’s wearing — he got it as a going-away gift — says “I’m smarter than your honor student.”
Sometimes I wonder how true that might be.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, art, dog, dog photography, dogs, frame, framed, frames, framing, north carolina, ohmidog!, pets, photo, photography, photos, reynolda, reynolda village, travels with ace, village smith galleries, winston-salem