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Tag: babysitting

And now we bring you … DogTV

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As of this week, we can add one more item to the growing list of once uniquely human things that we have, with mostly good intentions, bestowed/inflicted upon dogs.

Dogs now have their own television station.

DogTV, which debuted yesterday, features short clips of canines romping and playing. It airs 24 hours a day, and is designed to keep your dog company, providing him with relaxation and stimulation when no one is home. It costs $4.99 a month and is available on DirecTV.

Now they, too, can be couch potatoes — just like us.

Maybe that’s what we want — for our dogs to be human. Maybe we just assume, given their willingness to please, that if we like something, they’re going to love it, when in fact the reason they love it is because we’re doing it. Maybe we just like free, or $4.99 a month, babysitting.

Whatever the case, we keep passing on or making available to them our curious and not entirely healthy habits, quirks, trendy “must haves” and addictions — be they pharmaceuticals, beauty contests, bling, funny haircuts, halloween costumes, spa services, day care, neuroses, high tech health care no one can afford, or gourmet food.

We seem to  keep trying — consciously or not — to make dogs more like us, when the actual truth of the matter (and the secret of life) is that we should be more like them.

(Maybe, if we watch DogTV, we can learn how.)

dogremoteOn human TV Wednesday night, NBC ran this feature on DogTV, introduced by Brian Williams, who closely resembles a Bassett hound, and reported by Kevin Tibbles, who dutifully includes about every canine-related pun there is.

As Tibbles notes, pets are a $55 billion industry in America, and the nation’s 78 million dogs could make for a lot of viewers. That, even though dogs don’t have disposable income, could prove lucrative.

DogTV bills itself as “the perfect babysitter for dogs who have to stay home alone.”

Therein lies the problem.

Dogs don’t want electronic babysitters. Dogs want to be out in the real dirt, bug, critter and scent-filled world. We do, too, though often we don’t realize it, mainly because we get so caught up in and numbed by TV, video games, Facebook and the like.

I do often leave my TV on for my dog Ace when I leave the house, even though he’s never shown a great deal of interest in it. His ears will perk up when he hears a dog whining or barking on television, and he’ll watch for maybe 10 seconds or so before moving on to more important things, like sleep.

I, on the other hand, who grew up being babysat by TV, will stay up past bedtime and sit riveted for 60 minutes watching a “Law & Order” episode I previously viewed less than a month ago.

Who, I ask you, is the superior being?

“For those of us who suffer the guilt of leaving a dog alone for hours each day, the prospect of forking out five bucks a month to allay our dogs’ separation anxiety might sound attractive. It’s certainly cheaper than hiring a daily dog walker,” Ryan Vogt writes in Slate.  “There’s only one problem: It won’t work. ”

Vogt goes on to explain that dogs “see the world at a faster frame rate than humans do …  Humans’ flicker fusion rate is about 50-60 Hz, meaning we see the world in 50 to 60 images per second. For dogs, that rate is closer to 70-80 Hz… To them, it looks like a slideshow powered by a dim strobe light.”

I don’t begin to understand that (probably because I’ve watched too much TV), but the article goes on to quote some experts, including Alexandra Horowitz. She explains that, in addition to the “frame rate” differences, the fact that no smells come out of the television keeps dogs from getting too interested. “Dogs are not primarily visual … and what interests them is typically smell first, sight second.”

In other words, they know it’s not real.

I don’t have a problem with DogTV existing — just with the possibility it could be overused by busy dog owners. There are better ways to keep you dog occupied during the day, even when you’re not home. And too much TV — be it forensic drama, cooking shows, or even just watching dogs romp — can’t be good for anyone, two or four-legged.

What we fail to realize as we continue to work the wild out of dogs, continue to make them more human, is that dogs don’t need vicarious thrills.

That’s just us.

When the babysitter scratches and drools


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.

We’re not recommending you try this at home, but Ace is pretty mellow, gentle with the little ones and had met Penny before.

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.

 

 

Confessions of a petsitter

I have not let a water bowl run dry. I have not missed administering a single dosage of doggie meds (more than I can say when it comes to my own). I have not left alone for more than three hours my wards for the week — Sophie the three-legged Pyrenees, Charlie the congested golden retriever, Lakota the flatulent bulldog.

My agreement to pet sit for friends in Santa Fe, in exchange for getting to enjoy their tranquil home (mountain views and wind chimage included), is working out well.

There may be a poop or two I haven’t scooped, some dog hair dust bunnies I haven’t swept up, some food and beverage consumed (by me) and not replaced, but all in all I give myself an A.

There have been no altercations — despite the snarls Lakota was directing at my dog Ace before his parents left. None of three dogs I’m taking care of require walks, content to use the backyard. There’s little actual work involved, other than feeding and medication time, which has gotten much easier since I decided to, rather than take the push down the throat route,  administer all pills — Lakota’s Beano included — inside hunks of Havarti cheese. As a result, all three dogs get very excited about pill time, as do I, for it is very good Havarti cheese. I may start putting my own medications inside Havarti cheese.

Sometimes all three dogs will start barking at nothing, but otherwise we’re enjoying the serenity of our temporary adobe abode — though, as I speak, a storm appears to be coming in, meaning I should go administer some Havarti-wrapped Alprazolam.

There has been only one scary moment, when I noticed Charlie had developed a swelling above his eye. I called Mark Terry, his owner — and a veterinarian — who suspected a bug bite and recommended a Benadryl. By the next day, the swelling was gone.

Lakota, the reputed troublemaker of the group, has caused none, though there was one moment when, waking up from one of his frequent droopy-tongued naps, he didn’t immediately recognize me and came at me barking and snarling. As soon as he heard me use his name, he calmed down. Lakota gets his meals in a separate room, with the doors closed. Generally, after about 30 seconds of trying to eat out of one of those dog bowls designed to slow down fast eaters, he flips the whole thing over and eats off the floor.

All three dogs are sweet in their own way. Charlie is the attention seeker, who approaches with his whole hind end wagging, spit strings (due to his respiratory condition) often hanging from his mouth. Sophie loves attention but, for now, prefers you bring it to her. When you do, her tail starts fiercely pounding the tile floor. Lakota, the most indecipherable, unpredictable and stubborn member of the pack, is a lover, too, though he keeps his soft side more hidden, behind an intimidating looking underbite. Rub his belly, though, and he’s putty in your hands.

Writer/editor Valerie Brooks brought Lakota to the marriage, while husband/veterinarian Mark Terry came with three pets of his own.

Both Sophie and Cleo were taken in by Mark after he met them while training to be a veterinarian. Cleo was the first cat he spayed. He ran into Sophie at a shelter just after his own dog died.

Sophie, who recently had one of her front legs amputated due to bone cancer, seems to have grown more frisky each day, and Cleo, the cat is no trouble at all, though once in a while she seems to be trying to tell me something, even when her bowl is full and her litter box is empty. Ace, now that she’s no longer hiding from him, is less enthralled with her.

Ace has bonded with two of the dogs and the cat, but he’s still steering clear of Lakota, even though he’s three times the bulldog’s size. Every evening Ace and I head to the dog park, less than a mile down the road, then out to dinner at one of Santa Fe’s dog-friendly restaurants. Our report on them is forthcoming.

All in all, it has been a peaceful few days. We’ve gotten to stroll the streets downtown, hang out and listen to music in the plaza and, today, are headed to 10,000 Waves, a popular mountainside spa (for humans) that welcomes dogs. I plan to sample the baths, and I have an interview with somebody named Buddha Bob. If he gives me any trouble, I’ll just rub his belly.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing adventures of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America, click here.)

Company for Christmas: Part One

cheyenne

 
My first Christmas guest has arrived and, after bumping into everything there is to bump into, has made herself right at home.

Cheyenne, raised to be a guide dog for the blind, never got to fulfill that role. The possibility that she was going to develop hip problems prevented her from going on with her training. The hip problems never came to be, but Cheyenne, now 11, started going blind herself at age 5.

As dogs will do, she has adapted magnificently.

She walks slowly and gingerly, high-stepping when in unfamiliar surroundings. When she bonks her head on something, she backs up and heads in a new direction. Outdoors, when we come to a curb, I, as instructed, say “step,” and she seeks it out with her paw and steps up. aceandchy

I have her for the week, while her owners visit family down south, and it has been amazing to watch her as she adjusts to new surroundings. Equally amazing has been watching how gracious my dog Ace has been — sharing the couch (it’s his favorite spot, too); not raising a stink when she walks over, into and even under him; and helping herd her in from the two feet of snow in the backyard when she loses her bearings.

On their first trip to the yard, Ace ran circles around and did that downward dog stance dogs do. Cheyenne just sat there, not knowing Ace was sending the play signal. Since then Ace has caught on, I think, to the fact that she’s blind. He’s extra careful around her, and acting like a big brother.

Cheyenne, who loves carrots and lettuce, will be with me through Christmas, and two more canine house guests are still to arrive. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes. My prediction: The couch is going to get pretty crowded.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)