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Tag: dogs and humans

Dog park humans: A breed apart

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One of the things that strikes you if you spend any time at a dog park is the amazing diversity you see — in appearances, in personality types, in behavior patterns.

And that’s just among the dog owners.

Just as there is a vast array of breeds and mixes, shapes, sizes and behaviors among dogs, there are certain “types” when it comes to the human denizens of dog parks.

So let’s slap some labels on them, shall we?

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Yes, it is wrong. But as much as we tend to slap labels on dogs, it’s only fair to give humans a turn. All in fun, of course. We’re not criticizing any of them (hardly), just making some observations.

All the characters we are about to describe are fictitious, though based on actual observations over the years at dog parks in well over a dozen cities and towns. If one or more bears a striking resemblance to you, old or new friend, it’s purely coincidental. And any exaggeration or irreverence that follows is purely for the sake of humor.

In other words, don’t get mad at me.

DSC06870leashes1The Dog Talker:
This person is constantly talking to their dog — an ongoing one-way conversation: “C’mon Princess, you should you meet these other dogs over here. Oh look, there’s your little friend Barney. And look at this big boy. Do you like him? I think you like him. He looks a little like your friend Bowser, doesn’t he? Let’s play with him for a while before we go home for dinner …”

Often members of this type are also members of another type, making them doubling annoying. The Baby Talkers: “Yesums you’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. Did you step on a burr, oh poor baby, come here, let me see your little pawsie. Awwww, it’s OK little baby. There, there, all better now.”

There is one more sub-category of these talkers, and they are those who actually seem to expect their dog to answer them. They are prone to asking their dogs the same question repeatedly, as if, on the third or fourth asking, the dog is suddenly going to respond with words: “Are you ready to go home for dinner, Fluffy? Hmmmm? Fluffy, you want to go home for dinner? Does Fluffy want dinner? You want to go get dinner, Fluffy?”

The Experts: They can and most assuredly will tell you more than you want to know about training, about breeds, about care, about feeding, about anything. Sometimes they may actually have some expertise. More often, they haven’t a clue. Still, they feel the need to conduct mini-lectures that conclude with something like “And that is why dogs eat grass” or, “That’s how they came to be known as Lhaso Apsos.”

DSC06874leashes1The Device-obsessed: They are the largest, fastest growing group at the dog park, and one of the most dangerous, totally ignoring their dogs as they tap away on their little screens. They really should look up now and then. See your dog? He’s living in the moment. You should try it.

The Social Butterfly: Must meet and engage every dog, and every human, in the park. He or she flits about, asking your dog’s name, your dog’s breed, telling you about his or her dog, remarking on the weather, etc., before moving on to the next dog and person. One of these — they often being the sort that prefers a monologue over actual conversation — recently began talking to me, even though I was on the big dog side of the fence and he was on the small side. Without any response, or any acknowledgement from me, he continued talking, non-stop, to the back of my head, for 30 minutes.

DSC06948leashes1The Loners: They go to remotest corner, avoiding interaction and engaging, most likely, in some fetch — silently, relentlessly, repetitiously, and most often using one of those flinging sticks so their hands don’t get slimy. Both owner and dog, generally something like a German shepherd, seem to tense up if you or your dog approach. Often, the loner person has a loner dog, which brings up a point we’re not addressing here: How a dog’s personality comes to resemble its owners.

The Rescue Hero: The second, if not first, sentence out of this person’s mouth about their own dog is “he/she is a rescue” and it is followed by the dog’s tale of woe in its previous life. His coat was matted, his ribs were visible, he was a bait dog used by dogfighters, he was abandoned and left tethered at a Walmart. Often they weren’t involved in any actual rescue, but merely walked into a shelter and adopted the dog. But that’s OK. It still makes them good people. Just don’t expect sainthood.

The Action Hero: This is the young guy — perhaps an off duty firefighter, or someone who just left rugby practice — who rushes over to fearlessly break up any dogfights.

DSC06981leashes1The Date-seeker: He is there to meet some babes. He will lavish attention on your dog because he thinks you are cute. He seems so nice, but might he be a biter? Exercise some caution before going into a play stance with him.

The Over-protector: These people are constantly coddling and babying their (usually) small dog, hovering nearby and becoming alarmed if play becomes a little rough. At that time, they immediately pick it up, making all the larger dogs want to have at it even more. I’ve seen people show up with their dogs and spend their entire time at the park on a bench with their dog (who might be wearing clothing) on their lap.

DSC06847leashes1The control freak: This person is a strong disciplinarian when it comes to their dog, so strict that their dog is barely able to have any fun. Granted some people use dog parks to train their dogs, but even then said dog should have a little frolic time. It’s not boot camp. Sometimes, they seem to want to discipline everyone else’s dog too: “None of that now. Easy, eeeeeasy now,” they’ll say to other dogs. He or she commonly offers training advice to total strangers.

DSC06849leashes1The Poop-spotter: This person has uncanny peripheral vision — to the point he or she can spot any dog in the act of pooping, even if there are two dogs simultaneously pooping at opposite ends of the park. He or she then promptly informs the owner, “Hey, your dog just pooped, about three yards from the fence, to the left of that fencepost.”

The No Boundaries Dog Owner: These are the owners who clearly believe their dog can do no wrong: These dog owners let their dog get away with pretty much everything — digging, snarling, humping to name a few– issuing few corrections and generally only mild ones. They fail to notice signs that things are getting out of hand until it is too late.

No Boundaries Parents: These are even scarier yet, letting their young children chase strange dogs, run from strange dogs while shrieking, and hug strange dogs. These people might pose a bigger risk than even the Device-obsessed. And if you have a combination of the two, well, that’s a recipe for disaster. Often, with these people, their children listen to them with the same disregard their dogs do. No matter how many times they warn little Tommy to close both the gates when he enters and leaves, little Tommy leaves them wide open.

By now you are asking, well “OK Mr. Holier than Thou, which type are you? Or are we to assume you are perfect?”

Far from it.

DSC06880leashes1I am sometimes “the expert,” but only when an unanswered question is looming, and I am sure of my facts, and I feel the information will make the person I am conveying it to a better dog owner. If, while I am talking, they start yawning, or texting, I will stop.

Sometimes I am “the loner,” sometimes “the social butterfly,” depending on my mood — and my dog’s mood — that day.

Sometimes I’m the rescue hero, not the action hero because generally any fights will be over by the time I’m able to make my way over there on my wobbly legs. I will share the tale of where my dog came from, but generally only when asked and without taking credit for any actual “rescue” when all I really did was adopt him. Still, I’m happy to share, and feel it’s important to share, the story of his Korean past, sad as it was.

I’m not the Date-seeker these days, but I’ll admit that possibility may have been in the back of my head — if not ever actually exercised — in earlier times with earlier dogs. And, hey, it might still be lingering back there to a small degree.

Most often, I’m of the type I haven’t mentioned yet.

The Quiet Observer: This is someone like, say, a semi-retired journalist with time on his hands, skilled in observing human behavior, prone to eavesdropping, able to recognize the subtle differences between us, and aware that — above all else — they are what makes life interesting.

DSC06843leashes1So feel free to disregard all this, and just be yourself. It’s true, I’m far more tolerant with dogs than I am with people. Dogs can jump up on me, they can lick my face, they can sit on my lap. People, these days, get on my nerves much more quickly.

Even so, it’s not my place to tell them how — other than observing proper dog park etiquette — they should act. So I almost always stifle myself from saying anything out loud.

When a small child it is chasing my dog, screaming and trying to grab him, I will warn them out loud, “Hey, you might not want to do that.” But I try to not let negative vibes into my head, and try even harder not to let them out of my mouth.

But that said, Tommy, close the damn gates.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

No more kissing: An urgent and newsworthy life-or-death warning to all dogs everywhere

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Dear fellow dogs,

It is with great sadness that we issue you this urgent public health warning, but evidence is mounting that licking the face of a human can lead to deadly consequences.

After careful consideration, we are advising that you cease the age-old practice at once: What has traditionally been viewed as a gesture of love and loyalty now clearly poses a direct and immediate threat to our species.

The slightest licking of a human face can lead to mumps, ringworm, salmonella, swine flu, Giardia, MRSA and more.

satireWe know it is hard to resist licking the hand that feeds you, much less slurping that human face leaning towards you in hopes of receiving a good tongue-lashing.

But resist we must, no matter how tempting. That sweet toddler face crusted with remnants of spaghetti dinner? Avoid it. The master who wants you — for some reason — to snag a treat from his or her mouth? Politely decline.

They are germ-filled creatures, and germs must be avoided at all costs.

For now, our concern is with human faces, because they are home to mucous membranes, the path many transmittable disease follow. Human faces are veritable germ factories, but human hands could be even worse.

Do you have any idea where those hands have been?

In an average day, the typical human has wiped his own hiney, scooped up our poop, picked his own nose, scratched his own groinal area, and turned a dozen or so door knobs. And that’s just the beginning.

We, at this point, are beginning to have doubts whether we should continue to allow them to even pet us. We now have that under study and will issue an additional advisory if necessary.

We realize this warning to you is vastly different than the reports your owners are receiving from their so-called news media and studies by their so-called scientists. Those reports tend to only address the dangers we pose to humans, ignoring the dangers they pose to us.

For example, take this week’s New York Post: “The Deadly Reason You Shouldn’t Let Dogs Lick Your Face.”

And those reports tend to snowball, thanks to the Internet, getting blown way out of proportion and repeated by anyone who knows how to cut, paste or share.

So you may have already noticed your human has developed a sudden revulsion to being licked.

Our warning, though, which you will only read here, is based on solid science and sources as respectable as PetMD.

With humans not wanting us to lick them, and us resisting the urge to lick them, we can only wonder how the bond between humans and dogs will play out in the future.

The lick, after all, is the most powerful item in our toolkit, and it is is difficult to imagine how, without it, we will be able to complete our mission — namely, to provide the affection and reassurance humans so desperately need.

While, for now, we can continue to shake hands, cuddle and nuzzle, anything involving the tongue, effectively immediately, is out. Given this void, humans, most likely, will turn to other sources of reassurance, such as Facebook friends who tell them they are beautiful/awesome/loved/in their prayers/etc.

You can’t get germs from a Facebook friend, assuming we don’t count computer viruses.

The Facebook friend could well end up replacing the dog, and that would be a disaster, sending us back to our wolfen days and throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack.

We, the board members of the Department of Human Control, debated long and hard over issuing this warning. There were those among us who felt we should continue licking the faces of people, no matter the health risks. They, however, were a minority and members of the smaller breeds.

As we enter the lick-free era, it is vital that we come up with new ways to endear ourselves to humans — maybe learn to take out the trash, do the dishes or find other ways to make them feel they need us.

For the truth is we have grown to rely on this curious species that wipes its own hind quarters and, often, doesn’t wash its hands as often as it should.

As disgusting and needy as they can be, we’ve grown to love them — germs and all.

(At top, my former dog Ace with my former neighbor Mike; at bottom, Ace’s kissing booth, 2009)

Artist and her dog wear each other’s hair

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No surgical procedures were involved — thank God — but Japanese artist Aki Inomata and her dog, Cielo, have exchanged hair.

As an artistic exploration into the relationship between pets and their owners, Inomata has made a coat out of her own hair for her dog to wear, and a cape out of her dog’s hair, which she can be seen modeling above.

hairexchange2It took several years of gathering the locks of herself and her dog, followed by much weaving, to assemble the hair and fur into wearable items.

An art installation that displays both coats, and a video of the process, is entitled, aptly enough, “I Wear the Dog’s Hair, and the Dog Wears My Hair.”

The coat exchange was an exercise in empathy, Inomata says.

“I have had various pets, and do so now as well,” Inomata is quoted as saying in an article on DesignBoom.

“I believe that all people who have pets wonder at some point whether their pet is happy, and I face the dilemma of whether it is right to make a living creature into a pet. Within this context, I have had these animals appear in my artwork.

“My works take as their starting point things that I have felt within everyday experiences, and transplant the structure of these experiences analogically to the modes of life of the animals. The concept of my works is to get people to perceive the modes of life of various living creatures by experiencing a kind of empathy towards them.”