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Tag: etiquette

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!)

Down Sunny! A faux paw at the White House

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While, as you can see above,  the First Lady quickly seized control of the situation, the Second Dog got in a little trouble yesterday at a White House Christmas party.

Sunny Obama, the second Portuguese water dog the Obamas adopted, was part of a minor incident in which, by most reports, the one-year-old dog’s over-friendliness caused a party guest, 2-year-old Ashtyn Gardner, to fall over.

Sunny, adopted in August, jumped up on the toddler during the 2013 White House Holiday Press Preview.

The moment — not the worst violation of etiquette to ever take place in the White House, but maybe the cutest — was captured by Associated Press photographer Charles Dharapak.

Michelle Obama hosts the party every year, unveiling the White House’s holiday decorations with families of military service members.

Ashtyn, both of whose parents are in the Navy, was attending the party with her father, John Gardner, who later said that Ashtyn was fine.

Sunny reportedly apologized right after the incident by licking Ashtyn’s face, and both Sunny and Bo, the Obama’s first Portuguese water dog, were allowed to remain in the room afterward.

The Washington Post said Sunny “bounded into a State Dining Room full of children dressed in sparkly shoes and lacy dresses and headed right for little Ashtyn Gardner, 2, from Mobile, Ala. All of a sudden the blond girl with ringlet curls … was down on the rug. …

“Are you okay?” said a concerned Obama, mom-in-chief, tugging back on Sunny’s leash. But there was no need for damage control. Before Ashtyn could answer, she was back on her feet and Sunny was licking her face. All seemed well again, and the kids from military families could get back to frosting cookies and making paper poinsettia flowers with the first lady, crafty projects that have become a part of the Obama holiday traditions.

The Associated Press also avoided saying Sunny made contact with the girl, reporting Ashtyn “lost her balance and dropped to the carpet when Michelle Obama led the leashed puppy (a separate handler held Bo) into the State Dining Room…”

The dogs, in addition to attending the fest, also are a large part of its theme. Two life-sized replicas of the Portuguese water dogs, made from black satin ribbon, are on display, and miniature versions of them, made of chocolate, are part of the annual gingerbread White House display.

 (Photo: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)

Why don’t more dogs play golf?

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Last weekend, I went out to take some photos of golfers and ended up with mostly photos of a dog.

His name is Rufus, and he’s a very well-behaved six-year-old boxer.

A tournament at the golf course where I’ve started working, part-time, as a bartender seemed a good opportunity to test my new camera and try to take some photos of people (instead of dogs) for a change.

gsgt 249Then Rufus caught my eye, and wouldn’t let go. He was riding along patiently in the golf cart with his owner, staying there on command, and galloping along on the fairways when his owner gave him permission.

It made me wonder why there aren’t more dogs on golf courses. They would seem — were country clubs not such stuffy places — to go together nicely.

My bartending job is at Long Creek Golf Club — a not at all stuffy place. It’s a public course just down the road from my house in Bethania.

Last Saturday a charity tournament was being held there to raise funds for Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, in memory of parishioners Neena Mabe and Justin Mabe.

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I proclaimed myself official photographer for the event, commandeered a cart and started taking photos of golfers — at least until I saw Rufus.

By morning’s end, I had about 150 photos of golfers, and about 50 of Rufus. I couldn’t help myself.  Boxers, it seems to me, have among the most expressive of all dog faces — including that one that seems to say, “What, you’re not going to take me along?”

That may or may not be why the owner of Rufus, who was competing in the tournament, brought him along. Rufus had perfect manners, didn’t bark once and seemed to totally enjoy the outing. As far as I could see, he bothered nobody, and charmed dozens.

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I’m sure those who take golf ultra-seriously would probably be averse to dogs on the course. Dogs could be distracting, or slow down play. But with one as well-behaved as Rufus — or, generally speaking, Ace — I see no problem with them tagging along with their owner, on a slow day, assuming their owner is cleaning up after them.

Given golfers have to bend over at least 36 times anyway — between teeing up and getting their ball out of the cup — what’s one or two more squats to pick up a little doggie waste?

Having a dog along could even be helpful — at least for me. I generally need a search party to find where my ball landed. (Usually it can be found in the ruff.) Plus, I could blame all my bad shots on him.

I don’t play golf much because it can lead to me getting very frustrated. With a dog along, that might be less likely to happen, given dogs tend to both help us keep things in perspective and soothe us when we get ourselves frazzled.

gsgt 298I’m not sure Ace would be as good as Rufus is at riding in the cart — or whether the two of us can even fit in one — but I’m determined to give it a try. (Yes, we could walk, but to me driving the golf cart is far more fun than the actual game.)

Sometime in the next month or two, on an afternoon I’m not behind the bar, we’ll put a few bottles of water in a cooler, and perhaps a beer or two, pack up a bowl and some poop bags and hit the links. Rest assured, we’ll give you a full report.

And we’ll prove, maybe — or maybe not — that dogs and golf are made for each other, assuming the dogs can learn a few simple rules:

— Don’t pick up the golf ball, unless you’re improving my lie, or moving it closer to the pin.

— Be quiet, and courteous to other golfers.

— Stay with your group and, at least until they’ve hit the ball, behind them.

— Don’t pee or poop on the greens.

— And, of course, always tip the bartender.

(Do you golf with your dog? Know any dog-friendly golf courses? If so, please feel free to share your tips and experiences — good, bad and ugly — via a comment.)

Whose poop is it, anyway?

When are you responsible for picking up the poop of someone else’s dog?

Apparently, in San Francisco, when it ends up on your roof.

When a building manager complained to the city’s health department that dog feces was piling up on top of the pet-free residential building — and that she suspected it was being left there by a dog from an adjoining pet-friendly building — an inspector came to investigate.

A week later, a “Notice of Violation” letter arrived in the mail — not to the offending dog’s owner, or even to the adjacent bulding, but to the manager who had complained. The notice declared her rooftop a public nuisance and threatened a $163 fine if the waste was not immediately removed.

The tale was told in the Bay Citizen, and reprinted yesterday in The New York Times, by columnist Scott James, who knows the manager, a fellow writer named Diane Archer who also lives in the building.

Before contacting the city, Archer — based on another resident having witnessed a dog crossing over from the roof next door — complained to the neighboring building’s owner. When it continued to be an issue, she went to the police, who sent her to the Department of Public Health.

On Jan. 13, Irene Sanchez, a health department investigator, toured the roof, took notes, and promised action — and, to Archer’s surprise, that action was against her, or at least her pet-free building.

Sanchez, noting she never saw the dog in question, said she had no choice. Even though Archer’s building had been victimized, it was responsible for cleaning up the mess. A health department spokeswoman, said that, unfair as it may seem, “someone has to clean it up” — and whether it’s poop or graffiti, the building owner bears that responsibility in San Francisco.

Scott James, the columnist, said he had no trouble finding the suspect —  Jane, a 50-pound, shepherd mix who appaprently was sneaking up to the roof. Jane belongs to the girlfriend of a resident of the adjoining building.

The job of cleaning up after Jane fell to Archer, the original complainant, who scooped each pile up with a plastic sack and disposed of it.

Warmed by the holiday joy of regifting

 

Christmas, as we all know, isn’t about receiving. It’s about regifting.

At least it is for me this year.

Having spent the last seven months on the road with Ace, and being temporarily shacked up in a trailer park in the desert, I decided that all the gifts I give my family members in Arizona will be items that I have tested and gently broken in.

Because “used” is such a harsh word.

I don’t feel guilty about this at all — for several reasons. For one, my father announced he and his wife are not giving, and don’t want to receive, presents this year. They live on a fixed income. I live on a broken one. So it works out just fine. 

Then, too, as you regular readers know, part of Travels with Ace is seeing how cheaply we can pull off our time on the road — an attempt to spend no more money than we were while living in a rented house in Baltimore. We’ve managed, mostly, to do that, and I don’t want to allow the crass commercial side of Christmas to set back all we have achieved in that regard.

As far as the receiving side, facing the long journey back east in my already overstuffed car, any new items for me, at least those that aren’t cash, or are bigger than a breadbox, would be problematic — except for maybe a nice warm sweater, or perhaps some gloves.

In my view, though gifts aren’t what Christmas is all about, a totally giftless Christmas would be wrong. So I don’t intend to comply fully with my father’s no-gifts edict. Instead, I will put my own spin on it.

He and his wife, and my brother and his partner, who all live in the Phoenix area, will be receiving items from me that — while they have made my weeks in Petite Acres, a trailer park in Cave Creek, more comfortable — were purchased with them, at least partially, in mind.

True, they are items that I can’t or don’t want to haul back to Baltimore; and, yes, they are items that, for a brief period, served my purposes. But far more important than that is the spirit of giving in which I will bestow them, once I’m done with them.

To wit:

One red chiminea.

(Not to be confused with a chimichanga, this is a big clay pot with a smokestack — available at most local Western-Mexican-Indian gift shops in the area — in which you can build an outdoor fire.  I am not merely “using” the chiminea to keep myself from being cold at night, and add a warm glow to my dirt yard. I am lovingly breaking it in — seasoning it and tempering it, if you will — before I deliver it to my brother on Christmas day. Though Ace has been tempted to pee on it, because it resembles a fire hydrant, I am pretty sure he hasn’t.)

Two big coffee mugs — one red, one blue.

(What better symbolizes the warmth of the season than a brightly-colored coffee mug, filled with the steaming hot beverage of your choice? The fact that only one coffee mug came with my trailer, and was usually dirty, was not the main reason I bought these for my father and his wife. Rather, it was a well-thought out gift purchase, based on their desire not to have things that take up much space, and a mental note I made during a visit to their house that, while they had coffee mugs, they had no sizeable, gayly colored ones.)

One Indian blanket.

(Even more gayly colored and festive, this gift purchase, I reasoned, would help keep my father and his wife warm at night, and would be ideal for snuggling under while watching a little TV, and they do have a little TV. That Ace and I tested it out — that it may have a few dog hairs on it and smell like cigarette smoke by the time I give it to them — are but small concerns when one looks at the bigger picture and true meaning of Christmas.)

Two bags of Cave Creek Coffee holiday blend.

(The Cave Creek Coffee Company was having a buy-one-get-one-half-price sale on their holiday blend. So I bought two and got two for half price. I would like to make it clear that the ones I’m giving as gifts to my father and brother are those for which I paid fully, while I’m hanging on to the half-price ones — allowing me to test it, making sure the blend is both savory and festive.)

So, you see, while they may have briefly fulfilled my modest needs, these gifts, I’m sure you understand, are not really “used,” or even “pre-owned” — for I don’t look at my relationship with them as that of owner-and-item.

Rather, my time with them has been fleeting — just enough to allow me to share in their joy before passing that joy on to others, at once “paying it forward” and  ensuring that said items are indeed quality merchandise that will go on to bring my family members countless years of happiness.

So when I sit outside as the sun sets, under a festive Indian blanket, drinking Cave Creek holiday blend from a brightly colored coffee mug and keeping my feet toasty in the warm glow of a chiminea, I am thinking not of myself, but of how much pleasure my purchases will, eventually, bring my family members.

Yes, I’m quite a guy.

Speak now or forever hold your paws

Matzoball and Meatball attended the Malibu wedding of their owner, Adam Sandler. Gwen Stefani walked down the aisle with her sheepdog, Winston, when she married Gavin Rossdale in London. Gisele Bundchen’s three dogs looked on as she tied the knot with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And Jennifer Hudson has announced her intentions to include her dogs in her upcoming ceremony.

But not just celebrities are making the dog a member of the wedding party these days. Take Andy MacDonald, regular guy. At his wedding in Seattle, his dog Inge, a collie-malamute mix, served as ring bearer — and handled the job nicely.

The concept of man’s best friend as best man, or at least an honored member of the wedding party, is catching on, and has even led to the creation of a niche industry — or a niche within a niche industry – that caters to Fido’s appearance on his owner’s big day, according to a Columbia News Service article that appeared in this week’s San Jose Mercury-News

“It’s a shift in the way people view pets,” says Brian Iannessa, a spokesman for Veterinary Pet Insurance, explaining the trend behind canine participants in weddings. “People are incorporating pets into their lives more than ever before, taking them on trips, celebrating their pets’ birthdays.”

Forty-two percent of the insurance company’s clients had or plan to have their pets participate in their wedding, according to a recent poll of 3,000 pet owners. Iannessa estimates that the vast majority of those surveyed were dog owners.

Read more »

Park etiquette II: Children and dogs can mix

All too often at my park, and maybe your’s, conflicts develop between those who go there to let their dogs get some needed off-leash romping and those who go there to experience something other than big, slobbery, barking, dirty-pawed creatures careening around like a pinballs.

The law, as most of us know, is on the side of the latter. Dogs are required to be on leashes at all times in all of the city parks in Baltimore, and violation of that law can result in a $100 fine.

Nevertheless at my park, Riverside, as at Patterson, Federal Hill, Carroll, Latrobe, Druid Hill, Wyman and others, dog owners regularly take that risk to allow their dogs some exercise. Dogs gotta run and, in the city, the parks are the only game in town.

Having only one official dog park — though more appear to be on the way — means all the rest of the parks must be shared by dogs and humans, which, with a little common sense and respect, is not all that hard to accomplish. In other words, we can all just get along. Read more »