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Tag: sharing

A big “Amen” for this amenity

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Mention the words “homeowner’s association” and my muscles, sphincters included, tighten right up.

Something bad is bound to follow, because such groups are generally pretty uptight, notoriously rigid with their rules, and they take matters like what breed your dog is, or what color your shutters are, way too seriously.

So I was pleased to hear that the one I’m now a part of (which shall go nameless) recently consented, informally at least, to letting people use the fenced in tennis courts as a dog park.

dsc05411It’s not the sort of thing your typical homeowner’s association does — showing that kind of flexibility — but it came just in time for my new dog Jinjja and me.

Jinjja can’t be let off the leash yet. (On top of the fact he might take off and never come back, it’s against association rules.)

He’s not good enough on the leash to jog alongside me, which isn’t going to happen anyway because I don’t jog.

Taking him to a dog park isn’t yet a possibility, because he refuses to get into my car.

That leaves him with no place to run.

Except for my hallway, which he has taken to using for those energy-filled sprints dogs generally burst into a few times a day. He zips back and forth between front bedroom and back bedroom for about 15 minutes, at least once a day.

So when a neighbor told me that the association had given an informal nod to allowing dogs to use the tennis courts, in a meeting just last week, Jinjja and I were there the next day.

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I brought along a tennis ball, and a big handful of training treats, so I’d be able to get him to come back to me. I checked the perimeter for openings, and then unleashed him.

For the next 30 minutes, he trotted around checking the perimeter for himself, determining it was pretty escape proof.

Though fenced, it was clearly the most freedom he — a dog rescued from a South Korean farm where dogs were being raised for their meat — has enjoyed of late, if not ever. And he seemed overwhelmed by it. He ignored me entirely, ignored the tennis ball entirely, even ignored the treats I held up as he trotted by.

He was either entirely focused or entirely unfocused, I’m not sure, but a good hour passed before he ceased running, slowed down and approached me.

Leashed back up for the walk back home, he jerked at the leash less and stayed at my side more than he ever has.

The tennis court surface may not be the most ideal one for a dog park, especially if multiple dogs are playing roughly, but for a quick run, especially a solo one, it works fine.

You might wonder if tennis players are up in arms about this.

Apparently not, and apparently dog owners this particular community far outnumber tennis players, if there even are any of those.

I’ve only seen the courts occupied once in the nearly five months since I moved in — and there is no reason they can’t be shared, assuming dog owners do a good job of cleaning up after their dogs.

As a fan of the game, though I rarely attempt to play it these days, I even support tennis players getting priority, and requiring dogs to exit in the event someone wants to play.

Around here, tennis players are few, and dogs are everywhere. Several residents on my block have multiple dogs. Two of them have five each.

Apparently, dog owners have been pushing the idea for a while — even though they would prefer an actual dog park with grass.

One thing I’m sure of, Jinjja is grateful for it.

Until I get him past his fear of jumping in the car, or he trusts me enough to let me pick him up, we’ll be regular users.

Is this the dog-human bed of the future?

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Surveys have shown that as many as half of us sleep with our dogs, so isn’t it time the makers of bedroom furniture started to catch up with the dog-loving times?

And, if they did, would this be the bed of the future?

This sort of bed makes pretty good sense to me, and I think Ace would like it, too.

But for you to understand that, I have to explain the tenuous in-bed relationship my dog and I have.

As soon as I turn in, Ace rushes to the bed, waits a second or two for me to say “OK!” and jumps in — jumps in as if he is thrilled beyond belief to have the distinct honor of sleeping at my side.

He settles down, after the mandatory circling, a few feet away, and with his head at the end of the bed my feet are on.

He waits a few seconds for me to get snuggled under the blanket, pat his butt and say goodnight.

The idyllic picture ends there.

From that moment, any movement by me — and especially by my feet — leads him to lift his head, turn and give me an annoyed look. After the third annoyed look, he harrumphs, gets out of the bed and heads to the floor, the futon in the den, or the sofa in the living room.

My recent purchase of a new mattress helped some. I could shift without him being bounced around. But still, any even minor movement of my feet — whether they are under the blanket or not — sets him off.

So, no, we don’t exactly snuggle all night long, even in winter. According to one survey, while 52 percent of pet owners sleep with their pets, only 23 percent snuggle next to them all night long. (We imagine the numbers are similar for spouses.)

For those of you who might also fall into the non-snuggling category, or who have dogs that fall into this category — i.e. those who appreciate the closeness without the contact or movement — this wooden bed by DoggieDilemma might be worth looking at.

This oak and pine king bed frame ($1,700) leaves a 23-inch wide space for a dog bed insert — be it blankets or a doggie mattress. A queen-size version ($1,500) is also available.

Of course, to our human eyes, this bed is not all that different from putting a doggie bed at the foot or side of your bed — especially if your box spring and mattress are, as in my case, on the floor.

But I think most smart dogs know the difference. They want to be not only on the same level, but in, or on, the same piece of furniture as you.

Furniture makers aren’t quite as smart. They’ve only begun to catch on. One can now find bedside tables that double as crates, or stairs that allow your small or elderly dog to climb into bed with you.

But with few exceptions, they haven’t quite realized: It’s not my bed, it’s our bed.

(Photo: Etsy.com)

It’s all about sharing

Here we see a duck and a dog peacefully sharing a meal — at least until the food runs out.

Then the duck gets a little peckish.

The dog, who looks like he might have a little pit bull in him, takes it all in stride before nonchalantly walking off.

We won’t cast judgment, since we’re not sure if the food actually belonged to, or was meant for, the duck or the dog.

There’s no explanation of the video by the person who put it on YouTube — other than “quack, quack, quack.”

Interestingly, the comments that have been made about the video indicate there’s some sort of argument going on between humans, who sometimes have trouble sharing, and get a little peckish, too. Apparently someone thinks the video was “stolen.”

“Please stop stealing other people’s videos,” reads one comment.

It’s not clear — to me, anyway — whether they’re complaining about the video being stolen and put on YouTube, or they think it was “stolen” off of YouTube, for use somewhere else, as we have done, via the embed code that most all YouTube videos have, for the express purpose of sharing.

The comments are of no help in figuring things out — instead they consist of the kind of not-so-witty banter we’ve grown to expect from comments on the Internet (except those left on ohmidog!, of course.)

Whose video is it? Whose food was it?

Dunno.  But I’m happy to share.

Adventures in househunting, Craigslist style

Where I’d like to live and what I can afford are two different realms, two very different realms — a fact I bring up not because I’m the first person to experience that phenomenon, but because it is one of the reasons Ace and I are having difficulty settling down, even temporarily.

All I want is a small cabin or cottage — they being much more romantic than something called a house — away from the hubbub, with heat and electricity, perhaps on the water, with a view of said water, and maybe a porch, possibly a fireplace, and washer and dryer, either near a park or with a big backyard that Ace can romp in, for, say $700 a month.

I’m not set on that. I’d also settle for a huge artist’s loft, utilities included, under $800 a month, where I could spread out and tape notes to the walls and write brilliantly when I’m not at the neighboring dog park, or enjoying the downtown skyline of (insert city here) from my deck, or taking part in the thriving social scene and cultural activities within easy walking distance.

Am I asking too much?

Of course I am.

For those of you who haven’t been following the recent adventures of me and my dog Ace,  allow me to summarize. Eight months ago, we hit the road to see some America — freeloading off friends and strangers, staying at cheap motels, spending a week on a boat, a month in a camper, a few nights in the car and in my tent. Part of the reason was to find ourselves, and find home. Part of it was to see if we could be vagabonds, roaming the country for the same amount we’d previously spent on rent and utilities at our rowhouse in Baltimore.

The trip gave me a deeper appreciation of my dog and my country; a better understanding of its faults (the country’s, Ace has none); and it confirmed my suspicion that most of the great places to live, scenic-beauty wise, have been co-opted by the rich. It also instilled in me — if it wasn’t already there — a thriftiness that, while mandated by my economic situation, borders on obsession.

I just can’t stand spending money on overpriced things, like gas, fancy restaurants, hotels, electricity and rent.

Arriving back in Baltimore, still unsure where home was, we were lucky enough to land in an empty house near the Inner Harbor that’s awaiting its new tenants — three soldiers returning from Afghanistan, expected to be back at end of February. It more than meets my needs and my budget, as it’s a friend’s house that’s costing me nothing. I, essentially, am squatting, with permission. But the clock is ticking.

So everyday, I visit Craigslist, most often “housing, sublets and temporary,” looking for a place to live for March, maybe April and May, maybe longer. I’m not limiting myself to the Baltimore area. I’ve also searched, on the Internet, the Eastern Shore, North Carolina, Delaware, Philadelphia and, on really cold days, Arizona.

My options are limited because I’m hesitant to sign up for a year’s lease and, of course, by my  dog — but also by my cheapness. I will probably move to wherever I find the best deal.

For awhile, I thought I’d found it, in Wilmington, N.C. — a pet-friendly, two-bedroom home overlooking the woods on a quiet cul-de-sac close to Wrightsville Beach. At $695 a month.

I emailed about what sort of pet fees and restrictions might apply, and got a speedy response. The house was still available, and they allowed all dogs — except for for Rottweilers, Akitas, chows and pit bulls.

Ace — as some of you may know, and in answer to the question many of you have asked — is  a mix of Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull.

The next day I found affordable paradise again —  a “cottage” in Ellicott City, Md., one that, from the pictures, looked just like what I was looking for. It was secluded, wooded, with two bedrooms and a porch, for only $700.

Again my inquiry was quickly answered:

“Thanks for your email and interest in renting my house..I am Banke Jur, the owner of the house you are making inquiry of. Actually I resided in the house with my family, my wife and my only daughter before and presently we have moved out due to my transfer from my work now in Warsaw,Poland. Presently my house is still available for rent for $700USD (rent already includes utilities). More so Now, i’m currently in the (West African) for an international Christian follower’s crusade …

“Await your urgent reply … please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words, you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands, so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this …

“The house is available for rent at the moment so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to. A Deposit of $500 (which happens to be the security deposit) is required before moving in. Arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you.”

Problem was, the same house was listed at $1,650 on a dozen other rental websites, including the Re/Max website, its official listing agency.

My findings thus far? What appears to be a dandy deal is often a sleazy scam. What appears too good to be true, generally is. And what I can afford seems to be a “sleeping room,” a roomate situation, or in a neighborhood that, while the house has been “rehabbed,” the neighbors, unfortunately, have not.

Searching Craigslist has given me some new pet peeves: ads that don’t include a price, address, or even neighborhood; ads for places that proclaim dog-friendliness, but limit that to dogs under 25 pounds; ads proclaiming dog-friendliness that turn out to charge an extra $100 a month for it (Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t “friendliness” you have to pay for generally called prostitution?); ads repeated so often as to make you scream; ads pretending to be offering a property that just funnel you into some other website, sucking up your time.

Not to mention they get no editing. There was one house whose owner boasted it was “recently remolded.” Apparently the original mold wasn’t good enough.

Another ad on Baltimore’s Craigslist offered free rent for 2 months — on a farm, with pets and horses allowed —  in exchange for “painting services that equal 40 hours/week.”  I could do that. What I could not do, though, was pay the $3000 cash deposit they asked for.

I also came across this “bachelor or bachelorette pad” at $875 a month, which features a built in bar, stripper pole, and, at least in the photos, what appear to be tools of restraint. I exercised some and didn’t seek more information.

There are plenty of ads for roomates. But at 57, I just can’t see moving in with a roomate, or two, or three. I thought some about this one in Canton, a shared rowhouse, for under $700 — three female roomates looking for a fourth of any gender. There were already some “mellow dogs” living there, according to the ad. Ace and I both fit into that category. While it did set me to humming the theme from “Three’s Company,” I didn’t make an inquiry — mainly because, as much as I’d try to be Jack Tripper, I’d come across as the token old coot. I am, come to think of it, a lot like Don Knotts/Mr. Furley on the inside, masked beneath the cool/sleepy exterior of Norman Fell/Mr. Roper. (Not that I actually watched that show.)

What all this is telling me is that humans, at least those on Craigslist, are not to be automatically trusted — that maybe newspaper classified ads, because people had to pay for them, were at least a bit more reliable, not to mention spam free.

It’s telling me too that that there should be a blacklist of landlords and insurers that unfairly blacklist entire breeds.

And, when I read between the lines, it’s telling me that maybe we’re not meant to settle down. Ace, I’m mostly convinced, wants to. Part of me does, too. But another part is saying that, if I invest in anything, it should be a home with wheels.

Maybe we should continue traveling the country, this time in an RV, Ace and me, perhaps with another zany sidekick — not Fran Drescher — simultaneously filming it for use as either reality show or sitcom.

You better hope I find a home, or you might have to watch it.

Harvard is looking for a few smart dogs

To better understand the human mind, scientists ar Harvard University are looking to dogs.

Through a newly established Canine Cognition Lab, researchers hope to learn whether domestication has led to dogs that think and act more like their masters, or whether that’s all in our heads.

“Here’s this species we live with. Everyone has their views about how smart they are. No doubt we are overinterpreting – and in some cases underinterpreting,” said Marc Hauser, a Harvard professor who has long studied cognition in cottontop tamarin monkeys and who heads the new lab. “To what extent is an animal that’s really been bred to be with humans capable of some of the same psychological mechanisms?”

Hauser is recruiting both purebreds and mutts and running them through simple tests aimed at determining, for example, whether they understand such abstract concepts as “same,” according to a recent Boston Globe article.

The new Harvard lab represents a turnaround in the scientific community, which has long looked primarily toward chimps for clues to human behavior.

“Psychologists have been ignoring animals that were sleeping quietly at their feet while they were doing work on rats and pigeons,” said Clive Wynne, a psychology professor at the University of Florida who also studies pets. “Darwin wrote about his dog … We couldn’t bring ourselves to take them seriously.”

In one of the tests at Harvard, researchers tried to determine whether dogs can use pictures as signs to figure out which bucket contains food. They presented Celia, a German shepherd, with a choice between a bucket marked with a picture of steak and one marked with a pair of pliers. Celia picked the steak.

Katie Levesque, Celia’s owner, said she tries to give her dog challenging tasks at home but was surprised that her dog picked pictures of food three times, also choosing a hot dog over a hammer, and three biscuits over one.

“I was kind of laughing,” said Levesque, who sat in a corner of the room with Celia at her feet during the experiment. Owners can also watch their dogs from behind a one-way mirror. Only about 20 dogs have been tested, so it’s too early to draw conclusions about dogs’ comprehension of pictures.

The Canine Cognition Lab is recruiting dogs. Check its website for more information.

Improving cat-dog relations

Finally, the pressing matter of peace between cats and dogs is getting some much needed study.

New research at Tel Aviv University, called the first of its kind, suggests a cat and dog are more likely to get along well if the cat is introduced to the family first, and if both cat and dog are still young.

Ideally,  the cat should be less than six months old, and the dog less than a year, the research concludes.

Two-thirds of the homes surveyed reported a positive relationship between their cat and dog. About a fourth said indifference best described the relationship, and 10 percent experienced fighting and aggression.

The study found that cats and dogs are getting better at communicating with each other.

“We found that cats and dogs are learning how to talk each other’s language. It was a surprise that cats can learn how to talk ‘dog’ and vice versa,” observed Joseph Terkel of TAU of the university’s department of zoology.

After interviewing almost 200 pet owners who own both a cat and a dog, then videotaping and analyzing these animals’ behavior, TAU researchers concluded that cats and dogs can cohabit happily if certain conditions are met.

Cats and dogs traditionally may not have been able to read each other’s body cues. Cats tend to lash their tails about when mad, while dogs growl and arch their backs. A cat purrs when happy, while a dog wags its tail. A cat’s averted head signals aggression, while in a dog the same head position signals submission.

What’s especially interesting, in Terkel’s view, is that both cats and dogs have appeared to grow beyond their instincts. They can learn to read each other’s body signals. Once familiar with each others’ presence and body language, cats and dogs can play together, greet each other nose-to-nose, and enjoy sleeping together on the couch. They can easily share the same water bowl and in some cases groom each other.

“”If cats and dogs can learn to get along,” concluded Terkel, “surely people have a good chance.”