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Tag: weather

Colombian vice president declines ambassadorship — to stay home with dog

garzon-apColombian Vice President Angelino Garzon says he turned down an ambassadorship in Brazil because the climate there would not be healthy for his dog

And when we say climate, we mean the weather.

Garzon, in a letter to the Colombian president, said he was declining the job for personal and family reasons. He elaborated on those reasons in an interview with the magazine Semana.

Basically, it comes down to one family member – his German shepherd, Orion, who he said wouldn’t be comfortable in Brazil’s steamy climate, and who he refuses to live without.

“I have turned down the ambassador job because the dog you see on that picture is very hairy and the hot climate of Brasilia could harm its health,” Garzon, 67, told the magazine reporter as he showed her a photo of Orion.

“Wherever Angelino goes, it goes,” he said.

We find his reasons perfectly acceptable, even admirable (though calling his dog something other than “it” would be more to our liking).

Some, though, are scoffing at his excuse, including Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, according to the BBC.

She called Garzon’s rejection of the post “very embarrassing … When he mentioned personal problems, you would expect something deeper than that. It is as though he doesn’t realize the importance Brazil has,” she said.

We may have a duty to our country, but we have a duty to our dogs, too, and — whether or not “it’s too hot for the dog” is his real and total reason for declining the post — we think Garzon has every right to say no thanks for any reason he wants. We especially like this one though.

Garzon announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election alongside President Juan Manuel Santos. He said he might consider running for mayor of Bogota or Cali. ”In local government, you can have a bigger impact in improving people’s lives than as vice-president,” he said.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Dog poop: Do I need to draw you a picture?

All Over Albany” has noticed that dog poop is, well, all over Albany — and they’ve fashioned a helpful flow chart to help address the (fecal) matter.

(Click on the illegible version above to be taken to the full size chart. Then come back, for this isn’t just an upstate New York issue, but a national, nay, global one.)

At my park in Baltimore, and probably your’s, it seems that, when the snow and cold arrive, the manners of some otherwise responsible dog owners depart.

Whether it’s because people don’t want to traipse throught the snow to scoop it up, or because it’s just so darned cold, there are a lot more lingering dog droppings to be seen, and stepped in.

In a perfect world, those not scooping would be the ones stepping in it — but it never seems to work out that way.

And while, granted, solidly frozen poopage won’t despoil your footwear, neglected droppings, amid continued freeze and thaw, can come back to haunt us.

“We’ve thought a lot about this issue,” Alloveralbany.com reported in a piece last month. “And we finally came to the conclusion that winter somehow impairs the ability of some people to make good decisions about whether they should pick up their dog’s poop.

“So, we’re here to help. We’ve constructed a flow chart to assist citizens of the Capital Region in their decision-making process on the all important question: ‘It’s winter. My dog has pooped. What now?’”

Back in Baltimore, looking for a home

 

The past week has been a hectic one, mostly spent avoiding snowstorms, seeking out landlines for radio interviews and, just when we thought our traveling was done, traveling some more.

No sooner were Ace and I back in Baltimore than we left again — this time back to North Carolina for my mother’s 85th birthday celebration.

Now we’re back again, just in time for a snowstorm – that’s the ohmidogmobile at the bottom right of the picture — seeking a place to squat for a month or so while we ponder our long terms plans.

Step one is to visit my storage unit to try and find some winter clothes.

We packed for a three-month summer trip. It turned into a seven-month one that didn’t wind up — and in a way still hasn’t — until January was upon us.

Living out of one’s car — convenient as it is in some ways — is a pain in the butt in others. I can easily locate most things I need in the course of a day, but when it comes to things that I only sometimes need, and are thus buried deeper, it’s nearly hopeless, requiring a good bit of unpacking and repacking.

It will be nice to have that chaos straightened out. And Ace, though he has said he enjoys the constant traveling — 22,000 miles of which we’ve done since May – is, in my interpretation, ready for a return to something resembling a routine.

Back from North Carolina, we lodged one night at the home of his godmother, and we’re freeloading for two nights at the home of my teacher friends.

Our goal is to find someplace dirt cheap to stay for a month or two before we wear out our welcomes. I have not been focusing on it as I should, and I think, deep down, it might be because I don’t want to return to the routine.

I want a bed, and a refrigerator, and a TV and heat. I want a big table on which to spread things out. But part of me hesitates to get back into that situation of paying all those bills every month — rent, utilities, Internet, cable, telephone, and all those other things I’ve come to see as sucking away not just my money, but my freedom.

Then, too, promoting my new book “Dog, Inc.: The Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” — is also taking up a lot of time, most of it spent searching for landlines to borrow for radio interviews.

Speaking of the book, which has been out about 10 days now, it has been having some pretty nice things happen to it.

It got nice mentions in Mother Jones and Real Simple magazines, and was chosen by Parade magazine as a “Parade Pick.” This week, it was named one of January’s ”Mover and Shakers” by Goodreads.com, where it has also gotten some good reviews from the public.

Thanks, public.

Dogs anticipate bad weather, and more

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows — at least not if you have a dog.

Two-thirds of American pet owners say their pets have a sixth sense about bad weather, according to a recent poll by the Associated Press and Petside.com.

Seventy-two percent of dog owners said they’ve gotten weather warnings from their pets, compared with 66 percent of cat owners.

And bad weather, many believe, is not all their pets are able to sense.

More than 40 percent of pet owners say their animals can sense the arrival of bad news, according to the poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

“A sixth sense is something we can’t explain but we tend to trust. It’s a matter of belief and faith,” psychologist Stephanie LaFarge, the senior director of counseling services for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the Associated Press.

Some scientists believe animals sense bad weather because of changes in barometric pressure, and that they can sense seizures, low blood sugar or other medical problems through changes in their owner’s hormone levels.

How some pets know when earthquakes are coming, or that bad news is on the horizon, remain more mysterious.

The ASPCA’s LaFarge says she has personally experienced the latter.

“I have been awakened in the middle of the night by a dog,” she said. “Very shortly after that, I received some very, very shocking bad news. I was awake when the phone rang. I couldn’t explain why I was awake except the dog was next to me nudging me. How did the dog know my father died at midnight?”

Polar Express: All hail breaks loose

 

With just two days left before Santa comes down the chiminea, even Arizona has decided it’s winter.

The last few days in Cave Creek — where I’m living in a (contradiction in terms alert) stationary motorhome — have been wet and cool, with temperatures plummeting at night to around, prepare yourself, 50 degrees.

We get by, and so far without turning on the heat. Instead I use three blankets and Ace. Normally, unless he’s feeling unusually needy, he’ll fall asleep with his head down by my feet and his rear pointed at my face, which is not without ramifications.

On the cold nights though, and there have been a couple, I reposition his 130 pounds so that we are side by side, pointed the same way, so that I might better absorb his warmth.

He puts up with it for a short time, then goes back to his old position.

Last night, as I reached out to give his head a final pat, only to get a handful of butt, we fell asleep to the pitter-patter — I’m pretty sure I heard both pitters and patters — of a gentle rain falling on the trailer roof, only to be awakened an hour or so later by tremendous pelting thuds of hail on the roof.

A hailstorm can be disconcerting in a real house, but in a trailer — without the attic or the insulation — it’s a lot more personal; every thud seems amplified, and a heavy hail sounds like machine gun fire.

Those whacks were enough to get Ace anxious, and when thunder and lightning rolled through he left the bed in search of a more secure hiding place.

It was as if one roof over his head wasn’t enough, and he was looking for a back-up one. He tried under the dinette table, but that was too cramped. He came back to the bedroom and crawled under the tiny ledge the TV sits on, then decided that wasn’t good enough, either.

He went to the front door, but I assured him that — given the falling hail, though I didn’t see it, sounded about golf ball size — wasn’t an advisable option.

So I invited him back on the bed, where he was more than happy to snuggle up as close as he could possibly get, pointed the same way as me, for the duration of the storm.

I threw my an Indian blanket over him, and he seemed to like that even better. I put my arm around him, and that is how we woke up this morning.

I’ve yet to go outside to check my car and my the chiminea for damage, but looking out my window as the sun comes up, the sky looks like maybe it will finally clear up today, and maybe our last few days in Arizona will bring us more sweet sunshine.

On Monday, maybe Tuesday, we’ll start the trip back east, totally unexcited about, and totally unprepared for, a taste of real winter.

Flinging French fries in Fargo

There are things to do in Fargo, North Dakota.

There’s the Celebrity Walk of Fame at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, where Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond, Debbie Reynolds, Jesse Ventura and others have left their signatures, handprints and footprints in cement.

There’s the Plains Art Museum, the Fargo Air Museum, the Red River Zoo, and just across the way from my motel, a big mall.

Yes — despite the stereotype of it as a place where boredom reigns, where temperatures lean toward the bitter extremes (and we won’t even go into woodchippers) — there are things to do in Fargo.

We’re just not doing any of them. Instead, we’re holed up in a Motel 6, where I’m flinging french fries into Ace’s mouth.

Why? Because it’s so damn cold.

Just as John Steinbeck, on his trip west with Charley, worried about getting across the northern states before winter set in, we’re beginning to fret as well; only we have ample reason — predictions of a October blizzard.

All night long, the wind rattled the windows of my motel room. The three-to-five inches of snow the local weatherman predicted hasn’t fallen — at least not here, not yet — but the warnings were enough to get me to book another night.

Just walking to the Burger King next door yesterday was bone chilling. Ace thought so, too. As eager as he was to get outside, he was even more eager — once experiencing it — to get back in.

Back in the room, for entertainment, I set aside half of my French fries and, in what’s become a habit during our travels when I get fast food, tossed portions to Ace. He gets the discolored ones, and the pointy ended ones. For some reason, I don’t like my fries to have pointy  ends. Though he was on the bed, four feet away, he missed but one fry, snagging each of the rest with a snort.

So far I haven’t seen much of Fargo, and that which I have has been through fast-flapping windshield wipers. The night I arrived, after checking in, I went off in search of downtown Fargo. On my only other trip here, three years ago, I didn’t explore at all. I did, during a stop for lunch, ask a waiter where downtown was, and he informed me there was no downtown. Maybe he was new here, or it was his way of saying Fargo’s downtown didn’t meet with his standards. Maybe he was having fun with tourists.

But I can report there is a downtown, and that the road to it, at least from my motel, is lined with pawn shops. Once there, I couldn’t see much, because it was so dark and rainy, but I sensed tall buildings.

It has remained grey since then. That alone normally wouldn’t keep me inside, but the wind is downright cruel, and the rain is a stinging one and the one time I did go out in the car — to buy dog food — my car door, powered by the wind, attacked me both when I got out and when I got back in.

Even the wildlife thinks it’s too cold. Tonight, when I went downstairs for ice, I saw a rabbit huddled between a trash can and the wall by the motel’s side door, seeking shelter from the wind and rain.

I was going to offer to share my room with him — invite him up for a discolored French fry, maybe suggest he consider relocating to warmer climes – but he ran off when I approached the door.

That’s how he rides

I don’t need to tell you it’s hot — pretty much everywhere — but I did want to show you how Ace, as a result of that, has changed his riding style.

On particularly hot days, which has been every day as we passed through Oklahoma and Texas, he has taken to moving up closer to the front of the car and resting his head and paws on the front seat console, so that he might absorb a little more coolness from the air conditioner vents.

This also puts his head just inches from the dual cup holders. That way, when I am mostly finished with my Big Gulp, extra large iced coffee or other mega-beverage, I can easily hand feed him ice cubes while I drive. He likes this very much.

The heat has been, far and away, the biggest challenge on our road trip — which enters its third month today.

Month two of our travels — aimed at finding interesting dog stories, seeing America, and exploring the relationship between America and dog (all on a shoestring budget) — saw us spend a little more money than month one.

Though trying to live on roughly the same amount we were paying for rent and utilities at our ex-home in Baltimore — about $1,100 — we  spent about $1,300 on food, gas and lodging, even with our ten days of free housing in Santa Fe, in exchange for petsitting duties.

That means we need to do a whole lot more freeloading as we head off on the next leg.

We will soon be making our getaway from Texas — where both of the ohmidogmobile’s door magnets were stolen, one in Dallas, on in Huntsville. We plan a quick revisit to Houston before heading on to Mississippi, then spending some time in North Carolina.

After that, we’ll head north, pop in on Baltimore, check the mail, pay some bills, and venture into New England before heading west again, on a more northerly route.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

The art of peeing in the snow

yellowsnow

 
There’s a heated debate going on about yellow snow over at “Unleashed,” the Baltimore Sun pets blog.

It all got started when a reader — seeing no art whatsover in what happens when hot yellow dog urine splashes onto cold and pure white snow — expressed her displeasure with befouled snow, and went so far as to suggest dog owners chisel, collect and dispose of the icy yellow matter.

“I’m not a dog owner, but I can’t be the only person to be grossed out while trying to walk in Baltimore right now,” wrote Eeda Wallbank. “After the snow last week there are still many areas where the sidewalk or street is the only cleared space for folks to take their dogs out for their business. Most people are still being polite and at least picking the poo up, but the urine is just disgusting.

“The dog goes in the only cleared walk space and urinates, then it freezes. So everyone else has to walk through or attempt to go around these ‘puddles.’ Heaven forbid someone actually slip on ice or snow and fall into greater contact. I shudder everytime I see the yellow snow and thank god I don’t have kids to worry about (my cats are my babies, but they stay firmly inside) … Dog owners carry around bags for poo, what would be so wrong with attempting to remove this frozen urine? Or at least have a small shovel to clear the walk space a little?”

That led to a flood/flurry of comments. Among those that poured in were some siding with Ms. Wallbank, a few suggesting she “get a life,” and many asking if society doesn’t have bigger things to worry about than yellow snow.

Scooping poop is one thing. But I don’t think we need yellow snow laws — even if it does offend the sensibilities of  Ms. Wallbank and others. It’s a fact of life. It passes (twice, in fact). Until the snow melts, step around it, add it to the list of unavoidable wintertime inconveniences, or maybe even try and view it as modern art — a canine, working by instinct, on a vast blank canvas, provided by nature .

It’s a little like that, with one big difference. With yellow snow, everybody knows exactly what the artist was trying to express.

(Artwork: “Yellow Snow,” by John Woestendiek)

Doggedly surviving the winter of 2010

DSC08033

 
Here in the winter of our discontent in Baltimore — the snowiest city (believe it!) in the continental United States –  we are getting by, getting sore and getting a little tired of it.

Most dogs still seem to be loving it, but I think even among them, all the slip-sliding around might be starting to wear thin. Even these two American Eskimo dogs seemed to think it has all been a bit much.

As of  Monday, 79.9 inches had fallen so far this winter, and more is coming down as we speak. We’ve had more than Rochester, more than Syracuse, more than Binghamton, and more, I think we can all agree, than enough.DSC08084

The streets are lined with icebergs. Schools have been closed for a good week. Parking spaces are like gold. Getting anything accomplished takes four times as long as it normally does. Our back hurts, and we’re getting a little antsy, perhaps a little cranky.

Pets help us get through the cabin fever — as comforting as an old movie — countering the stress and loneliness and keeping us connected, however cut off from other humans we might feel.

I’m lucky enough to have three this week — my dog Ace, Darcy the Boston Terrier, who’s spending another week with me while her parents tie the knot in Hawaii, and my temporary cat Miley, still available for adoption, should you need a cat to help you through the winter.

All are co-existing nicely, if not as playfully as Ace and Darcy, who are more fun to watch than 90 percent of what’s on TV.

Sure, there is a downside. As we’re not getting to the park as much, my back yard is no longer the blank white canvas it was after the first snowfall, but a series of abstract yellow stains — like those inkblot tests — all punctuated with brown exclamation points.

I will get to it as I will get to most everything else this winter, including shoveling today’s snow:

Eventually!

Firefighters rescue yellow Lab from icy pond

rescue

Yesterday’s Washington Post had a great series of photos depicting the rescue of a yellow Lab who wandered into an icy pond in Potomac.

A neighbor spotted the dog — named Tully — out his kitchen window and called 911. Rescuers arrived within minutes, cut through a fence and plunged in after him as the dog’s family watched.

The four-year old dog was worn out by then and unable to hoist himself out, according to his owner, Bruce Stewart, whose 14-year-old son encouraged the dog from shore: “Hold on there, buddy! You’re a good boy!”

Rashad Surratt, a firefighter, entered the pond and Tully paddled toward him. The rescuer wrapped his arms and a harness around the dog, who seemed happy to get a hand. “He just gave up,” Surratt said Saturday. “He was really, really tired.”

Other firefighters were able to help pull Tully across the ice and get him to the shore. Tully was wrapped in coats and blankets, loaded onto a toboggan and pulled home by firefighters and residents. To see all the photos, visit the Post’s photo gallery.

Stewart, an executive at text-messaging company kgb, said Tully apparently walked right through his electronic fence, which had been disabled by the snow.

(Photo: Lea Thompson / Washington Post)