Monday, April 19, 2010

The Family Tree

photo by Melissa McGee, 2008

The best ground score I ever found on a midway
(title inspired by a question on Facebook)
There once was a bitch living at the winter quarters of a carnival in Tampa Florida. Now before anyone starts firing off names.. this particular bitch was of the canine variety. She belonged at the time, to a carnival electrician named Juan. I'm not sure how it all happened but eventually she met a nice male dog and they got along fine until he got her pregnant at which point I'm almost a hundred percent sure he ran off looking for some other bitch.

Same as it ever was. (I'm kidding of course)

Time moved on.

A couple of weeks before the carnival was set to leave for Streator Illinois, this girl (I hope someone will stop by and offer up her name) gave birth to a beautiful litter of bouncing baby puppies. They all went on the road together and I wish I could tell you that each one of them lived happily ever after but the only thing I really know for sure is that that tiny little white stripe in the middle of the dog pile, traveled through ten states, ate a lot of pizza, lived in a truck, was given to a girl named Stephanie, made a gazillion friends, was almost stolen in Lincoln Nebraska, came to Nashville, and moved in with a tail-free cat and a woman who proceeded to write and photograph every mundane bullshit thing she ever did after that.

It can't possibly be as exciting as it used to be for Stella but (as someone said) she still gets up every morning wagging her tail and I'm reminded of all the wonderful characters that (to me) she represents.

Many thanks to Juan for the heads up on the photo, to Melissa McGee who shot it and to Stephanie & Billy (on the right) for letting her go. Anyone who was there is welcome to correct any factual mistakes I've made or add any details to this post in the comments.

Meanwhile, take a ride on the Skywheel. It's almost as good as the real thing and guaranteed not to mess up your hair.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Afraid Not

She's not afraid of trains. The other day we saw one weaving through the landscape in Brentwood and it kick-started her hyperactive prey drive. She's not afraid of straight pipes on Harleys either. She's not afraid of the school bus or airplanes or the FedEx man or even the vet.

Bugs. She's afraid of bugs. Have I written that? I can't remember. I can't get her attention but a tiny little moth can. The other night she shot out of her bed like a rocket and ran for the door.

"Stella," I said. "Babe. You're a Pit Bull." It gave her no comfort.

She flashed me a worried look and lay down in the doorway, refusing to come back in the room. When I finally turned out the light she gave it up and returned. Today she ran barking, from a silver fish and jumped up on the bed like a girl. It was hysterical.

I never get tired of looking at that face; had a cat like that once. Louie. He was so magnificent I couldn't replace him with another cat. I had to get a dog instead. Ahem.

p.s. You know those green caterpillars that have the capacity to level a nice perennial garden in about three days? This week - we're using those as treats.

Slobbery kisses from ‘man’s best friend’ aid cancer research

Dead Dogs Breed bans, euthanasia, and preemptive justice

Book review: The Diamond Dog

Elliott Erwitt's dogs (and other wonderful things)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ego bruises v.2.0

I've got good news and I've got bad news.

The bad news is Stella failed the CGC test. She did fine on everything until it came time to walk past the lovely and talented, Glory (isn't that a great name for a dog?) I can't say it was a subtle thing either. It was like being carried on the horseshoe end of a sixty-pound magnet. No amount of sweet talking would sway her. She was given the benefit of a doubt. Excitement overwhelmed her as it almost always does. I had planned on us having a big celebration afterward but instead I crafted a big ol'Miss America-type sash when we got home. It says: LOSER. (I'm wearing it right now.)

Not to worry though, we can take the test again in ten weeks. Meanwhile, we're going to watch this training video (lifted from Terrierman) once a day for inspiration.

On to the good news. And it is good. The day before we took the test, Stella and I met with my friend Christine who is a dog person if there ever was one. She still laughs at the fact that I - a cat person for twenty-five years would ever have a dog, let alone the handful of dog I ended up with. We tagged along on a walk that she regularly does with two of her four dogs: Arthur, a Weimeraner, just a few months older than Stella and Fiona Tina, a senior cancer-surviving Shepherd mix. Not only did Stella get to make two new actual friends but she got to do the walk without a leash. This very nearly blew her mind. Mine too. The only time she's been unleashed in her soon-to-be two years, we've been at the dog park or at the baseball field. Arthur fetched a tennis ball most of the way and Stella fetched Arthur most of the way. As you might expect, this led to much Snoopy dancing and an overall feeling of giddiness on her part. She seemed more contented than usual for the rest of the day.

This morning she and I dropped Barney's clothes off at the Green Street Church of Christ. They have a closet there for people who are living on the street and/or those who are needy. After that we went to a local cemetery and tried the off-leash thing again only this time it was just the two of us. It was also fun but I'm sure Stella missed the other two dogs. (Tip: cemeteries almost always have borders or even fields of undeveloped land; they also generally have paved roads and trash cans at regular intervals) We missed this beautiful weather walking last year. The trees around town bloomed big this time around and it seems they all got going at the same time instead of their usual stagger. I hope Jack Frost has been successfully run out of town.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ego bruises

Stella may have learned a valuable lesson about jumping on people today. After walking a couple of miles we headed for the dog park. Stella started off by introducing herself to a Bull Mastiff (she always goes straight to the biggest dog in the park, woman after my own heart). Things were going great and then she excitedly jumped on the Mastiff's owner. He brushed her off but I saw the curtain fall over the Mastiff's eyes and Stella got nailed, fast and furious, by a dog three times her size. There was some screaming and quite a lot of smack talk after that. The couple with the dog were on their way out so Stella shook it off and despite some minor bleeding from her neck and ear went on to have a pretty good time. Right after this incident I was a little worried about her emotional state and then this beautiful little puppy came galloping over and proceeded to give her a head bath. That was all it took to heal us both.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Around the 'hood

Me and Stella went to the dog park yesterday for a while. There was only one two-and-a-half year old English Bulldog there. Very fat. Her owner came there to have lunch and to let her "run around for a while". The two of them shared a good many saltine crackers, some cheese and a couple of Smokey Joe beef sticks. The Bulldog paid no attention to Stella. She sat at her owner's feet waiting patiently for handouts.
Stella (oddly) sat at my feet (sans leash) and watched them. When the Bulldog waddled away, Stella ventured over to try her hand at the begging. This was a new experience for her as she doesn't ever beg at home (I know, sounds crazy right?) So there she was and I knew the guy was going to give her something without so much as a glance in my direction. After a minute more of reading his book, he reached over, petted her head and handed her a saltine cracker, which - God bless her - she dropped on the ground and left there. It was all I could do not to stand up and cheer. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd have let her have the cracker. Some of you may recall she was brought up on pizza. I was just happy he hadn't offered her that shrink wrapped heart attack they call a beef stick.

There's a new dog that moved into the house that joins our back yard. I don't know it's name yet but it barks a lot. The new owners put up a privacy fence but since their yard is on a hill and my yard is on an opposing hill, the only real view the dog has - is my yard. We don't have a fence but I do some gardening and Stella is usually out there with me, rolling around in the grass, which drives the cooped up neighbor dog insane. Maybe we'll take them a basket of muffins and talk about a play date.

Speaking of insane, last night there was a female fox in our neighborhood who was out trolling for men. These critters make a noise not easily forgotten by humans and other animals. It's an understatement to say that it sounds like someone is murdering puppies and the screaming seems to go on forever. Knowing what it is doesn't make it any easier to hear it either. I'd be surprised if nobody on the street behind me called the cops. When it first started, Stella jumped up out of a deep sleep and started trotting through the house hyperventilating and occasionally crying out into the darkened windows. Before long all the dogs in the neighborhood were barking and it went on for ten or fifteen minutes. I hope she got got lucky so we don't have to go through that again.

A year ago today, Stella was coming home from her first knee surgery. I hope we don't have to go through that again either but I'm looking forward to us finally getting to walk in some decent weather for a change.

Shopping Tip
I want to mention a couple of dog-friendly antique shops I found in Nolensville, TN on Friday. The Roost and Three French Hens are side by side and owned by the same pair of women. These ladies did not hesitate for a single second to invite me and the Pit Bull into their shop. I was pretty impressed. Next Saturday is the Buttercup Festival in Nolensville so be sure to stop in and see them if you go. Here's a link to their blog and a map to get you there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rosco & Co.

Met two interesting dogs this week. Neither one was a carny dog but we thought they deserved a mention. The first was a rescued mix who worked as a greeter at the offices of a funeral director. Sweet dog. Not a dog you meet every day.

The second was Roscoe (pictured). Rosco is a twelve-and-a-half year old Miniature Pinscher whose day job is at a local Crematory for humans and pets. Roscoe doesn't do a lot of greeting since (with all due respect) most of the visitors there aren't particularly talkative or for that matter, mobile. He was did really well to put up with me for the better part of three hours on Tuesday. Rosco doesn't have a lot of experience with big flashy cameras but he can walk past a sixteen hundred fifty degree oven with an air of self-confidence and a fair amount of caution. Also - not a dog you meet every day.