Category Archives: pets

Great “Dog” “Toys”

I happened across this article, which reviews supposedly indestructible dog toys.  They reviewed five, and the cheapest of the lot was $10.49 (and, that one got torn apart by the test dog). 

Bailey, the great dog. Note how she's supervising the snack in my son's hand, ensuring no invading gnomes will snatch it from him. She also gets just as annoyed as I do that my slipcover won't stay in its proper place.

Well, I have a dog.  A great dog.  A golden retriever, who is 80 pounds of love and energy and fun and goofiness and cunning and man does she love her toys.  We have been through many, many, many toys in our day.  And we have found that she can tear the hell out of nearly any toy labelled “indestructible” – the notable exception being just about anything with the Kong name on it…. except she doesn’t like to play with them unless we put treats in them.

However, in our eight years of dog ownership, we’ve made a discovery or two.  A couple of her best, favorite toys aren’t really for dogs… and maybe wouldn’t even be considered toys.  Behold:

1) Frisbees from Old Navy.  They are soft and rubbery, making them very durable and easy on the dog’s mouth when she catches them.  Last time I bought one it was $3.50.  They don’t always have them, but you can usually score them in the late spring or early summer.  They aren’t completely indestructible, but they’re close, and price-wise they beat the hell out of the $10 and $12 frisbees in the dog toy aisle. 

2)  Plain old racquetballs.  My dog can bust a tennis ball in about 15 minutes if she puts her mind to it, but I’ve never ever seen her bust a racquetball.  They are the same size as a tennis ball, not fuzzy so you can wipe them dry, and they literally will last forever.  You can get a tube of 2 for about $3.


Took a lickin’ and still tickin’

I was browsing through a few older posts, and noticed this one I’d written two years ago today.

So funny how time can prove things wrong.  Ginger’s still alive, and just turned 12.  Granted she’s going deaf, and might be a little blind too, and might be having mini-strokes, and has arthritis in her hips, but she’s still pretty spunky, all things considering.  I keep hearing gloom and doom from my dad and stepmom about her, but we spent nearly a week visiting over Christmas and she seemed in decent shape, all things considering.  And still, no sign of that tumor returning.  Yay!

An update on Ginger

Does anyone remember the talk about my dad’s dog, Ginger, who had a cancerous tumor in her mouth, and the vet was suggesting to my dad they remove part of her jaw to prolong her life?  To give a quick reminder, it was January 2008.  They did a biopsy, during which they removed as much of the lump as they could. 

My dad, with input from my brother and me, decided he would wait-and-see.  She was already ten years old (a good age for a Lab) and he didn’t want to disfigure her in a selfish attempt to prolong her life.


It’s coming in on two years since her little lumpectomy.  They never cut off part of her jaw, and never needed to.  The lump never came back.  She’s turning 12 this week, and aside from a little arthritis and hearing loss, is doing pretty well.

Good girl.  🙂

I’m glad I’m not a goldfish

My daughter has a goldfish.  He’s probably about the fourth or fifth in a line of goldfish that have graced our home, as it goes with goldfish.  This guy’s been alive for awhile, I think he’s going on about five months now, but it might be longer.  He has a tendency toward having his float bladder (or whatever it’s called — it’s an organ fish have to keep them properly buoyant, so they don’t float to the top or sink to the bottom) go off-kilter.  Occasionally he’s just too float-y and he struggles to keep himself from constantly floating to the top of the little tank he lives in.  I’ve recently learned that a snack of peas can nip this in the bud and get the fish back to normal, and it really works quite well.  (Of course I say “a snack of peas” but really, it’s a “snack of pea” because he only gets one that I crush between two fingers and remove the outer skin.)

I noticed last night when I went in to make sure Lane was snugly under her blankets that he was a bit too buoyant, so I gave him a pea and spent a little time watching him.  I was compelled to watch him for a few reasons — first, well, it’s just sort of soothing to watch a fish swim around for a few minutes.  Second, because he seems to really, really enjoy the pea snacks he gets.  He attacks the pea like a little golden piranha.  If he had the capacity to growl, I imagine he would.  Thirdly he was in the middle of taking the biggest poop I’ve ever seen come out of a goldfish, and I was sort of compelled to watch to see how big this sucker got before it fell off.  Weird, I know, but it was late and I was not at all sleepy.

It definitely made me realize I don’t want to ever be a goldfish, or probably any fish for that matter.  When the urge hits to drop the kids off at the pool, I want nothing more to sit on a toilet, by myself… and thanks to being home with the kids, I don’t even always get the ‘by myself’ part.  I certainly would not, ever ever, wish to go about my business with a giant turd hanging out my butt.

What kind of dog should the Obamas get?

Barack Obama famously promised a puppy to his daughters for when they move into the White House. For a kid, perhaps there is no greater thrill than getting a puppy! I am, admittedly, envious of them. 🙂

What kind of dog should they get?

First off, I rule out a small dog. Barack and Michelle are both people of tall stature, and I think a small dog would look more like a rodent next to them. Not only that, but the toy breeds just aren’t very presidential.

There are lots of sporting breeds, hounds and such, but to me these don’t fit with the Obamas. So beagles and bloodhounds and that sort are out.

I also don’t see them taking on an exotic breed, such as a Chow or Shar-Pei.

They are an active family, so a more active breed of dog would certainly be a good fit. Labradors and Golden Retrievers have a high activity level, but they can be pretty wacky when they are younger. I’d hate to think of the destruction an exuberant Lab could rain down upon the China Room.

So maybe one of the gentle giants… a Newfoundland, or St. Bernard, or a Bernese Mountain Dog, or a Great Dane. Hmm. I think I’m really digging them with a Great Dane. And these breeds are all so great with kids.

Of course, there are rescue opportunities, so maybe they’ll go in that direction. A quick look at the Petfinder web site for the Chicago area found these potential rescue pups for them:

And sorry, but how funny would it be if they adopted a puppy named McCain or Palin? LOL!

A day and a half

You’d think, with a new home just yearning for cleaning and new coats of paint, that that would have occupied our time today.

Not so, if you are Frank and me.

The plan for today was to head sometime this morning to the DMV to get our NY state licenses and to register our cars and get NY license plates.  Generally this is a chore that could have waited a couple weeks but our NJ licenses had just expired and Frank’s car registration had also expired at the same time.  We figured it would eat up a couple hours, minimum, but that it shouldn’t kill the whole day.

Only, we got a bit of a late start, so with eating breakfast and doing some random little things, we didn’t leave to go to the DMV until about 11:00 a.m.  Well, at least we’d beat the lunch crowd…

Only, we didn’t count on having to rescue a couple of dogs.  We were driving down a busy road and came upon a Bassett hound meandering on the shoulder.  Knowing this dog shouldn’t be here, we pulled over and I got a look at the dog’s tag, and also discovered that he had a partner in crime who was currently ransacking someone’s garbage.  They were relatively clean dogs, and it didn’t seem like they’d been neglected or out on their own for very long.  One of their tags had a street address which we discovered, thanks to our handy dandy GPS device, was a few blocks away from where we were, but the other side of the busy road we were traveling on.  The dogs were both sweet as pie, so despite eye rolls from Frank (who is — I shall spin it nicely — more practical than me regarding such matters as stray dogs and wounded kittens) we herded them both into our minivan, and drove them home.  Only the owners weren’t home, and there was nowhere to safely leave the dogs.  I wasn’t going to just let them loose.  We tried calling the phone number on their tags and it went to voice mail — only the voice mail was full so we couldn’t even leave a message.

A bit later and we were in the parking lot of the SPCA.  Since no good deed goes unpunished, I was holding both dogs, found myself standing off balance for a split-second, at which time both dogs decided to make a bee-line for the same imaginary awesome spot they just had to get to NOW.  I ended up dragging both knees across the asphalt of the parking lot.  So I have my first matching pair of skinned knees since I was about eleven.  (Well, there was the nasty rugburn I got on both knees when I was like 18 (I’ll let you use your imagination for the ‘how’ on that one)… but rugburn doesn’t leave you to pull bits of gravel out of your wounds.)

We got the dogs inside as I bled from both knees, to find out that these dogs’ owners regularly let them roam free, and they are regulars at the shelter.   The workers knew the dogs by name and had their home number, work numbers, and cell numbers all handy.

I was so livid.  These were sweet, gentle dogs and they both had great personalities.  And I pondered aloud to Frank that if I saw these dogs loose again, I might be inclined to ‘lose’ their collars and turn them in at a shelter in the next county, with the instructions to call me if they weren’t claimed in whatever time period you have to allot for a dog to get claimed.  He was actually inclined to agree with me, as he was quite enamored with the golden retriever.

Let me tell you — if you have a Bassett Hound named Bentley and a Golden named Oliver, you better start treating them better.  They are great dogs and do not deserve an untimely death at the hands of the next Toyota Land Cruiser to speed by.  I know from talking to your neighbors you have a son and I’m sure he would be heartbroken to lose his dogs forever to such a fate.  I’m not quite sure why you felt inclined to get two big dogs when you have hardly any backyard at all, but obviously the practical matters of home upkeep are a bit overwhelming for you so dog ownership perhaps is not your cup of tea, either.

So all that, and we hadn’t even been to the DMV yet.

FIVE HOURS LATER — we finally had my license done and car registered.  Frank’s stuff is another story entirely.  Against the actual guidelines the DMV has in place, the competent staff therein put his full middle name on his license, thus rendering the name on his new license a non-perfect-name-match from him title and his insurance card.  So the DMV then started insisting that Frank had to get a new insurance card printed with his exactly-matching-his-new-license name.  Only, because our insurance company apparently follows DMV guidelines better than the DMV, their computers will not let them physically create insurance cards with his name as the DMV put it on his license.  So, not only would they not let him register his car, his license has to be fixed, too.  Thus, the saga that was our day-from-DMV-hell is not even over yet.  We have to go back to the insurance office tomorrow, and they are going to call the DMV and talk to the head-idiot over there and try to help us get this all straightened out.

Now the incompetence and screw-ups are one thing.  Be polite, say you’re sorry (even if you don’t mean it).  I understand, you work at the DMV which probably means you’re never going to become an astronaut or sports legend or MC Hammer groupie like you dreamed of as a kid.  But for Pete’s sake, DMV people… would it kill you to maybe drop the holier-than-thou, condescending attitudes and maybe just do your shit jobs with just a little bit of pride and efficiency!??

I know it’s stereotypical to deride the DMV… but honestly before today I’d never had a ‘bad’ DMV experience.  Living in Buffalo, NY, then Albany, NY, then in NJ for 8 years, I’ve had my fair share of waiting in line and killing the time and messing up a form and having to fill it out again.  The waiting is par for the course, the cryptic regulations (especially now, thank you Homeland Security!) are not unexpected.  I have never, though, EVER dealt with a more negative, smarmy, self-righteous, unhelpful group of people than I encountered at this DMV office.  Still now, hours later, I am appalled and have a certain amount of empathy for violent postal workers.  Despite everything that was screwy with our documentation, despite the goofs on both sides of the formica counter, had the people ‘helping’ us not been so power-trippy and rude and just downright nasty, I could let it go.  But here I am, reliving it and getting incredibly pissed that I have to go back and endure it again tomorrow.

Stop the jumping

I took the kids for a walk/jog today in our double jogging stroller.  Near the end of our jaunt we encountered an older couple with a beautiful black Labrador Retriever.  Lane, as she does, asked to pet the dog, so we asked the couple and they were happy to oblige.  We chatted for a few minutes and they shared that the dog is in training to be a guide dog for the blind, and is currently in the process of going through all the training and socialization and whatnot.  The dog is learning really well and is extremely obedient, except for one thing:  they cannot get her to stop jumping on people.  They’ve tried everything and are at their wits’ end.

Ahh, that sounded so familiar!  Bailey, our golden retriever, love that she is, was an avid jumper.  We tried EVERYTHING to get her to stop.  Her puppy trainer at PetSmart suggested rewarding her when she was calm… but when was she calm?!?  The ol’ bring up your knee advice had no effect, she thought it was a game.  No punishment was ever severe enough to deter her or to knock some sense into her — even the couple times I got so incredibly frustrated I actually punched her in the head.  (I hate to admit that, but it’s the truth.  She thought I was playing and jumped on me again.  Blockhead dog!)

Then, our epiphany.

Maybe someone told it to us, maybe I read it online somewhere — I cannot remember.  But wherever I got the idea, I am eternally grateful.  Bailey is a dog who craves attention.  Needs it, loves it, can’t live without it.  She loves people and wants to play.  She wants to be petted and loved.  She wants acknowledgment and acceptance.  So, we just started ignoring her when she jumped.  More than that, we stood crossed our arms and looked up and away from her, effectively withdrawing any semblance of attention.  It took a couple days of consistency, but the jumping abated.  We were amazed, we were thankful, we were in heaven!  We’d finally found the “punishment” that worked for our dog.

And it continues to work!  If she gets a little too exuberant with someone, we have them cross their arms and look up at the sky.  Bailey almost immediately will leave them alone.

I told these very nice people about our secret, and I think the light bulb went on for them too — it just might work.  I hope it does, their dog was otherwise beautiful and obedient and smart and well-behaved.