Dogs and Kids: Peas and Carrots

Since Gianna is going to be an only child, I’m glad she’s growing up as a member of a dog pack. She’s around some kids, and she really likes them, but I think it’s good that she has a couple beasts to hang around and play with.

She’s pretty interested in Clyde most of the time.

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And Gretel and Gianna always play tug of war with her toys, socks, books, you name it. They both initiate it.

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Sometimes Gianna gets this funny Frankenstein-like determination as she pursues Gretel. I love it.

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Gianna has been a good addition to the pack, especially for Gretel, since they play together so much.

Peas and Carrots.

The End of an Era: Reflecting on Life, Death, and Creating Things

Gianna in her Pants Hat

The only real benefit of losing someone you love (our Minitaure Pinscher Sally just died) is that it forces you to reflect on your own life.

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Sally was the last of our first generation of pets: Dulce the Chihuahua, Sally the Miniature Pinscher, Ivan the super Doberman, King the Akita/German Shepherd, PJ the Poodle, and Monster, Chewie, and Jihad the cats are all dead now. It seems like it’s the end of an era in our lives, I guess, now that they’re all dead and gone.

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I was devastated when Ivan died 4 years ago (read what I had to say back then in my post, My Ivan is Dead and Gone if you really want to see me feeling terrible. I still can’t read it without crying). But after he died, we still had Dulce and Sally and life carried on. Later that year, we picked up that biggest of doofuses, Clyde. Then Dulce and Jihad died and we found Gretel of the Crazy Hair.

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Even though Clyde is already 3 and a half, he’s still an idiot freshman in my mind, and Gretel is like a 6th grader. There isn’t any Sally left to stumble up and snarl them into submission. They’re the old guard now. They’re moving on. They’re not dwelling on the past or old friends. They just are.

Now that Sally, bravest of my beasts, that tiny courageous hero, gobbler of all food, lover of the good life, is dead, I’m moving on too. I have to.

Death is like a slap in the face that reminds you nothing stays the same forever. We’re all getting older all the time, obviously, but it’s easy to lose sight of that on a daily basis and just run on cruise control.

We’re all born, live our lives, then we die. It’s going to end some day, so you damn well better get out there and do meaningful things. Make the world a better place. Create something. Improve other people’s lives.

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I need to get back into the swing of writing my own stuff. I have been spending a huge amount of time on MisCon lately, especially the last few weeks. I’m trying to get George R. R. Martin’s airline tickets lined up, which is proving to be troublesome, and I’m trying to get the schedule out of the way. It’s all a pretty big undertaking, and it takes time.

One of the reasons I spend so damn much time working on MisCon is that it’s a way for me to do something nice for other people. I like helping make the convention as good as it can be, and I enjoy making people happy. It’s also a creative outlet (not that I need any more of those, but still).

All the work I put into MisCon is worth it to me, but I wish I could get down how to have it affect my fiction writing less than it does. I need to get better with my time these days, I guess. Part of my deal is that I’ve been staying home with Gianna this winter, and I’ve been trying to maximize my time with her. It’s sort of tough to figure out how to manage time with a little kid running around.

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Today, in the spirit of this post, Gianna and I played outside for a few minutes in the wintry sunshine. She was very excited to get outside on her own 2 feet, and it worked well until she insisted on  heading into the snow everywhere she could. She can’t make it over much snow, so she kept falling down and getting cold hands.

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So try to remind yourself that life isn’t forever. To make a difference in the world, you need to work at it. So get out there and do something creative, positive, generous, whatever. Make somebody happy.

And give your pets, parents, kids, grandparents a special love for me. We won’t be around forever and you’ll sure as hell wish you had more time. I know I do.

On Life and Death

Sally in the Playroom

Today I set the appointment to have Sally, our Miniature Pinscher, “put to sleep” at noon tomorrow.

I hate the phrase “put to sleep,” but it seems sort of harsh to say “kill.” I guess if I said that, it would seem like I was trying to shock people. I don’t mince words–in my world, people don’t “pass away.” They die.

I don’t like sugar-coating things.

Tomorrow we are going to kill Sally. We are. But it does soften things for most people to say that we’re going to “put her to sleep.”

I’m going to hold Sally tomorrow while the vet injects her with that lethal pink stuff. I am going to force myself to watch the life leave her body. I know how it works–I’ve had to do this twice before, with Ivan and Dulce, and just like those times, I’ll be right there with her. I’m not very enthused at the idea, but it’s my duty, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This morning as I watched Sally stumble across the living room floor, my thoughts turned to death, growing old, getting sick, losing your body and your mind.

I was writing about death, about Sally, when I heard Gianna squealing in her bedroom. She had finally awakened from a nap and was just sitting in her crib playing.

Here I was pondering death and getting old, when just hearing her brought me back into balance. I had been slipping into morbidity, into feeling sorry for Sally (and myself), into losing sight of the way of the universe: things are born and things die.

I need to be sad at losing Sally, but death is normal. It’s what happens.

Kids are the very embodiment of life. They’re vibrant, curious, excited, silly, and full of energy. As we get older, things definitely deteriorate.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore life and death in further detail.

Pictures of the Day: Clyde in his Blanket

My Great Dane Clyde always wraps himself in his blankets (which he requires most of the year–he is a big baby after all). He always manages to wrap it around his head like Little Red Riding Hood.

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Sally Isn’t Long For This World

Soon, we’re going to have to put Sally, our Miniature Pinscher, to sleep.

She just turned 14, and for a few years has had some sort of neurological problem that messes with her legs. She can’t walk very well, she can’t climb stairs, and no matter how much she eats, she just continues to lose weight. She’s pretty damn near skeletal. She gets lost in low light, and she can’t hear a damn thing.

She pees and poops without knowing she’s doing it. You can see her surprise that it’s coming out. And since she’s in such bad shape, her pee is one of the most poisonous things I have ever smelled. It just about kills me to smell the stink.

But she’s still happy, still seems to love life, still loves to eat. It’s hard to say how I know that, but she just is. Clyde doesn’t sleep in our bed, but our little dogs do. Her spot has always been right at my side, between my armpit and my waist. I used to just tell her to get in her spot and she’d do it. Now I have to put her where I want her since she just stumbles across the bed like she’s drunk.

I’m not too shy to admit that I’m tearing up as I watch her wander around the room trying to get comfortable–it’s like she can’t quite get her back legs to do what she wants, but once she lies down, she settles into an old timer’s sleep and life is good until she gets to gobble up some more food. Then it’s perfect for a few minutes.

I just can’t let her go yet. I’m willing to put up with a little more pee just to give her a little more time gobbling up the food she loves, battling with Gretel and Clyde, and brightening up the world.

Soon enough, she’ll cross the threshold, and we’ll put her to sleep. I think that time is approaching fast. Maybe she’s down to a month, maybe weeks. I don’t know. I guess I’m ready for it.

You can read some more of my sentimental dog stuff by checking out the post I did when Ivan died years ago: My Ivan is Dead and Gone


Picture of the Day: Clyde 9 Weeks Old

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I took this shot the day we got Clyde. He was 9 weeks old and weighed 20 pounds. Obviously, this was also back when he still had his natural floppy ears and people thought he was a black lab. That lasted for a few weeks because he started gaining 5 pounds/week for months. Now he weighs 150 pounds.

Greyhounds are the Best Dogs! No, no, it’s Cocker Spaniels! Wait, it’s Pugs!

My Doberman Ivan at his 2nd birthday party.

Dog people are crazy.

We are.

Now, I make a distinction between “dog owners” and “dog people.” You can be a dog owner and not a dog person. Dog owners often call other dogs “it” instead of “he” or “she.” Dog owners are people who just have a dog kicking around the house. Usually it’s a lab. Maybe they walk it, maybe they don’t.

Close to the other end of the spectrum is the dog person.

They’re people like me who host birthday parties for their dogs, dress them in costumes, that sort of thing. They’re crazy about dogs and often do, uh, irregular things to show it.

There’s only one more extreme step on the dog craziness spectrum: the dog breeder. They’re especially nuts. I have known a number of them over time, and it’s amazing to me that they tend to believe their breed, the one they center their lives around, is the absolute best breed in the world. Actually that’s probably not extreme enough–they tend to think their breed is the best thing in the world.

It always amazes me that anyone would think a single dog breed could somehow be the best dog for everyone, but I hear that a lot from people who should know better.

German Shepherd people say shepherds are the best. Labrador people? Labs are the best. Of course, they might prefer a color (light or dark) and they’ll definitely say they’re the best dogs for kids. Golden Retrievers are the best, if you talk to “Golden” afficionados.

The crazy Chihuahua lady (whose trailer house was filled with about 30 Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes and smelled like an especially pee-soaked exhibit at the county fair) went on about how Chihuahuas are the most lovable, smartest, most fun to cuddle dogs around. Obviously she had never met Poncho, my great-aunt’s Chihuahua. He was a nasty little bastard who seemed to hate everyone except her. (I loved Dulce, our Chihuahua, and I like the breed quite a bit, but they aren’t for everyone).

The Great Dane maniacs I talked to before we found Clyde? Same deal. The Yorkie people? Same thing.

I'm holding Pepper (my grandma's Boston Terrier), who I dressed as a bee.

These people also, without exception, filled their houses with pictures and statues and paintings of their special breeds. They wore Great Dane shirts and Yorkie hats and had dog-themed cookie jars and neck ties–pretty much everything under the sun.

Karen, the really cool lady we bought Ivan (our Doberman) from, used to wear all Doberman stuff all the time (from her earrings to her shirt, to her socks, she was always decked out in Doberman gear). I love her, but she’s nutty as hell about Dobermans.

So what’s my point with all this? Well, I’m going to discuss the relationship between humans and dogs quite a bit in this blog, but for now, I have been considering the fact that so many dog maniacs believe that their breed is somehow the best dog for everyone.

But I have some news for you: there is no best dog breed.

It’s common sense, right? I’d think so, but it’s amazing how often people try to convince me that their breed is best.

Everybody has different lifestyles. We do different things. And not every dog breed excels at everything–in fact, that’s why humans developed different kinds of dogs–they all play different roles. I love Great Danes (at least I love Clyde, anyway, and I admire the breed for their gentle strength, among other things), but I’m sure not going to say they’re for everyone. They’re not. They might be statuesque and powerful, sleek and friendly, but they can reach pretty much anything they want throughout your house (including the top of the fridge).

And big dogs are dangerous. Clyde is careful around Gretel, Sally, and Gianna, but if he manages to step on one of them . . . well, he weighs 150 pounds.

Dulce Being Evil to Ivan
My Chihuahua, Dulce, threatening my Doberman.

Plus Great Danes eat and poop a lot! They’re expensive to feed, vet bills aren’t cheap. You get it.

Same deal for Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and other micro dogs (that’s what I call my tiny dogs). Many people assume they would be excellent kid dogs since they’re little and cute and kids love them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Micro dogs have thin little bones and can easily be hurt by kids, so they often preemptively defend themselves by biting kids.

Of course we’re raising Gianna among our pack of 3 dogs, and she’s learning fast which dogs not to mess with. Sally bit her a few days ago when she tried to manhandle the poor old dog. Gianna cried and pulled her hand away, and now she’s a lot more careful about grabbing Sally. She’ll still just grab Clyde, but that’s fine since he doesn’t really care.

Okay, enough soapboxing for one morning. The next time someone says their breed is the best one, you know where this dog maniac stands. What about you? What’s your favorite breed? Why? Do you think I’m wrong?

Peeing on the Taliban: Abu Ghraib 2? I Think Not

Okay, so a group of US Marines peed on some Taliban corpses.

I see what’s wrong with it. They shouldn’t have done it. It was illegal. I strongly oppose doing things like that to living people, but corpses?

They’re making a way bigger deal about it than it deserves (they’re acting like these guys were torturing people a la Abu Ghraib). They should punish the urinaters accordingly, then move on to getting the rest of the troops the hell out of Afghanistan. THAT would ensure that things like this don’t happen again. Sticking these guys in bullshit wars is bound to bring out the worst in some of them.

Now don’t get me wrong. I very strongly oppose ignorant macho behavior that hurts people/animals (even though it happens all the time). This peeing thing is disrespectful and politically stupid, but it’s not nearly as bad as a lot of the really terrible stuff that’s happening over there:

Some (emphasis on the some) of our troops have recorded each other doing extremely disgusting things in Iraq and Afghanistan. You just have to do a quick YouTube search to see the videos. There are way too many.

For example, here are some Americans blowing up a dog  and laughing their asses off about it: US Troops Blow Up Dog Just For Fun 2011. This video is screwed up, so don’t watch it if you can’t handle it. Those guys should get the same treatment, if you ask me, and the video should be plastered all over the place (along with the zillion other videos just like it).

So peeing on some dead bodies is stupid fratboy behavior. It’s certainly not something our soldiers should be doing. And it’s not as bad as blowing up innocent dogs.

What do you think? Is it as bad as they’re playing at on the news? Should it be acceptable behavior?

Picture of the Day: My 1955 Cadillac

Here’s my first official Picture of the Day! It’s where I share a picture of something that inspires, interests, or motivates me to create something (whether I took the picture or  not). Sometimes it might just be something that makes me happy.

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I’m starting off with a shot of my 1955 Cadillac. My Doberman Ivan is in the background. I like the sleek 50s lines of the car, the chrome, the grille, everything (except the gas mileage).