As best I can tell, Cosmo turns 10 sometime around November 16.
This year I am thankful that he still has the energy of a 10-month old but behaves much better than he did when he actually was 10 months old.
Remember that meme from last fall/winter where bullied kids posted their plights using notecards and Internet video? It’s a dog’s life too:
Did I mention that classes are out and I may have a little too much time on my hands this summer?
Nine years ago today I met my best friend….
If you want a best friend of your own, adopt. If you can’t adopt, please consider making a donation to the shelter where Cosmo and I met.
The barn Cosmo and I are staying in this weekend is outside the village of Shushan, New York. It was built in the 1880′s and it’s situated halfway up the side of what I would call a mountain. My morning started with letting Cosmo out the door, onto the deck and seeing a family of deer sprint by.
He was good at first, staying under voice command as much as he could possibly contain himself. But finally instincts kicked in and he, along with the deer, took off up the hill and into the rolling fields above the woods behind the barn.
Ever have one of those 10-minute stretches that seems like it lasts for days?
I adopted Cosmo in May of 2003 from the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. It was a well-planned yet still somewhat impulsive decision, with me finally realizing if I was ever going to get a dog I simply had to go out and get a dog.
All of the books for first-time dog owners stress how important it is to “socialize” your dog, to let him play with other dogs. Almost everything a dog learns is stuff they pick up from other creatures – not from the expensive obedience classes we enroll them in. Male dogs, for example, don’t raise a hind leg to pee until they see other dogs do it. And there are more important lessons learned at the dog park: rules of play, discipline and the alpha, beta hierarchy of dog pack culture.
I’m old enough that eight years now seems like a frighteningly short amount time. I’ve lived a lot in the past eight years and Cosmo has gotten to live seven years longer than he should have in that time span (about half of all dogs born in the U.S. each year won’t live to their first birthday, which is why I was and remain adamant about adopting pets).
Eight years is not a long time, but it is when I look at how much has changed in my world (if not Cosmo’s – the dog park is still pretty much the same happy experience it has always been, and he still eats at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on each and every day). But for me, even the community that is – was?—the dog park is different.
Continue Reading »
Speaking of clean kitchens, this is a pretty cool trick for getting rid of fruit flies:
“By simply pouring apple cider vinegar into an open cup or bowl and adding a drop or two of dish detergent you can easily make an incredibly effective trap for ridding your kitchen of fruit flies. Place it near your fruit bowl or trash can and within a day you will have nipped the problem in the bud.
“Apple cider vinegar works as an attractant because of its strong sweet odor while the dish detergent decreases the vinegar’s surface tension so that when a fly touches the surface it immediately sinks and drowns. It’s particularly satisfying to see the collection of flies you have dealt with at the bottom of the glass.”
But wait! There’s more! A couple of months ago I got this email from my dog walker about ACV being a panacea for a lot of pet ailments:
Every home with dogs should have apple cider vinegar. It’s a remedy with multiple uses for dogs: alleviating allergies, arthritis, establishing correct pH balance. You can also give apple cider vinegar to cats and horses.
As written in an excellent, 1997 article by Wendy Volhard:
“…If your dog has itchy skin, the beginnings of a hot spot, incessantly washes its feet, has smelly ears, or is picky about his food, the application of ACV may change things around. For poor appetite, use it in the food – 1 tablespoon, two times a day for a 50 lb. dog. For itchy skin or beginning hot spots, put ACV into a spray bottle, part the hair and spray on. Any skin eruption will dry up in 24 hours and will save you having to shave the dog. If the skin is already broken, dilute ACV with an equal amount of water and spray on.
Taken internally, ACV is credited with maintaining the acid/alkaline balance of the digestive tract. To check your dog’s pH balance, pick up some pH strips at the drug store, and first thing in the morning test the dog’s urine. If it reads anywhere from 6.2 – 6.5, your dog’s system is exactly where it should be. If it is 7.5 or higher, the diet you are feeding is too alkaline, and ACV will re-establish the correct balance.
If you have a dog that has clear, watery discharge from the eyes, a runny nose, or coughs with a liquid sound, use ACV in his or her food. One teaspoon twice a day for a 50 lb. dog will do the job.
After your weekly grooming sessions, use a few drops in his or her ears after cleaning them to avoid ear infections. Other uses for ACV are the prevention of muscle weakness, cramps, feeling the cold, calluses on elbows and hock joints, constipation, bruising too easily, pimples on skin surfaces, twitching of facial muscles, sore joints, arthritis and pus in the urine. There are also reports that it is useful in the prevention of bladder and kidney stones.
Fleas, flies, ticks and bacteria, external parasites, ring worm, fungus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, pneumococcus, mange, etc., are unlikely to inhabit a dog whose system is acidic inside and out. Should you ever experience any of these with your dog, bathe with a nice gentle herbal shampoo — one that you would use on your own hair — rinse thoroughly, and then sponge on ACV diluted with equal amounts of warm water. Allow your dog to drip dry. It is not necessary to use harsh chemicals for minor flea infestations. All fleas drown in soapy water and the ACV rinse makes the skin too acidic for a re-infestation. If you are worried about picking up fleas when you take your dog away from home, keep some ACV in a spray bottle, and spray your dog before you leave home, and when you get back. Take some with you and keep it in the car, just in case you need it any time. Obviously for major infestations, more drastic measures are necessary. ACV normalizes the pH levels of the skin, makes your dog unpalatable to even the nastiest of bacteria and you have a dog that smells like a salad, a small price to pay!”
What can I say? I was busy and didn’t have too much time to play with my camera.
But it wasn’t a busy day for everyone:
For the second time this summer — and it is still summer for another three days — I’ve had a weird, police-filled experience at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus (in June I watched police helicopters fly overhead as they looked for a suspect in a parking lot robbery).
This morning as I finished my dog walk a park worker started yelling at me and some other people walking near the park entrance. He was telling us — politely — to leave. A few minutes earlier I had seen an unmarked state police crusier rolling through the park, which is normally off limits to vehicles.
As I walked by the guy I asked him if he knew what was going on.
“I do. Suicidal subject that’s threatening to harm people if they try to stop him.”
And here’s the rub — I’ think I may have walked right past the guy.
Naturally there’s no way for me to know for sure, but I walk and run there often enough to know who is a regular and who is a bit out of place. On a trail ringing one of two lakes we passed an older guy — mid-sixties, if I had to guess — sitting on the shore. He wasn’t dressed for walking and didn’t even have the best footwear to get to the rock he was sitting on. He was staring at the water and turned to glare at me when I tromped through his quiet little place. The thought or feeling crossed my mind that something may have been wrong. But it was just a hunch and I kept on walking, all but forgetting about him.
Maybe he would have harmed me if I asked him if he was okay. Or maybe he was just some old guy giving his blisters a rest and wondering why he hadn’t worn sneakers. I’ve often glared at people who have interrupted my moment with nature, so I didn’t think anything of it. You can’t put too much stock in dirty looks.
I didn’t think of him until, of course, I spoke with the park worker. Again, I have no way of knowing if the guy I saw was the guy they were looking for. But the funny thing about the park worker was that his tone suggested police-mandated park closures aren’t necessarily an infrequent occurrence.
Four summers ago most Friday nights were spent at obedience class on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The instructor was 28 and was of a certain kind of woman who split time between living with family in Ohio and working in the service and retail sector in the relatively big city. She was outgoing and said she had eight dogs, a couple of horses and an on-again, off-again biker boyfriend, which made Nichole seem mis-attired in the blue, PetsMart-issued polo shirt.
This was the summer I struggled to love my dog. The summer when Iâ€™d come home to find shoes, baseball caps, bottles of vitamins and mattresses chewed to bits. When people asked me what kind of dog Cosmo was, I would say â€œcrackhead.â€
But Nichole said something that summer that stuck: â€œThere are no bad dogs, only bad owners.â€
Americaâ€™s worst pet owner, if charges stick, would seem to be a pampered NFL quarterback. Even if it were possible to separate the awful things he had done, this is a man who has to be insane: this isnâ€™t your typical animal abuser curing boredom in a trailer park. This is someone who risked (and seemingly lost) multi-million dollar endorsement deals to be deranged.
Michael Vick faces six years and prison and fines not to exceed $350,000, and the perpetual label of â€œscumbag.â€ And most people agree the punishment is not nearly harsh enough. The truth is, rightly or wrongly, laws donâ€™t protect animals as extensively as some of us would hope.
But the high-profile incident could give rise to calls for new types of laws in a town near you. Usually the catalyst is a vicious and tragic dog attack on a small issue, but headline-hungry state legislators throughout the country can certainly craft legislation and accompanying press releases based on the Vick incident and aimed at banning so-called fighting dogs.
Back in the summer of 2003 Nichole told me I had been lucky that I had adopted Cosmo when I did, before his previous owners â€“ the bad owners â€“ had thoroughly ruined him and his gentle disposition. â€œHe wants to be good,â€ Nichole said after observing him for a few minutes during our first class. â€œHe just doesnâ€™t know how to yet.â€
That’s not good enough for certain elected officials. Cosmo has enough pit bull in him to get me worried any time there are calls to ban certain breeds of dogs. Sweet, lovable Cosmo, who is deftly afraid of cats and a particularly nasty Yorkshire Terrier we sometimes see at Breakheart, could be legislated into the vicious kid killer status by lawmakers who clearly do not get it. What these lawmakers never acknowledge, and what the media never calls them out on, is that there is a perfectly effective law already on the books in most municipalities that could eliminate the vast majority of dog attacks if only it were enforced.
But enforcing a leash law and eliminating a problem by handing out $25 or $50 citations does not grab headlines and does not fuel name recognition for reelection campaigns, hence the far-reaching proposals to ban entire breeds into extinction.
Similarly, there are already laws in place to ban more heinous and willful acts like the current Vick case. Perhaps they are not effective enough, but laws, no matter how stringent, will never be able to curb the behavior of the mentally ill. If Nichole is right, and I tend to think she is based on the turn around she helped initiate in Cosmo, I tend to think that solution isnâ€™t in banning certain breeds of dogs, but certain breeds of dog owners.