This week, Duke rejected a meal — which all the people in the house had happily eaten the previous day — because it had potatoes in it. Duke, who claims he is not a dog, does not like potatoes. Any potatoes. Not even salty, curly, spiced French Fries! “But,” said my son, “ALL dogs love fries.” Not El Duque. He used to like potatoes, mind you. In fact, he used to beg for them. Now? He puts a fry in his mouth, carries it to a corner where he drops it, then comes back to beg for another. Because the new one might be better than the last.
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Having him reject the same chicken stew we all loved was my final straw as a chef.
“It’s dog food for you,” I announced. How spoiled is your dog when he gets picky about human food? I had actually begun to carefully pick out the cooked peppers from food since Duke refuses to eat them. Clearly, a few weeks of dog food should clarify his position in the food chain. For the first time in recent memory, he didn’t get any leftovers last night. There really weren’t any leftovers anyhow, but I usually save my last bite or two for him because he’s a good boy. But good boys do NOT reject my chicken stew (which had actually been a pot-pie, but humans ate the crust).
I couldn’t help myself. I was insulted by my dog. As permanent full-time cook, his rejection of my chicken stew — good chicken stew — was more than I could handle. I am convinced before the week is out, Duke will start to recognize his doghood. He is not a person. He is a dog because he is eating dog food. Which is probably better for him anyway, though frankly, all that chicken with onions and mushrooms and tiny cut-up (by hand!) potatoes looked pretty good to me.
I recently wrote a blog called “Things That Go Bump In The Night”, documenting our search for an invisible rodent making noises and leaving acorns in and around our bedroom.
Last night we saw him! He ran across the kitchen and I brought my husband, Tom in to help me look for him, to no avail. Then he suddenly ran across the family room while we were watching TV. When Tom, got up to look for him again, the little guy ran through the hallway and back into the kitchen. He was smaller than a squirrel but had a short, bushy tail. Poor guy must have been terrified. Was this the same guy who made noises all through the night a few weeks ago? We think it was.
We went to sleep and were awakened twice when the dogs went ballistic and raced from the bedroom into the hallway. We didn’t even bother to get up to check out whatever they might have heard. I fed the dogs at 6:00 AM without incident. When Tom got up, he went downstairs and found our nocturnal visitor dead at the bottom of the stairs. We had hoped to get him out of the house unscathed, but it looks like our hunting dog got to him before we could rescue him and release him into the wild.
I live in the woods so I’m no stranger to the little woodland creatures I share real estate with. So when I entered my bedroom the other night, I wasn’t totally surprised to see that something was off. A vase that is usually on a lamp table in the corner, was now on the floor. And next to it were two, fresh, green acorns. Something, or someone, was clearly afoot.
We’ve found squirrels scampering around other parts of the house before. It presents a problem because we don’t want to hurt the cute little guys but we definitely want them out of the house. Once my husband chased a baby squirrel out of our powder room and straight out the front door. Another time he caught one hiding in the fireplace in a large Tupperware container and deposited him outside, away from the house.
So we assumed we were looking for another squirrel. We searched the bedroom and hallway as well as the second floor laundry room. We found nothing. So we went to sleep.
Around 2:30 AM, we were startled awake by the two dogs leaping off the bed and charging down the hallway, shrieking at top volume. The dogs were in an unusual frenzy and we were on immediate squirrel alert. We turned on the lights and searched the whole second floor but again, found nothing out of the ordinary. So we got back into bed.
A few minutes later, we clearly heard scratching and scurrying and the dogs went crazy again. We got up and went through the squirrel search routine yet again to find the source of the animal noises we had heard. Nothing. By the third time this happened, we decided to stay in bed and leave the police work to the dogs. This went on for a solid hour. Just as we would start drifting off to sleep, we’d hear scratching and/or stereo dog hysteria in our ears.
I wish I had a satisfying ending for this story. But the next night, and every night since then, have been quiet, so maybe the dogs scared our nocturnal guest away and he’ll find another house in which to store acorns. I hope so, because I’m not looking forward to another episode of nighttime drama!
Tinker and Griffon were almost exactly the same age. We got them a few months apart. Griffon was deemed not-breedable because he had a problem with a rear leg. It was fixed before he came to us and was neutered. His intended bride had been Tinker who was fine and healthy. I got her on a “one litter” contingency. But when the time for breeding arrived, I was afraid. I had a lot of breeder friends by then. I knew at least one woman who had lost not only the pups, but also the mother. She was devastated, She stopped breeding and showing. These weren’t just show dogs. They were her family pets and the mother had been her favorite.
Breeding isn’t always easy. Depending on the dog’s structure — how the hips are built — short-legged dogs can be difficult and may require a Caesarean. You need to know what’s going on to know when the bitch is in trouble. They sometimes decide to give birth in the middle of the night and you don’t know until morning that you’ve become a grandmother. I decided I was not the right person to breed. Too much danger and I knew too little. I am sure I was right.
Both hounds were Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (French rabbit hounds), typically called “Petites” or “PBGVs.”
Tinker at 9 months
Tinker as a pup
I had never heard of these dogs. They were newly registered in the U.S. As a dedicated dog show watcher, I saw them first at Westminster and they were such deliciously goofy dogs, I wanted one. I didn’t want three, though that is what I ultimately got. We already had Divot, our little former champion who became ours when she retired from the ring. I wanted one more and thus acquired Pagan (Goose Creek’s Ch. Dancing in the Dark) because she already had two litters by Caesarean and her owner felt that was enough.
Pagan was the sweetest dog I ever knew — unless she had a bone. Give that girl a bone and she became a dragon guarding treasure in her lair — which was the crate we use as an end table. I keep it because you never know when you might need a crate, especially if you have an injured dog and you need to keep them from hurting themselves.
Dogs like their crates. To them, it’s the cave. They store things in it. Old bones, pieces of torn up napkins, toys, parts of things that used to be something else. They safeguard these treasures by hiding them under the blankets in the crate. Our dogs have all been crate decorators. We would wash all the blankets and whatever other items got tossed into the crate, In it, you’d find old towels, nightgowns, old bathmats, blankets from your last move — you name it. Periodically, when it got too smelly, Garry would remove everything (so THAT’S where the remote control went!), wash and fold them all neatly. Next, whoever was King or Queen of the crate, would go inside and tear the place up, drag out all the bedding, then drag it back in until it was properly arranged. Dog-style.
Sometimes this re-decorating process could take a whole day. As a blanket got dragged out, dragged in, rearranged, then redone until it formed the perfect heap. That’s were Pagan went with her bones and after a while, the crate began to look like a dinosaur’s graveyard. And eventually, because the competition for bones got too dangerous, we stopped giving them bones. Besides, Pagan always wound up with all of them anyway.
Pagan died at age 7 of nothing we could figure out. The vet thought it might have been Lyme disease, but it never came up in a test. Whatever it was, it destroyed her kidneys. She was in a lot of pain. By then, we already owned Tinker who was Pagan’s granddaughter so we did an autopsy see if something was wrong with Pagan that might be genetic. Nothing showed up and we never knew what killed her. After Pagan passed, we had Divot, our beautiful little Norwich Terrier and Tinker, which was when another breeder offered us Griffin. He and Tinker were meant to be a pair and since he was not going to be shown or bred, he was shipped to us.
He was such a gorgeous boy! Handsome and he had a sense of humor. PBGVs love to make you laugh. People sometimes call them “clown dogs” because they will go out of their way to make you laugh.
Griffin and Tinker fell in love. Tinker adored him and you never saw them apart. They ate together, slept together, played together. Quite literally, they were inseparable. But then, another girl showed up. A friend had a spare Norwich Terrier from an unusually large litter and since we already had Divot, she though we might need another one. From the moment she came into the house, Griffin started to drool over her. He dumped Tinker and went after Sally.
Call and he will come
Three PBGVs in a row
Kaity and her dog show
Tinker was devastated. She got depressed and wouldn’t come out of the corner. She started to destroy anything she could get her teeth around, especially Kaity’s toys and remote controls. We didn’t get along with Sally and found another home for her. She had, it turned out, bad hips and couldn’t manage the stairs and was, as dogs go, the stupidest dog I ever met. She couldn’t figure out how to use a step stool to get from floor to sofa, something that every dog we’ve owned has figured out with no teaching involved. And getting her to use the doggy door took four people and about a pound of liverwurst. Between the bad hips and the lack of brain power, she was rehomed and adored in the home to which she went.
Griffin tried to make up with Tinker, but Tinker would have none of it. She was the smartest dog we’ve ever had. Tinker the Thinker. She could open any gate AND close it silently. If there was a complex dog problem — like how to get that loaf of bread out of the breadbox and open it, Tinker would drag furniture over for climbing, get up on the counter, open the breadbox, get the bread, open the bag neatly, without an tearing or chewing. She could open new jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark on the lid and tear the guts our of any electronic device in seconds. She was as close to human as a dog gets and she never, ever forgave Griffin. She never played with him and wouldn’t share the sofa.
Poor boy. He was such a dog and Tinker was not the girl to put up with an unfaithful hound. She never played with any dog again until Bonnie came here as a tiny puppy and then, for the next year, Tinker came out of her shell and played. She even sometimes let Griffin sleep next to her.
A year later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died … and six weeks later, Tinker collapsed. She had, as it turned out, cancer just about everywhere. And that was the end of the hounds.
The hounds had beautiful singing voices and every morning, they would start the dawn howl and all the other dogs would join in. it was how they greeted the morning. When Griffin and Tinker were gone, no dog has howled since. If I ever open a pub, I’ll call it “The Hounds and Terriers.” And everyone will howl.
I’ve always been fascinated by service dogs. I can barely get my dogs to sit, stay and come on command. So the idea that dogs can be trained to do complex tasks for the disabled seems like a miracle to me. The Guide Dog Foundation For The Blind expanded in 2003 to include America’s VetDogs. This organization gives assistance to wounded veterans to help them return to a normal life. America’s VetDogs still shares staff and resources with the Guide Dog Foundation.
VetDogs provides service dogs to veterans who have a wide variety of disabilities and issues which prevent them from getting around independently. Service dogs help those with physical limitations, those who are blind or have low vision, those who are deaf and those who have PTSD.
Veterans who are paired with dogs go to the VetDogs ten-acre campus in Smithtown, New York, for a two-week, residential training program. The student and his or her dog bond and learn to work together as a team. The classes are small and there are lots of individual attention and instruction.
Dog opening door
Dog pushing button to open door
Dog picking up dropped item
VetDogs has a wonderful Prison Puppy Program that allows prison inmates to train potential service dogs from early puppyhood. The prisoners also get invaluable benefits. I used to watch a TV series about prisoners training puppies and it was a joy to watch. The inmates developed a sense of responsibility toward the dogs and a sense of accomplishment at their dogs’ progress. Puppies also create a calmer climate in correctional facilities and bring some normalcy to the prison environment.
Puppies get sent to the prisons at eight to nine weeks old. They live in the handler’s cell where the inmate works on house breaking and other basic skills. The dogs attend classes with their handlers, participate in recreational activities and even go to meals with their handlers. An American VetDogs instructor comes once a week to provide training instructions and monitor progress. The inmates learn about canine socialization, puppy development, behavior theories, grooming, and canine first aid.
Prison handlers do more than teach basic obedience skills. They also train the dogs for service dog tasks, like retrieving dropped items, opening doors and refrigerators and providing support and balance on stairs. The prisoners also acclimate their dogs to objects in the outside world, like umbrellas, skateboards, and battery operated toys.
But a prison environment is limited. So the puppies go to the home of an outside family on weekends, often prison staff members. Here they learn house manners and they become familiar with cars and traffic noise. Dogs are taken to stores, restaurants, and hospitals so they can confidently go wherever their future veteran partner will take them.
When the puppies reach adulthood, the dogs go back to VetDogs for assessment, final training, and client matching. Statistics show that prison-raised dogs go through these final phases in half the time as home-raised dogs. One dog trained in the prison program has become an overnight celebrity. His name is Sully and when he was two, in June of 2018, he was matched with former President George H.W. Bush.
Bush, Sr. was always a dog lover and he welcomed Sully enthusiastically into his home and his heart. Sully helped Bush, who was in a wheelchair, pick up dropped items, open and close doors, push an emergency button and support him when the 94-year-old former president stood. Sully developed a following on social media. His own Instagram account had more than 98,000 followers. Since George H.W. Bush’s death, Sully has become even more popular. A photo of Sully forlornly lying in front of Bush’s casket in the Capitol Rotunda went viral. Sully seemed heartbroken, but also seemed to still be keeping watch over his partner. His devotion exploded the internet.
Sully’s service to President Bush is over, but his career as a service dog is not. America’s VetDogs will send Sully to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There he will assist with physical and occupational therapy for wounded soldiers. The Bush family found comfort in knowing that Sully would continue to help veterans for many years to come.
The relationship between President Bush and Sully has shined a spotlight on the amazing things that service dogs can do for people with physical and emotional limitations. Maybe Sully’s fifteen minutes of fame will result in more money being donated to training more dogs for civilians as well as for veterans. It costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise, train and place one assistance dog. Dogs are provided to veterans free of charge. America’s VetDogs is a non-profit organization. Funding comes exclusively from donations.
Please donate to America’s VetDogs by going to their website. It’s a wonderful cause.
It’s ironic that we lost both of our Scotties during this pandemic. Gibbs, who had never shown any sign of illness, simply died one afternoon on the sofa — soundlessly in his sleep and Bonnie, who had been failing for a couple of years, just about a month ago. And suddenly, Duke is the king of the household. He always seemed to want to be the Head Hound of our home, but after Bonnie passed, he was pretty mournful for a few weeks. I think it hit him harder than it hit us.
Left: Bonnie, Right: Gibbs
We knew it was just a matter of time before Bonnie would be gone. We kept her alive longer than we probably should have because she seemed suprisingly lively, even though her hearing and most of her sight was gone and her dementia was pretty advanced.
This is a time when a houseful of happy hounds would be a great thing, but the Duke will have to be our dog. He seems to have passed through his grief at Bonnie’s passing and is a very good boy. A little nutsy, but a lot of fun. He makes us laugh.
I don’t even know how many dogs and cats we’ve had over the years. It’s odd to have just one dog. He’s a very good boy. Furry, friendly, and permanently looking for something good to eat. If nothing to eat shows up? A good cuddle is just fine.
The TSA uses about 1200 dogs at airports to screen passengers and baggage. These dogs are from seven breeds, two of which have pointy ears, including German Shepherds. But four out of five of the recent additions to the canine corps have droopy ears. Why?
Because the TSA decided, purely anecdotally, that people generally view floppy-eared dogs as more docile and friendly and pointy-eared dogs as more aggressive.
Allegedly, floppy-eared dogs don’t scare children but the pointy-eared dogs do.
There is some research that supports the idea that people view pointy-eared dogs as more intimidating. This is a totally unsupported prejudice and it’s unfair to dogs because many dogs with pointy ears have had their naturally floppy ears cropped as puppies. Others have been genetically engineered by breeders to look that way.
Let’s be clear – pointy ears do not indicate an aggressive or dominant temperament. Ear configuration has no relationship to a dog’s disposition. This fear of pointy-eared dogs has been called ‘canine racism.’
I know a lot about doggie discrimination.
My daughter, Sarah, works with a Pit Bull rescue group in LA called Angel City Pit Bulls. One of their missions is to fight breed discrimination, like breed specific legislation which prohibits Pits from certain buildings and even certain cities. London had a Pit Bull ban and Montreal is trying to enact one. This forces people to choose between living where they want and giving up their beloved pet or finding somewhere else to live with their dog.
Pit Bulls are the canine ‘bad guys’ du jour. In the past, German Shepherds were shunned as aggressive and dangerous but now are used as companions and seeing-eye dogs. Then Rottweilers became the ‘bad dog’ du jour — and they don’t even have pointy ears!
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Pit Bulls were used as the ‘nanny’ dog – to protect children and be their early companions. They were considered the ideal family pet and many family photos from the period include young children with their Pit Bulls.
What’s even more galling about Pit Bull discrimination is that ‘Pit Bull’ isn’t even a legitimate breed. It’s an umbrella label that encompasses dogs from at least four different breeds, including Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog.
In shelters, dogs are labeled ‘Pit Bull’ if someone thinks they have some Pit Bull in them. The designation is totally arbitrary and subjective. And there are more Pits in shelters than any other breed and they are euthanized at a higher rate than any other breed.
To add insult to injury, the breeds that make up the faux category ‘Pit Bull’, are smack in the middle of the ratings for aggressiveness by breed. They are rated between Labs and Golden Retrievers! Clearly, these dogs are nowhere near being the most aggressive dogs.
In fact, the two most aggressive breeds are Chihuahuas and Dachshunds. But no one lodges complaints when attacked by a Chihuahua, probably because it would be embarrassing.
The most dominant traits in Pit Bull breeds are their gentleness and sweetness, their friendliness and their desire to please their humans. They got a bad reputation decades ago when dog fight promoters started training Pit Bulls to fight.
Remember, any dog can be trained to be aggressive and fight. And Pits are especially trainable because of their desire to please. Many Pits who have been rescued from dog fighting rings have been successfully rehabilitated and have been adopted as family pets – even after being trained to be aggressive.
So there is no basis for the widespread perception that Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other breeds. There is also no basis for the perception that pointy-eared dogs should be feared more than floppy eared dogs.
People seem to need to discriminate. They discriminate against people and dogs. We should fight prejudice and discrimination wherever we find it, even when it’s dogs. Mostly, dogs are nicer than people anyway.
We got him by accident. We kept him because he needed a home. We thought eventually, he’d calm down. He calmed down. He has mostly stopped jumping fences. Mostly. He isn’t mellow exactly, but he is among the friendliest dogs I’ve ever known.
He’s loving and sweet and protective. He tries very hard to be fierce, but no one is ever afraid of him. He will keep trying, though.
Scotties can live a long time, though most pass some time between 12 and 16 years old. We lost Gibbs at the beginning of February, quietly, in his sleep on the sofa. Now, Bonnie is on her way to that land of rainbows.
Usually, dogs develop an illness you know about. You can’t always make it better, but you can often control symptoms for a while. Often before a disease takes them down, arthritis makes them so miserable there’s little reason to keep a dog in obvious pain alive because you’re too selfish to let them go. We have learned the hard way over many years of having pets who we didn’t let go because we couldn’t make a decision — is wrong.
Bonnie has been failing a little at a time for a long time. Her eyes have been bad for much of her life, but even with a lot of attention, they are worse now. I do not know how much she can see.
She is almost entirely deaf. If you shout in her ear, she hears a bit and certain treble notes seem to reach her. But our voices aren’t there for her and it’s surprisingly difficult to manage a once-hearing dog who no longer can.
She has developed canine dementia. She has good days … or more to the point … she has good hours or minutes. The rest of the time, she’s agitated and barks continuously until she is exhausted and so are we. I doubt she knows why she is barking.
She also isn’t the same dog we’ve known and loved. Garry feels like he is reliving the last years of his mother’s life, but this time, it’s his Scottie and the conversation is limited.
She isn’t friendly and doesn’t want to be petted. She has about two minutes of tolerating being close to one of us. She isn’t hostile, but a lot of the time, I don’t think she is sure who we are or, for that matter, who she is. She knows the house, though. Even with limited sight and hearing, she can find her way around. And she can manage the stairs.
Her teeth went from fine a year and a half ago to appalling now. Assuming we could manage to find the nearly $1000 dollars it would cost to have most of them removed, that wouldn’t fix the rest of her. Her eyes won’t come back or her hearing. And her furry little brain isn’t going to uncloud.
It’s time to let her go.
The all-night barking is not doing much for Garry and my relationship either. We get very little sleep and we are tired and snappish a lot of the time. Three or four hours of sleep isn’t enough.
It’s hard to keep her in bed with us. Also, she is old enough that a jump from our rather high bed would likely break or tear something. The Duke will jump up and settle down, but Bonnie sleeps for only a few hours, then has to go out. Now she seems to be having trouble catching her breath. I don’t know what it means, but it isn’t good.
We finally decided that there’s not much for her or us to get from this relationship. She is so stressed and confused and this is causing us to stress, too. We aren’t spring chickens either.
It is hard to imagine life without her. She has been with us since she was 9-weeks old. She has been a wonderful dog. Funny, quirky, and full of fun. Last night, I took pictures. She still looks pretty good, though she has put on a lot of weight recently, maybe because she doesn’t do much anymore.
Sometime during the next week, she will be gone. It really is hard to imagine life without her. I still haven’t entirely become used to Gibbs being gone, and now, apparently, it’s time for another one to leave us.
There comes a moment in time when your beloved dog smells like a pile of indescribable offal. Bonnie had reached an intolerable stage and finally, all the stuff I ordered — shampoo, detangler, steel combs, brushes arrived. I told Garry last night we were going to bathe her today. He agreed, but I don’t think he was actually listening.
So when I paused the morning coffee and said “We are going to bathe Bonnie,” he looked like I’d struck him with lightning. You can’t pause the coffee. It’s just not done. But it was today. It was already two in the afternoon. We’d slept through most of the rainy day. It was cold and wet and miserable. I didn’t see any point in getting up anyway. Yesterday, Garry got his first best home haircut.
Today, Bonnie got her very unprofessional kitchen grooming. She doesn’t look groomed. Mostly, she looks cleaner and smells better. I know she smells better because Duke gets very excited by floral scents and the moment we had her out of the bath, he was hot and horny.
At 13, nothing makes Bonnie hot and horny except food.
That was our day, more or less. Our money finally showed up, so I spent a lot of it paying down credit cards, buying grow lights for the plants, and calling doctors for prescription refills. I ordered masks because you can’t go into town without them, though who knows when they will get here.
By the time I was done, there was surprisingly little money remaining.
On another topic, four figures in the Book of Revelation symbolize the evils to come at the end of the world. The figure representing conquest rides a white horse. War sits on a red mount. Famine rides a black horse. Plague sits on a pale horse. They are often called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
We are always at war and conquest never seems to come out of it. We are living through Plague and it seems that Famine is just around the bend. Death has been having a high old time for the past three months.
Also, I think our really bad government deserves a place on the team. Total incompetence should ride in a big black Humvee, don’t you think?
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.