Archive for December, 2007

Multifactorial

December 30, 2007 - 2:10 pm Comments Off

Typically for me, SayUncle became instantly more interesting to me (and upgraded from a semi-frequent read to a daily one, probably) when he went from just being a sharp gun guy to a sharp bully breed guy who actually understands the nature of the “pit bull”. Naturally, I had to go back and start reading about the Politically Incorrect Dogs. Also naturally, I ran across a rather typical idiot in the comments that thinks that pit bulls are Killer Death Droids and should all be shot on sight. SayUncle had linked to statistics from the Temperament Tests that showed pit bulls generally score about like Goldens do, so the Golden Retriever was the point of comparison on this guy’s rant for, I guess, a “normal” dog versus the Lethal Mutant Caninething.

Now I’m going to back up a bit. When I was in the latter part of high school and college, I earned my spending money by working as a vet tech in the clinic that had taken care of our animals for about as long as I could remember. People who work with other people’s pets on a daily basis have a unique perspective on dog breeds; they definitely develop some breed prejudices, because trends do become apparent, but they tend to be very, very different from the breed prejudices developed by people whose outlook is shaped by the media. That outlook is also shaped by their class of clientele- different businesses attract different sorts of owners depending on both the location of the business and the likelihood that certain types of owners would spend money on that business. Owners of utilitarian working and hunting dogs are not likely to use a dog groomer, less likely to use a vet (you can do a lot more basic veterinary care at home than some vets will let on and these owners know it), and the sorts of ghetto/redneck-culture idiots who own the scary-as-fuck dogs aren’t likely to spend money on their animals at all beyond food or a really macho collar. It means the pros do miss some trends- like the backyard hellhounds that most often turn up in the news as having devoured a passerby- but that they do get a rather keen perspective on what breeds are currently more likely to have nasty aggressive tendencies by nature rather than as a product of their raising and training or lack thereof. The “currently” is important- breeds change a lot over time, depending on their level of popularity, who they’re popular with, and what the core of breeders devoted to the breed are doing. This is another thing you won’t generally see media awareness of, although if you track which the scary breed they’re reporting on over time, it’s certainly reflected.

Our vet clinic was located in a fairly upscale section of Phoenix, and while the clientele was very varied (the vets practicing there are GOOD and the pet-owner jungle-drum system is efficient), it mostly trended to middle to upper class suburbanites- not the sort of people that generally want a backyard hellhound to impresss their homies. More the kind of people that generally want something to get on with the kids and play ball.

As you may have guessed what I’m leading up to, pit bulls were NOT something I developed a wary eye for while I was working there. I was generally very happy to see that the next patient I had to deal with was one of our pit bull regulars; the people who brought them to the clinic were people who knew the potential hazards in the breed(s), who knew VERY WELL that bully dogs have image problems and had taken extra care to socialize them well and to choose dogs of sound temperament, and generally had worked to get a clue. Their dogs were pleasant for the staff to deal with because they were of correct bully breed type and temperament: wildly friendly face-lickers with extremely high pain tolerances. Even nice dogs we had to deal with could get overwhelmed by pain and become dangerous to deal with; we could do ANYTHING to the bullies and they’d still just want to lick us. Cactus in the face? No problem. Hit by car? No problem. Things could get exciting if they were brought in for a nail trim, because they were very strong, but they just wanted to get out of the nail trim, not maul us. All in all, pleasant animals to deal with.

The Goldens, on the other hand, were a much more mixed bag. Goldens have been popular for a very long time, and more than that their reputation has been “ideal family dog” all that time. They have been wildly bred, and overbred, and sold to people under the impression that a Golden is a Golden and will always be the ideal family dog- totally sweet and unaggressive, if rambunctious. Unfortunately, that isn’t so; breeding by the unscrupulous and the clueless for as long as it’s been going on has finally resulted in temperament problems becoming increasingly widespread- including various forms of aggression, which would have been totally unheard of in a Golden thirty or even twenty years ago. Our Golden patients ranged all over the place from the wonderful dogs they can be, to the neurotic, to the outright unstable and aggressive. By coincidence, the worst injury incurred by any of the staff while I was working there was from a Golden: the vet had been kneeling down to greet the dog, the dog’s tail had been sticking out under the door to the waiting room, and somebody in the waiting room had stepped on or bitten the tail. The Golden lunged forward and bit the vet- hard. I think she still has lingering nerve and tendon damage in the wrist that dog nailed; there was no bite inhibition at all, which is WAY out of bounds for normal in Golden temperament. They should be very strongly bite-inhibited- and relatively insensitive to touch or pain. This dog was neither, and it cost the vet a trip to the Emergency Room.

If you really want to know the nature of a breed, don’t look to the media and don’t look to dog-bite statistics- ask dog trainers what kind of problems that breed comes in for and how often they see them. Ask the vet clinic staff how easy or tough it is to deal with. Ask groomers if they’re wild or mild. You’ll get a clearer picture, although the perspective for each would be different; a trainer would probably have had a dimmer eye of pit bulls than I developed, because they would have been the people hired to deal with aggression toward dogs and other animals. A groomer probably wouldn’t have had much to say at all, because the coat is short and wash-n-wear. (You’d probably get quite the earful about Lhasa Apsos from them, though.)

If you’re really curious, the top five rogue’s gallery I really DID come to look at with automatic caution and suspicion were: Chows, Dalmatians, Jack Russel Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and Shar Peis. In roughly that order. I wouldn’t be surprised if it changed if I went back to work there today, either.

NO WAI

December 29, 2007 - 2:15 pm Comments Off

It seems that a JAMA study- an unusually large and thorough one in scope, though I would have liked to see more factors studied than just cardiovascular capacity- has come to the conclusion that how fit you are matters a whole lot more than how fat you are to whether or not you’re going to be dropping dead early of some “obesity” related malady. There’s a bit more popular-reader-friendly report here, as well as other places- and might I add, there was a definite trend among some reporters of implying that obesity was some kind of cardinal sin anyway.

Imagine! In an animal designed to carry around highly varying levels of fat and muscle mass, how well you maintain the underlying structure matters a lot more than how skinny your ass is. This really should be the basic scientific intuition, but instead, it’s news.

Perhaps this will result in a few more doctors telling their patients to just get off their asses and moving rather than nagging them to survive on grapefruit and lettuce until the number gets acceptably smaller.

Worth keeping an eye on

December 27, 2007 - 4:07 pm Comments Off

If you’re primarily around for the dogblogging, you might want to put Sarah Wilson on your watch list. She’s the owner of my favorite forum, the author or co-author of a number of dog-related books, and is basically the first source I turn to when I have a dog problem I don’t know how to solve.

She’s still finding her feet as a blogger, but already showing promise.

A Particular Handicap

December 27, 2007 - 1:13 pm Comments Off

From time to time in the course of household events, it becomes necessary to procure items from the category broadly known as “housewares.” Since I am fortunate enough to be married to LabRat, who would probably consider a large pile of rags adequate bedding, as long as they were fluffy and warm, and who I could probably convince that an old hubcap was a good dinner plate as long as it had been through the dishwasher first, the task of obtaining housewares falls to my questionable taste. Being male, of course my first instinct is simply to find something with the “Craftsman” logo on it and call it a day. Being (questionably) slightly above average male intelligence, I manage to suppress this instinct and engage my primitive hunter instincts to find something Tasteful. Occasionally, this ill-advised departure from Craftsman takes me someplace like Linens N Things, or Bed Bath and Beyond. This brings us to my specific handicap.

I need an escort in Bed Bath and Beyond.

Now, I don’t mean I need someone to keep me from making unnecessary purchases. That’s easy enough when I see some obscene price tag attached to an eye-bleed inducing blanket. I mean the sort of escort required for unmarried women in Muslim countries. Apparently, I am prime, grade-A cougar bait. This is odd and shocking since even though I’m what most of our blogroll would consider something along the lines of “whippersnapper,” I’m not of particuarly exceptional looks. I don’t look like I just rolled out of the trailer park, but on the other side of that coin, I’m not on the other side of the bell curve either. The ususal layout around here has bedding to the left as you enter the store, then cashiers immediately to the right, and the kitchen stuff further in that direction. Since there’s usually a bit of a throng around the checkout lines, I find it generally easier to just go the long way around the barn, as it were, since most often if I’m in a shop like that it’s for either bedding or cookware. Apparently, this circuitous route is roughly akin to spreading chum on a current. If I ate my stupid-Os that morning and went in without LabRat in tow, the odds that an older woman will approach me with some seemingly innocuous question tend to approach one as my time in the store increases. I haven’t actually derived the function of probability vs. time, but it might make an interesting submittal to Improbable Research.

While looking for sheets:
Cougar: “Mmm, don’t you love these high threadcounts?”
Me: (startled from my sticker-shock) “Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose.”
Cougar: “They’re so much softer on the skin. Have you felt the (some large number)?”
Me: “Well, I don’t really….”
Cougar: “And so absorbent!”
Me: “Gottagobye.”

Perusing the stock pots:
Cougar: “Oh, do you cook?”
Me: “Well, not particularly well, but – ”
Cougar: “Because a man that cooks is a special treat.”
Me: “Well it’s not like I’m making confit every – ”
Cougar: “You find a fella that’s handy in the kitchen, you have to keep him happy.”
Me: “Havethisnicepotpleaseexcuseme.”

God help me if we need plates/cutlery/glasses:
Cougar: “MEAT!”

Now don’t take me wrong. The interest is flattering, and were I unwed, I would probably be either an embarassment to my gender, or a role model, depending on your morals, in my efforts to explore the notion that older women know more tricks. It is, however, rather annoying when all I need is a colander in a hurry, or a comforter for an inbound guest to sleep under, to require the aid of a can of bear mace. I tried a bullwhip, but the results were contrary to my goals. It does though, if I have time, afford me a bit of fun sometimes. On having determined myself to be in a cougar-rich environment, I can return the favor of uncomfortableness.

Cougar: “Mmm, don’t you love these high threadcounts?”
Me: “Yeah, you gotta go for the high numbers. Bitch escaped after two weeks with those k-mart sheets.”

Cougar: “Because a man that cooks is a special treat.”
Me: “Oh, I do this thcrumptious tapioca! My little thweetie always gets tho excited he gets it jutht all over his face!”

All I can say in my defense is that if you don’t want me to dance, don’t invite me to the party. Anyway, there it is. My deep and embarassing handicap that they won’t give me preferential parking for at the DMV. Sometimes even bringing LabRat in isn’t enough to slow them down. I don’t know what it is, but even my mother has noticed and commented on it when she left me unattended one day. In conclusion, I leave you with this sign which I believe should be posted on the entrance to every housewares store and department in the nation. If you are easily offended — wait, if you’re easily offended, what the hell are you reading this blog for? Have a warning sign.
I did not make this. Most of them were quite nice and in no way bitches.

Year of the Pig

December 23, 2007 - 8:14 pm Comments Off

Michele blogs about expectations of Christmas as being perfect and Rockwellian, versus the reality of something more resembling a wacky Christmas movie.

I never really had any expectations of a Rockwellian Christmas. The few memories I do have of Christmases before my parents’ divorce (I was seven) are of imperfect holidays- Grandma was over and she was riding Mom for something, the Christmas tree went over after cats chased each other up it (or I pulled it over), always something. After the divorce, Christmas day was divided between Dad’s house- always fraught, since my stepmother made no bones about hating my guts, and liked to use holidays to underline her contempt- and Mom’s. The bits that weren’t spent under my stepmother’s just-drop-dead glare were imperfect, but nice; presents were opened Christmas morning, then there was hot chocolate, tea, pajamas all day (until I had to go over to Dad’s), and reading whatever looked the most promising out of the books given that year.

Some years are more imperfect than others.

First, a little background: When I was maybe eleven or twelve, for reasons that seem unfathomable to me now, my mother and I thought it would be a fun idea to get a pet pot-bellied pig. They were exotic, they were all the rage, and being the precocious little animal-lover I was, I had read all about how intelligent and social they were. Which indeed they are- the great pig saga was my first introduction to the lesson every pet keeper needs, which is that high intelligence is often a drawback rather than a plus in a pet, and social means a lot of things.

At the time, we were fairly naive when it comes to obtaining animals; we still thought newspaper classifieds were a great way to find a breeder. We used the classifieds and found a breeder in a nearby county, who traveled into town to sell us a piglet. At the time, we had no idea that during the height of the pot-bellied pig craze, it was a common scam tactic for unscrupulous breeders to pass a cross of the small, docile, expensive potbelly and a big, mean, cheap farm pig off as a purebred potbelly to prospective suckers who wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. As the cute little black piglet we brought home that day wound up growing to more than 200 pounds of ornery pork, it is very likely we were the suckers in this scenario.

We named him Chitlin, short for the chitterlings (stewed, boiled, and then maybe fried bits of pig intestine) common in the region of Lousiana my mother grew up in. That we found this hliarious tells you something about my mother and me, and also perhaps explains why Chitlin grew up with a grudge against humanity. As a piglet, like many young animals that undergo a radical personality shift as adults, he was every bit the charming pet we had been led to expect he would be. He was a litterbox-trained housepet who liked to sleep next to the bed, and LOVED to snuggle in a beanbag. He was easily trained, as he’d do anything for food. For about two years, Chitlin was an adored, if unusual, companion.

We neutered him on schedule, but the lack of testicles didn’t stop him from developing a boarlike personality rather than remaining docile and piglet-like, much as neutering usually won’t stop a dog from lifting its leg. He grew a mane of intimidating bristles. He grew tusks, which had to be trimmed by a brave vet wielding bolt-cutters once a year. And, like any bored, intelligent, hormonal, incredibly strong young animal (I used to feed him walnuts for fun- he easily cracked them with his jaws), he began to get destructive. He stripped the varnish off most of the cabinets in the kitchen. He learned to open the refrigerator, and we had several items walk off before we installed a lock on it. When left outside, he rooted up most of the brick patio as a hobby. When he had been a baby, we had left him in the mostly pig-proofed (NOTHING is ever really pig-proofed unless you put them in a steel room with a drain in the floor) kitchen behind a baby gate. One December, Chitlin decided he had had enough of staying in the boring old kitchen when there were so many interesting things in the rest of the house to destroy, and demonstrated that his strength was now far too great to be contained.

A few days before Christmas during the middle of his second year, we arrived home to find the house looking like a trailer park after a tornado hit. Everything under three feet tall was wrecked and strewn over the house, and a few things that weren’t but were on top of something fragile enough to be pig-slammed were as well. Fortunately, we hadn’t put the presents under the tree yet (which was mysteriously still standing- Christmas miracle?), but the house was comprehensively wrecked. My mother, who was apoplectic at the destruction, booted the porcine offender into the backyard and went off to fume and assess the damage.

Around this time, I noticed that the mistletoe was missing. God alone knows why we had mistletoe; we had never bought it as a Christmas decoration before and never would again, and it’s not as though either of us had any male callers that it could be used with. Regardless, for some stupid reason, we had mistletoe that year. And Chitlin, apparently figuring that anything green with berries was bound to be good even if it tasted like burning, had eaten it all. Pigs are like tiger sharks that way- they eat anything on the off chance that it’s edible. Their stomachs can break down nearly anything.

“Uh, Mom? The mistletoe’s missing. I, uh, think Chitlin got it. Isn’t it poisonous?”

“FINE. He can drop dead for all I care.”

“…Okay, Mom…”

About an hour later, mid-cleanup, I stuck my head out the back door and noticed a pile of vomit, that looked like it had originally mostly been green leaves of some kind. Chitlin was lying half in and half out of his doghouse, not moving, but breathing heavily. Oh, shit. I had never seen him vomit ANYTHING before- I was half-convinced that, like horses, it was physiologically impossible for pigs, or perhaps that there was simply nothing too vile for him to digest.

“Mom? I think he’s really sick. He threw up. And he LOOKS sick.”

She wasn’t too happy about it, but at the end of the day, my mother can no more not feel compassion for a sick or hurt animal, no matter how awful the animal, than she can go without food and water. She marched out to the backyard to metaphorically poke him with a stick. He didn’t want to get up. When poked, he moved his head and made a horrible noise between a grunt, a moan, and a wail, that I will try my best to represent:

“GROOOOOOAAAAAAAAAOOOOOINNNGGGHKKK”

“Oh, shit.”

That was it: we had to take him to the emergency vet if we didn’t want to let him die, which neither of us really did. His display of pathos had knocked his recent acts of pointless carnage right out of our heads. The only problem with this was that he now weighed about eighty pounds and barely fit into the plastic crate that was our biggest pet-transportation unit. Oh well- there was nothing for it but to woman up and make a collective effort at muscling him into the crate and from there, into the van and to the vet. I got out the crate, and Mom prodded the sick, reluctant animal on his feet, and gently led the suffering pig- who was doing a great impression of being on his very last legs- into the house. Where he saw the crate. Which he had only ever seen in the context of car rides, which he hated with a screaming passion, and which always ended at the vet’s, which he felt even moreso about.

At that point, he let out a horrified scream and bolted away from us at the crate at top speed, wailing like a portable klaxon.

I had not been anticipating that.

My mother and I threw each other disbelieving glances and took off in hot pursuit. Chitlin, never any fool, immediately dove for the first cover he could see- the Christmas tree. He threw himself behind it, sending ornaments and needles flying in all directions, and stood in the corner, panting and snorting and muttering to himself about the horrible day he was having. Naturally, we had put it in a corner- we always did, it was the only way to keep from having it knocked down by dog or cat. Or pig. I looked at my mother. My mother looked at me.

“You’re young and short and flexible- GET HIM!”

“But I… fine… just get the crate, I’ll try and herd him into it.”

She put the open crate near Chitlin’s head, and I dropped to my hands and knees and shuffled in after him. He leaped away from me, nimbly avoiding the crate and coming around the tree, at speed, up behind me.

“OH SHIT!!”

My memory becomes somewhat muddled with adrenaline and general chaos at this point. I remember moving on my hands and knees at a rate normally reserved for quadrupeds like the demon pig I was both chasing and being chased by, and Chitlin screaming. I think I might have been screaming, too; my mother certainly was, perhaps not realizing that a person shuffling for their life and the life of the threat is generally not open to receiving constructive criticism about their technique. I remember having my eyes mostly shut against the punishment of needles and ornaments (who knew we had so many pointy ornaments?). Chitlin must have been sick indeed- he would normally be much faster than me- because eventually I came up around on his rear again and was able to catch him in a flying tackle. I frantically stuffed him in the crate, catching a few trotters to the face in the process, and locked him in.

We now had a very noisy box of great density. Instead of having some strong drink and lying down in a very quiet room, which is how I would probably handle a similar experience now, we had to somehow wrestle our Box of Horrors into the car and to the vet. Somehow, we did- two short women, one only twelve or thirteen and one drastically out of shape- probably running on the pure adrenaline. (My mother has back pain to this day, can throw it out on a fifteen-pound bag of cat food, though I don’t know for sure that this was the original cause.) We went to the vet amid screams and wails and unnameable substances, Animal Farm on wheels.

At the vet’s, they told us that he would most certainly have died if we hadn’t brought him in when we did, pumped him full of liquid charcoal, and kept him for a few hours while we slumped at various angles in the waiting room. Eventually, they gave him back (which I may never forgive them for), and gave us the bill to go with him. Eight hundred dollars.

Joy to the world.

That wasn’t the last time Chitlin poisoned himself, though the incident was the final straw in relocating him permanently to outdoor-only status when we weren’t there, and eventually outdoor-only period. He still lives there, now too old and fat and arthritic to cause damage to anything other than his dinner. This will probably be his last Christmas; my mother tells me he hardly ever does anything other than eat or sleep anymore, and that he’s showing increasingly less interest in the first activity. When a pig no longer wants to eat, you know it’s close to the end for him. I’ve encouraged her to have him euthanized- it doesn’t sound like he has any quality of life anymore- but so far, she won’t do it.

I’m holding out for bacon when he finally goes, but for some reason I’m having a hard time getting her to come around.

Public Service Request

December 22, 2007 - 4:59 pm Comments Off

Attention members of the public: If your ambulatory gait is such that the oscillations of your body above the waist cover as much airspace per stride as your feet advance you along the ground (commonly known as “waddling”), please move your ponderously large buttocks to a side of the aisle in the grocery store such that others may navigate around you without the need for an elephant gun and a long stride over a carcass. That is all.

Home may be where the heart is, but I find it much more important that home is where other people aren’t.

Evolution in the lab

December 21, 2007 - 5:26 pm Comments Off

The holiday posting rate continues. I spent most of the productive time today either in the hell that is grocery stores during the holiday season, or stacking wood. We finished a nice big stack of freshly split wood RIGHT before the snowstorm started.

In the meantime, a nice article on the Lenski experiments from Carl Zimmer. Yeah, I know, it’s the New York Times, but Zimmer is a fantastic science writer.

Essentially, it’s a series of experiments that resulted when Lenski started creating and keeping huge colonies of E. coli- and maintaining 12 distinct lines- and subjecting different populations to different challenges. Since E. coli has a brief generation time, and the colonies have been maintained since 1989… they’ve gone through over 40,000 generations, long enough to study natural selection, mutation, and evolution itself in the lab. Now that gene sequencing is relatively easy and cheap to do (on a creature with a genome as small as a bacteria’s), they can keep records on the various changes that are undergone- they’ve been keeping frozen samples of colony members of the past for this purpose. Essentially, they have an ongoing, mappable fossil record. And they’ve gotten some damn fascinating results, including evolving a small but complex ecosystem in a beaker from a single species of Psuedomonas.

A lot of people aren’t too impressed by microbial evolution, but then a lot of people don’t know a whole lot about microbes, whose diversity puts multicellular animals utterly to shame. Just because you can’t see it without a microscope doesn’t mean it doesn’t get really damn weird down there.

Dubya-tee-EFF?

December 20, 2007 - 3:22 pm Comments Off

Lakotas withdraw from treaties, declare independence

At first I thought the article/site itself was a hoax, but Fox got it from news.com.au, who apparently got it from Agence-France-Press, plus I can find it from the main Fox News regular site’s front page, so… this isn’t another hoax site.

Whether it’s a hoax is another story, of course. Russel Means doesn’t have any official position within the Sioux Nation other than “well-known loudmouth”, and there’s absolutely zip about this on any tribal site, including Means’s own. (Which, I’ll grant you, hasn’t been updated since 2006 anyway.) I’d bet this is just a publicity stunt by Means and the “Lakota leaders” are just more activists.

But wouldn’t it be interesting if it wasn’t? This could be the most entertaining national kerfuffle since Jimmy Carter got assaulted by a swimming rabbit.

ETA: Yuuuuup. Agence France-Press swallowed a publicity stunt whole. The “Lakota leaders” were actually AIM leaders denouncing the actual government of the Sioux nation as “Vichy Indians”. But hey- they might have the Bolivians on their side!

Diagnosis: hilarious!

No failure to communicate

December 18, 2007 - 8:59 pm Comments Off

pals

The key to dog training, and having a good companion for a pet rather than just a furry accessory, is learning how to communicate with another species. It’s news to a lot of dogs that humans are intelligent animals that can be communicated with, because way too many people have no idea how to do it or are even aware that it can be done. Complicating that is the fact that people who are aware that training is the process of communicating the person’s rules to the dog AREN’T aware that the dog can and does communicate with them as well- and being sensitive to that is the essential key to a good working bond between the human and the dog. The dogs are very capable of learning that a human might not mean something with a gesture that a dog would- hugging is a good example. In “dog”, an embrace is a very rude and pushy gesture, but most pet dogs come to learn that from a human, it’s an expression of affection. Kang and Kodos both love to be hugged by their people, and by children- they understand what we mean by it, and they know it’d be different if we were dogs rather than humans.

One of the interesting things about having multiple pets is that after that sank in for me, I started to notice that my animals weren’t just capable of learning bits of my language, but each others’ as well.

Zydeco has always been the alpha animal in the house, after the people- he’s just that kind of cat. When we brought Kodos home as a puppy, Zydeco waged a campaign of psychological warfare on the poor baby. Kodos learned to respect him and his authoritah from day one, that a lashing tail was an angry gesture and not a happy one, and that cats fight with their feet rather than their mouths. A hard stare means the same thing in cat and dog, so it wasn’t exactly a slow process. As Kodos got older and less annoying and Zydeco relaxed into his role as the Littlest Alpha Male, they slowly became friends. Kodos wanted to play, so he brought Zydeco toys; however, a cat doesn’t have much use for a rubber ball or a squeaky toy, so the cat remained unimpressed.

Eventually, though, Kodos learned: a cat on its back is a cat that wants to play, not a submissive cat, and a cat in a low crouch is a cat that’s about to pounce on the dog’s face, not a cat inviting the dog to play. Also, cats on their back swat. He found a way to play- he’d bring Zydeco his smallest, softest toy, and dangle the toy over the cat while the cat happily batted and tried to capture it. Not a very interesting game for Kodos, though, so he only does this when he’s feeling particularly indulgent.

When Kang came along, Zydeco’s puppy policy had changed. After making friends with Kodos, he was no longer insecure enough to feel the need to terrorize her. He did, however, have to set boundaries- with our help, because she was just too damn intense about him and his claws-in disciplinary swats were just revving her up. This was where Zydeco had to learn a little more dogspeak: she didn’t understand a swat on the nose for the back-the-fuck-off gesture it was. She thought he was playing with her, so she’d swat him back- and she had a mean overhand with those snowshoe paws. So, he learned: when he wants her out of his face, he snaps at her, he doesn’t bother with a swat. He doesn’t just snap, either- if she’s just crossed a line, he bites her on the top of the muzzle- which is where dominant dogs deliver disciplinary nips to underlings. Zydeco had no way of knowing that, but when she had her face shoved up in his, he did notice how fast she backed off when he snapped at her and coincidentally nailed her there. He still uses his paws- to bring her face (or pull himself) close enough for the muzzle bite.

Now that Kang’s a little older and has finally developed some self-control, they play together too. When Zydeco’s on the couch or in one of his Box Thrones, she’ll lie down- she has to be lying down for him to assent to the game- a safe distance away from him, and they’ll simply air-snap at each other until they get tired of it. They never even get close to making contact, and they’re both relaxed, so I assume they both understand this is a game and that the snapping means something different in that context. If Zydeco wants to roll around on the floor and play, he’ll lie on his back with his paws in the air and playfully swat at her with both his front and back feet when she comes in range. She’s learned to be gentler with her paws now, so if she can get in a shot before he scores several (rare), she’ll tap him on the head with her own very restrained swats. This usually is accompanied by a soundtrack of self-pitying moans and whines from her; she’s more stimulated by this game than by the snapping game, and she wants to tackle the cat and play with him as she would another dog so badly, so instead of doing it (no more games and angry cat and she knows it), she merely voices her frustration to whoever will listen while still abiding by the rules.

She is more demonstrative with her affections than her “big brother”, so she gives the kitty slurpy kisses; the cat understands what she means by it as annoying and gross as it is for him, so he tolerates it with patient forbearance.

The other day, after playing in the snow all morning, the dogs engaged in a warm session of mutual grooming. Sometimes I wonder if having been raised by a cat made them go a little funny…

Here, have a linky thing

December 16, 2007 - 1:56 pm Comments Off

I’m really sorry about the lack of content, though it seems I’m not alone- and probably for all the same reasons: we’re all running around shopping, meeting seasonal social obligations, or decompressing from those activities. Me, I’ve got to take off and do the decorate-the-tree thing with Stingray’s family in about half an hour.

However, while I’m waiting for him to get out of the bathroom (I swear, he spends more time grooming than I do), I’m making happy little “ooh!” noises at this site: Cooking For Engineers. I haven’t explored enough to have a full handle on what it really does, but it seems to be a sort of resource hub for people who enjoy food and preparing food but don’t think like a Southern grandma or a kitchen artiste. Right now I’m bopping around between the recommended reading, the recipes, and the gear sections. Highly recommended.

ETA: Be sure to check out this quite thorough and well-sourced smackdown of the mostly-media-created meme that saturated fats and cholesterol are bad for you.