Izzy and the Crazy Chihauha

Whenever I ask Izzy whether he wants to visit Ellie (his Maltese friend who lives around the corner), his head cocks, his eyes brighten, and his tail wags furiously.  He pulls me excitedly as we walk down the street, often turning to wait for me as we round the corner, as if to say, “Come on, come on!  She won’t wait for us!”  Obviously, he loves his little girlfriend.

In order to get to Ellie’s house, we need to pass by the big yellow Victorian house (that’s always decorated for holidays) and the Chihauha that lives in a fenced-in area on the front lawn.  That’s the dog that chased us down last year, knocking me on my butt and freaking out Izzy.  The dog is nasty.  Plain and simple.  He barks (translation: yaps) constantly, running back and forth along the fenceline, growling at anyone who passes by.  You know that if he gets out, he’ll rip into your leg.

Usually, Izzy will ignore the dog, happily bouncing past because he knows he’s excited about going to Ellie’s, but the other day, I think he just had had it with the yappy Chihauha.

We made it to Ellie’s house, the two dogs played, and Izzy wore himself out.  On the way home, we passed the yellow Victorian again, and the Chihauha went ballistic.  Casually, Izzy walked the fenceline, looking the little yapper right in the face.

You’re behind the fence, acting the fool, Izzy seemed to say.  Is that really necessary?

The Chihauha charged the fence, in a barking frenzy now.  Izzy was way too close for the other dog’s comfort.  Izzy stared him down, unmoving, then when the dog came close, Izzy lifted his leg.  Perfect score. Right in the Chihauha’s face.  The other dog shut up immediately.

As Izzy bounced happily down the street in front of me, I couldn’t stop laughing.  Boy, how I wish I was a boy dog sometimes and could have the last laugh the way Izzy had.  Bravo, little boy.  Bravo.

Izzy and his best friend, Elllie the Maltese

Izzy and his best friend, Elllie the Maltese

Watch out for EAGLES!

Shichon owners are in love with their “teddy bear” babies, as I can attest.  Our little dogs have great temperaments, are known for being cuddly loves, are fairly quiet, and do not shed.  Always playful, they make the perfect family pet, and they’re pretty smart (though some can be stubborn).  Whenever people see Shichons on the street or at a dog store, the instant reaction is “Awww, isn’t he cute?”  Owners of Zuchons, as Shichons are often called, band together to discuss their pups, talking about the best food to feed them, comparing cute antics and some even share photos of their dogs dressed in various costumes.

I belong to a couple of Facebook groups of Shichon owners, and we carry on about our dogs, commiserating when one of them has an operation or is about to be spayed or even when one has his/her first haircut.  (I know it’s silly, but I’ve also received some great advice and shared some info about what works for Izzy and the types of food he eats.  It’s definitely great to have that community.

When one of my FB buddies wrote the other day about her female Shichon’s battle with a giant eagle, we were all aghast.  Even more shocking was the photo of the poor pup with five huge holes in her side – where the eagle’s talons had been!  Thankfully, the pup’s human mom was close by and able to chase away the eagle, who had the pup in its talons and struggled to fly away with it.  After a quick emergency trip to the vet’s, the dog is on antibiotics and recovering from both the physical damage as well as the emotional.

Shichons are little dogs, usually less than 15 pounds.  Izzy is barely 17 pounds and most Shichons are smaller than he is.  Because they’re fast, furry and often a light beige or white, they can be mistaken for other small animals such as rabbits and mice by flying predators like hawks and eagles.  High-flying birds scan the ground constantly for what will constitute lunch or dinner, and they’re not always right about which small objects would make a good meal.  If you scan the internet, you can find plenty of exciting videos of eagles snatching babies off the ground or attempting to fly away with a deer or wolf in their talons.  Normally, eagles weigh less than 10 pounds and usually can only carry a 3 or 4 pound animal, but every once in a while they break the rules.

Raptors aren’t the only ones lying in wait for small animals.  Coyotes, bobcats, and even raccoons will drag away a small dog or cat.  Dog owners who live in the country or the mountains have to be exceptionally careful to keep an eye on their pets because a hawk, owl, eagle, coyote, bobcat or other predator can steal a small animal in the blink of an eye.  It’s important to be vigilant in order to keep our animals safe.

I’ve had some close calls with Izzy and larger dogs (as I wrote about earlier), but as much as I watch the birds when we go for our walks, I’ve never thought about worrying that one of them would swoop down and carry my pup away.  But now I worry.

Izzy and the Easter Bunny in the Bush

It’s been a busy month. Izzy took care of me while I was sick for a week around Valentine’s Day, then we had two weeks off from work because of snow, and by that time, it was mid-term week at the College, so I’ve been slammed with doing evaluations for my faculty. Izzy has been patient, teasing me occasionally with his ball, forcing me to remember there are other things in life besides work. I’m so grateful for that.

This morning when we walked, I realized it might be time to put away my winter jacket and to let Izzy out without his Thundershirt. The weather has turned. The jonquils have bloomed and the pear trees are giant puffs of white blossoms. Spring has come to North Carolina.

And so has the Easter Bunny . . . he’s nesting in the bushes around the corner from my house, and this morning when we walked, he lit the way. Izzy thinks it’s weird. So do I.

 

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This Winter’s Snow & Izzy and His Food

This winter’s snow has definitely kept Izzy and me busy.  We have tromped through mushy snow, icy snow, solidly frozen snow, and snowflakes.  It doesn’t matter what kind of snow it is.  He loves it!  You’d think he had some Husky in his 17 pound body.  He pops like a bunny through the deep stuff, but he never shies away.  And even when he had balls of snow stuck to his legs, he didn’t complain when I threw him in the shower to melt the snow off his body with a warm bath.  He’s a trooper.

The one thing that we HAVE had a problem with this winter is his skin.  When he has a Thundershirt on every time we go out, the heat is on in the house, and he tends to sleep away most days, it dries out his skin.  He actually had a bit of dandruff a couple of weeks ago, and I knew I had to do something.  I put a combination of olive oil and fish oil on his dry food in the morning (which he’s not crazy about), but something was bugging me about the food.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just wasn’t satisfied — and to tell the truth, I don’t think Izzy was either.

This weekend when I finally got out of the house to go shopping with a girlfriend, we ducked into a little pet boutique in Durham, North Carolina called “The Other End of the Leash.”  I figured everything would be more expensive and that I would end up leaving without buying anything, but I wanted to see what they had for dog food.  The owner of the store asked lots of questions about what I was currently using and proceeded to give me a great education about the types of dog food on the market and how the “filler” a lot of them use is sawdust.  Yup, you read that right.  Sawdust!

Even the most expensive foods — the ones that tout that they’re made in the USA — can actually be produced in another country, and that country might not have the quality control that we have here.  That was all she needed to tell me.

After some discussion, we found a food that would have a high content of fish oil (salmon) and would be grain free.  The price was good, as well.  What I hadn’t counted on was that Izzy LOVES it!  So, here I am doing a testament for Canidae Dog Food.  

And sending out some love to the women who run Other End of the Leash in Durham, NC.  They were fantastic — and I love that I can now be assured that the food my little guy eats is good for him!

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Izzy’s Happy the Book is Done — and so am I!

You may have wondered what happened to Izzy and me.  You may not.  Well, whether you have or haven’t, I’m going to tell you.  I was finishing my novel.  Now it’s done, and I am edging back toward normal.  Or  at least what can be called normal for writer types like me.  Once I hit the last key and sent the novel on to my hopefully-new-agent, the crud hit me, reminding me that I AM a human being even though I often forget that part.  After a visit to urgent care and doctor’s orders to stay home for a week (bronchitis, verging on pneumonia), I’m back to tinkering on the keyboard.  Izzy has been a fine nurse for the past week, but I’m getting cabin fever, and as much as he likes me being home, I think he’s ready to have his naps whenever and wherever he wants them rather than following me around the house.

It’s funny, but this forced relaxation has made me ponder my writing.  I think of the novel-writing process as having physical stages.  There’s the Walking Stage.  In the very beginning of cooking up a novel, I take Izzy for long walks to let my brain work out the basic premise of the story where I don’t have to be bothered by techno-interruptions.  He loves that part.

Then there’s the Hopping Stage.  This is the part where I’m getting the outline down on the page.  There’s a lot of hopping up to get tea, then settling back in for a while, growling a lot, then hopping back up to get more tea . . . or if it’s past noon somewhere, wine.  Lots of wine.  Izzy gets patted a lot during this stage.

The next stage is the Scrunching Stage.  I’m at the table or on the couch or in the bed scrunched over the laptop or a pad of paper.  Unfortunately, my butt gets wider during this stage, Izzy is walked less, and I tend to eat a lot of brownies or chocolate chip cookies or pizza.  Definitely not a healthy stage.  But Izzy loves pizza crust!

The third stage is the longest, but the fourth stage–the Yoga Stage–is the best one.  Because my back and shoulders are so sore from the Scrunching Stage, I have to do lots of yoga to work out the kinks when I’m in the process of editing and proofreading.  Izzy’s really good at Down Dog, but he sucks at headstands.

Finally, the last stage.  The Staring into Space and Thinking Stage.  Not much physical movement other than with the eyes.  Often I’m rolling them at some stupid paragraph or closing them to imagine where I was going with a scene or rubbing them because I’m just so damn tired.  During this stage, my laptop is somewhere near at all times.  Izzy’s sick of the novel by this stage and pushes his way into my lap, no matter what kind of tasty treats I throw to the floor to keep him busy.  He protests that it’s time for him again, and he’s right.

Unfortunately, it seems that after the novel is done, I have a final-final stage when my body and mind are exhausted and need some rejuvenation.  It’s during this stage that Izzy earns his keep, because then he becomes Nurse Izzy, and though he often sleeps on the job, he’s the best Nurse in the world.

Now if I could just talk him into buying a publishing company . . . .

Sleepy Nurse

Sleepy Nurse

Izzy’s Glad He Doesn’t Live in Thailand: The Thailand Dog Trade

Lately, Izzy’s been confused about why the dogs across the street bark nonstop — and I’m getting irritated by it.  I have to turn up my TV to the point where I feel like one of those senior citizens who refuses to get hearing aids even though s/he’s going deaf.  But what we’re going through on our little street in North Carolina is really silly compared to what the dogs in Thailand experience regularly.

In Southeast Asia, the dog trade is phenomenal.  I’m not going to post photos here, but if you click here or Google “dog trade Thailand,” you’ll get your fill of some of the most disgusting photos you’ve ever seen.  And they’ll break your heart.  People shove dogs into tiny crates, so many dogs that their faces are smashed against the wires, and most of them never make it alive to their final destination.

Let me say this:  I respect other cultures and really don’t like listening to others who feel the need to diss others simply because their traditions aren’t the same.  However, when it comes to saving animals, I’m not going to shut my mouth — especially when I look at the happy and loving dog who lives with me and think about the thousands of other dogs who never get a chance to live like Izzy does.

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One of the clinics that works nonstop to save Thailand’s dogs is the Soi Dog Foundation.  Their volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring the Thai dog trade to a screeching halt, but when you work to end a horrible business, you rarely realize what it’s going to cost to change that practice.  The clinic’s volunteers have given of themselves — mentally, physically and economically, and I salute them as dog heroes.  Hell, simply as heroes.

If you have a dog that lives in a healthy and safe environment, like Izzy does, think about either giving your voice or your assistance to foundations like Soi Dog so that others will learn to respect the best friends humans have.

Izzy and the Drug Dealer

I know.  This is a weird entry during this holiday season.  To tell the truth, I never would have predicted it, but I’ve got to write about it.

Izzy and I see the same people on our walks every day, the same people walking the same dogs.  Some of them are our friends; others make me turn around and go the other way.  That was the case with the kindly old man who owns the small red pit bull mix.

I first met the old man shortly after he had a stroke.  At the time, Izzy was still young and hadn’t become friendly with anyone.  The old guy took it as a challenge to befriend my little guy.  His dog, an old Schipperke, was almost blind and so heavyset that she waddled rather than walked.  She could barely see before her, but she smelled my little guy and let Izzy do his puppy bows in front of her, trying to entice her to play.  Beset with arthritis, she did her best, but her best usually consisted of wagging her tail a bit more vigorously.

The old man would watch out his apartment window and come out to greet us with Lacey when we walked by at lunchtime.  Often I had to remind him that I needed to go back to work, but he would continue talking to my little guy, trying to get Izzy to relax enough to be patted, but Izzy wasn’t ready for that yet.

Sometimes we would see him during the early morning hours on our walk before I went to work.  He’d try to bend down to pat Izzy who would back off, still not ready to trust humans.

When Lacey passed away, the old man came out and stood on the lawn in front of his apartment building, tears running down his lined cheeks, telling me how much he missed his “little girl.”  Again, he’d try to pat Izzy, and finally Izzy sniffed his hand.  Still, the man watched out the window for us, and even though he didn’t have a dog, he’d come out and say hello to us.  It was as if he wanted a “puppy fix.”  Izzy finally understood and let the man pat him.  It was a breakthrough for us, and I remember going home that day feeling like Izzy might finally stop barking at human beings and become more normal.

A couple of weeks later, the old man came out of the apartment building with another dog.  The same size as Lacey, the dog was reddish brown and all muscle.  She pulled at the leash and seemed almost frantic.  With the pointed ears of a pit bull, her face was small, her eyes like red stones.  She sniffed at Izzy, who wanted to play, as he usually does with dogs.

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The old man told me this dog had been tied up in a yard and left for days.  His son lived nearby and felt bad for the dog so took her and gave her to the old man.  “She’s not Lacey,” he said, “but I can train her.”

I wondered if that would be true when I saw him struggle to hold her while they walked down the street, his cane tapping in time with his footsteps.

Over the next couple of weeks, we continued to see the old man and his new dog, but each day, the dog seemed disinterested in becoming friends, and I worried that the old man wasn’t training her.

Then my friend Deb and I were walking Izzy one late summer afternoon and we met the old man and his dog.  This time, the old man bent to pat Izzy, and his dog decided that wasn’t acceptable.  She growled and snapped, ready to attack.  This wasn’t a playful animal.  The old man scolded her and held on tight.  Deb and I turned and practically ran the other way.

Over the months, the dog seemed to become more violent.  No matter how far away we walked, the dog charged and pulled at the leash, growling and barking whenever he saw Izzy.  He did the same with my friend Peggy’s little Maltese, and with the pug that moved in on the corner.  The dog wanted to attack, and the old man had to use all his strength to control his now out-of-control animal.

I could envision the man losing the dog’s leash and the reddish animal bolting across the street to rip my little Izzy in half.  In short, the dog terrified me.

I began turning and walking the other way whenever I saw them coming from a distance.  I tuned my hearing into the tapping of his cane and invented new routes to take so that we wouldn’t see them.

Then one morning I realized I hadn’t seen the old man for quite a while.  My walks had become more peaceful as a result of not being vigilant, not having to turn around and avoid the man and his dog.  Several weeks went by, and I started wondering what happened.

In a small town, one cannot hide, and the local newspaper reports everything from traffic tickets to domestic violence.  One weekend, there was a spate of arrests.  A local “drug ring.”  The newspaper published the photos of those who were arrested.  I was shocked.  The old man’s photo joined a group of much younger dealers.  Seventy-one years old, and he had been arrested for drug dealing.

I wondered what kind of drugs he’d been selling and whether those pills that he must have received to relieve the pain of his stroke were sold so that he could keep a roof over his head or feed his dog.  Then I wondered what happened to the dog.  I knew his wife couldn’t care for the animal.  And there were few people who could have handled the strong little animal.

Every morning when Izzy and I walk, I still listen for the click-click-click of the old man’s cane, and I wonder whether he’s in some jail, cold and trying to bend his arthritic legs.  But I don’t miss that dog.

Izzy and the Holiday Shindig

Every year, I invite my faculty and staff to my house for an annual holiday party.  People tend to come in “shifts” — ten or twenty at a time, over a three-hour span.  During the past couple of years, I’ve had one of my friends “babysit” Izzy or I’ve left him in the back yard.  This year, I decided to give him the ultimate test and let him stay for the whole party.  This is a big deal considering he’s gone from being the most antisocial dog I’ve ever had to a dog that now likes to say “hey” to his neighborhood friends but is still nervous about me having anyone over for dinner.  I have to admit I was nervous.

I gave him a bath that morning.  He’s had an issue with dry skin recently, so I used that as an excuse, but the truth is that I wanted him to look and smell nice when everyone came.  My next door neighbor, Deb, told me that afternoon when I took him for a walk, “I’m surprised you don’t have a bow for him to wear for Christmas.”

Rummaging through  my Christmas paper and ribbons, I found the perfect one for him to wear and put it around his neck.  Black and white polka dots with silver trim.  He pranced around the house as if he knew he was too cute for words.

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Throughout the day, he monitored my cooking, aroused by the smells that I know reminded him of pizza.  That’s the one meal that he and I “share.”  Whenever I cook a pizza and eat it while watching TV, he shares the crust with me, the only human food I let him have.  This year’s food theme for my party was Italian, so the smell of two different kinds of lasagna, meatballs, and pizza dip must have reminded him of pizza.  He pranced around the kitchen as if excited about the possibilities.

When the first two visitors arrived, he did his usual barking, but, thankfully, they had dogs of their own and were perfectly calm when he “greeted them.”  I warned him to be quiet, and he knew what was expected of him.  Wiggling, however, was not something he could stop.

The next couple of visitors oohed and aahed over him, then my neighbor (Deb) came over, and I could leave her in the living room with him while I prepared the food.  Perfect.

People came and went.  Izzy greeted everyone and popped around from person to person, seeming to enjoy the attention.  By the time we were more than an hour into the party, he had taken up a spot on the living room rug, just watching the conversations and occasionally doing some harmless begging.

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At the end of the night, the two of us sat on the couch, and I told him how proud I was of him.  I think he actually understood because his fan-of-a-tail wagged.  Love this little guy!

Izzy Doesn’t Care about Ferguson or NaNoWriMo but he does care about hard rain

I know that what’s going on in this country because of the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson is hot.  I get it.  I hate it, but I get it.  I wish we as a people didn’t have to be in this spotlight or having this conversation.  And I wish it wasn’t on my mind or so entrenched in social media because writing this blog post is stealing time from my other writing:  working on my novel and meeting my 50K word goal for National Novel Writing Month.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I wonder how many other writers have written thousands of words in the past couple of days about the subject of racism when they could have been adding pages to their fiction.  Yet, that’s what we do as writers.  We plead, we question, we inform.  We grieve.

But dogs, on the other hand, don’t see race.  They don’t question another animal’s motivations.  When Izzy sees another dog, he thinks PLAYTIME.  That word might as well light up in neon lights over his little head, because that’s what that dog represents to him.  When he sees a squirrel, he thinks CHASE.  Though he has become a bit smarter about that one and knows now that squirrels do that skip-hop-jump thing to the nearest tree and that they have little suction cups on their feet that allow them to run along telephone pole wires.  When he sees a cat, he thinks ATTACK.  Yup, I have a little dog that absolutely detests cats.  He doesn’t know why; he just knows he does.  They are the one animal at which he barks, and if he wasn’t leashed, I’m sure that poor cat would be mincemeat.  Natural enemies.  He doesn’t care what color they are or what their belief systems are, whether they have families or are nice, purring cats.  They’re just cats.

Wait.  Does that mean those who see another person who’s different from them are just like animals with natural enemies?

Nope, I’m not going there.

Let’s continue.  Izzy doesn’t care about Nanowrimo either; in fact, when I’m on the laptop, the only thing he’s concerned about is why the laptop is taking up his space on my lap.  Move over, you damn keyboard.  Let me sit there.  If I don’t finish my 50K words by the end of this month, it wouldn’t make any difference to him.  He wouldn’t notice if I was depressed about not winning.  Not on his radar.

But this morning when I woke up to the sound of hard rain against my rooftop, I thought:  perfect.  Bad weather = good excuse to stay in and catch up on my writing.  Izzy went to the door, let me put on his Thundershirt (for the cold/rain), and when I opened the umbrella, I could see his eyebrows raise.  Uh oh.  Do I have to go out in this crap?  Halfway through our morning walk, the rain became a downpour, tearing leaves off the trees in such a torrent that Izzy (checking out a place to poop) jumped and ran.  From that point on, there was no calm moment for my little dog.  He shivered as he tried to find just the right spot, kept looking around as if afraid the boogey man was under each leaf, and never did quite settle down enough to finish his business.  He pulled me back up the street to the house, jumped over the rushing water in the street gutter, didn’t pause to sniff the piles of leaves my neighbors had blown yesterday, kept looking back at me as if to say, Come on, woman, I’ve had enough of this!  And when we reached the back door, he darted in, then shook and shook and shook until I took off the soaked Thundershirt and dried him with the towel I keep in the sunroom.  He’s been hiding on his bed ever since, and I’d be willing to bet my last dollar that even though he’ll want to go out again sometime today, he’ll give me that look right before we leave the door that says, Isn’t this stuff falling from the sky ever going to stop?

Izzy’s no help during NaNoWriMo

It’s November and that means it’s NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you not insane enough to write, it’s the month that we writers stick our butts in our chairs and don’t move until we’ve churned out 50,000 words.  If you listen closely right before midnight on November 30th, you’ll hear a sound much like that one when you rip a bandage off a skinned knee.  That’s our butts as we collectively remove ourselves from our chairs and go back to a normal life.  Or at least what could be considered normal for someone who stares at a computer screen talking to invisible people most of the time.

Dogs don’t understand that, and that’s one of the reasons Izzy’s no help during NaNoWriMo.

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When I talk to the screen, he thinks I’m telling him we need to go outside or play with the ball or eat dinner or — the most exciting–go get a treat.  He comes to my side, sits his little self down on the floor, cocks his head and barks once.  If I don’t quite get it and don’t move immediately, his tush comes off the floor and he goes into a puppy bow.  Heaven forbid I continue talking to that invisible person on screen, because then it’s a full-blown insistence for my attention — and an immediate walk.  Do not pause, mama, do not talk to that person in the screen, do not tell me to wait ten minutes.  Now.  Walk.  Pee.  Poop.

Fifty thousand words in one month.  1667 per day.  5.5 pages a day.  Or maybe 3000 words on a weekend day.  7-10 pages on a Sunday.  2-3 every other day during the week.  And if you write by hand, a cramped fist.  If working on a computer, stiff shoulders and a crick in your neck.

One good thing about NaNoWriMo when you have a dog is that you are forced to get up before the sun rises to take the little bugger for a walk.  Izzy forces me up before the sun stripes the sky with fuschia, pumpkin and robin’s egg blue.  Bleary-eyed with my brain still out of gear, I negotiate the dark streets with him running before me, determined to examine every telephone pole and pee on every bush.  While he explores, I kick the novel-writing mind into gear and think about the next scene I will write, consider what the character will do and how those actions will affect other characters, what the actions will impact further into the novel, and whether I should wait that scene for a time that’s more apropos of the story.  As Izzy paces back and forth dozens of times looking for the perfect place to poop, I’m considering whether to flesh out the description of a scene I wrote the previous day and whether to take time from creating the requisite 50K words to mine back over the pages already developed to see whether they should be shifted around or rewritten.  But the point is to move forward like the boats that split icebergs.  Constantly forward.  Nothing to do but to forge ahead.

Dogs never move straight ahead.  Their traffic patterns run in swirls and squiggles and include squeezing out pee drops so they can let others know they’ve been there.  A NaNoWriMo for dogs would start on November 1 and end in July (the previous July).

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What Izzy DOES understand about NaNoWriMo is that occasionally I get stuck.  When that happens, he does his job quite well.  He moves into my lap, lifting my hand with his nose so that I know my job is now to pat his head or rub his stomach.  Taking a break is most important in NaNoWriMo for it is in those moments that the creativity creeps in and the mind is refreshed.

I guess Izzy knows more about writing novels than I give him credit for.