Chihuahua

The Sounds of the Dog Walk

ImageI’ve been thinking about the various sounds I hear, especially early in the morning, when I take Izzy for walks.  Some of them are the usual:  the world waking up around us, birds stirring, leaves rustling, the breathing of every living thing.  Others make no sense at all, unless you live in the small rural town in North Carolina where Izzy and I explore something new each day.

In the morning, a rooster who lives across the railroad tracks makes certain that everyone knows he’s around.  The ra-a-ra-a-roooo echoes down my quiet street and Izzy’s ears perk up.  Unfortunately, that rooster really has no clue what time it is, because he cock-a-roos at all hours of the day and night.  It’s just easier to hear him when everything else is silent.

The other dogs in the neighborhood are let out into their respective yards, so those sounds are part of the fabric.  The shepherd mix across the street is still yawning as the sun comes up, so he does little more than give us a ‘huff’ as we go by.  The two rescues behind the fence on the corner are invisible to us (I’ve literally never seen them), but Izzy sniffs through the fence at them to say ‘good morning’ and they do their usual crazy, frantic barking as they trace us from the inside of their compound.  The chihuahua that lives around the corner doesn’t go out into his fenced in section of the yard until later in the day, so we’re spared his craziness.  (That’s one dog both Izzy and I can live without.)  And there are several others that are either just waking up in their houses and want to be let outside or who have already spent the evening tied up in the yard and want to eat.

But those aren’t the only sounds.  The turkey vultures that nest in a huge magnolia behind Mr. Mendoza’s house lift in unison–25-30 big birds–and the whoosh-whup-whoosh of their wings sends shivers down my spine, whether it’s first thing in the morning or late at night when I can’t see them.  Izzy stops whatever he’s doing and lifts his head to the sky to watch them.

Robins always tempt Izzy to chase them because they poke around the edge of the newly-mown yards in the hopes of getting a worm.  Though Izzy is fast, he hasn’t caught one yet (thankfully), but that doesn’t mean he’s quit trying.  Cardinals swoop past us, a flash of scarlet and a quick double whistle-clack-clack-clack, to signify they’re on the move.  The dainty call of a pretty Eastern Bluebird as it sings to its mate, the low coo of the soft gray doves that live in the rafters of the stately brick house on the corner of Main Street, the insistent call of a blue jay guarding its nest.  Normal bird sounds.

Then there’s the gas station on the Boulevard where a verse from the “Car Wash” song blurts every couple of minutes (and, personally, drives me nuts–Izzy doesn’t even notice anymore).  And the bang of trucks filling with lumber at the lumber store further down Main Street.  During the day, those sounds disappear into the fabric of other, louder sounds:  bleeping car horns, the occasional whine of a police siren, the rumbles of trucks.  Not to mention the phone that rings at all hours of the day and night — I think it’s on a stereo speaker so that the mechanic to whom it belongs can answer whenever he’s outside, but why do people call at 6 AM and let it ring and ring and ring?

My favorite sounds of all, though, are the ones Izzy makes.  He huffs and sniffs at dandelions, whines softly when we pass the dogs unlucky enough to be on ropes in their backyards, burps loudly when we stand waiting at the corner.  He’s my funny companion, quieter than most, but his language is just as recognizable as the language of the morning, the sounds of our dog walk.

Advertisements

Question of the Day: Cava-Poo-Chons, are they perfect?

Okay, I understand why some of us want a dog who’s absolutely adorable, smart, friendly, hypoallergenic and not yappy.  I understand that because Izzy is one of those dogs.  When I started looking for a pup to keep me company and to replace my recently departed and very old cat, I wanted one that would be all of the above.  There were several breeds that fit my criteria:  Cavachons, Shichons, Shipoos, Cavapoos.  You get my drift.  They were all what could be considered hybrids.  Poodles, Cavalier Spaniels, Bichon Frises, and Shih Tzus in various combinations/iterations, all creating the same little ball of fluff with personality, smarts, friendliness, and a tendency to be less yappy than other small dogs (like Yorkies or Chihuahuas).  And who could resist their teddy bear-like appearance?  (Shichons, especially, which is what Izzy is).

There are positives and negatives to this type of dog breeding, and depending upon whom you talk to, you’ll get bits and pieces of both.  One of the positives is that people who might be allergic to dogs can actually own one.  That’s a huge point to make.  On the down side, by breeding these “designer dogs,” lots of shelters aren’t seeing people walk in to adopt the dogs that fill those kennels to the brim regularly.  Negative to the nth degree.  Nothing is more heartbreaking than the numbers of dogs who are euthanized because they are not considered “adoptable.”  Pitbulls, once considered the American dog, are currently the breed that is least likely to be adopted — and cities/counties don’t help that phenomenon by allowing regulations that allow certain areas/cities/housing developments to outlaw owning a dog from the Pitty family.  

Ironically, designer dogs are garnering higher and higher price tags, normally reserved for those purebred dogs that are never inter-breeded with another species.  Dogs like the German Shepherd are now selling for less than the hybrid dogs like Cavachons.

Yesterday, I read an article from the Huffington Post entitled “Is the Cava-Poo-Chon the World’s Most Perfect Puppy?”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/cava-poo-chon_n_4311387.html  Naturally, there’s a photo of an absolutely adorable pup, and the article extols the virtues of the mix of breeds, even commenting on the breed’s long life (though I don’t know how they can know the lifespan since this is a new hybrid).  What amazes me is the price this breeder is asking for her pups.  This is basically what we used to refer to as a mixed breed . . . translation:  mutt.  But because it’s cute and well-behaved, it’s also more expensive.

I don’t know about all this hoopla about the Cava-Poo-Chon, but I can tell you one thing.  Izzy’s a Shichon (Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise mix), and I think he’s pretty perfect.  But I might be just a tad prejudiced.

Image

Izzy’s Happy I Came Home From the Writers Conference

This weekend, I joined the “writingest writers in the U.S.” in Wilmington, North Carolina for the North Carolina Writers Network Conference.  We are dubbed the “writingest state” because so many well-known writers have brought their Carolinian stories to the rest of the world.  I always enjoy conferences because I get to talk business with people at various stages of their careers and writing different types of work than I do.  Writing is such a solitary profession that when one has the chance to press the flesh with others who understand exactly how frustrating it is to determine what genre your book will fall into or who will empathize when your favorite editor has decided to retire from the business or who might have wise advice when you’re unsure what kind of writer’s platform you want to build. Conferences are invaluable to the working writer, though I don’t attend as often as I used to.  But who can turn down a conference on the beach?

I drove down with my friend Ron, a really astute and elegant poetry and flash fiction writer, so the conference started long before we arrived at the hotel.  At many points during the weekend, he and I talked about our dogs, and because I’ve begun to shop around my book about Izzy, I talked to other writers about their dogs, as well.  It dawned on me that almost 99% of the people I talked to had either a dog or a cat (or several) and that pet was an important component of their lives.

On Facebook, I’m friends with lots of writers around the world and we always share our animal stories.  Amy Tan lost her little Yorkie last year and her FB group of friends all joined with her in mourning the little guy.  Now she has Bobo, who has moved into her heart and shares her travels like Bombo did.  Susan Wiggs, well-known romance writer, has both a little guy and a big guy (a Chihuahua named Lennie, and a Doberman named Barkis).  A beautiful big white cat “owns” novelist Anne Rice.  And Connie Lee Fowler just lost her precious boy, Scout, who was almost 21 years old, and she’s giving extra love to her sun worshiper, Murmur Lee.

For some great shots of writers and their dogs, check out this collection:  http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/205235  And below, Izzy and I share time at the beach.Image

Dog Brains

When I was younger, I took a women’s literature course and one of the writers the young professor introduced us to was a revolutionary woman named Rigoberta Menchu.  Physically, she presented nothing of a threat:  plump, ordinary-looking, no scowl on her round face.  But mentally and dynamically, she’s a powerhouse for the indigenous population of Guatemala.  I remember reading her work and appreciating the guts it took for her to speak truth to power and righteously defend her people.  She not only defended people; she defended animals and nature  . . . basically, she defends the rights of all living beings.

She said, “There is not one world for man and one for animals; they are part of the same one and lead parallel lives.”  That statement is so simple but incredibly powerful.  And true.  One thing you can count on with Menchu is that she tells the truth.

This morning, I was thinking of that statement when I walked Izzy before the sun rose.  We saw several of his dog friends while walking.  One’s a female boxer whose submissive and sweet personality reminds me of Menchu herself.  Boxers are strong, muscular dogs, yet Peaches defies the stereotype.  Instead, she is friendly and wiggly, like you would expect Izzy to be.  Both of them are the exact opposite of what you would expect, as is Menchu.

We inhabit a neighborhood where possums live next door to foxes, bluebirds share the sky with buzzards, tiny yappy dogs (like the Chihuahua down the street) walk the same streets as burly pitbulls.  Black Methodists sing in a church a block away from White Baptists.  Single women who have grown up in North Carolina and spent their lives surrounded by family are friends with others who grew up in New England and have no family nearby.  Doctors shake the hands of field workers.  Though there are times when our paths do not cross — and other times when they collide — we all are part of the same world, and as Menchu states, we lead parallel lives.

As I pondered that thought, Izzy did his morning routine:  sniffing under the old white Cadillac for the tortoiseshell cat that hides there, peering into the sky when the rook of buzzards lifted off the roof of Mr. Mendoza’s house, lapping the pool of rain water that has collected in the dip in the sidewalk.  Occasionally, he’ll glance up at me, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, and I laugh at him.  He may not speak human words, but the language he has says one important thing:  I’m here for you.  I’m part of your world.

Image