Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dog Days

I was born a dog person, seeing as how I was born into a home already inhabited by my parents and half-sister, making the not-much-older-than-I toy poodle a sort of half-sibling.

C'est si bone (C'est si [say-see] for short) and I spent our formative years together. When we moved into a rented house where the landlord refused to permit us to keep C'est si, she was taken in by my paternal grandparents. She lived for two years, until age 16, having aged rapidly during that time, thanks to her regular diet being supplemented by grandma's chocolate cake, chicken soup, and uncooked Manishewitz egg noodles "She prefers them crunchy," my grandmother informed us. My grandfather tolerated with good grace the looks his grizzled visage and dainty companion received on his daily several mile walks, and daily visits to shul for morning prayers. My father, on the other hand, was the one who took C'est si to her regular checkups, and was chagrined when the vet commented on her weight gain, facetiously asking, "What are you feeding her? Chocolate cake?"

Fast forward 33 years, with the last 12 living through a forced separation from all furred beasties due to abnormal autoimmune reactions from even brief exposure to them. After seven months of high dose doxycycline for the long-entrenched Borrelia infection, I visited my good friend Karen one afternoon, intentionally exposing myself to her dog, Sidney, and cat, Jack.

Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I could be around dogs again with no abnormal reactions, and cats just triggered my long standing cat allergy, easily treated with OTC anti-histamines, and handwashing after petting. (And, may I say, Jack is a real slut when it comes to being petted.)

And so, Sidney and I grew to adore one another. I spoil him rotten, yet still put him through his paces. Karen and her husband (and their dog trainer) did an excellent job training this "incorrigible" twice-returned-to-the-pound puppy they adopted when he was less than a year old. Their hard work makes it easy for the two of us when Sid spends the day and night with me (our "play dates") and the occasional longer stays, those few times his folks go out of town and can't take him with them.

And so, the two males in my life: Mike and Sid. (Shhhhhh....don't tell Sluggo, Treppie, Baby Atlas or Rocko Box I didn't include them!) Sidney is big for a Doberman, and Mike is big for the two subspecies which contributed his genes, as you can see from this photo.

Well, 'see' if you can visualize the size of a regular wine bottle and the bottom ring of a giant Kong chew toy.

Mike here is amazed that any animal can take in as much food in such a short period of time. The verb "vacuum" is handy when describing Sid's eating speed. Then again, Mike is a very deliberate eater, taking his time over his food, apparently ruminating over every bite. When Sid is finished, his bowl is licked sparkling clean. When Mike is finished, he intentionally steps in whatever food is left over to smash it up so no one else will be able to eat it. And he wonders why I fawn over Sid when Sid comes to visit...

Mike does get a little jealous, because Sidney and I have such a joyously fun time together. There's tennis ball chasing, and tennis ball chewing to break in the balls properly in so there can be tennis ball tug-o-war. The latter is where I stuck my hand into Sid's mouth and try to pry the ball out of his mouth. (Did I mention he can hold three tennis balls in his mouth at once? Not bad for a porpoise nose!)

When the ball is broken in properly, there is a sort of slit big enough so that I can hook one of my fingers into the ball, and pull. And pull. And pull and pull and pull and pull and...did I mention that Sid can go on for hours like this?

Who needs free weights or weight machines when you get a full upper body workout with a tennis ball and 120 pound Dobie? Yes, 120 pounds. He has put on several pounds since I first met him in February 2004, and he has gotten grayer of muzzle, too, which his mother firmly denies. At least, that's what I am assuming she is doing when she clamps her hands over her ears and yells "I can't hear you" LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA I can't hear you!" whenever I mention it.

We both hate to think about it, truth to tell. I have already located the closest Dobie rescue group to us, should there be none needing homes locally at that time we hope is far down the line...

Karen and her hubby and Sid go up to the mountains a couple times a year. At least once during each stay, K & S hike even higher and camp out overnight. Sid packs in his own gear. Well, his mom does the packing, and Sid does the carrying. Quite he handsome boy he is, too, in his red pack and matching booties. His mom rarely asks anything of me, so when she asked me to make him a sweater, I said yes. Well, first I tried talking her into getting one of those polar fleece jobbies that I think will keep him much warmer, but she wanted a sweater.

(Here's Sid, with the overnight pack on - he travels quite a bit lighter on their day hikes.)

You see, the largest sweater she found for him is too small. True, it matches one of her sweaters (a nice Fair Isle design) but it looks rather silly on Sid. As I began to understand as I started looking for dog sweater knitting patterns big enough for Sid. His measurements, as it turns out, would make a nice sweater for a buxom wasp-waisted woman: Chest 36", Length (from collar to base of tail) 34". Oy.

I did find a very nice sweater leaflet, Fiber Trends'
Dandy Dog Coats #211x, which has sizing for large dogs - just not as large as Sidney. So, I've had to do some sizing up. Because this is more for staying warm in the mountains after a hike than it is for city walks, I made it long enough to drape over his rear end when he's laying down. I also made the turtle neck longer so it could be pulled up over his ears and forehead.

The only problem is that his chest is so deep that it is a pain to get his legs through the armholes, and then it just doesn't fit right. So, I am, for the third time, ripping out the belly band. I am going to pick it in again, but starting farther back towards the tummy so as to make the armhole wider, leaving more room for his expansive (and, ahem, apparently expanding chest). Instead of seaming it to the other side, I'm going to add some buttonholes (as I did in version 2) so that the band can be buttoned once the sweater has been pulled on over the head, rather making K and S deal with trying to get his very long legs through armholes.

Sidney did get a chance to wear the sweater this past spring. It came back to me all doggied up, thanks to his mom putting it on him after Sidney had a brisk swim in the lake.

Sid isn't allowed to sleep on the bed, so he has his own loveseat at home, now that his parents got a couple of large recliner chairs to replace the couch. At my home, as at the lodge, he sleeps on the couch.

Did I mention that Glacier Lodge, outside of Big Pine, CA, is very dog friendly? If you're looking for a spring-summer-fall vacation in the mountains, do check it out:

For Christmas last year, I made a couple of festive gifts for Sidney and Jack. Sidney got a neckerchief, while Jack got a dangle toy. The latter was made of red I-cord with a ball of white "fur" yarn; Sid's kerchief, which his silly mom put on his head after I left, is red garter st with I-cord ties, trimmed in the same 'fur'.

I must say, Sidney looked a lot happier when I tied the kerchief around his neck. Then again, that was earlier in the evening when there was f-o-o-d around, and Sid is always happier when he is around food. Literally.

Sidney and I had an overnight Friday and Saturday. I picked him up in the late morning, and we did some errands, including another inspection of the new dog park in Rohnert Park.

It was nice, except for the two Rottweilers. See, Sidney does not like to have his rear sniffed. Now, most people don't, but this butt sniffing is an essential component of greetings in canines. Lizards are more polite about it, tongue-flicking the air and the other lizard's neck and shoulders, and maybe the ground where the other lizard has walked. But dogs gotta get right in there under that tail. And Sidney does not like it. At all.

The Rottweilers were quite friendly, trying alternately to get Sidney to play with them while at the same time trying to learn about him. So one would be in front of Sid, eliciting play, while the other was behind Sid, trying to get to know him. Sid danced nervously around trying to get away from the one behind him while trying to respond to the one in front. I decided that perhaps we'd walk to the other side of the park and maybe the Rotts would play with the other dogs.
That sorta worked: one of the Rotts, the intact male, followed us, with his nose as close as it could get to Sid's backside.

There were lots of other smaller dogs (small is good: the littler dogs have a tougher time reaching the underside of Sid's tail, settling for his belly instead) interesting in playing with the big guy, but the rott just wasn't leaving Sid alone. So, I decided to take us out of there and come back when the park was Rott-free. The Rotts' owner hadn't budged from his chair at the far end of the park, and so was no help when I was trying to detach the Rott so Sid and I could get through the gate.

(And once again I am reminded that there are people who shouldn't have pets, let alone children, and that we continue to spay and neuter the wrong species.)

If I had not gotten sick, I would not have had the extreme reactions to furred animals, and so would never have become so immersed in the study and keeping of reptiles
. If I had not started doing reptile rescue and rehab and focused my research and observation skills and training on herps, I would never have learned as much as I have, nor had the pleasure (and frustration) of living with those bundles of intelligence and instinct known as the green iguana and, now, the Cyclura iguana.

But as much as I am grateful to have had this opportunity (though not for the way it came about), I really miss having dogs in my daily life.

Mike exploring the couch and blanket that smells of Sidney and Sluggo.

Mikey sleeping (well, he was before I started fiddling with my camera in his room).

Sidney, asleep with one of his balls, re-scenting the couch and blanket for Mikey's next expedition.


Blogger Knatolee said...

Aw, Sidney is the picture patience, letting you dress him up like that! I love reading about him.

And who is the wino, Sid or Mikey?

My fav quote: "She prefers them crunchy"

5:20 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

The wino would be Sid's and Mikey's moms. Favorite wines are from F. Teldeschi, among others. But mostly Dan T.'s petit syrah, Terra Nova, and their port.

5:33 PM  

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