Tag Archives: pets

Advice to my brother, who has just adopted his first dog, a 7-week-old puppy

As children, my brothers and I never had dogs or cats. Now, as adults, we all have dogs, and Julie and I have cats too. My middle brother was the last to convert; he and his new family just adopted his first dog a week ago.

I advised my brother from the vantage point of my three years’ greater experience. I said:

Several times over the course of the next few months you will feel like an abject failure, like you have been unable to succeed at this simple thing — raising a dog — that any moron can accomplish. You will feel that you did the dog a disservice by adopting her. You will feel utterly worthless as a human being, like the lowest slime that ever climbed out of a toxic waste dump.

This is normal. Nothing to worry about!

The cats held a meeting last night on my bed

Whatever the meeting was about, it must have been important, because they were quite worked up about it. I participated by waking up, sitting bolt upright and shouting swear words. Which startled Julie, who was still awake and reading in bed.

Not long afterward, Sammy, our male cat, decided to have carnal knowledge of my feet. He got so excited he bit down on my toe, which was protected only by a thin blanket. I shot bolt upright again and swore at Sammy. He scrammed. I guess he doesn’t like dirty talk during sex.

So if I seem to be tired and cranky today, that’s why.


The Data Says “Don’t Hug the Dog!” says Stanley Coren on Psychology Today, who did an Internet image search on the terms “hug dog” and “love dog” and examined 250 pictures of dogs being hugged. He found more than 80% showed signs of canine anxiety.

In all, 81.6% of the photographs researchers scored showed dogs who were giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety. Only 7.6% of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged. The remaining 10.8% of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.


Dogs are technically cursorial animals, which is a term that indicates that they are designed for swift running. That implies that in times of stress or threat the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away. Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog’s anxiety becomes significantly intense, he may bite.



Minnie would like to come in.

Most days I leave my office door open and Minnie moves freely between my office and yard. But when it’s chilly, I close the door, which means I’m Minnie’s doorman.

I see this face a lot. She’s saying, “That’s all right. I know I’m not important compared to those other things you have to do. You know all I have to do is love you, right?”

Minnie is definitely Jewish. She’s got the guilt thing down.


Automatic cat litter box has DRM protection to prevent you from refilling cleaning solution cartridge. [Jorge Lopez – Medium]

The CatGenie scoops, cleans, and disposes of waste automatically, but requires CatGenie Washable Granules instead of regular litter, and a SaniSolution SmartCartridge to wash the granules. In this 2014 article, Jorge Lopez describes how he one day discovered that he needed a fluid refill but had neglected to order new fluid. So he figured he’d refill with water to make do. That’s when he discovered that the cartridge has built-in DRM to prevent consumers from refilling it on their own, and the litterbox won’t run without solution in the cartridge – in other words, it’s a “bricked shithouse”.

Fortunately for Jorge, there’s a community of CatGenie hackers on the Internet (of course there is!) that have released custom firmware that lets you use whatever solution you want.

Yes, custom firmware for your smart catlitter box.

And the CatGenie user community reports that the machine runs better anyway without the solution. Which costs $350/year.

We’re all living in a Charles Stross novel now.

Green rope toy

Yesterday morning Minnie made it out of the house with the green rope toy in her mouth. It is one of the toys that we would prefer she leave indoors, to keep it from getting nasty. I did not have time to play keep-away with her. And my back is still stiff from straining it carrying her cage out after she soiled it overnight 10 days ago.

But it was a nice day, and I thought the rope toy would not get too nasty if it was outside for only a few hours. So I let her hang onto it, and made a note in my reminders app to bring it inside later in the day when she tired of it.

All of this probably sounds crazy to people who don’t have dogs.

I really do need to teach her “leave it.”

Minnie has decided a leash is mighty delicious

We watch TV and read on the sofa in the evenings, and Minnie joins us, either lying between us or on the floor. It’s all very domestic and cozy.

She loves to work on an antler or Nylabone, or shred a big knot of rope (they call it a “monkeyfist” — great name).

Minnie has got a hell of a set of jaws on her. I often watch the muscles of her jaws when she works. She could shred a Sherman tank.

Krypto1st“. Via Wikipedia.

One of the things she loves to chew on is the end of her leash. We keep her leashed in the living room to limit her ability to chase after the cats or otherwise get into mischief. We keep a leash attached to the big, heavy coffee table. And she chewed through that leash. It took her a while, but she finally finished the job on Friday. So we dug out one of our other leashes, one that none of us likes for walking her, and we attached that to the coffee table.

That leash proved pretty puny. She made it through that in less than a night.

Sunday I made an emergency Petco run, and bought her another leash. This was a big-ass sturdy thing that looked like you could use it to restrain an angry rhino. Minnie managed to get halfway through that in a single night.

I ordered another leash from Amazon. It’s basically a 6′ length of steel cable with a hook on one end and a handle on the other. It’s due to arrive Wednesday. I hope the current leash hangs on until then. And that Minnie isn’t, in fact, Superdog and able to chew through a steel cable.

Fortunately, Minnie has not gone to work on the main leash I use to walk her. The only time I use that leash is when we’re out and about. She mostly keeps her teeth off that — although she does have the occasional bad habit of trying to play tug-of-war with it, which we discourage.

Minnie got into the cat food again

The last time this happened, her crate the next morning looked like something out of a Lovecraft story, if Lovecraft had written about puppy diarrhea.

Late this afternoon, I was standing in the kitchen and saw her Minnie wal out from the back of the house. No, “walk” is not the right word. Minnie strolled out from the back of the house, as though it was the most ordinary thing in the world.

The back of the house is a catzone, not a Minniezone. Minnie is still destructive, she has monthly accidents, and two of the cats avoid her. Also, the catfood is in the back of the house. Minnie loves catfood, but the catfood does not love her. The catfood causes Minnie to generate substances normally only seen in early Roger Waters movies. So when Minnie is indoors off-leash, we keep her confined to the kitchen, sunroom, and laundry room, and always supervised. When she’s indoors outside those rooms, she’s leashed, and mostly supervised.

Except this afternoon somebody forgot to leash her and left the kitchen gate open. This someone was almost certainly me, though I don’t remember it at all.

I checked the catfood dishes. Minnie had eaten about a cup of dry food, maybe more. And she ate half a small can of wet food.

I hope we have no disasters tonight. Hopefully she’s had enough time to work it out of her system.

Dog parks: The strange rituals—and stranger people—you find at the dog run.

Writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis is traveling the country meeting dog-obsessed Americans for a book about dogs in America. He kicked things off by spending a full day with his dog at Tompkins Square Park in New York’s East Village, the oldest in the city.

Dog parks are a relatively modern invention, a “kind of victory over the anonymity and transience of life,” as writer Mary Battiata put it. They’re a place of long-lasting friendships, longer-lasting feuds, and dog-park know-it-alls who disapprove of the job you’re doing with your pet. At a dog park in Boston, where I live, the park’s queen bee once asked me what I was feeding Casey.

She didn’t like my answer. “Well, you can certainly feed him that if you want to _kill_him,” she barked.

I’d come to New York City to experience the rituals and rhythms of the city’s oldest dog run. The New York Times has described Tompkins Square (also called First Run) as a lively and contentious place, one brimming with dog-park politics and the kind of class-related tension that led one woman to declare that some dogs deserved to get “roughed up because they wore sweaters.”

One dog park regular says it’s a great place to meet people, and a few of the regulars have even gotten married. Another regular, a woman, replied, “I try not to date where my dog shits.”

Dog parts engender community. Immediately after 9/11, regulars flocked to the dog park to be with people close to them.

Dog parks: The strange rituals—and stranger people—you find at the dog run..

The State of the American Dog


When a cocker spaniel bites, it does so as a member of its species; it is never anything but a dog. When a pit bull bites, it does so as a member of its breed. A pit bull is never anything but a pit bull.

Powerful, moving, and at times hard-to-read article by Tom Junod in Esquire about pit bulls, and how they parallel the state of America.

Pit bulls are a mainstream American dog. You see a lot of them, the bullet-shaped face where you used to see long, German-shepherd-like noses. Despite their popularity, they’re the dog most likely to be hated, feared, and banned by law from many American communities. Many people believe pit bulls are vicious and violent by nature; others believe they’re gentle, loving dogs, maligned by prejudice and ignorance.

What pit bulls are, says Junod, is dogs, each one an individual, but part of a species capable of both gentle love and aggression. Never forget your dog is a predator, or else you’re setting yourself up for tragedy.

Ironically, all this emotion is heaped on a breed of dog that has no scientific existence. A pit bull is not a breed the way a German shepherd or a collie is a breed. A pit bull is simply a kind of dog that has a number of characteristics: Shape of skull, body type, coat, and so forth. And even that is imprecise — a pit bull is basically what you point to when you’re talking about pit bulls.

Pit bulls are more likely to be owned by poor people, and ethnic minorities. Affluent whites will often cross the street to avoid them.

You learn a lot about America when you own a pit bull. You learn not just who likes your dog; you learn what kind of person likes your dog—and what kind of person fears him. You generalize. You profile. You see a well-heeled white woman walking a golden retriever and expect her to cross the street and give you a dirty look; you see the guy who’s cutting down her trees or pressure-washing her driveway and you expect him to say: “That’s a beautiful dog.” Or: “How much you want for that dog?” Or: “You fight that dog?” You learn that the argument about pit bulls takes place along the lines of class and, to a lesser extent, race. The opposition to pit bulls might not be racist; it does, however, employ racial thinking. If a pit-bull-Labrador mix bites, then the pit bull is always what has done the biting, its portion of the blood—its taint—ineradicable and finally decisive.

Pit bulls are killed by the thousands every day in America. Literally thousands every day. They’re very likely to be brought to shelters, and difficult to adopt out because of their reputation. (And that reputation should not be dismissed out of hand as mere prejudice. Discussions about pit bulls and viciousness are a confusing mix of slander, truth, and self-fulfilling prophecy.)

America is two countries now—the country of its narrative and the country of its numbers, with the latter sitting in judgment of the former. In the stories we tell ourselves, we are nearly always too good: too soft on criminals, too easy on terrorists, too lenient with immigrants, too kind to animals. In the stories told by our numbers, we imprison, we drone, we deport, and we euthanize with an easy conscience and an avenging zeal.

The State of the American Dog

This is such a terrific article that I’d like to study it to figure our how it’s researched and structured. I’ve done woefully little long-form multi-sourced journalism in the last decade.

How to teach your dog to play with a “flirt toy”

It’s basically a giant cat toy, sized for dogs. Dogs are supposed to be crazy about it. We got one for Minnie months ago, and she showed no interest in it. Maybe I was doing it wrong? I’ll try it again later.

Sure would be nice to have something that would tire her out without requiring vast energy expenditures from one or more human units.

What to do with your dog during fireworks

Infographic: Looking Out for Your Dog During July Fireworks

What kind of genius brings their dog to a fireworks show?

I’m a little worried about Minnie but hopefully the fireworks will be over by her bedtime. The fireworks by Lake Murray have been canceled, alas. And we haven’t heard much banging this week — usually folks get started days ahead of time.


Critter homecoming

Vivvie (cat): Ran and hid. I have not seen her except briefly when I got home.

Lucy (cat): Briefly let me pat her while she was sitting on top of the cat tree.

Sammy (cat): Demanded much petting, sat in my lap, only bit me once.

Minnie: Picked her up at the dog boarders. She seemed skinny and subdued. I wonder if she’s been eating. She was shy around me. She perked up when she got home and picked up a couple of her favorite toys and trotted around the yard with them. She was happy to see Sammy. Now she’s asleep on the sofa next to me, emitting contented dog noises and twitching occasionally and slightly in her dreams. I have read that dogs are often exhausted after daycare and boarding. We’ll see how she seems tomorrow.

As for the gadgets:

Internet suffered an outage tonight. I fixed it by unplugging the Powerline Wi-Fi adapter and plugging it back in again. Roku remote stopped working for no apparent reason at all. I had to unplug the Roku to get it to shut up. Dead batteries?

I am ded to the world, having been up since 5 am PDT and traveling 13 hours of that time. Back to work tomorrow morning. And so to walk dog, change cats’ water dishes, and bed.

Minnie goes to overnight camp

This trip was Julie and my second time away from home overnight together since we got Minnie.

Our first trip away from home, we left Minnie with the vet. Our logic was sound. We’ve been using these vets the whole time we’ve been in San Diego, and we’re very happy with them. And if something went wrong, well, Minnie’s already at the vet if that happens, right?

But leaving Minnie with the vet proved to be a bad idea. She seemed to have a rough time with it emotionally. In retrospect, the reason is obvious: It’s a vet. It’s a place for sick and injured animals. Minnie spent her time in a smallish cage, too close to other animals, and those animals were suffering. If they weren’t suffering, they probably wouldn’t be there. I don’t mean to overly anthropomorphize dogs, but they are emotionally sensitive pack animals and pick up on that kind of thing. Or at least Minnie does and is.

Spending the night at the vet was like spending the night at the hospital. Of course Minnie was unhappy about that.

So this time we sent Minnie to a proper kennel, Camp Bow Wow. It’s the same place we took her to for daycare a few weeks ago. Truly, she had a rough time then but we thought if she had time to get used to it she might learn to like it. And if not, well, we can’t live our lives around the animals more than we already do. If she failed to thrive in the boarding facility, we’d deal with that once it happened. Julie and I need to be able to leave the house together for more than a few hours at a time.

As I type this I’m still on the plane coming in for a landing but I think Minnie’s stay at the boarding place went well. The reason I believe this is because the boarding place has installed Webcams, and we’ve been peeking in at them. And Minnie seems to be doing great. At home she’s a shy and submissive dog and that was at the root of our fears she would not do well at the boarding place. But she seems to be thriving there. It’s hard to tell 100% — the video quality is poor — she looks like a 1980s-8-bit-pixellated version of herself — but we can see that her tail is in the air and her head is up and she’s zipping from one part of the pen to the other, checking up on all the other dogs and making sure they’re all doing what they’re supposed to be doing. (Well, actually, I assume she’s zipping — like I said, the video quality is poor. She disappears in one spot and reappears a second later about six feet away. I assume she has trotted that distance and has not, appearances to the contrary, teleported.) She’s not submissive at all — she’s downright bossy.

I had hoped to be able to pick her up tonight but it looks like my flight, which was delayed, gets in less than an hour before the kennel closes, not enough time for me to make it. So she gets another 16 or so hours at camp, and I get to spend some quality time with the cats. Assuming they even come out when I get home — when you’ve been gone a while, cats are all, “Oh, you? You’re home already? Well, I’ll come by and we can visit as soon as I wrap up what I’m doing.”

We’ve had cats as long as we’ve been married, but cats are self-sufficient on their own. We just have people come in and feed them and change their litterboxes. But dogs need attention.