Saturday, July 4, 2009
My friend Dave—my best friend's husband and a regular reader of this blog—is one of those rare creatures, a native Austinite. He loaned me a book called Dog Tales by Walter E. Long, "the same author of Dogs Who Have Owned Us." His name will be familiar to Austinites who have boated or swum in Decker Lake, which is east of the city and renamed for Long a while back. Long self-published the book in 1968. Dave's copy is autographed and dated August 3, 1970. All proceeds from the book's sale were donated to a unidentified dog shelter.
Mr. Long is a writer of modest gifts who gives no information about himself. He calls himself "The Compiler." His focus is the stories of the 15 dogs that "owned him" from the 1930s to the late 1950s. They include Tim, Sally, Sambo, Jingle, Furlough, Puddles, Missie, Rusty, Measles, Hank, Punkin, Ben, and three sheepdogs named Sister.
Here's how the book begins:
"There is something about a dog--oh well, you know what I mean, unless you don't like dogs. It does not matter with me whether they are wet or dry, clean or bathed, big or little. When a dog looks at me with an appraising eye, and wags his tail, he is my friend. I'll give him my shirt. I'd do the same for some of my acquaintances if they could wag theirs.
He is not a hypocrite or double dealer. When you have won his wagging tail or doggy smile--by ears--he's your friend. The value of his love is measured in devotion not in gold."
Introduction to Dog Tales
Photo is of "the little orphan . . . in his cage"
Long with Sister One
It is clear that Mr. Long is a friend of dogs, but what is also obvious is that he lived in an Austin that is almost unrecognizable today. Attitudes towards dogs—their roles in the family and their care and containment—seem careless and irresponsible compared to how Parkers treat their animals. But in Long's world, vaccines for parvo, distemper, and rabies as well as medications for heart worm and treatment for cancer, which we take for granted now, were not available, and dogs often became fatally sick overnight. Dogs ran free in the city but also in the way of oncoming cars. Long writes lovingly of each dog that entered his life, but most of the narratives end with the dog's sudden, untimely, and often painful death:
"On a snowy day in February Tim amused himself by playing with a sack on which a stray dog with distemper had lain. Tim contracted the disease and we lost him."
"After two years [Sambo's] fate was sealed by distemper and although Sis [Long's daughter] sat up with him many nights he finally succumbed." (Long, in an attempt to save his dog's life, paid another owner $6.00 in order to draw blood from the dog for a transfusion for Sambo. The procedure did not help.)
One dog is allowed to regularly raid trash cans and ultimately "his failure to eat regularly, his return to trash-canning, and intermittent nights out resulted in his contracting some disease from which he never recovered and he went to dog heaven." Two other dogs die of "undetermined internal trouble." Another contracts "a peculiar disease from the urine of squirrels or rats for which there seems to be no cure." The dog died "in three days time." One dog dies from cancer. Another is crushed by a car.
Long himself was vulnerable to dog-related illness. At one point a neighbor's dog bites him, and he needs nine stitches. He writes "Rabies have not yet set in."
Some of Long's dogs, though, do live long and happy lives. Sally lives to be old (nine years) and fat (though heart worm finally does her in). Sheepdog Ben serves as a local stand-in for the actor-dog in Disney's Shaggy Dog film. Ben gets mobbed by hundreds of fans at the Paramount Theater on Congress Avenue and signs hundreds of "autographs" like this one.
Ben's fate, and his sister Julie's, are not described in the book. So they must have been alive and well in 1968. Let's hope they had happier endings than many of their predecessors did.
Here's how the book concludes:
"TO YOU WHO LOVE THEM
You may have kicked or ruthlessly scolded him, by he forgave your acts and licked your hand before you realized your crudeness.
From his humble pallet in kennel or basement he keeps an eye open for your protection, or an ear cocked for impending danger to your possessions.
[. . .]
He humbly takes his place in society, and too often, without appreciation, unostentatiously gives his live for those he owns."
Does this describe any of the dogs we know?
Many thanks to Dave for lending me Long's fascinating book.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Hey, you. Yeah, you.
Your shorts smell like hot dogs.
Don't tell me you don't have any treats.
Whaddya think, I'm stupid?
No, I don't want love instead.
No, I don't want your stupid face in my face.
I want the treat.
Look, I really am quite hungry and sad.
Can't you see that in my beautiful, sad, soulful, old eyes?
That's fine. Play dumb.
I've been at this game a long time, buddy.
And I got all night.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Public response to yesterday's post suggests that Frankie was not shown to his advantage. (I was impressed by the expanse of his glorious purple tongue in the photo I posted yesterday—so purple and plush that I wanted to paint Elvis or JFK or the Pope on it.) So here is a post devoted to photos of Frankie-boy in all his glory.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Hi, all. The recent heat and current humidity have rendered my brain to oatmeal. I couldn't come up with a snappy story or snarky remark if my life depended on it today. So I thought I'd treat you all to a photo gallery of Dog Park regulars (canine variety, although some shapely ankles and spiffy sneakers do appear in some shots.) Thanks to Johnny for the photos.
La Mindy with her bubble gum tongue
Les BeeCees: Coco and Joey
Franklin Delano Dog
La Maggie, au soleil
La Grande Dame Sugar (and wee Teddy)
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
By all reports last night, Joey will be fine. Our sweet pal got caught in the crossfire of a 10-dog pile-up last night that left him with a bitten foreleg. It was late and dark. Nearly a dozen dogs and five owners were enjoying the evening air, hoping for rain when two dogs started a scuffle. It was over in seconds, but it spread like a firecracker through the pack. Poor Joey yelped piteously. Once Erica discovered the bloody bite, everyone took swift action. Within two minutes, Joey was scooped up, swathed in a towel, and driven with Erica to the animal emergency clinic. Diane took the wheel of Erica's car. Michelle took Frankie and Coco home with Mindy. Phone numbers were exchanged. Doug was left standing in front of a herd of Ridgebacks asking, "What happened?"
Within half an hour, Joey was all patched up. When I got to the emergency clinic, Erica, covered in blood, was sitting with Diane while the vet explained that the bite was clean and did not seem to affect the muscles or hit the bone. After the vet left, the three of us sat chattering and yawning, simultaneously amped up from adrenaline and exhausted. At some point, a vet tech came in and asked us if we were Joey's family. Yes, yes we were. Then Doug came by to check on Joey. Then another tech came in. I could see that with the arrival of each member of Joey's "family" the techs kept having to reconfigure our story. First, it seemed Joey had two mommies. Then he had three. Then he had a Daddy and three mommies, just like on Big Love. Austin—it's a crazy town. Finally, Joey was brought in with a clear plastic cone on his neck and a clean white bandage on his leg. He was fed juicy chicken laced with antibiotics and pain pills. He was, amazingly, his usual sweet self, standing in the center of a room filled with strangers. What a good boy.
My point in this posting is that the dog park is not only Joey's familia but any dog's. Everybody stepped up to the plate last night and did what they could to make sure all the dogs were safe and cared for during an emergency. Everybody kept their cool and their sense of humor. (Doug, for instance, asked the vet tech if there were forensic evidence that could point the blame away from Ridgebacks. Diane acted out European commercials for us while we waited.) No dysfunctions surfaced. Really, I was so impressed by and grateful for the good folks and patient dogs in our dog park community.
If anyone wants to get in touch with Erica, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Q: Has this ever happened to you at Dog Park? You are walking along, minding your own business, and you meet someone who has a sad dog story to tell. The dog has gotten sick or hit by a car or has died. The person is distraught and needs a hug, which you provide. But the person is also holding a full bag of poop. You end up giving a person a hug and getting a bag of poop flung over your shoulder. It's kind of gross, but you don't want to be rude, right?
—Huggin' and Buggin' Out
A: Huggin', I feel your pain. Like you, the Dog Parkist comes from a colder, ruder region of the country where the extension of arms toward another human being would result in the simultaneous loss of dignity and crucial body heat. Balmy Austin is such a hipster, hippie town; there's no getting away from all the shameless hugging among unrelated adults. There's hugging at church, at the grocery store, at school, at the bus stop, at children's birthday parties, at restaurants, and, alas, at dog park. Hugs that say hello, hugs that say goodbye, hugs that say, "Yes, we slept together, but it wasn't really that great because only one of us was high, but that's okay because we are hip and cool and unsure of our sexuality anyway." Where will it all end?
Some people do enjoy the hugging. Some are just trying to fit into the Austin scene. But sometimes people really do need a hug—especially when some unfortunate event has befallen a beloved animal. That, my friend, is when you must do the right thing and step up to the plate and deliver that hug even if it means getting smacked in the face by a dookie bag. People in pain don't think clearly. Under normal circumstances, they would remember instinctively to let go of the bag before reaching out for you. Give them a pass. It's only poop, and it's probably from a dog you really like anyway. Then, the next time your minister or neighbor or delivery man or school teacher or convenience store cashier comes swooning at you with open arms, put up your hands and say, "Hey, man, I've met my hug quota for the day." Thanks for writing!