Saturday, July 11, 2009

Too Hot to Breathe

The other night when the girls and I got home from Dog Park, I noticed that Roma was panting a great deal and having a hard time settling down. I immediately reached for my bible of dog care, The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopedia of Dog Health and Care, to look up heatstroke or heat exhaustion. (I was at first confused. One of the symptoms was nausea. I thought, "How would I know that Roma felt nauseated?" Then I realized that I had grabbed the handbook of health for people—it's the same color and shape as the dog book. I've mixed these two books up before. Believe me, it's a little disconcerting to be looking at one's gums pinking up in the mirror before realizing one has been following the dog care book's instructions.) 

Just for your information, here are the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs:
  • rapid breathing through the mouth
  • increased heart/pulse rate
  • reddened gums
  • vomiting
  • moisture accumulating on the feet
  • a dull staring expression
  • thickened saliva
  • body temperature up to 110 degrees F
Roma was panting but not laboring in her breathing, and she looked a bit confused, but the other symptoms did not apply. 

Here is the recommended treatment for mild cases:
  • Move the dog to a cool place and get him or her to drink cool water
  • If the dog feels hot or has a high temp, place him or her in the tub or shower and dowse with cold water
  • Apply ice packs to the dog's head, chest, and thighs
Of course, you already know that if the dog is seriously in trouble, you should take him or her to the vet immediately. (The Park's closest 24-hour emergency vet clinic is Austin Vet Care at 4106 North Lamar--across from Central Market. The number is 672-0769.)

Roma often forgets or refuses to drink water at the Park—unless I specifically pour it for her and stand next to her while she drinks. Thursday night I had forgotten to be vigilant, and we were at Park for several hours—though mostly after dark. Instead of freaking her out by dumping her in the tub, however, I wiped her down with a cool wet cloth and held a towel-wrapped bag of frozen peas to her head and tummy. (If you ever come to my house, don't eat the peas in the freezer.) Finally, (duh!) I put a bowl of water in front of her and told her to drink, which she did. Shortly afterward, she settled down and went to sleep and was fine the next morning. Still, I made sure that she did not spend time outside other than for short pee breaks and made plans for waiting until dark at Park.

It's easy to forget that our dogs can't always moderate their behavior in the heat, especially when they are having fun chasing and running. Roma careens around Park even in 100 degree weather in her endless search for treats and attention. From now on, though, I'll remember that she's not the best judge of the temperature. I may have to leash her in order to make sure she stays cool, but those are the breaks. Stay cool everyone, and have a good weekend. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Sign Update: City Code

Thanks to Erica for finding the link to the City Code. (Click on Animal Regulation.)  Here is the code to which the scandalous new Dog Park sign refers:


     (A)     Except as provided in Section 3-4-4 (Public Areas Where Restraint of a Dog is Not Required), an owner or handler of a dog shall keep the dog under restraint.

     (B)     A person holding a dog on a leash or lead shall keep the dog under control at all times.

Here is 3-4-4, essentially a list of all the legal off-leash spots in the city:


     An owner or handler may allow a dog to be without restraint as otherwise required by this title in the following places:

     (1)     Auditorium Shores from South First Street west to Bouldin Creek;

     (2)     the portion of Zilker Park bounded by Stratford Drive, Barton Springs Road, and Park River Road;

     (3) the right-of-way of Far West Boulevard between Great Northern Boulevard and Shoal Creek Boulevard;

     (4)     the portion of Robert Mueller Municipal Airport land bounded by Old Manor Road, Manor Road, the airport fence, and Lovell Drive;

     (5)     Red Bud Isle east of Red Bud Trail;

     (6)     the portion of Onion Creek District Park south of Chunn Road;

     (7)     the portion of Northeast District Park bounded by Lake Long Road, Crystal Brook Drive, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad right-of-way;

     (8)     the portion of Walnut Creek District Park bounded by Cedar Bend Drive, Walnut Creek, and the park fence on the west and east sides;

     (9)     the portion of Lake Austin Metropolitan Park bounded by Park Drive, the park fence on west side, Turkey Creek, and top ridge of bluff line that overlooks Lake Austin;

     (10)     Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail from 24th Street to 29th Street; and

     (11)     in an area designated by the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Source: 1992 Code Section 3-3-3; Ord. 031009-9; Ord. 031211-11.


Attention Property of Texas

Attention all Dog Parkers! Several new signs prohibiting leash-free activity on state property have appeared along the 45th Street fence line, starting at (no surprise) the bend in the trail by Crazy Guy's house and running all the  way to Bull Creek. Tony's Sarah, Sarah's mum Cindy, and I counted 5 or 6 new signs. Here is what each sign says:

Property of Texas
This Property is not a dog park.
Unleashed dogs are prohibited by City Leash Law (Sec. 3-4-1).
Violators will be subject to a maximum fine of $500
Property under video surveillance

Hmm.  A bit heavyhanded, no?—with Property capitalized in a that Germanic way. You almost expect to see it in Gothic type. The punctuation is uneven. Only two of the three complete sentences are followed by periods. I beg your pardon, what? Am I worried? My reaction was exactly this: "Meh." It's just another sign to be ignored. 

But the new signs immediately sparked a wildfire of speculation and conspiracy theories. Did the state actually put up these signs or did Crazy Guy make them privately and then dig serious holes in dirt as hard as concrete? Some people noticed that the signs were not constructed in as solid a fashion as the other signs we ignore and the dogs pee on every day. Then another person noticed that every time someone said the words video surveillance, a helicopter seemed to swoop overhead. I'm sure with the drawdown from Iraq that the good people at Camp Mabry now have an extra copter for covert ops at Dog Park. Advice: If you hear strains of "Ride of the Valkyries" emitted from overhead choppers, grab your dogs and hit the dirt. 

Video surveillance? Give me a break, people. Do we really think the city has resources during an economic recession to plant wireless surveillance cameras in the trees at Dog Park a la The Wire? Are we talking squirrel cams? Or worse, there's a Dog Park "mole."  (Hint: It's that dog you've never met before with the giant camera strapped to its head. No! It's that creepy guy in the city uniform who wants to take your picture for his My Space page.)

Whatever. It is just too effing hot to deal with these signs seriously. Frankly, I think that even the most stalwart of city servants will quit their jobs before agreeing to sweep Dog Park for violators of City Code 3-4-1 when it's 105 degrees outside in the shade. Still, Teddy's Johnny pointed out that we should keep our eyes open for increased attention from Animal Control, which is always a good idea. I always tend to get too lax about carrying leashes when the coast seems clear. 

So people, please don't Mess with the Property of Texas—even though the entity Texas is nothing without you, the Enfranchised Citizens, of Texas. Yeehaw! Leash up! 

PS: I did a quick search of the Internet for the actual text of City Code 3-4-1, but I could not find it online. Does anyone  know where I could find it? I think it would be good for us to know. Thanks, z

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Dog Parkist: Tour de Cranky Pants

Q: This is not strictly a Dog Park-related question, but I have no one else to turn to. Lately, while driving my dogs to Park I have been distracted and annoyed by packs of cyclists along Bull Creek Road. They are so annoying. First, they insist on riding four across. Second, they are so busy admiring one another in their brightly colored costumes that they forget to put it in gear when the light changes at 45th Street. Third, they are, with their bursting calves and biceps, a pretty disgustingly healthy bunch. Do they think they can cheat middle age? Just who do they think they are? All I want to do is get to the Dog Park! 
Tour de Cranky McCranky Pants (Not Spandex Shorts, but Real Pants)

A: My goodness, Monsieur or Madame McCranky Pants. I am glad that you e-mailed me instead of, say, reaching for your Magnum or a lead pipe. The hot weather is taking its toll on everyone, but you, my dear, are in serious trouble of overheating. Let's take a few calming breaths together. Ahhhhhh. Better? Good. Let us proceed. 

First, let me offer you some validation. For some reason, every July a French bicycle race gets a certain subset of folks all fired up here in Texas. They lose their minds, encase their bodies in stretchy fabric, pump up their wee skinny tires, strap on a yellow wristband, and pedal away until their legs fall off. They think they are virtuous. They think they are hotties. Conversely, they also think they're too cool to follow the rules of bicycle safety. In fact, they are just sweaty scofflaws wanking away on spindly bits of metal and rubber. Okay?

But here's the thing, Cranky. As much as they annoy you, you can't run them over. It would not be good for them, for you, for your car, or for the dogs seated so patiently in the backseat. In this heat, the last thing you need to do is have an accident while driving to Dog Park. Not only will you crash your car and ruin your day, but you just know that those pesky cyclists certainly will not stop to render aid because it would ruin their times and muss up their Spandex jerseys. And the sirens of the ambulance and fire truck (summoned by a friendly, neighborhood dog walker) will upset your animals. You will miss work. Your dogs will miss Park. It's a no-win situation.

So, my friend, the short answer is this: Simply think of the dogs and drive carefully. Don't honk. Don't shake your fist. Be a good role model for your canines. Demonstrate patience and kindness toward lower forms of life. Explain to your pooches that cyclists are like rabbits or squirrels. You want to chase them, but they will only lead you down a hole or up a tree, and then where will you be? Looking silly and out of place. The Dog Parkist also recommends being prepared. Before heading out the the Park, put that CD you won't admit owning—Pachelbel's Canon or Kenny G—in the car stereo. Crank the A/C on its coldest setting. Clutch an icy Big Gulp between your pale, flabby thigh muscles. Do whatever it takes to be cool in both body and spirit and auto. Thanks for writing!

Dear Readers: We are aware that the weather is hot enough to melt a keyboard, but the Dog Parkist still wants to hear from you. Remember,  your ignorance is what inspires her to get out of bed in the morning. Ta! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Walk the Walk, Bark the Bark

Dear readers: My friend Amy (Scooter's mom) kindly let me know that the Best of Austin poll is currently underway at the Austin Chronicle and that it is possible to vote online for best blog or best blogger. Now, we here at NBUT hate to bark for the sake of barking. We make no claims to being the best or the brightest. We are merely trying to fill a little niche in the blogosphere and bring a little happiness or enlightenment to your day. 

That said, for those who are interested, click here to reach the Austin Chronicle 2009 Best of Austin poll ballot. The rules are posted at the top of the page. (No ballot stuffing, you crazy kids!) The categories include Architecture & Lodging, Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, Kids, Media (that's where you vote for best blog --wink-wink), Outdoor & Recreation, Politics & Personalities, Services, Shopping, and Wild Card. Voting runs until July 21. Have fun with it and remember who loves you here at 


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Doctor Dog

Glancing through the New York Times online this morning, I found an interesting little article by science writer Tara Pope Parker about studies that have shown that some dogs can not only predict cancer, but they can also be responsive to their diabetic owners' drops in blood sugar. Here's how the dogs let their owners know something was wrong: 

Among the dog owners, 138, or 65 percent, said their dog had shown a behavioral reaction to at least one of their hypoglycemic episodes. About a third of the animals had reacted to 11 or more events, with 31.9 percent of animals reacting to 11 or more events. The dogs got their owners’ attention by barking and whining, (61.5 percent), licking (49.2 percent), nuzzling (40.6 percent), jumping on top of them (30.4 percent), and/or staring intently at their faces (41.3 percent). A small percentage of the dogs reportedly tremble in fear at the time of a hypoglycemic attack.

Clearly my dogs are not qualified diagnosticians. Muzzy licks, nuzzles, and stares intently at my face all day long. Am I dying? Meanwhile, Roma finds me interesting only when I am carrying a bowl of food or the car keys. Clearly, I'm fine. Hope you are too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Dog Parkist: What Did You Call Me?

Q: My question is simple: What does the name of  a dog say about its owner? I've noticed lately many dogs that have pretentious names like Vladimir and Hemingway. For example, there is a dog in my parents' neighborhood named Shakespeare (Shakey for short?). My first dog Skippy (now that's what I call a dog name) had a Vizsla friend named Nietzsche. Nietzsche's owner was a dude who drove a truck. Overcompensating much?
A Rose By Any Other Name

A: Ah, Rose. What an excellent question. Names say so much about a person or a dog. Your own name, if I may point out, is fraught with delicious contradictions. The rose is a flower both common and highly desirable, thorny but inviting, fragrant but often blowsy and cheap looking. Roses grow in hothouses and in ditches. They drive poets to the height of inspiration and to the depth of cliche. All this conjured by four little letters. 

Dog names are similarly burdened. An owner must choose wisely. After all, he or she will be hollering this chosen moniker for a decade or more, if things go well. Does one go for the reliable Boomer or Bailey or Jake or Missy? These are proven winners. They are both easily bellowed and legible to the vet tech who reads the intake forms. (Heaven help the tech who deals with Nietzsche or Lao Tzu or Beezlebub.) Or does one use the naming of an adorable puppy as an opportunity to advertise one's useless liberal arts degree or unfortunate political affiliations—all, let's be honest here, in the hope of  garnering both knowing and respectful glances from one's peers or breathless attention from members of the opposite sex? ("Oh, your dog's name is William Henry Harrison? How deeply patriotic and sexy!" "Lenin? Why you foxy pinko. Tell me all about yourself!" "Rigoletto? Let's sing an aria together right now!") It's a tough call.

It is a simple fact that most dog names are bestowed before owners can know the dog's personality. The names they select generally reflect who they are or, rather, how they perceive themselves (radical philosopher or awesome dude) rather than the dogs that bear them. After all, I doubt your dog's friend Shakespeare scribbles poetry between bouts of whore-mongering and sword play. As for Nietzche dog, do you think he seriously comprehends the slave-master relationship? If he did, there's no way he'd be riding shotgun down I-35 with the Dude. He'd be driving.

Of course, there are cases where the naming of a dog is accurate but nonetheless offensive to others. There is currently at Dog Park an Aussie named for a recent Vice Presidential candidate, the momentarily current governor of the state of Alaska. Let's think about this choice of names: The dog is attractive, charismatic, ditzy, extravagantly enthusiastic, and unable to control herself. She barrels around the park inviting hardbitten Park pros like Muzzy to tear after her in order to school her in Dog Park manners, but she seems not to care because, of course, she's a maverick.  (It remains to be seen how well the dog looks in red lipstick or festooned with American flag pins. Bitchin' probably.) Clearly the name fits, but the Dog Parkist is aware of several Parkers who feel conflicted when encountering this unfortunately named dog. They try to scorn it and its owners, a perfectly nice young woman and her clean-cut, All-American boyfriend, both of whom consistently act as if they have no idea they are the object of withering looks and partisan mutterings. In the name of comity, however, the Dog Parkist reminds the seethers to take a deep, cleansing breaths and to remember that Some People Will Never Learn.

So Rose, The Dog Parkist must concur. Pretentious and partisan dog names only show how desperate the owners are to direct attention to themselves. The names announce "This dog is an extension of my wildly interesting life and my totally accurate world view."  She would suggest that people like the owners of poor dogs potentially named Einstein and Cheney give us all a break. Simply name your dog Bob and then wear a t-shirt that says, "Ask me about my lame-o life and clueless political affiliations." It will be just as effective, people. 

Thanks for writing!

Dear Readers: The Dog Parkist gratefully accepts and considers every query. Without you, her days at the exclusive Dog Parkist spa and resort would be meaningless and uninspired. Thank you! Thank you! And thank you!