Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Dog Parkist: Whose the Boss?

Q: I have two dogs and lately they have started ganging up on me. Every day, they start agitating earlier and earlier for their dinners. I feed them in order to get some peace and quiet until it is cool enough outside to go to Dog Park. But since they have eaten earlier, they start circling in anticipation of Dog Park earlier, too! I feel ganged up on. I can't change the weather, and it's not good for them to go out in the heat. Who's the boss here? How do I show them it's me?
—Wanna B. Da Top Dog

A: Wanna B., my dear, I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but if you have to ask who the boss is, it's not you. That said, because you are dealing with dogs and not say, cats, fish, or small children—creatures that don't care about your feelings or your place in the hierarchy—, for the sake of your dogs, you need to at least pretend to be the boss. That's how packs work. 

Now most people, when faced with this type of dilemma, make the mistake  of falling back on the workplace model of bossing. This will not work. Your dogs will not respond well to yelling, bullying, withholding raises, favoring the suck-ups and the well-endowed, imposing ridiculous deadlines, or requiring them to attend interminable staff meetings about fill-in-the-blank harassment. They will turn moody and unproductive, wasting countless hours surfing the Net and posting on X-Files chat rooms. 

No, what you need to do, Wanna, is think and act like the alpha in the pack. Strategies are below in the order of effectiveness.  
  1. acting as if you can't see or hear your dogs (Just imagine that you are rolling in poo and your dogs, in a neat switcheroo, are calling "Here! Come here! Stop that! Wrong!" Then turn up the "Lalalalalala" noise in your head and keep doing what you are doing.) 
  2. feigning sleep or actually napping (Nothing puts a kibosh on dog swarming than seeing you recumbent on the couch or bed. Your dogs' disappointment as they automatically fling themselves down at the foot of the bed will be palpable. Savor it. Note: It helps if you don't move for the next two hours.) 
  3. holding the newspaper or magazine you are trying to read at exactly the right angle to prevent the dogs from making eye contact from you. (After ten minutes of staring at the back page of your favorite publication, the dogs will forget what they ever saw in you.) Note: Don't try this with food! It will send entirely the wrong message.
  4. sorting dirty laundry (As with children, nothing clears a room like the starting of an odious task. Upside: Clean socks.)
  5. taking them outside (Let the weather speak for you. Stand around and get bitten by mosquitos for ten minutes. Then throw up your hands and say, "See? It's too hot." Go back inside and administer treats. Then start at the top of the list.)
Good luck, and thanks for writing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Word of Mouth: Pet Sitters

Good morning, everyone. At Dog Park yesterday I met a fellow named Bruce and his Rat Terrier Marley—both are Dean and Bindi's neighbors. Bruce asked me if, as a blogger of all things Dog Park, I could recommend a good groomer in central Austin. I could not. My dogs are self-grooming and only occasionally get soaped and sprayed off in the yard. Instead I could only offer half-remembered recommendations and anecdotes about local groomers.

So it occurred to me that one practical application of this blog would be to list dog-related services and products that have been consistently and highly recommended by fellow Parkers. Since you all were so kind yesterday to provide recommendations of pet sitters for my friend, I thought I'd share with you the list that I compiled for him. After all, there's no such thing as too much information.

The first two pet sitters on the list below were recommended by more than one Parker. The others appear in no particular order, but all were spoken of highly. 
  1. Diane Migliazzo, 512 608 8858,,,
  2. Lisa Anderson, 512-467-9531
  3. Catherine Joyce, 512-786-3802 (c),
  4. Roberta Maleski, Amore Always Petsitting
  5. Katie Mae Hubbard, 512-366-0328
  6. Kristen, 
  7. Chricel (pronounced Kris-sell) Portela, 512-292-3250
  8. Kelly's Pet Care, 512-300-7387,
  9. Content Love Knowles, Harlequin Pet Services, 512-442-7657 (o), 512-945-9816 (c)
  10. Donna Oliver, 512-627-0880

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Helping Hand

Hi, all. I need to ask you those of you who are not on the Dog Park listserv to check your Rolodexes for the names of reliable, conscientious pet-sitters who could help out fellow Parker, Jon, and his dog Elliott. 

Some of you may remember Jon and Elliott. Jon used to park his green Toyota truck under the pecan trees behind the buildings in the north parking lot. He'd bring his coffee and sit in the shade to study city architectural code or the New York Times. Elliott is his old Lab who, since having neck surgery a few years ago, has been shaky on his legs. (To help stabilize him and make him easier to heft into the truck, Jon has taken to dressing Elliott in an orange child's life vest.) Jon needs to go out of town in a couple of weeks, and Elliott requires some care—more than I can give in a house with slippery floors and two rambunctious dogs. If you know of anybody, please let me know in a comment or in an e-mail to

P.S. Jon is responsible, in a way, for the name of this blog. A few years ago, Jon took offense at the "no parking" signs when they first appeared—because he always parked there. He used an Exacto knife and some black electrician's tape to alter the sign. (For the photo above, I used markers and construction paper for a distinctly more amateurish effect.) One night, I just happened to remember his little sign prank and thought it was a good name for a blog. Thanks, Jon. And thanks to everybody who reads. 

Redheads in Snaps and Video

Again, no explanation is necessary. Park redheads run from Brenda Starr hues to strawberry blondes. Amazingly, not one is named Rusty.






Now, a video of two more favorite redheads, Scout and Patton, facing off at the Park:

Photos by Johnny, available at Shutterfly.  Video by Amy, available at YouTube.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sweet Girl Needs Good Home

Isn't she cute? (The dog, not the child. Although the child is undeniably adorable, she is a tremendous talker.)  She (again, the dog, not the child) could be yours. 

The dog is currently in Oklahoma with my best friend, Colleen, who was also the finder and sponsor of our Muzzy. Every year Colleen takes her daughters to the family ranch in north central OK to get away from the Texas heat and the frustrations of city life. Almost without fail, stray animals show up and don't leave. Why would they? They get oatmeal and medical care and the ministrations of two animal-loving children. 

This sweet dog, tentatively called Ladybird, showed up shortly after July 4th. She had a collar and a cut paw but no tags and no chip. She is young and of the submissive school, going belly-up for children and other dogs. She has clearly been well trained in the art of hunting, as she elegantly and silently points at small animals, such as rabbits. She has been to the vet. All her shots and preventatives are now up-to-date, and her paw is healing nicely.

If  you would like to learn more about Ladybird, click here to read an entry on Colleen's blog Cranky Girls' Farm. Also, Ladybird will be coming to Austin in early August. I've offered to keep her one or two nights while she awaits an appointment at the Austin Humane Society. If you would like to meet her, please let me know. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Dog Abroad

As you know, I enjoy watching the sky over Dog Park. On Saturday, there were actually a few clouds in the east. Tinted a deep azure, they looked like cotton balls dipped in a child's finger painting. But there was another quality to the sky, perhaps created by dust in the air, the dissipating heat, or the angle of the just setting sun. It had a burnished look that reminded me of old paintings your might see in museums. I kicked myself for not having brought my camera. 

My next thought was of the first time I traveled abroad. I was twenty and spending half the summer in London. One day, I was on my way to the National Gallery for a school assignment. I was walking along Trafalgar Square, a broad, flat concrete plain smothered with pigeons, tourists, and Londoners eating sack lunches. The sky was overcast. A young, thin African man asked me to sign a petition against apartheid. The streets roared with red buses and small cars. Then the bells of St. Martin in the Fields church chimed, and I had this exact thought: No one in the entire world knows where I am. It was like a moment in a Virginia Woolf novel. I'll never forget the thrill of being so completely alone in a crowded, far away place. 

Of course, it's almost impossible to have that feeling anymore in age of Twitter, cell phones, and GPS. And also, nearly 25 years later, anyone who knows me knows exactly where I am at the end of the day—chaperoning my girls at Dog Park. But as I watched Saturday's sky fade from blue to black, I was overcome with a terrible yearning to be in another time and place, to be released from the heat and the dust of Dog Park, to find myself, if only for a moment, once again strolling the streets of London on my way to the Underground, a sweater slung around my neck, and my passport in my pocket.

In the '90s, my boyfriend-then-husband and I went to Europe pretty regularly. The trips were often ambitious; I'd take leave of absence from work in order to live in Rome for a month or visit the south of France or stay with his friends in Berlin or drive to the islands off the coast of Croatia. Then, after we adopted Roma, I lost my taste for the summertime meanderings. After a week abroad, all the charm of dusty ruins, untranslated voices, and the wah-wah of police sirens was simply lost on me. I missed my dog and the comfort of our day-to-day routine, the meditative quality of our walks. Shortly after Roma showed up, we had to stop traveling anyway. Instead we spent summers trying to find rental houses that would accept pets in the increasingly provincial towns where my husband managed to work teaching Latin. I did not miss the expense and chaos of foreign travel. My ex said nothing, but I know that he was appalled by my preference for Roma the dog over Roma the Eternal City. Years later my passport quietly expires in a drawer while our travels take us only as far as Dog Park every night. See you there. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Black & Whites

No explanation is necessary.

Sidda Lee



Old Man Tony



All photos were shot by Johnny, who took a dog-inspired spill this week. Johnny, if you read this, let a Dog Park buddy (of the human variety) know that you and your knees are okay. Also, Diane (Frankie) has set up a Shutterfly account with hundreds of Johnny's Park photos. If you would like access to the account—to add or download photos of your favorite mutts—just let me know by sending a comment (click below) to this blog or an e-mail directly to me at