Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Dogs’ August Expense Report

 

Play-doh Piggy by Shira

Play-doh Piggy by Shira

To help other people budget realistically, I’ve decided to include a monthly report on how much the three house whippets cost. Do I really want to publish details of our finances? No, but it’s nothing I haven’t done before, and if it helps someone else with their dog budgeting or decision-making, it’s worth it.

The Real House Whippets’ August Expenses: $762

  • Food/Treats:          $61
  • Supplies:                 $25
  • Vet:                          $85
  • Clothing:               $523
  • Books:                      $68

Total expenses:                $762

Biski and Picchu say, "Wake us when the budgeting is over."

Biski and Picchu say, "Wake us when the budgeting is over."

And now for the notes:

Clothing:

Unusually high: We’ve added both Picchu and Sesame to the family this spring/summer, so we needed to buy them each a fall sweater ($104 for the two) and warm winter coat ($344 for the two). I got both on sale by ordering in August. Sesame also didn’t have a raincoat ($75). Thank goodness whippets are not children and will not be growing out of their wardrobes.

 

Sesame: "Whom do I see about an empty food dish?"

Sesame: "Whom do I see about an empty food dish?"

Food:

Unusually low: Food and treats expense is lower than usual because I had bought two 30-pound bags of food at the end of July. Don’t be fooled: The House Whippets eat, really they do.

Vet:

Unexpected: Dealing with Picchu’s microchip that is practically sticking out of her shoulder. A 5-minute vet visit in Manhattan (“Yes, that microchip has migrated…”) still costs $85. HomeAgain, the microchip company, is supposed to reimburse for at least part of this microchip fiasco. To be continued…

This month’s lesson: New dogs cost a lot up-front, so be sure to budget (as we did, thank goodness) for extra vet bills, start-up supplies, and clothing if needed (if the dog is as thin as a house whippet, clothing is definitely needed!).

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In Pet Adoptions, Photos Matter

This photogenic whippet girl was adopted from WRAP in a week

This photogenic whippet girl was adopted from Whippet Rescue in a week

I look at the Whippet Rescue and Placement website every week. Having three already in a two-room apartment, I’m not looking to add to the family, I just enjoy meeting more whippets.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed that beauty matters in how quickly the foster dogs are adopted, and so do the photographs. Which is sad, because it reminds me of that heartbreaking scene in Cider House Rules when all the orphans know that the adopting couple looking them over will choose the prettiest little girl, and they do.

This week a dog that could be a sister of C-Biscuit, Picchu and Sesame was adopted from WRAP after only a week or two. To my eye, she was beautiful – and showcasing her outside in front of lovely flowers made her even more appealing.

The first photo we saw of Picchu, in whippet foster care

The first photo we saw of Picchu, in whippet foster care

Well-taken photographs of any dog can surely help their case in attracting new owners. 

I especially understand this because the first photo we saw of our little Machu Picchu was from her WRAP foster home, and neither Bob nor I felt particularly interested in her. We almost didn’t go meet her – I find that painfully unbelievable now.  As we often wonder, Who could turn down our little Picchu?

 

Picchu (center), as we see her every day in our whippet packette

Our treasured Picchu (center), as we see her every day in our whippet packette

As a lay person, I can offer these tips to rescuers showcasing dogs for adoption. Photos are all from whippets currently available from Whippet Rescue:

An affectionate dog is an appealing dog (This is Caesar, available in )

An affectionate dog is an appealing dog (This whippet is Caesar, available in Colorado)

 

A Sears-like portrait, with a blanket for a background and a little work posing, showcases a dog

A Sears-like portrait, with a blanket for a background and a little work posing, showcases a dog (This whippet is Devon, available in Colorado)

 

At a minimum, make sure pictures are in focus (This is Goldie, available in

At a minimum, pictures should be in focus (This whippet is Goldie, available in South Carolina)

 

An outdoor, full-body shot works well (This is Peaches,

An outdoor, full-body shot works well (This whippet is Peaches, available in South Carolina)

 

A dog looking comfy and snuggly lets a potential adopter imagine them relaxing at their own home (This is Luke,

A dog looking comfy and snuggly lets a potential adopter imagine them relaxing at their own home (This whippet is Luke, available in Colorado)

Because what grabs one family’s attention might not grab another’s, including several photos is always better than a single shot. 

To happy, loving homes for all of the WRAP whippets and other rescue dogs and cats!

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Which Dogs are Sighthounds?

bark cover irish wolfhoundThe cover dog for the September/October Bark magazine is an Irish Wolfhound, which I was surprised to learn is a relative of the whippet! 

I’m awful at recognizing dog breeds, as I admitted in the article, “What Kind of Dog is That?” but figure I should at least attempt to learn our whippets’ sighthound relatives. My study sheet:

Greyhound, Whippet and IG (photo from Bring Fido)

Greyhound, Whippet and IG (photo from Bring Fido)

First up, for us the no-brainers:

 

Then, there are what I think of as the “Greyhounds with Hair:” 

  • Saluki, like a greyhound with fringe

    Saluki, like a greyhound with fringe

    Afghan (We had one of these when I was growing up. Oh my, what a handful! I can still picture my mom trying to drive with the Afghan sitting on her lap.)

  • Borzoi
  • Saluki  Not as fast as a greyhound, but has more endurance (and a lot more ear hair)
Introducing Olive! A Scottish Deerhound puppy owned by C.Square

Introducing Olive! A Scottish Deerhound puppy owned by C.Square

At the top of the food chain, as their names suggest, are the sighthounds with genuine, top of the line, built-in fur coats, such that Bob refers to one living across the street from us as “Chewbacca:

There are also foreign greyhounds, ostensibly their own breeds, but not recognized by the American Kennel Club:

  • Polish Greyhound (Chart Polski) – I had never heard of this until looking at Wikipedia today
  • Mari, the Galgo of Chilly Dogs  (photo by Suzanne Bird of Urban Dog Photog)

    Mari, the Galgo of Chilly Dogs (photo by Suzanne Bird of Urban Dog Photog)

    Spanish Greyhound (Galgo) – I know this one because the owner of Chilly Dogs coat company in Canada has a Galgo! 

Wikipedia lists four sighthounds I’ve never heard of, probably because nobody can pronounce them: Azawakh, Hortaya, Magyar Agar, Slughi. Two hounds I have heard of they don’t list as sighthounds but are in the AKC, so we’ll take them into the family tree:

  • A Pharaoh Hound: If I saw this at the dogrun, I'd probably think "Doberman." I really do need to spend some time in the dog house!

    Pharaoh Hound: If I saw this, I'd probably think "Doberman." I really do need to spend some time in the dog house!

     Ibizan Hound

     

     

  • Pharaoh Hound

 

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Squirrels in Central Park Displaced

 

Scrat, the squirrel superhero of "Ice Age"

Scrat, the squirrel superhero of "Ice Age"

Our three whippets’ favorite part of living in New York is nearby Central Park, and the best thing in the park are the squirrels.

They are everywhere, obsessively amassing acorns like our squirrel superhero “Scrat” and also scurrying in and out of trash cans like the junk-food eating wildlife in the movie “Over the Hedge.” Once, a squirrel begging from my friend Chad got impatient and made off with an entire half of his bagel with cream cheese.  

So it is with a heavy heart that we saw dozens of squirrels lose their homes last week as 80 mile-per-hour winds ripped briefly through a corridor of Riverside and Central Parks and brought down hundreds of trees/squirrel apartment buildings.

Bob, my sister Barbara and our whippets touring the storm damage in Central Park

Bob, my sister Barbara and our whippets touring the storm damage in Central Park

The damage looks like the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado, with trees toppled at their roots and branches sheared off by the ton. An estimated 500 trees are down, several of them near 100 years old. 

Bob, an arborist, used to work in Central Park and this enormous Red Oak was one of his favorite trees. We took some acorns to carry on the "bloodline."

Bob, an arborist, used to work in Central Park and this enormous Red Oak was one of his favorite trees. We took some acorns to carry on the "bloodline."

The dogs were nearly as confused as the squirrels to see tree tops at ground level. We watched squirrels scampering through fallen trees, obviously saying to themselves, “Now, I know my nest was right here in this limb!” 

We were proud of C-Biscuit, Machu Picchu and Sesame for not trying to take advantage of the situation and squirrel-loot. (Being on leashes also helped them “make good choices,” as my sister Barbara tells her first-grade class.)

Bob, Shira, and the whippets with storm-shredded trees in Central Park

Bob, Shira, and the whippets with storm-shredded trees in Central Park

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Dog Bookshops

Since getting three whippets, I’ve discovered two wonderful bookstores for dog books, Dog Lovers Bookshop and Dogtales. (Those are in addition to using the New York Public Library, always my first stop!) They both reside online, so are accessible to everyone. 

Bob with our three whippets, C-Biscuit, Sesame and Machu Picchu

Bob with our three whippets, Machu Picchu, Sesame and C-Biscuit, in Central Park

I learned about Dogtales last year when I was searching for an out-of-print dog training book. I ordered the book, paid for it, and soon got an e-mail from Dogtales: “Thank you for your order of this book. Upon pulling it from the shelf, I noticed that there is highlighting in one section – a fact that I did not notice when listing it. I do not sell books with highlighting, so am sending it to you free of charge, refunding all charges.” Including the shipping. 

One of the books I ordered on dog handling happens to have whippets on the cover!

One of the books I ordered on dog handling happens to have whippets on the cover!

I wrote back saying thanks, but I didn’t mind some highlighting and where could I send a check? To which Mary at Dogtales replied, “Thanks for being so great about it.  There is no need to send a check.   Please just enjoy the book.” Dogtales proved that an online retailer can be just as wonderful as a local merchant, and deserves a loyal following.

This week I also ordered from Dog Lovers Bookshop in New York City and was equally impressed. I ordered two used copies of books on beginning dog showing, and asked if they had “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson. After a couple e-mails back and forth about Donaldson’s books, Margot Rosenberg from Dog Lovers Bookshop called me to discuss differences between two of her books and to decide which was the one I wanted.

Our order from Dog Lovers Bookstore, hand-wrapped and including a dog folk-art card

Our order from Dog Lovers Bookshop, hand-wrapped and including a dog folk-art card

Talk about personal service! In exchange for that, I didn’t at all mind paying full-price for the new copy of “The Culture Clash,” and will surely enjoy shopping there again. Our order arrived with each book lovingly double-wrapped in recycled plain paper and pages from The New York Times, and included a dog art greeting card. How nice!

It would be heaven to be able to stop into a dog bookstore and shop in person – but finding the right dog bookshops online is the next best thing.

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Fashion Hounds: The Well-Dressed Dog

Poncho and C-Biscuit: Some dogs have coats naturally, others need to outsource

Poncho and C-Biscuit in Northern Michigan: Some dogs have coats naturally, others need to outsource

Let’s be clear: Whippets – and a few other select breeds – need clothing. Just last night, as the temperature dipped below 70 degrees and we tried to lounge outside, C-Biscuit stood at the screen door as if to cry, “Let me in! Let me in!”

But buying whippetwear, admittedly, goes beyond the need for protection from the elements. I’m no Paris Hilton, so would never use my hounds as fashion accessories (I mean, not really…), or put fashion accessories on them (definitely not). And yet, there are certain reasons I do enjoy not only dressing them, but dressing them well:

C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu, fashion hounds

C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu, fashion hounds (Sweaters handmade by Greyt Sweaters)

  • They’re busty! Yes, I have become one of those awful parents who pin their secret, lost hopes and desires on their children: At last, I can loudly complain, “It is so hard to find clothes to fit such a big chest and such a narrow waist!” 
  • James Andrew of "What is James Wearing?" with his whippets, Rupert and Nigel

    The Dogs Have No Clothes: James Andrew of "What is James Wearing?" with his whippets, Rupert and Nigel

    They can compete for best-dressed: I’ve never had much interest in fashion, and could never, ever be the best-dressed New Yorker, or even the best-dressed in my building…or even on my floor. But with the dogs, a little effort and expense goes a very long way towards being the most fashionable hounds in town!

  • No malls, No dressing rooms: For the deliciously-shaped sighthound, there is no shopping off-the-rack. Even in Manhattan, the dog boutiques do not stock pret-a-porter whippetwear. The best stuff is all online! All we need is a measuring tape and the Internet, and – fetch! – perfectly-fitting clothes come to us. 
Whippets love new clothing, really they do

Whippets love new clothing, really they do

  • No growing up, growing out, or growing fat: Whippets don’t have the fat gene, so don’t need fat jeans and skinny jeans. If it fits today, it’ll fit in 15 years. So we can invest in nicer clothing, made to last.
All dressed up and ready to go out! (Winter coat by Blue Willow Dog Coats)

All dressed up and ready to go out! (Winter coat by Blue Willow Dog Coats)

  • C-Biscuit in her Chilly Dogs raincoat

    City Slicker: C-Biscuit in her Chilly Dogs raincoat

    Matching shoes not required: I would dress better if I didn’t have to wear nice shoes too. And walk in them, I mean. With the dogs, it’s BYOF – bring your own footwear! (Well, there are the winter boots…and granted Biski has a black-and-leopard print winter coat and sporty red boots, hm…)

  • Support small business: Custom-made clothes for humans are too expensive – and I wouldn’t even know where to go to get them, or why – but bespoke dogwear actually costs the same or less than ready-made, and the money goes to small businesses in a niche of a struggling American industry. So, support the economy, dress your dogs!

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Hunting with Dogs (or not)

 

C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu at Lake Minnewaska: Release the Hounds!

C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu at Lake Minnewaska: Release the Hounds!

Sure, two of our whippets chase squirrels as if they’re prepared to live off the land. The third, Sesame, doesn’t seem to see squirrels but will always break ranks to snap his jaws on a fly.

Still, recent events leave me wondering if our dogs have any true, wolfy hunting instincts.

First, there are the snake encounters. Or rather, I encounter them. The dogs, apparently, do not see them, sense them, or smell them.

There's a reason I hike in back: Bob, Biski and Picchu supposedly clear the trail of wildlife

There's a reason I hike in back: Bob, Biski and Picchu supposedly clear the trail of wildlife

The first one we crossed was on a day hike this Spring in Harriman. Bob, Biski and Picchu hiked merrily ahead while I was suddenly confronted with a snake splayed across the trail. After I sent Bob back to investigate (and I’m skipping over my hysterics between the sighting and the investigating), he reported, “Well, I see why it wasn’t moving off the trail: It was busy eating a frog. Wow, I’m surprised the dogs missed that.”

Yeah, after all, why are we hiking with dogs, as a woodsy fashion accessory? No, to warn me of snakes! What kind of sighthounds are these? After all, the dogs love chasing tail, and what is a snake but all tail?

Hiking a half-mile with me perched on his back after the snake sighting should have taught Bob to look out for snakes himself if he had to. But I guess it didn’t. Because a couple weeks later, hiking around Lake Minnewaska, Bob decided we would take a short-cut. As we bush-whacked, again Bob, Biski and Picchu stepped right over what I was left to leap over announce as a “SNAKE!”

And I don’t mean a garter snake. This was the biggest snake I’ve seen since my fifth-grade class kept a 4-foot-long boa constrictor as a pet. (Alas, that did not desensitize me.)

“It’s HUGE!” I squirmed to Bob. “It’s a huge black snake! How could ALL of you miss that?!”

He backtracked to the scene of the snake, saying, “I’ve got to see this.” Clearly he was expecting to tell me it was only a root. He took a good look, then could only say, “It’s not black. It’s gray.”

Fun at dog day camp! "We are House Whippets, not Hunting Dogs!"

Fun at dog day camp! "We are House Whippets, not Hunting Dogs!"

So maybe I needed a greyhound to spot it?

But fine. Moving on to our latest camping trip. At the trail head, I caught Sesame jerking his head up and down – snout to dirt, snout in the air – repeatedly. “No!” I called to him, hoping he wouldn’t swallow whatever it was he was hunting. Then I saw what was going on: A little frog was hopping along, and Sesame was merely watching it, following along, up-down, up-down. That was fine with me, except aren’t dogs supposed to, you know, get it?

Our sighthounds are extremely good at spotting lunch, if it's packaged and ready to serve

Our sighthounds are extremely good at spotting lunch... if it's packaged and ready to serve

At the campsite we had another hunting scare. Sesame darted across the site, then I saw him pounce and grab something in his mouth. “Ohmygod, Sesame’s got something!” I yelled to Bob.

“DROP IT!” Bob told Sesame, while I went over to inspect the victim, which I thought might be one of those porcupines that John Burroughs writes about crawling all over the Catskills.

“Oh,” I told Bob before he arrived at the, shall we still call it, scene of the crime. “Never mind. It’s just, uh, a tennis ball.”

“A tennis ball? Where did he find that up here?”

If Bob wants to rough it, that’s fine. But why should the children suffer? “I brought it,” I told him. 

It wasn’t until the next day that he saw Sesame attacking a miniature bull, its eyes wide and horns shaking as Sesame whipped it around.  “I can’t believe you hauled that up the mountain,” Bob said. (“It doesn’t weigh anything,” I explained. “And Picchu was using it as a pillow.” So there.)

If the whippets aren’t going to scout and hunt for us, I figure we will have to do it for them. 

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