Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Dogs’ September Expense Report

Our three dogs were only slightly less expensive this month than last. Here’s the breakdown:

The Real House Whippets’ September Expenses

  • Food/Treats:                   $257

    Play-doh Piggy by Shira

    Play-doh Piggy by Shira

  • Supplies:                             $10
  • Clothing:                           $175
  • Books/Video/Mags:       $106
  • Toys:                                     $48
  • Interceptor/Frontline       $97

Total expenses:                          $693

 

Shira and the House Whippet Packette taking a breather in upstate NY

Less expensive than Disney World: Shira and the House Whippets at a "dog amusement park." upstate NY

Food/Treats: 

We stocked up on Dogswell chicken strips, which were on a great sale for about half-price this month. It was time to reorder the big bags of dry food (our current mix is Wellness, Orijen, and Taste of the Wild). We also buy 10 cans of food a month – the dogs split 1/3rd of a can each night for a gravy.

 Clothing:

Picchu, Biski, Sesame: What do you expect us to do, get jobs? We are Real House Whippets, not working dogs.

Picchu, Biski, Sesame: "We are Real House Whippets. What do you expect us to do, get jobs?"

I feel like I’m back in Catholic school: To confess, or not? Granted, the dogs had all the coats they needed to get through the fall, winter, cruisewear season (I think they call it in the fashion industry…at least they did on “The Bold and the Beautiful”), spring monsoons and any other season that will ever come upon us again. So this month’s clothing expenditure is a total splurge. I did get a discount for ordering coats for the three together, but admit it was still a lot more practical to splurge when we just had the one dog!

A dog who insists on riding shotgun, from the back seat: Priceless

A dog (Sesame) who insists on riding shotgun, from the back seat: Priceless

This month’s lesson: I might have splurged on unnecessary clothing, but… since I’m out walking the dogs half the day, I don’t pay for a gym membership anymore, so really it works out. We work out, all together.

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More Cow Pajamas!

 

Sesame dons the communal dog pajamas

Snuggly Whippet: Sesame dons cow-print dog pajamas by Decotogs

If you want to see a grown, outdoorsy man melt, put a dog in cow-print pajamas.

I am the midwesterner and Bob is third-generation Manhattan, but somehow he is the one in love with our dogs’ cow pajamas.

He has little to say on the topic of dog clothes, except, “More cow pajamas!”

He is the Christopher Walken to our dogs’ Will Ferrell (watch the classic SNL skit “More Cowbell!” here).

Bob walking our whippet in cow pajamas, trying to blend into Northern Michigan

Passing for normal in Michigan: Bob walks C-Biscuit in her cow pajamas

When we got a second whippet, we decided we had to go minimalist on the dog clothing. I was deciding on the basics for a dog’s wardrobe: raincoat, fleece, winter coat.

Bob added, “And cow pajamas!”

C-Biscuit wears her pajamas very rarely, such as when we visited my dad in northern Michigan and the thermostat was set just high enough so you couldn’t see your breath. 

Yet, Bob insists they are a dog wardrobe essential. He has practically been pestering me to order cow pajamas for Sesame and Picchu. His idea for halloween? All three whippets in cow pajamas!

I wouldn’t deny him, except – horror – Decotogs, the Missouri company that makes the dog pajamas, doesn’t have the cow print anymore! All we can do is wait, and hope that there will be… more cow pajamas!

Bob admiring Sesame in the cow pajamas

Sesame: "I am a show dog, not a barnyard animal."

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Sighthounds Don’t Sit

 

Fact, or Fiction? The Simpsons' greyhound sits

The Simpsons' greyhound sits: Fact, or Fiction?

The main problem we’ve had with dog training is that so much of it starts with “Sit.”

  • Want your dog to learn “stay”? Have them sit. 
  • Want your dog to be calm at the door? “Sit.” 
  • Teaching your dog to pause before crossing the street? “Sit.”
C-Biscuit crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

C-Biscuit (top left) crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

“Sit” is so easy for most dogs, it was taught on the first day of C-Biscuit’s obedience class. All of the fluffy puppies threw their behinds on the floor (Comfy!) while our sleek whippet stood and looked at us confused. When we enticed her by moving a treat over her head so she had to scrunch down to get it, she just moved away from us – Get that thing out of my face, you crazy people!

Even the very experienced trainer had no luck getting Biski’s athletic bottom onto the hard gymnasium floor. Her diagnosis? “That’s okay. Sighthounds don’t sit.”

Her recommendation was to use “lie down” instead. That makes much more sense for low-fat sighthounds, who do lie down naturally. Of course, they lie down on something padded, not a bare floor. The trainer advised us to bring a towel or mat to class.

Want your sighthound to settle? Better bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer on Giant Ledge.)

Got whippet? Bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer atop Giant Ledge.)

The next week, while all of the other puppies sat eagerly on command, Bob and I rolled out Biski’s giraffe-print dog cushion for her to recline on. This is more like it, Biski thought as she lay down. The other dogs’ owners glanced over at us with disdain, Spoiled yuppy puppy! Hadn’t they heard? Sighthounds don’t sit!

“Lie down” is not nearly as versatile as “sit.” Because of the padding issue, it’ll work on the living room rug, but not next to my desk (wood floor), at the front door (wood floor), in the kitchen (ceramic tiles), on the street (please…), etc.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

So we use “lie down” when we can, to settle the dogs and teach them patience, for example, but more or less we’ve just moved on without it.

Biski did eventually start sitting, once she saw it as “lying down half-way and getting the treat even sooner.” Our other two whippets? Forget it. But I find they will “stay” and “wait” while standing. That’s good enough.

As long as you’re communicating with your dogs, they know what’s expected and are under control, there’s no reason to get stuck on “Sit.” 

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Pack Mentality, and Problems

When we wanted to get a third dog, the breeder did warn us that a third “changes the dynamic – they become more of a pack.” We looked at little Picchu blinking her big, brown, homeless eyes at us and thought, “Pack problems? Naaahhh.”

Bob, Shira and the NYC Whippet Packette: Well-behaved, except when not

Bob, Shira and the NYC Whippet Packette: Well-behaved, except when not

Sure enough, with just C-Biscuit and Picchu, all was well. Biski has always been shy on the street, Picchu is much more social. We enjoyed going up to other dogs for a change, because Picchu made tons of friends. Even when a new dog lunges at Picchu and barks in her face – something that sends Biski flying backwards into our legs – she ignores it, sniffs, and miraculously the other dog turns friendly. Until we added Sesame.

Sesame, C-Biscuit and Picchu

Sesame, C-Biscuit and Picchu: the House Whippets hit the streets of Manhattan

Our boy Sesame isn’t the problem, exactly, because he’s the shyest of them all, and completely well-mannered. The problem is a pack mentality. Last week I came home and told Bob I’m done walking all three together. They’re too much of a handful, causing too many scenes.

Our social little Picchu is, unwittingly, the instigator. She sees another dog and thinks, “Playmate!” She perks up or jumps, or sometimes barks out of excitement, which Sesame reads as, “The pack is under attack!” Seemingly out of nowhere he lunges and WOOF-WOOFs. He’s not as delicate a little whippet as the girls, and his bark means business. That sets off Picchu, who goes from “I want to meet you!” to “I want to eat you!”

Shira and the NYC House Whippets on a field trip to Woodstock

Shira and the NYC House Whippets on a field trip to Woodstock

Even that would be manageable if it weren’t for wallflower Biski springing to life. Whereas alone she would avoid conflict at all costs, with Picchu and Sesame out front, she’s happy to provide back-up: rrrRRROOUROOUROOU!

Three well-behaved whippets turn into a barking, snarling, three-whip-power lunging machine, while other dog owners scurry away and I become that woman who doesn’t have any control over her rude dogs. I have been frustrated at those people for years – Control your dog! – so I know exactly how bad this is.

Bob and the Whippet Packette: Three is a handful, but not too many

Bob and the Whippet Packette: Three is a handful, but not too many

Bob and I started to anticipate trouble, took the dogs to the curb, and stood body blocking them from a passing dog. This worked – they wouldn’t bark or lunge – but you wouldn’t believe how bad some dog owners are at reading body language that unquestionably says, “Stay away. Our dogs do not want to say hi.” Several times, they let pooches on illegally long leashes prance right up to our Packette, setting them off. Then, of course, we’re the bad guys.

FF_cover09web200_306_However, no cause for alarm. I ordered the booklet Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog from trainer Patricia McConnell. We love her training resources, and have several of her books and videos. She says that leash-lunging is a very common problem and that it is not difficult to solve.

Our first training exercise is to work with each dog individually on the “watch” command, so the dogs look at us rather than an approaching dog. That means no more group walks for a while. But it’ll be worth it once our pack is back under control. Hopefully in time to model their matching fall outerwear.

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Snuggle Season

The weather got chilly yesterday – snuggle season has arrived! And heat-seeking whippets really know how to work it. 

C-Biscuit wraps herself in the season's finest.

C-Biscuit wraps herself in the season's finest.

 

"The world is my fleece-lined oyster."

C-Biscuit trying on her Halloween costume: dog pearl in oyster.

 When I first got a dog, I thought, “Dogs don’t belong on the bed.” Hahaha! I’d never imagined dog pajamas, either. How quickly our values crumble…

Bob & Biski: "Wake us when breakfast is ready."

Bob & Biski: "Wake us when breakfast is ready."

 

Gracie, the season's first guest snuggler, and Picchu

Gracie, the season's first guest snuggler, and Picchu

 

Picchu: "My bum is cold." Biski: "Mine too. They just don't make these pita beds like they used to."

Picchu: "My bum is cold." Biski: "Mine too. They just don't make these pita beds like they used to."

 

Sesame: "Huddle together, girls, we'll get through the cold season together."

Sesame: "Huddle together, girls, we'll get through the cold season together."

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Dog Dreams

 

Dreaming dogs: Squirrels on their minds?

Dreaming dogs: Squirrels on their minds?

People are always saying about a dreaming dog, “Chasing squirrels!” 

But they’re wrong.

I know this because research has shown that dog sleep (and brain structure) is similar to ours. If dogs only dreamt about chasing squirrels, it would mean I was spending every REM session tunneling through warm cinnamon rolls and German chocolate cupcakes like the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Picchu processing the afternoon's hike

Picchu processing the afternoon's hike

Unfortunately, I don’t only dream of bakeries – just sometimes, and usually I’m being good and not eating anything (yes, I wake up screaming, You Idiot!). 

Dreams are mental workouts. Sure, dogs’ lives aren’t as complicated as ours, but there’s no reason to think they’re so simplistic, either. Surely even house whippets have something on their minds besides high-speed chases.

Picchu and Biski sniffing out each other's dreams

Picchu and Biski sniffing out each other's dreams

C-Biscuit has a peculiar way of dreaming in which she seems to be playing two roles. She alternates between a high-pitched whimper and then a low growl. Maybe she’s showing the effects of having been an only dog for a year before we got Picchu and Sesame.

Researchers at MIT determined that rats taught to run through a maze during the day then dreamed about it at night. So there might be some squirrel chasing in dog dreams, just as I do get ahold of a nocturnal Krispy Kreme now and then. 

Sesame: "Do not underestimate a dog's dreaming. We are philosophic, calculating creatures."

Sesame: "Do not underestimate a dog's dreaming. We are philosophic, calculating creatures."

But aren’t dreams usually symbolic? Nothing like a bakery visit or squirrel chase. The other night, I dreamed I was on my way to my sister’s wedding but didn’t have any shoes on. …could the whippets have anxiety dreams about being the only dogs in Central Park not wearing winter boots?

This work raises questions about long-held assumptions about animals’ thought processes. Only a handful of species — among them chimps and dolphins — were thought to have any ability at all to recall and evaluate detailed sequences of events after they occurred. Matthew Wilson of MIT’s Institute for Learning and Memory points out that ‘this work demonstrates that animals are capable of re-evaluating their experiences when they are not in the midst of them.’    – MIT research on rat dreams published in Neuron Dec. 19, 2001

The real stuff dog dreams are made of: The whippets might map their field in their brains next time they nap, say MIT scientists

The real stuff dog dreams are made of: The whippets might map this field in their brains next time they nap, say MIT scientists

An ABC News reporter quipped about the rat dream research, “Some rats can’t ever escape the rat race, even when sound asleep.”

We seem determined to make light of animal dreams even though, let’s face it, don’t dogs seem more highly evolved than we are? Unlike everyone else in the animal kingdom (except house cats), they have figured out how to get everything they need without working for it. While we, complex schemers and dreamers that we are, can only dream on.

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