Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grub Song and September Honeysuckle

It's been an eventful month for us, so it's been awhile since I've done a questions and observations post. There have been crises within my family, health wise and otherwise, the deaths of beloved animal companions, a wedding speeding to fruition that has been in the works for three years, and on and on. Sort of like life, I suppose. And life is good. I've written in the past about honeysuckle and the languid, sensual feelings in brings in me in summer. But Texas gets hot in summer, and often dry. We've had a bit of rain this summer, which ended today, thankfully, and the heat, though some records were broken here,  not nearly as record breaking as last summer. And last week I was walking with Abigail in back of our property, and I noticed the heavy sensuality of that smell. I looked to the fences, and here, mid-September, the honeysuckle bushes had developed a new set of blooms. Yes, September has been a hard month in many ways, but seeing and inhaling those lusty blossoms made it seem as if the good parts of summer would go on-even as the weather moderates.

I do have some questions, however, as is always my way here at
1. In the washroom at my office there is a cabinet where tissue is kept. There is a lone roll with a sticky note on it that says, "Do Not Use This Roll In Case We Ever Run Out." What does that mean, exactly, for the day we really do run out? Are we allowed to then use that one roll-and then what would we do the next time, since the saved roll would then be gone.

2. In recent early mornings, Abigail has left the apartment in full prey mode. She barely takes the time to do her business, she goes straight to one corner of the yard and starts digging up grub worms and eating them. As disgusting as that may be to us humans (or at least this human) she seems to enjoy it, and I would bother about it if I weren't out in the wee hours in my jammies with my dog. But she doesn't do that any other time of day. So I'm wondering if grub worms are nocturnal and only come near the surface at that time of day, or is there some kind of sonar-like whale-song, that Abigail hears that draws her to that one spot?

3. Here is one for any friends who are into physics. I am a science groupie more than a scientist, and physics has more math involved than I could grasp. But it occurred to me the other day that the famous equation devised by Einstein (E = MC2.) (Sorry, I'm not sure how to do hyper-script here.) The speed of light in this equation is said to be, if I recall, the "universal constant." Nothing can ever go as fast as the speed of light. So, if this question seems pedestrian, I apologize, but how then, can it be squared? I understand that numbers are infinite, but a 'universal constant' should be constant, No?

4. I got an iPhone 4S for my birthday. The "S" in that name stands for "Siri," the personal assistant included with the program who can remember notes, start internet searches, dial numbers, and any number of fancy things. My question is, why can't I name my own assistant? I asked Siri where she got her name, and her reply was, "That is a good question." This phone was not cheap, and I do believe I should be able to pick the name of the person who has done an internet search for me on where to dump a body, and fussed at me for cursing at her.

5. Someone I know is having an affair. Thinking about this person's behavior made me wonder something about the way society looks at people who cheat. How many stories have we all heard about the lonely, bored man who feels his wife doesn't understand him, and he uses that line to get another woman to sleep with him. She then becomes the "other woman," and in her eyes the wife is evil and wrong for not understanding and appreciating that man who is so good to the mistress, etc. Why doesn't that same approach work for a woman who is looking-or maybe not looking, to cheat? I believe I know the answer-when a woman feels she is not understood or appreciated, she tends to turn to girlfriends for a place to blow off steam and get advice about how to make the marriage better. If women used that "My husband doesn't understand me" line to catch a fling, she would still be considered wanton (not that anyone in the 21st century uses that term.) But it seems to me that there is a double standard, even with all the freedoms that the "sexual revolution" gave women when it comes to seeking comfort in an outside relationship. I don't know if that's as much a question as an observation. Feedback appreciated.

6. I do talk frequently about dogs, and cruelty to animals here. I guess it would be no surprise that I find bullfighting, dogfighting and cockfighting about as loathsome as any activities humans could devise. But I was recently reading an article about the 100th anniversary of the actor James Cagney's birth. I have loved Cagney for many years, and read his autobiography back in high school. The writer of this article quoted something that Cagney said in that book that hit me hard. Cagney was born and raised in abject poverty and violence in New York City. Some of his friends became gangsters, some died, and some went to prison. He said that when you grow up in circumstances like that and you see an opportunity to make a buck, you take it. You don't ask questions, you don't think about wrong or right. I thought of this in relation to dogfighting. It seems to me that every time I've seen people being arrested for dogfighting, or watched an Animal Police program in which dogfighting rings, or homes with dogfighting paraphernalia were found, it was in the dankest underbelly of the inner cities in places like Detroit or Houston...places so poor that the people who live in them have no hope of ever having anything better in their lives. Life is pretty cheap in those places, and while I still can't stomach the notion of fighting dogs, I believe it is because I have never experienced the lives these people live. I once read a book called "Random Family" by Andrea Nicole LeBlanc in which poverty was so ingrained in this ghetto family that they believed they actually had no choice but to become criminals, drop outs and teen aged mothers. No politician goes to those places, and neither do most of the people I know. That's why I can say I've never met a mean pit bull. I don't travel in the circles where people believe they may not feed their family if they don't make some money somehow, and therefore if their dogs aren't mean enough to win a fight, they might not eat. There are so may things about the culture of poverty that must change before anything can get better for the people or the other animals who live in those places.

7. Is education really the key? I recently saw former Florida governor Jeb Bush on a morning talk show discussing education. He talked about how to better teach the poor so that they can pull themselves out of poverty. And then he proceeded to spout all the simplistic answers that get no one anywhere toward improving the system. His blame landed squarely on teachers, and tenure and teacher's unions. I could tell by listening to him, and so many others like him, that he has no idea how to teach people out of poverty. He's probably never been to what used to be Cabrini Green in the slums of Chicago, or the 9th Ward in Houston to see just how deeply the culture of poverty goes, and how hopeless the children there become. I'm reminded of a line in a movie by Lawrence Kasdan from 1991 called Grand Canyon.  In one scene Danny Glover, one of the stars, is talking to his nephew who has been falling into gang activities. He asks the young man, "Do you want to be doing this when you're 25?" The boy says, "I ain't gon' make 25." That line was so deeply profound for me-and comes back to me when I see things like this interview with Jeb can't just walk in and perkily tell some kids that if they get an education everythi

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Bliss Here

I ride the city bus to work. On Friday's we start work early and so I take a bus that comes an hour earlier. Once in awhile there is a man who walks his dog past the bus stop. The first few times I saw them, she had one of those cones around her head. Considering that I wear my love for dogs plainly on my sleeve, anyone I see walking a dog who will allow me, I pet them. This gentleman is no different-his dog is named Chili, and she is so gregariously friendly that the first time I met her she left some scratches on my wrist because she was so eager for pets. Chili is a pit bull. It turns out that Chili and her dad live in the same apartment complex that I do. Sometimes when I take Abigail out very early, I don't bother with a leash because I know there won't be anyone around. Last week I was mistaken-Chili and her dad were also out. Chili didn't have her cone on, but she was wearing a t-shirt. I wanted to ask my neighbor how she was doing, but I was a little concerned about Abigail, who doesn't mind playing with other dogs, but like to assert her dominance first. I wasn't worried about Chili, just that Abigail's barking might wake someone up early. I was right-Chili was on leash, and Abigail did a little sniffing, and then started barking, teeth bared. I had her sit, and Chili just started wagging. Abigail barked some more, and Chili just continued to wag, let me pet her, and look confused that Abigail was being mean. If any stereotype of pit bulls was true, Abigail should have been breakfast for Chili.

Another neighbor of ours has a beautiful mixed breed dog named Shingu. I'm not sure if I'm spelling that correctly; it is Korean for "friend." Shingu's mom worked in Korea for awhile as a teacher. All they really know about her is that she is part Lab. She is a beautiful rust and black brindle, with a long muzzle, sort of like a German Shepard Dog. Shingu does not live up to her name-she is very aggressive, especially with other female dogs like Abigail. Not long ago the couple that owns Shingu had a stray adopt them. They named him "Chance." Chance is a beautiful white pit bull, and he and Shingu seem to play very well together. Our complex has a dog run, and one night recently they were in the run when Abigail and I were having our evening walk. I took her into the run to play some, and Shingu immediately began to make her unwelcome. Shingu's mom put the leash on her, and Chance and Abigail just sniffed and ran around like normal dogs. Shingu kept barking her disapproval of Abigail's presence, even while being held back with the leash by her mom. Abigail didn't have a problem at all until I reached down to pet Chance, who just looked at me sweetly and wagged his tail.

The truth is, I've never, ever met a mean pit bull. I've seen them at the local dog park, I've seen them out walking in the neighborhoods and park trails. I've heard the lies about them being "time bombs," "unpredictable," and "dangerous." I've also watched some of the "dog police" programs on Animal Planet, and seen the type of places that those type pit bulls are raised, and I don't go to those places, nor, and this is the most important part, do I travel in circles with people who mistreat dogs to make them mean enough for dog fighting. I have been horrified when I see how the females are bred, how the dogs are treated and then disposed of like so much trash. I've seen the bodies of pit bulls that have been tortured and burned and shot, and it breaks my heart because I have personally observed that a pit bull, like any other dog, raised in a loving environment, becomes a loving dog. I've also heard many, many stories recently about pits being shot by police, or imprisoned and euthanized simply because they are pit bulls-with the explanation that they were not a clear and present danger, but because of the "potential" risk they posed. On July 19, Bradley Ralko wrote in The Daily Beast about police raids in which dogs are killed. He wrote of a raid on a wrong house that turned out to be the house of the town mayor, and the mayor's two Labs were both shot, one as he ran away from the chaos of the police kicking in the door. There are also daily stories posted on Facebook of police shooting the pit bull pets of neighbors of the homes the police are going to. The article in Daily Beast told of other breeds that have been shot-all the way down to a Chihuahua who weighed only five pounds. Please remember two things-these are police officers who are armed to the teeth, wearing vests and long sleeves and boots. The idea that the family pet posed any real threat other than a possible distraction from the job at hand, is a tad unbelievable. But also remember that humans domesticated the wolf that became the dog we now know in part because they could "guard the camp." In return, the dogs got fed, and had a safer place to raise their young-it was an evolutionary win-win. They have been our 'best friends' ever since-until now. We have made them in the image we wished, and then turned and blamed them for being so compliant. The media bear some blame in all of this-and hyper-reactive people and local legislators who freak out when a story is presented of a dog that hurts someone. The fact is that it is rare for a dog to bite for no reason, and it is also true that pit bulls are not the number one in dog bite statistics in this country. Yes, when they do attack, they can do great harm. But those attacks are almost never the dog's fault, they are typically caused by something that is done by the human who is bitten. I'm sorry-I am broken hearted when a child is harmed by a dog, but I can almost always see where the parent of the child or the owner of the dog was really at fault, not the dog. Children can be taught how to approach a dog without making the dog feel threatened.  If a child is not taught properly, then the child is in danger when in the company of ANY DOG. Any dog will bite if it feels threatened, particularly in it's own territory-WHICH HUMANS BRED THEM TO DO. And it is small dogs that are more likely to bite. Remember, every bite is potentially a crime, or a threat, but not every bite is reported, nor does every bite require medical treatment. When a Chihuahua bites, people are more likely to blow it off and put a band aid on it. People may think it is "cute" and say that "he thinks he's a Rottweiler." Whenever a patient comes to a medical professional with a dog bite, just like a gun shot wound, it must be reported. And that is where the statistics come from. According to the article in the Daily Beast, there are a couple of thousand dogs killed by police every year. This is not near as many as die from being raised in horrible conditions in puppy mills and dog fighting rings, but all are the result of either ignorance or a deep lack of respect and understanding of the special relationship that humans and dogs have had for thousands of years. Not to mention the human misunderstanding of what our place atop the evolutionary food chain really means. It doesn't mean we count more than other animals-it means we have a greater responsibility to respect and care for animals which may lack our ability to self-actualize, and approach life in a rational, honest way. If we were honest about dogs, and what we have done to them, how we have harmed them, and what they have given us, then the bliss-less ignorance that leads to the cruelty I would love to eradicate might disappear from human behavior. Because, always remember, ignorance is a choice. Parents, remember that children are born ignorant and it is your job to teach them about life. How to be safe and unafraid is a huge part of that teaching. Do your job, and your child can avoid being bitten by a strange dog. Teach them when young never to try to pet a dog without asking the owner if it is okay. Teach them not to come at a dog too fast, and not to come at a dog's face when attempting to pet them. These two actions alone will help prevent a child being growled at, nipped at, and potentially bitten. I wish I could run a training class for law enforcement that would stop the unnecessary killing of dogs that do not present a threat. I can't help wondering when the rule that allows killing a living creature for the potential threat it poses moves up to humans. We could all be killed under such a rule, because any one of us could be pushed to kill if we felt threatened enough.

1. Dogs in a Deadly Crossfire, The Daily Bradley Ralko, July 19, 2012

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters

the top three breeds known to bite are dachshunds, chihuahuas and jack russell terriers ...

"Seems the smallest dogs ranked the highest when it came to human aggression. The top three biters, in order, were the Dachshund, the Chihuahua, and the Jack Russell Terrier.

This is the findings recently published by the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science from a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania."

3. Victoria Stilwell Shares Tips to Stop Dogs From Biting

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, hosted by the AVMA to help stop the nearly 5 million dog bites that happen every year in the United States. Last week we spoke about dog bite prevention with former AVMA president Dr. Bonnie Beaver, focusing more on the human behaviors that might trigger, or prevent, dog bites. This week, we want to focus on canine behavior, and what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting. In this podcast, Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer and host of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” shares training tips to help prevent dog bites.