Outside the Lab

But then Pointsman laughs the well-known laugh that’s done him yeoman service in a profession where too often it’s hedge or hang. “I’m always being told to take animals.” He means that years ago a colleague – gone now – told him he’d be more human, warmer, if he kept a dog of his own, outside the lab. Pointsman tried – God knows he did – it was a springer spaniel named Gloucester, pleasant enough animal, he supposed, but the try lasted less than a month. What finally irritated him out of all tolerance was that the dog didn’t know how to reverse its behavior. It could open doors to the rain and the spring insects, but not close them … knock over garbage, vomit on the floor, but not clean it up – how could anyone live with such a creature?

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Isaak as a puppy, when we first picked him a year ago.

Isaak in the pond at NorthBark Park, Dallas, Texas

My son’s dog, Champ

We have had Isaak, our dog, our rescue, for a year now. We don’t know exactly how old he is, but he was a young puppy when he came to us, so he is a bit over a year old. He’s pretty much as big as he’s going to get, but still has a lot of puppy spirit, for good and bad, in him. Other than excitement over tennis balls and the squirrels in our backyard trees that taunt him – he’s a well behaved and relatively calm dog.

We also have my son’s black lab with us – he and Isaak get along great. It isn’t unusual for us to have other people’s dogs too – kept as a favor for friends while they are on vacation or foster dogs (especially ones that need some socializing) or people pay us to watch their pooches.

The other day, we had another black lab mix staying, a little smaller than my son’s dog. So we had three… if not big, then good-sized dogs at the house.

I was having some trouble sleeping, and it was work the next day, so I was laying in bed, awake, trying to relax and get some rest before having to go back into the breach the next morning. A little after midnight… the guest dog wasn’t too comfortable with the doggie door, so Candy got up and let the three of them out the back door.

I’m not sure why she did this, but as the dogs ran by she reached out and flipped on the light switch for the back yard (I mean… the dogs can pee in the dark, can’t they?) and there, right in the middle of the yard, illuminated by a circle of spotlights, sat a rabbit.

The dogs went nuts – all three bolted for the bunny – and the rabbit made a mistake. The rabbit ran to the east side of the house, where the fence runs along the wall, a few feet away, until it ends near the front. The rabbit hit that dead end and had nowhere to go but to turn around. The three dogs were on him.

Our dog, Isaak, like most dogs rescued from the Dallas pound, is a pit bull mix. He doesn’t really look like a pit (he has long legs and a long snout) but is, according to his DNA scan, one quarter American Staffordshire Terrier – which is a polite term for Pit Bull. The poor rabbit didn’t have a chance. He was dead in a few seconds.

Candy, of course, went crazy. You see, to her the dogs are like people. They live in the house, most of the time, eat the food you give them, and chase tennis balls around. But right under that domesticated surface is a wild animal… and seeing a big fat rabbit standing there right in the middle of their territory, the back yard, is enough to bring that wild animal boiling out in a split second.

I jumped out of bed, chased the dogs back inside and, with more than a little trepidation walked around to the side of the house (at this time, I didn’t know what had happened); I only knew that the dogs had run down something. There was the rabbit, a big one, freshly dead with a big hunk missing from its side.

Isaak was walking around, coughing.

“We need to take him to the emergency room,” Candy said.

“Naw, he’ll be alright, though you’d better keep an eye on him, he’ll probably yakk up a big ball of rabbit fur any minute,” I said.

So it fell to me to go out and pick up the poor dead rabbit and throw him over the fence. We live on a creek lot so I went around and took the body down by the water, so the coyotes will have a snack sometime later that night.

I feel bad about the bunny, but not too bad. There are hundreds of rabbits along that creek after all. I wonder why the rabbit ventured into our yard. Surely they have some survival instincts and our yard smells of dog as much as any – it’s like the rabbit tried to sneak into a kennel.

I didn’t get much sleep – Candy and my son’s dog were freaked out by the whole thing. Isaak was just excited.

He’s a city domesticated pit bull mix – this was probably the high point of his entire life.

A Dog’s Wet Nose

“The universe contains any amount of horrible ways to be woken up, such as the noise of the mob breaking down the front door, the scream of fire engines, or the realization that today is the Monday which on Friday night was a comfortably long way off.

A dog’s wet nose is not strictly speaking the worst of the bunch, but it has its own peculiar dreadfulness which connoisseurs of the ghastly and dog owners everywhere have come to know and dread. It’s like having a small piece of defrosting liver pressed lovingly against you.”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Isaak in the pond at NorthBark Park, Dallas, Texas

I came across an article the other day on favorite Dallas Dog Parks. Reading the list, I realized I had not been to one of them – NorthBark Dog Park in far North Dallas.

Isaak in the water at NorthBark Dog Park, Dallas, Texas

We have had Isaak since February or so. People ask how old he is and I say about a year. He was a rescue from Dallas Animal Control so we don’t know for sure – though I’d bet he is about a year old now. People ask what breed he is and we have no idea. We’ve sent his DNA test off, but haven’t received the results yet.

Isaak as a puppy, when we first picked him up in February.

It’s been fun socializing him – so I’ve been taking him to the Richardson Dog Park whenever I have time.

When he first arrived, he didn’t understand that a leash met go for a walk, not lay down on the ground. So I worked with him along the trail in back of our house. One day, early on, I picked up a book and dragged him to a little bench on the hike/bike trail that runs along the creek behind where we live. I sat there, reading, so he could get used to dog walkers, joggers, and such. He did good, interested in the passersby, but not going nuts.

Then a family of six on bikes came riding up the trail toward me. Two parents, two teens, and two little kids with training wheels in the lead. I heard the little boy say to his sister as they approached, “Don’t worry… it’s just some old man and his dog.”

Oh man… I didn’t like that. I especially didn’t like it because it was true. I was some old man sitting on a park bench with his dog, reading a book.

At any rate, back to today, I decided to take Isaak to the NorthBark Dog Park – since we had never been. It was farther than I anticipated, but after a wrong turn or so, we were there.

I took Isaak into the big dog section first and he had fun doing his usual dog park thing – running and playing dog dominance games with the other dogs there. After a bit he settled down and rested under a tree. I could see next door dogs swimming in the pond in the wet area – chasing after lures and retrieving them – thrown out into the water by their masters.

Isaak had never been in the water but I decided to give it a shot. We moved over to that part of the park and walked around to the back side where the bank was shallow. And, to my surprise, after a bit he jumped in the water and started to play in it. He had a bunch of fun running around on the bank and then plunging in. He would jump up and down, then dash out of the water again. Only one time he ventured deep enough to swim a little and was a bit intimidated by that.

Isaak swimming a little at the NorthBark Dog Park, Dallas, Texas

I walked with him around to where the real water dogs were swimming and retrieving and I talked to a couple of women about how to train a dog to do that. I need to work on teaching Isaak to fetch and return first, then start him off in shallow water. I think he’d enjoy that, I think. What do dogs enjoy anyway?

When we were done I hooked his leash on a pole and gave him a wash with a hose supplied for that purpose.

He didn’t enjoy that.

Making New Friends

“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”
—-Thomas Hughes

friends

“Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his MAKING friends–whether he may be equally capable of RETAINING them, is less certain.”
—-Jane Austen

Tyger

At the Cottonwood Art Festival, Richardson, Texas.

Click for a larger version on Flickr

William Blake – The Tyger

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?