Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pitbull puppys, $50.00

That's what the sign down the street says. There's way too much of this around here - all over the place, I imagine.
It was a big sign, painted on plywood...I tried kicking it down while walking the dogs early one morning, but they must've used humungous nails.
I also take down puppy ads stuck up in grocery stores, the ones with the tear off phone numbers along the bottom.
Take my lovely neighbors with the $50.00 pitbull "puppys." Say they have 8 pups to get rid of. First of all, these pups have had no vet care, I'm guessing. Plus, they were kept in the back yard. Their early education didn't get off to a great start.
Who is going to buy these puppies? Probably nobody who actually cares to raise them right, spay/neuter, that sort of thing. Chances are, most will wind up as back yard, chained dogs. Lots of those around here. If they get out and run loose, likely they will be picked up by animal control and killed. Shelters are full of unwanted dogs, and lots of pitbulls.
How many of these 8 pups will be neutered? Most likely, none. How many more unwanted puppies will be produced over the next few years by the dogs? Probably lots.
How many will be raised right, kept by caring, responsible owners? Probably none.
One or more may be used for fighting. This is not uncommon around here.
How many will be dead within a few years, after having produced more puppies? Most likely, none of them will live until old age. Most likely, quite a few of them will be responsible for more litters of puppies. Given away, sold for a few bucks, traded for drugs, a television, whatever.
A shockingly tiny percentage of dogs actually stay with the people who chose them as puppies, for their natural lives. I think less than 10%.
So. Is it better that these puppies go unsold and unwanted, and wind up killed early, or dumped in the overnight box at the county pound?
I think, probably. Given the larger picture.
I talked to someone recently, who told me she was a "breeder" of rat terriers. She had 4 puppies left from the last litter, 12 weeks old. Not as cute as they were a month ago. She was bemoaning the fact that nobody was responding to her newspaper ad, she couldn't sell them. She was trying to talk me into one, for cheap. I hope she decides that it's not worth breeding any more litters, if she can't sell the ones she has.
It's an awful and sad way to think. But I do, and that's why I take down puppies 4 sale signs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

And Trevor is doing better.

Ian Dury (of Ian Dury and the Blockheads) wrote a brilliant song called "Clevor Trevor." Ian Dury rocked bigtime, I saw him live and went to a back stage party after one of his shows. Late 1970s, Glasgow, Scotland. He died in 2004 of cancer. Sad. He's best known for "Hit Me With Your Rythm Stick" and "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll."
Last week I got a phone message from Trevor....he'd been by my house and knocked & knocked. He was sure I was there because my vehicles were...was I mad at him? Did he do something wrong? If so, he said, please tell me.
Oops. Actually I haven't a clue why I didn't hear him....whatever. I called him right back and said no, of course not.
He was by last evening to do my lawn (a posh moniker for the smallish patch of weeds in front of my house.) His mother lost her car and they moved a bit further away. But he is, it seems, going to go stay with a friend's family and go to the Carman Ainsworth school. His scars look pretty faded. He acknowleged his home life is chaotic. He's looking forward to school, and is hoping to get chosen for some church sponsored junket to Australia, of all places. (He's never left Michigan.)
One doesn't know how much is teenage talk or what...but he seems fairly grounded. I'm not terribly familiar with how teenagers operate these days. Lots of angst and everything being new and important, I remember.
I have some work I need done around the house - like another portion of fence put up and a porch enclosure. I asked if he'd like to help me do it & I'd pay him by the that's cool.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

First Agility Trial. We got da bug now!

Cooper and I just got done with our first agility trial. UKC.
(If you want to read a hilarious Agility 101 article, check out the Laughing Dog Press. It is worth a read.)
We ran twice on Saturday, once on Sunday.
So Friday night, I have everything packed into the truck...crate, crate pad, tarp, water dish, Kong on a Rope, folding chair, Handi-Wipes, pretzels, extra leash and poop baggies. Cooler full of frozen water bottles, pretzel dip, almonds and hot dog treats. Peppermint-lavender bug spray.
Tags off collar, check.
Got registration card, check.
Phone charged, check.
Don't forget your dog. As if.

And I didn't sleep well, I was so nervous! Now I feel silly.
We were running first thing, though several teams were ahead of us. Which was good, because watching one's very own instructor (who is also a UKC judge!) totally lose her dog in the ring, and NQ, really makes a nervous first-timer feel better.
The course had some awfully sharp double-back turns; boy those little agile dogs are at an I have the giant speed demon turbo-dog.
But guess what? Cooper did brilliantly! First time out....hit his contacts, fast turns, oops missed a contact coming off the dog walk - OK, we get another try - whoopsie. Crap! Note to self. Handler is not to touch the dog in the ring when getting him turned around for another shot. Bad Carina. No cookie. Disqualified on our first run.
Second run though....we got third place ribbon, out of 15 teams! Woo hoo! Not bad for rank beginners. Most people there were much more seasoned than Cooper & I. Under 60 seconds, 187 points. (200 is a "clean run" and 170 is required to qualify.)
I should have pre-registered, really. The Sunday morning run was full, but we were able to run in the afternoon. It was an easier course, I thought. Cooper was doing his turbo-launching off the tops of equipment and missed a couple of contacts and jumps....but we recouped them. He is extremely fast, but keeps his attention very much on me, and on the job. Finished within 60 seconds, 181.5 points. The whole scoring system is still a mystery to me.
But - it got us a second place ribbon, again in a full class!
So. Two ribbons. Two legs towards our first title. And the Coop-man was not a butthead even once around any other dogs. He was a perfect gentleman. Did I mention I really, really love this dog?
Mark took a bunch of photos. I'll get a CD of pics he took of Cooper & I running and post them later.
I'm already checking online event listings, looking for our next agility trial! This is so fun.
And finally, the hell with just getting out there and having fun. I want to get out there, have fun, and WIN!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Achmed & Pierre. Alpha Bettas.

Achmed (blue with lavender accents) & Pierre (red with white spots on his head) are two happy Bettas.
Since it's been hot and muggy here, they've been living in their bowls in airconditioning. But guess what - Bettas are from Thailand. Where it is hot and muggy.
So for the last 3 weeks, they've been living outside in the porch. Hot and muggy, some rain, normal day & night patterns. I read repeated online warnings not to do this, that Bettas are reared commercially to be used to cooler water and will succumb to all sorts of nasties if left outside. I read the same warnings about feeding them live food from standing water, but I've been doing that for two months and they seem happier than ever. Bits of straw, dead bug skeletons, Rottweiler hair and debris litter their bowls. I do change the water a bit more often now.
Pierre has become much braver. He used to hide behind things when I put his bowl next to Achmed's. Now he flares aggressively. The two of them swirl and flare and shout threats at each other when I put their bowls side by side.
The skeeter population is dwindling, though. It takes me a few minutes to hunt up a bowlful of instars for them. I even put out another old plastic basin filled with nice dirty water to grow more; that population is coming along nicely. Good, because skeeter instars are the bulk of Betta natural diets, in the wild. Achmed & Pierre would probably love it if they could live in the pond until winter, but the Rottweilers play in it so they probably wouldn't last.
The pool is also filled with teensy weensy brown bugs, so tiny they slip through the holes in the net. I wonder if they are eating the skeeter babies? There was a brief explosion of prehistoric looking little swimmers that I wasn't able to identify for a while. I ruled out lightning bugs. The fish enjoyed those. They were larger and put up a fight.
I feel quite sorry for Bettas in little sterile bowls, really.

Monday, August 08, 2005

We only play when humans are watching.

I don't think dogs ever play unless a human is watching. Kind of like that cartoon strip where all the farm animals are busy chatting, composing symphonies and scratching complex equations into the dust with their claws. Then Farmer Joe Bob comes around the corner of the barn and they all go back to mooing and clucking and scratching for corn kernels.
I go out on the back deck, followed by the Rottweilers. I sit on a chair. They wander down the steps, putz around the yard peeing for a few minutes, then break into play. Growling, panting, chasing. Tumbling and tugging. Teeth bared, twirling, racing around the big tree. I get up to go inside; they screech to a stop and race for the door to come in with me. I've even tried leaving the door unlatched so they can't hear and crawling towards it so they can't see me.
(This no doubt looks pretty gormless.)
But they sense my withdrawal and come up to follow me in.
If I leave them outside, they scratch mournfully at the door for a while. If ignored, they lay down on the deck, put their heads on their paws in puddles of Rottweiler lips and look put out. I never see them playing unless I'm right there. I don't believe they do.

Fly update: Better. I am not allowing bones in the back yard. I have raked up almost every scrap of straw. I removed all the fly traps with their attractant. I even called the MSU extension office. They said to bring some flies in so we could determine what sort they are. I don't think I'll have time this week; they're way on the north end of town.
I'm going to call this place and ask for recommendations. I like the idea of biological control. Besides the fly-eating wasps, there's several other handy looking bugs to choose from.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I was going to write a little urban pastoral bit about the interesting wildlife in my small city back yard. Or, I was going to write a complainy little piece about Daphne's current difficulties. Would've depended on my mood.
Instead, I am moved to write about my fucking disgusting fly infestation, and my absolutely gross late night incident involving thousand of dead flies and stinky water.
By 7 am, my covered back porch is a lazy, swirling fog of flies and there they stay until nightfall. Fly vortexes. They shimmer over the back yard and rest on the house walls. This has been going on for over a month. I have had city back yards, rural houses with chickens, and multiple dogs for years; never had this before.

What have I done? Raked all straw, dead leaves and shreds of debris in case they were breeding in decaying organic matter. (No sign of any subterranean insect activity except worms.) Pick up dog poop shortly after it hits the ground. No dog bones outside for now. Any food bowls get whisked inside immediately after use and cleaned. Crawled under the deck to check for fly breeding sources - nada. Trash covered, poop bucket sealed. Have hosed down the back deck with bleachy water and soap, several times. Have sprayed entire back area with vinegar (supposed to repel flies.) Checked adjacent yards for sources and activity. It all seems contained to my back yard, though.
Got a bunch of fly traps. The kind with awful smelling attractant you add water to. However, note the word "attractant". It attracts them, they drown in great numbers, but I have an unending supply of flies, so while satisfying to see them dead, it doesn't diminish the population. I've tried placing them in various places, but my back porch is still fly haven.
Which brings me to the revolting part. These traps are basically heavy plastic bags with a plastic thingie with holes on top. Flies crawl in, can't get out, die. Works great. I swear to doG they fill up with a good pound of dead & dying flies within a couple of days.
So last night I come home late and decide it will be less gross to dispose of the traps when it's dark and I can't see them. I reach up to take one down right outside the back door. (Luckily I'd left the dogs inside....) It slipped out of my hand and smashed on the deck, spraying a tsunami of dead flies and stinking attractant all over my legs, deck, and, did I mention all over my legs.
So at midnight I have a broom, the hose, a gallon of bleach and I am swearing and sweeping and hosing and anything to get rid of 5000 reeking, marinated dead flies. This morning, wash, rinse, repeat; taking care to get them out from between the boards which are a black sticky mass of fly corpses.
Finally the back deck is sparkly clean. But you know what? By 7 am, again, the fog of flies in back, thick as ever.
I want to be able to take my coffee out on my back deck, I want to sit out in the evening. But it's too gross.
Where are they coming from? Why my back yard? There's no uncovered trash. Nothing dead under the deck. I probably have the cleanest back yard in the city right now. I simply do not understand this. They are not cluster flies; they're outside and not clustering. These are common houseflies.
My next step will be, what? Chemicals?
But Daphne has inhalant allergies; and I really don't want to fog my back yard with pesticide for a number of reasons. I really don't. I don't know if it was the bleach (though I kept the dogs in and rinsed thoroughly) or what, but she came back in with her poor stupid little eyes all swollen up. I have rx eye goop, so she got that and TavistD and hopefully will be OK soon.
But I may have to try the big guns if I cannot figure out another solution. That, or just stay off my back porch until October. Yuck.