Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That Dog Is Money!

Whenever we walk Jackson, we're careful to watch where he sniffs. Occasionally, he finds some sidewalk food, and we have to be quick to keep him from scarfing it down. He's swallowed more than one bit of street sandwich on my watch.

This morning, Jackson nosed at something, and I took a look...currency! A dollar bill, buried in the snow! Good dog!

That's a hell of a trick. And, if he does it another 2,000 times in the next week, we'll be about even on his expenses for the year. But I shouldn't complain - at least he's working.

Guard Dog

Monday morning, about 2 AM, someone tried to break down our front door. Scary as all shit, but, fortunately, this wasn't a home invasion crew, just a small, confused crazy guy. The door held, the police came in about a minute and grabbed him, and I got a look at the sandals he was wearing two days after a blizzard.

And Jackson had my back, from a safe distance. He came about halfway down the inside stairs and watched from there, 20 feet from the front door. Amazingly, he's able to instinctively calculate, and stay out of, potential lines of fire.

Still, Jackson had a part to play: when the police arrived, I opened the front door to verify that no, I didn't know the crazy guy. That was all they needed from me; they turned to leave and I started to close the door. Then one officer noticed Jackson on the stairs. "Is that a greyhound?" he asked, a big smile on his face. "He's beautiful!" Anytime, anywhere, any circumstances, people love greyhounds.

So, no harm, but we were all pretty revved up for the rest of the night. In fact, Jackson was so upset that he didn't get back to sleep for almost three minutes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bootie Call

Blizzard in Richmond this weekend. Jackson was born in Texas, and did his racing in Florida, so we figure this is probably his first encounter with a winter wonderland.

Friday night, with a couple of inches of snow on the ground, Jackson wouldn't come down the porch steps for his late walk. He did wander around in the backyard a bit, and take a much-needed pee.

Saturday morning, sixteen hours since his last poop, a full blast of snow on the ground, I dragged him down the porch steps. As soon as he started to walk, he cheered up. Yes, the world was different, but it wasn't bad. A whole lot better than rain. He got used to the step-and-sink rhythm, and set off in his determined fast-paced walk. We call it his "man on a mission" mode. And he realized pretty quickly that, when the whole world is soft, you can poop anywhere.

So the Saturday walks were pretty easy. This morning, though, we were worried about Jackson's feet. There's salt out there, and chemical salt, and puddles of cold water under thin sheets of ice that break into sharp pieces. Fortunately, a couple of weeks back, we had ordered a pack of Pawz bootiesfor him. If you click the photo above, you can see one on his back foot as I trundle down the steps.

The booties worked! Jackson didn't seem to mind them. He had a little less traction, but the protection/warmth/dryness more than compensated. Downside: the booties are expensive, a little more than a buck per for what are really just thick balloons. They're reusable, but still. So you may want to put a couple aside for your own use: they're handy when you mule drugs through JFK, to raise money for the next order of booties.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Asshole of Meadow Park

Meadow Park is a pocket park near our house, a block-long triangle of grass and trees. It's also the place for local dogs to meet and greet. No fences, so leashes on at all times, but there's plenty to see and sniff.

Jackson and I got there early this morning, around 6:30. There was one other dog, large and beige, at the other end of the park. At first, Jackson was content to follow the pee trail. But, after a few whiffs, he decided he wanted to say hi. I let him lead as we crossed the park.

When we were about 15 feet away from the other dog, its owner whirled around and said, "What are you doing?"

"What?" I said, truly confused.

"Are you following me or something?"

I pointed at Jackson. "He is. He's friendly."

He looked at his own dog. "Well, she's not. So go somewhere else. I don't need a dogfight first thing in the morning."

His dog seemed to have a different opinion. Throughout Jackson's approach and the subsequent pleasant chat, she stayed calm. She looked at Jackson a couple of times, but no barks, no growls, no tugging on the leash. If there was hostility from her, I missed it, and so did Jackson.

Whatever. "Okay, okay," I said, "be nice about it." We turned and headed the other way. They crossed the street and left the park.

I'll assume the guy isn't completely delusional, and that his dog has gotten into fights in the past. He seems to have no idea that his paranoid reaction to other dogs and owners isn't going to help. All he had to say was "She's not friendly." Instead, he almost turned it into a confrontation between me and him.

<brooklyn> And by the way, asshole - if your dog is so fucking dangerous, maybe you shouldn't be walking her in the one place where you're pretty much guaranteed to see other dogs, even at 6 in the morning. In fact, maybe she's not a good choice for a city dog, Einstein. Maybe you and she should both pack up and move to 10 acres in Goochland. That way, at least, I won't have to see your stupid fucking face. </brooklyn>

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Caliente Brunch II

70-some degrees in Richmond today, so we went to Caliente for brunch on the patio again. Blissfully, boringly uneventful: we gave Jackson a rawhide treat, he plopped down on his mat, and he stayed put while we ate. The only other dog there wasn't cruising, so no casual sex.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who's A Widdle Widdle Pirate?

By popular (okay, Stacy's) demand, Jackson all dressed up for Halloween:

And my favorite, because it has a sort of hellhound/spirit photo effect:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Graduate

Jackson passed his final exam in PetSmart Basic Training today! Things started badly - his normally reliable "down" deserted him. But he got it back, and he pulled a "stay" out of his butt to ace the test.

Jackson's gonna get so drunk tonight. Watch out, Mrs. Robinson!

I Went to a Greyhound Party

We went to the GPA/Richmond picnic last Sunday. It was fun to hang out with 50 or so similarly-obsessed people and their dogs.

That's Jackson (we think) running at full tilt boogie in the time trial, chasing down the infamous sonic crack game call. The radar gun clocked him at 28 mph, which actually isn't very fast for a greyhound. Jackson has lost some quicks over the last few months. He doesn't get much chance to run these days - lots of long walks, but no sprints. So we're going to move to another house, with a big backyard. And we'll set up a training run, and let Jackson chase the game call. Seriously. We're going to buy a house to make our dog happy. I don't know what to say. What the hell is happening to me?

Anyway, the highpoint of the picnic for us was probably when I let Jackson get loose. He was lying in my lap, and I got sloppy with the leash, and someone squawked the game call, and off he went. Straight to the game call, a hundred yards away, where Stacy caught up with him while two guys pried the game call out of his mouth.

Finally, after everything was packed up, I had to walk Jackson around and through the time trial chute, to convince him that the source of that seductive noise was gone. We aficionados call that a "strong prey drive." Sounds much better than "wants to kill small furry animals."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Osama bin Jackson

Update your watchlists - fashionista alert! Jackson is ready for winter and waterboarding in this sleek coat and snood combo from Coats 4 Greys. The chic advisory level is code black!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Choking The Chicken

Actually, we think it's a flamingo. Not a chicken, not a pelican. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jackson Gets Teabagged

Well, almost.

We arrived at Caliente to find the patio hopping: a large group next to us, with a kid, and three women nearby. With a male bulldog. Off the leash.

We headed for the empty corner table. The bulldog immediately trotted over to visit. Jackson was on-leash, which can make a guy defensive, so we were nervous. But, charmingly, the bulldog started licking Jackson's balls* like they were pepperoni. Jackson was okay with that. Of course everyone on the patio was in hysterics at that point. Except for Stacy: mortified, face hidden in hands.

After a couple of minutes of this extreme socialization, the bulldog's owner called him back, and, at Stacy's request, leashed him. Things settled down. Jackson had his favorite squeak toy, a pelican in a tutu (photo above). We were able to get him down on his mat for chunks of time, and we got through the meal. I got hammered on fine beers.

When the bulldog group was leaving, the owner apologized. I told her my dog wanted her dog's number. She said that the vet had told her that her dog was "totally gay." (I haven't kept up with canine sexual orientation testing; apparently it's quite advanced.) I said that Jackson was straight, but willing to experiment.

All in all, a successful brunch.

* What's left of them, anyway.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sick As A Dog

A few weeks back, we started giving Jackson marrow bones a couple of times a week. He loves them, and the hours of chewing do wonders for his teeth. Win-win.

Then, last Monday, I gave him a marrow bone and he disappeared it in minutes, not hours. Same batch of bones, and we were keeping them frozen, so no idea why this bone was different. Whatever. He seemed none the worse for it.

Tuesday into Wednesday, we both noticed that his poop seemed looser than usual. But not off-the-charts. Whatever.

Wednesday night, we came home from dinner with friends. I took Jackson out. His poop looked damn near like diarrhea. Hmm.

Then, back in the house, we noticed some diarrhea on the floor, near the door, as if he hadn't quite been able to hold himself together till we got outside. Hmmmm. We cleaned it up and crossed our fingers.

Then, about half-an-hour later, we heard an odd noise.

"Was that you?" Stacy asked from the living room.

"No. Did Jackson puke?" I asked from upstairs.

Stacy checked the kitchen; Jackson had puked. All his dinner had come out in one large tidy pile of kibble loaf, with pieces of bone in it. I scooped it up with a spatula.

Over the next six hours, Jackson spent a lot of time in the backyard, puking and squirting diarrhea. We used the hose to keep things clean. Stacy spent the night on the couch in the kitchen (big kitchen), next to Jackson, so that she could pop up and get him into the yard whenever he needed. Happened several times. Last puke around midnight, last diarrhea around 4 AM.

Thursday, we gave Jackson just a bit of kibble for breakfast, and stuck to the alleys for walks. Still diarrhea, but he had no problem holding it in till we walked - no accidents, no urgent trips to the backyard. And no puking. In the evening, we gave him a cup of kibble.

Friday morning, we gave Jackson almost his normal breakfast. Stools loose, but under control. Friday evening, full meal, and his poop was pretty much back to normal.

This morning, normal meal, normal poop, crisis over. Way leery of the marrow bones, though. I threw out the batch we had, and we know now that we shouldn't have let Jackson eat the actual bone. Once the marrow's gone, it's time to take the bone away.

Unfortunately, Jackson has to pay the tuition for our education.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wet Dog Walking

On the way back from our Meadow Park stroll this evening, Jackson and I got caught in a downpour. Ten minutes of hard rain. The first few weeks that we had Jackson, there was very little rain in Richmond, so this was the first time that I got to see his reaction.

Which was pretty much nothing. He took it in stride, literally. He was maybe a little less interested in checking out all the trees, and he seemed to want to get home. But he wasn't agitated. (Fortunately, this wasn't a thunderstorm - thunder and lightning are a whole other story. He freaks out big-time.)

Normally, Jackson pants for quite a while after a walk; tonight, he didn't pant at all. The cool rain was the difference. We're looking forward to some great walks in the fall.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Poop Aesthetics

Greyhound poop tends towards the inchoate. But we've been mixing pumpkin into Jackson's kibble, and there are occasional triumphs: Stacy described his first poop this morning as a "beautiful big pile of shit." We are so proud. (Sorry, no photo. Maybe next time.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Road Trip

We have one car, an Accord, and our first few trips with Jackson were harrowing. I drove, Stacy sat in back with Jackson, and he stood on the backseat. That left him extremely vulnerable if we stopped short or turned hard, and made it pretty much impossible for me to see anything behind us. Stacy tried all manner of treats and cajoling, but Jackson stood tall.

We took a trip to Barker Field dog park yesterday, and we had a breakthrough. It was simple, in retrospect: Stacy sat on the middle of the rear seat instead of the end. That backed Jackson into the corner. At first, he stood anyway, like a four-legged danseur en pointe. But as soon as the car started moving, he decided that he didn't have enough room to stand, and he sat down. That got him a treat. A minute later, he lay down, head in Stacy's lap. Another treat, and a safe trip to the dog park.

On the way home, he lay down almost immediately. Woohoo!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Born To Run

We took Jackson to the Hanover Dog Park yesterday. It was a playdate: our friend Debbie brought her brindle, Brady. And, of course, we wanted to see Jackson run.

He obliged, a bit. We half-expected him to take off like a Tom Seaver fastball as soon as we unhooked the leash. Didn't happen. We had the dog park to ourselves for a good half-hour. Jackson explored a lot, loping around at a leisurely pace. He ran when Debbie threw a tennis ball, and Brady chased it, and he chased Brady. And, when some pugs showed up, he ran with, or after, them. But he didn't seem to have any compelling urge to run, run, run for the joy of it.

Which is a relief to us. We have a postage-stamp backyard, so Jackson isn't getting a chance to run. Now we really believe that long walks are plenty of exercise, and he doesn't need to run. We knew that from the literature, but we had to see it.

The arrival of the pugs gave me a chance to try out our #1503 Scotch Predator Call. The "distress cries of a rabbit" are pure sonic crack for greyhounds. For me, it's like a remote control. Jackson immediately comes, at high speed, and he turns damn near feral: he wants to kill whatever is making that sound. It came in handy when he was bearing down on the pugs like a cruise missile.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back On The Gravy Train

We put out the standard Kirkland kibble au jus this morning, and Jackson pretty much ignored it. A few bites. But we hung tough - no yogurt, and we dumped the nearly-full bowl after half an hour.

This evening, same food, and he inhaled it in about ten minutes. He paused a few times to look at us, to see if something wonderful might happen. But, when it didn't, back to the bowl.

Mommy and daddy are much happier now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Jackson 1, Bob 0

Jackson had a good day. He met Stacy's brother Robert, and some other people, and nothing untoward happened. So we were optimistic when we put his dinner out. Costco kibble in water, dusted with psyllium: a classic. Yesterday, he was licking the bowl clean. Tonight, nothing. He approached it, then walked away.

Uh-oh. Two meals in a row, he wasn't eating right. We tried gentle persuasion. No go. On our side, mild panic.

Then I put a dollop of yogurt in the bowl, on top of his kibble. He ate most of the yogurt off the top, like a kid eating the icing off a cupcake. Then he walked away. Hmm. I swirled the remaining yogurt into the kibble. Better: he ate about 2/3 of the kibble. Hmm.

A little thinking, a little browsing, and we think we have the answer. Pieces of steak, spoonsful of yogurt - we were unwittingly training Jackson to expect better food. These treats were random, not tied to anything in particular. So, when the kibble appeared, he passed. Why not hold out for something better? Maybe it'll happen.

And, in a masterful counterstroke, he started training us: he stayed away from the kibble for a few minutes, and we added something tasty to it. I'm a quick learner: I learned to add yogurt after just two repetitions. Good boy, Bob!

Well, we're all over that scam now. No more fabulous treats till Jackson's back on the kibble. And we've learned something about training. From the trainee side, unfortunately, but still.

Trouble In Paradise?

Jackson ate just half his breakfast this morning. Very uncharacteristic. Every other meal, he's vacuumed up his food like a competitive eater at Nathan's on July 4th. Empty bowl in five minutes.

We gave him a couple of bites of steak last night. Maybe that threw him off, so we're going to stop that. On the plus side, his poops this morning were normal (where "normal" means somewhere between mousse and pudding.)

And his butt is raw from all the scratching he's been doing. He had fleas, so we started him on Frontline this past Friday, and we gave him a good workout with a flea comb last night. Not sure yet if he needs another trip to the vet. We're trying to walk that tightrope between overprotective and oblivious.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Home Alone

We left Jackson alone for over two hours last night, with just a rawhide chew as company. No crate, no muzzle. No furniture assaults, no bathroom accidents. And two hours was enough time for us to catch a set of good music.

We had started alone training about a week ago, leaving Jackson alone for just five minutes. Gradually, we built up to an hour. Now we feel ready to spend the occasional evening out.

Of course, we're just at the ten-day point in this whole adoption thing. According to the literature, greyhounds can go through some dramatic personality changes over the first six months of adoption. So we may come home to an unpleasant surprise at some point. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Big Brush-Off

A good greyhound owner brushes his dog's teeth every day or two. So far, that's like asking me to defuse a bomb every day or two. It's a tad unnerving to invade the mouth of a hound who doesn't know you very well yet. Those teeth look real big up close.

So I'm nervous. Jackson knows that, and it makes him skittish. But we're making progress. For a couple of days, I did nothing more than hold his snout for a few seconds. Yesterday, I reached into his mouth and rubbed his teeth and gums. That got him a treat. Then I used a washcloth with some toothpaste on it to do a little brushing, followed by another treat. It's coming together.

(The greyhound folks gave us a toothpaste/toothbrush kit. The toothpaste is tasty, and no rinsing required. The brush has a long handle, so that you can get all the way up in the snout. But many people suggest using a cloth or gauze pad instead of the brush.)

BTW if you want to see greyhound toothbrushing done right check this out.

Friday, July 31, 2009

It's A Small Greyhound World

On our after-dinner walk tonight, we stopped at a local grocery store. I waited outside with Jackson while Stacy went in to shop.

Jackson is a stunning brindle, black and beige in a tiger-stripe pattern. He drew his usual crowd. People want to pet him, and that leads to questions about greyhounds and adoption. It's part of the fun.

Two women walking by were especially interested. "He looks like Chatter," one of them said. She stopped and petted Jackson. She asked me how long I'd had Jackson - a week, I said. Then she asked me what his name had been.

That confused me. Most people want to know his name now, but no one had ever asked about his racing name. That's ancient history. "Well, his name's Jackson," I said, "but he was JG Bacardi."

The two women stared at each other, stunned. "Chatter!" they shouted. Turns out we had bumped into Sarah, Jackson's first foster mom. He went straight from the track to her home. Two fosters later, he's with us for good. And, based on how well he's doing, Sarah did a great job at a critical time in his life.

She loved him up, and told us she would be happy to walk him for us anytime. She lives just three blocks away from us. We told her she can visit anytime, and we thanked her for the great job she did. Especially stairs - he's fearless, up and down like a mountain climber.

There are a couple of hundred thousand people in Richmond, and the surrounding counties bring the Richmond metro population to over a million. Jackson could have ended up anywhere in that crowd. Amazingly, he ended up three blocks from his first foster mom.