Friday, May 21, 2010

Bill's Dog Tale

In his Tribune column yesterday, Bill Morem told the tale of his two dogs, one of which, a lemon beagle named Buster, was attacked while they were romping down at the local “dog-friendly beach.” He didn’t specify just where, but I suspect he was on a beach-area off on Sunset Ave in Baywood that a lot of dog walkers head to. And there met a man, “Todd,” walking three large dogs “on individual leather leashes.” Also not clear was whether or not Bill had his two dogs on leash. From his column, it appears that the set up to what then happened was an all too typical one: friendly, happy bouncy dogs running loose in front of unfriendly, aggressive leashed large dogs held and owned by a clueless owner.

What happened next is also all too typical; one of the large dogs slipped his leash and attacked and the other two dogs dived in as well. The result was panic, yelling, and terrible injury to Bill’s little beagle. The twist in Bill’s tale was that the large dogs’ owner (“Todd”) tracked down Bill by calling various local vets and offered to help pay for part of the vet bill and even came over to visit Buster and apologize profusely. Which was nice, even though legally, “Todd” was totally liable for the entire vet bill, not just part of it, since owners are responsible for any and all damage their dogs do. And, after the melee, Bill should have made sure he got “Todd’s” phone number or, if necessary, his car license or some such, especially if there was the possibility that in the struggle Bill may have been bitten or tooth-nicked, since rabies is always a concern in such dust-ups with strange dogs.

And the happy ending of this sad tale is that Buster wasn’t killed, though he “may lose the use of his right hind leg due to nerve damage,” and “Todd” did track Bill down and try to make things right and told Bill he’d bought muzzles for his dogs and declared that he’d “learned numerous life lessons about myself, my pets, my own intuition and my part and responsibility.” Which is all too late for Buster, but may prevent any other attacks by these dogs.

So, happy ending, sort of. But sadly, this tale is all too common all over the place: clueless dog owners setting their dogs up for disaster. As in Bill’s case there are too many people with big dogs they don’t understand and/or simply can’t handle, or dog breeds that are particularly aggressive that have no business being taken anywhere around other dogs, or big dorky dogs that have no dog-manners all mixing it up with owners of little barky zoomy dogs, or little aggressive dogs that get into the faces of larger dogs, or little dogs that tend to shriek when frightened, the same sound injured prey gives out, a sound guaranteed to click on the mindless “kill” message center in many [formerly nice, sweet] dogs’ brains thereby helplessly turning those formerly nice, sweet dogs into stone killers.

And there they all meet at dog beach areas, or sometimes in a fenced dog park, or more often walking down the street or the all too common case of leashed dogs going down the street only to be met with some yard dog that’s not in his yard.

And the cluelessness is often amazing to behold: Owner of a small yappy dog running free towards a brace of leashed large dogs while the owner of the small yappy dog’s owner happily calls out, “Don’t worry, my dog’s friendly,” oblivious – absolutely oblivious – that the same may not be the case with the large leashed dogs now being charged by something in what looks like an attack or being charged by a form of prey skittering into range of their jaws. In short, dinner on the hoof.

For a nation that claims to love dogs, we are amazingly dim when it comes to understanding dogs and doing right by them. Forget our kill rate from overpopulation, we can’t even be bothered to educate ourselves as to our pet’s mental landscape and be aware of their deep-seated instincts so as to protect them in what is an unnatural world. Or understand that dogs simply don’t live in the same world we do – so different is their perception. Or even take time to understand the breed characteristics to match the dog’s temperaments with our own skill-set so as to create a win-win situation.

Instead, we seem to live in a totally phony DisneyLand – a place of make believe happy animals who dance and sing, every dog is a smiling Bambi, and nature, red in tooth and claw, simply doesn’t exist. Oh, look, it’s a wolf: Nice puppy, look, he loves me, la, la, la. So we have “unpredictable” aggressive dogs at a public beach used by kids and other dogs because, after all, these dogs are family pets and wouldn’t harm a fly.

All of which results in instances like the one Bill Morem described – unsuitable, “unpredictable” dogs in the hands of a clueless owner, a potentially dangerous situation that was, I’m betting, misread by all parties, a failure to understand a dog’s nature, a failure to understand pack behavior, the problem of leashed vs unleashed behavior acting as a trigger to aggression, failure to read body language (watch those tails and ears and stiff legs) and/or to size up a potentially tricky situation in the first place --uh-oh, pack of large dogs staring intently, straining at the leash, I’m outta here—then leashing and removing your dog quickly, and etc.

It’s a scenario that plays out too often, luckily not to the extent that Bill and Buster had to go through. And I truly hope that “Todd” actually did have an epiphany and will get educated about the type of dogs he owns and take care, for their sakes as well as his own. And I can only hope Buster gets the use of his leg back and has a long happy life, which is what a lemon beagle deserves! Good dog.

It’s All In The Definition

Yesterday’s L.A. Times brought an interesting story: Arizona voters, after closing highway rest stops since the state is broke so travelers have to pee in a can, finally decided enough is enough and voted to increase their sales tax from 5.6% to 6.6%.

Said the Times, “With the economy the way it was, they were laying off firefighters, police and teachers,” said Nick Troisi, 69, a retired businessman from the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley, who backed the measure. “To take a penny out of every dollar is not a big thing.”

“[Republican Governor] Brewer’s advocacy of the tax, Proposition 100, bitterly divided the Republican Party, with many legislators saying Arizona needed to cut deeper and switch to a four-day school week or take other drastic steps to live within its means.

“Those calls for cutbacks echoed anti-government rhetoric that is increasingly popular nationwide but when push has come to shove, some voters have balked, if the alternative meant losing key services. Arizona is the latest in a series of conservative states to grudgingly approve tax increases.”

What struck me most by this story was the phrase “to live within its means.” To the Kool-Aid-drinking Grover Norquistians, taxes are evil and if the poor and old and sick have to die before one penny of taxes are imposed to care for them, then so be it. Government needs to be reduced and drowned in a bathtub, after all. But here’s what Arizonians apparently discovered – late in the game – the means we want to live within are what We The People decide are the means. Arizonians apparently decided that there were certain “means” they wanted to retain and so also realized that to get and keep and stay within those means, they would have to pay for them.


That’s something that our own Republican, Norquistian, Kool-Aid-drinking governor and Republican legislature won’t do. Instead of a tax increase to pay for the means We the People want to say within, he’s willing to cut the poor, the old and the sick, the most vulnerable and helpless among us. The question is, what do We the People want?

Right now it’s impossible to determine since our legislators have become so partisan and extreme that they’re in total gridlock and unable to do much of anything. It’s hard to live within ones means if all options to define means consist of one choice only: No Taxes Period. That’s not governance. That’s Norquistian Kool-Aide.

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

The Bay News reports that The St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble, featuring some of the great voices in the entire world, will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 26 at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Los Osos. The show is on a donation basis as the four men from Russia . . . are willing to play for the generosity of their fans. . . . The Group’s repertoire varies from the hauntingly holy to bawdy drinking songs. St. Benedicts is located at the corner of Los Osos Valley Rd. and Clark Valley Rds. For more information call 528-0654.”

If you’ve ever attended some of the Red Barn series held at St. Benedicts, you know it’s a lovely venue for a concert.


Alon Perlman said...

It's never the Dawgs, always the Peeps.

Churadogs said...

Actually, it's the DAWGS since they do this kind of stuff naturally on their own with no Peeps around. Loose-running dogs can easily form roaming packs that set upon other dogs & etc. However, it's the PEEPS responsibility to keep the DAWGS from doing this kind of stuff. And too many PEEPS can't be bothered to do that. Sigh.

Alon Perlman said...

Given that the descriptions you are giving are the best I’ve read, in fact a manifesto of dog human interaction, (Bambi-Wolf) and I’ll skip Bill’s column.
I’m going to stretch my chain, and paw the air;

The Alpha’s are responsible for the pack. So it is still the Peeps.
I haven’t owned or been owned by dogs as long as you have, so you have some “Dog experience years” on me. The description you have from Bill, and your interpretation of the events, which I think is spot on, still say to me “Dog behavior altered by Humans”.
The pack behavior of dogs is altered by the inexperienced Alpha-Humans. Part of the dogs natural inclination is to fight to assert dominance, and then accept a ranking in the outcome of the fight. Once the dominance hierarchy is established the aggression disappears until the next dog enters (or leaves), or a pup grows into its own. In a free natural pack scenario, fighting exists but diminishes and though maulings do occur, and the ears tell that story, there are less fights to the death. That would change with and in response to the environment. Insufficiency of food sources, breeding time, stress the stability of the established pack. Over time natural packs would establish territories. Lone dogs would know not to stray into a marked territory. In a semi-urban environment the packs are reverting but not adjusted. It’s all there, it’s just that some of it is inevitable.

Enter Humans- dogs bred to miniature size don’t know that they are little-original breeds are distinct in energy and temperament -dogs on a leash are physically constrained and also do not have freedom to express themselves in dog posture language. That may have played as you noted. Dogs also pick up and manifest the neuroticisms of their owners. Not just in a chance encounter but also as a matter of long term “training”. You described it all.
Conclusion; Los Osos needs a dog run park?
Two fenced sections?

Spectator said...

It would be nice if the legislature of California (democratically controlled) took care of the old, mentally incompetent, and weak, by raising sales taxes to 12% and got rid of Proposition 13. Of course if they cut their pensions, and those of other government employees by 30% to be almost the same as private employees, this would be a great help. Fat chance! At the same time we need to stop educating illegal alien children. The democratic legislature has enough votes to pass whatever they want, so stop snipping at republicans.

In addition we need a dog and cat tax of at least $250 a year for each animal. This would almost immediately stop the euthanasia of so many animals each year, and contribute to government coffers, and eliminate major expense for many counties. We could put this money into use to help the old, weak, and mentally infirm.

Churadogs said...

Alon: Dog park for Los Osos? That would be lovely but nothing along that line will likely happen until the sewer issue is resolved. The problem was and remains suitable land. (Dog Park at Tri-W as originally planned? Could happen, if Tri-W becomes a park.) Meanwhile, Morro Bay has a lovely divided (big dog, little dog) park. Cayucos, a uni-dog park,too. And the original one at El Chorro park.

Alon Perlman said...

Bill Morem, an outstanding Journalist, was seen again on the Same Los Osos Beach. The report was not clear if he was with one or two dogs, but was clear, in that the dog(s) were as in the previous incident Unleashed
Please file under the "Lesson not learned" Category