Labor Day

I stumbled across the following essay – a letter to an adoptable dog. Elaine Sichel outlines her qualifications as a dog companion, and hopes the dog will agree.

I showed it to Auntie Laura and said that I hoped one day to have a resume like that. And she gave me a list of jobs I already have. And that got me thinking … today is Labor Day.  I decided to put off doing some things for my day job, and make a list of things I do in my job as Bosco’s person. And that got me thinking about what Bosco does, which he perceives as his job.

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Bosco is not in the mood for a walk

 

MOTIVATION

Me: Motivation Booster

Bosco is perfectly happy lying on the sofa all day. He has a history of refusing to go for walks.  I make going out fun.

 

Bosco: Motivation Booster

I am perfectly happy sitting on the sofa all day.  I have a history of losing several hours to Candy Crush. Bosco makes going out fun.

 

SAFETY

Me: Security Shield

Whether it’s a throng of squealing children or a hundred geese in the park, I will stand between Bosco and the scary stuff.

 

Bosco: Freak Deterrent

There are lots of … unusual people in the city, and many of them feel a need to share their unusualness with passersby.  But not with Bosco around.  Let’s just say his appearance makes them think twice.  Number of freak encounters before Bosco? At least one a day.  Number since?  ZERO in a year.

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Napping on a Sunday

 

SLEEP

Me: Headrest

So Bosco can sleep with his head upright, and see the world square on when he opens his eyes.

 

Bosco: Nap Monitor

When I’ve napped enough, Bosco yanks off my blanket.

 

MAINTENANCE

Me: Ear Swabber

That boy could grow potatoes in there, and I have to keep him clean.

 

Bosco: Grass Trimmer

I have issues with keeping the lawn mowed. Bosco does his part to keep the grass short.

 

SERVICES RENDERED

Me: Remote Control

When he flops on a certain place on the floor, it’s time to turn on the air conditioner.

 

Bosco: Quality Control

I like to sing loud. Bosco lets me know when it’s bad by gently putting a paw in the middle of my face.

 

Me: Transportation Captain

Whether it’s to the park, a play date or the doctor, I take Bosco where he needs to go in a Honda Element specially configured so he can sprawl out.

 

Bosco: Upholstery Protector

Bosco covers the sofa and makes sure that it doesn’t get sun-faded.

 

FOOD

Me:  Snack Baker

What started as a simple fundraiser for work turned into an on-going duty. After all these weird toxic food issues, I feel better making Bosco’s snacks myself.

 

Bosco: Bacon Taster

He would like it to be an on-going duty. It’s possible the bacon could be tainted, and he thinks he should make sure every piece is okay.

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Making cutie faces

 

LOVE

Bosco:  Carnival Teddy Bear

He’s so cuddly, I can can’t help but hug him and squeeze him and kiss him and love him and call him good boy.  This used to freak him out.  But here’s his little secret:  he’s starting to LIKE IT…

 

Me: Human Thunder Shirt

This is the one I take most seriously, and I think about every day. Last October Bernadette Peters told me that Bosco wore a thunder shirt at the shelter to help control his anxiety.  I’d never heard of a thunder shirt, and asked her to tell me more about it.

Her response:

“He doesn’t need one now. He’s got YOU.”

 

That’s a good job. Happy Labor Day.

 

 

 

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Mooney Eyes

mooney eyesI think I’ve whined about it before – I’ve been working a ridiculous amount of hours lately. I’m “lucky” enough to be able to do this while sitting at home (and let me also say I’m lucky enough to have the problem of having to work a lot).

What I’m really lucky about is Bosco. I’ve said before that he’s a very good project supervisor, and he’s a very good morale booster. He hangs out on the sofa, with his head on the arm. Of course he falls asleep (oh,upper management). But when I look up, he opens his eyes and I get a big pittie smile and vigorous tail wags that raise dust clouds from the sofa (Too busy to vacuum. Yeah, that’s it).

But let me tell you what’s causing really big pittie smiles…the realization that there are other treats out there, that are better than the low-cal ones I make for him.

I bought him a present for his anniversary. It’s a treat puzzle – you hide things in some of the compartments, and the dog is supposed to have to figure out how to get them.  I put little pieces of  beggin strips in 4 spaces.

This is the very first time Bosco saw it.

Not exactly intellectually stimulating, was it? I do love that he closed it when he was done.

Now he’s found religion. As a new convert, he is fervently, passionately devoted to his holy trinity.

  • Pulled pork
  • Ham
  • Bacon

He still doesn’t pay much attention to my food – except when pork is involved. Then he’s very attentive, making big moony eyes at me.

The face of a pork lover.

The face of a pork lover.

Also on his anniversary, I gave him one small piece of bacon.

Bosco meets bacon

Bosco meets bacon

I think he liked it. And now we share a common belief – that bacon is the best thing in the world.

He’s doing a silly Clydesdale step right now. I have a breakfast sandwich – a messy one, and there’s been spillage. Unfortunately it was the green peppers that fell, but he decided to eat those. Now he’s telling me he knows there’s bacon in the room – he wants to put a paw on my leg – but he knows I will consider that begging, and he’ll be reprimanded. So a paw goes way up, he catches himself, and puts it down. And then in his excitement, the other paw comes up, he catches himself, etc etc etc. And of course there are big moony eyes too.

Mmmmmmmmmm……..bacon………..

Becoming Bosco

I don’t recall exactly what I was doing between July 4-10 2007, and I’m too lazy to look it up. I have a pretty good hunch that I spent a lot of that time with my dog – playing catch, walking in the park, playing catch, cooking while he cleaned my spills off the floor… and playing catch.

I certainly was not thinking about Manhattan or Brooklyn, or the animal shelters there, or anyone who visited those shelters, or any dog in those shelters.

And yet, those seven days had a huge effect on my life.

On July 4, 2007, a stray dog was picked up in the Bronx. I’ll never know the story, but odds are good that he pulled a door open, went out and got lost. He was picked up and taken to the ACC in Manhattan.

He looked like this:

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The ACC did what it does for the thousands of animals who come through their doors – estimated his age (one year), weighed him (59 pounds), and gave him a name – July.

July, they said, was fearful and withdrawn. He did not approach the handler, and leaned away with his ears flattened. He resisted being removed from his cage,  He did not exhibit aggression. When tested with another dog, he did not interact.

He was put up for adoption, in a cage with a tag that said his health status was mild and his behavior moderate.

On July 8, he came up for review. The sheer  volume that goes through the ACC forces them to euthanize unwanted animals, and that was the decision made that day. July was to be euthanized.

BUT….

Two amazing women spend an astonishing amount of time reviewing the “at risk” list. They select as many animals as they can, pay the adoption fees, and arrange transportation for each animal to be taken to a no-kill shelter.

On July 10, 2007, Bernadette Peters and Patty Saccente saved July’s life.

They put him in their car and took him to BARC Shelter in Brooklyn. At BARC, Vinny and Tony took him in. They actually took him in twice, but that’s a story for another day.

Somewhere between the cage at the ACC and a large pen at BARC, July got a new name. Ms. Peters says that he had such a classic old-time look, so she gave him an old-time name to match. Bosco.

Today, and every day, I say to these four people:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Those seven days did not involve me, but they changed my life. Five years later, crushed by the loss of my dog, I knew that the only way to dig out was to love another. And Bosco was there.

So now I’m getting up on a soapbox: everyone, support an animal shelter. Whether it’s with money, or by performing services, do it today.  Whatever you do today saves a life today.

That life could very well be your future sweet boy.

Fwip Fwip Fwip*

Bosco caught up in scintillating conversation

Bosco caught up in scintillating conversation

I’m trying to decide if Bosco’s progress is really as delineated as it seems.  Are these new behaviors as sudden as a light switch, or am I unobservant and don’t pick up on them until they’re fully developed?

Here’s what happened this week: he’s responding to conversation, and interacting with me more.  Don’t think I’ve gone ’round the bend – we’re not having tea parties, and he’s  not saying “why yes, I would prefer two sugars,” or anything odd like that.  This week it clicked that when I talk to him… I’m talking to him.

And he loves it. He doesn’t have the slightest clue what’s going on (to quote Robyn, he hears “blah blah blah Bosco blah blah blah.”  And of course “snack.” But every time I say something to him, I get these adorable tail flips. I’m assuming its because he’s happy to have been consulted.

And he goes bonkers when I do my bad impression of Frank Nelson’s yeaaaaaaahuuhhssssss” (google it and you’ll know what I mean).  Apparently that’s MUCH more fun to his ears than a simple good boy.

I’ve been working a lot in the evenings, and Bosco’s decided I need project management. He likes to sit nearby and supervise – with his eyes closed. Every so often he will crawl over and nudge me to pet him. And after a few minutes he tells me my break is over and goes back to supervising.

Bosco, keeping me on task

Bosco, keeping me on task

He’s been much more bouncy. He practically does backflips when it’s time to go for a walk.  He’s so excited and runs around the house and woofs, and does face plants on his bed.  We start down the street and he stops in front of my car. And he’s disappointed if we don’t get in it.  Oh, the guilt, I tell you….

Last weekend I took him for a long walk in the park. We got in the car and he was all happy and panty. He tried to squeeze between the front seats so he could see where we were going. He was thrilled when we got to the park, and couldn’t wait to get started down the trail.

Then after a few hundred yards, he realized …. I expected him to walk.  He wasn’t prepared for that. Or excited about it.

It took us two hours to do a two-mile circuit. It was hot, but not unsafe. We stopped to rest and drink water many times. I could tell he wanted me to get the car and come pick him up. We were lapped by dozens of dogs – bigger dogs, tiny dogs, geriatric dogs – even a human toddler went by with less fussing.

On our last stop, he pulled this stunt.

rolling

Our walks are very informal – we both like to wander and explore. But this time, I had to get strict with “heel.” Otherwise I think we’d still be out there.

And that’s when it dawned on me. Through all the years of Bosco being afraid to go for a walk … After all the energy spent teaching him that there was nothing to worry about, that he was safe…. After all the walks around the neighborhood…. There’s still one big issue.

Bosco, at heart, is freaking lazy.

*Regards to Patrick McDonnell for inventing the word “fwip.”

Bosco Thoughts

Bosco is pondering - or pouting - after I took a pen away from him.

Bosco is pondering – or pouting – after I took a pen away from him.

Bosco’s a quiet guy, and he likes to sit back and ponder things.  I can tell he’s having some deep thoughts lately.  Here’s what I think he’s been thinking:

Every song I’ve ever heard has a verse about me and my big feet. I’m famous.

When I have nothing to say, I say nothing. Think about that, humans.

How can it be that every time I’m ready to poop, somebody makes a big noise and wrecks my mood?

Why do people spend time fussing with food? If they’d just eat kibble, they could go to bed at 7:30 like me.

How come I don’t get to use the porcelain flushy thing? It’s raining. I’m tall enough……

Why isn’t there yogurt-covered kibble?

Why should I bring the ball back? You’re the one who threw it.

Why are Yorkies so bossy?

Big boy likes his sleep.

Big boy likes his sleep.

How can I possibly be expected to function on less than 21 hours of sleep each day?

How many pictures of me do you really need?

And most important of all: Life is about sitting in sun puddles.

sun puddle

PS: Why was there a pancake and a pop tart on the sidewalk?

#^%*!

Sleeping is serious business for Bosco.

Sleeping is serious business for Bosco.

Special irony must be noted – I’m writing this while leaning against The Golden Theatre, about half block from where I first met Bosco. He’s home sleeping. Or pouting. Or both.

Okay, every blog I’ve written has been about progress. This time we’re talking about a little different type.

I’ve been so proud of how Bosco’s confidence is growing and growing. But I’m not praising his latest boost.  Last week he growled at me.

And Bosco learned no matter how confident he gets, he will not be top dog.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me dial back the drama. Here’s the big picture:

As you know, he’s adorable. As you know, I can’t keep myself from cuddling the stuffing out of him. And this dog is VERY serious about his sleep. He puts himself to bed every night at 7:30, and he’s done. The only way to move him then is with a leash and firm commands.

Every night  I spend a few minutes before I go to bed cuddling him. I hunker down and pet him and tell him he’s a good boy. This is usually just before midnight, and he wakes up when I come upstairs, and he gets his cuddling. I always thought he liked it.

But not last week. Maybe he was on edge because nice weather brings squealing children outside and back into his environment (neither of us are particularly fond of them, but alas, their parents seem to want them to play in the sunshine). Maybe he was  mad ‘cuz I’ve been sitting on the sofa and working instead of cuddling him, and when I finally have time for him, he’s not in the mood (God I made that sound like a marriage, didn’t I?). Maybe he decided it’s time to tell me that he hates it when I nod off with my head on his bed.

All very valid points, but he missed the main one. He is not in charge. Not for a single second.

So….

I will admit that I was a little scared when it first happened. It was a very soft growl, and I had to double check to be sure I was hearing it. The look on his face was the same as when he found green beans in his mouth, so I knew it was serious.

My first thought was that I had no clue what the time frame was between Bosco’s warning, and a physical reaction (if there was going to be one). I probably withdrew for a few seconds, which gave him the impression that growling works. I gathered myself, gave him the “no finger” in his face, and spoke sternly. And then I put myself right back where I had been when it started, figuring I didn’t want him to think he’d won.  A few minutes later I resumed cuddling.

And he growled again. Again, we had a firm conversation about roles and responsibilities in our household.  He seemed to get it, and gathered himself for five minutes of cuddling before I turned off the light (oh geeze, that sounds like a BAD marriage!).

The next morning we sat on the sofa together, and had our regular cuddle session. And he growled. I know his issue was that he felt pinned in the corner, but let’s remember – this is nothing new, and he doesn’t get to respond that way.

So again he was reprimanded – more forcefully. I hooked my hand through his collar so he had to look at me. I used the same words as the night before. I kept my voice low and firm. But this time I added a twist – every other word was the f-bomb. That’s what happens when I get mad. Bosco’s never seen me mad.

Here’s what I learned – Bosco knows the f-word. And my meaning sunk in.

Don’t get me wrong – I recognize that solving this issue is totally a two-way street. I have modified my cuddling enthusiasm, and do ease off when he starts getting uncomfortable. But I don’t let him think the two actions are connected.  And I let sleeping dogs lie.

This was a minor hiccup, and our issues have passed. Bosco’s been super affectionate ever since. And I know he knows that “snack” means he’s a good boy, that “suppertime” is an event to celebrate, and “walk” means he gets to run around and leap up in the air.

And that the f-word means game over.

W.T.F.

At his school's playdate; smiling because someone is telling him he is handsome.

At his school’s playdate; smiling because someone is telling him how handsome he is.

We’ve been doing some major celebrating this week. Bosco’s pooping in the yard.

So maybe that doesn’t scream cake and ice cream to you. But let me add this tidbit – until last week, he was afraid to even be out there. There are sounds coming from outside of the fence, and that makes him jumpy. It’s hard to poop when you’re jumpy.

But he decided this week that it’s quiet enough at 6 am to hunker down and git r done.

Something has changed for him in the last few weeks.  First reactions have always been a huge W.T.F., complete with freezing or attempting to flee. His reaction to new things is different now. He’s not exactly shooting forward to feel the rush – but he is staying put to see what happens next.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought this enormous piece of furniture, and had to bribe friends to help me get it in my house. And somehow I managed to not have to lift anything. Yay. Anyway, one friend brought his toddler daughter with him. She’s adorable, and at the “squawk and grab it” part of her life. Her dad says that she loves dogs, and thought she’d get a kick out of Bosco. And she did. At least twice her size, he must have looked like a huge carnival stuffed animal.

It was real clear real fast that Bosco’s never seen tiny children. Here’s an artist rendition of the event:

Untitled-1

A few days later, we saw a neighbor carrying a child. Bosco seemed surprised and a little sad that there was no squealing and reaching.  The next week, Auntie Laura stopped by with her sons.  They’re small, but they are very experienced dog people. Even though he was nervous, Bosco sat down to get his petting. One boy gave a couple perfunctory pats, then climbed in the car and asked to go to Target. The other boy stood in front of Bosco, and they stared into each others faces. They were telling each other, “yeah, we can just stand here and be good with each other.”

He’s also expanding his trust/affection circle. Last month I had to go on a business trip, and he stayed at Robyn and Bill’s hotel. I got voicemails about how playful he was while he was there. Laura was on the same trip, and we checked Bosco out of the hotel before taking her home. In the past, he would have been on the floor in the back of the car. This time, he was trying to squeeze himself between the front seats, nudging and poking at her for some Bosco loving.

He’s also getting better about loud and unfamiliar places. I didn’t realize last Saturday was opening day of fishing season, and that the park would be packed. He was thrilled to be there.  But I did discover that he will hip check me into a pile of horse flop to avoid stepping in it himself.

Bosco napping after a big walk in a crowded park.

Bosco napping after a big walk in a crowded park.

Yesterday in the park, a woman was teaching her daughter to fly a kite. It was a flashy and colorful kite, and looked kind of like a huge bird. I expected Bosco to shy away and try to leave. But he stood there watching for a few minutes. When the kite went high, his ears went up. He turned his head to follow it as it swooped around. When it crashed, his ears flattened. And then they’d slowly come up again, as the kite rose back into the sky.

W.T.F. is still in his vocabulary. But it’s a different acronym now.  It’s ….Well…….(long pause for analysis) …….That’s fine.