Camerado! I give you my hand!

Camerado! I give you my hand!

Allons! The road is before us!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Into the Canopy

I am fascinated by trees.

The larger and more gnarled they are, the better. One of the reasons I like winter is because of how bare branches look against the sky.

Oaks and other hardwoods are my favorites. I like the sturdiness of Quercus alba, the white oak, and the compact, rounded nature of its leaf lobes. My front yard contains a lovely white oak commonly referred to as a "pasture tree." It is tall and its branches are very well proportioned out in a rounded form because it was not competing for light with any other trees as it grew. White oaks (and other tree species) in more dense areas have branches that grow upwards, almost parallel to the trunk. Mine has lots of perpindicular branches, which are lovely to sit in.

I have named this tree Zemyna, after the Lithuanian goddess of nature. That's her at right, in winter.

I enjoy the stature of the huge Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) in my backyard--so close to the deck that I can begin a climb from there. It's leaves are pointier and larger than the white's, and its branches are thick and hardy. They grow more parallel in general, but the tree doesn't have a distinct shape, really. I find her aesthetically pleasing anyway. Her name is Hannah.

Below is Hannah in February, at night, and in summer.

(The white rope hanging from Hannah is my static climbing line. More on that activity later.)

My favorite oak tree ever is the mammoth Live oak (Quercus virginiana) known as Treaty Oak in Jacksonville, FL. It is said to be over 200 years old, with a crown at least 145 feet around. It's an incredible tree to behold, with dozens of low-hanging branches that are thicker around than many trees' main trunks. Many touch the ground.

Other hardwood favorites that appear in my yard are American beeches, with huge, straight trunks, smooth bark the color of a newborn Weimaraner, and oval leaves with sawtooth edges, and a gangly Black cherry (Prunus serotina) that has never produced fruit and is stunted because it lives literally at the feet of a yellow pine. But it perseveres.

I also have a couple of stately Tulip poplars, a Southern Magnolia (whose branches are fabulous for no-rope "freeclimbing"), and a red maple (acer rubrum). We planted the maple just 4 years ago, and it has not yet had the brilliant fall foliage I so crave. But I know it will come.

Left: A "pasture" maple at a park near me.

Below: When I take a nature walk, I am often looking up, into the canopy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ad Absurdum: How Much Do We Hate the Gubmint?

Whatever your thoughts on the healthcare bill passage, you gotta admit it has brought the crazy out in more than a few people. Where is the sanity, indeed?

One wonders how many folks currently on Medicare are protesting "Socialist medicine"?

Via Terrierman's Daily Dose:

(Author unknown)

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock, powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service (of NOAA - the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating a breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food.

At the appropriate time (as regulated by the US Congress and kept accurate by NIST - the National Institute of Standards and Technology - and the US Naval Observatory), I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve bank.

On the way out the door, I deposit any mail I have to send via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the Internet (which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) and post on FreeRepublic.COM and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the Government can't do anything right.

Me, I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude on H.R. 3200. I admit that giving the U.S. government as much access as they would like to our personal information scares me, but I do not plan to panic until I read the thing.

Or maybe I should have just been in this class.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Fresh Start

So you’ve brought your new canine adoptee home after much soul-searching and a long choice process. He was waiting in the shelter for a long time for you to come for him, and you couldn’t resist those eyes and that wagging tail. Congratulations!

You tell your friends and family, “I am going to treat this dog like a king! He’ll lack for nothing, and be showered constantly with love and attention. He’s been abused, and cooped up in the shelter for months, so I don't want to put any limits on him. I’m going to make up for all the abuse and hardship he suffered up until now.”

Sounds great...except you will be doing Fido a huge disservice if you follow through with those plans.

Five Things Your Newly-Adopted Dog Needs:

1. Structure—he does not need to have total freedom in your home yet. He needs to earn the privilege, so utilize a crate and confine him when you are not there to supervise. Lots of supervision and pretty strict confinement helps the dog relax in the first few stressful weeks, and beyond. Wean him out of the crate gradually, once he has proven he’s not going to destroy the house.

2. A Schedule—get him acclimated to The Way Things Are in your home. Food, exercise, playtime, potty walks, and even alone time should all be put on a workable schedule. This also helps the dog relax and know what is expected. It also makes housetraining MUCH easier.

3. Guidance—how will he know what you wish of him unless you show him? Dogs are not born knowing how to behave in our homes. Decide what the boundaries are (and trust me, he needs some), and use firm, gentle guidance to help him understand. Preventing bad behaviors is a big part of this. Training is not a luxury--it is a necessity. Your dog and you benefit greatly from it. When he's settled in a bit, contact a local trainer for advice on obedience training. Here's how to choose a good one.

4. Alone time—your new pooch needs to learn to be alone some. Allow him to develop independence by crating him some when you are home, and by not showering him with attention all the time. Your eventual absences will be less stressful that way. Many behavior problems could be prevented had owners started crate training right away, instead of thinking it cruel. You don't have to use a crate to train the dog, but it's the easiest way to make sure he gets enough time alone.

5. A Leader—dogs live in a hierarchal system that demands a leader and a set of rules. You are the natural one to lead, so do it, or the dog will. Be consistent, and make sure all family members follow your lead. Don’t allow your dog to do things he shouldn’t, even if you think it’s cute.

Do you think leadership is harsh or cruel? It need not be harsh at all, and it's definitely not cruel. It shouldn't be confrontational, or based in anger or frustration. Leaders are clear, calm, and inspire a willingness to work in the dog--not fear. It's precisely what your dog is looking for!

A leader does not wallow in the dog’s past—he or she plans for the future. A leader does not feel sorry for the dog, he or she builds confidence in the dog with calm, balanced obedience training and guidance. A leader is firm but fair, praises and rewards more than she criticizes or punishes, and knows that dogs are not humans in little fur coats.

Enjoy your new dog!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Retaining That Dear Perfection

It appears that originality has gone out the window when it comes to pet names.

I, for one, am greatly saddened by its demise.

Your child may be shunned for life if given some ungainly name, but your dog probably will not (as long as the name is positive). Naming your pet is about the only time you get to be creative with names. So why settle for Max or Buddy or human-centered names, especially when there are so many great possibilities inspired by foodstuffs, literature, cinema, history, art, and life? What happened to naming dogs after their best (or worst) character traits? Some of the coolest dog names I have run across are competition dogs, especially agilty dogs or frisbee dogs. The dogs have a joi de vivre, and so do the names.

Creative types name their pets to give them something to live up to. So do racehorse owners.

It doesn't take much imagination to figure that the human-centered naming trend is a direct reflection on how we feel about our pets. More and more, they are true family members. This is, in general, a very positive trend, but that doesn't mean we have to name them bland, boring names that every other dog at the dog park, daycare, obedience school, community pool, or arcade will be sporting. Get creative, people! I want to see more Grumblepants, Gullivers, Grundys, and Peabodys. What's wrong with McGillicuddy, Mortimer, Bixby, or Kismet? Why settle for Sam when you can say Sasquatch? Max is so common--why not Marlowe, instead?

During my high school, college, and just-graduated years, I shared my life with a beautiful Doberman pinscher, a breed that I am still quite fond of. The future English teacher in me already loved Shakespeare. I remember sitting at the table with my very literate Pop one night discussing possible names for my new puppy. She was, as puppies tend to be, gangly and goofy. But I knew she would not always be so. And I wanted a name to reflect her future pride, her beauty, her intellect, and her...sense of justice? To me, she had to be Portia. And so she was, for 13 years. And I'll never use that name again.

(Cue Max Steiner's "GWTW" theme music here.)

(That reminds me: what's with the naming of all successive pets the same name the previous pets had? Sometimes you get a II or a II or a IV after the "Buddy," but, more often than not, you don't. I think some folks just figure they are going to call the dog that name anyway, out of habit, so why not? It stands to reason that they should only date people with the same names of their exes, too. Just so things don't get too out-of-hand at a romantic moment.)

And on that note, there are these folks, who really won't forget their partner's names.

But as far as our pets go, names are definitely personal, and I certainly don't want to disparage those to whom Sophie, Max, Sadie, Molly, Murphy, and Henry are special, meaningful names. Sometimes, it's simply about convenience, too. If you adopt a pet who already knows that name, it's easier to keep it than to try to start afresh, especially the older the animal.

No one who knows her has to ask why my black and white JRT mix (seen at right) is named Whirling Dervish.

Sometimes, it's a name we've been wanting to pin on someone, sometime--we've had the name in our head for years, and were just waiting for the perfect animal (or newborn babe) to fill it. I have a list of names for future pets, and it grows almost on a weekly basis. (I dare not share it here for fear of it being usurped. I simply will not name my next dog "Magnhild" if someone else I know has a dog with that name. It will SO look like I copied.)

In short, I believe pet names should cover 3 bases. A good name:

1. Is unique, and/or special to the owner

2. Fits the animal (looks, characteristics, etc., though I will admit I prefer ironic names when it comes to looks, e.g. "Snowball" for a black cat...and I once had a white cat named Aunt Jemima.)

3. Is a positive representation of the pet, and the owner (please, no "Homicide," "Hitler," "Pol-Pot," "Massacre," or other criminally-inspired/dictators-we'd-rather-forget names). Have some respect.

4. Did I mention unique?

There are so many possibilities out there. Get creative! If you are a foodie, go to the library or the Barnes and Noble and skim through The Food Lover's Companion for good ideas. Anyone for "demitasse"? "Delmonico"? How about "Papillote" for a small white dog with pointy ears? (A Papillote is the French word for a paper frill used to decorate the tips of bones.) "Jicama"? A mandelbrot is a thin almond cookie. "Togarashi" would be a good name for a reddish small dog with a lot of gumption; it refers to a small hot red Japanese chile.

You like cheese? There are lots of good cheese names that fit pets well ("pecorino," "muenster," and "havarti" are a few possibilities). If you are a wine connoisseur, or like whiskey, you also have a lot of options. Fish and meat names can be fun, too. Anyone for Mullet? Schnitzel? Spotted Dick?

Into the Arts? There are endless possibilities. You can name your dog after an artist, composer, writer, dancer, or any actual work of art. Personally, I'd avoid a name like Napoleon's Nose, Transformed Into a Pregnant Woman, Strolling His Shadow with Melancholia Amongst Original Ruins (yes, it's real, and actually a good representation of the man's genius), But "Napoleon,""Dali," or "Salvador" would work.

Likewise, String Quartets 1-6, Opus 18 is a bit ungainly, but "Amadeus" or "Wolfgang" could be cute. One of my co-workers has a dog named "Wagner" (rhymes with tag her), but I cannot resist pronouncing it "Vahg-ner" and belting out a few bars of Götterdämmerung every time I see him.

The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon at left is named Drummer. Cute name in and of itself, but better if you know he lives with two other dogs named Harper and Piper. (Well, his owner and I think it is cute.)

I have a dog named after a pickle, and one after Jack Black's character in "School of Rock." I WILL have a Dr. Seuss-inspired name one day for a dog. And an Edward Gorey one. And another inspired by the Bard. (That's a lotta dogs. I'd better get busy.)

"From there to here, and here to there/Funny things are everywhere."

Monday, March 8, 2010

From Rosettes to Ruin

Terrierman Patrick Burns has a lot to say. I read his blog on a regular basis, and he doesn't shy away from hot doggy topics. Because I am a thinking individual, I disagree with him sometimes, and certainly I don't know much about working terriers (though I have a terrier, who works my patience regularly). But I read his work often.

This is a nice article he wrote about what the show ring has done to the working dog.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sine qua non

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams

Dog owners have heard for years how dogs need us to be good leaders. But few people really understand how to take charge and be a leader to their dogs, because we get so caught up in our emotions about them—especially when we adopt dogs that have been given up or abandoned. This is natural; dogs are creatures who depend upon us for survival, and who may or may not have suffered abuse or neglect before they came to us. Wanting to protect them and nurture them is normal.

However, it is important that we not get caught up in what writer Jon Katz refers to as the “Abuse Excuse,” as it does nothing constructive for the dogs. The “Abuse Excuse” says that owners should not endeavor to train or discipline or even control their pooches, because of the horrible lives they have had. “Abuse Excusers” consider training and structure to be too difficult for these dogs to deal with. They prefer to live in the past, to make excuses, to pity the dogs, and think that their new dogs should just be able to do as they wish with little structure or guidance.

Though a few dog owners may be able to get away with this mindset, it doesn’t work for the vast majority of dogs. Structure, leadership, and training are precisely what dogs need most when they arrive in a new home. The stress of being kenneled, abused, or abandoned can be lessened greatly when the new owners take a positive role and become the leaders their new dogs need.

Your new dog is looking to you for leadership and rules in this new confusing place. The faster you put a good structure into place, the better off he will be. In fact, the previous owners' lack of structure is probably why the dog ended up in the shelter to begin with! So get him started right by stepping up to the plate and truly being his best friend.

What does this mean? For starters, get the dog started with crate training as soon as you get him home. A crate is as beneficial a tool as a collar and leash; it’s not just for housetraining; and used wisely, it will give you dog more freedom in a quicker time frame. Your dog will earn his way out of the crate as he matures and learns the rules. Properly crate-trained dogs are easier to live with, period.

Then what? Continue the structure with a set schedule that the dog can "set his watch by." Feeding, walking, playing, resting: dogs like schedules. Training, of course, is happening every time you interact with the dog. Your dog is learning from you all the time, whether you mean to be training him, or not.

Be consistent and clear. These are qualities of a leader, and with them, your dog will settle into your home with ease. Give him time, and give him your time.

A leader does not wallow in the dog’s past—she plans for the future. A leader does not feel sorry for the dog, he builds confidence in the dog with training and guidance. A leader is firm but fair, prevents bad behaviors and sets the dog up to succeed, praises and rewards more than she criticizes or punishes, and knows that dogs are not humans in little fur coats. A leader refuses to make excuses for the dog.

Be a leader; your dog will thank you for it. It is truly the most humane thing you can be.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Memento Mori

I am a sucker for interesting statuary, especially cemetery statuary. The photo behind my blog title (shown at left from the front) is of an inspiring piece at the Crestlawn cemetery in NW Atlanta. Unfortunately, the man's nose is long gone, perhaps the work of teenage cretins. Otherwise, it's lovely.

I enjoy photographing statues and trees and other architectural delights with an impossibly blue sky in the background. You know the kind of sky that makes you ache to look at it? That kind of sky makes me supremely content. I bask in that sky. It's why I love fall so much.

These photos are from historic Oakland Cemetery near downtown. I thoroughly enjoy trips there, especially during fall and winter. I feel like John Muir experiencing Yosemite. I don't hear the cars whizzing by on Boulevard or Memorial Dr. I can spend hours there, awash in the tranquility of the dead.

The dogs enjoy visiting the graves, too. Weddings and other ceremonies are often held there.

In Victorian times, it was common for cemeteries to be destinations for picnics. Families would frequent them like we do parks, and spend the day there. It's no wonder many of them are so beautiful.

If I ever get to Paris, a visit to Pere-Lachaise is definitely top on the list. You can actually take a virtual tour of Paris' most famous burial grounds.

Pretty neat.

I'd also love to see Highgate Cemetery in London.

Here is a cool list of statuary symbolism.

"Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it."
~Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Monday, March 1, 2010

All That Retrospection

I guess blogging is the last (first) resort of the stifled writer. I tend to be long-winded in my missives, so maybe I'll learn from some of the Master Bloggers out there and learn to make my points quickly and well.

Maybe pigs will levitate, too.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. My attempts at humor can be facile, or puerile, depending on your sense of humor. I hope to be able to express myself differently than the 2,733,609 other bloggers out there. Yes, I counted.

I spend a lot of time in my own head. It's a bit murky in there, what with all the neurons and synapses. This blog is my facile and puerile attempt to cranially regurgitate some things I have observed, done, considered doing, read about, and slept on.

If you like it, come back ("I can't come back! I don't know how it works!"). If you don't, there are 2,733,609 other bloggers out there. Yes, I counted.