An experimental Canine-Human blog inclusion interface

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

On being "licked"

Arthur Silber linked to this wonderful story about a dog named Libby, who kept her master alive for six days:
[Bruce] Ashworth, a retired engineer who now uses a wheelchair, could not reach the safety handles in the bath to rescue himself.

His specially-trained Labrador dog, Libby, retrieved his phone so he could call for aid, but it had no power.
After the phone failed to work, Libby kept Ashworth from falling asleep or drowning by licking him and making noise. Finally, Libby barked loudly enough to alert a bus driver.

That is loyalty.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Meet Jiggs

I came to know pit bulls through The Hubbs Family.

These were salt of the earth Oklahoma people -- quite lovable, but if crossed, they'd become pit bulls themselves. Originally rural, the family operated a motel in Berkeley's red light district. This was not a job for the timid, as the place was patronized almost exclusively by prostitutes, pimps, and thieves, with the rhythm of that life only being interrupted by the usual obligatory, if halfhearted, police investigations -- conducted, of course, after the real culprits were long gone. Therefore, motel security was left to the not-so-tender mercies of this family, with backup supplied by "Jiggs" and "Daisy." This happily married canine pair was descended from the famed Corvino line, and sometimes Jiggs liked to grab Daisy and throw her around a little. It looked scary but it was a game. One time he did this in front of me, and Mrs. Hubbs turned to her husband and said, mischievously, "You never treat me like that anymore!"

Jiggs was a scary animal, no doubt about it. I have seen hundreds of pit bulls of every size, shape, and disposition, and nowhere have I since seen such a uniquely majestic, classy dog. Jiggs weighed in at about a hundred pounds, which is gigantic for a pit bull, but he neither moved nor acted like a "big" or cumbersome dog. Instead, he was 100 pounds, lean and mean! He had never been attack trained, although he had been matched in the pit, and had a reputation as undefeated. No dog could have stopped Jiggs, for he was just too big, too athletic, and too mean. What made his appearance particularly scary was his countenance; Jiggs was highly intelligent, and like any good dog, was very psychic by human standards. He had helped raise the kids, and no one ever, ever, dared mess with him. Those who did were, like mysterious notches on a gun, the subject of rumor and legend but never fully explained to strangers.

It is hard to describe with accuracy how he did so, but Jiggs simply ran that motel. Most of the time he sat behind the front desk. All of the local criminals knew about him, and all knew about the large Hubbs family. An attack on one was an attack on all, and Jiggs, behind his counter, was, like a sinister Roy Bean behind the bar, the supreme arbiter of truth! You just did not mess with him. Any voice raise above the tone of the usual sycophantic criminal con-game whine (which I am sure you know well) brought a rumbling, slow growl from behind the counter.

One time, a stick-up man from outside the area was foolish enough to walk into the office, point a gun at Mrs. Hubbs, and demand the cash. Instead of barking, or even growling, they told me that Jiggs did not make a sound, and they initially feared that he might be out in the yard. No such luck for the stick-up guy; for Jiggs it was "Go-ahead-make-my-day!" time. For, without any warning at all (Mrs. Hubbs had her hands up and could not call the dog), Jiggs, as if he had been trained from birth for that very moment, sailed from behind the counter, airborne, gliding over the four foot counter effortlessly (they said his nails didn't even touch it), and, while still in the air, expertly landed his indestructible Corvino jaws directly onto the hand which held the gun!

The gun clattered to the floor but Jiggs kept moving, and the man was pushed backwards against the Coke machine by sheer force. His soon-to-be-rendered-useless hand, still in Jiggs' mouth, was shoved roughly into the crotch area, and they said that you could hear bones (carpal bones apparently make rattling noises when so bothered) crunching as Jiggs made the punishment fit the crime, Corvino-style! The funniest part of the story is that when the cops arrived, the man was still pinned against that Coke machine screaming in agony while trying not to move (which would have irritated Jiggs further). But Jiggs had still not had enough, and did not realize that the initial shock which prevents pain in any severe trauma soon wears off and real pain sets in! Might it be that Jiggs did not even care? In any event, according to everyone, the stick-up man could not have been more relieved to see the police finally arrive. The police, however, were afraid to even go near the guy for fear of Jiggs. But finally, at Mrs. Hubbs say-so, Jiggs released the man, and, tail wagging, meekly complied with her order to go to the back.

Now there was a dog!

Most pit bulls are very, very friendly. Jiggs was more of a hard ass than usual, but look at where he grew up. The reason these dogs are so problematic is their owners. The dogs are natural canine athletes, and will do whatever their masters want them to do. Raise them to be mean to others, and they will be. It is no more their fault than it is the fault of guns that bad people misuse them. Our national kindergarten wants to take away the rights of all in order to punish a few, and thus there are constant movements to ban pit bulls. I could go on and on; I guess that is why we blog.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Shit Happens! According to the Golden Rule

A fascinating anecdote from today’s personal experience illustrates the difficulty of applying the Golden Rule.

As I was walking Molly and Puff, a nameless woman (driving a brand new SUV) pulled out of her driveway, slowed down and stopped. Rolling down her window, she asked me “You don’t walk your dogs on the lawn, do you?”

“On the lawn?” I asked, somewhat confused by her question, for both dogs, while leashed, were walking on HER lawn (at least the part of it that fronts the street in this no-sidewalk neighborhood). She elaborated that she meant did I allow them to “go” on the lawn. “No!” I said immediately. For this was true. I had not “allowed” them to “go” on her lawn, either today or on any other day.

“Never on your lawn!” I added for stricter accuracy.

But then she broadened the question, “But, I mean, you don’t walk them on anyone’s lawn, do you?”

Thinking that such an unreasonably open-ended question deserved a lying answer, I answered with an I’m sure none-too-convincing “No!”

She flashed one of those phony, big money smiles I see all the time at the country clubs and drove off. I can’t prove it, but anger somehow seemed to be lurking somewhere behind that smile.

Not wanting to dwell on the obvious, smelly issue of fecal material, I thought about the broader issues, chiefly among them the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I wondered, would I mind if this gal were to “walk” her leashed dog in such a manner that it would “go” on my lawn? No; I would not mind at all. But that does not end the matter. The Golden Rule, it would seem, asks more than simply doing to others what we would not mind if they did to us. Otherwise, everyone else is to be held to whatever personal standard a total stranger might have. There are doubtless people who would not care whether you threw diapers on their lawn or fucked them in the ass. That does not authorize them to throw diapers in your yard or fuck you in the ass. No; what is required is that you place yourself in the position of others, and then ask whether you would mind. This is not always easy.

But wait! Does the Golden Rule give that woman have the right to make her request on behalf of ALL lawns? I am not sure that it does. Should I anticipate that many other people would see their lawns as does this woman? In fact, I do, and it would not be a problem but for Molly, who has an aversion to taking a crap anywhere near her own home. She holds it in, waiting desperately for a “walk.” Puff rarely “goes” outside his yard.

There is, of course, the “pooper scooper” issue. I hate those laws, which were started in San Francisco by Harvey Milk.

But that is too political for this site.

No agendas here!

Dogs show what we hide

Lesson in life from dogs I know well. On my morning run, depending on the time of day, sometimes if I am lucky I am greeted by "Fenway." A lovely Golden Retreiver/Yellow Lab mix, that dog simply radiates joy when she sees me, and lately has taken to lifting back her head for a second and flashing a very noticeable smile. It obviously means a lot to her for me to stop, and she makes a big deal out of simply showing what can only be called love. I don't really know why, but that dog just wants me to stay there with her. This happened over time, for no particular reason; maybe she can sense that she cheers me up too.

Continuing my run, I round the corner, then cross Old Gulph Road, then round another corner, then up the street past another "regular" named "Coco." I am of course partial to the name "Coco" because of the Pit Bull matriarch of the Grant Street house in Berkeley (a dog born 26 years ago). Anyway, today's Coco makes a big point of throwing a complete fit of real anger whenever she sees me -- no matter what I do. The harder I try, the angrier she gets. Nice Catholic family, religious type garden sculpture, I have spoken nicely to them and they assure me Coco will not bite. But the pure rage of that dog is something not to be believed. Normally she sees me from inside the house and barks furiously, first from a downstairs window, and then as I ascend the hill and begin to fade from sight she runs to the next floor and turns up the volume of her barking. The other morning she was in the yard, and just lost control when I rounded the bend. Following me and lunging at each step, it wasn't even enough for me to get out of her range today; no sooner was I safely gone than I heard a sudden yelp of pain -- meaning Coco had entered the invisible fence and gotten a severe shock.

I am the same person. I try to love all dogs, and I have bent over backwards for Coco. But I just can't win with her, and I know that I never will.

Fenway loves me, and Coco hates me.

Life is that way.

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