Saturday, April 27, 2013

Preventing Dog Bites

I can't tell you how many times I've started this blog post, only to delete the entire thing and fight the urge to put my fist through a wall.

A four year old girl was killed by a dog in my town this week.

The owners of the dog had been babysitting the child, and when interviewed they called the dog an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier. In reality the dog was most likely mixed, or so backyard-bred that it bore little resemblance to any bully breed.  (I'd seen the dog several times before the incident, and it was not an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier.)

My first draft was angry.  I was angry at the public for instantly blaming the breed, and I was angry at the dog's owners for letting their dog become yet another statistic.  My second draft was fearful.  I was scared for my dogs, both in the immediate future and down the road, in the event the city added breed-specific legislation to its dog ordinances.

This is the final draft.  I hope I'm able to adequately explain my thoughts without offending anybody. The last thing I want to do is bring more pain to an already mourning community.

Let's look at the current facts:
- The owners of the dog had priors for drugs and child neglect.
- The owners of the dog had their own toddler taken from them last year, due to the child having access to pot and meth in the home.
- The dog had an established record with the city for noise complaints and running at-large.
- The dog was purportedly beaten in the past.
- The child was not old enough to be able to read canine body language.
- The child was left unsupervised with the dog prior to and during the attack.

How can anyone blame the dog's breed in that situation? Instead of focusing on the statement that the dog was of bully type, we should be focusing on the fact that a young child was left unattended with an under-socialized and abused dog, by people who had no business caring for children (or dogs) at all.  Breed isn't even part of this equation, folks.  A dog of any breed could have (and probably would have) responded the exact same way, considering the circumstances.

This is what you need to know.

Young children are not capable of reading canine body language, no matter how "good" they are with dogs or how much time they've spent around them.  The cognitive capacity just isn't there until the child gets older. Because of this, you are responsible for supervising a child's interactions with a dog - and that includes all dogs, not just unfamiliar ones.  I know it can be inconvenient, but you really need to supervise all interactions.  If you can't watch them, separate them - even if it's just because you have to go to the bathroom or answer the door. Leaving a dog and a child unsupervised because it's convenient is like putting a baby in the front seat of your car (without a carseat) because you're "just driving to the gas station."

Dogs are not robots, and children are not machines.  You cannot expect a dog to never bite a child, just like you cannot expect a child to never misbehave.  If you have children and are planning to own a dog, you need to do everything in your power to reduce the risk of dog bites.  This means acquiring your dog from a reputable source, socializing and training the dog, always supervising dog/kid interactions, teaching your children how to be safe around dogs, never punishing your dog for growling, learning canine body language with a focus on stress and arousal signals, and making sure your sitters and family know the rules when it comes to dog/kid interactions. If you aren't prepared to do this, then I'm sorry - get a fish, for Pete's sake.

Unless suffering from specific medical issues (rabies, brain tumors, etc.) dogs do not bite for no reason.  Luckily, dogs give us clear signals before they bite.  It's our job to know those signals, and to watch for them before the unthinkable happens.  If you're not willing to put in the research to learn "dog language" then you are unfit to own a dog.

The city hasn't yet decided if any changes will be made to the dog ordinances.  Rest assured, I will be doing everything I can to make sure breed-specific legislation does not show its ugly face in my town. I will be addressing the city council with alternatives to BSL, and I am willing to help in any capacity with dog safety education. We'll just have to see how this all plays out.

Some Resources:
Doggone Safe
AVMA: Dog Bite Risk and Prevention: The Role of Breed
AVMA: A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lure Coursing Weekend

There's nothing I love more than a weekend full of lure coursing!

Lure coursing, as described by a series of quotes from the movie Snatch, altered by me to make it about lure coursing and not open-field coursing:

Tommy: What's coursing?
Turkish: Lure coursing.  They set lurchers - they're dogs, before you ask - on a set of plastic bags. And the plastic bags have to outrun the dogs.
Tommy: So, what if they don't?
Turkish:  Well, the plastic bags get fucked, don't they?
Tommy: .... proper fucked?
Turkish:  Yeah, Tommy.  Before zee Germans get there.
Unfortunately for the plastic bags, we made sure zee Germans were there to chase them down.

Aryn basically has to ride Rocket up to the line like a pony...

Rocket earned his final leg towards his CAA this weekend!

Kaylee apparently levitates when she's slipped... what an awesome photo!

Kaylee got her 8th and 9th CAA legs this weekend.  One more and she'll have her title!

Erin's Doberman Bourbon got his first two CA legs!

Frank earned his CA title!

Flirt earned her first two CA legs and really wowed the judges!

Famke earned two more CA legs.

Not to be outdone by her sister, Cola got a few more CAA legs as well!

Barrett earned his first two CA legs, and his mom is now addicted to lure coursing!

Rue got her first CA leg too!

Sadie got two more legs towards her CAX!

Poison rode along and got to play with her new Spanish boyfriend, Quinn the Ibizan Hound.  Both puppies got to be socialized to the sound of fighter jets practicing formations on Saturday.  Poison was a very good puppy the entire weekend, and I can't wait until she's old enough to go lure coursing as well!

Despite getting sunburned/windburned, it was a great weekend.  Great friends, great dogs, and great people-watching. I don't think any of us will ever forget the sight of the orange-spandex-clad woman biking to the "I am not a whore" song, or the guys who biked past playing stripper music.  Or the dude biking in spandex and cargo shorts... (he's a survivalist!) ... or the multitude of brightly-colored tube socks.  Bicyclists apparently love crazy tube socks.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Snakes in a Drain

Wednesday started out nice enough.  Worked my regular 8-4 shift, then headed to the Des Moines for Poison's puppy obedience and puppy agility classes.  It had been raining all day, but not excessively so.  I wasn't too worried about the basement, especially since the city had said they'd gotten the storm drain issues fixed after the last severe flood season.

The city lied.

I got home from class about 8:15pm.  I walked into the house and was immediately aware of the shrill beeping from the basement's water alarms.  Luckily the storm drains were barely overflowing at that point, so I had time to get the emergency utility pumps out from storage before anything in the basement got ruined.

I should probably explain our pump situation.  We don't have a sump pump, because our flooding issues all stem from the storm drains, not a leaky foundation. We have several utility pumps, but we cannot run them constantly because they will overheat.  We have to manually run them until the water level goes down to about one centimeter, then unplug the pumps and wait for the water level to rise again.  It's a tedious job.

Once the pumps were in place, I pulled out the camp cot and got comfortable.  I brought down my phone, my laptop, a few bottles of water and some fruit to snack on while I ran the pumps.  I sent a text to Steve, telling him that the basement was flooding and I was oh so happy he was at work and unable to assist.  (That's sarcasm, folks.)

As I stared dully at the pumps... I noticed something.  Something terrible.  There was a little face staring at me from inside the storm drain.  Slowly but surely, the little face emerged from the drain grate and worked its way up the side of the utility pump.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Was I stuck in the middle of a nightmare, unable to wake up?  Had I died, and this was hell?

That's right.  There was a snake coming up from the storm drain.

Now, I actually do like snakes.  They're fascinating little creatures.  I have a pet snake, and I love spotting snakes when I'm out hiking... even the dangerous ones.  (Remind me to tell you all about the time Aryn and I nearly stepped on a Water Moccasin!)  However, for wild snakes I draw the line at the threshhhold of my house.  Pet snakes in house = ok.  Wild snakes in house = not ok.

Samuel L. Jackson's voice suddenly entered my thoughts, and then this happened:

Eventually I managed to kill the snake.  I felt bad, but he kept clogging the pump and I figured a swift beheading would be kinder than massive internal injuries due to being sucked up into a utility pump.  I texted Steve to let him know what I was going through.

I didn't get any tacos or junk food.  Steve was very impressed with my "fantastic scientific advancements in pump hose methods" though.  I basically tied the end of the hose to a heavy rock, so the force of the water wouldn't cause the hose to jerk backwards and into the basement.  I was very proud of myself.

We manned the pumps for about 21 hours. Despite our efforts, we did lose a lot of stuff to flood damage but it's nothing we can't live without.  We learned long ago that truly valuable items in the basement need to be up on cinder blocks... or be waterproof.

The one good thing about a flooded basement is that it makes decluttering and deep-cleaning practically mandatory.  In my opinion, the basement was overdue for both.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Meat Run: A Documentary

Behold... a photographic account of Saturday's "meat run." This photo set was taken with my humble iPhone, over a span of roughly 14 hours, spanning three states. If some of these photos are boring, that's good!  It means that you will get an idea of how painfully dull this trip can be at times.

We rented a 2013 Ford F-150 this time. Despite it being the same size as the Chevy Silverado we took last time, it was vastly superior. I've never been much of a Ford fan, but this truck changed my mind. Aryn decided she had fallen in love with the truck, and her husband would need to find somewhere else to stay because the truck was moving in with her.  Promise rings were exchanged.  Aryn kept talking about wanting to kiss the truck, and demanded that I take photos.

It was more than two hours into our voyage before it was light enough for the photo documentation to begin.

Aryn instructed me to take a photo of the backseat. All the tarps made it look like we were getting ready to murder someone.

We started noticing snow. Snow in mid-April is practically criminal!

Soon thereafter, we began to see vehicles in the ditch.  Lots of them.

The roads quickly became more treacherous.

"I asked if the roads would be okay, and everyone said they would be clear!  This isn't clear!  This is death! Death in a pretty truck!" exclaimed Aryn.

While I took inventory of the contents of a gift-basket one of our meat people gave us, Aryn started worrying about some possible side effects she was experiencing.

"I think one of the side effects of prednisone is vision loss, and if that occurs, to call your physician immediately  Haha oops!" giggled Aryn.

"I mean, I can still read far away, but my eyes are tired and I can't read far away." (...what?)

"I'm checking to see which eye is worse, or if they're bad together."

I told Aryn not to worry about it, because unless she was experiencing shortness of breath or vomiting up blood, that she'd probably be ok. We started wondering why the gas gauge wasn't going down. I checked the manual, which said there were two possible tank sizes... a 26 gallon tank and a 36 gallon tank.  I did the math.  Aryn didn't want to know what size the tank was.  I shot her a significant look, and it dawned on her that we had indeed rented a truck with a 36 gallon tank.

"That's wack... that's WACK!" screamed Aryn.

We rounded a bend...

Went down a hill...

... and spotted cliffsicles!  It was the most interesting 5 minutes of the entire trip thus far.




My camera decided to take its own photo. I think it was getting sick of cliffsicles.

Too bad, phone, I am the boss around here.. and I say... more cliffsicles!

It began to snow, but instead of sticking it just hit the windshield like miniature pieces of hail and bounced off.  "Looks like more of that hard snow..." Aryn mumbled.

We started to think that the reports of flood warnings in Wisconsin were well-founded...

"It's all glittery outside!" - Aryn
"Yeah... Ke$ha must be lurking in the trees somewhere." - Me

We wondered why this lake was still frozen...

 The roads became twisty, and we knew we knew we were getting close to our destination.

Yay!  We had arrived!

As Aryn paid our bill, I snuck a look at the order board.  Our order was the largest one... yeah!  We win!  ...or something.  Side note:  Look at those horns!  The office is creepy.

"Greetings ladies, allow me to escort you to your huge pile of meat!" - Mr. Dog

Soon we were on our way home.  Somehow we managed to fit 71 boxes of meat into our pretty truck and escape the meat place with only one awkward conversation with another customer.  Seriously, what part of "we just drove 6 hours to get here, and we really need to get home before dark" did you not undertand, Mr. Creepypants??? We don't care about where you get your turkey!

As is tradition, our next stop was the BP we've affectionately nicknamed "the redneck gas station."  

Neshkoro's lake is thawed, why wasn't the other one thawed?  Huh?  Huh?

There is a laundromat in the redneck gas station. Also, hunting permits and fishing lures and shotgun shells.  It is a very strange gas station.

Unfortunately, there was something wrong with the plumbing.  Aryn went to the bathroom and discovered the toilets were both VERY full of water.  When she tried flushing, the toilet overflowed. I too had to pee, so she said she'd stand guard while I used the men's restroom.  I ran into the same problem.  I told one of the employees what was happening, and he looked very sad.  He said he knew what was wrong and that he'd go fix it.  I told him I was sorry he had to do that, and he said it wasn't a hard fix... just messy.  I didn't ask him to elaborate.

And, with that, we were on the road again.

 Road construction.

There is something about driving in Madison that turns Aryn into a fire-breathing rage monster. It's mildly amusing...

 Right before we hit Platteville, a few of the box lids flew up and started waving at passing drivers. Oddly enough, the boxes did the exact same thing at the exact same point in our journey last time.

This is the road that never ends... yes it goes on and on my friends... *sigh*

 We finally made it to Dubuque!

We totally want this house mansion estate castle.

At this point in the trip, we were beyond exhausted.  I had to resort to eating Mambas in order to stay awake, but even then I was doing stupid stuff like shattering Aryn's love for her car by informing her that Volkswagen was originally a Nazi company, and leaving smartass comments on random Facebook pages. (Describe this horse in one word.  Brown. *uncontrollable giggling*)

We got to the club and distributed meat.  We went back to Aryn's house and dropped off her meat.  We attempted to load my meat into the Element, but at that point we were so tired and weak that we kept dropping the boxes.... and then laughing hysterically.

I finally got the meat loaded up and drove home.  It took me awhile, but I eventually got it all downstairs and into the freezer.  Then I showered.  Then I slept for 14 hours.   

Until next time, folks!