Tag Archives: dogs

The ebook of “What The Dog Said” is 50% off through the end of June

what the dog said cover of book

Life is messy business, and that’s just fine with humor columnist Joanne Brokaw. For almost a decade, she’s been musing on life’s ups, downs and inbetweens, taking readers on a journey filled with laughter, dog hair and even a few tears. From her heartwrenching chance encounter with a soldier in an airport to her confession as an office supply addict, from parenting advice to holiday observations penned by Bandit, her blogging Border Collie, Brokaw invites readers to join her again in the mundane (but often hilarious) mishaps and adventures of everyday life

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday, my publisher, WordCrafts Press, is offering the ebook version of my book What The Dog Said for just $2.99 through the end of June. That’s 50% off the cover price.

What The Dog Said is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and everywhere else you purchase ebooks. The paperback is also available online at Amazon and B&N. If you’re in Rochester, NY, you can purchase it at:

Penfield Veterinary Hospital
1672 Penfield Rd
Rochester, NY 14625
(585) 381-2441

A portion of the royalties from every book sale benefits Rochester Hope For Pets.

If you’re any good at math you’ve figured out now that I just turned 50. If you aren’t good at math, my series of posts, “50 thoughts on turning 50″ should have given you another clue. Either way, check out my June column in Refreshed Magazine, where friends who celebrated their 50th birthday before I did shared some words of wisdom.

 

Another rant about off leash dogs and I ponder why the leash lawbreakers get to run the show

The dog owner is barely visible in the picture, far to the right. That's as close as she got to her dog, which was roaming loose in the cemetery.

The dog has finally left us alone and gone to sniff the wreaths. The dog’s owner is barely visible in the picture, far to the right. That’s as close as she got to her dog, which was roaming around off leash.

Disclaimer: I am about to rant. And rant in a way that you may think is petty. If you think I’m petty then this post is probably meant for you. 

So I’m at White Haven today, in the “Little Lambs” section, pondering the graves of the three infant children of a couple named Michael and Molly Nier, whose  infant daughter and two infant sons died within a three year period, when I hear a woman’s voice behind me say something that sounds like, “Uh oh”.

I love walking in this particular cemetery, because it’s safe and quiet and solemn. I like the tranquility. I think, I pray, I write in my head. I read the headstones and talk to the cemetery workers. I listen to the birds and take pictures of the foliage. It’s a little sanctuary. And the best part is that I can walk Bailey there with relative assurance that we’re not going to be surprised by other dog walkers. It’s not the case with the other places where I can walk Bandit.

Bailey, in case you don’t know, has some reactivity issues with other dogs. As in, if approached by a strange dog she may react in a way that causes harm to the other dog or anyone trying to separate them. It’s a behavior problem we’ve worked with in training, and we have learned to manage the situations as well as help her learn how to manage her impulses. She’s made incredible progress. I mean, really incredible. And now she even does really well in organized situations with other dogs. She can go to classes with other dogs. She can meet another dog nicely and then we do a  quick “break!” and she comes back nicely. We always work on this with another behavior-savvy dog owner whose dog is on leash.

Notice that I say “organized” situations. Surprises, like a strange dog bounding at us from out the blue? Not such a happy scenerio.  Bailey can start out happy and wiggling her butt with joy, but in an instant things can go very, very wrong, and if the other dog is off leash, there’s no way to call it off Bailey.

Translation: when my dog is on leash, I have control over her. When your dog is off leash, you not only can’t control your dog but you cause major problems for me.  Because at no time do I ever have any control over your dog.

Which is why walking at White Haven is so great for both dogs. It’s really close to home, so I can take one dog for a walk, then go home and switch. (Yes, Bailey’s issues extend to her brother Bandit. They are always separated by gates in our house. They can walk perfectly fine together as long as one person walks one dog and they don’t have to ride together in the car.) There are very few places in this cemetery where we can’t see into the distance, giving me a chance to avoid funerals, other walkers, and one maintenance golf cart that for some reason Bailey really doesn’t like. Bandit? No problems walking anywhere. You just have to make sure he doesn’t pee on everything in sight.

So there’s some background. Now, back to this afternoon.

I’d already walked Bailey, gone home to switch dogs, had walked with Bandit and am now on my way back to my car.  And again, I’m standing in the infant section for several minutes, really taking time to read the headstones and wonder about this couple and their loss, when I hear someone behind me.

I turn around and find a big, slobbering (literally, slobber just falling from its mouth) Golden Retriever headed towards me and Bandit. I tell Bandit, “No, no, no, no,” pull his leash tight to me and call to the woman to get her dog. She kind of lollygags where she is, about 20 feet away, calling to the dog, who blatantly ignores her. I call, “Get your dog!” Nothing. I yell louder, “Get your dog! This is very dangerous!” She ignores me while her dog ignores her.

OK, I know that you’re thinking, “I get how this would be a problem with Bailey, since you just told me about her issues. But Bandit is the good dog. And this is just a big, stupid Golden. What’s the problem?”

As nice as Bandit is, he’s not always a fan of other dogs. But at least he’s predictable, in the way most dogs are predictable. At this moment, Bandit is sniffing the slobbering dog but I can see his ears going back and his eyes narrowing and I know that some snapping may ensue if the Golden comes any closer to me. Bandit likes a buffer zone between me and anyone else, two- or four-legged. He’ll send out serious warning signals if he thinks someone is going to violate that zone or otherwise just pisses him off. But I don’t know what this other dog is going to do if Bandit reacts that way. I mean, my dog looks all nice and friendly at this point, too. And Bailey can’t read other dogs’ signals so I know from experience that it can be all happy tail wagging one minute and blood the next. This dog’s owner is clearly clueless; I can only assume her dog is, too.

Translation: a smart dog owner knows their own dog but is always be prepared for the worst from someone else’s dog.

I call again to the woman, “This is really dangerous!! Get your dog!!!” The woman puts her hand to her ear to imply she can’t hear me. I yell louder. She ignores me, her dog ignores her, and I’m getting more and more pissed off by the second. I’m walking away with Bandit but the Golden is following along.

I yell to the woman that she needs to keep her dog ON THE LEASH so I stop walking, and, to make a point, hold her dog’s collar for a second and tell her to come and get her dog. She tells me to leave her dog alone. I let go and basically scream (yup, at the top of my lungs), “PUT YOUR DOG ON A LEASH”. She tells me I don’t have to talk to her like that.

I pull out my cell phone and contemplate calling 9-1-1. My heart is pounding, because I know that this scenerio could go completely awry in an instant if Bandit snaps at this dog and it freaks in return. If that happens, the owner has no way to pull her dog back, mostly owing to the fact that it’s not only off leash but she’s still about 20 feet away. Do I keep walking and have her dog follow? Do I stand there and wait until her dog decides to leave, hoping that Bandit loses interest?

And running through my mind? “God, if I had Bailey with me, this would be really, really bad.” Continue reading

On the job hunt

Maybe I should apply to be the Zamboni driver at the ice arena? Can’t you just picture me and Bandit riding around the rink?

I’ve spent much of this evening looking for a job, scouring pages and pages of help wanted ads on various employment websites. I need a job, and I think I need to bring in income from non-writing related sources for a while. Let’s give that puppy a rest. I need to just write for myself for a while.

I don’t know what everyone is complaining about, job wise; there are lots of jobs on these sites. Just none I want to do.

Receptionist with knowledge of Microsoft Office? Nope. Retails sales? Too screwy of a schedule. Product merchandising? What’s a plan0gram. Admin assistant, inside sales, outside sales? Boring, too many coworkers, too many numbers.

I’m not looking for a career. I just need to bring in income to help pay for the truck darling husband brought home last year, and to fund my list of “things I want to do before it’s too late” – most of which involved fixing the dogmobile so Bandit and I can hit the road for our cross country trip. But poor Pete the Jeep is in need of some serious overhaul before we head out for that kind of adventure.

The truth is that I’ve spent so much time alone over the last decade that it’s not going to be easy to find a job where I can utilize my skills while working within my parameters. I mean, who’s going to pay for all of this personality and still give me time off for a nap every afternoon?

I applied for a great part time job as a product specialist for an awesome dog food company. Basically, I’d set up a table at a pet store on Saturdays and talk to people about their pets, their nutritional needs, and ways to have happier, healthier relationships with their pets.

Yeesh, I do that whenever I go to the pet store. Someone might as well pay me for it.

My friend Pauline thinks I’d make a lot of money as a bartender. I told her that I don’t know how to mix drinks. She said she didn’t think that mattered.

The only other job I might be interested in is driving a Zamboni at the ice arena. Except they need someone who is “mechanically knowledgable”. I don’t know if fixing the tailpipe on my Jeep with duct tape and a coat hanger qualifies.

Dead squirrels and wormy birds (no wonder my head aches)

Bailey – she certainly keeps life interesting.

We’ve had an ongoing prediction here at The Funny Farm, that someday Bailey is going to catch a squirrel. Not only is she a fast runner, she has a super sniffer. If a critter is in the yard, she can sniff him out faster than he can find a place to hide.

Sometimes when I let the dogs out, the bolt to the back and I can hear squirrels scratching up the trees. Bailey once trapped a squirrel at the top of the 8′ high fence. The squirrel would run left; Bailey was there. He’d run right;  Bailey was there. Not that she could catch him up that high. She’s just intimidating, what with that bark.

If there’s something unusual – or dead – in the yard, Bailey will find it. Poop, peanut shells from the neighbor’s feeder, trash blown from the other side of the fence. I once saw Bailey chewing on what I thought was a stick. It turned out to be an entire dead bird. A whole bird! She had the entire thing in her mouth! I had to pry open those jaws and literally reach in to remove the intact bird.

Talk about gross.

Anyway, I had gone out to run an errand. When I came home, I let Bailey out and stayed inside for a minute to be welcomed home by Bandit. Things were quiet outside – no barking, no yipping, not a sound. That’s a good sign, usually. I went out to switch dogs – and that’s when I saw Bailey in the driveway standing over what looked like an old stuffed toy.

Except it wasn’t a toy. It was a squirrel.

Bailey had the squirrel pinned down, then she’d let it up. The squirrel would try to get away, Bailey would paw at it, it would squeak, she’d paw at it, and on and on. Bailey was strangely calm, as if she wasn’t really sure what she’s caught or what she wanted to do with it. And the squirrel was clearly in distress but seemed to know that if he stayed still Bailey was more likely to just stare, rather than cause him further harm.

I knew that freaking out would send Bailey over the edge – she’s reactively weird that way. A screetch from me and the squirrel would be toast. So I ran into the house, grabbed some biscuits and started calling Bailey, tossing biscuits in an attempt to lure her from the squirrel just long enough so I could grab her collar while avoiding a scratch from the squirrel.

It took a second or two, but I got Bailey in the house, and hoped that the squirrel would run away to wherever it is that injured squirrels go.

I called the vet – Bailey is up to date on her shots, she didn’t appear to be injured at all, so there wasn’t any worry in that regard. But when I looked outside, there was the squirrel. Dying, right outside the screen door.

The squirrel crawled up there in the middle of the garden hose tangle. And died. Sort of.

So I called the village animal control office (which in our town is also the building inspector). Not surprisingly, the clerk told me that animal control really doesn’t do anything and that usually in this situation, the critter will crawl away on its own. (This is actually a very, very common policy.) But when I told her the critter was … Eeeeww!! Right at my door!!! … Dead in the hot sun!! …. she sent over Dave, the building inspector/animal control officer.

Dave thought that the squirrel had a broken back, and that it was entirely possible that the critter was already injured when Bailey found it. I tend to agree; Bailey wasn’t worked up into a frenzy, and she didn’t seem bent on shaking or chewing or otherwise causing the critter harm. She was much more curious than murdurous about her little pal.

Thankfully, Dave removed the squirrel – it was still alive so he had to … let’s say … humanely remedy the situation. He was so nice and he took care of the situation so calmly. I will never complain about how high my taxes are again.

As I watched him drive away, I looked down, and there was a dead bird in the front yard. A gross, wormy, ant-covered dead bird.

Seriously, what is going on over here? Continue reading

5 reasons why I should win the “Eukanuba Paws In Motion to BarkWorld” prize

Me, Bandit, editor friend Carol Bryant and Dexter.

In the interest of full disclosure, this post will make a shameless pitch for why I need to win an all expense paid trip to BarkWorld 2012. What can I say? I’m desperate. Continue reading

Me and my “disposable dog”

Bailey, the day I brought her home from the shelter, January 22, 2011. She was six weeks old.

13WHAM News did a story tonight on what they called “Disposable Dogs,” puppies and dogs that irresponsible backyard breeders keep producing and then bringing to the shelter. Sometimes it’s day old puppies; sometimes it’s the mother dogs who have been bred till they’re no longer useful and then dumped; sometimes it’s adult dogs people bring home and then turn over when they’re bored with them.

Reporter Jane Flasch said in the story that about 1028 pit bulls were euthanized in 2011 at Rochester Animal Services. I volunteered at RAS for a year – an experience I absolutely loved but also one that broke my heart every time I was there. (I only stopped volunteering when I had to get a real job, which lasted a few weeks. Then Scout got sick, Bailey and Bandit had their turn of events, and I wasn’t able to go back. But I digress.)

The report included not just interviews with people like Jenn Fedele, founder of Pitty Love Rescue – the story incorrectly identified Jenn as a breeder; she is most definitely not a breeder – but also photos taken in the tech rooms at RAS of dogs being euthanized.

Seriously, having just had to put my darling Scout to sleep after a battle with cancer, I did not need to see that. But maybe you did, so that you could understand how serious the problem is.

As I watched the story, one thing stood out: had Bailey not come home with me on January 22, 2011, she would have been one of those statistics. Continue reading

Puppy mills, shady petitions, and other updates

For those of you who don’t read my Heavenly Creatures blog over at Patheos.com, you may have missed the hot topic last week about a commercial dog breeding facility proposed for Gorham, NY. The town board originally approved a special use permit for Curtis and Jolene Martin, who currently operate a facility in Varick, NY (near Seneca Falls in Seneca County). The plan is to build a facility to house 200-500 dogs to breed and sell wholesale to pet stores across the country.

The approval for the special use permit was unanimous, but once word got out about the planned breeding facility, it was clear the board didn’t have any idea what they’d just OK’d. The Martins run what is nicely called a wholesale dog breeding facility – but is also referred to as a puppy mill (or puppy “farm”, if you listen to Channel 10 news). Hundreds of dogs bred over and over and over to produce puppies for sale to commercial pet stores. They’ve been cited for violations in the care of the dogs. And even without violations, breeding 500 dogs factory-style just isn’t right any way you look at it.

Well, that’s how I feel about it, anyway.

It’s a hot story that culminated Wednesday with an open meeting in Gorham that saw 400 people show up to share their views. The meeting opened with a statement from the town supervisor that the permit had been nullified and plans would have to be approved by the Ontario County Planning Board. If you missed anything, you can catch up on the Heavenly Creatures blog:

One of the things people who were riled up did to try and make a difference was to start petitions. One girl in Buffalo collected 9,000 signatures. And I found out today that someone had started a petition opposing the puppy mill, with the target as my blog … to “STOP HEAVENLY CREATURES APPROVAL TO BUILD AND BREED.”

Which is ridiculous, because I’m a writer, not a breeder or a builder.

And even worse, they used a photo of my Scout as the logo for their petition.

So if you are asked to sign a petition about a puppy mill that includes “Heavenly Creatures” and this photo of Scout – don’t sign it. I have no clue what this person is trying to do – he appears to be an animal welfare advocate –  and I don’t want my readers to be taken in because you see darling Scout’s photo and assume I’m involved.

All of the hubbub did do one positive thing: I’ve become fascinated by the fervor that some animal welfare advocates have approached this topic; it reminds me of the polarizing, self absorbed, single issue mindset I’ve seen in religious communities. People driving hours to protest puppies while ignorning animal cruelty to other animals. Also surprising: the diverse attitudes within the Christian community; there were people of faith whose response to the puppy mill issue is “it’s their business.” So I’ve launched a little project to research and write more on animal advocacy and religion.

Well, that’s all the writing news from The Funny Farm for now. In dog news?

My crying bouts over Scout have become controllable; his remains are in a lovely wooden box from the vet, which is inside a pretty box that says, “Love and Inspire”. It also holds his collar and paw print in plaster (OMG that was such a lovely thing to get from the vet). It sits near my bed. I still can’t go into my office, where he spent most of his time. He preferred to hide under my desk and wedged behind the chair. Even though he chose that spot, it pains me to think of him there, hiding out by himself. I’m plagued by guilt over what I could have done, should have done, the stress his had in the last six months of his life with Bandit and Bailey. Sigh. I need to go find the tissues.

Bailey is doing a lovely  job with her puppy school practice, what little we manage to do. She’s quite fond of doing circus dog tricks – through the hoop, over the yardstick; I think she’s channeling Scout. Bandit occasionally seems a bit lonely without his brother but he’s one super snuggle monster. We’ve been hitting the park for romps and runs, and Bandit made a new friend at Beyond Hardware. You can read more on his blog. These two are still separated 24/7 but they’ve calmed down a lot. I still don’t leave them home alone together, even separated. Bailey is an escape artist and if she broke out of her crate … well, we’re not ready for that yet. But she’s doing great working on spending time in a crate. And when I go somewhere, I just take a dog with me!

Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned and keep in touch!

Dog training, Cesar Millan, and other topics that really rile up readers

As you know, I’m blogging over at Patheos.com about animals, life and faith. (What, you didn’t know? Where have you been?) I’ve had a few posts lately that have riled up readers, and I suspect today’s post may add to the fracas. Just wanted to put them on your radar, in case you’re bored & want to join the discussion:

And just for fun, did you read these? They won’t get you  mad … hopefully …:

Writer finds success online

NPR’s “All Things Considered” did a story on Amanda Hocking, the bestselling author who found fame and fortune in e-publishing. They called it a Cinderella story – the writer rejected by every agent and publisher she approached, who essentially thumbed her nose at the traditional industry by putting her stories online.

She sold more than a million ebooks, and now the traditional publishers came looking for her. She’s signed a deal with St. Martin’s and her first book, “Switched”, is in stores now.

What I love about the story is that she had the tenacity to keep writing and to find an outlet for her work that generally brought in enough to fill her gas tank before taking off like a rocket. A million dollar rocket.

My favorite part of the story was this:

“It’s still totally unreal when I think about it,” she says. “It feels so weird to be able to just kind of buy things when I want them or need them.” Like a life-size replica of Han Solo encased in carbonite. It cost $7,000 and sits in her “movie room” — otherwise known as the basement.

You know you’ve made it big when you can plop down $7,000 for Han Solo in carbonite and then store him in your basement.

I think I’ll set a goal this year to finish one of Bandit’s books and put it online. If nothing else, it’ll make me feel like I’ve accomplished something, even if I never can afford Han Solo in carbonite. Which is good, because I’ve never really wanted Han Solo in carbonite. See, I’m feeling positive already!

RIP Scout the Wonder Dog

Scout's chasing bubbles in heaven now

On Thursday, January 5th, I posted an update about things here with the dogs, writing, etc. At the time, Scout was still here, although he’d been having some tough times.

I’m sorry to report that yesterday he went to live on God’s Farm in the Sky. It’s still emotional so I’ll let you read Bandit’s account of the last 48 hours. I can’t even look at Scout’s picture without breaking down. And I have enormous guilt over his passing – I should have spent more time with him, I shouldn’t have gone to sleep that last night so I could have spent all of the time with him …. I can’t even go there right now.

But there are things I’d like to tell you about – I just can’t do it now.