March 3, 2012
Hello Everyone, Wimsey here, coming to you from Manhattan’s Upper West Side where I am a day late and a dollar short (I visited the vet yesterday) and where we are mercifully tornado free. If there were to be a tornado my human Maria and I would high tail it over to her friend Elizabeth’s building’s basement for protection from the elements—a spot I have been itching to get to as it contains the laundry room.
Well as you may surmise from my tardiness, the week, and especially yesterday, was very busy. I entertained my French bulldog puppy Pluto quite a bit and supervising the little rascal took time, as did my usual kitchen surveillance activities, augmented these days by Elizabeth’s newfound predilection for popcorn. The excellent thing about popcorn is that the mounds are rarely stable and therefore create abundant culinary opportunity. And on
Thursday I hit the jackpot when Elizabeth tripped and half the bowl (the top part with all the butter) went flying all over the carpet and as I wished to spare her the prospect of butter stains on the rug I sprang into action with a speed not seen since she dumped dinner on the kitchen floor (clumsiness in a human being one of their primary assets). It was over in seconds—like it never happened, except that I had a bellyful of buttered popcorn and she didn’t. Which is as it should be.
I also put in an appearance at the vet’s yesterday (when do I not?) to once again have my anal glands inspected. I have been having a spot (or more than a spot) of trouble back there and the vet has been monitoring the effects of an expensive shot of antibiotic which appears to be having the desired effect. Who knew humans could get so excited over anal glands but I guess the fact that I like to smear messy bits of my anatomy—like my muzzle after I have had a lengthy drink of water—on them might be partially responsible. My humans think laundry machines should have a special anal gland cycle.
I was also hustled over there to give blood for yet another tick test—it seems that Elizabeth’s vet called her with the astonishing news that she tested positive for Lyme Disease. Now acquiring Lyme Disease at any time would be pretty surprising given the rather voluminous nature of my humans’ sartorial habits--they both have skin that burns if they sit under a lamp too long so spring and summer wear is long on fabric and short on exposed skin, and that which is exposed is heavily smeared with revolting sun block; winter wear, even in a mild winter, includes long johns and multiple layers that are designed to be impervious to the elements (although not to drool) let alone ticks—but a mid-winter infection requires the kind of special talent that only I possess, hence my test.
Elizabeth’s vet asked her where she could have acquired such a disease and as deer ticks are probably pretty thin on the ground in Oslo and London this time of year—her two most recent trips—her attention naturally focused on me. I do expect to be vindicated, but Elizabeth is pretty convinced that the test is erroneous in any case and I greatly fear that her physician is in for the type of lecture cum grand inquisition that she usually reserves for my long suffering vets.
Anyway, now few things get people as riled up as criticizing the behavior of their dogs or their kids—especially here in New York City where there are plenty of both living cheek by jowl and no shortage of forceful and opinionated personalities. My humans come in for more than their share of comments from this urban peanut gallery vis my dynamic walking style, my vociferous baying and my abiding interest in putting my nose in places that noses are not generally supposed to be. And of course whatever the TV dog training style du jour is that is what is suggested, people not understanding that my humans kind of like me the way I am (except when they don’t) and in any case, they don’t have much of a choice, as we Hounds are pretty committed to going our own way (as long as that way is not the same way that our humans want to go in).
But dogs are not the only ones who come in for training manuals—kids have had to contend with the Tiger Moms and the anti-Tiger Moms and over the last few weeks, a new book suggesting that the French are better parents. Now it is an accepted fact that the French are better at most things (especially according to the French), netting out a couple of world wars, so why should dog training be any different:
Bringing up Chien: A French Guide to Dog Training
Bonjour! Welcome tout le monde to yet another example of French superiority in the fine art of living—we have beaten the Anglo Saxons in the matters of food, wine, fashion, art and perfume and are now about to extend our hegemony to the art of dog training. The fact that you have to read about it in the headache-inducing English language is bien sûr a travesty but it’s the price to pay for having a language so beautiful that no one is able to pronounce it properly.
Alors, let us begin. But first we must have a cigarette and an espresso—a proper breakfast is essential to the success of any dog training enterprise.
Now the essence of French dog training, like the essence of French child rearing is to create the cadre or framework in which the child or dog can thrive. As our first example we are going to teach Monsieur le Hound to sit:
“Bonjour M. le Hound. Comment allez- vous aujourd'hui? Sit s’il vous plait.” (The key to French dog training is also to be calm, assertive and very polite).
As we can see, M. le Hound has declined to sit. Do not be discouraged.
“Voila! Ici I have a fine piece of foie gras. Perhaps Monsieur would care to reconsider his decision in exchange for this excellent French delicacy? Yes I thought so. Très bien!”
We have successfully taught M. le Hound the sit. Now let us move on to the down:
Would M. le Hound be so kind as to lie down? Non? The Monsieur does not feel inclined to lie down at this moment? There is a table leg that needs chewing. C’est dommage because here I have an excellent piece of fragrant Camembert which would be even more delicious when consumed from a recumbent position. Très bien! I see you are in d’accord.”
Monsieur le Hound has mastered the down. It is important to note that if the Camembert causes one to resort to Le Febreze, a firmer cheese, such as Morbier, can easily be substituted. Versatility is the essence of French Dog Training. Next we have come:
Would Monsieur le Hound care to come this way? Non? I see Monsieur has comfortably established himself on the Aubusson but perhaps this confit de canard might change his mind? I understand that the Monsieur is quite fond of ducks. Eh bien, I can see that I was not misinformed, Monsieur is indeed a lover of the poultry.
But now we must pause. In his enthusiasm, M. le Hound has deranged my scarf which must be retied as the ability to tie and wear a scarf properly is one of the great French cultural achievements right up there with putting a pyramid in the middle of the Louvre. It is crucial to remain chic throughout French Dog Training, otherwise the dog will not respect you. Now we are ready to face our greatest challenge—inducing M. le Hound to heel. This requires a very special, proprietary technique as M. le Hound is by nature not a heeler of legs but a dislocater of shoulders:
S'il vous plait! S'il vous plait! Monsieur le Hound you are hurting me! Mais oui, I know Monsieur does not care about this but perhaps Monsieur will care instead about Monsieur le Live Squirrel that I am wearing in a bag around my waist. Yes, I see, Monsieur cares very much about his ami M. le Squirrel and is interested in keeping him under close observation and wishes to get to know him better. Bien fait! A heel magnifique has been achieved!
So, as you can see, French dog training techniques are not only highly effective and take advantage of our innate cultural superiority but are flexible as well—all manner of fine French food, from steak frites to escargots de Bourgogne may be used. In fact rotating the menu is preferred so as to teach the Hound that he may sit not only for foie gras but for boudin blanc as well. And it is never permitted to smack one’s Hound over the nose with a baguette however much one feels the urge. But of course, one can always save oneself a lot of time and money, not to mention the content of one’s refrigerator, by electing to train Monsieur le Golden Retriever instead!
I always knew there was a reason why French dogs were so well behaved! And speaking of food it is now time for my Snack of the Week report. This week, in addition to my humans toting around bribing turkey, a supply of my usual Old Mother Hubbard biscuits and last week’s Snack of the Week, they were carrying Ziwi Peak Venison Recipe Premium Meat Jerky Treats. My eye was immediately caught by the packaging which lists these as “Good Dog” treats making them wholly inappropriate for my consumption (why are there never “Bad Dog” treats to accommodate those of us who are independent thinkers and who have a lot of personality?).
Nevertheless I condescended to sample these snacks with the proviso that no “good dog” behavior be expected. (The only way to induce “good dog” behavior in a Hound is via a brain transplant). Now these snacks are quite tasty with an excellent nose, plenty of body and a strong finish. In addition to strong notes of deer as one would expect in a snack labeled venison, there are also surprising minor notes of the ocean owing to the inclusion of fish oil in the formula.
However, although I liked these snacks quite a bit, their minute size makes them rather inappropriate for one of my giant size. The jerky is cut up into tiny rectangles 1x 0.5 inches making them better suited to less massive canines than myself and making my humans look like pikers for proffering just one. Their diminutive size would make them rather useful as training treats should such an activity have been possible with me (I do actually have a diploma from puppy obedience school which Maria found shocking considering that I was routinely booted from class for being disruptive; her theory is that the teacher did not want to see me again).
Anyway, I think I will leave it there for this week. I am hoping that the temperatures become more spring like to match the development of the flowerbeds—I am once again beginning my annual treat of pooping amidst floral splendor and hollering humans.
Until next time,
Wimsey, The “I did not give Elizabeth a Lyme Tick for her Birthday” Hound