Doga = NOga

this is not the face of a canine yogi

this is not the face of a canine yogi

 

This afternoon, I took Karmann to a local fall-themed dog event. It included a session of “doga,” which is, of course, dog yoga. It’s the reason we went. In addition to whatever the hell a dog yoga class could be, it promised dog massage, which I thought would be helpful for Karmann’s arthritis.

Allow me, then, to explain it for you.

Doga = gathering 20-30 mostly-oblivious dog stewards into a room, and then making them do things that further direct their attention away from their dogs, in the name of presence and dog-bonding. There is barking.

In other words, doga is a horrible idea.

Since I had no idea what to expect, I wore, well, yoga pants. I realized that it was DOGa, however I also felt reasonably assured that I was not going to look at Karmann, be all, “Yo, puppy, Trikonasana.” and watch in amazement as she executed a perfect Triangle Pose. Whatever the hell doga would be, I figured, would require some flexibility and dog manipulation on my part, and I therefore did not wear low-rise superskinnies with my knee high motorcycle boots.

Lesson 1: not everybody is logical.

I walked into a room including around five pup-moms in skinny jeans and boots, one of whom immediately said, because I am invisible and/or presumed deaf, “It’s dog yoga, I didn’t think *I* would be doing yoga. What’s with the people in yoga pants?” To which another superskinny warrior responded, “People wear those things EVERYWHERE. To work, even.”

Lesson 2: I am absolutely right in my assumption that all people are asshats until they prove otherwise. Yoga notwithstanding.

Prior to doga, I spent an hour and a half walking Karmie around, trying to blow off some steam and prepare her for the mindlfullness that would surely be required of a canine yogi. And it worked, more or less. Until all the other people started coming in with their dogs, barking and freaking the hell out and dressed like tacos and  batman princesses because there was a costume contest immediately preceding over at the tent area (which had six swag tents, two of which were booze samples–yay puppies!) In other words, it was pretty much like every other dog-specific novelty gathering that counts for the one time each year that people venture off their home turf with their dogs and without their brains.

Lesson 3: refer to lesson 2.

Finally, yoga starts and I am THRILLED because what, even, is doga?!?? We are told that we are going to learn to be mindful WITH our dogs, which seems weird, and proceed to do a basic breathing exercise while 25 or so dogs on leashes vibrate around the nuclei of our persons, trying to interact with someone, ANYONE. Human, dog, they don’t care, they do not know what is happening and all the people have their eyes closed, hyperventilating.

Lesson 4: Doga confuses actual dogs.

And then we start a circular walking meditation, for which some kindly people very thoughtfully put out water bowls. Which means that our aware, present, relaxing, centering circumambulation is punctuated by four dog pile ups, puppies lunging for water, and bowl-guarding snit fits. Breathe in to the count of four left foot strikes, hold it for two, breathe out for the PLEASE STOP LETTING YOUR DOG SNAP AT THAT AGING BEAGLE WHO WOULD JUST LIKE WATER.

Lesson 5: Doga is not relaxing. For anyone.

After the circumambulation-cum-water fights, we are told to pull out our treats to begin working on gaze with our dogs.

Treats?

I was not told to bring treats. In fact, I very specifically do not bring treats to group dog events because I don’t want to start a brawl by whipping out liver jerky in a room full of stressed, over-stimulated, poorly-minded strangedogs. We are treatless. Poor Karmann. This is really not working out for her at all.

The exercise we’re doing, however, is one that Karmie owns like the fuzzbutt little bawss she is: eye contact and following. She knows this as “watch,” so we rock it out sans treats, substituting pets and nose kisses for liver. After a couple minutes, she has come back to earth. Whew.

Which is when we are told to stand on our leashes, our feet hip width apart.

Ok. Um. Three problems:

1. When I take Karmann into densely populated urban areas, I use a 4 foot leash. That’s so I don’t have 3 feet of looping leash flopping against my leg while I leave a foot or so free to guide her through people/stupid kids/stupid parents/other dogs/old people.

2. “hip-width” is about two feet, give or take, and my dog is not a dachshund. Her neck is not at floor level when she is standing. So minus 2 feet to keep Karm comfey, I’m left with 2 feet of “ground leash” on which to spread my feet apart, which puts one foot in the loop, rather awkwardly. From the looks of it, several other pet parents were encountering a similar issue, because this instruction led to a lot of dogs with their heads pulled down to the floor while they fought to continue standing.

3. I am specifically uncomfortable in a room full of stressed, over-stimulated dogs whose heads are being forcibly pulled toward the ground while also not under any sort of manual control by their people. Because standing on your leash gives you pretty much none controls in that situation. One slip of your foot, or a dog that REALLY wants to meet his neighbor, like, NOW, and said dog is born free and flying out the door. Or into the face of someone else’s dog who does not wish to have a dog in their face.

I realize some may think I’m over-thinking this. Maybe I am. But taking care of Cal has made me much more sensitive to the stress levels of dogs, as well as the  bullshit people put their dogs through in the name of “fun.” This was not fun. I was not having fun, Karmann was not having fun, most of the other dogs in that room were not having fun, and all the not-fun we were having made it pretty clear to me that it was not worth the risk of something stupid happening. So I grabbed our bag and we split.

We had about a 3/4 mile walk to the car and, within maybe two minutes of leaving that room, Karmann relaxed, flopped her ears back, and happily sniffed her way back to the parking lot.

THAT was fun.

Lesson 7: My doggie is awesome (pre-existing knowledge.)

 

It Begins.

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Karmann illustrating my post-race consumption of ALL THE WATERS.

This past weekend, I ran the Great Race — a 37 year old 10K founded by beloved Pittsburgh Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri in 1977 — for which I had made absolutely no preparations. First-ever major distance runs, like the half marathon I did in May, should come with disclaimers about registering for every conceivable race in their immediate, euphoric aftermath. But because they do not, I found myself wrenched from bed on a Sunday morning at who-the-hell-does-this? o’ clock to both run the race as a punishment and lesson to myself, and also to kick off official Running for Critters mileage escalation in preparation for actual marathon training.

I am, like, the slowest runner on earth. What I measure as personal, gazelle-like swiftness is probably a moderately strenuous walk for most other runners. Despite this fact, I PR’d (set personal records for) both 5K and 10K distances yesterday, leading me — NATURALLY. — to conclude that my best bet for marathon training would actually be to sit on my ass for the next six months and then show up so the Kenyans can hand me my first place trophy and purse. What could possibly go wrong?

Schmoopie assures me that this will not work, however, and in addition to being (apparently) an inveterate spoilsport, he was also a high school cross country runner, so I suspect he knows from running success. So, ok, I’ll train. Which means it’s official: I am now in prep mode. First step is just to log a month or so of steady 20-30 mile weeks (Ugh.) and re-establish my Bikram yoga regimen. Then I’ll use the Women’s Running training plan, with the first couple weeks of the 24 week program repeated, to gradually ease me into actual training while using Bikram as my cross training. I used the Women’s Running plan for the half marathon last year and I’m still alive, so, I might as well not switch cheetahs in mid watering hole. Or something.

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Karmann illustrating my post-race positioning: flat out, and possibly asleep with my eyes open.

In addition to owning some feats of strength LIKE A BAWSS, I also took Karmann to “work” on Sunday. That would be her work, not mine. I have always, always, always wanted to have my girlpup certified as a therapy dog. I think she is perfectly suited for this in every conceivable way–especially the intangibles, like making it impossible for people to not smile in her presence–save one: she is the Tigger of dogs. So bouncy. The bounce cannot be reined in. And obviously the last thing anyone needs is for an adorable Karmann to launch herself directly into the face of some frail (smiling!) senior, taking them down and shattering their hip(s) in the process. I enjoy being a social pariah due to relative misanthropy and introversion; I do not wish to expand into elder abuse territory.

So that has been mildly frustrating, as I really want to do something with her. She likes to do things, organized things. But she’s not huge on agility, and any gathering of dogs becomes Karmann Social Hour, so I’ve been at a loss.

Enter Awesome Debby.

Awesome Debby is a dog trainer friend, who is awesome, and for whom I occasionally serve as Sacrificial Stranger for people-reactive puppies. But occasionally, doggies are dog-reactive. And Karmann has very few shits to give about dogs who think they don’t like her. What a silly notion. So, Karmann makes a very decent Sacrificial Stranger Dog, who can take direction while Awesome Debby works with the reactive pups. It’s fun for me, because I have a focused thing to do with Karmann. It’s fun for Karmann because everything is fun for Karmann and also Awesome Debby = extra treats. And some pups rather like Cal get some behavioral assistance which, of course, is super. So even if she can’t be a Therapy Dog, Karmie can still do something helpful and useful and moderately structured from time to time.

Anyway, all of that explanation is to say that she had a gig this weekend. And here is how my ostensibly well-behaved and distinguished middle-aged certified Canine Good Citizen handled that:

  • She spent the entire 20 minute ride to Awesome Debby’s client trying to worm (over, under, and around) onto Awesome Debby the Dog Trainer’s lap, thereby exposing the complete lack of training I manage to maintain in Awesome Debby’s absence.
  • She pooped on the job, like it was her job. Because basically, as a dog, she is the CEO and Board Chairpuppy of pooping. “just walk her past the door!” = *walk walk walk POOOOOP walk*
  • As soon as she heard Awesome Debby working on “find it!” with the client pups, Karmann assumed she was the one for whom the treats (several feet above her head, on a balcony, no less) were intended, and she nearly dragged me down trying to locomote her way toward Awesome Debby’s voice.
  • She did so much desperate pulling in the direction of Awesome Debby’s voice, in warm-for-Karmann weather, that she became foamy. Requiring her to drink all of Awesome Debby’s personal water, because I am a horribly neglectful dog mom who did not bring her any water of her own.

That’s mah dog, y’all! So proud . . . so proud.

But seriously? So *squish*

Quality Time With the Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

I am an architectural historian. 

I can finally say that without wincing just a little, because in addition to seven years of school, more loans than I care to think about, and a dogged determination, I finally have my first freelance project documenting non-contributing structures at a National Historic Site waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the country. Until today, I had been there exactly one time, during which visit I made three critical observations. 1) it is remote; 2) it is very large; 3) it is practically empty. From these observations, a formula was created: 

(remote wilderness + empty estate (huge land area))^2 = (City Girl freaked the hell out)^1,000,000 

I don’t even know if that’s a real equation. I’m an architectural historian.

Suffice to say that this urban explorer does not feel particularly safe in large swaths of empty wilderness. And I mean, we’re talking hundreds of acres. To reach the furthest flung structure, my round trip is a couple miles of trail. To hit all the structures we’re approaching six-ish miles, during which time I may not see another soul. So I’ve been kind of terrified of getting started, on account I’m fairly certain I’ll either be eaten by a bear, or accidentally shot by a hillbilly. In the very least, I had already confirmed that a lot of nature–bugs most especially–was going to touch me. 

As it happens, however, I came up with solutions to these problems. For the bugs, I purchased a DEET product so strong it warns me not to apply it to skin or synthetic fabrics. For the risk of nature contact, I wear pants, my Doc Martins, as much shirt as I can handle without incurring heat stroke, and a hat. 

And for the scary carnivores and hillbillies, it turns out that anti-social, shrieky beagle-ish I have comes in handy. 

So, armed with pesticides, a lot of clothing, and Calvin, I set off to get some work done in the desolate rolling hills of southwestern PA. 

But Fate, she is a cruel mistress. 

As soon as we turned into the parking lot, I realized I was being bitch slapped by Fortuna. There were, like, ten cars in the lot. Which is a metric fuckton of cars for a place that is literally twenty miles from nowhere. And all of the cars were full of people with dogs and babies. Babies placed into absolutely enormous and very threatening (to a beagle) strollers. Strollers the size of Hummers, as far as the eye could see, being pulled by dogs. I’m sure that was Cal’s first impression of the place. 

Yesterday, somebody dribbled liquishit around the bedroom while the humans were gone. We didn’t know which puppy. Today, I discovered it was Calvin. Not thirty seconds after popping out of the car and into a post-apocalyptic world where dogs and babies conspire to end us all by mowing us down with their twelve ton prams, Cal had several bouts of explosive diarrhea. 

Where I had expected peaceful desolation and an exhausting pupwalk, I was now faced with congestion and a digestively unsound, and increasingly anxious, wee hound. 

For the record, given all the ridiculous disasters around which I routinely tap dance in a performance I call “My Life,” I would eventually like for something to go as planned. I don’t want to be a hose beast but I really, really feel like I have it coming to me. 

Cal’s intestinal disturbance immediately removed the most distant structures from the realm of possibility, as I had no intention of marching him around in the heat with belly troubles. So that meant we had to stick close to the main structure which, of course, is where all the people and their giant, ravenous babies and hellhound-drawn carriages were. We knocked out an entry gate just before a stroller threatened, and then made our way to an old road trace before being chased into the woods, twice, by hikers with dogs. We set out to pick up a grave site, but were cut off by a meandering couple and a hoard of shrieking children who, I’m made fairly certain by their behavior, are parent-less and living, Lord of the Flies-style, on the property. 

All things being equal, Calvin really did pretty well. There was some barking, but no real screaming. And toward the end of our mostly futile afternoon, he seemed pretty well desensitized to ordinary, ambulating people and ceased expressing opinions about them altogether. 

I called it a day and we drove off the get fuel. Inocuous, no?

No. Because WHY ARE ALL THE GAS STATIONS IN RURAL ALMOST WEST VIRGINIA FULL SERVICE?????

I pulled up to a pump, was shutting down and locating my wallet when Cal suddenly lost his shit. I didn’t attempt to calm him down because, frankly, a stranger walking up to my car and fiddling with my gas cap is not something I really want him to be retiring about. I stared in horror, for a moment, before I thought to ask if all the pumps were full service. Gas guy confirmed and I said, over beagle-ish shrieks, that I’d just hit the next station. He laughed and carried on and said it didn’t matter because it was all the same price. 

Friend. Dear friend. Stretch the limits of your imagination and try to consider that cost is not my greatest immediate concern, here. I’m losing six decibels of hearing per second and I don’t have that much to spare NOW STOP TOUCHING MY GAS CAP AND LET ME LEAVE. 

I had to pass three more service stations before I found one that would let me pump my own fuel. And in that time, my GPS lady, apparently uncharitably disposed toward my frequent redirects to check gas stations, decided that I had some geographical comeuppance due in the form of patently refusing to take me to an interstate. So despite 1.5 uneventful rounds trips to the site, I was paraded all through the countryside to the tune of an additional forty-five minutes on the road, and threatened with a toll road (what even is cash?) before I finally overrode her with Google Maps on my phone. 

From beginning to end, Cal pup and I had five gloriously dysfunctional hours of adventure today, and the little guy is now sacked out at my feet. So hard to be Calvin, even on Small Hound Road Trip days. 

 

 

Just Like a St. Bernard Only Tiny

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“Why does everybody keep asking me if there’s brandy in this stupid thing?”

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a terrible person who makes their very innocent little kitteh wear a tiny backpack. And I laugh about it. In fact, looking at this picture now, I am still wont to giggle.

I am giggling.

When I’m not busy abusing and disrespecting my animals, I occasionally run a road race and by “run” I mean “plod”, and by “race” I mean that’s what all the people in front of me are doing while I swear and plod. This past Saturday, I suckered Schmoop into joining me for a 5K, because I really like to spread the abuse around rather than limit it to only the species over which I have total, fearsome dominion. So, we picked up our race packets Saturday morning at WHY-DOES-THIS-TIME-EVEN-EXIST??!!?!??-o’clock, and immediately dumped them out in the back of the car.

They contained . . . a tiny backpack.

A tiny backpack laden with band-aids of all the shapes and sizes that nobody could ever possibly need. Little itty bitty band-aids unfit to cover a splinter hole, all the way up to standard sized bandages, all of an off-brand. You know the super plasticky ones that wouldn’t reliably stick to a a recently steam cleaned pane of glass, let alone human skin? I have a tiny back pack full of those. Actually, our household technically has two.

Two tiny backpacks full of totally useless first aid devices.

Oh, plus two antiseptic wipes–two per wee rucksack, bringing our total, of course, to four–which will actually come in handy in the middle of the night when Mort exacts his revenge by gouging at our faces. Mental note to remove wipeys from tiny backpacks and divide amongst our nightstands.

So after much perplexion (should totally be a word) we did what any self-respecting cat lovers would do. We made the cat wear the tiny backpack, effectively turning him into an off-brand version of a St. Bernard.

He was not amused. His stupid humans, however, were sorely entertained and snapped many pictures and did all manner of truly awful things like picking him up off his window perch and setting him on the ground so that we could watch him melt into the floor because cat bones immediately decalcify when presented with unpleasant situations. It lasted maybe five minutes (probably an eternity in kitten years) and then we lovingly removed the backpack and gave him snuggles and gently put him back up on the window, all while fending off two puppies who can smell cat humiliation as if it were brisket.

But here’s the thing: this is not my fault. I cannot, in any way, be held accountable for my monstrous actions because what else was I supposed to do? Race organizers gave me a tiny backpack of useless treasures and literally the ONLY being IN THE ENTIRE WORLD that could EVER wear the tiny backpack is a cat. And I have two cats, and I found myself–entirely unintentionally–with two tiny backpacks and WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?

So I did the only thing I could and I took photos and I’m not proud but cats in tiny backpacks are hilarious and you know it. YOU KNOW IT. So you can’t judge me.

Critters Are Freaking Hilarious and I Love Them

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With all apologies for the recent spate of dreadful photos, such as the above snap of the calm after the storm. My actual real camera is still MIA post relocation.

I sort of feel bad.

Most of my posts are about the puppies and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that this is a negative reflection on the entertainment value of kittens. Rest assured, our feline overlords are holding their own in the household’s pan-species race to induce a collective WTF face from all available humans, resident and guest alike. I think puppies get the edge, though, because they are larger and their ridiculousness is much more physical. Whereas the kittens’ funny is often brought via the catastrophic failure of their covert, ninja-based skill set, the pups are just sort of unwittingly entertaining.

Dogs are really just smallish, furry clowns.

Example: this morning.

Schmoop and I were awake, but lying in bed howling over clips from The Tonight Show (and no that isn’t a euphemism for anything; Bill Cosby is still almost as funny as my pups.) The puppies awoke to jocularity and, seizing the emotion of the moment, began bouncing around the perimeter of the bed, only the tips of their high wagging tails visible from our plushy perch. Even this little, teeny-tiny thing–bouncing tail tips of prancing puppies–is enough to get me laughing, because it’s so freaking relatable.“Oh hey! You’re awake, we’re awake, it’s a new day and everyone is laughing and happy so let’s get this day STARTED, humans!!” Who doesn’t want to start a day laughing?

So Schmoop and I laughed heartier still, because Bill Cosby AND happy morning dogs.

Pertinent fact: puppies have their own beds on the floor of our bedroom. They are not, nor have they ever been, allowed on the bed and, usually, neither of them seem to care a whit. I would get none sleeps with another human, two cats, and two dogs in the bed, and then I would be cranky and homicidal and I don’t know if you’re allowed to blog from lady jail. Also I don’t think they have hamburgers-on-demand there.

Karmann, sponging our humorous energy, then rested her chin on the bed (difficult, given the height of our pillowtop and the relative shortness of Karmann’s legs), glorious nose pointed ceilingward.

So we laughed yet more, because puppy lips.

Which is when Karmann, sensing a ripple in our bed defenses, decided to make her move: paws up on the bed and shiny happy smiling puppy face all up in mine. If “happy” or “joyful” or “ecstatic” are lacking dictionary illustrations, I volunteer my Karmie’s “I’m almost on the bed!!!” face. I, naturally, did what any responsible dog steward would do in the face of such a transgression: I cracked up and told her how pretty she was and scritched her nose while laughing. That is obviously tantamount to permission, so she started futilely trying to hurl her ass end up on to the bed, which yielded a bouncing happy smiling doggy face and more hilarity still.

We then straightened up and told her to get down and she returned herself to the floor to continue her prancing.

About 30 seconds elapsed, and Schmoop and I turned to face each other while laughing. Once Schmoop’s back was turned, his worshipful Beagle-ish decided that he could no longer refrain and, taking advantage of Schmoop’s back-of-the-head eyelessness, he made his move.

The thing about Calvin is he does very few things directly. He is sort of like a liqui-Beagle. He can be seated on the floor, accepting head scritches one minute, and the next thing you know he is curled up on your lap and you’re confused because how the hell did even get there? He got there by defying gravity and pouring his body up, one crazy millimeter at a time, so slowly you don’t notice until it’s too late and awwwwwww lookit how cozy he is!

So Cal’s move consisted of this same upward pouring mechanism: first a chin, then a leg, then he’s on his side as he brings the other leg up, and then presumably he is levitating because he is somehow sneaking the entire side of his body foreward as though he has no bones and is in that crazy anti-gravity shack in Muir Woods–just slowly oozing his way up and over to you, sideways.

That, alone, is funny. What took it to the next level was that he was forced to execute the pouring with a seriously perturbed Karmann dangling from his collar because, hey, if she ain’t allowed on the bed, ain’t NO PUPPY allowed on the bed. To save the morning’s glee, we issued a cease and desist to Calvin, and he receded from the bed in reverse pour order.

Only to come over to my side of the bed and try the whole thing all over again.

This broke Karmann, who attempted once again to haul him down from his upward slink. And when that didn’t work, she released his collar and gave the single, saddest, “but why aren’t you doing what I want???!?” high-pitched squeal-bark. To which Cal responded with increased dedication to the task at hand. Beagle was on a mission.

You know those dog vs. wolf experiments with a piece of meat in the locked crate, and the wolf tries to problem solve while the dog just looks at their human like, “I am just a poor widdle hungry puppy make this happen, human.”? I have basically seen that in person. Because when Cal refused to give up, and Schmoop and were too busy laughing derangedly at the beagle liquidity before us to deter him, Karmann sat herself down on the floor next to the climbing hound and just barked.

And barked (and we laughed.)

And barked some more (while we cackled.)

And kept barking (I believe I was actually guffawing.)

And barked still, in the most obvious, hilarious fit of self-righteous indignation I have ever witnessed outside of an internet forum.

She was so frustrated and pissed off and DAMMIT WHY IS NOBODY DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS????? WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO FAIRNESS???

I died. Because as relatable as their morning optimism was, this was even moreso. I mean, who hasn’t been so pissed off at inequitable treatment that they just wanted to sit down and yell? I think I experience that feeling almost hourly during an election year. And while I never wish to insult my doglets by implying that they are human, I have absolutely no doubt that they have similar emotions. Yet seeing those emotions played out with a limited vocabulary and lack of thumbs is–however uncharitably–freaking funny. 

I would never intentionally set up an unequal situation for the puppies (or the kittens, for that matter) but when it happens on it’s own I find it impossible to do anything but laugh and publicly humiliate them with a blog post.

Poor boogies. Such abuse.