Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fancy Dog Product Reviews

Stella's review of Nature's Balance Allergy Formula new Sweet Potato and Bison Recipe (about 60 bucks for a 28 lb bag from Petco):

Fancy Dog

So we went out for a lovely lunch yesterday at a Chinese restaurant run by Vietnamese people in one of the ugliest strip malls in town.  The kids were mostly perfect, although they cried a lot when our lunch companions tried to hold them.  We need to work on that.

When we got home, we headed upstairs to feed the kids and put them down for a nap.  On the way up the stairs, I took a hilarious picture of Cobra, triumphantly brandishing her mom's breast pump bottle/suction cup contraptions.  (Mom won't let me publish this picture because I'm too inept to figure out how to crop her face out of picture and she doesn't want her image associated with this blog.)

Right after snapping the pic, I accused my wife of farting.  We both instinctively looked around for the dog, whereupon we saw this:

 This is the carpet that we had installed in the addition about three months ago.

After a long bout of cussing, I set to the task of cleaning up the mess as Mom fed Cobra and Butterbean.  The cussing continued throughout, and the dog, Stella, cowered in the farthest corner of the house.  As I waited for the carpet cleaner to soak in, I dashed off this little note to the listserve hosted by the breeder who was responsible for creating our dog.

Hi fellow Swissy owners,

I thought I would turn to you before contacting the Swissy rescue society.

Stella (Maximus x Inside Affair 2007) is a strikingly beautiful, 120 lb female with a very sweet temperament. She's been through two levels of obedience training in which she was a solid B student, and, despite her initial anxiety, has become a good wagon-puller. However, she has a few, um...irksome traits not well suited to a house pet.

Her skittishness is almost crippling. If I scoot a box two inches on the wood floor, she goes crashing through the house to escape the perceived threat. Same with a plastic bag, or any bumping or shuffling of items. When I carry something scary, she stays 1/2 step in front of me, cowering and cringing, and inevitably getting herself backed into a corner. I have tried some desensitization with treats, and it works okay while we are training, but in day-to-day life, that goes out the window.

She has persistent but unpredictable urinary incontinence. We waited to get her spayed (as recommended) until she had gone through heat (a 28-day nightmare), but it doesn't seem to have helped. She still dribbles regularly and occasionally pees in her sleep, most memorably on the first night after we had new carpet installed. Our vet started her on estrogen therapy a week ago, but I didn't like her diagnosis. The vet says she has "spayed bitch incontinence. " I pointed out that she had it before she was spayed; but the vet insists that hormone therapy should be the first step. I wanted to try to get her on the anti-anxiety med Clomipramine- -which has the welcome side effect of urinary retention--and kill two birds with one stone. The vet didn't agree.

The cause of my immediate frustration is her digestive problems. She has room-clearing gas about 90% of the time. Gas relief remedies from the pet store don't do much. I started giving her Gas-X recently, and that seems to help. I don't know if I should do that regularly--I should ask the vet. Stella also has bouts of diarrhea (or at least very loose stools) that last for weeks at a time. I have experimented with different foods; but the gas is almost always present and the diarrhea comes and goes regardless of what kind of food she has. She is in the midst of one of these bouts right now, and I am currently letting the carpet cleaner soak into the section of our stairs where she shat all over the still-new-but- no-longer- pristine carpet while we were out to lunch.

I know that none of the above behaviors are her fault (how can we blame a creature we bred to our specifications for anything?), and I know there are probably medical solutions for them. I also realize that, since my wife and I had twins 8 months ago, my patience with Stella is getting short. I know there are worse problems that dogs can have. And I know that Swissys aren't known as low-maintenance dogs. But seriously. Is this typical?

Can someone offer me some solutions, or share some worse stories so I don't feel so beleaguered?

I feel a little better now.


The breeder called me within five minutes and talked me down for about half an hour.  And then I started receiving angry responses from other Swissy owners on the listserve.  Apparently, I am an ogre who torments his dog with babies and boxes.  Whatevz.

And yes, I know that as a person who had to fill out an application with a personal statement and have an interview in order to be considered worthy of paying a lot of money and flying to another state to acquire a fancy purebred dog while perfectly good mutts languish in shelters, I deserve everything I get.  I offer myself willingly as an object of your Schadenfreude.  You are welcome.

Perhaps you would also enjoy knowing my rationale for getting a purebred.  It goes something like this: "I'm not getting a dog out of altruism.  I want a dog with certain characteristics.  Dogs do not occur naturally.  They are man-made.  I want one that is made to my specifications.  Mutts can be great, and I would adopt dozens of them if I had the acreage.  But I have specific needs in the one dog I can fit in my life, and by getting a particular breed, I have a better chance of meeting those needs."  Oh, the hubris!

Here's the good news and product endorsement.  I scrubbed the shit out of the carpet (literally and figuratively) with Bac-Out by Biokleen, and then used Biokleen Carpet and Rug Cleaner in our rug shampooer rig.  And this is what the carpet looks like now:

Stella is now canus non grata upstairs.  The stairs are blocked off by boxes.  I am an ogre.

What the Mainstream Blogosphere Won’t Tell You: Parenting is Easy

The parenting-industrial complex and their cohorts in the media would have us believe that raising children is a grueling enterprise, fraught with danger and self-sacrifice, offering only rare but important payoffs intangible to anyone but long-suffering primary caregivers.  How many times have we heard versions of this old saw: “parenting is the most challenging, difficult job ever…and also the most rewarding”?

Consumerism dictates that the solutions to the problem of childrearing can be found through products offered by the multi-bazillion dollar parenting industry; so corporate culture perpetuates this truism to the point that it is accepted as common sense.  A case study of an actual parent (me), however, complicates the notion that parenting is “hard.”

This study examines jobs that the subject (me) has held over the past twenty-five years, and presents the subject's own assessment of these jobs using the highly accurate "crap-to-cake" scale. The crap-to-cake scale combines an amalgam of data points regarding such factors as enjoyability, ease, and intrinsic rewards, and represents them in an easily digested format in which "crap" represents the the most unpleasant end of the spectrum, and "cake" represents the most pleasant.

Survey Data
Job: Lifeguard (3 summers during high school)
Pros: easy as long as no rescues necessary, tanning opportunities, twirling whistle on lanyard, girls in bikinis
Cons: tedium, babysitting of ungrateful brats and antique pool filter systems, ignored by girls in bikinis, skin cancer later in life
Score: 7—angel food cake, no frosting

Job: Driveway Resurfacing (1st job after high school)
Pros: N/A (one of my colleagues told me that we would see many fine ladies in our travels, but this claim was vastly overstated)
Cons: many hours in Econoline van full of grumpy rednecks who smelled like asphalt, working on blacktop during summertime in D.C., smelling like asphalt
Score: 3—crap cake

Job: Carpenter (about 75% of the last 25 years)
Pros: sense of accomplishment, decent pay, a certain romantic cachet perceived by people outside of the trades, manliness cred, useful skills, bawdy humor encouraged, tanning opportunities
Cons: injuries, grumpy rednecks, non-tradespeople saying they “have always admired people who can work with their hands,” being called “handyman,” skin cancer
Score: 7—German chocolate cake with a dusting of poop flakes

Job: Ski Instructor (2 seasons)
Pros: free skiing, pro deals on equipment, wielding godlike (but benevolent) power over trembling college coeds taking skiing for P.E. credit
Cons: babysitting ungrateful brats, lining up in the cold with the rest of the instructors trying to solicit customers and hoping the manager would pimp me out to a wealthy tourist for a “private,” kicking myself for not thinking of getting this job while still single
Score: 8—Ice cream cake 

High School English Teacher (3 years)
Pros: those 4 students who I really “reached,” that time the previous night’s Ambien had not yet worn off and I had the class recite The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in rounds with a couple kids beatboxing and me reading some of the lines as Brando in Apocalypse Now; working with smart teachers
Cons: babysitting ungrateful brats, broken school system, loss of cognitive capacity from reading student essays, loss of self-esteem, loss of faith in humanity, loss of muscle tone, loss of weekends, threat to marriage, grumpy teachers
Score: 2-crap cake with turd filling and ¼ teaspoon of chocolate sprinkles

Job: Adjunct Professor (3 years)
Pros: students not hell-bent on keeping each other from learning anything, good conversations in the copy room
Cons: academic status and job security equivalent to day laborer stationed in Home Depot parking lot, student essays almost as bad as high school
Score: 6—strawberry shortcake with fart glaze  

Job: Stay-at-home Dad of Twins (4 months)
Pros: new Cutest Thing Ever every day, baby laughter, license to act like a complete idiot, people think my job is really hard, decline in existential angst, babies’ 16 hr/day sleeping schedule allows time to get things done around the house (finishing 2-story addition, hanging siding, shingling roof, refenestrating old part of house, teaching online, etc.), excuse to never leave house
Cons: some gross fluids/solids, some crying/screaming, soundtrack from Fisher-Price toys permanently looping in brain, emasculation.
Score: 9—cakey cake

I don’t deny the possibility that other parents may have different experiences than I have had.  Many factors could contribute to less positive outcomes; for example, financial instability, lack of support from co-parent, or inherently fussy children.  But these problems can be attributed to poor spousal selection on the part of the parent or grandparents, and are beyond the scope of this study.




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