Category Archives: Dogs

Canine Inflation, or, How Much Is That Labracockabegaschauzabernadinedoodle in the Window?

Once upon a time, a German Shepherd was passing through town with his briefcase full of wares, when, on his way through a residential neighborhood, a familiar pheomonal call filled his rather elaborate sinuses. He did what any red-blooded American dog would do and jumped the fence, and found on the other side a very desirable and willing female Laborador. Two months later, her paramour nowhere to be found, she delivered a dozen healthy pups, most of which looked just like her.

Heeding an ad in the paper, a man came along, picked a female pup, and bought it for his son. He paid $5 for it in 1985 dollars, the equivalent of about $10 today. Just enough to keep the local medical research lab from coming in and claiming the whole litter.

My son dubbed the dog Sandy, and we had her for many years. She was a great dog – one of the best we’d had as a family. She had the look of a golden lab, the protective instincts of a Shepherd, and was gentle and patient with kids. Quite a bargain for those five 1985 dollars.

Were I to get a Sandy nowadays, I probably couldn’t afford her. Some nitwit would probably advertise her in the paper as a “Sheprador” and want five bills for her.

Back when I was a kid, there were three kinds of dogs. There were purebreds, usually pretty  expensive, but if you just wanted one as a pet you could find one that wasn’t quite up to breed standard for a reasonable price. Then there were mutts. This was applied to any non-purebred dog. Mutts were usually free, although when medical research facilities began harvesting them for nefarious purposes, token fees were placed on them to prevent the practice. Then there were crossbreeds, and back then there was only one – the cockapoo, a cross between a poodle and a cocker spaniel. Cute dogs, but not purebreds. They cost less than a purebred, but more than a mutt.

And that was it.

Now check out the classified page of your local paper. The business of breeding and selling has gone to the dogs. They’re no longer Mutts. They’re called “designer dogs,” and with them come designer price tags. To give you some idea of how far this has gone, check out this slide show describing the top ten mutts designer dogs, coming soon to a puppy mill near you.

So Who Am I, Anyway?

It’s a strange thing to find out that something unexpected makes up who you are. I mean, there are some things that I take for granted that make up the bag of protoplasm that happens to be me – my relationship with God and my family, my job, my writing, my addiction to music, my peculiar sense of humor.

Lately I’ve been finding out that other things seem to make up part of who I am. Like dogs. I love dogs, and have great admiration for working dogs. If there’s ever an Animal Planet or Military Channel special about dogs being trained to do jobs, my eyes are glued to the screen. After a double tragedy three years ago, our family never got another dog, and even resisted it for a while. As the friend of one of my work colleagues put it, “A dog is a heartbreak waiting to happen.” I’d put it into similar words, only not as eloquently – that we let dogs into our lives, give them food and shelter and affection, and they pay us back by breaking our hearts.

So when we recently, finally, broke down and got a dog – and this time I had a perfectly legitimate reason for getting one, which will be elaborated on shortly – and I told one of my oldest friends what I had done, his reaction was, “Good. You aren’t you without a dog.”

Why am I always the last to know these things?

Now the reason for the dog is to protect the new chickens I purchased at a swap meet last week. If you’re a reader of The Accidental Farmer, my blog about the rural side of me, you know that about this time last year, coyotes made a series of raids on our farm, and over a couple of days managed to carry off most of the chicken population (one survivor made it to spring and was eaten by a raccoon that was later trapped and measured three feet long). Between this and the three possums that I trapped in the barn over the years, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to go into chickens again unless I could protect them better – and that’s where the dog came in (and you can read more about this process over at the Farmer – I’m not going to reiterate it here).

A writer friend accompanied my daughter and I on the trip, and she ended up writing a funny account that will be posted in “the other place.” In that account, she noted that “the man needs chickens.” She also said, politely, that my personality deteriorated to the point where people were saying they wished I would get more chickens for their sake.

Hmmm. Knew I’d been out of sorts and not myself for a while (I even told my wife that I didn’t feel like there was much of the original me left), but I didn’t realize that it was so noticeable… that I’d become… curmudgeonly. I mean, I knew I liked having chickens. When they were gone, I missed the eggs and the meat. And I enjoyed watching the chickens around the barnyard and feeding them scraps of bread from our porch. In part due to the exercise of looking after them, they got me off of blood pressure medication. I guess I didn’t realize that they were such a calming influence of my life. But others clearly knew that.

Again, why am I always the last to know these things?

Well, anyway, it’s looking now like most of the pieces of the original me have come back in some form or another. iTunes brought music back to me, and the guitar opened up another door in that area. Wargaming has dwindled, but I still have Memoir ’44. And now I have a dog and chickens.

Now that I know all of this, I can see that the apathy I’ve developed toward my writing has started to evaporate, too. For one, I’ve started to develop another (no doubt doomed-to-failure) plan involving completion of the Pirate project this weekend and the Christmas play by fall, with perhaps a revision of And/News slated for the beginning of next year.

The question remains is whether I can shake off this dearth of time and start putting words to paper again.

Good question. All I know is that, were I a believer in signs, I’d know for sure that I had just gotten one. As I finish this post, the song that comes into my ears through my entirely random iPod Shuffle is the one that I plan to use in the Christmas play, when and if I get to direct it.

Now is that a sign or is that a sign?

I don’t know. Ask the dog. Or the chickens.

Listening:
Nobody gonna take my car
I’m gonna race it to the ground
Nobody gonna beat my car
It’s gonna break the speed of sound
Oooh it’s a killing machine

(via iPod Shuffle)