Thursday, October 2, 2008

Miniature Dalmatian?

Scout (the Jack) is developing tan spots all over. At first glace, the spots appear to be ticking showing through his coat, but with closer inspection, you can see the coat has color pigmentation. He looks like a miniature Dalmatian.

Speaking of miniature, today, I threw a tennis ball at least a thousand times for Scout to fetch. He likes the little miniature size tennis balls--won't even look at a standard size. The game lasted for about three hours. I didn't get much exercise though. I was sitting, reading, and tossing the tennis ball between page-flips.

I'll have put an pedometer on him to find out how many miles he runs when playing fetch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Snip, snip

Scout, the mighty Jack Russell Terrier, got his balls snipped today.

I worried about him all day.

However, Scout's got too many doggy girl friends to remain intact. His little nuggets had to go.

Trust me on this (else do your own research), there are already way more puppies available than there are good homes for them. While Scout is as cute, smart, and healthy as can be, in today's reality, I don't want him reproducing. So, at some calculated risk, he's been neutered.

The little guy is recovering nicely. He gobbled up his dinner and then curled up under his blanket to sleep. It's weird that he's not jumping all over me, begging for a game of fetch. I want his old self back!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Budding buddies

Finally, Casey (the Westie) let Scout (the Jack) lay his head on her to sleep.

Their relationship has always been amiable. They liked each other from day one, but until now, Casey wouldn't let Scout lay next to her. This as a positive step forward in their relationship. And it was so cute!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Terriers: The poor person's Thoroughbred

Terriers are the poor person's Thoroughbred.

Have you ever seen a Thoroughbred run free in an open pasture? It's one of life's most magnificent sights.

However, keeping a Thoroughbred requires acres of land and globs of financial resources, both of which are beyond the average person's means. You could, of course, visit a ranch that raises Thoroughbreds. If you're lucky the owners might grant you the privilege of watching their horses run about.

Five-day-old Thoroughbred running. See original photo here.

Mature Terrier running with a ball. See original photo here.

On the other hand, have you ever seen a terrier run free in an open field? It's another of life's magnificent sights. And it's a spectacle even a person of average means can experience.

Not that keeping a Terrier is cheap, but keeping a Terrier is a lot less expensive than keeping a Thoroughbred--and yet Terriers are just as thrilling to watch run.

Terriers are the poor person's Thoroughbred.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Squeeky clean

Now that Scout is house trained, I'm more comfortable with him. House training is a human expectation not necessarily shared by canines. A clean house matters to me, but, without training, my dogs wouldn't care where they peed and pooped.

That's not true of pot-belly pigs.

As a volunteer at the Oakland Zoo, I fed the pot-belly pigs, fluffed their blankets and pillows, and swept the dust out of their indoor living quarters. Those pigs never messed indoors, not once in the three years that I observed them. And furthermore, pigs don't need house training--sanitation comes natural to them. In fact, pigs purposely establish designated areas outdoors to do their business, well away from their shelter, bed, and food.

Given an appropriate living space, contrary to the popular saying, "Dirty as a pig sty," pigs are the cleanest mammals on the face of the earth.

Friday, August 8, 2008

One hundred percent

Scout is finally 100% house trained. He's five-months seven-days old. Don't know why it took so long.

What a relief though! Up until this, raising Scout was a full-time job. I had to constantly keep my eye on him. "Aught, aught, aught!" "Bad, bad, boy!" was about the only thing I had to say to the little squirt all these months. Now, finally, we are getting to know each other, having meaningful conversations, such as "How are you today?" to which Scout smiles. Speaking the words "Want to go car bye-bye?" sends Scout running to the garage in anticipation of a road trip.

Oh, but he doesn't run exactly. He bounds, soars, hurdles, leaps. His tiny, pink-padded paws rarely touch the ground.

And it's curious the way he holds his left ear upright instead of flopped over in the standard Jack Russell Terrier style. I've been told that when JRTs are teething, their ears sometimes stick straight up. But my theory is Scout's trying to imitate Casey the Westie's ears.

At night, when the inside lights are on and it's dark outside, Scout is fascinated with his reflection in the sliding-glass doors. He sniffs it, pounces at it, and raises his rear end in an attempt to get the reflection to react and come in and play.

I wonder if he's aware that he's looking at himself?

Friday, July 18, 2008

What is science?

    Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive, and reliable. –Brian Greene

My Dad, a furniture upholsterer, sparked my interest in science. I remember one time when I was a little kid visiting his shop, he sketched a big circle on a piece of fabric using chalk and a yardstick as a compass. Then he showed me how to calculate the area of a circle, he said “The area of a circle equals pi times the radius squared.” I was amazed, and remained interested in science--especially mathematics-- ever since.

Now, while I'm not a professional scientist paid for doing research, I am an amateur astronomer and math enthusiast (with a bachelor of science degree in math). At work, I'm part of a group assigned to communicate my company's activities for the Year of Science 2009.

All this got me thinking that I've never really answered the question, "What is science?"

Of course, you may be wondering what this has to do with the theme of this blog. In future posts, I intend to explore the profundity of the human/dog bond using scientific methods, so it'll be good to define science and describe what scientists do.

Scientists (professional or amateur) formulate problems, collect information from observations and experiments, draw conclusions based on analytical principles, and document their findings and methods used. The documents are important resources used by others to validate or debunk the findings, and advance peoples’ knowledge and understanding of the subject studied.

There are many skills required to perform the work of science, including:

  • Observing

  • Classifying

  • Measuring

  • Using numbers

  • Communicating

  • Inferring

  • Predicting

  • Collecting, recording, and interpreting data

  • Identifying and controlling variables

  • Documenting what is done and what is observed

  • Developing hypotheses

  • Experimenting

  • Making and using models--physical, mental, mathematical, and computer

These skills are used in science to expand our understanding of the universe.

The U.S. Department of Energy considers the following as being among the greatest questions of physics: What is dark matter? What is dark energy? Are there additional dimensions? How did the universe begin?

These skills are also used to find answers to questions about pressing human needs.

Can we extend the human life span? How can we increase food production? Is the earth's ecosystem self-correcting? Can we develop synthetic replacements for the body's organs? Can we direct evolution? What causes the human/dog bond?

In the future, advances in materials science will help engineers and architects build structures that can better withstand earthquakes, storms, tsunami, terrorist attacks. Innovative techniques in DNA testing and manipulation will enable dog breeders to design breeding programs that identify and control aggressive tendencies in dogs.

That's a little bit of what constitutes science.

Brian Greene said it best:

    Science is the greatest of all adventure stories, one that's been unfolding for thousands of years.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Visiting Abby

In this video click, Casey (7 years old) and Scout (4 months)
are introduced to their new little pal Abby (8 weeks).
Shot in Castro Valley, California. To download a high-
resolution copy, click here. (0:00:56)

My dogs Casey and Scout were introduced to my parent's puppy Abby at my parent's house tonight.

Ever since I got Scout, Mom wanted a puppy too. She's always had terriers, as you can see under Generations of terriers past. Now she's got Abby, an 8-week-old Jack Russell Terrier. Yep, that's right, she got a baby to care for while Dad's at work.

Mom is enjoying raising the puppy. She loves the cuddly puppy stage. At her age, though, you'd think what she'd like best is a grown-up Abby--a sturdy gardening buddy and weed puller, ball fetcher, silent listener, and all around faithful companion.

Dad's being a really good sport about the whole thing. He mended the fence in the backyard so Abby is safe, assembled a crate for her, and attached a gate to the kitchen doorway so Abby can play in the kitchen where they hang out the most, and where the flooring is puppy-proof linoleum. When I asked, "Dad, how do you like Abby?" He nonchalantly looked up from his newspaper and said, "She's okay." And then, when he thought no one was looking, he smiled, pat her on the head, and slipped her a piece of cheese.

As for me, I'm hoping raising Abby gives Mom some delightful experiences to share with the family. Mom never has been very good at having fun.

After their first visit with Abby, Scout and Casey didn't want to go home. They liked playing with Abby. That's good because it'll be up to Casey, Scout, and me to make sure the little gal gets plenty of exercise to grow strong.

Abby (born April 7, 2008. Photo taken July 13, 2008.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Generations of terriers past

My mom Louise at age 4, pushing Pal (the first) in a baby buggy in 1930, Oakland, Caifornia.

My grandma Dena Elsie holding Pal II in 1942, Oakland, California.

My mom Louise holding Pal II in 1942, Oakland, California.

Gigi in 1960, Castro Valley, California.

Duncan in 2007, Castro Valley, California.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Better than staying home

Anna wearing a muzzle so she can ride a tram in Italy. In Italy, dogs must wear a muzzle to ride on trams, trains, and other public transportation. While being a nuisance, it's better than leaving your dog at home.

Like so many other dog owners in the good ole U.S.A., I think my little West Highland White Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier are the most free, most lucky, most liberated puppies on the face of the earth. But, that's simply not true. Anna, a Greyhound in Europe, is really the liberated one.

Have a look at Anna's adventure photo blog, and you'll see she's been everywhere, is loved by many, and has experienced so much!

Anna goes on trams and trains in Italy, as long as she wears a muzzle. Can your pup go on a tram up the Colorado mountains? No! Can your pup ride the train from Emeryville, California, to Reno, Nevada, and beyond? No! They're not allowed on government-owned AmTrak--not even with a muzzle. I'd be happy to muzzle my dogs so they could travel with me on the train. Of course, if the dogs wear muzzles, they won't be able to carry on their own luggage.

Two dogs with their luggage at train station.
For poster, see

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Farm-fox Experiment

It is a well established fact that domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) are capable of forming strong social bonds with humans (Homo sapien). When raised as pets, dogs are friendly, devoted, affectionate, eager to please, and voluntarily seek out human contact. These traits are missing in wild canine species.

In the late 1950s, Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyaeve began the Farm-fox Experiment to show that the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) could be selectively bred to produce people-friendly offspring. The decades-long study revealed some interesting results.

Foxes for the breeding program were selected for their calm behavior, so it is no surprise to learn that trait was passed to offspring. The most unexpected change was the change in coat coloration that appeared in the eighth to tenth selected generations. A few pups had large areas of white on the head, chest, and tail--profoundly different from their wild relatives. The researchers also observed changes in reproductive cycle, skull size, and ear carriage (some pups had floppy ears).

Learn more:
Cornell University
Video clip from Nova TV broadcast about dogs (04:22)
Video clip about tame foxes (01:55)

A tame fox with tennis ball demonstrating dog-like behavior and showing dog-like coat characteristics. Photograph courtesy of Anna Kukekova.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sometimes smart

Scout is smart--sometimes.

At age 12 weeks, he sits on his place mat on the floor and waits, licking his chops, while I prepare his meal. Scout is a hard worker. He strips my Westie Casey's coat everyday. Scout is also very athletic. He can jump higher than Casey ever could. Scout is, however, a royal pain in the neck when it comes to house training. He runs all the way upstairs in a flash to my bedroom to do his business, when the doggy door to the backyard is two feet away. Oh! Did I say he's smart? Well, he is--sometimes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Best pet bet

Many mammals make excellent pets. Goat, sheep, pot bellied pig, pony, horse (of course), donkey, and mule are all fine examples. Then consider the small mammals, such as monkey, hamster, gerbil, rat, mouse, guinea pig, chinchilla, rabbit, ferret, cat, and dog. Recently I watched a TV program that featured a hippo named Jessica, who is making a very good pet for a South African family, and their dogs.

Jessica the pet hippo. (3:06)

Among all these choices, humans for the most part consider a cat or dog their best pet bet. And for good reasons, which will be explored here in future blog entries.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Introducing Scout

Scout, a Jack Russell Terrier, at nine-weeks of age sitting on a blanket.

Scout joined the pack of Casey and me Saturday, April 26, 2008. He's a Jack Russell Terrier, all white, with one tiny tan spot on his neck, behind his floppy left ear. I call it a "kiss target." His paw pads are pink like the color called salmon in Crayola crayons. I'm well acquainted with his satin tongue and needle-like teeth because in the past few days, I must have reached in his mouth a hundred times to retrieve items that don't belong there--leaves, lint, litter.

And those eyes! Glossy black olives. Long white lashes. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul--he's a new soul.

Video introducing Scout (45 seconds).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Presenting Casey

Video clip of Casey running circles around the late, great Duncan at Carmel by the Sea, California, U.S.A. Video taken August 2007 (30 seconds).

Overall, my dog Casey, a West Highland White Terrier, is a kind and gentle little gal. She is somewhat athletic and has a sweet temperament. For example, she:

  • Tolerates a child's rough handling

  • Stands still when having her nails clipped

  • Climbs up the back of my chair to look out the window but won't sit on my lap

  • Loves to go "car bye bye"

  • Demands her independence

  • Thinks she a big dog

  • Holds a grudge when insulted, criticized, or scolded

  • Bolts when off leash and won't return when called

  • Requires frequent brushing because her rough coat doesn’t shed on its own

  • Gets very protective when I'm eating

  • Bites through bones like butter

  • Walks mile upon mile with her nose to the ground and tail in the air

  • Kills rats, mice, snails, flies without remorse

  • Chases cats, squirrels, geese, ducks, children with glee

  • Runs in circles like a thoroughbred at the race track

  • Swims a perfect dog-paddle stoke

  • Rolls in anything dirty, stinky, or both

  • Watches dog food commercials on TV and dog videos on YouTube

  • Barks when an animal or human approaches her territory

  • Enjoys the company of humans and canines

Casey's old-world ancestry shows in her dignified expression.

West Highland White Terriers probably suffer from inbreeding more than any other breed. As everyone knows, excessive inbreeding results in health problems, and mental and physical degeneration. Casey is from old-world stock. She's blessed with excellent genes, and a vigorous body, sound mind, and hardy spirit.

Tomorrow I fly to Colorado to pick up Scout, a Jack Russell Terrier. We'll be a pack of three again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remembering Duncan

On March 9, 2008, after a three-month long illness, Duncan, my beloved West Highland White Terrier, died.

During the course of his illness, he lost 10 pounds. His once thick white coat became thin, stained, and soiled from skin lesions and too many runny bowel movements. Duncan stopped eating, so I fed him DogSure, a liquid food supplement, using a plastic syringe. I knew his days were numbered--I just didn't think that particular day would be his last. It started off as such a fair morning. Tiny leaves were just beginning to bud on the Japanese maple in my backyard. The sun warmed the room through the sliding glass doors. Jasmine blooms smelled so sweet.

That fateful Sunday morning, we sat together in a big, over-sized leather chair and watched Paul James the Gardener Guy on TV--just like so many times before--me sipping coffee and rubbing Duncan's head, he taking it all in. Mean while, my other dog Casey was outback, chasing birds.

After watching Paul James, I went upstairs to get dressed so I could take Duncan and Casey out for a walk. When I came back down, Duncan was lying on the floor, gasping for air. I picked him up, and thought I should perform artificial respiration, call the vet, do something heroic, but instead, I just held him close to my breast. He looked up into my eyes and wept, the way only a dog owner knows a dog can weep. I whispered in his ear, "Everything's going to be all right." Within five minutes I felt only one heart beating. Duncan was dead.

Later, my son and I took Duncan's remains to the emergency vet for cremation. What torture, standing at the counter, paying the fee to a detached cashier who had no idea how miserable I felt, missing Duncan so much I could hardly stand up, answering the cashier's silly questions though tears, sobs, and snot. "Who is your vet?" "What did your dog die from?" "Do you have pet insurance?" "Can I see your driver's license?"

Then, the vet on duty brought out on leash a bouncy, bright-white Westie that looked just like Duncan in his prime. The vet handed the leash to a woman, and said, "Here you go. Your dog's fine now." The little Westie came over and licked my shoe, looked up into my eyes and smiled, the way only a dog owner knows a dog can smile. It was a enchanting and magical moment.

The late, great Duncan (March 19, 1998-March 9, 2008) scouting around the hills he loved above Castro Valley, California, U.S.A. Photo taken April 2006.

But this blog isn't exclusively about Duncan. It's about life after Duncan. It's a forum for exploring the profundity of the dog/human bond, expressing myself, presenting my other beloved Westie Casey (born January 31, 2001), and introducing my new dog to the pack (an all white Jack Russell Terrier named Scout, born March 1, 2008). It's time to walk off the field of grief and go Scout Around!