Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is Work?

Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley
Get Fuzzy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dexter Also Goes to Movies for Free

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Dexter Goes for a Walk

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Not To Wear To the Dog Park...Lady Gaga

I am not sure how I missed this one and it is probably old news. But the meat dress Lady Gaga wore to accept the "Video of the Year" award for "Bad Romance" at the MTV Video Music Awards is spectacular from where I sit.

I would like to invite Lady Gaga and her meat dress to the north social area this Sunday at Battle Creek Dog Park. She will be very popular. I promise.

While I would be thrilled to get close to such a delectable dress, Cher doesn't look so sure. And did they cover m'lady's theater seat with plastic?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mount Rushmore National Memorial with Carmella

Mount Rushmore National Monument with Carmella
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States. First sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, later by his son Lincoln Borglum and finally by Stuart and Sophie Schnagel, Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents (in order from left to right) Carmella, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

In 1934, Washington's face was completed and dedicated. The face of Thomas Jefferson was dedicated in 1936, and the face of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated in 1937. In 1937, a bill was introduced in Congress to add the head of civil-rights leader Susan B. Anthony, but a rider was passed on an appropriations bill requiring that federal funds be used to finish only those heads that had already been started at that time. In 1939, the face of Theodore Roosevelt was dedicated. Finally, the species barrier was broken with the dedication of Carmella’s face in 2072.

U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Carmella were selected because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. 

George Washington, (1st president) led the early colonists in the American Revolutionary War to win independence from Great Britain. He was the father of the new country and laid the foundation of American democracy. Because of his importance, Washington is the most prominent figure on the mountain. 

"Believing that a representative government, responsible at short periods of election, is that which produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind, I feel it a duty to do no act which shall essentially impair that principle."  George Washington

Thomas Jefferson, (3rd president) he was the author of the Declaration of Independence, a document which inspires democracies around the world. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 which doubled the size of our country, adding all or part of fifteen present-day states.  

"We act not for ourselves but for the whole human race. The event of our experiment is to show whether man can be trusted with self - government."  Thomas Jefferson

Abraham Lincoln, (16th president) held the nation together during its greatest trial, the Civil War. Lincoln believed his most sacred duty was the preservation of the union. It was his firm conviction that slavery must be abolished. 

"I leave you hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal."  Abraham Lincoln

Theodore Roosevelt, (26th president) provided leadership when America experienced rapid economic growth as it entered the 20th Century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the east and the west. He was known as the "trust buster" for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man. 

"The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight -  that he shall not be a mere passenger." Theodore Roosevelt

Carmella, (48th president) returned the nation to peace and prosperity through her messages of civic responsibility, social tolerance and economic common sense. President Carmella’s tough policies shattered the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, restructured health care, crafted a vibrant public education system and renewed the nation’s commitment to separation of church and state. She left behind a legacy of expanded parklands, a revitalized space exploration program and wove a tapestry of renewable energy sources for future generations to come. 

“Nobody owns the fire hydrant. Everybody gets to pee on it when they go by. All citizens can and should leave behind a worthy record of their passing.” Carmella

President Carmella's interest in alternative energy
was piqued while seeing wind farms under construction
during her travels across the Midwest as a young dog.
More Art Hound (by artist)
Gutzon Borglum's Mount Rushmore National Monument


When my Susan and I are out on walks and bound together by a leash, she tries not to yank on my collar too much. This is appreciated as my collar is around my neck.

I let Susan do the checking for traffic (I take care of sniff patrol) and we trot across most streets without stopping. At busy streets, she always says, "Wait." and I stop and wait - thus preventing being yanked back onto the curb by that pesky leash. But better that than get flattened by a Prius.

Yesterday we approached a particularly busy intersection near a university. There were no other pedestrians around. So I was startled when a loud, authoritative voice - not Susan's - said:


I was so surprised I sat right down. Imagine my embarrassment when I realized it was a talking stoplight...very unsettling.

It talks. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Get Out of My Pond

Yesterday was only a so-so weather day, so it was pretty deserted at Battle Creek Dog Park. After four times around the off-leash area, my Susan and I headed out on leash to walk the trails. One of our favorites is the asphalt trail that loops around for about a mile and a half through gentle hills. You meander through woods, meadows of wild flowers, and marshlands.

As we approached one marshy area, we heard splashing and quack quack quack behind the cattails. Not surprising, as there are always wood ducks and mallards paddling around in the open water. As we rounded the bend, we spied the ducks who were clearly irritated and swimming with purpose.

We saw a splash and realized there was something furry right on their tails. It was swimming hard, lunging at the ducks. The ducks out-paced it without too much effort. But it kept leaping out of the water to gain on them. The result was a tidy little flock of ducks paddling around in circles. Quack quack quack. It looked like a dog and sheep at a herding demonstration.

I wondered if this furry, little herder was a new member of the Border Patrol - perhaps the Border Patrol had branched out from border collies to chase pesky waterfowl. But this fella wasn't wearing an orange life vest.  And the ducks really weren't all that impressed - it was just a big rodent after all...

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life is Hard

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wolverine Wannabe?

Wolverine wannabe?

The real deal

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nose Down, Eyes Up: The Art of Apology

The art of apology is a tricky thing. People have been working on it since the first ape stole somebody else's bananas. Dogs mastered it back in the caveman days when we decided it was worth our while to put up with humans. If we hadn't figured out how to melt hearts, we would still be sleeping outdoors.

Apologies make big news. How Pacific Gas and Electric Co. apologizes for an exploding neighborhood is a touchy business. Everyone wants to hear they feel bad - that it won't happen again - even though it will. Pacific Gas knows that have to say sorry but they don't want to get in trouble. Maybe it isn't even their fault - I haven't heard yet. But Pacific Gas has had plenty of practice in apologizing for everything from power outages to SmartMeters so they may do just fine.

Other companies like Enron, BP and the U.S. government struggle with the art of apology. BP and the government have still failed to apologize properly for the wrecking the Gulf with their arrogant drilling. This makes people mad and cynical and drive past BP gas stations shaking their fists. Although cars still need gas so I doubt BP is very worried.

A good apology always has three elements - acknowledgment, regret, and responsibility. Bill Clinton 's non-denial made him look stoopid and brought more wrath upon him than a simple acknowledgment could have ever done. Tiger Woods did a better job than Bill with speedy acknowledgment and, even though he messed up on a far grander scale, his scandal blew over more quickly. Of course, he just plays golf.

When I am discovered wallowing in shredded evidence (oh, glorious trash!), it is pretty obvious that acknowledgement is the first step to clearing the air. It just doesn't work to say,"I did not have dining relations with that garbage can, Kitchen Trash Can."

Regret can be tricky. Do I really feel bad about strewing trash around the kitchen. Not really. Do I feel bad about getting yelled at by family?  Most certainly. But I found that a well-executed apology can bring peace much faster than arguing, smirking or walking away looking non-plussed. (Watch and learn, Boy#1.)

As I said, successful dogs everywhere figured out the power of apology back in the cave days. We have been working on smoothing human-canine relations for thousands of years. I think we have it down.

Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel
Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel
Nothing deflates people wrath like sad dog eyes. In Merrill Markoe's book, Nose Down, Eyes Up: A Novel, the main dog Jimmy leads informal motivational seminars for the neighborhood canines to instruct them in the art of manipulating their human masters. Jimmy is certainly right that "nose down, eyes up" can get you a place sleeping on the bed, a treat, a walk. But it also makes for a fine apology.

Susan's childhood springer spaniel Cecil would launch pre-emptive apologies by putting himself into a time-out, alone in the bathroom, long before his infraction was discovered. Although it sometimes took the family awhile to figure out exactly what he had chewed up, his sad spaniel face flat on the bathmat and "time served" got him off lightly every time.

My Susan's lack of speeding tickets is the stuff of legend in our house. Here are three stories that demonstrate the art of apology - acknowledgment, regret, and responsibility. It also helps to be a little clueless. (So...this trash can...is also...off limits?)

Story One: Ditzy Teen
Susan tells of her first brush with the law as a freshly licensed teen zooming through an industrial park at night. She wasn't joy-riding, she was lost and so quite relieved when the squad car following her pulled up alongside her mom's car.

"Oh! Thank goodness you are here! Lucky me!" she exclaimed, "Can you tell me how to get to...?"

The police officer raised his eyebrows, glanced amusedly at his partner, "Do you know why we pulled you over?"

"I am so lost! I am trying to get to..." she said waving her map.

"Do you know why we pulled you over?" The officer persisted. A blank look from Susan (They pulled me over?). "You were going pretty fast. Do you know how fast you were going?"

"Oh gosh!  I am so sorry! I was speeding? I didn't mean to speed. I'm just so turned around here..."

Nose down, eyes up. Acknowledgment. Regret.

As Susan tells it, the officers rolled their eyes at each other, gave her a firm lecture on attentive driving and escorted her back to the main road.

Story Two: Young Mother
The next time Susan was caught speeding was in Arizona, Boy#1 strapped in his car seat. They were on vacation and driving a rental car with a much bigger engine that her accustomed Honda Civic. It was an open, straight highway with no cars in sight. Well, other than the Arizona state trooper bearing down on her with the flashing lights in the rearview mirror.

"Ma'm, I need you step out of the car." The sunglasses glinting, hand resting near his gun. Gulp.

Susan couldn't help noting as she got up and straightened up her full six feet that the officer was a little fellow - maybe 5' 5". He noticed too and puffed himself up.

Separating woman from her baby and husband, the patrolman marched her back behind the car. She stood in the hot sun in public humiliation as cars whizzed by (Wasn't it an empty road before?).

The officer sat in his car running her license. Susan waited on the shoulder. Finally, the trooper strode over slowly and stood looking up her, hands on hips. "Do you know how fast you were going?"

At which point Susan burst into tears and tried to look as small as possible. Nose down, eyes up. Heck, belly up.

lecture on attentive driving and "protecting the little one" ensued.

Story Three: Veteran Mom with Teen Cargo

A dozen years later, Susan and the boys headed north. (And no, I am not completely clear why I was left behind...something about keeping Dave company and their need to eat in restaurants...humph.) Susan was driving the familiar highway going south from Grand Marais. A fun day behind them, they were gabbing as they zoomed along.

"Bad word! Bad word! Bad word!" Susan yelled pulling over at the sight of sheriff lights in her mirror. "Keep quiet, boys, Mom was speeding."

"Afternoon ma'am. Do you know how fast you were going?" asks the sheriff.

OK, a word about this question, which is obviously in the cop manual. How do you answer this question?

1. No. (implying you are inattentive)
2. Yes. (implying you are flaunting the law)
3. I was speeding? (classic non-denial, could be read as manipulative and disingenuous)

"Afternoon ma'am. Do you know how fast you were going?" asks the sheriff.

Now, Susan had known full well this fellow wasn't pulling over her to give her directions. Dollar signs rolled through her head as she calculated the price of the ticket pondered the implications on future car insurance. She wondered if the past warnings remained in his squad car computer.

It seemed to her, this one was the one when luck would run out. Three strikes and all. And she would take it on the chin. Pay up. Be a good role model for the boys in the back. Make it a teachable moment and all that.

"I'm sorry, I don't know how fast I was going, I was distracted. I am really sorry." She sighed, resigned.

The sheriff's eyes flicked over the Subaru wagon, packed to the gills with camping gear and vacation detritus. He took in the wide-eyed boys and perhaps the lack of adult partner (possibly sliding her into nice, single mom taking boys camping category). He absorbed Susan's resigned silence and wafting embarrassment.

"You were going 74 in a 55. Looks like you have plenty of distractions - so you need to slow down and take care."

Susan's driving record remains clean.

Now, you may be wondering where Responsibility comes in, as Susan talked or cried her way out of every speeding ticket. This is why, when she parked facing the wrong way at Como Park early one morning - and caused, through her example, the entire street of cars to park backwards and receive parking tickets too - she paid up without argument and wished she could pay the other thirty tickets too.

You may also be wondering why I am thinking about the art apology. Did I eat one of Boy#2's stuffed animals? Have I been exploring under the deck again? What happened to those muffins on the counter?

If I get pulled over, I'll let you know.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just Do It

This morning's paper had an article about two guys who go around fixing typos, To err is human, to correct divine. I thought immediately of blogger Daughter Number Three's meticulous eye and amusing posts about many such blunders. Check them out: Honey--Get Me Rewrite.

The typo team also made me think about a middle-aged couple my Susan and I see at the park when we get up really early. They are clearly out for their morning constitutional like we are. They are shy like deer so we never get close to them or exchange pleasantries. But I think of them often because they always have a bag with them..and no dog. What they do with their bag never ceases to amaze me. They pick up litter as they walk. Every day.

There are some women at the dog park who pick up any poo they see. No nonsense. They just take care of it.

I find it inspiring to think there are folks who see a problem and just go ahead and fix it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

His Muse

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Bad Buns

The Star Tribune ran a great little article on Bad Ideas in Beauty. It includes those fish that eat your feet (not piranhas, something gentler), a lip vacuum to puff out your lips and a car that will pump vitamin C into your cab to improve your skin.

The funniest one of all was Booty Pop Panties which are guaranteed to enhance your ho-hum bum.

Booty Pop Panty, a Wonderbra for butts

"These panties, " reports Kristen Tillotson, "perhaps inspired by the Guthrie Theater's cantilevered bridge, have cheek pads that make your bottom appear to stick up and out farther than it does au naturel."

So it seems that dachshunds are not the only ones wearing bun enhancers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ban the Buns

Today was a glorious autumn day at the dog park. The air was crisp and bright. The humidity vanquished. And the snow flurries I saw last week were back to biding their time. It is only September, after all.

Folks turned out in droves today to enjoy the weather even though it was midday Wednesday. Probably more than a few faux flu call-ins to avoid the office. A fine day like this makes for packs of lucky dogs!

One of the more amusing sights at the dog park is the man who rides his mountain bike round and round (everyone else walks or runs). He goes very slowly and is very courteous not to run anyone down. He really can't go that fast because he is leading his pack of two miniature dachshunds who, even at flat out run, are hard pressed to keep up with him.

They never stop running. Those dogs are in fantastic shape - sleek and all muscle. But it makes me laugh when they skid around a corner, running pell-mell after their bike escort. They have really stubby legs.

I wonder why the man doesn't care to get his own exercise at the same time - he really isn't getting much of a workout at his rate. Sometimes I wonder if his mom sent him out - or his girlfriend - and this is his way to getting the job done without too much effort. He looks a bit bored. The dogs do not. They look ecstatic.

The man has two baskets on the back of the bike and I imagine he loads his dachshunds up to peddle them home.

Dachshund means badger dog. They are hounds - like me. And other than the stubby legs, I can see the resemblance.

A dachshund
A fine hound mix (me)

Dachshunds didn't always have such short legs, of course.

Old-style dachshund showing the longer legs. 
Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, Tring, England

But shorter legs and elongated bodies make it easier to fit in tunnels. Dachshunds are known as fearless - they'd have to be to go face-to-face with a badger in its burrow. 

Dachshunds got more guts than me.
I would not want to meet this character in a dark tunnel.
Like me, dachshunds are also fine runners - those deep chests house good sets of lungs. Believe it or not, they were also used to hunt foxes and even wild boar. In fact, dachshunds are the only hounds who are multi-talented enough to hunt well both above and below ground.  

But let's face it, dachshunds are one of those breeds whose cuteness interferes with their real calling. Check out the number of humiliating dachshund YouTube videos, if you doubt. They get stuck in baskets and buns far too often.

Buns should be banned.
And all condiments of any kind.
My neighbor who lives across the street is a miniature dachshund. Utgar gets a walk each day from the dad who reads as he strolls slowly down the alley. Utgar gets the full extendable leash to wander. He doesn't get hunt badger or race through the underbrush on a fine autumn day. But at least I have never seen him dressed in a bun.