Friday, September 30, 2011

Converting Mom to Become a Dog Lover

Trying to convince someone to love a dog when they really don't want to is almost like trying to convince yourself that yogurt and ham taste delicious. You can eat yogurt and ham, but you know darn well neither is a treat. The best thing I can suggest is to let it happen naturally. Dogs are not unlike people on the dating scene. They like a challenge. A person playing hard to get often makes a dog want to love them even more, at least in a family setting. I've seen it plenty of times, but most closely with my mom and Golden Retriever, Susie.

In our book, Follow the Dog Home , I write about how my mother didn't want any more dogs after we lost our Cairn Terrier, Danielle. It's not that she disliked dogs, she just didn't love them as much as we did.

Walsh brothers with Susie, Golden Retriever 1988, Meadowbrook, PA

We kind of got Susie without Mom's blessing and Susie sometimes bore the brunt of Mom's cold shoulder because of it. But Mom eventually came around because Susie just wouldn't be denied. She just killed my mother with kindness. In Mom's final moments in her battle with cancer, Susie was at her best. She never left Mom's side and often lifted Mom's paralyzed arm back onto the bed when it tumbled out. Nobody taught Susie this. She just got it. And I'm pretty sure if you have a similar situation, it'll work itself out. Just give it time. Do you have a similar story to share? Include it below and post a picture if you have one.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Playing Doggie Dress Up

Amanda dressing up Beverly in her Wicked Supah Bev Outfit

Sometimes you just never know what kind of reaction you’ll get from a posted picture. I’m pretty sure most of my Facebook and Twitter followers enjoyed seeing picture of my German Shepherd Beverly dressed up as a rock star, complete with bling, glasses, a skirt and T-shirt. However, at least one person claimed it was cruel. It isn’t cruel, but she may have a point.

Most dogs don’t like to be covered with anything. It’s a dominance thing. If you’ve ever tried to put a doggie raincoat or a blanket on your friend, you know what I’m talking about. We don’t have these issues with Beverly, but we did with other dogs. The difference is getting an early start. Beverly has had people in her face, and my small children have used her as their personal model since she was a puppy. So she’s used to it. We tried the same stuff with some of our previous dogs, and they would have none of it. The lesson? Start early; do it before patterns and the dog’s insecurities set in. Do you dress your dog up? Share a story and a picture.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dogs, Smarter Than You Think

Ever see those goofy bumper stickers that read My Dog is Smarter Than Your Honor Student? Of course you have. It's a dig at braggadocious parents who don't realize most people really don't care how smart their child is. But I think we can all agree with the title of this blog, which is also the title of a book written by Suzanne Hlavacek. In my upcoming book, Follow the Dog Home, set for release in November, there are a couple of stories that make me think of the Smarter Than You Think premise.

The hook of the book is the story of my German Shepherd, Beverly. She ultimately led us back to my father's long lost childhood home 70 years later, sight unseen. Following our visit and recreation of the old family photo, each time I walk Bev past the old homestead now, she turns down the front path as if she's going home. What does she know?

(Left), My father on the stoop of his childhood home as a baby with his family
and first dog, Dee Dee looking on. Seventy years and 17 dogs later, the small child,
now a elderly man, returned to the exact spot on the stoop and the place
where his journey with dogs started. Joining him are son, Kevin, Kevin's family,
and the newest dogs--including Annie (Corgi) and Beverly (German Shepherd).

Then there was the time I had my Golden Retriever, Susie, with me at college. She got lost one day on a campus of 40,000 other students. Somehow she found her way to the room of the other Kevin Walsh. The way he tells it, Susie walked into his room like it was hers.

L to R, Michael, Chris, Carole and Kevin Walsh with dog Susie. 1988

My dad has a few smart dog stories too. Frisky, a mongrel, who was also nicknamed, "Runner", had a habit of running away. One day Dad found him a few towns over and eight miles away. The dog was sitting under a street sign that read Essex Avenue, waiting to be discovered. Wrong town, right street. Frisky and Dad lived on Essex Avenue.

I suppose I could build a scientific case for dog intelligence, but that's not really my kuliana as they say in Hawaii. What I think I know is enough for me. Dogs really are smarter than you think. Have a smart, or stupid dog story? Share it here, and include a picture if you have one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Dog Blog, Fun and Perils of Dogsitting

Samantha with Annie, Betsy and Beverly

We’re dogsitting right now for my dad’s Corgi, Annie. I think we’ve become his kennel, although he does pay the grandkids well for the effort. He parks his car here, drops Annie off, goes to Logan International, and jets around the world. Beverly and Annie get along famously–until there’s food in the mix. Annie, pipsqueek that she is, is usually the aggressor. It's hard to believe a dog with such a smiley face can muster up such machisima. Annie has the gross habit of scraping dried, crusty worms off the sidewalk with her tongue when we take her for a walk. That freaks some people out; I think it's funny. She's a doll with quirks.

A couple of years ago ago we took care of a neighbor’s bulldog, Betsy. Betsy was a love who loved to be loved. I think I gave her a little too much loving though with hugs, rubs and pats. She was trained to pee on the periphery of property so as not to yellow the grass--a good thing, right? Trouble was she wandered through patches of poison oak/ivy. When she came in for affection, the plant oils rubbed off. I had to complete a 10-day course of Prednisone after rashes and welts inflamed the lower extremities. If you’ve never had poison ivy in those sensitive places, consider yourself among the fortunate. No kidding, my doctor asked me if I was gardening naked. The answer is no, but I understood the question considering the visuals.

That’s enough for now. Keep an eye on Dog Blog at And if you have a good dog story to share, leave a comment. And try on your best New Englandese while you’re at it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dogs Get Sick Too

Samantha taking care of Beverly

Beverly was sick the other day. She was lethargic and throwing up with regularity. We kept trying to figure out if she ate something she shouldn’t have. There was questioning throughout the family with no shortage of suspects and suspicion. In the end we couldn’t figure it out. I figured she was just sick and maybe had a touch of the flu. If people can get sick from the spread of germs, certainly our dogs can too. Germs don’t discriminate, they just look for new hosts. So it was a rough night for Bev, which she got through with a lot of love and reassurance from us and the kids. The next day she woke us up by dropping a wet, filthy tennis ball on our bed. It muddied the sheets and its coldness on my bare leg woke me as well as an alarm clock. All is well and Bev is just supah. Do you have an interesting sick dog story? Share it, and post a picture if you have one.