Non-dog life is crushing me lately, and will continue its abuse through next month. I’ve not had much time to finish any significant blog drafts (a bunch of unfinished entries are accumulating in the queue). However, the Bows still need their daily outings, and I nearly always have a camera on hand, so I have plenty of images to get us through the upcoming weeks…
Besides, don’t you know that baby animal pictures heighten attention and narrow focus, and therefore boost productivity??
It’s true because Japanese scientists from Hiroshima University said so!
The young’ns definitely pique Bowdu’s interest. He’s surprisingly good with awkward, wriggly, and stumbly puppies, especially when they’re five months or younger. He’ll gruff in their face if they try to lick his muzzle or wrestle, but he lets them get away with it, and sometimes he’ll even return to engage them.
Giant breed puppies confuse him, though. By nature, Bowdu recognizes this Pyrenees is still learning the ways of the world, but his dignity must contend with the fact that a four-month-old puppy is already so much larger than him.
Bowpi would just rather they get coordinated enough to play chase instead of chew.
I’m addicted to dog parks.
Does one admit “addiction” to anything other than ill habits? I’ve often felt defensive about this dangerous love if only because discussions about dog parks tend to focus on their negatives — you could get yourselves killed at these places, for God’s sake! The way I see it, every dog park is beholden to specific contexts, moments, and patrons, because they are, by definition, spaces carved out of some kind of community. Rejection of dog parks is not so much a pronouncement of their inherent evilness, but more a rejection of the types of sociality that accompany them — which is fine, as neither human nor dog can be expected to socialize in the same ways. But unlike some more extreme critics of dog parks, I’m less likely to blame the park itself than the people who designed it and established patterns of antisocial use in the first place.
Now, what I call a “dog park” includes many different arrangements. For me, it’s any public space that permits the presence of dogs, ideally off leash. Some are fenced, some are designed with dogs specifically in mind and thus equipped, some are multi-functional areas that just happen to allow dogs, perhaps in designated or segregated spaces. At any rate, we have many to choose from here in the San Francisco Bay Area:
How do you choose, when not all options are created equal? Experiences will vary according to you, your dog, the time of day, the way the air smells at the moment… point is, I don’t know that I can generalize. I just have stories and experiences and a handful of lessons learned through repetition and observation.
Stories behind a jump for length and pictures of bruises and punctures and pain.
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Graffiti art from two Bay Area taggers:
Stylings on the left by GATS, on the right by Attica.
According to Bay Area graffiti culture blog Endless Canvas, Attica’s various dog-centric tags pay tribute to the spirit of the Greek riot dog. Attica’s feature tag seems to be a pit bull, and favors bully breeds in general.
Bowdu met a 15-week-old American Akita. The pit bull puppy was a little less confident, but cute too.
While Bowdu was okay with that even-tempered Akita, he surely would have snarled at this super wriggly guy. Luckily, this pup chose to sidle up to his own red and white kind.
And then there was this little beetle, who could barely stay still for a second…
… let alone remain upright. Silly thing. It was like she was deliberately throwing herself around to compensate for how gentle the Dane was being. Bowpi seemed as amused as I was.
Film: Dog Heaven (a Little Rascals short)
Director: Anthony Mack
Performers: Pete the Pup, Hal Roach’s Rascals
Breed(s) featured: American Staffordshire Terrier, Great Dane, various mixes
Production information: Hal Roach Studios, 1927 (USA)
Availability: Viewable and downloadable at Archive.org
Ah, woe unto the poor misunderstood pit bull — back then, as in now. However, the nature of Pete the Pup’s “family troubles” is decidedly different from the breed-specific legislation of today. Poor Pete is accused of being lazy drunkard (!) and a bully who terrorizes the neighborhood and goes so far as to push a child off a bridge. When even his own “fat kid” owner refuses to come to his defense, Pete makes the desperate choice to end his own miserable life…
Don’t worry — despite the dark humor of the opening images, everything turns out okay.
Pete the pit bull is one of the most famous of the Little Rascals, whose legacy has endured thanks to a combination of his peculiar markings (the product of Hollywood makeup artistry), charismatic canine acting, and contemporary breed politics. He was a fixture of the Rascals gang. Frankly, this is a great relief for someone like me, who normally cannot stand child actors. Pete’s presence greatly redeems the quality of these funnies that otherwise try too hard for my taste.
In my new favorite!blog! of the moment, Modern Mechanix, which features amazing archival scans of vintage magazines, I learned how early special effects contributed to the magic of Pete’s acting skills. As relayed by Pete’s trainer, Harry Lucenay:
… Pete frequently is called upon to register astonishment by putting his paw behind his ear while sitting up on his hind legs. Due to a dog’s physical make-up, this is virtually an impossibility. How is it accomplished? Simply by having the trainer place the dog’s paw behind the ear before starting the cameras and then shooting the scene in reverse action. A shot then is made of him sitting up in a natural position. In the cutting room the two shots are matched so the action appears to be simultaneous.
“Secrets of Famous Dog Trainers,” Popular Mechanics June 1936, p. 882
He goes on to impart other pearls of dog training wisdom: “The early stages of training should be masked as play, says [Lucenay]. Thus, knowledge is instilled without making it a hardship” (ibid., 884). It’s an interesting article that suggests what we now think of as “positive” training, without getting bogged down in jargon or debates. But it would take a lot more close reading to unpack just what’s going on here, since even the ideas of play and obedience, so critical to Lucenay’s training philosophy, are categories in flux — as evidenced by the comedic and satirical edge that early films like Our Gang shorts often display.
Anyway, if you want to watch a cute pit bull doing cute tricks with a cast of ingratiating and slightly creepy children, check out this or any number of the Little Rascals films. It sure must have been fun while it lasted.
The House of Two Bows keeps a running index of movies blurbed on the site, annotated by breed. If you’re interested in writing a guest blog for a dog film, contact for details.
In a conversation with another Basenji owner at the dog park, she asked, “How’s the pit bull population here?” As in, the park. It was her first visit.
Without hesitating, I answered, “High.”
And I added, “But the vast majority of pit bull owners that come here know what they’re doing. They’re here to socialize their dogs, and we haven’t really had any problems with them. We run into several every time we’re here.”
These big dogs that we met on Thanksgiving are a case in point. I started watching them because all three were extremely vocal, mouthy dogs. They were growling and pummeling each other as soon as they met. But even though they sounded vicious, it was clear that they were just playing. It helped that all three were pretty well matched, and as a bonus, their people were right there watching them the whole time.
Raider, the black and white pit on the left, was in the middle of it all and having loads of tongue-flapping fun. Every now and then, Max the Mastiff would be pulled aside when his people sensed he was getting overstimulated. He lives with the brindle Chester, and while the two play very well with each other, they supposedly have a tendency to gang up on other dogs, especially when the play gets rough.
Bowdu wanted to cut in and referee at points, but the big dogs paid him no mind. In the below shot, Max is in time out, but Raider and Chester just knocked into him, causing him to twist against his collar and make Bowdu jump backwards. It looks awkward, but everything was under control.
See? Back to playplayplay.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to handle dogs this large and energetic, but it’s definitely nice to admire them from afar.
And up close, too!
This is Sugar, my neighbor’s dog.
For a while, Sugar’s schedule was overlapping with the Two Bows’ routine. We would see each other nearly every day at one of our favorite off-leash parks. Despite living at our house for years, the Bows never actually met Sugar until this past year.
The first meeting involved some initial snapping and lunging from both Sugar and Bowdu. I’m not sure what set it off, but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that we had just arrived at the park, so Bowdu was in a state of heightened anticipation, and he can be a jerk around bulky dogs who pant noisily, as Sugar was since she was a bit winded from having just concluded a vigorous walk.
That initial meeting didn’t go so well. The dogs were separated quickly, and I told my neighbor I’d catch up with her some other day.
The next time we ran into them, mid-way through both of our walks, everything was fine. And the meeting after that. And after that.
Ever since she adopted her from the shelter, Sugar’s momma has worked hard to ensure that her dog is okay in public. She also knows exactly the type of circumstances that keep her dog friendly and sociable — Sugar is at her best when she’s gotten her exercise every single day, and the best place for her to do that is at off-leash dog parks. As we exchanged stories, she told me about how it took some time and exploration for her to realize this about her dog. She has my complete respect for going to such lengths to prioritize this relationship with her dog, as it has evidently paid off.
Now, here’s another one of my neighbor’s dogs.
What dog, you say?
This is the unseen dog that lives at the corner of my block. This dog is kept in the yard nearly all day, every day. He/she is not walked, not socialized, and not known to others in the neighborhood. Nobody has seen him (I’m just going to pick a pronoun), beyond the glimpse of his massive head as he’s leapt up above the six-feet-tall fence to bark and snarl at anyone who passed by on the opposite side. Eventually, he started to rip through the lattice fence extensions, so my neighbors layered over it with corrugated plastic instead. To the right, further down the fence, they’ve also installed barbed wire.
I know nothing about the history of this dog, or how my neighbors acquired him, or how he is kept on a day-to-day basis. Nobody has seen him walked in the neighborhood. But we’ve all heard him when he’s launched himself at the fence, and many of us have wondered what would happen if he ever managed to scale it, as he’s been raring to do.
It takes all kinds to make our dogs what they are. On the same block, same street, same neighborhood, we have such an array of dog owners that it’s hard to make any generalizations, least of all on breed. I know that I would much rather encounter Sugar than Green Fence Dog running loose on the street, but that has everything to do with how they have been kept, and not the fact that they are both pit bull mixes.
Director: Ang Lee
Performers: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott
Production Information: Universal Pictures (US), 2003
Breeds featured: Pit bull, American Staffordshire terrier, Standard Poodle
I have the greatest respect for Ang Lee, and usually find him a versatile director who does a careful, nuanced job of giving emotional and psychological depth to a great range of characters. That said, Hulk was a stinker on a number of levels and is the weakest title in his entire filmography (take it from someone who’s seen them all). This animated dogfight scene that happens about halfway through was the signpost announcing that the film had just fallen deep into the Valley of Suck — abandon hope all ye who enter.
Bruce Banner’s father to Bruce Banner’s girlfriend: And don’t worry about the dogs. You’ll be fine. Just don’t look them in the eyes.
Nick Nolte plays Bruce Banner’s father who makes his grand entrance with his three random dogs. They lay at his side with no interaction whatsoever. The dogs’ attention is clearly on some off-screen handler (see top screenshot). It appears that the Nolte character doesn’t even like his dogs that much, so there’s no love lost when he Hulkifies them and sends them on a mission to dispatch Bruce Banner’s girlfriend. And of course, that makes Hulk mad, so an all-out battle ensues.
It’s a pretty violent sequence, though there’s really not much blood and gore. The dogs get pummeled to pieces or torn apart by the Hulk, dying in a spray of green pixels, and that’s that. It seems to me that this was about the time that Hollywood started projecting more graphic images of violence unto animals (Peter Jackson’s King Kong from 2005 also comes to mind), which became permissible under the idea that no real animals are harmed, and more gruesome images of human violence are commonplace in films equally rated (Hulk has an MPAA rating of PG-13). Anyway, the action choreography here is tight, I just find the overall visual design to be lacking.
Seriously — a black dog and a dark brown dog battling it out at night in a redwood forest? Did they keep everything dark and inscrutable in a desperate attempt to mask how shoddy it looks? The Hulk looks like he’s being hugged by a couple giant gophers at some points. The poodle ends up appearing the most vicious of the trio, only because its form and face can actually be distinguished.
Anyway, the segment serves only to provide banal action-filler that’s a far cry from the martial artistry and visual splendor of, say, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Ang Lee could’ve done better — perhaps by leaving this scene out entirely, for starters.
I had a rough theme for this week’s entries, shuttling back and forth between Here and There, Local and Global, the idea of using small acts to make a world of difference, even when immediate change is perceptible only in private… yadda yadda. Things didn’t cohere quite as I intended, but that’s why this blog is always a work in progress.
Over the months, I’d been collecting goodies for a House of Two Bows giveaway, but it didn’t occur to me until this week how I was going to execute it. Not until I stopped by my local animal shelter and spoke to their volunteer director about their donation needs did I finally realize how I wanted to end this week.
Photo taken 8 December 2010. Adoptable pound puppy Rusty. What can I say? I’m a sucker for red dogs.
My local animal shelter could use spare towels, blankets, bath mats. Durable chew toys and rope toys — big, black Kongs and whatnot. They’re doing okay with food, though they could sometimes stand to have more limited ingredient and hypoallergenic foods on hand for dogs with allergies.
They could also use a few more beds for the dogs in their care. While Rusty the pittie above has his own bed, not every kennel is currently equipped to keep its resident off the cold, concrete floors.
So they’re asking for donations of Kuranda beds, which can be ordered online and shipped directly to them. This is where you and the House of Two Bows comes in…
We’re giving away one GRAND PRIZE package which consists of:
- Animal Origami cubes by Toyo Japan featuring Shiba Inu and puppies, rabbits, turtles, cat and kittens, chickens.
- A diecut Shiba memo block from Greeting Life stationery.
- A B5 Notebook featuring a Shiba on cover from Kyowa stationery.
- A set of San-X Iiwaken notebook tab stickers and one sheet of various dog stickers from Tanpopo.
- A Kuranda bed donated to my local animal shelter in your name.
In addition, several runner-ups (at least three) will receive:
- A DIY charm of Hello Kitty dressed up as a Shiba Inu — there’s a little silver loop attached to the tiny little figure, so you can turn it into a necklace, a cell phone dangle, or whatever (see below).
- A bilingual Chinese-English 2011 pocket diary/planner from the Taichung Universal Animal Protection Association, TUAPA. They did such a nice job with this, I ordered a whole stack to redistribute, as I really think they’re doing good work.
All you have to do to participate is leave a comment to this entry below and answer the question: Where do your pets sleep? If you don’t have any pets at the moment, but would still like to enter, you can just answer where you think you’d like them to sleep.
In order to be eligible, please make sure to fill in the e-mail address field when leaving your comment. AFAIK, your e-mail address will not be made public, but that way, I can contact you if you win.
Entries will be accepted through next Friday, December 17th. One unique entry per pet will be accepted, though comments will have to be separated to count (yes, that means multi-animal households are at an advantage!). Unfortunately, comments for future or not-yet-existent or imaginary pets must all be consolidated under one entry. Winners will be chosen at random. They will be e-mailed privately after the close of the giveaway for their names and mailing addresses.
Why am I doing this?
Because I’m an inveterate packrat, and I go through periodic purges where I try to rehome a bunch of my possessions. Because I’ve been doing this blog nearly every day for months now, and I’m curious as to who’s reading. Because it’s fun to do giveaways, especially around this time of year. Because I love mail, both sending and receiving it. Because blogs have long been a medium for me to try and connect my personal life with the world that surrounds me in concrete ways, and this seemed a fun way to make that philosophy manifest.
Ultimately, I’m doing this because I want to try and inspire a little bit of generosity in the world, a way to pay it forward, as it were. Our own dogs get to sleep in relative comfort, every night.
Bowdu has his place at the foot of the bed, which he prefers…
And Bowpi has learned to stretch and expand into available space on the human bed, a habit which we actually find rather endearing. In their sleep, they appear to be such angels (perhaps why I have so many pictures of sleeping dogs!). In their dreams, they are the epitome of “blissful ignorance,” for they can remain unaware of a less than cozy world.
At the House of Two Bows, we may not be rolling in cash, but we’re doing okay. While we don’t have an answer for every pleading pair of eyes, and neither are we expecting everyone else to save them all, I think the least we can do is try and help others get to be okay, too.
Adoptable Schnauzer-Poodle, Buddy
Then we’ll work on being more than okay, one step at a time.