February 24, 2011 – from Eva Saks
Dog TV: Viewing Interruptus

By “dog TV,” I refer not to The Dog Whisperer, Scooby Doo, or It’s Me or the Dog. Nor do I allude to Blue’s Clues, Dogs Decoded, or even Dog the Bounty Hunter. Rather, dog TV describes the erratic viewing style I’ve adopted since adopting my Shelties:  formerly an attentive spectator, now I frequently interrupt my viewing for dog emergencies (walk, fetch, and potty breaks).

This canine punctuation causes me endless confusion about what’s going on onscreen. Programs just aren’t the same when you miss critical plot points. Even simple stories are rendered indecipherable by my predilection to prioritize my pups. I take my dog Hobby out for a quick poop, and the next thing I know Mad Men’s Don Draper has remarried!

Classic movies similarly suffer. I dash out to prepare Momo’s dinner during Inn of the Sixth Happiness and can’t figure out what war is being fought. I miss the end of Casablanca to throw a tennis ball for Buddy and don’t know whether Ingrid Bergman got on the plane or not. I ogle Omar Sharif in Dr. Zhivago, take the pups on a sunset stroll, and return to find him galloping through the Arabian Desert. It’s not Global Warming; it’s Lawrence of Arabia…or, in my house, Zhivago of Arabia.  The next great Russian epic in my house might be War and Pees.

I’m the Nielson Ratings’ worst nightmare, but I’m perfectly happy. After all, dogs are the greatest show on earth. Emmys to them all!

February 19, 2011 - from Eva Saks

My automobile insurance is quirky. It imposes wildly varying deductibles with no apparent economic rationale. However, on the bright side, it covers swanky rentals when my little Nissan is in the shop. Last week, the Geico/Enterprise representative insisted on providing me with a glistening new black Mercedes. Who am I to argue?

I predicted everyone would enjoy this upscale auto. I was generally correct. I happily drove to business meetings in it. My neighbors savored the improved appearance of my driveway. Leslie cheerfully joined me for a jaunt. My Sheltie Buddy wagged his tail at it. My Sheltie Hobby jumped right in. This temporary trophy vehicle tickled humans and dogs alike... all except my Sheltie Momo.  He sniffed at the car and displayed utter indifference.

My rescue colleague Mary Lou interpreted Momo’s response as a sign of his spiritual superiority. “He’s not materialistic like us,” she concluded. “He’s not impressed by mere worldly goods.”

She could be right, but I read Momo’s reaction differently. I think he’s holding out for a Bentley. 

February 17, 2011 - from Eva Saks
I am Cesar Millan (Not)

My newly adopted Sheltie, Buddy, was dumped in a Spokane, Washington, kill shelter two months ago. The shelter's "temperament evaluation" found him to be "reserved." The farther he gets from that experience, however, the more his swashbuckling personality emerges...and with it, his multi-octave voice. He's quite the barker. I’m delighted to have a watchdog in my household, as a break-in next door occurred recently and my other Shelties are very quiet.  Buddy is a first-rate alarm system with batteries included.

However, Buddy needs some audio boundaries, especially on walks. He’s taking this whole self-appointed town crier shtick too far. So I queried the head of Southland Sheltie Rescue about an appropriate mode of behavior modification. She suggested I walk him alone, leaving his brothers behind, and that I carry a spray bottle of cold water, spritzing Buddy whenever he vocalizes inappropriately.

Today I implemented this training protocol, setting forth boldly with Buddy and bottle at first light. He went crazy at the onset of a bicycle. Spritz! He went crazy at the sight of a Pit Bull. Spritz! He went crazy when a schoolboy whizzed by on a skateboard. Spritz! Spritz! Buddy barked, I spritzed. It was the wettest walk since "Singin’ in the Rain."

By the time we rounded the home stretch, Buddy was completely silenced. We strolled home in companionable silence. Buddy was peaceful and I was pleased as punch. Frankly, I was proud not only of Buddy but of myself: I’d quieted him in just one session. I basked in my success. I savored my dog whispering talent. I marveled at my genius as a trainer. Then I looked down.

Buddy had a huge, toasted, buttered English muffin in his mouth.

February 5, 2011 - from Eva Saks
The Potato Chip Tree

When I first moved to my neighborhood in Los Angeles, my Shelties Momo and Hobby showed a remarkable interest in a certain tree on the corner of Riverton and Morrison Streets. What caused this special connection? I pondered this botanical mystery at length. Was it some evolutionary connection between Shelties and the type of greenery, based on common provenance in the Shetland Islands? Was it some pheremonal connection between the buds of the tree and the scenting abiities of my dogs? Was it some idiosyncratic, possibly esthetic quirk native to my pups alone, causing them to feel a special connection with this tree? Could it be astrological? Karmic? Genomic?

The answer to this riddle wrapped in a furball was at last revealed. The owner of the bungalow next to the tree is a bird rescuer. She let slip recently that she puts potato chip crumbs on the tree's base, as a treat for her feathered friends.

Lay's, not nature, was the source of the scientific phenomenon I observed.

So much for deep thinking. 

February 3, 2011 - from Eva Saks
The New Math

My new rescue is a senior Sheltie named Buddy. He was dumped in a kill shelter in Spokane, Washington, at the start of the Christmas season. (Sometimes it's NOT a wonderful life.) Luckily the good people of Spokane Sheltie Rescue saved him. I found him a ride to Los Angeles on the Craigslist "Rideshare" page, compensating the generous driver with fifty bucks for gas and two cases of Merrick's wet food that I won in a raffle last year. (Yes, the driver was a peach.)

Buddy's bloodwork is excellent. Better yet, this oldster has the disposition of a puppy! He's frisky, friendly, and fabulous. He fetches a tennis ball, gambols delightedly in the yard, and trots briskly on our walks. In fact, he wants to take a new route every day. He embodies the spirit of youthful adventure. The shelter paperwork indicated he was ten years old, yet that seemed impossible. Leslie thought he looked about six, and my vet - after conducting a thorough "nose to tail" exam - aged him at seven.

But recently I ascertained his precise birth date, and he actually IS ten, going on eleven.

Based on this revelation, my rescuer friend Laura has coined a slogan that - Dog willing - will apply to all our dogs:
Eleven is the New Seven.