Silas is afraid of children, people who wave their arms, and people who act unpredictably. He is terrified of cars. Walking on the sidewalk is, in his mind, a terrible, terrible thing. The vacuum is not to be trusted, and the blender is only slightly better. He doesn’t climb things indoors, because heaven knows what’s on top of that table or cabinet. Having his harness put on is a terrible punishment. The doorbell signals the onslaught of the enemy. He would rather explode than use the bathroom in the rain.

You would read that list and think, “What’s a fearful, nervous dog!” And he is, except about “normal” things. You know, that stuff dogs are supposed to be scared by.

Silas is not bothered by thunder and lightning, even though he spent his socialization phase in a terrible drought. He thinks nothing of fireworks. He loves to ride in the car. Sirens are fine by him. Last night he practically asked me to hurry up and leave the house. One day, a helicopter landed across the street, and he didn’t even get off the sofa until I went over to look out the window. When we were visiting my parents, it took him two minutes to adjust to Dad’s wheelchair, and he never gave the walker or the cane a second thought. He’s more cheerful at the vet’s office than anywhere else we go with people.

I like to remind myself of all the things he’s not afraid of, because it makes him sound so brave. “Ha! My dog thinks thunder is fine and dandy!” is pretty nice, when you’re used to thinking “Gee, I’d go to the park, but school is out already.” (Today was horrific. It’s like we were trapped. Children everywhere, including the toddling toward us, under-supervised, “DOGGY!” yelling kind. I thought ten AM would be okay, since the park we go to is just nature trails.)

Hugs and pets to all you out there with miserable dogs tonight who are afraid of the fireworks. Silas will be busy worrying about the extra people on the sidewalk.

How we spent our Christmas

Silas fared pretty well this year, largely because Christmas was very low-key for the humans. My husband’s family had a plumbing problem, which delayed their holiday a few days, and my mom’s family was too sick to do a big to-do. (We had a plan for dodging Mom’s family anyway–lots of children on that side.)

Christmas Day was very easy. A little present unwrapping with my family, aka people 1, 2, and 3 on Silas’s list of “acceptable people whom I don’t live with,” then some time in his crate while my husband and I went to the huge family party on my Dad’s side.

The real test didn’t come until Thursday, with the delayed Christmas party. My husband’s family is hard for Silas, because they’re all dog people. Since Silas doesn’t like to be reached for or for people to act excited about him, dog people are hard for him. I credit Silas’s deep and enduring love for my mother to the fact that he had to work hard to win her over. They’re also loud, and the kind of loud people who wave their arms around while they talk. They’re so loud that I honestly have trouble with them myself. I think my family party of 60+ was less noisy than K’s family of eight (including us).

But, you know, it went pretty well. We left Silas in his crate at my parents’ house a few miles away while we did the dinner prep and ate. Then we put him in his Thundershirt and carried him to the party. This meant that everybody else was already there. Additional people arriving once Silas is in a room can be hard for him. I left him on his leash while we went around and met everyone, and they had already been instructed not to reach for him, pet him, or act excited to see him. After that he was fine loose in the house. He had one or two barking spells with K’s uncle, but I can’t blame him.

I’m not sure if the difference was age, or the Thundershirt, or our improved party tactics, but this year was so much better than last.

Silas still thinks holidays are exhausting:


Happy Holidays!

We opened the holiday presents at our house last night. True to form, Silas had a blast. He’s clever enough that he even knows how to start at the corners with the wrapping paper.

These aren’t my best pictures, but I’m posting them anyway. Maybe next year we’ll exchange gifts in daylight.




His last present was a new bed for his crate, which was obviously a hit:


Although, you’ll note that it is not, in fact, in his crate. (Poor baby soothes himself to sleep with a mouthful of blanket. Hence the ragtag fleece throws in so many of my pictures.)


This is how I know the dog has won over my mother: she got the flu last week. She called today, to say that she was sorry that she hadn’t done any shopping. She felt bad that Silas didn’t have a present under the tree.

We are on the road, again. I suspect that I won’t be around this week, although I’ve been wrong about these things before.

Happy holidays!

Will and Won’t

Things my dog will eat, if given the chance:

Vegetarian Sausage
Tortilla Chips
Raw meat, including bones and organs
Whole eggs, sometimes including the shell
The feces of non-dog animals
His own hair and nail trimmings
Olive oil, straight
Sour Cream
Carrots, sweet potatoes, and a variety of vegetables
Random yard plants

Things my dog will not eat, no matter how much I beg:

Conventionally farmed eggs
Supermarket meat that has been injected with saline
Hotdogs or pre-sliced lunchmeat of any kind

I have always considered tasting better to be kind of an accessory advantage to my own food politics. So I was a little flabbergasted the first time I gave Silas one of Mom’s supermarket-brand eggs. Silas adores eggs. He begs to lick the bowl when I’m scrambling them. But he could apparently tell that the supermarket egg was “not food.” And it isn’t like I always buy them straight from the hen; I buy everything from the cheapest free-range/non-organic that they sell at our “healthy” grocery store to the “real deal” at the farmer’s market.

We went through something similar when turkey started getting scarce and I had to buy him some from the regular grocery store. It was just not food. Not long after that, I got desperate and bought him very expensive turkey from the boutique vendor at the farmers’ market. He had never looked so happy about food in his life. And I was not imagining it–my husband, who neither knows nor cares what the dog eats at the day-to-day level, also noticed.

I don’t know what the moral is of this from the dog’s perspective. I certainly haven’t been buying Silas the boutique turkey; goodness knows I spend enough to feed him as-is. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to buy his food through regular grocers. Our raw-food supplier gets their food unprocessed enough for it to be added-sodium free, although I suspect it is all quite conventional in other ways.

But there is something now that niggles in my brain, when I look at something like a carton of cheap eggs, and it goes like this: “My dog, who thinks rabbit poop is delicious, does not think that egg is worth eating.”

Fewer Words Wednesday: After the Park

After the park

I have given up on expecting the weather to be predictable. Instead, I’m trying to just go with it. Tuesday: 80 degrees. Park day! It was almost too warm, something that I’m sure none of you appreciate right now.

Silas still can’t understand that the park goes around in a circle, so he wore himself out taking the long way back to the car, instead of completing the circle in three minutes. No complaints here.

Almost as soon as we got back, UPS rang the doorbell. I put Silas in his crate, opened the door, got my packages, closed the door, and went back to let Silas out. He was so tired he just stayed there and went to sleep. After a while he eventually got up on the couch.

Rearranging the Furniture

Last year for Christmas we bought Silas a dog bed. He seemed to have stopped growing, so we took advantage of a holiday sale.

He never used it much, preferring to sleep on the couch or the human bed. One day he chewed a hole in it, and I had to put it away until I had time to patch it. After that, he never cared for it.

Not long ago we brought it back downstairs. Silas kept pulling the mat out of his crate so that he could lie down on it in the middle of the floor. Like rational humans, we put the rather large dog bed someplace that wasn’t terribly in the way.

Silas looked at his bed. He sat on his bed. Then he got up and moved his bed to where he wanted it.


(The blue spot is my patch. I went for the pragmatic route and used the otherwise useless-since-1986 pale color that comes in denim patch kits.)

Now, finally, he is getting a little use out of his expensive bed. I guess all it needed was to be in the center of the living room, kind of in the way.

No one puts puppy in a corner?

Food Allergy Diet: Doing it Wrong

Things were going so well. Silas not only loves pork, but it seems to agree with him. This has started a running joke around the house about how he will surely thrive on every meat I have ethical issues with. Perhaps veal, next? Chilean sea bass?


Anyway, he’s been eating pork for about a month. Duck, which he reacted badly to, only took about two weeks. We won’t be out of the woods until February, but it’s exciting. (A friend recently had the disastrous result of her dog becoming allergic to the only protein she could eat. Poor doggie is on a soy diet now. Food variety has taken on a new urgency.)

And then I made a mistake. Or, more precisely, a mistake that I made some months ago caught up to me, and almost ruined the whole thing.

One evening last week, I opened the refrigerator to get Silas his dinner and realized that I hadn’t defrosted anything. I looked around the pantry for some of his usual “Oops!” foods, and spotted a can of salmon. “It’s been a little while,” I thought. “I’ll let him have some of this.” He loves canned salmon, although I have to be really careful with how much salt it has.

The next morning he didn’t even make it outside before he threw up. It worried me, because it always does, but I tried not to panic. His salmon dinner had been a little light, and I had fed him a little early, so I wondered if maybe his stomach was just too empty.

Two or three days later, I gave him the other half of the salmon, and he did the exact same thing.

Meaning, I have been making a terrible mistake. Back in the fall I started giving him salmon oil, because it was highly recommended as a natural antihistamine. When ragweed season hit, and Silas started breaking out in hives, it was a miracle. It also didn’t seem to cause him any digestive trouble, so I bought some mercifully cheaper salmon training treats for him. Those didn’t seem to cause him any trouble, either.

I stupidly leapt to the conclusion that salmon was probably fine. I couldn’t, in my defense, do a full proper trial period with salmon because it is quite expensive. Canned salmon has too much salt, unless you pay a lot for it, and fresh salmon is too expensive for me, let alone the dog.

We took a few days off of pork just in case, but the whole thing was a big reminder: DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. One of the things I’ve had to learn is that fat is not protein. That is, his allergies seem to be to proteins, so fats even from the same animal don’t appear to bother him. This is why he can sometimes get away with a treat that has, say, chicken fat. It isn’t a difference that I have exploited much. Until now, that is. I tried to replace his salmon oil, and he has been itching up a storm. If I don’t give it back, he’s going to claw his skin off.

The frustrating thing is that if he hadn’t had such an incredibly precise correlation between the salmon and his reaction to it, I would have assumed it was the pork and quit feeding him a viable protein source.

In the meantime, we’ve gone back to the simplest version of his diet. The supplements he’s been getting all summer + turkey + pork. So far, so good.


When we go see my grandparents-in-law over the holidays, I look around their house in amazement. Dusty the Golden Retriever mix would never dream of touching the houseplants at eye level, or the dozens of knickknacks on low tables, or the magazines next to the couch. Dusty would never steal a throw pillow and try to hide it while he chewed all the corners off.

Silas has never been a genuinely destructive dog. You hear stories about dogs eating through sofas or that kind of thing, and Silas has never had it in him. (I did crate him when we weren’t home, until he was about nine months old, and separation anxiety is about the only anxiety he doesn’t have.) There are a few tooth marks on one of our dining room chairs, and a few more on one corner of the TV stand, but you would never look around our house and say, “Ahh, these people had a puppy recently.” I have books floor-to-ceiling, and not a one has seen the inside of a puppy mouth. In fact, one day in a stupid moment of desperation I gave him a magazine to tear up, and he (fortunately) looked at me like I was crazy.

Small, silent destruction is more his style.

Some things are just comically random. I can leave my shoes anywhere, and they’ll be there when I come back. This has been the case since basically forever. My husband’s shoes were fair game until very recently. Or, Silas will walk past the rug on the stair landing for three weeks, and then on day 22 he will become fascinated with it and have to carry it off.

Mostly we have a very good record with destruction because we’re tidy people. I learned early on what was and was not irresistible, and changed my housekeeping accordingly. The couch no longer has throw pillows, for instance, and we traded in the nice throws for cheap IKEA fleece. I have a series of places where I can put things out of his reach, and I know how to use them.

Every now and then he figures out my hidy-holes, though, and then trouble happens. He’s snitched one too many “wonderful” things off the dining room table, so now he knows to look there. Yesterday he learned about my favorite easy place–the top of his crate. I don’t know why he had never thought to look up there, but it has always been a great short-term storage spot. Until I put my knitting there while I helped my husband open a big package that had come in.

The good news is that Silas had no interest in the part with the needles, so he didn’t actually hurt anything. But he grabbed that ball of yarn and ran for his little life. Now that the bitterness of unknotting the skein has passed, it’s almost funny. Almost.

Does your dog leave things alone? Or are you sitting on the (nude) sofa with me?

The Purple Hedgehog

Sometime in early November I broke the “no more toys until Christmas” rule in favor of a purple rubber hedgehog.

Silas was having a blast playing with the sweetgum tree balls in my parents’ yard. For those of you not from the American Southeast, a sweetgum ball looks like this:

Sweetgum ball

They are sharp, like a very tiny, very pointy pinecone. Which Silas also loves to play with.

So when I spotted this toy by Hugglehounds

Purple hedgehog

I knew he needed to have it.

It’s turned out to be a very good buy for quite a few reasons. We play most of our fetch indoors, which means we can’t use a toy that is too heavy or too bouncy without the risk of breaking things. (Looking at you, Orbee ball.) Toys that aren’t bouncy at all aren’t any fun. Painted toys can leave marks on our white walls. Some kinds of plastic are too hard to get back from Silas, who is still working on the “giving” part of fetch.

Hedgehog is perfect. Silas loves the spiny texture (it is quite soft, just very nubbly.), and we love that it’s a great balance of soft/bouncy/light. The material is supposedly a blend of natural rubber and corduroy fabric. Whatever it is, we like it. I’m not sure how it would stand up to a serious chewer; Silas never chews with purpose on rubbery or plastic toys. A month of serious fetch hasn’t hurt it at all. I think I’ll look for another one or two shapes when we go back home for Christmas.

The only downside is that Purple Hedgehog is made in China. Hugglehounds says that the paint and materials are safe, but I’ve been increasingly skeptical of toys lately. I’m hoping that after Silas opens his Christmas gifts I can post some reviews of toys that were made in the US.

HuggleHounds offers these in sizes, and I’m honestly not sure which one we have. Probably the smallest one. I wouldn’t have even remembered the brand. Fortunately “purple hedgehog dog toy” doesn’t yield very many search results.