When’s the last time you heard a song about a Lhasa Apso? Probably … never. If that’s the case, then I have a rare treat for you. Canadian singer, Nancy Simmonds, has produced several CDs highlighting various breeds. She’s done an excellent job on her research of the breeds, their characteristics and then weaving them into song.
Thanksgiving came late this year so, a scant three+ weeks later, Christmas will be upon us. This is about the time I start hyperventilating as I’ve literally not done a thing for the holiday preparations. No gifts purchased — no decorations put up yet — haven’t even started my annual Christmas newsletter or my cards that I send out every year to the adoptive families. I consider it lucky that I’ve made it this far in the year. Between work, the house/yard, the rescues, being elected as a Board member with the national breed club, and showing Dante as a special, it has been an unbelievably busy year.
While the rest of you are making those lists and checking them twice, I would ask that you keep rescue in mind. Besides the ever present need for foster homes, funding is always an issue. I understand that the economy is an issue for virtually most of the people I know … at the current rate, my “retirement program” will be working as a greeter, “Hi, welcome to Wal-Mart.” :::sigh:::
If you are interested in fostering — making a difference in the life of a dog — please contact me directly at ApsoRescue@aol.com. However, one does not need to foster to be of assistance … 100 Ways to Help Rescue. Granted, a few additional foster homes would be a gift from heaven for us!! If you’d like to make a donation of some type, please contact me at the above-noted email for details. Some folks make a monetary donation at the holidays; some on the anniversary of their adoptions; others to commerate their Apso’s birthday; and yet others in memory of a beloved companion. Please be assured that any donation of time or money is gratefully accepted.
This post would not be complete without a “thank you” to our rescue volunteers. If you’ve adopted from us, you’ve most likely met one or both of them … Sue S. of Parker who does our metro Denver homevisits, and Michelle R. of Wellington who has been involved with fostering and assisting/attending the various functions, i.e, pet expos and what we hope is an annual picnic. Michelle is also our very capable webmistress. Their dedication and service to rescue is truly priceless. With their assistance, we’ve been able to help even more Apsos and still maintain some semblence of sanity. Thank you, ladies …
Perhaps between now and Christmas I’ll get something up for the cat to take apart and stash down in the basement under the throw rugs. He’s particularly fond of the little gold dingleball decorations attached to the garland that finds it way to the floor with his “help.”
My beautiful red girl, Ali, turned eleven earlier this month. While that’s not “old” considering some Apsos can live well into their late teens or even into their 20s, she has entered what I term the “worry years.” There’s this little nagging thought at the back of my brain which reminds me her days are numbered. All that remains is what that number actually is … a mystery at this point. And so, from time to time, I worry. How long? How will her health hold out? Is she developing arthritis or a little doggy dementia? Is there something I can do to mitigate the aging process besides what I’m already doing? Each day becomes more precious as I notice the subtle signs of aging.
Old Dogs …
They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.
Not long before his death, Harry and I headed out for a walk that proved eventful. He was nearly 13, old for a big dog. Walks were no longer the slap-happy Iditarods of his youth, frenzies of purposeless pulling in which we would cast madly off in all directions, fighting for command. Nor were they the exuberant archaeological expeditions of his middle years, when every other tree or hydrant or blade of grass held tantalizing secrets about his neighbors. In his old age, Harry had transformed his walk into a simple process of elimination – a dutiful, utilitarian, head-down trudge. When finished, he would shuffle home to his ratty old bed, which graced our living room because Harry could no longer ascend the stairs. On these walks, Harry seemed oblivious to his surroundings, absorbed in the arduous responsibility of placing foot before foot before foot before foot. But this time, on the edge of a small urban park, he stopped to watch something. A man was throwing a Frisbee to his dog. The dog, about Harry’s size, was tracking the flight expertly, as Harry had once done, anticipating hooks and slices by watching the pitch and roll and yaw of the disc, as Harry had done, then catching it with a joyful, punctuating leap, as Harry had once done, too.
Harry sat. For ten minutes, he watched the fling and catch, fling and catch, his face contented, his eyes alight, his tail a-twitch. Our walk home was almost … jaunty.
Some years ago, The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”
It’s no big deal to love a dog; they make it so easy for you. They find you brilliant, even if you are a witling. You fascinate them, even if you are as dull as a butter knife. They are fond of you, even if you are a genocidal maniac. Hitler loved his dogs, and they loved him.
Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckle-headed matrix of behavior we find so appealing – his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.
Kafka wrote that the meaning of life is that it ends. He meant that our lives are shaped and shaded by the existential terror of knowing that all is finite. This anxiety informs poetry, literature, the monuments we build, the wars we wage-all of it. Kafka was talking, of course, about people. Among animals, only humans are said to be self – aware enough to comprehend the passage of time and the grim truth of mortality. How, then, to explain old Harry at the edge of that park, gray and lame, just days from the end, experiencing what can only be called wistfulness and nostalgia? I have lived with eight dogs, watched six of them grow old and infirm with grace and dignity, and die with what seemed to be acceptance. I have seen old dogs grieve at the loss of their friends. I have come to believe that as they age, dogs comprehend the passage of time, and, if not the inevitability of death, certainly the relentlessness of the onset of their frailties. They understand that what’s gone is gone.
What dogs do not have is an abstract sense of fear, or a feeling of injustice or entitlement. They do not see themselves, as we do, as tragic heroes, battling ceaselessly against the merciless onslaught of time. Unlike us, old dogs lack the audacity to mythologize their lives. You’ve got to love them for that.
The product of a Kansas puppy mill, Harry was sold to us as a yellow Labrador retriever. I suppose it was technically true, but only in the sense that TicTacs are technically “food.” Harry’s lineage was suspect. He wasn’t the square-headed, elegant type of Labrador you can envision in the wilds of Canada hunting for ducks. He was the shape of a baked potato, with the color and luster of an interoffice envelope. You could envision him in the wilds of suburban Toledo, hunting for nuggets of dried food in a carpet.
His full name was Harry S Truman, and once he’d reached middle age, he had indeed developed the unassuming soul of a haberdasher. We sometimes called him Tru, which fit his loyalty but was in other ways a misnomer: Harry was a bit of an eccentric, a few bubbles off plumb. Though he had never experienced an electrical shock, whenever he encountered a wire on the floor-say, a power cord leading from a laptop to a wall socket-Harry would stop and refuse to proceed. To him, this barrier was as impassable as the Himalayas. He’d stand there, waiting for someone to move it. Also, he was afraid of wind.
While Harry lacked the wiliness and cunning of some dogs, I did watch one day as he figured out a basic principle of physics. He was playing with a water bottle in our backyard-it was one of those five-gallon cylindrical plastic jugs from the top of a water cooler. At one point, it rolled down a hill, which surprised and delighted him. He retrieved it, brought it back up and tried to make it go down again. It wouldn’t. I watched him nudge it around until he discovered that for the bottle to roll, its long axis had to be perpendicular to the slope of the hill. You could see the understanding dawn on his face; it was Archimedes in his bath, Helen Keller at the water spigot.
That was probably the intellectual achievement of Harry’s life, tarnished only slightly by the fact that he spent the next two hours insipidly entranced, rolling the bottle down and hauling it back up. He did not come inside until it grew too dark for him to see.
I believe I know exactly when Harry became an old dog. He was about nine years old. It happened at 10:15 on the evening of June 21, 2001, the day my family moved from the suburbs to the city. The move took longer than we’d anticipated. Inexcusably, Harry had been left alone in the vacated house-eerie, echoing, empty of furniture and of all belongings except Harry and his bed – for eight hours. When I arrived to pick him up, he was beyond frantic.
He met me at the door and embraced me around the waist in a way that is not immediately reconcilable with the musculature and skeleton of a dog’s front legs. I could not extricate myself from his grasp. We walked out of that house like a slow-dancing couple, and Harry did not let go until I opened the car door.
He wasn’t barking at me in reprimand, as he once might have done. He hadn’t fouled the house in spite. That night, Harry was simply scared and vulnerable, impossibly sweet and needy and grateful. He had lost something of himself, but he had gained something more touching and more valuable. He had entered old age.
In the year after our move, Harry began to age visibly, and he did it the way most dogs do. First his muzzle began to whiten, and then the white slowly crept backward to swallow his entire head. As he became more sedentary, he thickened a bit, too.
On walks, he would no longer bother to scout and circle for a place to relieve himself. He would simply do it in mid-plod, like a horse, leaving the difficult logistics of drive-by cleanup to me. Sometimes, while crossing a busy street, with cars whizzing by, he would plop down to scratch his ear. Sometimes, he would forget where he was and why he was there. To the amusement of passersbys, I would have to hunker down beside him and say, “Harry, we’re on a walk, and we’re going home now. Home is this way, okay?” On these dutiful walks, Harry ignored almost everything he passed. The most notable exception was an old, barrel-chested female pit bull named Honey, whom he loved. This was surprising, both because other dogs had long ago ceased to interest Harry at all, and because even back when they did, Harry’s tastes were for the guys.
Still, when we met Honey on walks, Harry perked up. Honey was younger by five years and heartier by a mile, but she liked Harry and slowed her gait when he was around. They waddled together for blocks, eyes forward, hardly interacting but content in each other’s company. I will forever be grateful to Honey for sweetening Harry’s last days.
Some people who seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog. People who find this behavior distasteful are often the ones without pets. It is hard to understand, in the abstract, the degree to which a companion animal, particularly after a long life, becomes a part of you. I believe I’ve figured out what this is all about. It is not as noble as I’d like it to be, but it is not anything of which to be ashamed, either.
In our dogs, we see ourselves. Dogs exhibit almost all of our emotions; if you think a dog cannot register envy or pity or pride or melancholia, you have never lived with one for any length of time. What dogs lack is our ability to dissimulate. They wear their emotions nakedly, and so, in watching them, we see ourselves as we would be if we were stripped of posture and pretense. Their innocence is enormously appealing. When we watch a dog progress from puppyhood to old age, we are watching our own lives in microcosm. Our dogs become old, frail, crotchety, and vulnerable, just as Grandma did, just as we surely will, come the day. When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves.
From the book Old Dogs, text by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson, based on a longer excerpt that originally appeared in The Washington Post.
© 2008 by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc.
As appearing in the November 18, 2008 The Norman Transcript …
The Tibetan Dog Reincarnation
In Tibetan lore each Lama (like the Dali) has a Temple dog. When a Lama dies it is believed that he is reincarnated as another Temple dog. Thus he would serve two lifetimes of strict adherence to ritual worship, chanting, meditating, sacrifice, no tv, no dessert and no squeaky bone toy.
Sid saw Buster abandoned on the highway. At first she thought he was a porcupine. Covered with burrs, leaves and sticks, his hair matted in dreadlocks, he was a pitiful sight, but… he was a dog.
She pulled over, opened the door and picked up Buster. It was a hot Saturday afternoon in southern Pennsylvania. Sid drove back to the State Police Barracks and asked the location of the Humane Society.
“Don’t have one in Fulton County,” said the policeman.
“A dog catcher?” she asked.
“I saw his wife at the grocery store. He’s gone for the weekend. Be back Tuesday,” replied the officer cheerfully.
“Is there someplace I could ask about a lost dog report? Like a radio station or newspaper?”
“Nope. But you could take him to the pound in Adams County. Just don’t tell them you’re from Fulton County or they won’t take him.”
He gave Sid a pair of plastic handcuffs so she could take Buster out to pee. Bent at the waist, grasping the stiff handcuff leash she looked like a beachcomber dusting the lawn with a giant hairball.
At a strip mall in Chambersburg she bought a leash, harness, crate and dog food. This was how she arrived at her destination, the house of a friend who promptly said, “You can’t leave it here.” She put him in his crate, from which he escaped three times, the last of which was from the crate; duct-taped, bungee-corded, locked and put in the garage… in 15 minutes. Houdini couldn’t have done it better. They all agreed that Buster had adopted Sid.
Later at the dog wash, the attendant recognized the flea-bitten, moth ridden, canine flannel rag mop as a Lhasa Apso, a revered Tibetan Temple Guard Dog. Trying to recreate his recent history, they concluded that after his first life as a Lama, followed by his reincarnation as a lama’s dog, both lives spent under strict monastic guidelines, he had finally escaped.
“Free at last. Free at last,” he must have been chanting when Sid picked him up on the highway, handcuffed him, crated him, then the final indignity, had him neutered.
Which just goes to show you that the grass ain’t always greener on the other side of the Dali.
~~ Baxter Black, author, cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian, lives in Benson, Ariz.
… art lovers! I’m sure you’ve experienced this at one time or another. You go into a store (whether brick-n-mortar or online) and find all these really cool breed-related items. Labs, Tzus, Pugs, Yorkies, German Shepherd Dogs, etc. are all represented … everything but an Apso! I even encounter this when shopping the myriad of vendors at the dog shows — very little in the way of my chosen breed.
Every year at our National Specialty (the American Lhasa Apso Club or “ALAC”), special trophies are obtained for the winners. These typically are Best of Breed (BOB), Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed (BOS), Best of Winners (BW) (from the class dogs), Winners Dog (WD) and Winners Bitch (WB). This year’s trophies are spectacular … original oils by artist Karen McClelland. An exhibitor, she understands the nuances and anatomy of the canine, resulting in true-to-life work. Scroll down her Non-Sporting page to view the three Apso prints she’s offering as limited edition giclees on canvas! This has to be my favorite …
Karen will also do commission work for those wishing to memoralize a beloved pet. Additionally, she does quite a bit of equine art which can be seen on her blog … Karen McClelland Blog.
Hmmmm, I think I have a wall that needs a little “something” …
… the following article just underscores what I’ve known for years. That pets rely on their humans to keep them safe from harm and it is our responsibility to ensure their well-being. Think of your Apso as a perpetual two-year old. Would you leave a toddler outside unattended for the day … left in a car at the grocery store … allowed to roam the neighborhood without supervision? Uhhh, I didn’t think so. And your Apso — a perpetual toddler — should be supervised closely as well. These are not isolated incidents happening to “other people.” Take heed, pet owners. The life you save may be sitting at your feet this very moment …
American Kennel Club Cautions Owners: Pet Theft on the Rise;
AKC Appears on NBC’s Today Show Offering Tips to Keep Pets Safe
Dog Owners and Breeders Advised to Keep Dogs Safe at Home and on the Road
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Media reports have chronicled the escalation of these “dog-nappings” from all around the country. Incidents have included armed robbers entering a breeder’s home, tiny puppies being stuffed into purses at pet stores and most recently, purebred pets being snatched from cars in parking lots and even shelters.
“The value of pets in people’s lives has been on the rise for a long time and now we are seeing thieves trying to capitalize on this. Whether they seek to resell the dog, collect a ransom or breed the dogs and sell their offspring, thieves seem to be attuned to the increased financial and emotional value pets have in our lives,” said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. “Losing a treasured family pet is devastating to the owner.”
“Criminals look for weaknesses and exploit them. They know pets can’t protect themselves, so that means owners need to be alert,” said Lt. John Kerwick, a law enforcement K-9 handler and the President of the U.S. Police Canine Association, Region 7. “Be wary of anyone who approaches you and asks too many questions about your dog or where you live. This is a red flag that they may be out to snatch your pet.”
Peterson added that “These ‘dog-nappers’ are misguided and naVve. They’re stealing living beings, not jewelry that can be pawned. Plus, it’s unlikely that they can sell the dogs for high prices without proper registration papers, and these inept criminals are not realistically going to collect a ransom. Caring for a dog — and especially breeding — is a time consuming endeavor that requires a lot of knowledge. Thieves will find themselves with a frightened and confused animal that needs a lot of care.”
The AKC offers the following advice to prevent your “best friend” from being a target of a crime:
Don’t let your dog off-leash — Keeping your dog close to you reduces the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves. A Saint Bernard that had wandered away from his owner in Nebraska was snatched up right off the road.
Don’t leave your dog unattended in your yard — Dogs left outdoors when no one is home for long periods of time can be potential targets, especially if you live in a rural area and the fenced-in yard or dog runs are visible from the street.
Keep purchase price to yourself — If strangers approach you to admire your dog during walks, don’t answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.
Breeders need to be aware of home visits by potential puppy buyers — Criminals posing as would be “puppy buyers” have visited breeder homes to snatch dogs, while other homes have been burglarized when the owner was away. From Yorkies in Los Angeles to Bulldogs in Connecticut, thieves have targeted young puppies of these highly coveted breeds.
On the Road
Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it’s locked — Even if you are gone for only a moment, an unlocked car is an invitation for trouble. Also leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will only invite thieves to break and possibly allow the dog to escape.
Don’t tie your dog outside a store — This popular practice among city dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. Reports have surfaced of such thefts in Manhattan. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.
Be vigilant when entering or leaving establishments or venues catering to dogs such as grooming salons, veterinarians, doggie day care or hotels — Be aware of your surroundings, such as slow moving vehicles, or people watching you and your dog. Carry pepper spray as a precaution and, if possible, don’t walk alone late at night or stay in a well lit area.
Protect your dog with microchip identification — Collars and tags can be removed so make sure you have permanent ID with a microchip. Keep contact information current with your recovery service provider. Several pets have been recovered because of alert people scanning and discovering microchips. For more information and to enroll your pet in a 24 hour recovery service visit www.akccar.org.
If you suspect your dog has been stolen — Immediately call the police / animal control in the area your pet was last seen.
Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing — Keep a photo of your dog in your wallet or on an easily accessible web account so that you can distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.
… and puppy dog tails! Or, more to the point, why one should consider adding a male dog instead of insisting on a female.
Growing up in a pet-friendly family in the late ’50s, the mindset was you always wanted a female because the males “marked.” I’m sure they did as neutering, training and responsible pet-ownership (including not allowing the dogs to run the neighborhood at large) were not the norm. Vaccinations were not widespread and distemper claimed many a pet. What a difference 50+ years has made in companion animal care!
“Marking” is the act of releasing small amounts of urine to claim an area as their own. Both males and females will engage in this territorial behavior; however, it’s with intact males that it generally becomes more noticeable … and especially when they bring this behavior into the home. Basically, they’re saying “this is mine and I’m willing to fight for it.” And when one considers the focus of an intact male dog — food, fighting and, ummm, well, fornicating — they generally don’t make good pets for the average owner. Take away the last two parts to that equation … fighting and fornicating … by neutering and you have a dog that’s focused on you. One that’s not climbing over the fence at the first whiff of a female in heat. One that’s totally content being your velcro dog, following you from room to room. Some females will do that as well, but the males are just … sweeter. And, let’s face it. They don’t call ’em “bitches” for nothing. Their job, if you will, is to raise the pups and at all costs.
Many of the male dogs arriving in rescue are intact and with little or no housetraining. First order is business is an immediate neuter. During the recovery period, they’re enrolled in Housetraining 101. We also utilize a tether (a 4-6 foot leash) and belly bands if the dog arriving was previously neutered. Why belly bands? For several reasons — (1) you know exactly if they are “getting” the concept of housetraining (the incontinence pad in the band is either dry or wet), (2) it protects your furnishings during the training period, and (3) many dogs do not like the wet feel and that’s a deterent in and of itself. The tether is used as a means of supervision (he’s right there with you) and as a means of issuing a correction (short, sharp jerk of the tether and a verbal command “no mark!”). With consistency, patience and clear guidance on what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, most males quickly adapt to toileting outside.
Another “tool” for training is the crate. Dogs are innately clean creatures who will not usually soil their eating and sleeping areas. That hardwired behavior can be used to your benefit when housetraining by confining them to a crate when unable to supervise and giving them ample opportunity to toilet in a designated area (with lots of immediate praise/treats for appropriate behavior).
Regarding the belly bands at the link provided above … I find the adjustable bands are much more comfortable for the boys. Just the shape alone is more form fitting and allows for greater freedom of movement. One of the straps is adjustable so it can be used on dogs close to the same size in diameter (for multiple male househoulds). I also find the buckle easier/quicker to use on dogs with longer hair. Velcro and longer hair do not mix. The only “issue” with using belly bands: one must remember to remove them prior to sending the dog outside to potty!
So, if you’re seriously thinking about adding an Apso to your household, don’t rule out a male based on gender alone. They truly are delightful little creatures who easily adapt with consistent training and the right tools … and will become your best buddy in the process.