Sunday, November 21, 2010

E Pluribus Unum

My motto for taking pictures of Dempsey is E Pluribus Unum: Out of the many pictures I take, one might be a keeper.

I think we got a keeper last night. It's a new view of Dempsey, one we've never seen before, though as any pro photographer can tell you, it took a lot of work to get the shot.

The preparations started in the afternoon. We decided to haul out a rug from the basement, where it had been hiding from a curious puppy. I was imagining a Norman Rockwell portrait, with Doreen and me in our slippers and recliners, Buddy on my lap, and Dempsey curled up on the rug, at our feet.

Our plan proceeded flawlessly as we rolled out the rug and Dempsey completely ignored it. The next step went flawlessly as well, as Dempsey let us brush his coat and tail without a fuss. Dempsey was so mellow, we decided to reward him with a piece of rice cake -- which he didn't eat. Hmm. This was the first time in the history of the universe that Dempsey did not immediately eat something we gave him.

Doreen was worried, but I suggested we try the doggie equivalent of "take two aspirin and call me in the morning": Belly rub now, see how he feels in the morning. I invited Dempsey to roll over on the new rug for a belly rub.

Within a couple of minutes, Dempsey got up, and -- blech! -- vomited all over the rug we had been carefully hiding for a year and a half. As we scrambled to clean up the mess, Dempsey stepped into the vomit and made a few pukey paw prints across the rug as he headed for the hallway. When he got to the hallway, he stopped and -- blech! -- vomited on the hallway carpet. When I asked Dempsey to go to his kennel, he dutifully went, but with a stop -- blech! -- to vomit a third time downstairs.

By this point, I was pretty panicked. Boy, Doreen is really going to be mad at me. We got Dempsey into the car and started driving across town to our favorite emergency vet (yes, we actually have a favorite emergency vet). We drove through an ice storm that the highway patrol described as "one for the ages." It was indeed a mess. Freeway entrances were closed and cars were sliding into ditches as we rushed, at a blazing 20mph, to the vet.

With all the lights and sirens and police cars around us, I kinda felt like OJ Simpson on a slow-speed chase. Except there wasn't freezing rain in LA: We had to keep the windows rolled up as Dempsey lay in the back, burping and otherwise spewing noxious gasses that filled the cabin.

We finally arrived at the vet a little after 2am, relieved we had survived. After another hour and several hundred dollars, I finally got what I wanted all along, a new view of Dempsey:

As you can see, there's nothing in there. Some gas in his colon, but no socks or obvious ill-gotten gains. The vet gave Dempsey two shots and told us to call him in the morning.

I just hope Dempsey thinks about how much he makes his parents worry the next time he tries eating something.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy and unhappy endings

Dempsey had a surprise visitor tonight. While I was in the garage, cleaning some nose prints off the car window, a big gray dog came trotting down the alley and into our garage to say hello.

Not seeing his person anywhere, I introduced big gray dog to Dempsey and let them play a bit while I called the phone number that was on his dog tag. Within ten minutes, big gray dog was safely at home.

In a remarkable bit of synchronicity, I was reading the paper later tonight when I saw that Target, the dog who saved lives by thwarting a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, had been accidentally euthanized in Arizona.

Animal control had clearly made a tragic mistake, but I have to question why Target didn't have a microchip. Or a license. Or even a $5 dog tag. Or why Target's people had enough time to go on Oprah, but not enough time to take care of her. Or why the organization that had raised the money to bring Target to America didn't follow up and insist on having proper ID for Target. With a simple dog tag, Target could have been safely at home in ten minutes, instead of dead.

Like plane crashes, this tragedy isn't the result of a single person making a mistake. It's a systematic failure. There were lots of people who should have been looking out for Target, who didn't. It's no way to treat a hero.

I feel sad for Target's family, but I really feel sad for Target. Dogs do so much for us, and yet people always seem to find ways to let them down. The only consolation is knowing that Target is going to heaven.

[Disclaimer: These views are solely my own, and not necessarily those of Helping Paws.]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More chores

When he was a little baby boy, Dempsey did a very bad thing: He chewed up the power cord to my beloved Hoover WindTunnel vacuum cleaner. I had to take it apart and replace the cord. (And since that first repair, I've replaced the switch, a belt, two HEPA filters, and zillions of bags -- it's been working very hard ever since we got Dempsey.)

Ever since then, Dempsey has been getting stern "leave its" whenever he so much as looks at a power cord. Being a smart boy, Dempsey has become reluctant to touch power cords. He can vacuum the floor -- he's being doing that since he was 7 months old -- but when it comes time to wind up the cord and put away the vaccum cleaner, fuhgeddaboudit.

Naturally, this will not do. So this morning, we worked some more on putting the vacuum cleaner away.

For the next step, I will teach Dempsey to untangle the cord.

Of course, I should probably figure out how to do that myself first.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dempsey on TV!

We think Dempsey is a star, and now we actually have some evidence: He appeared today on Twin Cities Live, on ABC affiliate KSTP.

TCL is a talk show, but Dempsey didn't do much speaking -- he failed his screen test. Mostly, his job was to look cute while Dana Nelson of spoke about Give to the Max day. Billed as the "Great Minnesota Give Together," Give to the Max Day is a day when Minnesotans will be challenged to raise as much money as possible for non-profits in 24 hours.

Helping Paws is participating in Give to the Max Day again this year. Thanks to an anonymous donor, the first $15,000 donated to Helping Paws will be matched, dollar-for-dollar. Helping Paws also has a chance to win additional money: Every hour, a donor will be randomly selected, and that donor's charity will get an additional $1,000. There's also $20,000 for the organization that has the most individual donors.

We're big believers in Helping Paws, and Dempsey asks that you consider making a donation tomorrow.

It's an important message, but we think Dempsey did a great job helping deliver it on TV. He was so calm and confident, ignoring all the lights, cameras, and action:

Dempsey was even comfortable mingling backstage with celebrities, like TCL co-host Elizabeth Ries:

Backstage, Dempsey checked out the dressing rooms:

We wanted to make sure Dempsey looked his best, but Dempsey said he had already powdered his nose last week, while Doreen was baking cupcakes for Hudson:

When the cameras started rolling, Dempsey hit his mark like a pro.

Dempsey says he even did a better job on his "stay" than Doreen:

I know it may not look like much, but "stay" is particularly hard for our spastic little puppy. Before Dempsey graduates, he'll need to be able to stay in a drop for 30 minutes. Right now, he can do a drop-stay for about 9 minutes under ideal conditions.

Luckily for today's show, Dempsey has been practicing very hard at his stays. Last night, he visited his friends Bridget and Samantha, where his dad made him practice his stays under very distracting circumstances. Bridget and Samantha did great at their stays, but as you can see, somebody is ready to spring up and play.

Thank you Bridget and Samantha for the practice! It really paid off for today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

White Christmas

Christmas came early this year for Dempsey: It snowed.

Normally, Dempsey is a very quiet boy in the morning, waiting patiently till we get up before he asks to go to the bathroom or to play. Not today. Today, he was up bright and early a little after 6am, insistently ringing the bathroom bell. Half asleep, I crawled out of my warm bed, went downstairs, let him out, let him back in, and then crawled back into bed.

Then Dempsey rang the bathroom bell again. I crawled out of my warm bed, went downstairs, and opened the door. This time, though, Dempsey wouldn't go out. He just sat by the open door, wagging his tail. I told him to get going, but then he gave me a play bow. He was talking so fast, I couldn't catch everything, but it went something like this:

"Hi!!! Dad!!! Good morning!!! Old Man Winter came by last night, and you know, he leaves snow for all the good little doggies, and I must be a good little doggie, because when I woke up this morning and looked outside, I saw all this snow, and it must be for me, because I'm a good little doggie, and all that snow looks really really really fun to play in, and to eat, and to roll around in, and I'm just sooooo excited, I can't wait to go outside to play and to eat and to play and, and to roll around in all the snow that Old Man Winter left for good doggies like me!"

I'd have to be a Grinch to deny Christmas to a little doggie, so I reluctantly bundled up and stepped outside so Dempsey could play, eat, and roll around in the snow while I shivered and watched him. I tried taking a video, but as you'll see, I'm not at my best at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday.

That crazy dog! No one else in the family likes getting up early to play in snow. I'm pretty sure he's adopted.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Go get help

As helpful as Dempsey is now, he can't do everything himself. That's why he needs to learn to "go get help."

After several weeks of work, Dempsey has learned that pawing is the only acceptable way to get somebody's attention, and he knows that he must bring somebody back to me.

Pretty fun! But of course, at this distance -- about 8 feet, in the same room -- it's not very helpful. I could just as easily call for somebody. So now we'll be working on increasing the distance and adding distractions. There's still a ton of polishing to do, but this is a great first step!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doggie banana split

Doreen cooked up so many treats for Hudson, I'm still trying to blog about them all. In addition to the puppy cupcakes, Doreen baked some cinammon rolls, using a recipe she found on Dog Treat Kitchen.

My personal favorite, though, is the doggie banana split, which is something we thought up ourselves.

It's kind of a Rachel Ray recipe (i.e., assembling pre-made stuff vs cooking from scratch), but here's what we did:

Doggie banana split
Makes 2 servings

2oz plain hung yogurt ("whipped cream")
3oz pureed blueberries ("chocolate syrup")
A few rasperries ("maraschino cherries")
A few Little Stars sweet potato treats for garnish ("crushed peanuts")
1 medium banana ("banana")
4 small scoops lowfat vanilla ice cream from McDonald's ("ice cream") -- we used a cookie scooper

I think this should be self-evident. Also, I am lazy.

Speaking of lazy, here is one of my favorite pictures of Hudson from our archives. We took this on the way home from a long walk at Harriet Island. Dempsey curls up and sleeps in the car, but Hudson loves looking out the window.

Hudson was really tired from his walk, but like a little kid, he insisted he wasn't. He kept nodding off while he was looking out the window, and eventually he fell asleep and started snoring while he was sitting up.

Hudson is such a lovable little goofball.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Ok, I guess I've been busted by the puppy paparazzi. After I blogged about spending the whole day giving Hudson attention, Doreen snapped some pictures of me sleeping on the job.

In my defense, I have to say that it is impossible to give a dog too much attention. I was trying to massage Hudson to sleep, but every time he looked like he was asleep and I stopped, he started pawing me and asking for more. I fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

I did wake up eventually, and we had more fun with Hudson: playing fetch and hide-and-seek; going to the McDonald's drive-in for an ice cream cone; sampling some Singapore-style rice noodles; eating a well-balanced meal of actual dog food; and then having "Mr. Cool Bear shabed [sic] ice" for dessert.

The shabed ice wasn't as big a hit as I had hoped. Dempsey loves snow, and he loves eating ice cubes and shaved ice, but Hudson wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

Oh well. We tried. I just hope we succeeded in spoiling Hudson and giving him the best day ever.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nap Time

Looks like it's not only the pups who are pooped.

Now, if only Dad will wake up.

[Paul says: Those pesky paparazzi!]

Puppy cupcakes

I know it might seem like we're shoving food down Hudson's throat, but really, I think we've been pretty careful. He only got one bite of the awaze tibs, and the rice ball is pretty similar to the chicken and rice Dempsey gets when his tummy is upset.
Luckily for Elsie, Hudson's sister, we have a lot of cupcakes left over. Doreen packed them up in a doggie bag, and Hudson will be bringing them home to share. (Right, Hudson?)

Most of today has been spent doing Hudson's favorite thing: Giving him attention. No chores, no conference calls, no e-mail unless he's napping. If he wants me to watch him chew a Nylabone, I watch. If he wants a massage, he gets one. We don't have a lot of pics and videos of all this because, frankly, it's pretty boring to watch him chew a bone. But it's Hudson Day today, so he gets pretty much whatever he wants.
Here is Doreen's puppy cupcake recipe:

Cake Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats 
  • 1 tsp of baking soda 
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey or molasses
  • 1 1/2 cup plain pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 3 cups plain lowfat yogurt
  • couple of grated carrots for an optional "confetti" garnish
  • any cute treat to decorate
The evening or several hours before making the cake, place a large coffee filter in a strainer over a bowl and pour yogurt in the filter. Keep in refrigerator until ready to use. This thickens the yogurt so it will be easier to frost the cake or pipe decorations.

Blend baking soda and spices with flour. In separate bowl, blend egg, vanilla, and oil. Add peanut butter, honey, pumpkin and oatmeal. Fold in remaining dry ingredients. Batter will be very thick.

Heat oven to 350. Generously grease two 6 inch cake pans and add half mixture to each pan. Or use regular muffin tins - the recipe makes about a ten cupcakes. The batter will not spread or rise much in the oven, so make sure it is flat on top and spreads to the sides of the pans. If it's not pretty, don't worry - dogs are very forgiving. Bake 20 minutes.

Once cooled, frost with the thickened yogurt; it's easier to use a pastry bag. Sprinkle with extra shredded carrot and  decorate with any other puppy-themed treat.

Piece of cake

The cake is finally ready!

When we made a similar cake for Dempsey's birthday, he was way more excited than he was today. I think the boys might be getting jaded already with all the treats.

Of course, they've also been snacking on the cake the whole day. It started this morning when they got to lick the batter from the beater.

And then they got to lick the yogurt "frosting" from the spoon when we started hanging it.

So when the cupcakes were finally ready, it was old hat.

I think it might be time for more play. We want Hudson hungrier!

Play time

Hudson and Dempsey are both napping now. They've been playing for the last few hours, burning off the calories from all the treats they've been eating.

Hudson has even tried playing with Buddy. Buddy refuses to play, pointedly noting that he doesn't need to burn calories since no one has given him any treats today.

Hudson goes hunting

It's hard to believe that such a sweet, lovable guy like Hudson is descended from wolves. I guess every dog wants to be a wolf now and then, so today, we decided to let Hudson act like a wolf and go hunting.

Because we don't like dead squirrels or rabbits in our house, we decided Hudson could hunt -- for animal crackers. Even though he has trouble seeing out of his right eye, he's doing a great job chasing down the animals.

Bento for the boys

The second course for Hudson's lunch was a Japanese nigiri -- a ball of rice with shaved fish inside. Since I'm a lazy cook, my rice balls look nothing at all like the fancy ones true bento connoisseurs make.

Luckily for me, Hudson is such a good guest. He said it looked great, and he ate it all up.

Gursha dogs

Spicy, layered, and complex, Ethiopian cuisine is one of the most underrated cuisines in the world. I think anyone who's serious about food needs to try it.

Dogs, of course, are very serious about food. Therefore, Hudson and Dempsey need to try it.

If you're unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine, one of the things that make it distinctive is that there are no utensils. Food is served on injera, a bread that I would describe as a sourdough crêpe. To eat, you break off a piece of injera with your right hand (never your left!), scoop up the meats or veggies, and pop it in your mouth.

Another endearing Ethiopian custom (which makes Ethiopian restaurants great for date nights) is gursha, the practice of taking food and putting it in the mouth of a friend or loved one. Because giving gursha symbolizes love and friendship, I had to give gursha to Hudson this morning.

It was a little spicy, but both Hudson and Dempsey said they liked the awaze tibs (peppery sauteed beef) very much. They both asked for seconds, but I told them they needed to save room for the snow cones and cake and ice cream.

Spoiled dog day

We were really saddened to learn that Hudson, one of Dempsey's favorite brothers, has a tumor behind his eye. Hudson went to a veterinary oncologist yesterday at the University of Minnesota, and they're doing tests to understand the extent of the tumor and treatment options for Hudson. The results aren't in yet, but it seems pretty serious.

We wanted to spend time with Hudson, and his family was very generous letting us have him for the day. As Hudson's aunt and uncle, we're planning to spoil him rotten today.

We've already started with an egg and cheese breakfast:

Dempsey has learned that when we give him food, he needs to eat it -- quickly. A lesson learned from his birthday party last year:

More spoilage to come!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Increased chatter

For the past 1,909 days (since August 12, 2005) the Department of Homeland Security has said that the United States is under threat level yellow: "significant risk of terrorist attack."

Of all the things that have happened in the last 1,909 days -- threats to burn the Koran, warnings about the dangers of traveling to France,  FedEx-ed mail bombs from Yemen, an alleged Satanic witchcraft dabbler running for the Senate -- nothing seems to change the threat level.

I'm not sure how our intelligent intelligence experts determine the threat level, but one of the signs they seem to use is "increased chatter" among evil-doers. I may be wrong, but I think Homeland Security may soon be increasing the threat level.

We're seeing increased chatter from our resident evil-doer, Dempsey, who tried stealing some pumpkin bread before we made him work for it. Check out the evidence.