Saturday, February 17, 2007

Holiday on Ice

(Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post)

Old dogs are reluctant to admit it, but we actually don't like to learn new tricks. Which is why I haven't been too pleased by the fact that Mother Nature decided to turn my large back yard into an ice rink this week. My thirteenth birthday is coming up (April 1, for fans who haven't yet marked their calendars), so it's a little late for me to be trying to master the triple lutz just so I can go to the bathroom. Peggy Fleming I am not, despite a certain icy elegance. Indeed, I've been so discombobulated by the lake of glass my world has become that I broke one of my new year's resolutions this week (#3: bladder control) and had an accident in the house. That, of course, was my moms' fault. They hadn't gotten the ice cleared off the deck and stairs to give me a clear path down to the yard, and even though I rather like tinkling on the deck when it's covered in snow, I was so rattled by the disruption in my routine that I tinkled on the basement floor as a form of protest. As a consequence, Moose attacked the deck and stairs with a shovel yesterday afternoon. She had that wild "Mommy Dearest" look she gets in her eye from time to time when there's been some particularly egregious violation of household order. She cleared me a path. My yard is mine again, and Moose has a pleasant ache in her shoulders from her upper-body workout. All is right with our world, except for some lingering concern about how our three fish might be faring in their almost completely frozen pond. There's still a tiny trickle of water flowing in the waterfall, but I can't imagine what John, Paul, and George-Ringo are doing underneath that huge block of ice. I walked out on it one day last week to see if I could find them. No such luck. Poor guys. It's like Gitmo, only colder.

On the other hand, it was a delightful week for curling up on the couch with the moms to watch the fabulous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which we did on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Fans of Roxie's World know I was disappointed that a terrier didn't win Best in Show, but I was pleased that James, the English springer spaniel who upset the adorable little Dandie Dinmont everyone had been expecting to win, at least has a tie to the Washington area. (His owners are from Fairfax, Virginia.) I think it's funny that my moms get such a kick out of watching dog shows. It's not as though hyper-obedience and obsessive grooming have ever been goals they've aspired to as dog people. Even the pure-bred thing is a little weird when you think about it, proud though I am of my AKC registration papers. When it comes to people, after all, my moms are all for mixture, variation, and the broadest possible spectrum of difference, so why is it that when it comes to dogs they are riveted by a spectacle of purity and sameness? Moose is quick to denounce pretension in any form, yet all those snooty-sounding breed names trip off her tongue as if she had been born saying them: "Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen," she'll intone from the couch, just because she can. Have I stumbled upon a contradiction, or are the moms just eager to watch some dog-inclusive entertainment on a cold winter's night? In the long run, perhaps it doesn't matter. We're snuggled up and hanging out, together, and they let me know who's "Best in (their) Show" this night and every night.

Just in case that sweet moment of companion-species romance didn't make your teeth hurt, click on this heart-warming story about a great program called Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in which dogs help kids learn to read by offering them a fully present and completely nonjudgmental audience. If I'm not mistaken, my friend Dudley the beagle, who comments regularly on Roxie's World, participates in this program. Weigh in, Dudley, and give us a dog's-eye-view of this amazing concept.

Heads up, loyal fans: As of this post, we've finally switched to the new version of Blogger. Aside from being able to do labels for posts, we're not sure what that means, but stay tuned for a new and improved Roxie's World. As you know, your pleasure is our top priority, so let us know what you think.


  1. Anonymous11:56 AM EST

    Hey, Roxie! Thanks for linking to that article. We hadn’t seen it yet, but it’s a really good one. In addition to the Bond Mill School READ Program, which I think is
    run by a former Prince George’s County teacher, PG Pets on Wheels has a READ program in two libraries. They set up a special room, and each child reads for 15
    minutes. Each dog does two sessions, because who can concentrate for longer than 30 minutes?

    It’s not easy for a dog to sit still while somebody reads, so we have to practice. My human and I sit on my special Reading Mat, where she practices reading aloud, and I practice keeping an eye on the book because every so often – POOF! A treat shows up, right on the book! (This only happens on my special Reading Mat.)

    It’s more fun to read with the kids, though, because they’re more excited about reading to me. Also, they have better books. Last time, I got to hear about a dog who got a new home and a farm with trees and other interesting things on it. When my human practices, we read stuff like, “The belief that language should ideally be used in a consistent and uniform manner is a central tenet of what Milroy and
    Milroy (1985) call the ‘ideology of standardization.’” I wish I could tell you more about that one, but that’s where I fell asleep.

    (Not that I have any problem with using language in a consistent and uniform manner. We beagles bay to consistently and uniformly announce that the human is home or that the human has left and didn't take us along or that we are going to go potty outside and want an escort or that the neighbors have their brother’s beagle visiting again
    and we need to go say hi or that it is past dinner time or that we are disgruntled, having just gotten bounced on by our big ol' honkin' happy bouncy way-too-enthusiastic lab-mix brother. It is all very consistent and uniform. And my ideology is that in each case the human is supposed to do something about it–and I definitely think that should be standardized. So I think Milroy and Milroy (1985) are right.)

    Some kids like to pet dogs while they read. After they read their book, we trade treats: the kids give me biscuits, and I give them special bookmarks with my picture. I will have my valet (lately we’ve been practicing by reading stories about someone named Jeeves) deliver one to your Moms’ mailbox. I always tell people the bookmarks work best if they pet a beagle while reading, but between you and me there’s no reason they shouldn’t work just fine with a terrier.

    Dudley the (increasingly literate) Beagle

  2. Anonymous4:51 PM EST

    Glad you're back on-line, Roxie!


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