Really home | Thursday, February 7th, 2013

"Hey, Chris, isn't that your dog?" asked the scruffy-looking guy to his even scruffier-looking friend.
His friends' gaze turned away from his grilling chicken breasts and towards me and Ryu. "No, wait... well, one second now... hey hold up man, where'd you get that dog? Is that my dog?"
"Nah man," I replied, gripping Ryu's leash tighter as I sensed him sensing my apprehension, "this ain't your dog."
"Chris, I think that's your dog, man." The less-scruffy dude started to approach us.
"Listen, guys, I can assure you that this is not your dog," I replied, my tone growing deeper. "He will be more than happy to convince you himself if you get any closer." That, of course, was an outright lie. Ryu would sooner roll over onto his back and offer up his tummy for rubs than defend me from brigands.
"Nah nah, that's not my dog, let'em go Bryce." He turned to me as I continued to walk away; "Sorry man, it's just that I've got a dog just like that."

Of course you do. Two mean looking brothers dressed in parkas and running shoes, grilling their dinner at 8pm in the parking lot of the Extended Stay Hotel here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, have a dog that looks exactly like mine. I was tired after a good 10 hours of winter driving from Steven's Point, Wisconsin - 8 hours of meandering around the Great Lakes, through Chicago Traffic, and getting hoplessly lost in Fort Wayne in that Hemi Dodge Charger with nothing but quick pit-stops. I was exhausted, impatient, and my tolerance for bullshit was near its all-time low - and I was certainly not going to get jumped, scammed or mugged.

On abandoning friends | Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Early this morning on my way to work from my sister's apartment, I stopped at the dog park so that Ryu could have a little r&r before a thrilling day of sleeping, chewing on his toys and watching me work on my laptop. When I got to the park at the corner of Notre-Dame and Montgolfier streets in Laval, I saw that there were two dogs inside already playing with each other. Some mornings there are none, and other days there are 4 or 5. There was only one person in there with them, so I assumed he was the owner of both.

I'm not as social as some of the other people at dog parks; I don't go there to 'mingle' with other dog owners or meet people, but simply so that Ryu and I can get some sunshine and exercise while letting him make new friends. I usually let my dog in, find a bench, and watch him chase and be chased by other dogs. When they get too rough for my liking I bark at him to back off, and he does. Once he gets into the park, he usually sprints right away to the nearest dog to greet it. There was this one dog today, though, that was whimpering sadly the whole time Ryu was trying to play with him. He was a good-looking German Shepherd mix, neutered, friendly and docile, in seemingly good health but not very well groomed (his fur was matted and his nails were very long). He also did not have a collar.

I assumed he was the other man's dog, but he asked me first if it was my dog. We quickly assumed that someone had just dumped him here, and after finding a bowl of food and some water in the corner, we sadly realized that that was the case. The man was a very friendly, older Italian gentleman, and mentionned Le Berger Blanc, a rescue service for animals in need. I looked up the coordinates on my phone and called their number, giving a description of the dog and its location. They replied they would send someone in this morning; I couldn't wait around because I had to get to work but the other guy said he's retired and he'll stick around with his dog until someone arrives.

At an earlier point in my life, I might've just taken him home, advertise him in the lost and founds, and probably get him checked out and kept him if no one claimed him. I have the unfortunate "weakness" - instilled in me by my parents - of wanting to help / save everyone and everything I come across, but lately I've learned to let go and accept that things play out the way they do because of the choices we make. Compassion has a dangerous tendency to veer into [liberal] paternalism when it manifests itself for the wrong reasons. Especially in my generation, there is this counterproductive trend to think of oneself as a "fixer", going around and telling people what they're doing wrong and what they should be doing instead, then going back home and sipping on $4 lattes while setting up a Wordpress install. It's the kind of armchair solidarity that diminishes the value of what we perceive as empathy - which is supposed to be a shared emotional experience, and not a top-down pitying of those less fortunate than you.

It's not so much a question of pity or even empathy that would make me want to take in a stray or abandoned dog; but rather a [perhaps skewed] perception of social justice - yes, even for animals. If this dog did something to deserve being left behind - aggression, biting a human, etc - there are different and better ways to deal with that sort of behavior than leaving it alone and scared in a park to fend for itself. Odds are good, however, that the owner(s) simply got bored, tired, or fed up of caring for another living being and gave up on it. This other fellow at the park was reassuring, and nice enough to stay until someone came to pick up the dog. He says that it's not the first time he's seen this sort of thing happen.

Needless to say, I don't think too highly of folks who abandon their friends this way. Caring for a dog is a responsibility, and if it's one you can't handle or afford, then you shouldn't commit to it - or at least bring the animal to a shelter or rescue where they can have a better chance at a new life. Leaving your dog in the park with some food and some water early in the morning is pretty cold by my scale, and goes a long way to defining what kind of person you are. If you drop your dog out of your life like it's nothing, the chances are that you probably aren't that good of a friend to people around you when the chips are down.

Hopefully, the dog has already been picked up by Le Berger Blanc, and will be cleaned up and taken to a rescue, where he'll wait his turn in adoption to find a new home - one where, with any luck, his new owners will show a bit more maturity, love and compassion.

Safe travels, white dog.

JR's Dog Training | Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

This is the first in a many-part series on businesses with whom I've recently had either extremely positive or extremely negative experiences. For the sake of courtesy, I'm kicking it off with a positive one.

JR's Dog Training

Montreal-Area: 514-631-7478
North America: 1-877-631-7478


Many of you already know that I've recently adopted a 10 month-old mutt. His name is Ryu, and he looks like a hyena reject from a Japanese anime movie. He's a cross of a multitude of breeds; best guesses approximate something like 50% Lab (temperament), 25% Grey or Sighthound (body and energy level), 25% Pitbull (jawline), and 125% submissive pushover. He is probably the most gentle dog I have ever met. He adores women and follows them around everywhere they go - though I'm not yet sure if this is simply part of his personality or if it's something he's already picked up on from hanging out with me too much.

My new 10-month old Hyena Puppy.

Note: Not really a Hyena.

Also like his alpha, he can be clumsy, awkward, stubborn, and often confused as to what's expected of him. He and I was in dire need of some training. The rescue I adopted him from (Eleven Eleven - highly recommended as well) suggested I get in touch with Joe Rosen (of, you guessed it, JR's Dog Training in Montreal) to get started on lessons right away. I mostly wanted to make sure he was clean in the house and heeled well with me when we go jogging, but halfway through the training I realized that JR was in fact giving me all the tools and information I needed to raise what was becoming, in essence, the perfect dog.

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