Sunday, October 31, 2010


Happy Halloween from the Knuckleheads and friends!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

do you believe in reincarnation?

I'm beginning to wonder if Salvador Dali

came back as Mr. Chubbs...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

three hams

The Knuckleheads will play dress up at the drop of a hat...or treats.
Happy New Year from all the goofballs at Camp Cactus!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

welcome to the asylum

I'm living in an insane asylum. An asylum where the inmates have four legs and an inordinate amount of fur. And they tend to bark and howl. A lot. (Except for the ones that hiss and spit.)

The asylum is currently in an uproar over a new temporary inmate, the small but mighty beagle named Arrow. The thing about beagles is that they look so dang cute, wagging their adorable little tails and staring up at you with those big, sweet, luminous brown eyes. Don't let their looks fool you, though, because behind that happy smile and cuddly exterior beats the heart of a lion, and the iron will of an extremely obstinate mule.

See how cute he is?

A few weeks ago Arrow's family told me they were going on a three week trip to Europe, and that Arrow would be spending his vacation at the Doggy Business spa. They dote on the little guy (can you tell by his personalized place mat?) and Tamara was a little worried about him being boarded for so long. I volunteered our house for a week or two, thinking he'd feel at home on the block in familiar surroundings, and he gets along with the knuckleheads just fine.

I figured life with the cats would take some getting used to, but he's very sweet natured, and they'd all adjust in a day or two. We've taken care of other dogs lots of times, and the household is generally pretty accepting of newcomers. In fact, Arrow seems just fine with the arrangement. He's adjusted to the routine like a champ, and behaves well with the rest of the pack on our walks, his little arrow pointing the way.

The cats, on the other hand, are a little pissed. Six days later, Maizy still hasn't emerged from the basement, and Frisco and Mr. Chubbs slink in and out of the house under cover of darkness. Every time one of the cats comes up on the porch, Arrow jumps up on the back of the sofa and starts howling in that distinctive beagle bay: "Aroooooo!!" In fact, every time someone walks by the house, or makes a noise upstairs, or a moth flits against the porch light outside? "AROOOOOO!!!" This gets Abbie started, and they both go at it. Cooper just hides in his crate with his paws over his ears.

Beagles are scent hounds, and will stop at nothing to find their prey. Like Maizy's favorite rocking chair, obviously imbued with her scent. Arrow is convinced there's a cat hiding in there somewhere. He'll just keep burrowing under the slipcover, trying to find her...

He does settle down eventually in the evening. It must be exhausting, guarding the planet against marauders.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

it could have been worse...

When the Knuckleheads were pups, it's no secret they were a bit out of control. In fact, they were so wild, I had a hard time walking them together. They pulled like a team at a monster truck rally. I would be dragged to every squirrel, every smell, every smidgen of food or garbage (or worse) within 100 yards.

At the time, they probably weighed about 25 or 30 lbs each, which normally would be pretty manageable for a (I'm not gonna say exactly, but I weigh slightly more than 100 lbs.) person, but their pulling power and mass seemed exponentially higher than a mere 60lbs. Dave and I had to walk them together, or if only one of us was available, we had to walk them one at a time. Training seemed like an impossibility, although we tried. Littermates tend to bond with each other so completely it's as if they share one brain. I think these two share about half a brain between them. 

Because I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and a bit of arthritis in my hands, we developed strategies to cope with the pulling. I took them on very long walks to tire them out. I worked with them individually. I scanned 100 yards ahead for squirrels and cats and food. I tied big knots along the length of the leashes so I could grip better when I needed to. (And I needed to often!) We bought them special harnesses designed to minimize pulling and maximize control.

Dave decided using a retractable leash might be easier than trying to get them to stay so close, and he thought maybe it would be easier for me to hold onto. Since we were walking them individually, it seemed like it might be a good idea, but I soon found out that retractable leashes require a degree of expertise, and might not work so well for people who have a hard enough time walking and chewing gum at the same time (people like me, for instance).

I just couldn't get used to the locking mechanism, and didn't like the way they got so far ahead of me. I also found that the hard plastic handle was difficult to grip and left my hands aching at the end of a walk. I went back to the old fashioned soft nylon 6 ft leash with big knots tied in it. 
After about a year, and lots and lots of training, I was able to walk them together by myself. Now that they're 5 years old and together comprise about 160 pounds of pure muscle, (and don't forget-still sharing that half a brain) I'm able to walk them every day by myself, calmly and sedately, for the most part. 

The retractable leash got used only occasionally, and always by Dave, who still thought it was easier than a standard leash. Until this morning.

We had gone on a long walk together, I had Abbie and Dave had Cooper on the retractable leash. We were almost home, when a neighbor's dog rushed off the porch barking her head off at Cooper. Dave stopped to let them sniff, and I walked ahead. Suddenly, Coop decided to get all frisky and playful and wheeled around, slamming into Dave's knee. Dave went down, and Cooper charged past me, while the leash played out... then Dave let go, just as I made a grab for it. 

I didn't manage to grab the soft, 12" long strap, or the plastic handle (see above photo). Have you ever had a rope burn? From hanging on to a thin nylon cord being pulled through your fingers at about 60 mph?

As Cooper blew past me, Abbie's one quarter of their shared brain yelled: "GO!!!"  And away she went, too. Meanwhile, the cord was cutting through my skin like a hot knife in butter. I went down hard and finally let go. They ran into a neighbor's driveway as I lurched to my feet,  grabbing them both before they could escape. Dave was still sitting on the sidewalk, nursing his knee, when I looked down at my hand,  now missing about 4 layers of skin. Crap. We hobbled the last block home and I iced my hand for the rest of the day.

 Tonight I  googled "retractable leashes" and found this tip on the Flexi website:

Do not use this leash with a disobedient or uncontrollable dog, since they are more likely to wrap the cord/tape/belt around people or to run off at high speeds.

Huh. Really?

And how about this one:

Gee, thanks for telling me! I guess it could have been worse -- at least I still have all my fingers. Now where did I leave my sledgehammer? That leash is toast!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

the camp cactus canine wrecking crew

Way back when they were small, the Knuckleheads got into trouble on a daily basis. Nothing left within reach was safe from those twin jaws of destruction.

They would eat anything. Now when I say anything, I mean that literally. I'm not exaggerating in the least for the sake of dramatic license. Seriously? Leaving them alone in the house for even ten minutes was like playing Russian Roulette. Either they would be dead when you returned, or something would be destroyed. There was no third option. 

They're a bit more trustworthy these days, but whenever we turn the key in the door when we come home, there's still a chance that the house could look like this:

Life is never dull around here, that's for sure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

canine leprechauns

There once were two silly black dogs
who starred in a canine weblog

Their daily transgressions,
and Dietary Indiscretions

made them famous among doggy blogs.