English mastiff, three stars

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-11-00-59-amNot really a dog person but we thought we’d give it a try… 
on December 26, 2014
Color: Brindle  verified purchase 

Had this product for a day now. Seems great! Highly recommended. Came with crate, shots, ear cleaner, and food dishes. There was a bit of an odor when we unpacked it, but I’m sure that will dissipate over time. Very attractive, almost noble-looking.

boomer-noble

Edit: I just had to come back and update this review. We’ve had this product for a month now, and while it still gets daily use, and the kids really enjoy it, we suspect that there are some manufacturing defects. It was advertised as a security dog, but it also barks hysterically at things like rain, grass, clouds, Nina Totenberg, and nothing. Especially nothing. I cannot find a factory reset button anywhere.

The batteries have a very short life. It runs around at full power for just a few minutes and then appears completely depleted, and takes forever to recharge.
boomer-dogslide
This is especially frustrating as it takes up so much space, and often requires powering up right in the middle of the house.  It also sometimes seems to “crash” in the middle of operations, for instance, while eating a sweater.
boomer-sleeping
Did I miss that it is somehow solar powered? It seems to require frequent sunbaths. Also extremely noisy while recharging. Cannot find factory reset button.

Also, the smell has, if anything, intensified. At least we’ve stopped blaming my son. It is like a tire fire.

Edit #2: So much for the mailman. We had to talk the post office out of suing us, and now we have to go pick up mail every day. On the up side, the Jehovah’s Witnesses chalked a giant warning hoboglyph on our walkway, and they haven’t been back; so on balance, that’s a win.

Edit #3: The longer we have this product, the more I’m convinced there was some kind of error at the warehouse. I think we actually got parts for three different dogs, and they accidentally got put together in one box. The skull is ridiculously out of proportion to the rest of the body, but the “brain” component does not seem to be similarly large.

boomer-shaking-head

 There is also way too much skin in the face area, causing constant oral leakage. It doesn’t affect performance, but it is not aesthetically pleasing, to say the least.
Seems to have been manufactured with top quality materials, but is still somehow fragile on the inside, requiring constant emotional maintenance.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-12-01-08-pm

Also, it steals carrots.

Also, its spacial awareness does not seem to be properly calibrated, and it is constantly trying to wedge itself into places that are physically too small for it to inhabit

boomer-in-mitten-box

including laps. We sometimes see the dining room table walking around apparently under its own power, only to discover that the dog has again gotten stuck under it.

However, it cowers before the toddler (and has done so ever since she was born)

boomer-checking-out-baby-corrie
and puts up with the most outrageous tyrannical behavior from her, even though it could swallow her in one mouthful.
corrie-patting-boomers-nose
It actually seems to thrive on being pushed around by her, so I can’t really complain. Is a willing participant in . . . just about anything.
screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-12-12-27-pm
Is also willing to share lollipops.
lollipop
And can subsist on nothing but kibble and toddler affection for days at a time.
corrie-patting-boomer

Caveat: Brain still does not seem to have increased in size commensurate with rest of unit over the years we’ve owned this product.

boomer-upside-down

Edit #4: This is a mother’s angel.
boomer-kissing-corrie
Wish I could give it ten stars.
boomer-and-lucy
Highly recommended.
boomer-nap-irene
That smell, tho.
 screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-11-05-07-am

 

 

The Rubberbandians

Or, Why You Should Have a Bunch of Weird Kids and a Giant Dog.

I had to run to the pharmacy, and when I got  home, this is what met me in the driveway.

 

photo (56)

 

The little one shouted, “WE ARE RUBBERBANDIANS, AND HAVE SPEARS!”

Note that they all have rubber bands on their foreheads (or, as the three-year-old calls them, “our brains.”

 

photo (57)

 

 

Also note the progress of the dog. We sometimes sing the Little Mermaid song in Boomer’s voice, and it goes, “ME WANT TO BE WHERE THE PEOPLE BE.”

 

photo (59)

 

The dog did not have a rubber band on his brain, but he totally would have gone along with it, if that’s what his girls wanted.

 

photo (58)

 

Even if it would have left a mark. Which it did.

 

 

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Kids. Dogs. Sticks. I rest my case.

 

A short history of awful pets

You know what’s no fun? Being a scapedog. This noble creature

boomer head shake

has simple needs. He just wants a crate with a blankie and lots of wet coffee filters and styrofoam meat trays hidden under it. He wants people to tell him what to do, and he wants to smell their wonderful, wonderful feet. He wants to go outside and then come inside and then to outside and then come in and then maybe go outside for a bit. He wants to eat snow. And he wants to protect the HELL out of the baby, which is sweet.

However, pretty much all I do is yell at him, and the more I yell at him, the more devoted he becomes, trying to win my favor.

Boomer only pawn in game of life.

Boomer only pawn in game of life.

This is why we got a boy dog. I’m not saying that all men are like this, but I will say that this is why we got a boy dog.

I know he’s a good boy. So I’m trying to make myself feel better about him by reminiscing about all the other pets we’ve had, and how much more awful they were than this supremely irritating dog. For instance . . .

The cat who was our prisoner. I’ve written about this wretched animal before.

black cat

Never in my life have I been hated so passionately as I was hated by that cat. This is the animal who would sit on the couch, wait for me to walk in, make eye contact, pee profoundly, and then casually get up and walk out, making sure to brush past my ankles in a devastatingly ironic pantomime of feline affection, just to show us that she could if she wanted to. This is the cat who, in the time it took for me to get my shoes on to go to the vet, chewed her way out of the cat carrier and disappeared. This is the cat who actually burrowed into the wall and didn’t come out for several days, presumably plotting some horrible vengeance on the family who so barbarically gave her food and shelter.

One night, I had a moment of clarity and simply opened the front door. Propelled by a white hot loathing, she sped off into the darkness whence she came, and we never saw each other again.

The frog that died of ennui after costing us millions of dollars. If you factor in the emotional cost. My son found this frog in the sandbox, and we made some kind of bogus deal that I never thought he’d be able to fulfill — keeping his room clean or some pie-in-the-sky like that. So of course he did it, and he earned a frog.

frog

Happier times

We quickly learned that, despite spending his days doing exactly nothing, a frog is a needy creature. He needs a tank that has water and gravel, sand and moss. Okay. But he also needs live crickets to eat, and, even though he is a yard frog, he can’t eat yard crickets. Nope, they have to be crickets that cost money. And those crickets have to be gut loaded with special stinky calcium powder or something, and you have to time the feeding so that the crickets’ bellies will still be full before the frog eats them.

Les_remords_de_la_patrie

not how I imagined my life

At one point in my research, I came across the phrase “economical cricket husbandry” and sobbed aloud.

Now, the crickets get dehydrated pretty easily; but they will also drown themselves if you give them water, such as the water you might find in a frog tank. So you have to buy a separate container just for the crickets, and in it, you must put special hydrating gel, which the crickets absorb through their horrible abdomens. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s more upsetting than that. Oh, and do not leave a bag of crickets on your dashboard when it’s hot out, or you will have to make a second trip to PetSmart. And all the PetSmart people will know what you have done.

Also, froggie needs sunlight, but not direct sunlight, because that will burn him, but not indirect sunlight, because then he won’t get the correct gamma rays or something, and he will develop some kind of crippling bone disease.

GodzillaBlockparty

oh, the frogmanity

Froggie must have a special light fixture to prevent him from becoming Noodle Bone Frogzilla. But don’t worry, you have a PetSmart discount card! So the special bulb will cost a mere $38.

My question is, how the hell do frogs survive in sandboxes?

Anyway, our frog did not survive. He simply was miserable and made us miserable for many, many months, and then one morning, he looked even more dead that usual, and that was the end of that.

The worst mother fish ever. I’ve kept fish off and on for decade, and I’ve learned two things: One: when you have a really nice set-up, with plants and bottom feeders and Roman ruins, and you buy a new heater and it doesn’t seem to be heating up the water? So you keep turning it up, and it’s still not heating the water? So you turn it up some more, and then some more, and it’s still not heating the water up? You might want to make sure it’s plugged in. And, you might want to make sure you turn it down again before you plug it in. Unless you intended to make bouillabaisse with a side dish of ancient Roman ruins.

Again: not recommended.

Again: not recommended.

The second thing I learned was: do not get too attached. One time we had a fish who turned out, in keeping with the general theme of the household, to be pregnant. It gave birth to approximately 93 teensy little adorable fishlings. Or, was it only about 70. Huh, looks like there’s only about 30 now. Or, wow, there can’t be more than– OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE. Quick, look up what to do when the mother fish is eating all the babies! Okay, run out and buy this expensive little mesh isolation nursery thing! Phew, now they will be safe, and shame on you, you unnatural mother! I know you’re just a fish, but–

OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE!

Yep, the mother fish was sucking her babies through the mesh and eating them anyway.

WORSE THAN THIS.

WORSE THAN THIS.

At this point, a responsible pet owner can only put a blanket over the tank and take the kids out for ice cream until they stop crying.

The three doomed parakeets. One escaped out the window when we cleaned its cage. One got a chill and keeled over suddenly. And one simply got more and more despondent until it started kind of falling apart, which is the worst thing I’ve ever seen a bird do. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and so my husband asked grimly, “Do we have a paper bag?” His plan was to put the bird in a paper bag and run over it with the car.

horror

This is actually not a terrible idea, and I’m not sure why it makes me want to laugh hysterically; but it was about 17 years ago, and I’m still giggling. (We ended up bringing it to the humane society, who charged us $15 to gas the poor s.o.b. And they didn’t even give us the cage back!)

The tadpole of futility. We have this wonderful town pond, which has one section full of tadpoles and salamanders. The kids love seeing how many they can catch.

Eeek!

Eeek!

One day, feeling expansive after basking in the sun for a few hours, I made a tactical error, and allowed them to bring a tadpole home. We installed it in a pickle jar and it became the centerpiece on the dining room table.

OH BOY!

Mmm, appetizin’.

We named it “Bingo” and prepared to watch the miracle of life unfold before our eyes.

Mmm, appetizin'.

OH BOY!

Instead, it basically acted like a dead pickle with a mouth. It ate and ate and ate and ate, and got more and more bloated. And that’s it. One day, the kids started spazzing out, shrieking that the tadpole had pooped. It turned out to have sprouted a leg. Just one leg. And that’s it.

Was willst du von mein leben?

Was willst du von mein leben?

More weeks went by, and it never grew any more legs. It just continued to eat limp lettuce until I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and dumped it into the stream. Vaya con dios, pickle.

Adios.

Adios.

The phantom hamster. Our most current terrible pet. We had some gerbils, and they were pretty good, but then one died. So, because I don’t argue about these things, we got a dwarf hamster, and he was pretty good.

IN FACT SO TYOOOOOT!

IN FACT SO TYOOOOOT!

Until he got out. How he did this, I do not know. He certainly doesn’t appear strong or intelligent or even competent, but somehow he got out. This produced extreme sadness in the boy community of the household for a week or so, until — and again, I would like to note that boys are different from girls — the joyous news was spread that the hamster appears to be alive and well, only he is living inside the walls! Hooray, apparently!

So now we have what may be, according to your point of view, the perfect pet: he requires no food, at least not any intended for him; he requires no care; he requires no changes of bedding, for reasons that I care not to think about. But we know that he’s there. And he is ours.

 And that brings us up to the dog. Well, he does love the baby. Boy, does he love the baby. And I know for a fact that he would not fit inside a paper bag.

It’ll have to be enough.

 

***

Why Benny doesn’t walk the dog

As imagined by my nine-year-old:

 

photo (15)

 

 

My  husband pointed out that, while the older kids are almost always gentle and patient with Benny in real life, they jerk her around a lot in their art. Whoop, there she goes!

You’re not BORED, are you?

I’ve seen this picture here and there online, and I like it. I like it a lot.

 

Of course, this would only work with kids who can read. Or, let’s face it, this would only work with kids who are not actively campaigning to drive you out of your gourd.  But it should work. It’s a good idea in theory, and some days, that is the best you can get.

However, it needs expanding. For instance, here is a version for my two-year-old (who, admittedly, has never been bored in her life):

Here is one for the dog:

And here is one for my husband:

 

 

Well, that should keep ‘em busy.

At the Register: Should You Get a Dog? A Quiz

Why are you asking me? You’ve obviously made up your mind already, you fool.

Oh, New Hampshire.

We got our dog, Boomer, when he was one year old.  It wasn’t a name we would have chosen, but it suits him pretty well; and we didn’t want to confuse him, so we kept the name, and we’ve been calling him Boomer since Christmas.

Today I dug up his vet records so I could get his license.  Turns out . . .

I guess I’ll go git it engraved on his colla.

Seven Qui–WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF AM I SERIOUSLY THE ONLY ONE WHO REALIZES THERE IS A TRUCK GOING BY WOOF WOOF

Well, dog #2 is home with the Fishers.  As I write, Boomer is happy and contented, hasn’t ripped anyone’s throat out, dashed in front of an oncoming truck, or swallowed the dining room whole.  He is just placidly trundling around the house, mildly observing the kids as they hurl their bodies at him.  He is a one-year-old brindle English Mastiff, and was raised with three little kids and another English Mastiff.  His dog pal was older and died, and that’s why he needed a new home: he was just lonely while his people were away all day.

1.  He came with an electric fence system, which is wonderful and amazing.  These always sounded barbaric to me.  I was imagining a paranoid, cringing animal getting zapped constantly; but actually, it’s no big deal.  We plugged in the central unit in the hallway near the back door and set the perimeter size.  When he wants to go out, we put the special collar on, and off he goes.  It buzzes and beeps to warn him that he’s getting too close to the perimeter, so he just goes, “Nope” and turns around.  So far, so good!  I still get nervous when I see him bounding toward the road, but he stops when he gets to the boundary.

2.  His head is e-nor-mous.

It’s just begging for a derby, or possibly — what do you call it, one of those squashy hats that urchins selling newspapers would wear.

3.  Probably we wouldn’t have chosen the name “Boomer,” although it does suit his ponderous ways.  I just can’t shake the memory of a Florence King essay which featured a lesbian and her large and hearty partner named, you guessed it, Boomer.  Oh well, it’ll pass.

4.  The kids keep saying in a wondering voice, “He’s not biting me at all!”  Although they loved Shane, we just could not break him of mouthing on the kids.  He just couldn’t get it through his head that we didn’t want to be chewed on.  He thought it was hilarious, even when he drew blood, and it was a constant, serious aggravation for all of us; and honestly, some days, I felt like there was an enemy living in our house.  It’s very hard to be good to an animal who is hurting your kids, even if it’s minor and unintentional.  So Boomer’s  non-bitey ways are a big, big, BIG big big relief.  Boomer is older, he’s fixed, and he’s just not a spaz.  He doesn’t even try to steal the baby’s food.  We got to eat dinner without (a) having our food stolen or (b) hearing whining and screaming and frantic pawing at the door the entire time we were eating.  It’s kind of like paradise.

Watching Curious George with his best friends in the whole world (a.k.a. some kids he met less than 24 hours ago)

5.  I couldn’t figure out what he reminds me of, but it suddenly hit me:  a heraldic lion.  Or, a Samurai mask.  Or something on a totem pole from the Pacific Northwest.  Or, I don’t know what!  I guess he just looks like a dog.  Benny (age 2) saw him and said, “A bear!”  There is something almost stylized about him — maybe because he is so ridiculously muscular, but he doesn’t actually do anything.  He will charge around for a while outside and make some noise, but then he wants to come in and sit on his blankie.  Yeah, kind of like this:

PIC Ferdinand smelling flowers

 

He also has these completely gratuitous stripes, where are clearly only there to make him fancy.  (Actually, they make him almost invisible in the woods.  Very tricky!)

6.  The only thing is, he’s spent most of his life on a rural country road,where it was kind of a big deal if a car goes by, and it was totally appropriate to bark your fool head off to warn everybody.  We, on the other hand, live on a highway.  A rather busy highway.  So, you see where this leaves us all.  But it’s okay, because we’re not constantly getting bitten. It’s amazing how much grace that buys you.

 7.  Sorry there aren’t more pictures.  Here  is another picture of Ferdinand:

PIC

 

So there you have it!  Dog dog dog.  Don’t forget to check out everyone else’s 7 Quick Takes – and say a quick prayer for Jennifer, who is sick and not up to writing her own quick takes.

If you want to talk us out of getting an English Mastiff …

. . . you have about 24 hours.

Oh dear, here is the story.  No, we’re not going to have two dogs.  Poor dear Shane of happy memory had a glorious but short life with us.  Here is what happened:  A couple of weeks ago, it was snowing, which always made Shane go completely bonkers with glee.  Someone opened the door, he shot past them, got hysterical because of the snow, and ran right out into the road.

It only took one car. He was hit hard.  Many broken bones, many internal injuries.  They carried him inside and called the vet, but you could see that there was no hope.  My husband and older son stayed with him and said good bye and thank you for being a good dog, and they put the poor boy to sleep.

Shane was a good dog. He was not smart.  He learned almost nothing beyond the basics.  But he loved the kids with all his doggy heart.  When he was just a baby, we took him to the beach.  One of the kids put Benny in a floating tube.  Shane was terrified of water — didn’t even want to get his paws damp — but when he saw what he thought was his baby floating away, in he went. (Of course he ended up tipping her over and getting everyone soaked, but he meant well.)  Here is Shane at the beach when he was just little:

and here is Shane having a wonderful day afternoon in a safe spot out in the woods, off the leash:

taking a break from zooming around, and laughing his head off, on the inside:

You see, a happy life.  I was not able to tell the kids that dogs just disappear from existence once they die.  I just couldn’t do it.  I know animals don’t have immortal souls.  But they have something.  Shane was someone, not something.

It was a hard few weeks, after he died.  Once the shock wore off, we talked a little bit about another dog, maybe a smaller one this time.  Our house is not big, and we were constantly tripping over Shane. We thought it would be smarter to scale it down, and look for a more sensible kind of breed.

Then this guy turned up:

PIC mastiff in red wagon

 

This is not the actual dog, but it looks just like him.  Here is another dog of the same breed:

PIC mastiff in back seat

The one we met is one year old, a brindle English  Mastiff.  He grew up with three little kids and another mastiff; but his dog pal died, and now he’s lonely all day.  He is like a slow-moving armchair, and lets the kids treat him like a jungle gym.  Damien and I went to meet him, and he seemed pretty much like our dog.  His paws are the size of candlepin bowling balls, and he will be growing for another two years.  I know, I know.

Anyway, here is a bit about  his temperament.  We will be picking him up — well, not “picking him up,” but getting him, on the day after Christmas.  He goes by “Boomer.”  He drools and farts and snores, and is completely ready to love you forever, unless you maybe might be going to hurt the family, in which case he will sit on you.

I know, I know.

I have always depended on the blindness of strangers. A contest!

Weh-heh-hell, it was bound to happen.  As I mentioned, we got a puppy a few months ago, and have spent the summer training him.  This morning on our front porch, we found a copy of a children’s book called Orville:  A Dog Story.   Written inside the cover was this note:

Here is a wonderful story of a dog, passed on to you with love.

When you are done reading about Orville, you may keep the book or pass it on to someone else.

From a friendly stranger

The book is about a dog who has had a bunch of different owners, all of whom had hearts of stone and did not understand dogs.  An excerpt:

There had been other people, too, whose smells gave their whole lives away, but he had left them.  There were some things he remembered (a leaky doghouse at the edge of a muddy yard, a little girl who carried a one-eyed doll), but mostly he tried to forget.

Everywhere he had ever lived involved a chain, and he had broken every one, and there were six spots on his neck where hair didn’t grow because the chains had rubbed it off.

Things just get worse from there for this canine David Copperfield, this furry Ivan Denisovich, this four-footed, slobbering, kibble-munching Job.  His new owners chain him up in the mud, giving him little more than straw and ice for sustenance.

Night after night, Orville thought about the world, and all his sadness turned angry.  He knew about the broken hearts of people, and how they failed to love and do right, and knowing what he knew just made him want to bark. He took to barking.

I kinda skimmed the rest, but after that I guess he eventually meets some orphan named Sally who has blonde curls and is just as lonely as he is, and they find solace with each other, and nobody even needs to be chained up ever again, because when there is love and understanding, there are no chains . . .

and if Orville had found a harmonica

(N.B.:  This is still a dog we’re talking about.)

and if he’d known what a harmonica was, he would have picked it up and given it a toot, just like that.

Just like that, indeed.  If someone had given our dog a harmonica, he would have gobbled it up and then frantically galloped around the yard with a musical butt for the next week, just like that.  But that’s neither here nor there.

Why, you may ask, did someone give us this book?  What crimes against doghood did we commit, to earn this gentle rebuke, with the nice pictures for kids, like this one:

We racked our brains, and this is what we came up with:

Sometimes we tie him up. On a sixty-foot lead, with a trolley. For ten minutes or less, by the clock. We do this when he is in one of those moods where he is so wildly in love with us that he just can’t help devouring us.  We feel that it’s important to instill a strict No-Devouring policy in him now, while he is still only about forty pounds of exuberant muscle, because within a year, he will be tall enough to eat off the top of the refrigerator.  Did I mention that he is half German Shepherd, half Great Dane?  Did I mention that he spends 25% of his life sleeping on the couch, 25% of his life eating the baby’s food while she laughs and tries to lick him, 25% of his life pooping or watching someone else clean up his poop, 24% of his life playing wild chasing and wrestling and tickling games with nine children who adore him, and 1% of his life tied up?

Anyway, back to our cruelty.  When he’s tied up for five or ten minutes by the clock, he barks for a while, then he lies down.  We peek out the window to see if he’s learned his lesson, and then we rush out and shout, “WHO’S A GOOD DOG? ARE YOU A GOOD DOG?” and hug him we give him a bacon-flavored treat.

Diabolical, isn’t it?

Well, I’ll tell you, we’ve learned our lesson.  I’m never going to tie up our precious pup again.  If he decides he wants to chew on our faces, we’re going to let him, becauselove!!!1!  We are also planning on buying the poor guy his own harmonica, because you have to admit, that would be entertaining.

Also, I’m going to take our benevolent stranger’s advice and pass the book along.  Who wants it?  Tell me your most irritating or outrageous “interfering stranger” story in the comment box, and the best one wins a slightly chewed-up copy of Orville:  The Dog Who Loved Too Much.