Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mistletoe and the Mysterious Missing Mutt

Holidays are serious business in Dorset Hills, so I worked hard during the dog days of summer to get my festive stories lined up.

Last week, the season kicked off with a Thanksgiving-themed novel, A Match Made in Dog Town.

Pooches are her passion. 
Someone is out to shut down her shelter. 
Can she save her rescues and her home before it's too late?

This week, jingle bells are ringing with Lost and Found in Dog Town - a Christmas rom-com with a mysterious twist.
A mischievous mutt is missing.
A dognapper is playing a dangerous game.
Can she solve the riddle without putting her beloved pup and her family at risk?
Why would anyone steal the dog of a hardworking community nurse and single mom? And at Christmas, no less—the biggest day on the Dorset Hills social calendar.

But there’s a side to sweet George that Mim never knew. She’s always been a little blind to the males in her life. That’s a mistake she won’t make again with Carver Black, the handsome neighbor with the chip on his shoulder.

Carver wanted George gone… but he wasn’t the only one. Suspects are popping up all over and Dog Town isn’t taking the situation seriously. Christmas has always made the city silly and this year is worse than ever.

When the threats turn deadly, Mim puts her safety on the line to protect her home and family. But will it be enough?

The series picks up in a couple of weeks on New Year's Eve with Tried and True in Dog Town, which you can pre-order now, along with Yours and Mine in Dog Town.  

You can learn more about the series here

Meanwhile, if you're really ready to dive into the holiday season, try the sample of Lost and Found in Dog Town below.  

This series is great fun to write. I hope you'll visit Dog Town and decide to stay for a very long time!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Welcome to Dog Town

Where have I been all this time?

Hanging out in Dog Town!

Formally known as Dorset Hills, Dog Town is the best destination for dogs and dog lovers in North America. It’s small enough to be charming and big enough for a hint of mystery. The people are quirky and the dogs are real characters.

I’ve written four books in a new series of romantic comedies that will be released over the next couple of months. The series opens with Bitter and Sweet in Dog Town.

Two unexpected homecomings to a dog-crazy town. A secret that binds three hearts to the past. Can one spoiled beagle sniff out the truth at last?

Remi Malone has conquered lifelong shyness with help from Leo, her unofficial therapy dog. The promotion she craves is finally within reach. All she needs to do is land a big donation for the hospital foundation from a visiting heiress.

Hannah Pemberton isn't thrilled about being back in Dorset Hills to open an exhibit of her late mother's art. "Dog Town" has become a joke and the visit is stirring up old ghosts. She can't even remember Remi, the hometown advocate.

Tiller Iverson broke Remi's heart in high school and left town 12 years ago. Now he's back with his annoying dog, using his charm on Hannah to win the donation and the job Remi wants. He only has Labor Day weekend to pull it off.

Everyone's stressed... even Leo. And when Leo's misdeeds get him barred from duty, Remi's budding confidence is shaken. She'll never get the second chance she deserves without her canine sidekick. 

But in Dorset Hills, where there's a dog there's usually a way.

I’ll post the first chapter of Bitter and Sweet below.  I invite you to join my mailing list to learn more about this story and those to come. I have several fun giveaways for readers.

Hope to see you over in Dog Town, where the canine citizens are always stealing the spotlight. If you like laugh-out-loud tales, delightful characters, and small-town capers, then you'll love these light-hearted novels.

In the meantime, take a look around my website

Chapter 1

Newcomers to Dorset Hills were often surprised to learn that its celebrated rolling hills weren’t necessarily the main attraction. While the hillside trails were certainly well-used, it was the boardwalk along Lake Longmuir that drew the real crowds. In a small city hailed as being the best place in North America for dogs and dog lovers, a proper promenade was an absolute must. There was no point in having a rare breed in “Dog Town” if you couldn’t show it off.
   Remi Malone went down to the boardwalk on her lunch break most days. Given a choice, she wouldn’t have left her desk in the basement of the old mansion that served as headquarters for the Dorset Hills Hospital Foundation. Although it was dank, dim and dingy down there, it was also the perfect hideaway for an introvert.
   She wasn’t given a choice, however. Leo always insisted they go out. When the clock in the City Hall tower chimed noon, the 19-pound beagle left whatever he was doing to stare at Remi with soulful eyes. If that didn’t work, he escalated to a whine. And if that didn’t work, he unleashed the notorious beagle howl intended to carry for miles on a fox hunt. Leo wasn’t as dumb as some people chose to think.
   On Thursday August 29th, Remi rose from her desk on Leo’s first cue. She leashed him and came upstairs to collect her colleague and friend, Arden Lee.
   “I feel lucky today,” Remi said, admiring the fundraising poster Arden was designing on a huge monitor. “Game on?”
   Arden saved her work before turning. “You poor thing. I know how hard losing’s been for you, and yet you keep trying.”
   Remi laughed. “Enjoy your lead while it lasts, my friend. You’ll be sucking my dust after lunch.”
   “Then remind me to floss later.” Arden grabbed a little mirror and carefully selected a lipstick from the dozens lined up in her desk drawer. An artist to the core, she considered her pretty face another canvas. Her eyes looked either blue or grey depending on her makeup, and her shiny dark hair made them pop.
   Dogspotting, the game they’d invented, added a bit of spice to their lunchtime strolls. It ran on a simple points system. All they had to do was identify rare dogs, reel off unique breed traits and ideally get a photo for their digital scrapbook. Arden had recently taken the lead for the first time with sightings of a Dogue de Bordeaux and a schipperke, both new to Dorset Hills. This rankled with Remi no end. Unlike her friend, she had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s approximately 350 dog breeds. But Arden had proven a quick study and shamelessly capitalized on Remi’s unwillingness to ask strangers for pictures of their dogs.
   As usual, they tried to sneak past their director’s office on the way out. Leo had other plans and stopped in Marcus Tremblay’s doorway to wag his skinny white tail. The dog never stopped selling, even when someone refused to buy. Marcus disliked dogs in general and kept hand sanitizer in his pocket in case Leo happened to touch him.
   “Hey, Remi,” Marcus called. “How’s your report coming?”
   “You’ll have it by two, like I promised.” She never missed a deadline but Marcus objected to their lunchtime constitutional on principle. Butts in seats made him happy.
   “I’d like to read it over lunch. If it’s ready.”
   She peered in at him. Unlike her dungeon cell, his office was bright and airy with white plastic chairs, a red metal clock and picture frames in primary colors. Marcus himself was the kind of guy you’d overlook were it not for his big spade-shaped beard and handlebar mustache. Remi called it a “statement beard” and she didn’t much like what it was saying
   The guilt trip often worked on Remi but Arden had Marcus’ number. “Can we get you anything while we’re out, boss? How about a flat white cappuccino?”
   He drummed his fingers, deciding whether to push it. “Okay. But don’t be gone too long. You know we’re short-staffed through Labor Day.”
   Remi waited till they merged with pedestrian traffic on Main Street before grumbling, “As if I’d be missed.”
   Arden checked over her shoulder to make sure the coast was clear. “Of course you’d be missed, Cinderella. Where would Marcus be without his researcher?”
   They walked past the hospital itself, which somehow glittered less than City Hall, despite being built from exactly the same brick. After that came the shops. Some, like Bertucci’s Fine Meats, predated Dorset Hills’ transformation into Dog Town. Others, like the Lucky Dog Barkery, Puptown Girl Fashions, and the Paws and Relax Spa were the direct result of it.
   “I wish he’d see me as more than a researcher,” Remi said. “I’m ready for a promotion.”
   “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard this whine before. Tell him, not me.”
   “I shouldn’t have to. I’ve found tons of great leads that turned into donations. Why wouldn’t he just promote me since there’s a client management job available?”
   Leo stopped to leave his mark outside the Law Society building. Landscapers had already planted fall flowers in city-sanctioned yellow, orange and white. Council left little to chance, even where vegetation was concerned. Remi wondered if something nefarious had befallen a riotous English garden in her neighborhood recently. It had been clear-cut overnight. There was no place for pink daisies in Dog Town anymore, it seemed.
   “Be like Leo,” Arden said, as the dog sparingly sprinkled a shrub. He had a big tank for a small dog, but there was still a lot of ground to cover. “Stake out your turf, Remi.”
   “I wouldn’t know how. Marcus scares me.”
   “Oh, he’s all beard and no bite. Just offer him a juicy lead and tell him you’ll manage the client relationship. Then go and get that donation.”
   “Easy for you to say.” Remi frowned as she wove through the crowd. People were pushy and impatient today. End of summer blues, probably.
   “You’re ready for this,” Arden said. “Claim it.”
   “I have sniffed out a potential lead, actually. Hannah Pemberton is unexpectedly coming to town this weekend.”
   Arden turned to catch Remi with a stare. “Of the billionaire Pemberton family?”
   “The same. We went to school together. Her family moved to New York City after senior year and as far as I know she’s never been back. On Sunday, she’s opening an exhibit of her late mother’s art at the Barton Gallery.”
   Arden stopped and the foot traffic flowed around her. “Remi, this is it! The break you’ve been waiting for. Marcus always gives the lead to the person with the best connection.”
   “I’m not sure she’ll remember me. Back then, Cinderella would have been a step up for me.”
   Leo allocated a few drops to the fire hydrant outside the Dog Town Tavern. Arden continued to stare at Remi. If she were a dog, she’d be sniffing the breeze for clues. Luckily, something caught her eye before she could press for details.
   “Bearded collie!” she called out. “Three points.”
   “Old English sheepdog. Honestly, Arden. I’d dock you for that if we were actually on the boardwalk.”
   In a few minutes, they stepped off the sidewalk and onto the long wooden trail that ran for about a mile along the shore. For all its popularity, it wasn’t particularly attractive. The City had been uncharacteristically slow to exploit its potential. However, the new mayor, Bill Bradshaw, had promised a boardwalk facelift during his campaign.
   Remi saw a small white dog romping in the distance. Could it be…? Surely not... But it was!
   “Pumi!” she shouted. “Hungarian herding dog. Non-shedding. Semi-erect ears. Curly tail. Whimsical expression. Recognized by the AKC in 2016. Plural is Pumik.”
   “Whimsical?” Arden got out her phone to confirm. “Did you memorize the entire kennel club website?”
   Picking up Leo, Remi raced toward the white dog. It felt as if her luck was turning.
   The dog’s owner was a rangy woman in cargo pants and a safari-style shirt. She was startled at the running footsteps but her expression softened when she saw Leo, and she reached for his long, satiny ears. Dog people could never resist those ears.
   “Sorry to bother you,” Remi said. “I just wondered if your dog is a pumi.”
   The owner’s face lit up. “Why, yes. You’re the first person in Dorset Hills to know that.”
   While they chatted, Remi put Leo down and he gave the pumi a perfunctory sniff. Leo was usually indifferent to dogs. His main interests in life were people and food—usually in reverse order.
   Remi finally summoned the nerve to ask for a photo. Afterwards, she waited till the owner was out of earshot before jumping off the boardwalk and kicking up the sand. “Eat my dust, girlfriend.”
   Arden joined her in the sand, grinning. “Put your competitive streak away. No one wants to see that in public.”
   “Competitive? Who me?”
   “The seeds were always there but they’ve clearly been growing in your basement lair.”
   “Spores, not seeds,” Remi said. “Like mushrooms.”
   Arden’s expression was serious. “You really have changed, Remi. When we met, you hid behind your hair and glasses and hardly said a word. Once in a while you’d make a brilliant comment and people would be shocked.”
   “Then I’d hide in the basement for ages before trying again.” Remi leaned over and picked up Leo. “I owe it all to this guy. When Marcus let me bring him to work everything changed. He’s my unofficial therapy dog.”
   Leo lolled in her arms. He adored being adored. Remi had to remind herself of his trainer’s warning that he was a dog, not a baby, because Leo himself seemed to forget. Sometimes when she set him down he’d refuse to lower his landing gear.
   “Well, Leo is going to get you the promotion you want.”
   “Do you hear that, Leo?” Remi said. “Go get my promotion. Get it.”
   She lifted Leo high and spun in a circle until his white legs and tail flew out. Suddenly there was a yelp, and it didn’t come from Leo.
   “Ouch, geez!” A tall man in running shorts lurched backwards. His hand went up to his face. “Did you just hit me with a beagle?”
   “I’m sorry!” Remi dropped Leo onto the sand. The man was shirtless and sweat dripped from his square chin onto his muscular chest. He moved his hand and revealed two long scratches from Leo’s claws on his tanned cheek.
   The jogger pushed his shades up to stare at Remi with bright blue eyes. “That dog is a lethal weapon. Are you licensed to carry?”
   Arden laughed, but Remi was too flustered to be sure he was joking. Then she looked down and immediately dropped to her knees. “Oh my god. Is this a Tibetan mastiff?”
   “Rocky? Yeah.” The jogger grinned down at her.
   “The most expensive dog in the world,” Remi said, flicking her eyes at Arden. The huge black and tan dog sniffed the hand she offered warily, and then allowed her to pat his head. “It’s a fierce guardian breed that only has one annual estrus.”
   The jogger’s eyebrows went up. “One what?”
   “Heat cycle,” Remi said, her cheeks warming. “Not that Rocky needs to worry about that, I guess.”
   The guy looked at Arden. “Your friend is… interesting.”
   “Isn’t she?” Arden laughed again. “Rocky’s got her addled.”
   “A Tibetan mastiff in Dorset Hills,” Remi said, still on her knees. “I can’t believe it.”
   “Just visiting,” the guy said.
   Remi stared up at him, shading her eyes. “It’s so hot.”
   His eyebrows rose again. “Pardon me?”
   “Rocky shouldn’t be running with you. His coat is meant for a cold mountain climate.”
   The guy rolled his eyes. “It was just a short lap up and down the boardwalk.”
   Sticking out her hand, Arden said, “I’m Arden, and the dog authority is Remi.”
   “James. Well, I’d better get Rocky back and put him in the freezer.” He grinned at Remi. “Kidding.”
   James’ eyes were the lightest, clearest blue Remi had ever seen. Like a Siberian husky’s. They were so intimidating that it was hard to ask, but she knew she might never get another chance. “May I take a photo?”
   “Uh… I could use a shower first,” he said.
   “Of your dog!”
   Taking her phone, James nudged Rocky over to stand beside her. Leo ambled into the shot as well. After taking the photo, James typed something into the phone and handed it back. “Now I have your contact information in case these scratches go septic.”
   “He’s joking, Rems,” Arden said. “Aren’t you, James?”
   “Probably.” He backed away slowly. “How’s this, Officer Remi? Slow enough for Rocky?”
   “Perfect,” she called after him. “Sorry about your face.”
   When he was gone, Arden shook her head. “I wouldn’t count on him asking you out, Remi. You were a little hard on his ego.”
   “Fine with me. Not my type anyway.” She didn’t think much of someone who’d put his own needs before his dog’s. Plus, who needed a breed that expensive? It was like driving a Corvette when any beater would do.
   “Rich and stunning is exactly my type,” Arden said. “But they’re as rare as Tibetan mastiffs in Dorset Hills.”
   “Well, you can have him. I can only focus on one thing at a time, and right now, that’s getting ahead in my career.”
   Arden checked her phone. “Let’s grab Marcus’ coffee so that he’s in a good mood later. Leave Leo with me when you pitch him, okay?”
   A wave of anxiety washed over Remi. “I need Leo. I don’t want to be alone with that beard.”
   “My friend, you got this,” Arden said. “No one keeps Remi in the basement.”

* * *

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Riggs Rideout: Dog Model - The Exclusive Interview

If you missed getting your copy of Riggs Rideout: Dog Model - The Exclusive Interview, sign up for my newsletter here.  

You'll get the latest on my new releases, plus some fun giveaways. 

It's all in the headshots!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Riggs Rideout: A Modest Proposal for Addressing Toronto's Raccoon Problem

Dear City of Toronto Officials:

Late last night I went into the backyard and there she was, watching me:  Big Mama, the resident raccoon. A year ago, I exchanged harsh words with Big Mama.  I suggested that she take the brood of five she’d stashed under our deck and hit the road.  She argued that she was higher up the food chain than I am.  The debate was long and loud, and did not end well for me. 

The next day, my owner (AKA “Mom”) called pest control to evict Big Mama.  For $400, the guy put the babies in what looked like a beer cooler and set it in the corner of the yard.  At nightfall, Big Mama collected her evil spawn and moved to someone else’s yard.  But they kept coming back to taunt me.  Their petty squabbles as they raided the garbage bins disrupted my sleep all summer long.  I got hoarse from barking.
Working hard at nothing

Now, Big Mama is back and she’s smirking.  She’s laid five more masked eggs and the cycle is about to begin again.

I know City Officials get a lot of complaints about this topic.  Toronto is called “the Raccoon Capital of the World” and it isn’t a compliment.  A 2014 poll showed that the majority of Torontonians supported the idea of humanely culling raccoons to control their population. No one bothered to poll me, but you know how I’d have voted. 

Mom, not so much.  She thinks the baby ’coons are cute and loves the nickname “Trash Pandas.” That said, she worries about disease, and curses when she cleans up their poop and the garbage.  And it really annoys her that I cannot pee if Big Mama is in the vicinity.  Basically, I have bladder paralysis from spring to late fall and must be escorted down the street to relieve myself. 

On top of all this, they infringe on my walk, which I’m sure you know is the highlight of every dog’s day.  In recent years, the City has seen fit to eliminate most of the public waste bins in my neighborhood, and the remaining few are designed to be raccoon proof.  Which also makes them practically human-proof.  The foot pedals don’t work and no one wants to touch the dirty flap. So Mom has mapped out a route with a dumpster to offload poop bags. 

Would you like your life to be restricted by dumpsters and Trash Pandas?  
Making an honest living in the ravine
I’ve heard that there are as many as 100 raccoons per square kilometre in some Toronto neighborhoods.  That means they outnumber dogs by far and maybe even humans.  Perhaps that’s why City Hall treats them like esteemed taxpayers.  I remind you, they are not—and they’re not even owned and licenced by taxpayers, as dogs are. 
What exactly do they offer?  Yes, photos of the masked marauders zip around social media like wildfire.  But for every cutie climbing a crane, riding a subway, or visiting a classroom, there are dozens ripping up houses, sheds and even boats.  Let’s not even talk about rabies and distemper.

I know how government works:  you’ve held meetings about Citizen Raccoon.  You’ve generated policy papers, briefing notes, and Powerpoint decks galore. No one wants to make tough decisions or generate negative headlines. 

That’s where I, Riggs Rideout, come in.  Have I got a solution for you!  It’s humane, too. As a minor celebrity, I’m well aware of the importance of public perception. What I propose is a win-win for everyone.

A very special shawl
I present a photo for your inspection.  This attractive garment is a shawl, or pashmina, worn by one of Mom’s colleagues.  The tag says it’s 50 per cent raccoon fiber.  The owner gets a lot of compliments, and claims it’s very warm. 

City Officials, you can guess where I’m going here.  This is a tremendous opportunity.  Raise your hands and vote for the Toronto Trash Panda Pashmina.  Put those pests to work!

All you need to do now is round up them up and drive them to that land you can’t develop for "classified" reasons.  Treat them like royalty.  Hire limos and put them up in a Trash Panda resort if you like.  Feed them well with the food waste you’re constantly trying to unload (and no one believes you’re really recycling, anyway). Sing them lullabies if you must, so they sleep well and grow fur in abundance. And then… comb them.  Gather that lovely hair, and hire skilled craftspeople to knit up those shawls. 

With the right marketing, Toronto’s Trash Panda Pashmina could become the must-have souvenir.  I envision them in every tourist trap. Give them away to celebrities at the Toronto Film Festival, and every high profile event. 

The benefits to the City are many: job creation; waste reduction; happy homeowners; and lower heating costs (a pashmina for every taxpayer!). 
I’d add “happy dogs” to that list, but you don’t seem to care much about canine citizens.  That’s a shame, because as rising dog model I stand to attract a lot of attention to this fair city.
With my busy schedule, it’s tough to volunteer, but I’d be pleased to be part of the Trash Panda Project.  I assume you allow dogs in City Hall? I’m quite sure the raccoons are already there.

I look forward to presenting my proposal in person at your earliest convenience.

Respectfully yours, 

Riggs Rideout,
Dog Model

Riggs Rideout: A Challenge to Hug-Hating Dog Expert Stanley Coren

Dear Dr. Stanley Coren, 

I would like to express concern about your recent article in Psychology Today: “Don’t Hug the Dog! – New data shows that hugging your dog increases its stress and anxiety levels.” 

I’m aware of your reputation Dr. Coren. You’ve written a lot of books and articles about dogs, and seem to be highly regarded as an expert. Normally, I’d hesitate to take issue with your views, but your article has raised anxiety levels around my house. My owner, AKA “Mom,” is hugging me less and when she does, she’s scrutinizing me for the signs of stress you identified, such as yawning, looking away, lip-licking and whale eye.  

And because she’s staring at me—probing, evaluating, over-analyzing—of course, I yawn and avert my eyes. So now she’s wracked with self-doubt:  Has she been forcing herself on me all along? Has she missed the signs? Have I always hated the hug? 

In other words, because of your article, she’s second guessing and I’m not getting the luv I need. We’re not “us” anymore.
Do I look like I'm suffering?


Now, my mom is not a natural hugger. She comes from a long line of chilly stiff-upper-lip types. In fact, that’s the key to how I transformed her entire life: I provide an outlet for decades of backed-up hugs, and have likely prevented her from detonating one day. 

Has it always been easy to be on the receiving end of a hug-fest? No.  I am not a demonstrative dog, and rarely waste a wag on the undeserving. As a pup, mom’s sloppy affection got in the way of important things, like chasing and pinning the cat. At maturity, however, I began to see the upside of this hugging business. Granting permission to squeeze got me a free pass onto the couch, for starters. I used to play dead as she hauled me aboard so she wouldn’t know I liked it. Now, I have to compete with my “little sister” and it’s a free-for-all. 

We live in a cold climate, Dr. Coren, and a couch cuddle is hardly a punishment. Mom is well-padded and therefore preferable to the floor. Plus, she understands reciprocity: before she locks me down and falls asleep, she offers a decent amount of patting, or “forehug.” If she tries cutting it short, I let her know she’s not done with paw twitches. Inevitably, I slip into sweet dreams of rabbit-chasing, sometimes waking mom up with yips. Other times, she wakes me with her snoring (don’t tell her I told you).

In short, hugging works for us. So I would like to inquire, respectfully, about your research methodology. What dogs did you survey in your research? Terriers? Border Collies? Dogs-with-jobs types? And who was doing the hugging? Owners, strangers, or unpredictable small humans? And by what means did you gather input from dogs? 

I know dogs are as different as snowflakes. All I can
Make mine a choke-hold!
tell you is that I, Riggs Rideout (a dog model of some repute), rarely turn down a hug. I don’t just endure it, I solicit it. Although I welcome hugs from a variety of people, including children, I will agree that strangers should use common sense, even with a calm doodle like me. Normally, I insist on a few dates and a whole lot of head scratching before permitting a home run. 

In closing, Dr. Coren, I want you to know I am available as a consultant in your future research. I can’t resist mentioning that many years ago, Mom read your book Why We Love the Dogs We Do. That’s the one with the personality test telling humans which breed of dog suits them. She recalls that the Beagle came up as her ideal match. Not to disparage you—or Beagles for that matter—but it’s pretty obvious that a doodle is her perfect partner.  

Is it possible you have a purebred bias? I don’t want to start a flame war, here. Rather, I’d like to encourage you to go and give your dog—whatever the breed—a great big hug. Don’t stare or pester him/her with questions. Sometimes, a yawn is just a yawn. 

Respectfully yours, 

Riggs Rideout,
Dog Model

Monday, March 7, 2016

Going Places – How to Take Your Non-Service Dog along for the Ride

Riggs will never be a service dog.  Although he’s genial, largely unflappable, and a cut above average in obedience, his natural talents don’t lie in therapy.  There’s a reason I call him my rogue!   
Curl throw-down

Since I never expected anything more than regular pet companionship, I’m not complaining.  Like many dog owners, however, I wish I could take him with me everywhere.  Going places together is good for him, and it’s good for me.

Most businesses seem to disagree.  Unless dogs have service creds, they’re usually not welcome.   

Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.  I figure the worst that can happen is they throw city by-laws at me.  And if they want to label me a crazy dog lady, well, I've beaten them to it.

So when my regular salon appointment rolled around, I contacted my long-time stylist, Camille Gratton, and asked, “Can I bring my dog?”  It was fine with her, and she checked with salon owner, Liz Teti, who gave us the all-clear.  

Riggs pranced into Salon Teti, in Toronto’s Little Italy, and worked the room like a canine politician.  Though clearly a dog lover, Liz was nervous.  Riggs is 35 lbs., and far from a purse puppy.  Would he bark at people?  Would clients complain?  I eased her fears by promising to take him to the car at the first infraction, even if that meant running up the street with goop on my head.

(There.  You know my secret.  I dye my hair.) 

Luckily, Riggs acquitted himself admirably.  He greeted every client with restrained enthusiasm and welcomed all attention.  There wasn’t a peep out of him.  Mostly he just arranged himself in fetching poses, like an aspiring pro dog model. 

Camille, Master Stylist

We were there for a good time and a long time.  As my hair cooked, Camille and I covered a broad range of topics, the tamest of which was home renovations.  She’s been tending my locks for about 15 years and knows most of my darkest secrets, including the shade of my semi-permanent.  Like many stylists, she’s part-therapist, caring for what’s under her clients’ thatches, too.  

Riggs had the decency not to sigh or pace or even poke around.  The Rogue about Town seemed resigned to (bored by) eavesdropping on the girl talk.  

Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that blondes really do have more fun. 

Still, I'm sure he'd rather join me almost anywhere than be left at home, even with his raven-haired partner in crime.  

We thanked our hosts, and we left happy.  

On to new frontiers...  Where have you dared to take your dogs?  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dear Mother Nature... A Stinky Little Problem

Dear Mother Nature:

I’m sure you’re totally swamped, but I hope you can spare a moment to discuss coprophagia.  

Yeah, that’s a mouthful… and a revolting one at that.  I guess no one really wants to talk about poop-eating, yet it’s an issue that plagues many dog-owners and it’s time we spoke up.

I’m the first to admit I was na├»ve about dogs before Riggs came into my life, but the scales had fallen from my eyes by the time Mabel arrived.  I was prepared for double the scooping, double the dirt, and even double the death-rolling.  I knew Mabel would follow Riggs’ dubious lead and that it would sometimes end badly. 

Mabel is not Riggs, of course.  Dogs are like snowflakes, and imperfections are part of what makes each one special.  With all credit to you, Mother Nature, Mabel is the darling to Riggs’ rogue, the sweet to his salty.  But she also has a taste for poop that he never had. Oh, Riggs will pick up a stray morsel now and then, particularly cat or bunny poop.  With him, it’s casual, an idle pastime, whereas Mabel takes it very seriously indeed.  Poop-eating has become a passion, a vocation… an obsession.  If she has to choose between chasing a squirrel or grabbing a turd, the turd wins.  And that’s just not right.

My reading suggests that mother dogs clean up after their pups and the pups learn the behavior.  Some say it goes back to the wolf den, where reducing smell could discourage predators.  Okay, I’m prepared to accept that coprophagia served an evolutionary purpose.  Now that dogs have joined us in our living rooms, and even our beds, I entreat you to turn your considerable talents to addressing the problem.  I’m confident that you can natural selection this trait right out of the domestic dog population.  

Yes, wild dog packs may need to continue eating poop.  Scavenging must leave them short on nutrients.  Here in North America, however, where dogs are increasingly treated like “fur kids” and fed high quality foods, I humbly submit that coprophagia is not only pointless, but potentially dangerous.  In warmer weather Mabel is at constant risk of ingesting parasites.  

You might remind me that dog ownership isn’t all roses, and fair enough.  I was even warned about this possibility before I knew coprophagia was a word. My cousin regaled me—in fits of disgusted giggles—with stories of her poop-eater and various (failed) attempts to combat the problem.  A good friend had a trio of poop-eaters—the smallest would actually stand under the largest in open-mouthed anticipation.  Her husband called them a “self-cleaning machine.”

So I don’t whine often.  I can and do follow Mabel into the yard at all hours in all weather to scoop promptly.  I can and do keep her leashed on the streets, although she still snags the odd tidbit, since people seem to think snow gives them a free pass on poop collection. 

The real challenge is in the parks and ravines where it’s a veritable poop buffet.  I find it hard to believe you’d want me to leash her there. Surely you prefer your canine creations to have freedom to romp and run.  Mine have great adventures on the trails and a pretty good life overall, if I do say so myself. 

It’s just that “poopsicle” season is wearing me down.  Apparently freezing brings out the finest qualities in poop, and Mabel is working like a… er, dog… to clear Toronto’s ravines of all deposits before the spring thaw. 

One of my dog-walkers, a man with a strong constitution, squealed like a schoolgirl this week:  “Mabel’s relentless.  I caught her with 10 different turds, and that’s just what I witnessed.  Have you talked to your vet?”

I have talked to my vet.  First I talked to the vet’s staff, who recommended For-Bid, a product you add to a dog’s food that renders the subsequent output unappetizing.  They speculated that baiting Mabel with nasty-tasting poop in my yard might put her off the whole business.  Seemed like a reasonable experiment for $22, so I bought a box. 

Then my vet weighed in directly.  “Don’t even bother with For-Bid,” she said.  “It won’t work, and it might make things worse.”  Turns out dogs can be intermittently rewarded with swell-tasting poop in the park and become even more fanatical.  

“Well, what then?” I asked, helplessly.

“If ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ aren’t working, you’ll have to leash her.”

Drop it and leave it work when I can focus exclusively on Mabel’s toxic truffle hunt.  If I’m distracted for a moment, however, she returns with a s*#t-eating grin.  And when she’s off my watch, it’s a free-for-all.  

“Most dogs do this in winter,” my other walker assured me.  “I’ve seen worse.”   

Luckily, Mabel doesn’t suffer from her dietary indiscretions.  So far, the major impact seems to be on her own poop production.  The dogs eat exactly two cups of the same kibble daily.  Riggs produces a modest amount of poop, whereas with Mabel, it’s like the biblical loaves and fishes: two cups of kibble turns into five massive poops per day.  I can only assume some of it is re-poop.  

She also fills a room with eye-watering flatulence.  I can and do deploy my mouth-breathing skills.  And sadly, I must decline the kisses she offers so freely.  Her beard is always suspect.

Anyway, Mother Nature, I realize coprophagia isn’t high on your priority list, what with disappearing habitats and species.  But if you have a moment, I’d appreciate your looking into the matter. 

I know plenty of dog-lovers, by the way, and they’re great people.  If you ever have aspirations to run for higher office, you can count on us to get behind you… and scoop hard.