Friday, April 13, 2012

I'm holding out for a hero

When flying home from New York City last week, Hubby and I were stranded in Reagan International for 4.5 hours. So we did what any tired, cranky, tired-of-waiting-around-all-freaking-afternoon traveler does. We went to the bar and proceeded to get sloshed.

Okay, so maybe we didn't get sloshed. Hubby is far too responsible for that. But we did each have a couple of beers. And he watched CNN go on and on about Mitt Romney being far too rich to be in touch with average Americans. And I read my Modern Dog magazine.

It's pretty lame, I know, but Modern Dog is the only magazine that I really read anymore. Not only because I have a dog and like to stay up to date on the goings-on in the canine world. But because it only comes out four times a year. Which means that I can keep up. I've tried subscribing to monthly magazines in the past, but I just can't commit. The magazines pile up in front of my fireplace, and with each dust mite that they collect, they silently accuse me of neglect. I can't deal with the guilt. So I cancelled every subscription I had and signed on to receive the quarterly Modern Dog instead. I figured it was a light enough commitment, even for me.

Anyway, as I was nearing the end of the Spring edition while downing my second beer at the Sam Adams bar, I stumbled upon an add for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Maybe it was the weak American beer, but I started fantasizing about winning an all-expenses paid trip to Hollywood so that the Beast and I could be presented with an award, me wearing one of the fancy new outfits I bought in New York, and him dawning a fresh new bath and haircut from his favourite groomer. Wouldn't that be fun? I should totally nominate him, right?

So I went online to figure out how to nominate my dog, and saw that the nominations are now closed.  Boo.  (Well, what did I expect?!? The magazine has been sitting there, collecting dust, for at least two months now...) Regardless, I have decided that the Beast is worthy of a Hero Dog Award from his own fan base. So I am gratuitously using this blog to nominate him in every category. The question for you, dear readers, is which category is most appropriate for our favourite fuzzy terrorist.

Vote often. He'll get more treats that way!

Law enforcement/arson dogs:
It is true that my dog does not have any official training to be a law enforcement dog. Nor has he ever saved me from a fire. Nonetheless, the Beast displays some serious law enforcement skills, especially in the dog park, where he puts his life on the line to keep the park crime free each and every day. Ball thieves, beware! Because Beasty will chase you down! And he is fast so he always gets his man! And no assault and battery takes place on his watch. No sir. Because the Beast will fearlessly put himself between two wrestling mutts to break them up before things get out of control! And nothing clears an area to keep it crime free like that dog's bark, which is surely the same frequency as a police siren, and certainly has the same effect; that is to say that when dogs and people hear him coming, they get the 'eff out of the way and let him through! I should get this boy a badge!

Service dogs:
According to Canada's guide to dogs, a service dog "provide[s] services to disabled individuals helping them function with greater self-sufficiency; prevent injuries; and summon help in a crisis." It is true that I do not suffer from any particular health condition that could benefit from the assistance of a four-legged friend, but the Beast clearly meets that definition. First of all, I am undoubtedly more self-sufficient thanks to him. I mean, whenever I try to catch a few extra zzz's on a weekend, there he is, right by my bedside at 6:00am, licking my face and reminding me that the earlier I start my day, the more fun he and I will have at the Arboretum. And when he feels that I am having a little too much trouble getting dressed to take him out in the morning, he will gladly motivate me by whining, barking, and pawing me in the face until I find the dexterity to lace up faster. As for summoning help in a crisis, he excels at that. I mean, that bark! Like the time three neighbourhood girls tried to sell me Girl Guide Cookies. He bravely leaped up into the window, barked like a maniac, and scared them away, saving my waistline from potential catastrophe. And preventing injuries, er, well, um... Okay, so maybe he causes more injuries than he prevents. Like the time that he and I went running and he got spooked out by something on the street, made a mad dash right in front of me, and we both slid about a meter across the pavement. It took 3 weeks for my scraped up knees to heal. But hey, like Meatloaf says, two out of three ain't bad!

Therapy dogs:
Therapy dogs provide physical and emotional benefit to all kinds of people. To be a good therapy dog, certain characteristics are highly sought. Like "accepting a friendly stranger, staying calm, sitting on command, and reacting well to other dogs and/or distractions."

Okay, so the Beast doesn't exactly fit the official definition of therapy dog. He can only accept a friendly stranger by barking like a maniac and jumping all over him/her, which probably creates more tension than it relieves. He is rarely ever calm, and when he is, it takes all of 0.06 seconds and one black fly buzzing around his head to get him in a state of absolute frenzy. He can sit on command, but has a tendency to choose which times he will acquiesce to said commands and which times he will give me the doggy equivalent of the finger. And other dogs or distractions don't exactly keep him calm. Quite the opposite, actually. He gets so easily overstimulated by everything around him, that observers must look at him and think, "Jesus, that dog needs a therapy human!"

Come to think of it, I think I deserve a Hero Award for being the Beast's therapy human!!!

But this isn't about me...

It's probably true that the Beast isn't going into any retirement homes anytime soon. But he is my therapy dog hero. Because even on the worst of days, nothing puts a smile on my face like coming home to the Beast's excited bark and wiggling bum. Or like seeing him sniff at and pee on every single tree in the Arboretum, with a smile pasted on his snout from ear to ear. Or like making snow angels with him after 15 cm of fresh snow have fallen. Or like seeing him work so very hard for that treat on the agility course.

Running the agility course with Dad

Making snow angels

And then, here I am today, home sick with a raging sinus infection. And writing this blog is taking my mind off the fact that with each and every breath in, I feel as though my head is being split in two. Which is more than I can say for the effect that the cold medication is having on me. So you see, the Beast and his antics are highly therapeutic!

Military dogs:
Okay, here, I got nothin'. I suppose I could throw a spiked collar on him and tell him to go and attack a cavalry horse. But there aren't a lot of those in our neighbourhood. And if we did see one, he wouldn't attack it so much as herd it into a corner somewhere, which would likely lead to him getting trampled. Nope. We respectfully bow out of this category.

Guide dogs:
Obviously, the Beast is not a guide dog in the traditional sense. I mean, it's true that I can't see far past my nose when my glasses aren't on, but, you know, that's why I wear them. Still, he displays some excellent "guiding" skills, which, I have decided, make him eligible for this category. We could be caught in the worst snowstorm, with winds blowing from all four directions and snow whipping around our heads, but I promise you that he would be able to guide me STRAIGHT to the dog park. Of course, he might not think to stop and make sure there are no snowplows coming before crossing the street, thereby leading us to certain death...

Okay. Scratch that. He couldn't ever be a hero guide dog.

Search and rescue dogs:
I've got two words for you: "find fish". I have hidden that silly stuffed fish (from dearest Auntie K) in every square inch of the second floor of this house. Inside closets, inside drawers, under beds, inside boxes that are under the bed, under blankets... You name it, that drool-covered fish has been there. And the Beast finds that fish... every... single... time. Granted, he can get a little schizophrenic while he's doing it, and it sometimes takes a little longer than it should, but within this canine beats the heart of a true search and rescue dog.

As long as once he "rescues" the victim, he can hold it between his teeth, shake it a little, and entice you to play tug 'o war with it... Or at least just lie down and chew it...

I saved your life from under that bed. Now I must eat you!

Hearing dogs:
If by "hearing dog", you mean a dog who likes to be heard, well then there is no bigger hero than the Beast. Daddy's coming home! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Mommy's coming home! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Neighbour's putting the trash out on Sunday night! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Kids in the 'hood are outside playing without me! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Doorbell rings (on t.v.)! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Mail's here! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! Mommy's cheering really loudly during a football game again! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! That dog at the park won't play with me! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! I didn't say you could leave yet! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK! What is that raccoon doing in my back yard! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!

Okay, so you get the picture, right?

But if, by "hearing dog", you mean a dog that can alert you to potential dangers because he senses them before you do, well, then, I'm afraid I might be screwed. Because when the Beast is barking at any number of the above (and more), I honestly wouldn't know if he was alerting me to danger or just upset that my VISA bill came in. It's kind of like the boy who cried wolf. One day, a "wolf" really is going to show up, and I'm going to think it's a box of Girl Guide cookies, tell the Beast to shut up, and open to door to a lone gunman. And then what am I going to do?

Maybe I really should start training him to be a military dog...

Emerging hero dogs (defined as "ordinary dogs who make an extraordinary difference in your life")
Translation - the sappy category for those of us who have unskilled dogs. But hey, I'll bite...

The Beast is an emerging hero in my life because, well, look at him? What exactly is not to love about that face? He is handsome, curious, fun-loving, intelligent, and a red-head. (I've always been partial to red hair...) He's perfect!

And he provides me with endless fodder for this blog. Allowing me to rediscover just how much I love to write. Who knows when I would have started writing again if it weren't for the Beast?

But most of all, he is my hero because of this post from last September. Don't worry - I won't repeat it all here But I will say this. He makes me happy. Even with all that damn barking.

So there you have it. My humble case for why the Beast deserves many Hero Dog Awards.

But if you had to choose one, which one would it be? Tell me!