Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Oreo and the Toilet

There’s one thing they don’t talk about in "The Giant Handbook of Dog Care" - poop disposal. What are you supposed to do with the mountain of canine excrement that you collect over the endless days of your dog’s existence?

As I previously noted, I thought that the easy approach would be to dump Oreo’s leavings in the wheeled composting bin that the garbage collectors empty every week. But ever since I dumped some dog poop in the bottom of the container and it stuck there for weeks on end, my wife Cheryl has disabused me of this green option.

According to Cheryl, the environmentally responsible approach to canine waste disposal is to flush it down the toilet. The idea is that Oreo’s fecal matter can then be processed by the city sanitation system just like ours is. After all, he is a member of the family.

Despite my misgivings, flushing Oreo’s crap down the toilet has been the preferred method of disposal for some time now. And since I rarely collect the stuff, it didn’t really matter that much to me.

Recently, however, I had to mow the backyard. Thanks to Oreo, that chore now has an additional preliminary step: clean up the poop.

So I dutifully collected a moundful of the stuff on a plastic gardening plate. I momentarily considered dumping it in the compost collector but, given Cheryl’s strong admonition against this alternative, I decided instead to unload the plate into the toilet. I flushed and went back to my lawn mowing.

In retrospect, it was probably not a good idea to put a big load of dog poop in the toilet all at one time, particularly when some of the stuff had dried out and was pretty hard. In retrospect, I probably should have dumped this particular load in the compost collector, particularly since it was already half full of grass and weeds and there was little chance of the poop clogging up the bottom. In retrospect, we probably should never have gotten a dog.

That night we started to experience some minor difficulties with the toilet. Occasionally the bowl would not empty completely. But then it would and I figured whatever problem there was had disappeared.

By the next day, however, the bowl was not emptying completely at all. It started to dawn on me that maybe some of Oreo’s poop was plugging the drain. I brought out our old standard plunger and made a few attempts at unblocking whatever was there.

My plunging attempts met with limited success. So the next day, I bought a new plunger specially designed for toilets. I brought it home and gave it a thorough workout. But rather than see increased water flow down the drain, I was experiencing less and less drainage.

Knowing my limitations, I finally gave up and called a plumber who promised to be there the next afternoon. But being somewhat obsessive, I checked out the Internet and looked for additional solutions.

One suggestion was to pour half a pail of warm water from about waist height directly into the toilet. The theory is that the additional pressure would assist in dislodging whatever was blocking the path. There was no indication why the water had to be warm but I’m guessing it is either to help soften the blockage or to make the chore less uncomfortable when water splashes all over the repairer.

Whatever the reason, I engaged in a frenzy of plunging and water pail emptying that left both me and the bathroom floor damp. But it appeared that no progress had been made.
So I gave up for the second time and cleaned up the water on the floor and put the plunger and the pail away. This was now definitely a job for the plumber.

But when I returned to the bathroom an hour later and tried one last flush, to my surprise, it worked. The water swirled and swirled and the bowl emptied completely. I waited patiently as the tank refilled and I tried again. Once more the water disappeared. A third and a fourth attempt were equally successful.

The next morning, I gave the toilet a final real life test and it passed. All my plunging and pail emptying and swearing and cursing had apparently worked. Our toilet was back to normal.

So I called the plumber and cancelled the appointment with the caveat that we might have to re-book soon. I’m still not convinced I got rid of the blockage entirely and I suspect we’re still going to be flushing at least some of Oreo’s poop down the toilet. So until such time as I can train him to use the toilet himself, I’m going to keep the plunger, pail and the plumber’s phone number close at hand.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Kids And Dogs

When it comes to kids and dogs, neighborhoods go through transitions. Sometimes there are lots of children and few dogs. Other times there are plenty of pups but not a lot of kids. And sometimes there are few or many of both.

When Sarah was born eleven years ago, our neighborhood was going through one of those transitions. The previous generation’s progeny were long past the kid stage. Sarah was one of only a handful of kids on our street. And dogs were even scarcer.

But as the years went by and houses turned over, younger couples moved in and kids began to pop up like springtime weeds. Now Sarah doesn’t lack for companions and the trend appears to be an upward one.

That same trend seems to now be happening with dogs. Neighbors across the street just acquired a three-year old show beagle named Angus. He’s a miniature version of a regular beagle which seems to mean that he’s half the size of a regular beagle but with twice the energy.

And the latest news is that our immediate neighbors are getting a Shih Tzu, a small black and white ball of fur that, if past experience is any guide, will be a yapper.

Is this evidence of a newly developing demographic for our neighborhood? As with the kiddy boom, are we now destined for a doggy boom? Oreo will doubtless be thrilled but I’m not sure I’ll adjust quite as well.

If and when the street is overrun with canines and kids, I think I’ll graduate to official codger status. Then I can spend my days yelling at all of them to get off the lawn and waiting for the inevitable kid and dog-free stage that will come, by my calculation, in about fifteen years.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Oreo Escapes

Last night, I almost sent Oreo to his demise. All this time, I've assumed that he wouldn't sneak out the front door. I've never seen him do it so I figured he just wouldn't. Needless to say, I was wrong.

While I was going in and out putting papers in the black box for recycling, I wasn't really paying attention. When the flyer delivery woman showed up at the same time I was making my third trip out the front door, we scared the heck our of one another. As I held the door open and was apologizing to her and taking this week's armload of flyers for the black box, I guess Oreo must have sneaked out the door.

I went back in the house and about two minutes later I heard the doorbell. At the door were neighbors from three houses down and accompanying them, much to my surprise, was Oreo.

Apparently Oreo was enjoying his newfound freedom by following the flyer lady down the
street as she made her deliveries. Luckily, our neighbors recognized that this was not a desirable situation and managed to lure him back to our house.

Given Oreo's youth and naivete, it's hard to say what might have happened to him if he hadn't been rescued. All I can say is that I'm glad we didn't have to find out.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Spring has Sprung

Now that spring is definitely here, I've discovered some additional changes that Oreo has made to our life. First, of course, was the discovery of a backyard full of dog poop that appeared after all the snow melted. That wasn't so bad since Cheryl had been making regular poop patrols throughout the winter. Thus, there wasn't that much left when spring arrived and a couple of quick cleanups managed to get rid of most of it.

One minor complication arose from all this waste removal. We are part of a City of Ottawa pilot project for the recycling of organic waste. As part of that project, we get a large, wheeled, green container that we fill with food waste, leaves, yard waste and just about anything that decomposes (short of human remains). Since animal waste was on the list of acceptable materials, I cleverly decided that on the rare occasion that I disposed of Oreo's poop, I would dump it in the green container.

This environmentally friendly approach seemed to be working well throughout the winter. But springtime revealed a minor flaw in my plan. A layer of Oreo's droppings had settled at the bottom of the green container and, after the spring thaw, had managed to congeal there. Even when the garbage collector emptied the container, there still remained an unwanted layer at the bottom.

It was Cheryl who discovered this unwanted gift and spent part of one afternoon cleaning out and disinfecting the container. When I returned home that evening, she advised me (or actually ordered me) never, ever to throw Oreo's poop in the organic collector again.

Spring has also revealed another gift that Oreo has given us - a backyard full of sticks, balls and toys. Last summer, I hadn't really noticed an unusual number of these items in the yard. But with the departure of the snow, it became readily apparent that our dog had accumulated a wealth of things to chew, bite and otherwise play with. Given the number of such items, if I didn't know better, I'd assume that we were running some kind of doggie daycare.

A third gift has been bestowed upon us by Oreo this spring. Thanks to his frequent outdoor urination (which, by the way, I am very thankful for, considering the alternative), we now have a large number of yellow areas on our side and back lawns. Not that our lawn was ever much to look at before. But now we are quickly becoming the shame of suburbia.

A fourth present results from Oreo's racing about the backyard. As he flies back and forth, he inadvertently digs up the flower beds, leaving ruts and holes where his paws have passed. And then there are the holes that Oreo deliberately digs up. With every passing week, our backyard is looking less and less like a candidate for Better Homes & Gardens and more like a set for a war movie.

All this to say, we have doubled our annual expenditures on grass seed, topsoil, fertilizer, mulch and any number of other lawn and garden spreadables. I fear that with Oreo in the picture, this annual fight to retain our lawn is now a losing battle. Perhaps it's time to throw in the trowel and realize my longstanding dream - an entire yard covered with Astroturf.

Monday, May 08, 2006


It's A Dog's Life

It really is a dog's life. After this weekend, I've concluded that Oreo has a more active social life than I do. While I spent most of the time doing chores and watching TV, Oreo went to a party and had two Sunday excursions.

First, the party. Saturday was the birthday party for Oreo's pal Mickey who had just turned one. Yes, it was a doggie birthday party complete with a meat-based cake and loot bags for the guests. I suspect that an obedience school graduation party can't be far behind.

Although I didn't attend, I got my secondhand reports from Cheryl and my niece Shayla. While five dogs played in Mickey's backyard, the owners socialized inside. Everyone enjoyed themselves and there were no fights or injuries. The dogs also got along well.

Sunday's first excursion was a trip to the local dog walk. The only difference from past visits was that I went along for the first time. It was an interesting outing from my perspective as I got to see Oreo play and interact with dozens of different dogs. There was everything there from a Mini Schnauzer to a St. Bernard.

Oreo would run ahead and check out the next dog he met. That involved the mandatory sniffing of body parts and, if the other dog was willing, a bit of wrestling and running. On occasion, the playing would get a bit animated and we'd have to call him and move on.

An hour walk around the area managed to tire Oreo out. But that wasn't the end of his event-filled day. Later that afternoon, Cheryl took the dog on a hike with friends and family to the Gatineau Hills. That involved a two-hour walk and lots more exercise for the pup.

By the time Cheryl and Oreo got home, he was dead tired. Although he doesn't usually lie down for the night until 9 o'clock, this time he was out for the count by 8. As I headed off to bed at 10:30, I looked in the living room and saw Oreo lying on his big doggie pillow with his head flopped over the edge onto the floor. Apparently it's true that a dog can have too much fun.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Oreo And Me

Last night while watching the hockey game, Oreo and I had a long, overdue chat. I complimented him on his generally satisfactory behavior but I made it clear that he had become a very expensive dog and that things would have to change.

I took from Oreo's silence that he was a bit put out by my criticism. Nevertheless, I continued with my admonitions. I urged him to avoid any unnecessary medical trips to the vet. I patiently explained that by taking adequate precautions, he could steer clear of infections in his eyes, ears and urinary tract. I also reminded him that avoiding nails, fences and large, nasty dogs would significantly cut down on the need for stitches.

Oreo seemed to be receptive to these warnings. He stopped brooding and asked to play fetch with his chew toy which I took to be a sign that he understood what I was telling him.

Once I got on to the financial matters, however, Oreo quickly lost interest. He simply didn't want to hear about the continuing expenses that his presence has incurred. I urged him to seek employment or otherwise help to defray the costs of his room and board.

Oreo's only response was to bark repeatedly. Apparently this was his way of saying "I'm still only a puppy and not in a position to earn any significant money. You're a writer. Why don't you get off your butt and write a bestselling dog memoir like Marley and Me?"

I patiently explained to Oreo that books are not easy things to write and that any such venture would require his cooperation. At that point, he turned and walked upstairs apparently wishing to give me the message that this was essentially my problem.

As it stands, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

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