Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Memo to Oreo

Here's a piece I wrote last year in hopes of getting it published. Instead it will now be foisted on the poor unsuspecting readers of this blog:


TO: Oreo
FROM: Dave (Nominal Head of Household)
CC: Cheryl (Spouse); Sarah (Daughter)

A belated welcome to the Martin-Brooks household. I know there was some initial reluctance on the part of some to your joining the family. But I am happy to say that, for the most part, we have ironed out our differences.

The fact that you are a Portuguese Water Dog is apparently a big plus in your favor. Since both Cheryl and Sarah are allergic to dogs, it was mandatory that any new member of the house be a non-shedder. As far as I know, despite my advancing years and increasingly hairy back, I, too, still qualify on that count.

As you may be aware, the family vote on your proposed membership was not unanimous. However, your candidacy did garner a clear two-thirds majority. Given the secret ballot nature of our quasi-democracy, I am not at liberty to divulge the specific breakdown of the vote. Suffice it to say, we are now all on board to varying degrees.

Initially, I would like to stress to you that your acquisition was not a frivolous decision on our part. I’m not sure if you are aware that Cheryl purchased you at two months old for the not insignificant sum of $1700. We are not asking you to contribute to that amount in any way. But I thought you should know that we are financially committed to your well being. Just to reassure you, please note that we paid nothing for Sarah and yet she is still with us ten years later.

You may have noticed other expenditures for your benefit. The high-end crate and the stainless steel dog food bowls are not inexpensive items. And, by the way, in case you’re wondering, the three baby gates blocking off the kitchen doorways did not come with the house.

I hope you are enjoying the $800 Afghan carpet on the stairs. Apparently that was purchased to help you avoid developing hip dysplasia. I only wish that it had been there ten years earlier to help with my arthritic hips. But, never mind; better late than never.

The $300 gate in the backyard was also a recent acquisition for your benefit. As were the various bricks and boards used to block off any exits under the fence. I get the sense that you are not fully appreciative of these improvements. Rest assured; they are necessary. Much as you think you can take on the neighbor’s cat, trust me, you can’t.

As for health care, I am told that you do not have any medical insurance coverage. That’s unfortunate. However, until you do, we are prepared to cover your vet bills including the upcoming neutering operation (don’t ask). I would only ask that you take appropriate precautions to minimize further expenditures on medical treatments. From now on, that means no more eating feces or rolling around in dead animal matter.

We expect all of our family members to be housebroken. If I am required to always put the toilet seat down, I trust that you can at least refrain from urinating or defecating indoors. I know the living room rug looks vaguely like a lawn, but please restrict yourself to the real lawn. After all, it’s not as if we’re asking you to pick up after yourself.

Our expectations for you are fairly modest and I believe entirely reasonable. In return for three meals a day, assorted treats and at least two walks, all that we ask is that you feign excitement when we come home and occasionally sit and/or lie down on command.

As for schooling, we were pleased with your recent satisfactory performance at obedience school. However, we do not foresee any postgraduate studies for you in the near future. In fact, if the slipper chewing and failure to come when called continue, it is possible that you will be repeating obedience school, possibly with a private tutor.

I believe you have already recognized and accepted Cheryl as the alpha bitch. I understand that I am supposed to be the alpha male. Let me just say that I am a tad disappointed since your behavior to date suggests otherwise (e.g. - biting, barking and general disobedience). I’m not going to press the matter right now but this will have to change.

Which brings me to the subject of walks. In keeping with the original terms of ownership, walking you is not my primary or even my secondary duty. You are to look to Cheryl and Sarah for the performance of this particular function.

That is not to say that I am averse to the occasional walk with you. I am concerned, however, that the gradual increase in the frequency of such walks over time may result in my ‘de facto’ membership in the ranks of other aging males on our street who seem to be the only ones walking the family canine before sunrise, after sunset and during any outbreak of significant precipitation. This matter should be revisited periodically to prevent any further drop in my already tenuous standing in the family hierarchy.

Notwithstanding the concerns expressed in this memo, I anticipate a cordial, dare I say friendly, relationship developing between us over time. Once you have learned to stop chewing anything within reach and to cease eating non-edible items, I fully expect that we can spend many pleasant years together on or near the rec room sofa watching sports, drinking beer and/or eating dog biscuits.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Here's the other picture that Citizen photographer Jean Levac was kind enough to send me. Again, it's pretty clear who owns the sofa.

Cheryl agreed to take Sarah to her dance class tonight. So I volunteered to take Oreo on one of our infrequent neighborhood walks.

All went well. No dead animal eating, no cat chasing and no leash tugging. And best of all, no poop scooping by yours truly.

The one interesting moment came when we encountered a local dog owner walking her three dogs, none of which was as big as Oreo. Oreo was happy to see them and then, to my surprise, he became all submissive, lay down and let the other dogs have their way with him.

All this was very puzzling to me until the owner mentioned that all three of her dogs are female. 'You're not so dumb after all Oreo', I thought to myself, although surgery has ensured that there's not a whole lot he can do to follow up. Oh well, he sure seems to like getting poked, prodded and sniffed anyway.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The Photogenic Porty

Jean Levac sent me this photo today. He's the photographer who took our picture for my recent travel piece in the Ottawa Citizen. As you can see, Oreo not only rules the sofa, he rules the entire family. And for those who missed it, here's my Citizen piece:

"The dog days of holidays: There's something wrong when your pet enjoys your vacation more than you do"
The Ottawa Citizen
November 4, 2006 - Page: L4
Section: Style Weekly: Travel & Leisure
Byline: David Martin

It used to be that when our family headed south for March break, the only things we had to worry about were finding our passports and getting to the airport on time. But now, thanks to Oreo the Portuguese Water Dog, we have another concern.

Since his momentous arrival as a puppy the summer before last, nothing has been quite the same. A kitchen that hadn't seen baby gates in years quickly became a three-gated fortress. And a backyard fence that had more holes than Swiss cheese had to be secured on all fronts.

But as time passed, we all adjusted to our new Oreo-filled life. Except for me. From tripping on dog toys to stepping in dog pee to writing frequent, three-figure cheques to our local vet, I was finding it hard to warm up to our new four-legged friend.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to me that when we were preparing for last year's spring break getaway, I started to worry about how Oreo would fare in our absence. Luckily, Cheryl had taken extra pains to ensure that Oreo's week would be as trauma-free as possible. Rather than book him into a standard kennel, she discovered a doggie resort out in the country that featured a large fenced-in play and exercise area.

For $16 a day, Oreo would be boarding on the main floor of a country farm house with seven other canine guests. Instead of spending his week in a wire cage, he would get to spend it "free range" with some new friends.

Still, I couldn't help thinking that the separation would be hard on the dog. But it turns out that my fears were misplaced. Instead of worrying about how Oreo would make it through the week, I should have been more concerned about how I would do.

Our one-week stay at an all-inclusive, five-star, newly-renovated, over-hyphenated Caribbean resort got off to a great start. And for Cheryl and Sarah, it continued with a great middle and a perfectly fine end.

As for me, I developed a nasty case of bronchitis two days into our stay and spent much of the holiday hacking, coughing and whining. But at least I could lie in the sun and nurse myself back to health. What about poor Oreo, I thought?

In retrospect, I shouldn't have been wasting my worry on Oreo. He was having the time of his life.

The day after we got home, Cheryl drove out to the "resort" to pick up the dog. According to the resort owner (who doubles as the "concierge"), Oreo spent most of the week playing with another puppy his own age. Since the dogs had the run of the main floor of the house, he also warned her that Oreo might have picked up some bad habits.

Yet when Cheryl got home, something wasn't right. Although Oreo was happy to see us, he seemed tired and listless.

Once again, I worried about the poor pup. Maybe the week away was too much for him. It seemed as if he was slipping into a depression.

By the next day, it was clear that my concern was once again misplaced. Oreo was back to his old self. He hadn't been depressed; he was just exhausted. He'd had so much fun playing with his new pals all week that he needed a rest from his vacation.

And that's just what I needed -- a rest from my vacation. A few days lounging on the sofa would surely help me shake my Caribbean chest cold and get me back to normal. The only trouble was that one of those bad habits Oreo picked up at the "resort" was sleeping wherever he wanted to, including on the sofa.

Based on last year's experience, I'm thinking that maybe this year we won't go anywhere for March break -- except for Oreo. He can return to the doggie resort and I can get my sofa back, at least for a week.

David Martin is an Ottawa writer who blogs at
Photo: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen / After a week away from his owners, Oreo, the Portuguese Water Dog, believed the couch was his.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Oreo Becomes a Toy

The other night, Oreo got hold of one of Sarah's little stuffed toys and wrestled it into submission. The results of the one-sided battle were spread out on the living room rug for me to see the next morning. There was a head, an empty body and a few hundred beads that made up the stuffing for the now-deceased toy.

When Sarah woke up and saw the devastation, she wasn't upset by the loss of her toy. Rather, she was concerned because she was pretty sure the toy had a squeaker inside and that maybe Oreo had swallowed the squeaker.

It's been three days now and it still remains a mystery as to what happened to the squeaker if, in fact, it ever existed. One possibility is that it has passed through Oreo and is lying in a pile of dog poop in the backyard. The other possibility is that it has lodged in Oreo's entrails thereby making him the first living, warm-blooded squeeze toy. The next time someone squeezes the pup around his middle, we may hear a once-familiar squeaky sound. The final possibility, of course, is that we will soon be making our umpteenth trip to the vet for an expensive squeakectomy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Meeting the Relatives

Cheryl left voting in the municipal elections last night to the last minute. So when she arrived at the local community center just before 8 P.M., she happened on a dog obedience class. One of the pupils was a black and white female Portuguese Water Dog with the same type of markings as Oreo. After voting, Cheryl rushed home, picked up Oreo and tracked down the owners of the other dog.

It turns out that the owners inherited their three-year old PWD from another family and their dog comes from the same kennel as Oreo. Cheryl suspects that Oreo and this other dog share the same father since Oreo's father has the distinctive markings they both bear.

Meeting the relatives has a different meaning in the doggie world since one male may have sired dozens of offspring. Then again, with our new world of multiple and blended families, maybe we're not so different after all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


The Porty Walk Redux

Despite the miserable weather, Cheryl and Oreo headed off to Conroy Pit this afternoon to join the monthly Porty Walk, a gathering of local Portuguese Water Dogs and their owners. I passed on the opportunity and chose instead to enjoy the dry warmth of our house while watching football on the tube. Sarah and her friend Bridget also opted out as they were busily engaged in a day-long marathon of Sims2 on the computer.

Cheryl returned with a wet dog and a report of a gathering of nine PWDs. She was hoping to meet one of Oreo's siblings but none was there this time. In fact, none of the eight other PWDs was from Oreo's home - i.e. - Lowport Kennels. But maybe the poor weather kept the numbers down and Oreo's search for a family member will bear fruit next month. Given that it will then be December, chances are I'll be taking a pass on the next Porty Walk, too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Dog House of Commons

Sometimes Oreo's blog overlaps with my political satire blog as in this piece which was a near miss for the op-ed page of the Chicago Tribune:

Ruff-ruff. Woof, woof, woof.

Hi, I’m Oreo. I’m a Portuguese Water Dog and my so-called master has agreed to translate my remarks for this piece.

I’ve never written an op-ed essay before. Heck, I’ve never even written a letter to the editor. But this latest kerfuffle about what somebody named Peter MacKay apparently said has really got me steamed.

The other day I was lying in front of the TV licking myself while watching Question Period on CPAC. I heard some guy say to this Peter fellow: "What about your dog?" Peter replied: "You already have her" and then pointed to an empty seat where his ex-girlfriend usually sits.

Well, everyone’s in an uproar saying how it’s so cruel and demeaning that this guy should compare his ex-girlfriend to a dog. The ex-girlfriend is named Belinda and she’s all upset and demanding an apology. Peter denies saying what he said and refuses to apologize.

Frankly, if anyone deserves an apology, it’s me. I am really, really ticked off. What is wrong with being compared to a dog, I ask you?

Personally, I can attest to the fact that some of the nicest animals on earth are dogs. Now I’m not saying humans are ugly but without their clothes on, they look pretty funny.

And while some of my best friends are human, their race as a whole is not a model for good behavior. I’m not going to start pointing paws but I don’t recall dogs starting any wars. And when it comes to pollution, the odd poop in the park is nothing compared to what humans have done to this planet.

This Peter guy should own up to what he said. Heck, he should take pride in what he said. In my view, there is no greater compliment than being compared to a dog. As you know, we are loyal and friendly and, if I do say so myself, some of us are very attractive.

And where does this human Belinda get off being offended? Peter pays her one of the highest compliments there is and she’s all "He’s rude, boorish and sexist."

You’d think that somebody called her ugly or something. Instead she was compared to the best looking animal around.

Now I’m not a big fan of most humans but I have to admit this Belinda woman is not bad looking. In fact, she kind of reminds me of a certain Afghan Hound named Misty who I’ve been checking out lately at the local dog run.

I think both Peter and Belinda are acting like real dog haters, caninists if you will. Peter should openly and honestly say that he genuinely thinks Belinda is a dog, a real bitch if you will. And for her part, Belinda should graciously accept the compliment and tell Peter that she thinks he would look great naked on all fours with his tongue hanging out. Then they could sniff each other’s butt and put this nasty episode behind them. After all, it’s not like anyone hurled a real insult and compared someone to a cat.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


What Kind of Wine Goes With Dead Squirrel?

Cheryl returned from her walk with Oreo at Conroy Pit today to announce that he again ate something disgusting. Since he's off his leash at the dog walk, it's often difficult to see what he's ingesting. But Cheryl managed to catch up with him in time to see what appeared to be a hairy haunch of dead squirrel disappear down Oreo's gullet.

I'm glad I wasn't there to see Oreo's latest culinary adventure. Even if starving, I suspect I'd have a hard time scarfing down a piece of skinned and roasted squirrel. Imagine then, if you will, a piece of dead, rotting, hair-covered rodent sliding down your throat. And then imagine asking for more. Well, that's Oreo.

So long as I don't have to watch him chew on roadkill, I don't really mind what he eats. Except for the possibility that he'll get sick again. We already had one visit to the vet last month resulting from some unidentifiable meal that Oreo ate. If this is going to be a regular moveable feast, then we simply can't afford it.

Stay tuned to see if Oreo's future visits to Conroy Pit involve the wearing of a dead squirrel-proof muzzle.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Oreo the Celebrity

Well today Oreo made it into the Citizen. For those who have access to the paper, check out the Travel Section and the fabulous photo of the majestic PWD. Sarah's true owners, Cheryl and Sarah, look wonderful and I, of course, look like a grinning idiot. Oh well. Isn't that always the fate of the writer?

As noted previously, since the photo was taken, Oreo has been shorn and is but a shadow of his former self. But the hair will grow back and he will regain his former status. In the meantime, I'm going to ask the Citizen photographer Jean Levac if he could e-mail me the photo. Hopefully I'll be able to post it soon.

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