December 26, 2005


A Hankish Holiday

Yeah, yeah. Enough with the pictures. Let's open these bad boys already.

What the? Hey, I don't remember asking for rodents this year!

Okay, okay, so I let them do the ribbon thing. Just to show how gifted I am.

Man, Christmas morning sure can take it out of you. The squirrel and I finally tired of the chase and decided to do a little bonding.

After a rest, I was up for a trip to the beach, where I met another fashionably out-fitted bud. But, though it was the giving season, I wasn't offering up my floppy disk to anybody.

Alba came to visit over the holidays. She tended to want to stay in the dark, but she'd whisk by occasionally like some holiday ghost.

In the evening, we decided to have a Florida Christmas barbecue, and then came...


Hey, where you going with those dessert plates?

Totally spent.

Got to get some rest for New Year's Eve. Happy Holidays, everyone.

December 18, 2005



I somehow feel it coming on, even before Mike says, "Jason's coming today." When he says it, though, I rush to the French doors and use my snout to push aside the curtains, checking to see if he's coming up the walkway. Not yet. Calm down. Not yet.

So I lie down again, though the feeling builds. I doze by the door, waiting so long that I forget that I'm waiting ... or what I'm waiting for. Yet some part of me knows because I can feel it building still - some nameless shiver of excitement buried under the the half-closed, bloodshot eyes of a recumbent hound.

Then, just when the feeling starts to melt away, I hear it. Faintly. A car drives up. Who is it? A car door slams and my head rises. Then there are voices, low at first, then louder, approaching. I give a low woof. Then I rise, sure that they're ascending onto the porch. And they are! I bark. Alarm! Someone on the porch! Intruders!

"Hank!" he says, "it's me!" And so it is! My packmate Jason, grown pup of Molly and Mike, has arrived with friends. I pant hard and wag and wait for him to open the door. And when he does, that feeling that had been building all afternoon finally erupts. It takes me over from head to paw. I tuck my hind quarters and gallop madly away from Jason, circling around the dining room table, back through the chairs, and then, picking up speed I butt-tuck toward Jason. I nearly run him over but turn sharply in the other direction and butt-tuck into the hallway. The whole house bursts with my excitement that JASON IS HOME!!!

"Calm down, Hank," he says. But I won't! My body must express this Labrador joy, must sing this wild Labrador song. I must run in circles and figure eights, around furniture, up on the sofa and down again, turning up rugs and knocking over wooden chairs. Butt-tucking is the crazy, barely controlled music of my heart. I am a massive, lumbering Labrador no more. I am the living spirit of holiday happiness, more festive than the brightly lit tree, more merry than Christmas carols. Jason is home! Home! Home!

December 11, 2005


Dogs Created Unequal

Unlike humans, we canines don't think we're all created equal. Me, I tend to be polite to just about any dog. Still, I don't feel particularly submissive to (or even interested in) that Mini-Pinscher dancing around my heels. Though I do grow rather carefully respectful when some big ole Wolfhound decides to sniff my behind. We dogs know equality is overrated and that figuring out our position in the pack is something we've got to pick up quickly if we want to avoid having our fur fly.

But, the downside is that there are just so many differences to figure out if you're a dog, and for this I blame my breeding-crazed biped brothers. They've been shuffling our DNA like a pack of worn playing cards for thousands of years now. The result?

"The incredible physical and behavioral diversity of dogs - from chihuahuas to great danes - is encoded in their genomes," said Prof. Eric Lander, the senior author of a new report on the genetic code of dogs. "Of the more than 5,500 mammals living today, dogs are arguably the most remarkable," he notes. (Well, we agree about that!)

So now they think our doggish diversity will help them figure out exactly which genes are responsible for what. Pretty soon I expect they'll find the frisbee-catching gene and the housebreaking gene and don't-chase-the-cat gene and start putting them all in our dog chow or something. See, I don't much trust scientists, whom I consider several notches spookier than your run-of-the-mill veterinarian. They seem just too intent on slicing, dicing and pureeing our canine genetic code. I guess there aren't enough different breeds of guinea pigs, so they've got to run their instruments through our genetic code like Mike runs his fingers through my fur looking for ticks.

That makes us all Labs now: genetic laboratories in which humans can explore the most basic components of our doghood, satisfying their primate curiosity and looking, as always, for new tools to wield against the natural world. I hope it pays off for us dogs somehow. Maybe a natural resistance to kennel cough? The end of hip dysplasia?

Still, I worry. If old-fashioned humans broke our ancestors down into hundreds of different breeds, think about what new-fangled future humans might do. Please, scientists, be more humane than human. Don't fuse our genes with those of cats, squirrels or birds. Being a social animal is already plenty tricky for us diverse domestic canines. An alpha dog that squawks like a parakeet would be just too much to bear.

[By the way, The Bark has links to a number of articles on whole dog genome gig].

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