Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A short hiatus

Because of the weather and me being out of town for the holidays (and the dogs in a kennel or a babysitter's home), we haven't been out at the dog park much. SusieQ's little paws don't seem to take well to ice and snow, so I might not bring her along every time. If I do, I might have to hold her for a good deal of the time.
Good thing she weighs only about 16 pounds, at last weigh-in.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

video link

This is great and a viewing I highly recommend.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Temperatures going south

Update on previous post: It's about a month later and a lot colder. Here in mid-Michigan we've had a fairly warm fall, but winter is coming. However, as long as I play "A Charlie Brown Christmas on CD" I think I'll get through it.
Another thing: It gets dark so soon, and unless I take off from work early, which I can't always do, sunny weekdays at the dog park might be history for a few months. A full moon, a snow blanket and a full-stratus sky help in lightening things up. The dogs don't seem to mind, though. SusieQ can follow a bouncing tennis ball fairly well in the darkness.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A good day at the dog park

I know, when is any day NOT a good day at the dog park. However, it was a Sunday, the weather was warm and sunny and lots of dogs were out. I hated to leave. Who knows when we will have such good weather again? However, if we all bundle up, we can have fun in the snow and stop off at Tim Horton's for hot chocolate and a shared peanut butter cookie on the way home.
Two Boston terriers were here today, and I got to rub Hamlet's forehead! All in all, not a bad day.
It's nice to have a positive outlook on things for once!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Busy time at dog park

The busy time at the Northern Tail Dog Park seems to be 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Of course, this will change, I presume, when we set our clocks back. Don't you think DPT (Dog Park Time) should stay the same? Now if I can just get the earth to quit tilting on its axis...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Josie column

My column on Josie:

2009 hasn’t been a good year for me, dog-wise.
First, I lost Tugboat, my bulldog/baby/love pig/big juicy in February. It was one of those “sudden illnesses” you read about in obituaries. In this case, it was a heart that just gave out.
The only other personal dog death I experienced was my pug Tonka in 2007. He died following dental surgery. As another brachycephalic (flat-nosed, squishy-faced) dog, it was a difficult go. He inhaled too much air afterward, which inflated his stomach and stopped his heart.
My latest heartbreak was last week. On vacation in Illinois, I received a call from the kennel. I learned that my Boston terrier Josie had developed an eye problem and had to be taken to the vet.
I knew she had some eye issues anyway, but they seemed to improve over the week.
Anyway, a return phone call resulted in me learning Josie had to go to MSU for further diagnosis.
I figured, well, the worst that would happen is that she’d lose one eye. Dogs live with one eye all the time, and even completely blind dogs have decent lives.

#A tough decision
I was sitting in the rain with my dad and sister on vacation in Illinois, watching my nephew’s football team lose. But that’s beside the point.
MSU called back with the worse-case-scenario news. I figured, well, do you what you have to do.
However, the cost to treat her was well into four figures. Considering some other health issues and Josie’s advanced age, it was decided it was time to let her go.
“Let her go.” Now there’s a euphemism, right up there with “put her to sleep” or “end her suffering mercifully.”
However, I suppose they all fit. Loving dog owners usually don’t make these decisions easily.
I’m pretty good at keeping back tears, but I couldn’t this time. As with Tugboat and Tonka, I didn’t have time to say good-bye.
I would have placed my hand on her little brown and white head, kissed her failing eyes and said, “Good-bye, sweetheart.” Because that’s what she was.
Josie had a difficult start. Best I can tell, for about six years she lived in a Missouri puppy mill. Puppy mills are awful places where dogs are kept in cages and allowed to breed like cattle. Their main purpose is to pump out puppies, not live a decent life enjoying grass, sunshine and hugs.
My mom and dad rescued her from the Animal Placement Bureau, for which I am a volunteer. Josie was one of my many foster dogs over the years, and my mom just thought she was the cutest thing when she saw her. (Josie’s a BROWN Boston terrier, a highly unusual color for this breed.)
My parents had Josie for about five years until my mom died last August. I decided I’d keep her in the family, so Josie became part of my household.
Three dogs ain’t easy, but Josie was fairly low maintenance. She had the annoying habitat of barking until you played tug-of-war with her, plus she scratched at my face when she wanted affection.
But I figured she didn’t get many charm-school lessons in her puppy mill.
I still fostered dogs, one of which was an adorable little pug named SusieQ. When Tugboat died, I decided to keep her.
So, instead of the Big One and the Little Two, it was the Little Three — Josie, SusieQ and Digby, another rescue dog that actually has a muzzle (he is a beagle/Chihuahua mix).
It was a nice little trio, one that fit at the end of one of those tri-leashes that latch onto one main long leash.
There were a few skirmishes. Digby is more than a bit alpha and likes to have first couch rights when it comes to nestling beside Mommy. However, the three cohabited well for the most part.

#A change
The last month or so, though, I noticed a change. Josie was becoming more affectionate toward me, wanting to be by my side more. And Digby was even starting to allow it!
I’m becoming more and more convinced that dogs sense a change in their essence — and possibly when their time on this earth is drawing to a close.
Unfortunately, as Josie’s eye was starting to worsen, she was unable to communicate to me in English how she was feeling. Sometimes a dog’s issue is noticeable, sometimes it’s not.
In this case, I thought it might be allergies, especially this time of year. Alas, that was not the case.
When I picked up my other two dogs from the kennel, I was handed Josie’s leash and empty collar. Boy, if there’s something sadder than an empty dog collar whose wearer is no longer among the living, let me know.
I’ll never forget Josie, just as I won’t forget Tugboat or Tonka. I hope she’s frolicking — with two good eyes — in a big field now with them, and my mom can hop in anytime she wants.
It’s something I hope to do when my time comes.

Christie Bleck is editor of the Ingham County Community News. She hopes to sometime foster another Boston terrier.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Josie R.I.P.

Josie went to the Rainbow Bridge this past weekend, when I was on vacation, of course. She had a very bad ulcer, and considering her age, it was decided it was best to let her go. I wish I could hug her once more. I miss my brown Boston terrier very much. This hasn't been a good year for me, dog-wise. First Tugboat in February, now Josie on my birthday weekend. I hope they are playing together now!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A day in the park

I still find it difficult, with basically a point-and-shoot camera, to catch fast-moving dogs in focus. However, I did manage to snap pics of Molly the muddy St. Bernard and Tia the poodle. Of course, they weren't moving quickly at the time. Anyway, I wish I'd taken a better photo of Elmo the bigger St. Bernard. I'll try to get him to pose next time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mosquito alert!

There are lots of them at the Northern Tail recently, so don't forget your spray!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Mall at Partridge Creek

I highly recommend this open-air, dog-friendly mall in Clinton Township. There are doggy-bag posts of course, plus lots of actual dogs, outdoor music and some stores that I believe allow dogs (might want to stay away from bringing them in the Swarovski store, though, with all that glass).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Two little bulldogs

There were two puppy bulldogs, 4-month-old Hamlet and 5-month-old Harley, at the Northern Tail Dog Park today. What are the odds? Made me really miss Tugboat, particularly when he was that piglet-sized. Harley got into the spirit eventually, and frolicked with Hamlet, who really likes chasing (at a quick speed for a bulldog) the other dogs. Along with SusieQ, two pugs named Lily and Louie (not sure of the name spelling) and a boxer of unknown moniker, it was a brachycephalic night. That translates to lots of squishy-faced dogs!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Business cards

I had some business cards printed with this blog's URL so folks who frequent Northern Tail can post announcements, rave, complain or whatever here. It has Tugboat's precious face, of course! Anyway, the announcement for Aug. 15 is: It's skanky on one end, but dry at the entrance! Plus, a few tennis balls have survived last weekend's rains.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When will it stop?

I still cry over Tugboat. When I think of him and the goofy things he used to do--writhe on his back like a overturned crab, bark at the bathtub faucet until I turned it on, sit under my big shrub like a jungle dog--I tear up. I still can't believe the Tugboat Years are over.
There better be a Rainbow Bridge!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Josie and Pigeon

Josie is buds with Pigeon the pitbull terrier. Here at the Northern Tail Dog Park, they are looking at something--I don't know what.

Dog park photos

It's hard to shoot photographs of dogs at the Northern Tail Dog Park. They move too quickly. Still, here are a few: SusieQ, safe in a "cave"; Boris the Airedale terrier; and my Sloopy. Certain dogs connect better with other dogs, such as my Josie with Bella the French basset hound and Sloopy with Sassy. I haven't quite figured out the doggie dynamics yet, but my research continues.
Other regulars at the "Tail" are Pete the Clod, the Labrador retriever who is unaware of his surroundings and is always knocking into someone or something; Carter the Labradoodle who resembles a large sheep; Aramis the Belgian sheepdog who covets his tennis balls; Bella the French basset hound (one of Josie's faves) and Bella the Wheaten terrier, who resembles her owner; and The Goose, who's just...The Goose.

Local dog parks

I hear Meridian Township is working on a dog park at Legg Park off Van Atta Road. That's a bit far for me, but variety is good, and if I'm on the east side, it might be worth checking out. I think Twitter has some information on it, coolcitydogs if I remember correctly.
Haven't been to the Soldan Dog Park lately, but might be worth a visit soon. There are more dogs there than my regular haunt, the Northern Tail Dog Park by the East Lansing Aquatic Center, but more amenities, such as potties for humans, a pond, an actual walking trail and a drinking fountain. Still, Northern Tail is much closer for me, plus really, all I want are an enclosed area, a pleasant natural setting, dogs and responsible owners.
However, a gazebo and coffee kiosk would be nice. Maybe someday I'll write my bestselling novel and buy these attractions for the park.
More later...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Four dogs in a car.

Four dogs in one vehicle, even little canines, is a bit much. However, I drove through a carwash this evening, and little SusieQ got nervous, having to nestle in my lap. Digby was in the back seat, Josie was a little more alert and Sloopy, I think, enjoyed all the extra noise. Figures.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


OK, I changed Snoopy's name to Sloopy because Snoogy, dang it, is a beagle's name!
It has been determined that Sloopy, after being groomed, is probably a schnauzer, not a cockapoo. Sloopy, although adorable, still is rambunctious.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Snoopy, a cockapoo (not a beagle), is our newest foster. He is friendly to the point of being underfoot almost ALL the time. Unfortunately, Digby is jealous and growls at the poor dude ever time he gets close to me, particularly when we're sitting on the couch. Not fully tapped into Digby's psyche, I assume he's very protective of me and/or wants me all to himself.
This is my main challenge now. Also, walking four dogs on leashes makes for a few tangles.
More updates to come...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New photo of SusieQ

This was taken early this morning. I swear, her eyes bugging out this much makes me nervous.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Back from kennel

I'm picking up the girls and boy at the kennel today. I wonder how three little dogs fare in one pen. They seem to do all right in short spaces. However, being in a different environment adds a kink to the mix.
Tugboat always loved the kennel...doggy camp!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Full house

I'm babysitting Otis, a puggle that gets along very well with SusieQ. Digby, the new alpha of the household, isn't taking to him much yet. Well, it's only a week. I look at SusieQ, and think, "Oh, there's a half-Otis!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My column on Tugboat

This is appeared in the Ingham County Community News a few weeks back:

SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I didn’t expect the sight of my right kitchen chair would spur tears. Sure, the wooden rods sometimes slipped off, and it was hard to dust between the spokes. Still, it wasn’t a major tragic occurrence in my life.
Then came the early morning hours of Feb. 17.
Tugboat, my beloved 9-year-old bulldog, was quite chipper the previous evening at the Northern Tail Dog Park in East Lansing. He even was getting “amorous” with other dogs and wobbling about like a brindle-and-white Jell-O mound just released from its mold.
Then around midnight he started getting chest congestion, followed by a nasty rattle and vomiting spells. Tugboat had been ill before, except he didn’t have a rattle, and that worried me.
I contemplated taking him to a 24-hour veterinary clinic, money be hanged. I didn’t like to see my poor boy suffer.
I felt a little elated when Tugboat hopped into the bathtub for a drink. Tugboat never did take to drinking out of the water bowls on the kitchen floor, preferring to sip from the very hard but very c ool running water from the faucet or the spigot on the outside of my house.
After getting his drink, Tugboat pushed himself out of the tub and walked to the hallway.
Those were his last moments.
Tugboat then collapsed on the hardwood floor. Picking him up, I saw that his eyes were open and he wasn’t breathing. In a moment of total denial, I hoped it was temporary and that I would be able to shake him out of it. I remember saying, “Tugboat, wake up! Wake up!”
It didn’t happen.
My lifetime of a happy, sometimes goofy co-existence with the love of my life was over in an instant.
Tugboat’s big heart just had enough.
And no longer would he rest his big head on the bottom rods of my kitchen chair, cooling his expansive belly on the floor. No longer would I see his pudgy, crossed back legs sticking out from under the table.
Even if he were in deep slumber in that chosen sleeping spot, which he often was, it was enough to know he was in my house and part of my world.
I was told later that it was good Tugboat went quickly and with me near him. I still couldn’t help but second-guess myself. What could I have done differently?
If congestive heart failure caused his respiratory problems and eventually stopped his heart — which is what I think happened — there was little I could have done. It was just Tugboat’s time to pass over the Rainbow Bridge, a term people use to describe a poem about “doggy heaven” and the fact they’re waiting there, healthy again, for their owners.
My neighbor hauled Tugboat’s lifeless body to the backseat of my car, and several hours later I transported him to my vet to be later cremated. One of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced — and probably will experience — was leaving Tug physically as he lay there on the table.
I knew that after I left the vet, I never again would touch him, or wrap my arms around his sturdy, barrel-like physique.
When he was alive and I sat there with Tugboat on numerous occasions, on my lawn, the living room floor or whatever, I contemplated that someday he’d be gone and I wouldn’t be able to caress him again. I knew that I’d long for the chances to experience these “Tugboat moments” again.
Unfortunately, I can’t burn these moments on a CD and relive them. And as much as I have these memories seared in my memory, it’s just not the same as actually living them.
Now I’m seeing and hearing things differently, post-Tugboat … the last time I heard this song, Tugboat was alive; the last time I drove past this building, Tugboat was alive. It’s like there’s this imaginary dividing line in my life, a before and after.
Now what?
I hope Tugboat and I will be reunited again, because I miss him terribly now and my grief is sometimes almost unbearable.
In strict anatomical terms,Tugboat was just a dog, 73 pounds or so of flesh, bone and fur and surprisingly not that much slobber.
In more humanistic terms, he was my soulmate, the dog who was with me when I was in despair one night after losing a longtime job. The dog who as a puppy reportedly fell asleep on a bag of pretzels. The dog who until he got used to riding in a car barked “Yowit! Yowit!” (Translation: “I don’t like it! I don’t like it!”)
I have several other dogs who will continue to keep me company, so I won’t lead a dogless existence.
However, I don’t plan to clean my kitchen chair anytime soon. There are a few drool marks on it, marks that contain my Tugboat’s DNA.
If there’s any more precious substance on Earth, I don’t know what it is.
Christie Bleck can be reached at (800) 543-9913, extension 504 or She will continue to talk about Tugboat at

I miss my boy.

The residual sadness is beginning to kick in. I keep thinking, when I'm at certain places, how Tugboat would have liked them. And I really miss giving him his "hello butt rubs" when I came home from work.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More on The 'Boat

Tugboat's remains have been returned to me, and they rest in his memorial room in a wooden box. What also "tugs" at me are the many bulldog statues in the room's "bulldog shrine."
I decided to keep SusieQ, but no dog will ever really replace Tugboat in my heart. It's like Dorothy Gale saying goodbye to the Scarecrow: "I think I'll miss YOU the most."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tugboat 1999-2009

My beloved baby died early the morning of Feb. 17. His big heart just gave out. Since he will live on in my memory, I will continue to post about him. I will write more when I'm not so heartsick.
Oh, the "curse" of loving a short-lived breed. Bulldogs tend to live between 8 and 10 years, and Tugboat was about 9 years and 3 months.
I hope he had a happy life. I know he made my life much happier.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New foster dog

A new little foster pug, SusieQ, has entered our household. Tugboat is fairly oblivious but Digby is a bit jealous. He will have to deal with that.
I have to break Tugboat of his habit of wanting to drink from the outside faucet in the dead of winter. I got it open last night, but had to ask the neighbor to turn it off as it became stuck. Outside faucets are long as it's the warm season. The bathtub will have to suffice for Tugboat's drinking needs during the winter.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The greyhound story

I saw Candi the greyhound at the Northern Tail Dog Park a few days ago. I tell some people that Tugboat used to be a greyhound but ran into a wall, became compacted horizontally and was unable to exercise, hence his porcine, unstreamlined appearance. Got a laugh out of Candi's owner from that tale.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tugboat update

I haven't updated this blog in a while because I'm too busy playing Pac-Man! Anyway, Tugboat has been gorging himself with the Monterey Jack/colby Kroger cheese combo I feed him (and myself). Digby and Josie like it too. But what dog--or human--doesn't like cheese?
Anyway, I might have to make a cheese run tonight because we're out of it!