Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bao and I both love food.

But (like French women who don't get fat) I like to take the time to savor and enjoy whatever I'm eating, especially when it's something I love -- like Maine lobster doused with melted butter, or chocolate cheesecake. I take little, tiny bites and concentrate on how delicious each mouthful tastes.

Not Bao. Paradoxically, the more he likes whatever he's eating, the faster he eats it. Last night, I cut the fatty part from the steak I'd just grilled into little chunks and offered them to Bao, one by one, not because I was being mean but because I wanted to make the treat last longer. Bao wasn't having any of that, thank you! He gulped each morsel down so fast I don't think he even had time to taste it.

The only things Bao eats slowly are things he doesn't like and eventually spits out. Mashed sweet potato and peas, for instance. That's supposed to be good for dogs. So I cooked up a batch and shaped it into little faux meat-balls. Bao daintily took one tiny little meat-ball into his mouth, chewed a couple of times, looked up at me, rolled his eyes and spat it out. But it had spent more time in his mouth than all the pieces of steak put together.

Maybe dogs don't have taste buds. Or maybe they only have negative taste buds, for things they don't like. There's a doctoral dissertation in here, somewhere.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I have this lovely photograph of me and Bao that I originally wanted to put on the back cover of Sea Changes (that's the title of my novel) but it didn't have enough megapixels so we both got groomed and I arranged for a friend of mine who's a photographer to come over for a photo shoot.

We had a beautiful day for it. Bao and me in the Arizona Room. Sunshine and palms and succulents. The plants were easy. But my neck was a problem.

Turns out that if I hold my chin up high enough to make the wrinkles on my neck disappear, you can't see my face. So that didn't work. Then I tried positioning Bao on my lap so that you couldn't see my neck, but he promptly started planting big, wet kisses all over my face. So that didn't work, either.

After a while, I gave up on my neck. I said, Let's just do Bao and me, side by side, both of us looking at the camera. But by now, Bao was totally fed up with the whole thing. He wanted to catch the bees buzzing around the lavender. He wanted to play with his squeaky toy. He wanted a cookie. What he didn't want to do was sit still and look at the camera. Finally I said to him, Will you just please sit there and act like you love me?

Here's the photo. It's not the one we're going to use on the book cover but I love it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So are we having lunch, yet?

Yes, Bao. Here it comes. Tortilla soup for me, dog biscuits for you.

Lunch in the garden is a treat in the middle of January, when just about everybody else in the United States is snowed in. That -- as they say -- is what makes southern Arizona special. But even for Tucson, this is really extraordinary weather. Global warming? Bring it on. Although I suspect we'll be singing a different song in July, when we're frying eggs on the asphalt.

I've finally figured out how Bao can know what I'm having for dinner before I even get it out of the freezer. He reads my mind. Probably, he reads the smells in my mind. When I think of a grilled steak or a grilled chop, I get a mental picture of it but I also have a sense of how it's going to taste and smell, and I think that's what Bao is picking up. The sizzle, as it were.

I test this out. Bao is fast asleep at my feet. I try concentrating on chocolate. I concentrate on how it smells, and tastes, and almost instantly, Bao wakes up and looks expectantly at me. But since there isn't any chocolate, he promptly goes back to sleep. QED.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If chocolate is so bad for dogs, why do they love it so much?

Animals in the wild tend to avoid the things that will harm them. Of course, wild dogs probably never got to taste chocolate -- the cacao nut is a pretty tough nut, and most dogs couldn't crack it on their own. They'd have had to depend upon their Mayan masters. (Did the Mayans have pet dogs?) But I'm thinking, where dogs are concerned chocolate must be an acquired taste.

Personally, I always thought it was the endorphins. Chocolate makes me feel good. So it most likely makes dogs feel good, too. But the first time Bao encountered chocolate, how did he know it would make him feel good? Why did he want it, even before he knew what it was?

(I must confess, these are the sorts of questions that occupy my mind when I wake up at 3 AM and can't get back to sleep)

Anyhow, it might not be the endorphins. Chocolate is sweet. And dogs (and humans) are genetically predisposed to be attracted to sweetness, which signals carbohydrate energy -- useful if you're running away from sabre tooth tigers and other such predators.

At this point in my meditations, I ate a Hershey Bar and prompltly dozed off. There's a lesson here, somewhere.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I like Cesar Millan. I don't always agree with him -- especially with the idea that dogs live always and forever in the present -- but I like him.

So I was quite pleased to be offered a complimentary copy of Mastering Leadership, Cesar Millan's new, three-volume set of DVDs including People Training for Dogs, Becoming a Pack Leader and Your New Dog: First Day and Beyond.

I expected to be entertained, but I didn't expect to be surprised. Be warned, this is a whole new Cesar Millan. This is fun!

Mind you, as far as Bao and I are concerned the whole "pack leader" thing is redundant. We've worked that one out for ourselves, and to our mutual satisfaction. And maybe Cesar would approve. After all, everybody's happy.

But there's lots more to these sessions with Cesar, and all of it is engrossing. He's actually got a sort of philosophy of dogs, and it's fascinating. Ideas get discussed, and developed. Anyone who loves dogs will love this set. And what a wonderful gift for the young (or not so young) person or family about to acquire a first dog!