Thursday, February 21, 2019

"Chad Smith: The Hamburg Years"

Sometimes I like to joke to myself that one day, when I become a big famous writer, publishers are going to want to have a look at all my stuff -- that is, writings of mine that haven't yet been published, and they are going to want to publish all the work in one or two or maybe even three big volumes.

And in my little fantasy, one of those volumes is called "Chad Smith: The Hamburg Years." Reason being: I have written so much stuff since having moved to Hamburg that hasn't been published. But so it goes. It's a part of being a writer.

Anyway, below is a piece that I tried furiously hard to get published in a dog magazine in 2014 but had no luck doing. It's a listicle: "10 Things You Learn About Dogs Only After Getting One." The article is pretty old, so the girlfriend I refer to is now my ex-girlfriend, but, hey.

So without further ado, I present to you the first piece from the very exclusive, very beautifully bound "Chad Smith: The Hamburg Years."


When I recently let my live-in girlfriend get a Weimaraner, I knew I'd probably have to get used to going outside several times a day for walks. I also knew our furniture might get chewed. After all, I had a general knowledge of dogs and all my friends who had owned dogs always told me about their experiences. I therefore thought I knew what life with a canine would involve.

But then we actually got the dog. And I quickly realized just how little I knew.

Who could have predicted, for example, that many puppies love to eat dirt or that dogs like to “investigate” when you and your significant other are getting intimate or that so many people are actually frightened of dogs?

All those things came as a major surprise.

Below is a list of some lesser-known, or lesser-discussed, facts about dogs and dog life -- facts one could only learn after getting a pooch and living with it for several months.

Many people are scared of dogs. Sure, one would expect that small children might be frightened of dogs, but it turns out that a very large number of adults are also seriously scared of canines -- even puppies. Just the other day on a public bus, a tough looking man in his 40s shrank in fear after our 7-month-old Weimaraner, Filou (FEE’-loo), walked past him. And then there was that tall stocky guy who was carrying groceries through the park and froze the moment Filou sniffed him. According to a Gallup Poll conducted in the early 2000s, dogs rank ninth on a list of Americans’ top 10 fears, just after flying in an airplane and mice. Some people, for religious reasons, are not even allowed to touch dogs and will hiss at your pup  and glare at you  if it comes too close.

Hundreds of people will stop you on the street to tell you how cute your puppy is. If you take your puppy to public places, prepare to be stopped -- and stopped a lot. Police officers who have caught site of Filou from their squad cars have shouted “nice dog” to my girlfriend and me; homeless people have stopped us to chat about the dog; an elderly woman continued to talk to me about Filou’s cuteness despite the fact that my girlfriend, who had just fished a piece of glass from Filou’s mouth, was upbraiding me for not watching her carefully enough.

The supermarket, the doctors office, the bank. People will stop you anywhere to talk to you about your puppy.

You will start to take pride in your dog as if it were your child. As soon as my pup started playing with other small furry friends, I began to hear myself say things like, “Filou plays so much more nicely than that other dog” or “That breed is not as smart as the Weimaraner.” In short, I began to view my dog as if it were a child. Research shows, though, that more and more people in the Western world are viewing their pets like children. One reason might lie in the fact that more Western couples are childless or are having fewer children, says Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia who’s written extensively on dogs. Another reason, Coren says, might revolve around the fact that more extended families are living further apart from one another nowadays. As such, grandma now only has her Shiba Inu to spoil because her grandchildren live so far away.

Your dog will not just lie down and relax when you are getting intimate with your partner. Before Filou, I had only owned cats. And felines usually just lie in a corner or hide when you’re getting down to business. So imagine my surprise when my girlfriend and I were getting intimate and our dog behaved “differently.” On several occasions Filou actually jumped into the bed to have a look around. Another time, she tried to tuck herself between us. One reason for this behavior, says Nathan Williams, a Sydney, Australia-based dog behavior specialist, is that during sex, a person’s sweat glands and pores open, respiration quickens and adrenalin is released. The human body, Williams says, is in a similar state when a person invites a dog to play. So the dog might just be getting confused.

Puppies love to eat dirt. And about everything else. I always knew dogs loved to eat. But I never knew that if given the chance, dogs would plop down on the sidewalk and continually lick the dirt lodged in the cracks of the pavement. I also never knew that most puppies will put everything they come across into their mouths. They won’t necessarily eat the item, but they’ll investigate it. Dr. Terry Curtis, a veterinarian and a clinician at the University of Florida’s department of small-animal sciences, has an answer: “Puppies are ‘mouthy’ for the same reason babies are -- they’re going through the ‘oral stage’ and are processing their environment through their mouths.”

As for the dirt, a dog might eat it because it may simply be bored. Still, the behavior could be a sign of malnutrition or some other underlying health problem.

You will be automatically inducted into a new community. Milka, Ushi and Raisin. Know what those are? Just a few of the names of some other dogs that live in my neighborhood; I know many more. When you get a dog, you will quickly get acquainted with many pooches in your area, as well as their owners. And you will learn a lot. The owners will tell you about their pet history, what brand of dog food they use, who their trainer is. When it comes to the dogs, you’ll learn their names, ages, temperaments, ailments and more.

You will wind up getting a lot more exercise than you thought. Sure, you know that getting a dog would probably result in your getting more exercise, what with all those walks you’d have to go on. But what about all the other, smaller deeds you’ll be forced to do when you get a dog, things you probably never even thought about but still require much exertion, like yanking the leash every time your dog tries to pull you or going up and down your apartment stairs nearly a half dozen extra times a day.

Be prepared for a huge amount of love. I always knew dogs were loyal and did a lot of face licking. But nothing prepared me for the amount of love they actually show. Filou, for example, will jump in my bed, cuddle up with me nose to nose and simply look into my eyes. She even spoons me. If I’m in a lake, she will quickly swim toward me if I go under the water. She will seek me on command; curl up to me if I’m ill; position her body between my girlfriend and me if we are fighting. And perhaps best of all, greet me in the morning -- and that’s every morning, it turns out -- with a wagging tail.

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