The Starving Activist is the sometimes-home for words. AR Neal (that’s me) finds them, cultivates them, and leaves them here. Enjoy.

November 16: The Alphabet Soup of Dog-dom

A - Alarm system: large dogs make great alarms. We had an attempted break-in a couple years ago; the perpetrators cut the screens on a few of our family room windows. However, the dogs showed up in short order and they changed their minds. Wise choice.B - Barking: see 'Alarm System'. Also, barking is a great way to communicate. One of our beasts likes to woof in response to the things we say. It can be quite comical, having a dog-to-person conversation.C - Companionship: it's great to always be the best thing, coming in the door of your house. No matter how long you've been gone, dogs are glad to see you. Walk out the door, go to the post box at the corner, and come back. See?D - Digging: many dogs are wonderful hole diggers. As a kid, I was determined to dig to the other side of the planet. Our dog was happy to assist. We lived near the beach and soon discovered there was a nice layer of sand beneath the topsoil that lovingly held the grass my dad was so proud of. We found mud after that. Unfortunately, our excavation was halted when my dad discovered our project.E - Eating: like some human children, dogs will teach you tons about eating. One of our dog children is skin sensitive. It's like he's gluten intolerant. Fortunately, he isn't alone so there are plenty of good dry food options out there that do not make him itch. He once had an allergic reaction -- his lips swelled, his windpipe closed part way. It was dreadful, but Benedryl was the cure.F - Fun: see 'Digging'. Building a good relationship with a dog or two (or more ... I'd love a couple more ...) is great for morale. Dogs are always up for some sort of mischief-making, games, or just snuggling.G - Growling: See 'Barking'. I wish it were okay for people to growl the way dogs do. Growling serves as a wonderful pre-warning to whatever noisemaking, fighting or somesuch that may follow. However, growling in proper tones can thwart additional noisemaking, fighting, or somesuch as well. Very useful.H - Heat: have you ever seen Inuit dogs? They snuggle together in the ice or with their people to generate heat in the freezing snow-covered plains of the north. Most dogs are happy to snuggle with their people -- at least ours are. The one in particular insists on touching one or both of us, each night. There is nothing like 70 pounds of fur-lined pup on a cold night.I - Intuition: not sure about the new neighbor? Let your dog get a look at him or her. Dogs are fabulous for reading who's good and who may be troublesome.J - Joy: if you are having a bad day, look at your dog. When his or her tail begins to wag, the tongue snaps out, and the eyes twinkle -- pure joy.K - Killer instinct: while people feel at ease with our domesticated companions, it is important to remember their origins. Note those sharp things in their mouths -- those teeth are like razor knives, ready to tear apart anything. The good part about that is, our dog children are often more than willing to use that instinct to protect us. We must not take their instinct for granted or abuse it.L - Love: it is unconditional when it comes from a dog. Part of the problem is when some jerk abuses a dog -- the dog is afraid and in pain but still has love. It is that love that allows the dog to go to a new person and lose the sense of fear that the original jerk tried to instill. We could learn a lot about love from dogs.M - Membership: see 'Pack'. When a dog (or multiple dogs in the case of a pack) takes to you, you have been initiated into one of the greatest memberships on Earth. There is loyalty and protection when your circle of friends includes at least one dog.N - Noise-maker: see 'Barking'. I once met a person who was dog-sitting. He told me that the owners of said pooch had removed the vocal chords, so the dog would not make noise. What? I was outraged. How horrid. How do you feel when you lose your voice, even from a cold? Not good, I'm sure. Imagine having someone knock you out and when you wake up, you can't talk. Same deal. I know there are folks who find dog barking an annoyance, but think of all the good noises they make as well. I wouldn't do without a single yip, bark, or growl.O - Odor: dogs have a smell, just like any other creature. When was the last time you checked yourself? Yep, odor. Some people have their dogs groomed regularly, which includes bathing with shampoos that smell like they came off the Redken shelf. The problem is, that's not how dogs are supposed to smell. And they will do whatever is necessary to correct the situation. Before you break the bank on the Paul Mitchell treatment for dogs, know that it is 99.9% likely he or she will dash to the back garden and roll in the first dirt patch found to rub it all off as soon as the treatment is finished. Let a dog be a dog -- I don't mean to let him or her stink to high heaven, but be prepared for a natural scent to be the norm.P - Pack: watch an episode of 'The Dog Whisperer' if you don't understand the pack mentality -- a whole post could be devoted to the topic. Suffice it to say that your back is always covered when dogs are part of the family.Q - Quixotic: the definition of quixotic is foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action. 2. : capricious, unpredictable (Merriam-Webster). Dogs will do whatever they feel is necessary to pursue their ideals and they are certainly unpredictable in many ways. Some might go so far as to suggest they are also 'extravagantly chivalrous', particularly when it comes to staying with an injured dog- or human-comrade.R - Rough: if you have larger breed dogs, they may seem rough in their play at times. Get ready for it, because if you are indeed a member of the pack, they will treat you like a dog. This means they don't realize you are not covered in protective fur and fat layers and that head-butting may actually hurt you. However, once you figure out how to play a bit rougher as well, the fun and love will only increase.S - Support: see 'Membership'. Like any close connection, dogs provide a level of emotional and psychosocial support. Why do you think there are so many service dogs? While I know some people have goats, cats, and other non-human supports, dogs seem to still be predominant employees in this area.T - Thorough: have you ever watched a dog as he or she hunted for something? I don't mean hunting in the sense of game -- I'm talking hunting for a missing toy, your fingers that you hid beneath a throw pillow, or that piece of popcorn you dropped accidentally. Dogs will not be denied when seeking something.U - Unique: no two dogs are alike, even if they are from the same litter. If you have siblings or are a twin (or other multiple birth child), are you exactly like your sister/brother? Nope. Dogs are individuals as well. If you have dog children from the same mom and dad, don't think they will be just alike.V - Vigilant: not only will dogs wait by the door or stay near the window to look for you when you go to work. Dogs are also quite vigilant when it comes to watching television. I turn on the living room set each day and our girl likes to lay on the couch to watch. If we put on 'How It's Made' (a show about building things), she watches all the movement. Animal shows are also a favorite, but I think she likes to watch the news most of all. Go figure.W - Waste: yep, we're talking poop here. If you have large dogs, you probably have lots of curbing to do. Our monsters have the back yard as their latrine, so Saturday mornings are scoop day. Living in the Southwest does have its benefits in this regard because after a few hours, all droppings are dry and without odor. If you do composting for the garden, having dogs could help.X - X-rated: it's true ... dogs have very few inhibitions. Engagement with private parts (their own or those of any other canine in the pack) is a regular occurrence. Your parts are not exempt from regular examination, either.Y - Youthful: my husband describes having a dog as akin to having a two year old for much of your life. Dogs are like young children who do not grow up -- they cannot feed themselves, they are emotionally needy, and they do not clean up after themselves particularly well. If you are not ready to live with a two- to four-year-old for anywhere from five to 20 years, a dog may not be the best companion for you.Z - Zany: need a laugh? Watch a dog. They chase their imaginations (and their tails), they scamper, they frolic, and can entertain themselves (and you) with little more than a ball, frizbee, or other chew toy.

And there you have it -- the alphabet according to dogs. This came to me as I cleaned their favorite bathroom place on Saturday (which is much better than a dissertation on dog droppings, which I could have offered with just as much ease ...) 

November 17: Meeting Icons

November 15: Little Pilar