Why a Greyhound

Greyhound

Rachael wanted a dog. I didn’t. We began discussed compromises. I suggested maybe a picture of a dog. She said no. I said maybe a child. She said no. I said how about a dog breed with fewer of the canine traits that bother me? Finally, we were getting somewhere.

In hindsight, my demands were both unreasonable and honestly a bit prissy. I didn’t want the dog to shed, because I hate having pet hair on my clothes and worried about it affected my mild asthma. I didn’t want it to jump on me, because that freaks me out. I didn’t want it to lick me, because I wash my hands like 100 times a day when they’re not covered in slobber. Just thinking of the phrase “dog kiss” sends a shiver down my spine. The less barking, the better.

At first, we considered a golden doodle. They don’t shed (and are often referred to as hypoallergenic, which seems like a funny label for anything other than a pillow), since they’re part poodle. And they’re smart and easily trained, since they’re part golden retriever.

But as we began scanning adoption sites and visiting the humane society, we realized that golden doodles were basically never available for adoption. They’re such good dogs, owners don’t often give them up. If we wanted one, we would probably need to get a puppy from a breeder. Two problems with that: One, these puppies can cost more than $1,000, and two, puppies suck.

If you ask me, adult dogs have too much in common with infant humans, mostly their inability to talk, which makes meeting their needs a constant guessing game. But a puppy would be infinitely worse. I couldn’t imagine covering our historic hardwood in newspapers while we tried to house-break a baby dog.

So we widened our search to other breeds. Maybe a standard poodle, which still wouldn’t shed. Rachael lobbied for some pathetic-looking mutts from various adoption groups, emailing me cute photos and trying to make me feel guilty. We came close to adopting one dog that had been rescued from the streets of East St. Louis, but shied away when we found out it needed expensive allergy medicine.

Eventually, after I heard a radio ad that mentioned the group, we ended up on the website for Rescued Racers. Immediately, the thought of adopting a retired greyhound appealed to me. I’m a sports guy, and while I’m unsure how to feel about the morality of dog racing, I was intrigued by the idea of owning a dog whose statistics I could quote. They’re beautiful dogs, with their long legs and majestic gaits. Plus, I figured I could take a greyhound running with me.

The more we read about them, the more we liked. Greyhounds have short hair and hardly shed. And they’re known as the “World’s Fastest Couch Potatoes,” because they love nothing more than to lie around and sleep all day. Generally speaking, they don’t jump or lick, bite or bark. Adult greyhounds coming off the track are basically house-broken, since they know not to go in their kennels, and they’re comfortable around people and other dogs (though many of them would love to eat your cat, which didn’t bother me at all). Greyhounds are known as “magnet dogs,” sticking close to their humans and sharing Rachael’s passion for cuddling.

The only big surprise was that greyhounds, who max out over 40 miles per hour, don’t have the stamina to go running long distances with humans, since they’re used to sprinting for a half-mile or so and then sleeping the rest of the day. Jogging even a 5K would require quite a bit of training, working our way up slowly.

We contacted Rescued Racers and made arrangements to meet three dogs who were available for adoption. More on that next time.

Pound Puppy

I’m amazed by people who know how old they were for major life events. As a journalist, I end up asking a lot of people to tell me stories about their childhood. Somewhat regularly, they’ll say something like, “I remember when I was 7, my brother and I were wrestling when…”

My brain doesn’t work like that. I couldn’t name a single thing that happened when I was 7. Or 8. Or 9. I can tell you stories from when I was a kid—like the time I wandered away from a house party in Philadelphia and almost cost my parents their only child—but I have no idea how old I was at the time.

Which is all to say that I can’t tell you how old I was when we adopted my childhood pet, a beagle puppy from the pound that however-many-year-old me inventively named Pound Puppy. I’d guess that I was 3. Or 4 or 5 or 6.

Pound Puppy was a great dog. My dad took him hunting, and all these years later, he still talks about what a great rabbit dog Pound Puppy was. He’d scamper off through the woods, spot a bunny, howl, then chase Bugs back to dad’s waiting gun. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t cook, but one of my few culinary experiments as a youth was coming up with sauces for rabbit—the combination of yellow mustard and chili powder is less terrible than you might expect. I also have a scarred finger from a time I got too curious about a pot of boiling rabbit on the stove. All thanks to Pound Puppy.

There are aspects of life growing up on the farm that, as a city-dwelling adult, seem almost preposterous in hindsight. Occasionally, I would take Pound Puppy for a walk, which meant unhooking his chain from his dog house and letting him drag me down the dirt lane. In memory, the chain was about 10 feet long, and the dog followed his nose, not his child companion. Luckily, Valley Road didn’t see much traffic.

More often, Pound Puppy was simply allowed to roam the farm, wandering freely over the family’s hundred-odd acres. Now and then, he’d go “missing,” not coming back to his dog house by dark, but he always returned eventually, looking for a meal or missing his feline and bovine companions in the barn. He was part pet, part farm animal. He loved to get scratched behind the ears, and he’d flip onto his back so I could rub his belly, but my hand would always come away black, proof of the dog’s never-ending outdoor adventures.

My father believes that there is one thing separating people from animals: People live in the home, and animals don’t. He believes that letting a dog in the house means that it’s no house at all—people with indoor pets are living in a barn, they just don’t know it. Dogs shed all over your clothes, piss on your carpet, and ruin your furniture. Conservatives like to complain about welfare recipients who have cellphones, drive nice cars, or worst of all, smoke pot. My dad, a Democrat, finds it objectionable only when people of little means waste their money on pets. And don’t even get him started on cancer treatments for animals, an incomprehensible waste of money and brain power. Luckily, Pound Puppy passed peacefully one New Year’s Eve, after only a short period of failing health.

I inherited more than a little of Dad’s world view. In college, when I met my future wife, Rachael, and we began to discuss our future lives together, I explained that I had only one nonnegotiable policy—no dogs in the house. If she wanted a pet, it would need to live under the stars, as God intended. In addition to my dad’s feelings about fur and furniture, I also tend to tense up around dogs. I’m not sure why, but they just make me feel uncomfortable. Being licked by a dog would rank up there with getting poked in the eye and being kneed in the groin on my list of least favorite touches.

I held firm in my anti-dog position for 8 years. But Rachael tends to get what she wants eventually. (When she read that sentence over my shoulder, she suggested I change it to, “Rachael is a loving person, and I like to make her happy.” My point exactly.) This summer, she started pushing hard on me to reconsider my stance on potential pets.

In the end, I caved (more on that in future posts). Despite weeks of seemingly endless discussions, I’m still far from sure it was the right decision.

My plan is to use this blog, which I haven’t posted on in years, to chronicle my experience as a reluctant dog owner. Bring on the barking. (Not really; our dog will keep quiet.)

The Great Rivera Remembered

I can’t say how many times I’ve seen Mariano Rivera pitch.

That might seem obvious. Why would anyone keep track of something so trivial? But in a way, it’s surprising, too. For one thing, I have a minor obsession with lists. More or less everything on this website is a list of one sort or another: a list of stadiums, a list of books, various lists of accomplishments. For another thing, I have a major obsession with Mariano Rivera. To put it simply, he was (and is) my favorite player. Of course, choosing a favorite player is an important moment in the life of any young sports fan. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling a special connection with the man I chose, even though we have never met. And I didn’t just pick any old favorite player. This was the great Rivera, the greatest closer who ever lived, who will ever live. This was a noble man who spoke softly, smiled, and then sawed your bat in half with devastating cut fastball after devastating cut fastball. The phrase “role model” is used far too often in sports, but Mariano is a superb one, in every sense.

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RE: Charles P. Pierce’s Defense of Ryan Braun

As a reader, I have a strange relationship with the sportswriting of Charles P. Pierce. When reading his essays, I often find myself agreeing with his thesis, but disagreeing with the statements he uses to support it. I nod along with the headline, but then become increasingly annoyed—and occasionally incensed—as I move through the piece. In a way, that’s a testament to Pierce’s intelligence and originality. He’s a free thinker in a sportswriting world too often dominated by cliches and groupthink. But Pierce also seems to gravitate toward contrarian arguments, even if they play a little loose with reality.

I ran into this problem with Pierce’s recent essay in support of Ryan Braun, who had his 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs overturned on appeal. Pierce’s defense of Braun is not based on the urine-handling details of the NL MVP’s specific case. Instead, Pierce argues that the entire effort to rid baseball of performance-enhancing drugs “has been legally questionable, morally incoherent, and recklessly dependent on collateral damage to make its point.”

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Robbie Cano saves exhibition baseball

There’s been a good bit of talk (read: whining) lately about what has become of baseball’s All-Star festivities. On his podcast last week, Sports Illustrated senior writer (and my sports writing idol) Joe Posnanski and special guest Michael Schur (the artist formerly known as Ken Tremendous) bemoaned what they see as a laundry list of problems with the game.

As you may know, it all goes back to 2002, when the All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie because both teams ran out of players after 11 innings. That caused commissioner Bud Selig a great deal of embarrassment, especially because the game was played in his hometown of Milwaukee.

As a result, Major League Baseball has spent the past decade or so continuously tinkering with the All-Star format and selection process. The biggest change is that, in an effort to add meaning to the game, the winning league now receives home field advantage in the World Series. This has resulted in a number of bizarre contradictions: Continue reading

Feelings: Fifth Amendment, birthdays, Tiger

I have always been confused by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The language of the amendment is clear enough. It simply states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is, obviously, the basis for the phrase “plead the Fifth,” which is pervasive on television courtroom dramas.

But here’s my problem: When a person invokes his right not to incriminate himself, it seems to me that he is admitting his guilt.

The amendment says you don’t have to testify against yourself. But it doesn’t, at least not explicitly, allow you to withhold testimony in any other situation. You can’t refuse to testify for yourself; you have no right against self-exoneration. Thus, it seemed to me, a person can only invoke the Fifth Amendment if they did something wrong, something, um,  incriminating.

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Resolving to cut the fat

My father once told me the following joke. A man is at the doctor’s office and asks his physician, “Doc, if I never drink, never smoke, and never chase women, will I live forever?”

“No,” the doctor replies, “but it will sure feel that way.”

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Other than my two most obvious skills — breaking promises about this website and annoying my wife — the thing in life I think I’m best at is setting goals.

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