Four Legs Good
Do pets know how attractive they are? Do they practise gorgeousness in front of the mirror when we're not looking? Because by gee do they ever know how to turn on the charm.
That tip of the head, that opening of the brow, those wide, liquid, pleading eyes - technically known as googoo eyes - are their tools of influence. Once deployed, they will drag your attention away from what you're doing and toward what the pet's current priority is - usually food, often cuddles, sometimes an attempt to tell you that it's really not their fault, that thing that just happened.
Classic googoo: Heidi the heartbreaker. Certain dog breeds - Beagles, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and others - are born with eyes that are pre-googooed.
Casper's intentions are snow white.
If I could, I would like to shake the hand of the man or woman who invented the cat flap. It is a marvellous invention, albeit not without drawback.
We have two in our home. One is set low in our back door, allowing the two Dachshunds to zoom through without needing to jump or climb; on the outside is a padded ramp to catch them, so they don't have too far to fall; Dachshunds have that disposition to back trouble, after all. In fact, the door is so sausage-dog-friendly that one of our dogs once took it at such speed that the door came right off.
Our other flap is in a french door off the living room, and had to be put in by a glazier. It's perfect for the cat but more of a hurdle for the low-slung dogs, so it's often locked. But it gives on to a gated deck - so the pets can head outdoors without being able to escape the section.
Cat flaps and dog flaps are probably as old as doors themselves. Someone in ancient times must have had the insight that if you built, or broke, a pushable panel into a door, your pet could exit without causing you to leave the comfort of your dung fire and your moss bed. Or your outdoor pet could come inside at will and help keep you warm and mouse-free.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? This is a question dog trainers are constantly asked. So instead of telling people "you can", I decided to try it for myself and try a new command on my 11-year-old Golden Retriever Oska. He knows most basic commands, so making an extra one is a little easier.
I thought I'd teach him something he didn't know that involved a few steps for you to try yourself.
The new trick is for Oska to not touch a treat that's on his nose, and to flick and eat it once commanded. This is made a bit easier because he already knows "leave", but this is a food-focused Golden Retriever that is aged 11!
For day 1 the main focus was trying to get Oska to put a treat on his nose and not eat it. For this I made him lie down and stay. I started with no treat but rewarded him for not moving his head at all. This is important because the treat will go here soon. Oska needs to be absolutely stationery for this to work, and putting on the treat too soon will backfire.
My rule of thumb for autumn here in dying, tumbledown Wellington is that on April 15 it's time to put away my short-sleeved shirts. This year, though, the season has been different. The sun stayed a little longer; it ordered an extra coffee and even hung around to check its phone. But then, as it had to, it paid its bill and left.
Now, the heaters are on, the windows are closed, the sleeves are long and the pets - the pets have become heat-seeking surface-to-soft-furnishing missiles. The imperative, as always, is to be comfortable, but in May that means being cosy.
A sociable, high-efficiency way of getting cosy is to get up close to a friend. These cosy cats are named Lionel and Richie. What a coincidence!
Chevy is in a ginger sandwich, comprising Cullen (left) and Nitro.
Obie is a tan-coloured, seven-year-old Dachshund who lives in Portland, Oregon. Lately he's become the world's most famous sausage dog.
Last year, this was Obie:
The standard Dachshund who should have weighed about 14 kilograms had ballooned to 35kg - overfed by his elderly, sick owners.
Obie was at risk of diabetes, skin problems, joint problems, breathing problems, arthritis, a shortened life - and for a Dachshund, excess weight is already taboo, given their tendency to suffer intervertebral disc disease.
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