True stories

Out of the mouths of babes…

One of our dogs was Ivan, who was a big, powerful shepherd. Ivan approached everything straight on and looking for a joyful fight. He bulldogged his way through life, bullying the other dogs and generally acting like a jerk. In fact, our son, DJ’s, first words weren’t “Mommy” or “Daddy”; they were “Ivan shut up!” because he heard it so often. Ivan was such a PITA that his nickname was “Ivan-the-Jerk”.

One afternoon when Derek was still a little guy he was chatting with us about a new friend named “Mitch”.

“I know a word,” Derek said, “that starts with a ‘B’ and rhymes with Mitch, but I can’t say it ’cause it’s not a nice word.”

“If you’re thinking of the word ‘bitch'”, I reply, “it’s a perfectly good word. Bitch just means ‘female dog’. It’s really not a bad word at all when you’re talking about dogs. It’s just not a nice word to use about people.”

“Hmm, okay.” replied Derek. There were a few moments of silence while he reflected on this. Then in a tone of discovery he said “Oh, I get it! Like roosters and hens! Girl dogs are called bitches! And boy dogs must be called jerks!”

From the Davis Dog Training Club Days


We used to track in a big cemetery/park in east Davis that was bordered on one side by houses. One day, while standing in line in the grocery store, one of the DDTC tracking regulars overheard a conversation between two people in line in front of him:

“You know, it’s the darndest thing. I live on the edge of the cemetery, and every morning I look out over my fence and see people with surveying flags and dogs. They set those flags in the ground and then make the dogs walk in straight lines between them. I think they’re teaching the dogs to survey!”


I wish I’d been at the dinner table for this one. A group of people were in a restaurant discussing the day’s events after a Sacramento Dog Training Club tracking trial. As usual, the discussion turned to scent theory: what are the dogs actually smelling, anyway? Is it skin rafts? Disturbed vegetation? Some combination?

“Screaming bugs!” someone said. “The dogs are following screaming bugs! They’re not really scenting at all. When you lay a track, you compress the ground, squishing the bugs, and that hurts! It’s the sound of the screaming that the dogs are following. A bloodhound’s long ears help direct the sound up — and he keeps his nose to the ground to hear better.”

Now people are adding their thoughts to the theory. “That’s why they do better in moist soil with green grass — there are more bugs! Too wet, and the bugs are drowning. Too hot and dry, and the bugs are cooked. Asphalt is difficult because there are only a few bugs per square inch: the dog has to work very slowly to follow the faint screams.”

I can only imagine how the rest of the conversation went… but it’s as good a theory as anything. And this, honest-to-God, is the origin of the Screaming Bugs Tracking Theory.

The Gene Pool

I was walking up near the MSU college campus one day, when I spied an Aussie puppy in a station wagon. I, of course, had to go over to see him. As I got closer, I could tell by his prick ears and snipey muzzle that he had probably been bred by our local puppy mill. Regardless, he was cute, and I was talking to him through the window when his owner came out.

He was very proud of his new puppy. As we stood and chatted in the shade, he told me:

“He’s purebred, you know. I could have gotten him with papers, but I’ve heard that mutts are smarter, so I didn’t.”

From the Vet’s Office


Our veterinarian is a fellow GSD fancier and dog sports friend. While she was working in a local clinic, they got a call one Monday morning from a client who wanted to know:

“What are the signs of death in a cat?”

The receptionist was very kind, and managed to tell her without laughing: “Well, you could check the blink response. Try touching the eyelid. If there’s no blink response, then it’s probably dead.”

The client said “well, his eyes are open and he’s staring straight ahead… hang on, let me try.”

When she returned to the phone, the client said “he didn’t blink. Does that mean he’s dead?”

Receptionist: “Yes, most likely…”

“Well, if that’s the case, then I guess he’s been dead since last Friday.”



The cat story reminded my vet friend of another story one of her professors had told her in vet school.

The professor was called out to look at a beloved horse who had been down for a few days. With vet students in tow, he went over to look at the obviously dead horse.

After a thorough examination, he went to the truck and got a syringe, returned and gave the horse a shot.

“What you need to do” he told the bereaved owner, “is roll him for the next couple of days. A couple of times a day, roll him from one side to the other. Call me if anything changes.”

He gets in the truck to leave, and the vet students follow him in shock. They are dumbfounded: there’s absolute silence in the truck. Finally, one student asks “um, you knew the horse was dead, didn’t you?”

“Of course I did!” the professor answered. “And after a couple of days of rolling him back and forth, I suspect they’ll figure it out too!”

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