Letter to Santa

Red-Christmas-decorations-christmas-22228020-1920-1200Dear Santa,

My name is Scruffy and I’ve been a very good dog this year.

I protected our home from various attempts by the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx delivery persons to enter the premises. I stopped them at the front door every time!

I’ve cut back considerably on my nighttime real-time news alerts. (I thought regular announcements on the activities of skunks and possums would be a useful service for the neighborhood. Apparently not.)

I have kept a very close eye on the neighborhood cats. (Let me know if you need any data for your naughty/nice list.)

On Christmas Eve, I recommend avoiding the roof, but you’re welcome to use my doggy door. If you don’t fit, say “ho-ho-ho” and I’ll wake up and give you a paw.

I’ll be waiting with as much patience as a terrier can muster.



Homeland Security, Canine Style

Regardless of breed or training, all dogs perform some level of home and land security. Even toy-sized dogs can be ankle-biters to defend their families. (In fact, toy breeds often perform better than larger dogs. Have you ever seen an Irish Wolfhound try to bite an ankle?)

Despite our tremendous talent, humans often choose electronic security alarms to protect their homes, sometimes at great financial expense. But these alarms have drawbacks. For example, if a friend or family member needs to access the home, the alarm can’t detect that the person means no harm. Dogs know exactly who is allowed on the premises and who should be chased to the curb.

Dogs also offer variable response according to the severity of the threat. An alarm system has one response: ear-splitting noise. The entire neighborhood can hear it. We canines can customize our responses, from a “wuff” at the mailVariable response based on severity of threat.man so he knows we’re watching, to half-crazed maniacal barking. And if we’re able to look out a window, we can respond directly to our intended target.

I’ll share some examples. This first video shows an appropriate response to a man walking a dog on the other side of the street.


People rarely walk their dogs on my side of the street, and I take full credit for that. Okay, moving on to a bigger threat. In this situation, there was a CAT in the middle of the street. That’s right, a CAT.


As I said before, dogs can vary their response. I reserve my half-crazed maniacal barking for when CATS dare to enter my front yard. Unfortunately there’s no video footage because CATS no longer come any closer than the middle of the street.

Who knows why humans insist on using their silly electronic alarm systems. I dare any CAT burglar to enter my territory. The ankle you lose may be your own.



I’m a busy canine correspondent

Hi friends,

I haven’t posted to my blog for awhile because of my professional responsibilities to AboutRedlands.com. Here’s an article I wrote for them about Thanksgiving:


There’s a lot going on in Redlands this time of year, but I promise to write a post here very soon.



Wanted: Fulfilling Job


If there hadn’t been a window sill, I would have stood on my hindlegs. I’m that good.

And by “fulfilling” I mean satisfying my tummy

I’ve received word from Purina that my job application for Product Technologist I—Food Technologist has been rejected. It seems they want candidates who are fluent in Mandarin. I barely understand English, and by that I mean I find it hard to understand why humans need such an elaborate communication system. Barking, growling, and heavy sighs have always worked for me, but I’ll reserve language for another blog post.

(If you’re curious about fluency in Mandarin, you may want to take a closer look at your dog food and treat labels. Even big-name U.S. brands like Purina are importing from China.)

I’m now looking for a position as a food inspector, although I’m disappointed to learn that the job doesn’t involve actually eating the food. Only a human would think of inspecting food without eating it.

I found this job description online, and I’ve inserted my comments in ALL CAPS:

Consumer Safety Officers and Consumer Safety Inspectors (processed products inspection) are involved in inspection of red meat (YUMMY), egg (TASTY), and poultry (A CLOSE SECOND TO RED MEAT) products used for human consumption (DISCRIMINATION?). This inspection activity is performed in a noisy industrial environment with large moving machinery that cannot be stopped instantly. Workstations and walkways can be extremely narrow and slippery.


Showing my excellent balance and agility as I ford a stream.

Excellent stability and balance is required. NO PROBLEM. I CAN SCALE CLIFFS AND CROSS STREAMS.

Frequent physical activities such as walking (HIGHLY PROFICIENT), climbing (HIGHLY PROFICIENT), standing, and kneeling are required, (STANDING STILL? WITHOUT MOVEMENT? NEVER TRIED IT) including climbing (HIGHLY PROFICIENT, AND REDUNDANT) and walking on catwalks (“CAT” WALKS? REALLY? YOU THINK A CAT IS GOING TO INSPECT FOOD??).

Various environmental conditions, ranging from sub-freezing temperatures to summertime temperatures at 80 to 90 degrees are common, with extreme humidity at times. I’LL BE SURE TO WEAR MY WINTER COAT. (DOES THIS MEAN FEWER TRIPS TO THE GROOMER?)

Wish me luck!



p.s. See how a single “woof” said it all?

Veteran Dogs vs. Veterans with Dogs

My post today is on a more serious topic than my usual attempts at humor.  A few weeks ago I was planning future blog topics and an obvious choice was to write about holidays. Halloween and Thanksgiving are pretty straightforward, but I thought I’d tackle Veteran’s Day too. I searched online for information about dogs that have served in the U.S. military.

As long as humans have fought wars, dogs have served. Their duties varied from acting as sentries to intimidating prisoners and sniffing out explosive devices. The modern military dog is equipped with a canine tactical vest with cameras and microphones so the handler can assess a situation remotely.

images dog

I learned that as many as 5,000 dogs served during the Vietnam War, supporting about 10,000 handlers. They worked primarily as sentries and scouts. Sadly, military dogs were officially classified as “equipment,” and when the U.S. left Vietnam in 1973, a lot of “equipment,” including over 200 military dogs, were left behind. “Equipment” remains a highly charged word in the military dog handler community.

I also learned about post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Approximately 20% of returning soldiers are affected by it, and dogs are uniquely qualified to help. How? On the surface, dogs don’t judge. We remind veterans of the joy of simple things, like a belly rub. We’re cute, we’re cuddly, and we love our people unconditionally.

Dogs with more training can learn to perform helpful tasks and comfort veterans when they experience symptoms such as an anxiety attack. Canine service programs for veterans have been so successful that there is a growing number of organizations, such as Soldier’s Best Friend in Glendale, Arizona, that connect veterans diagnosed with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury with a service dog.

Does it work? According to Vanessa Woods of Duke University, “Initial studies by the Psychiatric Service Dog Society found that 82 percent of dog handlers with PTSD reported a decline in symptoms after working with the canines. Dogs can be trained to do a variety of tasks, including safety-checking a room, reminding their owners to take their medication — and if the owner is having nightmares, their dog can even turn on the lights and wake them up.


Clearly, we are very sensitive, from our noses to our hearts. So how do we fare in combat? The Los Angeles Times published an article on November 26, 2012, stating that about 10 percent of dogs that serve in combat develop Canine PTSD. That’s roughly 250 of the estimated 2,500 dogs that were serving this time last year. They become afraid of loud noises, will refuse to enter certain vehicles or buildings, and exhibit other signs of anxiety and fear. Hmm.

Obviously there is value in having dogs assist in combat, but at what cost? Is our value in combat zones equivalent to our value at home, assisting veterans in their recovery? Humans may not be able to cure PTSD (or, apparently, even provide comfort), but they can invent all sorts of sensing devices and robots and drones. We dogs are pretty awesome, especially our strong sense of smell. But surely humans who are capable of building such a vast repertoire of weapons can also create machines that mimic our abilities to sniff them out. . . .Right?

Thank you to all the veterans—human and canine—who have served our country.



Investment Strategies–Planning for your Future

Here I'm chewing a small, flavored bone. These are for your immediate satisfaction. They lack longterm value for your investment portfolio.

Here I’m chewing a small, flavored bone. These are for your immediate satisfaction. They lack longterm value for your investment portfolio.

If you have toys and bones, you own assets. How you invest your assets can have a significant impact on how you fare in your later years. I have a few tips to offer.

Let’s start with toys. For most dogs, toys have their greatest value in your early years, when you’re bouncy and want to chew on things. As you get older, you may still enjoy your toys at times, but they probably aren’t the center of your universe anymore. That role may have shifted to your meals and treats. (Unless you’re a Lab. I’ve heard many Labs cherish their tennis balls above all else well into their senior years. I try not to judge.)

Toys are interesting, but if you really want to invest in your future, you need to look at the bone market. I like to follow T. Boone Pickens. I understand T-bones and I get pickin’–that makes him a winner in my book. Pickens says that you should diversify your portfolio, and I’m on board with that. For example, when I am given a small flavored rawhide bone, I know I can consume it right away because its value doesn’t increase over time. However, if I am given a “real” bone from Gerrard’s Market, I know those have great value even after I’ve eaten the yummy fleshy parts. Quite frankly, the bones I value the most are the ones I’ve liberated from the front yards of the neighborhood dogs. They’re only made out of rawhide, but my sheer doggy cunning and skill makes them valued treasures, even if I do leave them in the middle of the floor where they are easily stepped on by my owner.

No doubt you’re wondering how your bones should be invested for long-term gains. You can consult a complicated mathematical formula involving trig functions, imaginary numbers, and natural logs–all rolled up into a fraction that serves as the exponent to a larger equation–but the very thought sends both me and my owner into fits. I have a much better system.

Bones with average value should be buried inside your house, or in your yard in a shallow hole. Ideas for inside the house include the slip covers on your furniture and any bedding that can be adjusted to hide your treasure.

Bones with high value (like the ones from Gerrard’s) should be buried fairly deep in your backyard. It takes discipline to set aside these yummy options for a later day, but I assure you they gain scent–I mean value–from being underground for long periods.

I’m sure you’re wondering how often you should move your assets from one investment property to another. I move my average-value bones every day. For example, I might place a bone under a pillow in the guest bedroom. If that doesn’t feel right, I’ll put it under the comforter in the master. But then I may decide it’s better off buried in a hole in the backyard. Then again, it might be safest in the deep folds of the living room chair, dirt included. Meanwhile, you should leave your high-value bones buried as long as possible, and feel free to enjoy the small flavored bones whenever you receive them.

If you have a great investment portfolio, please comment here, or share it with me on twitter at Scruffy_H. Wishing you a “bull” market.



Shhhh . . . I’m taking a nap.

Snoozing at home on the back of the sofa, next to the window. I just turn my head to check on the neighborhood cats!

Snoozing at home on the back of the sofa, next to the window. I can Just turn my head to keep my eye on the neighborhood cats.

Most of the advice I’ve shared so far has been about the active part of our canine lives. Obviously, I love a good walk, hike, or car ride (preferably all three in a day, every day).

But I also love a good nap!  

Disclaimer: What do you notice about the photos in this post? Yep, my eyes are open in each one. Who can sleep when their owner is taking a picture, especially with a flash? And they [owners] inevitably go for the shot right in the middle of a really great dream about chasing a bunny or squirrel. If you have human training tips, please let me know. But I digress.

Going on vacation is great fun, but expect the new surroundings (scents, noises, sights) to wear you down a little. Your adrenalin will keep you going for awhile, but eventually you’ll crash, as I did after a hike in Ojai, Calif. (see photo below).

In hot weather it’s important to keep your belly cool. Your belly has less fur, so cooling your belly will cool your entire body. Does the bed you share with your owner have a ceiling fan above it? If yes, then I’m sure you’re already using the “inverted” position (see photo below) to get the maximum return generated by the fan.

Disclaimer #2:  If you aren’t allowed on the bed, I don’t know how to help you. It’s a long way from the fan to the floor. This must be the type of thing that causes dogs to turn on their owners.

Is it possible to get too much sleep? Nope. A good night’s sleep just means you’ll be able to wake up your owner with that much more energy and enthusiasm. They like that, especially right before the sun comes up. 

Happy Napping,


Napping after a hike in Ojai, Calif.

Napping after a hike in Ojai, Calif. I love a dog-friendly vacation rental with great linens.

The "inverted" position. Important for hot climates. Hopefully you have a ceiling fan to cool your belly.

The “inverted” position. Important for hot climates. Hopefully you have a ceiling fan to cool your belly.

Beware of Chocolate! (and silly costumes)

Dear Redlands Pups:

Halloween is just around the corner. Unfortunately, this holiday has some drawbacks for canines. Here are some tips to make the most out of this eerie annual occurrence.

Let’s start with an important warning. You should avoid eating chocolate at all costs. It isn’t good for you, and you could end up at the “V-E-T.”  My trick is to always remember that I like savory foods—pizza, hot dogs, possums, etc. No sweets for me, nor do I like bitter-tasting things. Chocolate will typically present itself in either a sweet or bitter form. Never savory.

My owner found this info on the World Wide Interweb:

What Makes Chocolate Poisonous to Dogs?  Chocolate is made from cocoa, and cocoa beans contain caffeine and a related chemical compound called theobromine, which is the real danger. The problem is that dogs metabolize theobromine much more slowly than humans, according to Denver veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald, PhD.

There was more, but this isn’t a medical column. In a nutshell, you just need to hang on until Thanksgiving, a holiday devoted to savory table scraps and leftovers!

Super Dog!

Super Dog!

So what about costumes?  In my opinion, some are OK, some aren’t. Some preserve our dignity, some don’t. My favorite costume was the year that I was “Super Dog!”  It’s hard to go wrong with a superhero costume.  Unfortunately it was so hot on Halloween that year that I only wore it long enough to get my picture taken.  My only other costume has been my Halloween t-shirt. I call it my LBT—little black tee. With the lightweight knit fabric, I can spot trick o’ treaters through a bedroom window, and then race to the front door before they have a chance to knock.

What I don’t recommend is a costume or styling that makes you uncomfortable or undignified. Even if it’s only once a year, you have to draw a line somewhere. If your owner is persistent, try using the techniques you use to avoid a bath. Chewing, fussing, and whining may also get results. Just don’t use your “cute” looks—you will not only have to stay in your costume, but your owner will certainly pull out a camera and blind you with the flash.

Final topic—cats. If you’ve read my other columns, you know there’s nothing I want to do more than chase away my neighborhood cats. But on Oct. 31, cats are at their most vulnerable. I know it’s hard, but if you have a cat in your household or your neighborhood, try to leave them in peace. Once November begins they are fair game for barking and chasing!

Happy Woof-a-ween!


P.S. Follow me on twitter: @Scruffy_H


While not a puppy anymore, I still have a toybox and I like to play with my favorites when I’m bored. I’ve always preferred squeaky toys, especially the ones from the American Kennel Club (which are sold for reasonable prices in lots of places, like CVS Pharmacy).  My favorite games are Tug o’ war and one I invented called “Drop the toy behind the sofa.”

My AKC collection: Ducky, Bunny, and Squirrel. Ducky doesn't squeak very well anymore.

My AKC collection: Ducky, Bunny, and Squirrel. Ducky doesn’t squeak very well anymore.

I got my first toy after I tried chewing on a corner of my owner’s Rand McNally World Atlas. I’ve also received toys as gratitude for friendly love nibbles, often delivered in an attempt to get my owner to take me for a walk. It was a bit startling how fast the toy would be handed to me. Almost forced upon me. Like my nibbles weren’t appreciated.

“Fetch” is a fun game to play now and then, especially if I can turn it into a game of Keep-away. Another game my owner and I like to play is “Rug Slide.” It’s like fetch, but the goal is for my owner to throw the toy to just the right location so that when I run after it I hit the hallway rug and make it slide on the wood floors. My record is about 4’ feet.

Here’s a video of a Rug Slide game from a couple years back. My owner says I’m being “Kobe Bryant-ish because I hogged the toy.” I’m not sure that’s fair since Rug Slide is an individual sport.  http://youtu.be/xy-_JdxWZrs

P.S. Bones are not toys. Bones are your pension or 401k–a savings toward your future, especially if buried in optimal locations. Toys represent your pocket money.