Tuesday, February 22, 2011

COLUMN: 35 signs you're living with dogs

As I’ve mentioned before in this space, my wife, my two kids and I share our household with four dogs. How this happened is a story for another day, once I figure it out myself — it was all kind of a blur, like a roller-coaster ride, or college.

Regardless, somehow here we all are, and it’s a predicament that’s gotten me thinking about all the things we dog co-habitators find completely normal that other people — people who don’t have to vacuum three times a day, and whose doorbells don’t trigger a high alert consistent with a DEFCON 3 potential nuclear disaster — might see as at least slightly unusual.

With that in mind, I enlisted my kids — Jackie, 11, and Timmy, 9 — to help me compile a handy list of signs that may indicate you fall into that first group, the one in which at least one member of your household is fur-covered and more than casually interested in butt-sniffing. If even some of these are true, you may be beyond help.

You may be living with dogs if:

1) You’re walking around with dog food in your coat pocket.

2) You’re walking around with plastic bags in your other coat pocket.

3) Your car smells like it just rolled in something gross.

4) Your car is full of fur.

5) Your kids are full of fur.

6) Your furniture has that chewed-in sort of look.

7) There’s a heavy object on top of the lid to your kitchen trashcan.

8) You own a device designed for propelling tennis balls great distances.

9) You know what a “Snausage” is.

10) You know where the butcher shop keeps the spare bones.

11) You own at least one product that spells bones “bonz.”

12) There are bones (and/or bonz) under the couch.

13) When you go for a walk in the woods, you’re always on the lookout for a really good stick.

14) The cat food’s gone and the cat didn’t eat.

15) You can’t sleep because someone’s licking your feet.

16) You can’t sleep because someone is lying on top of the covers like a sack of sand.

17) A bark is your alarm clock.

18) You keep a towel next to your front door.

19) You’re sitting on the living room floor because there’s no more room on the couch.

20) Your living-room floor is covered with stuffed animals that are missing limbs, eyes and heads.

21) Your living-room floor is covered with pee pads.

22) Your living-room floor is covered with what living-room floors get covered with if you forget to put down the pee pads.

23) The cookies are missing.

24) After the snow melts on your front lawn, you find socks.

25) There are paw prints on your kids’ homework.

26) Kong is no longer just the name of a giant monkey.

27) Someone has to guard the turkey.

28) You’re walking when it’s raining.

29) You’re walking when it’s freezing.

30) You’re walking when it’s boiling.

31) You’re walking, period.

32) You have a bright orange jacket with matching scarves, and you’re not a hunter or Gisele Bundchen.

33) Your every shoe is a chew toy.

34) You’ve ever filled a bathtub with tomato juice.

35) Your best friends love you more than life itself, and smell like they just rolled in something gross.

Of course, there are a lot more than just these 35. For our next installment, we’ll be featuring your suggestions of signs that you may be living with dogs. E-mail them to info@chianca-at-large.com, and remember: Unwanted hair and smells is a small price to pay for all that love, right?

Now if you need me, I’ll be in the living room. I’ll be the one sitting on the floor.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Church Of Scientology Defends 'Internship' Program

LOS ANGELES (CAP) - Responding to a report in The New Yorker that it is under investigation for human trafficking and using forced free labor, the Church of Scientology fired back this week, saying the ordering of church members to do grueling work in exchange for little or no money is nothing more than an extremely active internship program.

"Some of the world's most successful organizations and businesses have similar internship programs," explained Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International. "Umm ... IBM, for example."

When pointed out that IBM interns get paid about $20 an hour and gain valuable business experience, while Scientology members get paid about $50 a week to perform chores such as scrubbing Scientology superstar Tom Cruise's boat, Davis responded, "Who says boat scrubbing isn't valuable? Somebody's got to make Tom's boat shine like the glowing Sol of Teegeeack, so to speak.

"Besides, as [Church of Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard used to say, a little hard work is good for the thetan, no matter what planet it came from," added Davis. "Umm ... I'm kind of paraphrasing but that's basically what he said."

A CAP News study of other religions backs up Davis' claim that the practice is not completely unusual. For instance, altar boys do not get paid by the Catholic Church, although they are sometimes asked to do menial tasks, such as come to the rectory in their bathing suits to wash the priest's car.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, February 11, 2011

COLUMN: Snow-where to run to, doggie

I am my household’s designated evening dog walker. That means while everyone else in the world is watching “Modern Family,” I’m leading four dogs into the wilds of our backyard so they can do out there all the things we’d prefer they didn’t do in here.

We have enough property that this is usually a pleasant adventure, such as when we get close to the woods and I’m sure I can hear the rustling of something (rabid coyote, serial killer, rogue NASA robot) coming to kill me. You’d think I’d have nothing to worry about, being surrounded by four dogs, but I’m reasonably sure that as soon as something ominous appeared, Lilly, Corona and Sally would run (not for help, just run), and Penny would just try to lick it into submission, which would probably only work on the robot.

Regardless, it hasn’t been an issue lately, since my entire yard is now like the surface of the moon: cold, foreboding and looking vaguely like three solid feet of cheese. Sure, the driveway is plowed, and there are a few carefully snow-blown paths that look like little Death Star trenches, if Death Star trenches were frequented by giant space dogs leaving little Jabba the Hutts in their wake. But it’s no substitute for a full yard, or, if nobody’s looking, a neighbor’s yard. Hypothetically.

It’s bad enough without even considering the getup I have to put on to bring them out. I give the dogs credit for their patience every night, staring sympathetically as I pull on my rubber boots, quilted flannel shirt, ski jacket, gloves, scarf and hat or, if it’s cold enough, two hats. If someone came up the driveway and saw us I’m sure they’d mistake me for the padded guy in a K-9 demonstration.

Still, I’d argue that my wife, Theresa, the household’s designated daytime dog walker, has it worse — at all her favorite dog-friendly spots, she’s lucky to find a plowed-out parking space, much less a walking area where you don’t immediately sink in up to your waist or jowls, depending on your species. I’ve been there with her, so I know it’s true: You find yourself standing there in the middle of a field panting, the dogs bounding, dolphin-like, through the drifts as you pray an illegal snowmobiler will come by and pack the snow down, or run you over.

We do have a fenced-in area in front of the house with some shoveled-out space, but this weekend Sally, our 4-month-old golden, finally figured out that with so much snow up against the gate, all she had to do was hop over and she was home free. Of course it didn’t take long for her to start sinking into the nearest snow bank up to her furry little ears — I pictured rescue workers having to burrow down there and send her back up in a Chilean miner tube.

Luckily, I was able to climb into the snow after her and get her back easily enough. Meanwhile, our wandering dog Penny stared incredulously, clearly flummoxed at how Sally had managed to get on the other side of the gate, something Penny had been attempting to do for years by sheer force of will. Of course she had just seen her jump it, but we’ve realized Penny has the attention span of Dory in “Finding Nemo.” This also explains all the times she scratches at the front door, then looks at me with utter surprise when I open it to let her in. (“Evening dog walker guy! What are you doing here?”)

So we’re left trying to find a way to give the dogs outdoor supervision despite the challenges: Just as the show must go on, the dogs must go out. Fortunately, even if it doesn’t seem like it now, spring will be here before we know it, and we’ll have the whole yard to explore again.

At which time I’m sure I will sink immediately into mud up to my waist. It should be much easier for Penny to lick me from that angle.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. This year he’ll be taking an occasional detour from his “At Large” column to write about life with pets — you can follow his animal-related musings at twitter.com/longest_tail.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

AT LARGE Fake News Wednesday: Kim Kardashian Upset Over Naked Photos In The Economist

NEW YORK (CAP) - On the latest episode of her E! television series Kourtney & Kim Take New York, model and socialite Kim Kardashian tells her sister Kourtney that she's very upset with her nude pictures that appeared in the Feb. 4 edition of The Economist.

"Oh my God, I'm more naked than I was in W," says a teary Kardashian on the episode. "And I didn't think that was possible."

The photos show a naked Kardashian carrying a briefcase in one hand and a set of actuarial tables in the other, with absolutely nothing in between. "I'm so mad right now," she says on the show. "The guy at the Economist promised [my private areas] would be covered by art! Whatever that is."

"I'll admit we had originally planned to obscure Ms. Kardashian's naughty bits with a clever caricature of Ben Bernanke," said a source close to the magazine's publisher who declined to be named. "But then we decided her tremendous naked breasts might go over better with our readers.

"This is a group of people who got excited when we featured a cover with two camels humping," noted the source.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

COLUMN: Sick of snow? It's always summer in Hollywood

Given that as I write this, the forecast for the week is a steady snow starting on Tuesday and tapering off sometime in 2013, I have decided to spend the remainder of the winter in Aruba. Unfortunately, like James Taylor with Carolina, I can only afford to go there in my mind, where the airfares are cheap and I look much less globular and pasty while sunbathing.

But imagining I’m warm and that my lawn doesn’t resemble the surface of the moon only goes so far. I find it’s also helpful to tune into some movies that put me in a more summery mood and remind me that in just a few short months I’ll be back at the beach, where I will be chewed to death by a giant shark.

But even if “Jaws” (1975) has many of the elements that epitomize the summer movie, including sand, surf, skinny-dipping and Robert Shaw being bitten in half, it’s missing one important component of all great summer flicks: Bobcat Goldthwait in a Godzilla costume. Also Annette Funicello, but mostly that first thing.

That’s why the better movie — “better” in the sense of it being much, much worse — is “One Crazy Summer” (1986), which is director Savage Steve Holland’s less well-known companion to 1985’s “Better Off Dead.” It may not have the same off-kilter genius of “Dead,” but it does have the same star in John Cusack, and also the aforementioned Goldthwait scene, which may be his crowning achievement (apologies to “Police Academy” 2-4). Local bonus: It takes place in Nantucket and was filmed on Cape Cod, which tends to be a beautiful area once it thaws out.

Another way to beat the winter blues is to watch summer movies that take place during high school, which remind you that even though you may be freezing now … at least you’re no longer in high school.

Two of the best are George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” (1973) and Richard Linkater’s “Dazed and Confused.” (1993), which both follow summer-night adventures of teenagers, in 1962 and 1976, respectively. “Graffiti” is the more classic of the two, a shambling masterpiece that shows that there was a time when Lucas seemed to have some idea of what real people actually speak like. “Dazed” has its merits as a summer movie, though, including an early appearance by Matthew McConaughey, a summery actor if there ever was one, and lots of 1970s tube socks.

Of course, summer movies don’t have to be goofy — sometimes they just need to be sweaty. I suppose Lawrence Kasdan’s “Body Heat” (1981) would fall into that category, although I’ve never actually watched that one, mainly because I have an aversion to seeing William Hurt (1) in a pencil-thin moustache and (2) perspiring.

I have seen “The Big Easy,” though — that’s the 1987 New Orleans-set crime flick featuring sweaty Dennis Quaid, sweaty Ellen Barkin, sweaty John Goodman and even sweaty Ned Beatty. It also happens to one of the sexiest, funniest police thrillers of the 1980s, thanks to Quaid and Barkin’s easy chemistry; with all due respect to the almost equally snappy relationship between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon.”

My favorite choice for a summer thriller, though, has got to be Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954). Like us during one of this winter’s blizzards, Jimmy Stewart is stuck at home, except he’s there because his leg is broken. Sure, he’s itchy and sweaty, and spying on his neighbors eventually prompts Raymond Burr to break into his apartment and try to throw him out the window. But on the plus side, he gets regular visits from Grace Kelly. It’s a decent trade-off.

I plan to have all of these handy during this week’s latest snow-in — I figure if I pull the shades, crank the heat and get cinematically summer-ized, it will help get me through until the real thing comes around. Which I hope is soon: Aruba in my mind is starting to resemble the beach scene at the end of “Planet of the Apes” (1968).

I just hope I don’t look too pasty in my loincloth.