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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Art of Defensive Dog Walking

 Ready to walk???

I'm hyper sensitive to other people's animals, mostly because I've notice many pet parents aren't too aware of their own dog's behavior. They walk around in a fog where life is like the Garden of Eden--all the animals joyfully romp around, carnivores don't have prey instincts, and cars aren't a danger for wandering pets.

I took Buster for his morning walk, and I thought I'd change things up and take a new route. About forty feet ahead, a woman with dogs turned the corner to walk in the same direction we were going, and I sized up the situation to see if it would be safe to follow.

She had two large dogs and one small dog. If you've ever walked untrained dogs (dogs that don't heel and constantly pull), you know that each furry body has it's own center of gravity, which can make walking upright a challenge. She had three.

Her leashes of choice were nylon, which are good for hand burns and cuts but not much else. She left the leashes dangle (when she wasn't dropping them) which gave the pups plenty of room to get tangled up or get a running start if they saw something fun.

As her smallest dog ran circles around her, she pirouetted like a ballerina, her hand twisting over her head to follow the leash, while the other two dogs pulled in different directions.

We turned around.

Walking away is a very good move if you have the option. Why take the chance? I, personally, have nothing to prove. 

There was another woman with what looked to be a very nice female mutt that weighted in at around 75 pounds. She was walking toward us on the other side of the street. She used a rope leash with a triangle-shaped metal end, which she held onto with her curled fingers. Her dog was very excited, and kept jumping off the curb in an attempt to say hi to Buster. The woman struggled to control the animal.

Here's an experiment. Hang on to something solid using just your curled fingers. Now have someone tug. See how easily you lose your grip? Not a good dog walking technique.

Since she was headed in the opposite direction, Buster and I kept up our pace.  Dawdling is not a good idea. It lets the already overexcited dog work up into a frenzy. Which leads me to the guy with the Shepard pup.

This was a big puppy, and it was out-of-it's-mind happy. Happy about the grass. Happy about Buster. Happy to be alive.  The guy's response to his puppy's joy was to force it into a sit, so as the dog watched Buster pass by, his excitement grew to near delirium. The guy should have kept moving to remove the object of his pup's attention. Puppy would have been distracted sooner than later...probably by a grasshopper. I felt sorry for the dog.

If it's safe, keep your dog moving forward, past the object of his focus. This particular pup was across the street, so there was no chance of the two dogs meeting.

Finally, we came upon a woman with two small children and a large dog that looked like a terrier mix. The dog was on a halter. I'm always wary of people who use halters, because they usually put them on strong, active dogs and hope they'll be miraculously transformed into docile sweeties.

This third woman had her hands full. (With the children, not the dog. The dog remained calm.) What made my heart sing was the way she kept the dog close to her side, and as I got closer, I saw the leash was attached to the dog's harness AND collar.  This woman was prepared.

Be prepared. Buster likes to shake his leash off, so I have a second attachment to his collar.

I've noticed a tendency in Santa Clarita for owners to walk their dogs off-leash. Yes, the dog will be a full block ahead of them, so if anything happens, it will be over before they can get their butts there. I'm grateful these three ladies at least bothered to tether their dogs.

Never walk your dog without a leash unless you are on your own farm or the entire population, animals included, have mysteriously evaporated.

It's always best to be aware of other dog walkers, and if a situation looks potentially troublesome, turn around and walk the other way. It's not worth the stress or the potential vet bills.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ms. America is "Happy" About Murder!

Ms. America and the Mayhem in Miami
by Diana Dempsey
$3.99 electronic edition
available on Amazon

(I received a free advanced copy of this book to review.  Author Diana Dempsey neither bribed me with chocolate nor spiked my driveway with nails to influence this review.)

In her latest Beauty Queen mystery, author Diana Dempsey sends her sleuthing queen to a new exotic locale--Miami, Florida.  Happy Pennington, the reigning Ms. America, is a judge for the Teen Princess of the Everglades pageant, and if the disorganized show doesn't have enough problems,  fellow judge, Perpetua "Peppi" Lopez Famosa, makes an unexpected appearance onstage during a practice session, her corpse draped over a gaudy pirate ship prop.

The sweet, professional Peppi appears to have a darker side, one that might have included drugs, but that's not something one can bring up in conversation with her grieving mother, Paloma.  Besides, Poloma is fixated on Peppi's half-brother, Hector, as the murderer. There are a surprising number of people with motives for wanting Peppi dead, and with the lead detective more concerned about publicity and possible dates than chasing clues, Happy digs in to discover who killed Peppi.

Best friends, Shanelle and Trixie, respectively former Ms. Mississippi and reigning Ms. Congeniality, are on board again, but so is Happy's teenage daughter Rachel. Pageant host and secret agent Mario Suave is ever present and causing Happy's heart to flutter, but so is his cranky teenage daughter, Mariela, and her gorgeous mother, Consuela Machado. Even Happy's father and hunky husband, Jason, make appearances.

The characters rule in the Beauty Queen books, and they're a fun bunch to spend time with. There is something about having the action stop while Happy describes in detail what she and others are wearing that cracks me up (and has me checking my own closet), and it's a brilliant reminder that, clever as she is at solving crimes, Happy is a dedicated beauty queen.

Dempsey cleverly paints her suspects with shades of grey. Any one of them could have done the evil deed, but you kind of hope they didn't. Through Mariela, the author touches on the terrible examples teens are exposed to and the possible consequences when they buy into the instant-fame-and-fortune scenarios presented  in the media.

"Ms. America and the Mayhem in Miami" is the third book in the Beauty Queen Mystery series, and while it works perfectly well as a standalone, I highly recommend readers purchase the first two novels for proper immersion into the characters and culture!