So it turns out my new dog isn't perfect after all.
He has a teensy-weensy flaw.
Or maybe we would be more accurate in describing it as a condition.
He suffers from a particular canine malady known as Pica.
Although we probably should not characterize him as suffering.
Because Rizzo glories in it.
To quote the Internet:
Pica is a medical issue referring to a dog's craving of a non-food item and the subsequent eating of that item.
Rizzo's got a king-sized case of Pica.
As in (I've reported this to you before) he loves to eat everything outside.
To include: pine cones, pine needles, tree bark, sticks, flowers, acorns, grass, leaves, dirt, and even rocks.
Yes; rocks. My dog is a rock star.
(I say this although I have never actually seen Rizzo ingest a rock. But I have seen him with a rock in his mouth and I'm pretty sure you'll agree that this begs the question: What's next?)
(Swallowing is what's next.)
But try ridding your yard of every one of those things! A massive White Oak towers over our house in front. The back privacy fence is ringed with conifers just as towering.
The climate is sub-tropical. This may as well be a jungle. And that means a 24-hour buffet for a dog with Pica.
I've had Rizzo for seven weeks and you don't want to know how much natural-type detritus I've had to clean off the back steps leading to the deck and pool, just outside our kitchen French doors.
Stuff he leaves there after he's done snacking: Chunks of wood. Flower stems. Half-eaten acorns. Mangled sticks. Remnants of leaves.
I tried going outside with him and barking Leave it! every time he even sniffed at something.
He just looked at me before playfully cavorting with another pine cone, or bringing a stick up to the steps for a nosh.
Rizzo! You'll get splinters! I admonished.
Splinters schplinters, his expression replied.
This from a dog who, when inside the house, will chew only on his own chew toys. He has never shown the slightest interest in a shoe or the leg of a table.
Also he is housebroken. And I didn't have to do it, which is good, because I have no clue how to housebreak a dog.
Like I said: He's all but perfect. Until it's time to go outside.
By the way: I do plan to tell the vet about Rizzo's unusual dietary propensities when it's time for a checkup. But I think you'll agree that to avoid an emergency visit to said small-animal medico, a stopgap measure was needed.
So now you know my problem. And I'll tell you how I solved it.
First let me say, I considered a muzzle. They're cheap and (I suppose) effective. Dogs can't pick anything up in their mouths while wearing one.
But neither can they sniff, bark, pant, or drink. Also they just generally hate it, not least because they love sniffing, barking, panting, and drinking.
And how would you like to wear a rubber muzzle every time you go outside?
No? I thought as much.
So, up on the Internet, click click click I went.
(I'm intrepid in the Google wars.)
And look what I found: The OutFox Field Guard.
It was made specifically to help dogs who live in California avoid entangling their snouts and ears in something called Foxtail Grass.
We don't have that in the Southeast. But the clever inventor had an Aha! moment when thinking about other dogs in other places who may not encounter Foxtail Grass but who have a weakness for feasting on local flora.
After reading testimonial after glowing testimonial, and even though the item was a trifle pricey, I ordered an OutFox Field Guard in Extra Small for Rizzo.
My reasoning was, it's about ten times cheaper (at least) than taking my dog to the vet with a rock in his belly.
I told Rizzo his pine cone-eating days were seriously numbered. He was grasping one between his paws at the time. I took it away from him.
He looked over beyond the pool, where approximately eight thousand six hundred thirty-nine pine cones lay on the ground.
And where, scarcely six months from now, a quarter-million fresh acorns will be underfoot.
A few days later, our OutFox Field Guard arrived. I sussed out the process involved in installing said device on my dog.
At first, I got it wrong. I attached the two Velcro straps under his collar correctly but didn't pull the elastic cords tightly enough.
Rizzo ran away downstairs to the TV room and by the time he was down there, the mask was flopping around his feet. Paws.
I tried again. I pulled the elastic tight and pushed the purple plastic toggle down towards Rizzo's neck. I put a finger underneath to test and make sure he wasn't strangling.
I opened the door. Rizzo stepped out onto the deck steps. He looked bewildered.
For at least twenty minutes he sat, barely moving, just staring. I worried that my actions had plunged him into deep depression.
I could almost hear him thinking: What will I do now for fun?
That was a short session. I removed Rizzo's Field Guard and stayed with him while he checked his messages and sniffed around a bit.
But after that? So easy, it's like falling off a log. I learned to put the Field Guard on him correctly (even popping a few treats down inside for him to eat) and he learned how to have fun even though he can't eat anything not placed by me inside the mask.
He runs around, sniffs, plays, tries to pick stuff up, realizes he can't, and moves on to something else. He has even figured out that he can drink from his outside water dish that I fill with the hose.
I've seen the Field Guard dripping.
Rizzo once more struts around the yard like a boss. A boss who can't endanger his own health because he's too dumb to leave rocks alone.
When he's tired, he sits and basks in the sun -- something he adores.
Now? When it's time to go outside, Rizzo waits patiently and even lifts his head for me to outfit him with his OutFox Field Guard.
I still occasionally put a treat or two inside for him to enjoy an al fresco snack.
It works like a charm.
How often do things work out so beautifully?
Not as often as I'd like. But I'll take it.
And that is all for now.
Happy Thursday :: Happy March