New Year Poem For Betsy


You may be a dog --

in fact there is no doubt,

but the equality of love

melts my self-important clout.

When we play and your silk flew

won’t sweep down like a drape —

propped up by a pristine fang

that’s getting in the way,

it matters not that humans invented the jet,

the frozen Indian dinner, or wine or the Internet.

It could be that our best invention

was simply The Dog … and yet

could we really have invented you?

Or are you a sign from God instead?

Dog is god backwards, they tell us.

You as dog are part-human,

and I am part-dog, too:

We both love the soft bed, we're

a.m. malingerers.

I differ from you in this, though,

mon chiot doux:

You have serious teeth, but I have

sneaky fingers.

Betsy's first birthday -- today!

And what a lovely person she is. As I’ve been telling her for months, she is as sweet as a packet of crissops (which is ‘Slocombe’ for ‘crisps’). It doesn’t matter that crissops aren’t ‘sweet’ — my Betsy is! These photos were taken today. Playing with the banana ring in the school field, and posing with a chewy fish skin treat at home.

Nothing like a new toy

Betsy with me and her dad in Florida, 6 June 2018

A very sweet person bought two new toys for Betsy as a 'going away for summer' present -- and she loves them both. One is a furry 'donut' and the other is this plush oversized 'chocolate chip cookie', complete with crackly paper under the fabric (and a squeaker inside, of course). Often I look at her and I think what a fine figure of a Boxer dog she looks -- if still a little on the dainty side for a Boxer (she's 5 1/2 months old). Other times I look at her and see the baby that she still is. A tall and alert, ever-learning baby, but a babe nonetheless. And adorable, too.

Betsy as a small pup, pastel and charcoal on black sandpaper

I actually made a number of adjustments to this picture after photographing this -- placed with magnets on the fridge to flatten it somewhat, as the ordinary 'wetordry' 600 grit sandpaper curls up into a scroll if left unsupported. (The eyes are too chocolate and need a dark iris ring; the yellow strokes needed to be reddish like the rest, etc.) Anyway, it is really just a fun sketch. But it captures the idea, one way or another, of an energetic puppy, like a Tigger. Later I found a piece of cardboard from an artist's pad, cut it to fit, and rubber-cemented the sandpaper to it. I won't be using plain sandpaper again! But I like the effect: when you view the drawing from different angles, you see the features differently. It's almost like a hologram.

My letter to my Representative, re: dog ear cutting

15 February 2018


The Honorable Vern Buchanan

United States House of Representatives

2104 Rayburn HOB

Washington, DC 20515


Dear Mr. Buchanan,

Dog Ear Cropping — Why Is It Still Legal?

I’m writing to you as my representative because I see this ultimately as a legal matter, which concerns you as a legislator. The moral case can be put easily enough: the surgical cutting of a dog’s ears for fashion (which is to say, for showing them in a show ring) harms the dog, causes it distress and discomfort, and has no medical justification whatsoever. I refer in particular to the cropping of Boxer dogs’ ears, which is done to American show dogs though not European ones, as in Europe this barbaric practice is banned. I don’t think we are behind the Europeans in many things, but in this we certainly are. No dog, in its vulnerable early puppyhood no less — when it ought to be playing and directing all its youthful powers to growing not healing — should have to undergo this ordeal. (I understand that cropping is typically done no later than about twelve weeks of age.)

The American Veterinary Medical Association agrees with me, yet this pointless and unkind mutilation still goes on in this country (any surgery not required for good health or the dog’s best interests is unkind). The American Kennel Club should alter its breed standards so that the very beautiful natural ears of the Boxer dog — or any dog — will be accepted in the ring, as they are in Europe. Instead, American dogs are made to retain an aggressive sharp-eared look as an echo of a crueler age. I wonder whether the A. K. C. would be so keen to uphold this standard if its members truly knew that the general public views it not only as cruel but also ridiculous: Boxers as pets and intimate companions are overwhelmingly these days allowed to keep their natural ears, unmolested. But I worry about the show dogs, who are not allowed to have the bodies they were born with (tail docking is another subject, or perhaps it is not). Today I am arguing that surgery on animals without medical purpose should be illegal in this country. At the very least, dog ear cropping should be outlawed. Then, the A. K. C. will have to bring its standard in line with the law and with the moral position that has already been adopted in other decent countries. European show dogs are happier throughout their lives, and as a bonus, they look so much better! I honestly don’t know who could argue against that, or what argument they could possibly have.

I know that you are extremely busy, so allow me briefly to state what my stake in this is: I am an American citizen concerned about animal welfare in general, but as a past and current Boxer dog owner (I have just got my 8-week-old puppy today — 15th February), I have once again been forced to confront this disturbing practice. I’ve written a playful book about dogs (How To Train Your Human: The Dog’s Guide) and have designed the official Boxer Beauty tartan, honoring the breed, which is registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans. I had to say goodbye to my first dog, Chummy, who inspired the book and the tartan, this past New Year’s Eve, after nearly 11½ years of mutual devotion. No one could claim that I don’t have a deep personal and moral interest in the welfare of Boxers.

I do hope that this is not seen as “too small” an issue for the laws of our land to correct.

Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours very sincerely, 




People often ask me if I'm taking my puppy to obedience school


...and the answer is No

As I wrote to my mother today:

I particularly don't like it when people make suggestions about How To Raise A Puppy. I know all about it -- and if I need advice, I'll ask the vet or Google it. I'm highly confident of raising a good girl, and this time will be no more difficult than the first. So in answer to your question (and you are not 'people' -- I'm not meaning you!), Betsy's training school is Mr Brenchley and me, right here at home. It was all Chummy needed and Betsy is similarly bright (and similarly boisterous in the way Boxers are). As I said to hubby on our waterside walk with Betsy today, if you need to train the spirit out of a Boxer, you shouldn't have one: get a Chihauhua and be done with it!