Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Incorrigible canine May 1, 2013

Filed under: Poetry,poodles — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hot water tap turned with a toe,

A fairy tale is unfolding

In my brain, page by page.

Dusty Dog is curled into a ball

Hubby snoring through the wall

A suspicious rustling

heard down the hall.

“OJ?  Are you getting into trouble?” I call

to my incorrigible canine,

plainly awoken from his nap on the couch.

He clicks nearer, ’til he’s

outside the bathroom door.

“Were you getting into something?” I ask softly.

Slow feet start to move away.

“You need to stay out of trouble. Go to your bed, OJ.”

I say in a firm whisper.

Click click

Two steps toward the living room.



“OJ.  That’s the wrong way.

Go to bed.”  Spoken so silently that

sleeping husband will not hear.

Oh, so, slowly OJ turns

And strolls, almost like it was his idea,

Into his room.

I hear him jump onto his bedroom futon.

Good bad dog.

I turn the page in my book,

and add more hot water with my toes.

Dusty sleeps the blessed sleep of the innocent

on his own bed towel, dreaming dog dreams.

Later, warmly water logged,

I investigate the disaster,

Dusty at my feet.

My purse on a chair, formerly zippered closed

Has been opened and disembowelled.

I pull out the camera to photograph

The scene of the crime.

OJ wanders down the hall,


He meets my eyes.

“OJ.  This is bad.” I tell him, shaking my head.

“Very bad.”

He looks at the floor.

“You need to be back in your room before I get angry with you.”

He soulfully studies me, sighs

then takes the circle route,

through the kitchen,

Back to his room.

Such a bad, good dog.




That black/gold cloth bag is an organizer.  Each compartment is usually full of something- pens, makeup, business cards, shopping bags, keys, flashlight, notebook, etc.  so things can be transferred easily between purses.  The bag was a mess, the organizer as you see.

If you click on the Category POODLES >>> on the right>>> you can read more of OJ’s adventures.  He is an incorrigible counter surfer, and food scrounger.  He opens packages (he loves ziplock bags, even if there is nothing edible in them).  He likes to investigate my purse, whenever I am foolish enough to leave it within his reach.  After I yelled at him for eating through linings (on my brand new, expensive bag!) he has not once eaten through another lining, but carefully manipulates the zippers, sometimes a series of zippers, and occasionally buckles in order to explore.  I have no idea how.  Poodles are considered the second most intelligent dogs (second only to Border collies), and it’s because of their phenomenal problem solving abilities.  OJ plays dumb and lazy much of the time, but he has some amazing skills.  (I call these “bad talents” and there is a blog series about them.)

Do you have an incorrigible canine character at your house?


Dusty Dog and the oh so innocent looking incorrigible OJ:

Dusty and OJ

Dusty and OJ


bad talents (part 5) July 16, 2010

Continued misadventures of Kimelle’s Optimum Jive aka OJ the standard poodle  

The (first) Near Death Experience.  

True and very scary story.  However, like most true and scary stories, it has its comical elements.  So while we’re laughing about this, I know we are all very aware of how very, very close this was to being a tragedy.   Consider this a cautionary tale.

I tend to have the TV on, my notebook computer out, and be reading  (or writing) a book well into the wee hours of the morning.  The dogs (OJ and Dusty, his mini-poo brother who is much less prone to life threatening idiocy) fall asleep on a couch or their pillows, keeping me company until lock them up for the night when I finally head off to bed.  One night, I fell asleep on the couch around 2 a.m. and woke up again at 4 a.m.  I staggered down the hall to lock up the dogs in their room, and crashed on my bed.  At 8 a.m. I was attacked by a flying poodle.  

Normally, my husband wakes up first, gets the dogs up, outside and serves them breakfast.  Then he locks the two of them in the bedroom with me when he heads off to work.  (We endeavour to keep the dogs contained when we aren’t supervising them, for obvious reasons).  I am usually awakened by my radio blaring, and open my eyes to find OJ’s nose nearby or Dusty dropping a stinky ball beside my head.  Apparently on the day in question, our containment routine was missed.  Hubby had neglected to shut the dogs in with me; I guess because he was home and puttering around in the basement and garage.  

I blinked sleepily as OJ barked a happy bark next to my face, wagging his tail furiously, and then he leapt off the bed and tore off full speed down the hall.  I tried to wake up, but didn’t rise.  OJ came tearing back up the hall, leapt onto the bed with a long, gazelle-like stride, his front feet landing firmly on my belly.  As I struggled to regain my breath, OJ stood next to me, tail creating an impressive breeze, while he panted like he was laughing at me.  I sat up.  He barked again and raced off down the hall again.  Before I had my feet on the floor he had roared back up the hall and was beside me on the bed panting again.  OJ is not a morning creature either.  He is generally the last body out of the bed everyday.

“Do you have to go out, OJ?”  

“WOOF!” he declared and raced off again.  

“All right, all right.  I’m coming,”  I muttered as I stumbled down the hall and let him into the back yard.  He tore out the door and raced several circuits of the yard.  I stood at the kitchen window watching.  OJ is not a very energetic dog.  This was very odd behaviour.  He stopped at his favourite tree and lifted his leg.  He promptly fell over.  It took him a couple of tries to get his tri-pod balance and get the job done.  This was weird.  

I met him at the door to let him in.  He raced into the living room, leapt up onto the couch, and promptly fell off.  This was alarming.  I went to the couch and he jumped up beside me.  I felt into his arm pit* for his pulse.  His heart was racing.  I felt his feet.  They were really hot, almost sweaty feeling. I pushed a finger onto his gum.  It stayed white longer than it should. **  What on Earth was going on?  I ordered him to a pillow to lay down.  He obeyed, then stood again panting.  I ordered him down again.  He obeyed, then stood again.  He couldn’t contain his energy.  

I went into the kitchen and started making myself some pancakes while I thought about what to do.  OJ followed me.  He stumbled as he walked. His eyes were unnaturally bright.  

I opened my pantry door to get some flour and the mystery was solved.  

Pulled through the wires of one of the pantry drawers was the wrapping from a chocolate bar. A large chocolate bar.  I turned to OJ in horror.  “OH NO!”  He looked down at the floor, giving his tail a weak, decidedly guilty wag.   

Crap.  Crap. Crap.  This was bad.   

This was very, very bad.   

Science lesson:  

Dogs cannot eat chocolate.  It’s not so much the caffeine as it is a related chemical called theobromine found in the cacao bean that is seriously toxic to their system.   Theobromine levels increase the darker the chocolate.  White chocolate has hardly any.  Milk chocolate has some.  Bakers chocolate has tons.  According to the toxic level of 100 mg of theobromine per one kilo of canine body weight works out like this:  

1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker’s chocolate.  

OJ had consumed almost all of a huge bar, about 10 ounces of 80% cacao specialty chocolate (i.e. Bakers).  He weighs 65 lbs.  He was well over the toxic threshold of about 7.3 ounces for his body weight.  He was looking death in the eye.  

We phoned the vet to tell them we were coming.  We were in the examining room 10 minutes later.  As usual, OJ behaved like a model citizen in the vet office.  He believes strongly in his role as standard poodle ambassador, even when at death’s door.  He allowed the vet to poke and prod without complaint, even when his tail was lifted and the thermometer was inserted.  He gave me a rather unimpressed look while the vet talked to him and tried to distract him from indignity by patting at the other end, but OJ bore it all.  His temperature had come down; I could feel it in his paws as well.  The vet took his pulse, and his heart rate was just a bit above normal.  His blood pressure was almost back to normal.  The verdict was that he had already passed through the danger zone, and was in recovery.   

Once a dog has reached the stumbling stage, the brain is suffering from the toxicity.  After that stage come seizures, and then heart or respiratory failure.  OJ had ingested enough theobromine that he should have died.  I was sent home and told to bring him back if he developed seizures, but the vet was pretty sure he was going to be fine.  The good news for us was that although theobromine takes several days to clear out of the system, it doesn’t leave lingering effects, such that a few chocolate chips at a later date would tip the scales and kill him.  He gets to start from zero again.  Considering OJ’s incorrigibility, this is a very good thing.  

Ever notice how OJ is sleeping in all his photos? He's really just faking, while he plans his next stealth mission of death.

We had no idea when OJ got into the chocolate.  It could have been while I was sleeping on the couch or when he was left out after starting his day.  It takes a few hours for the effects to show. If we had caught it early enough, he could have been given charcoal to absorb it or had vomiting induced to get the theobromine out of his system before he was poisoned.  Because we figured it out only after we observed the neurological symptoms, it was too late to do anything except treat him with anti-convulsants if he developed seizures, which luckily, he didn’t.  

 Needless to say, I no longer store my chocolate in the pantry.

* find your dog’s pulse using the femoral artery in the ‘arm pit’ of a back leg, palm facing the leg.

** you can check for blood pressure by pushing the gums.  Do it when the dog is healthy to see how quickly the spot goes from white to normal again.  (about a second).  If it takes 2 or 3 seconds, the blood pressure has dropped.


Bad talents (part 4) July 15, 2010

Filed under: poodles — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Further misadventures of Kimelle’s Optimum Jive aka OJ the standard poodle.

OJ loves packages.  He loves zip-locked bags.  Apparently opening a zip lock bag for him is like opening Christmas presents to a four year old.  He doesn’t care what is inside the bags, it’s the opening that he likes.  50 little bags on a ring, each neatly labeled and stuffed with entirely inedible little circular Girl Guide badges?  Oh those are a wonderful prize.  He happily opened every single bag and scattered a couple hundred little badges all over the family room, so I would have the pleasure of sorting them all again.  He’s helpful that way.

How about those expensive, heavy duty ziplock bags made for miniature toiletries while travelling through customs?  Even empty, because of their deluxe nature I suppose, opening them brings him joy.  He is careful to ensure all our toiletry bags have adequate drainage and ventilation.

If, however, the bags happen to contain food, OJ is in paradise.  He routinely opens up my purse to check for treats.  He can open zippers on the purse, and on the cosmetic bag within.  (I prefer this to the times before he bothered to open zippers when he’d chew through several layers of lining ).  He likes those little foil packages of hand-wipes.  He doesn’t eat them, but he likes to open them.  I presume that’s more about ventilation.   He has eaten countess granola bars stored in my purse for emergency snack.  (Mine, not his).  Yeah, yeah.  I should put my purse up where he can’t get it.  I know.  He’s sneaky.  He distracts me.  He pretends he’s not interested, and then wham- purse raid.

He showed amazing skill opening little packages of sesame seed snaps last year.  I came across a good dozen empty wrappers in a tidy pile beside their box between his pillow and the couch.  He’d managed to smuggle the box out of the pantry and individually opened each package before devouring the treats within.   You wouldn’t find many dogs taking the time to do that, but poodles have class.

We took him to the vet after that one, actually.  He looked a little green when I found him.    The x-ray showed his lower digestive tract was rather packed with seeds, but with a little  time tidy tubes of sesame seeds were duly deposited in the back yard.  They didn’t attract nearly as much attention as the pile of raisins and dried cranberries I’d cleaned up the year before.   Ants love fruit that has traveled through a dog digestive tract, apparently.

I do live in fear that OJ will commit suicide by stolen food.  It is far to easy to imagine.  He almost did it this year.  I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.


Bad talents (Part 3) July 14, 2010

Further Misadventures of Kimelle’s Optimum Jive aka OJ the standard poodle.

As previously mentioned, counter-surfing requires stealth, balance, and ingenuity. OJ leaves us baffled on a regular basis. We have no idea how he does the things he does. I have heard it said that poodles are so intelligent that they are frequently the ones who train their owners. The dog books say unintelligent people should probably avoid owning poodles. My husband and I have university degrees and respectable IQs. You’d think we’d be able to keep up with a dog.

OJ loves soup. His favorite is Campbell’s Butternut squash soup. This is how I know.

Last year there was a sale on Campbell Gardennay soups. I had considered purchasing them several times in the past, but had thought they were too expensive. At three for six dollars, I was finally willing to try them. I purchased three different soups: Summer Asparagus with Sweet Basil, Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato, and Butternut Squash. I put the three tetra-bricks into my pantry on the pullout wire drawer. I already had two generic soups in tetra bricks in that drawer and I added the three Gardennay soups behind them. I was particularly keen to try the Butternut squash, since that’s my favorite Tim Hortons soup.

A couple days later, I came into the living room to discover a strange silver rectangle on the living room floor. It looked like a chunk of metal. What was it? I leaned over to investigate. OJ jumped off the couch and sauntered nonchalantly down the hall.

I picked up the weird silver thing and turned it over to study it with confusion. Formerly it had been a Gardennay tetra-brick. Now it was a perfectly flat, absolutely clean silver rectangle. There were no chew marks. You would swear he’d taken a pair of scissors and cut the box open down the seams. There was no soup anywhere. Floors, couch and dog pillow were all clean. Of course it was my Butternut Squash soup. Damn freakishly talented counter-surfing dog.

I went out shopping later, and bought another three soups.  This time I bought two Butternut Squash boxes, muttering at OJ the whole time. At home, I tucked the soups in the pantry, setting the two Butternut Squash boxes at the very back of the drawer. Whoever took this soup out was going to have to pull out the drawer. OJ can’t open the door to the pantry, thank heavens. He can’t pull out the drawer. I cooked up a pot of  Butternut Squash the next day.  It was excellent.  I ate it all, and did not leave the pot unattended. I savoured the idea of the second box waiting for another day.  OJ lay covertly on the couch, plotting while he pretended to be sleeping.

It wasn’t even a week later that I walked into the living room to see a familiar silver rectangle sitting reverently on a dog pillow. The pantry drawer was closed. I pulled out the drawer. The soups were all present and accounted for. All but one.

Some people have drug sniffing dogs. Some people even have cancer sniffing dogs. I have a Campbell Butternut Squash Soup sniffing dog—-that can apparently use scissors.

He’s also good with other fastenings, as you will read.


bad talents (Part 2) July 13, 2010

The continued misadventures of Kimelle’s Optimum Jive aka OJ the standard poodle.

As I was saying in the last entry, skillful counter surfing requires stealth, balance and  ingenuity.  OJ’s ability to balance objects is particularly impressive, especially when one considers that he has to do it without opposable thumbs.  He’s not even a particularly huge standard, either, reaching only 25 inches at the withers, so he can’t use height to much advantage. Yet, it is not uncommon that I should wander down the hallway and discover a now clean frying pan nestled artistically in the centre of a dog pillow.  I’ve never caught him at it, so I’m not sure how exactly he manages to remove the pan from the stove and get it into the living room without dropping it on the floor.  Talented dog, indeed.

The best example of OJ’s remarkable balancing skill came on a day that I’d made myself tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.  I made up the can of soup (artfully seasoned with garlic, oregano, basil, and parmesan) ate my lunch and then wandered off to do some chore.  I left half the soup in the pot on the stove for a second helping later.


Tomato soup.


Did I mention my living room couch is white?


I went into the kitchen for another bowl of soup.  I went to the stove and looked around blankly. The pot was missing.  I was the only human at home.  I went hunting.  I came around the corner saw something  suspicious twinkling in light.  I stepped closer in amazement.  You’re imagining my couch looked like a scene of carnage from a horror movie, aren’t you? You’re imagining it appeared as if a murder had been committed at the stove and the hapless victim was dragged, thrashing in agony, splattering red all the way to the couch where he’d been finished off in some gruesome throat ripping way, right?   Yeah.  So was I.

Well, we were both wrong.  All that greeted me in the living room  was a spotlessly clean soup pot glistening in the middle of my still pristine white fabric couch.  There was not a drop of tomato soup to be seen anywhere.  Not in the kitchen.  Not in the hall.  Not in the living room.  How on earth did he manage it?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Like I keep telling you.  He’s a talented boy.


Really, I just need to figure out how to train this dog to return the scrubbed pots and pans into the sink.




PS.  OJ wishes you to know that  he posed today for the accompanying photo under duress, simply for illustrative purposes.  He asserts that he has absolutely no knowledge of any empty tomato soup pots alledgedly found on the living room couch .

OJ likes tomato soup, but his favourite is butternut squash, as you’ll see here.


bad talents (Part1) July 12, 2010

Ever since I started a blog, people have been asking if I was going to tell stories about OJ.  So far I’ve managed to avoid it, but I was asked again yesterday, so I guess it’s time.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the internet, I would like to introduce you to  Kimelle’s Optimum Jive, my very talented standard poodle.

Now before I tell you the stories, promise me that you won’t lecture me on what a bad poodle parent I am, okay?  I know that if I was a responsible dog trainer, OJ would never do any of these things.  But he came to us as a two year old, already well set in his ways, and because he’s a brilliant, charming, manipulative poodle, we have been unable to break his bad habits over the last eight years.  We have a grudging admiration for him, to be honest.  This may not be a talent we wish he possessed, but we have to be impressed at how very skilled he is.

In the canine intelligence studies, only one breed is smarter than the poodle.  It’s the border collie.  If you know border collies, you know that they are intense, dedicated to their task and motivated to succeed.  They affix their famous stare at sheep, children, or cattle and they follow whistles, hand signals or calls without deviating from their orders.  They are amazing to watch on an agility course as they obey faultlessly and repeatedly.  This is not the way poodles operate.  Poodles will learn every task they are given in moments, but then they take it upon themselves to figure out another way, and good luck trying to get them to do it your boring way!  If you do manage to convince them to do the task your way more than a couple times, watch out.  They will look for a new and more interesting way to do it before long, when it is most inconvenient for you.  They are inclined to show you that there is always another, better, more entertaining way to do something.  They are adept at figuring out their own agendas, and doing whatever they need to do to achieve their own goals.

OJ’s goal is to fill his belly.  (He has tried to convince us that his goal is to keep our kitchen clean, but we are not fooled).  His talent is counter-surfing.  This talent requires stealth, balance, and ingenuity.  OJ excels at each element.  As a demonstration of his stealth, I offer this: around my house it is unwise to leave coffee, hot chocolate or chocolate milk on a coffee table.  While you are distracted, talking to someone beside you on the couch, for example, OJ will casually walk by, tilt ever so slightly, and take a slurp out of your cup.  He doesn’t care if the coffee is black or double double, however, he prefers cafe mocha, and he adores hot chocolate.   If you are so foolish as to walk into the kitchen and leave your  full cup completely unattended, you are likely to return to find a circle of cocoa spray on the table and an empty cup.   If your cup was less than half full, you will just find an empty cup, and a confused contemplation about whether you really did finish it or not.  OJ will be lying innocently on the couch, as if he never left it.  If you wish to avoid sharing your beverage when visiting at my house, I suggest you have tea.  OJ does not seem to care for tea.

As I typed this blog, OJ was yelled at to get off the counters 5 times.  I intercepted him once with an ice cream lid he’d just taken out of the sink, and once sneaking down the hallway with a spatula in his mouth.

Apparently he requires some attention, so I will continue with his adventures in another blog post.


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