Rainy days and Mondays and Porsches

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 12, 2015 7:53 PM

Today, the Porsche went into the shop to get fixed. It has been needing to get fixed for about three years but we have dutifully and willfully ignored its many ails. It’s not a daily driver. Lately it hasn’t been any kind of driver. Several years ago, when our first Range Rover was in the shop, the Porsche was our only vehicle. It was a trooper. The car always runs like a top, as Kevin likes to say. But then the odometer stopped recording miles. And it developed a nasty brake fluid leak. And the headlights, which are retractable, didn’t like to stay up. And the front struts went from bad to oh. My. Dog.

So it has been relegated to the garage for the better part of two years. It was in the garage in Oak Park. We put it on the back of trailer and towed it across the desert when we moved. Once we got here and drove it off the trailer, it went into the garage. We put a flattened box underneath it to catch the drips from wherever it was leaking. Every once in awhile, Kevin starts it and drives it around the block. Last spring, he replaced the front struts. But because of the brake fluid leak and its other funky little issues, it really hasn’t been safe to drive.

It’s a pretty car. Still classic at almost 30 years old. It’s a 1987 Porsche 944(951) Turbo. It’s low to the ground and fast as hell. It’s completely paid for. It’s a toy.

It still has its California plates. The last time it was registered was in January 2012. The current tags say 2013. It’s been illegal to drive for exactly two years. When we moved here I told Kevin that it had to be fixed by the time we moved into the house on the hill. I refuse to drive it up, or worse, down the hill when there are brake issues. The fact that we’ve been through at least three large bottles of brake fluid means that it no longer stops on a dime like it used to. It stops and has yet to let us down. But that driveway of ours is steep, and I have nightmares about driving down and the brakes going out and having it, and me, sail off into the desert.

This morning we woke up to rain. I love rain. I like the clicking sound of it on the skylights. I love the smell of it, musty and cold. The fact that it was Monday and raining made me smile. Whenever that happens I can’t help but think of the Carpenters song, Rainy days and Mondays. Of course, they always got Karen Carpenter down. Not so me. I’m not crazy about Monday but because I love rain, it serves to mitigate the Monday blues when it’s raining and gray.

Last night we started the Porsche, to make sure that it would. Kevin took it for a spin around the block. We left it outside, parked up close to the garage. Because it hasn’t been driven in a while, it also hasn’t been washed. Kevin does a lot of work in the garage. It was filthy. This morning it was just wet.

We went outside to walk Cooper. All three of us stopped to look at the car. Cooper because it wasn’t supposed to be there, Kevin and I because it was so pretty. Drops of rain water beaded up on the still waxed paint.

On this rainy day, this Monday, the Porsche finally went to get fixed. That wasn’t getting any of us down at all. Quite the opposite.   

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live out loud

Learning to make lemonade

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 6, 2015 9:21 PM

We have a tremendous amount of citrus trees here in the desert. We first became aware of this fact several years ago when we were out looking at houses with Agent Stephanie. We were in the backyard of a particularly lovely home that also had particularly nice landscaping. She pointed to several trees and said they were citrus. They are? we asked in unison. She told us the way to tell what kind of citrus is to break a leaf and smell it. The house we’re renting has a lemon and a lime tree. We know because of the leaves. The neighborhood is filled with lemon trees. They grow so prolifically that they weigh down the branches. One of our neighbors, Laura, stopped us the other day and asked us if we wanted some lemons. She pleaded with us to take them. She had more than she could possible use. She’d already picked over 190 from one tree. We declined. We simply don’t have any need for lemons.

At least we didn’t.

Today I’m wondering if it might not be time to take Laura up on her offer and start making some lemonade. It would be exceedingly sour, though, until I could find a way to sweeten it. This is because I am currently having trouble with the man who is the head of our homeowners association. Trouble is actually a soft word.

A little background on my metaphor: before we bought the property but after Kevin had done his reconnaissance mission, we did what we always do. We discussed it to death. We stood in the kitchen in Oak Park and talked and talked and talked. We asked questions. We attempted to figure out if this was really something we wanted. Kevin scoured the internet looking for someone who might have some information about it. He found a man whose name shall remain unused here. I’ll call him Weeny. Kevin called and he and Weeny talked for quite some time. Turns out Weeny was trying to sell the property and wanted us to use him to buy it. He promised to secure a screaming deal. He could even help with the building. Kevin told him we already had an agent, Agent Stephanie, and Weeny got very irritated. How dare we ask him questions and take up his time when we had no intention of using him.

He and Kevin have had a less than cordial relationship since. I have taken over communication ever since. The reason there continues to be communication is because Weeny is the one who started our little enclave back in the late 1990s. As such he remains king and thus the head of the HOA. I wanted to have him remove a particular piece of equipment that is parked just above our property and thus not on it. He put it there right after we started developing the plans for the site, no doubt because he hoped we’d use it. Which we did. Architect Mike had Weeny do some excavation work for us.

Weeny's equipment is right below the upper left white box

Weeny has maintained that he will be building homes up there and needs his nasty piece of equipment. The thing is, we don’t believe him. He’s a vindictive man, condescending and never wrong. There are plenty of lower pieces of property that would be easier to develop. The ones above us are nearly impossible. We had enough trouble getting trucks to come up. Getting trucks to go even higher is going to be problematic.

I got a note from him today, after I sent a very nice happy new year note and pleading with his sense of aesthetics to move the f#%$ing piece of equipment, that said he couldn’t possibly move it. Because.

So we are left with lemons. Interestingly the equipment is also yellow, kind of a rotting yellow. What’s a positive blogger to do? Well, we’re currently trying to figure out ways to make the equipment disappear. So far we’re drawing blanks but if we come up with something, we expect that everyone in the development will thank us. Weeny is not well liked from what we’ve gathered.

We’re looking ahead to our beautiful house. We won’t see the equipment from inside, not from the gorgeous wrap around deck, or really any of the rooms save the master bath. But really, how much time does one spend in the master bath anyway? We’ll be in and our place will be fabulous. We’ll try to forget about the equipment and hope for a really big storm to wash it down into the canyon below. If that happens, we’ll plant lemon trees in its honor. Therein lies the sugar. And we’ll make lemonade for the rest of our lives.  


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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Friday, December 26, 2014 10:04 PM

There is a town in Cochise County that was originally called Maley. It was founded in 1880 as a whistlestop on the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1889, it was renamed Willcox after Orlando Bolivar Willcox who served as a general in the Union Army in the Civil War. He was on the first train that came through the tiny town. Today it is home to 10 Southern Arizona wineries and about 3700 people. Day-after-Christmas wine tasting is a tradition, and this year Willcox was where we journeyed.

This tiny, nearly forgotten western town is just over an hour from Tucson. At an altitude of nearly 4200 feet it’s also cooler. In fact, it was only in the low 40s under a cloudless sky, and it was windy. We went to the older part of town first. Driving through, we were immediately struck by the fact that it’s very run down, kind of a hole as I dubbed it. Once upon a time it was probably wonderful and bustling. There are motels after motels, nearly all abandoned, with broken windows and signs that are falling from the building, hanging by old wires. It looks like you’re driving through an old town from the 1950s, a black and white movie like The Last Picture Show.

We turned right on Maley and then left onto Main, at the corner of The Rabbit Hole and The Dining Car Big Tex Barbecue. Flying Leap was on the same corner. There was an empty saloon for sale by Steve, and another small barbecue that looked like the place Frank Underwood frequents in the House of Cards on Netflix. The owner was sitting outside. He smiled and said Merry Christmas as we walked by. The old-fashioned movie house was advertising Hobbit 3 on the marquee. The road had angled parking places on either side of the street. Keeling Schaefer was there, too, across from the bronze sculpture of General Willcox.  We walked in and began our day of tasting.

Keeling Schaefer is in an old bank building from 1917. There is a ladder up to a lookout where the guard would sit with his rifle. Such was security in the old west. We tasted wine, we bought wine; we watched the trains roll by. We walked over to Big Tex, had some pulled pork for lunch, piled into the car and went in search of other wineries.

We found Bodega Pierce after turning on a dirt road. It was like being in a covered wagon, jostling along, kicking up dust. I was glad we hadn’t washed our already filthy car. From Bodega Pierce we went to Pillsbury and then to Zarpara. All of these tasting rooms are in people’s homes. They pour from what would be an eat-at bar in their kitchen.

We met a woman named Barbara at Bodega. She’s the owner of the winery. We met Bonnie at Pillsbury. She’s originally from Ohio but has been in Southern Arizona for 20 some years. She’s 65, a writer and came to Willcox about a year and a half ago to live on the vineyard property. She had her woodstove blazing. At Zarpara we were greeted by their dog Tilly, and the winery owners Rona and Mark were pouring wine from their kitchen. All of these winery owners had left corporate jobs; had decided there had to be something more to life. They found it in the rolling planes of this wonderful and wonderfully odd, time-forgotten little town.

We found it today, too, as we journeyed to a different time and place, where the grapes grow in volcanic soils and the winemakers walk the vineyards themselves, testing, observing, living a new life. In vino vertitas is what the Italians say. In wine, truth. And life. Today in Willcox, in wine there was living it out loud.

Paw prints and then

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 13, 2014 9:50 PM

It was raining here this morning when I took Cooper for a walk. We knew it was coming in. My weather app said as much. Plus the west coast got hammered a day and a half or so ago and the storm was moving east. It was a nice rain, just enough to make both he and I wet but not drenched. It’s the kind of rain I used to love to run in back when I was a runner. I miss running in the rain. Fodder for another post.

By the time el puptart and I returned, we were both fairly drenched. He shook and Kevin wrapped him in a towel, rubbing his fur to dry him off. I shook my head to fling out some water and headed for the bathroom and the hairdryer. Cooper, sensing where II was going, pranced ahead leaving wet paw prints on the floor. I smiled.

I’m a sucker for paw prints. I suppose most pet lovers are. The perfection of the tiny or sometimes not so tiny pads that hold water and leave a trail even inside, even for a short time until they evaporate.

Yesterday, we noticed tiny paw prints on the face of the fireplace in the great room of the new house. Vertical paw prints. I’m not entirely sure how that was possible but there they were, in a cluster. Some were perfectly formed, others had slid together as if whatever was trying to scale the wall in order to get inside the hole just above the fireplace was using all of its little might to heave and pull itself to safety. Mike remarked that he hoped some little creature wasn’t somewhere in the walls. If it gets sealed in inadvertently ir’s screwed.

We’ve seen all sizes of paw prints at the house, some obviously a dog, some more suspect. Coyote maybe. Or bobcat. Mike says there are bears out there. I haven’t yet seen anything remotely the size of a bear’s print, but yikes.

Paw prints appear on cars all the time. I love when you see the prints across the hood of a car and on the windshield, the telltale slide. I can imagine cats or raccoons getting on top of a car just to slide down. Like an amusement park for the wilderness.

It always makes me smile when I see the paw print stickers people put on their car windows. It’s as if they’re signifying solidarity; showing their love of the furred ones to the world. I always want to honk and say “heck yeah.” I don’t because they wouldn’t know what I was honking about and they’d think I was a nut, which of course I am, for animals.

When we lost Maguire, my sister and niece gave me a sterling silver necklace featuring a small silver triangle. Inside the triangle is a paw print. On the back is Maguire’s name. I wear it all the time in memory of our beloved boy, the one Kevin nicknamed puppy feet when he was little; he of the large paws.

There is a popular meme known as footprints in the sand, about god and walking beside and then carrying. I prefer the idea of paw prints in the sand and everywhere. That’s about dog to me.

Paw prints bring me comfort, they make me feel safe, they fill me with love, even when they’re on the floor in the house, even when they’re muddy. They fade or are washed away, but they are the stamp of my dogs, past and present. They are their way of saying “I was here; I still am.” And that’s always worth celebrating.

A busy busy day

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 15, 2014 7:47 PM

I was gone last weekend so that means the amount of stuff I have to do today has compounded exponentially. I don’t know if that’s the right word but it sounds good and intelligent so I’m going with it.

Last week at this time, I was writing my blog from the backseat of my sister’s Jeep Grand Cherokee as we sped along toward Maine. Down Maine as the locals say. On our way to see Gregg’s new house in South Berwick, just over the border of New Hampshire. It was cold. You could feel winter in the air. It was just over the horizon, waiting for the opportune time to make an appearance. Today, it’s cool here, too, but nowhere near what it was seven days ago on the other coast. It will probably get to 70º today before it gives up. Last week, back east, the high was about 48º.

Last night I started on my growing To-Do-This-Weekend list by going to the grocery store. Because I was gone last weekend, we had almost nothing in the house. The cupboards, as the saying goes, were bare. I have gotten in the habit of going to the grocery store just once a week and doing a big order. The weekend before I went to Nump’sha, I had bought stuff for Kevin and I and then also stuff for Kevin to eat while I was gone. I cook every night; I knew he wouldn’t cook for himself. He ate it all. This past week, I employed some supreme creativity. Finding things in the freezer I could use along with other things in the pantry and in the vegetable drawer to make meals.

Today I am busy busy, which is exponentially busier than simply busy. Two busys are not necessarily better than one but there you go.

I’m going to the tile store to check on a slab of granite that was supposed to come in as well as to see about them ordering a particular type of tile they told us they could get forever ago but that we thought we might be able to find somewhere else cheaper. We can’t. I’m hoping they can still get it. Otherwise we’re back to square foot one for what we want to put on our vanity counters.

I need to go to another tile store that has black honed granite which we want to use for the back splash in the kitchen. Honed is non-shiny. I share that because it was news to me. This particular tile store also has the tile we want for our showers. I may order them both while I’m there.

The sun sets on a busy busy day in the OP

I have to go to Floor and Décor, the new flooring superstore, to buy two stone sinks. They have the best price, and believe me, we’ve looked. We need one for the guest room, another for the ¾ bath.

I need to go to Home Goods. I’m still in search of mirrors for the vanities in the master bath. I haven’t yet been successful but last week when I was in Home Goods with my mother in New Hampshire, I saw some that were actually pretty cool. With any luck the one I’m going to here will have something similar if not identical. If they do, I’m buying two.

I have to go to Dunn-Edwards to look at and hopefully buy paint samples for the interior of the house. We’re looking at a light desert sand; no white. But finding the right shade is important. Can’t be too yellow or too orange or too brown or too white.

I’m starting everything off by washing my two rovers. The Range Rover is already in the driveway, waiting. It’s filthy and I don’t like my car filthy. I’ll wash it, then move it to the street so it can sit in the sun a bit and have the water evaporate. No matter how much I dry that car, water still manages to ooze out. I have long said that it holds water like a woman. I can say that with some understanding, as I am a woman.

The other rover, Master Cooper, will be next. He needs a bath and a trim, especially since we’re going out of town in a few weeks. He needs to be handsome, and he needs to be clean. He’s good when he gets a bath. I’ll suds him up, rinse him and towel him off. He’ll race around the back yard celebrating himself and all will be right with the world.

It’s a busy busy day here in the Old Pueblo and I’m living it out loud.

And Hawaii

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 29, 2014 8:57 PM

This morning, the husband unit and I were lounging in bed, having a cup of coffee, discussing the seven continents because what else would a happily married couple be doing at 7 am on a Wednesday morning?

The conversation had started rather innocently when I mentioned that this weekend was the time change. Many parts of the country fall behind. Arizona doesn’t participate because why would they. So I mentioned that we needed to remember that when California clients said they’d like to have a 2 pm meeting, that actually means 3 pm our time for the next several months unless we’re in California and then we don’t have to think about it. Kevin took a sip of his coffee and said his head hurt already. Then he said that maybe we needed to get some of those clocks, and I smiled and I said so we’d know what time it was in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, maybe Singapore.

That led to a segue of me asking what the biggest city in China is, and we both decided that it must be Beijing. This prompted me to say that I was pretty sure I could name most of the major cities in most countries but that Africa always eluded me. I knew Johannesburg in South Africa. I knew much of Africa was horribly poor, and that there is always strife there; always has been.

He said South Hampton. I don’t know if there’s a South Hampton in Africa. I know there’s one on Long Island and England. I asked if there were any other big cities in Africa which naturally led to a discussion about Egypt and Cairo because what else do you discuss at 7:05 in the morning. He said he didn’t think Egypt was in Africa and I asked well, then, where would it be? Luckily, I had my handy dandy communication device right next to the bed because dog forbid I not have my cell phone within reach at all times. I pulled up the internets and Wikipedia, wondering how I ever got by without Wikipedia, and looked up Egypt. There it was, a nice big splotch on the northern tip of Africa. Hmmm, said the husband unit, sipping his coffee.

What are the seven continents, I asked and together we quickly rattled off north and south America, Africa, Asia. Kevin offered Antarctica. Then we sat, perplexed. Australia? Yes. And Hawaii. I started to laugh. I’ve always loved Hawaii. It’s truly a tropical paradise. It has an otherworldiness about it, especially on the smaller islands, that makes you feel as if you’ve left the chaos behind. Time slows down a bit. You go from living life at mach II with your hair on fire to existing in slow motion. It can take a few days to acclimate, but once you do, it’s difficult to go back to the mainland. I think it might very well be the living and actual embodiment of Shangri-La, a fictional place from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton that was described as a mystical and harmonious valley, according to Wikipedia. It has since become somewhat synonymous with any earthly paradise.

Eventually, the husband unit and I came up with the correct seven continents. We got out of bed and took Cooper for a walk. The morning here was cool, low 50s. The light was almost blue, even as we approached 8 am. Fall weather. Cooper trotted along, his ears bouncing as they always do. We were quiet, lost in thoughts of Shangri-La. And the lost continent of Hawaii.

In which my husband finally gets a hair cut

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 16, 2014 8:24 PM

I get my hair cut every five to six weeks. I should always adhere to five weeks but that doesn’t always work. By the time six weeks rolls around, my hair is completely out of shape. The layers are grown out, the ends frizz a bit. And then there’s the color. Every six weeks I get to become a new woman.

My husband does not share my affinity for every five to six weeks. He stretches his out to four months, sometimes more. He has been known to drag it out to five or six months. He keeps his hair relatively short, and it doesn’t grow as fast as mine, but still, after several months, he looks, well, like he needs a haircut.

When we used to see Tammy, our friend and the woman who cut both of our hair for years, he would go fairly often. Not every time I went but every other time. Tammy did a good job cutting his hair. She never charged us for either cut or color because we’ve known each other for so long and because Kevin made a mean martini, something she loved to partake in on Friday nights when she could join us. We always left a huge tip, but my husband is frugal. If he doesn’t have to spend money, he doesn’t. I call it cheap. He calls it smart. The illusion that he didn’t really have to pay for his hair cut allowed him to get it cut more often. Plus, he liked to talk with Tammy. It was always a fun trip.

Now, we go through months of me saying “you need a haircut,” and him saying “I know. I’ll make an appointment.” That progresses to me saying “it’s starting to flip and curl at the ends,” something I know he hates, and him saying “I know” followed by a sigh. “I really need to make an appointment.” Finally, “Honey, do you want me to braid it, or would you rather pull it back into a pony tail?” Ha. “Fine. I’ll make an appointment.”

Today was the appointment. He left here just before 1 for a 1 o’clock appointment. He likes the lady who cuts his hair now because she’s cheap. I’m sorry; inexpensive. But she doesn’t do a very good job. It’s shorter, which is good, but it doesn’t have the same sense of style that it always had with Tammy. He also won’t have this new stylist color his hair and he likes to hide the gray, so I’ve been coloring it with L’Oreal Excellence. It looks pretty decent. When Tammy was visiting a few weeks ago, she actually commented on the color saying she thought it looked good.

I’ve asked him to try my stylist, but he doesn’t want to pay the money. And as long as he’s getting it cut, I’m fine.

He was back within 40 minutes, with shorter locks and a bit more style. “I had to tell her three times to take more off,” he said as he also informed me that he thought it looked pretty good. “Not as good as when Tammy did it. She knew what to do with this” – he indicated the top of the sides, where his hair is starting to recede. “But it’s not bad. She also cut off all the gray.”

I started to laugh. You can’t really cut gray off, I pointed out. Gray comes in at the root. “It does?” “Yes. That’s why women are forever having their roots done.”

A light went on. Of course.

“So this weekend, maybe you can color my hair?” he asked. “To hide the gray that didn’t get cut off.”

I’ll be glad to. Anything so that he looks pretty like he wants. And he does. He looks downright stylish with his new cut. Handsome. It will have to last another four or five months, too, so that’s a good thing.

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live out loud

The art and practice of active denial and why you should consider both especially if things keep you up at night

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 27, 2014 10:07 PM

When I sold my townhouse in 1997, I wanted to sell it without a realtor. I had already lost a lot of money and didn’t want to lose anymore. I had bought it when the market was better and then it tanked. Plus townhouses don’t appreciate nearly as well as single family homes.

I had a friend at the time who was in real estate and she promised to help me free of charge. If she had listed it, she would have had to charge commission because she worked for ReMax. Kevin and I had bought a house in Oak Park. We weren’t married yet but we needed more space. When I bought the townhouse in 1992, I was single. By 1997 I had acquired a man, a child and a puppy. In that order. The townhouse, which had two bedrooms and two and a half baths in two stories was lovely. There were a lot of kids for Justin to play with; it was in a decent area. We even had a two-car garage. I loved it. But the three of us were quickly outgrowing it. The new house afforded us another bedroom, plus a contained yard, perfect for a six year old boy and an 8 month old male pup.

After months of not getting very many people looking, a neighbor, a single guy who was renting a townhouse two-doors down decided to take the plunge and buy mine. I was thrilled. I was also nervous. We went into escrow. The close of the new house was contingent on the close of the townhouse. I was stressed and it manifested as insomnia.

I couldn’t turn my brain off at night. After Justin and Kevin and even Maguire would go to bed, I would stay downstairs. The TV would be on, turned way down, as somebody droned on about something that I wasn’t paying attention to. I’d spend hours writing instead. When I’d finally go to be bed, I’d lay there for hours more. Finally, somewhere around 5 am, I’d drift off only to have to get up two and a half hours later to get ready for work. I wasn’t full time anywhere – I had already gone freelance – but one of my clients had an office for me and I gave them three days a week. It was a great way to start my business, with a steady stream of money, while also building additional clients.

I went to the doctor who prescribed 10 Ambien, to be used sparingly. He said that everything would probably return to normal as soon as we moved. He was right.

For the last year, I’ve been in a similar situation, with selling the Oak Park house and moving. We’re in a rental while our house is being built. Selling meant showing and holding out for the right amount of money, which we did and which we got. Then we had to pack and purge. We had asked for a two-month escrow; we got five weeks. The day we finally moved was an experience I don’t ever want to repeat. It was brutal, and long – we didn’t go to bed for nearly 48 hours – and exhausting.

Now that the house is being built, we are constantly bombarded with decisions. It started with the design. Do you like it? How many bathrooms, how many bedrooms, what about the square footage? It has progressed to what kind of windows? How thick do you want the interior doors? What are you doing for a front door? How about a wine room door? Can you pick a bathtub for the master bathroom? Do you like this style of fireplace? How big do you want your built-in grill? Will the gas cooktop have a hood over the island? Are you doing granite countertops throughout? Where do you want the area for the dog?

It goes on and on and on. I simply don’t think about it. I take each question as it comes, answer them as I can, and move on.

In the midst of all of this, I am also slammed with work. I’m not complaining about either but I start each day with my hair on fire. By the end of the day, I have nothing but a smoking scalp left. It’s not pretty, but it is lucrative. This is good because the answers to every one of those questions I rattled off costs money.

I’ve been asked how I do it, how I don’t break down or explode; how I sleep at night. The answer is simple. I practice the fine art of active denial. I simply don’t think about it. It’s the 21st century version of pulling a Scarlet O’Hara. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

It works. I’ve had no insomnia issues. I go about my days and nights and deal with what’s in front of me at the time. It’s also living completely in the present, and that’s living it out loud. I highly recommend it.

A stroll through the life of a dog with a good owner, in a nice house, with lots of food and toys

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 PM

It occurs to me on a daily basis that my dog has a damn nice life. It also occurs to me that he didn’t necessarily have such a life earlier in his life and for that, I am forever saddened just as I’m saddened every time I hear about a mistreated animal. It’s something I don’t understand any more than I understand how anyone could abuse a baby or a small child. I know people do it; I just don’t understand it. It’s inconceivable to me.

Maguire had a damn nice life as well. His was nice from the beginning, or at least fairly close to the beginning. We got him when he was 10 weeks old. He had been found, according to legend, in the bushes of Oak Park. Kevin and I have never believed that because we also can’t understand how anyone could have found that puppy and taken him to the animal shelter rather than keep him. We do understand how lucky we are that someone did.

He had the kind of life that all dogs should have. He had tons of toys, good food, pizza bones (what we call pizza crusts), chicken, cheese, dog cookies. He was allowed on the king size bed, something he took constant advantage of when he was younger and more mobile. There was many a day where we found him either curled up against the pillows or stretched out on his back, usually on Kevin’s side because Kevin’s side got afternoon sun. He went on walks, he had run of the house. He was loved.

Cooper’s life with us is much the same. He came to us when he was six, and had more issues than Maguire because he didn’t come from a nice house with a good owner previously. A good owner would never have given him away because they were having a baby. As if the two aren’t compatible.

This is Cooper’s day: He gets up, shakes, pads out to the great room, usually following along behind his dad. He goes out for a quick pee and then trots back into the house, happy as he can be with himself, tail swishing. He comes back to the bedroom to see me because he knows I’m waiting. He hurls himself against the side of the bed and rubs his face as he moves toward me, then he puts his little face on the bed, sighs heavily and looks at me with big brown eyes under white eyelashes. Hi, mom. It’s me, Cooper.

We get up, we walk, we get back and he has breakfast complete with a cookie on top. Then we go to work. He sleeps, he stretches. When we go for coffee he brings a toy along and proceeds to fling it around the house, growling and chasing and pouncing to recapture it. Yo, wubba. It’s me, Cooper.

We have lunch, and the afternoon unwinds much like the morning. He snoozes under the ceiling fan. When it gets too hot, the AC clicks on and he is immediately cooled. He stretches and sighs. Hey, purp.

When the sun goes down and it cools off enough, we go for another walk. There is more dinner and then, when Kevin and I eat, he gets a little of that too, especially if it’s chicken, or salmon, or pizza, or potatoes. Throughout the day he is petted constantly, told what a beautiful boy he is, what a good boy he is, how much he is loved.

I used to joke with Maguire that in my next life, I was going to come back as a dog with a good owner in a nice house. I do the same now with Cooper. It’s how it should be. It’s what he deserves. Because he, and all dogs and cats, should be living it out loud in a nice house with a good owner and all kinds of love.

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live out loud

The adventures of Cooper Michel

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 14, 2014 10:50 PM

Episode 5: The spa

Because we were gone yesterday we decided to give Cooper a little bit of a doggie vacay. That’s how I placated myself anyway. Our Cooper tends toward the anxious and he has separation issues, especially when he’s separated from me. We think it’s because he has been left so many times before us. Try as we might, we can’t seem to get him to believe that this time, this family, is for good. He’s stuck with us, like white on rice, or pet fur on black pants.

When we were in Oak Park, we had a place called the Westlake Pet Motel. Great people who simply loved the animals. The place was immaculate. Tucked into the hills and canyons off of Decker/Route 23 South, it was an ideal setting for lots of barking dogs. We discovered it when we had Maguire. He loved going. We’d get there and they’d take his leash and he’d just trot along, never looking at us as if to ask “why am I going with these strange people?” He simply went. When we picked him up, he would have been bathed, and he would come out to greet us with a wild-eyed look that didn’t even see us. It was as if he’d forgotten us in the time he was moteling. It didn’t take him long after we returned home to fall into his routine. Usually about 20 seconds.

Cooper has been there once. Last May when we went back to New York to see Justin, we left him in their hands. A brush fire was burning in the general vicinity. The winds shifted and according to news reports it was eating everything in its path, and in its path was the motel. As we were 35,000 feet up, I was frantically emailing trying to get information. We’d left our boy, our anxiety-ridden little dude, and now the hills were on fire. A girl named Abby responded to my emails and called me throughout the weekend, assuring me that all was well, and that Cooper was fine. If anything changed, she would let us know. Sure enough, everything was fine. We picked him up, all fluffy from a bath, and took him home several days later. No worse for the wear.

We needed a new place. I found the Sabino Canyon Pet Resort. They had a great website, they looked like they cared about the animals left in their charge. I called, I booked Cooper a doggie suite, a two-room kennel with a bed and a blanket, plus a pass-through to go out to take care of business. It wasn’t as close to other dogs as the traditional kennels. I thought it might be better for him since he’s terrified of other dogs. Hearing them is one thing; seeing them quite another. We dropped him on Monday late afternoon since we were leaving very early on Tuesday and would be gone until the evening. Because he’s anxious, and because he doesn’t yet trust, we didn’t want to have a pet sitter come in to let him out. He might have eaten her. Not to mention the fact that we don’t completely trust leaving him alone all day in the house.

So Cooper Michel went to the Pet Resort. He slept in his two-room suite, on his blanket, with Bull and Fox with him. He wandered through his “door.” Today he had a bath.

When we dropped him off on Monday late afternoon, I asked when we could get him. We have never liked being in the house without our dog. It just seems wrong, empty. They said that since he was getting a bath, it would be a little later. They’d call me. I couldn’t stand the wait. At 10:15 this morning I called.

“He’s under the dryer.”

For some reason all I could imagine was my little red-furred one, inside a dryer, spinning, spinning. Kerplump, thump. Kerplump, thump.

We picked him up at 12:30. He came around the corner and as soon as he saw us he started to pant and strain and whine. We’d come back. We’d come back for him. He was saved.

He was fluffy, he smelled good. He’d spent a couple of days at the spa, and life was good after all. He was still Cooper Michel and that was worth celebrating. 

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