Surfer puppy

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 12, 2018 4:49 PM

When Maguire was a puppy, he was mostly dark brown, almost black, with white paws. Within a month after he first came to live with us, his coloring started to change and the dark brown became a bit lighter. Over the course of several years, the color of his fur continued to change, becoming lighter, blonder, with dark brown streaks and stripes. He became brindled. During this phase, people asked us even more often what kind of dog he was, and we answered as we always answered: no idea. To the best of our sleuthing and according to our vet, he probably was some mix of Australian shepherd, golden retriever, border collie, German shepherd, akita, Chesapeake Bay retriever. You get the idea. A certified mutt. And the best damned dog on the planet.

He was “the one.” We’ve loved our other dogs completely. We are head over heels over Riley and can’t imagine life without him. But Maguire remains the gold standard of Michel dogs. 

During his brindle phase, when he was young and energetic, when he would prance around the house, and on our walks around the neighborhood, we developed a new way to describe him. Previously he had always been “puppy feet;” he was a hunka hunka puppy luuuvvvv; he was my Honey Bear. We lived in Southern California at the time, so this new name fit perfectly. We just knew, given his coloring and his personality, that he would be perfect on the beach, chasing waves, waiting for the boards to roll in. He never went to the beach, but he became Surfer Puppy.

Today, as part of our sort of training regimen for Riley, we loaded him into the back of the Sport and drove to the park for a walk. Kevin’s knee has been bothering him so he didn’t want to tackle the hills that surround our home. Walking a flat couple of miles rather than a constant incline and decline of road seemed a better idea. Plus, Riley. 

Our boy has some anxiety issues. He’s afraid of, well, just about everything. The good news is that he’s not aggressive. We just need to build his confidence, that according to a trainer we saw on Monday morning. She worked wonders with a friend of mine’s dog, Charlie, who had anxiety issues and was aggressive. This trainer specializes in in-home training meaning you have to give her your dog for several weeks so that she can work her magic and return a dog who is better. Charlie spent a total of nearly 5 weeks with her but he’s a changed dog. He’s great. My friend wants us to be able to bring Riley to their house, have the dogs get along, maybe go swimming. But Riley is afraid. 

Monday morning my friend invited Riley and I to see her trainer who had generously offered to meet Riley and give us some pointers. The dogs got along great, so much so that we were all supposed to meet this morning to get the dogs in the pool. The trainer wanted to be there because Riley hasn’t ever been swimming, and she wanted to teach him how to get in. Unfortunately, my friend needed to cancel. But we still wanted to take the opportunity to take him out to be in a new place, with new smells, maybe see other dogs (though not necessarily to interact with them).

The seats were still down in the back of the Sport. Kevin bought a big moving blanket a couple of weeks ago that we can spread across the back of the car in order to mitigate some of the fur that collects on the carpet. Fur that is nearly impossible to get out. Riley jumped up and in, and proceeded to stand no matter how many times we implored him to lay down. He’d get down and then he’d get up and then we’d say “down” and he would curl up and then he would stand up. 

Finally, we gave up. No it’s not safe. I know that. We know that. But as I was driving, he was standing in the back weaving, adjusting his balance, changing the position of his feet. Surfing. 

Riley Michel. The new iteration of surfer puppy.


Golden Retriever surfing, by Carolyn Gray

The Batman theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 11, 2018 8:08 PM

Indulge me for a minute while I set the scene. It was Sunday night. The desert had grown quiet and calm after the raging winds of the afternoon and early evening. The lights from the city, so far and incredibly close all at once, danced. Riley was on the floor, sleeping against the wall underneath the window that looks out onto the deck, and Kevin was yawning. It was about 10:15. We had watched the first episode of the second season of Cardinal, a Hulu series that we find mildly enjoyable without being too taxing. We were both tired and rather than even start the second episode, we decided it was time for bed. I got up from the couch and just then, I heard it. 

Fluttering, scratching. Paws or feet or claws tramping across the ceiling out toward the deck. The house creaked. Kevin stopped yawning. Riley immediately sat up and started to growl.

Me: “What the fuck is that?” 

Kevin shhhh’d me as we waited for it to happen again, which it did, louder and more insistent. If someone told me a pterodactyl was on the roof, I would have believed them. 

The desert is the land of many odd, majestic, scary, and prehistoric creatures. It’s not unusual to see Gila monsters and desert tortoises, snakes, lizards, and tarantulas. Last summer I watched a tarantula climb up the front stone of the house, but what was on the roof was either the biggest spider in history or something far more menacing.

“Whatever it is had to have crawled, climbed or scaled up the side of the house,” I said. I don’t know if I was trying to be logical and find reason in what was happening or if I was just proffering some sort of explanation. Either way, the visual was not comforting. 

Kevin was on his feet, at the window, looking up and out. He went into his office and, grabbing a flashlight, started toward the front door. 

“You’re not going out there,” I said and asked all at once.

“I was,” he said. 

“Not without shoes,” I said and he dutifully slipped on his flip flops to avoid any scorpions or centipedes that might be lurking in the portico. I bravely stood in the doorway with my hand on the door as he went out and flashed his light up toward the roofline. He moved along the house, illuminating the stucco and the scuppers. This went on for about five minutes, five minutes that seemed like an hour. 

He turned off the light and shrugged his shoulders. The light from inside the house and from above the garage doors bathed the driveway in an eerie light. An owl hooted from somewhere in the hill above, but the noise on the roof was gone. 

“Maybe a ring-tailed cat,” I suggested. 

“Sounded too big for a ring-tail,” he said. “Maybe it was the owl.” 

“An owl couldn’t possibly make that kind of noise.”

“Maybe the osprey?” We have one osprey that appears occasionally, sitting atop a saguaro up above. The first time I saw it, I was convinced it was an eagle. But the markings were different, and when it finally took flight, the wing span rivaled a small commuter plane.

“The problem with the osprey is that most birds don’t fly at night,” I said before adding, sheepishly, “do they?”

He shrugged again. “Whatever it is appears to either be playing possum or it’s gone.” 

He came in the house and we both took Riley out to pee, just in case there was something lurking on the side of the house. Strength in numbers and all that. When we brought the dog back in, who happily trotted toward the bedroom, Kevin stopped, listening again. Silence. 

“Maybe … it was Batman.” 

That’s our current theory for last night’s roof disruption. I’m just hoping for the Michael Keaton version.

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