Twas the day after Christmas

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 26, 2016 6:07 PM

And all through the casa, not a human was stirring, not even Mufasa. You’ll have to pardon my lack of creativity but a) I’m tired and 2) I’m a big fan of Mufasa, always have been and it’s the only thing I could think of that rhymed with casa. We’re tired today, exhausted really. We had a lovely day yesterday, filled with Facetime and texts and presents and mimosas and coffee and coffee cake and stockings. And then we cleaned everything up – including ourselves – in order to prepare for guests and dinner. Said guests arrived just after five, in time for sunset, and the festivities began anew.

Roy and Bobbi are here, of course. It’s our third Christmas with them, here in the desert; the second in the new house. I think they enjoy coming; I hope they do. I know it’s always hard to be away from home and life, but we so look forward to them being here. We live well together, all of us. There’s never really an agenda. We sit around working or playing on our computers or texting with our phones. We listen to music, we eat good food and drink great wine. It’s always lovely. 

Ric and Jane joined us last night for dinner. They’re new friends, who live here most of the year. For the three summer months, they live in Michigan. They bought a house west of here and had it remodeled. It’s actually how we met them. Our architect had used us as a referral when they contacted him about perhaps doing their house. Jane and I hit it off on the phone and the next time they were in town, they came to the house to see in person what Mike had done. They didn’t end up hiring him but, as we like to joke, they “hired” us. We’ve all become friends. They’re from Chicago, and they’re rabid democrats. They like good food and good wine. We get along wonderfully. 

Kevin and I made prime rib. I made twice-bake potatoes, and asparagus with a touch of lemon juice and blue cheese crumbles. We had martinis and wine and talked politics and therapy, there being no real correlation between the two other than the obvious. 

They left and the four of us sat in front of the fire for a few minutes before going to bed. We were tired, and sated with too much good food and good wine. At 3 am, a smoke detector decided its battery needed to be changed, this one right outside of the guest room. Annoying, tiring, and requiring a ladder. Kevin changed it out, and while he and I got back to sleep OK, Roy and Bobbi didn’t sleep well at all. I felt horrible all day because of that. I know that I didn’t make the 3 am chirp happen and that it’s one of those random house things that happens to everyone. But still. You like to have guests be able to rest and relax when they’re in your home. Ours have only been able to do so sporadically. I feel bad. 

Today we went out to a healthy lunch then to a shop Bobbi likes. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home so that I could get stuff to make chicken and mushrooms with asiago gravy, mashed potatoes and baby French carrots. Comfort food. 

When we walked into the house, the same smoke alarm was once again chirping. We’re hoping it was just a defective battery, and not that there’s something more nefarious going on. Kevin got the ladder once again while I retrieved Riley whose back legs where shaking with fear. He doesn’t understand the loud and piercing chirp; it scares him. 

We replaced the battery again with the last of our 9 volts, and while Bobbi when to take a much-needed nap, the boys trucked back down the hill to Ace Hardware to get a fresh supply of batteries. We’ve decided we’re just going to change the batteries in all of the detectors that haven’t yet beeped so that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get a few years in before we’re once again, rudely awakened by beep.

We’re tired. We’re Christmas-ed out. Tonight we relaxed, Roy and Bobbi, Kevin and I, and our own Mufasa, king of the house, who spent the latter part of the day hiding behind the bathtub, cowering out loud.

A traditional Christmas

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 24, 2016 8:36 PM

When we were growing up, my mother always worried that we weren’t having a traditional Christmas. We rarely had any extended family; it was usually just the five of us, plus the dog. She would make cookies, seemingly for weeks, putting them in the freezer. Pecan tassies, apricot twists, thumbprints. She was a phenomenal baker.

When we lived in New York, we had a split-level ranch, and one tree. It was in the living room and on Christmas morning we’d all gather around on the shag carpeting and open presents. When we moved to New England, we had a kid’s tree in the family room and my mother’s tree in the living room. That tree, all white and gold, with garland, glass ornaments, white and gold “space balls”, glass icicles, and white and gold and red birds, was the tree under which all of the packages went. On Christmas morning, we’d gather in there and open presents, one at a time. It was her way of making sure that everyone was involved, and that Christmas wasn’t over in a flash of flying wrapping paper, bows and string. 

She would sit on the couch and watch, collecting wrapping paper that she would dutifully fold for use next year. She did the same with bows. And then it was over. And she was always a little down. Years later, we talked about it and she said that one of the reasons she felt that way was because she had convinced herself that everyone else had a more traditional Currier and Ives kind of Christmas, with extended family gathered around and everyone making merry. Then she found out that no body actually had that; that the paintings and prints were fantasies made of snow and sleighs. 

For the longest time, I was often down at Christmas, too, especially because I was away from my family. But then, I too, realized that there really isn’t a traditional Christmas. The traditions are yours and your family’s to make. Kevin and Justin and I, along with Maguire, made our own. We would get up, just the four of us, on Christmas morning and with a nod to how we did things as a kid, we’d open packages one at a time. Justin was in charge of picking out presents for everyone, and he was always so good about waiting. He actually seemed to enjoy the process. Maguire would lay on the floor and watch everyone. We’d give him one of his toys and he’s chew for a bit, then, keeping it close, return to watching. After presents were opened, but before stockings, we’d all go to the kitchen. Kevin would pour coffee and we’d make Justin some hot chocolate. I’d put the cinnamon coffee cake I made every Christmas into the oven, then we’d all go back into the great room to open stockings. 

Because we live west and away from immediate family, we long ago created our own western version. We’d spend Christmas late afternoon into the evening with Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and whoever else. We’d make a great meal, open more presents and enjoy each other’s company. On the 26th, we always went wine tasting. It was tradition, and a great way to extend the holiday.

Today I baked cookies. We listened to Christmas music and wrapped presents. We gathered in the great room, the five of us – Roy and Bobbi and Kevin and I and Riley – and we huddled around the fire as a cold storm blew in. It’s the new tradition, having Roy and Bobbi here with us in the desert. It’s the third year they’ve come, and it’s lovely. We went out to dinner, listened to some jazz and came back to once again gather around the fire and listen to music.  

I’ve decided that traditions are anything you want them to be, anything you make them. There’s no right or wrong tradition. There’s no Currier and Ives, except on paper. We are our own Currier and Ives. We do our best to embrace those we love, both near and far. We wish for snow and accept rain and cold. We eat cookies and drink wine and enjoy each other, always. It’s what traditions are made of. 

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and more. Feliz Navidad from the all of us in the desert where we’re celebrating out loud.

108 miles and not yet to Phoenix

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 23, 2016 6:48 AM

The first thing that happened was a text message at 12:17 am. We're selling our old artificial Christmas tree on Craig's List for $35 and there is evidently a desire for a six-foot tree in great condition. We didn't answer it because technically we were sleeping and conducting business regarding a used tree at that time of the morning/night is obscene.

At 3:15 I heard the hiss and snarl of the coffee maker as it finished brewing the 12 cups I'd asked it to make last night when we went to bed. I rolled over and clutched my pillow, balling it up under my head and snuggled in.

At 3:23 Kevin's alarm went off, a melodic song that always reminds me of Japan. He likes to set his alarm for strange times for reasons that I've never fully understood and he's never fully explained. I think he just likes to think he's being unpredictable. He sat up, reached for the phone and the chime was silenced.

At 3:30 my alarm went off, a chipper sound that belied the time of day. My ring tone for the alarm is more like a xylophone and way to happy for such an early hour. I sat up, turned it off, yawned, and said I miss my dog. 

Riley is in the kennel. We took him yesterday afternoon about 4:00. We've never left him in a kennel before. Last year, we left him at our vet's office. They board a very small number of animals and while it was fine, we didn't like that he was cooped up in a small room with no way to get outside to pee or poop. He had to wait for someone to come walk him. This year, we made a reservation at a traditional kennel with indoor/outdoor runs and we fretted about it the whole time. About a week and a half ago, Kevin stopped at another place near us, took a tour and came home to announce it was probably the nicest kennel he'd ever seen, also with indoor/outdoor runs. Plus the dogs are taken out into a little park type area every day to romp and play and sniff. Naturally they were booked but they put us on a waiting list. Yesterday, at about 11, they called. They had a cancellation and now had a run for Riley. It's a veterinary center which we like because our boy has anxiety issues. If something were to happen, if he gets too upset, they can help him. He was a nervous wreck when we took him in. It broke both of our hearts. We pick him up Monday morning. Until then, I'll call every day.

By 4:29, we pulled away from the house, the Sport loaded with suitcases and coolers. We reset the trip counter on the dash and started on our journey. We had a full tank of gas and hoped to average 22 miles per gallon. We didn't buy this car for its fuel efficiency. Last night Kevin checked all the fluids and the air in the tires. We scrubbed the windshield inside and out. We prepared.

It was dark and cold. The temp on the dash read 42. By the time we turned onto Catalina Highway it had dropped to 39 and a little snowflake appeared next to the numbers, the car's way of telling us it could snow soon. I reached over and turned on my seat warmer. Might as well have a hot butt, especially since we were both in shorts. At least I wore a sweatshirt.

The journey up the 10, then west through the desert and finally north along the ocean is 715 miles. 10 hours. 

The headlights lit our way. Kevin turned on the driving lights, too. Tonight we'll be in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. We'll have pizza and wine. We'll sit outside by the fire pit or inside next to the fire. It's supposed to be cold there too. 

But first we needed to get to Phoenix. Phoenix always seems like the official launching pad. When we come home, it always signifies the start of the final leg.

I looked over at the dash. 108 miles. I could see the lights of Phoenix sparkling ahead. Ready, set, go for vacation.

Riley and Bobbi have the best yawn noises. Kevin says Riley wins.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 30, 2016 9:20 PM

My husband is a yawner but a silent yawner. He almost always yawns in the car, but only when I’m driving. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is though it is more pronounced later in the afternoon and especially after we’ve seen a movie. The only sound he really makes is a little bit of a huff at the end as he pushes the air out of his lungs and finally closes his mouth. I tease him about it because I’ve never been much of a yawner. He’s like a little kid. Justin was always a yawner in the car, too. He also almost always fell asleep in the car when he was little.

I yawn only when I am beyond exhaustion. I yawn so seldom that when I do, Kevin stops and looks at me: “Did you just yawn?” The fact that he has to comment on it tells you all you need to know.

But nobody yawns better than Bobbi, who is also very proficient at it when in the car. Last Christmas, when we were on our way to Bisbee, and she was in the back of the Sport, the yawns were prolific, announced with vigor and finesse, an exhale accompanied by a high exclaim. Every time she did it, we’d laugh. We had never heard someone get so much volume and pleasure from a single yawn. We were impressed.

Enter Riley who is quite the yawner/stretcher/squealer. His noises are always fascinating and funny. None of our other dogs have had any particular noises other than what you’d expect from a dog. Maguire would growl with his toys and bark at the squirrels in the backyard. When he stood at the front door and decided we needed to be told about something in particular that may or may not have been of concern, he barked three times. Woof, woof (pause), woof. I don’t remember Cooper being much of a barker, though he did occasionally growl at his toys. 

And then there’s Riley. He is much more vocal. If he wants you to play with him, he’ll bring a toy (a “guy”) over, and drop it near you. Then he’ll back up, drop his ears and issue a guttural challenge. It’s pretty funny. When he bounds outside in the morning, usually with Wubba, he does so with gusto, whipping it back and forth and growling to great fanfare. 

In the early mornings, though, it’s the yawns that make us laugh. He starts by coming to one side of the bed or the other. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern; it’s simply whoever he deciphers as being awake first. He then lays his head on the mattress next to whoever, and as soon as his presence is acknowledged with eyes opening, the tail begins to wag. As we lean over to pet him, he then presses his whole body against the bed for a full length rub. 

But when we get up, the true fun begins. He backs up to allow us room to exit said bed. And then once we’re up, he stretches his front legs and paws out in front of him as far as he can, pushing his head and neck down and his butt up into the air. And while he manages this acrobatic act, he yawns, opening his mouth up as wide as possible so that we can practically look down his throat and see his tail. And then, he issues this high pitched squeal that we’re convinced will someday shatter glass. Then his jaw snaps closed and he pushed himself back up so that he’s completely standing, and he air snaps. Come on! Let’s go! 

This happens over the course of several minutes, several times, as we get ready for a walk.

So in the battle for who has the best yawn noises, we have to give it to Riley, probably also because of the stretch and the butt. Maybe if Bobbi could perfect that, she might be back in the running. I’ll have to talk to her.

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Oh the carnage (again)

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:04 PM

It is everywhere. Piles of nothing and everything. Discarded remnants of dignity, places where stuffing seems to have been literally beaten out of even the most unsuspecting. It’s a horror show, a disgrace, an embarrassment. I speak, of course, of the disaster that greeted us this morning as we exited the bedroom. 

Riley, as in Mr. Boo, Hey Boo Boo, Riley Boo, and Honey Boo Bear (sensing a boo pattern? And it’s not even yet Halloween), had left us a path of toy destruction that stretched across the walkway, down the steps and into the great room. Tufts of white stuffing, pieces of piping ripped from the edges, an eyeball, shredded pieces of plastic. It all awaited our arrival. We stood there, surveying the littered landscape. And started to laugh. 

Last night, Kevin had dutifully sewn up two of Riley’s toys, his beloved Yellow, he of the stuffed Crayola crayon variety (and who recently went on a camping trip) and a toy that has been in the hospital so long we couldn’t even remember its name. 

The hospital is what we created years ago when Maguire would attempt total toy destruction by mercilessly working on a string until he managed to unravel a seam just enough to open a hole out of which he would proceed to pull more stuffing than the toy looked capable of holding. I guess in some ways that’s similar to blood being spilled, and how it always looks like there’s more blood than there should be, even with a small cut. After distracting Mr. Maguire Michel, Esq., one of us would pick up the limp rag of a toy along with the stuffing and attempt to re-stuff the poor creature. Then, because we’re horrible procrastinators, the re-stuffed but not re-sewn toy would be ceremoniously placed on top of the refrigerator, in the critical care unit, awaiting surgery. Eventually they’d get patched up and returned to play time. Sometimes the toy would go on to live a nice, long life. 

This is not the case with Riley. He gets a new toy and proceeds to tear it apart. If we can get a toy to last more than 30 minutes, we consider it a success. And we try, really, we do. We give him a toy and then try to distract him. We’ve found that if he has two toys with him at once his attention gets split and both survive. 

You’re wondering: Why don’t you buy tougher toys? The answer is: we try to do that, too. But they just don’t make them because if dogs can’t destroy toys, you don’t have to buy as many. His Wubba toys last awhile; others not so much. So we tend to buy toys in the reduced price bin at the front of PetCo because if they’re going to get destroyed anyway they might as well be cheap. 

The hospital now is the top shelf in the back of the pantry which is where the toy whose name we couldn’t remember was resting comfortably. Kevin, the official toy surgeon, pulled him out, after sewing up Yellow (for about the sixth time), and proceeded to restore the toy to chewable condition. Riley, having abandoned Yellow for what he assumed was a new toy (like I said, this one has been out of commission for a while), squirmed impatiently on the floor, scrambling ever closer then pushing himself back. When Kevin was finally done, he presented Riley with – “what should we call this thing?” he asked me. I shrugged my shoulders. “Leo?” “It is kind of leopardy.” – Leo and off he trotted. 

Fast forward to this morning and the toy Armageddon that awaited us. Leo had been gutted; ditto Yellow. Cat, who we didn’t even know was in the mix, was in the middle of a sea of white fluffy stuffing, a twisted, mangled shell of her former self. She’s long been headless, having lost it during her last trip to the hospital, but this morning, well, suffice it to say that we had to call time of death.

I’ve read that toy destruction is actually a sign of a healthy dog and a healthy mind. If that’s the case, then I’m ready to pronounce our dog absolutely brilliant. 

The deep blue mystery of the Colorado t shirt

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 20, 2016 7:50 PM

It was a bright and sunny morning. Oh, and windy. In other words, just another beautiful day in desert paradise.

I pulled on a pair of black cut off sweats and an "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" tee-shirt. For the record, it was 7:21. I was trying to lace up my sneakers - trying because in the morning, when we sit on the bench in the bathroom to put on shoes, Riley takes that as an invitation to get very close, spin around and while gazing back with a look that says "do you see my butt - You know what you're supposed to do" actually presents his butt for rubbing.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Trying to tie my shoes while rubbing the dog's butt. I finally managed to get him to get out of the way by urging him to "go find daddy. Go bug daddy." And off he went to find and bug daddy/Kevin. Who was actually in the closet. Trying to find something to wear. Luckily I did laundry last night so just about everything is clean. He emerged wearing his light gray sweat shorts and a dark blue Colorado t-shirt.

"Where did this shirt come from?" he asked perplexed, holding out the bottom so he could read it upside down.

"I have no idea," I responded.

"It's like one of those shirts you always buy me in airports on your way home from somewhere," he volunteered. It's true. I do always buy him shirts in airports. It's a thing.

"I don't think I've been to Colorado," I said.

"I don't think you have either," he said.

"It's a really nice shirt," I said approvingly.

"It is," he agreed.

We both stood silent for a while, contemplating his blue Colorado tee shirt. It really was a nice shirt. But where did it come from? We contemplated and thought and squeezed our brains about it. To no avail.

Pretty soon, we heard Riley heading back to the bedroom having been unsuccessful in finding daddy/Kevin. Tags jangling, nails clicking he appeared, ears flying, tongue waggling. He stopped and looked at us looking at Kevin's shirt. And then came over and presented his butt again.

No mystery as to what Riley wanted, but the mystery of the dark blue Colorado shirt continues. Oh, well. Something to solve another day.

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In which Yellow goes camping

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 9, 2016 8:30 PM

So Riley has a new toy. It’s an oversized, stuffed Crayola crayon that we have dubbed Yellow for obvious reasons. It’s brighter than the sun. We got it just days ago, from PetCo. Every time I go to PetCo to buy dog food, which is roughly once a month, I also stock up on whatever cookies-treats we’re low on and I usually buy a toy. Our little blonde nut goes through toys fairly quickly. Excited to get something new, he sits as I remove tags and stickers, his tail sweeping the floor, his eyes hyper-focused. He vibrates with anticipation. Finally, the time comes. I present the toy always by naming it as I give it to him. We started that habit with Maguire. We introduce toys with a name in the hope that when we say “go get Yellow” or “get Wubba” he has at least a clue as to what – who? – we’re asking for. 

Riley sniffs, licks and then grabs the toy, rising, turning and racing off into the center of the house. He whips the new toy back and forth, growls and then settles down to start chewing, squeaking, destroying. We try to distract him, but we’re not always successful. If a toy can make it 24 hours, it has a chance of making it for a week or two. If not, it’s usually gone within the hour. 

Yellow was purchased in the reduced price bin because of the destruction factor. Yellow was $4. We like Yellow. More importantly, Riley likes Yellow. After the ceremonial handoff in the kitchen, he and Yellow have become nearly inseparable. Yellow gets carried around the house. Riley sits at the front door, watching out through the glass, holding Yellow. When we go out to pee, Yellow comes with us. It’s his new BFF. Oh sure, he still loves Wubba, but Yellow is bright, shiny –


Where was I? 

Ah, yes. Yellow and Riley, sitting in a tree, p-l-a-y-i-n-g. They were out on the deck last night, Riley down on the tile, looking out over the deck, a sphynx overseeing his desert. Yellow was next to him, not really paying much attention to the desert, content to be with his new friend. 

I’m sure if Yellow could talk, he would have gushed about how excited he was to be in his new home, how much he loved his new friend, and how great the desert was. In fact, he didn’t have to gush. Because Yellow actually decided to go and explore it a bit. In other words, Yellow went camping. 

I went out to check on Riley and he was standing at the railing, looking down and whining. I went to look and there was Yellow down on the rocks. 

“We have a Yellow down,” I called to Kevin. “We have a Yellow down.” Good dad that he is, he laced up his hiking shoes and trudged down under the house, down onto the rip rap to rescue hapless Yellow. He handed him up to me through the railing and I promptly handed the toy back to Riley who was overjoyed. 

Within two minutes, Yellow had been tossed and nosed off of the deck again, this time rolling under some of the brush down below. Riley stood and whined. Kevin and I looked over and shook our heads. 

The sun had gone down and there was little natural light. We tried to explain to Riley that it was probably best for Yellow to stay outside overnight… 


… that we’d be sure to get him in the morning … 

*whine wine * 

… right after our walk. 

*whine whine sniff snort whine yip* 

I guess this is what happens when a best friend decides to go camping and leaves his puppy behind. There’s a lesson in there someplace. I’m just not sure where.


Postscript: Yellow was successfully rescued this morning making a certain puppy very happy indeed.

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There was a dead snake along the road this morning

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 1, 2016 9:09 PM

It was just after 8 am. The sun had long since risen above the house and was busy warming the day. Riley and I got a late start on our walk but since it was only hinting at 70º I knew we’d be fine. We trudged along, me saying “slow” about every ten feet. I’m trying to train him to not be such a puller and I’ve never liked the word “heel.” Dogs know the words they taught, and I’m teaching “slow.” His leash was wrapped around my left hand; I was keeping him close to me.

There were workers at the Strobel’s house. Kevin had mentioned that he heard what he thought were trucks and trailers down below, where the house is being built. He asked me to take a look as I went by, just to see who it was and whether we should call the sheriff. It was the contractor – I recognized his truck – and several others. All were busy working. The contractor saw me and waved. I waved back. 

We trudged along, Riley and I. No one else was out. No cars passed us. I always keep my eyes open for creatures, namely javelinas or coyotes. I look to the right and the left and dead ahead for the entirety of the walk. Javelinas can be nasty and dangerous. Coyotes not so much because Riley is a big dog. But I fear Riley would freak and cause a scene. I watch for Gila monsters that can bite down on a dog and not let go; I watch for tortoises that will bite if provoked and attacked. I watch for snakes. 

As we rounded a gentle curve, and began to walk down a small decline, there was one on the side of the road. A rattlesnake. We haven’t seen many snakes up here. We know they’re around; how could they not be given the terrain and the climate? I saw one in what was call the Cooper Area, where we take the dog to pee during the day and before we go to bed at night. There was the one that somehow got into the house. Another that was on the road another morning. We kept Riley close and made a wide circle to get around it. When we returned it was gone. 

I pulled Riley’s leash closer. He didn’t see it, but I kept my eyes on it as we continued by. When we came back past, it was still there, still in the exact same position, part of its scaly body looped over the other. This time, Riley saw it and stopped. He stood staring, his body extended in the direction of the snake, his head forward and down. He didn’t try to pull. He just watched, waiting.


I picked up a rock and tossed it. The snake didn’t move. It was dead. Completely intact. No apparent trauma. Perhaps one of the falcons or ravens had grabbed it up and then dropped it from a great height. Maybe it just died of old age. It didn’t matter. What mattered was there was a dead snake along the road. 

We continued toward home, my dog and I. I watched and listened for other predators. I nodded toward the contractor again. I thought about the snake and its symbolism. Rattlesnakes are lethal creatures, striking to kill. But it was dead. Could it be that it somehow also symbolized the death of fear?

We all live in fear, sometimes it can be crippling. Most times it just gnaws at the back of your soul. Fear of failure, of loss. Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’ll never be what we dreamed of becoming as children. Fear of life. 

A rattlesnake is but one creature representing the personification of fear, but it’s a just representation. If it can die for no visible reason, could our own insecurities and fears die as easily? Can mine?

The death of fear. The death of anger. The death of lashing out, of striking out. All manifested in the death of one snake along the road this morning. Something to think about.

Riley on Ice and Fresh blue Wubba

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 20, 2016 8:47 PM

Riley’s favorite toy is Wubba. His love affair with the octopus-like creature started the night he came to live with us. We welcomed him at the front door. He was skittish at first but seemed to take to us quickly, especially Kevin who remains his favorite dad ever. We took him around the house, introducing him to his new home, showing him where his water and food bowls were, where his bed was. Then we turned him loose to let him explore on his own. He disappeared into our room. He was gone for a few minutes, and then he came running down the hall with a Wubba in his mouth. That Wubba had been Cooper’s, but that night, Riley made it his own. He has been through approximately five Wubba’s in the year and a half since. 

It is a remarkably resilient and tough toy. There is a large ball, topped with a smaller ball, and four long tentacles. The one Cooper had was covered with faux fur and had a little face on it. It was cute Wubba. But Cooper was older and more refined when it came to his toys. While they all eventually got destroyed, it took a while. Not so with Riley. 

Riley can destroy just about anything within a half hour. Except Wubba. Wubba tends to last a couple of months, perhaps because of the tough canvas-covered Wubba’s we now buy. During those months, there are still hints of impending death. The tentacles begins to fray, the fabric covering Wubba’s other body parts becomes thin. Threads appear. 

But Wubba soldiers on.

I always keep a spare Wubba in the pantry, for when the current Wubba dies valiantly. Such was the case over the past few days when blue Wubba was unleashed into the house. Blue Wubba is so-called for obvious reasons. For less obvious reasons, Kevin has taken to calling the toy Fresh-blue Wubba. I suspect this is because the water and food bowls we have are dark blue and when there’s water in the water bowl, it looks fresh and inviting. We’ve had these particular dog bowls since Maguire. And whenever we’d fill the water bowl with cool water, Kevin would always make a big deal of telling Maguire: “There’s fresh-blue water in your bowl, sweetie.” Maguire, for his part, would usually just stretch, roll over and go back to sleep.

Riley races around the house with Wubba. He grabs one or more of the tentacles and whips it around so that the rest of the toy bounces off of his back. We call this “opus dei puppy.” It’s a fun game, one that he plays by himself daily. 

Today, Fresh-blue Wubba was in the living room. Riley was racing around on the walkway that runs the entire length of the house, something we call the most expensive indoor dog run ever. He was spinning around, air snapping, wanting to play. This is usually cause for Kevin to say: “Get a guy!” 

Riley, like many young dogs and golden retrievers in particular, needs a job. He needs to be busy. Guys, which is what Kevin calls his toys, keep him busy. Here was the conversation:

Kevin: Get. A. Guy. 

Riley: (air snap) 

Kevin: Where’s Wubba? Get Fresh-blue Wubba.

Riley: (air snap; spin) 

Kevin: Get Wubba!!!! 

Riley: (air snap; spin; air snap) 

Then he bounded down the two steps, racing toward Fresh-blue Wubba, ready to pounce and grab and engage in some opus dei puppy. He hit the brakes as he grabbed his toy but lost his footing – feeting? – and wiped out, sliding across the tile like it was ice, Wubba nudged up and now flying through the air. The dog turned to look at us as Wubba crashed down on the couch table. 

Riley: (air snap) 

Kevin turned to me: And that is what we call Riley on ice.


Scooby Dooby doo where are you?

by Lorin Michel Friday, August 5, 2016 11:44 PM

When I was a kid, I read Hardy Boys Mysteries and the Three Investigator books that carried Alfred Hitchcock’s name above the title. They were all considered juvenile detective books, though being a juvenile at the time, I didn’t think of them as such. They were just books I devoured. In these stories, there was always something lurking beneath the surface that was evil and ghostly. I think that’s why I enjoyed them so much. Kids love that kind of stuff for some reason. I think it has to do with the monster-under-the-bed syndrome, or the shadows dancing on the wall at night.

Years ago, my niece Shawn fractured her skull so she couldn’t play for a while. I suggested that she and I write a story together and she jumped at the chance. She was probably 11 at the time. She wrote the first “chapter.” It was a mystery, with elements of zombies and treasure. We never finished it but we had a lot of fun being spooky.

One of my enduring memories from childhood is watching Saturday morning cartoons. I suspect it’s a memory many around my age share. It was a ritual. Saturday mornings were lazy and while we didn’t get a chance to watch much TV during the week (there were only a few channels at the time), Saturday mornings belonged to kids everywhere. My favorite show was Scooby Doo.

The show debuted on CBS on Saturday morning, September 13, 1969 and featured Fred (voiced by Frank Welker), Shaggy (voiced by Casey Kasem), Velma (Nicole Jaffe), Daphne (Stefanianna Christopherson) and Scooby (voice by Don Messick), all part of the Mystery, Inc. gang.  Their first episode was “What a Night for a Knight.” I loved the show. Evidently, so did everyone else. It was a huge success. There was always a monster or a creature that was terrorizing somebody somewhere. The gang always offered to investigate, and Shaggy and Scooby would invariably run into the monster and quiver in fear. The monster would always be caught and unmasked as just an ordinary criminal in a costume, who would mutter something like “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!” 

I think I liked it so much because the kids had the power. Similar to how Shawn wrote a story with a mystery that she would be able to solve, I watched the show and read the books that I read because I could imagine myself as Velma – the smart one, or in the books, Jupiter Jones. Yeah, he was a boy, but he was also the smart one. I mean, he was named after a planet. How could he not be brilliant? 

Scooby Doo started out as The Mysteries Five, with five teens – Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda and Linda’s brother WW – and a dog named Too Much, all of whom played in a rock band (Too Much played the bongos) and in their spare time, solved mysteries involving ghosts, zombies and other supernatural creatures. Eventually, Geoff and Mike were merged into one and became Fred, Kelly became Daphne, Linda became Velma and WW became Shaggy. Too Much became Scooby Doo because the mastermind behind the show, Fred Silverman, liked the riff Frank Sinatra did at the end of Strangers in the Night. Doo-be-doo-be-doo. Somehow they got Scooby out of that. 

I watched Scooby Doo every Saturday for years, usually with a blueberry poptart and a glass of orange juice. It was only on for a half hour but it was a half hour filled with major kid-power. There have been movies, and re-incarnations of the show ever since. I haven’t seen any of them. I was loyal to the original, and I remain so. I have no doubt that if I were to see an episode today, it would appear quaint, and probably not very good. But I still cling to the memory. A time of innocence, when things, at least for me and my siblings, wasn’t complicated. When the best thing in the world was Saturday morning, in front of the television, watching a cartoon Great Dane named Scooby talk, eating a poptart.

Bonus: Riley Boo and his Scooby Doo

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