Banana bread is in the oven

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 3, 2016 9:17 PM

I realize by the time anyone reads this, the title of this post will be in the wrong tense.  I’m surprisingly OK with that. 

I’m writing on a brilliant, warm Sunday morning. You’ll be reading on a Monday morning. But the gist will remain the same. I’m on the deck, a piping hot cup of coffee on the appropriately named coffee table in front of me. My slippered feet are also on the table. My dog is against the wall with perp. Music is flowing from the speakers overhead. I hear the flap of a flag, snapping in the wind down below. Birds are singing. It’s like I’m in a Disney movie.

But my husband is sick. Hence the banana bread. 

Yesterday was readying the vineyard day. I may have mentioned that I bought Kevin six grape vines for Christmas. He has always wanted to grow his own grapes in order to make our own wine. I found some that would grow in this climate. They arrived just over a week ago. As we live on a rock, there is not a lot of deep soil so we had to make our own raised area. We had dirt delivered and Kevin built gabion walls, using some of our infinite supply of rock, to hold it back and make a level, and large, planter. We distributed the dirt yesterday and had a bit of a mishap. Several of the walls tipped over. So what was a one-time job quickly turned into a two-time job. By 5:30, we were both cooked, him even more so than I since he does more of the heavy lifting. In fact, he was so cooked that it was his idea to stop and go in. 

By last night, he had chills. By this morning, he had a fever.

I don’t think it’s the flu. I think it’s more overdidititis. He’s not very good at understanding his perhaps-limitations. He pushes himself way too hard for far too long, and then this happens. 

One of his favorite things in the world is homemade banana bread, and as I was sitting in the kitchen earlier, it occurred to me that I could probably make some. If not a whole recipe then at least a half. I had a fairly good sized and overly ripe banana, flour, eggs, butter, sugar. I also decided to do something a little different this time and mix in a bit of sour cream. I greased the pan and also sifted some sugar-cinnamon onto the butter. We’ll see how it turns out. I’m thinking it can’t be awful, and if it is, for whatever reason, I’ll just toss it. Since Kevin is still in bed, he may never know the difference.

I just went to check on it. I walked into the house and that warm smell of baking wrapped itself around me. It’s so comforting, the fragrance of banana bread. I’m not a huge fan, though I enjoy it. I think I like the smell of it better than anything.  

It’s Sunday morning. Banana bread is in the oven and the husband unit is in bed. It’s quiet, save the wind which has just kicked up. But the day is lush, it’s welcoming. It’s another chance to get it right, whatever it might be. It’s rather how I approach every day, as an opportunity to live it out loud. Today, with baking.

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live out loud

69.5 and rising

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 1, 2016 10:42 PM

All of our dogs have been rescues. I have always been an advocate of dog rescue and since we got Maguire at the animal shelter, Kevin has been, too. I love that it is now considered the way to get a dog or a cat. Rescue and adopt and give a four-legged friend a chance at a wonderful life, regardless of how long you’re blessed with the little dude or dude-ette. 

When we got Maguire, he was a puppy. Ten pounds of squirmy, stinky fur. He grew quickly. The shelter had figured he’d be a medium sized dog. They also thought he was mostly German shepherd. He was neither medium sized, nor a German shepherd. He grew into a big dog and at his healthiest, weighed 85 pounds. So much for the medium dog thing. We wouldn’t have traded his big-dog self for anything. 

We rescued Cooper about 10 months after we lost Maguire. We went to all the local shelters and found no dogs that we bonded with. The sad thing about shelters, especially in the Southern California and Central Coast area where we lived and visited, is that they are teeming with pit bulls and Chihuahuas. We tend to like very furry, long haired dogs. Hippy, goofy dogs. Maguire had been diagnosed as being golden retriever and Australian shepherd, with some other breeds like Chow thrown in for good measure. He was rarely goofy but he was funny. We looked for Australian shepherd-golden mixes at shelters and online. Eventually I found a golden border collie mix that just grabbed me. His name was Andy. He became our Cooper. He actually was a medium size dog. He was about 50 pounds, though his paperwork said that he had been 67 pounds at one point. We couldn’t imagine another 27 pounds on him. By the time he got to 64 pounds, we could.

Riley is a golden retriever and something else and some other things. The people who surrendered him evidently had been told he was a golden-doodle, a mix of golden retriever and poodle. There is no doodle in this boy of ours.

When he arrived, on a Monday night at the end of April, he seemed … small. When Jenny, my friend, who drives transport for Southern Arizona Golden Retriever Rescue, drove into the motorcourt and got out, Kevin and I were nervous. We were standing inside, at the door. We’d only seen a picture and the dog didn’t look, well, great. His name at the time was Bernie, a horrible name for a dog. As Jenny walked around her car, “Bernie” stood up in the back seat and turned around

Kevin, hushed: “He’s beautiful.”

He was. And skinny. When we took him to the vet that following weekend, he weighed just 54 pounds. He was tall, with long legs, and could easily have been in the 60s for weight. 

Well, not to worry. He is now. After a year with us, he’s now clocking in at a healthy and happy 69.5 pounds. We went to the vet today, to follow up on his allergy issue, and they weighed him. He’s filled out; he’s thicker. He’s healthy (other than the allergies) and happy. His fur is soft and curly. He’s growing. 

In September, when we had the first homeowner’s association meeting here, one of the residents who attended, who had an older golden retriever named Sam, remarked: “He’s skinny. Do you think he’ll gain weight?” We need to have that guy back so he can see that our boy has definitely filled out. In the near year he’s been with us, he’s gain 15.5 pounds. 

Maybe it’s the food we feed our boys (Natural Balance Ultra). Maybe it’s just that each, when here, finally feels safe and happy, and so like people, they fill out a bit. I’m going with the latter, because I know that all three – Maguire, Cooper and now Riley – lived, and in the case of Riley, are living, the life they were meant to live. Safe from the world. Rescued. And loved. Living it out loud.

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live out loud

The fine art of giving a dog a pill

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:22 PM

Riley has allergies. This is fairly par for the course since he’s a bit of a mess of a boy. He has terrible anxiety, is a whining disaster in the car, freaks out anytime he hears the garbage truck, chases lizards with wild abandon and doesn’t come when called. He is also the cutest little dude on the planet, and we love him to pieces. 

For the last two weeks, he’s been on prednisone so that we can make sure that his allergies are more seasonal than food related. We’re already sure of that; we were when we went to the vet. He’s been eating the same food for the past year and we’ve had no issues. Plus spring has sprung pretty quickly this year, the winds have been swirling, there’s all kind of stuff in the air. He’s not sneezing but he’s been itching like crazy. The prednisone has helped.

For the first week, his dose was two pills a day. The second week, one a day. This week, we’re doing half a day. All doses are plus cheese. 

When we had Maguire and had to give him pills we tried to do it the way the vet showed us which basically amounted to opening his mouth, and sticking our hands as far down his throat as possible, depositing the pill, removing our hand and then clamping his mouth shut while gently rubbing his throat to make him swallow. Sometimes we’d blow on his nose. He’d stand there, stoically. He’d blink his eyes. Eventually, he’d swallow and we’d think, perfect. Mission accomplished. I’d kiss his nose, Kevin would rub his head, we’d let go of him and get up from the floor, telling him what a good boy he was. 

Then he’d look at us, wagging his tail, and spit the pill out. The little bastard. 

He was a cheese fiend, so we started wrapping his pills in cheese. He would take the offering gently, as he always did – he was very polite – and swallow. Again, mission accomplished. Then he’d spit the pill out. 

The little bastard. 

It was virtually impossible for us to consistently get pills into him. Luckily, he was healthy for the most part and didn’t require a lot of medication during his fifteen plus years with us.

With Cooper we never tried sticking our hands down his throat. He would never have stood for such a thing. He probably would have bitten us – he was not very polite. When he was so sick last year, right before we lost him, he was on a number of medications including prednisone. He too got pretty good at eating around the cheese. Then I had a brain storm, or perhaps it was just light drizzle. Either way, it worked pretty well. Chicken pill pockets. 

I would boil chicken breasts and then, once cool, cut them into small squares. I would then put a small slice into the square, stuff the pill into it, and feed it to the dog. We never lost a pill after that.

Since Riley has been on prednisone, the first time we’ve had to give him pills, he’s been pretty good. I’ve been wrapping them in a bit of Havarti cheese and he’s been scoffing them down. Except for today. Today, I gave him the half pill, safely ensconced in some pretty decent cheese, and he took it as he’s been taking it. Mission accomplished. 

And then Kevin found the half pill in his food bowl. The little bastard.

I might have to resort to chicken breasts with this boy, too. Anything to continue the fine art of giving the dog a pill so that he can remain itch free as he lives it out loud. 

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live out loud

It was an ambush

by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 28, 2016 6:53 PM

We were invited to our neighbors for dinner last night. We’ve gotten to know them a bit over the last year and like them tremendously. They were up here right after Christmas, we were down there for the Super Bowl. They live almost directly below us. Since we’re on the hill, we look down onto their roof and part of their back yard which is actually some sort of fake grass sculpted between rocks. Their two rescue dogs, Brody and Jax, can often be seen racing around and back and forth. We didn’t know until Super Bowl Sunday that the yard is at the bottom of a cascade of rocks and a recycling water feature.

Their house is beautiful, about a thousand square feet bigger than ours, and more formal. It was built about 15 years ago before the completely open floor plan, like ours, became more prominent. The back of their house, like ours, is glass. Their view is almost identical to ours; it’s just lower. We probably see a bit more of the mountains to the west because of how high up we are but the rest is the same. The city lights sparkle and dance in the distance. The sound of the coyotes seems more distant when more on their level. From up here, the howls seem to be racing up the hill. 

I got a text yesterday afternoon from Julianne saying to bring Riley, that he could play with the dogs. I thanked her and told her I’d speak with Kevin. My gut feeling said not to bring him. He’s an anxiety ridden little mess of a boy whenever we leave the house. There was no reason to think it would be any different to take him to play with two big dogs he’d never met. 

Kevin and I discussed it and ultimately decided to try it. Why not? We’re close enough that if it didn’t go well, bringing him back home would only take minutes.

Just after six, I slipped Riley into his harness and buckled him up. I hooked on his leash. We had our twice-baked potatoes (my contribution to the meal) plus two bottles of wine in a bag. I had bought three new dog toys at CVS when I was there to pick up a prescription. I put those in the bag, too. I slung my purse over my shoulder, put on my sunglasses, then, with leash in hand and Kevin holding the bag, we set off down the hill. We decided to walk because it’s so close. Also, it was a lovely day that promised to be an equally lovely night. Riley was fine. He’s used to walking down the hill, even used to going around the cul de sac. But when we started to go toward their driveway, he got a little apprehensive. This wasn’t routine. By the time we got to the steps down to their door, he was actively pushing back. We stopped so he could look at the water rushing down the rocks (another very cool water feature); so he could sniff. We walked further and he stopped at the front door. I suspect he could smell the dogs. Ed opened the door, and Riley practically flattened himself on the floor. He didn’t want to go in. After a few minutes, he did.

Then we went out onto the patio. The dogs saw him and flew at him with wild abandon. A new toy! Riley was terrified. The excitement of the other dogs turned into a snarling, snapping match as Riley tried to protect himself from what he deemed an attack. I held his harness and Julianne grabbed Brody and attempted to hold him back. Brody is 75 pounds. Ed had Jax, who is a more manageable 55. Jax and Riley did that sniffing each other thing before returning to snapping. There was simply no way they were going to play together which meant there was no way we were going to be able to enjoy ourselves.

Kevin took Riley and headed home. I took a glass of wine from Ed who then left in his golf cart to catch up with my two boys and offer them a lift home. Kevin and Ed were back in about 20 minutes, sans my little mess of a boy.

We enjoyed our evening immensely. Their dogs, great boys both, played together and eventually settled down to sleep. And even though it was sort of an ambush and even though I should have followed my instinct, no one got hurt and we learned the way NOT to introduce Riley to new friends, not if we want him to continue living it out loud.

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live out loud

TFW

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 11, 2016 9:55 PM

It happened like this. Riley was being his usual Riley self. We came back from the walk, and he grabbed Wubba. Raced around the house, back and forth, swinging Wubba wildly from side to side, effectively flaying himself with his toy. Who knew I had an Opus Dei puppy? 

Wubba, for the uninitiated, is made by Kong and is a relatively sturdy dog toy that consist of a ball wrapped in some type of material with five long tassel-type legs/feet. Riley is currently on his fourth Wubba in nine months as a Michel, which is actually pretty good considering that most of Riley’s toys last between 30 minutes and two days. This Wubba has heavy duty rope as its ball. The streamers are heavy red canvas. One of those streamers has been shortened by half thanks to canine incisors. Otherwise, Wubba is fairly in tact. Wubba is also the toy of choice most morning’s when one needs to swing. 

Another toy that often gets the nod is Bob who used to be Wubba before he lost all of his legs/feet tassel/streamers. The joke writes itself. 

My two boys were playing, Riley grabbing Wubba and bouncing through the house, growling and swinging. Kevin saying variations of “gimme that Wubba.” Occasionally this command works. Riley drops Wubba at Kevin’s feet, backs away slightly, gets down and stares at it, willing Kevin to pick it up and throw it. I didn’t used to allow the throwing of toys in the house because something would inevitably get broken. But because of the wide and long expanse of the main walkway, and the fact that there’s nothing in said walkway save for two steps, I have relaxed this rule. Gimme indeed. 

Kevin tossed Wubba up toward the master bedroom. Riley took off for it, easily clearing the two steps with one leap. He’s Super Riley. He hit the brakes, grabbed Wubba just as it was heading for under the bed, locked it in his jaws, shook him as if to say “dude, you are NOT allowed under there,” pivoted and took off back towards Kevin who was still in the walkway near the kitchen.

Riley raced down the hall, ears flying, Wubba’s legs/feet whipping. He took off, as he usually does when he’s racing, to clear the steps because, really, why actually use the steps when one can fly over them. When he does this, when he flies, the fast clip of his nails on the tile suddenly stops and for a brief few seconds there is a soft silence. He is air born. He is free.

And then he hits the tile about nine feet away from where the steps end, takes a few leaps forward and then slides to a stop. This time, he lost his footing. His front feet splayed, his back feet tucked under and suddenly he was on his side, sliding, sliding, spinning, whirling. Wubba went air born, too, suddenly untethered, and crashed onto the foyer tile. Riley, eyes wide, tongue out, ears pinned, slid right into the corner of the rock column. Kevin, concerned, immediately moved to make sure he was OK but before he could get there, Riley was up, bouncing, racing to get Wubba, growling. Let’s go!

Kevin had him come over, and calm down. “It’s OK. OK. Zen puppy. Ohhhmmmmm.”

I was on the phone with a client while this was going on. I didn’t hear any yelps so I figured it was safe to say – think? – that the dog wasn’t hurt. I got off of my call and went to see what had happened. Riley, Wubba in his mouth, was trying to be calm, standing, leaning actually, against Kevin. Hi mom. Wanna play some Wubba? 

“It was a total f&%^ing wipeout,” Kevin said when he saw me. A TFW. And just like that, new meme was born.

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live out loud

When one has no idea what to write about one resorts to stream of consciousness in the hope that something anything will materialize

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 5, 2016 8:10 PM

It’s Friday and I’m tired but neither is usually a reason for me to not have any idea whatsoever for a blog post. Often times ideas present themselves rather easily. Often when I’m not even looking for them, something will happen, somebody will say something, I’ll read an article and I’ll think instantly, ooooh I should write about that and so I do. But no such spark has ignited today. The news is filled with politics which I’m addicted to even though I hate hate hate it. There aren’t even that many stories out there about the Super Bowl, not that I care because even though I love football I also hate that I love it. It’s a dichotomy, an enigma. I probably need therapy for so many things. 

I thought about writing about my dog who is cute as hell and always worthy of a blog post but I worry that my readers will tire of my laziness. How hard, after all, is it to celebrate one’s golden retriever mix on a daily basis? Woo hoo. Woot woot. Break out the champagne. Even though Riley has developed this exceptionally cute thing where he brings a toy into Kevin’s office and deposits it somewhere out of site, then backs up into the doorway and stares. He stares and stares and the longer he stares, the harder his tail wags. When Kevin doesn’t pay attention to him, he then growls. Short growls, low growls. Playful growls. Kevin, hearing this, will still ignore him because then this happens: the tail stops wagging, and Riley smiles at him. He rolls his lips back ever so slightly to show his teeth. He growls again and when Kevin finally looks at him and says “what?” Riley bounces and growls and airsnaps in the direction of his toy. 

It’s probably something that dog trainers would say is aggressive. But we don’t see any aggression. We see him trying to get our attention so that we play with him. 

But I don’t want to write about that. 

Kevin suggested writing about the Super Bowl party we’re going to on Sunday and how sometimes and often Super Bowl parties are a plethora of chips and dips and beer and tequila. Other Super Bowl parties are catered. This is neither. We’re going to a friend’s house and the only criteria is that everyone attending has to be bring a hot appetizer. I couldn’t decide what to do and finally settled on something easy but good: small Yukon gold potatoes, wrapped in bacon, baked, and then served with a side of sour cream and chives. 

Hey. It’s a Super Bowl party. They’re not supposed to be healthy.

I worked all week and as usual didn’t get nearly enough done. I slept a bit better this week though not great. I went to a doctor’s appointment. I went to the grocery store. I worried that we didn’t stop to watch the sunset every night. I don’t know why and it’s not a habit I want to get into. I cherish our sunset watching. I look forward to it. It’s the punctuation at the end of the day, the time that says “phew, you made it through another one. Congratulations. I know it was tough but you toughed it out. You didn’t let the client critters get you down. Here – have a glass of wine.” 

That’s the punctuation at the end of this post, too. Cheers. Here’s to living it out loud.

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live out loud

Anatomy of a butt rub

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 15, 2016 9:07 PM

Kevin has created a monster and it goes by the name of Riley Boo. He’s a cute monster as monsters go, not at all gooey and nasty. His head is not square and flat, he doesn’t have bolts protruding from his neck. He is not green. He does not resemble any kind of imagined alien. He does have pointed canine teeth, much like Dracula, but I have yet to see him using them to draw blood. He does not hunt innocent prey unless you count bugs which I don’t.

This monster wears his reddish-blonde fur easily. His ears flop even in non-existent breezes. He had perfected the puppy prance and spin. In the mornings, when he rises he yawns and stretches at least six times, front paws extended almost flat, butt in the air. He elicits a high-pitched squeal that threatens to shatter glass. While Kevin and I get ready to walk him, donning sweat pants and sweatshirts, he rolls around on his back for a few minutes, enjoying that it’s morning. We do not share this joy; rather we simply deal with the fact that it is. Once shoes come out of the closet, he rolls back to his four feet and merrily trots to Kevin who is almost always sitting on the white hamper stool. As he put his socks on, the monster beings to move into position. Once the shoes are slipped on and the tying of the laces begins, the monster will. Not. Be. Ignored. 

When we had Cooper, he was a leaner meaning he liked to lean into whoever he was near. He wasn’t a hugger and definitely not a kisser. He would position himself so that he was parallel to Kevin’s legs. Then he’d lean and Kevin would rub his butt. Cooper had some hip issues and the butt rub seemed to make his hips feel better. Cooper didn’t abuse the butt rub though. He wasn’t insistent. He was, nearly, polite. Please, dad, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind giving me just a little bit of a rub?

Kevin has continued this practice with Riley, who doesn’t really have hip issues but rather pretends. Or at least he pretended at first. Now he has jettisoned any pretense and instead goes for the blatant. Oh, I see you’re putting your shoes on. Rub. My. Butt. Now. 

Riley does not stand parallel and lean; he stands perpendicular and pushes his butt up against Kevin, making it impossible for Kevin to tie his shoes. As he rubs the dog, laughing, Riley twists and contorts a bit. You missed a spot. Could you get that spot right. There? 

He is insistent. He doesn’t let up. He will not be pushed away. He will, instead, get a butt rub for as long as he wants it, and if he truly had a choice, that would probably be most of the morning, walk be damned. Kevin obliges and fur literally flies through the air. It’s quite funny to watch the monster in action and to watch the monster-creator laugh, and then try, usually unsuccessfully, to extricate himself. Riley will have none of this and so it continues. 

The butt rub is not actually the butt, of course. It’s the top of the tail and then down the back legs. The butt is not really involved. But we call it a butt nevertheless as it’s the rear end of the dog. And Riley doesn’t seem to care what it’s called as long as it continues, indefinitely, into perpetuity, forever. I love you, dad. You’re the best dad, ever. Oh? You’re stopping? Don’t stop. Oh. OK.

Let’s go for a walk instead!

Mornings at the Michel’s. Rubbing it out loud.

We have set our first goal

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, December 29, 2015 6:27 PM

Kevin and I are big supporters of dog rescue. All three of our dogs have been rescued. Maguire from the Agoura Animal Shelter, Cooper from Labs & Buddies, and Riley from Southern Arizona Golden Retriever Rescue. In the past, our support has been through contributions rather than volunteer work. When Maguire died, we donated his food, his bed and his toys to rescue. I’ve done some pro bono writing for several groups including Best Friends, and we’ve built several websites for groups in Washington State. We donated Justin’s car to an animal rescue group in New York (where his car was) and I’ve donated money. Each month, I give to several groups. It’s my chosen type of charity. 

We were so impressed with the Golden Retriever rescue group here in Tucson that we immediately wanted to get more involved. We went to their Gala Fundraiser and I tried to take Riley to one of the many Meet ‘n Greets they have at local PetSmarts. It didn’t go well. He nipped at a small child and we were asked, albeit nicely, to leave. We did, with our tails between our legs.

He may have had a good reason to nip at the little boy. He was surrendered by a family with a swarm of small boys and we suspect they tortured him in only the way small boys can. Pulling his tail, jumping on him, raising their hands over his head to hit him if he didn’t do what they wanted. We weren’t the only ones that suspected this; the rescue group agreed with us. The family that surrendered him said it was because he snapped at one of their boys when the boy either jumped or fell on him when Riley was sleeping. These were the kind of people that would get rid of the dog rather than teach their kid that what he did was wrong. Fine with us because we have him instead.

But he’s difficult to teach. He’s rambunctious, nutty, with too much energy. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that he’s not yet two. His birthday is January 1. Part of that can also be attributed to how he spent the first 15 months of his life. And part of if can be attributed to us. We’ve tried to train but we’ve had only moderate success and we’re not always consistent. We admit this and want to do better. 

This past Christmas season, we volunteered to do gift wrapping for the group at one of the local Barnes & Nobles. I ended up going four times. Kevin went with me once and Bobbi went with me once. It’s a great way to raise money because people can get their books wrapped and pet the dogs. Petting the dogs leads to big donations. The goal this year was to raise $12,000. I got an email this morning that we had actually raised $13,218. Much of that can be attributed to the dogs. They work hard, wearing donation vests and putting on their best holiday cute, complete with Santa hats or jingle bell collars. It’s hard to resist a golden retriever anyway, let alone one dressed up for the holidays and asking for donations.

Because of Riley’s temperament and because of the PetSmart incident, we weren’t able to take him. So Kevin and I have set a goal: be able to take him with us when we volunteer next year. This will entail a big commitment by all three of us. I need to get in touch with the trainer we use, Carey, and set up more regular appointments. We’ve been doing it just every now and again and then we tend to fall behind on homework. We need to be better at that part, too, the homework. He can be nutty but he can’t be dangerous. We can’t worry about people petting him and him getting so Rileyed up that we have another incident. We want to be incident-free. I think we can do it, if we all work at it.  

I think this because our dog is as cute as any of the other dogs who were good enough to participate. He could raise a bunch to help rescue more of his goofy kind and that would be worth celebrating out loud.

Giving back

by Lorin Michel Friday, December 11, 2015 7:50 PM

After my dad retired, he used to volunteer at one of the local soup kitchens, especially around the holidays. For years, my brother delivered Meals on Wheels and loved it. I’ve always loved the idea of volunteer work but I’m ashamed to admit have never done much of it. I just haven’t had the time, which I realize is a horrible excuse. I do some pro bono work for animal rescue every now and again, which is sort of like volunteering but not really. 

Today I actually volunteered.

Riley was a rescue. We got him from a group called Southern Arizona Golden Retriever Rescue, SAGRR. They’ve been around for a number of years and have rescued dozens, perhaps more, golden retrievers. Our Cooper was a golden, and Maguire was part golden. When we lost Cooper, Kevin wanted to get another so I found SAGRR online and filled out an application. I was contacted within the week and a home visit was scheduled.

This is what I love about these rescue groups. They truly care about where they’re placing the dogs they rescued, which is as it should be. Unfortunately it isn’t always. When we rescued Cooper from a local group in Westlake Village I could barely get the woman to respond to me. She didn’t seem to care where we lived or what our circumstances were. She just wanted to get rid of Cooper, largely because no one else seemed to want him. We took him gladly, but I never had a good feeling about the group. I felt like we rescued him from the rescue group. 

We’ve felt differently about SAGRR since the beginning. Two ladies came on a Sunday to see our home. They brought a dog with them so she, too, could inspect the premises and see if it was dog friendly. We don’t have a yard so I worried that we wouldn’t “pass.” But we keep all of the toilet seats down which is evidently a good thing (I just don’t like the look of them when they’re up) and the ladies – and the dog, Sugar – must have thought we were OK because several days later we were approved. Several weeks after that, we got our Riley.

I’ve been wanting to volunteer with them since. They do a lot of events around the city to raise money to support their efforts. They’re a non-profit and all of the people involved are volunteers. But there are veterinarian costs to take care of, licensing, and more. We tried to volunteer once before, Riley and I, and it didn’t go well. The group does Meet ‘n Greets at local PetSmarts and Riley nipped at a little boy. We were asked to leave. I was mortified by the whole situation.

We weren’t able to participate in the annual pool party or the Howloween costume party or the parade because of Riley’s anxiety issues. But I knew that Christmas was coming and that every year, SAGRR offers daily gift wrapping service at Barnes & Noble. Dogs and books? Sign me up.

Today was my first time, and it was great. There were dogs and other volunteers. My friend Jenny was there. I didn’t take Riley because he’s not ready for that kind of activity. Maybe next year. But I talked to people, I wrapped books, and we raised some money. Kevin and I are going to volunteer next Saturday afternoon and Bobbi and I are volunteering on Tuesday, the 22nd.

I’ve wanted to volunteer, wanted to give back. Supporting the organization that brought us our Riley Boo, helping raise money to keep rescuing dogs from bad situations, seemed the perfect way to do that. It’s what the season is all about.

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live out loud

Sort of the definition of

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 10, 2015 9:43 PM

“Sounds like he’s eating,” Kevin said as he stood at the sink in the kitchen, rinsing dishes from last night before putting them into the dishwasher. I was pouring myself a cup of coffee, the second of the morning, and wishing my headache would go away. 

“He is,” I concurred. “He’s eating breakfast.” And I paused. “It’s one of the things I love most about dogs.”

“That they eat breakfast?” He turned and looked at me with a face that said ‘THAT’S what you love about dogs?’ 

I went on to explain that I love the routine of dogs. We get up in the morning, we go for a walk. We come back, Riley takes Wubba out onto the west deck for a few minutes where he races back and forth, swings Wubba around and growls at the toy before settling down to watch the desert go by. After a few minutes of existential bliss, it’s time to come in. His internal alarm clock says he needs to eat, and so he stands at the door. Dutiful puppy mom that I am, I get up, walk to the door and let him in. Wubba safely secured in his mouth he races to the other end of the house, to the laundry room, where his food is waiting, me having put it out while he was on the deck.

By routine of dogs, I explained, I mean the constancy of them. They eat breakfast and dinner. In between they play with their toys, and nap. When the trash truck roars into the neighborhood, they bark and hiss because they can. With Riley, it’s all bluster. With Maguire we used to joke that he was letting us know that someone was stealing our stuff. Cooper never cared much. 

I love that they’re content. They don’t need to constantly be striving to achieve more, to be better, to accomplish something today that they didn’t do yesterday. They eat, they drink, they nap, they play. 

“Isn’t that sort of the definition of living it out loud?” Kevin asked.

I sipped my coffee, leaned on the eat-at bar. I smiled and nodded my head. “I guess it sort of is,” I agreed. 

Living it out loud was started as a way to celebrate something good, something that might otherwise be considered ordinary. It’s just what happens in a day, something, anything, fun things, sometimes even sad things. But regular things, things that don’t try to be anything other than something good for right now. It’s about experiencing the moment, the good, and getting away from the day-to-day stress and constant barrage of working, striving, needing to always do more, do better, do it now, do it right, do it again.

As I sipped my coffee and nodded my head, I found myself thinking how much better off we’d all be if we were like dogs, albeit dogs in homes where they’re loved and appreciated. Happy, content, always ready to go outside, go for a walk. And absolutely in love with and enjoying life. It’s not sort of the definition. It IS the definition of living it out loud.

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