There's been a hoot owl howling by my window now

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 21, 2015 7:24 PM

Last Spring, when Roy was here for his gallery show, he talked about waking up in the night and seeing an owl perched on the railing outside his room. The windows were open, the air still April-cool. The owl hooted and called. I thought perhaps he was dreaming it but whimsy can follow Roy. It appears often in his paintings and drawings. I’ve said before, and those who know him will nod their heads in agreement: Roy sees things differently than the rest of us and we are blessed that he can take that vision and turn it into art. 

Last night, I woke up at 3:23. I suppose technically, that’s morning, but as it was still dark, it was still night. The desert was fairly quiet. Unfortunately my brain was screaming. I couldn’t calm it down and so I laid there, worrying and listening and thinking. About an hour later, Kevin stirred. I whispered are you awake? He whispered back no. Why are you awake? I’m worrying, I said. Why are you awake? He said the owl.

The hoot hoot hoot of one owl, and then, seemingly another. Either that or the one was broadcasting in stereo. I raised my head and looked, thinking I might see the outline of one of these birds as he perched on the rail. I didn’t. Which means nothing other than it was perched somewhere else. 

I continued to lie there, trying to get comfortable, trying to turn off my brain, not at all phased by the owl but rather the song the owl made start to play in my head. Yes. It was Michael Murphy’s Wildfire. I heard the gentle guitar at the beginning, the sorrowful, haunting tale of a horse and a girl lost in the storm, of the one left behind hearing the hoot owl howling by my window now for six nights in a row. I admit to having a love-hate relationship with that song. Love probably for nostalgia. It was popular when I was very young and I tend to have a soft spot for songs that take me back in time. Except for KC and the Sunshine Band. Also the Bay City Rollers. 

Hate because it’s kind of sappy. Murphy purportedly wrote it in one morning after dreaming the entire thing. The song, he said, came to him from a story his grandfather told him when he was a boy, about a prominent Native American legend about a ghost horse. It was Murphy, a Brit, who gave the ghost the name Wildfire. 

The owl eventually flew off or went to sleep because the hooting ceased. Kevin began to snore softly. I was playing Wildfire in my head and trying to turn down the volume.

Outside, coyotes began to howl. Often they seem almost impossibly far away. These seemed to be just below the window, perhaps on the drive. I wondered how many there were since it sounded like several though someone told me not too long ago that coyotes can essentially throw their voices to appear like they are more than one. This, I would assume, inflicts terror on their intended prey.

I don’t know if the coyotes wandered away. Perhaps they left in search of the hoot owl. But it became quiet again. The clock showed 4:57. I told myself that if I wasn’t asleep by 5:30 I was just going to get up and start the day. I love the bargains we make with ourselves in the middle of the night with a hoot owl and coyotes howling in the dark. I finally drifted off to sleep to the quieter hum of the desert, celebrating the night out loud.

oh the carnage

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:44 PM

We have had three dogs. Regular readers know all of them fairly well. Dogs make for easy blog posts because they are such characters. Each has an individual personality. Like people, no two are exactly alike. They all like to eat different things, they’re all afraid of different things. There are some similarities. They all like to go for walks, or at least all of ours have liked that. They like going in the car to varying degrees. They like toys. More to the point, they like to destroy toys.

When Maguire was a puppy, before we knew better, we often bought him rubber-plastic toys. He loved them. Within 30 minutes, he had loved them so much they were in little rubber-plastic pieces on the floor next to him, the squeaker carefully deposited on top of the pile. Then he’d sit there and smile at us, so proud of the carnage he’d inflicted. It was as if he was saying: “look what I did, mom. Isn’t it great? Thanks so much for that guy. Please, can I have another?”

Paging Oliver Twist.

As he got older, we gave him plush toys. These didn’t fare much better. He would grasp these guys between his two massive paws and pick at them with his teeth, trying to dislodge a thread. As soon as he had a thread he would pull on it and pull on it until it unraveled a seam. Stuffing! He would systematically pull the stuffing out one mouthful at a time, depositing it in piles on either side of him. The once plush toy was reduced to a mere shell of its former self. We used to re-stuff the toys and put them in the hospital. The hospital was the top of the refrigerator where re-stuffed toys waited to be sewn up. After two or three trips to the hospital, the toy would be properly buried in the trash can. 

Cooper did much the same, though since he was older when we got him he had a bit more self-control. He would still work his guys, chewing on them, pulling to find that elusive thread. And once found, the same process would begin. A hole would open, and stuffing would be pulled out and deposited. It often looked as if a small snowstorm had happened just around him. By then, we’d closed the hospital. If he destroyed a toy, it got thrown out. Sooner or later a new toy appeared. He had several toys at any given time, so he was never without and he rarely went from destroying one to immediately destroying another. 

Enter Riley Michel. 

Oh, the carnage. Like those who came before, he loves his guys. Like those who came before, he will work a guy until he finds that one loose and offending thread and then he will pull until it opens and he can systematically dig out the stuffing. If he finds a squeaker or a rattle along the way, all the better. It’s like bonus carnage. 

What carnage?

Lately he’s been on a true tear. Just this week we have had to “bury” – and by bury I mean toss in the trash – Joe, a camouflage dinosaur that my mother brought him; Beav, a very dapper beaver that Roy and Bobbi brought him; Bear, a supposedly tougher toy that I bought him from Ace Hardware; and Cow, several tennis balls with a thick rope going through and a stuffed head and tail.

We have tried to explain to him that if he destroys all of his guys in one week, he’s going to be a very lonely boy. And that if he thinks I’m going to go out and buy more toys, well … he’s absolutely right but probably not until this weekend. 

As I write this, there is another guy in the foyer. Santa Bone. Santa Bone was Cooper’s and we just recently discovered him in a box. Riley took to Santa right away, and vice versa. But the attraction has turned violent. There is carnage. Everywhere. Again. 

This is the legacy my boys share. Their love and the eventual destruction of their guys. But as Kevin pointed out with Riley, they’re his guys. I worry though that he may be pathological. He may be a serial guy destroyer. I wonder if there’s a program he can join. What’s a puppy mom to do? Except buy more toys and expect more carnage. Like Cooper and Maguire before him, it’s Riley’s way of living it out loud. 

The best day

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 24, 2015 8:41 PM

When I was little, the best day was going to Kennywood Amusement Park and riding the roller coasters with my Aunt Eleanor. She’s the only one who would go with me. Oh, how I loved my Aunt Eleanor. I found out much later that she never really liked the roller coasters and that often times, she was somewhat ill whenever we went, not from the coasters themselves but just in general. It made me love her even more, that she would do that for me even though she hated it. I know she and my Aunt Beryl loved me for the simple reason that I was their precious Joyce’s first born. The daughter of their “daughter.” She died when I was 14. I can’t remember the last time I was at Kennywood though I understand it’s still there, not too far from McKeesport.  

In my teens, the best day was nearly non-existent. As I got into my college years, the best days were in the summer and started impossibly early. My roommate and I had several restaurant jobs, three to be exact, two of which were catering and one of which was catering clambakes on the beach. We would get up early and slip into our uniform of shorts and a white tee-shirt, sneakers. We’d climb into my Toyota Celica and leave Durham by about 5:45. We’d take Route 4 towards Portsmouth, and stop at the McDonalds to order coffee and Egg McMuffins. It was the ritual. We’d arrive at the abandoned Wentworth by the Sea, a grand hotel that has since been restored, and we’d meet our boss there. We’d go about setting up for the hundreds of people who would arrive within hours. We’d get the fire pit ready, pull out all of the utensils, get the beer kegs chilling and primed. The lobsters would arrive by the crate and we would put dozens to sleep, standing them on their heads so that they were vertical. You put a lobster to sleep by rubbing between its eyes. At the time I thought it was funny; now I can’t cook even a single lobster.

As I got older, the best days were different. Sometimes it was a drive up the coast to have dinner in a seaport town. My first husband and I went skiing in New Mexico once, over Christmas. We stayed in Santa Fe. It was the first Christmas I hadn’t gone back to New England and I was depressed. We drove through the gray desert, through Albuquerque and finally into Santa Fe. As we left Albuquerque we found a radio program that was playing a holiday jazz program. It started to snow. I remember it fondly.

The best days with Kevin have been more plentiful and more diverse. Boarding a plane to Mexico with everything we needed for the weekend in two backpacks, one for each of us, and arriving at the five-star resort. Can we take your bags to your room? Nope. This is it. Our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, walking in the soft rain for hours and to nowhere. Thanksgivings in Oak Park with all the stray dogs; Christmases with Justin; day after Christmas wine-tastings with Roy and Bobbi, sometimes Diane and Gene. Saturdays now, working around the house, hanging wind chimes, cooking dinner and listening to music. The best days are now the ones that simply unfold. Unplanned, they might start with a cup of coffee and sitting on the deck, feeling the wind, watching the sun flow over the hills in the east. The best days are simple. They’re easy, there is no agenda, no expectation. 

I wonder if it’s because I’m getting older. I wonder if it’s because I’m more content. I know it’s because I’m happy. But the best days are most days and especially Saturdays. I watch the shadows recede into the hills, I listen to the dogs bark. I put music on and I go about the day, doing what needs to be done and enjoying the idea of my home, my dog; my husband. The best day is today. Tomorrow. Next week. Yesterday. The best day is the ability to share and to laugh, to drink a hot cup of coffee and just be. I no longer need a roller coaster. What I need is just my life as it is, living it out loud.

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live out loud

In which we have to replace the screen on the screen door. Again.

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 19, 2015 7:50 PM

My mother is coming in two weeks. Because this is the first time that she’ll see the house, we have certain things we want to make sure are done. Little things like finally attaching the house numbers sign we had made to the rocks at the entrance to the drive. We’ve been having some issues with the shower curtain in the west bath so we took care of that this weekend. I’d love to get my wind chimes hung but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Like I said, small, almost inconsequential things. But small things can sometimes add a nice touch.

Small things. Like the screen door leading out to the main deck which Riley decided to help with this morning. He failed. Miserably. 

Allow me to set the stage. It was about 6:45. The morning was nice and cool. We actually turned the air conditioning off yesterday (again) and opened all of the windows. While we slept, we kept the windows in the bedroom open, but closed the two French sliders in the great room. Naturally, since it was morning, and we love the fresh air, those had to be reopened. We had made coffee and each poured a cup. I had turned on my computer and got the backup running, something I do every Monday morning. Kevin had settled in at the pub table in the breakfast nook. He had started there yesterday and since he didn’t finish, he just left it for today. 

Justin and Kelsey were still here; still in their room. We knew they’d be emerging soon to fill up their coffee mugs and take off for the airport. We were preparing for the day. I was in my office. The ceiling fan whirring softly. I sipped my coffee and watched the clouds drifting in the west. Backup done, I methodically opened the programs I’d need to get started. iChat, Chrome, Word. I started checking my various email accounts. I started this blog. From the great room I heard the telling click of the slider as Kevin unlocked it and then slid it open. Seconds later I heard a crash and then my husband began swearing. 

I immediately went to investigate and found Kevin glaring and Riley staring, his tail wagging, wondering who put that screen there. The screen that was now flapping gently in a nearly imperceptible breeze. 

“Again?” I asked, already knowing the obvious answer. It was rhetorical.

When my sister was here in July, Riley celebrated her arrival by running headlong into the screen door leading out to the deck, blasting through and leaving it flapping in the night breeze. A month or so ago, Kevin and I bought new screen, set up the saw horses in the great room and proceeded to re-screen the door. The screen was taut and perfect. Key word in that last sentence: was.

Riley blasted through the door again and so now we have another item for the mom list. Luckily we have some screen left over from the last time. Until the next time. And there will be a next time because our Riley boo is the definition of a bull in a china shop. Cute as hell but uncultured in the ways of closed screen doors. And other things.

Riley’s work on the screen door. Screen held in place by blue painter’s tape.

He’s our Riley, the third of our dogs to not completely understand the concept of a closed screen door. Riley, however, has surpassed the other two in that he has now blasted through the same screen door twice. In only three months. He’s a smart boy, too. We thought he would learn. Alas, he didn’t. Perhaps neither did we since all we have to do when we click the lock and slide open the door is watch for the freight train disguised as blonde fur, stand in the way and issue a commanding “stop!”  

Sometimes it actually works. Other times, we’re relegated to re-fixing the screen door so that Riley can keep blasting it out loud.

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live out loud

Oh. So. Cranky.

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 16, 2015 7:59 PM

When I was younger, my favorite word for describing a bad mood was crabby. I used it a lot in high school for obvious reasons. High school is a very crabby time of life. I think even the most popular teens spend a good deal of their time being miserable, hating themselves, their parents, and everything and everyone but the dog. In other words, crabby. It’s actually an almost cuddly sounding word for being cranky. Cranky is the word I use now. It’s got a much harsher sound than crabby. It fits because I’m a much harder person and the reasons for my crankiness are much more important. 

Or so I lead myself to believe. It’s actually not that they’re more important. The things that are horrible when you’re 16 are very important. It’s that as you get order, the reasons for cranky are more mature. They often entail money issues, and stress rather than high school issues like popularity, parties and whether you made the cheerleading squad.

Today’s cranky has nothing to do with money issues or stress. Well, that’s not entirely true. Money is an ongoing issue when you work for yourself. One job ends and the fear of finding something to replace it begins. I am forever sending out emails, reaching out to people in order to stay busy and to keep the money flowing. I am fairly good at invoicing. My husband is not. That’s an issue because then the burden of keeping the house running falls entirely on me. That can accompany my cranky, often in the guise of a snarl.

As for the stress, see money issues. They’re often one in the same.

My cranky today has no real reason. Sometimes it just creeps up on me, taps me on the shoulder and says with a snide smile “heeeeyyyyy.” Kind of like a really creepy Fonzie. I long ago made the decision to always err on the side of not-cranky. Not always happy but not cranky. I try to be positive. I try to take life in stride and make the most of whatever lemonade I am forced to make and consume. 

I think today’s cranky has to do with being tired which is interesting because last night, for the first time in I honestly don’t know how long, I actually slept through the night. I went to bed around 11:30 and woke up at 6:10. I was actually surprised. I expected to feel nearly giddy. Instead what I felt was cranky.

Cranky because: My favorite gym shorts were still in the dryer. And the dog won’t pee on his walks. We have the weirdest dog on the planet. I love him dearly but sometimes he seems to not know how to be a dog. Being a dog entails enjoying a walk, which he does, but also relieving himself on said walk, which he doesn’t. This poses a problem should we need to ever leave him in a place that walks the dog in order to have him empty his bladder and bowels. Come to think of it, we’re doing just that over Thanksgiving. He’s going to stay at our vet’s, which has accommodations for dogs who are patients. He’ll have a small cell, which they generously call a dog run. They walk the dogs several times a day so they can go. Except he won’t. So we’re trying to train him what to do on a walk and no, I don’t know what that means or how to do it. So. Cranky.

I sat in my office this afternoon and watched the rain moving across the valley from the west. The sun gradually faded and the sky turned gray as did the day. I love the rain. I enjoy thunder and lightning. And all I could think of was damn it. Now I’ll have to wash the car because I have to go get my hair cut.

Getting my hair cut just served to remind me how much I miss Tammy and how I no longer enjoy going to the salon for cut and color. I dread it. But it has to be done because my impersonation of a shaggy dog is becoming better and better by the day.

So. Cranky. 

Because of the cranky I kept mostly to myself, other than the brief foray to the salon where I didn’t talk much. I didn’t talk to clients. I hardly talked to Kevin or the dog. I kept my head low and my fingers poised over the keyboard. I kept out of everyone’s way and didn’t subject anyone unnecessarily to me. I learned that from my teenage years. Just because you’re cranky, you don’t need to share it. And that’s definitely worth celebrating. Of course, I just did share it so maybe instead of celebrating what I’m really doing is cranking out loud.

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live out loud

In the future, “Nut, boy, get it on” is when I decided to eat all the cookies.

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 13, 2015 9:01 PM

I was and remain a huge fan of The West Wing. From the opening scene, neatly and succinctly explaining all of the key players and their personalities – Leo complaining about the New York Times crossword puzzle, CJ on a treadmill at 5:30 am budgeting her time, Josh asleep on his desk, Toby on an airplane defiantly using his cell phone, Sam with a call girl that he doesn’t know is a call girl – to the final scene of POTUS flying off into the sunset, it was nearly perfect. The last scene was a little hokey, but somehow it fit. Even after the brilliant and brilliantly arrogant Aaron Sorkin left after the fifth season and it dropped a bit in quality, it bounced back nicely in the middle of the sixth season and all of the seventh season as it shifted toward electing a successor to President Bartlet.

In the last episode of the third season, entitled Posse Comitatus, Bartlet who is running for re-election meets his republican opponent, Governor Rob Ritchie at a New York performance of War of the Roses. CJ has been assigned a secret service agent, played handsomely by pre-NCIS Mark Harmon, because she’s received death threats. The secret service finally catches the guy and the two are about to finally be able to see each other romantically when he is gunned down in a Korean bodega. When Bartlet who has just lit a cigarette encounters Ritchie in the bar of the theater, the two of them have a civil uncivilized conversation where Bartlet informs the governor what just happened. Ritchie, in all of his intellectual lightweightness, shakes his head and says: “Crime, boy. I don’t know.” Bartlet, in his intellectual heft, chastises him for a minute, before getting up to leave. At the door, he pauses and says: “In the future, if you’re wondering, ‘crime, boy, I don’t know’ is when I decided to kick your ass.” Then he flips his lighter to a waiting secret service agent.

It’s one of the lines that has always stuck with me. Kevin and I quote movies and certain TV shows a lot. We intersperse these quotes in our regular conversations and think we’re as brilliant as Sorkin and intellectually hefty as the fictional Josiah Bartlet.

Riley is in school for his anxiety issues. He has been diagnosed with suffering from MFGs, or major f#%&ing goofballs, and we have been instructed on how to talk him down. When the trash truck goes by and his MFGs flair up, we patiently call him over and get him to sit, which he does even while simultaneously attempting to escape his fur. He’s a squiggly, wiggly, sitting mess of a puppy who just wants a cookie. Which we give him. Then he tries to go back to see the truck and we call him again. And so it goes.

We do this with UPS and FedEx, too, and any other vehicles that dares come up the drive. We do it with toads out in the portico; and leaves. Anything outside the house that’s out of the ordinary which is basically anything outside the house. Focus, whine, stare, dance, whine louder.

Last night, we wanted to practice our MFG training but we couldn’t get him to nut out. We tried everything. It seems that Riley only nuts out when he wants to nut out. Kevin kept trying to entice him with cookies, but that had the opposite effect, which led to this witty exchange:

Kevin: Come on, come on. We need you to nut out. Nut, boy. Get. It. On.

Riley: You know what, dad? No. And in the future, ‘nut, boy, get it on is when I decided to eat all the cookies.

And so it went. I just wish I had it on tape.

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live out loud

Hopped up on goofballs

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 8, 2015 8:33 PM

Golden retrievers are goofy dogs. They’re big, doofy, goofy, happy-go-lucky dogs that look like big blonde bears. Tails are always wagging, tongues are hanging out to the side, eyes are loving. The whole body wriggles with anticipation of everything. They get excited easily. They bark, they whine, they want to explore and be with you all at once. They live in a state of crazed delirium most of their lives. This is what our dog trainer refers to as being hopped up on goofballs.

Riley is our third golden retriever mix. Maguire was our first, though he was more Australian shepherd than retriever. He was dark and big, and had a more mellow, hang loose, hey dude kind of attitude. When he barked, he barked in threes. Ruff, ruff, ruuuuffffff. Then he was done. He wagged his tail incessantly, until he got too old and he didn’t wag at all anymore. I suppose, much like people, that dogs get to the point where they say: “you know I love you; I know you love me. What’s the point of the tail wag thing?” It still saddened me.

I don’t remember there ever being a time where I thought Maguire was hopped up. He was too laid back, too easy going. He was the best dog that ever lived, in our opinion. I don’t think that will ever change. We’ve loved others; we love one now. We’ll never love a dog like we loved Maguire Michel.

Cooper looked more golden. He had red fur and it was longer, more unruly. Very golden retriever like. We don’t know what else his heritage included and we didn’t much care. He was our Coop de ville, the Cadillac of Rescue Puppies. He didn’t get too nuts either, mostly because he’d seen so much in his little life, he just didn’t seem to care. He loved me to the point of obsession; tolerated Kevin. But he had lived a hard life by the time we got him, and he didn’t have nearly enough time in his better life. Kevin said at the time and continues to say that Cooper got a really bad deal; that he got robbed. He did. He was just becoming a good boy, just getting used to being loved, and then he got sick. A bad deal indeed.

And then there’s Riley. Before we got him, the rescue group told us he was a golden-doodle, or golden retriever-poodle. There is absolutely no poodle in this dog. He definitely has golden retriever and something else mixed in for goofy measure. And make no mistake – he’s a total goof. He’s also anxious. A lot. He’s good in the house, except for when the trash truck rolls through the ‘hood. Or when neighbor Ed comes home. Or when a car comes up the drive. Or when the tortoise comes down the hill. Or when there’s a lizard. Or a toad.

Whine. Squeal. Pant. Tail. 


Last night, we had our second school session. Carey, the teacher/trainer/behaviorist diagnosed him almost immediately as suffering from anxiety. He’s nervous. He’s whines. He’s afraid. His tail is up higher than it should be. He’s hopped up on goofballs to the point of overdose. 

We’re working to get him detoxed. We’re in a program now. He’s learning to live his life in a normal state of nutty. But it will take time. It will take behavior modification. It will take patience. It will take cookies and treats and lots of “good boy!”s. We can handle it. We’re in it for the long run. Our newest little damaged boy will learn that he’s safe and loved. And that goofy is good, but goofballs aren’t necessary to live it out loud.

Just saying

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 15, 2015 8:30 PM

When Justin was little, we had several rituals we developed in order to avoid what we called “the meltdown.” During the summer months especially he would run himself ragged, literally, playing outside with his friends. They’d start early and race around the yard, or go to the park and race around there. They’d ride their bikes, build forts, go to the moon, and that was just before lunch.

We’d have him come in around six, for dinner. Sometimes a buddy would come with him, but usually it was just him. To take a bath, to relax a little, maybe just veg in front of a Disney movie, eat his mac n’ cheese or cheese burger or cheese pizza; chicken fingers or corn dogs and fries, washed down with milk. Or Justin’s wine. We never wanted him to feel like he was less than we were, just because he was little. He always sat at the table with us when we entertained. He was always part of the conversation. All of our friends always included him, talked to him. Most importantly, listened to him. Kevin and I always have wine with dinner. Naturally, he couldn’t have wine, so we bought him sparkling cider. Justin’s wine. There were always several bottles in the wine rack. When he had a friend sleep over, they always had Justin’s wine with dinner.

After a hard day of playing, he would need a bath or a shower. We could never just spring the concept of bedtime on him because that would lead to shrieks and wailing. After he got himself clean and into his pajamas, he always came back downstairs to watch a little more TV. He’d bring his pillows and his Simba blanket and curl up on the floor next to Maguire. Sometimes Maguire was the pillow. About 30 minutes before bedtime, we’d start a countdown. If we eased into when it was time for him to go to bed, it was easier. We avoided meltdown.

“Thirty minutes, buddy,” was the first announcement.

“Next commercial, brush and flush,” was the next announcement.

Brush and flush became the mantra for years. It’s all we’d have to say to make sure that he brushed his teeth and went to the bathroom before bed. Then he could come back downstairs after brush and flush and watch a little more TV. We had it down to a science. We also used it before he went off to school or whenever we were going on a trip so that we knew he had clean teeth and an empty bladder. It worked for years. Occasionally when he’s home now, we’ll joke and say the same thing. It always gets a big laugh.

We have a new mantra now for our new ginger boy, Riley.

Riley is an odd duck. We love him to pieces, but he’s weird. He loves to go on walks but he never goes to the bathroom during the walk. It’s very un-dog-like. We have an area off the garage that’s fenced in. It’s not very big and it’s not very finished – it’s still dirt and enclosed with chicken-wire fence – but it’s where he has learned to go. In the morning, it’s the first place we visit. Throughout the day, whenever he leaps the steps and sits on the landing by the garage door, we know we need to visit the Cooper Area, so named because it was originally envisioned for Cooper.

Whenever Riley uses his outside time to pee and poop, we are delighted to announce P–squared. We do it with flourish. We’re like proud parents whose kid has learned to use the toilet.

We all develop little sayings that keep us functioning, shorthand sayings that allow us to communicate quickly and succinctly. Brush and flush. P–squared. I do find it interesting that the sayings we’ve developed have to do with our boys’ toilet habits.

But I guess we need to go with the flow.

Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 14, 2015 8:15 PM

We make plans and dog laughs, or in my case, bites.

I am by nature a planner. I suspect it’s because I am also a control freak. I need to know what’s going to happen at any given time. I don’t do well with spontaneity, though I try. Last Sunday, I was spontaneous when I said to Kevin let’s go get a newspaper and we ended up at Bookman’s instead, shopping for used books. I had a great time; one of the best in a while. I don’t remember when I was spontaneous before that. I’ve always wished I could be a little more carefree, but it’s just not in my nature and I’ve also come to accept that. Some of us foot loose, others have our feet encased.

Whenever we set off on a motorcycle ride, I need to know where we’re going. I have no trouble going, I have no trouble with detours. But I need to know the ultimate destination. The plan.

When we were big into bicycling, we’d often start off on a ride and I’d ask the inevitable question: where are we going? Kevin used to get very irritated. Can’t you just enjoy the ride? I informed him that I needed to know because depending on the distance, I needed to plan. 10 miles meant I could ride more aggressively. 30 miles meant that I needed to ride smarter and conserve energy. He still got irritated with me but seemed to better understand my control issues.

The plan for today was for Riley and I to make our debut at a Petsmart Meet ‘n Greet with the rescue group from whence he came. They do a lot of these things evidently and I’ve been wanting to get more involved. Several weeks ago there was a pool party and we were planning to go but they thought it might be too much for our poor little guy since he was still getting acclimated, and there were supposed to be 53 dogs there. (!) It made sense, so I changed the plans.

Yesterday Mr. Riley Boo got a bath so he’d look sparkly for his entrance. This morning I brushed him before we got in the car. Drove to Petsmart which is about 15 minutes or so away. Just before the turn into the parking lot, an idiot three cars ahead slammed on his brakes which made everyone else slam on theirs, including me. Now we were on a surface street so we were only going about 40ish, but a nearly 6000 pound SUV does not stop on a proverbial dime (a saying I’ve never quite understood). I got it stopped but not before dumping Riley who had been lying down, stretched out on his rug in the back seat, down onto the floor. He sat there looking at me as if I was trying to kill him.

This should have been a clue that perhaps my plan for the day might not be a good one.

We walked into Petsmart right at 11, but none of the other peeps were there. I asked someone where the rescue group was and was told they usually set up outside. It was already 93º. Not a good idea. I walked back outside, with my dog straining and pulling at the leash. Do you know how many good things there are to play with and eat at Petsmart? Do you see how many people to sniff?

Outside, I found the rescue group, just arriving. They also agreed it was too hot so we trekked back inside. There were only three of us, and two dogs. One of the ladies, a woman named Sue, had brought her six year old rescue Travis. He barked the entire time. I’m not exaggerating. The entire time. Riley simply whined and squirmed and sniffed Travis’ butt.

We got the table set up, Riley got a “donation dog” vest to wear and people started coming up. The object of the game is to talk to people about the rescue group and to get donations. It’s a non-profit and any monies can help keep the place running and the lights on. My friend Jenny arrived and we started to chat. She put $10 into Riley’s vest. He was official.

A woman and her daughter stopped by. We told her about the group and about Riley. They gave him $5. Another lady stopped by. A woman with another dog came by. Another with two little boys. They were petting Riley and he was wagging his tail. They left and came back. I was talking to Jenny. The next thing I know Riley is nipping and biting one of the little boys.

I was mortified. The little boy was more scared than hurt. The mother was very understanding, much more so than I might have been. The manager of Petsmart asked us to leave (just me and Riley). In a very nice way, and even put a dollar in Riley’s vest. I wanted to dig a hole and pull the sand up over my head.

We were there a grand total of 35 minutes. Jenny said “let’s go get a Starbucks,” and I whined “please!”

The moral of the story: Rescue dogs are unpredictable, Riley needs therapy (I’ve already called a trainer) and sometimes things don’t go the way you planned. But at least there is Starbucks.

The art of the bath

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 13, 2015 8:58 PM

We are currently on our third canine in twenty years. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, numbers wise. I do know that it’s good for the canines and it’s very good for humanoids. They keep us young, except when we lose them, and then we feel very old. Diane said yesterday that when they get older is when they need us most. I agree. It’s also when everyone starts to feel the effects of mortality.

We do not currently have an old dog. We do not even have an older dog. We have a nut-job puppy who is almost 18 months and a terrific ball of energy. He does not walk; he races. He bounds. He prances. He leaps. He bounces. It’s actually quite amusing for us. He races from one end of the house to the other, ears flying, clearing the steps (just a suggestion) to land half way through the house. Kevin measured it the other day. From the time he leaves the top step until he lands it’s nine feet. And then he’s off to the races.

Each day we try to walk some of the energy out of him. It doesn’t work. We’re the ones who are exhausted. But all of his boundless energy and long walks in the desert do create one stinky boy. So today we had a bath.

Allow me to drift back in time a bit, to Maguire. We have always groomed our dogs ourselves with the exception of getting their nails cut. The only time we’ve had anyone else do the bath is when we’ve had them in a kennel while we were out of town. Anyone who has ever picked a dog up from a kennel knows the stink factor. Most kennels offer a bath service right before pickup. Once they’re bathed and dried, they are segregated from the other still stinky dogs in order to preserve their newly acquired fragrance.

Maguire hated getting a bath. We used to try to bathe him in the backyard but he’d have none of it. He would fight us and, I’m embarrassed to say, win. Hey, he was a very big and strong dog.

We finally started bathing him in by taking him in the shower. We had a shower stall with glass walls and a glass door. Kevin would get in, I’d corral him by first closing the bedroom door and then chasing him around the room. He knew what was about to happen. He was about to be tortured. And he. Would. Not. Let. It. Happen. Not without a fight. But he was a good dog and eventually he’d let me win. He would begrudgingly get into the shower, I would have to hold the glass door closed because he would push himself against it while Kevin lathered him up. His face said it all: How can you do this to me? Haven’t I been a good dog?

Afterward, we’d go outside to dry off, and he would prance around the yard like a king. Look at me. Don’t I look good?

Riley, after his bath and on the deck, looking handsome

Cooper’s first bath happened the day after we got him. He was a stinky little mess when we picked him up. We took him out in the backyard and armed with a slow running hose and a bucket of warm water, we prepared ourselves. He stood there stoically, and loved it. Especially when it was over.

Enter Riley. He has had three baths now, the third one this morning. He and I went for a walk (Kevin wanted to get an early start before the heat of the day. He’s building a rock wall to push water away from the house.) and then  had some breakfast. It was 7:15. Time for a bath.

Tomorrow he and I are doing our first Meet ‘n Greet at a Petsmart here on the east side. It’s with the rescue group. I wanted him to smell as good as he looks for his big debut.

We went out through the garage. He, like Cooper, doesn’t seem to mind having a bath. I turned on the hose, got him nice and wet, suds’d him up, rinsed him off then stepped back while he shook and shook and shook some more. I grabbed a towel and rubbed him down. Then I turned him loose.

He proceeded to get low, tuck his hind legs and take off. Tearing across the driveway, racing in circles, so damned pleased with himself, having the time of his life, celebrating the moment.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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