Lucky fur

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 29, 2012 7:20 PM

My sister has a dog named Lucky. I’ve mentioned her before. She’s a Border collie and Australian shepherd mix, about five years old. She’s the darkest of brown, nearly black, with a white swath of fur on her chest and a touch on her nose and face. Her legs are tan, almost brindled. They got her shortly after losing their beloved Hogan, a German shepherd mix. I can’t remember but I think he lived to be nearly 12. Lucky came into their life a few weeks later. At the time, Khris thought they might actually get two dogs and they came home with two puppies from the same litter, a boy and a girl. But they had a toddler at the time – my nephew Caden was two – and two puppies would have made sanity nearly impossible. They ended up keeping just one, Lucky, also known affectionately as Lucky Bear.

In Lucky’s litter was a brother named Tucker. Tucker was a little bigger, with as much long silky dark fur as Lucky, and a similar swath of white. He had a touch of gray in his fur, though, not because he was old, obviously, but because of the Australian shepherd in him. Aussies are known to have a luscious gray streak that I always say gives them wisdom. Maguire had it, too, long before he was actually old enough to have earned it.

Tucker was adopted by my sister’s closest friend Patti. She and her husband and two girls took him in shortly after Khris and John and Shawn and Caden adopted Lucky. Patti wasn’t sure she wanted a dog; evidently Chris was enamored from the beginning. But dogs have a way of growing on you and it wasn’t long before Tucker was the beloved third child, the little brother to Kendal and Grace.

Lucky and Tucker, sister and brother, would have play dates when Patti would come to my sister’s house. Khris and John had an invisible electric fence installed when they had Hogan so that he could bomb around their two acres and they didn’t have to worry that he would run after a squirrel or another dog or a delivery truck. When they got Lucky, she also got the benefit of the fence, or rather Khris and John did. The dogs wear a special collar that sends out a small shock, like a strong static electricity shock, when they cross the invisible line, the border of the property. I was always a little skeptical but I can see why people would want to use one. The dogs can run and play, and they learn to not leave the perimeter. Plus, my sister is perhaps an even bigger animal lover than I. If there was any possibility that this wasn’t safe or would hurt the dog, she would never have had it installed. She herself was shocked once; I don’t know all the circumstances except that she was pregnant at the time. She said it felt just like the shock you get when you walk across carpet in the winter and then touch the metal railing on the stairs. It doesn’t hurt; it just startles.


Lucky, on the left, with Tucker

Tucker had his own collar at my sister’s house. So Khris and Patti could sit and chat and have some coffee or whatever, and the fur-kids could run and play and do whatever. For five years they played together. But today, Tucker died. He got very sick on Wednesday and Patti took him to the hospital on Thursday. The vets weren’t sure what he had gotten into. They thought perhaps he had licked the urine of a deer or another wild animal; perhaps he had eaten a poisonous mushroom. His kidneys failed; his liver became jaundiced. And today, with other organs failing, and the poor baby in pain, Patti and Chris and Kendal and Grace made the agonizing decision to put him to sleep.

I didn’t know Tucker, but I do know Lucky. She’s a love, always ready with a hug and kiss. Talk to her and she flops over on her back for a belly rub while her tail sweeps the floor beneath her.

She won’t be able to play with her litter-mate any more, won’t have her brother to chase around the yard. Tonight Patti and her family are devastated, feeling the wrath of a lonely house and wondering what everyone who loses a pet always wonders. What if they had done something different? What if they’d gotten him to the hospital sooner? What if…?

Tonight, Khris hugged her Lucky a bit tighter as she and Shawn and John and Caden grieved for their friends; grieved for the handsome Tucker.

Lucky in all her black fur with hints of gold and a white swath, who looks like her brother, sat quietly. She looked like perhaps she had gained a bit of wisdom. Lucky Bear. Living it out loud. 

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Dogs, politics and wine

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 3, 2012 8:29 PM

It occurred to me recently that one of the most interesting ways to tell what is important in your world, other than your family, friends and career, your hopes and dreams, your infinite possibilities, is to take a look at your Facebook page. I’ve discovered that mine is nearly equal parts of “likes” for dog-related information, Democratic-related politics and fun wine pages. This doesn’t take into account my friends. These are strictly the pages that I have liked and that seem to post quite a bit.

Some will undoubtedly begin to taper off in about two months. Once the presidential election is over, I expect many of the political pages to not be as lively, and by that time I won’t much care. Depending on the outcome (full disclosure: I am a proud Democrat and have been for my entire adult life), I may need to ramp up the wine pages. And the dog pages.

I don’t use Facebook a lot. I post things occasionally. This blog has a page, and I have a personal page. I don’t have hundreds of friends. I look at my page in the morning to see what everyone has been up to; I look again in the afternoon and usually before I got to bed. When I post on my Live it out loud page, it’s usually a link to my actual blog. When I post to my personal page, it tends to be photos, usually of dogs. Sometimes I share photos of dogs that other people have posted. Once in a while I find a video on one of the political sites I visit and I share that, and it’s almost always a video of dogs.

Sensing a pattern?

Ever since we lost Maguire, my need to see dogs online has increased. I can’t give it a percentage because I only deal in anecdotal evidence, largely because math has never been my strong suit. Still, I’d say that I now have at least 10 more pages than I had before. I had long been a fan of Dog Bless You but then I also added Warrior Canine Connection (who trains service dogs for returning veterans and who, together with Dog Bless You, runs the puppy cam showing Holly’s Half Dozen), and one of the puppies – Abby – now has her own page as well because she is now with foster parents as she starts training. I’m anxiously awaiting the page for Lucy – who has also left to live with foster parents to start training. I just love Lucy.

I have A dog’s purpose and Tuesday; I have Tucker Hirsch, a therapy dog in Honolulu, and Old Dog Haven. I like Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue in Ventura County, The Animal Rescue Site and others.

They all make me smile. They also make me miss my boy. But seeing dogs daily, even if it’s just online, makes me feel a little less lonely. The adoption sites make me want to adopt them all, especially the dogs that are on Old Dog Haven. I see those wise, grizzled and gray faces and I’m ready to load up the Rover and bring them here. (Even my car has a dog name: “Rover,” albeit a really unimaginative dog name.) We’re not ready to adopt another dog yet – the grief is still too pitched – so when I’m feeling down, I look at puppies to feel better.

I look at puppies a lot.

I also look at wine pages of which there is no shortage. They keep me distracted when I’m missing my Maguire, and they make me happy in a different kind of way. Political pages do not make me happy but they do feed my addiction. I admit to loving politics, to Being Liberal and to wanting to Re-Elect Obama.

Wine pages also make me wish for a deep red wine, swirling in a glass, the bouquet wafting up and filling me with impending joy. There’s Wino Barbie, and The California Wine Club. There’s Magnavino and Baldacci and Lido Bay and Zaca Mesa and Niner and LaBelle in New Hampshire. The Frugal Wine Snob points me in the direction of a good red under $20.

Then there is the Wandering Dog Wine Bar that neatly combines both my love of dogs and my love of wine. If there was a way to get politics in there, it would be the trifecta. Might I suggest Wandering Dogs Against Romney Wine Bar? I think it has a nice ring to it. It swirls nicely in the glass. When the light hits it just right, I think I can see my boy’s wise, grizzled, gray mug, proudly wearing his Obama bandana.

Of wondrous desktop images and savvy screensavers

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 27, 2012 8:28 PM

In May of 2009, we went to Napa Valley with Roy and Bobbi to celebrate Bobbi’s birthday. We had been there previously, and had stayed in the quaint town of Yountville, inside the valley itself. This time, we decided to do something different. We rented a house. It would be so much easier to rise, shower, meet for coffee and bagels in the kitchen before heading off to wineries, returning sometime after 4 to relax, maybe in front of a fire, while we cooked our own meal and ate it in a homey setting. The last thing any of us wanted to do after a day of tasting would be to go out to dinner.

Our criteria was simple: two bedrooms, two full baths, a nice kitchen, private and near the Silverado Trail. The Silverado Tray is where all of the high-end red wine producers are located. Wineries like Heitz Cellars, Chimney Rock, Silver Oak and so many more. We spent much time on the VRBO website and discovered an incredible house atop a hill just off the trail, surrounded by 25 acres of grapes. According to the pictures, it was spectacular, complete with a baby grand piano. And the price would be less than we paid to stay at the Yountville Inn. We decided to go for it.


My Mac desktop photo, from Napa Valley

The pictures did not truly do the place justice. It was beyond spectacular as to border on exquisite, incredible, earth-shatteringly fabulous. We couldn’t believe our luck. The house was so amazing we almost didn’t want to leave it to go wine tasting. I said “almost.” From the road, a long drive wound through some farmland, past a big gray cow who would stand near the road and simply stare as we drove by, and up the hill to where the house awaited. From the front of the house, vineyards stretched further than our eyes could see. From the back of the house, the farmland and valley would be seen. Inside, were two bedrooms, each with its own bath. There was a bar, a living room complete with aforementioned piano, a huge kitchen, attached great room with high ceilings and a fireplace. It was perfect, as was the entire trip. It will probably go down as one of my all time favorites.

I see the vineyards every day, the early morning sun drifting through the trees to alight the thick-with-grapes vines. It’s my desktop image on my Mac. It brings me peace; it makes me want to open a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, perhaps a syrah, and sit back, relax, listen to some music and transport myself back in time, up to that house on the hill.


Cow

On my PC, my desktop is a huge picture of my beloved Maguire, lying on his rug in his sphinx position, his front paws crossed – he was always such a gentleman – his beautiful brown eyes alert and looking directly at me, his nose wet. I can almost feel how cold it always was. The sign of a healthy boy.

I think the images we choose for our desktops as well as for our screensavers say a lot about us. They define us. Computers come with a number of photos and background colors from which to choose. Wet pebbles in a stream, a beach at sunset, deep space, a distant landscape. The flat colors are turquoise, orange, red, blue, purple, the colors of the rainbow and beyond. I’ve never been interested in just having a boring desktop with a pre-determined photo. I look at this computer screen all day and into the night. I want it to be an extension of me. It is; both are.

When my Mac has been sitting idle for more than 10 minutes, the screen simply goes black. A touch to the track pad and the sundrenched vineyard reappears. On the PC, the screensaver is a 3-D high-chrome apparition of Microsoft Windows. A touch to that track pad, and my beautiful boy is back.

Screensavers began in the late 1980s because the tubes used to light computer monitors were vulnerable to damage when the same pattern was displayed in the same position for extended periods of time. These monitors were called CRT screens for cathode ray tubes. Some thought the image on the screen, whether it was words or graphics, would be burned into the monitor; others said that portions of the screen would gray out. In actuality the whole process was caused by phosphor compounds illuminating when hit by high-speed electrons. Manufacturers originally developed screensavers that made the screen totally black but in 1989, the “Magic Screensaver” was created. Developed by Bill Stewart and Ian Macdonald, it showed images and patterns interchanging and overlapping, changing constantly in order to keep the screen healthy.


My beautiful, beautiful boy as he appears on my PC desktop

The screensavers of today are even more complex, with animations and multiple settings for control. They’re created by programmers who often design and build them for the sheer joy of the creativity. I say, bravo.

But I’m still partial to the black screen of the Mac that eventually returns me to Napa. It’s a bit like time travel, which could be the best screensaver ever. I’ll have to talk to someone about that. We could all go back to Napa, to our house on the hill, and this time, we’d take Maguire, and his healthy wet nose, with us. What’s a wine house without a dog, right?

Remember me remembering you

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 28, 2012 1:53 AM

On many of the roads around California, there are countless impromptu memorials set up by the loved ones of someone killed in that spot. Flowers, stuffed bears, photographs and often a cross appear seemingly overnight. I’ve never seen anyone actually placing such a memorial but I’ve often come across one that wasn’t there the previous day. Mostly they appear on side roads, roads less travelled than freeways. They’re sweet mementos, a way to remember someone, a way to share grief.

Larger versions of these memorials spring up every time someone of stature dies and the public needs to express their sympathies and their empathy with the family. One of the largest in memory was the memorial that sprang up outside of Kensington Palace when Princess Diana was killed some 15 years ago. A few bouquets of flowers grew to be thousands, accompanied by cards, photographs, and more. It was touching enough that it prompted a visit from the always stoic Queen Elizabeth.

I never fail to notice these memorials, or to be touched by them. I often wonder who it was that died, how and why. Death is still, to me, such a fate-filled phenomenon, especially when it visits someone young and full of life, at least until that fateful trip around a corner on Mulholland going a little too fast, like a princess speeding through a Paris tunnel in the middle of the night. I marvel at the random nature of it. I suppose if you spend too much time dwelling on that randomness, you can become bogged down with it, become depressed. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I choose to err on the side of positive whenever possible. It’s better than the alternative, and worrying and wondering doesn’t matter a damn. Such is the nature of fate.

This weekend is, of course, Memorial Day, a commemoration for those who have fallen in service defending our country. Interestingly it began in 1865 as Decoration Day when freed slaves celebrated their liberation. It included a memorial for Abraham Lincoln who was assassinated that same year. Because of the enormous number of Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the civil war, Decoration Day was soon expanded, with events held in the North in 183 cemeteries in 1868 and 336 cemeteries in 1869. Decoration Day changed to Memorial Day in 1882 but was not officially declared by Congress until June 28, 1968. Most children today consider it the official start of summer since it’s starting to get warm and it’s just a matter of another week or two until they’re officially out of school. Most adults with children think the same, though probably in not quite as giddy a way. Many who have family members and friends who have lost someone in a war or other conflict take this time to visit grave sites, and to remember those people with love.

I haven’t lost anyone I know in a war. My mother’s father was killed in World War II but she was three at the time. But I have lost a number of people that I loved dearly and who I continue to think about, to miss, and to wonder what they might be doing if they were still here.

Today, I’m celebrating my father, who died ten years ago this month. I think of him all the time but no longer in grief; more just sadness. If he was still with us, he’d be on the golf course. Maybe by now, he’d be in the clubhouse having a cold pint of Sam Adams.

My Aunt Eleanor who died when I was 14. I still remember her riding the rollercoaster with me at Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania. She was the only one who would.

My grandmothers. My dad’s mom who preceded him in death by 6 months, a little dynamo of a woman who could whip up a batch of fudge like nobody’s business, who often cleared the table before anyone was done eating, and who stood about 5’1” tall, 5’6” with her beehive hairdo. My mom’s mom who was a holy terror when she was younger but who mellowed with age. I always thought she was born into the wrong era, that she would have been happier as someone of my generation, who could have been independent without having to explain why. I still remember her telling Kevin at my sister’s wedding, when he asked her if he could get her anything: “Yes. A whisky sour.”

My great Aunt Trene, my dad’s mom’s sister who died not too long ago, the last of that generation. She would probably be playing golf with my dad, and also having a beer with him in the clubhouse.

My Tori Lynn, my much loved cat who was diagnosed with cancer when she was 10. We staved it off for a while, but she eventually grew tired of the fight and I had to make the agonizing decision to have her put to sleep. It was the first time I ever had to do that.

Our beloved Maguire, our big old bear of a boy, our vintage puppy. He was with us for just over 15 years, and his loss has scarred us deeply. He left us on March 6, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t miss him, when I don’t long to hear his tags hitting the floor as he rolls over, his bark from the window welcoming us home, the squeak of a chosen toy as he plays. There isn’t a day that I don’t remember.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t still love all the ones I celebrate today. Memorial day, then, can be every day. And every day spent remembering is a day spent living it out loud. 

A gray Mercedes, three golden retrievers, a mutt and a woman named Donna

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:36 AM

Friday afternoons tend to be quiet. Most of my clients – and Kevin’s, too – are busy wrapping up their weeks and looking forward to the weekend. Starting around 1 pm, the emails begin to taper off as do the phone calls. People don’t want to review anything or discuss anything new; most everything can and does wait until Mondays. This is true in most businesses whether you’re self-employed or not. By Friday, the week is done. By Friday afternoon, the weekend has begun. For this reason, I often schedule our hair appointments on Friday afternoons. Today was such a day.

Around 2:45 we both put on jeans, grabbed a lightweight leather jacket from the hall closet, a helmet of choice from the garage (open face for Mr. Michel; closed for Mrs.), climbed aboard the big Nomad and jetted off into the Valley for 3 o’clock appointments.

The day was lovely, the sun warm, the air cool. Naturally it was warmer once we got into Woodland Hills, often 10º hotter than where we live. Still, it wasn’t so warm that we were uncomfortable in our leathers. We arrived at the salon just after 3 but it wasn’t a problem. We were the only clients Tammy had today because two weeks ago she fell and broke the wrist and elbow on her left arm. Makes it difficult to cut hair. Still, she was offering color and though we both need a haircut, me somewhat desperately, we decided that color was better than nothing. Kevin had his painted on; mine scrubbed in. For my hairdresser and salon friends: is all men’s hair color painted on? Or is it just painted on for those who have – how shall I put this magnanimously – thinning hair and receding hairlines? I mean no disrespect; I love my husband’s hair.

When we were freshly shampooed, I blow dried my own hair. Again please see broken wrist and elbow above, and we chatted for a bit longer before climbing back on the bike and journeying home. We had talked about stopping at the grocery store on the way. There’s no Fritini tonight since Bobbi has a mock test tomorrow for the second part of her testing to become a licensed therapist. Next weekend is Memorial Day so perhaps we’ll do something then; we’ll see. I had mentioned that we could just go home since there was no rush and it was still fairly early, shower and then go to the store in the car. But Kevin decided that since we were out, we should just go past the turn for the house and continue on to the light, turn left and hit our favorite neighborhood grocery.

He drove up and around the top of the parking lot, turning down toward the store at the end, looping around to the next aisle and then coming to a stop next to a gray Mercedes sedan. I slid off toward the car and started undoing my helmet strap. That’s when I saw a big blonde head, mouth open in a silly grin, big floppy ears perked forward, nose against the glass watching me from the safety of the nice leather back seat. And then there was another one, this one a little redder. They were crawling over each other, peering at the strange visitors, obviously from another planet. But they weren’t scared; rather just curious. The redder one stayed in her prone position while the blonder one stood, tail swooshing back and forth over his redheaded little sister. I was thrilled as I usually am when I see dogs in a car. I want to stick my hand through the open windows, and this car had all four windows down slightly and was parked in the shade. I want to pet them and kiss on them. But I’m smart enough to realize that that’s stupid. Instead, I grinned back and said “hi, beautiful!” and the tail wagged more.

Then, two pointy ears appeared in the lower part of the front passenger seat window. “Oh, another one!” This dog was much smaller, and hard to determine as far as breed. I suspected mutt. It would later be confirmed that my suspicion was correct.

As I was fawning over the dogs, Kevin came up next to me, a huge grin on his face as well. He started making his usual hand-gestures, sort of pointing/waving/beckoning them to come to him even though they were in the car. He wanted, like me, to just pet them, rough up their ears, smell their fur. He moved toward the back of the car so he could see them through the back window. The red one had her paws up on the back of the car and her head leaning on the back seat as she gazed out with adoration at my husband. Then Kevin made a discovery: “There’s a third one!” On the far side of the backseat, another big blonde bear of a head appeared. Three golden retrievers in the back seat of this gray Mercedes sedan and one smaller, pointy-eared mutt in the front seat who didn’t seem to want to be bothered with his brethren in the back. We smiled and laughed and talked to them as they put up with us. They were waiting patiently for their person, and I think both Kevin and I were lingering a bit, hoping said person would come out.

She did, holding two small bags of groceries. We told her how beautiful her dogs were and asked if all four were hers. Three were; the forth, the redhead with her head on the back, was not. She was puppy-sitting. The puppy’s name was Abby and she’s seven months old. As we talked to the woman we also laughed as Abby tried to push her nose through the back window. Evidently Abby had been hit by a car and left on the road with a broken leg. She was rescued, surgery was performed, they weren’t sure she’d recover, but she did and she’s a happy, healthy little girl.

The woman is part of a Golden Retriever rescue group here in Ventura County. She lives locally but she’s been rescuing goldens for over seven years. We told her about Maguire, how he was part golden/part Australian Shepherd, a big boy, the love of our lives, and I started to cry, as I do every time I talk about my beloved boy. She gave me a hug. She also gave us the card of the group, Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue, and said that if and when we were ready to let her know.

Her name was Donna. She was on her way to the dog park. We wished her and her herd well and good “parking,” and went into the store. I was still in tears but I felt better. I’m not sure why.

Perhaps it was hope. 

Big paws to fill: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 28, 2012 8:19 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

 

Just last week, I was lying on top of the little house in the backyard. I like it up there. The sun hits it just right and it’s warm and makes me feel cozy. I can lay flat, too. I like to lay flat. It makes me feel invisible, then I can observe stuff.

Anyway, there I was, flat, and listening to their conversation. She was talking about who she might get to be a guest blogger once in a while because it took some of the pressure off of her to always get a post done. I don’t really know what a post is, other than a part of a fence, but the more I listened the more I thought: hey, I could do this guest blogging thing. I mean, how hard can it be? She does it every day and I know that big old bear that used to live here did it every once in a while. He was really smart, that guy, you know, for a dog. We even got to be friends. Oh, sure, every once in a while I’d tease him but it was just to keep him on his toes. I’d sneak up on him, creeping across the wall, and then I’d jump into the tree and he’d look up. When he saw me, I swear he’d smile. Then he’d jump up and I’d hang down off of a branch and he’d rear up like a horse and I’d bark and he’d growl. That was a lot of fun.

I miss that guy.

Me, in the tree

So I got to thinking that I could be the guest blogger. I wrote a quick message and put it in an empty shell and dropped it down from the gutter just outside their bedroom window. I heard her say “what was that?” and He said “probably that damned squirrel.” I smiled. I do like to be a little mischievous and I love to take a flying leap from the wall and land right on the roof of the little house. The little house is His. She has the big house. That’s how it is in my family, too. Mrs. Squirrel gets the big den; I get a little hole in the dirt outside.

My message in an acorn must have been received though cause I heard Her laugh. I grabbed hold of the gutter and hung over it upside down so I could see her. She was thinking about it, I could tell. She had all kinds of looks on her face. One minute she looked like she thought it would be fun; she was smiling. Then she kind of cocked her head to one side like she wasn’t sure. But the smiling fun face won and I got a message back in my acorn asking me to be a guest blogger and did I have any ideas for topics.

I didn’t. But She said that was OK because sometimes topics just present themselves when they’re ready. I asked what the Big Dog used to write about and she paused for a minute and then she said “he wrote about his life here with us.” He was really smart.

I miss that guy.

We were friends. He was the knight and I was his squire. I looked it up and it fits. Squires were like apprentice knights. They were responsible for keeping the knight’s armor and stuff in order. With the Big Dog gone now, that really kind of makes sense. One of his “stuff” was him being a really good guest blogger. Now it’s up to me to keep that guest blogger thing going so that it’s at least kind of as good as his was.

Yep, I have mighty big paws to fill. But if you’ll let me, I’d like to give it a try.

I’m Squire Squirrel, guest blogger in training. I sure could use some pointers. Like, for instance, how the dog was able to get his big paws to hit all the right keys. My much littler paws are all over the place. Practice makes perfect. That’s what the Big Dog woulda said. Then he would have yawned and rolled over in the sun.

Yep. I miss him.

So I’m going to write about stuff I see from the outside, like observations. See ya next time!

Three weeks

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 27, 2012 8:04 PM

It was three weeks ago today that we lost our beloved Maguire. Twenty-one days since we last smelled his fur and stroked his head, since we could lie down on the floor beside him and hug on him. We’re doing better but we’re not great. I find myself in tears at the strangest times, and I struggle with thinking that it’s OK for me to still be so destroyed by his loss and feeling that I really need to move on. I wonder if it has to do with so much of society still thinking that the loss of a pet doesn’t truly constitute the loss of a family member. But Maguire was family. In many ways he was better than most people I know. His love was unconditional; his presence constant and reassuring.

We still come into the house quietly so as not to scare him. Once he started to lose his hearing we had to be careful. More than once, we’d just open the door normally, barreling in from the garage or through the front door and he’d react, even if just for a second until he realized who it was, with fear, jumping up, ears pinned back, tail tucked. But we learned quickly. He would sleep on the rug just inside the door and we always checked to see if he was awake. If he wasn’t, we’d call his name quietly, which is funny because he couldn’t hear it, and we’d tap gently on the floor. What he couldn’t hear he could feel. Those big beautiful brown eyes would roll open slowly, focus, and I swear he’d smile. Hi, guys.

Kevin still comes into the house at walk time, catching himself just before he says: “HB? Wanna go?” HB is his pet name for me; wanna go was code for time to trot the pup. Trot the pup being a code we came up with after Maguire learned, many years ago, the word “walk.” We couldn’t say it, in any tone of voice, without him starting to spin in circles and prance in place. He could be upstairs, asleep on pride landing, and I’d say the word ‘walk’ downstairs in the bedroom and I’d hear the rumble of his 80 pounds flying down the stairs. We started spelling it, but he figured that out too. Trot the pup was our last code, and it worked because he started to lose his hearing. Then we made walking movements with our fingers. Maguire, it seems, knew sign language.

Each time I walk down the stairs from my loft, I expect to see him sprawled on the floor in the living room, somewhere between the bottom of the stairs, the back door and the kitchen. He always picked the most strategic spot so that both Kevin and I would have to walk past or over him in order to get anywhere. Most of the time, he’d wake up, raise his head and give us a look that said: “Where are you going? And will there be cheese?”

I am forever disappointed by these descents because he’s not in the living room, nor is he in the bedroom. I don’t hear him slurping up his water and then stopping for a bit of voyeurism as he stared out the kitchen window watching the neighbors, in their cars or on foot, go by. Eventually he’d make his way around the table and back out into the room. The kitchen table is a pub table so it’s high. It sits in our bay window in the kitchen and he could always walk behind it, next to the window. He used to be able to back up but once his rear legs stopped working as well, backing up became more difficult. Sometimes he’d get caught under the table especially if one of the chairs was pulled out slightly and he thought he could go through rather than around. He’d stand there patiently until someone noticed his predicament and moved the chair out of the way so he could saunter off and find a toy.

I miss the sounds he made, the harrumph exhale as all the air pushed out of his body when he laid down; the clank of his tags on the floor. The sigh, like his life was so hard. The way he clicked across the floor, jazz puppy, his front feet high-stepping, his back sort of dragging. It was like listening to a drum and a brush. The way he’d stop at the entrance to the bedroom at night as we were getting ready for bed. He’d had a drink, he’d checked to make sure all the doors were locked, that the house was secure. And then, once he had our attention, he’d bound the short distance toward his bed, which still sits in the corner, and ram it with his head, lifting it up again and again, spilling all of the toys onto the floor. Then he’d look at us: “My job here is done.” And lay down to sleep.

I miss … him.

Three weeks since he left us. Each day gets a little bit easier and little bit harder. I suspect it will for a while yet. My brain understands he’s gone; my heart still breaks in a million different ways. I know it but I don’t want to believe it. I guess that’s called grief. It will pass when it passes. In the mean time, I will celebrate the memory of our boy. I will celebrate the joy he brought. I will celebrate the incredible effect he had on all who knew him.

I will celebrate Maguire.

Drawing by Maguire's best friend and second dad, Roy Guzman

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live out loud

The subject was roses

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:34 PM

We have six rose bushes in our backyard tucked against the wall. None are in bloom right now but when they are, the backyard alights in colors of blood red, gentle pink, sterling violet and glowing yellow. They’re glorious when they bloom, filling the backyard with brilliant color that is alive and lush. Their fragrance drifts through the house on a soft breeze, light and floral and lovely.

Roses have a long history that stretches to some 35 million years ago, though the cultivation of them began much more recently, in Asia around 5000 years ago. Greek mythology tells us of the goddess of flowers, Chloris. One day while Chloris was cleaning in the forest, she found the lifeless body of a nymph and to bring the nymph back to life, Chloris turned to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, who gave the nymph beauty. Dionysus, the god of wine, added a sweet nectar, and the three graces provided charm, brightness and joy. Finally, Zephyr, the West wind, blew away the clouds so that the sun god, Apollo, could shine and make the flower bloom. The rose was born. Hindu’s have another version. In theirs, the creator of the world Brahma, and the protector of the world, Vishnu, argued over which flower was more most beautiful. Vishnu chose the rose. Thousands of years later, in the tombs of Egypt, wreaths made with flowers, roses among them, were discovered.

Roses became synonymous with excess during the Roman Empire. During the 15th century, the factions fighting to control England used it as a symbol with the white rose representing York and the red representing Lancaster. In the 17th century, roses were considered legal tender. Napoleon’s wife Josephine loved roses so much she established an extensive collection containing more than 250 rose varieties.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, all roses were pink or white. The red rose first came from China in 1800. Bright yellow roses entered the vase in 1900. Since then, the colors have come to symbolize very real emotions. Red means love, pink is thank you, yellow equals joy, orange is desire, peach is appreciation, lavender enchantment, black death; white roses are sometimes called the flower of light.

White roses from Maryann, to celebrate Maguire

Last night we ordered out again. I simply haven’t been in the mood to cook the last few days. Kevin called Fresh Brothers in Westlake for a smorgasbord of edible items mostly bad. Chicken wings, pizza with mushrooms, French fries and a salad to balance it all. He hung up; I poured a glass of wine. There was a knock at the door and we both looked at each other. It wasn’t possible that the food was here that quickly. Even if they’d managed to cook it, it’s at least a 10 minute drive from Westlake Village. As I stood in the kitchen as Kevin went to answer the door.

It was Maryann, with a dozen white roses, brought to celebrate Maguire. We all hugged and cried, then got to talking … about the dog, about her impending move, about life and death. We had a glass of wine together and Fresh Brothers eventually arrived and though we invited her to share our not-very-healthy meal, she declined. She had her own dogs to get home to. Lucky and Tessie. They needed to be walked; needed some attention paid.

I cut about an inch from the stem of each rose. I poured the packet of whatever it is into the bottom of a vase and filled it with water before placing the flowers inside. I stood and looked at them, inhaled their fragrance and embraced what they symbolized. Light, beginnings, purity and love. Perfect.

We were sad, we remain heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful Maguire. But our friends and family have made it so much easier to bear.

Oh, bear. Honey bear.

Celebrate him. Celebrate that. 

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The day my dad thinks he picked me out

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 26, 2011 9:46 PM

Guest post by Maguire

Hi. It’s me, Maguire. I did so good the first time, mom said I could post again. Plus she was out at meetings all day and so she’s kind of tired. She’s sitting on the couch in front of the fire with a glass of that ­stuff she likes to drink. I’m pretty sure it’s red even though I don’t know what red is. It just looks dark to me.

My dad is having a meeting. It’s kind of late for a meeting but sometimes he has to talk to some of his guys. I think that means the guys who work for him. Mom says they’re vampires because they work at night. I don’t know what vampires are but I think they might be scary. I have a toy that my dad bought that’s kind of like a vampire I think. It’s called boo. I like boo. He’s kind of the same color as mom’s drink. I got him for Halloween. I like Halloween. I like all the kids that come all dressed up ‘cause I like kids. They’re fun and they pet me. Some are afraid of me because I’m a big dog. That’s what mom says like “how’s my big dog?” and when I’m in trouble she says things like “you were supposed to be a medium dog!” I don’t think she’d like a medium dog. Kobe, who lives next door, is a medium dog. He’s weird.

Me, the day I picked out my dad

The day I picked dad out, I was still very small. He thinks he picked me out but he’s wrong. I don’t like to say that very loud. He likes his story and it makes him feel good. But I remember that day. I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday because somebody dropped me off at the place on Friday. I was just a puppy. A real puppy, not a vintage puppy like I am now. I was little. They put me in a cage with two really, really big dogs. I think they had been in that cage a long time. One of them, he had short fur. He came over to me and sniffed on me once. He smelled bad. The other dog didn’t pay any attention to me. I was kind of glad. I went over and fell into the water bowl.

I liked to sleep on my back when I was a real puppy. That’s what I did that first night in the cage. In the morning, this nice lady came and gave us some food and cleaned up the cage. I stayed in the corner and watched her. Pretty soon, I heard these people come by. They looked in but I stayed in the corner in the back. I didn’t like them. Then this man came by. He was talking to someone closer to my size. His hair was that color like mom’s drink and my boo toy. Then he ran back the other way to look at another dog. But the man stayed. I liked his hair. He had a nice face.

Me again, in my new house with my new mom and dad. I was pretty little.

I put on my best cute and bounced out from the corner. I liked to bounce. I didn’t really walk then, or run. I mostly just bounced. I went straight toward him, and then tried to talk to him. “I like you.” I think I said it a bunch of times, just like that. In threes. I like you I like you I like you. The man got down on his knees to talk to me. And then he brought the one with the red hair back but that one didn’t seem to like me.

Then they left! But, but, but. I bounced! I talked!

I went back to the corner. Pretty soon the man came back and this time he had a lady with him. I liked her, too. I bounced out. I wagged my tail. But I was tired and so I decided I needed a nap. I showed them my belly. I heard the lady laugh. I still remember that laugh. It’s my mom’s laugh. I really wanted to go home with them but the food lady wouldn’t let me, not for two whole days. And when you’re a puppy two days is a really, really long time.

After what I guess was two days, the man with the nice hair and the laughing lady came back and took me home. It was really early, and the lady held me in the car. I liked the car. It had this very deep hole in the middle. I sniffed in there and came out with some paper in my mouth. They laughed and said “show me the money!” I think that’s how I got my name. From some movie they had seen called Maguire.

Me and dad. See my belly? I told you my dad had nice hair.

Anyway, that’s the day my dad thinks he picked me out. I let him think that. I love my dad. I love my mom. I love my boo.

Bye!

Dogs in the 'hood

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 13, 2011 9:40 PM

Like many small neighborhoods in California, in the country, in the world, we have a lot of dogs. Big ones, small ones, puppies both new and vintage; dogs with lovely personalities and those who could use a lesson or two in manners and attitude. Dogs who bark, dogs who whine, ones who squeal and howl at the moon in the middle of the day, like the five little monsters who live on the corner and fight each other for window space. We fear for our ankles every time we pass by, but we still smile. We love dogs.

We’re also suckers for dogs. They bring instant smiles and a desire to crouch down for a quick scratch behind the ears. For the dogs, too. We’ve also been known to assist a dog in distress, like today, when as we rounded the corner of Wiggin and Pesaro, on our way down toward the park, we spotted a big black dog, standing in a front yard, no owner or even possible owner in sight.

A Maddie-like dog

I immediately pointed her out (the “her” being a fact we ascertained shortly thereafter). Kevin hadn’t seen her. I called to her quietly, walking up on the sidewalk as she watched me intently but not fearfully. She stood proudly, staring at me with her big brown eyes and her slightly pointed ears that curled over at the top. It was hot and she was panting. I crouched down and called to her again, and she continued to study me but didn’t move. Finally, she started walking toward the front door of the house. Kevin had forgotten his cell phone so I tossed him the key to our house so he could run back while I followed the dog. If the front door had been open, I wouldn’t have worried, but it wasn’t. The dog, with thick black fur that had been shaved and was now growing in, was standing on the front porch, her nose pushed against the door jam, willing the door to open. It didn’t. I walked up, reached down to pet the top of her head while simultaneously knocking on the door. No answer. I rang the doorbell. No answer. She had tags. Her name was Maddie, and she had a phone number. When Kevin returned we called it. I could hear it ringing inside the house but again, no answer. Maddie and I sat on the front porch while Kevin went around to the back of the house, through the gate, to make sure that a dog did, in fact, live there. He found a big water bowl and a dog toy. We filled the bowl, and left Maddie behind the closed gate.

I thought about her all day until her owner finally called to thank us profusely for helping her dog. She was surprised we even approached Maddie since she’s big and totally black and most people find that intimidating. Kevin laughed and said that we had one of those ourselves.

A Carter-like pup

Over the years, we’ve helped numerous dogs find their way back home. There was Charlie the schnauzer who used to show up in our front yard regularly. After the first few times, we discovered exactly where he lived, so we’d put a leash on him and walk him home, depositing him behind his gate and closing it securely. There was the Saturday morning when two gorgeous Huskies showed up in our front yard. We corralled them and put them in the back, called the number on their tags and their owner came within minutes. She had been out in the car, searching frantically. A little pug went by one day and Kevin, who had been in the kitchen, dashed outside and started down the street. I followed, wondering what was going on until I saw her. Penny. She was old, deaf, and partially blind. Kevin got there before I did, and as I was walking toward them, a woman in a dark blue Lexus RX330 pulled up next to me, frantic, asking if I’d seen a dog. I told her my husband had her around the corner. The woman was almost in tears as she thanked us.

One morning Kevin had gone off to Home Depot to get supplies for one of our countless DIY projects. It was early when he called me, practically in tears. There was a dog out on Lindero Canyon, a chocolate lab, and someone had hit it and driven off. He was with the dog. Could I bring every towel I could find. I threw everything into the car and drove off. Within minutes, I found him, with the dog and another woman who had stopped to help, another dog lover. The dog was bleeding but alive. A cyclist came by, and stopped; said some guy was up the street, calling for a dog. Pretty freaked out. He turned around and rode back to tell the guy we had his dog and were taking her to the vet. We pulled everything out of the back of Rover, all the wood and tools and left them on the side of the road. The woman said she’d watch our stuff until we got back. We loaded the dog into the back of the truck, I got in with her, my hand pushing on her wound, trying to stop the bleeding as Kevin raced toward one of the local vets. He went through the stoplight, horn blaring, hazards flashing until we got to the vet. The owner showed up moments later as the vet team was unloading the dog onto a stretcher. The gardeners had left the side gate open and Abby had bolted.

A short time late, the vet called to say Abby had made it through surgery. Helping her was one of our proudest moments here in the OP.

A Kobe-like dog

The dogs in the ‘hood are members of our community. There’s the big Akita, a gentle soul, in the cul de sac, and Kobe, the nutty wire-haired fox terrier mix next door. Across the street is Carter, next to her are two big loopy dogs who howl every time Jonathan and Tricia come home, and Griffy, the whippet who recently suffered a stroke in his spine. Mister Mister lives around the corner, as do the three Springer spaniels and the two Staffordshire boxers. There's Emily, the golden retriever, and the pit bull on the other corner. Gary's little dog and the new doberman/lab mix. There are mutts and purebreds, nice and mean, all with personalities, all with people who love them; all with gardeners who leave the gates open. Today and every day, we celebrate those dogs. But we are partial to one in particular.

Our Maguire, the neighborhood’s resident big dog

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