I effing love science

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:07 PM

The first time I used a word I wasn't supposed to, otherwise known as a swear word, was when I was in third grade. I was on the playground for recess and having trouble with my friend Patrice. Mutual friends were going back and forth between us telling each of us what the other had said. I was mad and said that she could go to hell. I remember feeling so grown up. A curse word. I was cool. I almost said it in a whisper since that was how my mother always swore so that's how I thought you were supposed to swear. I didn't; but I thought about it.

The second time I remember swearing was when I called my brother an asshole because he was being such a nudge. He was probably 7 or 8 at the time. He promptly ran off to tell my parents. We were in the woods behind our house and I was trying to build a fort. He was not helping. I got in trouble and I told him I'd never talk to him again. There. That would teach him to tattle on me.

I have since learned to use any number of words and combinations thereof. Sometimes I put words together that I've never heard used together before. I feel very creative when I do that. Sometimes I adopt these new phrases; often I grow tired of them and discard them for newer ideas. I have my favorites and especially one phrase that consists of two words and four syllables. Hint: both words end in “er.”

The point is, I swear. It makes me feel better to express my frustration with a few choice words. It allows me to release pent up anxiety without hitting something or becoming violent. I’ve never completely understood why people think swearing is so horrible. My mother has never been big on swearing though she’s better now than she used to be. Sometimes she uses her regular voice, though most of the time she says things like “he’s a real bastard,” and lowers the tenor to a whisper on “bastard.” I respect that she doesn’t like swearing so I try not to use my normally colorful vocabulary when I’m around her. I respect that others don’t have potty mouths, and that others are offended. I don’t feel the need to purposely offend someone. I’m not that insecure, dammit.

A friend of mine’s mother won’t go to R-rated movies and won’t even watch certain shows on television because she’s convinced that people don’t really talk that way. She refuses to be swayed but has never had a good answer for why then the dialogue is laced with the f-word, the s-word, the b-word and worse. My friend and I have had many discussions usually while shaking our heads because everybody we know talks like that.

Maybe it’s a generational thing.

Turns out it’s also a science thing. Psychologists at England’s Keele University have conducted a study and found that “expressing profane feelings is good for you;” that it’s a “harmless emotional release that can make you feel stronger and more resilient.”

Based on that, I should be like the female version of Hercules and Gumby combined.

I’ve also heard that people who use a lot of swear words tend to be more honest and trust worthy. Not sure why. I guess it’s the no bullsh^t factor.

But I have a dilemma. My mother doesn’t approve and I don’t like disappointing my mother. Yet I’m a big believer in science. I believe global warming is real and that the cures for the world’s deadliest diseases have come from scientists in laboratories. I don’t always understand science but I respect it and realize that scientists know more than I do about things related to, well, science. Still, a dilemma.

Given my effing stress level many days, the occasional, well-timed profanity helps me to effing vent. I’m not effing hurting anyone. Cooper doesn’t seem to mind, nor does my husband who is also big into stress relief. And if effing science says this will help me to effing feel better, I guess I’ll continue along my cursory path, at least until mom comes up with a better idea.

Celebrating effing science tonight. You guys made my damn day. 

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The adventures of Cooper Michel

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 14, 2014 10:50 PM

Episode 5: The spa

Because we were gone yesterday we decided to give Cooper a little bit of a doggie vacay. That’s how I placated myself anyway. Our Cooper tends toward the anxious and he has separation issues, especially when he’s separated from me. We think it’s because he has been left so many times before us. Try as we might, we can’t seem to get him to believe that this time, this family, is for good. He’s stuck with us, like white on rice, or pet fur on black pants.

When we were in Oak Park, we had a place called the Westlake Pet Motel. Great people who simply loved the animals. The place was immaculate. Tucked into the hills and canyons off of Decker/Route 23 South, it was an ideal setting for lots of barking dogs. We discovered it when we had Maguire. He loved going. We’d get there and they’d take his leash and he’d just trot along, never looking at us as if to ask “why am I going with these strange people?” He simply went. When we picked him up, he would have been bathed, and he would come out to greet us with a wild-eyed look that didn’t even see us. It was as if he’d forgotten us in the time he was moteling. It didn’t take him long after we returned home to fall into his routine. Usually about 20 seconds.

Cooper has been there once. Last May when we went back to New York to see Justin, we left him in their hands. A brush fire was burning in the general vicinity. The winds shifted and according to news reports it was eating everything in its path, and in its path was the motel. As we were 35,000 feet up, I was frantically emailing trying to get information. We’d left our boy, our anxiety-ridden little dude, and now the hills were on fire. A girl named Abby responded to my emails and called me throughout the weekend, assuring me that all was well, and that Cooper was fine. If anything changed, she would let us know. Sure enough, everything was fine. We picked him up, all fluffy from a bath, and took him home several days later. No worse for the wear.

We needed a new place. I found the Sabino Canyon Pet Resort. They had a great website, they looked like they cared about the animals left in their charge. I called, I booked Cooper a doggie suite, a two-room kennel with a bed and a blanket, plus a pass-through to go out to take care of business. It wasn’t as close to other dogs as the traditional kennels. I thought it might be better for him since he’s terrified of other dogs. Hearing them is one thing; seeing them quite another. We dropped him on Monday late afternoon since we were leaving very early on Tuesday and would be gone until the evening. Because he’s anxious, and because he doesn’t yet trust, we didn’t want to have a pet sitter come in to let him out. He might have eaten her. Not to mention the fact that we don’t completely trust leaving him alone all day in the house.

So Cooper Michel went to the Pet Resort. He slept in his two-room suite, on his blanket, with Bull and Fox with him. He wandered through his “door.” Today he had a bath.

When we dropped him off on Monday late afternoon, I asked when we could get him. We have never liked being in the house without our dog. It just seems wrong, empty. They said that since he was getting a bath, it would be a little later. They’d call me. I couldn’t stand the wait. At 10:15 this morning I called.

“He’s under the dryer.”

For some reason all I could imagine was my little red-furred one, inside a dryer, spinning, spinning. Kerplump, thump. Kerplump, thump.

We picked him up at 12:30. He came around the corner and as soon as he saw us he started to pant and strain and whine. We’d come back. We’d come back for him. He was saved.

He was fluffy, he smelled good. He’d spent a couple of days at the spa, and life was good after all. He was still Cooper Michel and that was worth celebrating. 

A crazy week yawns

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 11, 2014 10:48 PM

I’m about to have the kind of week that my friend Bobbi has on a regular basis. It is not uncommon for her to have three therapy appointments in Sherman Oaks in the morning and then have to be in West LA for an afternoon meeting before going to a networking function and then home to work on the graphics side of their business. I listen to her schedule sometimes and it makes me tired, actually makes me yawn. I often wonder how she does it, day after day, week after week.

I’m about to find out.

The week that stretches before me is making me tired and it hasn’t even started yet. Tomorrow will start as normal with a dog walk and a Kevin and Lorin walk. I’ll work, answer emails, dodge phone calls, work some more. At 4 o’clock we have to take the dog to the Pet Resort, then I have to be at my pottery class at 6 where I’ll stay until 8 and then come home. Eat, drink. Be merry. We will then go to bed though I’m not entirely sure why since we have to get up at 3:30 in order to go to LA, and the Port of to be more specific.

Justin’s ship will be coming into San Pedro somewhere around 8 am. We are going to meet the ship, welcome our seafarer home, at least for the day. We’ll board and tour the ship and then go somewhere to eat and visit after which we’ll go back to San Pedro and he’ll get back aboard for the next leg of his tour, which cruises up to Vancouver to begin the Vancouver/Alaska trips. We have no idea if we’ll be able to watch the ship depart but if we can, we will. It’ll be just like it used to be on The Love Boat, a terribly stupid show from the 1970s that friends and I affectionately dubbed The Smut Canoe.

We’ll come back home.

On Wednesday morning, we pick up Cooper and then work. On Thursday, I have to get my stitches out at 1:30 and then we have a home owner’s association meeting at 6 pm where we’ll meet some of the peeps in our soon-to-be new hood. I say some because most people don’t bother to go to these meetings. When I had my townhouse I rarely went. In fact, the only time I went was when they were deciding if and when and for how long we had to move out following the earthquake of 1994. Everybody went then. It was chaos.

Then we’ll be at the end of the week, having accomplished a lot and nothing at all. I can’t very well tell my clients that the reason their brochure or ad or package copy isn’t done is because I had to spend Tuesday in San Pedro. Had being a bad choice of words. Wanted to spend is better. I’ve already told many that I’ll be out on Tuesday. I’ll check email of course, and will have my cell phone naturally. But I won’t be in my office, nor will I be in front of my computer.

I’m tired just thinking about all of the running around I’ll be doing and all of the things I won’t get done.

It’s a crazy week that stretches ahead of me but it’s a good kind of crazy, and I do believe there is such a thing. The good kind means getting to see my kid since I don’t know when I’ll be able to do that again and we’ll take any time we can. The good kind is knowing my dog will be well cared for at the Pet Resort. We could even pay for him to have a swim if we so choose; or a cuddle massage, a belly rub. I don’t think we’re going to but the option is there. That’s a good crazy, too, a Pet Resort that actually offers resort amenities to the pets it cares for.

The good kind is knowing that I have all of this to do. Yes, it will be busy and yes, I’ll be further behind than I am now. But how wonderful that I have stuff to get behind on. I sent a text to my friend Pam the other day that said I was overworked but thankfully not underpaid. That’s the kind of crazy worth celebrating, even as I pause to yawn for exhaustion anticipation. 

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Cooper sit

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:42 PM

These were the first words I heard this morning. It was 6:53. Kevin had just gotten up because Cooper had just gotten up. This is the ritual. Cooper stretches inside his kennel, then we hear his paws hit the tiled floor. He shakes to get all of his fur into place. It's the equivalent of me getting out of bed and running a brush through my hair which I do every morning, often to little avail. Depending on how I've slept, it is often a lost cause. Cooper's fur always looks good though – the same, regardless of how he has slept. It's a perk of being canine.

The two boys padded out to the great room. There is a door in between the windows on the back wall that opens onto the patio. Every morning and several times during the day, Cooper journeys to this door so that he can go out into the backyard.

I heard the door open, the slatted wooden blinds that cover the glass banging slightly. Good morning. That's when I heard it: "Cooper, sit."

A few seconds later again came the words "Cooper, sit." It wasn't yelled nor was it whispered. It was a simple command -

Cooper, sit

- that Cooper obviously wasn't obeying. After about four more of these commands I heard the door close again, the blinds tousling, and then my little furry one was back in the bedroom and on the bed.

I heard Kevin making coffee, then he too returned to the bedroom.

"What's up with all the Cooper sits?" I asked without opening my eyes.

Cooper growled.

Kevin proceeded to tell me that when he opened the door to let Cooper outside, the sprinkles were running. The landscapers had been here on Monday and then back again on Tuesday, and had evidently recalibrated the sprinklers. Cooper started to go out, then stopped and turned to go back in. He didn't want to pee in the shower I guess. Kevin needed him to wait. The sprinklers don't run for long. He just needed to be patient.

Patient is not a word in Cooper's vocabulary.

Each time he would sit and Kevin would turn away, Cooper would turn too, lower himself to the ground, a snake, and try to slink away unnoticed. Kevin was having none if it. Cooper was being obstinate and Kevin was going to win because he was.

Cooper sat and waited and eventually got to pee. But he was not at all pleased about it. Kevin was holding him back, cramping his style, making him late for a nap.

Which is another perk about being a dog. Almost as soon as you get up in the morning after a restful sleep, you get to crawl onto the big bed to sleep some more. That's sleeping it out loud.

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A short story by Cooper

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 25, 2014 10:49 PM

Our Cooper is a rescue, as I’ve mentioned. He was five or six when we got him; he’s seven now. According to the rescue group where we found him, he had been with one family for nearly five years until they had a baby and decided they couldn’t have a dog and a baby. It’s entirely possible that there were issues with Cooper and the baby, though I doubt it. He doesn’t seem to have any issues with people though we’ve never had him around small children simply because we don’t know any. We’ve passed a number of them on the sidewalk, usually in a stroller and he pays them no attention whatsoever.

I suspect what happened was that, after the baby came along, he was relegated to the back yard, tied up or kenneled. He didn’t have any human interaction, and he’s the type of dog who needs people. It’s possible that his original owners never paid much attention to him, which could explain why he’s very anxious when he’s alone. Whatever happened, his people gave him away.

The rescue group had him for 15 months. He was passed from home to home to home. I don’t know how he was treated though my understanding of rescue groups is that most people involved tend to like animals more than people. I can’t imagine anyone mistreating him.

He does, however have a pathological fear of other dogs. He hears one and he gets very stressed. He speeds up on his leash, he whines and when he sees another dog, he both stares and then turns away, like he’s afraid to make eye contact. There’s a dog here in the ‘hood. I think she’s a golden doodle. Her name is Lily, and often she’s in her people’s backyard when we walk in the morning. She stands at the gate and as we walk by, she starts to bark and then she promptly runs to the other side of the yard. She’s just a big, dorky dog who seems impossibly friendly.

Cooper is terrified of her.

It breaks my heart that he’s so afraid. It breaks my heart that he’s so stressed about being left alone that he can’t allow me out of sight for more than about 30 seconds. I feed him, and if I leave during the 43 seconds that his head is buried in his bowl as he inhales his food, he leaves the laundry room where his bowls are and races though the house until he locates me. Once he does, he stands for just a couple of seconds, staring at me, then he leaves to finish his food. As long as he knows where I am, he’s fine.

Like I said, his anxiety is heartbreaking.

I was talking to him this morning, after we had passed Lily, on our way back home. I said Cooper will we ever know what happened to so damage you, baby?

Then Kevin began to narrate:

Well, mom, I think it all started when I was a puppy. I don’t remember much after that. I was small for my age. My fur was red so some of the other dogs made fun of me. Then there were people and moms and dads and other dogs and a yard and and and and and.

Oh, never mind. It was a dark and stormy night.

The end.

By Cooper

Celebrating my anxiety-ridden dog, wherever he came from and whatever his past, because I love him, scaredy pants and all. 

I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 6, 2014 10:56 PM

Guest post by Cooper

When I first came to live with my mom and dad, I had already lived with a lot of people and I guess I just thought I wouldn’t be with them very long. I’ve been here now a pretty long time, almost my whole life, and I really like it. I like them, too. I especially like my mom. I’m not supposed to say that because I’m not supposed to have a favorite but I just like being with my mom better than being with just about anybody, even Wubba.

I get in trouble sometimes but not really bad trouble. Like I don’t dig or anything in the backyard probably because I don’t spend very much time there. I like it. It’s just that if I’m in the backyard, I’m not with my mom and I really like to be with my mom. Sometimes she sits in the backyard with me and I sleep in the sun. We did that today for like hours, though I think it was really only a few minutes. I was rolling around and she was sitting on the patio in the shade. I took a little nap. Then dad came out with the brush and I had to get brushed. I don’t like getting brushed.

I haven’t chewed anything in the house except my guys. I’m allowed to chew them and I do. I had a guy named Jax. He was really cool and had like five separate squeakers. I killed all of them! Jax is gone now and I’m sad.

I did do some stuff to the couch that mom didn’t like but I don’t really remember what it was.

When mom and dad would go out I used to get in my house, or kennel, and they’d shut the door. I don’t like that at all. I tried to dig my way out but it’s really hard to dig through the metal on the bottom. So then I started trying to chew my way through the bars. Dad said one day after they got home and I got out, look at the bars on the door. Were they always bent like that?

Then mom got worried. She was looking at the bars and running her hands along them and I guess they had teeth marks and stuff and then she said how could he do that? They’re metal. I guess I’m just really strong.

Then she said, well, we have to do something different because I don’t want to come home and him have figured out how to break the bars and then he impales himself.

I’m pretty sure the him that she was talking about was me since Justin isn’t here right now.

I’m not sure what impale is but I think it’s bad.

So before mom and dad went out today mom sat down on the floor with me and I sat down next to her. I knew they were going out. They always brush their teeth before they go out. Mom also has her purse. And they’re usually dressed differently than when they’re just hanging around the house. Like mom puts shoes on and stuff.

We were sitting there on the floor and she said that they were going to trust me and that I had to be a good boy.

I’m not really sure what would happen if I’m not a good boy. I wonder if they’d give me back. I always try to be a good boy. Mom says that no body ever really taught me how to be a good boy and that she knows I am one. But we had the talk anyway.

I really didn’t want them to leave but mom says she always comes back to Cooper and she does.

They left and I watched out the window in mom’s office. I barked a couple of times and then I wasn’t sure if that was being a good boy or not so I decided to just say it a bunch of times.

I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy

And you know what? I was! I didn’t even do anything to the couch. When mom came back about a hundred years later, she said I was a very good boy. And I got a cookie.

Good boy equals cookie. I can do that. 

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The trashman cometh and he cometh way too early

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 2, 2014 12:44 AM

The morning comes in quietly. It begins with the hush of the sun as it peers over the eastern horizon, almost timid, checking to make sure it’s OK to come out. It always seems to think the coast is clear because up it comes. I’m awake sometimes and can see the night fade to gray and then begin to flood. Simultaneously the birds begin to chirp and as the light brightens more birds start singing. The whir of cars traveling down Campbell picks up speed, and suddenly the morning can no longer be denied.

I am not usually awake to see this. Sometimes it happens because I’m having an insomnia moment or two. Sometimes because I have to pee. And sometimes, like this morning, it’s because the trashman cometh.

We live in a fairly urban area, albeit inside a gated community. As such we’re safe from the world while being right in the middle of it. There are 18 houses with garages to the side, some with small yards amidst the desert landscaping in the back, all with courtyards leading to the front doors. There are only two small children; there are many dogs. No one leaves their cars in the driveway. It’s beautifully landscaped, with trees and flowering bushes but mostly cactus, some large prickly pear, some soaring ocotillos, all of them flowering. Everyone is friendly though no one is friends.

On Monday mornings, we have trash pick up. Sunday nights, everyone rolls their cans to the curb. Blue recycles, green trash. It’s all very orderly. The trash collecting trucks come roaring through, separated by about 30 minutes. They’re noisy; their mechanical arms clank and grind. The engine grinds, wheezes.

But that’s nothing compared to the cacophony that sounded this morning just after the sun rose. It was about 6:20 am. Official sunrise was at 6:12. It wasn’t yet bright, just light. The dog was snoring as he often is when he’s sleeping. Dreams were causing his four feet to run and clash against the side of his kennel. He’s not locked in at night but it’s where he sleeps, on the padded rug inside. It’s his house, his den. He goes in voluntarily and he’s free to come out at any time which is usually around 7.

Clang. Bang. Grind. Clank. SLAM.

Did I mention that behind us is an apartment complex? It’s a decent complex but like all complexes of the sort, including condos and townhouses, and most business establishments, trash is deposited into dumpsters. Dumpsters tend to be grouped together, sometimes only two, sometimes four or five. The complex behind us has four. We know this because when we walk we sometimes cut through the parking lot so we’ve had the pleasure of strolling past them a number of times.

Since the weather has been so lovely, even at night, we’ve been sleeping with the window open. This allows us to hear the sounds of the night as well as feel the rush of cool, fresh air. We hadn’t thought about the sound of the trash trucks emptying dumpsters.

The trashman starts early and the first places he visits are evidently the apartments behind where we live. The truck roars in through the dusty morning, slams on its brakes that squeal and screech, maneuvers its lifting arm under the metal dumpster, lifts it, dumps it and slams it back down onto the asphalt. Then speeds through to the next one to repeat the sequence all over. And again.

I rolled over and opened my eyes, sighing. Kevin followed suit. We both were looking up at the ceiling.

“You hear that?”

“How could I not?”

“Could they come any earlier?”

“At least Cooper’s not up yet.”

And with that, Cooper exited his kennel, shook his fur into place, rattling his tags, announcing that he was ready to go outside. Because if everyone else is up anyway, he can goeth out early. Way too early, and with that, we celebrated the beginning of Tuesday.  

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Joy in the walk

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 29, 2014 10:23 PM

This morning, Cooper and I went for a long walk, just the two of us. It’s usually all three of us. In fact, since we got Cooper nearly a year and a half ago, we all go out twice a day. But Kevin was working on the car and there was absolutely no reason that the furry one and I couldn’t go off on our own for a bit. It was a gorgeous day, already 72º when we left and headed north along Campbell toward Allen where we stopped and waited for the light so that we could cross and get into an area where there is no traffic, in fact no cars at all, and just meander. Meander we did, him wandering in and out and around the brush, the trees, the well-placed rocks. I simply held the leash loosely. The walk is his time.

It’s also mine. Walking the dog alone allows me to think or not think at all, and I have been known to do both. Maybe it’s being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I don’t know. But the fact that I don’t have anyone to talk to means I can truly just relax and let my mind wander to wherever it decides to go. There are no restrictions. I might find myself in a childhood memory or on a sailboat off the coast of Maui. I might think about the day ahead or last night’s dinner. My brain may attempt to work out a creative problem with a story I’ve been writing or plan to start. Rarely do I think about work. I think my sub conscious takes over and I simply drift.

Which is not to say that I stop paying attention. I am vigilant when it comes to watching for other dogs or animals. Cooper, as I’ve mentioned, is a nervous dog. We’re not sure why though we’re fairly sure it has something to do with his life before us. He is terrified of other dogs, so we keep him away from them because he shows his terror by working himself up and attacking. I know this sounds counter intuitive but we have been assured by many dog trainers and behavior specialists that it’s actually quite common to react to terror with aggression. It’s impossible to avoid other dogs entirely and we don’t try to. We simply pull up on his leash so he is walking right next to us. The idea is to assure him that as pack leaders, we will take care of any and every situation and he doesn’t need to worry.

This morning, as Cooper and I walked down Allen toward a farm, there was an older couple walking toward us. They were on the other side. They had two dogs. I pulled up on the leash but we just kept walking. Cooper glanced at them as they passed but didn’t get upset or worried. He just went back to sniffing and peeing and being a dog. I nodded to the people, wished them a good morning.

Maguire and I used to walk alone nearly every day, until he got older. It became my job early on in our relationship to trot the pup as we called it. I’d ask him if he wanted to go for a walk and he’d turn cartwheels on his way to the door where he’d wait for me to put his harness on, raising his left front paw so I could slip the harness over it and then buckle it. Off we’d go. I came up with a lot of good ideas while he and I were out slumbering along. Maguire was not a fast walker. He was a grazer, a sniffer. When he got older and his gait slowed even more, Kevin started walking with us. I think he realized that we weren’t going to have our precious boy forever after all. The walks became our family time.

This morning was mostly quiet. Cooper’s prancing feet in the rocks and dirt made a lovely percussive melody. I walked along slightly behind him, my flip flops snapping as flip flops do. Behind us and in the distance, the sound of tires churned on pavement as people did whatever people do on Saturday mornings, going to wherever they need and want to go.

The solitude of the day was wrapping around us. In that, I found – I find – great joy. 

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One minute you have a nice, warm, delicious garlic roll and the next minute

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 22, 2014 12:36 AM

I love bread. I am especially drawn to fresh baked sourdough bread. If it is freshly baked sourdough with garlic and parsley and a bit of Parmesan cheese, I’m nearly euphoric. I don’t eat a lot of bread because I’ve found that as I get older, bread tends to, well, not evaporate as well as it used to when I was in my 20s and 30s.

Last night we went to our favorite gourmet grocery store to get salads from their salad bar. Like many gourmet grocers, their spread is very extensive with several types of lettuce, marinated as well as sliced button mushrooms, artichoke hearts, different cheeses, and more. We don’t do these salads often but I wasn’t in the mood to cook, or even to go to the store.

Salad bars often have fresh soups as well. The one last night also had fresh garlic rolls. They smelled so wonderful, so warm and gooey, that I had Kevin grab one for each of us. We got home with our salads and plopped ourselves in front of the television as is the way of the overworked American, Kevin on the couch, leaning over the coffee table, me on the floor, legs under the coffee table.

We flipped through channels and finally settled on Sideways. It had already been on for about 30 minutes but we just love that movie – we actually own the DVD and the soundtrack. We came in right around the time Miles and Jack were having their first dinner at The Hitching Post and seeing Maya. We decided we too needed a glass of wine if we were going to watch the film so in honor of Miles we opened a Pinot Noir. It wasn’t from Santa Ynez, where the film takes place. It was from Washington, and fairly decent. It’s hard to find a good Pinot because, as Miles so eloquently explains, they’re temperamental and need a lot of love and attention.

Cooper was flitting from one side of the table to the other. We were taking turns telling him to stay back. He was drooling, panting, whining. In other words, being a dog. You’d think he was horribly deprived, that he never got any food in his life.

Maguire was one of the most polite people – I mean dogs – we’ve ever met. It wasn’t anything we trained him to be; he simply was. He never took any food without it being given to him. We used to joke that we could put an entire chicken on the floor in front of him, and unless we told him it was ok, he wouldn’t eat it. He’d drown himself in a pool of drool but he’d never eat the chicken. It wouldn’t occur to him to ever take food unless offered. Like I said, polite. Cooper is not nearly as polite.

You can see where this is going I’m sure.

So there I was, feet out in front of me, legs crossed at the ankles. I was leaning back against the couch, watching the movie. I swirled my wine, sniffed and sipped, just like Miles was doing. It’s funny how you sometimes emulate what you’re seeing or hearing. Maybe it’s just us. We like to quote and recite and mimic.

Cooper finally sat down next to me. He was close, but he was fine. Every few seconds or so, he’d lean into me, as if to remind me that he was still there and could he have something to eat please. Never mind that he was panting and breathing rather heavily on me. Or that he weighs about 55 pounds or that he has red fur, making him hard to miss. Never mind that he doesn’t really like salad – it’s not really in one of his food groups. He wanted something, anything, please please please please.

I took a sip and he took the opportunity. With one quick lunge he grabbed my nice warm gooey garlic roll from the table and ate the whole thing in one bite. I almost spit out my wine. Kevin started to laugh. I said Bad dog but Cooper, unlike Maguire, doesn’t seem to suffer from remorse. He didn’t seem to feel the least bit badly about the fact that he had taken my roll. He got up and went over to Kevin’s side, eyeing Kevin’s roll hungrily. Kevin picked his up and ate it.

It just goes to show you that some things in life are fleeting. Look sideways for just a second, or watch Sideways, and you lose your garlic roll. One minute it’s there, and the next your dog is living it out loud. With garlic roll breath.

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live out loud | The cooking of joy

Reaching the zenicle

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 9, 2014 10:32 PM

Cooper, like Maguire before him, is not allowed on the furniture. Cooper, like Maguire before him, is allowed on the bed in the morning for a morning snuggle. This is why we used to and continue to buy bed-in-a-bag. Maguire used to race in the bedroom after his morning constitutional which consisted of the usual, plus a large milkbone dog cookie that was always eaten in the exact same spot in the back yard. When he was young he would virtually launch himself from just inside the bedroom door and land on the bed as nimbly as 85 pounds of fur allowed. He’d then promptly come up to me, since I was still in the bed, cringing at the possibility of being crushed, kiss me good morning and flop over on his back for a belly rub.

After he was done, he’d try to snuggle for a little while but he invariably got hot and uncomfortable so he got down. The only time he stayed on the bed was when he had it all to himself. We’d often find him snuggled up against the throw pillows that I put on after making the bed, snoring in the sun. If he woke up, he’d look at us with a “what? I’m just taking a nap here” kind of look.

Cooper doesn’t usually get up on the bed if we’re not in the room. He’s not secure enough in his canine-ity. Maguire was a very secure dog, probably because we got him as a puppy and we were all he knew, and all he knew was safe. Cooper was a rescue and he had six years of not safe before we came into the picture. He never knows if he’s going to get left behind again, and so he clings; he’s anxious. He’s incredibly insecure in his canine-ity.

But in the mornings, when we’re still in bed, he too manages to jump aboard the California King train and zen out. He curls around, once, twice, three times and then he plops himself down. He keeps his head up momentarily, then he falls over to the side in a heap. He sighs heavily. Before long, he’s snoring. He would stay that way all day if we stayed in bed as well. He won’t stay though if we get up because of his insecurity.

Still, while there, he reaches the zenicle, something I realized this morning as I was watching his feet twitch as he dreamed of dog-knows what.

We humans constantly strive to reach a pinnacle of something. Pinnacle of strength, of influence, of career, of love. Watching Cooper this morning and Maguire when he was alive, made me wonder about reaching the pinnacle of zen.

Reaching the zenicle is all about letting go, letting the day simply be, allowing the moment and the atmosphere and the feeling to wash all over you and around you. To find the ultimate zen.

Now Cooper and zen are mostly at odds. His version of zen is chilling at mach II instead of mach III. He does manage to reach it briefly when he’s on the bed but it doesn’t last. He gets to the place where all is right in the world, now and forever. It is a place filled with cheese and pizza bones and where his parents hug and kiss and squeeze on him all day long and where Wubba never needs to be replaced.

And then someone gets up and the zen is broken.

Can the feeling of zen be maintained?

Bobbi’s online call sign, as I refer to it, has long been zenspeed. Obviously a play off of godspeed which is the ultimate wish for good luck, good life and good travels. zenspeed is more about the ultimate wish for achieving peace and tranquility. It’s the pinnacle of zen – the zenicle – and it’s a good place to reach. 

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