Cactus Jack gets it in the kisser

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:50 PM

The episode began innocently enough. At 7:15, Kevin got up, slipped into shorts, a tee and sneakers, and took Cooper out to pee. I got up, made the bed, threw on a pair of shorts, a tee, and slipped into my flip flops. Soon, I heard the telling sound of Cooper padding back into the bedroom, the tags on his collar singing like a small wind chime. In the kitchen, Kevin was busy rinsing plates from last night’s dinner that hadn’t yet made it into the dishwasher. I heard him start the first pot of coffee for the day. He called to Cooper who turned from the bedroom and charged back toward the kitchen and dad. Time for a walk.

I put on my sunglasses and went out to meet my boys.

In the morning, I am on leash duty and Kevin is on clean-up patrol. In the evenings, it is the opposite. Kevin handed me the leash and I walked out the front door. We started down the sidewalk toward the gate in order to get out of the ‘hood for our usual morning walk. Along this sidewalk there are a number of different types of cactus, set back a bit. Small saguaros and prickly pear as well as cholla. Saguaros are the typical cactus most people associate with the desert. Tall, with arms that jut out and turn toward the sky. Prickly pear are short, bush like cactus with big flat paddles. Cholla cactus are rather like squat trees with cylindrical branches or stems and joints that grow up and in and over each other. All are covered with nasty needles.

We are always very careful to keep Cooper away from any form of cactus for obvious reasons. They bite. And when you end up with a cactus burr stuck to you, whether it’s to an item of clothing or skin, it is usually best to use pliers to grab it and pull it directly out and away. It is not fun. It would be equally bad in fur.

Maybe I was more tired than usual this morning. Maybe I simply wasn’t paying attention. Maybe I had been lulled into a false sense of complacency because he has never shown any interest in cactus previously. Maybe it was a combination of all three. Regardless, he moved in toward the cholla. I saw it at the exact time Kevin yelled: “Cactus!”

Too late. Cooper pulled himself back, yipping, hysterical, a cholla branch embedded in his mouth and the left side of his precious little face.

Shit, shit, shit!

I tried to grab it and pull it loose. It is nearly impossible to grab a piece of cactus without also getting impaled. I didn’t care. I managed to get most of it off and then shook it loose from my fingers. A small piece remained in his fur. I grabbed that, pulled and then shook that loose. Cooper was still yipping. There were several thorns stuck in his whiskers, in his mouth and he was shaking his head, pawing at the side of his face and crying. We turned and ran back to the house. Luckily we weren’t far. Kevin was leading the way.

“Get the tweezers!” I yelled as he burst into the house ahead of me. “I’ll meet you in the bathroom!”

Cooper and I flew into the house behind him. I kicked the door shut and holding tightly to his leash, keeping him moving forward, we went into the bathroom where the light is best. I sat down on the hamper bench, and forced Cooper to sit so that my legs could grip him, essentially trapping him. I wrapped the leash around my right hand to keep it taut, then I grabbed his head to hold it as still as possible. Kevin crouched on the floor, tweezers in hand, and one at a time, he pulled the thorns from our sweet boy’s face.

He had them embedded in his gums, in his bottom lip, under his nose. Thank dog none had gone into his eyes or into his nose. After about ten minutes, much wrangling, and one nip at mom’s hand – he caught my left thumb – we thought we had them all. Upon closer inspection, there was one still inside his mouth. Kevin went to the garage and grabbed work gloves for both of us. We were taking no chances of getting bit. Once again, I held Cooper’s head and mouth while Kevin surgically extracted this last of the offenders.

Cactus Cooper, post cactus

Finally finished, we all collapsed on the floor. Kevin and I were affected more than Cooper. For Cooper, as soon as the last thorn was pulled from his bottom lip he was fine. Tail wagging. Ears perky. Let’s have breakfast.

And so the Tuesday morning tale of Cactus Jack gets it in the kisser comes to a fitful desert end.

Celebrating tweezers today, and the incredible resiliency of animals. Though Kevin and I are still traumatized. 

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live out loud

Gimme shelter dogs

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 14, 2013 10:36 PM

October is a great month. It gives rise to falling temperatures. It also ushers in shorter days and longer nights, which is always disconcerting at first but is also a phenomenon that conveys the seasons that will soon set upon us. Halloween happens this month, albeit at the very end. It is also national adopt a shelter dog month and to this dog lover, that’s definitely worth celebrating.

Maguire was a shelter dog. Actually, he was a shelter puppy on his way to being a dog when Kevin and Justin found him one Saturday morning in February. Somewhere between eight and 10 weeks old, he was 10 pounds of fluff and fury. We adopted him from the Agoura Animal Shelter as soon as they would let us, which turned out to be Monday morning at 7:30 am. For the next 15 years he was our baby, our Honey Bear, and eventually our vintage puppy. After he passed away on March 6 of 2012, our hearts were broken and our lives were terribly empty. When there is a dog in the house, as dog lovers can attest, there is a fullness that almost can’t be explained. No matter how small the dog, they fill the space with love and fun and joy and fur. At the end of October, 2012, we adopted Cooper, our seven year old golden retriever mutt of puzzling origin and even more puzzling behavior. He’s a challenge, much more so than Maguire ever was, largely because of his alternatively aggressive and clingy personality. Many of his behavior patterns were formed long before we brought him into our home.

Still. He fills the house with fun and mayhem and mania and fur. He’s ours until the end which hopefully won’t happen for quite some time. When it does, we’ll eventually dry our tears and find another shelter or rescue dog to adopt and bring into our home because saving a dog is tantamount to saving ourselves.

In 1824, a group of 22 animal loving philanthropists in Great Britain organized the first official dog shelter to help rescue stray and unwanted dogs. They called their organization the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the SPCA. For years they struggled to get the people of England to understand their chosen mission but as there was already such class distinction in England, people chose to concentrate on people. But they persevered and eventually, the SPCA became more popular. In 1840, Queen Victoria granted permission for the society to be renamed the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the RSPCA. It seems Queen Victoria was a dog lover and at the time, her companion of choice was a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Dash. After Dash passed away, she surrounded herself with Pomeranians and was purported to have as many as 35 at one time.

Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866. In 1869, one of the first animal shelters in this country opened its doors in Pennsylvania, and in 1877, the American Humane Society was formed. That was also the year the first anti-cruelty laws were enacted. New York city began offering shelters for dogs and cats in 1894.

There are now upwards of 5,000 – and perhaps as many as 6,000 – shelters across the country and even more rescue groups. More than 9 million dogs and cats enter shelters every year and up to about 4 million are euthanized because there simply isn’t the room. Many shelters have adopted no kill policies, and many animal groups push for spay/neuter awareness in order to help reduce the number of unwanted pets. Adopting from a shelter also helps. In fact, according to, 4 million pets are adopted from shelters each year.

It never occurred to us to not go to a shelter to find a dog, and ultimately we found the best dog (in our humble opinion) that has ever lived in the form of Maguire. When it was time to get another, we also went to a shelter and ultimately found Cooper at a local rescue group. We don’t know his story; we never will. But we adopted him and have given him his forever home.

Shelter dogs and cats just want a home. We’ve been blessed to offer ours to two wonderful dogs who both moved in and took over our lives and our hearts. National Adopt a Shelter Dog month is just another reason for me to love October. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the perfect reason. 

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live out loud

It was either a woman's voice or a coyote

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 7, 2013 11:47 PM

There are many things that wake me up in the middle of the night. Most times I know what it is; other times I have no idea.

This morning, at 4:20, which seems to be my body’s favorite time to wake up these days, I remember lying in bed and listening. For some reason, I thought I heard something. I am not usually paranoid. I don’t consider myself delusional. But sometimes, there are things that go bump in the night and I find myself listening intensely, trying to hear something that’s probably not there.

Once last week, Cooper was standing in the great room, issuing low sonic growls followed by equally low pseudo barks. It got both Kevin and I up and without hesitation, we padded out to investigate what was happening. Which was nothing.

Usually I hear things like the crack of the walls or the snap of whatever snaps inside a television. I used to think that only happened with the big box TVs of old, the ones that weighed several hundred pounds and were nearly impossible to move without three people. But our new flat screen also snaps occasionally, just not as loud and insistent. I hear the icemaker in the refrigerator as cubes mature and drop into the plastic holding tray. I hear the dog snore. I hear the quiet of the air as it vibrates around me.

In the dark of this morning I heard what I thought was a woman’s voice. I remember it distinctly except, of course, for what it was that woke me up in the first place. Sometimes when the window is open I wonder if perhaps I just become a lighter sleeper just in case a bear tries to pry open the screen and come in for a banana, or my dog. I wonder if the rustling leaves are still on the trees or if someone is trouncing through them on their way for the banana, or the dog. I wonder especially when the winds are blowing making the night irresistibly alive with all kinds of sounds that usually sleep.

The voice was low but distinct. I couldn’t make out what it was saying but I was sure there was a woman somewhere that was causing me to lose sleep because she was outside at a ridiculously early hour.

Or maybe it was a coyote. Now I realize that even thinking that a woman’s voice might belong to a coyote is a bit insulting. The woman would have to have a pretty horrid voice, like Roseanne Barr or Kathy Griffin, something that grates, that makes your hair hurt. But that’s a bit what a coyote sounds like. They’re not bad looking animals but they have a mean streak, especially when it comes to other animals. And they are distinct in their sound. I remember taking Maguire out one night to pee. It was late, probably after 11. He always had to pee in the front yard; it was the routine. If we tried to take him out back at night before bed he’d just stand there like he didn’t know what to do. He was smart, though. I suspect he was just playing us.

This one particular night, it was probably around this same time of year, when the hills are brown and the food is scare, Maguire and I stepped out onto the front porch. He always waited until I walked out into the yard to make sure there were no bogies like other dogs or people that might scare him. Then I’d give a little wave and he’d saunter out. When he was young, he’d bound out. But he was older on this night; his face white as snow, his back legs much slower than his front. I always watched. You never knew who would come walking around the corner, walking their own dog one last time before bed.

I stood vigil, a sentry at her post while Maguire meandered around the yard. Then I saw it. Down the street, coming from the direction of Messina, a dog was sauntering down the sidewalk, faster than a walk, slower than a trot. I reacted quickly, turning to grab Maguire’s collar and pulling him inside. I went back out to see where the dog was going – I’m a sucker for a loose dog; I do everything I can to grab them and return them to their home – and I watched as he crossed the street and stopped right in front of me. It wasn’t a dog; it was a coyote. After a minute he continued on and after he was well out of sight, I brought Maguire back out.

Later that night I think I heard that coyote. Unless it was a woman’s voice.

You know, I can never really tell when it’s 4 in the morning.

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live out loud

Here Comes Honey Boo Bear

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:41 PM

I have never seen the TLC reality program Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a fact that I’m actually quite proud of. I’m not generally a fan of reality shows as I find them exploitative and not all that realistic. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer but I prefer my television scripted. For the uninitiated, which included me until I did a little research, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo features child beauty pageant contestant Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson and her family. Honey Boo Boo evidently rose to fame on a previous reality series called Toddlers & Tiaras, which really doesn’t need any explanation. When Here Comes Honey Boo Boo debuted on August 8 in 2012, the tike was six. The show also features June “Mama June” Shannon, stepfather Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, and three sisters, Lauryn “Pumpkin” Shannon, Jessica “Chubbs” Shannon and Anna “Chickadee” Shannon, and now the littlest member of the clan, Kaitlyn “no nickname” Shannon, born to Anna at the end of the first season.

Got that?

The show is ostensibly about Honey Boo and family outings and family get-togethers, and the outrageous life of these self-identified rednecks. Again, never seen it but unfortunately know about it, and now know more about it than I wanted to.

I bring all of this up because it is widely accepted that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is about what we often stereotype as trailer trash, a derogatory description for people who live in a mobile home, or trailer, park, and are sometimes unfairly distinguished by poor hygiene, foul language, general ignorance about life, and an attraction to inappropriate clothing. According to the Urban Dictionary “recreations include drinking malt liquor in lawn chairs under a tattered R. V. awning, and teenage pregnancy.” It’s a moniker that has been celebrated in country western songs, usually involving a redneck, or someone with decidedly little class. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo seems to fit at least some of that criteria.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to Cooper “Honey Boo Bear” Michel. He has no manners whatsoever, barrels through life with no class. He sits perilously close to you when you eat and dares to stick his face nearly into your food if the food is low enough. If it’s not, he pushes himself as close to you as possible. He has been known to pull an entire chicken breast from a plate. When he goes for a walk, he eats everything he finds. He rolls around on his back in the back yard, growling and leaving all four feet up in the air, exposing himself to everyone and the elements. He barks like a deranged animal when someone dares to ring the doorbell. He snores, loudly. He licks places he shouldn’t lick when there are people around. And when he goes up the stairs, small noises escape his butt. He doesn’t seem to care.

He is my little street thug, my trailer trash puppy. Maguire was my honey bear because he was a big furry bear of a boy. He was polite to a fault, kind and gentle to creatures large and small, except for squirrels. He waited to be invited to have something to eat, drooling but excruciatingly patient. He was deemed Honey Bear because Kevin was Big Honey and Justin was Little Honey. It fit.

I couldn’t call Cooper Honey Bear because his personality is more confrontational than Maguire’s, plus it would be a bit of an insult to Maguire who was the original and still the best Honey Bear. Couple that with Cooper’s trash-talking and trashy behavior, and he becomes Honey Boo Bear, complete with all manner of inappropriate behavior.

Here Comes Honey Boo Bear.

Check your local listings. He’ll be coming to a learning channel near you.

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4:20 am and the phone sounds

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 2, 2013 1:06 AM

There are few things that can rouse a person out of a deep dream-state in a split second. An earthquake, the sound of glass breaking somewhere in the house (often synonymous with an earthquake) and a ringing phone. In the days before cell phones, an old-fashioned phone was usually propped on a bedside table. If its ring shattered the silence, it was just jarring enough to cause instant panic. Who died?

These days, many people no longer have landlines, Kevin and I included. Cell phones and all that they can do – and let’s face it they can do everything but go grocery shopping – have rendered landlines virtually extinct. This summer, after several years of threatening to pull the cord, we did, eliminating both our private line and our two business lines. Now the cell phones go with us everywhere, held in our hands or tucked in a pocket or a purse. They move to the coffee table at night when we set up to relax and watch a little tube before going to bed. Then they move into the bedroom, each taking up residence on its owner’s table, hopefully to be silent until the morning.

We’ve had telemarketing calls come in fairly early, around 7 am. That’s obnoxious, but we’re usually not in that dead-like sleep where the real world has ceased to exist and instead has been replaced by strange happenings that seem, remarkably, normal. Being in the same space with a group of people I haven’t seen since college. Driving a car that isn’t mine and that I’ve never seen before and trying desperately to find my lost candy bar. The possibility of time travel where my dad is still alive and young, as are my brother and sister, but where I’m the same age or older than I am now. A story is born.

I can imagine that in this state, my eyes are engaged in the rapid movement scientists often discuss. I know that this morning at 4:20 I was deep in the zone. I have no idea what I was dreaming about but I know it was interesting in that way that dreams have of being just fascinating and making perfect sense while you’re in them. It’s probably one of the reasons they dissipate so quickly upon waking. They want to leave you with the feeling of wow rather than the more apt thought of WTF.

At 4:20 am, there was a loud bloutzel blang, the sound that Kevin’s phone makes when it is getting a text message. Both of us sat up immediately, terrified. Hearts pounding. A cold sweat breaking out. Hair standing on end.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Your phone,” I said, hyperventilating. “I think it was a text message.”

“What time is it?”

“I have no friggin’ idea. Who is texting you at this hour?”

“Where’s my phone?”

“It must be over there. I heard it.”

“I heard it, too. Shoot. Where’s Cooper?”

Cooper was snoring. My heart was pounding as was Kevin’s. He reached for his phone to find out who was texting us before 4:30 in the morning, interrupting our dreams, our sleep, our night. Jolting us awake in the same way as an earthquake or glass breaking or the old-fashioned jangling phones of old.

“Justin. He needs rent money.”

“At 4:20 in the morning?!”

Granted it was 7:20 for Justin since he’s in New York. Still. We both slid back down into the bed, under the covers. Cooper sighed. Seriously? We’re up and talking? It’s still dark out. After a while, we both drifted back off to sleep, back into dreamland, and back into the night. 4:20 is early to be so rudely awakened but the ability to get back to sleep is always something worth celebrating.

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live out loud

A day in the lush life of Cooper Michel

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 22, 2013 12:25 AM

It occurs to me that in my next life I would like to come back as a dog. Naturally there are conditions. It would have to be in a nice house with really good puppy parents who would insist on spoiling me constantly. I would like the water in my bowl to always be cold, fresh and full. I would like to have good food supplemented with chicken and cheese, not necessarily together but if they are, all the better. I actually came to this reincarnation theory many years ago when I would watch Maguire. I am punctuating it today as I watch our Cooper navigate his way through a typical day as the dog of Kevin and Lorin Michel.

It begins thus: he rises to the cooing of his parents saying good morning, baby did you sleep good? followed by a quick squirt in his backyard and then the first walk of the day. Granted he has to endure the attachment of a pinch collar due to the incident, but pinching is rarely applied. Leading the way from the front door, the walk commences. It is his time. The pace is mostly set by him unless he gets the nut on, which happens usually after he has sniffed the essence of another dog or sees another dog on the horizon, an apparition that seems to taunt him mercilessly. We walk on, he pees and sniffs and whatever and we eventually make our way back home so that he can break the long fast of the night. Thirty seconds later, he's licking his chops and racing toward the bedroom to push his face into the bed.

Who knew a California King could also double as a dog’s napkin? At least he's cultured and civilized.

The day proceeds. Over the course of the ten minutes following the napkin-use, every toy he has is ceremoniously pulled from his bed, whipped around in a frenzy, and trotted out to the great room where it is deposited onto the rug. Tired from all of that, he settles down, often atop the toys, for the first of numerous naps.

I realize as I'm typing this that my reporting is nothing new to other pet parents. I report; you nod in recognition.

Lunchtime means snacking on some of the same things we’re eating. Often there is chicken involved. Sometimes cheese. Occasionally tuna fish. He loves all three. He’s a little disappointed when we have salad as he’s not a big fan of tomatoes and lettuce, though he does like cucumbers and avocado. And the saving grace is that there is usually some sort of cheese involved.

After lunch, he goes back out into the backyard for a bit, usually to roll around on his back in the grass, growling and snarking and play barking as he does. Then it’s back for another nap or three. Later, there is another walk followed by dinner followed by our dinner. His dinner, then, functions more as an appetizer, a cup of hors d’oeuvres to munch on while he awaits the real food.

We are the type of parents who have no qualms about giving the dog people food. I realize there are many who don’t believe in doing this and I respect that. My justification has always been that their lives are short and a piece of cheese or chicken is not going to hurt them, and if it helps make them live even happier, what’s the harm? We don’t do bones. And I have read about the food items that are generally considered bad for dogs so we don’t share those.

Maguire lived to be over 15 and for his entire life he ate people food in addition to his dog food. On Sunday mornings when I would make us breakfast, he got his own plate. I would make him his own egg, his own piece of turkey bacon. If we were having waffles, he got his own waffle with just a hint of syrup.

Now it’s Cooper’s turn. He too gets his own plate on Sundays, and during the week, he gets a taste of whatever is for dinner. Then he settles on the rug as we all watch television a bit before it’s time for one more supervised spin around the backyard before bed.

It’s a tough life. It’s a lush life. It’s the life of Cooper Michel, as it was the life of Maguire Michel before him. 

I’ll tell you. A dog with a good owner in a nice house with lots of food and water and toys. Not a care in the world other than what time we’ll be leaving to embark on our next walk. Not a bad way to live. Not a bad way to live it out loud. 

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The great chicken wipeout of summer 2013

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 5, 2013 1:20 AM

It happened like it happens so often. We were cooking on the grill, which we do fairly often. We were cooking chicken, which we do often as well because it’s one of the things we still eat. We were cooking chicken kabobs with vegetables, which we don’t do as often but they looked so good the other day at the grocery store that we bought two. Plus they were swimming in this spicy hot marinade called AZ Zing.

So last night, we fired up the grill. The night was balmy, the birds were just settling in for a short summer night’s dream. The neighbor’s sprinklers spritzed on. Around the corner, we could hear children giggling. A dog barked in the distance. It was a lovely evening for kabobs.

Now, before I go further, it needs to be pointed out that Cooper loves chicken. It should also be pointed out that Cooper loves just about everything except broccoli and green beans. I thought he was going to eat a green bean the other night when I dropped one the floor as I was preparing to steam them for dinner. He often stands perilously close to wherever the food prep is happening in desperate hope that something, anything will fall from above. Because, as the rule states, if it’s on the floor, it’s his. A green bean got away from me and he pounced on it like a cat, picked it up in his mouth, looked up at me as if to say “really? You couldn’t at least put cheese on it?” Then dropped it and proceeded to tear it apart, depositing each piece in a huff, tossing it to the side like a pair of old shoes. Once that task was accomplished, he moved to the other side of me and gazed upward. I think I saw the word “cheese” in his eyes.

But he loves chicken, as did our precious Maguire before him. Maguire was just a little more cultured about it. He had better manners. Not so our Cooper. Manners and Cooper do not really get along. Oh, we try to get him to sit and stay. We play the “easy” game as in “easy! Fingers are attached to that cheese!” It does not often if ever work, especially when he smells something fowl.

Kevin put the kabobs on the grill while I made us a nice tomato and cucumber, mushroom and red onion salad, mixed with a touch of northern Italian dressing with Romano cheese. Very light and always tasty.

Cooper doesn’t much care for salad as a whole, but he does like cucumbers so he munched on a couple of those and seemed largely content until he got a whiff of what was cooking on the grill. Kevin came in at one point smelling like grilled chicken. I thought Cooper was going to take a bite out of him. Instead, he raced by and out into the backyard. Of course he didn’t make it to the backyard, stopping instead at the grill on the patio. He stood below the closed lid, because he’s short. But his nose was up and he was working the air near the grill lid for all it was worth.

In and out we went a number of times. Finally, it was time to bring in the chicken. Cooper was nearly out of his mind with anticipation, prancing around, racing forward and then back in an attempt to get me, the carrier of the chicken, to move a little faster so that he might be able to partake in what he was sure was for him. Cooper is a herder and I was getting herded big time.

I realized I had forgotten the tongs on the grill so as if to torture him just a bit more, I turned around, still carrying the chicken, went back outside, retrieved my utensil, and then started back toward the kitchen. He raced ahead.

Now we have hard floors in the house, and they can be difficult for a racing dog to navigate especially when said dog is trying to negotiate the 90º turn that’s needed in order to get into the kitchen. He did not apex his turn and instead his feet began to spin and flay and as he desperately tried to right himself, he lost complete and total control, crashing into the wall into a heap with a yelp.

This will forever be known as the great chicken wipeout of late summer 2013.

It was a laugh out loud moment. Luckily he quickly reassembled himself just in time to sit down next to me to consume his favorite thing in the world, besides me, of course.

Cooper Michel. Living it out loud in September. With chicken. But not green beans. Or broccoli.  

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live out loud

Paw prints in the mud

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 7, 2013 10:31 PM

We walk Cooper twice a day. In the morning, it’s usually sometime between 7 and 8:30. The particular route that we take is along a fairly major road that is lined with trees and vegetation on both sides. It’s about 1.2 miles so the dog gets his exercise as do we. If we go late, which sometimes happens on Sundays because we sleep in, the air is warmer and the sidewalks are a touch hotter. The ground is also drier. This is a big deal because when we walk at our usual time, it’s not long after the sprinklers have run. The landscaping crew has them on a timer, probably for sometime before the sun comes up. It keeps the trees thick and lush, the wild flowers blooming. It keeps the street lovely.

It makes the ground muddy.

Muddy ground makes for a very muddy puppy. A puppy who seems to revel in it, who happily prances up into the ground cover before gleefully sliding down, packing nice wet mud into his pads, coating the fur that peaks out from his paws. Then he pads on down the sidewalk leaving Cooper-size prints in his wake.

Cooper was here.

Oh, I try to keep him out of the mud. I must yell out of the mud! at least four times per walk before I finally give up. Actually before I finally realize that the mud doesn’t bother him at all; just me. Only because I know when we get home, we’ll have to clean his feet before he’s allowed in the house. He’s not very good at wiping his feet.

Many a morning has resulted in muddy paw prints on the hardwood floors leading to muddy prints on the carpet in the bedroom followed by me, with a wet and soapy cloth, scrubbing said carpet.

This is why there will be no carpet in the new house. Tile is much easier to clean.

I realize that having a dog means having paw prints in the mud on a fairly regular basis. We had them with Maguire, too. I remember one particular morning after we first moved into this house when he was out in the backyard, probably with his morning cookie. When he didn’t come back to the backdoor and let out his customary I’m ready to come in announcement bark, I called to him. He came flying around the corner, ears trailing behind him, bounding toward me with such gleeful abandon I couldn’t do anything but laugh. Even at the trail of mud and muddy water flying off of his front paws and legs. He had decided to dig in a corner of the yard, after the sprinklers had run. The dirt got progressively muddier as water from the ground filled the hole. He couldn’t have been more pleased with himself. I quickly closed the door to leave him out there.

Kevin got a bucket of warm water and put Maguire’s front paws/legs into it so he could scrub him clean before allowing him into the house. The look of joy was quickly replaced with a look of how can you do this to me?

A friend of mine posted a pic of her yellow lab mix on Facebook the other day. The dog’s name is Olivia and she was standing at the back door, paws up on a table, happy as could be, ready to come in. Covered in mud. I laughed and commented how adorable.

Paw prints in the mud and muddy paw prints in the house are all part of the joy of dog ownership, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Yes, there’s a hassle factor, but the incredible happiness on Cooper’s face as he slips and slides his way up and down the hills on Hawthorne is worth it.

And he’s leaving a little something of himself behind.

At least until the next time the sprinklers run.

Gingham style

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 31, 2013 12:14 AM

I admit to knowing damn little about the South Korean singer Psy who had an enormous hit in 2012 called Gangnam Style. It’s an odd song, halting, repetitive and impossibly catchy. The music video has been viewed over 1.7 billion times on YouTube as of July 28, watched more than even Justin Bieber’s single Baby. I have not seen either video, but I am fascinated by the phenomenon.

Gangnam Style is a relatively newly coined phrase in Korean that refers to a lifestyle associated with the Gangnam District of Seoul. It’s all about the upscale fashion and lavish lives of the city’s affluent trendsetters. Some compare it to our swag. The word Gangnam evidently combines the south (“nam”) of the river (“gang”) and refers to the Han River that flows through Seoul. Gangnam was developed in the 1970s and exposed the city’s rapid economic development in that decade as well as the 1980s, primarily showcased in real estate. Being Gangnam is being rich, pretty and cool.

Psy is currently doing a pistachio commercial where he’s dressed in his funky little outfit and he’s doing his funky little moves, talking about crackin’ gangnam style. He kind of looks like he’s riding an imaginary horse; those are the dance moves. I admit to having a fondness for the commercial even though the song is kind of annoying.

This whole phenomenon was and remains so popular that Psy was invited to entertain at the Christmas in Washington charity concert in Washington DC in early December along with Diana Ross, Demi Lovato, Scotty McCreery and Megan Hilty. Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, appeared wearing an all-red outfit including a sparkling, sequined top and was backed by dancers wearing reindeer antlers. I’m not sure what Mr. and Mrs. Obama thought about it but I’d bet money that Malia and Sasha thought it was great.

I bring all of this up because in this house Gangnam Style has been replaced with gingham style, courtesy of Master Cooper Michel.

This past weekend, Cooper was in the Westlake Pet Motel as we made a quick trip to Tucson. No matter how clean the Motel is, and they keep it as spotless as possible, it’s still filled with a bunch of dogs, running back and forth, barking, eating, and more. And a bunch of dogs together can smell like a bunch of dogs. We always have Cooper bathed before we pick him up; we did the same with Maguire. Otherwise he smells like he just came from a shelter or kennel.

We went to pick him up on Monday afternoon, since we got back too late on Sunday, and out he prances, pulling at his leash when he saw us. He was clean and sparkly, smelling fresh and looking no worse for his time in the pet brothel, as Kevin calls it. And around his neck was a fresh new bandana. Blue- and white-checked gingham.

Gingham got its start in the 17th century when it was imported to Europe and later America from Malaysia. It was originally intended to be striped as evidenced by the fact that its name comes from the word “genggang,” which means striped in Malay. It is now known for its small uniformly checked pattern, and blue and white is one of the most popular choices. It’s lightweight; it’s cotton. It’s got style.

Gingham style. It’s being furry, adorable and fabulous. Such a trendsetter, our boy. 

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Hauntings in the morning

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 20, 2013 10:05 PM

It is early on Saturday morning as I write this. The birds haven’t even begun their song. The sun is hiding in the cloud cover, and the air drifting in through the kitchen window is tinged cool. There are no cars zipping by, no children’s laughter floating up. I hear no dogs barking nor do I see any strolling by with their owners. It’s the quiet time of the day and as much as part of me would like to be sleeping next to my still slumbering husband, I have to admit that I love this hour. It allows me to simply be for just a bit before the day and all of its trappings begin.

The coffee pot beeps five times indicating that it’s done brewing. In a minute, I’ll get up from my place here at the table and pour myself a cup. I love coffee in the morning. I don’t think it has anything to do with the taste but rather the ritual. I love the steam that drifts lazily into the air, the roasted fragrance of the beans. I love to curl my fingers through the loop of the mug and let the rim linger at my mouth just for a second before I take a sip. The first sip sets the tone for the day. I like it to be a good one. As I said, a ritual.

In front of me is a bouquet of deep wine colored flowers along with dusty pink and some green. They too seem to be taking in the beginnings of the day. I know there are certain flowers that close at night and open again as the sun drifts over the horizon. I wonder if all flowers do that. I’m not very smart about flowers. I don’t know their names unless they’re roses or irises, but I do love the atmosphere they create. There is warmth in flowers, and humor. There is a lightness of being; they have a way of bringing a smile to the room. I appreciate that. You’d think I’d take the time to learn more but I suppose that’s enough.

Into the quiet drifts the drone of a small aircraft. We’re about 15 minutes away from Camarillo and they have a small airport there. Small Cessna’s and Bonanza’s haunt the morning skies often on Saturdays. Strangely it doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I am simply in awe of what we have accomplished as a species. The small planes remind me of the legend of Frank and Orville Wright which reminds me of Charles Lindberg which reminds me of my Aunt Beryl. She saw him with the Spirit of St. Louis at a small airfield in Pennsylvania in 1927. I’m writing a short story about it. This morning makes me want to spend the day doing nothing but that.

I hear my husband calling to me. I’ll bring him a cup of coffee. I hear the click click of Cooper’s nails on the hardwood floor as he pads out to see me. He’s been seeing ghosts in the house lately, not sure if he’s losing his mind or if the spirit of Maguire is torturing him for some reason. He’ll start out from the bedroom, often carrying a toy and as he gets toward the rug that leads into the kitchen, he’ll slow way down. His feet will get wider apart. It looks as if he’s walking through something heavy. His eyes dart to the left, he drops the toy. Sometimes he turns and races back to the bedroom. Other times he spins quickly into the kitchen so that whatever he’s seeing can’t get him. The only thing to the left is the pen and ink drawing of Maguire that hangs on the wall, the one Roy did of him the day he died. His ashes are still in the beautiful redwood box on the wine table. Maybe he is terrorizing Cooper, just because he can.

Cars are starting to wake up now, too. Three just went by. I hear voices, neighbors outside, tweaking sprinklers, getting ready to go wherever. As if on cue, our sprinklers pop up from the ground, spurting to life. Here comes haunted Cooper, wagging his tail. Looks like he made it. Life is good all around. 

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