Water and a ball. What could go wrong?

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:59 PM

Often, when I need to give my brain a little bit of a break from its hectic little life, I go surfing. I wish I could say this process entailed throwing a board into the back of the Range Rover and jetting over the canyon to Malibu, a mere 10 miles or so away as the crow flies. Sadly, it does not. I surf with my fingers on black keys and my metallic orange eye-glass covered eyes staring at the vibrant screen of my laptop. I find all manner of interesting and stupid things. Some are hardly worth stopping on while others are intriguing. Such is the case of photographer Seth Casteel.

Seth is a lifestyle pet photographer, a talent that enables him to capture anyone’s pet in its own element, which in turn allows for the photograph to show personality galore. According to his website, he is based in both Los Angeles and Chicago, two of my favorite places. He visits homes to take photographs or goes on location. He has photographed the pets of famous, infamous and just plain ordinary folks alike, with no discernible difference. They’re all wonderful, wondrous, full of happiness and joy, celebrating the pampered lives they all seem to lead.

Seth also visits shelters to take photographs of scared, dirty and disoriented pets because he believes that even homeless pets should be represented with a positive photo, one that captures the pet’s personality so that potential adopters can fall in love even before they meet their new companion. He’s my kind of human.

Evidently Seth was recently having some financial issues and rather than throw in the camera, he bought a new one, an underwater camera that has allowed him to take some absolutely phenomenal shots of dogs, swimming, diving, and chasing balls underwater.

Who knew that this is what my favorite creatures looked like in the pool?

Dogs love water. I love to watch them at the beach as they run at breakneck speeds along the edge of the water, their paws digging into the wet sand, water and sand spraying out behind them as they chase absolutely nothing but joy. I could watch them for hours. We have friends whose golden retriever used to regularly retrieve tennis balls from the pool. As she got older, and when it was hot, she’d walk to the edge of the pool where the steps led down into the cool water and she’d descend like a queen and sit on one of the steps. She’s gone now, but the memory remains. I can still see her sitting there like royalty. The look on her face was always pure bliss.

Seth Casteel’s photos have captured that bliss as well, along with a purity of spirit and a relentless focus on just getting the ball.

The response to these photos has been phenomenal. In fact, Seth is currently working on a new book called Ruff Water. I may have to buy it.

Finding Seth and his photos is why I surf. Because amidst the ridiculous, there also exists the sublime.

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Going to the dogs

by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 12, 2012 11:50 PM

I’m pretty sure it comes as no surprise that I’m a dog lover. Regular readers know how I adore my vintage puppy Maguire. I write about him all the time; sometimes he guest blogs, and he’s quite good (in my humble and obviously biased opinion). I adore the dog who lives across the street, a wheaten terrier named Carter; I adore my sister’s border collie/Australian shepherd mix, Lucky. I adore Diane and Gene’s two pups, the wonderfully silly Henry and the wonderfully regal Tommy. I love dogs I see walking with their owners, dogs who are in cars, their big dog heads stuck out the window, tongues flopping in the breeze. When Maguire used to ride, something he loved to do, he would thrust his head all the way out and bite at the wind, sending dog drool all over the side of the car. Dogs rule.

So I’m excited for tomorrow night. Why? The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show starts and runs for two nights in Madison Square Garden in New York. This will be the 136th annual show. There are 2,000 dogs entered, featuring the 185 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club, showing in seven groups. Coming on the heels of the Puppy Bowl last weekend, it promises to be a great show for all of us dog lovers.

The favorites have already been chosen. The experts seem to think that the winner of the hound group will be the whippet. My neighbor, Griffy, a whippet himself, will be pleased. In the toy group, something called an affenpinscher, a small dog from the Netherlands, is favored. I have no idea what that is other than it’s undoubtedly small. I’m not particularly drawn to small dogs; not my particular style. Though, truth be told I’m also not particularly drawn to pure breds. Give me a mutt any day. I’ve often wondered why mutts don’t get a group at Westminster. Those of us who parent mutts may need to petition the board.


In the herding group, of which my Maguire falls, those in the know like the German shepherd. I’ve always thought of that type of dog as more of a guard dog, rather than a herder, but since there’s no guard category, I guess I’ll have to go with it. However, Roy, the bearded collie who won last year will be returning to give Capi, the shepherd, a prance for his money.

The favorite in the sporting group is a black cocker spaniel named Beckham who was the number one show dog in the US last year. However, a Weimaraner dubbed the grey ghost may be a spoiler. In the working dogs group, a Doberman pinscher named Fifi is likely to take the prize. They like Adam, the smooth fox terrier, in the terrier group. And for best in show, they’re going with Beckham.

But what about the other categories where they showcase the Akitas, and the Golden Retrievers, and, and, and? No mention of those big gorgeous dogs. It should be fun, regardless, with all manner of wondrous four-legged creatures strutting and preening and trying their best to win. The terrier group has won 45 times, the sporting group, 19 times; the working group has won 15 times and the non-sporting group 10 times. The toy group has won 9 times, the hound group 5 times, a herder has won once. Neither the Labrador retriever nor the Golden retriever has ever won. In 2009, the oldest dog ever awarded best in show was a Sussex Spaniel nicknamed Stump who was 10 at the time. The youngest dog to win was a rough collie named Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven (I hope he had a nickname) who was just 9 months old when he won in 1929.

I wonder if my 15-year-old vintage puppy, he of indiscriminate breeding but who used to sort of kind of be a herder, a retriever and sometimes a hound but always simply wonderful, could take best in show. Granted, he doesn’t strut as well as he used to, and he has some trouble standing for long periods of time, but he loves to be ogled and he loves to be brushed and he loves treats. I think he could take it.

If not, he’ll always be best in house.

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I'm so pupular

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 2, 2012 7:47 PM

Guest post by Maguire

Mom said somebody requested a guest post by me. I was really excited cause I didn't know I had fans. I don't even know what fans are but I think they're good. Mom said it was good and she doesn’t lie to me. Mom said that my fan is another dog, a girl dog named Nina, who lives in Utah. I don't know where Utah is either. Maybe I can go there someday, though probably not.

When dad heard that I had fans, he laughed and gave me a hug and a kiss on the nose. I like when I get kisses on the nose. Mom said “well, of course, he has fans. He’s pupular!” and then dad started singing a song that he thought was very funny and I just rolled my eyes and rolled over. I was tired anyway and needed a nap.

I get to nap a lot and I like naps. I’m usually the first one up in the morning and then dad gets up with me so we can go outside. Then we get cookies. Well, I get cookies and dad gets coffee. I get a big cookie outside and then after I bark once to come in, I get hip cookies in the kitchen. Then dad holds up his hands to say no more and I go back into the bedroom, ram my bed with my head and then lay down for another nap. Then I get up and play with a toy. I like toys. My new favorite is Honk. I like Christmas Hedge, too and Christmas Moo. Christmas Hedge used to have a hat but I think I chewed that off. I don’t like hats.

I like to sleep with my toys. They keep me company. It’s like having all kinds of best friends. My mom and dad are my bestest friends ever. And Justin, but Justin doesn’t live here anymore. I miss him. I bet he misses me, too. I hope he comes back home soon but I don’t think he will. Mom and dad said he’s very far away and that it’s really cold there. I don’t mind when it’s cold. I’ve never seen snow but I don’t know if I’d like it. I don’t like rain and snow is kind of like rain only softer. It looks like the stuff I pulled out of Christmas Hedge yesterday. That’s what mom said. She said it looked like it snowed in the house.

Lately it’s been really nice and warm. I take a nap sometimes in the backyard in the sun. It feels really good on my back legs. I have some trouble getting up off the floor in the living room sometimes. The floor makes me slide. Mom said I need some sneakers. But I don’t think I’d like sneakers. I don’t like socks either. Whenever I can’t get up, mom or dad helps me. Then mom usually says that I’m a big boy and says something about her back, and dad says “there’s my big dog.” Then we get to go outside again and sometimes have a cookie. I like cookies.

I like my new food too. It comes in a can and when I see mom get that white thing out of the cupboard and plug it in, I know I’m getting dinner. The white thing makes kind of whir noise, and then mom scoops dinner out of the can. I started getting this kind of food after I was really sick and that vet lady came and she said I was sick and I kind of turned my head to look at her and caught my mom’s eye and we kind of said “no kidding!” together. I was really, really sick. It wasn’t fun. But then I got this new food and I haven’t been sick since. Not once.

I wonder if that’s what pupular means. I’ll ask dad. I just hope he doesn’t sing anymore.


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Can dogs tell time?

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:06 PM

This is how it happens. The clock chimes 7:15, or at least it would if we had a clocked that chimed, and Maguire rises from the floor. It doesn’t matter where he is (on the rug) or what he’s doing (sleeping), an internal alarm goes off and he begins to stalk his parents. We can’t hear this alarm but we can hear him. It starts with a huff, a horse-like exhale that pushes all of the air he’s accumulated for the day out through his nostrils. Very indignant. Then he chomps a bit on his teeth, snaps his jaws. More indignant. Then the pacing begins. Back and forth from the kitchen to the bedroom, a spin through, a look in, and back out to do the same route all over again. Then he barks, usually just once, to get our attention. If I’m in my office which I usually am, I smile and walk to the top of the stairs. He’s at the bottom of said stairs by then, staring up at me, ears forward, ready to pounce.

“What?” I ask.

“Woof, ruff!”

“Is it that time already?”


“Are you sure?”

“Woof!!!! Woof!!! Woof!!!”

Then the prancing begins as I descend. It is time for his nightly stroll and nothing will deter him. Not rain or wind; not heat or cold. It. Is. Time. His cleverly hidden watch has told him so. And he will not be ignored. Like the crazed Alex Forrest (chillingly played by Glenn Close) who calmly announced to Dan Gallagher (aka Michael Douglas) in the frightening morality film Fatal Attraction: “I will not be ignored, Dan!” our vintage puppy has an agenda. It does not, to my knowledge include any type of rabbit soup, though he has, on occasion, attempted to chase a rabbit when one has dared to cross his path on his beloved and sacred walk. He wants to go and he wants to go RIGHT NOW and he will hound us (pun intended) until I open the hall closet and pull out my vibrant blue Harry Carrey jacket. That’s it. Game on. Mom has her coat. I’m out of here.

He turns, races to the front hall way and spins in circles as he waits for Kevin, who has also received the message and is zipping up his hoodie, to come through the house and grab the leash from the laundry room. When Maguire was younger and stronger, we used to put a harness on him, with the leash hooking to the top of that. It was much easier to control an 85-pound dog when the leash was at his center of gravity. If he lunged, we had the upper hand. He doesn’t lunge anymore. Even if he wanted to, he’s become too dignified for such behavior. So now we simply hook his Big Dog® leash through the hook on his collar that holds his tags. Maguire then moves to the front door and stares at the handle, willing it to open, while I grab a bag for clean up and a tiny flashlight (once the time changes, it’s dark by 7:15) and off we go. He bounds down the driveway and across the street, leaps up onto the sidewalk on the other side, and then… he’s done. His prowess in tact, and once again proven, he slows to a nice crawl. He pees in the grass, he stops at a rose bush, he sniffs at a hedge, and stops to look first up the street then down, making sure that no other dogs approach. He is the big dog after all, the mayor of Oak Park. He is still the alpha dog. He has a reputation to uphold. He is Maguire Michel.

Then he poops, I clean up and we turn back toward the house. We’ve been gone 10 minutes.

By the time we get back to the driveway, he’s moving so slow he’s practically in reverse, but he gets to the front door to once again stare, willing it to open. Miraculously it does, and he enters his domain, Chez Maguire, for a cookie and a snooze before bed.

I’ve come to believe that dogs really do have some sense of time. How else to explain that he starts to bug us every night at the same hour? It doesn’t matter the time of year, whether it’s still sunny and warm, or dark and stormy, he knows. The watch on his front paw ticks to 7:15 and he flips his paw to look at it. Yep. Time to go.

According to animal cognition researcher William Roberts, I’m wrong. Animals are stuck in time, and lack the ability to travel backward and forward in their memories so they don’t really know ‘time’ per se. They can be trained but they supposedly don’t have the power of episodic memory. They do, however, have internal biorhythms, or an internal clock, that allows them to sense when certain things are supposed to happen. They may also use circadian oscillators or fluctuations in hormones, body temperatures and neural activity to know when it’s time for dinner to be served or to go for a walk. There have been a number of studies done regarding short-term or working memories and reference or long-term memories. Roberts thinks that most animals, dogs included, learn by going from the weakest memory to strongest memory rather than learning to actually tell time.

In other words, it’s just learned behavior.

I still believe Maguire knows what time it is. He knows his walk, he knows when it’s time to get up in the morning, he knows when it’s Fritini and Roy is coming. Granted, that usually happens after we clean and after Kevin pulls out the martini glasses and shaker. Maguire notices, he understands. He remembers and thus he knows. Isn’t that what time is ultimately all about?

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Cuteness Alert. And it's free.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 11, 2011 9:15 PM

I’m all for capitalism. I partake in it regularly, and for the most part enjoy it. I like the choice it represents even if the sales tax can get a little steep depending on where one lives. We’re fairly fortunate in that our part of California charges 7.25%. It’s a bargain really. Santa Monica is 9.25%. Even Beverly Hills is less at 8.75%. But as a state, we also have the pleasure of sporting the highest rates in the country, though the highest taxed city remains Chicago at 9.75%.

I bring this up because at this time of year when shopping is in full manic mode, when many of us have to pay sales tax, we often look for something free along with it, like shipping. I do a lot of shopping online and whenever possible I go with free shipping. I’m very good at getting that on Amazon. Sometimes it might take an extra day or so to get here, but ultimately it’s cheaper. If I buy something online that can’t be purchased here, I can sometimes not pay sales tax at all, though the State Board of Equalization or Maximization or something is trying to do away with that because it’s costing the state money and everyone is hurting these days.

Free is enticing, and some of it is literally free. Free advice. Free speech. Free listings. Free education. Free will. There are least 23 albums titled Free and 26 songs. Free to be.

But free shipping remains one of my favorite frees. I expect it on books and clothing and various other items. But I didn’t not expect this:

Imagine my surprise. First, FREE Shipping on any size order. So I’m assuming I could buy as many puppies in as many sizes as I’d like, get them shipped to me at any time from now into perpetuity, and not pay for the transportation. I can only hope there are air holes.

And these puppies are guaranteed to last! I haven’t yet found the fine print that details whether they’re guaranteed to stay puppies or just guaranteed to stay alive forever and ever. This is important as someone who parents a vintage puppy and who worries constantly about his encroaching age. He didn’t come with a guarantee. Not that it would have mattered. We would have taken him regardless; he was just too good to pass up. He remains ever so.

I wonder how L.L. Bean has done it. I wonder how many other people looked at these two simply gorgeous golden retriever puppies and thought – ha! Free puppies that will always be with me!

There are other advertisements that are misleading and unintentionally hilarious. Having worked in advertising for some time, I realize that you can look at something over and over and over again, and not see it anymore. Yes, everything is spelled correctly but the meaning can get skewed and in this case it did.

Or did it? Maybe this is what L.L. Bean meant all along. Maybe they really have found a way to guarantee that puppies can last, that they have no expiration date, and they’re giving them away for free.

I’ll take a dozen, provided they all look and act like Maguire. 

For love of an older dog

by Lorin Michel Monday, November 28, 2011 10:26 PM

Maybe it’s his eyes, the way they can travel the world without him ever leaving his comfortable spot on the rug at the base of the stairs. Perhaps it’s how he pretends not to hear when he doesn’t want to but always manages to decipher a new package of cheese being opened, no matter where in the house he might be. Or it could be the way he still bounces around in the morning, on the tips of his slap-happy feet, ready to take on the world, and the cookie dad provides him as he goes out the back door.

It’s all of those things and his beautiful gray face. I am forever amazed and entertained by our vintage puppy, Maguire, never more so than as he has aged. Dogs are an interesting species, blessed with phenomenal personalities and an ability to love against all odds. In the most horrific of situations, they can and often do remain loyal. They choose you as much as you choose them, and you are forever a couple, even when forced to part.

Jake, 16, Higgins, Texas. Photographed by Nancy LeVine for her Senior Dogs Across America project.

When Maguire was a puppy, he had adorable puppy habits. He would pull everything out of his “house,” his kennel, each night, dragging each piece one by one from the kitchen, where his house was housed, to the living or dining room where he was playing. His blanket, each toy, all to make a little nest for himself, and then he’d fall asleep.

As he grew up, he developed other habits like destroying each toy. Plastic guys would end up in tiny pieces, neatly piled to the side of his rather large head as he would systematically dismantle them. Plush toys were gnawed and pulled until he could get an errant string that he would pull to gradually unravel a seam. Then he’d go about pulling the stuffing out of each, again making a neat pile on the floor next to him. Many a toy went to the “hospital” on top of the refrigerator to be sewn back together. Each morning he would get his cookie outside and then, upon returning race into the bedroom and take a flying leap almost from the doorway to soar through the air, and land on the bed next to me. We would cuddle there, him flipped over on his back for a belly rub, me providing one. He grew to be 85 pounds so he wasn’t easily contained but he was graceful. He would bound up the stairs and sit on the landing, front paws draped over the top, a king surveying his kingdom. We called it pride landing. And again, he would drag his toys from his bed to wherever he was in the house. The living room or pride landing, often 6 or 8 at a time. If we got company, even if UPS came to drop off a package, he would race to the door, then turn on a dime to race back to his bed to grab a toy to bring to whoever had come to visit him. It was his way of socializing.

Now he’s older and wiser. He still loves his toys and still trots one or two out each day, usually just to the bottom of the stairs where he drops them, licks them once or twice, then works on lowering his aging body and his aching hips to the floor. The front paws go down first; butt in the air. Then the butt descends with a thud. He’ll chew on a toy only for a few minutes before losing interest and needing a nap. He hasn’t destroyed one in years but still, we keep buying new ones. He deserves them.

At night, when we go to bed, he’ll saunter into the kitchen to slurp up some water, then saunter into the bedroom where he takes as much of a running start as he can, and rams his head into the bed, lifting it up and off the floor. He’ll do this several times, often spilling the contents – his toys – out into the room. It’s his new way of emptying his “house,” just like he used to. Of course his parts don’t work as well as they used to. The front paws and feet want to go, but the back ones drag along, his nails scraping the floor or the sidewalk when we walk. Our walks are much slower now; the distance much shorter. But he likes his evening stroll. He still huffs and puffs at the other dogs who dare to walk in his presence. He is, after all, Maguire Michel, master of the neighborhood. We think there’s also a little of a ‘get off my lawn’ mentality as well. He’s crankier; he puts up with less. But the joy he provides remains.

Older dogs get short shift in the adoption department, much like older kids. Everyone wants a puppy, but having had an older dog now, the sense of contentment and peace they bring to a home is worth the shorter time you might have with them. Besides, no one ever knows how long any of us has to be on this earth. Spending that time with a senior dog makes life that much sweeter.

Cooper, 15, on a bench in Central Park, New York. Photographed by Nancy LeVine.

Senior dogs are calm, have better manners and appreciate love and attention more than younger dogs. They’re not as anxious, nor as nervous, and are perfectly fine waiting for you to finish doing whatever you’re doing. They have no agenda, other than being with you. They don’t care about chasing balls or sticks, don’t need to go on 5-mile hikes. They just want to be with you. They’re content.

Eight years ago, photographer Nancy LeVine began traveling the country to photograph senior dogs. Her interest in older dogs began when her own began to approach “the end of their days.” And she found herself entering “a world of grace where bodies that had once expressed their vibrancy were now on a more fragile path.”

Veterinarians classify dogs as senior at around 7. It never occurred to me that Maguire was a senior at 7. But he’s a big dog and big dogs tend to age more quickly. He didn’t though, not until just a few years ago. We noticed that he stopped climbing the stairs, though there was one day that I took something to my office, on the second floor, to eat and I heard him start to come up after me. I went down and sat at the foot of the stairs so we could eat together.

Now, he’s started to not eat as much and he’s gotten a bit thinner. I’ve started boiling skinless chicken breasts and cutting them up for him. Those he doesn’t seem to mind eating at all. He still likes his pasta with a little grated cheese, and bread without butter. His appetite is good; it’s the dog food he’s decided he’s not so big on any longer. I guess I can’t blame him. He’s been eating the same type now for nearly 15 years, the same bowl every day. It gets old.

The last few days, he’s been sick. We’re hoping it’s just a bug, but we worry. When a pet gets older, the inevitable knocks at the door, taps on the window. I don’t want to answer; for now we refuse to. But we know what’s coming, and we are in no way prepared. Is it possible to be?

My puppy has grown from a little dude with too much energy to a refined older gentleman with grace and dignity. He sleeps more now; he doesn’t hear. But there’s a gentleness about his soul that continues to transfix us even as he breaks our hearts into a million pieces. Long ago, he chose us to be his family, and our lives have been enriched because of it.

My old boy brings me the kind of joy that I wish for everyone to experience at least once in a lifetime. The kind of joy that is pure and wondrous and funny and lush. The kind that raises you to the heavens and allows you to remain there. The kind that is everlasting.

Maguire, nearly 15. Photographed by his dad on Thanksgiving, 2011.

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The story of Bobby

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:16 AM

Greyfriars Kirk is both a place of haunting beauty and of daunting history. Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, it takes its name from a Franciscan friary, or monastery, built in 1447 and dissolved in 1559. The town took it over on 23 April 1561 with the following proclamation: Because it is thoct gude that thair be na buriall within the Kirk, and that the kirk-zaird is nocht of sufficient rowme for bureing of the deid, and for esdrewing of the savour and inconvenientis that may follow thairupon in the heit of somer, it would be providit that ane buriall place be maid farrer from the myddis of the town, sic as in the Greyfreir zaird and the somyn biggit and maid close. That translates roughly to: this is going to be a graveyard. And so it was for centuries, populated by previously imprisoned Covenanters.

Greyfriars Kirk

But it’s most interesting resident was a little lad named Bobby. Bobby has many stories, the most popular of which deals with his closest chum, a man by the name of John Gray. Born on the 14th of May in 1814, Gray – nicknamed Auld Jock – lived with his family in Edinburgh where he joined the police force as Constable No. 90, Warrant No. 1487. His beat included Greyfriars Kirk, and he was required to have a dog. This is where Bobby comes into the story. A shaggy Skye terrier, he was neither big nor imposing, but he was incredibly loyal. Auld Jock and Bobby spent many a beat walking to the town’s coffee house, visiting with locals. Enjoying the company.

But Auld Jock soon fell ill, and in November of 1857 was diagnosed with phthises. Translation: tuberculosis. He died the following February with Bobby still by his side. When Gray was buried at Greyfriars Kirk, Bobby began to “haunt” the cemetery, lying atop the freshly dug grave. For 14 years he visited his master’s resting place.

Bobby’s other story could be that he was never the companion of Constable John Gray and that he just was a stray dog who originally haunted a nearby hospital until the gardener threw him into the graveyard. There Bobby met James Brown, the curator of the graveyard, who took a liking to the scruffy little guy and fed him to keep him around. Visitors who saw the terrier believed he was loyally staying by his master’s grave, even though no such grave or master was known. Still, the story grew and people from all over England and Scotland traveled to meet Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby

It was a man named Forbes Macgregor who created the original story of the dog who became known as Greyfriars Bobby. Macgregor believed the dog’s owner was John Gray, and the legend of Bobby the Skye terrier was forever cast. Jan Bondeson, a Swedish author, wrote: “It won’t ever be possible to debunk the story of Greyfriars Bobby – he’s a living legend, the most faithful dog in the world, and bigger than all of us.”

Bobby died on January 14, 1872. There is a statue to commemorate his life. On its base are these words: “A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858 this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872.” Two red granite stones are also in place for both John Gray and his dog. The American Lovers of Bobby donated the stone for Auld Jock; The Dog Aid Society of Scotland donated Bobby’s stone.

The story of Bobby, regardless of which one, is that he lived and died in Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. He’s buried on unconsecrated ground, within site of John Gray affectionately known as Auld Jock.

The love and loyalty of a dog is a powerful thing. I am forever amazed and awed by it, and I celebrate stories like this as often as possible. I celebrate Greyfriars Bobby on this November 22, some 154 years after Constable Gray got sick. How incredible that we’re still celebrating these lives; how fabulous to be living it out loud.

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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.


The dog and the fly

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 11, 2011 10:40 PM

I’m always amazed at what frightens a dog. Some things are fairly common. Thunder, loud noises, firecrackers. Dropping a book or a glass or anything that makes a loud BANG on the hardwood or tile. A box out of place. The vacuum cleaner, the hairdryer, the blender. The can opener doesn’t seem to elicit much terror. I’m thinking it’s because most dogs associate the can opener with food, as in theirs. I believe cats have this same thought process, one of the few things dogs and cats actually have in common. Can opener whines, yucky smelling food arrives. It benefits them whereas the vacuum does not. And the hairdryer is just mean.

Mean, mean, mean. If you’re on four-feet. We two-footed varieties kind of like the hairdryer. And the blender, and the vacuum. Well, maybe not the vacuum.

And then there was the dog and the fly. Every time a fly entered the house, he would panic. It was as if a condor had swooped down, a pterodactyl from prehistoric times, talons poised, beady eyes beaded, watching, circling its prey, waiting for the exact moment to plunge to the earth, or the carpet, to grab the poor unsuspecting creature and whisk said creature away to be devoured, digested, and divested of everything but its fur. And collar. Maybe a dog tag or two. Only in this case, the predatory winged monstrosity was approximately ½” in length.

The musca domestica, the common housefly, has two wings and three body parts: a head, a thorax and an abdomen. They have six legs in desperate need of a shave (read: hairy), and receptors for smell and taste on both their legs and feet. The females are a little bigger than their male counterparts, and they all have blurred vision. Might make it tough to find just the right spot to pick up a 55-pound dog.

Lucky, my sister’s Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix

The dog in question, who cowered in the corner, who hid under the dining room table, who high-tailed it upstairs whenever a fly flitted through the downstairs kitchen and family room was Hogan, my sister’s beloved German Shepherd mix. He was a little high-strung and afraid of a number of things, like fireworks. But he was positively terrified of a housefly.

Also, ovens. Whenever Khris would turn on the oven, he would run and hide. Of course, if she happened to be making cookies, he sensed when the cookies were cooling on the counter and the oven had been turned to the off position. Miraculously, he would reappear in time to taste one of said cookies, no doubt to make sure they were OK for the rest of the family. Ever the protector.

Dear Hogan died just over three years ago. They now have a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix named Lucky. She’s also a little high-strung, and afraid of winged creatures. Actually, clipped winged creatures that are quite a bit larger than the common housefly.

Lucky is terrified of the family’s parakeet, Perry. At least Khris doesn’t have to worry about the dog attacking the bird; Lucky’s too afraid to even get near the little turquoise guy who evidently talks incessantly and loves to sit on everyone’s shoulders. Perry was a gift to my niece Shawn for her 12th birthday this past summer. Lucky shares Shawn’s birthday. July 3rd. Maybe she feels betrayed; maybe she feels she’s been replaced a mere three years after joining the family. Maybe she had a bad bird experience in a former life.

A Perry-like bird

And then there’s the vintage puppy, the big dog, the one who used to terrify the neighborhood and howl at the moon, the one who’s afraid of nothing. But the vacuum cleaner. And the gardeners. A door slamming from the wind (which, truth be told, scares me, too). The hairdryer. The mop. And mylar balloons.

He can, however, stand his own against a fly, unless it’s the tiny little gnats gnawing at and around his head this afternoon. He was outside and needed – needed – to come in immediately because he was a little frightened.

Hey. It happens to us all. Maybe it’s something in the air. 

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live out loud

In which I try very hard to find something to celebrate about the fact that I had a little tiny touch of insomnia last night and I’m a little tired because of it

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 20, 2011 9:59 PM

I’m a good sleeper. I also like to sleep. I joke that I was born two weeks early and I’ve been trying, desperately, to catch up ever since. I figure if I try long enough, maybe I’ll get there. In some ways I hope I don’t because sleeping is one of those activities of daily living that I truly relish, much like a hot shower. Crawling into my bed at night, snuggling into the pillow top as the cool air from the open window washes over me… if heaven exits, that’s mine.

Occasionally I suffer from small bouts of insomnia. It’s very cruel. One of the cruelest things the fates can do to someone who loves to sleep. I’ve long known why sleep deprivation is a torture technique.

I had an episode last night and they’re almost always because of some sort of anxiety. Last night it was worry about things I needed to do that I hadn’t done, and money. Previously, sleepless or partially sleepless nights have been about things I need to do, and money. Sensing a pattern?

I get to sleep fine, but something wakes me up. Lately it’s his divine puppiness. Which is what happened last night. It was 3 o’clock and he stirred on the floor. I am now entirely in-tune to the dog’s nocturnal habits. He sighs and rolls, we’re OK. He coughs and fidgets and moans and cries and I know we could be either having a nightmare, in which case he pees on the carpet, or a seizure in which case he pees on the carpet while scaring the crap out of us.

Last night, he had a nightmare. I got onto the floor to calm him down and then climbed back into bed once that calming had occurred. He fell back to sleep immediately; I knew I was doomed as soon as I pulled the covers back up. My brain started to whir, so loudly I was concerned I’d wake up my slumbering my husband and my newly re-slumbering dog. I had to remember to email so and so, I had to finish that proposal, I needed to this and that and that and this and oh! I completely forgot about that. And then I had an idea for a website. Oh! And what about this idea for a monologue. I could do – wait! What about invoicing this month? Am I going to have my usual amount? Hey! I wonder if I’m losing my mind. Is that possible? Am I too young?

Zzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzz

Sorry. I nodded off there for a minute.

I finally got to sleep sometime around 5:15. At 5:18 my sister sent me a text message. I’m hoping it’s because she forgot about the 3-hour time difference. Otherwise, I’ll have to kill her. Regardless, I was awake again.

Insomnia affects up to 40 percent of all adults every year, with women being twice as likely as men to having difficulty falling and staying asleep. The falling part I’m good at; the staying, not so much. Over 70 million Americans suffer from sleep issues. 1 in 3 have insomnia at some point in their lives. I’ve had really bad insomnia where I couldn’t even get to sleep to begin with until sometime around 5 in the morning. That happened when we bought this house and we were selling the townhouse, by owner, by ourselves. Stress.


Sorry! I did it again. It’s like narcolepsy around here.

I actually went to the doctor that time and he prescribed Ambien, a sleeping pill. Which scared me. He also told me that once we moved, I’d probably be fine. The night we moved in here, I slept like the proverbial puppy.

So tonight, I’m a little tired and draggy. I don’t like not sleeping, but since I have vowed to find good even in bad things, here’s what I think about not sleeping: it’s an opportunity to let my brain wander unencumbered by anything. There are no interruptions (vintage puppy notwithstanding), no email, no phone. It’s stream of consciousness at its most worthwhile. Sometimes I get my best ideas for stories, for headlines, for whatever when my brain is running at full tilt at 3:30 am. The night is quiet, nary a cricket speaks, the wind chimes are silent, the winds are still. I have my brain all to myself. I think that might be worth celebrating and I can only hope that toni-


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live out loud

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