So it's mani pedi day

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 12, 2015 7:20 PM

I am not a girly girl. Never have been. I don't spend a lot of time on my hair; I go days without makeup. The last time I wore a dress was when I got married nearly 17 years ago. I live in shorts, tanks and flip flops in the summer; jeans, long sleeve tees and boots in the winter; leather coats. I never get my nails done.

I do however get Riley's nails done. We have just returned from his mani pedi. Or is it mani mani? Maybe pedi pedi? Whatever. The point is that the nails on all four feet have been trimmed and he's good for another couple of months.

When we had Maguire, we'd trim his nails ourselves. I would hold a flashlight behind the nail so that I could see the vein. Kevin would maneuver the trimmer until I said stop. Clip. Done. We were pretty successful.

With Cooper, because his nails were darker, we couldn't see the vein even with a flashlight, and I am horribly paranoid about trimming nails to close and causing the dog to bleed. Freaks me out. We took him to the vet.

Riley's nails are sort of in between Maguire's and Cooper's which makes sense since he looks a little like Cooper but he has the smarts of Maguire. He is also most definitely his own dog, with more personality than he knows what to do with.

I made his appointment the other day. The new vet we have is wonderful. It’s the vet the rescue group uses. In fact, every time we've been there at least one other rescue is also there, having dogs checked out. Today it was a greyhound rescue, there with Mindy a 10-year-old who was first rescued from the race track and then rescued again when her owners took her to the shelter to have her euthanized.

People suck. I hate people.

So the vet is great but Riley does not agree. None of our dogs have been good at the vet. Maguire used to do everything he could do to make himself the size of teacup terrier. He was 85 pounds at his biggest. Cooper was probably the best of the bunch. He'd whine a bit but he stood his ground and willingly went with the vet techs, wagging his tail. Riley channels Maguire. He whines and whines and whines in the car. When we get into the vet office, he turns up the whine-volume so that it's close to a howl. It is not pretty, or melodic. The vet tech took him back and he went, looking back over his shoulder the whole time. Mom? Aren't you coming? Mom?! MOM!! How can you do this to me?! Haven't I been a good boy? I'll be better. I promise! MMMOOMMMMMmmmmmm


When he came back this morning, he was overjoyed that I was still there. He hopped into the car, relieved as can be. Settled right down. We stopped at Walgreens to pick up Kevin's prescription. They have a drive thru. The pharmacist keeps a box of milk bones at the window. Riley got two just for being "so good."

Ha. I wanted to say "you shudda seen him 15 minutes ago when he was doing his impersonation of a chihuahua." But I didn't. I smiled and thanked her. Riley gobbled his cookies.

Now we're back home. Riley is positively stealthy with his mani pedi. My nails are a little ragged. Last week I dropped a steel bar on the tip of my middle finger on my right hand. Half of the nail is now black. I have a similar situation on the middle toe of my left foot. Even if I got manicures or pedicures, I doubt it would help. But maybe.

I'll call the vet and see if they can fit me in.

Who rescues who or is it whom

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 11, 2015 9:57 PM

We went to a local event today called Adopt Local Adopt Love. It was a mega pet adoption: dogs, cats, reptiles. Though I still can’t fathom a reptile as a pet. We did see one guy there with an enormous snake draped around his neck and shoulders like a scarf. It was bright yellow and while, and looked like a boa constrictor, but like no boa I’ve ever seen before.

We weren’t entirely sure why we were there. We lost our precious Cooper only two weeks ago, and it seems too early to get another. And yet, we are so hopelessly lost without him. The house needs a dog, maybe two. And so we went.

There were mobs of people – which I was glad to see. Not nearly as many animals for adoption as I thought there would be. There was an area for cats, which we didn’t go into. There was an area for dogs, which we did. But the amount of dogs was relatively small. I expected the place to be crawling with paws. There were a lot of small dogs, many pit bulls, and a number of greyhounds. There’s still a dog racing park here in Tucson, much to my disgust. I suspect greyhound rescue is big here for that reason.

We happened by a booth for Border Collie rescues, and there was an older dog there named Jackson. He was about 10, or so they estimated. He was gentle and mellow. Just a lovely dog. We were infatuated. We visited with him in the booth as he lay on the floor. We gave him treats. Eventually we moved on. We looked at smaller dogs; we tried to like them. They were cute. But we’re not small dog people.

Like having a type with people, we have a type with dogs. Medium to large, about 50 to 70 pounds, with lots of long fur, nice “pants” and floppy ears. Golden retrievers, Australian shepherds, border collies. We like herders.


Jackson

We found ourselves back looking for Jackson. He was outside taking a potty break so we went out to see him in a different environment. He was with other dogs, and fine. His foster mom, Jennifer, stopped again to talk to us. Kevin took the leash and they went for a short walk. He was perfect on a leash, trotting easily alongside, never pulling.

But he’s 10. Do we want to rescue a dog who’s that old? Why not? We rescued Cooper at 6 and we only had him 2 plus years. Who’s to say that an old guy like Jackson wouldn’t live another five years, like Maguire?

The fact is, you never know how long someone – human or animal – is going to be with you. You just make the most of the time you have, and always hope for the most.

Rescues break your heart in a thousand ways. Like not knowing what their past was. They think Jackson had been with a family at some point. He is house trained, he has manners. Did they abandon him? With Cooper, we knew his original family gave him up when they decided to have a baby. But we don’t know anything else. With Maguire, he was a puppy. They told us he’d been found in Oak Park. We couldn’t imagine anyone finding him and not keeping him. But people are weird; people suck.

Rescues break your heart while asking you to love them. And we do. We fall in love every time. And when they leave, we are devastated. It’s the price you pay for loving. But for the time we have them, we always wonder: who rescued who or whom?

We haven’t decided what to do about Jackson. We have time. Not too many people rescue older animals. But he has already re-broken our already broken hearts. So who would be rescuing whom?

Oh, no. Not Isis.

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 13, 2015 10:01 PM

In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife. She embraced nature and magic and was a friend to slaves, sinners, artists and especially those down on their luck. She was also known to listen to the prayers of the wealthy, of maidens, of aristocrats and rulers. Her name means “throne” and she’s still revered. Sometimes she has wings so she can fly like the wind. She travels like a bird as she soars toward the heavens.

I’ve never thought much about Isis one way or another, but I looked her up today because of Downton Abbey.

I am an intermittent fan of the show. I enjoy it when I watch, though I’ve never been as rabid a fan as some. My mother is more so than I. It’s on Sunday night, and there are too many things on Sunday to watch. Sunday nights in the fall are usually populated by Sunday Night Football. Once football is over, we like Madam Secretary and The Good Wife. When we miss those, we catch up on-demand.

Kevin isn’t remotely interested in Downton Abbey, though when he does see some and Maggie Smith is on, he watches. He loves her one-liners. When I watch the show, it’s during the week, online while I’m doing something for work that doesn’t require a great deal of creativity. It’s hard to watch something and write.

This season, I watched the first episode of Downton and it irritated me. It seemed to be introducing too much and I didn’t care. I’m tired of Lady Edith’s heartbreak. Nothing good ever seems to happen to the woman. Lady Mary is kind of a kick. At first, I didn’t like her much but now I find her fun and sassy and the most lively of the bunch. When she’s on screen, I enjoy the show. The only other character I like is the insufferable Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis.

Isis is a white Labrador. It’s her wiggly butt that is the first thing seen on the credits of the show. Granted she has a relatively small part of the show and virtually no dialogue but she is still a presence. And Robert, also known as the insufferable Lord Grantham, absolutely adores her. In what I think was the second episode of this season, when Edith set fire to the house and Robert raced through to save everyone. But the first thing he yelled was “get the dog!”

He obviously has never watched other movies and television shows because if he did, he would know that the dog never dies. They survive earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes, even most killers. See Dante’s Peak and Scruffy who runs off into the burning mountain being slowly consumed by molten lava. Sure enough, as the heroes are driving across lava with their wheels on fire, there’s the dog, in the middle of a lava field, on a rock. Singed by alive.

Dogs and kids rarely die in television and movies.

But Isis is listless, and I just know the writing is on the castle. Her time is coming to an end. As I watched this last episode, I found myself dreading the next. I don’t like it when the dog dies. The first season of Downton took place in 1912. This season, we’re in 1924. That’s twelve years, which means lovely Isis, the doggess of the Abbey, is 12, 84 in people years. In the early part of the 20th century, human medicine wasn’t that advanced let alone veterinary medicine. The fact that she’s 12 does not bode well for 1924 England.

Like the Egyptian goddess, Isis was a friend to all, regardless of stature. Soon, she will become the wind and soar towards the heavens where the rainbow bridge awaits. Oh, Isis. I hate to see you go. All I can say is there better be a new puppy trotting through the halls that Grantham built and by next season or I may be done with the show once and for all.

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live out loud

Listing to starboard

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 18, 2014 8:16 PM

Last week, Cooper decided he didn’t like his food anymore. Or at least he started acting like he didn’t like his food anymore. How did we know this? He stopped eating. Maguire was always a grazer, munching a little bit here and there, and only finishing his food at about 3 am when he realized there was absolutely no possibility of getting any chicken or cheese or pizza bones. We have to make Cooper sit and wait while we put his food into his bowl or he’s eating it as it’s pouring from the scoop. We attribute this to the fact that he was a rescue. From everything I’ve heard and read this is very common in rescues because they’re not always fed regularly and when they are, they often have to fight to get their fair share because all of the rescues are eating at once. The survival of the biggest and most aggressive.

Because Cooper has gained some weight, he’s on prescription food. It’s dry and it’s low fat and until about last Monday, he was having no issue scoffing down a cup in the morning and another at night. But then, he decided he wasn’t going to eat anymore. Right around this same time, I also noticed that the right side of his mouth was off, literally. The rear jowl was hanging down. He was drooling badly. He started holding his head cocked to the right. Something was wrong.

We got some canned food and started mixing a little in with his dry food. That seemed to solve the eating problem. He powered through every bowl and then rubbed his face on the wall in the kitchen as usual. We refer to it as Cooper’s personal and very large napkin. But better the wall than the couches. He started playing with his toys again. But his mouth was still weird and his head was still listing to starboard.

I called the vet to make an appointment to have him checked only to be told that they couldn’t see him until Saturday at 9:30, unless it was an emergency. We decided it wasn’t really an emergency. He was eating. He was playing with wubba. He was going for his two-walks-a-day without incident.

I told Kevin that I wondered if maybe it was a bug bite. When Cooper goes out into the back yard, which is several times a day, he loves to flop down on the grass, roll onto his back and proceed to writhe and wiggle, having the time of his life. Mouth open to celebrate. I wondered if maybe something had flown into his mouth, or if he had tried to catch something flying by only to have it catch him instead.


Cooper, on his back, living it out loud

This morning Kevin left early to go look at yet another piece of equipment for his shop. I think this was a jointer, which we already have, but this one might have been better (it wasn’t; he didn’t end up buying it). I busied myself in the house, changing the sheets on the bed, finally cleaned the guest bathroom, and putting the clean sheets on that bed. Cleaned up the kitchen. At 9:15, I got Cooper ready to travel.

He’s been very good in the car lately. He climbs his steps onto the floor in the back, then hops up on to the seat. Getting him out is a bit more problematic. That entails lifting him out and depositing him back onto solid land. Hopefully without throwing my back out.

Off we went. Got to the vet, weighed him (he’s lost five pounds on his prescription food) and then went into the exam room where Dr. Olson examined him and discovered absolutely nothing wrong. She said she thought based on my description that maybe it was a bug bite or sting. She didn’t have an explanation for the right-hand lean, offering that it might be something called old dog idiopathic vestibular disease.

This happens when the part of the brain responsible for balance gets a little off balance. The dog, in turn, is off balance, acting like he’s drunk. Symptoms include a head tilt (check), an unsteady gait (no check), circling in one direction (no check), eyes moving rapidly from side to side (nope), and sudden vomiting (huh uh). Dr. Olson said that if it was idiopathic vestibular, it was an extremely mild case. Regardless, it always tends to get better on its own so there was really nothing to be done.

I wondered if maybe Cooper was taking Arizona politics to heart but decided he was still my little democratic boy. I just need to work on getting him to list to port.

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. 

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. 

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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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.

Parenthood

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 15, 2012 12:03 AM

I had planned to talk about a television show tonight, one called Parenthood. And I still will, but its relevance and significance takes on new meaning on this December 14, 2012. When I opened a browser this morning to search for something innocuous, I was confronted with a red breaking news banner that told of a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. As the events unfolded, and as I turned on the news to listen, I was shocked. The news was devastating; the feelings overwhelming. As a parent, I was almost literally sick. As a human being, I was ashamed.

This shooting seemed different somehow, more visceral, more devastating. This is not to diminish any of the other shootings that have happened in our history, and especially of late. Oregon, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona. They are all heinous; horrific. Devastating for the families and for our nation. But this one ate at the country’s collective soul, gnawing on it like a dog that won’t relinquish a bone. 20 children dead, most of them kindergartners. Teachers, a principal; others. Stories of bravery amidst tales of horror. I was transfixed. I was mortified. I was so very sad.

I am a parent and while Justin is now nearly 22, I remember all too clearly when he was an innocent little redhead of 5 or 6, happily talking about Disney movies and what he wanted Santa to bring for Christmas. I remember the wonder of him, the purity of his thoughts and love. My heart breaks for the parents tonight who are trying to deal with the unspeakable. Can you deal with it? I don’t know, and I wouldn’t know how. I am ashamed and tired and horrified and sick and saddened and and and.

I am a fan of the show Parenthood. There aren’t many of us; we are rather a cult. But we are faithful and devoted to a show about parenting, the pain and joy of it, the irritation and chaos, the fear, the truth, the realness of it. The show follows four grown siblings and their lives and children; their parenting. They are the Bravermans and they are all in their mid-30s to mid-40s, all with children, all trying to navigate the un-navigatable waters known as parenting. At the head of the large brood are the grandparents, who were, once upon a time, parents to the four who are now immersed in parenthood themselves.

Whether you’re young starting out or grandparents watching your own kids have kids, this show rings true like few shows I’ve ever seen, certainly more than the so-called reality shows which bear no resemblance to any reality I know.

It’s based, loosely, on the movie of so many years ago that was directed by Ron Howard and starred Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Weist and a young Keanu Reeves and even younger Martha Plimpton. It was good; but I didn’t love it. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I wasn’t yet a parent and couldn’t relate.

Over the years, the networks have tried to reproduce the film and all have failed. This most current incarnation is succeeding, albeit barely. It is in its fourth season and there are hints that it may be back for a fifth. It is undoubtedly inexpensive to produce, and aside from salaries, probably has very little excessive cost.

It encapsulates what it means to be a parent in today’s age. Drug and alcohol use by teens, underage sex, a bi-racial child and what that means for him and his parents, adoption, health issues, job issues, wanting to do more for your children than you’ll ever be able to do financially and even emotionally. Like sending a child – Haddie – to Cornell University in New York and having no idea how it will be paid for, and at first saying no, but then figuring out a way. It can drain the soul, as when Amber, a troublemaking teen who has since blossomed into a lovely young woman, ran away and her frantic mother searched everywhere only to finally find her in the town where they used to live, alone in a diner in the rain.

The rain was an apt metaphor. It was cold and dismal and seemed hopeless but it was also cleansing, ridding Amber of the past and of her problems. I am not naïve enough to think that rain can ever heal what happened today in Connecticut. I can’t imagine the sheer terror of the parents, nor of the children. My heart is broken. I wept.  As a parent, you are not supposed to get a phone call saying there has been an incident; you are not supposed to race to the school where your kindergartner should be happily finger-painting to make Christmas ornaments to see if he’s alive. You are not supposed to lose your child to the whims of a gun-wielding maniac.

You are not supposed to be gunned down by your child either, like the teacher whose son was responsible for the murder of at least 27 individuals, 20 of them young children.

You are not supposed to. He was not supposed to. We are not supposed to.

How would they handle something like this on Parenthood, the exquisite drama that graces NBC each Tuesday night? I honestly have no idea, because it’s too real to imagine. It would be too heartbreaking to watch.

Perhaps they’d have a way of making it all make sense. I suspect that they wouldn’t, though. They would let us into the drama, the tears, the anger, the wrenching emotion that is too overwhelming to imagine, and they would let us become part of it. That’s what happened today. We became, sadly, part of it all. And we are poorer for the experience. I find nothing to celebrate in that, other than to wish we could all raise our voices so that perhaps we are finally, finally, FINALLY heard. This gun violence must stop. As a parent, I hear that call clearly. I will shout it myself; I will live this pain and fear and horror and hope for change out loud. Finally.

Dog bless.  

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