Oh the carnage (again)

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:04 PM

It is everywhere. Piles of nothing and everything. Discarded remnants of dignity, places where stuffing seems to have been literally beaten out of even the most unsuspecting. It’s a horror show, a disgrace, an embarrassment. I speak, of course, of the disaster that greeted us this morning as we exited the bedroom. 

Riley, as in Mr. Boo, Hey Boo Boo, Riley Boo, and Honey Boo Bear (sensing a boo pattern? And it’s not even yet Halloween), had left us a path of toy destruction that stretched across the walkway, down the steps and into the great room. Tufts of white stuffing, pieces of piping ripped from the edges, an eyeball, shredded pieces of plastic. It all awaited our arrival. We stood there, surveying the littered landscape. And started to laugh. 

Last night, Kevin had dutifully sewn up two of Riley’s toys, his beloved Yellow, he of the stuffed Crayola crayon variety (and who recently went on a camping trip) and a toy that has been in the hospital so long we couldn’t even remember its name. 

The hospital is what we created years ago when Maguire would attempt total toy destruction by mercilessly working on a string until he managed to unravel a seam just enough to open a hole out of which he would proceed to pull more stuffing than the toy looked capable of holding. I guess in some ways that’s similar to blood being spilled, and how it always looks like there’s more blood than there should be, even with a small cut. After distracting Mr. Maguire Michel, Esq., one of us would pick up the limp rag of a toy along with the stuffing and attempt to re-stuff the poor creature. Then, because we’re horrible procrastinators, the re-stuffed but not re-sewn toy would be ceremoniously placed on top of the refrigerator, in the critical care unit, awaiting surgery. Eventually they’d get patched up and returned to play time. Sometimes the toy would go on to live a nice, long life. 

This is not the case with Riley. He gets a new toy and proceeds to tear it apart. If we can get a toy to last more than 30 minutes, we consider it a success. And we try, really, we do. We give him a toy and then try to distract him. We’ve found that if he has two toys with him at once his attention gets split and both survive. 

You’re wondering: Why don’t you buy tougher toys? The answer is: we try to do that, too. But they just don’t make them because if dogs can’t destroy toys, you don’t have to buy as many. His Wubba toys last awhile; others not so much. So we tend to buy toys in the reduced price bin at the front of PetCo because if they’re going to get destroyed anyway they might as well be cheap. 

The hospital now is the top shelf in the back of the pantry which is where the toy whose name we couldn’t remember was resting comfortably. Kevin, the official toy surgeon, pulled him out, after sewing up Yellow (for about the sixth time), and proceeded to restore the toy to chewable condition. Riley, having abandoned Yellow for what he assumed was a new toy (like I said, this one has been out of commission for a while), squirmed impatiently on the floor, scrambling ever closer then pushing himself back. When Kevin was finally done, he presented Riley with – “what should we call this thing?” he asked me. I shrugged my shoulders. “Leo?” “It is kind of leopardy.” – Leo and off he trotted. 

Fast forward to this morning and the toy Armageddon that awaited us. Leo had been gutted; ditto Yellow. Cat, who we didn’t even know was in the mix, was in the middle of a sea of white fluffy stuffing, a twisted, mangled shell of her former self. She’s long been headless, having lost it during her last trip to the hospital, but this morning, well, suffice it to say that we had to call time of death.

I’ve read that toy destruction is actually a sign of a healthy dog and a healthy mind. If that’s the case, then I’m ready to pronounce our dog absolutely brilliant. 

Hopped up on goofballs

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 8, 2015 8:33 PM

Golden retrievers are goofy dogs. They’re big, doofy, goofy, happy-go-lucky dogs that look like big blonde bears. Tails are always wagging, tongues are hanging out to the side, eyes are loving. The whole body wriggles with anticipation of everything. They get excited easily. They bark, they whine, they want to explore and be with you all at once. They live in a state of crazed delirium most of their lives. This is what our dog trainer refers to as being hopped up on goofballs.

Riley is our third golden retriever mix. Maguire was our first, though he was more Australian shepherd than retriever. He was dark and big, and had a more mellow, hang loose, hey dude kind of attitude. When he barked, he barked in threes. Ruff, ruff, ruuuuffffff. Then he was done. He wagged his tail incessantly, until he got too old and he didn’t wag at all anymore. I suppose, much like people, that dogs get to the point where they say: “you know I love you; I know you love me. What’s the point of the tail wag thing?” It still saddened me.

I don’t remember there ever being a time where I thought Maguire was hopped up. He was too laid back, too easy going. He was the best dog that ever lived, in our opinion. I don’t think that will ever change. We’ve loved others; we love one now. We’ll never love a dog like we loved Maguire Michel.

Cooper looked more golden. He had red fur and it was longer, more unruly. Very golden retriever like. We don’t know what else his heritage included and we didn’t much care. He was our Coop de ville, the Cadillac of Rescue Puppies. He didn’t get too nuts either, mostly because he’d seen so much in his little life, he just didn’t seem to care. He loved me to the point of obsession; tolerated Kevin. But he had lived a hard life by the time we got him, and he didn’t have nearly enough time in his better life. Kevin said at the time and continues to say that Cooper got a really bad deal; that he got robbed. He did. He was just becoming a good boy, just getting used to being loved, and then he got sick. A bad deal indeed.

And then there’s Riley. Before we got him, the rescue group told us he was a golden-doodle, or golden retriever-poodle. There is absolutely no poodle in this dog. He definitely has golden retriever and something else mixed in for goofy measure. And make no mistake – he’s a total goof. He’s also anxious. A lot. He’s good in the house, except for when the trash truck rolls through the ‘hood. Or when neighbor Ed comes home. Or when a car comes up the drive. Or when the tortoise comes down the hill. Or when there’s a lizard. Or a toad.

Whine. Squeal. Pant. Tail. 


Last night, we had our second school session. Carey, the teacher/trainer/behaviorist diagnosed him almost immediately as suffering from anxiety. He’s nervous. He’s whines. He’s afraid. His tail is up higher than it should be. He’s hopped up on goofballs to the point of overdose. 

We’re working to get him detoxed. We’re in a program now. He’s learning to live his life in a normal state of nutty. But it will take time. It will take behavior modification. It will take patience. It will take cookies and treats and lots of “good boy!”s. We can handle it. We’re in it for the long run. Our newest little damaged boy will learn that he’s safe and loved. And that goofy is good, but goofballs aren’t necessary to live it out loud.

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.

At the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 17, 2015 8:57 PM

The city of San Francisco is built on a hill so that it often appears to be rising out of the fog. Its streets are steep and treacherous, its people all seeming to still have a bit of the Haight inside. The Haight is Haight-Ashbury, the notorious drug scene at the intersection of the 1960s and 70s. It’s a liberal bastion, this city, but also historical and stunning. Situated on the Bay across from its nastier cousin Oakland, San Francisco is home to high finance and technology, rich cultures of art and food, and the fog. The north shore of the city, in Pacific Heights, is where the famed Fisherman’s Wharf is. Fresh seafood comes in daily and it is exquisite. Off the coast and to the east is Treasure Island, to the west is the famed Alcatraz prison, now a tourist spot. Further still to the west is the arching Golden Gate, crossing the entrance to the Pacific.

In the middle, tucked between highways 80 and 101, on the Bay side, is Union Square, one of the world’s premier shopping districts with a huge collection of retail stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and salons. And in the middle of Union Square, near where the cable cars run, at the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell is a Macy’s Department Store. To most, it’s a typical Macy’s, with numerous floors filled with fairly nice merchandise for women, men and children. There are shoes and jewelry and perfume counters. There is makeup and skin care. It’s a nice store, and it definitely occupies prime real estate in the area that first came to be known because of the pro-Union rallies held before and during the Civil War.

At Christmas time, it is decorated like all department stores. Santa has a North Pole office where he sees children. And it has the most glorious window displays in the country, at least to me.

Now I realize there are still 310 days until Christmas, according to the Christmas clock but I’m already counting and here’s why: dogs and cats, puppies and kittens.

For the past 28 years (this will be the 29th annual), the Macy’s holiday windows for the Christmas season feature homeless animals who need to be adopted. Each year, for nearly three decades, the Union Square Macy’s teams up with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to feature dogs, puppies, cats and kittens at play and taking well-deserved naps in holiday-themed windows. Each year the theme changes, but the windows always incorporate animals. The spaces are temperature controlled and safe, and give plenty of opportunity for window watchers to watch. SPCA volunteers are also on hand to answer any questions, and to monitor the hopeful pets. They’re also rotated frequently. Any animal not adopted during the day goes back to their bed at the no-kill shelter for the night.

The tradition began in 1986 when Gump’s Department Store was the first to offer pet adoptions at the holidays. Soon after Macy’s – the flagship store of Macy’s West and in San Francisco since 1866 – and the SPCA began teaming up for the holidays. To date, they’ve adopted more than 4,000 animals, 343 last year alone. They also raised over $100,000 in donations. The long-term goal is to generate enough support and education to help end animal abandonment in the city by 2020.

I didn’t know any of this until today when I stumbled on the story. I love San Francisco – it’s one of my top two cities in the country, along with Chicago – but when Kevin and I go, we don’t tend to do a lot of shopping. Instead, we walk and we go to galleries and great restaurants. Knowing this about Macy’s makes me want to shop there. The fact that it’s one of my favorite places in the country is also a plus. Maybe next year at Christmas, you’ll find us at the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell. Maybe we should book our trip now. After all, there are only 310 days left.

I am turning into my mother

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 2, 2015 7:45 PM

My mother is a wonderful woman whom I adore. I don’t see her as often as I’d like and lately I haven’t been able to talk to her as much as usual because my schedule has been bonkers. Still, I hope she knows that I think of her and miss her, and that I am turning into her.

One of the things I have long teased my mother about is the ever-present tissues found in every pocket she possesses. Since I moved west, when I go home to visit, I carry only one suitcase. If it’s cold, I wear a coat. There have been many times when I have had to supplement my wardrobe by borrowing a sweatshirt or a jacket, even a bathrobe to keep warm in the morning. Putting a bathrobe into a travel bag would essentially take up my entire suitcase. Whenever I borrow something, I inevitably put my hands into my pockets. I’m a hand-in-the-pockets kind of gal. I love to shove them in deep, to burrow. I’m also a burrower, as I’ve discussed with how I love sleeping under mounds and mounds of covers.

From my mother’s pockets, I always pull a tissue. Not a used one – that would be gross. Rather, a spare. It has always been thus and a running laugh track in the family. She tells me that this is a trick she long ago learned from her own mother, who evidently taught her to tuck a tissue into a sleeve so as to always be prepared. Somewhere along the way, my mother moved from sleeves to pockets. It makes me smile every time. It’s my mom, and it’s wonderful.

Unlike my mother, I have never been partial to hay fever or allergies or post-nasal drip (a horrible sounding malady for what is, rather, a runny nose). I do occasionally have need for a tissue, as we all do. I occasionally suffer from a cold. But I rarely have a tissue in my bathrobe pockets, or in my jacket pockets.

What I have are dog poop bags.

It seems that lately every time I put a coat or jacket on, no matter if it’s a hoodie sweatshirt, or a nice suede jacket, or my dad-sized Harry Carry jacket from Chicago, there exists in one of the pockets a roll of bags. We buy these rolls in bulk and use them every time we walk Cooper. Sometimes we have need for two bags. Kevin lovingly and proudly refers to that as a two-bagger.

I started to notice the bag-in-the-pocket phenomenon about two weeks ago. The weather had really and finally started to turn cold. The mornings were and are often in the high 20s or low 30s. Coats are needed. I put on my Harry Carry jacket and my hands immediately found their way to the pockets. In those pockets, I found a pair of gloves and a roll of bags. In my favorite Zaca Mesa hoodie, another roll of bags. In each of my fleece jackets, bags. Ditto by fleece vest. I told Kevin that if this keeps up, we might never have to buy bags again. When we think we’re running low, we’ll simply raid my side of the walk-in and rummage through every pocket until we find what we’re looking for.

I am turning into my mother, with dog poop bags replacing tissues. Both serve their own unique purpose and function to keep us in polite society. I’ve learned a lot from my mother, perhaps nothing so useful as keeping what one needs ever at the ready. That’s worth celebrating today and always.  


Happy birthday birthday to me

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 26, 2014 8:47 PM

Guest post by Cooper

Hi, it’s me Cooper. I haven’t done a guest post in a long time but I thought today would be a good day to do one. So did my mom. That’s because it’s my two year birthday and my eight year birthday. Not many puppies are lucky enough to have two birthdays on one day. Well, maybe they are. I guess it depends on a puppy’s parents and I have really good parents finally. It took me a really long time, but two years ago I got mom and dad, my best parents ever.

Mom says it was two years ago tonight, right about this same time cause it was in the afternoon, when they drove to pick me up. I was on sale, not for sale. That’s what dad says. Nobody really wanted me. My first family had given me away after they had a baby. I didn’t have a problem with the baby but the baby must have had a problem with me. I thought they should give the baby away but those parents didn’t agree so I got given away. Then somebody else adopted me but they only kept me for a little while and then they gave me away too. I was starting to think something was wrong with me.

Mom saw my picture on her computer. She called a lady and then she and my dad came to meet me. The next day they came to take me home. I just thought I was going to someplace else where I would live for a little while. But then, I started to like it here. I always had toys. And I had a bed. And there was always water in my bowl. Plus my mom was always kissing on me. I don’t think I ever had anybody kissing on me before.

I really wanted to stay with mom and dad and I got a little overprotective and so I got in trouble a couple of times when I’d see another golden retriever and think that maybe mom and dad were going to like that dog better. Actually I got in a lot of trouble. I started to think that if I didn’t start behaving better, I might have to go away again. I didn’t want to go away.

Mom said from the very first day that I was in my forever home but I don’t think I believed her. My dad wasn’t very happy either. I heard my mom tell him a couple times that it could take up to two years for me to finally feel like I wasn’t going anywhere ever again. I wanted to be a good boy. I just didn’t know if I knew how.

Me with my birthday cookie, sniffing the box. What is this?

Me with my nose in the box

Cookie gone! Me licking up the crumbs. I like birthday birthdays!

I think I know how now. I just be Cooper. I’m good at being Cooper. I really like being Cooper.

I’ve been Cooper for two years today. It’s my Cooper birthday. Mom said they don’t know when my real birthday is because it wasn’t in the paperwork, whatever that means. I don’t remember ever having a birthday. Probably because no body ever celebrated it before. Mom said I was six when they got me so that means I’m eight today, too. So I’m having two birthdays. Happy birthday birthday to me. I really like it here. I think I’m here forever.

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The healing power of the scrambled egg

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 8, 2014 10:36 PM

Cooper hasn’t been his normal hound dog self when it comes to eating, which is, I suppose, an insult to hound dogs and I don’t mean it that way. I love all dogs equally. Well, maybe not chihuahuas, but still. Hound dog usually implies aggressive, in your face, power eater. This is how Cooper usually eats. He powers through his food. We have to make him sit while we put the food into his bowl or he’s already eating it as it’s pouring from the scoop. The last few days, though, he’s been largely uninterested. With the exception of his Zuke’s hip action cookie (with glucosamine and condroitin), he’s hardly touched it.

I worry. When my boy starts doing something out of the ordinary, out of character, and out of routine, I get concerned. Dogs are all about routine. The walk happens at the same time each day. We go on the same route. We come in the same door. We go to the same place so the leash can be removed. A drink is had while food is being scooped. All of this has happened. It’s the food being scooped part where the routine begins to change.

I put food in his bowl last night, topped with the hip cookie. He ate the hip cookie. This morning, the food was still in the bowl so I put a hip cookie on top. He ate the hip cookie. Worried.

He’s not acting sick at all. He trots along quite merrily on his walks, doing his usual sniff and pee and go. He’s been playing with his toys. He races through the house carrying wubba and then whips the poor guy back and forth a few times, throwing him up in the air. Sometimes he catches wubba, but not always. This, too, is fairly normal.

So this morning, because of the worried thing, I decided he had to have something to eat other than glucosamine and condroitin, so I did what any dog-mom would do. I scrambled him an egg. It’s morning after all.

There’s something about a scrambled egg that just seems to heal the soul if not the tummy, especially where dogs are concerned. When we had Maguire and he would be having an off-day, I always scrambled him an egg which he would scoff down. If he was really sick, I would boil some chicken. It always seemed to calm his stomach. When he had his seizures and was still in the emergency hospital, I boiled some chicken and took it to him. I think I convinced myself that he would eat it. I thought that if he did, then he would get better. He had never turned down boiled chicken in the 15 years we’d had him. He turned it down that day, and we lost him several days later.

Cooper is not nearly as sick as Maguire. In fact, I’m not sure he’s sick at all. But there’s something off, and in my capacity as puppy mom, I figured that it could maybe be healed with a scrambled egg.

Just one egg. A touch of half and half, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, scrambled up in just a little bit of butter. It’s bland. It’s warm. But it’s comforting. Cooper sat and watched me scramble. He waited while I put the concoction on a plate and waited a bit more while it cooled. Then he slurped it all up, ran his face against the wall to wipe his whiskers, and settled down for a nap. I have no idea if it will help him feel better. For all I know, he’ll hold out for the boiled chicken for dinner.

Like his predecessor, he has me completely wrapped around his little paw. And unsurprisingly, I’m just fine with that.

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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. 

In which Cooper gets a new guy

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 22, 2014 11:42 PM

Our Cooper suffers from major anxiety issues. We were told he was a bit hi-strung and that’s because he’s part Border Collie. I get that. My sister’s dog is part Border Collie and she’s a bit of a nut, especially when there is a thunder storm or fireworks. Interestingly, Cooper is not the least bit bothered by either. Thunder rolls through or claps loudly to a lightning strike and he barely acknowledges it. Fireworks and firecrackers seem to simply annoy him but don’t they everyone?

Sometimes an unexpected loud bang like me dropping something on the floor will elicit a reaction. It varies from raising his head in annoyance to jumping up to get out of the way because he’s certain a bear is headed for him.

In the house, as long as we’re both here which we usually are, he’s fine. He plays with his toys – his guys – dragging them first from the bedroom into my office, one by one, and then at night, from my office to the great room, again one by one. Surrounded by his guys he seems calm.

Except when the UPS man comes into the neighborhood and then there is chaos and mayhem. Wild barking ensues. Barking that is nearly uncontrollable. Barking that blows him off the floor because of the energy exerted. Barking that doesn’t stop until I grab his collar and pull him to face me saying in my calmest voice “quiet” over and over and over again. There is no quiet, His eyes strain to the side. He must keep a vigilant watch. Did you see who it is, mom? It’s that dastardly UPS man and I’m sure he’s coming to get me! Get us!

He is my constant shadow. If he could be surgically attached to me so as to know where I am at every given moment of the day and night, he would be. I can’t leave the room without him coming in search of me. When he’s eating his food, which is in the laundry room just off of the kitchen and I leave to go to the bedroom or my office, he panics. I can hear him coming, racing through the house. Once he sees me, he visibly relaxes and knowing where I am, he is free to return to his food.

Cooper, Wubba and Sunny

For a while when we would leave the house and leave him behind, we didn’t put him in his kennel. But after a few “incidents,” where he misbehaved while we were out, we decided that putting him in his kennel, his “house” was probably better. When we leave now, we tell him to get in his house, which he does voluntarily. We give him his Wubba, his best good friend, and we close the door. Lately though he’s been going nuts. We put him in his kennel and he begins to howl and bark and whine, like we’re torturing him. I went in one time to see what he was doing, and he was trying to dig his way out. He had pushed his padded rug up and back and he was concentrating on the digging at the corner of the kennel where the door latches, like he was digging to China. It’s metal; he had no chance. It broke my heart.

This is a relatively new development and we’re not sure what to do. When we were at the vet a week or so ago, we asked, and the vet gave us some ideas including using a Kong toy, stuffed with cookies. A toy Cooper only gets when we leave. We tried. There is still whining and howling and whimpering and digging. We are at a loss.

Cooper is a rescue. We have no idea what his history is other than the little bit the rescue organization gave us. He’s been with a number of families so he’s been given away a number of times. I suspect it’s because he has anxiety issues. Poor baby. We’re trying to get him to understand that we’re not leaving him, or if we do, it’s only on a very temporary basis. We give him lots of love and attention. We play with him; he gets two walks a day. We love him.

Today, I went to PetCo to get some Hip Action cookies (with glucosamine and chondroitin). I can’t go to PetCo and only get hip cookies. So I bought Sunny.

Tonight, Cooper is with his peeps. He’s happy and content, not at all nutty or anxious. We’re all in for the night. Kevin and I, and Cooper. And Wubba and Bull and Perp and Chip and Rudy and Yukon and Ball and Santa Butt and the new addition to the guys, Sunny.

Who knows? Maybe Sunny will help him know that life is good and bright, and that mom and dad love him. But I doubt it.

Oh, baby. What a dog.

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 26, 2013 12:37 AM

I’m not a fan of the derogatory statement “what a dog.” It’s used to insult people behaving badly but it’s actually more of an insult to dogs. Dogs are usually much better than people. Yes, they’re animals. But only if you think of animals as being creatures less than human, and I don’t. I’m of the mindset that animals are creatures often better than human.

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I am a huge dog person. That saying alone explains a bit about how I think. I’m a dog person. A dog-person. I love dogs, but I understand dogs. I am part dog. Maybe I was a dog in another life. I often joke that in my next life, I’m coming back as a dog with a good owner in a nice house.

I see a dog and I go all gooey inside. I want to get close to them, to pet them; to hug and kiss on them. I am careful to ask the owner first, of course. Because sometimes people train their dogs to be aggressive, or because they may be aggressive by nature. I understand this. Still, I ooh and awe. I smile. Hell, I grin. My Facebook page is covered with dog-related pages. My checkbook cover (yes, I still have a checkbook, for those bills that I can’t yet pay online and for emergencies) is dog bones.

Maguire was my Honey Bear, my big furry baby. I loved that dog more than life itself and was nearly inconsolable when we lost him, as was Kevin (as was Roy, Bobbi, everyone who knew him). In our eyes, he was a fur-person, capable of understanding most of what we said and of carrying on conversations. Yes, we often spoke for him but he was very articulate.

Cooper came along in October and for a while it was a bit like having a new roommate. We didn’t know any of his quirks; he didn’t know any of ours. But soon he settled right in and before you know it, he too became quite the conversationalist. Turns out he’s pretty funny. Great sense of humor, fairly smart. While he’s not the cultured boy that Maguire was, and is, in fact, more of a Honey Boo Boo than a Honey Bear. More trailer trash than high class. We love him anyway, because he’s now our baby.

Turns out we’re not the only ones. There are an awful lot of people out there who feel the same way. According to research, people who think of their dogs as babies are actually kind of correct in that dogs react to their humans in a manner that “eerily mimics how human children respond to their parents.” The researchers used an experiment that involved something called the “secure base effect,” something that is typically found in the nearly unbreakable emotional ties between parents and their children.

Dog test subjects, who earned treats by manipulating interactive toys, were placed in situations where there was an absent owner, a silent owner and an encouraging owner (I would have used the word “parent” since we’re talking about dogs being our babies but I suppose that’s picking nits). The dogs whose owners/parents weren’t present were much less interested in working for their treats than when those owners/parents were in the room.

Dogs appeared to be most comfortable and most willing to take a chance when they were near their people, offering what has been deemed “the first evidence for the similarity between the secure base effect found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships.”

Evidently science has already deciphered this effect in human-children versus fur-children. Kids who were able to use their mother as a secure base were found to be more motivated and persistent than those whose mothers were absent.

This comes as no real surprise to either dog trainers or dog owners. It certainly comes as no surprise to this dog owner.

Maguire was my baby; I spent every day with him. Cooper is now my baby; I spend every day with him. Maguire was a good boy, smart, knew all of his toys by name, had a vocabulary that was at least a hundred if not more words. Cooper is becoming a good boy, too. He’s smart; he’s learning his toys by name. He knows to take one up to my office and to bring it down at night, and trot around the house with it in his mouth. He sits, he does paw bump, he does stay game and he gets rewarded for it.

What a dog. What a boy.

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