Riley on Ice and Fresh blue Wubba

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 20, 2016 8:47 PM

Riley’s favorite toy is Wubba. His love affair with the octopus-like creature started the night he came to live with us. We welcomed him at the front door. He was skittish at first but seemed to take to us quickly, especially Kevin who remains his favorite dad ever. We took him around the house, introducing him to his new home, showing him where his water and food bowls were, where his bed was. Then we turned him loose to let him explore on his own. He disappeared into our room. He was gone for a few minutes, and then he came running down the hall with a Wubba in his mouth. That Wubba had been Cooper’s, but that night, Riley made it his own. He has been through approximately five Wubba’s in the year and a half since. 

It is a remarkably resilient and tough toy. There is a large ball, topped with a smaller ball, and four long tentacles. The one Cooper had was covered with faux fur and had a little face on it. It was cute Wubba. But Cooper was older and more refined when it came to his toys. While they all eventually got destroyed, it took a while. Not so with Riley. 

Riley can destroy just about anything within a half hour. Except Wubba. Wubba tends to last a couple of months, perhaps because of the tough canvas-covered Wubba’s we now buy. During those months, there are still hints of impending death. The tentacles begins to fray, the fabric covering Wubba’s other body parts becomes thin. Threads appear. 

But Wubba soldiers on.

I always keep a spare Wubba in the pantry, for when the current Wubba dies valiantly. Such was the case over the past few days when blue Wubba was unleashed into the house. Blue Wubba is so-called for obvious reasons. For less obvious reasons, Kevin has taken to calling the toy Fresh-blue Wubba. I suspect this is because the water and food bowls we have are dark blue and when there’s water in the water bowl, it looks fresh and inviting. We’ve had these particular dog bowls since Maguire. And whenever we’d fill the water bowl with cool water, Kevin would always make a big deal of telling Maguire: “There’s fresh-blue water in your bowl, sweetie.” Maguire, for his part, would usually just stretch, roll over and go back to sleep.

Riley races around the house with Wubba. He grabs one or more of the tentacles and whips it around so that the rest of the toy bounces off of his back. We call this “opus dei puppy.” It’s a fun game, one that he plays by himself daily. 

Today, Fresh-blue Wubba was in the living room. Riley was racing around on the walkway that runs the entire length of the house, something we call the most expensive indoor dog run ever. He was spinning around, air snapping, wanting to play. This is usually cause for Kevin to say: “Get a guy!” 

Riley, like many young dogs and golden retrievers in particular, needs a job. He needs to be busy. Guys, which is what Kevin calls his toys, keep him busy. Here was the conversation:

Kevin: Get. A. Guy. 

Riley: (air snap) 

Kevin: Where’s Wubba? Get Fresh-blue Wubba.

Riley: (air snap; spin) 

Kevin: Get Wubba!!!! 

Riley: (air snap; spin; air snap) 

Then he bounded down the two steps, racing toward Fresh-blue Wubba, ready to pounce and grab and engage in some opus dei puppy. He hit the brakes as he grabbed his toy but lost his footing – feeting? – and wiped out, sliding across the tile like it was ice, Wubba nudged up and now flying through the air. The dog turned to look at us as Wubba crashed down on the couch table. 

Riley: (air snap) 

Kevin turned to me: And that is what we call Riley on ice.

Indeed.

Anatomy of a butt rub

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 15, 2016 9:07 PM

Kevin has created a monster and it goes by the name of Riley Boo. He’s a cute monster as monsters go, not at all gooey and nasty. His head is not square and flat, he doesn’t have bolts protruding from his neck. He is not green. He does not resemble any kind of imagined alien. He does have pointed canine teeth, much like Dracula, but I have yet to see him using them to draw blood. He does not hunt innocent prey unless you count bugs which I don’t.

This monster wears his reddish-blonde fur easily. His ears flop even in non-existent breezes. He had perfected the puppy prance and spin. In the mornings, when he rises he yawns and stretches at least six times, front paws extended almost flat, butt in the air. He elicits a high-pitched squeal that threatens to shatter glass. While Kevin and I get ready to walk him, donning sweat pants and sweatshirts, he rolls around on his back for a few minutes, enjoying that it’s morning. We do not share this joy; rather we simply deal with the fact that it is. Once shoes come out of the closet, he rolls back to his four feet and merrily trots to Kevin who is almost always sitting on the white hamper stool. As he put his socks on, the monster beings to move into position. Once the shoes are slipped on and the tying of the laces begins, the monster will. Not. Be. Ignored. 

When we had Cooper, he was a leaner meaning he liked to lean into whoever he was near. He wasn’t a hugger and definitely not a kisser. He would position himself so that he was parallel to Kevin’s legs. Then he’d lean and Kevin would rub his butt. Cooper had some hip issues and the butt rub seemed to make his hips feel better. Cooper didn’t abuse the butt rub though. He wasn’t insistent. He was, nearly, polite. Please, dad, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind giving me just a little bit of a rub?

Kevin has continued this practice with Riley, who doesn’t really have hip issues but rather pretends. Or at least he pretended at first. Now he has jettisoned any pretense and instead goes for the blatant. Oh, I see you’re putting your shoes on. Rub. My. Butt. Now. 

Riley does not stand parallel and lean; he stands perpendicular and pushes his butt up against Kevin, making it impossible for Kevin to tie his shoes. As he rubs the dog, laughing, Riley twists and contorts a bit. You missed a spot. Could you get that spot right. There? 

He is insistent. He doesn’t let up. He will not be pushed away. He will, instead, get a butt rub for as long as he wants it, and if he truly had a choice, that would probably be most of the morning, walk be damned. Kevin obliges and fur literally flies through the air. It’s quite funny to watch the monster in action and to watch the monster-creator laugh, and then try, usually unsuccessfully, to extricate himself. Riley will have none of this and so it continues. 

The butt rub is not actually the butt, of course. It’s the top of the tail and then down the back legs. The butt is not really involved. But we call it a butt nevertheless as it’s the rear end of the dog. And Riley doesn’t seem to care what it’s called as long as it continues, indefinitely, into perpetuity, forever. I love you, dad. You’re the best dad, ever. Oh? You’re stopping? Don’t stop. Oh. OK.

Let’s go for a walk instead!

Mornings at the Michel’s. Rubbing it out loud.

We have set our first goal

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, December 29, 2015 6:27 PM

Kevin and I are big supporters of dog rescue. All three of our dogs have been rescued. Maguire from the Agoura Animal Shelter, Cooper from Labs & Buddies, and Riley from Southern Arizona Golden Retriever Rescue. In the past, our support has been through contributions rather than volunteer work. When Maguire died, we donated his food, his bed and his toys to rescue. I’ve done some pro bono writing for several groups including Best Friends, and we’ve built several websites for groups in Washington State. We donated Justin’s car to an animal rescue group in New York (where his car was) and I’ve donated money. Each month, I give to several groups. It’s my chosen type of charity. 

We were so impressed with the Golden Retriever rescue group here in Tucson that we immediately wanted to get more involved. We went to their Gala Fundraiser and I tried to take Riley to one of the many Meet ‘n Greets they have at local PetSmarts. It didn’t go well. He nipped at a small child and we were asked, albeit nicely, to leave. We did, with our tails between our legs.

He may have had a good reason to nip at the little boy. He was surrendered by a family with a swarm of small boys and we suspect they tortured him in only the way small boys can. Pulling his tail, jumping on him, raising their hands over his head to hit him if he didn’t do what they wanted. We weren’t the only ones that suspected this; the rescue group agreed with us. The family that surrendered him said it was because he snapped at one of their boys when the boy either jumped or fell on him when Riley was sleeping. These were the kind of people that would get rid of the dog rather than teach their kid that what he did was wrong. Fine with us because we have him instead.

But he’s difficult to teach. He’s rambunctious, nutty, with too much energy. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that he’s not yet two. His birthday is January 1. Part of that can also be attributed to how he spent the first 15 months of his life. And part of if can be attributed to us. We’ve tried to train but we’ve had only moderate success and we’re not always consistent. We admit this and want to do better. 

This past Christmas season, we volunteered to do gift wrapping for the group at one of the local Barnes & Nobles. I ended up going four times. Kevin went with me once and Bobbi went with me once. It’s a great way to raise money because people can get their books wrapped and pet the dogs. Petting the dogs leads to big donations. The goal this year was to raise $12,000. I got an email this morning that we had actually raised $13,218. Much of that can be attributed to the dogs. They work hard, wearing donation vests and putting on their best holiday cute, complete with Santa hats or jingle bell collars. It’s hard to resist a golden retriever anyway, let alone one dressed up for the holidays and asking for donations.

Because of Riley’s temperament and because of the PetSmart incident, we weren’t able to take him. So Kevin and I have set a goal: be able to take him with us when we volunteer next year. This will entail a big commitment by all three of us. I need to get in touch with the trainer we use, Carey, and set up more regular appointments. We’ve been doing it just every now and again and then we tend to fall behind on homework. We need to be better at that part, too, the homework. He can be nutty but he can’t be dangerous. We can’t worry about people petting him and him getting so Rileyed up that we have another incident. We want to be incident-free. I think we can do it, if we all work at it.  

I think this because our dog is as cute as any of the other dogs who were good enough to participate. He could raise a bunch to help rescue more of his goofy kind and that would be worth celebrating out loud.

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. 

Oy. 

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.

And the tumbleweeds blow again

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 19, 2015 10:59 PM

We had a dog in our house today. We’ve started the adoption process, and we had our first official home visit this afternoon. It’s quite something. There are applications to fill out and references to check. But I think it’s wonderful. The people who do rescue work, like my friend Diane, are incredible humans who take in dogs no one wants, care for them, and hopefully eventually put that dog into a home with people who will also care for them. Forever. Furever.

Diane is currently fostering a 10-year old pit bull named Titus who was paralyzed but who is learning to walk again thanks to physical therapy and lots of love. He’s 80 pounds. Some wanted to euthanize him, but he’s showed signs of trying to get better and Dianes says he’s a love. Helping lift an 80-pound dog though isn’t easy. We had trouble with Cooper and he was almost 30 pounds less.

Caring for a dog that someone else discarded is the ultimate in what Roy calls heaven points.

We’ve filled our applications with two groups. One is here in Tucson, a golden retriever rescue; the other is Amazing Aussies in Phoenix, who rescues and re-homes lethal white Australian shepherds who are either deaf or blind or both. The golden rescue is smaller and doesn’t have a lot of dogs. It could be quite some time before we get a call. The Aussies are different. Those dogs are hard to place for obvious reasons. We’re supposed to have a home visit with them this week and meet several of their available dogs including a boy named Finnegan on Saturday.

The golden retriever rescue people showed up around 3, two ladies – one the home visit administrator, the other someone to help – and Sugar. Sugar was 10, a very blonde girl who had just had a bath and a total goofball. She bounded into the house, tail wagging, fur flying, kisses offered to everybody. We took them around outside, showing them where we’ll have a designated area that is safe from predators. It’s not done yet. It was supposed to be the Cooper area and once we lost Cooper, we lost momentum. But it’s partially cement, and will be partially fake grass. There will be a 7-foot wall around it and a motion sensitive light to alert us at night if there is anything there before we go out.

Inside, they wanted to see the bathrooms. Evidently, toilet seats left up are bad. We have never subscribed to toilet seats up. I always think it looks messy. So we passed.

We checked the trash, which is inside a slide-out cabinet and thus impossible for a dog to open, unless they sprout thumbs.

Then it was time to go over some other details. Kevin sat on the steps leading in from the front door with the helper, Bonnie, and Sugar. The home visit person, Susan, and I went to the kitchen. Now when I say “went to the kitchen” it sounds like we went to another part of the house. In reality, the entire living part of the house is open. The great room is open to the breakfast nook which is open to the kitchen which is open to the entrance way and the dining room.

Susan asked me questions about what we would feed the dog (probably Natural Balance) and where a dog would sleep (in our bedroom); would it be allowed on the furniture (no). I was leaning against the counter, facing the back of the house. As we talked, I watched as a small blonde tumbleweed of fur gathered and rolled by. I smiled.

There was a dog in the house. It wasn’t our Cooper, nor was it a dog that would ever be ours, but there was a dog. It was something to celebrate.

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live out loud

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?

Cooper sit

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

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

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

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

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

Cooper, sit

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

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

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

Cooper growled.

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

Patient is not a word in Cooper's vocabulary.

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

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

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

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live out loud

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. 

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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