Triple salchow sit spin with a twist

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:48 PM

When I was in elementary school, or what we called grade school, I took figure skating lessons on Tuesday nights. I remember it was the year Happy Days premiered on ABC and also the year Steve Miller’s The Joker topped the charts. It was January 1974. I wanted to watch Happy Days and couldn’t. But I did hear The Joker on the radio. A lot. I was taking lessons along with several friends, neither of whom do I currently remember. Our mothers would take turns doing the driving. It seemed like it was very far away. I’m sure it wasn’t.

I was a decent ice skater but I didn’t have any real talent. I could skate backwards and carve a mean figure 8 on the rink. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t a passion. I didn’t know how to do jumps, and when I’d watch professional skaters on television or the amateurs at the Olympics I was amazed at the jumps, things the commentators called sow-cows. Sow-cows, it turns out, are actually salchows and they’re leaps and spins and generally fancy maneuvers. I bring this up because every day I watch the equivalent of a triple salchow that turns into a sit spin courtesy of pro figure skater Cooper Michel.

Cooper is a spinner. Like many dogs, he has to spin around several times before settling into place. He does this three times, like clockwork. Actually more like counter-clockwork. He comes into the bedroom at night, into my office during the day, or into any room for that matter and he spins, spins, spins, always counter clockwise, then tucks his hind legs beneath him. The butt and hips collapse, the front legs slide out and he’s down.

Maguire never did this. He would put his butt in the air, while stretching his front legs far in front of him, his head down between them. He went down front first, then the butt collapsed behind him.

I’ve always wondered why dogs do the spin and flop. It turns out it has to do with genetics, evolution, instinct and general comfort. They still retain many of the traits found in their undomesticated ancestors. According to studies that have been conducted, dogs still have as much as 99% of their current genetic makeup in common with their ancient predecessors, especially wolves. Wolves and dogs are known to turn around three times as they’re preparing their bed. Before dogs were domesticated, they – like wolves – slept in the wild. They had to tamp down leaves and brush, even grass, in order to sleep comfortably.

When pack animals, like wolves and dogs, lie down to rest, they form a tight circle to take advantage of their neighbor’s body heat. Some experts believe today’s canines spin out of solidarity. That maybe they’re also establishing their territory.

But why counter clockwise? I have my theory. I think maybe he’s left-pawed. Or maybe he’s trying to turn back time. Not a lot of time, of course, just to an earlier time that particular day to revisit a particularly good belly rub, or a really fun romp in the back yard. Perhaps he’s trying to turn back time, like Cher. If she could turn back time, then maybe somebody would stay. Maybe he was wanting somebody who went away to stay.

Maybe he’s just trying to find the perfect spot. To get all his fur in place before he lays down. Maybe he just enjoys the spin. We could all learn something from that.

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live out loud

Splendid in the bag

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 23, 2014 8:36 PM

I buy bed-in-a-bag. There, I said it. I go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and work my way around the store until I get past the really expensive bedding in order to get to the cubby section were they keep all the beds in bags. It’s a wondrous invention, bed-in-a-bag. It allows people like me, who don’t like to make a long commitment to bedding to change fairly regularly without spending a fortune. It is also advantageous when one has a pet which we do.

When Maguire was little, the only piece of furniture he was allowed on was the bed. A big furry dog who spends time on a bed leaves half of him on said bed every time he's on it. Along with fur, he also leaves oils and dander. I replaced the comforter about every 8 months or so. It gave me a good excuse to get something new, and change the look of the room.

Cooper, too, is allowed on the bed though now that it's summer he doesn't tend to get on it as often. I think it's too hot. Too hot for a boy in fur, as Kevin would say. I go through lint rollers like I have stock in the company, but no matter how hard one tries it is virtually impossible to remove every piece of fur from a comforter. Anyone who has or has ever had pets knows this drill well.

I've been threatening to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for several weeks now. I've been hoarding coupons, the 20% coupons that show up alone in the mail, along with the $5 coupons that show up in mailers. I had two of each. Armed with all four, and a debit card, off I went.

First, let me say how much I love Bed, Bath and Beyond. Next to Target, it may be my favorite store. Scratch that. It is my favorite store. I can disappear inside for hours at a time. Usually Kevin goes with me in order to prevent such a calamity. He was unable to attend this particular trip. I am also apt to spend many dollars after being inside for many hours. This trip was no different.

I started, like everyone, on the left side of the store. When you walk into a Bed, Bath and Beyond, it is always on the left side of the store. The cash registers are to the right. Ahead is the kitchen area. If you’ve been to a BB&B – and who hasn’t – you know the layout. This is so they can get you to buy things you weren’t planning on but now that you’ve seen, you can’t possibly live without. Things like new salt and pepper mills (I was only looking for a salt shaker), and pepper corns and mineralized salt to go into the mills. I don’t even use salt, but I bought both anyway.

I had gone for new pots and pans. In addition to bed-in-a-bag, I also am partial to new cookware. I usually buy complete sets because I like having everything on my stove match. In the past, I have bought black with black non-stick interiors. This time I decided to get out of my comfort zone and went with copper with a pearlized non-stick surface. 10 pieces, $99 minus 20%. Bargain.

I also bought a griddle to go along with the set.

I made my way to the bedding department and found three bags of beds that I liked. I put them all on the floor in front of me and gradually eliminated two. Then I second guessed myself and re-thought it all and still ended up with the one I had originally chosen. Armed with my chosen bed, also $99 minus 20%, plus two king size pillows, I moved toward checkout. Along the way I grabbed two things that I’ll tuck away for Kevin for Christmas, items that will remain nameless for the time being since the aforementioned Kevin reads this blog.

I spent way too much money but once I got home and put my new pots on the stove and my new salt and pepper mills on the counter, along with my new paper towel holder, I set about making up the bed.

Bed-in-a-bag comes with a comforter, shams, bed skirt and a set of sheets. I washed and dried the sheets, and remade the bed. Suddenly the room was brighter. The bed looked brand new.

The only problem was Cooper, on the floor, watching intently, eyeing the new bed with lust in his little brown eyes. Maybe it’s not too hot after all.

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live out loud

A stroll through the life of a dog with a good owner, in a nice house, with lots of food and toys

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 PM

It occurs to me on a daily basis that my dog has a damn nice life. It also occurs to me that he didn’t necessarily have such a life earlier in his life and for that, I am forever saddened just as I’m saddened every time I hear about a mistreated animal. It’s something I don’t understand any more than I understand how anyone could abuse a baby or a small child. I know people do it; I just don’t understand it. It’s inconceivable to me.

Maguire had a damn nice life as well. His was nice from the beginning, or at least fairly close to the beginning. We got him when he was 10 weeks old. He had been found, according to legend, in the bushes of Oak Park. Kevin and I have never believed that because we also can’t understand how anyone could have found that puppy and taken him to the animal shelter rather than keep him. We do understand how lucky we are that someone did.

He had the kind of life that all dogs should have. He had tons of toys, good food, pizza bones (what we call pizza crusts), chicken, cheese, dog cookies. He was allowed on the king size bed, something he took constant advantage of when he was younger and more mobile. There was many a day where we found him either curled up against the pillows or stretched out on his back, usually on Kevin’s side because Kevin’s side got afternoon sun. He went on walks, he had run of the house. He was loved.

Cooper’s life with us is much the same. He came to us when he was six, and had more issues than Maguire because he didn’t come from a nice house with a good owner previously. A good owner would never have given him away because they were having a baby. As if the two aren’t compatible.

This is Cooper’s day: He gets up, shakes, pads out to the great room, usually following along behind his dad. He goes out for a quick pee and then trots back into the house, happy as he can be with himself, tail swishing. He comes back to the bedroom to see me because he knows I’m waiting. He hurls himself against the side of the bed and rubs his face as he moves toward me, then he puts his little face on the bed, sighs heavily and looks at me with big brown eyes under white eyelashes. Hi, mom. It’s me, Cooper.

We get up, we walk, we get back and he has breakfast complete with a cookie on top. Then we go to work. He sleeps, he stretches. When we go for coffee he brings a toy along and proceeds to fling it around the house, growling and chasing and pouncing to recapture it. Yo, wubba. It’s me, Cooper.

We have lunch, and the afternoon unwinds much like the morning. He snoozes under the ceiling fan. When it gets too hot, the AC clicks on and he is immediately cooled. He stretches and sighs. Hey, purp.

When the sun goes down and it cools off enough, we go for another walk. There is more dinner and then, when Kevin and I eat, he gets a little of that too, especially if it’s chicken, or salmon, or pizza, or potatoes. Throughout the day he is petted constantly, told what a beautiful boy he is, what a good boy he is, how much he is loved.

I used to joke with Maguire that in my next life, I was going to come back as a dog with a good owner in a nice house. I do the same now with Cooper. It’s how it should be. It’s what he deserves. Because he, and all dogs and cats, should be living it out loud in a nice house with a good owner and all kinds of love.

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live out loud

Gimme shelter dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I hear the sound of my husband’s motorcycle approaching

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 11, 2013 10:53 PM

Kevin and I are motorcycle people. We love them. He had bikes in the past, before I came into the picture. I always wanted one. I had friends in college who had bikes, sport bikes – or crotch rockets as they’re affectionately known – and street bikes. Cruisers weren’t really all that popular until the last 15 years or so. Two of my guy friends in college, Kevin (no relation) and Mac, had the same street bike. It was a Kawasaki 450, if memory serves. One of them was black, the other blue.

I tried to have a motorcycle when I was married the first time, but husband number one was more interested in fast cars and particularly in Porsches. I was OK with that as I’m also a car person. I love old cars, new cars, sports cars and classic cars. I love our current 1987 Porsche turbo. It’s my second Porsche. My first was during HNO (husband number one) and I had to sell it when we got divorced because I couldn’t afford the maintenance. I wish that I had the foresight to keep it. I babied that car; it would still be a great car. The turbo was not babied until we got it. We think of it like a rescue.

A number of years ago, when Maguire was still young and Blockbuster Video was still in business, he and I went for a Sunday morning Rover ride to return whatever we had rented. On the way home, stopped at a light on Agoura Road, two cruisers pulled up alongside of us, each being driven by a guy; each with a chick on the back. They looked comfortable and cool. They looked relaxed. They looked like they were having fun. When I got home I told Kevin that I thought we should get a motorcycle. We had one the following weekend, a beautiful silver Suzuki 850 Intruder. But it was too small, so within the year we upgraded to a Suzuki 1500 Intruder, but we never really fell in love with it. It was awkward, oafish. One summer, in 2007, while Kevin and Justin were in Illinois visiting Kevin’s family, I was standing in the kitchen perusing Motorcyclist magazine and there was an ad for a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500. A gorgeous bike with sleek lines, and built for two. It came with foot panels for the passenger and hard saddlebags, and a backrest. When Kevin got home, I broached the subject of maybe looking at one. We found a used one shortly thereafter and bought it. Metallic black, with lots of chrome and white-wall tires.  We’ve had it ever since.

Today, he had to run some errands and as he often does when it’s a beautiful day, he took the bike, roaring out of the driveway and down the street, the powerful growl of the engine disappearing into the desert as he rounded the corner and headed east.

I worry when he’s out by himself. He’s a great driver and beyond careful, but people don’t always see motorcycles and that leads to stupid accidents. When he goes off without me, he promises to text me whenever he arrives at his destination. I usually get nothing more than a simple “here.” He texts me again as he moves from place to place, keeping me updated so I know he didn’t go splat.

Kevin, returning home this afternoon

Sitting in my office this afternoon, the windows once again open, the cool of the day once again drifting in and around the room, I listened for the sound. Low and powerful, a lion’s purr, it’s very distinct. Whenever I hear it, I can’t help but smile. He has returned safely on this fine piece of machinery, one of the finest we’ve owned. Sleek as a cat and ready to cruise, it’s joy on two white-walled wheels.

I hear it now. I hear him approaching. I smile. Soon, I’ll be smiling broadly, enjoying the view as he pulls into the driveway, safe at home. Definitely worth celebrating. 

It was either a woman's voice or a coyote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here Comes Honey Boo Bear

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

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

Got that?

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

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

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

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

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

Here Comes Honey Boo Bear.

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

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The great chicken wipeout of summer 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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live out loud

Paw prints in the mud

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

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

It makes the ground muddy.

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

Cooper was here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least until the next time the sprinklers run.

Hauntings in the morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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