Peaceful, easy feeling

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 7, 2012 11:29 PM

It occurs to me that I don’t know how to celebrate something today. I’ve lost my best (and only) guest blogger; and I’m lost without him. I know the fact that we are healthy is something good; I know that the day was crisp and cool and sunny, that there were no catastrophes in the country that I know of are also causes to celebrate. But we’re still sad; our hearts are breaking.

I started this post a thousand times and erased it as many. Didn’t know what to write; didn’t know how to smile; wasn’t sure I could celebrate. Then I thought of my vintage puppy, that wondrous dog who filled our lives with love and dog drool for over 15 years, and I thought: celebrate that.

Celebrate his memory and how he was loved by so many. Celebrate his legacy as the best dog on the planet. There will never be another Maguire Michel, and there shouldn’t be. He was one of a kind, a true marvel in fur, and we loved him more than life. We still do. Celebrate that.

Tonight as I came downstairs, a bit dazed as I tried desperately to smile, I noticed something in the front yard. The front porch light wasn’t on but the lanterns alongside the garage were blazing brightly. It was probably close to 7 o’clock, maybe even a little after. At first I thought it was a large leaf or a branch ripped from the tree during today’s winds. But there are no leaves at this time of year, even with the warm winter we’ve endured, and the winds weren’t that strong. I walked into the kitchen and in the darkness, walked to the front bay window. I could see it was an animal. My first thought, naturally, was “oh my god, it’s a puppy.” Maguire had been found in Oak Park more than 15 years ago and someone had taken him to the Agoura Animal Shelter. But it wasn’t a puppy; it was a rabbit. He was sitting straight up in the air, his front paws tucked against his chest as he stared forward. A statue, a real-live chocolate bunny, poised and waiting, for what I had no idea. Maybe for the dog who used to live here.

After a minute, the rabbit crouched down. I looked away when I thought I heard something, and when I looked back, the rabbit was gone.

The kitchen was dark, only the light above the stove glowed, enough to cast some shadow but not enough to illuminate the room. Again I thought I heard something and thinking it was Maguire, walked toward the sound to make sure he was OK. I was nearly there before I remembered.

I kept walking anyway, straight through the house and out the back door. The full moon glowed through the trees to the left, still low in the sky, casting brilliance and wonder from the heavens down to us mere mortals below. To the right, high above, two glowing stars so close and yet so very far apart.

My brother texted me today. He said he’d gone to visit my dad in the cemetery to tell him to look out for Maguire, to take care of my dog. I couldn’t help but wonder as I looked up in the sky if maybe my dad was welcoming Maguire, and that the two of them, my stars, would be just fine, living somewhere in the universe where the fairways are long and straight, where they can walk together in perfect temperatures, where dad can have a cold beer and Maguire can have a pizza bone. So I celebrate that.

It gave me a peaceful easy feeling, one that I know won’t let me down. Because I’m already standing on the ground. 

 

Celebrating Maguire

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:57 PM

“Let's get a dog.” With those words, my husband sealed our fate. 

I had two caveats. OK, three caveats. I wanted to get an older female from the shelter; I wanted a longer haired dog with floppy ears; and I couldn't go with Kevin to find the one who met all of the criteria. I would approve or disapprove of whomever he found, but I knew if I walked through the shelter too many times, I would want to take them all home. If Kevin could do the hard work of narrowing down my choices, then I'd be OK, or so I theorized. He agreed and dutifully went every Saturday morning for some number of weeks while I stayed home in bed. 

Then came Saturday, February 15. He and Justin burst into the house with news. They had found the perfect dog! Then Kevin broke the news to me: it was male. But the dog they had found, that he knew was “our dog,” also wasn't older.

“How not older?” I asked.

“He's a puppy.”

Off we went to the Agoura Animal Shelter. Justin scampered ahead, then kneeled down in front of a cage as he waited for us, pointing excitedly. There, in the corner, on his back, feet in the air, snoring to beat the band, was a little black ball of fur, 8 weeks old and the cutest thing I had ever seen. We couldn't take him home that day because he'd just been brought in on Friday and there was a 72-hour hold in case someone claimed him. We wouldn't be able to get him until Monday morning. We bided our time; we went to Pet Smart and bought every puppy related thing we could find. A tiny collar, a bake-it-to-make it temporary nametag, food, toys, a leash, and a kennel since we had decided to kennel train him. We didn't have a name though. 

On Monday morning, we were at the shelter before they opened. When someone finally arrived around 7, Kevin jumped out of the car. The lady politely told him that there were no adoptions before 7:30. “That's fine,” he said. “I just want you to know that I'm here for #19, in case anyone else comes. I want you to know that we were here first.”

The pup was ours within the hour. He was stinky and loving and adorable, burying his head under my chin as I carried him to the car. We named him Maguire because on the drive home, as I was holding him, he pushed his nose into the center console of Kevin's BMW, nosing around for something, and came out with a dollar bill in his mouth. Show me the money.

That was February 17, 1997. He grew up with us, starting his life first in our townhouse in Calabasas and then moving a short time later to the OP where he had a yard. I remember when we first moved in, and I think the sprinklers had run. It was a Sunday morning and we let him outside in the backyard, which is fenced so he could roam about as he pleased and we didn't have to worry about him getting lost. A short time later, I went to the back door to call him. Eventually he came running, so damned pleased with himself. He couldn't wait to show me what he'd been doing. 

Which was digging a hole in the mud. He was covered from the bottoms of his front pads to the tops of his front legs and even into his chest. Kevin and I just stood there and laughed as he wagged his tail wanting to come in, maybe get a cookie or two. Instead, Kevin filled a bucket of warm water and squeezed his way out the door, being careful to not let Maguire in. Then he proceeded to put the dog's front paws into the bucket. That pleased look changed to complete rejection in a flash. 

Over the years, we went through countless toys. He loved the flexible plastic toys at first. He would get hold of one and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until he punctured it. Then he would start tearing it apart, one little piece at a time, spitting each piece into a neat pile off to the side. When he'd find the squeaker, he'd pull that out too, and then he was done. New toy please. As he got older, he preferred plush toys, though they proved to be no less indestructible. He would chew at the faux fur, nibbling and pulling until he could work a thread free. It looked like he was flossing. He'd pull the thread until he could unravel part of the body, exposing a hole. Then he'd proceed to pull out all of the stuffing, one biteful at a time and deposit that off to the side. As with the plastic toys, once he got to the squeaker and removed it, discarding it onto the floor, he was done. He had killed his prey. 

Maguire was never much of a dog person but he was a people person. He didn't care if you were a small child or an older adult, he was always happy to see you, even more so if you had a treat for him. He loved that all the kids came to visit on Halloween and he greeted every one personally. He loved delivery people like the UPS guy whom we affectionately named “hey buddy” because that's always how he greeted Maguire, along with a great roughing of the ears. 

He had his routines and to break with routine would elicit much guilting on his part. We pee'd in the front yard first thing in the morning and last thing at night. In between, backyard pee breaks were OK. There was a big cookie in the morning after the front yard pee, and treats throughout the day just because he was so wonderful. Every night around 7:30, there was a walk. He was never big on eating his own food and preferred chicken, pasta, ham, cheese, pizza bones (crusts), and a baguette, sometimes cheese with the baguette. 

He never got on the furniture, but he did like our bed. Often, when he was younger, we'd find him on Kevin's side, on his back, feet in the air basking in the afternoon sun streaming through the blinds. As he got older he just snoozed at the foot of the bed or the foot of the stairs. He liked to be up against things. I think it gave him comfort. 

Maguire and mom. He's definitely not on the couch.

We lost our beloved boy today. He never recovered from the terrible seizures he had on Friday night, and this morning we made the agonizing decision to let him go. He wasn't in any pain, but he wasn't Maguire any longer. He was tired; there was no spirit left in his beautiful brown eyes. Once he was gone, he looked peaceful, at rest.

This afternoon, as I was standing at the back door, looking for my dog and feeling the crushing weight of the empty house and my emptier soul, I watched a blue bird peck the ground where Maguire would often lay. I wondered if the bird somehow knew that the big dog, that tremendous blustering ball of life, was no longer here, so it was safe. As I watched, it flew away. It wasn't the same without Maguire.

He was with us for 15 plus years and we are forever grateful for every second, and for the love and joy he brought to our family, to our lives. As I always joked, he was the best thing to ever happen to four feet. I'll believe that forever. 

We love you, honey bear. Sleep now. Sleep now.

Our boy, just two weeks ago; with Honk

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Dog tweets for Maguire

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 4, 2012 10:33 PM

Kevin and I were walking today, trying to keep busy. We haven’t been doing a very good job of that the last few days. Maguire is still in the hospital, still pretty out of it. We remain devastated but hopeful. But it was an absolutely glorious day here. The sun was bright and warm, just a hint of a breeze making the grass sway. Kids began zooming by on bicycles fairly early as we stood in the kitchen sipping coffee, missing our vintage pup. Several people walked by with dogs and we both looked at each other and said: “We have to get out of the house.”

Off we went. It was probably 9:30, and already edging toward 80º. We walked a little slower than normal. Our energy level has virtually disappeared and neither of us expects it to return to normal any time soon. Even when we get Maguire home, we’re not going to be able to go off and leave him. Not for a while anyway, not until he’s used to his new reality. Not until we’re comfortable that he’ll be OK while we’re out.

We went up through the neighborhood. I found myself envious of all the people out with their dogs. I haven’t felt that way before. Maguire can’t walk as far as he once could; he no longer runs across a field to play with other dogs. But knowing he was home, standing in the window, watching for us to return was always just fine. He had earned the right to be the elder statesman, to stay home because he could; because he should.

We continued up and finally rounded the top of the hill on Bowfield. As we did, a big Golden Retriever who was lying on the grass while his person worked on the car, raised his head, watching us, not knowing if he should be concerned. Eventually he jumped up and ran forward a bit though he didn’t bark. He just wanted us to know that he knew we were there. He perched his front paws up on a rock, raising himself up so he could see us better, ears alert. We couldn’t help but smile. Once we walked past, I looked back. He stood for another minute, then got down and bounded back to his house.

“Can’t you just see Maguire doing that when he was younger?” I said to Kevin. Nostalgia.

Behind a fence in the house above us, we heard a dog bark. Soon another one answered. Far off, we thought we heard yet another answer. Kevin started to chuckle a bit, a half-hearted laugh. We were both just too tired to manage anything more than that.

“Hear that?” he said. “That’s social media. Those dogs are tweeting. They heard what happened to Maguire and they’re spreading the word.”

[youtube:iIeL2qmq93w]

In 1961, Disney released one of its classics: 101 Dalmatians. The story was about the evil Cruella DeVille stealing Dalmatian puppies in order to make herself a spotted coat. She made the mistake, though, of stealing the 15 London pups of Pongo and Purdita. Pongo sent out the word one night on a walk, and the chain of bark communication – the twilight bark – located the puppies. Chaos and hilarity ensued.

Kevin’s pronouncement that it was social media, perhaps the original, couldn’t have been more appropriate. And thinking that these neighborhood dogs were spreading the word to other dogs in neighboring ‘hoods that one of their own was hurt, sick and needed some canine good wishes, well it made us feel a little bit better. At that point, under the warm sun of this Sunday, we needed the possibility.

Tonight, we visited our puppy again. He was actually a little bit better. He raised his head, held himself up a bit, even showed some interest in eating some of the boiled chicken we brought. He didn’t, but the fact that he thought about it was progress. He’s still having a lot of trouble, still hooked up to all manner of machines and IVs, but tonight when we visited, we saw a hint of Maguire.

We’re hoping he’ll come home tomorrow. There’s that word again: hope. It’s one of our favorites these last few days.

That and the canine chain of bark communication we experienced today. Keep it up, guys. We think Maguire heard it loud and clear. He knows everyone’s cheering his recovery.

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Maguire gets a new rug: A vintage puppy tale

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:00 PM

Once upon a time a vintage puppy by the name of Maguire Michel was slip sliding around the living room floor. He would lie down for one of his countless daily naps, sprawled across the hard wood, his feet continually marching, horizontally running in place, nails scraping. It would come time for him to get up, and his heart would be in it, but the feet – and more importantly, the rear legs – just weren’t cooperating. He’d scramble, he’d strain, he’d do his best to use his spreading front legs to haul his big puppy butt up off the floor so that he could go get a drink of water, a snack, a toy, maybe go outside for a bit. To no avail.

That’s when mom or dad would sweep in to lend a helping lift, capes flying.

A week ago, the parents of said vintage puppy went away for the weekend leaving the big dog, the esteemed Maguire of the Michel variety, in the very capable hands of his dog sitter. Kevin calls her the dog whisperer. It used to be a joke, but I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t more truth to that than I originally thought.

A whisperer is an understanderer, and ours certainly seemed to understand our puppy. I left explicit instructions on what to feed him when; when to walk him and if; what to do if he has a seizure. Etc. I received text updates while away that all was well. Then we got home, and there was a two-page note that started with “Maguire wants you to know what he needs.”

Because it’s so obvious that he’s lacking for, well, everything. It’s amazing we managed to keep him alive for fifteen years, with all we had been doing wrong. One of the things on the list was that he only likes moist food, not dry. Which may be the case but moist-only food isn’t good for his teeth. Plus sometimes he likes to nosh on dry grain-free kibble. Next. He evidently really likes to walk – who knew? – and that it was important for us to take him every night, which we do. I think she misunderstood when I told her SHE didn’t need to take him.

And then she got to the rugs. As in “you need more throw rugs on the floor so he can get up on his own. It’s good for his dignity.”

Now we already have four rugs in the entrance/living/dining room area. He lays on the fairly big one in the entrance way, just outside the kitchen. He regularly camps out on the smaller one at the bottom of the stairs. The one in front of the back door is a mere stepping stone to outside, and the big oriental in the living room is mostly covered by a table so he only sometimes lays on the outer perimeter.

Kevin trotted up to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought a new runner rug for the vintage puppy. We had actually done this prior to our trip because we had already figured the rug thing out on our own. It’s just easier for him to get up when there’s something with traction underneath.

It’s a nice rug. It goes with the décor, takes up space between the other rugs so there isn’t as much slippery hard wood to contend with. And he loves it. He lays next to it almost every day.

And that’s my vintage puppy tale for February 28, 2012.

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Going to the dogs

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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I'm so pupular

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

Guest post by Maguire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye!

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Get off of my lawn

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:07 PM

The last time we peeked in on our backyard-patrolling squirrel, he was in full body armor engaged in a war with another of his furry compatriots as they ran up and down and around and through the trees hurling squirrelly insults and acorns at each other. We never did find out the winner of that war, and truth be told: no one won. No one ever really wins a war. Not sure if the squirrels have been informed.

Today, our little military rodent in fur returned, sporting a splendid poof of a tail and quite the belly. He looked like he’d been on vacation, taking it easy, hanging out. He appeared to be well rested and fat as a gopher as he crouched outside of Kevin’s studio, eating the tiny black berries that have fallen from the tree above. He buried his nose in the grass, found what he was looking for, reared back on his haunches and pulled something edible, for a squirrel, from the ground, held it in his tiny little squirrel paws and nibbled, then bounced forward a bit, buried his nose again, nibbled, dropped. Bury, nibble, drop. Bury, nibble, drop. It was fascinating to watch.

In the trees, the birds clung to branches, squawking. Irritated. He was on their turf. It was their berries he was eating. Every afternoon, dozens of tiny little birds with black heads and gray wings descend to the lawn to pick, pick, pick at the ground. While the squirrel has been away, the little birdies have been able to play.

Now Sergeant Squirrel has returned. He’s very militant. He’s in charge. It is his backyard and his alone. No one else may enter without permission. No one else may feast on the great expanse of delectable dining delights that the trees have provided. No one should even dare.

Meanwhile, inside, the master of his own universe, one Mister Maguire Michel, the great protector of all things, lay asleep on the floor, sprawled out, feet clicking as they ran to no place and every place. He seemed largely unaware that there was a coup taking place just inches away, a coup that would remove him from power. He would no longer be the big dog. Well, he’d be the big dog, but he wouldn’t be the big dog in charge. The squirrel would become the King, the birds would be his subjects and all the other rodents in the ‘hood would bow to Squire Squirrel.

And then, it happened. The big dog stirred. The birds, on their perches, perked up. They stopped chirping and chattering. The squirrel froze. High in the sky, our resident hawk stopped mid-circle then turned his red-tail in the direction of the park.

On the housetops, pigeons stopped cooing, doves stopped doving. Kevin, in his studio, watching through the door, looked toward the house.

I, in the bedroom watching through the blinds, began to laugh.

Grrrrrrrr. Rffff.

The veracity built.

RFFFFF.
WOOOOOOFFFFFF!

And with that, order was restored. The squirrel turned furry-tail, leaped the wall and sped to safety. The birds began to cluck and cheer. Maguire had spoken.

I’ll translate: “Get off my lawn!”

[youtube:NelBNtNm8l0]

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Honk if you love Maguire

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 16, 2012 11:25 PM

I love my dog. Those who are regular readers know this, just as you’ve come to know Maguire even if you’ve never met him. He is, as I am wont to say, the best thing to ever happen to four feet, at least in our eyes. He has personality to spare; he’s damned adorable. He is Maguire Michel, hear him roar. Or at least hear him bark, every night, four or five times, from the darkness of the master bedroom while we sit in the living room. He is the great protector. I haven’t written about the Magu-cat in a bit because my husband told me I was writing about him too much. It made me self-conscious. This was right around the holidays. Maguire had a guest post on Christmas day, which I thought was a good thing because it was also his 15th birthday. He deserved a little attention (because he hardly ever gets any). Then a day or two later I did another Maguire post. Hence the “you’re writing too much about the dog” comment.

On one hand, I don’t actually think that’s possible. Maguire makes for easy subject matter. I celebrate his existence every single day. The day Kevin found him and brought him home was one of the best days ever, and he has never failed to enrich our lives. He makes us smile, bringing us the truest, purest joy constantly. But on the other hand, Kevin was right. I write about Maguire sometimes because it’s just too easy. The posts almost write themselves. When something is right, it’s write, or when it’s write, it’s right. Or whatever.

So Maguire is one of my favorite subjects, because he’s easy to write about and because when I’m slammed all day and don’t have time to prepare anything else, he is my go-to subject. I think it’s the live it out loud factor. All he has to do is look at me and smile – and yes, he does smile, usually because he’s panting and when a dog pants, his mouth is open and the back drifts up. Looks like a smile. With a tongue hanging out.

One of the things that always brings a smile, one of the greatest joys in his vintage puppy life, is getting a new toy. One of my greatest joys is giving him a new toy. There is a ritual. I come home from the store and throw my canvas bags on the kitchen counter. Maguire saunters in to see if I got anything good for dinner. He’ll stand there and stare at me for awhile, shift his puppy feet a bit, sway. Lately, because his back legs aren’t as strong as they used to be, he sinks a bit. The longer he stands in one place, the worse it is. It’s painful to watch, so to keep him moving, and thus more vertical, I offer a new toy. I pull one out of my bag, and hold it behind my back and I turn to him. He stands, ears forward as far as they can go, as if he can hear it, as if he can force it into sight through shear force of will. When he was younger, he would sit with this expression. Now he stands. But the expression remains. Rapt attention, already in love. And he hasn’t even seen it yet.

Tonight, I produced this.

Honk, and his new friend

Meet Honk, a head without a body but with a nice big red nose and a sort of hat. When he’s squeezed between the powerful jaws of a vintage puppy, he emits a duck-ish honk followed immediately by an inhaled squeaky squeal. It sounds better than it sounds. Or not. Either way, he is Maguire’s newest BFF. This is a good thing because everyone needs a BFF.

Here’s to my best friends forever. Honk, honk!

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In which I am envious of a certain son's ability to be a couch potato

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:41 PM

Let me paint a scene for you, dear readers. It is Wednesday afternoon, about 5 pm. The sun, such as it was today, has finally gone down and darkness is blanketing the OP. I went downstairs a little while ago to switch on the lights so that Maguire wouldn’t be in the dark, not that he cares since he’s been looking at the back of gray-lashed eyelids for the better part of three hours now. Occasionally I’ll hear the nails of his back feet as they slide up and down on the floor while he runs in his dreams. Every once in a while, I look down from my loft just to make sure he’s OK.

In the room next to my office, the muffled voices of Michael, Fiona and Sam drift from a Netflix stream. Justin has been watching Burn Notice. All. Day. Long. He was at the kitchen table for a while, but after lunch he brought his cinema to the bed in what’s still sort of his room but now also doubles as our guest room. He’s intermittently sprawled on his stomach and watching, or sitting back against the pillows and watching, or lying on his back with his computer on his stomach and watching. Sensing a pattern? He is dressed in black sweatpants and a black sweatshirt, his once white socks now a lovely shade of gray. He hasn’t showered; I’m not sure he’s brushed his teeth. I hope he has. I don’t think a mother should have to ask her 21-year-old son if he’s brushed. So I don’t. He’s enjoying his couple of days of time off before he climbs back on a plane to fly to New York to begin the next and newest phase of his college career. He’s being lazy and I absolutely do not begrudge him anything. In fact, just the opposite: I’m actually envious. I would like to be lazy; I simply don’t have the time.

I also don’t think I have the personality. I’m not good at lazy, or at least actual lazy. I can sometimes manage forced lazy. By that I mean taking an afternoon, like a Saturday, and not really doing much of anything. Maybe, like Justin, watching TV. I fantasize sometimes about curling up on the couch on a rainy Saturday with a fire roaring in the fireplace and the remote control, and finding all kinds of wonderful movies to watch, one right after the other. Oh, and all the syrah I can drink without getting stupid. I realize that most people’s fantasies are more exotic, perhaps erotic. But I like my fantasy; I think I’ll keep it.

My lack of laziness I think has more to do with my inability to turn off my brain. Even when I’m forcing myself to sit and maybe – gasp – read, there are nagging little rubber bands snapping at the inside of my head, reminders of all the things I should be doing and have to finish. True relaxation, then, is not a close friend but rather just an acquaintance I’d really like to get to know better.

Kevin and I were discussing this today during our lunchtime walk. See? We can’t even relax during lunch. As we powered through our couple of miles, we were talking about Justin’s incredible ability to simply log-off. He can go into what we call check-out mode where he unplugs his brain from his life. This is not a criticism, though it might become one once he’s out in the real world. Rather, it’s more of an amazement. He’s long had this ability whereas I’m not sure Kevin or I ever had it. I worked from the time I was 14; before that I babysat. I always had a job, even in college, when I actually had three in three different restaurants. I didn’t do downtime well, and if I had some free time, I’d often call one of the restaurants to see if they had any catering gigs they needed help with. I wanted to make money. I had to be doing something. Kevin was much the same, working at Dairy Queen in Kankakee when he was a kid and on and off through college. When he had a free weekend, he was home, working to make money.

Funny how the two youngsters in our lives, the vintage puppy and the newly legal kidlet (he just turned 21) have an innate, almost genetic ability to tune out, turn off and simply hang. Not a care in the world. Only dreams of running through lush fields, only a day spent with Michael and Fiona; only the wondrous possibility of absolutely nothing at all to do. I would celebrate that.

I think people who are able to truly relax, which is ultimately what Justin is doing, are the lucky ones. They really know how to celebrate life for all its worth, especially the downtime. They know how to embrace the quiet. They understand why it’s so important to unplug. In that way, my kid is much, much smarter than I.  I’m envious. I need to do that.

Maybe I’ll start … someday really soon. Really. Honest. 

Dancing rings around the moon

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 10, 2012 11:55 PM

As so often happens at night, right around 6:30 or so, I take Maguire out into the front yard. He’s usually been lying about the house for some number of hours, sleeping, and needs to relieve himself. For this, he prefers the complete exhibitionism of the front yard rather than the obscure anonymity of the backyard. We oblige because he’s 15 and in certain circumstances, it is simply not necessary to teach an old dog new tricks.

Last night we journeyed out the front door with him leading the way, and I stood on the walkway, arms folded across my chest as if to somehow block the cold, as he careened through the yard taking frequent sniff/pee break. He’s not so steady on his feet anymore. On the slight slope of the yard, he has to be careful to go down or up head first, not sideways. Sideways can get him into trouble. He’s even been known to take a tumble. I talk to him the whole time even though he can’t hear me. I think I do it more for the neighbors so they know I’m actually watching him and watching for any messes that might need to be cleaned up. I do it so they can hear me acknowledge my dog’s presence in their yard as I try, usually in vane, to get him to come back to his own yard.

As he was sauntering about, I noticed the full moon, visible through the sycamore tree, positioned perfectly between two of the branches. It was big and round, full, vibrant, glowing in the low sky. It was eerie in a beautiful way. It lit up both the sky and the night, giving my vintage puppy a nightlight. He generally ignored it. Eventually I got him to come back in the house after many sharp claps of my hand followed by frantic hand motions. I went out again later, also with vintage pup in tow, before we had to head out to the airport to retrieve the returning kidlet. By then the moon was high in the sky. Because it was full, it cast a wide, ghostly light below; nearly enough to read by if you needed to. I wasn’t reading but it did catch my attention as full moons often do. I glanced up, and was immediately drawn in to the glowing ring around its glowing self. It was gorgeous, like a reverse rainbow, a white light painted by the moon rather than a pyramid of colors caused by the sun.

The ring around the moon is actually a refraction of its light through ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. These crystals have a hexagonal shape so they refract light at the same angle causing the ring. It’s hard to tell whether it’s small or large since even the small ring, or halo as it’s commonly called, is huge. Supposedly if you stretch out your arm and put your thumb on the horizon, and then see where your little finger reaches to, you get a stretch of about 20 degrees. This actually means the halo is about 22 degrees, for reasons that escape me but that’s the deal according to NASA. Bigger halos are possible, but much more rare. Regardless there was a ring and it was gorgeous.

This thin veil of light, formed by crystals actually exists between the earth and the moon and can mean that rain is coming. “Ring around the moon means rain soon.” Even though it looks like it’s circling the moon, it’s not. But it’s still cool. As the puppy danced along the sidewalk I continued to watch the moon and marvel at the glow. Maguire didn’t seem to be bothered; he didn’t even look up. But he was illuminated, he was shining, he was dancing rings around something as rings were dancing something around him. Living it out loud and waiting. Waiting.

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