There was a dead snake along the road this morning

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 1, 2016 9:09 PM

It was just after 8 am. The sun had long since risen above the house and was busy warming the day. Riley and I got a late start on our walk but since it was only hinting at 70º I knew we’d be fine. We trudged along, me saying “slow” about every ten feet. I’m trying to train him to not be such a puller and I’ve never liked the word “heel.” Dogs know the words they taught, and I’m teaching “slow.” His leash was wrapped around my left hand; I was keeping him close to me.

There were workers at the Strobel’s house. Kevin had mentioned that he heard what he thought were trucks and trailers down below, where the house is being built. He asked me to take a look as I went by, just to see who it was and whether we should call the sheriff. It was the contractor – I recognized his truck – and several others. All were busy working. The contractor saw me and waved. I waved back. 

We trudged along, Riley and I. No one else was out. No cars passed us. I always keep my eyes open for creatures, namely javelinas or coyotes. I look to the right and the left and dead ahead for the entirety of the walk. Javelinas can be nasty and dangerous. Coyotes not so much because Riley is a big dog. But I fear Riley would freak and cause a scene. I watch for Gila monsters that can bite down on a dog and not let go; I watch for tortoises that will bite if provoked and attacked. I watch for snakes. 

As we rounded a gentle curve, and began to walk down a small decline, there was one on the side of the road. A rattlesnake. We haven’t seen many snakes up here. We know they’re around; how could they not be given the terrain and the climate? I saw one in what was call the Cooper Area, where we take the dog to pee during the day and before we go to bed at night. There was the one that somehow got into the house. Another that was on the road another morning. We kept Riley close and made a wide circle to get around it. When we returned it was gone. 

I pulled Riley’s leash closer. He didn’t see it, but I kept my eyes on it as we continued by. When we came back past, it was still there, still in the exact same position, part of its scaly body looped over the other. This time, Riley saw it and stopped. He stood staring, his body extended in the direction of the snake, his head forward and down. He didn’t try to pull. He just watched, waiting.


I picked up a rock and tossed it. The snake didn’t move. It was dead. Completely intact. No apparent trauma. Perhaps one of the falcons or ravens had grabbed it up and then dropped it from a great height. Maybe it just died of old age. It didn’t matter. What mattered was there was a dead snake along the road. 

We continued toward home, my dog and I. I watched and listened for other predators. I nodded toward the contractor again. I thought about the snake and its symbolism. Rattlesnakes are lethal creatures, striking to kill. But it was dead. Could it be that it somehow also symbolized the death of fear?

We all live in fear, sometimes it can be crippling. Most times it just gnaws at the back of your soul. Fear of failure, of loss. Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’ll never be what we dreamed of becoming as children. Fear of life. 

A rattlesnake is but one creature representing the personification of fear, but it’s a just representation. If it can die for no visible reason, could our own insecurities and fears die as easily? Can mine?

The death of fear. The death of anger. The death of lashing out, of striking out. All manifested in the death of one snake along the road this morning. Something to think about.

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.


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.

Mansionification that makes sense

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 20, 2015 6:34 PM

Our friends Diane and Gene lived in an area of the San Fernando Valley that had lovely older homes, Spanish haciendas and bungalows that had been built in the 1920s when the Valley was still mostly Orange Groves and Los Angeles’ population was less than 600,000. Several times a year, we would all congregate at their house, for birthday parties or just to sit on the back porch, listening to the gurgle of the pool and the tweet of the birds. Diane is an animal rescue activist and in addition to their now three dogs and two cats, there were always rescues. The last few years they tended to be mothers and puppies pulled from shelters before euthanasia.

For years, they had Christmas parties, an open house affair that was always on a Sunday afternoon. We’d go in the later part of the day, fighting our way across the Valley on the 101, exiting on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, just before the Hollywood split, and heading north. We’d travel past all of the strip malls, apartment houses, side by side with dozens of cars. We’d turn on Califa and about half a mile in or so, on the left, there was the house, always with a wreath, minimal decorations outside. Inside, though, there was a lovely tree in the Spanish-tiled entrance way. Two steps up and we were in the main part of the house where music would be playing, dogs would be mingling and people would be laughing and talking. In the kitchen, along with a table filled with delightful finger foods, Diane had a crock pot of mulled wine. I don’t like mulled wine and yet I couldn’t get enough of it at Christmas. The parties were almost always within about a week of the 25th. We remember those parties fondly. I’m sure Diane and Gene do as well. 

Several years ago, their lovely older neighborhood started to experience a disease that has plagued many parts of the Valley. People would come in and buy these lovely older homes, homes with character, red tile and a Spanish heritage. Within weeks, they would have the building completely razed and in its place would rise a big, horribly out of place box of a house. A house that was always too big for the tiny lots California is known for. A house that wanted to be a mansion. It is known as mansionification and it’s a terrible thing to witness.

In October, Diane and Gene, having sold their lovely Spanish home, moved. They hoped the new owner wouldn’t succumb to the malady of new rather than old, big just to be big. So far he hasn’t. The new owner is a musician like Gene. In fact, one of the things he liked best about the house was the separate music studio. When it was Gene’s it was filled with guitars and pianos and recording equipment. 

I speak with Diane regularly. They’re now living, temporarily, in the mountains and will eventually move to Oregon. She is as happy and content as I’ve ever heard her. She doesn’t miss the cacophony that is LA, or the mansionification of their neighborhood. They’re happy to leave it behind.

I bring all of this up because I came across something today that I think actually validates the idea of mansionification: luxury dog houses. Lavish houses built in the style of the Bauhaus, though known for dogs as the Bowhaus because of course it is. Manufactured in the Bauhaus approach to design, it identifies the dog’s needs, usually simple, and then creates a dwelling to accommodate them. There’s a Victorian dog house for three complete with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and a white picket fence. 

There’s a farmhouse and a log cabin, complete with a dog-sized hot tub, a ranch house and a Frank Lloyd Bite house that was actually designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 as Wright was designing the famed Guggenheim in New York.

My personal favorite is the mobile Air Stream, no doubt because of my ongoing fascination with Air Stream. There’s also a Spanish style hacienda, though it’s known as a Haciendawg complete with terra cotta flooring, a red-tiled roof and a $30,000 price tag.

It’s all part of a new movement called Barkitecture. It’s sweeping the nation, forever making us forget about the dog houses of old. Those are so passé. These new doggie mansions are what today’s pampered, spoiled, gentrified dog really needs. I suspect, though, that like people before them, they will tire of the big to be big idea and begin to long for a simpler life. One where they can simply curl up in their bed, in front of the fire or in the bedroom of their puppy parents, and wile away the day. Snoring it out loud.

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live out loud

oh the carnage

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:44 PM

We have had three dogs. Regular readers know all of them fairly well. Dogs make for easy blog posts because they are such characters. Each has an individual personality. Like people, no two are exactly alike. They all like to eat different things, they’re all afraid of different things. There are some similarities. They all like to go for walks, or at least all of ours have liked that. They like going in the car to varying degrees. They like toys. More to the point, they like to destroy toys.

When Maguire was a puppy, before we knew better, we often bought him rubber-plastic toys. He loved them. Within 30 minutes, he had loved them so much they were in little rubber-plastic pieces on the floor next to him, the squeaker carefully deposited on top of the pile. Then he’d sit there and smile at us, so proud of the carnage he’d inflicted. It was as if he was saying: “look what I did, mom. Isn’t it great? Thanks so much for that guy. Please, can I have another?”

Paging Oliver Twist.

As he got older, we gave him plush toys. These didn’t fare much better. He would grasp these guys between his two massive paws and pick at them with his teeth, trying to dislodge a thread. As soon as he had a thread he would pull on it and pull on it until it unraveled a seam. Stuffing! He would systematically pull the stuffing out one mouthful at a time, depositing it in piles on either side of him. The once plush toy was reduced to a mere shell of its former self. We used to re-stuff the toys and put them in the hospital. The hospital was the top of the refrigerator where re-stuffed toys waited to be sewn up. After two or three trips to the hospital, the toy would be properly buried in the trash can. 

Cooper did much the same, though since he was older when we got him he had a bit more self-control. He would still work his guys, chewing on them, pulling to find that elusive thread. And once found, the same process would begin. A hole would open, and stuffing would be pulled out and deposited. It often looked as if a small snowstorm had happened just around him. By then, we’d closed the hospital. If he destroyed a toy, it got thrown out. Sooner or later a new toy appeared. He had several toys at any given time, so he was never without and he rarely went from destroying one to immediately destroying another. 

Enter Riley Michel. 

Oh, the carnage. Like those who came before, he loves his guys. Like those who came before, he will work a guy until he finds that one loose and offending thread and then he will pull until it opens and he can systematically dig out the stuffing. If he finds a squeaker or a rattle along the way, all the better. It’s like bonus carnage. 

What carnage?

Lately he’s been on a true tear. Just this week we have had to “bury” – and by bury I mean toss in the trash – Joe, a camouflage dinosaur that my mother brought him; Beav, a very dapper beaver that Roy and Bobbi brought him; Bear, a supposedly tougher toy that I bought him from Ace Hardware; and Cow, several tennis balls with a thick rope going through and a stuffed head and tail.

We have tried to explain to him that if he destroys all of his guys in one week, he’s going to be a very lonely boy. And that if he thinks I’m going to go out and buy more toys, well … he’s absolutely right but probably not until this weekend. 

As I write this, there is another guy in the foyer. Santa Bone. Santa Bone was Cooper’s and we just recently discovered him in a box. Riley took to Santa right away, and vice versa. But the attraction has turned violent. There is carnage. Everywhere. Again. 

This is the legacy my boys share. Their love and the eventual destruction of their guys. But as Kevin pointed out with Riley, they’re his guys. I worry though that he may be pathological. He may be a serial guy destroyer. I wonder if there’s a program he can join. What’s a puppy mom to do? Except buy more toys and expect more carnage. Like Cooper and Maguire before him, it’s Riley’s way of living it out loud. 

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

Beginning the adoption process

by Lorin Michel Thursday, April 16, 2015 10:13 PM

When we lost Maguire, it was more than 8 months before we adopted another dog. Part of that was sheer heartbreak. Another part was that Kevin had no desire to get another dog. As far as he was concerned, there was only one dog for him, and that dog had died on March 6. I was lonely and found Cooper on Petfinder. He was with a rescue group in Westlake Village, and had been for quite some time. I’d like to say we immediately fell in love. We didn’t. It took some time, during which we learned what it was to rescue a dog.

It is impossible to fully know all that a dog who finds himself in a shelter or at a rescue has been through. On rare occasions, when a dog is surrendered, he comes with a story of why. Mostly, it’s a mystery. It can be obvious that he’s been abused or neglected or abandoned. But some of the scars may be emotional and thus hard to see.

With Cooper we came to know he was terrified of other dogs, though we have no idea why. He was hopelessly attached to me, something that happened almost immediately after we adopted him. We should have known this would happen. He was also attached to his foster mom, though she didn’t take very good care of him. When we got him, both eyes were infected and crusted, something we were able to clear up fairly quickly after a trip to the vet and some eye drops. He was a little underweight. He was also fiercely protective of the house and of us. If anyone dared to ring the bell, knock on the door, or want to come in the house, he was as likely to bite as to kiss. We learned to take him outside to welcome guests. He was fine with them coming in as long as he invited them.

Even with his behavior issues, we grew to love him so much. Inside, he was a good boy and we helped him to find and release that. When we lost him three weeks ago, we were devastated. We’ve been lonely ever since.

This morning, on our walk, we met a golden retriever named Sam. He was out with his dad, walking in front of us, and when we got close enough, and he heard our voices, he turned and galloped toward us as fast as his 11 year old body would let him. He was a big goofball. Kevin was infatuated.

And so we have started truly looking into adopting another dog. We filled out an application to adopt a special needs dog, a deaf lethal white Australian shepherd. I’ve been in contact with a foster mom named Terry. We may go to Phoenix next weekend to attend an adoption event. It will give them enough time to check our references.

After meeting Sam, Kevin also wanted to look into rescuing another golden. I think he misses Cooper more than he thought he would. It took him a long time to warm up to our little nut bag, but warm up he did. We always thought Maguire was also part golden. So both of our boys have been a blend of golden retriever.

We have a type. Lots of fur, floppy ears, smart and cuddly. Australian shepherds, golden retrievers, border collies. The boy we met last weekend was a border collie mix. The boy up in Phoenix is an aussie. This afternoon I also filled out an application with a local golden rescue.

We’re beginning earlier this time. We want to give another unlucky boy a good home and we want to fill our home with the sound of nails clicking on the tile, and fur tumbleweeds blowing in the corners, dog slobber and toys. We’re ready to help another dog live it out loud.

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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.


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?

There’s an echo in my house

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 31, 2015 10:16 PM

Our new house has no carpet. We have wall-to-wall tile that stretches from one end of the cavern to the other, radiating out from the middle to follow the basic line and curvature of the radius. The tile is Italian, from a manufacturer called Mediterrania. The collection is called Juliet’s Courtyard and there are two colors: Romeo’s Blend and Juliet’s Blend. They’re very similar, a stone look that is highly varied in terms of colors per tile. Romeo is charcoals and rusts, grays and earthy tans. Juliet’s is lighter version. Both are very old Tuscan, with an Elizabethan flair. Lots of drama. We went for the more dramatic of the two and put Romeo on the floor. We used Juliet for the bathroom vanity countertops. It’s quite a blend.

The kitchen is granite countertops and tile backsplash. The house has mostly glass walls. The ceilings, at their highest, which is in the great room, are 17.6’. There is stone on the interior columns and more stone on the fireplace. There are no rugs anywhere save the bathrooms just outside the showers. The house is acoustically challenged.

I walked through today calling out for Kevin. It takes longer than it used to to get from one side of the house to the other, and our offices are split between the east side and the west side. It was the middle of the day. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. Tony the tile guy was out in the portico laying yet more tile, though not Romeo. Outside tile is called Napa Noce. There isn’t an echo outside because of course there isn’t, but inside the sound reverberates and bounces. Voices sound lost and tinny.

There’s an echo in my house that makes it sound empty. And even though there is a great deal of furniture already in place, it is empty. Because we’re missing our boy, the little furry one who should be racing through the house with a toy in his mouth – probably Wubba – tail held high, head equally so, having the time of his life.

Tonight we were out on the deck eating dinner. The moon is edging ever closer to full making the sky bright and setting the desert aglow. As we relaxed on the new deck furniture, I happened to look up. There was a cloud formation that looked eerily like our Cooper. The cloud was in the shape of a dog, with two open areas indicating eyes, a small opening for the door, and the mouth slightly gapped. Cooper from the side.

I’m a believer in signs. When we were making the decision to let Maguire go, I remember sitting in the room with him and asking him to give us a sign that it was time. He had another seizure. Cooper died without us, but tonight staring at the clouds as we were talking about our boy, I wondered. What was the sign he was sending? Maybe that he was OK once again, that he was racing through the sky with Wubba, giving him what for, as Kevin always said.

There’s an echo in my house because it’s empty. While it’s not necessarily something to celebrate it does mean that we’re alive. And hopefully it means that our Cooper is somewhere, healthy once again, and living it out loud.

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live out loud

Well, he was on sale

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 10, 2015 10:31 PM

We got Cooper about eight months after we lost Maguire. I was still devastated by the loss of my big beautiful honey bear but I was hopelessly lost in the house. Anyone who has pets understands the emptiness of the home when you return and they’re not there. We used to schedule our return trips from vacation so as to arrive in time to pick Maguire up from the pet motel. In later years, we hired a pet sitter so he was already home when we returned.

I started looking on the internet, at Pet Finder, for a dog. I didn’t tell Kevin because as far as he was concerned, there was no other dog other than Maguire. I’m not sure if he would ever have come around on his own; I forced it. I found Cooper, named Andy at the time, one night while searching. He was in Westlake Village at a rescue group called Labs & Buddies. For a week and a half I returned to the site to look at him. I think I was secretly hoping that he’d be gone but he never was. One day, I finally told Kevin that I had been looking at other dogs. I felt, somehow, like I was cheating on Maguire and confessing my sins. Kevin simply looked at me. He wasn’t mad, but he wasn’t thrilled. I showed him the picture. His deadened response: “cute.”

I kept talking about getting another dog, asking what do you think of Andy? He didn’t think much. He really didn’t want another dog. We didn’t fight but he was belligerent. I told him how empty I thought the house was. That of course another dog would never – could never – replace Maguire. This wasn’t about replacing. It was about sharing the goodness of our lives with a less fortunate animal, providing a good home. I told him, finally, that I was going to get a dog. He didn’t have to have anything to do with it. I knew that once we had another dog, he’d eventually fall in love. He just needed a little prodding.

We went to visit Andy on a Thursday late afternoon before we went to the Wineyard for wine tasting. He was hyper, attached to Laura who ran the rescue group. Kevin remained unimpressed. I didn’t fall in love immediately but there was something about the little guy, something so desperate that he broke my heart. Over wine we decided to take him.

On Friday, we picked him up. As Kevin took him for a walk, I paid the adoption fee. Laura, also a lawyer, had done all of the paper work. I signed what basically was a contract stipulating that I would love, care for, and adore our new friend. I got out my checkbook, prepared to write a check for $300. That was the cost of adopting a rescue, and I was fine with that.

“Why don’t you just give me $200?” Laura suggested. I wrote the check and we brought our boy home.

We’ve had issues over the last couple of years, mostly behavioral. We came to know that he had been passed between foster homes for at least a year and a half if not more. He had been adopted once only to be returned. He wasn’t an easy dog, but he is a worth it dog, and we – including Kevin – love him.

We tease him sometimes and tell him that he was on sale. Not for sale, but on sale. On sale is usually reserved for the things no body wants. Lately he’s had some health problems, and last night I joked that he was on sale and that he was kind of a lemon. Then I kissed his nose.

He may have been on sale, and he may sometimes be kind of a lemon, but as the saying goes, when you adopt lemons, you make lemonade. We make it every day.

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live out loud

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