Happy Birthday to me

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 25, 2011 11:40 PM

Guest post by Maguire

I'm 15 today. Next year I get to drive. At least that's what happened when Justin turned 15. I don't know if I want to drive, though. I'm not big on the car thing anymore. I used to really like the Rover; I liked to go. I liked to put my head out the window and feel the wind in my ears. But I kind of like to stay home now.

Today we had presents and stuff. Mom and dad got up early and dad took me outside. It was really warm. I like it when it's warm. It was kind of windy, too. It feels good in my fur. Dad says wind like that can blow the stink off. I don't think he means that I smell bad. I did have a bath a couple of weeks ago.

Me, on my 15th birthday, Christmas morning

Then we came back and mom gave me a kiss on the nose and wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday. That's how I knew it was my birthday. The Christmas thing I knew. There's a tree in the house and whenever there's a tree in the house, that means presents and presents mean Christmas, ever since I was a puppy. Probably even before though I don’t remember before I was a puppy. Mom also puts these little people out in different places. They look like they're singing. Their mouths are in 'O' shapes but they don't make any noise. They're kind of weird. They scare me a little. People shouldn't be smaller than me. But mom likes them. She calls them her "carolers." They only come out at Christmas, too.

Dad put the TV on because one of the local stations was playing the Yule log. I don't know what a Yule log is but mom and dad thought that playing the Yule log was funny. The whole TV screen was filled with logs burning in a fireplace. It even made crackling sounds. It sounded like a real fire but it was on the TV. I couldn’t stop watching it. I was laying on the floor in front of the tree and looking at the TV the whole time even though I thought it was kind of dumb. But since it was Christmas I decided not to say anything. I would rather have watched cartoons, something like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I like squirrels.

One of mom's carolers, a new one from my grandma

Mom is interrupting my post.

Maguire’s mom here: The Yule log is a big, hard log burned as part of the traditional Christmas celebrations in Europe. Yule is an ancient word, probably meaning jolly, and also Christmas. The Yule Log program, the broadcasting of a burning fire and nothing else but its crackle, was actually started in 1966 by Fred Thrower, the President and CEO of WPIX in New York. He wanted to give homes without fireplaces a chance to experience the ambiance. The original was filmed at Gracie Mansion, the official home of the mayor of New York. The Yule Log program was and remains 2 to 4 hours, complete with Christmas music. I now return you to my guest blogger. Magu – the blog is yours.

Thanks, mom. 

The Yule log was only on until 10 o’clock. That made mom and dad laugh, too. After it turned off, we got to open presents. I like presents. I got a new hedge and a new moo and a new rudy and a new moose. Moo came from my grandma. My Aunt Khristan and Uncle John gave me new moose. It's really just a big head but he squeaks really, really good. I love new toys. Last week, Roy and Bobbi gave me a new ring toy, too. I always get toys on my birthday and Christmas and since my birthday IS Christmas I get the most special toys ever. I like Christmas. I like my birthday.

Me with some new toys

I miss Justin. He wasn't here today. I heard his voice on the phone and I think mom and dad were going to do something called skype later. I don't know what skype is. It sounds like it might hurt but maybe not.

I don't get to see Roy today. Mom and dad went to see him and Bobbi and Diane and Gene. I thought about going but I was really kind of tired from all the celebrating. Besides, I didn’t want to leave all my new toys. And besides again, there are cats there. I don't like cats. Even though one of their cats - his name is Pixel - is really, really big. Big like a dog. But not big like me. So mom and dad went away for a couple of hours and I stayed here to watch the house and my toys. I also got to take a really good nap. Then they came back and I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me and mom said “Merry Christmas, baby!” and dad said “Happy Birthday, big boy,” and I wagged my tail and got to go outside again. When I came back, my toys were all waiting for me on the floor, right where I left them. It was like Christmas all over again.

It was a good day.

Bye!

Can dogs tell time?

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:06 PM

This is how it happens. The clock chimes 7:15, or at least it would if we had a clocked that chimed, and Maguire rises from the floor. It doesn’t matter where he is (on the rug) or what he’s doing (sleeping), an internal alarm goes off and he begins to stalk his parents. We can’t hear this alarm but we can hear him. It starts with a huff, a horse-like exhale that pushes all of the air he’s accumulated for the day out through his nostrils. Very indignant. Then he chomps a bit on his teeth, snaps his jaws. More indignant. Then the pacing begins. Back and forth from the kitchen to the bedroom, a spin through, a look in, and back out to do the same route all over again. Then he barks, usually just once, to get our attention. If I’m in my office which I usually am, I smile and walk to the top of the stairs. He’s at the bottom of said stairs by then, staring up at me, ears forward, ready to pounce.

“What?” I ask.

“Woof, ruff!”

“Is it that time already?”

“Woof!”

“Are you sure?”

“Woof!!!! Woof!!! Woof!!!”

Then the prancing begins as I descend. It is time for his nightly stroll and nothing will deter him. Not rain or wind; not heat or cold. It. Is. Time. His cleverly hidden watch has told him so. And he will not be ignored. Like the crazed Alex Forrest (chillingly played by Glenn Close) who calmly announced to Dan Gallagher (aka Michael Douglas) in the frightening morality film Fatal Attraction: “I will not be ignored, Dan!” our vintage puppy has an agenda. It does not, to my knowledge include any type of rabbit soup, though he has, on occasion, attempted to chase a rabbit when one has dared to cross his path on his beloved and sacred walk. He wants to go and he wants to go RIGHT NOW and he will hound us (pun intended) until I open the hall closet and pull out my vibrant blue Harry Carrey jacket. That’s it. Game on. Mom has her coat. I’m out of here.

He turns, races to the front hall way and spins in circles as he waits for Kevin, who has also received the message and is zipping up his hoodie, to come through the house and grab the leash from the laundry room. When Maguire was younger and stronger, we used to put a harness on him, with the leash hooking to the top of that. It was much easier to control an 85-pound dog when the leash was at his center of gravity. If he lunged, we had the upper hand. He doesn’t lunge anymore. Even if he wanted to, he’s become too dignified for such behavior. So now we simply hook his Big Dog® leash through the hook on his collar that holds his tags. Maguire then moves to the front door and stares at the handle, willing it to open, while I grab a bag for clean up and a tiny flashlight (once the time changes, it’s dark by 7:15) and off we go. He bounds down the driveway and across the street, leaps up onto the sidewalk on the other side, and then… he’s done. His prowess in tact, and once again proven, he slows to a nice crawl. He pees in the grass, he stops at a rose bush, he sniffs at a hedge, and stops to look first up the street then down, making sure that no other dogs approach. He is the big dog after all, the mayor of Oak Park. He is still the alpha dog. He has a reputation to uphold. He is Maguire Michel.

Then he poops, I clean up and we turn back toward the house. We’ve been gone 10 minutes.

By the time we get back to the driveway, he’s moving so slow he’s practically in reverse, but he gets to the front door to once again stare, willing it to open. Miraculously it does, and he enters his domain, Chez Maguire, for a cookie and a snooze before bed.

I’ve come to believe that dogs really do have some sense of time. How else to explain that he starts to bug us every night at the same hour? It doesn’t matter the time of year, whether it’s still sunny and warm, or dark and stormy, he knows. The watch on his front paw ticks to 7:15 and he flips his paw to look at it. Yep. Time to go.

According to animal cognition researcher William Roberts, I’m wrong. Animals are stuck in time, and lack the ability to travel backward and forward in their memories so they don’t really know ‘time’ per se. They can be trained but they supposedly don’t have the power of episodic memory. They do, however, have internal biorhythms, or an internal clock, that allows them to sense when certain things are supposed to happen. They may also use circadian oscillators or fluctuations in hormones, body temperatures and neural activity to know when it’s time for dinner to be served or to go for a walk. There have been a number of studies done regarding short-term or working memories and reference or long-term memories. Roberts thinks that most animals, dogs included, learn by going from the weakest memory to strongest memory rather than learning to actually tell time.

In other words, it’s just learned behavior.

I still believe Maguire knows what time it is. He knows his walk, he knows when it’s time to get up in the morning, he knows when it’s Fritini and Roy is coming. Granted, that usually happens after we clean and after Kevin pulls out the martini glasses and shaker. Maguire notices, he understands. He remembers and thus he knows. Isn’t that what time is ultimately all about?

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Cuteness Alert. And it's free.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 11, 2011 9:15 PM

I’m all for capitalism. I partake in it regularly, and for the most part enjoy it. I like the choice it represents even if the sales tax can get a little steep depending on where one lives. We’re fairly fortunate in that our part of California charges 7.25%. It’s a bargain really. Santa Monica is 9.25%. Even Beverly Hills is less at 8.75%. But as a state, we also have the pleasure of sporting the highest rates in the country, though the highest taxed city remains Chicago at 9.75%.

I bring this up because at this time of year when shopping is in full manic mode, when many of us have to pay sales tax, we often look for something free along with it, like shipping. I do a lot of shopping online and whenever possible I go with free shipping. I’m very good at getting that on Amazon. Sometimes it might take an extra day or so to get here, but ultimately it’s cheaper. If I buy something online that can’t be purchased here, I can sometimes not pay sales tax at all, though the State Board of Equalization or Maximization or something is trying to do away with that because it’s costing the state money and everyone is hurting these days.

Free is enticing, and some of it is literally free. Free advice. Free speech. Free listings. Free education. Free will. There are least 23 albums titled Free and 26 songs. Free to be.

But free shipping remains one of my favorite frees. I expect it on books and clothing and various other items. But I didn’t not expect this:

Imagine my surprise. First, FREE Shipping on any size order. So I’m assuming I could buy as many puppies in as many sizes as I’d like, get them shipped to me at any time from now into perpetuity, and not pay for the transportation. I can only hope there are air holes.

And these puppies are guaranteed to last! I haven’t yet found the fine print that details whether they’re guaranteed to stay puppies or just guaranteed to stay alive forever and ever. This is important as someone who parents a vintage puppy and who worries constantly about his encroaching age. He didn’t come with a guarantee. Not that it would have mattered. We would have taken him regardless; he was just too good to pass up. He remains ever so.

I wonder how L.L. Bean has done it. I wonder how many other people looked at these two simply gorgeous golden retriever puppies and thought – ha! Free puppies that will always be with me!

There are other advertisements that are misleading and unintentionally hilarious. Having worked in advertising for some time, I realize that you can look at something over and over and over again, and not see it anymore. Yes, everything is spelled correctly but the meaning can get skewed and in this case it did.

Or did it? Maybe this is what L.L. Bean meant all along. Maybe they really have found a way to guarantee that puppies can last, that they have no expiration date, and they’re giving them away for free.

I’ll take a dozen, provided they all look and act like Maguire. 

For love of an older dog

by Lorin Michel Monday, November 28, 2011 10:26 PM

Maybe it’s his eyes, the way they can travel the world without him ever leaving his comfortable spot on the rug at the base of the stairs. Perhaps it’s how he pretends not to hear when he doesn’t want to but always manages to decipher a new package of cheese being opened, no matter where in the house he might be. Or it could be the way he still bounces around in the morning, on the tips of his slap-happy feet, ready to take on the world, and the cookie dad provides him as he goes out the back door.

It’s all of those things and his beautiful gray face. I am forever amazed and entertained by our vintage puppy, Maguire, never more so than as he has aged. Dogs are an interesting species, blessed with phenomenal personalities and an ability to love against all odds. In the most horrific of situations, they can and often do remain loyal. They choose you as much as you choose them, and you are forever a couple, even when forced to part.

Jake, 16, Higgins, Texas. Photographed by Nancy LeVine for her Senior Dogs Across America project.

When Maguire was a puppy, he had adorable puppy habits. He would pull everything out of his “house,” his kennel, each night, dragging each piece one by one from the kitchen, where his house was housed, to the living or dining room where he was playing. His blanket, each toy, all to make a little nest for himself, and then he’d fall asleep.

As he grew up, he developed other habits like destroying each toy. Plastic guys would end up in tiny pieces, neatly piled to the side of his rather large head as he would systematically dismantle them. Plush toys were gnawed and pulled until he could get an errant string that he would pull to gradually unravel a seam. Then he’d go about pulling the stuffing out of each, again making a neat pile on the floor next to him. Many a toy went to the “hospital” on top of the refrigerator to be sewn back together. Each morning he would get his cookie outside and then, upon returning race into the bedroom and take a flying leap almost from the doorway to soar through the air, and land on the bed next to me. We would cuddle there, him flipped over on his back for a belly rub, me providing one. He grew to be 85 pounds so he wasn’t easily contained but he was graceful. He would bound up the stairs and sit on the landing, front paws draped over the top, a king surveying his kingdom. We called it pride landing. And again, he would drag his toys from his bed to wherever he was in the house. The living room or pride landing, often 6 or 8 at a time. If we got company, even if UPS came to drop off a package, he would race to the door, then turn on a dime to race back to his bed to grab a toy to bring to whoever had come to visit him. It was his way of socializing.

Now he’s older and wiser. He still loves his toys and still trots one or two out each day, usually just to the bottom of the stairs where he drops them, licks them once or twice, then works on lowering his aging body and his aching hips to the floor. The front paws go down first; butt in the air. Then the butt descends with a thud. He’ll chew on a toy only for a few minutes before losing interest and needing a nap. He hasn’t destroyed one in years but still, we keep buying new ones. He deserves them.

At night, when we go to bed, he’ll saunter into the kitchen to slurp up some water, then saunter into the bedroom where he takes as much of a running start as he can, and rams his head into the bed, lifting it up and off the floor. He’ll do this several times, often spilling the contents – his toys – out into the room. It’s his new way of emptying his “house,” just like he used to. Of course his parts don’t work as well as they used to. The front paws and feet want to go, but the back ones drag along, his nails scraping the floor or the sidewalk when we walk. Our walks are much slower now; the distance much shorter. But he likes his evening stroll. He still huffs and puffs at the other dogs who dare to walk in his presence. He is, after all, Maguire Michel, master of the neighborhood. We think there’s also a little of a ‘get off my lawn’ mentality as well. He’s crankier; he puts up with less. But the joy he provides remains.

Older dogs get short shift in the adoption department, much like older kids. Everyone wants a puppy, but having had an older dog now, the sense of contentment and peace they bring to a home is worth the shorter time you might have with them. Besides, no one ever knows how long any of us has to be on this earth. Spending that time with a senior dog makes life that much sweeter.

Cooper, 15, on a bench in Central Park, New York. Photographed by Nancy LeVine.

Senior dogs are calm, have better manners and appreciate love and attention more than younger dogs. They’re not as anxious, nor as nervous, and are perfectly fine waiting for you to finish doing whatever you’re doing. They have no agenda, other than being with you. They don’t care about chasing balls or sticks, don’t need to go on 5-mile hikes. They just want to be with you. They’re content.

Eight years ago, photographer Nancy LeVine began traveling the country to photograph senior dogs. Her interest in older dogs began when her own began to approach “the end of their days.” And she found herself entering “a world of grace where bodies that had once expressed their vibrancy were now on a more fragile path.”

Veterinarians classify dogs as senior at around 7. It never occurred to me that Maguire was a senior at 7. But he’s a big dog and big dogs tend to age more quickly. He didn’t though, not until just a few years ago. We noticed that he stopped climbing the stairs, though there was one day that I took something to my office, on the second floor, to eat and I heard him start to come up after me. I went down and sat at the foot of the stairs so we could eat together.

Now, he’s started to not eat as much and he’s gotten a bit thinner. I’ve started boiling skinless chicken breasts and cutting them up for him. Those he doesn’t seem to mind eating at all. He still likes his pasta with a little grated cheese, and bread without butter. His appetite is good; it’s the dog food he’s decided he’s not so big on any longer. I guess I can’t blame him. He’s been eating the same type now for nearly 15 years, the same bowl every day. It gets old.

The last few days, he’s been sick. We’re hoping it’s just a bug, but we worry. When a pet gets older, the inevitable knocks at the door, taps on the window. I don’t want to answer; for now we refuse to. But we know what’s coming, and we are in no way prepared. Is it possible to be?

My puppy has grown from a little dude with too much energy to a refined older gentleman with grace and dignity. He sleeps more now; he doesn’t hear. But there’s a gentleness about his soul that continues to transfix us even as he breaks our hearts into a million pieces. Long ago, he chose us to be his family, and our lives have been enriched because of it.

My old boy brings me the kind of joy that I wish for everyone to experience at least once in a lifetime. The kind of joy that is pure and wondrous and funny and lush. The kind that raises you to the heavens and allows you to remain there. The kind that is everlasting.

Maguire, nearly 15. Photographed by his dad on Thanksgiving, 2011.

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The moment

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 25, 2011 12:01 AM

Guest post by Maguire

Hi, it's me. Maguire. My mom is tired – like I’m not – so she asked me if I wanted to do a guest post tonight. I really didn’t. Like I said, I’m tired. But she gave me some turkey and took me out to pee so I thought I’d give it a try. It will probably be short because tryptophan makes me sleepy.

Yawn. Sorry.

I guess I just wanna say that I really like Bethany. Justin had said that I should be really good because she’s not used to dogs, and especially big dogs, and that she might be afraid. I put on my best cute when she got here, pressed my ears against my head and just gave a little tail wag. I can’t wag as much as I used to, even when I try. She petted me, and then played rope with me. I think I heard her say that she wasn’t afraid of me. I wasn’t afraid of her either. I like her. She smells good. And she has long hair. I like long hair.

Today was some sort of big dinner party day. I heard my mom make a toast about being glad that everyone was here and how happy she was to be with her best friends and how glad she was that Bethany was with us. Me, too. I like our best friends; I like Bethany. And I like turkey. Turkey is like a really big chicken and my dad put the plate of turkey on the smaller table next to the big table. It was at eye level for me. I wanted to eat the whole plate. But I didn’t. I didn’t want mom and dad to get mad at me. Besides, I was raised better than that. So I waited and they gave me some. It was really good. I wish I could have had some stuffing.

Yawn. Stretching.

Roy and Bobbi were here. Diane and Gene were here, too, and they brought some very cool cheese. I like cheese. And crackers. We all sat in front of the fire to eat before we ate and get warm and have wine. My mom and dad and Diane and Gene and Roy and Bobbi and even Justin and Bethany like wine. Me, not so much. But that’s ok. Cause I like cheese and turkey and bread.

They all sounded like they were really having fun but I was so tired that I had to lay down and take a nap. 

But there was a moment when everyone was laughing that I opened my eyes and I raised my head. I looked around at all these people that I love so much and I realized that I have a really good life. My mom and dad love me, Roy and Bobbi love me, Diane and Gene love me, Justin loves me and Bethany will love me pretty soon. I listened to everybody laughing and watched everyone at the table, and then my mom looked at me and I looked at her and that’s when I knew what Thanksgiving was really all about.

I love you guys.

But can I go to bed now? I’m really full and really, really tired.

Bye!

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The non-leaky roof over our heads

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 8, 2011 11:36 PM

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but there are certain things that we procrastinate about. Or is it procrastinate over? I never know. Which ever it is, we do it. We did it most recently with our leaky roof. The leak started sometime during the last rainy season. I remember walking into the living room one day and for some reason looking at the ceiling. Our ceilings are very high and vaulted so looking at them isn’t something that is done easily; we have to crank our heads into a very awkward position and angle our neck oddly. So my head was awkward and my neck was odd, and there it was, in the far corner where the ceiling meets the wall, a weirdly shaped color on the white paint. I walked over and looked up, thinking maybe it was a shadow and that another angle might make the color go away. It didn’t. I could see the color was actually a stain, a water stain. There’s nothing quite like a water stain on a white wall; it’s unmistakable.

We decided it must be a fluke thing. In other words, we went into denial. During the next rainstorm, we could deny no more. The stain grew darker and more ominous, mimicking the sky. Water began to trickle down the wall. Soon it was also coming in through the seals around the window and puddling on the sills. Towels were employed and stuffed into corners. We went to the hardware store and bought a big blue tarp and sand bags. In the middle of the pouring rain, we climbed up on the patio cover and Kevin climbed onto the sloping roof from there. I handed him the horrifically heavy sand bags while he spread the lovely tarp to cover the leak, without him slipping and falling to the ground. The bags held the tarp in place; we tied part of the tarp to the gutter that was full of dried and now soaked leaves.

We were successful. Sort of. We still had the leak but we’d put the proverbial piece of chewing gum in the hole; flooding was averted. And then once the rains abated for the season, we forgot about it. The tarp was on the back side of the house where we never go, so we didn’t see it. Out of sight, off the list of things to do.

Until it rained again just a few weeks ago. The tarp had cracked and torn in the brutal desert sun and wind, the sandbags were spilling out. And the leak knocked on the ceiling again. Hi! Remember me?

Leaks happen to 100% of the roofs in California, 100% of homes in the country. They happen because roofs get old or there’s simply too much pressure from water or snow. There can also be leaky pipes or faucets, a leak under the sink, or under the car. Boats can spring a leak. Liquids in a suitcase almost always leak in order to destroy clothing. People can leak, too, especially babies and the aged. Diapers leak. There are also gas leaks. Puppies leak as do vintage puppies. Sometimes there are secret leaks and leaks to the press. Wikileaks leak, too.

A leak is an unintended hole in a container or fluid-containing system, like a tank or a ship. A leak is also used to describe something thick oozing through an opening. It’s both a noun and a verb as in “we have a leak” and “it’s something that leaked.” Some leaks are nuisances, like a leaky washer on a faucet, while others can be dangerous, like leaks in a vehicle’s hydraulic system (brakes or power steering), in chemical or power plants, or the air pressure in airplanes. Leaks in a boat are bad, too. Leaks in a roof aren’t dangerous, but they are annoying and destructive.

Reality came flooding – pardon the pun – back with a vengeance. We called a roof guy, who ignored us for almost a month. It rained again during that time and my blood pressure started to rise. We called another guy who came this past Saturday to give us an estimate. He came today with his chief roofer and fixed most of it, removing the tiles to discover deteriorated tar paper and under that, rotted plywood; no mold, luckily. That would have been a complete disaster. They replaced the wood and the paper, re-installed the tiles. Some cement still needs to be fixed around the fireplace flashing where it’s cracked. They didn’t have what they needed and were supposed to come back; they didn’t. Kevin will call again in the morning. Maybe they were procrastinating as well.

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It’s supposed to rain again starting on Friday and through the weekend. I’m looking forward to celebrating it pounding happily on the roof, in all of its wet glory as long as that glory stays outside where it belongs.

Of course the gutters still need to be cleaned out. Maybe we’ll do that Thursday.

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The day my dad thinks he picked me out

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 26, 2011 9:46 PM

Guest post by Maguire

Hi. It’s me, Maguire. I did so good the first time, mom said I could post again. Plus she was out at meetings all day and so she’s kind of tired. She’s sitting on the couch in front of the fire with a glass of that ­stuff she likes to drink. I’m pretty sure it’s red even though I don’t know what red is. It just looks dark to me.

My dad is having a meeting. It’s kind of late for a meeting but sometimes he has to talk to some of his guys. I think that means the guys who work for him. Mom says they’re vampires because they work at night. I don’t know what vampires are but I think they might be scary. I have a toy that my dad bought that’s kind of like a vampire I think. It’s called boo. I like boo. He’s kind of the same color as mom’s drink. I got him for Halloween. I like Halloween. I like all the kids that come all dressed up ‘cause I like kids. They’re fun and they pet me. Some are afraid of me because I’m a big dog. That’s what mom says like “how’s my big dog?” and when I’m in trouble she says things like “you were supposed to be a medium dog!” I don’t think she’d like a medium dog. Kobe, who lives next door, is a medium dog. He’s weird.

Me, the day I picked out my dad

The day I picked dad out, I was still very small. He thinks he picked me out but he’s wrong. I don’t like to say that very loud. He likes his story and it makes him feel good. But I remember that day. I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday because somebody dropped me off at the place on Friday. I was just a puppy. A real puppy, not a vintage puppy like I am now. I was little. They put me in a cage with two really, really big dogs. I think they had been in that cage a long time. One of them, he had short fur. He came over to me and sniffed on me once. He smelled bad. The other dog didn’t pay any attention to me. I was kind of glad. I went over and fell into the water bowl.

I liked to sleep on my back when I was a real puppy. That’s what I did that first night in the cage. In the morning, this nice lady came and gave us some food and cleaned up the cage. I stayed in the corner and watched her. Pretty soon, I heard these people come by. They looked in but I stayed in the corner in the back. I didn’t like them. Then this man came by. He was talking to someone closer to my size. His hair was that color like mom’s drink and my boo toy. Then he ran back the other way to look at another dog. But the man stayed. I liked his hair. He had a nice face.

Me again, in my new house with my new mom and dad. I was pretty little.

I put on my best cute and bounced out from the corner. I liked to bounce. I didn’t really walk then, or run. I mostly just bounced. I went straight toward him, and then tried to talk to him. “I like you.” I think I said it a bunch of times, just like that. In threes. I like you I like you I like you. The man got down on his knees to talk to me. And then he brought the one with the red hair back but that one didn’t seem to like me.

Then they left! But, but, but. I bounced! I talked!

I went back to the corner. Pretty soon the man came back and this time he had a lady with him. I liked her, too. I bounced out. I wagged my tail. But I was tired and so I decided I needed a nap. I showed them my belly. I heard the lady laugh. I still remember that laugh. It’s my mom’s laugh. I really wanted to go home with them but the food lady wouldn’t let me, not for two whole days. And when you’re a puppy two days is a really, really long time.

After what I guess was two days, the man with the nice hair and the laughing lady came back and took me home. It was really early, and the lady held me in the car. I liked the car. It had this very deep hole in the middle. I sniffed in there and came out with some paper in my mouth. They laughed and said “show me the money!” I think that’s how I got my name. From some movie they had seen called Maguire.

Me and dad. See my belly? I told you my dad had nice hair.

Anyway, that’s the day my dad thinks he picked me out. I let him think that. I love my dad. I love my mom. I love my boo.

Bye!

The dog and the fly

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 11, 2011 10:40 PM

I’m always amazed at what frightens a dog. Some things are fairly common. Thunder, loud noises, firecrackers. Dropping a book or a glass or anything that makes a loud BANG on the hardwood or tile. A box out of place. The vacuum cleaner, the hairdryer, the blender. The can opener doesn’t seem to elicit much terror. I’m thinking it’s because most dogs associate the can opener with food, as in theirs. I believe cats have this same thought process, one of the few things dogs and cats actually have in common. Can opener whines, yucky smelling food arrives. It benefits them whereas the vacuum does not. And the hairdryer is just mean.

Mean, mean, mean. If you’re on four-feet. We two-footed varieties kind of like the hairdryer. And the blender, and the vacuum. Well, maybe not the vacuum.

And then there was the dog and the fly. Every time a fly entered the house, he would panic. It was as if a condor had swooped down, a pterodactyl from prehistoric times, talons poised, beady eyes beaded, watching, circling its prey, waiting for the exact moment to plunge to the earth, or the carpet, to grab the poor unsuspecting creature and whisk said creature away to be devoured, digested, and divested of everything but its fur. And collar. Maybe a dog tag or two. Only in this case, the predatory winged monstrosity was approximately ½” in length.

The musca domestica, the common housefly, has two wings and three body parts: a head, a thorax and an abdomen. They have six legs in desperate need of a shave (read: hairy), and receptors for smell and taste on both their legs and feet. The females are a little bigger than their male counterparts, and they all have blurred vision. Might make it tough to find just the right spot to pick up a 55-pound dog.

Lucky, my sister’s Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix

The dog in question, who cowered in the corner, who hid under the dining room table, who high-tailed it upstairs whenever a fly flitted through the downstairs kitchen and family room was Hogan, my sister’s beloved German Shepherd mix. He was a little high-strung and afraid of a number of things, like fireworks. But he was positively terrified of a housefly.

Also, ovens. Whenever Khris would turn on the oven, he would run and hide. Of course, if she happened to be making cookies, he sensed when the cookies were cooling on the counter and the oven had been turned to the off position. Miraculously, he would reappear in time to taste one of said cookies, no doubt to make sure they were OK for the rest of the family. Ever the protector.

Dear Hogan died just over three years ago. They now have a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix named Lucky. She’s also a little high-strung, and afraid of winged creatures. Actually, clipped winged creatures that are quite a bit larger than the common housefly.

Lucky is terrified of the family’s parakeet, Perry. At least Khris doesn’t have to worry about the dog attacking the bird; Lucky’s too afraid to even get near the little turquoise guy who evidently talks incessantly and loves to sit on everyone’s shoulders. Perry was a gift to my niece Shawn for her 12th birthday this past summer. Lucky shares Shawn’s birthday. July 3rd. Maybe she feels betrayed; maybe she feels she’s been replaced a mere three years after joining the family. Maybe she had a bad bird experience in a former life.

A Perry-like bird

And then there’s the vintage puppy, the big dog, the one who used to terrify the neighborhood and howl at the moon, the one who’s afraid of nothing. But the vacuum cleaner. And the gardeners. A door slamming from the wind (which, truth be told, scares me, too). The hairdryer. The mop. And mylar balloons.

He can, however, stand his own against a fly, unless it’s the tiny little gnats gnawing at and around his head this afternoon. He was outside and needed – needed – to come in immediately because he was a little frightened.

Hey. It happens to us all. Maybe it’s something in the air. 

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live out loud

Tacking to port: a vintage puppy story

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 27, 2011 10:42 PM

The sea was quiet, nary a ripple in the green. The tops of the trees tussled a bit, enough to send big, loose leaves swirling to the ground. Birds took flight as a gust of wind swooped down and through. It was almost possible to see its invisible breath as it pushed toward the sea of grass below, changing the calm. He stood tall, staring out toward the horizon, feeling the wind in his pants – er, sails. He was the captain of his ship, the world was his oyster and he was sailing on the great Wiggin Street ocean.

Meet Captain Maguire. Like the great sea-farers from the Pequod and the Black Pearl, from the Orca and the S.S. Minnow, this captain stands tall. Well, sort of tall. He used to be taller. But his sails aren’t as full as they used to be; his pants are sagging.

[Sidebar: For those unfamiliar, Golden Retrievers and Australian Shepherds, like his Captain-self, have long fur on the back of their back legs. This is known as pants, and these pants swoosh when then walk, prance or when the wind hits. Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.]

When the captain tacks his sails, as he faces into the wind, he sets at an angle of 45º, and tacks a little to port. His right back leg doesn’t work as well as it used to; it drags a bit. It’s not as strong, it’s stiff, unsure, weak, so when he moves into the wind his ship goes to the left. If he moved a little faster, he’d be like a racecar driver, spinning around in circles caused by perpetual left-hand turns.

The captain stood in the front yard this afternoon, his nose to the wind, his ears back, his pants ready to push him forward. The squirrel hung from the branch above, his lookout. I think I saw him holding binoculars. First mate Kobe, next door, stood poised for orders (safely hidden behind the stone wall). He growled occasionally. Suddenly a big gray whale appeared, its tail propelling it forward through the sea –– never mind. False alarm. It was just a Ford Expedition.

Then, to the right or starboard, an armada, sailing toward him, fast, faster, fastest. He stood strong, eyes steely, legs firm, pants swaying, ready for battle. As the birds flew past him, he turned his nose to follow them. The squirrel screeched and ran up the mast to the crow’s nest to have a better view. The crow’s nest is the name of the lookout at the top of the main mast, lest you think there were going to be more squirrel wars.

Captain Maguire turned to look and as he did the wind came up again, filling his pants with enough air to move him forward, and so he moved toward Sam’s yard, still tacking to port, full steam ahead, ready for the day, ready for the sea, ready…. to pee.

Ahhhhhh.

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live out loud

In which I try very hard to find something to celebrate about the fact that I had a little tiny touch of insomnia last night and I’m a little tired because of it

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 20, 2011 9:59 PM

I’m a good sleeper. I also like to sleep. I joke that I was born two weeks early and I’ve been trying, desperately, to catch up ever since. I figure if I try long enough, maybe I’ll get there. In some ways I hope I don’t because sleeping is one of those activities of daily living that I truly relish, much like a hot shower. Crawling into my bed at night, snuggling into the pillow top as the cool air from the open window washes over me… if heaven exits, that’s mine.

Occasionally I suffer from small bouts of insomnia. It’s very cruel. One of the cruelest things the fates can do to someone who loves to sleep. I’ve long known why sleep deprivation is a torture technique.

I had an episode last night and they’re almost always because of some sort of anxiety. Last night it was worry about things I needed to do that I hadn’t done, and money. Previously, sleepless or partially sleepless nights have been about things I need to do, and money. Sensing a pattern?

I get to sleep fine, but something wakes me up. Lately it’s his divine puppiness. Which is what happened last night. It was 3 o’clock and he stirred on the floor. I am now entirely in-tune to the dog’s nocturnal habits. He sighs and rolls, we’re OK. He coughs and fidgets and moans and cries and I know we could be either having a nightmare, in which case he pees on the carpet, or a seizure in which case he pees on the carpet while scaring the crap out of us.

Last night, he had a nightmare. I got onto the floor to calm him down and then climbed back into bed once that calming had occurred. He fell back to sleep immediately; I knew I was doomed as soon as I pulled the covers back up. My brain started to whir, so loudly I was concerned I’d wake up my slumbering my husband and my newly re-slumbering dog. I had to remember to email so and so, I had to finish that proposal, I needed to this and that and that and this and oh! I completely forgot about that. And then I had an idea for a website. Oh! And what about this idea for a monologue. I could do – wait! What about invoicing this month? Am I going to have my usual amount? Hey! I wonder if I’m losing my mind. Is that possible? Am I too young?

Zzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzz

Sorry. I nodded off there for a minute.

I finally got to sleep sometime around 5:15. At 5:18 my sister sent me a text message. I’m hoping it’s because she forgot about the 3-hour time difference. Otherwise, I’ll have to kill her. Regardless, I was awake again.

Insomnia affects up to 40 percent of all adults every year, with women being twice as likely as men to having difficulty falling and staying asleep. The falling part I’m good at; the staying, not so much. Over 70 million Americans suffer from sleep issues. 1 in 3 have insomnia at some point in their lives. I’ve had really bad insomnia where I couldn’t even get to sleep to begin with until sometime around 5 in the morning. That happened when we bought this house and we were selling the townhouse, by owner, by ourselves. Stress.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sorry! I did it again. It’s like narcolepsy around here.

I actually went to the doctor that time and he prescribed Ambien, a sleeping pill. Which scared me. He also told me that once we moved, I’d probably be fine. The night we moved in here, I slept like the proverbial puppy.

So tonight, I’m a little tired and draggy. I don’t like not sleeping, but since I have vowed to find good even in bad things, here’s what I think about not sleeping: it’s an opportunity to let my brain wander unencumbered by anything. There are no interruptions (vintage puppy notwithstanding), no email, no phone. It’s stream of consciousness at its most worthwhile. Sometimes I get my best ideas for stories, for headlines, for whatever when my brain is running at full tilt at 3:30 am. The night is quiet, nary a cricket speaks, the wind chimes are silent, the winds are still. I have my brain all to myself. I think that might be worth celebrating and I can only hope that toni-

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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live out loud

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