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.


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?”


“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. 

Can I get a cookie now? A vintage puppy update

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 4, 2011 10:57 PM

Last Saturday night, our boy got very, very sick. We have no idea why but starting around 1 am, he exploded. Then he exploded again around 3:30, and so it went all day Sunday, Sunday night, Monday and Monday night. He was unsettled, obviously uncomfortable and generally miserable; sick as a dog, as the saying goes. We wanted so badly to help him but we didn’t know what he needed. If ever the art of mindreading was needed, it was then.

The vet came Tuesday and he’s been on five different types of medication ever since. We joked that he’s officially turned into old person, complete with prescription medications lined up on the kitchen counter in the order they need to be administered. The difference, of course, is that most old people take their pills by themselves. Our vintage puppy fights us every single time. We pry open his mouth and do our best to place the pill as far back in his throat as possible before closing his jaws, holding them together, gently stroking his throat, blowing on his nose and generally try to coerce him into swallowing. We promise cookies, chicken, undying devotion. Most of the time he pretends that he’s swallowed, punctuated with an actual swallow. He pushes the tip of his tongue out between his front teeth and blinks his eyes. He’s done fighting us; we relinquish our grip and stand up.

At which point he looks at us and spits the pill out onto the floor. The routine begins again until we win.

Maguire, snoozing on the floor in the sun; today

It is now a week later and he seems to be on the mend. He’s eating his prescription dog food – moist food, which we’ve only given him previously when he’s sick, which luckily hasn’t been often – inhaling it actually. He stands near me as I prepare his food, staring up, ears forward, waiting, waiting. His tongue snakes out occasionally as if to imply that he’s ready to eat. As if I didn’t know that. Any time now. Please. Can you put that on the floor, mom? I’m so hungry. Did I tell you I was sick?

Yes, baby. I was there.

After he cleans the bowl, and I mean cleans the bowl to the point where it looks like it’s just been washed, he saunters toward the bedroom to simultaneously ram and flip his bed while also wiping his whiskers. This has been a good development.

A better development happened on Friday night. Kevin and I were on opposite couches, enjoying the fire. The TV might have been on. If it was, whatever was playing was completely forgettable. I glanced over to see where the dog was. He was at the foot of the stairs. He had a toy. Ordinarily this would not be cause for celebration, but we knew that we would truly be on the road to recovery when he started bringing out toys.

We felt like we’d won the vintage puppy lottery.

The phrase “sick as a dog" dates back to at least the 17th century, and perhaps as early as the 1500s. It doesn’t appear to be negative so much as descriptive. Anyone who knows dogs knows that while they can and often will eat absolutely anything, occasionally their diet disagrees with them and the results can be quite dramatic.

To truly appreciate the original sense of "sick as a dog," imagine being seated in the parlor having tea with the Vicar on a lovely Sunday afternoon, when the dog staggers in from a meal of sun-dried woodchuck and expresses his unease … all over the heirloom oriental carpet.

That was Maguire, sans the woodchuck.

On a related note, sick as a dog should not be confused with sick puppy, used to describe someone that behaves oddly. That phrase seems to have been used first by a reporter in The Indianapolis Star on May 7, 1911 when he wrote: "When a noted actress is in town," said one detective yesterday, "lots of times some poor fool, wearing a carnation in his coat lapel, will whine around after her like a sick puppy."

Can I get a cookie, mom?

Regardless, our vintage puppy was sick as a dog. But he’s better now. His fur looks brighter, he’s not as haggard, he’s even gained back a little weight.  As I write this, he’s standing here gazing up at me. He’s shifting his feet, he’s putting on the cute.

If I could read his mind I’d swear he was saying: Can I get a cookie now? Pleeeeeezzzzzeeeee?

Welcome back, little man!

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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.


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The house call

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 3, 2011 10:25 PM

When Maguire was younger, it was always an adventure to go in the car. He didn’t care which car, he just wanted to go. He knew the word Rover, which is actually kind of ironic considering that the name “Rover” is often associated with dogs. I don’t know why. Regardless, we’d say “do you wanna–“ and before we’d even get the word Rover out, he’d be turning flip flops at the front door. He was going; no one could stop him. One of us would pull the aforementioned Rover out of the garage before releasing the hound, lest his excitement cause him to run headlong into the side of the car prior to us being able to open the door. Once the truck was safely in the driveway, the house front door would be opened and he would tear at break-neck speeds into the front yard, make a dangerous 90º turn without missing a beat and launch himself up and into the back seat, skittering across. Usually we managed to get the back door of the truck open prior to launch. We even had a NASA style countdown.

He had his own rug, which we carefully spread over the leather seat so that he wouldn’t destroy said leather, a little trick we learned after he nearly destroyed the leather in our first Rover, the Discovery. Of course, the rug was the same color as the leather, a nice honey brown. We’re nothing if not coordinated.

After getting into the car, he’d immediately position himself at the window behind the passenger seat. If the window was not yet open, he would get indignant. Did you not know I was coming? Why is my window not open? Come on, humans! Hit the button, hit the button, HIT THE BUTTON!!!!!!!! Window down, head out, ready for journey. He was a dog possessed. He loved the wind in his fur, ears flapping behind, eyes narrowed to slits, tongue hanging out. He was adorable.

Even if we were going to the vet.

Of course, once we pulled into the parking lot of said vet, he would start to shake and whine. He knew where he was going. He hated the vet. I don’t think I can state this enough. He. Hated. The. Vet.  When we would finally maneuver him into the vet’s waiting room, he would attempt to make himself small enough to fit under the bench where mommy was seated. When that didn’t work, he would push himself up against mommy’s legs – protect me! – as he shook and panted and generally looked terrified. I hated what it did to him. But it was necessary. And his vet was a very nice man.

But then our ram-rod puppy became a vintage puppy. Getting in and out of the Rover became a chore. Finally, he couldn’t do it at all, and at 85 pounds, it was difficult for us to get him in and out as well. We stopped with the “do you wanna.“ Still when he’s outside and one of us pulls the Rover out, he still looks at it wistfully. He wants to go; he just can’t any more.

Which led to a dilemma. He still needed to see the vet every once in a while. A checkup every now and again wouldn’t be a bad thing. He’s nearly 15 after all. The other day, during his bath, we found something, a little tumor, different than the fatty tumors he has that all older dogs eventually get. We were concerned. I called my old vet and explained about our old dog and how we just couldn’t bring him in anymore, because of the car but mostly because of the stress, and asked if he could recommend anyone in our area who made house calls. He was, as always, delightful and more than willing to help. He recommended a DVM named Lorraine Watson who works out of Thousand Oaks. I called her; she came on Monday.

She pulled up to the house in her Toyota Prius, and came to the door with her vet bag on wheels and Maguire met her at the door. He loves company. Of course, once he realized what she was there for, he wasn’t nearly as happy, but he complied. She checked his heart, his ears and his teeth; checked out the little tumor we found, and knew what it was immediately. However, because of his age, and because it’s not really bothering him or hindering him at this point, she recommended leaving it alone. Surgery on an old dog is fraught with potential problems, and if we don’t have to do that, we’re not going to. She took blood to run some basic tests as well as to determine if he’s healthy enough to perhaps take some arthritis medication, something to ease the discomfort he has in his hips. Dr. Watson called last night, pronounced him very healthy and is sending us a prescription. He’ll have blood work again in 3 weeks to make sure everything is fine, but we’re thrilled. Anything to help our boy feel better.

And we’re thrilled to have found a doctor who makes house calls. What a concept. It’s ideal for both vintage puppy and vintage puppy’s parents.

Still, I suspect Maguire would like to be back in the Rover, standing tall on his rug (which we still have in the back cargo), head out the window, racing through the wind. Going, going, going. With no worries and no vet in sight.

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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.


As winter knocks, a vintage puppy refuses to hear

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 18, 2011 10:42 PM

You’d think a big dog with a lot of fur would welcome the return of winter, cold days followed by colder nights. Strong winds swirling through the canyons, sweeping up big loose maple leaves before dashing them to the street below where they shatter like glass. Darkness descends by 5, the moon rises until the sun chases it away too early. Fires get built and blaze warmly, hot chocolate and hot cider get brewed. You’d think a big dog would like all of that, except for the hot chocolate. You’d be wrong.

Our big dog, his esteemed puppiness of the vintage variety, one Master Maguire Michel, does not like winter. It’s not the cold so much that bothers him, though he’s not big on the cold. It’s not the early darkness that he finds so unappealing, though he loves to bask in the sun that streams through the windows into the house, or through the branches of the backyard trees when he’s outside. It’s certainly not the blazing fireplace. He likes to curl up on the Oriental rug in front of it.

It’s that in the summer, he is truly in his element. He strolls through the house, clicking along, pausing occasionally to shake and distribute big blowouts of fur in his wake. This way, we’re able to find him should he become lost. We can just follow the trail he leaves behind.

Or we can simply listen to the soft, gentle, lap, lap, LAP of water as he slurps up a bowl or two. It’s a sound that echoes through the house at all hours.

In the summer, he loves the cool tile of the entrance-way where he can often be found sprawled. It’s where we used to keep his kennel when we were training him. We called it his “house” and it was his sanctuary. We never used it for punishment, and he felt very safe there. In fact, when he was in trouble, even if we didn’t yet know what he’d done, we could find him in his house, stuffed in the back, safe from the big bad parents who were obviously mean and out to get him.

Maguire, the fearless, stuffed into the back of his too small house that he did not want to give up. He was probably a year and a half old.

We got the “house” the night before we adopted the then unnamed puppy. We had heard that kennel training was the best way to teach, and it was. He loved his house. Whenever we were leaving, all we had to say was “go, get in your house,” and off he’d trot, snuggle down on his blanket or the cool pan at the bottom. We took him out immediately when we got home; he went into it always when we went to bed. We tried to get rid of it several times and he rebelled. He chewed the bottom of the table in the kitchen when we left him in there instead; he tore his bed apart when we left him with that.

So the house came back. I started leaving the door unlatched, with him inside, when we’d leave, then I’d leave it open just a little bit, then a little bit more. Finally I stopped closing it at all. Then I stopped asking him to get into it, though the house remained. He was still safe. He’d lay next to it. At that point, it was OK for me to take it away. To this day, he still settles in the same spot; still feels safe there.

Interestingly, he feels safe there in the summer and the winter.

I’ve come to believe that the biggest reason he’s not into winter is because he has nothing to wear. This occurred to me this morning as I watched him wander into the bathroom after his morning constitutional. His nails clicked on the tile as he moved first to the back of the room. He stuck his head into the laundry basket of dirty clothes and turned to look at me. I felt compelled to tell him that I was planning to do laundry today. Really. Honest. He puffed and turned back toward the bedroom but not before stopping to look in the closet. One of the sliding doors was open. He first admired his svelte self in the mirror, and stuck his head inside. Evidently nothing in there appealed to him either. He harrumphed and sashayed over to lay down in the sun streaming in through the vertical blinds, allowing the early and still cold warmth to penetrate his aging hips.

Winter may be knocking, but Maguire’s not ready to answer. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t hear. Or maybe it’s not the cold at all.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to give up his shorts.

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live out loud

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

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