Category Archives: Dog Tales

Eating My Centerpiece

As a pre-Valentine’s Day surprise for my husband, I planned a wonderfully romantic dinner for two. The highlight of the meal was the stuffed pasta shells which he adores but that I rarely fix because it makes a mess of the kitchen. In addition to the candlelit ambience, I had devised a beautiful centerpiece ironically inspired by the 2006 movie “The Break-Up” starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. In the movie, Jennifer’s character asks her boyfriend (played by Vince Vaughn) to bring home 12 lemons for their dinner party centerpiece. Unfortunately, we never get to see the citrussy main attraction because he only brings home 3 lemons. (Apparently, he never listens, which is one of the factors leading to the break-up.)

So, I was left to my own imagination to figure out what a lemon centerpiece might look like. My only clue was that it would require 12 lemons. (Not 3, but 12.) I put 12 lemons in a bowl and it looked like—well, 12 lemons in a bowl. So I added some yellow flowers that I bought on my third trip to the grocery that day and voila!—a bright, cheerful centerpiece was born.

And it was a good thing that the centerpiece was so cheerful, because what happened next did NOT make me happy. With T-minus 45 minutes, I raced to take a bath and get dressed. In the 10 minutes that I was in the tub my dog managed to steal a purple pen from my purse and eat it on the orange wool entrance-way rug. Then, with ink-covered paws, he walked on the hardwood floors to the living room rug, then popped up onto the sofa and later trekked to his water bowl. It didn’t take advanced sleuthing skills to determine the sequence of events. The track of purple doggie prints, ink splattered everywhere, the remains of half a pen and the fact that my once yellow-looking lab mutt was now sporting purple paws and lips told the whole story.

T-35 minutes: Panic ensues. Dripping wet, and naked except for a towel, I dash across the living room praying that the blinds are closed and cursing my dog who looks utterly un-phased. I quickly wipe the ink off the hardwoods. “Thank God, it comes off!”

T-33 minutes: I frantically grab my phone and Google “How to remove ink stains from carpet”. First suggestion is rubbing alcohol. I looked in the medicine cabinet and we don’t have any. “Crap!”

T-31 minutes: Second recommendation on the list is to dab a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar on the offending stain. In my panic, instead of dabbing, I dump. Now there are mounds of white baking soda scattered from the front door to the living room, and when the vinegar is added they bubble over like little volcanoes spewing purple-tinted lava. I begin scrubbing furiously. (Which is exactly what Google said not to do.) The stains remain and the damn dog is smiling (laughing, actually), “Bugger off, Hooper!”

T-10 minutes: I’m freezing. I’m still naked and wet! Shit! “Please God let my husband be running late.” After insisting my husband be home promptly at 8pm I was now wishing for a small traffic jam or an interstate construction hold up. I spend my few precious remaining minutes recovering all the stains with baking soda. I prefer the “Pompeii ash-covered look” to the “my dog slaughtered Barney the purple dinosaur” crime scene.

T-5 minutes: Fastest getting dressed and made-up in the history of womankind. “Maybe he’ll assume my heavy breathing is in anticipation of our romantic evening?” Not a chance. My tear-stained face will give me away not to mention the powdery mounds throughout the house.

The dog is barking like a banshee. My husband is home.

After a quick explanation of the day’s crazy events, several more ineffective scoldings to our dog, and a few very large glasses of wine, we did finally sit down to a great meal and a relaxing rest of the evening. It’s just ink-stained stuff, and in the grand scheme of things, not that big of a deal.

By now you are probably thinking that this is a “making lemonade out of lemons” story, and you are right. Literally. My centerpiece flowers finally died several days ago and now I am left with a bowl full of 12 lemons and nothing planned for dinner tonight.

T-3 hours: Time to Google, “Recipes using lemons.”

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The Universe is as Subtle as A Dog

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To the casual observer, my 75-pound Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab/Border Collie mix mutt is anything but subtle. He bangs on the blinds covering the back door when he wants to go outside. He carries his metal food bowl and drops it in front of you on the hardwood floor when he’s hungry, rattling your skull in the process. If he’s feeling mischievous, you better guard your socks and underwear because they are bound to go missing in hopes that you will soon be in hot pursuit to retrieve them. He definitely knows how to get his point across.

With my background in marketing and advertising, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in communications. But recently it has come to my attention that the loud, über fast-paced, deadline-driven, visually, audibly and chemically over-stimulated world that we live in has actually deadened our communication skills as a society. (Or at least mine.) Subtlety and innuendo are a lost art. If you want to be heard you better shout and it better be in 140 characters or less because we don’t have time or the attention span for anything else.

In the last few weeks, I’ve made a concerted effort to s-l-o-w  d-o-w-n, and in doing so I discovered something amazing. My dog is a master of the art of subtlety, but I’ve been too distracted to notice. He gives a series of nonverbal cues as to what he wants and only escalates them to an annoyingly loud level when I don’t acknowledge his previous attempts. For example, when he wants to play fetch he will look in the direction of his toy bin and then look back at me with inquisitive eyebrows, a big smile and a wagging tail. Then, he will bring a ball to me. If I don’t get the hint he will drop it at my feet and stare at it in hopes I will follow his line of sight and engage in playing. If that still doesn’t get my attention he will demonstrate “throwing” the ball by standing on the back of the sofa and dropping it. If I haven’t started playing by now he assumes I must not like his initial toy selection, so he will get a different ball and go through the motions again. It is only as a last resort that he will drop the ball in my lap and start barking incessantly and at an eardrum-piercing level, because by this point it has become apparent to him that I will only respond to the most obvious and painful of tactics. The universe, it seems, uses the same playbook as my dog.

More often than not, I’ve had to learn my life lessons the hard way. In looking back though, there were always numerous opportunities to learn the same lesson through a less painful method. The trick is to slow down, be quiet and observant, and listen. The universe speaks to us in whispers all the time, giving us the advice we seek and steering us toward the right path and helpful people. If we don’t listen to the whispers we can eventually expect a shout or worse.

Don’t wait for life to bite you in the butt. Quiet down, observe the subtle cues, throw the ball and get into the game. Life is a lot more fun that way.

The Earl of Dogdom

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Upon the urging of my esthetician and several of my Facebook friends, I bought the first three seasons of Downton Abbey and obsessively watched them all within a week. This British period costume drama series depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early twentieth century. Like all soap operas, it’s filled with love affairs, betrayal, intrigue and scandal. But what makes Downton appeal to such a diverse audience (husbands included) are the historical references. The sinking of the Titanic, the outbreak of WWI and the Spanish influenza epidemic, combined with the elaborate sets, costumes and always intelligent-sounding British accents make you think you are watching a documentary instead of a soap opera. You’re not rotting brain cells, you are studying history on PBS. Mom would be proud.

Today at the dog park, I observed a Downton Abbey-esque drama unfolding before my very eyes.

Much like the servants on Downton Abbey who spend most of their day downstairs, only coming upstairs to serve the Crawley family, the little dogs will sometimes visit the big dog side, but it is completely gauche for the big dogs to socialize on the little dog side. It’s just unheard of for the classes to mix in this way.

The little dogs, also like to yap—a lot. They huddle together and bark incessantly at each other, the humans and the occasional squirrel. I often imagine that they are prattling on about their lot in life and plotting new ways for advancement. The big dogs don’t have time to waste with idle gossip because they have important work to do like chasing tennis balls, marking their territory and sniffing out opportunities to ensure their position as top dog.

There is also an ample amount of conspiring, bickering, and sexual play being acted out on both sides of the fence, but unlike Downton, it’s not being done in secret behind close doors. These are American dogs of course and therefore not nearly as refined. Proper decorum is not their forte.

As for my dog, Hooper, he would most definitely be cast as The Earl of Grantham on the dog park version of Downton Abbey. He definitely believes the world revolves around him and sees no reason for his good life to ever change despite the circumstances in the world outside his humble estate. He has two dedicated human servants that wait on him hand and paw, making sure his every need is met. His only job is to keep up appearances which he does dutifully by making trips to the dog park and lake and running errands around town where the commoners bestow upon him praise and dog biscuits.

It’s good to be the Earl of Dogdom. It’s even better to be his human.