My Hunger Strike

I am not a perfect dog. This may come as a surprise to you. Food has become an “issue” for me.

I have been on a hunger strike to demonstrate my indifference to the food you prepare. I rush to my bowl, sniff its contents, drop my head dramatically and pad away. You have tried everything to encourage me, but what you don’t yet understand is that by eschewing my source of chewing, I am showcasing my sovereignty. I put on a good act by dashing to my bowl. Then I fake you out. I used to gobble up my food so fast, you bought me a “slow bowl.” I keep hoping you’ll finally bring me a dripping, fresh fish. But no! Not this time either.

The fact is, I’m almost 9 years old and have earned the right to be picky. Very picky. You have tried many different foods to entice me. There are three very large bags of different kinds of food in the basement and at the cabin. Now we have a fourth kind which I like better except you sprinkle some strange powder on top and I detest the taste. I know this is a special food for certain kinds of stomachs. It has a big label on it that says Gastrointestinal Biome. It’s mostly okay, especially mixed with butterscotch pudding. I’ve learned to eat the pudding and leave the food. I am smart, as you know. Catch my drift?

I am also deeply sensitive. I like having Biscuit around. Most of the time, he behaves himself. I have trouble with my temper when he jumps on your bed before I do and acts like he owns the world. I sulk on the floor when Biscuit behaves that way. I am not bred for conflict. I am a mediator. I wait. As soon as he jumps off, I take my turn and pose regally in state.

An example of my extreme sensitivity is this: when we walk around the city lake, there are terrible sounds: people on their skateboards, electric thingamajiggies, too-bright lights, loud boom-booms that make me nervous. I look over my shoulder to see if these terrible things are coming up around us because then all bets are off. I transmogrify. I become a growler, a snarler, a barker, a leaper, a jumper. The dopey drivers of these strange mechanisms blame me and you for their disrespectful behavior. They shout at us. They are stupid. They do not understand boundaries. They do not understand the effects of full-volume sound or of scary, sudden movement coming up behind us surreptitiously. They do not understand that dogs need their space too. We need quiet and peace so we can hear the birds and our own paws on the pavement.

Biscuit and you and I and an occasional friend find other places to walk when it is noisy around the city lake. But I still am on a hunger strike, striking for dog rights. Sidewalks are for four-legged tail-waggers like me and Biscuit. So, off we go to the neighborhood or to the cabin to be by ourselves. The symphony of sounds at our special Wisconsin lake is natural and good. At the cabin, we have trumpeter swans. They’re loud, but they earned their space to land on the lake. Loons? Same thing. Sandhill cranes squawk from distant shores. When the weather changes, these birds fly with strong wings to distant places. Biscuit barks at them because, at eight months old, he hasn’t learned you don’t have to bark at everything unknown. Biscuit is a good listener, and I will try to help him learn. One paw at a time. A couple of barks. We speak dog. Our dialect is the same because we both come from Michigan. Same address. His mother is my sister. Even though we don’t always agree, we understand one another.

Maybe he will show me how to get back to enjoying my food. Young and old. Old and young. Love makes it easier. Love makes it all better.

Advice from Oliver: If you are offended by your fare, strike!! You never know what form of bribery will come next. It could be butterscotch pudding.

Out of Paw

The world is slightly out of paw.

I should be more specific:

As these photographs attest, Biscuit, in particular, is growing out of paw.

He was under my tutelage for a very short time. He is only six months old and he is is going

for the heavyweight championships.

It’s hard to keep a good Beardie down. Since he is my nephew, I cannot denigrate him.

That would not be good breeding. If you forgot what denigrate means, please use a dictionary.

I cannot name all the many good things about Biscuit, but my favorite thing is that he lets me lick the

last morsel of puppy food from his bowl when he is all done. While I am licking his remains, he licks mine.

It’s a great deal for both of us. Dogteam work.

His voice changed the same day he tried to lift his leg by a tree. He kept his big deepening bark,

but he hasn’t lifted his leg ever since. Maybe he dribbled, I don’t really know.

I fully expect him to try it again soon. I demonstrate for him constantly, but he isn’t ready yet.

Certain things take time and practice.

Advice from Oliver: Sampling other dogs’ food is an expanding experience. Try it.


He tries to imitate me, but his voice is not as powerful as mine.

He hasn’t got the swagger down either. You know the one I mean, where I steal your favorite slipper

and look slyly over my shoulder, and take you on a merry chase around the house.

You don’t think it’s as funny as I do.

Biscuit is catching on. I also noticed he’s climbing stairs better now— 

one stair per paw rather than two front paws and then two rear paws.


…when I greet the UPS guy, taking the package in my caliper-like teeth and chasing to the kitchen for a treat

…when I snatch the newspaper at 6 am from the front porch…

…when I stand at attention from the window seat, surveying the landscape across the street…

…when I perch on top of your bed with Pig—in charge— for all practical purposes…

And Biscuit, well, he’s just a puppy.

I, as you can see in the photograph, am a big, hairy, beautiful beast. 

We play tug and he is strong.

We walk together in the morning before the sun is up.

We greet dogs that are all the way down the block.

He tries to assist me with my jobs.

You take him to Obedience and when he gets home

I demonstrate to him which rules to follow and

which ones to ignore.

He started Agility and the jury is out on that one.

I didn’t get very far in it myself.

All in all, Biscuit hasn’t fully found his voice

We have a special chorus to be used when there are

threatening circumstances passing by our house.

I bark. He yips. I bark, bark. He yip, yips.

I bark, bark, bark. He yip, yip, yips. 

Biscuit is coming along.

Biscuit is still in sotto voce, but he is working on

tutto volume.

I don’t think I ever told you I speak Italian.

Advice from Oliver: Learn Italian to spice up your speeches. A soft voice is not as strong

as a loud GROWF!

What’s Mine is Mine…

So you see, this is called encroachment. He’s getting a little too close for comfort, but I pretend I don’t see him. I mean Biscuit. All he has to do is lift up one hind leg and he’s there, mooching in on my space. So far, I have made it clear. My window. My bed. My day bed. His kennel. My dog dish. His dog dish. Our water.

He listens…to a point. When we chase around on Cranberry Lake, we see my girlfriends and I share them. I figure that’s the least I can do since I’m the older one and way more mature. They’ll always love me, so it’s okay. I introduced Biscuit to their dog, Marlowe. He has long, brown legs and curly hair.

Biscuit and our girlfriends

I am happy to share because, you know, Biscuit is pretty hard to resist, except… I have to keep him informed of his rightful place: Second in command. NOT FIRST. Nope. I have eight years on him. But, boy does he eat. I’ve also noticed he grows.

Mostly, I like having him around. When you take him to school to try to teach him obedience, I am very glad when he comes home. I am at the door with a tug in my teeth to remind him how much fun we have in case he forgets. He’s little so he needs to be reminded.

Advice from Oliver: Sharing is not easy, but who’s perfect?



He looks innocent and it’s true. He was. Once. But that was a brief and precious time. Biscuit has ingested a lot of things I would never taste. He licks up hair and fuzz from the carpets. He noses into the wastebasket and snatches whatever he wants before you can stop him. Yukkydoggy.

He fooled you, didn’t he? Now you have to keep him forever. He won you over but I was never fooled. Now that we all know what he has inside that sweet little fuzzy brain, I have been furtively instructing him how to get treats. Slippers, shoes, dishtowels, sweaters, just about anything loose…my specialty. We are both quick. You didn’t even notice this morning when we grabbed your good sweater and played tug with it in the living room.

Our friend Sylvia called it. She said Biscuit is my accomplice. I have taught him how to run away as soon as you call him. How not to sit when you say sit. I’ll explain: he was sitting so well and you kept loving him up. Well, he was outshining me and so I had to teach him not to sit. I sidled up and wagged my tail and now he doesn’t sit when you ask him to sit. What a fast learner.

It seems that our friend Lucy gave you a puzzle. You couldn’t wait to open it up. I put my paws up and had a look myself. It said New Yorker on top. I can read, of course. The puzzle box showed snow everywhere and people playing and shoveling and bringing Christmas trees on toboggans and in the back of trucks and beautiful green wreaths everywhere. There were no Menorahs, of course, because this puzzle was from 1984 when religious freedom was just a notion. Everyone c celebrated Christmas, and it seemed so simple. People trudged through the snow, their arms laden with gifts. Oh, so beautiful and happy. You tore open the puzzle wrapper and dug right in, playing “Silent Night” on the radio.

Biscuit lay at your feet. You thought he was keeping you company. I knew better. I’ve seen him eat gravel and acorns. He was sneaky. They must have been delicious. Look at the puzzle. Can you spot the pieces Biscuit chewed raw?

Advice from Oliver: Do not be fooled by sweet looks. Those loving eyes can be loaded with mischief.