I’VE BEEN AROUND THE BLOCK

Hello, all you therapy team (and other) fans. I am in my seventh year of being part of a therapy team with my mom. You might say I am experienced and wise. I am too modest to say it outright. When we walk around, we get a lot of attention. People say we are beautiful. I take it in my stride. Biscuit hasn’t quite learned the art of being cool yet.

I am clearly in charge. Biscuit is my apprentice.

If you look closely in the photos above, I am the one with the stick. I am teaching Biscuit patience. We are wearing our blaze orange coats so hunters don’t mistake us for white-tailed deer. Some hunters are very stupid if they can’t tell us from deer, but oh, well. We just want to be safe and free in the woods.

Mom and I have now been back on the job for a few months. I have not had a COVID vaccine, but Mom has had three. Biscuit stays home when I put on my special leash and scarf, because Biscuit doesn’t know all my moves yet. He loves me a lot and I love him too, but it’s hard to have a conversation with Mom when he’s around because he jumps on her and sticks his face all up in hers while I sit quietly by and watch. I am quite mature as dogs go.

Going back to work has been doglicious. We go to the airport, once a month on Friday mornings, which is hard on my ears but exciting. I know how to carry myself on the elevator. I am quiet and calm. Sometimes, people roll big, bangy suitcases right up next to me as if I’m not there. I hold my head up high and look straight ahead to indicate I know where we’re going. The truth is I can’t push the elevator buttons, so I wait until someone else does. Dad comes with us and he really does know where we’re going so he does the important things like carrying my equipment and checking us through. He also finds where we parked, a very important skill.

I like children best. They tell me how much they love me. They smell wet. They tell us about the dogs they left at home. A lot of big people walk right past us as I lie in front of the tall banner that says, “Pet me.” How rude. I ignore them. Not everyone appreciates what petting me does for them. It helps their tickers. It balances their hormones (and we all know how important balanced hormones are). It improves their tacticity (that is their ability to feel things with their hands, especially my long, well-groomed hair). They hurry off to their airplanes with a little dog-spring in their steps.

We also go to the University of Minnesota to be petted by students and staff in the PAWS program. We like Carlson School of Management. Everyone is learning how to manage things. They manage me by petting me into oblivion. They tell me I’m chill. Around them, I am amazing. The PAWS program has cats, chickens, llamas, rabbits and dogs to pet. I love the smell of chickens. If you didn’t hold my leash, I would advance quickly toward the  basket where a beautiful chicken perches and preens. Her name is Tilly, a diminutive for Attila the Hen. My diminutive is Ollie. Did you forget I have a very large vocabulary? (Just saying.) Tillie and Tanya are besties, but Tilly and I might get along too if anyone would give us a chance. Interspecies inspection is discouraged, so I accept that. I can’t play on the job with other therapy animals either. I’ve gotten used to it, but I’m glad I have Biscuit.

When I go home to Biscuit, I am not chill. I am reduced to a ridiculous, flying whirl of fur. Dog! Do we have fun! I explain to Biscuit about going around the block. I have already taught him how to lift his leg, how to pick up and eat sticks and how to sniff around every ridge and furrow of every tree. Those ridges and furrows are called tree rhytidome. I have tried to teach Biscuit that word, but he’s still stuck in the sniffing stage where other dogs have lifted their legs and left their scent. Biscuit is an excellent sniffer and sampler. He likes to sample the way things taste. You call him the sanitary engineer because he licks in places he believes need cleaning up. I say Yog! (my word for Yuk!) I am a patient teacher, so I will wait for him to catch up on all my sophisticated means of communication until he’s a little older. It’s hard to learn if you’re not ready. 

Advice from Oliver: When you’ve been around the block, it isn’t polite to let everyone know. 

MY BEST FRIEND

AREN’T WE QUITE THE DUO?

It’s true I’ve had others, but no one makes me laugh and gives me a run for my gastrointestinal biome food like my best friend, Biscuit. Our new kibble, designed to keep our bellies from shedding their contents inappropriately, is not what I’d call delicious. You take him away sometimes and neither of us can eat a bite. Our food just sits in our bowls for at least a day. That should let you know that we need to be together. I know we’re a handful. When we are in full play mode, we’re several hands full. We bark and leap and jump around and act silly and you get that look on your face that is supposed to make us stop doing what comes naturally. We braid our leashes if you aren’t paying complete attention to each of us.

Dognabbit. If you keep him from me, I just get more excited when I see him. When my brown eyes get blue, I’m really scheming up new tricks for us. I’ve taught Biscuit The Dishtowel Tear; The Sock Stealer; The Newspaper Ripoff; Rules for Bedtime, including who gets to sleep where. I usually get first choice because so far Biscuit watches me with those big golden eyes of his to see which spot I’ll take. Then he assumes his own space. I’ve taught him other games too, but I can’t reveal them. 

When he’s not here, I put my chin on my front paws and wait. Some dumbies say dogs have no sense of time. They don’t know how it feels to wait and wait for your best friend to come home.

So, how about it, just bring me along as much as you can when you take Biscuit up to Old Pines or anywhere else you go. I promise I’ll be about as good as I can be. 

Advice from Oliver: It hurts the heart to be torn asunder from loved ones. 

GOOD TASTE

BISCUIT AND I DREAMING OF OUR NEXT TASTY SNACK

Each to her own. Each to his own. Each to one’s own. We all have our taste.

Biscuit likes all wood pulp and paper products, from artificially manufactured to earth-grown, or as it is now called “sustainable.” The only thing is, when he is done shredding and consuming, it is no longer sustainable. He has taken an interest in the pansies that grew out of pots on our deck, eating both leaves and flowers. He recently ate half of the cover of a favorite author’s book, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. This is an excellent book. He wanted to sample it when no one was looking, so he did. Biscuit has good taste.

I observed that he was not as discerning when he was small. He ate gravel and small hard things. His palate has evolved somewhat. It isn’t as dangerous, at least in theory. Last night, he ate the blue tape you had put down to mark off measured boundaries for something you were contemplating.

You yell at me for pre-moistening shoes and socks. You yell at Biscuit for consuming his preferred diet.

Between the two of us, we keep you very busy. We both have very good taste. After all, we chose you.

Oliver’s Advice: There is no accounting for taste.

SHARING

I have to share you with the Biscuit. It is not easy but I am a good and generous dog-boy. 

You and he disappeared for awhile and I was very lonesome. Before you left, I smelled Old Pines,our lake home deep in the earth that smells delicious. You demonstrated all the signs of leaving:sacks of food, little bags of assorted things, going up and down the stairs many times. I was all excited and jumped around, getting ready to get in the back seat of our car, but you left me with Dad. I love Dad but it isn’t the same without you and that big bundle of fur you call Biscuit. Most days I just call him “kid.”

I waited by the back door for several days and finally I heard a familiar sound—the garage door going up and your car driving in and the engine stopping. Finally.

Biscuit was the first to greet me. Then, you came in. I hugged you and hugged you and hugged you and you hugged me back. Just to make sure you weren’t leaving me again, I hugged you some more. You uncurled my legs from your leg and I barked and barked and we all climbed the stairs.

Together again. 

We love each other. No matter what.

Advice from Oliver: If you wait patiently and share nicely, good things come to you.

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.