Me On Guard…Finally!

We have a new baby. She is very small.  At first, her parents wouldn’t let me near her. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m very big, at least compared to her. I happen to know big is relative. I’m really only medium-large. At Occidental College, where I was working the other day, giving therapy to college students, an Irish Wolfhound strolled in. He was dog-normous–three feet tall, weighing in at 160 pounds.  He told us he was a champion racer. I’d like to race him even though I’m only about nineteen and a half inches tall, weighing in at 46 pounds. The difference between a wolf and a sheep is that wolves are sneaky and sheep are not. I can be sneaky too.

Back to our baby. Her parents, your children, are extra careful with her, the way brand new parents are. I feel sad when I can’t play with her, so I hope she grows bigger fast so I can sniff her and steal her treats when she isn’t looking. I told you how much I wanted to be close to the baby, so I barked when you shut me out of her house. I jumped up on her daddy when he came to visit. I got close enough to sniff her all over. She was delicious! That did not advance my cause. I put my front paws down and waited patiently until I could kiss her. The days stretched into weeks. I was on lockdown. I felt very sad.

But our patience paid off. You took the new baby for a walk and let me walk right next to her. Dog, did I love that!  Everyone stared at us and smiled. I walked right next to her stroller. I did not pull on either side to sniff even though the boulevard trees were odoriferous. I watched the street carefully on all sides  and at corners for anything unusual. I was such a good boy. I can learn how to behave if you help me learn. I will be an outstanding babysitter.

Oliver’s advice: Have faith in dogs. Teach them well with lots of encouragement. They will learn.


ginetteYou wanted to meet Ginette at Grand Park between our homes, somewhere green in the middle of Los Angeles, which is otherwise asphalt, concrete and neon. So we drove there, next to many tall buildings, surrounded by noisy trucks, sirens blasting in my sensitive ears, and people scurrying about. You drove around for a long time for a place to park. Finally, you pulled into a ramp that charged 18 dollars. That would buy a lot of treats, but we were ready to be out of the car. There was Ginette waving to us.  I liked her immediately.

She held my leash and watched over me while you went to the Ladies Room in a restaurant. When you came out you gave me a treat. So far it was worth the ride.

We pranced right down the middle of the park, through one section of sidewalk, into another, and then another. That was fun, but there was nowhere private to lift my leg or squat. I guess parks in Los Angeles don’t have many trees or good sniffs like I have back in Minneapolis.

You felt something on your forehead and thought it was raining so we hurried up to find a covered spot. Ginette noticed you had a big brown blob on your face. She announced it was lucky bird shit and wiped the good luck off your forehead with a plastic bag. We came back out of the cover into the sunshine. Ginette has wonderful ideas and is a woman of action.

Some people were lying down right on the sidewalk sleeping. We didn’t make friends with them.  Lots of children were throwing water bottles in the air or playing ball in tight green spaces. It was hard to stay with you when I wanted to play on the grass. You drew me close to your side so I couldn’t chase them.

We found a pink table to sit at while Ginette read her story while you listened and said a few things every once in a while, like, “Maybe you could use a different word there.” I’m glad I can say everything I need to say with my eyes and my mouth. You listened and you ate a salad that didn’t smell good to me—quinoa, beans, lettuce. So I stayed under the table and just listened.

Ginette walked us back to the parking ramp, where you hugged and kissed her like you do to me sometimes, except you don’t pat her on the top of her head.

After we drove back to our house, you took me for a real walk with real trees. I was relieved to be able to lift my leg all around the whole tree. I make a lot of sacrifices for you.

Oliver’s advice: Next time you go to a park, find one with more trees.


Calliope, my sister

There is no sibling rivalry. My big sister Calliope and I love each other. Okay, I love her and maybe she loves me. Mostly, she ignores me.

She sleeps on the daybed, curled up like a little fawn, right on top of your good green blanket, the one with your embroidered mantra “Transcend and Hover.” She was already living here when you first brought me home. I give her space. She is much older than I am—13—and won’t get up to play with me when I sniff her face. I’m only 4.

She has stanky breath. OoooEeeee. She only has a few teeth left so she doesn’t smile a lot because she’s embarrassed and shy from rejection. You rescued her from a family with two other bossy Beardies who bullied her. There weren’t any Stop-A-Bully posters at their house. Her former family put Calliope in her crate to protect her, but she became very sick and shy. It wasn’t fair since the bully dogs got their freedom. When you offered to take her, she was afraid of everything. She’s still afraid of other dogs and barks and growls at them if she thinks there’s a slight chance they’re going to bully her. They don’t know she can’t bite.

Daddy took her to a “reactive dog” class, where he learned to distract her with a treat if she looked scared, but all she learned was to ask for treats. Now when I bring in the morning newspaper, she wants a treat too. I get a big one, and she gets a little one just for asking.

I look for her when I come home from my therapy work. She’s usually asleep on the landing. I run right up to her face and take a big whiff. You can’t go sniffing around any old dog, just the ones you know. If I step on her in my happiness to see her, she’ll unfold, put her head down and skulk off up the stairs, showing me that isn’t good little brother behavior. Yes, I know the word skulk. You taught me well. I have a very large vocabulary for a dog, even if I am hard to control.

When you groom her, she cries. I rear up like a wild horse if you hurt me, but Calliope just howls and shivers.  I stand very close to make sure you aren’t hurting her too much. After you have combed and brushed her body, legs and face, you fasten an elastic band around her top knot, the way you do with me. She gets a Chanel ribbon and wags her whole body. She loves her ribbon because when she’s wearing it, she knows people will pet her, especially Maija, her special person friend. Maija loves her unconditionally and laughs when she talks to her.

When you and Daddy take us out, Calliope waits behind you until I finish dancing. Then, she comes to you and sits in front of you so you will pet her and put on her leash. I spin around her once, barking, Me first! Me first! She is very patient. My sister. I love her.

Oliver’s advice: Don’t put victims in prison. It ruins their social skills. Another thing, keep me from jumping on my big sister. I don’t mean to hurt her, but sometimes she’s in the way when I get crazy. I count on you to protect us both.