This is my last of three episodes of IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A BAD DOG? I hope by now you know this is a rhetorical question.

baddog2Do you remember I have a large vocabulary?
Rhetorical means I shouldn’t have to bark more than once for you to understand.

So here it is, my most recent thoughts on the above subject. But, don’t think for one minute that I am done barking. I could go on and on. You must be as patient as I am because I have so many other things to do that I can only write these ideas down every ten days or so.

Paw Three: Influence? When we go to Occidental College in Los Angeles (I get around), the students like my hairdo so much they try to imitate it. You tell them my man-bun is to keep the hair out of my eyes so I can look at you and you can look at me and we can smell love. They think it’s to make me look cute. No way. It’s only to let us see each other, eye to eye, so we can both be good. At Carlson School of Management, grown men in suits get down on the floor in the atrium to stroke my hair. They have all kinds of stress, but petting me is all that counts at that very moment. I get into that special dreamy spot in my brain that makes me lie down and be petted because it feels so good. I meditate on the state of being a peaceful therapy dog. A yogi man named Ram Dass wrote a book called Be Here Now. I saw you reading this book for many days over and over, and I put a paw on your arm to ask why you weren’t walking me and you told me all about Ram Dass. You know I can’t read, so you told me Rami Dami is a writer and a deep thinker like I am.

On the job, when we do our therapy, some people don’t speak at all. They just sit down next to me, close their eyes and run their fingers through my long black and white hair. I like that the best.

When we’re out walking, if I regress into my natural, ancestral self and want to chase and herd, you need to remind me, We must be mindful. Slow down! You tell me Don’t pull! because sometimes you break if you fall down like when you broke your leg, and another time, your elbow, and another time, your foot, and each time you break, you have to be on those terrible metal crutches.

We both are learning to be more mindful. I have to slow down, but so do you. I know you want to run and chase too, but you are getting too old. So we work on it. I like it when you play the piano for me. Chopin, Gershwin, Bach. You told me your first Beardie rested his chin on your foot pedal. I rest my foot on the rung of the dining room table. When you light a candle at dawn and put it in the bay window, I settle down on the window seat and we both close our eyes.

I think about someone petting me, slowly and gently. I try not to think about racing around after chicken bones and delicious smelling shoes. Maybe you think about where you and I are going next. When we are finished, the sun has risen over the lake. Our quiet time together is better than any book. And it’s free! Except for the candle.

Oliver’s advice: Now you know as much about goodness and badness as I know—three paws. I kept one paw out for balance. Relax and pet me a lot. Keep me away from temptation. Think about our minds. If I mind you and you mind me, together we are mindful. It’s the best kind of meditation. We are both good. No one can get hurt. If you follow my advice, I will be as good a dog as I know how to be. We will feel wonderful.


Dear Readers: This the second in my three part piece first published in Penmen Review, June 23rd. If you can’t wait to read the ending (I know how hard it is to wait sometimes… just go to here).

baddog2Paw Two: Behavior? I try to be very, very good to you and to everyone we love. My behavior is best when I am supposed to perform and make other people happy. Then I am happy too, like when we are on the job as a therapy dog team…you and me. We both like to make people happy. When I get too hot or restless, all I have to do is lie down, face the door, or stop walking next to you. You catch on immediately. You are very smart. I am proud of you.

When it’s time to do our work, you start to walk in and out of your bedroom faster, almost running, like you mean business. I follow you all around because I know we might be going to work together. Then you put on fresh pants and a clean shirt and strap your special little purse over your shoulder, the one full of treats and baggies and keys. That is the clincher. If you don’t put on that little purse, we probably aren’t going anywhere together. You might be leaving me and that makes me very sad, but I usually have several hours to sleep it off. If we are going together, you tie your shoes and march downstairs, grabbing my special blue leash and harness. That is your behavior. It is outstanding.

Oh, dog! I am excited. We both know what fun we’re about to have. You are already smiling at me. I make you happy. Up! you say, pointing to the grooming table. I pretend I don’t hear you until I get a treat first. When you hold it out for me, I jump up. You spray wonderful lavender all over me and comb me and brush me and pick the thistles out of my paws and kiss the top of my head. Then you strap on my harness under my belly and across my chest, my scarf around my neck, and my blue leash, and I know we’re going on the job.

So my behavior has to match yours. I mean business too. I hop into the car and lie down and wait patiently until our car comes to a complete stop. I meditate on how I am supposed to act. You drive to a place where we are going to show other people how cute we are. Especially me. We go to a special spot where sometimes there are other therapy teams. Dogs are not supposed to talk to each other when they’re on the job. People pet me and talk about me and ask you questions about me and I am very, very good! Sometimes all the attention makes me restless, but I concentrate on how good they are feeling and I wait until each person is finished. Every once in a while, I look around at the other therapy dogs to see if they’re having as much fun as I am. I notice that a lot of dog people talk constantly. I like that you don’t talk a lot. When we’re both tired, you reach into your little purse, and find me a big venison and sweet potato treat. Then I know it’s time to go home.

Oliver’s advice: When you act important, that makes me feel important too. Sometimes one of us isn’t having as much fun as the other team member. We are good about matching each other’s behavior. If one of us is ready to go home, the other one must cooperate. Always remember to reward my good behavior! You reward me with a treat because I’m a dog, and I reward you with all of me, the best treat of all.