Thanksgiving pride and joy

Lately, when we bring the dogs to Rob’s parents’ house, they behave very well and wind up calmly lying down: Mia on a throw rug while Leo helps himself to the couch. In the past, Leo’s countersurfing has been a problem, but since he seems to have matured a bit, I was eager to bring them both to Thanksgiving dinner.

Our gathering was small: me and Rob, Rob’s parents, Rob’s uncle and aunt, and a delightful six-year-old girl Leo has known since he was a puppy.

Here he is, getting ready to pull her wheelchair like it’s a sleigh.

And here he is pulling her as Mia cheers on.

I know, normal people post pictures of their meal.

I didn’t realize that Rob’s aunt had never met the dogs. I felt a cold stab of guilt when Leo and I opened the door for her and she recoiled, saying “I’m quite terrified of large dogs.” A year ago, I might have panicked and stuck Leo in the car and made him wait out the rest of the celebration there, but I had faith in my boy, who has no history of snarling at anyone while off leash. I murmured to Rob to make sure Leo didn’t pester her at all, and Auntie clarified that she was terrified of dogs she didn’t know. Rob asked if it would help if she petted Leo, and she said it would.

Leo did a fair bit of polite wandering prior to dinner being served. Nothing inappropriate, but to someone afraid of dogs, I know Leo’s size is intimidating.

During dinner, Mia lay down underneath the table, a little closer to Auntie’s feet than I would have liked, but I’m not sure Auntie even noticed. Leo lay down on a mat behind Auntie at first. Then he did a cursory counter check while the kitchen was unattended. When he returned, he lay down on the other side of the table.

A perk of Rob’s and my never actually eating meals at our kitchen table is that our dogs don’t beg. At all! So kudos to us!

After we finished eating and the older men returned to the football cave, however, Leo stood and wrapped his teeth around the drumstick end of the turkey carcass still sitting on the dining table.

“Ha, ha, anyone want turkey leftovers?” I could afford to joke, because I don’t eat turkey.

No one was overly troubled by this transgression. After all, the turkey was at the exact height of Leo’s nose when he stood. What’s a dog to do?

Then, just as Rob’s mom congratulated herself for getting the rest of the food put away quickly in Leo’s presence, my boy propped his paws on the counter and licked a stick of butter in a dish.

“Just throw it out,” said Rob’s dad. (Leo is a repeat butter-stealing offender. Once he ate the whole stick before we caught him.)

“He only licked the top stick of butter,” I defended.

And Auntie agreed. “It’s true. I saw him.”

After that, I put Leo’s leash on, to keep him away from the counters and to play reindeer games. But then his leash got caught on one of the wheels of the wheelchair, so I detached him and was distracted long enough for him to snatch a wing from the turkey (now on top of the stove) and race around the house with it.

“Just let him have it,” said Rob’s dad. Yeah, that’s how permissive my dogs’ grandparents are.

“The bones are cooked; they could splinter,” I said.

I retrieved the wing bones from his mouth and gave half of his booty to Mia.

When I got home, I laughed at this post about countersurfing on Victoria Stilwell’s Positively blog. That might have been useful to read before dinner. But I already knew, the failure in management was ours. You can’t get mad at a dog for doing what comes naturally. (Honestly, I can’t get mad at Leo for anything. He’s just Leo.)

At the end of the day, I was thankful that Leo waited until after we’d eaten to showcase his naughty side. And I was beyond thrilled when Rob’s mom reported that Auntie was very impressed with how well-behaved our dogs were. Even after witnessing Leo’s antics!

I know I’m a little late to the Monday Mischief party, and Thanksgiving seems like it was ages ago already, but maybe some of you are still catching up too.

Anyone else have a countersurfer attend Thanksgiving?

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Biggest fears, part 2: Arachnophobia

I used to hate spiders as much as the next guy, but after last summer’s cocoon rampage, I just can’t muster up any real arachnophobia. As summer cooled to fall, lots of my Facebook friends cringed virtually about the number of webs and ginormous octopeds around their homes. Not only did I not mind the spiders barring our front door, nor freak out when I walked through an invisible, stringy web (Not like Rob, who actually cried out, “Ahh! Is it on me? Is it on me? Please, just check!”), I have let a spider dangle above the couch for, like, weeks. He’s not bothering me, why should I bother him?

spider

I used to have an “It’s them or me” policy about bugs, which came back to me the other day when I noticed something dark in the corner of the shower. What is that, a spider? I thought idly, then looked directly at it, and then, yes, I screamed a little.

“Sorry, dude.” I tried to sever the web from which she dangled, to lower her into the shower spray, but she just hung from my finger. I redirected the showerhead to spray her directly, but she just worked her way back up to the ceiling. I watched as she wriggled her front legs while she walked across the ceiling. What’s she doing? Is she trying to dry off, or is that how they spin webs? I watched fascinated as she worked her way toward the vent at the center of my shower ceiling, my mouth agape. Oh, god, what if she falls directly into my mouth? I pinned myself against the wall, hoping she’d work her way all the way out of the shower, but she just taunted me overhead.

I remembered a water glass I’d left in the bathroom windowsill (Remember the little girl in Signs, with her abandoned water glasses? That’s totally me). Stepping out of the shower, I dumped the days old water in the sink and pressed the glass around the spider. She fell into the bottom of the glass, which I then tipped upside down in the sink while I finished my shower, feeling a little guilty because what if she suffocated or drowned in a drop of water still remaining in the glass? Would serve her right for attacking me in the shower, I justified.

She lived to tell the tale and met the fate of nearly all the spiders I’ve had to remove from the premises. I let her out the back door.

That other guy, though, he’s still hanging over the couch. Maybe he’s dead. How long do spiders live, anyway?

What’s your biggest fear?

People overuse the term “biggest fear,” but mine is having something terrible happen to the dogs. Specifically, I worry about them escaping the yard and getting hit by a car. I saw that happen once in Olympia, or rather, I heard it, a dog running out a front door onto the busy street in front of the newspaper where I worked. I remember the owner’s scream as the dog ran out, and her scream after the dog got hit.

While home sick, I let the dogs into the backyard while I watched Tattoo Nightmares. After the dogs had been out there a while, suspiciously quiet, I expected to find them sitting right by the back door, but they weren’t there. I called out “Doggies!” into the empty backyard. Nothing.

Oh, god. Is this the day they get out and something terrible happens? Is this going to be another saddest day that ruins our lives?

I put on my boots and a jacket and started up the hill toward the chain-link fence that separates our yard from Interstate 5. Leo’s red skull-and-crossbones bandanna peeked out from behind our martial arts studio building. Phew. At least Leo was safe. I worry less about Mia getting out, because I don’t think she’d go anywhere. I imagine her being like my mom’s Lhasa apso, Barney, who would sit on the front porch and wait to be remembered if you accidentally left him out there.

leo

Leo zoomed around me and the gazebo a few times, kind of like Mia does when Leo is getting into trouble, except Mia usually barks too.

Where was Mia?

There isn’t much space between the studio building and the chain link, and most of that space is pierced through with blackberry branches. I held onto the chain link as I crept along the retaining wall on the dirt barely-a-walkway. Mia was back there, at the very corner of the yard, digging under the fence … LITERALLY my biggest fear. She ran toward me when she saw me, but I kept walking to the edge of the yard to see how much progress she’d made.

Not much, as it turned out, but enough to reinforce my fear that given enough time, she could escape under that fence and onto the freeway.

Mia, why? Why would you try to escape? You, whom I trusted!

leomia

And Leo’s just going to stand there and watch. What a bad influence Mia is on him.

How about you? Any of your biggest fears ever come true?

Stay tuned for Big Fear, Part 2: Spiders!!

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Movies that make you believe in God

My people like our Christmases dark, especially when it comes to the movie portion of our celebration.

An all-time favorite Christmas Day screening was Quills, starring Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade. Two years ago, Black Swan was my favorite Christmas movie.

During the past week at my mom’s, I read Gone Girl (Marriage can be a real killer) and watched the entire last season of Dexter (America’s Favorite Serial Killer).

So I consider The Life of Pi to have been a rather mainstream choice of Christmas movie. After all, its premise is that Pi’s life story “will make you believe in God.”

Life-of-Pi-Richard-Parker

Warning: I am not about to spoil the ending of the movie as much as this interesting post, but if you haven’t read the book and want to remain spoiler-free, skip the next couple of grafs. I don’t think what I’m about to write will actually ruin the MOVIE for anyone, but I’m more sensitive to spoilers in books, it seems.

I didn’t like the ending of The Life of Pi when I read it. It felt like an “it was all a dream” cop out. Armed with this information when I saw the movie, I saw an early clue that Pi might not be a completely reliable narrator.

Our hero describes the day he got his classmates to start calling him by the nickname Pi. We see him writing the decimal out to a bazillion places on a chalkboard. I thought to myself, “No way he memorized ALL those places. He’s exaggerating.”

Which might lead one to believe that he exaggerated other parts of his tale.

Cut to the ending, when Pi asks his listener which version of a story he prefers: the whimsical and improbable one, or the more likely, sadder one.

Everyone likes the improbable one better, right?

Pi says, “And so it goes with God.”

Interesting. Both stories tell of overcoming incredible adversity, but the improbable one goes down better. Like all those stories in the Bible? Like, probably Noah didn’t really have an ark with two of every animal on it? Is that what Pi is saying?

In any case, Pi’s story didn’t make me believe in God. (It’s a really good movie though. Friends of mine worked on it. You should see it.) I said to my mother, “I don’t think there’s any story that can make a person believe in God. People who already believe in God already believe in him.”

The next day, we saw Les Miserables and as the credits rolled, I whispered, “That story kind of makes me believe in God.”

les-miserables-hugh-jackman-anne-hathaway-new

Warning: For some reason, I assume that anyone who wants to see Les Miserables already knows who lives and dies, so there be spoilers ahead. 

Consider the following lyrics:

“My soul belongs to God I know, I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone. He gave me strength to journey on.”

I mean, wow. That’s powerful. So we know that Valjean believes in God, and without that belief, he never would have overcome his horrible adversity. For sure I believe in Valjean’s belief… but does that make me believe in God?

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Again. Wow. GoodReads tells me that’s straight from the source material.

But really, here’s what does it. As miserables as their lives are, people’s prayers come true!

Fantine tells Valjean, “My daughter’s close to dying. If there’s a god above, he’d let me die instead.”

Guess what happens?

Then, Valjean sings of Marius, “If I die, let me die. Let him live. Bring him home.”

Guess what happens?

(It’s a really good movie. You should see it. I like Hugh Jackman as Valjean as much as I like him as Wolverine. Anne Hathaway is breathtaking in closeup singing I Dreamed a Dream in one take. Amanda Seyfried sings like a Disney princess.)

You know what else these movies have in common, besides God? Yep. Tigers.