I choose having dogs over having nice things

While Rob and I were in Seattle on Saturday, Leo and Mia committed unprecedented destruction.

We were warned by Rob’s dad, Jerry, when I called to tell him we were on our way home. “You’ll never guess what your dogs did.”

“Did they tear up the couch?” (This would not have surprised nor particularly troubled me.)

“No. They chewed up the door between the bathroom and your bedroom, including some drywall.”

Even with that description, we were not prepared for the sight. Jerry tried to show us the dog hair all over his shirt, from where Mia tried to crawl into his lap, as though a hair-covered shirt could compete with this:

They had gnawed at the door frames of four closed doors, pulling off the trim and chunks of drywall.

I’d been gone since 6 a.m. the day before, but Rob had been gone only a few hours. Had the dogs been so distraught about my 36-hour absence that they’d started eating the house?

This was not the idle chewing of a bored dog. Not like the time Leo ate my parking brake. This destruction was the work of frantic dogs trying desperately to get through the closed doors.

Had they thought they would find me or Rob behind those doors? Had someone been trying to break into the house?

Normally we blame Leo for everything, since Mia can do no wrong. Except that one time when she was in the kitchen while Rob mowed the lawn, and she pawed the trim off the back door. Similar to Saturday’s damage. On a much smaller scale.

Had someone been mowing the lawn next door?

We conducted a little crime scene investigation. Both dogs’ teeth appeared intact. Leo had some drywall smudge on his paw pads and Rob’s mom, Alice, reported that Leo had “chalk on his nose” when she first came in. But that could have been from sniffing the mess. Mia’s claws were slightly worn with white, evidence that she’d scratched the walls.


Rob’s car alarm keychain, low on batteries, chirped from the foyer table.

Oh god.

Mia had crawled onto Jerry’s lap. That’s what she does when she hears beeping.

Alice had said she wanted us to know about the damage before we got home, so we wouldn’t yell at the dogs. As if we ever yell at the dogs.

Neither of us is angry. I’m tormented with guilt knowing they spent hours frantically trying to get through those doors, being driven mad by a beeping keychain.

Companions for Life

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is almost too easy: Companionable.

Before I saw it, I had a photo post planned about killing caterpillars and why that makes me racist. I hoped to somehow connect that with the photo challenge. But who am I to reject an opportunity to invite people to look at pictures of my dogs? (I went ahead and wrote the caterpillar post anyway. Read it here.)

Best Friends Forever

My precious Mia has a very annoying habit of barking incessantly in the backyard. We think she’s just saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m over here!” Because she doesn’t want you to throw her the ball, or even come near her. If you try to get the ball, she runs away with it in her mouth, which is a plus, because at least that stops her from barking.

For this reason, it’s very hard to get a picture of her flashing her beautiful smile. I have lots of pictures of her barking, and many of her lifting her upper lip at Leo. In a show of affection, of course.

Lately, she hasn’t been wanting to come in the house when I need to leave for work. I solve this problem by letting her drag a leash around the yard, but today I wasn’t in a hurry, so I just set her free.

When I was ready to go, I sat down on an Adirondack chair in front of our backyard studio. My plan was to grab her ball when she wasn’t looking and lure her back to the house with it. Mia sat down on one side of the young maple tree and Leo sat on the other side. My smiling, happy dogs looked so beautiful (and companionable, although I didn’t yet know that was this week’s theme), I needed to take a picture.

By the time I walked back inside the house and got my camera, the tableau had moved. I sat down again, waiting for the dogs to settle in exactly that same position, but instead, Mia barked and barked and barked. Her high-pitched attention getting squawk. The one that drives Rob insane when he’s trying to mow the lawn. I took a few pictures of cocoons while waiting for her to be photogenic again.

Eventually she closed her mouth for enough consecutive seconds that I was able to get a few pictures that don’t make her look like a monster. And a few that do.

So this is what they mean by Voice Control

I haven’t brought Mia to work in so long I forgot her leash today. Amazingly, I didn’t have a spare in my car or my office. I considered buying a cheap one for our lunchtime stroll, but decided instead to take her someplace we could “get away” with being off leash. Now, I don’t condone this behavior, and wouldn’t dream of it with Leo, but Mia has proven to be rock solid in terms of staying near me, not running after other people or dogs, and not wandering into the street. She reliably hops in my car in the driveway, will walk with me to the strip of grass near my office parking lot, and come into my office without being on a leash. Which is why I forgot it today.

The places I sometimes let Mia loose are well away from traffic, and when I have a leash with me, I always call her back and put it on her when I see another person or dog.

Today we strolled through a field and along a Frisbee golf course. While there is a sign that says dogs should be leashed, I see plenty of scofflaws just like me all the time. When we arrived today, in fact, a person was on his way back to the car with an off-leash dog.

That poop was there when we got there. I picked hers up.

As we made our way back to the car after a delightful walk, I saw a woman with an off-leash russet-colored golden retriever. “Oh good,” I thought. “That dog is off leash too. This won’t be a problem.”

Then the woman re-leashed her dog and stood there looking in our direction. I may have detected some nervousness, although we were more than 100 feet away, which is a little far to read facial expressions and gauge emotion.

I still thought, “No problem. Mia is not dog-aggressive.” Then I flashed back to “friendly” off-leash dogs who bombarded Isis, helping to derail our earnest efforts to learn leash manners. I had no way of knowing how this dog would feel about off-leash Mia heading its way, so I started to walk in a huge arc way into the field, effectively going around this dog at a great enough distance not to ruffle its fur. The woman and her golden could have kept on walking along the trail, I thought.

Instead, she watched us another few seconds before turning back toward the parking lot, her dog looking over its shoulder every few steps, causing her to look over her shoulder. We were still pretty far away, but Mia trotted up ahead of me. Since I didn’t want her to get anywhere near that dog, I said, “Mia Mia,” and she ran back to me. Then I let her trot ahead and called her back again. And again. Once, I let her get a little bit farther ahead, and she paused, training her laser focus on the golden for a second and a half. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Another half-second of that stare and she might bolt.” But when I said, “Mia Mia Mia,” again, she came right back. I fed her crumbs of freeze-dried lamb lung from my pocket as I praised her effusively.

Now, I know this isn’t impressive dog training or anything. First of all, I should have had a leash. Second, a perfectly trained dog would have walked beside me, and I wouldn’t have to say her name 2-3 times to get her attention. (Possibly I didn’t have to say it twice, but that’s what I did.)

I feel bad that the lady probably retreated thinking, “Goddammit. That stupid off-leash dog ruined our outing.” I wonder what she would have done if Mia had been on a leash. After all, she did have her own dog off leash before she saw us. I figure, if you’re going to flout the leash law, your dog should at the very least be comfortable with other off-leash dogs. As well as on-leash dogs.

For all I know, she had a bad experience with a German shepherd once.

None of this makes me any less irresponsible, but I will say that Mia constantly delights me with her manners in public. Not that I can take any credit. She came this way. I can name three dogs I raised from puppies who enjoyed humiliating games of keep-away in treacherous places.

Mia only barks at two things:

1) Us. When we’re in the backyard. She wants to play, but refuses to give up her ball. It’s vexing.

2) Other dogs when she is inside the car.

After our walk, I drove to the grocery story and parked near the entrance. Mia stepped on my thigh, as is her way when she wants to get out of the car first. Glancing to my left, I noticed the car beside me was filled with itty bitty terriers. At least four of them. They went beserker, running along the windowsill yipping. I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to work,” as Mia called back, “Woof! Woof!” and I backed out to find another parking spot.