Dog Whispering

Dog Whispering

I can always tell how well things are going for me by how often I write in my journal. The best times always go undocumented. I don’t know what that says about me but I’m sure it’s not good. Maybe writing just helps me process the hard stuff. Maybe I just like to roll around in my misery. Either way, it’s why I haven’t been writing as often in this here blog. The truth is I’ve recently had a rash of good fortune. Sure, I feel a little uncomfortable with it –particularly writing about it—but, in the interest of keeping things fresh, check this out…

I think of it as positive reinforcement for all my complaining. Tell enough ‘woe is me’ stories and eventually you’ll get the attention of a reality show producer who wants to make it all better for you. That’s what I learned from this anyway.

So…come June 25th, the squeaky wheel is getting the oil. The crew of George to the Rescue is coming to film the renovation of our garage and the landscaping of our yard (see earlier post pic). We don’t know any more than that. And I’m not sure what more I should say about it –not for legal, non-disclosure purposes but because I’m worried I’ll lose that former classmate reader who likes my blog because it makes him feel better about himself.

So, with that out of the way…I’d like to get back to the complaining.

My Top Ten Worst Pet* Owning Moments

*because sometimes pets are harder than kids

(I’ll count down to number one over the next ten or so posts, though they won’t take up the whole post like this one)


I’m going to start with a whole day. Last Friday. Last day of school for the kids.  I awoke at about 6am to a dog barking and someone yelling “hello?!?”. I pulled myself out of bed and peered out the kids’ bedroom window. Below, there were two police cars parked in that house raid/drug bust sort of way you see in movies –perpendicular to traffic, doors open to block gunfire. In the brief walk down the stairs, my mind covered a lot of ground. Was Kate operating a meth lab in the basement without me knowing? Did the train conductor who yelled “what the hell?” to me yesterday as his train careened by while I was taking pictures of George standing atop a track signal service ladder just a few feet from the tracks report my bad parenting to the police?


Did the picture I recently sent to some friends of the absurdly accurate (though accidental, I hope) penis drawing Louisa drew on George’s back while he was sleeping somehow qualify as kiddie porn?

Then I saw our two dogs out on the front lawn, in an apparent stand-off with the policemen. Of course it was the dogs. When is it ever not the dogs?

“Sir?” The policeman asked as I opened the front door in my underwear, “Are these your dogs?”

“Nope.” I wanted to say but didn’t. “Yeah, they are.”

“Sir, your dogs have been running around loose scaring people.” The cop said.

This is where I do my little acting routine. I have to do it a lot so I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I do it when someone finds one or both of the dogs out on the trail I walk them on. They get my number from the dog’s collar and call me. I then have to pretend I’ve been worried sick about them and thank the person over and over. Sometimes I’m back home when I get the call and I have to peel myself off the couch, get back in the car and pull into the parking lot pretending I’ve been out looking all over for them. Sometimes, when I come home after having not seen them for a while, I daydream about them staying there in the woods, living off squirrels and insects. Other times, when I’m not feeling as loving, I hear the train whistle and imagine a quick, relatively painless end to my canine troubles.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I don’t know how they got out.” I said to the policemen.

I actually didn’t know how they got out. But I have enough experience with this to know that if there’s a squirrel flicking it’s tail at them or a raccoon scurrying across the road, they’ll will themselves opposable thumbs and open the front door. Or jump through a screen window, which, I later discovered, is what they did this time.

The policemen eventually backed down and slinked back to their cars. They looked frustrated. They clearly wanted an altercation –me to put up a fight, maybe pull a gun. Instead, I waved goodbye, thanked them for looking out, and told them I’d figure out how they got out and fix it immediately. They just grimaced and took off.

The truth is our dogs run wild any chance they get. Sometimes I give them that chance up in the woods. Sometimes my kids give them that chance, like each time they open the front door. But mostly it’s our rundown backyard that’s the problem. Our dilapidated fences don’t contain them anymore. I do what I can.

Some efforts are pretty effective…


Others do nothing but depress me…


After the cops left, I climbed back in bed. “Who was that?” Kate asked, groggily. “The police.” I said. And we both fell back asleep.

Everyone oversleeps. We’re running late, as usual. It’s the kids’ last day of school. I don’t want them to be late. I scramble to make lunch while the kids fight over who got more cereal. Making the kids’ lunches always stresses me out. I’m worried about what the teachers will think of my overuse of plastic bags or my lack of a fruit or vegetable. I make the same sandwich everyday even though I hate making it and they hate eating it (I’ve recently figured out, after three years of making this sandwich, that my kids don’t like swiss cheese).

I place the last of our Applegate Organic $8 per slice turkey lovingly on perfectly toasted bread, slice the cheddar cheese, slice an avocado and a little sliver of tomato (with seeds poked out so as not to make the bread soggy), cut the crusts, and then run upstairs to find some socks. When I run back downstairs I pass Greeley (our lab mix dog) walking out of the kitchen, licking her lips. I check the counter. The sandwich is gone. I look back at Greeley in disbelief. She just wags her tail and looks at me as if saying, ‘Wow, that was good! Thanks for making that for me. Sooo much better than my usual dog food. Do we have any more of that turkey?”

Now, I’m sure a lot of dog-owning parents know all about this and can relate to the anger that wells up at such a moment. What I was surprised by though was the strangling. I’d never actually strangled a dog before. I was amazed that she was letting me do it. She was just going to get choked out right there in the kitchen and that was it. No fight, nothing. And her sister, Angie, just watched. I eventually thought better of killing my dog with my bare hands and just sent her outside with a little kick to the butt.

The day ended just as it began…with the dogs. I got a call from someone in Verona (a neighboring town) saying she had our dog. I hadn’t known she was gone. The voice wasn’t very friendly so I immediately thought that maybe she stole Angie and was holding her for ransom. That would’ve been an easy, non-transaction. Instead, she said she found Angie walking near some train tracks and was worried about her. So, she drove her to her house in Verona. I wanted to tell her that the train tracks are right next to my house, Angie was probably in our front yard when she took her and Angie gets out about six times a day. But I didn’t. Instead, I began my routine: “Oh, wow, thank you. We’ve been really worried. I don’t know how she got out. Thank you so much.”



  1. Constance says

    I sooooo needed that….thanks Ben, I owe you!

  2. I think this is the funniest one yet.

  3. Oh my. Those dingoes. I think I have my very own top ten list for your girls. My favorite is Angie running straight up the middle of Sonoma Ave in pursuit of a very large deer at least 5 times her size. Love the new banner. Whose work?

  4. Katrina, the drawing was done by my good friend, Elizabeth. Great, right?