The following are descriptions of six books I read as a kid that still haunt my brain to this day, as interpreted by my child-aged self.


1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein


Summary: Once there was a tree… and she loved a little boy. She gave him leaves to play with, and he climbed her and swung from her branches. He loved her and hugged her a lot.

And then he grew up and forgot about her until he needed something. He took her apples to sell, like a teenager stealing drug money from a purse, and then blew her off again for a few years.

He came back only to cut off her branches and build a house with her severed limbs. This made her happy, even though cutting off all the branches on a tree would nullify its ability to photosynthesize, killing it slowly. But the fact that she’d helped the boy build a house made the tree happy, because she was a kind and selfless tree. And yet he ignored her again for a long, long time.

The boy didn’t come back until he was an old man, and when the tree asked him to play, he said, no sorry, I’m too old and all I want is to get the hell away from you again, you stupid nice tree. So the masochistic tree told him to cut her down and make a boat with which to sail far, far away from her, because apparently giving chunks of herself to this greedy, selfish man would never be enough to make him love her. And the sonofabitch did it. He said, “Thanks for your body parts!” and sailed off into the sunset. But still, the tree was just happy to have helped.

The heartless bastard came back years later to see how else he might destroy the sweetest tree on the planet, which was now only an ugly stump. The codependent tree stump was so happy to see him that she actually asked him if she could do anything else for him. He told her he was too old and tired to torture her in new and exciting ways, so he sat on what was left of her.


The moral: Sometimes no matter how nice you are to people, you’re still going to end up with an ass on your face.

Hidden message: Mom was right. If you give your body to a man, he will leave you.

Bonus trauma: The photograph of Shel Silverstein on the back of the book.


***


2. Bunnicula by James Howe


Summary: This family finds a cute baby bunny in a theater during a Dracula movie and brings it home, where a dog and cat with the miraculous ability to read reside. The dog and cat soon realize the bunny can magically escape his cage at night to suck the juice out of household vegetables, turning them ghostly white. Despite naming the rabbit Bunnicula, the family is too dumb to realize what is going on, blaming the obviously bitten and drained vegetables on some sort of plant fungus.

The cat researches a book about vampires, becomes super paranoid, and tries to kill the baby bunny by trapping it in its cage via vampire-repelling garlic fencing. We watch the rabbit suffer as it slowly starves, until the dog finally gets all aggro with the cat and saves the poor dying bunny. The dimwitted humans never figure it out.


The moral: Sometimes your adorable pets will try to kill each other while you sleep.

Hidden message: Animals are smarter than people.

Bonus trauma: Sketches throughout the book of a bunny with fangs and a malevolent gleam in its eyes.


***


3. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson


Summary: An unpopular boy makes friends with an odd new girl at school. They hang out together in the forest and use their imaginations to create a world in which they aren’t losers. One day, the boy chooses to hang out with a teacher he has a crush on instead of hanging out with the girl in the woods. The girl goes into the woods alone, falls, hits her head on a rock and drowns in the stream. The boy must live with the guilt for the rest of his life.


The moral: Hey, kids. Guess what? Your friends can die.

Hidden message: Hey, kids. Guess what? That means you can die, too.

Bonus trauma: Awareness of your own mortality.


***


4. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck


Summary: Just in case your parents haven’t yet had the birds and bees talk with you, this book starts off with a cow alone in the woods, failing miserably at giving birth. A wandering boy helps the cow release the calf that is stuck in her vagina like some sort of slimy and bleating mammalian cork by fashioning a crude pulley out of his pants, using a tree as a fulcrum.

The cow rewards him for helping her live by nearly killing him. Her owner then rewards the boy for not suing by giving him a baby pig. He calls the pig Pinky, and she becomes a beloved pet, much like a family dog.

I should probably mention at this point that the boy’s father slaughters pigs for a living. I think you know where this is going now.

They discover that the pig is barren, and therefore worthless. In one of the most horrifying coming-of-age moments ever captured in print, the boy is then forced to help his father murder Pinky. Descriptions of skull-crunching noises and snow-turned-to-red-slush abound. This book holds the distinguished honor of: First Book to Ever Make Me Sob Uncontrollably.


The moral: Living on a farm will make you so lonely that sleeping in a shed with a pig will sound appealing.

Bonus trauma: Highly disturbing pig-on-pig rape scene involving lard.

Quote I still love and should apply to myself more often: “‘Never miss a chance,’ Papa had once said, ‘to keep your mouth shut.'”


***


5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls


Summary: A young boy saves all the money he makes trapping animals for years to buy two hunting dogs. He names them Old Dan and Little Ann, and the three of them become an inseparable raccoon hunting trio.

Old Dan eventually goes up against a mountain lion and is mortally wounded. Little Ann dies of starvation and a broken heart after dragging her weak dog body to the grave of Old Dan, where the boy finds her stiffened corpse.

He buries her next to Old Dan, and a red fern grows up between their graves. For some reason this ghoulish plant makes the family less sad about the painful deaths of their dogs.


The moral: Your pets will die before you do, leaving you heartbroken and bereft.

Bonus trauma: Learning that there have always been bullies, even back in the peaceful olden days when people had dirt floors and pooped outside.


***


6. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson


Summary: There is a family of Texas settlers. The dad leaves the farmstead for a few months to travel to Kansas for a cattle drive. His son, a teenager, must temporarily become the man of the house.

A yellow dog comes along and adopts the family. After it saves the younger brother from a bear, they all love it. After it saves the entire family from a hydrophobic wolf, the boy immediately shoots the dog in the head because it may have possibly caught hydrophobia from the wolf bites. (It is never mentioned that hydrohobia is old-timey speak for rabies, because creatures with rabies refuse/avoid water. This knowledge might have helped young reader me understand why everyone was killing and burning animals willy-nilly.)

The book jacket explains it all in one sentence: “Travis learns just how much he has come to love that big ugly dog, and he learns something about the pain of life, too.”

Because life is pain, children. Life is pain.

Got it?

Now who wants cookies?


The moral: In order to become a man, you must violently kill something you love.

Bonus trauma: Dogs always die. Seriously. They’re just going to die, kid, no matter what. Why would you get a dog, ever?


***


 

This month quite possibly marks the third birthday of my cat, Berry. Amy and I adopted her in December 2008 and we were told by a(n admittedly incompetent) vet that she was around seven months old.

We don’t know what happened to her in those seven months and we rarely speculate. She was found on the streets of Seoul by an insane American woman not long before we adopted her, and as she was healthy and fairly amicable towards people, we assume she wasn’t on the street for long. The first thing we ever knew about her was that she was playful; incredibly boundlessly energetically playful. We think she probably had a home but was thrown out on the street once she became too old to be considered cute.

This is the face of pure evil. Her name is Eddie. We call her Special Ed.

I know what you’re thinking. Ah, she’s soooo cute. Wrong. She’s deceiving. Those big dumb eyes are no more than fishing lures. She wants you to pet her, to feed her, to tolerate her. “Please,” she’s saying. “Treat me like a princess.”

Which is all well and good, you might say. She’s a cat. Cats are instinctively selfish beings. They do what it takes to make us love them, because love means food and warmth and tummy rubs. They feign interest because it gets them the attention they need.

I think the first sentence of Jim Harrison’s novel, The Road Home, is sublime: “It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs.”  Harrison’s observation puts a twist on an old adage, reminding me that my pace to likely oblivion is a crawl compared to the sprint of my faithful Maggie. I was reminded of this recently after spending much of the night on the floor next to Maggie’s bed trying to comfort her during a thunder storm. A dog afraid of a storm is enslaved to terrible demons. At one point she attempted to climb the vertical drawers of an open closet to seek refuge amongst the sweaters and tee-shirts. Maggie has tremors when she’s afraid and her whole body becomes racked and frozen except for her pulsing nerves. Her tail drops and draws around her vitals. Her ears lay back astride her sleek skull and her eyes bug out eerily. She turns to stone, a hard stone, granite or marble. It used to be that only thunder upset her. Later, lightening too tormented her. Perhaps she made the connection that lightening is followed by thunder. Now, even a rising breeze prompts an anxiousness from her. I wonder at it all. I doubt dogs have the cognitive powers to associate a storm with anything other than noise and flashes of light. They can’t draw conclusions, presumably, and certainly not arrive at metaphor.  A storm is a storm–nothing else, for a dog.

Recently at the Random Writers Workshop in Bakersfield, Calif., we held a little creative nonfiction contest. Nothing big. I just promised to let the winner hijack my TNB account!

I got a stack of entries and carefully read through them. I wrote lots of chicken scratch in the margins. I crossed out phrases. I offered advice. I even begged for more detail and storytelling from some members.

One piece stood out. Joyce Kennedy’s “The Dog Whisperer” grabbed me as not only an interesting read, but one that enlightens us a little about who she is as not only an author, but someone who has special powers over talking to the beasties of the world.

I’ll let her tell you about it. Let the hijacking commence…

******************************

I’m known as an animal whisperer to my friends.

So I wasn’t too surprised when a friend stopped by one afternoon with a pet carrier. “Please, take her,” she begged. “No one seems to be able to do anything with her.”

Opening the carrier door, I looked in at a raggedy mutt that not even its mother could love. I wondered how anybody could mistreat such a small bundle of trembling flesh. The poor thing was so frightened that we had to drag it out by brute force.

It was such a skinny little mite, that overpowering its timidity wasn’t all that hard.

Now, I already have two dogs and two cats, so having another animal to communicate with wasn’t high on my list of things to do. Besides, I had just brought my old Tom, “Duke,” home from the vets after surgery. It seemed he’d been “catting” in one of the neighbor’s yards who owned a Pit Bull that managed to tear his face and throat open.

“I can always put him down,” the vet said when I complained about the cost of surgery.

“Over my dead body,” I stormed. “This is my ninja cat. He took out an intruder who broke into my house. I won’t let him down now.”

My time was already taken up with caring for Duke. But who could resist those terrified, owl eyes that looked up at me from the tattered remains of a puppy now stripped of all its fur. It had been so filthy and matted, nothing else could be done.

She fell at my feet, too frightened to stand or move.

I’ve always been a softy, and I didn’t disappoint my friend this time. I reached for the trembling bundle and cuddled it up under my chin. “I won’t hurt you,” I whispered. “Do you want to come live with us?”

About this time Tiger, my two-year-old, tailor-clipped Maltese, had to have a closer peek. His curiosity had him bounding waist high to get a better look. He kissed her face, checked out her badly infected ears, and greeted her with a few encouraging nudges.

“I think she’s deaf,” my friend explained. “She doesn’t respond when you call her. And she won’t mind. She’s just a bad girl.”

“Well, it’s obvious you don’t understand poodles,” I said. “They’re a vain animal and she’s in disgrace with all her hair cut off, but I can fix that.” Rummaging through my storage closet, I located the box of critter supplies, and pulled out several small sweaters. “Okay, little girl,” I coaxed her, “Which one do you want to wear?”

She timidly rose and checked out my offerings and finally indicated she liked the orange sweater. “But of course,” I exclaimed. “She has a new orange collar. Told you she was a special lady.”

Her ugliness now covered, she rose to follow my boys about the room, although she didn’t seem to understand the art of playing. She didn’t understand much of anything that was happening. When I called her name, she stepped toward me, then stopped. Her big questioning eyes kept looking at me.

With mind-melding ESP, I listened to her mind chatter, but I didn’t understand her thoughts any more than she understood mine.

“What kind of a home did she come from?” I asked.

“Well, my neighbor kidnapped her from his grandparent’s back yard,” she explained. “They hadn’t been feeding her, or allowing her in the house. She’s had nothing but a bare, dirt kennel to live in. And they’ve never brushed or groomed her. He just couldn’t leave her there.” She also said four other people had taken the dog in.

I listened to the young poodle’s mind chatter again.

“Of course, she doesn’t understand what we’re saying,” I said, realizing the problem. “She doesn’t know any English. She only knows Spanish.”

**********************************
Joyce Kennedy writes as JoEllen Conger with her twin sister, Joan Powell. They have released seven books including two historicals, “The Queen of Candelore,” (2003) and its sequel, “The Future King,” (2009). Their latest book is a “true lies” type adventure. “Freedom to Ride the Wind (2009). Although they live far apart, their writing career keeps their twinship active.

Some might find it difficult to love a person who intentionally pees on your stuff.  Perfectly understandable.  And when that person is a cat, well, the answer seems clear.  Get a new cat.  But then she looks at you with those big eyes and curls up in your lap, purrs in your ear, and greets you at the door like a dog.  Unfair, really.  There is no defense for that.  So you think well, they all die sometime.  I’ll just wait it out.  My cat died yesterday.

3 Mattresses
1 Couch
6 Couch Cushions
2 Stuffed Chairs
2 Tables
1 Piano
Countless pieces of clothing
Unfathomable loads of laundry
My mother’s hand
Several boyfriends

These are the costs Freyja racked up over the course of her lifetime.  I leave out, of course, the expected cost of food, litter and veterinary care.  Those I signed up for in the first place.  My father asked me repeatedly over the last fifteen years why I hadn’t given her away to one of her several, if unlikely, fans.  My answer was always the same.

“She’s my responsibility.  I love her.  Well, most of the time anyway.  Would you give me away if I peed on the bed?”

I think he wanted to say yes.

I adopted Freyja when she was a spitting, yelling, grabbing, tiny ball of sparse hair which all stood up on end.  I could see her pink skin through it, wrinkly and soft.  My boyfriend at the time had said he’d wanted a cat.  A beautiful, sleek, cat esthetically pleasing to the eye is what he said.  He was an artist so this mattered to him.  There were other kittens there that were far more attractive but, as they cowered in the corners she reached through the bars of her cage and tapped me on the head.  She grabbed at my fingers and yelled at me quite insistently and this way she made the cut. I was convinced then, as now, that personality matters more than looks.  In the end he loved us both despite our looks, although not enough to keep us and when we eventually split up she landed in my lap rather than his.

It was all the same to me.  In her younger years she was a wonderful companion to my older, very mellow cat, Arthur.  Arthur loved her company.  He used to hang his tail down over a chair and flick it back and forth for her to chase.  He groomed her and taught her how to walk across the back of the couch, nibble off the end of my morning bagel and the first two years of her time with us were virtually problem free.  Then we moved.

Because I didn’t have a place of my own yet, my parents gracefully took my cats while I located an apartment in Boston. Arthur did well but Freyja hid and not under furniture or anyplace you might actually be able to touch her; she hid in the rafters on the ceiling.  It took me a while to get settled but she remained on high making actual human contact difficult.  When I finally did find a place my parents thoughtfully offered to meet me half way to deliver the cats.  We agreed on a date and just as I was preparing to go meet them I received this phone call.

“We’re having trouble catching Freyja.  We might not…wait; wait, here comes your mother.  She’s BLEEDING!  Today isn’t going to happen, we’re going to the hospital!”

From the background I heard, “I’ve got her, Tom!  Screw the hospital, drive, drive, drive!”

It seems like maybe we’d overstayed our welcome.

In Boston she became a different animal.  She continued hiding, became fearful of other people, stopped enjoying Arthur’s company and she started peeing on things.  This made me very popular with my new roommate but at the time I didn’t care so much.  The girl was Single White Female crazy so if Freyja wanted to pee on her dirty laundry, I was all for it.  Go ahead, Mama!  I had her vetted anyway to be sure there wasn’t a medical problem there.  But even after being treated for a UTI, she continued the behavior.  It seemed like she’d found a way to be heard in a way her constant yelling wasn’t producing.

Behaviorists will tell you the “inappropriate urination” comes from anxiety.  I get it.  Sometimes I get a full bladder right before I on stage, so sure, I buy that.  Explain then why it so often happened after an anxiety-causing event.  Example: Upon return from a time a way, perhaps a gig, we would rejoice in our reuniting with much talking, rubbing and lap sitting.  All would appear to be well and maybe the day after, as I retired for the night, I would smell something rotten in the state of my bed.  She hadn’t done it the entire time I was gone so how was I to interpret this now that I’d returned, supposedly having taken away the stressor?

A. I am the stressor, not my absence. Or…
B. She was exacting revenge for having been left.

Knowing my cat as I did, it seemed clear that B. was the correct and final answer.

In her old age and moderate blindness, she mellowed.  Maybe the world became less scary when seen through a milky, cataract haze.  She spent her final months happier than she had ever been.  Preparing to leave for Germany, I was in a quandary about what to do for her.  Do I leave her in my New York apartment and look for a sub leaser who might love and care for her or ask her to adjust once more to a new life, not to mention survive the transatlantic flight?  But luck smiled on us both in the form of a friend who was able to see her negatives for positives and offered to take her until I made it back stateside or the inevitable happened.

“She is not an easy animal, you know.”

“Who likes easy animals?”

“Doesn’t like other cats or dogs, most people.”

“I don’t like most people either.  She’ll fit in just fine.”

“She pees on things when she’s mad.”

“Wish I could.”

She adjusted to her new home and second mom perfectly.  A cat who had spent the last several years in the closet, literally, not figuratively to my knowledge, she was an equal opportunity hater, suddenly was sleeping out in the open on the couch mere feet from the other cat.  She seemed actually to enjoy his company!  She loved my friend to distraction and vice versa.  Freyja passed in the way most of us hope our pets will, asleep in her sunny spot on the window ledge.  She didn’t feel a thing and, I hope, she was dreaming about her favorite things as she went, love, sun, food, and peeing on the bed.

R.I.P Freyja
1994-2009

There are many wonderful things about being a dog owner. The playing, the walks, knowing that your dog wouldn’t do a damn thing to stop a robber but would, without hesitation, risk its life to protect you and your loved ones from squirrels. These things, however, pale in comparison to one of the true joys of having a furry friend. I’m talking, of course, about standing on the grass for unbelievably long periods of time waiting for your dog to pee.

My wife Julie and I adopted Chloe (the Wonder Shih Tzu™) last August. Since then, I estimate we’ve spent roughly 14,285 hours waiting for Chloe to pee (that’s 45 years in dog time). It’s not as dull as it sounds. See, “waiting” implies you’re merely standing around, checking your watch every ten seconds, your anxiety level rising because you’ve got to catch the train to get to work on time and the clock continues to tick, meanwhile Chloe is having a gay ol’ time sniffing around yet failing to do anything that resembles peeing and, for the love of God, you’re going to miss that train! No, our morning pee trips are considerably more engaging than that—largely due to the amount of begging involved.

“C’mon, Chloe!”
“Okay, Chlo. Time to pee!”
“Goooo, good girl. Let’s peeeeee!”

These requests accomplish two things:

  1. Chloe staring up at us and rolling her eyes to say “I don’t watch you pee, dude.”
  2. Strange looks from passerbys who likely thought we were perfectly normal dog owners at first but, after witnessing this ordeal, now look at us much like you would at the guy sitting on the mall bench, big globs of drool falling from his mouth as he clutches a high heel to his chest.

Naturally, this ordeal begs the question, “if Chloe isn’t peeing during this time, what is she doing?” (as opposed to the more obvious question: “whatinthehell is wrong with you?!?”). Good question. If you must know (and she’d be soooo embarrassed that I’m telling you this), Chloe is what you’d call a yenta. For those of you who don’t speak Yiddish or own the Mel Brooks Anthology, yenta means a “busybody” or “gossip.” The original paparazzi, if you will. And that’s Chloe.

If someone is pulling out of their driveway four miles away, she’ll hear the running engine and want to check it out. If another dog is peeing in another zip code, she’ll want to smell it (the dog and the pee, that is). And don’t even get me started about what happens if she sees a squirrel. “Stop, Chlo!” I’ll shout as this 17 lb. ball of fur and crooked teeth is pulling me cartoon strip-style across the grass in a frantic effort to catch the squirrel.

Anyway, once everybody—and everything—in the continental US finally cooperates and gives Chloe the complete peace and quiet she needs, then, AND ONLY THEN, will she squat down. Julie and I celebrate this triumphant act with the type of celebration you’d bestow upon someone for a truly spectacular accomplishment such as winning an Olympic gold medal or resisting the urge to make fun of a really bad toupee.

“YAY, CHLOE!,” we’ll shout. “GOOD GIRL!” (I won’t even tell you about the types of looks people give us here).

Now Chloe wasn’t always a slow pee-er, mind you. There was that time, last September, when the vet, in an effort to control Chloe’s allergies, put her on steroids. Two words: ‘roid rage. Seriously. The steroids turned Chloe from Wonder Shih Tzu into Shih Tzu Badass. Among the side effects of the steroids was a sudden increase in energy, a desire to devour anything resembling food, and Chloe shaving 5 seconds off her 440 time. And then there was her increased thirst. When she wasn’t killing a pack of bubble gum (again, seriously), she was inhaling her water dish. Which, of course, meant she was peeing. A lot.

We’d take her outside and before she even had a chance to plot her squirrel-killing strategy, she’d pee. Then, on our way back inside the house, she’d pee again. Of course, it’d be wrong to keep Chloe on steroids just so she’ll pee faster. I mean, aside from the ‘roid rage, we’d have those pesky random urine tests to worry about. I guess that means we need to find another way to move the peeing process along.

We’ve talked to the vet and he suggested using some sort of a reward system to encourage quick peeing. You know, she pees and we give her a treat, such as a dog biscuit or a blueberry. I’m all for trying this idea though, to be honest, I think the key element here is selecting the right treat. Can you say “squirrel”?

When asked to describe the epitome of man’s best friend I imagine few people would include phrases like “moderate to severe separation anxiety” or “urinates in the house.”  Fewer still might imagine a dog who clearly lost the ability to survive in nature earlier in their evolution than, perhaps, a Chinese Crested

or a Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas, after all, are tenacious, aggressive, and while they may shake through it, one might at least lose a finger in a standoff.

Nonetheless, my boyfriend and I have been hard pressed to find these so-called faults with our dog important.  I believe in his own words my better half admitted that, while he knew it was wrong, he would willingly clean up lakes of pee rather than imagine a day without our dog.  I feel much the same way.  This may go a long way to explaining why we have as yet been unable to solve this annoying and unsanitary problem.

Taxi—that’s the dog—is a mixed breed pound puppy who I rescued from the New York City municipal shelter.  I imagine the aforementioned problems may have prompted his placement there, as it certainly couldn’t have been his looks.

I mean honestly, have you ever seen a better looking dog in all your life?  If your answer is yes, you can keep it to yourself.  But the inability or lack of desire, shall we say, to potty train is, more often than not, counted as a serious problem.  Lucky for him, I had no idea this lay ahead and within 2.5 seconds after we met, it no longer mattered.

Since his homecoming, Taxi has been through a battery of training, including the unparalleled, behavior-influenced methods of Cesar Milan.  We were devoted Cesar fans, watched his show, The Dog Whisperer, on television and read both books.  Cesar’s Way appealed to me as the daughter of a scientist and an avid amateur animal behaviorist.  His approach seemed most focused on communicating with your animal in a way he/she would best understand.   That they are not people and should not be treated such is a theme both in the books and television series, as well as the recurring mantras of ample exercise and inner strength by the “pack leader.”  That’d be me.

Somehow, I don’t think the dog views me as his pack leader.  I’m reminded of this every time I try to take him for a walk.  Instead of leaping around, anxious for his leash, he walks to his bed, lies down and lifts his leg for a belly rub.  Come on man, are you a dog or not?  Not, I think is his answer.

“I tell my clients to take their dogs for a good long walk, run, or even a Rollerblade session first thing in the morning…Really tire her out.  Then it’s feeding time.  By the time you leave the house, your dog will be tired and full, and in a naturally resting state.” – Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way

Uh huh.  What if the dog won’t go, Cesar?  I know he has to pee.  I’m sure of it.  After I sleep all night, I do and I want to do it in my toilet not on the floor under my Dad’s desk.  But every morning I carry my dog out the door and down the stairs before he’s ready to actually walk a bit.  Then, as soon as he’s done his business, around he turns and back we come.  And God forbid if it’s raining or otherwise inclement.  That’s a non-starter, that is.

“By humanizing dogs, we damage them psychologically.” – Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way

Oh my God, the guilt.  Although not Catholic or Jewish, I am no less immune.  But anthropomorphizing the dog seems virtually impossible to avoid.  He’s got lips like a man and features that are all too human.  His apparent understanding of the world around him muddies the waters and, as I mentioned previously, the boyfriend and I are suckers.  I’m sure talking to the dog the way we do is not allowed.

“Who is a very big dog?  Is he big and handsome?  He is very special and his Mommy loves him, yes she does!”

This is said in a horrible, baby voice and he loves it.  Worse, we can’t stop ourselves.  It’s wrong!

Yesterday I came home to what I thought was a successful day.  Only gone a few hours and the boyfriend home the whole time, I didn’t expect there to be a problem.  Taxi seemed happy and relaxed, in no hurry to go outside and very pleased with himself.  I gave him a bone and sat down at my computer do to a little work before fixing dinner.  Unfortunately, because of my latest cold I was completely unaware of what lay behind me.  A few moments later my boyfriend came in and pointed it out.  There it was, a big pile of poop on our throw rug and the dog happily chewing his bone on the couch right above it.  Sigh.

So after years of obedience work, behavioral work, and advice from dog trainers, we are no farther along than we were when we started.  I’m sure this is my fault.  It’s always the mother’s fault and besides, that’s what all the books say.  In the end, I guess we’ve just decided to manage.  I keep a stock of Nature’s Miracle and a bucket and mop on hand at all times.  We continue our work to achieve potty training but we’re obviously poorly suited to it.  I only hope this dog might be able to teach an old girl some new tricks and one day help me figure out how to get him to pee outside.  Otherwise who knows; I might start peeing under the desk too.