I'm sorry, Ella, but you have to accept it. If you drag me a mile and a half to the park through a slushy wasteland on the front end of our walk, then there's no getting around a mile and a half home on the back end after you've worn yourself out. Stopping along the way and staring at random parked cars will not cause them to magically unlock themselves and chauffeur you home. I hate to be the one to tell you, but that's not how property works in our capitalist society. (Though it would be cool if it was.)

Also, the mail carrier is really trying hard to be your friend. Can you spot him a few points for that?

Ella gets flagged for detainment


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Hi, gang! Laura and I are happy to announce that the new Ella calendar for 2014 is available now from Lulu.com. It features thirteen months of all your favorite Ella photos from 2013—well, okay, all our favorites—and it's far less pricey than in previous years! For a limited time you can get it from Lulu.com for the discounted price of only $11.99.

Click below and buy now, and you can keep acting Ella-Phantile all year long.

Ella-Phantile 2014 13-Month Calendar

Ella-Phantile 2014 13-Month Calendar

But that's not all! If you just can't get enough of Ella, we've created an alternative calendar for 2014—actually, it's our 2014 Ella-Ternative 13-Month Calendar! Same great low price! Thirteen different super-cute photos!

2014 Ella-Ternative 13-Month Calendar

Ella says, "Get 'em both!"


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
She strains at the leash,
Trying to turn the corner.
"Not that way," I say.

But Ella insists,
So I give in and follow.
Not that big a deal.

This short, narrow lane,
It's a valid path back home,
Not such a detour.

Along the sidewalk
We rush, my arm stretched out straight,
Not pausing to sniff.

She stops at the porch,
Looks at the door, looks at me,
Not old now but young.

We were gone six years,
Back now in the neighborhood
Not even six weeks.

I wish we could knock,
But our friends are not at home,
Not now, not for years.

They fled this city
Even sooner than we did,
Not fond of Gotham

But fond of our dog,
Who wags on their former stoop,
Not fenced in by time.

Their former stoop


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
I've been playing around quite a bit with the new Vine app, which lets you post six-second looping videos to your Twitter stream or other social media service. You can create animations or employ other goofy effects, but everything must be shot in order. No after-the-fact editing is possible.

Something else that doesn't seem to be possible, as many disgruntled users are discovering, is reuploading a Vine that fails to upload in the first place. If your upload fails, it looks like you're shit out of luck. I found this out on Saturday morning when a Vine I'd been planning in my head for days failed to upload. If I could have taken the Vine app out of my iPhone and smashed the code on the sidewalk, that's just what I would have done.

Rather than trying to reshoot my video, though, I found a workaround. Vine does save your little square video to your phone, and from there it can of course be uploaded to other video-sharing services. YouTube doesn't seem to allow embedded videos to loop, but Vimeo does, so that's where my lost Vine now lives:



Take that, Vine.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
I'm not sure how we missed this last Friday, but our little Ella dog had not one but two of her videos featured on Cute Overload! They're the first two videos shared in the following link:

Cute Overload: We've Found Nemo—He's Headed to Boston and NYC


Between her calendars, her videos, and her two appearances in Chuck Sambuchino's Red Dog/Blue Dog, she's probably better-known now than either of her two humans.




Here, Ella reacts to the Cute Overload news:




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Hi, gang! Laura and I are happy to announce that the new Ella calendar for 2013 is available now from Lulu.com. It features thirteen months of all your favorite Ella photos from 2012—well, okay, all our favorites—and for the moment we're offering it from Lulu.com for the discounted price of only $19.99.

But wait! If you order today, you can take another $3.00 off that price by using the discount code 18DEC at checkout. That makes it only $16.99 plus shipping and handling. What a steal!

Click below and buy now, and you can keep watching Ella-Vision all year long.

Ella-Vision 2013 13-Month Calendar

Ella-Vision 2013 13-Month Calendar


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
There are moments when you just can't get your camera up in time.

Tuesday morning Ella and I went to one of her favorite haunts, Warren Park, for an extended walk. Tennis ball in mouth, Ella bounded up the south side of the park's huge sledding hill in pursuit of a couple of squirrels. I followed along at the bottom of the hill, trailling a little behind her, expecting that at some point she would drop the tennis ball and keep going. As it turned out, she did, and the ball rolled almost exactly to my feet. I didn't even have to break stride to scoop it up.

As I was stashing the ball in my shoulder bag, Ella turned west and headed down the hill, having spied another squirrel in the middle of the grass. The squirrel ran west and vanished around the corner of the high chain-link fence that encloses the park's ice rink. Ella followed closely behind.

I could tell from the rattling sounds I heard that the squirrel had climbed to the top of the fence. Ella loves chasing squirrels along fences, and when I saw the squirrel come scurrying back around the corner on top of the fence, I started fumbling my iPhone out of my pocket. A good squirrel-chasing picture was sure to follow.

I was standing probably thirty feet from the fence, and suddenly I noticed something the squirrel didn't. Forget the dog that still hadn't followed it back around the corner. Perched atop the fence, facing me, was a red-tailed hawk. The squirrel was running straight toward it.

Six feet from the hawk, the squirrel skidded to a stop. It stared at the hawk. The hawk turned its head and stared at the squirrel.

The hawk and the squirrel stood there frozen for a good five seconds. Then at the same instant, as I tried to get my camera app going without taking my eyes off the scene, the squirrel turned tail and ran back the way it had come, and the hawk flapped away in the opposite direction and landed in a tree.

Ella came panting around the corner of the fence, having missed all the drama.

I did capture the terrible video below of the hawk in the tree a few seconds later, but boy would that picture of it and the squirrel have been cool.




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
How can you live with a dog,
with its lifespan of ten to fifteen years,
and not realize how quickly the clock
is ticking?


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
I think I've finally figured out how Ella can be all the way at the front end of our apartment and detect the presence of a squirrel in the back yard. Birds are the key. When a rodent invades their garden space, the sparrows set up a particular squawking racket that Ella has learned to associate with the presence of a squirrel. She hears that sound and charges toward the back door yipping and yelping like her tail's on fire.

Late one morning last week, alerted by one of these yelping fits, I rushed to the kitchen to open the back door for Ella. As usual, she tried to squeeze through the opening before it was wide enough for her. Then she clattered down the stairs from our second-story deck, and I could hear her charging around the yard like a wounded rhino. She started barking from near the gate at the side of the house, so I leaned over the railing to make sure the gate was shut.

What I saw when I looked down was a squirrel climbing past the security lights installed on the corner of our brick building. (I wished I had a camera but my iPhone was in the apartment, charging. The photo below is one I took a few minutes later.) Ella was on her hind legs, barking up at the squirrel. The moment the crafty little rodent saw me peering down at it, it changed direction and darted along the railing of the deck below ours.

I hurried toward the stairs, my only intent being to flush the squirrel in Ella's direction. (I'm a good wingman for her in that regard, as is Laura.) But the squirrel didn't stop when it reached the end of our downstairs neighbors deck railing. It launched itself through the air, over Ella's head, leaping six feet to snatch at the branch of a tree in the garden. In moments it had swarmed up the trunk of the tree and made its escape over the roof of the garage.

That left Ella whining and snuffling and rushing around the yard in frustration. I went back inside. A wingman can't do much to help when the prey slips away.

Squirrel's-eye view (sorta)


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
A couple of weird things happened yesterday. The first came relatively early, as Ella and I were out on our Sunday morning walk. Laura and I usually walk Ella together on Sunday mornings, but Laura had a cough and a fever so I was walking Ella alone. We try to walk her for a couple of hours on weekend mornings, to wear her out for the rest of the day. I took Ella on a long loop to the Lake Michigan shore (about a mile and a half from our house) to run around on the sand, then to a big adjacent park to chase squirrels.

At the doggie zoo We were on our way back home after nearly two hours out when Ella communicated to me that she would like to explore the alley we were passing. She did this by stopping at the mouth of the alley and looking down it pointedly. At this stage in our walks, I'm usually eager to get home so my custom is to tell her no and make her keep walking. But we had plenty of time that morning and I'd made her leave the park before she was quite ready, so I relented.

Ella spent a lot of time sniffing around a group of black plastic trash bins in the alley before she'd let me move on. Her fascination with squirrels is rivaled only by her fascination with rats, so I kept a close eye on her. We continued through the alley and then back up the next block where a squirrel with a peanut in its mouth taunted us from a tree behind a fence. Soon we were back on our original route home, but Ella tugged me into the next alley we passed. She made a beeline for another group of black plastic bins and darted into a gap between them.

I saw a little shadow with a naked tail flash through the gap. Ella struck, and when she drew her head back a rat the size of my fist was wriggling in her jaws.

Several things happened very fast all at once, or in such rapid succession that I couldn't tell any differently. I let out a low, loud, gutteral yawp of surprise and fear. The rat let out a squeaky shriek. Ella released the rat. The rat flew through the air, flailing all its limbs, and scurried away behind the bins.

I dropped to my knees to check that Ella was okay, that she hadn't been bitten. (Of course she hadn't—she would have yelped, I'm sure.) She was fine, if you ignored the look of utter disappointment and contempt she leveled at me. Ella has been chasing squirrels and rats and rabbits and even the occasional opossum or raccoon for all of her eight and a half years. This was the first time she had ever caught one.

And I yelled like a scared puppy and made her drop it. "Oh, Nice Bill," she seemed to say with the contemptuous expression she turned upon me. "Are you ever on my whatever-smells-so-bad-even-I-won't-go-near-it list now."

I swear to God, she pouted all the way home.

The other unsettling thing yesterday was something I saw while I was out biking. Laura and I are training for one of the crazier things we've ever attempted—RAGBRAI, a 7-day, 470-mile bike ride across Iowa this July. I'll post more about that another time, but suffice it to say that I've been doing my best to adhere to the recommended training schedule with increasingly long rides along the Chicago Lakefront Trail. Yesterday I was supposed to ride 25 miles, but since I'll be working in California for the next several days, I decided to push it to 36 miles instead, my longest day yet this year by far.

That was fine, but as I was rolling south on the outbound leg of my trek I saw a police SUV parked on the grass between Lake Shore Drive and the bike trail. Off to my left, a small yacht was beached in the choppy surf, rocking back and forth. Down the slope, a police officer was talking to two men who looked, at least from a distance, to be in shock.

I passed the scene, then pulled over and watched the yacht rock for a minute or two, waiting to see if anything else interesting would happen. I figured that two unlucky or foolhardy boaters had tried to get a little too close to shore and had run aground. I shot a brief video and continued on my way.



I reached a good turnaround spot a couple of miles later, at the 63rd Street Beach. We live way up on the North Side, and I had come 18.5 miles from home. Definitely time to go back. (Especially since my phone battery died while I was taking pictures there, and I wouldn't be able to text Laura for the rest of the ride to keep her apprised of my whereabouts.)

So I headed back north, into the wind (sob!). As I approached the site of the boating accident, I saw a Chicago Police boat not far offshore. Two officers in lifejackets were making their way like commandos toward the prow of the boat. The first one there picked up some kind of long boat hook and readied it over the water. I couldn't see anything in the water. Apparently they couldn't either, but this made me worry that someone had been lost overboard in the accident.

Virgin America - I feel like I'm taking off ... for the future! There were at least three police vehicles parked near the boat as I passed. I didn't stop this time, and I have no idea what happened before or after I happened on the scene. I haven't found any news reports about a boating accident. I suppose I might find something in the police blotter if I knew where to check on Everyblock.com. I keep thinking about that boat, though.

Anyway, I made my 37-mile round trip in about three hours. I'm a little stiff this morning as I sit composing this on my Virgin America flight to Los Angeles. More on this trip later.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Old man walking an old dog

Not so very long ago would have been
Old man walking a young dog

Not so very long from now might it be
Old man walking a young dog again

Once upon a time might it have been
Young man walking a young dog

Oh to picture them walking together

Young man walking a young dog
Young man walking an old dog

But it would have been a different dog

But it would have been a different man


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Ella had a tough night, with thunder and lightning hunting for her in the early morning hours. I had a hard time getting her out the door at dawn for her walk. Then I had a hard time getting her out of the yard. Then I hard a hard time getting her down the block. It was no longer storming, but Ella well knows that the thunder is just lurking around the next corner, waiting to spring out of hiding and attack us. She can sense it.

Normally Laura or I will walk her for a full hour in the morning, but Ella and I had only been out for ten balky minutes this morning when I made a deal with her. (And she understood the deal. She did, at least the key words.) I told her that all she had to do was poop, and then we could turn around and go home. She trotted along after me after that, not happy but at least hopeful.

We reached a townhouse development where we frequently chase squirrels. She trotted along the short side of that block just fine, but then she balked when we reached the corner. She would not budge. She was done.

I try not to lie to our dog very often, but I was desperate to keep her moving and not compromise my authority (further) by turning us around. So I said, "Ella, there's a squirrel around the corner."

Nothing. She didn't budge.

"Wait, it's a rabbit. Rabbit, Ella!"

Nothing.

"Rabbit! Rabbit!"

Finally Ella's hunting urge overcame her thunder fear, and she raced around the corner, tugging me along by the leash.

And what do you know. There was a rabbit around the corner, sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. We chased it half a block before it lost us in the bushes around someone's front porch.

Ella pooped about thirty seconds after that, and we headed for home. Thank you, rabbit. You kept my lie from destroying my credibility. You're the best.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

Ella-gy

Jan. 19th, 2012 09:51 am
Dog at my knee Ella has now possibly ruptured her other CCL (cranial cruciate ligament, analogous to the ACL in humans). She's on tramadol for the pain (an anti-inflammatory would be better but they're really tough on her digestive system) and on limited activity for a week or more. This is actually good news, though, because when I described Ella's symptoms the vet's gut hypothesis was arthritis. Fortunately, the physical exam and X-rays did not support that diagnosis.

But those few moments of facing the prospect of arthritis only reinforce the sad knowledge that Ella is getting older. She's eight years old, well into middle age for a dog, and though we joke (somewhat desperately) that she has another thirty or forty years left in her, we know that's not the case. (It's more like fifty.)

News organizations keep obituaries of public figures ready to go, just in case. I keep thinking that I should start working on Ella's obituary now because I'll be in no shape to do it when it's needed. We are no respecters of species here—Ella is the third person in our family, and I know that when I have to write that blog entry I'm going to leave out some of the important details of her life and personality that I want so much to preserve.

There's the slight crookedness of her spine, which means that when you're walking behind her in a straight line you can see how her hindquarters are angled a couple inches to the right. There's the way she decides some mornings that she wants to walk all the way to the lakeshore and resists all attempts to turn her from that eastward path with a withering staredown. Pick your furry friends wisely There's the way she often misses the first step when she goes charging up the back stairs. There's the way, when she has a toy in her mouth, that she likes to bash you in the backs of the legs so you'll keep playing tug with her—even if that toy happens to be a stick three feet long and perfectly positioned to take you out at the knees. There's the way that she'll try to pick up even a huge fallen willow bough to drag around with her at the park. There's the way she can't control herself when you reach for the plastic bag with her basketball inside and starts hurling herself into the air to bite at it. There's the way that she invented her own game to play with that basketball, chasing it so she can push it around with her face. There's the way she kicks back dirt in every direction but the direction where she left her droppings. There's the way she loves to tease other dogs when they're leashed and she's not. There's the way she sometimes goes on a tear at the park and runs in huge figure-eights for the sheer joy of it. There's the way, when it snows, that she can't seem to walk four feet without throwing herself down on her back and wriggling around in the powder. There the way, when she hasn't eaten her breakfast, that the urgent devouring of it suddenly sidetracks her when we're trying to usher her out the back door. There's the way that, if we give her a treat before leaving her alone at home, she won't eat it until one or the other of us has returned. There's the way she scratches at the hardwood floor like making a nest before she collapses onto her side and curls up. There's the way she sighs and rests her chin on your knee while you're reading on the couch.

I have to make myself stop now, because I could just keep going. Just like Ella is going to, dammit.



While we're on the topic, some of you have wondered how I get so many good photos of Ella. The answer is, I take about ten times as many as I ever put online, and when I see Ella do something unbearably cute I try to make her do it again so I can capture it. This picture of Ella examining a toadstool, for instance? Totally restaged.

If you're curious to see what sometimes happens behind the scenes on an Ella photo shoot, this video should give you some idea. I'm not actually taking photos of her here (I'm shooting video, duh), but I am trying to incite her to keep doing cute things over and over again when she's clearly ready to go home already. Oh, well. At least she sleeps well after a play session like this.




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Laura: [waving across street] Hi, Russ!

Russ: [waving] Hi! How's Ella?

Laura: Great! Where's Marty?

Russ: With his other dad. Gay joint custody! Yay!
I'm not usually home when our dogwalker comes to take Ella out at midday, but yesterday I was. Once a day, Ella gets a treat called an Oinkie, which is basically tube of a smoked pig skin wrapped around a sweet potato center. Because of how they look, Laura and I call them Ella's "cigars."

Fat cat robber baron Anyway, I was working in the study yesterday afternoon when I heard Paul opening the back door. Ella heard him too, of course, and came trotting into my office with her cigar in her mouth. She stopped by my chair, looked up at me, and set the cigar carefully down on the floor. Then she looked up at me again and scooted out the door to greet Paul. The implication was clear: Will you please watch my treat while I'm gone?

Or, as Laura put it in a text message when I told her what had happened: You are the keeper of her most precious items!!!

It's eerie how clearly Ella sometimes manages to communicate her intentions. It's obvious what she wants when she brings a tennis ball to one of us and wags her tail, but some more complex messages are just as easy to parse. Early one morning a couple of weeks ago, Ella came to find me in the study once again. She stood looking up at me and wagging her tail until I took notice of her, then turned and trotted to the door. She looked back. Okay, she wanted me to follow her, so I did.

Geometric bear She led me through the kitchen and out the back door, which was open. (We had left it open for her. She didn't do that herself!) She very deliberately bent her nose to the surface of the back deck, sniffed around for a second or two, pointed her face here and there, then looked up at me, wagging her tail.

Now, I happened to know that Ella had been chewing one of her cigars there on the back deck the evening before, so I knew what it was she was looking for. But even if I hadn't, I would have understood perfectly that something she had left in that spot was missing, and she wanted my help finding it. So, thus recruited into service, Laura and I spent the next five minutes scouring the apartment for Ella's missing cigar. When we found it, Ella grabbed it from me and ran out the door. She hasn't figured out yet how to put across the concept of "thank you."

For all that her intentions are sometimes so clear, there are many other times when she's trying to tell me something and I have absolutely no idea what. I often think of Ella as a furry little person instead of a dog, but on those occasions I'm reminded that it's an alien creature living in the house with us. I wonder if she's as confused and curious about all the odd things her alien housemates do and say.

Bonus Ella video! )
Hi, gang! The new Ella calendar for 2012 is available now from Lulu.com. It features thirteen months of great collages of all your favorite Ella photos from 2011—well, okay, all mine and Laura's favorites—and it retails from Lulu.com for the low, low price of only $17.99.

But wait! For a limited time only, we're offering a 20% off discount. That's a whole year of Ella for only $14.39. But wait! Through tomorrow you can take another 20% off that already crazy price if you use the discount code BURIED at checkout. That's only $11.51 plus shipping and handling. What a steal!

Click below and buy now, and keep the Dog Lord of the Sith on your good side!

Ella Vader 2012 13-Month Calendar

Ella Vader 2012 13-Month Calendar
Flying bear! Today the fabulous Ella turns eight. This morning, to celebrate, I took her to the beach for her morning walk. She flung herself off a ledge of sand, and it was so cute that I asked her to climb back to the top and jump off again so I could take a picture. She is such a good dog, she did just what I asked.

I made my first ever post about Ella on April 12, 2004. That was just a couple of days before Laura brought her home from the Chicago suburbs to our Queens apartment. Ella a little over six months old. She's been part of our family now for nearly seven and a half years, and it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't with us.

Happy birthday, Ella! We look forward to celebrating eighty more with you.
In response to my post yesterday about the stray dog we helped, our neighbor Ann said the following on Facebook:

This morning as I was leaving to go up north, I saw Lobo out on a walk. As he passed in front of my car, we made eye contact and as his owner proceeded down the street he turned back to look at me. There was a definite thank you in his eyes to all of us for a job well done. I can't tell you how grateful I am not to have had the dog pound experience.
Now I'm hopeful that I'll run into him some morning too. On foot, I mean, not with the car.
On Sunday I was getting over a cold. After our morning walk with Ella, I went to bed to take a nap. I hadn't been down for long, though, when Laura came in and said, "I know you're trying to sleep, but I know you're going to want to meet this dog."

I grew up with German shepherds, and Laura knows I love them. She's somewhat allergic to dogs, which is why we have a hypoallergenic breed and not a shepherd. (Ella, by the way, is the greatest dog in the world and I would never trade her.) But the dog our downstairs neighbor Ann had in her apartment was gorgeous. He was huge, probably 120 pounds, with a long, long body, giant paws, and a grizzled muzzle. He was friendly and very sweet. He licked my face.

Lobo Ann had found him that morning wandering by himself around the neighborhood. He had no ID tag, but he did have a valid rabies vaccination tag. Ann had already driven him 80 blocks south to the Chicago Animal Control and Care facility on Western Avenue, only to find that it didn't open until noon. She had an appointment she couldn't break and wanted to let us know that there might be a strange dog in the basement for part of the day. "I'll take him down to CACC again when I get home," she said.

"Don't be silly," said Laura. "We'll take him for you, so we can get him there at noon."

Ann's dog Winston is a hilarious little shih tzu. We call him Kramer because he often shows up in our apartment unannounced. But Winston hated the big German shepherd. So did Ella, who went stiff as a board and bared her teeth when she met him. Obviously the new dog couldn't stay in either of our apartments. Not knowing whether or not he'd be destructive, we didn't want to put him alone in the basement, so I sat with him in the stairwell between the two apartments for a while. That was pretty cramped, though, and I had to stand up every few minutes to get the motion detector to turn the light back on so I could read. Also, the dog had obviously bad hips. His back legs seemed a little weak, and they tended to cross each other when he tried to walk. A stairwell was not a good place for him.

Lobo It was cold and gray outside, but finally I bundled up and took the dog out onto the back deck with me. When it started to rain, he made it clear he wanted to go back inside. I scratched his head until he settled down again.

At 11:30 Laura and I leashed him up and took him out to the garage. We couldn't get him to climb up into the back seat of the car on his own, so I climbed in first and pulled on the leash while Laura picked him up around the haunches and pushed. He was so big that he would have filled the whole back seat even I weren't there with him. He was sitting up nervously, blocking Laura's view in the rearview mirror, as Laura backed us out of the garage. Eventually he lay down with his front legs across my lap. As we made our way south, he alternately laid his head on my stomach or stared up at me. He frequently licked my face. When Laura braked for red lights, I had to hold onto him so he wouldn't fall off the seat.

His head was as big as mine. As we stared at each other, I couldn't think helping about the family shepherd who had bit my head when I was one. I don't remember it, of course, but I still have a faint scar on my cheek from it. I'd required stitches in my cheek and my forehead. On some level, I was surprised that I could sit nose to nose in the cramped back seat of a Honda Accord with a giant German shepherd and not feel nervous about it at all.

Lobo "What would we name him if he was our dog?" Laura asked. "I was thinking Colonel."

"That's a great name," I said, and to us he immediately became the Colonel.

Animal Control was open by the time we arrived. The first thing the woman at the intake desk did was scan him for a microchip. There was none. Then the three of us spent a few minutes trying to decipher the numbers under the chipped layer of paint on the Colonel's rabies tag. Our theory was that, with the rabies tag, it would be easy for the city to find the Colonel's vet and thence his owners. That's what we tried to tell ourselves, anyway.

The woman took a picture of the Colonel while I filled out a form giving our address and the intersection where the stray dog had been found. I also signed a form that gave me some pause, saying that I relinquished all rights to the animal to the City of Chicago, and that he might be euthanized if the city determined it was in his best physical or emotional interests. The rabies tag will lead them to his owner's, I told myself firmly. It will.

Lobo After a few more minutes, a man arrived to lead me and the Colonel back into the kennels. Laura stayed in the waiting room, having cried as she hugged the dog goodbye. The Colonel was a very good dog, and he followed me without complaint as I tugged on his leash. The man led us down a long whitewashed corridor with a sealed concrete floor. On both sides, through wire-reinforced windows, I could see big rooms filled with rows and rows of floor-level cages. The man held a door open for us into one of the kennel rooms. There must have been fifty or sixty dogs caged in the room, and they all started barking the second we entered. The Colonel and I waited inside the door as the man walked up and down the rows looking for an empty cage. The stench of urine and feces was overwhelming. I tried not to look in any of the cages as I petted the Colonel's head. Each cage had a clear plastic pocket on the front of it with a piece of paper folded up and tucked into it.

There was no suitable cage in that room, so the man led us to another room much like the first. Again, no cage. While the man led us to yet another room of cages, I noticed a sign taped to a door that said, in essence, "DO NOT MOVE ANY ANIMAL WITHOUT ALSO MOVING ITS PAPERWORK." My stomach was already in knots. Thinking about how easy it would be for someone careless with the paperwork to get a dog lost in these kennels only made it worse.

Finally the man just left the Colonel and me out in the corridor while he continued hunting. While we waited, the poor Colonel pooped on the floor. When the man returned, I pointed out what the dog had done. He only shrugged and motioned for me to follow.

We returned to one of the rooms we'd already visited. "I hate to do it," he said, "but I'm going to have to put him in a half-size cell for now. There's just nothing full-size available." We followed him down a row of cages, and I saw that at least half the dogs in them were cohabitating with piles of feces.

The man opened a small cage with a water dispenser inside it. "Go on in," I told the Colonel. He sniffed and went inside obediently, though the cage was only big enough for him to curl up in, not to stretch out at full length. The man closed and secured the cage and tucked a printout with the dog's picture on it into the pocket on the front. I didn't look back as we left. I couldn't.

Laura was wiping her eyes when I arrived back in the waiting room. "Is he in a nice place?" she asked. "Is he comfortable?"

"Yes," I said. We were very quiet on the ride home, both wondering if we'd done the right thing.

I was restless the rest of the day, and I didn't sleep well. I don't think Laura did either. The next morning, though, I was just waking up when Laura and Ella came bursting through the back door, just back from their walk. "His name is Lobo!" she said. "We saw a flyer with his picture down on the corner!"

"Lobo" Laura had carefully torn the bottom half off the flyer. It said Lobo was a big friendly German shepherd, 100+ pounds, please call Gerardo. Laura dialed the number.

"Can I talk to Gerardo, please?" she said. "We found Lobo!"

As it turned out, Lobo was already home. His family had called CACC the previous afternoon and were told that their dog had just been brought in. Lobo hadn't even had to spend the night in the pound. Gerardo thanked Laura profusely for taking him in. Both Laura and I cried.

Now I think of our German shepherd friend as Colonel Lobo. I hope we run into him on a walk someday, and I hope he recognizes us.

Also, we got Ella microchipped yesterday.
We often say, my wife and I,
that Ella is our first dog,
the one you make your mistakes on.
But for me, that isn't true.

My first dog was Jessie,
a runty black shepherd mix.
Some of the mistakes I made
with Jessie were things like

Don't scold the dog unless
you catch her in the act.
Don't let the dog bite you.
Don't ever hit the dog.

Don't buy a dog with someone
you don't like, let alone love.
All mistakes I wouldn't
ever ever make with Ella.

April 2014

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