A Normal Walk Is All I Ask

My dad’s an attorney.  The advantage?  I get free legal advice, but the disadvantages are endless.  Perhaps the most commonly experienced detriments are the infuriating delays during our walks.  Take this afternoon, for instance.   I caught the eye of a little girl who was riding her bike.  She pulled up to us and said, “Oh, what a cool dog.  Can I pet him?”  I sighed and rolled my eyes, because I knew full well what was coming.  As I recall, here was the exchange:

Dad:  Sure you can pet him. [he pulls a document and a pen from his pocket]  But first I’d like you to review and sign this form.

Girl:  Why?

Dad:  Because it protects me from all liability in the unlikely event that you incur a bite, scratch, allergic reaction, disease, psychological disorder, acid reflux or flatulence due to your voluntary interaction with Flapjack.

The girl looked at Dad as if he had just arrived from a galaxy far, far away..then she silently rode away at warp speed (apologies for mixing Star Wars and Star Trek references).  I was left standing there with Mr. Congeniality and his release and waiver, which basically releases me from ever making new friends and waives my right to take a normal walk with a normal human being.

“Aha”, you may say..”What about your mom?  She’s got to be a normal human being.”

Not so fast.  Mom is a certified master gardener.  Walking with her is like being on a guided tour of a botanical garden.  We move ever so slowly, gazing at the neighborhood flora as if each walk was the first ever in some magical forest.  She stops frequently and points out the unique quality of each tree, shrub, flower and weed as if I give a rat’s ass, and examines possible diseases or infestations of every tree we pass (so I use the time to urinate on each one, which must do wonders for their health).  “Look at the beautiful African daisies, Flap!!”  Yeah, yeah, let’s move it, Garden Guru, before we’re arrested for impersonating cheap yard gnomes.  As we passed one yard, she said with concern, “This grass could use aeration and fertilization.”  So I obliged by scratching furiously at it, then gracing the lawn with a little soil enhancement.  She bagged my mess and said, “Sometimes it seems like you don’t appreciate all the beauty around us.”  Ya think?

The only thing worse than walking with Dad or Mom is walking with Dad AND Mom.  We’re talking 2 hours for 2 blocks.  I can crawl backwards faster (in fact I did once, and they were oblivious, naturally).  Will the suffering never end?  I guess the bright side is that, by living with them I know stuff that most other dogs don’t, like the difference between irrigation and litigation (in one, sometimes plants get soaked and in the other, sometimes people get..well, you have the idea).  Gotta go now..time for a (cough) walk.

Channeling My Inner Cow

Two things you should know about my dad:  (1) He believes he was a cowboy in a former life, and (2) he has entirely too much time on his hands.  This explains his most recent bizarre behavior.  First he places custom fake steer horns over my head.  Then we line up 20 feet apart in the backyard.  On his signal, I start running, and he chases me.  I allow him to catch up with me (otherwise, he’d still be running), he tackles me, takes a small rope and quickly binds three of my legs together.  He then triumphantly throws his hands in the air and quickly checks his stopwatch to see if he beat his best time.  Then he unties me and I walk out of the ‘arena’, head hung low, acting dejected.  Sometimes I lose myself in character and sadly  ‘moo’ in defeat.

In my tenure at this home I have suffered all manner of humiliation.  Typically, it’s embarrassment by association; if you hung with my dad for at least two minutes, you’d understand.  But this takes the prize.  Sometimes the neighbors watch in amazement, sneaking peeks over the fence so that Dad won’t spot them and recruit them as rodeo clowns.  Now, inspired by a circus act he saw recently, he’s considering getting a monkey, outfitting it in fancy western gear, and having it ride me as I race around decorated barrels.  Just shoot me.

Well, it could be worse.  At least he’s not challenging me to a gunfight in the street at high noon, engaging me in a bar fight, or dressing me up as a saloon girl (I’d look hot).  There’s so much to be thankful for.  And yet, I do worry that his obsession will rub off on me.  Luckily, unlike some, I know the line between fantasy and reality…now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go rustle up some grub.  Then I’ll be hankerin’ to ride into town to see who needs killin’.  Happy trails, dude.

Barbra Streisand’s Birthday Gift To Me

It’s common knowledge that dogs’ hearing is exactly 500 gazillion times better than humans, and you can triple that for Aussies.  I can hear a sneeze up to 2 miles away and can instantly identify the species, gender, age, ethnicity and snout size of the sneezer.  This impressive talent may be of great value in the wild, but it results in only limited domestic worth.  In fact, I’ve found that my enviable ears carry a few specific detriments.  One of these is listening to Mom and Dad.  I quickly learned to tune out their one-word instructions (sit..no..stay..no..come.. no, etc.), but other noises they emit truly strain my coping capabilities.

This morning, Dad read that it was Barbra Streisand’s 70th birthday.  He apparently is a big fan, because for two excruciating hours he launched into his version of every one of her greatest hits.  Some people, like Barbra Streisand, were born to sing and they can make some pretty impressive sounds even for my sensitive ears.  Others, like my dad, should be subject to felony indictment for any attempt at musical vocalizing.  He sounded like a cross between a severely wounded hyena and our car’s screeching tires at virtually every stop sign.  There was no place to hide, so I stuffed my head under a sofa cushion and rode it out until someone from the homewoners’ association came to the door and informed Dad that he was in violation of ordinances barring lewd and disgusting noises.  I thanked the Aussie gods that Dad’s vocal cords were finally brought to justice.

But the damage was done.  I’m making an appointment with my vet-analyst, as I’m already exhibitng symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic singing disorder).  While I’m out, I’ll pick up some noise-canceling headphones.  Now, Dad’s talking about sound-proofing a room just so he can ‘sing’ without risking a prison sentence.  Trouble is, he’ll probably take me in there while he generates his other-worldly noises.  I have not lived an angelic life, but I don’t deserve that kind of hell on earth.  Perhaps the military can utlilize Dad and his new room for interrogation purposes.  I’ll contact them.

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday, Barbra.  And..thanks a lot!!

Guide Dog For The Impaired

I never fashioned myself a service dog.  Oh, I enjoy helping people as much as the next dog, but I clearly don’t have the temperament to devote every waking moment to assisting someone else.  I mean, I’m a nice guy but I’m not Mother Flaperesa.  Two days of unlimited service and I’d need a padded dog house.  And yet, Dad obviously thought I could play the part.

We were all traveling in northern CA and stopped for the night at a nice place in Petaluma.  Dad had checked the hotel’s website and found that they take dogs (mighty big of them).  But when we arrived, Mom was checking their site again on her smart phone, and discovered that the hotel only takes very small dogs.  Now, I’m no Marmaduke but I’m no Toto either.  Dad was looking at me with a curious expression.  I thought he was considering how he could shrink me, but he was pondering something even more harebrained.

He explained to Mom and me that he was going to impersonate a sightless person and that I would be his guide dog.  Mom calmly responded that she would take no part in this folly (or words to that effect), and I wanted to quickly side with Team Sanity, but had no choice.

And so it was that Mom sat in the lobby and pretended not to know us.  Dad (wearing shades) checked in with me on a figurative and literal short leash.  The clerk  asked Dad how he could possess a driver’s license if he couldn’t see.  Dad mumbled something about a very recent health condition.  After check-in, I thought I’d have some fun.  So, when Dad inadvertently loosened my lead, I used my considerable strength to take him on a running, zig-zag tour of the lobby.  As the clerk looked on, Dad was trying to give the appearance that he was in total control of his ‘guide dog’  while attempting to keep his arm in its socket.  After a few minutes, I decided to give it a rest.

The lobby looked like a hurricane had hit it.  Dad, lying on the floor, had the appearance of a man who had been, well, dragged through a hotel lobby on his belly.  I licked his face, which probably added insult to injury.  Then he whispered in my ear, “Just wait ’til you need me to play along with one of your ideas!”  I looked over at Mom.  She had her face buried in a magazine, but her entire body was convulsing (she was either laughing or required immediate medical attention).  So, as Dad ‘felt’ his way to the front desk to complain that the lobby did not conform to specifications for disabled persons (his audacity compensates for his absurdity), I went to check on Mom’s physical condition.  Because I’m here to serve, to a limited extent, subject to my disposition and my definition of  ‘serve’.

Every Dog Has His Life

People always say that their dogs are part of the family.  So, it’s indeed unfortunate that we generally have much shorter life spans than our human family members.  A family may run through several dogs, so it becomes the challenge of each one, in the relatively limited time available, to make his/her mark, to become indelibly etched in the collective heart of the family.  This requires little, if any, effort on my part.  My magnetic personality, undeniable charisma, heroic nature and movie star looks sealed my place in the family hall of fame right out of the blocks.

Nevertheless, it chaps my paws to occasionally hear Mom and Dad reminisce about the wonderful attributes of the dear departed dogs who preceded me.  One in particular.  Her name was Sydney.  She was also an Aussie.  I’ve seen photos and must admit she was quite cute.  In fact, she and I would have undoubtedly had a hot and steamy romance if she had not suffered the misfortune of passing before she met me.  What annoys me is why they remember her as being so incredible.  For instance, they say, “She was so cool..she really had a mind of her own.”  Of course, they must think I have the mind of a capuchin monkey (which explains why I steal bananas off the kitchen counter, leaving peels on the floor for Dad to slip on).  What an inane thing to say.  What they mean is Sydney refused to do things most other dogs routinely did, like chase and return a ball.  A mind of her own?  I call it insubordination, calling for strong measures of progressive discipline.

But I suppose I shouldn’t begrudge my predecessors their posthumous adulation.  I will be content to assume my place, however short-lived, in this little slice of insanity I call my family.  Someday, some other dog will probably be hearing, “Flapjack was just about the best dog ever!”   I’ll be listening and humbly agreeing.

Baseball Should Go To The Dogs

As I switch back and forth like a TV zombie between a dog show on Animal Planet and a Yankees-Red Sox game, it occurred to me that “man’s best friend” is not represented whatsoever on the Major League stage of our national pastime.  Oh, we have mammals (Tigers, Cubs), birds (Cardinals, Orioles, Blue Jays), and even fish and snakes (Marlins and Diamondbacks), but the most recognizable, loving and loyal animals – the ones found in almost as many homes in this country as bags of Doritos –  are nowhere to be found on our big league diamonds.  This is nothing less than discrimination and defamation by omission.

Major League Baseball and team owners cannot assert that they couldn’t think of dog-team names.  Just think of the possibilities:  Baltimore Beagles, Chicago Chihuahuas, Boston Boxers, Arizona Aussies, Houston Huskies, St. Louis St. Bernards..the list of potentials is endless.  So why are dogs so obviously absent in the bigs?  Well, if living with my mom and dad has done nothing else, it has equipped me with the expertise to speculate on the irrational behavior of humans.  In this case, I think the answers are as sad as they are simple.  As much as humans love their dogs, canines lack the fearsomeness, cuteness or unique local identity to qualify for a major league moniker.  In addition, humans are just too close to their dogs to put them on a big league pedestal (anyone who poops on my lawn simply will not adorn my jersey and cap).

Now there’s a cute cocker spaniel in the dog show, and it’s 7th inning stretch time at Fenway, so I’m already forgetting why this seemed important a few minutes ago.  Back to zombie land…


Although I’m not a total technoramous, I limit my high tech usage out of principle; I believe technology is quickly exceeding the social and intellectual capacity of most dog breeds to use it wisely.  Aussies are the exception, of course, but as my grandma would say, all things in moderation, even for Aussies who can manage all manner of excess.  So, while some dogs are on Twit-time and Facetube all day long, I abstain.  Oh, sure, I have collar I.D. (my dog tags), a laptop (I occasionally lie on Mom’s lap while she’s watching TV), an IPad (the comforter I use for sleeping), and I Wii (on just about every tree in sight), but I prefer to post my blog entries by dictating to my dad..so blame him for any misspellings or grammatical errors.

Occasionally, I’ll make a comment on current events.  I know – dogs have no idea of current events, much less the capability to comment, but I’ll remind you that I am an Aussie.

Two items attracted my attention today. First, in the Secret Service scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia, two Marine dog handlers were also being investigated.  One reporter had the unmitigated nerve to infer that the dogs somehow facilitated and even engaged in the alleged sexual activities.  With absolutely no evidence to support any untoward activities by my cousins, I feel this wild indictment of our canine troops is an outrage.  My supposition is that the dogs in question probably attempted to dissuade their handlers from conduct which they would later regret, but I guess I’ll just have to wait for investigators to sniff out the entire story.  Hopefully, dogs will be represented on the investigation team, as sniffing is their forte.

Finally, this Sunday, April 22, marks the forty-second observence of Earth Day.  I intend to celebrate by watering as many trees my seemingly infinite bladder capacity can handle.  Dad said he will outfit me with a backpack, and we will walk the neighborhood streets gathering debris to be deposited in my pack.  Right.  As usual, his plans are approximately a galaxy away from what will actually happen.  I predict that I will be a bit under the weather, and he will look just lovely in a Petsmart backpack.

Urine Trouble

I have a beautiful, spacious dog run in my backyard.  When I’m not in the house or out and about, I spend some time relaxing and reflecting there.  Two things I don’t do there – never have, never will – are peeing and pooping.  Mom and Dad are beyond perplexed by this behavior, and have expressed their dismay on many occasions.  Dogs, they say, always do their toileting in a dog run.  Then, their human friends diligently clean the run every day, and all is right with the world.

Yeah, fine.  I care not where other dogs do dog doo.  I have my standards, and I refuse to make messes in my living area.  If they want to erect an area within my dog run specifically for this purpose, much like a bathroom within a house, I would consider using it.  Otherwise, forget it.  And another thing:  If they know that I relieve myself in the dog run, they may not be so eager to extricate me from those confines to relieve myself elsewhere (and to be with my “pack” where I belong).

Dad went so far as to plant a bright yellow stake in the dog run.  The stake, which he bought at a local pet store, is designed to emit an odor which invites a dog to take care of business in that location.  After planting it and leaving me in the run for 2 hours, he returned to find the stake uprooted and miraculously split into 457 pieces, arranged delightfully and strategically to add color and dimension to my patio.  This may have added to the ambience of the place, but it did not have the desired calming effect on Dad.

So to my astonishment, he unzipped and actually urinated in the corner of my run!!  He said, “In case you need a visual tutorial, here it is.”  By the way, my astonishment was primarily due to the fact that he did this without raising his leg, which brought up some gender issues.  But I was also offended by such lewd and insensitive conduct.  As I am not above an occasional act of justifiable vengeance, I made a mental note to ‘accidentally’ pee in the family room…maybe during extra innings of a big game.  Of course, that will result in another outing to the dog run where bowel and bladder sleep like babies…and the circle of life continues.

Some Doors Never Open

Mom and Dad always tell me where we’re going when we get in the car.  I know from talking with my buds that some folks bypass this courtesy, either thinking that dogs don’t understand or lacking the sensitivity to care whether the dog knows the destination.  But we do understand and we do appreciate knowing.  How would you like to get in the car and have no idea where you’re going?  (Actually, I think my dad knows all too well how that feels..sometimes he doesn’t remember until he drives a block or two).

Yesterday, Dad opened the car door and said, “OK, up we go Flap..off to the vet.”  If you know Aussies, you know that little rattles us, including nice harmless people in white coats.  But there is one small procedure that insults the dignity of even the most undignified among us, and I knew I would be facing it on this visit.  And yet, I didn’t balk or run the other way as many in other less civilized breeds would have.  I calmly jumped in the car and steeled my resolve for the battle which would soon begin.

The doc was, as usual, all smiles.  He scratched my ears, he rightly complimented my extraordinary good looks, he gave me a small dog biscuit, but then I saw it in his hand.  He was trying unsuccessfully to conceal it, but I knew instinctively that it was there all the time.  I think they call it a rectal thermometer, but I call it “the humiliator”.  I can take just about anything, but there’s something about that hard, cold rod that makes my butt snear like Clint Eastwood, “You feelin’ lucky today, punk?”  So, with two burly technicians holding me motionless, the vet was confident he could slide the greased instrument right up there where the sun don’t shine.  Game on.  I knew he was no match for the incredible butt-clinching talents of which I pride myself.  He tried everything in his arsenal of tricks:  distraction, treats, pleading, threats, even standing back and trying to chuck it like a dart as if my anus was a bull’s eye.  But there are some doors that never open.  The doc threw down the humiliator and defeatedly said,  “He looks just fine; no need to get his temp.”

So, when Dad said, “Up we go Flap, let’s go home,”  I settled comfortably on the rear seat, with my butt only then beginning to relax.  I fell into my sixth nap of the day.  I dreamed about my next visit to the vet.  Doc was holding the dreaded humiliator, and behind him a firefighter was preparing the jaws of life.  Game on.

Awesome Aussie Guard Dog

It was a windy, rainy night, the kind of night where strange sounds seem to emanate from every corner of the house.  As usual, my family slept soundly, leaving me in charge of investigating and resolving any unusual incidents.  At precisely 3:20 a.m. it happened.  I heard human voices coming from somewhere downstairs.  Now, permit me to pause here and explain something about my proud breed of Australian Shepherds.  If you want a dog to frighten an intruder into cardiac arrest, get a Doberman, Rottweiller or similar intimidating protector.  If you want a dog to gather intruders into a neat grouping in the corner of a room as they await someone to shear the wool from their bodies, I’m your guy.  So I stealthily padded down the stairs and followed the voices, intending to quickly herd the trespassers into the nearest closet, slam the door and hold my body against it while barking for reinforcements (Aussies are better herders than planners).  When I reached the source of the voices, an NPR interview on a guest room clock-radio which Mom accidentally activated while dusting yesterday, I was not amused.  But before I silenced the alarm, I listened to the remainder of the interview which regarded the tremendous contributions dogs have made to humankind.  It was quite illuminating.  Then I trudged back to bed…but not to sleep.  Someone has to remain alert to investigate bumps in the night, and I think we all know who that is in this house.