Over The Hump

One of my mentors, an Australian Shepherd who also happens to be a world-class psychologist by the name of Dr. I.M. Lickenmyself, once concluded that there are actually four personalities that each of us possess.  The first is the individual we think we are.  The second is the individual as perceived by others.  The third is the individual we think others perceive.  And the fourth is Gwyneth Paltrow.

First, I think I am a perfect example of everything great and good in the world.

Second, everyone who knows me must agree with my own view of myself, if they are in their right minds.

Third, I think others perceive me as I perceive myself, except for my own pack (i.e. Mom and Dad).  They both consider Dad to be the alpha male, Mom to be the alpha female, and I’m something akin to chopped liver.  This concerns me.

So I scheduled an appointment with the good doctor to discuss my pack and how their perception may have a deleterious effect on my effervescent personality.  For some reason, he directed my focus away from my addled pack members, and onto something else entirely.  In fact, the entire hour was concentrated on leg humping.  His contention is that male dogs (and evolved females) who hump a leg at least twice a week are generally very well adjusted, and tend not to care what others think of them.  I told him that I had no desire to mount anyone’s leg, and still consider myself at the pinnacle of mental health.  But he convinced me to go home and give it a try for a couple of weeks.

My first experience occurred this afternoon.  Dad was dozing off in his recliner, and his leg was hanging off the side of the chair.  I assumed the position and commenced.  Dad barely moved.  He mumbled, “Not now, honey.”  Then Mom walked into the room, looked at me with disdain, and said, “That’s disgusting, Flap..you can do better.”   I can do better?  Was she referring to my technique or my choice in partners?  I didn’t really care.  The experience was a supreme disappointment and left me feeling..well..a bit unclean.

So, I’ve decided to stop ruminating about all matters psychological, and will cancel all future appointments with my doctor the quack.  And if my pack sometimes engages in conduct which challenges my sanity, I’ll just think, “What would Gwyneth do?”

I’m Ready For My Close-Up

My friends have been ‘hounding’ me to get into show business.  They said I’d be a natural.  But I was dubious.  I just didn’t know if incredible good looks, magnetism and superior intelligence were enough.  So, I thought I’d test the waters and”get myself out there” by creating a short DVD and sending it to my numerous contacts in the industry.  It looks and sounds something like this:


[Voiceover, with accompanying action video]

He has sired over fifty offspring…after being neutered.

He bathes himself, and then hoses down his human companions.

He once smelled a fire in the house, and was the first to break out the marshmallows.

He is the most interesting dog in the world.

[Flapjack resting in his dog house, beautiful female Aussies squeezed in next to him; zoom in for closeup as he speaks to the camera]  “I don’t always drink out of the toilet, but when I do, I prefer the seat up.  Stay thirsty, my friends.” 


Well, today I received the first of what I anticipate will be many offers.  A major studio wants me to star in a re-make of “Lassie.”  Using state-of-the-art make-up and computer graphics, they can make me look like a Collie.  Ridiculous.  I countered by offering to star in “Aussie”, the story of a super dog from the planet Hydrant who comes to Earth to rescue abused animals, bring their abusers to justice, stop global warming, and start a new line of butt-flavored dog biscuits.  I even sent them the script that I wrote while I was eating breakfast this morning.  So, now I’m waiting for the green light so that I can make these fools millions of dollars.  When it inevitably happens, I will remember all the little people – like Mom and Dad – who sacrificed so much for me (cough).  Maybe I’ll get them a bit part in my movie.  They can play the clueless couple who adopted me, not realizing my origins or super powers.  Come to think of it, they won’t have to do much acting at all.



Observational Hearsay

Some of my observations involve observing the observations of others.  I suppose these would be considered observational hearsay.

My dad has read MY books to school children and to seniors…from kindergartners to nonagenarians.  He once said that he feels like an old man when he reads to young children, and like a teenager when he reads to the elderly.  How astute.  Of course, he once said that he gets brain freeze when he eats ice cream and indigestion from pickled herring.  If you give unlimited numbers of chimpanzees typewriters (err…laptops) and a lot of time, a great novel will emerge.  After enduring years of Dad running his mouth, I’ve reluctantly accepted the inevitability of him uttering a phrase on a rare occasion that strays from his typical irrational drivel.  And, for him, I suppose a rational, drivel-less statement would be  a celebratory event.

But I’m still waiting for it to happen.  As a canine companion, it is my job to be forever optimistic and supportive of his efforts.  So, as some folks believe that they will one day win the lottery,  I believe that Dad will one day say something profound.  We all have our dreams.  But here’s the thing:  If he does say something worth hearing, it may come at any time..even in his sleep (which is probably more likely).  So, I must maintain constant vigilance and remain unerringly  observant.  There’s only one problem.  As I have aged into a distinguished, polished and seasoned veteran of the Aussie persuasion, my once acute hearing has significantly diminished.  Oh, I can still hear sounds, but it has become increasingly difficult to discern words.  So, unless Dad miraculously has a profound thought and commits it to writing, I may miss it altogether.  That is akin to missing some astounding astronomical event that only occurs once every 500 years.

I have, therefore, asked him to write everything down for me.  In the three weeks since I made this request, he has written “Stay” and “Lie Down.”  And those words were meant for Mom.   It’s hopeless, but I am adapting.  Today, I will swallow my canine pride and be fitted with a hearing aid.  Anything to maintain ALL my powers of perception lest I miss the verbal pearls spewing from Dad’s mouth as waste from a sewage pipe.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?  If Dad falls in the forest and makes an intelligent observation like, “Dammit..who put that f–kin’ log there?’, who will know unless I am there to dutifully observe and record these words of wisdom?  But if I record his statements, and that’s my observational hearsay, how can you be sure they are accurate?  Trust me, I can’t make this stuff up.

Some Of My Best Friends Are…

Can’t say I didn’t expect this.  In a society where media sources will kill to be the first with a breaking story, it was just bound to happen.  Yesterday, I posted a response to the cat-hero story out of Bakersfield.  I very politely and respectfully pointed out that cat-heroes are unlikely and that there may have been more to that story out of Bakersfield than meets the eye.

After I posted, I received a call from an old canine ‘friend’ who engaged me in a discussion about cats.  In retrospect, he was intentionally trying to push my buttons and elicit some angry comments from me about cats being a scourge to society.  Well, it didn’t work..at least not exactly.  I merely told him that we all have to learn to live with each other in peace and harmony, even if some of us are on the lower end of earthly existence, like cats.  I didn’t know that he was taping the conversation.  I didn’t know he would later leak the tape to CNN (Cat-Nip Network).  I didn’t know that my old friend would resort to back-stabbing and go all Judas Iscariot on me, just for a kick-back of a few chew toys .

So, now every news outlet has the story, and I have been portrayed as a cat-hating bigot of the lowest order.  It’s truly unbelievable how fast the wheels start spinning.  Yesterday when I was in Los Angeles, I went to my favorite grooming salon – The L.A. Clippers.  They refused to serve me because of my comments.  This morning, I was informed by the community home owners association that I was banned from all local parks.  The local pet supply store has prohibited my presence.  The AKC is fining me 1500 dog biscuits and is permanently removing my name from its registry.  My book publisher has renounced its association with me.  Why?  Because everyone has quickly jumped on the bandwagon and labeled me guilty of species-ism.

First, I take offense with the phone conversation being taped without my knowledge or consent.  Secondly, some of my best friends are of different species.  In fact, I’m a ‘sterling’ example of inter-species inclusionism.  When I was a pup, lost in a forest, I befriended all manner of species, from ducks to porcupines (although, I must say that the latter was a prickly relationship). and I maintain those friendships to this day.  Additionally, I associate with cats on a routine basis.  True, they come into my yard uninvited and are too nimble for me to catch them, but it’s an association nonetheless.

My stellar reputation has been besmirched.  Another dog in my place might be stunned by these events and sit around in a catatonic state.  Not me.  I intend to fight.  I am filing numerous lawsuits, and I have a fool-proof strategy which will ensure my victory.  I would tell you what it is, but I’m not letting the cat out of the bag.  I’ve said too much already.

Cat Hero? I Think Not

Yeah, I know, you’ve seen it all over the internet and on every TV channel.  A cat in Bakersfield, CA rescued his young male companion by apparently fending off a dog who attacked the young boy.  The boy will recover, the dog will be put down, and the cat is a hero.  End of story.  But is it?

Now, I like cats as much as the next dog (which isn’t much), and I believe they are capable of meritorious conduct…like being amused by a ball of string, coughing up hair balls instead of swallowing them, and acting like they’re doing you a favor when they eat the expensive food you bought for them.  But heroic conduct in the face of injury or death?  Ah, c’mon!

How many millions of cats reside in households across this great land?  And how many kids have been attacked by dogs?    Considering the numbers, you would think tales of cat heroics would be commonplace.  But, have you ever in your life heard of a story such as this?  No?  Join the club.   That in itself makes it suspicious.  Oh, I don’t dispute the facts:  The cat attacked a dog who was ripping at his young companion’s leg, and the dog retreated.  But did the cat do this to save the boy, or for some other reason more consistent with cat behavior?  I think there are much more plausible reasons for the cat’s response:

The boy had cat treats in his pockets which the cat expected to receive.  When the dog attacked, the cat’s natural instinct was to protect the treats;

The cat is – as most cats are – insane;

The cat had been planning to attack the boy, and was angered when the dog beat him to the punch;

The dog was actually a rival cat dressed in a clever dog costume.  Because he was partially blinded by the dog-head mask he was wearing, he believed that the boy was actually his feline enemy, and he attacked;

The dog had been trained by the boy’s parents to chew a bit on the boy’s leg, then the wily parents sprayed the dog with an herbal formula known to infuriate cats, while holding the cat back until just the right moment.  The surveillance camera rolled, and Voila!!  Instant fame;

The boy had a history of taunting and traumatizing the dog, to the cat’s enjoyment.  When the dog had finally had enough and attacked the boy, the cat chased the dog off so that the boy would survive to continue making the dog’s life a living hell.

On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible that the cat acted selflessly and heroically, just as it’s possible that I was an albino wart hog in a former life.  So, consistent with my judicious breed, I will maintain an open mind and will reluctantly consider the cat a hero until he is proven otherwise.  It’s only a matter of time.  The cat will undoubtedly slip up, and the truth will emerge.  Perhaps they’ll one day do a cat scan on this ‘hero’ and find that there are no heroic genes to be found.  Aussies are  quite patient.         



All Politics Are Local

While it may be true that my existence primarily involves eating, sleeping, writing, adventure-seeking and coping with the absurd antics of my human family, I am certainly not oblivious to the geopolitical events in my community.

In our little corner of the world, neighbors have historically enjoyed a tenuous peace with only occasional dust-ups, usually instigated by my naively provocative dad.  But in recent months, two households have threatened to tip the peaceful balance.

The first of these is headed by a patriarch named Vladimir Crouton.  He owns a huge, residence on many acres atop a hill.  He has money, political influence and a defiance matched only by his immense ego.  He has drawn attention to himself by riding horseback shirtless (Crouton AND the horse), through the neighborhood, and engaging in martial arts competitions with any comers who are physically inept.  Through a combination of financial manipulation (i.e. bribes) and credible threats, he has managed to assume unprecedented power in the community.

At a recent community party, a female rock group named Feline Fracas was performing.  They used some racy language in a song which satirically poked fun at Crouton.  He used his influence to have them arrested on some trumped up charge.  Later, he threw his own party.  He spent untold thousands at his estate, brought in tons of snow on which partiers could cavort, and even saw to it that the Feline Fracas members were released from their unjust incarceration.  Crouton was the toast of the town.  All this, of course, was to improve his image.  Then it all fell apart.  After the party, he proceeded to annex the adjacent property.  He allowed the owners to remain, but they had to promise unqualified allegiance to Crouton.  The annexed neighbors, of course, could have asserted their legal rights, but they didn’t dare.  And, as the police and homeowners’ association are either in his back pocket or are apoplectic in the face of such power, Crouton feels sufficiently empowered to set his sights on other properties in the area.

The second household is headed by a lady (although her gender is in question) named Kim Jonung.  She owns a property which was once part of a larger landholding until it was partitioned.  Kim now owns the northern portion, and her estranged family owns the southern property.  By all accounts, Kim is a megalomaniacal, power-hungry, militant psychopath..but otherwise, a nice young lady.  She had her uncle executed because he forgot to kiss her feet, but she did so with courtesy and decorum.  The community is concerned because she has threatened neighborhood annihilation and has detonated nuclear devices under the community lake to back her threats.  Unlike Crouton, she has no apparent motives for her conduct.

Sanctions against these two miscreants have thus far been unsuccessful.  So, here we are.  I have stayed apprised of these troubled areas as events have developed.  But I’ll postpone any direct involvement until we are truly on the brink.  In the meantime, I’ve got more important fish to fry…like some small issue in the mideast portion of our community.


Mothers’ Day With Spock

Ah, Mothers’ Day.  And a tip of my imaginary hat to Ann Jarvis whose perseverance  and tenacity resulted in this day being recognized by President Wilson 100 years ago as a nationally recognized holiday (though she later regretted this and protested to undo what she had done because it became what she never envisioned:  Commercialized).  So Dad unknowingly caused Ms Jarvis’ to roll over in her grave.  He patronized flower shops, candy stores, massage parlors and other mass producers of ‘just the right personal gifts’ for Mom.

But to start this day, Dad took Mom to the local Peet’s Coffee place, because Mom got a free beverage with the purchase of one of equal or lesser value.  He would drive untold miles and use a half tank of gas to take advantage of this incredible offer.  And he dragged me along as if I had a fervent desire for a double shot soy latte with extra froth.

On this Mothers’ Day, the winds were blowing with a vicious intensity, and the pollens were so huge you could see them laughing as they attacked the the sinuses of anyone daring to step outside.  Peet’s was crowded with other folks cashing in on the deal of a lifetime, and there was only one seat available inside after Mom and Dad scored their discounted coffees.  So, Dad, being the martyr to chivalry that he is, sat Mom inside and proceeded to the outdoor seating area.  Nobody but Dad and I ventured out to Peet’s patio.  Perhaps this due not only to allergies, but because chairs, tables and umbrellas were blowing around in a manner that would make Peet’s lawyers cringe with liability nightmares.

Dad chose to grab a chair that was airborne and set it by the window so he could be mere inches from Mom who was sitting on the other side of the glass.  Within minutes, Dad’s allergies kicked in full force.  No amount of antihistamine, tissues, eyedrops or even the space helmet Dad wears when the breeze reaches 5 MPH could preclude the allergic reaction.  As his breathing became a bit labored, he assumed his condition heralded impending doom.  He dramatically placed his hand on the window as Mom put her hand on the inside of the glass.  Like Spock in an old Star Trek movie, I could see Dad mouth the words, “You have been, and always will be my friend”.  At this point he collapsed with characteristic melodrama.

So, did someone call for a paramedic?  Not quite.  A compassionate barista casually went outside and dragged Dad by his feet back into the store.  Within a few minutes, Dad miraculously re-entered the land of the living, and resumed drinking his macho machiato with extra whipped cream.  I hid under a nearby table, pretending as I so often do, not to be associated in any manner with First Officer Spock of the starship Lunatic, whose mission it is to seek out new worlds of embarrassment and to boldly humiliate a faithful  canine companion as no one has done before.

When we returned home, I gave Mom my Mothers’ Day gift.  I didn’t buy it.  I made it.  She happily bent over, bagged it and dumped it in the garbage.  It’s the thought that counts, and I’m sure I assuaged the spirit of Ms Jarvis which Dad had managed to upset.  It’s the least I could have done for the founder of this special day.

EPA – Environmental Protection Aussie

My mom and dad, ever concerned about my health and well-being instead of concentrating on their own dilapidated bodies, have increased my daily dosage of vitamin C.  I haven’t had a cold in 12 years.  But, as I have grown older, they are looking for ways to extend my life and ward off illnesses, including but not limited to a myriad of herbal supplements, vitamins, laser treatments, massages, acupressure, and senior canine yoga ( I like the downward dog position).  I can take whatever they throw at me, but excessive vitamin C gives me horrible gas.  And for environmentally-conscious people, they can be oblivious to the obvious:  Climate change is exacerbated by gases released into the atmosphere and manifests in rising (vitamin) C levels.  They probably think that, the more gas I produce, the more C I require.  And this fallacious reasoning will undoubtedly have disastrous environmental consequences, as our household spirals into a chaotic gaseous haze.

I have written to the EPA about this impending disaster, and yesterday received the following reply:

Dear Flapjack,

We have received your complaint and have forwarded it to our Vitamins and Gases Unit for review.  Please note that complaints such as yours typically languish within our various departments, divisions, units, and sections until the complainants die or forget about the complaints, whichever occurs first.  At that point, they are generally misplaced or accidentally destroyed.  In rare cases, we actually investigate a complaint and arbitrarily deem it meritless, or effectuate a remedy which has no remedial value.  We appreciate your correspondence and invite you to contact us when you inevitably feel that we have taken absolutely no action.  We will deem your second response as a new complaint and utilize the process set forth above.  Your friends at the EPA wish you good health through a healthy environment.   

I’m still reeling, but I realized that I had to take this matter into my own paws.  So, I flushed the copious bottles of vitamin C down the toilet (let the fish get gas), and will continue to do so until Mom and Dad get tired of stocking up on it and wondering where it’s going (this could take years).  We all need to be vigilant about climate change and other environmental dangers, and this is one form of vigilantism that I can necessarily condone.  

The Unreachable Star

A seasoned canine like yours truly is quite accustomed to visits with the vet.  Yes, it’s true that, as a young stud I would put on the brakes as I was being dragged into that antiseptic treatment room.  And I would thwart any efforts by the vet and his staff to perform even the most mundane procedures (I once ate an entire stethoscope before it could detect my angrily beating heart).

But now, adorned with the wisdom of the ages, I accept degrading and offensive veterinary treatment with simple dignity and grace.  OK, I admit that this is partly because I no longer have the strength and energy to do battle with the vet and his minions, but it is primarily because I have learned to accept the things I cannot change.  So, I not only go quietly and peacefully to that torture chamber, but I conduct myself with courageous resolve.  It is a sight to behold.  As I walk through those doors toward my periodic torture, I must remind onlookers of Miguel de Cervantes heading for the Inquisition to the tune of “The Impossible Dream.”

My dad is another story altogether.  Talk about seasoned.  If he were a roast beef, he would be encrusted with a 12-inch layer  of salt and pepper.  You would think, therefor, that he would approach his own doctor’s visits as easily as he approaches a haircut.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Today, he had a growth removed from his skin, and you would think he was being beheaded.  Naturally, I was with him as he needed a paw to hold, and I must admit that I took more than a hint of pleasure seeing him experience what he routinely puts me through.  It took all my resolve to stay with him through the screaming, the tears, and the sweat pouring down his face…and this was just the part when he was filling out paperwork.

When it was all over, I led my sweat-soaked hero out of the medical center.  When he said, “See Flap, I told you it would be a piece of cake”,  I just smiled like a parent does when a 3-year old child utters something cute but inane.  The entire ordeal was exhausting.  Later, three hours into my afternoon nap, I was sharply awakened by what I thought was an ambulance siren coming from the next room.  I quickly realized it was the sound of Dad wailing as he changed his bandage.  Simple dignity and grace.  I’m leading by example, but he’s not a dog so it’s going to take awhile.

“And the world will be better for this,

that one dog giving all that he had,

still strove with his last ounce of courage,

to teach the unteachable Dad.”