Look Out, the Dog is Watching You

Annie 1717A

Dogs don’t watch TV. They watch us.

No matter how often we shout, “Look, Spot, there’s that great commercial with the dancing dogs!” the dog just sees us pointing at a box. If I point at a rainbow or a starry sky, the dog glances at me then goes back to chewing weeds. But if I’m chopping meat at the kitchen counter, she’s right there. If I try to sneak a cookie, even if I don’t make any sound, she knows I’m eating something and insists I share. Even when she seems to be sleeping, she knows what I’m doing.

If the phone rings, she looks at me to answer it. If I go out the front door, she jumps up to join me. If I warm up my singing voice, she knows I’m getting ready to leave. If I change my shoes, we’re going for a walk. If I say, “No, later,” she growls and pushes my hand off the computer mouse until I give in.

If I change my routine at all, she’s like, hey, what’s going on?

Think about it. What does the family dog have to do besides watch us and bark at the UPS truck? Eat, sleep, pee, poop. That’s it. We’re like Hulu for dogs, all-day entertainment.

It’s quite a responsibility, especially with pups like mine who spend 95 percent of their time with us and have nearly forgotten how to be dogs. Annie still seems puzzled as to why I would ever close the bathroom door or why I wear clothes, but she spends her whole day waiting for me to pay attention to her.

Annie loves to snuggle. When I sit in the love seat, she throws her 77 pounds of dog-love at me. I pet, kiss, and tell her how great she is (wish somebody would do that for me). After a while, I get busy writing or watching a video on my tablet, and she rolls over on her back. If I don’t pet her stomach, she paws and pokes until I do. I can either surrender or walk away. Of course I surrender. I’ve got two hands.

In dog school, trainer Sue Giles Green told us we had to be the boss, had to maintain an attitude of authority. Oh well. Annie does “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “leave it” like a champ. She’ll “come” on command only if she feels like it. And “hey, you’re a dog, go outside,” not so much. How can she when I might do something fascinating? Or give her one of those Beggin’ Strips that make her eyes roll back in her head with ecstasy.

Sometimes I wish I had other people around for her to watch. It would take the pressure off me. But it’s good to know someone cares what I do and even mourns when I’m gone, someone who never thinks I’m fat or getting old. Like my Mom, she thinks I’m perfect just the way I am.

Annie turned 11 on Saturday. Hard to believe my six-pound puppy is now 77 pounds and the equivalent of 77 human years. What a great friend she has been. Happy birthday to the smartest dog in the whole world, even if she does roll on dead mice and deer poop. How many other dogs won’t eat until you say grace?

U stands for unleashed–or is it unhinged?

Fred with Annie (tan) and her brother Chico a few years ago on the deck

U stands for unleashed, as in Unleashed in Oregon. Sometimes “unhinged” might be a better assessment. Last Monday, for example.

Exhausted from my Easter festivities, I was ready for a long, deep sleep, but no. At 2:38 a.m., Annie started barking, and she was still barking off and on five hours later. She seemed to have found a critter trapped under the deck. Whatever it was scratched her face during the night. Or else she scratched it on the lattice along the base of the deck. The intruder couldn’t be very big. I had seen a rat sneak in and out a couple times at twilight, but Annie hadn’t seemed to notice. We occasionally had squirrels. I suppose a cat or small raccoon could have gotten in there if it was determined enough. Whatever it was, Annie was still barking, and I was still awake when it was time to get up.

Sleep-deprived or not, I had a busy day that included a business meeting and providing music for a funeral, but first I crawled around on the wet grass in my bathrobe trying to see what was under the deck. I saw nothing except a muddy spot where Annie had tried to dig her way in. I thought about shooting some water through there, setting a trap, or calling the exterminators. What I wanted to do was ignore it, but if Annie was going to keep barking, I’d never get any sleep and the neighbor would eventually select a rifle from his vast collection and take care of both Annie and whatever she was barking at. Somehow, like our recent adventures with plumbing and yard work, we would handle it. Once I inspected the deck, Annie seemed satisfied for the moment and went to sleep. Now the rain has returned, and Annie is staying in her warm bed during the night. Me too. But the invader is probably still around.

When Fred and I moved to Oregon in 1996, we unleashed ourselves from our families, our home, our jobs, and everything that was familiar. Looking back, it strikes me that we were like dogs who smelled something good way up the road, chased after it and found ourselves in an unfamiliar place with no way to get back. So we started new lives here. It was indeed very good, although we missed the old lives sometimes.
Now that Fred is gone (three years ago yesterday), I am even more unleashed. No husband. No newspaper job. In theory, I’m free to go wherever I want, just like the dog when she slips out the gate and runs into the woods. But also like the dog, I don’t want to wander too far from home. I want my Milk-Bones (see M is for Milk-Bones) and my iced tea. Of course some of my family thinks I’m just unhinged.
This blog is about my adventures with Annie in our post-Silicon Valley lives. We are unleashed and running free in Oregon. Metaphorically speaking. They’ve got leash laws up here, just like most places, and my dog is too much of a wackadoodle to unhook just anywhere.
U stands for a whole lots of “un” words. Unlikely, unbelievable, unwanted, unplugged, underdog and so many more. It also stands for ugly, ubiquitous, utopia, and umbrella, something we don’t use here because it would just blow inside out. And it stands for Under the Deck, where something lives.
U is for Unleashed in Oregon, where I plan to keep blogging long after the A to Z Challenge ends next Wednesday. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:

A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon–L is for Lick
M Unleashed in Oregon–M is for Milk-Bone
N Childless by Marriage–No is for No, I Don’t Know Children’s Songs
O Unleashed in Oregon–O is for Oregon Everything
P Writer Aid–P is for Prompts
Q Unleashed in Oregon–Q is for Question
R Unleashed in Oregon–R is for Rhodies
S Unleashed in Oregon–S is for Shoes Full of Sand
T Childless by Marriage–T is for Talk
U Unleashed in Oregon
V Writer Aid
W Unleashed in Oregon
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Childless by Marriage

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what V stands for.