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Culture: Stories & Lit
The McBickly Accord

At just after noon today a spokesperson for the McBickly family indicated that, following months of negotiation and many setbacks, an agreement had been reached between the McBicklys and their dogs, three Beagles, that would curb the Beagles’ explosive response to drivers from FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. The dogs, who represented themselves in the talks, signaled their contentment by sleeping in sunny spots on the McBicklys’ living room carpet all afternoon.

Critics of the deal were quick to express their skepticism.

“The dogs got the better of them,” said a neighbor whose back yard abuts the McBicklys’. “They were outsmarted.”

While details of the arrangement have yet to be set in stone, Tucker and Mindy McBickly acknowledged at a press conference later in the day that the dogs had, in fact, negotiated a number of concessions in return for their pledge of restraint. For one, the Beagles’ dinnertime, which had already inched back from 5:00 to 4:15, will be “readjusted” to 3:30 pm.

“We retain absolute control over their feeding schedule,” Tucker McBickly insisted, “and over all kibbled and canned products and treats. The readjustment simply means that we’ll be feeding a bit earlier.” After a pause he added, “And not that we’ll be feeding more, as some have alleged. We were firm about this, especially with Ajax, who’s a real chowhound.”

Onlookers confirmed that Ajax, a manly tricolor with a stunning horseshoe of white across his hindquarters, continued to paw at the kitchen floor next to his food bowl until just moments before he shook hands with Mindy McBickly by way of sealing the deal.

It had been widely reported that Comet, Ajax’s junior by about four years, had pushed hard for more frequent walks as a condition of his endorsing the agreement. Eyewitnesses confirmed that Comet would often pop up with a leash in his mouth at dinner parties and other social occasions hosted by the McBicklys, as if to imply that he considered his exercise regimen wanting.

“Then one morning my foot touched something between the sheets at the bottom of the bed,” Mindy recounted, wide-eyed. “It was the leash.”

“Our son Skyler has agreed to walk Comet three more times a week,” Tucker interjected, referring to the McBicklys’ 11-year-old, who spent the entirety of the news conference playing Call of Duty on his mother’s rose-colored iPhone 6s. A side-bargain stipulates that he will be getting a new device of his own in the fall.

“And the last thing,” Tucker said to the gaggle of reporters on his front lawn, “is that my daughter Abigail has agreed to limit the time her hamster, Taylor Swift, spends in the wheel. He observed that the grating of the hamster wheel particularly irritated Alice, the youngest and perhaps the most sensitive of the Beagles.

“What about sanctions?” said a very blonde newsperson, reading the question from a card.

“It’s true,” said Mindy McBickly, “that after the way they reacted to Amazon deliveries last holiday season, we took a big bucket of toys away from the dogs. If they behave themselves over the next six weeks, we’ve agreed to slowly reintroduce those toys and add a few more.”

The news conference drew to a quick close when Ajax McBickly urinated on a CNN cameraman’s Docksiders. “Just marking his territory!” Tucker shouted as the crowd dispersed. “Entirely within the agreement.”

Ajax made his way to the kitchen and pawed the floor next to his food bowl. It was precisely 3:30 pm.

 

News: Karen B. London
Do You Need Some More Personal Space?
No, thanks, I have a dog so I’m used to being crowded

I don’t have a large personal space, which works out great given the amount of time I spend with dogs. Many dogs choose to be right next to or on top of others in their social circles. Some only act this way with their best friends, but for others, anybody nearby will do.

Personal preferences vary among the canine set, just as they do within our own species. There are certainly dogs who really need space and don’t care for a lot of physical contact. Such dogs never try to sit on your head. However, there are lots of dogs who consider any space between themselves and others to be too much distance.

It may not always be pleasant to live with dogs who violate your personal space, but the photographs of them doing it can be pretty hilarious. Here are some excellent examples of such pictures.

Do you have a dog who would rather be on top of (or right next to) you, another dog or even the family cat?

Culture: Stories & Lit
Pug in Assisted Living
An elderly Pug needs a little help with the day-to-day.

I recently put my dog, Jack, into assisted living. I knew it was time: he has escalating hygiene needs, he wanders, he is confused and he often puts himself in harm’s way.

The assisted living facility is lovely. It has wide windows, many of them facing south and east, which let in the warm, chunky beams of sunlight in which Jack loves to nap. There is a pleasant, fenced-in green lawn where he can amble about and pee on flowers. The food is delicious: grain-free kibble twice a day and healthy treats like bits of apple, chicken, carrots and peas. The caretakers are generous, loving people.

The best thing about the facility, though, is the cost. Some assisted-living facilities can be price-prohibitive, but the one we put Jack in is downright affordable. That’s because my husband and I are his caretakers and the assisted living facility is our home.

Jack is a Pug. A bug-eyed, brachycephalic, low-riding Pug. He’s always been a happy, bright, if somewhat confused little character. But at the age of 13, he began marking his territory, not only outdoors, but indoors as well—piano legs, sofa legs, chair legs. (If nothing else, the anthropomorphic use of the word “legs” for these furniture extensions tells us how wrong it is to pee on them.)

It’s not that Jack didn’t have the occasional accident when he was younger. It happened. One morning, my husband, rushing out of the house for work, left a note by the coffee machine that read, “Poop by bookcase.”

Of course, that note wasn’t a directive, an order for me to poop by the bookcase. No, no. It was a straightforward statement of fact, letting me know that there was a pile of poop in front of the bookcase.

I looked at that note and thought, This is just perfect, this is so us. Some spouses might leave a note that said, “Have a nice day,” or maybe, “Dinner out later?” But we have our communication down to the nitty-gritty essentials. (I saved that note, in case I ever begin to put on airs. If I start to think, Gosh, we’re cool people, I can always pull out the note, “Poop by bookcase” to bring myself back to reality.)

When Jack began marking his territory inside, it was clear he didn’t know what he was doing. I scolded him in the beginning, but realized it was mean and senseless to scold a senile dog. It was like scolding a baby, or a fish.

I tried to keep up with the messes. Armed with paper towels and a spray bottle of non-toxic cleaner, I sniffed around the house like a Bloodhound until I’d found and wiped up all the puddles. Though I sprayed the rooms with a “floral” air freshener, there remained a misty background odor of “fetid urine swamp.”

I got to the point where I didn’t want people to come to our home, and if they did, they absolutely had to be dog people. Eventually, I wouldn’t even let dog people in. It was that bad. My husband said a couple of times that our house smelled like a barn, which was so very helpful, Honey. Thank you.

In addition to urinating on his indoor trees, Jack is losing some of his hearing and his sight. Sadly, he sometimes lightly bumps into a table leg while he’s heading who-knows-where. He looks humbled and surprised when this happens, shaking his head like a flummoxed cartoon coyote. I can almost see little stars circling his head.

He’s also begun to growl viciously at coats and bags left on sofas and tabletops, then seems to wonder why these fiendish intruders pay him no heed.

Though he’s failing in some areas, I’m not about to take him to the vet to “put him down.” After all, he’s still Jack, my cherished friend. He runs happily to his food dish. He jumps onto sofas and chairs and deftly scales their backs like a little mountain goat. He wags his tail when we pet him or rub his belly.

I had to take some kind of action, though, to change our embarrassing situation. I needed the equivalent of assisted living for him. Since there are no such facilities for dogs (at least, not in our area), I had to create one.

The first thing I did was acquire a crate I could confine him in when we weren’t home. He’d had a crate as a puppy, but that was long gone. When I put him in the new one, he looked at me with his big bug eyes as though I were dunking him in hot oil instead of on top of a cushy pillow. As soon as he discovered he wasn’t going to fry, however, he quickly accommodated himself to it.

I’ve always heard that dogs feel secure in their crates, and sure enough, Jack now voluntarily goes in his to sleep even when we’re home. I assume it’s much less scary in there than it is in an increasingly strange world, where walls and furniture move around, where the scenery is foggy and there are faint, unknown sounds.

So the crate helped with the accidents. I’ve also begun to let Jack outside much more often than I had been. I let him out a lot, in fact. It’s like training a puppy. Many times, he looks at me like he’s got more on the ball than I think, as if he’s saying, “You just let me out five minutes ago, but if this is what floats your boat …”

The third thing I do in our assisted living plan is to shadow him like a private investigator. If he attempts to creep into another room, I follow him, finally speaking loudly, letting him know I’m right above him.

“I’m right here, Jack. Don’t you dare.” When I do this, he startles and looks up at me, impressed, as if I were some omnipotent god. This trailing is really working. I think he thinks I’m always behind him, even when I’m not.

All of this takes a lot of time, but it’s well worth it.

I hope to keep Jack in assisted living as long as possible. I hope he dies here in his sleep one warm evening. I don’t ever want to “take him in,” or “put him down.” I’ve had to do that with other dogs, and it’s one of life’s profound heartbreakers—to look into the eyes of an innocent animal as he or she is injected with a heart-stopping barbiturate.

What I really want is for Jack to live forever. Is that too much to ask? To have a soft, furry, breathing, creature by my side always? To feel the warm weight of this exact individual against my legs on cold winter evenings? To have a sure listener to help me bear my version of the world’s troubles and sadness?

I know it’s too much to ask. Yet, for however long he has left, I’ll keep him happy and safe in assisted living. Dinner at four, crafts at six, lights out at eight! 

News: Guest Posts
Beagle: Free to Good Home
Man posts Craigslist ad rehoming his girlfriend

Several days ago a man posted a Craigslist ad that seemed to be offering a free Beagle to a good home. In the post he explains that his girlfriend wants to get rid of the dog. He proceeds to describe his Beagle pup saying "I have had her 4 years. She likes to play games. Not totally trained. Has long hair so she's a little high maintenance, especially the nails, but she loves having them done." However, by the end of the post we learn that he is in fact rehoming his girlfriend and keeping his dog!

As the ad went viral he updated the post saying it was all a joke and that in reality he's a pitbull owner and his girlfriend loves his dog. He ended his post encouraging one simple message—that adoption is a life long commitment, not just while convienent. It's great that he is using his viral fame to continue to push his message and promote pet adoption.

Way to go, dude!

Culture: The Daily Show
The Dogs of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Take this job and love it
Aunt Blanche

Here at The Bark, we’re always looking for stories that examine the really big ideas affecting the lives of dogs. Our mission started 15 years ago, when we created the magazine in order to cover the burgeoning dog-park movement.

Recently, we had the opportunity to take our mission indoors — to see how dogs add harmony, fellowship and an atmosphere of well being to a very active and creative workplace. This particular lead came to us, unexpectedly, late last year. The email subject line read “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Dogs,” and it came from Renata Luczak, vice president of corporate communications for Comedy Central. Dogs had joined the ranks of The Daily Show, and staffers and others thought it would make a good story for The Bark to cover, and, oh, yes, they are “huge fans of Bark and would be so thrilled to be in it.” At Bark central, we were thrilled and flattered, of course, but we also took the story to heart. We were curious if these dogs could have it that much better than other office dogs throughout the land.

To find out, in early spring, I spent the day at The Daily Show offices in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, where I met the dogs, sat down with the people, watched a photo shoot and generally saw for myself just how good the show’s dogs have it. Here’s my report.

This dog-friendly workplace started about 15 years ago with Georgia Pappas, then the show’s production manager, and her Tibetan Terrier, Cosmo. Fortunately for Pappas and Cosmo, Jon Stewart is crazy about dogs. Double fortunate, the show’s offices and studio are in a building managed by Adriane Truex, who shares Stewart’s canine appreciation. Permission was quickly granted, and it didn’t take long for more dogs to follow.

These days, the first thing new employees, show guests and visitors notice are the dogs. Free-ranging and ubiquitous, they have become an integral part of the office landscape: roaming, playing or lying about, with toys scattered everywhere. They attend staff meetings, share office chairs, charm the celeb guests — in short, The Daily Show is pretty much dog nirvana.

How else would you define a place where dogs get attention from almost everyone, visit their friends, climb on couches or snuggle up in one of the numerous spare beds that people put in their cubicles to entice doggie visitations? Lunch is a particularly busy time. Christy and Vilma in the accounting department observed that the dogs often start in Stewart’s office (which they can freely visit), hit all the “tidbit” spots, then make their way upstairs to accounting for one more morsel and a nap on their couch.

Meet the Dogs
While perhaps a dozen or so dogs rotate through the offices, there are a few regulars, among them, Parker, Kweli and Ally. The girls, Parker and Ally, have a close and special relationship with Golden boy Kweli. Everyone remarks that after “dark weeks” (the periods during which the show’s not taping), they look forward to seeing the three dogs rush into the building, get up on their hind legs and embrace one another. Even though the humans might be dragging, the dogs are so happy to see their pals. And the romantic moves Parker puts on Kweli have elicited ooohs and aaahs from those witnessing what one person described as scenes out of From Here to Eternity.

For co-executive producer Jen Flanz, whose family has always had dogs, this inviting atmosphere inspired her to adopt Parker, a Lab mix, from Manhattan Animal Care & Control. Parker seems to win the hearts of everyone she meets, both dog lovers and those who might not yet be. She’s had a lot of training with Jen, and quickly became a regular who, along with Kweli, introduces the newcomer pups to office-dog protocol. All the dogs soak up and bask in the attention they get, from most everyone who works there.

As Jen observes, the only downside is that “our dogs are used to being here, being around people all day, running around and getting attention from a hundred people. So when we have time off, she bounces off the walls. They get so much activity and stimulation here.”

Artistic coordinator, Justin Chabot got his Golden Retriever, Kweli, when he was still a student in Boston, and started Kweli’s off-leash training during their late-night forays for a place to park his van. As Justin recalls, “I would stop at an intersection, make him sit and stay, and walk back across the street and wait until the light changed. Then I’d say ‘OK, let’s cross.’ Now, he walks with me and never goes into the street — he never steps off the sidewalk without me being there. He’s off-leash even in Times Square.” Another handy trick that Justin easily taught the bright and relaxed Kweli is how to ride steady and calm on the back of his bicycle and motorcycle. He made Kweli a co-pilot seat from an old milk crate, which the dog sits in during their commute down the West Side Highway from Harlem; they turn a quite a few heads as they go by.

Supervising producer Tim Green-berg’s Ally, a rescue Pointer-mix, is a more recent addition. When Tim first adopted Ally, she had fear issues, so he did a lot of concentrated training with her. Initially, he only brought her in on slow days, then, gradually added more time to her “work” schedule. He’s convinced that the training built up her self-confidence, and is the best way to maintain it. When Ally first met Kweli, Tim says, “she tried to eat from his bowl, he snapped at her and since then, they’ve established their relationship — she looovvves him.” Like Parker, Ally flirts with Kweli constantly and shamelessly.

Good training is essential to making the office-dog dynamic work. Everyone knows that having their dogs in the office is a privilege, one they don’t want to lose. As Jen observes, “We all feel this responsibility to keep the dogs pretty well-behaved. If someone comes in and thinks this is a free-for-all, they would be mistaken.” Tim adds that “like the show itself, there really is a strict discipline underlying what looks like a free-form.” From my perspective, it seemed that the office camaraderie, conviviality and general bonhomie — laughter can be heard everywhere — inspires and affects both the people and the dogs.

The Guests
Many staffers jokingly admit that they rate guests on how attentive they are to the dogs, who are hard to avoid en route to or leaving the studio. Kweli and Parker, in particular, can usually be found hanging out nearby. I talked with Hillary Kun, supervising producer and the show’s talent booker, about guests they considered “get-down-with-the-dogs” standouts. On that list are Jennifer Aniston, Tim Gunn, Ricky Gervais, Betty White and, most famously of all, President Obama (a senator at the time), who literally got down on the floor to hug Parker and pet the dogs. NBC news anchor Brian Williams and his wife, Jane, are also huge dog lovers and have a particular affection for Kweli; Williams always asks for him when he comes to visit.

The dogs may have their own opinions, which they sometimes seem to register. For example, Jim Margolis’ dog, Aunt Blanche, once peed (just this once) on the floor outside the green room when Sharon Stone was visiting, he thinks his dog was expressing her opinion about “Basic Instinct 2.” (Such accidents are rare, however.) So far, the only guest to bring a dog on the set has been Ted Koppel, who came with his granddog, a little black pup named Pepper.

The Benefits
When asked what the dogs add to the mix, Hillary, who confesses that she thinks of the dogs as her nieces and nephews, said that “the dogs loosen up the place. Personally, if I have a bad day, or am stressed, it’s nice having the company of the dogs, to have them come into my office. Dogs are therapeutic.” Everyone I spoke with agrees that having dogs as co-workers may have something to do with the show’s ongoing success. Not only are they great de-stressors, good for morale, comforting and relaxing, the dogs contribute their own dose of inimitable comic relief to a group that’s focused on creating and showcasing comedy. Like the time Parker snatched one — yes, only one —meatball from a tray in the kitchen area. She trotted back to show everyone her prize and dropped it at Jen’s feet to much praise. Then Kweli swooped in and finished it off.

Matt Palidoro, whose cousin owns a dog bakery and keeps him supplied with treats for his officemates, says, “The dogs are a huge perk on the job. If you see two dogs playing with each other, you can decompress easily.”

This group seems to function on some kind of organic, village-like level, with everyone looking out for and being somewhat involved in raising the “village’s” dogs. For example, it’s easy for the dog people to ask colleagues to handle an occasional dog-sitting stint. So many of the non-dog owners, including correspondent Wyatt Cenac, have stories about times they hosted one of the dogs while their people were out of town. Talk about a benefit!

All in all, as Tim Greenberg describes it, “This is a giant dog playground. The dogs run around, and there are at least eight to 10 treat stations throughout the office. Ally’s got her own schedule of things she does. She gets exercise running up and back. The only thing that would make it better is if there were grass and squirrels [inside].”

Coda
After a long day taking in the sights and sounds of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart dog-land, moving from cubicle to cubicle, I felt as though I were blending into the landscape, becoming like one of the free-range dogs. As the day ended, I was pleased to be invited into the office of The Man himself. (Stewart’s two French Bulldogs, Smudge and Barkley, were not there, being not quite ready for primetime.) Stewart seemed not to notice that dogs had infiltrated the office — he said he thought “they were interns who were lying around on the floor,” and he “assumed they just getting college credit” for their work. I quipped, “but you rub their tummies, I hope.” He retorted, “Well, I like to treat our interns with respect.” I also apologized for any dog-paw scratches he might notice on his studio desk, which we used for the photo session. Graciously, he claimed that he, too, was an avowed desk scratcher.

Who, after all, could blame the dogs for anything? In Stewart’s opinion, all the dogs there are “really the cream of the crop, all have been to military school, their behavior is impeccable, their manners are impeccable, their English is impeccable.” Plus, “Who doesn’t love the dogs?” There is nothing better than dogs, and they bring out the best in us too. Nothing better. Confirming my observation that everyone has a ball here, he added that, “obviously we’ll take you to the reptile room after this.” 

News: Karen B. London
Can Your Dog Rock The Cone?
How to wear one with style

I’ve never liked the term “cone of shame.” That’s in part because a medical device that helps keep dogs safe has no business being associated with derogatory names. It’s also because I see no reason that dogs should ever be ashamed or made to feel so.

Perhaps that’s why I was especially delighted to see these examples of pets whose time in a cone was treated light-heartedly. Decorating these accessories made each and every one of the dogs (and cats) look charming without a trace of the woebegone, pathetic images so often presented in such situations. These dogs really know how to rock the cone!

I must admit that few of the dogs look thrilled. They may be out of sorts because of the cone or whatever issue caused them to need one in the first place. The extra decorations may be unwelcome, especially for the dog whose cone is full of stuffed animals. Some of the dogs may simply not like being stared at and photographed.

My favorite photos are of the dog who is part of the Pixar logo, the one in couture Burberry, and the dog with a top hat and pipe. The assorted coneflowers are pretty endearing, too. Making the cones fun and decorative definitely affects the way people view the dogs, taking shame out of the situation, which I like.

You’ve got to love the last photo of an absolutely cheerful dog with a bare cone. This dog needs no decoration other than that happy face. Some dogs can’t be brought down!

Culture: DogPatch
Funny Man Barsotti
Interview with the venerable New Yorker cartoonist

Charles Barsotti has been staff cartoonist at The New Yorker since 1970, and for more than three decades, has been entertaining us with his distinctive rounded pups (one of whom

he’s dubbed Buster). Rendered in deceptively simple lines, his cartoon dogs engage in utterly human tasks, and their fans are legion—one of them, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, told him in a letter that he hoped someone would collect all of Barsotti’s “little dog cartoons” in a book one day. And now, with the release of They Moved My Bowl, they have. We were pleased that Mr. Barsotti agreed to be interviewed—like his cartoon punch lines, his answers to our questions were short, witty and to the point.

Bark: What makes a good dog cartoon?
Charles Barsotti: Me, I make a good dog cartoon.

B: What is it about dogs going about human tasks that’s so funny?
CB: Perhaps our human tasks are for the most part intrinsically funny. But dogs are very much with us; I understand that our family dogs consider us all of a pack. So they can stand in for us in a way that I don’t think cats can—or would. And what can you say? A dog on a shrink’s couch is funny.

B: We see that you dedicated your new book, They Moved My Bowl, to the memory of Jiggs, “the world’s greatest dog.” Can you tell us about Jiggs?
CB: Any kid who doesn’t think his dog is the world’s greatest dog is weird. Jiggs was part Dachshund, part mystery meatloaf. Jiggs was run over and killed when I was 10. In my book, there’s a cartoon with St. Peter and a dog named Rex. Rex is a stand-in for Jiggs.

B: Tell us about your two dogs, Chloe and Buster.
CB: Well, Chloe is real and Buster is—can we go with hyper-real? Buster is imaginary, but he’s a real guy’s dog, whereas Chloe, for all her charm, ain’t.

B: Can you talk about your drawing style? It’s so simple but perfect.
CB: For heaven’s sake, you talk about it. You’re doing such a good job.

B: Your cartoons are sweet and smart but never syrupy or corny—no mean feat when it comes to dog cartoons. How do you manage that?
CB: The “sweet but smart” part is autobiographical.

B: Tell us about your idea of dog heaven.
CB: Better yet, I’ll ask Jiggs when I get there and send word back.

 

See Charles Barsotti's obit published on June 20, 2014

News: Editors
Laughter is the Best Tonic
Study shows dog people laugh more

Do you enjoy a good laugh with your dog? If so, apparently you are not alone. So writes New York Times long-time health columnist Jane Brody on one of the many benefits her new dog Max contributes to her life. Brody’s recent article champions the many perks of “life with a dog”—companionship, exercise, meeting people and laughter. She cites a study of 95 people who were asked to keep “laughter” logs and record the frequency and source of their laughter. Results showed that dog owners laughed frequently more than cat owners and people who owned neither. The findings suggest a complex relationship between pet ownership and laughter. Dogs may serve as friends with whom to laugh or their behaviors may provide a greater source of laughter. Does this resonate with Bark readers? How does your dog make you laugh?

Last week, we marked that annual day of grins and laughter—April 1—with an in-box full of pranks. Jokey press releases, outlandish news reports and faux announcements tried to outduel each other for guffaws. Given the nature of our business, many were dog-themed.

Here’s a sampling of some of the April Fool’s jokes we received this year:

Google Apps for Business Dogs
The tech giant pokes fun of itself and its foray into social media

Moo’s new delivery system—Pug Post!
The online printing service employs canine couriers

The Milwaukee Brewers mascots square off
We love them for adopting Hank the stray, but the humor should have stayed in the locker room

Great British Chefs offer fine dining for dogs
Michelin starred chef opens a “doggie diner”

Plus, these favorites from the past deserve mention …

IKEA’s 2011 Hundstol Dog Highchair
Remember “some assembly may be required”

Warby Parker introduces Warby Barker in 2012
Glasses for dogs!

Barclaycard launches Barclay PayWag in 2013
The first contactless payment device for dogs

Culture: Stories & Lit
Letter to an Adoptable Dog
Cartoon Dog

Dear Adoptable Dog:

Please find attached my curriculum vitae, submitted for consideration for the position as your person. As you can see from my history, I have a lengthy and proven track record of excellence and responsibility in all aspects of pet worship. I can provide documentation in the form of photo albums, memorial stones, clothes with muddy paw-print stains and memories etched in my heart.

Qualifications:
Fun One
Waste Management Administrator
Curator, Dead Things
Fecal Quality Assurance Manager (Served on the infamous 1999 “Intestinal Bug Diarrhea” Tour.)
Veterinary Liaison
Collection Specialist, Torn-Paper-Towel-Roll Division
Inventory Control, Victuals
Inventory Control, Recreational Items
Inventory Control, Fashion Accessories
Inventory Control, Anything Else You Want or Need to be Happy
Certified Toy-Batting-Abatement Technician (My motto: Like it Never Even Happened!)
Wide-Spectrum Stains Eradication Team Leader (Taught “Introduction to Blotting” for many years.)
Limousine Driver (Have my own stretch Subaru.)
Grooming or Grooming-Mitigation Expert (Whichever you prefer.)
Bedding Evaluation and Selection Specialist (Hashtag #Themoreitcoststhebetter)
Chuck-It Master (Top speed, clocked at 57 MPH, longest throw, 40 feet.)
Plant, Yard and Soil Restoration Management (Designed excavations repair program You Dig, I Fill.)
Nutritional Counselor (And if that doesn’t work, Flatulence Coordinator.)
Psychological Consultant (Well versed in the canine mind, having apprenticed with several, shall we say, “focused” dogs.)
Squeaker Collector

I am not only hard-working and have a great sense of humor, I firmly believe in three things: bringing home a fresh-roasted, grocery-store chicken every week (yes, the kind you will smell before I round the last corner); giving you your bedding right out of the dryer when it’s at its warmest and fluffiest; and finally (my most fervently held belief when it comes to dogs), never talking on a cell phone while walking a dog.

I hope you will consider me for the position.

Sincerely,
Elaine Sichel
Prospective Human Companion

Culture: Stories & Lit
The Addict
 humor fletcher cicadas

In roughly two weeks, my dog Fletcher will be very sad.

And, he will most likely be going through withdrawal.

I say that because I fear Fletcher is addicted to eating cicadas. Granted, the dog has a well-documented history of eating bizarre things (even his vet has been amazed) but this is different. Prior to the cicadas arriving, I would have described Fletcher as your quintessential Golden Retriever. Friendly, good-natured and eager to please, he is simply a joy to have around. He comes quickly when called, insists on being by my side at all times and, honestly, likes me better than anything else in his world. Or so I thought. As a psychologist I’m trained to recognize addictive behavior and, in the past month, I’ve seen some disturbing signs from Fletcher.

Addiction has telltale signs. Addicts become fixated and pushy in their attempts to obtain their fix. They will travel to forbidden places to find what they think they need. They refuse to listen and will ignore the pleas of loved ones begging them to stop.

Normally sociable, they now prefer to spend their time pursuing their fix. Sometimes, they don’t even try to hide their use. You catch them in the act and they show no remorse, no shame. Often, they don’t even seem to care about your reaction. Many addicts are able to overcome their obsession but there is always the danger of replacing one addiction for another.

Maybe I’m overanalyzing so you decide. Here’s Fletcher’s recent behavior.

Normally the only time Fletcher lets me know he really wants to go outside is when he spots his nemesis, the chipmunk. Then he stands by the door and wines but if I ignore him, he soon stops. Now, after being outside for the first time of the day (apparently after getting his morning taste of the cicadas), Fletcher stands by the door, paces, whines loudly, then frantically searches the house for me. (The first time he did this, I thought something was very wrong, like a fire broke out or an intruder—seriously—he was that insistent). And Fletcher will not stop pestering me until I let him outside. Does that sound pushy and fixated?

There’s more. Usually Fletcher enjoys hanging out in the back yard, exploring the entire area, being careful to stay out of the flowerbeds (where he is forbidden to go). After about fifteen minutes he will sit by the door and patiently wait for me to let him back inside. Not anymore. After spotting Fletcher nosing around in my flowerbed, I repeatedly call him, but I’m ignored. I see he is eating something and beg him to stop.

Finally, he raises his head, chewing and swallowing quickly, and there is dirt around his mouth and nose. Fletcher looks at me like he has never seen me before in his life. I walk over to him, scold him, but he doesn’t seem to care. I take him by his collar and begin to lead him back to the house. Fletcher resists and I realize that he would rather be somewhere else than with me. I am heartbroken.

I am hopeful all this will change once the cicadas are gone and I’ll have my old dog back. The psychologist in me knows that recovery from addiction is difficult because once you’re hooked on something it is hard to give it up. Oftentimes addicts unwittingly substitute one addictive behavior for another so as not to miss the thrill of it all. I suspect this will be true of Fletcher as well.

You see, as I was walking Fletcher back to the house, I said to him, “You know, once the cicadas are gone you’ll have to go cold turkey to get over them.”

Fletcher jerked his head around to face me and with a gleam in his eye gave me a look that said, “Did you just say turkey?!”

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