Licking the Pavement

A few weeks ago, I watched my brother-in-law’s dogs while they spent a week at the beach. They’ve got two dogs: Maggie and Loopy (*name changed to protect the crazy). Maggie is a middle-aged chocolate lab. If you’ve ever owned a lab, you know that middle-aged can still mean terrible twos. Labs often live a decade as a puppy then become senior citizens overnight. I guess that’s what makes them so lovable.

Maggie is the exception. She has always been calm and sweet. She’s just laid back by nature. They found out recently that she is diabetic and I had to give her a shot of insulin in the mornings. This proved rather tricky – only because I didn’t listen very well when instructions were given.

This is a recurring theme in my life. I like to think of it as a cute little quirk, but it is often frustrating when I am left to do a task with no remembrance of how to do it… and from the inside looking out, I imagine this “quirk” is mind-numbingly bothersome to my family. When I take time to consider this, I often think I should change my ways and do better. But then I forget what I was thinking and move on to more fruitful imaginings. After all, we deserve a few eccentricities when we pass 50.

Back to the dogs…

Maggie and I weren’t working well together. For the first few mornings, she wasn’t very thrilled to see me coming with the shot and even though she is mellow, she does weigh 100 pounds and is tall enough that her bucks can reach sensitive areas. But then I discovered wet dog food. Wet dog food smells like a moldy, damp cellar after a possum has crawled in and died on a hot day. But to a dog, it must be like a chocolate éclair. She woofed it down and didn’t even notice the prick of the needle on her neck. Perfect. And this became our routine (and was evidently the instructions provided had I listened.)

But where is Loopy?

When set free in the morning, Loopy bolted straight to a puddle left by rain run-off from the car. I found her licking the pavement. In a panic, I checked to see if I had neglected to leave the water. Nope, three full bowls of nice, clean h2o – and yet that dog preferred to lick the pavement. Every morning it was the same thing. I tried coaxing her with bottled water, treats, and a ball to play with. No dice, she ran straight for the puddle. With plenty of better options, she only wanted to lick dirty water from the pavement.


One day during the week, my lovely wife had a birthday. Although you wouldn’t believe it to see her, she has joined me in the half-a-century club. We took her to a fun, loud, Italian dinner. A few tables away, there was a family of four who quietly interacted with their phones during the whole meal. I kept stealing glances and at some point, it dawned on me… they’re licking the pavement. With better options all around, they are glued to little electronic devices.

I could moralize more, but I’m as guilty as the next guy. Whether it is Instagram, football, our careers, or any myriad of other distractions, we get stuck wasting time on temporal things instead of investing in things that matter – our family, friends, and other human relationships. We lick the pavement.  Some things are unavoidable. We have to work and get things done. But be honest, we’ve all got the rocky, pebbly taste of wasted time on our tongues and time is a finite resource. What’s the answer?

As much as possible, let’s stop licking the pavement lick the important people in our lives instead!

Wait… that doesn’t sound right at all.


The Dumbest Blond

We all have that crazy uncle we’re afraid to invite to dinner for fear of who he’ll bring, what he’ll say, or what table he will dance upon. For my extended family, I fear that is me. Invitations to family outings have waned since the bath robe debacle. In my defense, I didn’t know Easter lunch would be so formal that I was expected to wear pants.

But in my house, that crazy uncle lives with us in the form of a hundred-pound yellow lab. Oh, he’s beautiful on the outside, but he is undoubtedly the dumbest blond you’ll ever meet. And as he’s gotten older, the cobwebs of his mind have gotten stringier and stringier.

In his golden years, Winston has lost faculties and gained phobias. He is terrified of thunder, heating vents, and hardwood floors. We didn’t know about his anxiety until we had our carpeting removed and replaced with, you guessed it, hardwood floors. You see, he loves to play in mud and had ruined our carpets beyond repair. Over the years, our carpets went from the nice camel color we purchased to an undesirable shade of Georgia red clay. The last time we called the carpet cleaner he took one look, packed up his hose and ran.

We love our hardwood floors, but they came at a cost: Winston’s remaining sanity.

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In his daily barreling, he found that he lacks traction and slides on hardwood floors. Instead of slowing down to gain his footing, he refused to budge like an overtaxed mule. We actually had to string little carpet remnants around the room as a passage system for the poor boy.

It also appears that carpet was all that stood between him and the evil floor vents. So now, he can’t barrel through the house like he should be able to without those darn vents following him everywhere.

One such vent is positioned in the entrance to the kitchen, which is an important pathway to a dog. This is the magic portal from the den, where he sleeps all day, to the place where his water and food reside. The problem with this latest phobia is that he can’t get food and I refuse to make the dog bowl the centerpiece of our den. So we have a standoff.

Winston will stand at the entrance to the kitchen and whine, shaking his head because he wants food, but not at the cost of nearing a vent. He will rarely build up enough courage to challenge the evil vent empire. The system he developed is either the height of madness or genius we can’t understand. That dumb dog will move to the back door and shake his head until one of us lets him out. Then he will make a beeline to the kitchen door and wait to be let back in, thus bypassing the problem areas by travelling through the safety of the outdoors – even if there is thunder!

This has gone on so long that we’ve learned his signal for letting him around. My wife and girls indulge his eccentricity gently while I grumble and complain… but I still succumb to it eventually.

After I had played his game a few times the other night, a question dawned on me: who’s the real dumb one? Is it the dog with irrational fears or the people he has trained to bend at his will?

I would love to discuss this with Pavlov, but he’s long-dead. Besides, I’ve gotta go because the dumbest blond is waiting for the even dumber blond to let him out and back in.

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