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RegalDaisyFor a while my days were almost perfect. I could sleep wherever I wanted, wander the house at will and always find food in my bowl. I could daydream for hours while my masters talked or watched that glowing box.  It was peaceful, but there were trade-offs.  I didn’t get a lot of attention.  Sure, I got some nice rubs once in a while, but I was given a bath only once a month, the menu never changed, and I rarely went outside the walls of my perfect prison. For the most part, I lived the classic dog’s life.

Then “it” happened.

I don’t know what they were thinking. Was I too boring? Did they need a challenge? Maybe I ate too loudly. I just don’t get it. I thought I was being the perfect dog – and then they brought “it” home.

For years my human sibling, the Long Haired Boy, had been bugging my masters to “get a puppy.” He said, “It’ll keep Daisy young,” and stuff like that. Well, I’m not feeling particularly old. In fact, I’ve had a pretty good run so far. Hips are in order, eyes are working pretty well, ears have never been that great. So aside from the fact that I poop every four hours, which the vet says is fine, I’m showing very few signs of age.

On the other paw, my two-legged owners have changed quite a bit. The little one who smelled the best moved out over a year ago, and the Hairy Guy has been home quite a bit (but he’s not taking me on any walks or anything.) The Pretty Lady with brown eyes (like mine) still brings me my crack crackers, but she’s not taking me on walks either. Basically, we’ve been pretty lazy around here for the last year or so.

2CuteGirlsinCarOn the whole, hanging with the Lovebirds was fine with me – until they brought home the little idiot they call Delilah.

For the first few days, I wanted nothing to do with the intruder, but my humans were obsessed with her. “Blah blah blah blah Puppy. Blah blah blah blah Delilah.” They were giving me that “extra nice” treatment… but it’s kind of crazy watching them get so excited about the little ball of fur that doesn’t know anything except how to jump up into my face and try to bite my jinglers. Can I just get five minutes?

That puppy doesn’t know anything. She breaks all the rules. She pees in her bed, she chews on the chairs, she grabs paper towels. Worst of all, the minute she sees me she comes flying in my direction and tries to bite my ears.. Lately the little bitch (literally) has been showing me up. My human says “Sit” and she sits. What a tool.

GrowlyLookAfter a few days of total puppy avoidance, my Masters forced us to get together. They held The Energizer still and let me give her a good sniffing. Not too bad. Puppy smell; simple, clean, new, and a little vulnerable. The two-legged ones forced us to get to know each other and then we started playing. A few well-timed bites, a big growl or two, and now little D knows how it’s gonna work around here.

Sure, I let her lay in my bed. I let her bite my leg. I let her try to steal my snacks and my masters are really grateful for that.  The puppy’s so enthusiastic I have to cut her some slack. I’ve got the energy. We’re both taking vitamins now. I’m even getting brushed once in a while.  All in all, I think this might be a gain.

DaisyHoldsHerOwnMore good news! Suddenly everybody is paying attention to us dogs, and even though they’re mostly petting the fluffy younger one, they’re being pretty darned nice to me too. HE actually gave me a bath, which HE hasn’t done in about ten years. I get a ton of treats. I’m sore from the regular walks and that stupid puppy is actually getting me into shape.

I’m also getting a lot more personal attention. It’s like my two-leggeds don’t mind having me around any more. They see that The Energizer will do anything I do, so they’re counting on good ol’ me to set an example of how to behave. This older sibling thing could really score me some points.

Today they rode in the Windy Box to the Land of No Leashes. Every once in a while the Masters are kind enough to take Delilah there so that I can get some rest. In those lovely, quiet moments, I can lie anywhere I want and not have to worry about being jumped. It’s kind of funny though. I actually miss that little puppy when she’s gone.

DogTugofWarAt first I thought this growing family thing was going to be a bummer, but I was wrong. It’s good to have a new friend.

Gotta go now, the puppy’s getting in trouble and I like to watch.


IMG_0032
A lot can happen in a week.   Although the puppy has had her share of “accidents,” all in all she’s doing a very good job of being a puppy; chewing on things, fighting imaginary foes, running in circles – all the regular stuff.

JoAnn’s teaching roots have found new ground. Both dogs, Daisy and Delilah, are now getting a daily vitamin. After seeing me give them their vitamins, JoAnn declared, “From now on, your job will be to give them their vitamins.” I couldn’t have been more honored. Now I get to be the light monitor and the vitamin giver!

DaisySleepsOur next step was to create a routine – just like we’d done with each newborn. One of us gets up with the puppy and takes the puppy out for her morning bathroom break. Daisy, our older and wiser dog, has chosen to maintain her prior schedule. She stays in the bedroom (currently off limits to the puppy) and “sleeps in” until the last adult goes downstairs.

TennisBallThe beauty of Daisy’s choice is that it gives the early parent an opportunity for some one-on-one training time with Delilah. The puppy is especially rambunctious in the morning, so I think Daisy’s decision is more deliberate than we might imagine. In any case, solo time with Delilah offers us an excellent opportunity to help her hone her retrieving skills. That’s something Daisy never quite mastered, and believe me I tried.

RegalDaisyDaisy is reliable; she knows the boundaries, she doesn’t run when the gate is open, she doesn’t eat from the table, and she doesn’t jump on guests. She’ll even chase a thrown ball…and then lose interest. I get it, but she’s a retriever for goodness sake!

Our first Golden, Sunny, was ball crazy. She was so desperate for the ball that she’d go into the ocean to get it. I used her instinct to chase as an opportunity to teach her to “stay,” which she did with remarkable discipline. We could take her to UCLA and leave her outside of class. She would not move, even if people tried to coax her, until she saw me come out the door. I hope to teach Delilah the same level of self-discipline.
DoggieToysWe also achieved doggy détente between our two pets last week. Daisy had been very skeptical about Delilah. All Daisy knew was that a rambunctious, sharp toothed, little nuisance was jumping on her all the time, and all she wanted to do about that was fly the coop. Yet Daisy was very patient and non-proprietary. Delilah used Daisy’s bed as if it were her own, even pee-ed in it a couple of times, but stoic Daisy took it in stride.

D&DtoCamLast Wednesday night, JoAnn and I were relaxing on the kitchen floor. She was petting Daisy and I was playing with the puppy. In an attempt to bring peace, I held the puppy’s collar and we brought Daisy over to check her out, without allowing her lunge at our Grande Damme. It took a while, but I think we loved them both into liking each other.

Daisy’s life has really improved. She’s getting regular walks, she’s getting that wonderful vitamin, she’s gets a treat whenever Delilah does – so what’s she got to complain about?

There was some doggie horseplay – which JoAnn thought was too rough and which I thought was awesome, and they have been friendly with each other ever since. I think Daisy needed to establish her Alpha status and Delilah realized that Daisy could be fun if she approached her in the right way – a fairly basic lesson from the animal kingdom.

IMG_0018So, our schedule is intact. Feed ‘em, walk ‘em, and let them nap. We do this in rotation, just like we did with our newborns, which gives us the ability to make plans in quiet times. It seems to be working for both dogs and things are pretty calm. Delilah is sleeping about eight hours at night, and that’s great. She’s had a couple of urinary accidents in the house, but she hasn’t dropped any bombs… so far. As JoAnn says “We’ve got to stay on it, it’s our duty to put her outside when we think she’s going to have to pee or poop.” I have a hard enough time doing that for myself.

“She is such a puppy.  Everything is her business”

It’s a good thing we both work at home.

Next installment: Clicker Training. I don’t really get it, but it’s supposed to work.

3Generations

3 Generations

As my children have gotten older and more self-sufficient, I’ve seen them become more “objective” about the hard-earned advice I offer.  They no longer hear my voice as if it were thunder on the mountaintop.  As my role in their lives has become far less primary than it used to be, I’ve begun to think about my relationship with my own father – and how I felt about him when I was their age.

I always loved and respected my father, but as I grew up in the newer world of my own creation — my own young children, my incredibly hip friends, my co-coaches, my social scene — his knowledge and participation began to lag.  He hadn’t lost any ground in his own world.  At about my age now, he was still a highly respected businessman. He still had his group of loving friends and a new family. But my work in the entertainment industry was quite unrelated to his fascination with words and the law.

sc000189deOur careers actually collided at one point.  I had been working for a company that encountered some interesting legal problems, and I recommended that the owners call my dad for advice.  After a few months as their off-site counsel, they brought him in-house. We would see each other in the halls.  He came to be respected and even loved.  I, as always, was proud to be his son.  Aside from that, however, we stayed completely out of each other’s business — until the company needed to hire a new CFO.

Among the candidates was a young friend of mine.  A real schmoozer who wore nice leather and talked regularly of his big game studio experience.  My dad hated him.  He thought he was slick, he thought he was dishonest, and he didn’t like the way he did business.  I, on the other hand, thought my dad was “old fashioned” and didn’t understand the complexities of structuring a business in our industry.  Imagine that: my father, Harvard Law School grad and business counselor to titans, couldn’t understand how to run an entertainment oriented business.

sc000b4e78As it turned out, my father’s time-tested instinct was right.  Within a year, despite his efforts to organize and reorganize the business, it went belly up.  The investors lost their cash, the “fast talker” moved on to deceive others, and my dad retired –  more convinced than ever that “show business” was not for him.

I’m writing this because I know I still have good insights for my children.  I know there is benefit to sharing my life experience with them, and even more so when they have children of their own.  I also know I’ll have to slip them my wisdom without seeming didactic or bossy – because nowadays they only really “listen” to about twenty-five percent of what I say.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself.  I’m just honoring the passage of time and recognizing that I am now the “old guy.” They are the new, improved, self-sufficient versions of their mother and me.

Kelsie + Benjy-387This, I suppose, is the double-edged sword of parenting.  On one hand, we take great pride in the people we have brought to our community.  On the other hand, as our sons and daughters effortlessly assimilate, we feel the loss as they become immersed in their own lives.

We will offer advice.

We will guide as necessary.

We will be here to listen.  And we will remember that, for us, parenting is now mostly a spectator sport.

BlogLite21As this week marks the thirty-sixth year of my marriage, I thought I’d try to offer some of the little lessons I have learned through co-habitation.

None of us is entitled to the “perfect” partner.  We just don’t come out of the box in a manner that allows us to fit seamlessly into the lives of another.  But we are creatures who can learn and adapt and, as such, we are capable of making choices about how we’d like to live.  These lessons have simplified my life and strengthened our relationship as parents:

#1 – There is a Bigger Picture

JoAnn and I had been married a few years before  I had gained enough insight to avoid blatantly ogling other women in her presence, but one night we were out to dinner at a nice restaurant when a statuesque woman entered in a very sheer top, grabbing the eye of every male in the room.  No big deal.  I kept my eyes fixed on my wife.  Later, as we were driving home in the car I said to her, “Did you see that woman who came into the Shoesrestaurant?”  JoAnn looked at me with disgust and replied, “Did you see her shoes?”  I had to confess.  I hadn’t seen her shoes.  JoAnn then explained that open-toed shoes with stockings immediately meant that, as women go, that one was asleep at the wheel.

Shoes.  Gotta pay more attention to shoes.

#2 – Embrace The Differences

DSCN0338I’ve played baseball in one form or another since Little League, and today I am part of a softball team that has played together for forty years.  Over the years, I have experienced every situation that can happen on a baseball diamond and I believe I know what to do (as an outfielder) in any circumstance.  Two outs, one man on.  One out, two men on, etc. etc.

Couples often fight about the way women spend money and men use their leisure time, but while I was devoting my time to baseball, JoAnn was honing her shopping skills to near perfection.  I have learned to marvel at my wife’s ability to drive a hard bargain, return an item without a tag or receipt, and generally make the system work for her.  I occasionally have the pleasure of watching her navigate the retail world.  I just sit back and enjoy.  I know that she is as concerned with our finances as I, and I respect her ability to make smart decisions.  It’s all how you look at it.

#3 – Think of Your Mate as You Do Yourself

We once went out on a double date with a couple whose company I enjoyed.  I thought the guy was funny, and I thought his wife was sassy.  When JoAnn and I recapped the evening I said, “That Roger guy is really funny, don’t you think?” To which she replied, “He’s not very nice to his wife.”  “Whaddaya mean?”  I asked.  “He treated her like she was stupid, and she isn’t.” She continued, “If he treats her like she’s stupid, and he’s married to her – then he must be stupid for marrying her.”

Done.

In the end, if you can find ways to appreciate and affirm your spouse’s intelligence then you’re really complimenting yourself for having convinced someone so smart to marry you!

#4 – People Don’t Change

IMG_0621For everything my wife does that drives me crazy, I’m sure there are multiple things I do that make her nuts.  I’m a little messy and often don’t pick up my clothes.  I sometimes watch football ALL DAY.  Sometimes I forget to tell her something important.  On the other hand, JoAnn occasionally leaves the butter out all afternoon, or leaves dirty pans on the stove where they cool and become harder to wash.  Sometimes she misses a material fact in a story.

Nobody’s perfect – but we’ve realized that arguing about unchangeable elements of our personalities only leads to acrimony.  Take a deep breath and carry on in the name of a peaceful home.  These days I pick up my clothes because I know it will make her happy – and also because she’s not nagging me about it.

#5 – Fidelity – The Bottom Line

When JoAnn and I first got together, she put fidelity into a perspective I could barely believe.  “If you want to sleep with someone else, you can.”  “What??” I said.  She repeated “If you want to sleep with someone else, you can.”

“Seriously?” I asked.  

“Sure,” she said, “as long as it’s oaky for me to sleep with someone else too. Because if it’s okay for you, it should be okay for me, right?”  Then, she added, “there are probably a lot more men who want to sleep with me than women who want to sleep with you.”

Ouch.    Extortion, but effective.

I am/was a flirt by nature and JoAnn knew that when she married me.  For her, it is both an endearing and exasperating quality that comes with the package.  She has allowed me considerable leeway in my relationships with other women, and, all along, I have understood my responsibility with regard to those relationships.

We have both worked to remain “attractive” to the other and throughout the years in which we had children at home we always took time for ourselves.  JoAnn has remained primarily “My Wife” and secondarily “The Mother of Our Children.”  We have always prioritized each other – and this has given our children perspective.

JoAnn never restricted me in my guy-type activities.  She knew when I was going to a bachelor party or had been to a “Gentlemen’s Club”, but she also respected that those male-bonding experiences were enjoyable for me and in no way a threat to our relationship.

REGJEGLagunaMarriage or cohabitation is not easy.  Reasonable people can make it work through diligent, honest communication and consideration.  Among the side benefits of doing so is that fact we teach our children how to respect others and accept imperfection.  Modeling a positive, communicative relationship is a slam-dunk way to raise happy, respectful children.

My friends used to ridicule us for our hyper-communicative relationship.  I withstood all that because I knew in the end that we’d still be looking at each other and saying “You’re the only one” (I can stand being with for long periods of time).

Happy Anniversary my love.

I’m a guy.   I like my space.   I like my stuff.   I love my wife.

For the first time in thirty three years I have them all back to myself.

EmilyDropOffYes, the Dropoff at school was successful and it appears our adorable daughter will merge into the flow of college like a good driver getting onto the freeway.  The road is clear (we like her college), and she’s a very responsible driver.  Worst case she has three brothers and two parents for GPS.

Our empty nest is, of course, relative.  In today’s connected frenzy there is no real solitude (nor would I want that), but JoAnn, my lovely wife, no longer has to feel the compulsion to cook, or be a waitress, or monitor every coming and going in our daughter’s life.

Our grown sons, bless their male souls, have found a wonderful rhythm with us.  They check in, say hello, give brief updates, and then move along their way.  This is fine for me, as it’s my style of communication.  If they want to “get deep”, like talk about their problems or something, I hand the phone to their mom.  They know what type of advice I give best, and they know that their mom will listen for much longer.  That’s the beauty of this thing.

REGJEGLagunaPundits, our friends who have been Empty Nesters for at least one semester, tell us that we have plenty to keep us occupied.  We’ve got a wedding in October and, someday… we’ll be grandparents.  Ironically, as much as JoAnn feels sadness about having this empty nest, she’s not particularly interested in having an infant or toddlers running around right now either.  Even more ironically, I kind of like the idea of grandchildren.  It’s really about finding the new balance.

For thirty-three years we have been parents.  What were once discussions about music, movies, adventure and dreams were partially hijacked by discussions about our kids, their teachers, their sports, their friends… and that was perfectly fine.  In fact, empty nest or not, our conversations are still dominated by issues related to our roles as parents and that’s OK, we love what our children bring to our lives.

JetskiSuddenly, however, we’re back to us.  My career has morphed, and JoAnn’s continues.  For the first time, though, I’ve heard her talking about the possibility of a change – of diversifying her interests and looking at some new things.  Maybe she’d be willing to collaborate with me on my next project… “THIS, I think, is what being Empty Nesters is about!”

It’s day three, and already the possibilities are limitless.  Anyone want to go Jet-skiing?