Our puppy, Charlie, hasn’t quite learned to bark yet.

He makes lots of noises, especially when he’s settling down to sleep. He’ll sigh, and squeak, and make long, drawn-out sounds of sweet contentment. It’s hilarious and adorable.

He also does a “rrrrruuuuuuugggggghhhhh” growl when he meets somebody new. It’s not an aggressive sound; it’s more like curiosity mixed with caution.

Every once in a while, he’ll make a short yip that sounds a little bark-ish. And, I’ve heard him truly bark, quietly, hesitantly, once or twice, echoing our other, older dog, Mollie. But Charlie doesn’t bark on his own. He’s definitely not much of a barker, at least so far.

Mollie, on the other hand, barks all the time. She barks at squirrels. She barks at neighbors walking their dogs in front of our house. She barks at the mailman, and the cats, and even at us, if we’ve been out of the house and are coming back inside. Sometimes, she’ll just randomly let loose with a bark, and we can’t figure out why.

I’m actually okay with Charlie not barking. Mollie does enough barking for the two of them. She’s sort of the spokesdog, the big sister who tells the story. The alpha. She gives the verbal cues, and Charlie follows along.

I suspect that Mollie is also good with this arrangement. Mollie and Charlie are good companions now, but there’s still a bit of jealousy from time to time. Mollie’s gone from Only Dog to Older Dog. It’s been an adjustment, this learning to share toys and snacks, walks and sleeping spaces, attention and affection.

One day, Charlie will probably become a little more verbal. He’ll most likely have more to say. As long as he understands, however, that Mollie gets to have her say first and loudest, I think everything will work out just fine.

Fun Holidays Pets


Today is National Ugly Sweater Day here in the U.S.

The real fun of wearing an ugly holiday sweater is sharing the experience with others, laughing at the ridiculousness and figuring out who has the silliest, most creative and hilarious attire.

I’m regretfully remembering that I got rid of my Ugly Holiday Sweater in one of my cleaning and organizing frenzies earlier this year. It won’t be possible for me to participate in National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day this holiday season.

But…Mollie and Charlie have sweaters. There’s no reason that dogs can’t participate in National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day.

Let the festive frivolity commence!



We have some coasters that light up in neon colors when something is placed on them.

We don’t actually use them; they have a slick surface that doesn’t provide a secure hold on whatever’s placed on top. Still, we’ve kept them around.

One of our cats, Bandit, has taken to sitting on them. When he does, his backside glows. He looks a bit surreal, like an alien cat.

Sometimes, instead of sitting, he’ll do the kitty crouch, with his front and back paws tucked beneath him so that he looks like a loaf of fur. In that case, most of his body glows, the neon colors reflecting off his white fur.

When he’s in that position, he’s typically staring into the distance, eyes wide, watching the world around him. He looks wise, like he knows the secrets of the universe.

I suspect that, if he could talk, he’d have a lot to say about important matters in life. I also suspect that his advice would be liberally interspersed with the words “tuna” and “dinner” and “warm blanket.”



Our new puppy, Charlie, is an early riser; most days, he awakens well before sunrise.

He’s potty-trained but still has accidents, at least one per day. They tend to happen at the most random times and in the most random places.

He’s an eating machine, always ready for another meal. We have to watch him carefully, lest he eat Mollie’s dinner or the cats’ food after he’s finished his own.

He’s teething, so he chews on everything – furniture, shoes, clothes, human fingers. He’s ripped numerous toys to shreds, leaving pieces of fluff and stuffing scattered around the house.

Sticks, leaves, dirt, the most minute pieces of life – all end up in his mouth. No matter how thoroughly we clean the floors, he will find the one fragment left behind. I’m constantly fishing something out from between his little jaws.

To put it simply, he’s high maintenance. His energy and carefree, youthful, happy-go-lucky nature necessitate constant awareness and attention. My days are filled with What’s Charlie doing where’s Charlie no Charlie no Charlie good boy Charlie come here Charlie let’s go Charlie Charlie Charlie Charlie.

He’s also overjoyed to see me anytime I’ve been out of his sight for more than a few minutes. Overjoyed. Bouncing, wiggling, tail-wagging, putting-his-paws-up-to-be-held kind of joy.

When I hold him, he snuggles against me, putting his head in the gap between my head and my shoulder, and gives tiny, contented sighs. When he’s ready for a nap, he’ll curl against me, a warm bundle of fur and happiness.

And when he looks at me, it’s with one of three expressions: cute curiosity, total trust, or absolute adoration. I am his Favorite, his One Above All Others, his Most Beloved.

Dear little Charlie, I sincerely doubt that I’ll ever be as worthy of your affection as you believe me to be. But, I promise I’ll never stop trying.



We have a new puppy. Our local animal shelter was at capacity, and we’d been contemplating adding to our pet family, so we took the plunge and brought Charlie home.

In general, Mollie and Charlie have adjusted well to each other. One area of occasional conflict, however, is the dog toys.

Mollie has a couple of favorites from the Before Puppy times, and I bought a few new toys when Charlie joined us. My plan was that he’d have his toys, and Mollie would have hers.

What’s happened, however, is that they both want to claim them all.

Sometimes, one of them grabs a toy from the other and runs off. Sometimes, they follow each other, taking a passive-aggressive approach while Moose or Dr. Pooper or Blue Dog is held captive within their teeth. At other times, they’ll stare at each other in a quiet attempt to guilt the other into relinquishing control.

Typically, I leave them both to work it out on their terms, but I do sometimes step in to help them with this process of learning to share. I’ll offer them both a toy when it’s play time, and I referee when necessary to ensure peace. Occasionally, I’ll take Froggie, Mollie’s favorite, away from Charlie and give it back to Mollie, and then distract Charlie with a different toy.

What’s interesting to me is that this situation is not that different from when my sons were little and learning to share their toys. Of course, teaching young humans to get along with other humans involves circumstances and options that don’t apply to dogs. And I recognize there’s a bit of anthropomorphic action going on in the way I evaluate and approach the dog behavior. But there are undeniable similarities.

I’m encouraged by the fact that, after struggling to gain control of a prized possession, Mollie and Charlie will often playfully run around the backyard, taking turns being the chaser and chasee. Once that game is finished, they’ll explore the fence line and trees together, sniffing and digging in the leaves and dirt. When playtime is done, they’ll both search for a comfy napping spot, sometimes near to each other, sometimes apart, and they’ll settle in and drift off into a mutually contented snooze.

Here’s to dogs and what they can teach us about the foundational elements of successful pack living.



We have a long-haired cat, Bandit, who got himself closely involved with some weeds and brambles, subsequently developing a mass of mats in his fur.

After unsuccessfully trying to brush and cut them out, I took him to the vet yesterday for what they call a “strip and clip.” He is now bald, with only the fur on his face and a little pom-pom on the tip of his tail remaining.

I tell myself that his fur will grow back, probably more soft and luxurious than before. The vet said that we did the right thing, that had we not shaved him, the mats would have dug into his skin, ultimately creating sores and causing him pain. Still, I feel guilty about subjecting him to that experience.

It’s also a bit unnerving to see him without fur. His white and black coloring, where his fur patterns will grow back in, is evident, giving him the look of an exotic animal. The white patches have a pink undertone, an indication of the skin beneath, now covered only by a thin layer of soft transparency. He also somehow seems heavier in his bald state. He’s a large cat, solid and chonky, and he feels even more so right now. Perhaps it’s because his fur creates a pillowy effect, a cloud-like feeling that is missing at the moment.

Today’s cuppa is for our (temporarily) bald Bandit. Hang in there, buddy. You’ll be back to your old, fluffy self soon. Just be sure to stay out of the weeds.



This past week, my cat, Tom, was rather generous, bringing me a snake on one day and a lizard on another.

Fortunately for the snake and the lizard, I was able to get them both safely back outside. They appeared to be fine, although perhaps a little freaked out by their experience. I know I was.

Tom, on the other hand, appeared pleased and proud, purring and twisting around my ankles, offering kitty kisses and snuggles. He must have felt like he was providing for me, that his gifts were indicators of his affection. From his cat brain perspective, nothing could be better than a wiggling delight delivered directly at my feet.

I guess the saying is true. It’s the thought that counts, even in the case of feline benevolence.

Life Pets


There’s been somebody at our house almost every minute, every day, for the past seven months. This is quite different from one year ago.

We do leave for various reasons; we’re not completely housebound. But, we respect the advice of doctors and scientists, so we are at home much more than we are out. The places we go are specific and few. It’s rare for our house to be completely empty these days, and our hours follow generally predictable routines.

This is a summary of Mollie’s take on it:

Month 1 – YAY!

Month 2 – YAY!

Month 3 – YAY!

Month 4 – YAY!

Month 5 – Yay!

Month 6 – Yay

Month 7 – yay

She still appears to be glad we’re around all the time to keep her company. She seems to enjoy hanging out with us in the backyard, or on the couch, or on the bed, wherever we might be during the day and through the night.

However – it’s been a long time since she had to wait patiently for the sound of the key in the lock, the front door opening, after being alone. She used to wiggle with energy, bounce and bark, when we came home. She was so excited by our new presence and the affection and attention that came with it. Now, with the house so rarely empty, with somebody always available for a loving ear scratch or tummy rub, she doesn’t always notice when one of us walks in the door.

The kitchen used to be a magical place where meals were typically based on our comings and goings to and from the outside world. She knew that food followed the morning alarm clock or the evening return to home. Sometimes, we’d bring her something from a restaurant, and the crackling paper bag was her signal that she was about to enjoy an extra special treat. Now, the kitchen is still the place of food, but it’s also the place of phone calls and video meetings. The alarm clock and the restaurant meals don’t happen very often anymore. Seeing us in the kitchen no longer automatically means that it’s dinner time.

Even the backyard, that wonderful playground full of leaves and sticks, birds and squirrels, has become routine. It used to be inaccessible for most of the day. Now, it’s simply a bark away. With the weather cooling off, a bark sometimes isn’t even necessary. We often prop the back door open, allowing the breezes in and Mollie out, freely, according to her mood and interest.

It’s possible that some of the changes we’ve noticed in her behavior are due to her age. She’s four years old, not a puppy anymore. I remember what it was like as our sons grew up, the gradual shift from little boys who eagerly ran to greet us when school was over to teenagers who gave a casual wave and a Hey, ‘sup as they came through the door. Perhaps Mollie’s just moving into her teenage years.

I suspect, however, that the past seven months, our constant presence and the quiet and mostly unvaried routine of our days, play a part. The joy she displays at the word walk, at her realization that she’s getting out, she’s going somewhere, she’ll see and do new things, gives me that impression.

In many ways, Mollie’s just like us. Home is a special place. We love each other, we enjoy being together. These are the people we want around us through it all, and we appreciate what we have. We are grateful and happy.

Still, it’s fun to change things up. The world is appealing, enticing; the variety it offers, the potential adventures and interesting options call to us. We haven’t lost the desire to go, to do, to see and experience and then to share those bits and pieces of life beyond our front door.

Life Pets


We have a slab leak. We discovered this unfortunate reality by noticing water all over the floors across our house.

Fortunately, there are plumbers and water damage repair people who can assist us with the situation. I am grateful to have these options.

Currently, however, there are a variety of large, loud fans and de-humidifiers running 24/7 throughout my house. It’s a bit like living on an airport tarmac. Additionally, our furniture and personal belongings have been displaced, shifted into corners and hallways and countertops, wherever they will fit while the work is being done.

My cats are, understandably, freaked out by it all. One of them has taken to hiding under the bed. The others beg to go outside, then beg to come back in, staring at me through the window with big eyes as if silently asking, “It’s over now, right?” They’re afraid to go into the kitchen where their food bowls are kept. At times, they are exceptionally clingy, meowing pitifully and pawing at my ankles.

I’m doing my best to keep them calm, minimize the stress they’re feeling. But I totally get their perspective. If I could fit under the bed, I might take my cuppa with me and spend a few hours hiding there, as well.

Animals Family Pets


If you raised children in the 90s, chances are you know about Wishbone.

For those who aren’t familiar with Wishbone, here’s the deal: Wishbone is a Jack Russell Terrier (dog) who goes on literary adventures. He dresses up like the characters in the stories and tells the tales by acting out various parts. He’s done Rip Van Winkle, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet…you get the picture.

The show, which aired on PBS, was a clever and creative way to introduce young children to the Classics, fun for them and interesting enough for adults to endorse without feeling like time was being wasted.

My oldest son adored Wishbone. We watched every episode, sometimes multiple times. This was in the Time Before YouTube and Netflix and Streaming, so we had to plan to tune in. We’d sit together on the couch, and the show would start, and we’d sing along with the theme song (“What’s the story, Wishbone? What’s this you’re dreaming of?”). And then we’d enjoy the show, learning something new while giggling at Wishbone’s antics and costumes.

Sadly, the original Wishbone died several years ago. I’ve heard, however, that somebody’s making a Wishbone movie. It won’t be exactly the same, of course, but it will probably (hopefully) capture the same sweet, engaging spirit as the tv show.

Perhaps my son and I will watch it together, this time with our own Jack Russell Terrier (mix) snuggled on the couch with us. Or maybe not; he’s a grownup, has his own life now, and Wishbone may not hold the same nostalgic appeal for him as it does for me. That’s okay, that’s how life works sometimes.

Either way, watching with my son or watching alone, I’ll do my best not to give into the temptation to dress our pup, Mollie, like a literary character. I’ll give Wishbone his moment, make him the focus.

Mollie looks pretty cute in costumes and hats, however, so I’m not making any promises.