Category Archives: family pets

Walking Two Dogs — A Charlie & Murphy Experience

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The weather has been very lovely the past few days with a rain here and there. Grasses are greening and the trees are continuing their brief 2-month hiatus from dropping anything — branches, leaves, dead leaves, pollen, pollen buds, bud covers, pollen, squirrels — from themselves every freakin’ day. You know winter is in full swing when the trees hang on to whatever they can to conserve energy.

Yesterday, I took the dogs for a 3.3 mile walk. The distance was unintentional, but the spirit moved me to keep going and they certainly didn’t mind.

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If ever a pair that needed to meet, these two are it.

For the 6,782 time, it struck me hilarious: the distinction between the two dogs.

I’ve said it before and often: Murphy, our 7-yo Golden Retriever is a dog of intention; he was engineered to be here. Who knows if his parents would’ve ever met otherwise? Those arranged marriages so common in the dog world create beautiful beasts for persons (raises hand) seeking a certain temperament, history and reasonable predictability within a dog. We’ve “ordered” Goldens because we have a family and young children. Murphy has been A DREAM for us. Mellow, stable, soft, huge, warm, furry, soft, reliable, funny, soft, smart, entertaining, patient, friendly, soft, and energetic. 

Charlie, our 18-month-old foundling, our gift of fate and love, is this fascinating mixture of canid and drunken dirt bike rider / rugby player / rancher / shoe salesman / bovine / ticket scalper and frustrated mall cop.

Murphy is all people-oriented. A sight dog: What’s that? Who’s there? Squirrel. Cat. Bird. Treat. Leash. Bee. Murphy is nigh unflappable, save for when someone, anyone ventures to the second floor of our house. Then … he retreats to a space between the bed and the wall in our guest room and burrows himself as much as possible into the carpet and concrete foundation beneath it. I have no idea why. He won’t tell me.

To get him out of his place, we call him with ruses of “WALK!!!” or “LEASHES!!” or “PLAY BALL!” and then it’s short-term memory gone. Sometimes we try to recondition him or retrain him: hold a bag of treats as someone pretends to go up the stairs. Or we close off his access to that room. Instead of going to that space, he then skulks to a spot, the smallest place in the area: between his food bowl and a bookcase. He doesn’t tremble or whine or even attempt to draw much attention to himself. He just … hides. “YOU DON’T SEE ME!!” he chastens, inwardly, anyone who tries to offer a pat or a snuggle.

Charlie is all Charlie-oriented. A self dog: Share some? My foe? Bad cat? This shoe? Chase me? Sit here? Bury this? Charlie reminds me of the three SNL characters who inspired the bad film, “Night at the Roxbury.”

Murphy is like a massive lumbering Cadillac. He glides and saunters on the walks. He loves to sniff things, naturally. Save for the start of our walks, when he’s an unkinked knot with feet and a tail, he stays on the left side of me, as he should because that’s how I trained him.

LET'S GO!!!

LET’S GO!!! I let them out of the gates with some energy and then pull back on the leashes to bring them to heel.

Charlie walks widely and wildly and without cause or intention. It’s so bizarre. It’s only when we’re on a run together that he’s all business. He heels, he does not lunge at bushes or chase bees. When he knows it’s a “50 new smells a day” stroll, he is all over the place. Like a medicated alien toddler in an M5 tank, he bounds over to Murphy’s side, shoving him out of the way to smell something better, stronger, faster, deeper, longer, bestest ever. Ever. Ever.

dog's nose perspective of something on the ground which was fascinating.

A dog’s nose perspective of something on the ground which was utterly fascinating. They could’ve stayed in this spot for an hour, easy.

So Murph give ups, he recedes, finds a new spot, which Charlie must yet again dominate, investigate, populate, masticate, agitate, and irrigate. When he does that, Murphy has moved on, but Charlie makes sure to spew, foist, push and kick whatever remaining flora all over my statuesque 83# thoroughbred.

Murphy actually sighed when that happened to him yesterday. We were at a tree in the forest, one of their favorite trees, and Charlie, who was busy somewhere else, caught Murph trotting up to the haunt and dashed over to pee first. Murphy, who seems to put on the air of “I was done anyway” backed off and sighed. If he could shake his head, I’d totally understand. Then we’d go find a quiet spot at the bar and order a couple Old Fashioneds.

Charlie looks up to Murphy. Lots of mouth licking and grooming going on from Charlie to Murphy. Part of me chalks that up to Charlie’s spartan beginnings, being a dog who likely wouldn’t have made it. His mother went begging for scraps, and that’s how he was eventually found.  So I think Charlie is looking for morsels of food. Murphy sort of resembles Charlie’s mother too, so there’s that. They are a terrific team and it’s Charlie’s enthusiasm and near-constant court jester attitude which keeps Murphy energetic and youthful, even at his white-faced 7 years.

Friday? They know when it's Friday.

Friday? They know when it’s Friday.

Murphy is king, alpha and the decidifier of all acceptable behaviors. The moment Murphy comes out to the deck to an already outside Charlie, he is greeted with the boundless enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. “AOOOOMAAAIIIGGGAAADDD!! YOU’RE HERE!!!!” It’s contagious. Murphy starts to perk up, bound a little and grab a toy and the two are at it, in a game of tug-of-war, or keep away, or chase me, or look a squirrel. They are a team. If Murphy has a bone or a rawhide or a toy he’s enjoying, such as fleecing a tennis ball, Charlie will stand by, as if to offer his assistance:

C: You want me to help you with that?

M: No.

C: You need any help with that?

M: No.

C: If you need me, I’ll be over here.

C: Are you sure you got it? I see a spot …

M: No.

C: That sure looks good. Do you want this sock?

M: No.

C: I have the lady’s shoe. You want?

M: No. Put it back.

C: Make me.

And so it goes…

Right now, they are wrestling under the table I’m typing on outside on our deck, and Murphy loves it. Maybe he knows he’s still much bigger than Charlie and at least 20 pounds heavier; he still sees him as a baby and Charlie still sees Murphy as a grown dog versus his wee 12 pounds when he was a baby.

Or Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing the hell out of these dogs like a crazy cat lady and I have no clue what I’m talking about.

The wrestling goes on for a half hour sometimes. It wipes them both out.

The wrestling goes on for a half hour sometimes. It wipes them both out.

Yesterday on our walk, they encountered a dead turtle. Murph was very interested at first, thinking it was alive but moved on. Charlie stayed there, almost begging it to move so he could have something to do.

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For the first 25 minutes of any walk with them, they’re all “LET’S GO HERE! I’LL LEAD! LET’S DO THIS! THAT’S A FLOWER! I SMELL BACON! DON’T YOU? ARE YOU BACON??” After that, they’re basically putty. The panting begins and the leashes slacken a bit. The muzzle nudges, lean-ins, slowdowns, speed-ups, backward glances at me, with somewhat ambivalent expressions, “You sure you wanna keep going? Don’t we usually turn back at this rock? No? Here? Or here?” really gear up.

Ready to turn back?

Ready to turn back?

If I haven’t turned around yet, after 35 minutes, the panting has really set in. Tongues are fat and pink, hanging over the molars. Nudges intensify. They are hot, tired and sort of stupid. They bump into each other, snap at butterflies, trip on sticks. Once I turn around, they are all about it. They jump up for their leashes, “I KNOW THE WAY!” I GOT IT!” and they head home, all about the destination with very little sniffing going on.

I’m writing this because the dogs crack me up. They also bring joy to our family.

If you’re on the fence about getting a first dog, or a second dog for your first dog…

1) Seriously think about it. Some dogs do NOT warm up to each other. Make sure you have a breed which is good with other dogs — either coming in or welcoming aboard.

2) If both are adults, have them meet in a neutral spot so neither feels territorial, and back out of the scene a bit.

3) Does gender mixing matter? I’ve been told by strangers that it’s unusual that two male dogs are getting along so well, but I think it’s worked out because of the age difference and the fact that they’re both neutered.

4) Shed your narcissism: nothing in this world is an extension of yourself. Treat your dogs like dogs and everyone will be happy. Let them walk, sniff, jump, wrestle, bound, hide and careen; don’t carry them in a purse or put them in a stroller. If you need something in a purse, buy some gum; if you need something in a stroller, have a baby, buy a doll. Put your purse in it. Now you’re halfway to being a crazy bag person. Don’t get a dog.

5) Test drive dog ownership by taking IN a friends’ dog to your home during travel; if your friend needs a safe place for Fido, be that safe place. This way, you will learn what it’s sort of like to have your a dog in your own space on your schedule. If however, you discover Fido has destroyed your sofa while you slept, bring him back home and stay with him there. Fido might not like your house and just needs to be somewhere familiar.

6) Dogs wrestle. My father was convinced at first that Charlie and Murphy were trying to kill each other. Neighbors ask the same thing. No. The dogs are being playmates and dogly when they rumble. If any aggression continues past a yelp then there’s an issue. Charlie or Murphy will yelp, “HEY! OW!” and the other will back off, head low with contrition and the game continues. Murphy also has this “GET LOST!” roar he occasionally unfurls on Charlie, and that does the trick.

7) Be a strong leader. I will concede that we got lucky. I’ve heard stories of two dogs just NOT getting along. I know more people whose dogs do get along more than not. I believe a lot of it stems from the dogs feeling deeply territorial about the “Mom” or “Food Source.” If you make it known from the start that you won’t tolerate any hostility, they will generally follow suit.

8) Shed your neediness. Feeding off #7 and similar to #4, you have to get your personality weirdnesses and lack of assertiveness out of your relationship with all beings, but if your dog senses your weakness and that YOU JUUUST WOVE HEEEEM SOOOO MUUUUUCCCCHHH AND HEEEE’S DA BESSSSHT TING DAT EVEAH HAPPEN TO YOUUUUU… go audition for a Shirley Temple impersonation program. Don’t get a dog. That dog will “LOVE” you back in the form of neurotic outbursts, separation anxiety, aggression toward anything that smiles at you and generally any similar form of Kardashian behavior.

9) That said, don’t take any crap from your dog: you wouldn’t let a human being torpedo your crotch, jump on you the moment you come through a door, race to beat you to the door, pull you around by the wrist, yell at your friends, yell at their friends, take food from your kid, shit on the rug, tear up your shoes, sit on your lap, and beg for your food, so don’t let your dog.

Dogs are awesome, but they’re not flawless. They tolerate a lot of crap from us too.

10) Crates. Lots of people think this is cruelty, I say it’s not. Every dog is different. If you start with a puppy, using a crate is very easy and it becomes their “room” where they get to be all the time and no one is allowed in. It’s like their “NO HUMANS” zone. You remember your “NO GROWN UPS” zone, right? Still have it? Think of giving one of those to your dog(s). Charlie and Murphy each have one, side by side and they love them. They use them in the off hours. Crates are only controversial if you think it’s controversial. See #4.

11) Walk your dogs. I read somewhere that dogs need at least fifty new smells a day to stave off depression. They are born blind, using their noses to survive… take them for walks.

This is them when we got home yesterday:

resting on the nice cool bricks and stones.

resting on the nice cool bricks and stones; they’re so happy they don’t even care about that sock my son left out after practice the day before.

Thank you.

Dear Diary,

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Dear Diary,

It’s me, Charlie, the puppy here at the human’s house. Today, the lady gave me a bath. She was all alone or there would be humiliating photos of me with suds on my face and me sitting in the kitchen sink (i peed in it just to get back at her) looking like a wet rat.

Instead, she waited until the towel she put on me could hold no more water and took me outside for a picture. Here I am looking like an electrocuted wet rat:

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She gave me the bath because I experienced the misfortune of placing my head under Murphy’s penis while he watered a plant this morning on our walk. It was my fault, I own it completely, but I did not like the bath. I did not think I smelled that bad. When the lady gave me a bath, I made sure that her shirt got very wet and that she got very cold because she ignored my dagger fangs on her wrist and my calls to any nearby wolves to release me. Serves her right. The lady kept on giving me treats while she scrubbed me; she thinks that will eventually make me like baths.

She is stupid.

Murphy said to just go along with it because the suds, the treats and the massaging are excellent.

This is Murphy, he is very cool:

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He plays guitar with his tail.

When I run around this house and I try to steer, my feet slide on the floor and I slam into things at full speed. My fluffy hairs do not provide traction. The humans make sounds like they are having trouble breathing whenever this happens.

About four weeks ago, I was rescued from a hole in the ground in South Carolina. The lady and the man who have brought me here to run their home said that they did not plan on bringing me here at all but that the man saw a picture of me where I fell asleep in my food and he had to have me.

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I do not know why this picture is what did it. I think I look like an idiot. I am embarrassed by this image; I have no self control.

I like this one better where I’m super cute. I was faking sleeping:

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But “people are stupid; there’s no accounting for taste,” says Murphy. He is cool, so I believe him. He lets me knit with his tail hair. I know he likes it because he moans when I do it.

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Since coming here, I have taught these humans how to do chores properly. No one understood the point of a dishwasher. I do.

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It took many days for Murphy to warm up to me being his boss. He tries to act all big and 83 pounds, but we know that’s just a phase. The lady was so sad when he succumbed to my authority, she spoke into a small plastic box and shouted into it, “They’re getting along! They’re playing!” I do not think she understood what was going on. I was not playing. I was having a private meeting with Murphy expressing my domination; I have determined that hypnosis is best. Look into my eyes… You will do what I want…

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I feel this photo is like one of those sensitive moments captured by White House photographers when JFK was in the middle of the Bay of Pigs crisis. Why did he not like the idea of a bay of pigs? Mud and bacon. What is not to like?

The lady tells Murphy not to drink from the white bowl in the small room. She growls in a stupid way, it sounds nothing like a dog. Murphy laughs at her and does it anyway. Here he is teaching me how it’s done. I can not reach the bowl. One day I will. She says, “Charlie, do not pick up that habit.”

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Instead, I picked up this habit while I wait to get tall:

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Here is Murphy pretending he is the boss:

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On second thought, he looks very scary there. I will remember this picture. He does not like it when I try to eat his food when he is eating it. The lady feeds me last. That is mean. She says something like, “You are not alpha. I am alpha. Murphy is above you. You are Mu or Sigma….” Mu. That is stupid. But I try anyway.

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It snowed here a couple weeks ago. I had a great time sitting on Murphy in it.

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I am doing well. My mom, brother and sisters are living nearby. When the weather warms up, we will get together and have fun, the lady says. I have put on almost eight pounds since living here. Every time I wake up from a nap, a boy here says I have gotten bigger.

This is me, about to take a nap, so I can grow:

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I have gotten the lady to do tricks; every time I sit down, I get her to use a clicker and then she gives me a treat and pats me on the face. She also does this when I decide to lie down and I have just started to go after things and then leave them alone and I get her to give me a treat. She also gives me one for taking a nap in my box. She is stupid.

I got a treat for this:

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She keeps saying, “STAY. STAY… STAAAAAY.” I do nothing, and then I get her to give me a treat. Humans. They are so easily trained.

I like to think of this place as my toilet. The lady does not like that, so she has started to feed me off the floor.

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Now I do not want to pee there so much anymore. But sometimes I forget. So now, she “wears” me by attaching herself to me wherever we go. It is funny, I never thought she would want to go where I get her to go.

I am glad I do not live in a hole in South Carolina.

Thank you.

No, Mom. I didn’t take the toilet paper

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This is how living with my gorgeous golden retriever can be.

My oldest, Thing 1, would like me to make mention of the thematic irony of the photo: the lighter side of the image is the truth, the darker side is the guilt. Do you see him hiding behind the chair? He did not want to stop.

Funny, that 83-pound ball of fur. We do love him so.

Happy weekend!

Thank you.

Ps– here is Murphy’s first post ever: The Places I Go and Then Have to Leave

The Places I Go and Then Have to Leave – By Murphy

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Today we have a guest blogger at the behest of Thing 3 who’s toddler nickname in the playroom used to be called “Osama bin Dumper, Toyorist.” So, he’s in charge for the moment. Please indulge…


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I am the family god. I mean, dog. I am the family dog. I am having the 8-year-old, the smallest boy, write this for me. 


I am four. I have four feet. They are webbed. They help me swim. When the lady says I can. She takes me to small lakes when the weather is good. My tail helps me steer.


I am a golden retriever. I do not retrieve gold. If they threw gold for me to get, I could not pick it up in my mouth. It would be too heavy. I would not give it to them. I would give it to the smallest boy, for helping me tell my story.


The lady calls me a “crotch torpedo.” What does that mean? 


This is a story about the places I try to go to. I am often told to go away from them. 


Here are some pictures of me: 

This is me when I was a baby. Aren’t I cute? 

This is me when I was first brought home to be with these people. That boy is the smallest one. We stick together. He is 8 now. 


This is me when I was running for President of the United States. I withdrew my name from consideration for personal reasons. Again, I ask: what is a “crotch torpedo”?


This is me and my favorite toy. The lady who works for my best friend gave it to me. 



Today when I was walking around the dressers, the side of the bed, the side of the refrigerator, the side of the couch, the side of the wall, the seats of the chairs, the third step, I was tasting the the toilet water with my tongue. It’s right at my nose. The lady shouted, “LEAVE IT.” So I left it. I have a bowl but I like the toilet.


The boys left their morning dishes on the table. I like toast. My tongue is long enough to reach it and I can leave my feet on the ground. That way I am not table surfing. What does that mean? I reached for the toast and the man saw me and he said, “Ah-Ah-Ah, Murphy. DROP IT.” 


And I dropped it. It tasted good. I wish I ate it. I stared at it a long time. Looking at the toast. It was right there. I wish I had it. I wanted to say “Ah-Ah-Ah, Man. GO AWAY.”


I love to go on walks with the lady and the boys. I love to chase geese. They are fat and stupid, but they swim fast. The lady says I can chase geese but no ducks. I am not allowed to chase squirrels when I am on the leash. 



This is me when I found a bag of flour in the basement. I was not a year old then. The people kept on calling me “scar face.” I do not have scars. 



This is a close-up of me when I got into the flour. I packed some in my cheeks so I could have it later. I was very sorry.

I wanted to go inside the shed today when it started to rain. But I had to get out because the lady shouted, “OUT,  MURPHY.” So I backed out. Have you ever seen a big dog try to turn around in a small shed door on a ramp in the rain? It is hard to do. I do not care if I have the prettiest feathers (do dogs have feathers? I can not fly) in the whole wide world as the lady says, it is hard to back out of a shed in the rain. 


The rain drops get in my face and my eyebrows do not help me. Sometimes the lady makes me do a trick to come in. She taught me how to whisper a “password” to get in. When it is cold or rainy, I have a password: “MOVE.” But I do not know how to whisper “MOVE.” So I give the password and go in. 


Yesterday, I was sniffing plants with my feet and I also sniffed the plant food (bone powder) with my mouth that the man put on the ground around some bushes. Again, the lady yelled at me, this time saying  “OFF MURPHY. OFF.” So I stopped.  


I like to sleep between the bed and a wall when the lady works on her desk. I sleep in the bedroom closet at night. I like small spaces. They make me feel safe. I do not like fireworks or thunder. 


I have a ball in the grass. I like it when the people throw the ball. I go get it and run around the grass and trees and make them follow me. They do that for a little time until they stop and yell, “DROP IT, MURPHY” to me. So I drop it. We do it again.


On Sunday, the man and the lady stood and used sticks in a small area that they later put wire fence around. It was like a pool of dirt. It looked perfect for me. I saw them bring in more and more dirt they dumped in the area.  It smelled good. The boys said it smelled like a farm. I like a farm if a farm smells like that! The bags said M-A-N-U-R-E on them. I don’t know who he is, Man Ure, but I like his smell. And that fence! The fence was to keep the people out.


Then they put in plants the lady bought. Something with small shiny leaves that smelled like chicken wings, another plant with heart-shaped grayish leaves (everything is gray to me) that smelled like rotten plants and another one with hairy leaves and tiny flowers on it; when I pushed my face into that hairy one, I smelled sour plants. I did not care about plants. I wanted to get into the pool. 


They left the fence open when they went to eat. 


I went in and made paw prints all over the dirt that smelled good. I was about to make water on the plants and dive into the dirt pool, but the lady shouted to the tallest boy, “Hey, get Murphy out of there! He’ll ruin everything!”


The tallest boy said, “C’mon, Murph. No. OUT!” and I stopped what I was doing and I had to get out. Maybe the dirt pool wasn’t ready. 


Then they closed the fence. I can not go in the dirt pool anymore. 


Today, a day early, the tutor came over to sit with the tallest boy. He “blew it royally” on a math test. Is it not good to blow it royally?  I love the tutor. She pets my ears the whole time I am in the room with her when she is sitting with the tallest boy. 


The lady said “COME, MURPHY.” And I left the tutor. The lady gave me a treat for that. It was good. It is time for me to go now. They are looking for the smallest boy. We are buddies.

I dedicate this to my cousin Cate. She understands me.

Good bye.