Living with Orso is comparable to living with a rebellious teenager.  Every conversation is an argument.  A conversation with a teenager goes something like this, “Honey I need you to clean up your room.”

First you get an explosion of expelled air then, “What’s wrong with my room?  It looks fine to me.”

“There are clothes all over the floor and I’m down to three dishes in the cabinet to eat dinner on, please go clean up your room.”

“I know where everything is.  Besides it’s my room and I like it like it is.”

With Orso I’ll look at him and say, “Sit.”

He looks at me and says, “Woof.”

I repeat my sit command again, and get the same response, “Woof.”

Now my voice is a little louder and sterner, “Sit!”

To which I get, “Woof woof!” 

Now I’m about to lose my temper and the ninety-five pound stinker knows it so he sits and has the audacity to sit there and wag his tail like he’s done something wonderful.  As every parent does, I look skyward for guidance and patience, lots of patience.  Everyday it’s the same, I tell him to do something or pick up my purse to go somewhere and all I get is sass.  Just like a teenager. 

I wonder when and where I lost control and what made this dog start to question and argue with me every time I speak.  Just like a teenager.  According to medical science dogs supposedly age seven years for each 365 day cycle.  That would make Orso forty two, hardly a teenager, so is science wrong or is he just eternally going to be this annoying? 

I must be cursed, I have already raised two sons to adulthood (luckily they survived) and thought I was past teenage attitude.  Evidently not.

An Abusive Relationship

“Are you in an abusive relationship?”  the Emergency Room admitting clerk softly asked me looking me straight in the eye, watching my reaction carefully.

Mitch was sitting behind her across from me oblivious to the question.  Did he know how lucky he is I like him?  With just a slight change in my expression or lifted eyebrows not to mention if I had burst into tears, it would have been a long time before Mitch saw the light of day again.  I was sitting in the Emergency Room admitting office with the two bones at the end of the middle finger on my left hand jutting at an odd angle for the second time in a three month period for the same injury. Maybe that was why she asked, or maybe it is standard procedure to ask every woman that comes to the emergency room with an injury.

Absolutely I was in an abusive relationship, but the abuser was me not Mitch.  I am the clumsiest the person I know.  I find new ways to cut, burn or bruise myself every day.  I walk into walls, miss doorways and trip over my own two feet.  Mitch is always amazed at the unique and seemly innocuous items that have the ability to draw blood on me.

This time I had been doing yard work while Mitch was working on one of the cars.  I walked into the garage to get my garden cart and noticed a spider walking across the top of the cart.  I hate bugs, spiders in particular and usually scream loudly and flee the immediate area as quickly as I can, knowing that they will hunt me down and eat me if given the chance.  But on this day, I was wearing gloves making me invincible, or so I thought.  I wanted my cart and here was this gigantic menace keeping me from my cart.  Mitch was under the car so he was no help, I would just have to confront the monster myself.  As the spider walked nonchalantly the top of the cart toward the edge to disappear and prepare for a sneak attack I decided to swat him with my gloved hand.  I swung my hand down with such force to annihilate the beast and caught the top edge of the cart causing the first two bones on my middle finger to dislocate and jut up on top of the third bone and knuckle of the finger. 

As usual I starting crying like a baby, causing Mitch to come up from under the car to see what I had done to myself again.  He offered to pull the bones back into place for me.  Are you kidding me?  I told him I wanted to go to the emergency room and I wanted him to take me.

He looked at me and said, “I am right in the middle of fixing the exhaust on the car, can’t you drive yourself?”

“Fine I’ll just walk then, don’t worry about me.  I’ll be fine, I can take care of myself.”  I wanted some sympathy and wasn’t getting it.

He dropped his tool on the floor and said, “Fine let’s go.”

I wanted to get cleaned up first because I was filthy and sweaty from the yard work but “No!” Mitch said that if he had to go dirty so did I.  No fair.  So here I sat sweaty with dirt and grass stains on my clothes sitting in the emergency room waiting for a shot to numb my hand and have a trained professional jerk my finger back in place.

Time Out For Charlie

We abdicated a good night’s sleep in our bed ten years ago when Mitch said, “If that’s the worst thing AJ does, I can live with him sleeping in bed with us.”  This was in response to AJ sneaking in bed with Mitch after I left for work in the mornings.  Now every night it’s a race to claim the best spot and still have the ability to move my legs during the night.  I’m a light restless sleeper, while Mitch sleeps like the dead.  In order for me to get some semblance of a good night’s sleep, we try to position the dogs thusly, Orso at Mitch’s feet because of his size and sleeping like the dead too.  Most nights AJ will opt for the sleep ball next to my side of the bed, unless it thunders, then he has to sleep against me, panting and shaking so bad it’s like sleeping in one of those vibrating beds.  Charlie starts off at the foot of the bed on my side until Mitch drags him closer to him, so that I have leg room.  Mitch is very thoughtful giving me more of the bed, I think this is to minimize me being cranky the next day.

Last night though Charlie decided he didn’t want to move from my feet.  Coaxing him wasn’t working for Mitch so he tried grabbing Charlie’s chest and pulling the dog toward him.  Charlie responded by growling at Mitch.  Big mistake.  In order to show who was alpha (with thumbs) and who wasn’t, Mitch made Charlie get off the bed.  Charlie defiant as ever walked around to my side of the bed jumped back up but as a conciliatory move he moved a bit closer to Mitch or he was planning to eat Mitch in his sleep, I’m not sure which.  Well once Mitch had set the bar, he couldn’t back down and let Charlie sleep on the bed, so Mitch got out of bed walked around to the end of the bed and grabbed his collar to pull him off the bed.  Charlie, defiant and psycho stupidly growled again, this time baring his teeth getting into the challenging behavior thinking he was going show Mitch who was who.  That display of defiance bought Charlie a time out in the bathroom with the door closed.

During the clash of wills, AJ slept in the sleep ball unconcerned, more dog food for him if Mitch killed Charlie and Orso laid in bed watching staying very still to avoid any fallout.  After about fifteen minutes Charlie whined, Mitch looked at me and I said, “You have to go get him not me, otherwise it will undo you establishing yourself as the alpha male.  Mitch let him out and made him lay down on the floor as punishment.  After an eternity for Charlie, 3 minutes, Mitch called him up in bed.  Charlie came and laid down in the middle of the bed close to Mitch and was very contrite.  I still think he wants to eat Mitch while he’s sleeping.

It’s Them or Me

It’s them or me, and my money is on me. I’m the one with the opposable thumbs. I have the power to reason through a problem. I have tenacity. I also have osteoporosis. I was diagnosed in the fall of last year. Me with osteoporosis, no way. I’ve taken calcium religiously for decades. I was devastated when I found out. I’ve always thought that I was unbreakable. No matter how many times the dogs knocked me down; (and they knocked me down a lot) I would get right back up with nothing more than a few bruise to show for it.  Well there was that one time I tripped over the dogs on a walk and tore the cartilage in my knee.  Mitch had to walk home get the El Camino then come back and get me sitting on the side of the road.  Not now.  I have 5% bone loss, which I was told is significant bone loss. So now I’m taking my weekly dose of Fosamax and have realized that I’m quite breakable.  I’m now afraid of falling and breaking something.  I don’t like feeling this way.  I don’t like fear. 

I’ve not taken the lunging or the yanking the dogs do while walking seriously until now.  It’s been a source of entertainment and fodder for my stories.  But now I’ve realized that together the three dogs are much bigger and stronger than me.  I was five foot two before osteoporosis and losing a half inch, which makes me a great boat anchor dragging behind the leashes, but little more than that if the three choose to charge after the object of their interest. 

Basically they’re good dogs, fairly well behaved, but tend to feed off of each other’s emotions.  If one gets excited about seeing someone, the other two join in and I can’t hold them back.  Not anymore.  So now the serious training begins.  I know labs are hardheaded and stubborn, Orso especially seems awfully thick at times, brilliant other times.  We call him “Box of Rocks”.  Charlie is just hardheaded and willful.  When it comes to a battle of the wills, he will not budge one iota.  The thought of violence is often considered with him.  AJ is soft and submissive, but when no one expects it, he will instigate trouble then stand back and let the other two get yelled at.  Sneaky.

Training three dogs at once is a challenge.  One at a time would be easier, but I don’t have the time to work with each dog individually.  So three at a time is our only option.  I’ve given Mitch the ultimatum, “It’s either they get trained to exhibit patience and not lunge or we can’t have the dogs”.  And I have no intention of not having the dogs.

So it’s them or me.  Bet on me.