Sunday, September 21, 2014

One degree off the normal scale

I have every intention of eating these sticks.
When I declare my dog as one degree off the normal scale of things, most times I get an askance look of skepticism.

Aw, c'mon, is the usual response. Only one degree?

Well, I gotta say, he is one of a kind, the mighty Micron.

We all think our dogs are unique, don't we?  And of course, you're right in this observation because really, who knows your dog better than you?

Nobody, that's who.

We live with these critters and by going through the circadian rhythm of eating, walkies and evening cuddle time, we get to know every nuance and behavior of our canine companions. So that if they should do something a bit off point, we find ourselves surprised at the change in behavior.

And it's the same for The Mighty. This dog has been part of my life for nearly five years now. We welcomed him in our home in November 2009 as an eight week old cotton ball and, except for three months in Advanced Training at Canine Companions for Independence, he's been hanging around here eating my food, napping in the office, and generally leaving dog hair all over the place.

I think we both know each other fairly well by now. Both of with secrets about the other that we'll never tell. That's a partnership, people.

To recognize Micron's impending birthday this week (he turns five on Tuesday), we'll share with you five Micron-isms that can only be this one awesome dog o'mine.

1. Micron does this wink thing. 


Hey girl. You must be my backyard
because I'm really digging you.
What a flirt with this one-eyed Hey Ladies slow wink he does.

As a puppy, I would insist our veterinarian put on her special microscope glasses to inspect his root-beer orbs. A rogue eyelash? Some foreign object adrift in there? No, she says. I actually have no idea.

Still today, he winks at me. I wink back. And he returns the wink.

Back and again we go. It just never gets old.

This behavior reminds me of the empathy game we did for Dognition last fall, which involved an experiment to see if Micron could "catch" a yawn from me.

Spoiler alert ... he didn't.

But this winking thing we've got going on is a whole nuther animal, so to speak.

I pretend it's code for I love you. 

Because, you know, if it is I don't want to not say it back.


2. He's part sea lion. Or something.

I've never seen a dog lie down like that before, says the casual observer.

And you likely won't again anytime soon, I will reply.

Otherwise referred to as his boneless chicken impersonation, the dog has some remarkably loose joints.

Flat upon his sternum with his front legs bent like the wings of a fledgling bird, this is Micron's position of comfort.

Always has been.

A standing conversation at his twice yearly vet check-ups, yet nothing seems to be amiss here. He's not offering up any signs of discomfort or pain, so until we reach the If & When I'm going with the only thing I have to work with here. Keeping him active and at a healthy weight.

And just shrugging when fielding the Huh, that's really weird how he ...


3. He smells like mushroom soup when he gets wet

It's rather nostalgic, this sensory phenomena.

Just like that can of Campbell's Mushroom Soup that your mom would heat on the stove for you. By adding milk, of course. Not water.

No budgetary shortcuts for our grilled cheese and mushroom soup lunch at our house. Heck, we were living large by putting two packets of Kool-Aid in the pitcher to make our own custom flavor experiences.

That's how well off we were. I just want you to know that.

But anyway, he does. Smell like mushroom soup. Maybe it has something to do with the same genetics in play with the sea lion thing.

You know? Like whatever gene makes a calico cat nearly always female?

Maybe it's his doggie DNA.

Who knows. Or could just be a matter of a good dollop of chamomile shampoo to remedy things.

4. Micron has a kind of ESP


I'm not here to judge you. Oh wait ...
Like his spidey senses are tingling or whatever.

We talked about this way back on The Micron Effect when we were still training to be a Pet Therapy team.

My dog has a way of recognizing who is internalizing the most emotional turmoil in a room.

It's rather interesting to have a canine barometer during a business meeting in the office. What I may miss in body language, Micron will quietly alert to.

How though? What is he possibly picking up in his assessment? A change in body chemistry ... a scent perhaps?

An enigma for we mere humans, to be sure. But to me that's not the big question.

No, what I really wonder is Why? Micron picks up on the stress and decides to take action on it by placing his body near the person. At times, even putting his head on their feet.

What motivates him to do this?

Even more fascinating about this is his littermate, Madden, does the same I'm told. Madden is a pet therapy volunteer in another part of the country. And when he's on the job, he will find the person in the room who needs him most. Every time.

You just can't train this kind of thing, folks.

It's a gift.

5. He's a retriever. Level: Extreme


Must. carry. something.

In his mouth. Something.

You came back from the mailbox! Wait, gotta grab the first thing I see [a shoe] and circle you.

You're one of my favoritest people in the office! Hang on! Gotta grab something [destuffed toy] and show you my belly to rub.

A pizza! Thanks for bringing this to our house! Don't move! Gotta grab something [goes for cat. changes mind. pulls arm cover from sofa] and scare the heck out of you by bouncing with it to the door.

Hi little girl. Welcome to the library. Sit down and read to me ... wait a sec ... your purse looks like a stuffed cat ... [heavy breathing].


We have this weekly ritual with Micron after our Sunday grocery run. We purchase not just one, but two, rolls of paper towels for Micron to carry back to the house.

It's his job. This is serious business.

He expects to perform this weekly duty and we comply. Because who wants to disappoint their dog this way? Not this chick.

For a short video clip of Micron performing, kind of, this important task check out Mutiny of the Bounty.  I'll merely preface by saying it did not go as expected.

And good grief, the daily paper. It is Micron's morning obligation to bring in the newspaper. Even the weighty Sunday edition.

What would you do without me, he asks.

What indeed, my fluffy companion.

Happy 5th Birthday, my amazing dog.  I do love you so.

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