This is me first thing in the morning thinking about my breakfast. I also really really need to pee. So what I have been doing is quietly concentrating on the door to my crate, trying to make the latch telekinetically snap open…
Eventually it works. I come out and give a deep bow, maybe an arabesque too. My people say I look like a ballerina when I am stretching. Anyway, that’s when I get this feeling that comes over me every morning. This feeling I am lucky. My tail starts wagging and then the next thing I know my whole body is wagging and I am one big continuous zig-zagging wag and totally seized with the need to go kiss all of my people, whoever is home. I just love everyone and everything and I zoom around from room to room jumping on beds licking toes, elbows, faces, arms, whatever I can get.
Then, I can’t explain why, but I always have to run back to my crate to get Ellie. I need to drag my shaggy stuffed elephant out in my mouth, wake her up, drop her right next to my crate before I go bounding downstairs to ring the sleigh bells on the back door with my nose. My people materialize right away to do the locks so I can take care of you know, business in the backyard.
I never ever ever dillydally before breakfast. I race back up the steps, sit exquisitely right in the middle of the kitchen, wagging the tip of my tail triple time and licking my lips. Breakfast is always delicious, a Bravo raw patty—turkey or chicken or beef—topped with squirts of Alaskan salmon oil. And the whole time, all that all of me is doing is waiting for my people’s magic word (my release is okay or ici la which I don’t know really what it means, if it means anything, but it means everything to me) and I am at my purple bowl like bolt of lightning, wolfing down my food. So then my bowl is so instantly clean no one ever even has to wash it and I trot off contented—happy to retire to the living room with someone’s dirty sock if I can find one. My people always seem to need to do whatever it is people do before one of them can take me out into the city for any serious gallivanting. So I take a quick nap and have the most wonderful dream. I dream I am eating breakfast again.
Some mornings I might walk my people to the hole that has steps going down into the ground at Grand Army Plaza. Well, I never actually walk, I sort of float or trot or prance along and I love us moving all together in a pack. I keep checking to make sure none of us is getting left behind as we dodge in and out of all these other people also rushing along the sidewalk.
If I am on my really long leash I might give my people the look I sometimes give them to ask if I can run ahead, jump one of the little wrought iron fences that go around the sidewalk trees. I haven’t figured out why anyone would do that—put fences around trees. I mean I am glad they do, because jumping in and out is one of my favorite tricks, but I have never witnessed even one tree trying to wander away. Trees must be happy where they are.
Right when my people go down those steps into that hole in the ground there is always this moment I feel, I don’t know, terrible. I have no idea where they are going or if they will ever come back. I look at the hole and I want to go with them. I whimper. But, then my people, the one still holding the other end of my leash, she is talking to me, reminding me where I am going next, this place I love, and she is saying familiar names—Wally and Mae and Max and Luna and Ollie and Baxter and Sandy and Sadie and Rusty and Ziggy and Opal and Batman and Belle and Bella and Meeka and Daisy and McLovin and Cookie and Oban and Milo and Lucy and Rosie and Callie and Scooter and Magic and Shauna and Friday and Biscuit and Tiki and Dizzy and Gus and Woody and Thelonious and Ringo and suddenly the hole-in-the-ground feeling lifts and I feel wonderful. I go this place she is talking about every morning—snow or rain or shine and I am so excited now. I can’t get there fast enough. Hurry hurry hurry is all every part of me can think.
At the north end of Long Meadow, when my leash comes off I am free. Wild in the wilderness. Well really, I know I am still Stella—Puppers, Puppies, Muppet, Stelle-Belle, Sweetheart, Stelly, Puppypuppypuppy, Pooch—my peoples’ pet dog out getting my exercise or whatever in Prospect Park, but sometimes I imagine I am a majestic She Wolf returning home.
Every inch of me alert. I run a few steps, stop, sniff, listen, take it all in. An irresistible mile of rolling fields lies open before me. I glance back at my people once more to make sure because I can never quite believe it. Then burst like a bolt of muppet lightning into a mad happy run... Grass. Dandelions. Clover. Leaves. Trees. Mud puddles. Smelly trash cans. Sparrows. Hawks. Pigeons. Squirrels. Picnic tables. Sticks. Smelly trash cans. Did I already say smelly trash cans? And dogs… all different possible sizes and kinds—oodles of doodles of every variety—and so many of them are my best friends. All those names that my people put in my head to coax me from the hole are now in my heart.
We lick faces, sniff butts, catch up on what each of us has been doing. Maybe there is even someone new and we go round and round like a dog carousel sniffing. I have been coming to these morning Off Leash hours since I was four months old and found only one or two of the dogs are grouchy. Loners or whatever. Their people usually bring a ball or Frisbee for them to focus on.
Me and my friends, we sprint together in all directions. Circle back. Run farther. Faster. Looking for whomever else wants to play chase.
Sometimes when I am out here running-running-running wildly like the wind, my heart becomes so light my feet barely touch the ground and I can feel myself becoming a blur.
We wrestle and leap and fly and flip and spin and roll. Working on faster reflexes and trickier moves.
…like going to the gym I’ve heard my people say.
We pretend we are vampires. Looking fierce and blood thirsty, but pretty careful never to hurt one another.
(Oh, and notice how white and shiny my “fangs” are—totally thanks to my raw diet—crunching up all those yummy raw meaty ox tail bones and chicken backs and turkey and deer necks a few times a week also polishes my teeth.)
I wouldn’t miss my Off Leash time for anything, not even if you left the lid off the kitchen garbage can and no one was looking and there was leftover rice and refried beans or piece of tuna sandwich right where I could get it. And certainly not for bad weather anyway. I love running in the rain.
When the rain stops, I love mud puddles. This one puddle once got soooo big, spectacular flying creatures called ducks were swimming in it.
Whenever my people whistle for me or call me by name, I really really try to come running right away. They might be wanting me to practice a trick (in this picture I am doing a Double Jump For Joy with my friend Wally and his people) or play fetch with my orange football or something else. I run right up, sit looking earnestly into their eyes, waiting for what’s next. I can always count on getting a treat for coming to them fast like I usually do, incredible little tasty tidbits of salmon or sausage or beef. Don’t tell them, but I would come running anyway. I love my people. I just do. Sometimes more than one of my people comes to Off Leash and while they all stand around talking to my friends’ people in the field, I pretend they are all wickets and I am a croquet ball. I think my people like being off leash in the morning as much as I do.
When Off Leash is over, I am happy enough to leash up and do something else, even though part of me still wants to run free. Occasionally I try what my people call my Gandhi imitation, where I lie down and won’t budge for a few seconds. But, I know there is a whole day ahead of me and besides I am usually thirsty and there are a couple of special canine water fountains in the park. And, like with most things, I want to jump up and drink from the people ones.
I know dogs often have a weird thing for fire hydrants, but I think fire hydrants are way over-rated. I much prefer tree stumps. Wherever I go, like on the way home, I am always looking for stumps. I don’t know why. It’s just a feeling. Deep down. So satisfying whenever I find one. Like winning something. Or maybe its like all these stumps are really dog pedestals just waiting for a Best Dog In the World to happen by, hop up, soak in a few moments of glory. Stumps everywhere seem to call to me—Sirens or like my next Mount Everest. In the park, along the street, wherever we go, I am always looking for the same old ones and new ones and I never discriminate—because there is no stump too small and piddling ridiculous for me to climb. None too big and out of the question. Look, as far as habits go it’s not a bad one. And I happen to look good on stumps. See.
So, I agreed to pose for this picture with a trash can on the way home, which, eh, I would not normally do, except it does have a FIDO sticker. And FIDO (Fellowship in the Interest of Dogs and their Owners) are the people who got the legal Off Leash hours in my park and donated tons of extra garbage barrels like this one so that people would have plenty of places to put our poop.
While we are on the subject of poop, I have to confess, other than my own, which I think is really gross (my people once stuck some in a hole I was digging in my back yard and I never wanted to go near that hole again) I actually find the smell of poop pretty interesting. I mean whenever I am out and about and get a whiff, I get a big kick out of running in wild circles or serpentines or zigzags with my nose to the ground until I track it down. From my point of view, it’s not so different from Googling. I get lots of information. You could even call it Poopling I suppose, anyway, so far I have not only checked out the fascinating fecal scents of scads of other dogs, but also geese! and pigeons! and horses! and rabbits! and deer! My people don’t encourage this particular olfactory passion of mine. I don’t know why. They prefer to take really boring pictures of me sniffing flowers.
I smell my way through life pretty well, like once I lead my people back to a house blocks and blocks and blocks away where I ate cat food once. (My people thought I just liked the people.) And even if my people never ever trimmed the hair in front of my eyes I could always find my own front door.
Back at home, I get a weird yummy green yogurt-vitamin snack that smells great, like grass and dandelions and temporarily gives me green streaks on my face so I look like a punk dog or something.
Then I amuse myself for a few hours—let my people do whatever they have to do. Like one of my favorite activities is napping. Curled up on my paw-print bed in the living room amongst my morning’s sock collection. Or I’ll stretch out by the back door. Or on the porch where there is a breeze. Maybe with a soft toy in the backyard. Or under the coffee table where its nice and lair-dark. Or sometimes it’s comfy just to lie down by my people on the floor next to wherever they are. If I’m wet and cold my people wrap me up all cozy in a blanket.
I might dream I am chasing giant wild spotted cats across Africa, but mostly I dream about playing some more in the park. My feet twitch because I am running so hard. And I woof soft sleep-muffled little woof-woof-woofs and I am so blissful that I wag my tail so hard against the floor I wake myself up—I am that happy.
After my naps, I have toys I play with by myself. Like Tweety, my big squishy yellow slipper that is like the best of two things I am not supposed to play with—shoes and stuffed animals—and it used to belong to one of my people so if I stick my nose way in I can still smell that faint people feet smell.
My people knotted a shoelace around Tweety’s neck, to persuade me to fantasize I am playing with a real shoe, and oh pleeeease, I know it is so not, but my Tweety does make me happy. I roll around on the rug chewing and tossing and catching and digging my nose deep into the toe hole. Sometimes Tweety actually gets stuck on my face, which amuses me almost as much as my people. I snort. Push with my paws. And when it comes off I have what my people call Tweety-face, which I think is like their bed-head and is really a look that on a good day is kind of me all over.
I have other favorite toys like my weird rubber chicken that squeaks like a goose. And Chippy, my furry chipmunk I handle very tenderly except when I am pretending to break its neck.
Lots of times I like to just hang out in my back yard and catch whiffs of all the different backyard smells. I could do this for hours and hours if the wind is just right. Sometimes I am sure I smell raccoons. And bacon. Who knows what all might be back there. I dug up treasure once. This prehistoric squeaky ball that clearly lost its squeak long before labradoodles were even invented and it has such a magnificent smell and a great squishiness that takes years to achieve and it is one of my favorite toys. I love old stuff, like my split open, stinky, busted out, old pigskin is my favoritest of all my favorite toys. The way it wobble-rolls totally gets me going, fills me up with ferocious play growls, like sometimes I almost fool myself into thinking its really alive.
And then my people sometimes give me pizzles which I think I heard them say they are really bull penises. They call them chewies or my after dinner cigars. I usually get one or a half a one every day. These hard dried twisted things have a nice beastie smell and are tasty and good for teething and make me feel calm, help me find my doodle zen, and satisfy that itty bitty wild part of me that still likes to pull things apart and chew ‘em to smithereens.
So, basically every day at some point I say—yayyy for bull penises!
When I am done amusing myself, I like to amuse everyone else by getting into some mischief. I know I am not supposed to, but I love to hunt and rummage and the thing is--there are usually no real squirrels or ducks or rabbits lurking around my home, so what I do is sneak around sniffing out my peoples wild thongs and string bikinis. I know exactly where they hide. I track down the recently worn ones first. Ohhh yes. Sometimes I have to dig under a wet towel on a bathroom floor or creep under a bed and then because I am so proud of myself I have to do a victory lap around the house with my catch dangling from my mouth—just hoping someone notices. The best part is when my people see me and start yelling Stop Thief! My head and tail fly up even higher and they chase me every which way, into the living room where I roll around on my back ecstatically chewing and pulling and stretching my pretend prey. I always have to “give” my catch back, which I do, but then you know—game on. I am on my feet dashing lickety-split to get another from somewhere else and then another and I am so good at this, and my people get so delightfully flustered because… hee heeeee, I also know where they keep the clean ones.
I love to make my people laugh. I mean I can make them crack up just by sticking out my tongue. Seriously. They think this is funny. I don’t get it. It’s just my tongue… Efforts to recycle myself as a birthday present are apparently hilarious too.
But then I suspect my people find just about everything I do entertaining. Like a couple of times when they really had to get something done, they gave me a bison bone which can occupy a doodle for many blissful hours. But, I must be a good show, the way I loooooove my bones. Twice they took eighty-seven billion pictures of me gnawing and licking. I mean it gets kind of annoying. I don’t know how anyone, you know, like Paris Hilton’s dog Tinkerbelle, puts up with the constant pupperazzi.
I always get pee breaks whenever I stand at the front door looking particularly expectant or else I’ll ring the bells on the back door. But at some point during the day I know my people will take me out for a genuine bona fide real take-the-dog-for-a-walk Walk. And what I have discovered is there are two kinds of these. One is just for me—a real (scratch and sniff and jump and climb and explore and fool around) leash adventure—and the other involves what my people call running errands.
Even though there is not much actual running involved, I am up for errands, because this usually means a jaunt to the Avenue where there are all different kinds of smells and sounds and things going on and people and dogs to meet. On the way, I usually ask if I can do some more street agility. My people are not supposed to, but sometimes they let me off leash to send me over a series of the tree fences on one of the quieter blocks. I was born to do this…
On the Avenue, I visit some of my regular friends. Like the girl with the blue hair and tattoos and big heart (I hear her giving my people the latest about her home menagerie of rescue animals) who lets me jump on the counter. I think she must really really like me because she always gives me a gianormous dog cookie.
Or we stop in the Copy Shop where there are these two fascinating creatures, Copy Cats that look exactly alike, Xeroxes of each other, even their people can’t always tell them apart. But I know the difference because one really likes me and the other, um, doesn’t so much, which is how I learned about hissing and claws, but I don’t care what they think of me. I love them both. We play hide and seek. At least I think we are playing. Anyway, I am—I come in and search for them in all their usual places. Under things, between things, in things. Sometimes they hide in plain sight and I pretend they are impossible to find so the game isn’t over right away—I look high, low, everywhere, even in the trashcan. The friendly one sometimes gives me kisses on my nose and I am so beside myself with joy that I just cannot stop wagging my tail and then everything about me is wagging. The grumpy cat hates when I get like this, but I can’t help being totally exuberant. And now I reeeeeeeeally want a cat of my very own.
Sometimes we buy things for me and one of the places we go has a real live dog treat dispenser outside.
If we buy me a new toy I get to carry it.
And I always take in any sights along the way.
Even the bank is sort of interesting.
Sometimes we go in the car. I have a harness that hitches to the seatbelt to keep me safe. One time we did errands in Manhattan which is a crazy busy place and my people took me to see horses and we climbed rocks in Central Park.
I’ll even ride in a
shopping cart if I have to.
If my people need to go into a store where dogs are not allowed, one of my people always waits with me on the sidewalk. And people I have never met before stop to pet me, tell me I am beautiful, and remark how soft and calm and friendly and sweet and they want to know all about me, what breed I am and where I came from and do I shed and how am I with kids and am I smart. This sort of happens everywhere I go and my people always tell everyone everything—that I am an Australian Labradoodle from Hudson Labradoodles and I do not shed, completely hypoallergenic, and I am really great with kids and very smart—and meanwhile I am looking into their faces, wagging my tail, saying hello, offering kisses. I have this kind of open heart, I just do, a total optimist—I think everyone I meet is going to be my next best friend. And so, then my people might ask me to show off, demonstrate a trick I like to do. A high five always makes a big impression or a bow or tippy-toe or peek-a-boo whatever my people ask, and then everyone wants to pet me some more or like the little girl who was so wary at first, but then hugged me and buried her face in my fur… This is my way of making the world a better place.
The other kind of walk I take is more of an urban nature walk around my neighborhood and the park.
We follow different kinds of paths
Go through tunnels
Jump logs and four-by-fours
Hop up on rocks The up command is one of my favorites. Off is fun too.
I play King Of the Mountain of Wood Chips wherever I discover a mountain
Go up and down stairs
Practice more Up and Wait on benches or walls
Weave in and out and around art
Or through and over little jungle gyms and slides
I like finding things, like a good stick
Or an empty soda bottle… I play empty-soda-bottle-soccer with my people as we walk along. In the winter chunks of ice works for this game too and they keep getting smaller and smaller as we play until we have to start over with a new one.
Sometimes I find cats
Bicycles are everywhere
I cross with the light
I practice waiting for the light even when there are no cars.
I am always checking all kinds of things out.
Sometimes I ask to go visit the vet just to see how much I weigh and my people give me a cookie from the vet cookie jar. (I am 37 lbs.)
I run into friends
Play with kids
Sometimes I just have to stop and roll in the grass and laugh.
Or eat it.
I also am very fond of dandelion fluff
I am becoming more and more an avid ornithologist.
Squirrels are also of particular interest to me, so I guess you could say I am a serious squirrelologist too. Once I came across a dead eel by the lake, which was cool, but this only happened once, so I don’t consider myself an eelologist.
The only thing I don’t like is sometimes I pick up burrs. They seem to really like me and I hate hate hate them. Suddenly my legs are all prickling and I’ll flop down and try pulling them out with my teeth. They get me so exasperated. I feel like I am going to have burrs forever. And then my people sit with me and calmly help me get every last thorny-thing out.
We do interesting stuff at home too. Like we practice some Obedience in the back yard. Well, we practice that a little bit everywhere we go. You know, Stella Come, Stella Sit, Stella Down, Stella Stay, which I actually enjoy. We sometimes do Stella Come like hide-n-seek all over the apartment. As soon I find my people and sit for them, another one of my people is hidden somewhere else and calling me. I run everywhere looking. Sometimes I run right by where they are hiding, but I always eventually find them. The brain-teasier the better. Like another thing is sometimes my people will ask me to sit and then they kick a ball, a ball I really want, and I have to watch that ball go right by and stay right where I am sitting, not even flinch a paw muscle and I can actually do this. Or sometimes my people will play this really great game where they hide two objects—my rope and a ball or maybe their hat—and ask me to find just one, so then I have to listen really carefully and think about this. I like to think.
Tug-a-war is always a great game. I am growling
and my people are growling and we are both growling together and I am digging in
with my feet and pulling with all my might and then here’s the Obedience part
again, suddenly out of the blue my people say Stella Give and believe me
I do not want the game to end, giving is the last thing on my mind, but
my mouth softens and I let go and my people are so proud of things like this.
We also practice tricks that use treats as part of the trick. Like Which Hand (is the treat in)? or Balance (the treat on my nose) and Catch. My first trick ever was High Five. I am building my repertoire in addition to rollover and that kind of stuff. My people have a nice picture book called 101 Dog Tricks we are working our way through… some tricks are harder than others, but what I say is bring it on. Give my doodle brain something new to chew.
My people also figured out from my street jumping I would be interested in doing some homemade and inexpensive backyard agility.
Here I am jumping and fetching at the same time.
I do hoops.
And one of my people got this Chute which is thrilling because when I first dash into the open end I can’t see where I am going and I am just going into the blue and going and going and then finally I am out. I want to do this over and over.
Sometimes they improvise Up.
There is never a dull moment. I go along to my
people’s soccer games or swim practices.
Find things to do. More Up
Jumping high or wide.
I’ll play soccer anywhere anytime. I like to play defense, but I am getting to be a better dribbler.
I’m happy to check out the real estate.
Take in all sights and smells. Its smells fabulous, like fish guts a lot at this place.
I think I have already made my people’s world bigger and friendlier and more interesting. And in exchange, I would not say that I am awfully high maintenance, but I do need to be groomed. My people seem to like to brush and comb my hair and I actually find it very relaxing—I close my eyes, go into a zone. Every once in a while I also need my ears cleaned or plucked, toenails clipped, and the fur between my footpads trimmed. It really tickles when they do my back feet.
I do like treats. And will do amazing things for treats. Oh man, sometimes it is really embarrassing what I don’t mind doing for a bit of cookie or jerky. Even without treats though, I am a good sport. Very versatile, if I do say so myself. Because my people can get a little wacky if you know what I mean…
One thing I won’t do are wigs. I’ll tolerate one for like ten seconds, but then I EAT wigs. It’s like asking me to balance a squirrel on my head or something. Hats are Okay. So far the tutu is my favorite and really gets me in touch with my inner circus dog.
By the end of the day, I have an excellent appetite and I am so ready for my beauuuuuutiful dinner. Dinner is the best. I adore my dinner. Cherish, worship whatever is going to go into my purple bowl. Particularly if I am going to be crunching up bones
Sometimes my people need to bring my feast along in a lunchbox if we are on the go and dinner is all alfresco and feral-like.
As the day wares on, I get more naps while my people eat their dinner and do homework and watch their TV shows or whatever. Sometimes I get brushed and combed and I stretch out on the floor and soak up the attention. Some of my people like to pick me up and cuddle me in their laps even though I almost don’t fit on a lap anymore, but in my heart this is what I will always be. I give them kisses. Then there is always My Last Walk of the Night. If I don’t pee immediately, we stroll and stroll and stroll through the neighborhood and some nights there are spectacular smells and sights to investigate. We might even go buy a book and all the people going in or out of the bookstore talk to me.
I hear some of these people mutter Muppet or Chewbacca or Cousin It or Rasta Dog or Snuffaluffagus which seems to amuse them.
Then, its bedtime for me and Ellie and I get a cookie in my crate. I feel peaceful and safe and fall asleep right away. Sometimes I dream about my weekends. I have really nice weekends.
We go to the Farmers Market which has fish smells and meat smells and cheese smells. I like to dream about stealing a muffin when no one is looking. I am so stealth, I successfully got one under the table once before anyone noticed. I just love muffins.
On weekends we also drive past these amazing black and white bovine beasts on our way to Obedience classes… for some serious fun at the Dog Bodega with Curtis and Lynn Rist, in Hudson where I was born. Those two people bring all kinds of things called distractions (irresistible wobbly noisy toys and real live bouncy puppies and impossibly great smelling treats and stuff) and then I still have to do whatever it is I am being asked to do by my people. Like Stella sit or Stella down or Stella come. It is really hard. This is me doing a group downstay with my friends Ollie and Harley and Cocoa. At the end of the class we always learn new tricks. I adore the Rists almost as much as my own people.
And, then there is something new in my life, these advanced beginner Agility Classes at a place called the Canine Sports Center near my country house in CT where there is real agility equipment in an outdoor ring. I love agility too. Leaping up onto the table or flying through the tunnel or into a barrel-chute or up over the A-frame or carefully balancing high up along the skinny dog walk and over lots of different types of jumps. I am still not completely sure about the teeter-totter though, which every time I walk up it, it falls down under me—I just don’t get why this is fun yet, but I have an open mind. I think my favorite obstacle is the A-frame which is so thrilling to do rollercoaster fast.
I also dream I am carrying around really big sticks or floating on inner tubes with my people and swimming in my lake. The first time I actually jumped in the water and swam all by myself I let out such a strange sound and I am not sure if I was scared or surprised or excited, maybe a little of each. But I like it. I have webbed feet, so I could get really good at this and I hear my people talking about Canine Water Sports where I might someday learn to dive and retrieve long distances and swim weave poles and tow in a rowboat all by myself by a rope, tugging it up all the way onto the sand.
Sometimes I dream of playing tug-a-war or what my people call Cranium with my cousin Matilda.
I love my life. So I think by now you must get that picture.