California! Land of Sunshine, beautiful beaches, and, at least here in Oakland, the all-pervasive smell of weed. On July 4th, no less, we found ourselves in a little park that overlooked not only Oakland but also San Francisco, way back across the bay to the West. It soon became difficult to see the fireworks because of “smoke” from either the fireworks or, um…not.

At any rate, I did not want to tell you about watching fireworks through glasses formed out of marijuana smoke, which, now that I think about it, would actually be kind of cool….

B..but I wanted to tell you about why we are here. We are here to commune with every single solitary molecule our inner essence…WHOA! Guess we’ve already been in Cali too long. We are here to take care of Whisky and something called “Lani”. Whisky is a boxer, and “Lani” is either a boxer or an advanced form of extraterrestrial life sent here to study and learn from us. If the latter be true, “Lani” has really taken to her role, as proven by the boundless vigor with which she throws herself into neighborhood watchdog mode.

However, even should she be in reality a normal four-legged mammalian carnivorous acute-hearing slobbering drug-sniffing one-billion-strong species of domesticated wolf-sludge, “Lani” is, how shall I put it, “off”. She jumps too enthusiastically, as if she’s trying to prove that she is enthusiastic. She supposedly needs to be pet every three and a half minutes, which is too strict a schedule for most canines we have taken care of up until now.

Whisky is more traditional in the sense that he barks and jumps on you and eats your hand and stares at you uncomprehendingly when you quote Rick Moranis’ speech from Ghostbusters (1984):

“Gozer [sp.?] the Traveller. He will come in one of the prechosen forms. During the Rectification of the Valdrani[sp.?], the Traveller came as a large and moving Torg[sp.?]! Then, during the third Replication of the Maketrik [sp.?] Supplicants, they chose a new form for ‘im. That of a giant Slor[sp.?]! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was like to be roasted in the depths of a Slor that day I can tell you!”

So he was perplexed. Whiskey stayed perplexed, perhaps because of that speech, for most of our stay in Oakland. I loved both of the dogs but I admit I had a special place in my heart for Whiskey. Whiskey was kicked in the head by a donkey as a puppy and to be polite and politically correct, I’ll just lie and say this stomping hasn’t affected him in any way and he has, in fact, all of his faculties intact.

Kind of.

Many times Whiskey “got it”. I can remember several instances where Whiskey “got it”, but I’m sure not going to tell you any of them. Instead, I see a wonderful, well-kempt (opposite of unkempt), handsome and powerfully built boxer standing there staring at me with a look that says, “Huh?”

Both of these dogs were remarkable specimens of caninitude, and if I was a judge at a Dog Show where both these dogs were entered I would pin a comely blue ribbon that says “First Place” on them, and I doubt that neither would be mad because neither of them won…one? I’ve definitely been here to long.

Though it would be humorous to come home and watch them wrassle over the real true first place winner–I’m sure that epic clash would go on for hours.

See, these two beasts were young and loaded to the gunwhales with surplus energy; so much that they could think of nothing to do with that energy except wrassle in the backyard and –WAIT! someone’s out on the street!–storm around the side of the house where a high wooden fence stood that was, apparently, what they were supposed to bark angrily at and at volume setting number 11 whenever they heard, smelled or sensed a presence behind it. Which was almost always.

But wait! What were we doing again? Oh yeah!

And it’s back to the backyard to wrassle some more and maybe grovel for a treat.

My biggest regret #1 is that we weren’t able to take them for walks. It would have been foolhardy, loosing these two cannons on the world with their energy, temperament, and chiseled muscular fury. Despite being warm, loving dogs, they were playful to a fault and would have shredded anything short of Max, the Rhodesian Ridgeback we took care of in Australia.

That being said, I can imagine a day in Oakland where I jog up the hill to the East, and do a long loop through Anthony Chabot National Park, where the sun shines in all of its fine California splendor, and the dogs patter over the landscape, feeling like kings. Their boxer muscles expand and contract, saying, no, screaming “Get the eff out of my way Here I come!”, and everyone would.

They would hardly stop to poop, which would break my all-important jogger’s rhythm, but when they finally do they drop mountains in the middle of the trail and I realize I’ve forgotten to bring “doggie bags” with me. Then a squirrel (and not, thankfully, a small child) appears, and I’m all but drawn and quartered as both dogs surge to the attack, bearing down like charging rhinos on the precocious interloper, until I’ve been dragged through the dirt face first and he is torn like the Constitution in Trump’s rough, unfeeling grip.

So yeah maybe taking them for a walk is not the best idea. Better to let them duke it out in the back yard, with the occasional “Bark-at-the-Fence Game” as a diversion. You know, when wrasslin’ gets boring.

Two final stories: 1.), I got into the ill-advised habit where, upon returning to the house after a jog or shopping, I would sprint out into the backyard with them and wrassle’ right there with ’em on the grass, hopefully avoiding doggie mines. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this breed of dog, you will quickly understand why they are thusly named, and you will also understand why the owners of the house cautioned me (especially me, not my wife) against playing this game, but if it should so happen that this game were played, that I best be “on my guard” in case I didn’t want one or both of my “testicles” to wind up “in the back of my throat” (not their exact words).

One of my, like, hugest regrets (#2) is that I did not film us all wrasslin’–especially me and Whiskey. We tussled with such unbounded fervor that even Lani kind of stayed “just out of reach,” respecting the fervor, even when I tried to momentarily shed myself from Whiskey and include her in our shenanigans. When Whiskey got started, it was very difficult to calm him down again, and he would literally begin steaming like a runaway train, until the borders between fun and “Bloodsport” were not only advanced upon, but leapt over in a gazelle-like bound. On two occasions I had to stop immediately and hold Whiskey gently, giving him all the love I could muster–out of fear, perhaps–until he realized he was back on a planet where he was loved, and he did not have to defend his life with his dying breath from terrifying alien invaders intent on killing and enslaving the populace. Which, really, couldn’t have been further from my mind.

Story #2: My Next Hugest Regret. Whenever the dogs wanted to rest a little, and the sun wasn’t too hot for them, they would lie, Sphinx-like, on the back lawn, with their front legs stretched out in front of them. They would lie like that, Lani more so than Whiskey, in a kind of gentle “catch-my-breath” moment. If you didn’t look close, you might be tempted to assume that they were not alert, and, in fact, relaxing hard core.

Perhaps this was true with Whiskey, I don’t really remember. But remember when I said that Lani was a little “off”? I noticed, or, more accurately, felt that I was being watched when she was like that. Which brings us to my next hugest regret (#3?). I should have done the following exercise on film, I’m really kicking myself that I did not.

For, to test my theory of being watched, I began strolling veeerryyy slowly over the back terrace, rolling my eyes innocently, even glancing out of the corner of my eyes her way. She sat there and panted, all innocent-like: “Just lyin’ here, mindin’ my own beeswhacks…” (dogs don’t spell well). Then I suddenly sprang as best as I could into my 50-year old Ninja attack pose, facing her.

I swear I have never seen a canine move faster than Lani did in that moment, springing into a low crouch with throbbing musculartude and a welder’s flame intensity in her eyes that said “KILL!”, but an aura that was all play.

If I had had time I would have wrassled with her then and there, but I was busy, and I couldn’t decide anyway if I should wrassle with her, hug her, or scream a banshee cry of joy:

Nothing we produce in all of our wildest imaginations, and our greatest, most innovative, productive, and well-executed machinations will EVER be as remotely impressive as Nature at its simplest, in its most mundane. If this is true then all of the injuries we suffer under the yoke of cruel civilization are easily healed and forgotten once we close our eyes to the yoke. What could be more hopeful than that?

I am deeply indebted to the owners of these dogs for giving me the opportunity to realize this, and to Lani for revealing this most obvious but important secret. I have loved many animals before this, but I don’t know if I’ve ever understood any as I did these two hellions, and I’m deeply grateful for it.

Thanks, Lani. Thanks Whiskey.

What a DAWG!

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