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Life’s Funny


Document reveals the influence of canine special interest

By Maria Johnson


Recently, I found a sensitive memo mixed in with some other papers on my desk.

I swear I don’t know how it got there.

The document — written for our dog sitters — contains some incriminating information. It outlines just how looney my husband and I have become in accommodating our little hound, Millie.

They say the hardest thing is to see yourself as others see you.

Well, after rereading this report, that’s no longer true.

I hope history will not judge us harshly. I doubt dog owners will. Cat owners probably will blink their eyes slowly. And we all know what that means.

In the interest of transparency, we’re disclosing the content. Sensitive parts (i.e., the names of anyone crazy enough to go along with this) have been redacted.

Dear ————-, ————- and ————-:

First, thank you for tending our sweet Mills while we are gone.

She’s a wiggly, kissy, zippy, barky, cuddly girl, and we hope you will love her as much as we do. Here are the basics:



Mills eats twice a day, one cup of food in the morning and one cup at night.

Rather than leave her food prepackaged in a zillion Tupperware containers in the fridge, we’re leaving a silver food dish on the kitchen island.

Each time you feed her, please put half a cup of dry food (in plastic bin under the laundry sink) plus half a cup ground turkey and brown rice from the green box in the fridge. Mix well.

You can splash that with a little bone broth (top shelf, fridge). Please microwave the broth for 25 seconds in the little dish beside the broth.

She’ll inhale the chow and act like, “Food? What food? You haven’t fed me. You must be thinking about the last time.” Do not be alarmed. (Hereafter abbreviated as DNBA). You DID just feed her.

I think.



She luvvvs to go for walks in the neighborhood. You can suit her up with the harness and leash on top of the dryer. If you have probs understanding the cinch-style harness, look up the YouTube video titled “Sporn Stop Pulling Mesh Harness,” which is worth watching just to hear the narrator describe the armpit pads as “Sherpa sleeves.”

If you want to drive Mills to a park, feel free. She’s a good car rider. Sometimes she will try to jump into the driver’s seat with you, which I discourage because she does not have her license yet.

Once at the park, feel free to wear my stylish fanny pack, which contains a tiny spray bottle of water. If Mills barks incessantly at other dogs, spritz her in the face and say, “Shh!” Sometimes, a “shhh!” alone will work. Pavlov was right. When she does well, say “Good girl.” Four times. In baby talk.

Mills also enjoys exercising at home. As you might know, she takes after her mother in exhibiting strong OCD tendencies toward tennis balls. If you have time, please take a ball from the ball hopper in the laundry room, grab the tennis racket next to it and hit the ball across the backyard for her to chase and retrieve a few hundred times. Joke. A few dozen times will suffice. She will promptly return the ball to you and BARKBARKBARK for you to do it again.

Once she drops the ball, tell her to “lie down.” Sometimes she will. Sometimes she looks at you like, “Let’s just say I did.” In either case, she will back off long enough for you to pick up the ball. Probably.

Her retrieval process is not exactly . . . linear. Once she finds the ball, she often meanders. She backtracks. Sometimes, she detours to a shady spot, collapses and pants excessively, giving every indication that her heart is about to explode. DNBA. That’s her way of saying, “Gimme . . . a . . . minute.”

If she appears to have trouble finding the ball, don’t worry. She ALWAYS finds the ball, even if it’s on the other side of the yard. Sit down and enjoy the break.

The hardest part of this activity is stopping it. To break the spell, pick up the slobbery ball, carry it inside and put it in the cabinet above the dryer. See space marked “tennis ball.” Then close the cabinet. Yes, this is gross, but she will accept this as “game over.” Oh, and don’t say the word, “ball,” unless you’re ready to start this game again.



Mills is a great loafing companion. She likes to curl up next to you, always touching you. She’s especially fond of lounging on the couch, on a crocheted afghan made of granny squares. Everyone knows this is her afghan, but Mills is very generous. She doesn’t mind if you use a couple of granny squares to cover yourself.

Be advised: If you’re lying on your back, there’s a good chance she’ll walk up the length of your body, as if you’re made of cobblestones, stand on your chest and stick her nose in your face like, “Hey, whatcha doin’?” She weighs 32 pounds, so it’s not too bad. You can use this time to check her for ticks. As far as viewing goes, Millie likes to watch Harry & Meghan, especially the beagle parts.



Don’t be surprised if she springs up, barking insanely around 5 a.m. She’s reacting to the newspaper hitting the driveway. Really.

She will beg for your food. Don’t give it to her. Even when she rests her snout on your thigh and looks up at you like Olive(r) Twist, “More porridge, please, mum?”

Periodically, she rests her head on coffee tables and chair seats while standing. Big brain, I guess.

Sometimes, when she lies down on the hardwoods, it sounds like a bag of bolts hitting the floor. DNBA.

Sometimes, when she’s relaxed, she honks like a goose. DNBA.

In short, she’s a gem. And so are you, especially if you’ve read this far.  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Email her at