Year of the Üter


We adopted this guy a year ago, on Super Bowl Sunday. I remember because we didn't watch the game but we did make chili, and he just sat and watched us with his big, heartbreaking brown eyes.

Things were a little rocky at first, and sometimes still are. Willa, it turns out, probably should have been an only dog. But she has gradually accepted her lot, and the house is mostly peaceful, if occasionally snappish.


Üter is pretty chill--most of the time. When he gets wound up, it's hard to shut him down, and he can look and sound pretty threatening. (BORK! BORK! BORK!) He's still learning to walk nicely on a leash and to greet friends when they come over. I don't know if he'll ever be cool with bigger dogs, which is a bummer since one of my favorite things is inviting people to bring their dogs over to tear up our backyard together.

Still, through a mix of training and management, we've been able to give them both a life full of exercise, fun, and sociability. I feel pretty good about that. Sometimes we get a little lazy and fall short, but they're dogs. They forgive us. 

Car pal

If you know you like dogs but are on the fence about getting one because you're afraid it's going to be disruptive or a lot of work--just go for it. I mean, if you work 90 hours a week or are about to go on a six-week trip to Europe then it's probably not the time. But if you want it and you're able to, do yourself a favor and get a dog. It's so worth it; the work, the expense, all of it. They will make you happy every single day, and you will make them happy too, and there are not a lot of things in life that pay off so handsomely.  

And now...we celebrate!

Degrees of dogging

The other day I was walking home from the track when a man and his little dog approached. The dog wasn't on a leash but was sticking to the man like glue. The dog was on the man's left and so would have passed next to me, except the man said "switch" a few feet before we passed. The dog looped over to the man's right and continued to trot along, face upturned, awaiting further transmissions. After they passed me, he said "switch" again, and the dog resumed his spot at the man's left side, wagging all the while. 

I actually said, "damn," out loud because it was that cool, and also because I was amused. The day previous I had nearly burst with pride--I'm talking high kicks, effusive praise, exuberant Instagram post--because I had dragged Üter through a park full of dogs and he never once had his usual full-bore hellhound freakout at the sight of one, just a little whimpering and a few easily quelled woofs. We've been working on that for a long time, and it seems like maybe he is finally, finally getting the idea.

I'll never have a dog as obedient as Mr. Switchy's, which is very sad, but I'll take my training success where I can find it.

How it happens

A friend recently made an offhand comment that when she adopted her dog she made her a promise to never dress her in silly clothes. I cringed a little when she said that, because I used to think that way. But now I have become the kind of person who pays money for cute sweaters for her dogs to wear.

Here's the thing: Üter has very short fur. We noticed not too long after we got him last year that he would shiver uncontrollably whenever it got below about 45 degrees outside. So we got him a little shirt, and he stopped shaking so much and everything was great.

This year we had a cold snap kind of early and his shirt got filthy after just a couple of days. I thought it would be nice to have a few on hand in case we needed to wash one. So I ordered him another shirt. Then I thought I might as well buy him a sweater in case it got really cold--it does do that here sometimes. And then I figured if I was going to buy him a sweater, it might as well be a cute one.

Then I felt bad that I wasn't getting Willa anything. I mean, rationally I know she doesn't care and she doesn't get nearly as cold as Üter anyway, but it still seemed a little lopsided, and besides, what if it did get really cold outside? So I bought her a cute sweater too.


And then this happened.

And then it never got cold again, so I have a tidy pile of adorable dog sweaters in my office.

I also tie bandanas around their necks.

IMG_5978 (1)

And take pictures like this. 

They don't seem to mind. I'm pretty sure they would tell me if they did.

Dogs, birds, words.

Not much happened today. I got up, made a smoothie, went to work, came home, got takeout, came back home and ate it, and walked the dogs. That was it; that was Thursday. I did not live a great story, as the fake-inspirational wheatpaste signs all over town would have us do.

I do have a few small things to share, though.

The first is this great Vine someone made. You'll have to turn the sound on and let it loop, oh, 20-30 times to get the full effect:

(Aw, come on, play it one more time!)

The second is that I figured out how to flip the bird in iMessage while playing around texting with my friend Leslie.


The new emoji update gave us the little middle finger guy, and it's wonderful. But sometimes you need a bolder, more abstract statement, and that is this:


I sure told them, whoever they are!

(No one was really a jerk to me today. But if someone ever is...)


A few things I liked today:

Ooh, shiny!

Ok, this first one is boring because it's just the weather. But oh, wow, today. Cool air, yellow sun, blue skies, green everything else from the rain. Days like this are a Texan's reward for putting up with August.


The next thing I liked is a little boring too. Ok, boring's not fair at all; it was slow and contemplative, as is only fitting about a documentary about a topiary gardener.

I think A Man Named Pearl is only available on DVD right now, but it was worth waiting for. A really sweet movie, with lots of greenery to enjoy if you like that kind of thing. Many thanks to Phyllis for recommending it.

Bow wow

(I don't have a picture of Phyllis at the moment, so here's a picture of her dog Bow Wow instead.)

The last thing I liked today, or at least liked enough to write about it, is this blog. It looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but it's written by Mad Mike, a man who spends his days walking around Austin looking for, and often finding, drugs on the ground. His lengthy account of the week he spent in jail is excellent. This Vice interview gives a quick background of the guy if you're curious.

Now, sadly, I must stop looking at things I like and go to bed. I hope your day was full of things you like too.

Grumpy mutt



Üter is extremely grumpy when he's trying to sleep. If you so much as rest your hand on his shoulder when he's dozing he'll let out this exasperated-sounding grunt: Nnnnggggh.

I don't do this often because I don't think it's cool to pester the dogs (and also because I'm aware it's kind of weird), but it's so funny that I have to every once in a while: when he's sleeping I'll rest my head on his back and let him bear most of its weight. Then he does a very long, loud, almost baroque grunt: Ngggggggggggggggggggggggggggh. He just sounds so disgusted.

Sometimes these grunts go on forever. I mean they're so long, like 30 seconds of uninterrupted grunting. This makes me laugh, which makes my shoulders and head move up and down, which makes his whole body shake. So his very long grunt gets chopped up into a series of little staccato grunts: Nnngh ngh ngh ngh ngh ngh. And that makes me laugh harder, which makes his grunts even more emphatic, and then we are stuck in this giggle/grunt feedback loop that only ends when he gives up with a weary sigh because let's face it, I've never been able to let a joke drop.

Both our dogs are a lot of work, and their weird behavior problems cause me considerable angst. But anyone who makes me laugh so much every single day is well worth the cost of their kibble and Comfortis.

I am a mixed bag.

It's hot, which is no surprise, given that it's August in Texas, but we've reached the part of summer where the heat seems to have mass. It presses on you and makes even the most fun activities seem burdensome. So aside from swimming and walking the dogs in the dead of night, I've been spending most of my time indoors. That means mosaic projects and dog training. 

The mosaic project is...not going very well right now. I am tiling the other half of the cinderblock to play around with different colors of grout and try to cultivate a looser style of tile laying. But I used a different kind of mortar than I usually do. I don't know if I mixed it wrong or it just sucks or what, but the tiles, set days before, started sloughing off when I taped them off for grouting.


Well, damn it.

This has happened to me before, but that time it was immediately apparent that the surface I was using was too smooth for anything to adhere. That's not at all the case here, so I don't know. I just know I'm never using that stuff again. 

Now I have to scrape all that white crap off and start over again. Luckily this is just a test block, so I was able to tell myself I gained some valuable insight instead of restraining myself from flinging a half-tiled cinder block through the window.

My irritation was also tempered by a big success on the dog-training front. 


Right? Right? This was a tricky one to teach. Although eager for treats and praise, Üter is not the brightest star in the galaxy, and I had to sort of reverse engineer the command by anticipating when he was going to actually bark, telling him to bark, and then treating the hell out of him when he did actually bark.

We've been working on this since May and it was just this weekend that I got him to think barking is my idea, not his. Now I need to figure out how to use the command to modulate his barking, which should be a lot easier. 

Will this help us control the crazy, scary, pit-of-hell barking that he uses to discomfit visitors and strange dogs alike? Oh, man, I hope so. I really like my dog, but his manners kind of stink.  I want everyone else to know how great he is too.