For the three of you who regularly follow my blog, I want to let you know that I am Anxious (Please note the uppercase “A”. It was not a typo.)

You probably think it was pandemic anxiety. No. I have shoved aside the prospect of the pandemic. I’ve buried myself in work. In useless tasks. I don’t listen to the news. At best, I do a cursory review of the print edition of the local paper. Why? Because I cannot change the course of history. Best to bury my head in the sand, do what I can in my tiny ambit and hope for better days ahead. Oh, yes, I wake in the middle of the night, terrified about the health of those I know in the “high-risk group,” wonder if despite my spectacular triathlon performance last summer, I am in such group, worry about retirement funds, furloughed employees, mental health, and despair. But, at some point, I realize these are all out of my control. We are what we are. Buckle up.

So, why the anxiety? Otis. You remember him? The adorable cuddly, ball of fur that we brought home in November? Well, he is no more. He has morphed into Cujo.(Aside, I have an inability to remember what I deem trivial knowledge, so several years ago, in the days of movie “rentals” (how quaint), I counseled my spouse to rent the movie Cujo, telling him it was rumored to have beautiful photos of nature. Alas, I was thinking of White Fang.

I present the photos of Cujo and Whilte Fang:

Guess who is who?

(And, a further aside: I also confused Silver Streak, a comedy featuring RIchard Pryor, with Midnight Express, a very violent movie about drug smuggling. I wish you could see the faces of my coworkers when I told them I found Midnight Express very, very funny… But I digress.)

Back to Otis a/k/a Cujo.

Otis was purchased to be Lassie. I have put my heart and soul and money and time into him to alleviate all my loneliness, to make me feel important and loved and useful. He was destined to curl up at my feet, to serve as a comfort dog as I carried out my noble charitable work, weaving in among the very sick and very old, Otis and I were going to bring joy to the world. And he was to be my companion, through thick and thin.

But then he turned on me. He has become an adolescent terror. Not satisfied with ripping apart the bushes and digging holes in the yard, he has turned to systematically ripping out the landscape edging and trotting around the yard with his prize. I stride outside and sternly instruct him to COME. He looks at me, clearly thinking, “You must be kidding.” I close in and he goes on the attack. Jumping at me, biting at my sleeves, baring his teeth, growling. One day this scenario transpired when I was still in my robe. My lovely robe was streaked with muddy paw prints. I retreated into the house, dragging him by the collar. To say he didn’t seem to give a shit is a gross understatement.

Then there are the “walks.” We start out nicely enough, then Otis decides things are dull, so he pulls and tugs at the leash. I remind him, patiently, to come along and he does his leaping and nipping routine.

By the time I am home, I am capable of strangling him. But, at least to date, I have not.

I have, however, contacted a few trainers. The first pronounced his behavior “unacceptable” and “alarming,” advising me to clamp down. Think those hot boxes in Bridge Over the River Kwai.

NO, NO, NO my other consultant counsels. Yes, he is acting in an “alarming” and “dangerous” manner, but he needs counseling. Think of Otis on a couch, pouring out his grievances.

I am anxious. All right, downright panicked. I wake up in the middle of the night and read about aggressive dogs and conclude Otis will ultimately eat me. Think Lord of the Flies. After I mourn my ugly and untimely death at the paws of Otis, I lament the money, time, and effort spent on a lost cause. I remember everyone’s shock that I would purchase a puppy at my advanced age. “Yes, yes,” I scold myself. “They were all right. You are a dope, a fool, and if not dead soon, you will be at least maimed beyond recognition within a few days.”

I turn to a third advisor — the one who, I was told, was the end-all-and-be-all of dog aggression expertise. This time, I send a video. “This,” I explain, “is my own-fault Cujo that everyone under the sun warned my not to get. Can this marriage be saved???”

She responds quickly. She has watched the videos and opines that Otis seems “very frustrated, which is common when dogs are distracted and not getting reinforced.” She then adds, ” I don’t think he’s being aggressive, he’s adrenalized and frustrated. He’s still a baby and will need a lot of guidance and reinforcement for the behaviors we want.”

My head is spinning. What am I not reinforcing? How can I de-adrenalize him? (Note to self: Remove speed from his kibble starting tomorrow.) Why is he frustrated? He isn’t trying to train himself.

But, despite my questions, I find her response reassuring. Perhaps he is rehab-able. Perhaos he will become Lassie. Perhaps everyone will say, “Gosh, we were wrong. Nancy is the perfect dog owner and Otis, the perfect dog.” I am hopeful. Tonight I plan to sleep the entire night without once googling. “Can a 6 1/2 month golden retriever kill me.”

Tomorrow is our virtual training/meeting/assessment. I will keep you posted. Or, I will be torn to pieces and eaten.


No doubt you’ve been thinking Otis has indeed blossomed into the Lassie that Nancy envisioned.

We absolutely have had Lassie-ish days. Okay, perhaps just moments. But I do not want to admit failure, so I have soldiered on. We advanced from Puppy Socialization x 2 to Obedience 1. Also, in an underconfident moment, I even retained a personal trainer for Otis as he has confounded my ability to convince him that biting your way to the top is undesirable.

The personal trainer arrived and I believe if you look up “whirling dervish” in the dictionary, she would be pictured. Jim and I were breathless by the time she left. Jim, in fact, said he needed a treat. Her follow-up written communication, however, was clear and helpful so we felt good, or at least not bad, about leaving Otis with a trio of caregivers while we went on vacation.

We are fairly certain that the caregivers are now near dead, but are too nice to admit it.

We came home from this;

And this.

At 12:00 midnight.

Today is Reentry.

Jim went to work. I don’t know how his day went. To be honest, I don’t care because I had the reentry day from hell. Nothing that transpired at his workplace holds a candle to my day.

To wit:

I kicked things off with a few loads of laundry. All loads overflowed the washing machine and flooded the laundry room floor. i worked at my paid remote job while I mopped and soaked up ugly water.

Then I decided to pick up dog poop–as a break, so to speak. Well let me tell you, my pre-travel “don’t worry about picking up dog poop in the yard” statement seemed ill advised as I used the ice chipper to un-earth dog poop around the yard. Lord Almighty. A dog poops a lot in 8 days.

Eager to retire from dog poop retrieval, I decided to go to the grocery store and restock the larder. Alas, my car wouldn’t start. I added “jump car” to the to-do list of this evening’s activities. Jim will be so excited.

Now that I am homebound, I decided to take Otis for a long walk. We’d had a short walk earlier, but I know a growing pup needs his exercise, so I hurried to the basement to release him from his crate.

Ooops!! Too much hurrying. I stumble down the basement stairs and hurl myself into the wall, knocking a picture off the wall, breaking its frame. My arm aches but I press on, leashing up the hound and setting off.

Oh good God. Otis is the neighborhood litter hound. He retrieves bottles caps, cigarette butts, not one but two small plastic bottles of Fireball. By the second, I am wanting a shot of Fireball to power through the rest of our walk.

I slip on the ice multiple times, but two times are really noteworthy — slinging my body back and forth in a way God never intended the human body to gyrate.

We finally arrive at the lake — the goal of our walk. But it is frozen so Otis is unimpresesd. A lot like our backyard. To think I could have just let him out the back door and avoided this walk!

Otis now thinks he needs to ratchet things up. He leaps upon a nearby bench, not once but twice.

We press on. But then he finds the pièce de ré·sis·tance — a dead mouse. Voila. He eats half while I yelp, “DROP DROP,” all the while balancing my library book. (Did I forget to mention that I had stopped at the library at the outset of this sojourn? Mea culpa.)

I am horrified, although admit to wondering if his not eating the second half is due to obedience or dietary preference.

It is now getting dark. And cold. The previously wet sidewalks are now icy. I lurch my way home, feeling very sad that I don’t have any money as we pass the liquor store, because this is a night of nightcaps.

I press on. Otis retrieves and chews/swallows an untold number of abandoned Kleenexs, a paper cup, a forgotten mitten, a couple of “BURIED CABLE” flags, a few unidentified pieces of litter, and we are home.

He is filthy. I am exhausted. Nonetheless, I decide a sponge bath is in order. I repair to the laundry room to prepare his bath in a Rubbermaid tub. Wow! I discover the washing machine has overflowed yet again! Oh, joy.

I text Jim. Go to the grocery store. Go to the liquor store. I then address the washing machine overload and dog bath in that order, interrupted only by the realization and Rube Goldberg fix of our rusted out dehumidifier to absorb all the washing machine overflows and wet dog wetness.

A kind and good man, Jim comes home with groceries and pizza. I meet him at the front door, because the back entry now has a thin layer of ice due to the impromptu bath occasioned by the walk.

To be honest, a touch of coronavirus looks good to me now.

The only way to end this day or reentry is to go to bed. So be it.


It is 8:50 p.m. and I have settled into an easy chair in front of my gas-powered fireplace after the end of a trying evening. I also have a glass a wine —a “party pour” as my 20-something niece calls a generous pour. The reason? Otis.

Otis is my 9-week-old golden retriever. Tonight we started puppy socialization. He prepared for class by peeing on the floor in my home office and biting my pant legs. When we arrived at class, he could not find a suitable place to potty outside, rather waited to pee until we were in class. He was the only dog who relieved himself in class. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

We began class with a discussion of the placement of the dog crate in our home. The teacher advises that the crate should be positioned next to my bed, so the dog can hear me breathe and hear my heart beat. If I moved the dog crate to my bedroom, he’d hear my spouse packing his bags. When we came home two weeks ago, we situated the dog crate in the laundry room. My heart doesn’t beat that loud and even if I had emphysema, he couldn’t hear me breathe. I don’t disclose this to the teacher.

But I don’t need to because Otis has already drawn attention to us by straining on his leash to interact with another puppy who is nicely lying at his owner’s feet. When the straining and choking noises don’t stir the well-behaved neighbor, Otis begins barking, then ups the ante to lunging and barking. No other puppy in class is doing this. I don’t dare look at the owners; I am certain they are horrified. Being cute can only make up for so much.

Otis and another puppy, Lena, are then banished to the other room because both are new to the class. I am sure Lena is wondering what in the hell she ever did in her short life to get assigned Otis as her playmate. She is bigger but soon Otis has her on the run. There is no “me too” at puppy school. Finally, Lena takes a swipe at him. Undeterred, Otis keeps chasing her. Lena is visibly relieved when we rejoin the others to learn a few simple tricks.

The first one is to get the dog to sit. Passed with flying colors. Then we are to coax the dog to lie down. Instead, Otis pees. I mop the floor; Otis licks the wash water. The teacher takes pity on me and attempts to get Otis to lie down. He’s having none of it. Instead, he returns to an old favorite — biting my pant legs. Finally, the teacher succeeds in getting Otis to lie down for a nanosecond. Then he returns to biting my pant leg. When I try to get him to stop, he takes a nip at my hand.

At the end of class, the teacher hands us a folder of instruction. I am to work with him at least three times per day for the next week. My mind has already raced ahead to what will happen if next week is a repeat performance.

I text my son on the way home and tell him that Otis was the worst-behaved puppy in puppy class. He responds, “He is going for the most improved trophy.”

I can only hope.