Lindsay and I (mostly Lindsay) have been watching videos about how to make Salish view us as the Alpha leaders of our “family pack.” Apparently, becoming the leader of the pack can help your dog stop barking, become more accepting of refugees, and generally “wag more and bark less.”
As part of the alpha training, Lindsay ignores Salish when she gets home and maintains constant eye contact while she pretends to eat his food before he is fed. Once he is calm, she calls him over and gives him a few seconds of attention. Now that I think about it, Salish and I lead very similar lives.
*quietly from the other room*
“…once you’ve established yourself as the alpha, the other members of the pack will naturally follow your authority…”
Lindsay and I took Salish to his third puppy training class last night. We spend the first 10 minutes or so walking laps around Petco. We work on ignoring the giant bags of dog treats and the endless rows of squeaky dog toys. It’s our way of teaching Salish that engaging in consumerism doesn’t bring happiness. Merry Christmas!
Next we work on our “sit” and “stay” commands. Salish is part Australian Cattle Dog, so when properly motivated, his focus is absolute. In my decidedly biased opinion he is the most intelligent dog in his class… of two. The instructor then decided to teach Salish a new trick called “touch.” This is where I hold my hand out up in the air and he leaps to touch it with his nose. Think of an orca at SeaWorld (and then try not to cry).
When the instructor teaches Salish a new trick, she stuffs his little face full of treats when he gets it right. This would be fine, except the tiny brown chicken flavored cubes of motivation turn Salish into a walking chemical weapon. There’s no other way to say it – his toots are legendary. They foul the air for minutes at a time and stir me from a deep and dreamless sleep. They leave an aftertaste in your mouth.
After class, we let Salish play with a classmate named Buddy. Buddy is a fluffy, overly eager poodle mutt mix of some sort. He is very excitable and I suspect the Pentagon is using him to develop a way to shatter the human eardrum with a single bark. Salish merely tolerates Buddy until it’s time to leave.
During our third class, I had a rare moment of clarity. I’m now convinced that puppy training class isn’t really about training the dogs. It’s about training the owners. I would venture a guess that the instructor barks more commands at me than at Salish. “David, use your leg to get between your dog and the toy,” “David, don’t be afraid to raise your voice,” “David, only give the command once. Do not repeat,” “David, those treats are not for you.” Whatever. I paid good money for this class. I’ll eat the treats if I want to.
I hope they give me a certificate of achievement at the end: “Most Improved Owner.”
Winter has come to Yakima. The leaves have finished changing sunlight into food and are now transitioning into fertilizer. Scrapping frost off of the car windows has added some light cardio to my morning routine.
A couple weeks ago, I helped six families finalize their adoptions at the Juvenile Center in Yakima. The court room was packed. People were laughing, crying, and hugging as each case was presented and approved by the judge. I’ve never asked a judge to approve a decree while my clients are eating cake. All courts should feature light refreshments.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my in-laws living room, sweaty and bruised after serving as the karate practice dummy for my three nephews, all at once. The younger ones are ages 2 and 5. They throw punches into my legs and giggle when I tickle them. The oldest, almost 9, is a future karate master in the making. He likes to grab my upper body and then kick at my knees. It’s imperative that I know where all of his limbs are at all times – because I enjoy being able to walk.
Salish is here, too. He doesn’t understand why he can’t get in on the martial arts action. He doesn’t have fists but he has a mouth, teeth, and a positive attitude. He seems confused when I scold him for grabbing on to someone’s pajamas and pulling them around the room while they scream. Why don’t I understand that this is the Best. Thing. Ever?
It’s about this time that I realize it’s my fault. It usually is. Salish is chewing on blankets, running around the house, and turning children into chew toys because I haven’t spent enough time with him. He has needs, too. He just doesn’t know how to tell me that he needs to run in the leaves or chase an imaginary bunny across the field. After Lindsay and I take him for a walk he settles down and naps in his bed.
Time is value. I have a good relationship with my nephews because I spend time with them. When Lindsay and Salish interrupt my leisure time to bite me and pee on the carpet, it’s usually because I neglected them.
Part of what makes the adoptions so special is that, at the core, it’s about people showing kids they want to spend their time on them. It’s a powerful gesture. The experience reminds me to evaluate what I spend my time on. A little reflection and an effort to reallocate my attention goes a long way.
I’ll start by asking Lindsay about her day and taking Salish for a walk.
I left my last job at the end of June and have been running my own firm since then. I’ve had some free time, but wasn’t fully able to enjoy it. Being unproductive for too long is unnerving. I believe the medical term for the condition of my brain is, “wiggly.” Slothfulness is only fun when there is an end in sight.
I accepted the new position a couple weeks ago and was granted a license to test the limits of human inactivity. I have spent the majority of that time reading and trying to prevent my dog from saturating the carpet with puny puddles of puppy pee.
As a personal favor, I will now save you time and money by providing one sentence summaries of the books I read in descending order of recommendation:
The Art of Raising A Puppy:“Dogs and humans are not that different”
The New Jim Crow: “End the war on drugs and overhaul the criminal justice system”
Hillbilly Elegy: “Poverty robs people of opportunities”
Dark Money: “Billionaires ruin democracy”
Take Your Eye Off the Ball: “Peyton Manning is not dumb” (sung to the tune of the Nationwide jingle)
Democracy for Realists: “Is it worth it to truly inform yourself?”
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: “Not enough about dinosaurs”
Between reading and cleaning up my puppy’s indiscretions, I also compiled a list of movies that I am physically incapable of turning off regardless of how far into the movie I turn it on.
The Count of Monte Cristo: “Proving you need to get educated to get even”
Jurassic Park: “I root for the dinosaurs”
Imitation Game: “We all owe Alan Turing a huge debt of gratitude”
Pride and Prejudice: “Please don’t judge me”
Interstellar: “Matthew McConaughey in space discussing theoretical physics”
Tom Hanks: “This man is a national treasure”
National Treasure: “The treasure at the end should have been Tom Hanks”
I’ve enjoyed my time off but I am overdue for a return to the world of productivity. If having a real job doesn’t pan out maybe I can get a job writing one sentence reviews of books and movies for the New York Times.
My dad is a volunteer fire fighter for our local district. In addition to responding to brush fires and burning cars, the firemen donate their time to be on hand for local high school football games in case of an especially egregious injury. I never played actual tackle football, but was always pretty sure I could have, so naturally I wanted to tag along.
I went to a high school that couldn’t afford to bankroll an actual football program (equipment, insurance, concussion studies) so all the “war stories” my wife graciously listens to are about my exploits playing flag football. (Read with Trump Voice: “Sad. So sad. Total failure.) I remember having “locker room conversations”* with my friends about how we were pretty sure we could have excelled playing in an actual tackle football program. Probably not.
The matchup was the Highland Scots (think Mel Gibson in Braveheart yelling, “FREEDOM!!!) against the Granger Spartans. The kids from Granger were larger, faster, and clearly consumed more dairy products. It also happened to be homecoming weekend, so there was a special energy in the air. As a former high school student I’m guessing the energy was an unmeasured mix of axe body spray, hair gel, and repressed sexual urges.
High school was, and still is, awkward. At halftime there was a presentation of the homecoming royalty. I felt sorry for the clearly frostbitten girls wearing shiny dresses and pounds of concealer standing next to boys sporting obviously rented formal wear and enough zits to play a rousing game of connect the dots on. (spoiler alert for the girls: the completed image is a picture of the boys’ mother, for whom you will never be good enough.) Some of the kids wore sashes that prominently displayed their “homecoming titles.” The titles varied in creativity from “Homecoming King” to most likely to “Eject Macaroni out of His Nose After a Simultaneous Burp, Fart, and Sneeze.” The writing on that sash was really small.
Lindsay and I recently moved back in with my parents while we look for a place of our own which is it’s very own flavor of high fructose awkward. The settling in process includes a lot of drawer and closet cleaning, which leads to me wasting many handfuls of minutes on the floor paging through old high school yearbooks. Awkwardness abounds and I am left with absolutely no room to poke fun at the current batch of half-baked McMuffins waiting to make their mark on the world.
For anyone who is interested, the Spartans annihilated the Scots.
* not the kind of locker room conversations a presidential candidate might have with Billy Bush while on a tour bus wearing a live microphone
This last week Lindsay and I put everything we own into a 16-foot moving van and traded skyscrapers for apple trees.
I vastly underestimated the amount of stuff we own and Lindsay’s ability to pack that stuff into the closet. She plays closet Tetris at a post-graduate level. After trying (and failing) to eat at all our favorite places and say goodbye to our favorite people, I drove the van over the pass to Yakima.
Our arrival at my parent’s house coincided with the septic system backing up. I feel it is my duty to maintain my innocence, but also possibly my duty that caused the backup. Not being able to use an indoor bathroom has served as a nice reminder to take the puppy out for dual purpose potty breaks. It’s always best to lead by example.
Friday, we went to the county fair. I watched a pig race, chatted with a Superior Court Judge running for re-election, and took a photo with a cardboard cut out of Donald Trump. His hands were just as small as I had imagined – perfect for grabbing the last pickle out of the jar or quickly typing an important tweet at 3:20 a.m.
My parents have graciously agreed to let us crash with them while we look for a place of our own. I haven’t lived under their roof since 2004. The last few days I have asked permission before moving furniture around, silently endured Fox “News”, and avoided any and all mention of the upcoming election.
Green Lake is where Lindsay and I made a home after we got married. We will miss our friends, Mighty-O donuts, and the Green Lake church. It’s unsettling to move away without knowing exactly where we will land, but we are up for the adventure of making that place feel like home.
My name is David. My family moved to the Yakima Valley in 1994. I left in 2004 to attend various institutions of higher learning (so much school) and ended up working in Seattle after finishing law school. My wife recently graduated from the University of Washington’s Dental School. We are now preparing to return to Yakima as late stage twenty-somethings as opposed to appropriately angsty teenagers.
My hope for this blog is to illuminate the essence of living in Yakima. Attorneys spend a significant amount of time churning out what I would describe as technical prose. I find blogs to be a cathartic way to sneak in some creative writing on the side.
I’m looking forward to finding my favorite burrito and iced coffee pairing; helping a not-yet-acquired puppy through obedience training; and dolling out constructive criticism to a pack of 10-year-olds as they hunt a soccer ball. I want to accomplish this all while highlighting the best of Yakima’s charm and entrepreneurship. I don’t think I’ve ever spelled that work correctly on the first try. Or the second.