Tag Archives: Teddy

The True Dog Whisperers


Esme and I have been enjoying the Westminster Dog Show, and were thrilled that a Teddy-sized hound finally took Best in Show, though, as Esme points out, none proved they could fetch.

Much less train their humans to.

For years, despite scores of dogs attempting to teach me, I couldn’t master the throw-and-return maneuver. With Ted, for instance, he’d just bring the ball back to engage in a game of tug-of-war or, even better, Chase-the-Retriever-with-the-ball.

Esme, though, trained me in a day. Maybe less. She even taught me how to play from the jacuzzi: Throw it toward the south fence, and she’ll teeter it on the tub ledge. Really. Here she is, trying to teach my aunt Lessie to fetch. (Says Esme, Keep goin, champ! You’re almost there!)

Now she’s got me working with another fetchable: a foot-long stuffed squirrel that eerily resembles roadkill. Except this treasure squeaks, from squeezable head to its whoopee-cushion tail.

For the purposes of this story, we’ll call the toy Chew-Barka — for story purposes only. I mean, what 51-year-old adult man would name his dog’s stupid stuffed animal? That’s crazy. You’re crazy. So drop it, ok? Jerk.

Anyway, Esme loves Chewy. Carries it everywhere. When friends visit, she invariably brings them her slobbered precious.

She even uses it to nag me. All dogs have an inherent sense of time, particularly when it’s marked with food. And it was hard to miss my dogs’ hunger pangs; Teddy would begin to pace in front of the TV everyday at 5 p.m.

Now, I get a squeak tone when it’s dinner time.

But I can never get angry, so deft is her touch with it. Linus would be impressed with Esme’s fondness for a security blanket.

One chilly night, as we were turning in (Esme always brings Chewy to bed), she burrowed close to borrow my body heat. I put some spare blanket over her — it’s gotten so that I can’t fall asleep without her — and put a hand on Esme’s belly to warm her.

Then I felt her fur, which was matted and moist, the way Teddy’s coat would turn after an epileptic seizure.

Panicked, I sat bolt upright, reached for the light switch. And realized I was petting Chewy.

For a moment, I may have angered. I can’t remember, because it fades whenever Ezzie gives me that look: Hey dummy, you’re petting a stuffed animal. But don’t worry. We’ll play in the morning. Yes we will. Yes we will! Who’s a good human?? Who’s a good boy??

I am!


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Theodore Ruxpin Bowles (4/10/07-7/27-16)


Teddy wasn’t supposed to be a big dog. Or a furry dog. Or a male dog.

He wasn’t even supposed to be Teddy.

The plan had been to get a little hound after the divorce. For I can no more live without a dog than I can without a pulse.

I was thinking Puggle, a mix of Pugs and beagles. I fell for their faces and wanted a small, smush-faced female, diminutive and bright. Her name would be Henrietta Pugglesworth.

Then I saw Teddy in a forwarded email.


He was born in a litter of 11, an unplanned miracle for a Beverly Hills couple who thought their Golden Retriever was fixed. She wasn’t.

The pups were as small as gerbils when I first saw them, each suckling with vigor on a very fatigued mom.

I chose the smallest girl, the runt of the litter. She would be named Esme. You see, it’s humanly impossible to see a Retriever puppy and not take it home. That’s just science.

The owner put a pink ribbon  on her so he could tell the sexes. I waited for my pup to turn six weeks old as impatiently as I did for Christmas morning as a boy. I picked it up, brought it home, showed it the new home, wrestled a little on the floor.

That’s when I noticed the penis. Esme was, in fact, an aptly hung male. I knew the pup looked bigger than expected when I picked it up. But I never looked under the hood.

I called the owner, who was mortified. He apologized profusely, even offered to give me a full refund.

But it was too late. Looking at his tiny maw, chewing on my finger like a rawhide, I realized I would never give him back. To see a Retriever puppy is to fall deep. Again, science and all.

Esme became Teddy, and so we began life together, one often entwined. He was diagnosed with epilepsy in his first year, so we took our meds together. He was once run over by a car, so we both had to sport foreign body parts. We both had shitty eyesight, unreasonable optimism and very keen ears. Though he liked doctors visits more than I.


Which is good, because he went often. He once ate an entire weed brownie he’d swiped off the counter. He ate anything that smelled like me: wallets, pants, underwear. Even a bathrobe. He once ate $86 in cash. ‘What’s mine is yours,’ he seemed to be saying. ‘And, of course, vice versa.’


True to his word, he did share. I did get that smush-faced Esme, who Teddy treated like the little sister she was. She may be the smartest dog I’ve ever seen; he is the kindest. She would routinely place her head in his jaws, unafraid he would dare bite her. He didn’t.

Patience, say hello to Trust.


His body would slow over the years, though never his nature. He still greeted every visitor like a prodigal son, and shed on them like a fur retailer. He still barked  in mock anger at the lawn guy, who wielded the Machines of Great Ruckus.But all he’d do if he broke into the yard was run to play with the guy, who would gently walk him back inside. Ted would never pass up a car ride.


Teddy left today.

This afternoon, I sat in the shower to mourn and reflect and let the external rains wash away the internal. I left the bedroom door open for the first time (Teddy would feast on underpants otherwise). Esme came to shower and lay on the bathmat. She knew something was different. And I realized she’d feel the loss as much as I.

One day, I decided, she’ll have a younger brother. I don’t know what breed. I don’t know what size. I certainly don’t know what name.

As long as he’s nothing that he’s supposed to be.





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Emperor or Servant?


What do the neighbors think?

I wonder this almost every day, at the same hour of night, 10 pm. That’s when  I’m most likely to blast my song of the day. Or repeatedly analyze banal scenes of some filmed silliness. Or dance. Practice card tricks. My geek flag flies at full staff most 10 pm.s.

I could never figure out why. Even the worst days, both by emotional and physical measure, tend to pick up around 10 p.m. My nausea eases. My energy surges.

I’ve sought a professional’s medical opinion on this; she was as flummoxed as I,  though she did point out: “You do like to have your dogs as dance partners.”

That square dance and euphoria  still exist (especially to my new song, below), though I think I have an idea why. (Thanks for nothing, Dr. Quackenbush.)

It’s at that moment I’m most living like an Emperor in my world, not a Peasant.

How often do we confuse the two? Granted amazing dominion over our world (particularly if you are an adult American), only to choose a life of servitude? A job title that has become a definition? A bank balance that has galvanized into a vault of fears? A pleasure spiked to pain? A nurturer who has morphed to siphon, and hence Master?

What fuckery, this? Is it our primal need to serve? Religious history suggests every civilization creates a daddy issue. Or perhaps it’s our nature, to covet, to measure life by what we want, not have. And we have learned to want so much.

But consider the counter-argument for a moment: all that you do survey. How much is in your power. How much of your world that does bend to your will.

It doesn’t matter, the size kingdom. Whether you rent a 250-square foot efficiency in Tarzana or own a compound on Laurel Canyon, consider your empire. And the the living, loving subjects under your rule, from houseplant to house cat. Or the select list of people allowed access to your personal fortress. Or the rules of conduct and behavior within those walls. All ruled by you.

That reign could never be gauged in Facebook likes or reTweets. Yet they become measures up to which we must live. Even vote.


To some degree, we must be Servants. To our children. Our bodies. Our sanity. The cost of a pulse is to be indentured to that heartbeat. There’s nothing wrong with serving.

But aren’t We the true Masters to be served? As a newspaperman, I’ve covered beats from Detroit police to Hollywood film, and so a dizzying spectrum of kingdoms and rulers. To the last, they lived as Emperors in their worlds, not Servants.

And don’t we wish all could ascend their thrones? The abused to retaliate against abuser? The unhappy to insist on something else? The muted to turn chorus?

Well, 10 p.m. nears. Teddy and Esme are beat, having wilted in the 104 temperatures. But, as inhabitants of the Fortress of Scottitude, they know they must rise in a few hours for the nightly reverie. There will be music, dancing, intoxicants.

If the neighbors come by at the right hour, they may even see the dogs knighted.



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