I Swear My Dog Speaks English

Murphy, our Australian Cattle Dog (Red Heeler) mix, joined our family as a 10-week-old rescue. Within a week of bringing of her home, I promptly skipped the country for several days, leaving Jack to make the startling solo discovery that Murphy is part Velociraptor.

I distinctly remember calling Jack from my lodge in Kenya (long story), and hearing, “I don’t know about this dog, Kelley” and “I think we’ve made a mistake, here.”

Heelers are a herding breed, designed to nip at cattle to get them moving. “Nip,” is relative; as a puppy, Murphy was all teeth, all the time. We used frisbees as shields and purchased dollar-bin stuffed toys for her shredding amusement. Now two years old, her teeth come out on two occasions:

  • When she’s tired.
  • When she needs to poop.

At least once a day, Murphy receives a scolding, “MURPHY GRACE! PUT YOUR TEETH AWAY.” That rarely works, of course. What does work is this:

  • Me: “Hey, Murphy I have a question.”
  • Murphy: Tilts head to the side and waits.
  • Me: “Are you ready for bed?” or “Do you need to poop, or what?” 

If she’s tired, she trots down the hall and jumps up on my bed. If she needs to poop, she saunters to the front door. You can almost hear thinking, “For crying out loud, hoomans. Why do I have to use my teeth before you’ll pay attention to my needs?”

Occasionally, the Velociraptor takes awhile to settle down at bedtime. (She’s not unlike a challenging toddler, really.) In that case, the conversation goes like this:

  • Me: “Hey, sweet girl. Do you need some music?”
  • Murphy: Tilts head to the side and waits.
  • Me: Launches My Favorite Coffeehouse playlist on Spotify.
  • Murphy: Falls asleep.

I know you think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. She also digs Mumford & Sons, and just tonight I introduced her to The Civil Wars. She seems to like them.

Murphy is the strangest dog I’ve had. She’s tragically aloof—the kind of dog who’ll move to the couch if you dare sit by her on the loveseat. She has a mean side-eye, something for which cattle dogs are widely recognized, as it turns out. If she’s frustrated or overwhelmed, she’ll scold you. She’s crazy smart but will do nothing without receiving a treat for it. This, I know, is a human problem, not a dog problem. She has me well-trained.

Aaaaand I just remembered I wrote about this dog a week ago. Well, at least you didn’t have to hear about my bathroom again. (Whoops.)

On Workplace Culture

Murphy Grace, my nearly two-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix, is an early riser. Shortly before my 6 am alarm, she stirs and stretches—whimpering just loudly enough to get my attention. She’s polite that way, I guess. After a couple minutes of “I hear you, Murphy. Settle down. It’s too early,” I sigh, get up, feed her, and take her outside. And then? She goes back to sleep. For hours.

I’m self-employed, and my supervisor (me) is relatively hands-off; she doesn’t want to micromanage, you see. My HR department (also me) doesn’t offer much in the way of productivity incentives. My CEO (me again) seems unclear about our business goals and isn’t an especially good strategist anyway. And my only colleague—Murphy Grace—falls asleep at her desk every day.

Continue reading…

Stupid Dog

I feel guilty about something most of the time: Spending money on technology. Watching documentaries instead of cleaning my house. Having raw cookie dough, Fritos, and chocolate milk for lunch. (That one’s pure fiction, and you’ll never be able to prove otherwise.) Buying packaged salad and pre-cut watermelon. Napping. Leaving the dishes piled up for three days, hoping someone else will take care of them.

At this particular moment, I’m feeling guilty because on Monday, I’ll be spending $2800 on my dog. Today, I spent $400. Last night, I spent $300. Last week, I spent $130.

This all started the last week of September when I discovered Skittle was peeing blood, and it’ll end on Monday morning, when she has her left kidney removed. By the time this is over, I’ll have spent nearly $4000. On a dog.

Do you have any idea what else I could do with $4000? Through HomeFirst STL, I could house someone transitioning out of homelessness for a year. I could stock the pantry at The Bridge. I could help a single parent buy a car. I could give it to a program serving veterans or help an under-resourced college student with expenses. I could donate it to flood victims in SC or help finish an orphanage in Haiti. I could give it to any number of families I know who are trying to adopt children.

But, nope. I’m going to spend it on my dog, because if I don’t, she’ll die a slow and horrible death. If you’re judging me because that matters more to me today than the reality of human beings freezing and/or starving to death, I get it. I’m guilty as charged.

Stupid dog.

She's ashamed of her diaper and refuses to look at the camera.

She’s ashamed of her diaper and refuses to look at the camera.

Painfully Pink Belly

I’m a terrible dog owner.

Brooklyn and Skittle* know “sit,” but they don’t know “stay” or “down.” Or anything else. They bark incessantly, jump all over people, eat poo, and steal houseguests’ underthings. I don’t blame the dogs for their lack of canine character. Their training was my responsibility, after all, and I shirked that deal hard core.

Also, I won’t trim their nails, and I don’t bathe them all that often. And that, my friends, is why every few weeks they wind up at the fancy dog grooming place: “fancy” because that absolves me of my guilt—because what dog doesn’t love a day at the spa (except all of the dogs)—and “grooming place” because that means someone else has to clean up their eye boogers, express their anal glands, and, potentially, lose a finger to Skittle’s 700-PSI bite the moment she spies the nail grinder.

At yesterday’s drop-off at the groomer, I got the standard question, “Same as last time?” to which I gave the standard response, “Yes, please.”  I’m not sure if it was the “same as last time” or the “yes, please” that was misheard, but one or the other of those phrases became, “They will leave here with no fur.”

Exhibit A: Last Time

Fall 2014

Exhibit B: Today


See the fuzzy looking stuff on their chests in the top picture? It’s fur. It’s supposed to be there.  

Skittle’s on the left, and I know that face she’s making. I know it, because I’ve made it. It’s the “I just paid a lot of money for a really bad haircut and I hope no one’s home so I can wash all the gunk out and try to make it look normal before they see me” face. As for poor Brooklyn and her painfully pink belly, I think she’s just putting on her brave face–much like the high-fashion models who find themselves teetering down the runway in getups like this one. (She’s wearing nearly the same expression, isn’t she?)

And what’s the deal with their ears? Did the dogs say, much like I do: “Hey, make sure I can still make a ponytail when you’re done with those scissors”?

And no, of course I didn’t complain when I picked them up. Actually, I didn’t even really notice (!) until it seemed too late to say anything. It wasn’t until they were relieving themselves in the field across the street that I took a good look and said, aloud and loudly, “Good God, puppies! What did they do to you?” (Followed quickly by, “Oh gross! Don’t eat that! That’s disgusting!”) And what was I supposed to do? March back in there and declare my dissatisfaction? Really? How does one complain about their dogs’ haircuts?

Oh.ma.gosh. Do you expect me to take them out in public like this? Eww.

The dogs are still depressed this morning. Brooklyn’s kicked off her runway stilettos and is chain-smoking cigarillos while she watches clips from America’s Top Model. Skittle’s exhausted from trying to turn on the bathtub tap with her teeth and is currently curled up in the fetal position on the couch. “Look away,” she just said to me, all Kramer-esque, “I’m hideous.”

So let this be a lesson to you: The next time you find yourself responding, “Yes, please” to questions like, “Same as last time?” or “The usual?” make sure the question posed doesn’t actually mean, “Shall we scalp you and strip you of all dignity?” Brooklyn can actually pull off “painfully pink belly.” You probably can’t.




*Hey, I bet your dogs have dumb names, too. Don’t judge.

Morning People

The Dawgs

I am not a morning person.

My dogs, though? Morning people. And not reasonable morning, either. Reasonable morning is 6:30 am. If a full bladder’s involved, I’d even go 6 am. My dogs think 4 am is go-time. FOUR. AY-EM! Unreasonable.

This is how mornings go down at the Hartnett house:

Skittle, the high-anxiety, beagle-yorkie, jumps from the bed and heads for the bedroom door, where she proceeds to march in place. This wouldn’t be a problem if we had carpet, but we don’t have carpet. We have laminate flooring.

Click. Click click click click. Pause.

Is anyone going to do my bidding? No? 


Hey, humans. Get up. C’mon. Up. Get up. Get up right now. No? Fine. 


Given that the Earth hasn’t yet completed its full rotation toward the sun—because it doesn’t do that until reasonable morning—I can’t actually see Skittle at the door, but I’m certain she’s intentionally stomping her feet. Left-right-left-right, like that one part of “Thriller,” except without the catchy bass line and dead people.

By this time, Jack and I are both awake—and doing our best not to let one another know we’re awake. (Because that’s what people do when they’re in love.)

After several more rounds of click-stomping, Jack whisper-yells at the dog, who, just like your dog, doesn’t speak English:

“Skittle. It’s too early. Get back up on the bed.”

Ummmmm . . . no. Click. Click click click click.


Click. Click Click click click.

Then I try—but in regular volume, because whispering of any sort in the morning makes me want to hurt people (I don’t know why that’s the case, but consider it a warning):

“Skittle! Get back up on the bed!”

Eventually, she complies, and I don’t know what’s going through Jack’s head at this point, but I’m thinking, “Yes! I’m going back to sleep until she gets up again at 6:30 am.”

At approximately 4:10 am:


And this awakens Brooklyn, the Morkie, who nose-dives off the bed and proceeds to run wind-sprints between it and the door.

Now, the dogs weren’t permitted to come live with us until I presented a signed, notarized contract absolving Jack of any canine-related responsibilities. And yet there I lie, eyes squeezed shut, thinking, “Oh, please, Jack. Please get up with the dogs. I know you have to be up in an hour for work, but please please please just this once.” Every once in a while, he does.  Most of the time, though—and remember, this is fair because of The Contract–he doesn’t get up. Meanwhile, the dogs have added whimpering and whisper-barking to their repertoire.

So, I slip quietly out of the bed, gingerly open the door to let the dogs out of the room, and carefully close it behind us with hardly a click of the latch, just in case Jack’s really asleep and not just pretending to be.

Actually, I rather violently kick the covers off the bed, stomp to the bathroom (hoping Jack will decide to deal with the dogs while I’m in there), stomp to the bedroom door, fling it open, and pull it closed with a definitive thud. (Because that’s what people do when they’re in love.)

This morning, when I got to the stomp-to-the-bedroom-door part, I actually stomped back to the bed instead, where I pulled the covers over my head. Jack, with hardly a sigh of irritation, got up, put on his slippers, and somehow managed not to punch me when, sweetly and sleepily I said, “Oh, are you getting up with them? Thank you.