Homeostasis Beagle

I have had Maggie about the same time that I have been bipolar (I didn’t just wake up one day and all of a sudden my hair is alive and I can taste color. I have been bipolar my whole life, but it wasn’t super prevalent until about 10 years ago).  We weren’t really on the same page for probably the first 5 years of her life.  She was just a dog, and I was just a person, and once in awhile we would go to the dog park where she would stand around like, “dogs? Why am I here with…DOGS?”

In 2008, I was officially diagnosed bipolar I rapid cycle with all kinds of other “disorders” and “syndromes” following behind it, but my chief diagnosis is the whole bipolar thing.  So anyway, around that time I was moving in with @jaredwsmith and Maggie was coming with me, and we had Charlie of course.

Charlie has a big personality, which most dachshunds do; well he rubbed off on Maggie.

Let’s talk about how smart Maggie is.

As a puppy, she was in the garage drinking her little filtered puppy water out of her little metal puppy bowl, and my mom and I were standing there doing…whatever, and she was almost out of water in her little puppy bowl, so she picks up her paw and places it on the side of the bowl so that all the water can pool to one side.  She finishes drinking, puts the bowl down, and walks away, like no big fucking deal. Later that week, she was behind me coming into the house and I didn’t know it so her right paw got caught in the door and she cried because I think more than anything, it scared her.  Well, Maggie was queen for the day, she got whatever she wanted because we all felt like total shit for slamming a fucking puppy’s paw in a big scary door.  Maggie is 9.  Maggie still holds up her right paw when she wants something. She has taught the other 2 to do it as well.  So when 5:30 rolls around and I have not made my move to prepare dinner for them, they all stand around with their right paws lifted telling me to go make them dinner.

If I have been anywhere near a Publix, she is all over me. If there is a Publix sub anywhere in the house, or even just a wrapper of a Publix sub, she is beside herself.  She paces, she cries, and when you leave the room, she attacks.  She will chew through drywall just to be able to lick a Publix sub wrapper.  Now, if I go to Publix, I come home with chicken fingers for the dogs. She has trained me to do that for her, because if I get them just for me she wails like it’s the worst thing in the entire world to happen to her if she does not get a single crumb from a Publix chicken finger.  It is worse than the door thing from 9 years ago.

We had a “dog proof” garbage can.  When we lived in DC we did not, so we just threw the garbage away with the can on the counter-height table after we would come home to butter wrappers on the leather couch and raw ground beef trays on the carpeted floor. She learned that she could tip it over by somehow getting the bag out of the little bag holder and pulling it down and then somehow opening the lid. The first time that she did this; she had gotten the entire garbage can into a totally different room of the house before she could plunder. She actually threw out her back doing this.  It cost us hundreds of dollars; she was on medication for like 6 weeks, we thought she needed surgery.  Now, we keep the broken dog-proof garbage can in the garage, which is one of the only doors in the house that she can’t open.

Maggie has always kind of been clingy with me, and I think that’s because when she was a puppy, the first two nights I had her I put her in her little puppy crate and she cried, and cried, and CRIED probably because she was alone and not on the Beagle Farm where I got her anymore, so being that I was like 22 years old, I opened her little crate, and we snuggled all night.

Then my mom found out and told me she has to sleep in her crate.  This is probably why she’s crazy like that; I think Freud would have a field day with this topic.

Maggie doesn’t like crates.  When I lived with my parents and I had her, my mom wanted me to crate her, well it never worked, and she would hide until I eventually gave up. So when I moved out, we bought a crate. Like all of a sudden, Maggie would be totally cool sleeping in a box.  This dog would rather sleep outside with the squirrels and deer in the rain than sleep in a fucking crate.  This crate is a palace.  When we put it together, and put it in our bedroom so she wouldn’t be lonely, me, Jared, Freakin and we got Maggie in there, we all fit, and we closed the door. And we hung out for like 30 minutes in the fucking crate.

Well we put the crate in Jared’s office because she cried all night.  She would keep us up for about an hour or two crying, and then she would stop.  We figured she just got tired and gave up.  Beagles never say die. Ever. The next morning we would wake up, and Maggie would be in bed with us.  We would go into the other room, the crate would still be intact, door closed and locked. I actually even made her a bed; it was one of exactly five things I have ever used my sewing machine for.  She shit on it, and then rolled in it.  So I guess she didn’t like the bed.

Beagles usually aren’t picky eaters, she is. As of this last month, she has decided that she no longer likes American cheese.  No American cheese, singles? Boars Head? No, no American cheese.  I learned this by putting half a Kraft white American Single on her food.  She wouldn’t eat.  She walked away. She knew there was pork tenderloin the refrigerator because that is what I gave her for breakfast. I took the cheese off, she ate. The next night, I let her pick her own cheese; she wanted Boars Head imported Swiss. She ate that. The next morning, I put Boars Head white American on her cheese.  Without skipping a beat, she picked up every bit of that fucking cheese and put it on the floor and then ate her food and then went and drank out of the toilet.  In fact, I gave her cheese this morning to see what would happen and I closed the lid to her favorite toilet, she spit the cheese out then went into the bathroom and cried because the lid was closed. I told her to get out of the bathroom which she did, then she went back in and I heard her drinking from the toilet. Somehow she got the lid open.  And like what am I going to say?  I can’t get mad.  That’s like telling your kid the A she got on her paper about why school sucks is bad.  Good thinking, Maggie, keep that brain sharp.

So, why is it relevant that I told you my psychiatric diagnosis? Because I keep very detailed charts of my mood, how many hours I sleep, my daily activities, et cetera.  About once per month, I go back through, usually before an appointment, and I read through my notes and charts, just to get a feel for any kind of pattern that might be happening.  I write a lot about the dogs, especially Maggie because she is so weird and she is always kind of in trouble. And I am noticing days where I am getting up around 3am and being hyper productive, or just manic overall, she wakes up with me and I note it on my chart.  I don’t think anything of it; I think she is just being clingy. On days that I am getting 8-9 hours of sleep and feeling totally normal, she doesn’t get up with me. I have to go make sure she is ok and like not dead or pouting because of the fucking American cheese.

She knows when I am manic.

And it’s really scary.

Think back to your ab psych class, I told you I am bipolar I which means I am primarily manic and I am prone to more severe manic episodes than someone with bipolar II who is more likely to have depressive episodes and an occasional hypomanic episode.  I am hypomanic probably 70% of the time, a lot of that was suppressed with the drinking and drug use, now that I am sober we are trying to find a new normal.  And that’s what is going on with this dog. She knows something is abnormal with me, maybe she can smell it?  I read that beagles have noses that are 1 million times stronger than a human nose. I need to pay better attention to her.

From the drinking and drug use I have gotten myself into some chronic GI distress. It was really bad when I first quit, Maggie was right there, she was like a bad habit, I couldn’t shake her. Even right now, as I write this, she has a big, tasty bone that she was working on in the living room; I sat down to write this with a headache, she’s currently snoozing under my desk.

I had heard about a service years ago for dogs for people with mental illness and I thought to myself, “yeah! For people who have depression, animals will make them happy and stuff! Great idea!” My therapy dog tells me when I am about to have a manic episode.

Let’s also make one thing clear, she pats herself on the back a little bit for being Therapy Dog of the Month in our house because when I am not sleeping and I am manic, she sleeps on Jared’s side of the bed.  Not like, “aww, Maggie, ok, let’s snuggle,” but like she is saying, “fuck you, you’re sleeping in your office tonight because we have a 3am wake up tomorrow and I need to be on point. Go away.” Like if I sleep vertically in bed, she sleeps horizontally on J’s side so there’s no slipping in and spooning. She probably wouldn’t let you spoon her anyway. And don’t think about moving her, she rolls on her back, gives you a dirty look, and if you persist, she growls. If things are going to be kosher the next day, she permits my husband to share the (king size) bed with his wife.

She is my homeostasis beagle, she is my therapy dog. I need to listen to her a little more carefully. I have been talking for the last year on my charts about triggers and patterns, well the barometer for that is currently snoring under my desk.


So, ok, we have 3 dogs. Two of them combined weigh like twenty pounds, the third is a forty-four pound beagle. Excuse me, (she looked at me when I wrote that) she is a forty-two pound beagle.

So here’s some background…

Maggie the Beagle: She is going to be 9 in January 2015 and she’s brilliant. We used to joke that she is community college material, no, she’s a genius. When she was a puppy she was drinking from a bowl, when there wasn’t much water left, she lifted her paw and set it down on the edge of the bowl so it would pool to one side. She did this without batting an eye. She broke the dog proof garbage can and has trained us to walk across the house to throw items from the kitchen away in the garage.

Charlie Freakin’ Brown (the dachshund): The pain in my ass and the apple of my eye. He can’t figure out how to push doors open with his nose but he can climb on top of 80% of the surfaces in the house and obtain whatever happens to be on them for his pleasure.

Roxy Freakin’ Face (the other dachshund): She’s community college material. We got her second hand (we also got Freakin’ second hand but he was still pretty young) at an elderly age. We are thinking she was 10-12 when we got her two years ago.   How can you throw a dog away after having her for 10 years? She doesn’t bother anybody, all she does is sleep all day, and she doesn’t really even eat much. How awful.  And no, we didn’t pick the name.

Ok, enough of that boring stuff.

Well, I reckon, about 18 months ago we had to take all three dogs to the vet at once (which is always a mistake). We go to Banfield which is located in PetSmart. They will let you bring your dog in in the morning so you can go about your day and they can work them in and they just call you when its time to get them. Kind of like daycare but with more needles (which if you go to daycare in Newark, it might be the same amount of needles.)

Charlie and Maggie we used to walk and if you have ever owned a hound you can hear my teardrops hitting the keyboard when I recall all the negotiating I would have to do in DC on a winter night when they catch wind of something and want to go on an expedition. We have a fence now and the backyard has cooties so I never go back there. That’s another story.

Where was I going with this?

Oh! They figured out how to wiggle out of their collars! Much like a toddler who doesn’t want to do something its mother wishes it to do, they go limp, roll over and wiggle around.

Anyway, where was I? We had all three dogs at the vet at the fucking crack of dawn. They want you there at 7:00 in the morning to drop them off. And this was when I was still drinking, so I was hungover and probably had day-old mascara all over my face. I may or may not have been wearing a bra.

As you can imagine, nobody wants to go to the vet, between all 5 of us, I think Jared was the only one who was pro-vet that morning. So we are talking to the nurse? Vet tech? Whatever they’re called, and I am not paying attention to Charlie all of a sudden I hear a familiar sound of his nails on tile. He has gotten out of his collar and is running toward the door.

I do not run at 7am while hungover.

Jared does not run at 7am. Ever.

We used to run together in the mornings, but that was at 8am a very long time ago.

Jared has a look of sheer panic, I figured we needed a new dog anyway, while we’re here at the pet store, we could probably pick one up.

The vet tech behind me screams, not just yells real loud, screams “DOOR!” and then two guys at the other end of the store respond with “DOOR!” in unison. I guess they closed and locked the doors so he would be unable to leave PetSmart. They bring him back and I put his collar back on and I put him on the floor. Because that is where he belongs, on the floor, because he is a dog.

For whatever reason the check in process is taking an extremely long time and we’re standing around doing whatever when I hear “DOOR!” again. I smiled to myself glad to know I am not the only one with a neurotic pet. I look down to tell Charlie that I am proud of him and he’s gone. And so is Maggie.

Meanwhile, Roxy wears a glow in the dark cat collar with a bell so we can hear her coming and we can see her in the dark. Since it’s a cat collar, she could have joined them on their quest for freedom since cat collars breakaway. But she didn’t, because she was too busy pooping on the floor.

Our dogs are returned to us and ultimately handed over to the vet tech who carries them away to the back where they will be stuck and pulled and things will be put in their butts but on that day, they deserved it.



@scoccaro’s house or prison?

  1. Don’t eat that
  2. Stop licking his butt
  3. How did you get in here?
  4. Stop licking her ear
  5. SHUT. UP.
  6. Stop crying!
  7. Please don’t bite me
  8. You will get dinner when dinner is ready, brat
  9. You really are the worst
  10. Go to your room!

Why is my dog barking?

  • He thinks the Taliban is in the front yard
  • The geese (who we have established a close and friendly relationship with) are in the front yard
  • He wants someone to play with him
  • Nobody will play with him
  • He wants dinner
  • He wants lunch
  • He wants breakfast
  • He wants a treat
  • He wants to go outside and chase lizards
  • He is about to pee on the floor
  • He is tired
  • He lost his ball
  • The beagle is ignoring him
  • There is someone on the sidewalk
  • There is the man with the wagon
  • The man with the wagons kids are talking
  • The man with the wagons kids are singing
  • Teri (The one woman who waited for me to get out of my car, which incidentally I was avoiding her so I was hiding in my car, pretending to have a very animated phone call with myself.  She wanted to tell me her name and tell me she liked the people who lived here before better) is on her twice-daily dog walk with whatever she said her dogs name was
  • The neighbor across the street is having his lawn landscaped
  • The neighbor next door is having her twice-weekly landscapers pay her a visit
  • Someone parked on the street (I bark about this too)
  • There is a bird on the fence
  • There are two birds on the fence
  • There is a bird at the empty bird feeder on the side of the house (We keep it empty to discourage them from living.  I mean eating. I mean eating at our house.)
  • Someone within a 25 mile radius has honked their horn
  • Someone in the gaudy Clemson house has taken their golf cart past our house
  • The house who does CrossFit in their driveway closed their car door too loudly.  (I actually think these people live in their garage.  They never go inside.)
  • The man with the truck that affirms he has a small penis has started his truck
  • The man with the truck that affirms he has a small penis has driven past my house
  • The man with the truck that affirms he has a small penis is at the stop sign at the end of the street
  • The kid who drives a 1998 Chevy Lumina has pulled into the neighbor who barely waves at us driveway and is turning around so that he may park (ILLEGALLY) on the street
  • Someone is weed whacking (which is every day.  See, in my neighborhood there is an award to who has the nicest lawn every month. they get a sign in their yard.  We have never won this award.)
  • The boys who have no manners and have probably been kicked out of their own house are throwing a football to each other in front of my house
  • UPS is here
  • FedEx is here
  • UPS drove by
  • FedEx drove by
  • He thought someone drove by
  • The mail lady is here
  • The mail lady is dropping off a package
  • The mail lady is dropping off a certified letter (which I have to trick the dog and go out through the garage in order for him to contain himself re: her arrival)
  • He thinks he gets to go in the car
  • He is mad he doesn’t get to go in the car
  • He is mad he has to get out of the car
  • He is mad at me for not letting him play in the clean laundry
  • He is mad because i wont let him sit in the dirty laundry basket
  • He is hanging out in the bathroom and he’s not supposed to be
  • He thought he saw something
  • He thought he heard something
  • Someone set off their car alarm
  • The train
  • If I roll over in bed and I don’t take him with me
  • If I make the bed and he is still in it
  • If I yell at him for peeing on the floor
  • Someone goes by on a bike
  • Someone goes by on a scooter
  • Someone goes by on rollerblades (which I don’t think he is necessarily mad, I think he is laughing at them)
  • I have to go get the mail and he’s not allowed to come with
  • I am not paying attention to him
  • Nobody is paying attention to him
  • His ball is stuck behind a piece of furniture that requires that we move said furniture to retrieve it
  • You ask him to wear a jacket when it is 20 degrees outside
  • It’s raining
  • You are not preparing his food fast enough
  • There is no cheese on his food
  • There is not enough cheese on his food
  • You’re eating and he is not
  • You have cheese and he does not
  • He just wants to hear his own voice
  • He is feeling creative and he wants to express himself in song
  • His blanket is not folded
  • His other blanket got caught between the cushions on the couch
  • He lost one of his two octopi
  • He lost his stuffed dog and he doesn’t remember where it went
  • He wants to stand on the table
  • He wants to stand on my desk
  • He wants to stand on my husbands desk
  • One of the other dogs is sleeping were he wants to be sleeping
  • You don’t permit him from sleeping on top of your pillow behind your head
  • His toy is somewhere he is afraid to go, like under the bed
  • Someone other than Teri is walking by with a dog other than Teri’s dog
  • You sneak up on him and scare him
  • You take off his collar for a bath and don’t immediately put it back on
  • Someone else is sitting on my lap
  • My husband is mowing the lawn
  • He is in the same room as the vacuum
  • You sing to him too loudly
  • He gets locked in a room by himself
  • He gets lock out of a room he wants to be in
  • The cable company has come to lower our property values with a random orange cord in the gutter coming from the green thing in my front yard
  • He thinks someone is trying to steal our cable
  • You call him a cat

Somebody other than Jared needs a job in this house.

The email I sent to http://www.hollywoodpaws.com/contact.htm trying to get Charlie a job.


I googled pet agents for my dog, Charlie and you were the first result so I thought I would reach out.

My dog is awesome as I am sure you hear a lot. He has no special talents other than always having to pee and pooping on the floor after a walk. His favorite word is “missy” and his hobbies include composting, sleeping and starting conversations with strangers.

Since he has no regard for authority he would be better suited for still photography. Charlie is a 2 year old dachshund. He has a sister but she’s more “community college material”.

So that’s all I have. I have no headshots or anything of that nature because they’re dogs and I have a life but if you would like to see some shots I took with my iPhone I would be happy to send them along.



The life and times of a freelance canine care technician

i decided yesterday to try my hand at dog walking.  I contacted a very nice woman in Alexandria.  We chatted on the phone and via text and she asked me to start tomorrow (which would be today…thursday…) and I said thats fine.

What I didnt realize was that Alexandria is like 4,000 miles from Reston. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could only get my rocket fixed.

I had to get up around 9:15, not terribly early but it is when you are still having your “I’m going to stay up late because i dont have a job to go to in the morning” party. So I roll out, throw on some shorts, a t-shirt and naturally, a PE bra.

The night prior to this, Charlie, our weenie had eaten my running shoes.  Last week at the gym, Pretty Woman was on in the “cardio cinema room” at the gym and I wore a blister into my right heel to the point where there was blood everywhere.  I love pretty woman.  So I had my shoes, with the bloody socks tucked in them by the door.

Last night is when he noticed them.  Next thing I knew, he was settling in to eat my entire right shoe.  I caught him just in time where only part of the heel had been chewed and he got a stern lecture and his allowanced docked for the next month. As i was cleaning up the carnage of my $125 shoes, I notice he also helped himself to my socks.  I dont know what his fascination with blood is but he loves it. It weirds me out.

Anyway, I throw on my shoes, google map how to get there.  thats when my heart sunk.  37 minutes and $2.00 in tolls.  Doesnt sound like much but when you dont have a lot of income coming in, its a lot to deal with. Meanwhile, I was getting an ear full from mom and dad (each had me on speaker phone on a conference call while all three of us were in the car) about how I should be filing for unemployment and i should get a haircut and I need to enroll my dogs in school.  so I take off down the highway on the way to Alexandria.  I pull into the first house 57 minutes after I left my house.  nearly an hour of sitting in traffic and dealing with interstates just to walk dogs for less than minimum wage. BUT! this was an adventure of the new Stephanie, goddamn it.

My new boss was already there, she was walking the first dog, a sweet girl named Coco. thats when the fun started.  it was pouring. Neither of us had umbrellas with us because it wasnt looking like rain when we started.  So we head in with Coco and took off to the next walk.

We arrive there with no problems.  We meet Riley, a beautiful brindle boxer who seems to have a bit of a mule issue (she sits like a mule in the grass and wont walk on a leash). No rain this time which is fine, i was still drying off from the last walk.

Then I was released into the wild on my own.  4 minutes into the drive to the next walk and I was already lost.  Luckily my new boss was patient enough to lead me there and she stayed on the phone with me, literally, the rest of the day so I wouldn’t end up in Maryland.

I go to London and Paisleys house, two adorable corgi’s and greet them at the door by screaming “good god what is the security code again for this fucking thing?! WHY ISNT IT TURNING OFF?!” once I got it out of “panic mode” I decided to get their harnesses on so we could go out.

If you have never seen a corgi, they are very fluffy.

I couldnt get their half broken, hot pink harnesses on due to the amount of fluff involved with their bellies. I couldnt tell where the hair ended and where the dog began.  I was terrified of being less than 3 inches away from this strange dogs face, laying on the floor trying to get this harness on and pinching her.

I fashioned the harness into a bow around her middle by tying the harness ends together.  All I knew is i didn’t want her to jerk and run away because I would be looking for a new job.

Out we went, with the on again/off again rain, there were puddles everywhere. With their short legs and excessively long hair they looked like street sweepers with ears. Of course, there was another dog walker out there in a tie-dye tanktop with arm holes down to her hips and a tropically themed bra underneath. She has an umbrella and a decrepit, white something dog who you could tell had seen better days (he had a harness on but his seemed to fit). She wanted to chat because it was pissing rain and she doesnt have a lot of people to talk to when walking dogs. while she chatted about being retired, the corgi’s decided to take a break and have a seat in the puddle in front of me.

I finally got away from the retiree in the tropical underpants and got them home where they took turns rolling on the white couch.

On to the next house.  A maltese whose mom has OCD.  I had to wear covers over my shoes.  I will have you know they have 14 hardwood steps that go up to where this dog stays.  14 chances for me to slip backwards and crack my head open on her pledge enhanced floors only to be left there until she returned home from getting a perm.

After this nightmare dog who wouldnt go outside “because it was raining and mom says all dirty dogs go to hell” I squished her back in her crate.

I got back in my car, cold, defeated, wet, in need of a bladder elimination and apparently gushing blood.

On to juneau’s house. A gorgeous huskie greeted me at the door, which he isnt supposed to do due to his apparent hatred for all things feline. The cat was nowhere to be seen…

Out we went! It was still raining, we walked around the buildings, up hills and down them.  I have never had so much respect for postal workers.  I felt a great sense of comradery with my fellow “rain, snow, sleet or shine”‘rs in my life.  Here we are, doing our jobs for the good of all in the rain.

Unfortunately there is no union for freelance dog walkers like the postal service which led me to my next decision…

get me the fuck out of here.


Dogs are people too

I was born a dog person. My parents had Ernie when I was born, then Ernie died, then we got ralph who died when I was in High School.  After Ralph was Buddy.  Buddy has multiplied into Missy, Gus, Maggie and Charlie.

It is interesting how they become your children.  Maggie and Charlie are actually better than kids.  They never get sick of me, they love what I feed them and they will never expect me to pay for college.

It is interesting though that although they like me as a person I do think they try to be nice about some things when they really want to tell me to go to hell.

For instance, as I write this, at 1am, Charlie is laying on the floor in the fetal position because frankly, its past his bed time.  I try to talk to him and he gives me the same look strangers on the metro give me when I try to talk to them. Maggie on the other hand can sleep anywhere under any circumstances, except thunder.  Kid can’t stand thunder.  She has to take downers when it rains.

So what I am saying is this: My dogs are better than your kids.