When dog poop dictates your level of happiness.

My son recently sent me a photo of a pile of slimy dog poop in our mudroom with this caption:

“Mom in 2016 – WHY DO I LIVE IN A WORLD OF POO?!?!”

I’ve never lived down the moment I let rip that primal yawp of anguish after finding yet another pile of feces in the house. My children still mock me from time to time for it. They imitate my manic rage by goggling their eyes, overenunciating each word, and gradually crescendoing to the final, thundering “POO” before collapsing into hysterical peals of laughter at their mother’s expense.

Back in the good old days, my dogs would mostly do their business outside. With increasing frequency, we began finding little bombs left around the house. I had to start buying Nature’s Miracle in gallon size bottles. At first I didn’t understand that Tallis, our Shih Tzu (pronounced just as you might expect), was not trying to punish me with his fecal indiscretions. It was the first signs of illness.

Our dog has been suffering from constipation for years, and this has eventually led to his current diagnosis of “megacolon.” The silliness of the name belies a rather serious condition. When I first mentioned the constipation to his vet, my concern was lightly brushed off with a recommendation to add a little pumpkin to his diet. We tried this for a few weeks to no avail. It was clear that the situation was becoming critical, and I insisted that the vet take a closer look at him. I dropped him off in the morning and when the doctor called me at work and spoke to me in a hushed tone of compassionate concern, I knew the situation was grave. He took x-rays, ran tests, and finally referred us to another practice which had a specialist in internal medicine. Since then, we’ve tried all sorts of things to get things moving, including yogurt, lettuce, green beans, blueberries, Cisapride, Lactulose, and prescription dog foods. In the last half year, we’ve resorted to taking poor Tallis in for periodical enemas.

Every morning when my daughter brings the dogs back inside after their morning constitutional, I ask her for “The Poop Report.”

“Have the pups achieved pooition?” I ask, “How many?”

One-Poop-Days are typical. A Two-Poop-Day is cause for celebration. I actually find myself walking around with an extra bounce in my step on those red-letter Two-Poop-Days.

Two-Poop-Days call for more in-depth reporting. I press the dogwalker with probing questions…”What was the consistency? What would you say was the length and diameter?”

My children have learned to take this all in stride. They celebrate the increasingly rare Two-Poop-Days right alongside me.  They can’t help but inflect their Two-Poop-Reports with a happy little lilt as they describe Tallis’ accomplishments. We crow with delight at every single thing that issues from Tallis’ back end. Never before has man or beast been so fêted for so little.

Thus my son’s text, which continued…

“Mom in 2018 – Oooooooh tell me more about the consistency!”

When I first got my son’s text, I thought he was sending it to me to complain that he had to clean up the mess.

“No!!!” he told me when we discussed it later that evening, “I sent it to you, because I knew it would make you so happy that Tallis had pooped!”

I took our dog to the vet again last Friday for another enema. This time a doctor new to the practice called me to say that we needed to start thinking about “quality of life” issues. She suggested that euthanasia rather than an enema may be in order. After some fraught discussions, we decided we would try a different kind of prescription dog food and give him another couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re going to shower him with lots of love, keep our fingers crossed, and hope for the day that we will once again live in a world of poo. TIMG_9754IMG_9751


Did I freak you out with the title of this post? 

Remember: this week’s Stories from Easter Island are all about the foods my dad didn’t eat. But let’s face it. It is a notorious fact that Korean people have been known to eat dog meat. When we were together over the holidays, my dad explained to us the background behind this practice…

In the old days, nobody ate much meat. People would eat it maybe just once or twice a year. Farmers, after a season of hard physical labor, would need to eat some meat to recover their strength. But because they were unaccustomed to eating meat, they would get sick as soon as they ate it. It would give them terrible stomach aches. The one kind of meat that wouldn’t have that effect was dog meat. Apparently, dog meat is very easy to digest and never causes stomach upset.

Seeing our long faces, he continued his story…

You know, whenever I would go back to visit Korea, people would always want to take me out to restaurants and treat me to the best foods. They were always trying to offer me dog meat. I didn’t want to be rude to them, but I always declined. I had to explain that my children had made me promise not to eat it.

He imitated us in a high-pitched voice that made us laugh, “Dad! Promise us, you won’t eat dog meat when you’re in Korea!

Even though I didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings, I couldn’t lie to my own children, so I never ate it.

And that’s the last installment of this week’s Stories from Easter Island. I hope you’ve enjoyed sitting in the basement with me, and that you have a wonderful, wonderful weekend!


Let’s pretend we’ve just gorged ourselves on Korean food and are drowsily sitting in the basement, sprawled on the couch with distended bellies full of rice and garlicky banchan. Imagine that you’re listening to my dad telling you more Stories from Easter Island. Maybe it’s because there is always so much to eat nowadays, and there was so little back then that the stories are so often about food. Here’s the first one…

DadI always had a dog when I was growing up in Korea, but I don’t like having a dog here. I feel sorry for dogs in America. In Korea, no one kept dogs in the house or on a leash. The dogs would be fed in the morning and then they’d join the rest of the village dogs. They would roam free in the fields all day long…huge packs of them. There would be fifteen to twenty dogs running around together all day long, having so much fun. In the evening, they would go back to their own houses and eat whatever scraps they were given.

All the dogs were mutts, but one of our dogs happened to grow up to look almost exactly like a purebred German Shepherd. He was such a smart dog. He was really good at catching mice and birds. He’d settle himself down in a patch of sunlight and pretend to be asleep. When a sparrow would wander past, he’d suddenly attack and catch it! Just like that!

Roasted sparrow tastes really good. You only eat the breast. They’re so small that they’re just one mouthful. Nobody ate meat in those days. We only had it for special occasions…maybe a little in dduk gook once a year on New Year’s. My brothers and I always wished we could eat the birds our dog caught, but we never got a chance to. Our mother would always take them to give to other kids in our village who had colds, because roasted sparrow is supposed to be a cure for the common cold.

Next time: More Stories from Easter Island.

My Genius Dogs

Can I brag a little?

I think I must have the most industrious, hard-working dogs in America, or maybe even on the face of the planet.

When they’re not tinkering with the furnace, edging the lawn, or checking the air pressure in my tires, they’re finding innovative cures for cancer, or putting their heads together to come up with ways to broker lasting peace in the Middle East.

They are Captains of Enterprise and Industry, these two.

More about my genius dogs:

Cute, but Rotten Pt. 1

Cute, but Rotten Pt. 2

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Cute, but Rotten, Part 2

In which I discover that my cute, but rotten dogs are not stupid after all, but are in fact, geniuses.

(If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, you may want to start there).

Fortunately, our cute, but rotten dogs recovered from their nasty stomach issues. Friends and neighbors would be dogsitting for us while we were out of town for the holidays and we felt it was imperative that we caution them about our dogs’ penchant for mischief. I wrote a lengthy and detailed instruction manual for the boy who would be taking care of them first, which included the following warnings and exhortations:

“They cannot be left outside of their crates unattended as they are beyond stupid and WILL get into trouble of some sort…Chloe eats ROCKS!…In general, they really can’t ever be trusted to be by themselves outside of their crate…they’re exceedingly stupid!”

The boy’s mother sent me a follow-up email after Christmas that concluded with: “dogs were fine and very cute (and very bad as you said!)” The family left town for a vacation of their own as soon as we came back, so I haven’t yet been able to find out all the bad things the dogs did in our absence. The boy did email me to let me know that Chloe had eaten a Hershey’s Kiss, wrapper and all, before he could stop her. And we found rock hard pellets of poop on a little carpet by the door in the breakfast room that the boy must not have noticed. At least the dogs didn’t eat it. One must be grateful for small mercies.

The day before we left for our New Year’s trip to Arlington, our next set of neighbors came over to get the lowdown on the doggie schedule. I launched into my speech about how the dogs would need hyper-vigilant supervision with a recitation of the many acts of stupidity they had recently committed.

My very kindly neighbor gently interrupted my litany to suggest that the problem was not actually the dogs, but the low expectations I had for them.

“They’re hearing you say they’re stupid, so they feel like they have license to behave in stupid ways.”

That night when I typed up a new set of instructions, I concluded my note with:

“We expect them to have mastered Trigonometry, Molecular Biology, Greek, Latin, and Heideggerian Existentialism by the time we get back through the power of your more elevated expectations for them!”

When we returned home on New Year’s Day, imagine our surprise to see this:

Of course, I wrote a thank you to my neighbor, who had set me straight (click for larger view):


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Cute, but Rotten, Part 1

Warning: the following post contains graphic details and may not be suitable for sensitive readers!

Our dogs Tallis and Chloe got sick the week we were going to leave for Princeton, NJ to be with my family for Christmas. I was on my way to work when Colin called to spread the glad tidings that the dogs had bloody diarrhea. If you’ve been reading along, you may recall that our dogs frequently manage to escape. Whenever I finally catch up to them, they are always greedily chowing down on poop as if they were dining on perfectly executed filet mignon. As you might imagine, this invariably has messy and unpleasant consequences. I could only assume that this was again the source of their gastric distress.

(click through photo for larger view
& complete caption)

I happened to be close to our vet’s office so I stopped in to make sure they could fit Tallis and Chloe into their schedule before immediately driving back home to pick them up to bring them to the vet. When I arrived at the office again with my two poop-eating dogs in tow, the receptionist presented me with two identical estimates to sign. The totals didn’t include the bordatella shots they would have to have because they would be boarded all day, or the Lyme Disease vaccine they both needed. The conservative estimate came to $800. All day at work I kept getting calls from the vet saying that they would have to get yet another x-ray. I was fairly sure when I left my office to pick up the dogs at the end of the day that the total would be closer to $1000. I’m betting there are few who’ve ever paid that kind of money for a filet mignon in the finest restaurant. (I apologize if I have forever ruined filet mignon for any carnivores out there)!

When I arrived, the vet tech brought the dogs out and one of them immediately peed on the floor. I picked them both up so as to forestall any further incidents of this nature and prepared to pay up and leave. The vet came out to the lobby and asked me to come back to have a look at the x-rays. It was the end of a long day. With a dog under each arm and the sure knowledge that I would be forking over a grand for their misdeeds, I wasn’t particularly in the mood to look and so I said wearily, “That’s o.k., I really don’t care.” He looked completely crestfallen, but he didn’t give up. “But I already have them up for you. Come on back, it will only take a minute,” he coaxed. I trudged to the back room where he had the x-rays on a screen. With real professional zeal, he pointed out all the salient bits and then gave me instructions for the special food and medicine the dogs would be on for the following week.

“Well, thanks,” I said glumly as I made my way back out to the lobby.

“Oh wait! Did you see the bag?!” the vet asked.


“You HAVE to see the bag!” he said excitedly and disappeared into the back room again. He emerged a moment later  triumphantly holding a plastic baggie full of gravel aloft as if it were a trophy.

“This came out of Chloe!” he announced. “We rinsed them off for you so you could see what caused the problem!”

Yes, that’s right. My dogs not only eat poop, they eat rocks too. GENIUSES, these dogs.

The good news is that the total came to a mere $600! I practically danced an Irish Jig when I saw the bill. When I got home and Colin asked how much it had all cost, I crowed “Only $600!” He blanched visibly and looked at me as if I had grown another head. I should have primed him with the previous estimate!

Come back tomorrow to read the incredible story of how I discovered that the dogs really ARE in fact geniuses.

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