The One with an Update on Canine Houdini

A year ago, I introduced Sampson’s alter-ego: Canine Houdini. My German Shepherd made it his mission to figure his way past every gate my parents put up to keep him in the kitchen when they weren’t home. They managed to stump him with a metal gate practically screwed into the door frame.

It stumped Canine Houdini for all of eight months. And then he figured it out.

My dad claimed Sam learned to pull the gate until the door on it came loose and then he let himself and Grace into the rest of the house. But he never saw Sam do it; he just heard the metal door thud open.

I wanted to see my butthead’s ingenuity for myself.

So I set him up when I visited my parents. While he ate his dinner, I shut the gate and effectively locked him in the kitchen. Grace and I sat in the living room, and I had my phone ready to capture his great escape on video. It took a bit of coaxing to convince Sam to handle the problem on his own rather than just give me a look of betrayal.

Here is video evidence that my German Shepherd is a clever butthead.

Canine Houdini is back, and I’m totally here for it.

The One with the Red Fox

Grace does dumb things (like eating rocks), but she’s done pretty well landing on her own four paws (with lots of help from some amazing vets & vet techs). She also doesn’t think twice about going nose to nose with her 90lb brother. She’s a scrappy little mutt.

And it didn’t surprise me one bit when she charged to the end of the leash one day when I was back in Massachusetts. The fur on her back puffed up to the size of a softball, and she threw all 38lbs of herself against the leash.

My gaze traveled across the patchy green and brown expanse of the front lawn, expecting to land on a furry gray ball of rabbit. But it didn’t. Instead, I saw a fox. A beautiful fox with orange fur and dainty black legs.

My first thought was: Is that really a fox? It looks big enough to be a coyote. Then: Oh shit, is that thing going to come after Grace? Does it have rabies?

Grace didn’t share my momentary panic. She launched herself against the end of the leash again and barked her head off.

Grace: That’s my yard, you weird dog! Get out of my yard!

Fox: F#$% this!

The fox bolted around the side of the house and into the swamp beyond. Grace–naturally–tried to follow.

Grace: That’s it, you better run! Punk! And don’t you ever think about comin’ in my yard again!

It took a lot of encouragement and reminding Grace that she hadn’t had breakfast yet, to get her back inside. But even once we got into the kitchen, she still ran for the sliding doors and the porch beyond (with its view of the backyard). That was where I left her when I took Sampson outside for his morning walk.

I figured that was the end of it. The fox had disappeared into the woods, Grace was stationed in the kitchen, and Sampson was (thankfully) oblivious. I’d even gotten a pretty decent photo of the fox with my camera, which was a bonus.

Then came barking from the front window, and I damn near jumped out of my shoes. Grace had positioned herself in the bay window at the front of the house, barking up a storm.

Grace: Hey, you! I told you to get out of my yard!

Fox: F#$%!

For some reason that must’ve made sense in its brain, the fox had doubled back and stood in the side-yard. It froze when it heard Grace barking and then spotted Sampson with me in the driveway. The fox turned into an orange blur as it bolted back to the swamp behind the house.

Sampson: What was that?

Me: Nothing, dude. Let’s just get your walk done, so I can feed you and Grace.

Sampson: O-k. I wanna eat.

Grace was obviously very pleased with herself when we got back inside and tried to convince me that she deserved some of Sampson’s breakfast because she defended the house. I told her no.

The One with the F#%@ing Mouse (Part 2)

When I left off, Orville the f#%@ing mouse decided it was a good idea to make a break for the upstairs instead of outside the night before Mom and Dad left for their cruise.

Mom and Dad had just gone to bed, and I was upstairs with Sampson and Grace when Grace suddenly zoomed over to the top of the stairs.

Grace: Orville? Buddy? I wanna hunt you!

Me: Gracie… what the f#%@ are you hunting?

Grace: Orville! Orville’s here, S.E.!

Me: F#%@.

Orville: F#%@!

While Orville scurried into and through the kitchen, I shooed Grace to her bed and convinced myself that Grace had been seeing things. Or was hunting a bug that she’d named Orville. The last thing I wanted to believe was that the damn mouse was upstairs.

Then about ten minutes later, Orville decided be stupid for the second time that night.

Orville: I gotta find a way out. Maybe if I sneak by that dog, then I’ll be able to get back downstairs and go out the way I came in. I gotta just make a run for it.

From the corner of my eye, I spotted a gray fuzz dart along the wall before disappearing behind the TV stand. I knew exactly who the furry little bastard was without even a good look. So I did exactly what any grown, badass woman would do: I called Dad’s cell phone and begged him to come upstairs and catch the mouse.

Orville took off underneath the loveseat and then the couch as soon as he saw Mom and Dad coming up the stairs. He managed to disappear for a few minutes before hiding beneath the corner of Sampson’s bed. I grabbed both dogs, and Dad cornered him. He tossed a towel over the gray fuzzball.

Orville: F#%@ing, f#%@!

Me: You got it!

Grace: Let him go! I wanna hunt Orville!

Sampson: Wh-huh? What’s agoing on?

Orville: Okay, hold yourself together. Wait for him to make a mistake. Then make a break for it.

And Dad did make a mistake. He scooped up the towel to get it underneath Orville, and the f#%@ing mouse bolted.

Orville: FREEDOM!!!

Grace: Run, Orville! Run!

Sampson: What’s agoing on?

Me: Annnd shiiiittttt.

I sent Grace after Orville before poking into every corner I could find with the flashlight beam. But no one could find him. There were just too many places for him to hide, whether behind a dresser or underneath a bed or crouched behind cardboard boxes.

That night, I slept on the living room couch because there was a very good chance Orville was in my bedroom. And there was no way in hell I was sleeping in the same room as him.

As for Orville, he was never seen again. I’ve persuaded myself that he escaped through an open door the next day. Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, it was the only way that I could go to sleep at night.

The One with the F#%@ing Mouse (Part 1)

I recently got home from Massachusetts after spending a month in my hometown. Since I was between jobs when my parents were going on a three-week cruise, I found myself house-sitting and dog-sitting. It’s nothing to complain about: spending a month writing and playing with dogs and hanging with friends.

There was just one hiccup. A f#%@ing mouse named Orville.

Let me backup a bit.

My parents’ house sits between suburbia and wooded wetlands, settled deep enough among trees that you can pretend to be off in the wilderness when the trees are full of leaves in summer. Privacy is great. But the wildlife that lives in the wetlands don’t think twice about encroaching into our space, though Sampson and Grace do a pretty good job of keeping them away.

Well, except for Orville. He arrived a couple days before I returned to Massachusetts.

Orville scurried into the garage for some mousey reason or another, probably following his nose to the crumbs of dog food. He met up with his buddy, Mercury, before descending the stairs to the first floor.

Mercury: Dude, there are f#%@ing dogs in here.

Orville: Shit, you’re right! Big ones.

Mercury: Hurry up and get the food.

Orville: Okay, I’m hurryin’.

Mercury: F#%@! Dog!

Grace: What’re youuu?

Grace happened to be downstairs at the time with Mom when she saw Mercury and Orville. Her muscles went all stiff in stillness yet flexed in a fluid motion when she moved. Her eyes sighted-in on Orville and Mercury with laser focus.

Mercury & Orville: F#%@!

Grace: I’m gonna hunt you.

At that point, Mom shouted for Dad, and he managed to toss a towel of Mercury and catch him. Mercury cursed the whole time as Dad carried him out to the backyard. Orville took the opportunity to bury himself into a shadowy corner, and there he stayed while Dad put out mouse traps.

Days went by. Dad checked the traps. Orville bypassed the tempting smell of bait in favor of the crumbs that collect in the corners of rugs no matter how many times they’re vacuumed.

Then the night before Mom and Dad had to be up and ready for their ride to the airport at 5 AM, Orville decided to make a break for it. But he didn’t do the logical thing, oh no. He didn’t run for the back door when Mom or Dad left it open for a few minutes. He ran the f#%@ upstairs.

To be continued…

The One with the Teleporting Mutt

“I can’t wait to live you you again, S.E.”

Why is that, Grace?

“Because you let me sleep on the couch. Dad doesn’t. He tells me NO whenever I try to jump on it.”

Mom and Dad did just put in a new window and windowsill, and you do always end up in the windowsill. Your nails are going to scratch it up, so I have to side with them.  

“Sorry I’m not tall like Sampson and can’t see out the window from the floor.”

At that point in the conversation, she took a quick look around the living room to make sure Dad was still downstairs. There was a smirk on her face when she turned back to me.

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The couch before Dad goes downstairs….

“Dad isn’t as smart as he thinks he his. Listen to this. He doesn’t trust me not to get on the couch when he goes downstairs-”

Rightly so.

“-so he puts the black gates in front of the couch. Well, remember how you taught me to get onto the couch by jumping over the side?”

Shit, seriously?

“I get off when I hear him coming up the stairs, and I’m back on my bed right away. But somehow he still knows that I was up there. Of course, I don’t admit it.”

He knows because you mess up the pillows and blanket on the couch.

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The couch when Dad comes back upstairs….

“That might be it. Maybe. But anyway, he hasn’t figured out how I do it. He thinks I’m jumping over the black gates–which I could totally do if I wanted to–and keeps piling stuff in front of them. Now I just have to make sure that Sampson doesn’t turn into a tattletale.”

Gracie, I don’t think Sam cares. 

“That’s true. He usually follows Dad downstairs anyway, even though he doesn’t get any attention. Who does that?”

Not everyone is an attention hound like you.

“Well they should be. Actually, no. I want all the attention for myself.”

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The One with the Snow Dog

A blizzard hit Massachusetts last week, and I figured that I’d hear all about it from the dogs. Grace was more than a little excited when she called me after the storm.

“S.E., S.E.,” she said. “It snowed!”

I heard, GracieDad told me that there was a blizzard.

“There was snow everywhere, and Dad took me outside to play in it!”

Did you have fun?

“I had so much fun. Dad doesn’t let me dig in the backyard because he says I can’t fill it in afterwards, but he let me dig in the snow. It was so soft compared to the rocks in my kennel–”

You mean the kennel.

“It’s mine. Not Sampson’s, mine,” she said. “Dad brought out my Wubba and threw it. He made me bring it back to him even though I just wanted to do a victory lap around the yard. But I got him good. Whenever I brought it back, I would pretend not to hear him and ate snow instead.”

Gray-girl, you shouldn’t be eating snow. It just makes you cold.



“You sound just like Dad. He made me go inside and put on my sweater before he’d let me play anymore.”

It’s for your own good.

“It’s ugly.”

I know. That’s kind of the point. 

“You’re mean.”

Flying into snowbanks 

And you’re warm. You’re welcome.

The One with Canine Houdini


Find Houdini…

When I chatted with my dogs on FaceTime the other day, Grace kept nudging Sampson. He sighed and said that she wanted him to talk about the new game Dad plays with him.

What game?

“It’s not really a game,” Sam said. “Dad just tries to keep me in the kitchen, and I break out.”

Sampson Stone…

“It’s not a game. But if it was, I’d be winning. Dad’s only kept me inside the kitchen once, and I’ve escaped four times.

“The first time, Dad put one of those black gates in front of one doorway and the little wooden one in the other doorway. Then he went downstairs to do laundry. When I was trying to remind him that he can’t do laundry without my help, I bumped into the black gate and it moved.

“I looked at it for a second, trying to figure how that happened. So I tried bumping with my nose on purpose, and it moved again. There was also this gap between the gate and the edge of the doorway. The more I pushed, the bigger the gap got, and eventually it got big enough for me to fit through.

“Dad looked at us weird when Grace and I came downstairs. It was like he couldn’t figure out how we got out until he saw with his own eyes. Which is weird because he’s always calling me a smart shit.

“The next time, Dad put two of the black gates back-to-back and left the wood one where it was. That wasn’t a challenge either because I already knew how to move them. Then he tried putting chairs in front of it, so I went over to the wood gate and slid it to the side. The fourth time, I had to knock over the black gate, but I still got out.”

Jesus Christ, Sampson. If you keep this up, you’re not going to be able to stay in the kitchen when Mom and Dad go out. You’ll have to go to your crate.

“I don’t mind my crate. But Dad thinks he’s got me beat. He put the chairs in front of the gates before he went out today, and I couldn’t get them out of the way.”

I swear, if you figure out how to move chairs… Why the hell are you learning all this stuff after I move out? 

“I dunno. I figure  it won’t take me long to figure out how to move them,  so I should have worked it out by the time you come see us again. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how I do it.”

I can hardly wait

***Update: Sampson has since learned how to move chairs and has escaped again. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this dog.


Sampson the German Shepherd might be turning three years old in a few weeks, but he’s a goofy puppy at heart. He’ll knock over tray tables with his butt, sweep a coffee table clean with his tail, and go all Bambi on ice when galloping across the kitchen linoleum.

All of his antics have led me to create a hashtag, #SampsonStories, to document them.

He’s picked up a love for chasing bugs from his sister, so he snaps at them or anything else that flies by his head. That led to an interesting case of barking at seemingly nothing a few days ago. I live-tweeted the event and then compiled it with Storify. You can read it here: Sampson and the bug.

Does your pet do anything that makes you laugh? Tell me in the comments below!

Looking Back: Two Years of Sampson

After I finished work in Plymouth on July 17, 2013, I rushed home to get changed and drove over to a farm/kennel for 6 PM. There I handed over a check for $500. In return, I got a scrawny, black and tan German Shepherd. He was ten months old and named Sampson by his first owner.

The two years since then have been nothing short of an adventure.

Sampson likes to work. He’s flashy in his obedience, athletic enough for makeshift agility courses, and bounces whenever he sees a tennis ball. Add in a stubborn streak, and I’ve got my hands full. But Sam is fun. 

Even though we’ve still got work to do with his manners around new people and out in public, he’s a fantastic pet. Always tolerant of hugs, a persistent shadow, and ready to help me eat whatever’s on my plate. He’s also a cuddler, which is weirdly exciting for me. Neither my first dog nor Grace did/do so. Grace demands to be pet or she’s out of there. Sampson is simply content to lay his head on me and be by my side. 

While looking back through the photos on my phone for this post, I was struck by how much he’s grown. He was all leg and not much else. Now he’s almost a different dog. Here are a few pictures of him from the past two years.

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July 2013

photo 1 (6)photo 2 (6) photo 3 (4)
photo 4 (2)
photo 5 (1)

Looking Back: Three Years of Grace

July 3rd marked three years since I adopted a six month old, black and brindle puppy. She was Kora then, according to her paperwork, and arrived in Massachusetts from Louisiana by way of Tennessee. She wasn’t the puppy I drove two hours to see. But she wormed her way into my heart and into my life.

None of the names I picked ahead of time worked for her, so I ended up googling dog names on the ride home. She was christened Grace by the end of that car trip.

Getting Grace coincided with a lot of other big things in my life. That means I’m looking back now and thinking Holy crap, there’s no way it’s been that long since X happened. I graduated from college that spring and moved home; it was eleven months since my first dog, Max, passed away; and I struggled to find a job (any job) as a recent college grad.

We’ve had our adventures over the years. Day trips to Plymouth for a walk on the waterfront. A health scare from something she ate and then countless trips back to the vet for heartworm treatment. Walks at the open spaces around town. Inviting her onto my bed in the morning and cuddling until it’s time to get up.  Stolen socks with a fifty-fifty shot of getting them back in one piece.

I decided to compile a few of my favorite pictures of her from the past couple years to mark the occasion. She’s my sweet little nugget, and she puts a smile on my face every time I see her wagging tail.

Adopting Grace

July 3rd, 2012: Walking Grace for the first time.

Grace in the snow

My little snow dog

Grace staring out the door

Little Miss prefers being inside to out on rainy days

Grace on placemat

All curled up


Blanket Thief

Grace makes a beeline for any and all blankets that fall on the floor. Even if someone is still using it.