City Life Dedication

My newest book, City Life went live this week, sales seem pretty good, so far, very City Life_eBookCoverappreciative of everybody who took the time to buy a copy, or download it, not quite sure the terminology these days.

I told my grandchildren about the dedication yesterday;

“For Lilliana Elizabeth, Kinsley Victoria, and Jaxon Chase

Here’s to the future!

(Sorry, Jaxon, it’s ladies before gentlemen in this house.)”

The conversation went something like this:

GrandkidsGrampa: Guess what? I dedicated my new book to you guys!

Lilly: Woohoo! That’s the funniest thing I heard all day!

Kinsley: Very interesting!

Jaxon: You expect me to believe that you wrote a book?




The Language of Dogs

Learning the language of dogs “It’s just no fun arguing with somebody whose only reason for living is to live.”

By Michael Morse


  • From




Author Michael Morse shares a few lessons in communicating that he learned from his dog, Mr. Wilson, including the importance of living, not arguing, and living in the moment.




What is it about pets that they often enable humans to learn how to express their emotions in a more healthy, loving manner? Is there a potential for Rhode Island to become designated as a dog-friendly place to travel, as part of an overall tourism campaign? What are the different ways that dogs have become part of a larger working tradition – beyond herding, police and rescue work – to include therapy and support?




Our own personal stories are the most prize possessions we carry with us; telling them quilts us together in a tenuous, human fashion. The relationship between humans and dogs [and pets] creates its own special language of shared emotional connection and companionship. The constancy of that relationship recalls the Josh Billings line, quoted at the beginning of Disney’s epic dog movie, “Lady and the Tramp”: “In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money can not buy, the wag of a dog’s tail.” Perhaps the most important thing that dogs teach us is how to wag our own tails.


WARWICK – I had just met Mr. Wilson when I wrote a book about the wonderful relationship that I saw forming between us. I felt the emotional connection the second I touched him, a rescue dog fresh off the bus from Arkadelphia, Arkansas.


I don’t know if it was because I had learned a little more about the mysteries of life since saying good-bye to the dogs that shared my life prior to Mr. Wilson, or if he was simply very good at letting me know his thoughts.


I do know that he has a way of communicating that is not all that difficult to decipher – once I learned what to look for.


Great communicators

All dogs are great communicators. Their every waking second is spent sending signals to the other living creatures in their lives. They do not waste time on idle chatter; there is purpose in nearly every movement, snort, yelp, growl and smile. Most of their waking hours are spent testing the people and animals they have allowed into their pack.


“Who is in charge?” is the most important game that Mr. Wilson plays.


Every day he tests me, and tries to usurp my status as king. A paw on my chest to wake me is actually, in his mind, a great start to the revolution.


By marking me high on my body with his scent he establishes dominance.


The cats that share our home must understand this ancient secret as well, because my sleeping form is a great target for a number of different paws.


Demanding breakfast is not just bad behavior from an unruly dog, it’s a clear signal that his needs need to be met before anybody else’s, or else.


Dashing out of the door when I open it tells me that he is in charge, and I had better follow.


It’s not that he thinks he would be a better king; rather he needs to know that the person he has trusted to be the leader of the pack is worthy. Once we have established the proper order, he can relax, and get on with his very important schedule.


Small things matter greatly when communicating with Mr. Wilson. He can complain all day long about not being fed first, it is up to me to handle his demands. He eats when we are through, period. He has learned that begging for scraps is beneath him, mostly because no scraps ever appear no matter how pathetic he chooses to act. He sits, and waits at an open door, overcoming his instinct to be the first one through.


Good behavior

These behaviors did not come naturally, they had to be taught. A good teacher tends to be a good leader in a dog’s eyes. When he has been rewarded for acting properly, his anxiety levels subside considerably, and he decides that I have passed his tests, and will be allowed to be the leader of the pack, for now. Any sign of weakness from me is an invitation for him to start the revolution all over.


A good leader does not rule with an iron fist. Learning from the creatures who inhabit the kingdom is essential to maintaining order. Only when everybody is in their proper place, or as Mr. Wilson sees it, in “pack order,” can any meaningful experiences be shared. My natural proclivity to go with the flow needed to be tweaked so that I could enjoy all of the wisdom that a seemingly simple, yet amazingly complex creature has to offer.


Cloudy memories

“The exuberance that he shows is remarkable, but it is not for everybody. Something happened in his past that keeps him from fully trusting everybody on sight,” I wrote in Mr. Wilson Makes it Home [Skyhorse Publishing, 2015].


“There must be some cloudy memories of pain in that little head of his, and in some way, certain people, through no fault of their own or no sinister, deep dark meanness hidden with friendly smiles and handshakes, bring those emotions to the forefront, but he doesn’t lash out at people who intimidate him, rather he cowers, and worries, but ultimately gets close enough for them to be touched by him.


“There is something everlasting about the spirit that accompanies a dog, something that as smart as we are we will never fully understand. We have the brains and reasoning ability to know everything, but what do we really know?


“Perhaps there is a completely different way of communicating that we cannot comprehend, something that far surpasses our ability to understand the world around us and the people in our lives.


“Maybe each species is gifted with senses that surpass what we think are the five biggies – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Our eyes see, and our ears hear, and our noses smell things. Our tongues taste and our skin feels, but is that all there is?


“We feel emotions like love, and fear, and hate, and sense those feelings in others, but how deeply? Is a dog able to sense those emotions as clearly as we can see written words on a page, or hear the crescendo as our favorite songs reach their climactic peak?


“I think so. I think they are capable of that, and things that we cannot imagine, and in their bodies that are vastly different from ours, I think that they too know when they are needed most and are able to make their feelings known with absolute clarity, and for those fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a dog’s attention the result is one of the things that makes the mysteries of living not only bearable, but incredible.”


Teaching me how to live

I spend a lot of time teaching Mr. Wilson how to act so that he can enjoy my company. In turn, he spends all of his time teaching me how to live.


Lessons like living in the moment cannot be missed when sharing your life with a dog.


Their ability to rise to any occasion, and to squeeze every last drop of joy from something as great and adventurous as a walk through the woods, or as mundane as taking a snooze with the king, are infectious.


Dogs live life on life’s terms. There are no “what ifs” in their language, only “what is.” Their complete lack of expectations makes everything they do the most important thing that has ever been done.


I like to emulate Mr. Wilson’s philosophy whenever I can. Some of my more difficult relationships have become more manageable simply by putting the lessons learned from him into play. It’s just no fun arguing with somebody whose only reason for living, is to live.


Michael Morse, a popular columnist and author, lives in Warwick, with his wife, Cheryl, two Maine Coon cats, Lunabelle and Victoria Mae, and Mr. Wilson, their dog.


Michael spent 23 years working in Providence as a firefighter/EMT before retiring in 2013 as Captain, Rescue Co. 5.


Morse was awarded the prestigious Macoll-Johnson Fellowship from The Rhode Island Foundation in 2012.


Morse is the author of two books, in addition to .  They are: Rescuing Providence, and Rescue 1, Providence. His next book, , will be out in December, 2015.


Think like your dog

Try as they may, our dogs simply cannot think like we do. We, however, have the ability to think like them. Every now and then it is imperative to do so, if for nothing more than to keep the peace at home.

Our dog, Mr. Wilson is an affable chap by anybody’s standards. He lives with us, know his place, guards our home to the best  his 12 pound fuzziness allows and seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He sits and stays, comes when called and does not hesitate when asked to “go to your crate.”

Those small things, and a few others were easy to achieve, not because I am a great trainer, rather because I

listened, first to my wife, who noticed that Mr. Wilson was miserable whenever I wasn’t around, and then to The Dreadlock Dog Man from Australia, Martin McKenna. 

Our first few days with our new dog were like The Canine Control Olympics. Every thing we did was a contest in Mr. Wilson’s mind. Feeding, barking, peeing, walking-every aspect of his new life was a test. He wanted to win, and do things his way, because that was the only way he knew. Through trial and error, some wins, some losses, he started the journey toward what I call Schnoodle Serenity. He could never have achieved his current relaxed, happy state of being without enduring The Olympics. He had to find out, without a shadow of doubt, exactly who was in charge.

At first, it appeared we had lost. One of the greatest feelings is to have another living, feeling and adorable being shower us with affection. Knowing that our new dog was using those tools to control us was a bitter pill to swallow.  It is my, and most dog owners desire to be liked by our pets-and therein lies a fundamental problem. Dogs “like” us differently than we “like” them. What we perceive as a gesture of affection is to the dog a gesture of dominance. Jumping, barking inappropriately, stealing food et al are all simply means of survival to our dogs. Without proper leaders, our dogs revert to their instinct, which basically is a quest to lead.  When they find a competent leader, then- and only then- do they decide to “like” us.

But the quest for harmony, love and fun with our dogs does not end there. Once leadership has been established it is up to us to maintain it. Our dogs will test us, re-test us, then test us again. It is a daily battle for them, and they need to know that the person in charge of their lives, happiness and comfort is capable and deserving of such trust.

After reading Martin’s book, The Boy who Talked to Dogs,  I decided that somebody who lived rough with a pack of wild dogs as a boy most likely had a far greater understanding of dog behavior and communication than I did. Dogs have subtle ways of communicating that are difficult for humans to comprehend, without being shown. Martin did not read about these signs, he learned from the dogs themselves, and I’m glad he did.

Using our superior intelligence and reasoning capabilities while teaching our dogs the rules of life with us makes training simple. The dogs listen to people they trust. They accept us as their superior. It can be no other way. When we allow our dogs to rule, all under the guise of love and affection, their lives are full of uncertainty, stress, anxiety and destructive behaviors.
It may be difficult to think that our dogs are constantly trying to usurp our leadership. Thinking that they are constantly testing us puts a little damper on that awesome relationship we share with our dogs. But in the big picture, when you stop letting your dog control you by using our instinctual need for acceptance, his life becomes far better for it.

And so will ours. Dogs are good. It is up to us to make them great.

Trucking water in Iraq

an excerpt from “City Life,” available this December. . .

I was watching “Saving Private Ryan” when my phone rang. My brother, Bob, calling from Iraq. I hadn’t heard from him in around two weeks. He was “on a mission.” We talked for a while, pretended things were normal for a few minutes, when that got old we talked about his situation. Grim, he acknowledged. Not much more can be said, but grim. He misses his wife and kids. We miss him. He’s back at his base, the plywood walls of his quarters welcome after two weeks on the road. Baghdad is especially disturbing he said. Two weeks through hell to transport water.


When I hung up I tried to watch the rest of the movie. When we were kids we would spend Saturday afternoons watching war movies on an old TV in our basement. I must be getting old and soft, I could barely focus on the screen through my blurred vision. I wiped my eyes with my sleeve and turned the TV off.