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Monthly Archives: February 2014

The House of the White Dogs

In January my little building of four apartments became the house of the white dogs. Our neighbors across the hall were dog sitting for two little white fluff balls. They were both smaller than Cricket, about the same size as Butterfly, and pure white rather than apricot laced. I first saw them out the window on a walk and my heart felt them right away. Two little white dogs! Two happy, skippy, barky dogs tangling their leashes and going in opposite directions. I felt like I knew them already.

Cricket hears something in the hall and must investigate.

Cricket hears something in the hall and must investigate.

We didn’t know their names at first, but we knew they were boys, because their pee was more decorative and higher up on the snow. Cricket and Butterfly would butt heads trying to be closest to the pee, to sniff deeply of their new friends.

Cricket takes a deep sniff of the new pee.

Cricket examines the new pee.

Dual sniffing

Dual sniffing

            The girls finally got to meet the boys in person after a few weeks. Their names were Abu and Fritz, and once they could see each other it was a sniff fest with no barking. When I’d met them the day before, Abu had bared his teeth at me and did not want to be friends, but when it was dog to dog, they were fine.

This guy looks a bit like Abu. (not my picture)

This guy looks a bit like Abu. (not my picture)

This one could be Fritz. (not my picture)

This one could be Fritz. (not my picture)

            The boys barked almost as much as Cricket, which was an incredible relief. From downstairs, it was hard to tell which apartment was full of barking. I liked feeling welcomed each time we came and went from the apartment, as if the boys were saying that they wished they could go with us, and visit with Cricket and Butterfly, and enjoy our company. It was really just nice to know someone was there. Dogs are generous about noticing people, and making sure you don’t feel invisible or alone.

            There are other dogs in our complex. There’s Maxine, the pug, who is very busy taking care of her new human brother. There’s Delilah, the beagle, who likes to hike up the hill but hates the snow. There are Chihuahuas and Cocker Spaniels, and other smallish dogs. I don’t know if there’s an official ban on bigger dogs, but I think it would be hard for a Great Dane to manage all of the stairs and small spaces.

            I feel such a pull to see the other dogs who live here, especially when I can hear them barking from inside of their apartments when I take the girls out during the day. I dream of running around and opening all of the doors so we can have a puppy party in the backyard. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

            I think the boys have gone now, because there is no more barking across the hall. I listen closely for a stray bark or growl, but I can’t hear anything.

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Adventures with Tom Tom in Washington, DC

            For the second year in a row we packed the dogs in the car and drove down to Washington DC, to see my great aunt, to celebrate her 98th birthday. She is, if anything, sharper than she was last year. She loves to tell a good story, or to hear one, and she loves to laugh. I’ve seen pictures of her father, and she has his smile, and his almost giddy capacity for joy in the little things. She’s up on the latest political news in Washington and on the latest gossip from family and friends. She writes emails and reads newspapers and stays up late watching TV. And she loves, and is loved by, her grand dog (and of course by her human grandson as well).

Zoe is the lovey-doviest dog I’ve ever met. She is the granddog, and the doggy daughter of Mom’s cousin/honorary little sister. Zoe is a red-haired Cockapoo, twice Cricket’s size, with almost none of Cricket’s angst.

Zoe

Zoe

            My great aunt doesn’t travel anymore, so we only get to see her on these yearly visits. For the trip this year, Mom bought a GPS thingy, called Tom-Tom. She was mostly worried about driving in Washington DC, and getting lost on all of the one way streets and complicated highways, but we turned the GPS on as soon as we left our parking lot, in case Tom-Tom could give us a better route off of Long Island. Except, Mom being Mom, she didn’t want to take the route Tom-Tom had planned out. She didn’t want to take Tom-Tom out of commission either, though, so every few blocks Tom-Tom’s female voice would give us a new way to get back to the “correct” route, by taking a u-turn, or a side road, or a left turn into traffic when she really lost her patience with us.

            Eventually, we gave in, and listened to her advice about upcoming traffic and alternative routes. Tom-Tom said it would be a four hour trip, but it ended up taking six hours. Maybe Tom-Tom doesn’t take bathroom breaks into account, or screaming and vomiting puppies, or rain.

Sorry Butterfly, no hairdryers on the road.

Sorry Butterfly, no hairdryers on the road.

            Butterfly only vomited once on this trip, which is an improvement over the seven times she threw up in the car last year. I still had to clean up her dog bed, and the blanket spread out across the back seat, and use up half a roll of paper towels and a lot of dog-odor-vanishing-spray, but after that one clean up, at a rest stop in the rain, she was okay.

            Cricket was another story. Each time we stopped for a pee break, the girls got soaked and had to be covered in paper towels, which Butterfly liked, and Cricket disdained. Cricket much preferred drying herself on my jeans and then crawling behind my neck to finish drying herself on my hair. She was fidgety, and antsy, and trying to steal food and tissues through the whole trip. Ideally, I would have walked Cricket to the point of exhaustion before putting her in the car, but my point of exhaustion and hers have drifted further and further apart as my walking has become more labored.

            It was a relief when we arrived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where we were staying. First of all, they have dog friendly parks every few blocks, with benches, and outdoor garbage cans, and trees to sniff, and other dogs. Second, it’s all flat ground instead of hills. I’ve been living in hilly neighborhoods my whole adult life and I miss the flat ground where even I feel like I could walk forever.

At a certain point, you don't notice the rain anymore.

At a certain point, you don’t notice the rain anymore.

            If it hadn’t been raining for most of the trip I would have done more walking, because there are always benches to rest on. They need all of the benches, for the homeless people to sleep on. It’s a strange feeling, to see such wealth and upward mobility and achievement right up against a huge and obvious homelessness problem.

            It rained all that day and the next, so that everywhere we went we brought puddles with us. It was embarrassing. We had to put our clothes and jackets in the dryer at the hotel just so that we could go outside again. Suffice it to say, this was not a sightseeing trip. It was a visiting trip. We were there to see Zoe and her mom and her grandma. A few glimpses of famous buildings was nice, but largely beside the point.

The dogs have taught me the importance of these visits. They know that you need to use all of your senses, and especially smell, to figure out where you are and who you love. You need to see and hear and smell and touch people in order to feel the connection instead of just thinking it.

Touch.

Touch.

            When we rode in the car over to my great aunt’s apartment, Mom and her cousin sat in the front seat of the car, and the three dogs sat with me in the back. I had Cricket standing on my shoulders, at first, and then on my lap (guarding), and Butterfly and Zoe squashed against each other, and me, along the seat. Butterfly was wearing her plaid jacket, and with all of the squishing and cozying somehow the jacket came undone and ended up under her on the seat.

            Butterfly did so much better this time. She didn’t pee once in my great aunt’s apartment. She even calmed down and relaxed next to Zoe during dinner. She followed Zoe to the kitchen for American cheese (Zoe’s favorite), and then they begged for food together at the table, and then napped tushy to tushy on the floor. Eventually, Butterfly slept under the piano while Zoe and Cricket hogged the scratchies.

Being around Zoe makes me dream of a three dog life, especially if Zoe could be the third dog. I don’t think I could sneak her out of DC, though, without helicopters and police cars coming after me. She is well loved.

A three dog walk.

A three dog walk.

            Overall, the trip went well, though I do wish I could have visited with Sunny and Bo before we left. But I’m pretty sure Tom-Tom would have had something snide to say if I’d tried to program her to take us to the White House; something along the lines of “U-turn! U-turn! U-turn!” GPS thingies don’t like being chased by secret service agents any more than humans do. So touchy.

The Olympics, or Synchronized Peeing

The first Olympics I really remember was in 1988, with the Battle of the Brians, and the Battle of the Carmens, and Liz Manley coming out of nowhere with her cowboy hat. I’m a figure skating fan, obviously.

            I used to think about taking Cricket skating, on a lake, if a rink wouldn’t accept her. I think she would prefer hockey skates to figure skates, so she could do fast stops and flick snow on me. Butterfly would look adorable in a figure skating dress and four little white skates.

"Can I have skates?"

“Can I have skates?”

            This is the first Olympics where I don’t wish I could go in person; most of the time it sounds so exciting, to visit another country, to be there in the stands for the opening ceremonies, and to cheer on my favorite athletes. I love the ideal of nations coming together in peace and sportsmanship. I can feel my heart expanding as I watch the march of the athletes into the stadium. I learn a lot about the cultures of other countries, I learn the names of other countries, and enjoy their fashion choices. But I don’t want to go to Russia.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with stories about Refuseniks, Jews who were not allowed to leave Russia or to practice Judaism freely in Russia. But also, Putin scares me. And Siberia scares me. The extreme cap on free speech, and the ease with which they throw people into prison, scare me.

            But I still love watching the Olympics on TV, whether it’s on time or delayed or taped on my DVR. Somehow they get me to watch ski jumping, and snow boarding, and rhythmic gymnastics, and beach volley ball, for hours. I think I even watched a few minutes of curling last time around.

            I wish my girls could participate in an Olympics. They could have all kinds of events specifically for dogs:

·        The great poopy run – judged like a rhythmic gymnastics routine.

Cricket is in the lead!

Cricket is in the lead!

Look at her go!

Look at her go!

·        The long distance pee trip – a dual test, both of how long can you walk, and how many times can you pee in one walk without refueling.

·        Synchronized peeing, a pairs’ event – two dogs trying to match their stance and the length of the pee at the same time. Butterfly and Cricket have been practicing for this event for months.

Consecutive peeing, it's a start.

Consecutive peeing, it’s a start.

·        The escape from your harness event – how fast, and with what level of ingenuity can you get out of your harness? Cricket is the odds on favorite!

·        The barkathon – endurance, volume, artistry. And then, the group barkathon!

Prepping for the barkathon.

Prepping for the barkathon.

Butterfly's looking to Cricket for lessons.

Butterfly’s looking to Cricket for lessons.

            Wouldn’t a group barkathon be the ultimate way to end the closing ceremonies?

Murdoch Mysteries


 

            Over winter break, when the TV shows were all on hiatus and replaced with football and hallmark movies, I fell into a DVD palooza of Murdoch Mysteries. I’d seen the first season of the show on PBS a few years ago, but then it disappeared and I assumed the show had stopped being made. When I went to the library to find something, anything, to fill the empty TV space, I saw six seasons of Murdoch just sitting on the shelves.

murdoch mysteries

            The show is Canadian and stars Yannick Bisson, who I recognized from a little movie I fell in love with as a teenager called “Hockey Night.” He was the classic long-lashed pretty teenage boy, and I was into that sort of thing.

Hockey Night

Hockey Night

            Murdoch Mysteries is set in turn of the twentieth century Toronto. Murdoch is a catholic detective in a largely protestant town, but his real uniqueness is that he’s scientific and inventive in his detecting techniques. He comes up with all kinds of borderline-anachronistic devices to solve his cases.

            His muse is the female coroner, one of the first generation of female doctors, and she is fascinated by his ideas and appreciative of his respect for her work. There’s a goofy constable, who proves himself to be kind and intelligent, despite some off the wall ideas, and a gruff inspector who recognizes Murdoch’s genius, and supports it, and only occasionally gets competitive and restless in his leadership role.

            These are good people, nice people. They travel through different aspects of Toronto society and do CSI type stuff and meet important figures, like Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford and Arthur Conan Doyle and prime ministers and so on. There’s something chaste about the show, because of the Catholicism of Murdoch and the time period. Murdoch lives in a boarding house and rides a bicycle, despite being somewhere in his thirties.

The slow burn of the romance between the doctor and the detective, the chaste way they court each other, the family feeling among the police officers, and maybe the Canadian-ness of the show, all called out to me.

When I was three or four years old, I think, we took family camping trips to Prince Edward Island, in Canada. I remember the ferry across to the island, and I remember the cliffs, because my brother threatened to push me over the side, but more must have seeped in, because when I eventually watched the miniseries of Anne of Green Gables, set in Prince Edward Island, the place seemed very familiar. I could almost smell it.

"What smell?"

“What smell?”

            I like binge watching TV shows. I did that long before the latest Netflix trend. I watched most of JAG and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Murder, She Wrote in two and three episode bursts, day after day, when they replayed on basic cable. It was such a relief to not have to wait for the next episode for a whole week. It allowed me to see patterns in the show, but more importantly, it let me bond with the characters more fully. It’s like when you talk to a friend for six hours at a shot instead of just a few minutes here and there.

Cricket, during a long night.

Cricket, during a long night.

            The dogs seemed to like Murdoch too, though maybe not for the same reasons as I did. My dogs are happiest when we are all together in the living room and focused on one thing. They’re not huge fans of one human at each computer, or humans wandering from room to room, separately. They prefer to be stretched out on the floor with the comfort of knowing that no one is leaving the room and this is where we all belong.

            I tend to prefer that too.

TV time

TV time

            In the midst of the snow, and the freakishly cold weather, and holidays that we don’t celebrate, we created this oasis of friends on the TV to keep us company. The only important breaks, to the dogs, were pee breaks out into the cold, and snacks. Otherwise, we were all happily snuggled into the warm living room, with Murdoch and his mysteries.

Cozy.

Cozy.