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In the Heat

I hate the heat. It’s still only spring on Long Island, but the temperature went up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit the other day, and then it went down again, so that the heat in my building came on, until it felt like it was at least eighty degrees again. Just to piss me off. When I get too warm, by even a few degrees, I start to get double vision, bad headaches, dizziness, and sudden bouts of nausea that make me want to sit down on the floor for a few hours until the world stops spinning. It’s unpleasant.

At my synagogue, people are always telling me how chilly it is with the air conditioning on. Aren’t you cold? Four women ask me, one after the other. If it’s over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then no, I’m not chilly, I’m fine.

I’m considering attaching a small fan to Cricket’s head so that when she, inevitably, jumps on my chest and tries to smother me awake, at least I’ll get a nice cool breeze for my trouble.

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“Where do you think you are going to put this fan, Mommy?”

Cricket is currently a big fluffball, because my mom prefers the fluff and always conspires with Cricket to put off grooming for as long as possible, until not only can’t we see Cricket’s eyes, but she can’t see us either, through the encroaching hair from her forehead above, and her cheeks and nose below. It’s possible that she’s staring at me with searing hatred; it’s also possible that she’s asleep. I’ll never know.

Cricket no eyes 1

“I don’t see a problem.”

If I were Cricket, I would go to the cabinet and take out the rounded-edge doggy scissors, and bring them to one of the nearby humans, as a hint. But Cricket is not me, so she hides under the couch and pretends it doesn’t bother her at all that she can’t see, and has started to smell of eye snot, and is probably sweating to death in that fluffy coat. Totally not a problem. Everything is cool here.

Butterfly likes to sit in the direct line of the fan, or the air conditioner, and feel the breeze in her hair, but she also likes to go out for walks in the heat of the day, so she’s an enigma to me.

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“I’m an enigma? What’s an enigma?”

I would like to complain about the current changeability of the weather, and how it goes from hot and humid, to rainy, to cold and windy, and then to mild and pleasant, so that I am forced to change from my winter jacket to my fall jacket to my rain coat al in one day. But by July, the heat and humidity in New York will be so unrelenting that I will be hugging my air conditioner for dear life. Even Cricket will be splayed out on the floor, looking for one last cool spot. Though she still won’t be begging for a haircut, or a bath. She could be dying of heat stroke and she’d still see the bathtub as a torture chamber. So, I’m trying to embrace the moments of nice weather when they come up and ignore the rest for now. Maybe, along with putting a fan on her head, I should get Cricket a book bag so she can carry all of my weather options with her: like a bottle of water, an extra sweater, and maybe a rain hat. Then all I’ll have to do is convince people that she’s my service dog and bring her with me everywhere I go. I mean, what could go wrong with that?

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“Help Me!!!!”

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The future service dog.

 

 

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Hairy Dogs

 

My Mom likes when Cricket is so fluffy you can barely see that there’s a dog in there, but I actually prefer to be able to see her eyes. And I prefer when poop doesn’t stick to her butt.

Cricket in full fluff (in her cousin's iron grip).

Cricket in full fluff (in her cousin’s iron grip).

Cricket has, more than once, been shaved down to the pink. I feel so guilty when she gets matted enough for that, but I try to remind myself that: a, this is what her hair is prone to; and, b, she thinks the comb and the brush are instruments of evil.

Cricket, shaved down to size.

Cricket, shaved down to size.

Combing seems to genuinely cause Cricket pain, maybe because of the cottony texture of her hair. I think I’d have to oil her down every day to keep her hair from knotting, and she would, inevitably, rub herself against every surface in the apartment, including me, to get the oil off..

I used to try electric clippers on her, but they snagged in her hair, and then overheated, before I could get much done. I’ve tried spray conditioners, but she thinks I’m poisoning her and bares her teeth at me, which leads to getting the conditioner in her mouth, which probably does taste a bit like poison.

"You're killing me!"

“You’re killing me!”

But, despite all of that trouble, I think Cricket’s hair is what makes people ooh and ahh over her. People ask about her when we walk her at the beach. They want one just like her. There’s something about the poodle mixes – the Cockapoos and the Golden Doodles and the Maltipoos, and on and on. Something about that loose fluffy curly hair makes them so irresistible. It’s like a gallon jug of oxytocin has just been poured down your throat and you have to pet that dog.

That hair!

That hair!

Butterfly’s hair is thicker and has more natural oils in it than Cricket’s. It rarely mats. It does absorb odors very well though. She often smells like stale chicken and corn chips, which is odd, because I never feed her corn chips.

Butterfly, dreaming of corn chips.

Butterfly, dreaming of corn chips.

The other thing she can smell like is pee, but putting her in the sink for a rinse is not a big deal. Cricket has to cover her eyes, or hide under the bed, to avoid the visual trauma of seeing another dog take a bath, but Butterfly just stands in the sink and shivers a little bit. She doesn’t even mind smelling like shampoo, or having her tushy hair trimmed while she’s there.

"What's a bath?"

“What’s a bath?”

The only problem with cutting Butterfly’s hair at home is that her hair is so straight that all of my mistakes are obvious. On Cricket, the curls hide some of the unevenness, but I had to trim Butterfly’s hair around her eyes and nose recently, and there are now bald patches. On her face.

"What's wrong with long hair?"

“What’s wrong with long hair?”

When Cricket’s hair starts to get fluffy, but not yet fluffy enough to put her through the trauma of a hair cut, she seems to fluff up only in particular places. Her face, for example, doubles in width. Not only are her eyes made into tiny black dots, but her cheeks spread out. The other places where she puffs out are her back legs, at the hip area. She’s suddenly a voluptuous female, with a big butt, wide hips and a tiny waist, which is very much at odds with her tomboy personality.

But in full fluff, Cricket looks like a lamb. And the fact is, when she’s in the mood to snuggle, she acts like a lamb too. She’s soft and sweet and cozy, and she’s generous with her fluff, sharing warmth with her sister and her people.

Snuggle happy.

Snuggle happy.

It’s almost time for another haircut, but I’ve been putting it off. I just need a little bit more snuggle time before she goes back to her no nonsense tomboy hair.

Petting Dogs

 

My dogs are scratchy gluttons. If I keep going with the scratchies for as long as they ask, first they yawn, then they close their eyes, then they start to relax into mush, and then they don’t need any more scratchies because they are asleep.

"Excuse me. I'm getting my scratchies now."

“Excuse me. I’m getting my scratchies now.”

If Cricket’s feeling grumpy and I start to scratch her head and ears and under her chin, I can almost see the neurons making better connections in her brain and sending calming signals throughout her body.

"I'm not sleepy at all. More scratchies."

“I’m not sleepy at all. More scratchies.”

Given the amount of petting my dogs seem to need every say, I wonder how humans survive on so little. Just to get through a harried day of walks and meals and naps, Cricket tells me, she needs at least an hour of petting. She knows instinctively that petting is good for her, that it makes her feel better – whether it’s freeing up her chi, releasing neurotransmitters, or relaxing her muscles, she feels better because of it.

Butterfly loves her scratchies.

Butterfly loves her scratchies.

And, finally, Cricket has been scratched enough.

And, finally, Cricket has been scratched enough.

Dogs are safe to touch, because we aren’t afraid that they will misconstrue our attentions, and because if they don’t want to be touched they are not so polite that they will continue to allow contact, the way humans will. Humans are often too polite for their own good, trying not to hurt someone else’s feelings and sacrificing their own safety instead.

Touch between humans can go so quickly from comforting to threatening. If someone you like and trust squeezes your shoulder or gives you a hug, that can make you feel better. But if someone you don’t like, or don’t know, does the same thing, the violation of boundaries can be overwhelming. We have so many (necessary) rules in place to protect us from unwanted and threatening human contact, but not much has been clearly stated about what kinds of healthy touch we need.

Medicine is often practiced from a distance, through scans and blood tests and a few vague questions, but there’s a lot to be said for the idea that touch can be used to diagnose, and especially to treat, certain problems. Touch in general can be a way to transmit kindness, which is one of the most healing things we can give each other.

My mother has been having nerve pain and numbness in her feet for the past few years and numerous doctors and tests and medications have failed to relieve, or even to diagnose the cause of the problem. Feeling desperate, Mom finally took the recommendation of a friend and tried a cranial sacral therapist. He’s a doctor of osteopathy and covered by Medicare, so she figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot.

He talks about moving plates in her skull and other hoo haa things that don’t make much sense to me when Mom reports back about her visits, but as a result of these treatments, her pain is going away. And with each visit, the pain stays away longer and longer. I don’t understand any of it, but it seems to be working.

I’ve had a few EEG’s over the past few years and, though I’m not a fan of the 24 or 48 hours of traipsing around with machinery attached to my head, I love how it feels as the little sensors are individually attached. I don’t know why this is such a magical feeling. I feel the same thing when my hair gets shampooed before a haircut. It’s not the same as a massage, where only skin is being touched. I wonder if this is what petting feels like to my hair-covered dogs, as if the touch reaches down to the root of the hair, deeper than the skin.

In summer camp, girls braided each others hair or drew letters on each other’s backs with a finger, as an excuse to touch and be touched. And it relieved some of the homesickness we all felt.

My dogs try to pet me, each in her own way. Cricket paws at me, or lifts my hand with her nose, when she wants me to scratch her, and then cuddles into my side or onto my lap. Butterfly noses my head if I’m exercising on the floor. She likes to sniff my hair or my armpit and then sit there and stare at me while I do my crunches. But her real offering is the way she licks my hands with such love and care. It’s not quite the same as petting, but it might actually be better.

Butterfly lickies on the way.

Butterfly’s licks are on the way.