Category Archives: Dogs

Jesus Lady

Jesus Lady lived a few houses down from us, on the house near the top of the hill (we lived nearer to the bottom).

She had a mean yellow dog and loud signs taped to the large windows of her front patio, which read:

JESUS SAVES THOSE WHO ARE SAVED.

JESUS LOVES.

JESUS WEEPS FOR YOUR SINS.

Etc., etc.

She was a small woman, but physically strong and persistent, as most people who believe themselves to be righteous often are. She waited in front of the patio (many school kids had to pass her house in their decent down the hill, towards home) and rushed forth to shove pamphlets about Jesus and how he loves and saves and weeps into our hands. She would hold on to coats or sleeves demanding to know if we loved Jesus in turn, and whether we were saved or not.

She did this most of her days, often with her mean old dog in tow. Together, they dominated the sidewalk. I came home from school with many pamphlets, which my parents used to wrap fish guts and egg shells so that they wouldn’t stick to the inside of the garbage can.

Jesus Lady got to know my face. How could she not? We saw each other almost every day. I went to that school for years.

I tried to dissuade her, get her to leave me alone. I really did. Told her I wasn’t interested, that I didn’t believe in god or Jesus, that I was Buddhist (and hence, good insofar as matters of the soul were concerned).

But Jesus Lady was not moved. Would not be made to see anything but her god-driven mission to save. Us. All.

So, one day I did the only thing that seemed natural. I lied right to Jesus Lady’s Jesus face.

“Yes, I am saved now.”

The transformation was instantaneous: she lit up like a fiberglass Jack-O-Lantern. I remember it well, her expansive grin slightly grotesque, her pallor decidedly…orange.

“Oh, praise Jesus! Praise Jesus! Praise Him!”

I expected her to see through the lie (I did not put much effort to selling it, just mechanically said the words, Yes. I. Am. Saved. Now.). That she accepted it so readily taught me that truth and validation are not the same thing, and that a lie, one beautiful lie between two people, can set them each free.

And that nothing is free.

From that day forward, I was able to walk by Jesus Lady (dog or no dog in tow) with only a mild, “There she is! The girl who is saved!” rather than the usual litany of “You’re going to Hell/Devil child!/Buddhism isn’t real!”

Etc., etc.

From that day forward, Jesus Lady watched me walk by, the child she saved for Jesus’ sake, who never had a word otherwise to share with her and whose friends snickered at her back with every, “She is saved! Praise Him,” that flew from her thin lips, empty words that they were.

***

Jesus Lady, I eventually learned, had an adult son. I’m pretty certain his name was Christopher (of course it was), but not in a factual way.

By then I was working most days in our city’s grimy downtown, one cashier among many.

That’s where I saw them, one summer’s day: Jesus Lady and her son (the dog was long, long dead) walking the streets, pamphlets in hand.

Her son. He was dressed as Jesus, complete with a straggly fake beard, flowing robes, a crown of (pipe-cleaner) thorns and a giant wooden cross strapped to his back, which immobilized his arms (his mother, naturally, handled the pamphlets).

It was quite the display; he really seemed to be suffering, under all that grab in that all that heat, bearing that mighty cross day after day in a downtown core that was already half-dead in its dying.

It took me days to see it, but then I did.

The cross. It had a set of roller skate wheels attached to its bottom, allowing this Jesus to master the sidewalks, but also to struggle against the burden of his beliefs quite convincingly, if he so chose. It was really up to him.

I wonder if he ever thanked god for that.

***

Did you know that “dog” spelled backward is “god”?

People say it is also the same thing the other way around, but as a non-believer, I have my doubts.

 

 

 

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Filed under Dogs, Mind and Body, Names, People, Race, Religion, THE PAST

Idiot. Dog.

I warned him, but he didn’t listen.

“Don’t touch the dog. He doesn’t like it.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll make him like me!” He smiled, his mouth an exhausted rubber band pulled listlessly to both sides of a disingenuous and frankly uninspiring face.

Not exactly a “no means no” kind of guy.

Lou snapped at him twice before he gave up, retreating with a look of pure resentment shot toward me like I hadn’t just warned him, hadn’t told him so. Exactly so.

Of course, it was the dog’s fault, wasn’t it? And because I am responsible for the dog, Lou’s not liking this particular man was also my fault; the dog is still my dog, after all, and it shouldn’t snap at anyone, least of all someone determined to make him like him.

Imagine making something, someone, anyone like you. Being blameless to such fault. Imagine believing in that, as a person.

Honestly…

According to a book I read about filmmaking, an easy way to signal to the audience that a character is a good person is to have them pet a dog.

The dog, of course, has to let them. Has to want to be approached in the first place, to say nothing of the person approaching it.

Now. Imagine that.

 

 

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Filed under Dogs, People, Politics, Relationships

Stranger Encounters

They happen.

At times and in turns unsolicited, unprovoked, utterly unreal.

 

1. Flower Market, New Delhi

Random Man: “You there! You are at the flower market and you can’t smile?”

 

2. Dog Park, High Park, Toronto

Dogwalker [runs up to me and Lou]: “Look at him! Him? He’s beautiful. Lovely bone structure. You’re lucky to have him. Congratulations!”

 

3. Coffee Time, Kitchener

Woman Steps Through Front Door: “Dang, dang! Y’all got none of them there cheese cussiants, do ya?”

 

4. Beaches, Toronto

City Garbage Worker [jumps off side of moving truck ]: “Hey! [points to truck driver] He’s Filipino!”

 

5. Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City

Vendor [referring to Stephen]: “He has such a gentle face!”

 

6. Beaches, Toronto

Random Man [points to Lou]: “Heinz 57! Heinz 57!”

 

7. Downtown Kitchener

Random Man [blocks my path, bows]: “Ni hao, ni hao, ni hao!”

 

8. Calgary, Alberta

Random Man [yelling from driver’s side of parked pick up truck as Stephen and I walk down the street]: “Got him walking on the outside of the sidewalk! Good man you got there!”

 

 

 

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Filed under Communications, Dogs, People, Places, Plants, Uncategorized

Please Select That Which Best Applies

If I do not know the ordering procedure of a particular eating establishment, I will:

a) Decide to go somewhere else.

b) Eventually convince myself that I am not that hungry after all.

c) Stare on in puzzlement until it’s officially socially awkward for everyone involved.

d) Turn heel. Run home.

e) b & d

f) a & c

 

Your puppy:

a) Is the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Your puppy has therefore ruined my life.

b) Is the absolute best.

c) I WANT A PUPPY.

d) I cannot afford a puppy right now.

f) All of the above.

 

What That Guy Said?:

a) “Old.”

b) “Ode.”

c) “Auld.”

d) “Bald.”

e) “Sassafras gonads.”

 

PUNCTUATION THROWDOWN:

a) .

b) !

c) : OR ;

d) c OR Both

e) c & d

f) How come no one cares about ampersand?

 

Discreet Flatulence:

a) Acceptable.

b) Diabolical.

c) You ruined it by calling if “flatulence.”

 

Book or Movie:

a) Book.

b) Movie.

c) Both is not an answer.

c) Both.

 

You’ll be in:

a) My heart.

b) My thoughts and/or prayers.

c) Deep shit.

d) Shallow Paraguay.

 

I would love to:

a) Help.

b) Be able to help.

c) Consider helping.

d) Consider being able to help.

e) b, c & d

f) Never a.

 

Choose Your Fighter:

a) Emperor Penguin.

b) Death Cap Mushroom.

c) Giant Spider.

d) Tiny T-Rex.

e) Haunted Waterslide.

f) Ugly American.

 

Nonsensical:

a) “Owning the Libs.”

b) “I can fix them.”

c) “I’m sorry if…”

d) “All lives matter.”

e) “Books are dead.”

f) All of the above (plus a few others, TBA).

g) All of the above (but e especially).

 

Good answer:

a) Yes.

b) No.

 

Best answer:

a) No.

b) GOD NO.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Communications, Dogs, Interruptions, Mind and Body, Places

Dream State

Lou got me up early and it was a relief.

“I’m tired of dreaming,” I told him. “Let’s go out.”

It was a miserable, wet day and the sun had already decided to shun the remainder. That was also fine, also a great relief. Such a pitiless contrast between the dream and waking world was exactly what I needed to ground myself in the here and now. The real world?

I suppose I could describe the dreams; these dreams I’ve been having over the past couple of days (and days). And I do remember them.

But no.

The imagery is still too sharp, the flashes of dream reality too visceral. I feel more than I remember, but that’s more than enough.

Why this? Why now? That is not for me to say.

Let me just say: the subconscious is a lewd, lewd place.

Also: I am so over cowboy hats.

 

 

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Filed under Dogs, Dreams, Interruptions, Mind and Body, Pets

Conversations About Dogs With Near Strangers

I had met Shari before, at a seminar, but we did not speak to each other, the class getting much in the way of that.

On our second meeting, waiting in the dim little hallway for the class to begin, we talked about dogs.

Hers is 8 years old, a bulldog/boxer mix with an attitude problem that she’s tried to work with him to, if not remedy (he’s too far gone for that), mitigate. I told her about Lou, our 14 year old dachshund, and even got into the specifics of his many issues and countless idiosyncrasies, and all the things we’ve done to help him along with those.

Strangers can talk to each other about their dogs for days; dogs being a “safe” topic for discussion with people you don’t really know all that well – a way to talk about yourself without having to talk about yourself.

Dogs help us open up.

A confession, then, from Shari: “I know this sounds weird, but I’m already thinking of the day I’ll have to put my dog down. I shouldn’t be, he’s old but not that old. But I can’t seem to help it.”

“I think about that too,” I replied. “It’s not so weird.”

“Well, when I have to, I’ll have to. You know?”

Dogs teach us about responsibly (to think about it, to take it seriously). They help us with our empathy. And they teach us about mortality: the impermanence of things, and what (if anything) we can do about it.

Another confession from Shari: “I’m worried about how my newborn son will get along with my dog. But we’ll just have to figure something out. I am not getting rid of the dog.”

Ah, yes. Of course.

Dogs help us prioritize.

 

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Filed under Animals, Death, Dogs, Mind and Body, People, Philosophy

Dog Sit

Recently, my sister asked if I wouldn’t mind dog sitting.

I love dogs. Love them! So why not?

I have a dog myself: Louis, my 14 year-old dachshund. More dogs? An additional dog? Sure! Why would I mind? What would there be to mind?

Turns out, I did mind. I mind, a lot.

So much minding over so much to be minded about:

 

1. Smell

Dogs smell. Not just the ability or the power (to smell) but the fact of the thing itself (the smell of dog). Dogs. Smell. Did you know that? This dog, the one I’m dog sitting, smells. Like dog. Like a big dog, so much bigger than a dachshund, let alone a 14 year-old dachshund and his dachshund smell I’ve been smelling for so many years I don’t smell it anymore. Big dog smell. In my house. Just wafting around, riding the currents of our A/C like some rude, musky little ghost.

2. Space

I live in a tiny place with tiny furniture and this dog – with his big dog paws and big dog butt and big dog poops and big scoops of dog food that go into making the big dog poops – cannot seem to maneuver without bumping into something or knocking something down or pushing something – a carefully placed something, mind you, that brings together the room just so – totally, utterly into the worst space imaginable (i.e. to be crushed underfoot or under such garish light or harsh angle(s) as to force me on more than one occasion to question my sense of taste; my ability to see the beauty in life itself).

3. Hair

 Everywhere. Every goddamn nook and cranny in a home full of nooks and crannies. This dog’s hair is not fur but hair, OK? Tiny little eyelash things that – while pixyish and cute upon first blush – have become a plague upon our household. They, too, ride the air currents, whirling here and there, landing where they will, be it in the corners of the room, on the stovetop or in unguarded eyes and noses and mouths. Actually, forget about simply acting as a garnish on our spaghetti or in our tea, these little hairs everywhere are now are part of the chemical makeup of every single thing to be found in our place.

4. Water

This particular dog spills about half the water he drinks out the sides of his mouth while drinking. Socks are a luxury we can no longer afford, lest they become soaked in pungent spillover dog-snot water. Thank god for the hardwood floors, though our place being as old as it is, the water tends to pool in odd places where the wood is uneven, thus forming a series of pools that somehow remind me of the surface of the moon.

 

So, you know, after all this I realized something rather crucial about myself: I may not love dogs. May never have loved them at all. Just my dog. My singular, very particular dog who himself has caused me no end of trouble. No other dogs need apply. I’m good. I’m set.

I’M DONE.

***

Recently, a friend asked to if I wouldn’t mind babysitting.

I’m still laughing.

I have not stopped laughing.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Dogs, Family, Interruptions, People, Pets

Encounters Both Mundane & Strange (a.k.a. Midnight Neighbours)

Stephen and I have taken to taking late-night walks because the dog cannot (possibly will not) walk in the ungodly daytime summer heat.

Over the course of these past weeks and months, I’ve come to notice certain neighbours: Midnight Neighbours, who seem to only come out at night to do their various neighbour/nighttime things.

(Midnight being, of course, a name. I don’t always see them at Midnight, and they do come out at other times of the day. Midnight just sets the context and is specific to my POV).

(Also: “Midnight Neighbours” seems both descriptive and cool).

(Doesn’t it?)

 

1. Green Bin Hilda

Her name may not be Hilda. I don’t know for sure what her name is, but I once heard someone call out to her from her bungalow and the name sounded something like “Hilda.”

Lit up by the awful yellow streetlight, GBH’s seemingly disembodied head can be seen hovering in the corner of the front window facing the street. She watches. She’s a watcher.

She is also a rummager.

Twice now on garbage days, after Stephen, the dog and I walked well past her house, GBH rushed outside and across the street so that she could take a peek inside the green bins left out in the night for pick up in the morning.

(Mind you, the city’s green bins are built to deter raccoons: to open them, you have to grab a black handle that juts out from top and turn it just so.)

I watched the watcher. She scanned the contents of the bins, moved an item or two around, nodded approvingly, shut the lid and then walked back across the street and into her own house.

We’ve never spoken about it, GBH and I, and us. We’ve never spoken, GBH and I, and us, and eye contact has been spotty at best.

Still: why?

Why those bins, Hilda? Just those bins, Hilda? I have so many questions, though I admit they are only variations of the same.

Why, Hilda? How come?

Oh. And also: Hilda, would you ever approve of the contents of my green bin?

Could you?

 

2. The Sculptor

The Sculptor is a rather affable guy decked out in ripped jeans who plays one-man street hockey with a tennis ball and a makeshift stick that is too short for his tall frame, causing him to chase the ball with a practiced hunch and shuffling gait. He never falls.

I have never encountered him sober. He typically has a Bud Light in hand and, when he is not busily engaged in street hockey, he will raise it to toast you as you pass his property, which a lot of people must do because it lies on a direct path to transit.

Other times, he is working.

There are elabourate rock “sculptures” strewn all about his otherwise overgrown front yard: squat objets d’art of stacked river rocks that strike me somehow as being a gathering of disenchanted “rockmen.” A union meeting perhaps? Or maybe some sort of townhall meeting for sexist quartz and granite. Whatever is going on, The Sculptor can often be seen moving the rocks/men here and there; adding to them, taking things away or incorporating the occasional wind-chime or hubcap among their accumulated masses acquired from who knows where.

Once, while I was checking my phone in front of his house, he yelled at me from somewhere inside:

“NO PICTURES. DELETE! DELETE!”

He must have seen the light against the darkness of the streets. Or maybe he too was a disembodied head in a the window. Hard to tell, because the streetlamp by The Sculptor’s house is busted.

I wonder what my face must have looked like, illuminated by the screen of my smartphone.

It has never occurred to me to take a picture of the rockmen, though I admit it does not surprise me that he would get riled up at the prospect of anyone doing that. The Sculptor’s sculptures are his and his alone.

 

3. Basketball Shorts

Basketball Shorts is not young, not small and not an athlete. His clothing is merely more of a uniform consisting of an assortment of tank tops and the same pair of basketball shorts, the kind that just skim the tops of his the crooked domes that make up his kneecaps.

His primary function seems to be that of sitting in front of his house, on a too-small faded plastic chair, making intense eye-contact with passersby. He lives 2 streets across and down from us and I appreciate the distance, truly.

The other night, at around 11:15PM, we passed him walking our dog as he was walking his, a tiny Yorkie. He continued on his way and we on ours, walking past his house, to the corner and then turning to go down the opposite block. Stephen and I were far along down the block, many large houses away, when we paused in our conversation at the sound of some distant babbling.

A man’s voice – B.S. on the corner, at the intersection we had left as we turned away from his block. We couldn’t see his face. We could barely make out his form, but as his outline is quite distinctive I’m sure it was him, there, in the flesh. Him and no other. He no longer had the dog (or at least, I didn’t see it).

To get to where he was, he must have backtracked, gone past his home to end up at that corner.

He was frustrated – angry even – and talking to…who?

Us?

We were far enough away from him by this time that we would be little more than vague figures on a dark street. Had he gone out looking for us (because he would have had to, not knowing our intended path)? I didn’t see anybody else there, in his general vicinity, but then why talk at somebody’s back from a distance if you’re trying to make a point to them, whatever that point may be?

“I saw you…you moved the pylon! I know where you live! This is ridiculous! Pylon there – You moved…pylon! Pylon! Ridiculous!”

Code? These peculiar words were carried to us by the wind, and were the only ones to reach us from his remote though incessant chatter. Although, to his credit, there are some pylons set up around his block due to some city work being undertaken there this summer. He had something there at least.

Know where you live? A threat? I doubt very much he knows where we live, have never seen him on our street, though in addition to living 2 streets across and down from us, he also appears to live in moments like these.

Or perhaps not. His voice had the quality of a broken reed jammed into the mouthpiece of a rusted saxophone: it sounded thin, out-of-practice, forced. He, being the most able (or willing) of our Midnight Neighbours to wander the furthest from his house, seems also, unlike Green Bin Hilda and The Sculptor, to be the most unsettled because of it.

Another possibility: he wasn’t talking to anyone – no one – at all. Maybe that, in the end, is where he really lives, speaking of bringing things home.

 

 

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Filed under City Life, Dogs, People, Relationships, Routines

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

________________________________________________

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Loose Facts

The Facts are These:

1. William Lyon Mackenzie King (not to be confused with William Lyon Mackenzie), Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, had three dogs named Pat. Not at the same time: he had one dog (named Pat), the dog (Pat) died, and then he got another dog and named it Pat. He did this three times: Pat I, Pat II, Pat III.

William-Lyon-MacKensize-King

Three Kings.

Rumour had it that Mackenzie King had at least one of the Pats stuffed and mounted after its death, but this is untrue. The rumour, however, is so close to what appears to be the truth that it is often repeated as if true. A difference that makes no difference.

Three Irish Terriers. Three dogs named Pat. No taxidermy involved whatsoever. Séances to commune with the dead, however, were involved, including Mackenzie King’s desire to speak with Pat (the dead one) as well as the likes of his long-dead mother and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister.

***

2. Barbara Streisand revealed last week that she had her Coton de Tulear, Samantha, cloned. She named her new, clone(d) dogs Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet (they wear red and purple ribbons, respectively, so that you can tell them apart). Streisand also has another dog, another Coton de Tulear, named Miss Fanny.

Miss Fanny is a distant cousin of the first dog, Samantha.

The more things change.

Three Coton de Tulears. One dog (Samantha), two clones of dog (Miss Scarlet, Miss Violet), another a cousin or some such relation (Miss Fanny).

Actually, four dogs were cloned from the first, Samantha. The runt of the litter died, the other clones – not Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet – were given away (five dogs, according to Streisand, would have been too much to handle and Miss Fanny was there to stay). Cloning costs a lot, it certainly does, but Streisand certainly has it.

***

3. Lisa Simpson’s first cat, Snowball, was hit by a car (a Chrysler driven by the mayor’s druken brother, Clovis). She named her second cat Snowball II. When Snowball II was hit by a car (in this case, Dr. Hibbert’s SUV) and killed, Lisa adopted a new cat, Snowball III, who promptly drowned in a fish tank, and led her to get another cat, Coltrane, who jumped out a window and died. Springfield’s Crazy Cat Lady (Dr. Eleanor Abernathy) eventually threw a cat at Lisa, who decided to keep it. She also decided to name it Snowball II to save money on a new collar and cat dish.

snowball_1_in_heaven-e1520879201574.png

Five cats, four named Snowball.

Now. We know that Snowball II (the first one, a black cat) did not look like Snowball I (a white cat, although he sometimes appears as if grey), and that Snowball III did not look like Snowball I or either of the Snowballs II – was, in fact, an entirely different (looking) cat (brown/orange with medium rather than short hair). We also know that Snowball II (the second one) looks identical to Snowball II (the first one).

Coltrane should have been Snowball IV (at least, he could have been), but wasn’t.

Snowball II (the second one) is and is not Snowball IV, which is and is not Snowball II (the first one).

Lisa once tried to resurrect Snowball I via the dark arts. It didn’t work: instead, she and her brother, Bart, ended up unleashing a veritable army of undead upon Springfield, including the likes of Zombie George Washington, Zombie Einstein and Zombie Shakespeare. Too bad. It should have worked.

Try, and try again.

***

To Conclude:

An Irish Terrier, a Coton de Tulear and a shorthair Cat walk into a bar.

“Give us the usual,” they say.

“You don’t have to tell me,” says the bartender. “You’ve been around here before. But are you sure just the usual this time?”

The Irish Terrier looks away, the Coton de Tulear cocks its head, the Cat narrows its eyes but does not blink.

“Make it a double,” it says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Celebrity, Change, Dogs, People, Pets, Philosophy