Category Archives: Dogs

Big, Little

The hedge encircling our house was a world onto itself, a network of tunnels and hidden places we scurried and hid in like rabbits. It was a refuge, a hideout, our shared headquarters. It went on and on, right around the house and into forever.

That was years ago. Years and years, the kind you can put into groups of five or ten and count on off. Our house, a squat three bedroom bungalow, was at the bottom of a hill, right at the dead end street behind which the train tracks that ran. Not exactly prime real estate, but then I never minded the trains (freight, never passenger), and missed them after we moved away.

Next door was our neighbour the hunter, and his pack of three walker/beagle hounds. Across the street was the family whose kids we feuded with on and off and whose grandmother had a pug. We also feuded (again, on and off) with the next door neighbour’s kids, three girls (but not one for each dog, as I’d assumed. The dogs were their father’s dogs and his alone).

Later, the next door neighbour acquired a chihuahua, which had puppies after he “accidentally” let it out loose in the neighbourhood with my aunt’s chihuahua. There were three or four of them, I could never keep track.

He named one of the tiny dogs Rambo. He never offered my aunt any of the puppies. As mad as she was about it, she still let her dog roam the neighbourhood untethered after the fact so it’s hard to feel indignant on her behalf.

***

I check in from time to time, on the old house, the old neighbourhood, despite myself.

The hedge has been removed, pulled out from the ground, roots and all, and replaced by a sagging wire fence (maybe it wasn’t always sagging…I have just only ever seen it sagging). The space the fence occupies, once enormous, seems so small now as to have been frankly impossible. Perhaps it shrank? Or maybe it just atrophied in memory.

The bungalow – somehow even squattier now and dingy in spots (the once white brick, the once gleaming windows) where I remember it had been pristine – has been split into two (of all things, lengthwise), and has been remade into a rental property with faded patio furniture in the driveway (at last glance, three off-white plastic chairs and an overturned table).

Other things, too, have changed.

The houses up the street have been bought up by the city and are in various stages of being torn down so that the street can be widened and a new, modernized transit system can be put into place – in this case, a light rail transit system and not, as I’d initially assumed, a monorail. Pity.

Some years ago, our next door neighbour died (in his basement), as did the man across the street (in his sleep), although that one is more recent. A coma and then a recovery and then that singular twist of fate that took him out of the picture.

The dogs, naturally, are all dead too. Rambo included.

My aunt gave away her dog soon after she had children. Be it shame or indifference or something more or light banal or benign, she never mentions him. It is as if he never existed, as if none of it ever happened.

Like none of us were ever there at all.

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, Childhood, Death, Dogs, People, THE PAST

General Improvements

  1. A system of pneumatic tubes.
  2. Better snacks (healthy or otherwise).
  3. Gobstoppers!
  4. More dogs.
  5. A little less blame and a lot more slack.
  6. Keep it to 90 minutes or less.
  7. Make it optional…informed, but optional.
  8. Fire him already.
  9. Polish it.
  10. Yes to no.
  11. Unlimited dipping sauce.
  12. No time limits despite expiration dates.
  13. Your face.
  14. Still more dogs.
  15. SMOOTH LINES.
  16. Better coffee.
  17. Let it play out first.
  18. Just ignore it sometimes.
  19. Portable numbing agents.
  20. A cat or two. Or three.
  21. To the left, to the left.
  22. Now goes to 11!
  23. Prioritize those odd numbers.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Change, Dogs, Entertainment, Food, Movies, Thrift, Time

Things I Learned Last Week

  1. Dried out grapefruit is still grapefruit, but not great grapefruit.
  2. Semi-identical twins!
  3. Sometimes the weather really is all there is to talk about.
  4. If you put a dinosaur on it, I will buy it.
  5. More lemon water please!
  6. Take care of your cast iron and it will take care of you.
  7. Beware the jerks (but no need to fret over them).
  8. I like asking nicely until I don’t.
  9. My dog is DRAMATIC.
  10. Nothing like bad advice to put the rest of the day into perspective.
  11. Spicy beef patties or nothing at all.
  12. It’s good to be present, if not always available.
  13. Talents come in all shapes and sizes and, occasionally, smells.
  14. How to read the imperfect novel (still learning that one).
  15. Less brains doesn’t mean more heart.
  16. I hate “Actually.”
  17. Odd numbers please me.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Change, Communications, Dogs, Food, Hobbies

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