Tag Archives: Dogs

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

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

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

Time, And Time Again

 
“You’re sadder about your dog dying than you are about your grandpa dying. It’s a little messed up.”

My friend said this to me as we walked across campus, on our way home from Political Thought and Theory.

It was winter. A wet grey day. His words echoed in my head, but all I said was “well…”

Well what?

When my parents got my dog for me, I was 9 and she died when I was 22.

Seizures, loss of motor function, dead before my final midterm that semester.

My grandpa also died when I was 22, a few months after my dog died.

Cancer, very advanced, dead before the end of that weekend.

It was a hard year.

It is a crime of nature that dogs do not live as long as we do, and when they die the loss is so immediate, so exquisite.

The loss of a person, though…in a way, it’s harder to conceive, and accept.

A whole other person, and a person no longer. A whole other universe of possibilities gone, snuffed out.

When my grandpa died, it was hard enough to try to come up from under the loss and stay ahead of it somehow.

We talked, but not often. I would have liked to get the chance to know him better.

But even that…no more!

Wrap your brain around that.

It was when my friend’s girlfriend’s parents’ dog died,[1] a few years after my dog died, a few years after my grandpa died, that I got to watch the unexpected tears well up in his eyes, the sudden bursts of sorrow, the excuses he made to leave the group and grieve in private as he tried in the weeks and months that followed her death to cope.

He loved that dog.

I loved my dog…and I loved my grandpa.

And there were so many moments during his mourning period that I almost said something to my friend, who today probably doesn’t even remember what he said to me on that grey and useless day.

Maybe now, I almost said, you know.

How easy it is to grieve for dogs.

 
 


[1] Yes.


 
 
 
 
 
 

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Filed under Dogs, Family, Philosophy

The Kindness of Strangers

 
I get greetings in the street all the time and this, I’ve long accepted, is not an outcome of anything specific to my being as a person, nor does it have much to do with my being as a person as it pertains to being a person walking in the street as the greetings happen overwhelmingly whenever I’m out walking with Lou.

To be completely honest about it, the greetings are overwhelmingly for Lou with – at most – a few offhand hellos and hi theres for me. I am oddly appreciative of this, since it at least relieves me of that great social burden of Small Talk with Strangers. I get to be less polite; I get away with a not insignificant rebuff of my own.

Nothing or nothing much for me?  Moving right on along!

Tit for tat.

Lou was with me the day at the Farmer’s Market with the encounter with The Man.

The St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market is a well-kept affair, refuge to bleary-eyed suburbanites, their dogs and children alike.  It’s a fine place to take the in-laws, if they’ve never been there before or haven’t been there for a Good Long Time.

It is a quaint but not without a certain flair; quaint, but not unassuming.

A double negative kind of place, with a petting zoo and buggy rides in the summer and year-round kettle corn.

You can get kale there, and baby chickens.

Handicrafts.

Meat and cheese.  Sorry.  Meats and cheeses.

You know it.

TUBS OF SAUCE? You know, you can get those too.

The Man was seated just outside the food court doors on a decorative, undoubtedly handcrafted bench.  He was clutching a bag of dog treats (you can get those at the Market too!) and scanning the passersby with his big, watery eyes. He saw Lou as we walked by and said hello to Lou, and as he said his hello to Lou, he reached deep into the bag, extracted one brown toasted treat and offered it to Lou, stopping just shy of Lou’s inquisitive doggy nose. It was a fluid, graceful motion, a well-practised almost instinct.

Seamless.

Lou backed away from the Man’s outstretched arm and open hand and retreated to his fallback position behind my legs. We backed away from him, intentions clear.

But the Man was not deterred.

Head up, big, watery eyes set to motion again, scanning, scanning, Lou and Lou’s rejection apparently totally forgotten, it didn’t take The Man long to find them: other dogs, other owners, many of whom were at first rather pleased by the attention and then rather perplexed by the situation.

For the Man, he had dog biscuits, LOTS of dog biscuits (possibly even expensive ones), but no dog.  Neither doggy hide nor doggy hair.

          Not.

A.

          One.

And no words spared for human ears; none so much as wasted.  He addressed the dogs and the dogs alone with man-sized, childish glee – “Hello little boy! Hello big girl! You a good doggy, hmmm?” – big watery eyes lighting up, for instance, when a little brown and white shih tzu pulled violently away from its wary owner and accepted a biscuit with manners that even by dog standards seemed voracious and sloppy.

The dog was happy, the man was happy, the owner, who knows? I was happy Lou refused the biscuit.

Which leads me to wonder.

How many inevitable rejections occurred that day? And for whom?

But for whom?

Looking at it from all sides, I cannot not conclude that that depends on who was really in control after all.

Dogs and all.

It knowingly nose.

The nose knows.

 

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Filed under Dogs, People, Places

The Shape of Things to Come

I keep a tiny notebook on my desk so that I can write down things before I forget them.  This is not a sly compliment trying to pay to myself – it’s not like I have so many ideas that it’s hard to keep track of them OR that my ideas are worth jotting down in a tiny notebook in the first place.

It’s just that I forget things, like, a lot.

So what I’m trying to do, really, is to keep my absent mindedness in check.  Or maintain a record of it to prove that, Hey, at least I tried.

Amidst gems such as “try foot cream”, “Italian sausage next time”, and “Renee Russo, where is she??” I have noticed a disturbing trend in my thoughts about the future.  They seem to orbit around the names of dogs and children I might decide to have, or which will be forced upon me by happy accident or dumb, blindsiding “luck”.

Oh yeah?  Well MY kid's Tyrannosaurs, bitch!

Based on the above, I have come to the conclusion that my priorities are that:

1) My dogs will be groomed into fine, upstanding individuals.

2) My children will grow up into fine, upstanding individuals fast, or not at all.

Penelope The Wonder Dog.

A Boy Named XANADU.

The dogs will be prim and proper purebreds.  No expense will be spared to show the People my devotion to the best of the best of the dog world: Chinese Crested Powder Puffs, Pugs, Bouiver de Flanders, Weimaraners and, of course, the magnificent Standard Poodle.

Humans sometimes do Natural Selection best, you know?

YES.

The children will stand as proof of my enlightenment as a Parent of Today, as evident by the pop culture references, gender confusion and hipster irony of their monikers:  “Lebanon is so much more affecting than Madison or Logan.  Truly, your children are effective,” the People will say.  “The apple falls right under the tree,” will be my keen response.

The dogs will be bred with Mendelian precision, to forge them into the exceptional specimens – canine royalty of the highest stock – they will be.  For the sake of their breeds, desirable traits will be sought after with passion and vigor; flaws and faults will be culled without hesitation and, admittedly, a certain animated glee.

I will the G-O-D of D-O-G.

For their own sake (and ours) the children will be freed from the constraints of our tried, BORING social norms. Free in their free will and spirits to be…whatever it is children are.

I will be…there as well.

Far be it for me to interfere and get in the way of their DEVELOPMENT.

Of course, names like Abraham, Lucy and NOSFERATU are really only for formal occasions.  Each dog and/or child will therefore have a jazzy nickname in order to encourage a sense of FUN and EXCITEMENT in our everyday lives.

“Here Abe, here Lu-Lu, here RATU!” I will yell from the back porch.

Yes.  We’ll be living The Good Life, thanks to my inadvertent foresight.

Actually, Stephen’s pretty okay with OBSIDIAN.  He gushes: “We can call him (HER) ‘Obi’ as in Wan…Kenobi!”  That alone would have evaporated my zeal for the name right then and there, but what will I care?

I’ll be out walking my beautiful Penelope.

Looking back towards the future.

YES.

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