Tag Archives: Louis

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 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

Duck Calling

 

Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.
 

Ducks Under Glass
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Filed under Animals, Hobbies, Pets

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 Cruellest Month

 
Here is how April came and went.
 
 
Twitch
 
 
The weather that day was probably lovely because I at least remember taking Louis down to the beaches before it happened, a pleasant 45-minute jaunt from the house and back.

It was as I was making dinner that I noticed the twitching; little jumps and spasms that ran up and down his legs and caused his dachshund back to bunch up in a kind of inverted “C” and forced his nose to the down to the tile even as he tried to look up at me with his eyes.  Then it passed and there he was, begging for food again.

The next day, the twitching started again.  Then it stopped.  Then there he was, getting up and down and up and down and up and down again and again and again and not being able to settle anywhere because, we later found out, it was painful for him and he was trying to figure Things out in the only way he really could…
 
 
The Saddest Place in the World
 
 
Toronto.  Home of the V-E-C, an emergency veterinary trauma centre.  With over 200 employees and over 20, 000 patients a year, the VEC is one of the busiest veterinary facilities in the country…

Going to the emergency vet is a lot like needing to buy a used Jeep that you already own from a car salesman you really want to sort of like.  But you can’t because he’s got this kind of power over you – a little condescending, nearly snide, unavoidable – and so your impression of him finally hardens to a mild contempt that you find increasingly difficult to control but surprisingly easy to suppress, considering.

It’s pretty much exactly like that.

We had been transferred to the care of Toronto’s Veterinary Emergency Clinic after two days of guesswork from another vet, who was actually kindhearted and accommodating even in the face of his spectacular and total failure to provide us with a viable diagnosis.  But that’s what referrals are for.

The VEC is a strange, strange place.  I had been there before when Lou had eaten something truly rotten in High Park and had blood coming out where blood must not ever come out.  That was a little over two years ago.

Standing there again in the foyer, the whole place smelling of ammonia and accented with watery-eyed portraits of spaniels and longhaired cats taken by a pretty good photographer, surely.  You can see grown men in tears at the VEC and women pacing outside, smoking cigarettes wedged between rigid fingertips. The first time I was there, at the VEC, I saw a small family by the doors, dressed in their Sunday best, crying silently, the boy clutching a tiny doggy bed.

I noticed they installed an aquarium since the last time, one of those flat, wide-screen tanks with the bright, impossible blue water that hang on the wall and are full of plastic articulated fish – all of it hermetically sealed from the inside out.

One less worry.

The two new vets put in charge of Louis’ care I have dubbed Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon.  Dr. Liz Lemon’s last name was something that sounded like “Lemon”. I can’t remember what his face looked like, but he had one.  It may have been unique, even, or at least I don’t remember him having a face I already know.

Not my Father.  Not the Pope.  Not Tony Soprano or Shaquille O’Neal.

Hence, Dr. Liz Lemon.

“Lizzing is a combination of laughing and whizzing.”

“And I don’t really think that it’s fair for me to be on a jury because I’m a hologram.”

Many people tend to think of crisis professionals as kind of saviours; more than hero-people who get interjected into the trauma at exactly when they need to be there.  In the moment, it’s hard enough to try to understand what’s happening. So in retrospect, maybe – maybe there are saviour-y people among us – saving us from circumstance as only fully trained and appropriately compensated personnel can.

So Dr. So-and-So was maybe not a hero, and maybe he was, but above all else he was a hard-nosed professional.

  • Clipped.
  • To. The. Point.
  • Detail Oriented.

He personality itemized the bill for us, which was, in its way, extremely thoughtful.

Amazing.

Everything on this costs money.

It was clear that the relationship between Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon was one of superior/subordinate, with Dr. Liz Lemon, I imagine, fetching pricey lattes for each of them during every shift even though, come to think of it, he never had a coffee habit before he started at the VEC…

Even heroes have to start somewhere.

Actually, they film a reality show at the VEC called ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre (narrated by the disembodied voice of singer/songwriter Jan Arden).  It’s a lot like the show ER from a few years ago, but with animals as patients instead of people and so much more thoughtful contemplation of indistinct x-rays. Having watched ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre a few times in that dead TV hour between 7:00PM – 8:00PM, I felt as though the voice should have been there during my episode too, setting up procedures and an embedding motives. Moving the plot along.
 
 
Four Options That Were Really Three That Was One Half of Everything 
 
 
*OPTION 1: It’s a compressed disc, a common aliment of the long-backed dachshund.  If treated immediately, the dog will return to 90% his old self. Pay for this.

*OPTION 2:  It’s meningitis, another genetic propensity of those wonderful dachshunds.   Treat this right now and the dog may survive, after a fashion.  Pay for this.

*OPTION 3:  It’s *OPTION 1 and *OPTION 2.  Pay for both.

*OPTION 4:  It could be one or the other, and treating one will not preclude the other if the other is in fact what is really happening.  Pay for both.

There was also the ***PERM-OPTION***: put the dog down and end it all.

If he had been untreatable and/or incurable pain then, yes, it would have been a considered Option.

My emptied savings account and newfound willingness to dance for money says that it was otherwise and that we, accordingly, chose otherwise.
 
 
Happy Birthday(s)
 
 
Stephen and I have our birthdays in April.  How about that?
 
 
Operation Option 4 (a.k.a. “Operation Disembodied Voice of Singer/Songwriter Jan Arden”)
 
 
A day after Option 4 was executed, Dr. Liz Lemon called to say:

“At this point, we feel it’s best for Louis to come home for his recovery instead of continuing his stay with us. He didn’t sleep at all last night. He just sat there…staring at us with his eyes.”

Later, I found out that Lou had quickly earned a reputation as perhaps one of the most difficult dogs the VEC has had to deal with in recent memory.

Good boy!
 
 
The Dog Is Leaking 
 
 
“…the fact is that dogs put on IVs can leak urine for days after the IV had been removed.  Possibility the leaking is from a urinary tact infection, which we neglected to warn you might happen after the kind of surgery your dog has had but, hey, we’re telling you now.  Just watch it for a while and we’ll do something if it persists.”
 
 
No Laundry
 
 
We had no laundry.  For the four-to-five days Lou was leaking, we could not do laundry because the plumbing in our building was backed up.  We were also paranoid of leaving the house in case something happened and we needed to go back to the VEC (a $60 round trip by taxi that required both of us to handle Lou, given his condition), so going out to shop for diapers and pee pads and whatever was not an Option.

Our solution?  Milk the dog.  Try to catch the drips before they hit the carpet or very soon after they hit he carpet.  Um, we used a lot of towels, turning them and hand-washing them in the bathtub in a constant cycle of >>> HOLY OH MY FUCK WHAT ELSE???

(what else?)

Our dog needs a towel boy.

They tell us now it tree roots that were blocking the pipes and oh my god!  Right now! Look how many fucks I give.
 
 
1 +1 = 0.5 Medication
 
 
The following transpired early Monday morning because getting an answer on Sunday evening is all but possible save for the Lord.  

(Lights up:  CINDY is sitting hunched over at the kitchen table, leaning heavily on her hand as her right arm rests on the surface, her other hand jamming an outdated Sony Ericsson “brick” into her ear.  The voice of DR. LIZ LEMON can be heard crackling intermittently from the phone.  From the window in front of CINDY’s tired form we can see that it’s, let say, overcast?)

CINDY:  “Yes.  I’m sorry I didn’t notice it earlier, but it seems Lou only has half of the little pills he needs for the pain.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (a tinge of condescension, nearly snide in his voice): “Right. ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 8 hours for 5 days.  Then give ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 12 hours for 5 days.  OK?  That’s 25.”

CINDY: (clam, persistent given task at hand):  “O-K.  Yeah.  But he has to take TWO of those a day, so it should be, like, 50.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (not even slightly mollified):  “Oh. I see.  Well, I’ll write it up and you can just come down here and get it.  I’ll have it waiting at reception.  Don’t worry.  You won’t have to pay.”

CINDY: (who has already paid for the full prescription and realizing that the next three hours will be devoted to crossing the city to pick up the pills and, more importantly, that well-timed witty retorts are not something you can gainfully trade off on in real life):  “Thanks. So.  Much.”
 
 
Summer Plans
 
 
“Hey!  Aren’t you guys going away in, like, a few weeks?”

“We are no longer going away due to total lack of funds.  Spare change?”

“Huh?  What?  Whyyy?”

“Here is how April came and wen…you know what, man?  Just read the blog.”

“What blog?”

My blog.”

“You have a blog?”

“Yes.”

“Is it any good?”
 
 
A Jan Arden Voiceover Is Going on Now
 
 
After a harrowing few days, full of tears and woe and heart wrenching decisions, Louis Jefferson Phan was finally able to go home. Thanks to the skill and care of Doctor So-and-So and Liz Lemon was there too and because of the well-motivated work of the staff VEC, the future looking bright for the little dog that could.
 
 
…In Other Words:
 
 
We’re back to being around even now, minus all of the above.

Blessings!

 
 

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Filed under Dogs, Interruptions

A One Of Those

 
Collections horrify me, a little, sometimes.  I’m not entirely sure why.  But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because of what they imply.  Questions of what, (sometimes) how, and why always why are always implied.  The kind that tend to zero in on matters of taste, identity and (especially) pleasure and in its many, many connotations.

(Loneliness is probably in there too).

Thimbles or belt buckles, Fabergé eggs or skin flakes, the answers vary but the questions remain the same.

Why? Why? Why?

I have tendencies that lead me to collect but I try not to collect, despite myself.  I don’t always succeed.  Being broke helps less than you may think, but it helps. Sliver lining.

Sometimes, though, collections are thrust upon you.  They just happen.

I am having a collection thrust upon me happening.

It started with this:

Jealous of the dog.  That's a new one.

This is what a dog’s life looks like. If he’s doing it right.

It – he – is a wirehaired dachshund (as far as I can tell and just to simplify everything already).   Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, came more.  And then they came at intervals: Christmases, birthdays especially.

And more.  So much more.

Not pictured: the one-foot chocolate dachshund that Stephen’s mother gave us one Easter, every birthday card from the last seven years with a dachshund on it (in other words, almost all of them), and the book I got for Christmas about the lady detective agency that had a picture of a dachshund on the back cover.

Perhaps eventually it will become a tradition.  A bon-a-fide ritual coming at me from the outside, needing really only my tacit permission in order to do what it is doing to me.

Am I complaining?  Not exactly.  But the next time I move, I’ll wonder, you know.  I’ll wonder about these all these little dogs and whether I have truly become a One of Those people:

  • A Dog Lady
  • A Dachshund Enthusiast[1]
  • A Doxie Lover
  • The Weiner Dog Girl
  • Der Hund Frau auf der Straße!
  • The Hot Dog Queen[2]

I’ll admit it is shaping up to be a quite handsome collection.  Beyond that, what to say about it, my/The Collection?  Does it give me a sense of pride or any kind of satisfaction?

Actually, I’m kind of flattered, which is probably closest to the truth.

 


[1] In particular I’d be a dachshund enthusiast, but more generally this would make me a “breed person”.  Not just a dog lady but a one of those people who for whatever reason(s) attach or devote themselves (sometimes entirely) to certain breeds of dogs, nicknames (i.e. “Doxie”, “American Gentlemen”, “Merry Cocker”) and all.  At a dog show I attended one time, there was this contingent of retried people who were all West Highland Terrier enthusiasts whose aim, as far as I could tell, was to psych out the competition with their incessant cheers and catcalls (HA!).  Actually, thanks to them, I’m kind of put-off “Westies” having conflated the two in my head.  The bastards.

[2] My favourite.

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Filed under Dogs, Routines

An Open Letter To Cindy Phan

A few months ago, I posted this.  Today you have it, as well as what I wrote back yesterday.

~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~

April 17 1997

Dear Cindy,

Unless you’re totally absent-minded, you’ll remember that it’s me, Cindy!  And this is that letter that I wrote to you (or me, whatever), 15 years ago in english class in grade nine.

So how’s life?  I can tell you right now it’s not so great.  But there are a few things that I can stand about it.

First things first:  Lucky had her 7th birthday yesterday (April 16).  I hope that you’ve breed her because I’d like to have one of her puppies.  It’s hard to write about her knowing that she probably won’t be with me in 15 years.  God!  Let’s put that ugly thought aside.

I wonder what your favourite T.V shows are right now?  I know that I I’ve to watch The X-Files, Friends, Melrose Place, Caroline in the City, The Simpsons, Xena: Warrior Princess, and course, The Adventures of Sinbad!!!  Even though you and I both know that we don’t watch that show for its content.  We watch it for Zen Gesner!!  Gee, I wonder if he’s still hot?  Gross!!  He’ll be 43 when you open this!

You know what?  Time really sucks!

I wonder how life turned out for you.  I hope it worked out how I planned.

First, I’ll get a full scholarship.  I know that it sounds impossible, but I’d do anything to get away from home.  Then I’ll move into a dorm with my best friend, Kim.  I hope we’re still friends in the future.

During school (collage or university I haven’t decided yet), Kim and I will date all the hot guys we can handle.  Until I finally stick with one as my boyfriend.

After I graduate, Kim and I will find an apartment to live in as roomates for a little while longer.  Hopefully it’ll be in Toronto, Vancouver, or New York.  I’ll get my first job.

From there, I’ll just take life as it comes to me.

I just hope things turned out something like that.  But if they didn’t, at least you tried you best anyway.  But you make me sick!!

Anyway, I gotta go now.  The periods is almost over and my hand is stating to get all numb.

Sincerely, with love ( and surprisingly without a punch-line),

Cindy Phan

Even though I am so not in love with love, this is nice.

From Cindy to Cindy.

~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~

April 17 2012

Dear Cindy,

I remember that English class.  It was taught by someone fresh out of teacher’s college who believed she had been “called” to teaching.  Her words and big deal.  Lots of people get called to Things.  Cults, jury duty.  We had an uncle once that was “called” as a spirit medium, but at least he wasn’t hurting anybody with pointless busy work.  He wasn’t wasting anyone’s precious time, forcing them to eventually make the most of it.

And he channeled Victor Hugo.  Twice that I know of.

Ah, life.  It continues, unabated.  We count that as a plus.  Trust me.

Time to give you some bad news that you-don’t-already-do-in-fact-know.  Lucky died the day you had a midterm, hours before the midterm.  You wrote the midterm anyway and failed, magnificently.  Honestly, you thought “Narcanthropus” was a hominid.  It is not.  She never had puppies.

But, hey!  Pets can be cloned now!  There’s a show about on TLC.  Isn’t that wild?

You have a new dog, Louis, who is by coincidence turning 7.  So not so new.  It took a few years after Lucky died before you got another dog, but the strangeness of not having a dog ate at you till you gave in.  You do not have the money to clone Lou and he cannot have puppies.

Take the hint!

You were the only one in the free world who watched Caroline in the City with any regularity, with any sense or semblance of loyalty.  A true fan.  And now I have to live with it.

Did you also list Friends??  You little asshole.  You are ruining me.

Sex.  You’ve had it.  And it is so, so much better than Caroline in the City.   As for Zen Gesner, his show got cancelled due to crippling mediocrity but the man lives on.  In our heart(s).

But leave the rope. And the sword. But bring the sword back when I'm through with the man. Please?

A man. A rope. A sword. All I need.

Also: 40 is the new 30 now, at least for those who can afford the upkeep.  Let’s just hope Zenny’s done well for himself.

Despite what I’m reading in retrospect as perhaps an unhealthy obsession with television – or worse and better a shyness about finding the right Things to say, even to yourself (you’re over that now) – you made it to university, on a partial scholarship (negligible, really).  Turns out, you really like Anthropology and Political Science so that’s all you studied for years and years.  But academia wasn’t for you, at least not after a while, so now you’re kind of…sitting on them.

For now.

You and Kim are still best friends – a high achievement in your life and I mean it.  She unfortunately moved out West shortly after you wrote this letter.  You still keep in touch and have had rare visits back and forth.

I guess all the plans with Future Kim had a lot to due with the fact that you didn’t really connect with the other people you hung out with in high school.  You now know, more so than you kind of only knew then, that your aloofness was for Good Reason.

You’ll be pleased to know:  many of those people actually got exactly what they wanted out of life and now they have to live with it, even if they never quite figure out that’s exactly what’s happening to them.  I sometimes think it’s also exactly what they deserve, but I am not always so cruel.

We’re not sorry.

You still take life as it comes to you, you’ll be happy to know.  What else?  You find it distasteful when carrots are bigger than zucchinis because that unduly gives zucchinis carrot envy.  Tacos are still one of your top favourite foods and when you discovered that fish tacos were real (you were 23, shame) you almost died of innuendo.  Farts have never been more hilarious.

You’re in a relationship with a boy named Stephen and you both live with Lou in glorious Toronto.  Stephen gives you a spoon to stir the coffee he makes you in the morning because you complained about it on the Internet, which is, like, HUGE now.

You. Cannot. Even. Believe.

So.  Any of this making you “sick”?  If any of it does, just too fucking bad for you.  You’re in the ninth grade and haven’t figured out that 7 plus 15 equals more than “probably won’t”.  You have a lot to go before you’re me, Past Cindy.

But then again I have had the advantage of being you.

Call it even, I guess.

Anyway, to end.  15 years ago, you wrote this letter to me, and 15 years ago the Titanic sank 100 years ago.  Once in 3D.  The math’s all there. (This has nothing really to do with anything, except that we are still very amused by how things line up sometimes.  Like the other day at Honest Ed’s when all of our purchases, with tax, came to exactly $13.00.  We got $7.00 whole dollars back from a $20.00 bill!  Fucking.  Amazing.).

I love you too.

Cindy Phan

P.S.  If Mom ever: 1) learns to properly use the Internet and 2) Finds this blog, she will kill you like you’ve never been killed before by her and she’s killed you A LOT over the years.  All that broken English?  Smoke and mirrors, girl.  Smoke and mirrors.

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Filed under THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Dog Face

I neglected to tell Stephen when he started walking Louis that he would, occasionally, be approached by people who would want to know what, exactly, Louis was.

Louis is a dog.  The rest, evidently, is theory.

Quick!  Someone call a taxidermist!!

Dogalope!

The story within this story goes like this:

It was a breezy day with bitter wind and I was standing in line at Sherbourne station waiting for my turn to procure a TTC ID card.  The line wound outside the station and up and down the street, and seemed determined to circle the entire block.  People began to envy my spot, which had started at the end.  They gave us forms to fill out while we waited.  It didn’t help.

I called Stephen to let him know I’d be home in exactly forever.

“You missed it!  I’m out walking Lou.  And this old lady just came up to me and practically started yelling at me!”

“What?  Why?”

“I had my earphones on.  She came up to me and she pointed to Lou and was like, ‘what kind of dog is that?’  I took off my earphones and told her he’s a dachshund, and she was like ‘NO!’”

“‘No’??”

“Yes!  ‘NO.  That dog is not a dachshund.  Not a pure dachshund.  He’s more di-di dinsmont’…or something.  I think that’s what she said.”

“Was it dandie dinmont?”

Bill Cosby had a champion Dandie Dinmont back in 2007, Harry, named after Prince Harry.  Who could make that up?  Its proper, full show name? Ch Hobergays Fineus Fog!

I wish this dog were a toy that I wished was real.

“Yes!  That’s it. Then she was, like, ‘Are you sure he doesn’t have any dinmont in him?’”

“OK.  What did you say?”

“That, ‘uh, his name is Louis.’  I had no idea what she was getting at!”

And she left.  Stephen swears in was in “a huff.”

I will admit.  Lou is a strange creature.  Hard to pin down.  Some days, his fur is more red than brown.  Other days, it’s more of a kind of yellow.  Tawny?  He’s too small to be the standard of his breed and too big to be a miniature.  If I had to say, I’d say is ears are a little short and his legs are longer than they should be, for him to be what he is.

D-O-G spelled backwards is blasphemy.

Dachshund 4. Black & White Engraving from Cassell's The Book of the Dog, 1881

Officially, he is listed as “wirehaired dachshund” (for licensing and identification purposes), but I often have to add, “he’s probably got some Jack Russell…or something…in him,” to satisfy non-believers.

Sceptics.

They are often not without their own theories:

Jack Russell…Corgi…Fox Terrier…Border Terrier…Beagle… Basset Hound…Cairn Terrier…Schnauzer…Norwich Terrier…Irish Terrier…Scottish Terrier.

People see what they want to see.

I get “Chinese” a lot.  But not always.  When Stephen and I drove up North, clerks asked me for my native card.  I have been mistaken as Korean aboard and at home.  Once on campus, a guy asked if I was Laotian, and I was flattered, somehow, by the novelty.  There are those, of course, who pinpoint Vietnamese. But the more astute among them want to then know: North or South?

It happens all the time.

Why not?  The benefit of a doubt is the proof of certainty.

If it’s not a golden retriever, it might be a yellow lab.  If not a lab, perhaps a lab mix?  There is slim, very slight chance it’s a pit bull – more likely, if anything, it’s part pit bull – but it’s surely not a bull mastiff.

Why?  Goldens are loyal. Yellow Labs are courageous.  Pit bulls are tenacious. Bull Mastiffs are devoted.  To a fault.

There’s no guarantee of all this, of course, but chances are…

Chances are…

And then?  Life goes on!

Hey.  Here!  I am, actually, part Chinese!  If that helps.

But I don’t know kung fu.  My brother does, a little.

It’s funny.

Maybe that’s why the old lady got so agitated.  Maybe that’s all she wanted.

That’s what it all boils down to, right?  In the end?

Reassurance.  Confirmation.  Meaning.

Standards, really.

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Jiggety-Jig

I am always a little apprehensive about “coming home” to my parents’ house – a place where I am a little more than a guest, a little less than a resident.

But even now, as I try to figure out Life in The Big City, I come home and it only takes a beat before we get back into the rhythm of Things.

Many times.

Every time.

 

One time…

“Hi, Mom.”

“Ah, you are home.  Who drove you?”

“Kris did.”

“Ah.  Where is Lou-wee?”

“I left him with Stephen.”

“Stephen’s not coming?”

“Nope.”

“Who’s watching Lou-wee?”

“Stephen!”

Really??  He know how?”

“Yes.”

“You sure?”

“YES.”

[beat]

“Ah.  OK!  You like owls.”

“I guess.  Yeah.”

“I went shopping with your Aunts.  In Toronto.  I got you keychain.”

As long as I don't stare directly at it in the sun, I even get to keep them eyes.

It, um, matches my eyes.

“It’s…nice.”

“It’s an owl.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Put keys on it.”

“I will, Mom.”

“Do it now.”

“I’ll do it in a bit.”

“I want to see your keys on it.  I don’t like wasting money.  Do it now.”

“FINE.”

Truth is, I can really only handle the responsibility of the one key.

Do I really only have the one key?

“Why you like owls so much, anyway?”

 

Another time…

“Hi, Dad!”

“Ah, you home!  Hm.  No Lou-wee?”

“Not this time.”

“Hm.”

“Hey! What are you making?”

[beat]

“Noodles and soup.  Ha, ha!  NOODLE SOUP.”

“That’s a big pot you have.  It’s a vat!”

“Lots of family, lots of soup.”

“Cool.”

“Before you leave again, I make springrolls!  Unless your mom says no.  Then I make MANY MANY SPRINGROLLS.  Ha, ha!  OH!  You remember Mom’s cousin?  Your aunt?  The one that used to live with us?”

“Yeah.”

“Remember?  At the old house?”

“Yes…”

“She died!  We go to funeral this weekend.”

“She…wha…”

“SOUP’S DONE!”

 

And then there was the time…

“Ngọc!  When did you get home?”

“Last night.  It was late, so I just went to bed.”

“Ah. Who drove you?”

“I took the bus.”

“You didn’t take Lou-wee?”

“I left him with Stephen.  Dogs aren’t allowed on the bus, Mom.”

“Not even you pay extra?”

“Nope.”

Really??

“Yes.”

“You sure?”

“YES.”

[beat]

“Ah.  OK!  Here.  Bash this coconut for me.

“Um.  Sure.  How?”

“You know,  just like you’d bash a fish.”

“Oh-kaaaaaay…”

bash

                      … bash….                              …bash…

                                               …bash…                 …bash…

             .…bash…

“What is ant-polly-gee?  You done study that yet?  You have job?  When you get married?  You getting too old not to have babies. You pay too much for apartment, why not use money for mortgage instead?  I need you write letter for me and phone these people and pick up these things.  Next time, try pay extra. How you spell R-E-C-I-E-P-T?  Your dad made too much soup last time!  Can you vacuum downstairs before you leave and go to business school?”

“I DID NOT MAKE TOO MUCH SOUP!”

“SPRINGROLLS EVERYWHERE!”

[audible sighs heard over coconut bashing][1]

 

You can, indeed, go home again.  It is a small comfort surrounded by very big inconveniences.

And swimming in noodle soup.

Hey. I didn't say it was bad soup.

When consolation is delicious!

 


 

[1] “Sigh..BASH…sigh…BASH-BASH-BASH!!!”

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