April 4, 2013 § 22 Comments
So here’s some news: Last weekend, while my family and I were out for a walk, an enormous dog attacked us. Actually, you know what? Dog is the wrong word. Let’s say, Giant Toothbeast.
I’m not exaggerating or using “attacked” in a melodramatic way. That is the exact word for what happened. The Giant Toothbeast – who was about the size of me, but, you know, a dog – was probably 20 yards away when he spotted us going down the sidewalk. He was unrestrained. Unattended. And I love dogs, so for a split-second, I was like, “Yay, doggie!” but then no. Not yay doggie. When he saw us, he started galloping. GALLOPING, I tell you — while snarling and making deep, guttural Darth Vader noises with his mouth wide open. Like this: “RAAAWRGHRRGAAAAAHRGIMGONNEATYOUAAWWWRGH”
If this has never happened to you before but you think it might one day, let me prep you for what will go through your mind when the time comes:
That dog wants to say hello!
Holy matchsticks, that dog is running fast.
Is there sound coming from that dog’s EYE SOCKETS?
OH MY SWEET SOUL, THAT DOG IS GOING TO BITE MY BALLS
WAIT A MINUTE, I’M A GIRL, I DON’T HAVE BALLS
MAYBE HE THINKS I DO HAVE BALLS
Does that mean the dog is gay?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I completely support his freedoms and rights.
Although dogs don’t really get married.
Are dogs even monogamous?
Why am I thinking about this right now?
OH FUCKING HELL, I’M GOING TO GET EATEN BY A DOG.
All of that kind of races through your mind at once.
And at the same time, louder and more persistent, this:
THAT CREATURE IS GOING TO HURT MY CHILD.
Anyway, the Giant Toothbeast surveyed our crowd as he ran and decided to head for my son and me. We had about two seconds to react. So I screamed, “NOOOO,” in a movie-slow-motion way and jumped in front of my son, planting my body directly in the path of the Giant Toothbeast’s maw.*
(* Note: I have never read an article about what you’re supposed to do in a dog attack, so this was probably the wrong thing, but seriously… dog attack. Not a lot of time to Google it.)
The Giant Toothbeast slammed into my leg at full speed with his wide-open jaws, tearing at the fabric of my jeans with his teeth, still aiming for my son behind me. Unfortunately, one scrappy mama doesn’t do much to deter one ferocious Giant Toothbeast, and the animal still got a mouthful of my boy. But apparently offering up my leg as an appetizer reduced the impact of the next bite. Thanks to that and to a very tough pair of kid pants, my little guy was shaken – literally and figuratively – but his skin wasn’t broken. No blood was shed; there are just bruises.
I don’t know what made the Giant Toothbeast decide to run off after that one bite, but he did. Just turned and ran.
This is the part of the story that I keep thinking about now that it’s over: The fact that there was no thought at all in that moment when I saw the dog eye my child. That the first, gut instinct was to step in front of him. No weighing of pros and cons. No hesitating.
And I’m not saying this makes me a great parent – that’s totally not the point here. (I’m a godawful parent at least half the time. I look at my phone too much, and I forget to make dinner until the last minute, and sometimes when a Saturday soccer game is canceled, I don’t do a good job of hiding my delight at getting two hours back in the day.)
I’m just sort of in awe of the instinct that we humans have to protect what’s important. To lunge, in a second, toward what matters most.
So here’s the deep metaphorical concluding line: The people you want in your life are the ones who’d jump in front of you — or the ones you’d jump in front of — when the Giant Toothbeast comes.
[long philosophical gaze]
December 24, 2012 § 7 Comments
Ho Ho Ho… I’m not spending a bunch of time in front of a computer this week. (Because Christmas is family time. And also because I’ve got to cook a disturbingly expensive piece of meat today; and I once learned an important lesson about kitchen multi-tasking when I blew up a chicken because I was so enthralled watching baby goat videos on YouTube that I didn’t hear the oven timer. Cooking + Computer = Disaster)
So anyway, back to the desk next week. Until then, here are a few happy little holiday things:
* * *
I don’t know about you, but I’ve now watched this movie three times since the beginning of December. I plan to watch it at least two more before January.
* * *
I’m hooked on this song right now. I love the tune; I love the lyrics (“Let your heart hold fast / For this soon shall pass”); I even love the video and the little beating heart at the end. This is the perfect song for when you’re tired or frustrated or just indulging in some general malaise, and then you realize you’re kind of wallowing and you need to perk the hell up. Put this on full volume and pull yourself out of it:
* * *
And finally, may the new year bring you something that makes you as happy as bathtime makes this dog:
Have a glass of something bubbly; give someone a present; don’t eat mistletoe. Merry Christmas!
* * *
(PS: Penguins still arriving every weekday, here.)
November 16, 2012 § 8 Comments
There was a time I used to say that when my kids weren’t toddlers anymore and went off to school every day, I might like to have one more baby… a little one whom I could enjoy in that low-stress way that last children are enjoyed.
I no longer remember why I thought that would be a good idea.
A canine baby is plenty, thankyouverymuch.
October 30, 2012 § 22 Comments
As you may have heard, two big publishing houses have just announced plans to merge. As one combined entity, Random House and Penguin Books would become the largest publisher of consumer books in the world.
(Stay with me – this gets less dorky, I swear.)
Booknerds everywhere, myself included, started wondering what the new company might be called. Book House? Random Books? Penguin House? Igloo?
I wondered about it on Twitter, and Catherine Fain, the super-stylish gal behind the fashion site, Southern Arrondissement, tweeted back. We hatched an idea!
I then spent the rest of my workday imagining little penguins showing up in the middle of books. As comic relief… to break the tension in a particularly dramatic scene… just for kicks…
(Sorry, that didn’t really get less dorky, did it?)
Someone in publishing: Do this.
October 23, 2012 § 75 Comments
You have to be careful when you choose your pet’s name.
People can be judgey about pet names. (Present company included, I admit. If the first thing I find out about you is that you have a cat named Mr. McWhiskerdoodles, I will probably not seek out more information about you, because I’ll already know you like to needlepoint Kleenex box covers and watch The Bachelorette in a non-ironic, hopeful-romantic way, and we will probably not have much to talk about.)
Plus, whatever you pick is what you’re stuck saying 500 times a day for the next however many years your pet lives with you. And you can’t just set your pet free in the woods when you get tired of the name, because — whoa — talk about people getting judgey.
Having gone through this process just recently with a new puppy, I found that a good way to get a feel for whether the moniker you like will really work is to practice making an introduction with the name you’re testing out.
For example, you might do a test run on some tough-sounding dog names:
Oh, hello neighbor. This is my dog, Spike.
This is my dog, Chainsaw.
This is my dog, Venomous G. Razorface.
Nice, but probably not a fit for our little one. None of us around here are all that tough, and we want her to feel like she fits in.
You could try out some delicate, feminine names:
This is my dog, Daisy.
This is my dog, Baby Powder.
This is my dog, Nipple.
Maybe borrow a celebrity baby name?
This is my dog, Apple.
This is my dog, Banjo.
This is my dog, Tennessee.
OK, those actually work great for dogs. That should tell you something, celebrities.
If you have two pets to name, you could do a fun pairing, like:
These are my dogs, Shrimp and Grits.
These are my dogs, Dark and Lovely.
These are my dogs, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.
I would have loved to do something like that. But one new addition was really all we could handle right now, what with an elderly dog at home, too. Alas.
We’ve always used people-names for dogs. I don’t know. It’s just what we like. Some names, however, don’t translate well to pets:
This is my dog, Cheryl.
This is my dog, Linda.
This is my dog, Angela.
Basically, if the name sounds like a late-middle-age woman who still calls working out “aerobics” and eats WASA-bread and cottage cheese for lunch, it’s a no-go.
Our puppy is a beagle, by the way. But no, we didn’t consider Snoopy. The problem is, I *know* it would be just a matter of time before I started calling the poor thing Snoop-Dog and referring to her water bowl as her “gin and juice” and making her star in rap videos and all sorts of other inanity. So I just had to head myself off at the pass there.
Ultimately, our family went with a first name we all really liked for the pup, and then our kids jazzed it up with a little Presidential history. Then we took one look at her and thought, OH, totally. Yes. So with no further ado, I’d like to introduce…
The fact is, there are so many possibilities here for nicknames – Ellie, Roo, Rosie, FLOTUS – that the little creature will probably never know what her name is anyway. Oh, well. We tried.
September 5, 2012 § 17 Comments
This is just a quick post to say, go buy the latest issue of Vogue. It looks like this:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why should I buy a magazine with a picture of Lady Gaga dressed as an electrified disco mermaid on the cover?
That is a fair question.
Here’s why: Because I can’t find a link to share with you any other way Ann Patchett’s fantastic essay, “The Sense of An Ending.” Dog people (of which I am one) will appreciate her remembrances of her pooch, Rose. (Maybe even cat people? I don’t know. That’s hard for me to say, because cats make me wheeze until I can’t say anything at all.) Just-plain-people will enjoy it for Patchett’s astute observations about pet and human relationships in general.
“I came to realize… that there was between me and every person I had ever loved some element of separation, and I had never seen it until now. There had been long periods spent apart from the different people I loved, due to nothing more than circumstances. There had been arguments and disappointments, for the most part small and easily reconciled, but over time people break apart, no matter how enormous the love they feel for one another is, and it is through the breaking and the reconciliation, the love and the doubting of love, the judgment and then the coming together again, that we find our own identity and define our relationships.
Except that I had never broken from Rose. I had never judged her or wanted her to be different, never wished myself free from her for a single day.”
Note: If you’ve experienced the loss of your dog very recently, you may especially love it, but you might need to tuck it away to read later, not right now. Or maybe you’re tough enough to read lines like this without sniffling at your desk:
“Sometimes love does not have the most honorable beginnings, and the endings, the endings will break you in half. It’s everything in between we live for.”
Anyway, buy the magazine. It’s worth the $5.99 for that essay.
PS: The essay is Rose’s second appearance in Vogue. The first time, when she was but a pup, was in “This Dog’s Life,” which you can read in its entirety here.
July 9, 2012 § 17 Comments
I’m fixin’ to get a little sentimental. You’ll pardon me, I hope, because the 24 hour period after the world loses one of its finest four-legged creatures is the official window in which it’s acceptable to respond to all matters with, “Fuck this, my dog died.”
Frances was the first member added to our family after my husband and I were married. For a while, it was just the three of us.
The runt of a litter born to a pair of champion beagles, Frannie was little for her breed. (I no longer recall how we met the owners, with whom we’ve since lost touch – but good lord, they were straight out of Best in Show.) Her scrawny size made her no less beautiful, her eyes ringed with black “mascara” markings and her fur unusually soft for a beagle. She looked like a puppy, even into her old age.
I worked in marketing and advertising when she first joined us 13 years ago. She was cast once as a pup-in-a-wagon in an ad. She peed all over the set of the shoot and kept hopping out of the wagon and chewing the backdrop. The photographer kept shooting, and we all had some good fun making up slogans to go with the outtakes: “Without this product, your life will be like dragging a wagon of dog urine down an endless paper hallway.”
Frances had rug-chewing and ankle-biting habits. When those got to be a bit much, we enrolled her in doggie behavior school, but she was kicked out after chewing up the other dogs’ belongings and demolishing three rugs at the trainer’s house. Oh, well. We don’t need no education.
Frannie hated when we left for work in the morning, and she did her damnedest to drive away dog walkers. One afternoon, I came home to find that my 12-pound beagle pup had wrought the havoc of a family of bears upon our little home – upturning potted plants, gutting and destroying the foam core of her dog bed, and shredding two phone books and a box of file folders into confetti. So I canceled my gym membership to have more time to take her on walks. (A couple years later, I set up an office in my home. Frannie and I made every day Take Your Dog to Work Day, and both of us liked that.)
During the years when we were not certain whether people-babies were in the cards for us, Frances was the tolerant recipient of my maternal instinct. She wore a seatbelt in the car and a sweater once when it snowed. One Halloween, I tried to make her wear a witch hat. She bore all this with her usual air of, “I can’t explain what these lunatics do, but isn’t this all a riot?” She ate the witch hat.
With age, Frannie mellowed. She got into some scrapes — dug out from our yard a few times, got bitten by a copperhead, caught her snake-bite hole on a fence and ripped the edge of her ear in two — that kind of thing. Her misadventures made her a frequent flyer at the vet clinic. She was, as Harry called Sally, “high maintenance,” but so full of personality, you couldn’t help but laugh and love her anyway. (OK, those neighbors who used to call when she howled and woke up their sleeping baby may not have loved her anyway. But you can’t win over everybody.)
Frannie did not suffer fools gladly. Or people who smelled funny. Or people who wore particular fabrics or spoke in certain voices or did not move fast enough with her food dish. She chose her friends carefully; and the ones she loved, she loved loyally.
She made room for another dog, and eventually human children, and after testing them a little, she loved them, too. She loved my husband above all. They shared a nightly ritual: He’d kick back in his big leather chair and open up his Wall Street Journal, and she’d take the signal to hop up in his lap and tuck her head just inside the paper, like she was reading along. In her last weeks, she needed help getting into the chair; but she never missed a night of it, as long as he was home. When he was away, she’d sit in his chair until bedtime, waiting, just in case he returned. That they hit it off so well made me take it as a compliment whenever he said Frannie got her personality from me.
Until she lost her hearing, she enjoyed talking to the owls in our backyard. She always waited for the owls to start the conversation – their “hooooo” to her “rooooo,” back and forth. Sometimes it would wake us up at night, the clamor of owls hooting in our backyard, and Frances howling back from indoors.
In the early, dark hours of yesterday morning, we were awakened by an owl chorus – the greatest range of hooo we’d ever heard, in the most spectacular owl salute – and we knew the time had come.
To Frances. God better roll up his rugs.