WRITE ABOUT DOGS

This is one of the few posts I wrote more than four years ago which I occasionally republish without changes. For some reason, this one seems “just right.”


My favorite cartoon – by George Booth — was originally published in The New Yorker. It shows a man sitting in front of a typewriter. Dogs are everywhere A woman, presumably his wife, watches from the doorway. The caption reads “Write about dogs.”

My home is full of dogs. Anyone who comes to visit must compete with the dogs for the comfortable chairs and the best spots on the sofa. (Come to think of it, we have to fight them for the best seats too.) That’s the way it is. The dogs are family.

If we have guests who are old, frail or allergic, we do our best to accommodate their needs. We put the most rambunctious, smelly, and hairy dogs out of the way if we can, but that depends on the weather. Basically, if you don’t like dogs, you’ve come to the wrong house. People who don’t like dogs are not frequent visitors.

That’s fine with me. I prefer the company of most dogs to most people. There are lots of reasons to prefer dogs. But the two big ones are love and honesty.

Gibbs with Duke

Dogs love you completely, totally, and without reservation. They don’t care about your social status or education, whether you are young or old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor. They love you completely.

Your dog will never betray or abandon you.

Dogs are terrible liars. Not that they don’t try. Every dog will do his or her best to convince each human to give them treats. Your dog will tell you she needs a biscuit now or will collapse from hunger. This is not particularly convincing when the canine in question is a beefy pooch who has obviously never missed a meal. Eternally optimistic, all dogs figure it’s worth a shot. It’s a dog thing. You never know when a biscuit might fall your way.

Duke and Bonnie

When the performance our furry kids put on in hopes of getting a tasteless dry biscuit is especially hilarious, we relax the rules and give them a little something. After all, they don’t have hands and can’t grab one for themselves. Now and again, they need to get lucky because they’re cute and we love them.

Dogs lie, but their lies are simple and transparent. There’s no malice in them. They just want a biscuit or maybe have you throw that ball. If they don’t get what they want, they love you anyway.

When it comes to love, dogs are the best. They “get” love and think you are wonderful. They think you are wonderful every day of their lives. When they are dying, the last thing they will do is look at you with love in their eyes, wag their tail one final time and try to give you a kiss.

I have spent my life lurching between my quest for God and an equally ardent quest for the best dog food at the most reasonable price. When times have been hard and we’ve had to choose between food for us and food for our furry children, the fur kids always win.

Bonnie

Our dogs do not suffer from angst. They don’t worry unless supper runs late or biscuits are forgotten in the bustle of a day’s activities. If such a catastrophe should occur, they know exactly where to present their grievances and apply for redress.

Dogs live close to their deities. They hang out with their gods on the sofa. They get biscuits from them in the morning and evening. If life is circumscribed and a bit confined, it is nonetheless good.

Sometimes one of their gods gets angry and yells at them. That might make them unhappy for a few minutes, but the gods of their world don’t stay angry. Our dogs have kindly and loving gods who are inclined to scratch them behind the ears and talk to them in soft voices.

TinkerizedRemotes

We are gods to our dogs and as such, we set laws for them to live by. Don’t poop or pee in the house.

Do not chew things not given to you for chewing, especially not anything containing batteries. Don’t jump on old people or babies. Don’t growl at delivery people. Don’t stay up late barking. Abide by the law and all will be well.

When rules are clear and understood by all, life runs smoothly.

The human side of the contract is more complicated. It’s harder being god than dog.

We pledge to care for them all the days of their lives. We keep them healthy. We love and nurture them. We feed them properly, make sure they get exercise – though they don’t get enough of it and neither do we. We keep them warm and dry in winter, cool and dry in summer.

If we force them to go outside to do their business, it is because they are, after all, dogs.

About to engage …

Every evening, for at least a little while, their gods climb down from heaven to play on the floor.

Our dogs don’t fret about the future. They live in a joyful present. When their time comes, we will make sure they pass gently out of this world. We promise to keep them as free from suffering as is within our power.

That is our solemn contract. We live up to that pledge because we really are gods to our fur children and must never let them down. Pets teach you a lot about the divine contract.

A LEGAL ROMANCE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In the 1970’s, I was wooed, the old-fashioned way, by a suitor. Because of our circumstances, the courtship took an interesting turn.

Larry and I were both at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. I was in my first year of law school and he was in his second. So the focal point for the romance was, of course, the law library.

Georgetown University Law School law library

Whenever I was in the library (which was often) and wherever I was in the library, Larry would show up. He always knew how to find me. He always seemed to know where I was. That alone intrigued me. Then Larry would sit with me and talk. He’d often help me with homework or explain things to me in very vivid and understandable ways. He ‘got’ the law in a way most people didn’t. He had a brilliant legal mind and he was a very good teacher. For me, at the time, this was positively sexy.

Most of the time we just chatted. Larry had a great sense of humor and fun so we laughed a lot. Too much, in fact. On more than one occasion, we were asked to leave the library because we were laughing too much and too loudly.

Larry when we were in law school

Larry would also send me notes. Not your usual romantic, sentimental stuff. No. Useful notes for someone in law school. Let me explain. All exams and most teaching in law school is done in the form of ‘fact patterns’. These are carefully crafted stories packed with legal issues hidden in them that you had to find and analyze. So Larry would send me notes with ‘fact patterns’ on different legal topics so I could practice the art of legal analysis. To me (and to my study group), that was about as romantic as you could get!

The icing on the cake involved another library. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. My dad was a published author in the fields of psychiatry and anthropology. One night, Larry called me from the Library of Congress. He had looked up my father! He told me all the books and articles written by my dad that were in the famous library. He asked me to pick one for him to read. He took the book out of the library and actually read it. He later discussed it with my dad. Now that’s dedication!

Library of Congress in D.C.

I had always liked Larry. He was bright and funny and had incredible energy. But at first, I didn’t think of him as a boyfriend. I had just ended an ill-fated quasi engagement with an older man back in New York and was not looking for another relationship yet. But Larry was getting to me.

Over Thanksgiving, Larry’s father announced that he was leaving his mother after 33 years of marriage. Larry was devastated and he opened up to me for the first time. That took our relationship to another level and we started dating.

Me when I was in law school

In December, I went to Connecticut for part of the Christmas vacation. Like in the law library, Larry just showed up at my door one day! He had driven two and a half hours from his home in New Jersey to surprise me. And he wanted to meet my parents. That was the only encounter between Larry and my mother that ever went well. My parents were impressed by him. As was I.

Our relationship blossomed when we got back to Washington in January. We were together almost all the time except for classes. Larry asked me to marry him. I said not yet. Larry proposed again. I still said not yet. In March, I finally said, “Okay, let’s get married.” In typical legal fashion, he said that his initial offer had expired. According to the law, my ‘acceptance’ was now considered a counter offer. So he gladly ‘accepted’ my ‘offer’ of marriage. For 25 years he claimed that I had proposed to him. He was legally correct, but it still annoyed me!

So Larry won me over by persistence and creativity. He used the law to his advantage and got a wife in the bargain.

THE CRUSH WHICH CRUSHED ME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In my senior year of high school, my school hired a new college adviser. His name was Mr. Berger and he was 32 years old. He was a cool guy and lots of students spent time hanging out with him in his office.

I spent more time than most, much of it alone with Mr. Berger. We developed a special relationship. He flirted with me. He talked about his outside life. He told me about breaking up with a girlfriend. He cried to me when a friend committed suicide. He began to talk like he planned to have a relationship with me after I graduated.

Mr. Berger with me in the background

I was over the moon. I thought I was madly in love with this guy. The age difference, 14 years, was nothing to me. My parents were 26 years apart in age. My mother was 18 when she met her future (first) husband, who was then 33. Over time, my originally skeptical parents and friends came to believe that Mr. Berger really did have serious intentions toward me beyond school. I floated through the school year.

As school came to an end, I think Mr. Berger started to get cold feet about me. I was not only a virgin, I was also a naïve romantic. I clearly saw any ongoing relationship with Mr. Berger as ‘serious’. I don’t think Mr. Berger was ready for that. However, instead of letting me down gently, he hit me over the head with a sledge-hammer.

I don’t remember how he told me that ‘we’ were not going to happen. I do remember crying on the phone with him and begging him to meet with me to talk about it. He said he’d pick me up at my apartment building and take me for coffee. I waited in the lobby. He said he waited for me outside the building and then left. Another groveling phone conversation involving crying and begging.

My senior yearbook photo

The final blow came in the last few weeks of school. Mr. Berger chaperoned a group of seniors (not including me) on an overnight trip. Afterwards, I was told that he was seen canoodling with the one girl in the class I had serious issues with. I think he was sending me a message. I got it.

I was beyond crushed. Devastated is too mild a term to describe my state. I lost all confidence in myself. My self-image went into the toilet. I felt betrayed, played and humiliated. As well as heartbroken.

I had a horrible, depressing summer. When I started college in the fall, I started getting physical symptoms including dizziness, rapid pulse, palpitations and extreme fatigue. These symptoms were later diagnosed as part of a major depression, which in turn, affected my thyroid gland. I was barely functional. I believe that the ‘trauma’ with Mr. Berger triggered this depressive episode, which lasted over three years and colored my entire college career.

I almost didn’t write about this incident. I find it cringe worthy how little self-esteem I had. But I decided to share the story because, for better or for worse, it was a pivotal event in my life. I was probably just a depression waiting to happen. But it’s still humiliating to have been plunged into years of mental illness by such a relatively trivial event. I guess it is what it is. And I was who I was. For better or for worse.

ONLINE DATING MYSTERIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a friend, in her mid-fifties and just divorced, who has started the online dating game. She has found herself in an unusual situation. She “met” a guy on a dating site and they hit it off – on paper, or in cyber. They are texting and talking on the phone daily. They’ve sent each other tons of photos. He sent her flowers on her birthday and they “watched” a soccer match together (he’s Italian).

But in the six weeks they’ve “known each other”, they have been unable to meet in person. One of them has been out-of-town at all times. And he is about to go to Africa for two months for his job.

I told this story to two other friends, in their mid-sixties, who have a lot of experience with online dating. They had diametrically opposite reactions. One, The Cynic, said that no amount of phone or text conversations mean anything until you meet in person. She says, from experience, that you can’t tell how you’re going to react to or interact with someone until you are face to face. She’s had many similar situations when there’s been a lot of “talking” before meeting and everything seems great. Then they meet and nothing. Not even a second date.

Photo: CRCGXB

From my own experience with online dating (that’s how I met my husband 18 years ago), I don’t think you have any idea how you’ll relate to the person until you talk to them on the phone. Writing back and forth can only tell you so much. But once you’ve talked on the phone, to me, you get a better sense of the personality and the gestalt of the person.

My other dating savvy friend, The Optimist, agrees with me. While meeting in person gives you a full picture of the person you’re dealing with, talking to the person is the next best thing. The Optimist thinks that, at this point, the odds are good that my novice dater and her online beau will “click” in person, as a couple.

Many people these days have online relationships that stay exclusively online. I’m told that’s true in the gaming community. That’s a different story. I’m talking about relationships that are meant to transition form the purely technological to the intensely up close and personal. From the conversational to the romantic/sexual. It’s that transition that I find fascinating.

Photo: Freethoughtblogs.com

I don’t know what will happen when my friend meets her Italian, but I’m hopeful. They’re having a great time together now and I think the odds are good this will translate into a good, personal connection. Then again, many couples meet in person, start a relationship with high hopes and it ends a short time later.

So who knows?

THE FIRE OF YOUR DESIRE

KISS OF FIRE!

Funny how the language of love is all about fire. This is “Kiss of Fire” by GEORGIA GIBBS – 1952. It was on the flip side of another song. Which I don’t remember. But this one, even when I was a little kid, was hilarious. Every time I hear it, I have to howl. It’s so … intense.

Former relationships are “old flames.” Love someone, but have not declared yourself? You are “carrying a torch.” When a relationship gets tired, the chemistry is gone and “the fire has gone out.” A powerful yearning for someone is a “burning passion.”

I had this song on a 45 rpm vinyl record. I was five. I memorized the words and have been singing it ever since. If I’m in the right mood, I will still sing it to Garry. It makes his hearing aids produce feedback.

I particularly like when she sings:


“If I’m a slave, then it’s a slave I want to be. DON’T PITY ME. DON’T PITY ME!”

KISS OF FIRE

I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying
Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying
And though I see the danger, still the flame grows higher
I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire

Just like a torch, you set the soul within me burning
I must go on along this road of no returning
And though it burns me and it turns me into ashes
My whole world crashes without your kiss of fire

I can’t resist you, what good is there in trying
What good is there denying you’re all that I desire
Since first I kissed you my heart was yours completely
If I’m a slave, then it’s a slave I want to be
Don’t pity me, don’t pity me

Give me your lips, the lips you only let me borrow
Love me tonight and let the devil take tomorrow
I know that I must have your kiss although it dooms me
Though it consumes me, your kiss of fire
Since first I kissed you my heart was yours completely
If I’m a slave, then it’s a slave I want to be
Don’t pity me, don’t pity me

Give me your lips, the lips you only let me borrow
Love me tonight and let the devil take tomorrow
I know that I must have your kiss although it dooms me
Though it consumes me, your kiss of fire….

DESIRE | THE DAILY POST

 

THERE WAS EDEN

“Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”  ― Mark Twain, The Diary of Adam and Eve

Perhaps for some it is a place. A building, dwelling, or over there, on the edge of the mountain or by the river. For me, home is wherever that which I love best can be found. There need be no hearth, no specific locality or history.

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The weather may be chill or warm, inclement or fair. Wherever my love will be, that will be home.


DISCOVER CHALLENGE | Finding Your Place

TOUGH QUESTIONS, EASY ANSWERS

I asked. He answered. He asked, I answered. We’ve been together ever since.

Here’s how it happened. It began on the ferry ride back from Martha’s Vineyard. We’d spent a magical week. It was obvious that Something Was Happening.

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From there, we moved on to living together. Sort of. We each had our own place, but were almost always together in one or the other. With a lot of driving in between. As both of us were working full-time, we didn’t get a lot of time to relax together. Things were bound to change, but there was in no rush. I had no plans for moving on.

I’d gone to California on business for a couple of weeks. I came back early because I got sick. Which was just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series on October 17, 1989 — occurred the following day. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.

A few weeks later, Garry had a few questions for me. He suggested we go out to dinner. Nice place on the dock in Boston. Garry was uncharacteristically nervous. I could tell because he drove around Leverett Circle half a dozen times on the way to the wharf . He kept missing the turn. As he drove, he explained he’d had a conversation with a pal about real estate. Prices were down. Maybe we should buy something. Live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me?

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Having listened awhile, I said: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said, and drove around the loop one more time.

This time, I said “Yes.”

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. I had to remind him about buying a ring, but eventually he realized all he had to do was give me a ring, set a date, tell me what he wanted in the way of a wedding (everything, really everything). After which he could show up in a tux and be married.

We got married 6 months later having known each other only 26 years.

I asked, he said “yes.” He asked, I said “yes.” Not so tough after all.

DISCOVER CHALLENGE | TOUGH QUESTIONS