Friday, October 11, 2013

Dog Save Us

These pieces turn out better when I write about an experience rather than blather on pontificating and regurgitating the bleeding heart liberal party line. I am enjoying a couple of weeks at home before we take off on yet another trip, this time to visit Spuds and attend Family Day at Bard. I rationalize having a relatively uneventful week because I am not exactly aspiring to have writing worthy experiences. Like most ordinary weeks, I walk, work and watch an embarrassing amount of TV. This week I am disturbed by Right Wing Republicans, duped by big business into doing its evil bidding and making mischief, but Himself is so cynical there can be no dinner table discussion. The government shutdown being verboten chat fodder, the only two events outside the norm for me are seeing a movie that I probably wouldn't have agreed to see if I had remembered its provenance when I was invited and taking Taffy and Rover to the low-cost vaccine clinic at the Animal Shelter.

Wajda is the first film ever made by a female Saudi Arabian filmmaker. The movie receives tons of praise but I am suspicious it is being overly celebrated by critics striving for political correctness. I anticipate a couple hours of bombast and amateurish film-making. It is an understatement to admit the film defied my expectations big time. Wajda joins the pantheon of poignant bicycle themed films like De Sica's Bicycle Thief and Truffaut's Les Miston. A bicycle is so much more modest a vehicle than a car and the main character, Wajda's desire to own one provides a glimpse into Saudi Arabia that feels tender but very authentic. Wajda wears high-top sneakers and jeans under her hijab. She records mix cassettes of rock music but she is admonished for appearing in public without her face covered or for playing on the school playground in sight of some workmen on scaffolding. Wajda's mother is at the mercy of a irascible driver to provide transportation to and from her distant employer. Her father is largely absent and it is revealed that he is in the process of marrying a second wife to bear him a son because Wajda's mother's difficult pregnancy has made it impossible for to conceive again. The direction is understated and this light touch makes the glimpse into a land that is very modern in so many ways except that for women, it might as well still be the Middle Ages.

For the most part, American dogs garner more respect than Saudi women. Our Taffy in fact has a better social life than we do, being a member of a Corgi meet-up group. This weekend we will chauffeur him to a beach picnic in Orange County. There are fancy dog boutiques where a box of gluten free treats costs more than the weekly Food Stamp allotment for a family of four. Our dogs suffer through on store brand kibble but nevertheless we are hardcore dog people, I do see though why people hate dogs. Our three bark when another canine has the temerity to pass the house. My constant reminder that the street is a public area and not private property has no effect. Himself, despite his devotion to the practice of meditation which I think is, if not truly Buddhist, Buddhist-y, has a short fuse. Added to the dogs' incessant barking is Himself screaming at them to stop barking which of course only incites them to bark all the more.

My boy Rover (who farts loudly the moment I type his name) seems to have stabilized and while he remains a little creaky he is more animated than he was early in the summer. He is adjusting to the new office and is back on his must walk promptly at 10:30 schedule. His appetite is excellent and several times an hour he shatters my concentration and pats my thigh with his rough paw inveigling for a treat. His fuzz already wafts through the new office and he is banished from my new little Volvo Blueie. I keep my ancient wagon for the sole purpose of transporting him. My tolerate-the-dog-because-it-is-the-boss's otherwise dog-hating employees marvel that Rover has his own car.

I put off rabies vaccines when it looks like the oldest canine will no longer require a license. When Rover shows signs of a second wind I decide to spring for the shots. I guess if you aren't a dog person, this dilemma seems preposterous but the logistics of transporting both Taffy and Rover is complicated. Oprah and Taffy will not be separated. They have no problem when Rover leaves for work by himself every morning, as long as they get a treat. I can take Oprah and Taffy in the car together. Taffy likes riding in the car although he occasionally shifts gears or turns on the wipers. Oprah hates riding in the car so it is not practical to take her along for the shots merely as a field trip. I choose the vaccine clinic that is only five minutes from the house in order to minimize the duration of Oprah's howling when separated from Taffy.

I expect a quick trip but there are dogs (and a few cats that people haven't had brains enough to put into carriers and will therefore deserve the permanent scarring to face and neck areas) lined up around the block. I am tempted to bail and take ours to the private vet but I've already gone to the trouble of getting them in and out of the car. There are puppies and wobbly oldsters, pure-breds and mutts, dinky Chihuahuas and behemoth Rottweilers. There are also a number of Cholos with unneutered pit-bulls who get dirty looks from the crowd. The wait turns out to be over two hours. Finally, Taffy and Rover lie down on the floor, immobile, as people step gingerly over them. It certainly isn't worth this much of my time to save a few bucks on shots but there is something reassuring that after a long day's work, so many people will patiently wait so long to do the right thing by their pets.

I am out of the closet about the amount of TV I watch and despite being an ardent pacifist, a lot of the shows I watch are Grand Guignol violent. I have no trouble when a character on one of my programs holds a revolver to an infant's temple but I bury my head when a gunman, who typically wastes half a dozen people per episode of Boardwalk Empire, is unable to end his dying dog's misery and put him down. I will add that while it is repulsively slothful, I enjoy stretching out on the couch and watching a show at the end of the day. When Oprah entered the house for the first time at age eight weeks she jumped immediately up on the sofa and has rarely surrendered it since. So, when I am stretched out usually there is a seventy pound dead weight pinning me down and numbing my limbs. Opie didn't like the dying dog scene either.

My misanthrope husband will happily discuss ideas but is largely apathetic about politics and particularly indifferent with regard to people. This challenges me to lay off the TV a bit but given my mental sluggishness I am able only rarely to provide him with a modest amount of satisfying discourse. He condescends to watch a couple of shows with me. We've been doing this give and take thing for over twenty-five years now. For over twenty of these years the kids have been a constant distraction but also kept us grounded in our commonality. The boys are both gone now and the intersecting slice on our Venn Diagram is a bit thinner. I read so I can make conversation with him and he watches TV to keep me company. We accept that now that just the dogs, and not the kids, are the reason that we can't have anything nice. Barking wakes us in the middle of the night. I always have to share the couch. I drive a thick with dog hair, un-air-conditioned, door-handle-broken jalopy to work every day. Yet, we both sneak the dogs special treats and talk baby talk to them. The love of dogs was one of the first things we loved about each other way back when. Now that there are no kids to distract us, despite the downside, it is nice after all these years that we still love dogs together.  


John L. Murphy / "FionnchĂș" said...

And cats, but I suppose that will await another post. I did not get to know felines on a non-allergic basis before I met you. But dogs, of course starting with beloved Bowser-Blanche, and continuing with dear Andrew, on to Fido and Bingo, always earn a dear place in my hard but beating heart.

I think the barking is accelerating as Rover gets deaf, Opie gets alpha, Taffy gets frenzied, and the hordes of hipsters trot with their own beasts along down our flat stretch of an insufficiently secluded street within sight of the three hounds. I rarely get a good sleep anymore and I used to more mornings. But the cats join in, as they too wake me and bang in and out of the closet doors, either for play or from spite.

Still, I reckon Mary and Gary like their newly appointed salon. And the three beasts downstairs camp out on their cushions or couch whenever we are or aren't there. The shows go on, the tech to record them shifts from VCR to disc to some wired contraption to an array of on-demand services all of which we seem to pay for, but the entertainment continues and I can even refer to The Wire (which almost nobody watches ever) to Breaking Bad (a few) in ethics or technology classes. Of course, most of my students play games or chat and Skype rather than watch t.v., which is as old-fashioned as e-mail by now.

Thanks for being a trusted partner in guiding me to the best of the tube, certain shows of yours such as the chick channel Snapped marathons every weekend aside. xxx me

My own Damn Blog said...

Love the love of the pets. I am sorry that I am not Opie's biggest fan. May I not rot in hell for that.

In terms of "nice things" we have had to live with furniture so scratched to shreds the foam rubber was falling out. But our luck has changed...Both found on the street,(FREE!!!), a worn-ish leather couch and one of those Lazy Boy big chairs (almost brand new!) with oversized hassock that doubles as a guest bed. Curb furniture is much better quality up here than down there. Feel free to put in your order with me and I'll be happy to keep my eye out....(YOU HAUL)

Dave said...

If women are confined to the middle ages, then so are men.