Livestock in the Bedroom

Joe Normal Pose

(This is my mastiff Joe who passed away this week just shy of his 12th birthday.  I wrote this piece years ago when I first adopted Joe and am rerunning it in his honor.  I have never met a dog more devoted to my well-being than this boy and I will miss him forever.)

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Economically, times are tough. Those that have spending money are finally showing a bit of well-placed caution, and those that don’t have money, well, the decision to become fiscally conservative has been made for them. Economic distress is so close that everyone is feeling its hot, sour breath in our ears, whispering terms of anxiety and fear.

We Americans are strong. We will adapt. We will come through this and be content and prosperous again. Though right now that we’re in the middle of this financial fog and trying to cope, we’d love a gigantic cocktail of scotch and Xanax, hold the ice. Yes bartender, I would like to run a tab.

As people are being shoved into tight corners and having to make painful choices, it is often the most blameless that bear the first, confusing cut. The family dog, particularly if it is a large breed, often finds itself dumped in a shelter through no fault of its own. Large breed rescue groups and shelters are being overrun with owner-relinquished pets as people are being forced out of their homes into an apartment or worse.

If you and yours find yourself having to live in your car, there is no question that Meatball the mastiff doesn’t quite fit your current situation. It’s not Meatball’s fault. He’s grown into 200 pounds of fur-covered familial devotion, but your new reality is that you have a Ford Taurus as a home address and two children sharing the back seat. Meatball has to go. He is an innocent, bewildered casualty of the current economy and it is just not fair.

My heart aches for Meatball. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a total sucker for a large dog. I am absolutely potty about lumbering, heavy-jowled monsters. My husband’s favorite breed of dog is the Labrador retriever, which I consider to be just a medium-sized dog, practically petite. We decided to adopt another rescue dog this year to join our two, Oney the Great Dane; and Clara Jack, the Basset hound from Hell. In a fit of unusual practicality, I was leaning towards something smaller this time, even bedroom slipper size, like a Pug.

Then my husband Patrick proved to me once again that he truly does love me all the way down to my toes. He said no. Even though it would have been so much easier on him, he said no to a small dog, because he knows I really do love and prefer large. He reminded me of the joy I’d known with our late Bernese Mountain dog, Bubba, who was convinced I’d personally hung the moon. Patrick told me I had to get an enormous male dog who was as smitten with me as Bubba had been, insuring that domestic bliss would be achieved. He even went so far as to bolt a twin bed onto the side of our king-size bed giving room for all, so no one would be left out of the pack while we slept.

So with Patrick’s encouragement, I found my very own Meatball. An English mastiff the size of Jupiter, he was available through the Southern States Mastiff Rescue group. I met him at the foster home where he was staying. He sniffed me once and promptly jumped in the back of my car. It was a done deal as far as he was concerned. I probably would have acted a bit more coyly, but that would have only wasted time. He was mine, I was his, let’s get on with our lives.

He is now called Joe. He plays with his sisters, likes my husband well enough, and absolutely adores me. And when it comes bedtime, a thundering herd of 420 combined pounds of dogs clomping up the stairs and settling in for the night sounds like disgruntled cattle.

I have never slept better.

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The Three Phases of Christmas Celebration

elfshelf

There are three life phases of Christmas holiday observance. When you’re a child it’s all Elf on the Shelf. Santa’s demented NSA. The pixie version of a house arrest anklet. You’d better watch out, you’d better not pout. . . . I never liked a snitch, so the elf was thrown to the bird dogs as soon as I realized what its covert mission was. Shredded in seconds. Tell Santa about that, you tattle-tale weasel. The Elf never had a chance and would have known that if he’d bothered to talk to Barbie.  So really, he wasn’t much of an intelligence-gatherer.

I had a history of violence towards select toys. As much as my mother wanted me to be a girlie girl, I despised Barbie. Mama tried, bless her heart. I was given several Barbie dolls, and every one of them suffered the exact same fate. Within a week, I would buzz cut their hair, tattoo them with a ballpoint pen, then snap their head off and use it as a ball and their body as a bat. You don’t even want to know about my kitchen match torture, where I wrapped hundreds of kitchen matches around Barbie’s waist with masking tape and then lit them. Barbie’s unnaturally large boobs melted like ice cream on a summer’s day.

Imagine my Mama’s joy when my little sister turned out to be a Malibu Barbie addict. Half her room was littered with Pepto-Bismol pink Barbie accoutrements.   Beach houses, furniture, cars, dune buggies, clothing, Ken and Skipper, all strictly off limits to me per my mother. It’s like Barbie got a restraining order.

When I was in my twenties, there was no Elf on the Shelf. That phase of holiday revelry was more of a Whore in the Drawer. Finding my tribe of friends and celebrating heartily, boozily, excessively was all I wanted for the holidays. I had a blast. I learned how to drink without taking it to the point of becoming sloppy low-hanging fruit, although there were missteps along the way, mostly tequila-based.

I went through a serious phase of promiscuity and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yeah, I put the ho in ho-ho-ho but dodged all real consequences of bad behavior, so yeah me. If I had not stumbled my way through that phase I would not have learned many an important life lesson. Like, good looks mean less than nothing if they’re attached to an ugly heart. I must avoid tequila because it makes me dangerously stupid. When someone says something despicable, they’re not kidding but are showing you who they really are. Believe them.  Someone sporting designer clothes and a status car may just mean that they are in debt up to their rhinoplasty. Don’t look to another person for your happiness, that one is all on you. If you can’t stand to be alone, you’re not ready to be with someone else. Good lessons, all.

Now I’ve entered the last life phase of holiday revelry, the Grouch on the Couch phase. All I want for Christmas is a good meal, peace and quiet with no soundtrack save for the snoring of my pack, and a nice holiday nap. I hate that Christmas decorations are in stores before Halloween. I hate Muzak Christmas carols on an eternal loop for three months. I hate the screaming commercials for crap that is only trotted out during the holidays because people will desperately buy anything. I’m looking at you, Chia Pet. I would rather eat a bowl of dirt than leave my house on Black Friday. I am within a gnat’s eyelash of screaming “Humbug!” Too much, too much, too much!

The Danes have a word for what I want during the holidays: hygge (pronounced hYOOguh). It means cozy in both your surroundings and your emotions. It means all is right in your world even if briefly. It requires no more than a comfy chair, or a thick pair of socks, or cinnamon toast and tea. It really only requires a sense of gratitude. Isn’t that the truth of the season anyway? Simple kindness and gratitude?

I give you my very best wishes for a lovely holiday and a fabulous new year. Hygge, y’all.

 

Adopt a Senior Dog Month

This is Adopt a Senior Dog month.  I would like to say a few things about adult and senior dogs.  In the interest of full disclosure I must point out that I am just not a puppy person.  I have always gone for the post-adolescence dog when adopting.  It is so much easier.

Senior dogs do not chew up electric cords, drywall, shoes, remote controls, iPhones, or whatever is dear to you like puppies do.  Senior dogs are already housebroken.  Many senior dogs come already trained to basic commands.  Senior dogs don’t require a lot of exercise.  Many seniors still have a lot of life left in them.  Best of all, senior dogs are extremely grateful for being rescued.  Senior dogs know how to love you.

I recommend that you peruse http://www.petfinder.com to find the perfect friend.  It will give both of you something wonderful to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Gateway Dog