theicingonthecrazycake

When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

Archive for the tag “dogs”

First Love – Part 2

Continued from First Love – Part 1

Note from author: The conclusion of this story may be a bit of a downer for a Friday… but try to look at the black comedy aspect of it. At the very least – laugh at my dysfunctional family – and love them dearly like I do. I would be a really lousy writer, otherwise.

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Mabel: 7 p.m., May 15, 2000

Mabel had been so busy lately with the fundraiser for her anti-abortion non-profit. And with leading the group who said the daily rosary outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic, she had been working long hours and could barely make it home in time to make dinner for George and feed the dog.

Speaking of Indy, feeding him had become irrelevant. She came home most nights to find the food untouched from the night before. Taking him out for walks had become a chore, too. Sometimes she used a towel as a sling, fashioning it under his stomach to hold him up while he peed.

Lately, George had started talking about putting Indy to sleep, using phrases like “quality of life” and “it’s the most humane thing to do.” She refused to listen; killing the dog was just wrong. Sure, she was worried, but he was old and nature would eventually take its course. George could be so infuriating; he always chose the quick fix and never wanted to get his hands dirty. She shuddered to think what would’ve happened if she had not married him. It was her lot in life to keep him in line and, well, prevent him from killing living things, like the dog or the rose bushes out back.

Mabel had just arrived home after another hectic day outside the clinic. She dropped her purse on the counter and propped up the signs, with pictures of dead fetuses and the tagline “Choose Life,” against the kitchen wall. George was at the table, nursing a cocktail and doing the New York Times crossword, no doubt waiting for dinner to be served (which at this point seemed unappetizing, as he glanced at Mabel’s signs). The doorbell rang; it was their neighbor Mr. Langston, holding a soaked and traumatized mass of fur in his arms

He wandered into my backyard and fell into the pool. I had to fish him out with one of those pool nets, he said, depositing the dog into Mabel’s arms.

Unfazed, Mabel said thanks, shut the door and went into the kitchen.

George pounded his fist on the kitchen table, upsetting his cocktail glass and spraying scotch on one of the doily place mats.

Dammit, Mabel, it’s time, he just basically tried to off himself in the neighbor’s pool. I think it’s time to go see Dr. Maxwell.

Ignoring George, Mabel cradled the wet dog in her arms and headed to the bathroom, to wash the chlorine out of his fur.

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George: Dawn, May 26, 2000

George was exhausted. He had been up all night. He had searched his medicine cabinet for the right combination of drugs, added water to form it into a paste and shoved it down the dog’s throat. Indy had been thrashing and crying out in pain all night; he didn’t put up a fight when George pried open his jaws and administered the lethal dose. George had wanted the vet to put him down weeks ago, but Mabel was against it. Now George’s Jack Kevorkian hat was planted firmly on top of his balding head, as Mabel slept soundly in the bedroom.

Euthanasia is wrong, it’s not God’s plan, argued Mabel when George had first brought it up two weeks ago.

Never mind she doesn’t think animals have souls, so what the fuck does God have to do with it? George thought. Jesus, if I get to the point where I have to be held up to urinate, just pull the plug.

His mind wandered back to Mabel, as he gently scratched the dog’s back. She had been a study in contradictions and stubbornness during their 35-year marriage. He had resigned himself to it, at times even laughing at the idiocy of it all. However, now, in the present, it made him angry. There was no humor to be found in killing the family dog with a cocktail of drug samples given to him by pharmaceutical reps, when it would’ve been far more humane to do it at the vet’s office. But this was his only choice right now.

He held the dog’s head in his lap, as both his and Indy’s crying and shaking began to subside.

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George and Mabel: 3 p.m., May 26, 2000

Okay, so I need to dig the hole at least four feet deep and wrap him in how many trash bags? George bellowed through the receiver at the Health Department rep. He refused to admit that his hearing was beginning to go.

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First Love – Part 1

Bea: 10 a.m., May 26, 2000

She heard a ding. She had a new email in her inbox. It had no subject line.

Bea,
 Indy died early this morning.
 Dad

She ran to the bathroom, hid in one of the stalls and cried. Public crying was frowned upon at her high-pressure, male-dominated job at an equity research firm. She could hear someone in the stall next to her puking, no doubt a victim of last night’s raucous party hosted by the coke-snorting traders on the fifth floor. She crouched on the toilet seat and tried to figure out if she was more upset by her dad’s sucky method of communication or the death of her first love.

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Bea: 1985

That spring, Bea started the great Push for a Dog Campaign with George and Mabel. She had already shown conscientious animal ownership by keeping a goldfish alive for nearly five years (unheard of among goldfish enthusiasts!) and nurturing her one-legged finch, Captain Hook, for seven years. And then there were the gerbils, which could go either way in the animal care plus and minus columns (but she was leaning more toward the PLUS side of things). It wasn’t her fault: Troy Henson swore the two gerbils he sold to Bea were females, but after 14 hairless, maggot-like creatures appeared in the cage two months later, Bea had serious doubts about Troy’s gender-determining abilities. She found out years later that he had become Tory Henson, after a sex reassignment operation, and was a hedge fund manager in NYC, having given up his/her dreams of being a rodent entrepreneur.

Once Mabel banished the gerbil breeding factory from the house, selling the surviving 12 to the local pet store (four were consumed by papa gerbil, a vision that years of therapy had yet to erase from her sister Meg’s psyche), Bea started campaigning for a dog. Dogs didn’t swim listlessly around in algae-encrusted prisons or hop around on one foot inside a tiny cage. They didn’t procreate like rabbits and then slap their young between two slices of bread and eat them for lunch. They were protectors of the family, tail-wagging packages of unconditional love.

Mabel and George did not want a dog; to them, a dog was a flea-filled, shed-a-holic germ factory that had no place in their home with its white-washed walls, gleaming hardwoods and expensive china. However, after incessant begging and pleading from Bea, they struck a deal with her: Do your research, find a low-maintenance dog and we may consider it.

Bea always played by the rules. She purchased The Encyclopedia of Canines and dog-eared the pages of breeds she suspected would meet Mabel and George’s approval: small dogs that didn’t consume and then defecate 40 pounds of kibble each week; dogs that needed less exercise than Greyhounds and Labradors; family-friendly, courageous dogs that would most undoubtedly save Timmy after he fell into the well.

Bea proudly showed Mabel the marked pages one afternoon, following a particularly long research session.

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Welcome mats and doormats

Yesterday I approached my Meals on Wheels route with a heavy heart. I can’t explain it. I think it was because that damn Bon Iver song “Skinny Love” was playing on the radio as I pulled out of the food distribution center. That song makes me sad. I fumbled with the dial, trying to find Bananarama or something else stupid and peppy and retro. Nope, Bauhaus was playing for fuck’s sake. Radio. Turned. Off.

I ruminated about my mood as I drove to my first meal drop-off. I decided it was because I felt like an empty vessel – and today of all days I needed to be shooting compassionate and patient pixie dust out of my ass. These people relied on me. Yet, I had nothing to give. As my wise friend Karen says to me when I’m facing a difficult task or visit home: “Just send your better self. Just for this one thing. It will get you through it.” So I tried to summon my better self, but I wasn’t sure if she was the one driving the car at the moment.

My first drop-off  was easy – I just had to put the food in the cooler, as was the case with the following two deliveries. No human interaction required, yet I still cried in my car between these easy drop-offs. Better self, where are you? I asked myself.

Next on the list: Ed. Sometimes he waited outside for his food, sunning himself on the back deck; other days he left a cooler for me. With twinkly blue eyes and ruddy Irish skin, he reminds me of my grandfather, had my grandfather lived to see his late 70s, instead of only his early 60s.

I pulled up to his house and headed to the back of the house. The cooler was there on the back deck, in place of Ed. Alas, there was no ice, and I’m not allowed to leave the food in the cooler unless it contains an ice-pack.

I knocked.

“Who is it?” said a gruff voice.

“It’s Meals on Wheels,” my better self cheerfully shouted through the closed door.

“What a glorious voice,” he said as he opened the back door.

I handed him his his meal and asked, “How are you doing today, Ed?”

“Tired. I just woke up. But my day just got better the minute I saw you. You look like a damn movie star. A movie star! It should be a crime to be as pretty as you are.”

Taken off guard, I squeaked, “You know, Ed, I was having a difficult morning, and you just made my day.” Putting my hand on my chest I said with less-squeaky conviction, “I will carry your compliment in my heart all day long. Thank you. You have a great day yourself.”

I practically skipped back to my car, with tears in my eyes but a big grin on my face. Yeah, yeah, Ed is practically blind, which probably makes my bovine-sized thighs look super-model svelte, but perhaps he can sense inner beauty. Or maybe I am pretty. Huh. Foreign concept for me.

After a few more easy stops, I reached Meg’s house. She always tries to give me something: brownies, eggplant, earrings, necklaces, a wooden angel. She won’t take no for an answer. We chatted for awhile and then she showed me her garden, as if for the first time, even through she shows it to me every time I visit her. I don’t mind. I like gardens. Besides, it’s a testament to her strength: 88 years old with a bad leg, she spends hours out in her garden, tending to the tomatoes and zucchini and beans.

“I have something for you,” she said, grabbing my hand and leading me out to the garage.

“Meg, I can’t possibly take anything else from you, you have been more than generous,” I argued.

She opened the garage and presented me with an empty Kmart shopping cart.

“I grabbed this when the store down the street closed. I’ve got no use for it, in fact I have an identical one in the basement.”

I stifled a laugh. A shopping cart? Too bad she didn’t have a job or boyfriend waiting for me in the garage.

“Meg, you are so sweet. I can’t possibly take this. I live on the third floor, in a 500 square foot apartment.”

She signed resignedly and said okay. I hugged her and walked down the driveway giggling to myself. “See you next week,” I shouted over my shoulder.

As the morning rolled by, I visited with two other of my favorites, and managed to coax another one of the clients outside her door. She usually leaves the door open just wide enough for me to slip the food through. Victory.

My better self finally emerged, due in no small part to the welcome mat that always seems to be put out for me. Whether I visit with these people or am left with a cooler (but no person) to deliver to, I feel welcome, needed, maybe even loved.

However, my day wasn’t over yet. On an afternoon walk with my dog, I would find out that the welcome mat doesn’t exist in some people’s lives; instead they seek to treat others like doormats. These days, I prefer actively stepping over the threshold of the welcome mat, not being the passive doormat. And the Cruella De Vil who tangled with me yesterday afternoon was met with my better, non-doormat self’s smart mouth and a sense of new-found confidence.

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COL Letter: The Great East Side Dog Poop War

NOTE FROM AUTHOR: This is part of my series called Crotchety Old Lady (COL) Letters: Complaint letters written from the Crotchety Old Lady that resides deep inside my soul (and she doesn’t take Xanax, although she probably should).

PS – Thanks CS for reading my blog and getting me off my butt to write today, and thanks RK, who has no problem discussing poop with me (the hallmark of a true friend). XO to you both.

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Dear Providence East Siders who Despise Dog Poop:

I understand. Dog poop is gross. In fact, all poop is gross. But it’s a necessary fact of life.

And thank God as inhabitants of the first world, with clean water and modern sewage systems, we can poop in the comfort of our own homes and then flush it out of sight/out of mind. (Unfortunately, approximately 2.6 billion people in the world do not have access to clean, proper sanitation and do not “enjoy” the comforts we do.)

But the crotchety old lady digresses.

Unlike humans — at least modern first-world humans living where proper sanitation exists — dogs go outside. That’s another fact of life. And people, especially on the East Side of Providence, are very bitter about dog poop.

I’ve been chased, I’ve been cursed out, I’ve been screamed at by people in passing cars, I’ve been told that “your dog’s fucking pee kills my grass” (shouted from a 4th story window). By the way, a shout-out to the therapist whose office is on Angell Street: Do not stand out in front of your urban building and pontificate to me about the pros and cons of whether my dog should be pooping on your three blades of grass. Just make up your effing mind.

In recent years, a spate of letters have appeared in East Side Monthly magazine (I would post links, but this award-winning rag doesn’t have archives available online), with rants from irate East Side homeowners battling the scourge of dog shit on their perfectly manicured lawns. Here are some of the arguments and COL’s thoughts on the matter:

Argument #1: Use your own (bleeping) yard, not mine! It’s mine! It’s not yours. Nor is it your dog’s public restroom.

COL response: This is an urban neighborhood. Some people, including me, have no yard at all. I must walk down three flights from my rented apartment to the street below, regardless of the weather, and walk two blocks to find anything remotely resembling grass. There’s no shoving the dog out into a fenced yard when it’s 14 degrees. Where should I go, armed with my biodegradable dog poop bag?

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