Smarter than the average bear

by emily on July 3, 2015

Our neighborhood here in Vermont is an off-leash area. Dogs stroll through our yard now and then on their way to lunch dates or business meetings or somesuch. There are extensive hiking trails behind our neighborhood, and people are forever tromping down the road in various stages of sweatiness preceded by muddy canines.

Marley, however, as a new member of the family, couldn’t be trusted off leash. I couldn’t be sure he’d return. This turned out to be a problem when he met his new friend, Rufus. It’s hard to hump a golden retriever when you’re on a leash. Not that I’ve tried; I’m just going on my observations here.

The first evening they met, things got a bit rough for a dog on a leash, so I brought Marley in the house. Rufus and his friend sat outside our door staring in through the glass. “Can Marley come out to play? Please? Please?” I put Marley on the long lead and let them at it.

Even rougher was hiking with the dog. Sure, I could get up Mount Mansfield, but just try coming down it with a dog on a leash. I double dog dare ya. He was good about not pulling, but there was only so much he could do as we scrambled down the rocks. For the last 40 minutes, all I could think was, “This will end sometime. Eventually, this pain will be over.” The human body isn’t designed to sustain such repeated thudding.

Then, I realized that Marley knows exactly where his supper dish is and who fills it. We experimented with the off-leash path and in a cemetery. We tried time in our yard, which is unfenced. And now, three weeks into living with us, the dog is off-leash.

He comes when he’s called, even if he’s in the middle of a hot-and-heavy makeout session with another dog. He stops to check on me. He runs off into the woods and then comes crashing back to me. If we get caught in a rainstorm, he may run ahead, but then he waits for me at the trailhead. Or at our front door, under the covered porch, presumably wondering what took us so long to get out of the rain. Yesterday, he did try to get a baby deer to play with him, but when I hear the animal’s bleat of fear and called him, he came running. He’s totally got this.

He gets in the car and sits on command. He still jumps when he’s anxious, but he’s getting better at understanding that nipping and jumping are uncool. He waits till I get up to ask to go to the bathroom. He sleeps on his own bed at night.

“We need to get this dog into a training class,” my husband keeps saying.

“What for?” I replied yesterday. “He already does everything we want him to do. What else are we going to train him to do? The dishes?”IMG_7542

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Buffalo Soldier

by emily on June 26, 2015

The kids wanted to keep the name the dog got in the shelter. Frankly, I was relieved. “Bob Marley” was better than what Zachary wanted to call him. What kind of a self-respecting dog can walk around with the name “Popsicle”? Lilah had some other ideas, but since she speaks some made-up language to her blankies, none of us could pronounce her idea. It was like being someone taking names at Ellis Island.

Fine. Sticking with Bob Marley. “And we can call him ‘Marley’ for short,” I suggested. Because Bob is just a weird name for a dog. Also, the kids already call several large stuffed bear statues around town “Bob,” plus the mole on Zachary’s arm. It could get confusing.

I had them listen to “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Buffalo Soldier” a couple of times, just to make sure. “Are you sure you don’t want to call him ‘Weasley’?” I tried. No dice.

Here’s where I want to clarify: I had never read the book or seen the movie. I knew vaguely there was some movie called Marley and Me, but I had no idea that it was about a dog.

Doesn’t matter. Now, when we meet people, they coo, “Oh, so sweet! I love that movie.” Yeah. No. I clarify.

I don’t mind people thinking we lack the imagination to change the name he had in the shelter, but I don’t want them thinking we named him after a Jennifer Aniston film. There’s a line.

We’ve now watched the movie, because we sort of had to. And it’s very cute. Still, he was named after Bob.

People sometimes say, “But Marley dies in the movie.” Um, yes. It’s not like he’s hit by a car or something. He dies of old age, which is exactly what I expect our dog to do if he’s lucky.

“Oh, no,” I reply. “He was named after the Rastafarian, not the movie.”

Props to the guy who rubbed the dog’s ears and said, “Oh, Marley. I didn’t recognize you without your dreadlocks.”

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Happiness is

June 25, 2015

I’ve wanted a dog my entire life. Really, my entire life. My stepmother had this dog. Or at least this little thing approximating a dog. Ketchie, it was named. But as it belonged to my stepmother, one would be hard-pressed to imagine it being a source of dogginess for me. For the record, she treated […]

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On Baltimore and mothers and privilege

April 30, 2015

I’m seeing a lot of articles about why we shouldn’t call Toya Graham a hero. Graham, in case you don’t have internet access under your rock, is the mother who was video recorded smacking her teenaged son and chasing him away from the looting in Baltimore. The articles I’m seeing are taking (white) people to […]

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Mixed-faith

April 9, 2015

Sometimes, my husband jokes that he married me for my matzoh ball soup. At least, I think he’s joking. He might be a little bit serious. When we married, I made very good matzoh ball soup. Now, I make freaking fantastic matzoh ball soup. I’d tell you how I make it, but it takes several […]

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Why I’m Not Teaching My Son to Put the Toilet Seat Down

March 26, 2015

You may have read the title to this post and thought I had some deep philosophical reason not to teach my son to put down the toilet seat. Or you may have thought, “At least I’m a better parent than that lady.” Or perhaps you read it and shouted, “You know, a pilot intentionally slammed […]

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All My Life’s a Circle

February 28, 2015

It all started with the bananas. I was buying a snack for the after-school activity I was running at the kids’ school. I loaded six large bunches of bananas on the belt. They were fair trade and organic and all that crap, I promise. “It reminds me of ’30,000 Pounds of Bananas,’” I quipped to […]

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White Thanksgiving

November 27, 2014

The Thanksgiving montage I remember from my first decade was deep in snow. We went to visit a relative of my stepmother several years running. This woman ran a youth hostel, and my stepmother’s large Italian family converged upon it for the holiday. What I remember: A long, long table filled with so many people, […]

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The End

September 29, 2014

My darling, as I sit here in the dark, listening to you toss and turn, I want you to know how terribly sorry I am. Terribly, as in deeply and darkly sorry, for I knew this would happen. This is why we hiked for hours today, trying to exhaust your little body so that when […]

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Scene outside the school this morning

September 10, 2014

Me (responding to some question): It was nobody. Zachary: I am nobody, who are you? Me: Are you nobody, too? Zachary: Then there’s two of us. Me: A pair. Don’t tell, they’d banish us, you know. How dreary to be somebody, how public, like a frog. To tell your name the livelong day to an […]

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