Saturday, September 01, 2007

One Month

The Kid died one month ago today. That occurred to me just a few hours ago. I kept telling myself today was August 31st. It's September 1st. I KNOW. Happy Anniversary is wildly inappropriate. It's right up there with going to a non-Jewish funeral and asking who will be attending the after party. Guilty.

I worked on an essay about hagamuffin today and recalled so many fabulous memories. I laughed and I cried. It was cathartic. It was difficult and that's OK. I still miss him so much. I think I always will. I need to learn to live with that, which I will do... eventually.

Crimes Against Dog, by Alice Walker

My dad sent me an Alice Walker (love her so much, I can't stand it) essay. The below is excerpted from, Crimes Against Dog, from her book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Light in a Time of Darkness. Have you read it? I just bought it-- can't wait to read it. Alice Walker is the earth mother incarnate. What a divine soul...

The Crimes Against Dog essay was in this month's Ecologist Magazine. My dad is so green. Who knew?! Anywho... The essay made me feel so much better for a million different reasons. It's a beautiful read. Scroll down.

Crimes Against Dog
Alice Walker
For Wendy

My dog, Marley, was named after the late music shaman, Bob Marley. I never saw or heard him while he was alive, but once I heard his music, everything about him-his voice, his trancelike, holy dancing on stage, his leonine dreadlocks-went straight to my heart. He modeled such devotion to the well-being of humanity that his caring inspired the world; I felt a more sincere individual had probably never lived. Considering his whole life a prayer, and his singing the purest offering, I wanted to say his name every day with admiration and love. Marley has grown up on his music; Bob, leaning on his guitar in a large poster on my living room wall, is regularly pointed out to her as her Spirit Dad.

Marley was born December 19, 1995. She shares a birth sign, Sagittarius, with my mother and several friends and acquaintances. At times I feel surrounded by Sags and enjoy them very much; they are fun to be with, outspoken, passionate, and won't hesitate to try new things. They also like chicken. Marley has all these qualities, though I didn't know that the morning I drove out to the breeder to look at the litter of Labrador Retrievers I was told had arrived.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, a friend and I joked about whether I was in fact ready to settle down enough to have a dog. Who would feed it when I was distracted by work? Where would it stay while I was away on book tours? Had I lined up a reliable vet? I had no idea what would happen. I only knew this friend was about to go away on a journey of unknown length. I would be unbearably lonely for her. I needed a companion on whom to lavish my overflowing, if at times distractible, affection. I needed a dog.

My first thoughts are always about enslavement on entering a place where animals are bred. Force. Captivity. I looked at the black and the chocolate Labs who were Marley's parents and felt sad for them. They looked healthy enough, but who knew whether, left to themselves, they would choose to have litter after litter of offspring? I wondered how painful it was to part with each litter. I spoke to both parents, let them sniff my hand. Take in the quality of my being. I asked permission to look at their young. The mother moved a little away from her brood, all crawling over her blindly feeling for a teat; the father actually looked rather proud. My friend joked about offering him a cigar.

I was proud of myself, too, standing there preparing to choose. In the old days of up to several months before, if I were going to choose an animal from a litter I would have been drawn to the one that seemed the most bumbling, the most clueless, the most un-amused. I saw a couple like that. But on this day, that old switch was not thrown: I realized I was sick of my attraction to the confused. My eyes moved on. They all looked much alike, to tell the truth. From a chocolate mother and a black father there were twelve puppies, six chocolate, six black. I'll never get over this. Why were there none with spots?

I asked the woman selling them, whom I tried not to have Slave Trader thoughts about. She shrugged. They never spot, she said. That's the nature of the purebred Lab. Well, I thought. Mother. Once again doing it just any old way you like. Mother is my favorite name for Nature, God, All-ness.

I settled on a frisky black puppy who seemed to know where she was going-toward a plump middle teat!-and was small enough to fit into my hand. I sometimes wish I had chosen a chocolate puppy; in the Northern California summers the dust wouldn't show as much, but I think about this mostly when Marley rolls in the dirt in an effort to get cool.

After seven weeks I returned alone to pick her up, bereft that my friend had already gone on the road. It didn't feel right to pay money for a living being; I would have been happier working out some sort of exchange. I paid, though, and put Marley in my colorful African market basket before stroking the faces of her wistful-looking parents one last time. In the car, I placed the basket in the front seat next to me. I put on Bob Marley's Exodus CD and baby Marley and I sped away from Babylon.We wound our way back through the winter countryside toward the Golden Gate Bridge and the bracing air of San Francisco. Before we had gone twenty miles, Marley, now about the size of my two fists, had climbed out of the basket and into my lap. From my lap she began journeying up my stomach to my chest. By the time we approached the bridge she'd discovered my dreadlocks and began climbing them. As we rolled into the city she had climbed all the way to the back of my neck and settled herself there between my neck and the headrest. Once there she snoozed.

Of the weeks of training I remember little. Dashing down three flights of stairs in the middle of the night to let her pee outside under the stars. Sitting on a cushion in the kitchen, before dawn, her precious black body in my lap, groggily caressing her after her morning feed. Walking with her zipped up in my parka around and around the park that was opposite our house. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, her warm body snug in my arms as I swooned into the view. She grew.

Today she is seven years old and weighs almost ninety pounds. People we encounter on walks always ask whether she's pregnant. No, I reply, she's just fat. But is she really? No matter how carefully I feed her or how often I downsize her meals, she remains large and heavy. And she loves to eat so much that when her rations are diminished she begs, which I can't stand. This is one of those areas where we've had the most work to do. I've settled it lately by taking her off any slimming diet whatsoever and giving her enough food so that she seems satisfied. I did this after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had surgery, and I realized I might lose her at any time. I did not want her last days to be spent looking pleadingly at me for an extra morsel of bread. To make up for giving her more food, I resolved to walk her more.

The friend who went away never really returned. Marley and I ceased expecting to see her after about the first year. Marley was an amazing comfort to me. What is it about dogs? I think what I most appreciate in Marley is how swiftly she forgives me. Anything. Was I cool and snooty when I got up this morning? Did I neglect to greet her when I came in from a disturbing movie? Was I a little short on the foodstuffs and did I forget to give her a cube of dried liver? Well. And what about that walk we didn't do and the swim we didn't take and why don't I play ball with her the way I did all last week? And who is this strange person you want me to go off with? It doesn't matter what it is, what crime against Dog I have committed, she always forgives me. She doesn't even appear to think about it. One minute she's noting my odd behavior, the next, if I make a move toward her, she's licking my hand. As if to say, Gosh, I'm so glad you're yourself again, and you're back!

Dogs understand something I was late learning: When we are mean to anyone or any being it is because we are temporarily not ourselves. We're somebody else inhabiting these bodies we think of as us. They recognize this. Ooops, I imagine Marley saying to herself, sniffing my anger, disappointment, or distraction. My mommy's not in there at the moment. I'll just wait until she gets back. I've begun to feel this way more than a little myself. Which is to say, Marley is teaching me how to be more self-forgiving. Sometimes I will say something that hurts a friend's feelings. I will be miserable and almost want to do away with myself. Then I'll think, But that wasn't really the you that protects and loves this friend so much you would never hurt them. That was a you that slipped in because you are sad and depressed about other things: the state of your love life, your health, or the fate of the planet. The you that loves your friend is back now. Welcome her home. Be gentle with her. Tell her you understand. Lick her hand.

Animals teach us decline and mortality. We understand the importance of being able to help our ageing parents or grandparents, or ill and incapacitated relatives and friends, in just this accepting way.

Cats, in particular, teach us to be ourselves, whatever the odds. A cat, except through force, will never do anything that goes against its nature. Nothing seduces it away from itself.

Contemplate ways we can strengthen our resolve to live our lives as who we really are. See the beauty, for instance, in forgoing an 'important' meeting or gala event in favor of a warm fire at home and a restorative nap.

What makes us purr with contentment? Find it and let it, easily, find you.


I'm in the middle of a wild miscommunication with a now former friend. it makes me crazy when someone who knows me, really knows me, takes something I say and decides that I'm someone I'm not without taking the soul of who I am into consideration. that wouldn't send a flag pole of ire up your ass?! oh, please, missy. you know it would.

on the eye inFUCKtion front, it's still going strong, thank you very much. itchy-burny-stabby-painy-blurry. whatev. I've reached new heights of ocular ugliness. at least it's not ebola or cancer. a girl has to be grateful and maintain perspective, doesn't she?! indeed she fucking does.

what is wrong with you?!

not 1, not 2, not 3.... 7 of ya's broke up with me. WTF?! a girl's dog peels. she gets an eye infection and now you're done with her chubby jew ass? that's nice, real nice.

you didn't think I'd find out, didjya? I'm not that stupid, putzeem.

go. run. have a katiefree labor fucking day weekend. see if I care.


design by