Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm an Immigrant in the Land of Dog

It appears I have a dog. How did this happen? It was a coup de foudre standing on the outside of a kennel looking in at 9 bouncing six week old puppies. They belonged to my neighbours in the country. He wanted to spay his Chocolate Lab and decided to let her have one litter before he did. I've seen 101 Dalmations, but really I was kind of shocked to think a fairly little dog would give birth to nine!!!! puppies.

This one looked right at me and jumped up against the side of the pen. I knew she wanted to jump into my arms. It was like she had searched her whole life for me and finally found me! How could I resist that call to action??? Can puppies hypnotize people? I think they can. I picked her up and she melted into my body, smelling like something not all that nice, Eau de Puppy Crate. Sawdust and remnants of whatever else. But I didn't care, she was so warm and just collapsed into me. After a couple of minutes of holding her my brain started working on its own saying crazy things like, "I want to have this puppy."

Finally we went back home, leaving her there, with her littermates and mother. My son and I fantasized about what we would do with a puppy, what we would call her, what our lives would be like if we had her.
Julian instantly thought of a name, one which I thought was fairly appalling. Kubokan. I said, I don't think so. Too long.* But no other name popped into my head. We went for a walk in a conservation area, crossed a suspension bridge, and talked about the puppy thing. I said, look at that trail. If we had the dog, we could go walking down that trail, with her.

We went back to the city, 150 miles away from puppy temptation. We sort of forgot about the dog. But two weeks later I drove back out, and as I got in the car I suddenly thought, I wonder if I'll be coming back with a dog? My neighbour dropped by to talk about some stuff, he does maintenance for me at my place. I said, do you still have the puppies? I figured the one I liked, the smallest, the prettiest, the cutest, couldn't possibly still be there. He said there were three left. I arranged to come over and see them later that morning. Just to see them. Walked over and there she was. A little bigger, but still that same little face. Black, with butterscotch eyebrows. Too cute. She seemed to know who I was. Picked her up and it was game over.

That small rational piece of my brain did kick in slightly and I said, "I'd like to take her. But I don't know if it will work out at my place in the city. It's small. Real small. And I have the cats. I don't know how she'll manage with the cats. So, I can take her for a trial, as long as I can bring her back if it doesn't work out." My neighbour said, fine.

I'm still not totally sure how it's working out, but after almost 2 weeks of being a puppy owner I've had my heart melted, and my nerves fry repeatedly. Over and over and over again. One minute I think I can do it and the next minute it's, "No, what was I thinking? This is insane. She's gotta go back."

You see, I am an immigrant in the Land of Dog. Never had a dog. Never looked after a dog. Never really ever known a dog. Not well. I've always been a cat person. I've even been a little scared of dogs my whole life. Except for the ones that look like stuffed animals. Which is the kind of dog I'd been hankering after--off and on for the past few years. Just in an internet-browsing sort of fantasy way.

But I guess this is one of those Life Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans kind of thing. I could still decide not to keep her, I guess. The bloom is off the rose for my son, definitely. He's wanting things to go back to the way it was, pre-dog. But as each day goes by, I'm getting a little better at learning this new dog language. I'm still on Ellis Island, and I'm waiting in line. Hoping for the best.

* Her name is now Isadora: Izzy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Witty & Amazing: Nancy Mitford

A friend pressed this book into my hand earlier this year: Love in a Cold Climate. She told me that she loved the way the cousins and sisters in the book really appreciated the things the others did, and told them so. In the book, this ability is called "exclaiming" and it's a mixture of noticing, appreciation and yes, in some cases, gushing. New pair of drapes? New hat? An enterprising endeavour? Do they like it? Are they proud of you? How nice to have your friend tell you so, enthusiastically. Nowadays I guess it's called "positive feedback" but I rather like the word "exclaiming". A sincere bit of exclaiming in this world of disappointments and failures is something I wish there were a lot more of in the world.

But all that aside, which is only a small part of the book, reading Love in Cold Climate was a happy experience. I was thrilled to discover a writer this entertaining. Almost a cross between P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen. Nancy Mitford, writing in the 1930s was funny and astute. In her life she was a privileged child, debutante, book store clerk, essayist and finally, succesful and famous writer, who spent most of her adult life in Paris. She was a good friend of Evelyn Waugh, and their letters have also been published - now on my list of things to read. (I've always been an Evelyn Waugh fan as well.)

Love in a Cold Climate and the Pursuit of Love (two short books packaged together) are very loosely inspired by her own experiences growing up-one sister of many-in an upper class family in the countryside in England. This was a time when girls still were not routinely sent to school, and mostly grew up in an atmosphere of benign neglect. Marriage was the main goal. Surprising that in 1930s England, not much had really changed since Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice.

A couple of gems from the book that I didn't want to forget:

On Mirrors
We then sallied forth into the street, looking at ourselves in every shop corner that we passed. (I have often noticed that when women look at themselves in every reflection and take furtive peeps into their hand looking-glasses, it is hardly ever, as it is generally supposed, from vanity, but much more often from a feeling that all is not quite as it should be.)

On marriage prospects of Linda, main character in the Pursuit of Love
I looked about hopefully for a possible life partner, but though I honestly tried to see the best in them, nothing remotely approximating to my requirements turned up.