the year of the dog
This is my fifth blog post of 2018. There was a time when I wrote a post every day or two. Have I run out of things to say, or is my threshold for sharing higher? Maybe it’s both. Yet here we are.
For me, 2018 was the year of the dog. (It was also the year of the dog according to the Chinese zodiac, so I guess it was the same for millions of other people.) We said goodbye to Stella the rat dog and hello to Ripley the indefatigable. Even through the din of life with a very busy puppy, the rat dog’s presence is still sensed. In the middle of the night, I sometimes hear Stella readjusting herself in her bed, a toenail hitting the floor, the sigh of a blanket. It’s comforting rather than creepy, a trick of acoustics that I welcome.
Where Stella was an easy, laid back companion, Ripley is a part-time job. She needs to go to dog school. Attend dog socials. Go on at least one walk a day. One thing I love about walks with Ripley is the chance to notice the things you miss when hoofing it down the road for exercise or just to get somewhere.
Waiting for Ripley to do her business gives me more time to notice the small stuff. To get gardening ideas. To judge people’s lawn art.
When on a hike with Ripley in Big Sur, waiting for her to pee, I noticed this shrine (above) just off the trail. I assumed it was a memorial, but then I saw the Sharpie marker, ultra fine–my favorite writing utensil. I thought perhaps there was a little notebook in that tin box on the bottom right that says Happy Holidays, a place to record the date and your thoughts upon finding this interesting collection in tall grass high above the ocean. So I opened the box. It was full of weed.
Right before the mid-term elections, James, the dogs and I set off on a 4,000-plus-mile road trip from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to meet my parents’ labradoodle puppy. Oh, and also see friends and family.
One thing I love about the road trips James and I take home is the randomness of our conversations. Not sure if it’s road weariness, extended close proximity or steady movement that knocks the interesting stuff out of the corners of our minds, but out it comes.
The best idea we came up with on this trip, which is also just the worst, was this: Doggie Trick or Treating. Halloween afternoon, before the kiddies go out to collect their loot, sad, childless people like us take their dogs door to door to gather dog treats. The dogs can be in costume or not, as can the people holding the leash. This is actually a slam dunk for the dog-centric place we live, but we’re not taking the idea to the finish line. Help yourself.
We took I-40 on the way to Texas and I-10 on the way back, so we passed through a good amount of four states. The parts next to the interstate, anyway, with short detours to Sedona and Tucumcari.
From California to Texas, the most bombed-out small towns had the biggest show of Trump support. Huge MAGA signs were tacked onto abandoned buildings with broken windows or propped up in yards next to cars with flat tires. Ahh, irony.
The president is a villain straight out of a Stephen King novel. The orange makeup. The ridiculous hair. The not having a dog. He’s Randall Flagg for the internet age. The Tweetin’ Dude. Guess we’re all waiting for a precocious child and his magical, elderly companion to save us–after numerous narrative detours sprinkled with quotes from classic rock songs.
I hope 2019 restores some balance. As the tide ebbs, it must also flow. When the pendulum reaches one extreme, it begins its journey back to the other. Where you find Hall, you will also find Oates.
My best wishes to you as we prepare to embark on a new trip around the sun. I hope we each receive the unconditional love of a dog, laugh often and hold each other close in spirit.
And happy birthday to my brother Mason, who is missed every day.