Oh, you’re a mean old daddy, but I like you.

Yesterday was book-ended by a morning spent at the local animal shelter, walking dogs and petting a few cats, and a late afternoon babysitting the two-year-old girl who lives next door. Her mother had a last-minute urgent need and asked me. If you read my brief bio, you’ll know that I like children and animals, except squirrels. Or is that on my eHarmony profile? It’s so hard to keep track of these things.

I walked four dogs. I started with Lucy, a probably recognizable breed to anyone who knows much about dogs. Here is what I know about dogs: they slobber, love treats, and poop unabashedly in funny positions. More importantly, they appear non-judgmental and untroubled by superficialities. They don’t care what kind of phone I have or tell me that I’m talking too loudly. I like that in a person.

Lucy is easy to walk; she doesn’t pull at the leash. She is on the smallish side but not silly-small. She has a nice gait, reasonable personality, and has been a resident at the shelter the longest, presumably because she is an old maid at age nine. I would sneak her into my bedroom at my parents’ house but they are sensitive to noise and smell and a dog doesn’t do well in those areas. I walked a wiener dog, Cooper, who is new and scared and copper-colored so it’s easy to remember his name. He is docile and has soft ears. I told him how I came by the scar on my stomach and its relation to another wiener dog from my youth. When I was about ten, I was holding a neighbor’s puppy and the mother wiener dog jumped up and bit me, if you want to know the story.

After I took Cooper a few times around the park, the woman who trained me to walk dogs showed up, and she wanted us to walk two dogs together. We took Oscar, a Boxer, and Brody, a young Black Labrador, but they got into a kerfuffle over something and then The Dog Walker remembered that Oscar doesn’t get along with other dogs. I think it’s OK to mention the names of the dogs just in case someone might want to adopt them. Also, as I mentioned above, dogs don’t seem too concerned with privacy.

I walked one more really scared tiny dog. The way she was walking made me think she might have some Italian Greyhound in her. When I petted her, she shook. I could feel her spine so I imagine that she was starved. Friends know my opinion of people who treat their pets as an extension of themselves like a car or an ottoman or granite counters. You know, like it was there for those times when they felt like taking a walk on the beach with a dog or they imagine that they are so attractive that their ex-husband’s friends will be sniffing around unless it is known that they have a Rottweiler. You know, situations like that.

The kid I watched is remarkably pretty, social, agile, and intelligent. She thinks my father is her “Papa” because all children seem to think he is their grandfather. She was sleeping when her mother left for work, so she got the shock of waking up to a stranger. I mean, I doubt if she remembered me from our brief encounters over the rose bushes between the properties. She whimpered a bit about “mama” but then got settled up on the sofa with a blanket and a stuffed horse and I gave her some animal crackers and juice. Almost anyone will forget about mama if you give them a snack.

We went outside for awhile and looked at bugs and flowers. Then we walked around the front of my parents’ house and snuck up on them eating dinner. There are some foods I’m not allowed to eat right now and whenever I see my mother with cheese she looks very guilty. It’s worth going without cheese just for the look. We went downstairs and Little Girl immediately scared Baby Cat. Then we went back to her house and watched Dora the Explorer. I hadn’t watched that show before. It was interesting to see how they teach things on these children’s shows. I think there are a number of adults in the world who could benefit from being locked in a room with a television and a bunch of Dora dvds. Maybe they might learn to share, ask for help, navigate a crocodile lake, and be pleasant more often.

I brought with me the book I’m reading, which is Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, essays by Joan Acocella, in case I might have a moment to read or the little girl was really precocious. Because I used to be an editor and had to read a lot of submissions and then I was a depressed drunk living in a small town and then I was in jail, I wasn’t familiar with Ms. Acocella She is the book and dance critic for The New Yorker. I like her because she is both erudite and sensible. She doesn’t mince words; she’s witty and sharp. She wrote a great essay on Primo Levi which prompted me to check out from the library The Periodic Table. I’ve read his books about Auschwitz, and I’m looking forward to reading this collection of linked stories about his life and his profession, chemistry. The book’s epigraph is a Yiddish proverb:

Ibergekumene tsores iz gut tsu dertseylin.
Troubles overcome are good to tell.

Acocella also writes a tidy essay on Frank O’Hara, who is my favorite poet. About his poem, “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island,” found after he died and controversial in that some say it portends his early death, she says “… to me the most remarkable thing about it is O’Hara’s sense of blessedness, an emotion that surfaces again and again in his verse.”

Sometimes I need things spelled out and I will note here that the recent sunny days and glad happenstance of the last week have me feeling blessed, too. The sun says to Frank in the poem:

  …                                 And
always embrace things, people earth
sky stars, as I do, freely.

That sun is a hep cat.

I’ve been listening over and over to Joni Mitchell’s cd Blue and this song Carey, in particular. And yeah, that’s her, not me. I love the line but it also reminded me of the final scene in Little Girl’s living room. Her father came home. As he entered the house, she exclaimed “No! No!” and then she climbed into my lap and put her arms around my neck. Ha! Nice for me. A little embarrassing for the poor “mean ol’ daddy.”

P.s. Countdown to the Canadians: 16 days!

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