On commitment

I've been to a lot of weddings recently. And I've also seen a lot of dogs.

We live by a dog park and every day when I bike home from work I see them, big and small, black, brown, and white, terriers and mutts and pit bulls and collies and purebred poodles, French bulldogs and scruffy chihuahuas with legs like sticks.

I imagine Mitt Romney driving with his dog on the roof of his truck. I wonder if that dog sees the world the way I do: leery of what could happen with his owner at the wheel.

I remember the dogs I saw in Chile; emaciated, scrappy things wandering the streets.

I think of the dog my father broke out of the pound when he was younger than I am now, and how, years later, he stayed up all night on our lawn, cradling Tommy when there was nothing else he could do.

I think of what our dog, this hypothetical, imaginary thing we call aimlessly around the house, would do to fill long afternoon hours. I measure the height of things in our apartment to see if tails would knock them over. I worry about how long it would take to train her. There's a narrative for her forming in my mind. I plan for her the way others plan weddings. It seems like these are parallel choices: here you are, making a decision that will dictate who you spend your time with, and where, and how, and just what all that means, and there you are, welcoming a living, breathing, beautiful thing into your life, making space for it where maybe there wasn't before, learning its tricks, eccentricities, preferences, vocabulary. It seems like the kind of decision you labor over until it is made, and once you are sure, that yes, this is person you want and need by your side, and yes, this animal belongs nowhere else as much as it does right here, maybe then you learn to accept the things you can't predict will happen. Because they will happen, with or without him, with or without her, and who knows how much richer your life could or would be.

The metaphor stops there. People aren't dogs, though I like to imagine that they are. Dogs can't talk; they can't rub your back or buy you blood glucose monitors when you lose them (again). They can't make the kind of babies you might someday want.

But they sure are awesome. Dogs, that is.


We went to the Oakland Coliseum today to see the A's smash the Seattle Mariners. I believe they won because I spent the last two innings drawing Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes as dogs. That, and they are professional ball players.

Sometimes I think the world looks better when you close your eyes and pretend everyone is just a big, barking animal. Then I open them and remember, oh yeah, that's not so far off. And what's better - we can both catch balls.

one hundred word story #40: Just a dog

He's just a dog, you say, as you take him off the leash. We watch that tail raised high like a flag as he disappears into tall grass. He’s just a dog, but he’s all I got. You have me, I say. You are quiet. The grasses flinch. All we can see is the occasional brown flare that is his tail. That’s the thing, you say. The dog has disappeared. You shout yourself hoarse. I shout too. You’re not shouting loud enough, you say. I shout louder. The dog trots back and still you shout. I disappear into tall grass.

The dog named Dog

My aunt April shared this with me tonight and it gives me great pleasure.

Women my age are starting to have babies and I end up learning a lot about biological clocks. I have one too, but it ticks for border collies and golden retrievers. Babies might happen sometime too, but I wonder, could they get their goggles off their own heads? These are things to think about.

Tommy's Tale

Most families have pet folklore. My dad recently recounted the epic story of how he acquired our first family dog, Tomasino Paisano de la Lucci, a black and white springer spaniel mix that he sprung from a pound when he was in his 20s. At the time, my dad was working in the Bay Area, and one day while driving to work, he found an injured puppy in the middle of the road. He gathered him up and took him to his office where he called the SPCA to see if they could save him. The SPCA collected the dog with the understanding that they were required to turn the dog over to the local shelter for three days for the owners to come claim him before making the dog available for adoption. Meanwhile, they agreed to treat the dog's wounds.

My dad went back to the pound a few times to see how the dog was doing. Each time, the technicians reminded him that if he wanted the dog, he'd have to wait til the end of the week, at which point he'd also have to pay the vet bill. Dad showed up just before closing time on Friday, but the technician turned him away, saying that they had to wait three full days, so Dad would have to come back Saturday. They refused to let him come take the dog on the day they told him to come; according to their rules, they had to wait a certain amount of time for owners to collect the dog, but neither could they afford to keep the dog any longer than a specific amount of time.

"If you want the dog, you’ll be here at 8:00 am sharp," they said, "or he’ll be put down on the first rounds tomorrow morning."

Dad was pissed. Why did they even bother treating the dog in the first place, if they wouldn't put him up for adoption, and would end up killing him anyway? He asked to speak to the supervisor, and was told the same thing. Come back Saturday morning, or forget the dog. They would not even take payment and hold the dog until Monday.

He didn't know what to do. He felt trapped. Here he had gone out of his way to follow the center's instructions, and was happy to pay the vet bill, would have arranged for someone else to pick up the dog for him, but they wouldn't allow that either. He went out into the parking lot and watched the dogs interacting in their cages. Tommy was sitting in a little pen surrounded by a chain link fence.

He approached the fence, stuck his hands through the holes and whistled for the dog. Once he was close enough, Dad reached out and took Tommy gently in his hands, slowly edging him up the length of the fence, first withdrawing one hand through the gaps, then the other. Miraculously, no one seemed to notice. He got the little dog him up the height of the fence, he pushed him through a small, puppy-sized opening. Dad says Tommy was a bit confused, but offered no resistance as he hopped across the parking lot and into his car, and eventually, our life.

Tommy lived to be 15 years old. He went where my dad went. I'll never forget the night he died. I was eight years old and it was a school night, so I was surprised when my mom woke me and Josh up in the middle of the night and took us out onto the lawn. Tommy usually slept in a little bed on my parents' floor, but my dad had carried him, wrapped tenderly in towels, down the stairs and outside. I think the moon was full. Tommy was old and frail, his eyes lost in flappy ears and withered fur. And my dad, my dad leaned low over him, as if whispering to him, and stayed that way for what seemed like hours. When it was over we had a little service and dug a little hole for him under the rosebush.

For years my dad referred to Tommy as "my fine dog." My parents have had dogs since, always rescue dogs, always black and white, always T names: Tipper (during the Clinton administration), Tam, and Taj. They were all wonderful dogs, but to be called "fine" -- that was a distinction my dad reserves for a rare few.

In essence, I poop Frisbees.

This is my dog. And my father. And, somewhere in there, a Frisbee that aforementioned dog was supposed to deliver during Davis' Picnic Day festivities. Bear with me for a moment while I make a wild personal comparison:

I sympathize completely. I mean, Taj was under a lot of pressure. He was capable of achieving the task at hand, and had demonstrated his ability many times before. He had a task to do (i.e. retrieve Frisbee successfully as many times as possible in 60 seconds), he enjoyed doing it, and when it came down to it, the very concept of performing said task in front of such an expectant audience was so overwhelming that his body just took over.

So, grad school. You see the parallel, right? So much energy and effort placed into something so effervescent, so well-intended, with surprisingly high stakes. Such earnest attempts to manage time. And, as always, there is that sixty-second clock. Metaphorically, that is.

I'd like to crack open San Francisco as if it were an egg, watch as its life slips through my fingers. I want a character I could date, adopt, despise (not necessarily in that order). Basically, I'd like to be this:

Well, maybe without that crazy gleam in my eye, sans canines. I'd like to stand up a little taller, take a little more control of what stories my fingers digest and compute. Maybe what I need is a little less manic and a little more awkward-goofy:

Someone with flair, unafraid to look away as others point and giggle.

Although, who knows, that might already be happening:

Note: All dog photos should be credited to the lovely and talented Lyra Halprin.