Dumb dog

I refuse to write an obituary for my dog. Not because she can’t read (her fault) and not because she is still alive (her fault).  It’s because she doesn’t deserve it.

I’ve read (and wept over) countless of lengthy posts, emails, texts from friends and family members memorializing their pets – many of whom I personally gave belly rubs or enthusiastically followed on Instagram – and these dogs and cats were stand-up animals. They fetched items, they shat in pre-determined/pre-agreed-upon places, they followed at least two basic commands, and they were all extremely photogenic.

My dog has accomplished none of these things in 16 years of life.

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Her reaction to my singing of Happy Birthday. Please note, the bruise on her neck was caused by the vet who gave her a hickey.

She has peed on my clothes and has hidden poop in my closet. She has woken me up hundreds of times in the middle of the night for no reason and rejected at least 50 dog beds just because. Her hidden talent is to step on the remote to change the channel at exactly the worst time. She is only interested in what I have to say when I have a turkey sandwich in my hand. She made me use up all of my airline miles to rush back home in the middle of Thanksgiving because she showered her sitter with explosive diarrhea. Her breath stinks. Her knees pop out of place and her heart murmurs. And she snores, loudly.

From the moment we met, I knew she was going to be trouble. “She’s not for show,” I was told. Later the vet confirmed, “She’s not good for breeding.” But I didn’t care for any of that. I just wanted to give my girlfriend a dog – the dream dog she always wanted – a hairless Chinese Crested. Only in the process of making that dream come true, I fell truly, madly deeply for this ungrateful Gremlin.

I’m reminded of just how much today, on her sweet, sixteenth birthday (which roughly translates into 106 in dog years). I don’t know if she’s made it this far because of me or in spite of me, but I do know that she has made my life richer in ways I never knew a 6-pound poop-machine could.

She fills my life with beautiful noise, from her feet’s pitter-patter to hearing her bark the entire time it takes me to eat a banana to her long, sustained howl when I walk through the door. And although I know one day we’ll have to say good-bye, I am certain that I will never forget how I could’ve bought a house with all the money I spent on her or how this dumb dog brought incredible joy and boundless love into my life.

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Her reaction to this post. She sucks.

 

 

Drop me off in New Orleans

My nephew turns 18 tomorrow – coincidently the age I was when we first met – and in a few short months, he will take up residence in my favorite city, New Orleans.

I don’t know why I was so surprised when he chose the Big Easy as his college town, I mean, who wouldn’t. I guess I thought she was my city and my city alone to love. But it wasn’t until today that I realized that our love for the Crescent City was genetic when he asked me for my father’s (his grandfather’s) trumpet.

The first and only word out of my mouth was a resounding no.

And from the look on his face, I could tell that this wasn’t a word he heard often – and was especially not expecting it the day before his birthday.

I decided to interrogate him on his intentions, hoping he would say something ridiculous that would help my case in denying him his capricious ask.

“Why do you want it?”

“I want to learn to play it.”

And like the great flood from Katrina, the memories of my unrelenting nagging and begging of my father to teach me to play this unforgiving instrument came back to me. I remembered his notes on my sheet music, where he drew eight sets of three circles, representing the finger buttons, and shaded the ones I was supposed to depress to hit the notes Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si-Do, all written in his meticulously neat, all-cap handwriting.

While my nephew continued to give me reasons of why he wanted his grandfather’s trumpet, I poured over music books and opened folders like a mad-woman…until I found it. Exactly the way I remembered it. He wrote it on the back of my sheet to “Spanish Eyes.”

“This is how he taught me,” I showed him.

I saw the excitement on his face and we both ran to the closet where my mom hides things, my dad’s trumpet being just one of those many things. I’m not sure who she hides it from. Would-be thieves. A cleaning lady with severe musical inclination. Me. My nephew. We all know where you keep it, Nola. (Yes, her name is really Nola.)

He stretched his tall body to pull down that black case I spent my entire childhood coveting. And when we opened it the horn was just as golden as I remembered it. I pulled it out and put my dad’s old mouth piece on it. For a moment I could smell him. I could taste him. And I tried with all of my might to blow through the scale he taught me, while the buttons stuck and my notes got louder with the frustration.

“Tia, it just needs a little oil. I need to open it up and clean the pistons,” he said.

I looked at him and handed him the trumpet. It was always his.

Just like New Orleans will always be ours.

Red letter year

As I was putting away my Halloween costume I missed Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. And while I was trying to figure out who won “Dancing with the Stars,” the librarian asked me to go pick up a Christmas tree. The speed in which this year is leaving us is equivalent to a Porsche GT in the hands of an actor from a movie franchise about illegal street racing.

Two-thousand and thirteen has been a strange year. A year of dichotomies and contradictions. Of simultaneous joy and pain. A year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, but the House of Representatives won’t bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act up for a vote. A year when three women and a six-year-old girl were rescued from captivity, but a woman in Florida was sentenced to 20 years in jail* for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband.

A year when George Zimmerman was found not guilty for 2nd degree murder, but O.J. Simpson is still in jail for robbery. A year when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but the Boston Red Sox won their 8th World Series. A year when South Florida did not get a single storm this Hurricane season, but the Philippines received the brunt of the strongest typhoon ever recorded.

A year when a mentally unstable navy contractor passed a background check, but the NSA is keeping track of everyone’s Facebook status. A year when the minority party exercised their power to shut down the entire U.S. government over healthcare, but Americans are now signing up for insurance by the droves.

A year when I changed jobs, but kept the same salary. A year when I traveled to Nicaragua through my job in academia, but have traveled nowhere through my job at a cruise line. A year when I quit my magazine, but also quit smoking. A year when I turned 35 as a human, 12 as a partner, and 11 as a pet parent, but 10 as a half-orphan. A year when started I a new writing project, but failed to finish it.

A year that should end as quietly and subtly as this post, but followed by a better and more meaningful year like the posts to come.

*Marissa Alexander was recently granted a new trial date and was able to post bail.