If you have met me, within 45 minutes, it’s likely you will know I have a little dog named Daisy Petals. The sweetest dog I have ever known, she likes everyone and everything. But, it may take an acquaintance of, say, a few days, before you understand that I actually have two dogs: Miss Daisy, and, the king of our castle, Louie.
If Daisy is the Elizabeth Taylor of the canine world, fat, pretty, winsome, friendly, eyes you can melt in to, Louie is Dobby the House Elf, from Harry Potter, maybe mixed with a little Don Knotts. Like Daisy, he is a black, miniature dachshund. He is skinny as heck, usually shaking, with a worried look in his eyes. He does not cotton to strangers. In fact, I have had house guests for a few days at a time that have never even seen him; he’s that sly and wily. The only person aside from me that he really likes is my sister, and we think it’s because she sounds and looks so much like me.
With all that, Louie is very much the Alpha dog of our house. Behind closed doors, he is bossy, hilariously funny, and fairly aggressive about what he wants. He has pronounced likes: Daisy, string cheese, eggs, me, plush squeaky toys, McDonald’s French Fries, sleeping under a blanket, and having his belly rubbed. His dislikes are equally defined: vegetables, the vacuum cleaner, strangers, cheap dog food, and trips to the dog park.
Like all of my dogs, Louie has a back story, one that might explain his public timidity. In 1999, I went to a breeder’s house, to check out a litter of puppies. As an adorable pack of 6 week old pups frolicked around the room, I spied another dog, a bit older, with a black dappled coat and an anxious expression. Always attracted by the underdog, I picked the little guy up, as he squealed like a little pig, in terror. The breeder explained that he was 5 months old, left over from a previous litter, and nervous because he had had an unfortunate scare from a basset hound. She assured me that his timidity was temporary, he only needed love. Plus, he was on sale!
Never one to pass up a bargain, and certain my love would cure him of his trauma, Louie came home with me that day. 14 years later, he’s still reliving the trauma of the basset hound! Sometimes, just to mess with him, I will bay lightly in his ear when he is at rest. Oh, how we laugh and laugh at that!
For years, Louie had a bizarre and annoying habit. He would nibble at the hems of anyone wearing jeans in my house. Visitors would get up to leave and be quite distressed to find their expensive pants newly tailored by canine. Additionally, Louie would eat my pajama bottoms while I slept. Seriously, there was a significant period of time where all of my nightwear looked like Frankenstein’s pants, with jagged ends. But, when Daisy Petals joined our household, that weird behavior immediately ceased. Apparently, she completed him.
One more strange thing about Louie. He refuses to have his picture taken. I suspect it stems from some innate spiritual belief that his soul will be stolen, but it’s a bummer. I have spent many fruitless hours stalking the elusive wiener, to the result of maybe 5 pictures over his lifetime, as opposed to the hundreds I have snapped of Miss Petals, who will pose at the drop of a hat.
Louie is getting older now. At 14, which is 700 dog years, or something like that, he is gray about the muzzle and his dapple is more pronounced than ever. He snores like a grandpa, and on cold days, his back bothers him. But he still has the mischief of a puppy, given the right provocation. The other day I brought home a little bag from Mickey D’s, which I foolishly tossed on my dining table while I ran to catch a call. Two minutes later, I went back to the table to find Louie standing on it, head inserted in bag. I didn’t know if I should spank him, or applaud his effort, so I laughed instead. I wish I could show you a picture of this, but, well, you know.
The end, for now
I have a new Buddy. He is game for any excursion, and passionately interested in my health and well-being. He calls me every night, to ask me how things are going, if I have heard on any jobs, what jobs I have applied for that day, and finally, if “anything special” is going on. My new Buddy has a very full life, with a huge family, a lovely and active wife, and a pretty packed schedule. But, Buddy always has time for me. He has other names too. Some call him Robert, Bob, or even Bobby. I call him Dad.
Let’s get this clear from the start. I love my dad! At 79 and three quarters, he is smart, opinionated, well read, and culturally current. He is in better physical shape than I am, running several times a week. And while he may not be running marathons anymore, he is still good for a 10K, and will most likely place high in his age group. I also like my dad. He is funny, punctual, and interesting, and I find myself seeing similarities to him, especially as I grow older.
All that said, my dad is making me a little crazy this summer. When I first got laid off, I told him he could not call me every day and ask me if I got a job/interview/call. I had been laid off before, in 2006, and remembered well how stressful those nightly calls were. And for the first couple of months, he honored my request. But after the appendix event, it seemed like all boundary bets were off. Probably something about seeing your child in extreme pain, and through a hard recovery, that just makes a parental sort revert back to instinctual hovering. I don’t know. I am not a parent.
I know my dad is proud of me, and respects me, but sometimes I think he forgets that I am a mature adult, and thinks of me as a small child, possibly one with special needs. My siblings sort of snicker at this when I complain about it, and tell me this would all stop if I just stopped sharing things with him, but the truth is, as I said, I like the guy.
We’ve been taking little excursions this summer. We have gone to the movies, to the Long Beach Aquarium, and tomorrow, we will take the train(!) to see the Space Shuttle. In fact, if he were 30 years younger, less bossy, and oh yeah, NOT my dad, he would be a perfect date! But we enjoy each other’s company quite a bit, and especially since my mom died last year, I realize more than ever that these moments are precious, and won’t last forever.
So for now, I put up with him asking me if I remembered to take my medicine, if I called the accountant, if I sent my resume out to enough places each day. I may groan when the phone rings every night at 5:00, but I would miss it if it ceased to ring. He is a pain, he is not perfect, but neither am I. After the Space Shuttle, we’ll plan our next outing, and it will be something fun or educational. I am blessed to have had time this summer to spend this special time with him, my Buddy.
The end, for now
The last few weeks have certainly been, hmmmm, well, interesting. Late June through mid-July, I had some very interesting and exciting job interviews, which ultimately did not result in offers of employment. However, even getting the calls, and the interviews, felt like a mini win. Someone out there had seen my resume, sent out into the great void that is the internet, and believed that I was worth talking to.
It’s a validation, when I most need one. Getting laid off was a blow, not just to my security and livelihood, but also to my ego. As the weeks go by, as I have written before, it takes a lot of fortitude to not start doubting your skills and strengths. And I have worked, so hard, at trying to keep it all facing forward, it was exhausting. I kind of felt like something had to give.
What I didn’t see coming, was that it would be my appendix! Never in a million years, with all of the calamities that have befallen me, did I ever expect, especially at my “mature” age, that my appendix would rupture. First of all, real funny God. You are quite a little trickster! And although I like the hijinks as much or more than the next person, the timing seems a little harsh.
It still feels a bit like a bad dream that never happened. Hours in urgent care, emergency surgery, days in the hospital. I think about it and wonder if it happened, but there are several new scars on my tummy, and aches and pains I never felt before, to serve as a reality reminder.
Thankfully, I am fine. But after two weeks of being pretty bad off, which included not being able to exercise and having no energy to speak of, I felt low. I felt as if every good thing I had done since my layoff, like exercising, starting this blog, focusing on the positive, keeping a fairly strict schedule, all that, it felt like all the good had been washed away, and I was back at square one. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
I talked it over with some of my besties (thank you, and thank goodness for you!). I love these women, for many reasons, including the fact that they allow me the safety to express my doubts and fears, even when it’s not noble or smart or pretty. So they listened, but they didn’t give in to my floundering. They told me how proud they were of me, and one of them, let’s call her “Stevie” was quite adamant in reminding me of what I had accomplished during this challenging time. I must have taught her the art of debate somewhere in our hundred year friendship, because she made some good points.
I hadn’t completely recovered, either physically or spiritually, through last week. I realized it was not going well when I was applying for a job online while actually sniffling over the keyboard. At that point, I gave myself a stern talking to, and started the climb back up.
Life is good, and life is great, but it is also hard. My problems are insignificant when compared to so many people on this earth who live lives without comfort, security, peace, even such basic needs as food and water. I will get a new job. My energy will return, my scars will fade. I am so blessed with friends and family who are holding my hand, watching my back, cheering me on, and even lecturing me when needed.
I am so curious to see where life leads me in the next few months. I am back to my usual cautiously optimistic self. Heck, it’s not even cautious. I know the world is going to bring me great things, great joy and great opportunities. I just can’t wait to get there.
The end, for now
I have a confession to make. I hate fruit. Okay, not already picked, polished, and washed fruit, waiting for me to select it at the grocery store. Although I have noticed that I can take longer than most anyone to pick out apples. I have to very carefully examine each one, to make sure it is perfect. No haplessly throwing apples in the cart. That would be upsetting. It would literally, upset the apple cart. Which is weird, because I am an extremely effective grocery shopper and can generally buy a week’s worth of provisions in about 16 minutes flat. Apples slow me down, man.
The fruit that I hate is the fruit that I grow. On trees. In my backyard. Or, to be more accurate, yards. At my first house, the wee shack on Nestle, I had a plum tree that was quite prolific. The plum tree was adjacent to the pool. Yes, I had a shack with a swimming pool. L.A. Go figure. Anyway, these plums would ripen and plummet off the tree, smushing to the patio or pool and causing a huge purple mess. I hated it so much, and complained about it so bitterly, that the password on the shared production file at work became “fruit hater.”
When I moved on up from the little house, to my current abode, I swore I would not buy another house with fruit trees. But fate can be a funny bitch, and I fell in love with the house and in that first stage of blind romance, I remained blissfully ignorant. There were a few lemon and orange trees, but those fruits have tidy wrappers, and do not smush. Even after we erected the dogs’ kennel around a very large tree in my new yard, I congratulated myself on providing them with shade, not seeing what lurked so mockingly in the shadows.
Until the first summer. When I realized that the 30 foot tree shading Daisy Petals and Louie, was a motherf#c*ing, c#cks*cking, fruit bearing fig tree. A tree so prolific, it is like it is growing on Gilligan’s Island. A tree so healthy that if I cut off a branch, 2 branches grow in its place. A tree that chucks fruit on the sticky backs of two little weiner dogs, and makes them figgy full and farty too. And a tree so malevolent, it has been known to pelt me with its rotten figs as I am picking them. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
The fig tree also houses a robust community of happy, drunk bees and shiny green backed June bugs. In the late afternoon, there are so many bugs feasting on the figs, that you can actually see them with their heads inserted in the fruit. This weekend, I was stung by a bee, adding injury to insult. Worse, one time, I was up on a ladder picking figs, and a bee flew into my shirt. I whipped my shirt off, standing on that ladder in my bra and swearing like a sailor. Then I noticed three little kids from next door peering up at me in horror.
Remember the father in A Christmas Story? And his war with the furnace? That is me, with the fig tree. I curse it, shake my fist at it, and try my damndest to outwit and outlast it. But the tree wins, every time. I can’t possibly keep up with it, even though I am out every single morning and early evening to pick and clean. I can’t give enough figs away to friends, family, strangers. I have tried contacting an agency that collects fruit for the hungry and homeless, but they very nicely declined the free figs, because of their extremely short shelf life and overall fragility.
So every summer, I complain for the full length of fig season, which is mercifully only about 6 weeks. I swear I will cut down the tree, or find someone who can neuter it, or other drastic action. I rave and I rage, and anyone who has the pleasure of encountering me has to hear about it. And then, it’s over. No more figs for the year. The tree settles back down into providing shade for the pups. I forget, annually, the battle that has been waged, as I look happily towards fall. And so, we settle into a peaceful détente…until next year.
The End, for now