Expecting (a Dog)


To those of you who might have already read my posts about getting a dog in my blog, my apologies. But you know, I’m kinda excited and preoccupied, so:

We’re getting a new dog. We’re getting a rescue from a local Golden Retriever Rescue group. Our son is grown and out of the house. We have some disposable income. This whole exercise is clearly some sort of surrogate adoption experience.

It started with the adoption procedures. (That’s what the rescue group refers to it as, ‘adoption.’ Giving them a dog is called a ‘surrender.’) I filed an application and paid a fee. That was followed by a phone interview. And then a house visit, where we wre again interviewed and our home was inspected for suitability. We discussed what kind of food we would give the dog, where the dog would sleep, and promised to repair a couple of places in our fence.

Then we got a call asking us if we would foster a dog with option to adopt. That’s Hudson, the doofus pictured above. He’s 2 years old and was found running alongside the highway. The woman who rescued him has a child under two and another on the way and although Hudson is really good with her child, well, he’s a dog. And he is more than she can handle. Could we take him? Absolutely.

Yesterday I got the stuff for the nursery ready for him to come and live with us. Because we already have the world’s most annoying mini dachshund, we put up the old giant dog crate in our bedroom where Hudson could retreat to safety. But he needed a mat for the crate, of course. So I went and bought a mice comfy foam mat with a cover that fits in his crate. And he needed a new leash, and Shelly’s food is for Senior dogs and he’s not senior…well, you get the idea.

We’ll pick Hudson up on Friday.

At least there’s no baby shower in the offing.

Writer’s Rooms


Mary Doria Russell forwarded me a link about where writer’s write. It’s primarily about where British and Irish writers write, which already, for me, infuses the whole idea with a whiff of romance. I know a little of the lore of how writer’s write. Legend is that Guy du Maupassant had to have the smell of aging apples in the room in order to write and always kept an apple or two rotting in a desk drawer. Thomas Wolfe apparently was so tall that he stood and wrote on top of the refrigerator, tossing the pages over his shoulder for his sister to pick up.

I have a strong sense that where people write is somehow meaningful, although my favorite ‘office’ in the list is for the New Yorker Jonathan Safran Foer who says, “”I used to work in the Rose Reading Room of the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library.” Seamus Heaney’s office is rather nice, too.

The image above is actually misleading since my desk usually has a pile of papers on it. I’ve worked in a variety of offices over the years. My bedroom when I was in Brooklyn since I lived in a rooming house. But it was a hundred year old brownstone so it was a splendid old place. My mother’s basement, where I finished my first novel. In our last house I had our smallest bedroom and my husband had a much bigger office, except he had to share his with the guest bed and sometimes with a guest. When we bought this house his devout wish was that he would have his own office without a bed, and he does. I had a room set aside for my office, but it occurred to me that in all the time we had a living room and a family room we never used the living room. It was the prettiest room in our old house and had the paintings you see on the right. Those were on the wall of my paternal grandparent’s house and they are very much of their time (around 1920, I’d say.) And the glass goblets on the low buffet (which is full of paper and envelopes and supplies) are bohemian glass, also from the same grandparents around the same time.

So this time, I left the little bedroom as a bedroom and set up in the living room. The funny pile of red plaid in the lower right corner is a dog bed and Shelly the dachshund sleeps there. What you can’t see in the photo are the filing cabinets. They’re under the window out of the frame to the left and they’re just ugly, metal filing cabinets. And you can’t see that my office is in a fairly large, fairly empty front great room and the side that is supposed to be the formal dining room has a Tama drum kit set up in it and not much other furniture.

Still, it’s the most lovely office I’ve ever had. And the amazing thing is I actually work in it. My suspicion has always been that I would never actually write anything in a nice office.

I know at least two of my fellow brainiacs have nifty offices. I’ve seen Caroline’s and it’s really exactly what I picture in my head when I think writer’s office–except that the wall color is better than what I picture in my head. And Steve, of course, built his. I think that photos of your offices should be posted. I’ve also seen Brad’s and it looks like he actually writes in it. And it has dog beds!

I don’t know what mine says about me, but at the moment I am convinced whatever it says is quite conducive to composition.

How Dogs Exploited the Evolutionary Niche Called People


My Golden Retreiver is thirteen years old.

I know that we anthropomophize dogs. I am aware that the money I spend on my dogs would more than double the income of the average family in Chad. It’s an intellectual consideration that is completely overwhelmed by my emotional reaction to the dog. I could no more decide to euthanize the dog and send the money to Chad than I could decide to euthanize Bob.

Dogs trigger the same general reaction in us as family. That’s the biology of the dog/human relationship. And of the cat/human relationship as well.

We tend to think that we domesticated dogs. We saw dogs, we decided we wanted them in our lives and we set about making it so by breeding them for the traits we liked. Actually, evolutionarily speaking, dogs exploited us. We’re their ecological nitch. Continue reading

Soft Addiction


I have a cold so I’m watching a lot of television. The dogs drift in and out of the room, pleased that I’m home from Readercon but subtly disappointed I’m not Howard Waldrop. I am watching a television show called The Secret Lives of Women. Each show is an hour long and consists of several interviews, interspersed documentary style, with several women who have some sort of social issue. One episode is about women in plural marriages. One episode is about eating disorders. One is about women with Munchhausen Syndrome By Proxy (those women are all in jail and decline to be interviewed so the show interviews police, experts and two women whose mothers had MSP.) The shows tend to be very straight forward and rather superficial. The show on Munchhausen Syndrome By Proxy has an expert talking about how we have to be on the look out for MSP because the death rate for children abused this way is 10%. There’s no discussion of the rarity of the syndrome or of the growing controversy that it is apparently often applied to women who do in fact have sick children, particularly if those women are working class, poor, and/or minorities. Continue reading

A National Treasure

We’re going to Readercon tomorrow and while we are gone, we’re having someone house sit for us. Howard Waldrop is watching my dogs.

This doesn’t happen in Ohio. I mean, Howard Waldrop is a national treasure. We’re having a national treasure watch our house. This is a little like having Princess Di watch your house, except that Howard wasn’t hounded to death by papparazzi. I’m assuming if you read Eat Our Brains, you probably know Howard, or know of him. Me, I didn’t meet Howard until a couple of years ago. I met him at Walter Jon William’s Rio Hondo Workshop. The fact that Walter invites me to the Rio Hondo workshop already makes me feel pretty cool. The fact that Howard was coming made me a little nervous. I’d heard lots of stories about Howard, like how he doesn’t use a computer and how he gave a lecture on how to live on $4,638 a year and he sounded facsinating, but what if I wasn’t, you know, cool enough? People who’s opinion I respected a great deal adore Howard. What if I somehow failed to measure up?

Howard doesn’t measure. Howard is generous of spirit. And he knows more stuff than almost anybody. Howard and I got into a discussion of the fall of the empires of mezo-America and the effects of unexpected amounts of rain on the Pueblo cultures. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a conversation so much as I listened and thought, damn, I’d never heard about that. It was cool. Especially when you realize that this guy doesn’t have google.

I have tried really hard to impress on the dogs that Howard is going to be staying here for a few days. The good news is that Howard has met my dogs and, well, Howard likes dogs. And my dogs like Howard. But they aren’t going to be treating him with proper reverance.

The good thing is, I think Howard prefers it that way.

(This link to Howard’s story, The Ugly Chickens, isn’t supposed to work anymore, but as I type this, it still is.)

If Dogs Could Talk


I was in the kitchen shucking corn on the cob, and Shelly, the miniature dachshund was standing looking up at me hopefully. When Shelly looks up, she is so short that she tends to pick up one paw. This, combined with her perpetually worried expression, gives her a kind of winsomeness that it takes awhile to understand is an accident of nature unrelated to her actual emotional state. Sort of like the fixed smile of a bottle-nosed dolphin.

I could suddenly imagine a conversation with Shelly as I shucked corn.

“Can I have some?” she would say. She’s little, about twelve pounds, so it helps to imagine a voice that goes with that.

“You wouldn’t like it.”

“I like it,” she says hopefully.

“You don’t even know what it is,” I say.

“What is it?”

“Corn,” I say.

“I like it,” she says.

I ignore her. You’re supposed to ignore begging dogs.

“Can I have some?” she says.

“You don’t even know that you’d like it. It’s a vegetable. Raw.”

She watches me without a glimmer of comprehension.

“Can I have some?” she says again.

“You don’t want it. You don’t even know what it is,” I say.

“Corn?” she says.

“You don’t know what corn is.”

“I like it.”

“No you don’t.”


“Can I have some?”

I think it’s just as well they don’t talk.

Dogs Dogs Dogs


It’s been vet week at the manse. Both dogs have been in and out of the vet’s for the last week and a half. First, The Big Dog went in for her annual blood tests and something weird came back which required her to be tested for Cushings Disease. It turned out she was fine. But then The Little Dog’s ears developed some sort of rash and this has led to tests for endrocinological malfunction.

When The Big Dog was young, one day I was stomping through the woods in an oversized and ragged green barn coat that I had stolen from Bob, and I realized had Bob not married me, I would be a Dog Lady. Dog Ladies are marginally less appalling that Cat Ladies only because we get out more. After all, the dogs need to walk. However, I would rapidly become a person who likes dogs better than people. A lot of times, I already do. I could see me, aging, make-up less, hair in a tangle, grumpy, with two dogs who slept on the furniture and basically ran the house.

Okay. I am aging, I don’t wear make-up, I’m lucky if I bother with the blow dryer once a week, and the dogs sleep on the furniture.

But dog ownership raises all sorts of weird conundrums. Continue reading