Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog.
On Sunday, my friend Lauren Hough stopped by. I couldn’t make it to Lauren’s event with author Andrea Pitzer last week, so I was glad when she came over to enjoy the Lounge Pit, the glorious hoagies of Wawa, and the placid waters of Playa del Pluck.
Before we get too deep, you should check out Lauren’s memoir of essays, Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, which is powerful, gripping, and alternately dark and hilarious, like a twisty soft serve cone of brilliant insights and survivor’s humor. It includes her famous essay, “I Was a Cable Guy.”
Andrea Pitzer’s latest book, Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, is about the doomed Barents expedition, and is the perfect read for a sweltering summer. But enough about books. This is about dogs. Lauren brought her dog, a rescued husky-pit mix, Woody.
Lauren is pretty awesome, but I really wanted to meet Woody. She posts about him a lot on the hellsite known as Twitter. She had a DNA test done because no one knew what kind of mix Woody was, and now it seems obvious that he is half the unstoppable energy of a husky and half the barreling hyper-friendly goofiness of a pit bull. Maybe that’s reverse psychology at work, like astrological signs. All I know is, he’s a delightfully sweet dog and I want one just like him.
Woody tried to run across the pool solar cover before he even took a dump on our lawn. Sarah jumped in after him, fully clothed, because that’s her in a nutshell. She seems like the type who will freeze in a crisis, but she is the one who will dive in to save your dog. I’m the fool who will step into a fight he know he will lose to protect his friends. And Lauren, well, if you follow her on Twitter, you know she’ll stand up for her friends.
So, we all hit it off immediately.
Lauren brought a bottle of Larceny whiskey, the perfect libation for a writer of crime fiction. Wawa was procured. Laughs were had. Secret writer rituals were performed, with herbs and potions and the phrasing of sacred chants. Woody curled up with his head in my lap in the Lounge Pit before a roaring fire, and I began to have strange feelings, because I’ve always been a cat person.
I’ve always liked dogs. My mom had a purebred toy poodle named Coco that I have fond memories of as a child, but she couldn’t take Coco when she left my Dad with us, because we stayed with my grandparents, and Grandpa “Abby” was dying of colon cancer, and didn’t want a dog in the house. Abby was named by me; he chewed cheap cigars, and would waggle one in his mouth while imitating Fred Flintstone for me; “Abby” was toddler shorthand for “Yabba Dabba Do!” Abby drove a truck for a quarry just like Fred, and had a junkyard dog that lived in the yard and was never allowed in the house. So, Coco couldn’t come along.
Coco liked to leave a puddle of piss at the bottom of the stairs for my Dad in the morning, and my mother said he would swear when he stepped in it. My mother loved that dog. She told us stories of how protective Coco was of her when she was pregnant with us. That dog knew the score. That piss on the rug was her statement of rebellion.
I don’t know how long Coco survived at the house that my father refused to vacate for the divorce, but one day he called and said Coco had fallen down the stairs and broken her spine.
My mother had to put her down.
I didn’t think Coco fell then, and I don’t now.
My father hadn’t hit any of us yet, but he punched a hole in the wall next to my mother’s face once. He was afraid of Abby—who once lifted him off the ground by his throat for disrespecting his daughter—but once Abby died, who knows what those brick-breaking hands might have done. And I’m still sorry that my mother had to make that choice, and leave Coco with him.
We never had a dog again. It was never even discussed. We adopted a series of cats from shelters, and I’ve continued that tradition.
My mom’s going to read this. This is what happens when a New York Times best-selling author who writes amazing essays visits your house with her dog, and you start reliving all the dark memories brought up by the backscatter effectof Father’s Day.
(So I’m sorry, Mom. Sorry that you lost Coco. Even if you don’t think that Dad kicked her down the stairs, like I do.)
Sarah wants a dog, and we are thinking about it. Louie Cat didn’t freak out when Woody curled up on his favorite spot in front of the couch. He hunched his back, but he seemed more curious than angry, and it helped that Woody has already learned that being friendly to cats means getting swiped across the nose. (Poor guy.)
So maybe there’s a dog in my future.
Sarah gets naming rights to pets in this house.
But whatever she calls them, their middle name will be Coco.
Happy father’s day to the good ones.
Disclaimer: I am mentioned in the acknowledgements, but I didn’t know until I had read the book and already gave it a stellar review at Vautrin.
Not like “Cat Person” in Kristen Roupenian’s story.
I don’t know what the hell it means either. In The Thing, Palmer says the backscatter effect brings up ancient things (and literally Things) from the ice, but the actual effect has to do with refraction of light through ice.
Love this....and he did kick her down the stairs