Sunday, July 31, 2005


My wife Marie and I are known to our grown children as a couple who spoil their dogs endlessly, ad nauseum. When they came for Christmas last year, and entered our foyer, to the enthusiastic yapping of two little white Bichon Frises, in their velvet red and green Christmas outfits, well, let’s just say, we got “the look".

However guilty we feel for ending up, admittedly so, as two of the most hideously doting doggie parents of all time, pales in comparison to the depth of our love and commitment to these little “live stuffed animals”, as I sometimes refer to them. “Pippi (for Pippi Longstocking), and Poppi (for Popcorn) give us so much love and pleasure, how could we do less?

At the pet store, we buy the requisite “Greenies”, and a beef tendon treat they love called “Flossies”. Pippi will sit, and whine quietly, forever, at my office closet door, where I keep the Flossies, until I enter and pull one out of the special plastic drawer I keep there, labelled “dog treats”. But at $1.99 a pop, and since our dogs are small, I cut the Flossies into four pieces each, with a sharp “nail puller” tool I have placed in the drawer for just this purpose. Many times, working on my knees somewhere in the house, discovering a nail to pull, I have walked to the closet and to the dog treat drawer to retrieve it. Pippi will take her piece of Flossie immediately to the open area in my office, and begin to toss it wildly, up in the air, and then chase it, retrieve it, and do it again and again. Folks, trust me, it’s too damn cute.

Another treat our dogs love, but which we seldom buy anymore, since they reek, is the much touted “Bully”, or length of dried bull penis, also available at your local pet store in a variety of sizes. Apparently, they are quite yummy, as the bulging bins of bullies suggest, and I have seen our dogs, as Marie and I watch TV, gnarl one for hours, occasionally looking up to us to say, “Dad, Mom, yer the best”. The first time I bought some, a teenage clerk spotted my quizzical fondling of the bullies and announced, without discretion, “THEY'RE BULL PENISES”, and then, as an aside, she suggested, “dogs love’m. But don’t leave’m out in the yard, cuz they’ll reconstitute, and then, they’re totally gross!” I have noticed that not all bullies we have taken home are equally pungent, but most, to put it mildly, might require the additional purchase of one of those tacky plug in style air fresheners, the kind that can beat down any raunchy smell in favor of some scent like “”Overwhelming Pine” or “Wildflower Fields My Ass”.

We employ a wonderful Ukrainian couple, who come to our home twice a month, for several hours, to help us keep our house in order. They clean, especially giving our son Blaine’s room a thorough going over, which would be worth the money even if they didn’t do anything else. We deeply appreciate their help.

Each time they arrive, the dogs swarm them, in our foyer, as Cyrillic nouns and adjectives fly. Some minutes later, after the dogs have calmed, they go about their business, and as a rule, I guess you could say that they pick up their share of dog toys, which have been strewn anew, around the house, since the last time they cleaned. We have several baskets for said toys, and by the time they leave, each basket is in it’s spot, neatly teeming with toys. Within hours of their departure, however, someone, some dang dog, has tipped the baskets over, and the cycle begins again.

I am certain that our Ukrainian friends, who come from poverty in Eastern Europe, must think we are out of our minds, with this pet obsession of ours, including all of our dog toys and pampering. They are so kind, and are obviously fond of us, and we trust them implicitly as they move from room to room, collecting dust bunnies and restacking my lyric sheets. Sometimes, if they have run out of a product, or, perhaps, need a new package of vacuum bags, they will call me from my office to assist. “Reek”, they might call, and when I arrive, they relate their need, in ever so broken English. For the most part, given the language barrier, we do a pretty good job of understanding each other.

On one recent visit, however, I must say that I fell out of my league, out of my cultural context, in the understanding department, when I was called for a consultation. As I sat at my office desk, our female housekeeper stood at my door, and uttered my name. I turned to give her my complete attention. I could see that she was holding a “Bully” in her left hand, and one second after our eyes met, raised the bully up toward me, and posed the question....”Ees nah-chew-rahl?”, and then, before I could say one word, and I swear this actually happened, raised the bully further, up to within about one-half inch of her left nostril, and without reservation, put a humongus and deeply drawn nose hit on that bully, it’s gnarled end still dripping with dog spittle, slimy and white, and surely bearing the utterly gamey fragrance we have come to recognize from several rooms away. As she placed it back to her side, awaiting my answer, I think I saw her eyes tear up. “Yes”, I replied, and then, as she retreated, I thanked God that she had asked no further questions. Anyway, in my two years of Cyrillic study in college, I don’t believe I ever came across the translation for bull penis.

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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States