I’m a Dog Saint – But Don’t Envy Me

I’m a Dog Saint – But Don’t Envy Me

OK, folks – I don’t mean to be all righteous, but seriously: I’m a dog saint…aaaaand…don’t envy me. As evidence, this post is crude but entirely based in fact. Enjoy at your own peril.

My dog, Maddie, is walking and running (more like galumphing), since the beginning of her FCE ordeal. She temporarily lost use of the back half of her body but has made incredible strides back to, well – striding.

And she’s utterly unperturbed when her hips occasionally slip and slam on the ground. She just keeps going in her new normal.

But I desperately hope for to regain control of her bladder and bowels.

Dear doggy lord: my Maddie is walking adequately. I’ll trade further progress in the leg region for any control in her nether regions.

We’ve had to “express” her bladder, otherwise she grows a 3-inch balloon in her gut. We put our fingers behind her ribs and squeeze back and in. This triggers her back legs to shoot straight out while urine sprays out of her with the force of a super-soaker. Not difficult, merely annoying. And a lot of splashing.

But nothing’s as bad as the poop.

Before walking returned, the poor dog soiled herself. Bowels emptied onto her tail and legs and she’d try to drag her paralyzed hind-end away. Daily baths were the norm. (Difficult with a dog who couldn’t stand.) We were all miserable.

Since walking, Maddie still lacks “function” control. Sometimes (usually at about 4AM) it seems she feels something and thinks, “Oh, crap. Oh, no. Oh crap, I think I’m gonna…”

She stands, takes two steps, and then: plop. Another step, another plop. We’ve surrounded her bed with wee-wee pads, so her scat is caught before she scats.

Then she shamefully hides from us in a corner.

The commotion wakes us, but over the past few weeks, we’re resigned to it. “Oh, well. The dog lost it, again.” So we clean doggy-doo by the light of cell phones.

For a month I lined up Ellison’s rubber alphabet tiles down our hallway for Maddie to walk without slipping. Because she stuck to that path, a few times she left presents along the tiles.

One night before turning in, I went to check on the sleeping boys, and I stepped in a pile. I was barefoot.

I slipped, smearing ordure along the P, Q, and R letters, at which point the tiles separated, and my foot further smeared feces on the wood floor.

My kids' rubber tiles running through my apartment to give my dog a grip and not slip.
See the bloody paw prints on the tiles?

I semi-sighed/semi-laughed. I wretched as I cleaned.

This wasn’t the first bare foot nastiness. I’m always the one who steps in it.

Recently, I started “expressing” her bowels. (Yeah: I’m a dog saint.)

Imagine, if you will, a grown man squatting behind his dog, squeezing her haunches until her tail pops up and her anus starts to pucker.

At this point, I’m (sadly) happy for action. It means less mess in the apartment. Since it’s now sub-zero in the Northeast, and I squat mere inches away from her, I actually see steam escaping her butt.

The height of indignity is when I force my dog to fart in my face. It happens almost daily.

We hardly react to this, anymore. It’s become de rigueur for the kids.

“Did Maddie go poopy again, Daddy?”

“Yes. Don’t touch it, please. I’ll clean it after I make your toast.”

One time, a babysitter sat on the couch reading to Ellison when my younger kid delivered something. It was poop.

To this point (knock on wood) Maddie’s had no diarrhea. So clearing the crud is quick and easy and it’s easier for me to say “I’m a dog saint.” Sometimes we scrub with chemicals, sometimes we just wipe with a paper towel. We’re so resigned to it now, we just shrug and keep on keeping on.

I haven’t cleaned with bare hands. That’s probably next.

We ask every visitor if the apartment smells like dog droppings.

They all say “No, not at all.”

I hope they’re not shitting us.

I (Suddenly) Love Frozen

I’ve written a variation on this theme, before, but it’s the greatest hope I have for my kids.

“Daddy? You be ‘Anna’ and I’m going to run away from you with my cape and you say, ‘No, Elsa! Don’t go!’ Ok?”
“OK, buddy.”

Role-play ensues.

Even Colton, who’s words are limited to “pee-pee” and “nana” gets into it. When he sees anything Frozen, he shouts “Anna!”

As already discussed, our household is ruled by Frozen. (Actually, Thomas the Train still rules, but there’s a lot of Disney princessifying going on.)

Frozen thrills Ellison. He plays all the rolls: Kristoff, Sven and (especially) the sisters. I’ve gotten good at fashioning dresses out of old swaddlers (blankets, not Pampers.)

The other day I figured, “Eh, he hasn’t watched it in two weeks. Why not?” As we waited for the movie to load on my computer, Ellison jumped on the bed shouting, “Hooray! Hooray! I’m so excited to watch Frozen!”

He shouts “hooray” sans irony. I mean, who talks like that? It’s so…earnest, so…“Barney” dialogue.

After a recent snowstorm, we built “Olafs” in our backyard with some play-date friends, a boy (age 5) and his sister (age 3).

When Ellison started singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” the boy said, “I hate Frozen. It’s all about love. And I hate love.”

“Wow. That’s…specific,” I sputtered.

His little sister said, “Yeah. I don’t like it, either.”

“Oh,” Ellison said; then (matter-of-factly) added, “I like it!”

It was as if they’d said “my name begins with R” and he said “Oh. Well, my name begins with E.”

And in that moment, I felt a desperate need to stop time, grab Ellison, and say, “Buddy, you go ahead and LOVE Frozen with all your heart, just as you do, now. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

Their mother rolled their eyes saying, “Whatever. They were both dancing around in Frozen dresses, this morning. Peer pressure. It’s no longer cool for him to like the movie. And his sister’s just following.”

“Already?” I thought. “At five years old social acceptance looms?”

I hate that.

I’ve spouted lessons for my son in this blog. But above all, I wish most for him to hold on forever to that innocence where he loves what he loves. If he’s thrilled with Frozen or football or fungi, I’ll be elated to talk about it.

How I wish he could live divorced from anyone else’s opinion. Watching his captivated face as he’s engrossed/scared/delighted watching Frozen warms my heart.

Eventually, I know he’ll follow crowds.

I know he’ll say to me, “Daddy, don’t hug me so much,”

or “Daddy, it’s not cool to sing,”

or “Daddy? Can you drop me off at the corner? I can walk the rest of the way myself.”

But I wish it wouldn’t happen soon.

Son, just hold on to whatever makes you feel joy and free and light and inspired. And if whatever inflames your passion is something that isn’t cool for the outside world, I promise you: it’s safe in our house. So act out Frozen or play football or become bizarrely obsessed with fungi.

Your passion and interests are always safe with me.

I know you’ll be influenced by others far too soon.

But be innocent for as long as possible.

That’s my deepest hope for you, buddy boy.

We’ve Entered the FROZEN Tundra

What is it with Frozen? I know people with 4 -6 year-olds went through this last year, but my 3-year-old is quickly catching up. He is obsessed with Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and that insidious song.

I mean, do any adults think the movie is amazing? How on earth did they craft something so addictive for kids?

Is it immediacy?…that we can conjure the song on phones and parents couldn’t have done that with The Little Mermaid? Would we have gone ape-shit over Aladdin if we could YouTube “Never Had a Friend” while on a ski lift or in line at the grocery store?

Obviously Disney creates magic, but I wonder if they don’t have a “Department of Nefarious Arts” in a turret of Sleeping Beauty’s castle where they plot to seduce impressionable minds with scientifically-chosen colors and committee-crafted plot points?

Ellison is learning a lot about families, behavior and body parts with his preoccupation with Frozen. Last Tuesday he asked me 16 times why Elsa stays in the room hiding from Anna. I explained twelve times (and ignored the other four), “Because Elsa has magical powers in her hands, but she doesn’t know how to control them. So she hides from Anna to keep Anna safe.”

“But Elsa loves Anna. They’re sisters.”

“That’s right, buddy. Sometimes you have to protect people you love by hiding from them.”

How on earth is that a concept he can understand? But maybe Frozen is expanding his brain capacity?

Yesterday, Ellison pulled a blue yoga mat around his chest and said, “Look! I’m Elsa. My purple cape flew away. Now I’m in the blue dress.”

He does this with blankets, towels and, once, a paper towel.

It’s hilarious how he taps into the role-play. (I bet this woman would have something to say about it.)

As we walked to school, the other day, he asked this non-sequitur: “Do Elsa and Anna have penises?”

“Um, no buddy.”

“Oh. What do they have in front of their hinies?”

I took a deep breath to quell my guffaw. “They have vaginas, buddy.” (We’ve discussed anatomy, before.)

He responded, “Olaf doesn’t have a penis.”

“Oh,” I said, newly enlightened. I refrained from saying, How do you know he isn’t just suffering from shrinkage? He’s a snowman!

Another non-sequitur: while playing trains, Ellison stood, stomped his feet and informed me, “When Elsa stomps her foot on the stairs, she makes snowflakes. She runs up stairs but she doesn’t fall. I don’t run on stairs. I could fall.”

Bless his preschool and their staircase vigilance.

And the song. Seriously? Is it really that good? Even Idina Menzel, herself, has declared the song “too damn high.” (I can’t find the citation, now, but I swear I read it.)

And the ending? “Cold never bothered me, anyway.” Isn’t that some kind of dangling grammatical deviant? It’s so clipped…like the writers jumped off the horse mid-stream.

But maybe this is the Disney psychological warfare? Adults are musically unsatisfied, the kids don’t seem to care.

And the writers and Disney are laughing at my novice criticism all the way to the bank.

Yesterday I needed to wake Ellison from a nap (he could nap for hours in the afternoon, but then he’d never sleep at night. So I wake him at 45 minutes…resulting in crabbiness.) I brought him from the brink of tears by pulling up “Let it Go” on my phone. Breathlessly, he whispered, “What’s that song, Daddy? It’s…it’s…it’s ‘Wet it D’oh.’”

Ellison couldn’t care less about my envy-tinged artistic grand-standing. And I’m still charmed by him singing.

Let it go, Gavin. Write something better and then we’ll talk.

What are your thoughts on Frozen and “Let It Go”?

Art Changes Everyday Life. But Why Bother?

Art Changes Everyday Life. But Why Bother?

A conversation I had with myself while waiting in January sub-freezing temperatures for two hours to spend about five minutes in an art exhibit so I could feel cultural and be able to Insta-brag. I had some real epiphanies about parenting and art…mainly: Art changes everyday life.

And even when it’s fleeting and temporary, that’s OK.

Thus: my misery in collective, cultural experience:

9:40? not bad. I’m probably about the 100th in line. But did any of these surrounding tourists drop off kids at school, this morning?

Surely that chalked sign on the sidewalk can’t be accurate: “90 minute wait from this point.” Yeah, right. It can’t seriously take that long to see this artist. Wait, what is this exhibit, again?

I dunno. I just saw it on Instagram and read about it in the Times, a few months ago. So…I’m here because the Times and some people on IG told you to come?

More or less.

So we are posers. Just wanting to see things cuz other people are doing it?

I guess. Isn’t everybody?

Especially in New York.

Seriously – except for the 1% of artistic elite (and who are those people, anyway?) aren’t we all just seeing stuff cuz other people tell us to?

Do you think we’ll get in and think it’s stupid?

I mean, duh. It’s some woman’s paintings of polkadots.

Seriously – like, our six year-old could almost do the exact same thing.

Right.

How much time has passed?

Three and a half minutes.

Jesus H. I’m freezing. Thank goodness for this coffee to warm my hands.

For now.

Seriously.

<20 seconds of silence passes in the freezing cold>

Two hours in the bitter cold just to say we did it? Is this worth it? This is when New York sucks. There’s just too much demand.

I know. The crowds screw it up for everyone.

But we still play the game. You just do these things to say “I was there”?

Uh-huh.

The Gates?

Right.

That play you had to see in three parts and some people saw it all in one day.

Right. I missed that. Coast of Utopia?

Something like that.

Hamilton.

At the Public.

Right. Pre-Broadway. I’ll always brag about that.

That photographic exhibition on the old White Star Lines pier ten years ago?

Right. With the over-sized sepia photography of elephants and kids underwater.

Oh, yeah. That was…random. But it felt cool to have seen it.

And brag that you were there.

Right.

But now? We’re standing in line for 2 hours…

Please don’t let it be that long. Surely that’s an exaggeration.

And we will be in the gallery room for a couple minutes, at the most.

Wait, what?

Yeah, they don’t let you linger more than 30 seconds in the three rooms. There’s just too much demand.

Ohmigod, this is bullshit.

Thank god the kids aren’t here.

Seriously. And then in those 30 seconds, we’re just gonna have our phones out Insta-bragging about the experience. Shouldn’t we put phones away and be in the moment?

Are you fucking kidding? Then there’s no proof we were there. If it doesn’t happen on Instagram….

I know. But this is art and it’s fleeting. Maybe we should go all 19th-century?

Hell, no.

I kinda think you shouldn’t photograph churches or sunsets. Photos never do it justice.

Um, 1986 called. It wants its photographic pretension back. Are you kidding me? This is why we’re here! Pretension! Shouldn’t we be too good for Instagram?

I suppose. This kinda thing drives me crazy, though. Reminds me of my mom. She drug me around to museums and always took 6 hours to read every panel about harbor seal genus or random Dutch painters who weren’t even in the same epoch as Von Gogh. It was awful. I hated museums.

But you remember going, right?

I guess.

And were you the most worldly 4th grader having schlepped through the Air and Space Museum for six hours?

Um, maybe? Was it worth it? Wouldn’t I still have been smart’ish without suffering through four hours in an art museum that no 10-year-old could care about?

Who could say?

What if I had my kids, here? They’d just whine and say they wanna go and I’d just be herding cats and telling them, “don’t touch that. Don’t touch that. Stop running. Don’t touch anything. Calm the fuck down.”

Right.

So what would be the point?

(Hint: Art changes everyday life. Is that enough?)

They’d remember it like you remember suffering through the Air and Space Museum.

Is that why we do this? We bring on the sadist and the masochistic cultural suffering to brag we were there and hope our kids will have a faint memory of having done it…just so we all get social ladder points for saying, “I was there.”

Maybe.

Couldn’t we just see it in a book? Instead of waiting for 2 hours in 27 degree weather? How long’s it been? An hour?

Fourteen minutes.

I can’t feel my feet and my coffee’s gone.

Luckily it’s not snowing.

Yet.

So then we will get inside and just video the entire thing and our pictures of ourselves will be in mirrors with our own reflections. How’s that an artistic experience?

I’m not sure.

Shouldn’t it be a pure artistic experience? Something zen-like?

Like through the eyes of kids?

Right. Un-besmirched by technology.

Sure. It’s the 21st century. But, I dunno. You’ll have recorded it.

Will I ever watch the video again? Sure as shit no one else wants to watch it.

What’s a “pure” artistic experience, anyway? Who can quantify that?

Does it matter?

I suppose just being silent with the art.

Sure. Silence is golden. But we’re limited to 30 seconds in this exhibit. It’s not like you can commune with any of this polk-a-dot nonsense.

Right.

How do you ever achieve zen –like appreciation of anything? A sunset, a church, a piece of art?

I dunno. Just…try to enjoy it.

Huh.

…..

Has it been an hour, yet?

Twenty three minutes.

Ohmigod. I’m really questioning this.

It’ll be great. Just…enjoy the moment.

That’s it?

I mean, shit. It’s just polk-a-dots. Are you supposed to get greater meaning out of life from polk-a-dots?

And tiny, repetitive eyeballs painted by a funky 90 year-old woman.

Right. That. Is that really art?

Well, it’s silly. And whimsical. And that’s fun, isn’t it? In the age of…

Right. Trump.

See? Don’t we need more colorful eyeballs and polkadots to take us out of our every day?

I guess that could be enough.

Sometimes it just needs to be. Smile at the polkadots, even with your phone in your hand. Enjoy it.

Yeah, I suppose even Van Gogh would say that.

Eh, probably not. He’d have already become pretentious and over-analytical.

But for the rest of us…just…enjoy it.

I’ll try. Makes sense.

……

How long, now?

Thirty-one minutes.

Why am I sweating so badly in my pits? Always in the cold, if I just stand here, my pits are over-active. Are they confused?

I can’t answer that for you.

….

So this’ll be worth it?

Sure it will. You’ll remember the suffering, you’ll remember the polkadots, and you’ll remember how you smiled through it.

Art changes everyday life

That should be enough.

It has to be.

And we can brag “we were there.”

Exactly.

And that’s the point of art?

Sometimes. Why not? A memorable blip on our generally boring existence?

Fair point.

…….

How much time, now?

Forty-one minutes.

The mesmerizing art of Yayoi Kusama - the endless repetition of mirrors and balls and polkadots.
Okay – it was mesmerizing. And now – looking back on these pix, I’m glad I took them. Because art changes everyday life.
I'm a bit perplexed, but also fascinated.
It’s silly. It’s whimsical. It’s wonderful.
Kusama's tiny room of endless reflection and color.
I mean – yeah. This is cray-cray. And I love it.
The E.C.Knox "Windsor" posing...unknowingly.
*Shameless product placement. @E.C.Knox (insert winking emoji, here). The staff was NOT happy about this.