The True Dog Whisperers


Esme and I have been enjoying the Westminster Dog Show, and were thrilled that a Teddy-sized hound finally took Best in Show, though, as Esme points out, none proved they could fetch.

Much less train their humans to.

For years, despite scores of dogs attempting to teach me, I couldn’t master the throw-and-return maneuver. With Ted, for instance, he’d just bring the ball back to engage in a game of tug-of-war or, even better, Chase-the-Retriever-with-the-ball.

Esme, though, trained me in a day. Maybe less. She even taught me how to play from the jacuzzi: Throw it toward the south fence, and she’ll teeter it on the tub ledge. Really. Here she is, trying to teach my aunt Lessie to fetch. (Says Esme, Keep goin, champ! You’re almost there!)

Now she’s got me working with another fetchable: a foot-long stuffed squirrel that eerily resembles roadkill. Except this treasure squeaks, from squeezable head to its whoopee-cushion tail.

For the purposes of this story, we’ll call the toy Chew-Barka — for story purposes only. I mean, what 51-year-old adult man would name his dog’s stupid stuffed animal? That’s crazy. You’re crazy. So drop it, ok? Jerk.

Anyway, Esme loves Chewy. Carries it everywhere. When friends visit, she invariably brings them her slobbered precious.

She even uses it to nag me. All dogs have an inherent sense of time, particularly when it’s marked with food. And it was hard to miss my dogs’ hunger pangs; Teddy would begin to pace in front of the TV everyday at 5 p.m.

Now, I get a squeak tone when it’s dinner time.

But I can never get angry, so deft is her touch with it. Linus would be impressed with Esme’s fondness for a security blanket.

One chilly night, as we were turning in (Esme always brings Chewy to bed), she burrowed close to borrow my body heat. I put some spare blanket over her — it’s gotten so that I can’t fall asleep without her — and put a hand on Esme’s belly to warm her.

Then I felt her fur, which was matted and moist, the way Teddy’s coat would turn after an epileptic seizure.

Panicked, I sat bolt upright, reached for the light switch. And realized I was petting Chewy.

For a moment, I may have angered. I can’t remember, because it fades whenever Ezzie gives me that look: Hey dummy, you’re petting a stuffed animal. But don’t worry. We’ll play in the morning. Yes we will. Yes we will! Who’s a good human?? Who’s a good boy??

I am!


The Golden Shower Lining of a DysTrumpian Future


Ok, so the past 18 months have been tough for liberals, Democrats, women, minorities, homosexuals, immigrants, the environment, the press and, in an overarching sense,  intellectualism itself.

But there’s an upside to the past year and a half. Consider what has flourished under the New World Order:

Sports. It has been an unreal stretch for all things athletic. The Liecester City Foxes were a 5,000-to-1 shot to win the Premier League soccer championships. But the little town from East Midlands, UK emptied the safes of dozens of booking houses, even prompting a ban on odds that long in soccer matches. The Cleveland Cavaliers came back from 3-1 in the NBA Finals to bring an impossible championship to the city. Then Chicago did them  one better, ending a century-long curse to win the World Series. The Clemson Tigers shocked ESPN’s talking heads by upsetting Alabama for the college football championship. Roger Federer and Serena Williams both claimed record Gran Slam titles at the Australian Open — at 35 years old. That’s the qualifying age to play in tennis’ senior circuit. Even the Super Bowl was supposed to be super, though I did not watch. The Patriots’ victory seemed, in retrospect, as inevitable as Trump’s, and I can’t stand victorious villains.

Comedy. For eight years, comedians had to limit their schticks to lambasting the GOP (Barack Obama was simply too quick to satirize). Now, though, the reins are off, and we’re seeing late-night comedians feasting on a neophyte administration that must look like buzzard snacks. Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Maher and, most surprisingly, Seth Myers have not only struck a resonant funny bone; they’ve effectively taken over participatory journalism from the participatory journalists. Of course, the Donald helps them out: Reacting angrily to a New York Times story that the president putters around the White House in his bathrobe, he had had Sean Spicer shoot down the story by claiming Donald doesn’t even own a bathrobe, perhaps a presidential first. Alec Baldwin has created his most memorable role since Glengarry Glen Ross with his Trump imitation on SNL, which is enjoying its highest ratings in a quarter century. The key to his act? He says he simply “Reads the guy’s tweets back.”

Activism. I come from a generation whose idea of conspiracy was who shot J.R. But today I see my friends marching, debating, engaging over topics they rarely broached. Of course, that’s no guarantee of change. But it’s a lot more promising sign than a protest hashtag.

So cheer up, Bill Maher (the guy really looks like he lost his mother): Assuming we don’t have to hunt or own food or learn how to make a lean-to in a nuclear winter, the next four years could be a hoot.