What Dogs Think About Humans

“I’m a bit concerned,” she said.

The dogs sat on the couch. Talking dogs. Seriously. I had been asked to interview four talking dogs on a rather delicate subject matter. They wanted their voice (non-barking) heard, and they thought my blog would be the best venue. (Who knew canines read The Underground Writer? Who knew, for that matter, dogs could read?!)

“About what?” I ask.

Daisy is a mixed-breed. A cross between a Boxer and Pittbull. She shakes her head – her dog tags clicking together.

“My humans. My ownersThey’re … getting … strange.”

“Not mine!” the Golden Retriever interjects, “my humans are the best.”

“Well, of course you would think so. You think everyone is the best. All Goldens do.”

The Golden Retriever is suddenly distracted, his snout raised in the air, sniffing.

“Do you smell bacon?” he asks.

Daisy raises a furry eyebrow at me and leans forward, her front paws sliding on the slipcover.

“As I was saying … my humans adopted me from the animal shelter, which was great! I love them, really, I do. But now … but now they’re acting like they’ve saved the world! All over their minivan are bumper stickers that read ‘Rescue Dog Mom’ and ‘I Rescued My Fur Baby’ and ‘Don’t Breed – Adopt.’ As though taking me into their home has made them better people.”

Daisy glances at Trixie – a Yorkie who has started gnawing on an old running shoe.

“Then there are my humans,” Ace – a Siberian Husky – says. “Bought me from a breeder. Paid a fortune, I might add. Now it’s like I’m their kid. I have to go in their car all of the time. They call it ‘car rides.’  They’re always taking my picture with them. ‘Smile Ace!’ they say, ‘smile for the selfie!’ Apparently I even have my own Facebook page – whatever THAT means.”

“I love going for car rides!” says the Golden Retriever, “My humans have a bumper sticker that says their dog is smarter than your honor student … what does that mean?”

“So what exactly is the problem?” I ask, “Daisy, you would rather have been left in the animal shelter? And Ace? You have a problem with being so loved?”

The dogs (except for the Golden Retriever, that is now licking his genitals) all shake their heads.

“I told them not to hire The Underground Writer for this!” Daisy hisses.

“You’re right,” Ace whispers, “she is a little slow.”

“The problem,” Trixie says, after she has swallowed a tattered shoelace she managed to dislodge from the running shoe, “is how the humans view us. My great grandpa Oscar used to tell me about sleeping outside on the back porch, or eating table scraps. Now I sleep on some fancy thing called a ‘dog settee’, and my human buys me organic dog food.”

“Speaking of food,” Ace interrupts, “have you seen what they feed us? What happened to meat? I like to eat out of the garbage can whenever I get the chance.  And if it’s really smelly, I like to roll in it. Now, my humans feed me froufrou stuff they think will taste good.”

As if to prove his point, Ace nods towards the packages lined up on the table next to the couch.

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“Pumpkin and Berry flavor? Gluten free? I just want a bone with some ham still on it!” Ace starts to drool, his saliva forming little pools on the slipcover that is now coated with dog hair.

“What’s with the vanilla sandwich cremes? I’m a dog for crying out loud! And apple cinnamon flavor biscuits?” Daisy asks, “why can’t they make stinky fish flavored biscuits? Or steak flavored?”

“Ohhhh! I LOVE stinky fish!” the Golden Retriever sighs.

“It’s like … humans are trying to make us human,” Trixie says.

“Human are trying to make dogs … human?” I repeat.

“Yes!” Trixie, Ace and Daisy say in unison.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Trixie continues, “I do love my humans, especially the kids. But sometimes I think the adults forget that I’m a dog.”

“Just look at the picture my human bought.” Daisy turns and looks at the picture hanging on the wall behind her.

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“I think that’s great,” the Golden Retriever says. He is scratching his left ear with his hind paw. “I can’t wait to teach my humans how to fetch, and sniff stranger’s crotches, and beg for apple cinnamon flavored biscuits.”

Daisy, Ace and Trixie exchange looks.

“Exactly.”

 

Photo Credits:

Froufrou Dog Treats – Underground Writer venturing into the crowded pet food aisle of local store.

“Everything I Learned In Life…” picture: Google Images/Etsy.com

A Salutation To Strangers

To all the strangers I observed throughout the day.

Dear …

Person Driving The Car With The Columbia University Window Decal: Thank you for letting me know you were smart enough to get into an Ivy League school … and I was not. That felt great.

Creepy Guy Checking Out Girls From The Corner Of His Eye: You look like a deranged Ron Howard. You may think you’re discreet but you’re not. Us gals all know you’re watching us and it’s freaking us out.

Middle-Aged Man Zipping Around In The Audi Convertible: Driving an expensive German car does not change the fact that you’re middle aged and bald. Please drive responsibly.

Woman in Grocery Store: Thank you for offering to help me with my awkward grocery bags. It’s wonderful to know sweet people like you still exist.

Person Who Left The Plastic Shopping Basket In The Parking Lot: I know people tend to leave shopping carts in the parking lot, but baskets? You have taken laziness to a whole new level.

Person In Corvette: Your car may be fast and cost an impressive $60,000, but whenever I see Corvettes I will forever think “Barbie Car.” Blame Mattel.

3 People Standing Under Their Beach Umbrella: Is there a standing contest I am unaware of? In all my years of going to the beach I have never seen people stand under their umbrella and not sit. So far it’s been almost an hour. I wish you would sit, because now I can’t stop watching you. I should be enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, but instead I keep waiting for you to sit down.

Woman In Bikini With Twin Baby Girls: You had a tummy tuck, didn’t you? C’mon. Admit it.  

Man Talking Loudly on Cellphone: Your white blood cell count is low? And the specialist you need to see has no appointments for three weeks?  You’re also planning a surprise party for your wife? Yet your boss won’t let you leave early that day? You bet he’s a jerk!  But listen, could you please lower your voice so I don’t hear about your bowel issues, or whatever you’re going to talk about next?

Man Hitchhiking Outside of The Department Of Mental Health Building: Dude, if you have any hope of getting a ride, you might want to scooch down a few feet so you’re standing in front of a different building .

Thank you for making my day a little more interesting.

Sincerely,

The Underground Writer

Is Age Just A Number?

Recently, I overheard a woman say she was too old to have long hair.

“At a certain age,” the woman declared, “ponytails and braids just start to look foolish.”

As I pondered her statement, I was reminded of the time my grandmother said that old women shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops. (Conversely, my other grandmother wore pink baseball caps with matching pink shoelaces well into her 60s.)

This brought a question to mind: when is someone officially old? Is a 76 year old woman who bicycles 3 miles a day, every day, old? Or is it the woman who is also 76 but uses a walker and reeks of White Diamonds perfume?

I lost sleep. I paced the floors. I forgot several items on my shopping list because I kept repeating the thought, “When is old, old?” I studied everyone. I took notes. I visited random nursing homes and stuck my head into the rooms before visiting a local American Legion to watch a Bingo game in progress. I then sat and worked late into the night –  by candlelight. I compared my findings. I chewed through three pencils and drank two cups of coffee until, at last, I had answered the question to my satisfaction.

“I have done it,” I whispered to a silent house, “I now know when someone is truly old.”

Actually, I didn’t do any of the above. I simply thought about the question as I washed breakfast dishes one morning. But I was – among the suds and aroma of lemon scented dish soap – able to devise a “You Know You’re Old” list.

The Underground Writer’s “You Know You’re Old When …” Checklist*

If you do five or more of the following, you are officially old.

  • There is a tissue box in the rear window of your car.
  • A flower is taped to your car’s antenna. 
  • You use the term “slacks” for pants, and wear said slacks when you exercise.
  • Everything costs too much, and you have difficulty making a purchase without comparing the cost of the item to what it used to cost “back in the day.”
  • You’re astonished that an adult could be born as recently as the 1980s.
  • Even if your financial situation does not require you to use the Early Bird Specials at restaurants, you always do so out of principle.
  • You are simply appalled by the younger generation: their clothes, music, behavior, and/or electronics. You also take issue with what people are naming their children nowadays. Names such as Kaden, Brooklyn, and Jayden are not real names in your mind.
  • If you are female, you wear nylons all of the time – even with “slacks.” 
  • You find electronics mind boggling. Just as you finally figured out how to set the time on your DVD player, your younger friend questions why you even have a DVD player since they will soon be obsolete.
  • Your car is either large (such as a Lincoln Town car) or small (such as a Toyota Corolla). Mid-size cars, such as Honda Accords, are never considered.
  • Your reason for visiting the mall is to walk for exercise, and not to shop.
  • While sleeping at night is nearly impossible, you find yourself randomly falling asleep throughout the day. 

*This checklist has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, or any other professional organization for that matter. This list it not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent aging*

Summer Etiquette Suggestions

Northeast residents are joyfully embracing the warming weather. Off with the winter coats, long pants, gloves, hats, and boots! Out come the shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. All of this signals the joyful message that winter has left the premises!

Now. With that comes some suggestions for summer etiquette. Please don’t take this personally; we are all known to show some lapse in judgement in our unbridled excitement in welcoming the long awaited spring and summer months.

Feet: Indeed, it is a wonderful feeling to shuck off those winter boots and slip our feet into sandals. But let us not forget that to whom sandals are given, sandal wisdom is expected. This includes toenails that are trimmed; corns and callouses that are removed. The only people who want to see gnarly feet are podiatrists (and even they charge a fee to look at them).

Shorts: Girlfriends, I detest the Kate Moss/emaciated runway model look just as much as you do. Society places unrealistic (and unhealthy) expectations on today’s females in regard to weight. However, let’s not shove our healthy-sized thighs into shorts that are too short. Here is a test: if you lean over and a butt cheek escapes, your shorts are too short.

Shirts: Men, I am talking to you. Let’s be honest. Many of you take advantage of being allowed to walk around shirtless. Yet, how do you know if it is truly acceptable to remove your shirt and bare all? If you have more hair on your back than your head: Unacceptable. If you look down and see the flesh of your stomach instead of  your feet – keep that shirt on. Lastly, if you have man boobs and require a Manzier (or “Bro”), then being shirtless is an absolute no.

Music: With the warm weather comes fresh air. We all love to roll down our car windows and play our favorite tunes (I am partial to Bruce Springstein’s Lonesome Day in the summer. For whatever reason, it sounds better with the windows down and the volume up). However, let us all remember that not everyone enjoys our taste in music, so consideration must be made about the volume that we play our favorite songs. This especially goes out to those of you who enjoy PSY’s “Gangnam Style” or music in which expletives outnumber all other words.

 Deodorant with Antiperspirant: This is a must. Please remember to apply liberally. And I am talking the old school kind: Sure, Ban, Secret. Worried about antiperspirants causing cancer and want to opt for the all-natural kind that allows you to sweat and “masks” odor? Um… it’s great that you want to avoid cancer, but please don’t punish the rest of us in your quest to do so.

Hopefully, if we can agree to adhere to some of these suggestions, it won’t be (as Bananarama sings) a cruel summer.

Special thanks to Adam J. Holland of The Unorthodox Epicure for his help with this post.

You’re Not So Different From Your Car

Unlike an aged cheddar or bottle of Balvenie, people and automobiles generally don’t improve with age. As my husband once said after visiting my great aunt in a nursing home, 

“There is nothing glamorous about growing old.”

While attending graduate school, I drove an ancient Honda Accord that was held together by a lot of prayer and encouragement. The cassette player would run even when the car was turned off. Rain would get trapped in the moonroof and proceed to gush onto my lap when I put the car in reverse – soaking me to the point where I would have to go inside and change. It also seemed that as soon as I had one of its parts replaced, another would decide to break.

How I hated phone calls from my mechanic! As soon as the phone would ring I would squeeze my eyes shut and brace myself. He always started the conversation with,

“Hullo, it’s Karl, I’ve got some bad news. Your  _____ is shot.”

Your front wheel axle is shot. Your alternator is shot. Your motor mounts are shot. Your master cylinder is shot. Shot. Shot. Shot.

As I age, I have noticed how people are not so different from cars. Our body parts eventually become “shot” – just like my old Honda.  Arthritis is the human form of rust and corrosion. Our hearts – the fuel pump of the human body – stop pumping efficiently. Unless we can afford the services of a cosmetic surgeon (auto body shop) our exteriors become dented, scratched, and faded. Akin to transmission fluid leaking, we need to use the bathroom frequently during the night.

Some men tend to upgrade their cars – going from a practical Ford to a speedy red Porsche. Similarly, some men have the nerve trade in their wife for a newer version. One who doesn’t have dents or scratches. One who is younger, sleeker, and peppier. One who is fresh off the lot.

Ambulances are the human version of flatbed tow trucks. The mechanic – or car doctor – uses terminology we don’t understand. Similar to CAT scans and MRIs, your mechanic will run diagnostic testing that costs a bundle. A new car warranty is the automobile version of health insurance.

Food is our gasoline. The cost of filling a car’s gas tank can be equated to the expense of a large grocery order. Opening the refrigerator and seeing its bare shelves has the same feeling of frustration as noticing your gas light is on.

Cars are also like people in that there are big ones and small ones. Black ones and white ones. There are high maintenance, complicated people (Mercedes) and low maintenance, easy going people (Toyotas). There are people born in this country (Ford, GM) and people who immigrate from Europe (BMW, Lamborghini) and Asia (Mazda). Lastly, some people would rather avoid the snow (front-wheel drive cars) while others enjoy winter sports (the 4×4).

Thankfully,  that is where our similarities end. When a car reaches the end of its lifespan, it is sent to a scrapyard and crushed. When we reach the end of our lifespan, we are put in an overpriced box and buried in the ground.

It is unfortunate that cars and people don’t age as gracefully as say, a bottle of wine or a Redwood tree. But a bottle of wine and Redwood tree won’t drive your family on vacation or share the memories of their childhood.

Bumper Stickers and Vanity Plates: They’re a Commitment

A friend of mine said, “Bumper stickers are a commitment.”  She has a valid point.  I mean, you’re really putting yourself out there with bumper stickers. Similar to road rage (when you can flip someone the bird and then drive off knowing there will be no consequences), you’re not held accountable for whatever you plaster on your car. Generally, people don’t retaliate based on what your bumper stickers say.

But what if they did?

Take the bumper sticker I recently saw: My Other Car is a 747. Clearly this person must be a pilot.  Now, what if I had pulled alongside the pilot’s car, rolled down my window and started frantically waving my arms while shouting, “Hey you! Yes, you!  You’re a pilot? What airline do you fly for? It better not be US Air!  They lost my luggage and then left it out in the rain.  Oh! And my plane had to sit on the tarmac for two hours.  Real nice!”

Or how about those oval black and white bumper stickers that advertise where you have gone on vacation? (They are usually in code too.  Instead of simply saying “Jackson Hole” they say “JH” or “OBX” instead of “Outter Banks.”) Picture driving up next to a car sporting one of these stickers: “You-hoo! Excuse me!  I notice you have been to Martha’s Vineyard. How was it? Where’d you stay?”

Then there are vanity license plates. Personally, I happen to find these a bit troubling. While bumper stickers can be more general, with vanity plates, you’re sort of announcing yourself. One time I noticed a car in the grocery store parking lot that had a vanity plate. I then recognized the same car in the parking lot of another store the following day. Then at the gym. Normally, I would never have paid attention, but it’s hard not to notice (and remember) a car that has a license plate that reads “PINGPONG.”

I have always found MD license plates a bit irksome. What is the purpose?  Do they simply want people to know they went to medical school? Because I don’t know about you – but whenever I pass a car accident, I have never seen a car with a MD license plate at the scene.

What if we tried to solicit free medical advice from these physicians who advertise their profession? Honk! Honk! “Hey! Thanks for letting me know you’re a doctor!  I need to ask you something.  I’ve had this awful cramp on my right side for about a week now.  Any idea what it could be?”

Vanity license plates could also get you in trouble.  It’s hard to be discreet when you have a license plate that is memorable. Imagine attending your kid’s 6th grade violin concert. You pull into a parking spot and as the family climbs out of the car, some buffoon calls out, “Hey!  It’s JOEYD72! I see your car outside of Pleasure Island strip joint all the time!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess I had one of those black and white oval stickers on my previous car.  And I would have been thrilled if someone had honked their horn and said, “Hey! You went to Aruba?  How was it?  I hear it’s awfully hot there.” “Oh it is hot!” I would have hollered back, “but there is a lovely breeze that always keeps you comfortable.”

When I traded in my old car for a newer one, I didn’t transfer the Aruba sticker.  Why?  I didn’t want to take the chance of someone pulling up alongside me in traffic, rolling down their window, and shouting out, “You went to Aruba? Congratulations! Like I care!”