Thursday, March 27, 2014


He had the name of a Jewish military hero and the heart of a Jewish princess. Seventy pounds of muscle and sinew wrapped tighter than the string round a top, and all he wanted was to have his hindquarters rubbed and a lap to lay his head on.
Danielle and Chris rescued him from the pound seven years ago. He already had two strikes against—not only was he a large dog, but five previous owners had given up on him. That’s a lot of strikes for a young pup. Nevertheless, for a dog starting out with two strikes against him, he did all right.
He went to obedience school and learned a few words of a second language—the German “sitzen” and “plotz.” Then he did something not that many dogs do—traveled cross-country in the cargo bin of a jet liner. And then two years later he took the same trip back by car. Two cross-country trips—one at 20,000 feet and one at 60mph—with a stop at the Grand Canyon. How many dogs can knock those big ticket items off their bucket lists?
I visited Dan and Chris in Fullerton and noticed Moshe had taken well to California’s laid back style of living. He liked getting attention. He liked the good life. But he wasn’t a prima-donna about it. If you wanted to share a sofa with him, you were always welcomed. That went for anyone. He didn’t show favoritism.
We had become such good friends that Danielle warned me there was a strong likelihood that Mosh would climb into my bed that night. My first thought was how bad could that be? I knew I’d be going to bed first so I would have first shot at getting comfortable under the sheets. When Mosh came in he would, of course, take his place on top of the blankets—a common enough sleeping arrangement between companions that respected each other’s space.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Adjectives, Gay Marriage, and Companion Animals

“All dogs go to heaven; bill would let them in cemeteries, as well” (Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, Feb. 3, 2014) was a very enlightening article and not just for what it had to say about animals.

What I could never understand about the Republican approach to gay marriage was their argument that it somehow demeaned traditional marriage. In the first place traditional marriage isn’t what it used to be and hasn’t been for some time. I don’t think that comes as a shock to anyone—Liberal, Conservative or Leaning on the fence. But I don’t think we can blame gay marriage for this.

The gay in gay marriage is simply an adjective. We all get that gay marriage is between two men or two women and traditional marriage is between a man and a woman. Each of these marriages, if they are to mean anything will have to stand on their own merits, as has always been the case. And should any of these marriages fail, the parties have no one to blame but themselves. You can’t go off blaming someone else’s marriage for your failed one.

Still Conservatives like to ignore the gay in gay marriage and dwell on the marriage part. It’s as if the whole adjective thing is some left wing, Liberal conspiracy to destroy their world. But not anymore.

 Del. Israel O’Quinn—and I’m not sure if the name Israel deters or adds value to the traditional understanding of the surname O’Quinn or vice-versa. All I know is something is going on here that isn’t natural—but back to my point, Del. O’Quinn, Republican lawmaker from Virginia has just introduced a bill to allow pets to be buried in human cemeteries—something not currently allowed. No longer will cremated pet urns have to be clandestinely tucked in coffins.

Really? Clandestinely tucked into coffins? Thank God, pets can finally come out of the closet and rest in peace in their own caskets.

As the childless couple that chose to adopt doggie babies instead of human babies said so eloquently in this article, “Our dogs are our family. We’re all created equal by God.”

If only gays received the same consideration.

The delegate’s bill would subtly change the single word animal to the more acceptable phrase “companion animal.” Apparently this can be done without inflicting an harm on animals in general. Suddenly, it would seem, Conservatives do understand the important role adjectives play in the English language. Finally they appreciate that adjectives do make a difference. English teachers across the nation can at last breathe a sigh of relief, although they are probably still wondering why it took so long.

But while English teachers can now relax I see God’s job as getting even more complicated that it already was. For the last two thousand years mankind has been pitting one religion against another and more or less forcing God to pick sides—the assumption being that the winner was God’s choice.

When does it all become too much—even for an all-knowing, all-powerful God—having to constantly choose between one religion or another, gay marriage or straight, and now whether or not humans can take their pets to heaven with them. And how much responsibility does God accept for creating gays and straights, human and animals, and enough religions to keep arms manufacturers rolling in dough from here to Judgment Day—at which time, hopefully they’ll all be sent to the pet cemetery?

But the problems never cease. If pets can be buried in human cemeteries, why not wild animals that lead a good life. And what about the good pets who happen to belong to evil owners. What if Hitler had a Labrador retriever that was cute as a button and never bothered anyone? Would he have to go to Hell just because his owner died carrying a lot of baggage?

If only we could go back to the good old days—not the days when gays didn’t want to get married, or humans didn’t want to be buried with their pets or religions didn’t want to fight their way to heaven. I’m talking about the days when legislatures weren’t bogged down with ridiculous bills.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You can take the boy off the dance floor, but he'll only find another one

I’ve always had a fascination with tap dancing going back to my earliest days watching dancers glide across our family’s 12-inch television screen. But I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to become a tap dancer. I probably should make clear what I refer to as tap dancing was really nothing more than an impromptu shuffle making a noise not much different than a shelf of Thom McCann shoes falling off the rack at a K-Mart. Nevertheless, I do remember taking whatever opportunity, whenever and wherever that opportunity arose, to put my talents or lack of on display.

I think it had something to do with the casual, devil-may-care, go-where-you-wanna-go, do-what-you-wanna-do approach that seemed to guide every tap dancer I ever watched perform. I now know I was only watching a charade, a showman’s deceit being perpetrated on a very sheltered and not so streetwise kid.

Real tap dancers, good tap dancers, real good tap dancers aren’t ad-libbing it. They know exactly what they are doing—just as real good banjo players know exactly what they are doing. Every step is planned, every move measured, every tap deliberate. It may look like they’re making it up on the fly but they’re not.

They couldn’t make it up as they go and still make it look spontaneous. But try telling that to a ten-year old kid watching Sammy Davis Jr. or Gene Kelly dance across the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show or up some stairs or atop some bar on a movie set.

Not that I shouldn’t have known better. I was probably in second or third grade when mom signed my sister and me up for dancing lessons. I quickly learned that there was in fact rhyme and reason in what appeared to be rough and reckless.

With our instructor’s encouragement I attempted the intricate heel, step, heel, step   and drop, toe, drop, toe, drop, toe, drop routines until at some point I decided I didn’t like tap dancing after all.