Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Dog Party

Brief Introduction
Or: What We Were Doing When The Dogs Came In

I had a book when I was a kid called Go, Dog, Go.
At the end of that book, a bunch of dogs have a “Dog Party”.

I actually got to see a kind of Dog Party, and this is basically that story.

My sister was doing a word jumble and I was about to watch something on television when our two German shepherds (Abby and Pepper) came in.

They looked at each other and then the older one, Abby, said, “We want to go for a walk.”

We didn’t know what to think! This was the first time we had heard her speak, but we decided to go along with them. 

(To clarify, we’d said “Speak” to them before, but this was to get them to bark. We had not asked them to speak when Abby asked to go for a walk.)

I took Abby’s leash because I was older, and my sister took Pepper’s leash, since she was the smaller dog. Pepper was not the brightest dog in the world, but she meant really well, and you could tell she really looked up to Abby.

We took them for a walk. I was afraid that we were going to miss an important show, like The Krypton Factor, the American version, which was hosted by Dick Clark, and which I had been dying to see, but the longer we walked, the harder it was for me to remember what show it was we were going to watch. My sister said, “You know how to speak English?” and Abby nodded.

“What other languages do you know?” she said, but Abby just gave her a weird look. I thought maybe Abby had learned English from listening to us or maybe television and wouldn’t have any idea that there were other languages. But then I thought of Godzilla movies. And I kept trying to remember what the show was.

“What show were we going to watch?” I asked my sister. She shrugged. I got the feeling that she didn’t really watch television for herself or to improve her understanding of the world, but rather to spend time with me. I thought maybe what I was doing seemed inherently cool to her, because I was older (in the same way Pepper looked up to Abby, maybe). I was still thinking of these things, when we came to the Ditch.

Quickly, About the Ditch

The Ditch was a ditch that separated the bad part of town from the good part of town. Bad kids hung out at the Ditch. One of my friends always said that he found a bunch of old rubbers there, but I didn’t believe him. It was like one of those things where he said his friend’s friend had found them. We hunted for crawdads there, and once I caught about twelve and brought them home, and my mom, after consulting with the neighbor, decided they were OK to eat, and so we had them for dinner with corn on the cob and spinach because my mom insisted that there be something green on the table.

Whenever we ate at the kitchen table, Abby would look in the window at us from the backyard, her paws up on the brick window sill outside. Her nose was short, so she had a distinct look from other German shepherds; she looked more like a panda in a lot of ways when you faced her head on. I said, “Hey, Abby, do you remember the time I caught those crawdads?” and she furrowed her brow and shook her head. “You were looking in the window,” I said.

The dogs hadn’t spoken in a while, and I was beginning to think that I had imagined it all. If my sister hadn’t been there I’m not sure I would have kept going. We had been walking along the ridge of the Ditch, but now we went down into it and into a huge drainage pipe. I didn’t see any bad kids.

My sister and the dogs were able to walk OK in the pipe, but I had to duck down. There were bugs that looked like cockroaches, except that they were red, running around the walls of the pipe like in the game
Tempest. The diameter of the pipe seemed to be getting narrower and narrower as we walked, and the light from the opening of the pipe was getting smaller as we got further and further away from it, so that it was almost a small dot of light, like when you turn off TV and everything compresses like a reverse Big Bang, and finally when I didn’t think I could go any more without getting down on my hands and knees, Abby took a sharp left turn and we followed and came out into an opening. The area was lit with low wattage bulbs that hung from somewhere up high but the ceiling of wherever we were was saturated too dark to see. There were about twenty dogs there.


Abby introduced us to the dogs, and after each introduction would say something conspiratorially under her breath, like she would point to a West Highland Terrier and say “This is Laddie,” and after Laddie said hello and walked off, Abby would whisper, “Laddie loves to play board games but isn’t very good at any of them. He thinks a Ouija board is a board game, and the object is to be the first one to spell an embarrassing word.” Or: “This is Thunder.” (A husky.) “He doesn’t understand what glass is.” Or: “This is Fletch.” (A golden retriever.) “He barks at Asians and people wearing hats but not Asians wearing hats.” They weren’t all bad, though. There was an Airedale whose name I forgot who knew how to work an Atari, and there was a black and white dog named Buttons whose face his owner had taken a picture of and pasted on a kite that was entered into a Cub Scout kite flying contest and he got third place (the Cub Scout did).

After each introduction, the dog would say hello and shake my hand, and then walk over to my sister and shake her hand. Their paws were all wet from walking in the ditch, but I didn’t think much about it. None of them seemed too concerned that we were going to run off and tell people they could speak English.

Then they had a meeting. I couldn’t really follow what was going on. I asked my sister if she understood what was happening and she said not really. But I wasn’t scared! It wasn’t like they were planning world domination or how to move up the food chain or anything like that. It was sort of like a social club. They talked about new food some of them had had. Buttons had just had Kibbles ’n Bits for the first time, and this other mop-looking dog looked like he was going to go crazy, because he was the only one who hadn’t tried it. Pepper said she liked Kibbles ’n Bits even more than Gravy Train (which you add hot water to and it makes its own gravy). I made a mental note.

Dog Chanteys

Then after all this, the dogs began to sing a bunch of songs they called “dog chanteys”. And this is the reason I am telling you all of this. Because no one has believed me ever since. Even my sister. Like a week later, I asked her, “Remember when the dogs took us to that dog party?” and she looked at me like I was insane. I told her, “Pepper said she liked Kibbles ’n Bits more than Gravy Train,” and she said, “Gravy Train is gross,” and I said, “It’s not any more gross than Crazy Cow!” (Which is a cereal she eats. Crazy Cow turns your milk into chocolate milk.) I don’t know why she didn’t remember.

But even though I couldn’t get anyone to believe me, sometimes when I was alone with the dogs in the garage after throwing the ball for them after dinner, or if I remembered that I had forgotten to give them their heartworm pills and I went into the backyard to give it to them late at night, or just sometimes when I would go out to say goodnight to them before I went to bed, I would sit down next to them, and make eye contact with them, and sing one of these songs, and they would join in quietly (it always worked best at dusk). The one I could always get them on was the one about the Space Dog, Laika, although I think I’m missing some verses from that one.

Dog Chantey #1

Good Laika flew / On Sputnik II:
November ’57. (Hey)
Formica’s new / Now, so are you;
Your eyes survey the heavens. (Hey)
O Procyon! O Syrius!
O my Dog, you must think me delirious.

CHORUS (sung by all dogs):
Though it’s howl at the moon
Upside-down in a spoon,
A dog is your buddy, or so you’ll know soon.

Good Laika, she / Faced heat and stress
But she could not absorb it. (Hey)
But what we see / As “sky”, this noblesse
Muttnik knew as “orbit” (Hey)
So dreaming dogs at late o’clocks
Must kick their dewclaw, plus their hocks.

CHORUS (sung by all dogs):
Though it’s howl at the moon
Upside-down in a spoon,
A dog is your buddy, or so you’ll know soon.

This was one that Abby knew really well and all of the rest of the dogs were struggling with it and at least Buttons was pretending to sing but not actually making any noise; he was just moving his mouth and looking around nervously. This next song was a dog favorite, though, it was clear to me.

Dog Chantey #2

She sang like St. Bridget an’ shone like a kibble.
Her outside was “Gidget” but inside was “Sybil”.
I’d run the Iditarod,
Bite an Olympic God:
New Bedford, I long to seeeeeeeeee you

Aw-wooo, blow you bully dogs.
All are drunk but the coxswain.
Aw-wooo, blow you bully dogs.
Your alleys smell like dachshund.

She smelled like flea/tick shampoo, turkey and fennel
There’s atheists in foxholes, but none in the kennel
I’d reject my dog-a-mas
Then walk ’round in pa-ja-mas
New Bedford, I long to seeeeeeeeee you

(Repeat Chorus)

Though she was a malamute, her voice was husky
We were halfway to heaven but stopped in Sandusky
In the corner stands a boxer
It’s her biological clock, sir
New Bedford, I long to seeeeeeeeee you

(Repeat Chorus)

Especially “New Bedford, I long to seeeeeeeeee you”. That really got them! They hit that line and it was like they were seeing an old friend.

This next one is the last one they did. I realized during the previous one that maybe I should be writing these down, so I ended up with more notes on this one (I took my sister’s word jumble pen and wrote on my arm). Pepper was the lead chanteydog on this, which is a little surprising. I got the idea that Abby had been helping her for the past week or so to get all the lyrics down, because while Pepper was singing, Abby was mouthing the words, and when Pepper was done, Abby smiled really big. (I should add that when dogs open their mouths just in general it looks like they’re smiling, no matter what, but I really think she was actually smiling legitimately.)

Dog Chantey #3

Chanteydog: Merry lads, let’s roll an’ go!
Crew: Howl-a, oh, Howl-a for FDR’s Fala
Chanteydog: A Scottie’s a Thane in the neck, doncha know
Crew: Howl-a, oh, Howl-a for FDR’s Fala

First Crewdog:
Fala was a Scotch Terrier
In the White House was nobody hairier
Eleanor groused,
“Get him out of the house!”
So he bit her on the derriere... Oh—

Second Crewdog:
Who was the Real New Deal Reformer?
If you say “Fala,” you’re getting warmer
Since his presence implied
That the Prez had arrived,
The Service dubbed him “The Informer”

Chanteydog: It’s time for us to roll an’ go!
Crew: We all set sail for Guatemal-a!
Chanteydog: The dog that survived po-li-o
Crew: Howl-a, oh, Howl-a for FDR’s Fala

First Crewdog:
At home with the Wealthy and the Plebian
A terrier American and European
As poor FDR died
Fala stayed by his side
Fireside “Chat”? More like “Chien”... Oh—

Second Crewdog:
Fala passed on in ’52
They erected his statue
At the Roos’velt Memorial.
My editorial?
I think it looks quite nifty, too.

Chanteydog: Now boys, at last we roll an’ go!
Crew: We won’t get scurvy, if we praise Allah
Chanteydog: His favorite Doctrine? The Mon-roe!
Crew: Howl-a, oh, Howl-a for FDR’s Fala
Cute as a koal-a was FDR’s Fala
Yes, we’ll Howl-a, oh, Howl-a for FDR’s Fala

Brief Conclusion
Or: Something You Might Try

Let me say again that I am not good at remembering things, and I feel like I have left out some stuff for all of these. Like, there was another one about Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli that at one point went something like:

“There are three kinds of lies:
(1) Lies, (2) Damn Lies, and (3) Statistics,”
He said through his chapped lips,
For he had no Blistix.

(1) Ten Downing Street’s lonely,
(2) Will Gladstone’s a cad,
(3) (An’) there’s a 12% chance
I will bark at your dad.

But I don’t remember the part of that one that had to do with dogs, other than the “bark at your dad” thing. What I’m saying is that on all of these I think I’m missing some verses, or the song requires several other dogs to join in, which ruins the eye contact part if you wanted to try it. And again, this only worked with my dogs. I never again saw Laddie, or Thunder, or Fletch, or that one anxious mop dog, or Buttons, and I was never able to get other dogs to join in. And I wasn’t ever able to get the dogs to sing with me when there was someone else in the room with me, but if you want to try, it’s worth a shot, right? To see if you can get your dog to talk to you? And even if your dog doesn’t sing, he or she at least will appreciate it, because one good thing about dogs is that they won’t think you’re crazy no matter what. My sister to this day says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. And Abby and Pepper have long since died. Pepper was hit by a car and had problems after that. I don’t know if it was related to that or not, but she also had trouble breathing, and when they X-rayed her, they found a huge knot of cancer in her throat, and we finally put her to sleep. I guess cancer and being hit by a car can’t be connected in any way, but in my mind they are. Abby was just old.

She died a little before Pepper. It makes me sad to think about it, and so when I sing these dog chanteys to the different dogs I meet, I tell them first: my dogs were Abby and Pepper. Two German shepherds. They were Good Dogs. They knew how to speak English and they took their heartworm pills without incident, especially if you said, “Want a cookie?” beforehand. And intentionally or not, they taught me these songs. And this is how they go. And if you want to just listen, that’s fine, because we can certainly become friends that way, but if for some reason, you know these songs, and if you trust me, and if you want to join in, then please please please please do.


Anonymous said...

I didn't get past the part about your sister doing the word jumble. Sis! You're only hurting yourself! The payoff of both puzzles is a butt-clenchingly idiotic pun, I know, but you should really stick to the Cryptoquip.

Patrick M~ said...