Monday, November 25, 2019

Friendly dogs


      Have I mentioned that my dog made a friend? It's true. Sarah from up the block. Or Sara from up the block, no "h" at the end. Not premeditating writing about her before this moment, I haven't yet bothered to check whether she uses that final, optional "h."
     The dog doesn't care of course. The owner might. But I'm not ready for the owner, whom I'm still on nodding terms with, to be introduced to the anything-that-happens-between-us-could-end-up-splashed-online-and-maybe-in-the-newspaper-too aspect of being acquainted with me. Could be off-putting.
     So "Sarah," for the time being.
     We seem to be on the same schedule, this neighbor and myself. Almost every morning and many afternoons Kitty and Sarah joyously greet one another, their tails going like metronomes, sniffing mightily, circling like wrestlers, sizing each other up, near mirror images of each other, while her owner and myself gaze at the sky and do our own measured, polite verbal sniffing, mostly about the weather.
     Hey wait a second, you might be wondering about now. Why are we reading about my dog and not a post on the topic that was promised yesterday?
     Allow me to explain.
     Sometimes, when I'm telling the subject of a story what day it will run, I will pause and remember to add a caveat.
      "Unless the Willis Tower topples over."
      Meaning, this is the news business, or what's left of it, and something could happen between now and then to nudge your story aside.
      But Sunday, when I wrote that today's column would be about our Letters to Santa program and the ordeal of buying toys for a tot, I overlooked my own policy of caution, forgetting that a) The paper might not want to run Letters to Santa columns two days in a row, no doubt to obscure the sharp fall-off in quality and emotional intelligence between Mark Brown's adult take on the subject and my own juvenile maunderings and b) More pressing news might push a topic like the week's second Letters to Santa column out of the paper.
     Or both, as I was told by my editor, and I chose to believe him. I suppose I could have gone all Jay Mariotti on the man and insisted that Monday is my day, goddamnit, and if they don't want one particular column—a column that they themselves asked for!—why then I'll just sit down and write another column, about a different topic! Because if you are not in the paper, you might as well be dead. There's always Donald Trump, always some jaw-dropping departure from cherished norms, such as... checking his Twitter feed ... nope, I stand corrected. Just dozens and dozens of tweets and retweets that it seems a painful waste of precious human existence even to read once, never mind write about, including five retweets of something calling itself Buck Sexton, maintaining his innocence, his popularity, his support. Dull as dirt.
     Honestly, I'd rather stick with the two friendly dogs. The president will still be crazy tomorrow. The secretary of the Navy resigning is a big deal, yes, a sign of the crazymaking dysfunction radiating out from putting a bad man in a high place. But that deserves a column all its own, on the relationship between being doing a good job and being willing to quit it.
     So no column in the paper Monday, and since I make a rule never to scoop myself here by running a column before it goes online, you'll just have to wait until Tuesday too.
     Which leaves us ... where?
     Oh right, dogs.  I can't communicate how glad I am that Sarah's owner recognizes and values the bond of affection growing between our two dogs as much as I do. Other dog owners ... treading carefully here ... well, let's just say they do not seem to grasp the importance of small social interactions, whether between dogs or humans. The dogs sniff, the humans chat, it's a beautiful thing. You walk away with a brighter view of the world. To me. And to Sarah's dad. To others, they are far too busy and important, in their own perception if nowhere else, to waste their time in such a fashion. They see us a block a way and flee. Seriously. Vector off 90 degrees in the opposite direction. Kitty strains in their direction, seems a little puzzled to see them fly away, and strains toward them. I lean down, give her a comforting pat, and say in what I hope is a voice just loud enough to carry: "Don't feel bad Kitty. That's not a friendly dog!"


  1. Love your columns, whether about Trump or dogs. I respect the irony you place on some things. I like your wry, sometimes sardonic, sense of humor. I often learn some simple new phrase, like “vector off 90 degrees in the opposite direction.” Missed you in the Sun-Times this morning. I don’t always read Mark Brown, but I always read Neil Steinberg.

  2. Please find another caveat. My daughter now works in the Willis Tower. 😉


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