“A Dog’s Tail”
I don’t much recall what it was Adrienne and I laughed about most of the time. I think we made a running joke of blaming the Germans (a lighthearted reference to the gift) for pretty much anything that went wrong.
I can no longer recall the words to songs he taught me either. And in all fairness to warm blooded mammals in our vicinity, we likely were a bit obnoxious at times.
After Adrienne got back from Paris, he had moved into a sort of international visitor dorm. A hostel of sorts, but far more posh than several places I’d actually lived in on a more permanent basis.
I recall one night bumping into a pair of fellow visitors he had met at the hostel from Austria. I had, only for a short while, visited Austria for a few days while in Germany back in ’88 and also ended the trip there.
These guys were quite the pair. They, too, were working for some European corporation as interns or entry level employees. They talked about three things: business, American women, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They even sounded a lot like Arnold. That was something that I did not recall of Austrians from my visit to Austria, or if so, far more slightly.
They saw America as the opportunity to make oneself, as their fellow countryman had done. I can’t recall if that was when I first heard the notion of Arnold running for president. Might have been. The story was a deal between the parties to amend the Constitution to allow Clinton to run for a third term and allow Schwarzenegger to run even though he was not a natural born citizen.
Later in 2000, I think it was, Adrienne’s best friend from France came to visit. He was a sweet but quiet fellow.
Then the friend’s father (let’s call him Pierre) came to visit and dragged us all out to dinner and wine a few times. One could not help but love that man. He was a successful manufacturer of plumbing fixtures, a millionaire I was told, but you wouldn’t really know it.
He was boisterous, full of life, and always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye. There were issues with the son, Adrienne’s friend. I assumed these were because Pierre had divorced the young man’s mother and married a younger, blond, kind of free spirit like his father–and a little bit crazy like him as well–woman.
Those few nights were similar to nights with Adrienne. There was lots of humor, intense discussions on some topic or other, and wine-induced declarations that seemed a bit of both.
This was forming my view of Parisians. There was a seriousness and an aversion to it as well; a time and a place for work, and for fun and relaxation.
I was told a few stories about Pierre. For one, he once held onto his cellphone after being knocked to the ground just long enough to say to his wife, “I’m being mugged. They’re taking my phone. See you at dinner. Bye.” After which, he handed them the phone.
I found out later that having one’s cellphone taken away by hoodlums was common in some parts of Paris. It seemed every Parisian I asked about it had either had it happen to them (in Pierre’s case, twice), or knew someone it had happened to.
Digging deeper, I was told that usually it was Algerian youths. Algerians who had relocated there had found that the more children they had, the more money they got from the French government. The implication was, they weren’t spending much of it on the kids (if indeed it was enough to live on) and so the kids found ways to fend for themselves such as pawning or selling stolen cellphones or using them for other money making activities.
It was an indictment of socialism. From the very mouths of French people. They sometimes even complimented Giuiliani for keeping crime so low in New York.
(I’d be getting way off topic discussing what one of the rumors were about how that was accomplished. But see L.A. Confidential for an idea as to how, for example, they kept the Bloods and Crips from staking ground. It is difficult to argue with results even when the methods are illegal or draconian. But that’s all a different question when the same people who run national security and profit from it on the one hand also run the terror cells on the other and claim results).
It was the Summer of 2000, I think, that I decided to get a dog. I researched the subject and though they were high energy, Corgis seemed to be what I was looking for. A Corgi was touted as a “big dog in a small dog’s suit.” I had always had big dogs when I lived with my parents but now I had a small apartment and no yard. Corgis are essentially dwarf dogs, a larger breed with short legs. They are herding dogs but, with the right temperament, can make good family pets. They are rumored (Pembrokes and Cardigans) to be descended from a breed that the Vikings brought over to England. Small enough to fit into saddle bags but rambunctious enough to herd cattle into ships, they’d have made fine assistants for Vikings.
My partner, a friend and I rented a car and drove up to an upstate city to rescue a dog. I had found the rescue organization on the web, and it was the New Jersey chapter, but the lady who ran it lived in New York state.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I realized it may have been Adrienne moving out that had prompted that decision. The place was suddenly very quiet after he left.
Or maybe that’s the brainwashing talking. It’s hard to say. I’ll get to that eventually.
Thorin (named for a Tolkien dwarf, surname Oakenshield) was a quick learner when it came to getting treats. In fact, I’d find just how creative canines can be when there is food involved.
Corgis have a tendency to become overweight. This is due largely to their stomach’s inability to send the proper or sufficient neurochemicals back to the brain to let it know “I’m full.” This is believed to be a side effect of breeding or inbreeding. They tend to eat more than they should as a result. It’s a genetic defect of the breed. There’s a little Corgi neuroscience for you. The rescue lady recommended baby carrots as treats to help avoid the weight problem.
I recall a long trick and treat session in particular. Thorin was doing so well and enjoying the process so much that he started doing the tricks without vocal or hand commands in order to prompt the reward. I finally decided he was probably going to throw up after having had so many carrots.
I put my foot down, “Thorin, no more carrots!”
He looked at me, ran over and jumped on the couch and removed the unlit cigarette from my mouth with his mouth and dropped it on the couch. Somehow that dog had gotten into his head that cigarettes were my carrots and that there should be some kind of even-Stephen where that was concerned.
Someone suggested trying for a “Stupid Pet Tricks” slot on Letterman after that, but I worried that he might start doing it to lit cigarettes. I did not encourage that trick any further.
Years later, due to both my partner and I working longer hours than we had previously, the dogs (we got a second one later) started getting impatient and began crapping in the kitchen before we got home. My partner contacted the rescue lady and she said just to train them again. Get them used to the idea that doing so outside meant good things (like carrots).
So, I started doing that. Soon after, Thorin started figuring ways to game the system. He started breaking his poop into segments (I’m not kidding) in order to seem to poop three times in the hopes of getting three treats. I caught on a walk or two later and started likewise breaking the carrots into segments.
Then, he tried a new tactic. He pretended to take a crap. He went through the motions, mimed them, returned to a normal stance, and then looked up expectedly.
Already having been outsmarted by a canine, I was quicker thinking this time. He made an imaginary poop, I gave him an imaginary treat. He didn’t try that again.
On another evening that I took Thorin for a walk, I was a little self-conscious. I had broken my glasses at work and not yet gotten a new pair. Though I had sort of repaired them (with the aid, as I recall, of my new boss, an architect, at the second consulting job) the repair didn’t quite last the night. The glasses were a little crooked on my head even though they staid in one piece due to the break over the bridge of the nose.
As I rounded a corner on Second Avenue, I saw a couple of dudes standing outside the Comic Strip. It was a popular comedy club and I’d actually been there before to see the friend who had come to New Jersey with me from college to pursue comedy and acting.
As the dog and I got closer, I recognized one of the two comedians standing there. The other one asked me about Thorin’s tail. Had I had it cut off?
“Oh, no. They were bred that way.”
The other comedian, the one I recognized from TV said, “‘Bred that way.’ That’s so German.”
We laughed and I moved on. No comments about the glasses, and I thanked poor lighting and luck.
However, nine months, maybe a year later, I’d see that same comedian on TV do a bit that began with, “Hey! Would you take directions from a person whose glasses looked like this?” He moved them so that they were crooked on his head.
The bit continued like this, as if he were now speaking as that person, “‘Oh, yeah. It’s just a few blocks up that-a-way. Hey, want a lift? We can take my spaceship if you like! Or, Santa’s got his sleigh right around the corner. I can call him.'”
That’s not it word-for-word, but it’s the general idea. I, of course, found it funny at the time. Still do, I suppose; just more ironic.
The following Fall, Adrienne again needed a place to stay. This time it would be for only a month or two until his next place would be ready. My partner came to me with the question but had already made up his mind. He used the dog as the excuse, but I later, really in 2010, realized that that was very likely not the real reason.
He had, on some level, just not wanted the same pattern as the year before. Jealousy might be the word. Practically everyone was. That was the real motive behind separating us. Seeing people happier than you can sometimes remind you of what it is you are less happy, or unhappy, about.
They had also drifted apart a bit. Adrienne’s responsibilities were growing. He was networking with other native French employees as part of the process of becoming “a banker.”
I was a little sad, but I accepted my partner’s answer and stood by him as if I had made it as well. Adrienne didn’t understand, and felt hurt. I wasn’t even able to tell him that my partner and I were a couple because my partner had not come out to his bosses at work.
We would see each other less often. But at least it would seem for a time that the apartment issue had been forgotten.
Thorin would develop a bad case of separation anxiety. He wound up eating the cover off of one of my partner’s Harry Potter books, chewing up a CD cover or two, and he gnawed a straight line down a rug, split it in two.
The suggested solution was to get a second dog. This time, it was my partner’s deal to choose the name and seek the dog out. February of 2001, we picked up Cleo. Smaller than Thorin but so immediately and fully in charge that I think it was six months before I got it across to her that she was not in fact the pack leader. The rescue lady said that she had grabbed a boxer twice her size by the back of the neck and shook him to let him know that she was boss.
Whereas with Thorin it had been subterfuge and tricks, with Cleo the problem was butting heads over sheer force of will and personality. Thorin had been one of six dogs that a little old lady had at last decided was too many (and by the way, he knew the words “McDonalds” and “Pizza Hut” and flew into a frenzy one night when commercials came on that mentioned them, so I could imagine her piling the pack into a car and going for drive thru). Cleo, on the other hand, had been found in a construction zone, where a mall was being built. She had been alone and not with a pack.
That same month there was a new show previewing on television. It was a spinoff of The X-Files called The Lone Gunmen. In that episode, a plane would nearly be crashed into the World Trade Center by remote control.
In April and May, author and NSA historian James Bamford would write about and receive coverage over the OPERATION NORTHWOODS. The documents detailed the psychological operations and false-flag plan to commit acts of terrorism on American soil, against US citizens, and against US interests in the region in order to trick the American public into supporting an invasion of Cuba.
Then in September came 9/11. That was followed, as you know, by letting slip the dogs of war.