Perhaps I should be the poet laureate of my dog since Joey appears in two poems of mine that are recently published. The first, “Greyhound Joey vs. the Grackle” appears along with “North through Fog” in the February 2011 issue of the Houston Literary Review. The first of those is from my “Birds Nobody Loves” series which will someday be a chapbook and the other is from the “Highway Sky” series which is starting to sneak beyond chapbook length. Thanks to the editors of the Houston Literary Review for publishing those.
Joey’s literary adventures don’t end there, though. He also appears in a micro-haibun in the new pay attention: a river of stones anthology published by Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita who edited a massive amount of submissions from January’s river of stones challenge to produce a beautiful book that is worth every moment spent slowing down to savor it. There were a number of stones that I read in January as well as many that I missed along with some wonderful prose pieces. It was a treat to read again some of my favorites by Beth Adams, Angie Werren, Mark Stratton, and Kris Lindbeck. Along with some prose reflections on small stone writing by Beth Adams, Jean Morris, Laurie Kolp and Margo Roby. You can read the 2 stones I contributed at my mirco-poetry blog here and here (the second is another “Birds Nobody Loves” piece) or you can buy the book, which is really good.
And, now, Joey needs a walk. We’ll talk literature, and he’ll remind me that greyhounds are the only breed of dog mentioned in the Bible and then, who knows what inspiration the four-legged muse will next provide.
I sometimes wonder if gnawing on a bone is for dogs more akin to whittling or smoking for us. Basically, is it a hobby or a need? Either way, it seems pleasurable and passes the time, and Joey has found a great way to pass his time.
Going out back has been very exciting for Joey lately. He’ll pop wheelies and throw himself at the back door to demonstrate what an emergency it is. Lately, though, it’s not about “doing his business,” as we dog owners say, but rather a new piece of business he’s gotten into. A sideline, if you will.
Joey has a hole. It’s not just any hole, though. I do believe the dog is digging himself a gold mine. Or perhaps searching for oil. I don’t have the heart to tell him that we don’t own the mineral rights to our yard, which is probably just as well since we all need our projects. I have this blog. Joey has his hole.
Sometimes, he moonlights. I’ll look out and see his dark form hunched over in his corner of the yard, his front paws excavating ever so carefully. He’s a meticulous digger, unlike some dogs who just tear at the soil. Joey has this focus when he digs. Perhaps he likes the feel of the soft black soil and the way it rains out across the grass and onto the patio.
Dogs are so like us in their emotions and interests, but I never really thought of them as being hobbyists, and it seems Joey really is. There is nothing there to unearth, nothing dead and delicious underneath the soil, yet he clearly thinks about digging and can’t wait to get back to work on it. If Joey could gnaw bones (he can’t because of what that poisoned dog food did to his kidneys) I suspect it would fall into the hobby category, like whittling. So now, unable to gnaw, he whittles the earth.
Dog needs a hobby, right?
Well, look at that. We made us some art.
Last Friday, R and I took a painting class for adults at Marmalade Skies here in Austin. The class is called Pinot Picasso and it’s geared toward people who have never painted before. People like R and me. Actually, I have painted a few houses and I’m pretty good at it, but I don’t think it’s the same thing. At all. For one thing, this was fun.
The instructor was great, letting us explore and helping us out of holes all while talking about Roy Lichtenstein and his technique as well as general painting technique. We started with photographs—everyone else did people but she let us try dogs, which was new for her. In the end, much to our surprise, R and I had a couple of cool looking paintings of 2 of our favorite people (though I’ll need to go back and do one of Simon some time before he gets jealous).
What amazed me was how quickly the time went. How lost we both were in what we were doing. The instructor said, “We’re closing in 15 minutes,” and I looked around saw that it was dark outside and I had a nearly finished painting and an empty bottle of TopoChico in front of me.
I love making things, and even more, I love the act of making them. Most of what I make comes out in the form of pixels or food, but it was a thrill to make something I can hold and hold on to as I don’t do enough of that.
It’s the most fun I’ve had going out on a Friday night since I can remember, and I couldn’t wait to get home and show the dogs who weren’t interested once they realized they couldn’t eat the paintings.
The Pinot Picasso classes at Marmalade Skies at 183 and Anderson Mill in northwest Austin are held every Friday from 7-9:30, and each week they teach a different style of painting. We’ll be going back.
Joey’s birthday was last week. He’s 8. We got him in August 2006 and we almost lost him in 2007 when his dog food turned out to be poisonous. But he’s doing great these days. In fact, he’s pretty sure he’s the boss of Phoebe and maybe Simon, though Simon is sharp and best left alone.
We learn a lot from our dogs and Joey is a constant reminder to stay optimistic. He is the most optimistic dog I’ve ever known. There is not a single dark thought in his head. No matter what, he knows with absolute certainty that his food bowl will be filled twice a day, and that makes him very happy, especially a half hour before mealtimes when he likes to demonstrate what he’s capable of by battling the biggest toy he can find.
It usually ends in defeat for the toy and sometimes, he likes to pose with his prey just like hunters in the woods like to pose with their kills.
Back in August 2006, we almost didn’t get him. At the time, we already had 2 dogs and didn’t know if we could handle a third. Turns out we could. So happy birthday, big guy, may your couch always be comfy, your bowl always full, and the squirrels plentiful, fat and slow.
Phoebe hopes so too, though the camera might be more interesting.
They’re tired from walking, probably. Tired enough that Joey isn’t growling at Phoebe for touching him while he tries to sleep. It seems we’ve all come a long way and I’m not just talking about walking.
We started taking the dogs with us on some of our long walks up and down the neighborhood trails lately. This is new for the pups. R and I walk the trails, but in the past the dogs have typically been too afraid to proceed too far into the teeth of whatever dragons lie on the county regional trail that our neighborhood trails connect to. There could be monsters. Greyhound-eating monsters.
For years we’ve accepted their trepidation and stuck with short walks around the block, but a few weeks ago—to our delighted surprise—Joey and Phoebe were willing to accompany us for several miles and they did this with no tail-tucking or application of the greyhound brakes. This is a far cry from the time I had to carry all 65 pounds of Phoebe half a mile home because she got spooked by a leaf blowing across the street.
We’ve taken them on more walks since, and they’ve been eager to go and enjoyed being out and about. I realized we’d been letting them be the pups they were when we got them and we’d somehow forgotten to recognize how much they’ve run away from being scared (and scarred) ex-racers to becoming just normal dogs. As normal as a lazy stubborn skinny needle-nosed speed pup can be anyway.
Sometimes it seems those changes, those moments of becoming, happen so gradually those closest can miss their occurrences, allowing ourselves to get stuck in the way we’re used to knowing the world. Fortunately for us, we’ve realized how willing they are to adventure out of their normal walks because there’s just something primal and wonderful about a good long walk with a dog whose enthusiasm and simple awareness of the world makes time spent outdoors that much sweeter, something I haven’t experienced since my days hiking with Zephyr.
It’s good to have walkin’ dogs again even if it does make them lazier than ever before. Something I hadn’t previously thought possible.
After defeating Wolf, Fox, Moose, Tiger and One of R’s Slippers in single combat to show us what he’s capable of, Joey sets his sights on the fearsome Green Dragon Dogstick, which he has here dragged back to his lair where he’ll either attempt to eviscerate it or force it into servitude as a comfy pillow. Apes be warned, this is the fate of any who may delay in feeding the greyhound.