On Suffering #Nepal #Baltimore #Ahimsa #Silence #hellonearth

Standard

My youngest son woke up this morning like a rocket. Today his class is taking a field trip to a natural landmark about two hours away.

I said to him, “You should go on field trips more often; you’re so ready to face the day!”

He said back to me, “I just like the idea of getting away from the regular. I’m excited to be on a charter bus, and use the bathroom if I want when the bus is rolling along. I’m excited to sit with my friends or read a book or play ‘yellow car’ or ‘alphabet signs’ on the trip.”

“Yes, it’s nice to change things up.” I agreed.

“I am sad for the world, Mom,” he said. “Finnegan and I got into a fight last night; I couldn’t take the news. I went to grab the remote and I accidentally scratched him and then he got mad and put his hands on me… It was scary, but it was my fault. I should have just walked away.”

“WHAT? Where was I when this happened?”

“Teaching yoga,” he said.

“Oh. Dad was with the dogs?”

“Yes. We stopped almost right away, but I know we are both sad about Baltimore and the earthquake and the drones…”

He is eleven.

When I was eleven, I don’t think I knew who was president.

Let’s see… it was 1939 …

Earlier on that day, my older two came through the door from school very concerned about the riots in Baltimore. Confused, angry, and scared. Their sadness turned to apathy which turned to antipathy not long after watching CNN.

“This solves nothing. This isn’t about equality. It’s about violence. It’s about intimidation,” one of them said.

“It’s scary and it’s wrong. It’s also mis-channeled rage. This is also completely missing the point,” the other added.

The words and fear and sadness and fear fear fear were flying at me. I was overwhelmed with how to tone them down, how to get them to feel safer. How to get myself to feel safer.

I had just spent the afternoon watching “The Road” on video — a movie adaptation based on a beloved book of the same title by Cormac McCarthy. The Road is about a post-apocalyptic America. It’s also a love letter from McCarthy to his son. It’s about “keeping the fire” and “being the good guys, not the bad guys.” The world envisioned by McCarthy’s words is not a world I want to live in; the world envisioned by the director of the film, John Hellcoat, is gray, smoky, dark, fiery, inhumane, dirty, gritty, smelly, dead and terrifying. I don’t think anyone wants to live there.

I decided that silence was the answer. Only silence can tell us what we need. So I asked them to turn off the TV, the screens and to open the door and listen to the birds and hear the breeze rustle through the newly sprouted leaves. To look around themselves and to see what we have left — to appreciate it and to be grateful for it because as we woke up to on Saturday, it can be snapped apart like it was in Nepal, vaporized by earth; or it can be destroyed by choice as what we’ve seen far too frequently in Baltimore, Ferguson, the Bronx, North Charleston… and that’s what happens to make the headlines.

I often say to my sons that I don’t believe in hell. I believe that we can do a fine job right here by our little ol’ selves creating hell in our minds, on earth and in our thoughts. There’s no reason to fear an afterlife — what could possibly be worse than the sadness and fear we inflict on ourselves and project upon others –wittingly or not– on a daily basis?

So last night, I dedicated my yoga class to Nepal and Baltimore and all the corners of the world — privately held internally because we are all suffering at one moment or another and publicly known — because stopping, breathing, listening and putting our hands to our heart, and our heads to our heart, and praying and intending peace and compassion — FOR THE SELF FIRST as well as for the world — is to me, the only way to stop this train of suffering.

It absolutely must begin within. If you harbor dark thoughts and feelings toward yourself, there is NO WAY you can authentically extend compassion and peace for anyone else. It’s just not possible.

It’s in the mirror. The answer to all of this is in the mirror. Love yourself, accept yourself, and then you can share that with the world in thought, humor, deed, and spirit. It’s the first tenet of yoga: Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence, which means it must absolutely begin in you. You don’t have to be a yogi to do this. You just have to be aware, sentient, and humane.

You’ll drive a little softer, speak a little kinder, smile a bit wider, laugh a little longer and love more sincerely.

Thank you.

Fiction from a Walk — “Jake’s Bet”

Standard

Welcome to the new and completely unpredictable feature on this blog wherein I take a photo of something I see on a walk with the dogs and write a piece of fiction about it. I hope it is less than bad.

Today’s image: a bolo tie in the church parking lot.

Let’s begin, shall we…..?

=-=-=

Desdemona peeled out of the Charleston Baptist Church, singing “So long, succccckkkkaaaaaahhhssss!!!!!” between cackles, which eventually trailed off about a tenth of a mile down the road. It was hedging on dusk, and she had just dumped the losers in the parking lot after a crushing afternoon of strip poker.

These were sons of bankers, a US senator, prominent real estate moguls, a Calhoun (!), and the great great grandson of a plantation owner. A few generations’ pride worth of landed gentry. The men she abandoned, were humiliated, slightly inebriated and in a condition most unbefitting persons of their caliber: they were naked. Utterly and completely. And shivering from sunburn.

To Desdemona McLeod, it wasn’t about winnin’ the money, honey. Although y’all know it always sweetens any deal, it was about vengeance. Despite her own impressive lineage in the Charleston tradition, y’all, she was a woman, and simply put, women don’t play cards. Desdemona played cards, just as her aunties taught her, and their aunties taught them. This was a well-kept “secret” (lie of convenience and complicity) dating all the way back to the 1740s with her most famous relative, Marianna McLeod. Of course, this bein’ the south, it was hush-hush.

People loved to play cards with the McLeods, but no one talks about losing at cards. Especially to a woman, so most losses were relegated to the muted conversations behind the wood sheds or the alley ways along the Battery.

Desdemona didn’t see the fun in that.

“Winnin’ at cards ain’t no fun if I can’t boast about it. What’s the point?” she would huff to her daddy later at the house.

“Winnin’ Dessie. Just plain winnin‘…. It’s a matter of principle too: people don’t take a shine to humiliation. One of the rules of bein’ a card-playin’ McLeod is that we pride ourselves on winnin’ kindly. That means we just take the jackpot and quietly end the game. No need gettin’ anyone’s public pride involved in it…” he trailed off, counting her take.

“To borrow from Scarlett O’Hara, ‘fiddle-dee-dee’ Daddy. That’s just plain ol’ stupid.”

Daddy took off his glasses and stopped counting.

“This is an impressive lot you’ve won here, darlin, absolutely. What keeps this train goin’ is the gentlemanly nature of our relationship with all the players. They all want to be winnin’ over a McLeod, an’ some do. But we play by a simple yet established — y’heah me?– system: we don’t boast … Sixteen thousand four-hunnert n sixty-six … and an West Point ring, poor Perry, and a classic Rolex with sapphire lens crystal. No bad, my dear, not bad a’tall…. That’s what keeps ’em comin’ back, Dessie. We win kindly.” After he organized all the take, he sat up, deposited the funds and the jewelry in the massive vault behind the false door in the wall.

Returning to his daughter who was now in a slump, Daddy rubbed his temples and took a seat in a cognac tanned vintage overstuffed leather club chair; the classic “I have arrived” chair, but in the case of the McLeods, the chair arrived after the family, the chair was the one saying “I have arrived.” He smiled warmly at Desdemona as he sat back, closing his eyes and still smiling. Daddy placed his hands behind his tousled head of blond hair as he propped his legs up on the matching ottoman and released a satisfied sigh.

“Then I reckon I might’ve overdone it, Daddy.”

Opening one eye, Daddy stole a peek at Des. She was biting her lower lip and had perched herself nervously at the edge of her seat. The sun coming in from the tall library windows alongside the room was low; dust motes flickered in the shafts of dappled light which escaped the leaves on the magnolias outside. The summer sun was setting. Daddy noticed that Desdemona was ashamed, but peculiarly animated.

“Come again, deah?”

“We didn’t play here. I also didn’t drink along with them. That’s because of the rules, there was no other woman with me, so I didn’t drink, Daddy. But they did. A lot. Uncle Mitch’s mash, in particular, was a favored drink among the boys. That an’ bourbon…. It was so funny… Jakey Ravenel was the only one left with anything on — his ‘good luck’ black bolo tie… I remember telling him that even if I won it, I didn’t want anything to do with it… they make my stomach turn; ‘There’s no place for a bolo tie in South Carolina,’ I remember tellin’ him… He kept rambling about it because of his Texas uncle… ‘Not an uncle by blood…’ his brother Jimmy reminded him…”

“Where did you play, Des? I’m sure I want to know…” Daddy’s eyes were both open now. The horn-rimmed glasses were back on. The legs were off the ottoman, both feel firmly planted into the cherry hardwood floor beneath the chair. One hand was smoothing his hair and the other elbow was pressing into a thigh, leaning forward in the chair.

“At Lou’s. Off Penny’s Creek down near Wadmal —”

“Down near Wadmalaw Island. You went all the way near Wadmalaw… Did you cross route 700?…”

This was critical.

Desdemona put up her hand, “Just a sec, Daddy. Let me think….”

“Did you cross route 700? Did you go anywhere near Johns Island? Did you leave the county?” he asked, hotly.

“Maybe. But we weren’t playin’ yet. See. We were getting a bite to eat because the boys needed food, so I stopped for a bite. I told them it would be my treat because the next meal they’d need they wouldn’t have the money for… It was hot today…. But no. We didn’t play yet.”

She knew where this was going. She let her ego get the best of her. Des was prone to getting ahead of herself. In all her 23 years, in her fledgling first year of law school, she didn’t care for the details. She just wanted to get in the courtroom. Her family was convinced she’d make a better law enforcement officer than a law interpreter. “Nope. No playin’ cards … least not by me … anywheres near Johns Island.”

“But you drove.” Daddy reminded her.

“Yes, but I can’t play and drive. That’d be crazy. Nope. No cards played by me in the truck while we were on Johns Island.”

Daddy finished law school. Head of his class. UVA. Had an established, prominent and ethical law practice in town and did a ton of pro bono work. To him, it was about the advocacy more than the paycheck. “Sometimes people just get stuck in a bad way and they need help. That’s why I’m here.” was printed on back of his business cards.

“Did anyone play cards in the truck while you were on Johns Island, darlin’?” he asked.

She shifted in her seat. “That I can’t rightly say.”

Meanwhile, back at the church parking lot, the heap of prominent-familied, ruby-skinned, men fell asleep under a palmetto tree on the soft-ish, rounded and warm landscape pebbles and a sun bleached pool towel stolen off a clothesline not too far off in the distance. In the southern sky, a crescent moon was on the rise, reminiscent of the South Carolina flag. Save for the silhouette of the many moons below, it was a lovely picture.

A rejected black bolo tie rested in the setting sun all by its lonesome. Come tomorrow, Sunday morning, early attendees were in for a surprise of God’s creation.

i'd leave it in the parking lot too...

i’d leave it in the parking lot too… (not a very good picture at all; the dogs were in the way and they’re not very smart…)

Thank you.

Just When You … #mommywars

Standard

I wrote a couple weeks ago about returning to the paid working world. The compulsion thrust itself at me on the heels of believing we would go penniless due to the impending college bills for our three sons. I was anything but a yoga teacher. I was anything but a leader. I panicked. 

I started a search for jobs on LinkedIn and an app named “indeed” and started to ask friends and former coworkers for their impressions and ideas. 

After a few days, I realized this wasn’t about just college. I began to feel my mortality. 

I believe that if you’re a normal, balanced and participating member of a progressive and valuable society, there’s an inner need inside you to add to that progress and that value. It’s not just a matter of “giving back” but also a matter of an exchange of a higher energetic vibration: that when you do something which you value and you are recognized for it (free or not) then that also raises the energetic vibration of the world around you. 

It’s very simple: when you are valued, and told so, you feel a sense of reward. That sense of reward goes with you to your car on your way to the grocery store / park / day care / carpool / walk with the dog / answer of the phone. That raises the energy you possess and which you share with the world (corporeal and spiritual) around you. 

This is easy for me to say, right? Last week, I was completely unhinged after a soccer game due to a self-proclaimed ignorant center ref’s increasingly faulty calls. I behaved like an ass. I regret that and I am happy to say that our coaches accepted my authentic apology and that I had repaired back to my normal cheerful self in the stands yesterday. I thought I could take a vow of silence, but … no. My son’s matches are such a pleasure to watch.  

Right after the half, one of our players erroneously made an own-goal and and gave the other team a point. Because I was visually accustomed to hoping for a shot into that particular net for 45 minutes, I cheered when that shot was scored. We were still ahead, but our coach smiled at me and said, “NO! Not ‘Yay!’ …” Whoops. I sucked it up and said, “That’s my karma for last weekend…” and those who were in the know knew exactly what I meant and they laughed. My point is that after I verbally charged that ref last week, I lowered my own energetic vibration. I put myself in a bubble of discontent, which I deserved. And to prove the point, I felt as though my karmic debt was settled with my own public display of ineptitude exactly one week later at the scene of my outburst.  

We are all learning something all the time. We are all teaching something all the time. The lessons will continue to be taught and learned until we are finished learning and teaching them. Then a new one. And another. And another. 

I feel that my outburst was directly related to my sense of needing to be “of” or to add value “to” the world. That sense of ‘place’ was suspended (I believe) until I learned my place *in* the world. Again. The week following my urges to find work, my oldest son needed me to drop off something to him at school –immediately– in order for him to complete a test in this math class he’s taking, which has problems that looks like this: 

 

for a math problem, this sure has a lot of letters in it…

The next weekday, which was a day off from school due to a teacher workday, my youngest son fell off his bike and hurt his knee. Then two days later, my middle son needed me to take him to the doctor’s for a strep test (negative). These things occurred in the middle of what most people would consider a 9-5 workday.  

doesn’t this happen at your house?

What I failed to realize, in the midst of all my urges and needs, was that I was right where I was supposed to be. My place in the world was clear to everyone but myself. I was not holding a space for myself. I was holding a space for everyone but myself.

I have a friend who wanted to become a therapist. She had successfully ended her graduate work, although as a mother, that had its challenges. As a form of her internship, she was engaged part-time in the services of a group home for runaway teens and was enjoying it. Just as a full-time opportunity arose, one of her children became very ill. When she was ready to return, the part-time work was still there (because it seems there will always, sadly, be kids facing troubles), and in the midst of the full-swing and coming opportunity to join full-time, another one of her children needed her long-term advocacy. Her place in the world for that season in her life was to be not far from home. 

We sighed and shook our fists at the fates, at the belief that women, specifically mothers, have to either fit someone else’s definition of success by doing and having it all (career, family, marriage, hobby, Bravo-TV), or redefine their lives for their children’s wellbeing. We sighed at our consternation of feeling “trapped” by motherhood, yet knowing deeply inside that we could never change a thing about how life has played itself out.   

She and I are the type of people who could go either way: be stay-at-home mothers (because all mothers are full-timers) or have a career. Careers change and come and go; motherhood is a one-time gig, no matter how many kids one has, and while the world might be changing, motherhood will never change: our children’s needs are constant, unpredictable, demanding and wholly irreducible. 

Despite this, some women know about themselves that they are not cut out for the doilies and teddy bear tea parties under the dining room table and other at-times mind-numbing activities. They know those moments will send them to the padded rooms. They need adult stimulation and interaction, they need not to be constantly answering “why ____” when chances are their child really isn’t tracking (and neither are they), and I applaud them. I  support those women. For some of them, that choice was a clear as tap water. For others, that choice was rife with ambivalence and guilt. I want all of them to know this: that I’m helping to take care of their child when I volunteer at school. I am honoring them by honoring their child and I know they would do the same were the roles reversed. 

The bottom line is that these mothers all fiercely love their children and to them, no matter what they decide, they know that being a contented and purposeful person means they will be a contented mother and being a contented mother means they can raise content, secure, and resilient children. 

I wasn’t there. I was nodding numbly at the imginary motivational speaker in my head, but I wasn’t there. I still felt I brought no value. Without knowing it, I was still ceding to an extrinsic value system. Then I finished Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, and it became clearer to me: my value system was what he termed “heirarchical” — I placed my value in the opinions of others. The outside world was where I had based my worth. What I needed to do was switch my perspective to what Pressfield calls “territorial,” to wit: that when you are doing what you do for the sheer SAKE of doing it, not just (or at all) for praise, you are in your “zone” / territory and that judgments of the outside world fade away (because they don’t matter and never will, nor should they) and that you fall in [love] with your calling. 

Some of us are at work at jobs we don’t like. Or those which drain our last bits of enthusiasm. I am hopeful that there is something in that daily existence which we can find that brings us satisfaction or contentment: the smile of a customer, the reliability of the work, the appreciation of a co-worker, the paycheck… that “thanks, Mom,” from a child. It’s no surprise to me that I was wanting daytime work outside the home as a possibility of escape and validation as well. Just when we think we have one situation sewn up, another one pops a seam. 

Raising teenagers can be DEPLETING — they are like zombies: dirty haired and ripped clothes; grunters, their circadian rhythms are all out of whack, clumsy, music seems to be the only thing which quells them, they turn toward the scent of food, they offer only monosyllabic replies, and roar when surprised or disturbed. 

What I liked about working is that the jobs were often finite and certainly NOT defiant; that I had support from peers; and that I wasn’t always the boss who denied and disciplined. With teenagers, everything is a negotiation. Those maternal ghosts from toddlerhood, “Do you want to move your body, or do you want ME to move your body?” are like a fantasy, an ice cream sundae, of discipline. 

I sort of miss those days. My back doesn’t.  

Once I have taken stock of my place in where I am, where things are in my life and how my family needs me, I can step back and figure out how to get into what I [want to] do in a “territorial” way which sustains my spirit and fuels me for the inevitable moments when heirarchical demands raise their heads. And maybe even then, I can find a way to become territorial about those situations, because let’s face it: unless what we do is rewarding, there is little drive to keep doing it. It shouldn’t always be about the money. It needs to serve the spirit — that sense of accomplishment, that we did it all by our BIG PEOPLE selves — as well.  

Thank you.           

              

Walking Two Dogs — A Charlie & Murphy Experience

Standard

The weather has been very lovely the past few days with a rain here and there. Grasses are greening and the trees are continuing their brief 2-month hiatus from dropping anything — branches, leaves, dead leaves, pollen, pollen buds, bud covers, pollen, squirrels — from themselves every freakin’ day. You know winter is in full swing when the trees hang on to whatever they can to conserve energy.

Yesterday, I took the dogs for a 3.3 mile walk. The distance was unintentional, but the spirit moved me to keep going and they certainly didn’t mind.

IMG_4235

If ever a pair that needed to meet, these two are it.

For the 6,782 time, it struck me hilarious: the distinction between the two dogs.

I’ve said it before and often: Murphy, our 7-yo Golden Retriever is a dog of intention; he was engineered to be here. Who knows if his parents would’ve ever met otherwise? Those arranged marriages so common in the dog world create beautiful beasts for persons (raises hand) seeking a certain temperament, history and reasonable predictability within a dog. We’ve “ordered” Goldens because we have a family and young children. Murphy has been A DREAM for us. Mellow, stable, soft, huge, warm, furry, soft, reliable, funny, soft, smart, entertaining, patient, friendly, soft, and energetic. 

Charlie, our 18-month-old foundling, our gift of fate and love, is this fascinating mixture of canid and drunken dirt bike rider / rugby player / rancher / shoe salesman / bovine / ticket scalper and frustrated mall cop.

Murphy is all people-oriented. A sight dog: What’s that? Who’s there? Squirrel. Cat. Bird. Treat. Leash. Bee. Murphy is nigh unflappable, save for when someone, anyone ventures to the second floor of our house. Then … he retreats to a space between the bed and the wall in our guest room and burrows himself as much as possible into the carpet and concrete foundation beneath it. I have no idea why. He won’t tell me.

To get him out of his place, we call him with ruses of “WALK!!!” or “LEASHES!!” or “PLAY BALL!” and then it’s short-term memory gone. Sometimes we try to recondition him or retrain him: hold a bag of treats as someone pretends to go up the stairs. Or we close off his access to that room. Instead of going to that space, he then skulks to a spot, the smallest place in the area: between his food bowl and a bookcase. He doesn’t tremble or whine or even attempt to draw much attention to himself. He just … hides. “YOU DON’T SEE ME!!” he chastens, inwardly, anyone who tries to offer a pat or a snuggle.

Charlie is all Charlie-oriented. A self dog: Share some? My foe? Bad cat? This shoe? Chase me? Sit here? Bury this? Charlie reminds me of the three SNL characters who inspired the bad film, “Night at the Roxbury.”

Murphy is like a massive lumbering Cadillac. He glides and saunters on the walks. He loves to sniff things, naturally. Save for the start of our walks, when he’s an unkinked knot with feet and a tail, he stays on the left side of me, as he should because that’s how I trained him.

LET'S GO!!!

LET’S GO!!! I let them out of the gates with some energy and then pull back on the leashes to bring them to heel.

Charlie walks widely and wildly and without cause or intention. It’s so bizarre. It’s only when we’re on a run together that he’s all business. He heels, he does not lunge at bushes or chase bees. When he knows it’s a “50 new smells a day” stroll, he is all over the place. Like a medicated alien toddler in an M5 tank, he bounds over to Murphy’s side, shoving him out of the way to smell something better, stronger, faster, deeper, longer, bestest ever. Ever. Ever.

dog's nose perspective of something on the ground which was fascinating.

A dog’s nose perspective of something on the ground which was utterly fascinating. They could’ve stayed in this spot for an hour, easy.

So Murph give ups, he recedes, finds a new spot, which Charlie must yet again dominate, investigate, populate, masticate, agitate, and irrigate. When he does that, Murphy has moved on, but Charlie makes sure to spew, foist, push and kick whatever remaining flora all over my statuesque 83# thoroughbred.

Murphy actually sighed when that happened to him yesterday. We were at a tree in the forest, one of their favorite trees, and Charlie, who was busy somewhere else, caught Murph trotting up to the haunt and dashed over to pee first. Murphy, who seems to put on the air of “I was done anyway” backed off and sighed. If he could shake his head, I’d totally understand. Then we’d go find a quiet spot at the bar and order a couple Old Fashioneds.

Charlie looks up to Murphy. Lots of mouth licking and grooming going on from Charlie to Murphy. Part of me chalks that up to Charlie’s spartan beginnings, being a dog who likely wouldn’t have made it. His mother went begging for scraps, and that’s how he was eventually found.  So I think Charlie is looking for morsels of food. Murphy sort of resembles Charlie’s mother too, so there’s that. They are a terrific team and it’s Charlie’s enthusiasm and near-constant court jester attitude which keeps Murphy energetic and youthful, even at his white-faced 7 years.

Friday? They know when it's Friday.

Friday? They know when it’s Friday.

Murphy is king, alpha and the decidifier of all acceptable behaviors. The moment Murphy comes out to the deck to an already outside Charlie, he is greeted with the boundless enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. “AOOOOMAAAIIIGGGAAADDD!! YOU’RE HERE!!!!” It’s contagious. Murphy starts to perk up, bound a little and grab a toy and the two are at it, in a game of tug-of-war, or keep away, or chase me, or look a squirrel. They are a team. If Murphy has a bone or a rawhide or a toy he’s enjoying, such as fleecing a tennis ball, Charlie will stand by, as if to offer his assistance:

C: You want me to help you with that?

M: No.

C: You need any help with that?

M: No.

C: If you need me, I’ll be over here.

C: Are you sure you got it? I see a spot …

M: No.

C: That sure looks good. Do you want this sock?

M: No.

C: I have the lady’s shoe. You want?

M: No. Put it back.

C: Make me.

And so it goes…

Right now, they are wrestling under the table I’m typing on outside on our deck, and Murphy loves it. Maybe he knows he’s still much bigger than Charlie and at least 20 pounds heavier; he still sees him as a baby and Charlie still sees Murphy as a grown dog versus his wee 12 pounds when he was a baby.

Or Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing the hell out of these dogs like a crazy cat lady and I have no clue what I’m talking about.

The wrestling goes on for a half hour sometimes. It wipes them both out.

The wrestling goes on for a half hour sometimes. It wipes them both out.

Yesterday on our walk, they encountered a dead turtle. Murph was very interested at first, thinking it was alive but moved on. Charlie stayed there, almost begging it to move so he could have something to do.

IMG_4661

For the first 25 minutes of any walk with them, they’re all “LET’S GO HERE! I’LL LEAD! LET’S DO THIS! THAT’S A FLOWER! I SMELL BACON! DON’T YOU? ARE YOU BACON??” After that, they’re basically putty. The panting begins and the leashes slacken a bit. The muzzle nudges, lean-ins, slowdowns, speed-ups, backward glances at me, with somewhat ambivalent expressions, “You sure you wanna keep going? Don’t we usually turn back at this rock? No? Here? Or here?” really gear up.

Ready to turn back?

Ready to turn back?

If I haven’t turned around yet, after 35 minutes, the panting has really set in. Tongues are fat and pink, hanging over the molars. Nudges intensify. They are hot, tired and sort of stupid. They bump into each other, snap at butterflies, trip on sticks. Once I turn around, they are all about it. They jump up for their leashes, “I KNOW THE WAY!” I GOT IT!” and they head home, all about the destination with very little sniffing going on.

I’m writing this because the dogs crack me up. They also bring joy to our family.

If you’re on the fence about getting a first dog, or a second dog for your first dog…

1) Seriously think about it. Some dogs do NOT warm up to each other. Make sure you have a breed which is good with other dogs — either coming in or welcoming aboard.

2) If both are adults, have them meet in a neutral spot so neither feels territorial, and back out of the scene a bit.

3) Does gender mixing matter? I’ve been told by strangers that it’s unusual that two male dogs are getting along so well, but I think it’s worked out because of the age difference and the fact that they’re both neutered.

4) Shed your narcissism: nothing in this world is an extension of yourself. Treat your dogs like dogs and everyone will be happy. Let them walk, sniff, jump, wrestle, bound, hide and careen; don’t carry them in a purse or put them in a stroller. If you need something in a purse, buy some gum; if you need something in a stroller, have a baby, buy a doll. Put your purse in it. Now you’re halfway to being a crazy bag person. Don’t get a dog.

5) Test drive dog ownership by taking IN a friends’ dog to your home during travel; if your friend needs a safe place for Fido, be that safe place. This way, you will learn what it’s sort of like to have your a dog in your own space on your schedule. If however, you discover Fido has destroyed your sofa while you slept, bring him back home and stay with him there. Fido might not like your house and just needs to be somewhere familiar.

6) Dogs wrestle. My father was convinced at first that Charlie and Murphy were trying to kill each other. Neighbors ask the same thing. No. The dogs are being playmates and dogly when they rumble. If any aggression continues past a yelp then there’s an issue. Charlie or Murphy will yelp, “HEY! OW!” and the other will back off, head low with contrition and the game continues. Murphy also has this “GET LOST!” roar he occasionally unfurls on Charlie, and that does the trick.

7) Be a strong leader. I will concede that we got lucky. I’ve heard stories of two dogs just NOT getting along. I know more people whose dogs do get along more than not. I believe a lot of it stems from the dogs feeling deeply territorial about the “Mom” or “Food Source.” If you make it known from the start that you won’t tolerate any hostility, they will generally follow suit.

8) Shed your neediness. Feeding off #7 and similar to #4, you have to get your personality weirdnesses and lack of assertiveness out of your relationship with all beings, but if your dog senses your weakness and that YOU JUUUST WOVE HEEEEM SOOOO MUUUUUCCCCHHH AND HEEEE’S DA BESSSSHT TING DAT EVEAH HAPPEN TO YOUUUUU… go audition for a Shirley Temple impersonation program. Don’t get a dog. That dog will “LOVE” you back in the form of neurotic outbursts, separation anxiety, aggression toward anything that smiles at you and generally any similar form of Kardashian behavior.

9) That said, don’t take any crap from your dog: you wouldn’t let a human being torpedo your crotch, jump on you the moment you come through a door, race to beat you to the door, pull you around by the wrist, yell at your friends, yell at their friends, take food from your kid, shit on the rug, tear up your shoes, sit on your lap, and beg for your food, so don’t let your dog.

Dogs are awesome, but they’re not flawless. They tolerate a lot of crap from us too.

10) Crates. Lots of people think this is cruelty, I say it’s not. Every dog is different. If you start with a puppy, using a crate is very easy and it becomes their “room” where they get to be all the time and no one is allowed in. It’s like their “NO HUMANS” zone. You remember your “NO GROWN UPS” zone, right? Still have it? Think of giving one of those to your dog(s). Charlie and Murphy each have one, side by side and they love them. They use them in the off hours. Crates are only controversial if you think it’s controversial. See #4.

11) Walk your dogs. I read somewhere that dogs need at least fifty new smells a day to stave off depression. They are born blind, using their noses to survive… take them for walks.

This is them when we got home yesterday:

resting on the nice cool bricks and stones.

resting on the nice cool bricks and stones; they’re so happy they don’t even care about that sock my son left out after practice the day before.

Thank you.