Dog Days

I like animals so much more than people. I don’t remember people’s names, but I remember their dogs. I remember the dog’s names, what kind of treats they like, what toys they like to play with. If I don’t see you with your dog, I have a really hard time placing who you are.

This is not to say I haven’t had bad dog experiences. There are good dog days, and bad dog days. And you never know what kind of dog day its going to be until it happens.

So I grew up in the 60s and I identified with being a hippie, because all my friends said they were hippies and the people that knew me said I was a hippie, so I thought maybe I was a hippie. I found out later that what I really was was an eccentric, but when you’re young you like to stand out, but only in a crowd. So I said I was a hippie when I was a teenager, but I wasn’t a full-fledged hippie, because a real hippie did drugs, and I couldn’t take drugs.

You see, I am your average Chinese-American woman, which means I’m neurotic 24/7. It never stops. My Asian genes make me allergic to everything, lactose intolerant, super sensitive to alcoholic drinks -even NightQuill puts me into a drunken stupor and a horrid hangover the next day- and prone to every rare side effect on prescription drugs. If the label warns that a drug is 99.9% safe and free of side effects, it means I can’t take it because I will be the .1% that will get the rare side effect.

Knowing all this as a kid, I knew it wasn’t a good idea to go off during 4th period behind the rhododendrons and smoke hashish with my friends. But, I thought maybe something more harmless would be ok. Some of my friends were smoking banana peels. Electrical bananas! Its just bananas. Why not? So I baked some banana peels in the oven one weekend. I made the mistake of showing them, all shriveled up and black, on a baking sheet in the oven, to my cousins.

Now I should have known better, because my cousins are tattlers. I can just hear them tattling to their dad, “Bobo is smoking banana peels. She’s going to get high on them.” That was so dumb to show them. The next time my uncle came over, he was wearing his deputy sheriff uniform, with the leather gun holster and the badges all over his shirt. I hadn’t known this, but he was the chief officer for the DARE program in San Mateo county, and he regularly spoke to schools and youth groups about the dangers of drugs. He took me into my bedroom and sat me on the bed. He said,” If you ever, ever, take drugs, I will personally arrest you and throw you in jail.”

Ok, I don’t know about other families, but in my family, if my uncle said he was going to throw me in jail, that’s what he was going to do, no question. I bent my head and said, ‘Yes, uncle,” but inside I was going,”Yes! Thank god I have a reason not to take drugs!” I was rather worried about the effect chemicals might have on my body. I kind of knew I couldn’t handle anything stronger than a Tums.

So I didn’t take drugs when I was a kid, and I never have to this day. Which is pretty astonishing for my generation. I had to take a lie detector test to get hired for a record store once, and the interviewers crowded around the lie detecting machine to see if the needle would jump when I said I had never taken any drugs including marijuana. They couldn’t believe it. But that needle stayed steady. I’ve never had marijuana.

So that is why I don’t know much about it.

Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend at the time, who was a carpenter, had done some work for a friend in Lake County, and part of his pay was in marijuana. I was doing the laundry, and when I went by his jacket… whew! I smelled skunk. I thought, that’s weird, he didn’t tell me about running into any skunks. I threw his jacket into the washing machine with all my clothes. It wasn’t until the wash had gone through the whole cycle, that I found a plastic bag had been in the pocket of the jacket, with over a thousand dollars of marijuana inside. A thousand dollars worth of very soggy marijuana. Nope, that relationship did not last.

It was the day after the marijuana in the laundry that I had a very bad dog day. I was teaching in a one room schoolhouse out in a very rural, isolated community. About the only thing that hadn’t changed in that community since pioneer days 100 years ago for school teachers was that we could no longer take our students out to beat them with a regulation switch. But the very strict way teachers were expected to conduct themselves was still present. We were expected to be models of upstanding behavior for the children.

I’m in the middle of teaching when the classroom door opens and the principal comes in with a police officer. And everything stops, because the principal has not only not told me she invited the police to visit my class, but she also did not tell me the reason for the visit is to show the kids the new police dog the officers are training for… drug detection. I’m standing there in clothes that just got washed with a thousand dollars worth of marijuana, and as the very large, excited German Shepherd comes into the room, I step to the very back of the room, as far away as I can possibly get.

I try as much as possible to not give off any vibes that I exist. I remember something about dogs having a million zillion smell receptors in a centimeter of their noses. They can smell viruses, for god’s sake. I just hoped this dog had been trained to sniff out cocaine or heroin or some other more serious drug than pot.

Then, we all go outside. The officers want to demonstrate how they are training the dog to attack intruders. An officer puts on a big padded sleeve, holds it out, and the dog runs and sinks his sharp, pointed teeth into it and won’t let go. Even when the officer is trying to pull the dog off, the young, over excited dog is really into tearing the officer’s arm off, and he just won’t let go. I am against the wall of the building, with all the kids in front of me, trying to melt into the woodwork, as I watch this growling, snarling beast with lockjaw trying to dislocate the officer’s shoulder.

It is finally over, the dog is inside the police car, we graciously wave our good byes to the police. I send the kids out to recess and exhale for the first time in an hour. I seriously consider quitting my job. One bad dog day is one day too many when you’re not in the right place.

But thankfully there are good dog days.

Like the day you bring the puppy home. He’s soft like only babies can be, like a catkin bud just emerged from a willow twig. And his eyes are half closed, and all they can really see is that you have your arms around him, and he snuggles into your circle of protection. You hand him over to your six year old, knowing that in two days time, this 10 pound puppy is going to be more than she can ever carry again, as he expands, and lengthens, and grows into his paws, which are like the oven mitts from the ABC store, dangling at the end of his legs that can barely wobble him from person to person. Your daughter holds the puppy in her lap, and everything that you have ever wished for has suddenly come true. You are happy, and your daughter is happy, and the puppy is happy. And you decide that that’s what life is really all about, being this happy.

That’s a good dog day.

Published by bowenlyam

Artist, writer, educator, dance caller, food artist. I live, breathe, eat, dance, and think creativity.

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