I hate them. They torment my dog. They stand outside of our fenced in yard and look at her with their hungry eyes and I know they want to eat her. But she is safe within our gates. I hope.
But when we go out for our morning walks in the orange grove beneath our home, they are there also. Not always, but sometimes. And they watch her. From a distance usually. Hoping that she will see them and run to chase them up the grade behind my house. But today was more.
Today, as soon as we left the house to start our morning walk she was aware of them. Sniffing and tracking and tracking more. The hair on her back lifted in alert. Her nose to the ground and her movements clear and deliberate as she wound her way along their scent. Till finally she stood straight up and stared into the distance.
They're in there I said to my husband who had joined us on this morning. She knows it.
And so we called her to us quickly and walked another way. Out away from the brush and trees of the hill and towards the open space of the grove. We thought she was safe. The light was getting stronger as the sun rose from over the Topa Topa Mountains and we were close by her.
But then, turning back the way we can, but still in the grove of oranges, a coyote came out from behind a tree, up through a ditch that circles the land, and went nose to nose with my dog for an instant before turning and running away.
This is what they do. They send a weaker female down to lure their prey back to the pack. They send her down to entice my dog to chase her back to those stronger than this one, lone female is. In the hopes that my dog will follow her to then be surrounded.
And so this female, she ran nose to nose with my dog for an instant before turning and running away. And my dog ran after her. Barking and running to catch this elusive new friend.
And my husband, ran after her, too. This female coyote used as bait.
As I ran along the path, calling in a frenzied voice for my dog, he ran into the trees after the two, to also chase this female foil. And scare her away.
My dog came. Almost right away. To the sound of my voice. Thank god.
But her body was tense with focus. She wanted to run again. After this other pup-like creature that she had seen. And so I held her close till the hair on her back lay flat and her eyes looked in another direction other than the one she had just gone to.
My husband came out of the trees. Our savior.
How smart to think to run, in diagonal towards the female that had tried to lure my dog away. He is always good that way. At seeing a situation and reacting to it in an instant. A fast thinker. I do not know what I would have done without him there today. I do not want to think what could have happened to my dog.
For a while, before today, I was walking with a leash on her. Well, not at first. At first, for many months she walked free, just like today. But then, back a few months ago, the coyotes were out a lot. Outside our fence at night and in the grove and across a pasture not far from where we walk. And not always in the early morning dawn or the end of dusk when all hidden creatures come out. There were times when they would appear midmorning. Eleven o-clock. When you'd think they would be in their den and not out trying to take my dog away from me.
But they are hungry and thirsty and coming down from their home high in the mountains above where we live. And so I began to walk with her on lead. To keep her safe. Even though she comes when called. Or stops and waits for me to catch up if she walks to far ahead. Because she likes to be close. And know that I am there.
When she gets focused in on something so deeply, as she did today, I have to sometimes call and call for her to come. But I don't worry because we are in a safe place.
Except that we are not. I am reminded of that again this morning.
And so we will again be on guard. With leash and collar and treats in hand. To remind my dog to stay close. And to remind me to be aware.
It was a sad walk today, on this, a friggin' freezing morning.
It's been a year since I started this blog. December 22th, 2014 was the exact date. And I wrote about wearing good bras!. A funny piece that made people laugh. It got published in an online magazine. I think because it was relatable in that way where a group of women ( or men...this time it was women ) are all connected through an experience that is often times difficult but can be oh so funny at the same time. So that was writing number one. And many others followed.
And now it is a year later.
So I took myself through my year of writing. Reread the many pieces that I put down here and shared with you. Looking for that one piece that resonates with what is happening now. And - not surprisingly considering how often I talk about my brilliant and smart and capable and just stunningly beautiful doberman puppy - the writing that matches today is about her. Not specifically about her, really. But about how she challenges me. How she stretches me.
That is the word I used last night when I was talking to my husband about her. She stretches me still. A lot. Because she is really high maintenance in a time where my life could really be very easy. It was very easy. And then I got her.
I am told that she will become easy, too. At around 18 months some say. Others say two years. Others say never - to be funny. They are making a joke. Though I get the feeling that they aren't really.
Anyway, she stretches me. Keeps me busy. Keeps my time full. Wears on my patiences and challenges my mind to constantly challenge hers. Because she is smart. And driven. And needs to be worked.
And she is mine.
My sweet dog. And because I committed to her in my heart I also have to commit to her in her mind. Which means working her and working with her and challenging her. Stretching her as she stretches me.
I do this. Even when I would rather watch the entire season of Jessica Jones or Daredevil on Netflix.
I walk her and work her and teach her and train her and play ball with her over and over and over and over again. And then she sleeps until it's time to do more. Or else I give her a marrow bone to chew to keep her busy. Kind of like a disney movie for dogs..... come on, we've all done this!
So to celebrate this amazing and challenging dog of mine while celebrating my one year of writing each week and sharing my thoughts with you, here is my favorite writing about my sweet pup. Oh so timely still.
There's A New Dog In Town:
Actually she's the same dog I've had. My new and brilliant and beautiful and charming and incredibly capable Doberman puppy. She is 5 1/2 months old right now and is just as smart and brilliant and wonderful and beautiful and capable as she's always been. The difference is that she needs something new.
Which means that I need to do something new. Or, to be more specific, it is really about me learning something new.
I didn't know this, until this puppy that I have right now. Because all my other puppies, they kind of followed the same thing. There was a rhythm. There was an even flow. There was a familiarity. My mojo work.
But this puppy. She's different. She's got a whole new level of intensity going on. At first glance, you'd think that she has a lot to learn. And that it will be a challenge to teach her. But honestly, it's not about her ability to learn. At all. She will learn anything I teach. She is that smart. She is that capable. She is that able. It is not about her at all. Really.
It's about me.
This has happened to me before. I've been a mom three times. My first two kids, they were distinctly different from each other. They truly were. But in one sense they were both very much the same. Because they both matched me.
They matched my rhythm. They matched the even flow of my day. They were unstructured in the same way that I was and so, in turn, they followed my unstructured way of structure. They felt secure in the ease in which we lived each day, day by day and moment by moment. And they didn't question that there was no schedule to what was coming next. They didn't need a structure. They went with the flow.
And the flow was easy
And then I had my youngest daughter. Oh my. She was completely different than they were. She was completely different than I was. And so I had to learn something new.
Because the best thing we can do for our children is to parent them exactly the way they need to be parented.
It wasn't about her matching me. It was about me, as her mom, giving her exactly what she needed to be her best self. And so, whereas my first two children were able to go with ease into whatever came up at that moment without a worry about what would be coming next, my youngest daughter needed a plan. She needed to know what was to be expected. She needed to know what she was supposed to do.
And I was screwed. I had no idea how to do that.
But here is the beauty that is our children. They do not just come to us to teach us lessons we need to learn. They come to us equipped to help us learn those lessons, in any way we need them to help us. And that is exactly what my youngest child did.
Mommy, she said to me. I need you to tell me when to go to bed.
I can do that, I said to her, feeling completely inadequate and unable to do that. I think I need a little help, I said.
OK, she said. I will tell you each night it is time for you to tell me when to go to bed.
OK, I said. I can do that.
And that is exactly what I did. Each night my seven-year-old, brilliant and capable and knowing exactly what she needed daughter came to me and said Mommy I think it's time for you to tell me it's time to go to bed. And each night, after she told me, I looked at her and I said Faith, it's time for you to go to bed. And she would wish me good night and give me a hug and off she would go to bed. And she felt safe and secure. And I felt thankful. And relieved. I was serving my daughter in exactly the way she needed to be served. And she was helping me to serve her in exactly the way I needed to.
So back to my puppy.
My other puppies were easy. They matched my rhythm. They came when I called. They sat when I told them to sit. We went on walks without a leash and they followed along with tails held high and a skip to their gait. We were connected. They didn't need much structure at all. Or rather they needed the kinds of structure that I was good at. Where a command was more a conversation. Where constant loving and stroking were more important than tasks. Where we could hang out and everyone was happy.
They didn't need to work for me. They just needed to be with me.
But this, my beautiful and smart and capable and brilliant and incredible and challenging and lovely Doberman puppy, she needs more than that from me and so that is what I am learning to do. Because just as my youngest daughter needed me to give her more structure, and I learned to do that with some help from her, so I am learning to create a more concrete and structured way of living through each day with this, my incredible and beautiful and brilliantly smart Doberman puppy.
And in return I am learning so much more about myself.
I am learning that I can learn. I am learning that I can grow. I am learning that I can work as a team with my husband and with my family. I am learning that it is OK to ask somebody else for help. I am learning that it is okay to say that it is hard to take myself out of my comfort zone and do something that is best for someone else. I am learning that my puppy needs a strong and capable hand. And that she looks for that from me. And I am learning that I can do that.
That I may need help, but I can do that.
And I am learning that in giving her my best self in just this moment, she can be her best self, too.
Monday morning writing day
I usually have much to say
About the things deep in my head
That swirl around when I'm in bed
And so each Monday morning time
I weed through thoughts and prose and rhyme
And pick a topic sweet and true
In which to write and share with you
But here, today, this Monday day
The only thing I want to say
The thing that I now think about
The thoughts my mind does want to shout
Is getting me my puppy fix
Along with pup cuddles and licks
I get to hold them close and warm
While other puppies jump and swarm
I'm helping out a friend of mine
Who needs two puppies at this time
And so this litter I'll go see
And pick two pups, not one, not three
I'm so excited just to hold
These sweet new pups with hearts of gold
And soft pup skin and still new eyes
That see the world with great surprise
Their little teeth will nip at me
Their tiny paws will climb my knee
Their compact bodies will fit right
Inside my crossed legs held so tight
I'm getting me my puppy fix
Along with pup cuddle and licks
And this is all I have to say
On this, a lovely puppy day!!
We had a really interesting discussion last night. It was about race. Black/White specifically. The players involved were my husband - white, brahmin, privileged, prep school educated, good college, father was a doctor, myself - nice jewish girl from Long Island, privileged, public school, good college, Law Degree, successful father, and my husband's business partner, black, from Chicago, privileged, well educated, good college, father was a pastor. So the conversation, like all conversations, came from our own frame of reference as well as the broader understanding we each may have based on the knowledge we've acquired over our lifetimes. It was a great conversation. Honest and real. And, because of the fact that we are friends, any misunderstandings or differences of opinions were an opportunity to educate.
This conversation about racism in America today, it started with the question of whether it really still exists. Because we, meaning those who do not live it, we can't really see it. Not in the same way that someone who is it can. So just as someone Jewish may experience the anti-semitic innuendos that are prevalent throughout our society on a daily basis, and just as women will constantly experience subtle - and not so subtle - sexual harassment, not being white in America means a constant awareness that you are not white in America.
Race is a tough issue. Hard to talk about without sounding racist... hell, there is that hard to handle argument that just talking about it is racist in the fact that there would be nothing to talk about if we didn't notice these differences that divide us even while we claim that they don't.
And hard to talk about because when something isn't easily seen by those who are affected by it, it is then very easy to say that it isn't really happening.
Here's an example. When spousal abuse occurs, and it is physical abuse, we all see it. The bruises and broken bones. We see and and so we know it's real. But what of the abuse that is not seen. The shaming and control, the belittling and manipulation. The emotional abuse that is constant and debilitating but that is invisible to the world. In a sense a worse abuse because of its insidious nature. So much harder to believe because the outward manifestation of the abuse is not presented to us in a way that we can process within our general understanding of what abuse is.
This is the heart of racism in America today.
An insidious current that runs along the underbelly of our society. And so those of us who don't live it, because we can't see it, we can say that is is not there anymore. That Jim Crow no longer lives here in America. That we are all equal. But that is not the case.
Just a bit of history: "Throughout the 1830s and '40s, the white entertainer Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808-1860) performed a popular song-and-dance act supposedly modeled after a slave. He named the character Jim Crow. The, after the American Civil War (1861-1865), most southern states and, later, border states passed laws that denied blacks basic human rights. It is not clear how, but the minstrel character's name "Jim Crow" became a kind of shorthand for the laws, customs and etiquette that segregated and demeaned African Americans primarily from the 1870s to the 1960s" (http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/origins.htm).
And Jim Crow is alive and well and living in America.
And if he were a man rather than a methodology he is laughing with joy in the passenger seat of the black man who must be extra polite when he's pulled over for a traffic violation or he is the sales person watching a black patron take in their surroundings in a store to make sure that no-one suspects them of taking something. He is the owner of our jails, still being filled by blacks arrested for minor crimes but unable to fight against an imperial justice system created for the betterment of those who created it. He is the writer of our textbooks, used in our schools to educate our children about race in this country by failing to truthfully educate our children about race in this country. He gifts us tinted glasses, forcing us to see each other as different from ourselves. And he takes over our egos so that we do not admit that we see each other differently than ourselves.
He owns our media and whitewashes (interesting how that word works) our stories. He pretends that all is good while never letting those he has marked forget that all is not.
When I go out in the world, no one knows that I am Jewish. For most of my life I was more often mistaken for Italian when asked my heritage. And there was a period of time where I was really relieved about that. There weren't many other Jewish women at my college, and so it was easier for me not to stand out. Because anti-semitism was right there, in my classroom, my dorm room, at parties and social gatherings. We went to B-jew instead of BU when we went to Boston University for a party. And any talk of wealth came back to being Jewish about your money. I kept my mouth shut for those years. Felt shame and anger but not enough to call them out, because that would call me out and it was easier to blend in.
And here's the thing. I was able to blend in. And, though prejudiced against for who I was, I had the choice to separate myself from it. Not deal with it. It was definitely not the best choice. I regret that I didn't use my voice and call out those who felt compelled, whether with intent or through ignorance, to stereotype a group of people who were different than themselves. But still, the choice was there. I didn't have to fight the battle every day.
I didn't have to be what being black in America today forces one to be. Hyper aware. Vigilant. Careful.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.