July 28th, 2009


Two Kinds of Love

I think it's impossible to live with someone for years and not draw lessons from them, about the way they live and interact and express themselves.

Even if those people are dogs.

I have two: a golden retriever named Sage, and a german shepherd named Grimm. I got Sage in Japan when my ex-husband left on his first (9-month) cruise, in order, basically, to not kill myself from loneliness. If I had to take care of something, I would probably keep going. I drove to West Virginia to get Grimm because her mother's name was Breeze, which is the name of my ex-husband's family dog, who I had known as long as I'd known him, and who had just passed away due to complications with hip dysplasia at the time. Sometimes Breeze took better care of me than the ex did. It's been hard to have two big dogs and travel and work, but I love them so. They are my monsters, and my goofy girls, and my twin hounds at the gates of dawn.

But they are two very different creatures, and sometimes, like this morning, when I couldn't sleep and so went to curl up in the guest room and Grimm padded quietly in behind me, unwilling to be in a separate room than I, I think about how differently they express love, and what that has taught me about human love.

Sage is practically the perfect dog. She's fluffy and yellow and has no behavioral problems, but is very quirky and hilarious. You can wrestle with her and be rough with her and she will never bite back (though I have taught her literally the greatest trick ever, which is to wrinkle up her muzzle and growl when I throw horns and say: "Be Metal!" Someday I'll get that on YouTube). She is patient (with the face-biting and all) and loves everyone. She's boisterous with affection and stares lovingly at just about everyone who comes into the house--because Sage is a bit of a free love advocate. God help you if you're male. She has a distinct gender preference. But of course we're special and she especially loves

justbeast , who is like her human OTP. And what's more, everyone loves Sage. People react to her with unerring positivity. She's the All-American Dog, despite being Japanese. They cuddle her and play with her. Everything she does, even bad things, is adorable. There is a line of people waiting for this dog if we ever got it in our heads to move to Ulan Bator and had to give her up.

Grimm is almost twice as big as Sage. She doesn't really know she is, though. She whacks her front or back half on walls she thinks she's safely past, and awkwardly galumphs everywhere. Yet she's so careful and dainty and reserved. She's embarrassed of her size and awkwardness. She doesn't like to be cuddled too long, and she has opinions about her dignity. She has trouble with manners--she barks at everyone as they walk by, not to threaten! She thinks she's being neighborly. But people leap back from her in terror. She's absolutely beautiful--but she looks like a wolf. People are afraid of her, even though she's so sweet and would never bite anyone. People react to her with worry and fear, and no one asks to pet her when we walk her. It pains me that she is so often the ignored one, or avoided, because she's just about the best dog ever. She quietly moves through the house to be wherever I am, and positions herself between me and any door, the better to guard me, and when justbeast  tickles me, she gets worried that I'm hurt, and howls and nips his feet till he stops. When we took her to the ocean, she came into the sea when I led her, but was not impressed, and once she was out was beside herself with anxiety that I was not with her, but was swimming around in it OMG.

(Interesting side note: both dogs are extremely intelligent. But Sage cannot catch things in her mouth to save her life--she love vegetables and eats all the zucchini ends, prancing about with them like they're prizes. But she will literally let one hit her in the face and open her mouth to catch it like two second later. Grimm can snatch anything out of mid air as fast as it leaves your hand. Grimm is very quick and almost scary in her intuition. Sage is a goober.)

Sage's love is easy to recognize. It's universal. She's happy and fuzzy and cute. Grimm's is harder. She's wolfish and sometimes aloof and doesn't always know what to do in social situations. People look at her and are sure she's mean. She doesn't do hilarious tricks and you can't wrestle with her, she's too big and GSDs can be fragile--and it just worries her that you want to fight. (She is utterly convinced of my dominance, and doesn't see why we have to have it out again. When she misbehaves she instantly rolls over to show me her throat. This is because the first day I brought both dogs home I flipped them on their backs and put my teeth on their throat and growled. Later, Rinse, Repeat, Alpha.)

Grimmy is a lot like me. People judge from a distance, think that because I bark loudly I'm mean and angry and by my nature unkind. Because I am awkward and toothy and often weird. I'm not a golden retriever. My love is not very fuzzy, until you get past the wolfish exterior. I've had Sage lovers and Grimm lovers and boy, the Grimm kind is always harder. It's so easy to love a Sage. They return everything you give them instantly, photogenically. They're awesome, and fun, and a balm to someone neurotic like me who is always convinced no one really likes them. justbeast  and Sage get on like houses for a reason, though of course the analogy isn't perfect.

And yet, when I woke up this morning, it was Grimm who was curled up by the guest bed, determined not to spend a single night away from me, quietly, gently, showing her loyalty and love and protection. I knew she was there without even opening my eyes. I stretched out my hand with them still closed, and without any word being spoken, she got up and put her head in my hand.

Then I went and tackled Sage and we wrestled.

The world is not divided into two kinds of love. But sometimes my house is. And both are real and true and whenever I look at Grimm I promise myself to try to see the wolfy love of people I know who do not seem fuzzy and bouncy or boisterous in their affections--because I do not. Because my love is not easy or cute and people miss it, a lot. But in the end, I'll always be there in the morning, putting my head in your hands.
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Just a City Boy...

I have many siblings. Three brothers and a sister to be exact. They are not as internet-addicted as I am, and are certainly not used to the sort of open mic live without a net spotlight shining on your life aspect of being a blogger and an author. So I don't talk about them too much, because this part of my world is not part of their world--despite me being the oldest! You'd thing the young'uns would be all over this declarative living Tweet-everything aesthetic. But it ain't so.

But today I really want to talk about one of my brothers--the one closest in age to me, about five years younger. Let's call him Mark, for the sake of Millenial Modesty. (That's not his name.)

Mark has always been way cooler than me.

How this happened, given our age differences, I cannot tell. How is that an eight year old was more clued into geeky indie culture than a thirteen year old? How could that possibly occur? And yet Mark has always been WAY ahead of the trend curve.

I still remember, in like freaking 1991, a very serious eight year old boy coming up to me with a CD in his hands.

"You have to listen to this. It's cool. It's called Flood, by this band called They Might Be Giants."

This is even weirder when you consider that for most of his life, Mark listened to thrashy metal rap and exhibited traditional American male signs of dominance. He collected beer bottles and played Sega Genesis till his eyes bled. He is not and was not a geek, in either the social sense or the cultural sense. He spent a lot of time lifting weights and driving way too fast and once hilariously owned a fellow student in my grad program by intoning: "I didn't read that book, but I can bench press 300 pounds." He has never identified with geeks, ever, and bringing my geeky friends to visit is much like waving a red flag in front of a snarky bull.

But he knew about TMBG long before I did. And Green Day, and Napster, and a whole host of other things. He gave me a copy of Watchmen when I was 15 and he was 10, for crying out loud. I beat him on blogs, as he's never had one, but that's about it. His coolness has always vastly outstripped mine.

We probably have equally cool jobs. He declined college and went to culinary school and is a very young and successful executive chef. I'm obscenely proud of him.

And today, playing Journey on Rock Band, I remembered an equally serious 20 year old about five years ago shaking his finger in my face and saying with total sincerity:

Journey is the greatest band in the history of the world.

And then busting out in to Don't Stop Believin' in the middle of the street. (This is also much funnier when you realize that most of the time he also exhibits traditional American male taciturnity.)

Which is now everyone's go-to inspirational song and Journey has had quite the renaissance in cool.

My brother and his preternatural sense of awesome. I miss him, I never get to see him since he's on the other coast and we both work ugly hours. But from afar, I want to put out there that he rules, not only because he's way cooler than me, but because he has the ability to say things that are outrageous and sometimes profane but desperately need saying, a courage I've not always had--and what I have I learned in large part from him. Also he's the funniest person I know. This Bud's for him, I guess.

And you know what? Journey is pretty fucking great.
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