Drool in the Pool

Took Celie and Iris to the long-awaited Drool in the Pool.  After the local pool closes for the Fall, they have a night (two nights this year) where dogs are allowed to swim.  It’s kind of a nutty scene with large retrievers and labs heaving themselves into the diving pool with an enormous splash to fetch tennis balls.  I treasure the memory from last year’s event of this little fat pug doing a determined dog-paddle around the perimeter of the pool while wearing a life vest with a handle on top.  As dogs five times his size leapt heedlessly over him, he had this expression of concentration on his face, like “just doing my laps, folks, don’t splash please!”   When it looked like he was starting to get tired, his owner reached in and scooped him out.

The girls spent about 20 minutes throwing a purple plastic bone for a sweet dog named Zoe.  It all went great until Celie accidentally clocked another little girl in the ear with the bone.  I sort of saw that coming — they were heaving the bone without a whole lot of scrupulous aiming.

That’s odd, someone posted a video from last year’s DITP with a soundtrack of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.”  huh?

I hate to say it, but the whole Drool in the Pool concept makes me reflect that a normal day at the pool is basically Pee in the Pool, considering the number of babies and toddlers splashing around.  Remember, “the use of swim diapers and swim pants may give many parents a false sense of security.”

Introducing Pot Luck

So, we somehow ended up naming the kitty Pot Roast.  No, wait, that’s not it… Pork Chop?  Oh, that’s right — it’s Pot Luck.  I think it’s kind of cute, actually.   We can call him Lucky for short.

He is still soldiering along.  He’s gotten a lot better at drinking from the bottle, and bigger (we think).  He lives in the bathtub now on his heating pad.

OK, back to the obsessive reading of political blogs (Palin’s actual speech is in half an hour).  Pot Luck should be the nominee — he’s authentic, he’s an ordinary kitty, other kitties can really relate to what he’s gone through.  He has executive experience managing a medium-sized bathtub.

New kitty!

Here’s the new kitty (the one Sarah brought home in the middle of Obama’s speech)!

Sarah was visiting her friend Julie; Julie’s daughter Haley had brought this little guy home the day before — I think a teacher at Haley’s school had found an abandoned litter.  We have not yet formally committed to keeping him permanently and as far as Celie and Iris understand, it’s a foster care situation.  Julie and Haley were calling him “Dito” which I don’t think we’re going to retain.  The girls seems to want to call him something like Blackie, but we’re trying to steer them gently away from that.  (Oy, just thought about the Obama speech context — OK, any “Blackie”-type name is definitely off limits.  Maybe Hope or Change?)

So far he’s mostly all about trying to learn how to drink from the little bottle, at which he scrabbles fiercely.  He’s just beginning to learn how to crawl a bit.  Right now he’s kind of pouncing on and attacking a tiny stuffed bear, which is a big breakthrough.

I’m concerned that he’ll turn out to have some sort of feral-kitty trauma, but we’ll see, and he’s pretty cute.

Kathryn Davis’s The Thin Place

Kathryn Davis’s The Thin Place is a really unusual, enchanting novel. “Everyone prefers to stick with the subject of people” but this novel opens up the characterological range to include several dogs, moose, beavers, a pike, tadpoles, and even lichen. As well as old people, children, and a more usual range of human persons. It has a Virginia Woolf quality in its roving free-indirect-discourse that slips easily in and out of multiple consciousnesses and voices. “So many things are alive: lichen, moss, grass. Also people. So many people are alive and that’s what’s strange, not that things like stones aren’t.” Also, a range of written modes and forms including police logs, newspaper reports, a diary, an astrological report; and working within various time frames and registers including the present day, the late nineteenth century, and the geological or evolutionary time of glaciers and rock. The surprising thing is, though, that the novel does not feel contrived or very “experimental;” it’s involving and funny in its depiction of a New England town during a summer with some odd things happening; you could almost imagine it as an Oprah pick. Maybe it was Davis’s half-hearted attempt at selling out and writing a popular book — if so, I hope it worked.

It’s especially good on “the minds of twelve year-old girls,” filled with “human sacrifices, cockeyed sexual adventures both sadistic and masochistic, also kitties with balls of yarn… and disembowelings.”

Pets in ‘The Savages’

I was pretty sure I’d like The Savages — Laura Linney as a depressed playwright/temp, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a thwarted, dysfunctional prof endlessly working on a book about Brecht, sibling rivalry, wounded narcissism, what’s not to like? But I liked it even more than I expected. (Maybe I just like movies about Buffalo — I loved Buffalo 66). One bit I especially liked (warning, spoiler ahead) was when Wendy (the Laura Linney character) tells her brother that she’s been awarded a Guggenheim to work on her play. We believe it too (we see her open the letter and gasp) although it seems a bit unlikely; eventually we learn that it was actually a FEMA grant that she applied for on the basis of losing her temp job after 9/11. This says so much so economically about her and their brother-sister relationship: she feels intellectually and creatively unrewarded, and not fully respected by him; she yearns for recognition, praise, support; and it’s fitting, given her sense of being generally traumatized by life, that the grant she does get would not be from the Guggenhein Foundation but the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There are interesting things going on about animals and pets throughout. When Wendy is having bad sex with her married lover, she looks over at his sweet golden lab (I think) and kind of reaches out to its paw, with the obvious implication that she feels a more genuine connection with the dog than with its owner. She eventually dumps the guy because he neglects and almost kills her plant, and she’s always concerned about her cat Genghis, whom she drags around in a pet carrier. At one point the brother is awakened by a midnight phone call; we assume it’s about their father in the nursing home, but it turns out that it’s the cat that is the problem — Genghis has escaped in their father’s room. In other words, the filmmaker (Tamara Jenkins) plays a little with our sense of who can appropriately fill the position of “object of care.” The father is the primary such object but the role is also filled by a dog, cat, and plant.

The movie ends with a nice touch. The married boyfriend returns to Wendy to try to make up with a bouquet of flowers (after the plant episode). She asks where Marly (his dog) is and he explains that she’s going to be put to sleep tomorrow: her hips are shot, she can’t move around and is horribly depressed, there is an operation they could do but it’s complicated (and presumably expensive). “She’s just old,” he says. With sympathy — the point is not that he’s awful to his dog — but it’s a reminder of the expendibility of every creature: we are all, we’re reminded, in a process of decay, our bodies are falling apart (see the photo of the Seymour Hoffman character above in a neck brace), we’re all a bit like Marly, and look what has to happen to her, “put to sleep” (like the cat, she’s a proxy for the father.) The scene ends with Wendy asking “can I just ask you one favor?” and then it cuts to a year later when her play is being performed. We think, “did she ask him to help her produce her play?”– and then we see her jogging with Marly trotting behind in some kind of elaborate dog wheelchair contraption. She has adopted Marly, the old dog, and offered her the unconditional love and care she never got and always craved from her father, and that she could not herself give him. The impossible wish of the movie has been that the father, or maybe anyone, could get better, not be sick, not decay and fall humiliatingly apart; in these final scenes, Marly gets to fulfill this wish that has been otherwise denied.

Boss donkey

not an actual donkey we sawSarah and I and the girls went to visit some donkeys and a horse at a nearby stable. They had gone last week without me. I wasn’t sure it was necessarily OK to wander in and feed the animals, but Sarah was confident this was all right. There were 7 or so donkeys and a horse, also a sweet barn cat who followed us out to the field and acted as if she wanted some celery and carrots too. The donkeys were very adorable; they seem miniaturized like a puppy or kitten. There was one boss donkey who wanted all the food and definitely wanted to be in charge of who got the food when. There was a bit of boss-donkey-management required — one of us had to tempt him away to one side with some good carrot pieces and then the other subservient donkeys could quickly be fed a few pieces.