Monthly Archives: February 2014

If Dogs Could Talk…

Maya WinterWhy would you get a dog as a life companion when you already have a house full of human companions?  Why would you voluntarily bring another living creature into your life that needs feeding, bathing, walking, etc. (I am not even talking about housebreaking)?  First and foremost, dogs don’t talk; and second, they follow directions.   They actually do what they are told without voicing their opinions, or postponing it to later.  Their sole purpose is to be present.  By just doing that they provide unconditional acceptance and love, fill you up with tons of warm and cozy energy, lift your mood, and make you a better person overall.   They don’t care how much money you make, or if you kill your grandma, dogs will make you feel better anyway, and they will accomplish it without uttering a single word.

Sure, dogs know how to communicate.  Their ears and tails speak sometimes louder than words.  If I see my dog laying on the rug quietly with her ears and tail down, looking in the opposite direction, pretending she does not see me, I know something is up.  She knows that eating sleepers or chewing pillows is wrong; not that it stops her from doing it.  Sound of her tail hitting the wall or the staircase indicates that someone she loves is about to open the door.  At times I am afraid she would break her tail (if such thing is possible), but she does not seem to be in any pain.   Then wagging the tail turns into wagging her whole body, with her little tuchis rotating 360 degrees with an incredible speed, followed by jumping on her object of love until he acknowledges her existence.

Dogs could be quite loud at times, especially when they perceive something as unknown or dangerous.  Balloons, for example, put my dog in an instant state of panic, causing her to bark at the top of her lungs for a few minutes, and then, realizing that the balloon is not scared, slowly move backwards while watching the balloon closely to make sure it is not following her.   The other day she saw some “weird” people shoveling the snow from my second floor window.  They either were making strange noises with the shovels or came too close to my property; in any case it was not right and clearly deserved a bark.  But after a few minutes she felt it was not worth the effort, and relaxed on the couch.  The danger is also eminent when people talk loudly, smoke, or otherwise do not exhibit good manners.   I can’t blame her; that’s her noble upbringing speaking.   She makes an exception for my screaming, establishing early on that any involvement is useless; plus you never argue with the boss.

Dogs also communicate with their actions.  I remember when we were potty training my dog, she did not want to pee outside.  We held her in the backyard for hours waiting for her to do “the business”.  We asked, urged, begged; we offered treats, praises; we tried every recommendation in the book and more.  She did not budge.  She was like a soldier willing to sacrifice her life (bladder), but not surrender one inch to the enemy.  As soon as we gave up and let her in, she sat in the middle of the room, and peed.  She took her sweet time; as the puddle expanded, she kept looking straight into my husband’s eyes, silently declaring her small, but important victory.   He said the dog was as stubborn as I was.  I considered it a compliment.   She had character; I liked it.


If dogs could talk it would change everything.  The animal adoptions would drastically reduce, or stop altogether.   I have a theory that people do good things not because they are good, but because of how it makes them feel.  Think what you want of me, but I, certainly, don’t need another creature telling me how to live my life.

Talking, as a mechanism of forming words, is not an indication of intelligence, education, or that the person has something to say. It is a guarantee, though, that there will be a noise with the shades of judgment, opinion, attitude, social pressure, and comparison to others.  Even things that have not been said; you knew they were there, on the tip of the tongue, trying to escape, but pushed back all the way back to where they were coming from.   That is a human nature to compare and to judge.  People who love you would try to protect you, make you fit into society.  People who hate you would try to make you miserable, and bring you down.  No matter what the intentions are the elements of judgment and comparison are still there.

Of course, you can go to the therapist and try to fix the “talking” with more talking; or you can take a pill and pretend that “talking” does not bother you anymore.   There are few other well-known ways to escape the reality not appropriate for promotion.  The fact of the matter is that sometimes I don’t want any more talking; I just want to stop thinking, relax, and inhale these happy serotonins and endorphins that come out of my warm, furry, four-legged companion.  I want them to somehow pass into my blood stream, enter my brain, triggering the chemical reaction of transforming me into a happier person.  She brings me comfort.  She brings me peace.  Her love is pure and unconditional, her acceptance is absolute.



Will This Kid Ever Stop Talking?

I offered my son money to stop talking.  I was running out of options.  He said: ”$1.00 is not a fair price.  If you give me $20 I will think about it.”  $20 was unreasonable, and he knew it.  To be fair, I was sure that torturing his parents was not part of his plan; he was just enjoying himself too much.  He could easily become a winner of the Entertainer of Yourself Award; in fact, his room would be filled with these trophies in no time.

It was a winter break, and we were driving to a two-day getaway in the Catskills.  Tiny, annoying drizzles started falling as our overprotective dog cautiously sniffed every single inch of the car, possibly looking for drugs, guns, poison or anything else that could harm her family.  Finally, she settled in the back, squeezing her cute, black head between the passenger and the driver in the front seat, so that she could have an unobstructed view of the road.   The two and a half hour drive started smoothly, with the older son listening to music on his iPhone, the younger son watching something on his tablet, and the lucky parents discussing the evolving political situation in Ukraine.   As soon as we crossed into New Jersey my younger son began talking, then singing, then making random noises, then back to talking.

There were a lot of things he needed to discuss, or bring to our attention; a lot of jokes he wanted to share.  His music repertoire kept expanding, ranging from classic rock to blues to opera to pop.  He improvised with various sound effects, changed volume, experimented with backup singing, accents, instruments and lyrics.  In the sudden attacks of love caused by his own extraordinary performance, he impulsively hugged the dog so tight that she decided to move back to the front to avoid an accidental man (dog) slaughter.

We’ve always traveled with kids.  Even 12 hours across the Atlantic was easier. An airplane noise, lots of people around, meals, movies, and anticipation of the unknown slowed him down a bit.  We drove 10 hours to Canada, and 8 hours to Virginia, but then he was younger and calmer; or maybe I was younger and my nervous system was in a better shape.

I’ve heard stories about kids playing X-boxes or watching DVDs in the car.  I’ve judged their parents.  Overload of electronics at home was bad enough; on vacation kids were supposed to free their minds and enjoy the family time.  I did not judge these poor people anymore.   Now, I understood like never before that it was a survival strategy.

I asked my son if he could go on his tablet for a little while.  He said:”The Wi-Fi is not working.”  That explained everything.  He asked if he could go on his dad’s iPhone instead.  The answer was “NO”.  For me it meant a complete and irreversible surrender of my electronics policy, as well as demonstrating my weakness as a parent.  So, I’ve chosen to suffer.

He did not drink or eat anything before we left.  He went to bed late and woke up early.  He was not on steroids or any other medication.  Why he was not tired?  Where all this energy was coming from?  Can I have some of it?  I tried to meditate looking at the naked trees and blinding white snow rapidly passing in the window.  I wished I had earplugs.

My husband regretted not taking any calming pills with us, though they would not, most likely, help much.   I came up with the idea of installing sound proof glass between the front and back seats, with the small window to be opened only in the rare cases of giving commands or passing water and snacks.   If it was done in taxi cabs, it could be done in regular cars.  I am sure this new option would become quite popular with parents; they would be willing to pay a lot of money for it.  But for now we were stuck. The concert continued, a new play was being rehearsed, a stand-up comedy routine carried out. The one-man show performed by our tireless maestro went on.  His success was unappreciated, but, nonetheless brought him incredible pleasure and satisfaction.

We had a great time at the Ranch.  It was drizzling the first day, but we still went hiking, snow tubing, played pool, scrabble, and saw an awesome comedy show.  The next day brought delicious breakfast, pool, a hay ride, archery and riding horses.   The mountain air was intoxicating; the forest was covered with pure white snow, in some places damaged by animal footprints.   Horses slowly went up and down the mountain dragging their heavy feet through the thin trails, stepping in the dirty watery mess, made by melting snow.  It was warm and sunny.  I could barely see anything, since sun reflected in the snow completely blinded me.  I did not want to go back to the stables.

On the ride back my son significantly improved the length and substance of his performance.  It took us an hour longer to get home due to a huge traffic on Washington Bridge.  He asked me at dinner why I was cranky.  I had no answer.



The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

1964 French cinematic opera, composed by Michel Legrand and starring stunning Catherine Deneuve, began as a passionate love story of an umbrella store sales girl and an auto mechanic.  The sight of people walking the rainy cobble streets of Cherbourg under the colorful umbrellas, set to the most romantic music of all times, built an anticipation of the strong feelings overcoming everything and anything.   There was no force in the Universe powerful enough to keep 17-year-old Genevieve and 20-year-old Guy apart.   They were madly in love, cherishing every moment they spent together.   The scene at the train station, with Genevieve weeping, singing  heart-breaking “I Will Wait For You” to her beloved Guy going away to the war in Algeria, left no doubt that the song promise would be kept.

However, the long distance relationship did not last long.  After a few months of loneliness, waiting for an occasional letter, pregnant Genevieve decided to marry the wealthy diamond dealer.  Guy did not die of a heart-break either.  He married his aunt’s nurse shortly after his return from the war.

They met accidentally at Guy’s gas station, four years later.  Both had families with a child named Francese (the name they’ve decided on before the split).  The snow was falling; Genevieve got out of her car and followed Guy inside the gas station featuring a huge Christmas tree decorated by his wife and son.  Polite greetings followed. She offered him to meet his daughter, waiting in the car, but he did not seem too excited about it.  They parted shortly after, mostly likely never destined to meet again. The entire scene was accompanied by “I Will Wait For You”.

The movie is incredibly beautiful; at times enormously poignant and dreamy, at times tearing your heart out.  Based on the melody, I want to believe that they still love each other, and their lack of emotions is just an act to preserve their new lives each has created without the other.  In any case, the story line and the musical subtext are utterly at odds.  I got quite confused by this disconnect.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is not the only European classic that has an unclear end.  In fact, most of them do.  Various circumstances easily push the love birds apart, making them pursue options more suitable for comfortable, secure life.  Living for a moment rather than a lifetime seems to be a recurring theme.  Jumping in the sea of love usually follows by doing what makes sense, and cherishing the happy memories.

American classics, on the other hand, always have a happy end.  It does not matter what comes next, how long it would last, how poor/sick/ insane you may become, or how many other people would be unhappy as a result of your happiness; LOVE is all that matters.  Happy end is the ultimate goal that gives the movie its purpose.   Consequently, Americans (at least in the movies) are much more likely to commit spontaneous, emotional acts of insanity, otherwise known as love, for a longer period of time. And I’ve always thought Americans were the more pragmatic ones.