Mr. Improbable left of a business trip last night. Milo was not happy.
Mr. Improbable was out of town this week, so as usual I took the opportunity to catch up with some of my girlfriends. Friday night, two friends from synagogue came over for pizza and vodka whipped cream and general silliness. We made it a slumber party because I didn’t want them driving home, and they had a class near my neighborhood in the morning anyway.
Erika and Molly are a lesbian couple who have been married for five years or so. And here’s the thing: Milo figured that out. He immediately realized that these were not two separate people, these were a PACK. If one of them told him to do something he didn’t want to do, he’d look at the other to see if she really meant it. He spent most of his time sitting in between them, and was happiest when he could be touching both of them at the same time. If they weren’t close enough to do that, he’d at least manage to be able to watch them both at the same time.
That’s not how he acts with any two people, even good friends. That’s how he acts with me and Mr. Improbable. That’s how he acts with a pack.
God knows I am not one to sentimentalize dogs or their innocence or insight or capacity for teaching moral lessons. I find that an insult to both philosophy and dogs. But Milo has no politics. He has no ideology. He only knows what his senses tell him, and what they told him is that my friends Molly and Erika are one.
My dog can recognize gay marriage. I hope the rest of the world catches up with him soon.
Milo is a good liberal who respects all treat-bearing people equally and recognizes nontraditional families. He ain’t no damn hippie, though. When Erika pulled out a guitar and started singing folk songs to him, he totally flipped a nutty. Good dog.
The wild hecticness of the past two weeks ought to end on Tuesday night: I will have finished the Last of the Big Projects at Harvard Business School, and Mr. Improbable will (ash willing) be home.
I’ve missed him, but Milo and I had gotten into a nice routine of walks and napping (Milo)/working (me), and then in the evenings snuggling and watching movies and TV together. (I did wind up watching “Caprica.”) It’s been okay.
And it gave Milo an excellent opportunity to practice his comic timing.
He has an uncanny knack for sighing, growling, grumbling at the perfect moment when we’re watching a video, and I swear he’s getting better at it. I’m not pretending to be one of those dog owners who insists her dog understands English (even if he did, he still wouldn’t know what’s going on on “Lost” any more than I do). But he likes the attention of being laughed at, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s figured out that growling when he hears the sound of a threatening voice, or sighing when the music swells dramatically, will get him laughs.
I love how whenever Milo chases a squirrel up a tree (and he’s not allowed to chase squirrels unless there is a tree, fence, or pole they can get to) he runs around the base of the tree, barking and barking as though that is going to make the squirrel come back down.
It’s like those guys who will yell at you on the street, “Hey, baby, wanna take a ride in my car?” and when you ignore them, shout, “Bitch, you ain’t that fine anyway!”
The squirrels never fall for it. Neither do the women.
I’ve got a discussion going on the other blog today about “What is romantic?” in honor of Valentine’s Day. That’s probably where the action will be, so go check it out.
And here’s a little story I’m not sharing with the boston.com crowd: yesterday, I was doing a radio interview on the same topic. What is romance, do men and women define it differently, media versus actual people’s ideas of romance, etc. During the entire interview, Milo was sitting at my feet, happily pleasuring himself.
No, I didn’t mention it. That, my friends, is what it means to be a professional.
The terrier in winter:
The Milo arrived yesterday!
Not our dog Milo, of course; he’s been home with us all this lazy week, and enjoying very much having two relaxed and largely unproductive humans to snooze on. I mean the annual gift of Milo, the malted chocolate beverage, that someone has been leaving us every Christmas since Milo, the dog, arrived to live with us.
No Milo arrived this Christmas day, which amused me; did my newfound joy in Christmas somehow mean I had to give up the Milo of my Scroogier days? But yesterday, there it was on the porch, carefully wrapped.
We gave it to Milo to open:
But he liked the bubble wrap better:
The blogs that I like best, like Andrew Sullivan‘s and Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s, bounce around to a bunch of different topics, more or less like I do. The fact is, though, it’s easier for a new blog to get attention if it’s specialized: fashion, politics, sports, science, Christian, literary, whatever.
But don’t worry. Although I’m pretty sure no one has covered this niche, the preponderance of posts having to do with dogs and/or springtime-green coats is not going to become the sole focus of this blog. But at the risk of beating the topic to death, I did want to share a couple more pictures that I found of Milo and me while perusing my hard drive.
I’d lived in Boston for a good 10 years before succumbing to the need for a puffy coat, but having a dog who requires a morning walk quickly made it obvious that fashion was going to have to take a back seat to necessity. So I chose — of course! — a nice springy green one from
Land’s End L.L. Bean. It arrived in the mail, and I tried in on, and then came upstairs to model it for Mr. Improbable and Milo.
Milo, whom we’d only had for a few months, completely flipped a nutty when the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Woman came at him. The hood covered my face, and the strong plastic-y odor of the coat’s wrapping masked my own smell.
Once he realized it was me, of course, we made up.
Take a look, though, at his body language in that first picture. That is one scared dog. Look how far down his ears are tucked, how much eye-white you can see, how his hindquarters are bunched under him, ready to protect his vitals, or to spring. Everyone knows to beware of a dog that is snarling, hackles up, baring its teeth. But a dog who looks like Milo does here can be just as dangerous, if not more so. The vast majority of the time, a normal dog’s aggression is not driven by “dominance” issues, but by fear.
Kind of like people.
So maybe the next time you’re faced with an angry coworker, or in-law, or child, if you can, take a step back and ask yourself what’s really motivating them. Often, treating angry people as though they are afraid can be a remarkable way of defusing tension.
Milo (right) and our houseguest Kaiser (left). This rather serene-looking photo does not nearly do justice to the epic, pitched battle of tug that was going on. Milo is a terrier mix with speed and home-field advantage; Kaiser is a French bulldog with terrific muscle power on his side. As Mr. Improbable put it, “It’s like watching a soccer player versus a sumo wrestler.”
Tomorrow is Milo’s fourth “Gotcha Day” with us! I wrote a little essay about him on his second, and a poem for him on his third. Digging through some old computer files, recently, I found something I’d written a couple of months after we got him, that will suffice as this year’s celebratory post:
Much as I often type “teh” instead of “the,” I’ve discovered–since the arrival of Milo, our adorable mixed-breed rescue dog–that I usually type “god” when I mean “dog.” I always manage to notice this and correct it, usually with an obscure feeling of guilt. However, if I hadn’t, here are some of the things I would have written in various e-mails to friends in the past month:
• If you’re really not up for having a god in the house along with the new baby that’s perfectly okay.
• He is a great god, bra fetish notwithstanding.
• And we have a new god, who is a constant source of puzzlement and delight, and who appears to find us much the same.
• He’s a gentle god but “calm” is not a word I would use to describe him.
• We are working on “quiet god” right now.
• My husband and my god like each other.
• If anyone is afraid of or allergic to gods be assured that he will be crated and upstairs during our meeting. If anyone likes gods you can go meet him after we’ve concluded our business.
• The important question is how are you doing these days, and the really important question is when are you going to come admire my new god?
• And can I force you all to admire the attached picture of my new god, bravely defending us against an evil, scary bunch of bananas?
• He doesn’t feel the need to mark his territory as male gods often do.
• On the upside, I LOVE MY NEW GOD! He is the BEST god ever and we just signed the adoption papers today.
Happy Gotcha Day, little man. While your humans are cavorting in Italy, you are staying with a friend in the country, and I hope you are having a wonderful time. We are probably looking at all of the Italian dogs and saying to ourselves, and sometimes each other, “That dog’s not as cute as Milo.” You remain a source of puzzlement and delight to us, and it appears we remain so to you, as well.
And here, for anyone who cares to see it, is the picture of Milo the second night we had him, defending his new home against that sleeper cell of terrorist bananas (he’d been barking at them, so we put them on the floor and let him investigate):