Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fair Game

I think this dog could track a french fry from a mile and a half away. I'd put her in search and rescue school in a minute if there was one nearby and I could afford it. Her goal every day is to smell everything we can get to before dark, nothing more. I can hide a thimbleful of peanut butter anywhere in the house and she goes straight to it. She could care less about walking if it doesn't involve her nose on the ground.

One day last week she bolted out the front door when I opened it to speak to a young man selling gutters. It scared the crap out of the guy but of course she meant no harm. Knowing full well that dogs have gotten shot by police officers for less, we had a pretty serious training session right after that and for now anyway, she's got the idea down. Stay means stay (for the 200th time).

As far as walking goes, and french fries for that matter, we try to change up the places we go so it doesn't get too boring or predictable. Occasionally, we even go back to the fairgrounds. It's spacious there when the flea market isn't in town and a good portion of it is fenced in although I don't usually let Stella run free there.

Sooner or later, we end up on the midway side, sitting on a curb watching traffic in the same exact place we met a year and a half ago. She's very attentive to the landscape and I tell myself (anthropomorphizing at length) that she remembers how fun and crazy her life was before me. Whether she does or doesn't is secondary I suppose, to the fact that when we stand up and walk away we're totally in step with one another. That is until her nose drags her to that next Smoky Joe wrapper.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to cruise the Tennessee State Fairgrounds forever. Despite the fact that there's a viable plan to improve it, there's also a group of moneychangers who have managed to convince the Mayor that it costs the city money. The truth is, it's a historic piece of property, one of the very first in Nashville. It has consistently made money for the city for over a hundred years. A commenter on a local blog recently referred to it as a "sh*t pit". This of course, is nothing shy of bigotry. The fairgrounds is a sea of asphalt and grass, like all fairgrounds. He was talking about the people who visit. They aren't his people. I'm guessing he's one of the same guys that wants to pay the poor people in that neighborhood twenty-five thousand dollars for their houses so he can flip it for a hundred and fifty, promising buyers from the start that the rodeo, the fair, the flea market, the race track and the roller derby girls, along with their uncouth clientele will soon be a thing of the past.

Until then, me and Stella are going to sit on that curb like a couple of old drunks and sing love songs to a Skywheel that isn't there.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Sometimes we sneak into the ball park. She's a maniac with a strip of undershirt. I'm not sure why but there's always a strip of undershirt there somewhere. I hope the Parks guys don't ever spot us. We know it's wrong but this animal needs to run every day, if possible. If it counts for anything, as penance we pick up all manner of litter on the ball field every time we go. I try to keep Stella off the infield too but occasionally she takes off and runs the bases which is secretly hysterical. Also fascinating, is the fact that I never taught Stella to run the bases. I like to think God did it.

If the Parks guys catch us, that's gonna' be my story anyway.

This is a photo of a woman who's about to get mud all over her blue jeans. Sometimes I bring Stella home and it looks like we've been wrestling alligators.

Speaking of alligators, here are six sentences I posted recently at the 6S Social Network. Some of you regular readers may even recognize the character in that story.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It doesn't bite (unless you're a chicken liver)

After what seemed like weeks of walking in below freezing temperatures, Stella got to go to the dog park on Friday. We're really not supposed to be there since "pit bull—type" dogs aren't permitted but occasionally if it isn't crowded, we go anyway. There were only a couple of dogs there but she played for a while with a beautiful Great Dane puppy named Clementine.

After that we went to pick up our friend Walter and I dropped her off at Barney's house while Walter and I had lunch at the diner next door. When I got back to Barney's his caseworker was standing outside the door peering through the glass and asking: "Does it bite?" I had to laugh. I think he met Stella once before but had forgotten and since I wasn't around, he didn't make the connection.

Barney's case worker wasn't really afraid, he was just being cautious but it reminded me of the people I've met who automatically assume that all pit bulls bite. The media (of which I am a card-carrying member) has seen to it that there's an unlimited supply of those people and while I might've fallen into that category myself in an earlier incarnation, I realize now how ridiculous it is.

Not so long ago, Stella and I were asked—no actually we were told in no uncertain terms—not to come back into the post office together. We'd gone in there six or eight times already but on this particular day, after three people had already petted her and she was lying at my feet (smiling at everybody), a woman came in the door and had what we here in the south call a hissy-fit. Her and a woman behind the counter made a big scene and Stella was the one who got thrown out. I had to smile and be polite because I knew that whatever I said would automatically transfer to Stella and pit bull owners and pit bulls in general. I don't mind telling you, it was a difficult moment. When you're unable to speak..that's typically when the most fascinating things come to mind. Now we just do our business in the lobby where that woman can't see us and I try to resist the urge to make Stella speak on our way out the door.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Reading material

—from Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton
The dog was a tan fice—cowlicked, thin pointed sticks for legs, a pointed little face with powerful whiskers, one ear flopped and one straight.
He was lying on the back steps of Mattie Rigsbee's brick ranch one summer Saturday morning when she opened the door to throw out a pan of table scraps for the birds. She placed her foot on the step beside him. She was wearing the leather shoes she'd cut slits in for her corns. The dog didn't move. Holding the bowl, Mattie stepped on out into the yard and tried to see if it was a him or her so she could decide whether or not it would have been possible to keep it if she were younger and more able. If it insisted on staying she'd have to call the dogcatcher because she was too old to look after a dog—with everything else she had to do to keep up the house and yard. She was, after all, seventy-eight, lived alone, and was—as she kept having to explain—slowing down..
..She then warmed some beef stew and water, poured it into a small bowl over two opened biscuits cooked that morning, and started outside with it. Maybe he's gone, she thought.
Walking Across Egypt was published in 1987. It's well-worth whatever you'll pay for it online. Seriously, I've probably read it six or seven times.


I met Miller at the Wilson County Fair back in August. Don't ask me how he got overlooked until now. He wasn't a carny dog but worked on a farm in Lebanon, Tennessee and he was one of the most well-trained dogs I've ever met. He was still a puppy but had the sort of eye contact you only get from the most genuine of human critters. I don't know what kind of dog he was but he could jump like a Jack Russel Terrier, had a thing for squirrels. It's a good thing Stella wasn't there that day or she might have run off with him.