A story that can’t be ignored.

I am still on my “sabbatical” from the blog, finishing up (please, God) my book project. But I had to yank Type Like The Wind out of mothballs to post this link. Writer Marla Williams is one of the funniest and smartest newspaper writers to come down the pike. I had the good fortune to work with her some years ago, including a trip during which we were supposed to be writing travel stories about a quaint island getaway. We got there, we both fell asleep, and we woke up when the weekend was over. The story, while short on facts, was funny. Thanks to Marla.

Check out this story about her dog, Carl.

All the news that fits. And solves.

I’ve only read some of the stories and ads in three sections in Sunday’s New York Times (Book Review, Business and Week in Review) and here’s what I’ve already learned:

Most new fiction is deeply flawed. A five-line letter from Ronald Reagan to his old actress friend Kitty Carlisle Hart is worth $6,100. Whales and dolphins are as smart as we are, and probably nicer. Congo is still the rape capital on earth. Congress still has absolutely no balls when it comes to regulating Wall Street. Our cellphones are built with materials that are obtained at human cost. Author Danielle Steele and legal pot growers in Colorado work harder than the rest of us. Camile Paglia says “female Viagra” pharmaceuticals will not cure the sexual malaise blanketing America.

It seems so clear:

Send sexually disappointed whiners to witness real problems in Congo.  Sell collections of witless Presidential missives as e-books in order to fund the increased cost of cruelty-free cellphone manufacturing. Deploy the hyper-prolific Ms. Steele to the pot-growing operations for one week. Swear in Ms. Paglia, stand her up in front of Congress, and let her spell it out for them: No balls, no glory.

If that last thing doesn’t work, vote for a whale or a dolphin next time.

A tale of motherly love. Co-starring a turtle.

Mother’s Day is coming. I know this because every retailer in sight is trying to cash in. My gym has a Workout With Mom! special. My email is full of mail-order offers for chocolates, flowers, perfume. The spa down the street is even giving discounts on eyebrow and lip waxes in preparation for the holiday, which seems really weird if you think about it too long, so don’t.

Yes, the crass commercialism is alive and well. But that doesn’t mean I disdain the whole notion of celebrating our mothers. In fact, I think the holiday ought to be expanded to include the entire month.

We should all start dinner each night with a favorite mother story. I’ll go first.

My own mother passed many years ago, but she would have appreciated the story I heard the other day, told by a single mom of my acquaintance. I’ll call her Nancy. This tale began a decade ago.

Remember those little dime-store turtles you could buy for a buck? You’d bring them home and they’d last a couple of weeks, then off to turtle paradise they’d go, usually via a one-way ticket on Toilet Airlines.

Well, Nancy’s boy wanted one of those little critters, and being a game sort of gal, she bought him one.

Weeks passed. The turtle thrived. Nancy cleaned the bowl.

Months passed. The turtle thrived. Nancy cleaned the bowl.

Years passed. The boy left for college and, yes, Nancy stayed behind and cleaned the turtle bowl.

Eight years after its arrival, the turtle showed no signs of heading to the great beyond. By turtle standards, it was quite a bit larger. It was time for a change.

A lesser woman would have introduced the turtle to the backyard or a nearby pond, but not Nancy. She did what a resourceful and brave mother always does. She found a way.

She loaded the turtle into a totebag, put on her darkest sunglasses and drove to the nearest Pets-R-Us. There she slipped into the row of aquariums, and after making sure no one was watching, she plopped her hard-shell roommate into a tank with its own kind.

Never one to take separations lightly, she returned the next week to assure herself that the relocation had gone well.  You don’t live with a turtle for nearly a decade without committing its features to memory, so she quickly found him among the others. He seemed happy.

Now, I ask you, would anyone but a mother do this? I think not.

When Mother’s Day arrives, I will be thinking of Nancy and the other mothers I’ve known. Heroes, all.

Dogs I see

A brown Cairn terrier, looking like a larger version of Toto in The Wizard of Oz, is the most frequent canine passerby I see from my chair at the wide front living-room window. He’s got the deluded confidence of his breed; a small, furred drill sergeant with chest out, legs pumping, eyes ahead.

There’s a household of some size connected to the Cairn. Three generations walk him, from a young boy who politely nods when anyone passes, to a Grandma-vintage woman in a crisp Burberry trench coat. The most frequent walker these days is a cranky looking, suit-wearing man who has yet to come to terms with the fact that his own long legs can’t keep up with the stubby ones of the determined dog straining ahead of him.

Then there’s Max, a black Labrador retriever. He’s well known throughout the neighborhood as the patient soul who sits outside the corner coffee shop each morning, untethered and unflappable. Max is never on a leash. He’s patient with strangers who insist on petting him, but he’s humoring them. He looks away while they talk to him.

Max heels alongside his bearded, middle-aged walking partner, who all winter wears an ancient black-and-red checked wool jacket and all summer wears a zip-up hooded sweatshirt of indeterminate color.

Unlike most Labs, Max is not trying to keep up with a lot of different things at the same time. Enticing piles of dog shit, blowing bits of paper, passing bikers and cars – nothing tempts him. He focuses all his energy on the patch of sidewalk immediately in front of him, padding along at the same slow pace, tail unmoving at half-mast, wagging only when the man next to him looks his way.

George, the English bulldog across the street, doesn’t get walked, just let out for hurried bathroom breaks, during which his owner chatters nonstop, alternately praising and ordering him to do his business.

The perpetually furrowed, Churchillian face of a bulldog is nearly unreadable, but there is no mistaking this particular dog’s thoughts. As his owner natters on, he has the exact expression worn by a teenager who has just realized that his parents are hopelessly, endlessly, stupid.

He’s no genius, of course, but I think it’s possible that George is slowly putting together a plan for a coup of sorts. As I watch him from the window, I almost always see George panning the yard, turning in a slow circle for a bit of stealthy reconnoitering. He’s got something in mind.

I hope I’m here when he makes his move.

Winter coats (and boots?) for the herd

A lovely ad on the back of Sunday’s New York Times Style Magazine may have solved our ambivalence toward animals once and for all.

We want them to have a nice life–including a view and space to run around–right up until we kill and eat them.

A woman wearing a fur coat is treated as if she slung her first-born on as a poncho, yet most of us walk down the street with a leather purse (filled with smaller leather doodads), leather shoes, maybe even a leather belt.

Let’s not even get into the animal products used in that hair gel.

To our credit, we know we’re hypocrites. But what’s an animal-lover to do? Canvas shoes only get you so far.

Well, while we were wringing our hands over free-range arrangements, the Hermes people were wracking their sharp French noodles for solutions.

The company’s “Winter at Last” ad shows a lovely model in profile, silky Hermes scarves twined around her neck and head. Next to her is an antlered critter (elk? mule deer?) who is also sporting Hermes. A single tasteful silk scarf, wound around his neck with a suitably small knot. (No worries about snagging it on a tree branch.)

At last, a solution to our uneasy bond with animals. Grain-fed lives are one thing, but nothing says humane treatment like a good accessory.

A fitting tribute

I woke up thinking about some friends, who today must put their beloved dog to sleep. It is time, they all know it, but it is so hard to say goodbye to such a faithful companion.

I have a wonderful book called The Book of Eulogies: A Collection of Memorial Tributes, Poetry, Essays an Letters of Condolence, edited by essayist Phyllis Theroux. (You may remember her from Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour.) If it sounds like a downer, it isn’t. It has some funny, touching, wonderful and revealing bits of writing by and about people from all walks of life. There are a few eulogies for departed animals as well.

One of the pieces was published in 1931 by E.B. White, author of acres of columns for The New Yorker, as well as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Trumpet of the Swan and other books. (And for my money, one of the best writers to come out of America.) It was a eulogy for his beloved dog Daisy.

White begins this way:

“Daisy died December 22, 1931, when she was hit by a Yellow Cab on University Place. At the moment of her death she was smelling the front of a florist’s stoop. It was a wet day, and the cab skidded up over the curb–just the sort of excitement that would have amused her had she been at a safer distance. She is survived by her mother, Jeannie; a brother, Abner; her father, whom she never knew; and two sisters, whom she never liked. She was three years old.”

Anyone who has written an obituary or a eulogy has experienced the “what-will-they-say-about-me?” moment. None of us could hope for a better send-off than White’s last line about Daisy:

“She died sniffing life, and enjoying it.”

You can’t make this stuff up

Ah, Oregon. We used to be known as the state Where It Rains All the Time, Where Tonya Harding Was Born and Where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Was Filmed.

Now Oregon is going to be known as the state Where Rabbits Get Room Service.

A local woman is making news because she’s been busted–again–for “allegedly hoarding” rabbits. On probation from an earlier rabbit-related conviction, she was popped the other day for having 13 of the long-eared critters in the Portland-area hotel room where she has been living. This would mean she’s violated the condition of her parole which said she had to stay 100 yards away from any rabbit.

If this wasn’t so downright wacky, and let’s be honest, funny, it would be just plain sad. Whenever I read a story like this, I marvel at the infinite number of ways we humans find to try to make our own small worlds feel safe and right.

I come from a long line of people for whom activities like compulsive hand-washing and late-night sock-drawer tidying are practically religious ritual, so I’m not as far from the bunny-harboring end of the spectrum as I’d like.

Judaism has a prayer for nearly every occasion, and if there is one thanking God for making my compulsive behaviors fall within the law (and the tolerance of my near and dear), I probably should be muttering it right now.