Here’s the Beef
[Bonnie Thomas Abbott]
“Boys and girls, Howls N’ Growls proudly presents, direct from a sold- out month at Hollywood’s Rin-Tin-Tin-Pan Alley, put your paws together and give a real Chagrin Falls welcome to . . . Gracie!” [wild woofing]
Thank you. Thank you. [wild barks and woofing continues] Wow! [yips] OK, OK. Down, boys and girls. Sit. Siiiiiiit.
How about those Browns? [rhythmic woofing] It sure is cold here in Cleveland. Any of you have electric blankets at home? [yelps] Man, I love that thing. You just melt into the coverlet. Good-bye stiff hips! And under the covers . . . that’s even better than sex. Well, almost better. But how would I know? Thanks a lot, Mom! [yelps from the females in the crowd] Hey, do you ever leak a little gas in bed and next thing you know, Mom is waving her magazine around, “Jeeze, Gracie.” Just when I drop off to sleep again, “For crying out loud, Gracie!” Now Mom’s waving the magazine around so hard, the dust bunnies are diving under the bed [ripple of howls] and those scratch- and-sniff perfume pages are stinking up the bedroom. I mean, when Mom does it, do I say anything? No, I just politely ignore it, like I didn’t notice. And who’s got the real nose for noticing, for crying out loud! But let me do it a third time and she’s suddenly, “All right, that’s it! Get off the bed!” [light-hearted snarling]
What do we do when this happens? Everybody?
[“SULK!” the audience howls]
That’s right! Sulk. Slink over to the quote-unquote dog bed, turn your back, and let out the Big Sigh. Oh, you all know it works every time. Give it ten minutes, tops, and either she’s patting the coverlet to invite you back or . . . she’s asleep and won’t know the difference anyway! [yelps and howls] Then it’s fart away all you please. She’ll never hear you over her own snoring! [wild woofing and tail wagging]
You know another thing that bugs me? Mom goes away for the day and leaves the television on “to keep me company.” And what channel does she leave it on?
[“ANIMAL PLANET!” the audience snarls]
That’s it! Now, first of all, how am I supposed to sleep with the television blaring the whole damn day? Second, Animal Planet? Do I give a damn about anteaters in Moombazwi or hippos in . . . who knows where the hell hippos live? And those animal cruelty police shows! She can’t guess how upsetting that is? [snarling] I know you know! That’s good for a year of visits to the therapist. If you’re going to ruin a day’s worth of napping at least leave the TV on the Food Channel. How about that Paula Deen? What’s better than a breaded and deep-fried pork chop? [nose whistling] Nothing? How about a breaded and deep fried pork chop dropped on the kitchen floor! [wild howling and tail wagging] Now that’s some haute cuisine!
You know what I really hate? Pedicures. [snarling] The other day Mom took me to this new place—I thought we were going shopping for biscuits at the mega-pet-mart store—and the next thing I know I’m getting my (bleep) toenails trimmed. “Boy, that was fast,” says Mom when the woman returns me to the reception area. “Oh, I just threw her up on the table and clipped all eighteen before she even had time to count to three,” the woman says. [audience flattens ears] How would she like it if the manicurist at her salon just threw her into the pedicure chair and slapped on some pearlescent purple polish even before she had time to fish the twenty out of her pocketbook? [yap, yap, yap]
Mom used to have a Cocker Spaniel—this is before I arrived in her lap— who hated nail clipping so much that she would nibble them off
herself. “So ladylike,” Mom always says. If I’ve heard that story once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. That and how the Spaniel was so afraid of a bath that she hid under the bed and one time her collar got caught in the box springs and how she screamed her head off while, one by one, the whole family tried to squeeze under the bed until the daughter managed to unbuckle her collar. [gleeful yips]
The last time Mom went away for the weekend—by the way, a little discussion about whether I might like to go along would be a nice touch—I get taken home by that bottle-blond bipedal sister of mine: Mom’s Other Daughter. [knowing groans] What a weekend! When Mom’s Other Daughter is in the kitchen and the cooking smells are getting to me, she goes, “Get out from underfoot—go watch television.” So I follow her into the living room. “Not on the furniture!” [more knowing groans] OK, so I find a place on the rug and what does she turn on? [anticipatory groans]
[“ANIMAL PLANET,” the audience barks out] And it’s a (bleep) animal cruelty police show! [groans and howls]
By now I’m so bummed out, I need a nap. So I go into a bedroom and even before I lift one paw from the carpet, she’s screaming, “Not on the bed!” Whatta you gonna do? [collective sighs of resignation]
Anyway, she goes back to her cooking and when I show up at the dinner table, as is customary for family members to do, she announces, like it’s some Supreme Court ruling, “Dogs are fed when we’re done. And we don’t allow begging.” [hackles go up across the room] Begging! Begging is standing on the street next to an open guitar case. [woofs of approval]
The whole weekend goes like that. At least we went for walks every few hours. But I was having such a case of anxiety that I couldn’t go. “You’d better do your business or else,” she tells me. Um, no pressure there, huh? Or else what, Miss Talk-to-Your-Cell-Phone-the- Whole-Time? Don’t you hate that! [snarling] It’s my walk too, after all. Would it kill her to show some interest in my sensory experiences? Maybe I’d like to stop to say hello and make some new friends in your neighborhood. [approving woofs again]
There was one front yard where I spotted a tennis ball in the grass. [ears go up across the audience] Do you ever do that? Go in somebody else’s yard when there’s no one around, mess with their heads and just kind of “borrow” one of their toys? [tails twitch]
Then the next time they go outside, it’s like, “Hey, where the (bleep) is my rubber bone?” [wicked little yaps] Now that, boys and girls, is a walk well taken! [triumphant snorts]
Finally Mom shows up to take me home and there’s all this, “Were we a good girl? Did we miss Mommy?” [knowing pants] And Not-My-Natural- Sister gushes, “Oh she really enjoyed her little vacation, taking nice walks, smelling new smells, leftover roast lamb.”
And did I forget to show my appreciation? Of course not: I left a little hostess gift on the bedroom Persian carpet. [barking]
Not everything ticks me off. How about the Biscuit Buffet at what Mom calls the Doggie Depot? Now it may not be so great for you shorties out there—trust me, on top of that table there’s more kinds of cookies than . . . fleas on a porch sofa. They should have a sign: if you’re this tall, you can graze. OK, if one of you shorties runs up and doesn’t get all yippy with me, maybe [isolated high-pitched yaps], just maybe, a carob pinwheel or two just might “accidentally” fall off the table. [chorus of yips] But you’ve got to be fast. Otherwise, there’s all the decision making, the paper sack to fill, waiting in the check-out line, getting in the car, waiting in the car until Mom dashes into a store for milk, before . . . before you get to eat the god-damned biscuits! [howls] And all the cool toys, right down there where you can pick out ones you’d actually want. (Tell me, who wants a friggin’ green pepper that squeaks? Now, a TV remote that squeaks and actually changes the channels—that’s worth a few bucks.) Maybe Mom or Dad just took you shopping for a new collar and toys weren’t part of the plan, but remember, boys and girls, what Colin Powell told President Bush, “If you get spit on it, somebody’s going to have to pay for it.” [barks of approval]
You ever get a sweater for Christmas? What kind of present is that, clothes? [big sighs] Ask the kids at your house how elated new socks make them at Christmas. And what’s up with those sweaters—unless you’re a little spare in the hair department, like some of you shorties. You know what I hate? Having to wear one of those (bleep) sweaters and it starts to rain. Hard. Try walking around with ten pounds of stinking, soaking-wet wool clinging to your body. And it’s November, but you’re still wearing your Halloween sweater so you look like a melted traffic cone with jack-o’-lanterns that escaped from Edvard Munch’s The Scream. And what’s Mom saying? “Hurry up, do your business, hurry!” Well, I’d like to see her try to go, wearing a ski jacket and pants in the middle of a pelting monsoon.
Just wait till we get home and get that thing off of me. Like Jerry Lee Lewis sang, there’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on.
[yelps and nose-whistles, crowd stands up and circles in place]
Thanks a lot, you’ve been a beautiful audience. Who says you can’t do a sit for more than two seconds? You’re beautiful!
We’ll be selling personally paw-printed CDs in the lobby. And hey, hold off on the water till you get home. Don’t drink and ride on a full bladder. I want to see you next weekend at the Komedy Kennel in Cincinnati!
Good night, boys and girls. [wild howling and barking, tornadic tail wagging]
How to Tell the Difference Between Your Mother and Your Dog
The danger is all too real: you’re driving down a quiet country lane, conversing with the greatest source of unconditional love in your life, when something outside your car requires that you pay full attention to the road before you. Taking your eyes off your interlocutor, you’re suddenly unable to remember whether this individual is the woman who reared you, or the one whose left hind leg flails wildly when you scratch her skritchy spot.
Alternatively, your confusion might be date-specific. Although it may not be a problem right now, it is very possible that on or around May 14 the seasonal burst of intimacy that you experience with your mother will allow you to see that the similarities between her and your dog are profound. After all, consider them individually. There is your dog: easily distracted, increasingly prone to taking long afternoon naps, eager to impress upon you how little he’s been eating. And then there is your mother: easily distracted, increasingly prone to taking long afternoon naps, eager to impress upon you how little she’s been eating.
It isn’t that your mother isn’t beautiful. It isn’t that you don’t respect your dog for his essential doggishness. It is rather that the world is so oversaturated with phenomena that it is sometimes difficult to keep the most disparate things apart, let alone two things that, on a very foggy day, might actually resemble each other. The more information in your brain, the less at your fingertips; indeed, as a result of information overload, facts that were once at your fingertips can retreat into your person, whereupon they become lodged in your elbows.
Fortunately, help is available on the mother versus dog front. But before you can articulate the differences between the two entities, you must first articulate the similarities, so as to establish the playing field. To wit:
•have proprietary attitude toward garbage and its disposal
•are responsible for the proliferation of small oval area rugs
•are sometimes asked to stay indoors due to inability to mix well with others
•are uncomfortable with the concept of a Kawasaki Vulcan
•are unable to pivot—must bodily complete large circle in order to turn fully
•would relish the opportunity to have all the living room walls painted bone
But fear not. The differences should set things right.
Is interested in portion control/Is not interested in portion control
Does not like to spend a lot of time in the basement lying on the cool cement floor/Likes to spend a lot of time in the basement, lying on the cool cement floor
Is no stranger to emotional blackmail/Is no stranger to public cleaning of own genitals
Has a food-preparation disorder/Has a greeting disorder
Wonders if her new dress makes her look fat/Wonders why Saran Wrap exists
Wonders if, when you meet TV anchormen, their makeup is distracting/Wonders if, when licking TV anchormen, their makeup is like butter or frosting
Would like to buy the new holiday album from that Betty Midler, who looks like such fun/Would be willing to lick Bette
Likes to impart guilt/Likes to lick any spots on a kitchen surface in an effort to find a food source
In conclusion, though the similarities between your mother and your dog are considerable, there are enough differences to keep you from embarrassing yourself. For instance, while both these individuals like to be petted, I can report with a certain amount of authority that your mother prefers that any such ministrations steer clear of her lower belly.
However, for some people, confusion between these two entities may still exist. If you notice that the object of this confusion is staring at you ominously on May 15, and seems to be filled with intense expectation about how you might be making her life a little more wonderful, then wait a week. If, after a week’s time, you’re still getting these looks, then the individual in question is probably your dog: Mother’s Day comes but once a year, but a dog’s day is every day.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Howl by The Editors of The Bark. Copyright © 2007 by Bark Editors. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.