I’ve gone on at tiresome length here in the past about how much I love watching domestic animals do the work they were bred to do, and I won’t bore you with it again, but I will say this: The only time I’ve ever wanted to own a Labrador or golden retriever was when I’ve seen one putting on a show. There’s a guy at the lake who has a Lab, and he takes it down to the dock and plays fetch with it for an hour — throws the stick way out in the water, the dog runs and makes a flying leap into the water, swims for the stick, brings it back, repeat.
People are so impressed by this. It’s the flying leap that does it, that big splash. My own dear little terrier tries to keep up, but he’s not much of a swimmer, and after the first splash he settles for onshore supervision, running as far as the takeoff into the water, then waiting for the big dog to bring it back, at which point he accompanies him back to the thrower for praise and another mission. A born lawyer, this dog.
To see a terrier doing what he was bred to do is a little different, since basically they were bred to be pushy and tough, and that’s not always an endearing package. Play tug-of-war with my dog, though, and you feel those genetic booster rockets kick in; you’d swear that was Vin Diesel on the other end, not an 18-pound Jack Russell. He lowers his head and really gets his back into it. You can see how this breed could pull a fox out of its den or die trying.
The Sprigman has been living with us since he was 11 weeks old, though, and his skills were never really fully developed. I’ve walked miles with him along river banks, and we’ve investigated animal holes, but an instinct is only that, and I lack the skills to train him to be a real go-to-ground terrier. Fortunately, he has a sweet personality and that’s good enough for patrolling the house and being our pet.
But every so often you see the flash of brilliance. Last night Alan was eating a fudge bar, and Spriggy was doing what he always does when we eat delicious food in his presence; sitting close by, praying for a miracle. I know God loves my dog, because his prayers are often answered in the affirmative. He was there the time the ice cream scoop, making slow progress through a brick-hard chunk of Breyer’s strawberry, suddenly slipped and launched a big chunk out into space. It landed right next to him. He was there the single time in my life I’ve failed to properly secure the top on the popcorn popper, and it came off during cooking, sending popcorn flying all over the kitchen. It must have looked like manna coming down from heaven. And last night, when Alan was looking at him, eating the fudge bar, what divine force suddenly knocked it from his grasp, so that it landed on the carpet? I don’t know, but even though Alan lunged for it, the dog was faster, and it was beautiful to see, that low, darting snap! followed by the getaway into the living room, snarfing the treat as he ran, Alan running after him, yelling goddamnit! Give me that fucking fudge bar!
I was howling, until I heard the stick crunching and knew we’d best get it from him soon. But by then the fudge bar was mostly consumed, and he allowed himself to be caught and the stick pried from his jaws. He was very self-possessed after that. Victory, his attitude said. As usual.
Last Friday there was a very small sub-discussion on Romenesko‘s site, sparked by a columnist who wrote a column saying, basically, I’m giving up being a columnist because I don’t like it anymore. OK, fine, I thought; if there’s anything the world can easily lose, it’s a columnist who isn’t enjoying it anymore, but then the letters started. And the analogies started.
From Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, ex-NYT: The best comment on the inexorability of the work came (I think) from Scotty Reston, who once said that writing a column was like standing under a windmill. You get hit in the head and think, "thank god that’s over," only to look up and see another blade on its way down.
From Jay Hancock, Baltimore Sun: Do not forget the words of the fine columnist Jesse Todd, of the Newport News Daily Press. "Like being married to a nymphomaniac," was how he once described his duties.
I thought, how could the world have so long remembered these, but forgotten those of Mike Harden, not well-known outside of Columbus, Ohio, but — to my mind, at least — author of the best single description of column-writing:
Writing a column five days a week is like making love in a burning building. You get the idea it would have been so much more memorable if only there’d been more time and fewer firemen at the window.
A late shift at work, today. I glommed my full share of outdoor activity on this fine, sunny morning, but paid for it tonight, by missing a F.W. Jewish Federation’s People of the Book lecture, with Bruce Feiler. (Those of you who live around here should keep an eye out for these semi-regular author visits; they almost always get interesting people.) I heard Feiler interviewed recently about his new book, Abraham, and wanted to see him, but alas — tons of copy. If I’d skipped my blood donation appointment today I’d have made it, which raises a moral dilemma about good works, if you ask me. Anyway, the story of Abraham and Isaac is one of my favorite Bible stories — the inscrutable Old Testament God at his best — and I was looking forward to hearing what he had to say about it. Next time, maybe.
Speaking of the mysteries of the universe, and the hard lessons God teaches, the Dispatch had a real heart-breaker today — a quintuple-fatal fire near the OSU campus, possibly arson following yet another of those famous drunken college parties. Someone’s 21st birthday party, a confrontation at 4 a.m., a fire perhaps intentionally set, and five people dead, including the birthday boy. The rest were asleep, most likely passed out after a party like this. Shudder. We drank like this in college, but it’s hard to see the fun when it ends like this.
OK, then. It’s late and it’s time to upload what I have and hope for something better tomorrow. Hope to see you then.