Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dog's Best Friend

This morning's bike ride netted FOUR yellow tennis balls, which I promptly recycled among new dogs. Herbert Hoover's 1928 election campaign promised "a chicken in every pot." We know this from the musical Annie, not from personal recollection, I might add. Well, I advocate a ball in every jaw.

Biking through a grassy area by the Bay, I met an incredible dog named Moritz and his man, Barry, who are visiting San Francisco from Montana. Moritz is a therapy dog. I am magnetically drawn to dogs, the bigger the better, and Moritz is well over 100 pounds. He is a Bernese Mountain Dog by breed but an animal god by any definition.

His work is healing people, and he exudes such peacefulness and love, as well as being majestically beautiful, that his positive energy is truly palpable. And contagious. He is an angelic presence.

I hesitate to refer to Barry Schieber as his owner. I think perhaps adviser might be more accurate, or just friend. They travel the world together, spreading their special magic to schools and hospitals. It is not unusual for strangers to squeal "Is that Moritz?" and ask permission to pet him, which is always granted. "Traveling with Moritz is like traveling with Elvis," says Barry. And he's not wrong.

Barry has written two children's books about his remarkable friend, A Gift To Share and Nose To Nose, both available from Silent Moon Books or through It is not necessary to be a child to enjoy them, though.

While most dogs do look like their owners, a fairly large sector of the canine population actually resembles their owners' fantasies. Why else do so many really large women own tiny pooches they can dress in sickeningly cute outfits? I suspect that dogs do not think highly of white go-go boots and Barbie Pink bed jackets, but I could be projecting.

Yesterday, I was in Neiman Marcus to spend some of the shockingly generous gift certificate my children gave me for my birthday. (Note to those Special People: They didn't have any pretzels. Can you imagine?) There was the usual assortment of minuscule dogs-as-accessories and one black standard poodle in full show pose by the Rotunda Restaurant. His owner was loudly expounding "how terribly Neiman Marcus" her dog was to a couple of sales associates on their lunch break. I loitered by the escalator, fervently hoping he would pee on a plant or preferably, on her, but he didn't and I had a mission, after all. I'm pretty sure that dog never saw a tennis ball or produced saliva. Even his peepee was terribly well groomed. And he wore a diamond collar that was terribly Van Cleef & Arpels.

I used to have a Samoyed named Angel who looked utterly enchanting but really enjoyed being a dog. Which in her case, meant scent-rolling in pony poop whenever possible. When the carnage became more than mere mortals could repair, I took her to The Groomers. I was asking a lot of these people; it generally took two of them a full day to clean her up. Afterward, I drove her to Mickey D's for post-operative hamburgers. The kids working there would cluster at the drive-through window to see "The Show Dog." She was one gorgeous beast.

I also drove her to my husband's workplace to give him the rare pleasure of seeing Angel clean because I knew this state of grace would not last the day. As soon as we pulled into our driveway, she began to leap frenziedly in the back seat. Upon being released from the car, she immediately barreled around the lawn, looking for the nastiest things she could find to dress herself in. Non-specific creature shit, dead birds, mud, mulch, all these and more were agreeable working materials.

When she finally completed her ablutions, she appeared at the door, grinning broadly and wagging her tail eagerly. She looked utterly disgusting and gloriously happy. Now there was a dog.

No comments: