Friday, September 13, 2013

Dogs Never Judge, So Why Do I?

            It never ceases to amaze me an animal’s capacity to love, and to do so unconditionally. The way they look at you with such honesty and sincerity in their eyes is unparalleled amongst us humans. Perhaps the combination of these behaviors is what makes them free from judgment of the world around them.

            Anyone that knows me is aware of my near-obsession for canines. A passion for my furry friends led me to dog walking ( but even before that, my heart was full of love for “man’s best friend”. It didn’t matter what kind… Labrador, Dachshund, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog, etc… I adored ‘em all. Suffice it to say; long before I was ever a dog walker, I was a dog LOVER. I would accost people on the street and shower their dogs with affection before they even had time to give me permission. (These days, living in NYC, I always ask first.) One thing I’ve noticed almost universally is every dog’s ability to instinctively know I was “friend” not “foe.” Owners will commonly say to me, “That’s really weird. My dog isn’t normally so friendly toward strangers.” Actually, it’s not weird at all. Dogs know I want to be their buddy, and they, in turn, want to be mine regardless of what I look like, where I work or how much money I have in the bank. Dogs get what we humans don’t—accepting friendship without qualifying it is a true gift and blessing in life.

As humans, we are so distrustful. We assume everyone has an agenda and everyone wants something, and whatever they want, it can’t be good. Not true with our beloved tail-waggers. You want to pet them, awesome. You want to shower them with love, also awesome. You want to give them treats, even better. Dogs can instantly tell your intentions are good, and if so, all is okay in their world.

And the more I walk dogs, the more convinced I am in my beliefs. Take Bucky, for example:

Isn’t he gorgeous? Bucky is truly a gentle soul, who wants nothing more than to show you how much he cares (usually by pouncing on you and almost knocking you flat on the ground). When I was walking him the other week, I saw a man pushing a shopping cart who seemed to be ranting in a way that made me uncomfortable.  I was trying to move to the other side of the street, but not Bucky. He wanted to go over and say hello. A few seconds later, someone in the neighborhood was talking to the man with the shopping cart as if it was all perfectly normal. In that moment, I knew I had misjudged him. He was possibly learning disabled or handicapped in some way, but he was certainly no threat to me or Bucky. But then… Bucky knew that already.

            I was so ashamed of my behavior. How could I make such a snap judgment of someone? Me, who admittedly so often feels misunderstood herself… how could I turn around and do the same thing to someone else?

            And then there are days when snap judgments are non-existent because I’m oblivious to the world around me. Let’s face it; there are times in NYC, we all tune out. We walk around in a daze, worrying about our lives or maybe something as inane as what we’re going to eat for dinner. In that moment, a canine companion can be the perfect alarm system to alert you to approaching danger.  Meet Hercules a.k.a. “Boogie”:

I still can’t figure out how Boogie’s love for everyone and everything around him can be contained in his little body. He has boundless energy and enthusiasm and it’s so beautiful to see. That said, when Boogie backs away from someone or something, I know to get the hell out of its path. If Boogie doesn’t trust you, I know there’s something seriously wrong with you.

            And then there’s my dog, Fenwick a.k.a. Wicksie Doodle:

Wicksie is no longer with us, but when he was, boy was he a hoot! He was gorgeous, and knew it. So much so, he didn’t need to bother with anyone or anything. He was content to watch the world, and had little desire to interact with it. He certainly didn’t judge… to judge, you have to care, and my darling pup was far too aloof for that. Oh, how I loved him nevertheless!
            And I know there are naysayers like my friend Danny who claim, “What about a dog that doesn’t like a certain race of people—Asian, African American, Hispanic? They are obviously judging.” Well how did that happen? Human intervention, of course. No dog decides to dislike an entire race of people by accident. They were trained to do so. It comes down to this: left to their own devices, a dog can sniff you and know if they like you or don’t.

            Which brings me to an important point: judgment versus opinion—there is a difference! Look, as free spirited as I can be, I’m not preaching we all love each other (though I wouldn’t mind if we did). My acting teacher, Matthew Corozine, used to say, “Not everyone is going to like you, and not everyone is going to get you.” Some people are simply not our “cup of tea.” But that’s your opinion. Someone else may meet the same person you didn’t vibe with and think he or she is absolutely divine. No need, however, to slap a judgment on the person: “That person is crazy,” or “What a loser,” or “What a geek.” Just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks and move on!

            And I am giving this advice as much to myself as to anyone else out there, who might be reading this. It’s something worth striving for. Let the ultimate non-judgmental dog—Bella—whose best friend is an elephant, serve as inspiration to us all:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Does idiocy, like bad news, come in threes? If so, I got another one comin’!

Ever have one of those off days… weeks… months? Well, that’s where I’ve been. Summer is almost over and although fall is my favorite season, I still feel a symbolic death at the end of my flip-flop wearing days. For years, September meant a return to school and studying, aka stress. These days, all September signifies is the end to my A/C being on 24/7. I lament the back-to-school sales and the cute, trendy outfits the girls will be wearing on the first day of school. These students belong to a club I am no longer a member of. I’ve become an outcast. School always gave me a sense of purpose—a structure I could depend on. And as hard as I still work, some days that structure and purpose can be hard to find, especially since it’s self-imposed.

Perhaps my end of the season doldrums can account for my moronic behavior of late. More likely, it’s my weak attempt to deflect blame, and maybe I need to admit that age is slowly scrambling my brain. Whatever the cause, lately it seems as if stupidity flows through me like sands through an hourglass.

It all started when I ordered external hard drives from Amazon. I am admittedly an external hard drive geek. Ever since I fried my computer’s hard drive years ago and was forced to pay a whopping $550 to retrieve my data, I have been the “back up queen.” So I did my homework, researched the latest and greatest drives and finally settled on two drives (yes two) from Western Digital. My heart fluttered when I pressed “submit order”. I couldn’t wait to receive my drives and start organizing my data. (Clearly my thrill at backing up data indicates my need to get a personal life but I’ll save that for another blog entry.) A few days later, my drives arrived. But alas, when I plugged one of them in, nothing happened. I downloaded the user guide (something akin to admitting defeat) to no avail. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I picked up the box and stared at it, when it suddenly hit me. The name of the drive was missing the familiar “for Mac” at the end of it. I had bought the PC versions of the drives. Doh. One return shipping label and $12 in shipping costs later, the wrong drives were on their way to Amazon and the correct ones were now in transit.

Then for my second asinine move. I came up with the brilliant idea of doing my laundry before work. Sounds time efficient, right? I mean, what else do we do before work but eat breakfast and watch “Kelly and Michael”? Getting laundry out of the way on a workday allows my day off to truly be a day off. In theory, it’s genius. In practice, however, it presupposes that I’m going to remember to pick up my laundry when it’s dry! Later that night when I went to make my bed, I discovered I had no clue where my sheets were… or my work shirts… or any of my whites for that matter.

So the same night as my hard drive debacle, I walked to the laundromat to find my clothes sitting in a cart. The manager looked over at me and said, “I was wondering who those belonged to.” Oops. While I was gathering my clothes, a customer commented on how he had once left his clothes behind for two weeks. Apparently I’m not the only idiot in Astoria. Whoopee.

And now I’m simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. What stupid move will I make next? Move my car and forget where I parked it? Get ready for work only to remember I have the day off? I know those seem pretty innocuous, but in the heat of the moment, you feel like a first class imbecile. Is this all a sign of some undiagnosed psychosis? Seasonal Affective Disorder, perchance? Essentially it’s a mood disorder where people with normally good mental health experience mood swings in the winter or summer. That would certainly explain my summer blues, but not my turning into an ignoramus. I think my malady is in a class all by itself, and I am hereby declaring it: Dumb-Ass Dina Disorder.

Where is the cure, however, for my particular ailment? The approaching autumn may ultimately prove to be my savior. John Keats’ “To Autumn” speaks of the transition from summer to fall so beautifully:
Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run

Oh Mr. Keats… how I adore your eloquence. It speaks to me of summer’s passing, yet partnership with the coming fall to create a bountiful harvest. Here’s to hoping my life mirrors these sentiments. Let this fog consuming my brain be lifted by the crisp, cool air on the horizon, and allow me to move forward to a prolific and creative mindset. But until that chilly breeze hits me, you can find me sitting in the corner… wearing my dunce cap.